Mistaken Identity by Lisa Chapter 53

Republisher’s Note: Secrets are spilling out all over Texas for Danny and Michelle.

Mistaken Identity by Lisa Chapter 53

Danny looked away and back again hoping to find that his mind had been playing a cruel trick on him. That hadn’t been the case. He felt his body go cold, it was as if he had no heat there whatsoever. His mouth felt as though it was full of cotton, unable to speak. His eyes were riveted to the folder that lay open in front of him. The face that looked back at him; it was the same beautiful face he had spent endless days with in the past weeks. The crushing pain that filled him rendered him motionless. His limbs had the heaviness of lead weights and his stomach was rolling end over end. What was staring back at him couldn’t be true. It had be some fabrication on Carmen’s part. Another ploy to keep him forever under her thumb.

He closed his eyes one more time, silently praying that this was some bizarre dream. That when he opened them again, he would find a picture of anyone other then Melanie, or maybe find no folder at all. That illusion was shattered again as Danny’s eyes rested on Melanie’s smiling face. So sweet, so innocent, the girl who had brought so much promise into his miserable existence.

Danny pushed the folder away from him quickly, almost as if it were scalding to the touch. None of this made sense. It had to be a mistake. There was no way that Melanie had killed his brother. He knew her inside and out. She wasn’t capable of such an act. It had to be Carmen; it had to be just another elaborate scheme on her part. She was so desperate to bring him back to the fold she would do just about anything.

In slow motion, Danny reached again for the folder he had just pushed away hoping it would disappear. His curiosity as to just how far his mother would go got the better of him. Absently he turned over the picture of Melanie. He couldn’t, wouldn’t associate her with this sick joke that Carmen thought she could play with him.

Danny swallowed hard around the lump in his throat as he began leafing through the documents. He couldn’t silence the tiny nagging voice in his head, the one that kept forcing him to wonder just how it was that Carmen had been able to get a photo of Melanie. That was the part of this mess that picked at him. The part that made absolutely no sense. Had Carmen known where he was all along; had she had him followed; did she now know that this wonderful person that by the grace of god had come into his life was his one true weakness; was she going to exploit that weakness like she had taught him all along how to do? There were so few answers to far too many questions racing about his mind.

Danny took a deep breath and looked at the first piece of information. He read it over and over again. The name Michelle Bauer popped out at him. He knew the Bauers were a prominent family in Springfield, but he had no idea they had a daughter. Still this wasn’t adding up. What did Michelle Bauer have to do with Melanie Branson?

He went on to read the police report and subsequent autopsy report on his brother’s death. It brought it all back. The horrible experience of identifying the body at the morgue, which even to this day Danny thought, had been unnecessary, seeing as how Mick was well known around Springfield. Danny could still hear Frank Cooper’s voice saying…..”It’s standard police procedure”…….. all the while Danny saw the ambivalence in his eyes. No one cared that Mick had been killed. The only thing that was important to the men in blue was that there was one less Santos in town.

Danny kicked himself for he hadn’t been any better then them really. He knew what he should have done for his brother back then. But instead he turned tail and ran. Spouting things like not wanting the life that had been force upon him; that revenge wouldn’t bring his brother back.

The next page was a transcript of the confession given by Miss Bauer. Danny’s thoughts still unable to wrap themselves around the horror of it all. There were words like “sexual assault”, “attempted rape”, he saw phrases like “Mick’s hands around my throat”; “I kicked and pushed but he was too strong”. The finality of it all comes in the closing sentence that read……………..”I picked up the closest thing within my reach and hit him as hard as I could. Then I ran never looking back”……………………

Danny ran his hands over his face. He was trying so desperately to grasp all of this. Nothing that he read surprised him much. Mick lived his life on a razor’s edge. He was of the opinion that he could take whatever it was he wanted. He had little or no respect for anyone or anything. But he still didn’t deserve to die the way he had.

