By Tom Sloper

Monday, May 26, 2003

Column #51

Chinese Official (CMCR). "Just one more thing," said the detective. "Can you point out the perpetrator in this lineup?"

"That's her," Earl said, pointing at Samantha. "The one on the right. She had my wind, she had my dragon, and as if that wasn't bad enough, she robbed my kong!"

Events had begun innocently enough. Earl's deal was amazingly good.

With these tiles he could not only go for all pairs or all pungs, but clean ("Half Flush") to boot. He started by throwing 5D, ready to pung anything. And in very short order, he'd made three pungs.

The group was incredulous that they had to defend against a probable high-scoring hand so early. When Earl picked E, he decided to hang onto it a while. His discard was 9B. Wei-Hwa, using the 1-4-7 principle, discarded 6B (but he held his breath just the same, exhaling when Earl didn't bite). But then Noriko discarded 5B. "Pung!"

It was pretty much a coin toss which tile he kept, waiting for its mate for mah-jongg. A silly beginner situation, Earl knew, but he was enjoying the consternation he was causing his opponents. He threw 6B. That was his second mistake.

The tide turned against him as he picked and threw a series of bams, showing by the process of elimination what he was not waiting for. It went on until finally he gave up on the E. Samantha konged it.

Came a time when Earl, now holding G as his single tile, picked 2B. He konged it, and that's when the crime occurred.

"You got nothin' on me, Copper," Samantha said. The detective released her on her own recognizance.

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Copyright 2003 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.