A face to die for, p.30
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       A Face to Die For, p.30

         Part #6 of Forensic Instincts series by Andrea Kane
 

  “I’m honestly not sure where to start. So I’ll just start with the most important part, the part that’s absolute, indisputable fact.” Casey drew a deep, preparatory breath. She’d never had the chance to buffer this life-altering news with Gia and Dani, who’d already made peace with it when they came to Forensic Instincts. This time she did. She wasn’t going to blow it.

  “This revelation is going to be a shocker, but in some ways, it’s really a wonderful one.” Casey took Lina’s hand between hers. “You’re not an only child, Lina. You have two sisters.”

  “I have… what?” Lina’s glass crashed to the floor, sending water and shards of glass everywhere.

  “Two sisters. You’re identical triplets.”

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Lina looked as confused as she did thrown. “I’m an only child. I don’t have any siblings, much less identical sisters. I have no idea where you got your information. But it’s wrong.”

  “It’s not wrong,” Casey told her gently. “It’s right. You’ve been misled.”

  “By whom, my parents?” Lina shook her head adamantly. “They’d never do that to me.” She snatched her hand away from Casey’s and fumbled for her purse. It was clear she was about to bolt. “I don’t know why you’re doing this…”

  “We’re telling you the truth, Lina,” Marc inserted in that calm, quiet voice that both soothed and made people believe. “We know this is hurting you, and we’re very upset about that. We’re on your side, whether or not you believe it. But what Casey just told you is hard-core fact. You have our word.”

  Lina released her death grip on her purse and just stared at Marc. “I don’t understand,” she whispered. “This is impossible. I’m twenty-seven years old. How can I have sisters I never knew about? How can I be a triplet? My parents only had…” Her voice trailed off. “You’re saying that’s all a lie?”

  “We don’t know where the lies begin and how comprehensive they are,” Casey replied. “Not yet. What we do know is that you and your sisters have been separated since infancy. None of you knew about the others.”

  Tears glistened on Lina’s lashes, although doubt still clouded her expression. Her face was the color of snow. “How did you find this out?”

  “Through DNA evidence. We’ll show the lab results to you after we’ve talked.”

  “I want to see them now.”

  “Okay.” Casey signaled to Marc, who reached over to the end table and picked up a thin manila folder. Opening it, he pulled out the page they’d printed before Lina arrived and handed it to her.

  Lina stared at it, reading and rereading the contents. “This is just a bunch of medical terms and percentages. There are no names. How do I know I’m one of these”—she squinted at the words—“monozygotic triplets?”

  “Because we submitted your DNA sample to the lab to compare to the results your two sisters just got. Again, you have our word. You’re one of the triplets.”

  “My DNA sample?” Lina lowered the page to her lap. “I didn’t give you a cheek swab. You don’t have my DNA.”

  “We didn’t ask you for a cheek swab because we didn’t want to upset you unnecessarily. We wanted to be one hundred percent certain of the truth before we approached you with it.” Casey was feeling sicker by the minute. “Cheeks swabs are only one way to obtain DNA. A hair follicle can also be used.”

  Lina gasped. “Emma,” she managed. “When she pulled that gray hair out of my head… it was all part of your agenda?”

  “It wasn’t an agenda. It was a search for the truth.”

  “Why? Why?” Lina started to cry. “I was perfectly happy with my life. Why would you do this to me? You’re supposed to be my friends.”

  “We are your friends.” Time to peel back another layer. “This all started with an investigation initiated by your two sisters. Whoever’s trying to keep you three apart is threatening them. Their lives could be in danger. And if that’s the case, yours could be, too.”

  Lina’s eyes widened through her tears. “Danger? What kind of danger? From whom?”

  “That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

  “Oh, God.” More tears. Then a question. “They came to you together? I thought you said none of us knew about the others.”

  “You didn’t. The two of them just learned about each other a few weeks ago, and it was by pure chance.”

  “Do they know about me?”

  “As of an hour ago, yes. Claire and Emma told them. They’re as stunned as you are. But they really want to meet you—if you’re up for it.”

  “They’re local?”

  “One of them lives near the city, yes. The other flew in so she could be here.” Casey continued to keep the details impersonal, offering Lina only as much as she could, and wanted to, handle.

  Sure enough, Lina’s mind shifted to the ugly part of this truth, and she stiffened. “Did my parents have triplets? Or are they not even my parents? Is everything a lie? Did the other two… Did my sisters’ parents know?”

  “Neither set of parents knew that triplets were involved. They adopted their daughters in good faith and raised them with the knowledge that they were adopted. They were as stunned as their daughters were to find out the rest.”

