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The Deceased Doppelganger

A. C. Spahn wanted to be an interstellar starship captain when she grew up. Since nobody was hiring, she became a writer instead. She enjoys training in martial arts, organizing messy rooms, and researching a hobby-of-the-month. When not commanding imaginary starships, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and feline overlord. She is the author of the Endurance series of comedic sci-fi novellas and short stories appearing in Outposts of Beyond, Disturbed Digest, and other publications.

Cara Watt, paranormal investigator, knelt over the corpse on the apartment floor. A hole bored through his chest, right into his heart. "It's DrewTwo," she said. "The doppelganger who runs the magnet machine in the junkyard."
Detective Derek Faraday crouched beside her. "Are you sure it's not regular Drew? The guy the doppelganger impersonates?"
Cara nodded. "See the dark spots on his clothes? His disguise is failing now that he's dead. He's turning back into his natural shadow form."
"Neighbors heard screaming and called the police," said Faraday. "We had to force the door. It was locked, as were all the windows, and the victim was lying here dead. The limbs are still warm. He's only been dead a few minutes."
"So the killer couldn't have gotten far," said Cara.
Both investigators raised their heads to look at the two suspects in custody by the efficiency-size fridge. One police officer held the leg of a winged young man who was hovering near the ceiling and kept bumping his head. Another officer had the arm of a small, red-bearded fellow in a green coat and top hat and shoes so polished the sun glared off of them.
Faraday continued, "We picked up the faerie lurking outside the window, and the leprechaun we found in the alley outside the building. Both of them have the victim's business card."
"I was coming to hire him!" squawked the faerie. "My mother is a duchess of the Summer Court and sent me to see about building a volleyball pit."
The detective frowned. "There are faerie courts?"
"Oh, yes," said Cara. "Summer meets on the beach, Winter at the local library. Spring holds garden parties wherever they find the nicest vegetable patch."
"And Autumn?"
"Coffee shop. Gotta love that pumpkin spice."
"Figures." Faraday glared at the faerie youth. "If you were coming to hire DrewTwo, why were you peeking through his window instead of knocking on the door?"
The flying young man looked blank. "Why wouldn't I come through the window?"
Cara turned to the leprechaun. "And what's your story?"
The green-clad man stuck his thumbs in his belt. "Same as the kid. I need a vault door installed, and heard this guy is a good handyman."
"And you were outside in the alley because...?"
"Got turned around in the building. I thought that back wall led to the stairs, but it dumped me outside instead."
"You let me go at once!" squawked the faerie, trying to kick off the officer attached to his leg. "My mother will have a lot to say about you detaining me!"
"I'm sure lots of people will have things to say, once we arrest the murderer," said Cara. "Unless the guilty party would like to confess now?"
"I didn't do it, I swear!" cried the faerie.
"I know." Cara raised an eyebrow at the leprechaun.
The green-clad man's lip curled. "You're accusing me? With what evidence?"
"You walked through the back wall into the alleyway."
"So DrewTwo was found in a completely locked room. Doors, windows, every possible entrance. The culprit would have had to, literally, walk through walls."
"Ah," said Detective Faraday. "Our faerie youth here keeps bumping his head on the ceiling, so clearly he doesn't have that power. You're the only suspect who could have done it."
The leprechaun cursed in a sampling of languages. "I didn't mean to kill him. My magic got away from me. I was just supposed to bring him with me."
"To the Baron."
Ice spiked down Cara's back. "We've heard of him."
Faraday folded his arms. "This Baron has been behind too much trouble in town lately. You're going to tell us everything you know about him."
A nasty gleam lit the leprechaun's eye. "Ah. About that. I fear his talons more than I fear you. I'll be going now." One moment the uniformed officer was holding the leprechaun's arm, the next the green man was free. Faraday and the other officers dove for him, but he skipped through the wall and was outside before anyone could touch him.
Faraday swore. "Get him back!" The officers sped through the door. Shouts echoed from the hall.
Behind them, Cara knelt and picked a shining coin off the floor. "Gold. It fell out of his pocket."
"Does that help us?" asked Faraday.
"Well, it tells us where we can find him again." Cara held the coin out to the detective, an adventurous spark in her eyes. "Feel like hunting for the end of a rainbow?"
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Author Comments

The Cara Watt stories were inspired by the two-minute mysteries by Donald J. Sobol, featuring Dr. Haledijan the sleuth solving various cases alongside the reader. My husband and I enjoyed reading Dr. Haledjian's adventures aloud together, and the pairing of the interactive mystery with a paranormal setting seemed like a perfect fit.

- A C Spahn
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