By Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2010 Lisa Scottoline
All rights reserved.
Bennie Rosato didn't have anything in common with her identical twin, except their DNA. They shared the same blue eyes, strong cheekbones, and full mouth, but whenever Bennie looked at Alice Connelly, all she could see were their differences. Tonight, Bennie had on a khaki suit, white shirt, and brown pumps, her lawyer uniform. Alice had on tight shorts with a low-cut black top, flaunting cleavage that Bennie didn't even know they had. She made a mental note to look down her shirt, after she got home.
Alice was making dinner and she opened the oven door, releasing the aroma of roasting chicken. "Finally, it's ready."
"You sound surprised."
"Not at all." Bennie changed the subject. "I like your new house, it's great."
"Yeah, right." Alice turned, carving fork in hand. "Why are you being so condescending?"
"You are, too. It'll look better when I move all my stuff in, and the rent is low, since the estate can't sell it. That's the only way I could afford it. I don't have your money."
Bennie let it go. "It's good that it came furnished."
"This crap? It's dead people furniture." Alice pushed back a smooth strand of hair, yet another difference between them. She blew-dry her hair straight, and her eyeliner was perfect. Bennie let her hair curl naturally and thought ChapStick was makeup.
She sipped her wine, feeling warm. There was no air-conditioning, and the kitchen was small and spare except for knobby wooden chairs and a dark wood table. A greenish glass fixture gave little light, and cracks zigzagged down the plaster like summer lightning. Still the cottage had a rustic charm, especially set in the rolling countryside of southeastern Pennsylvania, an hour or so outside of Philadelphia.
Alice plopped the chicken on the table, then sat down. "Don't panic, it's organic."
"You're eating healthy now, huh?"
"What do you mean? I always did. So, are you dating anybody?" Alice asked.
"How long's it been since you got laid?"
"Nice talk." Bennie bit into a potato, which tasted good. "If I remembered sex, I'd miss it."
"Whatever happened to that lawyer you lived with? What was his name again?"
"Grady Wells." Bennie felt a pang. She'd get over Grady, any decade now.
"So what happened?"
"Didn't work out." Bennie ate quickly. It had taken forever to get here from Philly, in rush-hour traffic. She wouldn't get home until midnight, which wasn't the way she wanted to end an exhausting week.
"Who'd you see after Grady?"
"So he's the one that got away?"
Bennie kept her head down, hiding her expression. She couldn't understand how Alice always intuited so much about her. They'd never lived together, even as babies, though Alice claimed to have memories from the womb. Bennie couldn't even remember where she put her car keys.
"So, what's new in your life? Don't give me the official version. I read the website."
"Nothing but work. How about you?"
"I'm seeing a few nice guys, and I'm working out. I even joined a gym." Alice made a muscle of her slim arm. "See?"
"Good." Bennie had been an elite rower in her time, but she'd been too busy lately to exercise. "By the way, I hear great things about the job you're doing at PLG. Karen thinks you're terrific."
"Are you keeping tabs on me, now?"
"Of course not. I ran into her, at a benefit."
Alice arched an eyebrow. "Does she have to report to you just because you got me the job?"
"No, but if I see her, we talk. She knows me, like she knows most of the bar association. She has to, we all support the Public Law Group." Bennie felt a headache coming on. She'd lost a motion in court this morning, and it was turning out to be the high point of her day.
"So what did she say, exactly? She loves to gossip."
"It wasn't like that." Bennie sipped her wine, but it didn't help. "All she said was that they like you. They have you doing office administration, payroll, and personnel, in addition to the paralegal work."
"Not anymore. I quit."
"What?" Bennie said, blind-sided. "You quit PLG? When?"
"The other day. It wasn't for me, and the money sucked."
"But you have to start somewhere." Bennie couldn't hide her dismay. She'd stuck her neck out for Alice and now her friends at PLG would be left in the lurch. "They would have promoted you, in time."
"When, ten years?" Alice rolled her eyes. "The work was boring, and the people were so freaking annoying. I'd rather work with you, at Rosato & Associates."
Bennie's mouth went dry. She couldn't imagine Alice at her firm. "I don't need a paralegal."
"I can answer phones."
"I already have a receptionist."
"So fire her ass."
Bennie felt cranky. Maybe it was the headache, which was a doozy. "I like her. I would never do that to her."
"Not even for me? We're the only family we have."
"No." Bennie tried to keep a civil tongue. Being her sister's keeper was getting old. "I can't fire her. I won't."
"Okay, fine, then think outside the box. You need somebody to run the office, don't you?"
"I run the office."
Alice snorted. "If you ask me, you could use a hand with personnel. Those girls who work for you need a life lesson, especially the little one, Mary DiNunzio. Time for girlfriend to grow up."
"That's not true." Bennie wished she hadn't come. Her stomach felt queasy. Her appetite had vanished. She set down her fork. "DiNunzio's a good lawyer. She should make partner next month."
