A New Life, A New Love
Catherine stood in her living room and did a slow spin.
Do I have everything? she asked herself while mentally inventorying the contents of her briefcase and purse.
She picked up that briefcase and purse and headed for the door. I hate oversleeping and being rushed in the morning... she mused as she fished her keys out of her pocket, I always manage to forget something!
After another quick mental inventory of the small appliances sheíd used that morning she glanced at the clock; she could still make it to the office on time if everything went right; there were just so many things that could slow her down. She had decided to drive to work, she usually did on Fridays because she always worked late to insure that her weekend would be free from calls from someone (read "Joe") asking if sheíd taken care of this, that or the other.
She opened the door and stepped into the hall and almost fell over a large wicker laundry basket that was sitting not six inches in front of her door.
"What the....?" she said aloud.
She wobbled a bit then stepped back. She glanced up the hall toward the elevator door, which was just closing, then her gaze slipped to the stairs then down at her three inch heels. "Not a chance...not in these shoes."
She stepped over the basket and put her briefcase and purse on the chair that sat just outside her door then squatted down to see what was in it. She gave brief consideration to calling the NYPD Bomb Squad, but the old white hand crocheted blanket that covered the top of the basket moved so she pulled it back. What she saw shocked her so much that she fell back on her butt.
She quickly recovered, scrambled to her feet, grabbed her things off the chair and shoved the basket over the threshold into her apartment with her toe. Once inside she closed the door and as an afterthought she locked it.
She dropped her things on the floor picked up the basket and carried it to the coffee table where she carefully set it down. Then she pulled the blanket back again.
It was a baby, and not just any baby, but a baby that looked like Vincent. She reached out and stroked its cheek and it turned its head toward her hand and made a slight sucking motion in its sleep. That was all it took, she was in love...again.
She just sat and gazed for several minutes...so this was what Vincent had looked like when he was a baby...what their babies might look like if they ever made it to that point.
She came out of her daydream with a start. A quick look at the clock told her that she was going to be late, but on further thought, she realized she couldnít go to work today. She went to the phone on the other side of the room and dialed Peterís number. It was Friday, he didnít go to his office on Friday, and didnít do rounds until the afternoon, so he should be home.
He answered after two rings.
"Peter," she was surprised at how breathless she sounded. "Would you please come over to my place as soon as possible?"
"Cathy...Is something wrong? Are you sick?" he asked, she could hear the concern in his voice.
"No, no, itís nothing like that. I just need to talk to you and I canít do it on the phone. Can you come over?"
Peter remembered a similar call several months before when she had called in a panic after Vincent had collapsed in her living room, but she didnít sound panicked this time, only a little breathless and excited.
"Itís not Vincent?" he asked.
"No. When can I expect you?
"I just finished getting dressed, so Iíll be there in about half an hour, maybe less."
They said good-bye, and then Catherine called her office. Since it was after 8AM she dialed Joeís private number.
"Maxwell!" he answered before the first ring ended. He sounded like he was in a bad mood, probably because heíd just noticed that she wasnít there yet.
"Joe, this is Cathy..." she started.
"Radcliffe! Where the hell are you? Youíre late!"
"I know, Joe. Iím sorry." God, she hated lying to him, but she seemed to be doing a lot of it lately. "I overslept, I just woke up. I had a bad night. I think I got hold of some bad take out last night."
"Food poisoning? That stinks!" he was suddenly all sympathy. "Do you need anything?"
"No, my family doctor is on his way over." At least that much was true.
"How in the world, in this day and age, did you find a doctor who still makes house calls?" he marveled.
"It helps that he is also a good friend of my family and he delivered me. Heís been my doctor all my life," she told Joe. "Iím sure he will be able to give me something to make me feel better. I didnít bring any files home last night, but I left the ones you need for court this afternoon in your IN BOX. Call me if you need anything else. If I donít answer, call Peter." She gave him Peterís number, said goodbye and hung up.
She lifted the phone again and called down to the doorman at the security desk in the lobby.
"Security, this is George."
"Good morning, George, this is Cathy Chandler in 21E. I was just wondering if you let any strangers in this morning?"
"Hi, Miss Chandler. Yes. There was a woman here said she had a delivery for you. She was carrying a large laundry basket, she said she had some things you sent out for altering."
"Did she give you a name? What did she look like?"
"Why, is something wrong?" he asked, suddenly concerned.
"No, not that. She must have come while I was in the shower and she just left the basket. I had things a two different places and I donít remember which place I left these." Boy the lies were just falling out of her mouth this morning.
"She had a slight accent, Puerto Rican, I think. An older lady, probably in her late fifties, early sixties. She told me she had something for Miss Chandler in 21E and she asked if youíd left for work yet."
"Thanks, George," she said. "That clears it up. Iíll go by her shop later and drop off the check."
"Yeah, she wasnít up there long. She had the cab wait. Musta been in a hurry."
"Probably. Thanks again George."
Catherine hung up for the third time and went back to the coffee table.
"Well, at least Iím sure I wasnít some random choice of a place to leave this particular child. The person was specifically looking for me, and knew enough about me to know my schedule and what time I leave for work."
She was staring off into space when a slight sound from the basket pulled her attention back to it. The baby was awake; its eyes were open and it was staring at her. They were blue, not the kind of muddy blue of most babies, but the exact shade of Vincentís. This was getting stranger by the second. At that moment it started to fuss, and Catherine instinctively reached into the basket and picked it up, raising it to her shoulder, one hand on its bottom and the other behind its shoulders and head.
It was fussy because of a wet diaper, that was immediately apparent. She quickly picked up the basket and carried it and the baby into the bedroom.
"I sure hope she thought to pack you some extra diapers," she said aloud to the baby. The basket seemed a lot heavier than it should be, the baby didnít weigh very much, probably less than ten pounds. She placed the baby carefully in the center of the bed, and deposited the basket on the vanity bench. She went into the bathroom and grabbed a clean towel and a couple of washcloths. She wet one of the washcloths and wrung it out, and then grabbed her own baby powder off the counter.
Back in the bedroom she spread the towel on the bed, then lifted the baby and placed it on it. It was wearing blue sleepers. She unsnapped the snaps on the insides of the legs. It had stopped fussing and was watching her intently as she worked.
She laughed and tapped his nose. "You going to make sure I do this right?" she asked. "Blue sleepers, huh? Are you a boy?"
She removed the diaper and the babyís sex was verified. It was a boy. Remembering the first time she had diapered Nancyís son she quickly grabbed the dry washcloth and dropped it over the babyís genitals. She was just in time to keep the "fountain" from drenching her and the surrounding bedspread. She wrapped up the wet diaper and set it aside and started rummaging under the bedding in the basket. Sure enough there were about a dozen disposable diapers, some clothes and under those were six small bottles of formula, a plastic bag with a couple of nipples and a pacifier.
Glad for the training sheíd had at Nancyís elbow she deftly used the wet wash cloth and cleaned then powdered and diapered the little boy. When she finished snapping him into his sleepers she picked him up. When he started rooting around on her shoulder her first thought was "hungry baby."
She picked up one of the bottles and the plastic bag and carried them all into the kitchen.
She had just removed the bottle from the pan of warm water when she heard a knock at the door.
She hurried out and checked the peep hole; it was Peter.
Peter was surprised at the sight that met his eyes when she opened the door. Cathy had shed her suit jacket and had a baby up to the left shoulder of her designer silk blouse, was holding a dishtowel and a baby bottle in the other hand and had a pacifier between her teeth by the handle.
Peter laughed, removed the pacifier, kissed her, then turned to close the door.
"Sick baby?" he asked. "Good thing I brought my bag."
"No, he doesnít appear to be sick," she said with a smile as he followed her around the sofa and they both sat down across the coffee table from each other.
"Whose is he?" asked Peter.
"That is what Iíve been wondering. I was on my way out the door when I almost fell over him. The doorman said that an older woman brought him up, although she told him that she was delivering some clothes that Iíd had altered. He didnít know there was a baby in the basket."
"What did you call me for then?" he asked, puzzled. "Shouldnít you just hand him over to Childrenís Services?"
"Under normal circumstances that might be my first thought, but this is different." She set the bottle on the table then lifted the baby away from her shoulder and turned him so Peter could see him.
Peter was speechless for a moment.
"Well, Iíll be damned! He is the image of Vincent when he was a baby," he finally exclaimed.
"I never had the privilege of seeing him then, but I have seen some of the drawings and paintings Elizabeth did of him. It isnít just that he has the same kind of features, but he actually looks like the drawings of Vincent at that age. His eyes are even blue."
"Most babyís eyes are blue, they usually change," said Peter absently as he examined the tiny clawed hand and the golden fuzz that covered most of his body.
"No Peter, his are blue. The same color as Vincentís."
Peter looked at Catherine as the baby started to fuss. She transferred him back to the crook of her left arm and offered him the bottle. He latched on to the nipple and started to suck strongly.
"You donít think...." he started then hesitated.
"What?" she asked.
"That he might be Vincentís?" Peter suggested.
"I wouldnít jump to that conclusion," she agreed, Ďbut the thought did cross my mind. If he is, I donít think it would have happened by conventional means. I mean, this child canít be more than a month old. Itís the beginning of June so he was probably conceived in October or November of last year. We were together a lot during that time. I tried to help him with Rolley, we almost went to Connecticut, there was the plague Below. Even Father commented on how little Vincent left the tunnels while everyone was recuperating from the plague. I really donít think there would have been time for him to have conceived a child with another woman."
"Most women think like that at first when they are presented with the proof that the man they love has been unfaithful," put in Peter.
Catherine shook her head emphatically. "No Peter," she insisted. "Vincent hasnít been Ďunfaithfulí as you put it. He doesnít have it in him to be unfaithful, but there is another possibility."
"What is that?"
"Do you remember when Professor Hughes at Columbia captured Vincent?"
"Yes, but wasnít that in November year before last?"
She nodded. "Thatís right. Vincent said that Hughes ran a lot of tests and experiments. Vincent was actually kept sedated, unconscious for most of the time. It is possible that Hughes took a sperm sample at that time. Canít sperm be kept frozen for a long time?"
"Yes it can. I recently read an article that said something like ten to twelve years if frozen and stored under optimum conditions," agreed Peter.
"Someone could have been artificially inseminated with his sperm, and this little one the result," she said as she removed the empty bottle and shifted the baby to her toweled shoulder to burp him.
"That is possible and seems the most likely explanation, unless you want to think there is a colony of people like Vincent residing somewhere in the city. But either way, how did the baby wind up on your doorstep?"
"Hughes kept notes. I managed to remove the most obvious notebooks and papers when I helped Vincent leave, but I didnít have a lot of time and I might have missed something. There might have been another person in on the secret besides Professor Hughes and Gould. Someone who has continued with experiments since Hughes died."
"That is possible," Peter conceded. "I suppose you wonít know until you talk to Vincent...I assume that you are going to take this little guy Below?"
"I think that is the only place for him. I could conceivably keep him here, but sooner or later one of the neighbors is going to hear a baby crying and ask about it. Someone will want to see him. Iíd have to set up some kind of child care while Iím at work. No, I think the best place for him will be Below. My gut tells me that he is somehow related to Vincent, and I think he could benefit from being raised near Vincent if not by him."
"Umm, Cathy, I think we can verify if he is related to Vincent," Peter said hesitantly.
Catherine settled back quite comfortably with the sleeping baby cradled in her arms. "How can you do that?" she asked.
