THE ULTIMATE WINTERFEST SURPRISE

BY KATHY DE




CHAPTER 5



As the community Below had welcomed their new guest, his friends Above sat in Joe’s living room trying to get some sleep while patiently waiting for the vans to pick them up as scheduled.


Ryan and Esposito were on either end of the couch with their feet propped up on the coffee table while Beckett and Joe each stretched out on the matching recliners at either end of the couch.


“Who do you think we’re going to be working with?” Ryan wondered aloud.


Beckett frowned as she shrugged. “CIA…FBI…Homeland Security…”


Head back and eyes closed, Esposito grunted. “Could be any one of them…”


Joe nodded in agreement. “Or all of them…”


Beckett sighed as she burrowed beneath the blanket. “It’ll be great to work with any one of them…you know how welcoming they are to city detectives…”


Snorts of disgust could be heard and Beckett wondered briefly if they were sarcastic acknowledgments of her comment or if her partners had finally fallen asleep. Her eyes closed and her thoughts drifted to Rick.


What seemed like only minutes later, Joe startled awake when his mouth was covered by a hand. 


“Joe…shhh….”


“Senator.”


“There’s been a change of plans. We’re leaving now.”


“What time is it?”


“5:30…go make some coffee for your crew…the vans are on their way. Where is your family?”


“Upstairs.” Esposito lied easily from the couch.


Kirsten sighed as she sat down. “No…they’re not…I checked. Look, you are going to have to learn to trust me.”


Joe nodded as he yawned. “Safe…I sent them to be with friends of ours.”


A team of heavily armed men came inside. Kirsten looked around at the sleepy adults. “Sorry…be ready to go in 10 minutes.”


Beckett ran for the bathroom upstairs and Ryan headed for the one off the kitchen. 


Kirsten helped Joe in the kitchen. “Do you have the files you’ve been working with?”


Joe looked at her suspiciously then nodded. “Yeah.”


Kirsten headed towards the office assuming they were in there. 


Esposito stepped forward. “I’ll get them.”


Joe poured coffee for everyone while Esposito ran to the basement. 


“Take one of my men with you,” Kirsten offered.


“I’m good,” Esposito called over his shoulder.


Kirsten sighed as she put lids on the cups Joe had already poured. “Why don’t I finish these and you go help Esposito.”


Joe knew she had realized they still didn’t trust the whole situation. “Thanks, I’m struggling with it but for now I don’t have a choice but to trust you.”


He left and helped Esposito box up the files. Esposito carried the box upstairs and Joe glanced at the wall that led Below to make sure it was in place and still disguised by some of the kids old toys. 


He glanced at the board they had been working on and impulsively grabbed it then headed upstairs.


Kirsten glanced curiously at it as he came upstairs. “What’s that?”


“Our work...”


Kirsten smiled as she looked at it. “It’s primitive…”


Joe chuckled. “Well, with no funding…”


“Simpson…” Kirsten called out then nodded towards the board when the man came in.


Simpson snapped a picture of the board then glanced down at the screen of some type of camera Joe had never seen before. He pushed some buttons then nodded to Kirsten as he left.


A woman came up after Simpson left and lifted a bottle then sprayed the board with some liquid. Joe watched in horror as weeks of work ran down to the bottom of the board then gasped when the erasable board actually started to disintegrate. 


“Hey! What the hell did you do that for?”


Kirsten started to explain when they heard a commotion in the living room. She grabbed two cups of coffee and handed them to Joe then grabbed the other two. “I’ll explain later, let’s go.”


Within ten minutes, Esposito and Ryan sat in the far back seat of a van while Beckett and Joe shared the middle seat. They watched in fascination as their driver wove his way through traffic.


Beckett looked at Kirsten who sat in the front seat. “This seems like an awful lot of traffic for this time of the morning. 


Kirsten nodded. “It’s not traffic. It’s my team working together to make sure that we get you to safety.”


They all looked surprised and quickly realized that with the number of cars being used and the number of lookalike vans that it would be nearly impossible for anyone to follow them. 


