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.’