Almost everyone from G Squared was at The Jury Room, a high-end restaurant and bar just up the street from the firm. Emily and her colleagues were there to celebrate one of their own passing the bar exam.
“We’ll be celebrating your achievement soon Emily,” Jason Rush had said with a wink.
“I hope so, Mr. Rush,” Emily replied, quickly walking away from the bar.
She had been advised by her female co-workers to stay away from the thrice-divorced partner in the firm.
“He’s a slime ball. You don’t want to be another one of his conquests,” warned senior paralegal Cassidy Pimento. ‘He believes in the ‘four F’s.’”
“The ‘four F’s?” Emily asked innocently.
“C’mon girl, you’ve never heard of the ‘four F’s’?”
“I’m pretty sure I know what one ‘F’ is,” Emily said, “But what are the other three?”
“Girl, the ‘four F’s’ are, ‘find ‘em, feel’ em, fuck’ em, and forget’ em.’”
“Thanks for the warning Cass. I appreciate it.”
“No problem. I learned the hard way. I was the first ‘Mrs. Rush’. But remember, he’s still a partner, so don’t piss him off.”
Over Cassidy’s shoulder, she could see Rush circling several pretty summer associates, like a shark looking for its next meal.
“It’s pretty late, I think I’ll be heading home. See you tomorrow Cass.”
“Goodnight Girl. Drive home safely.”
* * * * *
It was 10:40 p.m., when she arrived at her apartment. Kicking off her shoes, she placed her briefcase and purse on the dining room table, before quickly sorting through her mail.
“Perry, do you mind if we watch the eleven o’clock news before going to bed?” Emily asked her new roommate, a black and white kitten she named Perry Mason, after the famous TV lawyer.
Turning on the television, Emily sat on the couch and was quickly joined by her kitten, who immediately began to cuddle and purr. Clay Reynolds, her mother’s favorite anchorman, was on screen with a story from Maine. When the images of Aimee Myers appeared on the screen, Emily shot to her feet, sending her surprised kitten flying across the room. She could not believe what she was seeing, and slowly sat down on the edge of the sofa. Perry was already seated at her feet, waiting for an invitation to jump into her lap once again.
What the hell is going on? Why does this Aimee Myers look exactly like me?
It was 11:07, and her mother was probably asleep, but she didn’t care. She had to speak to Joan right away. Activating the voice control on her iPhone, Emily said, “Call Mom.” Seconds later, Joan answered the phone.
“Emily… it’s late. Is everything alright?”
“I don’t know Mom. You tell me. Did you watch the news tonight?"
Joan lied. “I… uh… no I missed it tonight honey”
“C’mon mother. I know you never miss Clay Reynolds on the six o’clock news.”
“Well, I was out tonight and missed it.” More lies.
Joan was trying to hold back the tears, realizing her life was about to start spinning out of control.
“Mom. I can hear you crying. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?”
“Oh Emily. I love you so much… I love you so much. You don’t realize how much I love you.”
“Joan!” Emily said pointedly. “Why does that woman in Maine look like me?”
Even though Emily could not see her mother’s face, she sensed something had instantly changed.
“How the fuck should I know, Emily,” Joan fired back. “Is it my fault that someone looks like you now?”
The sudden change in her mother’s demeanor and her use of the f-word, reminded Emily of the graduation day exchange that began at the Olive Garden and continued in front of her Stanford apartment. “Bad” Joan was now on the offensive.
“What’s the matter? ‘Miss Big Shot Lawyer’ can’t stand having someone fuck’n look like her now?” Joan asked sarcastically.
“Mom, what’s the matter with you? Are you okay? Why are you talking like that?
“Look kiddo. You’re not supposed to throw fucking accusations around like that. Didn’t they teach you that shit in law school?”
“Mom, you’re really acting weird. I’m coming right over. We need to talk.”
“Emily. It’s really late, and frankly, I’m not in the mood to have company at this hour. By the time you get here it’ll be close to midnight. Don’t you need to be at “G-Whatever-you-call-it” early in the morning?”
