Leighanne had no more hung up the phone, when it rang again. Expecting it to be AJ again, she picked it up with a “Hey, AJ.”
There was a pause, and then the voice of an older man said, “This isn’t AJ.”
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Leighanne cried, embarrassed. “I just got off the phone with a friend named AJ, and I thought it was him calling back. Who’s this?”
“Uh… I prefer not to disclose that. Who I am isn’t important. The information I have for you is,” the caller replied, sending chills running through Leighanne’s spine.
“What are you talking about?” she asked uneasily.
“It’s about your husband,” the man said. “I have some information that might give you some answers.”
“Answers? About what?” Leighanne asked, confused. Surely this man couldn’t be talking about what AJ had just been discussing with her.
“I think you’ll know once you get the information. I need to send it to you though; can you give me your address? I don’t have it.”
“No,” Leighanne said, her voice shaky. “I’m sorry, but… I prefer not to disclose that,” she added, echoing his words from before.
“I understand. Well, then, I’ll have it sent to a friend of mine, and you can pick it up from him. Do you know where Penny Avenue is?”
“Yes,” Leighanne replied.
“Okay. I’ll send a package to 110 Penny Avenue, which is a clinic where a friend of mine, Dr. Kaufman, works. I’ll have it shipped right away, and it will be there tomorrow afternoon with orders to be given to you. Stop by and pick it up as soon as you can,” the man instructed. “And don’t tell anyone about it.”
“Okay…” Leighanne said uncertainly. Before she could even say goodbye, she heard a click, and the other line went dead.
Dr. Henry Walters replaced the receiver of his telephone with shaking hands. You did the right thing, he told himself, trying to calm his nerves. No matter what happens, just remember that you did the right thing.
Early the next afternoon, Leighanne drove to 110 Penny Avenue. She found herself in front of a small gray office building, which had a glass door reading ‘Dr. John Kaufman, M.D.’
This is it, Leighanne thought. She wasn’t sure why she felt so nervous as she walked into the building, but she did. Inside the front door, she found herself in a small entrance area with benches and coat racks. She walked on through another door that led into a waiting room, where several people sat, waiting for their appointments.
Leighanne hardly glanced at them as she walked on to the receptionist’s cubicle on the other side of the waiting room. She stepped up to the window that separated the waiting room from the receptionist’s area. On the other side of the window, a woman sat at a desk, typing something into a computer, a pair of reading glasses sitting low on her nose. She paid no attention to Leighanne.
Leighanne cleared her throat loudly to get the receptionist’s attention. The woman turned away from the computer and removed her glasses. “Do you have an appointment?” she asked. “No, I-“
“Then, I’m sorry, Dr. Kaufman can’t see you. You’ll have to schedule an appointment first,” the receptionist replied, cutting Leighanne off.
“Actually, I don’t need to make an appointment. I’m here to pick up a package that was supposed to be sent here,” Leighanne said coolly, rather annoyed with the woman’s curtness.
“Mrs. Littrell?” the receptionist asked, her tone softening.
“Of course. Here you are,” the woman said, handing a manila envelope through the window to Leighanne.
“Thank you,” Leighanne said, taking the envelope. Then she turned and left the doctor’s office, eager to get home and find out what information it contained.
“Hey, Brian, can I talk to you a minute?” AJ asked, grabbing Brian’s arm as he passed by. “What?” Brian asked in annoyance.
“Come here,” AJ said, dragging him away from the others.
It was the second day of their video shoot for “More Than That”, and things were not improving much. Something was going on with Brian, and AJ was determined to get to the bottom of it.
“What is up with you, man? You’re acting really weird,” AJ said, decided not to mention the scar. Not yet.
Brian’s face reddened. “Nothing!” he exclaimed defensively. “Leave me alone!” He twisted out of AJ’s grasp.
“Wait!” AJ yelled, grabbing him again and pulling him back. “I need to ask you something.” He took a deep breath. “What happened to your sc-“
“AJ! You’re needed on the set!” shouted a crew member, before AJ could get the rest of his question out.
He rolled his eyes. “We’ll talk later, okay, Brian?”
