Gabriel walked into the room just as the doctor was putting his stethoscope away.
"So how is my son today, doctor?" he asked as he crossed the room and stood looking down at the baby in the crib.
"For a not yet three month old he is very advanced. I had to go back and check some references but at three months he is supposed to be just starting to coo and gurgle, follow objects and faces with his eyes, smile, but he has gone well beyond that. He rolled over just yesterday, something he shouldnít have the muscle and motor control to do until he is at least six months old. He babbles constantly when he is awake; loves the sound of his own voice. I wouldnít be surprised if he starts sitting by himself in the next month or so. He may even talk by the time he is six months old and walk by nine months. He is an amazing child," said the doctor.
Gabriel just nodded as he looked down at the sleeping child.
Just as the doctor was turning to leave the room Gabriel spoke: "What of the woman?"
"His mother? She is doing well. She is still feeding him, but only once a day, he is starting on some solid food, and appears to tolerate the commercial formula we have started."
"I was reading that at six months a child starts to recognize his mother and form a real attachment to her."
"That is what my references say also," agreed the doctor.
"Then I think it is time that we separate the two of them. Start Julian on formula for all feedings. I donít want him spending any more time with her."
"It will take at least at least another week to wean him, not for his sake but for hers, she will be uncomfortable for a few days if she just stops feeding right now. And of course there are drugs I can give her that will stop lactation."
For the first time since he entered the room Gabriel raised his head and looked directly at the doctor. "Doctor," he said in a soft voice. "I donít think that whether or not Miss Chandler is uncomfortable is going to be much of an issue for you or for her."
The doctor was puzzled for a moment then Gabrielís insinuation penetrated. "OhÖyou want the woman Ďdisposedí of?" he asked.
"Exactly, doctor. I want it done cleanly, I donít want her to suffer; after all she has given me the greatest gift: my son. Use drugs and put her to sleep gently, but make sure it is a permanent sleep. Let Mr. Pope know when it is done and he will see to disposing of the body." Gabriel took one last look at the sleeping child then turned and left the room, leaving the stunned doctor staring after him. At the door he spoke without turning around, "I want it done as soon as possible."
The doctor went straight to Mr. Popeís office after he left the nursery.
"Pope, may I speak to you?" he asked from the open doorway of the security office.
"Certainly, doctor," he said waving the doctor to a chair in front of his desk. "Are you here to talk about Miss Chandler?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact. I was wondering how you were planning to dispose of the body?" he sat on the edge of the chair.
"At sea, I think. That way
there will never be anything to recover. Why do you ask?"
"I was just wondering what drugs I should use. If you are going to dump her at sea, then a large dose of nearly anything will work. I was just worried that if the body was found something could be traced. Gabrielís only specification was that she not suffer. Will you be helping out?"
"No, I will have a couple of the men, probably Andy and Trey, take the body out into the Gulf Stream on the yacht and dump it. That way, if there is anything to be washed up anywhere, it will happen a long way from here. But more likely there wonít be anything. Iíll have them weight the body and the fish will take care of the rest."
The doctor felt a bit green, he hoped he didnít look it, at Popeís casual description of what would happen to Miss Chandler.
"Since Gabriel says he doesnít want her to suffer, I assume that he means mentally as well as physically, so I will drug her evening snack. That will put her very soundly to sleep, then I will give her an injection that should finish the job," he rose and turned to go.
"Itís good that you want to get it over with," observed Pope. "I want to get the men out there and back as quickly as possible; there is a storm brewing and right now the weather service says that it will be the first major noríeaster of the year; it will affect just about the whole east coast."
"Noríeaster?" asked the doctor.
"I keep forgetting you are from the west coast. A nor'easter is a storm that comes in off the northern Atlantic. The winds come from the northeast. The precipitation pattern is similar to extratropical storms. This one could cause coastal flooding, coastal erosion, hurricane force winds, and heavy snow even his far south. They usually happen in the winter. Iíll tell the men to get the yacht ready."
The doctor shrugged and left to put Gabrielís orders into action.
Down in the kitchen he told the cook he would deliver Miss Chandlerís snack and on his way up he dropped three sleeping pills into her milk. He knew that three sleeping pills on their own, wouldnít kill her, but should knock her out pretty quickly and that amount of a barbiturate combined with the other drugs he planned to inject after she went to sleep, should be sufficient to kill a horse, much less a 105 pound woman.
Catherine obediently ate the ham sandwich and drank most of the milk. Almost before she finished the milk she was yawning and could hardly keep her eyes open. She was asleep before she could get out of her chair and go to bed.
The doctor went to the intercom in the hall and called Popeís office to tell him that Miss Chandler was ready, then he went back into the room and pulled the syringe out of his pocket. He didnít feel right about doing this, but he felt even less right about defying Gabriel and being killed for his actions. He was just getting ready to stick the needle in her upper arm (at these large doses, he didnít need a vein; an intramuscular injection would do) when Popeís two men entered the room, startling him. He looked up just as he plunged the syringe toward Catherineís arm. He missed her arm completely and injected the drug into the leather of the easy chair that Catherine was sitting it. He never even noticed. He pushed the plunger and removed the needle all while talking to the two men and without looking at what he was doing.
The larger of the two men lifted Catherine, who was dressed for bed wearing a flannel nightgown and a robe, and they left the room and headed for the dock where the yacht was tied up.
They left the body on the deck and both of them went up to the bridge as the small ship pulled away from the private dock behind Gabrielís Virginia estate.
One of the men was looking at the chart as the other piloted them safely through the inlet and out to sea.
"Did the boss say where he wanted us to dump her?" asked the man with the chart.
"Not specifically," said Andy, who was standing casually, at the shipís wheel; he did this a lot for the boss. "Just somewhere out in the middle of the Gulf Stream." He glanced over at the chart and then at the weather map with the latest coordinates of the storm plotted on it. "But I was thinkiní, with that storm brewiní out there; I donít really want to go too far out. I thought we could probably go due east for about 2 or 3 miles then dump her there. The storm will take care of the rest."
Trey nodded. He didnít relish being at sea when that storm hit either.
When Andy felt they had gone far enough, he shut down the engines and he and Trey went back down to the deck.
"You got the rope and the cinderblock?" Andy asked.
"Rope? Cinderblock?" Trey suddenly looked panicked.
"What did you think we were going to weight the body with, you idiot? They were sitting right there on the dock next to the light post."
"Hell, Iím sorry Andy. I forgot them." Trey never had been famous for his smarts, but he made up for it in brawn. He could lift and carry anything and made it look easy.
Andy sighed and shook his head. "Well, I guess, with that storm cominí it wonít make much difference if we weight the body or not. If it ainít beat all to pieces by the rough water, the fish will get it. Just heave it overboard, Trey."
Trey leaned down and picked up Catherine and just before he dropped her over the rail he looked down into her face. "Seems a waste, Andy," he commented. "Sheís such a pretty little thing."
* * * * * * * * * *
Ben was taking his morning walk on the beach. The Weather Service was predicting that the storm would hit sometime around midnight, but the surf was already kicking up a lot of foam and there was quite a collection of trash on the beach. He was one of the few year round residents of this little town on one of North Carolinaís barrier islands; he had the beach to himself.
Or at least he thought he did. The surf was making a lot of noise but he heard what sounded like a moan coming from a pile of trash just a couple of feet from him toward water. He quickened his step and as he got closer he made out pink lump in the middle of the drift wood and seaweed. The pink lump moved and then he made out the head and face of a woman.
He hurried over and knelt beside her, pushing the seaweed away from her. She moaned again and her eyelids fluttered, but didnít open. Ben checked her pulse, it was strong and her breathing was regular. He would need his old medical kit and his stethoscope to know anything more. Just then, she started to cough and retch, and he managed to roll her over onto her side just as she spewed up a lot of seawater and the remains of the last meal sheíd eaten. Then she started to regain consciousness.
Her skin was cold and very pale and Ben was worried about hypothermia. He managed to get her attention and get her to her feet then he helped her up the beach and over the dune to his house. They entered through the mud room where a shower had been installed for swimmers to use to keep from tracking sand into the main house. He turned on the warm water and shoved her into the shower, clothing and all. Knowing she wasnít completely coherent, he ordered her to remove her clothing and stay under the warm water to get warm until he got back. He rushed upstairs to the closet where he had stored all his late wifeís clothes. He found a warm nightgown, robe and some slippers then he got a couple towels out of the linen closet and went back downstairs to the mud room.
The young woman had obediently removed her robe and nightgown and was standing under the warm spray with her face turned up into it. The shivering that had started when he brought her into the warm house has all but stopped and her skin had begun to take on a more healthy color.
"Miss, Iíve brought you a towel," he said, holding it up and showing it to her over the top of the shower door.
She turned off the water and reached for the towel. First she rubbed her hair with it then dried her body and stepped out of the shower after she wrapped the towel around herself. Ben dropped the nightgown over her head and she slipped her arms through the arm holes and dropped the towel around her feet on the floor. He handed her the other towel and she wrapped it around her head and then accepted the bathrobe and put it on. After she put on the slippers she followed Ben into the kitchen.
"I have a pot of coffee, would you like some, and some breakfast?" he asked.
For the first time she looked up and met his eyes. She smiled slightly, "Yes, thank you. Maybe it will warm me up. Iím so cold." She was still shivering a little.
"Have a seat at the table. This kitchen is always the warmest room in the house, between it and the food youíll soon be warm."
He poured coffee and set it in front of her along with the creamer and sugar bowl. She stared at it all for a moment then picked the coffee up and sipped it gratefully.
When he had eggs and toast on the table for both of them and had joined her, she thanked him.
"No problem, MissÖ" he prompted for her name.
"UmÖIÖI donít know?" there was an edge of panic in her voice. "I donít remember my name!" Her voice held a distinct note of panic.
Ben reached across the table and patted her hand. "Donít worry, Iím sure that it will all come back: how you got on the beach in your night clothes, your name, all of it. Now eat your breakfast then I suggest you get some sleep. There is a guest suite on the back of the house that you can use. The linens are fresh and Iíll see if I can find something in my wifeís old things that will fit you. We will be like Scarlett OíHara and we will think about it later."
She obediently finished her food then followed Ben when he led her to the guest suite. Ben stayed long enough to turn on the electric blanket, then he left.
Once the door closed she took off the robe and stood looking at the stranger in the vanity mirror in front of her. She bent down and examined her face closely. She didnít recognize the stranger.
"Heís right, Iíll think about it later," she thought as she crossed the room and crawled into the warm king sized bed. She was asleep almost before she had time to snuggle down and pull up the blankets.
* * * * * * * * * *
It was morning again when she woke; sheíd slept the clock around. Ben tiptoed in several times to check on her; satisfied she was OK he would quietly leave and close the door behind him. It was the smell of coffee that finally woke her.
She was confused, the light coming in the window as gray and watery and she could hear the wind blowing and the sound of the surf was loud. As she looked around the room she remembered how sheíd arrived here. She got up and made a trip to the bathroom. She stared at the face in the mirror without any real recognition. She looked familiar but she didnít have a name for her. She picked up the brush and brushed her long, honey blond hair out a little. Going to bed with it wet hadnít done it much good. Back in the bedroom she put on the robe, it was too long, and found her way to the kitchen.
When she walked into the kitchen the old man turned and greeted her with a cheery "Good morning!" and handed her a cup of black coffee. "I thought I heard you stirring around in there. You slept 24 hours, you should be hungry."
"I am. Thank you." She sat in the same chair she used the day before and he put a plate of eggs and toast in front of her again. She remembered doing that the day before, but as far as she was concerned that was just about her first memory.
He noticed the stricken look on her face as he sat down in front of his own plate. He reached over and patted her hand. "Still canít remember anything?" he asked.
She shook her head. "The first thing I can remember is being very cold and hearing the surf."
He pushed his chair back and walked over next to hers. "May I?" he asked before touching her head.
At her nod he carefully ran his fingers lightly over her entire scalp. "I probably should have done this yesterday," he said. The she winced and he said "Ah ha. It looks like you did bump your head." He parted the hair around it. "It isnít a large bump but there is quite a bit of bruising." He smoothed her hair back down and went back to his chair and sat. "You may have a concussion, probably why you slept so long. As the knock to your brain settles and things heal, you will probably start to remember things."
"Are you a doctor?" she asked.
"No, I was a medic in the army, a long time ago," he said with a smile. "Meanwhile, as soon as this storm passes we should probably call the sheriff and tell him about you. Someone is probably frantically searching for you."
At his mention of the sheriff her head snapped up. "Please no. No police!" she was as puzzled by her outburst as he was.
"Why not?" he asked. "They will probably be able to find out who you are and get you back where you belong."
She shook her head. "I donít know. I just feel like no one can be trusted, not even the police. Please donít call them."
"OK, we wonít for a while. As soon as the storm passes and the phones are back on, Iíll call a friend of mine who is a doctor, and get his opinion, but beyond that, we will wait."
"Thank you!" she said gratefully. "Um, I donít remember your name."
"I donít think I actually told you. It is Ben, Ben Stokes. Everyone around here calls me ĎOld Bení. I retired here about 5 years ago. This used to be our summer house, but I considered it the perfect place to retire."
She glanced at the window where the water was running down and nothing could be seen and raised an eyebrow. "Where is here?" she asked.
"Northern coast of North Carolina. Not far from the Virginia state line, on a barrier island. It isnít always like this; itís a noríeaster. The power went out early yesterday evening. We are running on generator power right now, but I think the local radio station wasnít as lucky, they went off the air around 9:00 last night. The wind blew the antenna off the roof so there isnít any TV, so Iíve just been making my own observations."
"A Noríeaster? Donít they usually happen in the winter?"
"Usually, it is only early December, this is a little early in the season."
"Are we safe here?" she asked.
"Oh yes. This isnít so bad. This house has weathered worse. We have a large piece of land and we put the house well back from the beach behind the natural dune," he assured her. "Now, what about you?" he changed the subject. "What should I call you? You got any names floating around in that head?"
"Oh, there are a lot of names floating around in it, but Iím pretty sure none of them are mine." She smiled weakly.
"What are they; maybe one will
suit you and Iíll have something to call you."
She closed her eyes and started as if reciting "Mary, Nancy, Jenny, Olivia, Rebecca, Lena, Rita, Samantha, Brooke, Edie, EllieÖ" she opened her eyes and looked at him. "Do I look like any of those?"
"They are all lovely names, but you donít really look like any of them. Do you want to use any of them?"
"How about Mary? It has a nice solid sound to it."
"OK, then Mary you are until you remember who you really are."
A week passed, and she still didnít remember. She helped Ben clean up and repair storm damage. He was surprised that she was so strong and capable, for such a small woman.
During the week, he called his doctor friend in New York. They had a nice long talk and Dr. Peter Alcott gave him a lot of good ideas, and the names of a couple of other doctors; a psychiatrist and a neurologist, to call. He did and both only told him that she really should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Putting Peterís ideas into actions he gave Mary a lovely leather bound journal one evening after dinner.
"What is this for?" she asked as they sipped their coffee in the living room.
"My friend Peter, a doctor, told me that it might help if you started keeping a journal. Anytime you have any random thought or memory, you can write it down and maybe, eventually, they will all come together."
"That makes sense. Thank you, but I could have used a loose-leaf full of paper just as easily," she said as she ran her hands over the leather cover.
"Sure you could have, but Iíve kept a journal now for years. I keep several of these on hand. I order them from a bookstore in New York. I feel that what I write in something like this will last longer than it would if it was on loose-leaf paper. If you fill that one and need another, just let me know."
She thanked him again and that night she made her first entry.
Wednesday, December 13, 1989:
Ben gave me this journal today with the suggestion that I write down any stray thought that might pop into my head. It was suggested to him by a doctor friend. So far, there havenít been any real stray thoughts. Weíve been keeping busy repairing the storm damage from the storm a week ago.
There was one strange thing that actually happened: the second morning I was here, after I woke from my 24 hour nap. I went to take a shower while Ben went to raid his deceased wifeís closet again. I had been noticing that my breasts were kind of sore. I thought maybe it was bruising, but saw none. They were rather hard and warmer to the touch than the rest of my body. When I was in the shower, the warm water seemed to ease it a little and I just let it run down my chest for a while. Suddenly there was a strange sensation and when I looked down I seemed to be leaking an opaque bluish white substance. Milk? Do I have a child somewhere? It really bothers me that I canít remember something like that! On a quick examination of the rest of my body, I did notice that I have a few stretch marks on my stomach, and on my breasts, but I donít feel like I have recently given birth. It is all so confusing. After that, the pressure in my breasts decreased, and the leaking didnít happen again. Now, a week later Iím comfortable and seem to be shrinking.
I do remember a lot of names; just first names : Mary, Nancy, Jenny, Olivia, Rebecca, Lena, Rita, Samantha, Brooke, Edie, Ellie, Jamie, Joe, Charles, John, Jacob, Sabastian, Winslow, Pascal, Geoffrey (with a G), Cullen, Kanin, Lou, Nicholas, Peter, Kipper (Kipper? Maybe a cat or a dog?), Eric. Itís funny that I canít come up with any last names for them. Ií even tried a sort of word association with them to see if a last name just pops out, but it doesnít. I hope Ben and his friend are right and that it will all come back gradually.
* * * * * * * * * *
Weeks turned into months, and the months became years, and still Mary didnít remember. After several months during which she had pretty much taken over the housekeeping chores at Benís he officially hired her and started paying her a wage. She had suggested that she move on, but he worried that she might not do very well out in the world without some support system and he suggested that she stay on as his housekeeper.
Somewhere along the line she was asked for her last name and she just said the first thing that popped into her head "Wells" and she became Mary Wells to the whole community. She wrote the incident in her journal, wondering where the name ĎWellsí had come from.
A year after her unceremonious arrival on the beach in front of Benís house, she paid a visit to a gynecologist in the same office as Benís GP for a regular checkup. Here it was confirmed that sheíd had at least one child. No one in the town knew of her amnesia, so she told that doctor that the child had been still born. The doctor also commented on the scar in front of her left ear and the one on her back. Mary was startled when the doctor said that he one on her back looked like it might have been a bullet wound. Mary quickly recovered and told her that it was an accidental shooting several years before. When the doctor mentioned that there were other, very faint scars on her face that looked like they had been repaired with plastic surgery, Mary told her that sheíd been in an accident and her face had been cut up pretty badly with glass. She had to hand it to herself, she did think pretty quickly on her feet. When she got back to the house she recorded it all in her journal. Maybe the stories sheíd told were true, she didnít know.
It was that very night that the dreams started. Up to that time she hadnít had any dreams that she actually remembered, but the night after the visit to the doctorís office she had the strangest dream.
She was standing at one end of a long white hall. There was a window behind her and there was light streaming in that window. It was the only light source. She looked toward the other end of the hall and couldnít see where it ended because it was so dark. As she stood there, straining to see the other end of the hall she heard a baby crying. She felt that she had to find the baby and she started walking toward the other end of the hall. The further she walked the darker it got until she was moving along the hall in pitch dark, feeling along the wall as she went. She turned around and looked back toward where she had come from and the light of the window had narrowed down to only a pin point. She turned back around to face the dark, but it was so dark and she began to panic.
That was when she woke up. She sat straight up in bed and she was soaked with sweat. She had to get up and change her nightgown.
When Ben came downstairs for breakfast that morning, she told him about the dream.
"Did you put it in your journal?" he asked. Sheíd been so good at keeping the journal that he had been giving her a new one about every two months. "Keep track of any strange dreams you have," he suggested. "I was reading a mystery novel where one of the main characters had amnesia and that was suggested to him."
She smiled at him, "Did it help him?"
"After a while he was able to put a lot of stuff together figure out who he was."
"Well, it was just a novel," she pointed out.
"But novels are based on life; if they werenít they wouldnít be very believable."
Everyone in town knew her as Mary Wells, Old Benís housekeeper. She had chosen Wells because it had just popped into her head and she liked the way it sounded. Ben said she smiled every time she said it. She figured that was a fact that should go into her journal. She religiously recorded every dream, and it seemed to her that the more dreams she recorded the more she had and the better she remembered them. Sometimes a song or piece of music would give her a funny feeling or make her feel nostalgic. She was listening to Moonlight Sonata on the radio and it made her feel like crying; she wrote that down too.
She had been with Ben nearly three years when she started hearing the voice in her dreams. At first it was very faint, just a whisper, she felt it was male; she couldnít make out words, but from the rhythm she would swear he was reciting poetry. She heard the voice off and on for quite some time before she could actually make out the words, then she only got a couple of lines:
"Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;"
Those two lines really stuck with her and were running through her head as she woke. Later at breakfast she recited them to Ben and asked him if he recognized them.
"Iím not sure. They do sound familiar. Iíve got some poetry books that belonged to my wife. Iíll take a look and see if I can find them."
She was folding laundry later when Ben came in with a book in his hand.
"I couldnít find your poem," he said handing her the book. "But I called the library and one of the librarians told me it was Dylan Thomas."
She took the book from him and read the page he had it open to:
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost, love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
As she read the tears started to flow.
"Are you all right, Mary?" asked Ben.
She sniffed and pulled a tissue out of her pocket and scrubbed the tears from her face. "Yes, Iím OK. It is just that it is so sad," she said.
He looked over her shoulder, "Well, I donít know about sad, but it is Dylan Thomas, and I donít really get it." He smiled at her. "That was one of my wifeís books, and she was the poetry buff." He shrugged. "Go ahead and read the rest if you want."
She laid the book aside and went back to folding laundry. Now the last two lines were the ones that kept running through her head, and she just couldnít seem to get past the feeling of utter sadness that they invoked in her. Naturally, that went into the journal too.
* * * * * * * * * *
Soon after the discovery of the voice and the poem in her dreams the dreams themselves started to change. She was almost always looking for something or someone. She often heard a baby crying, sometimes heard the voice, sometimes classical music, and occasionally what sounded like a tiger or a lion roaring and growling. The last filled her with a sense of dread, but never fear. She didnít understand that.
* * * * * * * * * *
Early in 1993, after sheíd been living with Ben for a little over three years, the dreams changed again. This time she found herself walking in a wooded area at night. The first few times she thought she was in a forest somewhere, but after having the dream several times she became convinced that it was a park. Later she knew that she was walking in Central Park in New York City. She didnít know how she knew this, she just knew.
She was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and writing in her journal one morning when Ben came in.
He saw the journal and commented on it. "Another dream last night?"
"Yes, very vivid. It looked like a forest, but I had the distinct impression that it was Central Park in New York City. Iíve dreamed about the same place quite a few times. Itís strange, but maybe I used to live in New York and spent time in the park."
"What were you seeing?" asked Ben as he sat down with his coffee.
Mary closed her eyes and let the pictures run, "A band shell, something that looked like a miniature castle, a jogging path, but I was seeing it all in the dark."
"I used to live in New York and there is a band shell in Central Park and a folly called Belvedere Castle. Maybe you used to live in the city too. Do you remember anything about it?"
Mary shrugged as she got up to start fixing breakfast. "Only the usual tourist stuff that everyone knows."
They were both quiet for a while; Ben read his paper and she cooked breakfast.
She was pouring their orange juice when she announced a decision to Ben.
"You know, I think I should make a trip to New York sometime soon. Take a look at the Park and just see if I know my way around. It might lead me some place where someone will recognize me."
"I have friends up there. We can both go and while you play tourist, I can visit."
"When do you think we can do it?" she asked.
"Let me make some calls and Iíll let you know."
Two days later Mary was on the back porch, enjoying the early spring sunshine when Ben joined her on the glider.
"How would you like to go to New York this weekend?" he asked.
"So soon?" Now that she was confronted with an actual date, she suddenly felt nervous about taking the step.
"It was a good weekend for Peter. He is leaving town to go visit his daughter on April 13th and wonít be back for two weeks. After that a couple other friends I want to see are going to be gone, so this weekend just seemed to be the best. Is it bad for you?" he asked.
She smiled at him, "You know it isnít," she said. "It is just quick. I guess I thought I was going to have more time to prepare myself; although, if I did I might never get around to it."
"It is a big step," he agreed, "but one you have to take. Iíve booked us a suite in a nice hotel, not far from the Park and we are supposed to meet Peter for dinner on Sunday evening the 11th. I thought it would be nice to drive up. We can take turns; itís only about an eight hour drive, even as slow as I drive."
They left early Friday morning and even with stopping for lunch, they arrived in the city before the Friday rush hour started. As Ben was driving them through the city toward the hotel where they were going to stay, Catherine had her window rolled down and was gawking at the buildings like any tourist from the country.
Ben laughed at her. "Maybe you arenít from here after all; you are acting like youíve never seen it before."
"No, Ben," she said with a wide smile. "It is just the opposite; everything is so familiar." She pointed at a deli on the corner they were passing. "That deli has the best corned beef sandwiches in the city! Donít ask me how I know, I just do."
"Well, itís a start. I have a feeling that this trip is going to help a lot."
Theyíd reached the hotel and were met by a bellhop who helped them with their bags as the valet took the car and parked it.
Ben hadnít made any plans for that evening, so they had a quiet dinner in the hotel restaurant, and retired to their rooms early.
Mary was surprised to find that the hotel was right across the street from Central Park. She had a hard time sleeping, and spent a long time in front of the window in her room that overlooked the park. The view was very familiar.
In spite of the lack of sleep, she was up early the next morning and was on the phone ordering breakfast and a pot of coffee from room service when Ben came out of his room.
"Ready for the big day?" he asked.
"As Iíll ever be, I guess. Do you want to come with me?" she asked as she hung up the phone.
"No, you go by yourself. I donít want to distract you. Why donít you take a lunch and make a day of your wander through the park?"
"Thatís a good idea, what do you plan to do with your day?"
"Iím meeting an old colleague from my days as a stock broker. We will have lunch. Iíll be back here in time to take you to my favorite place for dinner."
"You have a date!" she said with a grin. "Breakfast is on itís way up. Iíll just go take a shower and get dressed."
She was out fifteen minutes later just as breakfast arrived. She was wearing her usual somber colors. Ben had noticed the first time she went shopping to buy clothing that fit her, that she never chose anything light or bright colored. All of her clothing was black, gray, navy blue or brown. Today she wore a black boatnecked cashmere sweater heíd given her for Christmas, black jeans, black socks, black athletic shoes and she carried a black wind breaker and back pack.
After breakfast she checked the contents of her backpack.
"Got everything youíll need?" he asked her.
"Wallet, compact umbrella, maps: one of the city and one of Central Park, make-up bag, tissues, room key, my journal and a pen. Iíll stop and get a lunch somewhere, and Iíll be set."
"Have a good day," he said as she walked out the door.
Down on the street the sun was shining but the wind was brisk; Mary was glad sheíd grabbed the wind breaker. She walked up the street toward the deli sheíd pointed out to Ben the day before. There she ordered a corned beef on rye with brown mustard and a cream soda to go. The man behind the counter looked at her strangely, but she shrugged it off. If she had lived here, and she knew that they had good corned beef sandwiches, then it stood to reason, she probably stopped her often. She was probably familiar, but they more than likely didnít know her name. She didnít see the same man scribble a note out and give it along with a large bag of bagels, to a teenaged boy waiting in the back. The boy left the deli and crossed the street into the park, where he took off at a run. Mary walked up to the corner and crossed the street into the park at the light.
She walked all morning. There were places that evoked fleeting images. The band shell brought a picture of a little girl with a man whose hair had just started to silver at the temples. "Is it me or someone else?" she wondered. As she was leaving the band shell area she stepped on a storm drain grate and the change in the ground underneath startled her. She stopped and looked down and there was another fleeting image of standing in the rain with her arms outstreached, laughing. This time she knew it was her.
She walked some more and finally reached a spot near a playground where she decided to stop and eat her lunch. There were picnic tables not far from the playground, so she claimed one and sat down where she could watch the children playing. It was a lovely sunny Saturday, so there were plenty of people in the park to watch.
The spot she picked to sit was sunny and pretty soon she started to get hot, so she took off her jacket and moved to the other side of the table where she would be in the shade. She finished her sandwich, which was very good, and decided it would be a good time to record the morningís observations in her journal. She moved the backpack to the bench beside her and pulled out the journal and pen then stuffed the jacket and her trash in the back pocket.
Sheíd just opened the journal when movement down the slope in front of her caught her eye. There was a drainage culvert at the bottom of the slope and she was surprised to see a young woman with dark brown hair slip out of the culvert and look around. She then turned and beckoned to someone behind her as she started walking up the slope. She was followed by two other young women, one blond and one brunette and six younger children. There were three who appeared to be around six or seven years old, and they were each paired with a younger child of about three or four.
As Mary watched, she was caught by the thought that she wasnít surprised at where they were coming from. It just seemed natural that the children had been in the culvert. "Another odd observation for the journal," she thought as she started to write.
She was lost in concentration on what she was writing when she suddenly felt the weird sensation that she was being watched. She looked up and glanced around and saw one of the smaller children sheíd seen coming out of the culvert. He was standing about five feet away from the picnic table and was just staring at her.
She smiled and said "hello."
He grinned back and returned her greeting. He started walking toward her.
He stopped a couple of feet from her as she swung her feet over the bench so she could face him. "Iím Jacob," he said. "Iím three." He held up three grubby fingers to illustrate.
She smiled again. "Iím Mary."
"Nuh-uh!" he said, shaking his head.
"Nuh-uh what?" she asked.
"Thatís not your name."
Surely a three year old child wouldnít know who she was. "If thatís not my name then what is my name?" she asked.
He came a step closer and looked closely at her. "Mama." He stated with conviction.
At that word, a wave of panic passed through Mary. She jumped up, grabbed her backpack and stuffed her journal into it. She was several steps away from the picnic table when the young blond women came over and picked Jacob up. "Jake, you shouldnít be bothering the lady." She looked up at Mary just as Mary turned to look back at them. She started to speak, but her mouth dropped open in surprise as she looked at the woman Jake had been talking too. At her look of shock, Maryís state of panic took over and she started running back toward the hotel. She could hear the little boy, Jacob, crying and calling "Mama" and she thought she heard the young woman call after her: "Catherine?"
* * * * * * * * * *
Jamie gathered Jacob into her arms and tried to soothe him, but there was no consoling the child.
"Brooke," she called.
The dark haired girl watching the other children turned when she heard her name called.
"Jacob is upset, Iím taking him home."
Brooke waved. "Go ahead. Samantha and I can handle the rest of them.
Settling the boy on her hip Jamie turned and headed Below. At a pipe junction, she stopped and tapped out a message to Vincent asking him to meet her in Jacobís chamber.
Vincent arrived a few minutes before Jamie and Jacob and was putting away some of the boyís toys when they entered.
"What is wrong, Jamie?" he asked as he took the sobbing child from her. "Is he hurt?"
"No, but the strangest thing just happened. Brooke, Samantha and I were up in the park with some of the children. They were all playing and I noticed Jake leaving the playground and walking over to a picnic table where a woman who was wearing all black sitting and writing in a book. I watched him for a few moments while he just stood and stared at her. Finally she turned and looked at him. I could see her speak and he said something back. They exchanged a few words, but then she stiffened up. I couldnít see her face, but her body language said she was upset about something. So I got up and headed over there. I got there just in time to hear Jake calling her ĎMamaí. She was really upset; she jumped up and grabbed her things and took off. But Vincent, when she turned back for one last look at Jake, I saw her face. I swear it was Catherine. I called her, and Jake was calling her too. But she ran off, and I mean ran; she moved fast!"
Vincent sat down in the rocker and rocked and rubbed Jacobís back until he finally quit crying. Jamie left while they were rocking.
"Jacob, can you tell me what happened in the park?"
"I saw Mama," he stated.
"Are you sure? Could it have been someone who just looked like Mama?" he asked.
"No. It was Mama. She felt like Mama."
"Felt like Mama?" questioned Vincent.
Jacob nodded. "I feel you, you feel like Daddy. I could feel her, and she felt like Mama."
This was the first that Vincent had heard about his son being able to sense him. He knew that he had a Bond with his son, but he thought that it was one way, as it had been with Catherine. But now he knew differently.
"How can you feel me, Jacob?" he asked.
"Dunno. Just do. I can find you when I donít know where you are. Thatís how I found her. I felt you, and thought you were in the park so I followed it and went to find you, but I found her instead and she looked just like the pictures. It was Mama!"
Vincent pulled the child to his chest and hugged him tightly, "I hope it is true, Jacob," was all he said.
It took a while, but Vincent finally got Jacob to calm down enough to go to sleep. He was on his way to speak to Father when Eric came up and handed him a note.
"Iíve been looking for your
all morning, Vincent," he said. "Mr. Greene, gave me this and told me to give
it to you as soon as I could.
"Iím sorry Eric, I was several levels down helping Mouse with something. Thank you for hunting me down."
He opened the note and read the hastily scribbled note:
A woman came in the deli this morning. She looked just like Catherine; she even ordered what Catherine used to order. Just thought you should know.
* * * * * * * * * *
Mary didnít stop running until she reached the hotel, even then it was difficult to slow her steps. She collapsed on the sofa in the suite she was sharing with Ben, glad that he hadnít returned yet.
"A little boy named Jacob?" she said out loud to herself. "Jacob is one of the names in my head all this time. But he couldnít possibly know me. Heís only three and Iíve been with Ben that long. And that young woman; she did look vaguely familiar, and she had called me Catherine?"
As all this was churning through her mind she was pacing the room frantically. Finally she grabbed the backpack and went into the bedroom. Maybe a hot shower would relax her.
When Ben got back a couple of hours later, she was a little more relaxed. Sheíd recorded the afternoonís events in the journal and had managed to settle down into a comfortable chair with a book. She smiled at Ben when he entered the suite.
They discussed their afternoon. Mary told Ben that something unsettling had happened, but she was still processing it, and would talk to him about it later.
The rest of the evening was uneventful. The restaurant they ate at was familiar to Mary, but not terribly so. Sunday was rainy and they spent most of the day museum hopping and returned to the hotel with just enough time to get ready to meet Benís friend Peter for dinner.
The Mary that came out of the other bedroom in the suite was a completely different woman from the Mary that Ben had known for the last three years. She was wearing her usual dark color, but the dress was stunning. She smiled shyly and modeled it for him. "I found it in a shop in Elizabeth City. It was on sale because it was such a small size; the owner of the shop said that sheíd had it for over a year and it hadnít sold." It was a dark forest green that made Maryís eyes turn from their usual grayish green to an almost emerald color. She wore no jewelry, except for pearl earrings. The dress had a high mock turtle neck, and the bodice fit perfectly until the skirt flared out at her hips. It was about mid-calf length and she wore ballet style slippers. She had done her slightly longer than shoulder length hair in a French braid that pulled her hair off her face and showed off her lovely cheekbones and eyes.
"Too bad we arenít going dancing," commented Ben. "That would be the perfect outfit for it. You are beautiful tonight, Mary."
"Thank you, Ben. When you said where we were going, I thought I should probably dress for the occasion."
On closer inspection, Ben could see that she was even wearing a little bit of make up; quite a change from her usual moisturizer and lip gloss.
As they descended to the lobby in the elevator, Mary looked down at herself. "You know, Ben," she commented, indicating her appearance. "This all seemed so normal when I was getting ready. Like Iíve done this many times before."
"Maybe it was. Maybe you are a missing heiress," he joked.
"Or an expensive call girl," she joked back.
"I doubt that, but you do look natural dressed like that."
