THE ROAD TRIP
Life went on without much fuss until one day, when the stars were already high in the sky, the door bell suddenly rang. Kate was home alone with the girls. David with Benjamin haven’t returned from a concert at the Coliseum yet. Who could it be at this hour? Maybe the boys forgot their keys? Kate thought to herself as she made her way towards the main door. When she opened it, two people she’d expect the least stood in front of her – Sebastian Vanderburg, dressed in his police uniform and Reese, his daughter.
“Good evening, Kate. We’re sorry to disturb you at this hour, but we have some big news your family should know about before you learn about it from tomorrow’s newspaper. May we come in?” asked her Sebastian. Kate was unable to react, so the Vanderburgs just let themselves in. Maybe it was because of Sebastian’s uniform, maybe it was because she remembered about Elisabeth. No matter the case, Kate was left speechless for a minute there.
“Would it be okay if we sat at the table outside?” asked her Reese.
“Sure, no problem,” Kate whispered. “Would you like something to drink?” she asked.
“Tea is fine, thank you,” Sebastian smiled at her.
“Sure, no problem,” Kate repeated the same words she said to Reese a moment ago and went in the kitchen to prepare the tea.
“We have found an evidence about Elisabeth’s other child, Kate,” informed her Sebastian.
“Other child? What do you mean other child?!” Kate asked him, astounded.
“Nathalie has a twin brother. His name is Nathan,” continued Sebastian.
“Wait. That isn’t possible! The doctors would have told us!”
“Do you really believe them after what happened, Kate?” he asked and looked into her eyes. Kate was left speechless again.
“Reese? Did you… did you know about him?” Kate asked her when she was able to speak again.
“Yes, she knew, but I wouldn’t drag her into this. I made her promise to me she wouldn’t tell you. It’s not her fault,” Sebastian interjected.
“I cannot believe this, Sebastian. I don’t want to believe this,” Kate shook her head in disagreement.
“I’m sorry it took us so long to find the proof, Kate, but now we can finally do something about it. I mean, legally.”
“What do you mean legally?” Kate asked him in confusion.
“It has come as no surprise to us, but unfortunately Nathan is-”
“Dead?” Kate finished his sentence with hesitation.
“Missing,” corrected her Sebastian.
“It is likely that one of the doctors had kidnapped the boy.”
“What?! That’s outrageous! Not only they killed my daughter, they have also kidnapped my grandson?!” Kate burst into tears of anger.
“I’m so very sorry about everything, Kate, but please, try to calm down.”
“Calm down? Are you seriously asking me to calm down, Sebastian?! All this time you knew about my grandson and you did nothing! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!” Kate yelled at him.
“Kate, please, we couldn’t have done anything. We couldn’t have just started searching for a child that didn’t exist!” Sebastian tried to be reasonable.
“But she knew he did!” said Kate and looked at Reese who tried to pretend she wasn’t there.
“You have to understand one thing, Kate. Even if my daughter had seen your grandson the night he was born, her testimony would have never been enough of an evidence. We haven’t found any record of him in the hospital information system nor we have discovered his birth certificate. The only evidence his kidnapper overlooked was the handwritten record of his birth in the book at the maternity ward.”
“So, I suppose you have a suspect then?” asked him Kate with a more reasonable tone.
“Yes. And, as a matter of fact, we also know where we could find Nathan. Here, take a look at this. It’s a copy I made for you,” said Sebastian and placed the file in front of Kate.
“Kate, I’m truly sorry. I hope you will forgive me one day,” said Reese and looked at Kate guiltily.
“Reese, there’s nothing to forgive. It isn’t your fault,” comforted her Kate.
“Dad and I… we’ve been thinking,” said Reese and looked at her father. “We would like to help you find Nathan.”
“But what about the police? Shouldn’t they do the search?” Kate asked them with confusion in her eyes.
“Well, technically I am in charge of this case, so…”
“What dad really wants to say is that he can travel to Lucky Palms on his own and since there won’t be any other police officers around he can as well take us all with him! Am I right, daddy?”
“Do you mean like a road trip?” Kate eyes suddenly sparkled with excitement.
