A face to die for, p.29
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       A Face to Die For, p.29

         Part #6 of Forensic Instincts series by Andrea Kane
 

  Casey digested that with a nod. Marc still thought like an FBI agent with the BAU. Given that she was a behaviorist, she had to respect that. His reasoning here was solid.

  “Then we’ll have our answer soon enough,” she said. “Ryan will call us as soon as he hears their voices. Now it’s time to check in with Claire and Emma.”

  Claire picked up on the first ring.

  “Are you finished?” she asked quietly.

  “Heading back to the office,” Casey replied.

  “Then I’ll call you back. We need a few more minutes.”

  “Done.” Casey disconnected the call and glanced over at Marc. “That was Claire’s intense voice. Gia and Dani have been slammed with one shocker after another. Given their depleted emotional states, I guess this hit them harder than even Claire expected.”

  “Not really a surprise,” Marc replied.

  “I’m hoping that once the news settles in and they realize they have another sister, the joy will trump the shock.” Casey sighed. “But we’ll have to wait and see.”

  CHAPTER 32

  Gia’s townhouse

  Rye, New York

  10:25 a.m.

  Gia and Dani were sitting on Gia’s sofa, still wearing the exact same expressions as they had a half hour ago, when Claire and Emma broke the news to them about Lina. They’d finally started blurting out questions, most of which Claire and Emma had to carefully field.

  “What else can we say to make this easier?” Claire asked gently.

  “You can tell us why this is happening and who’s masterminding it.” Gia ran both hands through her hair. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. I just… Another sister. Triplets. We’ve all been kept apart for twenty-seven years. Why? Why? I can’t seem to process this.”

  “Nor can I,” Dani said, her eyes glittering with tears and her voice trembling with emotion. “And not to sound rude, you’re being very stingy with your explanations. Is there something you don’t want us to know?”

  This was the hard part—the part that both Emma and Claire had dreaded. No matter how many scenarios they’d reviewed before coming here, there was no way the girls wouldn’t feel they were being kept in the dark.

  Because in so many ways they were.

  As planned, Claire took the lead on this, hoping that her calm and gentle demeanor would take the stress level down a notch and diffuse the girls’ sense of unease.

  “We’re not intentionally hiding anything from you,” she reassured them. “There are just so many open threads to this investigation, and much of what we’re looking into is still guesswork. Until we have concrete answers, please, let us do our jobs.”

  Gia didn’t look convinced. “Clearly, you are hiding things from us. You just told us we have a third sister—Lina—who lives in New York City and who is as much in the dark about us as we are about her. You haven’t told us how or when you even found out she exists, much less how you got her DNA sample without telling her why. You haven’t told us her last name or anything about her parents. You haven’t told us if her life has been threatened.” A frustrated pause. “Actually, Dani is right. You haven’t told us much of anything.”

  “That’s why we’re here—to answer all your questions,” Claire replied. “But initially, we were just more worried about your ability to handle this. You’ve been through hell already.”

  “Thank you. But it’s up to Dani and me to cope. Please tell us whatever you can.”

  Emma took over with the initial facts. “We met Lina purely by chance during one of our other investigations,” she said. “Obviously, we saw the physical resemblance the minute we met the two of you. But we had no proof and no basis to ask for it. Plus, we didn’t want to alert Lina to anything. You’re our clients. You had to be told first—once we had something real to tell. We had to play this carefully.”

  “The DNA confirmation just came in last night,” Claire added. “That’s why we’re here first thing this morning. We not only wanted to tell you about Lina but we wanted to ask if you’re okay with us filling her in, as well. And most important of all, we want to know if you want to meet her. That decision is yours.”

  Gia and Dani both blinked, glancing at each other with the same of-course expression.

  “Definitely, yes,” Dani said, speaking for them both. “We want to meet our sister right away.”

  Claire picked up her phone. “I’ll call Casey and tell her to speak to Lina immediately. As soon as she gives us the okay…”

  “I don’t want to wait until then.” Gia jumped to her feet. “It’ll take Mr. Nickels an hour to get us into the city. If we leave now, we can go in and meet our sister as soon as she’s ready. I don’t care if we have to circle the block for an hour, waiting for her to process what we just did. I can’t just sit here and wait, doing nothing.”

  “I agree one hundred percent.” Dani also stood. “Please tell Casey we’re on our way.” A pointed pause. “And you can answer the rest of our questions during the ride down.”

  A half block from the Brando manor

  Todt Hill

  10:40 a.m.

  Ryan was clicking away on his laptop when the muffled sounds of a second person entering Joseph’s office came through his headphones. He’d been waiting for this ever since Joseph had returned to his office, slammed the door, and called his wife, practically ordering her home.

