Hard on the heels of Vincentís debut at Lincoln Center came the birth of his godson. The little fellowís entrance into the world was not an easy one and Catherine smiled down at the tiny, tyke sleeping peacefully in his carriage as she pushed it through Central Park recalling the morning of his birth.
It had been a long day for both she and Vincent. She had stayed longer at work trying to finish up some paperwork for a case that was going to trial on Monday. Vincentís day had consisted of being hip deep in the cold water of a broken pipe. He was exhausted, and filthy, wanting nothing more than a hot bath in their Jacuzzi tub, which is exactly where Catherine found him when she finally dragged in. After kissing him she sat on the edge of the tub and sighed, "That looks absolutely wonderful."
"Itís is." Vincent moved to one side and purred enticingly, "Why donít you join me?"
"You donít have to ask me twice!" Hurriedly she striped off her clothes and sank gratefully into the warm swirling water. Vincent pillowed her head on his arm as they laid back enjoying the soothing feel of the water as it struck their bodies in all the right places.
"Did you tell Father we would be coming later than usual?" She asked languidly, keeping her eyes closed.
"I told him we wouldnít be down at all tonight."
She opened her eyes in surprise. "But we always spend the weekends Below!" Vincentís 36th birthday was tomorrow and she had made plans.
"We will, but weíre both exhausted, tomorrow is soon enough. Weíll go in time for breakfast." She thought about it for a moment, and decided that would work out just as well. She and their tunnel family had been preparing his party for weeks, everything was ready, and she really didnít need to be there tonight. She closed her eyes again, enjoying the brush of his fur along her body as the water pulsed around them.
As it turned out they missed breakfast altogether. Catherine was rudely awakened from her sleep by the insistent ring of the telephone. Seeing that it was the intercom, Vincent, who was instantly alert, took the call. Groggily Catherine heard him say, "Of course, weíll be right there." She raised her head and turned a bleary eye on the clock. Four oíclock in the morning! Groaning she fell back against her pillow.
"Come on sleepy head," Vincent chuckled, throwing his pillow at her. "We have a birth to attend."
Catherine shot straight up, "Jamie?"
Vincent nodded, "Yes and I detected a note of worry in Fatherís voice, I think we had better hurry." He had finished pulling on his pants and was just slipping into a sweater as Catherine catapulted out of bed. Grabbing some clean clothes she headed for the bathroom.
They made it to the hospital chamber in record time. Jaime was lying on one of the beds with Mouse in close attendance. Mary was laying cool compresses on the girlsí sweaty forehead. Father gestured for them to follow him out to the tunnel.
Once out of ear shot Catherine whispered,
"Father, what is it?"
"Iím afraid the baby hasnít turned; weíll have to do a Cesarean Section." He placed a hand on her shoulder, "Donít worry Iíve sent for Peter heís performed hundreds of them."
Sure he has, probably thousands, she thought but in a hospital with all the latest equipment and lots of trained help.
Turning to Vincent he added, "Vincent, Iíd rather not give her any drugs. Would you be able to block the pain as you and Sher-Kan did when you repaired my hip?" Vincent nodded, and reentered the chamber.
As Father turned to follow, Catherine stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Iím sure Mary would welcome a hand sheís been up most of the night." They followed Vincent back into the chamber.
Mouse was holding Jaimeís hand as Vincent took Maryís place at the girlís other side and looked up at his friend, his face contorted with worry.
"Vincent, she hurts."
Vincent leaned over and placed a comforting hand on the boys shoulder, giving it a squeeze. "Itíll be all right, Mouse." Then turning to Jaime he smiled at her, "Iím going to take the pain away, Jaime." She was panting, but managed a small smile in return. Vincent held his hands over her swollen belly and closed his eyes, bowing his head in concentration. Father was right, the baby had not turned, and a C-section would be necessary. He turned his attention to the pain and blocked it just as Sher-Kan had taught him to do. Dimly he heard Jaime breathe a sigh of relief.
Peter rushed in, took one look at the situation and went to scrub up. Father stood beside him bringing him up to speed on what was going on. Catherine made herself useful by helping Mary prepare the tray of instruments that would be needed for the operation. As the two doctors approached the bed Peter stared at Vincent, and then looked questioningly at his friend.
"Heís blocking the pain so we wonít have to use any drugs." Father explained.
Peter, remembering his friendís description of Sher-Kanís healing, merely nodded and took the scalpel in his hand. Mouse cringed. looking away as Peter made an incision across Jaimeís abdomen, just above the pubic area. As young and irresponsible as he usually was he had taken Jaimeís pregnancy very seriously and had peppered Father with questions about the impending birth. He thought he was prepared for what she was going through, but seeing a knife slice into her was more than he could bear. Jaime, now feeling no pain at all, squeezed Mouseís hand and smiled. As his eyes locked onto hers she whispered, "Itís all right, Mouse weíre having a baby!" Her happiness infused him and he held her hand in both of his, smiling back at her, forgetting all about his queasy stomach.
