Bella was glad that nobody commented on how she thought that Henry might be Grant, her dead twin brother, because that was embarrassing. While she never believed in coincidences, it was just a coincidence that Henry used the name Grant Swan in Afghanistan/when he enlisted and it was likely he had meant his own sister to look out for, not Bella.
On top of that, he didn’t look anything like the boy on the picture, while it was very obvious that the girl in the picture was a younger Bella.
She was sitting quietly in the courtyard, away from everyone else as she worked on her list of notable associates of the Cullens to give to Myriam when she had the brilliant idea to just double check to see if Henry might be Grant. Bella simply couldn’t let it go. She took a picture of her picture, sent it to her computer and hacked into the FBI database to use their age progression algorithm. It was one of the tools she didn’t have, and never needed.
She let the program work in the background while she continued to make her list and didn’t notice that Henry sat down next to her. “So, what did the Cullens do to you?”
Bella looked up and blinked at him. “Sorry?”
“Better question,” Henry nodded. “Why do they want you dead?”
“Didn’t Myriam tell you?”
He relaxed in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “She’s the mastermind. If she has a job for me, like this one, she only tells me what’s necessary. In this case, she asked if I wanted to help screw over the Cullens and I said yes,” Henry replied with a shrug. “And it’s not because of the money, hell, I don’t care if I get paid for this. I have my own experiences with them that makes me want to do something about it.”
“Why didn’t you do something about them before?”
“I dunno, I wasn’t ready, I guess,” he let out a breath. “Or maybe I was, but while I’m extremely talented and all, I just never found a good team.”
“You’re very humble,” Bella let out a snort. “And you’re right, going up against the Cullens by yourself is a bad idea, but by them now knowing where I am, and sending Emmett, I’m going to talk to the FBI so the Cullens can be taken off the streets faster than any con we can come up with.”
“You still haven’t answered my question.”
“I could ask you the same thing; what did the Cullens do to you? I mean, no offense, but I’ve been around them for quite a while and I’ve never seen you.”
“As I said, I have my own experiences with them. They’re not good people.”
Bella nodded as she looked at her computer, the software had finished and the connection was severed, but she didn’t dare to look at the results. Letting out a sigh, she maximized the window and was stunned to see the result. If she’d add a little bit of scruff and a better haircut… “I know who you are,” she said in a low voice, making sure nobody else heard them and looked at Henry.
“I know your real name,” she whispered. “I mean, I already thought I knew who you are, but everyone said I was crazy for thinking that because you never told them, did you? You never told the Michaels that you’re Grant Cullen.”
He briefly looked surprised before shaking his head, dismissing her claim. “That is crazy, the Cullens don’t have a son called Grant.”
“Not anymore, no. I was told he died in foster care after the cops swooped him up when a con went sideways. Wasn’t even his fault, it was his sister who remained behind after getting stuck, and he went back and got her out, because the cops were bad people and they would hurt criminals, especially if you were a Cullen.”
He paled then. “How do you know this?”
“My name isn’t Izzy Shepard. Your friend Auggie Anderson helped me with that name,” Bella said as she turned her laptop around, showing the aged up photo of her and her brother. “It’s Bella Cullen, and I’m your sister.”
“Wait…” He looked at her laptop, and the original picture and then at Bella before looking back at the picture. “That picture was taken a few days before I thought I’d saved you,” he said remorseful as he looked at her with a sad expression on his face. “I’ve always felt so guilty that I was living a different life, a better one, while it should have been you in this life. You should have had my life.”
“I was told you were dead, so finding you alive is pretty much a bonus,” Bella smiled at him. “It also means that I’m not crazy and that Mingus can be trusted.”
“Yeah, of course he can be trusted, why do you think you can’t?”
“You were swept away by cops and I was later told you died,” she replied as she turned her laptop back to her. “Naturally, I started to take the teachings more seriously and I always did my damnedest to make sure no one got caught and got a clean getaway. Law enforcement is bad. Really fucked with my head in this last month.”
“You really don’t get told anything, do you?”
“Nope,” Henry. Grant. Henry whatever, replied with a smile on his face. “But I’m guessing that seeing as that’s Neal Caffrey, you weren’t particular a fan of his FBI friend,” he jerked his head towards Neal. “How on Earth did you two meet? I mean, completely different worlds.”
It was strange. This man was her twin brother, but she didn’t really feel it. He had some knowledge of how the Cullens worked, but he was nine when he got taken away so he didn’t experience most of it. “I was in Paris, he was in Paris…” Bella shrugged. “Even when Uncle Garrett told him who I was, he didn’t run, because he could tell that I was different and not like a Cullen.”
“Well, you do seem a lot more relaxed than any of our siblings,” he replied. “Must be Uncle Garrett’s doing.”
Bella wasn’t even sure if she’d been on his mind for years like he’d been on hers. But, then again, life had been different for him, and while Cole, Nick and Myriam had told her about his skill set, things simply were different. He was no longer a Cullen. Whereas she was, no matter how badly she tried to fight it. “Every summer he planted the idea in my head that I can do things differently, it finally stuck, I guess.”
