My 2019: Wrapping up 2018 in a Very Positive Way

I am grateful for 2018 and all the good things that have happened so far.

I haven’t lost any of my loved ones or left them behind. And even though we have all gone our separate ways, we are a lot closer to one another than we’ve ever been.

My difficulties and challenges have become less and less; my struggles have decreased.

I have been provided with many awesome opportunities: signing up with FutureLearn and enrolling in their fiction writing and novel reading courses from which I have achieved a great deal; I am going places with my novels, most of which are almost finished, and new story ideas are on their way!

I have discovered new Law of Attraction techniques by newly introduced LOA coaches.

Now I am ready for what 2019 has to offer.

Amy Bennett

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Twelve

Samantha realises that the Orphans’ survival is going to take more than police detective work. But tracking the killer threatens Sam’s long awaited reunion with her daughter, Katrina; and as Sam gets closer to the killer, the killer gets closer to the truth. So far, not so good, as the unmasked villain threatens to expose Samantha’s true identity and her ruse as a cop…

My Pink Mobile suddenly rang. I had to step outside the cop shop because it was Melissa and she sounded horrified. ‘So, the woman Claire shot and Helena are connected. Holy watershed. Claire probably shot Bonnie Chen on purpose and that she never told any of us anything about it.’

I filled Melissa in on that shocking detail. ‘Claire never told Ant either. On top of that, Helena was at the precinct as Claire. She’s going to get us both busted unless I meet her. Alone.’

‘Is there any particular reason why?’ Melissa wondered.

‘Helena thinks we both share a connection,’ I added.

‘And do you?’

‘Yeah, we’re clones!’

Now Melissa was intrigued. ‘Tell me what the cops know about Helena.’

I downloaded Melissa on Helena’s psych profile. ‘I discovered the connection between Helena and Bonnie Chen while researching about them both.’

Melissa pulled out her fish-symbolism research book. ‘Okay, so the fish reads Christian and crafted onto a weapon. Technically a personal crusade. Which means that the brand on Bonnie Chen means Helena is not a lone warrior.’ She poured it all out articulately.

‘So she’s not the only one involved in the killings,’ I guessed correctly. ‘Someone has brainwashed her into obliterating the other clones one by one.’

‘Right. To extreme Creationist types, we would be abominations, like not God’s children, but Satan’s.’

‘So they hate us and she’s killing us even though she’s identical to us.’

‘Look at it this way, Samantha. If you were a messed up, abused loner whose faith compelled you to belong and somebody you trusted told you this was a way to redeem yourself in the eyes of God, then no doubt you might become an angry angel too.’

Once I re-entered the cop shop, I got straight back down to business and took out Bonnie Chen’s file again. But suddenly my office phone rang, the sound of it like a shrill running through my eardrums. Speak of the Devil. It was Helena once again. ‘Things must be getting very uncomfortable for you right now,’ she murmured. ‘What with you picking up where Claire left off.’ She was holed in a generic apartment and her wound was still seeping blood.

‘Melissa and I were just chatting about you,’ I taunted Helena callously. ‘And your equally sick twisted friend Bonnie.’

Helena didn’t seem taken aback. ‘You really are a shitty detective. Bonnie figured us out.’

‘Well it was Claire who shot her, not me. If it’s revenge you’re after.’

‘This has got nothing to do with revenge. It’s about you and just you only.’

I sighed heavily. ‘Do you want to tell me about our supposed connection?’ I asked out of curiosity rather than real interest.

‘You have my invitation,’ she hinted to me, almost whispering. She had already sent me an email message.

I opened up the email and quickly wrote down the address. But I was almost completely unaware of the included video included. Helena had filmed herself disguised as Claire, and she was confessing to Bonnie Chen’s murder!

‘My name is Claire Richards,’ she said in Claire’s accent, her voice filled with agitation and her face looking distraught. ‘And I killed Bonnie Chen in self-defence. But it wasn’t an accident. I shot her on purpose.’

In a panic, I scrambled to shut down the video before anybody else in the cop shop could hear it. Luckily, nobody else saw or heard Helena/Claire announcing her murder confession, but I felt shaken up and mentally scarred for life.

Over an hour later, Felix and Alison pulled up in front of Siobhan’s house in a taxi, Alison posing as me so that ‘I’ could finally see my daughter Katrina. ‘I’m gasping for a fag,’ she mimicked in my London accent.

‘No, you’re not,’ Felix chided her. ‘Samantha doesn’t smoke, and neither do you.’

After handing over the cab driver’s tip, they made their way out of the car and across the street to where Siobhan and Katrina lived.

‘Don’t over-slouch. No over-slouching,’ Felix lectured Alison/Sam as she strutted ahead of him in an over-emphasized version of my arrogant stride. ‘Oh shut up,’ Alison ordered with a swat back at him. ‘That’s actually quite good,’ Felix muttered. ‘Now you’ve got the hang of it.’

Siobhan opened the door to the mismatched duo. She took one hard look at Alison and raised an eyebrow. ‘How come you ain’t driving your new Jag this time?’ she sneered.

‘It’s in the car shop, waiting to be fixed,’ Alison shot back in my thick London tongue. ‘Are you gonna let me see my daughter or what?’

Siobhan rolled her eyes, but said nothing more. She stepped out of the doorway so that Alison could strut right in. Felix followed after her, making sure not to give anything away.

‘Katrina,’ Siobhan called after my daughter in a coaxing tone. ‘Come downstairs, love. There’s someone here to meet you.’

Felix and Alison waited impatiently for Katrina, who was holding the picture she painted of me as she approached them. But then her smile faded when she laid her eyes on Alison. ‘Don’t be frightened, sweetheart,’ Alison cajoled. ‘It’s only me, your mum. Come and join me so that we can have a mother-daughter reunion.’

Felix and Siobhan moved off to the kitchen and left Alison and Katrina to bond.

Alison pulled Katrina closer to her. ‘I never intended to be gone for such a long time, and I regret being away when you needed me the most,’ she apologized. ‘But I’ve made a promise for both of us. We’ll be able to be together all the time soon.’

Katrina just frowned, not buying into any of Alison’s assurance. ‘I don’t know who you are,’ she replied stiffly. ‘But you’re not my mother.’

Alison was shocked, but managed not to give herself away regardless. She tried to brazen it out with Katrina. ‘Of course I’m your mother. Don’t be daft.’

But for a young child, Katrina wasn’t fooled easily. ‘You only look like my mum, but you’re not really her.’

That was when Alison knew she had been caught through her Samantha disguise. It was no use trying to insist any more.

Katrina folded her arms and creased her mouth, glaring at Alison. ‘Where’s my mum?’ she demanded.

Alison finally gave up the charade. She took a deep breath. ‘Okay, you’re right,’ she said with a small sigh. ‘My name is Alison, and I’m filling in for your mum.’

Katrina almost had tears in her eyes. ‘But why couldn’t my mum be here today?’ she asked sadly.

‘The reason why she couldn’t be here right now,’ Alison explained calmly in her natural accent. ‘Is because your mother is out there right now doing something very brave. She’s going to make sure everything’s safe so that you two can be together.’

Making sure everything was safe was exactly what I happened to be doing at this very moment. With my gun loaded and raised, I entered Helena’s occult apartment, and found Helena dressed in a slip and kneeling with her hands raised in a position of worship. She had no shoes on, and I could see the blisters on her feet were slightly visible. ‘I’m unarmed,’ she said without turning around.

‘I don’t give a shit,’ I barked, kicking the door shut with force.

‘Turn the fuck around,’ I demanded angrily. ‘Kneel. I’m guessing you know how.’

Helena did as she was told; however, she began to protest as she obeyed my orders. ‘It’s not necessary,’ she whispered. ‘You’re different from the others.’

‘Yeah,’ I said coldly. ‘I am.’

I punched Helena right where her wound was. She dropped to the floor gasping in pain.

‘Well go on, then,’ I demanded sharply. ‘Start talking about whatever it is you called me to talk about.’

‘I think I’m dying,’ she gasped, clutching her wounded groin.

‘I think I’ll watch,’ I retorted. ‘After all, I’ve gotten used to watching people die right in front of me.’

I grabbed a nearby chair, slammed it to the ground and planted myself in it in front of Helena. ‘So why did you do it? Why did you kill Portia Obinger and all those other European Clones?’

‘Because God sent me. He sent me to obliterate what was not His creation.’

‘You mean this God?’ I asked, pulling out the fish knife. ‘The one branded on your friend Bonnie Chen?!’

Helena looked at me with pleading eyes. ‘She helped make you. She saw the light and came to our side.’

My heart dropped. That was when I suddenly realised the truth behind everything. ‘So Claire killed Bonnie in order to protect us. And the rest of the Clone Club.’

Helena laid her hands on both sides of my face. ‘I can save you, Samantha,’ she insisted reassuringly.

In pure disgust, I knocked her hands away from my cheeks. ‘Right, because we have a fucking connection.’ I pointed the gun at her forehead.

‘Yes! We do!’ Helena cried emotionally. ‘But the others. Poor copies of God’s image of human beings.’

‘They told you that you were the original, didn’t they? And that you’re special?’

Helena nodded confidently, one of her crazy smiles splashed across her face. ‘That is right.’

We were interrupted by the unexpected wailing of the front door buzzer. Anthony Bell had arrived! I quickly ushered Helena toward the open window to give her time to escape before Ant reached the top floor. ‘Listen, Helena. You’re not what your people told you. We’re genetic identicals,’ I convinced her, despite the dubious look on her face. ‘You, Claire, Portia and I are all the same. Whoever told you different despises you as much as they hate us.’

Helena started to convulse from injury and then flew into a violent rage. ‘No!’ she yelled through gritted teeth. ‘It is you who is wrong!’

She got to her feet and I backed up against the wall as we stared at one another across the width of my aimed gun. ‘Stay back,’ I ordered her as she continued to move towards the direction of my gun. ‘Just stay away from me!’

But the mentally damaged clone simply leant forward until the gun barrel pressed right against her forehead. ‘Can’t you feel it?’ she whispered, referring to our so-called connection.

I felt hot tears pouring down my face. ‘What happened to you, Helena?’ I asked, openly crying. ‘What in fuck’s name did those bastards turn you into?’

I heard Ant banging on the door, calling Claire’s name. ‘Claire! Are you in there? Answer me!’

I was terrified. I couldn’t let him or anybody else know Helena was with me.

‘Run,’ I urged Helena. ‘Get out of here. Now!’

As she lifted up the window further and struggled over the sill, Helena turned back to me. Her eyes were also filled with tears. ‘You do feel it after all,’ she declared. She fumbled her way out of the window, hurriedly climbed down the fire escape and fled away, limping slightly due to her wound.

Talk about a lucky escape! Just as Helena got away, Ant burst into the apartment by breaking the door down.

‘There’s no one here!’ I shouted fretfully.

‘You’re here,’ Ant pointed out. ‘What were you doing at the apartment of the woman you killed? Why, Claire? What were you thinking?’

How I was going to explain to him about Helena, I really didn’t know. But then I realised far too late that she had once again set me up – by luring me all the way here.

‘Why exactly did you enter Bonnie Chen’s apartment?’ Lieutenant Marshall was just as baffled as Ant was when they both grilled me about what I was doing at Bonnie’s lodge.

‘I was feeling tired, so I took a walk to clear my head and just found myself there by accident.’ I already knew this was all a lie and I could tell Ant wasn’t buying any of it.

‘Is there any connection at all between Bonnie Chen and the Jane Doe homicide?’ the lieutenant demanded interrogatively.

‘None,’ I falsely convinced him, looking at him in the eye. I felt I had no choice but to lie straight to his face.

‘Then why did you decide to call this meeting?’ Ant was perplexed and unable to get his head around this conspiracy.

I sighed. ‘I came back on the job after the Bonnie Chen thing to prove that I could take on the case. But now I see that I’m not doing anybody any good.’ I slammed my gun down on the desk definitively. ‘Sorry but I quit.’

Ant was insulted. ‘You’re quitting after all we’ve done for you?’

Feeling guilty, I faced Ant. ‘And I appreciate that. But…’

‘But you bail. Why? What is it with you?’

Marshall looked weary, but tried to be understanding. ‘I hate to agree with Anthony, but walking out is not the answer.’

Both men looked at me with pleading expressions. This didn’t help matters – it only aggravated me even further.

‘Okay, so how does this go?’ I asked rhetorically, slamming my badge down as I stood up. ‘I’ll make it easy for the rest of you.’

Then I left the office and the precinct. Now my one and only priority was going back to being my original self and reuniting with Katrina.

Back at Siobhan’s, Katrina and Alison were bonding over colouring. ‘How can I have an aunt when my mum doesn’t have any sisters?’ Katrina wondered.

‘The problem is, it’s rather complicated,’ Alison admitted. ‘But you must keep it all a secret. Promise me that.’

They locked pinkies with each other, just before Siobhan ended the visit. ‘Right, it’s your curfew now, sweetheart. Hurry up to bed.’

Alison hugged Katrina tight and then Siobhan hustled Katrina up the stairs. ‘Thanks for everything,’ Alison said to Siobhan in my accent.

‘Only because you kept your word,’ Siobhan noted.

‘Since I was honest at keeping my word, I’d like to get the chance to arrange a second visit with Katrina. Sooner rather than later.’

‘Fair enough. As long as we all take it slowly.’

Outside the house, Felix was filled with jubilation with his and Alison’s success at pulling off their imposter manoeuvre. ‘Well aren’t you full of surprises?’ he chortled. ‘You got back into Siobhan’s good books. And you played the part very well.’

But Alison didn’t smile. ‘Well Siobhan may not have known I wasn’t Sam,’ she said, far less cheerful than Felix. ‘But Katrina did. She knew immediately that I wasn’t her mother.’

Felix turned from triumphant to dismayed. ‘Oh shite.’

When I arrived back at Claire’s condo, I logged into my Skype account to speak with Alison. We briefly discussed about my decision to quit the force. ‘I can’t believe you just walked out without thinking this through,’ she rebuked me sharply before I cut her off.

‘That is not why I called. I wanted to thank you for helping with Katrina. I get to see her after she comes home from school, because you helped set that up.’

Alison was taken aback, but felt appreciated. ‘You’re more than welcome. After all, Katrina is a very special little girl.’

We both settled down for the night in our respective homes. In her lavish bedroom, Alison got into bed with David who was snoring loudly, much to her sheer annoyance. It was times like this when she wished she could book a single hotel room for herself, and get the chance to relax on her own.

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Eleven

Now that she finally has the 75 grand that Anthony has owed her, Samantha has more serious things to worry about. She goes to see Alison and warns her about the female killer – who shockingly enough has turned out to be one of their identicals.

After having finally received the 75K Ant had willingly and apologetically handed over to me, I headed straight over to Alison’s. I needed to inform her and Melissa about the female rampage shooter.

She offered me a mug of cold beer and helped herself to a glass of red wine. ‘What in fuck’s name is wrong with her?’ she cried frantically. ‘Why would one of us be killing the rest of us? Has she been brainwashed?’

‘Bat-shit crazy devil worshipping quack, apparently,’ I concluded wearily. ‘I honestly thought that she was trying to kill me. Well, she almost did, due to having mistaken me for Claire.’

Agitated, Alison lit a cigarette and began puffing away. ‘How can we both be sure you didn’t just lead this mad bitch clone to my front door?’ she fretted, pacing up and down the room. ‘Because she’s impaled with rebar. And I wouldn’t do anything like that,’ I replied with force. ‘There’s no way I’d be willing to put the rest of you lot in danger.’

‘Listen, I’ve been living with this nightmare a lot longer than you, Sam,’ Alison lectured. ‘In case you’ve forgotten, I need to protect my family.’

‘But then you contribute financially, whereas I don’t,’ I sneered, handing over the brown bag of cash that was our self-defence fund. ‘I was planning to steal the money and run, but I can’t do that because I have family too. My daughter.’

Alison was taken aback. ‘You mean you have a child? Is she adopted like my children?’

I looked at her bizarrely, not understanding why the question even had to be asked. ‘Biological, meaning she’s my own child. Why?’

Alison turned away to fold laundry, but decided to state the reason for her curious question anyway. ‘How about because the last time I checked all female clones were born naturally infertile.’

The hereditary infertility amongst female clones I’d been completely unaware of. Up until then, I’d just assumed that most of us could still have biological children of our own, in the same way only a few ordinary women were unable to conceive usually as a result of abortions or miscarriages.