Peter expertly opened the uterus, and as the fluid drained, he reached in pulling the baby out, quickly clearing its mouth and nose of liquid. Father clamped and cut the umbilical cord, announcing that the baby was a boy. "Mouse, we have a son!" Jaime exclaimed happily. "Youíre a father!" Mouse leaned over, kissing her tenderly. "Youíre a mother," he whispered, gently stroking her cheek with a finger. After making sure the baby was breathing properly, Father handed him to Mary who cleaned him up and wrapped him in a blanket. She handed the newest tunnel member to his mother who had eyes only for the bundle now in her arms. The pair gazed down at what they had created in wonder, counting fingers and toes as parents had done throughout the ages. Catherine had tears in her eyes, full of happiness for the young couple.
Some weeks later in Fatherís chamber, where just a little over eight months ago they were joined, the happy pair announced the name of their son. They stood in the middle of the room, the baby in Jaimeís arms, Mouseís arm protectively and proudly around her shoulders. His first name would be Winslow in memory of the friend that had been so brutally taken from them. And, although middle names were not common Below, Mouse had absolutely insisted that his son be named after his best friend, and considering he had been born on Vincentís birthday, it seemed appropriate. And so it was that Winslow Vincent was welcomed into the tunnel community.
Catherine picked up her pace as the sun sank lower, lengthening the shadows and bathing the park in twilight. The clown fest she had taken little Winslow to had run later than she had anticipated and she had lost track of the time. Coming into view of the culvert she had just released a sigh of relieve when a hand suddenly clamped over her mouth and an arm snaked around her middle, pulling her off her feet. She struggled, twisting in her assailantís grip, noting that he was dressed as a clown. Suddenly she heard a cry and she saw, to her horror, another person dressed as a clown take Winslow out of his carriage. She re-doubled her efforts, remembering Isaacís training, biting down hard on the hand that held her. Her attacker released her and she stumbled, but managed to stay on her feet. She went after the clown that had Winslow, grabbing the back of the costume with her hands. But before she could do anything the first clown pulled her away and punched her hard in the head, just at the temple. She dropped like a stone, the sound of Winslowís cries ringing in her ears just before she lost consciousness.
At that moment Vincent was just coming back to the hub with his work crew. Cullen had restored some beautiful doors he had recovered from an old church that was being torn down. They were perfect for the Bishopís chapel and they had spent the afternoon fitting the opening to accommodate them. Thursday was usually his day off to help Catherine with household chores, but they had finished early and since she would be taking Winny to the clown fest in the park he saw no reason why he shouldnít be Below lending a hand.
He stopped suddenly causing Mouse to bump right into him. He felt Catherineís panic, anger, pain and then nothing. "Catherine!" He roared and raced off for the park. A bolt of terror ran through Mouse, Winny was with Catherine! He ran after his friend, fearing for his sonís safety.
Vincent reached the great steel door that guarded the tunnels and throwing the lever waited for it to open, impatiently squeezing his massive frame through before it had fully retracted. He flung the barred gate out of his way, and plunged out into the near darkness of the park heedless of the fact that he had no cloak to hide his features. Casting about wildly for some sign of her he concentrated on their bond, using it as a directional locator. He found her in a crumpled heap not far from the culvert and dropped down by her side to determine if she could be moved. He didnít notice the baby carriage lying on its side until he heard Mouseís wail of anguish. "WinnyÖwhereís Winny?" He rushed about the immediate area looking for his son, but to no avail. Winslow was nowhere to be found. The only clue to what had happened was locked in Catherineís unconscious mind.
Vincent carefully gathered his wife up and carried her towards the tunnel entrance calling to his distraught friend. "Mouse, I sense no one near, come with meÖ please." Mouse dazedly groped for the handle of the carriage and carefully righted it. He dragged it behind him following Vincent back into the tunnels, tears coursing down his face.
When they reached the sentry post Vincent called out to Dustin to send a message to Father to meet him in his and Catherineís chamber. Swiftly, but carefully he carried her there, laying her gently on the bed. Father was waiting for them and moved quickly to her side to assess her condition. He checked her pulse and examined the bruise at her temple, then pulled an eyelid open. He stepped back grunting, "I would say that she has a concussion from a severe blow to the head." He pointed at her head, "Here you can see the bruise, her breathing is shallow and her pupils are fixed and dilated." Turning to his son he asked, "What do you Ďseeí?"
Vincent replaced Father at the bedside and put his hands over Catherineís head. He Ďsawí the broken blood vessels and the pressure of the fluid building up pressing on her brain. He let his healerís energy flow around the damage, repairing it, shunting away the excess fluid. Her brain had been traumatized and she would sleep for however long her body needed, but she wasnít in any danger. Vincent sighed and turned to Father, "I did what I could. Sheíll sleep now."
"Winny?" Mouse sniffed, "My baby?" That was when Father noticed the empty baby carriage and Mouseís agitated state. He turned to Vincent alarmed just realizing that Catherine wasnít the only victim. "What happened?" He asked. Vincent covered his wife with the quilt that was folded at the end of the bed. "Catherine was walking Winslow in the park when I felt her fear. When I got there she was unconscious and the baby was gone."
Father was appalled. Winslow kidnapped? Quickly he stepped out of the chamber to a pipe and tapped out several messages, then he turned to Mouse, "Mouse, go to my chamber, Jaime will be there shortly and weíll need to tell her what happened. We will get messages out to all our helpers Above explaining the situation and for them to be on the look out." Mouse nodded dejectedly heading off to Fatherís chamber with the carriage bumping along behind him.
