Contemporary Fiction Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The barista cradled a stainless steel pitcher, balancing it under the steam wand. When she felt the sides of the pitcher get warm, indicating the fat in the whole milk had broken down allowing air to enter and microfoam to bubble up, she poured it over two fresh shots of espresso and handed it off.  

“And for you?”

She looked up at me for the first time and I asked for a large flat white. 

She smiled and tilted her head, “And. uh. your name?” 


The barista let out a giggle, “ok, Arny, your coffee will be out in a minute.” 

I moved out of the line, standing off to the side of the coffee shop. As I waited, a whisper poked me from behind, “Is that him?” 

“that has to be him.” 

A finger tapped my shoulder and I turned to two women, one with her phone in hand, the camera already open. 

“Do you mind if we get a picture?” 

“I’m sorry,” I laughed, “but, I’m not him. My name’s Arny.”

I’d said this line at least a thousand times.

They looked at each other before looking back at me. I knew next, they wouldn’t believe me and would think I’m just trying to be lowkey, to not make a scene.

“What if we waited to take a picture outside?”

I laughed. “Really, I’m just Arny, what are your names?”

“That’s freaky. You look just like him.” 

They walked away, more interested in standing around and waiting for their coffee than talking with me. 

I’m not one of those people that believes everyone is some unique extraordinary person. But I have to admit, it hurts a little bit when every time people find out who I am, their response is immediate disappointment. They’re excited to meet me until they find out I am me. I’m sorry I don’t sing or whatever. 

Every time I meet a stranger, it’s the same interaction.

I sat on a bench outside the coffee shop that was intentionally designed to make the city uncomfortable and sipped my coffee. Does that guy know he’s basically ruining my life, just because we look similar? Does he realize the havoc he causes for me? I can’t even get a cup of coffee without being harassed by his fans. And they hate me, they really hate me when I have to tell them I’m not him.

Right on cue a teenager approached, “H. Hi. I’m going to your show tomorrow!” 

“I’m sorry, but I'm not him. My name’s Arny.”

“Are you lying?” 

Eventually, she walked away.

Same thing over and over.

After a few steps, she turned back, “You know, you could probably be his stunt double or something. Like play shows for him if he’s sick.” She shuffled off. 

Stunt double? I don’t want to be a stunt double. That’s basically my life right now. The stunt double gets all the problems but none of the benefits, none of the money, none of the adoration. I’m just a crash test dummy getting smashed into a wall over and over while the real guy collects checks. If I were actually him, now that would be nice. 

I tossed my coffee cup onto the floor and made my way home. 

That night, while flipping through channels, the news was covering the concert he’d be playing. As he was in Seattle, there’d probably be more people comparing me to him than normal. My options were either to stay home all day, basically a prisoner in my own home, or try to live my life and be constantly reminded that I’m not everyone’s favorite singer, that I’m not someone people want to meet, or even someone people care about. 

I couldn’t take it anymore. I was sick of living in his shadow; I’d either get rid of him or become him, maybe both. 

22 hours later, I was seated in a black SUV wearing the tuxedo the driver had been wearing before I pulled him out of the car and knocked him out. He was tucked away in the bushes while I sat, the car idling, at the arena’s side entrance. Held still by the weight of my left leg, there was a small revolver, just in case. 

At 11:30, the doors opened and he walked out, followed by cameras and the adoring fans behind them.

He walked up to the car and stood there for a minute. I double-checked that the door was unlocked: it was. He eventually opened it and said, “You normally open it for me, dude.” 

I quietly apologized and started driving towards my house.

Turning left at the light outside of the arena alerted him. 

“Hey, is everything alright?” 

I told him we’d be taking a different route, for safety reasons, but I didn’t specify further. After a simple “alright,” he lost interest. 

As we got closer to my house, I began second-guessing myself. I mean, he hadn’t actually ever done anything wrong to me. It’s not like he chose to look that way either. We both got cursed to look like each other but he just made more out of it than I did, I guess. He was just sitting in the back, staring at his phone… probably reading through thousands of messages from people who love him. 

When we turned into my driveway, he looked up for the first time since our brief conversation and asked where the hell we were. 

I shifted in my seat, picked up the gun, and with my elbow locked into my side, turned toward the back. “You’re going to come with me. Just shut up.” 

His eyes darted to the gun, then his phone and I made him hand it over.

This was the first time he saw my face. He jerked his head back and opened his eyes wide. “Wow… that is uncanny? What happened to Matt?” 

“Yeah, we look alike, don’t we? That’s what people have been telling me my entire life. And then as soon as they find out I’m not you, they stop even pretending to give one shit about me. And don’t worry about Matt. He’s probably waking up right now with a headache. He’ll be fine.” 