"There have been huge strides made in genetics recently, and I have always found the subject to be fascinating, probably because of Vincent. I have a trusted friend who is working in the field. He is right here in New York. A few months ago, I talked to Vincent privately and asked if he would let me take a sample to my friend and he agreed. I did a cheek swab. I told my friend that it was a genetic sample from someone I knew who had some very unusual physical features, but who didnít seem to suffer any real disability from it, which is true. I said I was curious to know if it was actually a genetic abnormality or a mutation of some kind."
"What did he find out?" asked Catherine, curiously.
"Iíve only discussed that with Vincent so far, but I can tell you that his genetics are very similar to the ordinary man on the street, and there seems to be nothing in his genetic makeup that would make his genetics incompatible. But on the other hand he has a few distinctive genetic markers. Science doesnít know that much about what goes on within the human genome and my friend wasnít able to tell me what Vincentís differences would do or why they are there, but he did say they were probably hereditary. If this child is Vincentís or is related in some way, we should be able to tell by doing some tests."
"How will you do that?" she asked.
"I can do a cheek swab like I did with Vincent. I think I even have a kit in my bag," he put the old fashioned black leather bag on the coffee table and removed several items, then finally pulled out the plastic bag containing the cotton swab inside a small sealed glass tube.
He indicated that Catherine should put the baby on the coffee table and Catherine did. He opened the kit and quickly took the swab, then he did a quick medical exam.
"He seems to be in good shape. He also seems to share a few other traits with Vincent: lower heart rate, and respiration, slightly higher temperature. His pupils react very quickly to light." He began to put away his instruments. "When are you planning to take him Below?"
"Vincent is away, and doesnít expect to be back until tomorrow afternoon. I thought I would take him straight to Vincent, before Father sees him. Let Vincent make the decision about what to do. I kind of feel that, if Father sees him first he might just jump in and take over. Anyway, Iím supposed to go Below tomorrow evening, Vincent said heíd meet me at my threshold at seven."
"What are you going to do about baby supplies between now and then?" He picked up the empty formula bottle and read the label.
"There were about half a dozen bottles of formula, some diapers and clothing in the basket with him," she answered.
"Six bottles of formula is good for about twenty-four hours," said Peter. "And they can go through a lot of diapers at that age." He held up the bottle. "This is a special formula, seems he might have some of the same digestion issues that Vincent had. I think I know where I can get you some of the formula, enough for a couple of weeks anyway. You are going to have to special order it from a pharmacy. Most any pharmacy that sells baby formula can get it for you. Iíll stop on my way home and get some things and have them sent to you. Will you need a crib or a bassinet?"
"No, diapers and formula will probably be enough for now. He will be going Below where there always seems to be an extra crib. He can sleep in the basket until then."
Peter watched as Catherine picked up the sleeping baby and took him into her bedroom where she placed him in the basket. She stood for a moment looking down at him then she turned and walked back into the living room.
"Youíre already attached to him, arenít you?" asked Peter as she sat down on the sofa across from him.
"How can I not be? He is so much like Vincent. If he is Vincentís son, then this might be the only way Vincent will ever give me a child; but whether or not he is Vincentís son, is really irrelevant. This may be the only child that we ever have the opportunity to raise together. At least I hope we can raise him together," she said with a slight smile.
"You are taking a chance, you know. You take him Below and Jacob just might bulldoze his way in and take over; you know how stubborn he can be."
"I know that could happen, but Peter, what I said about this might be the only way that Vincent will ever give me a child...it goes both ways. This might be the only way I ever get to give a child to Vincent. I may not have given birth to him, but someone obviously thought that I would know what to do and that I would take care of him. I want to share that responsibility with Vincent, and I think he will agree. And regardless of who gets to raise him, Below is the only safe place for him, just as it is the only safe place for Vincent."
Peter smiled, nodded then stood. "Iíve got to get moving. I still have to make some stops before I head to the hospital for rounds."
Catherine walked to the door with him and he turned and hugged her before he opened it.
"Vincent is a lucky man," he told her, then he turned and left.
Catherine had a quiet day. In the middle of the afternoon she got a call from George, down in the lobby. He said there was a delivery, and she told him to send it up. She expected to get a couple bags of diapers and maybe two or three cases of formula, but she was stunned at the amount of Ďstuffí that Peter had sent. He must have bought up every ounce of the special formula in the city, because there were twelve cases. Each case contained twelve six packs of four ounce bottles. She figured that she probably had enough formula for several months, at least. In addition there was a case of disposable diapers, she hoped he didnít outgrow that size before they ran out of them. Peter had also thrown in several packages of shirts, Onesies, socks, sleepers, nearly a dozen lightweight blankets and a diaper bag that contained all the small items needed for a new baby: nail clippers, droppers, medicine dispensers, thermometers, etc. Heíd even included one of those carriers that strapped to your chest so you could carry a baby and still have your hands free. She couldnít help laughing, Peter had gone all out, she figured he was making up for the fact that his own grandchildren had been born two thousand miles away and he didnít get the opportunity to spoil them nearly enough.
The baby woke every four hours. She would change his diaper, feed him, spend a little time with him, change his diaper again and then he would go back to sleep. She took advantage of the time between the 6PM and the 10PM feedings to organize all the baby supplies and pack up a diaper bag and a backpack with enough stuff to see him through a couple of days until she could get some help getting the rest of the supplies Below.
When that was finished she took a long, hot shower. She was having some sympathy for new mothers. She was really beginning to feel kind of grubby, what with dealing with the dirty diapers and being spit up on.
She didnít bother with her usual pretty feminine night gown and robe, but put on a pair of knit yoga pants and a t-shirt. It was a lovely warm evening, so she had all the doors to the balcony open. She put on a light robe, but didnít bother to tie it.
It was 10PM and the new man in her life was wide awake and ready to be fed. She followed the new routine and was sitting on the sofa half an hour later, holding the baby and singing to him when Vincent arrived.
He stepped quietly down to the balcony and was surprised by the scene he found in the living room. He stood just out of sight, in the shadows as he took it all in.
The room only had a couple of lamps lit so the light was pleasantly dim. Catherine was sitting on the sofa with feet up facing him with her back on the arm. Her knees were raised and she appeared to have a baby on her lap. She was singing her motherís lullaby to it.
It was a beautiful picture. He didnít want to disturb her and was about to back away and leave when the breeze caught his cloak and the movement called her attention to his presence.
She looked up with a welcoming smile.
"Vincent," she called without moving. "Youíre back early. I missed you! Please come in."
Since heíd spent three days inside her apartment several months earlier, he seemed to have gotten over his phobia about coming inside.
"There is someone Iíd like you to meet," she said as he came in and removed his cloak.
"Are you babysitting tonight, Catherine?" he asked with a smile as he approached.
When she saw that he was heading for the other sofa, she sat up straighter, crossed her legs Indian style, and put the baby on her shoulder.
He understood and changed his direction and sat on the other end of the sofa.
"I donít recall you mentioning that any of your friends have had a baby recently," he commented.
"None of them have," she told him.
His look at her with his head cocked to one side implied a question and she gave him an answer.
"This baby doesnít belong to any of my friends," she told him. "He was literally left on my doorstep this morning."
"Who left him?" he asked.
"I wish I knew, then maybe I would have some answers."
She knew she was talking in riddles and just confusing him, so she turned and sat next to him and leaned against him a little.
"Maybe if you meet this young man you will understand better."
She took the baby away from her shoulder, and turned slightly to hand him to Vincent. Vincent automatically took the baby.
The light in the room was dim, but not so dim that Vincent couldnít see the baby clearly. Catherine watched Vincentís face, gauging his reaction.
Vincentís first reaction was shock. He felt as if he was looking at one of the small pastel drawings that Elizabeth had done of him when he was a baby. Only this wasnít a flat image on a tunnel wall, but a living, breathing child, who was staring back at him as intently as he was staring at it.
"Catherine," he gasped. "Where?"
"I have no idea, but I intend to find out. It is just as I said. Someone left him on my doorstep this morning. I nearly fell over him on my way out."
She moved up to her knees and leaned into Vincent, putting her right arm around his shoulders and running the index finger of her right hand down the babyís nose.
"Isnít he beautiful?" she asked.
"Yes...yes, he is," Vincent answered hesitantly. "All babies are beautiful." He turned his head to look at Catherine. "How can this be? How can he look like me?"
Catherine still couldnít sense Vincent in the Bond like he could her, but in recent months she had developed some feeling for it. That combined with her talent for reading his body language had come in very handy. Right now it was telling her that he was battling the urge to bolt. Sheíd only felt it a few times since heíd recovered, but each time he had battled it back. He was in control. She gave him a little hug of encouragement.
"The only other person Iíve talked to about this has been Peter, I called him first thing. He came over and we talked. I thought at first, knowing your history, that the baby might need to be seen by a doctor. Peter only gave him the most cursory of exams, but he appears to be just fine. But other than that all I know is that he was left by an older woman, I didnít see her, the doorman gave me a description. I donít know where he came from, but Peter and I have some ideas."
"Tell me, Catherine," he urged as he settled back, crossed his right leg over his left knee and settled the baby into the crook. He seem quite at ease with a baby, but then, heíd seemed at ease with Luke and little Caty, too. Heíd had plenty of experience with babies and children Below.
"I wonít beat around the bush, Vincent; Peter and I discussed the possibility that he is your son," she had moved back to her end of the sofa and was watching his reaction closely.
First he gasped, then he vehemently denied it. "Catherine, I would never..."
"Vincent, Iím not accusing you of anything. I know you wouldnít do anything like that," she reached out and took his hand. "I know youíve heard of artificial insemination."
"Yes, I know what it is," he answered.
"It is possible that when Professor Hughes had you locked up, he took a sperm sample," she suggested.
"But Catherine, that was eighteen months ago. A normal pregnancy only lasts nine months." He emphasized the word normal.
"But sperm can be frozen. Peter says that it can be frozen for years and still be usable."
"But both Hughes and his assistant are dead."
"There might have been someone else. You told me that you were unconscious a lot of the time. Someone else could have been there and started his own research after Hughes and Gould died."
"I will admit to the possibility, as long as I know that you donít think it was anything else." Catherine squeezed his hand as he continued. He looked into her eyes. "But what would someone want with a child of mine, Catherine?" He suddenly blushed and dropped his eyes. "I meanÖa scientist. Was he going to perform experiments and treat him like a lab rat?"
Catherine noticed how his large furred and clawed hand hovered protectively over the babyís head. She could tell he was angry at the thought that any child, but especially a child that might be his would be treated that way.
"Whatever anyone would have wanted with the child, Vincent, it isnít going to happen," she soothed. "We have him now. Someone else didnít like the idea of the baby being used like that and she brought him to me. I intend to do some checking, and if I can Iíll find that woman Iím sure Iíll be able to get some more information out of her."
She leaned toward him again, and this time she kissed him on the cheek; something else he had been allowing since his illness. "But for now, I think we need to get this little guy Below. Heíll be safer there, and with you there as his role model and mentor, he may even be able to avoid some of the bad things that happened to you."
"I hope so..." agreed Vincent. "Most of my life has been good, but a few of the things that happened I wouldnít wish on anyone."
Catherine started to rise, and Vincent reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her back down.
"Do you intend to have him raised Below, Catherine?" he asked.
"Is there any other place, Vincent?" she asked, rhetorically. "And even if he doesnít turn out to be related to you by blood, even if he isnít your son, I think you are the one who should have the final say."
Vincent looked down at the now sleeping baby then he looked at Catherine with a sad little smile. "And you, Catherine? You donít want to be involved?" he asked.
Her eyes teared up and she smiled back. "Vincent, I fell in love with him the instant I laid eyes on him. If you tried to exclude me there would be hell to pay. Iím afraid that everyone Below is going to get sick of seeing me, especially Father."
"Everyone Below, including Father loves having you there," Vincent argued.
