Chapter 1: Life without You
Three years later…
The sun was pouring through the window, warming her skin and rousing her to a new day. Five more minutes, Catherine thought as she resisted the natural morning wake-up call. Her dreams once again were filled with being in his strong arms, surrounded by his love. Catherine's bliss soon came to an end as a small force dive-bombed her out of her dreams.
"Wake up Mommy," cried the ever-energetic three-year-old. Her daughter continued to bounce on top of her mother until Catherine surrendered to the toddler's wishes.
"Okay, okay. I'm awake. Are you happy now, little Rosebud?" Catherine smiled as she opened her eyes to find two crystal blue eyes gazing down at her.
The girl atop her smiled and nodded a head of golden hair. Catherine rose onto her elbows and stared at her daughter. Rosemary Caroline Wells, also known as "Rosie" or "Rosebud." Hard to think that almost three-in-a-half-years ago this little miracle came into the world completely by surprise. Catherine could still remember the kindness of that woman, Maize McCracken, who aided in their escape. Maize had helped Catherine, not only in the joys of motherhood, but also helped her go into hiding when Catherine confided in her that she had to disappear for the safety of her baby.
It turned out Maize was a retired FBI agent assigned for undercover cases. Together they managed an escape plan within three-week's time. Maize had even called in a favor with a trusted coworker to slip Catherine's name deep in the Witness Protection Program. Then Maize told Catherine she had a half-sister in Connecticut who owned a diner. Her name was Katie Lockhart. She had also worked for the CIA, but did more "field work" than her sister. Maize explained the situation to Katie and got Catherine a job as a waitress.
The next part was finding Catherine and Rosie a place to stay. Catherine remembered her family cabin that she had tried to take Vincent to once. She figured she could stay there since no one used it. If not, Katie mentioned she could loan Catherine an apartment.
Once they had a place to live, Maize worked on creating a new identity for Catherine. When she set up a fake ID, Catherine had decided on the name Margaret Anna Wells. Then Maize helped Catherine into a disguise: brown colored contacts, make-up to cover her scar, and a blonde, pixie-cut wig. Her cover would be a diner waitress and single mom. The story for Rosie's father was that he worked most of the time in the city. One day she came home and he was gone. No note, nothing until later when he called and explained he had been called across the seas for his company, and told her to move out here.
Three weeks later, Maize drove Catherine to her sister's after her shift at the homeless shelter ended. Since then, Catherine and her daughter had been living in her family's cabin and working at Kitty's Diner.
Bringing herself back to the present, Catherine decided it was time to attend to her daughter's breakfast. Catherine's stomach growled in reminder of its own needs. Soon Catherine was in the kitchen and her daughter sat happily at the table, eating her apple cinnamon oatmeal. Joining Rosie with her own breakfast concoction, Catherine sighed and dug in. Since working at Kitty's Diner, Catherine had mastered the art of cooking that could rival the Tunnel cook, William. Her desserts were her specialty. Everyday customers asked for one or two of "Margie's" special sweets.
"What we do, Mommy?" Rosie asked through a mouthful of oatmeal.
Catherine smiled and said, "What we do every Monday. Mommy goes to work, and then you and I will stock up on groceries."
"Yes," Catherine said, "Auntie Katie loves your pictures. They brighten up the diner. Now, it's time to clean up because we'll be late if we don't."
Rosie smiled and started helping her mother in cleaning up the table.
"Okay, so that's two French toasts, one Sunny Meal, two black coffees, and one glass of OJ," Catherine repeated the order back to her customers.
"Yes," replied the customer. "That will be all." The man turned back to his family as they continued their conversation. Catherine sighed as she watched the happy family. Someday, she hoped. She recited the order to Katie and brought the order to the hungry customers within twenty minutes.
Oh no, not again. Catherine turned from her customer to see Johnny Richard entering the diner.
