I won’t stall. Here’s part 1 if you haven’t read it, and without further ado, below is part 2 of Hang on to Hope, season 3!

Emma’s POV

I’m going to be up all night researching this so-called Connor Cavanaugh, I can tell.

I sit down at my desk and spread my supplies before me. Notepad. Ballpoint pen. Phone. Headphones. Laptop.

I inhale and exhale deeply. Something is not right about this kid. He’s too familiar. And Connor… Connor… Cavanaugh? No.

I push my earbuds in. I’ll need some motivating music for this.

My hand instinctively grabs my notepad and pen, and without a second thought I begin to write down everything I know about Connor so far.

Connor Cavanaugh

  • Twelve years old
  • Supposedly grew up in an orphanage
  • Claims to be from the FCA since he was “nine or ten or something like that”
  • Is familiar
  • Was uneasy when I asked about him

I cock my head. What is it about Connor that’s got me so intrigued? Am I just curious? Has detective school got me so excited about working on a real case that I’m making these suspicions up?

Or—or maybe he’s a runaway thief or juvenile bank heister!

My fingers fly across the keyboard as I type his name into the Google search bar. After perusing through results, I find nothing of significance. There are less than a thousand people in the U.S. with the last name Cavanaugh, and I filter through them after about an hour.

I glance at the time on my phone. It’s only midnight. I have plenty of time.

I pop a caffeine pill into my mouth and think harder on what I need to do next. A grin flashes across my face as I whip out my phone and hit my Photos app.

The family picture. Connor’s in it. A face claim. This is helpful.

I rummage through my bag and pull out my charging cord. After I quickly push it into the HTML slot of my laptop and plug my phone in, I upload the photo.

I nervously bite my lip. No one at detective school knows I’ve hacked into my professor’s computer and downloaded the facial recognition app prototype for myself, but…

I load his photo in and sync it up with Google, Bing, Yahoo, FaceBook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat—anything and everything. It takes hours until I have every search engine and social media platform I can think of ready to sync and comply with my search.

My fingers nervously tap as the results load. Google deems it five seconds in pulling up the results, but it’s felt like an eternity.

I pop another caffeine pill in when I feel my eyes close after staring at the slow loading bar on my screen from my facial recognition software.

There. There they are. My results.

The famous movie actors Caleb and Aleksandra DaCosta with their son Connor DaCosta. I flip through their FaceBook and find face match after face match of this so called Connor Cavanaugh. It’s him. I grow excited, a smirk spreading across my face.

I do a little more searching and then feel my jaw drop. The ads on the side of my feed bear an ad I know I’ve seen before. That’s why Connor has seemed so familiar!

Connor DaCosta missing from Miami Boarding School for Boys

Reward $250k

He’s worth a quarter of a million bucks, and I just found him! Runaway Connor DaCosta has been posing as a foster kid in my parents’ home this entire time!

My heart sledgehammers against my chest. No way. It can’t be this easy—and yet—and yet it is!

Alarm clocks from Lexi and Issa’s room sound, and I nearly jump two feet from my seat, startled. I glance at the time on my computer and beam. Another successful all-nighter, and this time I’ve actually cracked a case. In less than eight straight hours—I can’t believe it.

My fingers fly across the keyboard again as I quickly save and take multiple screenshots of all the information I’ve found. I even copy and paste and sync the info to my my phone’s Notes.

After three different backups of the documents just on my computer, I snatch my laptop and phone.

Flying out of my seat, a grin spreads across my face. I have to show Mom and Dad this.

With that, I take off running out of my room.

“Mom! Dad!” I cry, streaking toward the kitchen. “Guys! Guys!”

Mom’s taken advantage of Thanksgiving break with her PJs and tired mom look. She lets out a yawn and clutches her coffee cup as she sits down. “What is it, honey?”

Dad laughs at me. “You haven’t changed from last night. What have you been doing?”

“Family meeting,” I gasp, breathless. “Now.”

“Woah, Emma, slow down,” Mom says, taking a slow sip of her coffee as I shift my weight anxiously. I have no patience! “What’s this about?”

“It’s important!” Is all I’m going to say. “When are the kids getting up?”

Dad flips through the email on his phone and doesn’t look up. “I don’t know, sweetie.”

I let out a frustrated ugh! before plopping my laptop and phone down on the table and collapsing into a chair. “You guys don’t understand! This is urgent!”

Mom smiles. “I promise. Family meeting as soon as we have breakfast.” Then she winks, sliding me a coffee mug. “I made a cup of coffee for my baby girl.”

“Mom.” I groan. “I can make my own coffee.”

“Coffee?” Issa walks in. “Do I get some?”

Dad looks up. “Special occasions only, Issa.”

