The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Nineteen

Anthony Bell studies Samantha Branning’s arrest record and Claire Richards’s police ID: they show the same woman. He is even more confused when Isla DeAngelis tells him that they’ve identified the dead Jane Doe from the quarry as ‘Samantha Branning’. In reality, the body of ‘Jane Doe’ who has been found is that of Portia Obinger, but they are now aware of this just yet. Anthony and Isla discuss the strange situation they are in, not knowing how it was that ‘Samantha Branning’ (who, unbeknownst to them, was actually their dead partner Claire Richards) died by train, and two weeks later was shot and dumped at the quarry. This is when the unsolved mystery becomes entangled.

Claire Richards’s corpse (which Felix falsely identified as Samantha’s as part of a trick).

Ant seemed flummoxed as he started at Claire’s ID tag and then back at my mugshot. ‘What the fuck is going on here?’ he asked.

‘Claire never mentioned a twin before,’ Isla scoffed. ‘And I for one don’t believe in doppelgangers.’

Ant got up to leave at last. ‘Just keep this messy situation between us until we finally figure out what the hell this is,’ he instructed Isla. ‘Do you think you can do that?’

Isla nodded confidently. ‘Sure.’

Siobhan Saunders.

Ant and Isla visited Siobhan, who identified herself as my legal guardian. ‘We identified the latest Jane Doe as Samantha Branning,’ Isla told Siobhan. ‘We’re sorry to inform you that Samantha has been found dead.’

Siobhan’s face fell. ‘How did she die?’ She asked.

‘She was killed by a single gunshot wound about two weeks ago,’ Ant said.

‘Identification took some time,’ Isla admitted. ‘But now we’re definitely sure it’s her.’

This was nothing short of madness! First Claire was identified as ‘Sam’ by Felix, and now Ant and Isla were tagging Portia as ‘Samantha’. I had by now lost count of how many times I had been thought to have ‘died’ more than once.

‘Did Samantha have any problems with anyone while still living at home?’ Ant questioned Siobhan. He was determined to get as much information about me as possible.

‘Samantha came of age and moved out years ago,’ Siobhan explained. ‘We weren’t close, but we still kept in touch occasionally.’

‘Did she have a twin sister?’ Isla asked inquisitively.

‘No of course not,’ Siobhan insisted sharply. ‘Samantha was an orphan. She didn’t have any blood relations that I knew of.’

Ant was sympathetic towards Siobhan. ‘Well she could have had a sister that not even she knew about,’ he surmised.

‘If she did, it would be news to the both of us,’ Siobhan countered swiftly.

Samantha and Lee getting cosy (Romeo and Juliet, eat your hearts out!).

Lee and I had stayed the night at Felix’s place, Felix having offered us the main bedroom while he was staying over at his boyfriend’s place. ‘You know we can’t go back to the townhouse now,’ Lee fretted.

‘I know,’ I said. ‘All the more reason why I suggested we crash over here.’

Lee kissed my shoulder and nuzzled my hair in a moment of tenderness. Somehow, I knew that his romantic feelings for me were real. Unlike when he was with Claire, whom he never really loved or cared about at all.

‘Just for your info, Dr. Alan Nealon is flying in today,’ Lee said. ‘And he’ll be looking for you.’

I rolled my eyes and sat up. ‘For a brief second, I forgot I was a clone,’ I scoffed.

‘He thinks you’re the one killing the clones,’ Lee reminded me.

I heard someone enter the flat. At first, I thought it was Felix, and so I quickly came out. ‘He can’t possibly be back already,’ I said. ‘It’s still early morning.’

My guess was wrong. ‘It’s not Felix,’ I heard Siobhan call sharply as she entered the room. She folded her arms in disapproval, but was glad to see me safe and sound. ‘And you’re alive,’ she noted wittingly.

I was confused. ’Why wouldn’t I still be alive?’

‘I’ve just had two detectives show up at my house this morning,’ Siobhan informed me. ‘And they were quite convinced they’d found your body in a gravel quarry.’ Holy shit! They had actually mistaken Portia’s body for mine? How was I going to explain my way out of this one?

Siobhan handed over Ant’s business card, and I grimaced. ’Would you care to enlighten me?’ She demanded, clearly outraged.

I sighed and clasped my hands on top of my head, my fingers running through my hair. ‘I don’t want to lie to you, Siobhan,’ I said. ‘But I can’t fill you in on anything just yet.’ What I really meant was that I wasn’t ready to reveal the whole clone thing to my foster mother. ‘What did they tell you, anyway?’

‘Very little,’ she confirmed more gently. ‘All they know is that the victim was a non-Canadian citizen, but they have no other information on her background.’ I was relieved, and also glad Siobhan was ready to trust me in this. However, she frowned suspiciously at Lee as he came out of the bathroom. ‘And you are?’ She asked him.

‘Lee Dierden,’ he announced. ‘Sam’s new boyfriend.’

‘He’s staying with us for a while,’ I told Siobhan.

Finally, the tension was almost broken. ‘Whatever is going on, if it takes one step toward Katrina, you need to fire at them,’ Siobhan continued. ‘The home we’ve built for ourselves in this country, we burn it all down if we have to.’

Isla was busy with the facial reconstruction on Portia, when Ant dropped yet another bombshell to her. ‘I’ve just found the coroner’s report on Samantha Branning’s suicide, two days before Jane Doe was shot and killed.’

Isla was baffled. ‘Jane Doe can’t be Samantha Branning,’ she concluded with certainty. ‘Samantha Branning was already dead by then.’

‘Well the prints still match,’ Ant countered.

‘But then think about it, Ant. Samantha’s foster mother did say she had no blood relations that she knew of.’

‘Well what about Claire? There’s a fifty-fifty chance she’s a triplet separated at birth.’

Just then, I roamed into the room as ‘Claire’.

‘Claire,’ Isla said. ‘Speak of the Devil. We were just talking about you.’

‘I got your message,’ I replied stiffly. ‘Is this a bad time?’

‘Kind of,’ Ant informed me as he led me into the murder investigation room. ‘I don’t know if you know, Claire, but some questions have come up about your work on the Jane Doe case.’ I was gobsmacked. ‘Where are the examples?’ I asked him.

‘Due to the negative results on the prints, we were unable to come up with any records,’ Ant explained to me.

‘But it should be in there,’ I insisted, feeling uneased.

‘Well, we ran the prints again.’

I leant forward to get a closer look, but Isla abruptly barged in unannounced and shoved a snap of my mugshot in front of my face. ‘Care to explain this, Claire?’ She demanded.

I was horrified. ‘Is this a joke?’

‘You tell me. Does the name Samantha Branning mean anything to you?’

I just stared at myself in alarm. ‘Who the hell is this?’ I asked Ant, ignoring Isla for a few minutes.

‘So, you’ve never seen her before?’ Isla clarified, rather curtly.

‘No, of course not,’ I snarked. ‘Don’t be so ridiculous.’

Ant shrugged. ‘Everyone has look-alikes, I suppose.’ He had a great point with this adage. But Isla, being the rather disagreeable cow that she was, simply glared at me. ‘Do they?’ She scoffed at Ant.

Isla and Ant entered the morgue where they were greeted by Colin. He was eating a banana while reading a book with only two laid out corpses to keep him company. Talk about morbid!

Rather than greet Colin back, Isla cut straight to the chase instantly. ‘I need all the information on Samantha Branning.’

‘Why?’ Colin asked.

‘You processed her remains,’ Ant pointed out, describing Claire and the means of her death.

‘I process loads of bodies,’ Colin emphasized. ‘Is there a problem?’

‘Yeah, actually there is,’ Ant downloaded. ‘With the fingerprints on Jane Doe in the gravel crusher.’

‘There are still two other victims,’ Isla added. ‘One of them is Samantha Branning, the other a completely different woman.’

Colin called up Claire’s death shot on the screen. ‘Samantha Branning. Suicide by train.’

Neither Isla nor Ant were able to speak. They were stunned by my resemblance to Claire. ‘It’s uncanny,’ Isla finally murmured.

Ant still couldn’t find his voice; he was too transfixed by the image on the screen.

Isla turned to Colin. ‘I need the name and address of the person who identified her,’ she ordered.

‘No fucking way!’ Felix cried in horror as he was on the phone to Colin. ’Are you telling me you couldn’t lie to them?’

‘Felix, there was nothing I could do,’ Colin explained frantically. ‘There are records, your signature, address. Everything is on file!’

I listened as I hurried to pack up my shit and leave. I knew I was in very serious hot water. Come to think of it, so was Felix.

My foster brother hung up in despair. ‘Shit! Sam, where do you suggest we go now?’ he asked as I grabbed Helena’s coat.

‘I have no idea,’ I admitted. ‘At least not yet.’   

Whether Ant was going to throw me in jail once I got found out or Dr Leekie and the other Revelationists were going to hunt me down as their oblation, I didn’t know. All I wanted was to fix things and be a real mum to Katrina. More importantly, I had to come clean to Siobhan about my Clone Sisters.

I told Siobhan all about Alison, Melissa and Claire as we were flipping through the photos album. ‘Alison is the one I bumped into first. I met her at Markham Village while looking for Melissa.’

Siobhan was stunned. ‘I could have sworn you were both the same person,’ she said. ‘That was until I learned about all of these young subjects.’

