A face to die for, p.15
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       A Face to Die For, p.15

         Part #6 of Forensic Instincts series by Andrea Kane
 

  “Okay, you’ve convinced me. So you have an in. I hope it’s enough to get them to help us.”

  “There’s only one way to find out.”

  CHAPTER 16

  Offices of Forensic Instincts

  Two days later

  “I’m bored,” Emma muttered aloud.

  She’d just vetted the last of the new potential cases on her desk, written up her recommendations, and slapped the paperwork on her pile. She had to bring these in to Casey and the team to evaluate. She knew Casey wouldn’t be inspired by any of them. They’d already accepted and solved one case on the original pile. The president of a staffing firm had convinced them that his company’s database was being hacked and money being siphoned out of its accounts. It turned out—no surprise—to be an internal crime, conducted by a disgruntled and computer-savvy employee. Some discreet questioning by Casey and some techno-magic by Ryan, and FI had cracked the case in one business day.

  Other than that, the only case of interest had been a request for Casey’s consultation services from the NYPD. They were interrogating an assault-and-battery suspect and asked for Casey’s expertise in body language analysis to help determine the suspect’s guilt and to move toward getting a confession. She’d helped. They’d gotten their confession. Case closed.

  No other cases had whetted their appetites.

  These new ones wouldn’t, either.

  “Boring, boring, boring,” Emma repeated, flipping through the paperwork and talking to no one in particular.

  Someone in particular answered her.

  “Your assessment reflects judgment, which is an inappropriate response, Emma,” Yoda announced. “The full team must review the potential cases. Decisions will be based on the cumulative responses.”

  “Yes, Yoda, I know the drill.” Emma rolled her eyes. “But I also know Casey. None of these cases is going to make the cut.” She pushed back her chair. “But fear not. I’m following the rules. I’m bringing the paperwork upstairs right now for group evaluation.” She leaned forward and pressed the all-call intercom button. “Time to gather in the main conference room for full review of potential cases.”

  The team was filing into the conference room when Emma walked in. Casey was seated at the head of the table, flanked by two familiar faces that Emma had missed.

  “Marc! Patrick! When did you get back? How did you slip by my desk?” she asked in excitement. These two men were very special to her. Each had saved her life in different ways. She wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for their skill and loyalty. And she’d never forget it. Never.

  “Hey, Emma.” Marc’s fingers were linked behind his head, and he looked tan, well-rested, and very much at peace. “We came in at the crack of dawn. Casey’s been bringing us up to speed.”

  “You look awesome,” Emma told him. “Marriage agrees with you.”

  “Yup.” For an instant, Casey’s hard-core right-hand man softened. “I’m one happy camper.” The softness vanished, and Marc’s usual hard-core presence returned. “It seems that Patrick and I missed a great case. I’m ready for another one.”

  “Well, I doubt you’re about to get it from this sludge,” Emma replied, placing the paperwork on the table in front of Casey and turning to the distinguished man with salt-and-pepper hair sitting to her right. “Patrick, welcome home.” She gave him a big hug. “How were the graduation and the vacation?”

  Patrick Lynch—retired FBI agent and FI’s security expert—gave Emma a fond smile. “My daughter has become a young woman. Watching her, I realize she’s almost your age. I can’t believe it. But Adele and I were bursting with pride when she went up and accepted her diploma. And the family vacation was just what we all needed. But it’s good to be back. I missed the action—not to mention the security lapse that allowed that psychopath to get into Brianna’s apartment. You can be sure something like that will never happen again.”

  “We missed you, too.” Claire was already settling herself at the table, armed with a cup of herbal tea. “By the way, Marc, you and Maddy took off before I could tell you how beautiful the wedding was.”

  “Thanks, but I can’t take any credit for that. Maddy and her mother did all the initial planning, and that lifesaver of a wedding planner pulled it all together.”

  “Well, it was awesome,” Emma said.

  “Not as awesome as the honeymoon, I bet.” Ryan grinned as he brought over his coffee and pulled out his chair.

  Marc arched a brow. “I obviously wasn’t away that long, Ryan. You haven’t aged a day.”

  “And so it resumes.” Casey gave an exaggerated sigh. “It’s official. You’re home. How did we survive without you and Ryan busting each other’s chops?”

  “My guess? Very nicely.” Patrick chuckled.

  “Yeah, but this is much less boring—unlike those potential cases.” Emma gestured at the paperwork sitting in front of Casey. “I could barely keep my eyes open reading through those. I took Hero on two runs in the park just to wake up my brain.”

  Casey reached for the pile. “I got it, Emma. Loud and clear. You don’t like any of them. Please give the rest of us a chance to weigh in.”

