Bayleigh Barstow arrives in London on a cool December day. That's what her passport states, anyway. Rachel has a hard time signing the name, though at least the first letters of each name aren't too dissimilar from what she's signed for the last ten years.
The first weeks are a blur: from London Rachel travels across the U.K., no pattern other than following the same paths as other young travelers. Pub crawls, sex, the occasional hit: anything that the Reverend Orson Parker's daughter shouldn't do, she does.
Going back to London to ask for more money is when she wakes up. She's still a bit hung over when she phones Charlie, and the weird pauses from a long distance call heighten the surrealism.
Nevikov, the man who had threatened to rape her, has been arrested. After his arrest, someone working for Nevikov shot Charlie. Shot him in the shoulder. Rachel doesn't know what to say; she's dizzy with the news and the leftover alcohol.
Charlie insists that she needs to stay away still and she can't think of an argument besides no, I want to be with you now. None of this can be real.
They're still out there, Charlie tells her. The people behind her family's murder. She tells Charlie where to wire the money and hangs up.
Later she figures out that Charlie must have been preparing for the possibility of sending her away for a while. Even Charlie Crews with his millions and his prison contacts couldn't have acquired such a good fake passport so quickly.
She also realizes what a stereotype of rebellion she's been. Preacher's daughter turned bad girl. By that time she's bought a laptop and has started researching. She sets up Google alerts for all the key names: Charlie, Jack Reese, Orson Parker/Kyle Hollis, anyone else whose name she finds in connection with her family's murders and Charlie's imprisonment.
It's a Monday when she leaves London and the U.K. She's been reading about U.S. penal codes. Inga, a student staying at her hostel, persuades her to take a coffee break. They're chatting about the usual gossip: sex, politics and coursework. Inga's studying English in London; she's already acquired a flawless American accent. Now she's trying to sound as British as possible.
"I think he likes you," Inga tells her.
"Who?" asks Rachel.
"That Russian boy, Piotr."
"Peter? He said he was from the Ukraine."
Inga looks surprised, then shrugs her shoulders in that way that somehow never looks American to Rachel. "Anyway, he was asking about you."
"About me? What kind of questions?"
"You know. Are you seeing anyone, where you're from..." Inga has that smile of someone pleased to reveal a secret.
Piotr, who has a Russian accent to Inga's perceptive ears, or Peter, cute Ukrainian boy. Rachel makes an excuse about an errand she needs to do.
She goes up to her room and empties out her duffel bag, grabbing just the essentials. She stuffs a pair of clean underwear in her pocket, puts on her jacket and leaves.
On her way out of the city she finds a beauty salon. A woman who barely speaks English cuts her hair short and dyes it light brown. Rachel hardly recognizes herself in the mirror.
Germany is freezing and snowbound. Rachel, who lived in California her entire life (two lives, even), is enthralled by the snow for about two days. Then she's over it.
She has a brief affair with an older man. His ex-wife is the one who tells her the best tips for staying unnoticed, for moving herself and her money safely, for getting more false papers. Rachel's been managing with what she remembered from those Bourne movies.
She keeps her first passport but acquires a second one with a different name.
At night she lies in bed and tries to remember things: her brother's favorite toy, what her parents voices sounded like.
France is where the flashbacks start. She stumbles across some sort of documentary online, all about her family's murder and Charlie's time in prison. Even Nevikov. Her picture from first grade flashes onscreen. Her brother David's gap-toothed grin next; she can't focus anymore when she sees it, so she pauses the video.
Before now it's always been the same four pictures-a posed family portrait with the four of them, her parents' wedding photo... and two crime scene pictures. She'd forgotten their faces outside of those images. Mommy, Daddy, David. Rachel remembers Aunt Jen more clearly than them because she'd seen Jen before moving into Charlie's house. And Charlie, of course. Right now she can recall Charlie's face better than Orson Parker's, the man she called Dad for almost ten years.
Curious, she types Orson Parker in the search box on a video hosting site and there he is, preaching about the fire.
Rachel runs to the bathroom and just makes it to the toilet before throwing up her lunch.
She leaves France the next day, after collecting money from an account Charlie set up for her with the second fake name.
Spain is better. It's not quite what she wants, but the sun and oranges lull her into feeling more at home. Rachel ends up teaching a small English class two nights a week. No pay, of course-she thinks she could find someone to get her the right falsified documents, but it's not a risk she's willing to take yet.
One evening a group of Russian men are having drinks at her favorite bar. They look over at her a couple of times. After paying her tab, she leaves and checks into a regular hotel instead of going back to her hostel.