“We call it ‘G Squared’ Mom, and yes, I do have an early meeting, but I’m worried about you. You don’t seem to be yourself right now.”
“Oh, so now all of a sudden you care about how I’m fuck’n doing? You didn’t want to live with me anymore. You wanted to move into a big fancy apartment in Eagle... ‘Miss High and Mighty, Big Shot Lawyer’.”
“Mom, have you been drinking?”
“No, I haven’t been drinking,” replied Joan in a mocking tone.
“Why are you acting like this then?”
“Because I don’t give a shit any more! Except for you, my life has been one big suck-fest after another. My mom died when I was born, my father abandoned me. My foster parents never really cared when their sons sexually abused me. They were only concerned about losing the check they got from the state. Years later, my husband left me, and now you!”
“Mom, where is all this coming from?”
“You don’t get it do you Emily. It’s all been a big lie. The past twenty-five years has been a BIG… FUCKING… LIE! And I’m tired of living it. Good-bye Emily.”
It was no use. The line was already dead. Emily hit re-dial, but all she got was a busy signal.
“I’ve got to get over there before she does something stupid,” she said to herself.
As she drove towards her mother’s apartment, Emily called the Police.
“Caldwell Police Department… Sergeant Tracy.”
“Hi. My name is Emily Fitzgerald. I’m a lawyer with Greene and Greene in Eagle. I just got off the phone with my mother, and I’m concerned for her safety.”
“What’s the nature of your concern, Ms. Fitzgerald?”
“She’s really acting weird, and I’m afraid she might try to hurt herself… or worse. I’m heading over there now. Can you have an officer meet me?”
“Yes, Ma’am. “Where does she live?
“1325 Parker Road, Apartment 2.”
Do you know if she has a gun or any weapons in the house?”
“Other than the standard kitchen knives, none that I am aware of, Sergeant.”
“Okay. I’ll have dispatch send a car over. An officer will be waiting for you outside.”
“Thank you Sergeant.”
* * * * *
Distraught, Joan peeked through the curtains. She knew Emily would come. She didn’t expect her to bring the police though. It’s time to do this, she thought.
Everything was laid out on the kitchen table. A letter to her daughter explaining her reasons for what she did then, and what she was about to do. She also left personal records, and twenty-five year old newspaper clippings about the auto accident on the day she was born.
When Emily arrived, Joan took one last look at her through the curtains, and mouthed her last words. “I’ll always love you Emily.”
Police Officer Stephen Mackay was greeting Emily at her car, when the shot came from the upstairs apartment. Immediately calling for back up, Mackay ran toward the second floor stairs with his gun drawn. Emily followed, keeping a safe distance behind.
When they arrived at her mother’s front door, there were no signs of forced entry, but they saw a spray of blood and tissue on a nearby window and curtain.
Emily handed the officer the key to her mother’s apartment. Motioning to Emily to back away, Mackay carefully opened the door then entered the apartment. Immediately, Mackay saw Joan’s body slumped in the chair by the window, with a gun near her now limp hand, but checked the other rooms of the two-bedroom apartment first.
Once the rooms were cleared, he used his radio to call for emergency personnel, although he could already tell it was too late.
Emily walked in and saw what was left of her mother’s face, and screamed. “Oh Mom… Mom. Why? Why did you do this? Why?” Then the flood gate of tears opened.
Officer Brian “Spider” Webb and his new partner, Officer Cindy Brigham arrived on scene just as Mackay called for the ambulance. Seeing Emily in tears, Officer Brigham walked over to console and gently remove her from the apartment, allowing Webb and Mackay to secure the scene until the crime scene investigators arrived.
Sitting in the open rear door of the police cruiser, Emily slowly composed herself as Brigham asked her a few questions.
“Is there someone – a friend or relative I can call for you, Ms. Fitzgerald?”
Unfortunately, Emily had no longer had a “next of kin.” She hated the idea of calling her mentor at the firm. The last person she wanted to see right now was Jason Rush. Especially since he’d already had a lot to drink when she saw him two hours ago.