Vincent stepped to the pipes and requested Mary to come to his chamber. When Father looked at him questioningly he explained, "Iím going home to call Joe, he has much more experience with this than we do and he has trained people at his disposal." Father nodded in agreement. "Iíll stay with Catherine until Mary comesÖgo."
When Vincent reached the house he pressed the speed dial button for Joe on the telephone. The answering machine picked up and he left a cryptic message, "Joe, its Vincent, call the house." Next he tried Jennyís number, she and Joe had been seeing a great deal of each other lately and it was safe to assume he could be at her place. Jenny picked up on the second ring. When she heard who it was she was surprised. "Vincent!?" Joe was indeed there and had moved to her side when she motioned him over. Handing him the phone he listened intently. "Yeah, sure, weíll be right over."
When they arrived at the brownstone Vincent let them in, taking them directly Below explaining as they went. Joe shook his head; this was the third infant kidnapping in the area that he knew of. His half formed thoughts that it could be a black market organization solidified into certainty, and if he were right it would be next to impossible to find the baby. Even knowing that he would still do everything in his power to try and find the child because knowing Cathy she would feel responsible for what had happened and would exhaust herself trying to find him.
His heart broke for the young parents and the people Below. He had come to know them and was becoming to feel a part of them. He stared at the broad back of the being he was following, someone he had come to know fairly recently and who he had greatly come to admire. It was while the couple had been on Beta that he had found out about Vincent and upon their return he had confronted the being Cathy called her husband.
Catherine and Vincent had been gone for over a month when their friends and family finally received the letter they had all been waiting for, the one announcing that they were coming home. It didnít say precisely when they would arrive, only that it would be shortly. Father had gone to his sonís home himself when Jenny called to let him know. Together the two of them went through the house noting that some dusting and vacuuming needed to be done to get the place ready for their arrival. Jenny volunteered to do some grocery shopping so that Catherine wouldnít have to do it as soon as she got home, a job she detested. Father recruited some of the tunnel folk to come and take care of making the house spic and span.
Joe had elected to go with Jenny to the grocery store and they were just in the process of putting everything away in the kitchen when they heard voices coming from upstairs. Jenny had told Father when she would be at the house with Joe so she knew it was no one from Below. It suddenly dawned on her who it must be and she caught her breath, taking a quick look at Joe.
"Thatís them isnít it?" He asked.
"It must be." She nodded, staring at him with a deer-in-the-headlight look.
"Hey, Iím gonna have to meet the guy sooner or later, nowís a good a time as any."
She swallowed, her throat suddenly tight, and nodded again.
"Well then, letís get it over with." He held out his hand to her and followed her up the stairs.
As they climbed the steps they could make out that there were more than two voices. Jenny surmised, correctly, that is was Emily and Sher-Kan. Oh boy, she thought, Joeís going to meet the whole family in one go. She hoped his heart could take it; hers was hammering so hard she thought it would come right through her chest.
Vincent stopped talking when he felt Jennyís presence, "Jennyís here," he told Catherine, "and someone else."
Catherine excitedly rushed to the head of the stairs to greet her friend, but pulled up short when she saw Joe.
Seeing Catherineís shocked expression Jenny shrugged her shoulders apologetically, "He knows. Itís a long story, Iíll tell you about it later."
The two women embraced, hugging each other tightly. When they parted, Catherine stared at Joe. "Hey Radcliffe, you got one of those for me too?" He smiled and held out his arms.
"That depends," Catherine said warily. "Are you going to arrest my husband?" She was rigid with fear and sent Vincent a silent message to stay hidden.
Joe took in her defensive stance and chuckled. "Are you kidding? Iíd have to get through you first and I donít think Iím up to it. Isaac told me you were one of his best pupils."
He went to her and enfolded her in a great bear hug, laughing at her. She relaxed in his embrace and started breathing again. When she stepped away from him she took his hand and led him into the library.
Joe gasped when he saw not one but two men who looked like lions. To his credit he quickly composed himself and stuck his hand out to the blue eyed one of the two.
"You must be Vincent; Iím Joe, Cathyís boss. Jennyís told me a lot about you."
"Evidently," Vincent shot Jenny an ĎIíll talk to you laterí look and gripped Joeís hand, shaking it warmly.
"Joe," Catherine came forward, "Iíd like you to meet Vincentís parentsí, Emily Cotton and Sher-Kan."
Joe shook both their hands and stepped back to Jenny.
Emily broke the awkward silence that ensued, "We better go; we just wanted to make sure you got back safely." She stepped to Vincent hugging him. "Thank you for all your help son, Iíll miss you both terribly." Vincent hugged her back and kissed her cheek. Then she went over to Catherine and embraced her. "Good luck," she whispered, looking pointedly at Joe.
"Yes, we should go," Sher-Kan stepped over to his son. "Bartok is shipping out on another expedition and Iím sure heís anxious to get back to prepare." He hugged Vincent tightly. "Thank you son, for your help, I will cherish the time we spent together, and think back on it often."
He turned to Catherine hugging her also. "And thank you for your excellent reading of Tolkien, perhaps when we are next together we can continue the story of the Two Towers."
Catherine had tears in her eyes, as happy as she was to be home she didnít want to part from this loving couple that she had grown so fond of.
Emily saw her turmoil and cupped Catherineís cheek gently. "Donít worry weíll return soon, I donít think either of us could stand to be away from the two of you for very long."
She stepped to Sher-Kanís side as he contacted Bartok to beam them up.