Hesitantly Danny turned over the picture of Melanie. What on earth did she have to do with this? He still couldn’t think straight. The file on his brother’s death had nothing to do with her. So why was it that Carmen wanted him to think that it had? Was she that desperate that she was willing to ruin his life but again? What an insane question. He knew the answer to it. He knew it so well. Yes Carmen was that desperate. She would do anything to get and keep what she wanted.

But he wasn’t about to let that happen. He wasn’t going to let her continue to pull his strings. The guilt that she threw around so easily wasn’t going to force him back to a place he didn’t want to be. Mick was gone! He had been gone long before he physically died. They hadn’t had a relationship like brothers were supposed to in ten years, maybe longer. As much as Danny missed him and grieved for him he couldn’t sacrifice his soul for Mick’s. He didn’t care what his mother expected him to do. He didn’t care that it was his duty to avenge Mick’s killing. He didn’t care that his mother was so desperate that she used an innocent girl as her pawn. He didn’t care about any of it.

This was the final straw for Danny. The final curtain call as it was. He fought the inner turmoil about what his Uncle Albert had eluded to with regards as to how to handle Carmen. Yet now there was not longer a fight raging in his mind. Carmen’s feeble attempt at ruining his chance at happiness wasn’t going to work, not this time and not ever again.

Danny gathered up the information in front of him. He didn’t know what was real and what had been a fraud and frankly he didn’t much care. It wasn’t until he came to the last document that his heart stopped.

There before him lay the answer to all those questions he had minutes ago thought ludicrous. His hands shook as he brought the paper in for closer inspection. As he read the words, Danny’s fingers tighten around the flimsy white piece of paper. He did his best to focus on them but they appeared only as a mass of jumbled letters not forming a single readable word. He could feel the rise and fall of his chest, as if he were ready to hyperventilate. Again he looked at the document. It’s clarity finally reaching him as he read……..

WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM
Name:                Michelle Bauer
Alias:                Melanie Branson
Destination:        Galveston, Texas
Contact:        Agent Jeremy Lucas

Danny couldn’t contain his rage. It was all consuming. With one angry swipe of his arms the neat piles on the desk were now a disheveled mess on the floor. If he could have found his voice he would have screamed but nothing happened when he opened his mouth. The only sensation that filled him was his heart being ripped to pieces inside his chest.

Without warning he ripped the picture of Melanie/Michelle whoever the hell she was that rested before him. His grand illusion of love instantly shattered. Carmen had won again. Without even knowing she was doing it, she had been successful in stripping but one more good thing from his life.

Good thing, he thought to himself, Good thing……..how could he even put those words and thoughts in the same concept of his brother’s death. This girl who had grown to be his everything had killed his brother. The concept was unfathomable to him.

No matter the circumstances she had killed him and left him to die alone on the beach. He couldn’t reconcile that thought with the girl he knew. He had to laugh thinking what the hell did he really know. There had been so many secrets and lies that anymore he wasn’t sure what was the truth and what wasn’t, but he was damn sure going to find out. He grabbed for the folder and made his way to the door determination written all over his face.

“Danny boy,” Albert called from his perch near the bandstand, “Hey Danny!” he yelled once more as Danny continued on his way towards the door not even bothering to look back.

“What’s going on?” Joe asked not being able to miss Danny’s behavior.

“I wish I knew,” Albert returned, suddenly having a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Can you handle this place for a bit? I think I need to check on a few things?” he asked Joe.

“Yeah, sure whatever you need.”

Albert walked into the office hoping to find something, anything that would clue him into Danny’s state of mind. He looked around at the mess left in Danny’s wake. Walking over to the desk doing his best not to trip over the debris, he picked up the remnants of the photo of Melanie that Danny had torn apart. He was more confused then ever.

“What on earth happened in here?” he asked thinking only if these walls could talk.

Danny’s car came screeching to a halt in front of the building where Melanie/Michelle lived. The ride over there had done very little to calm him. As a matter of fact it only gave him more time to grow angrier.