“No. No,” Emily sniffed. “I’ll be fine.”
Just then, the sergeant she had spoken to on the phone arrived to take charge of the scene. Looking at Emily, he said, “Aren’t you the daughter of that woman from Maine who’s all over the news tonight?”
Before she could answer, Officer Mackay walked up to report the situation to Sergeant Tracy.
“Excuse us, Ms. Fitzgerald.” Tracy said to Emily. “Cindy, could you stay with her? Thanks.”
Walking toward the apartment with Mackay, Tracy said, “Okay, what happened?”
Mackay reported the brief scenario of hearing the gunshot, clearing the apartment, and securing the scene.
“Right now, Webb is talking to the landlady who lives in the first floor apartment,” Mackay replied.
“I imagine she’s a little shaken too. I’ll have Webb and Brigham talk to some of the other neighbors as well. What else we got?” Tracy asked.
“Sarge… The victim knew her daughter was coming. It looks like she left a note and a bunch of interesting stuff on the kitchen table for her to find when she arrived.”
“Did you read the note? What did it say?” Tracy asked.
“Yeah. I gave it a quick glance. You know that story they’ve been talking about on the news tonight, Sarge?”
“Yeah, I saw the report at six.”
“Wait until you read the letter!”
* * * * *
Not wanting to talk directly to her mentor at this hour, Emily called Jason Rush’s office number, leaving a voice mail message.
“Mr. Rush… this is Emily Fitzgerald. My mother committed suicide just before midnight. I’m at her apartment now with the police. I’m calling to let you know I will not be able to keep our 8:00 a.m. meeting today, and will also need a few days to make arrangements. Good bye.”
Thankful for voicemail, she was surprised when her phone rang a minute later, his name appearing on the screen.
Cautiously answering, she said, “Hello, this is Emily Fitzgerald.”
“Emily… it’s Jason. I’m sooo sorry to hear about your mother. Are you okay? Is there anything I can do?”
He was slurring his words quite a bit, and she wondered if he would even remember speaking to her in the morning.
“Thank you, Mr. Rush. I…”
He interrupted. “Emily, please call me Jason.”
“Thank you, Jason. I’ll be fine, but I’ll call you should I need anything. I really just wanted to let you know what happened and that I needed to take a few days off.”
“Please… feel free to take as much time as you need. We need you to be sharp as you prepare for the bar exam. “
“Thank you for understanding, Jason.”
“Are you sure there’s nothing I can do for you tonight?” he asked, adding.
“I’ve got a great big shoulder to cry on.”
Emily wanted to gag. “No sir. I’m fine. Thank you. I’ve got to go.”
* * * * *
Inside Joan’s apartment, the CSI team checked for evidence that might point to anything other than a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Although the medical examiner’s initial on-site findings were consistent with that of a suicide, he still needed to bring Joan’s body to the morgue for further examination and testing to confirm those findings.
Emily stood on the sidewalk outside her mother’s apartment, occasionally speaking with one of the police officers, while the team of investigators worked inside. Two hours later, Emily watched the medical examiner and his assistant remove the body bag containing her mother’s body from the apartment.
Although she had many friends and co-workers, Emily realized she no longer had a family. It’s official. I am alone in this world, she thought, as the tears began to stream down her lightly freckled cheeks once again.
Sergeant Tracy found her in the driveway, leaning against her mother’s car.
“Ms. Fitzgerald,” he said, calling her over with his fingers. “Your mother was apparently expecting you to come. She left a note and other information I think you’ll want to see.”
“Yes Sergeant. I told her I was coming, although she said she didn’t want company at this hour.”
“What made you decide to come at this late hour?” he asked.
“I saw the news story about the woman in Maine, and her daughter’s picture. The daughter looks like me. I think you noticed that too, when you arrived here earlier. Didn’t you?”
“Yes, I was about to mention it when Officer Mackay walked up.”
