At Second Sight by Lisa Nielsen
Jennifer Riordan was born to wealthy parents and a life of privilege in the sheltered haven of Chicago’s North Shore. A student of art, she wants for nothing but the proverbial home in the suburbs with a husband to love and care for her and a houseful of children. Always a good girl, Jennifer was inclined to see the same in others. Her twin sister, Melissa, was Jennifer’s exact opposite—a sexy rebel, confident and fearless.
With a burgeoning career at the Art Institute and a handsome fiancé, Jennifer’s life seems to be moving directly on course. But her safe, idyllic existence is shattered when Melissa is brutally murdered. The police are unable to find the killer and Jennifer struggles to move on. Unfortunately, it is only the first in a line of tragic events that cause her to question her judgment and fear for her own safety. Jennifer finds herself thrust into the media glare and, as a result, becomes the unwitting object of obsession for the same man who murdered her twin sister. Along the way, Jennifer discovers that some of the people she trusted and thought she knew well have betrayed her.
A flash of light.
Jennifer’s eyelids fluttered. It was the rumble of thunder that did it, dragged her from a dreamless sleep. She draped her forearm over her eyes and listened to the rain, relishing a moment of peace before the reality of the day sank in.
She felt like rolling over and yanking the covers over her head. There had been times in her life when Jennifer would have liked to disappear, and today was one of those days. Someone else could sell “art” at the gallery on Wells where she spent her days. Someone else could fill her spot on the women’s auxiliary board for the Chicago Symphony. Someone else could stump for her father.
Yes, it would be a good day to disappear.
Her nose twitched at the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Her husband. Now he was worth sticking around for. Three years of marriage, and Nate was always up and around well before she was, running on the treadmill, reading the newspaper, and returning email.t t It wore her out just to think about it. But at least there was always fresh coffee ready when she woke up.
“Good morning, sleepyhead.” Sitting on the bed, Nate waved a mug over her nose like smelling salts. Jennifer rolled over on her back and accepted the mug as he kissed her on the forehead. “Happy birthday, baby. Massage this morning? Maybe a foot rub? Your wish is my command.”
“Hmm, let’s see.” She thought for a long moment. “You can make me twenty-two again.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’d say you are in exceptionally good shape for a woman of your advanced age.” Smiling, he leaned down to kiss her forehead. “You are gorgeous.”
She met his gaze, his sparkling green eyes. Brushing away a lock of his light brown hair, she lightly ran her fingers down his chest, and nibbled her bottom lip. “I could really go for some Belgian waffles.”
“Oh, you’re killing me. For a second there, I thought I might get lucky.” He groaned and pushed himself off the bed. At the window, he pulled back the blinds. “Looks like we’re going to get wet today. You sure you want to go to this thing?”
“Don’t tempt me.”
“Why not? We could just stay right here in this warm cozy bed.”
“Yeah, right. And disappoint my parents?” They were to attend a fund-raising luncheon for the Republican Party that day where Jennifer’s father, an Illinois senator, was scheduled to be the keynote speaker.
He frowned. “They’d get over it.”
“Are you kidding? You have met my parents, right?”
“Yeah, I know very well who your parents are. I wouldn’t dream of rocking the boat.”
Hmm. Sarcasm so early in the morning. “You’re so good with them.” Her parents seemed quite fond of Nate despite his occasional derisive and boyish ways. Of course, money went a long way toward being an acceptable son-in-law.
Nate sighed, patting her on the knee. “Why don’t you jump in the shower, and then I’ll feed you.”
She admired his denim-clad backside as he walked out of the room. Nate was good looking in a rugged, Men’s Health kind of way: tall and well muscled without being too buff. She liked the way he moved, with an athletic natural grace.
Hauling herself out of the too comfortable king-sized bed, Jennifer wandered over to the master bath. The tiles were cool beneath her feet as she crossed the floor to her dressing table. Turning on the lights, she winced and looked into the mirror. “Get over yourself, this is just another day.” She wanted to ignore the fact that today was her birthday, and not only because she was in denial about officially entering her thirties. This particular date had become a source of pain for her, as well as the rest of the family.
She opened the glass door to the shower and ran the taps until the water was almost excruciatingly hot, then stepped under the spray.
* * * * *
Later, Nate and Jennifer took a cab from their River North loft to the Hilton Hotel. Exiting the cab, she gazed skyward where the clouds were starting to break up. Inside the huge lobby, they found her brother, Sean, and his wife Laura just outside the Grand Ballroom.
“Happy birthday!” Sean gave her a big hug. “What better way to spend your day than charming some rich people out of their money?” Sean Riordan was a prosecutor with the State’s Attorney’s Office and on the fast track to running the place himself. Sean and Laura lived in Oak Park with their two adorable children and a golden retriever. Jennifer was at times respectfully disdainful of Sean’s domesticity; but truth be told, she craved a life that was so undeniably normal.
Sean shook Nate’s hand. “What’s new, Nate?”
“Not much. Just got back from St. Louis.”
“Yeah? What’s going on in St. Louis?”
“I’ve been looking to expand the business, and I was scouting out possible locations. And you? Still keeping the dregs of humanity off of the streets?”
Sean half-smiled. “Well, I know it doesn’t have the appeal of sipping a decaf, no-foam latte and surfing the web for porn, but it is a worthy endeavor nonetheless.”
Nate laughed out loud in response. Self-employed, he owned a regional chain of Internet cafes called Joe’s—not in honor of the beverage, but his father. Joe Lambert had made a fortune designing computer software, before suffering a heart attack and dying at the age of fifty-eight. Nate had parlayed some family money into his business, and even though he happily took some razzing from Sean, he’d worked hard for his success.
“Don’t look now, but the Bob Woodward of the Tribune is closing in.” Nate pointed across the lobby at an auburn-haired woman.
Jennifer smiled at Abby Townsend as she closed the distance between them. Friends since they’d met at Northwestern, they had been close ever since. Jennifer knew that Abby was covering the luncheon as a special assignment for the paper. What surprised her was that her friend wasn’t alone. A gorgeous blond hunk of a man trailed right behind her.
“Happy birthday, Jen.” Abby grabbed her into a close embrace.
Exchanging a look with Abby, Jennifer turned to her escort. “Hi, Matt. It’s been awhile. How have you been?”
“Happy birthday, Jen. You haven’t aged a single minute.” Matt leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek and then turned to Sean. “Hey, man. Long time, no see.”
“Yeah, it’s good to see you, Matt,” Sean replied.
Now a thoracic surgeon, Matthew Vaughan had been Sean’s roommate at Harvard before moving to Chicago to finish his residency. Matt and Abby had hit it off right away, jumping hip-deep into an intense relationship. Unfortunately, it hadn’t lasted, and Jennifer was there to help Abby through it. So why are they back together now? Jennifer raised an eyebrow at her.
“Later,” Abby mouthed.
Jennifer introduced Matt to her husband. “Matt helped out a bit on dad’s first campaign.”
“A very little bit. And actually, I didn’t have as much interest in the senator as I did in the senator’s daughters.” Matt’s grin evaporated. Mouth hanging open, he turned to Jennifer. “I’m sorry, Jen. I didn’t mean to—”
“No, no, no, it’s okay.” She smiled, finding they were coming easier these days. “Don’t worry about it.” Nate moved in and placed a possessive arm around her shoulder as an uncomfortable silence fell over them. Jennifer wished for the day that they could talk about “it” easily, when “it” would no longer be a conversation ender.
“Here we go.” Sean motioned across the room to where his parents were approaching. He said, “Afternoon, Senator.”
“Hi, Dad,” Jennifer said. “Looks like it’s going to be a good turnout.”
“Yes, indeed. Happy birthday, honey.”
“Happy birthday, darling,” her mother echoed, air-kissing her cheek.
Dean and Olivia Riordan made quite an impressive couple. Dean was tall and fit and, for a man in his early sixties, still had a head full of gray hair. Olivia was petite with stylishly short dark hair. Today she was dressed in a sedate baby blue Chanel suit. She was still a beautiful woman and the embodiment of the perfect politician’s wife—demure, flawless manner, and an admirable pedigree. Dean had been a successful corporate attorney before entering politics, while Olivia’s family owned a regional chain of department stores, which had allowed Jennifer and her siblings to grow up in relative luxury in their stately home on the north shore.
“Thank you all for coming today,” Dean said. “If you’ll excuse us, Olivia and I need to go in now, so we’ll see you inside.” He turned to Jennifer. “Your mother and I would like you and Nate to join us for dinner tonight.”
Jennifer glanced at Nate. “Uh, we did have tentative plans, but I guess we could change them. Would that be okay, honey?”
Nate smiled. “Of course we can join your parents for dinner.”
“Excellent,” Olivia said. “Then we’ll see you at the house around seven?”
“Sounds good, Mother. We’ll be there,” Jennifer answered. She tried to avoid Nate’s gaze as her parents strode away toward the entrance to the ballroom.
Nate took Jennifer’s arm and guided her away from the others. “Tentative plans?”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. It’s okay, isn’t it?”
“Well, Jesus, Jen. What am I supposed to say about it now?”
“We hardly ever get to see them. They just want to spend the evening with their daughter on her birthday.”
“I understand how important it is for you to do this for your parents, but we did have plans.”
“My parents aren’t going to be in town for long and they want to see us. We can reschedule our dinner for tomorrow night, can’t we?” she pleaded. Nate scowled and looked away. “Please don’t be mad.”
“How could I be mad?” he asked. “Our presence has been requested at the Riordan estate. It’s not possible to decline.” He turned away, but then quickly came back around to face her. “I just don’t like the way your parents always expect you to give up your life to suit their needs.”
“That’s a nasty thing to say,” she responded quietly. However, admitting to herself that there may be some truth to it, she set a placating hand on his arm. “It’s just one dinner, one night. We’ll leave early and then we can go home and celebrate alone.”
He looked at her, softening. “It better be one hell of a celebration.”
* * * * *
Jennifer and Abby sat in front of the mirror re-applying and powdering. The luncheon was over and the two of them had left the others in the bar to go to the ladies’ lounge. “It just happened,” Abby said.
“Well, yeah. I ran into Matt outside Nordstrom’s a few weeks ago, and God, I’d forgotten how good he looked and how sweet he could be, and he told me how much he’d missed me and how sorry he’d been about things and how he’d picked up the phone to call me a hundred times, and—”
“Okay, okay, I get it. Just be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt again.” Jennifer gave her a cautionary look in the mirror and then dabbed her newly applied red lipstick with a tissue. Like the best friend she was, Jennifer was there for Abby, offering support during some rough times. She’d gladly do it all again, but she wanted Abby to be happy.
“Believe me, I am being very careful. I know it sounds so naïve for me to say this, but I really think he’s changed. He’s actually saying words like ‘tomorrow’ and ‘family’ and he’s even considering selling the bachelor pad, or at the very least having a real grown-up redecorate for him.”
“Okay, good. I’m happy for you.”
“How are you and Nate? I couldn’t help but notice …earlier.”
“We’re fine. He just gets upset when I let my parents walk all over me.”
“Well, he does have a point. Did you ever talk to him about how your parents created all that trouble for you and Luke? I’m sure he’s just afraid they’ll come between the two of you.”
“That’s ridiculous. My parents love Nate—and I don’t want to talk about Luke.” Jennifer stood, avoiding her friend’s gaze.
“Okay, I’m sorry,” Abby took one last look in the mirror, running her fingers through her hair. “We should get back out there. I need to get going anyway; I have an article to write.”
* * * * *
The three couples emerged from the hotel lobby into the brilliant sunshine and a cacophony of voices and car engines. They lingered and chatted while Sean waited for the valet to bring his car around, and they saw him off.
“We’re going to walk a bit,” Abby told Jennifer. “I’ll give you a call tomorrow.”
“Okay. Be kind in your article,” Jennifer said. She and Nate walked to the curb and the doorman hailed them a cab. Nate held the door and helped her into the back seat. Behind her, she heard Abby call out.
Swiveling in the seat, Jennifer looked back at Abby. His back to her, Nate stood upright. His body jerked and he was spun around before dropping to his knees.
“Nate!” Jennifer gasped, scrambling out of the cab.
Natee reached around to his upper back, and she saw that his hand came away with blood on it. He slumped to the ground.
“Oh, my God!” Jennifer shrieked with a mixture of fear and concern. Reaching for him, she froze, relieved when Matt crouched next to Nate. He yelled to the doorman to call 911 as he removed Nate’s jacket.
“What the hell happened?” Nate gasped. “Have I…been shot?”
Matt rolled him onto his side and opened his shirt. “Looks that way.” He bunched up the fabric and held it against the wound. “Jen, can you hold this? Hold it tight against his back.” Matt grabbed Nate’s wrist, touching with two fingers. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
“Don’t’ think so.”