Catherine almost made a remark about Fatherís method of showing it, but she held her tongue. He had been much nicer to her in the last few months. When heíd asked for her help with Vincent he hadnít intended that she go into the cavern after him, but sheíd done it anyway. And she had brought him out. Father hadnít tried to keep them apart since.
"Iíve never actually been responsible for anyone but myself before," Vincent said, interrupting her musings. "This will certainly be a new experience."
"Iíll be there to help," Catherine assured him. "And Iím willing to bet that we will have babysitters standing in line, vying for the opportunity to babysit."
That lightened the mood and made Vincent chuckle. "You are probably right, babies are much loved Below. Brooke, Samantha and Lana just might come to blows over it."
"How about Mary, Rebecca and Jamie?" Catherine reminded him. "We might just have to keep them apart too."
They were both laughing when Catherine left the room to go put on something that was more suitable to wear Below.
Vincent had the baby tucked into the crook of one arm and was inspecting the stacks of baby things when she came out of her bedroom.
"All this didnít come with him, did it?" he asked.
"No, Peter got a little carried away when he went to pick up some formula and diapers. I packed up some things to take Below now; we can send up the next small army we encounter to help carry the rest of it down later." She smiled wryly at him as she started to put on the chest carrier.
"It just might take more than that," commented Vincent as he helped her put the baby in the carrier.
She slipped her jacket on, handed him the backpack, and then picked up the diaper bag.
"Iíll lock up here and meet you at my threshold in a few minutes," she said. He nodded and he was gone before she could blink.
She closed and locked the balcony doors then headed down to the basement, hoping she didnít meet anyone on the way.
She reached the basement without seeing a soul, and when she opened the door to the subbasement Vincent was already there waiting for her. She handed him the diaper bag then swung herself out and climbed down the ladder.
"I couldnít reach the door," she said as she reached the bottom.
Vincent quickly stepped around her and climbed up. He rearranged the boxes then closed the door, then lightly dropped back to the dusty floor.
"Perhaps I should carry him," he suggested. "I think we should probably keep him a secret until weíve had a chance to talk to Father, and I can conceal him better under my cloak."
"Good idea, I hadnít thought that far ahead. I guess Iím a little tired."
She lifted the baby out of the carrier and handed him to Vincent who took him in his left arm then pulled the cloak around and over. It didnít even look like he was carrying anything. He handed the backpack to Catherine and then he picked up the diaper bag and they proceeded to the main hub then his chamber.
"Do you want to keep him here tonight, or do you want me to take him to the guest chamber with me?" Catherine asked as they entered Vincentís chamber.
"I might as well get used to looking after him," said Vincent. He put the baby in the center of his bed then took off his cloak and took Catherineís jacket. He hung them both on hooks then went over to the wall to the left of the bed and shifted a bookcase to the left and way from the wall.
"Isnít it kind of late to be moving furniture?" asked Catherine.
"There is a small chamber back here. I havenít looked at it in quite a while. Iíve been using it for storage. It might make a good nursery."
Catherine crossed and looked past him into the chamber. It was roughly ten by ten, and there were a few pieces of furniture in it. Vincent picked up a candle and went in, and she followed him.
"I think it will work after a good cleaning and airing," she said as she inspected the few pieces of furniture in the chamber. "This chest of drawers can probably be used, and that table could be padded and used as a changing table." She stepped behind the chest. "Vincent, thereís a cradle over here," she called.
"I thought that might still be in here," he commented. He handed the candle to her and picked up the cradle and carried it out into his chamber.
Catherine knew where he stored a few cleaning supplies and she went to retrieve them. After about ten minutes of dusting and polishing the true beauty of the hand carved cradle was revealed.
"Itís beautiful, Vincent," she commented as she sat back on her heels to admire the craftsmanship. "Who made it?"
"Winslowís father. It was Winslowís first and he had just outgrown it when I was found. His father brought it to Father for me."
"The padding is pretty deteriorated, though. It looks like it will need another mattress."
"I have some thick foam padding in the bottom of my armoire. We can cut a piece of that and wrap it in a piece of sheeting. Iíll get someone to sew a permanent cover for it later."
It wasnít long before the baby was settled in his new cradle next to Vincentís bed, and Catherine was giving instructions on the babyís schedule.
"Iíve taken care of babies before," said Vincent with a smile.
"I know you have," she admitted reluctantly, "but Iíve kind of gotten attached to this one."
Vincent hugged her and they both laughed.
"I think Iím going to be a little attached to this one too," said Vincent as they stood together looking down at him.
"You know," started Catherine, "we canít go on forever calling him Ďthe babyí. He really needs to have a name. Do you have any ideas?"
"The naming ceremony wonít be for a while yet, so we will have some time. Do you have any suggestions?"
"I donít know...something that suits him. He is always so quiet."
"Then I donít suppose Simon would work," he said as he went to the bookshelf and pulled down a book.
"I donít know, I kind of like Simon. Itís a good strong name." She glanced at the cradle as she moved to sit on a chair.
"But it means Ďto be heardí in Hebrew," he told her with a smile.
"That might actually suit him. You know, only speaking up when something needs to be said."
"Father said that John Pater wanted to name me Adam."
"Another Hebrew name, the first man. What does it mean?"
Vincent leafed through a couple pages in his book. "Of the earth," he answered.
"Iíve always like Aaron, and I even know what it means...strong."
"I like Aaron," said Vincent, after a moment. "What do you think?"
"Does he look like an Aaron," they both looked toward the cradle.
"The strong, silent type," suggested Vincent.
"Isnít that what Vincent means?" she asked with a wink.
"It means Ďconquerorí," he corrected.
"I like Aaron. Aaron Wells...sounds like a TV news anchor," she added with a giggle.
"Make it radio and he might be able to make it work," suggested Vincent.
That made Catherine laugh out loud.
"Vincent, you made a joke...you donít do that very often."
He just smiled sheepishly and ducked his head.
"How do you propose we break this to Father?" he asked after a pause.
"We should probably do it together. But we might want to leave Aaron out of it until heís been told. If we walk into Fatherís chamber carrying a baby, especially one that looks like you, he is libel to have a stroke."
"Then we will have to let someone else in on the secret. I suggest Mary. Come here when you wake in the morning and then I will go to Mary, tell her and get her to come and stay with him while we go talk to Father."
"Should we tell him that it is possible that you are Aaronís father?" she asked.
"Why donít we wait on that until Peter gets back to us with the results of the test. It will be hard enough for father to accept that there is another like me. If we tell him that I might be his father he just may have that stroke."
Catherine looked at her watch. "Itís a little after midnight, do you want me to hang round for his 2AM bottle?"
"No Catherine, you donít have to. I can change his diaper and feed him, Vincent assured her. "Does he cry when he wakes?"
"Not really," she told him. "He fusses a little. The only time Iíve heard him cry was when I didnít hear him when he woke up this afternoon. He was in the bedroom and I was in the living room. He let out one good, angry howl, as if to say: ĎHey, lady, Iím hungry and wet in here.í As soon as he saw that I was there, he quit."
"That is what Father said I was like after the first few days." He shrugged and walked with Catherine to the door of his chamber. "Maybe is it just the nature of the species," he suggested.
"And what, pray tell, species is that?" she asked in a sharp tone. No one made fun of Vincent in her presence, not even Vincent.
"Mine, whatever it is," he told her defiantly, softening it with a smile and a hug. "Did you bring anything with you?" He looked around as he handed her jacket to her.
"Just this," she held up purse sized bag. "I didnít need much, just some clean underwear, my toothbrush and a few toiletries. Iíve been keeping a few things in a chest in the guest chamber since your illness. It is more convenient that way." She rose up on her tiptoes and kissed Vincent on the cheek then she slipped her arms around his waist and put her head on his chest.
"How are you with all this?" she asked quietly.
"A little in shock," he admitted, "but Iím all right..." he leaned back to look down at her. "Really...I am. Iím learning how to stay and face things that upset my equilibrium. Father was never one to insist that I deal with things that upset me, especially when they involved my differences. He was more for just hiding them and pretending they didnít exist. If I could recite Shakespeare and point out the constellations then I would be accepted in polite society," he said in a slightly bitter tone. "At least down here."
"He did it out of love, Vincent," she pointed out.
"I know, and I love him too, I just wish that he had been as accepting of my differences as he was of me."
"You wonít make that same mistake," she pointed out.
She held him tight for a few minutes, then let go and backed toward the chamber door.
"Good night, and good luck," she said, nodding toward the cradle. "Come get me if you need me."
Catherineís internal clock woke her just after 7AM, but she figured that Vincent had already been up for at least an hour. When she was washed up and dressed she decided she would surprise him and go get them some breakfast before she went to his chamber. The idea of facing Father on an empty stomach was not appealing.
When she entered Vincentís chamber she found Vincent sound asleep and the chamber quiet. She decided that they must have gone back to sleep after Aaron ate at 6AM, but when she tiptoed over to the cradle to have a look she found that Aaron was wide awake, just lying there batting at shadows with one tiny fist, the other jammed in his mouth.
She scooped him up, and sure enough, his diaper was soaked to the point where it was starting to leak. She took him to the area that Vincent had set up for diaper changes and was in the process of changing him when Vincent woke.
"Catherine, what are you doing here so early?" he asked through a yawn.
"It isnít that early. Apparently Aaron is already sleeping through most of the night. Itís not quite 8AM yet."
She kept her back to the room while she changed Aaronís diaper. She heard Vincent get up and put on his robe.
"I brought us some breakfast. Iíll feed him and you can eat," she suggested as Vincent came up behind her.
"What age do babies usually start to smile?" asked Vincent, as he watched her.
"Iím not sure. If I remember what Nancy told me I think it is about two, two and a half months. Why?"
"I could have sworn he smiled last night, Mary would probably say it was gas." He reached around Catherine and tickled Aaronís tummy before Catherine put a clean sleeper on him, and Aaron wiggled and smiled.
"Looked like a smile to me," laughed Catherine. "What do you think?"
"How old did Peter say he was?" asked Vincent.
"He didnít. I was assuming he was less than a month old from his size, but he could be older."
"I was small at the beginning," said Vincent. "So small that they assumed I was premature. I was barely five pounds when Anna brought me Below."
"We can weigh him later," suggested Catherine. "Iím sure that Father will want to give him a thorough going over."
"Iím sure he will. You go ahead and feed him. Iíll go wash up and get dressed."
Vincent left and Catherine found the arrangement that Vincent had set up to heat the bottle. He had a small saucepan of water sitting to the side of the brazier. She moved it closer to the banked fire. She poked the coals and tossed on another small dry piece of wood then set the bottle in the water. It was warm in a few minutes and Aaron was contentedly having his breakfast and Catherine was sipping a cup of coffee when Vincent came back into the chamber.
"I didnít bring a heavy breakfast," she told him. "Just muffins, fruit, tea for you and coffee for me. I hope itís enough."
"Itís what I usually eat when Iím not planning to do heavy physical labor."
Vincent poured tea and served himself some muffins and fruit while he watched Catherine finish feeding Aaron and then move him to her shoulder to burp him.
"You look like youíve been doing that all your life," he said.
"I got plenty of experience when Nancyís daughter was born a few years ago. Nancyís husband came down with the measles while he was on a business trip, so when he got home he went straight to his motherís. He couldnít be with Nancy when the baby was born, so I went. I got a crash course on being a labor coach and then I stayed with her for a week after the baby was born, until the doctor said it was safe for her husband to go home. It was amazing at how quickly I got attached to my God-daughter! I hated to go home!"
Vincent was finished with his breakfast when Catherine finished burping Aaron.
"Iíll take him while you eat," he suggested.
She handed him the baby and settled back to enjoy her breakfast.
"Weíre a pretty good team," she suggested after a few minutes.
Vincent didnít answer, but the look he gave her was enough to curl her toes. It was her turn to lower her eyes and concentrate on something else.
When they were done eating, Vincent said he would take the tray back and then go get Mary.
He returned with Mary a few minutes later and found Catherine sitting in the middle of his bed playing with Aaron.
"Youíre right Vincent," she said as they walked in. "He is definitely smiling and I think I even got a giggle out of him."
Mary hurried over and sat down on the bed next to Catherine. Vincent sat on the other side.
"He is beautiful!" Mary exclaimed as Catherine handed Aaron to her. "I wasnít around when you were this age, Vincent, but you are right, he looks just like Elizabethís drawings." She looked up at Catherine and Vincent and smiled. "You two just run along and break the news to Jacob. This young man and I can get acquainted on our own."
She shooed Catherine and Vincent out as she moved to the larger chair.
"You need a rocking chair in here," she told them as they left.
Vincent took Catherineís hand as they left his chamber and he didnít drop it as they entered Fatherís. That was unusual in itself; Catherine figured Vincent might be feeling the need for moral support. She squeezed his hand as they crossed the room to the chairs in front of Fatherís desk.
As usual, Jacob Wells was studying figures in a ledger.
"Is something wrong Father?" asked Vincent.
"Ah, no...actually it is right, but it is puzzling. Shipments from Helpers Above seem to have grown in size. We got a load of canned goods last week that seems to be at least four times the usual size, and the same goes for a shipment of other staples that arrived yesterday. Mary said that she got a gross of brand new bath towels just the other day, and several months ago several dozen blankets just showed up in the linen chamber with no explanation. Seems the generosity of our Helpers is growing by leaps and bounds." He directed a quizzical look at Catherine who was intently studying a pen on his blotter, then redirected his attention to his son. "So, what brings the two of you here this early," he asked as he closed the ledger and placed his glasses on top of it.
"We have something we need to tell you, Father, and Iím not sure exactly where to begin," said Vincent as he pushed a chair toward Catherine and sat on the one next to it.
"Sounds ominous," observed Father. "Not trouble I hope."
"No trouble, Father," Catherine assured him, "only we might think differently in a couple of years."
Vincent glanced over at her and almost laughed, it served to break the tension in chamber.
"Seems a stork, in human form, paid a visit to Catherineís home yesterday morning."
"Stork?" asked Father, looking from Catherine to Vincent and then back at Catherine.
"Someone left a baby outside my door yesterday," Catherine clarified.
"A baby? But why..."
"A special, baby," said Catherine.
"Itís a boy," added Vincent.
"And what has this to do with us?" asked Father.
"Like I said," said Catherine, "heís special."
Father was beginning to catch on, but both Vincent and Catherine knew he would never guess the full extent of it.
"How special?" Father asked.
Vincent took a deep breath and leapt right in. "He is like me, Father."
"That canít be possible!" Father declared after a brief hesitation.
"Not only possible," said Vincent, "but a reality."
"A miniature of Vincent, right down to his eye color," declared Catherine.
"Where is this child?" Father had gone a little pale, but waved Vincent away when he stood and started toward him.
"Heís in my chamber. Mary is with him," Vincent answered, suddenly tense again at Fatherís reaction.
"He is healthy?" asked Father.
"Peter examined him yesterday morning and says that he is fine. He not only looks like Vincent, but shares his physiology too, according to Peter," Catherine answered.
"I think I need to see him," Father said quietly.
When Catherine started to rise, he waved her back into her chair. "Vincent, you go get him; I want to speak to Catherine."
When Vincent left the chamber, Father turned a hard gaze on Catherine.
"I need an explanation from you, young lady," he said, sounding like he was scolding one of the teens Below.
"I canít really give you one, Father," she said, confused. "It was like I said. I was on my way out the door to work yesterday morning and I almost fell over a basket. I was shocked when I looked and found a baby, even more shocked that it would look like Vincent. I did get a description from the doorman of the woman who brought him up, and I have a couple of ideas about how to go about finding her. I will get to the bottom of it, if I can."
Fatherís look had softened. "I donít know how to go about asking his delicately, Catherine, but I have to ask. He isnít yours?"
It took a moment for the meaning of the question to register, then she shook her head adamantly. "No, Father. I didnít give birth to him. You have seen me at least once a week for the last nine months, you know I havenít been pregnant."
"Iím sorry. Youíre right, but Vincent had that memory lapse, and almost anything could have happened...he was in your apartment for three days. And for the last several months Iíve noticed that youíve taken to wearing baggy clothing and your face has been a bit pudgy."
"He was, and youíre right, anything could have happened, but that didnít. First of all, in his weakened state, I doubt that he could have, and even if he could have, I wouldnít have, not while he wasnít himself," she pointed out. "As for the baggy clothing and pudgy face," she blushed a little and continued. "After Vincent recovered I went to Peter and asked him for a prescription for birth control pills. Iíve taken them before and the first few months I always a struggle with fluid buildup until my body gets used to the differences in hormones. Iím just beginning to get back to normal."
"Birth control?" Father asked with an edge to her voice.
"Yes, FatherÖbirth control. Just in caseÖwe havenít actually made that step yet, but I donít want to rush Vincent into anything he isnít ready for. It is just a precaution."
"Donít be angry, Catherine, but I had to askÖall of it."
"I understand, Father, but you need to know that I love Vincent, and no matter how much I would love for that to happen...when it does, and, yes, I said when, I want it to be under the right circumstances and I definitely want Vincent to remember it."
Father was on the verge of apologizing again when Vincent entered the chamber carrying a bundle with Mary hot on his heels.
"Iím sorry that took so long," he said as he approached, "but Mary was changing his diaper when I got there."
He went to the side of Fatherís desk and Father rose. Mary stayed next to Catherineís chair.
Vincent turned so that Father could see the baby he carried.
One look had Father gasping and reaching for the child. Vincent almost reluctantly relinquished him.
Father sat back in his chair and gazed at the baby who stared back at him.
"He is you all over again," he exclaimed as he captured and examined the small hand that was waving aimlessly around. "I donít understand."
Mary busied herself setting a kettle to boil on the brazier, as Vincent tried to explain to his father.
"Peter and Catherine have a theory," he said.
"What is that?" asked Father looking up at them.
"Well, it was Peter who actually first made the suggestion, but we think it is possible that he is Vincentís son," Catherine said softly.
"That isnít possible!" exclaimed Father.
"Hear her out, Father," Vincent urged.
"Well, think back to when Professor Hughes captured Vincent. He held him for several days and during much of the time Vincent was unconscious. Hughes was a biologist and before I destroyed his notes, I read some of them. He ran all kinds of tests on Vincent, took all kinds of samples. Vincent saw only one person other than Hughes, but Hughes didnít mention any assistants in his notes, so there could have been others. Itís possible that Hughes also took a semen sample and preserved it. If there was someone else involved, it is possible that he artificially inseminated someone with it and the baby was the result."
"But Peter and I have always assumed that you were sterile," Father said to Vincent, "and even if you arenít we thought that your DNA just wouldnít be compatible."
The baby started to fuss a little and Vincent took him from Father and handed him to Catherine and he quieted.
"Father, that is something else we need to talk about," he said with a quick look into Catherineís eyes. He started to pace, but then thought better of it and sat down.
"Peter came to me a few months ago and asked me if Iíd like to have a DNA analysis done," he started.
"He never mentioned it to me," interrupted Father.
"No, he didnít," Vincent agreed. "He thought it was something that I might not want to share with everyone if the results were extraordinary."
"What were the results?" asked Father.
"Far from extraordinary. My DNA is essentially the same as any mammal on this planet, yours or any other person. The scientist who did the tests is a friend of Peterís, said heíd never seen anything like it, but that it wasnít that different and he didnít think it would be incompatible with human DNA because it is essentially human."
"But whether it is compatible or not is of no consequence if you are sterile as we suspect," said Father, reasonably.
"Iím not," put in Vincent.
"Iím not sterile. At the same time that Peter took the DNA sample, I gave him a semen sample." He slid another glance at Catherine. "He took it back to his office and checked it and he said that it appeared normal in every way."
"Then what Catherine suggests is possible," said Father.
"Yes, Father, it is," agreed Vincent.
"Peter took a DNA sample from the baby and he said he would let us know what his friend discovers," said Catherine. "He should be able to tell if it is possible that Vincent is his father."
Vincent and Father were still discussing the developments when Catherine and Mary took Aaron back to Vincentís chamber. Catherine told Mary Vincentís plan to turn the storage room into a nursery and Mary went right to work making it happen. She made a list then gathered several of the children and sent them off to the storage rooms to find the items on the list. Catherine put Aaron in the cradle and the two of them got to work moving out the furniture that wouldnít be needed and cleaning the room. By the time Vincent returned to his chamber they had made a very good start on the job. By late afternoon the room was clean, there were carpets on the stone floor, colorful hangings on the walls, a crib, a small armoire, changing table, a rocking chair, and most of the baby supplies had been brought down from Catherineís apartment.
Mary shook her head the over abundance of things Peter had bought.
"Well, look at it this way, Mary," suggested Catherine as they unwrapped the baby clothes, "when Aaron is done with them, they will get handed down to the next new baby here."
"At least there is that," agreed Mary. "Dr. Alcott has always been a very generous man."
Father made the official announcement at dinner that night that the tunnels were welcoming a new citizen. He told them that the child was like Vincent, but didnít say anything about the speculation that he might be Vincentís son. There would be time enough for that later if it proved to be true.
Vincent and Catherine were like new parents, they marveled at the perfection of the child. Vincent came back from investigating an intruder alert that had proven to be false to find Catherine stretched out on his bed with Aaron. She was inspecting his hands and feet.
"Vincent, come here," she called as he entered. "Peter came down a little while ago and he and Father gave Aaron a complete check up and they both agree that he is a month or younger, but I just discovered that he is already cutting teeth."
"Father said that I got teeth early," said Vincent as he hung up his cloak. "How did you discover Aaronís?"
"He had hold of my finger and pulled it into his mouth and bit it," she said with a laugh. "I looked and sure enough, he is getting two on top and two on the bottom. They have just barely broken though the gum. How old were you when you got your first teeth?"
"Father said that it was between four and six weeks. I was chewing through the nipples on my bottles not long after that.
Catherine stayed Below as long as she could, but she finally had to give in and go home late Sunday afternoon. She still had laundry to do.
Just before she went to bed she was gathering up her trash so she could take it down to the basement when she left for work the next morning. She noticed several formula bottles in the can. They all came from the original batch that had been in the basket with Aaron. She remembered Peter saying that it was a special formula, usually available only as a special order so she wrote down the manufacturerís name, the type of formula and the batch numbers. With any luck the manufacturer might be able to tell her what stores had sold these bottles and the stores might be able to tell her the names of the people who had purchased them.
The next day Catherine ate her lunch at her desk and made a few calls while she ate.
"Customer service, how may I help you?" the pleasant female voice at the other end of the line said.
"My name is Catherine Chandler. I have an inquiry about a special order formula that your company makes." She knew she could probably get the information she needed faster if she used her job, but she hesitated to do it unless she absolutely had to.
"What can I do for you Miss Chandler?"
"I need to trace some formula to the store that sold it."
"Is there a problem with it?" asked the woman.
"No. Several bottles were included in some things that were with an abandoned child. I am just following up some leads," she told the woman. Essentially true, she told herself.
"So this is an official enquiry?" asked the woman.
"Not yet. We are trying to avoid that step," she told her.
"I can understand that. Do you have the batch numbers?" she asked.
"There are two different ones," said Catherine, then she read the numbers out to the woman.