‘I know I should have told you about Katrina a lot sooner,’ I admitted, almost kicking myself for not doing so. ‘But the reason why I’ve only just told you now is because we’re being forced to deal with this killer. Claire was on this killer’s hit list and now I am.’

Having informed her that my loved ones and I were in danger, I would have expected Alison to at least offer a bit of solace and reassurance – but no. ‘And what am I supposed to do about it?’ she instantly snapped. Typical Alison; no sympathy whatsoever! I looked at her in dismay. She then sighed heavily. ‘How can I help?’

‘The only way you can help is to stay available,’ I told her. ‘I may need you somehow.’

Back at my estate flat, I was on my laptop speaking with Melissa via SkypeNet. ‘The fish is a bitch, symbiotically speaking,’ she noted in reference to Crazy Clone’s lethal blade knife. ‘Almost a universal way-back symbol of fecundity.’   

‘Seriously, what is she on about?’ Felix shouted out to me as he poured a pot of tea for each of us.

‘Quiet. I’m trying to take in what this weird nerd is telling me,’ I called back.

Melissa continued. ‘If Crazy Clone isn’t dead then we need to find her and find out what she knows.’

Felix sipped on his mug of tea. ‘Now that is plain madness considering this clone is a homicidal maniac,’ he pointed out. ‘I totally disagree with you thought-out plan.’

‘True,’ Melissa insisted. ‘But only she has the answers we need.’

I suddenly realized that there was only one way to find Crazy Clone. ‘I don’t like this any more than you do,’ I said to Felix, who was bound to object. ‘But I’ll have no choice but to go back to being Detective Richards.’

Felix immediately put his foot down, which was only to be expected. ‘There is no way you, Sam, are going back to being Claire. Impersonating a dead officer is almost like a whole new crime.’

‘I’m probably a lot safer with the cops at this point,’ I affirmed reasonably. ‘Besides, Ant already has Crazy Clone’s scent. I can shadow him until the cops find out what’s going on.’

During our small group meeting, Felix decided to lay out the individual natures of each of us. ‘Out of nine so far, one’s a psychotic rampage shooter who killed five others, one committed suicide, one’s a bloody aggressive housewife and overbearing soccer mum,’ he acknowledged. ‘And then there’s you,’ he continued, referring to Melissa, who shot him a chiding look over her shoulder.

Melissa held up the picture of the fish knife Crazy Clone had left behind. ‘This might help us figure out where Psycho Clone is coming from,’ she concluded. ‘Speaking of which, did you show it to Alison?’

‘No, of course not,’ I replied in dismay. ‘Are you crazy? She’d go mental with fear.’

Just then my cop phone chirped with a call from Ant. I knew there was an emergency we needed to attend to.

The minute I pulled up to the location of this violently heinous crime carried out by none other than Crazy Clone, I immediately noticed her discarded motorcycle being examined by forensics.

Ant led the way into the house where Crazy Clone did her triage, and I followed. ‘Did they finally get the bastard?’ I asked hopefully. I wanted him or her to pay for what they had done; not only to us but to all those murder victims also.

‘Unfortunately, no,’ Ant admitted. ‘But we do have a witness.’

Isla DeAngelis greeted us warmly at the top of the stairs before directing us to the blood-smeared bathroom. All three of us observed the self-surgery Crazy Clone had performed. ‘The killer must be obsessed with the military.’ Ant concluded. I couldn’t have agreed with him more.

Just then, the witness came out. She was a young looking but frail woman, and she spoke in a rather shaky voice. ‘I slept through the whole ordeal. I couldn’t hear a single thing.’

While Ant questioned the woman and her young son, I hid behind the door jamb in order to stay out of view of the little boy. ‘Trevor came into my room and he was all wet, covered with blood,’ the young mother explained, wringing her hands in terror. ‘The blood wasn’t his, but someone else’s. He said it was an angry angel.

Ant turned to frightened little Trevor. ‘What did the angry angel look like?’ he asked Trevor gently.

Slowly, the kid pointed to me. I was horrified. He couldn’t have thought it was me!

‘Claire?’ Ant asked, following the little boy’s direction. ‘The person in your bathroom was a woman?’

I came forward and spoke up. ‘Let me talk to Trevor,’ I suggested.

I sat next to Trevor. ‘It’s okay, sweetheart,’ I whispered reassuringly. ‘I’m not her.’ Though I tried to convince him that I didn’t pose as a danger and wouldn’t harm him in any way, I could tell he felt doubtful because of how terrified he was. What if he didn’t believe me? After all, Crazy Clone and I did look a hundred percent alike.

‘She said she would come to see me,’ Trevor quietly told me, with the saddest, most disillusioned expression on his face. He held up a hand-made paper fortune teller. ‘Pick a colour,’ he said simply.

I chose red. Trevor then spelt out the word and revealed a picture of a stick-figure woman with a splotch of blood on her face. I folded it back and found blood smears at the centre of the paper and numbers written across the triangle folds.

Ant leaned forward and narrowed his eyes while biting his lips. ‘What did you discover?’ he asked, determined to get to the bottom of this bizarre mystery.

Without hesitation, I handed over the paper fortune teller. Ant took it from me and had a forensics tech bag it for evidence. Trevor’s mum hurried over to embrace him as he sobbed uncontrollably. Ant smiled at them sympathetically and sadly.

Once we got back to the headquarters, Isla filled us in on as much of the gruesome information as possible. ‘Am I correct in guessing that everyone has a copy of the paper fortune teller?’

‘According to Trevor, the Jane Doe killer is a woman,’ Ant updated. ‘About Claire’s size.’

The coroner was inspecting the autopsy photos of the German’s corpse. ‘I managed to reconstruct enough of the shattered skull to find a cause of death,’ she informed us. ‘Apparently from a .223 caliber bullet.’

Ant looked sceptical. ‘Jane Doe was killed by a long-range high-powered weapon,’ he extrapolated. ‘Name at least one homicide ever pinned on a female sniper.’

The lieutenant turned to the coroner. ‘What about the killer’s profile?’ he asked.

‘Female serial killers tend to suffer from chronic detachment,’ she detailed professionally. ‘Isolation breeds sociopaths.’

‘Not to mention the fact that the victim’s killer is a crazed religious fanatic,’ Isla chimed in. ‘On top of that, the stick figures, doll’s head, and paper fortune teller indicate early childhood development issues having resulted from some kind of psychological abuse.’

‘But at the same time the killer is also very careful not to leave visible prints on anything,’ the coroner pointed out.

As I sucked down all this information, I felt an unpleasant shiver run down my spine. So far, I was the only one who truly knew the intimate applications of all this disturbing detail of Portia’s killer. This was the same killer behind the other four fatalities.

Suddenly, our investigation meeting was interrupted by a uniform entering the cop room. ‘There is a phone call for Detective Richards.’

I immediately headed to the phone and answered it as Claire. ‘Detective Richards speaking. Who is this?’

I heard a scoff on the other end. ‘Don’t give me that bullshit,’ Crazy Clone immediately contradicted me. ‘I know for a fact that you are not Claire. You know how I know? Because Claire is dead, isn’t she?’

I managed to be dignified as I responded. ‘Why didn’t you kill me straight away when you had the chance?’ I asked icily. At that brief moment, I wanted to kill her!

‘Because we have a connection,’ Crazy Clone replied. ‘Or didn’t you feel it?’

I rolled my eyes in disgust. ‘You mean when I stuck that fucking rebar in your liver?’ I spat. ‘Does it still hurt?’ I was hoping it was hurting even more now that she had pulled it out.

But Crazy Clone didn’t answer my question. Instead she changed the subject entirely. ‘I need to know who you are because we should meet again,’ she insisted. ‘I didn’t get your name, by the way.’

‘I never got yours either,’ I retorted.

‘Fine. It is Helena. Remember that from now on.’

That was when the line went dead. Helena had hung up without saying anything more.

As Ant and I exited the precinct in his car and headed out to the address ten minutes away from Trevor’s house to question some of his neighbours, who should be watching us from a hiding place behind the pillar but Helena! She had a homeless street tramp appearance about her and had a wool cap pulled over her bleached blonde hair so that her hair wouldn’t be visible to anyone. But Raj the tech guy immediately noticed her red-rimmed eyes and sallow skin the minute she entered.

‘Are you okay, Claire?’ he asked jokingly. You look as if you’ve had a rough night.’

Helena just stared at him as though he were an extra-terrestrial from another planet, so he uncomfortably shuffled off. She then got down to business, entering the murder room and ordering everyone out. She mysteriously approached the murder board, studied the charts and pictures of the dead victims she had killed, and smiled with satisfaction.

She wandered around the cop room with fascination and then gingerly settled at Claire’s desk. She spotted the chocolate chip muffin waiting there, munched down on it, and then took a large gulp of the Starbucks cappuccino.

As she examined Claire’s phone message slips and studied the framed snapshot of Claire and Lee, the phone rang. She answered it as Claire, her mouth still half-full.

‘How are you doing?’ Lee asked genuinely. ‘Is everything okay over there?’

‘Not too good, Lee,’ Helena answered, trying but failing to disguise her Slavic accent. ‘I got beat up.’

Lee was horrified. ‘What happened? Who beat you up?’ he demanded.

‘I don’t want to talk about it. Please come get me outta here,’ Helena begged with apprehension before hanging up.

Ant, Isla, and I arrived at the address where Emergency Services had already cleared as safe to enter.  We entered the flop and found more blood drops indicating Helena performed additional self-surgery. ‘Fucking shit,’ Isla swore with shock.

I followed her direction to see the walls were decorated by the same stick figures that adorned the paper fortune teller. Could this mean we were chasing a potential serial killer?

Of course, the figures were meant to indicate all the clones, a number even Melissa could not yet definitively identify. The larger stick figure which sported a question mark above its head and sat at the top of a pyramid of other figures indicated either the killer herself or her next victim. As I studied the image I became shit terrified. I knew it was meant to be me, Helena’s next victim and newest obsession. She still didn’t know who I was.

We returned to the cop shop with the rest of the posse, just a few minutes after Helena had left. At that exact time, Raj arrived back also. ‘Wow, you made a quick change already,’ he joked. ‘Cleaned right up. Looks way better.’

‘Sorry?’ I asked, bemused. I had no idea what he was on about.

‘Raj, keep it in your pants, please,’ Ant chided him. ‘Now is not the time.’

We entered the cop room for a major shock. The photos had been rearranged with the doll’s decapitated head at the top to form a macabre stick figure imitation on the murder board.

That was when it hit me. I realized Helena had been here. And I knew she had done this.

I quickly rushed to my desk. There was a photo of Bonnie Chen shoved into the frame of the Claire/Lee snapshot. When I pulled it out I saw that Helena had punched holes through Lee’s eyes in the photo. Before anybody else could see it I hid it out of plain sight. Then I pulled out the Bonnie Chen file and compared the torn photo with the woman’s death headshot.

I went through Bonnie’s file and pulled out a photo that showed Bonnie had a brand tattoo on the back of her neck that matched an impression of the fish carving on Helena’s knife handle. I spotted Isla hurrying up to me, and so hastily I hid the file.

‘Biblically messed up or not, my psych guy says that if it’s a woman on woman killing then it has to be personal,’ she informed me. ‘Whether it’s a first or fifteenth kill.’

‘That’s great,’ I responded sarkily. ‘So we’re back to Jane Doe and who she was to Jane Death.’

I had received an unexpected visitor at the police department. Lee had turned up, all worried and hot under the collar, asked the receptionist for Claire, and immediately hurried over to my office desk, much to my shock and bemusement. ‘Lee? What are you doing here?’ I asked, baffled.

‘You said to come get you,’ Lee echoed Helena’s exact words, reaching for me. ‘Are you okay?’

I held up a hand to hold him off as I tried to catch up with Helena’s latest tricks. ‘I don’t remember saying any of that. Besides, I’m fine.’

‘You didn’t sound fine to me,’ Lee said as he gently stroked my bruised cheek. ‘You certainly don’t look it either. Let me take you home.’

Before I could resist, Ant – as I might have guessed – got involved in the incident. ‘Is everything okay, Claire?’

‘Does everything look okay to you?’ Lee immediately snarled at Ant. ‘First day back at work and already she gets attacked and beaten up. No wonder she wants to leave.’

‘What the hell are you talking about?’ Ant got all defensive towards Lee.

I physically put myself between both of Claire’s men in order to try to calm the situation before it escalated any further. ‘There’s no need for any of this, please,’ I implored. ‘Lee, go home. I’ll take care of this.’

Lee glowered at Ant, then at me. ‘Fine,’ he grunted. ‘Give me a call once you’ve pulled yourself together.’ He grabbed his coat and made his way out of the cop shop.

‘Wait.’ I quickly rushed over to him. ‘Maybe we should chat about this outside.’

Lee rolled his eyes. ‘Sure. Why not?’

We were outside the precinct car park when I tried to explain the confusion to Lee. ‘I’m sorry I overreacted, Lee. I shouldn’t have wasted your time by making you drive all the way over here.’

‘But what exactly did you mean by “come get me this second?”’ Lee was by now at a complete loss. ‘Seriously, you’re like a completely different person these days.’

‘I didn’t literally mean that you should come and get me away from here,’ I told him, trying to calm the commotion between not only us but Ant also. ‘This case really got to me, and I got upset because of not being able to cope.’

Lee seemed convinced enough. ‘Sorry about the commotion,’ he said to me apologetically. ‘I didn’t mean to get all worked up. Maybe we should talk about it later. We need to spend some more time together.’

‘Sure,’ I agreed. ‘I really do love you, by the way.’

I entered back inside and then saw Ant who wasn’t even annoyed, just perplexed. ‘What was that all about?’ he demanded. ‘What did he mean by you planning to leave the force?’

‘Things are just messy between us at the moment,’ I blurted out.

‘Well, however rocky your relationship might be at the moment, you don’t bring that shit in here, understood?’ Ant said sharply.

And you don’t have to interfere with my relationship problems as I don’t appreciate you butting in, I thought with sheer exasperation. ‘I know. It’s so fricking embarrassing. It won’t happen ever again.’

Ant wasn’t pleased about the incident, but decided to change the subject and get back to the case on Helena. ‘Anyway, enough about you and Lee. Did you remember anything important from your struggle with the shooter? Maybe something he or she said?’

I couldn’t let slip to him that the killer, Helena, was one of my identicals. So I had to come up with what seemed like an incontrovertible fact. ‘If she’s said anything, then I would’ve known she was a woman,’ I pointed out. For a brief moment, I thought he might have suspected that I knew something and was hiding it. But instead, he nodded with satisfaction and then decided to go check with the coroner to see about the progress of the facial reconstruction. Unfortunately, this made me clench up all over again.

After Ant and Isla headed off, I took a picture copy of the photo of Bonnie Chen’s neck brand just as my mobile phone rang. As I might have guessed, it was Felix. I just thought I’d remind you, Sammy Dearest. You’re supposed to be visiting Katrina today.’

Holy shit! How could that have possibly slipped my mind?

‘Unfortunately, I can’t. There’s no way I will be able to make it to the family meeting,’ I admitted. ‘I’m in the middle of solving a multiple murder mystery and I’m stuck with Ant. On top of that, I might lead this crazy bitch clone to her without intending to. I don’t want my daughter to wind up in danger because of one unstable woman.’

I’d just given myself and Felix food for thought.

‘I feel you, sis,’ he said understandably. ‘After all, I highly commend you for putting Katrina’s safely first. But just remember that Siobhan will not hesitate to cut you off for good if you can’t or don’t show up.’

I pondered on that for a few minutes. Then out of nowhere, I found a really idiotic idea. ‘I need to be in two places at once, right? Well, if anybody can do that, we can. This is where I’ll need Alison’s help.’

Felix sounded disgusted. ‘You are joking?!’

Over at Alison’s lavish house, Felix laid out my crazy but smart plan which involved her impersonating me. ‘It’s only because Sam needs your help with her daughter.’

Alison raised an eyebrow, but actually showed slight concern for once. ‘What has happened to Samantha?’ she asked with worry. ‘Is she okay?’

‘Yes of course,’ Felix confirmed. ‘Only she’s filling in Claire’s shoes with this investigation.’

Alison responded incredulously. ‘I’m sorry, but she wants me to impersonate her in front of her own daughter who she hasn’t seen in a whole year?’ she scoffed. ‘Just because she’s playing Miss Detective?’

