"The Anomaly of the Empty Man."
(a.k.a. "The Empty Man").
By Anthony Boucher (William Anthony Parker White, 1911-68).
First appearance: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1952.
Reprinted in The Science Fictional Sherlock Holmes (1960), The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes (1989), and elsewhere (HERE).
Short story (14 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
"It’s like a strip-tease version of the Mary Celeste. Only the strip wasn’t a gradual tease; just abruptly, whoosh!, a man’s gone. One minute he’s comfort-ably dressed in his apartment, smoking, drinking, playing records. The next he’s stark naked — and where and doing what?"
You may have heard of people being characterized as "empty suits," but this takes it to a whole new level . . .
~ James Stambaugh:
"It was as though James Stambaugh had been attacked by some solvent which eats away only flesh and leaves all the inanimate articles. Or as though some hyperspatial suction had drawn the living man out of his wardrobe, leaving his sartorial shell behind him."
"No, Mr. Lamb. You have a wife and two sons. I have no right to trifle with their lives merely to gratify an old man’s resentment of scepticism."
~ Dr. Horace Verner:
"'But Dr. Verner,' I led with my chin. 'The Stambaugh case . . .'
"'Dear boy,' he sighed as he readied the old one-two, 'you mean you don’t realize that you have just heard the solution?'"
~ The cousin:
"As you know, my cousin enjoyed a certain fame as a private detective. He had been consulted in more than one previous instance of the horror; but I had read little of him
in the press save a reiteration of his hope that the solution lay in his familiar dictum:
'Discard the impossible; and whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be
true.' I had already formulated my now celebrated counter-dictum: 'Discard the impos-
sible; then if nothing remains, some part of the "impossible" must be possible.'"
~ Inspector Abrahams:
"Take a good look at the empty man on the floor. You see, I remembered the vacuum cleaner. And the Downtown Merchants’ parade."
". . . for almost unique among sopranos, Carina possessed a diction of diabolical clarity."
|Renata Tebaldi. She's in the story.|
- You'll find plenty of info about Anthony Boucher (HERE; Wikipedia), (HERE; the SFE), (HERE; the ISFDb), (HERE; Mike Grost), and (HERE; the GAD Wiki).
- We've featured Boucher several times already (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).
- An overview of opera can be found on Wikipedia (HERE).
The bottom line: