Neal had left Mozzie at a museum before rushing home. It was strange for Bella to send him a message to come home, but when he saw who was sitting at the kitchen counter, basically eating all the cookies Bella had made. “Hungry?”
“These are just too good, man,” Grant smiled at him. “Glad you could make it.”
“Yeah, of course,” he replied as he kissed Bella. “When my girl calls, I drop everything. Well, nearly everything,” he added with a smile. “Is your this man bothering you, ma’am?”
“Yes,” she said curtly as she looked at her brother. “He wants to tell me something but refused to do so without you present and I have no idea why.”
“Because I took this news okay-ish, but seeing as you spent your time only with the Cullens, this might hit you a little harder,” Grant replied as he played with the folder in front of him. “I thought it’d be better if Neal would be here, someone familiar.”
“Okay, now you’re scaring me,” Bella said as she reached over the counter to get the folder and opened it. In it were news clippings that were 25 years old mentioning abducted twins, a boy and a girl, who had been in an accident with their parents near Seattle. Parents were found dead on the scene but there was no sign of the twins. The police only knew about the twins because of their grandmother insisting that they had only been born two weeks prior to the crash.
The parents were two high ranking officials in the little town of Forks, Washington and they were buried there. Honored.
There were also birth certificates of those twins. Geoffrey and Helen Swan. Another news clipping was an update after 10 years. And 20 years, with the decision of law enforcement putting the case to rest and declaring the twins dead as there was no living relative of those twins alive, they’d all died of natural causes or accidents.
She eyed Grant. “What’s this?”
“Keep digging,” he replied. “You haven’t gotten to the worst part yet.”
“Worst?” She wasn’t even sure why Grant was showing her these clippings, but kept on looking at the copies.
Neal kept quiet. If the stories Mozzie had told him were true, Esme Cullen had a hysterectomy after the birth of her youngest, Edward. If that was true, it was a fair possibility that these news clippings were about Bella and Grant. While he suspected Grant would be alright with this news, seeing as he’d been away from the Cullens for a long time and was raised by loving parents, he believed that Bella would take this discovery differently. Her life was already crumbling underneath her feet, this would just shatter it entirely.
But, it could also lit a fire inside of her to make sure that Carlisle wouldn’t see the sun ever again.
Hospital records of Esme undergoing a hysterectomy five years before Bella was born. Then birth certificates for Isabella Marie Cullen and Grant Charles Cullen, but even though these were copies, she saw that they were fake. It was so easy to spot that they were fake.
“Okay, so I get the fake birth certificates,” Bella said as she looked at Grant. “But why is this of any importance? Why did they keep this?”
“Come on, Bella, you’re smart, this isn’t rocket science.”
She let out a snort. “You think that the twins from these clippings is us? Grant, the birth dates, and the year, don’t match.”
“Obviously. The first thing about any kidnapping or changing of the facts,” Grant replied shaking his head. “Change the dates, make it look real, some razzle dazzle and Bob’s your uncle. Or, in this case, Carlisle is your daddy. It’s only a couple of months difference.”
“I don’t believe this.”
“Which is why I came back only after I found something with familial DNA on it – I went to Forks for that, terrible place, and had a lab test it,” he retrieved a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to her. “We’re the dead Swan twins.”
“What? How? Why?”
“I dunno, maybe Agent Burke will find that out for us,” he replied calmly. “But what I do know is that we must have stumbled upon this when we were kids at some point and saw the word Swan.”
“Where did you find this?”
“Oh, I haven’t been there since… you died,” she said solemnly as she kept looking at the original birth certificates and reading the names of their supposed parents. “Do you mind if I keep digging? Maybe I can send the results over to Peter.”
“What else is there to find?”
“These news articles didn’t say anything about who they were, who we were supposed to be. There must be a reason why we were taken. How about looking at the police report of the crash?”
“The FBI can do that.”
“The FBI isn’t me,” she said angrily as she grabbed the folder and walked off to her computer room. “I may only have the function of one good hand, but I can still do what I am good at,” Bella muttered under her breath.
