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Photo in the Hall

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Photo in the Hall

“Please tell me that is a disguise,” I said to my twin, Everett, as he walked into our office. He had the most ridiculous mustache I’ve ever seen. Which answered my question about what he did while I was on a three-month tour of South America. After our last case, I took a vacation. It only seemed like a good idea after I was shot in the arm. I sat on many beaches, drank a lot of tequila, and tried to forget that I let a handsome man fool me for many months.

At some point, I realized I needed to return to the real world, to my world. A world that I shared all too often with my twin brother, who looked nothing like me right now due to the scraggly facial hair he was trying to pull off.

“Nope,” he said with a grin. “This is all me.” He stroked the ends of the mustache and smiled like a mad man.

I probably didn’t want to know the answer, but I asked anyway, “What made you want to grow a mustache?” Before I finished the question, I knew the answer.

“There’s this new lady cop…” He stopped midsentence when he saw the look on my face.

We might be twins, but I didn’t want to hear him carry on about some blonde (which was always his type). A long time ago, we’d made an agreement. He wouldn’t tell me about women he liked, and I wouldn’t tell him about men I liked. And considering the catastrophic end to our last case, our mutual agreement was even firmer now.

“Sorry there Jo. You know how I get carried away,” he apologized as he looked quickly through his missed calls. Without looking up, he said, “Sometimes I forget you’re not one of the guys.” He sat down across from me, and despite the ‘I will kill you if you don’t shut up’ look I was trying to project, he started up again, “Tanya is blonde, and…”

He stopped when I threw a stapler at him. Wise decision on his part. He had just enough time to duck.

Before he could slip wistfully into daydreaming about Tanya, I asked, “Any new cases while I was away?” Everett and I own and operate a private detective agency after being kicked off the police force at the exact same time on opposite ends of the city, but that’s another story.

piOur cases are usually small and involve tailing cheating significant others of various types. Nothing to even get armed for. My brother seemed to take to the insignificant private sector of detective work like a duck to water, but me, I longed for the days where I needed at least two weapons and a bullet proof vest to get through the day. Getting shot hadn’t changed that for me.

After our last case and before I took my vacation, my brother said I’d let myself be fooled by a criminal because I was addicted to danger. He was probably right about that, but I couldn’t tell him that.

I was lost in my own thoughts so I didn’t notice my brother actually answering my question until he stopped talking and was sitting across from me waving three messages idly back and forth.

I blinked and then asked, “What? I didn’t hear you.”

He put the messages down and stared at me with concern. “Are you sure you’re ready for a case Jo? After the last one…” He didn’t finish his thought.

“Just tell me about the cases.” I didn’t want to be treated like a delicate creature. I would be fine.

“Okay,” he said. “We have three possibilities. Two of them are affairs. So, tail a cheating spouse, take some pictures, present them to the client.”

I tried not to roll my eyes but couldn’t hold back.

Everett pointed at me to emphasize his next point, “Hey. They pay the bills. If spouses didn’t cheat, we’d be homeless.”

“What’s the 3rd one?” I was trying to change the subject.

“The third one is a routine background check for the mayor’s personal assistant.”

“Jeff? Why would he ask us?”

Jeff was a friend of my brother’s, but even so, our business hadn’t taken off that much and I was surprised the mayor’s office would hire us.

“He didn’t ask us sis. He asked me. I’ll take that one.”

spy

______________________________________________________________

Two weeks later, both of the affair cases were closed one way or another. Life was becoming routine again. We didn’t have any new cases but for some reason my brother had barely been into the office at all. Surely a routine background case could not be taking up that much of his time.

I sat quietly for a minute and tried to focus my feelings on Everett. I didn’t feel any alarm bells go off. Sometimes our freaky twin connection made me feel like I had zero privacy, but today I was hoping it would clue me in. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. I decided to resort to more direct tactics and sort through the papers on his desk for clues.

My desk was clutter free and had nothing on it but a phone, a rolodex, and the stapler that I frequently threw at Everett. His desk was nothing but chaos. There were wrappers from partially eaten food, notes from old cases that he hadn’t filed away yet, newspapers with cup rings on them, stacks of messages that had already been answered but he didn’t apparently have the heart to throw them away, and his phone, which I didn’t understand how he managed to find so readily when clients called.

I figured any recent paperwork would be near the top of the pile, but after looking over the top layer of debris, I didn’t see anything even dated within the last month. He must have his current case notes on his person, which given the state of his desk made sense. If he placed current case work on this desk, it would never be seen again.

I let out an exasperated sigh and decided to just call him and see if there was anything I should be doing.

His cell went straight to voicemail. Great. I was bored out of my mind and I didn’t want to just sit around in an empty office staring at Everett’s messy desk. My ADD and OCD couldn’t handle that.

As I was heading out to my car, I saw Everett standing next to his car talking on his cell phone. As I approached, he quickly told the person on the other end, “I gotta go.”

He looked up at me. He looked deeply concerned. The only time he looked that way was when he couldn’t put two and two together. Something was bothering him, that much was obvoius.