‘Ten months, actually,’ Felix corrected her knowingly.

‘I really don’t care, Felix. Whether ten months or ten years,’ Alison replied scornfully. ‘If she has proven to be that much of a bad parent, then maybe that child is better off with Siobhan after all.’

Insulted on my behalf, Felix got all defensive. ‘Listen, Alison. If Samantha misses tonight, then she may never get to see Katrina again and may not get her back.’

‘I’m sorry, but that is her problem and hers only,’ Alison shot back. ‘After all, none of this has anything to do with me or my family. Got it?’

Now Felix felt the rage inside him begin to boil over, but he managed to keep it together. ‘Excuse me? Sam is out there risking her own life to protect yours and you reckon she should lose her only child for that?’ His voice was filled with fury, although he tried not to show just how exasperated he was by Alison’s aloofness.

Alison was silent, and actually had the decency to look mildly abashed.

‘You’re right. Maybe it shouldn’t have come out that way.’

‘Yeah,’ Felix added, still somewhat indignant. ‘I think you need to step up here, sister.’

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Ten

Despite the revelation that she actually has sister clones to whom she is related, and the fact that she has developed real feelings for Lee, Samantha still vows to stick to her original plan: get the money from Anthony and leave with Felix and Katrina.

I was at the shooting range with Ant when I plucked up the courage to ask him after the two sets of tire tracks he found at the shooting scene.

‘Apparently, there were one motorcycle and one car,’ he explained. ‘There had to be three people there altogether, one each to drive the vehicles and one to die.’

‘The sloppy body dump surely doesn’t match the professional hit,’ I quickly opined while reloading my lady-grip Walther.

Ant nodded in agreement. ‘Absolutely.’ He pulled out a snapshot of the decapitated German doll’s head in the bush. ‘You’ve got a live one, Claire. Phone calls. Leaving clues. Messy ones.’

I focused on my target and, using the aiming technique I learned from Alison, hit the target head on. No effort required.

Ant was impressed. ‘Looks like you’ve come a long way, Claire,’ he chuckled appreciatively,

‘Thank you,’ I said, smiling.

Just then, Claire’s phone rang. I took down the information on the stolen Suzuki motorcycle as well as the thief’s description.

‘My son. My son not here,’ was all the bike owner’s mother could say to us.

‘Does the bike belong to a resident?’ Ant asked with concern. The old Ukrainian lady pointed upstairs. Very helpful! How were we supposed to know what she meant by that gesture?

‘You’re the one who’s supposed to deal with the ‘non-English speaking majority,’ Ant pointed out to me as we made our way up the rickety staircase. I flinched slightly. I didn’t understand foreign languages any more than he did.

‘My Ukrainian pretty much sucks,’ I admitted sheepishly.

Ant glanced over the rail. ‘This rail gives easy access to the bike for a getaway,’ he noted. As he looked in the window of the apartment, he saw motorcycle gloves. I tried to look over his shoulder, but he shoved me back. Ant knocked, but there was no response. He tried the knob. To our surprise, it was open. We both drew our weapons and braced ourselves. Having watched The Bill and every other British cop show many times, I was no stranger to witnessing local crime scenes.

Once Ant and I were convinced the room was empty, we both holstered our weapons. I found and picked up a nearby bible that been tagged and notated, carefully inspecting it. I opened it to a marked page; hidden inside was a copy of … Portia’s passport.

Ant looked at me questionably. ‘What have you found, Claire?’ he asked.

I gave him a furtive glance. Then I pocketed the copy and read from the Book of Psalms. ‘For you formed my inward parts. You knit me together in…’ Before I could finish, Ant picked up the recitation from the curious thing he had discovered on the wall. ‘…my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,’ we both concluded the bible verse together.

‘Something tells me that these victims’ killer has some deep-seated spiritual problems,’ Ant noted with a hint of disgust.

I knew something was seriously wrong the minute I looked outside the window and noticed movement. Then, suddenly… bang! I barely managed to shove Ant out of harm’s way before bullets rip through the room. But then, I noticed Ant was bleeding from a large graze on his neck!

‘Don’t worry about me,’ he yelled. ‘Go after him! Don’t let him get away!’

Grunting, terrified, ears still ringing from the gunfire, and way out of my depth, I ran after the shooter who had by now reached the Suzuki. Shaking, I pointed my gun at the shooter. ‘Freeze!’ I shouted. The shooter leapt off the bike and I instinctively stepped back. I instantly thought the shooter was going to attack me, but he didn’t. He ran away, and I immediately chased him. I was half trying to keep track of him, half hiding from him.

I ran into a junked up, empty lot, waving my gun wildly. I called Ant on the mobile and shakily gave him the direction in which she’s run while frantically scanning the lot. ‘I think he went into one of the abandoned buildings here,’ I said.

Then I felt a hard blow to the back of my head. ‘He’ was actually behind me and had clocked me across the back of the head with a large pipe. As I collapsed onto the ground, my gun went flying.

I rolled onto my back and stared up at my would-be assailant who was cloaked in a hooded dark green winter jacket and madly wielding a knife with a filthy yet deadly sharp blade whose hilt was carved into the head of a fish.

‘This is it,’ I thought, terrified. ‘I’m a goner, just like all those other women. I’m next.’

I closed my eyes and held up my hands as the killer stood over me and straddled me. ‘Good riddance,’ a woman voice rumbled in her heavy Slavic accent, ‘Claire Richards.’

I had to quickly save my own life, but I had no time to think of a way to do so. ‘I’m not Claire!’ I yelled at the last minute.

The killer paused, startled. The moment she pulled back her hood to reveal herself I did not expect this because… holy shit! Another clone! Was this a fucking joke? One of our fellow identicals was a serial killer?! THE serial killer!

The Crazy Clone had curly blonde fried-looking hair with dark roots that indicated that she was a natural-born brunette pretty much like Alison, Melissa, Claire, and myself. Her eyes were reddened and looked like those of a mad woman on a rampage – which is exactly what she was!

‘Dirty rotten copycat,’ she gasped as she traced my forehead with the knife blade and examined my face. ‘Who the fuck are you, copy cop?’

Rather than answer, I reached out for a steel rod which I found lying nearby and stabbed her with it in the side hip. I hoped the pain she felt was excruciating. The fact that it really hurt her was good. I angrily shoved the Crazy Clone off me and managed to get back on my feet. She got out her pistol in retaliation and aimed it at me, about to fire. But she didn’t. ‘Not yet, not Claire,’ she babbled, staggering away.

Glad to still be alive and in one piece, I broke down sobbing over my near miss.

Then I heard Ant screaming Claire’s name. ‘Claire! Claire, are you okay? Where are you?’

Ant finally reached the scrapyard lot, clutching the wounded area at the back of his neck.

‘I’m fine,’ I insisted, retrieving my lost gun and the abandoned fish knife that the Crazy Clone left behind. I spotted the bleeding gunshot wound on Ant’s neck and was extremely worried. ‘You really should receive urgent medical attention.’

‘We both should.’

The kind paramedic examined Ant before examining me. The lieutenant showed up. ‘Something tells me that you struggled with the killer in close quarters,’ he confirmed. ‘You can’t tell me you didn’t see their face. What were you thinking, anyway? Entering the flop house without backup?’

‘She didn’t go inside there without any backup,’ Ant pointed out convincingly. ‘I was with her.’

‘It’s true, lieutenant,’ I said. Besides, I was hit from behind, not to mention the fact that the killer’s face was hidden under ‘his’ hoodie the entire time. Therefore, how was I to know what ‘he’ looked like?’

Ant was by now bandaged up. He looked like he’d already recovered. ‘It was a thread after all,’ he soothed. ‘A flimsy lead on a stolen bike.’

‘Very well,’ the lieutenant said, satisfied. ‘Listen, why don’t you take Detective Richards home?’

Having escaped and taken refuge in some abandoned house, the Crazy Clone was in the bathroom, tending to her own injuries. She pulled the impaled steel bar from her naked side and bent over the sink in pain. Her bare back was exposed — revealing grotesque markings of welts and deep slashes up and down the sides of her spine. Some of her blood dripped down the sink.

‘I’m not Claire,’ she grunted as she stitched herself up using a bottle of peroxide, some swaths of cotton, and a piece of wire. As she pulled the thin wire through her flesh, she groaned in agony.

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Nine

Demanding custody of her young daughter Katrina, Samantha meets up with her foster mother Siobhan Saunders. This is where recriminations start to fly.

Later on – after we had been estranged from each other for what seemed a lifetime – I reluctantly met Siobhan at the river of Lakeside Park.

Siobhan didn’t look at me as she spoke. ‘I’ve gotten used to your elaborate ruses and disguises,’ she said to me in a snit. ‘But to fake your own suicide under a train. That I cannot understand.’

‘How about because I saw it as a way to get away from Vincent and escape with Katrina,’ I snapped.

Siobhan glared at me disbelievingly. ‘To me, that is a rather ridiculous idea of you of all people taking Katrina on the run,’ she dismissed scornfully.

I glared back at my foster mother, feeling rather offended and exasperated at the same time. ‘Are you done with the cruel insults now?’ I said acidly. ‘What’s it going to be?’

Siobhan ignored my bitter remark. ‘I’ve agreed to set up a visit with Katrina. But I’m warning you now, Samantha. If you want to get custody, you’ll have no choice but to go through me first.’ She looked at me ominously. ‘Show me you can be depended upon. Otherwise you can forget seeing Katrina ever again.’

I was livid by this drastic decision. If I’d known any better, Siobhan was being inequitable. ‘But you’re not Katrina’s legal guardian,’ I protested rather emotionally. ‘You’re not mine anymore either. You have absolutely no right.’

‘Let me tell you something, Missy. If you so much as even try to make any other kind of approach to Katrina, I will stop lying to social services on your behalf. Is that clear?’

That was the end of our conversation.

Outside the headquarters, I sat in the Jag and called Melissa who had returned to college in Alberta. ‘I managed to scamper the fingerprint results for the short term,’ I related to her. ‘But then the killer called Ant and sent him to the site where Portia was shot.’

‘Well then that is good. You should try and stick with Ant,’ Melissa persuaded me wisely.

‘Unfortunately I can’t. He benched me because I’m bloody useless!’

‘Why would he do that?’ Melissa asked slightly indignantly.

‘Only God knows.’ I sighed. ‘He wants me on the gun range tomorrow. I need help, Melissa. I’ve never even fired a bloody gun.’

‘Not to worry,’ Melissa reassured me. ‘I know someone who has.’

I groaned in despair. I knew she was referring to Alison.

Back at the townhouse, as I began putting my outfit together and merging one of my crop tops with one of Claire’s jeans, I made a reluctant phone call to Alison. ‘I’m shooting bloody targets at the gun range tomorrow,’ I told her. ‘And I need you to tutor me on how to fire a gun.’

‘Well then you’ve called at the wrong time,’ Alison snitted. ‘Because I can’t get a babysitter on such short notice, seeing that David is far too busy.’

‘Then we’re all screwed.’ I felt disheartened.

Just then, Felix entered the room and silently passed me a mug of coffee.

‘Unless…’ I continued thoughtfully. ‘I may have a solution.’ Fee raised one of his eyebrows as I turned to him. ‘Do you reckon you could watch Alison’s kids for a few hours?’ I cajoled him.

‘I suppose.’ He seemed to accept the idea, but I could tell he wasn’t too keen on playing caretaker for soccer bitch.

Alison introduced Felix to her adopted children who eyed him skeptically. ‘Now be good,’ she told the kids very strictly. ‘Or you’ll both be grounded.’ She turned to Felix. ‘Same goes for you,’ she told him ominously.

‘Don’t worry, Alison,’ Felix replied. ‘I’m sure they’re real angels.’

The children giggled playfully.

Alison and I drove off to yet another abandoned park where I began shooting at several targets. Disappointingly enough, the first few bullets failed to hit anything. But then as a beginner, what more should I expect?

Alison pulled off her Ear protectors. ‘Try again,’ she chirped. ‘And this time, make sure not to miss.’

And so I reloaded and gave it my best shot. The second round went smoother; I managed to hit almost every target, including the impaled stuffed brown cow on a fence at a distance.

Alison looked somewhat impressed. She gave me a quick tutorial on the differences between the Glock in her hand, which most cops carried, and the Walther PPK she handed over to me. ‘Claire told me that this has a better grip for women’s hands.’

I took the gun from her, but didn’t bother to thank her. Part of me was afraid to, in case she shouldn’t accept my gratitude. However, I plucked up the courage to ask her a personal question. ‘Were you close to Claire?’

‘Not that it’s any of your business,’ was Alison’s stiff answer. ‘But not really, seeing that I didn’t know her well enough for either of us to be close to the other.

‘However, I admired Claire with a passion. She was all business. She didn’t pry or trouble herself with other people’s problems. Neither did she let slip about her own.’ Alison looked at me frostily, much to my discomfort. ‘Most of all, she didn’t bring her foster brother to my house.’

I winced at that remark. I could not believe she was still not over that! So she was willing to hold a grudge against me for something that wasn’t even my fault? If anything, it was Felix’s.

I groaned and rolled my eyes. ‘First of all, I didn’t bring my foster brother over to your house,’ I explained through clenched teeth. ‘Second of all, I didn’t know the rules of Clone Club, did I?’

‘Can you not use the C word?!’ Alison barked, her eyes flashing with fury. ‘Now focus on what you’re meant to be doing!’

Neither of us said any more. I lined up my shots with extremely furious determination, this time with the Walther PPK Soccer Bitch lent to me. To my own surprise, I hit every single one. The stupid-looking stuffed cow toppled from its perch with a dying squeak.

‘Shit,’ I muttered with satisfaction.

‘That’s the same way I wish I could gun down whoever is killing us off one by one,’ Alison admitted, not even trying to hide the bitterness in her tone. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her. She didn’t become bitter for just no good reason; she was made that way all thanks to those bastard scientists. Like Claire and the rest of us, Alison had been robbed of a normal life as a natural-born individual and normal human being. ‘Someone is covering up their illegal experiments by wiping us out. It’s because I’m determined to protect my family that I had Claire teach me how to shoot. For that I am grateful to her.’

And I was grateful to Alison, even though I didn’t show it. I decided to offer my condolences about Claire. ‘I’m sorry about what happened to her,’ I told Alison sincerely. ‘It really sucks that she’s gone.’ I waited for a reaction or at least a slightly emotional response.

‘I suppose it does,’ she finally said.

‘Maybe there’s something you can tell me about our dead clone sister that will help me maintain Claire’s identity,’ I suggested. ‘After all, she was my clone sister too, you know.’

‘You what?’ Alison scoffed with her usual snobbish demeanour. ‘Please! Don’t even go there. Someone like you of all people could never fill Claire’s shoes.’

Back in Bailey Downs, Alison had me drop her off a block away from her house. ‘Any particular reason why you wanted to be dropped off all the way here?’ I asked.

‘Yes, actually there is. My children cannot know that their mother is from a generation of freaks,’ she told me. ‘And thus things have to stay on a need-to-know basis.’

‘Not to worry,’ I said confidently. ‘I’m all for that.’

‘Good, because we’ve made a decision to trust you.’

Did I actually hear right? Alison had gone from taking a huge dislike to me to deciding to trust me, Sam? And to think this was the same soccer bitch with whom I’d started off on the wrong foot.

‘Don’t get your hopes up just yet, Samantha,’ Alison related in a cautious tone. ‘Just for your information, Claire had a substantial sum, a fund she used in order to buy information we couldn’t get official. Before you entered the picture, we were a cop, a scientist, and myself. The fund was how I could contribute.’

I gaped slightly. Obviously, she was referring to the 75K that Ant – ironically enough – happened to be holding ransom against my/Claire’s behaviour.

‘Melissa and I both hope you will realize you can’t run away from Clone Club. So, can you con her bank, or not?’

I nodded confidently. After all, I had already succeeded in doing just that.

Back at the townhouse, I debriefed Felix on all my new information about Clone Club. I told him more about Alison in particular.

‘So what are you gonna do now?’ Felix asked. You gonna rip off your new sis and abscond with Katrina?’

‘She’s not my sister,’ I vaunted. ‘And…yeah. That’s exactly what I plan on doing.’

Before Felix could deal with this any farther, the front door opened. Lee had returned unannounced. We scrambled frantically until I ordered Felix to hide. I then hurried to confront Lee.