“Danny,” Sarah said startled to see him standing before her as she opened the door.

“Where’s Melanie!?!?” he growled.

“She’s at school registering for the spring semester,” Sarah starred at him with uncertainty. Suddenly he didn’t resemble the man he once had. There was a look in his black eyes that she couldn’t put her finger on but it struck fear in her.

“I’ll wait!” he pushed past her.

“Sure,” she said understanding that she didn’t have a choice in the matter, “I guess I will be seeing you tonight at the club right?” she asked referring to the New Year’s Eve party that had been planned at The Two Step.

“Yeah…..whatever,” he said absently just wanting Sarah to be gone. He needed to think; to put order to his thoughts.

“Bye,” she returned hesitantly closing the door while she wondered exactly what the hell was going on here.

Danny made his way around the apartment. He tried not to let his thoughts be drawn to all that they had shared here. He couldn’t let his judgment be clouded by things he was no longer sure of.

He stopped in front of the bookcase and looked at the pictures that were housed there. Why was it that he had never paid much attention to them until now? One caught his attention readily. It was of her and the man he had left his insurance policy with back in Springfield. His hairs stood on end. Why was Melanie, his Melanie, in a picture with a Springfield lawyer? Danny’s head spun at the thoughts he was now forced to entertain.
For once could his mother have been telling the truth? Rather then the folder he held within his finger being a fake, could it have been real? Were the words that he had read been the explanation of Mick’s murder? And was this girl, the woman who he had so easily fallen in love with, the person responsible?

He couldn’t let himself believe it. There must have been another explanation; some reasonable coincidence for it all. While his heart spouted such things his instincts took on a life of their own. Danny watched himself as if he was watching a movie. He opened drawer after drawer not knowing what he was looking for and hoping beyond all reason he would find nothing out of the ordinary.

Luck was not on his side. In the desk drawer buried under a mound of pens, pencils and scraps of paper, the first piece of evidence sprang forth. It was a business card that read…… Agent Jeremy Lucas. Danny didn’t even bother looking back at the information that Carmen had sent. The images were burned in his memory. The names were a perfect match. Danny reached for the desk to steady himself, the biting reality was getting the better of him. There was no stopping his search, he continued digging through the drawer. The rest had been nothing more the school papers and things from the bookstore. Danny pushed the drawer in disgust, but rather then close as it had been, the drawer was jammed. He pulled it from its tracks. In his haste to rummage through it’s contents he had pushed a thick folder to the very back stopping it from closing properly.
As Danny opened it his mouth began to water just as it did when he was a child about to get sick to his stomach. The world as he knew it to be came crashing to a stand still the minute he turned the first page. Danny wasn’t about to stop himself from falling to the ground as his knees gave way.

“This can’t be happening,” his voice barely audible.

He skimmed the pages forcing his brain to process the words. It was like reading a movie actress’ script. He could almost hear a voice in the distance saying the part of Melanie Branson is now being played by Michelle Bauer. Some of the things she had told him about her life came right from these pages. It was like being hit hard enough to have the wind knocked out of you. He couldn’t breath; he couldn’t think.

“What the hell am I supposed to do now?” he whispered.

Before the walls could answer his question Michelle walked through the door,

“Danny!?!” she was surprised but delighted to see him sitting there, “I didn’t expect to see you until tonight at the club. I figured Albert would have you hopping,” she talked as though nothing had changed. But for Danny everything had.

“I had something important to look into,” he said a coldness to his tone he hadn’t heard in a while now.

“Oh really important, huh?” she smiled

“Don’t do that…….” he thought to himself, “Don’t smile at me, don’t!”

“And here I thought maybe you were just missing me,” she countered as she made her way to him. She leaned in to kiss him, but he turned away before she was able to reach her intended goal, “Danny?!?!” she questioned.