Tears blurred her vision, but she followed Matt’s instructions. “Is he going to be okay? Oh, God, Nate, are you okay?”
“Well…I’ve been…shot,” he rasped. “Fuck, it hurts.” He coughed and blood stained his lips.
“Nate, I think your lung’s collapsed,” Matt told him, speaking calmly. “We need to get you to the hospital.”
Two police officers appeared at their side, keeping the crowd back, radios crackling. “Ambulance is on the way. What happened?”
“He was shot in the chest. He was getting into a cab, and he just went down,” Matt said. “I didn’t hear the shot.”
Wiping her tears away, Jennifer stared at her husband’s face, and was frightened by his pallor. Blood seeped through the fabric of his shirt, gumming up her fingers. Time seemed to move so quickly. Odd. She always assumed that in these sorts of emergencies everything would move in slow motion. Looking around, she felt oddly disconnected from what was happening. There was a roaring in her ears as she tried to focus on the people who were staring at them with horrified looks on their faces. The ambulance arrived, and she noticed that there was now a legion of police officers around. Where had they all come from?
She looked down at her hands—they were shaking and covered in blood. Oh God. She wiped them on her jacket. Is this really happening? Not again. Please, not again.
The EMTs carefully pulled her away from Nate, and Abby quickly enfolded her in her arms. Nearly numb with fear, Jennifer followed the activity as if she was watching a movie.
Matt gave the EMTs a quick report of what had happened, and then he started an IV as the EMTs checked Nate’s vitals and placed him on some oxygen. They quickly loaded Nate onto a gurney and into the ambulance. Matt hopped in the back with them and they took off for the hospital.
Jennifer jumped as a policeman materialized at her side. “Mrs. Lambert, if you’ll come with me I’ll take you to the hospital.”
“Thank you,” she replied shakily. Abby helped the officer guide Jennifer toward his squad car. He helped them into the back seat, and then they roared away.
Will Harman woke that morning to an earsplitting thunderclap, followed by his alarm twenty seconds later. To his hung-over ears, the shrill ringing sounded like a five-alarm-fire bell. “God damn it.” He swatted at the clock without success and ended up chucking it against the wall, the crashing sound sending new waves of pain through his aching skull. He sat up on the bed and waited a few seconds until he gained his equilibrium.
Struggling to his feet, he crossed the cluttered floor to the bathroom, grimacing when he looked in the mirror and saw his road-mapped eyes. Grabbing a bottle of ibuprofen, he shook out about six of them and swallowed them dry. He stripped off his shorts and stepped into the shower. “Ow, ow, ow.” He yelped as the water fell in pellets on his aching skin.
Later, in the kitchen, he drank a few glasses of water, chasing it with some Gatorade. The thudding in his head had started to ease a bit, so he searched around for something to eat. No bread, no eggs, but he found some cereal. He searched the fridge—no milk. Will ate his cereal dry as he went in search of coffee. “Where’s the coffeemaker?” he muttered. He looked over to the empty countertop. “I can’t believe she took my French press.” Damn it, he was going to have to stop for coffee on his way into work. No way he was going to make it without any caffeine.
Back in the bedroom, he dug around in his closet for a clean shirt and tie. He strapped on his holster and threw a jacket on over it. He checked himself in the mirror, straightened his tie, and ran his fingers through his short brown hair. “Chicago’s Finest. Yeah, right.” He checked his watch and hurried out the door, dodging raindrops.
Will hopped into his blue SUV and headed down the street to the nearest Starbucks. He recognized the girl behind the counter, but was unable to bring himself to engage in their usual flirtatious banter. Ordering the largest black coffee they sold, he gratefully took several swallows as he walked back to his car. About two minutes away from the station, the SUV lurched to the right side of the road and then Will heard an ominous thumping sound. “Shit!”
He spent the next fifteen minutes changing the tire in the spitting rain. Okay, it can’t get much worse than this, can it?
* * * * *
Will walked into the precinct and greeted the desk sergeant.
“Hey, Detective,” the sergeant replied. “Forget your umbrella?” Then, “Heard about Carla leaving. Better she’s gone, you ask me.”
Will stopped and glared at him, marveling at the speed at which gossip traveled through the squad. “Yeah, thanks.” He walked through the station to his desk and found that his partner, Ed Ramsey, was already there.
“Morning, Sunshine. You’re late.” Ed took a closer look. “What the hell happened to you?”