“How’s it going Everett? Still working on that background check?”

“Nope.” His answer was clipped and his brow was furrowed.

“So… new case then?” I was hoping he would just tell me, but evidently he was going to be difficult today.

“Nope.”

“What have you been doing then? You’ve been busy lately.” I don’t think I could have been more clear that I wanted to know what was going on.

“I’ve been dog-sitting,” he said.

“Dog-sitting?”

“Yep,” he answered.

I couldn’t believe the conversation I was having with my brother, or more acurately, the lack of conversation. I just stood there at this point and let him work through whatever it was that was troubling him.

It took a couple of minutes of just standing there, but finally he opened up.

“I’ve been dog-sitting for Tanya.”

That didn’t surprise me. He hasn’t met a blond yet that he didn’t like. I still didn’t say anything yet because I assumed there had to be more to the story than what he’d said so far.

“I discovered something at her house, and I’m not sure what to do about it. Will you come take a look at it with me and see what you think?”

“Of course,” I said. I was intrigued. What could he possibly have found that troubled him so? Was she selling drugs? Did he find evidence of a murder? Honestly, nothing short of  a serious crime could possibly bother my brother this much. We’d been cops; we’d seen some awful stuff. And even though we no longer worked for the so-called good guys, we clearly had lines of right and wrong. If Everett had stumbled onto something serious, he would report it. Wouldn’t he?

As we drove to Tanya’s house, my mind was frantically over working. I asked him at some point, “What did you find?”

Apparently, I had to see it to believe it, because he answered, “You’ll see.”

_____________________________________________________________

shabby chic

We entered Tanya’s house. It wasn’t large, but it was nicely decorated. Evidently Tanya liked shabby chic everything. Every peice of furniture looked new but was painted and then distressed to look older.

The next thing I noticed was what appeared to be her dog.

Everett said, “Say hi to Fluffy.” He was pointing at a Chinese Crested.

Personally, I thought Fluffy looked like the evil spawn of a gremlin and a hairless cat. I will never understand why some people have those dogs as pets. Who wants to live with something that ugly that can creep into your room at night?

“Hey there Fluffy,” I said. “Please tell me the disturbing secret is this ugly dog and you are wondering if you should call animal control.”

Everett just rolled his eyes at me. “No. And Fluffy isn’t ugly. Just because you don’t like him, doesn’t mean Tanya doesn’t love him.” He walked into the hallway and said, “Follow me.” fluffy

Honestly, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable walking through her house while she wasn’t home, but my brother was worried so I let my own feelings go for now.

As I went into the hallway, I saw Everett standing near the end looking at a framed photo on the wall. When I was standing next to him, he pointed at a photo of two men standing on the deck of a ship holding rifles.

At first I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I instantly recognized the two men. So many questions were going through my mind. The first one to actually make it’s way to my mouth was, “Does Tanya know she has a picture of our dad in her hallway?” What I didn’t say was that it was our dad and his best friend slash co-conspirator. Our dad was known for exactly one thing – human trafficking. His current wearabouts were unknown. He was also the reason we’d been kicked off the force. Apparently local officials thought the children of a known internationally wanted criminal shouldn’t be on the police force.

Everett answered my question, “I didn’t tell her that it was our dad. She thinks its a picture of her dad and his best friend.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “What? How can that be? Does she know who her dad is? And what he does? How is she on the police force but we are stuck being lame p.i.s?”

“Slow down Jo. I asked her about it. She doesn’t know anything. What she told me is she’s never even met her dad, and this was the only picture she’s ever had of him. Her mother gave it to her.”

I didn’t have words for the weirdness of the situation. “You have to tell her. If you plan on having a relationship with her, you have to. What if she finds out later that you knew about this and didn’t say anything?”

“Believe it or not, that’s not what is bothering me about this situation.”

“Okay. What then?” I couldn’t imagine what else was bothering my brother.

“She told me she was contacted by her father recently and they are going to meet and have dinner soon.”

Whoa. Tanya didn’t know it, but she was sitting on information that everyone from the mayor’s office and every cop from the police comissioner down wanted to know.

All I could think was how this couldn’t be happening again. The last time information about our father had come to light, we’d lost our jobs, and I personally hadn’t been the same since.

Before I could really process what all of this might mean, Everett said, “We have to tell someone. Tanya will be gone for two more weeks. If we tell someone in the mayor’s office or one of our old departments, they could get on this right away.”

“You’re right,” I said. “You do know that the second Tanya returns to town, she is going to hate you.”

“She might,” he agreed. “But if we don’t try to find these two, we will live in their shadows forever. Personally, I am tired of people assuming we know anything about what those two are up to.”

He had a point. We left the hallway and made our way back to his car. We never made it to the car. Two shots were fired before we knew anyone was even near us. Both hit Everett. I threw myself against the car and got low. I pulled out my cell and dialed 911.

He came around the car and shot me point blank in the chest.

“You should mind your own business,” he said as he left Everett and I there to die.

The pain overwhelmed my senses before I could even focus on who was speaking. The last thing I thought was how Everett and I would die at the same time.

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