Chapter 3: Ghosts of the Past
"Ro, breakfast is almost ready," Tasha called softly. Catherine didn't get back home until one in the morning, so Tasha had stayed the night to look after Rosie.
“Tasha, I pick fowers?" Rosie asked as she came into the kitchen. She was wearing Catherine's old overall dress with a light pink shirt and white shoes. She wore her hair in braided pigtails.
Tasha giggled. Rosie had shown her an old picture of Catherine she found somewhere in the cabin. In that photo, Catherine was wearing the very outfit her daughter now wore with the exact same hairstyle. If not for the difference in hair and eye color, Catherine and Rosie could be mistaken for twins.
"All right, but take Thomas with you. And stay close to the house," Tasha called.
Rosemary nodded and rushed out of the house, the young lion trailing behind her.
Below the city, Father searched through the piles of plans and stacks of books that cluttered his library. I know they're here somewhere, he thought to himself. One of the pipes in the lower chambers had burst, and he was looking for the new plans Mouse had drawn up to prevent this from happening.
During his search, Father stumbled onto an old book. It was a first addition Tennyson, Idylls of the King. Father sighed as he picked up the classic. Catherine had gifted the book to Vincent after an outing to a bookstore, which led the pair to meet Kristopher, an acclaimed ghostly artist.
Vincent must have placed the book in here to avoid being reminded of her, Father thought. Perhaps I could read this to the children. They've wanted a new story lately.
"Fadder!" Father chuckled as he turned to see none other than little Jacob standing on the top of the stairwell. The boy toddled down the stairs to great the tunnel patriarch in a hug.
"And just what have you been up to young man?" Father asked.
"I pway with Daddy and Mary. Then Daddy go'd fix a broke pipe."
"I see. And does Mary know that you're here?"
"Yeth." Father chuckled at the boy's small lisp. Whenever he spoke, Father was reminded of Vincent at that age. Only Vincent's fangs were the cause of his speech impediment.
Father noticed that Jacob had not come empty-handed. He was concealing something behind his back. "And just what did you plan to do once you got here?" he asked.
Jacob held the book to his chest as he jumped up and down. "Story, story!”
I should have known. Father grabbed his cane and hobbled over to his chair. Jacob scrambled up into Father's lap once he sat down. "Well, what story have you brought for me today?”
"Dis one," Jacob replied. He held up the book for Father to see. He froze at the sight of the title: Great Expectations.
Where on earth did he find this book? Father knew Vincent had buried the book deep in the storage chambers, along with many of the other things Catherine had given him. Somehow Jacob had found his way into those chambers and done a little digging. As much as Father wanted to put that book back in the dark, the look on Jacob's face was too much.
"Are you sure you want me to read it? This is a big kid book."
"Yeth, yeth. It look good."
"Alright then, here we go." Father slipped on his reading glasses and began to read. "My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name being Philip…”
Peter sighed as he pulled into the driveway. It looked like the cabin hadn't changed at all these past years. There was, however, a small jeep in the driveway. It didn't matter to Peter at that moment; he was too far in the past to notice anything out of the ordinary. He could almost hear Caroline humming in the kitchen, watching little Cathy picking flowers from the window. In fact, imagining Catherine picking flowers seemed all too easy.
Suddenly, Peter realized that it wasn't a memory at all. There was a little girl in the yard, picking flowers. She looked just like Catherine! She was even wearing the same clothes, and her hair in was two little braids.
I'm dreaming! There's no possible way that what I'm seeing is real! Before Peter had time to collect himself, he received another shock when a large lion lumbered over to the small child. Terrified for the girl's safety, Peter got out of his car and started yelling to get the lion's attention.
On hearing someone yelling, Rosemary looked up from her flowers to notice a strange man in the driveway. Her mother had warned her about strangers and she became terrified. Quickly, she dropped her flowers, climbed onto Thomas's back. She kissed her feet into his sides to make Thomas run to the house.