  “Oh, Marc?” Before they got started, Claire had something to say. She was a woman with a mission. “You should know that Casey’s lock-picking skills are amazing. She’s quicker and with a lighter touch than you.”

  “Oh, snap.” Emma brightened.

  “Really?” Marc’s face wore its customary unreadable expression. “Casey told me you two broke into Hanover’s office. Looks like I’m one hell of a teacher.”

  “Not to worry,” Casey assured him. “I might pick a great lock, but I don’t have your nerves of steel. I’ll leave the breaking and entering to you.” She began passing case requests around the table. “Let’s dive in.”

  Rye, New York

  Gia logged into the secure mailbox provided to her by the DNA testing center, unsure whether or not she would find the results today. Two days was the minimum. The doctor had said it might take up to three, plus Gia was more than aware that no medical results were posted before nine a.m. Still, she was losing her mind. Dani was equally on edge. So, she had to give in to the urge to look.

  She logged in and then nearly bolted out of her chair, her heart racing a mile a minute. The notification stared back at her. DNA testing results: Gia Russo and Danielle Murano.

  This was it. The answers she and Dani had been holding their breath for. And now that they were here, she was scared to death. What she was about to read would, quite possibly, change her life forever.

  Her hands trembled on the keyboard. Her index finger was poised to open the file, but she didn’t—couldn’t—do it. She realized she was being irrational, but she felt as if she were standing at the edge of a high diving board with no choice but to take that last step and plunge.

  She didn’t want to take that plunge alone.

  Gia glanced at the time on her laptop. Seven ten a.m. Six ten in Minneapolis. She hadn’t admitted it to herself, but she knew this was the reason she hadn’t gone to the gym this morning. She had to be at her computer, just in case. In her gut she knew Dani felt the same way. So maybe she hadn’t taken a cr
ack-of-dawn run and headed off to the animal clinic. In which case they could do this together.

  On that thought, Gia picked up her disposable cell phone. She and Dani had talked a bunch of times each day, sometimes to reinforce their connection, sometimes to share their tension, and sometimes to talk. And now—it felt imperative that they share this experience.

  She called Dani’s disposable phone number.

  “Hi.” Dani answered on the first ring, her voice already fraught with tension—doubtless from the moment she’d seen Gia’s number on her Caller ID. “Are they in?”

  “They’re in. Are you home?”

  “Yes. I couldn’t go out—just in case. But I was trying to hold off—at least till business hours—so I wasn’t disappointed again.” A pause. “Did you look?”

  “I wanted to. But somehow I needed for us to do this together.”

  “Let me log in.” A few clicks and Dani blew out a breath. “I’m there.”

  Gia swallowed, hard. “Ready?”

  “Ready.”

  “Okay, go.”

  They opened the file simultaneously.

  On each of their computers, the PDF appeared. A one-page document, consisting of the lab’s bold letterhead and a two-column results summary of all the tests run.

  The right-hand side of the page consisted of rows of data markers—codes followed by long numbers that were indecipherable to both Dani and Gia.

  It didn’t matter.

  The left-hand side, much more succinct, had two sections—the top labelled conclusions and the bottom labelled statistics.

  The conclusions were a two-paragraph explanation of the findings and the numerical likelihoods of each genetic connection the girls had been tested for. It held the longer-version answers they sought. But it was the brief statistics section below it that told them all they needed to know in one short phrase:

  Monozygotic twins 99.9%.

  “Oh my God,” Dani whispered.

  Gia couldn’t even speak. She just kept staring at those two words—monozygotic twins—torn between shock at seeing them in print and a bone-deep awareness that both she and Dani had known the truth since the day they met.

  They were identical twins.

  “Gia?” Dani managed.

  “I’m here. I… Dani…” She began to weep.

  Dani was already crying. “We both knew. Somehow we felt the truth. But actually seeing it in writing… I just don’t understand. Our birthdays. Our parents clearly not knowing the truth. How could this have happened? And why?”

  “I don’t know.” Gia dashed the tears from her cheeks. “But someone out there does know and is clearly threatened by the truth leaking out. He’s used some pretty extreme scare tactics to keep us apart.”

  “The mugging… the fire…” Dani’s wheels were also turning. “He probably thinks he’s won. Except for one thing. He doesn’t know we took a DNA test and that we know we’re twins. Not yet. But if he has a way of finding out—that ups the ante. Scaring us might not be enough.”

  “But we can’t leave this alone. We need resolution.”

  “And to feel safe again.”

  A chilling silence hung in the air.

  “Who was that investigative team you mentioned?” Dani broke the silence to ask.

  “Forensic Instincts.” Gia had been thinking along the same lines. “I wanted to call them sooner. But I felt like such an idiot, giving them nothing but speculation. But now… staring at these DNA results… I’ll call them as soon as we hang up. The minute they can squeeze me in, I’ll go.”