"Just a moment, let me check to see where they went." She put Catherine on hold.
She was back a few minutes later. "Both were sent to several places. I can fax you the lists," she offered.
"That would be very helpful." Catherine gave the woman the office fax number then thanked her and hung up.
She hurried over to the fax machine and after a short wait, the lists fed out. She took them back to her desk and compared them. Three pharmacies in the city had received shipments from both batches.
She called all three pharmacies to verify that they carried the formula as a special order but was not able to get the information she needed over the phone. She would have to go to the pharmacies and show her ID for that. She had expected as much.
She didnít make it that evening, Joe kept her working late, but she managed to get out of the office the following afternoon, she claimed some comp time for working late the previous evening.
She struck out at the first pharmacy, the one closest to her office. The pharmacist told her that they ordered it for Sun-hi Yeong a woman about thirty who had been ordering it for about six months. Catherine is pretty sure that is not who she is looking for.
She talked to the pharmacist at the second pharmacy.
"We are ordering it for two people," he told her. "A Rachel Moore. She has been ordering it for several months. The other is an older woman, Lydia Velazquez. She mentioned that she was ordering it for her employerís grandson. A little over a month ago she came in and bought what we had on hand, and then she placed an order, then two weeks later she placed another order, and then a third over a week ago. Most people order a three week supply every two weeks. She never picked up the third and when we called the number she gave, it had been disconnected. I just sold her order to a Dr. Peter Alcott. I donít have an address for Mrs. Velazquez, but I can give you the number, but like I said, itís been disconnected."
"It will give me a place to start," Cathy told him as she wrote down the number.
She was pretty sure that Lydia Velazquez was her woman. The pharmacist gave her a description and it matched the one George had given her.
As soon as Cathy got home that evening she called the number and verified that it had been disconnected.
Cathy was at her desk early on Wednesday morning and the first thing she did was call the telephone company to see if she could get some information on the number the pharmacist had given her.
"May I help you?" asked the woman who answered the call.
"Yes, I hope so. My name is Catherine Chandler, and Iím with the District Attorneyís office and I need an address that goes with a telephone number."
"Whatís the number please?"
Catherine recited the number.
"Is that in New York?" asked the women.
Catherine had given her the area code, it was a New York area code, and a city exchange.
"Yes it is, at least the area code is," she answered.
"Iím sorry that number has been disconnected," answered the voice.
"I realize that. I called it earlier and got that recording. Iím trying to trace the person who lived there."
"And what is that individualís name?
"That is the problem," said Catherine, becoming just a little exasperated, "I need a name and address so I can trace the person."
"That number hasnít been forwarded to another address."
"I know, it was disconnected when I called it earlier...Can you give me the name and address of the person who used to have that number?"
"We donít give that information to just anyone, you know," came the answer. "By what authority are you asking for it?"
"As I told you at the beginning of this call, my name is Catherine Chandler and I am with the District Attorneyís office." She was sure that the woman on the other end of the line could probably hear her grinding her teeth.
"What District Attorney is that?"
"District Attorney John Moreno," Catherine almost shouted.
"Why didnít you say so...one moment."
Catherine stifled a groan as she waited.
"That would be Neuberg," she spelled it. "The first name is Albert, initial is P. It is cross referenced as Dr. A. P. Neuberg."
"Is there an address?"
The woman gave her an address in the Village, and Catherine thanked her and quickly hung up.
"Problem, Radcliffe?" asked Joe as she strolled up to her desk.
"I keep telling myself that I am a public servant and that I work for these people, their taxes pay my salary, but sometimes..."
"What was that all about," he asked.
"Just trying to run down a name for a phone number I found scribbled in the margins of a detectiveís notes on one of those old cases you gave me last week. I wasnít sure if it had something to do with the case, was his girlfriendís number or the local Chinese restaurant."
"What did you find out?"
"Not a lot, it is disconnected, and the name of the person and the address donít appear to be anything connected with the case, so I guess it has nothing to do with it, but Iíll hang on to it, just in case."
"Good thought, anyway, Cath."
She almost groaned out loud as Joe walked away. She was just getting too good at this lying thing.
Although Catherine didnít really expect him to, Vincent visited that evening. She had just finished going over some files when she heard his tap on the balcony door.
She dropped the files she was stacking and went to open the door.
"Iím surprised to see you tonight," she said as she joined him at the wall.
"Why is that? Iím almost always here on Wednesday evening."
"I thought Aaron would be keeping you busy," she said as he put his arm around her.
"He does, when he gets the chance, but it is as you said. Iíve had no problem finding someone to babysit. In fact, Jamie and Brooke came up to me in the dining chamber and all but snatched Aaron out of my arms, insisting that I come up to see you."
"Then I guess I should be thanking Jamie and Brooke." Catherine laughed and leaned her head on his shoulder. "Any plans for the naming ceremony yet?"
"It is traditionally done at six weeks, so we are planning for a week from Sunday. Both Father and Peter seem to think Aaron is a little more than a month old."
"It fits what Iíve found out," Catherine told him.
"Youíve had some luck in your investigation?" he asked with interest.
"A little." She went on to tell him what she had learned. "The pharmacist said that a Mrs. Velazquez came in to the pharmacy and bought what they had on hand and placed her first order for the formula about five weeks ago. I figure that they didnít realize at first that he would need a special formula until a few days after his birth. She told the pharmacist that she was ordering it for her employerís grandson."
"He was probably like me, crying constantly until they found something he could eat. One of the women below agreed to supply breast milk for me and that turned out to be the only thing I could tolerate," added Vincent.
"Yes, the label says the formula is for infants who are lactose intolerant." She looked up at him. "I didnít know that you are lactose intolerant."
"It doesnít bother me much," he told her. "I just donít eat a lot of dairy. I eat a little cheese, or drink a little milk. I usually save it for the special things, like ice cream." He smiled down at her. "Have you found Mrs. Velazquez yet?"
"Not yet. I tracked the telephone number to a name and address, but havenít been able to put any time into going further yet. Iíll run her name and her employerís, a Dr. Albert P. Neuberg, through our database tomorrow and see if I can come up with anything. Iíll try to make it Below Friday evening and bring you up to date on everything."
"Will you be staying?" Vincent asked.
"For the weekend?" She considered. "I think I will. The little guy was only here for one day, but I miss him," she admitted.
First thing Thursday morning Catherine stopped in the data processing center on her way up to the DAís offices. Edie had been gone for a year and had come back with a degree. She had reapplied and had been made the manager of the section. Catherine still made time to drop in on her at least once a week, but this was the first time she come with a request in quite a while.
"I was wondering who you were getting to do all your work, Cathy," she said with a laugh as she sat down at the computer in the main room.
"Well, one of these days, this city will come out of the dark ages and will put computer terminals on all our desks, then we can do our own searches," said Cathy.
"And then, this whole department will be out of work," moaned Edie. "Canít have that, it would send the unemployment numbers up for the city and they are already high enough."
She took the paper that Catherine handed her and punched in the name. Only one Albert P. Neuberg came up on her screen. She opened the file and compared the addresses. "Yep, this is your guy. Looks like he died about a week ago. Housekeeper, a Lydia Velazquez went in one morning and found him dead in his bed. Since he had been in good health the body had to go through the coronerís office. He died of natural causes." She punched a few buttons, then cleared the screen. The file started printing out the printer next to the computer. She fed the paper up, tore it off and handed it to Catherine.
"This a case?" she asked.
"Kind of," admitted Catherine. "Iíve been trying to find his housekeeper, for personal reasons. I thought this might help."
"There is an address in there for her," she nodded at the papers in Catherineís hand.
"Thanks Edie," Catherine hugged her. "I owe you!"
"Yeah, for this and how many other favors. How about dinner and a show?" Edie suggested.
"Youíre on. You pick the restaurant, the show and the day. Let me know and Iíll make reservations and get the tickets."
"You have a deal, Girlfriend!" Edie called after her as she left.
At her desk, Catherine skimmed through the printout, sure enough there was an address for Mrs. Velazquez. She jotted it down on a notepad and then on a whim made a call to ask about Dr. Neubergís obituary. The man she talked to at the newspaper told her that he would fax over what they had and any related articles.
She was elbow deep in law books later when Rita dropped some papers on her desk.
"Fax for you, Cathy," she said.
"Thanks," she said, looking up. "Is Joe in?"
"Just came in from court. He was looking for you."
"Oh damn!" moaned Catherine. "Now what have I done?"
"Somethiní awful, Radcliffe," came the answer from halfway across the room.
Catherine cringed. "I didnít forget anything did I?"
"No, in fact, remember that extra stuff that you put in, the stuff that I told you to leave out because it wasnít relevant to the case?" He dropped into the chair next to her desk.
She nodded, waiting for him to lower the boom.
"Well, it turned out to be relevant after all. So relevant, in fact, that we not only got the indictment, but we also got bail raised to an astronomical figure and our guy is probably going to be cooling his heels in the pokey until his court date." He grinned and patted her hand. "Thanks for not listening to me...again."
"I aim to please, Joe," she said, grinning back.
Joe went back to his office and she quickly looked through the papers Rita had left. There was quite a sheaf of them. Not only did she have Neubergís obit, but an accompanying article and several other articles that had been printed over the last forty or so years. She stuffed them in a file, planning to read them at lunch.
She never got to them that day. Her real job got in the way. She was out of the office interviewing witnesses all afternoon. She didnít finish until after 6PM. She had skipped lunch so she grabbed some dinner at a deli then went straight home, not bothering to go back to the office for the file.
Friday was as crazy as Thursday had been, but when she left the office just before 7PM she was reasonably sure that Joe wouldnít have any reason to call her over the weekend. She made sure of it by telling him that she was going to be out of town until late Sunday.
She had found the time to read the file on Neuberg over lunch, and had found it very interesting. She couldnít wait to get Below to share it with Vincent.
She stopped in her apartment only long enough to change her shoes and pick up the duffle she had packed for the weekend.
Vincent met her at her threshold, and proceeded to scold her for not eating.
"I ate lunch," she protested.
"A salad?" he guessed.
"With hardboiled eggs and chicken on it. It was healthy!"
"That was at noon, it has been eight hours," he pointed out needlessly. "You canít live on coffee."
She slipped her arm though his and hugged it as they walked.
"It really isnít coffee, you know," she said referring to the sludge in the pot at the office. "I think it is burned, caffeinated mud."
"How can you drink that stuff?" he asked with a chuckle.
"Only for the caffeine, I assure you," she said. "Did you save me some dinner?"
"I did; or actually, William did. He told me to let him know when you got Below and he would prepare a tray and send it to my chamber."
"I love that man," she sighed.
"Should I be worried?" asked Vincent, not really worried.
"Ah, you feed my soul, Vincent, but William feeds my belly. You tell me which is more important."
They were both laughing when they reached Vincentís chamber where Father was feeding Aaron.
"Looks like you have lots of good help," said Catherine with a smile for Father.
"Experience is the key," Father answered.
Geoffrey arrived with Catherineís dinner tray. She sat down to eat as Vincent took the baby from Father, thanking him for his help. Father stayed to talk while Catherine ate and Vincent changed Aaron and put him in the cradle next to his bed.
"Is he still sleeping in here with you?" asked Catherine.
"Yes, I was afraid that if I put him in his own chamber I might not hear him if he woke. Livvy told me that I was being the typical new parent. She insists that at five weeks old he should be in his own chamber." Vincent shrugged and smiled a little sheepishly.
"We wonít disturb him talking, will we?" she asked.
"He sleeps very soundly," put in Father. "Much like Vincent did at that age. The sound of the subways, the pipes; nothing bothers him."
"That is good." She picked up her tea cup and sat back. "And so was that pot roast."