Danny moved away from her, needing the distance to keep the thoughts in his head from mixing with those of his heart. Which wasn’t an easy task by any means.

“What?” he finally uttered.

“What?” she repeated quizzically, “What the hell’s going on here?”

“Why don’t you tell me, Melanie, or should I say Michelle?”

Michelle froze in her tracks. He had used her true name. But how? How did he know she was Michelle?

It was now time for her thoughts to spin wildly in effort to exact her own damage control. But maybe in some strange way this is what she had been hoping for all along. A way to tell Danny everything about herself. She would be finally able to strip herself of all the lies and deceptions. That’s what she had truly wanted from the beginning.

“What? Cat got your tongue?” he quipped an edge to his voice she had never heard before.

“Let me try to explain this,” she began.

“Oh please do!”

“My name really isn’t Melanie Branson, well in a way it is I guess,” she stammered, “I mean now it is, but until I came to Texas I was Michelle Bauer.”

Bile rose higher in Danny’s throat at her statement. It took every ounce of his being to not rush forward and choke her for the nonchalant way she said it.

“Why the sudden name change?” he strained to keep his tone even as he spoke.

“Necessity.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s a really long complicated story,” she said suddenly fearful of revealing her secret.

“I have the time,” he countered.

“I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“How about from the beginning?”

“Well I’m not who you think I am. I mean no that’s not right. I am me. I finally learned the name assigned to me doesn’t amount to much more then a name on my driver’s license. In here,” she pointed to the place in her chest where her heart lay, “I am the person I always was.”

Danny bit his tongue to stop the words cold-blooded killer from dropping out, “but that still doesn’t really tell me much,” he said instead.

“I’m originally from Springfield, Illinois. I grew up there really. And some of the things I told you about my past were true. My mother did die when I was young. But my father well he’s alive and well somewhere in Africa. To be honest I don’t really know where he is.”

“Why did you come here? Why did you decide to change your name then?” Danny was growing impatient.

“Well the part I told you about a broken heart; that my boyfriend fell in love with someone else that was all-true. And the love I have found with you has healed that wound. I hope you don’t doubt that.”

“I doubt everything…..” he thought to himself.

“There was this other guy; he was a real creep,” Danny felt his fists clench at her description of his brother, “He was hot and heavy on me from day one. It didn’t matter to him that I was in love with someone else. He wanted me. And……,” Michelle sighed looking for the words to make this make sense to him, “well, let’s just say his intention was to have me whether I wanted to be had or not.” She hoped that was the only explanation she needed to give. Michelle didn’t want to relive that night one more time.

“So what you had to move thousand of miles away and change your name?” he questioned.

“Well that’s not exactly the entire story.”

“Please go on,” he prodded.

“Well things got out of hand. This guy was going to rape me. He was on top of me; holding me down; laughing like some crazed animal as I struggled beneath him,” Michelle reached out for Danny to gain the support she needed to go on, but all she found were cold black eyes looking back at her.

“I didn’t really know what to do. All I remember was grabbing for a anything within my reach. I got a hold of a rock and swung it as hard as I could. Danny you have to believe me. I didn’t know I killed him until the following day………”

“You just left him there? You didn’t even call 911?!?!” Danny returned horrified to hear the things he read said aloud.

“It was self-defense Danny. It was him or me that night!” she said hysterically wanting him to understand but fearing there wasn’t a way to make him. “The next day it was all over the TV and papers about his death………………..”

“You never came forward?” he questioned.

“Yes and no.”

“Which is it?”

“A friend of my family’s is an attorney. My brother and I went to him first……..” Danny couldn’t believe that he had stood before the very same man not so long ago himself. Stood before a man who knew who killed his brother and helped to cover up the facts……

“Ross helped set it up for me to be protected.”

“Protected?”

“This is where it gets even more complicated. The guy I killed, well, he was connected, if you know what I mean.”

He most certainly did know what she meant but played along, “Connected?”