When they reached the restaurant, people turned to stare as they were escorted to their table. Benís friend Peter had arrived early and was waiting for them.
Peter saw them coming across the room and couldnít believe what he was seeing. Cathy was on Benís arm laughing at him over some comment heís made. Cathy, of all people was the young woman Ben had found on the beach and taken in. He had just enough time to regain his composure before they reached the table. The waiter held the young womanís chair as Peter held his breath, waiting for her to look at him. Would she recognize him?
After she settled herself she placed her bag on the corner of the table and looked up at him. There was a momentary unfocusing of her eyes, but she recovered quickly as she offered her hand and introduced herself as Mary Wells.
"Peter Alcott," he said as he took her hand. "Iím so glad to finally get to meet you. Ben has told me so much about you."
"And all my problems too, no doubt," she commented as she smiled over at Ben.
Dinner went well, Peter had a hard time keeping himself from staring at her. After the dinner dishes were cleared and coffee was ordered, Mary excused herself to go to the ladies room.
Peter watched her cross the room and as soon as she was out of sight, he turned to Ben.
"Do you know who that woman is?" he asked.
"No, of course not! Thatís why we are in New York. Do you know who she is?"
"Yes. I delivered her 36 years ago. Thatís Catherine Chandler."
Ben stared for a moment then the light bulb came on. "Charles and Carolineís daughter?"
Ben covered his face with is hands then raked them back through his hair, mussing it somewhat. "Oh my God! I donít believe it. I knew she was missing, but Iíd never seen her, so I never put the two together. It didnít help that the NYPD said that they thought she was probably dead."
Peter nodded. "And on top of that, she was a Helper before she disappeared. She and Vincent were in love; they have a three year old son."
"She has a child? The poor girl."
"Iíve known her all her life, she called me Uncle Peter for most of it. If she didnít recognize me now, then I donít know that she is ever going to remember anything."
"Did she spend a lot of time Below?" asked Ben.
"Yes, every chance she got. Vincent found her in the park, her face slashed. He and Jacob treated her and she stayed with them for well over a week while they nursed her."
"Do you think that Jacob would allow us to take her Below? Now that I know who she is, some of the images from the dreams sheís told me about make sense. Most of them are from Below. Even the list of names she gave me are mostly people in the community. Look at the name she chose for herself ĎMary Wellsí."
Peter nodded. "Look, why donít you two come back to my house with me. We will say we are going for drinks. She might possibly recognize the place, she spent a lot of time there with my daughter when she was growing up, although I have recently redecorated. I have a threshold in my basement; I can slip down and send a message on the pipes."
The plan was agreed upon and the three of them left in a taxi after they finished their coffee.
Mary was looking around her as they entered the foyer of Peterís house. "What a lovely home you have, Dr. Alcott."
He led them into the living room saw them settled with drinks and then excused himself; he said he had a quick phone call to make.
Once in the basement he opened the hidden door and stepped through and walked the short distance to the pipes where he rapped out a message. "ALCOTT. FATHER. HAVE SOMEONE I NEED TO BRING TO YOU ASAP. MUST BE PRIVATE MEETING. VERY IMPORTANT. ALCOTT ENDS."
Within minutes he heard the return message: "FATHER. ALCOTT. BRING NOW IF YOU CAN. I AM ALONE. FATHER ENDS.
Peterís answer was: "ALCOTT. FATHER. WITHIN THE HOUR. ALCOTT ENDS."
He rushed back upstairs and as he entered the living room he nodded to Ben.
Peter picked up his drink and sat down on the sofa across the coffee table from Mary. He took a sip of his drink. "Mary, I have some friends that I would like you to meet. They live in a strange, hidden place, but they are very important to me, and I think they might be able to help you with your problem."
"Someone who knows me?" she asked eagerly.
"Quite possibly, we can leave when you finish your drink."
She drained her drink and smiled brightly at Peter, looking so much like the old Cathy. "Iím ready," she announced.
Both men finished their drinks and rose.
Peter left the room and came back carrying three coats. He handed one to Ben and another to Mary. "It can be pretty chilly where we are going."
As Mary was putting on the taupe trench coat she noticed a monogram on the inside. "C.C?" she questioned.
"Yes. It belongs to my God daughter, Cathy. Iím not even sure when she left it here. Under the circumstances, Iím sure she wonít mind you wearing it."
He led his two guests down to the basement and paused outside the hidden door. He turned to Mary. "All I ask is that you keep an open mind, and if it turns out that these people canít help you, we just ask that you never mention this place to anyone."
Mary nodded agreement, too excited and intrigued to speak.
Peter pushed a hidden leaver and a wall of shelving silently swung out, he motioned them through, then pulled it closed behind him. He moved to the front of his small group and led the way down a brick lined passageway lit by utility lights in the ceiling.
Mary had the strangest feeling of dťjŗ vu as they moved along. All of this looked very familiar. The passage dropped as they walked along and eventually they left the brick lined tunnel and moved into one carved out of rock. In places it looked like natural tunnel and in other places she could see chisel marks on the walls. The light here was provided by torches set in holders on the walls and by lanterns. She began to notice the sounds around her. Predominantly was the sound of tapping. "Itís people talking to each other, tapping on the master pipes...Messages."
Peter stopped and turned to her. "Thatís right. How did you know that?"
"IÖI donít know. Someone told meÖ" she sounded like she was a long way off in her thoughts.
Peter took her arm and they continued their trek.
Finally they came to a large chamber with five tunnels opening off of it, like spokes of a wheel. Without pausing Peter took the second one to the left from where they entered and they continued walking. As they moved, Peter could feel the tension building in the arm he held. They stopped outside a doorway with light shining from inside. He turned to her. "Are you OK, Mary?"
"I think soÖWhat is this place?" she whispered. "Itís like I know it, but I donít."
"Do me a favor," suggested Peter. "Close your eyes, and pretend that you are going through this doorway. Tell me the first things you see."
Mary did as he suggested, as Ben moved to her other side. "Books," she said almost as soon as she closed her eyes. "A short iron stair and lots and lots of books; everywhere."
Peter was grinning widely when she opened her eyes. He took her hand and led her though the opening.
The first things that met her eyes were books, untidy stacks of them, everywhere. She stood at the top of a short iron stair staring around her, hardly noticing the older man rising from behind his desk and moving across the room toward the group that had just entered the chamber.
"Peter, who have you brought?" she heard him say. "I have to say that your message caught my attention."
She quit staring at the room around her, the strangely familiar room, and dropped her gaze to the man standing at the bottom of the short staircase.
The old man staggered back a step; Peter pushed past her and rushed to his side and took his arm. "Catherine?" the old man whispered, so that only Peter could hear him. "Yes!" Peter answered. "But even she doesnít know it."
Mary was surprised to see the color drain out of the old manís face, but as Peter turned him toward the chair he had just left, he called back over his shoulder, "Angina," and Mary took it to mean that the old man had heart trouble.
Within a few minutes they were all settled around the table in the center of the room, "chamber" she corrected herself, automatically, and Peter introduced the older man as Jacob Wells, Dr. Jacob Wells. Dr. Wells greeted her and then shook hands with Ben, welcoming him back.
"Wells?" she asked.
"Yes, my dear," he said.
