Wendy walked into the room and stopped. It was the smallest room in the mortuary. The rest of the room was filled with empty chairs. At the front was the casket. It was the cheapest they had, discounted more after Robbins got a hold of the director. After dozens of calls, she found a minister willing to do the ceremony for free. Ecklie pushed the paperwork through to get her a free city plot in the cemetery. Even with the help, the small funeral was three thousand dollars. She was stunned when she went in to pay for it and discovered she only had three hundred left. The director said donations came in to cover the rest, including from his own pocket. None of these little gestures didn’t made Wendy happy. She wanted Mindy to have her real name for her funeral. If she had family out there, she wanted them to be here.
She drew in a deep breath and walked down the aisle to a chair in the front. She looked at her watch. The funeral didn’t start for another fifteen minutes. Wendy sat her purse down and walked up to the casket. The top half was open. It was like looking in a mirror. She’d chosen her favorite dress to bury Mindy and given the mortician a picture of her to style her hair and makeup. Was she going to look like this when she died? Or would she be a graying old woman?
“I’m sorry, Mindy,” Wendy told her. “I’m sorry I couldn’t find out who you were.”
She started when Hodges appeared next to her. He was wearing his suit that made him look like a handsome movie spy.
“Saying your good-byes?” he asked.
She nodded, smiling. The tears started falling and she leaned into his arms.
“I brought some friends,” Hodges told her.
She looked up. Co-workers, a few officers, and other people were filing into the small room. Hodges guided her to a front chair and they sat down together.
“You shouldn’t have asked all these people to come,” she whispered.
He leaned over. “I didn’t.”
The minister came through a side door. “Are we ready to begin?” he asked her.
Wendy nodded. She reached over and took Hodges’ hand. He gently pressed her hand between his, an unspoken assurance that he would always be there for her.
Nick sat at a booth in front of the large windows of Frank’s Diner, enjoying the warmth on his back. With Dean’s case wrapped up, he decided to take some vacation time so he could wrap his head around everything that had sprung up. He wanted to learn more about his brother, and maybe even find their sister.
Now, though, he was reading the newspaper’s headline article about Alice going to jail for killing her husband and a prostitute. He was so engrossed that he didn’t notice the waitress pause to top of his coffee, or see Nicola Corbet enter and make her way toward him. She carried an overstuffed, well-worn leather journal that a multi-colored shoestring barely held together. Nicola stopped next to the booth across from him.
Nicola quietly said, “Stokes.”
Nick slowly looked up at her and anger immediately clouded over his face. “Attorney Nicola Corbet… What an unpleasant surprise. However, since I don’t see a jury for you to lie, we have nothing to talk about.”
“May I join you?”
With a chuckle of disbelief, Nick answered with unusual rudeness, “No.”
She sat down anyway.
“Wow. Fine. Have the table.” Nick started to gather up his belongings.
Nicola quickly slid the journal in front of him. That stopped Nick. He looked curiously up at her.
“This is Dean’s journal and every entry is written to his twin brother, you,” she explained. “You should have it.”
Nick sat his belongings down and picked up the journal. “Where did you get this?”
“He forgot it at my house the night he was murdered. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it until my parents told me they’d met you.”
“Your parents? What do your parents have to do with him?”
“He is, was… Was my baby brother. Just like… You. I guess.”
“You’re his… Our…”
Realization that hit him. She was his and Dean’s sister, the one the Nolan’s had adopted with Dean. She was…
His thoughts paused and suddenly rewound to what she’d just said about how she’d come to possess Dean’s journal. She knew Dean was looking for Nick, and she knew who Nick was. If the two of them had met… Nick suddenly had an entirely new reason to hate her. With a clenched jaw Nick growled, “You knew the brother he was looking for was me and you didn’t tell him, or me? Why would you do that?”
“I didn’t know.”
“You didn’t know he’d been looking for his twin brother since he was sixteen? Or you don’t know that same sex twins look alike? Which didn’t you know, Nicola?”
Her composure slipped briefly, but always the perfect Southern Belle, she maintained her pride and arrogance.
“Our parents might not have been perfect, but they were good! This search was eating at momma. Therefore, until three months ago, we avoided the subject. Then he found out where you were and came to Las Vegas to find you.”
“You and I met in court six months ago and I look exactly like Dean. How could you not know he was looking for me? And you didn’t say anything to either of us!”
Nick stared at her in disbelief. He stood suddenly, shrugging into his jacket. He folded the journal in his newspaper. Then focused on her again.
“So, Nicola, if you had told him or me about the other, Dean might have been with me that night and not a prostitute. He may still be alive. But, as usual, you were thinking only of yourself. Typical Nicola Corbett.”
Nick tossed a couple dollars for tip on the table.
“I came here to make amends, Nick.”
“Oh, that time has come and gone.” Nick took a step to walk away.
She grabbed his wrist to stop him. “You’re my brother! You’re supposed to forgive me! You have to! I need my brother!”
Nick noticed several people turn and stare at them. Normally he would be polite about leaving, smile even, but Nicola had crossed the line one too many times.
Nick looked down his nose at her. The hand of the wrist she held balled into a tight fist. With a sneer, told her, “If you’d just told your brother, the one you say you need so much, if you’d told him the truth, it might have saved his life. You’ll have to deal with that guilt alone, because I you are not my sister. You will never be my sister.”
He yanked his wrist free and left her to cry alone.