‘Alison, Melissa and Claire’s mothers all wanted babies enough to undergo the in vitro,’ I said. ‘So why did mine give me up?’  

Siobhan was hesitant. ‘There were rumours about the children that these scientists were hiding,’ she admitted.

I came across a photo of Carlton. ‘Carlton’s likely to know who my birth mother is.’

The doorbell rang. It was Alison. I had instructed her to meet us over here.

‘It’s time I told you what’s really going on,’ I told Siobhan as I went to answer the door.

Siobhan was surprised, but all ears. Alison stepped in.

‘Siobhan, this is one of my Clone Sisters,’ I introduced Alison to my wide-eyed foster mother. ‘This is Alison.’

‘Hello, Siobhan,’ Alison said as she waved, but she didn’t smile. She was almost unable to, what with her marriage problems in the way. She had been busy drowning her sorrows.

‘It can’t get any stranger than human cloning,’ Siobhan chortled as she and Alison sat at the kitchen table. ‘You don’t seem too happy,’ she observed, noticing Alison was slightly on edge. ‘Please tell me all about yourself, sweetheart.’

Alison tried to figure out where to start. ‘To make a long story short, I went to university to study kinesiology.’

Siobhan nodded in encouragement, eager to hear more. ‘Sounds very interesting,’ she chimed in, delighted.

Despite not being keen on sharing her life story, Alison continued. ‘Anyway, that was where I met David, and we eventually got married.’ Her voice quavered. ‘And now everything has turned to shit.’ She was breaking down by then, and I could tell she was trying to hold back the tears.

Siobhan reached for Alison’s hand, but then more pieces fell into place. ‘She came to see Katrina in your place, didn’t she?’

I grimaced and braced myself for the accusation. But there wasn’t any. ‘I knew something was up,’ Siobhan said merely.

‘The crazy one, Helena, was after me,’ I quickly explained.

‘There are probably thousands of us out there, unless Helena has killed them all,’ Alison surmised miserably. ‘We’re all completely messed up.’ But then she turned to me. ‘Except you, Samantha.’ She smiled slightly as she said this, and this must have been the first time I’d ever seen her smile or not look tense. ‘You’re such a lovely mother figure,’ she said to Siobhan. ‘My own mother wouldn’t have been so supportive. She would’ve put me in therapy.’

We didn’t notice Katrina approach the front door. Or that Helena was there, watching us all from the front window. It was only when Katrina screamed at the sight of Helena’s appearance that we all turned around.

‘You still didn’t kill the bitch, as I asked you to,’ Tomas fumed at a tearful and distraught Helena. ‘Explain to me why not.’

Helena looked at her master with childlike defiance. ‘She has a daughter,’ she said with conviction. ‘And the child is innocent.’

‘Why is Samantha still alive?’ Tomas yelled angrily.

‘I already told you,’ Helena hissed. ‘She is special. We have a secret bond.’

Helena’s phone rang, but Tomas had already grabbed it before she could even reach for it. She lunged for it, but Tomas held it out of reach. ‘Tell her to come here,’ he ordered. ‘Now, Helena!’ He then connected the call.

But for once, Helena was willing to disobey. As he gave the phone to her, she immediately seized the opportunity. ‘Samantha, I need your help.’

‘Where are you?’ I asked, not buying into any of her batshit craziness.

‘I’m being held prisoner,’ Helena cried as I heard the scrambling in the background. ‘Please, you’re my only hope.’ But before she could say any more, Tomas dragged and shoved her through the floating gulag and to an animal cage, throwing her inside it. ‘I gave you everything,’ he lamented. ‘And what did I get in return? Weakness!’

Helena clutched the bars of her caged prison and violently shook the door. ‘Let me out,’ she sobbed.

I arrived at the gulag and located Helena. ‘You came,’ she gasped with relief.

‘That doesn’t mean I care about you,’ I replied acidly. I got the keys and unlocked the padlock. ‘Stay back,’ I warned her sharply. ‘And don’t try any shit.’ With much force, I kicked the cage door open.

‘You’re all I have now,’ Helena said as she crawled out of the cage. Slowly and cautiously, she approached me and proceeded to embrace me, although I couldn’t find it in myself to return the embrace.

I was terrified of Helena, seeing that she was unpredictable. But nowhere near as unpredictable as Tomas, who stormed into the room. He glowered at Helena. ‘How did you get out?’ he demanded.‘I let her out,’ I retorted. Helena grabbed the gun from my hand and aimed it at Tomas. ‘You made me this way,’ she said icily. She then lunged for him and attacked him mercilessly. She began to strangle him and I had to stop her from choking him to death, so I knocked her out unconscious. I locked Tomas in Helena’s cage and then bundled up Helena and threw her into the trunk of my Jag as I prepared to help her leave the floating gulag for good. My first thought was to take her to Dr Leekie, but decided against it, driving back to Siobhan’s instead.


The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Eighteen

Samantha comes to Lee’s rescue when he is held captive by a vengeful Napoleon. Elsewhere, back at the detective precinct, Anthony and Isla stumble across Samantha’s profile and discover something shocking about Claire.

Samantha gets on the phone to Helena.

Part of me felt that it was my fault that Lee was in the situation he’d found himself in. Feeling guilty, I decided that I couldn’t leave him to his fate. Felix and I prepared to enter the headquarters.

‘Make sure to call Ant and tell him everything if I’m not back in fifteen minutes,’ I instructed Felix. ‘And make sure Katrina is safe.’

Felix agreed without hesitation. ‘Just don’t “die” again,’ he implored me. ‘Because your first funeral was agonizing enough.’

I remembered that it was almost midnight. I called Helena’s number which I had saved onto my phone. She was chowing down on a bowl of muesli when she answered. ‘It is almost midnight,’ she reminded me brusquely. ‘Do you have names for me?’

‘Yes, actually I do,‘ I told her. ‘Napoleon Olivier.’

Helena frowned. ‘That’s not the name of a sheep.’ she sneered.

I was bemused. ‘A sheep? Napoleon is more important than a sheep. He’s a shepherd.’

‘I still need other names,’ Helena raved.

I ignored her outburst. ‘Come down to Revelation. That is where I want you to meet me.’

I made sure to pull my hood up the minute I spotted the security cameras. But before I made it down the hall any further, Ingrid found me. ‘I take it you’re the imposter Napoleon mentioned,’ she speculated, her voice hard and brittle.

Napoleon beat Lee about the face as Lee was tied to the chair. ‘If you claim there is nobody you are working for, then why protect them?’ Napoleon demanded furiously. ‘Or should I say her? I told you she was a killer, did I not?’

Ingrid interrupted the commotion, sliding the door open and dragging me along with her. ‘Claire is here to see you, Napoleon,’ she announced coolly. She pushed the door farther and practically flung me inside the room.

‘Samantha?!’ Lee exclaimed frantically. ‘I told you to run!’

‘Well I don’t run anymore,’ I retorted. ‘Get used to that.’

Ingrid handed over the fish knife I had on me, giving it to Napoleon. He then dismissed her as her eyes locked with mine. I eased up next to Lee and laid my hand on his shoulder while keeping my attention on Napoleon.

Lee looked up at me with simply naked emotion. ‘Napoleon thinks you’re the Clone Killer,’ he informed me in a low voice.

Napoleon appeared to have overheard, despite being on his phone leaving a message for Alan Nealon, with whom he was working. His back had been facing us, but now he turned around. ‘We have medical evidence that proves you are not Claire,’ he claimed.

‘And I think you know I’m not the Clone Killer either,’ I said acidly. ‘You’ve got the wrong woman. The clone that’s killing the rest of us is blonde, Ukrainian and a religious nut.’

‘I’m not about to argue, Samantha dear,’ Napoleon challenged, totally ignoring everything I’d just told him. ‘You have created a new brand of fratricide.’ My blood was boiling by then. Why wouldn’t he listen to me?

Napoleon began removing his black leather gloves to reveal his six fingers on each hand. He went to stroke my hair with his mutated fingers, and I flinched in disgust. Lee almost threw up.

‘What in hell’s name do you people want?’ I asked.

‘Just so you know,’ Napoleon crooned. ‘I want to rule the whole world. I plan to take over it.’

I felt Ingrid place a hood over my head and zip cuff my hands. She led me back down the basement corridor. I was terrified of what she was going to do to me. But then I heard Ingrid cry out in agony as Helena knocked her out.

I began to hyperventilate, as I was still trapped underneath the hood and having trouble breathing. I heard Helena’s voice as she spoke to me. ‘Do you want to be saved?’ She asked me in a coaxing manner. I struggled to break free. ‘Untie me,’ I gagged. But she refused, and then I felt the rope tighten as she began to choke me. ‘I want the name of another sheep first,’ she snarled.

Napoleon had the fish knife to Lee’s throat in a state of vengeful fury. ‘You made a fatal error, Lee,’ he whined. ‘You trusted the wrong person. But worst of all, you made a complete utter fool of me.’

He was just about to slit Lee across the throat and finish him off when his eyes caught the security camera screens. ‘Ingrid?’ he uttered as he saw his assistant slumped in a corner. He hurried off as Lee frowned at the screen, worried for my safety.

Napoleon burst into the security room where Ingrid lay unconscious. He had the fish knife at the ready and I panicked as I watched him through another camera. He was about to exit the room and start looking for me. But then Helena jumped down from her hiding place and surprised him! ‘I want to see your six fingers,’ she said playfully. ‘And your wings too.’

