“I know I look like him,” Keller said, “and you’re not the first person to notice the resemblance, but I’m not him and I can prove it.”

“You just save your story for the law, why don’t you?” And the hand that wasn’t holding the gun reached for the phone.

“I’m not him, I swear it,” Keller said.

“What did I just say? You got an explanation, there’s men with badges’ll be happy to listen to everything you got to say.”

“The law’s after me,” Keller said, “but for something else.”

“How’s that?”

“Alimony and child support. Long story short, she’s a cheating bitch and the kid’s not mine, and we even proved that with DNA tests and the courts still say I gotta support him.”

“You must have had some lawyer.”

“Look, let me prove it, okay? I’m just going to get something from my pocket, okay?”

And without waiting for permission he drew the gun and put two bullets in the guy’s chest before he could get off a shot.


The impact had knocked the man backward, and he’d tipped his chair over and gone to the floor with it, losing his Homer Simpson cap on the way down. Keller went around the counter and checked him, but it was just a formality. Both bullets had entered the left side of his chest, and at least one of them had found his heart, and that was that.

Keller’s ears were ringing from the gunshots, and his hand ached a little from the revolver’s recoil. He straightened up, glanced through the window. There was a car parked at one of the pumps, and that was disconcerting for the second or two it took him to realize that it was his car, right where he’d parked it.

The dead man was still holding the gun, his finger on the trigger, and Keller had heard stories of men firing guns long after their own death, their trigger fingers curling at the onset of rigor mortis. He wasn’t sure it ever happened, and it might even have been a plot element in a comic book he’d read as a child, but in any event he wanted the gun. It was a SIG Sauer automatic with a fully loaded fifteen-shot clip, and his own revolver was down to two bullets, and had just been used in a homicide. The SIG wasn’t as huge as it had looked, there was nothing like having a gun pointed at you to make it increase dramatically in size, though it was in fact a little larger and heavier than the revolver. He tried it where he’d been carrying the revolver, and it rode there just fine, and he figured that closed the deal.

He wiped his prints from the revolver and put it in the dead man’s hand, shaping the still-warm hand to the butt and slipping the forefinger inside the trigger guard. No one was terribly likely to buy the idea that the old guy had shot himself twice in the heart, but it seemed as good a place as any to stow the revolver, and at the very least it would give somebody something to think about.

He looked for a cash register and didn’t see one. There was an old wooden Garcia y Vega cigar box on the counter, and that turned out to be where the fellow kept cash and credit card slips. The cash was all fives and singles, with a couple of tens in the mix. No wonder he’d looked long and hard at the twenty, Keller thought. It was probably the first one he’d seen all month.

He didn’t particularly want to touch the dead man, but he wasn’t squeamish, either, and from the right-hand hip pocket of the man’s camo jeans he drew a leather wallet with a design embossed on it, a design so worn and weathered that Keller could barely make out what it was. He could see it was a crest of some sort, and it looked familiar, but he couldn’t place it.

Inside the wallet, he found the very same crest on the card that identified its owner, Miller L. Remsen, as a member in good standing of the National Rifle Association. Guns don’t kill people, Keller thought. Sticking your broken nose in other people’s business, that’s what kills people.

Remsen’s Indiana driver’s license had his middle name as well, which turned out to be Lewis. It had his date of birth, and Keller worked it out that he was seventy-three, and would have turned seventy-four in October, if he hadn’t decided to be such a good citizen. There were cards for Social Security and Medicare, and a couple of very old pictures of children, smiling bravely for the school photographer. By now those children very likely had children of their own, but if so Remsen didn’t have pictures of them.

The wallet held cash, including two fifties and a batch of twenties and adding up to just over three hundred dollars. There were two credit cards as well, both in the name of Miller L. Remsen, but the Citibank Visa card had expired. The other was a Master-Card issued by CapitalOne, and it was good for another year and a half.

He pocketed the bills and the valid credit card, wiped everything else he’d touched and put it back, then returned the wallet to the dead man’s pocket. He opened the cigar box again, hesitated, then scooped up the small bills.

Something registered, something he caught out of the corner of his eye, and he looked again and saw it — on the ceiling, at the juncture of two walls. A security camera, and who would expect it in a run-down operation like Remsen’s? But they were everywhere these days, and when the cops found the body they’d check the camera, and he couldn’t let that happen.

He stood on a chair, and climbed down a few minutes later shaking his head. The camera was mounted there, all right, but there was no tape or film or battery in it, and no wires connecting it to a power supply. It was like one of those decals announcing the presence of a burglar alarm system. A scarecrow, that’s all it was, and Keller wiped his prints from it and left it there to do its job.