There's nothing there she needs; the next morning she dyes her hair back to its natural color right before she leaves. By the time she gets to the station, the next train leaving is heading east again; she buys a first-class ticket. Eventually she makes her way across the southern coast of France into Italy.
Rome. Roma. There's something about it that calls to her. Maybe it's the stability. Thousands of years of history are documented here, in the ruins and still-standing buildings, in the faces of the people and in their language. After the first week Rachel finds a pensione instead of staying at a hostel. She learns the names of the other boarders. They call her Rachele.
Italy is the first place where she starts thinking about the future again.
After two weeks she starts Italian classes. She doesn't stop searching for answers but it feels less pressing here, like time is stretching out in an unending line in both directions.
She hears it on the news first-halfway listening while she sips the drink she ordered. Her Italian isn't good enough to pick out more than just the topic, but the name the announcer just said sounds familiar.
Rachel looks at the TV mounted on the wall behind the bar counter and sees his face-Roman Nevikov's face, familiar by now from the times she's viewed the picture online. His dead eyes, the blank expression.
Picking carefully through the words, Rachel asks the bartender what the announcer said.
He responds with a flood of words; when he sees her confusion, he speaks more slowly and she understands. "Morto." Dead.
"Grazie," she says. Rachel's eyes prickle and she takes a last large swallow of her drink.
Nevikov and Carl Ames and Mister Reese and the man she called Daddy for so long: she's known a lot of monsters wearing human faces. Monsters that tore apart her family when she was too young to know what that really meant.
Rachel picks up her backpack and walks back to the pensione, just one more American girl visiting Rome.
As soon as she has access to a reasonably secure internet connection, she reads everything she can find. She learns that Nevikov was never in prison; he had someone serving his time for him.
No information is being released about how he was killed. Rachel wonders if that's fake, too.
He's one of the reasons she's in Europe and not back in L.A. with Charlie. (Uncle Charlie, a little voice in her head chimes in. She ignores it.) Maybe this monster is the last one. Maybe there are more that she doesn't know about.
She waits a week, then takes a train to the coast to use a disposable cell to make the call.
"Rachel, is that you?"
"Hi, Ted." She's ridiculously pleased to hear his voice, even though she was expecting to hear Charlie's.
"Oh, Rachel, we've been looking for you." His tone implies that she caused trouble by being hard to find, even though that's what she was supposed to do when she left. "Are you still in Italy?"
"Ted, why didn't Charlie answer? This is his cell phone, right?"
"He's, uh, he's being interviewed by the FBI right now. Him and his new lawyer. It's-it's kind of a mess still. I've been watching his personal phone when he can't answer."
He keeps talking, telling her about some woman named Amanda and finding Charlie's partner (she knew about that part from the internet), and how it was connected to the thing with Nevikov, and...
It's all connected.
"Hey, Ted?" she interrupts. "Tell Charlie to call me."
"Uh, okay, but but the important thing is that you can come home now. Charlie wants you to know it's safe to come home."
"He should tell me himself," Rachel says. She listens to him fumble through another excuse for a moment, then hangs up on him.
She keeps the cell phone. Two days later Charlie calls. He's cleared to go back to work, he tells her. He talks to her about Nevikov and how the Russian was connected to Rayborn, and Rayborn to her father. He says that her father was trying to get by without bowing to pressure to launder money for those men. He tells her that he wants to say more, but can she please come home now?
She says, "You need to come here."
"You need to come here and see what I see," she tells him, and hangs up after that. She doesn't answer his messages.
Ten days later she sees him walking down the street, red hair bright in the sunlight. A smile spreads across her face and she wants to run to him. Instead they walk toward each other and stop until they're standing a foot apart.
She looks up at him (he's still so much taller than her) and says, "Hey, Charlie."
"Hey, Rachel." He's smiling too, though he also looks strangely like he might cry. "I came to see what you see."
She can't stop smiling. "Yeah," she says.
"Well, then. What do you see?"
She automatically takes his hand and tugs. "I'll show you," she tells him. His hand isn't as big as it used to be, she thinks for a moment, disconcerted. Rachel lets go after they get to the bus stop.
It's her favorite part of Rome: the Pantheon. The largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world, and it's almost two thousand years old. She shows Charlie the inscription across the front. M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT, "Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, Consul for the third time, built this." They go inside and look at the beam of light entering through the oculus at the center of the dome. He lets her act as tour guide as she tells him about the building.
Then she tugs his hand again and takes him outside. They sit on the steps of a neighboring building. "Now look," she says to him.
"Look?" he repeats.
He looks around them. She leans in close without touching him. "Do you see it yet?" she asks.
