Carly stepped out of the car and looked around. The neighborhood wasn't much to look at, a block of run down duplexes, but it was a step up from Cortland Street. She checked the address again, just to be sure.
She walked up to the door, pulling out an old private investigator ID Frisco had gotten her ages ago. She knocked and waited for an answer. She saw the blinds to her right move, but no one opened the door. She knocked again, banging harder on the door. She waited for a moment, then sighed.
"I know you're there," she said loudly. "You might as well open the door and talk to me."
The door opened just wide enough for the weathered face to peek through. "I'm not buying."
"I'm not selling." Carly flashed her ID. "Sarah Jane Smith. I'm a private detective. I want to talk about the building you managed on Cortland Street."
"I got nothing to say."
"I'm looking for information about one of your residents from about two years ago."
"I don't know nobody."
He tried to close the door, but she stuck her foot in the opening. "Charlotte Roberts." She pulled out a picture and handed it to him. "Young, blonde, pretty. She possibly may have been using the name Caroline Benson."
"We had a lot of whores in that building."
"She wasn't a prostitute."
He looked at the picture closer. "That's Sonny Corinthos's old lady."
"Close but no cigar. Did you know her?"
"No, we didn't have anybody like that in that hellhole."
"I would've remembered a sweet piece like that."
The leer on his face and the dirty grin, Carly felt like punching him just on principle. "Classy," she replied, stepping back. The wheels turned in her mind. "Has anyone else asked you about her before? Any cops, federal agents? Around two years ago?"
"You're the only one, lady. Nobody cared about nobody down on Cortland Street."
He slammed the door in her face. Carly slowly walked back to the car, thinking about what he said. It wasn't a case of a mistaken name, a lie. Nobody had interviewed the building manager. The statement in the file was false. Something was rotten.
The one thing Carly was learning was how to find someone. The sheer number of records, the type of places people were likely to give real information and where they weren't. No one was completely anonymous these days.
Frisco had come home with dinner, but she had barely touched it. He watched at her oddly, like he was trying to figure her out, but left her to her work.
She sighed. "Don't you have something better to do than watch me?" she asked.
He moved to the dining table, sitting across from where she'd spread out. "Nope."
"What about Alcazar?"
"He's in New York."
"The program'll alert me when it gets something."
Carly tried to ignore him, but found it useless. She sighed. "Weren't you just going off the deep end a couple days ago?"
Frisco shrugged. "Apparently we've switched."
She rolled her eyes. "I'm not going off the deep end. I'm focused. I'm working."
"Exactly. You going to tell me or do I have to guess?"
She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. "I talked to the building manager today."
"He doesn't remember Charlotte at all."
Frisco's brow creased in confusion. "That's not..."
"He didn't give a statement. No one interviewed him."
"Sure he's the right guy?"
"Yes. I confirmed with several sources that he lived and worked in that building." She paused to let that information sink. "On the other hand, I can't verify a single detail in these reports. None of these people shows up in any database. Not hospitals, schools, INS, PCPD, utilities, nothing. Not a single one can even be verified as living in that building."
"Doesn't make sense."
She smirked. It wasn't often she got the one up on him. "Here's a theory. Maybe Alcazar had the file edited. Do you know this agent?"
His expression became guarded. "No. I only talked to him a couple times after I caught the case."
"Maybe he's on Alcazar's payroll."
Frisco shook his head. "No. Don't do that," he said vehemently. "You can't just make that accusation. Not without proof."
"Isn't this suspicious enough?"
"No," he said, standing up. "There are other reasonable explanations." He ran a hand through his hair. "Alcazar could've set this up after you were rescued, fed us the information they wanted us to have."
Carly was dumbfounded. Usually he told her to trust her instincts. Better suspicious than dead. Hell, he was one of the most paranoid people she'd ever met. She couldn't believe he was denying the obvious. "I think you're reaching there, man."
He turned to face her, hands on his hips. "You don't just go around accusing people of being double agents, Carly."
She didn't understand, she was missing something here. "Why not?"
