One Love, One Soul, One Bond
This is an SND rated G beginning at the end of Though Lovers Be Lost. (This is one of the ways I think the series should have ended.J ) There are elements in this story that are taken from the series no copyright infringement intended.
When Love is Life
Love seeketh not Itself to please,
Vincent watched the helicopter speed away, his body buffeted by the wind from its propellers. His heart was breaking, as he felt Catherine’s essence fading into the distance, out of reach across the river. The heartbeat, that had drawn him to this place, was echoing throughout his entire being. All his hopes, of finally finding Catherine after so long, were fading with that sound.
Then suddenly he heard, "Vincent!"
It was Catherine’s voice from behind him, it sounded weak and desperate. He hadn’t felt her presence, but the pain of that omission was overshadowed by the impossible joy at the sound of her voice.
He turned, and ran to her, just as she seemed to crumple into his arms, like a puppet that’s strings had been cut.
"Catherine," he whispered, amazed and filled with hope. But something was wrong, very wrong.
She touched his face, as she said, "Vincent…we loved. There is a child…" There was pain and grief in her voice.
"A child?" he asked. It was then that he noticed the blood.
Catherine seemed to be weakening. She wept, "He’s beautiful…"
"Catherine?" Vincent couldn’t process what Catherine was saying. It had been six months since he had seen her. He had never given up hope that he would find her during that time, now what she was telling him was beyond anything he could imagine.
Suddenly, Catherine seemed to become more desperate. She looked up at Vincent, her eyes tired and full of sorrow. The knowledge of what she had faced, and what she now faced, was there before him. "Though lovers …be lost…" Catherine gasped, unable to go on.
"Love shall not," Vincent added, and when she went limp in his arms, he finished, "and death shall have no dominion," as the tears fell and his heart broke.
Vincent watched her face for timeless moments, as the pain upon it slowly relaxed into peace. He hadn’t seen her for half a year and now he examined every line, every curve of her beloved face. It was then that he noticed a faint pulse in her throat. He pulled her to him. All was not lost …not yet.
Vincent held Catherine, rocking her, his mind searching. Then the memory of another time came to his mind, a time when he had held Catherine like this, on the banks of the lake, having just saved her from the Watcher. He had given her mouth-to-mouth then, and had brought her back from the brink. Shivering, moments later, Catherine had told him that she loved him with such desperation, that his heart had beaten painfully with joy.
Now, as then, he wrapped Catherine in his cloak, laid her gently upon the hard surface of the roof. He felt for the pulse in her throat, it was faint and irregular. He had to do something, anything, and so he began to breathe life into her again.
Vincent knew, however, that this was not enough; he must get Catherine to Father, and the Tunnels. When she seemed to be breathing more regularly, and her pulse was a little stronger, he lifted Catherine and carried her down the many flights of stairs and out of the building. He held her close to him for warmth, and so that he could gauge how she fared moment by moment. As he hurried through the hidden wall in the nearby alley and came out of the building a few streets away, he was always conscious of Catherine’s tentative hold on life. He stopped now and then to check her pulse, and willed Catherine to keep breathing, until he could get her to Father.
Father had heard the sentries tap out a message that yet again, Vincent had left the Tunnels in search of Catherine. This time however, he seemed to be in a purposeful hurry. Father mourned for Vincent and felt the pain that he was in, but unlike many times in the past, Father could not ease his son’s pain. For months now, Vincent had not slept more than a few exhausted moments at a time, and the rest of the day he haunted the passageways and corridors Below. Like a ghost, each day, Vincent bided his time just waiting until the night, so that he could go Above and search for Catherine. Today had been different however; Vincent had spent most of it in his chamber, simply lying in his bed, staring into space. Father had spoken with him only briefly and Vincent had seemed preoccupied. When asked, Vincent had just shaken his head, and answered that he didn’t know.
Father, leaned back in his chair and tried, as he had done each night in the last six months, to put his mind to the book he was reading, but as usual he was only barely successful. His mind was on his son and the constant pain he was in, and the fear that he might find Catherine, too late.
Hours passed, and then he heard an urgent message tapped out on the pipes. It was Vincent. "Father … urgent … Hospital Chamber … hurry…"
When he arrived, Father was met with a sight he had never expected to see. Vincent was bending over one of the beds, and when he heard Father’s approach, he turned to look over his shoulder, and Father caught a glimpse of the bed and who lay in it.
"Catherine!" he gasped.
"Father, you must help her," Vincent said desperately, as he stepped reluctantly away from the bed.
Catherine, looked deathly pale, and Father feared the worst. She was wearing a hospital gown and Vincent had covered her with a blanket. She was unconscious and unmoving. When Father felt for her pulse, there wasn’t one.
He turned to Vincent, to tell him the terrible news, when he felt a flutter in her wrist, and then long seconds later another.
"Vincent, what has happened to her?" he demanded as he took out his stethoscope and placed it on Catherine’s chest.
Vincent had tears in his eyes, and didn’t answer Father’s question, only pleaded, "Father, please help her. She is fading as we speak."
Father examined Catherine quickly, and found a small needle mark on her left arm. "She has been injected with something, unless I know what it is I can do nothing. Vincent I fear…"
"No!" Vincent roared, sending a chair flying across the chamber, to clatter against a wall. "No, Father. I will not allow it! As long as she lives, I will do anything and everything I can to keep her so!"
Father was roughly pushed out of the way then, and Vincent fell to his knees and bent over Catherine. He began to give her mouth-to-mouth.
"Vincent that will do no good. It’s the drug that’s killing her." Father said desperate to get through to his son.
Vincent ignored him, pausing in his task, "It has kept her alive this long, Father, and if I must, I will continue to breath for Catherine, for the rest of my life."
Vincent’s mind was in turmoil, he would not let Catherine go, he could not even though he could feel her life slipping away, but as long as she lived there was hope. She had lost a lot of blood, and there had to be a way for him to help her. Blood … Blood!
A desperate and completely outrageous idea came to him. Father had once said that Vincent had the soul of a doctor. He also had a great deal of medical knowledge as well.
He stood and faced his father, and stated flatly, "Father, give Catherine some of my blood."
"Trust me, Father. It will work. Please …"
"Vincent, your blood would be toxic to Catherine. It would kill her!"
"I don’t think so…" Vincent said, looking down at Catherine. She had been carrying a child, his child, and his blood had been mingling with hers and hers with the baby for months. For the child to survive, her body had to have accepted his DNA, as unusual as it was. Could it work? It had to work. He knew she was dead if it didn’t and he could not let that happen without a fight. "Father, please! Replace what blood Catherine has lost with mine."
Rolling up his sleeves, Father mumbled, "This is insane, Vincent. She will surely die."
"Father, I cannot stand by and do nothing!" Father, merely looked at his son with disbelief, "Father…" Vincent pleaded, lifting his left arm and pulling back his sleeve. As he added, "You are always telling me that my powers of recuperation are remarkable. What other way can I help Catherine. Please, Father she hasn’t the time to waste arguing the finer points."
Vincent couldn’t tell his father why he felt this would work. The child … it was more than he himself could process, least of all tell anyone. If Catherine lived then there would be time for thought.
Finally willing to try, yet unconvinced it would work, Father knew that Catherine was fading fast, and doing something was better than sitting by her bed and watching her die. Vincent, especially needed something to give him hope, and he will have to deal with what happened when, or if, it happened. They would deal with what they must, when they must. For now, Father would do what his son asked.
"There is no time for a serum Vincent. A direct blood transfusion is the only way." He stood and began to prepare the instruments. It would be crude, but they had no choice.
Vincent watched, as his father found a vein in his arm and drew blood. "Please, Catherine, live…" he pleaded, as he watched his dark red blood flow through the clear tube and into Catherine’s arm, her face still and pale.