She kicked him down to the ground. ‘Take off your gloves and jacket,’ she ordered. ‘Now show me your wings.’

Slowly, Napoleon did as he was told, but began pleading for his life. ‘Please, there’s no need for this,’ he begged. Let me help you, Helena.‘

‘Fuck you!’  Helena spat. ‘I don’t want or need your help.’

His feathered wings sprouted and spread open like a bird’s.  ‘Avenging angel, huh?’ Helena scoffed. ‘You’re a breathing miracle.’ As she prepared to cut them off, she whispered, ‘I have a message for your master from Tomas.’ She then proceeded to cut off his wings with the fish knife as though carrying out an amputation. She did the same to his sixth fingers on each hand also.

Napoleon screamed at the top of his lungs in excruciating pain.

Lee looked over to another screen in time to see me running back toward the office. I was wearing Helena’s jacket. Eventually I got to him and prepared to rescue him. ‘I guess there are a few things I should’ve told you,’ I admitted apologetically, as I untied him.

Lee made a face. ‘You think?’ He responded sardonically.

At the cop shop, Anthony and Isla had reached the end of the rope with the Jane Doe investigation. ‘I’m heading home,’ Ant told Isla as he grabbed his jacket from one of the coat hangers. ‘Maybe you should too.’

But Isla suddenly stopped in her tracks. ‘Anthony, come quick,’ she called to him as the fingerprints finally came through on Claire. ‘I’ve just found a match.’

My mugshot popped up right in front of them. ‘Who’s Samantha Branning?’ Isla wondered as she studied my profile on her computer screen.

Ant was as mystified as Isla was. ‘And why the hell does she look like Claire?’

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Seventeen

Lee has only just been informed by his arch nemesis Napoleon about Samantha’s fellow clones, the missing murder victims being amongst them. He questions her about Portia, who was one of the European identicals killed by Helena.

Back home, it was now Lee’s turn to do the interrogation. ‘There are more than nine of you, Samantha,’ he stated. ‘Most of whom are dead.’

‘No!’ I objected strongly. ‘There’s only one of me, just like there was only one of Claire.’ Maybe I didn’t want to believe that I was a clone. That was why it was easier to think of myself as an individual who happened to resemble the late Claire Richards.

‘That’s not what I meant,’ Lee quickly corrected.

‘Listen, Claire figured out there were only nine of us so far,’ I confirmed. ‘I’ve only met Alison.’ And Melissa also. But I wasn’t ready to expose Mel to him just yet.

‘Who else is aware of this cloning existence? I mean apart from Felix.’

‘Alison is the only other person in the know.’ I was very steadfast.

‘And what about Portia Obinger?’ Lee leant against the wall and crossed his arms. ‘Before Alison Hendricks, there was the German clone you unexpectedly bumped into while posing as Claire. Before you know it, someone else showed up and then shot and killed her.’

‘What are you trying to say?’ I asked defensively.

‘Don’t lie to me, Samantha,’ he shot back. ‘The only reason why I’m trying to get all the information out of you is so that I can best protect you and whoever else you’ve got caught up in this shitty mess.’ I was protecting everyone else caught up in this mess. The last thing I needed was a knight in shining armour and I still wasn’t entirely sure whether or not to trust Lee.

‘Is Napoleon on to us or what?’ I asked, stalking right up into Lee’s space.

Lee just looked at me as if to say: If you’re going to have such an attitude, then that is fine with me. ‘Napoleon just told me that someone is killing the subjects and dumping their bodies,’ he revealed with just as much attitude. ‘They’re all missing and have yet to be confirmed dead. You know anything about that?’ he sneered at me with that obnoxious one-shoulder shrug that I really hated.

I decided to get straight to the point and come clean, but made sure not to give away the whole truth to this lousy tosser. ‘I have no knowledge of Portia’s killer or her agenda,’ I lied to his face. ‘All I know is that she is the same female killer responsible for the disappearances and deaths of the other clones.’

Lee nodded, almost believing me for one second. ‘Just so you know, Napoleon instructed me to just watch ‘Claire’ closely, protect her, and make sure she’s not aware.

I felt agitated and began to pace. ‘Aware of what exactly?’ I demanded, somewhat unnerved.

‘Of me. Of us. This is high-level shit Samantha,’ he said through a clenched jaw. ‘An illegal human cloning trial and some satanic cult with a brainwashed executioner on the loose. Aren’t you the least bit worried that someone might be trying to kill you?’ There was a hint of consternation in his tone of voice.

‘Yes of course I am,’ I admitted. ‘But as long as it’s not you or any of the people I love, then that is all that matters.’

Lee seemed relieved at the revelation that he was one of the people I cared about the most. But there was one more important thing. ‘I still need to see my daughter,’ I added emotionally.

Lee handed me his car keys and placed them gently in my hands. ‘Take my Rover,’ he offered kindly. ‘And in case someone is tailing you, my job is to keep you safe. At least let me do that.’

I nodded trustingly.

I headed to the underground garage. But before I could enter the Rover, Helena’s reflection superimposed next to mine in the rear window. ‘Shit!’ I exclaimed.

‘Calm down,’ Helena said quietly, holding her hands up. ‘I’m not here to hurt you.’ She moved closer to me to make sure I could see her clearly. ‘I have an offer for you. But first we must talk. And eat. Let’s have lunch.’

I raised an eyebrow. ‘Lunch?’

At Hogtown’s café, Helena enjoyed a bowl of dessert consisting of chocolate Jell-O pudding pie. I had ordered chicken pasta bake accompanied with a mini baguette sandwich and side salad. For some odd reason, she had decided to have the same. ‘I dreamed we were friends,’ she said to me with her mouth half-full.

I felt disgusted by the idea of having a friendship with Crazy Clone. ‘We are not,’ I countered.

Helena tilted her head and studied her dessert spoon. ‘We will be,’ she said with confidence. ‘I can see it.’

I wondered if her carers fed her, wherever it was that she went when she wasn’t hunting and killing her fellow clone sisters. ‘This is a nice restaurant, isn’t it?’ she openly decided as she poured some dessert cream over her Jell-O pudding.

‘I suppose,’ I snarked. ‘It got five stars in a review.’

Helena ate the last bite of her dessert, then licked the front and back of her spoon. ‘You know my name,’ she observed. ‘But I still have yet to know yours.’

‘This friendship isn’t there just yet,’ I replied definitively.

Even though I already knew her name, I still didn’t know Helena’s ethnic background. ‘Are you Russian?’ I asked out of curiosity rather than interest.

She shook her head. ‘I grew up in a convent in the Ukraine, and I was raised as Jewish,’ she corrected.

I blinked. ‘You mean you lived with Ukrainian nuns?’ I leaned close to Helena. ‘Are those the people who made you kill Portia Obinger and the others?’

Helena sucked on a lollipop. ‘They ordered me to kill Miss Portia. And Miss Tracie and Miss Adele also.’ Why she felt the need to address her murder victims by their ‘Miss’ titles, I had absolutely no idea. ‘I’m supposed to kill you too,’ she announced.

‘But you didn’t, did you?’ I noted. ‘You let me live, and in return I did the same for you. So why don’t we call it even and go our separate ways?’

Helena slid down in the booth and shoved her boot between my legs under the table. ‘We will never be separate,’ she said through clenched teeth. ‘Now tell me the names of the others and I will spare you.’

As if I would ever give away my surviving sisters to Crazy Clone! I started to get angry and flung out my Swiss army knife, jabbing it against Helena’s leg. ‘You move your foot away from me, otherwise I will stab you again,’ I threatened in a hostile tone.

Helena glared at me as she waited for me to put my penknife back in my pocket. People across the cafe were staring at us, much to my discomfort and exasperation. I just wished they would stop and go about their own daily lives. There was nothing to see here.

As Helena cautiously shoved herself back up in the booth and pulled up her booted leg with her, I stuffed the penknife – rather roughly – back in my pocket.

Helena picked up a pen and carefully blocked out a number onto an unused napkin. I assumed the number was hers. ‘You have until midnight to give me the names of the other clones,’ she ordered balefully. ‘Call this number, or you die first.’ She slid out of the booth and exited the diner. I watched her warily and she pulled the hood up over her head. Just before leaving, she turned around and waved at me, mouthing ‘bye-bye’ with a menacing look, and then ambled away. I didn’t wave back.

Outside the diner, I was already back on the phone to Melissa. ‘Helena wants your names by midnight or I’m first on her hit list.’

Melissa was shocked. ‘She has to be joking! Surely there is a way to stop her from carrying out her hit list.’ She was at her Annex Style house researching about a well-known prophet via his EyeSpace page.

‘Well there’s no way I’m ever going to going to give you up to her,’ I vowed. I was adamant that I would remain loyal to Melissa.

‘Maybe you should,’ Mel reasoned. ‘Not to Helena, but to Napoleon.’

I pondered over that before coming to a drastic decision. After all, what harm could Napoleon possibly do to any of us?

‘Our creators, whoever they are, might be trying to protect us and the other clones from Helena.’

‘Unfortunately, they already know Helena is after her Clone Sisters,’ I noted. I had by now reached Lee’s Rover to find a parking ticket on the windshield. Brilliant! That was all I needed after everything else.

‘Hey, have you heard of Doctor Aloysius Leekie?’ Melissa asked me. ‘He’s the poster boy for this spiritual movement called Revelation.’