“Exactly,” confirmed Sebastian and winked at Kate. “Let’s make the search for the missing kid a little bit of fun.” And with that said, the Vanderburgs left, leaving Kate alone with the file of Nathan’s kidnapper.
After Kate learned enough about Dr. Simano’s criminal past, she sat down in the armchair by the fire and absently stared into the dancing flames. The image of Monte Vista being that stereotypical little town where nothing ever happens was erased from her mind once and forever. The town she moved to nearly thirty years ago has changed. It wasn’t safe. How could she ever drive her grandchildren to school without the fear of never seeing them again? Could she ever leave them unattended, alone in their rooms again? Could she trust the neighbor next door? Kate was slowly becoming paranoid.
“I had such a great time, David!”
“Yeah, we should do this more often,” David winked at Benjamin.
“After tonight I might even consider learning to play the guitar. This guy totally made me jealous! Did you see all his female fans?” Benjamin asked David, emphasizing the word ‘female’.
“Mhmm, that’s the great thing about being a rock star, I believe,” laughed David and bent down to pet Snowball who rushed to welcome them home. As soon as Benjamin noticed Kate sitting by the fireplace his smile turned into a worried frown.
“Kate, what’s wrong?” he asked, concerned by the troubled look upon her face.
Kate just looked up at him and sighed heavily. “It’s better if we have a drink,” she said and went to pick a bottle of wine from the outdoor bar, leaving the men to their puzzled looks.
“Kate, what happened?!” David demanded to know. He looked at Benjamin who was as confused as he was.
“Sebastian Vanderburg and his daughter paid us a visit earlier this evening,” began Kate.
“What?” Benjamin and David said with one voice and worriedly looked at each other.
“I think it’s better if you sit down,” Kate suggested and poured some wine in the glasses. Benjamin quickly sat down on the chair and kept gazing at Kate with growing anxiety in his eyes. David, on the other hand, moved rather slowly as if he knew what was coming and wanted to avoid it for as long as possible. Kate finally sat down and hesitantly drank from her glass. Both David and Benjamin were nervously staring at her, clutching their glasses of wine in their shaky hands.
“Kate, please can you finally tell us?” Benjamin asked her, afraid of the answer.
Kate looked at him, then at David. “It seems that Nathalie has a twin brother,” she finally said and both men exchanged agitated looks.
“WHAT?!” Benjamin and David exclaimed simultaneously.
“How? I mean. How?” Benjamin was too baffled to ask a meaningful question and looked at David as if in search for the right words.
“Don’t look at me, Ben, I am at a loss for words as much as you are,” told him David and looked at Kate.
“I don’t believe this. I don’t want to believe this,” Benjamin whispered to himself and took a big sip from his glass. With a helpless look upon his face he turned to Kate with many questions suddenly flooding his mind. “I really have a son? Where is he? Is he okay? Can we go see him? Why didn’t they tell us about him?”
“Yes, Benjamin, you really have a son,” began Kate and a tiny smile played on her lips. “As for the rest of your questions… I’m afraid I cannot give you the answers you want to hear,” her smile disappeared quickly and suddenly she felt as helpless as them.
“But if Sebastian came here to tell us about him, that means they must know something, right? What else did he tell you, Kate?” David asked his wife.
“Nathan was kidnapped by Dr. Simano,” Kate sighed heavily. “It took them more than a year to find the evidence. Can you believe it?”
“Kidnapped?!” Benjamin panicked. “Why would an old man like him want to kidnap a newborn?!”
“Watch your words, Ben! I’m in the same age group as the old man,” teased him Kate. “Jokes aside, the reason why he kidnapped Nathan still remains unknown. Luckily, Sebastian knows where we could look for him.”
“Nathan?” Benjamin looked genuinely happy for a second when he heard the name of his son.
“Yes. Nathan and Nathalie. Such lovely names,” Kate smiled at Benjamin.
“So, now that Sebastian knows where to look, what do ‘we’ have to do with it?” David asked Kate.
“What do you mean, David?” Kate asked him in confusion.
“Didn’t you say that Sebastian knows where ‘we’ could look for Nathan?”