‘You’re not supposed to be there,’ I said to Lee in Claire-style dialect. ‘I thought you were going to stay at Cody’s! That was the original plan! Remember?’

‘Well I think you’re being a bitch,’ Lee replied scornfully. ‘I’m the bigger person here. I need a change of clothes.’

Lee hurried into the bedroom closet where Felix hid behind the door trying hard to keep as still as a mannequin and not plotz.

I attempted to distract Lee by coming up with a typical ‘Claire & Lee’ conversation. ‘I’ve been reinstated,’ I quickly announced in reference to the shooting.

He paused. ‘How do you feel about that?’ he asked. Taken aback by his rote response, I reacted as my real self without thinking. ‘What, are you painting by numbers?’ I snapped.

Lee was unmoved. ‘I guess so.’ He stalked out of the bedroom and I followed. ‘I don’t mean to be like this,’ I said apologetically. ‘But I can’t help it if it’s all getting to me.’

‘You’re not like ‘this,’’ he suggested. ‘It is your job.’

This wasn’t getting either of us anywhere. I desperately tried another stereotype tactic. ‘I’m a cop first,’ I said as I checked Felix over my shoulder. ‘A life partner second.’

Lee stopped in his tracks at the door. ‘How would you like it if I started pulling the schizoid hot and cold crap on you?’ he demanded. He was really starting to lose the plot.

‘You know what?’ I suggested in another sincere moment. ‘Maybe you should, Lee. I mean, seriously, where are we going with this?’

To my complete and utter shock, Lee took up my dare and grabbed me. I did not expect this! Startled, I resisted briefly, but Lee was tenacious. My first intention was to push him away and slap him across the face, but I didn’t. We kissed roughly. He spun me around and pushed me hard against the wall. Felix snuck up to just inside the bedroom door and his mouth dropped open as he watched us. I felt my eyes go wide and I braced against the wall as Lee moved my hair to kiss my neck and started to unfasten my jeans. He slipped his hand inside my pants and I collapsed back against him.

I began moaning aloud. So did he. The sound of his male moaning was music to my ears as I became weak in the knees.

After we finished our crazy but brief love making, Lee put his clothes back on and prepared to make himself scarce. ‘Gotta go,’ he said quietly. Without further ado and without looking back at me even once, he left.

That was all he could say? So he just used me as some sex toy and left me right there and then? I wouldn’t be too surprised if this was how he treated Claire. Beyond gobsmacked, I laughed slightly, closed my eyes, and leaned back against the wall.

Without asking if he could come out of his hiding place, Felix pranced out of the bedroom. ‘What the hell was that all about?’ he effused. ‘Don’t tell me you’ve actually developed real feelings for the bloke?’

‘Oh holy shit,’ I muttered, stunned. ‘I guess I have.’

Felix was chuffed. ‘I never thought I’d say this, but… I’m clearly delighted to see you, Sammy Girl, involved with someone other than Dickheaded Vincent.’

‘Enough talk about Lee. Let’s get back to the prize! Time to get the money back from Claire’s other partner and get out of here.’

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Eight

Samantha is rocked by the revelation that she and the two women she has met are clones, and this is when she opens up to them about her past history as an orphan.

Samantha with Alison and Melissa.

Fast forward to present: Down in Alison’s basement, I tried to wrap my brain around what – or who – I was looking at. ‘What the fuck is going on?’ I finally asked.

‘Why don’t you tell us all about yourself and how you came to be where you are now?’ Melissa Niehaus asked me gently. ‘In other words, clarify your ‘orphan’ status.’  

‘Basically, I’m a British Orphan from an Orphanage in London,’ I explained duly. ‘Not much to share about my life, except that I was fostered out and then legally adopted at eight and brought over here to Toronto when I was twelve.’ The whole time I was speaking, I noticed the cold and dirty looks Alison was giving me. I could tell she wasn’t interested in anything I had to say, as important as it was to me. Not that I gave a shit.

Alison was very quick to rudely interrupt the conversation between myself and Melissa. ‘Can we get back to the discussion of Claire?’ she demanded sharply. ‘Because I don’t believe for one second that her death was a suicide. After all, this bitch is some sort of low-life grafter. How do we know she didn’t push Claire right in front of that train?!’

‘Listen, I don’t know what the fuck your problem is with me,’ I objected. ‘But I didn’t want to take over Claire’s life, okay?! I got stuck. I was too busy running from my own shit!’

‘You’ve got some fucking nerve,’ Alison said acidly. ‘If you expect me to have any sympathy for you…’

‘And that is fine,’ I said rather resentfully. ‘Because I’m not after anybody’s sympathy, anyway. Especially not yours.’

Despite the icy tension, Melissa offered Alison her condolences on Claire’s death. ‘I’m really sorry about what happened to Claire,’ she said with quiet compassion. ‘But she was…losing it, like clinically.’

‘But Claire was a cop,’ Alison cried hysterically. ‘Therefore she had tools, whereas the rest of us don’t. If she couldn’t cope, then I don’t know what else to say.’ She scoffed in disbelief and stalked back into the craft room.

Making sure Alison was out of earshot, I turned to Melissa. ‘Can you please explain to me what this is?’ I pleaded. How are we related?

Melissa willingly filled me in on the craziness. ‘While we’re not related by nurture, we are by nature.’

Suddenly, Alison stormed back in. ‘I suggest you give us Portia Obinger’s briefcase. Now!’ she snapped. Damn, what a bitch! She almost wasn’t at all capable of sounding more polite than that.

‘I won’t give either of you shit until you start ponying up some answers,’ I demurred in an uncooperative manner.

‘You don’t rate answers,’ Alison sneered.

Melissa was about to object. ‘Alison, please don’t.’

But Alison ignored her and got into my face. ‘Fine,’ she barked. ‘You want in?! We’re clones! We’re someone’s experiment and they’re killing us off! Is that information helpful enough?’

Before I could answer, we were interrupted by Alison’s young daughter, Emma Louise. ‘Mummy, what’s going on?’ she asked curiously. ‘Who are those ladies?’

‘Didn’t I tell you not to wake my kids up?’ Alison said to me furiously. She then hurriedly ordered her daughter back to bed. ‘Don’t worry, sweetheart. They’re just friends of Mummy’s,’ I heard Alison blurt out.

Melissa looked at me apologetically. ‘I intended to float that whole clone thing a lot softer.’

Back at his flat, Felix was anxiously trying to reach me through my mobile. ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ he muttered, scanning the taxi service yellow pages. ‘Looks like there’s no other option.’

Once Felix got out of the taxi and paid the driver, he made his way through Alison’s backyard and into the basement. Just then, he overheard our conversation. ‘We are all genetically identical,’ Melissa explained to me casually. ‘It’s actually kind of cool.’

Not to me, it wasn’t. Or for Felix for that matter. Because just as he came looking for me, Alison confronted him at gunpoint. She was in a fury and shouting at him hysterically to get off her property.

‘Listen, I don’t want any trouble!’ I heard him shout back, trembling with fear.

‘That’s my foster brother out there,’ I said in astonishment, quickly changing the subject. ‘Why the fuck is he here?’

Melissa and I both hurried outside to see the commotion, before I stood between Alison and Felix.

‘Okay, just calm down,’ I coaxed Alison as gently as I could. ‘There’s no need for the gun. My foster brother doesn’t mean any harm. Lower the gun and lay it on the ground.’

Shockingly enough, Alison did as she was told. That was when I seized the opportunity, slapping the mad woman across the face. ‘If you point a gun at my brother ever again, I will kick the living shit out of you! Got it?!’ I shouted angrily.

Alison just stared at me for a long time, shell-shocked. For a while, she was unable to speak. Good, I thought. Horrid, mean-spirited cow! I was just glad she didn’t have any biological children. As far as I was concerned, those adopted children didn’t really count as hers.

‘There’s no way I’m staying here for another minute,’ I said to a more-than-stunned Felix. ‘Let’s get out of this shithole.’ I dragged Felix towards the car. But before we could drive off, Melissa knocked on the driver’s side of my car window.

‘You just broke the first rule of Clone Club,’ she cautioned. She wasn’t annoyed as she said it, but unruffled. She noticed Felix and smiled at him wanly. ‘Hi,’ she introduced herself in a neighbourly manner. ‘I’m Melissa.’

‘I… I’m Felix,’ Fee stuttered. He was still quite shaken up. Melissa handed both of Claire’s phones over to me. ‘You have my number,’ she reminded me. ‘You want answers; I need the briefcase first. Seriously, it’s life or death.’

Over at our flat, Felix was marvelling over the printouts of clone identities I found in the briefcase. ‘Soccer mum Samantha?’ he effused. He dropped Alison’s photo profile and inspected Melissa’s with stunned awe. ‘Braided, science-geek Samantha?’

‘They’re not me,’ I asserted. ‘I swear to you they’re completely different people.’

‘Whatever you say,’ he snorted.  ‘After all, I was there, thank you very much! I know what I saw. And the last time I checked, human cloning was illegal.’

‘Leave it out, okay?’ I exclaimed in sheer annoyance. ‘It doesn’t matter.’

Felix shook his head in disagreement. ‘Dead Claire! Dead German! Those two and four other Euros, that’s eight!’ He held up the death certificates of Dawn O’Sullivan, Janae Zeelen, Adele Fournier, and Tracie Giordano. ‘And Miss Spectacles is going on about her blood samples being life or death. You can’t just ignore this!’

‘Sorry but I can. I’m just Samantha and the plan stays the same to get the 75K back from Ant and get Katrina and go as far away from everyone and everything as we can.’ I was feeling defiant at the very moment.

The next day was yet another day. I parked outside the cop shop, making sure to apply Claire’s lipstick before entering. The minute I professionally made my way into the headquarters, Isla DeAngelis called out to me. ‘Hey, Claire. I thought you were still off.’  

‘Not anymore,’ I affirmed. ‘I’m looking for Ant. I need to speak to him real quick.’

‘Right here, Claire,’ Ant called out to me as he hastily shrugged into his jacket. ‘What is it you need to talk to me about?’

‘Lee and I are not doing well,’ I told him quietly, as Isla made herself scarce. ‘Any second he will find out that that joint account is empty. And once he finds out, he will snap.’

‘As I already told you before, you get the money back when you’re reinstated,’ Ant reiterated firmly. ‘Until then, there’s nothing I can do about that.’

Just then, our lieutenant unexpectedly called us into his office. ‘You’ve been reinstated,’ he announced to me, smiling. Surprise, surprise. He handed Claire’s gun and badge to me, and I quickly gathered them up. But then, I paused. A 10-45 ruger also? I hadn’t even figured out how to fasten the shoulder holster let alone used the stupid firearm before. I doubted Claire had either.

Ant and I jumped in our squad car and headed to the crime scene over at Allenside Park – where Portia was buried in her makeshift gravesite. To my horror, the grave was empty. By the look of things, Portia’s corpse was unearthed by an Earth Mover.

‘The body is pretty chewed up,’ Ant noted. What do you think, Claire?’

‘I reckon some dumbass moronic idiot didn’t realize they were burying a body next to an active quarry,’ I concluded. Only the ‘dumbass moronic idiot’ I was secretly referring to was my very own self. The bitter irony!

The coroner joined the rest of us at the site.  ‘I hope the prints from the disembodied hand hit,’ she admitted. ‘Reconstructing the face is going to be tough. No joke.’

I felt some bile at the back of my throat. I tried not to let anybody know how freaked I was.

‘I need to make a call,’ I notified my FBI colleagues, excusing myself discreetly.

I immediately dialled Melissa’s Pink Mobile. ‘Claire’s partner found part of Portia Obinger,’ I explained to her. I pretty much messed up when I hid Portia’s body. Now the cops have a print.’

Melissa exhaled deeply. ‘That doesn’t sound good,’ she confirmed. ‘Since the fingerprints of the clones are close enough to match.’ She hesitated for a second. ‘Wait. Are you being Claire right now?’

‘Yes! Yes! I’m at the bloody crime scene being a bloody cop,’ I clarified in sheer angst. ‘So I need to know if the bloody fingerprints will flag a bloody match!’

‘Hey, calm down. Don’t freak out,’ Melissa told me reassuringly. Yeah, right. Not fretting at a time like this was a whole lot easier said than done. ‘Besides, Ant would have to use Interpol to find Portia,’ Melissa continued. ‘Which is more than unlikely.’

Maybe she was right after all. I began to muse over that while still on the phone with her.

‘But if one of us had a criminal record here…’ Melissa said tentatively, pausing halfway.

Oops. This predicament was even worse than I thought. I closed my eyes in aggrieved silence.

‘Unfortunately,’ I revealed to her as quietly as possible so that nobody around me could hear. ‘That would apply to me. Petty fraud, assault, a wasted youth.’

‘Is that all?’ Melissa sounded puzzled. ‘That doesn’t count as a criminal record to me.’

‘A crime however big or small is still a crime,’ I stressed. ‘On top of that, if the body matches me, the cops will see a mug shot that looks like Claire only it’s me and I’m supposed to be dead.’

Melissa let out a heavy sigh. ‘Wow. Wow. Welcome to the trip, man.’

‘I don’t find that helpful at all,’ I replied in exasperation. And right now, you’re not being very helpful.’

‘Honestly, if I were you, I’d try not to bolt,’ Melissa reasoned. ‘After all, the cops won’t be able to ID the prints right away so we still have time.’

‘How much time?’

‘I can’t say how much time exactly. Bring me the briefcase and we’ll talk about it, okay?’

A few hours later, after my cop duty schedule, I joined Melissa at a bar. Without comment, I took the stool next to Melissa and stared at our joint yet identical reflections in the mirror. I still couldn’t believe I was looking at someone who looked exactly like me. Following my gaze, Melissa smiled. ‘Not to worry,’ she assured me. ‘You’ll get used to it. Eventually.’

‘To clones? I’m not buying that,’ I asserted weakly, half-laughing.

‘It all depends on how many of us you’ll have to meet before you finally accept it.’

‘I suppose.’

Melissa cleared her throat. ‘Now, about the briefcase.’ But before she could ask for the briefcase, I quickly stopped her. ‘I need all the answers first,’ I demanded.

‘Well,’ Melissa informed me. ‘The answers are in the briefcase.’

The gorgeous-looking bartender came up to us. ‘Don’t tell me,’ he guessed. ‘You’re the smart one,’ he said to Melissa. ‘And you’re the wild one.’ To me.

‘Would you believe we’re actually clones?’ I snarked.

The bartender laughed. He probably thought I was joking. ‘Very funny. Meanwhile, back to business.’ He took out his notebook. ‘I’ll take two orders for bourbon on the rocks,’ he said professionally. As he went about serving our ordered drinks, Melissa and I discussed about Portia Obinger. ‘You’re the scientist Portia was on about,’ I confirmed with certainty. ‘Am I correct?’

‘I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta Campus in Evolutionary Developmental Biology,’ Melissa quickly clarified. Very interesting and convenient.

I told Melissa how Portia was sick and had been coughing up excessive blood. ‘Shouldn’t you be worried about that?’ I asked with genuine concern. I definitely was.

‘If you give me the case, I’ll know in a couple of weeks,’ Melissa pointed out.

‘Do you know who shot her in the head?’ I quickly frained, wanting to get straight to the point and get some answers.

Melissa cleared her throat and gave in, laying out the story as she knew it so far. ‘I can’t identify who it was that shot and killed her, as the killer’s identity was and still is hidden. But I can fill you in on the history of how Clone Club came to be.

‘Six months ago, Portia contacted Claire with some crazy story of her genetic identicals being hunted across Europe. Claire then used facial recognition software to locate two other matches in North America. Me and…’

‘You and soccer bitch,’ I concluded.

Melissa nodded. ‘Yes, but, who is the original? Who created us? Who’s killing us?’

Such good questions, I thought. Unfortunately, those were the types of questions nobody could find the appropriate answers to.

‘We need to know but we lost their cop,’ she asserted. ‘So, however you managed to get into Claire’s shoes, we need you to stay there.’

I felt very doubtful. ‘I’m not sure how I can do that as I’m not a cop. Ant is bound to figure that out sooner rather than later,’ I insisted.  ‘Being Claire is what got me into this mess in the first place.’

Unlike Alison, Melissa was not the unsympathetic type. ‘I totally understand,’ she insisted kindly. ‘But you can’t run away from her. None of us can, I’m afraid.

