"You're serious," Samantha said. She didn't even try to hide her exasperation. "You're really serious."
Andrew nodded his head. "Well, yes ... that's what I've just been talking about, why wouldn't I mean it?"
"You want to go to Iowa over the Thanksgiving break. Not just Iowa, but that dinky little town you were talking about."
"Well, neither of us have family in Albuquerque. My family's in Houston and yours is in Baltimore ... it's not like we were doing anything else."
"If I'd be willing to go to Iowa, why wouldn't I just keep on going to the east coast? And for that matter, why wouldn't you just go to Houston? What on earth would be do, by ourselves, in Iowa? Have a couple of ears of corn for Thanksgiving dinner? With maybe a little roast pork on the side?"
"I'm sure there's somewhere in Lake City we can get a nice dinner."
"Really. Lake City, Iowa, population ... what ... seventeen? Or eighteen if Billy Bob comes home from Farmer's College?"
"Don't you want to solve the murder?"
Andrew tossed it off as casually as he could, trying to hide his grin. He knew that any mention of a mystery would get Samantha's attention. After all, she read all those Tony Hillerman novels and got into Faye Kellerman, too.
"Murder?" Samantha, in turn, tried not to look interested, but Andrew knew already that he had won. "What murder?" Samantha sounded a little breathless and was a little angry with herself for doing so.
Andrew told her about the murder at the Lindyville Checker Club well over a hundred years ago. Then he told her about the Lindyville librarian's equivocation. By the time he was done, Samantha was on the edge of her chair, bombarding him with questions.
"We need to go to that library," Samantha said. "I need to go to that library. I'll get that woman to level with me."
Andrew was pretty sure that if anyone could, it was Samantha. "I checked," he said, "the Lindyville Library is open the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We can spend Friday in Lake City and go to the newpaper office--- the Clarion. There might be more there than I could find online."
"If we flew out Wednesday night ...." Samantha was already on her cell phone, checking flights. She was silent for about five minutes. "There! I've booked our flights. All we need now is a hotel in Lake City. There's probably no hotel in Lindyville."
Andrew smiled. Samantha could move quickly when she wanted to. "Great," he said. "Pick out any hotel you like and put it on my card."
"Oh, don't worry, I will," Samantha said. "You've already paid for the flights so you might as well pick up the hotel, too."
Andrew didn't dare complain.
# # #
It turned out that Lake City, Iowa, wasn't all that easy to get to. Samantha and Andrew decided to stay in Albuquerque for an early Thanksgiving dinner together and fly out on Thursday afternoon instead of braving the Wednesday before Thanksgiving travel mobs.
So after a quiet noon dinner at Samantha's apartment, they took a taxi to Albuquerque Airport and flew on a commuter airline to Des Moines, Iowa, where they rented a car and made the 100 mile drive to Lake City.
"This is turning out to be quite the expedition," Samantha said. "And you know I don't like those little 16-seat airplanes."
Andrew wisely refrained from pointing out that it was Samantha who made all the travel arrangements.
He turned the car off the road into the parking lot of the Lake City Inn. The headlights of the car illuminated large piles of snow in the corners of the lot as the tires crunched on the rutted layer of ice on the lot's concrete surface. Andrew wondered how cold it was just beyond the warmth of the car's interior.
"Bundle up," he said, "we're here."
It was near midnight. The Lake City Inn brooded darkly in front of them, with just a few dim lights in the windows and a flickering neon sign over the entrance that read, "L k " C ty nn."
"Guess they don't care for vowels much," Andrew quipped as Samantha got out of the car. The wind gusted and she covered her ears with gloved hands. Andrew quickly got their luggage from the trunk and the two of them hurried to the hotel's entryway.
"This is the best you could do?" Samantha asked. Her face was flushed from the cold and she didn't look exactly happy.
"It's a small town," Andrew said. "There's not a lot to choose from."
They finally roused a sleepy-looking clerk, who got them checked in without saying more than about a dozen words. "Room 201, upstairs," he said, jerking a thumb at a nearby staircase before disappearing through a curtain that no doubt led to his recently vacated cot.
Andrew and Samantha looked at each other and simultaneously shrugged their shoulders.
"Welcome to Iowa at $49 a night," Andrew said.
"Plus tax," Samantha added.
