The restaurant was tucked away in a remote part of the small town of Makersville. As Lacey walked up to the old dilapidated building, she searched through her messages on her cell phone to be sure she had arrived at the right location. Old Christmas lights were strung around the roof and intermittently hung off in various parts. The sign, which looked like it had once been beautifully lit, now hung slightly crooked and the only light emitted was the occasional flash that flickered in the letter A of Sam’s. The steps made a sharp screeching noise as she walked up them.
As soon as she walked in, however, and took in the mixture of aromas of elegantly prepared foods, she quickly forgot about the outside. As she scanned the room, she couldn’t help but notice the comfortable arm chairs that were covered in stylish brocaded material and situated around every table in the room. Suddenly she couldn’t wait to sit down and relax in those big, comfy chairs.
Lacey turned and couldn’t help but see Amy over in the dimly lit corner waving frantically to get her attention. She weaved her way through the crowded restaurant and finally arrived at the table for four. She chose the only seat that was available and greeted Amy and her boyfriend, Seth. Then she glanced over at Michael and tried to mask the fact that they were already acquainted.
Amy excitedly said, “Lacey, this is the illustrious Michael.”
Michael and Lacy exchanged hellos and Lacey nervously watched his face to see if he was as surprised as she was. She knew Lacey was inviting a friend for her to meet, but never expected it would be “her” Michael. Her nervousness dissipated quickly as she realized he was very good at acting as if this was the first time they had ever met.
They ordered their drinks and shared appetizers of crispy calamari and savory crackers covered with goat cheese, blackberries and drizzled with orange blossom honey. Lacey quickly forgot about her nervousness as she began to enjoy the delicacies set in front of them on the table.
Conversation flowed easily and Lacey found herself enjoying the evening. As she sipped on her glass of Chardonnay, she glanced over at Amy and Seth. It was obvious to everyone how crazy Amy was about Seth. She glowed with happiness. In fact, she had been smitten with him since their first date over a year ago. So why couldn’t Lacey get rid of that pit in her stomach every time she was around Seth.
They had met at a gala for breast cancer awareness. Lacey knew she would never forget that night. She and Amy had spent what seemed like forever getting ready for the big event. They had tried on numerous outfits and then spent even more time on their hair and makeup. They had only been there about ten or fifteen minutes when they were introduced to Seth. Lacey knew instantly that Amy was very interested in him.
All that Amy saw was a tall handsome man with gorgeous green eyes and an infectious smile. All that Lacey saw was a darkness in those eyes. She immediately did not trust him. There was just something about the way his eyes shifted when he was talking. It was if he was nervously keeping an eye on everything around the room while still holding a conversation.
Lacey went home alone that night. She walked into her apartment, kicked off her heels and sat on the couch to rub the soreness away from her feet being in those tight shoes all night. She quickly turned on her computer and started her research.
Typing in Seth’s name, she easily found several resources related to him. She started with his social media accounts and soon realized she would gain nothing from those as he had them all set on private setting. She returned to her Google search and found an obituary for Seth Jackson. She read through the biography of the deceased person and gained nothing from it either. She decided she was overreacting and decided to get some rest.
The next few months seemed to fly by. Amy spent every waking hour with Seth. They were always off to one big event after another. Lacey would get an occasional lunch date to catch up with Amy. She was slowly learning about different family members of Seth’s and loved filling Lacey in on all the details.
“So, have you met any of his siblings yet?” Lacey asked.
“Oh no, I haven’t actually met any of his family members yet. Seth just loves to talk about all of them. He loves them so much,” stated Amy.
“I’m confused. If he is so close with them, why haven’t you met any of them yet?” questioned Lacey.
“Well, there were a few times we were supposed to get together with some of them, but unfortunately something always seems to come up to make them reschedule,” said Amy.
Lacey couldn’t help but feel that old feeling creeping back up like she had felt when she first met him. Something was nagging at the corner of her mind, but she couldn’t quite figure out why. She was so happy for her friend, but also felt an overpowering sense of doom.
She went back to her research after their last lunch date. She typed Seth’s name in again and came across the obituary she had read months ago. Though she had read it in detail before, something nagged at her to read it again. As she read the different details and the comments of friends and family members in the online journal, it seemed so familiar. Why would she have this feeling for a person that passed away that she never even knew.
All of a sudden, it all came together in her head. They all sounded familiar because these were all the same names Amy had been using when talking about Seth’s family. How uncanny that two people, one deceased and one alive, would have the exact same name and also have the exact same family members. Lacey started to understand why she had felt such doubt when she first met Seth.
Lacey went back to her computer and started a new search. However, this time she wasn’t searching about Seth, but instead started searching for private investigators. She read several different ads and finally chose one. She slowly dialed the number and made an appointment for the next morning.
She walked into the posh office promptly at 9 a.m. It was immediately evident that this was the office of a successful man. She had only been there a few minutes before the private investigator entered the room. “Hello, I’m Michael Brown. It’s very nice to meet you." He invited her into his office to discuss why she was there.
Lacey explained to Michael what she was thinking. She was hoping that he would tell her that she was being crazy, that he would laugh her out of his office, but that was not the case. He told her he would like to do a little research himself and that he would get back in touch with her within the next 24 hours. As he escorted her out of the office, she thanked him for his help and silently wished she was wrong.
As was promised, Michael called her the next morning. “I think you may be on to something here. I would like to move forward with this,” he stated. The agreement was made for him to get to work. It didn’t take long for him to uncover exactly what Lacey had been afraid of. Seth was actually Joel. Joel was a professional at stealing people’s identities. He evidently searched the obituaries for recent deaths and chose Seth as his next victim. He had studied the biography in the listing to fully portray himself as this poor deceased man.
He explained to Lacey that it is common for criminals to steal the identify of people that recently passed away. However, for Joel to fully engross himself into the lives of the survivors was downright cruel. It seemed that he enjoyed making a game of the crime he was performing.
Michael had just finally put all of the facts together a day ago and needed another day to produce reports to take to the police. He asked Lacey to remain normal around her friend until everything was finalized, stating if “Seth” had any idea that they knew his dark secret he would run. Though it was difficult, Lacey understood and complied.
The last thing she had wanted to do that night was go on this double date, but she kept reminding herself she needed to act as if nothing was different. She had to spend one last night around Seth. It pained her to know of the impending sadness for her friend once all was exposed, but she knew Amy would be better off in the long run.