Two hours later, the van pulled into an underground garage and they gasped when it seemed like the driver was going to drive into a brick wall. At the last second, the wall slid to the side and the van pulled inside a hallway. They watched nervously as the wall closed behind them. Another van identical to theirs continued through the garage and back out into the street.


Their van continued on a short way and pulled to a stop. 


Kirsten smiled as she got out. “We’re here.”


“Where’s here?” Joe wondered.


“Headquarters…come on.”


Kirsten escorted her guests to a dining hall. It was reminiscent of a hospital cafeteria where there were several stations with different types of quick grab items such as fresh fruit and yogurt as well as salads and cold sandwiches. 

A man stood behind a counter waiting patiently to take their order.


“Order what you want,” Kirsten announced. “Pancakes, omelets, waffles whatever. Or…if you talk nice to Carl he might make you a burger or chili if you have an iron stomach.”


Joe, Esposito Ryan all ordered omelets while Beckett grabbed a yogurt and a fresh fruit salad. She glanced ahead and impulsively grabbed a banana nut muffin too. 


Kirsten poured everyone fresh coffee and orange juice then headed to a big table in the empty hall. She laid out silverware on the table so everyone could grab what they needed.


Beckett took a seat then grabbed for a spoon and took the lid off her yogurt.

“Quite a spread you got here…” she said to Kirsten as she put the spoon up to her mouth.


“We have a huge crew working here you’ve got to feed them or they get cranky.” 


The guys walked up and Kirsten and Beckett made faces at their plates. Joe’s was piled high with bacon and cheese as well as corned beef hash. Ryan’s had bacon, ham, mushrooms, green peppers and onions as well as cheese and Esposito’s was covered with salsa and jalapeno peppers.


“Ack!” Kirsten said to each of them.


“What?” Esposito asked innocently as he glanced at her plate. “I ain’t a rabbit…”


Beckett smiled. “You’re not a garbage disposal either.”


Ryan laughed. “We don’t get to eat like this too often…”


Joe choked on a piece of bacon. “My wife wouldn’t let me have this much bacon even if I could wrestle it away from my kids.”


They made small talk while they ate the rest of their meals. Kirsten picked up their dirty dishes and walked them over to the conveyor belt that would take them back to the kitchen.


“Did everyone get enough to eat?” Each of them nodded and she motioned for the door. “Then…if you’ll follow me, our team has been waiting for you.”


They cast curious glances amongst themselves as they stood and followed her down the hall through two double doors. As they followed her through the doors, they stopped and stared in wonder. 


The doors led into a huge lecture room with an older gentleman standing at the front of it. Surrounding him were three levels of desks that were filled with men and women waiting patiently.


“Hello…welcome,” the gentleman said. “My name is General Phillips…please take a seat.” He motioned to the row of five seats directly in front of him. They walked over and sat while the man reached for a small device and flipped a switch.


“Crew A…the Senator of course needs no introductions but this gentlemen is New York District Attorney Joe Maxwell.” Joe raised his hand to acknowledge the introduction. “And these fine people are NYPD Detectives Beckett, Esposito and Ryan…”


Each of them nodded to the group before Phillips looked down at them. “Crew A will be the team working closely with you and you can learn their names as you need to but for now let’s get started.” He hit a button on his remote and the room went dark.


“Crew A…some of this will be review for you but for our guests we will briefly go over our facts to get them up to speed.”  


Beckett recognized the board as being identical to the one Castle’s CIA friend Sophia had used. Phillips walked up to the board and started quickly touching various points around the screen. The four newcomers listened intently while Phillips explained the information that their operatives had been able to uncover over the years. 


“Okay…that brings everyone up to speed. Crew A…this is what the DA and the good detectives of New York have brought to the table.


Joe frowned when he saw the picture of their hard work flash onto the screen. Comparing it to the technology in front of him, it did seem primitive and childlike. “We did the best we could with our limited funding,” he defended.


“Joe…” Kirsten warned quietly as she shook her head.


The General pretended not to hear them, and Joe and the three detectives were astonished as their information was transposed into a digital record on the board in front of them. The General “pulled” down another file and placed it on top of theirs and Beckett gasped as a new file was created from their information as well as Crew A’s. 


