One-minute review: Man returning home late at night from visiting a friend. Encounters four men who gesticulate wildly, terrifying him. He bludgeons one who collapses and lies on the street dead while the others disappear. Convinced he is guilty of murder, he flies from a friendly gendarme who he thinks is about to arrest him. He reaches his daughter’s home and falls into a guilty, fitful sleep.
The next morning his daughter wakes him. He asks for the daily newspaper, expecting to read the story about his murdering someone. What he finds instead in the gossip column is the story of mentally deranged men, sent by an insane asylum, who were transporting a corpse to the autopsy room, a regular assignment. It’s that corpse that the man has clubbed. He had murdered a dead man. “…you had really killed a man who was already dead.”
75 Short Masterpieces: Stories from the World’s Literature. Ed. Roger B. Goodman.