Swan Song

OOWhiz

The knock on her door that she had been expecting finally came. She rose gracefully from her seat in front of the make-up table, checking her face in the mirror one last time. Perfect she thought. As she headed for the door she turned to check her dress in the floor length mirror, exquisite. She turned back to the door, and as her hand reached for the knob she heard raised voices coming through the air vent that was mounted in the ceiling just above her head. It was a little known peculiarity of the Kennedy Center that the airshafts connecting the dressing rooms sometimes carried conversations. Both parties needed to stand just in the right spot for that to occur; and she was frozen to it listening.

"In New York," said a voice, "on opening night, Iíll kill her then." The voice had an unearthly quality to it due to its travels through the shaft. "That bitch goes all over the world with her high and mighty attitude, itís sickening! She needs killing I tell you!" The voice rose vehemently, "sheís been around too long to suit me!"

"Aye!" A second voice chimed in. "The world will be a better place once sheís been taken care of; and the boss will pay you well make no mistake about that. Itíll be a statement to all the arrogant bitches out there whoíve been messing with peopleís lives!"

The voices moved away, strain though she might she couldnít hear anything else. She put the knuckle of her forefinger into her mouth to stop the scream that was rising. Hurriedly she went through her door in the direction of the other dressing room hoping to catch a glimpse of the speakers. It only took her a minute to reach it, but she saw no one. A stagehand frantically waved his hand at her. "Your cue," he hissed. "Hurry!"

She raised her head haughtily and composed herself. She had a performance to give and no matter what, it would be perfect as always. She would deal with this after the curtain fell on the final act; after all she had till New York. She had friends in New York. She would get help.

*****

"Kipper, what have you got there?" Father asked as he sat behind his desk looking at the young boy at the top of the stairs.

"Itís a note for Vincent, Father, I found it by the park entrance." He had come down the stairs as he was speaking.

"Here let me see." Father took the envelope from Kipper. He recognized the handwriting at once and felt a coldness clutch his heart. "Very well Kipper, you can leave it with me. Iíll see that Vincent gets it." Kipper nimbly bolted up the stairs and out of the chamber. Looking again at the envelope Father shook his head,

"This can only mean trouble." he sighed.

Well there was nothing for it. He picked up the intercom phone pushing the button that would produce a ring at the other end. When he heard a click that indicated someone was there he spoke, "Vincent, is that you?"

"Yes Father," answered the raspy, baritone of his son. "What is it?"

"Kipper found a note for you at the park entrance just now. Do you want to wait until youíre here tomorrow morning?"

"No Father, it may be important. Would you ask one of the children if theyíd mind bringing it to me?"

"Of course, Iím sure Eric would be happy to bring it over." Eric loved going to the brownstone; he was almost as bad as Mouse when it came to gizmos, especially electronic ones. He was more than happy to go when Father asked him.

He scurried along as quickly as he could, maybe Catherine would let him watch television or play with the computer, how he loved that computer. He quickened his step in anticipation. When he came to the basement entrance he rang the bell to let them know he was there, then let himself through the hidden door. Running up the stairs he saw Catherine in the kitchen waiting for him. She had just prepared some tea and was about to take it upstairs to the family room

"Eric, would you like a glass of milk?"

"Oh yes please!" He nodded, eying the cookies. She caught his glance and added a few more to the plate. Then with him scampering ahead of her up the stairs she took the tray to the family room where Vincent was waiting for them. Eric went over to him and handed him the note.

"Thank you, Eric," he smiled at the boy. Catherine set the tray down, handing Eric his milk, which he took along with a handful of cookies.

"I suppose when youíre done with that youíd like to get on the computer?" Catherine asked him. He nodded enthusiastically, gulping down the milk and shooting out to the office. She smiled at the boyís disappearing back and then turned, concentrating her attention on her husband. He had opened the envelope and was reading the note that it had held. He closed his eyes, sighing deeply.

"Vincent, what is it? Bad news?"

"Iím not sure, itís from Lisa." At the name a wave of apprehension went through her.

"What does she want?" She asked as nonchalantly as possible.

"She wants me to meet her at the park entrance tonight at 11:00."