“Oh, yes. Well, he asked me if I wanted to go searching for Nathan with him,” explained Kate without realizing what was her husband hinting at.
“You and Sebastian? Don’t the police have to do the search?” David measured his wife with a suspicious eye.
“Oh, come on, David! I’m not going alone with ‘just’ Sebastian. Reese is going as well. Jeez,” Kate rolled her eyes when she understood David was getting jealous.
“I had no idea you were going on a road trip, Kate. I thought our grandson was missing…,” David trailed off and finished the wine in his glass.
“Road trip? Can I come too?” Benjamin asked enthusiastically. “After all, Nathan is my son,” he smiled at Kate with hope she’d say yes.
“It’s up to Sebastian, but I believe there shouldn’t be any problem,” she said and looked at David who didn’t seem excited about this idea at all.
One week later…
Kate and David were making out in their bedroom. David was about to unwrap Kate’s robe when her phone suddenly rang. It was only 6 AM. The sun was rising on the horizon.
“If it’s Sebastian I swear I’m gonna break his phone,” David muttered under his breath. In the past week he learned about Sebastian’s sixth sense. He always called in the best of the moments.
“Yes, it’s Sebastian,” informed him Kate and picked up the phone, letting out a tiny giggle. Without adding anything, David just frowned and went in the kitchen to drink some water.
“Hey, Kate! I hope I didn’t wake you up!”
“Hi, Sebastian. No, you didn’t. We were already very much awake when you called.”
“Oh,” he paused for a second. “I hope I didn’t ruin your morning routine or something.”
“It doesn’t really matter anymore, does it? The harm is done,” joked Kate.
“David is going to kill me,” he laughed.
“I’m a dead man.”
“Not yet. So, uh, why are you calling?”
“Oh. I’m… I’m here. In front of your house. I didn’t want to ring the doorbell and wake up everybody so I called.”
“Come outside, I want to show you something.”
“I see,” Kate laughed in the phone when she saw Sebastian and his van on the lawn in front of her.
“Why are you laughing? Did I say something funny?” wondered Sebastian. He had no idea Kate was standing on the balcony and looking down at him.
“Just turn around,” she said and hung up.
“I see. Hello, Kate!” he said happily.
“Hello there, Sebastian,” Kate waved at him from the balcony.
“So, what do you say?” Sebastian asked Kate and a proud smile appeared on his face.
“I say there’s your junk on my lawn,” Kate teased him, but Sebastian didn’t seem to like her joke.
“This van was my pops’. Don’t you dare calling it junk, old lady,” he snapped.
“Old lady, huh?” Kate sneered.
“Well, I’m sorry, but you’re not really young anymore. Sorry if you didn’t know that… So, are you coming down from that balcony of yours?”
“I don’t know. I need to think about it,” said Kate and gave one more look at Sebastian’s stuff before disappearing inside the house.
“Okay, I’ll be down here!” Sebastian called after her. “Take your time!”
At breakfast, Kate told David about Sebastian camping on the lawn next to their house and about his hippie outfit, but David really didn’t seem to care. After what turned out to be a rather silent breakfast, Kate finally came out of the house, still wearing her robe and slippers.
“So, are you moving somewhere?” Kate asked Sebastian as she observed his belongings more carefully.
“Well, I decided to take Betty for a ride and thought I might as well make a quick stop at your place. To show her to you.”
“Did you really give a name to your car?” Kate raised an eyebrow and with a twitch in the corner of her mouth she looked at the van.
“My pops did. Max and Betty. They were a duo with the capital ‘D’,” he mused.
“Oh. I had no idea Renauld was your step father. I’m sorry, Sebastian,” apologized Kate.
“It’s okay. He died a long time ago, plus you couldn’t have known. It’s not that we ever got the chance to speak about him,” Sebastian trailed off.
“So, what are you doing with all this?” Kate interrupted Sebastian’s stream of thoughts and pointed her hand at his junk.
“Oh, that… Well, before we set on the road for Lucky Palms I thought I could get rid of some of this old stuff… You know, make some more space since you told me also Benjamin was coming with us.”