Will considered explaining, then threw his hands up in the air and sank down into his chair. He stared at the mound of paperwork on his desk and groaned before leaning back in his chair and rubbing his eyes.
“Cheer up, kid,” Ed said. “Maybe we’ll get a nice homicide, liven up the day.”
Having just cleared a couple of cases, they spent the morning working on reports. At about two in the afternoon, Will’s stomach was rumbling. “Let’s go out for some burgers. Oh, and we need to take your car.”
When they arrived at their usual burger place, Will ordered first. “Two cheeseburgers, large fries, and a large Coke.” He needed more caffeine.
“I’ll have the same, only cut in half,” Ed told the waitress, then waited for her to leave. “So, you want to tell me about Carla?” Ed was getting close to retirement, and had been happily married for twenty-five years. He and Will had been partners for the last four. Ed had taken him under his wing, both personally and professionally.
“Not really,” Will answered. “I mean, what’s there to tell? She’s upset because I’m never home, and when I am home my mind’s on the job. I guess she just can’t handle being with a cop. How’d you and Marilyn make it all these years?”
Ramsey shrugged. “The woman’s a saint.”
Will smiled and took a big swallow of soda. “Anyway, she moved out yesterday. Took my goddamned coffeemaker. She doesn’t even drink coffee.” Ed snorted with laughter, which made Will laugh. “God, I’m starting to feel halfway human again. Had too much Tequila last night.”
“No kiddin’?” Ed asked wryly. “What happened to your car?”
“Got a flat on the way into work this morning. I might need to quit early today to pick up a new tire. Oh, and an alarm clock…and a coffeemaker.” Will’s cell phone chirped and he swiped it. “Harman.” He listened for a few moments and then disconnected. “We’ve got a shooting downtown.”
“Where?” Ed asked, grabbing his food.
“The Hilton. I guess there was some big party going on.”
Ed gave him a look. “Party? Wasn’t there was a big Republican fundraiser held there today?”
“Jesus Christ, kid. Pick up a newspaper now and then, why don’t ya?”
They arrived at the Hilton a few minutes later. The area around the entrance had been cordoned off and they slipped through the tape. “Hey, Detectives,” one of the uniforms called to them. “Beckford and Sanchez were first on the scene.”
“Thanks,” Will said. They made their way over to the two officers.
“Hey, Harman. Detective Ramsey,” Beckford said.
“What’s the story?” Ed asked.
“Victim’s name was Lambert. He and his wife were attending a fundraiser here at the hotel, exited through the front door at fifteen hundred hours. They were getting into a cab when he was shot. No one heard it. No one saw the shooter. From the way he was standing when he was shot, it looks like the bullet came from the southeast— probably across the street in the park.” He pointed out the presumed site. “We got a bunch of uniforms doing a canvass. Hopefully we’ll find somebody who saw or heard something. Victim’s still alive, on the way to the hospital.”
“He gonna make it?” Ed asked.
“Don’t know. He was still conscious when they loaded him into the bus.”
“So, he was shot from long range. We talking a hit?” Will asked.
“Maybe.” Ed turned to Beckford. “This guy a big-wig here with the GOP?”
Beckford shook his head. “It happened an hour after the thing was over. All of the really big fish were gone. But I guess it could have been mistaken ID.”
“Wait a minute,” Will said. “What’d you say the vic’s name was?”
“Lambert. Nathan Lambert. Thirty-six years old, married, owns a bunch of internet cafes here in the city.”
“Aw, shit,” Will said.
“You know the guy?” Ed asked.
“I know his wife better,” he replied.
“Nathan Lambert is married to Jennifer Riordan.”
“Aw, shit,” Ed said.
Eight Years Earlier
“Are you going to eat that?”Abby pointed at the bagel half in front of Jennifer. They were at Ruby’s, their favorite breakfast spot, seated in a corner table for four. It was nine o’clock on a hazy, humid, scorching Sunday morning in August. The city was moving at a slower pace, and apparently so was Jennifer’s sister Melissa.
“No, you take it.” Jennifer pushed the plate in front of Abby.
Abby bit into the bagel, then wiped cream cheese from her lips. “I wonder what’s keeping Melissa.”
