View Full Version : Look At It This Way

July 4th, 2015, 07:02 PM

Having called the meeting to order, the chairman got down to business. “I’m sorry to have called you out at six on a December evening, but we have to deal with an alarming situation. As you know, we are at an advanced and critical stage in Project X2, on which the fortunes of this company depend. At about this time yesterday, a vital document was taken from the office of our chief engineer, Mr Thompson. It was an encrypted paper, but we simply cannot allow it to fall into the hands of any competitor. I will tell you what we know.

“Any one of those doing the work concerned could have accessed Mr Thompson’s office. The paper should have been locked in the safe there, but it was not. I will deal with this lapse of security later – there’s no time for that now. You all know that the employees I’m speaking of wear colour-coded forensic suits, blue for the senior people doing the most sensitive work, green for the others, and that they have their hair tucked into baggy caps. Except at close proximity it’s virtually impossible to recognise a particular individual. For our purposes I’ll call these operatives blues and greens. There are ten people in the former group and sixty in the latter.

“Now, we have an eye witness. He’s one of our security men and is waiting here in the anteroom. He caught sight of someone hurrying away from Mr Thompson’s office at the time that matters to us. The two were about forty yards apart and most of the lights were out, but our man is convinced that the person he saw was wearing a blue protective suit. Because of the information I’ve already given you, plus the fact that the figure was hunched forwards, we can’t say anything about height, build or gender.

“The problem is that because the greens do the routine work, any of them could be replaced without much trouble. The blues are different. They are all experts. Moreover they are all well aware of their value to us. They’re a tight-knit bunch. In addition to a superiority complex, which they have singly and collectively, most of them are very edgy. Any questioning of them would almost certainly cause explosive reactions, and that might wreck our plans, so I would rather interrogate all of the greens than any of the blues. Yet we have this witness. So I’m wondering how to proceed. Any suggestions?

“Yes.” This came from the accountant, Mr Digit. “I think we should be quite sure of our ground, Mr Chairman. You spoke of poor visibility. Well, we have the same conditions now and there are twelve people at this table. We know where the spare forensic suits and caps are kept. I think ten of us should don, say, blue suits then simulate yesterday’s event, each of us, one after another, running from Mr Thompson’s office and asking our witness to identify us as either blue or green, so we can establish how reliable he is.”

The chairman rubbed his chin for a moment, then nodded. “All right. We’re desperate, so unless there’s some disagreement, we’ll do it right away and continue our discussion afterwards. Are we unanimous?” They were.

The meeting reconvened an hour later, the chairman looking even glummer than before. “I’m grateful to you for throwing me a lifeline, Mr Bell,” he said, “but it hasn’t helped. Ten of us did as you recommended and our witness called the correct colour in eight cases. As his accuracy record was eighty per cent, I think we must accept his word, so with great regret and the utmost distaste, I shall start grilling the blues. I must say that I expect fireworks. If this course is wrong, they might all walk out and leave us with a disaster on our hands.”

“One moment, please,” said the statistician.

The chairman nodded at her. “Yes, Mrs Grafton. What is it?

“I think we’re being a little hasty here, Mr Chairman. You say that our witness was right in eighty per cent of the cases.”

“Yes. So?”

“Let us try viewing this from another perspective. There are ten blues and sixty greens. If we were to run the greens past him, we must assume that he would maintain his eighty per cent record.”

“Right. Go on.”

“Thank you. Therefore, he would have correctly identified eight of the blues and got the other two wrong, and would have assessed twelve of the sixty greens as blues. In total, he would have picked out twenty people as blue and been right in only eight cases. That’s a forty per cent score, not an eighty per cent one. I think you would be justified in tackling the greens first, as you clearly would like to do.”

“Well, well, Mrs Grafton, perhaps you have rescued me. I’ll try that way.”

Note. The chairman began with the greens. Number nine confessed, the project was successful and the company prospered.

* * *

July 13th, 2015, 02:34 PM
I like your writing style and would like to see you write a novella or a novel.


July 14th, 2015, 02:02 PM
Hello Snookie,

Glad you liked the tale, which is the shortest fiction item I have posted. As you seem to be thinking in terms of something longer, you might wish to try my 'On Approval' (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/156111-On-Approval?highlight=) in this forum. For something of real novella length - about 30,000 words - there is 'Man in Debt' (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/126059-Man-In-Debt?highlight=) in the Humour forum. I have also four series of stories in the Multi-Chapter And Collected Works sub-section of General Fiction. They are: 'Solomon Had It Easier' (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/127205-Solomon-Had-It-Easier?highlight=) , 'Pondhopper' (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/129436-Pondhopper?highlight=), 'Sunset Stories' (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/131220-Sunset-Stories-Banking-On-It-And-Others?highlight=) and 'Way Out West' (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/143593-Way-Out-West-Incident-In-Texas-And-Others?highlight=) .

Happy reading and best wishes, Cj

Renaissance Man
October 3rd, 2015, 03:39 PM
Your writing style is undoubtedly accessible to the reader. I like the concept, in general. However you leave out much information that would have to be included should this become a novel. Also. I agree a green is more likely to have been guilty. However I disagree with how Mrs. Grafton came to that conclusion. I believe that all those who successfully gained access to the blues uniforms needed to be considered suspects. Also is it not true that a green who had been there long enough could have learned where the blue suits were kept, how to get in. Whose suit wouldn't be missed the day of the robbery and where the sensitive information was kept, and when it would be unguarded?

Just some things to think about. Also you should show a lot more of the action as opposed to summerizing it in narrative.

October 4th, 2015, 07:10 PM
I note that you joined WF quite recently. Welcome. I look forward to reading your work. The item above was intended merely as a vignette, illustrating the potential pitfalls arising from interpretations of statistics. I do not consider it suitable for more expansive treatment.

If you have a taste for lengthier tales, you may be interested in my ‘On Approval’ in this forum. That piece is much longer and more complex than ‘Look At It This Way’. I also have some rather more extended and quirky detective stories in the ‘Pondhopper’ series in the Multi-Chapter And Collected Works Forum.

Best of luck with your writing. Cj

October 28th, 2015, 05:39 PM
I like the descriptions and the setting. I think the writing style matches in the sense that it seems to be military or something requiring security--and the discussion (writing) seems to be straight and to the point--very direct--as most military folks seem.

I think you need to introduce more plot into the scene--we know there was a breach, but other than that, very little in story details come out. That may have been intentional--this may have only been introductory. However, as a reader, some impending action helps keep me hooked, and I think this short needs just a little more of what's happening--even if only through implication.

November 13th, 2015, 11:22 PM
It might just be me, but I had to read the statistical stuff a few times to get it. I wonder if it would have added more tension if it was a Blue that had actually committed the offence.