Can you solve this mini-mystery?


AGORAPHOBIC ALIBI


By William Burton McCormick



"'Santa?' That's a strange name for a girl."

"It's a common woman's name in my homeland, Mr. Robinson," said Santa Ezerina, taking a seat at the apartment's kitchen table across from the heavyset man.

Robinson's green eyes flared behind puffy cheeks. "You mean you came all the way from...from...uhmm...where?"

"Latvia..."

"...to interview me?"

Santa laughed. "Not quite Mr. Robinson. Only a short bus ride across town. I'm a journalism major at NYU. I was considering doing an article on your former condition, agoraphobia, and wanted to talk to you about your experiences."

"Oh, that. I can ramble on about my old ailments forever. Whaddya want to know? I mean back then I just started going outdoors less and less. A few days inside, then weeks. Next thing you know it'd been months and a friend of mine said 'Hey, you've got ahl-gor-ah-phobia.' I said 'What's that? The fear of Al Gore?'" He laughed.

Santa said nothing.

"You see, Al Gore was one of our vice-presidents..."

"I'm aware of that Mr. Robinson. I'm also aware that your condition — the fear of open spaces — worsened. At one point, you went three years without leaving the house."

"Yes."

"Debilitating. Though it proved advantageous with regards to the murder of Anna Hernandez."

Robinson's eyes narrowed. "Is that what this is about? Why can't you people leave this alone after all this time?"

Santa straightened her posture, willed herself to look older. "It was advantageous, Mr. Robinson, you can't dispute this. You were the beneficiary of her will, yet known to have violent arguments with her. She even told friends you'd threatened her life shortly before her demise. Speaking fairly, everything pointed to you as the culprit."

"If you'd done your research, you'd know Anna was killed in her apartment six blocks from here. At that time, I'd been incapable of leaving my house for years."

"As your psychiatrist said in his statement. Really, your agoraphobia alibi is all that kept it from going to trial."

Robinson shrugged. "Then there isn't much more to say."

"But psychiatrists can be fooled — or bought. Can you?" Santa tossed a bill on the table. "Fifty dollars if you look at a picture."

He glared at her. "What picture?"

Santa withdrew a photograph from her purse. "This has been circulating on the internet recently though the original digital image itself is years older. I traced the source to a social media site of your friend Guy Richards."

Robinson looked alarmed. "Guy wouldn't..."

Santa handed the photograph to him. The slightly out-of-focus picture showed an even plumper Robinson standing at the gate to Yankee Stadium. The timestamp in the corner read 14:35 10/7/2005

A smile crossed Robinson's face. "Taken October seventh, you see? Well, after Anna's death in August of that same year." He laughed. "In fact, I think it was the shock of her passing that allowed me to overcome my disability."

"You must admit it's suspicious that you conquered your fear so soon after her death."

"To convict me, you'd have to show I was capable of going outside leading up to the time of her murder. Not after." He scooped up the fifty. "Nice attempt at ambush journalism, Santa. You get an 'F' on this assignment."

Santa's shoulders slumped. "Perhaps, you're right. And it's not a clear photograph anyway."

"Guy's from London. English cameras are a joke." He smiled. "You Europeans shouldn't even try to keep up."

Moments later, Robinson had shown Santa out. As soon as his door shut, she straightened her shoulders, smiled, and dialed her editor's number on her mobile.

"Bob? Robinson's guilty as sin. His agoraphobia alibi doesn't hold water. I'll have the article to you by sundown." Santa pumped her fist. I'm going to get an "A+" in journalism this semester, easily.

And a little revenge for Anna Hernandez.


HOW DOES SANTA KNOW MR. ROBINSON'S ALIBI IS FALSE?

Please click here to reveal the answer.


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