Andrew and Samantha had a nice dinner at The Rancher's Club and went to a late movie afterwards. They ended up back at Andrew's apartment, where to his own great surprise, Andrew forgot all about his new checker magazine collection.
Until morning, at least.
Samantha made them a nice breakfast of huevos rancheros with extra refritos on the side. It was already about noon and the two of them decided to just stay in for the afternoon. Samantha settled down on the living room sofa with a Tony Hillerman novel, and Andrew finally had a chance to look through his newly-acquired issues of American Checker Player magazine.
"Well, isn't that interesting," Andrew said. He was in his recliner, leafing through the magazines. "A checker club in Lindyville, Iowa, of all places."
Samantha was deep into her novel, and all she said was, "Uhmm."
"I'll bet Lindyville was just a little farm or railroad town back in 1898, but they started up a checker club. Wonder how they kept it going?"
Samantha finally looked up. "What's so unusual? Weren't there a lot of checker clubs?" She tried as hard as she could to look interested but didn't quite manage it.
"Yes, but you'd think a place like Lindyville just couldn't have been big enough to support a checker club. Just amazing."
Samantha looked anything but amazed, but she was used to Andrew's peculiarities. It was all fine with her; he was a really nice guy and he treated her well, and even if he did cancel a date once in a while, he always made up for it.
The two of them continued to read. After about fifteen more minutes, Andrew said, "I'm going to call."
"Call? Are you thinking about pizza too?"
Andrew looked confused. "Oh ... you mean for dinner. No, I mean call Lindyville. Tomorrow. There's bound to be a historian or a librarian that can tell me more about this."
"Oh. Silly me. And here I was thinking about, you know, dinner," Samantha said, sounding ever so slightly annoyed.
"Pizza, you said? Sure. Why don't you call them? I want to make a few notes while we're waiting, and maybe look up a few things on the Internet."
Samantha sighed and picked up her cell phone.
Andrew had a couple of classes to teach on Monday morning, but as soon as they were over, he hurried back to his office and got on the Internet to do research about Lindyville.
There wasn't a lot to be found; there was a brief history of Calhoun County, Iowa, and the barest of demographic information about Lindyville. The town had been just about at its peak with something over 500 residents at the time the Checker Club was founded, but with the coming of the Great Depression 30 years later, there had been a steady decline. Today, the population stood at 150, and new folks weren't moving in.
So Andrew was surprised to find that indeed there was an active library in the town, with a full-time librarian. He picked up the phone and called the number shown on his computer screen.
"Lindyville Public Library, Miss Victor speaking."
The voice was hoarse. Andrew's mind conjured up a vision of an overweight, 50-ish smoker, or an ex-smoker for sure.
"Good morning, Miss Victor," Andrew said, trying to make his tone as pleasant as possible. "This is Professor Andrew Lopez, in the Mathematics Department of the University of New Mexico. I'm hoping you can help me this morning."
"Oh. Well, maybe you're a Professor and all, but I can only help you if you tell me what you want."
Rather brusque, Andrew thought. But he persisted. "I'm interested in the history of Lindyville, particularly, the Lindyville Checker Club."
There was a long pause. It was hardly what Andrew expected. Finally, after 30 seconds or so, Andrew said, "Uh ... Miss Victor, are you there?"
"There's no checker club in Lindyville." The reply was flat and toneless.
"Oh, but there was," Andrew said. "I read in an old edition of the American Checker Player magazine that there was a club that started up in 1898 ..."
"That's as may be," Miss Victor interrupted, "but there isn't one now. Sorry."
"Well, can you tell me something about the history ..."
Andrew again didn't get to finish his sentence. "Can't help you. Bye." There was a click on the line as Miss Victor disconnected.
"Strange," Andrew mused. "It's almost as if she just plain didn't want to talk about it. Now why would that be?"
Andrew wasn't one to give up easily. He had another class to teach, but as soon as that one was done he decided to skip lunch and do more research. But first, he thought, he had better call Samantha. She'd be on her lunch break at the office of the charity where she worked, and she'd be expecting him to call.
