Authors: Andrea Kane
Tags: #Suspense, #Fiction, #Thriller
ALSO BY ANDREA KANE
FORENSIC INSTINCTS NOVELS:
THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE
THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE
THE STRANGER YOU KNOW
THE SILENCE THAT SPEAKS
OTHER SUSPENSE THRILLERS:
RUN FOR YOUR LIFE
NO WAY OUT
SCENT OF DANGER
I’LL BE WATCHING YOU
WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME
DRAWN IN BLOOD
THE MURDER THAT NEVER WAS
Copyright © 2016 by Rainbow Connection Enterprises, Inc.
All right reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is prohibited without prior written permission of the publisher, Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC, 16 Mount Bethel Road #777, Warren, NJ 07059, USA.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishements, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Printed in USA
Kane, Andrea, author.
The murder that never was / Andrea Kane.
pages cm -- (Forensic instincts)
1. Serial murderers--Fiction. 2. Murder--
Investigation--Fiction. 3. Thrillers (Fiction)
I. Title. II. Series: Kane, Andrea. Forensic Instincts
PS3561.A463M87 2016 813’.54
To all foster kids who struggle to overcome the odds and to all foster families who help them do it.
Lisa Barnes couldn’t believe how quickly her luck had changed.
A week ago, she’d been in poverty-stricken hell. Now, she had a job, a place to stay in a nice Chicago neighborhood, and maybe, just maybe, a future.
She strolled around the cozy, two-story rental house that was now her home—at least temporarily—touching a figurine here and a photograph there. She still had to pinch herself to accept her good fortune. Especially after last week’s start of another string of failures. How many jobs had she tried to get that week—every day starting at eight a.m.? And then again today? At least fifteen in total, maybe more.
Her doctored resume, complete with skills she didn’t have, was a loser. So she’d tweaked it just enough to include her personal background—eighteen years in foster care—hoping to elicit some sympathy.
That hadn’t worked, either.
All bullshit and full of unmerited confidence, she’d walked into every business in downtown Chicago, from a bakery to a stationery store, asking for any position they had—a stock person, a cashier—anything. She’d stopped just short of begging.
One look at her work history, plus the gaps it contained, and they’d all tossed her out.
She’d all but given up when she spotted that snotty rich-women’s gym tucked away at the end of Michigan Avenue, just past the designer shops.
It was so pink inside that Lisa almost puked. It looked like a giant ball of cotton candy—the walls, the carpeting, even the trim on the trainers’ little spandex outfits.
Pink. Pink. Pink.
How could these women stand it?
The clientele dripped money. Lisa hadn’t spent so much of her adult life living in shitholes not to be able to recognize über-wealth. Diamonds flashed everywhere, like brilliant spots of light on the women’s fingers, wrists, and ears.
Surely a place like this would have the cash to offer her a job.
Lisa approached the marble front desk, combing her fingers through her light brown hair and giving the woman behind it a glowing, fake smile. She knew she looked passable—she’d worn her only silk top and a pair of designer jeans. She was more cute than pretty, but she was also thin and fit, and she knew how to use makeup when she had to.
The woman at the desk was clearly the owner. She emanated a sense of authority. At first, she gave Lisa a familiar glance and then did a double take. Clearly, she’d mistaken her for someone else.
Realizing that Lisa wasn’t who she’d thought she was, the owner’s whole manner changed. It was marketing time. She eyed Lisa up and down, assessing her from top to bottom. She could afford to be discerning; she herself was petite, toned, and slim, her blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, and her demeanor perky. In fact, all the trainers looked perky. That must be a requirement for the job. That and dazzling white, perfect teeth.
Smiling—also with perfect white teeth—the owner said, “Welcome to Designer Fitness. I’m Kristen. How can I help you today?”
Lisa widened her smile, hoping her teeth didn’t scream the words
. “Hi, Kristen. I’m Lisa. Actually, I was wondering if you might need a new employee. I’m looking for the right job.”
“I see.” A complete shift in attitude. No surprise. “Are you a trainer?”
“Unfortunately, no. I, myself, work out every day, but not professionally. I can assist in any other way you need, however.”
Kristen’s forehead creased. “Such as?”
