A face to die for, p.17
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       A Face to Die For, p.17

         Part #6 of Forensic Instincts series by Andrea Kane
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  “No problem, boy,” she murmured, fumbling around in her purse until she pulled out a small bag of dog treats. “Here you go.” She offered him one.

  Hero needed no second invitation. He snatched the treat and began to noisily chomp on it.

  “You carry those around with you?” Ryan asked, astonished.

  “Yup. I’ve got cat treats, too. I’d rather give them a healthy, organic snack than see them eating processed food or, worse, food that could potentially make them ill. That’s the veterinarian in me talking.”

  “Well, you just became Hero’s favorite client.” Ryan chuckled as he watched Hero lick up the last crumb and then give Dani another hopeful look.

  “Nope. One to a customer, no matter how charming.” Dani stroked his head. Then, she rose, leaving Hero to his water bowl and walking over to take her seat. “That’s also the veterinarian in me.”

  “Now that you’ve fed Hero, let us do the same for you,” Emma piped up. “We’ve got great coffee, espresso, latte, and awesome snickerdoodle cookies. What’s your pleasure?”

  “A latte would be wonderful.” Gia inclined her head in a way that was totally a Lina gesture. “The cookies sound delicious, but my stomach is in knots.”

  “I understand,” Emma replied sympathetically. She turned her questioning gaze on Dani. “Danielle?”

  “I think I’ll just have some bottled water if it’s convenient,” Dani responded. “The last thing I need is more caffeine. I’m already a bundle of nerves. And please call me Dani. Everyone does.”

  “Dani it is.” Emma walked over to the JURA and made the latte like a true barista. “Sugar?”

  “Just some Splenda if you have it,” Gia replied.

  “We have everything. We’re coffee fanatics.” Emma plucked two packets of Splenda, pulled a bottle of water out of the mini-fridge, and brought everything over.

  “Thank you,” they each said.

  “Now let’s talk.” Casey set down her own mug. “According to Marc, your lives are in danger. Start at the beginning and provide as many details as you can.”

  Dani and Gia each contributed to laying out the full story for the FI team—from the day Sarah Rosner had mistaken Gia for Dani right up to the mugging, the fire, and the DNA results.

  “We also bought burner phones,” Gia concluded. “For them to know so much about Dani’s and my plans, they must have hacked our phones and our Facebook accounts. So that’s one hole we did try to plug up.”

  The entire team listened and took notes, most of them typing directly into their iPads. Given how quickly and nervously the sisters were speaking, everyone let them talk without interruption. Questions would come later.

  “I think that’s everything,” Dani said at last.

  With that, Casey set aside her iPad Pro and studied the two girls—as she had been throughout their whole explanation. Her own expression was pensive—for more reasons than Gia and Dani could possibly know. “No wonder you’re both so rattled.”

  Gia frowned at what she perceived as a reserved note in Casey’s voice. “Please don’t say you think the mugging and the fire were coincidences. Or that you doubt the fact that they’re tied to Dani and me finding each other.”

  “I definitely was not going to say either one of those things,” Casey assured her. “I was just processing all the facts. Normally, the team and I interrupt with questions, but in this case, we wanted to hear the whole story from beginning to end.”

  “And?”

  Casey glanced around the room and got the unanimous show of imperceptible nods she was waiting for.

  “And we’ll be taking on your case immediately. The attempts to frighten you off were pretty extreme. That implies that this situation is rapidly escalating. Whoever’s after you is already desperate, and that’s presumably without knowing you took a DNA test or that you’ve gotten the results.”

  “Which means that once he or she has all the facts, your lives will be in even greater danger,” Marc said.

  “That ship might have already sailed.” Ryan’s expression was grim. “If your phone calls, texts, and Facebook messaging have all been compromised, my guess is that your computers have been, too.”

  Gia shot straight up in her seat. “So they know about the DNA test results?”

  “I’d say yes.”

  “Oh, God.” Gia instinctively reached for Dani’s hand. “Then our lives might really be on the line.”

  “Nothing’s going to happen to you,” Marc assured them. “Our job is to make sure of that. We’ll keep you safe and we’ll solve the case. Trust us.”

  The two girls nodded wordlessly.

  Ryan continued, speaking as gently as he could. “I want you both to use your personal laptops only for work emails, Google searches, innocuous posts on Facebook and tweets on Twitter—everything you do on a daily basis. Omit anything that relates to the two of you, your fears and suspicions, and this investigation.”

  “A smokescreen,” Dani murmured.

  “Exactly. If you stop using your laptops altogether, they’ll get suspicious. Let them think you’re trying to go on with your lives.”

  “Then what do we use for the case-related emails, Google searches, and research?” Gia asked.

