Arthur C. Clarke's "Crime on Mars" aka "Trouble With Time" (short story, science fiction): A thief gets caught due to unusual circumstances
Among the forgettable stories of Clarke.
Story summary.Main plot involves a foiled theft attempt of a valuable museum piece in the generally crime free human colony on Mars. Thief wanted to take "Siren Godess" from the Museum in Meridian City on Mars.
This Siren Godess is sort of an enigma. It's the "head of a young woman, with slightly oriental features, elongated earlobes, hair curled in tight ringlets close to the scalp, lips half parted in an expression of pleasure or surprise". It's "eight or nine inches high". It was "discovered in the Mare Sirenium by the Third Expedition, AD 2012 (AM 23)." Baffling aspect - thing that makes it so valuable - is that it's very old & of Martian origins!!
Punchline of the story is the reason thief, Danny Weaver, gets caught. It's curious,
Now this Meridian City "gets its name because it's exactly on the longitude one hundred & eighty degrees" - this line sort of divides the city into East & West. And the administrators of this city, in their infinite wisdom, have allowed the little covered city to have two time zones - across this diving line! OK, crazy, but I'll accept it. So the time difference between the two halves should be 30 minutes or at most 1 hour. But
Update, 15 August 2008: An anonymous guest clarifies in this comment how the two sides can be on different days - 7 am in the eastern half, & 6:30 am the previous day in the western half. Thanks friend.
It's this confusion that made the thief - a visitor from earth - get caught. On the day of theft, if was a Sunday in his hotel & only Saturday in the museum! Rather than expected empty museum, thief saw the staff entering in the morning while he was still inside!
Story itself is told as conversation in the "main observation lounge" of "Phobos Spaceport" - among 3 passengers headed to earth: Detective Inspector Rawlings - Martian cop on transfer to the "Yard" (Scotland Yard? I don't know) on earth; Mr Maccar, a terran art dealer, & the narrator. Near end, we will learn, obliquely, that Inspector suspects Maccar funded the theft, & Maccar knows he is under suspicion.
Fact sheet.First published: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 1960 as "Crime on Mars".