“Welcoming the clients. Showing prospective ones around. Handling desk duty.”
A pause. “Do you have a resume?”
This was the part where it went straight downhill.
As she’d done all day, Lisa pulled out her paperwork. She knew what it said by memory. A spotty education that didn’t look good, no matter how much she’d doctored it. Ditto for the odd jobs, although she’d claimed to have been a hostess in the five pricy restaurants she’d worked in, rather than a waitress in three of them and a coat check girl at the others. And then there were those stellar jobs at the supermarkets—jobs she’d upgraded to stock manager rather than the cashier that she’d been.
Upgraded or not, none of the jobs was impressive and none of them had lasted more than six months, at best. So she’d inserted the early childhood stuff—about spending eighteen years in the foster care system, working as a nanny—a stretch from the truth, which was that she’d done lots of babysitting—to become financially independent as soon as she turned eighteen.
So much for the doctoring.
Kristen handed her back the pages with that same incredulous look on her face that Lisa had seen all day.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “You have no pertinent work experience, and I don’t think you’re the right fit for our clientele.”
“Please,” Lisa replied. “I need a job desperately. I’ll do anything you need—mop floors, clean bathrooms—anything.”
Kristen was in the process of shaking her head.
That’s when the miracle had happened.
“Kristen,” a female voice behind Lisa said. “You know, we can use a ladies’ lounge assistant. That place is always crowded, and the clients have been complaining that no one’s been providing enough towels, toiletries, snacks, bottles of water—you name it. Maybe this young woman could fill that role.”
Lisa turned, and her eyes widened for a second. No wonder Kristen had mistaken her for someone else. This woman could be her sister.
Recognizing the same thing, the woman—her attire identifying her as a personal trainer—grinned. “Now there’s even more reason to give you a job. Our clientele would love the resemblance. They’d be talking about it for weeks.” Seeing her boss wavering, the trainer said, “Why don’t you let me interview her and see if she’d fit in. She certainly has the right look,” she added in a teasing tone.
Kristen wasn’t about to argue with that. “Fine,” she agreed, going off to assist one of her clients, who was having trouble learning how to use the new Tread Climber.
“What’s your name?” Lisa had blurted out.
“Julie Forman. What’s yours?”
And that had been the start of a very long and, ultimately, hit-it-big day.
Julie had conducted the interview over lunch at a nearby diner, watching Lisa as she hungrily downed a burger, an order of fries, another of onion rings, and an enormous hunk of cheesecake. Julie, of course, ate grilled salmon—dry—and a small green salad with balsamic dressing. For dessert, she treated herself to a sorbet.
Lisa knew she must look like some kind of wild animal, but she couldn’t seem to help herself. She hadn’t had a decent meal in three days.
Julie didn’t comment on Lisa’s behavior. She did skim her paperwork, however, an expression of compassion flickering across her face as she read the life Lisa had led.
“You were in foster care all your life?” she asked.
“Till I was eighteen, yes.” Lisa showed no emotion. “My mother dumped me on the steps of some church. Typical story, would be my guess. A teenager who was scared to death and didn’t know what to do with a baby she didn’t want or know how to care for. At least she didn’t throw me in the garbage, right?”
Julie hadn’t smiled. “You haven’t had any breaks in life. Were any of these foster homes happy experiences?”
Lisa shrugged. “They were okay. Some better, some worse. But it wasn’t all their fault. I was a handful.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Julie said, sounding amused. “It says here that you’re twenty-nine. Is that true?”
“Me, too.” Julie glanced down. “At least we don’t have the same birthday. I’ve got three months on you—assuming the date you gave is also real?”
“That’s the date the nuns who found me gave to foster care,” Lisa responded. “Everything on the page you’re reading is as true as I’ve been told.”
“Fair enough.” Julie leaned forward, folding her hands on the table in front of her, indicating that the compassionate part of the interview was over. “You fabricated the rest of this resume.”
Lisa played the innocent very well. “What do you mean?”
“I watched you when we came in here and were seated. You had no comfort level with that hostess at all. But you were beyond patient with our fairly inept waitress. You practically jumped up and wrote the order down for her. It’s not a leap to figure out what you really did at your restaurant jobs.”
