Bill Bryer was the walking embodiment of a sigh. His shoulders sagged as he walked, his footfalls carried him forward at about half an inch at a time. He was dressed in an inoffensive way that somehow caused a reflexive sort of revulsion to all who saw him, the same way finding a spider in the corner of a ceiling whilst sat on the toilet or a slug in the pale early morning light of a kitchen caused revulsion. He existed, and in doing so, he caused inconvenience to everyone around him.
It wasn’t his fault, of course. Bill was not a malicious man. He was barely cognizant of his own personhood, to the extent he could hold no ill will for anyone else, nor himself. He simply wandered, and in doing so, caused great distress.
Bill Bryer had died. When, he couldn’t quite say. The government department that recorded such things as births and deaths could, however, and to their knowledge, he should still have been dead. Instead, he walked the streets of his town. It was the same town he had died in a few days prior. There was no autopsy, no inquest - no need. He had simply keeled over and died of having been alive for too long.
The police were the first ones on the scene. An ambulance might have been perhaps, if the undertaker was the one to report Bryer first. As it happened, it was a woman at a grocers who happened to be the niece of Bill Bryer. Through her screams, the operator managed to hear that someone was walking around in the clothes of her recently buried uncle, wearing his face.
It wasn’t a call paramedics could help with, so the operator diverted it to the police dispatcher, who in turn relayed the facts of the face-thief across the radio channel that happened to be the radio channel of the town that Bill Bryer had lived in.
The message of the face-thief went out across a wide swathe of land, at least three or four towns included. It landed inside of the car of officers Waters and Peters most particularly. It was Peters, belted in the passenger side, who picked up the radio and depressed her thumb over the button that would accept the call and propel the two to Bryer.
Waters hit the sirens, Peters replaced the mic. The engine of the car revved and whirred and the traffic, light as it was, parted. Within no time at all, they were at the grocers. The niece, her name was Billie, short for Rebecca, was pale as the moonlight that bounced off of the windows of the stores that flanked the street. She pointed a long pale arm, at the end of which was a long pale finger complete with red nail varnish, up the road.
Officers Waters and Peters followed that finger and soon enough they found Bill Bryer, ambling across the tarmac and weaving between parking meters. Waters approached him, tried to engage him in conversation. Bryer walked on. Waters and Peters exchanged a look. The look that meant kid-gloves. Waters gripped the wrist of Bryer and turned him around and at that, he stopped his march and stood stock-still. They put him in the back of the squad car and took him back to the station. That his skin was colder than the steel of the cuffs on his wrists was something that didn’t particularly matter to them.
Booking in, the officer that took fingerprints ran them through the computer. Took them again. Shook his head. Took them again. He called the sergeant over and she did the same. They put him in a cell for the night. He did not sleep - he had had enough of that.
By the time the third dead man was being booked into custody, roughly two hours later, Bill Bryer didn’t matter much.