# # #
It was clear and cold the next morning. Samantha and Andrew found a Waffle House to get some breakfast, and just after 8 AM, they were at the counter of the Lake City Clarion, asking for access to their archives. "We're interested in edtions prior to 1900," Andrew explained.
"Don't have much call for that," the clerk said. He was a thin, short man with stubbly white whiskers and a cap with a green visor. Samathana could hardly believe her eyes.
"All on that new-fangled microfilm," the man was saying. "Papers got too old and they sent 'em all off to some fancy college with a room full 'o cameras."
"You mean they aren't computerized?" Andrew asked.
"No, they ain't computerized or homogenized or pasteurized or nothin'," the clerk said. "Microfilm, that's what. Downstairs in the basement, second door on the left." He looked over at Samantha. "Watch fer the spiders, missy. Don't let none of 'em get in yer hair."
"Come on, Andrew," Samantha said, pulling on his arm.
# # #
They spent several hours in the musty, crowded basement room. Samantha kept brushing at her hair. "Power of suggestion," Andrew said. Samantha was not amused.
"I'm getting hungry," Samantha said. "Can we stop for lunch?"
"After that scrapple omelet at the Waffle House?" Andrew asked. "You mean you're ready for a burger and fries?"
"That's not even funny."
They had found the articles that Andrew had previously seen on-line. But the on-line records stopped at about 1895. Andrew had wanted to look back further, but going through microfilm was tedious work. He was at about mid-1890. "Just a little longer, okay?" he said. Samantha groaned.
Andrew suddenly sat upright in his old wooden office chair.
"What is it? Did Auntie Mae get a blister at the annual quilting bee and have to get her head amputated?"
"Look at this ..."
STAGECOACH ROBBED; GUARDS KILLED; ROBBERS FOUND DEAD
Several May Have Escaped On Lake City Train
Yesterday a stagecoach carrying a secret shipment of gold was robbed just outside of Iowa City. All of the guards were murdered and all the gold is missing. A posse pursuing the evil-doers found several of them shot dead about 20 miles west CK of Lake City. The Federal Marshall thinks that one or more of the robbers killed the others so they could keep all the gold for themselves. The Marshall thinks they may have fled on a train passing through Lake City. But the Marshall wondered how they could have gotten so much gold onto the train without being seen.
"That's interesting," Samantha said after reading the story, "but what's it got to do with Lindyville?"
"Lindyville is 20 miles west of Lake City!" Andrew said. "The robbers killed each other, or whatever happened, right in Lindyville! Or actually, where Lindyville is now, because it mostly hadn't been built at the time of the robbery and murders."
"Okay ... "
"And all that gold ... the Marshall was right, it would have been pretty hard to get it all on a train unseen. Gold bars are really heavy, and there were a lot of them."
"So what are you thinking?"
"I'm not exactly sure," Andrew said. He quickly scribbled a few notes in a notepad. "But I think there's a lot more to this, and I think the answers are in Lindyville. Let's go there first thing in the morning. We can take the afternoon to explore Lake City. After lunch, of course."
"Explore Lake City? Sure, why not, it beats watching the snow melt, though not by a whole lot. Let's go, I can hardly wait."
TO BE CONTINUED
We follow this installment with a checker problem that is not as easy as it looks.
White is down a piece. How can he pull off a draw? It's not so easy. Think it over, then click on Read More to see the very pleasing solution.
Black, a man up, can't win, because White's kings are centralized while the two Black men are on the edge of the board.
This ending is so clever that we've tried to carefully annotate it.
15-10 32-27 10-15 27-23 15-10 23-26 14-18---A 5-9---B,C 10-15---D 26-30 18-14 9x18 15x22 Drawn. Very neat indeed.
A---Careful! 10-15 loses.
B---26-30---E 18-22 5-9 22-18---F 30-25 10-15 25-21 18-14 9x18 15x22 21-17 22-18 17-21 18-22 Drawn---G.
C---If 13-17, 18-22.
D---Not 10-14 26-22 Black Wins.
E---If 13-17, 18-22.
G---Black can do nothing. A nice alternative ending.
The solution given here is not unique. Variations can be found by experimentation or use of a strong computer engine such as KingsRow or Cake with a 6-piece or larger endgame database.