I remember with perfect clarity the exact moment when I first realized I must kill my wife. It was exactly three weeks into my retirement.
I’d devoted thirty-five long, tedious years to that company and foolishly believed my absence would be sorely felt. From what I heard later, I was vastly mistaken about that. There was a luncheon in my honor and I was presented with a gold watch. Carrying a shoebox filled with my personal possessions, I walked out of the building feeling free for the first time in all those years.
My euphoria lasted just as long as it took for me to walk through my front door. I no sooner closed the door than Doris began her persistent whining. I resolved at that moment that I would not spend the rest of my life sitting around listening to her interminable complaints.
Sure she had a bad heart, but I’d be darned if I would let her ruin the rest of my life with her constant demands and complaints. Now that I had the time and the money, I intended to really start enjoying life, even if it meant leaving her on her own as I traveled to every exotic destination I’d ever dreamed of.
But I was a fool to think she would ever let me out of her clutches.
The night before my sudden revelation we argued about a trip I wanted to take to Hawaii. She said I wanted to leave her at home by herself while I went off cavorting with a bunch of rich widows. When I said I wanted her to come too she accused me of trying to kill her. She said I knew she would never make it home alive. I was furious with her. I’d been listening to her complain about her health so long it had ceased to interest me. Sure she had a little heart condition, but if she thought I was going to spend the rest of my life hanging around the house babying her she was very much mistaken.
It was the next morning, while I was standing before the bathroom mirror trimming my beard that it suddenly dawned on me; Doris would have to die. I had not worked all those years to allow her to steal away the happiness I’d worked so hard for.
Actually, the most difficult part of the whole business was reaching the decision to do it. The rest seemed remarkably simple. It was easy to convince Doris I had acquiesced to her demands and was no longer planning the trip to Hawaii, or to anywhere else.
I began visiting the local library daily. Doris was a prolific reader of romance novels, racing through one a day as long as her supply held out. Seeing an opportunity in her hobby, I offered to walk to the library every day and pick up a book for her.
I made sure my daily walks were thoroughly noted. Each day at noon on the dot I passed the local swimming hole, making a point of speaking to the youngsters who splashed in the water. I always made a great show of looking at my watch and then commenting that it was exactly high noon. I knew they laughed at me behind my back as a foolish old man. But it never bothered me. They would remember me and that suited my purpose.
Then I continued my walk, making sure I was at the library at precisely 12:30. Again, I looked at my watch and commented to the librarian that you could set your watch by my punctuality. In a matter of a few weeks my pattern was firmly set in everyone’s mind. By late August I felt it safe to proceed with the next step of my plan.
When I left the house an hour earlier than usual, Doris didn’t even bother to look up from her book. Reaching the swimming hole, I stopped at the usual place, checked my watch, and commented to the boys in the water about it being high noon, when in reality it was only 11:00 am. After a few moments I continued on my way to the library. Once I was out of view from the swimmers I ducked into the woods and cut back to the house, walking as quickly as possible.
Killing Doris was easier than I had expected. I took a pillow from the sofa and, throwing my full weight behind it, held it firmly against her face. She didn’t struggle as much as I had thought she would. I was careful to hold the pillow in place until I was certain she was gone.
On the table beside her favorite chair was an antique, eight day clock. On an inspiration, I set the clock ahead to 12:35, and then knocked it to the floor. I carefully placed Doris’ body on the floor, her hand reaching toward the telephone. Being careful to avoid passing the children bathing in the river, I arrived at the library at my usual time, making sure the librarian noted my punctuality. As soon as I returned home I phoned our family doctor to report Doris’ “heart attack.” It was only minutes before he arrived.
Considering Doris’ heart condition I had expected he would sign the certificate as death by heart failure immediately, so I was a bit taken aback when he asked to use the phone and called the Sheriff’s office. Although I was disappointed, I felt confident I had covered my tracks sufficiently.
Sheriff Adams arrived about twenty minutes later. He had been down at the swimming hole picking up his son, Bobby. As soon as they stepped in the door, Dr. Johnson took the Sheriff aside and conferred with him in hushed tones. All I could hear was the doctor saying that something didn’t look right about Doris’ death, that there was something wrong about her eyes.
Sheriff Adams began to poke around the house with young Bobby close behind each step his father took.
“When you came home and found your wife on the floor, what exactly did you do?” he asked me.
“When I came in and found her lying on the floor like that, the first thing I did was to check for a pulse. When I couldn’t find one, I called Dr. Johnson immediately,” I answered, all the while trying to make my voice sound like I was doing all I could to hold back my tears.
“Did you notice anything that might have caused you to think there might have been an intruder in the house?”
“Now that you mention it, the back door was standing open. My God, I must have frightened my wife’s murderer away!”
“Not too likely. As you can see by your broken clock, your wife died around 12:35. According to the doctor here, you called him just after 2:00 pm. That’s about when you usually get back from the library, right?”
“Precisely, Sheriff Adams, precisely. I leave the house at 11:40, pass the swimming hole at 12:00 noon and arrive at the library no later than 12:30. As a matter of fact, your son can testify as to my punctuality. I spoke to him today, as I so often do, at exactly 12:00 o’clock”
You can imagine my horror when the Sheriff’s son looked up at me with those big, innocent eyes of his as he completely destroyed my alibi.
“I’m sorry, sir, but it wasn’t 12:00 o’clock. In Boy Scouts we learned to tell time by the sun. So I noticed that when you looked at your watch and said it was high noon, the sun wasn’t in the right position. I always check the sun when you come by; it’s always right above the river, straight up. Today it wasn’t. Today it was off to the East. I wondered at the time why you told us it was noon, when it wouldn’t be noon for at least another hour.”
That was when Sherriff Adams began to read me my rights.