The group watched as the transporter beam took them. Joe stared in amazement; it was like something out of a magic show Ė now you see them, now you donít. He shook himself and centered his gaze on Vincent. Vincent felt his stare and returned it. "You and I need to talk." Joe pointed a finger at him, all business. Vincent nodded. Catherine looked at the two men anxiously. "Catherine," Vincent looked at her, "why donít you and Jenny prepare some refreshments. Iíll call you when we are ready."
Catherine swallowed hard and nodded imperceptibly, taking Jennyís hand and leading the way down the stairs, her back stiff with fear.
Vincent indicated that Joe should sit and taking a seat across from him watched as Joe took out his notebook. Flipping it open he began. "When I found out about you I went back through Cathyís old cases. Jacob told me that you lived by the spirit of the law and I kept that in mind when I reviewed them. For the most part I agree with him, the people that it appears youíve killed would probably have gotten life in prison or the death sentence. I still donít think that it was up to you to decide, but as far as I can determine it looked like Cathy would have been killed if you hadnít stepped in."
Vincent stared steadily at Joe, wincing at the Ďyouíve killedí part, wondering where Joe was going with this. Joe looked up from his notes, "Iím not gonna say anything about this to anyone, but I need your assurance that itís not going to happen again."
"Joe," Vincent sighed, looking down at his hands, "I wish I could, Iím not proud of what Iíve done, but if it comes down to Catherine or someone else you know what Iíd do. And," he looked up, locking eyes with him, "I think you understand because you love her too."
"Yeah, well," Joe, stammered, blushing furiously. "I guess I did have a, you know, thing for her, but I knew there was someone else. Hell a guy would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to see that!"
"And you are none of those." Vincent added gently.
"Well Iíll admit it took me awhile, but I eventually figured it out." Joe stood up offering his hand. "Pax?"
Vincent stood as well, and taking the offered hand shook it, "Pax. Now we had better go downstairs before Catherine has a nervous breakdown."
After that Joe had been introduced to the tunnels and the people they sheltered. He was amazed at how they lived; plain and simple, but loving and warm. He and Jenny had spent some wonderful nights and days there, going to concerts and plays, strolling by the banks of the underground river or the Chamber of the Three Falls. They were growing closer together and when he thought of the possibility of marriage and children he would think about raising a child Below rather than in his world. It was so nurturing, so caring. He chided himself thinking, thatís a long way off yet Maxwell, get a grip.
Now as he rushed behind Vincent, his fears coalesced, his world was not safe for a child not even an infant. He gritted his teeth determinedly, he was in a position to do something about it and damn it he was going to! These kidnappers, whoever they were, were not going to get away with this.
They reached the home tunnels and went directly to Vincent and Catherineís chamber. Mary, sitting by the bedside, looked up as they entered. She shook her head at Vincentís mute question. Vincent looked down at his sleeping wife, stroking her head lovingly. Then he turned and led them to Fatherís chamber where they were confronted by a weeping, but angry Jaime. "Is Catherine awake yet?!" Vincent shook his head, holding Jaimeís gaze. "Vincent, I want my baby back! Do you hear me? I want him back!" She ran at him, pounding on his chest with her fists in frustration. He embraced her pulling her tightly against his chest as she collapsed against him sobbing.
Joe stood before Father who was seated at his desk. "What have you done so far?"
Father explained about the messages sent to the helpers and their gang of tunnel irregulars that he had unleashed Above. "All right, thatís good. What do we actually know so far? What was Cathy doing with the baby in the park?" Jaime pulled away from Vincent and explained about the clown fest. Vincent added what he had felt from Catherine surmising what had occurred.
Joe shook his head. "Itís not much. I guess weíll have to wait till Cathy wakes up to get anything else."
Father shook his head glumly, "That is if she remembers anything, a blow to the head like that could have affected her memory."
Joe considered that, hoping that it wouldnít be the case. "All right why donít you have one of the kids guide us back to the house and Iíll get started on this right away. Iíll need a description of what the baby was wearing and any identifying marks he might have."
Mouse and Jaime supplied the requested information and Joe dutifully wrote it down in his notebook. It wasnít much, and he was also going to be hampered by the fact that, as far as his world was concerned, the child really didnít exist nor, for that matter, did his parents. Joe was going to have to be very cagey about the way he used the departmentís resources to run an investigation.
He and Jenny left and Vincent took up a bedside vigil by Catherine. Jaime and Mouse tearfully left Fatherís chamber, the picture of abject misery. Fatherís heart broke for them and he stayed up all night hoping for some news about the baby.
Catherine awoke slowly, she felt Vincentís arms around her and she snuggled deeper into his embrace feeling warm and safe. But shortly she began to tremble as the memories of the previous day came flooding back, the sound of Winnyís cries echoing in her mind. She turned, burying her face into Vincentís chest, sobbing. He felt the waves of despair and held her tightly as she cried inconsolably. After a time she calmed, pulling back so that she could look up at him pleading. "Tell me it didnít happen, that it was all a nightmare and when I wake up everything will be all right." Vincent looked down at her, gently pushing a stray lock of her hair back behind her ear. "I canít do that Catherine, it happened and we have to deal with it." He left the bed and padded out to the tunnel to send several messages out over the pipes. She sat up and groaned, holding her head with both hands. When she was able to look up again she saw Joe and Jenny coming toward her.