"Whatever, then I'll be your assistant. I'll take ninety grand, to start."
"Listen, I can't always be the solution to your problems." Bennie's head thundered. "I got you a job, and you quit it. If you want another job, go out and find one."
"Thanks, Mom." Alice smiled sourly. "The economy's in the toilet, if you haven't noticed."
"You should have thought of that before, and you'll find something, if you try. You went to college, and you have lots of ... abilities and, oh, my head...." Suddenly the kitchen whirled like spin art, and Bennie collapsed onto the table. Her face landed on the edge of her dirty plate, and her hand upset her water glass.
"Aww, got a headache?" Alice chuckled. "Too bad."
Bennie didn't know what was happening. She felt impossibly drunk. Her eyes wouldn't stay open.
"You're such a fool. You think I'd really want to work for you?"
Bennie tried to lift her head up, but couldn't. All her strength had left her body. Sound and colors swirled together.
"Give it up. It's over."
Bennie watched, helpless, as darkness descended.
Bennie woke up, groggy. She opened her eyes but everything stayed pitch black. She didn't know where she was. She seemed to be lying down. Where was the kitchen? The house? Alice? She couldn't see anything. Was she asleep? She got up and slam!
"Ow!" she heard herself say, momentarily stunned. She slumped backwards, hitting the back of her head. On what? Where was she? Was she dreaming? Was she awake? One question chased the next in a crazy circle. It was so dark. If she was asleep, it was time to wake up.
She raised her hand and bam! Her fingers hit something hard, above her. She flashed on the dinner with Alice. That had happened, hadn't it? She hadn't dreamed it, had she? Her face had fallen onto the table, hitting her cheek.
Give it up. It's over.
Bennie tried to remember. Had she heard that? Had Alice said that? What the hell? Where was she? The only sound was her own breathing. She raised her arms, cautiously, and hit the thing on top of her. She felt along its surface with her fingertips. It was solid. Coarse. She pressed but it didn't move. She knocked it and heard a rap, like wood. It felt like a top.
She didn't get it. She couldn't process it. Her arms were at an angle. The wood was less than a foot from her face. She flattened her arms against her sides. There was another surface under her fingertips, behind her. She spread her arms, running them along the surface behind her. More wood? She shifted her weight down, shimmying on her back. Her toes hit something. Her feet were bare, her shoes gone. She pointed her toes against whatever she had reached. It seemed like a bottom.
It's a box. Am I in a box?
She didn't understand. It couldn't be. She touched along her body from her neck to her knees. She had on her suit from work. Her skirt felt torn. Her knees hurt. There was wetness there. Blood? She told herself not to panic. The air felt close. She squinted against the darkness, but it was absolute.
She felt the lid. Her thoughts raced ahead of her fingers. The top was sealed. There was nothing inside the box. No air, food, water. No hole to breathe through. She forced herself to stay calm. She needed to understand what was going on. It wasn't a dream, it was real. She couldn't believe it and she could, both at once. Was she really in a box? Would Alice come get her out? Would anybody else?
A sense of dread crept over her. She hadn't told anybody at the office where she was going. It was Friday night, and the associates had scattered. DiNunzio had taken Judy Carrier home to her parents' for dinner. Anne Murphy was out of the country for summer vacation, as was Lou Jacobs, her firm's investigator. Bennie's best friend, Sam Freminet, was in Maui, and she wasn't close to anybody else. Nobody would realize that she was missing until Monday morning.
She exploded in panic, yelling and pounding the lid with both hands. It didn't budge. She kept pounding with all her might, breaking a sweat. The lid still didn't move. She felt the seams with shaking fingers. She couldn't tell how it was sealed. She didn't hear a nail or anything else give way.
She pushed and pounded, then started kicking, driving her bare toes into the lid. It didn't move but she kept going, powered by sheer terror, and in the next minute she heard herself screaming, even though the words shamed her.
"Please, Alice, help!"
Alice dried the Pyrex dish and placed it where she'd found it in the cabinet, then folded the dishtowel over the handle of the oven, the way it had been. She went to the table, straightened the stack of paid bills, and squared the corners, as she had found them.
The name on the mail read Ms. Sally Cavanaugh, and Ms. Cavanaugh would never know that while she was in the Poconos, a random woman had entered her house through an unlocked window and served wine à la Rohypnol in her kitchen. That's what she got for broadcasting her vacation plans all over the local post office. Alice had taken a train from Philly to the little town, scoped it out until she found an empty house, then taken a cab here in the dark, so nobody would see her.
She went to the living room, sliding her cell phone from her shorts. She flipped it open with a thumb and pressed until she found the photo. She had hauled Cavanaugh's things up from the basement, put them back in the living room, and compared the scene with the photo to make sure it was all in order; family and Siamese cat photos on the end tables, quilted knitting bag next to the worn brown chair, bestselling novels stacked on the credenza.
