THE ULTIMATE WINTERFEST SURPRISE
BY KATHY DE
Catherine began to stir as the car jostled on the uneven ground.
“Mom…Mom?” the twins chorused.
Joe handed back a water bottle. “Here…”
The twin not holding her, twisted the cap and put it to her lips. Catherine sipped at it then wiped her hand across her mouth. “I’m…sorry, Charles.”
“That’s okay, Mom,” he smiled.
“Are you all right?” asked the other twin.
“Yeah, Devin…I am.”
Joe smiled as he looked into the rearview mirror. “So Charles and Devin…nice to meet you two.”
The twins looked at one another shyly. “”Nice to meet you too, Sir,” they murmured.
“I’d like to say I know all about you but…well…your dad never mentioned you.” Joe said lightly.
His sarcasm wasn’t lost on the twins and they smiled at the joke then seemed to relax.
“Joe…” Catherine sighed with distress.
“I’m sorry I said it so abruptly, Radcliffe. Really…”
“Are they really alive, Joe?”
“Yeah...and doing great…I swear…” Joe sighed and looked in the rearview mirror again. “We’ll sort this all out later but you were right…sort of. Vincent was electrocuted…but he lived through it…his hands were badly burned, but he definitely lived through it. Another woman, one of our top investigators, found him and together they rescued Jacob.”
“And our son...Jacob…I can’t believe he survived…is he healthy, Joe?”
“As an ox…he’s just a little smaller than these two goons…” he laughed as he nodded towards the twins. “But not by much.”
Catherine smiled weakly. “I guess you boys will be getting an older brother…”
The twins exchanged nervous looks and Charles took charge of the situation that for them was quickly spiraling out of control. “Where are we going?”
“To your father’s world,” Joe explained.
Catherine sighed and put one of her hands on each of their legs. “You know I told you he lived separate and apart from the rest of the world….what I didn’t tell you is that he lives in tunnels and chambers that run all through the underbelly of New York.”
“How will we get there?” Devin wondered.
Joe caught Catherine’s eye again in the rearview mirror. “One of the tunnel kids you knew became a pilot…” At Catherine’s questioning glance he continued. “I think he was about 14 or 15 when you met him…Zack was his name.”
Catherine nodded as she remembered what a free spirit Zack had always been. “That makes sense that he became a pilot.”
“He’s waiting in a field about 5 miles from here.”
They could hear more sirens in the distance and she became nervous. “Hurry, Joe.”
It was only a few minutes later when Joe pulled into a clearing and they spotted a helicopter.
Assuming the twins would be nervous about their first flight. “Now, there’s no reason to be nervous. Zack is an excellent pilot.”
The twins laughed aloud as Charles explained to a stunned Joe. “We’re pilots ourselves. Ares taught us 2 years ago how to fly almost every aircraft made.”
Joe raced the SUV to a stop and Devin, picking up on the urgency in Catherine’s tone replied nervously. “C’mon, let’s get out of here…”
Zack started the engine as the four ran across the field towards him. Within minutes, they were airborne.
“Hey Catherine, remember me?”
“How could I forget you, Zack? You look exactly the same.”
Catherine relaxed into her seat and smiled. “Liar!”
Zack glanced at the twins. “Wow, you two look just like your dad!”
“So we’ve heard,” Devin answered.
“Don’t be nervous about meeting him…he’s a great guy...”
“I bet,” Charles smiled weakly.
“Look judge for yourself…you’ll be meeting him in a few short hours.” Zack smiled.
Knowing they weren’t getting to New York in a helicopter, Charles cocked his head curiously at Zack. “We’re obviously stopping somewhere to get into another aircraft.”
“Yeah, we have a plane hidden on an adjoining island. Once we get there we’ll head to the states.”
“Joe, I think with the change in circumstances, we should head to Connecticut instead of Long Island,” Zack offered.
Joe nodded. “Yeah, Zack, good idea. From there it’s just a short drive to New York.”