"How is your investigation going?" asked Father.
"Did Vincent tell you that I found the name of the woman who left the baby? At least Iím very sure it is her. I also found her employerís name and some information on him and it all fits."
Vincent sat down in the empty chair next to hers, and both he and Father looked at her expectantly.
"The employer was Dr. Albert P. Neuberg, he was in his 80ís. Mrs. Velazquez has been his housekeeper since the 50ís. She went to work on...it will be two weeks on Monday, and was surprised to find that Dr. Neuberg wasnít up yet. She said he was normally an early riser and when she arrived at 8AM the coffee would be made and she would usually find him in the kitchen eating a light breakfast and reading the paper. That morning the paper was still on the stoop, no lights were on and no one was in the kitchen. She went upstairs to check on him and found him dead in his bed. She called an ambulance and because of the circumstances, and especially when they found out that he had written a will, a recent will, that left everything to her, they took the body to the coroner for autopsy.
"The coroner determined that he had died of natural causes, and since he had no relatives Mrs. Velazquez handled the arrangements. The funeral was last Friday. The same day that little A...the baby showed up in front of my door." She looked at Father and smiled.
"Donít worry, Catherine, Vincent told me you were going to name him Aaron," Father told her.
She nodded and continued her story. "I havenít talked to Mrs. Velazquez, I hope to see her tomorrow. I thought about calling her, but then decided that I would just show up at her door instead.
Both men nodded.
"Is that all?" asked Vincent, sensing that it wasnít.
"No, it isnít. I contacted the Times and asked if they could send me a copy of Neubergís obit. While the man was looking, he asked if I would like copies of any other articles on Albert Neuberg. I asked if there were other articles and he said that there were several that he could see, he would have someone research it and they would fax over what they found. I got quite a bit of information. The obituary contained all the usual stuff. He was born in a small town near Dresden, Germany in 1908. He attended school and college in Dresden and then came here to the US to study medicine in 1930. He decided to stay here after he finished his studies. He married in 1935. He went to work for the Saratoga Institute in 1948 and worked there until it closed in 1972. He then retired. All pretty ordinary stuff.
"Then I read the other things they had faxed over. There were several articles published in the Times between 1948 and his death. Seems he was pretty well known in his field. He published several papers and one book. I was so interested I went over to the library and looked a few things up."
"What was his field?" asked Vincent.
"Genetics," she told him.
Father sat forward. "What else, Catherine?"
"Iíll give you the papers to read," she promised. "And Iíve ordered his book and copies of his papers from the library. Iíll pick them up tomorrow when I go talk to Mrs. Velazquez. But Dr. Neuberg has led a very interesting life.
She referred to the papers in her hand before she started the story.
"Neuberg went back to Germany in 1936. His father had died and his mother was quite old and he planned to bring her back here. He didnít take his wife because he was afraid that it wasnít safe. He had been in contact with friends in Germany and they were beginning to see things that made them uneasy. His mother lived in a small town that was mostly Jewish. While he was there the government started cracking down on Jews. He had become an American citizen, but his mother was German and they wouldnít give her papers to leave. He wouldnít leave his mother. She died before the Naziís started moving people into concentration camps on a large scale, but by that time Dr. Neuberg was stuck. He was rounded up with most of the Jews in his town. But because he was a doctor he was sent to a place called Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg. It was a camp north of Berlin that housed mostly political prisoners. He wasnít the official camp doctor, but he did most of the work.
"He was transferred to Birkenau-Auschwitz in 1942 where he worked as an assistant to the camp doctor. That was where he met Josef Mengele. Mengele arrived at the camp sometime in 1943 and not long after that Neuberg was transferred to work with Mengele. He was working for Mengele when Mengele started doing his so called research on heredity.
"Neuberg later gave statements about what went on in the camp. He said that he was sickened by it all, but his job actually kept him healthy and comfortable and in a position to try to help other prisoners.
"The Germanís abandoned the camp in January of 1945. Neuberg had been slated to go with them, but at the last minute was left behind. He stayed on to help the people in the camp even after the Allies liberated the area. He stayed on in Germany for about a year after the war ended and returned to New York and his wife in 1946.
"He went to work at the Saratoga Institute in 1948 working in the field of genetics. The Institute admitted to using some of Mengeleís research, although most of what Neuberg saw in the camps seemed designed more as torture than research."
"I know what Mengele was guilty of," said Vincent, "but what did he research?"
"One of the articles said that he was particularly interested in physical abnormalities, and he studied twins. He called his field ĎHeredityí."
They were all very quiet for a while, then Vincent asked the question that was on the tip of all of their tongues.
"Do you think that Neuberg was researching physical abnormalities, and that he might have created Aaron for research purposes?" asked Vincent with a pained expression.
Catherine knew what he was thinking but didnít mention it.
"When I went to the library, I looked up information on the Saratoga Institute," she told them. "At one time they were the leading researchers in the field of birth defects. They actually recruited several people like Dr. Neuberg who had worked with questionable researchers at one time or another. Obviously they thought that Mengele might have been on to something. There were rumors that they were in possession of some of Mengeleís research journals. I wonít know much more until I get Neubergís book and articles from the library."
"Catherine, if it would be of any help, Iíll read the articles and the book for you. I might have a better understanding of it, since Iím familiar with the medical terminology," offered Father.
"That would be a huge help," she said. "I hate reading and having to stop and look up every other word. It makes for slow going. Iíll bring them to you tomorrow afternoon. If you like you can read these." She handed him the faxes from the newspaper.
They were all pondering the information when they heard Peter announced on the pipes. He walked into the study a few minutes later.
"Good, everyone is here. I wonít have to tell this story more than once."
"Did you get the results of the genetics test back?" asked Catherine, as Peter pulled up a chair and joined them.
"Yes," he pulled an envelope out of his pocket and handed it to Vincent. "As you know, we wanted to know if there is a possibility that the baby is Vincentís son."
They all nodded.
"What did your friend have to say about that?" asked Father.
Peter looked across the table at Vincent. "He asked me why Iíd brought him a sample from the same person he tested for me a few months ago."
"What?" asked Catherine.
"He said that the DNA he tested this week was exactly the same as the DNA he tested for me a few months ago. Same human DNA and same unusual markers. He thought it was the same person."
Catherine was looking at Peter with a strange look. "Do you think that someone could have cloned Vincent?" she asked incredulously, grasping at straws.
"As far as I know, science hasnít progressed that far yet. There has been some research in other countries, but as far as Iíve heard, there have been no successes."
Vincent had a very strange look on his face and Catherine was afraid that he was going to bolt and they wouldnít see him for days, maybe weeks. Father obviously thought the same thing.
"Vincent, are you all right?" he asked.
Vincent took a deep breath. "Yes Father, Iím fine. It has just been a lot to take in." He stood and started toward the door. "Iím going to my chamber."
Catherine stood to follow him. She turned to Father with a pleading look on her face.
"Go Catherine, he needs you. Iíll explain everything to Peter."
She quickly followed Vincent and caught up with him as he walked into his chamber.
"Are you OK, Vincent," she asked in concern.
He turned and opened his arms and she rushed into them.
"I will be," he said as he held her tightly.
"I know, it all sounds like a bad science fiction story. But whatever it all turns out to be, Aaron is here and he is the reality. So are you. We will survive...all of us."
"Yes we will."
Vincent loosened his hold but didnít completely let go of her. He stood looking down at her.
"Would you like me to stay for a while, or do you want me to leave?" she asked.
"Stay, please," he said, tugging her toward the bed. "We can read for a while. I might be able to talk about it once I get it all sorted out."
Vincent piled all the pillows up against the wall at the head of his bed. They snuggled up together and Vincent handed Catherine a book that sheíd been reading on other visits Below. He pulled his own book off the shelf and they both opened their books and pretended to read.
For Vincent it was the comfort of Catherineís closeness that he needed. He agreed that it all sounded like science fiction, but he also found it all very disturbing. The idea that Aaron and possibly he had both been created solely to be used for testing was a frightening thought.
The Bond hadnít begun as a two way street, but since Vincentís illness, when they were close and quiet like this, Catherine could sense a little of what Vincent was feeling. Now she knew that he was very disturbed by everything heíd heard today. She felt responsible for his upset.
"Iím sorry, Vincent," she began.
"For what, Catherine?" he asked her.
"For all that. For everything I found out."
"Catherine, you arenít responsible for that. Yes, it has upset me somewhat, but it was unavoidable. We need to know more about Aaron, and it seems that what we learn about him might also apply to me. I will be all right. You donít need to protect me from the truth." He looked down at her and tried to smile.
"I just worry," she told him. "I came so close to losing you. It scared me, and I donít want you to go through that again."
"I wonít," he told her. "Something happened in that cavern, and I think I may have rid myself of the Ďbeastí for good."
"Rid yourself of him or accepted him into yourself?" she asked him candidly.
"To tell the truth, Iím not sure. I seem to still be able to call on certain things that I always attributed to the beast, but Iím not subject to the rages; I can control the anger."
"I imagine that it helps that Iím not doing investigations anymore," she put in.
"It helps immensely," he admitted. "The city streets are dangerous enough, as it is."
"I was wondering," she said closing her book. "You said that you can control your anger. Does that mean you think you might be able to control other aspects of your personality too?"
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"Just this." She rolled to her knees facing him, leaned forward and kissed him. It only lasted a little longer than the kiss she had given him when sheíd left the tunnels after her father died. But it took his breath away.
She pulled back, and sat on her heels looking at him. He had the same stunned look that heíd had the first time.
"Well?" she asked.
"Well?" he repeated in a strangled voice.
"Did you feel like you were in any danger of doing something crazy, or were you in complete control?"
"I think you were the one in control, Catherine," he managed to get out.
"Thatís not what I mean," she sighed. "I meant did you feel as if the beast was going to burst out and do something that you would regret?"
"No beast," he said. "And I donít think I would have regretted anything."
He put his hands on her upper arms and pulled her closer.
"I think I can handle kisses, without any regrets at all," he said as he lowered his lips to hers.
His kisses were sweet, and a little timid, but Catherine enjoyed every bit of it and wished for more as soon as he raised his head.
She saw the question in his eyes and smiled. "We can do more of that any time you want," she assured him.
Catherine was up and just finishing her makeup the next morning when Vincent called out at the entrance to the guest chamber.
"Are you ready for breakfast, Catherine?"
"In just a minute," she called back. "Come in while I finish."
She was just buttoning the last button on her blouse and she was wearing the same suit she had worn when she came Below the evening before. She stepped to the mirror and applied some lip gloss, then picked up her suit jacket and purse and faced Vincent.
"You are dressed for work, Catherine," he said.
"Just in case," she told him. "Mrs. Velazquez might be a tougher nut to crack than I think so I thought I would put on my professional armor."
He nodded and took her hand as they turned to leave the chamber. "For some reason, I feel as if I should be going with you," he told her.
"I doubt that she is dangerous. She must know about you. If she didnít, why would she have brought Aaron to me? She might know something of your history," she said as they walked.
"So there will be more revelations when you get back this afternoon."
"Most likely, and Iíll have Dr. Neubergís book and copies of the papers he published." She stopped and faced him. "Vincent, if this becomes too much for you, then just tell me and Iíll stop."
"No!" he exclaimed, then took a breath. "I want to know. Aaron and I need to know. He will grow up with a lot less uncertainty than I did."
"OK, then...Hopefully I will catch Mrs. Velazquez at home...if she isnít Iíll go to Dr. Neubergís place; the police file said that she inherited everything, she may be planning to live in the house. After I talk to her, Iíll stop at the library. Is there anything else youíd like me to pick up while Iím Above?"
"Nothing, just come back safely," he told her.