The items on sale in the tiny store area didn’t amount to much, and most of them were auto parts or accessories of one sort or another. There were cans of motor oil, wiper blades, engine additives. He grabbed up a pair of six-foot bungee cords, thinking they might come in handy sometime, though he couldn’t guess for what. Remsen sold all manner of snacks, too, packages of chips and Slim Jims and those cracker-and-peanut-butter sandwiches, and he thought those might come in handy, too, and then decided to pass. All of the snacks looked as though they’d been there since the Carter administration. He left them where they were.

A door led to a bathroom, which was about as bad as he’d expected. He closed it quickly and opened another door, which led to a ten-by-twelve room that had evidently served as Remsen’s living quarters. There was a stack of magazines, all involving guns or hunting or fishing, and there were three hardcover Ayn Rand novels, and, most disconcertingly, there was, in Remsen’s bed with its head on one of the two pillows, an inflatable doll, which the man had outfitted with a rubber mask. The face was vaguely familiar, and after a moment Keller realized it was supposed to be Ann Coulter. Keller thought that was just about the saddest thing he’d ever seen in his life.

Something else was bothering him, and it took him a minute to realize what it was. Not the fact that he’d killed the man — he’d killed any number of men, and none of them for a more compelling reason. This guy had it coming, which was more than he could say for a lot of the men and women whose names belonged in the memoir Keller would never dream of writing. Often in the past he’d used a trick of mental gymnastics in order to diminish the memory of a killing, but he wouldn’t have to do that in Remsen’s case because it wouldn’t bother him a bit.

But what did bother him was something he had never done before. He was robbing the dead.

Keller had always wondered what was so terrible about robbing the dead. Compared to, say, robbing the living. Once you were dead, how could you possibly care what became of the watch on your wrist or the ring on your finger? There were, as the song said, no pockets in a shroud, and it was pretty generally acknowledged that you couldn’t take it with you, so why not rob the dead? It wasn’t like necrophilia, which was flat-out disgusting; it was simply a matter of making use of that which was no longer of any use to its owner.

It was still stealing, of course, since the dead might be presumed to have heirs, so you’d be stealing from them. That said, there were men of whom it was said that they would steal a hot stove, who would draw the line at going through a dead man’s pockets. Keller didn’t get it, and now that he thought about it he decided society had imposed the taboo out of necessity; if it weren’t such an awful thing to steal from the dead, why, everybody would do it.

So it gave him a turn, but once he’d had a chance to sort out his thoughts, it stopped bothering him. And he wasn’t taking a watch or a ring, nothing personal. Just some cash and a credit card, both of which he needed desperately.

Outside, he went to his car and filled the tank, and he didn’t stop at the twenty-dollar mark, either. The Sentra drank deeply and settled down on its tires, like a heavy man sitting back after a big meal.

Remsen’s sign was still hanging on the pump, advising cash and credit customers alike to pay before they pumped their gas. He replaced it with one he’d lettered at the counter, using what was very likely the same Magic Marker Remsen had used. CLOSED FOR FAMILY EMERGENCY, he’d printed in block caps. HELP YOURSELF AND PAY ME LATER. He somehow doubted that anyone who knew Remsen at all well would believe he’d display such trust in his fellow man, but who was going to argue with a free tank of gasoline? They’d all help themselves, he figured, and some of them might even pay for it later.

Back inside, he flipped the sign in the window from OPEN to CLOSED. He turned off lights, rearranged the scene behind the counter so that the body would not be visible from outside, walked to the open door and pushed the button that would lock it, and stepped across the threshold. And stopped there, one foot outside and one foot in, because it was almost as if he could hear Miller Remsen’s voice, halting him in his tracks.

Hold it right there, son. Where do you think you’re going?

He didn’t want to go back behind the counter, but he knew he had to. Hadn’t he already established that he wasn’t squeamish? So why draw the line now?

He braced himself, then reached for the Homer Simpson cap. He didn’t have to remove it from Remsen’s head, it had already fallen off on its own, so all he needed to do was pick it up, which wasn’t really all that hard, and then put it in place on his own head, which wasn’t all that easy.

In the car he checked his reflection in the rearview mirror. It seemed to him that the cap helped. The adjustable strap was a little loose, he’d noticed that Remsen had a pretty large head, and he tightened it a notch, and that was better. And he tugged at the brim so that it covered a little more of his forehead, and that was better, too.

He had a dead man’s gun pressing into the small of his back and a dead man’s money and credit card in his pocket, and he’d filled his tank with a dead man’s gas. And now he had a dead man’s baseball cap on his head.

It was a curious development, all in all. But now it was beginning to look as though he might make it back to New York after all.

The drive-up window at Wendy’s was even less threatening than the one at Burger King. He ordered a couple of burgers and a green salad, and ate them in the car a few miles down the road. He drove through the rest of Indiana and all the way through Ohio and a couple of miles of West Virginia, and he was across another state line and into Pennsylvania before he needed to stop for gas. He picked a big truck stop, pulled up to a self-service pump, and used Remsen’s credit card.

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