Forgiven

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The Missing Sibling

Chapter 55:

Alec could not believe his eyes as he stared at the document Marlon was showing him.

Hannah had long left the apartment, and the two retired to Alec’s study because Marlon insisted that whatever he wanted to show Alec was not something that Lesly could see.

“When did you find out?” Alec asked. The frown never left his face the entire time he scrolled through the document.

“Before I came here,” Marlon answered. His arms were crossed over his chest.

“So you didn’t confront him about it?”

“I didn’t get a chance to, but I guess he already knew that we would figure out who he is sooner or later. His refusal to tell us himself might have been his way of making us work for what we needed.”

Alec sat down and read the name again as if he could not believe his eyes. “Christopher Collins…what kind of a messed-up individual would do that to his sister?”

Marlon took the seat in front of Alec’s. “Are you sure Lesly didn’t know about him?”

“Pretty sure. She thinks he’s dead. How is this possible?”

“It says in the files I dug up that he was in a car accident near the outskirts of the city. They found his scorched body inside it. The vehicle itself was virtually unrecognizable because of the fire. Had it not been for the license plate that came off when the car crashed, they would not have linked it to him. His sister confirmed that he stormed out of her apartment angrily and drove off roughly an hour before the accident occurred.”

Baffled by what he just heard, Alec narrowed his eyes at Marlon, “And there was no report of foul play?”

“You know how things were with the police back then. I wouldn’t say they cared much to investigate the matter given the rising crime rate. There was nothing suspicious to them about the scene, so they let the matter go. His sister did request an investigation because she couldn’t figure out why his car was in that secluded area of all places, but she eventually gave in and accepted the police report.”

“But something is clearly missing!” Alec remarked.

“I know what you mean. There might be more to the police’s lack of interest in investigating the accident than simply having more pressing cases to attend to, but it’s too soon to tell.”

Alec continued to rub his jaw as he contemplated the matter. “This accident occurred seven years ago?”

“Yes.”

“So that’s roughly a year before the informant started contacting Lesly.”

“I suppose,” Marlon shrugged.

“I guess that settles it. He was telling the truth when he said he meant her no harm. However, we still don’t know why he faked his death in the first place?”

“It’s the same with you, isn’t it?”

“You think he did it for the same reason?” Alec inquired.

“Possibly…”

“Why would he hide the fact that he’s alive from his sister, though?”

“There’s only one way to find out. We have to confront him about it. I already sent the report to Jon. Should I tell him to proceed with the interrogation?”

“Yes, please,” Alec answered before he went back to scrolling through the document.

Marlon took his phone out and dialed Jonathan’s number. Alec barely paid attention to what Marlon was saying on the phone since he was distracted. However, the moment Marlon shifted in his seat and stared at Alec, he could not help but look at Marlon in confusion.

“What is it?”

Marlon kept his silence as he listened to what was being said to him on the phone. Then he extended it to Alec with a concerned look on his face. “It’s him. He wants to talk to you.”

Alec understood perfectly well who Marlon was referring to. He immediately stood up and grabbed the phone.

“I thought I’d reach you,” the informant announced cheerfully.

Alec could hear the sound of a busy street in the background. The devious bastard had escaped, and since he had Jonathan’s phone with him, it meant that the poor guy was either locked up in that cabin, knocked out or both.

“You’re leaving this soon?” Alec matched his mocking tone.

“Well, your lack of hospitality left little to be desired.”

“If I had known who you are, I would’ve welcomed you a different way.”

The informant chuckled, “Something tells me you already had it figured out.”

“I did.”

“What gave it away? Was it the eyes?”

“More or less…,” Alec remarked as he unlocked his personal phone and gave it to Marlon so he could send someone to check on Jonathan. “To tell you the truth I would’ve never guessed that you two are siblings. You’ve got quite the different…temperaments.”

“I know. I told her repeatedly that she needed to do something about that temper of hers, but she never listened.”

“You must’ve given her a reason to lose it quite often.”

“That I did,”

“And still do obviously.”

The informant’s tone turned serious in an instant, “Well, now that you know who I am, I guess it’s only natural that I ask what you intend to do with my sister.”

Alec smiled deviously, “Seeing how I already had this discussion with Michaela, I think it’s better if we focus on addressing more pressing questions. She can fill you in when we’re done with our talk.”

“She came to you?” Chris asked. The hint of anger in his voice was quite noticeable.

This made Alec’s smile deepen even more, “If she didn’t, I would’ve sought her out. I tell you, Christopher, for someone who managed to remain hidden for years, you surely did a lousy job of masking your tracks at the venue.”

“I wanted to be caught so we could talk face to face.”

“I know, but I bet you didn’t plan on having your connection to Michaela exposed,” Alec retorted challengingly.

“Leave her out of it,” Chris demanded firmly.

“You don’t have to worry about that. For now, let’s talk about you,” Alec responded as he cast a glance at Marlon who was still trying to reach someone to check on Jon,

“What about me?”

“You came to me for a reason. You told me you wanted to meet me so you could fix the messy situation you’ve caused.”

It took the informant a while to answer. “I don’t like you, Lang.”