‘We are your biological imperative, bear that in mind. ‘And remember that Portia’s fingerprints will match yours.’ Not that I need any reminding, of course.

‘I need to get Portia’s fingerprints results somehow,’ I concluded.

‘That’s our only option,’ Melissa agreed.

Grudgingly, I passed over the case. ‘I agree to the plan,’ I said. ‘But only if you tells me one thing.’

‘Anything,’ Melissa said eagerly. She was only too happy to cooperate now she’d finally got her hands on the case.

‘If we’re genetically identical,’ I added jocularly. ‘Do you get that patch of dry skin between your eyebrows?’

Melissa chuckled, relieved I had made a joke for once. ‘Try to hold on to your sense of humour. Claire couldn’t.’

Speaking of Claire, I had once again temporarily transformed into Detective Richards. ‘Any further update on the Jane Doe yet?’ I asked Anthony as I handed him a mug of coffee. He seemed rather disgruntled as he sat at the computer.

‘The coroner found a bucket of evidence including some of Portia Obinger’s magenta red hair,’ he informed me. ‘There are enough skull fragments to determine entry and exit wounds.’

‘Holy shit!’

‘Holy shit indeed. One more thing.’ Ant turned around to face me. ‘I also booked a slot for us on the gun range tomorrow, because I need to see whether or not you’re still able to shoot a gun. If not, then you’d better start relearning how to do so.’ He looked and sounded very serious as he said it, and I couldn’t help but feel slightly intimidated.

‘But what about the prints?’ I asked him with concern.

‘It’s the lab staff you should start nagging for those prints,’ he snapped. ‘Not me.’

Damn, I thought, feeling stung. There was no need for him to get stroppy.

‘Hi, Claire. Sorry for taking over for you. I apologize.’

Isla DeAngelis finally arrived, much to my relief. I really couldn’t be happier to get the chance to shove Ant off onto someone else.

‘Well then,’ she said to Ant. ‘Let’s get going.’

But before they could leave, Ant’s phone rang. He immediately put the office on alert and the call on the speaker phone as the processed voice with a strong Slavic accent spoke. ‘She was just one of a few. Unfit for family. Now she’s horse glue.’

I listened with horror as the killer perverted the clones’ code on the other end of the phone line.

‘Who the fuck is this?’ Ant demanded.

No answer. Then the phantom caller informed Ant and Isla that ‘he’ was after Claire. ‘Is your partner there too? I’d love to speak with her.’

‘That all depends,’ Ant replied. ‘Why do you want Claire?’

‘Jane Doe expired at Allenside Park. Tell that to Claire Richards.’ The killer then hung up.

‘Apparently, the caller asked for the lead on the quarry body,’ Ant relayed, as he and Isla tried to deconstruct the call. I scrambled to keep up with them as they hurried off to Allenside Park.

‘Check the logs and see if there were any shots fired in the area near Allenside Park,’ Ant hastily advisied me. ‘Isla and I need to do all we can to track down this sick bastard.’

The only problem was I didn’t know Claire’s password for the cop shop system. Luckily, there was always Raj, the young tech guy, to save my life. ‘Hey, there,’ I greeted him as I entered the computer room.

‘Hey. How’s it going?’ he greeted me back with a cute smile.

‘I just need some help on a few bits and pieces.’ I decided to game him. ‘In other words, a few basics like resetting my password, the whole procedure for fingerprint results, that kind of thing.’

‘Oh,’ Raj said as he stopped what he was doing. ‘That’s no problem. It’s actually as easy as pie once you get the hang of it.’

Down in the lab, some quick moves got into the beleaguered lab tech’s in box where I deleted the fingerprint results that had identified me as Samantha Branning before anybody could see them.

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Seven

Samantha goes to retrieve the briefcase from Portia Obinger’s hotel, and uncovers some disturbing evidence. She also finds a decapitated doll – that resembles the late Portia – which holds a vital clue linked to the identity of Portia’s killer

Felix was riding his bicycle down the road to Siobhan’s country house, located in the suburbs. Of course, the first person to come out of the house was Katrina. She greeted him in the yard. ‘Have you seen my mum?’ she asked, her young eyes filled with curiosity and concern.

Before Fee was able to come up with an answer, Siobhan came outside. She spoke in a harsh Irish accent, and ordered Katrina to go upstairs. ‘Well, well, Uncle Felix,’ she said sharply. ‘You’ve got some explaining to do.’

In the kitchen, Siobhan made a pot of tea for herself and Felix. ‘I might have guessed it was too good to be true,’ she began. ‘Sam’s too tough to commit suicide. Most feral mutt I ever took in.’ She turned to face Felix. ‘Why would you of all people help with such a stupid plan as staging a funeral in order to escape from Vincent?’

‘It’s pretty obvious,’ Fee declared. ‘Vincent is a twat, and an unreasonable one to be honest.’

At the top of the stairs, Katrina listened in as Siobhan and Felix talked about me. ‘Sam was plagued from the very start,’ she heard our foster mother say.

‘What do you mean by that?’ Fee asked, bemused.

Siobhan didn’t answer his question. She simply said to him, ‘Tell Sam that she hasn’t seen Katrina in almost a year and it’s best if it stays that way.’

As Katrina creeped down the steps to hear better, Fee objected that Siobhan should tell Sam herself. ‘I’m not going to play “Felix in the Middle”’, he protested.

‘You are there at Sam’s beck and call,’ Siobhan sneered. ‘Therefore, it is up to you to take part of the responsibility for her actions and yours.’

‘It was only to make sure that Katrina didn’t think that her mother was dead,’ Fee mansplained. ‘And oh good, look. She doesn’t.’

Katrina was standing in the entrance of the kitchen, having overheard every single detail. Anybody could tell she wasn’t at all impressed.

Fee’s heart went out to little Katrina. After all, she didn’t ask for any of this. ‘You and Sam can work out the rest between yourselves,’ he said to Siobhan stiffly.

‘Years of my life,’ Siobhan recounted sorrowfully. ‘Leaving London and everyone I knew to give the two of you a fresh start. All the cop visits, all the missing person reports. If I could go back in time I’d do it all again, only because Katrina is a gift.’

‘I think Sam already knows that,’ Fee insisted.  

‘No. That’s the problem,’ Siobhan said wistfully. ‘She hasn’t a clue.’ This just went to show the wealth of distrust I had by now earned from everyone – Siobhan especially.

‘She is trying,’ Fee asserted. ‘Badly, granted, but in her own way.’

Finally making herself fully present, Katrina sat on Fee’s lap. ‘When is Mummy coming?’ she asked Siobhan.

‘You know when,’ Siobhan explained to her gently but firmly.

‘When she’s ready,’ Katrina reiterated, suddenly having remembered.

‘Sounds fair to me,’ Siobhan replied in a hard voice.

After my official meeting with Ant, I cautiously entered the townhouse, calling for Lee. When there was no response, I barrelled straight in, only to be surprised by Lee coming out of the bathroom. ‘Do you mind telling me where the hell you’ve been?’ he demanded, still thinking that he was talking to Claire.

I had to come up with a reasonable explanation. ‘I was at the station catching up on backlogged work,’ I half-lied. Even though I wasn’t really at the station, the part about working on the Bonnie Chen case was in fact true. I spread the files out on the table as proof.

‘But you’re suspended,’ Lee reminded me.

I quickly tossed it off. ‘They reconvened the hearing,’ I said to him rather dismissively. ‘I have to get on top of this stuff.’

‘First you screw me wild for the first time in months and then you don’t even bother to call me to tell me that you’re out all night? And why the fuck are you suddenly dressing like a punk rock hoe?’ Lee was starting to sound paranoid.

‘Say again?’ I challenged him, pretending not to notice what I was wearing.

He narrowed his eyes at me, realising that this was not ‘Claire’ behaviour.

I decided to ignore his hoe shot, but felt a slight chill down my spine. What if he already knew who I really was? He was bound to find out eventually.

‘Something’s definitely wrong,’ Lee quietly said. ‘I’m worried you’re losing the plot again. We’ve been here before. Or haven’t we?’

‘No Lee. We’ve definitely never been here before.’ I responded defiantly.

I could immediately tell by his tight expression, Lee knew that it wasn’t a way Claire reacted.

‘If you don’t buy my story, I can take you to the station to prove it, yeah,’ I offered.

‘But you need to take more time,’ Lee suggested, suddenly having softened a little. ‘You’re not ready for any of this.’

‘I already have professional help,’ I snapped. However, as soon as I noticed the aggressive tone in my voice, I regretted it.

‘Baby, please,’ Lee sighed wearily. ‘I can see the shooting is killing you, but you stopped talking to me months ago. What am I supposed to do?’

‘Listen, it’s my problem,’ I insisted gently. ‘You don’t have to take it on.’ That was when I realized I had unintentionally developed my own feelings for Lee in spite of myself.

‘Well I have,’ he said sharply. ‘And I can’t keep waking up at night, checking your breathing, worried you’re mixing your meds, booze, God knows what else.’ I closed my eyes and shook my head, amazed to hear what a mess Claire had become.

‘I’m going back to Cody’s for a while,’ Lee decided, by now completely fed up.

‘Yeah, maybe you should leave for a while,’ I agreed quickly.

‘You’re ready to get rid of me ASAP, huh?’ Lee sneered. ‘Fine.’ Disgusted, he stalked away, snagged the jacket and suitcase already waiting at the door, and left. Relieved, I leaned over the counter and exhaled heavily.

Not long after Lee walked out, I received a phone call from Felix, asking me to come over to his flat. And so I made my way over there as quickly as I could. It had to be about Katrina.

I arrived at Felix’s flat where Fee was waiting for me expectantly. ‘You’re not dead to your daughter,’ he assured me.

We tearfully embraced each other. ‘I can actually feel Katrina,’ I gasped emotionally.

‘She is asking for you this very moment,’ Felix informed me.

‘What about Siobhan?’ I wondered. I was still thinking about her, even though we weren’t on good terms.

‘Don’t worry about Siobhan. Just promise to take us with you when you leave again.’

While Felix made tea for us both, I downloaded him about Ant’s refusal to give me back the money until after the shooting is cleared. Much to my exasperation, the PinkMobile started to ring. I slammed it down on the counter. ‘The way I’m feeling right now, the hearing for the shooting is the least of my worries,’ I admitted, trying not to show how stressed out I was.

‘Is that Portia Obinger?’ Fee asked, recognizing Claire’s PinkMobile.

I looked up at him. ‘No. That is definitely not Portia Obinger, seeing that she’s dead.’  

‘Can you please explain to me what’s going on?’ Fee demanded.

‘Okay,’ I replied. ‘Claire was investigating her twins too, at the same time I was. Whatever Claire found out made her top herself, I suppose.’

The PinkMobile rang on undaunted. This time, I couldn’t ignore it, although Fee objected.

It was the same female caller from earlier. ‘Thank heavens you’ve finally answered, Claire,’ she said, relieved. ‘What have you been up to, anyway?’

‘Busy solving mysteries, obviously,’ I responded.

‘Did you get Portia’s briefcase?’ she asked, almost as though she had requested it.

Damn, the briefcase. Having had way too many things on my mind, of course I was bound to have forgotten all about it. ‘Unfortunately, no,’ I admitted.

‘Well then you need to do so,’ she instructed. ‘Go straight to Portia’s hotel room to get it before they do.’

I just wished she would explain to me who those people were. I had no idea who she was referring to.

‘It’s best you don’t ask what is in the briefcase just yet,’ she continued. ‘I promise to call back around midnight.’ She hung up.

What was in the briefcase that was so bloody important? Why the secretive behaviour?

Fee was just as bemused as I was. He demanded to know the identity of the caller, but I couldn’t tell him because I didn’t even know who the hell this woman was.

‘Every time I think I know something, I’m wrong,’ I sighed.

Fee pulled out the birth certificates and Portia’s driver’s license. By process of elimination, he wondered if the caller was Alison Hendricks. It soon dawned on him. ‘Wait a second,’ he exclaimed. ‘You not seriously going over there?!’

‘I haven’t got a choice.’ I donned a Portia wig, a floppy hat, large sunglasses, and a furry jacket. ‘If you don’t want to know what’s in the briefcase, then fair enough.’

‘Hopefully, it’s cash.’

‘I doubt it. It’s still a hustle, Fee.’

Fee was not amused by that remark. I turned around to look at his dreaded face. ‘Don’t worry,’ I reassured him. ‘I know exactly what I’m doing.’

Adele Fournier’s ID
Janae Zeelen’s ID
Tracie Giordano’s ID

Disguised as Portia Obinger, I hurried as fast as I could through the hotel lobby, ignoring the furious calls from the hotel manager for Portia. ‘Miss Obinger!’ he called sharply. He was angry about something that Portia had or hadn’t done, but I had no idea what it was. And quite frankly, I didn’t have any time to think about it.

I rushed straight upstairs to Portia’s hotel bedroom only to find it completely trashed. There was a decapitated Barbie doll that resembled Portia and eerily had the same hair colour as Portia’s hair. The doll’s hair had been hacked off, and its body covered in multiple cigarette burns. An open bible lay loosely with the hair strands spread out over the battered pages. The words ‘TRUTH’ and ‘FIVE DOWN.  SEVERAL MORE TO GO’ were written across the pages with a passage blocked off in the same red marker.

There were photos plastered all over the wall. They were autopsy photos of all the European clones that had been brutally murdered by the same crazed shooter, and each of the autopsy photos were labelled with the following names of the deceased clones. Their names were Adele Fournier, Tracie Giordano, Dawn O’Sullivan, and Janae Zeelen; they were from France, Italy, Ireland, and the Netherlands, respectively.

Adele’s and Tracie’s corpses had been burnt beyond recognition, while Dawn’s had been hacked into pieces. Janae’s body had received multiple stab wounds, even after she had been shot and killed. Like her sister clones before her, Portia Obinger had been killed outright – in true execution style!

I felt sickened by the sight of their corpses and the horrific manner in which they died. And for them to have all been discarded like rotten pieces of meat! Bile began to build up in my mouth.

I began to paw through Portia’s destroyed belongings until a knock on the door paralyzed me with fear. Unable to ignore it, I adopted Portia’s brusque German accent and opened the door to the insistent hotel manager. The security guard was with him.

‘We need you to come downstairs with us,’ he said sternly. ‘Now.’

At the reception’s desk, the guard informed me in a vexed tone that he had received noise complaints and that Portia’s room had been trashed.

‘The sink is broken also!’ he exclaimed, exasperated. ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’

‘What the hell is wrong with you, more like?’ I barked in Portia’s aggressive Germanic accent. ‘Why did you go into my room, anyway?’

‘Because we were required to carry out a security check,’ the hotel manager claimed sharply. ‘And you’ve been ordered to pay $6400 in damages.’ He thrust an itemized bill in front of my face.

I fished out Portia’s cash and credit cards from my own wallet, but to my horror and dismay I realized there weren’t enough funds on any of the cards. I had no choice but to come up with an urgent solution. ‘You have my card on file, Ja?’ I confirmed obnoxiously. ‘And my briefcase.’ I suddenly remembered without hesitation.

The outraged guard reluctantly went off to retrieve the case while I nervously waited to see if the charge was authorized after it had been processed.

With the bill paid, the hotel manager calmly passed over the slip that required my signature. Just then, the moody guard slammed the briefcase on the counter. ‘Thank you,’ I said frostily.

‘Are you enjoying the city?’ the landlord asked, seeming a lot friendlier than the other staff.

‘It’s killing me,’ I replied flatly. ‘Danke Schoen.’ Which was basic German for ‘Thank you very much’. Wasting no time, I took the case from the guard and exited the hotel.

On the abandoned top level of a parking garage, I pulled Claire’s car over and dragged out the briefcase. Only God knew what was inside it. I forced it open with a screwdriver.

There were x-rays and several labelled test tubes of blood. One tube had Adele Fournier’s name printed on it. Inside a file was a copy of Portia’s passport on the top of a stack of other passport photos, each one of the deceased clones whose autopsy photos were pinned up in the hotel room. I also found a scrap of notepaper from the top of the case on which was written Claire’s address, along with that of Alison Hendricks from Scarborough. ‘You’re practically local,’ I said quietly. Maybe Alison was the caller, the same woman who had asked for the briefcase. And maybe I should head there now.