“Connecticut?” Catherine asked with surprise. “Who owns a landing strip there?”
Joe laughed. “Actually…you do…or rather Jacob does. After we found out about Vincent…Peter Alcott, Jenny and I got Jacob declared your heir…he inherited everything.”
“My Jenny Aaronson?”
“Uh, huh….except it’s Maxwell now…” Joe grinned.
“Maxwell…?” Catherine gasped incredulously. “You two got married?!”
Catherine looked at the boys as she explained. “Jenny was my best friend from childhood.” A thought from earlier dawned on her and she turned back to Joe. “And you and she had 6 kids?!”
“Uh, huh…5 girls and a boy.”
“Oh my God!”
“Vincent’s the godfather to my oldest daughter, Debbie.”
Catherine smiled sadly. “I missed a whole lifetime…”
Zack began his descent and the group changed from the helicopter to the plane in record time.
On the second flight, the twins sat as close to the cockpit as they could and were soon lost in stories that Zack was relating.
Catherine fiddled with her hands and Joe reached out and grabbed them. “What’s up, kiddo?”
“I’m a little scared…”
Catherine shrugged and looked away then sighed and looked back at Joe. “Are you and Vincent really good friends?”
“Would you tell me the truth about something if I asked you?”
“You know I would, Cath! Ask…”
Catherine chewed her lip nervously. “Is there someone else in his life, Joe?”
“Who’s…” After she rolled her eyes, he guessed who she meant. “Vincent’s?”
Joe was relieved her question was an easy one to answer. “No.”
“No?!” Catherine said hopefully.
“No way, Radcliffe.”
“He never found anyone else to…love? There was never any one…”
“Well…” Joe grinned mischievously.
“I’m kidding…I swear…on my mother’s lasagna…there has never been anyone else in his life.”
Catherine felt relief wash over her as she felt hope spring to life. The twins glanced back at her. Devin’s face showed curiosity and Charles’ showed alarm. She smiled reassuringly at them. They could see her happiness and smiled back then quickly turned their attention back to Zack.
“They seem like good kids…”
Catherine nodded. “Yeah…they’ve grown so much…I haven’t seen them in almost a year…”
“I’ll explain it all, later.”
“Even the part about how Vincent’s their father?”
Catherine chuckled and looked pointedly over at the boys then squeezed Joe’s hands. “Yeah…”
Joe guessed correctly she didn’t want to talk in front of them so he nodded. “Okay…”
Catherine sat back in her seat with a deep sigh. “How’d you find me, Joe?”
“I didn’t…find you…I mean… I had no idea you were alive. Detective Beckett unknowingly uncovered this whole thing while she was investigating her mother’s murder.”
Joe spent the rest of the flight relating the entire story. Zack was beginning his descent when he finished up with the long tale.
The group came out of the plane into the light of early dawn.
Joe turned to Catherine. “Traffic is going to start getting bad…”
Catherine had been scanning her surroundings and looked back at him. “We’re near my childhood cabin aren’t we?”
“Yeah…Jacob slowly bought up the land as the neighbors sold it…he owns close to 100 acres now. This is the air strip at the south end…”
Zack, followed by the twins, gave the plane a quick but thorough examination. “Look, I’m gonna refuel and ready this baby just in case…I’ll meet you up at the cabin after awhile.”
Devin looked at his mother. “Can we help, Zack?”
Catherine wavered but Joe took the lead. “Sorry, guys. This isn’t some island you’ll have free run of…we need to get you safely inside.”
The boys nodded and sadly looked back at Zack as they followed Joe down the well worn path.
Catherine quickly got her bearings and took the lead. Joe was surprised at how healthy she was as she and the boys quickened their pace.
He laughed aloud at them as they began to jog. “Why are we in a hurry?”
Catherine smiled happily over her shoulder. “Because I’m free and I’m almost home.”
Catherine stopped on the front porch of the cabin and looked down towards the lake. “I used to spend every summer here with your grandparents.”