“So you left.”
“So I left,” she nodded. “They gave me about a year to return and then I got shot.”
“Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? Your own family wanting to kill you?”
Bella looked at him. “Just like they lied about you being dead and using you as an example of how not to screw up because the pigs will get you and kill you, because if you get caught, you’re dead and they’re not going to help you out.”
“True, but I wasn’t aware of that,” he agreed. “I was scared for a while because like you, I believed what the Cullens had taught me, and the Taylors didn’t have it easy with me, until I met Cole. And Nick. Their parents. I realized I wasn’t as defective as I thought and I eased up. Jason taught me martial arts and he taught me everything I know about guns.”
“They weren’t all lies.”
“And yet, they sent Emmett to kill you.”
“Yeah, because I left.”
“No, it’s because they have something to hide and they don’t want you to find out. It’s not about leaving, even Edward left for a year or so. He tracked me down in Afghanistan so I had to leave and I told Auggie to keep an eye on you.”
Bella remembered that Edward was gone for quite some time, but she’d believed he was working a long con, that’s what she was told. “He left? He wasn’t doing a con?”
“No, he left,” Henry was sure of it. “Edward told me that he didn’t like the way that the family was dealing with shit, and tracked me down to see if I was okay as he had just found out that I wasn’t dead.”
“That doesn’t sound like him.”
“Well, he tried to kill me.”
“Okay, that does sound like him,” Bella agreed. “But why didn’t he tell me?”
“Somehow I believe you weren’t told anything that didn’t have anything to do with the job.”
“Of course I was told stuff, I had my teachings.”
Henry visibly winced. “And I was raised after I was separated from you and with a new family. And instructed in other things.”
“See, I don’t know what the difference is.”
“Love. Attention. Affection. Parents saying how proud they are of you for getting straight As in school,” He replied without hesitation. “Social skills.”
“My parents took care of me and my siblings and it was hard after you were gone, but we made it through.”
“And yet, you left them and now they want you dead.”
“Yeah, and that sucks but it’s the rules.”
“Family doesn’t kill family, Bella. Stop thinking about your… teachings and stop thinking that the rules are law, because they’re not. You’re free,” Henry told her, a hint of aggravation in his voice. “I took great pleasure in killing Emmett this morning and I will kill every single one of them if I have to even though Myriam doesn’t want me to.”
There was no way that Henry was that angry with the Cullens if he claimed he had had a great family he lived with after he was taken by the cops. He’d only been nine years old, too young to form a normal opinion on them.
There was also no way that Henry wanted to get rid of the Cullens for her, either. It seemed like he had put her and their family in the darkest corners of his memories, to be forgotten and to be replaced with new information. On top of that, she wasn’t quite sure how it had impacted him to be away from her. She had used him as an example to do better. To be better.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Bella asked, tilting her head as she studied Henry’s face. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”
“I don’t know you, I don’t have to tell you everything,” Henry replied harshly as he got to his feet. “And I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t tell the Michaels or your boyfriend about who I truly am, because I stopped being Grant Cullen a long long time ago. We’re related by blood, but you’re not my sister.”
“Finish that list. No more messing around. When you’re done, you give the list to Myriam and then you’ll talk to Auggie. Tell him I said hi and thank you,” he instructed as he walked away to rejoin everyone else and Bella wasn’t sure what to make of him. He was right, of course. Henry was a complete stranger, not her brother Grant. Henry just looked like him.
She could only be grateful that he was still alive. But Bella wasn’t sure where that left her beliefs, either. His death shaped her to who she was now, and her ideals were already conflicting with Neal’s ideals and ideas about life, and with the Michaels’.
Bella was going to worry about that later. She needed to finish the list and talk to Auggie to get the Cullens off the street and out of her hair as soon as possible before they’d hurt someone other than her. Someone like Neal, for example.
She was going to continue as if her brother was still dead. Move forward.
She was meeting Auggie in an office of the Voodoo museum, it was nice and secluded and in a controllable environment. Myriam was outside the door, and Neal was with Bella talking to Auggie who was recording everything on his recorder.
It felt like the ultimate betrayal. She was turning on her family, something she’d sworn not to do. If she’d been in trouble before, it was going to be worse now.
It felt as if every single thing she told Auggie was another stab in the heart. All the information he’d need individually, but also on jobs. That she’d been involved in as well, and she made sure that she included that, too. She was still a Cullen and nobody got left behind.
“You know, you haven’t even asked for immunity,” Auggie said as he stopped the recorder. “Why is that?”
“Well, seeing as you didn’t offer, you didn’t talk to your superiors yet,” Bella replied with half a shrug. “And I usually was the one responsible that nobody got caught, so…”
“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you’ll get that immunity. Might even have to put you through WITSEC for real this time.”
