I had to be hearing things. It was the only plausible explanation for the insane statement Max had just made.
“There was only one survivor that night. Katka Dusek died with her parents.”
The words echoed in my mind as I stared at the newspaper article on the desk in front of me. I’d hired the private investigator to find the Dusek twins after they’d both left me, each one saying they wanted me to be happy with the other one. My wife, Livie. My lover, Katka.
Only now, the PI was telling me that Katka was…dead. He was trying to convince me she’d been dead for sixteen years.
It wasn’t possible. I could see her in my mind’s eye. Tall, slender, model-gorgeous. Curls the color of caramel. Dark green eyes full of love. I could feel her body, her skin against my palms, the weight of her breasts in my hands. She was real. How could he say she was dead?
“Mr. Westmore,” Max said my name for the third time. “I know this must be a shock for you.”
I laughed, a short bark of air that held no humor and slumped back in my seat. “A shock? That’s putting it mildly.” I ran my hand through my hair. “I married Livie Dusek. She told me she had an identical twin sister named Katka. That their parents were murdered when the girls were seven. They were raised in an orphanage in the Czech Republic before moving here three years ago.” I listed the facts I knew as if they alone would convince Max of what I was talking about.
Max put a second piece of paper next to the copy of the newspaper article. “Here’s a translation of the article.” He pointed to a sentence he’d circled. “Read it for yourself.”
I shook my head, not wanting to read it. “How do I know it’s a true translation?” An idea popped into my head and I grabbed onto it, desperate for anything that could explain the craziness unfolding before me. “In fact, how do I know that my dad didn’t put you up to this? That the two of you aren’t just making this whole thing up to fuck with me?”
In his line of work, Max was used to people yelling at him so my little accusation didn’t even phase him. “Feel free to take the article to a translator of your own choosing.” He held out a manila envelope. “But you should probably look at these first.”
I took the envelope, but didn’t open it yet. I had a bad feeling that whatever was in here would change everything. For a moment, I considered putting it down and walk out, forget about this entire situation and try to find Katka and Livie myself. This time I wouldn’t care whether or not my father found out that my wife had left me.
But…I blew out a breath, trying to think rationally, calmly. Even though I’d accused Max of working against me, my gut said I needed to hear him out, that there was something bigger going on than what I’d originally thought.
He waited silently as I opened the envelope and pulled out a stack of pictures. The first was of the outside of the apartment where the girls had lived. Then, the interior through a window. Next, was one of Katka coming out of the apartment with a big bag.
I might not be able tell them apart when they were kids, but I knew it was Katka here. Her hair was down. Livie never wore her hair down. I’d learned that after the whole mistaken identity thing.
The next picture was one of Livie coming out of the apartment with a suitcase. Her hair was back in a ponytail.
“Look at the time stamp.”
I glanced at the bottom right corner of the pictures. Livie’s had been taken about an hour before Katka’s.
“Now look at what they’re wearing.”
I hadn’t even realized that I hadn’t looked at their clothes until he told me to. I’d been focusing on their faces, their hair. Now I saw that they were both wearing jeans and a light gray jacket.
“They have the same jacket,” I said. “Doesn’t mean anything.”
“Keep going.” Max almost sounded sympathetic.
I scowled and went through the next couple pictures where the girls got into cabs and drove away from the apartment. Then the setting changed. It was a hotel and a series of shots through a window. The gap in the curtains wasn’t big, but it was enough to get a few clear shots of Katka in her underwear.
“Where is she?” I asked, annoyed that this wasn’t the first thing out of his mouth. “You said you hadn’t found either of them, but you know where Katka is.”
“I said you needed to know what I found,” he corrected. “I never said I didn’t find anyone.” He leaned forward, folding his large hands on the desk. “And that’s not Katka. It’s Livie.”
I put the picture on the desk and tapped the picture that clearly showed a tattoo I knew intimately. “Livie doesn’t have any tattoos. Katka got that one. It’s their initials. Trust me. I’ve seen it up close and personal.”
“She’s registered under Livie Dusek,” he said.
“So they’re staying together,” I countered stubbornly. “They’re twins.”
“Only one woman is in that room, Mr. Westmore.” Max spoke in a firm, no-nonsense tone, as if that would get through to me. “I did my job. Talked to people at the hotel, at the apartment building, at the places where you said Livie and Katka both worked. No one has ever seen them together. Ever.”
I opened my mouth, then snapped it shut again. I’d never seen them together either. Of course, there were any number of good reasons for that.
“There aren’t any pictures of the two of them as adults.” Max gestured towards the grainy newspaper photo. “That’s the last picture I’ve been able to find of the twins together. And there’s no record of a Katka Dusek or Duseková in any orphanage in the Czech Republic. Or any paper trail of any kind for her. Only for Livie Duseková.”
“They have passports. Applications for green cards.”
He shook his head. “There aren’t any for Katka Dusek.” He pulled out another piece of paper. “But I do have this. And I don’t think you’ll need a translation to know what it is.”
I picked it up in numb fingers. He was right. I didn’t need to read it to know that I was holding a death certificate. And the name on it was clear. Katka Duseková.
“Here’s the name of the hotel.” Max scribbled something down on a piece of paper. “And I can keep investigating if you’d like, figure out why she’s pretending to be her sister.”
I shook my head. “No, that’s fine. I’ll take it from here.” I stood. “Send me your bill.”
I was still in a daze as I walked out of the PI’s office. Why would Livie pretend to be her dead sister and sleep with me? Was the whole closed-off, no-sex thing just an act? But why? It didn’t make sense. She didn’t have anything to gain from it. And Katka…my Kat.
My heart twisted painfully.
She was real. She had to be.
A theory was slowly forming in the back of my mind and it would explain everything, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be right. I didn’t know enough about it though to know for sure. I did, however, have someone I could ask.