Discover more from The E-JSD
Shadows of Identity - Part 2 of 2
A Two-Part Story by Amy Bexley
The next morning, John did not let time get away from him. He was going to infiltrate his birth hospital to get his hands on a physical copy of the birth records for him and his newfound twin, Mark. Discovering these records could show that John and "Mark Donavan" were not the same person and that the adoption agency engaged in illegal twin studies. Finding the physical records would be solid proof because the stuff he found on the internet could have been fabricated.
The E-JSD is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
“Why are you up so early?” Stacy grumbled from under the covers.
“I want to get to the hospital as soon as I can to get those records,” John said.
A groan escaped Stacy's lips, expressing her annoyance. “Oh, come on, just hide under a new identity. It’ll be fun, going on the run with all those disguises and such. Why do you need to endanger yourself like that?”
“You don’t get it,” John said. “I don’t want to be on the run for the rest of my life. I hope to embrace my true self. I don’t want to live under the shadow of Mark Donavan.”
She scrutinized him, and after a moment, sighed. I don't really care anymore, so do whatever you want. Just don’t get yourself into even more trouble.”
"No way am I going to do that," John declared. He bent down to kiss her forehead before he left.
Apparently, it was as easy as it seems on TV to sneak into a hospital. If you act like you belong there, grab a doctor’s coat and a badge, no one suspects a thing. The harder part was going to be where the records were without giving himself away.
He got a few odd looks from some nurses when asking about the location of the records room, trying to brush off that he was new. But he finally found the records room. It was locked. Damn it. Luckily, he found a custodian in the middle of a long conversation with a nurse. Inspired by examples from fiction, he bumped into the man and nicked the keys. The event went off seamlessly, with no issues. So, with the keys got, he began his search.
He started by combing through Ps for Parker. If they had physical records that could lead him to before his adoption, that would be great. It might be harder to connect him with Donavan if he started with the other man’s records.
Unfortunately, Parker got him nothing. There were many Parkers, and he found his own current records, but they were not connected to his pediatric history. Next, he tried searching for Donavan’s records. He knew it was a pseudonym, but it was worth a shot. There were many Donavans, but nothing matched Mark. Not sure what else to do, he revisited the adoption records on his phone. Of course, he should have done this originally. His birth name was Asher. Thankfully, this was a less common name, and he easily found records of twins on his birthday, one of them named John and the other Daniel. Perfect.
John didn’t have time to make copies. He stashed what he found and left the hospital.
Stacy had gone to work when he got back, so he spread the papers out over the table so he could get a better look and maybe take some notes.
What he found in the records confirmed what he had learned about his orphanage the night before: that it had been taking part in unethical twin research. Mark Donavan, as he was now called, had been his twin, named Daniel. Their mother had died giving birth, and she herself had had no family to support her. The orphanage had adopted out John but had given Daniel to a research company. What he could find from their research. The children were raised in somewhat sterile environments. The company used their facility as a control environment to study the adopted twins' traits and health.
Snooping online, he found Daniel had been fostered out at 15, when the organization was dissolved for their unethical behavior. Well, with a background like that, it’s no wonder Daniel’s life turned to crime.
He found all he could about Daniel Asher, Mark Donavan, and any other aliases the man had accumulated, and printed it out so it was all in one place.
“Now I just need someone to help me,” he sighed. Asking just anyone wasn't an option for him. He had to find an experienced lawyer or detective to help clear his name with the police.
There were plenty of lawyers and detectives in Indianapolis. His best bet, honestly, was to look for those that worked with criminals or other mistaken identity type cases. That at least helped him narrow it down. From there, he browsed through their websites, profiles, and reviews. He found a Detective Li. Something about his face made John trust him implicitly. He called him right away, and upon hearing about John’s situation, told him to come straight to his office.
“I appreciate your decision to choose me. “You won’t regret it,” Detective Li said. “I’m really interested in your case.”
“Thanks, or you’re welcome, I guess,” John said.
Li smiled and extended his hand. “What did you bring for me?”
John handed over the stack of papers. “This is everything I could find about our birth records and adoption.”