"It is strange, but when I couldnít remember my own name, I chose Wells as a surname." She leaned toward him. Do you know me?" she asked.
"As a matter of fact, my dearÖ"
Just then they were interrupted by a woman who came bustling into the room.
"Father, I heard on the pipes that Peter had brought guests, and I thought you all might enjoy a cup of tea." She put the tray on the table and then saw Ben. She smiled broadly. "Ben! Ben Stokes! How have you been? It is so good to see you." She hugged Ben and then turned to the woman next to him. Before she could say anything the woman took a hurried step back. "Mary!" she gasped. "Youíre Mary, the Mary on my list of names." She put her hands over her face then lowered her head to the table top. "No, no, no," she kept repeating. In seconds she was surrounded by Peter, Ben, Jacob, and Mary who were all trying to soothe her. They helped her move to the settee in the corner where she could put her feet up and Peter was down on one knee in front of her holding her hands and talking quietly to her. "Tell me your name, honey," he gently ordered her. She raised her head and looked into his eyes. He saw a moment of indecision before she said "Catherine?"
"Yes!" he said in triumph as he hugged her. Everyone else gathered around them to offer their hugs and kisses.
The excitement was just starting to settle when another person entered the chamber and stood at the top of the stair. Catherine couldnít see him, but she sensed him as soon as he entered the room and her whole body started to tingle as soon as she heard his voice.
"Father," he said, "Iíve been getting the strangest feelings for almost the last hour, it has been like water coming in and then receding. Feelings, emotions of all kinds, just washing over me. I checked Jacob, but he is sleeping. Are you all right?" he started down the stairs into the chamber.
At the first words, Catherine was struggling out of Peterís arms to her feet. She didnít even have to see Vincent, she pushed away from the people surrounding her and threw herself across the chamber into his arms as she called his name: "Vincent!"
A startled Vincent heard his name called and suddenly found his arms full of soft, fragrant woman. Within seconds the fragrance resolved itself into a memory and his arms closed around her tightly. "Catherine!" he breathed as he buried his face in the hair that was starting to come out of its braid.
They stood in the center of the chamber for minutes with their arms locked around each other, before Father made his way over to them. He leaned toward Vincent. "Son, take her to your chamber, so you can have some privacy."
Vincent didnít need the suggestion to be made twice. He swept her up into his arms and carried her the short distance to his chamber. He started to put her down on a chair, but changed his mind and sat on the side of his bed with her still in his arms. He pulled his arm out from under her legs and wrapped it around her waist and they sat that way for minutes before Catherine finally found her voice.
"Vincent," she whispered. "Iím home. I love you. I love you so much." She hugged him tighter and pressed her lips to a spot on his neck above his shirt collar.
"Catherine, I donít believe it! Everyone thought you were dead, but I never accepted it. I could still feel you, and I knew you were alive. Everyone else thought I was deluding myself."
Catherine was finally able to draw her head back and look up at the face of the man she loved more than life. She traced his cheek and jaw with light fingertips, drawing a shiver from deep inside him. She felt a part of his body below her hip, suddenly grow hard, as he cupped her cheek with his hand and tipped her head so he could kiss her.
The kiss started out simply, but soon developed into a passionate entity with a mind of its own. Vincent had a hard time pulling back and reining in the feelings that went with it.
"Catherine. Iíve missed you so. Where have you been? Was that really you that Jacob saw in the park yesterday?"
"Jacob?" she questioned.
"Our son, Jacob. He came back from the park yesterday in quite a state. He insisted that he had seen ĎMamaí in the park. Even Jamie said that the woman looked like you; and Mr. Greene at the deli said that a woman had come in and ordered your favorite and she looked like you.
"Oh," the meaning on his words finally penetrated. "That beautiful little boy in the park yesterday is our son?" she looked into Vincentís eyes, as he nodded. "He asked me my name and when I told him it was Mary, he argued with me and told me that my name was ĎMamaí. For some reason I panicked and ran. The girl even called after me. She called Catherine, and I didnít recognize it. I didnít recognize my son or my own name." Tears were starting to fall.
Vincent wrapped his arms tightly around her and rocked her gently. "Shh, my love. It is all right now. You are home and you are safe. We are all together again."
Before he realized it, he was kissing her again, kissing her lips, kissing her tears away, and she was happily returning those kisses.
Catherine pulled her arms from around his neck and worked her hands in between them where she started unbuttoning the buttons on the front of Vincentís denim shirt. She has half way down his chest when he realized what she was doing and stopped kissing her long enough to capture her hands and hold them fast between his own.
"Catherine, Catherine. Please slow down. We need a little time to take all this in."
She rested her head on their joined hands a moment then looked up at him with a glowing face. "Jacob is beautiful, but how did he know me?"
Vincent nodded at the painting that hung on the wall. "Kristopherís painting and some photographs that Peter gave him. And he told me that he could feel you."
Vincent explained the aftermath of the episode in the park the day before.
"So you have a Bond with him."
"Yes, that is how I found him. I felt him from the first moment he was born, but I thought it was you. He was moved away from the city when he was a few weeks old, then when he was nearly four months old, he came back and he was quite close. But I could feel him weakening, but I was still thinking it was you. I started searching again, but now I could actually get close to the source. I was captured then, by a man named Gabriel. He put me in a cage, but he brought Jacob to me. I knew then that the Bond I had wasnít with you but with this child. Gabriel could see that I was confused and told me that this was my son. As soon as he said the words it all came back to me. Everything that happened in the cave, everything that I had forgotten. Gabriel told me that you were dead, and that if I didnít do something, my son would be too.
"As I held Jacob, I could feel his strength start to return. Gabriel held me for three days, and everyday he brought Jacob to me to hold. By the third day, I had a plan, I knew that even if we both died, I had to try to escape. It would be better than having that monster raising our son.
"I met very little resistance as I fought my way out of the building. I was lucky that it was beginning to get dark, I didnít have my cloak. I managed to make my way to a threshold via a very circuitous route. It dawned on me that since I didnít meet much resistance on my way out, they might be following me to find out where I lived. Once I was sure I wasnít being followed, I made my way Below."
"What did Father say when you presented him with a grandson?"
Vincent chuckled and shook his head. "What would you expect Father to say? He didnít believe that the child was mine. Your son maybe, he said that him being your son might account for the Bond, but mine, never. At least not until Peter came Below and took a blood sample and found enough similarities between us to prove it to Father."
"But you knew." Catherine whispered.
"Yes, I knew. From the first moment I held him, I knew. And I also knew that you werenít dead. Gabriel said you were, but I could still feel you and knew you werenít. As I held Jacob that first day, I was able to unravel and separate the strands of the Bond. There was one, very strong one that connected me to Jacob, but there was another, more tenuous that sometimes faded to almost nothing, but it never left me completely, and I knew that one was you. It kept me from giving up hope.
He held her tightly, "But where were you Catherine? Why didnít you come home sooner?"
"As soon as I can Iíll give you my journals to read. Iíve been in North Carolina with Ben for the last three years, but before that. Gabriel was holding me captive. Somehow he found out about you. From what some of his people told me, I think it was from that drug lab you destroyed. It was one of his. His employees described you. Then it was him who sicced Spirko on us. With the information Spirko had gathered, Gabriel was finally able to link the two of us.
