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.’
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 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.’
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.
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.’
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?’
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.’
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.