Incriminating Evidence(6)

By: Amanda Stevens

“I’m not trying to offend you.”

“I’m not offended. But if you knew me at all, you would know that I’m not the type to embellish or dramatize. I’m nothing if not practical. I’m not jumping to conclusions nor am I trying to distract from my grief. This isn’t a bid for attention or some misguided need to feel special or important. For any number of reasons, I want to know who my biological parents are. Is that so hard to understand?”

“No,” he said. “But you’ve heard the old saying, sometimes it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie.”

She removed a newspaper clipping from the cigar box and slid it across the desk. “That’s a picture of Orson Lee Finch, is it not?”

He picked up the yellowed clipping and studied the subjects. “Hard to tell. As you said, the shot is grainy and there’s a shadow across his profile. It could be Finch.”

She nodded in satisfaction. “The child with him...the little you see a resemblance to me?”

Nick took his time studying her features before glancing back down at the clipping. Truthfully, there was a similarity but so vague as to be insignificant. “She has dark hair and dark eyes. Beyond that...”

She placed a photograph on his desk. “This is a shot of me taken in our backyard when I was three.”

He compared the photo to the clipping. “There’s a definite likeness, I’ll give you that. But I’m still not willing to draw any conclusions.”

“I’m not asking you to. All I need from you is a thorough investigation. Do you want the job or don’t you?”

He waited a beat before he answered. “Why me? Why this agency?” He wondered if she would remind him that she had once consulted on one of his cases, but instead she withdrew a creased business card from the shoebox and handed it to him.

“Do you recognize this?” she asked.

He gazed down at the familiar logo. “It’s one of our old business cards. The design was changed years ago.”

“I found that card in the same box with the clippings. There’s a number scribbled on the back.”

Nick flipped the card and a shock wave went through him. This time he was unable to hide his astonishment.

“I take it from your expression that you recognize the number,” she said.

“It’s my father’s home number,” he conceded reluctantly. “It’s been unlisted for years.”

“Which means he must have spoken with my mother at some point. I think she came to him hoping that he could help her find out the truth about my biological parents. She must have had suspicions for a long time. Why else would she have saved those clippings? Why else would she have kept them from me? Ask your father if he remembers her. Or, better yet, check to see if there’s a case file.” Her gaze intensified. “It could be that the work has already been done for us.”

Nick picked up the card and flicked it idly between his fingers. “I can tell this means a lot to you.”

“Of course, it means a lot to me. Put yourself in my place.”

“I’ve been sitting here trying to do just that and here’s my conclusion... What if you are Orson Lee Finch’s biological daughter? It won’t change who you are. It won’t diminish your accomplishments.”

She sighed. “Nurture over nature. I get it. I may even believe it. Laura March was a wonderful person. Everything I am, I owe to her. I couldn’t have asked for a more loving parent. But she kept things from me and I need to know why.” Catherine’s voice quivered and for the first time, she looked vulnerable. Lost. “A person needs to know where she comes from, Nick. A person needs to know the truth about her past.”

He couldn’t argue with that. “Okay,” he said. “I’d like you to leave the clippings with me for now. The photograph, too, if you don’t mind.”

“Does that mean you’ll take my case?”

“I’ll look into it. If Orson Lee Finch will agree to see me, I’ll press for a DNA test. That is what you want, isn’t it?”

“Yes. That’s what I want,” she insisted, even as she looked anything but certain.

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