Thursday, October 3, 2013

Title: Checkmate
By Author:  John M. Floyd

Appearing in issue #41, October 14, 2013

Tag line:  Judging by the evidence, the sheriff concluded that Judge Moore had known his killer!

Police characters:  Sheriff Charles Jones and Deputy Fred Prewitt

The gist:  Judge Moore is found dead by his maid when she comes in in the morning and she immediately summoned the police.  He had been shot in the chest while sitting at his desk.  In front of him was a swivel chess board with only one chess piece sitting in the middle, a white knight.  The rest of the chess pieces were swept aside.  The sheriff felt this was a clue.  When asked why the judge wouldn’t have just written the killer’s name on piece of paper, Sheriff Jones felt that there must not have been enough time.  Although Ms. Potts is mentioned as being home with the flu, she is not a part of this story.  Only three people had keys to the house beside the maid; and they were the judge’s three grown children.  There was no sign of forced entry.  It was deduced that the judge must have seen his killer as he was sitting facing the door.  Sheriff Jones asked the deputy to go gather the three adult children but to only tell them that Judge Moore had been found dead.  When the trio arrived, son Clayton asked the sheriff, “Who could have killed him?”  This tipped off the sheriff, as the three were not told the Judge had been murdered.   When confronted Clayton pointed to his sister and blurted out, “It was all her idea.”  Both siblings were arrested.  Sheriff Jones told his deputy that the Judge DID leave a clue.    What was it?

Crime scene:  Judge Moore’s home office. 

Clues:  The white knight chess piece.

Suspects:   The judge’s three children. 

Red herrings:   None. 

Solution:   Clayton asked who killed his father when no one had told him his father had been murdered. Now for the white knight clue: The Lone Ranger had a white horse named Silver.  The Lone Ranger’s real name was Clayton Moore.  

My two cents:   Imagine the shock of seeing your son standing in the doorway with a gun pointed at you.  Imagine the horror of hearing that gun go off and feeling a bullet enter your chest.  Betrayed by your own child.  Dying.  What does he do?  Stay with me here.  He doesn’t try to write down a name.  He doesn’t try to dial 911 and utter his last word, the name of the killer, into the phone.  What he does is he sweeps the chess board clear of all the pieces except for the white knight which he places directly in the center of the board.  He had the presence of mind and enough breath and strength to connect a rook chess piece to a white horse to Silver to the Lone Ranger to the actor’s real first name that happens to be the same as his son’s.  Seriously?  (Is my mouth still hanging open?)

Unbelievable.  No, I really mean it.  It’s unbelievable. Never mind the tired old clue of having the killer ask who killed the guy, which has been used a kagillion times. This is more than a stretch.  This is an amazing illustration of just how wrong I am to think these stories need to be well written and entertaining and make sense to sell.  I throw my hands up in the air.  Just send in any old thing and see what catches their eye this week.   


Mary Jo said...


Anonymous said...

I can't understand their thought process when choosing a story. It does seem there are no "rules", you need to follow aside from keeping it 700 words or less. Write it, send it and hope for the best!

Tamara said...

Could it be the name "Floyd"?

Cranston said...

It can't be because they have a lack of material to choose from!

Julia said...

Wow. Perhaps some popular and usually good writers (like John Floyd) have secret contract with WW, about which we know nothing . . . like maybe WW is promised 5 stories in 10 months and pre-pay the writer and then he works really hard on the first four, and something comes up on his life (personal or professional) and he just phones in the 5th story? Could this be possible? I don't know. I just know Mr. Floyd usually hits 'em out of the park but this time, well, he didn't.

Chris said...

Oh my gosh. My jaw genuinely dropped when I read that. I'd be the last one to criticise someone who has succeeded so spectacularly where I have failed but, really, are you kidding me? As if it's not unlikely enough that the White Knight chess-piece would spring to a dying man's mind as a link to the Lone Ranger's horse, Silver, which leads him to think of the actor who rode it, which leads him to think that the man's name is the perfect clue to the killer being his own son, but somehow the COP manages to make the link too! Blimey O'Riley. Sherlock Holmes couldn't have come up with a more far-fetched, convoluted connection than that. Just as well it didn't make the sheriff think of white horses on the sea, or poor old Neptune might have found himself up on a murder rap. Holy moley, pass the Scotch someone.