Johnny was a handsome man. Dark hair and blue eyes, and built like a heavyweight champion. He was in his late thirties although he acted more like some hormonal teenager. He'd moved into town last year and, to Catherine's misfortune, had become her unwanted suitor. For some reason, Johnny couldn't take no for an answer. Even the thought of her having a long distance relationship and a child didn't send him away. He carried the idea that he could get anything he wanted, and "no" meant "maybe later."
"Hi Johnny.” Catherine managed a weak smile. "What can I get for ya?" As if she had to ask.
"Come on, Hot Momma, you know I only come here for two things: Kitty's triple stuffed breakfast burrito, and your sweet smile." As charming as he thought he was, Catherine felt trapped with no means for escape.
"So pretty thing," he continued as he strode up beside her. “How about accompanying me tonight after you clock out."
Catherine groaned. “Johnny, you know I have to look after Rose. Besides, how many times to I have to tell you I'm not interested." Little did he know his 5' 9'' male model routine couldn't even begin to stack up to her 6' 5'' golden Adonis miles below the city of New York. Still, the man showed no signs of backing down, and his hand was moving dangerously south of her shoulder blade.
"Now Margie, you outta know by now that Johnny don't back down from a challenge. Besides, my buddy said his sister could watch the little tike for us." He made an attempt to slide his arm around her hip, only to receive a smack to his arm. "Oh, someone a little extra spicy today? Well you know I like 'em…"
"Johnny-boy!" cried an elderly woman.
"Crap!" Johnny dropped his hands and tried to find the closest exit.
If there was one person who could scare the pants of Johnny, Katie "Kitty" Lockhart. She was a hot-tempered woman in her fifties, but the 5' 3'' woman was feared if you were on her hit list. Right on cue, Katie stepped out the kitchen to catch Johnny attempting to use Catherine as a shield. In some ways, Katie reminded Catherine of Maize, but Katie's eyes were a lighter shade of green and she didn't have an accent.
"What have I told you, boy?” Katie hollered. "Unless you come in here for somethin’ to eat, you better not harass my girls! And I believe I specifically told ya'll to leave Margie alone." Katie gave Johnny one of her warning stares, which sent him running out the door. When he was gone, Catherine turned back to the woman who had become like family to her.
"Thanks Katie. I think he was shooting for the extra mile today."
"No problem, honey," Katie said with a wink and retreated back to her kitchen. Catherine had to suppress a small chuckle.
Catherine continued her shift for the day, with occasional breaks to look at her daughter's artwork. At quitting time, Rosie handed Katie her latest masterpiece while Catherine changed clothes. Cleaning up her scattered papers, Katie noticed one on the floor. She picked it up and marveled over the picture. It was a child's drawing of a princess holding hands a prince who had a cat face.
"Rosie," Katie exclaimed. “Oh, this is gorgeous, baby. Cathy, I swear your daughter gets better every day. Just where does she get these characters from?"
"Thank cue Auntie Kitty," answered the happy toddler.
Katie smiled and glanced at Catherine when she emerged from changing. Then Catherine and Rosie gathered up the toddler's pictures, and headed out the door.
"See you tomorrow," Catherine called.
"Have a good night," Katie answered. She sighed as mother and daughter walked off. When she had first hired Catherine, Katie had been concerned about what her crazy sister had gotten them into. Taking in someone who had almost been murdered and was still being hunted down, wasn't exactly what Katie expected. Her first impression of Catherine was that she was flighty, but after getting to know her and her story, Katie's heart went out to the poor girl.
I sure hope one day you can go home to that man of yours, Cathy. I hate seeing you look sadder each year.
Why does this seem familiar? Vincent thought as he continued to walk down the tunnel. He was walking toward strange light. He knew not why it was there, but Vincent felt himself being drawn to it.
When he emerged on the other side, he marveled at what lay before him. He stood in a wide field of wild flowers of every shade and color. The sky was a bright blue and not a cloud in sight.
What is this place?