Devin smiled as he put his arm around her. “It reminds me of home...” He blushed furiously and looked down. “I mean…”
Catherine hugged him fiercely. “Its okay, Devin. The island was the only home you’ve ever known…and as much as I hate to think of you two growing up that way…I know that those will be the memories you’ll share.”
She turned to open the door to the cabin and Charles walked up and angrily punched his brother then innocently spoke to his mother. “Maybe we’ll be able to make better memories when we meet our father.”
Catherine turned back and looked curiously at Devin who was rubbing his arm and looking furiously as his brother, she smiled over at his twin. “I hope so, Charles.”
They walked into the cabin and Catherine was flooded with memories of the past. The boys went off to investigate, and Joe smiled as they headed into the kitchen.
He walked up and pointed towards them while he looked at Catherine knowingly. “I bet they’re hungry…”
“Mom, we’re hungry…” Devin’s voice floated from the other room at the same time as Joe spoke.
He turned to Catherine waving some car keys. “I’m going to run up to that corner grocery store and get us something to eat. We’ll leave tonight…right after it gets dark.”
“Any preferences on food?”
Charles walked in and overheard Joe as he asked. “Anything!” he answered.
Joe grinned and headed towards the garage as Zack was walking up.
“Keep an eye on them will ya?”
Zack nodded. “Got it covered.”
Joe pulled out of the drive way and headed towards the store. As he drove, he tried to call Jenny with his cell phone but she didn’t answer.
Still being protective even though he knew Ares’ empire had fallen, when he pulled up in front of the store, he sent a cryptic text message to Debbie. “Case solved…coming home tonight…tell Mom I ran into her best friend from childhood…bringing her and her two boys home with me.”
Joe ran through the store and grabbed all the fixings for the cheeseburgers he wanted to cook on the grill. He also grabbed three boxes of macaroni and cheese and in deference to Catherine, all the items to make a healthy salad. On his way passed the cooler, he grabbed some cans of pop and a gallon of milk.
He had just loaded it all in the trunk of his car when his phone rang. He glanced at the number and smiled as he answered it. “Hey, babe! You got the good news?!”
Solid static came over the line but he could faintly hear Jenny in the background so he shouted. “Babe, I can barely hear you but I found Cathy!”
“Catherine’s alive, sweetheart!”
“Joe?! Are you all right?”
“Yeah!! Jen, it’s true…I swear…”
“Yeah, we’re coming back tonight…”
“With her two kids?”
“Yeah, twin 16 year olds; they look just like Vincent…”
The static on the line was horrible then it just went dead.
“What about Vincent?” Jenny shouted into the phone as she heard the line go dead.
Joe frowned at the low battery warning flashing on his screen. “Damn.”
He got into the car and plugged the phone into the lighter to charge it as he drove back to the cabin.
Zack helped him bring in the grocery bags while Joe went to light the grill. Catherine quickly cut up the vegetables and made a huge salad while she waited for the water to boil for the macaroni noodles. Joe came in and grabbed the hamburger patties then headed back outside.
“Can you boys set the table?” she called out to the twins.
The brothers came in quickly from the living room, Devin grabbed the plates and bowls while Charles grabbed the silverware along with the buns and all the condiments Joe had purchased.
Joe looked in the screen door. “You kids like your burgers mooing?”
Devin grinned at the unfamiliar term while Charles quickly called out. “Medium, please!”
“I’ll have mine rare!”
Joe cooked all but three medium and it wasn’t long before he was able to come in with a huge platter of cooked patties.
Catherine gasped. “Joe, who is all of this food for?”
Joe cocked his head curiously at her. “Have you seen the size of your boys?”
Catherine laughed as she shook her head. “They’ll never eat this much!”
She grabbed the bowl of salad and passed it around. Not knowing if the boys were good eaters or not, Joe was pleased when they each filled their salad bowls that he had bought enough fixings for everyone.