"Youíre not having a premonition?" she asked remembering some of the dreams heíd had in the past.
"No, nothing like that," he assured her.
As Catherine knocked on an apartment door in a modest building a couple of hours later she nervously wiped her palms on her slacks.
There is no reason to be nervous, she admonished herself, as she heard footsteps crossing the floor inside.
"Who is it?" came the slightly accented inquiry.
"Catherine Chandler, Mrs. Velazquez. I need to talk to you."
There was a hesitation, then she heard the door being unlocked.
Mrs. Velazquez opened the door, but blocked it with her body. Mrs. Velazquez wasnít any taller than Catherine, and she stood with one hand gripping the door and the other on her hip.
"I donít have anything to tell you, Miss Chandler," she said.
"I think you do," Catherine stated. "At least let me ask my questions."
Mrs. Velazquez stood for a moment then seemed to wilt. She stepped back and mutely invited Catherine to enter.
"Thank you, Mrs. Velazquez," she said as the woman led her into the living room. "You donít know how much this means to me."
Mrs. Velazquez indicated that Catherine should sit on the sofa. Catherine seated herself as Mrs. Velazquez stood and watched.
"Would you like some coffee?" she offered.
"Thank you, yes."
"How do you take it?" she asked.
Mrs. Velazquez left the room and returned with two heavy mugs. She placed one on the coffee table in front of Catherine then sat in the chair across from her. She held her body very rigidly, as if she was trying to make herself appear larger, or at least in charge.
"Is he OK?" she asked without preamble.
"The baby?" questioned Catherine. At Mrs. Velazquezís nod she smiled. "Yes, he is fine. He seems very happy in his new home and he has plenty of love and attention."
The rest of the wind seemed to go out of Mrs. Velazquezís sails as she relaxed against the back of the chair.
"Thank you," she said quickly dabbing at a sudden tear with a tissue. "I knew you would take good care of him." Her accent wasnít very strong, but the emotion made it more pronounced
"Mrs. Velazquez, what can you tell me?"
"Please, call me Lydia."
"And Iím Cathy..."
"I donít know what you want to know," said Lydia.
"As much as you can tell me, believe me. Iím pretty sure that you know things about me that most of my friends donít know. If you donít you wouldnít have known to bring Aaron to me."
"You named him Aaron?" she asked with a smile. "I like that, it is a good, strong name."
"That is what I thought...Do you know how he came to be, Lydia?" she asked.
"I know a little, but not the whole story," Lydia told her.
"Then just tell me what you know," urged Catherine.
"I will have to go back to 1948. I started working for Dr. Neuberg then. Do you know the name?"
"Yes, Iíve done some research, I know a little about him...go on."
"I was only a girl when I started working for the doctor and his wife; just eighteen. My family and I had only come to New York from Puerto Rico a few months before. The doctor had just taken a new job and bought a new house and Mrs. Neuberg was pregnant, so he decided to hire a part time housekeeper. Mrs. Neuberg was quite a bit younger than the doctor, only thirty-one to his forty years. She once told me that she was only eighteen when she met him and married him.
"When the child was born a few months later it was early and died a few hours later. Mrs. Neuberg was so depressed that the doctor asked me to work full time so someone would be in the house with her while he was at work during the day. After several months Mrs. Neuberg was more like herself, although, the nursery that they had prepared for the baby remained locked. They decided to keep me on permanently, for which I was grateful because it allowed me to move out of my parentsí crowded home.
I was married a few years later, and even though I married and in the next few years, had two daughters of my own, the Neubergs kept me on.
In 1954, Mrs. Neuberg became pregnant again. She was due in early February of 1955. She went into labor almost a month early. I was there, when she felt the first pains. She panicked and I called her husband at his work. He hurried home, but the weather was very bad. All the busses had stopped running and there were no cabs, and the Neubergs didnít own a car..."
"Mrs. Velazquez, I hate to interrupt you, but does all this apply to Aaron?" asked Catherine.
"I think it does, Cathy."
"Then, please, go on," Catherine urged.
"Well, to make a long story short, we werenít able to get Mrs. Neuberg to the hospital to have her baby, but the doctor assured her that he had delivered many babies in the camps during the war. He asked me to assist him.
"Her labor actually went very well. And the baby was born only twelve hours after she had her first pain, but both the doctor and I were shocked at the babyís appearance. He quickly gave his wife something to make her sleep..."
"What was wrong with the baby?" Catherine asked, beginning to catch on to where Lydia was going.
"He was like Aaron," she answered simply.
"I was just getting to that," said Lydia.
"Once the doctor was sure that his wife was all right he examined the baby. I had held him and he seemed to be fine to me, except for his appearance. But after the doctor examined him he told me that he doubted that the baby would live long because of the abnormalities. Then he urged me to try to get home before the weather got too much worse. He almost pushed me out the door. I was dressed for bad weather, but I didnít want to walk all the way to the nearest subway station on an empty stomach. There was a little coffee shop on the corner up the street from the house and I went in there for a sandwich and a cup of coffee.
"While I was in there the snow turned to rain, so I stayed until it was snowing again. It got dark while I waited and just as I was getting ready to leave I saw Dr. Neuberg pass the shop, carrying a bundle. I hurried to put on the rest of my things and followed him. He was a tall man and had a long stride and in spite of the snow and ice he was moving very swiftly. I followed him, thinking that I might be able to help. Then I noticed that he was getting close to a hospital and I thought he was probably taking the child to it. He turned into the alley beside the hospital and instead of going to the emergency room entrance he went to the garbage cans where he put the bundle on the ground and hurried away. That was when I thought that the baby had died, I started toward it to check, but a strangely dressed woman got there first. She picked it up and hurried off.
"By that time I was completely confused and upset, not to mention half frozen from the long walk in the snow. But I followed the woman. I felt compelled to know what happened to the child. She walked only a few blocks then entered a warehouse and disappeared."
"Can I ask a question?" Catherine interrupted again.
"What hospital was that and do you remember the date?"
"It was St. Vincentís and it was January 12, 1955."
"Vincent!" Catherine gasped.
"Is that what they named him?" asked Lydia.
"Yes, but how did you know to bring Aaron to me?"
"Well, I wasnít able to get to work for a couple of days because of the weather. I called Dr. Neuberg. I hoped he would give me some kind of an explanation for what had happened, but all he told me was that the child had died and he had taken it to a friend who had a mortuary to be cremated.
"I knew he was lying to me, I had heard the child crying after the woman picked him up, but all I could do was pray that he was OK. Several years later those prayers were answered.
"My husband and I had taken our girls to the park to use a new telescope that heíd bought for them. It must have been 1960 or 61. It was late and the girls were very tired, so my husband told me to stay with them while he took the telescope and some other things back to the car, then he would come back and help me carry the girls back. I went and sat near a tree to blend in with the shadows, I was nervous about being in the park alone with the children. The girls both went to sleep with their heads in my lap. As I sat there I heard voices. It sounded like children. I looked toward the sound and saw two boys in the clearing in the moonlight. One was taller and obviously older and he was telling the smaller one how that someday they would go to the moon, just like in the stories. The smaller boy turned his head to smile up at the moon and I was stunned to see the child that Dr. Neuberg had left in the snow years before. They heard my husband coming back and they ran off. I was happy to know that the child had lived and was apparently healthy and happy.
Catherine started to speak and Lydia held up her hand.
"I was just getting to that part," she said as if reading her mind. "A few months ago, in March, I was taking a short cut though the park. I often walk when Iím on my errands, for the exercise. I had run into a friend and was running late so it was dark. I was walking as fast as I could when I heard a voice. A manís voice, but it was soft and he was reading poetry. I didnít recognize poem, but I slowed down. I was in the shadow so no one saw me, but I saw them. It was your Vincent. He was standing in front of a drainage culvert holding a book and reading. A woman was standing near him. Then another man showed up and finished the poem. The woman told Vincent to leave and she went off in the other direction. The second man followed her. They were going in the same direction I was going in and I overheard part of their conversation. The second man called the woman by name and it was you.
"I saw you on TV and in the newspaper not long after that when you were in court."
"What about Aaron?"
"Late last summer Dr. Neuberg brought a young woman home. He told me she was his niece, and she did call him Uncle Albert, but I had doubts. She wasnít very educated and I suspected that she was a little slow. She seemed to be grateful for the home she had been given. But she didnít do much, at least she wasnít any trouble."
"What about the Doctorís wife?" asked Catherine.
"I didnít mention that, did I? She died in 1969."
"So heíd been a widower for quite some time," Catherine said.
"Yes. She was quite young, only a little over fifty and even though Dr. Neuberg was only sixty-one and quite handsome, he never showed any interest in any other woman."
"And the girl?"
"Her name was Allison, I never heard a last name, and the doctor called her Alli. By December, it was becoming quite obvious that Allison was pregnant. I thought that she would probably give birth no later than March or April. But the baby wasnít born until a little over a month ago. He was born at home, Dr. Neuberg delivered him and Allison was gone two days later."
"And that baby was Aaron?" asked Catherine.
"Do you think that Dr. Neuberg was the father...I mean, of both of them?"
"I donít know. I overheard him talking to his wife once, years ago. Not long after they lost the first baby. He told her that he thought that some of the experiments in the camps might have damaged him. He was afraid that if he could make her pregnant that the baby wouldnít live because the genetics he was contributing to it might have been damaged."
"And you think that the way that Vincent and Aaron look might be the result of that damage?"
"Iím no scientist, Cathy, but I think it would be the likely explanation."
"Iím going to pick up his book and copies of some of his papers from the library, maybe they will cast some light on it," Catherine mused.
"Dr. Neuberg kept journals," Lydia suddenly said.
"Yes, I worked for him for over forty years, and I didnít know until last month that he had a secret laboratory in the basement. When he first built it back in the 50ís he told me it was a fallout shelter, but I found out when Aaron was born that it was a lab. He took Allison down to it to have the baby. I saw several shelves of books. They were all hand labeled with dates. After the baby was born, I was cleaning up and found one open on one of the tables. It was a journal and I assume the others were too."
"Would it be possible for me to look at them?"
"Of course. The doctor left the house to me. I canít do anything with it until the lawyers are finished, but I am allowed to go into it. If you would like, you can take the journals. Iím sure that they will be of no use to me. You and your Vincent might find something."
Catherine had driven her own car and she waited while Lydia got her sweater and purse. When they reached the house Lydia took her straight to the basement.
"I was wondering," said Catherine as they were descending the stairs to the basement. "How did you keep the police from finding Aaron when you called them after you found Dr. Neuberg?"
"The baby was fussing, that was one of the reasons I was worried when I came in and found that the doctor was not up yet. When I found the doctor, it was quite obvious that he was dead and had been for a while. I took care of the baby; changed him and fed him then I took him down to the lab in the laundry basket. I left him there and locked the lab. The doctor had told me that it was sound proof, that is why he took Allison there to have the baby. Then I went back upstairs and locked the nursery. I hid both the keys.
"When the police arrived one of the officers asked me about the locked room across the hall from the master bedroom and I told him that it was a nursery that Dr. Neubergís and his wife had prepared for a baby that died. They had locked it up and had never opened it again. They accepted that. No one ever went to the basement. It was obvious that he had died of natural causes, so there was never an investigation. Later that day, I called a cab and took Aaron home with me in the basket."
In the basement Catherine found a bookshelf containing almost a hundred slim volumes. They were all dated and filed in order. The early volumes were in German, but later he had begun to write in English.
Lydia helped Catherine pack the books up into small boxes so they could be easily moved, then Catherine called a Helper and asked if he would be able to make a delivery to Vincent. Always happy to be of assistance, the Helper was there in a very short time and the three of them loaded the boxes into his truck. He promised that the boxes would be Below by lunchtime.