"Hey kiddo, you gave us a scare. How are you doing?" Joe asked as Jenny gave her a careful hug.
"Never mind about me, what about the baby? What are you doing to find him?"
"Whoa, slow down tiger, we didnít have much to go on. We were hoping you could give us some more information. All we know is you took the kid to a clown thing in the park." As Catherine told them what she could remember, Vincent came in with a tray of tea and broth. Catherineís stomach protested when she smelled it, but Vincent insisted she try to get some of it down.
Joe shook his head frustrated. "So you were attacked by two clowns? Thatís it? What about wristwatches, or rings, how about tattoos, anything that can give us some identification."
Catherine shook head, wincing at the pain the movement caused. "Nothing Joe, there was nothing."
"All right how about the costumes?" Joe persisted, "What did they look like?"
"Like clowns, Joe!" She wailed, pushing the tray away, her eyes welling up again. "What do you want from me?"
Joe rounded on her, hands waving in the air in exasperation. "Come on Radcliffe, I want you to act like the professional you are and pull yourself together, falling apart will get us nowhere. Now close your eyes and describe your attackers like youíre trained to do." He commanded.
She sat up straighter under his rebuke, dashed the tears from her face and took a deep breath. Closing her eyes she began to describe what she had seen. Vincent pulled a sketchpad from one of his shelves and sitting down beside her drew from her descriptions. As the clown took shape on paper she looked at it and made corrections and additions as she focused her mind on the memory. When they were done Joe looked at it and smiled, "thatís Bozo, I remember him from when I was a kid. This is good. What about the other one?"
Father entered the chamber while they were finishing up the second sketch. Joe looked at it shaking his head, "I donít recognize this one."
Father chuckled, "Thatís because youíre not old enough, that looks like Clarabel from the Howdy Doody show."
"Great!" Joe exclaimed. "At least weíve got something. We can call all the costume rental places and see if these two costumes were rented out yesterday. Is there anything else you can remember?"
Something had been scratching at the back of Catherineís mind and finally it came to her.
"A smellÖa scent" she said hesitantly "Öa manís cologne. I know what it is, Iíve smelled it before, but I canít put my finger on it."
Excitedly Jenny jumped up, "Iíll go to the store and get some of those small sample bottles."
"Yeah," Joe looked at her, "thatís a great idea and Iíll get a list of all the costume places and we can start calling." Seeing the hope on Catherineís face, he smiled at her, "Good work kiddo, weíll get right on this."
As he and Jenny left, Catherine attempted to get out of bed and if it werenít for her husbandís quick reflexes she would have collapsed on the floor. As Vincent lifted her back onto the bed, Father admonished her, "You are going nowhere young lady. You have had a severe blow to the head, you need to rest and keep quiet for awhile."
"But Father, you donít understand, I have to help get Winslow back, Iím responsible for what happened."
"Catherine, you had no control over what happened, it wasnít your fault." Vincent said gently, covering her with the quilt again.
"If I hadnít had him up there in the first place none of this would have happened." She began to cry again.
"Catherine, itís happened and all the ifs in the world wonít change that." Vincent said gently. "All we can do is go forward and right now we have to leave it in Joeís hands."
Catherine nodded reluctantly, she saw the logic in what he was saying, but it didnít help the hurt. "How are Jaime and Mouse?"
Father laid a comforting hand on her shoulder, "As well as can be expected. Theyíre out with some of the helpers, looking. Now you get some rest."
She closed her eyes, wishing that the earth would just swallow her up. Before she knew it she was fast asleep. Mary came in to sit with her again and Vincent went home to help Joe with the phone calls and wait for Jenny to return. When she did she had a Bloomingdaleís bag full of cologne sample bottles. Vincent led her back to his chamber and they waited until Catherine woke up again. This time she was ravenously hungry and as she ate she sniffed. As they were coming down to the last few bottles she began to fret. "This is really a stupid idea. What am I going to do sniff every suspect Joe brings in?" She looked at Jenny and Vincent disgustedly.
"Catherine, every little bit of information helps," Vincent encouraged her.
Jenny held up the last few bottles. "Look this is whatís left you might as well finish."
Catherine reluctantly consented to continue smelling and it wasnít until the last one that she recognized the scent, Pierre Cardin. As Jenny made a note of it to give to Joe, Jaime and Mouse came in.
Jenny looked quickly at Catherine then excused herself, leaving the chamber. Catherine was appalled at the way her young friends looked. They both had dark circles under their eyes and their faces were puffy from lack of sleep and crying. Catherine swallowed the lump that had risen up and looked directly at Jaime. "Jaime, Iím so sorry." Jaime nodded once then collapsed in Catherineís arms, the two women cried until there were no more tears left. Mouse had sat down in Vincentís great chair, his arms folded on top of the table, hiding his head while he wept. Vincent stood beside him not knowing what to say, there were no words that could heal the hurt they were all feeling.
Suddenly Eric came rushing in, "Vincent, Father says to come right away. He says Joeís on the intercom." Vincent flew out of the chamber with Jaime and Mouse close behind. "Iíve got a lead." Joe told Vincent excitedly. "A costume house on 51st says they rented out those two costumes on Wednesday. Iím going over there to check it out now. Iíll call you when I get back. I thought youíd like to know." Vincent thanked him and hung up. He turned to those waiting, "Heís found out where the costumes were rented from, heís going over there now." He bounded up the stairs to tell Catherine.