Inside, Catherine woke from her deep sleep sensing her daughter's distress. She rushed downstairs to find Tasha comforting the young girl who was panicked with fear. "What happened? Is Rosie all right?"
"Mommy!" Rosemary rushed into her mother's arms. "Stranger!" she said, pointing toward the front door.
No! Could Gabriel have found me after all these years?
There was a knock at the door. Catherine had to think. The man had obviously seen Rosie, and the only other way out was the door in the kitchen. The man would surly see them try to escape. There was also the possibility that the man had not come alone. There could be others hiding in the cars, or even nearby.
Another knock at the door. We're trapped.
Tasha saw the fear in Catherine's eyes. She decided to take command. "Cathy, take Ro and hide. I'll see what he wants and if he's a threat, old Tom here will make sure he doesn't get away."
"I thought you said he was domesticated?" Catherine stated more than asked.
"He is, unless I'm being threatened," Tasha said with a wink. Catherine took the hint and told Rosie they were going to play hide-and-seek. She understood and went upstairs to hide under her bed, while Catherine hide in one of the guest rooms. Finally, Tasha braced herself and headed for the front door.
"Coming." She was ready to fight, but when she opened the door, an old man with a briefcase greeted her instead.
“Hello. Are you the current resident of this cabin, young lady?"
This old man seems harmless, Tasha thought, but looks can be deceiving. "What can I do for you?"
"Sorry to come unannounced like this, but I was unaware that someone had moved in here. May I come in?"
"Sure. Who are you anyway?" Tasha said as the man walked in.
“Oh, my apologies. My name is… Ahh!" He was cut off by a low growl the emanated from a very large, protective Thomas.
“Thomas, cool it." Turning to address the stranger, she became somewhat suspicious. "You wouldn't have sedatives in that briefcase, would you? Thomas has had bad experiences with sedatives and they make him…on edge."
"No, but I probably still smell like a hospital. I'm a doctor, you see." Turning his glance toward the large jungle cat. “Am I to assume this is you're…pet?"
"Don't worry. As long as you don't pose a threat, Tom is soft as a powder puff and just as gentle. Now, what did ya say your name was?"
“Peter. Doctor Peter Alcott," he managed after collecting himself.
“Well, it's nice to meet you. Name's Tasha," She followed him into the living room. "So what can I do for you, Doc? You look like a man on a mission."
"As a matter of fact, I am. You see I'm actually in charge of this estate, and only recently did I discover that I had yet to settle the affairs. May we move this discussion into the living room?"
“Oh, uh, sure. Can I get you something to drink?" Tasha asked.
"Tea or water would be fine,” Peter replied.
While Tasha made the tea, Peter seated himself on the couch in the living room. He noted that not much had changed inside the cabin. Oddly, all of Charles and Caroline's things were still in place, but there were toys and drawings were everywhere. Peter moved to pick up one of the drawings when he heard a small sound coming from the upstairs. He turned around and at the top of the stairs was the little girl he'd seen outside.
Tasha had appeared from the kitchen to say the tea was almost ready when she too spotted the girl.
"Ro! What are you doing?" Peter noted the concern in Tasha's voice as she scolded the child. "We're playing hide-and-seek, remember?"
"I got hungy, Tasha," was her reply, "It OK. He nice man I met at Auntie Kitty's."
"That's right!" Peter started to stand as he recognized the little girl. "I remember. You're the little girl who kept me company. I didn't think I'd see you again."
"Sowy I raned away. I thought you a stranger."
"The tea will be ready soon, Dr. Alcott," Tasha said, drawing Peter's attention. "I just need to round up some breakfast for Ro. Do you mind waiting a little longer?"
"Not at all. I'm sure this little lady can keep me company again." Seeing that it was all right to come downstairs, Rosie made her way over to Peter. "If that's all right with you?"
Rosie nodded her head. "OK good. OK fine.”
