Jillian and Bill Stokes walked into the restaurant together. The hostess greeted them with a smile.
“Hello, Judges Stokes. Nick’s here, back at your usual table.”
“Thank you,” Bill said and the two wove their way through the room.
Several regulars and servers greeted them with a hello. The Stokes had come here for years and they knew most of the people.
At the back in a corner booth sat Nick and Sara. The couple stopped at the table.
“Good morning,” Jillian said. “We were surprised to get your call so early this morning, Nicholas. What are you doing here?”
Nick didn’t reply. He didn’t look up from the spot he was glaring at on the table.
Jillian glanced at Bill. He made a slight head nod toward the opposite side of the booth. The two slid into the booth. Jillian held out her hand to Sara.
Sara shook it. “Sara Grissom.”
“Grissom… Doesn’t he work at your lab?”
“He did. He’s my husband.”
She noticed the raised eyebrows on both parents.
“We’re here about a case we hope you can help us with.”
“A case in Las Vegas?” Bill asked.
“Yes.” Sara pulled the Dean Nolan case file from her bag. Before she could even get it to the table, Nick took it from her.
He pulled out the six eight by ten glossy photographs of Dean at the crime scene and morgue and slapped them down on the table.
“Nick—” Sara began
“Explain this,” Nick ordered his parents.
A waitress came up to the table but only Sara acknowledged her.
“We aren’t ready,” Sara told her.
The waitress started to reply.
Bill reached inside his jacket pocket, took out his wallet, and thrust a $50 at her. “We need the table.”
She took it and walked away.
“Where did you get these?” Bill asked.
“Where the hell do you think we got them, dad? Does Dean look alive?”
Jillian tensed at the mention of the name. Bill didn’t react.
“He’s the victim in a case you’re investigating?” Bill asked.
Nick didn’t answer.
“Yes,” Sara answered.
Bill picked up the morgue photograph, looking at the face. Sara noticed a couple of tears drop down Jillian’s face before she looked at her husband. Sara looked at Bill.
Bill slowly sat the photograph down. The man drew a deep breath and looked his son in the eye. “I’m sure you’ve come across situations like this in your work. I know I have.”
“Dad, you’re stalling.”
Bill smiled a little. “You should have stayed here, in Austin. Stayed close to us.”
“Now you’re avoiding,” Nick snarled.
“There’s no proof he’s related to you. With plastic surgery, anyone could—”
Nick pulled the DNA tests from the folder and slapped them in front of Bill. “Dad, there is a one in a fifty-thousand chance someone has similar DNA as me, but that number is astronomical when the DNA is an exact match to mine. And he looks like me, without any plastic surgery. Which leaves us with the logical and only explanation: this man is a twin brother who, in my thirty-seven years, you and mom never mentioned. I want answers, dad. I want to know who this guy is and I want the truth!”
No one spoke for several minutes.
“I’ve heard so many people say ‘it’s complicated’ in situations like these. They draw out some long winded story about how this happened and that happened.” Bill paused.
Nick jumped into the pause, “Is that what you’re doing now? Telling me how complicated this is? How complicated it was for you and mom abandoned my brother?”
Bill looked at the photographs, shaking his head. “No.”
“We adopted you because you wouldn’t stop crying,” Jillian quietly told Nick.
Everyone looked at her. She was playing with a spoon, or perhaps staring at her reflection in the back of it.
“I wouldn’t stop crying?” Nick asked.
She nodded. “I was working a pro bono case for the state. This horrible man tried to poison his family; he killed his wife, but the children survived. They were in foster care and I was building the case. I went to the foster home to interview to them. The woman had these three and two babies – one of them was you. You were crying and crying. I finished with the children’s interviews and asked her what was wrong with you. She said five days ago your brother and older sister had been adopted, and you hadn’t stopped crying since.” She smiled at the spoon, or perhaps she was smiling at the memory of the day she first saw her youngest son. “I asked if I could hold you. You quieted right down for the first time in five days. And your eyes, Nicholas… You were so alert. It’s no wonder you knew he was gone, your twin brother. So I talked with your father and we adopted you, our last child.” She looked up at him. “There has never been a reason to tell you about the adoption, Nick.”
Under his breath Bill muttered, “Till he came along.”
“Till who came along?” Nick asked Bill.
“If your brother had been there…” Jillian hesitated. “I think about that day sometimes. If you hadn’t been crying, I never would have noticed you. Our family wouldn’t be the same, and neither would you. That’s just the way God arranged things, honey. He made sure I noticed you to bring you into our lives.”
Sara watched Nick’s glare harden. He looked like he wanted to jump across the table and strangle his mother. Instead, he clenched his hands into tight fists.
“God didn’t keep this secret from me, mother. You did. And now half of that secret is lying dead in a morgue in Las Vegas. Did Dean come here looking for me?”
The two didn’t answer.
“Was Dean Parker Nolan looking for me?”
Jillian burst into tears. Bill’s face tensed.
Realizing his brother had come to them to find him, and they never said anything, appalled Nick. “You two knew and you kept that from me too! Goddamnit! What the hell is wrong with you two?”
“Don’t you use His name in vain, Nicholas,” Bill snapped.
“Don’t use… Are you fucking kidding me?” Nick laughed out of anger. “You never tell me that I was adopted, that I have a twin, and that he was looking for me but you never told me about that either, and all you can do is lecture me about using God’s name in vain!?” He stood up suddenly. “I gotta… I’ll be at the airport, Sara. I can’t talk to these people anymore!”
He stormed off, leaving Sara with the devastated couple.
She collected the photographs and printouts, put the folder back together, and slid it into her bag.
“We never asked about his brother and sister. I can’t tell you anything about them, Sara,” Jillian said. Sara looked up. Jillian added, “And I don’t know if Dean was looking for him.”
Sara looked up, finding the woman staring at her. She looked at Bill.
“What about you, sir? You said ‘till he came around.’ What did you mean?”
“Are you sure about that?”
Bill looked at her. “We love, Nicholas. We do these things to protect him.”
Sara shook her head. “I am not your ally, Mr. and Mrs. Stokes. I think what you did is wrong.” Sara pulled herself out of the booth and stood. She reached in a pocket in her bag and sat her card next to Jillian. “Keep this in mind: Dean’s killer is still at large, we don’t know why the person killed Dean yet, and they may not know they succeeded. They could see Nick on the news, at a crime scene, and mistake him for Dean. This family secret you kept to protect your son may end up costing you him.”
Both looked up at her. She saw they hadn’t even considered that horrific thought, but it shook them now.
“Sleep well on that thought.” Sara
tapped her card. “If either of you suddenly remember details
about when you last spoke to Dean call me.” Sara walked away.