"And youíre going?"

He nodded and then looking up from the note at her he asked, "Will you go with me?"

She was delighted. "Yes. If you donít think Iíll be intruding?"

"Catherine, I have no secrets from you."

She smiled, relieved. Whatever this ghost from the past wanted she would face it with him.

"Here," she handed him his mug, "drink your tea before it gets cold."

*****

They started out for the park in plenty of time for the 11:00 meeting. They strolled leisurely hand in hand greeting other tunnel dwellers they passed along the way. When they reached the entrance Vincent operated the lever that opened the great steel door and then pushed open the gate. Catherine stepped through, noting there was no one in the drainage pipe.

Sheís going to be fashionable late of course, she always has to make a grand entrance doesnít she Catherine fumed to herself. Well at least this time Vincent wonít have to wait alone.

They speculated on what Lisa could possible want knowing it was going to be something in her best interest. Vincent suddenly became silent cocking his head listening.

"Someoneís coming." He began to raise his hood to hide his features just in case, but then stopped, feeling Lisa.

"Well there you are," she said breezily, striding towards them. "Sorry Iím late. I had to tear myself away; those society people just love entertaining celebrities. Itís so good to see you, Vincent." She had stepped close to him, hugging him tightly. He stood silently his arms limp at his sides.

He stepped back away from her. "You remember Catherine?" Catherine stepped forward to stand by Vincent.

Lisa looked shocked to see her but covered it quickly. "Cathy, of course, how nice to see you. I didnít expect to see anyone but Vincent."

Of course you didnít, Catherine thought. Sheís up to something.

"I invited her Lisa; I have no secrets from my wife."

"Your wife?" She took a step back clearly unsettled. She knew she could persuade Vincent to do what she wanted, but Cathy was another story. She quickly regained her composure though, hugging them both, offering her congratulations.

"Well then Iíll get right to it shall I?" She told them of the conversation she had overheard at the Kennedy Center.

"So if you think these men want to kill you why donít you just go to the police?" Catherine reasoned.

"Police?... Police!" She raged, "What good are police against men like these?"

"Who do you think these men are Lisa?" Vincent growled not liking where this was heading.

"My husbandís of course, he may be in jail, but heís got a long arm and heís there because of me. I donít want police!" She stamped her foot for emphasis. "Theyíre bumbling idiots! I want you to protect me." She pointed an elegantly manicured finger at Vincent.

"What?" Catherine was incredulous. "How is he supposed to do that?"

"The production is Beauty and the Beast. He would play the beast of course." She said it like Catherine was the stupidest person in the world.

Catherine shook her head. "Are you completely insane? You want Vincent on stage with you, in front of hundreds of people?"

"Why not?!" Lisa shot back. "People would just think heís in makeup."

"Well thatís just fine, but he doesnít happen to be a ballet dancer!" Catherine hissed.

Vincent was shocked; he couldnít believe what she was proposing. "Sheís right Lisa, even if we fooled everyone about the makeup I am no dancer."

Exasperated Lisa began pacing, waving her hands in the air. "Male dancers," she said disdainfully, "are only there for the lifts, they donít really dance."

God, she was so condescending, fumed Catherine.

"Besides," Lisa continued, "with Vincentís natural grace, balance and agility heíd have no problem, and" she turned back to them, "We have a month before the opening to rehearse."

"No Lisa," Vincent shook his head, "what you ask is impossible."

"I canít believe you even have the gall to ask him!" Catherine seethed.

Pointing a finger at Catherine she quickly closed the distance between them. "He owes me," she shouted at her.

"Owes you? For what? Something that happened almost twenty years ago!" Catherine shouted back.

"Yes," she hissed. "Do you know how long it took me, working every kind of menial job, to save the money to have those scars removed from my shoulder?" She whirled on Vincent, "the scars you left on me," she accused.

She had him, she could see it in his eyes, in the way his shoulders slumped as he hung his head. It didnít matter that she lied, he had merely scratched her all those years ago and they had healed without a trace in weeks. He obviously had no idea of the extent of her injury. Father had hustled him out of the hall so fast there was no way he could know and then she was sent Above to stay with a helper so there was no way poor, gullible Vincent could know. But the emotional blackmail had worked and that was all that mattered to Lisa.