“I could guess,” Jennifer said. As if on cue, Melissa walked in the door and hurried over to their table. Melissa was Jennifer’s identical twin, and although people often had trouble telling them apart, there were profound differences between them. Melissa wore her dark, almost black, hair shorter than Jennifer, at her shoulders. She was also a bit thinner, but she had the same stunning blue eyes. That was where the similarities ended. Whereas Jennifer was sedate and shy, her sister was a classic extrovert. When Melissa walked into a room, everyone else seemed to fade into the background.
Melissa wore the same slinky red tank dress she had worn when Jennifer had met her for a drink early last evening. “Hi, Jen. Sorry I’m late.” Melissa hugged her sister. “Morning, Abby.”
“A little formal for bagels and coffee, huh Melis?” Abby smirked.
“Well, at least some of us were having fun on a Saturday night. What’d you do last night, catch up on your knitting?”
“Of course not! I don’t know how to knit,” Abby replied. The waitress arrived and Melissa ordered a latte. Abby gave Melissa the once over. “So, what’d you do last night? Or, should I say, who did you do last night?”
“Abby!” Jennifer exclaimed.
“Careful, Abby,” Melissa said in her best southern belle accent. “You’re going to give poor Jenny the vapors.” Melissa was the only person who could get away with calling her Jenny. The name made her feel like a little girl, but somehow her sister made it sound like a term of affection. “Anyway, who I did last night is none of your business.”
“Since when?” Abby asked. “Your love life is my main form of entertainment.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, but you’re going to have to live vicariously through someone else this time.”
“Oh, my God,” Jennifer cried. “You’re in love! Who is he?”
“I am so not in love,” Melissa answered. Her latte arrived and she took a sip. “So, Jenny, what did you and Luke do last night?”
“Cubs game,” Jennifer told her in a less than enthusiastic voice. “It was miserable—hot and sticky and, of course, they lost. But we did have great seats.”
“Ugh, sports. I’ll never understand how you got involved with him,” Melissa said.
“I like sports,” Jennifer said. “Besides, Luke is sweet and thoughtful…and he’s hot.” Jennifer had been seeing Luke Belmont for a year now, and their relationship was getting serious. He had been a star wide receiver at Wisconsin, but his football career ended when he leapt up for a pass and was clipped on landing, tearing his knee apart. Luke was a sports agent now, living his dream through other athletes, and he was very passionate about his work. And his work consisted of attending a lot of sporting events.
“Well, there is that,” Abby said.
Jennifer looked at Abby. “And speaking of hot, I asked Will Harman to join us.”
“Oh, c’mon Jen. What is this compulsion you have to set me up?” Abby asked. “Who is Will Harman? And couldn’t you warn a girl so she could at least do something with her hair?”
“Ooh, Will Harman.” Melissa shivered. “We’ve known Will forever. He was the naughtiest boy on the block, growing up in Stuffyville. He’s the first boy we ever played Doctor with.”
Jennifer gave her sister a look. “That’s not true. Will wasn’t a bad boy.” Melissa just shrugged in response with an irritatingly knowing grin. Jennifer turned back to Abby. “Will is kind, and funny, and smart. He’s a real gentleman.”
“Hmm, kind, funny, and smart. Does his face look like it got bashed in with a shovel? Is he bald?” Abby asked.
“No and no. He’s tall, with sun-streaked brown hair, and the most gorgeous chocolate brown eyes,” Jennifer said dreamily.
“Then why haven’t one of you pounced on him?”
“Will is a good friend. We don’t think of him that way.”
“What does handsome Will do?”
“He’s a cop,” Melissa told her.
“Are you kidding me? A cop?” Abby laughed.
“What’s wrong with being a cop?” Jennifer asked. “He works hard, makes a good living, and you’d feel safe with him.”
“Jen, I’m a reporter,” Abby explained. “Reporters aren’t exactly the kind of people cops like to hang with.”
“You write for the Home section. It’s not like you’re working the police beat,” Jennifer said.
“Ouch,” Abby said. “Besides, I’m not going to be writing for the Home section forever. I do have career goals, you know.” The door to Ruby’s opened, and in strolled a tall handsome guy in a plain white T-shirt, khaki shorts, and flip-flops. He was smiling in their direction. “Please tell me that’s Will.” As Jennifer nodded, Abby murmured, “You know, writing for the Home section is very underrated.”
“Morning ladies.” Will kissed the cheeks of the twins.
“Will, this is our friend, Abby,” Jennifer said. “Abby, Will.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Will,” Abby said. “I’ve heard so little about you.”
