This short story, by Eric B. Ruark, was previously published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
It was January. Outside the sheriff’s station, it was cold and cloudy. The county trucks had just finished pretreating the roads in anticipation of the coming snow storm. Inside, Sheriff Tracy Lee Hyers was quickly getting hot under the collar. She was losing her patience with the small, nondescript man in the orange jumpsuit who was smirking at her from the other side of the table. She was absolutely sure that Brian Macon was guilty. A couple of months earlier someone had broken into Myer’s Cards and Coins and stolen nearly a million dollars worth of Saint-Gaudens gold doubles eagles from a state-of-the-art safe.
Brian Macon was a professional safe cracker, infamous among the law enforcement community for his “Teflon” fingers. There were lots of officers across the country who would have loved to bring him down. But he was good. He had a short rap sheet, though a large number of unsolved robberies pointed to him.
This time, Sheriff Hyers knew she had Macon dead-to-rights. Two independent cameras had caught him in the act. The first, a surveillance camera, showed Macon breaking into Mr. Myer’s safe. The second, taken by an ATM camera down the street, showed him walking out of the alley behind Cards and Coins carrying the black attaché case that Mr. Myer identified as the one containing the coins. Each was dated and time-stamped: the one inside Myers at 1:05 a.m. and the one from the ATM at 1:17 a.m. Wearing her best poker face, she slowly took still photos made from the videos out of a manila envelope and slid them across the table toward the suspect.
Macon leaned forward and looked at the photos. Then he looked up at the sheriff. “Sure looks like me, but then a lot of people do.” He nodded at his attorney, David Osborn. Sheriff Hyers didn’t like Osborn with his two thousand dollar suits, his hair transplant, or his choice of clients. But she had to admit that he was good at getting his clients off. Osborn opened his Louis Vuitton briefcase and slid a copy of one of the sheriff’s own department reports across the table at her.
“I don’t care what kind of photographic evidence you have,” Osborn said. “Your own deputy puts my client ten miles away from the scene of the crime. Look at the time stamp. Nobody can be in two places at the same time.”
Sheriff Hyers stared at the arrest report.
Osborn continued, “The arrest report was written by your most by-the-book deputy, William Mitchell, a man who has virtually made it his life’s work to get drunk drivers off the road. It says that on the night in question, my client was ten miles away. At the precise moment that the robbery was being committed, 1:10 a.m., my client was being arrested for driving while intoxicated.”
Tracy frowned. There had to be a mistake somewhere, but the only one she could see was Macon’s. When he had been stopped, he gave the arresting officer the driver’s license of one of his aliases, Earl Stevenson. He might even have gotten away with it, except for the fact that it was “Stevenson’s” second DWI. He had been arrested, processed, and immediately driven to the County lock-up where he was sixty days into a ninety-day mandatory sentence. She was ashamed to admit that that’s why they had had trouble finding him. They had been looking for Macon in all his known haunts and hideouts. It was two months before they discovered the Macon/Stevenson connection and that he had been in their custody all along.
She stared at the arrest report. In the back of her mind, she could hear the DA taunting her, “Oh, that’s really great. Mitchell of all people. That man has a hundred percent DWI conviction record. You couldn’t get a better witness for the defense.”
Sheriff Hyers pushed the copy of the arrest report back toward Osborn. “Macon or Stevenson, he’s still got to finish serving his time for the DWI,” she said.
“Hell of a price for an extra drink or two,” Osborn said getting up, but leaving the arrest report on the table.
“Take it up with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers,” Sheriff Hyers said.
After Macon and his attorney left the room, Tracy picked up the photo of Macon committing the robbery in her left hand and the copy of her deputy’s arrest report in her right. She looked from one to the other. A person can’t be in two places at the same time, yet Macon’s smirk was practically an admission of guilt. Unless she could figure out how he managed it, Macon was going to get away with yet another crime.
Sheriff Hyers stuffed the photo and the report back into the file and then walked back to her office. Throwing the file on her desk, she sat down in a huff and began to rifle through her drawers. A hard boiled cop would have kept a bottle of Bourbon tucked away for such an occasion. But Tracy’s weakness was sweets. She opened the metal lock box where she kept her chocolates. It was empty. She swore under her breath. Frustration swelled within her. She wanted to stand up and flip her desk over. Despite her five two frame, she was strong enough to do it. It might even terrorize her deputies, some of whom were twice her size. But she could already tell that they could sense her mood by the wide berth they were giving her. Then she remembered the candy that she had “confiscated” from the Wood’s kid back on Halloween when she caught him soaping the windows down at the bowling alley. She remembered squirreling it away behind her gun cleaning kit.
Tracy reached in to the back of the upper left-hand drawer and pulled out a sealed “evidence” bag. She opened it and popped a couple of pieces of stale candy corn into her mouth. The candies were hard but felt good against her teeth. She chewed on them, allowing the sweetness to bite at the back of her tongue. Suddenly she broke out with a big grin and reached for the Macon file. She pulled out Mitchell’s arrest report, glanced at it, and then hit the intercom on the edge of her desk. “Has Macon left the building?”
“No, Sheriff,” the desk officer responded. “He and his attorney are right here waiting for Macon’s transport back to the county lock-up.”
“Get those two back here ASAP,” she ordered.
A few moments later, the deputy brought Macon and Osborn back up stairs and herded them in front of Sheriff Hyers’ desk.
“This is harassment,” Attorney Osborn snapped.
“No,” Sheriff Hyers said, “this is an arrest. You see, you can be in two places at the same time, but only on one day a year: the first Sunday in November when the clocks are turned back to end Daylight Savings time.”
She turned towards Macon. “Macon, you committed the robbery around 1:10 a.m. just before the clocks were set back. Then you swilled a couple of drinks to raise your blood alcohol level and allowed yourself to be arrested about an hour later around 2:10 a.m. as Stevenson, which became 1:10 a.m., again in the police report. It was the perfect alibi. If you were being arrested at 1:10 a.m., how could you possibly be committing another crime at 1:10 a.m. several miles away? You almost got away with it. Allowing yourself to get arrested under your alias was a neat trick. You were gambling that we would have forgotten all about Daylight Savings Time by the time we caught up with you and sorted the whole Macon/Stevenson thing out.”
Brian Macon swore.
Sheriff Tracy Lee Hyers held out the old evidence bag to the two men. “Candy, anyone?”
Eric B. Ruark describes himself in the following manner: “I’m a writer living in Maryland. I’ve been published by Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Parabola and Parents Today just to name a few. I also won the Hemingway Storytelling Contest which was held in Key West, FL. An avid cyclist, I’ve cycled across America from Connecticut to California and from New England to Key West. Currently, I live with my charming wife, two ferrets, three cats and a Rock Conure on a boat on the Chesapeake Bay.
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