The sound of children's laughter filled his ears. Two small lights appeared before his eyes. The danced about him, almost seeming to beckon him somewhere. He began to follow the strange lights until he came to a gated entry. Opening the gate, Vincent walked into an elaborate rose garden. Roses of all sizes and colors bloomed in every direction.
Suddenly, the laughter subsided and Vincent heard music. It was Beethoven's “Moonlight Sonata,” a song he had heard play in the drainage tunnel under the concert hall many times. He filled the music until he came to the middle of the rose garden. What he saw made his heart skip a beat. There, with rose petals falling all around her, was his very heart.
Catherine danced in tune to the music, dressed in a gown of silvery-white. The silk flowed like water to her graceful movements. When she turned, the hanging sleeves opened at her elbows and gave the illusion of wings, making her almost fairy-like. Her light brown hair stretched just past her shoulders, reflecting the sun that shone down. Upon her head she wore a crown of white rosebuds. She looked like an angel.
Vincent was so stunned he didn't know what to do. To rush and take her in his arms, or continue watching her dance. He remained where he stood, too captivated by Catherine's movements to move from his spot. Catherine continued to dance until the lights that led Vincent to her began to fly around her.
"Hello my little ones," she said. "And just where have you been?"
The little lights only answered her in more laughter, before landing on two roses: one red, one white. Catherine walked over to the glowing flowers. The buds began to open and two small spirits emerged from the petals. They were glowing too bright for Vincent to see their faces, but it appeared that they were a boy and a girl. Both wore clothes made of white, red-tipped petals. They began to play with Catherine, causing her to laugh in her attempt to catch them. Vincent longed to be amidst her joy and took a step forward.
A branch snapped under his foot. Catherine stopped her play and look up. Their eyes locked and he saw her face change from one of joy to shame and pain. Tears formed in her eyes. Vincent tried to reach out and comfort her, but a barrier prevented him from getting any closer.
The landscape darkened as the garden became gray and lifeless. Catherine's eyes were filled with longing and sadness. Vincent tried to call out to her, but his voice was lost to him. All he could do was watch as Catherine and the strange world became like a large looking glass.
Vincent stared in horror as her image began to crack. A tear ran down Catherine’s cheek. "Forgive me…”
It was all she said before the world shattered, taking his beloved with it.
Vincent snapped opened his eyes. He sat up in a cold sweat, his breathing labored. HE looked around. He was in his chamber. It had only been a dream. He placed his head in his hands as he recalled the images he'd just seen. It had been so real, and yet he knew it could not be so. Catherine was dead.
“Why? Why does she ask for forgiveness when I was the one who failed her?” Tears formed in his eyes as he remembered that tragic day, one week after he failed to rescue Catherine.
Father had been reading the morning paper. One of the articles in the obituary had Catherine's picture. It said some passing fishermen had found her body in the Hudson River. At first, no one could tell who the woman was because the body had been beaten and water logged beyond recognition. Distract Attorney John Moreno had been at the autopsy where the identification was made through her dental records and blood work.
Father and Tunnel community, and many of the Helpers attended the funnel. It was closed casket due to the shape the body was in. Besides, there were too many painful memories surrounding this extraordinary woman. Catherine's loss had overwhelmed Vincent, and almost destroyed him.
At first, the pain over her death had been too much for him. He refused to eat or sleep. He still could not understand what had drawn him to that building on that night. He had been out searching for Catherine when a strange sound filled his ears. It sounded like a heartbeat. He had first believed the heartbeat belonged to Catherine, as if somehow their Bond had returned one last time. As he drew closer to the sound, the heartbeat grew louder and louder.
He felt himself pulled until he arrived at a large building. Inside he faced several guards, only to end up in the abandoned surveillance room. There the beating had stopped. The sound of a helicopter drew his attention. Without looking at the monitors, Vincent ascended the stairs, and made his way to the roof. There, retreating in the helicopter, he saw the man he would come to know as Gabriel. The very man responsible for his beloved's death.