“The feeling is mutual, believe me. However, like it or not, I’m the only person who can pluck you out of whatever sticky situation you were roped into years ago.”

“And why would you do that?”

“Something tells me we have a common enemy considering how often the intel you sent Lesly led her to the same cases I was looking into.”

Chris sighed loudly, “I’m not gonna lie. It’s a tempting offer.”

“So?”

“I’ll think about it.”

Alec knew what this meant. He tried to talk to the man a bit more, but he hung up immediately. “Christopher…Christopher!”

Marlon stared at Alec expectantly. “Did he say anything?”

“Not much we could make use of.”

“So what are we gonna do now?” Marlon asked as he returned Alec’s phone and took his back from Alec’s.

“I have something in mind. Leave that to me.”

“In that case, I’ll go check on Jon.”

“Did you manage to reach anyone?” Alec inquired with concern.

“Unfortunately, no. I have to go myself.”

“Please do and let me know if he’s okay,” the prosecutor instructed.

“Sure thing. Later, Lang.”

Marlon left the study in a hurry and Alec followed him to see him out. It was then that he noticed Michaela leaving Lesly’s room.

“’How is she doing?” he asked the redhead.

“She’s feeling exhausted. I encouraged her to get some rest.”

Alec felt a bit relieved at hearing her answer. This should make the task he was about to undertake easier. “Can I have a word with you?”

“Of course.”

He ushered her into to the study and locked the door behind him so they would not be heard. His back was still turned to her as he asked, “Why didn’t you tell Lesly that her brother is still alive?”

She was not surprised one bit. “I see you finally figured it out.”

“I was just talking to him on the phone actually,” he stated as he walked towards her.

Concern immediately overcame her. “He’s okay?”

“He is…for now,” Alec tried to reassure her. “I don’t know where he ran off to, though. You have to help me, Michaela. I don’t know how I missed this before, but I can see now that that rascal has the same suicidal tendencies as his sister.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“You have to tell me what you know.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Try me.”

“I don’t even know where to begin.”

Alec sat down in front of her, and rested his elbows on his knees, “Let’s start with the car accident. What happened there?”

“Somebody was trying to kill Chris. He was in the car with him. By some miracle, Chris survived the car crash and the attempted murder. The scorched dead body wasn’t his. It was the contracted killer’s who was sent to finish him off. I don’t know how Chris managed to do it. He didn’t give me the details.”

“Why was there someone trying to kill him?” Alec asked in confusion.

“Chris was a genius when it came to coding. Desperate to receive funding for a project he was working on, he got himself involved in a shady matter involuntarily. Let’s just say he was asked to prove his worth by gaining access to certain sensitive databases. He did it on a dare. What followed was a price on his head.”

“What database?”

“He didn’t say.”

Alec sighed in frustration, “You didn’t ask him?”

“I did. He refused to tell me,” Michaela retorted emphatically.

“Do you at least know what exactly is the nature of the files he uncovered?” Alec asked in a hopeful tone.

“I don’t think he even knows what was in those files he accessed. All of the devices he owned were destroyed. The old roommate who was with him that night died in the most peculiar circumstances. Ever since that day, he had been trying to regain access just so he could find out what exactly was so serious about those files…no success so far.”

“And Lesly?”

“He doesn’t wanna tell her. He’s worried sick that if they found out he had contacted her in any way, they might finish her off just like they did to his roommate.”

Alec narrowed his eyes at Michaela, “But he’s talking to you?”

“He didn’t want to, believe me. It’s a long story.”

“What is he planning to do now?”

“I really don’t know. He won’t tell me anything,” Michaela explained. When she saw that Alec was still not convinced, she carried on, “I know what you’re thinking, but just because he contacts me from time to time does not mean that he fills me in on everything. You’ve seen how difficult it is to get Lesly to say anything. Chris is ten times worse. Add the nature of the mess he got himself dragged into, and you’ve got yourself one major pain in the neck.”

Alec leaned back in his seat and tried to discern if the redhead was indeed telling the truth. It seemed that she was, so he decided to move on, “There’s a high possibility that whatever matter he’s involved in could be connected to what Lesly and I went through.”

“I thought your father took care of everything.”

“Appearently, there are still some loose ends…Brown was one of them. I told Chris that we could help each other out, but he seems reluctant to accept the offer.”

Michaela shrugged as if she expected this sort of reaction, “Chris has been dealing with this problem alone for years. It’s difficult for him to trust anyone, let alone you.”

“Another trait the two siblings share,” Alec pointed out sarcastically.

“I guess.”

Silence reigned as the two began thinking about what they had just discussed. It was not long, though, before Alec spoke. “I gotta say I find it strange that the police were quick to dismiss Chris’s supposed death as an accident.”

Michaela was more than willing to volunteer an answer, “Chris found it strange as well. His conclusion is that someone high up must have given the order to dismiss the case because they didn’t want it blown out of proportion. The more attention the supposed accident received, the more people would look into why he had to die. They didn’t want that.”

“And the contracted killer?” Alec inquired curiously.