Déjà-vu, Peter thought as he recalled a familiar scruffy-haired boy who used that same exact saying.
While Rosemary talked with Peter, Catherine, who'd been listening from her hiding spot, clutched her chest. She had instantly recognized the voice, but when Peter introduced himself, she'd nearly stopped breathing.
"Sorry that took so long," Tasha said as she carried in a tray of food. "Ro can be picky about what she eats."
"No I don't," Rosemary replied with a huff, but that changed when Tasha put down the tray. "Berwie Puffs!”
Peter took his tea and looked at Tasha as Rosemary dove into her breakfast treat. "She really likes her mother's strawberry breakfast cakes. They're her favorite."
"Then I take it you're not her mother?" Peter asked.
"Hey Doc, I may be thirty-five, but I'm nobody's momma. I just look after Ro here when her mother works late."
"Then I take it her mother is at work right now?" Peter asked.
"She's right here."
Peter turned around to see who had spoken and dropped the teacup he was holding. He stood up and started shaking, not believing the sight that stood before him. Catherine was standing in the hallway that lead into the living room. She was wearing a gray and red flannel robe over gray sweatpants and a white T-shirt. Her hair had grown longer over the years and was now tied back in a braid, slightly messy from sleep.
When he finally spoke, his voice was a little more than a whisper. "Ca…Cathy?"
"Hi Peter, it’s been a long time.” She smiled as tears filled the corners of her eyes.
"This, this can't be! I mean… how can… how are you… how is this possible?"
"Cathy, you know this guy?" Tasha asked.
"Yes," Catherine said as tears formed in her eyes. "Tasha, meet Peter Alcott, my godfather."
Peter took that moment to rush over and gather Catherine in a tight embrace. She returned hug with equal measure, and both started tearing up. "I thought I'd never be able to do this again."
"Oh Peter, I'm so sorry.” Catherine choked back the sobs as best she could.
"But I still don't understand how this is possible." He took a step back so he could look her in the eye. "How are you here, I mean…? Honey, I think you better start explaining because I'm thoroughly confused right now."
"I know, I know, and I'm so sorry Peter, but it please understand why I did this. It just wasn't safe for me to contact anyone."
"But to fake your own death, Cathy? That's going a little too far,” he scolded.
It was Catherine's turn to step back. "What are you talking about, Peter?"
"You talking crazy, old man." Tasha practically yelled. "She would never do that to people she loved. Cathy only left the Big Apple after she escaped the psychotic bastard."
"You said bad word," Rosemary said, swallowing a bite of her breakfast.
"Peter," Catherine said as started toward the couch. "Why don't you tell us what has been going on."
"Well," Peter began as he sat back down, "it all started after you went missing. We all searched but it was as if you'd evaporated into thin air." In a quieter voice Peter told Cathy how Vincent barley slept, searching for her night and day. "Then six months later, I'm reading my morning paper and I find your name in the obituary. Cathy, I attended the funeral myself."
"Everyone thinks I'm… dead?" Catherine felt cold. All of her friends thought she was dead. Then her blood turned to ice. "Peter, what about Vincent? Oh, tell me he hasn't…" Catherine sat down and finally allowed the tears to fall. Oh Vincent, what've I done to you?
Upon seeing her distress, Rosie dropped her breakfast and climbed up into her mother's lap. Catherine gratefully accepted her daughter's hug. "Don't cry Mommy."
"Mommy?" Peter asked realizing just what the young girl just said, and what Tasha had told him earlier.
"Yes, she's my little Rosebud," Catherine stated proudly. "And before you say anything Peter, I am not, nor have I been in a recent relationship. Rosie was born before I left New York."
"Then may I ask just who the father is? Oh Cathy, please tell me you weren't…" Peter shuddered at the thought of anyone violating Catherine in that way.
"No Peter. I wasn't raped," she rushed to reassure him. "I found out about my pregnancy before I was kidnapped."
