Bewildering Stories

Change the text color to: White | Purple | Dark Red | Red | Green | Cyan | Blue | Navy | Black
Change the background color to: White | Beige | Light Yellow | Light Grey | Aqua | Midnight Blue


by Lou Antonelli

“I want to thank you, counselor, for coming to see me.”

“I understood you wanted to see me before the body is released, Dr....?”

“Sankaty. Yes, well, I did have a question to ask you, as the family’s representative. Please close the door.”

“I hope we don’t have any unseemly holdups. You can imagine how distraught the family is.”

“I understand they plan a memorial service this evening.”

“Yes, and I think they would feel better if Mr. Vigo’s remains had been properly attended to for by then.”

“Could I ask you, Mr. Bownd, why the body is being cremated?”

“I don’t think that’s exceptional.”

“For a Catholic, it might be. I see from the release the body is being transported to the Doherty Crematorium in Washington Heights.”

“Very well, then, I don’t think that is any of your business.”

“It might be if I think the cremation is being done to conceal forensic evidence of a crime.”

“Dr. Sankaty, the crime was committed to Mr. Vigo. He was murdered.”

“Indeed. We’re discussing another crime here. Cloning humans is illegal.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I would not expect you to claim anything else. Here is the release and hard copy of the death certificate. If you look it over, I think you will see everything is to your satisfaction.”

“It seems so. So why are we having this conversation?”

“Because, Mr. Bownd, I want to know how you did it. I’d be fascinated to learn where you got this body, and how you made the switch.”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Perhaps I need to reexamine the ‘evidence’.”

“The evidence is Mr. Vigo’s corpse and I want it released now, or I will go to a judge in chambers and get it released without you.”

“I doubt a judge will act so quickly, and not ask any questions about such a high profile murder.”

“What is it you want, Dr. Sankaty? Is this a shakedown?”

“If the truth is a payoff, yes. Actually, within the bounds of my professional duties, I can in all good conscience, submit the records I have presented to you. I have no substantive evidence this is not Mr. Vigo. The laws seem to be a little behind the technology.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“I think the answer would be fascinating.”

“Remember what curiosity did to the cat.”

“Dr. Katz works the night rotation. I lead the daytime rotation.”

“Are you serious?”


“I’m sorry, it’s just curiosity — and the truth — play small roles in my profession. Is this strictly confidential?”

“Absolutely. This is only for my personal... edification.”

“Very well, if it would satisfy your curiosity. Mr. Vigo has two younger brothers who did not go into the... family business? One went to Utah at the start of the century and got in on the ground floor of the Deseret boom. The other went to Texas.”

“Would the second brother have anything to do with cloning research?”

“His brother Tom actually has done quite well. He went into partnership with another buddy from New Jersey, Ron Gentile, and they founded a fairly well-known company. Have you ever heard of Vigent?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact.”

“When Stan learned of what was planned, he sent me, as his confidant, to feel out Tom about an idea he had. Tom said he thought it was doable. We came back and set up a private lab in Staten Island, and meanwhile had crucial equipment and supplies shipped.”

“This is all quite illegal, you understand.”

“Well, if pressed we could say it was pushing the envelope on cloning human cells for research.”

“A tissue of a defense, but I understand. The major question I have is, how did he grow it?”

“The way Tom explained it to me, he used a plant hormone. Gibberellin, I believe it’s called.

“Gibberellin was tried almost 75 years ago as part of the first studies in the Green Revolution. If I recall correctly, it’s a plant growth hormone. I think they found, however, that such growth was of poor quality. Essentially useless. I think it was one of those dead ends science occasionally has to explore.”

“He said gibberellin research today usually involves ways to drive the normal plant production of the hormone down. Dwarf varieties of plants are usually tougher and more resistent to drought and disease. This research came directly out of the studies in the 1960s, when they explored the potential of increasing growth with artificial gibberellin production. Tom said he had thought about doing a little splicing and making a version of the hormone compatible with animal growth, and he went back to the original research.”

“I see, a regular production line of fake corpses. Doesn’t sound very practical to me.”

“Oh, no, he looked into its as a quick fix to grow seconds, cloned organs, you know, but it didn’t work. They were of poor quality and didn’t last. Still, he had looked into it, as a means to make temporary organs for people on transplant waiting lists.”

“I take it even that didn’t work?”

“They deteriorated too rapidly to be of any practical use at all. But when Stan ran his idea by his little brother, he saw where this research might pay off.”

“How long did it take to plump up this thing?”

“Don’t snicker. Six. Actually, the hardest part of the whole operation was the switch.”

“I guess that comes under planning and honestly I don’t care as much about that. But if you want to...”

“That was my part of the project. We knew from our extensive network of stooges and spies that Stan was being shadowed closely. Taking the tissue sample was a cinch. We did it at home. And once we knew the clone would develop, we simply needed to set up a place where ’Stan Vigo’ would meet his demise.”

“I have noticed over the years that restaurants are a common place to catch someone.”

“Actually, the bathroom was the crucial location.”

“The bathroom? Oh, wait, I see.”

“Yes, we couldn’t exactly have him shot sitting at a dining room table.”

“After this guy was done, he was put on a small heart-lung machine and kept ‘warm’ until needed.”

“How was the swap done in the bathroom?”