Samantha and Alison

Alison Hendricks was a self-described suburban housewife and soccer mum. Married to David, she also had two adopted children. They were ginger-haired boy-girl twins named Oliver and Emma Louise. And Alison was… you guessed it, another doppelganger! Except that her hair was a lighter colour than mine, somewhat mousy brown with a fringe, and she had her hair in a ponytail. Maybe that was the typical type of hairstyle that most Canadian women had. But then again, what did I know about Canada or their fashion?  It had been up to eight years since I had left this country and gone back to England, and I had only been back here for a few months.

I was shocked at how much we both looked one hundred percent like each other. At first I thought I was seeing myself in the mirror. Except that I wasn’t.   

I watched from my car as Alison got out from the driver’s side of her minivan before letting her kids out. She was dressed in sports coach gear, so I was guessing she was meant to be running a high school sports event. Alison’s kids were at their school’s soccer field, playing football with the other neighbourhood kids when Alison’s pink mobile rang. She answered the caller while waving at another soccer mum. She then hung up in a terse manner after her one-sided conversation with the unknown caller, and took a net full of oranges to nearby equipment shed as a requested favour.

In order to hide my resemblance from Alison and avoid being seen, I pulled my hood over my face before hurrying after her. She was busy chopping up the oranges into quarters when I entered. ‘I just want some answers,’ I quickly assured her, but to no avail.

‘What the actual hell? Are you out of your mind?’ Alison was shocked and angry at the same time as she slammed me up against the wall, much to my horror and bewilderment. ‘How dare you show your face around my family?! How the hell did you even find me anyway?’

‘Portia Obinger had you address!’ I slapped her hand away from me in a defensive manner. ‘Anyway, I have the precious briefcase,’ I informed her coldly. ‘The briefcase you asked for, remember?’

‘Idiot,’ Alison scoffed. ‘Do you even know who you’re talking to?’

I then realized that this wasn’t the same young woman from whom I had received the phone call. How the hell she knew I wasn’t Claire was beyond me.

Alison’s expression suddenly turned from angry to bemused. ‘Where is Claire?’ she demanded.

‘I’m sorry, but Claire is dead,’ I admitted forcibly. ‘She killed herself.’

‘No, that’s not right,’ Alison said in disbelief. ‘Or possible. Claire wouldn’t have done that.’

‘But I saw her do it,’ I tried to convince her that I was telling the truth. ‘She jumped in front of a train.’

‘Why are you saying all these things?’ she barked. ‘Why are you doing this?’

‘A close acquaintance of Claire’s sent me here,’ I blurted out. ‘My name’s Samantha Branning, and…’

‘I don’t give a shit who you are,’ Alison cried angrily as she waved the knife at me in an antagonistic and threatening manner.

‘So what are we to each other, then?’ I pleaded emotionally. I was terrified of how sharp the knife was. What if she threatened to stab me there and then?

Alison glared at me with a hostile demeanour. ‘I’m not going to be the one to explain that to you. After all, it’s not my responsibility.’

Bitch! Was that the best answer she could give me?

Alison picked up the perfect bite-sized oranges, her back turned to my face. ‘You need to go now and wait for a call,’ she said icily. ‘Because if you don’t leave, I will not hesitate to call the police.’

‘Fine,’ I snarled. I started to head out of the shed.

‘And while you’re at it,’ she concluded. ‘Hide your ugly face on the way out.’

I headed back to Claire’s car, feeling extremely offended. ‘Fucking bitch,’ I thought bitterly. ‘I just hope not to ever come across her ever again. Or any of those other women, if God forbid they’re all like her.’

My phone rang as I was about to drive off. And who should be on the other end but Ant Bell!

‘Claire,’ he began. ‘Has it not occurred to you that I’ve been knocking on your house door for God knows how long?’

‘Oh,’ I replied, feeling slightly edgy. ‘Well, maybe because I’m out. I had to go into town and visit someone.’

‘Whatever you say,’ Ant responded, unconvinced. ‘Because Doctor Bowers has just declared you unfit for duty. That can only mean one thing. No hearing tomorrow.’

Brilliant. This was the last thing I needed on top of everything else. I sighed wearily. ‘Maybe I should see the shrink again.’

‘Unfortunately, it’s too late for that.’ There was a hint of disappointment in Ant’s voice. ‘Unless I can get Doctor Bowers to change her mind.’

Maybe that would work. After all, who knew if they didn’t try?

Doctor Bower’s immediate response was: ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t recommend you for duty.’

Not what I was hoping to hear. ‘But I’m making real progress,’ I said convincingly. I could tell the doctor didn’t believe me judging by her dubious expression.

‘Back to the last conversation we had,’ she stated. ‘About seeing cell phone and thinking gun.’

‘I made a mistake,’ I countered. ‘And I’ve admitted to blacking out. Read back the part about being “glitched”. Does that sound stoned to you?’

I observed with wide eyes like a hawk’s as she opened Claire’s cop notebook and read off the names of the psychotic meds Claire had in her cabinet. ‘I think I’ve remained on these meds and stimulants for far too long, and they’re affecting my immune system. Anti-depressants. Anti-anxiety. SSRIs. Maybe I should come off at least one or two of them for a while.’

The doctor raised an eyebrow. ‘Is that for you to decide, Claire? We’ve known each other for a while now.’

‘Yeah, that’s where you’re wrong,’ I protested. ‘Why don’t I just explain to the board that I shot this civilian after almost overdosing on all your overlapping scripts?’

‘Are you trying to be funny, Miss Richards?’ the doctor spat. I hated the hostile tone in her voice.

‘No, actually I’m not,’ I replied sharply, proving by the tone in my own voice that I wasn’t joking.

For once, Doctor Bower was actually taken aback by my equally frosty response.

After having put in more effort than I needed to during that shrink’s appointment with Doctor Bower, I once again found myself attending the reconvened hearing. Back at the precinct, the board reconvened the hearing, which meant only one thing. I’d won that pissing match, much to my delight and satisfaction.

As instructed by the suit, I stated my name for the record as ‘Detective Claire Richards,’ with conviction, as everyone exited the conference room. Claire’s union rep was impressed and complimented me on a job well done. He informed me that they would have a ruling in a couple of days. Surely that had to be good news, right?

Ant came up to me, smiling slightly. ‘Not bad, Richards,’ he said to me as we left the precinct. ‘Not bad.’

When my pink mobile rang later that day, this time it was Alison. I was at the local café with Felix.

‘I need you to come over to Bailey Downs tonight,’ she demanded brusquely. ‘And whatever you do, don’t be late. You are to arrive at nine o’clock prompt. Bring whatever you got from Portia Obinger and use the basement entrance at the back of the house.’ She stopped to glance at her watch. ‘Since you already know where I live, simply punch my address into your GPS,’ she instructed me. ‘Knock quietly so as not to wake the kids.’ She then abruptly hung up.

‘She’s not going to make you drive all the way to Suburbia just for a meeting, is she?’ Felix said in dismay. ‘Who is this Alison, anyway?’

‘You won’t believe me if I tell you,’ I said to him solemnly. ‘But she’s another sister clone. ‘This one’s an uptight housewife.’

‘You are joking.’ Felix’s face dropped.

I sighed. ‘I wish I was.’

As I drove to Alison’s house – located all the way in the middle of Suburbia – I made a fast phone call to Felix. ‘I just thought I’d warn you that this lady is far from welcoming,’ I told him ominously. ‘So therefore I will need you to be my backup. Do you reckon you can do that?’

‘That is the problem, Samantha,’ Felix complained, agitated. ‘I don’t do backup! I don’t even know what backup is!’

I pulled up to Alison’s house at almost exactly nine in the evening. This was where the real conspiracy of events would begin to unfold…

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Six

With a body in her car and nowhere to run, Sam is forced to continue her con and earn ‘Claire’ a second chance on the police force. Whilst looking deeper into the secret life that Claire seems to have led, Sam’s only hope of finding answers lies with another ‘identical’, Alison.  

Meanwhile, Felix was holding an after memorial wake at his Fun Flat. The guests had lit dozens of candles to pay their respects and condolences.

‘I just can’t figure out why Sam would kill herself,’ Vincent admitted sorrowfully as he puffed on a fresh cigarette. ‘It’s just not like Sam. To her, suicide isn’t the answer.’

‘Maybe she saw it as the only way to escape from you,’ Felix suggested.

‘Excuse me?’ Vincent was shell-shocked.

‘Think about it. If you had given her the love she deserved rather than knocked her about, then perhaps she wouldn’t have been pushed to do the unthinkable.’

Vincent scoffed at Fee. ‘At least Sam had love,’ he grunted. ‘And that’s way too much for you.’

‘And whose love did she have?’ Felix slammed his champagne bottle on the table and glared at Vincent. ‘Yours? Don’t fucking even go there.’

‘Love is imperfection itself.’

‘If that’s your definition, no wonder she jumped.’

Vincent lunged for Fee and threw him to the ground, choking him. ‘Say it’s my fault, then,’ he demanded. ‘Well go on! What are you waiting for? Say it’s my fault Sam killed herself.’

Felix managed to defend himself against Vincent, and he pushed him off with physical force. ‘Fine!’ he cried angrily. ‘It’s your fault that my foster sister is dead!’

One of the male guests helped Vincent back up on his feet. ‘I don’t need any assistance,’ he muttered. ‘I may be a lot of things, but I’m not an invalid.’ He had by then calmed down slightly.

It was late at night when I pulled the Jag into a secluded wooded area next to a ‘PRIVATE PROPERTY NO TRESPASSING’ sign. I pulled a shovel out of the trunk and commenced to dig a hole, using the car headlight as a torch light. With the pit ready, I steeled myself to go back to the car for Portia’s body. But as Portia’s head dropped out of the car, I bent over and threw up.

Struggling to get Portia out of the car, I kicked the door shut forcefully. With much effort, I finally managed to drag Portia over to the hole I’d dug.

When I dropped Portia next to the hole, I stared down at the body of the dead woman who bore my face. ‘Who the hell are you?’ I asked Portia’s dead body.

Before proceeding any further, I went through Portia’s pockets and found a room key for the Carlsborough hotel along with Portia’s license. Her license read: ‘Portia Obinger. Berlin, Germany.’

I rolled Portia into the hole and started to fill the hole up, burying her corpse. I did my best to hide my disgust, horror, and fear as much as I could.

Several hours later, at the DIY car wash, I found myself cleaning Portia’s remains out of the back seat of my car. I saw blood and brain matter streak out from under the Jag and down the drain. I noticed that I was covered in it myself, so I stripped off the rubber gloves I was searing and pulled clean clothes out from my bag. Then I made an urgent phone call. ‘What time do you open? I need front and driver’s side window.’

Finally, after what seemed like a millennium, my Jaguar was spotless inside and out. And at the right time too. Because I received yet another phone call from the same young woman who had rang me earlier. ‘What have you been up to?’ was her first enquiry.

‘Busy cleaning out evidence, obviously,’ I replied.

‘Just in case you don’t know where the briefcase is, I thought I should give you the address of the hotel where Portia was staying. I’ll text it to you now. And Claire, you must get the briefcase from her hotel room before they do.’

I was confused. ‘Who exactly are ‘they’?’

‘There’s no time to explain right now. When I call back around midnight, then I’ll let you in on all the details.’ She immediately hung up. At least by not calling me back till midnight, she would be buying me enough time so that I could search for important answers.

I knew I had to rush back home and clean myself up first, before carrying out the mission to retrieve Portia’s briefcase. There was no way I would head straight to the hotel from here whilst covered in grave dirt, mud, and someone else’s blood and brain matter.

I banged on the door of Felix’s flat and waited for him to quickly answer. ‘Vincent!’ I heard him shout in a fit of rage. ‘I have a knife and I will stab you in the face!’

‘It’s not Vincent,’ I replied stiffly.

Felix removed the lock and slid the door open for me. ‘Aren’t you supposed to wait about three days before rising?’ he said, but there was no humour in his voice. Vincent and his equally stupid friends had long since departed from the so-called memorial service.

I ignored Felix and walked past him, looking around at the memorial items, the lit candles, and the golden urn that contained Claire’s cremated ashes (which Vincent thought were mine). Next to it was a half-demolished double chocolate cake designed in the shape of a coffin. I felt disgusted.

‘What the hell is this supposed to be?’ I demanded.

‘I held a wake in ‘your’ honour,’ Felix admitted defiantly. ‘I was mad at you for taking off so I decided to blow all the money from your stolen coke on it.’

‘Does Katrina think I’m dead?’ I asked, perturbed. I was concerned for Katrina’s wellbeing.

Felix hung his head low. ‘I don’t know,’ was all he could say.

‘What the fuck do you mean you don’t know?’ I snapped, incensed.

‘What else am I supposed to tell you? Vincent fucked up everything when he got a hold of Siobhan somehow. I don’t know what she told Katrina! Speaking of Vincent, he has become even more obsessed with you now that you’re ‘dead’. He also wants to see Katrina, but I’ve already made it clear to him that Siobhan and I will never let that happen.’

I was too worn out to let everything sink in. As I made my way to the bathroom sink to clean off the blood, I explained to Felix about the German, Portia Obinger.

‘Is she another twin?’ Felix asked curiously.

‘She is another doppelganger.’ I filled him in on the details as much as I could, hoping that he wouldn’t bug me with any more queries. ‘I can’t explain to you about what happened. Now’s not a good time. And you need to find a way to tell Siobhan that I’m not dead and that it was all a mistake.’

Felix raised his eyebrow. ‘So I’m supposed to lie?’

‘I don’t care, as long as you make sure Katrina knows I’m fine,’ I vented. ‘Also, think about it. If I go in there now after 10 months, think about how hard Siobhan will make it to get custody!’ I handed over the large bag of money. ‘With all this, we can still escape with her.’

‘How much money is in there?’

‘It’s the 75K. Enough to lose Vincent, lose the twin sister weirdness, just get someplace safe with my daughter.’

Felix looked doubtful. He pulled out a stack of police files and Detective Anthony Bell’s business card. But the stacks of cash were nowhere to be found.

I felt dumbfounded. ‘Bastard must have followed me and nicked it,’ I muttered in shock. I rummaged through the bag in a state of frantic.

‘Just calm down, Sam,’ Felix advised me.

‘How can I?’ I yelled hysterically. ‘That money was our fucking only hope!’

I tearfully collapsed on the sofa, with my head buried in my hands. I felt like I was about to explode at any moment. Felix spotted the files sprawled on the table. ‘Who the hell is Bonnie Chen?’

‘Bonnie Chen is the woman Claire shot.’ Now that I’d managed to pull myself together, I was able to explain things a lot calmer.

Felix asked nothing more, but flipped through the files and found the official statement from Claire and Ant on the shooting. Ant had left them for Claire to review and revise. Felix and I both reviewed the files on the shooting. Frustrated, I sighed. ‘If I want to get the money back from Ant, I have to be Claire again.’

‘How long do you think you can keep impersonating a dead cop?’ Felix asked, clearly disapproving of how I was going about it.

‘Till I get our money,’ I convinced him. I punched in Ant’s number, using my black mobile phone.

Ant was at the cop shop when his own mobile phone rang. He answered professionally, but nonchalantly. ‘About time and all, Claire.’

‘What the hell do you think you’re playing at?’ I replied sharply, disguising my British accent with Claire’s Canadian accent.

‘I’m just following orders. That is all.’

‘Orders to steal from me?’ I angrily accused him over the phone.

‘I didn’t steal anything from you,’ Ant responded defensively. ‘Maybe you didn’t stop to check it before you crossed the border.’

‘Actually, I’m at home,’ I insisted. ‘Therefore, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick.’

‘I never get the wrong end of the stick,’ Ant countered. He then paused. ‘Meet me at Fung’s tomorrow afternoon,’ he ordered, before hanging up.

I was bemused. ‘What the hell is Fung’s? I don’t even know where that is.’

Having memorized Claire’s official statement on the shooting of Bonnie Chen, I dug up the address and location for Fung’s, where Ant told me to meet him. ‘The money is not a payoff, just so you know,’ I claimed when he quizzed me about the so-called stolen cash. ‘It is mine and Lee’s. I cleaned out my joint savings account and have yet to let Lee know. I planned to leave town, but couldn’t go through with that plan.’ I paused to take a deep breath. ‘The only reason I came back was to clear the shooting. I’m not dirty, Ant. I just freaked out.’

Ant glared at me suspiciously. ‘Are you wearing a wire?’ he demanded.