In the car on the way back to Lydiaís, Catherine expressed her thanks.
"I hope you know how much it means to me, and to Vincent. You made the wisest choice when you decided to send Aaron to me. He is in the best possible place. He will grow up knowing that he is not alone and that he is loved. How can we ever thank you?" she said.
"There is one way."
"If it is at all possible, I would like to meet your Vincent and see just where he is going to be raising Aaron."
"It might be," said Catherine thoughtfully. "I will have to talk to Vincent and to the man who raised him, but I will call you and let you know."
"Thank you Cathy," said Lydia. "Iím happy to know that someone loves Aaron. I grew quite fond of him during the time he was at Dr. Neubergís and when he was with me. He is a very sweet baby."
"He is that," agreed Catherine.
Catherine dropped Lydia in front of her building and promised to be in touch. Her next stop was the library.
After she picked up the book and papers at the library she went back to her apartment. She changed clothes, put on jeans, lightweight sweater, a denim jacket and her running shoes.
When she descended the ladder a little while later Vincent was there waiting for her.
They stopped in Fatherís study to drop off the book and papers then went to have a late lunch. At lunch Catherine told Vincent the story that Lydia had told her.
"It is just so much to absorb," he said, feeling almost as overwhelmed as he had the night before. "Does that mean that the Neubergs were my parents?"
"It looks that way, but from what Lydia said, Dr. Neuberg seemed to think that something had been done to him that had caused the death of their first child. Maybe he thought that it was also the reason you are as you are. Maybe he wrote about it in his journals. That is why I want to go through them."
The rest of the afternoon and well into the evening they were in Vincentís chamber poring over Dr. Neubergís journals.
Vincent was interested in some of the earlier ones. They had been written while Albert Neuberg was still in Germany working in the camps. Catherine went straight to specific dates in the later volumes. She pulled out the ones that would have been around the dates that Dr. Neubergís wife had conceived the first child, and then around the time she lost it, then the same for the second child, Vincent, and then around the time he had brought Allison home and when Aaron was born.
Vincent was deep in history with his translations, but she was stunned by what she was reading. She had a note pad and was taking notes as she went.
Vincent could sense that she was disturbed by what she was reading, but he didnít want to interrupt her.
Father was burning the midnight oil too. Mary checked in on him before she went to bed. When she couldnít convince him to stop for the night and go to bed she took him a pot of tea and a snack. He told her that Vincent and Catherine were also up, and she did the same for them.
Just as Mary called out to them, Catherine closed the last journal. Vincent was feeding Aaron.
"I certainly hope that whatever the three of you are learning is worth missing all this sleep," Mary said as she put the tray on Vincentís table.
"What time is it?" asked Catherine.
"After 2AM," answered Mary.
Catherine chuckled. "I havenít been paying attention to the pipes and I was hoping that Vincent was giving Aaron his 10PM bottle." She looked over at Vincent. "Wait, I thought you said that he was sleeping from 10 PM to almost 6AM."
"He does, but with all the activity, he woke so I decided to feed him. Maybe he will sleep later in the morning because of it."
Mary took Aaron from Vincent. "Maybe if he was in his own chamber he would sleep better," she suggested, carrying him into the nursery and putting him in his crib before she left for her own bed.
"Youíre not worried any more that you wonít hear him when he wakes?" Catherine asked, sipping tea.
"No, something unusual has happened," he told her, his head down and his hair hiding his face.
"I have a Bond with Aaron," he began.
"You do? Like the one you have with me?" she asked.
"No, it is different. Sometimes I feel as if Iím almost looking out of his eyes. It was really unnerving the first time it happened."
"I can imagine. How?"
Vincent shrugged, "Where with you and I, our hearts seem almost to beat in sync, and I feel what you feel, with him itís like I can almost read his mind, but since he is so young and doesnít have any language yet, it is all in pictures and sensations and emotions."
"Well, he is like you. Maybe it is like you said, the nature of the species? Natural to you and him."
"I wonder if he will develop a Bond with you," Vincent wondered.
After they were done with their tea, Catherine asked Vincent if he wanted to see her notes. He declined and asked her to just tell him.
"Dr. Neuberg was a pretty straight forward journal keeper. Just the facts, most of the time. There was a mention of the fact that his wife, Amanda, was pregnant. Then for the next few months only a few references to it. Morning sickness and things like that. He only wrote one paragraph about the premature birth and then the death of the child. About a week later there was an entry where he speculated that some experiment that Josef Mengele conducted on him might have damaged him in some way and that it might have caused whatever it was that killed the baby. He never went into what the experiment was, or what had been wrong with the baby except that it was premature.
"Several years later he started writing about his wife wanting to try to get pregnant again. She was approaching forty and felt that she would soon be too old. He wrote that they had been doing experiments in the lab at the institute with artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization. At first he considered using sperm from the lab and trying to artificially inseminate his wife. He was convinced that he was the reason they had lost their first child. But he was worried that he might not get sperm from someone who was right for them. He said they had a lot of donations from different ethnic groups and he was afraid that they would wind up with a child that they would have a hard time explaining. Especially since he planned to tell his wife that it was his sperm, just that they had collected it and concentrated it at the lab, to make it more likely that she would get pregnant.
"Then he got the idea to implant one of the embryos that they had created in the lab. He was sure that he could get one that would be of their ethnic group and coloring since they kept better records of where the eggs and sperm came from in those experiments. He noted that the embryos were always destroyed before they reached a specific point of development. He didnít go into much about that.
"He took home one that had been slated for destruction. He noted in his journal that the label had noted the ethnic group as Northern European and traits as blond hair and blue eyes. He implanted his wife that night and it took. He kept detailed records of that pregnancy, and it seemed to be completely normal.
"His entry the day after the birth was very short and concise. He said that the child, a boy had been born just after 8PM on January 12, 1955. He had Ďgross deformitiesí and he hadnít expected him to live. The child had lapsed into a coma not long after birth and he had decided to take him to the nearest hospital. He couldnít get a cab because of bad weather so he had walked. He had kept one hand inside the childís blankets monitoring respiration and pulse. About a block from the hospital, both had stopped. Heíd decided then not to take the child inside the hospital. He knew that if he did he would have to answer all kinds of questions and he felt he should get back to his wife as soon as possible.
"And that is when Anna came along and found me," added Vincent.
Catherine nodded. "In some ways, Dr. Neuberg seemed to be a very caring man. He obviously cared deeply for his wife, but he seemed to be able to turn it on and off."
"Probably a defense mechanism he developed while working in the concentration camps," said Vincent. "There are some passages in the journals he kept during that time where you can tell he was deeply disturbed by what he saw, but he would resolutely shake it off and keep going for the sake of the prisoners that he was able to do something for."
"I donít envy the position he was in," said Catherine.
"What did you find out about Aaron?" asked Vincent.
"I think I know why his DNA is identical to yours."
"I started reading about the time that he took that young girl home and then wound up having to backtrack to over a year ago to make sense of it. When he brought home the original embryo, you, he found that he actually had two. Rather than implant both, he decided to hold one back in case the first one didnít take; heíd have a back up. He had managed to build one of those liquid nitrogen freezers in his lab for other experiments and he stored the second embryo in it. It was a very small unit. He never used the second embryo, but he didnít destroy it.
"Over a year ago he decided to see if the second embryo was still viable. He had read some research about how long they could be stored and he was curious. He actually found Allison at a homeless shelter. He offered her a job and she accepted. He opened a bank account for her and deposited money in it, he didnít say how much, and she got room and board for however long the experiment took. He explained to her what he planned to do and she was willing so he did the implantation after sheíd been there a couple of months and he had charted her cycle. Even he was surprised when it took. He had really expected that the embryo would not be viable after being frozen for thirty four years.
"Allisonís pregnancy went well, he kept detailed records. Aaron was born, Allison didnít even want to see him and she left forty-eight hours later. This time he wrote everything down. Everything from the fact that the labor was short, as his wifeís had been. He observed the baby closely. He expected this one to die as he thought the first one had, but this one was thriving, except that he couldnít tolerate regular formula, he wished he had convinced Allison to stay and nurse him. Then he decided to try a special formula for babies who were lactose intolerant. He remembered reading that even though most cats liked milk, they shouldnít have it because it upset their stomachs. The baby resembled a kitten. The formula worked, and the baby seemed fine. All his entries up to the night before he died were along those lines."
Vincent was frowning as Catherine finished. "So why is his DNA just like mine?" he asked.
"Dr. Neuberg noted that the two embryoís in the Petri dish appeared to have come from the same fertilized egg. He had the observation records from the lab and that is what the technician who had been observing it had said. That the second one was the identical twin of the one he implanted in his wife."
Vincent sat and stared at her for a moment. "You mean that Aaron is actually my brother? My identical twin brother?" Catherine noticed that Vincent looked disappointed and that puzzled her.
"That was Dr. Neubergís opinion. And that would explain why your DNA is the same. From what Iíve heard, only identical twins have identical DNA. Children in a family who have the same mother and father donít have the same DNA, they have some of the same things, but it isnít identical."
Vincent leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling. Catherine could tell that something was bothering him but she wasnít sure what.
"Heís my brother," she heard him whisper. Then she realized what it was.
Before she could even think about it she was on her knees in front of him, reaching for his hands.
"Vincent," she prodded. "Look at me."
He was ignoring her as he tried to control his raging feelings.
"Please look at me Vincent," she pleaded.
He had to look at her then. The tone of her voice drew him.
"Youíre disappointed, arenít you?" she asked quietly.
"Yes, disappointed. For everything that youíve always told yourself about not wanting to father a child like you, when you were presented with one that might be yours you were thrilled. Werenít you?" she squeezed his hands and leaned on his knees.
"I donít know about being thrilled," he said meeting her eyes, "but I was happy. We had a child that we could raise together, and it happened without having to endanger you in any way."
"What do you mean, endanger me. You know that the story that Paracelsus told you was a lie, everything that weíve learned here tonight proves it even if you didnít believe it to be untrue before," she reminded him.
"I know that, but both I and Aaron were conceived by other than conventional means. There is no way to know who or what donated the egg and sperm that were used to create us. Iím still hesitant to think that I might be able to love you as a man loves a woman, without inflicting some harm or hurt," he held her hands tight, and she could see great pain in his eyes.
"Donít you remember our experiment last night?" she asked. At his nod she continued. "You kissed me, and I asked you if you had felt like you were losing control, and you said that you didnít. You said that you havenít felt threatened by your darker side since your illness. I said I thought that you might have just accepted him as part of you. We all have a dark side, it is just that most of us donít try to banish it completely, just control it."
She moved even closer, pushing between his knees, wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her head on his chest. "I think we can move toward love, toward our happy life. Iím willing to go slowly, as long as I know we will get there eventually. I love you and I want to be with you, and if we are able to make a baby of our own, I want that too. But until then or if we canít, we have Aaron. He may be your biological brother, but you are still 34 years older than he is and you will be his father for all intents and purposes."
She raised her head to look at him and was surprised to see tears shimmering in his eyes.
"I donít deserve you, Catherine," he told her before he bent his head and kissed her.
It was over too quickly, in Catherineís opinion, but then he bent and lifted her into his lap. He pulled her close and leaned his head on her chest, breathing in her scent.
"Stay with me tonight, Catherine?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, I will," she held him close and sighed. "Will we just sleep, or something else?" she asked.
"I think tonight, I just want to hold you and know that you are there," he told her. "We have our whole lives ahead of us. We donít need to hurry."
She sighed deeply. Vincent could feel her disappointment but he knew that she understood and would let him move at his own speed. He resolved to try to quicken his pace.