Vincent stared down at the worn rug on the floor completely at a loss for words. But as he shook his head trying to think up some reply, Father spoke again.
"The only reason I'm telling you this now is because until today I never knew what happened to my father. I never saw him again, but Winnie did. She encountered him in the charity ward of a hospital she was volunteering at shortly after the war. Things didn't go well for my father after I left London. He squandered the fortune my mother left him on bad investments and eventually lost his position at the bank as well. I would like to say that his misfortunes made him a better man; but that would be a lie. He died as he lived, a selfish, bitter man unloved and un-mourned."
Father leaned forward and took his son's large hand into his own as his voice became hoarse with emotion.
"Vincent, I know I've made mistakes, many perhaps, with you and Devin. But please know whatever I did or said was only done out of love for you. I don't want to be an old man with nothing left in his life at the end but bitter regrets. Never doubt for one minute that I have loved you and your brother as much as any father possibly could and I will love you both no matter what happens until the last minute I draw breath on this earth.
Tears were streaming down Vincent's face as he embraced his beloved patriarch. "Father, no sons could have ever had a more loving or caring parent! Never once in my life have I ever doubted your affection for me, even when you were angry or upset. I have been blessed to have you in my life."
Father and Vincent hugged each other for several moments until a voice from the tunnels interrupted. "Hey, V, you still up? Hey, Pop!" Devin greeted genially until he saw his brother and Father in tears. Instantly, he became alarmed. "Pop, what's wrong?! Has something happened?"
The tunnel leader gave his older son a watery smile. "Nothing's wrong, my boy. I'm glad you are here though. Devin, I just wanted to say…I love you." He quickly gave him a fierce hug.
"Umm, I love you too, Pop." Devin replied hesitantly as he shot his brother a bewildered look, but Vincent merely grinned widely in reply. Shrugging, his sibling gave up and returned the hug enthusiastically.
The next couple of weeks flew by happily as Father became a frequent visitor to Peter's home. Bit by bit, the tunnel dwellers began to become familiar to Winnie as well. There were Kipper and Geoffrey who helped Winnie carry the groceries back from the shop of a long time helper and Jaime and Samantha who volunteered to help her unpack the last of her and Andrew's belongs after they arrived from London. There were also frequent food deliveries courtesy of William. Catherine's heart warmed at the way Father and Winnie grew closer day by day.
Yet, Life rarely goes smoothly for long and so it was for Father's carefully crafted plan to introduce Winnie to the tunnels. It all began to unravel when a sudden cold snap sent New York temperatures plunging to below freezing virtually overnight. Mother Nature quickly followed this up with a Nor'easter that dumped copious amounts of snow and brought the city to a standstill as blizzard like conditions hit.
In light of the weather, the roads were shut down. Catherine was unable to reach her office and Peter became trapped at the local hospital overnight. Shortly after dark, the power went out as well. Catherine wasn't alarmed though, since the brownstone had gas heating like many in the area. She and Winnie made the best of their time, lighting candles and trying to entertain Andrew who was unusually cranky due to a stuffy nose and mild earache. Before long, they decided it was best to turn in for a good night's rest.
Catherine was almost asleep when a shrill childish cry brought her bolt upright in her bed and sent her racing down the hall. She froze as she stopped in the doorway of Andrew's room. The room was dark, but enough light streamed in from the nearby window for her to realize that something was terribly wrong with the little boy. His whole body thrashed, twitched and trembled and she gasped in horror as she realized what was happening. Andrew was having some sort of seizure!