"Well that's a relief, but Cathy, that still doesn't tell me who the father is," Peter puzzled.
"I think you already know," Catherine told him.
A little light bulb went off; actually it flashed spasmodically with realization. "How? When? I didn't even know you two were… Wait! Catherine, you have a daughter?"
"Why do you ask?" Catherine was curious to know where Peter was going with this question.
"You say she is Vincent's child. When Vincent was held captive, Gabriel brought a child to him: a boy.”
“Did you say captive?!”
“It’s alright, dear,” he quickly assured her. “He was captured, but he’s safe now. They’re both safe.”
Catherine's heart fluttered at the possibility of what Peter's words implied. However, she did not want to get her hopes up. “You said the baby was sick?” she asked.
Peter nodded. “Gabriel told Vincent the child had grown ill, and the doctors couldn't help him."
"Rosie was sick when she was only a few months old. I took her to a local doctor, but there was nothing he could do."
Peter continued. "Gabriel believed that Vincent could save the child. His suspicions were correct and the child became healthy being near Vincent. After he escaped, Vincent brought the boy below and has been raising him ever since."
Peter noticed that Catherine had started crying again, only this time she was smiling. "Cathy, Gabriel told Vincent that the child was yours. Is that true? Cathy…"
"He found him! After all this time…” Catherine dried her eyes with her sleeve. "Yes, it’s true. Peter, I should have been clearer. When I found out I was pregnant, no one knew it at the time, but I was carrying twins. I didn’t even know. Gabriel took my son and I managed to escape with Rosie."
Peter had to take a moment to absorb all this information. Catherine addressing him once again brought him out of the shock.
"Peter," Catherine began, "you said Vincent brought our son below. How… how is he? What does he look like?"
"Oh honey, he's so beautiful. Actually when I first saw your Rosie, I couldn't help but think how much she reminded me of little Jacob."
"Jacob?" Catherine asked.
"Yes, Vincent gave him that name at his Re-Naming Ceremony. Jacob Charles Chandler. He thought the boy needed a new name for a new life. I hope you don't mind, but Vincent said he just couldn't think of any other name."
Catherine started laughing at the irony, but then something Peter a few minutes ago.
"What you said before, about Vincent being in captivity. How did that happen?”
This lead to a conversation that went well into the night. Catherine related every detail to Peter, and he was horrified at what Gabriel had put her through. He in turn related all he could about Vincent, Jacob and the Tunnel community. By this time, Tasha had taken Thomas and gone home, and Rosie had fallen asleep in Catherine's lap. When she'd finished her story, it was nine o'clock at night.
"All this time I felt as if Gabriel's goons would show up one day and finish the job. It's been hard, and I can only imagine what that monster was doing to my son." Just the mention of him made Catherine cry. She felt helpless.
Peter tried his best to offer her some reassurance. "Cathy, I can assure you that man was not the one raising your son. In fact I need to tell you: Gabriel and his men are all in prison. "
"You see your boss, Joe, felt responsible for your death and hired an investigator to look into your case," Peter explained.
"What about Moreno?” Catherine inquired. "Is he in jail to?"
"No honey, Moreno is dead," Peter said. "Vincent killed him protecting Elliot Burch. You see, Vincent needed Elliot's help in solving your murder, and they were meeting at the old carousel when Moreno and another man ambushed them. Elliot was charged with Moreno's murder, but the courts ruled it as self-defense."
"Did anyone find out that he was working for Gabriel?"
“Actually, it was the investigator, Diana Bennett, who discovered Moreno's dealings. She was also the one who found Gabriel. She almost killed him when Joe rushed in, and stopped her from shooting him in cold blood.
"How did she find him?" Catherine asked.
"Vincent helped her."
“How does she know about Vincent?"