“He was the son of a Mob Boss. Ross knew there was no other way for me to be safe then to disappear. To become an entirely new person. So that’s what I did. I left my family and my friends and I came here,” she said so matter of fact.

“So what you are in the witness protection program?” he feigned ignorance.

“Yes.”

All this information flooded Danny’s brain. All the things that she said about Mick, he knew deep within him were true. But what he couldn’t fathom was the fact that she had done nothing to save him. Not lifted a finger to stop his suffering in any way. He couldn’t wrap his thoughts around that concept and align it with the fact that he knew she was working towards becoming a doctor. Those two things worked against the other.

“I just have one thing I need to know,” he said.

“What’s that?” she asked trying to gauge Danny’s reaction to her tale.

“Did my brother suffer, Michelle?”

“WHAT!?!?!?!” she said as the single word caught in her throat.

“Did Mick suffer, Michelle?”

Michelle pushed her body quickly away from his sheer terror consuming her. This couldn’t be happening. She couldn’t be sitting in her apartment with the brother of the man she killed; couldn’t have slept with him and more importantly couldn’t have fallen in love with Mick’s brother.

“What’s the matter ,Michelle? Thought you were in the clear?” he howled not knowing where his words were coming from. It was though he was no longer in control of his actions but rather the man he had been groomed to be. The taste for blood that filled his mouth actually frightened him but there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to stop it.
Maybe Carmen had been right all along. That he was where he was supposed to be and all the running in the world wasn’t going to change those facts.

“But……..you can’t be……”

“What…….I can’t be Mick’s brother? Well my dear as you so conveniently know anyone can change his or her name,” he walked towards her as he spoke.

Before she knew what was happening Danny had her pinned in the corner, instantly she felt that she had traveled back to that night on the beach. Again she was frozen with panic, but yet there was something different this time around. She wanted to believe, needed to believe that Danny wasn’t Mick. That all of the tender moments that they had shared had meant something to him. And she had every intention of using that to her advantage.

“Danny, you have to understand…….”

“Understand? What’s there to understand?” he said putting his hands against the walls caging her in further.

“I didn’t mean to kill Mick. It was me or him that night!”

“So you said. From the looks of things you fared much better then my brother did.”

“How do you figure?” she spat, “I was ripped away from everything…………everyone that I loved…………………..”

“MICK’S DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!” Danny seethed through his clenched teeth.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“YOU’RE SORRY!!!” his angry voice bounced off the walls, “YOU THINK THAT THAT MAKES IT ALL, ALL RIGHT!?!?!”

“No…….yes…………I don’t know,” the tears fell on her checks as she slid her body down the length of the wall. As hard as she had tried to get away from everything that the Santos family represented all her effort had been in vain. She could have very well stayed in Springfield and accepted her fate but instead she was going to die in Texas where no one would even remember her in a few months.

Danny reached down grabbing her by the shoulders shaking her hard as he forced her to look him in the eye.

“Are you going to kill me?”

“Kill you?!?!” Danny cackled, “Kill you!?!?!”

Looking into Danny’s cold calculating stare, hysteria got the best of her. Before she could stop herself, she was screaming out of control.

The shrill cries coming from behind the door to the apartment he knew to be Michelle’s sent Jeremy Lucas bolting up the hallway. He had been on his way to inform her that there was no such person as Danny Sampson. But the rest of it was beyond even his comprehension.

This amazing twisting turning tale had led her right back into the belly of the beast. His investigation of this love of her life, Danny Sampson, sent him straight to the Santos family. Danny Sampson was none other then Danny Santos, the brother of the man she killed.

“Michelle!!” Jeremy screamed not waiting for an answer.

The events played out in slow motion. She watched him burst through the door guns blazing. Michelle heard the shots but it was such a hollow sound. A sound as if she were standing in a tunnel. The echoing pulsated in her ears. It was then she saw the blood……Danny’s blood as he fell into her open arms.

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