When you don't know yourself, the details of others become vitally important. Yvette was walking away from the Chinese Dragon, a moderately stylish Chinese Restaurant in downtown Denver, wondering what kind of person she was. She had just met with Anderson, a hard-edged rodent of a man who had offered her five thousand dollars to kill his ex-wife. Initially Yvette had been shocked at the idea – and the fact that apparently she was the kind of woman to do that – but she knew that her money was about to run out and Anderson was the only source she had. Reluctantly, she had agreed to the killing.

            Anderson had been pleased by that – of course – and offered a large bonus if Yvette could complete the task before the end of the week. The bonus was so large that Yvette wondered what this other woman was on the verge of doing that Anderson wanted stopped. Whatever, it wasn't her place to think about that. She had to keep her own belly full and pay her rent – however much it was. Yvette intended to do what she had to tomorrow and collect that ten thousand dollar bonus.

            Yvette had almost reached her car when heard a name called out behind her. The name itself, she hadn't heard, but her reaction was instinctive. Standing a few feet away, was an unfamiliar man, tall pale, with ice blue eyes and sharp features.  How did he come so close without my hearing him?

            "Rachel?" he repeated. His expression was mild, but Yvette could sense something vastly wrong with him. Maybe it was the way he stood, slightly hunched over to one side, or the fact that he didn't seem to be feeling the chilly evening air , despite his being clad only in a light shirt and a pair of well-worn khaki pants.

            "I'm sorry." Yvette apologized, "but my name's not Rachel."

            The stranger's expression changed, swiftly moving from surprise, to doubt, to slightly forced charm.

            "My mistake." he apologized. "Is it possible that you have a relative, a cousin maybe..?" Even as he asked, he seemed to know the answer.

            "No, I'm sorry." She turned away.

            "Wait!" Despite her best instincts, she waited. The stranger took another step towards her. Now, he was smiling, the strain fading. He chuckled slightly. "The resemblance is startling." Immediately, he asked "Could I buy you a cup of coffee? There's a place just down the road."

            Pickup attempt. Yvette sighed mentally. There probably wasn't any such person as Rachel. Or maybe there is. Could he know me under another name? Reluctantly, Yvette decided that there would be no harm in spending some time with this stranger, providing they were in a public place. After all, there's not much else I could be doing.

            "Alright." She agreed, unsmiling. "You can tell me about Rachel, if you like." She suggested.

            He smiled again, and Yvette saw a flash of emotion she couldn't identify in his eyes. It seemed to be something between anger and hope. What could he be angry about? That she wasn't Rachel?

            "Perhaps." They began to walk together to the nearby diner. "I'm Paul." He offered.

            Yvette nodded and thought for a moment. Just because this man might know something of her old self, didn't mean she had to be completely honest with him. "I'm Claire." She replied, hoping that she would remember it, herself.

            The small coffee shop, was busy but not crowded. The finals season had just passed, and the usual late-night crowd of college students was busy elsewhere, celebrating the semester's end and graduation. Yvette waited while Paul bought her a cup of decaf and himself a double espresso. Soon enough, he was placing the drinks before them, his earlier tension gone, but Yvette could see that he was very curious. That, in turn, made Yvette wonder at what Paul was hoping to learn from her.

            Fumbling with her coffee cup, Yvette decided to remove the gloves she had been wearing against the possibility of a later chill and out of a paranoid urge not to leave fingerprints in Anderson's presence. Concentrating on pulling the thin leather gloves off her fingers without tearing them, she didn't notice Paul's intense scrutiny of the chore until she was almost done.

            "Just gloves." She said awkwardly, holding them out for him to see.

            "It's not that." He replied intently, not even looking up. "It's your hands."

            His serious tone caused another prickling of her earlier fear. Yvette glanced down at her hands, held out before her. They seemed perfectly normal to her. "What's wrong with them?" she asked, trying to sound light-hearted and failing.

            "Nothing." Paul was surprised, she noticed. "They're…" he realized his behavior was disturbing Yvette and he quickly returned his gaze to her. He smiled ruefully. "As I said, you really do resemble her – Rachel, I mean – but now that I've seen your hands, I know you can't be her." His voice was tinged with regret.

            Yvette tried to contain a moment of disappointment. She had let herself hope that maybe Paul knew something of her. "What, did she have six fingers?" this attempt at joking was no better than the last.

            "No." Paul's gaze was pulled back to Yvette's hands, now encircling her coffee cut. "Her hands were scarred, severely so. She almost always wore gloves."

            Yvette drummed her fingers against the side of her cup. "But you knew – of her scars?" she asked, curiously.

            Paul's smile was one of a pleasant memory. "Yes. We were rather close." He told Yvette. "For a while." He amended. "But we parted on bad terms. The worst. Seeing you on the street I thought…" he paused. "Oh, you don't want to hear this." Again, it was like a switch had been thrown, as he moved from distraction to focused charm.

            "I do." Yvette disagreed. "Please go on." She gulped her coffee, wondering why she hadn't used that opportunity to leave. Reluctantly, she admitted to herself that she was lonely. Her predicament left her with no company other than the television and that had worn out its welcome within minutes of their re-acquaintance. "It's very...interesting."

            "I can't imagine why." Paul murmured dryly.

            Yvette shrugged. "It's not every day a person finds out they have a twin – almost." And if I can't know about my life, I might as well ask about hers. "You say you parted on bad terms. Did you want to apologize?"