Revelation? Was she referring to the same nightspot that belonged to Napoleon Olivier? It would be such a coincidence if she was!

‘Napoleon owns a club with that same name. Felix says it’s a bunch of devil worshipping freaks.’ There was one disturbing factor nobody knew yet. ‘Napoleon has six fingers on each hand, not to mention a few other birth deformities,’ I added.

While Melissa was intrigued to hear about Napoleon’s twelve fingers, I felt sickened. ‘Can we just get back to Helena?’ I suggested impatiently.

Speaking of Helena, Crazy Clone broke into Lee and Claire’s dark and empty condo and made her way into the kitchen. There was a leftover pancake that had been covered. She helped herself to the pancake and stared at a picture of a grinning Lee.

She continued to prowl through Claire’s house, stumbling across my pillow. She smelt it, breathing in the fresh scent and then lay down on the bed, cradling it.

Lee was in the back of a black taxi with Napoleon and a slender, tall woman by the name of Ingrid. ‘When we get there, you’re going to start talking,’ Napoleon said to Lee quietly. ‘And you’re going to tell us where Claire is.’

Lee didn’t even have a clue where it was they were taking him. All he knew was that Napoleon had booked a cab for the three of them, and he had been ordered to get straight in the back once the black cab had arrived. He was carefully seated between Ingrid and Napoleon.

‘In case you’ve been completely unaware, your subject is not who we think she is,’ Napoleon revealed. ‘She’s an imposter, and she has been pulling the wool over your eyes for so long.’

This has to be some kind of test, Lee thought. ‘I only saw Claire a few hours ago,’ he finally spoke up. ‘How do either of us know it wasn’t her?’

Napoleon held up a photo of Claire and Lee embracing each other, Claire nearly burrowing into Lee with a look on her face of despairing love. Despite Lee beaming ecstatically in the shot, Claire looked far from smiley – the exact opposite.

‘The person killing our subjects looks exactly like Claire,’ Napoleon explained.

‘You mean, like a twin,’ Lee supplied. He had already figured out I wasn’t Claire, but decided to play along with the façade, feeding Napoleon the lines he himself had worked his way through.

Outer Building of Revelation’s Secret Headquarters.

Napoleon, Lee and Ingrid had arrived at Revelation’s secret headquarters where their cult meeting was held. ‘I am sorry to tell you that Claire is dead,’ Napoleon informed Lee.

Lee already knew of Claire’s death, but still pretended to be shocked. ‘Why?’ He asked, devastated.

‘I am afraid I can’t answer that,’ Napoleon admitted regretfully.

‘Did this imposter kill Claire?’ Lee asked. Napoleon shrugged. ‘That is what we suspect. She is also believed to have killed other subjects. Yet she still shares your bed.’ Lee bit his lip, not knowing what to make of any of it. ‘To me, she’s still Claire,’ he said supposingly.

‘Regardless of what you think, Lee, I still need you to bring Samantha to the club,’ Napoleon instructed.

‘Who is Samantha?’ Lee asked.

‘All I know is that Samantha comes from Western Europe. I believe from England, but I’m not sure whereabouts in England.’ Napoleon was determined to get straight down to business. ‘Find this girl before they do.’

Lee glared at Napoleon suspiciously. ‘Who are they?’ He asked charily.

‘Never mind,’ Napoleon said sharply. ‘All you need do is follow my demands, and I promise you will get your life back.’

Ingrid silently handed Lee his blackberry, and then left the two men alone. ‘Now put it on speaker,’ Napoleon ordered.

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Sixteen

Lee has been in for a nasty shock with the fake ‘Claire’ revealing herself as Samantha and admitting to having taken over Claire’s identity ever since the real Claire killed herself. But Sam has just learnt something equally shocking about Lee – that he is supposed to be Claire’s monitor!

I flipped through snapshots of Lee from his military days and lifted his old dog tags from his box as I prepared to interrogate him further.

‘My problems didn’t start in the military,’ he told me as he poured glasses of scotch for us both. ‘But rather they began when I left service to become a private contractor.’

And I was really supposed to believe this incredible life story? Because at first, I didn’t.

‘I’m not doing any of this by choice,’ he convinced me.

‘So, you were forced to be Claire’s monitor for two years without even knowing why?’ I asked, summing it all up. Lee threw a dirty look at me.

‘What are you? An investigator all of a sudden? Because that’s rich coming from a hustler. You chose to infiltrate Claire’s life when you posed as her,’ he said disdainfully.

Now it was my turn to throw him a dirty look. ‘How long did it take for you to figure that out?’ I very much understood the seriousness of the situation, even if Lee thought otherwise.

‘We need to try and be honest with each other here,’ he suggested. I reluctantly agreed, feeling quite wary. ‘We’ll decide what happens with the medical tests you had performed on me whilst I was asleep,’ I said in a rebuking manner.

‘Fine,’ he snapped. ‘Since I don’t know what happens to the results seeing that they go straight to Doctor Olivier, I’ll make sure to ask him about it.’

I didn’t bother responding. I just grabbed a new clean set of clothes and stormed into the bathroom to take a shower. Lee stayed where he was, but glared after me. He probably thought I had no right to use any of the rooms in his house anymore.

I came out of the bathroom in my bra and mini shorts. ‘Will Doctor Olivier be able to tell I’m not Claire from the tests?’ I asked as I was still putting on my crop top. This was extremely vital information that I needed to know.

‘I already explained that I don’t know what the tests are for,’ Lee said again, sounding tired and irritable. ‘Unless you want to continue giving me a headache by nagging me with all these unanswerable queries.’

I gave up. If he wanted to be an arsehole, then that was fine with me. I knew to simply avoid him from now on.I headed directly to the bedroom. When Lee’s moodiness faded, he decided to check up on me. ‘You may not know it but I am worried about you,’ he called. I didn’t answer – the reason being that I had gone out of the bedroom window to escape him.

I got straight on the phone to Melissa. ‘You were right,’ I told her. ‘Lee doesn’t know a single thing about the clones.’

Melissa was in the university library scanning through course textbooks. ‘I knew it just had to be a double-blind,’ she whispered discreetly. The monitors are completely unaware of the purpose of the experiment. ‘My guess is so that they can’t tamper with the results.’

Just then, Mel passed a tall woman with golden hair that was in French curls. They exchanged friendly waves. ‘To be honest, I may have a monitor dilemma of my own,’ she quietly confessed.

‘Just stay clear of her,’ I strictly advised her. ‘It’s best not to trust anybody because of not knowing their true intentions.’

Melissa rolled her eyes in annoyance, but agreed anyway. ‘While you sound rather paranoid, I reckon you might have a good point.’

I filled Mel in on Lee’s past and background. ‘Apparently, Lee is an ex-military and assassin. He’s a very serious cunt who means business.’

I wasn’t over exaggerating when I said this. But unbeknownst to me, my car had been tagged with… a tracker!

Back at his condo, Lee had set up the tracking program on his laptop that marked my direction. As he brewed his tea and buttered his toast, he continued to watch my every move via his computer screen – even recording my conversation with Melissa. The sneaky bastard! He was now dressed in dark navy clothes to prove that he definitely meant business.

He went to the bathroom and snapped on a pair of black gloves before opening up the medicine cabinet and removing some of Claire’s prescription pills. Then he went back to the kitchen and grounded a magnum of emptied capsules in a mortar and pestle that Claire usually kept for homemade herbal remedies. As he did this, he left a message on my voice mail. ‘Listen, Samantha, I know why you took off this morning. But we need to know that the ground beneath us is solid.’ He lifted the door to an upper cabinet and took out a bottle of whiskey. ‘So please,’ he added as he poured the ground up drugs through a funnel into the whiskey and swirled it around. ‘Let’s talk about this tonight.’ He disconnected and replaced the whiskey in the cabinet. Then he prepared a syringe simulator that would draw up ‘Claire’s blood.’

Headquarters of Napoleon Olivier’s Underground Nightclub.

‘You told me yesterday she was doing a lot better,’ Napoleon Olivier barked at Lee during their second man-to-man conference.

‘I never said that at all,’ Lee stated correctly. What I said as that she was trying to get herself back on track. Claire is still right in her dark place. I barely stopped her from overdosing the night before. He had the spiked whiskey at the ready, carefully stashed where he had found it, and he had yet to prep Napoleon for the report of Claire’s death. He was not ready for this at all. ‘She’s quit the force, and dumped her therapist. She has no one else.’

Napoleon scowled at Lee. ‘Claire has you to share in this crisis like any other event. I’ve already told you once before. Don’t interfere with Claire unless it’s critical.’

Feeling suspicious, Lee sent him a side-long look. ‘I need to know I won’t get blamed if Claire does harm to herself and I can’t stop her.’

Felix and I pulled up in the Jag next to Lee’s Range Rover. We were at the underground nightclub where Napoleon had ordered Lee to meet him. ‘What a bloody mess,’ I groaned, laying my hand on my forehead. ‘Even if he’s not ratting me out in there, those medical tests could still tell him I’m not Claire.’

‘Melissa said the medical tests would match,’ Felix reminded me. After all, you and Claire are clones. Therefore, your DNA is identical.’

‘What the fuck do you mean identical?!’ Anthony Bell barked at the coroner. She seemed slightly fazed by Ant’s aggressive reaction.

‘Jane Doe from the gravel crusher and the rampage shooter in the bathroom have identical DNA,’ she confirmed.