“Fantastic!” Li beamed. “Give me some time to go through the material, and I’ll see what I can do.”
John waited nervously while the detective sifted through everything. He had a moment of doubt. What would be the consequences if he were incorrect? What if he had found the wrong paperwork? Was he going to go to prison for Mark’s crimes?
It is worth mentioning that he had a brother. His whole life, and he had never known. How could his life have been different if he and his brother had been adopted together? And what kind of fate could Mark — or Daniel — have avoided?
Finally, Detective Li came out of his office. John stared at the man, anxious about what he had to say. With a smile on his face, the detective expressed his satisfaction. “We have a solid case.”
“We do?” John asked, trying to contain his excitement.
"Yes, we do," Li confirmed. “I’m going to get in touch with the local police and see what we can do.”
“Thank you!” John shouted, getting up from his seat to shake the detective’s hands.
“You are most welcome, Mr. Parker,” Detective Li said.
It took several days to work with the police to coordinate Donavan’s capture. First, Detective Li had to convince them that John was not Donavan.
The Detective knew that the State's AI fingerprint and ID system made mistakes, even though twins have different fingerprints. And with twins, there were enough similarities for such a system to make a match. The system had sent even non-twins to jail because the probability of the match was high enough confidence.
Finally, after talking through several levels of hierarchy within the department, they were convinced.
Now it was a matter of finding the real Donavan.
“Do you have any ideas about how to find your long-lost twin?” Detective Li asked.
John shook his head and took a long sip of his coffee. It had been almost a week now, and he was running on too little sleep and not enough food. And maybe too much coffee. “I know nothing of the guy outside of the paperwork I gave you. Oh, and that he’s a criminal.”
Li nodded in thought, but then his eyes widened suddenly. “Wait — does he know you’re his long-lost twin?”
With indifference, John nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders. “I can’t imagine he does, no.”
A wry grin took over the detective’s face. “Then I have an idea.”
Detective Li’s grand idea was to orchestrate a media campaign, trying to help John find his long-lost twin. The story was that John had been looking for his birth family. In the process found he had a twin, and he was eager to reconnect with the only family he had. The plan was to get this out on social media and various news outlets, asking this twin to reach out to him on any of these platforms.
John hadn’t used social media much before, so it was a bit of a learning curve to develop and maintain several now. Stacy was more than glad to help him with it all, especially with taking excellent pictures of him — including selfies with her in them.
Going viral was not as easy as it seemed, but as the days passed by the views crept up. John was receiving messages from people who thought they might have seen his twin. There were several doppelgangers and look-alikes, not all of them alike, but this meant they also had more of the public looking for Mark too. John hoped this didn’t have the opposite effect of sending Mark into hiding.
Thankfully, it didn’t. Because finally, after another week had passed, John got a message on his Instagram account.
“Never thought I’d see my face on another person. You must be my twin.”
John held his breath, staring at the message. The profile was blank and nameless. Is it possible that this person could be him? Had Mark made an account just to message him? He had no way to verify it, and under normal circumstances, this was the message you ignored. But these weren’t normal circumstances, and he wouldn’t be going into this meeting alone.
He cautiously, optimistically, returned the message, setting up a time and place to meet. Mark picked a restaurant in the city where they could have a private booth, and he asked John not to make a big deal about this on social media. John promised not to, but he also knew that he was lying with the police waiting on standby.
“Hey, Li?” John said to the detective on their way over.
“I want some time alone with him before the police take him,” John said. “Is that possible?”
Li's lips curved into a smile. “Of course. It’s a family reunion, after-all.”
"Thanks," John replied with a smile on his face.
His heart was pounding as they approached the restaurant. They parked a few blocks away so John could walk up alone, and the police were stationed stealthily at a perimeter around the restaurant.
He entered the store, looking around for exits in case he needed them.
“Can I help you, sir?” With politeness, the hostess requested an answer.
“I’m here to meet a man who looks just like me,” John said. “He should be in one of the private rooms.”
As soon as she saw him, her eyes widened in recognition. "Absolutely! Right this way.”