After another minute he finally says, "Their feet!"
She laughs. "Yes."
"Their shoes! It's like a pattern!"
"Uh-huh. Like waves."
"Do you know what makes the patterns?" He's grinning as he looks at the tide of people surging past them.
She waits a moment until she can see a sequence. "There. Black and brown thick-soled sandals-German tour group." After a moment she adds, "American retirees in the white sneakers."
He turns and smiles at her. "I see it. I can see what you see."
After wandering around the Pantheon and the Forum, Rachel takes him to dinner at her boarding house, where he introduces himself as, "Charlie, not her uncle." Everyone nods like they understand, but Rachel knows his English is too fast for them.
It's a typical meal. The signora always flirts with the two German men; tonight she tries to flirt with Charlie. (She doesn't resent this, Rachel tells herself.) Rachel ends up translating bits and pieces for them; she wants to laugh at Charlie's Zen statements that make no sense in English, much less in Italian.
Charlie looks exhausted by the end, though he's more talkative than ever. Jet lag: she drank her way through it after she arrived. Charlie has a coffee with his dessert; Rachel smiles at the faces he makes. She's never seen Charlie drink coffee.
As they finish up dinner, he asks her, "Do you want to talk here or at my hotel?"
"Your hotel," she tells him.
They take a taxi there. When they arrive Rachel wonders if it is indeed his hotel. The staff all seem to know who he is, and his room-well, it's a suite. Two bedrooms and a wide living area between them. Plus a balcony; just from what she can see through the windows at night, the view must be amazing.
He still looks tired, even with the espresso; the freckles stand out against his pale skin. Charlie sits next to her on the couch and asks, "What do you know?"
She tells him what she's found; he tells her more about Rayborn and nods as she talks about Kyle Hollis and Jack Reese. Her voice falters when she mentions those two names. It's still hard to reconcile the men she remembers with the death of her family.
"Rachel, Jack Reese is probably dead."
She turns and blinks the tears away.
"Reese-Dani Reese, my partner, you met her once. When Nevikov had her, he told her he killed Jack Reese."
Turning back to face him, she's startled by the compassion in his eyes. Maybe it's for his partner, not for Jack Reese, though.
He tells her, "They haven't found a body yet, but I think if Jack Reese were in hiding, he'd have come back by now."
She doesn't know what to think. Too many people she's known have been monsters in secret.
"Remember when you and Ted came and got me from that youth hostel?" He nods. "Why did you tell me that the fire had sent you?"
"I wanted to talk to you in a language you could understand," he answers.
They talk until after midnight. Charlie's voice is hoarse. Rachel wonders if he'll fall asleep right there. She has more she wants to know but it can wait.
"I'm going to sleep in before heading back tomorrow," he says.
"Back tomorrow?" she exclaims. "You can't go back tomorrow."
"I have to go back to work. I wasn't given official vacation time. This is unpaid leave and they expect me back as soon as possible."
She tries arguing, cajoling and sulking, but he's implacable. Finally she says, "If you wait until the day after tomorrow, I'll come with you."
"You weren't planning on coming back?" He sounds shocked.
"Not yet," she says. "I like it here. But I wasn't going to stay forever. I know I need to go to school, and..." her voice trails off.
He looks at her with his cop face, evaluating what she's saying, what she's not saying.
"So let me show you around tomorrow and I'll fly back with you the next day," she adds.
After another moment of evaluation he makes that ridiculous big grin that she remembers from when she used to call him Uncle Charlie. "Okay, then."
"Hey, Charlie? Can I see your scar?"
He looks confused for a moment.
"The one you got when that FBI agent shot you," she clarifies.
He hesitates, then unbuttons his shirt partway and pulls it open across his left shoulder.
She examines the puckered red skin, then pulls up her own shirt slightly. "We match," she says. The same lines cross the skin of her stomach.
Charlie doesn't make any Zen statements about it. He buttons his shirt again and offers to call a taxi to take her back to her boarding house. She says, "I'll just take the extra bedroom."
He raises his eyebrows and looks at her like she's a little kid planning mischief. "Okay. But let me sleep in."
"Not a problem, Charlie," she yells at his retreating figure.
In the bathroom in her bedroom she finds a toothbrush and paste, shampoo, soap and creams, and a fluffy bathrobe. She strips off her clothes and crawls into the bed naked. At first she can't sleep; the noises are wrong and her head is full of Charlie and the new information he brought.
It's after eight when she wakes up. She puts on the bathrobe and walks quietly, exploring her surroundings in the daylight. The balcony's view is as glorious as she had anticipated. She sits and reads a bit from the Italian book in her bag. Back inside she runs her hands across bookshelves and finds a big TV hidden behind cabinet doors.
