"His name is Arch Hammer. He's thirty-six years old. He's been a salesman, a dispatcher, a truck driver, a con man, a bookie, and a part-time bartender. This is a cheap man, a nickel-and-dime man, with a cheapness that goes past the suit and the shirt; a cheapness of mind, a cheapness of taste, a tawdry little shine on the seat of his conscience, and a dark-room squint at a world whose sunlight has never gotten through to him. But Mr. Hammer has a talent, discovered at a very early age. This much he does have. He can make his face change. He can twitch a muscle, move a jaw, concentrate on the cast of his eyes, and he can change his face. He can change it into anything he wants. Mr. Archie Hammer, jack of all trades, has just checked in at three-thirty at night, with two bags, some newspaper clippings, a most odd talent - and a master plan to destroy some lives."
Relying on newspaper photos, Hammer impersonates Johnny Foster in order to get Foster's girlfriend to run away with him. He then impersonates Virgil Sterig, a murdered gangster, to squeeze money out of Mr. Penell, the thug who had Sterig killed. Penell sees through his ruse, and sends some thugs after Hammer. To elude them, Hammer assumes the face of a boxer, Andy Marshak, from a fight poster. He then runs into Marshak's father, who is looking for the son that broke his mother's heart, and did wrong by a girl. Hammer pushes the old man aside and returns to his hotel room. Later, trying to elude the police, he again assumes Marshak's face. He runs into Marshak's father again, who this time has a gun. Before he can change back and prove who he is, the old man fires. As he lies dying, his face switches from one face to another, before finally stopping at his real face."He was Arch Hammer, a cheap little man who just checked in. He was Johnny Foster, who played a trumpet and was loved beyond words. He was Virgil Sterig, with money in his pocket. He was Andy Marshak, who got some of his agony back on a sidewalk in front of a cheap hotel. Hammer, Foster, Sterig, Marshak - and all four of them were dying."