As his heart pumped his own life into Catherine, Vincent closed his eyes and reached into himself and drew on that hidden source of his power. That part of himself that he had always been the slave to, whenever Catherine was in danger. That part which had been his tormentor, his ‘other self’, yet the part which he knew was the more powerful, and he called it forth to do his bidding. He had never done anything like this before and he was totally unprepared for the result.
Vincent’s senses became more acute, and his inner self seemed to swell with immense power. He became, in that moment, the master, the ruler, and the possessor of all that he was, or could ever be.
He reached out with his mind, with his heart, and his very soul and found… "Catherine…" he whispered with every fiber of his being. Time stood still, and everything around him faded into a world of shadow, and he saw into Catherine’s body. He followed his blood as it made its way through the veins in her arm, the red and white cells floating, like plump, round plates, in the clear river of plasma, speeding through veins and arteries.
He sped before his blood, overcoming any opposition, which Catherine’s natural defenses might make. However, there was something else which threatened her life. All around him was a black shadow that was attacking Catherine’s blood cells and trying to stop her organs from functioning.
Vincent attacked it with all the strength he could draw on. Slashing and clawing at the darkness, as he would anything that threatened Catherine. This foreign substance, that was killing the woman he loved, must be vanquished like any other enemy. Suddenly his efforts began to overcome the invading poison, until it was gone completely, swallowed up by the powerful wave that was his own will, combined with his blood.
None of Catherine’s antibodies could stop him. He sped into every organ, leaving health and vitality behind him, until his blood and Catherine’s had mingled, as thoroughly as they had done in the body of a newborn infant.
When it was done, Vincent opened his eyes, and he was back in the Hospital Chamber, the strange battle he had just fought having greatly weakened him. He looked up at Father, as the needle was removed from his arm. Vincent’s gaze went to the still form lying in the bed beside him.
Was it a dream? Had he truly achieved what he had set out to do? Had it worked?
"Father," Vincent asked tiredly.
Father, saw his son’s tired blue eyes pleading, and smiled. "It worked, Vincent. I don’t know how, but you saved Catherine. She should have died, but for some reason, your blood has strengthened her, it is truly some kind of miracle. "
"Oh, Father," Vincent wept, and came to his knees beside Catherine’s bed. "Catherine…" he whispered, taking her hand and kissing it.
"Vincent, she will be unconscious for some hours. You should go and rest. I took quite a lot of your blood."
Vincent shook his head, "No, Father I will not leave Catherine, not now. Not ever again."
"Very well then, bring another cot over beside her. That way you will rest, and perhaps you will sleep."
"Yes, perhaps," Vincent said, but when he stood, he felt dizzy, and put a hand to his head, swaying slightly.
"Vincent, are you all right?" his father asked, concerned.
Steadying himself with a hand on the chair, Vincent said, "Yes, Father, it was only a momentary weakness." He then lifted a nearby cot and placed it next to Catherine.
"Rest, Vincent. You have done something miraculous," Father said, as he left the chamber.
Father did not return to his study, but went in search of Mary. When he found her, he spoke to her privately, and within the hour, as Vincent slept soundly beside his beloved. Mary tended to Catherine, in her capacity as Midwife of the tunnels. Nothing would be mentioned of what she and Father knew, even though they both felt that Vincent must also know the truth. There was time to ask questions later.
Vincent awoke in terrible pain, but it wasn’t a physical pain, it was a deep feeling of loss, as though a precious part of him had been torn away, and yet he still lived. He had been dreaming of Catherine. He had dreamt that he found her, that she was in his arms. That he had saved her with his own blood. He opened his eyes and turned his head to the left, and the breath caught in his throat.
"Catherine…" he whispered in disbelief, it wasn’t a dream. She was there beside him. He left the bed he had been sleeping in and came to his knees beside the bed in which she lay.
She was so still and silent, but as he watched her beautiful face, a tear slid down her cheek, to drop on the pillow beneath her head. Suddenly the pain he was feeling increased, and Vincent realized that this pain was not his own, but Catherine’s. It was a grief so immense that he could hardly bear it.
It was then that he realized that the Bond between them had been re-established! With his blood coursing through Catherine’s veins, it was as though they were truly one being. He was still connected to his own blood and he wondered what that blood would give Catherine, as well as life, were his gifts biological? Would his blood change her too? Time alone would tell, but for now the Bond having been returned to him was enough.
He realized then that even in her sleeping state, Catherine was still feeling the loss of her son… his son.
He retrieved the chair and sat beside Catherine’s bed. He took her hand and sat watching her every breath.
What must she have gone through in the last six months? Those long empty months of separation, and then to have the only thing that she had left, her newborn baby, taken away from her.
Vincent could hardly believe that he had a child, and it was all still so new, but for Catherine it was different, she had carried the child within her, and the loss of him was an ache deep and scaring.
Vincent sat holding Catherine’s hand, and smoothing her hair away from her face for some hours, until Father came to check on them.
Vincent turned toward him.
"Has she regained consciousness?" Father asked.
Vincent, turned back to Catherine, "No, Father."
Father came forward to stand next to his son. He bent and took Catherine’s wrist, and as he checked her pulse he spoke softly, "Vincent, there is something you need to know. About Catherine …"
"I know about the child, Father," Vincent said softly, not taking his gaze from Catherine’s face, "She said… he is beautiful," he spoke dreamily.
"She told me before she…collapsed," Vincent said, the memory a painful one.
Vincent knew what his father believed. The child must be another man’s. He had wanted to wait but he had to say the words that even he found hard to believe. In the light of their last few weeks together, before Catherine disappeared, the change in their relationship, and the long awaited intimacy they had shared. But Father could not fathom a normal life for his son and so this child had to be another man’s. "He is mine, Father. Catherine and I have a son."
"Yours…" Father asked astonished.
Vincent lifted Catherine’s fingers to his lips, kissed them, and added without explanation; his and Catherine’s private life belonged to them alone. "He was taken from her …my son … an unimagined miracle."
"Vincent, dear God! What are you going to do?"
Vincent, squeezed Catherine’s hand gently, as he stated, "First I will stay with Catherine until she is well, and then I will find my son." He looked up at his father, with such determination, that his eyes fairly glowed with blue fire.
Father stood watching the child he had raised, becoming a man before his very eyes, and his heart burst with pride. "I will leave you with her then. Send a message on the pipes when she wakes."
"I will," Vincent said, not looking away from Catherine.
Catherine felt like she was surrounded by a warm blanket of emotion. She floated on a protective cushion of love and safety. Nothing could be wrong if this love enveloped her, but something was wrong, something was missing… then she realized it wasn’t something but someone…
"No!!!" Catherine cried as she sat up.
"Catherine," Vincent said, to calm her, still holding tight to her hand, and placing his other hand on her arm.
She turned to him, "Vincent?" she looked around her, confused and dazed and her head began to spin. She lay heavily back on the pillow and closed her eyes. Then it all came back. "Oh no… Vincent he’s gone!"
"I know, Catherine, you must rest," Vincent said trying to calm her.
But Catherine began to weep great hacking sobs "Vincent, oh Vincent, he’s gone…" and she curled up on her side, holding tightly to his hand. Vincent moved to sit on the bed and take her in his arms. As he had on the night after her father died.
"I know my love, but we will get him back. I promise you."
Catherine clung to him, with all her strength, as she gave vent to the many months of pent up pain and separation, and the loss of their son.
Vincent was battered with wave upon wave of grief, more intense than he had ever experienced from Catherine before. It was truly as though the pain was his and they were indeed one soul, one body. He wanted to succumb to it and weep along with her, but he also wanted to comfort her, and so he fought his own pain and enfolded Catherine tightly in his arms, and radiated love and peace toward her.
In time Catherine calmed, and simply lay against him. She had exhausted herself. He laid her back onto the bed. Kissing her forehead he murmured, "Rest now. I am here, always."
Catherine smiled tiredly, and closed her eyes and slept, surrounded by the thick blanket of love and peace that Vincent covered her with.
