The first time you introduce yourself, your name is all you are. How you look, that's the window dressing, but a name is the counter you sell your cover over. Maybe it's a little shabby, maybe it's new. It doesn't really matter as long as it fits the store.

He'll use Mike at some bar. Mick, if there's an 'O' at the start of its name or any indication that the place might suddenly break out in fiddles and drums.

Mike's a good guy, just like everyone else in there, chugging down a Bud and bitching about his boss. He's easy to talk to and he seems like the kind who'll appreciate that, sometimes, a man just has to take home-made explosives into a crowded mall and make a stand for what he believes in.

Other times, he's Mitch. Mitch has an education (although he's not quite as smart as you). There's a chance Mitch is a Mitchell, he lets people make their own assumptions.

Mitch can joke over cocktails, talk shares and stocks and still be one of the guys. He'll smile admiringly at the great work of fiction you call the company accounts, the ones you can't help wanting to show off.

There's Mikey, but Mikey doesn't make it out the gate. He's the kid hiding in the neighbor's yard when the shouting starts. Even when he's holding a gun and the yard ends up being somewhere like Afghanistan.

He's rarely tempted to try Mr Westen - that's your father. Maybe not your father.

Michael? Michael Westen? That's the guy in the back of the class whose name has to be called twice by the teacher. Some of them think he's a little slow, some of them think he's a little too smart. None of them ask about the bruises.

Westen, Michael is a name on a file. Westen, Michael has done a few things that got blown a little out of proportion and he's probably still black-flagged in some of the more interesting parts of Eastern Europe.

(Serge, in Georgia – the other Georgia – took one look at the bank of surveillance equipment, said "Who is like God?" and laughed for fifteen minutes. Then he died, but that was unrelated. At least he went happy.)

Mikhail, Miguel, Michele, Michel, Miquel, they're variations on the theme. Fake names are business but those are a little too Count Alucard, you know?

Michael, he could be anything to anyone but chances are he's wearing a suit. A suit sells too; the name doesn't have to work so hard. Michael is fine until it's making up the horizon; then the claustrophobia sets in.

But that's only half the sale. You make the introduction; it's what they call you that lets you know if you've been bought.

Dan – never does introduce himself as Daniel, likes to keep that amiable informality right up until he doesn't – calls him Michael. But he's saying Mike really; the rest is afterthought.

Fifteen years in and professional distance is hard to maintain. They manage. Mostly. Dan's called him Mike once or twice, usually after a bad job or a bad break up. The first time was when Dan asked him if travel arrangements were needed to get from Ecuador to Miami for the funeral.

They weren't.

He's Michael to Lucy as well; always has been. He calls her Luce sometimes and looks nothing like innocent when she glares. They have an understanding, he thinks, he just wonders what it is.

Sam calls him Mike, Mikey, Michael - the sale's off and the store is closed. For his retirement, Sam made sure of a pension, a web of contacts and a cover personality so shallow the body will probably continue to drink and tan for three days after death. So far, it's worked out.

Fiona says Michael but there's a lilt that takes it over and makes it hers. He calls her Fi to take something back and even the score, just a little.

He's not stupid enough to tell her that; she wouldn't care but she'd smile and cant her head to the side and she'd be winning again. He thinks he could love her, he's just not sure either of them would survive it.

Once, he was "Mikey and Nate". Two names rolling into one, like their mom was going to gel their family together one way or another. It hasn't been "Mikey and Nate" for a long time.

When he was fourteen, he said his name was Michael.

It only took another five, ten years for Madeline to remember.

Then, you switch. They'll give you their name – if it's that kind of exchange – and you get to decide if you're buying.

Call them whatever they call themselves.

They'll think it's worked.