  The tears were now flowing down Lina’s cheeks. “My parents told me stories about my birth. They said I was theirs. And that I was their one and only.” She lowered her head and covered her face with her hands. “Either way, they’re lying to me. Either they had two other babies that they farmed out or I was also adopted and they made the rest up. Oh, God.”

  This time, Casey just laid a hand on Lina’s arm. “We spoke to your father this morning. In fact, we just came from Todt Hill.”

  Lina’s head came up. “What did he say?”

  “Not much.” Casey refused to be less than honest. “He shut us down, refused to provide a DNA sample, and threw us out.”

  As Casey spoke, Lina searched her face. “You think he was lying.”

  “Not completely. I think he was stunned by the news that you were a triplet. But I think he knows a lot more about the circumstances of twenty-seven years ago than he’s willing to say.”

  “So he isn’t my natural father.” Lina stated the fact in a wooden tone. “At the same time, he also isn’t involved in trying to hurt my… sisters. That’s what you’re saying.”

  Casey gave an uneasy nod. “That’s my gut instinct, yes. But even if I’m right—”

  “That doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved in something suspicious surrounding my birth.”

  “Exactly.”

  For a long moment, Lina said nothing, just gazed down at her lap, grappling with an overwhelming and incomprehensible reality. Then she raised her head.

  “I want to meet my sisters.”

  Green Hills Cemetery

  Brooklyn, New York

  11:40 a.m.

  Joseph was already seated on the bench at Angelo’s mausoleum when he heard Jimmy’s footsteps. He glanced up, seeing his own grim expression mirrored on Jimmy’s. Clearly, Angelo’s brother realized something serious was up.

  “Sit
down,” Joseph said.

  Jimmy complied. “What is this about?”

  Rather than answering the question, Joseph replied, “Let me remind you that Angelo asked me to look out for you all these years. I gave him my solemn promise that I would. And I’ve kept that promise. I’ve provided you with everything Angelo requested. In addition, since his death, it’s been on my shoulders and my shoulders alone to keep you safe. I’ve done that, as well.”

  Jimmy shifted in his seat. “And you know how grateful I am.”

  “I don’t want your gratitude. I want the truth.”

  “What truth is it you’re looking for?”

  “The truth about Lina.” Joseph angled his head to face Jimmy. “I’ve just had a bomb dropped on me. I need to know if it’s for real. Angelo’s dead. Which means you’re the only one I can turn to for answers. Whatever you know, I need to know, too.”

  “All right.” Jimmy was now visibly unnerved.

  That reaction wasn’t lost on Joseph.

  “Two investigators from Forensic Instincts just visited my home,” he stated flatly. “According to them, they have evidence that Lina has two identical sisters. Needless to say, I was stunned since this is the first I’m hearing about it. You were still around when Lina was born. And you were glued to Angelo’s side, so I doubt something went down without you knowing about it. Tell me what that something was. Is what they’re saying true? Is Lina one of three?”

  A prolonged silence.

  “Answer me,” Joseph commanded.

  “Yes,” was the reluctant response.

  “Dear God.” Joseph wiped a palm over his face, his hand shaking as he did. “Why wasn’t I told?”

  More silence.

  “I’m not going to ask again. This is my daughter we’re talking about.”

  “Angelo was your best friend,” Jimmy replied, desperately trying to diffuse the situation. “You knew him. So you had to know that strings were pulled to make this adoption happen—and that some of those strings were illegal.”

  “Stop sidestepping my question. Of course I realized that Angelo took illegal actions to make Lina ours—actions that he never divulged to me because, as always, he didn’t want to make me complicit. Plus, in this case, I was emotionally involved. So, yes, he kept me in the dark. But triplets? That’s a whole different level of deception. Specifics—now.”

  Jimmy blew out a slow breath. “I don’t know a whole lot. I know that Angelo wanted to make things as easy for you as possible. No complications, no worries, no guilt—not when he knew he could make you and Donna so happy.”

  “Go on.”

  “Someone brought infant triplets to Angelo. I don’t know who or why. All he told me was that he knew how much you and Donna wanted a baby, so he was going to take care of things so that you got one of the babies and the other two were adopted out.”

  Joseph’s eyes narrowed. “You’re right. Angelo knew that Donna and I were desperate for a child. We would have been thrilled to take all three babies. So why split them up? If Angelo didn’t want them to be a package deal, it means there’s a lot more to this story—like the whos and the whys you’re not providing.”

  “I’m not providing them because I never knew them.” Jimmy was staring off into space. “You know how Angelo was. He kept things to himself. He always had his reasons and I never questioned them. So, yeah, I’m sure there was a reason he split up the kids and never told you the truth. But I have no idea what it was. You asked me if Lina was a triplet. The answer is yes. The rest died with Angelo.”

  Joseph dropped his head into his hands. “God help me. What am I going to do? How can I possibly explain this to Lina?”