“Whatever,” Brendan muttered, glaring darkly at AJ as he hurried off to get back to work. They were getting suspicious. Especially AJ. What if they found out the truth?
That’s ridiculous, Brendan assured himself. How could they find out? It’s impossible. He grinned maliciously. His plan would not fail. It couldn’t. Even if AJ was suspicious, there was no way he could find out what was really going on. It would be too hard to believe.
Still, Brendan thought, I need some assurance. AJ’s getting too close for comfort.
Sneering again, he sat back and began to conspire a plan to make sure AJ would never find out who he really was.
At home, Leighanne sat down at her kitchen table and opened the envelope. Gingerly, she reached into it and pulled out a small packet of papers and other items. The top paper was a copy of a medical file, she realized. She looked at the name at the top, and her eyes widened in surprise and confusion.
Perplexed, Leighanne skimmed over the file, not understanding what relevance it had. She set it aside and looked down at the next thing in the pile. This was not another form, but a sonogram, with Jackie Littrell’s name on it.
Squinting at it, Leighanne could make out the shape of a baby on one half of it. And on the other half… another baby? Her heartbeat rising, Leighanne leaned down close to the sonogram and stared hard at it. She could be wrong, but the shape on the other half of the sonogram looked very similar to the first. It was a baby. Two babies. There were two babies.
“Two babies,” Leighanne whispered aloud, her eyes never leaving the sonogram. “Twins.” She saw the date on the sonogram. December 19, 1974. Just three months before Brian was born. Jackie would have been about six months pregnant then with him… and his twin?
“No way,” she said. “There’s no way he could have a twin. He would have told me!”
And then another thought came to her. Maybe Brian didn’t know. The baby could have died at birth, and Brian’s parents had for some reason decided not to tell him about it.
Leighanne shuffled through some more papers, hoping to find some answers. And then, she found something. A note, written in the handwriting she recognized as Brian’s mother’s.
Dear Dr. Walters,
I don’t know how to go about asking this, but I need your help. It’s about the twins, obviously. Don knows the truth now, and he’s blackmailing me. He’s threatening to tell Harold about our affair if I don’t let him have one of the babies. I don’t want to give up one of my children to him, but if Harold finds out what I’ve done, it would ruin our marriage. That’s the last thing I want. I’ve made some mistakes, but I love Harold. And I have my little boy to think of. I don’t want him growing up in a broken family. He deserves better than that.
I’ve made my decision – I’m going to let Don have one of the babies as soon as they’re born. But I need your help. Harold can’t ever know about Don or the twins or anything. So please, I’m begging you, help me. I know I’m asking a lot, but I’ll give anything to keep Harold from knowing the truth. Will you help me? I’ll be in touch.
When Leighanne finished reading the letter, her jaw was nearly on the floor. Sweet, loving Jackie Littrell had had an affair? Brian’s true father was a man named Don, not the kind, gentle father-in-law Leighanne had come to love like her own father? And more shocking than anything else, Brian had a twin that had been given away at birth?
She could hardly believe it. And yet, the note was in Jackie’s own handwriting. The sonogram had her name on it. And there were definitely two babies there.
Once the initial shock at what she had discovered wore off, Leighanne thought back to the strange phone call she had received the night before…
“Who I am isn’t important. The information I have for you is.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s about your husband. I have some information that might give you some answers.”
“Answers? About what?”
“I think you’ll know once you get the information…”
Leighanne’s brow furrowed. What did it all mean? Why was it so important that she find this out now?
And then, she began to think back to everything that had happened in the past few weeks. She remembered the night Brian had come home after the tour, when he had surprised her with the lingerie. He had been acting strange then, much more seductive than usual.
And then she thought about all the mornings he had disappeared and come home later on, with strange explanations and sometimes no explanations at all. Like the time he had said he went to get plant fertilizer, but the store was out. She had gone later and found a whole supply of it. And then there was the time he had gone out to get donuts and ended up in the driveway of a run down little house out in the middle of nowhere, supposedly out of gas. Had he really been out of gas? Or was he up to something?
