The next morning, Sharp woke up feeling worried, which wasn’t unusual. She also had a headache, which also wasn’t unusual. “Should have stopped at three,” she said aloud with a yawn as she pulled herself up and carefully placed her feet on the cold hardwood floor.
A sloppy pile of papers, books and folded-open magazines lay beside the bed. It was her to-do stack of reading, and on top of it were the Iverson Devotionals pamphlets that Mark Taylor had given her when she’d been masquerading as a Bible studies’ group secretary.
She lifted up the top pamphlet and flipped it open, but a merchandise list of religious paraphernalia couldn’t hold her attention. I’ll look at it later, she thought, and walked into the bathroom where the headache pills were kept.
Half an hour later, Sharp pulled on her jacket and headed for the door. When she got to the elevator, Mrs Carlson was already there.
“Your lip looks a lot better — and the bruisings gone down considerably,” she said after giving Sharp’s face a careful examination.
“It feels better — to the touch,” Sharp said. Not that anyone was touching her face. She looked up at the light above the elevator door. Thankfully, it was descending fast.
In the lobby, Sharp held the building’s front door for Mrs Carlson, who was pulling a wheeled shopping bag, finished in red and green plaid.
“Well,” Mrs Carlson said, as they emerged into the sunlight, “Have a good day. And, be careful, will you?” Without waiting for an answer, she set off down the sidewalk in the direction of the streetcar stop.
Sharp smiled at her neighbour, then headed for the parking lot, where her K-car was waiting.
That’s when she saw the blue Buick.
Sharp blinked in disbelief.
The blue Buick was stopped in front of Sharp’s K-car, blocking its exit. Sharp walked toward the vehicle, stooping down to see who was at the wheel, when the driver’s-side door clicked open and a figure emerged.
Sharp’s eyes shot wide and she stumbled backwards.
It was a woman’s figure. It was Claire!
The two women looked at each other from about 20 feet apart.
Sharp eliminated the distance in a few strides until only the polished hood of the Buick stood between them.
“Claire?” Sharp said, her breath catching in her throat.
“No,” the woman said. There was ice in her voice.
“But—?” Sharp squinted at her questioningly.
“I’m her sister, Eve.”
“But you — look exactly like her,” Sharp blurted out.
“We’re twins. Identical — in most respects,” she said, then quickly added, “but certainly not in all respects.” Eve Iverson stared hard at Sharp.
Sharp looked at her: at her face, her eyes, her perfect, even features. She did look exactly like Claire, but there was something different, too. This woman had the features of Claire but with a tiny addition — a sliver of ice.
“Well? What are you gaping at?”
“Claire never told me she had a — a twin sister.”
Eve’s eyes flashed angrily. “I imagine there are quite a few things she didn’t tell you. And rightly so, Ms Sharp.” Eve folded her arms across her chest, which was constricted in a form-fitting, pale blue trench coat, belted tightly at the waist.
“So it was you at the chapel?” Sharp said, then added, sadly, “not Claire.” Then she thought of something. “Say, why are you following me, anyway?”
“I’m not following you! It’s you that’s been snooping around our family and I am here to tell you to stop,” the woman said, trembling with anger. She exhaled, trying to control her emotions, then started again, “now I insist that you cease all inquiries regarding my sister’s — death.” She stumbled on the last word and glanced away.
“We are a private family and we don’t wish to have Claire’s name associated with anything untoward. Do you understand?”
Now it was Sharp’s turn to get angry. “Like what? Like me?” Sharp stepped toward her. Her hands landed on the hood of the Buick. It was hot from the sun and having recently been driven, but Sharp kept them there just the same. Eve Iverson’s body recoiled at the sight of her vehicle being palmed by a stranger.
“How about you let the police do their job?” she said, then added, “and if we catch you impersonating a, what was it? A Bible studies’ group secretary again, we will call the police. Do I make myself clear?”
“Look, lady,” Sharp said as she strode around to the other side of the car and grabbed Eve by the arms. “I loved your sister and I’m going to find out who killed her and no one is going to stop me. Do I make myself clear?”
Eve shook free of Sharp’s grasp. “How dare you!” she snapped, then retreated into her car. She tried to pull shut the door but Sharp held it open. Eve rubbed her arms where Sharp had grabbed them. “Do you always attack strangers like that? You do realize I could have you charged?” She looked straight ahead.
Sharp wiped her forehead, which was dotted with perspiration. Yeah, thought Sharp, I could be charged. Why did I just do that?
“Claire said you were gentle. Obviously she was mistaken,” the woman said, still not looking at Sharp.
Somewhere in the neighbourhood a kid was crying.
“Huh?” Sharp leaned into the car, her mouth open.
“Huh?” the woman mimicked back at her.
Sharp rephrased her question. “When did she talk to you about me?”
“She didn’t. She sent me a letter.”
Sharp straightened up, eyes darting, trying to remember back to her night with Claire — the first night. The only night.
Sharp pushed back her bangs. Her heart was racing. “A letter? What did it say? Look, when I met your sister, she seemed upset. I need to know why, now.”
“My sister is none of your business,” Eve cut in. “And please get your hands off my car,” she said, still staring forward.
Sharp stepped back slowly. “You’re right, you know.”
The woman waited, then turned and looked up at Sharp through ice-blue eyes. “What am I right about?”
“You’re not identical in every respect. In fact, you’re not like Claire at all.”
Eve yanked the door shut, stuck the key in the ignition and turned it forward. The Buick purred to life.
Sharp jumped clear as the car lurched forward. It drove a few feet then suddenly braked. The driver’s side window slid down. Eve Iverson leaned her head out and looked back at Sharp. “I don’t know anything about your so-called ‘relationship’ with Claire, but she’s my sister and I intend to protect her memory and the reputation of our family, and no amateur detective is going to stop me!”
A moment later, the Buick shot forward into the street, turned and disappeared.
Sharp ran to her K-car and jumped in.