Zack did a good job of polishing off two of his three burgers and a good size serving of macaroni and cheese. Joe ate two burgers as well but chose salad over the cheesy side dish. Catherine opted to eat the rest of the salad, while the twins wolfed down the rest of the macaroni and cheese as well as three hamburgers each.
They eyed the platter of leftover burgers in front of them then looked at each other nervously. Joe caught the look and knew they each wanted a fourth burger.
“You guys should try to eat some more…I’d hate to see all that food go to waste…”
Each of them grabbed for another burger as Catherine watched in horror. “You’re gonna be sick!”
They each had a huge mouthful as they looked at her and blushed furiously.
Joe rolled his eyes. “Women! What do they know about a growing boy’s appetite?”
Zack grinned and held his stomach. “He’s right, Catherine. I used to be able to eat like that too. William used to go nuts trying to fill us up.”
Catherine knew she was outnumbered and shook her head in disgust. “I bet your girls don’t eat like this…”
“Are you kidding me?! They eat like a small army. Debbie and Kelly don’t…they’re starting to watch their figures but Brittany and Amy can pack it away. Maria’s still young enough her metabolism hasn’t kicked in yet and Joey’s already at the age where he’s trying to eat like me.”
Zack looked at the old friends. “I’ll clean up in here then take Devin and Charles down by the lake…why don’t you two go catch up.”
Joe smiled and grabbed two cans of pop. “Let’s go, Radcliffe…before they change their minds.”
Charles cocked his head curiously at his mother. “Why’s he keep calling you Radcliffe?”
Joe grinned. “It’s where she went to college.”
“Ohhh….” Charles said as he frowned and looked at Devin who shrugged.
Joe led Catherine into the living room and they sat down on the couch looking out over the lake.
“Tell me about your family, Joe…how’d you and Jenny end up together?”
“Okay, but you asked for it.” Joe blew out a long breath. “Jenny and I grew close after we planned your funeral. I guess our shared grief kept bringing us back together. I was…devastated that I had gotten you involved in all of this…”
He held up his hand to stop her. “But Jenny convinced me that it wasn’t my fault. Then when Jacob was discovered alive we grew even closer. We met at Peter’s house one night and he introduced us to Vincent together. He brought Jacob with him and when I saw Jenny holding him I realized she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Vincent was a surprise to say the least but Jenny and I realized why you fell in love with him and we all became good friends. He asked us to be Jacob’s god parents and it wasn’t long after that we started dating.”
“We were married a month later and Debbie came 2 years later. She’s 18 and looks the most like Jenny. Kelly came next and she’s 17 and her mother’s best helper. Brittany is my 16 year old tomboy and a carbon copy of me...”
Catherine giggled. “Oh poor, Jenny!”
“Yeah, that’s what my mom says. Well, then we had Amy who is 14 and Maria came right behind her and is 13. We thought we were done for good. Then we got surprised by Joey who’s 8.”
Catherine chuckled. “It couldn’t have been too big of a surprise…certainly by the time you had 5 kids you had figured out how it happened.”
Joe frowned. “Jenny was on the pill but I still used protection. Still…Joey was a hard pregnancy on her I wouldn’t have had her go through that for anything…She was on bed rest the last few months which was not an easy feat for a woman with 5 kids.”
“She’s okay now?” Catherine asked with concern.
Joe smiled. “Yeah, fit as a fiddle.”
“I can’t wait to see her!”
Joe looked at his watch. “You got about 8 more hours.”
Catherine looked away nervously. “I wish we could tell them we were coming.’
Joe frowned. “Damn! I’m sorry, I meant to tell you I sent a message to Jenny. She called me…the connection was bad but I know she heard me say you were alive.”
Catherine was still nervous about meeting Vincent for the first time and she imagined that the boys were even more so. “Joe, let’s go talk to the twins about Vincent.”
Joe stood and took her hand. “Good idea.”
The two friends walked down by the lake and all five of them sat down on the deck. Charles and Devin listened attentively all afternoon while Catherine, Joe and Zack related stories about their father.