After the initial elation, the investigation came to a stand still. The costumes had been paid for in cash and never returned. They had been found later in a garbage bin, in an alley close to the parks south side. Catherine had made a full physical recovery, but was suffering nightmares, dreaming of the attack over and over again. Jaime and Mouse had withdrawn into themselves, having very little interaction with their tunnel family.
Two weeks after she had awoken from the blow to her head she was getting dressed for a party. Her alma mater was giving a reunion and she and Jenny had both thought it would be fun. They had asked Joe to escort them and when he had said yes they told the planning committee that they would be there. That had been months ago and now Catherine had absolutely no desire to attend. Vincent had convinced her to go, but she was still protesting even as she dressed.
"Vincent, I really donít want to go. How could I enjoy myself knowing that Winslow is still missing and Jaime and Mouse are miserable?"
Vincent stood behind her, zipping up the red dress she was wearing. "Catherine, life does not stop because of one incident." She looked back at him frowning and he turned her to face him gripping her arms. "We also need to consider the possibility that he may never be found."
She glared at him, "Donít say that! We have to find him! I donít think I could get through this if I didnít think we could find him!"
"All right, Catherine," he said in a conciliatory tone, "but for Jennyís and Joeís sake, and for mine as well, please try to have a good time."
Mollified she acquiesced and nodded her head, "I promise Iíll try." They headed down the stairs when the doorbell rang. "Wow Cath, you look stunning!" Jenny exclaimed when she and Joe came through the door. "You donít look so bad yourself." Catherine shot back as she hugged her friend. Joe gave her a low whistle and Catherine circled to give him the full effect. "Thatís one thing I always said about you, Radcliffe, you clean up good." He gave her a kiss on the cheek, and then turned to Vincent. "Donít worry about her Vincent, Iíll have her back before she turns into a pumpkin." Vincent shook Joeís hand appreciating his attempt to keep up a cheerful appearance. "See that you do, Iím not that fond of pumpkins," he quipped back. He commented on how nice Jenny and Joe looked, Jenny in a blue floor length gown and Joe in a black tux. The three took off for The Tavern On the Green where the reunion was being held.
They got there fashionably late, in the middle of the cocktail hour. They mingled with the crowd greeting people they hadnít seen for years. Joe was kept busy meeting people and fetching drinks for the girls. Eve was there looking much better than the last time Catherine had seen her. She told Catherine that she had finally divorced her abusive husband and was going to AA meetings. She was on the wagon and enjoying life again. Catherine told her that she looked terrific and was very happy for her.
Another old chum, Mariah Stein, had followed Catherine into Columbia Law but had found her true calling in data analysis. She had become quite an expert in the use of computers as an analysis tool and was now teaching at the FBI training academy at Quantico. Computers would soon become the backbone of law enforcement she told them eagerly, launching into some of the new techniques that would soon become available. Catherine managed to turn the conversation into a discussion of a home computer. Edie had been telling her about the internet and thought it might be something Vincent would enjoy, being able to interact with people around the world without having to leave the house would open new possibilities for him.
Nell was there too; Catherine hadnít seen her since she had sold her the brownstone. She found she had a liking for selling real estate and had gotten her license. She excitedly told them she had sold the old Berwind mansion to a classmate that Catherine used to date, Greg Gould. It seems he and Catherineís old roommate, Hilary Fowler, had gotten married after Hilaryís divorce a few years ago. Catherine remembered reading an article about it in the society column, it was under a blaring headline that read ĎRailroad heir marries; another eligible bachelor bites the dustí.
Soon after Nell had imparted this bit of information Catherine bumped into the pair by the bar and after being introduced to Joe the couple launched into an enthusiastic discourse of their new home. Catherine cringed at the idea of the stately old mansion in the hands of Hilary who had decorated their entire dorm room in her favorite color pink. As soon as politely possible she got away from the couple, but not before they extracted a promise from her that she would come for a visit. She finally agreed to stop by Monday night after work.
As they left the restaurant Joe shook his head in amazement, "You used to date that guy? Heís worth millions. Whyíd you let him get away?"
Catherine and Jenny exchanged a knowing look. To Joe she simply shrugged and said "No chemistry."
As it turned out Catherine decided to go home first Monday night and use the tunnels to get to the mansion at 828 Fifth Ave. She almost called to cancel, to be around people that were so happy and into something so trivial as decorating seemed indecent to Catherine, sheíd rather spend the time searching for Winnie. Vincent convinced her to go and walked with her through the park as far as he could, keeping close to the trees and shrubbery. When he could not safely go any further he kissed her, promising to stay close. She reluctantly turned from him, crossed the street and walked the few blocks to the mansion. She rang the bell and steeled herself for the ordeal that was to come. Their maid Tessie opened the door, a woman who had been with Gregís family for many years.
"Ms. Cathy, my itís good to see you again."
"You too, Tessie, Hilaryís expecting me."
Just then Hilary walked toward them and grabbing Catherine by the hand pulled her excitedly down the hall. She led her up the grand staircase babbling all the way. "Greg called heíll be along anytime now, he had to work a little later. Iím sure he wonít mind if I show you."
"Show me what, Hilary?"