The next time she woke, Catherine felt much stronger. She opened her eyes and turned to where Vincent sat in the chair beside her, watching her.
"You are feeling better." It was not a question; it was as though he knew.
"Yes," she said, and then something occurred to her "And you are very tired." It was true she could see it in his face, and he had lost weight since she saw him last. But she could also feel it in him. "Vincent, I can feel your tiredness."
His weary blue eyes flared to life, all fatigue forgotten. "You can?"
"Yes," and she smiled, "and now your surprise, Vincent, how …"
He came to his knees beside the bed, a smile of pure joy on his face, and Catherine could sense it radiating from him. "I gave you some of my blood Catherine. It saved your life, but it appears there are other benefits as well."
Catherine threw her arms around his neck and held him so tight, that even for Vincent, it was constricting his breathing. "Vincent, I can feel what you’re feeling. We are truly one in every way."
"And forever …" Vincent whispered as he boldly placed his lips on Catherine’s, and they shared not only a kiss, but a perfect moment of love, as their now enhanced, two-way bond, took them to a place no one else could ever go.
Father heard Vincent’s message on the pipes, telling him that Catherine was awake, and he hurried to the Hospital Chamber. When he got there, Vincent and Catherine were talking softly together, and Catherine was smiling.
"Catherine, you have no idea how good it is to see you awake. Is everything all right? How are you feeling?"
The two turned happy faces toward him and Catherine said, "Yes, everything is wonderful Father. Vincent’s blood has done more than simply save my life."
"Oh?" Father questioned.
"Yes, Father," Vincent began, "It appears our Bond has returned, with some remarkable differences."
"Really," Father stated, amazed.
Catherine’s face was filled with joy, yet Vincent could feel the ache of loss still looming deep within her.
"Catherine, do you think you could eat something?"
"Yes, Father, I think I could," She replied.
"I will have some food sent up, and Mary will bring you some clothes."
"Thank you, Father."
"Father, is Catherine well enough to leave this chamber? I would like her to rest in my chamber. It is more comfortable," Vincent asked.
"I don’t see why not. Catherine do you feel strong enough to…" But before he had finished what he was saying, Vincent had bent and wrapping the blanket from the bed around Catherine, had swept her up in his arms and was striding out of the chamber. "Well I will send the food and clothing to your chamber then, Vincent."
But there was no answer, only the disappearing corner of Vincent’s cloak, as he turned into the tunnel.
"Hmmm," Father said to himself. "I suppose I can’t blame them, they must have a lot to talk about, after so long apart."
Vincent laid Catherine on his bed and pulled a heavy quilt over her. "You are still very tired."
"Yes, I am."
"Rest, I will be here," Vincent said, as he began to move back, his intention was to sit in the chair beside the bed.
Catherine looked at him, and the expression on her face mirrored her feelings. She didn’t have to ask him to stay closer. She didn’t have to ask him to hold her. He knew what she wanted most of all, as though it was superimposed upon his own desires.
Catherine wanted to be in his arms, held near to his heart. To feel the warmth of his body, to inhale the myriad of pleasant odors that had always encompassed her memory of him, old leather and candle-wax, and the aroma that was Vincent alone, indescribable and intoxicating.
Emboldened by this new connection, Vincent removed his cloak, and placed it over the chair, and with Catherine’s feelings to guide him, he sat on the bed and removed his boots. Then he slid back against the bookcase, beneath the fan-shaped window, and drew her against him. Catherine’s deep satisfied sigh echoed in the chamber, as her arms came around him, her contentment washed over him.
Vincent knew that this was only a lull in the storm that was Catherine’s grief. He had felt it before, when her father had died the devastating wave upon wave of loss that overcame her then. But amid all of this sadness and the fear for his lost son, Vincent could not help but feel relief to have Catherine back in his arms. Alive and recovering, from months of terror and imprisonment, soft and warm against him, to be with her as her mind spiraled down into exhausted sleep.
Vincent too, began to relax, for the first time in many months. His eyes closed and his head fell back against the cushions behind him, and in seconds he was asleep.
When, Mary came in with the clothes, a short time later, she saw the beautiful sight of Vincent and Catherine, finally where they should be, in each others arms. She laid the clothing on the chair, next to Vincent’s cloak, and then left the chamber. She met William, and told him to come back in a few hours with the food he carried. At this moment, the two in that room needed each other, and rest, more than they did food. They would heal each other, and what lay ahead of them was a time of uncertainty but they would face whatever came, together as one and that was as it should be.Chapter Two
She Walks in BeautyShe walks in beauty, like the night
Catherine woke with a cry, from a world of imprisonment and fear. "You’re safe, you’re safe now," it was Vincent’s voice, and she instantly felt his concern and love wash over her.
She looked up, as his arms tightened around her, and his eyes bathed her with love. "Oh, Vincent, I thought I was …"
"I know," he said softly, laying his cheek on her hair.
Catherine lay back on his chest feeling the soft texture of his thick grey vest, and listening to his heartbeat, strong and rhythmic, calming her.
Vincent had been experiencing her dreams; they were full of dark shadows and malevolence, although he didn’t know the full extent of what she saw. Only that whatever it was, it filled her with fear and pain.
It had been less than a day since he had discovered that he had a son, and now his every thought was for that small helpless being, waiting for his parents to find him and bring him home.
To take her mind from her pain Vincent asked. "Catherine, in your absence I have gone to your balcony many times. The police have searched your apartment, but left it mostly undisturbed. I have been thinking that you might like some of your things around you, until you are ready to return…"
"Vincent, I don’t want to return to that world, there is nothing there for me. Only you and our son matter now." She squeezed his hand and he felt warmth and love emanating from her. "I would love some of my things, if the police have left anything that is." Catherine smiled sadly.
Vincent smiled in return, and then looked down at their joined hands, "I think your friends in the District Attorney’s office have been expecting you to return. Your home is the same as it was."
"That is not my life anymore, Vincent. Please understand. That part of my life is over. Let me stay missing, please…" then she flushed and looked away from him, and he felt a fresh pain rise in her suddenly, "Jenny and Nancy …"
He needed to comfort her, "There is time, Catherine. They have thought you missing for this long, a little longer will make no difference. If you wish to see them when you are stronger, I’m sure we can arrange it."
She turned back to him, her face aglow, "I would like that. I think it’s time I told them more about us anyway. I think we can trust them both to keep our secret."
He grinned, glad to feel her begin to calm, and added. "Make a list of what you wish from your home and I will get them for you."
"Thank you, Vincent; there are a few things I would like to have with me, a few keepsakes…here in my new home," Catherine said as she came into his arms.
Vincent went to Catherine’s apartment later that night. It had been weeks since he had been there, in the time that Catherine had been missing he had been unable to stay away for long. Catherine’s apartment drew him back time and time again. He would stand on the balcony, where they had spent many blissful hours together, and his heart would break anew in fear of her loss. He would hear her voice reading to him, or talking to him, and he would wonder what she had been going to tell him on the day she had disappeared.
Now, of course he knew what that was, Catherine was going to tell him that she was carrying his child, and of all the things he had suspected it might be, such a declaration was not among them.
He had never entered Catherine’s apartment willingly before, yet it was a simple thing to force the latch on the French Doors, but as always he was reluctant to enter. It was as though Catherine’s home was holy, a shrine to their love, and he didn’t wish to disturb it. But with Catherine’s words echoing in his mind ‘That is no longer my home, Vincent. This is my home now, here with you…’ He stepped forward.
He had spent three days here in Catherine’s care, during his illness many months ago, but he wasn’t himself then. Now he was master of his own life, and the memory of those painful days had faded into the realm of a dream.
He walked around the apartment, remembering all the times he had watched Catherine in her daily life. Allowing himself a few moments, and the secret pleasure, of watching her sleep, on nights when he had come for her help…
He had cared for her after the attack, when Laura was the witness to the murder of a policeman, and two men had beaten Catherine in retaliation for her involvement. He had watched over her that night, until she was recovered enough and the dawn came. But never had he entered this sanctuary of love willingly.