‘I pretty much blame the lab scientists more than anybody else,’ Isla claimed stiffly. They must have tampered with the samples, causing them to become contaminated.’ She looked at Ant as though looking for a second opinion.

‘That is bound to have not happened,’ the coroner insisted. ‘It is not as if they don’t know what they’re doing.’

‘Do you reckon you could offer us a clearer more straightforward explanation?’ Lieutenant Marshall asked.

‘Fair enough. Maybe the rampage killer planted Jane Doe’s blood in the bathroom. After all, such a scenario is more likely than the killer walking in the lab and contaminating the samples.’

Isla frowned, not buying any of it. ‘Or perhaps it was someone with access to the lab who doctored the results.’

Lieutenant Marshall was starting to get agitated. ‘Right! Comb straight through the whole shit pile again starting from the beginning,’ he ordered.

When Ant left the coroner’s room with Isla, he seemed twice as stressed out about the Portia Obinger murder case. ‘And to think that there are two more Jane Does whose disappearances have yet to be solved,’ he grunted.

‘Look, we should just start from square one with open minds,’ Isla decided. ‘Just as Lieutenant Marshall already suggested.’‘I still have questions about Claire’s run in with the killer. Speaking of Claire, I know for a fact that she would never tamper with evidence.’

In the office of his nightclub, Napoleon was seated opposite Lee as he calmly made some random but vital notes. Lee was being made to answer questions about Claire.

‘It all started eight months ago at the time of Claire’s shooting.’ Lee paused halfway to take a deep breath before continuing. ‘She didn’t seem to be herself at the time. On top of that, she’d begun to abuse prescription drugs.’

Napoleon stopped taking notes and placed the notepad and pen to one side. ‘How can I be sure if you’re telling the whole truth about what has been going on with Claire?’ he asked, raising one eyebrow. ‘Also, what did you mean when you stated that Claire didn’t seem to be herself at the time?’

Lee couldn’t understand why he was having these questions thrown at him while being interrogated and thought that he shouldn’t have to explain himself. He was starting to feel exasperated, but tried hard not to show it. ‘What I mean was that Claire’s drug abuse was brought on by her police work stress. It was her abuse that led directly to the civilian shooting. Her decline only got worse from there.’ What he didn’t know was that the reason Claire shot and killed Bonnie Chen was because Bonnie was working with another Prolethean agent called Tomas in hunting down the clones.

Revelation Nightclub Entrance.

People started to enter the club, most of who were Cyber-Goths. ‘For fuck’s sake,’ I snapped. ‘I’m through with waiting. I need to know what Lee’s up to.’

Felix stopped me for one second. ‘First of all, you can’t go in by yourself. Second of all, you can’t enter this club without any slap on your face. We need to get you all made up.’

Felix was really starting to get on my nerves. Now was not the time to get myself glammed up when I had an important mission to take care of! I had a lot of investigation to do.

‘It will be just a quick makeover,’ he cajoled. ‘I promise.’

After making ourselves look slightly more presentable – Felix was practically all made up while all I had on was my heavy Maybelline lip gloss and nightclub hairstyle – we entered the club and came across a short man who was the club’s gatekeeper and a large man who was one of the bouncers. ‘Revelation is a private club,’ the gatekeeper told us.

‘I know,’ Felix quipped. ‘But we made sure to bring our IDs with us.’

The bouncer and the gatekeeper both grinned at us. ‘In that case,’ the bouncer said as he opened the club door for us. We wasted no time. I left Felix to chat up some fellow night clubbers and made my way downstairs to Napoleon’s office. I heard him continue to ask Lee questions about Claire’s mental state and his relationship with her.

‘When was the last time you were sexually intimate?’

‘Three days ago,’ Lee finally answered after a long pause. I could tell none of that was true. There was no intimacy at all between them.

‘And would you describe the intercourse as passionate?’ there was curiosity in Napoleon’s voice.

‘Kind of,’ Lee answered with a hint of insult. ‘Look, it’s hard for me to help if I don’t know what’s going on.’

‘But you are already aware of all the details, Leonardo,’ Napoleon explained. ‘All the psychological tests, physical exams and social metrics are not for Claire alone.

‘The problem with clandestine ops is that information and security rarely go hand-in- hand. This is why I’ve been told rather late that someone is killing our subjects and disposing of their bodies.’ My heart immediately dropped as I realised Napoleon was referring to the European Jane Does that were all disappearing one by one. The fact that the killer’s victims had been potentially abducted before being murdered was something I didn’t get the chance to upload Lee on. If that wasn’t fucked up, then I had no idea what was!

A wounded and weakened Helena was being ministered to Tomas at an abandoned industrial warehouse. ‘Why didn’t you kill the imposter when you had the chance?’ Tomas asked as he rinsed a cloth out in a large saucer-shape bowl of water.

Helena struggled to sit up, still wincing at the shooting pain of her seeping side wounds. ‘Samantha is different from the others,’ she said quietly. ‘She and I have a connection.’

‘Unlike all the missing women you killed and dumped in all those hidden burial plots, you mean?’ Tomas scoffed as he continued to treat and dress her wounds. ‘Is that your excuse for sparing Samantha? Well believe me, your connection with her is nothing. Absolutely nothing. Simply just one of your fingernail clippings like the rest of them.’

Helena growled in response at this jibe. ‘Samantha said I am not the original,’ she related bitterly. ‘She told me that we are all the same.’

‘Well she’s wrong!’ Tomas cupped her face in his palms and eyed her fiercely. ‘Don’t believe such an outrageous thing, understood?’

Helena nodded obediently, her innocent childlike eyes pleading for forgiveness.

Tomas stroked her dirty blonde hair with the tips of his fingers. ‘You’re getting stronger,’ he reassured her. But the task is now more difficult, since the real Claire Richards killed our friend Bonnie Chen.’

‘The copies are harder to find,’ Helena acknowledged.

‘I know. But we will get there.’ Tomas began to wash Helena’s hair, and the dirt travelled from her split ends down the basin. And I need you to be strong in finding the imposter.’ He handed her a razor blade. ‘Remember, the path to the shepherd is through the sheep,’ he instructed. ‘Promise me that you will bleed her for what she knows and then kill her.’ He then turned and exited the gulag, leaving Helena to carry out her mission.

Napoleon showed Lee the missing persons profiles of each of the murdered clones. Then he pulled up Claire’s profile. ‘Am I correct in stating that Claire was in the middle of tracking down her identicals when these women all died by the hands of the same killer?’ he disputed.

Lee was dumbfounded. ‘Claire never told me any of this.’

Suddenly, a party going guest interrupted. ‘There’s someone outside asking to see you, Mr Dierden.’

‘Who?’ Lee asked impatiently.

‘They wouldn’t say,’ the young male confirmed. ‘They just asked me to tell you to meet them outside.’

Lee left Napoleon’s headquarters and spotted Felix. He instantly ignored him and walked past with a slightly cool demeanour. But then Felix tried to approach him discreetly. ‘Why the fuck are you following me?’ Lee demanded irritably.

‘I only wanted to ask what your name was,’ Felix shrugged. ‘It’s just that you look familiar. Don’t worry; I’m not a stalker or anything.’

I hurried up to get between them. ‘Calm down, Lee. He’s with me, okay? He’s my foster brother.’

Lee just stared at us, not knowing what to believe anymore. ‘You mean you have a foster brother?’ he asked, looking at Felix disparagingly. Then he eyed me up and down. ‘What the hell is up with your appearance?’

While I wasn’t surprised he noticed my clubbing gear, wacky hairdo and punk rock jewellery, I was shocked and rather offended by his unexpected remark. ‘Forget about my appearance,’ I offered hurriedly. ‘You should be asking me what I’m doing here.’ Seeing that he didn’t expect to see me at Revelation’s nightspot.

Lee took me to one side. ‘Meet me back at the condo,’ he told me in private. ‘Don’t bring your so-called foster brother.’

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Fifteen

Once Lee has noticed that Samantha lacks Claire’s scar that she sustained in a mountain bike accident, his suspicions that he has been dealing with a different person these past few weeks have finally been confirmed after having missed all the signs earlier. Time for the layers to start peeling off…

Lee returned to TREXCON Consulting Enterprise to meet up with Napoleon Olivier, who was seated with his leather gloved hands folded professionally. ‘We need to talk about Claire,’ Napoleon said ominously.

‘I know,’ Lee replied. ‘As usual, she was in a pretty foul mood this morning.’

‘Well, that’s nothing new. Anything else?’

Lee put his hands in his pockets with unease. ‘She quit the police force. This time for good.’

Only Lee wasn’t telling the whole truth. On top of that, he didn’t reveal to Napoleon that there was something else he’d uncovered.

‘Are you still concerned about Claire’s mental health?’ Napoleon asked out of curiosity.

‘She’s still very depressed, which can only be expected. But now that she has been put on new meds she should be doing okay, I suppose.’

‘You understand that your role as monitor is not to interfere.’

‘I do know that. And I’ve been making sure not to.’

I returned to Felix’s flat to meet up with him and discuss about the man I’d been sleeping with – Lee Dierden – who turned out to be Claire’s monitor all along. But I had to quickly hide as Colin the morgue attendant came out of the room leading to the doorway. Once I made sure he was gone, I quickly hustled into the flat. ‘Why were you with Colin?’ I demanded sternly.