  “Why does she have to know?”

  Joseph’s head came up, his expression both pained and furious. “Because if Donna and I don’t tell her, Forensic Instincts will. This has something to do with an investigation they’re conducting. I have no clue what. What I do know is that they’re thorough. They’ll interview anyone even remotely connected to their case. Not to mention that Lina has become friendly with them. There’s no way they’d keep this from her.” Joseph came to his feet. “I’ve got to go.” He turned. “If you think of anything else—and I mean anything else—you’d better come to me with it, and fast.”

  Jimmy stared after Joseph’s retreating figure, his heart thudding in his chest.

  Then, he said a silent prayer to Angelo, stood up, and left before he could be spotted.

  Brooklyn Bridge

  11:50 a.m.

  Patrick leaned on his horn again, his teeth clenched in frustration. Bumper-to-bumper traffic. Covering the full span of the bridge. And thanks to the fender bender that had caused the tie-up, there were few signs of a reprieve.

  For the third time, he punched up Ryan’s number.

  “I’m not going to make it,” he said as soon as Ryan answered the phone. “The tow truck just showed up. It’s going to take time to clear up this mess and get traffic moving again.”

  “Shit.” Ryan stopped working. “How far away are you?”

  “Five minutes, once things open up.”

  “Then stick it out. Brando and Jimmy Colone have a lot to discuss. If you get lucky, they might still be there.”

  “Doubtful. But I’ll let you know.”

  Offices of Forensic Instincts

  11:55 a.m.

  Claire punched the entry code into the Hirsch pad, and Emma opened the door, holding it ajar so that Gia and Dani could follow them in. Both girls were eager and unnerved. And the delayed go-ahead call that Claire had received from Casey—resulting in John Nickels having to circle the block five times—had only escalated their already heightened emotions.

  “Was she waffling about whether or not she wants to meet us?” Dani asked, glancing around as if, by doing so, she could spot Lina.

  “Quite the contrary,” Claire replied, determined to convey Casey’s message that Lina was adamant about meeting her sisters. “She’s anticipating this meeting as much as you are. It just took a while for her to digest everything that was thrown at her.” A pause. “I didn’t mention it on the ride in, but I think if you know this you’ll better understand. Lina had no idea she was adopted. She was raised to believe the Brandos were her natural parents. So she has even more to take in than you did.”

  “Wow.” Gia’s brows rose as she absorbed this new and vital piece of information. “That’s more than I could have withstood. At least Dani’s and my parents were honest with us from the start. The poor girl.”

  “That definitely would have broken me,” Dani agreed. “Although I guess I can comprehend the Brandos’ logic. They probably felt that keeping Lina in the dark would make her feel more theirs or more loved. Instead, it’s backfiring. It’s causing her inexplicable pain.” Dani gave an empathetic sigh. “You’re right, Claire. This is worse than anything Gia and I went through.”

  Claire gave a sad nod, simultaneously gesturing toward the small meeting room across the hall from Emma’s desk.

  “You both have a seat and let Emma and me pave the way,” she said. “I want Lina to know you’re here and that this meeting is about to happen. Then, I’ll c
ome and get you.”

  * * *

  Lina was seated on the settee, her back ramrod straight, with a glass of wine sitting, untouched, on the side table next to her, when Claire and Emma walked in. Her head shot up, her body went rigid, and she stared past them, searching the empty doorway.

  “Where are they?” she asked.

  “In the waiting room,” Claire replied. “We wanted to check on you first—to make sure you were okay and to let you know that all of us have arrived.” Claire placed a gentle emphasis on the words all of us.

  “I’m hanging in there—thanks.” Lina’s dazed and haunted look contradicted her claim. “I really want to meet my sisters.”

  Claire exchanged glances with Casey, and Casey gave an affirming nod. Lina might be hanging on by a thread, but she was as ready as she’d ever be.

  “And they really want to meet you,” Emma assured her, having intercepted the look between her teammates.

  With that, Claire turned and retraced her steps. “I’ll show them in.”

  “Thank you.” Lina continued to stare at the empty doorway after Claire had exited. She took a quick sip of wine to fortify herself and then set down her glass, interlacing her fingers tightly in her lap.

  “It’s going to be okay, Lina,” Emma told her. “Better than okay. I promise.”

  Lina gave her a thin smile. “Thank you—all of you—for your moral support.”

  Approaching footsteps interrupted them, echoing through the hall, and then Claire reappeared in the doorway.

  This time she wasn’t alone.

  CHAPTER 34

  Lina gasped, her hand flying to her mouth as she gazed, unblinking, at the two mirror images of herself. Prepped as she’d been, there was no real preparation for this.

  Dani and Gia were nearly as shaken as she. Tears filled their eyes as they got their first glimpse of their sister.

 
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