Strange, he thought, why had he been so reluctant to enter Catherine’s home? Perhaps deep within him was the belief that their love was doomed and he dare not take for granted what most men did. For Vincent, there had been no blissful acceptance of his future with Catherine. Even with all of Catherine’s encouragement, Vincent had still held back, until now.
Now, he would grasp with both hands what fate had given him, and stop at nothing to achieve the fulfillment of their dream. No plans had been made, no words spoken, yet Vincent knew what Catherine wanted, and with a determination he rarely showed, he intended to give Catherine everything she desired.
It was then he noticed a familiar book beside Catherine’s bed, and he picked it up, turning it to the last chapter, he heard Catherine’s voice in his mind …
And as the morning mists had risen long ago, when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now. And in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed me. I saw no shadow of another parting from her.
He closed the copy of ‘Great Expectations’ that he had given Catherine over three years ago, and placed it in the large satchel he had brought with him. It hadn’t been on the list but he had no doubt that she would want it.
He then went about the rooms collecting the items Catherine, had asked for and placed them carefully in a large satchel he had brought with him. The delicate china trinket box that was on her bedside table he wrapped in a scarf that he found hanging in the closet where he found a small wooden chest. Catherine had told him about this chest and that it held most of her treasured keepsakes. When he opened it, for the first time Vincent looked into Catherine’s past.
He felt an intruder at the thought of gazing into Catherine’s most treasured possessions, but she had been adamant. She would not return Above or to her apartment, so he must.
Vincent knelt in the darkened room, his keen eyesight affording him a clear view into the shadowed recess of the wooden chest. On the top was the white owl mask, Catherine had worn on their first Halloween. Visions of Brigit O’Donnell came to his mind, and a night of new sights and experiences that he had never forgotten. Catherine would want this he was certain. Then he reverently took out a dark wooden jewelry box, a red needlework pillow, a pair of pink ballet slippers and a china figurine. The last was of a couple dressed in clothing from the 18th century and they were dancing. As he was placing it on the bed, to wrap carefully later, a tinkling sound came from it, and he realized that it was a music box. Curiosity overcame him, and he found the tiny key in its base and turned it. The tune it played was an old tune. Father said it had been his favorite from an old movie on the life of Al Jolson and he had often hummed it to Vincent as he lay in his arms as a child. ‘The Anniversary Song’ it was called. Vincent, found it very strange that Catherine too had thought it beautiful. Not Chopin or Mozart, but a tune filled with love and visions of a long and happy life together. The words he remembered well…
Oh how we danced on the night we were wed.
We vowed our true love, though a word wasn’t said.
The world was in bloom, there were stars in the skies,
Accept for the few that were there in your eyes.
Dear as I held you close in my arms,
Angels were singing a hymn to your charms.
Two hearts gently beating, murmuring low,
Darling I love you so.
The night seemed to fade into blossoming dawn.
The sun shone anew, but the dance lingered on.
That we, but recall that sweet moment sublime,
We’d find that our love is unaltered by time.
Vincent wondered if Catherine had had this music box since childhood or if it was a new addition. It reminded him of their first dance together, after Catherine’s first Winterfest, when they had danced into the morning hours to a tune that they alone could hear. Those beautiful words came so close to how he and Catherine had felt that night, and…
Suddenly Vincent had an epiphany, the tune he had heard within him that night was this very one. He knew then that in some profound way he had heard it through Catherine, the same tune, and that dance became even more memorable to him and he couldn’t wait to tell Catherine these new discoveries.
He continued to remove and choose items he knew, Catherine would want, and then toward the bottom of the chest, he came to the copy of ‘Shakespeare’s sonnets’ that he had given, Catherine when they had only known each other a short time. A dried rose marked the page of ‘Sonnet 29’ and the inscription on the first page read …
With love’s light wings did I or’perch these walls. For stony limits cannot hold love out.
How long ago had he written those words, and it amazed him how much had changed within him and between him and Catherine since then. Those early, tentative, hope-filled days, when he had dared to dream, but feared to hope that the life he now looked forward to with Catherine was even possible.
Vincent closed the red Leather-bound book and laid it on the bed. Then he noticed a small bundle in one corner of the chest, wrapped in a light baby’s shawl. With curiosity he lifted it gently, he unwrapped it. It was a doll, a strange little thing, with shiny, almost white hair and big blue eyes, and an innocent, endearing expression.
Vincent smiled as he wondered what sweet memories this little doll must hold for Catherine, and then he re-wrapped her and added the little bundle to the growing collection of items on the bed. With some humor, Vincent began to doubt that he would fit his satchel through the manhole into the tunnels if he had much more to add to it.
He knew, without needing to wonder, that some of the things he had gathered were things that meant a great deal to Catherine, and that most likely had not been thought of in many years. He reasoned that it was the new aspect of their Bond of blood, which had joined them more thoroughly than anything could ever have done, that enabled him to know what to take and what to leave behind.
Finally he had found everything, Catherine had asked for, as well as a few things he instinctively knew she had forgotten. After returning everything to the way he had found them. He was standing in Catherine’s bedroom ready to leave when he heard the front door open. It was very late and Vincent had thought it the perfect time to come. Fear struck him and for a moment he was frozen in place. Then with his usual stealth, he quickly disappeared through the balcony doors, closing them soundlessly behind him, and hid in the shadows of the balcony.
He watched as a young woman, with long red hair, entered the apartment. After closing the door, she walked around the living room then went to a cabinet and turned on, Catherine’s stereo, but before she could detect him, Vincent was out of sight and on his way back to, Catherine.
He wondered who this woman was, and how she had gotten into Catherine’s apartment, but he must leave this behind him. He decided not to mention this to Catherine. There was no need for her to know.
Diana Bennett had been reluctant to take on this case; there was no body, although a great deal of blood had been found in an abandoned building, after a tip-off, which matched Catherine Chandler’s. That’s why Diana was here, there was something fishy about this case, which meant it fell into the criteria of cases Diana liked best.
She came into the quiet apartment and as usual tried to ignore the natural reluctance to disturb anything and concentrate on finding things the police had missed.
It didn’t take her long to see what was missing, and for Diana the case got even more interesting…
"Oh, thank you, Vincent!" Catherine, declared when, Vincent handed her the bulging satchel.
He couldn’t help but be pleased. Catherine was like one of the children on Winterfest morning, opening their presents. Putting her hand in the leather sack and pulling out things she had forgotten, things she had thought lost forever.
When, she came to the shawl wrapped bundle, she exclaimed, "Oh, Suzie there you are, I thought I would never see you again."
"Suzie?" Vincent queried.
Catherine looked shyly up at him, and he felt a touch of embarrassment through their bond. "All my dolls were named Suzie." She laughed softly, "I don’t know why, I guess I found a name I liked and stayed with it," and she looked away covering her face with her hair. "It’s silly I know…"
Vincent leaned over and lifted, Catherine’s chin until she was looking up at him. "It is endearing. I can almost see the little girl you once were." He felt his fingers tingle where he touched her flesh, and felt her sadness…
Vincent suddenly had an insight into Catherine’s childhood, as memories flooded into his mind, of a little girl whose only friends were her dolls. She would play with them for hours on end. Imagining them to be real, much like her father’s favorite story ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’. Vincent, felt a profound sadness for the little girl, Catherine had been, but with the knowledge that she could now sense his emotions, he quickly smothered them beneath the admiration he had for her childlike excitement over her rediscovered treasures.
Vincent, thought it was a perfect time to give Catherine something else, he knew she would want. He went to his black and red Chinese cabinet, where he kept most of his own treasured possessions. He kept his own emotions dampened as he didn’t want to let her discern his intent. He wasted this to be a surprise.