He softened, dropping his head. A moment later, he looked up and met her gaze. "This isn't the police," he said softly. "Double agents don't get a trial or go to jail. They're black boxed, even if there's reasonable evidence to the contrary."
"What's black boxed mean?"
"A termination order. Double agents get executed."
Carly thought about what he was saying, the bits and pieces she'd heard before, from him and from her years of living in Port Charles. "That's what happened to Robin's parents, isn't it?"
"Yeah. The WSB wouldn't risk Anna and Robert giving information to Faison, so they blew them up instead. They were cleared later, but it didn't change what happened."
She didn't know what to say. "So..."
Frisco thought for a moment. "We assume the entire background investigation is false and reinvestigate. Keep the accusations to yourself until there's no other possible explanation. And no more chasing down leads without me."
Jake's at any given time had only a small handful of on-the-books staff, but as Carly discovered, there was a lot of turnover. Comparing W-2 details to corresponding government identification databases was time consuming. And she was sure this was only about half the staff anyway. None of this would mean anything if Charlotte had been paid under the table.
Three-fourths of the way through the list, she came across a Charlie Spencer with an address on Courtland Street, the same building that Charlotte had supposedly lived in.
Charlie Spencer hadn't paid her income taxes. Ever.
Charlie Spencer had only held one job, at Jake's. Two years ago.
Carly grinned. "Gotcha," she breathed.
The house Carly pulled up to wasn't what she was expecting when she'd originally found the address. She'd been expecting a cheap fishing cabin, not an expensive lake house not far from the Quartermaines. The house was dark, empty. She wondered if anyone actually lived here or if it had sat empty since Charlotte stole her life.
She raised her hand to knock on the door, then thought better of it. She didn't want word getting back to Charlotte that she'd found the place, that she knew about the lies. She peaked through a window and found no movement. She decided to walk around to the back, keeping an eye on the street.
The back of the house was as quiet and deserted as the front. She pulled out the lock picking tools she'd borrowed from Frisco and set to work on the lock. She wasn't nearly as proficient as he was; he could get through standard door locks in under 60 seconds.
She smiled when she finally felt the lock turn. She slipped inside, putting the tools back in her pocket. She took a good look, then wandered around. She was in a very tastefully decorated living room. No dust she could see, nor any real personal items. A bookshelf sat along one wall, next to an antique desk. The books weren't titles she would've expected from Charlotte; a few mysteries, a pile of old National Geographics, but mainly biographies and history books. There were no pictures or papers sitting out anywhere. No sign anyone lived in the house.
A spot of reflected light from the coffee table caught her eye. Something was sticking out from a solitary copy of National Geographic.
She picked the magazine up and opened it. Charlotte had apparently used a picture as a bookmark. A picture Carly knew all too well, Luke still had a copy of it in his safe. A picture of the two of them from before the accident, before everything changed.
Carly sat on the sofa, unsure of what to make of it. She didn't hear the door open behind her.
Startled, she screamed and jumped off the sofa, spinning around to face the voice. "Frisco!" she shouted, wanting to smack the smirk off his face.
"I thought I said no running down leads without me?"
"You weren't around."
"I have a phone."
She rolled her eyes. Maybe next time she'd leave her cell phone at home, too. Then he couldn't track her. "I found Charlotte's address."
It was his turn to roll his eyes. "Well, duh."
"I found this," she said, reaching for the picture.
"Don't," Frisco scolded, "touch it."
Carly looked at him confused, until she noticed he was wearing latex gloves. She handed the whole magazine over. "That picture's the only personal item I've found."
"The place is clean."
"Maid comes in, I'm guessing."
"No, I mean nothing to identify the occupants. You looked in the bedroom yet?"
She shook her head. "I've only been hear a few minutes."
He situated the picture back in the magazine as it was. "Where was this?"
He put the magazine back and pulled a pair of gloves out of his pocket. "Put them on," he said, holding them out to her. "Take the desk."