“And why did you decide to do it right here if I may ask?”
“Well, I couldn’t really sleep tonight… I came here already three hours ago and since it was too early to call you I started sorting things to pass the time.”
“I see, well, I’ll have a dustman bring a dumpster here so you can throw away what you no longer need. I hope you weren’t thinking about filling our dustbin with your junk,” Kate said to Sebastian and went inside to change her clothes.
Benjamin and the girls were already awake. When Kate entered the nursery, Chloe was playing at the table and Nathalie was being dressed by her daddy.
“Good morning, darlings!” Kate called at the girls. Chloe ran towards her and hugged her left leg. Nathalie stretched her tiny arms towards Kate, letting her father know she wanted to be held by her grandmother. To Kate’s immense happiness Nathalie has really grown fond of her. She reminded her so much of Elisabeth. Nathalie had her mother’s eyes and the same little wrinkle on her nose when she smiled.
“Don’t we look wonderful today,” Kate told Nathalie who giggled and snuggled closely to her. She really adored Kate. Benjamin was very happy to see his youngest making such a precious bond with a grandparent. Something Chloe would never experience. Who knows what Bailey’s father was up to these days…
Over the past four months Chloe learned to share her toys with Nathalie, but would only allow her half-sister to play with Mr. Teddy when she was in the same room as her. Benjamin was quite satisfied with the progress. In the end, every child wants to have that one toy which noone else can touch.
After the girls ate their breakfast, Kate has put Nathalie back to her crib while Chloe was allowed a little play time before heading out for a stroll in the park together with David.
“Grandpa Dave will take you and your sister out to the Spring Festival today. Are you happy, pumpkin?” Benjamin asked Chloe and tickled her.
“Yay!” Chloe screamed aloud. “I will search for eggs and eat as much ice cream as I want!”
“Oh, really?” wondered Benjamin.
“Yep. Grampa Dave always buys me plenty,” Chloe excitedly nodded her head.
“And what about you, cupcake, are you gonna search for eggs too?” Benjamin asked Nathalie and caressed her cheek. Nathalie didn’t say anything, also because she still hasn’t learned to talk yet. Instead, she looked at her father with big sad eyes.
“What’s wrong, dumpling?” he asked his daughter, but as he expected, didn’t get any answer. Only when he was about to leave, Nathalie stretched her arms towards him and whispered a soft ‘mama’. “Mama?” Benjamin was taken aback by Nathalie’s first word. He turned at Kate to ask whether she’s been teaching her to say ‘mama’, but Kate has already left the room. “Could it be…?” Benjamin said to himself, but quickly dismissed the thought. Ghosts don’t exist, he thought to himself, kissed Nathalie on the forehead and left the room.
Later that day, after the never-ending search in the attic, David has finally found Elisabeth’s good old stroller. He put it on the lawn in front of the house, took a damp cloth from the bathroom and cleaned the stroller from the thick layer of dust that has been covering it for the past twenty-five years.
“Hey, David! How are you doing?” Sebastian called at him from behind the dumpster.
“Hello, Sebastian. I’m fine, thanks.”
“I’m sorry about this morning. Didn’t want to interrupt.”
“I cannot really hear what you’re saying,” David lied to him.
“I said I was sorry about this morning,” repeated Sebastian, much louder this time. David remained silent. “Getting ready for a stroll with the girls?” Sebastian asked David, but when he didn’t hear any answer he went on with his monologue. “It’s really a nice day today. Would be a shame to stay indoors. The Spring Festival arrived in town this week. You could take them there,” he continued. David couldn’t hold his anger any longer. He smacked the cloth on the ground and walked towards Sebastian. “Just yesterday I was there with my kids. We tried the melon ice-cream,” Sebastian continued talking about the festival when he saw David approach. “You should let them try it. It’s very good,” he smiled.
“Okay, listen. I don’t really care about the lemon ice-cream-” David began.
“Melon ice-cream. I said me-” interrupted him Sebastian. David didn’t let him finish the sentence.