On the top shelf was a small square wooden box, it was old and the corners were missing some varnish, but it was carved with a rose on its lid. Vincent had thought it was perfect to hold what he had placed within it. He lifted it from the shelf and held it reverently in the palm of his hand for a moment. With his head lowered he stared at the beautifully carved rose on the little box, he walked back to where, Catherine was still sorting through her keepsakes.
Catherine, lifted her head and looked up as, Vincent stopped beside the bed, curiosity her uppermost emotion.
"Catherine, when you disappeared, I returned to the cavern… where you saved my life… and I found this." He handed her the box.
Catherine took the small wooden box and smoothed her finger over the carved rose, her emotions a mix of curiosity and admiration. When she opened it, the candlelight in the room became brighter as the crystal necklace; Vincent had given Catherine on their first Anniversary, sparkled on a bed of black velvet. It reminded, Vincent of a piece of eternity, he had once said.
"Oh, Vincent, I thought I would never see this again." Catherine, looked up at him, and he felt such a wave of joy and love strike him, that it made his heart beat faster.
Catherine lifted the crystal necklace from the box by its gold chain, and laid the crystal in her hand. She would often smooth each surface with her fingers, when she sat in thought; mostly the thoughts had been of Vincent. She had memorized each surface, the rough with the smooth, and she had missed its comforting presence in her captivity. Her growing son had made up for that loss, now however without him within her, there was a great chasm where he had once dwelt, and a crushing pain remained. This beautiful token of love would do a great deal in easing that pain, and Catherine, was immensely glad that it had not been lost forever.
Before she could place it over her head however, Vincent took it and lifted the chain around her neck. It had been broken when he found it, and he had used the hours it took to fix the tiny links, to help ease his terrible grief, over the loss of Catherine and the bond he had had with her. It had brought him closer to her, on the nights when he couldn’t sleep, and he would often just stare into it.
As Vincent lifted the delicate chain over Catherine’s head, it was as though he preformed a ceremony, much like placing a ring on her finger. It had to be done by Vincent, to enhance its meaning.
"Thank you, Vincent," Catherine said, with a look that, Vincent felt more than saw. She held the crystal in her hand and without thinking she began to reacquaint herself with every surface, like a map to her heart, and the path of life, the rough and the smooth.
This new aspect to their love was becoming very interesting, Vincent thought with a smile.
Catherine, picking up on his emotion; as new as their connection was, murmured, "Yes, it is interesting, isn’t it?"
Vincent couldn’t help himself, he laughed softly, shaking his head in amazement, "I see some remarkable times ahead of us, Catherine."
She took his hand and pulled him down on the bed beside her, amid the trinkets and keepsakes. "At least unlike other couples, we will never wonder what the other is feeling," and she cupped his cheek with her hand.
He placed his hand over hers. "No, we won’t,"
Their eyes met, and what passed between them was beyond words, yet filled with the promise of a life filled with new and wondrous experiences.
It was dark, and a baby’s weak cries echoed in an empty room. Alone and helpless the child felt physical hunger but something else as well. Its undeveloped mind could not process this but its primal survival instincts screamed danger and separation from safety and love.
A dark figure entered the room and came toward the infant. Malevolent and evil, hands reached out…
"No!" Catherine cried as she woke from the nightmare and again it was Vincent’s voice that calmed her.
"Catherine…" Vincent’s concern and love flowed over her. She had slept in his arms for the three nights now since he had brought her to his chamber.
As he had once before when her father died, Vincent would be there for Catherine now with whatever she needed. He knew himself now, and so he held her each night, cradling her like a child, his senses so attuned to her needs, that his own were non-existent.
Although he had seen the dream, the darkness and the aloneness and awareness of danger, Vincent said, "Tell me,"
After a few moments, Catherine spoke, her breathing labored, "It was so real Vincent, something menacing was coming. No, not something, someone …" Catherine suddenly gasped and sat up, "Our son, Vincent, I can feel him,"
"I know, Catherine I have been feeling an undercurrent of emotion in you since your return. Now, I am sure it’s our son," he took her hands, "Catherine, you are still joined to him. Can you sense where he is?"
"I don’t know…" Catherine spoke softly.
Vincent hardly understood his own gifts and how they might manifest in Catherine was impossible to know. Only by encouraging her to experiment with these new qualities could they find out. "Catherine, try to see him in your mind, reach out, feel what he’s feeling. You have already done this unconsciously, this time do it by design," Vincent said, hope and pride radiating from him to her.
Catherine closed her eyes and concentrated on the last time she had seen her son, his tiny face red and pinched. His eyes had opened when he was lifted toward her, something had passed between them.
Suddenly her mind seemed to speed through the air, she gasped again, dizzy and disorientated as she flew over the river and through gardens. When she regained her balance she spoke with pain, "Oh, Vincent, he’s crying, he’s hungry…" she put her hand to her breast, her eyes closed, "he’s so alone." It was a soft moan. "He’s in a dark room …and there is a dark shadow all around him, coming nearer. But I don’t know where…I don’t know how to sense where!" she began to weep, "Vincent, he needs me…" Catherine sobbed and buried her face in Vincent’s chest again, clutching at his vest, as she wept bitter tears.
Vincent held her, "We will find him Catherine, I promise," he declared, his eyes ablaze, staring into the shadows of the chamber. He kissed the top of Catherine’s head and rocked her until she fell into exhausted asleep.
Vincent didn’t sleep, his mind and his senses, were on his son. He couldn’t sense him the way Catherine could, for him there was only the feeling of something missing. Yet deep within him, when he was still like this, he could almost hear the swift beat of a tiny heart, and he knew it was his son’s gift to him. Telling his father that the baby was alive and strong, waiting for the time when he would be rescued.
There must be something he could do. Someone who could help them in the world Above.
So as the beautiful music of the heartbeat played deep within his being, Vincent searched for a way to save Catherine’s son. It was many hours later that Vincent, with Catherine still sleeping in his arms, her troubled mind and feelings of loss singing throughout his body, that he came upon a plan of action.
Catherine awoke to the smell of coffee and fried eggs. She rolled over and what she saw stayed with her for the rest of her life. Vincent was bent over a small camping stove, set on the floor of his chamber. Upon it was a frying pan where two eggs sizzled tantalizingly. Beside it a pot of coffee was kept warm by the blue flames. It was as though they were camping in that elusive lake far away, she thought.
The frightening dream of the night was forgotten for the moment, Catherine couldn’t help herself. To see Vincent caught up in such an exercise amazed and charmed her. She smiled with delight, and leaning on her elbow she put her head on her hand and said, "I never imagined that you could cook, Vincent."
Vincent turned from his task, pleased that his attempt to bring her out of the deep depression, she had been in last night, had worked. Laughing softly in return, he answered, "I was not one of William’s better pupils, but I can manage when the need arises."
Catherine pushed back the covers and put her feet on the floor. She wanted to walk over to him, but he forestalled her by striding over and lifting her into his arms. He settled her in his large chair in front of the small table and stood back.
"Vincent, I am much stronger now. Let me get up please?" Mary had been taking care of Catherine’s more personal needs and would most likely be here soon, but it was still early. Mary wouldn’t be here for a while yet.
"Not yet, Catherine, Perhaps tomorrow. Father was very specific. You must rest." Vincent retrieved the eggs and coffee and sat at the table, where two cups had been placed, along with toast and fruit. He slid one egg from the frying pan to Catherine’s plate, where a slice of bacon laid waiting and did the same for himself.
"I am very happy that you would cook for me Vincent, but why?"
"I thought that if I cooked you something, you might be able to eat," he said gazing deep into her eyes.
She hadn’t eaten much at all since he had found her, and had only swallowed a few sips of water, he was worried. She looked very pale and she needed to regain her strength. "To be permitted to leave that bed, and also this chamber, you must eat something Catherine," he was adamant and she felt his determination.
Catherine grinned at the sweetness of this new connection as she took a bite of toast, "I never thought you could be so bossy," she teased.
