The love letter
in our mailbox Saturday was addressed to me. I had nothing
to hide. Delores, who was looking over my shoulder, saw the “Darling
Kevin” salutation, and freaked out.
“Is there something
you want to tell me, Kevin?” My wife of 12 years put on her
pit bull look, the one she wears when I forget to put out
the garbage or miss the kid’s school bus.
“Delores, I have
never met this…this Sharlayne in my life. It’s just another
one of those mash notes that come every now and then. I mean,
how could I even meet this babe? I go to editorial meetings,
see my publisher. I come home. No business trips. And the
letter’s postmarked San Francisco.”
“Then how do you
know she’s a babe? Maybe she’s an editorial assistant. She
certainly knows where the famous Kevin Alter lives.”
Delores was right
on one count. I’m Kevin Alter, mystery author and runner
up for an Edgar Award two years ago. But now there’s this
bozo somewhere stealing my fame and identity, passing himself
off as me.
This has been
going on for half a year. Somebody had stolen my very being
and was masquerading as me all over the country. From the
letters and calls, I deducted he’d show some babe a copy
of my latest book, Prelude to a Killing, point to
the black-and-white photo on the back cover and, Pow!—next
thing he was in bed with her. The babe would Google my name
and Pow!—up would come Woodmere Terrace in Oakville,
I guess the imposter
and I looked somewhat alike. I told my editor I had to
have a new photo—or no picture—when my next original Kevin
Alter mystery novel came out.
Who was this
guy highjacking my life? Did I deserve cooing voices at midnight
telling me lust was acceptable until love came along? Could
my marriage survive another love letter filled with purple
prose? Even the florist’s delivery guy was starting to wink
as he dropped off new arrangements. Last week, someone even
lipsticked my Toyota with an “I?KA.” I’m glad my ten-year-old
spotted it before Delores did.
I’m a simple,
hard-working writer. I don’t think about sex all the time!
I worry about how to pay for our kid’s braces. Delores’ clothes
washer is broken. The neighborhood landscape Nazis are giving
me dirty looks because the yard needs a little work. My life
was becoming a disaster because of a body double who makes
me look like a jerk. In short, my marriage was a ferry boat
foundering on the shoals of suburban catastrophe. All I wanted
to do was write mysteries.
With Delores on
my back big time, I decided no more Mr. Nice Guy. I hunted
up a phone number for Eddie Corelli, an old buddy with the
Jersey State Police. “Eddie,” I said softly so Delores wouldn’t
hear, “my reputation is being Shanghaied.” I laid out all
the embarrassing details.
Eddie asked if
I’d had any credit card collectors calling. Maybe there were
bills for big-ticket items I hadn’t bought.
“Not yet. Just
love notes, birthday cards, flowers, reminders of how ecstatic
my love-making is. And today, someone named Sharlayne wrote
that if she was pregnant she’d name the kid after me.”
“Well,” he said,
summoning up all his police intelligence, “then it’s not
identity theft. It’s identity fraud. This hotshot
is using your rep to hit on women. Personally, I’d be proud
to have someone polishing my reputation. I bet you get a
lot of sly looks at the supermarket.”
gotta be a law. Can I just start calling myself, say, Senator
“There’s no law,
but I don’t think you’d pick up many women,” Eddie said. “See,
Kevin, Lover Boy doesn’t really want to be you. He
just doesn’t want to be himself.”
“Delores,” I shouted, “I’ve
had it!” She came out of the kitchen. “I’ll hire a private
detective and then sue the ass off this impersonator. It’s
been six months. He’s making me look like a licentious bum.
Like all I want to do is take women to bed.”
Delores gave me
her patient, self-satisfied smile, the one she wears when
my socks don’t match or I forget to zip my fly.
you’re certainly not licentious. But, you can’t sue your
doppelgänger. Because he’s me. I’m your alter ego. I sent
you the flowers last week. My friend from the library made
the calls. And she wrote today’s letter from Sharlayne.”
The world went
into deep freeze, time stopped, and I’m sure my jaw dropped. “But,
why would you want to think I’m some playboy on Viagra?”
you’re the mystery writer,” she cooed, giving me a look I
hadn’t seen in a long time. A slinky look. “Figure it out.
Why would a woman want to think her husband was the greatest
lover in the world? Maybe one who lived up to a fictional
Now she had me.
Was this a mating call or the plot of a new mystery?