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No One Will Believe You
About the Author: Paul O'Connor made his short story debut in the September/October 2023 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. He has previously written for video games, most recently as Game Director for Amazon's Lord of the Rings MMO. He also co-created Darkwatch for High Moon Studios, and was narrative director for The Bourne Conspiracy, based on the Robert Ludlum novels. Paul's crime fiction blog -- The Hourglass -- publishes weekly at

The revolver was inches from Ayden’s face. Four copper dots flanked the barrel, two bullets to each side, the black cylinder holes impassive and forbidding like the clustered eyes of a predator spider.

“Your wallet, now,” the man with the gun said. His voice was familiar, and bizarrely out of place.

Ayden looked past the gun. The gunman was a dead ringer for …

“Go ahead and say it,” the man said, reading Ayden’s mind.

Ayden knew he shouldn’t tell his mugger he could describe his face. Almost against his will, he said, “You look just like Ted Pace!”

“That’s because I am Ted Pace.”

The gunman flashed his billion-gigawatt superstar smile, his dimples popping into place like soldiers snapping to attention.

“What is this? Like a movie, or something?”

“It’s an armed robbery.”

Ayden couldn’t wrap his brain around it. He was already spent, walking home after working a double so Jenny could pick up her sick kid, and now the most famous man in the world had a gun in his face. Impossible.

“What do you need my wallet for?”

“Because I want it. Give it to me or I’ll blow your head open.”

“But I’m broke! There’s nothing in it!”

Pace clicked back the hammer on his revolver.

Ayden handed over his wallet.

“You can’t get away with this,” Ayden said. “You’re a movie star. I know who you are. Everyone knows who you are.”

“No one will believe you,” Ted Pace said, putting the wallet in his jacket pocket. “Now turn around,” he said, making a spiraling motion with his pistol. “Count to twenty while you walk away. And don’t look back unless you want to get shot.”

The rest of the night was a blur—the street cops cuffing him because his story was crazy and his identification was gone; the officer dismissively snapping his book shut after finally taking his report; the freezing walk home, afraid to hop the train because his card was in his wallet; pounding at the apartment door to wake a roommate, because his key was also in his wallet.

Ayden collapsed atop the bare-springed couch that was his bed.

Emily didn’t care that she was loud in the kitchen. She paid the most out of the five roommates and Ayden the least. She’d make noise whenever she pleased. But Ayden appeared especially vulnerable that morning, startled bolt upright on the couch with his hair pointing in eight directions. He looked even younger than his twenty-something years, and Emily felt like she was seeing him for the first time.

How long had they been roommates? Three months? Who brought him in? He paid his share on time—barely, and in cash. He wasn’t a bad-looking guy. Get a real job and move off that couch and there could be something there. And do something about the hair.

She broke another pair of eggs and made her breakfast for two.

“Ted Pace doesn’t need your wallet and he sure wasn’t in the projects last night playing stick-up man,” Emily said, refuting Ayden’s story as he wolfed his omelet. “What the hell were you doing in Patterson, anyway?”

“Walking home from work—late shift.”

“Through that neighborhood?”

“I’m just a dishwasher. My wallet’s all receipts and stale lottery tickets. Who’s going to mess with me?”

“Well you found someone who would. And you should know better—your skin doesn’t give you a pass in the projects,” Emily said. “Were you high? And why would Pace be there? He’s hanging off a skyscraper someplace or jumping out of an airplane.”

“I know it’s crazy but it was him, Emily, I swear. I was as close to him as I am to you now. He admitted who he was!”

This story appears in our MAR 2024 Issue
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