She picked up her black cloth bag and Bennie's messenger bag, then locked the front door by pressing the button on its knob. She twisted the deadbolt to lock, slid up the screen on the window, then climbed onto the porch, closing the window behind her. It was already dark because it had taken her so long to get rid of Bennie. A yellow bug light shone by the door, but no one was around to see her anyway. A thick woods screened the house from view, and it was surrounded by horse pastures. The air was humid and smelled like horse manure. She hurried down the porch steps, her footfalls pounding on the wood. She wasn't sorry to leave the country.
She dug her hand into the messenger bag and found the keys to Bennie's maroon Lexus, glistening in the driveway. She hit the button on the fob, opened the door, and jumped inside. She twisted on the ignition, reversed out of the driveway, then drove onto the private dirt road, spraying dirt and stones. She followed the road as it wound through the woods, passing battered black mailboxes until she reached the main road, then the highway. The air-conditioning blasted cold, and her tank top was finally drying. She'd worked up a sweat dragging Bennie into the backseat.
She hit the gas and relaxed into the ride. Everything was going according to plan. She'd been working at PLG during the day, but started moonlighting with a side business of her own, managing two women who sold Xanax, Ambien, Vikes, and Oxys to housewives at a gym and an upscale boutique. She fell into it when she met her boyfriend Q, who ran a full-scale operation all over the Northeast. He supplied her, but he would've taken a cut if he knew how much she really charged. The ladies who lunch weren't driving their Land Rovers to 52nd and Diamond for their Lexapro. But last week, she'd taken one risk too many.
Bad boys were her weakness, and though she'd had a good thing going with Q, even the CEO gets boring after a while. She'd hooked up with one of Q's runners, Jimmy, and they had some fun for a few weeks, on the down. But when Jimmy didn't show up to meet her, two nights ago, she guessed what must've happened. Q was a badass and he wouldn't stop until he'd disappeared her, too. He had people everywhere, and if one of his crew ever got ahold of her, she'd beg them not to take her alive. Bottom line, she had to get away, so she decided to become her rich sister long enough to take her money and run. The scam shouldn't take more than a few days. Alice would have killed Bennie but she didn't want to see her face on a dead body, especially not in that horrible suit.
Who still shops at Brooks?
She hit the gas, feeling her pulse quicken as the car accelerated through the dark night, over open road. She stayed the speed limit, but it was killing her. She loved to go fast, she fed on the sensation. She always wanted faster, bigger, better, newer, harder. She moved on when she got bored or restless, she specialized in cutting her losses. Life wasn't a dress rehearsal after all, and Alice lived hers to the fullest. She couldn't help the way she was. It was all because of her childhood, which was too damn good.
She sped along, thinking of her parents, John and Vilna Connelly, proprietors of the Connelly Insurance Agency, in Vineland, New Jersey. They'd lived a small, quiet life, taking good care of her, giving her the requisite pink bedroom in their split-level, sending her to the local public school, and making sure she had all the right lessons, but she never loved them. She didn't feel connected to them at all, probably because she knew inside that she wasn't.
She had grown up feeling apart from them, even before she ever heard the word "adoption." She knew she didn't look like them; she was blond and they were both dark-haired, and she surpassed them in height as early as middle school. The biggest difference was temperament; she was big, loud, and wanted everything, and they were small, meek, and wanted nothing. But every time she had asked them if she was adopted, they'd denied it, and even now, she wasn't angry that they lied, just that they were so bad at it. And when they'd died together a few years ago, in a car accident with a drunk driver, she went to their funeral and could barely squeeze out a tear.
She reached into the messenger bag, fumbled around for a Kleenex, spit on it, and wiped off her makeup. Then she lowered the window to ruin her blow-dry, and by the time she got to Philly, her hair was as curly as Bennie's. She steered into her exclusive neighborhood in Fairmount, near her beloved Schuylkill River. The houses were colonial with painted shutters, and BMWs and SUVs lined the street. She pulled into a parking space, twisted on the interior light, and smiled at the reflection in the rearview mirror. She looked exactly like Bennie, at least from the neck up.
"Hi, I'm Bennie Rosato," she said, practicing in the quiet car. "Pleased to meet you, I'm Bennie. Bennie Rosato."
She cut the ignition, grabbed her cloth bag and Bennie's messenger bag, got out of the car, and chirped it locked. Two men walked past her, talking, and she kept her head down. She hoped she didn't run into any of Bennie's neighbors because her twin never dressed this good. She reached Bennie's house, a three-story brick rowhouse with shiny black shutters, climbed the front steps, and picked the key that said Schlage as the house key. It slid easily into the lock, and she opened the front door, went in, and let it close behind her. She felt for a light switch, flipped it on, and stopped dead. She had forgotten one thing. Bennie had a big dog. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline. Copyright © 2010 Lisa Scottoline. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.