"I found out I was pregnant when Red Cross called me after a blood drive and told me. I was stunned. I tried to tell you several times, but you were still in such turmoil that I hated to add to it. When I sent you that note asking you to meet me at the threshold, I planned to tell you come hell or high water that night. But I was kidnapped as I left work. Gabriel had found out I was pregnant and suspected that it was yours.
"He had somehow gotten his hands on some samples of your blood, possibly from what Peter drew while you were sick, and they compared it with fluid they took in an amniocentesis they did. He was satisfied that the child was yours. I thought for sure that they would kill me once he was born, but they didnít. I wasnít allowed to take care of him but they brought him to me for feeding. That went on for a couple of months, then they started weaning him off me, and when he was three months old I guess they decided I was expendable.
"Iím not really sure what happened. I went to sleep one night in the room I was being held in and the next thing I knew I was freezing on a beach and someone was trying to help me stand. Ben found me on the beach in front of his house in North Carolina on December 3rd, 1989; Jacob wasnít quiet eleven weeks old. But when I woke, I didnít remember anything about myself or how Iíd gotten there. I was a mess! Ben reassured me and helped me through it all. Even when I panicked when he suggested calling the police and have them check missing persons, and asked him not to do it; he went along. He is wonderful! I lived with him and worked as his housekeeper for the last three years. Just recently, when I thought I was recognizing some of the things in my dreams he suggested that we come to New York and check them out. I never dreamed that he new Peter and that heíd been a Helper when he lived in New York. At least I assume he was a helper, he didnít seem surprised to find all this below the city."
"Benís second wife was one of us. She was born Above, but wound up here with us after her home burned and she lost her whole family. She wasnít home at the time, she was out with friends and when she arrived home she found the house a mass of smoldering embers. She was in shock, the police talked to her and told her that her whole family was gone, and she just wandered off. She was only about 16 at the time and one of the other children found her sleeping in the park and brought her Below. When she recovered from the shock, and it took some time, she went back Above to resume her life, but she remained a Helper. She met Ben about two years after his first wife died. They were married about a year later and he became a Helper too. She died about ten years ago. Ben retired and moved away just before you came into our lives."
Catherineís eyes had gone unfocused while she listened to Vincent tell Benís story, so much so that now Vincent was concerned.
"Are you all right, Catherine?"
She flashed him a dazzling smile. "Oh yes, but I just felt something. It was so odd. It was like something just came out of nowhere and enclosed my heart in two warm hands, and started tugging at me." She pointed at a large rug that hung on the wall opposites where Kristopherís painting hung. "It is pulling me that way."
"Catherine, that is the way my Bond with Jacob feels. Heís managed to connect to you too. The entrance to his chamber is behind that rug." He rose and set her on her feet and took her hand in his. "I think it is time you were reintroduced to our son."
He led her over to the rug, which he pulled back and allowed her to precede him into the dimly lit chamber. Jacob was sitting up in bed and when he saw Catherine come in he jumped out of bed and rushed across the room wrap his arms around her knees.
"I knew you would come, Mama," he crowed. "I could feel you!"
Vincent managed to unwind his arms from around Catherineís knees, lift him and hand him to her, so that he could just wind his arms around her neck. She didnít care that he had her in a chokehold, she held him just as tightly. "Oh, Jacob. Iíve missed you so much. Youíve grown so much since I last saw you."
Vincent and Catherine sat on Jacobís bed as Jacob started babbling on about all the things in his life; like he had to bring his mother up to speed on everything right now. Catherine just gazed at her son and marveled. It took quite some time, but Jacob finally ran down and fell asleep in his motherís arms.
"Iíve missed so much, Vincent," she signed as Vincent took him from her and tucked him into his bed.
"But there is so much more ahead; you will be here to watch him grow into a man, and he will have his mother here to guide him. That is just as important."
Vincent took her hand and led her back into his chamber where he drew her gently into his arms and just held her.
"Can I stay, Vincent?" she asked.
"What?" asked Vincent, a little startled.
"Can I stay? Here Below. Is there room? I donít want to live Above any more. I want to be here with you. I would rather be here, in this chamber with you, than in the poshest penthouse in Manhattan, but even if you banish me to the guest chamber, I still want to stay. I canít bear to be separated from you and Jacob any longer. Even when I didnít know what I was missing, I missed you!"
Vincent breathed a sigh of relief, "Yes you can stay, Catherine. And I wouldnít dream of letting you get away from me again. I donít want you out of my sight. There is always room for you here Below, in this chamber, in my bed and especially in my heart."
He bent his head and kissed her again. She put her whole being into this kiss. She felt like she couldnít get close enough to him; even if she could have crawled inside his skin she wouldnít be close enough.
"Take me to bed, Vincent. Please?"
"Iíll take you to bed, Catherine, but tonight we just sleep."
He could feel her disappointment, even though the Bond wasnít what it used to be.
"But why?" she asked.
"Because today has been a very traumatic day, for both of us, but especially for you. You need to rest tonight, then later, when you are rested, we can truly be together." He kissed her again, lightly, then turned and went over to his wardrobe. He returned carrying a cosmetic bag sheíd left there after nearly four years before, a large t-shirt and one of her old bathrobes. He handed her those items and then propelled her out the door. "You know where the bathing chamber is. Go get ready for bed, and I will go tell Father and the others that you are staying."
Vincent was surprised to find everyone still sitting in Fatherís study drinking tea. Or rather, Mary was drinking tea, but the men were sipping the brandy that father saved for medicinal purposes or special occasions.
They all looked up, expectantly as he entered. "She has regained her memory, and she is staying," he told them.
They all let out a sighs of relief.
"Iím happy it has all resolved itself," said Ben. "But Iím losing the best damned housekeeper Iíll ever find!"
They all laughed, "But maybe it will get you back here to visit more often," said Father. "Weíve missed you!"
Father turned to Vincent and asked the most pertinent question: "Will she be staying in your chamber, or should Mary go ready the guest chamber?"
"She will be staying with me in our chamber, Father." He turned to leave but at the stairs he turned back, "And Mary, you might start thinking about planning a wedding." With that he turned and left the chamber.
Mary laughed and clapped her hands like a girl Peter and Ben looked at each other with grins. Only Father seemed to be surprised by the announcement.
"Jacob, is there something wrong?" Peter asked.
"WhatÖoh, nothing. I donít know why Iím surprised. Little Jacobís conception proved all my theories wrong. Catherine knew my sonís nature better than I did, right from the start. She will be good for him." He looked up at the others and smiled. "She loves him, and she loves Jacob. They will be happy."
"I expect to be invited to the wedding, and to the naming ceremonies for all the rest of their children," stated Ben.
When Vincent returned to his chamber, Catherine was already back. He picked up his things. "You go to bed, and I will be back in a few minutes."
She shed the robe and gratefully crawled into the bed. She burrowed her head into a pillow and breathed in the scent that was Vincent. Sheíd almost fallen asleep when Vincent came back into the chamber. He had on his robe. He went around the room blowing out candles until the only light left came from the stained glass window over the bed. Then he took off his robe, crawled into the bed and took Catherine into his arms.
"Sleep well, my love."
"I will, Vincent. I love you," she said sleepily.
"And I love you, Catherine."