She gave him a half-assed salute and walked over to the desk. The top was clean, with just some decorative items and a pen set sitting out. She started with the tummy drawer, but found only office supplies. There were three drawers off the side. The first was full of miscellaneous junk, including random computer cables. Nothing with any memory. The second drawer contained a gun and supplies. She tried the third drawer, but it wouldn't open.
"Frisco? Wanna come pick a lock?"
"What'd you find?"
She handed him her tools. "Locked drawer, obviously. And a gun."
He kneeled in front of the drawers. "Was the gun locked up?" he asked, starting work on the lock.
Frisco had the drawer unlocked in moments. Carly looked inside and saw files. "Jackpot."
"Maybe, maybe not," he said, pulling out the first file. "Pay stubs from Jake's."
She grabbed another one. "Credit card bills. She always did have expensive taste."
He put the folder back and grabbed another. "And you don't?"
She moved on to the next one. "Once a month housekeeping, starting two years ago. Once a week for at least 6 months before that."
"Hefty property taxes. This is this year's."
She paused, thinking. "That means this house is worth a lot of money."
"So, how does a cocktail waitress afford a place like this?"
Frisco stopped and looked at her, gears turning in his head. "She doesn't."
Carly arrived at Eli's shortly after Frisco. She wasn't particularly hungry, but he wanted ribs and to compare notes before going back to Luke's. Two birds with one stone. The rest of the lake house hadn't been that same as the living room; nothing personal except reading material. She spotted him and a pitcher of beer away from everyone else, with a clear path to the exit. She smiled and waved as she passed Lucky, Liz and their little group of friends.
Frisco was pouring her a mug of beer when she took her seat. "I ordered a full slab. Should be enough for the both of us."
"That's fine." She took a drink. "So what do you want to talk about?"
He leaned closer, so as not to be easily overhead. "For starters, the lake house."
"Okay," she said, nodding. "How does my doppelganger afford it?"
"Family money?" he suggested.
Carly shook her head. "Her family was well off, but not that well off. Besides, there'd be some trace of them and there's not."
He thought for a moment. "Then, that's further confirmation that she has someone backing her."
"That's one possibility. He benefits the most from her actions."
"But why go to this extreme? I mean, if he's going after Sonny, kidnapping me is a bit odd. Especially after we separated."
"Another good question. One we don't have enough information to answer."
"I'll look at the county's records for the lake house when I get back to the cottage, find out who's name's on the deed, who pays the taxes," she said, glancing around at the other diners. "What do you have? I doubt you ended up at Charlotte's place randomly."
"I was looking for you," he replied, his tone scolding. "I also have a lead from Florida."
"The surgeon that operated on Charlotte after the accident is in Port Charles. Cameron Lewis."
Carly scoffed. "No way is that a coincidence."
"He's got family here."
"You know this for sure?"
Frisco nodded. "His older brother was my chief when I was on the force. I remember Guy talking about him years ago. Think I might've even met him once."
"That's one hell of a coincidence."
"It gets worse. Dr. Lewis has since switched specialties. He's your uncle's psychiatrist."
Carly froze, her eyes widening in shock. "Luke has a shrink?"
Frisco snickered. "He says he faked the whole thing to get close to Laura."
"Sounds like something he'd do, he still has a screw loose. So how does Dr. Lewis fit into all this?"
"I don't know yet." He looked at her pointedly. "I went home to grab you so we could talk to him together, but you weren't there."
Carly rolled her eyes. "Like that's ever stopped you in the past."
"It's probably for the best. I only talked to Luke on the way here and he reminded me that Dr. Lewis is also Alexis Davis's court appointed shrink."
She narrowed her eyes. "She killed Luis, right? Got off on an insanity defense."
Frisco didn't answer, just tapped the tip of his nose.
"That can't be all coincidence. It's just too weird."
He shrugged. "I can't say either way. At least not until I talk to him."
They fell silent and she watched as he drained his beer and stared at the bottom of the mug.
"What's on your mind?" Carly asked.
Frisco frowned. "I feel like this case has got me going in circles, too dizzy to see where I'm going. I don't like it."