‘Calm down, sis,’ Felix insisted, slightly offended. ‘He’s the first nice kind bloke I’ve met in ages.’

‘So you thought you’d shag the guy we conned into identifying my body?’ I snarked as I poured myself a drink.

‘Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot that your life is more important than mine,’ Felix bitched back. He actually had the nerve to blurt that out!

‘No, it isn’t, actually! My life is just way more difficult and frustrating,’ I corrected sharply, sitting myself down. ‘And to make matters even worse, Vincent has come back. He unexpectedly ran into Alison and now he thinks I’m alive.’ Which – as a matter of face – I actually was.

Speaking of Vincent… we heard him storm into the flat as soon as the door flung open violently. ‘Is this a bad time?’ he asked sarcastically. He tried to remain calm and composed, but Felix and I could tell he was seeing red. ‘You tasered me. You pepper sprayed me. And you think I’m just gonna walk away like some nobody?’ He wandered across the room to where we were sitting as he said this.

‘Look, it wasn’t me that tasered and pepper sprayed you,’ I interrupted. ‘That was a completely different woman who just happened to look like me.’

‘Don’t give me that shit,’ Vince spat. ‘And then that coke you stole from me while pretending to be dead? Who the fuck do you think took the fall for that?’ I was horrified as he revealed his bandaged throbbing hand. ‘Now where is the fucking money?’

I got out Alison’s 20K and slammed it on the table. ‘I’m only handing it over to you so that maybe you’ll fuck off,’ I snapped. I’d referred to it as piss off money.

‘How the fuck do you do it?’ Vince asked in a low and fierce tone. ‘Lying there in that morgue. Holding your breath, Samantha, while I am crying my eyes out. I’m actually grieving.’ He then turned to Felix and glared at him. ‘And the fact that you helped her fake her own suicide and let me think she was dead. What kind of a sick bunch of fuck asses are you two?’

‘I’m not proud of what I did,’ I confessed. ‘But it was the only way to get away from you, Vincent.’

‘But I thought we had something special?!’

‘Not to me, we didn’t. Not now. Not ever.’ I thrust the flat door open and ordered him out.

‘You’re not chucking me out,’ Vince began obstinately. ‘I won’t let you do that.’

‘I think you should do what she says and leave, Vincent,’ Felix offered.

Vincent slowly scooped up the twenty grand. ‘It’s not over, Samantha,’ he promised as he shuffled out of the flat.

I was glad that Vincent was gone. But suddenly my mobile rang. It was Lee. There was no way I would answer him. Not after Felix and I had listened to the recorded audio files of Lee and Napoleon’s conversation.

‘Don’t answer,’ Felix begged.

‘I won’t,’ I said quietly as I pressed the reject button. I was righteously pissed off over what I’d just learnt about the man who had turned out to be Claire’s monitor the whole time. ‘He knows something,’ I told Felix anxiously. ‘I know he does.’

My mobile chirped again, much to my exasperation. I checked only to see that… Lee had sent me pictures of my walk with Katrina!

‘Lee actually followed me straight to Katrina,’ I realised, horrified.

I jumped up and shrugged back into my coat. ‘What are you going to do?’ Felix asked, extremely worried.

‘I will not let him threaten my daughter,’ I vowed as I snatched up the mobile. ‘I need you to go to Siobhan’s and make sure Katrina is okay.’

I felt more determined now than ever. This time, I was not about to back down.

I was on the phone to Melissa as I sat in my Jag outside the condo. ‘I’m about to go in there and shoot Bastard Lee in the balls,’ I fumed.

In major contrast, Melissa was pretty much calm and collected. ‘Not just yet, Sam,’ she cautioned sensibly. ‘This is our chance to finally get answers.’

‘But he followed me to Katrina, Mel,’ I cried in dismay.

‘I already know this, as Felix filled me in on everything,’ Melissa confirmed. ‘I also know what it must mean to you. But at the same time, Lee covered for you while you were in Claire’s disguise.’

She was right, after all.

‘I’m terrified that Lee might be falling for Fake Claire aka me,’ I admitted.

Melissa pondered on that for one moment. ‘Well then that’s great news.’

‘How is that great news?’ Was she out of her bloody mind?

‘Because he may not even know he’s watching a clone. But that Napoleon Olivier guy definitely does. He runs Lee, so even though Lee is your potential monitor, he can’t skew the results either.’

‘You mean these people are keeping Lee in the dark also?’ I guessed correctly.

‘Exactly. We need to get to Napoleon after having dealt with Lee.’

I carefully let myself into the darkened condo and eased through looking for Lee. To my surprise, Lee turned on the light by the couch where he was sitting.

‘I had no idea you were in here, Lee,’ I noted scornfully.

Lee ignored this comment. ‘And I thought you’d gone away to visit a friend,’ he responded acidly. ‘I also thought you were a cop who had just turned in her gun and badge.’

Damn! How did he find me out so quickly?

‘Well, apparently, I’ve got a stalker,’ I bit back.

Lee picked his pistol off his couch, rose to his feet and loosely held his gun in my direction so that he wasn’t aiming at me but near enough. ‘Maybe you should sit down and put the gun on the coffee table,’ he indicated wryly.

‘Is this some kind of fucking test, then?’ I questioned rather angrily as I did exactly as he ordered.

‘I knew,’ he said, sounding just as angry as I felt. ‘I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I could tell. That day when you were supposed to be at the trial was the first time we’d had sex in fucking months.

‘And you were wearing that Clash t-shirt. Just before we screwed each other in the bedroom, I started to get that strange feeling that something about you had changed. And what was it that you said? That there was nothing different about you, that you were still the same Claire I’d met two years ago.’

I shook my head in disbelief. This was getting us nowhere. ‘What are you saying exactly?’ I snarled.

‘You quit the force after refusing to ever think about it,’ he noted. ‘On top of that, the scar on your neck just disappears mysteriously because of what? Some fucking prescribed ointment?’

I seriously thought that he was losing it. I even told him so. ‘You’re completely off your rocker,’ I murmured.

But Lee was undaunted. ‘Am I?’ he continued as he pulled out prints of me and Katrina together from his jacket pocket and tossed them on the coffee table before my eyes. ‘This little girl I saw you with?! How do you explain about her?’

I looked at him with ice cold eyes. ‘She is my niece,’ I responded, perjuring myself.

‘Don’t fuck with me! When I saw you together, you looked as close as a mother-daughter couple. I even heard her call you “Mum”. The last time I checked, Claire didn’t have any children because she couldn’t have any.’ He looked back at me with a deathly stare. ‘Which means that you are not Claire.’

This was it. I’d finally been caught.

‘And I know you’re not Claire because I was watching some old video of the fucking real Claire training for a half-marathon,’ Lee continued, his voice filled with venom. ‘What was the last race you ran? And what city was it in?’

I knew the answers to neither of these. Gone was the fake Claire – in her place the real Samantha.

Now Lee was aiming the gun right at me. ‘Where is Claire?’ he hissed at me. ‘Whoever the fuck you are, you tell me now where Claire is!’

I wasn’t intimidated by the bastard. I had no reason to be. ‘Claire is dead,’ I finally replied in my own native British accent. ‘She killed herself by jumping in front of a train. I saw her do it.’

Lee was knocked back a step almost as though he had been slapped across the face. ‘You’re English. You’re from Britain, aren’t you? What’s your name?’

‘Samantha,’ I practically spat out my name.

‘Samantha what?’ he demanded icily. ‘What is your surname?’

‘Samantha is good enough,’ I replied twice as coldly.

‘This is bullshit,’ he gritted through his teeth. ‘Claire isn’t dead. Or is this a test?’ he echoed my exact question.

‘When Claire died, I took her identity,’ I revealed to him as his hand began shaking while he was still holding his gun. Feeling unnerved and unable to sit below him at gunpoint any longer, I finally got up and made my way into the kitchen. Somehow, I knew he would never bring himself to shoot me. I heard him follow me, anyway, with the gun still in his hand.

‘If you’re planning to shoot me then fucking go ahead and get it over with,’ I raged. ‘Or what the fuck are you waiting for?’

Lee finally lowered his gun, just as I’d predicted. Spineless prick, he didn’t have the bottle!

‘Look, I was just going to clean out her bank accounts. I didn’t mean to get all tangled up with you, or Claire’s partner, or anybody else,’ I admitted with exasperation.

‘If Claire really is dead,’ Lee wondered. ‘Then how do I know you didn’t kill her?’

I turned around to face him. ‘Because you killed her,’ I said to him accusingly. ‘I know that you’re her monitor. Because you observed her. You let medical experts into her room. Doctors came to her bedroom and medically examined her in her sleep, just like last night. And she was aware of it.

‘And she eventually took her own life because the man she loved turned her whole life into a complete lie.’ I felt the uncontrollable rage inside me begin to boil over as I pulled out the letters Claire wrote to Lee that I had found. ‘You’re a plant,’ I felt my voice quiver as I flung the letters at him in anger. ‘She knew you didn’t love her and she couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t let her leave. And now she figured it out in the very end.’

Lee was unable to deny it. Convicted, his face fell. The tears fell also. I myself tried hard not to break down.

‘She trusted you,’ I whispered, my voice cracking. ‘I trusted you. How could you do that to her? And to me?’

Lee looked up at me, his face damp and his eyes red-rimmed. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he sobbed. ‘I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t want to be Claire’s monitor.’

