"That doesn't make any sense," the sheriff growled, looking at the computer screen, and then the teen sitting at the desk across the room.
"There can't be two of him," the younger cop confirmed. "But the fingerprints were almost identical. Different names, though."
The sheriff scowled, eying the two profiles on the screen. The two childhood pictures were nearly identical—taken years ago during safety week at a school. "Well, the… Justin, one, has parents listed. Call the parents, see if their son is home."
"Excuse me?" she repeated into the phone, confused. "Yes, my son is home. Yes, I'm sure, he's sitting right next to me!"
There was a long sigh on the other end of the phone. "Do you have two children? Twins?"
She flashed a look at her son Justin, who was watching her in turn. 'who?' he mouthed at her, curiously. Anne put a hand up to keep him quiet and excused herself from the couch. She went upstairs and locked herself in the bedroom of her and her husband. "He might," she answered vaguely. "Justin is adopted. I remember hearing at the time that he had a brother, but…"
"Ah," the man let out. "Well that possibly makes a bit more sense. Do you know anything about him?"
"Well, no." Anne frowned. "What's going on?"
"Well we just picked up who must be his brother, ran his prints, and both boys came up. We're trying to get ahold of his social services agent, but it's late and she's not answering," the sheriff explained. "I guess we'll be holding him over night. Thank you for your time, ma'am."
"Wait," Anne barked. "Social services?" she repeated.
"Er, yes. He's in the foster care system. My best guess is he ran away from his last foster home, and it wasn't reported…"
"And what county did you say you were from?" Anne asked, eyes darting around her room.
"Stephenson County, Illinois…" the sheriff answered. "Why?"
"Is there a chance of me coming to get him? I'm four hours away, but, I could make it. Is there a way to grant me temporary custody?" Anne asked.
There was a long pause of silence on the other end. "I, I guess that… works, until we can contact his agent in the morning. Some how he made it across some state lines, so it might be a few days until she can come get him."
"I'll be there in four hours," Anne declared, taking down some more information on where she was going. She hung up and went back down stairs, staving off Justin's questions yet again.
"Honey, can I talk to you for a second? In private?" Anne directed the question at her husband.
"Am I in trouble?" Justin piped up. "Because whatever it is, I didn't do it. You even told them I was here with you."
"You're not in trouble," Anne snapped. "Just—something has come up. Mark, come on."
Mark grumbled as he got up from his recliner, sending a longing look at the TV before following Anne upstairs into their bedroom and explaining what had happened. "Twin?" Mark raised a bushy eyebrow. "Does Justin know?"
"No," Anne let out a sigh. "It was hard enough when he found out that he was adopted, and now he has a brother…"
"You can go pick him up," Mark declared. "Drive, pick him up, spend a few hours in a hotel to sleep. It's already eight o clock. I'll stay here with Justin."
Anne gave him a sour look. "You just don't want to make the drive, don't you?" she accused.
"Correct," Mark agreed, smiling. "Glad you understand."
Anne rolled her eyes in good humor. She packed a small overnight bag and was out the door, leaving Mark to dodge Justin's questions. "Dad? Where's Mom going?"
Anne closed the door on her way out and got in the car. With directions in hand, she began the drive to Stephenson County, near the other side of the state. For a four hour drive, she made it just over three. She stormed into the town's police station, pinned a man for the sheriff and walked over to him. "I'm Anne Carson," she announced.
"…That was fast," he said slowly. "Should I be setting up speed traps?"
Anne snorted and fixed her eyes across the room, finding the near identical image of her son. This boy was thinner and looked a bit ragged, and his black hair was longer. He stared forward with a deep scowl etched around his mouth and eyes.
"His name is Matt. We… haven't told him anything, yet. About you or his brother," the sheriff paused. "I'll go with you. Probably best to keep a few steps back."
Anne tensed slightly, but followed the Sheriff over to Matt. Matt turned his steely green eyes up at the sheriff, and then on Anne.
"Matt, this is Mrs. Anne Carson," the sheriff introduced. "She—she's going to be taking temporary custody of you. You'll be able to meet your brother."
A muscle in Matt's jaw twitched. "Brother?" he echoed. "Bullshit."
"Twins," The sheriff continued. "Both of your information came up when we ran your prints. We called Mrs. Carson and she's willing to take you in until your agent can come and retrieve you."
Matt turned his face away, not answering. The sheriff sighed. "Either you go with her, or we're sending you to the next town over for the juvenile detention center for a few days until your agent can come get you."
Matt bared his teeth slightly. "Fine," he growled.
"I'll get the paperwork. Come with me, Mrs. Carson," the sheriff led her off. "Look, if you're having doubts, you don't have to take him in," he warned. "He seems a bit… rough."
"It's fine," Anne answered stiffly. "I'll just make the drive back."
Anne signed on all the right dotted lines and Matt was turned over into his custody. Matt gave her suspicious looks, his lips pressed thin.
"It's a four hour drive back. I was going to stop at a motel and sleep for a few hours, but…" Anne left it at that, not wanting to admit that now she wasn't comfortable to put herself in that situation with him. "You can meet my husband, Mark, and your… brother, Justin."
Matt refused to speak and got into the car with Anne. She kept her purse on her lap and began the drive home. It was tense and quiet, much worse than the drive out. Once she was out of Stephenson County, she picked up speed and got them home by early morning.
Mark didn't seem too thrilled when he opened the garage door after hearing them come home. "I told you to take a break and sleep."