“Whatever. Listen, Casanova, I just want to make a few things clear. First, stop calling my wife first thing in the morning. Second, don’t even think about making a move on her. Third, if you don’t find my grandson you’ll have a big problem with me. Capish?”
“Whoa, man, what’s gotten into you?” asked him surprised Sebastian.
“The fact that you’ve managed to make my life a freaking hell since the day you’ve showed up here,” David blurted out.
“I was just trying to help. You know I was,” Sebastian was completely taken aback by David’s reaction.
“If I get to know you’ve just looked at my wife with the idea of getting in her pants, I swear I’ll make sure you regret it for the rest of your life,” David threatened him.
“What makes you think I’d want to do that?” demanded Sebastian.
“Are you trying to be funny, Sebastian? We both know you’re a ladies’ man. So, was I clear enough?”
“Pretty much,” Sebastian said dryly.
“Good. So, now that everything’s clear- hey, is that a vintage Martin D-28?” David suddenly noticed the guitar leaning on the back wheel of the van.
“I guess, but it’s broken. Why are you asking?” Sebastian asked David with a very indifferent tone of voice.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve got in your possession?” David said enthusiastically.
“My pops used to play the guitar. It was his. As for me, I’m not really into music.”
“Your father must have been a rich man. Do you know what was the retail price of this guitar back in the 1930s?”
“No idea and not that I really care.”
“More than thirty grand, man!” enthused David.
“And I was thinking about throwing it away. Good you told me,” Sebastian said casually.
“Would you mind if I gave it a try?” David asked Sebastian with hope that he would let him play his father’s guitar.
“If you think you can fix it…,” told him Sebastian, picked up an old rusty toolkit from the ground and threw it in the dumpster.
“Would you look at this beauty!” David smiled to himself when he finally got to hold the guitar in his hands. When his hand caressed the solid Adirondack spruce top, his fingertips slid over the ebony fretboard and the mahogany neck, slowly moving onto the sides and back made of solid east Indian rosewood, he knew then that what he was holding in his hands was an original from the early ’40s. As soon as he tried to play a couple of basic chords he understood that all that needed to be done was to adjust the tension of the strings. Soon, a punchy sound of a happy melody filled the air and when Sebastian heard David play the guitar he lost himself in the nostalgic tunes for a moment.
Soon after David and the girls left for the Spring Festival, Reese came searching for her father. “Dad?! What are you doing here?! And where are your shoes? Have you become a hobo now?”
“Isn’t that my favorite daughter!” Sebastian called at Reese, smiling from ear to ear.
“Let me remind you, that since the day when Amanda ran away I am your only daughter, dad,” she frowned.
“And she’s also very funny! You must have gotten that from your mother.”
“So what’s up with the dumpster and… what on Earth are these clothes?!” Reese gave her father a slightly disgusted look when she got close enough and smelled the unpleasant odor that surrounded him.
“Nothing. What should be wrong with my clothes? They were my pops’. You don’t like them, honey?”
“You look like a hippie,” Reese mocked her father.
“Exactly! And that’s the spirit of this road trip. Wait a moment… maybe I can find something for you over there in that chest…”
“Dad! Are you even listening to me?! I’m not wearing any last century clothes.”
“Why not? You’d look nice as a hippie, Reese. But maybe… maybe your hair is a little too short though… Wait, maybe I can find a wig!”
“Okay listen, dad. I’ll pretend I’ve never seen you inside that dumpster and you’ll come back to your normal self, deal?” she smiled at him.
“No deal,” Sebastian objected.
“By accident I threw away pops’ pink flamingo. I need to find it,” he said, sounding very serious about it.
“Oh, come on now, dad?! What do you need this flamingo for?” Reese couldn’t believe her ears.
“It is a part of the heritage your grandfather left to our family.”
“Dad, you can’t be serious,” Reese was in shock, but Sebastian was as serious as ever. “A bad taste lawn ornament? No thanks, don’t need that.”
“Well, I’m not leaving without it, so-”
“Hey, guys!” Kate and Benjamin called with one voice.
“Hey!” Reese turned at them and waved her hand. Sebastian just smiled.
“So, are you done with sorting through your things?” Kate asked Sebastian.