In that moment that Vincent lowered his eyes Catherine knew Lisa had won. The one thing that could have swayed him was the guilt he had carried all these years about that incident in the Great Hall.

Lisa raised her head in triumph; she knew she had won too. "Good Iím glad you see it my way." She dug into her bag. "Hereís a tape of the performance so you can get an idea of what youíll need to do. Iíll meet you here tomorrow so we can start rehearsing in the Great Hall." She put a finger under his chin lifting his eyes to hers. "Just like the good old days," she purred.

"No," Catherine interjected. "Not there, meet us here." She handed Lisa one of her business cards with their home address on it. She didnít want the bitch to feel like she had home court advantage. Their gym in the basement should be adequate for the training that Vincent was going to have to suffer through.

"Very well," Lisa sniffed. "Shall we say 7:00?" Without waiting for a reply she stalked out of the storm drain.

They watched her go then turned to each other. "Catherine," he began.

She held a finger to his lips. "I know Vincent, she played her trump card, I understand."

He drew her to him, enfolding her in his powerful arms in mute thanks of her understanding. After a moment she pulled away taking his hand. "Poor Father, his hair is going to turn white when he hears about this."

Vincent smiled, "I guess we better go and face the music."

Together they stepped through the tunnel entrance, closing the gate and door behind them. They didnít say anything as they made their way to the home tunnels, each lost in their own thoughts. Catherine couldnít believe the audacity of the woman, manipulating Vincent into doing exactly what she wanted. It had seemed like an old dance that the two of them were very familiar with. It was probably this way from their childhood, she dictating and Vincent meekly following along. Well she would be there with him every step of the way and there was nothing Lisa could do about that!

Vincent meanwhile was consumed with guilt all over again; it seemed to be a main staple in his life. For all these years he had felt guilty about what he had done to Lisa, finally Catherine had broken through that and now Lisa had resurrected that guilt to get her way again. GuiltÖ now he felt it for putting himself and Catherine into danger. A small, rueful smile tugged at his lips, GuiltÖwhen does it ever end.

*****

Predictably Father exploded when they told him what Lisa wanted. "Are you out of your mind? Exposing yourself to that kind of danger!" He yelled. "She doesnít care about you at all just her own precious self. How could you agree to this?" He shook his head; "I rue the day I ever brought that child down here." He was pacing around the chamber; finally he stopped at his desk slamming his fist on its surface. "I wonít allow it!" He pointed his finger at Vincent, "I forbid you to do this!"

Catherine quietly walked over to him, gently pushing his arm down. "Itís already decided," she whispered calmly.

"Vincent, how could you? Youíre married now, you have obligations to your wife," Fatherís voice became pleading.

Guilt and more guilt, Vincent thought. He should really write a book about it; after all wasnít he an expert on the subject?

"Father, please donít make him feel worse that he already does. What we need to do is take a positive approach and do some planning." Vincent sent a silent pray heavenward that he had a wife with a level head.

Father blinked at her. "Yes of course, youíre right. If we canít dissuade him we should take every precaution. Well let me think." He sat heavily, running a hand through his hair. Catherine imagined several of them turning white before her eyes. "There are several entrances at Lincoln Center. Vincent, get the maps will you?" As Vincent moved to comply Father went on. "We can send work crews to make sure the tunnels there are clear and the threshold doors working properly."

"Yes," Catherine chimed in, "and Iíll make Lisa get me a backstage pass so I can stay close."

"Good." Father rubbed his hands together. "We can have people close by to create a diversion if needed."

The three stuck their heads together making plans to keep Vincent as safe as possible under the circumstances.

*****

When they got home in the wee hours of the morning they were too wound up to go to bed right away so they played the tape of the performance. Vincent was relieved that he wouldnít be expected to wear tights. When he voiced that observation Catherine pouted, claiming she would love to see him in tights and a tutu. He stopped her giggles with a deep passionate kiss. When they came up for air they turned their attention back to the ballet. It was much more involved then Lisa had led them to believe. If I can pull this off with a monthís training it will be a miracle, Vincent thought. He didnít voice his fears to Catherine, she was already worried enough.