"Hey, you'll never guess what happened this morning," he began as soon as she answered.
"Let me guess," Samantha said, "You've found another new checker magazine and you can't wait to show it to me because you just know how much that sort of thing thrills a girl."
"Even better!" Andrew said, completely missing the sarcasm. "I called the Lindyville library and you'll never guess what I found out!"
Samantha sighed. "Okay, tell me. I'm sure it's great."
"That's just it! I didn't find out anything!"
"And that's news?"
"Yes, of course it is!"
"Andrew, maybe I should just get back to work ..."
"No ... no ... the librarian said she didn't know anything and said she couldn't help me!"
"Oh. Gee. How about that."
"Don't you see? That never happens! When was the last time you asked a librarian a question and they told you they couldn't --- wouldn't--- help find the answer?"
Samantha felt a little curiosity growing, despite everything. "Well, you're right, that is sort of odd, isn't it? Librarians usually go out of their way to be helpful."
"See! You do get it! I'm so glad! So I've got to go, I need to learn more about this. Love you. Bye!"
As Andrew hung up, Samantha sighed again. "Oh, Andrew!" she said aloud. "I love you too, but sometimes I wonder why."
It took a lot of looking around, but eventually Andrew came across the online archives of the Lake City Clarion. Lake City was Lindyville's nearest sizable community, and the Clarion was a weekly newspaper that had been published for almost as long as Lake City had existed. Perhaps if he looked back far enough, he could find out something about the Lindyville Checker Club. Surely the Clarion would cover Lindyville news.
After some little while, Andrew came upon a very brief article that mentioned the founding of the Checker Club by one William Cudworth. Well, at least there's a name, Andrew thought. Cudworth hadn't been mentioned in American Checker Player.
That gave Andrew more to go on. He searched backward in time by name, finding only a brief mention on a business page about William Cudworth taking over ownership of old Tom Forsch's hardware supply store. But searching forward in time, by both Cudworth's name and for any mention of the checker club, Andrew hit the jackpot. He whistled softly. "Well, I'll be," was all he said.
MURDER AT LINDYVILLE GRAIN AND FEED STORE!
Last night murder came to Lindyville, as William Cudworth, founder of the Lindyville Checker Club, was stabbed to death in an upstairs office of Lindyville Grain and Feed. Sheriff Conway of Lindyville told our local reporter ...
The story went on to describe the condition of the body in lurid detail and speculated wildly on the cause and perpetrator of the murder.
There were a few followup stories, the last one being about a month later, mentioning that Johnny Uggerud, owner of Lindyville Grain and Feed, had closed down the Checker Club, saying it had brought him bad luck and had been bad for business.
Andrew kept searching, but there was nothing more to be found.
At around four in the afternoon, he picked up his phone and again called the Lindyville Public Library. Miss Victor answered right away.
"Miss Victor, this is Professor Andrew Lopez again ..."
"I told you I couldn't help you, and I'm getting ready to close, so if you don't mind ..."
"Miss Victor, what do you know about the murder in the Lindyville Grain and Feed Shop in 1900?" Andrew got the words out all in a rush, knowing that Miss Victor was on the verge of hanging up.
He heard what sounded almost like a gasp. "How did you ...." There was a pause. "Nothing. Never heard of it. I don't know anything about Cudworth's murder, and like I said, I'm closing, so goodbye." The line went silent.
"Really," Andrew said to himself. "You don't know anything about the murder, but you know who was murdered. Miss Victor, what's your game?"
I've got to discuss this with Samantha, he thought. She'll really be interested now.
The problem that goes with this episode is at the beginner level.
The problem isn't at all murderous; when you've solved it, stab the Read More button to check your solution.
27-23---A 25-29---B 23-18 29-25---C 26-30---D 25-29 18-22 White Wins.
A---There are other ways to win, but this is easiest and quickest.
B---25-30 26-22 White wins.
C---21-25 26-30 White wins.
D---Best, although 26-22 wins handily as well.
An easy enough problem for sure. The question remains, why was it chosen? To find out, stay tuned for future installments of our story.