  “We’ll go,” Dani qualified. “I’m running over to the clinic right now and tending to my urgent patients. Then, I’m explaining to my boss that I have a family emergency and will need a short leave of absence. I’ll do it without pay if need be. My colleagues are great; they’ll pull together and fill the gap while I’m gone. I’ll take the earliest flight I can.” A pause. “But I need to talk to my parents first.”

  “Don’t.” Gia felt like an ungrateful bitch as she spoke. Her parents? Her wonderful parents? Never. But still… Her eyes welled up again. “You have no idea how much I want to go to my parents. But we can’t.”

  “Why not? You can’t possibly think they were part of something illegal?” Dani asked incredulously.

  “Illegal? Of course not. But, Dani, my parents—and I’m sure yours—desperately wanted a child. Emotions that intense sometimes trump reason. Actively doing something illegal and looking the other way are two very different things. We’ve never been in their position. We can’t imagine what they were going through or what a blessing it was to find out their prayers could be answered.”

  “I hear you,” Dani said softly.

  “No matter how much we love our parents, we can’t screw things up by tipping our hand. We have to leave it to Forensic Instincts to find out if our folks can tell them anything, even the most minor detail, surrounding our births that would explain this.”

  “You’re right. They’re the professionals. We’re not, plus we’re too emotionally involved.” Dani’s sigh was pained. “But I feel like the worst, most ungrateful, and most deceitful daughter on earth.”

  “So do I. But we have to do it this way. For all we know, an interrogation by us could put them in danger.”

  “I never thought of that.” Dani’s resolve strengthened. “Call Forensic Instincts. I’ll catch the first flight out I conceivably can. As soon as I have my itinerary, I’ll call you with it.”

  “Wait,” Gia said. “Before you log off your laptop, print a copy of the results. I’m doing the same. I’m also copying the file onto my flash drive. We need backup copies, and Forensic Instincts needs concrete documentation.”

  “I’m printing as we speak,” Dani replied. “I’m also grabbing my flash drive. We should have two sets of everything.”

  “You’re right.” Gia’s hand was shaking as she pressed the print button. “We don’t know what’s going to happen next. We need to be prepared.”

  * * *

  DNA test results?

  When the hell had they taken that test? During their day in Manhattan? How had his employer missed seeing them stop at a fucking DNA testing center? It didn’t matter now, not when the results were glaring at him from her computer screen.

  Shit. Shit. Shit.

  He threw the wireless mouse against the wall, shattering it into pieces. If she knew, then the other one—Gia—did, too. It would explain the flight reservations Danielle was making now. An afternoon flight back to New York. The fire and the mugging had been wasted efforts. Now that they knew the truth, nothing would keep them apart.

  Which meant that threats would no longer be enough.

  CHAPTER 17

  Offices of Forensic Instincts

  Emma was relieved when the phone rang. She’d spent the past hour emailing prospective clients, telling them the team would not be taking on their cases, and recommending easy fixes for their problems—like installing a new lock when an ex kept letting himself back into your apartment. Boring.

  Whoever was
calling had to be more interesting than this—hopefully.

  “Forensic Instincts,” Emma said into the phone.

  “Hello, my name is Gia Russo.” The woman at the other end had a direct approach and more than a little anxiety in her voice. “I’d like to speak to Marc Devereaux right away. It’s urgent.”

  Emma’s antennae went up. This was already intriguing. It was rare that someone, other than Madeline, called and asked specifically for Marc. He wasn’t exactly the nurturing type.

  “May I ask what this is in reference to?” Emma inquired.

  “Is he in?” Gia Russo responded, this time more forcefully.

  Emma’s brows rose. “I’ll check. But I’ll need the reason for your call.”

  “He knows me. Just give him my name and tell him it’s imperative that I speak to him now. I don’t mean to be rude, but time is of the essence.”

  Emma’s instincts told her this was legit. “Hold on, please.”

  She pressed the hold button that shut off the outside world and used FI’s internal system instead. She could have dashed up the two flights of stairs to where Marc was doubtless ensconced in the corner office on the third floor, where he always did his solo work. But this way was faster, and Gia Russo sounded close to frantic.

  Emma tapped the button labeled Marc.

  “What’s up, Emma?” Marc sounded a little bored with what he was reading.

  Well, maybe his professional life was about to take an upswing.

  “There’s a woman on the phone who’s desperate to speak with you. As in right now. She sounds like she’s coming apart at the seams. Her name is Gia Russo. Do you know her?”

  “She was Maddy’s and my wedding planner.” There was definite surprise and puzzlement in Marc’s voice. “She’s also a bulldozer. Gia doesn’t come apart at the seams.”

 
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