After her phone call, Jenny headed out to find Vincent. She came upon Jacob near the dining chamber. “Jacob.”
“Hey, Aunt Jen.”
“I’m glad I saw you. Are you busy? I need to speak to you and your father…”
Jacob shrugged. “I was heading to see if William had any brownies but I can skip it.” He bent over and picked up a rock then tapped out a message. In a few seconds a reply came to him. “Dad’s in the school chamber, he’ll meet us in his chamber in 10 minutes.”
Jenny followed Jacob to Vincent’s chamber and paced nervously while they waited for Vincent.
“Aunt Jen, what’s up?”
Jenny shook her head nervously. “Let’s…wait for your dad…”
Vincent walked silently into the room. “His dad is here.”
“Hi, Vincent thanks for coming so quickly.”
“Jacob said you wished to speak to us.”
“Yes…I have some great news to share with you but…um…it’s also going to be shocking and really hard to hear.”
Vincent could tell that it was serious and he sat down next to her to offer his comfort and hopefully put her at ease. He nodded to Jacob to take a seat and then turned back to Jenny. “It’s always easiest to just say it and then we can deal with the problem later.”
Jenny smiled and nodded. “Joe found someone very important to us…”
Castle chose that moment to run wildly into the room. “Oh my God! Why are you just sitting here?! We should be planning a celebration!”
Vincent tried to gently guide Castle to the door. “I can tell you’re very excited about something, Rick but Jenny was just about to tell us some important news...”
Castle waved his hand dismissively. “Her news can wait! Vincent, we should be getting ready to celebrate now that Catherine is alive and she’ll be coming back here in a few hours.”
Vincent’s world fell away as the meaning of Rick’s words washed over him. He stumbled back and sat down heavily on his bed.
Jacob stood up and looked at Castle incredulously. “What did you say?”
Castle looked from face to face as he realized they didn’t know. “I thought you all knew…Kate and the guys found your mom…she’s alive…”
“I think she’s mistaken,” Vincent said quietly. “Catherine’s dead…I saw her take her last breath.”
Castle shrugged. “All I know is they busted onto Ares’ compound, he’s dead now but they found Catherine. She was being held there all this time.”
Jenny nodded in confirmation. “It’s true, Vincent. Joe called me awhile ago.” She looked at Castle with disapproval. “I had hoped to break the news more gently but…they’re at the cabin in Connecticut. They’ll be here tonight.”
Jacob began to pace. “My mother’s alive…is she okay…I mean…does she need medical care or…?”
Jenny stepped up and took his hands. “Jake…all I know is that Uncle Joe said he’d be bringing Catherine and her two sons here tonight.”
Jacob gasped. “Sons?”
“Twins…16 year old boys.”
“I have half brothers?”
“I guess so…Joe said something about your dad but I couldn’t understand it.”
They looked over at Vincent who was sitting on the bed with his head in his hands.
“Dad?” Jacob asked.
Jenny saw the state of shock that Vincent was in and sighed. “Leave us alone for awhile, will ya kiddo?”
Castle realized what the announcement had done to Vincent and he looked guiltily at Jenny. “I’m sorry…I was so excited…I didn’t think…”
She smiled weakly and guided him and Jacob out the door. “Take care of Jake, Rick.” She turned back and blew out a long breath then headed to sit by Vincent. She put her arms around him and brought his head to her shoulder as he cried. “I’m so sorry, Vincent.”
He swiped at his eyes and began to pace the floor. “It’s good news, Jenny, I know and I’m truly happy…I just don’t know how it could be possible.”
“Well, in a few hours she’ll have the answers for you.”
Jenny cocked her head curiously at the tone in his voice. “Vincent…what is it?”
He started to speak then thought better of it and shook his head as he forced a smile. “Nothing, we’ll welcome her and her sons here…I need to go tell Father.”
Jenny frowned as Vincent left the room, she knew he had been shocked by the news but she hoped that he would feel better after he talked to Father. With a sigh, she headed to find her kids.