Murmurs could be heard around the room and the General smiled. “Okay, Crew A…you can thank our guests later for their input.” He pushed another button on his remote. What had looked like regular desks in the room suddenly lit up. 


The detectives each sat back and looked down with disbelief. In front of each of them was a computer screen that showed a duplicate screen of the data from the big screen.


“Oh man!” Ryan gushed.


“Freaking awesome,” Esposito whispered.


Beckett glanced around the room to see everyone’s head down, studying the data. She looked down herself and immersed herself in the new information. Her eyes quickly skipped ahead to anything on her mom’s murder and she filed away in her memory the small amount of information that was there.


Silence filled the room while the Phillips waited for the crew to read through the information. He nodded to Kirsten. “Senator.”


Kirsten stood in the front of the room next to him. “As you can see by the information provided by the NYPD, Ares’ reign of terror has dated back at least as far as the mid 80’s.”


“Ares?” Kate whispered as she and the others looked down at their screens again. 


Kirsten overheard her and continued. “That’s what we call him…Ares…he’s the head of…”


“The world…” Phillips interrupted with a sarcastic snort. Chuckles could be heard around the room before he turned serious again. “I’m sorry Kirsten…It’s actually not funny at all, Detective Beckett…Ares has some type of presence in every major city or province in the world. There’s not a place you can name that hasn’t been touched by his power.


“With all due respect then, General…why bring us in?” Beckett wondered. “We’re kind of out of our league…I mean…a DA and some homicide detectives from New York can’t possibly offer you anything.”


Phillips held up his hand towards the people in the room. “Everyone please stand.” Every person followed his orders and he smiled at them. “Any person who is a police officer or detective please take a seat.” Better than half of the people sat back down. “Now…can all of the people who have had someone important in their lives fall prey to Ares power take a seat…”  Most of the rest of the people sat and Beckett looked up again at the thirteen or so people that remained standing. “This Detective is the number of operatives that we have managed to find that Ares has not bought and paid for.”


Kirsten shrugged. “Kate, most of these people have lost someone as special to them as your mom was to you and my dad was to me. Can you find a better more dedicated team?”


“What about the danger of involving civilians?” Joe asked.


Phillips sighed. “We haven’t done anything yet but fact find, Joe. We were hoping that you and your team would join with our operatives and help us into the next phase…”


Joe looked at Beckett and knew she was in…he glanced at Ryan who nodded slightly and Esposito who shrugged his assent. 


“Yeah…we’re in,” he answered Phillips.


“What’s the mission, Sir?” Beckett asked.


The room grew silent as Phillips clicked a button and showed a picture of an island. “Infiltrate Ares’ compound.”


Joe blew out a long breath as the picture of the island grew closer. “Holy shit…his compound is an island?”


Esposito chuckled. “It’s freakin’ huge.”


“It’s gonna be like finding a needle in a haystack,” Ryan added.


Beckett smirked determinedly as a gleam came to her eye. “It’s not big enough for him to hide from me.”



*******************************



The next few days, Beckett, Ryan and Esposito worked with the operatives to come up with a plan to take over the compound, while Joe worked with Kristen and Phillips to find a way to get the team of twenty to the Caribbean. 


Phillips sighed aloud. “Joe, I can get the main operatives there with government funding but I have no way to get you four there.”


Joe scowled. “I’ll come up with something…”


Esposito looked at Beckett.  “You could ask Castle…”


Beckett shrugged and thought that with the way things had been lately, he would probably tell her no.


She was saved when Ryan stepped up. “Joe, Zack could fly us there.”


“Zack…good idea…can you get a hold of him?”


Ryan grabbed his phone. “I can try…”


“Who’s Zack?” Kirsten wondered. “Can he be trusted?”


Joe nodded and looked pointedly at Beckett and Esposito to offer further information. “Zack’s a guy that Kevin grew up with…I know he can keep a secret.”


Beckett and Esposito exchanged glances and Joe knew that had both understood that Zack was a helper from the world Below.



***************************



The final meeting came before they were to leave. All operatives involved in the infiltration operation sat in the lecture room. Silence filled the room as each of them hung on every word that General Phillips said.