Issa sighs before plopping down in the seat next to me. “What’s that?” She points to my computer screen. “Why are you looking at pictures of Connor?”

“What about me?” Connor comes walking in, followed by Lexi who is trying to run past him and get to me.

“Nothing,” I say quickly, slamming my laptop shut. “We’ll have a family meeting about it.”

“Good morning! I love you!” Lexi squeals, wrapping her arms around me and hugging me tightly.

I smile and pat her arm. “Love you too, sis.”

“Family meeting?” Connor repeats. “Am I invited?”

Mom nods vigorously. “Of course, honey. You’re part of the family.”

Connor smiles at her, and I can’t help but noticing the look of adoration and sense of belonging he seems to carry when she says this.

I fight the urge to roll my eyes. The sneak ran away from boarding school. He has a family. Famous actors for parents, no less.

When breakfast is finally over, I’ve finally been able to gather everyone into the living room for a family meeting. I take a deep breath before beginning, remembering what I’ve been taught at detective school and trying to remain calm and professional.

“Listen up, guys,” I say, pulling up the files and evidence on my laptop. “Because this is important.”

Issa’s POV

Emma turns her laptop around and shows us all comparison pictures of the family picture we took last night and pictures of Connor with a man and a woman surrounded by paparazzi. “You’re a liar, Connor DaCosta,” are the first words she says. “I know who you are. I did all the research.”

She’s struck gold. The blood drains from Connor’s face as he turns pale, and he tries to deny it. “DaCosta? What on earth?”

“Don’t try to deny it!” Emma says, her voice rising in frustration. She yawns a little as if she’s been up late, and she pulls up a few more files. “How could you lie to my mom and dad like this?”

She shows us all a picture of an ad with a picture of Connor that says Connor DaCosta missing from Miami Boarding School for Boys. Reward $250k. “This is you, isn’t it? It’s a direct face match.”

Connor squirms uneasily. “I don’t—that must be—a hoax.”

“Is it?” Emma raises her eyebrow in that intimidating detective way of hers. She pulls up multiple file after file of Connor with famous actors Caleb and Aleksandra DaCosta and him together. For a while, they load, but then the comparison picture of a close-up of his face from the family photo last night is pulled up as well, and as they’re placed side-by-side, she flips through photo after photo.

Each one circles green around each Connor face and produces a green check mark.

“Just admit it, you liar,” Emma hisses, holding up her phone with the family photo pulled up. Connor begins to tremble.

“Emma, honey, what is this all about?” Amy cries in worry. “Connor, is that—is that you?”

“I just told you!” Emma shrieks as her laptop turns off. “Of course it’s him! He’s the runaway famous actors’ kid from boarding school!

Jackson turns to Connor. “You can be honest, buddy. It’s okay. Is that true?”

Connor doesn’t have to say a word. The tears filling his eyes are enough and say it all.

“We have to call the police and authorities,” Emma prods, excited she’s just solved her first case. “And the reward—it’s a quarter mil!”

Amy sighs. “I’ll go ahead and call the—”

“No!” Emma interrupts. “Let me call them! I want to be the one to have cracked the case!” She forces her voice level to a lower volume. “Please.”

Connor bows his head and blinks back alligator tears, and in one horrifying moment, I flash back to all of the times in my life where I felt all hope was lost, like I had nothing to hang on to. I know what it feels like.

It feels terrible.

My heart thuds nearly out of my chest at the thought of the words about to come out of my mouth to Connor’s ears. I swallow my bold decision back.

My hands feel clammy, but when I look at Connor again, my heart pangs and thuds harder. I have to do this. He’s been kind of—nice to me recently. Why the change? I don’t really know why he’s been the kindest he’s ever been to me—all I know is what I have to do.

Connor looks up at me like he wants to say something as Jackson and Amy leave the room to discuss in private what they’re going to do, but he doesn’t trust himself to speak for fear of crying.

Instead, he jumps up from his seat and runs out of the living room as fast as I can.

I jump up, too. “Connor!” I say. “Wait!”

Connor slows to a stop in the hallway but doesn’t turn around to face me. I halt in my tracks behind him, and I hear him sniff as he swipes his arm over his eyes.

He finally turns around to face me. His voice is breaking as he chokes back a sob. “What is it?”

I swallow. I can’t believe I’m about to say this.

To be continued in HOTH Season 3, Part 3!

Coming up next on Hang on to Hope:

“Kid!” Someone shouts at me. I pick myself up off the ground to face an angry boy of about fourteen or fifteen years old. He seems to tower over me.

“Sorry!” I pant out, catching my breath from the fall.

“You popped my ball!” He yells in fury. He’s glaring death at me. This kid has serious anger issues. “You’re dead.”

Are you looking forward to part 3? Let me know! Just hit “like” and leave a comment below!