"When it means your health, Catherine, I will do whatever I must."
Catherine laughed out loud and it was a beautiful sound to Vincent’s ears, and his heart swelled. He had missed that sound.
Catherine caught the echo of his elation and sobered somewhat. Their eyes met and held, words were superfluous and as they ate Vincent broached the subject that had kept him awake all night.
"Catherine," she looked up, "I think there may be someone who might help us," he said gently.
"Who," Catherine asked carefully, not willing to hope. There was no need to explain what he meant.
"Elliot Burch," Vincent said, waiting to sense Catherine’s reaction. First there was pain, and then suspicion, but finally hope.
"Yes, I think that’s a good idea, Elliot’s been a good friend," she said, and then Vincent felt fear strike her, "What will you tell him?"
Vincent stood and took Catherine’s hand, "I will tell him only what he needs to know Catherine, only what he needs to help us find our son, and the man who has him captive."
When Vincent told Father later that morning as Catherine slept, Father was furious. "Elliot Burch!"
"He is our only recourse." Vincent said, softly yet determined.
"Look here Vincent, you want to find your son, and I can understand that, but at what risk, and what of Catherine if anything should happen to you?"
"The risk is worth it, Catherine knows that. Elliot Burch has had a thousand chances to betray our world…"
"Even so, how can you possibly trust him in this?"
"Catherine has had her child ripped from her arms and grieves for his loss. I must do everything I can to restore him to her."
"And Catherine is she aware of the risks?"
Vincent turned from his father, unwilling to answer. He had told Catherine and she had agreed, but he doubted that she was fully aware of what a terrible risk it would be for Vincent. She, like Vincent, was desperately grabbing at anything that might save their son.
"Then ask her to make the right choice. Think of what would happen to Catherine if anything should happen to you!"
Vincent’s heart became a cold stone in his chest as he spoke his next words, and he was unable to look up at his Father, "I did not come here for your counsel."
Father turned, "Believe me Vincent, I support your purpose."
Vincent looked up, "But you do not give me your blessing."
"I think the child may be lost to us…"
Vincent’s entire being rebelled against such a thought and there was an answering flare of rejection from nearby. When he spoke, his words were echoed in the chamber, as in unison the words burst from two throats,
"The child is our son!" Catherine’s voice joined Vincent’s from the shadows behind them.
Catherine came forward, wearing her nightgown and robe; she stood beside Vincent. Her entire body was trembling with anger as she took his hand firmly in hers. Neither took their eyes from the patriarch of the tunnels, their eyes flaring blue and green in defense of their child.
Father was visibly shaken by this show of unity in his son and his son’s chosen mate, and he knew he was outvoted and impotent against them.
Catherine and Vincent turned without another word and made their way back to Vincent’s chamber. Their course was set and whatever happened, whatever came they would face it together.
It was late, and Elliot was in his office staring out of the window, thinking of Catherine. Where was she, was she still alive? Manning was still looking, but there was little hope of finding her after so long, even the police had given up hope. Then his other concerns intruded on his mind. There was someone behind this string of disasters trying to take every extra cent he had, affecting every project. He didn’t know what to do next.
Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by a sound behind him. He turned to the door, there was no one there, and the sound was in the outer office. Fear struck him. Since Catherine’s disappearance, and his attempts to find her, there was a specter in his life, who was trying to destroy him, and his business. He knew that even his life could be in danger.
He went to his desk, took out the gun he always kept there. He made his way silently into the outer office. Relief hit him as he found only the janitor doing his rounds.
He went back into his office, as the fear subsided, then he felt a presence behind him and looked up. In the doorway a large cloaked figure stood, a hood shadowing his face.
"Elliot Burch," a deep voice asked.
Elliot lifted the gun, "Who the hell are you?"
"No one to fear," the velvet voice answered.
Elliot wanted to see this man’s face; there was something about him Elliot didn’t like. He bent toward the lamp and reached out to turn it on…
"Don’t! Please?" the intruder pleaded.
Elliot stopped in his action in answer to the plea then backed away, "How do you know me?" he asked, still aiming the gun at the intruder’s chest.
"We share an acquaintance, very dear to us both."
"Who," Elliot asked.
"Catherine… My name is Vincent."
Elliot had heard that name before. Manning had said this; Vincent was the main suspect in the police investigation into Cathy’s disappearance.
"Vincent? You know about me from what she told you?" Elliott asked.
"Yes," Vincent answered gently, knowing how this man must feel.
"Did you have anything to do with her disappearance?"
"No," Vincent said, and Elliot believed him.
"What do you want from me, Vincent?" Elliot asked, still aiming the gun.
"I need your help."
"To find Catherine, no one can find her…" Elliot said in frustration.
"…I found her." Vincent interrupted.
"You what…Where is she, is she all right?" Elliot asked, desperate, unconsciously lowering the gun.
"She’s alive," Vincent said not wishing to tell more than was necessary.
"And she’s with you," it was a statement, not a question.
Elliot was becoming frustrated with this man’s cryptic answers, and noncommittal attitude. "Take me to her!"
"I’m sorry, that is not possible." Vincent said, shaking his head.
With his frustration mounting, Elliot demanded, "What happened to her? Where was she? Where is she now? Why can’t I see her? Why haven’t you told the police what you know?"
Vincent was silent for a moment, unwilling to answer any of these questions, so he simply said, "I saw the man who took her captive."
This stopped Elliot’s thoughts racing, "Do you know him?"
"No, but his face is burning in my mind," Vincent said, his voice breaking as he saw again the cold face of the man and remembered that terrible night.
"How did you see him?"
"I found Catherine three nights ago, near death at the hand of this man. She is alive and safe now, but I fear that if he knew she was still alive, she would be in danger, so she must stay hidden. But I know where he kept her. Will you help me?"
"Why should I help you?"
"Because, you love her too," Vincent stated the fact simply.
Father met Vincent on his way back to his chamber, "Vincent, did you speak to Elliot Burch?" Vincent kept walking, forcing the older man to follow him.
"Yes," Vincent was still disturbed by Father’s disapproval.
"Is he going to help you?"
"Yes, he has agreed to help," Vincent kept walking.
"So does this mean you are going to risk seeing him again?"
Vincent stopped and turned to Father, taking hold of the older man’s upper arms. He was anxious and impatient to see Catherine and tell her what Elliot had said. He was also a little annoyed; Father seemed to be disapproving of his every move these days. "Yes, I will risk seeing him; I would risk everything for my son. Would you do any less for me?"
Father said nothing and Vincent hurried away back to Catherine. As he watched his once pliant son walk away, it was clear to Father that Vincent was changing. He seemed to be ready to lose everything to stop the man who had kidnapped Catherine and now had their son. At least, he reasoned, they had each other and that was patently clear this morning, they were united in a common cause.
Moments later, Vincent entered his chamber, still somewhat angered by Father’s words. Catherine’s beautiful, smiling face turned to him, as she sat in a chair, a warm shawl wrapped around her shoulders, and in her hands was her copy of Great Expectations. Within Vincent a warm glow began to wash away all of Father’s negativity. They would get their son back, they must believe this and in the meantime they would face everything that came, together. With a smile and bathing in Catherine’s love Vincent went toward her, love enveloped him and the world around them dissolved into the distance. All that existed now was their love and every hope for a bright future.
Elliot left Joe Maxwell’s apartment with hope. Joe would follow up on what Elliot had told him, of that he was sure, Joe loved Cathy too. Whether what he had told Joe would make a difference, only time would tell. This man, who had kidnapped Catherine, was the same man trying to destroy Elliot. He was like a specter, a malevolent shadow hovering over the city.
Vincent had said that Catherine had been left for dead, which was why she had to stay hidden. One thing that puzzled Elliot was why the unknown man had kept Cathy alive for six months, and then decided to kill her. Elliot had arranged to meet Vincent at the Carousel in the park tonight, he would ask him then.