They got a few hours sleep before the alarm went off announcing the start of the day. Catherine grabbed another cup of coffee, or sludge as it was affectionately called, as she entered the office. She quickly went through the red flag items on her desk and then pulled everything she could find on Lincoln Center. There had been many visiting dignitaries over the years and there were plans in the files on security procedures that included maps of the entire building and surrounding areas. She made copies of everything, returning the originals where she had found them.

Vincent had reported to Fatherís chamber finding himself assigned to a work crew checking the tunnels under Lincoln Center. Father had wasted no time in carrying out their plans.

At home, over the dinner Vincent had brought back with him from Williamís kitchen, they compared notes.

Promptly at 7:00 the doorbell rang. Catherine shot Vincent a look. "Donít tell me sheís on time for a change?!" She rose to answer the door.

Lisa sailed through giving her surroundings a quick glance, and sniffed, "Yours I suppose?"

Vincent came to stand beside Catherine, putting his arm around her. "Ours." he replied.

"Fine. Well where are we rehearsing?" They showed her the basement gym; again she gave her surroundings the once over, "Adequate, for the time being," was her only comment. She shed her coat showing her to be dressed in tights and a leotard with leg warmers. She sat on a chair to remove her street shoes and donned a pair of ballet slippers.

"Ok letís begin," she slid off the chair. "Weíll start off with the most basic step called the plie." She looked around for something to hang on to. Finding nothing in the immediate vicinity she pulled Vincentís arm out away from his body parallel with the floor. Holding onto his arm with one hand she turned her feet out and gracefully bent her knees. "This step is the foundation for every spin, turn, leap and lift," she explained. "Although from the feel of your muscles," she squeezed his arm, "you probably donít need to plie to lift me," she was practically purring. Catherine cleared her throat loudly. Lisa looked at her sharply, "donít worry, Cathy, if I had wanted him I could have had him years ago, but I didnít want to be stuck in a tunnel for the rest of my life."

Catherine bristled, "Sure heís good enough to protect your life, but not be in it! Is that it?"

"Touchy, touchy pull your claws in my dear. Vincent doesnít need you to defend him."

"Letís get on with it!" Vincent grumbled.

Lisa had been looking around the room again. Spotting the rack that held Vincentís staffs and swords she went over to it. "This will do as a barre, come over here," she ordered him.

She positioned herself by the make shift barre indicating that he should stand behind her. She executed a perfect plie. "Now you," she said turning to face him. He awkwardly turned out his feet and bent his knees. "No donít bend over, keep your body vertical. Try again," she demanded. Over and over she drilled him until she was satisfied, then on to another step. She worked him mercilessly. Three hours latter she called a halt, "thatís good for now, tomorrow weíll try some lifts. Iíll bring one of the beast costumes with me, Iím sure Mary can alter it to fit you."

Catherine started to rise but Lisa waved her down, "Donít bother. Iíll let myself out."

She was up the stairs and gone before they could blink. "Well what do you think? Can I pull it off?" Vincent asked her.

"Well youíre no Baryshnikov, but you do look promising." She grinned up at him picturing him in tights, maybe someday she would ask him to model a pair just for her.

*****

The rest of the week went pretty much the same, towards the end though Lisa was getting frustrated with the lifts. It was hard to demonstrate the lift when she was the one being lifted. In desperation she brought Gaston Noir with her who normally danced the part of the Prince and the Beast. She had reasoned that he was on stage dancing the Prelude when she overheard the conversation so it couldnít have been him plotting to murder her. She had explained to him about the plot against her life and that she had enlisted the aid of an old friend who just happened to be an undercover police officer. She told him that Vincent was already in makeup trying to get used to it. Of course she didnít warn Catherine and Vincent that she was bringing a stranger with her, so they were completely taken off guard when she breezed through the door with Gaston in tow. Vincent had felt another presence with her so he had stayed hidden upstairs. She ordered Catherine to take Gaston down to the gym while she ran up the stairs to talk Vincent into coming down, which he finally did after putting on gloves to hide his hands.