‘No, of course not!’ I squeaked out defensively. ‘What’s with the paranoia?’

‘Am I being paranoid?’ he shot back. ‘And you had no previous contact with Bonnie Chen?’

I denied that also. Just then, I began to feel uncomfortable as a pair of uniform cops walked by their booth.

‘The thing is, Claire,’ Ant went on. ‘I’m worried that there’s another story, one connected to the money. There is, isn’t there?’

What did he mean by that? According to Ant, Claire had been hiding something else, but I had no idea what. ‘There’s only one story,’ I asserted, though feeling slightly unnerved. ‘I can guarantee that.’

Ant flipped open the files. ‘I want you to walk me through it again, so I know you won’t crack under questioning.’

I memorized Claire’s story almost as though I’d rehearsed it dozens of times. “I was canvassing for the Ramsey Sun Jewellery heist. That was when – by chance – I spotted the racketeering suspect for whom I mistook Bonnie Chen. I entered the courtyard there. That’s when I heard someone behind me. And I turned around and I fired twice.’

One by one, Ant dropped the black and white shots of Bonnie Chen’s dead body in front of me, the last shot clearly showing the mobile phone in the victim’s hand. I gazed at the photos one by one, but kept myself from flinching as I continued.

‘They were both wearing black. However, it’s wasn’t her.’ I confirmed, determined to get this over with. ‘I then noticed the cell phone in Bonnie Chen’s hand and called it in. And then you showed up.’

‘If the brass find out you called my number before you “called it in”, he said to me in a harsh voice. ‘They’re going to start to dig. And if they start to dig, they’re going to find the pills. And if they find the pills, you may crack under pressure and tell them that I put the phone in the victim’s hand to cover your start ass!’

My heart sank. Not because of his warning but because I was shocked by yet another revelation of Claire’s unhinged state before her death. What in fuck’s name had happened to her? Only God knew.

‘But I wouldn’t do that,’ I assured him tightly. ‘I already know that I have to live with what I did. Bonnie Chen was in the wrong place at the wrong time. None of this ends up on you.’ As I said this, I tried to imagine it from Claire’s point of view, almost as though she were the one uttering these words, not me.

‘Fair enough,’ Ant insisted, putting the portfolio of files away. ‘In the meantime, I’m going to hang on to the 75K until after the shooting is cleared. Just to be sure that you can still be trusted.’

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Five

While under the guise of Claire, Samantha unexpectedly bumps into a German clone by the name of Portia Obinger who is in search of her ‘scientist friend’. Unbeknownst to Sam, there is also an unstable killer on the loose…

After we had made love in bed, I was relieved when Lee finally fell asleep. He seemed content. Now all I had to do was quickly get the hell out of there before he woke up. I fished through his trousers and retrieved his keys and the cash from his wallet. I knew I had to be extremely quiet and so tiptoed as slowly as possible out of the bedroom door. It was only when I got outside that I heard Lee murmur something incoherent. I assumed he was just talking in his sleep. At least I hoped he was.

I made my way to the bank and immediately left a message for Felix. ‘We can’t part on bad terms. The last thing I want is for either of us to stay angry at each other. Or ourselves.’ I had unintentionally said this in my real accent, having completely forgotten that Stephen the bank manager might have been listening. I quickly hung up after having finished speaking, just as Stephen returned with the cash.

‘Here’s the 75K you requested, Miss Richards,’ he said in his usual friendly tone. ‘All I need you to do is sign for it, and Bob’s your uncle.’
I gladly did as I was told. Then I left the office, feeling intensely pleased with myself.

Hoping that Felix would be at his flat, I drove straight over there. I made the fatal mistake of parking Claire’s car outside the main driveway. As I hurried inside the flat and upstairs to look for Felix, little did I know that Claire’s partner Detective Ant Bell had been following me the whole time! Ant broke into the trunk of Claire’s car and found the 75K I had purposefully kept there. He shook his head in disbelief.

But I had even bigger matters to worry about. There was no Felix, but there were funeral cards which I quickly realized were for my own memorial service. I was extremely shocked and livid. ‘Felix,’ I said quietly but angrily. ‘You little shit.’

Claire/Sam’s funeral.

The next day, I watched my own ‘memorial service’ via binoculars, as Vincent cradled the golden urn containing Claire’s ashes. I noticed that behind the rather small congregation was a danger sign that read: PIPELINE ANCHOR.

Vincent read a handwritten eulogy from a tattered piece of paper. He was trying hard not to break down. God bless him!

I secretly called Felix on the mobile. ‘I didn’t think I’d hear from my dead foster sister again,’ he said sarcastically. ‘Anyway, is it Heaven or Hell?’

‘To be honest, I didn’t want a funeral for this very reason,’ I replied flatly.

‘Well, you have to remember that you’re not alive anymore so you don’t get to have a say about that.’

‘I’m still watching, aren’t I?’ I waved from where I was standing.

Felix chuckled, amused. ‘I dressed Vince for the gloomy occasion,’ he preened. ‘How do we look?’

‘You both match 100 percent,’ I laughed. ‘By the way, I have the money. This means the chance for you, me and Katrina to start all over.’

Vincent suddenly interrupted our phone conversation. ‘Felix, do you mind?’ he said sharply. ‘I’m trying to finish my speech. Unless you want us to go and come back.’

‘Sorry, Vince,’ Felix said quietly. Then he spotted a car, driven by a supposedly new arrival. ‘Oh god! It’s Siobhan!’

‘Siobhan?!’ I yelled, obviously freaked out. ‘Shit! No!’

I helplessly watched from a distance as our foster mother got out of her car, looking furious. And to add even more insult to injury – Katrina was with her!

I glanced at my young daughter through teary eyes. This was the first ever time I had seen my little girl in what was nearly a whole year.

Siobhan was arguing with Felix, while Katrina watched them innocently.

‘She can’t think I’m dead, Fee,’ I sobbed. ‘Katrina can’t think it’s me in that urn.’

An enraged Siobhan rushed Katrina back into the truck, then got in and drove away.

Portia Obinger comes to “Claire”, asking for help.

With the funeral wrapped up, I made my way back to Claire’s car. All I wanted was to drive off somewhere and cry my eyes out to release the emotional pain. But as I got in the driver’s seat, a short-haired woman scrambled into the back seat. Her hair was magenta, and she was wearing tinted shades.

The young woman sat up and glared at me. She spoke in a heavy, German accent. ‘Claire,’ she barked. ‘Why haven’t you responded to me?’

Horrified and startled, I leapt out of the car. ‘Get away from me,’ I cried, stepping back myself. ‘Who the hell are you? How did you find me?’

‘What do you mean?’ the woman said impatiently as she abruptly removed her shades. ‘Claire, it’s Portia.’

‘Holy… shit!’ I gasped. My reason for uttering this? Her face was completely identical to Claire’s and mine.

‘I brought the briefcase. With the samples,’ Portia said. ‘For your scientist friend. I was careful, like you told me to be.’

Which ‘scientist friend’ was Portia referring to? What in fuck’s name was she talking about?

I felt too shaky and terrified to respond. The only thing I could think to do was order Portia to stay back.

‘I’m Portia Obinger, Claire,’ she reminded me desperately. ‘Don’t tell me you still can’t remember?’

‘Okay, I get it,’ I snapped. ‘The German whose birth certificate I came across.’

‘But you asked for it as proof, Claire.’ Portia paused halfway to take out a handkerchief and coughed up some blood, much to my horror and disgust.

‘You promised to take me to your scientist friend,’ she begged, still holding the bloody hanky.

‘I’m sorry, Portia, but I can’t help you,’ I said stiffly, getting back into the car.

Portia immediately climbed back into the back passenger’s seat. She was getting frustrated, and I could tell by her body language and facial expression. But I felt twice as frustrated. ‘Get out of the car now!’ I ordered

‘Your partner was following you,’ Portia said frostily. ‘You were the one in the black car.’

I gaped. How would she have possibly known that? Had she been spying on me?

‘The same one that flashed their lights, aren’t you?’ she continued.

Now I was starting to feel unsettled as well as even more freaked out. ‘You really need to leave,’ I said forcefully.

‘But you are police, Claire. We need you.’

Who the hell was ‘we’?

Portia peered at me carefully, still thinking that she was talking to Claire. ‘Just one. I’m a few. No family too. Who am I?’

I was puzzled. I had no idea what she meant by that. Was this supposed to be some established code?

‘I don’t know who you are,’ Portia finally said suspiciously. ‘But you are not Claire.’

Portia’s death.

Without warning, a gunshot slammed through the windshield and into Portia’s head, killing her instantly. Blood and brain matter was splattered across the back seat. There was blood and flesh all over her jacket and jeans also.

I screamed at the top of my lungs. Suddenly, another bullet winged through the car, but I managed to duck beneath the dash and narrowly avoid being hit.

As soon as the shooting stopped, I seized the opportunity to save my own life. I quickly turned on the ignition and drove away as fast as possible before the gunman could start shooting at me again.

‘Fuck!’ I screamed in panic. I sped down the road with Portia’s corpse sprawled across the back seat. Portia’s pink mobile rang through my ears. This was the last thing I needed right now. Finally, it stopped ringing, but almost immediately, my identical pink mobile started to ring with the same ringtone. Unable to ignore the connection, I answered my phone. However, I was hesitant before doing so. ‘Hello?’ I said tentatively.

I quickly screeched over to the side of the road and jumped out of the car as I answered the person on the other end. ‘Claire,’ the female voice said. ‘Where have you been?’

I paced uncontrollably as I tried to explain. ‘Long story,’ I stuttered. ‘Did you meet Portia Obinger?’ the other young woman asked. ‘I can’t seem to reach her.’

I stopped pacing and stared at Portia’s dead body. I then collapsed against hood of the car. ‘She’s dead,’ I told the other young woman hysterically. ‘Someone shot her right in front of me!’

‘Oh God!’ the other young woman gasped. ‘Are you all right, Claire?’

‘No! No of course I’m not all right!’ I yelled at her, completely devoid of any calmness and self-control. I was finally letting loose.

‘Holy shit! Then it’s true!’ the young woman exclaimed.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked, baffled.

‘That someone is killing us. That killer must have followed her from Europe.’

I kicked the car and swore in my real accent. ‘Fucking hell!’ I cried hysterically.

‘What did you say?’ the young woman on the other end asked.

‘Forget about what I just said, okay?’ I quickly glossed over it.

‘Did you get the briefcase?’ the other woman asked.

The briefcase? I tried to look in the back seat for it but Portia’s body was in the way. I nearly vomited over her appearance, so I had no choice but to back away.

‘Actually, don’t worry about the briefcase for now,’ the other woman said. What you do have to worry about, however, it getting rid of her body.’

‘But how am I going to do that?’ I asked in Claire’s accent.

‘You’re the cop, aren’t you?’ was her direct answer. Buy a shovel.’

Feeling frustrated, I opened the trunk to get a blanket out to cover Portia. ‘Make sure you get her hair and blood samples. You can do this,’ the female caller assured me.

‘Why don’t you come and lend me a helping hand?’ I suggested.

‘Believe me, I would if I could,’ the girl said sincerely. ‘Take one step at a time and you’ll be fine. I promise to call you back.’

Our conversation ended as she disconnected. That was when I started to get to work. I threw the blanket over Portia, slammed the door shut, and leaned against the car, trying my hardest to process what in fuck’s name had just happened.

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Four

Samantha comes up with a plan to assume her late doppelganger’s identity hoping that cleaning out the dead woman’s bank account will solve all of her problems. She also hatches another plan to fake her own death and persuades Felix to identify Claire’s body as hers (Sam’s)

I got back on the phone to Felix and discussed about my new plans. If I were to disguise myself as Claire and persuade the bank manager to let me draw all the money out of the account, then all we had to do was leave Vincent and Canada altogether, take Katrina with us and move back to England to start our new lives together. Surely it would be easy. After all, I was a skilled con artist who had pulled many tricks before without getting caught. So I was confident that this would work. ‘We can get away with this,’ I told Felix.

Felix thought for a moment. ‘There’s just one thing you’ve forgotten.’

‘Spit it out. I’m all ears.’

‘Your plan is the type of plan that will only work temporarily. That is until forensic experts identify the body any minute and catch you in the act.’

‘True. But they can’t identify the corpse as Claire’s if it’s toe tagged as mine. They also can’t hunt me down if I fake my own death.’

‘Now why didn’t I think of that? You really are a genius after all, Sam.’

After finishing watching Claire’s home movies, I studied her mannerisms and practiced flattening my natural accent into Claire’s North American tones. Then I set to work. I shampooed my hair in order to get rid of any visible streaks, and then applied the chocolate brown hair dye from the ends to my ebony roots so that my hair colour would turn out the same as Claire’s. As I let the hair dye sit in my hair and process for a few minutes, I scanned through photos of Claire to get a few rough ideas of the various hairstyles she often wore. She usually wore her hair down and left it untied. With the processing complete, I trimmed and styled my hair to make it look like hers. Then I swapped my skimpy sleeveless minidress and wedged platform sandals for an elegant-looking smart blouse and flared trousers suit teamed together with a pretty belt. Not bad. I studied myself in the mirror a few times. Now for the bank card I would be using in Claire’s name. I practiced analysing Claire’s handwriting, before forging her signature to match the real Claire’s signature on her card. That was that taken care of. I was preparing to get the show on the road when Claire’s phone rang once again. ‘Sorry, Ant, whoever you are,’ I said quietly. ‘I’m gone for good.’

Samantha in her original outfit
Samantha after she trades her Curley’s wife-style mini dress for a Claire Richards outfit.

Forty minutes later, I found myself sitting outside the waiting room of the bank where Claire had stashed her 75K, having booked an appointment with the manager. After only a few minutes of having taken over Claire’s life, part of me felt that I shouldn’t be doing this. Being a con woman didn’t stop me from having a conscience.

‘Claire Richards,’ I heard the bank manager call me by Claire’s full name.

Stephen the bank manager smiled at me warmly and led me to his office. Okay, you can do this, Samantha – I mean Claire, I told myself.

I took a seat opposite Stephen and explained that I wanted to make a complete withdrawal of the funds in cash.

‘In case you’re wondering why I’ve made this decision, I have a sick relative,’ I quickly lied. ‘My closest cousin was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and she’s only thirty-two. Besides, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is soon coming up. I thought that now would be the right time to withdraw the whole account in order to raise enough money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.’

Stephen looked genuinely sympathetic. ‘I’m sorry to hear about your cousin’s diagnosis.’

I watched anxiously as he swiped the card through the reader. ‘Cancer sucks. I wouldn’t wish such a terrible disease on anybody.’

Stephen frowned. ‘Your bank card isn’t being read. How come?’

‘Oh. Maybe I haven’t activated it yet’

‘I tell you what we could do. I’ll set up a new card for you and help you use that to complete the withdrawal process.’

‘Thank you very much, Stephen.’

I prepared to retrieve Claire’s license from my wallet when I spotted a small key I had no idea was there.

Stephen noticed the key. ‘Would you like to access your safety deposit box too, Miss Richards?’

I smiled. ‘Sure. Why not?’

Felix at the local pub.

Felix had the landline phone receiver at the ready, and he was preparing what to say to whoever answered when a young woman spoke. ‘Felix,’ she snapped. ‘Use it or hang it up, okay?’

Felix looked up to see Naomi, the barmaid, with her hands on her hips and an annoyed look on her face. ‘Well? What’s it going to be?’

‘Just give me a few minutes, Naomi. I’ve just had a very traumatic childhood, in case you didn’t know,’ he barked.

Naomi rolled her eyes and resumed her daily shift. Felix dialled someone and told the unknown person at the other end about the details involving the suicide at Huxley Station. ‘I think I know the victim’ he said. ‘Her name is Samantha Branning.’

Samantha unexpectedly runs into Detective Anthony Bell.

For a brief moment, my satisfaction turned to disappointment. But at least I still had the 75K. I made my way back to the townhouse.

I had yet to notice the police car pulling up beside me, with its headlights blinking at me insistently. I had no idea why I was being followed by a police car.

A young-looking black man leaped out of the police car, looking very serious and stern. Could he be a police officer about to arrest me?

What if I had been caught on CCTV cheating my way into stealing the cash from Claire’s bank account? On top of that, what if someone had secretly informed the police after realizing that I wasn’t really Claire?