‘Then why did you do it?’ I demanded in a stronger tone.’

‘They control us,’ Lee confessed as he wiped his face with his palm. ‘But they don’t tell us why.’

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Fourteen

Samantha’s drug-abusing ex-boyfriend Vincent tries to explain to his boss Phil about the missing cocaine he was unable to retrieve, but his excuses fall in deaf ears and in anger Phil almost breaks Vincent’s hand by deliberately slamming his truck door on it. When he seeks medical aid, Vincent unexpectedly runs into Alison, mistaking her for Samantha. As a result, when Alison’s paranoia puts all the orphans at risk, Samantha, Alison and Claire’s worlds dangerously collide during Samantha’s hunt for answers on her background.

In her native Suburbia, Alison pulled up in front of a spy shop. She gave her kids two dollars altogether and sent them off to buy one chocolate bar each. She then popped into the Spy Guys shop to ask about surveillance equipment for the house. Just as she was exiting the shop with her purchased supplies, Vincent Smith was exiting a next-door pharmacy with a first aid kit and bandages for his injured hand; his drug lord boss, Phil Dean had angrily slammed his truck door on Vincent’s left hand after a heated confrontation because Vince had been unable to recover the lost stash of coke which he owed Phil, and on top of that was unable to gather up enough money to replace it. He was determined to pay Phil back somehow. He spotted Alison across the lot and stopped in his tracks. ‘What the actual fuck?’ he muttered, stunned.

Alison noticed Vincent staring at her but ignored him and hurriedly headed to her van.

‘Samantha?’ Vincent called hysterically. He started to laugh sardonically while Alison began to freak out, thinking that he was her stalker. She turned away and rushed frantically to her van. No longer laughing but still calling her by my name, Vincent pursued Alison. He actually thought that she was me!

‘Samantha! I can’t believe you’re alive,’ he wailed, cornering Alison between two rows of cars.

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Alison admitted. ‘And I don’t know who you are.’ Vincent ignored her and examined her face.

‘You fucking bitch! You faked your own death,’ he screamed furiously. ‘How could you do this to me, Samantha? I thought you were dead!’

Reaching for her pepper spray, Alison produced it in her hand, shouting at Vincent: ‘Get the fuck away from me! You’re a fucking freak! Don’t touch me!’ She then maced him straight in the eyes.

Vincent yelled in agony and covered his pepper sprayed eyes. While he was temporarily blinded, Alison quickly seized the opportunity, dug out her Taser and zapped him. ‘What the fuck are you doing, you mad bitch?’ he yelled.

Just as her kids arrived, Alison hustled them into the minivan. She was just glad they hadn’t encountered Vincent before she had. She was shaken up by the ordeal but managed to speed away regardless. Vincent was still on the ground and continued to writhe in pain. ‘Samantha!’ he continuingly screamed. ‘Samantha, come back!’

At her house, Siobhan and I were in the middle of a somewhat affectionate heart to heart about myself and Katrina. ‘At least now we know where she gets her bravery and independence from,’ Siobhan complemented. Except that when you came to live with me back in London you were slightly older than Katrina is now.’

I smiled a little. ‘I’m just glad Kat didn’t have to bounce around the way I did when I was a kid,’ I acknowledged quietly. ‘It was you who got me this far. If not for you, I wouldn’t have come such a long way.’

I laid my hand on top of Siobhan’s. ‘I still need your help,’ I admitted. She nodded understandably. ‘I need to know where I came from before you took me in,’ I continued.

‘Basically, you were part of the foster system where I took in young people. Unfortunately, I don’t know who your parents were,’ Siobhan admitted.

‘But when I was in the UK I already spoke to Family Services in Brixton. I was seventeen at the time.’ Which meant I’d been puzzling over my origins for some time before meeting my Clone Sisters. I didn’t know where I was originally from; all I knew was that Siobhan was definitely hiding something else from me that wasn’t in the files.

My Pink Mobile suddenly rang. Could it be the Brixton Family Services with newly discovered information about my unknown birth parents?

I got my hopes up way too easily. It was Alison, and she sounded rather distraught and shaken up. ‘I was just assaulted by some disgusting rotten thug who thought I was you,’ she said, cutting straight to the chase.

‘What did he look like?’ I quizzed her on her attacker’s description.

‘He was half-caste,’ Alison explained, trying to keep her council. ‘As in half-Black, half-Middle Eastern or something close to that. And he was urban.’ That was when I immediately recognized the ‘thug’ as none other than… Vincent! I might have guessed!

‘That would be my ex,’ I said, my head buried in my hands. ‘That’s why he mistook you for me.’

‘Please tell me that is not Katrina’s father. Otherwise heaven help that child!’

‘No of course not.’ I sounded unequivocal.

Alison seemed calmed by that conformation. With the subject of Vincent out of the picture, I went into further detail on the status with Lee. ‘Apparently, Claire had been spying on him and investigating his background,’ I explained in full detail.

‘I can’t for the life of me understand why Claire never told me about that,’ Alison said, sounding bothered. ‘Does that mean he’s a mole?’

‘I don’t know,’ I admitted. ‘Yet.’

‘Well, make sure you call me back once you find out the truth about Lee.’ The moment Alison disconnected was when I knew our mutual care for each other was over. But then I’d learnt to finally accept her as she was. I just wished she would accept me too.

The Lost Orphan: Stolen Identity Book One Chapter Thirteen

Whilst she is fast asleep in the middle of the night, Samantha feels something strange happen to her and wonders if this is a nightmare. When terrifying evidence suggests the Orphans are part of a sinister ongoing experiment, Samantha’s suspicions turn to Lee, Claire’s boyfriend. But her probing inadvertently triggers Lee’s own investigation, bringing him dangerously close to the truth, as he is determined to find out who she really is.

After I’d taken a shower, I thought about giving myself a foot bath and fresh pedicure. But first, I decided to file my fingernails. After I had cleaned, trimmed and prepped them, I got one of my nail varnishes ready and began searching for the rest of my nail tools when I heard the front door deadbolt turning. I might have guessed it was none other than Lee the moment he made his voice heard. ‘I’m back.’

I hoped and prayed for him not to come into the bathroom, as I was still naked and only had my towel wrapped round me. I quickly dried myself and threw on Claire’s dressing gown. ‘How come you’re already home?’ I asked. ‘I thought you were staying over at Cody’s?’

‘Last minute change of plan.’ Lee collapsed on a sofa and let out a long deep sigh. ‘We still need to talk. Since you’re off the force and I’ve also quit my job, maybe we should pack our bags and go away somewhere. That way, we can figure out how to get our relationship back on track.’

That very much depended on wherever he had in mind.

‘Why don’t we discuss it tomorrow?’ I suggested.

Later that night, I had the most bizarre dream. Strange men in white coveralls came into my room whilst I was fast asleep and hooked me up to machines in order to perform tests on my body. I felt some sort of metal object slide inside my mouth on which I choked. I was terrified and determined for this nightmare to end, and so I jolted myself wide awake in a rush. I was sweating and felt all shaken up. I jumped out of bed and rushed to the bathroom and brush my teeth – and coughed up the metal I had choked on.

What the fuck was this?! It seemed to be an electrode. Which meant that it wasn’t a dream after all! What the hell was happening to me?

I examined the electrode under the magnified makeup mirror that belonged to Claire. Then I quickly scanned my arms just to make sure that I actually hadn’t been dreaming after all. Lo and behold! I located a small puncture wound from where they had drawn blood, which indicated further evidence that my dream was in fact real.

As I came out of the bathroom in a daze, Lee was waiting outside with a mug of coffee he had made for me. ‘I take it you didn’t sleep all that well and could do with a pick-me-up,’ he clarified. ‘After all, no gun, no badge, and nowhere to be.’ He handed me the coffee.

Though I was infatuated by his inner beauty and gorgeous figure – as well as taken in by his warmth and support – I refused the beverage. ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’

I nervously got dressed, still freaked out over being experimented on whilst I’d been sleeping.

‘Maybe we should move to Rio de Janeiro,’ he suggested. ‘After all, we don’t have any ties here.’

I turned to look at him as though he were off his head. ‘It’s not that simple,’ I insisted. ‘We can’t just get up and leave just like that.’

Lee looked disappointed. ‘Why not?’ he wondered openly.

I didn’t answer his question straight away. I pulled on my shoes and sweaters and prepared to step outside the door. ‘I need some time alone to clear my head,’ I replied without making any eye contact with him.

Lee realised something was seriously wrong when he finally clued into my quiet breakdown. ‘You’re shaking like a leaf,’ he noticed. ‘And where are you going, anyway?’

I was getting exasperated, but managed to keep my cool. ‘I’m just going out for a while to get some fresh air,’ I claimed. ‘I’ll be back in about an hour.’

Once I got back to Felix’s, I showed the electrode to Melissa, who examined it meticulously. ‘Yep, it’s an electrode alright. From an electroencephalogram array.’

From a what?

‘Basically, this EEG helmet monitors electrical activity in the nervous system and brain,’ she clarified.

I felt like throwing up. Felix put his hand on my shoulder supportively.

‘Where was Lee during all of this?’ Melissa asked.

‘That’s the problem. I can’t remember,’ I said. ‘the only I do remember is that there were three men in the room.’

Felix didn’t try to hide his disgust. ‘Lee must have been a part of it. He had to have been.’