Lisa knew when she’d been caught. So there was no point in lying. “Mostly, I was a waitress. I was also a coat check girl. And, for the record, I worked my ass off at all those jobs. Oh, and before you cut this interview short, I wasn’t a manager of any kind at the supermarkets. I was a cashier.”
“And the nanny part?”
“A glorified babysitter—not that I see a difference.”
Julie’s lips twitched. “As long as you’ve decided to drop the pretense, I have another important question for you. Do you do drugs?”
“I have in the past,” Lisa replied. “Weed. Coke. And, yeah, I’ve gotten in trouble because of it. But that’s over now. I’m clean.” All that was true. And there was more—none of which Julie needed to know. She’d been young and stupid and desperate. But she’d managed to slam the door on that chapter of her life.
Julie scrutinized her intently, then said, “I believe you,” and continued on. “In your opinion, do you think you can handle the job I suggested?”
Lisa’s brows shot up. “Are you still considering hiring me? Even after you know how much I exaggerated my resume?”
“Not all of it,” Julie reminded her. “Your personal background is real—and can be verified, I assume?”
“Sure.” Lisa shrugged. “Go for it. None of that is fiction or an exaggeration.”
“Then I repeat my question—given the very basic jobs you’ve held, do you think you can handle the one I suggested to Kristen?”
Amusement danced in Lisa’s eyes. “Being poor and having those basic jobs, I’ve been around people who were richer than me all my life—as a child and as an adult. I know how to cater to them. But I’ll also read any manual, policies, or instructions you give me and have them memorized overnight. My brain just kind of does that by itself.”
“That’s impressive. Are you trustworthy?”
It was a legitimate question. Still, Lisa’s brows shot up again. “Are you kidding? Do you think I’d steal from the only place that’s offered me a job in two weeks? I’d have to be a complete moron to do that.”
“Good point.” That glint of empathy was back in Julie’s eyes. “I’ll make you a deal. You need a job. I’ll urge Kristen to hire you. In return, I need another pair of hands. I just moved to a new place a few miles from here. It needs some work, and I need some help doing it. I work in two separate, completely different gyms, which means very long hours. I don’t have the time to fix the place up myself. You can move in for a while—it’s big enough for two people—unless, of course, you’re already situated?”
Lisa thought of the dumpy motel she’d been staying in. The decaying walls. The combined stench of sex and sweat. The bugs that Lisa had no desire to identify. The gross, leering pervs outside the place who eyed her up and down every time she came or went, yelling out suggestive, horny remarks.
The place was a shithole. And Lisa had been counting her dollars as she prayed and planned to get out of there.
“No, I’m flexible on that score,” she said, probably too quickly.
If Julie sensed her desperation, she didn’t let on.
“Good,” she replied. “Then you can move in right away. In the meantime, you can borrow some of my clothes. You need the right look—clothes, makeup, etc.—to work at our gym.”
“I get it. Time to go classy.” Lisa was staring at Julie, stupefied. “You’d really do all that for me?”
“Actually, yes. There’s something about you I like. Maybe it’s the resemblance, which I get a kick out of. Maybe it’s because you’re straightforward. You didn’t bullshit your way out of it when I confronted you with the truth. Yes, you doctored your resume, but it was out of desperation, not greed. And you did a hell of a job, by the way. You might lack experience, but you’re smart. I think you’d be a good addition to the staff. And I think you deserve a chance. Just don’t screw it up.”
“I won’t.” Lisa had felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted off her shoulders.
Instead of reveling in her newfound opportunity, she did what she always did—shot off her stupid, impulsive mouth.
“Trusting me at work is one thing, but how do you know I won’t steal your money and rob your house?” She wanted to kick herself even as she said the words.
Julie burst out laughing. “Probably because you just asked me that question. But also, I don’t have much worth stealing—unless you’re into little antique figurines?”
Lisa grimaced, then quickly straightened her expression. “Sorry.”
“They’re not my thing, either,” Julie replied. A tinge of sadness came over her. “But my parents left them to me.”
“Do you have brothers and sisters?”
“Nope. Just me.”
“You’re almost as alone as I am.” Lisa felt a wave of kinship. “It sucks, doesn’t it?”