Bored, she peeks into Charlie's room. He's still, body sprawled diagonally across the bed. She can barely see his chest moving as he breathes.
It's after nine now; she calls room service and orders pastries and lots of fruit, then she gets dressed in her clothes from yesterday.
Charlie wakes up when the food arrives. He walks out barefoot and smiles at the large plate of sliced fruit.
She takes him across the city, sun warming their skin. At first they walk mostly in silence-initially Charlie is a surprisingly hushed gawking tourist, and she's saying goodbye to her city. Goodbye for now, she reminds herself. I'll be back.
It's almost impossible to stay gloomy on a sunny day in Rome. She eats hazelnut gelato three times during the course of the day and takes pictures of everything-all the small details that made Rome feel like home to her.
"Italy would be a good place to be reborn," Charlie tells her.
"Reborn as in reincarnation or reborn because of that whole making mistakes thing?"
"Either. Both." He takes a picture of her in front of a sign for the metro and she tells him how digging each part of the subway line was basically an excavation for more pieces of Roman history.
After collecting her bag from the boarding house, they have dinner at her favorite restaurant. It's late when they get back to the hotel. Charlie sits on the couch and eats an apricot he bought at the market today. He tells her about how Alexander the Great brought apricots to Greece from Asia.
Rachel curls her feet underneath her as she sits next to him again. She listens as he talks about fruit. She tells him about her plans. She wants to go back to school-she's not sure what field of study, but she definitely wants to take Italian classes.
"You can ride to school with Ted on the days that he's teaching!" he says.
Rachel doesn't think Ted would be quite so excited about that possibility, but she's amused that he wants his friend and his... that he wants Ted and her to be friendly.
Charlie tells her about deciding to be a cop when he was in college. She doubts she has that inclination herself.
"I'm still pissed that you sent me away," she says. She doesn't tell him about Peter/Piotr or the men in the bar in Spain.
"Anger clouds the mind," Charlie states. His face is pale pink from the sun today.
"Makes me say terrible things," Rachel finishes for him, mouth twitching. "Very useful, Charlie." She rolls her eyes as she says it. After a moment she asks, "Do you think Jack Reese was angry at you?"
"I think Jack Reese was scared."
"Charlie, does everyone have two faces?"
He looks at her, pensive, and doesn't answer right away. "Not everyone," he finally says. "Tom Seybolt didn't."
She remembers being small enough to sit on her dad's lap. His hair was dark, but his face is a blur now. She remembers crawling onto Charlie's lap as he sat next to Aunt Jen. Fewer lines on his face then; she was mad at her brother David and sulking, and Jen was teasing Charlie about it as he indulged her in her fit of pique.
You're a sucker for a cute face, Jen had told him. They were laughing together and Rachel got mad about being ignored.
Jen is married to someone else now. Jen has another man's children.
Rachel leans over and turns off the lamp. The room is transformed from bright colors to shades of gray. Charlie's face is light, his hair dark.
She can't see the freckles that she knows are there, or the orange lashes. Dark creases frame his eyes and mouth.
"Rachel," he says. He doesn't say anything else. She turns sideways on the couch and puts her hand on his chest. Unbuttoning two buttons of his shirt, she slides her hand underneath the fabric. His heart beats against the heel of her hand while her fingers reach and trace the lines of his scar.
"Rachel," he says again, his voice a warning. She reaches with her other hand under the hem of her shirt and traces the scar that runs across her own skin.
"Fire came and took away everything but us," she tells him.
His face is taut. She looks at his eyes; the pupils are wide and dark. Rachel says, "It burned us, too. Left its mark."
He reaches up and grabs her wrist with his fingers, but he doesn't pull her hand away.
"What's your other face, Charlie?" she asks him.
She stares at his mouth; he doesn't say anything. He watches her, waiting to see what she'll do next. She moves her hand upward, places the pad of her thumb on the crease in his lower lip. HIs hand is still encircling her wrist as she traces his mouth with her thumb. It's so quiet; she can hear the clock ticking, feel the blood rushing through her veins.
She leans closer; he takes a quick breath and pulls her hand away. He stands up awkwardly, like he's forgotten how to use his legs. "Goodnight, Rachel," he tells her, and walks to his room.
This time he closes the door.
When Rachel goes to her bed, she thinks about school. About coming back to Italy someday. About staying in the big mostly-empty house in the hills of Los Angeles. About Charlie in that house.
She thinks she has lots of time to seek a rebirth.