Joe Maxwell went to Diana Bennett’s apartment. It hadn’t taken him long with his connections to find out that she was on the Catherine Chandler case and had been for some time.
When he buzzed her loft, Diana was at first reluctant to talk to him but relented and let him come up. She was very sympathetic to what he was going through.
"So, she was important to you?" Diana asked after Joe had told her why he was there.
"We worked together, but it was more than that," Joe was trying to leave it at that, but Diana was quick at discerning subtleties.
"Romantic?" Diana asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Friends," Joe said simply.
Diana nodded, knowing that Joe had loved Catherine Chandler but there had been no return of that feeling, at least not in the way he had hoped, "Okay, so tell me if I’m right." Diana said watching Joe’s reaction. "When she disappeared you asked to head the investigation."
"Don’t tell me, let me guess. The trail got cold real fast, and you blamed yourself. Then you worked harder and harder and all your other work suffered."
"I got suspended," Joe confessed.
Diana continued as though he had not spoken, not looking at him," Then you began to dream about her, and your mind took these illogical leaps. You followed up certain leads and intuitions, and pretty soon you couldn’t think of anything else…"
"That’s how it is for you?" Joe asked, pitying this striking woman.
"Yep, every time, every case," Diana said with a nod. She went to one wall where all her evidence was displayed. There were photos of Catherine from a society page before she came to the DA’s office. The police photo after the attack three years ago and a few things from her apartment, black and white photo’s of what looked like the roof of a building, and a dark stain over helipad makings.
"Did you know her apartment was broken into a few nights ago?" Diana asked, pointing to photos of Cathy’s apartment, the bed, the wardrobe and the French doors.
"No," Joe said.
"Not ransacked," Diana said surprised, "but neatly searched, as though whoever came there respected the place, but knew what they were looking for. Then left only moments before I got there…through the French doors."
"Fingerprints," Joe asked.
Diana laughed mirthlessly, "If you can call them that, and hair samples too. The lab is having trouble identifying them."
"How can you have trouble identifying fingerprints? They’re fingerprints." Joe laughed incredulously.
"Not these, no one knows what they are," Then Diana said in a low tone. "But you’re missing something here Mr. Maxwell. The intruder entered and exited the apartment through the French doors, eighteen floors up. Look I shouldn’t even be telling you this, but there are some very strange twists and turns in this case that don’t add up." She took him back to her wall of evidence. "For one thing blood found on a rooftop, after an anonymous tip, three nights ago was Catherine Chandler’s and it was post-natal blood, enough to tell me that she had given birth in that building less than an hour before …and then she was carried away. There’s no sign of the baby so it’s either dead or been taken with her or somewhere else. The trail stops in an alley behind the building. We’ve had dogs down that alley and …nothing, it ends at a solid wall, a dead end." Diana was clearly frustrated.
Joe was shocked, "A baby, Cathy had a baby?"
"There’s no doubt," Diana said.
"Whose? She wasn’t going with anyone, and hey she’s only been missing six months. She wasn’t pregnant before she left, we would have known, she would have told me or someone…"
"Are you sure of that?"
"Well no, what do I look like her midwife?"
"Well, whoever the father was and when she became pregnant we can only know when we find her and ask her," Diana said.
"If she’s alive," Joe said with frustration.
"Oh, I think she’s alive, there wasn’t enough blood for a bleed-out, or why have someone take her favorite things from her apartment?" Diana said with certainty.
"You think that’s what the break-in was about. Taking her things to her?"
"I can’t prove it and it’s only a theory, but yeah that’s what I think. Someone kept Catherine Chandler alive until she had the baby and then she was either taken to that roof or found her own way there on her own. Where I think the baby may have been taken away in a helicopter. Then someone else carried her from the roof into hiding and is protecting her."
"That sure is some theory, strange, just like so much of this case," Joe said. He turned to go to the elevator but stopped, "Thanks, I know you stuck your neck out telling me this. I know you don’t have to Bennett, but can you keep me apprised of anything you find. I have someone else to talk to about this but it sure is getting crazy."
"If I find anything new, I’ll try and let you know Mr. Maxwell."
"Call me Joe,"
"Okay Joe," Diana said as Joe closed the gate to her elevator.
As he entered the building where the carousel was stored, Elliot’s mind was trying to come to terms with the murder of Cleon Manning. Elliot had found Manning’s body hanging from his parking garage ceiling as he was on his way to this meeting. Now he was late and he hoped the elusive Vincent was still here.
Elliot asked himself, what he was doing. How much deeper was this rabbit hole going to go? He had no choice though, he had to help Cathy anyway he could. It was no life to hide in fear.
"Vincent?" Elliot called softly, as he came closer to the Carousel.
It was dark and the door had been open just as Vincent had said it would be, so he must be in here somewhere.
Elliot called again, "Vincent!"
"I’m here," Vincent’s deep voice rasped from the shadows.
Elliot wondered what the cause of Vincent’s illusiveness was and why Cathy would keep him a secret. He turned, just as a dark cloaked shape came out of the shadows. Elliot began to walk toward Vincent, but was stopped when Vincent spoke.
"Come no further," Vincent warned. Elliot stopped.
What was this guy’s problem? He was skittish and secretive, and it was more than just to protect Cathy.
"You’re alone?" Vincent asked. He could sense a man some distance away, but there was no one else nearby, however, he didn’t want Elliot to know the extent of what he could sense. Too many years of hiding, and self preservation, had made him extra cautious. "Tell me what you have found?"
Okay, Elliot thought, straight to business, "What I’ve found is a connection to the District Attorney of Manhattan," he answered.
Vincent could sense Elliot’s frustration, just as though it was heat from a fire, and he could smell his fear. "What is it Elliot?"
Elliot expelled a breath, releasing some of his frustration, and then he answered. "This man, the man you saw in the helicopter. If he is powerful enough to control the District Attorney … He killed 213 people in a hotel fire. My Hotel, and tonight he killed a man who worked for me, a friend, and he left his corpse as a warning. What kind of man is this?"
"The way is dangerous, Elliot. You are not bound to continue," Vincent said softly, giving Elliot the choice to withdraw, but hoping that he wouldn’t.
"Vincent, it’s not dangerous, it’s suicide."
Vincent knew that he might lose Elliot if the fear coming from him wasn’t changed to purpose, and he made a decision he knew Catherine would allow. "There is something more you should know…" he paused before stating flatly, "there is a child … This man is raising Catherine’s child."
Elliot was shocked and very still for a moment, so much falling into place, "It’s your child…" he stated without doubt. He knew that Cathy loved someone long before she disappeared so the deduction was a simple one.
"The child is hers, Elliot." Vincent still had trouble accepting the miracle that was his son. For all these months the child had been Catherine’s, even though he could still hear the tiny heart beating in the back of his mind, every moment of every day.
Vincent saw the change in Elliot immediately. There would be no doubt in him now.
To Elliot, his course was clear. Cathy’s child was out there somewhere, in the hands of a murderer, and he would do everything in his power to reunite her with her child. It didn’t matter that it was another man’s child. Elliot loved Catherine, and he had been changed by her.
Elliot left then, his mind searching for ways to help himself and Vincent, but above all, Catherine. What must she be going through?
Catherine was at that moment fearful but not for her son, but for his father. Vincent had come to her this evening and told her that he had to go Above. She was at first concerned, but Vincent had assured her that if he was to find their son he had to meet with Elliot. But he had been gone so long and she couldn’t help it, she was worried.
Vincent had no fear, only purpose as he waited Above. Then Catherine sensed the patience he always radiated change suddenly and she could feel his determination. He must be speaking with Elliot. But the mere fact that Vincent was out there, where that man ruled was terrifying to her and Father’s words about risk came back to her. What if he was watching, Vincent or Elliot, or what if either of them was harmed?
