Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Fiction for July 10th, 2009

Friday Fiction this week is a very short character sketch for the FBI agent in my current WIP, Precocious by Consent. I doubt this scene will end up in the book, but I wanted to play a bit with Sid Powell and get a little more grasp on the kind of man he is.

No deep drama or cliffhangers in this story, and I’m almost amused that its length would fit right in with the Weekly Challenge, if by chance it had coincided with an appropriate topic. Instead, it was written for fun and for Friday Fiction, hosted this week by Cat over at
A Work in Progress. Don’t miss the other stories, just waiting to entertain and enlighten you.

Puzzles
By Rick Higginson

FBI Special Agent Sid Powell arrived at his desk early, with a cup of coffee in one hand, and a bag containing a fruit danish in the other. He removed his suit coat and arranged it on a hanger, and settled into his chair before taking his first sip of coffee. The danish went onto a paper plate, placed to his left, and a pulp paper book took its place in front of him.

He opened the book to the middle, and pulled a pencil from his top drawer. With his left hand, he took a bite of the pastry, and with his right he began to work the puzzle. Okay; I’ve got 5 in both the first and second top blocks, and the only place for 5 in the third block is here. He wrote the digit in the appropriate box. Only place for 2 in the top middle block is here, and the 6 goes down here in the bottom corner. With the 2 taking its place in the top middle, that leaves only one spot for the 6 in that block. 8 has to go here, and 4 down there, which means the block above it gets a 4 in this place.

Simple deductive logic; that was all Sudoku required. Unlike crosswords, it didn’t test his vocabulary or trivia knowledge. It wasn’t mathematics or the luck of the card deal. There was one solution to the puzzle, and everything he needed to know to solve it was right in front of him.

For this column, 7 cannot go here or here. Considering this block, it has to go right there. That means this square gets a 3, leaving 1 and 9 to complete the block. 9 can’t go in the third row, so it has to go in the second, and 1 goes in the third. That leaves 8 and 4 for the third row, and this column already has an 8, so that completes the third row sequence with 2, 5, 3, 9, 8, 4, 6, 1, 7.

With that information, the sequence for the second row became apparent, and he filled in the numbers.

The rows, columns, and blocks could contain anything; any assortment of nine different placeholders would suit the puzzle. Numbers were just basic and nearly universal; most languages on Earth used the standard numbers, even those that had different number symbols in their traditional script. Still; it could be colors that needed sorted, or letters. Pictures of different animals. Flags. It didn’t matter; all that mattered was working through the known facts to sort the columns, rows, and blocks so that each had no repeats. 1 through 9 in each row, 1 through 9 in each column, and 1 through 9 in each block.

Just like sorting the clues to a crime; take what you know, and put everything where it fits. If there’s any confusion, you just need to work out a different part of the puzzle until it clarifies the confusing part.

There was always a moment with every puzzle when it seemed he’d hit a roadblock, and it was almost always followed by that moment when all the rest of the puzzle fell rapidly into place. Sid reached the block, and started looking at each empty square in the puzzle from what it could hold to fulfill column, row, and block needs.

Ah; this one has to have this; it’s the only thing that fits all three criteria. He wrote the number, and then followed that with the remainder of the squares in short order. Though it was almost pointless to do so, he flipped to the solutions in the back of the book and checked his answers. It was rare to find a mistake; if he messed up, it almost always became apparent well before he filled in the final square.

Finishing the last of his coffee, he put the book away and glanced up at the clock. Six minutes; not bad. He booted his computer and opened his latest case file, and started to sort through the puzzle of a violent crime.

2 comments:

Karlene said...

Puzzles; possibly one of the most relaxing thing for a harried mind. I like how he links the art of constructing a puzzle to detective work.

The Surrendered Scribe said...

I think puzzles are a great way to dive into a character's personality and weave into a story. Enjoyable read and great idea for fF!