“Anyway, when I saw her photo, I called my mother to ask her if she knew anything about this, especially with the woman’s Boise-area connection. Mom always acted funny when I asked about my father, her lack of family members, etc. She was always overly protective of me, and my background. Lately, when we spoke, her personality would suddenly change. She became mean. Every sentence included the f-word, and she seemed to resent that I became a lawyer and wanted to live in my own apartment.”
“Well, Ms. Fitzgerald,” Tracy began, “I’m sure the autopsy will identify if something was causing those personality swings. Dr. Drake is quite thorough with his investigations.”
Taking a breath, the sergeant said, “I imagine you’d like to see what she wanted you to find.”
“Yes sir. I am.”
“As an attorney, I’m sure you realize everything is considered evidence, so I can’t leave you alone with the stuff she left for you.”
“I do. Thank you Sergeant.”
“I need to get back to the station, but I’ll have Officer Brigham stay here with you.”
Wearing the latex gloves Sergeant Tracy gave to her, Emily picked up her mother’s suicide note, now encased in a plastic protective sleeve. There was no doubt her mother had written the letter. It was definitely her handwriting.
She began to read.
As I write this letter, I know you’re on your way here, and since you’re reading this, you already know I’m dead. I loved you so much. You were my life - my purpose - for the past twenty-five years. I’m very proud of the beautiful, successful young woman you’ve become. I ended my life tonight, because of that story on the news. Once you learn the truth, and I’ve left it all on the table for you, my life would have been over anyway.
The truth is Emily, that young woman in Maine – the one that looks so much like you – is your twin sister. Her mother - is your real mother. I delivered both of you in my ambulance after she was in a car accident. She thought she was only having one baby. She never knew about you. So I secretly kept you, and raised you as my own, hoping that this day would never come. I had always wanted a baby, but could never have one on my own. It’s why my husband left me. I thought it had been God’s way of giving me a child to love, and to be loved.
Please forgive me for depriving you of a life with your real family. I was selfish - always wanting to keep your love and attention for myself, because I never received it from anyone else.
Remember Emily - this woman (and her family) doesn’t know about you. They are going through their own healing process right now based on everything they’ve just learned. Keep this in mind before you go trying to contact them – and I know you will. It may re-open a wound that will only cause you more harm than good.
Using her sleeves to wipe the tears from her face, Emily began looking at everything Joan had left behind. There were old newspaper clippings about the accident on the day she was born. According to the article, it had been a pretty severe accident. The woman – her birth mother, had to be removed using the “jaws of life.” The other driver had died at the scene. The photos of the accident were gruesome.
Joan had been featured in one of the articles for having successfully delivered the woman’s baby. Apparently Joan had delivered many babies as an EMT, earning her the nickname, “Stork” Fitzgerald. I never knew that, she thought, smiling for the first time since her kitten greeted her at the door of her apartment earlier that evening.
It was all there. Every memento of Emily’s life with the woman she called ‘Mom’ was on this table. It was like a time capsule of her life. Inside she found a collection of handmade greeting cards, grade school artwork, report cards, certificates and awards she had earned, and long forgotten, and more news clippings.
Joan had kept a journal recording everything she had done from the day she placed Emily inside the cooler, to her final entry moments before she took her own life.
Reading the early entries, Emily began taking notes, writing down important dates, names, places, and activities. Two days after delivering Emily, Joan stole a copy of Aimee Myers’s birth certificate and a blank form to create one for Emily Fitzgerald. Joan had told the truth in her suicide note. Emily was not a Fitzgerald, but a Myers… no wait… according to the news report, her real last name was McDonald. Her birth mother’s first name was Elizabeth. That explains why my middle name is Elizabeth, she thought.
The sun was starting to peak over the eastern horizon. Emily had been sitting at the kitchen table for nearly four hours, taking it all in. Learning about a past she knew nothing about.
Officer Cindy Brigham had not said a word to her the entire time, but as her shift neared its end, the officer cleared her throat and said, “Ms. Fitzgerald, we need to finish up here. Once the investigation is closed, you’ll have access to this material and the apartment.”