Brian had been acting awfully strange these past few weeks, she realized. Before, she had never really thought about all the incidents and added them up. But now, as she thought back to all the times when he said things she didn’t quite believe, she realized it had been happening a lot. Something was not right. Brian was not acting like himself.
And then, a horrible, terrifying thought came to her. What if the man she had been living with was not really Brian?
When the video was finally finished, the five Backstreet Boys rode back to their hotel, tired and hungry.
“I’ve got a craving for pizza,” Nick said in the limo. “How ‘bout y’all come to my room, and we order a few pizzas?”
“Oh, pizza sounds good,” AJ replied, his mouth nearly watering at just the thought of it.
“Yeah, it does,” the others agreed.
When they got back to the hotel, they dropped their stuff off in their own suites and then went to Nick’s to order the pizza. While they waited, Nick hooked up his Nintendo and challenged AJ to a game of Mortal Kombat.
Meanwhile, Brendan snickered to himself. This was his chance.
“Hey, AJ, do you have your Limp Bizkit CD with you?” he asked.
“Yeah,” AJ replied absently, his attention focused on the game.
“Well, could I borrow it?” Brendan asked.
“Sure. It’s in my bag in my room,” AJ said, still staring at the TV screen.
”Okay. Can you give me your room key then?”
“Just a minute.” AJ paused the game and dug into his pocket for his room key. He tossed it to Brendan and started playing again.
“Thanks,” Brendan said and left the room. He stopped first at his own room, got something out of his bag, and slipped it into his pocket. Then he jotted down a quick note and stuck it to the outside of his door, where the guys would be sure to see it.
Then he went to AJ’s room.
“Hey, where did Brian go?” Nick asked, when the pizzas arrived.
“He went to get one of my CD’s,” AJ replied.
“Yeah, but that was like twenty minutes ago,” Howie pointed out, glancing at his watch.
“That’s weird,” AJ said.
Kevin sighed and stood up. “I’ll go see if he’s in his room. He won’t want to miss out on the pizza.” With that, he left the room.
Minutes later, he was back, holding a little, yellow note in his hand. “I found this stuck to his door,” he replied, showing the others the note. “He’s taking a nap.”
“What about his pizza?” Howie asked.
“Screw him. More for me,” Nick said simply, practically drooling as he opened the box of extra-cheese pizza.
Kevin laughed. “Good point,” he said. And they all dug in.
An hour later, AJ returned to his room, exhausted. Brian had had the right idea in taking a nap. AJ wanted nothing more than to crawl under his covers and go to sleep.
But no more had he sat down on the bed, when his cell phone rang. Groaning, AJ dug it out of his bag to answer it and sat back down on the edge of the bed. “Hello?”
“AJ?” came a shrill female voice.
“Yeah. Who’s this?” AJ asked, frowning.
“It’s Leighanne,” she said, then hurriedly went on, “Listen, AJ, we’ve got a big problem. It’s about Brian. I… I found out some things today that I think you need to know.”
AJ’s heart pounded rapidly. He knew it. Something was really going on with Brian. And he had a feeling it was more than he ever expected.
“What is it?” he asked.
But he would never get to hear the answer. For at that moment, a strong arm wrapped around his neck from behind.
AJ began to struggle in panic, when he felt a horrible stabbing sensation in his back. First it was a sharp pain, then pressure, and then it felt like fire was running up and down his spine. He cried out in agony and tried to struggle, but the pain just got worse. His body going weak, AJ crumpled over.
He felt another excruciating burst of pain as something was jerked harshly out of his back. And then, another, as he was stabbed again.
Suddenly, it was as if all of the air in the room was sucked out, leaving AJ gasping for breath. His back and chest burned with pain worse than anything he could have ever imagined. He wasn’t even aware of the thick, warm blood that gushed from the wounds in his back or the fact that there was still something big and metal sticking out of him. The only thing he felt was the crushing pain, and the inability to get any air.
And as he gasped and choked, desperately trying to breathe, everything around him began to fade, until all was black. And it was not until he had slipped into unconsciousness that AJ found relief from the unspeakable pain that had been bestowed upon him.