  “I’ll give each of you a Raspberry Pi. It’s a full computer about the size of a pack of cigarettes. I’ve added a few goodies to the Linux operating system and added a Tor browser. Even the Chinese wouldn’t be able to get in without me knowing about it. Plug it into a TV, a mouse and keyboard, and voilà. I always keep a few of these on hand—complete with accessories—just in case. Take them back to Gia’s place. Reserve them for case-related research and communication.”

  “We’ll do everything you say.” Dani looked as if she’d been run over by a steamroller. “But tell me, how do we fight some nameless, faceless person who’s been determined to keep us apart since birth, and who clearly has ominous motives for doing so?”

  “You don’t,” Casey replied. “We do.”

  “How?”

  “First, by figuring out the why. As you said, what’s the motivation behind this whole scenario?” Thoughtfully, Casey tapped her finger against her mug. “Have either of you spoken to your adoptive parents?”

  “No.” Gia shook her head. “We wanted to. We both have close relationships with our parents. Because of that, we were afraid our love for them might turn this discussion into an emotional fiasco. Dani and I agreed that it would be best if you handled it. You’re pros. We’re not.”

  “That was a smart move,” Marc replied. “We’ll ask different questions than you would and with more objectivity and training.” He penned more notes in the thick spiral binder he’d been using during the interview. Marc’s process was to handwrite his notes and then enter the data, with additional comments and questions, into his laptop immediately after the clients left.

  “Are your original birth certificates available?” Ryan asked.

  “No. The adoptions were closed. The birth records are sealed—for both of us,” Gia said.

  “And neither of you knows the name of the agency or the attorney who
handled your adoption?”

  Both girls shook their heads.

  “Then I’ve got my work cut out for me. There’s no time for lawyers or petitions. I’ve got to get into the New York City Department of Health’s records so I can manage a do-it-yourself unsealing of the birth certificates. I need to know your actual birthdate, birth hospital, and the names of your biological parents—or at least your biological mother if she listed your father as unnamed.”

  Claire had been quiet up until now. And she had that aura-seeking expression on her face. “Do you have any personal childhood toys, dolls, etc. that you were particularly attached to?” she now asked. “If so, I’d like to have those.”

  Gia and Dani turned to stare at her in that awed way Claire was all too used to. “You’re the clairvoyant member of the group,” Dani said.

  “Claircognizant, but yes.” Claire gave them a faint smile. “You’ve done your homework.”

  “Gia brought me up to speed. Between living in New York and knowing Marc, she had a head start on me. But I caught up. I Googled Forensic Instincts after we talked.”

  “We’re going to help you,” Claire said in response. “I’m hoping that by holding your personal childhood things, I can pick up something that might help me do so.” She tucked a wisp of blonde hair behind her ear, giving each of the girls a gentle look. “I realize this has taken a backseat to the chaos in your lives, but congratulations on finding each other. You’ve discovered a precious connection—an identical sister. That kind of bond is unique.”

  “Thank you.” Gia turned to smile at Dani. “We’re certainly learning more about that connection every day.”

  Patrick cleared his throat. “I handle the necessary security for all our clients. Clearly, your situation warrants some level of protection. I’m not trying to frighten you. But the warnings you received involved physical harm. And if Ryan is right and our target already knows that you have proof you’re identical twins, he’ll escalate his attempts—especially once he determines you’ve hired us. I’d like to put you both under security watch.”

  “What exactly does that mean?” Dani asked.

  “First of all, how long do you plan to stay in New York?” Casey inquired. “Because ideally I’d like you here until this case is solved so we can better keep an eye on you.”

  “I took a two-week break for a family emergency. So I’m not going anywhere.” Dani frowned. “In which case, how will I get you the things you need?”

  “Easy,” Ryan replied. “You’ll give us your apartment key. We’ll put together a list of what we need, and you’ll tell us where we can find them. One, probably two of us will be flying to Minneapolis to talk to your parents. We’ll stop at your place and collect the necessary items.”

  “Do you both have passports?” Casey asked. “Because that’s one of the things we’ll need. Also your adoptive birth certificates.”

  “I have both at home,” Gia replied.

  “Me, too.” Dani nodded. “I’ll tell you where they are so you can add them to the list.”

  “Good. In the meantime, what county were you each born in?” Casey omitted the word presumably.

  “New York. Manhattan.”

  “Same here.”

  “That’s a good start.”

  Patrick interrupted to answer their question about the security angle of things. “For now, I won’t do anything drastic to disrupt your lives. No in-home surveillance. Just a couple of my guys alternating their watch on Gia’s place and a couple of others who’ll follow each of you when you go out. I’ll introduce all of them to you. After that, you won’t even know they’re around. But you’ll be able to reach them at the touch of an iPhone button, even though they’ll probably beat you to the punch.”