“At precisely 11:15, Team 1 will secure the outer perimeter of the compound as well as all the buildings included in the first diagram. When they’ve completed their task Team 2 will secure the inner perimeter. At this point, all of Ares’ security points should be under our control. Team 3 will secure the house and remove anyone they may find inside.”


“What do we do if we capture anyone?” Ryan asked.


“If we get as far as the house before we find someone it will be out of our hands and it becomes an international matter. You all have your travel plans…I hope everyone has a safe passage and we’ll meet up again at our new headquarters tomorrow night at this time.”


Kirsten stepped up to them. “Team 7 will get you to the airport where Zack will be waiting. Good Luck.”


They traveled quickly and arrived at a desolate farm out on Long Island. Beckett and Esposito followed behind Joe and Ryan as they walked out towards a barn. A man suddenly stepped out from around the corner. 


Beckett balked for a second and readied her hand to go to her gun. She relaxed when Ryan took off running.


“Zack!”


“Kevin…dude! What’s up?!”


The two men hugged and pounded each others backs affectionately. 


Joe walked up with his hand extended. “Hey, Zack!”


“Joe! How’s it going?”


“It’s going…”


“How’s Jenny and the kids?”


“Good, they’re Below right now…”


Zack’s smile faded. “Kevin told me…that’s good they’ll be safe there until this is over.”


“Yeah.”


Ryan introduced Beckett and Esposito and within 10 minutes Zack was flying them towards their meeting place.


They arrived safely and checked in with Kirsten and Phillips who were waiting patiently for everyone to arrive.


Phillips sat them all down in a back room. “First problem we encountered is how to get your team to the island.”


Beckett frowned. “I assumed we’d take a boat.”


“Me too. Except the local force came in…all but three of the marina’s boats have been dry docked.”


“Now what,” said Esposito.


“There’s a helicopter pad not too far from here. I’m trying to locate a chopper and pilot.”


Zack stepped forward. “General Phillips, Zack Williams. You get me a chopper, and I’ll be your pilot.”


Phillips looked at the others. “Are you vouching for him?”


“I will,” Ryan said. 


Kirsten picked up the phone. “Let me get a copter here for you…”


They rested for a few hours then met up with the rest of the teams for a final briefing. Everyone headed their separate ways as it was 10:10 and in one hour the mission was set to commence.


The hour passed too quickly.


“Let’s get this over with, and we can make it back for Winterfest.” Ryan offered as he stood.


Joe smiled. “Amen to that…I would love to surprise my family and keep at least one promise to them…”


“Winterfest…that big party you mentioned?” Esposito asked Ryan.


“Yeah…”


Beckett thought about Castle and how anxious she was to get this all behind her and begin a new life. “Let’s do it then…”



************************



Miles away, on the island itself, a woman was locked in her bedroom on the third floor of the mansion. She sat curled up in a huge chair quietly reading a book. 


Suddenly, she felt waves of adrenaline course through her body. “My God!” she gasped aloud as her thoughts raced to her twin sons. It had been a year since she had last been allowed to see them but she had been able to feel them frequently through the bond that had developed when they were children.


She shot to her feet and began to pace. She was frantically trying to come up with a plan of escape but she knew she would never leave the complex without her sons. She sat back down on the bed and chewed nervously on her nails. She had decided to wait until Ares let her out. She could hear shots ringing out around her but years of obedience kept her seated on the bed. 


Struck with an idea, she lay with her ear pressed to the floor and heard the flurry of activity on the level below her. 


The lights suddenly went out and she knew the power had been cut. Luckily, the moon was bright and she looked desperately around the room for some type of a weapon but there was just nothing there. Her eyes stopped on the closet as she thought of the items in there. Dismissing it, she kept scanning the room until a thought struck her. She ran to the closet and whipped the door open then started to fling her clothes on the floor. When a section was emptied, she pried the dowel bar loose from its cradle and sighed as she looked at it…it was primitive…yes, but it was solid wood and she felt a little better with some type of weapon. 


She grabbed her make up case from the bathroom and dumped it out into the sink. She spotted the hidden makeshift key to her door and grabbed for it then headed back to the door. She pressed her ear against it but could hear no activity as she silently worked the lock open.