            Paul shook his head. "Not really, no. I'm still convinced I'm right. I had heard that her husband…" an awkward pause. The word seemed to taste bad to Viersan. "her husband had left her. I was hoping that she might admit to her mistake, then."

            Husband? Yvette thought. I suppose that makes it certain that I'm not her. Although if he had left…. She smothered a moment of self-irritation. Don't be silly, Yvette! You're not married, and never were. "You didn't approve of him?"

            Paul smiled wryly. "No, not at all. I suppose it was very selfish of me, but I didn't like him at all."

            "Why not?"

            Paul's easy expression faltered slightly. "Political differences, I suppose you could say. And I don't think he treated her very well."

            "Not like you would have, I take it?" Yvette asked, seeing where this was going. A chance to meet with an old flame, she thought. We're back to the pickup scenario again.

            Paul caught the sarcasm in her tone and understood it. "Pretty much." He admitted. "I'd known Rachel for years. I thought she was marrying too fast, even if she thought it was for the right reasons."

            There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. Yvette wondered why Paul had approached her earlier – because he thought she was Rachel, or merely because she had looked like that woman. Yvette feared that Paul had simply apoken to her because he was seeking a reproduction of his lost love, and she would have left, but Paul's last sentence had brushed the edges of that blank expanse within her mind. Something familiar. Yvette sighed, slightly. Maybe she was just trying too hard, desperate to make any kind of connection with the rest of the world and her past.

             Lost in thought, Yvette didn't notice Paul gazing at her, calmly taking her in. She did, however, catch a moment of intense surprise, quickly covered. Yvette pretended to ignore it, curious to see what it would lead to.

            "Have you been outside all day?" Paul asked abruptly.

            That's not quite what I expected, Yvette thought.

            "Yes." she shrugged. "I've been running errands, buying groceries." Essentially true, she decided.

            "It's been a lovely day." Paul commented idly. "I wish I could have been in the park, instead of working."

            Yvette nodded. "Parks aren't my place." She hazarded. "I'm not much of an outdoors person. But the sun always feels good."

            Paul nodded, a half smile upon his face. "What do you do for a living?" his tone was insistent, jibing with his casual expression.

            Fortunately, Yvette had already considered that question when she was in the emergency clinic earlier that day, seeking a solution to her lost memory. "I'm a security consultant." She lied easily. "I teach self defense, examine people's homes for security risks and recommend solutions, alarms and such." She had discovered that most of the books in her home's meager library were dedicated to such subjects. Her meeting with Anderson had reinforced the notion that she worked on the wrong side of the law – all the more reason to conceal the truth.

            "Really?" Paul chuckled. "Curiouser and curiouser." He looked at her closely and nodded, having reached some internal decision. "You've lost your memory, haven't you, Yvette?"

            "What?" Yvette was stunned. "How do you know?" her shock quickly changed to anger. "Did you do this to me?" she demanded, voice rising.

            "Be quiet!" Paul whispered sharply. Yvette bit back her next question and stared at her companion, breathing hard. "How much are you missing?" he asked.

            "Everything." She whispered, her voice hoarse. "Yesterday. All I know is yesterday…" tears of fear and frustration prickled and she wiped them away clumsily. "When you called me Rachel, I thought… I hoped…" Yvette stared down at the table, feeling foolish and vulnerable.

            Paul touched her hand gently, causing her to look at him. He spoke seriously, all joking gone. "I know your name because I think I do know you, in a way."

            "I'm not Rachel." Yvette protested.

            "You're not." Paul agreed "But I think you…knew her." Paul chose his next words carefully. "Rachel was a thief and assassin." Yvette gasped. "Is it likely that you worked together?"

            Yvette thought hard for a moment. She knew nothing about this man, should she really admit anything to him? Could she trust him? She hoped that perhaps his memory of this Rachel woman might protect her – and it could be a connection to her past. "It's possible." She conceded. "I'm in a similar line myself. I think."

            Yvette took a sip of her cooling coffee. "Could she – Rachel – be my sister, maybe?" Yvette wondered. "If we're so alike-"

            "No." Paul interrupted. "No, not sisters. She had a brother, I know. But no sisters."

            Yvette wanted to cry out her frustration, but she was damned if she was going to do that in public. "But if we're so similar…" she insisted.

            "Superficially." Paul qualified.

            "Superficially?" Yvette was incredulous. "I wouldn't call features so close that you mistook me for her, that we work in the same fields, that you seem to be a mutual acquaintance superficial."

            "Alright, alright." He held up a hand in protest, bringing a wan smile to Yvette's face. "Given the current circumstances, I don't think it's safe to talk here. Would you mind coming to my place?"

            Yvette began to weigh the risks and just stopped. What was the point of worrying? If Paul was some kind of psychotic killer, who was going to miss her? Anderson? Not at all. Once again, her loneliness and frustration provoked her, and she stood up, ready to go.

            Paul was obviously surprised by her quick decision. Yvette raised a questioning eyebrow. "I'm sorry," Paul apologized. "I keep expecting you to react like her. Towards the end, well… If I told her the sky was blue, she'd still look out of the window."

            Yvette nodded. "Stubborn." She commented.

            "You have no idea…"

            Together, they left the coffee shop and headed into the night.

 

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