"It was easier," Anne answered briskly. "Did you set up anywhere for Matt to sleep? Have you told Justin yet?"
Mark twitched guiltily. "I set up the guest room but I haven't told Justin anything."
"This is going to end badly," Anne sighed. "I'll talk to him. Wait here with Matt for me."
Anne entered the house again, dragging her son out of bed and forcing him into the shower. Then she sat him down at the kitchen table and started on breakfast. "So I went to Stephenson County last night," Anne began slowly.
"Where is that, even?" Just asked. "And why?"
Anne turned and fixed her eyes on him. He was slightly more broad and better built from sports. His hair was black and still damp from his shower. He sent her a questioning look when he noticed her stare. "What?"
"You have a twin brother," Anne blurted out.
Justin's eyes grew wide. "What?" he sputtered.
"A twin brother. Matt. He was picked up last night, and they checked his prints against one of those safety things we did at school when you were young… and both of you came up. That's what the phone call was last night. We're taking temporary custody of him, for now."
Justin only stared at her. "You're serious," he finally questioned, his voice cracking.
"I am. Matt's in the garage, with Mark. I don't think he had the same… chances, you were given. He was in foster care. The sheriff thinks he ran away." Anne waited for something out of him. It was strange for herself to think about there technically being two of them.
"I'll get them," Anne went back to the garage and opened the door. She almost stepped on Mark sitting on the stairs, and Matt was sitting on the hood of their car. "You're both good to come in," she said.
Mark stood up and rubbed his thighs down for and made his way inside. Matt slid off the car and hesitated before going inside the house as well. Matt stopped in the kitchen, meeting eyes with Justin.
"Shit," Justin hissed.
Anne flashed him a look but didn't comment on his language—it was allowed just this once.
Matt took a minute to stare as well, but was able to move on. "Where am I sleeping?" he asked, turning towards Anne.
She jumped slightly, still caught trying to look at two Justins. "Upstairs guest room, follow me." She went upstairs and Matt followed her with a last look at Justin.
"Well that's a mind fuck," Mark commented dryly before snapping his head to Justin. "And don't tell your mother I said that."
"Why didn't he get adopted?" Justin questioned.
Mark shrugged with a weird twitch of the head. He went down the hall towards the garage where Justin knew he had a few stashed cigarettes for stress. Justin picked at the kitchen table, glaring at the pan of scrambled eggs that was cooling on the oven.
Anne returned and flicked the stove top back on. "Matt will be down in a few minutes to eat," she said, warming up the eggs. She slid them off onto a plate and gave it to Justin.
Justin still didn't touch the food at first. Matt came down a few minutes later, looking freshly showered and wearing some of Justin's old clothes. Justin felt a spark of anger at that but kept his mouth shut. It wasn't like he wore them anymore.
Matt puttered around the kitchen, looking eagerly at the food. Anne whipped up some scrambled eggs for him as well, and quickly fried some bacon. Matt got a glass of orange juice and sat across the table from Justin before digging in.
He didn't seem bothered at all, though his eyes were all over the place. He didn't seem all that interested in Justin; just the house.
"Where are you from?" Justin asked.
Matt finally paid some attention to him, taking the time to chew and then swallow. "Wisconsin."
"And you made it all the way to Chicago?" Anne remarked in surprise. "How'd you manage that?"
Matt clenched his jaw and didn't answer. Anne faltered and turned back to finishing up the bacon. She gave a few pieces to both of them, and growled at Justin to eat. Justin started to place bites of egg in his mouth, but he wasn't all that interested.
He finished eating though, while Matt seemed to be on a binge to eat them out of the house. Justin cleaned off his plate and stuck everything in the dishwasher. He snuck out of the kitchen and to the garage, finding his dad smoking a cigarette at the open garage door.
"Don't suppose you'd let me have any?" Justin asked dryly.
Mark raised an eyebrow but handed over the cigarette. Justin tried not to look surprised, taking a drag on it. He immediately burst into a fit of coughs, and Mark gave a smug smile as he took the cigarette back. Justin finally cleared his throat enough to ask, "Why didn't you guys adopt him too?"
Mark sighed and tossed his cigarette down, crushing it under his foot. "We were only planning on adopting one child. It was mentioned you had a brother, but I guess we didn't make the connection that you were both twins… and, you were only a few months old. We didn't think it would be hard for him to be adopted, either." He stopped for a moment, debating. "I don't think it's a good idea for him to stay, Justin."
"What? Why?" Justin snapped defensively. "You can't just do that! Bring him in and toss him out like nothing!"
"I don't trust him," Mark admitted flatly. "And he doesn't trust us. I can see it. He moves like he's on the defensive, and who knows, he might get violent."
Problem child is what he means, Justin scoffed in his head. He left it out that Matt had made it all the way from somewhere in Wisconsin—it would probably only strengthen what his dad thought. "I want him to stay."
"You don't even know him."
"So I can't get to know him?" Justin protested.
"You two may look alike, but you aren't the same person. We don't know anything about him, Justin," Mark insisted.
"Mom will let him stay," Justin pointed out. "And you know it."
"That's for her and I to discuss, and I'll tell her everything I already told you. I don't think it's safe for him to be here. We aren't a foster home, Justin. He can't just live with us because you want him to, and I bet you a hundred dollars he knows his place here is only temporary."
Justin scowled and stormed back inside. He shot a look at his mother, wanting to convince her to let Matt stay, but not in front of the other teen. Justin bolted upstairs instead and into his room.