“Yeah, almost. Let me just give one last look if I accidentally didn’t throw away something precious,” he said and lifted the lid of the dumpster.
“Jeez, dad! Close that thing! We’ll all stink like dumpster!” Reese screamed at her father and covered her nose.
“I think I see its legs. Can someone hold me, so I can reach it, please?” Sebastian called for help, half of his body hanging out of the dumpster.
“Sure,” Benjamin offered his help.
“No, please don’t!” Reese pulled Benjamin away from the dumpster. “If you help my dad get that ugly bird out of the dumpster you’ll be half responsible for the bad aesthetic of our lawn. And you don’t want that,” Reese said to Benjamin who looked a bit puzzled, but helped Sebastian retrieve the pink flamingo anyway. When Kate saw the lawn ornament she burst into laughter.
“You guys just don’t understand. This flamingo is special,” told them Sebastian with a slightly offended tone and hurried to hide the bird inside the van.
“Could you please at least wash it before putting it inside the car? Thanks,” retorted Reese.
“Thank you for the help, Ben,” Sebastian winked at Benjamin. “I owe you one.”
“It’s okay, Mr. Vanderburg. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t know about Nathan…”
“Oh, that’s right. Well, I guess we’re even then. And please, call me Sebastian.”
After a small chit chat, everybody agreed on leaving Monte Vista the next day before sunset. Sebastian allowed everyone to pack only a few necessary things. One baggage per person with no exceptions. When it came to rules, Sebastian proved to be very strict. He must have learned that at the Police Academy back in Hidden Springs.
The following day, when everything and everyone was ready, the four of them hopped in the van and headed for the coast. David stayed at home, alone with Chloe and Nathalie. Finn and Malika were coming back from Bridgeport in seven days. They had no idea what kind of news was waiting for them at home.
As soon as the van disappeared from David’s sight, he felt a sudden surge of anxiety. It’s not that he wouldn’t know how to look after two children, what troubled him more was Kate in Sebastian’s company. It was something that was going to cause him serious troubles falling asleep every night until her return. In all these years they’ve never spent more than a week apart. How much time was finding Nathan actually going to take? What dangers could they possibly encounter? Was it a good decision to let her go? Wasn’t Benjamin’s presence enough?
“Grampa Dave?” Chloe’s voice interrupted the stream of David’s thoughts.
“Yes, sweetie?” David looked down at her.
“I’m hungry for cookies.”
“Oh, and do we have cookies?”
“Yes. In the secret drawer in the kitchen.”
“Secret drawer you say?” David asked Chloe, smiling.
“Yep yep,” Chloe nodded her head.
“Okey dokey, lead the way, little cookie monster!”
“So, how exactly did you plan to uncover Simano’s whereabouts?” Benjamin asked Sebastian from behind the map in his hands.
“His only living relative works at a science facility in Lucky Palms. I’m almost certain our suspect is hiding there.”
“Science facility? You don’t think he has kidnapped my son with the intention of running some wicked experiments on him, do you?”
“My job has taught me many things. One of them is to never make assumptions, because they might not be right and in the end the only outcome is just your unnecessary fear,” told him Sebastian and put on his sunglasses.
“So, basically what you’re saying is that it could be possible?”
“Everything is possible, Ben, but it doesn’t have to be.”
“I didn’t know him well, but he definitely didn’t look like a bad guy. I don’t think he would harm the baby,” Reese tried to comfort Benjamin.
“Reese, as I said, no assumptions!” scolded her Sebastian and looked at his daughter through the rear mirror. “It will only make you guys fear something that might not be the case.”
“And isn’t that exactly it? The people you’d suspect the least always turn out to be the bad guys?” Benjamin deduced from Reese’s thought.
“I think you two watch way too much television,” sighed Sebastian.
“Well, all we can pray for is to find our boy safe and sound,” interjected Kate. “Sebastian is right. Let’s not think about the worst scenario, let’s simply hope for the best,” she said with a hopeful smile.
“My words exactly!” agreed Sebastian. “So, from now on I don’t want to hear anyone making any more assumptions. We’ll find your son, Benjamin. I promise you that.”