When Gaston saw him he practically started drooling, "ooh la la what a beautiful makeup job! This is what I should look like, not like some idiot trick-or-treater out on Halloween. I must have the name of your makeup artist!" Lisa stalled him by explaining that the artist was a friend of theirs and she wasnít for hire. Gaston shrugged his shoulders and got down to work demonstrating the steps and lifts. Things went much better after that, after all this was the man that actually danced the part. He was also very helpful with the parts of the performance that Lisa was not involved in.

When Vincent was deemed ready for a full run through they used the Great Hall. All the furniture had been pushed against the walls after Winterfest, so there was plenty of room. Lisa blocked out the floor with tape, marking out the size of the stage floor. She also used the tape to mark an X where she approximated the trap door would be. This would be where Vincent would first enter the performance. Gaston as the prince would be lowered down, and Vincent would appear as the beast in his place. A cloud of smoke would cleverly cover the whole exchange.

They went through the entire performance from the time the prince turned into the beast until the beast turned back into the prince. There were times when Vincent would be dancing with others and Lisa took him through those steps just as Gaston had shown them. She was pleased with his progress, it looked like they were going to pull this off and teaching him had kept her mind off her possible murder.

 

***

Catherine was working at her desk a week before the opening when Joe called her into his office. "Close the door Radcliffe." He perched himself on the corner of his desk twiddling with his ever present rubber band. "Iíve just come from a meeting with Moreno and heís hand picked you for a special assignment," he paused for effect.

Catherine was intrigued, "Go ahead Joe youíve got my attention."

"It seems weíre going to have a very important person making an unofficial visit to the city."

"Joe, youíre killing me! Who?"

He grinned; he was enjoying this, "none other than the Queen of England!" He smiled at the stunned look on her face. "It seems her majesty is going to Kentucky for some horse sale thing, then she wants to come here to see the opening of a ballet at Lincoln Center."

Catherine sat straight up. "You mean the opening of Beauty and the Beast next week?"

"Yeah I think that was it, anyway Moreno figured since youíre from the upper crust so to speak you wouldnít embarrass him around a Queen; social graces and all that. So youíll be accompanying her to the show, you know be the cityís representative and her body guard."

Catherine was so excited she could barely contain herself. It wasnít Lisa they were after it was the Queen of England it certainly made more sense. She couldnít wait to tell Vincent that he wouldnít have to go through with the charade after all.

Vincent had felt her elation and had dismissed his class early so that he could head for home to meet her. He got there just as she did. Her story spilled out so fast that he finally led her to the couch in the living room, pushed her down, sat beside her, and made her start again.

"So you see, Vincent," she beamed, "itís not Lisa they want to kill at all its Queen Elizabeth, you donít have to dance."

Vincent sadly shook his head. "Yes I do Catherine, now more than ever."

"But Vincent, why?"

"Because now you will be the one in danger. Donít you see? Youíll be sitting with the Queen; if they shoot at her they may hit you. No Catherine, I will dance."

She collapsed sobbing in his arms. "Catherine it will be all right, really it will, donít cry." He stroked her hair trying to calm her.

"I was so sure," she sniffed, "that you wouldnít have to dance, I was so relieved."

"Come, wash your face, weíll go Below for dinner. Lisa wants me in costume tonight to get used to moving in it. You can come admire your husband in his new suit." She gave him a wan smile. "Thatís my girl, letís go."

Admire him she did, Mary had decided to make the costume from scratch, owing to the fact that Vincent was much broader than Gaston and there just wasnít enough material in the seams to let out. Catherine had gone shopping and found the exact material and lace to match the original, and Mary had meticulously made an exact duplicate of Gastonís costume. Catherine had to admit he looked very fetching in the crushed black velvet top with the wide lacey Victorian collar, and black pants. The lace was repeated on the edges of his sleeves and the cuff of the tall black boots that he would be wearing; all in all a stunning outfit.

*****

When Lisa showed up she looked exhausted, she had been rehearsing all day at the center and now she would be dancing Below. When Vincent told her about the Queen she brightened considerably, she hadnít realized what a burden she had been carrying around. She was glad Vincent was still planning on going through with his performance, after all she could still get caught in the cross fire.

