“Is this the guy in the
shirt?” Kevin asked. “I think I see why he prefers to have people call him Scottie.”
Michael turned away from the computer. “You could also call him broke. He had a good personnel job at a big company but lost it three months ago after a major merger. And he has an expensive condo to pay for. Apparently, he’s been on eBay and a lot of other web locations, selling off what appears to be an extensive
“That won’t last forever,” Kevin said.
Mrs. Halvorsen nodded. “He could really use the prize money.”
“But—Scottie?” Liza shook her head. “He’s the most upbeat, easygoing person at this tournament.”
And one of the few sudoku professionals I really like,
she added silently.
Shrugging, Michael went back to the screen. “According to these rough financials, your friend Will Singleton has made a pretty good living off sudoku. Book deals, personal appearances, syndicated puzzles in newspapers and magazines, other media tie-ins—”
“And there’s his connection with SINN,” Kevin put in.
Liza suddenly found herself remembering Ian Quirk’s jibe at Will, calling him a media whore. Of course, Ian and Babs were both angling for some sort of deal with SINN, too.
From Will’s point of view, eliminating Ian Quirk from the tournament might allow for a dark horse winner and more publicity—as well as dealing Quirk a humiliating setback.
Would Will be just as glad to eliminate Quirk on a more permanent basis?
Reluctantly, Liza shared that information. She tried to find other motives or means in the downloaded material, but they kept coming back to money and power.
“Well, those are the classic motivations for murder,” Michael pointed out.
Liza drifted over to the balcony door, staring out at the harbor below. “Along with revenge and jealousy,” she finally said. “What if there’s a bigger picture we’re not seeing?”
“Like what?” Kevin asked.
“Like damaging the whole tournament,” Liza responded. “The leading contestant becomes deathly ill, the big promotional event goes disastrously off the rails . . .”
“I think that was a mistake,” Mrs. Halvorsen said.
“Yes, a mistake and an accident—except the accident turned out to be fatal.”
“Boy, you love your conspiracy theories.” Michael laughed. “So who’s behind the dastardly deeds, the Crossword Lovers Cabal, the International Alliance of Word Search Fanatics?”
“I was thinking more of Babs Basset,” Liza admitted. “From the moment I first saw her, she’s been giving Will a hard time, moaning about the whole tournament. Maybe she figures that she should be the queen bee of any West Coast tournaments. You should have seen the look on her face when Gemma Vereker showed up and suddenly got all the media attention.”
“Well, at least it’s a different motive,” Mrs. H. commented.
“And something else we can run past Buck Foreman.” Liza looked at her watch. “Maybe we should get back downstairs and catch him before he gets sucked into the whole tournament mob scene.”
They managed to intercept Buck at the entrance to the main hotel building, but there was no way to insulate him from the chattering crowd. Big and hard-looking, the private eye glanced around with the poker face of an anthropologist studying a particularly bizarre tribe of primitives.
“Y’know,” Buck said, “this reminds me of a surveillance case I had a while back. I followed the subject to a hotel in the middle of a chess tournament. The moment we came into the lobby, all the players were bragging about how well they did.”
For just a second, his face lightened to a grin. “Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.”
Mrs. H. laughed, Kevin winced, and Michael actually said, “Ouch!”
“Don’t ever let Michelle catch you saying something like that,” Liza warned, smiling. “She considers puns to be the lowest form of humor.”
Buck shrugged. “It’s just an idiosyncrasy that she has to put up with.”
Not for the first time, Liza found herself wondering about the exact relationship between her partner and the PI. Certainly, there was a business component. Whenever a client got in trouble or Michelle needed leverage against a studio or management, Buck went out to beat the bushes or dig under rocks and get the goods. Other times, though, Buck would drop off the radar—and the usually hypercon nected Michelle went incommunicado.
Right now, though, Liza had a different mystery to deal with. She quickly outlined what had happened to Ian Quirk and the fiasco with the promotional event, then went down the possible suspects and their motivations.
