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, New Jersey.

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.”

“Eddie, there’s gotta be a law. Can I just start calling myself, say, Senator John McCain?”

“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.

“No, darling, 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?”

“Kevin, darling, 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 reputation.”

Now she had me. Was this a mating call or the plot of a new mystery?

# # #

Misunderstood Identity by Walter Giersbach
originally published in the Fall 2011 print edition



Walter Giersbach’s fiction has appeared in Bewildering Stories, Every Day Fiction, Everyday Weirdness, Lunch Hour Stories, Mouth Full of Bullets, Mystery Authors, OG Short Fiction, Northwoods Journal, Paradigm Journal, Short Fiction World, Southern Fried Weirdness, Written Word and Big Pulp. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, have been published by Wild Child Publishing (

For more of Walter's work,
visit his Big Pulp author page


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On the Road from Galilee

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