“According to Chris, they must have thought he ran off with whatever Chris managed to procure. Ever since that day, they stopped following Chris and directed all their attention to pursuing the contracted killer instead. Of course, the body that was recovered from the car was cremated. Even if they suspect that Chris is alive, there’s no way they can get the body tested for DNA in order to confirm their theory.”

“That makes sense,” Alec muttered almost absentmindedly.

“It does.”

“I noticed that Lesly doesn’t talk much about her brother,” Alec pointed out.

Michaela sighed sadly, “She still can’t get over his supposed death. In her mind, she’s the reason he’s dead.”

“Why would she think that?”

“Chris is a difficult person. Although he and Lesly were close, his antics led them to argue a lot. You’d think they’re the exact opposites, but once you get to know them, you’ll realize that they’re alike in so many ways. The only difference is that he was quite a nightmare to handle given how impulsive he was back then. He would get himself into one sticky situation after another without giving the consequences a second thought. Lesly was always there to pluck him out every single time. You can say she was fed up. You know how Lesly gets when she’s mad. She can cross a line or two.”

Alec shook his head, “I don’t think Lesly is the one to blame here.”

“True, but Chris too was going through a lot back then. The death of their father struck him hard. It made it difficult for him to go back to college, pick up where he left off and move on as if nothing happened. As the older sibling, Lesly had no choice but to be the strong one. She put on a tough front for his sake, but she pushed him too hard.”

“How hard?” Alec inquired.

Michaela ran a hand through her long red locks. The matter was certainly more complicated to address, but she decided to give it a shot. “She kept him from dropping out, taking a semester off and rejecting job offers. Eventually he couldn’t do it anymore. He quit a lucrative job, rejected an offer for two others that Lesly arranged for him, fell into debt and got into trouble. When things grew more difficult, he sought her out and asked her to help out until he got funding for his project. They argued and he begged her once more to drop the matter altogether. She didn’t. Words were exchanged, and long story short, he stormed out to his death.”

“And that’s why she blames herself?” Alec tried to confirm.

Michaela had a pained expression on her face as she continued to explain, “In her mind, he came to her for help, and she turned him away when he needed her most. She believes that if she had been understanding, if she had listened, if she had agreed to help him out, no questions asked, he would’ve stayed in. He would not have ventured out and got into an accident. Of course, you and I know now that was not what happened.”

Alec could not help but frown in anger, “And all these years, you’ve been watching her blame herself for something she had no hand in at all?”

Michaela shot back instantly, “You’ve done the same thing, haven’t you? You led her to believe that she didn’t even manage to save your life after the horrible experience she went through.”

“I didn’t have a choice,” Alec stated in defense.

“Same here,” the redhead retorted emphatically, “It wasn’t easy. I tried my best to convince her that it wasn’t her fault. Chris knew that, too, but there was no other option. It was either this or put her life at risk by telling her the truth. Chris is terrified of what that might lead to, especially after what happened to his roommate.”

“He has to let me help him then,” Alec tried to reason. “Obviously, he’s incapable of handling the matter alone. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have taken him this long. You have to talk to him.”

Michaela took a moment to think about Alec’s proposal. Then she gave in, “I’ll try, but I’m not sure there’s any way I can contact him now. He has to come to me. There’s nothing I can do until he decides to show up. Since he knows now that you know about the fact that we’ve been in contact with one another, I don’t think he’ll come to me at all.”

“Are you sure?”

“I really can’t say,” Michaela explained with a hint of frustration on her face. “Chris is unpredictable. Only one person can give you a definite answer here, and ironically enough, she’s the one person we can’t have involved at this point. He’ll talk to her. He’ll tell her everything, but first, we need to take care of whatever he’s terrified of.”

“Aren’t we running in a circle then?”

“Precisely,” Michaela replied before she stood up and grabbed her purse.

“You’re leaving?” Alec asked.

“I don’t think there’s anything left to discuss. If you think of anything, call me.”

Alec watched her as she walked towards the door, but then she stopped and turned around. “I forgot to ask you, do you really believe that Lesly is still being followed?”

“As I said before, I’d rather not let our guard down until we’re absolutely certain.”

“And when the moment comes? Are you going to tell her who you really are?”

“It’s inevitable, don’t you think?”

The redhead crossed her arms over her chest and asked with an expressionless face, “How long until the inevitable happens, Lang?”

Alec arched an eyebrow. “Your point?”

“It seems to me that it’s not a matter of safety that you’re worried about. You’re stalling.”

Alec stood up and walked to where she was standing. His tone was firm as he addressed her comment, “I meant it when I said that we can’t let our guard down until we’re certain.”

Michaela stared at him long and hard. For the first time, she was able to see right through him. This pushed her to urge him, “Think it over, Lang. You want to be the one to tell her. If she finds out on her own, there’s no telling how she might react.”

“Is that a threat?”

“On the contrary,” Michaela answered before she opened the door. “I’m in the same boat as yours, remember? I don’t have the right to judge.”

“I’ll handle it when the time is right,” he answered sternly.

“Take it as a piece of advice, Lang. The sooner you get it done, the better.”

And with that, she walked out of his apartment and left him to ponder his options.

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