Catherine fumed, this woman thinks of nothing but herself.

They danced the entire performance with Catherine manning the tape recorder. They danced beautifully and the pas de duex was absolutely flawless. When they finished it was as if a light switch had been turned off inside of Lisa, she was done in.

"Listen tomorrow meet me at the center at midnight, I want to show you the actual stage with the sets and props. There wonít be anymore rehearsing until the opening, Iím exhausting myself dancing all day and night, I need to rest."

*****

The next night they met as arranged, Lisa showed Vincent where the dressing rooms were, how the sets would fly in and out and where the props would be kept. She also showed him the trap door that would be his entrance and exit from the stage; on opening night he would be the one operating it from under the stage. At Gastonís signal he would flip a switch that would lower the platform allowing him to exchange places with Gaston. Then Gaston would flip the switch and the platform would rise back up bringing Vincent into the action. Vincent was glad of the run through, the first time it went down its speed startled him. As he stood at the center of the stage he gazed out at the empty seats, seats that would be filled with people, he got a funny fluttering feeling in his stomach.

Catherine took his hand, sensing his thoughts. "My drama teacher told us to imagine them with no clothes on."

Vincent smiled at her gratefully.

*****

Opening night came putting those Above and Below connected with it in an upheaval. Tunnel sentries, ready to assist Vincent should he need them, manned the Lincoln Center tunnel entrances. Vincent was dressed and waiting under the stage by the trap door elevator ready to flip the switch to bring Gaston down. Catherine was dispatched in a limo to pick up the incognito Queen and escort her to the ballet. Catherine wasnít the only city representative, Joe was there with a few of New Yorkís finest all in tuxedos trying hard to fit in with the elite crowd. Catherine would be sitting with the Queen in her box while the others would be out on the promenade.

As the lights dimmed and the music started Catherine took her seat to one side and slightly behind the Queen, she caught her bottom lip with her teeth. She was a nervous wreck not for herself, but for her courageous husband. At the end of the prologue, as the fairy cast the spell on the prince, smoke filled the stage. Gaston stood on the trap door and gave the signal with his foot, Vincent operated the switch bringing Gaston down and they quickly exchanged places. Vincent took a deep breath as the elevator brought him to stage level.

With the house lights off and the stage lights glaring in his eyes he couldnít see the audience and soon became totally unaware of them as the dance engulfed him. Lisa may be a self-centered egotist, but she had trained him well.

At the end of Act I there had been no attempt on the Queen, Vincent wandered around back stage staying away from people as much as possible. As prearranged, Gaston had feigned laryngitis so people didnít expect Vincent to speak.

It was at the end of the second Act during Vincentís death scene that he felt the emotions of the killer. As Lisa bent over him crying for her dying beast he saw one of the dancers dressed as a candelabra lower his arm. Vincent leaped, knocking Lisa to the floor. Before the killer knew what was happening Vincent was on him, but the man managed to squirm away and position himself over the trap door. He gave the signal for it to be lowered and Gaston, knowing nothing of what was going on, complied ready to take Vincentís place. The assassin knocked him down as the elevator reached the basement.

When Catherine saw Vincent break character she moved in front of the Queen pulling her down to the floor. She watched as Vincent jumped down the shaft in pursuit of the would-be assassin. Running for the stairs she shouted at Joe to take care of Elizabeth as she made a mad dash for the basement. A quick thinking understudy took Gastonís place with Lisa and they finished the ballet.

The audience knew something had gone on, but not precisely what. As Catherine pelted down the stairs of the basement she heard shots, she put on a burst of speed in time to see Vincent leap at a running figure. She saw Gaston ahead of her also running towards the two figures.

"Get off me you bloody idiot!" The assassin yelled with a heavy Irish accent.

Vincent got up dragging the man up with him. Thankfully the gun had flown out of his hand when Vincent tackled him.

"You may have saved that English bitch today," he sneered, "but weíll get her sooner or later."

Vincent cuffed him on the side of the head knocking him senseless; he slipped to the floor in a heap.

A bleeding Gaston reached them just as the man fell.

"Gaston, youíre bleeding. Are you all right?" Vincent asked concerned.