In a month's time, Vincent had managed to discover Gabriel's name with the help of Elliot Burch. Unfortunately, there alliance ended in Burch's death. Then Vincent met Diana Bennett, a policewoman working on Catherine's case. She discovered the Tunnels after going through Catherine's things while trying to discover the mystery behind her disappearance. Diana had also been at Catherine's autopsy and learned that Catherine had been pregnant. The news had been left out of the media since no one knew what happened to the baby. There was also no way to know who the father was, due to Catherine's private social life. The news had shocked Vincent. He could not think to how Catherine became pregnant at first. Over time, he became certain that Gabriel or one of his men had raped Catherine, and taken her child.
As the search continued, Diana insisted on helping Vincent, especially after Gabriel had sent his assassin, Snow, to kill Vincent. Only Snow had miscalculated his opponent and paid with his life, but not before giving Vincent a clue to the man who had hired him. The clue, a high-class ring with a unique inscription, brought them closer to the truth. Too close. Diana had been kidnapped and taken to Gabriel personally. He had her take Vincent a message to surrender himself to Gabriel, or Catherine's child would die. Vincent agreed and gave himself up to his enemy without a fight.
"Daddy?" The small voice brought Vincent back to the present. A young golden-haired boy stood by his bedside looking up with concern in his blue eyes. Smiling down at him, Vincent recalled the first time he meet this child, over three years ago.
Vincent had woken up in a cage only to be greeted by Gabriel. Vincent could see the cruelty and inhumanity in his eyes. Then Vincent noticed a group of armed guards, a doctor, and a nurse were also in the room. Gabriel instructed the nurse to enter the cage and place a small bundle she carried on the floor. She followed orders, fleeing the cage the moment it was complete. Vincent then realized she had just handed him Catherine's baby. When they were all gone, Vincent attentively picked up the child. He was overwhelmed with the baby's beauty. Everything about the boy was the very essence of Catherine, except for the eyes.
Later, when Gabriel returned to reclaim the child, Vincent hated himself as he returned to the nurse. His anger grew as Gabriel started to tell him the baby's name was Julian, and how he would be a great conqueror someday. He then mocked Vincent with how Catherine had been a perfect vessel for his son, and it was a pity she couldn't raise him. When he escaped, Vincent took the child with him to the safety of the Tunnels.
After his return, Vincent had insisted on raising the child personally. He didn't know why but he felt a connection with the boy, most likely due to him being Catherine's child. Father accepted this and everyone agreed since the boy was the last connection Vincent had to Catherine. The boy was welcomed into the Tunnel Community, and at his naming ceremony, Vincent named the boy Jacob Charles Chandler. He knew he probably should have named Catherine's son after her father, but from the moment he held the boy, the name Jacob just seemed right.
"Daddy?" Jacob asked from the side of the bed. "You have bad dream?"
"Yes," he replied. Jacob crawled into the bed and gave Vincent a hug. Vincent welcomed the tiny embrace and sighed, grateful for the comfort this small child offered him.
"I dream I play wif Rosie. It fun," Jacob proudly told him.
"Did you now?" Vincent was fond of hearing Jacob's dreams about an imaginary friend named Rosie. Jacob had started dreaming about her a year ago. Father was concerned since there were plenty of children for Jacob to play with. Mary told him to stop his grousing and let the child be. Vincent chuckled recalling Father's expression to Mary's remark.
"All betta?" Jacob awaited his answer. Vincent smiled as he looked down at the boy.
"All better." His internal clock told him that it was the middle of the night. Vincent started to take Jacob back to his bed. Instead of sleeping in the Nursery, Vincent had extended his chamber to accommodate a small bedroom located behind the stain glass window.
"Can I stay wif you, Daddy?" Jacob pleaded with big puppy-dog eyes and a pouted lip.
Vincent sighed and complied with the child's wishes. He couldn't bear to refuse him anything, much like Catherine. As he and the child snuggled down for the rest of the night, Vincent's mind wandered back to the dream. He sighed and allowed his thoughts to drift to Catherine. His last thoughts were the dream Catherine's last words. Forgive me…