  Immediately, Ryan stopped what he was doing to listen.

  “Joseph, what is it?” Donna asked, clearly alarmed by the urgency of her husband’s call.

  “Close the door and sit down,” Joseph replied. “We have a huge problem.”

  The sounds that followed indicated that Donna was doing just that.

  “You’re scaring me,” she said. “What problem? What happened?”

  “Casey Woods and Marc Devereaux were here this morning. And it wasn’t to support my campaign.” In a tense, shaken tone, Joseph relayed the entire conversation to his wife.

  “What do you mean triplets?” Donna had started weeping halfway through Joseph’s revelation. “Lina is an only child. She’s our child. Why are they doing this?”

  “I don’t know. Some investigation they’re working on. Does it matter? Clearly, there are triplets, and Lina is one of them. We can’t pretend that away, not when there’s DNA evidence involved.”

  “Did you see that evidence?”

  “They wouldn’t have shown it to me. And how could I have demanded to see it? It would be as bad as an admission of guilt.”

  “If there were triplets, we would have been told.” Donna was in a total state of denial.

  “Would we?”

  “Of course. And we’d know who and where the other two children were.”

  “Stop it, Donna. You know better. We were never supposed to know about this. Please.” Joseph’s voice gentled. “I need you to face this with me. We have decisions to make, and we have to make them fast. There’s too much at stake to deny the facts.”

  “Oh, God.” Donna broke. She was sobbing so hard it was difficult to understand her words. “Lina. She doesn’t know anything about the real circumstances of h
er birth. How are we going to tell her? This is going to destroy her and our relationship with her.”

  Joseph made a pained sound. “We can’t think about that yet—not until we get at the full truth. Remember, there are criminal actions involved here. We both suspected that from the start.”

  “I didn’t want to know then, and I don’t want to know now.”

  “We don’t have that choice anymore. We must find out what we’re dealing with.”

  “How do you suggest we do that? Angelo is gone. We have no other ties to the truth.”

  “The only person who might know anything is Jimmy. As a kid, he was like a shadow, following Angelo around. And he worshipped the ground his big brother walked on. Maybe, just maybe, Angelo said something to him.”

  “Do you think so?” Donna had moved on to grasping at anything to make this go away.

  “I don’t know. Angelo wasn’t the type to confide in anyone. I was his closest friend and he said nothing to me about triplets. Maybe because I was involved, maybe for some other reason.”

  A loud squeak from the couch told Ryan that Joseph was standing up.

  “We can talk this to death,” Joseph said. “But there’s Lina to consider. And Forensic Instincts is moving forward on whatever they’re investigating, which could reveal too much. I’ve got to get whatever answers I can, as fast as I can.” A nanosecond of a pause. “I’m calling Jimmy. I want a meeting. Now.”

  Ryan leaned forward, listening intently. He would only get one end of the conversation. But that was enough for his needs.

  Even as he waited, he was typing rapidly into his laptop, seeing what he could dig up on Jimmy Colone, and wondering why he hadn’t shown up in any of Ryan’s previous searches. Probably because Ryan had been digging into Angelo Colone’s mob connections, not his separate personal life. All he’d found on the personal front was that Angelo was a widower of many years, he’d never remarried, and he’d never had kids. So while his public persona was dominant, his private life was seemingly not noteworthy.

  Seemingly. Because evidently he had a younger brother who was way under the radar.

  Before Ryan could dig up anything of substance, Joseph’s voice resumed.

  “It’s me,” he said. “You and I need to talk. Where are you? Fine. Meet me at Angelo’s mausoleum in an hour. I’m leaving now.” Another pause, during which Joseph had to be disconnecting the call.

  “Do you want me to go with you?” Donna asked.

  “No. Jimmy will be more apt to open up to me if we’re alone.” A quick peck on the cheek. “Let me get moving. You sit tight and I’ll call you as soon as I’m done.”

  “Okay.” Donna sounded like she was still a mess. “But please, Joseph. Make this go away. For Lina’s sake.”

  It was a ridiculous request and they both knew it.

  “I will,” Joseph promised anyway.

  * * *

  Ryan called Casey, simultaneously searching the web to find the location of Angelo’s burial site.

  “You heard something?” Casey answered from the van, putting Ryan on speakerphone so that Marc could listen.

  “Oh, yeah.” Ryan told them what had transpired. “Ah,” he said aloud. “I’ve got it.”

  “Got what?” Marc asked.

  “The information on Angelo Colone’s mausoleum.” He filled them in as quickly as possible. “Where’s Patrick?”