  “Oh.” More and more, Dani was realizing the magnitude of what they were facing. “Under the circumstances, I think that will make us both feel better.”

  “I hope so,” Patrick replied. “Because it means cooperation on your part, including supplying me with a list of your schedules and where you plan to be when. Dani, I realize you don’t have a regular routine in New York. We’ll have to sit down and figure something out. And it goes without saying, there’ll be rules about both your activities. No stupid risks. No taking off without giving my guys a heads-up. And no discussing any part of this with anyone, not friends, co-workers, no one. Are we clear on that?”

  Both girls nodded.

  “Good.” Patrick studied their faces and was satisfied with what he saw. “Then let’s get the necessary information from you so we can start doing our jobs.”

  The next hour was filled with every scrap of information that Dani and Gia could provide on the assaults—including photos of the fire that Gia had taken, in addition to the DNA testing process, the security measures provided by the DNA testing center—which Ryan would follow up on anyway—and the best way to approach their parents. Dani wrote up a list of everything Claire and Ryan needed, each for their own purposes, and sketched out a floor plan indicating where each item could be found.

  “Gia, I want to talk to your mom and dad tomorrow,” Casey said. “I’ll call first, tell them who we are, and say we have some questions about a case we’re working on. There’s no point in scaring them off by revealing the whole truth on the phone. When is the best time to reach them?”

  “Call them tonight and make arrangements,” Gia replied, worry written all over her face. “They’re up with the sun. And they’ll see you before they leave for work if you can get to their place by eight.” A pause. “Please don’t freak them out. Ask what you need to, but please be gentle. This is going to tear them up. Maybe I should be there.”

  Casey was already shaking her head. “That will throw things into emotional chaos. Trust me, Gia. I’ll handle the situation, including making sure they know why you left this in our hands. My expertise is in reading people. I’ll only push as far as I can, and I’ll make sure to ask my questions with respect and care. They’ll be shocked and on emotional overload, but once I tell them how much you love them and that you’ll be coming by tomorrow night—with Dani, just so you can introduce her to them and bring her into your circle—they’ll be okay. Also, Claire will be accompanying me to the meeting. She has an innate way of calming people, and she’ll soften the meeting and the outcome. Everything will be fine.”

  Gia had been listening intently, although she still looked concerned. “Will you call me the minute you’re finished and fill me in on everything?”

  “Absolutely.”

  “What about my parents?” Dani asked. “Which of you is going to talk to them, and when?”

  “I’ll go,” Patrick said immediately. “I’ll take the first available flight to Minneapolis, tonight if possible. I’m a parent, too, and my kids are in their twenties. I feel for what your folks will be going through. I’ll ease them through it.” He turned to Marc. “You come with me. You can take care of things at Dani’s apartment while I’m meeting with her parents. That will cut down on our time away.”

  “Done.” Marc nodded. “We’ll undoubtedly have to make at least one other trip there. But first things first. Let’s call Dani’s parents now and try to catch a night flight out.” He glanced at his watch.
“Seven o’clock. We’re pushing it.”

  The glowing lights that arced across the wall—and the voice that accompanied them—told the team that an answer was near.

  “Sun Country has a nonstop flight tonight that departs at nine o’clock from JFK and lands in Minneapolis at 11:11 p.m. central time,” Yoda supplied. “The aircraft is a Boeing seven-thirty-seven. Five coach seats are still available—seats nineteen A and B, seats twenty-four B and C, and seat twenty-five F.”

  “Good,” Casey replied. “Book two tickets right away, Yoda.”

  “And the return date and time?”

  “Late tomorrow evening,” Casey supplied. “That will give Patrick flexibility to talk to Dani’s parents at a time that’s most convenient for them, Marc time to collect everything we need, and more than enough time to get them back home in one day.”

  “Very good, Casey.” There was a moment or two of silence. “Task completed,” Yoda returned to announce. “Seats nineteen A and B are now Marc and Patrick’s. Confirmation and boarding passes should be added to the Passbook on their iPhones any moment now. A car service will be arriving in fifteen minutes in order for them to leave immediately. Arriving one hour prior to takeoff is advised.”

  Patrick and Marc were already on their feet, simultaneously taking the written material Dani had provided and checking their cell phones. All the necessary confirmation and boarding information was there. And their carry-on bags were packed and ready; each member of the FI team kept an emergency bag at the office just for situations like this.

  “You all set?” Marc asked, stuffing the notes from this meeting into his case, where they’d be ready to be transcribed into his iPad.

  “Yup. Let’s grab our bags and wait outside for our car. We’ll call our wives and Dani’s parents from the road.” Patrick turned to Dani. “We’ll keep you posted every step of the way.” His voice gentled. “Don’t worry.”

 
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