Her heart was pounding wildly in her chest. Ares had been tolerant of her for years in fear that the twins would become sick again and need her. But she had known for some time that she was on bided time and now that the twins were old enough to fend for themselves she was definitely expendable. She knew if she was caught outside of her room she would be killed instantly. 


She glanced at the camera mounted at the end of the hallway then sighed with relief when she realized the back up generator had not turned it on. She frowned and stopped in her tracks. Whoever was responsible for starting the generators was obviously doing something else and she realized that whatever was going on was more dangerous than she thought. 


She made her way quickly down the hall. She knew no one would be on this floor as the rooms were all for her personal use. There was a library and a workout room and an expansive office complete with internet capabilities.


She came to the steps and listened to the sounds below. Hearing nothing, she stealthily headed down them. She could see no one as she came to the bottom of the first landing. Licking her lips, nervously she headed to the main level. Half way down the next flight of steps, she gasped and slammed to a stop. On the landing was one of the body guards. He was holding his hand over a hole in his chest that was bleeding profusely. His eyes were closed and she spotted his gun on the landing next to him. She laid the dowel bar down, and assuming he was dead, leaned over to pick up the gun. The guard reached out and grabbed her hand and she gasped fearfully and fell back on the bottom stair.


“Get out of here quickly, kid.”


She frowned at the guard who had always been nice to her.  “Stan? I thought you were…”


He gasped for breath. “I will be…”


“Let me find someone to help you…”


“No…get yourself out.”


“Stan, I’ve got to find my boys.”


“Coming for you…there was a fire down there…Ares went to get them…explosion…he’s dead.”


She knew he was moments away from dying and grabbed for his hand. “Stan…were there any signs of my sons?”


Stan shook his head no and his eyes glazed over as he took a final breath.


She gasped and swiped at the tears in her eyes. She placed his hand on his chest and grabbed for his gun as she leapt to her feet. 


She ran down the steps as thoughts raced through her head. Ares was dead. Now was the time for her to escape. She could only hope that in all the confusion she wouldn’t be missed. 


She headed to the front door and was just about to open it when someone opened it on her and she backed up and aimed her gun instinctively. 


“Freeze! Police! Drop the gun!” Beckett screamed out. When the woman didn’t respond Beckett spoke more forcefully. “I said drop it!”  


Both women stood at a dead heat. Neither was willing to give up the upper hand.


When she wasn’t shot immediately, the woman had felt a glimmer of hope and her hand shook slightly. “Who are you?”


“The police, drop your weapon.”


“Why should I believe you?”


Beckett moved stealthily from the doorway and the moonlight lit the woman’s face. She blinked rapidly as her mind raced to remember where she had seen the face before.


A low whining sound could be heard coming from outside as a generator finally roared to life. The lights in the house flickered then came on and both women stared at one another in the full light.  


Beckett gasped aloud when she realized that standing in front of her was an older version of the woman in the portrait in Vincent’s chamber.  Curiously, she took a chance. “Catherine Chandler?” The woman’s weapon wavered at the sound of her full name. “Oh my God!!! Are you Catherine Chandler?” Beckett asked forcefully as she marginally lowered her weapon.


“I used to be…” Catherine said as the gun wavered in her hands as well.


         “You still are…” Beckett declared as she lowered her weapon then stepped forward and quickly glanced around the rooms that she could see. “The man that owns this island…Ares…is dead. You’re gonna be all right now.”


Ryan and Esposito came running into the room and Catherine raised her weapon again.


Joe came quickly in behind them and slammed to a stop when he looked at the woman behind the gun. “Holy Shit!”


Catherine blinked then cried out with surprise. “Joe?!” 


Joe stepped back a few feet as he gasped from the shock. “Cathy?!”


“Yeah...it’s me.” 


“What…how…?” 


Catherine lowered her gun as Joe scooped her up and hugged her fiercely. Catherine’s arms came around him; and for the first time in 22 years, she felt like she could breathe. 


“I can’t believe you’re alive! You sure are a pleasant surprise in this whole mess.”