Buck whipped out a notebook and jotted away. “Nice summary, Kelly. I hope this motive stuff helps to narrow things down.” He flipped the notebook closed. “Otherwise, the cops will have to spread the net pretty wide.” He cast an expert eye over the crowd. “What have you got here, a couple hundred people?”
“More like three hundred,” Liza replied. “Not counting the staff.”
“Just imagine the fingerprinting.” Buck gave a little shudder. “So where did it happen?”
Liza led him to the Skye Room. The doors were open now, showing a dozen police—uniformed, plainclothes, and technicians—processing the area. Dashing around at the fringes, clipboard still in hand, was Oliver Roche.
Buck stared, then gave a short bark of laughter. “So this is where the Roach ended up.”
“Forging chains of logic” sounds very impressive, but a lot of sudoku solving depends on the homely process of elimination. If a 7 appears in this space, it prohibits the appearance of a 7 somewhere else.
That’s why I’m especially fond of the technique called row and box/column and box interactions. This involves scanning three-space segments of a column or row as divided by the subgrids in a sudoku.
We’re not looking for a particular space, but rather for a clump of spaces containing a particular digit among the candidates. Say we’re looking for 2s in the middle tier of boxes, Rows 4 through 6. The bottom row has a 2 in the third box, eliminating 2s in the end segments of Rows 4 and 5 and throughout Row 6. Row 4 has six 2s in its remaining segments, but Row 5 has only two, both of them in the second box. That means 2 can only appear in those two spaces in the row, and the three 2s in the segment above in Row 4 can be eliminated.
It’s sort of like scientists trying to track down a subatomic particle. They might not know exactly where it is, but they have a firm idea where it’s not.
by Liza K
Liza stopped dead in her tracks. “You mean you know that man?”
Buck gave her a grimly amused smile. “In certain circumstances, Oliver the Roach is almost legendary. He was the most miserable mother—”
He gave a sudden cough, glancing over at Mrs. H. “As I was saying, he was the most miserable mother’s son on the LAPD, living proof that psych tests don’t weed out all the head cases in the academy.”
“So he was—” Michael began.
“Let’s just say if you looked up ‘piece of work’ in the dictionary, you’d find the Roach’s portrait.” Foreman shook his head. “Anyone who gets a police shield expects to exert some authority—it’s part of the job. But some people take it to extremes. I wonder if Roche ever regretted that he was so skinny—he acted as if he’d have liked to be one of those Southern sheriffs, ramming his big belly into people to shove them around.”
“He had a heavy hand?” Kevin asked.
“And not just with civilians. He was a complete control freak—drove his partners crazy. They’d do anything to escape. I can’t swear that some of these aren’t just cop stories, but I heard of one guy who shot himself in the foot to get away. Then there was the female partner who trumped up harassment charges.”
“He really does sound like a—what did you call him? A piece of work?” Mrs. Halvorsen said.
“So why did he give up the police force?” Michael asked. “He can’t have completely exhausted the partner pool.”
“No, but he finally exhausted the patience of the big brass,” Buck said. “He was convinced some guy was the perp on a case, and just about broke the guy’s arm to prove it. Turned out it was another guy altogether. There was a good-sized stink, and Roche retired—ahem—‘for health reasons.’ ”
“You seem to know a great deal about that man.” Mrs. Halvorsen looked up at Buck with interest. “Were you ever his partner?”
“Not exactly,” Buck rumbled. “It just happened that his bad behavior primed the pump with the media, starting a whole ‘the police are out of control’ campaign. I was testifying in a big case, and the defense lawyer brought up something stupid I’d said years ago. But he had tape, he caused a big commotion, got his client off—and when the media lynching was done, I was out of a job.”
“At least you’re still investigating,” Liza told him. “Look where he ended up.”
Buck shrugged. “Don’t knock it. He’s got a regular pay-check, probably a pension—and his own little kingdom to push people around in.”
Liza found herself remembering Oliver Roche’s proprietary way with the Skye Room. She looked up at Buck to find him smiling slightly. “Once a cop, always a cop,” he said. “Roche is dying to get into this investigation.” He nodded into the room, where a young detective stood with a notebook while Roche animatedly talked away. “They finally detained one guy to take his statement so the rest of them could do their jobs without Roche underfoot.”