"Wait. Just wait." She crowed excitedly, turning right when they reached the second floor.
She opened the door to a room and stepped through, whispering, "We got him yesterday. When the agency called that he was ready, Greg dropped everything and went to pick him up." As she spoke she pulled Catherine into the room with her.
"Picked who up?" Catherine was mystified at her friend. She looked around the room dimly lit by a night-light and cringed when she realized it was a nursery.
"Well little Georgie of course! Weíve been waiting for such a long time. Iíve had the nursery decorated for weeks and then all of a sudden poof here he is."
Catherine could see that no expense had been spared in the roomsí furnishings or in the amount of toys that already filled every inch of shelving. She smiled ruefully thinking how frustrated Hilary must have been having to use blue instead of pink.
Hilary walked over to the crib at the center of the room and looked down. "Our little angel," She cooed as she looked at the sleeping infant. "George and I have been trying to have a child of our own, but after two years and nothing we went to be tested. It turns out we both have issues and when the doctor suggested fertility treatments I nipped that right in the bud. There is absolutely no way I wanted a multiple birth and you know with those drugs thatís what usually happens. Besides thatís no guarantee we would have a boy and thatís what Greg wanted, someone to carry on the Gould name. Heís obsessed with it really. So when the agency called and said they had an infant boy available you can just imagineÖ" On and on she babbled while Catherine stood rock still staring at the crib, not really hearing a word Hilary was saying.
Catherineís stomach twisted when Hilary beckoned her over, she took wooden steps to reach the cribs side. Hilary proudly whispered, "Here he is, our son." Catherine finally looked down and sawÖWinslow!
Vincent felt her sudden apprehension as he hid in the safety of the shadows. He sent his love and support through their bond, willing her the strength to get through whatever it was that upset her so. Suddenly he felt such joy and happiness coming from her that he was totally confused. What had just happened to make her so joyful? A moment ago she was upset, now she was so happy, it was almost as ifÖ Quickly he moved to the street making sure the hood of his cloak was covering his face. He crossed it with his head bowed moving swiftly towards the mansion.
Catherine felt his presence nearing and weighed her options. Her mind raced through the possible scenarios of getting Winslow back. Going to court would be futile; Jaime and Mouse could never appear there without endangering the tunnel community. Besides it would take years and money and all of that would be on Greg and Hilaryís side. No the legal system was not an option. They could come back later and steal the baby, but she had noted the same security system that she had at her brownstone, it was the best so that wasnít the way to go either. They could kidnap him when he was taken out somewhere, but that was chancy and two wrongs certainly didnít make a right.
All this flashed through her mind in an instant; finally she just snatched the baby from the crib. "Cathy! What are you doing?" Hilary became alarmed.
"This is not your baby!" Catherine hissed moving to the back of the room, putting the crib between her and Hilary.
"Whatís going on here?" A male voice demanded from the doorway, Greg had come home. Hilary ran to him, "I showed her the baby and she just picked him up! He was sleeping and she just picked him up! Now she wonít give him to me!"
Greg moved towards her, "Cathy, why are you doing this?"
She backed away till she felt the sill of the window pressing on her back. "This is not your baby!" She repeated evenly.
"Nonsense of course itís our baby, we adopted him." Greg replied. "Now just put him back in his crib and weíll forget all about it."
"When did you adopt him?" Catherine questioned him.
Taken back by the question he stopped his advance. "Two weeks ago the adoption agency told us they had an infant boy available for us. We finalized the paperwork and picked him up yesterday. What does that have to do with anything?"
"Two weeks ago I was pushing this baby in a carriage in Central Park when he was taken from me. I was baby sitting for some friends, this is their son, and heís going back to them." She held the baby in one arm as she felt behind her; the window was open with a screen covering it. Winslow had awakened and was happily playing with her crystal. She felt Vincent close by.
"We adopted that baby and heís ours, now just give him back to us." Greg yelled at her.
"You didnít adopt this baby," Catherine shouted back at him. "You bought him off the black market. This baby was stolen and Iím going to make sure he goes home where he belongs." She stood perpendicular to the window, holding tightly onto Winslow she lashed out her leg in a kick that Isaac would have been proud of. The screen popped out of its frame and fell to the ground. Vincent dodged it and waited for Catherineís next move. Hilary and Greg rushed towards her as she sat on the sill. "Donít come any closer." She warned them.
"Now, Cathy," Greg pull up short and spoke pleadingly, "you donít want to do this. Please just come back here and weíll talk about it."
"No, Iím taking him home and youíre not going to stop me." She challenged lifting her head high.
"Look," Greg growled, "I paid a lot of money for that kid. Heís mine!" He lunged at her as she swung her legs out and pushed off the sill. Hilaryís scream followed her as she held tightly to the baby and plunged downward, supremely confident that Vincent would catch her. He did easily as if she had been no more than a doll. Setting her on her feet he took the baby from her and they quickly moved to the street; crossed it, and plunged into the trees. They could hear Gregís shouts as he came bursting out the front door.
"Vincent, take the baby Below," she whispered. "Iíll lead him away."
Vincent was torn, "Catherine, what if he catches you?"