‘Holy shit,’ I thought. ‘I’ve really blown it now.’

‘What the hell are you up to?’ the policeman asked sharply.

‘If you could just let me explain,’ I began, but before I could continue any further, the policeman approached me and roughly grabbed me by the arm.

‘Get in the car,’ he demanded, pointing to it in aggravation.

‘What’s the charge?’ I asked, confused. It was too late for me to run as Sam, but I didn’t know how to respond as Claire. I still assumed I was being placed under arrest for fraud.

‘Not today, Claire,’ the cop chided. He was extremely annoyed as he dragged me to the passenger’s seat and ordered me to get inside.

‘Well come on then,’ he said impatiently. ‘We’re already late.’

‘Okay. Calm down,’ I said, slightly shaky. I hesitated before putting my seatbelt on. What was it we were late for, anyway?

I glanced down at the clipboard of police reports balanced between the seats, but didn’t have enough time to read anything.

The cop got in the driver’s seat. He was a bit calmer, but still looked serious. ‘Where were you the whole time?’ he asked. ‘We were supposed to go over it again today.’

Go over what? But rather than ask, I searched for another tactic. ‘I got held up. Don’t worry about it,’ I said nonchalantly.

‘Why wouldn’t I worry? It’s when you don’t seem concerned that I get ticked off.’ He sounded uptight. ‘You know, you better be ready. Because my ass is on the line too.’

‘I’m ready when you are.’

‘You don’t look prepared to me. You’re sure as hell overdressed.’

I looked down at the attire I was wearing. ‘Give me a few minutes, and I’ll quickly run back inside and change.’

‘Yeah, right.’ He quickly locked the doors to prevent me from getting out. ‘You’ll probably run off on me again.’

‘I won’t. I promise.’

‘You think I don’t know you by now, Claire? Listen, I know this situation is as hard as it gets. But you need to stop making it worse for yourself.’

I nodded obediently. Then I remembered the text messages on the pink mobile phone. I double-checked them. They were all from ‘Ant’. Could this be the guy?

I noticed the name badge holder he was wearing. It read: Detective Anthony Bell.

‘Just drive, Ant,’ I said.

Sam/Claire at the precinct hearing.

Anthony Bell pulled up at the police station where I was being taken to. I was shocked at all the cops we were surrounded by, and I only had a short time to collect myself.

Ant took my arm and hustled me across the lot and into the precinct. An unnamed woman approached us.

‘Good luck, Claire,’ she said to me.

Good luck with what? I had no idea what any of this was about.

Just then an older man approached us and glared at me and Ant Bell disapprovingly.

‘And what time do you call this?’ he chided. ‘Fashionably late, I presume.’

‘She’s here now, lieutenant,’ Ant said. ‘That’s the only thing that matters.’

The lieutenant dismissed Art. ‘Come with me, Detective Richards.’

Detective Richards? What the hell was going on? Was Claire actually supposed to be a cop?

The lieutenant gestured for me to follow him into what appeared to be a full on tribunal. I hesitated in order to fully process the situation.

‘Just stick to your statement and you’ll be fine,’ he quietly advised me.

I glanced around nervously at the impatient inquisitors who were watching and waiting for me to get on with it.

‘I need to use the washroom first,’ I insisted.

‘Fair enough,’ the lieutenant responded. ‘Take the time to get sorted.’

Without knowing where the washroom was, I hurried off in the wrong direction until the lieutenant corrected me. ‘The washroom is the other way,’ he said after clearing his throat.

I checked the washroom to make sure there was nobody in the cubicles, and then came close to losing the plot. I knew I needed to phone Felix and inform him about my situation and the fact that Claire was a policewoman. We had no choice but to abort the mission. I tried to reach him, but only got his voicemail. What the hell was he playing at?

Before I could stop myself, I left a rather shaky message. ‘Felix? I need you to pick up at once. Claire is a cop. I’m assuming the role of a cop.’

Colin the morgue attendant

Felix was greeted by Colin Campbell, the nerdish morgue attendant, and was being led in to identify Claire’s body as ‘mine’.

‘Not that I don’t enjoy all things creepy,’ Felix said. ‘But it feels morbid in here. And it smells like death.’

‘Well, it is a morgue after all,’ Colin said. ‘What more should we expect?’

Felix giggled. ‘I’ve always wanted to visit a morgue ever since my uncle worked in one.’

‘You mean your uncle was an undertaker?’

‘Not exactly.’

Colin took a deep breath. ‘This will be shocking for you, but for Sam it was instant.’ He drew back the sheet.

At first, Felix flinched and covered his eyes. But then he opened his eyes again and took a look. He was stunned yet fascinated at the same time at Claire’s resemblance – even in death – to me.

‘Were you close to Sam?’ Colin asked.

Felix nodded sadly. ‘More than that. We were foster siblings.’

‘I’m really sorry to hear that. Your foster sister’s passing must have hit home really hard. Listen, you can lean on me anytime you feel you need to talk.’

Felix smiled gratefully. ‘You really know how to cheer people up.’

Meanwhile, back in the washroom, I was freaking out and didn’t know what to do. So I took a bottle of emetic tablets from my purse and swallowed half the lot, then forced it all down with tap water. I spotted the bottle of scented hand soap liquid and forced myself to ingest some of the liquid contents also.

I came out of the washroom, feeling dazed and lightheaded. I leaned against the wall to steady myself.

‘Is every okay, Detective?’ the lieutenant asked with concern.

I nodded. He guided me into the conference room where someone official was reading the minutes of the hour.

‘Statement of Officer Claire Richards entering into the record her version of the line of duty shooting, 7th October of this year, resulting in a civilian fatality, that of Bonnie Chen.’

Who the hell was Bonnie Chen?

The official judge waited for me to give my statement. ‘Anytime, Detective Richards.’

As I opened my mouth to respond, I unintentionally vomited all over the conference table, and then passed out.

‘Oh my God! What happened?’

‘Is she alright?’

‘Maybe we need to call a doctor.’

I felt some people lift me up and carry me to the medical room.

Everything goes not so according to plan as Samantha has discovered – much to her shock and horror – that Claire was a cop involved in the fatal shooting of an Asian female civilian. However, when the worst is over, she comes home to Claire’s handsome boyfriend Lee

‘I don’t even remember throwing up,’ I said, as the nurse tended to me and took my body temperature.

‘What do you reckon might have happened?’ the nurse asked. ‘Dizzy spells and motion sickness, perhaps?’

She must have jumped to that assumption simply because Claire was often a train traveler, and because driving to the train station as well as taking the train to and from distant places was bound to bring on motion sickness. But I shook my head. ‘I doubt it.’

She looked at me with concern. ‘Are you still taking your antidepressants?’

‘Not for now.’ Claire should have been the one to answer all these inconvenient questions, but because she wasn’t here to cover for herself, I found myself being forced to fill her shoes. Why Claire felt the need to top herself, nobody knew.

‘Maybe you should book another appointment with your psychiatrist.’

Felix had returned to his flat after having identified ‘my’ body at the morgue. He was working on my ‘Sam’s Death’ portrait when once again he heard banging on the door. Once again, it was Vincent.

Fee wrenched the door open and slapped Vincent across the face. ‘You bastard,’ he cried.

‘What in fuck’s name was that for?’ Vincent demanded. ‘All I wanted was to see Sam and talk to her.’

Felix looked at Vincent with crocodile tears. ‘Don’t you realize what you’ve done? Sam is dead because of you.’

Vincent scoffed. ‘Yeah right.’

‘I don’t think you understand.’ Felix shoved Claire’s death certificate at Vincent. ‘Samantha killed herself. And you drove her to do that. She jumped in front of a train because you, Vincent, are such an arsehole!’ He pretended to break down as he said this.

Vincent was unconvinced. ‘Did she tell you to say all this?’

‘No. I identified her body.’

‘How can I be so sure you’re not making any of this shit up?’

‘You don’t have to believe me, but it’s the truth. I’ll prove it to you.’

‘Take me to the morgue.’

Claire/Sam as a corpse.

Vincent just stared at the corpse, completely lost for words. Finally, he blurted out: ‘I can’t believe she’s dead.’

Both Felix and Colin had to stop themselves from bursting into fits of laughter.

‘You stupid selfish fucking bitch. Why’d you do it, Sam?’ Vincent was sobbing as he lay on Claire’s chest and embraced her dead body.

Felix patted Vincent on the shoulder in a comforting manner, but smiled at Colin as he enjoyed every moment. Colin couldn’t help smiling back. They both winked at each other.

Vincent was still sobbing hysterically. ‘We need to have some kind of memorial. A quick send off to get some closure. I’ll have to call our friends and make them promise to be there.’

Felix immediately agreed to the idea, but then stopped for a moment. ‘Locals only,’ he insisted. ‘And it should be fast and light.’

In the shrink’s office, I was indirectly pumping the psychiatrist for somewhat necessary information in regards to the shooting.

‘I swear I can’t remember anything at all,’ I claimed. ‘Other than the fact that I accidentally shot a civilian and that the civilian was an Asian woman.’

The doctor frowned, looking concerned. But she still provided me with the civilian’s details and background.

‘Her name was Bonnie Chen. She was 36 years old and a church goer.’ Doctor Meredith Bowers raised an eyebrow. ‘Now does that ring a bell?’

‘Kind of,’ I said, rubbing my forehead. ‘But there’s still something I’m missing.’

‘Such as what?’

‘Maybe I glitched when it happened.’ I leaned back on my chair, mentally exhausted. ‘May I be given official leave so that I can sleep on it?’

Doctor Bowers raised an eyebrow. ‘In case you forgot,’ she reminded me. ‘You’re under suspension.’

‘Sorry. My mistake,’ I said quietly. I’ve been having problems with detail ever since I started on my new meds. They’re bound to affect my memory.’

‘That is totally understandable,’ Doctor Bowers reassured me, but I wasn’t at all sure whether or not she meant it. ‘Have you spoken to Lee about this dissociation?’

I felt my body stiffen. ‘I really don’t want to talk about Lee. We haven’t been getting on very well lately.’

‘Why do you reckon that is?’

‘My relationship with Lee has suffered ever since I stopped talking to him about the shooting.’

‘I see.’ Claire’s psychiatrist put her medical notebook to one side. ‘Getting back on the job for you is about moving forward from a moment you can’t take back. And you need to tell me all about that moment. About seeing cell phone and reacting gun.’

I fumbled my hands together, feeling slightly nervous and uncomfortable. ‘I don’t think I can.’

‘Not to worry. It’s all confidential.’

With the appointment over and done with, Ant met me outside the psychiatrist’s waiting room. ‘Well?’ he asked curiously. ‘How did it go?’

It took me a few seconds to realize he was referring to the shrink. ‘A bit better, I suppose.’ All I wanted was to get out of there as soon as possible.

‘Something’s up, Claire. You haven’t called me dipshit all day,’ Ant said as we made our way to the coffee machine.

I smiled slightly. ‘I haven’t noticed.’

Ant immediately dropped the black humour but still remained kind. ‘My guess is that it’s to do with the investigation. Try to forgive yourself. Shootings happen to whoever’s there with the gun in their hand.’

It was late afternoon when I asked Felix to meet me at Claire’s townhouse. I found myself trying to put together the irreparable shattered pieces of Claire’s life. The poor girl’s life was shattered alright. As far as I and everybody else was concerned.

Felix was twice as bemused as I was, and I couldn’t blame him. ‘Apparently, your estranged twin fatally shoots an innocent East Asian woman whilst high on cop tranquilizers. Only this Chinese lady was armed also.’

I shrugged. ‘How would I know? The only thing I do know is that Claire might be lying about something. And whatever she was into drove her bloody nuts.’

‘Okay, time out.’ Felix sat up and crossed his legs. ‘Enough about Claire’s personal life. Let’s talk about your identical likeness to each other.’ He held up the newspaper article of the Bonnie Chen shooting. ‘Think about it. You’re related. This could be your story.’

Felix gaped. ‘Don’t say that about Lee! He’s hot, and an extremely gorgeous guy.’

I frowned. ‘Unfortunately, it’s not,’ I insisted adamantly. I then pointed to a picture of Lee. ‘Believe me. I don’t blame Claire for hating her life and wanting to escape from it. And it’s hard not to pity her, because if he was my boyfriend I’d jump in front of a train too.’

Deep down, I already knew that for sure.

Felix was scanning the birth certificates he discovered from Claire’s safety deposit box. ‘Have you noticed that these women’s birthdates are within a month of yours?’

‘It’s only a coincidence,’ I scoffed. ‘Besides, I don’t care about any of that right now. All I want is to finish the score quickly and then come back for Katrina. And you as well.

Felix raised an eyebrow. ‘You mean you plan to disappear again?’

‘I haven’t got a choice. There’s too much dangerous shit in this life. I can’t leave the mission unfinished.’

Felix sighed in exasperation. I could tell he was angry, and he had every right to be. But what did I have to do to get him to understand? If anything, this was even harder for me than for anybody else.

‘Felix, please just listen,’ I pleaded. ‘You and Kat are both my priorities. But I need you to be a bit more reasonable, just this once.’

‘Reasonable?’ he shouted angrily. ‘You left Katrina with Siobhan overnight and didn’t come back for ten whole months!’

I recoiled at my foster brother’s reaction. I felt a pang of guilt and sadness combined together. This was the moment when I wished I could go back in time and put things right.

It didn’t take long for Felix’s rage to subside. ‘Vincent has been grieving like a widower. He wants a funeral.’

‘Well he can’t have one,’ I asserted. ‘The reason being that nobody will notice that I died. That’s the whole sad point.’

‘You should tell that to the angels, Samantha,’ Felix said flatly. ‘You’re already dead, remember?’

After Felix had left, I took off my detective gear and jumped in the shower. I decided that I needed a long hot one in order to relieve myself from today’s stressful events.

I applied some body mist, and then re-dressed into a Clash t-shirt and skimpy mini shorts.

I pulled out a bottle of scotch and helped myself to a glass as I began packing mine and Claire’s belongings. I heard the unexpected sound of a key in the front door, but managed not to jump, although I was shit scared and very freaked out. ‘Who is that?’ I asked.

‘Who do you think it is?’

I heard a young man’s footsteps make their way towards where I was. It had to have been Lee.

And indeed it was. Standing in the bedroom doorway in tailored black trousers, smart white shirt and black jacket; he was as hot as Felix had described him.

Lee had a baffled look on his exceptionally handsome face. ‘Why exactly are you wearing a punk rock t-shirt?’

I racked my brains to think of an explanation. ‘I went clothes shopping while you were away,’ I said with a nervous laugh. ‘And I happened to come across The Clash rock by accident. I needed more indoor day outfits.’

Lee wasn’t convinced. He looked even less convinced when he spotted the travel bag in the corner. ‘Are you actually going away somewhere?’

‘No, of course not,’ I said defensively. ‘It’s only a load of gym accessories.’

I quickly changed the subject. ‘Weren’t you supposed to be away on that business trip till the weekend?’

‘Well I’m back now.’ He took a step closer toward me. ‘How did the hearing go?’

‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ I quickly dismissed the hearing from my mind. ‘Basically I puked all over the committee.’

As I headed back to the kitchen, I noticed Lee slowly pursuing me, which made me slightly jumpy. I couldn’t help but feel increasing agitated. Damn, didn’t he have anything better to do than stalk women?

‘Claire,’ he finally demanded, getting frustrated. ‘What’s happened?’

I took a deep breath, as I was feeling nervous. ‘Quite a lot,’ I admitted truthfully.

Lee examined me more carefully as he continued to interrogate me. ‘Your hair’s different.’

‘I only got it cut,’ I quickly answered.

‘But it’s longer,’ he said wryly, as he ambled closer

‘Calm down’ I snapped. ‘It only looks longer because it’s wet.’

Lee frowned. I didn’t like the unconvinced look on his face. He unexpectedly backed me into a corner, which made me startled. I absent-mindedly fiddled with my hair.

He kissed me on the forehead. I could smell the gorgeous aroma of his aftershave. I kissed him back on the lips. He removed his jacket. Then we both caressed each other.

‘Something’s definitely different,’ he mumbled.

‘Shut up,’ I whispered. ‘I already told you, nothing has changed.’

I made my way to the bedroom, stripping off and removing The Clash as I did so.

Lee noticed my Brit punk tattoo. But before he could say anything more, I quickly turned back round.

‘Aren’t you coming, handsome?’ I said playfully.