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"Hi, Mom." It was Alice Grunwald's voice. "I guess you're in the shower. I . . . Wait a minute. Someone's at the door. Anyway, I'll see you at six." The answering machine clicked off, then gave the time of the message, 3:32 p.m.
At six, Mrs. Grunwald arrived at her daughter's apartment. She was looking forward to dinner and hearing about Alice's boyfriend troubles. When Alice didn't answer, she used her own key. There was no one at home. Mrs. Grunwald's heart stopped as she saw blood on the entry hall carpet and a note on the table—a ransom note.
Mrs. Grunwald immediately called the police, who discovered a large amount of blood in one of the building's elevators. More was found in the basement, leading them to check behind the boilers. That's where they found Alice's body. She had been stabbed once and died almost instantly. The coroner set the time of death between 3:30 and 4:00, shortly after the unknown visitor had knocked on Alice's door.
Fernando, the building's janitor, was interviewed. "No one came down to the basement while I was on duty. I get off at 5:30. That's no secret. There's a big notice in the lobby saying so."
The police soon had a theory: The killer couldn't leave Alice's body in the apartment, not if he wanted ransom money. And he couldn't remove her through the lobby. He had to wait up in her apartment, with the dead body, until Fernando was off duty. Then he went down and hid her in the basement.
Alice, a rich girl, had always been attracted to shady boyfriends, and suspicion soon fell on her two most recent. Both had partial alibis.
Her current beau, Chip, had been out shopping. A credit card receipt showed that at 4:16 he had been miles away, charging a cart full of items at a hardware store.
Her ex-boyfriend, Dale, had an alibi from 4:45 onward, when he showed up for an appointment at a nearby hair salon.
The chief investigator reviewed all the statements, then took one person downtown for further questioning. Whom? And why?
The whodunit above was provided by American mystery fiction author Hy Conrad.
In addition to his work in mystery and crime puzzles, Hy was also one of the original writers for the groundbreaking TV series Monk.