Wednesday, July 25, 2018

"With More Than a Hundred Witnesses, His Alibi Could Not Be Broken"

WE'VE posted about a Ray Cummings story of the perfect crime variety in which time played a crucial role in the plot. Now we have a perfect crime tale in which time travel will shape the storyline. Curiously enough, it shares the same title with Cummings's story.

   "When you play with the fourth dimension there is always more than one—"

"Time for Murder."
By Sydney J. Bounds (1920-2006).
First appearance: Authentic Science Fiction, October 1955.
Reprints page (HERE).
Collected in Time for Murder: Macabre Crime Stories (2012; ISFDb HERE).
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at (HERE) and The Luminist Archives (HERE; go to text page 81).

     "I have committed the perfect crime. Naturally I want you to know—now that you can’t do a damn thing about it!"

Alibi-breaking is stock-in-trade for the average police detective, but a major brain-bender of a problem awaits Inspector Burton of the C.I.D. in re the case of Gerald Laver, deceased . . .

Principal characters:
~ The vic:
  "Gerald Laver, age sixty-three, financier, bachelor, lived alone except for one servant. Shot through the heart from a distance of three yards by a .45 automatic—that's the gun on the table—died instantly. Time of death established by medical evidence, nine to nine thirty p.m. Wrist watch smashed and stopped at nine twenty-one p.m."
~ Clifford Webb:
  ". . . when the question of timing was brought out, caused a sensation by proving conclusively that he was nowhere near Laver’s house at nine twenty-one on the night 
of the murder."
~ Inspector Burton:
  ". . . stared glumly at his desk and wondered how the gun that had killed Laver could clearly show Webb’s finger-prints, and no others, if Webb had not been the last man to handle it. He already had a headache from thinking about that."

~ The Inspector's sergeant:
  "After you’d left Laver’s house, I was alone with the corpse, waiting for the mortuary van to come. It was quiet in that room. Just me and the deceased—then, all at once, there was this rabbit."

Comment: If the killer hadn't had the urge to brag, thus saving the Inspector from having to figure it all out by himself (highly unlikely), this story could easily have been ten or twenty times longer.


- An Englishman, Sydney James Bounds was prolific, using many pseudonyms over the course of a sixty-years-plus writing career; see Wikipedia (HERE), Bear Alley (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb's bibliography (HERE).
- It's remarkable how many authors have mashed crime and Professor Webb's technology together; the latest such story that we've featured on ONTOS is Milton Lesser's "Stop, You're Killing Me!" (HERE); two other similarly themed stories are highlighted (HERE) and (HERE).

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