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.
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.’
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 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.