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I'm Not Roger Whitley Simmons
About the Author: Arthur Davis is a management consultant who has been quoted in The New York Times and in Crain’s New York Business, taught at The New School and interviewed on New York TV News Channel 1. He was featured in a collection, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, received the 2018 Write Well Award for excellence in short fiction and, twice nominated, received Honorable Mention in The Best American Mystery Stories 2017. Additional background at

I pressed my foot down on the accelerator pedal from the ’59 Chevy. Nothing. I tried again. More nothing.

I don’t discourage easily.

I tapped the accelerator pedal lying on the floor beside my bed, this time with my left big toe. Still more nothing. I purchased the rubber pedal for twenty bucks at the junk yard off Morrison and Rudely. I should have asked them if it would work even if it wasn’t attached to a car.

I should have done a lot of things right.

I picked up the pedal and tossed it in the garbage.

It was 8:15 a.m. The sun was struggling to make an impression on the sweet Iowa morning.

That left forty-five minutes before Hudly Bernard will show up. I don’t owe him money. Never hurt his family. Never suckered him into a fast-time deal and left him standing to solve the problem I created.

Don’t even know the guy.

I finished breakfast. Roasted peanut butter, bacon, and thinly sliced cucumbers on pumpernickel with a relish, chive, and mayo dressing.

I made it to my wicker rocker on the porch next to Jenny’s rocker. She loved to sit out here in the early morning, and especially the evening, and count the flying saucers racing along at blurred speeds. She always spotted them first. An eagle eye with a giant, loving heart.

When Jenny died years back, she took the best of me with her.

Sometimes there was a local news flash about a sighting. More often, there was no mention at all. Our guess was that the media had been warned by Washington that too many sightings would stir up more public fear. Couldn’t imagine that, as most of the country and pretty much every other major nation had been experiencing the same sightings for some time.

Our cabin was our home of my forty-seven years, a small affair that suited our personalities. Somewhat loners, somewhat not comfortable in society. A few personal accomplishments, besides an incidental contribution to the development of CRSPR back in 2017, a simple yet powerful technology for editing genomes, there were two noteworthy mentions in the New England Particle Physics Magazine; once made the cover of Cliff Diving International Magazine. Both achievements were too long ago to be meaningful.

I was halfway through a few deep breathing exercises when the phone rang.

“Yes, hello?”

“Hudly Bernard here.”

“Ah, yes, Mister Bernard.”

“Just confirming your location and timing. I will be there within the next thirty-five minutes unless you intend to flee, which would be awkward but not change the outcome.”

Sounded like a descent fellow. Probably my own age, but rather a different background. How does one get into contract killing, even if it is State and Federally sanctioned, and indeed initiated? Fascinating.

“I’m sitting right here at home drinking cold tea,” I said.


“Yes. I don’t like hot anything, especially tea.”

“Quite a coincidence. I always take my tea cold.”

“Yes, fascinating.”

“Then I will see you shortly, Mr. Simmons.”

I started to hang up. “What was that?”

“We always sign off by identifying the … ah … subject’s name.”

Yes. Wonderful. “And as well you should, because that’s not my name.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand?”

“I’m Clarence Winslow.”

“And Roger Whitley Simmons?”

“I have no idea who he is. I’ve lived here since well before my wife passed a decade ago. Don’t know and haven’t heard of any Roger Whitley Simmons from around these parts.”

“If you are taking advantage of me, I can assure you your end will be significantly slower and infinitely more painful.”

“Still, not Roger Whitley Simmons.”

“Forty-six years old? Six foot one? A hundred eighty-eight pounds. Long dark hair?”

“I only wish I was only forty-six,” I said, chuckling at the thought of turning back time. “I’m five foot eight, a hundred forty-three like I was when I graduated college, and a full head of white hair.”

“This is unfortunate. Regrettable. The Righteous Protocol does not make mistakes,” he said, and the line went dead. I hung up. I finished off my tea that never tasted better and walked back outside.

This story appears in our JUL 2024 Issue
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