Ryan looked with confusion over at Beckett. “Did I hear you say Catherine Chandler?”


“Yeah.”


“She’s alive?!”


“Looks like it…” Beckett said as she nodded towards Catherine and Joe.


“Oh my God!” Ryan said as he shook his head with shock. “We’ve got to get her out of here, come up with time to think before she gets thrown to the wolves.”


Esposito looked over at Beckett. “Compound’s secure. FBI is on the way. If we want to avoid questions we better get her outta here now.”


Catherine stepped back from Joe and shook her head vigorously. “I can’t go with you...”


Assuming she was afraid from her years of captivity, Joe reached up and cupped her face. “You’re safe now, Cathy. You can come with me. You’re going to be okay…”


Catherine grew agitated. “I can’t…I have to look for…something that belongs to me…”


Esposito frowned. “We don’t have much time…let us help you look.”


“No!” Catherine almost shouted. “I have to look for it alone…I…can’t explain it…”


Assuming it was her purse or maybe a bracelet, Beckett rolled her eyes. “There’s not enough time, whatever it is you’ll have to leave it behind…”


“No…I won’t go without it.”


Ryan stepped forward with a smile plastered on his face. “Even if everyone in the tunnels will be waiting for you?”


Catherine’s eyes grew wide as she backed away from them fearfully and wrapped her arms protectively about herself. “What?!”


Joe saw her distress and guessed correctly why she was so upset. “Cathy…everyone here knows about Vincent and the world Below.”


She looked at Joe in shock. “I…have no idea what you’re talking about and I don’t know anyone named Vincent.”


As the trained officers exchanged glances, Esposito scowled. “Amnesia…we can stop worrying…she won’t be able to tell them anything.”


“Great!” Beckett sighed. “There goes our chance at some inside information.”


“Shit!” Joe spat out angrily as he stepped forward and tried to offer her comfort. “You remembered me, Cath…do you remember how we met?”


“Of course I do!” At his questioning look, she sighed. “I worked with you at the DA’s office…”


Trying to press the issue again, Ryan stepped forward cautiously. “Catherine, you probably don’t remember me…my name is Kevin. As a kid, I used to spend a lot of time Below when my Dad worked. I’m Pascal’s nephew…I used to hang out with Kipper and Samantha and Jeffery and then Eric when you brought him down.”


Catherine stared at him in disbelief. He said all the names from the past she would need to hear to trust him and she nervously wiped her face with her hands. “I…don’t know what you’re talking about.”


“I wasn’t Below much but I did meet you once at Winterfest and then again at a musical recital.” Ryan reiterated.


Joe saw the flicker of hope cross her face before she quickly covered her reaction. He realized she was lying and still trying to protect the world Below. “It’s okay, Radcliffe, you can trust us.” 


“I…don’t know if I can believe you.”


“Well…if I had time I would convince you but I don’t…so…”


Catherine began to pace. 


Esposito frowned and looked at the group anxiously. “Look…we don’t have much time…”


Catherine looked at Joe and hoped she still had some persuasion with him as she pleaded with him. “Let me look…please…if you let me go alone then I’ll know you trust me!”


Joe sighed. “Cath, what’s so important?”


Time was running out and she knew it, finally, in desperation, she let her guard down. “Kids…Joe…I need to find my sons.”


Joe blinked in shock at the news as Beckett stepped in forcefully. “How many kids and how old?”


“Twin boys…they’re sixteen.”


Beckett nodded. “Ok…we’ll start looking…” She looked at Esposito and Ryan. “You two check the perimeter, I’ll look in the bunker.” 


“Wait, you can’t…look!” Catherine knew she sounded like a lunatic but she sighed and looked at them desperately. “They look…different…and they’re dangerous…or they could be…they’re highly trained at self defense…”


Esposito rolled his eyes. “Okay…we got it…weird looking 16 year olds with an attitude…never dealt with them before…” he grumbled as he walked towards the door.


Beckett caught Joe’s eyes. “Joe, this will show a willingness to be here not forced captivity…”


Joe frowned at the implications that Catherine had chosen to live here and have a family as opposed to being a captive. Being close to her in the past, he chose to still believe in the latter. He also knew Catherine wouldn’t have said something about the kids if it didn’t hold some weight. He grabbed for her hand and squeezed if forcefully. “Cath…why are your boys so different?”


