WHERE ON EARTH? • by Jim Hawe

Across the face of every freshman streaming into the lecture hall on the fall semester’s first day was the same unspoken question: “Am I in the right class?”

Professor Bill Meriwether had every intention of answering that question — just not right away.

He brushed back his ragged black hair, tugged at the bottom of his vest, and smiled.

“Let me tell you the story of Australian dot-com millionaire Digby McGill,” he began.

Many of the students suddenly looked even more unsure that they were in the right class. A few scratched their heads, while double-checking their schedule of classes.

Meriwether walked to the front of his lectern and thoughtfully looked down at his feet. Then, he slowly raised his head and stared straight into the heart of his audience.

“This story begins on March 12, 2008 in a luxurious Beverly Hills condo. For reasons still unknown to this day, McGill awoke in the middle of the night, removed the nine iron from his golf bag, and proceeded to pummel to death his sleeping wife.”

Professor Meriwether mimed the vicious downward swing of a golf club, causing more than one student in the front row to recoil ever so slightly.

“McGill then calmly hailed a taxi to the airport and caught the next direct flight back to his native Australia,” the professor continued.

“Roberto Santiago, the detective assigned to the case, immediately suspected McGill. There was no sign of a forced entry, the only prints in the condo belonged to the couple, and there was the matter of McGill’s hasty flight back to Australia,” Meriwether added, while counting off the damaging evidence on his fingers.

“Now Australia does not use capital punishment. It also refuses to extradite its citizens to face charges in countries where they could potentially face the death penalty,” the professor observed. “Please note that California is one of 31 states with the death penalty. So, for all intents and purposes, Digby McGill literally got away with murder… provided he never returned to the U.S.”

Meriwether paced over to one side of the lecture hall.

“Unable to fully let go of this case, Santiago began checking McGill’s blog almost daily. There, he was privy to the millionaire’s ski trips, yacht races, and nightly parties, always accompanied by a different supermodel. The man seemed to have everything — except any remorse for killing his wife.”

Professor Meriwether took a moment to survey his audience. Not a single sleeping student. He liked that.

“Years passed and Santiago tried to forget this case. He even vowed to stop torturing himself with McGill’s blog. But, one day, for some inexplicable reason, Santiago decided to check in again on the millionaire playboy murderer living down under.”

“The latest blog post mentioned how a jet set buddy, who had bankrolled the construction of a new golf course in Guam, had challenged Digby to a round during the course’s upcoming grand opening. Digby quipped that he would need to buy a new nine iron.”

Professor Meriwether smiled.

“A pretty island girl placed a lei around McGill’s neck when he arrived at Guam’s International Airport. A photo was taken and quickly posted on McGill’s blog under the heading, ‘Just got lei’ed in Guam!’

“Interestingly, McGill would be unable to remove that lei on his own after his hands were rudely handcuffed behind his back by Detective Santiago. Indeed, that flowered necklace must have felt like a hangman’s noose as he was taken into custody.

“McGill was returned to California and convicted for his wife’s murder. He now wears an orange jumpsuit and pines for the California sun from behind cold, rusty bars in a 6 x 9 cell.

“The last thing Digby wrote on his blog before correctional authorities took away his cell phone was: ‘With God as my witness….I had no idea that Guam was a U.S. territory.’”

Professor Meriwether took a moment to enjoy all of the thoroughly bemused faces staring unblinkingly in his direction.

He held up a textbook, rapped his knuckles across its hard cover, and said, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that the study of geography is unimportant.”

Jim Hawe’s location on this planet is Tokyo, Japan, where he moonlights as a translator while writing stories and producing a comic strip.

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