Neal watched Bella walk out of the kitchen and looked at Grant. “You didn’t give John anything, did you? They don’t know yet.”
Grant smirked. “Like Bella, I don’t trust the Suits and even with one hand, she’s better than Auggie. She’ll have the complete picture in a few hours and then we can send it off. She deserves this. She’s had everything taken out of her hands because there was simply too much. She needs a personal win. She needs to prove to herself that she’s still Shitface.”
“Look at you, being the psychologist.”
“Just looking out for my sister,” he replied as he grabbed another cookie. “Speaking of which… I always have someone else forge my stuff for me, but I could really use your help,” Grant said as he pulled another piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Neal. “Do you think you can replicate that painting for me? It’s for a future job, once this is all over. It needs to be able to pass inspection.”
“I don’t need busy work, you know,” Neal knew the painting quite intimately, having had painted it many times over. “I know I’m the best.”
“It’s because you’re the best I’m asking you. As I said, it’s for a future job but it needs to be able to pass all scrutiny.”
“Even carbon dating?”
“I love a good challenge,” Neal nodded. “No time pressure?”
“Nah, we’re all laying low until this shit is over. With the FBI involved with this, and the trial, things are getting a little bit too hot,” Grant replied. “Which is fine by me, gives me more time to dig up shit to hold against Carlisle for Bella. It’s the least I can do. I couldn’t have been a brother for her since we were nine, but now…”
“She thinks you don’t really feel that family connection.”
“But I do. I try not to. I’m not brave enough to have anyone in my life I can’t walk away from. The Michaels would understand and my adoptive parents would too,” Grant sighed as he leaned back in his chair and looked at Neal. “Or, you know, to have someone in your life you’d do anything for, so much that you’d actually get into trouble and have to fight your way out of to make sure that person is safe.”
“Oh, I understand,” Neal smiled knowingly. “Bella has this way with almost everyone, I guess. One look at her and you just want to protect her and want to make sure she doesn’t have to want for anything.”
“Yeah, and you’re the sucker who fell for that,” Grant grinned. “The damsel in distress.”
“Oh, no. She’s not a damsel in distress. A damsel, yes. But I think she’s stubborn enough to have taken down the Cullens all by herself if she hadn’t been so distracted by other people coming into her life.”
“Going after the Cullens alone would have killed her.”
“They almost did. Twice now,” Neal pointed out. “And this is why I don’t mind having to deal with the FBI or the US Marshals. Once this is all over, she will be safe.”
“It’s not going to be easy for her, Neal.”
“I know,” he nodded and let out a breath. “Seeing as she’ll be in her man-cave for a couple of hours, I’ll be cooking. Are you staying over?”
“Yeah, sure, why not.”
Bella looked over her wrought iron railing in the computer room when she saw Neal and Grant walk in with food, plates and drinks. “Food?” she asked confused. “Has it been that long?”
“Don’t worry, not going to bring it up to you,” Neal laughed as he set the food down on the table she had in her room. “But I figured you didn’t want to be away from your computer for too long, so Grant and I are coming to have dinner with you here.”
“Okay,” Bella replied as she turned around to grab a stack of papers and joined her boyfriend and her brother in the lower part of her computer room. “Anything you need me to do?”
“Eat and drink,” Neal replied as he pulled a chair back for her. “Did you find anything?”
Bella nodded and put the stack of papers on the table. “I think I’m almost completely down the rabbit hole. When you look at all the reports and files, you definitely see that the accident that killed our birth parents wasn’t an accident. I’m pretty sure that if I dig deeper, I will see how Carlisle paid for it to happen.”
“You’re hacking the police?”
“Well, no, not exactly, seeing as Forks PD only went digital a few years ago. I’m looking for snippets online and as it turns out, someone else had been looking into it. A uh… Phil Dwyer,” she said as she took a sip of her drink. “Phil had copies of the reports, I don’t know how but he did. The food looks delicious, Neal.”
“We really need to find a system for us to just maybe plan every meal of the day for a week or so,” Neal laughed.