Catherine was desperate to start the search and was being kept from doing it and in her frustration, she exploded angrily. “Because they’re Vincent’s kids! They look just like Vincent but damn it, Joe…they’re ten time more dangerous!”  


Roars could be heard coming from a lower level and Catherine whirled around and took off towards the sound. The other four looked at one another then followed close on her heels. They stopped abruptly when they rounded the corner and two huge versions of Vincent stood in front of them, teeth bared and angry roars coming from them.


Catherine stood between them and her sons. “It’s okay boys…they’re here to save us…”


The twins lowered their defenses but low growls still came from them as they watched Joe step forward cautiously with his hands up in surrender. “Hey…look…I got six kids of my own…I know you guys don’t trust us and I get that…I do….but a hundred years ago you’re mom and I worked together…and we were pretty good friends back then…”


The twin on the left looked down at his mother for confirmation and she nodded. They seemed to relax but stood there and looked warily at the four newcomers.


Joe continued. “Your mom doesn’t know it but a few months after she died…well…was kidnapped…I met your father and your older brother.”


Catherine tensed and looked at Joe distrustfully. She slowly raised her weapon and backed up in front of the boys. Once again, the twins looked at him menacingly and readied their stances for battle.


Beckett sucked in a breath while Esposito slowly raised his weapon and Ryan stepped by Joe’s side.


“What? What did I say?” Joe asked.


“What game are you playing, Joe?” Catherine asked angrily. 


Joe threw up his hands in confusion. “No game, Cathy. I swear!”


Catherine looked at him and pointed her gun at his chest. “Vincent was killed a short time after I gave birth and then my son got sick and died a little while after that.”


“What?! I don’t know why you think that but you’re very wrong!”


Catherine shook her head furiously. “I saw it Joe, I saw Vincent get electrocuted in a cage as he tried to get to my son!”


Joe pleaded with her. “Radcliffe…I swear to you Vincent and Jacob are very much alive.”


“Jacob?”


“Your son…” 


Joe had taken a step towards her, but the twins growled a warning and Beckett stepped forward slowly. “Miss Chandler…think about this…not one of us showed the least bit of surprise upon seeing your sons…don’t you think that’s kind of odd?”


Catherine looked at her for a moment, and as the reality of the news sank in, she dropped the gun and stepped back then collapsed into the arms of the son on the left.


“Mom?” he said nervously as his arms tightened around her. “Mom!”


His twin looked nervously at the group, and Joe could see him debating between letting his guard down and helping his mother.


Finally, he gave up and went to help his brother. “Mom!”


Joe nodded at the others. “Let’s get them outta here.” He turned back to the twins. “Can one of you carry her?”


“Yeah,” said the twin that she had collapsed against. He easily picked her up then followed Esposito and Ryan as they led the way outside. Beckett followed him, then his twin fell into line and Joe brought up the rear. 


Joe put his arm around the last kid. “I’m glad you decided to trust us…when this is all over we’ll be good friends.”


“We’ve…never had friends…”


“Well…you’re gonna have about 200 in a few short hours.”


Esposito opened the back door to a black SUV. “Get in…” he ordered the twins.


The twins exchanged worried glances then followed the orders, putting their mother safely on the seat between them.


Joe looked over at Beckett. “This is a huge opportunity for you three. I want you to stay here and take some credit for helping to bring down Ares’ empire.”


Beckett shook her head. “Sir…I don’t think…”


Joe held up his hand, interrupting her. “Really…I’ll drive Catherine and the boys to the chopper…get them taken care of…you guys stay here, field the questions, then you can follow later.”


Ryan and Esposito took off as they saw headlights coming down the driveway. 


“We’ll delay them! Get her the hell outta here…” Esposito shouted over his shoulder.


Beckett wavered and Joe gently tapped her arm. “Go…make it worthwhile.”


He hopped into the driver’s seat and waited until he was hidden behind the safety of the trees to gun the engine and take off down the little used service road.




 Continued in chapter 6