The Checker Maven

State Fair: Part 2


All play halted as everyone either dove to the floor or fled the tent. Mortimer thought at once of Sheila and hurried to her seat. He practically tackled her to the ground when he reached her. "You okay, honey?" he asked.

It took a moment for Sheila to recover her wits. By then the tent had largely emptied. "I'm fine, you?"

"Yeah, but, uh ... what happened? Is that guy ... you know ..."

"I'm pretty sure Mr. Pace is dead, yes. He was shot," Sheila said.

"I heard a noise and then I saw him fall off his chair," replied Mortimer.


A couple of State Fair security guards had arrived. One of them addressed Sheila and Mortimer. "Everyone out until we secure the area, please."

"You sure that's a good idea?" Sheila asked. "You're asking the shooter, if he's still here, to disappear into the crowd?" Sheila was certain that had already happened, but this was really poor procedure.

The burlier of the two guards wasn't pleased. "Look ma'am, I said 'out' and I won't tell you again."


Sheila showed her FBI identification.

"Oh ... I see ... well, the Des Moines cops will be here in a minute ... you can work with them, Agent."

Sheila didn't bother to point out that she was a lab tech and not a Special Agent.

Mortimer sat by as Sheila began an examination of the site. She only had a few minutes before the local police arrived. The security guards, having already chased everyone out of the tent, stationed themselves on either side of the entrance.

Two Des Moines police officers arrived. "What's going on here?" the larger of the two bellowed, addressing no one in particular. His name tag read "Hulme."

The other officer, clearly the junior of the two both in size and rank, stood next to his partner with his arms folded and his legs in a wide stance, obviously making an effort to look important. Whereas his companion was tall and wide, he was short and relatively thin. His name tag said "Schreiber."

One of the security guards thought fit to answer. "Someone's been shot," he offered. "Up there." He gestured to the playing area at the far end of the tent.

"Yeah, we know that," Hulme said. "But where's everybody? There's nobody in here but ... hey ... YOU over there, what do you think you're doing?" This was clearly aimed at Sheila, who was hovering over Bob Pace's body, making notes in a little notebook.


Sheila straightened up as Officer Hulme approached. "FBI," she repeated for his benefit, once again holding up her ID.

"FBI? You guys ain't got jurisdiction, unless you're takin' over ... hey, that don't make no sense. And you don't look like no Special Agent neither."

"I'm not," Sheila replied, "I work in the Denver crime lab. I'm making observations before a bunch of ... well ... others ... contaminate the crime site."

Hulme lifted his cap and scratched his head. "Well, I s'pose, but look here Miss, when our people get here you give 'em that there little book a yours, and then you skeddadle, got it?"

"Yes, officer," Sheila replied, and bent back down again, continuing to make notes.

Hulme looked over at Mortimer, but before he could say anything, Sheila said, "It's okay, he's my assistant."

"You FBI too?" Hulme asked Mortimer.

"Uh ... well ... no. I'm a detective, you know, like Sherlock ... "

"Didn't know the FBI called 'em detectives. Well, whatever, we just gotta secure the site till the rest get here. Chief ain't gonna like it that them hicks they hired let everyone take off, though."


Mortimer quietly pulled out his cell phone. Well, not his fault if he didn't get to finish his sentence and allow as he was after all an amateur detective, although he certainly could claim to have worked on a case with the FBI in the past. Okay, not exactly with the FBI, but it was good enough.

Well, then, he might as well do some detecting. He turned on his camera and walked around the playing area, taking photos of all the checkerboards. Hmm ... interesting position on this one ...

White to Play and Draw


Nah, he didn't have time for that. Maybe later.

Actually he wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he just took pictures of everything. The floor of the tent, the walls, anything he could think of.


By the time the Des Moines Crime Scene Unit arrived, perhaps 20 minutes later, he had taken photos of virtually everything. And it was a good thing, because the Police Chief, who was now on site of what would undoubtedly be a high profile crime, and who was trailed closely by the media, wasn't happy to see Mortimer and Sheila inside the tent. Office Hulme explained the FBI connection but that made Chief Easton even less happy.

"This is OUR jurisdiction," he roared at Sheila, who was just putting away her notebook. "You ain't got NO right to be here unless I invite you! And I ain't invited you neither, so get on outta here now afore I call the Des Moines Field Office and raise a ruckus!"

Sheila, not thinking it wise to say she was actually from Denver, motioned to Marvin. "Let's do as the Chief asks, Marvin," she said, "right now."

"Hey, Chief," spoke up Officer Hulme, "they been takin' notes and photos and so on ... mebbe they oughta give 'em to you?"

"Nobody asked you fer advice, Hulme!" the Chief thundered. "I don't need their gol dang FBI notes! My own crew's here now and they'll do just fine without any fancy help from the Feds, no thank you!"


Marvin and Sheila quickly exited. Once outside, Sheila said as they walked away, "It's amateur hour in there. First security lets everyone leave, then the local cops let us prowl around, then the chief doesn't want to see what we found--- even though we really shouldn't have been looking. I was hoping to help, but strictly speaking the local police are in charge. One phone call and I could maybe change that, but let them figure it out for themselves."

Mortimer gave Sheila a certain look. Sheila paused walking for a moment. "Mortimer, really?"

"Yeah, it's an interesting case, you've got to admit."

Sheila sighed. "Actually, it is. But we could get in trouble if we poke our noses in."

"Poke our noses in? No, 'course not!" Marvin smiled.

"I don't like that smile," Sheila said, "we've been there and done that and nearly got ourselves killed by that serial murderer."

"Yeah, the Checker Murderer. Great case. Hey, you made a lot of notes and I took a lot of pictures. Let's just, you know, kind of ... go over them? The Fair's going to be shut down for sure after this and it would cost a lot to change our flight ... what else is there to do in Des Moines, anyhow?"


Sheila sighed again. "Not much," she said. "We won't even get to watch the corn shucking contest, and that would have been the thrill of the week. Okay, let's get a rideshare back to the motel and we'll see what we can piece together."

(to be continued)

Mortimer was too busy to dig into the "interesting" position he saw on one of the checkerboards, but hopefully you have a little time. It's really quite intriguing. Don't just say something corny like "Aw shucks!" but instead give the problem a try. There's a kernel of enjoyment and instruction in there. When you're ready to see the solution, just click on Read More for full details.20050904-symbol.gif


White to Play and Draw


25-22---A 20x27 32x16 12x19 22-18! 14x23 15-11 8x15 28-24 19x28 26x3 to a draw.

A---Not 32 27, 14-18 or 7-11, Black Wins.

This position arose in a game played on the internet site It's Your Turn. Here is the run-up. The game was not perfectly played but this is typical of fast paced internet play.

1. 11-15 23-18
2. 15-19 24x15
3. 10x19 18-15
4. 7-10 21-17
5. 9-14 17-13
6. 12-16 22-18

Not the best. 25-21 or others are better.

7. 14x23 27x18

Black is srong here.

8. 10-14 ...

8-12 is better.

8. ... 18x9
9. 5x14 ...

Black has lost some of his advantage.

9. ... 25-21
10. 8-12 31-27

26-22 is better. Black is strong again.

11. 4-8 29-25
12. 3-7 27-24

Loses. 25-22 would have been better.

13. 16-20 ...

Allows White to draw. Black would win with 19-23. This is the diagrammed position; see above for the continuation.

This problem first appeared under the title Vote for Me, by Jim Loy, in Bill Salot's Composing Contest #49, February 2020.

Our thanks to Jim and Bill for allowing us the use of this setting.

06/22/24 - Category: Fiction -Printer friendly version-
You can email the Webmaster with comments on this article.