“No,” Bella shook her head. “Absolutely not. I love New Orleans and I will not relocate. I’m not going to run. And I don’t particularly fancy leaving Neal.”
“Could get you both in?”
“No,” Bella and Neal chorused.
“Because while this is brilliant,” Auggie said as he waved his recorder around. “Once this is all processed and your family is all picked up and all, you’re going to have a target on your back, an even bigger one than you already have. You know I promised your brother to keep you safe.”
“I know you did, and I’m pretty sure he’ll agree that I’m a grown woman now, able to make my own decisions and ask for help of others if I need them,” she countered. “Which is also why I didn’t ask for immunity, because I did have a hand in shit.”
“Fair enough,” Auggie nodded. “So you have nothing on your parents?”
“Nothing that would stick. Maybe if you can find Grant, he might have something.”
“The guy is a ghost,” Auggie let out a snort. “I’ll try to find him. So last chance to back out, are you sure you want to do this? Your family is going to spend a long time behind bars.”
No, she didn’t want to do this but they hadn’t left her with any choice. “They want to play dirty? I’ll play dirtier and break the rules we set as a family.”
“You’re absolutely sure about this?”
“Yes,” Bella nodded. “Now, please stop asking before I chicken out and change my mind and fuck shit up even more.”
“This isn’t your fault, Bella,” Neal gently rubbed her hand and smiled at her. “And I think you’re very brave to do this, no matter how it all plays out.”
“It’s okay to be scared and I know you have friends who are helping you now, but if you want, I could have some agents—”
“Auggie,” Bella said sternly. “I don’t want to complicate my life even further.”
Auggie let out a breath and nodded. “Fine. But seeing as you never use your phone, I want you to message me on your new handle if something’s wrong, okay?”
“Fine.” Yeah, she was going to make a new new handle to communicate with Mingus so that he wouldn’t be able to keep tabs on her. “Now what?”
“Now, I’m going back to New York and I’m going to hand this in to my supervisor and we’re going to arrest the Cullens as quick as we can. You just stay out of trouble.”
“I’m not going to do anything.”
“Good,” Auggie nodded. “I believe Agent Burke is staying in New Orleans for a bit longer though, he wants to catch up with you some more, Neal.”
“Great,” Neal smiled widely, not minding his friend’s presence in New Orleans.
“I do want to tell you to be careful though, unless you do want some agents on you?”
“Hell no, thanks, both Bella and I will be fine,” Neal said as he looked over to Bella who looked as if she couldn’t wait to get out of the office. “I think Bella’s tolerance for being in one room with the FBI is coming to an end.”
“I figured,” Auggie laughed. “Go. I’ll find my own way.”
She couldn’t help but wanting to withdraw from everything and everyone, but seeing as the Michaels wouldn’t allow her to go back to her house, Bella wandered around the Michaels home and eventually found access to the tunnels. It was rare to have tunnels or basements in New Orleans due to the water and soil, but the tunnels to her house were solid and well supported, and seeing as her house was behind the one of the Michaels, she figured this home had access to those tunnels too, which was great.
The tunnel was a bit damp, like expected, and some rats were there too, but she found her secure door with no problem and made her way inside her own house for some peace and quiet. Neal was with Peter, he was safe, and they wouldn’t miss her if she’d just stay away for a couple of hours.
She got undressed as she ran her bath, put some essential oils in the water and hummed to herself as she got into the tub and relaxed. Bella was soaking for maybe an hour before getting out and finding something to wear. It was like she was wearing a new skin, fresh.
Her home was nice and quiet. She was alone, and it was familiar. No noise, no sounds from the outside. Just her and her thoughts, and it felt good to switch off for a while. To forget. Bella walked into her kitchen and grabbed one of the bottles of wine that she had, took a glass and headed to her computer to redistribute some of the money she’d acquired from the code she released in Paris.
She could also make a patch for it and send it off to the banks so they could patch the holes. Yeah, maybe that was a better idea. Bella had more than enough money to take care of her and Neal even years after her death so she didn’t need more. She put a good portion of it in Neal’s pencoin account and put the money she was going to pay the Michaels in Cole’s account, at least the one that she was aware of.
Bella also sent her uncle Garrett an email saying everything was alright and taken care of and she was almost at the bottom of her bottle when the perimeter alarm went off. Checking the cameras, she sighed and switched off the alarm before making her way to her tunnel door and opened it.
“Hi drunk. I’m Neal. And you ran off,” Neal replied playfully and pulled her into his arms. “You had me worried.”
“I’m okay, just wanted to take care of a few things… have some me-time.”
“I understand,” he kissed the top of her head. “Henry’s out front and Jason’s in the tunnels, both are keeping an eye out,” he closed the door and pulled her back towards the patio. “They want us back in their home by midnight tonight. How about we go and watch a movie?”
“If you’re going to make me watch Dirty Dancing, I’m so not in the mood.”
“Nah, I was thinking more wine and maybe a true classic.”
“Sounds like a plan.”