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Greatest Hits By James Sallis

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“That,” the salesman said, “is our Screwball Comedy model.” Buzzed away at the sides, his hair was long on top and slicked backwards. He wore the company jumpsuit, with a yellow flower in its lapel. “It’ll get the job done, just like all the others, but never the way you think. Things can get wild.”

The models were lined along the walls, each in its little diorama: sitting crosslegged sipping wine in the kitchen, Glock on the table; poised escaping via a window, one leg already out; looking fetchingly over one bare white shoulder; in the cutaway of a subway car, wearing a hoodie with a shirt and tie peeking out beneath.

“Style is built into everything we sell. You don’t put your personal touch on it, why’s it worth doing at all, am I right?”

The salesman stepped along, moving fast, expecting Sam to get caught in his wake.

“And here’s our best seller, Urban Male.” A handsome dude, rather androgynous, pretty features, strong forehead, deep blue eyes. Casually appointed in chinos, slip-on oxfords, rugby shirt. “Excellent value for the money, this one. Plus, he blends in anywhere.”

Obviously the man didn’t get downtown much, where Urban Male would blend in like a walking banana.

“And that one?”

“Not appropriate to your situation, of course, but our latest, and a model we’re particularly proud of. Little Lost Girl. ‘She may be lost but she never misses.’”

“I do have dinner to prepare, you know,” came a voice from down the room. “I can’t just stand here.”

The salesman pointed. A frumpy older woman in dress and apron. “Aunt Bea.”

Sam thought of biscuits, cornbread and pies, of a world that never was, that for a long time they believed they lived in. Aunt Bea, killer.

“This one,” he said.

Others Of My Kind by James Sallis is out now (No Exit)

(Illustration: Edward Tuckwell)

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