He smirked, realizing what she was seeing.
So many clues she’d missed.
The pictures that were Daniel but at the same time weren’t.
The holes in the file on Daniel’s history, the missing photos.
Time, dates, birth dates – the easiest small changes to make if you wanted to hide something.
Daniel’s strange reluctance to believe what he was seeing when he looked at the spy images.
His struggles with loyalty.
Those long, long fingers.
“Other Daniel,” she whispered.
The smirk vanished. “Huh?”
She blew out a breath and rolled her eyes – she couldn’t help it. It was all too much like one of her mom’s ridiculous soap operas. She remembered the frustration of every holiday she and her mother had spent together, the afternoons lost to the incredibly slow-moving, implausible dramas. No one was ever really dead; everyone came back. And then there were the twins. Always with the twins.
Batman actually didn’t look that much like Daniel, as far as identical twins went. Daniel’s features were refined, his aspect gentle. Batman was all hard angles and tightly gripped expressions. His hazel eyes seemed darker, maybe just because his brows were pulled down, putting them in shadow. His hair had the same color and curl but was cropped close, the way she would expect in an agent. Judging from his thicker neck, she would guess Batman had the gym musculature to Daniel’s sports build. Not immensely bulky or he wouldn’t have been able to pass for his brother in the pictures. Just harder, more defined.
“Kevin Beach,” she said in a flat voice. “You’re alive.”
He sat on the edge of her desk. As her eyes followed him, she didn’t let them rest for even a second on her computer’s clock right by his elbow.
“Who were you expecting?”
“There were a few options. All of whom would want both me and your brother dead.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe I fell for this.”
“Daniel’s never even met de la Fuentes, has he? It was always you.”
His face, which had begun to relax, was suddenly guarded again. “What?”
She nodded to the photographs scattered on the floor. He seemed to notice them for the first time. He leaned over to examine one, then bent down to grab it. Then the one underneath, and the next. He crumpled them in his fist.
“Where did you get these?”
“Compliments of a small department working for the American government – entirely off the books. I used to be in their employ. They asked me to freelance.”
His face contorted in outrage. “This is highly classified!”
“You wouldn’t believe my clearance level.”
Back in her face, he grabbed the front of her T-shirt and lifted her and the chair a few inches off the ground. “Who are you?”
She kept herself calm. “I’ll tell you everything I know. I got played and I’m about as happy about it as you.”
He set her down. She wanted to count in her head, mark the time, but she was afraid he would notice her distraction. He stood over her, arms folded.
“What’s your name?”
She spoke as slowly as she thought she could get away with. “It used to be Dr. Juliana Fortis, but there’s a death certificate with that name now.” She watched his face to see if any of this information meant something to him; it didn’t, as far as she could tell. “I operated under the direction of the department – it doesn’t have another name. It doesn’t exist officially. They worked with the CIA and some other black ops programs. Interrogation specialists.”
He sat back down on the edge of the desk.
“Three years ago, someone decided to dissolve the department’s two key assets. Namely, me and my mentor, Dr. Joseph Barnaby.” Still no recognition. “I don’t know why, although we had access to incredibly sensitive information, and I’m guessing something we knew was the motive. They murdered Dr. Barnaby and tried to murder me. I’ve been running ever since. They’ve found me four times. Three times they tried to have me assassinated. The last time, they apologized.”
His eyes were narrowed, evaluating.
“They told me they had a problem, and they needed me. They gave me a stack of files on the de la Fuentes situation and named your brother as his collaborator. They said that in three weeks Daniel would be spreading the supervirus across the American Southwest. They told me I had three days to find out where the virus was and how to stop de la Fuentes from implementing his plan.”
He was shaking his head now.
“They told you that much?” he asked in disbelief.
“Counterterrorism was always the main component of my job. I know where all the warheads and the dirty bombs are buried.”
He pursed his lips, making a decision. “Well, since you already know the details, I guess it’s not a huge breach of policy for me to tell you that I shut down the de la Fuentes situation six months ago. De la Fuentes’s death is not common knowledge. What’s left of the cartel is keeping this quiet so they don’t appear vulnerable to the competition.”
She was surprised at the relief she felt. The weight of knowing that so many people were doomed to painful execution had been heavier than she’d realized.
“Yes,” she breathed. “That makes sense.”
The department wasn’t that cold-blooded, apparently. They’d used a nightmare catastrophe to motivate her, but they weren’t messing around with civilians still in danger.