“Why? I think it’s fun to just see what we have and make a meal out of it,” Bella shrugged. “Keeps you on your toes, at least,” she added with a playful smile on her face. “Anyway, Phil Dwyer was a close friend to the Swans. He started looking into the accident, quietly, and then got into an accident five years later. He didn’t die, he kept looking and at some point uploaded it to the internet for safekeeping. I found it.”
Bella took a bite of her food and sighed happily. “Geoffrey Swan was the mayor of Forks and his wife Helen a very important influencer. At least, on the surface. Helen had some dirty hands and upset a few people, all behind good Geoffrey’s back, of course. Phil suspected that the Swans were killed by members of a European crime family, hired by a family here in the States.”
“No way,” Grant said shocked. “Are you fucking serious?”
“Can’t say for sure it’s them,” Bella said calmly. “That’s what I’m looking for now.”
“Can’t you ask Phil?”
“He died ten years ago. No living relatives. He was considered to be the village idiot. Convenient, huh?” Bella took another bite of her food and smiled. “I know it’s morbid. But I don’t know these people and I suppose that if I find as much about them and the whole thing around them it’ll make sure that Carlisle will be dropped in a hole that he’ll never get out of. I’m going to be as thorough as possible.”
“To be honest,” Grant said as he took a sip of his beer. “I thought you’d take this the wrong way.”
“No. It’s just another piece of the puzzle. If Helen Swan screwed Carlisle over, I suppose she had it coming,” she then realized something as she sat back in her chair. “Huh. That would actually make so much sense. And it explains a lot when it comes to behavior towards his own kids or why he was so adamant in me staying behind or work from the shadows…”
“Would Garrett know?” Neal asked. “I mean, he and Carlisle were friends, right?”
“Wouldn’t Garrett have told me if he knew about this?”
“I dunno, would he? He did come across as wanting the best for you, so maybe if he knew about this, he’d have kept quiet because he didn’t want to hurt you.”
“If he does know about this, maybe you can persuade him to testify against Carlisle,” Grant pointed out.
“He would have told me,” Bella said, determined. “But sure, after I’ve emptied my plate, I’ll go and give him a call,” she said as she pointed to her computer with her fork. “It would be terribly convenient to have someone alive who knows about that Carlisle did to Geoffrey and Helen Swan. There’s no way we can be that lucky.”
“You’re not even surprised?”
Bella sighed and shook her head. “Nothing surprises me anymore at this point. I just hope that I’m right and that you’re wrong. I know Uncle Garrett. He’s a good guy, he’s done some bad things in the past, but he’s a good guy and he’s very over protective over me. I haven’t been calling him because I want him to be safe, but this is something we need information on,” she then scrunched up her nose. “Oh, right, we have to go through Liam, first, because he hid Uncle Garrett somewhere safe and I don’t know how to get into contact with him.”
After dinner, she went back up to her perch, Grant and Neal in tow and she dialed Liam’s number from her masking software on her computer.
“Lass! So good to hear your voice! Neal called me a few weeks ago after getting ya to th’hospital, how are ya?”
“I’m good, you?”
“Fit as a fiddle. What can I help ya with?”
“As you may know, the trial against my siblings has come and gone, and Carlisle’s trial is next,” Bella replied as she ran a hand through her hair. “I was kinda wondering if Uncle Garrett would be available for me to talk to about something that Grant found out?”
“Grant? As in ya brother Grant?”
“He knows about me?” Grant said surprised.
“Oh, it’s no secret that she’s half of a twin, lad, but that you’re still alive is a miracle.”
“Eh, not really.”
Bella could Liam walk away from where he was, opening a door and continuing to walk to open yet another door. “Hey, gotcha a call from Bells.”
“Bella, you need to save me, Liam’s holding me hostage.”
“Oh grow up, ya twat. I’m keeping ya safe. Ya not shackled to anything or locked away,” Liam scolded Garrett. “Once Carlisle is behind bars for good, ya can go and visit Bella in New Orleans.”