“Nice to meet you, too.” Will smiled and took the remaining seat at the table, ordering a poppy seed bagel and a black coffee. He checked out Melissa’s outfit. “Sorry, I didn’t realize we were dressing for breakfast. What’s the story?”
Melissa sighed. “If you show up late, you’re going to miss the juicy details.”
“Don’t let her fool you, Will,” Abby said. “She was late, too. And besides, she’s not sharing any information today.”
“You in love?” Will asked her.
“Hardly.” Melissa turned to face him, crossed her legs, and leaned in, gathering all his attention as if it were her due. She had perfected this maneuver, Jennifer thought, to the point that she was barely aware of doing it. “We’ve missed you over at campaign headquarters, Will. Why don’t you stop by sometime?” Melissa had been spending a great deal of time and energy working on her father’s first senatorial campaign.
“I’ve been kind of busy working some extra shifts, but I’ll try and come by.”
Jennifer rolled her eyes at Abby, continually amazed at Melissa’s influence over the hornier half of society.
“That’d be great.” Melissa touched his arm, then looked over at her twin. “Dad would really appreciate it.”
“Melis, you know how busy I’ve been with the new exhibit.” Jennifer felt uncomfortable every time she’d gone to campaign headquarters. Politics were not her forte, and if she didn’t know better, she’d think her sister was deliberately trying to set her off. “I think Dad understands. Besides, Sean hasn’t been there much, either.”
“Sean is a busy lawyer, Jenny, and a newlywed.” Melissa winked at Will.
“I happen to be busy, too,” Jennifer said defensively, wondering why she felt the constant need to explain herself to her sister. She was aware that many people thought that twins had a psychic connection. She didn’t buy it. She had a hard time figuring out what was going on in Melissa’s head, even when her twin was sitting right in front of her and telling her.
“Oh, I’m sure Luke wouldn’t mind giving you up for a night or two,” Melissa said.
“I’m not talking about Luke. I told you, I’m busy at work with this new modern art exhibit. Some of us do have full-time jobs.” Jennifer raised an eyebrow. Melissa was a part-time graphic artist in an advertising agency, and their parents contributed to her finances. Melissa was quite contented with the arrangement. No need to worry about overtime, budgets, and other crazy things like that. She could concentrate all her energy on the important things in life— clubs, partying, men.
Melissa sighed. “If you all will excuse me, I need to visit the ladies’ room.” She rose and sauntered across the room, seemingly oblivious to the turning of heads in her wake.
“What’s up with her?” Will asked.
“You got me,” Jennifer said. “Oh, before I forget, you’re coming to Casa Riordan Friday night for dinner, right?”
“Ah, yes. The annual Riordan twin birthday bash. I wouldn’t miss it,” he told her. “Are you going to be there, Abby?’
“Unfortunately, no. I’m going to be out of town on assignment next weekend.”
“Abby is a reporter for the Trib,” Jennifer told him.
“Really? Would I have read anything you’ve written?”
“Let’s see. Perhaps you’ve read my searing expose on lawn gnomes, or ten tips to organize your closet?” Abby said.
Will laughed. “I must have missed those. What’s your assignment this weekend?”
“I’m going to a small town in Wisconsin to interview a furniture maker who is apparently all the rage these days among the pretentious and self-important,” Abby replied. “Actually, I’m looking forward to it. He’s supposed to be an eccentric guy, and he’s never given an interview.”
“Cool, I’ll watch for the article,” he said.
Melissa flounced back to the table, a fresh coat of red gloss evident on her full lips. She grabbed her latte. “Sorry, but I need to get going.”
“Already? You just got here.” Jennifer asked.
“I promised a friend I’d meet him for lunch, and I really need to go home to clean up and change. I’ll see you Friday night, okay?” She hugged her sister goodbye and then turned to Will. “Come by headquarters tomorrow night, okay?” Will helplessly nodded at her. “Okay, kids,” Melissa said. “I’m outta here.”
* * * * *
He was seated in a blue sedan, parked across the street from Ruby’s. He watched Melissa exit the restaurant. He’d needed to see the breakfast companions who were so important to her that she’d left him alone this morning. He wanted to have her all to himself. After all, he was in love with her. He had been since the first time he had seen her months ago. She’d been on the news talking about her big-shot father, some lawyer who was running for the senate. He could tell she loved her father, and that was a good thing. But he was going to take her away from Daddy.