It seemed that ploy had worked as long as it could. Now Detective Janacek came over to talk to Roche. The head of hotel security looked ready to try an argument, but the veteran cop got his way and even managed an affable handshake with Roche before sending him off.
“I wonder how long it’s going to stay friendly,” Buck muttered.
“What do you mean?” Michael asked.
“Like I said, he’s dying to get into this investigation. If he can’t get in with the cops, he’ll do it himself.” Buck turned to face Liza and all her friends. “This is going to be a high-profile case—the SINN people will make sure of that. If Roche manages to solve it, he may not get his job back, but he could probably land an investigative job somewhere.”
Roche proceeded to prove Buck right. He stepped out of the ballroom, his face so tight Liza suspected his teeth must be creaking. The first person he spotted was Babs Basset.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” Roche said, stepping up to her. “I have a couple of questions—”
She stared down her nose at him as if an earthworm had suddenly addressed her. “Go away, you strange little man.”
And even though Roche topped her by a head, he did slink off, just like some shlubby strange little man.
“Damn, she’s good,” Buck muttered.
Roche moved away quickly, scanning for some other person to question. Of course, he spotted Liza. And then he spotted Buck Foreman.
The security manager came straight at Liza, giving her the sort of squinty-eyed glare that Clint Eastwood used to specialize in. “I’ve heard about your reputation, Ms. Kelly,” he said. “And let me warn you right now against injecting yourself into police business. That won’t be tolerated here.”
“Injecting?” Buck’s eyebrows rose as if in mild surprise. “You mean the way you’re doing?”
Liza thought that Oliver Roche’s face was wrapped about as tight as humanly possible. Watching the man’s muscles contort at Buck’s shot, she feared that Roche’s skull might implode.
“I maintain an excellent professional relationship with the local police,” he ground out. “I’m sure Detective Janacek will be glad for me to lend a hand.”
Buck dropped his light approach. “Listen, Roche, you ought to know there’s a difference between telling old war stories over a couple of beers and letting somebody interfere on a big case. When you were on the job, would you have done that, even for some retired guy?”
Roche growled deep in his throat. Then he spun on his heel and stalked off.
“Well,” Buck said, “I guess he didn’t have an answer for that.”
Liza frowned. “But I don’t think he’s going to thank any of us for witnessing it.”
Will Singleton came darting out of the crowd, so distracted he was chewing one end of his beard. “Liza!” he called as he came past. “I was just going to have someone call you. We finally have the plans firmed up for the makeup round.”
He nodded at the police still in the Skye Room. “There’s no hope of getting the large room back in time. So we’ll be using all of the other event rooms. They’re smaller, but they should accommodate everyone.”
“Sounds good to me,” Liza said, “but I’m guessing Charley Ormond is tearing her hair out, trying to spread all her camera crews around.”
Will sighed. “We’re waiting to see whether she can get some reinforcements,” he admitted. “However that works out, the firm time for the new round is six-thirty.”
“I’ll be there,” Liza promised. She hesitated for a second, then hooked Will’s arm before he got away. “Er, I want you to meet a friend of mine. This is Will Singleton—”
Buck stuck out his hand. “Buck Foreman,” he said, shaking. “I was quite a fan of your crossword puzzles.”
Will cast a glance at the chaos around him. “Some days, I wonder if changing fields was a good idea. You’re not here for the tournament, Mr. Foreman?”
“No, I’m just an old colleague of Liza’s. We both worked at her agency,” Buck said smoothly. “When I heard she was going to be in town . . . or at least, close by, I figured I’d try to get down and see her.”
“That’s very nice,” Will said. “Good to meet you, Buck. Who knows? Maybe Liza can convert you to sudoku.”
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Liza told him. “But if it’s okay with you, I’d like to show him around.”
“I’m sure he won’t be able to see us looking any worse,” Will replied. Then someone else called his name, and he was off to fight another fire.