"He wonít," she assured him. "Iíll be all right. Now go!" She sprinted away from him. He stood for a moment then hurried away as Greg ran towards them. Catherine looked back over her shoulder to make sure Greg had spotted her. She held her arms so that it looked like she was still carrying the baby and ran towards the Arsenal, kicking off her shoes as she went. She ran past the zoo, hearing the pounding of Gregís feet on the pavement behind her. She thanked God that she had kept up her jogging while on Beta; she was just hitting her stride as she skirted Wollman Rink. When she reached the carousel she ducked behind some trees and waited to see if Greg was still chasing her. She waited for what seemed like forever. When she thought it was safe she headed towards the culvert, keeping to the trees as much as possible.
Greg had stopped halfway to the rink, completely winded, his chest heaving as his tortured lungs tried to pull in oxygen. He fell to his knees, screaming epithets to a heedless moon. When he could breathe again, he got up and staggered home.
Vincent was waiting for her as she entered the tunnel. He had sent a message over the pipes announcing the babyís return. It was a message that Pascal was overjoyed to receive and pass along. Jaime and Mouse ran all the way to the park entrance meeting the returning Catherine and Vincent along the way. Jaime rushed to Vincent as he held Winslow out to her. She kissed and hugged her son as he giggled and grabbed for her hair. Then she handed him to Mouse, almost reluctantly, and he did the same. The triumphal group went back to the hub and as they approached cheers from the community heralded them. They went to Fatherís chamber with a hoard of people following them wanting to know the details of Winslowís return. Catherine excused herself as soon as she could anxious to go home so she could call Joe with the good news. Vincent could fill everyone in on what had happened. She gave him a quick kiss and left the chamber.
When she heard his voice on the other end of the line she didnít even say hello.
"Joe, we found him!" she cried excitedly.
"Cathy?" It took him a second before what she had said sunk in. "What!? You found the baby?"
"Yes, heís Below now and heís fine."
"Where are you?" He demanded.
"Weíll be right there, donít you move I want to know every detail." Jenny had grabbed her purse and was waiting for him by the door as he hung up the phone. "They found him, Jen." He took her hand and practically pulled her off her feet as he made a beeline for the elevator.
When they got to the house they didnít notice the black Mercedes Benz parked on the opposite side of the street. There was no reason they should have, but the couple in the car watched as they entered the house let in by Catherine. They had been waiting for her to arrive home, but had never seen her enter. When they had seen lights come on they just assumed they were on timers. How had she gotten into the house without them seeing her? No matter she was there now. They got out of their car and approached the brownstone.
When Joe and Jenny entered the house there were hugs all around and then Joe insisted that Catherine tell him everything. They sat down in the living room and she began her story starting with the visit to the Gouldís. Before she could finish the doorbell rang, when she opened it Greg Gould pushed it open, grabbed her by the arm and pushed her back.
"Where is he?" he growled, a mad glint in his eyes.
She threw her head up defiantly, "With his real parents, where he belongs."
He took the gun he had hidden in his pocket out with his free hand and waved it in front of her face. "Youíre going to tell me where he is or Iíll use this! I swear Iíll use it!"
Joe had gotten up and when he heard the threat had pulled out his own gun leveling it at the vestibule doors.
As Greg backed Catherine through the doors and into the hall, Hilaryís eyes were wide with shock. She didnít realize he had brought a gun with him. "Greg, what are you doing?"
"I want my son back."
"Heís not your son," Came a raspy voice from the end of the hall. There stood Vincent cloaked and masked, gloved hands holding the staff he had taken out of the rack as he past through the basement. His sudden appearance startled Greg and in that moment of distraction the staff swung, catching the gun and sending it flying to land some distance away. Joe retrieved it, tucking it into his belt and holstering his own. Greg hung his head, his shoulders slumping, all the fight gone out of him, "I just wanted my son back," he whispered.
Jaime and Mouse had followed Vincent and now Jaime stepped forward holding Winslow in her arms. "Heís our son, not yours!" Her eyes flashed with anger. "Itís because of people like you that he was taken from us. You people with your money, willing to pay any price for something you want." She spat the words out, despising the couple in front of her. Hilary stared wide-eyed at the young girl yelling at them. She was a mere slip of a thing, dressed in the strangest assortment of clothing. She looked at Georgie held protectively in the girlsí arms. He was no longer wearing the designer outfit she had put on him earlier, but what looked to be a hand-knitted one with a little W embroidered on it. Vincentís voice reached out to them sympathetically, "There are so many children in this city alone that need a home and loving parents to care for them. Thereís no reason why your son canít be one of them."
"I suppose you're right," Greg sighed and turned towards Catherine. "Cathy, Iím sorry." He reached for Hilaryís hand and the couple left the house.
When they had gone Joe had some good news of his own to tell everyone, the men that had kidnapped Winslow had been caught. Joe had figured out that the two kidnappings prior to Winslowís had occurred in parks that were holding some kind of event. Today Bryant Park was hosting a St. Patrickís Day festival and the two Ďclownsí from the clown fest had showed up as leprechauns and tried to snatch a decoy Ďbabyí that was under police surveillance. The criminals were caught red handed and were right now cooling their heels in the Tombs. Catherine looked excitedly at Joe, "I want to prosecute," she demanded. "You got it Radcliffe, but itís an open and shut case they were caught in the act and theyíve been singing like birds ever since. We know who their contacts are and theyíre being rounding up as we speak." He looked at her smiling, "and you know what the clincher is?" She shook her head. "The one guy has a bruise on his hand and reeks of Pierre Cardin."