“Of course, I understand,” replied Emily. “Is Sergeant Tracy still on duty? I’d like to speak with him.”
Using her radio, Officer Brigham contacted the station to inquire about the sergeant’s duty status. “He’s still at the station. Would you like me to ask him to call your cellphone?”
“Yes. That would be great. Thanks.”
Five minutes later, Emily’s phone rang.
“Ms. Fitzgerald, it’s Sergeant Tracy. What can I do for you?”
“Thank you for calling Sergeant. I’ve spent the night reviewing everything my mother left on the kitchen table. I know you’ve read the suicide note. I’m sure you can imagine what’ll happen if that information gets out to the media. I don’t want Ms. Myers or her daughter Aimee to learn about my existence from some reporter.”
“The Department prides itself on its ability to maintain confidentiality, Ms. Fitzgerald.”
“I hope so Sergeant. I’d rather not need to request a gag order on this case.”
“No problem. Detective Mitchell Downey has been assigned the case. He should be contacting you today.”
“Thank you. I’ll be waiting for his call.”
Before leaving, Emily walked to her old room. She hadn’t seen it since her mother had redecorated it, expecting her to move back in after college. Joan was right. It did look nice, she thought.
Officer Brigham locked and sealed the door to the apartment. It was still considered a crime scene for now. After a long night, the two women left, each returning to their homes. Officer Brigham’s shift may have ended, but things for Emily were just getting started.
* * * * *
When Mary Beth and Anne had moved out on their own, Mac started having weekly one-on-one chats with each of his daughters to keep in touch. While they often saw each other at the beach house on weekends, these chats were his way of staying connected to them individually. As a former military man, Mac was so accustomed to using acronyms, that he eventually started referring to these “quality time with Dad” chats as “QTD’s.” The name stuck, and each week he would have QTD’s with Mary Beth and Anne, having lunch or coffee at a nearby Panera Bread or Starbucks. Today’s QTD, however, was at Mary Beth’s house.
After the usual opening banter, Mary Beth asked, “I imagine you’ve heard about Dan?”
“Yeah… sounds like he fell off the goddamn wagon again,” Mac replied, showing dislike of his former son-in-law.
“It seems that way,” Mary Beth replied. “Apparently something on TV set him off. He started doing shots, and didn’t stop. When his friends noticed what he was doing, the pub’s regulars tried to stop him, but he started throwing punches at them instead. Some called the cops and he ended up in jail. I heard he got fired too! Looks like I won’t be receiving child support payments for a while.”
Nodding, Mac said, “A buddy of mine was in the bar when it happened. Knowing Dan’s connection to me, he called me. Fred said it started when the story of your mother’s return was all over the news. He told me Dan started swearing up a storm, saying all kinds of shit about us. When I heard he was taken to jail, I called Wilson to see if he had any information. Wilson made a few phone calls and found out Dan was pissed that your mother had made herself known to us. Apparently, someone had been calling your mother threatening to reveal her secret if she did not give him money. Putting two and two together, Wilson thought Dan might be the guy. He was right. Dan admitted to it.”
“Great. That means Dan’s going to be in jail for a while. I’ll never get a cent of child support from him again.” Trying to hold back tears, Mary Beth added, “Looks like I’ll need to get a second job.”
Mac put his hand on hers, saying, “Mary Beth, I paid a good portion of Annie’s college, and I never really offered to help you, because I knew Dan would probably piss the money away on his booze and bullshit.” Reaching into his shirt pocket, he said, “I’d like to make up for all those years I took you for granted. Here’s a check equal to the amount I gave your sister for college.”
Opening the folded check, Mary Beth could not longer hold back the tears. “Dad, this is so generous. I…I… I can probably pay off my mortgage with this!”
“That’s what I figured, Pumpkin,” he replied using his childhood pet name for her. “With your house paid off, you should have no problem taking care of your family, with or without child support from that loser.”
Mary Beth came over to her father, gave him a hug, saying, “Thank you, Dad. I love you.”
Returning the hug, Mac replied, “I love you too, Pumpkin.”