  “At the office,” Casey replied. “He’s been on the phone all morning, trying to locate any of his former law enforcement contacts who might remember something about Anthony and Carla Pontis’ murders. No luck yet.”

  “Okay. He can keep making his calls while he drives. I need his eyes and ears at Brando’s meeting.”

  “I agree. Go ahead. Call and give him the cemetery address.”

  “I’ll keep you posted.” Ryan ended the call, pressing Patrick’s cell number even as he continued typing Jimmy Colone’s name into his laptop.

  “What do you need, Ryan?” Patrick answered, his tone saying he already knew it would be something crucial.

  “I need you to get to Angelo Colone’s mausoleum.” Ryan rattled off the address. “Evidently, Colone has a younger brother, Jimmy. Joseph Brando is meeting him there in less than an hour to talk about the two other triplets he knows nothing about. I need ears on that conversation.”

  “I’m on it.” Patrick was already on the move. “I’ll check in when I have something.”

  Once again, Ryan disconnected his call and went back to his research. Getting info on the mob was tricky. Backdoor channels were necessary.

  Ryan bypassed the obstacles quickly and efficiently.

  Not much on Jimmy Colone. He was seven years younger than Angelo, and as Ryan’s info revealed, he’d been a schoolyard fighter and a “potential” drug user, all, of course, with no formal charges and no proof.

  Ryan skimmed that data and dug deeper.

  Abruptly, he sat up straight. Jimmy had disappeared off the grid, off the map, and was totally invisible since he was a kid of eighteen. Which was exactly twenty-seven years ago.

  He’d vanished a month after Anthony and Carla Ponti were murdered.

  CHAPTER 33

  Offices of Forensic Instincts

  10:50 a.m.

  The twenty-five-minute drive from Todt Hill to Tribeca gave Casey and Marc enough time to accept delivery for the deli platters Casey had ordered for their light lunch and arrange everything in FI’s modern kitchenette.

  A short time later, the doorbell rang.

  Hero picked up his head and woofed.

  “I’ve got it, boy,” Casey said, heading straight for the front door. She’d already disengaged the Hirsch pad by the time Yoda announced: “Angelina Brando has arrived.”

  “Thanks, Yoda.” Casey opened the door, her chest constricting when she saw the happy, beaming young woman standing there.

  “Hi,” Lina said, giving Casey a warm hug. “This was such a great idea. Lunch with the team. I can’t wait.”

  “We’re so glad you’re here. Unfortunately, so are only Marc, Hero, and I. Everyone else will be arriving shortly. Why don’t the few of us sit in the small conference room and talk? The food’s all set up and ready to eat when the whole crew shows up.” If you have any appetite at all once we’ve talked.

  “Sure.” As always, Lina was open and trusting. It would never occur to her that this would be anything but a social gathering.

  Casey felt the heavy weight of responsibility settle on her shoulders. It was up to her to keep this wonderful young woman in one emotional piece.

  “Hey, Lina.” Marc was already in the conference room, and he rose, giving Lina one of his rare smiles. He stuck out his hand, but in usual Lina fashion, she bypassed it and gave him the same big hug she’d given Casey.

  “Hiya, Marc. Thanks for inviting me.”

  “It’s always good to see you.” Marc walked over to the credenza. “What’s your pleasure?”

  Lina grinned. “It’s too early for wine, or I’d have some to celebrate everything from my dad’s victory to this ge
t-together. But I’ll settle for a Diet Coke.”

  Marc fished one out of the fridge, poured it in a glass, and added some ice. He then brought over the glass and handed it to Lina.

  “There you go.” He glanced at Casey. “Bottled water?”

  “Please.”

  Marc got two, wishing it were later in the day and he could offer Lina that wine she’d mentioned. She’d sure as hell need it in a few minutes.

  Lina settled herself on one of the settees, looking surprised when Casey sat down beside her. Given the fact that all the tub chairs were unoccupied, as was the second settee, it seemed odd that Casey would choose to station herself close beside Lina.

  Casey didn’t wait for her to ask about the mother-hen action.

  “We need to talk to you about something important,” she said. “It’s pretty complicated and it’s pretty overwhelming. It’s going to be tough to absorb. But I’m counting on you to be strong. And you can count on us to be right here by your side.”

  Lina’s eyes widened. “Is everyone okay? No one’s sick, are they?”

  “Nothing like that.” Casey sensed Marc lowering himself into the tub chair closest to her, a tangible statement of his support for Casey and for Lina. Bless Marc for always being her right hand.

  “I think it best that we not be interrupted,” Casey continued, gesturing at Lina’s purse.

  “Okay.” Lina pulled out her cell phone and turned it off. Her glow had dimmed and she was starting to look a little scared.

 
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