"I hit my head when that ruffian pushed me out of the way. Is that the killer?"

Vincent nodded, "only a would-be killer as far as we know."

Catherine came running towards him, leaping into his arms. "Are you all right? I was so frightened." He assured her that he was fine. They heard the clatter of feet on the stairs. "Vincent you have to go!" She pushed him away. He nodded turning to go to one of the tunnel entrances.

"Wait!" Gaston stared at him. "Thatís not makeup is it?"

He had seen the leap that had brought the killer down, no mere human could have covered that distance.

Vincent and Catherine held their breaths.

"Donít worry," he smiled at them. "I wonít tell anyone."

Vincent held his eyes for a moment in mute thanks then turned to melt into the darkness.

Joe came running towards them, "Cathy!Ö Cathy!" He shouted. When he reached her he looked her over anxiously. "Are you all right?"

"Iím fine Joe, hereís the man you want." She indicated the prone figure on the floor. "Gaston caught up with him and knocked him out." Gaston gave her a look, acknowledging the part she wanted him to play with a nod.

"Great work!" Joe clapped him on the shoulder; he had a fleeting thought that the man had looked bigger on stage than in person. "Weíll need you to come down for a statement."

The uniforms had arrived and quickly took the assassin into custody. Joe noticed Catherine trembling. "You ok kiddo?"

"Yeah Joe, just reaction I guess, if you donít need me Iíd like to go home."

"Sure we can get your statement at the office. Iíll get a blue and white to drive you home; and Radcliffe, you can have tomorrow off."

Catherine looked at him puzzled, "Joe, tomorrowís Sunday."

"Yeah," he grinned, "I know."

She punched him in the arm and followed him out the stage door.

*****

The police cruiser left her at her door and waited until she entered the house. Waving goodbye she went in and headed right for the basement. She was sure Vincent would be in Fatherís chamber regaling him with the exploits of the evening. When she got there the chamber was crowded with people who wanted to hear what had happened. Vincent had stopped speaking when he felt her near and had gone to the chamber entrance to enfold her in his arms.

The chamber filled with applause causing Catherine to turn bright red, at that moment she envied Vincent for the fur on his face. They walked down the stairs together and Vincent picked up the story where he had left off now aided by Catherine who could add her point of view to it. It was early in the morning when they were finally allowed to leave, all questions answered, all congratulations on a job well done received.

They decided to stay Below in Vincentís chamber rather than walk home. They woke up late the next day and wandered into the dining hall hoping that William had saved them some breakfast, which he had.

As they ate Father wandered in to sit with them. "I wanted to tell you both that Iím very proud of what you did yesterday." He looked fondly at his son and daughter-in-law, how could he have been so blind as to think they werenít meant for each other, any fool could see that they were, they were part of each other and together they made a whole. "Will you be going home now?" he asked.

"Yes Father," Vincent answered. "Unless thereís something you need?"

"No, no," he shook his head. "Run along, you two deserve a day to relax, itís been a long month."

***

They took Fatherís advice and laid on the couch reading the paper and listening to music. The paper was full of the attempted assassination with pictures of Gaston as the hero of the evening. This must be eating Lisa alive, Catherine thought, she wasnít the center of attention for a change.

The doorbell rang early in the evening. As Catherine got up to answer it, Vincent followed her and when she looked at him questioningly he simply said, "Itís Lisa."

What could she possible want? She mused. She opened the door and Lisa breezed in as usual. She spotted the newspaper in Vincentís hand. "Youíre reading that trash?" She sniffed, "well we all know who the real hero is, if I hadnít gotten you involved the Queen would be dead right now. Anyway I just wanted to drop this off, a memento of the night. Vincentís firstÖ"

"And last!" Vincentís tone was emphatic.

"Öand last ballet performance." She handed Catherine a VHS tape, spun on her heel and went out the door.

"Well thank you!" Catherine said sarcastically at Lisaís disappearing back. "How could you possible have been in love with that?" She looked pointedly at her husband.

Vincent shrugged his shoulders, "as youíve said, adolescent love is blind."

"And stupid!" She added as she smiled up at him.

She waved the tape at him, "popcorn?"

He smiled back, "definitely."