"Diana needed to go through your personal belongings in order to aid in her investigation. She found a note Vincent had sent to you, and discovered the Tunnels. She met Vincent after he was caught in an explosion…"
"A what!?" Catherine almost screamed, stirring Rosie a bit.
Peter was quick to reassure her. "Vincent and Elliot were meeting on a boat called the Compass Rose in order to figure out where Gabriel might be hiding. I'm afraid Elliot was killed, but Diana found Vincent at your grave, badly injured. She nursed him back to health and they became friends. Together, they discovered Gabriel's whereabouts and, well, you know the rest."
Catherine was shocked by the news. She had dated Elliot once, even thought she could love him, but he had been more interested in his projects than a committed relationship. Sometime later he called on her again, refusing to let his chance with her slip away. Elliot asked Catherine to marry him, and she accepted in order to stop a building project of his that threatened Vincent and his home. But when she pleaded for him to stop the project or lose her, Elliot chose the project. Then there was the incident with the terrorists: she and Elliot had almost been killed and he kissed her.
Still, even after all Elliot had put her and Vincent through, she still felt sad about his death, even feeling somewhat responsible. She decided to turn her thoughts to a happier subject.
"Tell me, does Jacob act like Vincent when he was a child?" Catherine asked with a smile.
Peter had to ponder that one. "Well, actually, he seems to have acquired Vincent's love for books. Why the last time he asked for a story, Jacob had Vincent read The Count of Monte Cristo."
Catherine could picture in her head. The image of a little boy who looked very much like her daughter, curled up in Vincent's lap while he read the tale of the count that'd been robbed of his life. How similar my life is to Edmond Dantès? Both of us robbed of the person we love and forced into exile; not to mention a man who didn't know he was a father. Only I stayed hidden while someone else took out the villain.
Peter noticed the change in Catherine's mood. He wondered how much more his goddaughter would go through before she and Vincent could have their happy life.
“Cathy, why don't you come back?" Catherine looked at him in astonishment. "Honey, it's been three years. Gabriel and most of his men are behind bars. You can come home.”
Could I do it? Can I finally go home, Catherine thought. Gabriel was gone, but all her friends and family thought she was dead. Could she just step back into their lives and expect everything to return to normal? And what about Vincent? He had been through so much. How could she expect him to forgive her for such a betrayal?
"I don't know if I can,” Catherine mumbled to herself.
"No!" she shouted, waking her daughter. "You don't understand. Everyone thinks I'm dead; Vincent thinks I'm dead! How could he ever forgive me? He probably will hate me for it!"
“Now, you know that's not true Cathy,” Peter argued.
Catherine started crying. Peter rose from his seat and sat next to Catherine. He tried to take her in his arms, but she pushed him away. She stood up and started pacing.
"I was there the night he came! I wanted to go to him; I wanted him to take me in his arms and never let me go again! I was so desperate to leave that hellhole and go below, to go home. But instead I ran and have been hiding like a coward for three years. Three years!"
“Do you really believe that will matter?” Peter managed to say. “Cathy, you had your reasons. No one will blame you for that. Vincent loves you. He will be overjoyed to have you back."
Catherine sat back down and covered her face with her hands. "But I… I-I betrayed him."
Peter placed his arm around her shoulders. "You left to protect him, Cathy. You didn't betray him."
Catherine shook her head. She just could not believe Vincent would not feel some form of resentment toward her. Amidst her tears, Catherine felt a smaller embrace. She looked up to see Rosie looking at her with pleading eyes.
"Mommy, you gotta go,” Rosie begged. "Don't you miss Daddy?"
"Oh baby, of course I do. I miss Daddy and Jacob so much.” Catherine gathered her daughter into her arms. “It isn't fair to either of you. You need to meet your daddy, your brother, and the rest of our family. And Vincent deserves to know about you and Jacob."
“So, does this mean you’re coming home then, Cathy?" Peter asked.
"Yes," Catherine said as she hugged her daughter. "Rosebud, we're finally going home.”