Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Microstory 878: Edison Phone

Most people may not know this, but it’s not, on its own, illegal to fake your own death. Where people who try this go wrong is when they commit some crime that’s more of a side effect. If you really want to disappear from society, you’ll need to make a few arrangements, and even if you succeed in these, you still won’t be able to reinstate yourself with a new identity. Your only option would be to start living off the land. But it can’t be your land, because you have to pay property taxes on that, so someone would have to give you permission to live there, but if they do, they could be party to fraud as well, depending. Before you leave, you can’t have any outstanding warrants, or unpaid debts. You can’t skip out on filing your taxes, so you pretty much won’t be able to do anything from a financial standpoint between the first of the year, and whenever you file for the year before. Lastly, you can’t do this in order to collect a life insurance payout, not even for your loved ones. That’s where I come in. My company will only pay the survivors of a death if that death follows certain legally binding criteria; the primary requirement being that it actually happened. As an investigator, it’s my job to make sure these claims are legitimate ones. You would be surprised how many times I catch someone trying to commit fraud, if only in some minor way. A faked death is pretty rare, especially since, as I’ve mentioned, any number of other agencies and departments are going to be scrutinizing the same case. Otherwise perfectly normal, upstanding citizens can make one mistake when they’re desperate, and as much sympathy as I feel for them, I have to uphold the law.

My current case is an interesting one, because she seems to have followed every piece of advice I would give to someone committing pseudocide, which is the term we use in the industry. The only suspicious thing about it comes from the life insurance policy, which was only flagged because she named her sister beneficiary within too short of a period of time before her supposed death. She technically passed the waiting period that’s designed to prevent this sort of thing, but only by one day. We don’t disclose to our clients that we continue to monitor that for longer. I do my due diligence, and discover that a fairly remote friend of hers just subletted her apartment for a year-long stint in Japan. That would be a perfect place for the alleged fraudster to hide out, because I can find no record of the individual renting the unit out at the moment.  I knock on the door, and hear a voice telling me it’s okay to come in. Sitting at the kitchen table is the now confirmed fraudster, totally alive, and smiling at me, with a phone up to her ear. I try to introduce myself, but she knows exactly who I am. She recites my name, social security number, and a bunch of personal anecdotes, many of which she could not have possibly known. She hands me her phone, which I see now is attached to a machine in the corner that’s about the size of the refrigerator right next to it, which seems to be helping keep it cool. I place the phone to my ear, and listen as my great grandmother scolds me for bothering this poor girl. She demands I leave her to her business, and insists that she is doing good work; that she’s helping people like her find closure. I try to maintain the conversation, but Nanaboo doesn’t want to talk anymore. I hang up the phone, and stare into space for an indeterminate period of time. “That woman has been dead for over twenty years,” I say. “You built a machine that can talk to ghosts?” The young woman smiles wider and nods. “And you help people?” She nods once more, so I think this over for another moment. “Do you need an assistant?”

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