Puzzle Solver


A shabby man dressed in plain clothes, ERNEST FECK (30), is lead into a stone interrogation room. He enters meekly, his stance hunched, a guard dressed in the uniform of the kingdom follows behind him. The guard holds a sword to Ernest’s back. In the room two kingdom officials sit behind a heavy stone desk. Ernest is forced into a seat across from them. The door is closed behind him.

One of the officials, CAPTAIN STOKES, a retired guard captain who still retains the solid bulk of his youth despite the heavy amount of grey in his hair, sneers as Ernest sits down. The other official, the castles SPY MASTER, a stern woman with a grating voice, simply glares at him. Ernest looks up at them fearfully from under his hair.

Are, are you letting me go?

No Mr. Feck we are most certainly not letting you go. As you are well aware you are scheduled for execution in two days. What we are doing is questioning you about your crimes.

But I, I didn’t commit any crimes. I’m no criminal. I’s a good, loyal citizen, ask anyone!

Captain Stokes leaps to his feet and stands over Ernest who cowers beneath him.

No more of your lies Feck! I’m not afraid to execute you right now.

The Spy Master places a hand on Captain Stokes arm. He forces himself to composure and sits.

While I will remind Captain Stokes to remain calm he is quite right. We are very aware of who you are. Your guilt is no longer in question so I will suggest you cooperate.

Ernest looks from the Spy Master to Captain Stokes. A slow arrogant smile creeps upon his face as he leans back in his chair. All his meekness evaporates.

Let me ask you a question. If I am scheduled to be executed what is my motivation to cooperate? To be honest the quick end Captain Stokes so kindly offered seems preferable to your company at this point.

Captain Stokes leans over the table threateningly.

How about we return you to the hanging cells? Let you sit over the abyss for a few more days? Does that seem preferable?

Ernest laughs.

If the two of you know who I am do you really think I can’t break out of your cells?

Mr. Feck our cells hang over a thousand foot drop. The three chains that hold them are attached to the roof twenty feet above. The gangplank that leads to the cells is only ever extended out by one of our guards. Even if you did open the hatch in the top of your cell all you could do is stand on top of it and wait for us to lock you back in again.

Lady, what is it you think I do?

You will call me Spy Master, and what you do is commit crimes. You thieve, you scheme, you murder, and you manipulate people.

Well, Spy Master, you’re wrong. I solve puzzles. Your last point was the closest to what I do, but I don’t manipulate people I solve them. People are the best puzzles. Imagine a jigsaw where by rearranging the same pieces you are able to make multiple pictures. Now put that puzzle into a three dimensional form. Then interweave that puzzle with about twenty other puzzles. That’s how I see people. In order to manipulate them, as you say, I solve that puzzle, then use it to create the right picture that suits my need. And I’m excellent at it. Your cell, it’s child’s play.

Enlighten me.

Why not, I’m not going to be executed anyway right?

Ernest eyes the Spy Master, she meets his gaze unblinking.

That’s what I thought. So I could break that hatch by the way. The hinges are the obvious weak point and can be broken just by applying the right amount of leverage using part of my bed frame. But that’s not how I would do it. I could also snap one of the chains easily enough through the same method. Then, moving from one side of my cell to the other, create a pendulum motion until I effortlessly leap over to the gangplank. But that’s also not how I would do it. No, the way I would break out is far simpler. I would just snap all three chains.

Captain Stokes laughs.

So you can fall to your death? Oh yes, you’re real clever Feck.

Would I die though Spy Master?

Ernest leans forward to stare at the Spy Master. She refuses to answer.

You see Captain what I know and you don’t is that your thousand foot drop threat is no threat at all. Your king can’t afford for his prisoners to accidentally die, as much as he and the Spy Master here may pretend otherwise. Especially if those prisoners can be used as leverage against the other kingdoms. That’s why, if I was to fall, a net at the base of that drop would catch me.

Ernest leans back once more.

Getting away from there wouldn’t be much of a challenge for someone of my talents. So, Spy Master, now that you’ve been enlightened, and we all understand that you have no plans to execute me, why don’t you tell me what it is you need from me.

Ernest smiles at the Spy Master, clearly satisfied. The Spy Master returns his stare for a beat. A small smile tweaks on her face.

I will tell you what we need from you Mr. Feck but first I want you to know two things. One, I’m not interested in any of your games. I am not a puzzle you will solve. And two, I had that net removed two days ago.

Ernest’s smile drops from his face.

Let’s get started shall we?

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