Vincent walked into the library and saw his Father reading in a chair.
Father took a second then looked up slowly. “Vincent, what are you doing here? Is it dinner time already?”
“No, Father, it’s about three o’clock….I needed to speak with you.”
Father snorted sarcastically. “Well I was about to go for a long walk but I guess I can put it off for awhile longer.” Vincent gave him a small smile and Father saw that he had something serious on his mind. “For Pete’s sake, Vincent, I’m an old man and don’t have a lot of time to wait for you to work it out…sit down and tell me what has you so upset.”
Vincent sat down and looked at his hands. “She’s alive, Father.”
“Who?” Vincent rolled his eyes as Father gasped with surprise as a thought popped into his head, “Surely you can’t mean Catherine…”
“That’s exactly who I mean.”
“That’s what I thought but Rick and Jenny have both reported that Kate and Joe have found Catherine alive.”
Father gasped in surprise. “Are they sure?”
“I don’t know…it seems that Joe and the team found her last night. She was being held captive on an island. Joe rescued her and he has her at the lake house in Connecticut. They’re coming here tonight.”
“Why didn’t he just bring her here first?”
“I don’t know…all I know is that she’s alive and she’s coming back.”
Father sighed as he looked at his son. “I can’t even begin to know how this makes you feel…”
Vincent searched for the words. “I’m beside myself with joy…my heart is searching for hers as we speak but…I…can’t allow myself to dream again…she’s had another life, Father…”
“I thought that of Margaret too and she came back to me. Catherine loved you once, Vincent, maybe it will be the same way for both of you.”
Vincent hung his head as he shook it sadly. “She moved on and found love with someone else…she has twin boys that are sixteen.”
“Jacob has half brothers then?”
“And now you feel there will be no place for you in her life?”
“I know there won’t be…it’s like losing her all over again.”
Father grimaced at his son’s pain. “I’m sorry, Vincent. I’m truly sorry.”
“For Jacob’s sake you need to find the strength to talk to her…”
“It will be awkward at first but…it will get easier….”
“With Rick, I should find him…speak with him.”
“Rick is an overgrown teenager but…he’s also a father and a good one at that…he’ll talk to Jacob but I’m guessing Jacob would rather hear from you. He’s probably having all these same doubts.”
Vincent blew out a long breath. “I’ll go look for him.”
Father reached out a hand to his son. “I’m here for you…both of you if you need me.”
Vincent came over and kissed his forehead. “I know.”
Vincent left and found Jacob standing in his chamber staring at the portrait of his parents. He walked over and put his arm around his shoulders.
“She was beautiful…I mean…is beautiful.”
“I look exactly like her.”
“When you remember to shave…” Vincent joked.
Jacob gave him a half smile then turned back to the portrait. “Why didn’t she try to come back…”
Vincent sighed. “Maybe she couldn’t.”
“Or wouldn’t…she could have sent word.”
“Jacob…” Vincent sighed.
“I can’t help it, Dad! I’ve spent my entire life wanting to meet her and now that she’s coming back…I don’t know if I want to see her.”
“You must…she gave you life…you owe her the chance to explain.”
“I…guess…maybe I’m just anxious.”
“You have no reason to be afraid of Catherine. She has a good heart…”
“Yeah…she had another life too…she has other children.”
“Dad, she knew about me and she supposedly loved you….how could she just forget about all of that….why didn’t she ever ask about us? How could she just walk away so easily…”
Vincent shook his head. “You have to meet her, speak to her, if you decide after that to not have her be a part of your life that’s your decision to make.”
“Jacob, because of her sons you’ll have to meet her by yourself. I…”
“No Dad! I need you there with me.”
“You know I can’t…”
“Damn it, Dad! How can you put her off so easily? Why don’t you want to know where she’s been?”
“I…if she wishes to see me, I’ll meet with her but…I think she’s more anxious to meet you.”
“She’ll meet us both together or not at all…” Jacob said angrily as he stormed through the room.
“We’ll see…” Vincent said sadly.