Bella hadn’t thought about that. She wasn’t sure if Garrett and Liam were included in the WITSEC deal of her knowing where she was. Ah, who cared? It wasn’t as if Garrett would allow that to stop him from coming around. “Yeah, that’s why I’m calling, actually,” Bella laughed, shaking her head. “Grant found something and I started to dig, and maybe you know something about this?”
Garrett let out a groan. “You know I don’t like talking about the stuff I did with your father.”
“I know, but when did you two actually decided to work together?”
“I dunno, a long time ago. You were already there, with Grant.”
“Do the names Geoffrey and Helen Swan mean anything to you?”
“No,” Bella replied. “I wish it did, though, sort of, in a way. Grant found something, and all we have is the findings of a village idiot and fake papers and other circumstantial shit. Aside from a lab report proving that Grant and I aren’t Cullens.”
“What! Are you telling me that that asshole abducted you as children? Okay, that‘s it. Tell your lawyer or your FBI friends that I want in on bringing him down. I’ll happily tell them everything I did for him. It’s time we nail that asshole even if that means that I’m going down as well. His recent actions already made me want to come over but Liam insisted I’d stay, but he’s not going to hold me back now. Kidnapping children? I draw the line at that!”
“You’re an ass,” Liam scolded Garrett. “You’ll be locked up for ya own crimes!”
“I don’t give a fuck, Liam. You’re more than welcome to come with me to the US and watch things from afar, but Carlisle needs to fucking pay.”
“Aye, I agree.”
“So tell who you need to tell, Bella, we’re coming to bury Carlisle along with you.”
WITSEC wasn’t so bad. She got to keep everything in her life, including her own home and her friends, and for the first time in her life she felt free. There was no cloud hanging over her head like she had felt in France, there was no pressure, no stupid rules. No, just her and Neal in their home on Dumaine Street.
Peter and Auggie had transferred to New Orleans, and Peter’s family had moved with him. Elizabeth was a wonderful woman and Neal was just over the moon with his tiny namesake. Bella had to admit, seeing Neal with a toddler made her ovaries rattle a bit, but she was nowhere near ready for a child. She was old enough, sure, but she didn’t feel like she could be a good mother. For now, babysitting Tiny Neal worked.
Maybe they should get a dog from the rescue center or something and see if they could keep it alive.
Neal was working on something for Grant, but nobody was to know, especially not Peter, and Neal even joked that it felt just like old times, doing things right under people’s noses for different reasons this time. And Bella happily watched him work while she did her hand exercises.
While she didn’t regain full mobility back over her hand, she could still move the middle three fingers and that was fine for now. It wasn’t necessary to hit the space bar on a keyboard with two thumbs anyway, and she could train her ring finger to hit all the places she’d hit with her pinkie. But, she now also had to learn how to do things left handedly, because grabbing things were a bitch, so painting was out of the question now too, and that sucked.
Garrett had made a deal with the FBI. He didn’t want immunity or any kind of special treatment, but he had offered his services to them so he didn’t actually go to jail. Instead, he was sent back to Paris to work there, seeing as he spoke the language.
Bella and Neal spent Christmas at the Michaels with Grant. They celebrated with good food, presents and good music. It felt special to Bella that the Michaels included them in their family tradition of writing wishes down on a piece of paper and burning it. It was similar to blowing out a candle and making a wish while doing so, but this felt different. It was special.
Life felt good. Different. Carefree. Fun.
For New Years, Neal had the perfect gift; they were going to visit every Disney park across the world, spending a week in every city so they could visit the park whenever they wanted to, and on their way back to New Orleans they made a stop at Dollywood.
They were away for two months and of course, they didn’t quite behave. Tourists were so easy to manipulate and pickpocket and she and Neal managed to do it so easily.
Upon return to New Orleans, Cole needed Bella’s help with something for a new job and just like that, she and Neal were doing back to doing what they loved best, just not in public, but she and Neal could definitely help with forging papers, hacking and other things that needed be done.
It was good living in The Big Easy, and Bella never ever wanted to leave.