Alison was having her usual cigarette break in the kitchen. She too was blatantly disgusted. ‘I might have guessed we were being experimented on,’ she said through gritted teeth. ‘These people are unbelievable.’

‘All that you’ve described sounds merely diagnostic,’ Melissa agreed. ‘Trust me, if it were my experiment, I’d want someone close observing the subject in order to keep tabs and accumulate data.’

I for one refused to accept Lee’s potential involvement in the situation. ‘I’ve been with him long enough to know him well enough by now.’

‘And why exactly are you defending the bloke?’ Felix asked. ‘The fact that you’re living under the same house and supposedly sleeping together doesn’t make him faithful or loyal for that matter.’

Alison was quick to verbally express her own thoughts. ‘I may be sleeping with my spy as well. There’s a fifty-fifty chance that my husband might be my monitor.’

I was determined to get to the bottom of this. I picked up the gun Alison had left for me and prepared to head on my way. But just as she too was about to make herself scarce, I remembered one other thing I needed from her. ‘What about the money that I asked for as well?’

Alison rolled her eyes in annoyance. ‘What is the money for?’ she asked tightly.

‘It’s a self-defence fund,’ I shot back defensively. ‘I already told you I need to protect my family, remember?’

‘Whatever,’ Alison murmured as she pulled out an envelope stuffed with what I guessed was $20K. ‘I will only say this once. Please use it wisely.’

As Alison left, I made my intentions clear to the rest of the gang. ‘If Lee is the mastermind behind this whole clone monitoring madness, I’m seriously fucking going to shoot his balls off.’ I felt extremely angry at his betrayal.

Melissa was concerned for my safety and wellbeing. ‘Please be careful,’ she warned me. ‘At least try to not jump to the wrong conclusions just yet.’

Suddenly, Claire’s police mobile rang. For fuck’s sake! This was the last thing I needed right now.

‘Maybe you shouldn’t bother answering it,’ Felix advised. But I’d already made my mind up. ‘What do you want, Ant?’ I snapped.

‘It’s Raj, not Ant.’

Raj the tech guy?! My mistake.

‘Claire, I lent you some surveillance equipment a few months back. Now that you’ve resigned, I will need the equipment back before it is inventory.’

So Claire had borrowed surveillance equipment from Raj? Brilliant! Another mysterious detail I’d known absolutely nothing about.

‘This may be none of my business, but it’s just about Lee, right?’ Raj asked curiously.

‘Yes, it is,’ I informed calmly. ‘I promise to get it back to you in a few days.’

I hung up, my head all over the place. I then discussed about Claire’s countless issues with Felix. ‘Claire had Lee under surveillance before she killed herself,’ I told him. ‘Question is: did she find anything?’

We went back to the condo to look for Claire’s surveillance equipment. I powered on the laptop to search for important information. ‘This place feels antiseptic,’ Felix groaned as he pulled on black gloves. ‘Lee’s whole world feels fake now.’

‘Quit whinging and start being helpful, will you?’ I said sharply.

‘Fine. Fair enough.’ Felix rummaged up some of Lee’s business cards for TREXCOM Consulting.

Once I realized there were no audio or video files or any transcripts, I shut down Claire’s laptop. ‘There must be some form of evidence,’ I said, frustrated.

‘I think I may have found something,’ Felix called as he pulled out a wooden box from the upper closet shelf. It contained a 9 MM pistol belonging to Lee. It also held several pictures of him in military combat uniform. I dismissively put them to one side and moved on to the hand-written letters from Claire to Lee. They were labelled ‘private’ and so I decided not to read them.

Finally – and last but not least – we found the surveillance equipment in the trunk of Claire’s other jeep. So there was no need to turn the whole house upside-down after all.

‘Time to check out where Lee works,’ I decided openly.

‘I bet there’s nothing there,’ Felix suggested.

‘We don’t know for certain, do we?’

I entered the downtown building where TREXCOM Consulting kept its offices. There was nobody at the front desk, except a short-haired blonde named Linda Carter. ‘Can I help you?’ she asked professionally.

‘I’m looking for Lee,’ I told her.

‘Lee’s office is on the top floor now,’ Linda informed me. ‘We downsized, remember?’

How was I to know that? But then there were a lot of things only Claire knew.

‘He’s in a meeting at the moment, but I can get him for you if you want,’ she offered.

‘That’s very kind of you.’

Linda showed me the way to Lee’s new office.

Once I got into the office, I got straight down to business. I placed the chicken sandwich and fries I’d bought for Lee on his desk, and then hurried to install the surveillance equipment under the desk. I worked my way through the desk drawers from top to bottom. They were all empty. As I closed the last one, Lee came in. ‘So you went out of your way to buy my lunch for me,’ he observed as he spotted the takeout on his desk. He was bound not to be aware of what was underneath.

‘I know how much you’ve been craving Wendy’s,’ I offered kindly as Felix watched and listened in carefully via his laptop while monitoring the output.

‘Listen, Claire, we need to talk about last night,’ Lee decided as he crowded up against me in his desk chair, much to my discomfort. ‘In the shower.’

Felix burst into fits of laughter.

With a warm smile, I gently pushed Lee back. ‘I only came to bring you lunch,’ I insisted.

He brushed my hair back to kiss my neck, but then paused. ‘What happened to your scar?’ he suddenly asked in a rigid tone.

Now I felt tense. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked nervously.

‘I mean the scar on your neck from the mountain bike accident,’ he continued, his voice hard. ‘It’s gone.’

Felix choked on his popcorn. Holy shit, he thought. Now we’ve fucked up!

I tried to play it off casually. ‘It must be the fast-healing ointment I’ve been using for weeks,’ I said dismissively as I moved out from behind my side of the desk. I wanted to bite his head off, tell him to stay back and keep his distance. But then I would give myself away.

‘I don’t think I saw it properly,’ he said, frowning. ‘Can I quickly see it again?’

I held him off. ‘You will really try anything, won’t you?’ I giggled.

‘You’re right,’ he said in a playful tone. He grinned from ear to ear, but I could see his eyes were still cold and hard. ‘I will.’

I made my way out. ‘I’m heading to a friend’s. I promised her I’d pick up her daughter from school. See you tonight,’ I called.

‘Okay, no problem,’ he called back. ‘Thanks for lunch.’ As he bit into the chicken sandwich and grabbed a couple of French fries, his wide smile was by now replaced with a frosty glare. Now I know you’re lying, he thought icily. And I know for a fact you’re not Claire. You’re an imposter.

As he was still eating, he powered up his laptop and immediately pulled up a video of Claire in marathon training. He paused and then zoomed in on a frame that showed the back of Claire’s neck and a large, gnarly scar. He slammed the laptop furiously. ‘Linda,’ he called. ‘Something just came up. I need you to clear my afternoon schedule.’

I read through Claire’s sad letters to Lee. Angry, I got in touch with Felix. ‘To say that Lee is one heartless bastard is an understatement,’ I vented to my foster brother via the mobile. ‘Claire loved him but he wouldn’t love her back, and he wouldn’t leave her or let her go.’

Felix had no idea what to make of any of it. ‘Lee’s certainly changed his tune,’ he noted rather bluntly. If I could see his face, I would be able to tell that he hated Lee just as much as I did.

‘God, everything is such a mess right now,’ I murmured. ‘I mean, I still have genuine feelings for him, but I don’t think I’ve fallen for him anymore.’ That was the big problem. I had fallen for Lee, but I just hadn’t shown it. Just then, a school bell rang. I was at Katrina’s school, getting ready to pick her up. ‘Katrina can’t wait to see you,’ Felix reassured me.

‘I know,’ I nodded, even though he couldn’t see me. ‘She’s the only thing that matters to me right now. Of all the things that scare me right now, this one’s the heaviest.’ I was terrified about how my daughter would respond to me after so long apart. That was the one thing I was worried about the most, especially because of the irreplaceable love I had for all the people in my life. I longed to dispense that love, even to my Clone Sisters.

Katrina came running out of the school, but then slowed down once she spotted me. I felt apprehensive. How would she know that this was actually me and not someone else in disguise?

Here was the moment of truth. ‘It’s really me this time,’ I reassured her as I reached out for a hug.

To my surprise, Katrina came toward me and then smiled. ‘I know,’ she said confidently. She threw herself at me ecstatically and I couldn’t contain myself any longer. We both laughed and cried at the same time as we held each other tightly. Katrina studied my outfit carefully. Her own outfit consisted of a casual school dress with a spring cardigan.

‘Why are you wearing such fancy clothes?’ she wondered curiously. Mind you, I did look and feel quite fancy. I had on a high neck blouse that had belonged to Claire and an office skirt that came down to my knees.

I chuckled. ‘You don’t miss a thing, do you?’ I asked rhetorically. As we walked back to Siobhan’s, we chatted about Aunt Alison. ‘How come you never told me about Aunt Alison?’ Katrina asked. ‘You both look exactly alike.

‘Only because I didn’t know Alison before,’ I admitted. ‘I promise I’ll explain it all to you someday.’

‘Is someone trying to hurt us, Mum?’

‘Not that I know of. Why would you think so?’

‘Because Aunt Alison said you’re making sure we’re safe.’

Unbeknownst to me, there was a black car parked a few miles from where we were. Lee was in it, and he had been watching us the whole time via binoculars. He was also wearing a wire device. ‘Caught you,’ he sneered.

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.