He had been watching her for six months, camping outside her Wicker Park townhouse, following her to and from the advertising agency where she worked, eyeing her in bars while she flirted shamelessly with the pathetic pussy hounds who just wanted to use her.
He knew she was just biding her time, waiting for him. He had “accidentally” bumped into her at a coffee shop two days ago, offered to buy her a latte in reparation, and he had rarely left her side since. He loved her so very much, and he knew she loved him, too. Last night, she had taken him to her place and they had made love. She had been wild, desperate for him, again and again. My Melissa. You’re mine and I will never let you go.
He watched her get in a cab and ride away. He went home to shower and change. He had a lunch date to keep.
* * * * *
“So, Will,” Abby said. “What kind of cop are you?”
“I’m just a uniform, do patrol on the north end of town. I’d like to make detective eventually.” He sipped his coffee, and glanced in Jennifer’s direction. As usual, she looked beautiful this morning, even with no make-up and her hair pulled back in a ponytail. He was still reeling from the phenomenon that was Melissa Riordan, but truth be told, he had always been attracted to the more dignified and warmhearted Jennifer. Unfortunately for him, Jennifer had already filed him away in her “friend” folder. He had accepted years ago that she would never see him in a more amorous light, and he thought he had moved on. Yet time after time, he would find himself involved with the wrong girl. She may have an identical twin, but there was only one woman like Jennifer Riordan—and unfortunately she didn’t belong to him.
“Abby’s dream is to become the next Diane Sawyer,” Jennifer said.
Will turned his attention back to Abby, knowing Jennifer was expecting him to be captivated by her. “Good for you,” he told Abby with a smile. “And, it couldn’t hurt to have yet another beautiful woman on television.”
“Aw shucks.” Abby waved him off. “You’re living up to your reputation, I must say.”
Jennifer smiled and looked at her watch. “Oh, I’m afraid I have to go, too. Luke is waiting for me. You two stay and finish your coffee.”
Will rose with her and kissed her goodbye. “I’ll see you Friday night.”
“Absolutely. Bye, Abby.” Jennifer winked at Abby as she moved to give her a hug. “Call me later.” She donned her sunglasses and took her exit.
“Do you think she could be any more obvious?” Abby asked with a nervous chuckle. “I guess since she’s happy, she wants everyone else to be happy.”
“Do you think she’s happy?” Will asked her. “With Luke, I mean.”
“She loves him. Luke seems really crazy about her. Do you think she’s unhappy?”
“How should I know?” Will laughed. “Most men have no idea what goes on in the minds of women.” They each took a sip of their coffees. “So how did you and Jen meet?”
“We were sorority sisters at Northwestern. I think Jen took pity on me because I wasn’t a rich bitch like the rest of the sisters.”
“I’m sure you did fine,” Will said. “So how could you afford Northwestern if you weren’t a ‘rich bitch’?”
“Yeah? That’s cool. So, you’re an athlete.”
“Was. I tried to play in a league last summer, but I ended up missing half the games because of work.” Abby paused.
The two of them were silent for a few moments. Abby said, “Listen, don’t feel like you need to hang around. I would totally understand.”
Will looked at her, confused. “I don’t want to leave. That is, unless you want me to.”
“No, no. I just got the impression that…” she sputtered. “That maybe you weren’t…Oh, never mind. Why don’t we start over. Hi, I’m Abby Townsend.” She reached to shake his hand.
“Will Harman. Nice to meet you, Abby Townsend.” He took her hand, lightly caressed it with his thumb, and released her. Jennifer would have been proud of him.
I was a very young girl living in the Chicago suburbs when I developed my first fear of the bogeyman. In a nearby affluent town, the daughter of a politician was murdered in her home while her parents and siblings slept just down the hall. I remember feeling terrified to go to sleep at night. If something like that could happen in such a nice, safe neighborhood, what was to keep it from happening in mine? The fact that the crime remains unsolved to this day only adds to the creepy factor.
As you can see from my novel, At Second Sight, the impact of that crime still resonates with me. My story is totally different from and in no way reflects the reality of that horrible crime. Nor do my characters have any resemblance to the actual victims or perpetrators. But when I sat down to write my first novel, I couldn’t help but be influenced by something that had affected me so deeply.
I hope you enjoy it.
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