He followed her to the back, his heart beating out of his chest. This was the moment we had been waiting for. All his life as a single, adopted child, and now he would meet his family, only to facilitate his brother being arrested for his crimes. It is such a shame that things turned out this way.
There he was, sitting at the table sipping coffee. Mark looked up at John as the door opened, shock and joy both on his face. “Well shit, you really are my twin.”
Nervously, John couldn't help but let out a laugh. The man really looked so much like him. He styled his hair differently, and he looked rougher for wear, but he was certainly his twin.
He thanked the hostess and took a seat at the table. “Yeah, we really are. This is incredible. I can’t believe it!”
“All this time,” Mark said, shaking his head. “I was afraid maybe it was one of those AI deep fakes when I saw the social media.”
“Why would anyone do that?” John asked. He knew about deep fakes, but it seemed silly that anyone would do that just to fake a twin. Unless Mark already suspected it might be a police scam to catch him. John felt guilty, but his own innocence was at stake. He had to see this through.
In a nonchalant manner, Mark casually shrugged his shoulders. “Internet prank, I guess.”
That was as good an excuse as any, but John had already surmised the truth. “So, I guess then, what kind of life have you had? I’m so curious about the differences.”
John already knew some from their research, but he was wondering what Mark might say. As Mark told his story, John recognized parts of it, but he could also tell that Mark was fudging parts of it. Even with the parts that seemed made up, John saw Mark had had a rough life. He knew that being fostered wasn’t easy, and it certainly seemed that it had been worse than even John expected. His own life felt boring in comparison, as Stacy often criticized him for.
“Enough of my miserable life’s story. What about you?” Mark asked.
Nervously, John chuckled under his breath. “Everything is fine. Your life certainly has been more challenging than mine, which is rather boring.”
“I would have enjoyed boring,” Mark scoffed.
It’s about to be very boring, John thought, considering the prison sentence he was going to serve.
After John told him a version of his own life, excluding the past month, of course, he asked Mark if the man wanted to meet again. It was a ruse, of course, but he had to act naturally.
“We are open to attempting it and seeing if it works out. I’m not in Indianapolis much,” Mark said.
"Of course," John said with a smile, his eyes crinkling in the corners.
As soon as they left the restaurant, the police were waiting there for Mark. But Mark was faster, pushing over a policeman and jumping on his motorcycle, waiting on the street. He was off in a flash, with several police cars following him.
It was a captivating pursuit. John had watched it all on the live news feed, sitting in the police station with Detective Li. But by the end of the night, Mark had finally been apprehended. It was strange, seeing a man who shared his face on TV, a man who only hours before he had had a long heart to heart about their different childhoods. This felt like an injustice somehow, even if Mark was a criminal.
A hand fell on John’s shoulder. It was Detective Li. “Are you ready to live your own life again?” He asked.
John took a deep breath, sighing with relief. “Actually, yes.”
“Mr. Parker.” John turned to see who was talking to him. It was Ramirez and her partner O’Malley. “We’re sorry for all the stress we put you under for the mix-up.”
Sorry wasn’t enough for all that he had been through, but it was a start. “Water under the bridge,” John said. “But if you could help me, get that Parks and Rec job… that wouldn’t hurt my feelings.”
“That shouldn’t be a challenge,” O’Malley smirked.
– Epilogue –
And so, John got the Parks and Rec job, and more. Thanks to the media's attention looking for his twin, the media was invested in the capture of Mark Donavan and what that meant for John. He went on talk show after talk show, discussing his experiences and how he found the truth. John could reveal the ugly truth of the orphanage and the research organization that had abused Mark and countless children like him. He could also reveal how broken the current AI fingerprint and ID system is, and how the justice system needs to do better at identifying criminals.
The public’s love for John had turned to a collective cultural fervor for a need to reform the justice system. He was now an influencer of justice reform, and he used his new position in the government to research and expand his influence.
He stayed with Stacy a while longer, too. She enjoyed the media attention that came from his case. Whether she stayed with him in the long term remains to be seen. But in the meantime, they were happy and together.
The E-JSD is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.