“What are you talking about?” 

I shook the gun, as a reminder, and told him, “You’re going to get out of the car slowly and follow me inside the house. I don’t want to hurt you but I will if I need to.” 

Once we got inside, I handed him some zip ties and told him to tie his feet together and then tie one of his hands to the cast iron radiator in the corner of the room. It was springtime, so there wasn’t any chance of the radiator turning on and burning him, though you can rest assured I considered that. 

After he completed my instructions and was immobilized, I walked over and tied his one free hand to his legs, so he was hunched over and couldn’t straighten out his spine. 

I could finally put down the gun.

“Who are you??? Why’d you take me here?” 

“Every day of my life, people stop me and ask me for autographs and pictures and harass me thinking I’m you. I can’t even get a fucking coffee.” 

“Well yeah, I mean come on, we do kind of look alike.” 

“I’m sick of it. Sick of people treating me that way.” 

“I mean… how does kidnapping me stop that? Are you going to kill me or something? You’re not going to stop looking like me if I’m dead?” 

“If I keep you here, then I can go out and be you. Then I can get some of the benefits at least.” 

“Benefits?” He laughed. “You think I like getting harassed by fans? I mean the money is nice, I can’t complain about that. But the rest of it fucking sucks. You think it’s hard for you to get coffee. When’s the last time you thought your driver was taking you to your hotel so you could get some sleep and instead it was a creep who kidnapped you at gunpoint?” 

“You know what?” he added. “I bet you can’t even be me for a week. In fact, I know you can’t.” 

When I didn’t respond, he laughed again. “You want to be me? Cool. Tomorrow morning, you have a flight from Seattle to San Francisco. When you get to the airport, there’s going to be maybe a dozen people sticking cameras in your face. You land at 12 and you start warmups at 4. The show starts at 9 and goes on till 11. After that, you’re at the hotel for 6 hours and then right from there, to the airport.” 

His phone vibrated, resonating through the legs of the cheap coffee table. “That’s probably my assistant, checking how the show went and seeing if I need anything. You’re me? Answer it.” 

I tapped the screen and was met with a pleasant voice, “Hey! You did great in tonight’s show and merch sales have been up compared to the start of the last tour. Is there anything you need before your flight? Also, do you need anything sent to your hotel room?” 

“I had a change of plans. I’m not at my hotel yet.” 

“No problem. Either way, Matt will be at your hotel room at 8 to pick you up for the airport. I’ll touch base with you in the morning.” 

He stared at me and I refused to meet his eyes. “You know it gets tiring, right? 

Truthfully, I didn’t know what I had planned. It’s not like I actually wanted to be a singer, let alone that I even could be one. 

His phone vibrated again, this time Matt. When I answered, Matt said “Where are you? Are you ok?”

I held the phone out, while also bobbing the gun as a reminder. 

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Are you at the hotel? Someone attacked me while I was waiting for you. I woke up in my underwear in the bushes by the arena.” 

He looked at me, unsure how to respond to that in a way that I’d find acceptable.

“I’m uh not at the hotel right now either. Are you injured?” 

“I mean, I don’t feel good. Where are you? I’m going to call the poli” 

“NO.” I cut him off. “Don’t do that. We don’t need to do that.” 

“What? Who’s that? 

“I’m Chris’s brother.” 


“Yeah, I’m here. It’s my brother.” 

“Where are you both?” 

“We’re at my brother’s house.” 

“Can you two come to pick me up? I don’t have clothes or a way to get anywhere. I’m still by the arena.” 

“We’ll be there in a bit.” 

I hung up the phone. Chris was still tied to the radiator, hunched over. 

“I’m sorry you look like me. I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t really undo that. We have to go pick him up, we can’t just leave him out there.” 

When I didn’t respond he added, “We can just forget about this, I don’t need to tell the police anything. Just let me go. You can drive the car somewhere away from here if you want so I don’t know where you live. I’ll pick Matt up alone. Really, I just want to go.”

 “How much money do you have?” 

“Like, on me? Or in general? Because I don’t even carry cash. Maybe 20.” 

“In total.” 

“I don’t know, maybe 45 million, between everythi-.” 

I cracked his head with the butt of the pistol, undoing the bit of tension in his muscles that held him slightly up. He hunched over completely, a limp ball tied to the radiator. 

I felt his neck for a pulse, moving my fingers a few times to finally catch the beats, but never found them. I took his phone, and his wallet, and walked out to the car. 

As I started driving toward the arena, I dialed my assistant.

“Hey, can you resend me the hotel information?” 

June 09, 2023 18:38

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