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by Jason Fischer

A noise, and he was nudged out of bed. Grabbing a random blunt instrument, he flicked on the living room light-switch.

He saw the body, and adrenaline banished sleep. A man, perhaps mid-thirties, collapsed on top of the coffee table. He could see the unpleasant blue purple bulge of the man’s cheek pushing against one of his wife’s magazines.

A mad rush of fear and panic, and he went through the house throwing doors open and turning on lights. He went through the whole house till it was lit like a department store. Nothing. Everything was locked, no windows broken.

As gently as he could, he rolled the body off the table. He touched the man’s cheek, and it was icy cold. He searched the clammy flesh around his neck for a pulse, checked the man’s wrist. Nothing. The intruder stared up blankly at him with a pair of dead lizard eyes.

He wanted to be sick. Somehow he remembered an old first-aid course, remembered something about clearing airways. He went to loosen the man’s tie and unbutton his shirt, but something was wrong.

The entire suit was a fake, one piece of clothing. Shirt, tie, pockets, waistcoat, all stitched together. The buttons were there but they had no purpose.

‘What the hell?’ the man managed. He gave up trying the help the intruder. Once, years ago, he checked on his elderly mother and found she’d died in her sleep. She’d been dead for hours, and looked much like this.

Even though the waistband of the trousers was stitched to the jacket, the pockets were real, and gritting his teeth he checked them. There was no keys or papers, nothing but a wallet. Feeling the cold bulge of the man’s buttock through the fabric, he eased the wallet free.
There were papers and cards in there, but they wouldn’t fool anyone. They looked like poor copies of photographs, the writing illegible. There was money, but it wouldn’t even pass muster for a game of Monopoly, let alone buy anything anywhere. He found some coins in the zipper compartment, but they were blank silver discs.

This was definitely a puzzle. A dead man was here, who couldn’t possibly have gotten in, wearing counterfeit clothes and possessing the most childish of counterfeit identities.

He phoned the police for help. The operator assured him that the army were collecting bodies street by street now, and that they’d load this particular corpse onto a flatbed truck as soon as they could.

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