“That required coordination, and I had to do most of it. There were only four of us in on this. Me, Stan, Tom and a helper, Ray Notto. Ray staked out the bathroom, and at a certain point, when there was no one in there, he gave me a signal. I went in, and that was the signal for Stan to follow me a minute later. Of course, we knew Rosales’ men were watching.”

“And how exactly did you trot our ‘Mr. Vigo’ in?”

“We didn’t. He ‘dropped in’. Through the ceiling. This restaurant sits under an apartment, and we went through a lot of trouble to cut through the floor so our subject could be lowered through the suspended ceiling.”

“How did you get the real McCoy out, then?”

“First, Tom hosted Stan up with a small winch and a harness that went around and under his shoulders. Our friend out there was dressed in identical clothes, so no one could tell the difference. Stan swapped out his pockets, and we lowered our subject. I checked out everything and positioned him on the seat, in an appropriate position. Then I exited and made like I was distracting Ray outside.”

“Rosales’ men took the bait and went behind you two.”

“Right. They were watching and realized at that point ‘Stan’ was alone in the bathroom. So they went in and took care of their business.”

“I can tell they shot him through the door, and then opened it and delivered a round to the head. There were flecks of paint and slivers of wood in the entry wounds to the torso, but the shot to the head was clean and had powder burns.”

“SOP, doctor. Of course, they assumed it was a job well done. They didn’t realize the man they shot had never been alive in the first place. In the meantime, Ray and I had taken off. The shooters assumed we panicked when we heard the shots. Everyone else who was in the dinner party came running, but the two shooters made it out, guns waving, with a minimum of fuss. The rest, as they say, you can read it on your web site. Now it’s my turn to ask a few questions. What tipped you off?”

“Well, you should tell Tom Vigo it was a job well done. The first clue, the first thing that made me think things might not be as they seem, was the scar.”

“I thought the scar was well done. I certainly couldn’t have told the difference.”

“Yes, but you don’t realize that often during an autopsy, we have to roll a corpse over, as we take samples or make incisions. When I rolled ‘Stan’ over, I noticed that scar on his thigh looked funny. It rippled funny. So I started to pick at it.”

“Of course, you thought that if the scar was a fake, the body might be a clone.”

“Certainly. The stomach contents argued the other way. But then when I thought about it, I figured that wouldn’t be hard to do.”

“Tom didn’t tell Stan in advance he would have his stomach pumped, and Stan wasn’t very happy about it, but he did it, anyhow.”

“That was the way to do it, because I did check for Syrup of Ipecac or some similar agent.”

“OK, so the evidence worked both ways. Were you bluffing when I walked in here?”

“Not really. There was another slipup. You’re not married are you, Mr. Bownd.”

“No. Why?

“I would guess Tom isn’t either?”

“Umm, actually, no, he’s not married either.”

“You forgot to mention that when Stan changed out his pockets he also gave up his watch and rings to his, how would you say, doppelgangster? Now, I’ve been married over 25 years. See?”

“Oh, Christ almighty! What a stupid mistake!“

“I found it hard to believe that, even if he took off his wedding band for occasional recreational purposes, there would be no indentation on the finger.”

“You have it. Now what are you going to do with it?”

“Nothing. By all forensic standards, the body out there on the stainless steel table is Stanley Vigo. Fingerprints, DNA, retina all check out. Wounds are consistent with a SW99 Smith and Wesson .45 caliber, probably an old polymer shell model. Three of the six wounds would have been unilaterally fatal.”

“Do you want anything else from me?”

“I know you’re suspicious, but no. I don’t need to know anything else. I probably have stuck my neck out too far already. I see there’s no one else in the lab, they probably thought it wise to leave, given our subject. Let’s step outside and take a last look at him.”

“He does look convincing.”

“Yes, a job well done. But, you probably wouldn’t notice, but I can tell it’s already beginning to deteriorate.”


“It’s a subtle thing, but you can tell, if you’re in the business. You see this sometimes in fever and infection cases, where the body accelerates. Cremation is a wise idea.”

“Are we ready to go?”

“I’ll page the attendant and you both can go out the back, as per normal. This is normal, as far as I’m concerned. As far as the police, that’s another deal.”

“That’s my problem, and that’s what I’m paid to take care of. Why the little smirk?”

“I’m not smirking, I’m trying not to smile.”

“Well, this was a big complicated deal.”

“No, that’s not it. It’s stupid little game we play here.”

“A game?”

“Yes, it comes from when you have to tag an unidentified corpse. Rather than John or Jane Doe, over the years we have come up little names for subjects, based on their attributes. For example, one time we had a subject who was found naked, with a cigarette still in his mouth. We called him Smoky Bare.”


“Yeah, it’s pretty bad. Over time we have come up with nicknames for subjects we do know the names of. That’s what I was thinking of. They’re pretty silly inside jokes. Too bad I’ll never be able to use the name I was thinking of for our friend here.”

“OK, I could use a good laugh, after all this. Well...???”

“I was thinking of... Don Cloneone?”

“Oww, oww. I’d laugh if... Oh, heck. Here comes your attendant. I assume you’ll keep your word?”

“I only asked out of personal curiosity. This conversation never happened.”

“Thank you. I appreciate your discretion. Yes, this is the subject, secure him and let’s go. Thank you, doctor.

“Good day, and please express my condolences to the family. I’ll lock the doors behind you.”

Copyright © 2004 by Lou Antonelli

Home Page