As time passed she began to feel warmth filling her and growing stronger. As new as this amazing Bond was, she quickly realized that it was Vincent returning to her, safe and filled with one thought, ‘ Catherine…’
Was this how Vincent must have felt whenever she had approached the tunnels… and him? She tried to remember what she would think about or how she would feel as she approached the tunnels and Vincent in those days. Mostly she would be thinking of sharing a problem with him or just being with him in his home. It was the next best thing to having him come to her on her balcony.
No wonder Vincent had been so disturbed and filled with sorrow after his illness when the Bond they had shared had gone. How wonderful this was, to sense the one she loved coming nearer. To know what he was feeling, to experience the love he had for her, radiating from him, filling her with warmth.
A moment later he strode into the chamber. Their eyes met and she came into his arms and as his arms came around her she knew it had gone well. But she asked him to tell her everything, and as he did, it was as though she was there with him.
Diana was searching through Catherine Chandler’s apartment she sat at the table looking for anything she might have missed. Her eyes scanned the desk and the things on it a photo, a snow globe, another photo…no, not a photo, something a child had made, a violin or was it a cello drawn on it with the words you are invited. Diana removed the invitation and opened the card, inside was a message in a beautiful flowing hand the words…
The Children are giving a concert tonight
Meet me below at the Threshold
Diana was further intrigued, "the threshold below," she said with exasperation.
Diana stayed in the apartment very late until she came to a conclusion and made her way down to the basement.
Vincent heard his name on the pipes and stopped reading to Catherine.
"What is it?" Catherine asked.
"I don’t know," He placed the book on the table, bent and kissed Catherine on the forehead and said, "I won’t be long," then he left the chamber.
Zach was waiting in the tunnel adjacent to Catherine’s basement entry. He pointed through the hole where he had removed a brick. Vincent bent and looked through it, his deep blue gaze searching and unsuspecting what he would find there and what it would mean to he and Catherine.
Before his eyes was the same red headed woman from Catherine’s apartment. Vincent knew that to have access to Catherine’s home she must be with the police or involved with the investigation in some way. He could sense only curiosity from her not malevolence but that curiosity could bring unwanted attention to the Tunnel Community.
"What shall we do now, Vincent?" Zach asked.
Vincent had to come to a swift and painful decision. "That is no longer my home, Vincent," Catherine had said. He knew that she would agree with his choice, but it was still a painful one.
"Tell Mouse we must… seal this section of the tunnels…"
"Forever," Zach asked.
Vincent felt great pain at the thought, and what that would mean to both him and Catherine. The wonderful memories they had of this place, but it must be done, and it was as though a door to a very special part of his life was slammed shut. "Yes, forever…" he said and pushed himself away from the wall and went back to Catherine, not looking back.
When he got there, Catherine was waiting for him with an expression that mirrored his own and an emotion passed between them that had no words. He didn’t have to tell her the painful choice he had had to make. It was clear in her expression that she already knew.
"I understood the message Vincent. I knew where you went and why." Catherine came to him and threw her arms around his neck, her face hidden against his chest, "We will make new memories," she said with a soft sob.
Vincent laid his cheek on her hair, "Yes," he said as he closed his eyes, drawing in her fragrance and her essence, which gave him ease.
The next morning Vincent broached a subject he could no longer avoid, "Catherine what can you tell me about what happened to you?" Vincent asked. He had not wanted to touch on such a painful subject before now, but what Elliot had told him had posed many questions, that Catherine may know the answers to.
Catherine tensed and he could feel her reluctance to remember that time but she forced herself. "Some of it is a terrible blur," she said, her face emotionless. "I was drugged in the beginning…"
"What happened after you sent me the message?"
Catherine’s eyes glazed as she remembered that time, "I’d decided to tell you about the baby."
Vincent didn’t need to ask why she had waited so long, he had been ill and she didn’t want to lay an added burden on him, but he had a right to know. "I know," he said softly, taking her hand.
The physical contact gave her courage, "I went down to the garage but they were there with guns. I thought I had gotten away in the elevator, and when it opened John Moreno was standing there. I was filled with relief, but then he stepped back as two men with guns came toward me. I knew then without a doubt that he was connected to all of it, the book, and Joe’s accident, everything…"
Vincent felt the pain of betrayal, Catherine had experienced that day, but to ease it he said, "And then?"
"The rest is very vague; I was given some kind of drug, to make me tell them about the book…Oh Vincent it was so hard. I couldn’t say anything. I knew about those kinds of drugs. They make you tell secrets you would rather not tell. I knew that once I began to talk, it would all come out, you, the tunnels everything, and I had to protect you…" There were tears in her eyes as the pain and frustration of those days came back to her.
Vincent took Catherine in his arms, "I’m sorry I had to force you to recall such pain."
Catherine shook her head and sniffed, "No, if anything I can remember can help us find our son, then it’s worth it."
Vincent held her, their hearts beat as one; their purpose was one and the same. Their lives and their love now mingled in their son and nothing short of death would steer them from their chosen path.
Vincent sensed Elliot’s approach for their second meeting at the Carousel, but something was wrong. Vincent had a great foreboding about tonight, even Catherine had expressed fear, but if they were to retrieve their son, Vincent must risk everything. There was a scent in the air that worried him, so he hid in the canopy above the Carousel for a better view of the door.
It wasn’t until Elliot was almost through the door, that Vincent sensed the two men following him. Elliot called, but Vincent ignored him, his attention was on the threat.
It wasn’t until Elliot called one of the men by name that Vincent was able to understand what was happening.
"Moreno!" Elliot called to the District Attorney of Manhattan. This was the man who had been instrumental in kidnapping Catherine.
Vincent wanted to slash and tear at this man until he told him the name of his master, but he controlled himself, then the shots echoed in the enclosed area.
Vincent knew he must save Elliot, he and Catherine needed him. What happened next was a blur of movement, but in the end two men lay dead and Elliot was staring into Vincent’s face.
Suddenly the burning pain in his chest began to increase and Vincent knew he had been shot more than once. He must get back to the tunnels, to Catherine. He disengaged himself from Elliot’s helping hands and stumbled from the Carousel before he collapsed from his wounds in the open.
The last thing he thought before he fell unconscious was that Catherine would feel his pain…
Catherine screamed and ran to Father’s study. "Father, something has happened to Vincent!"
"Catherine?" Father asked as he helped her to sit in one of his chairs. Her color was not good, but she seemed much stronger and almost completely recovered. But her emotional state was in question right now.
"He’s in pain, terrible pain." She put her hand to her forehead. "Oh, I wish I was as good at this at he is. I don’t know how to pinpoint where he is. Father can you guide me and I will find him. He needs help!"
"Catherine, rest and I will send someone after Vincent. You can’t go running off in the middle of the night."
With fear for him and Vincent’s pain tearing at her, Catherine snapped, "I have to Father! Please you must get me someone to lead me or I’ll go alone."
"You can’t go running of on you own Catherine! Very Well, I will get my bag. " Father said as he picked up his bag and followed Catherine out of his study.
With panic rising, Catherine ran ahead realizing that she hadn’t needed a guide after all; she was being guided. She didn’t know how but as she got to each junction in the tunnels she knew which direction to turn. She could feel deep within her that she was getting closer as the pain she felt seemed to increase. Then she was at the entrance to Central Park and the Iron Gate.
Suddenly in the dimness she saw a shape on the floor of the tunnel, and with a cry she threw herself down beside Vincent’s unconscious and bloody body.
"Vincent!" she called, but he was unconscious, "Father quickly," Catherine didn’t have to listen for Vincent’s heartbeat, she could hear it in her ears, fast and erratic. "Vincent, hold on!" Catherine pleaded as she smoothed his hair away from his face. "I will not let you leave me this time either Vincent, not now not ever…" she said determinedly.
He was cold. Wind buffeted him, and snow struck his face like stinging icy needles, clouding his vision. He was walking toward the culvert, and along with the sound of the wind was the clank and crash of the Iron Gate, swinging freely in the storm. He kept walking, stumbling in the deep snow, and then he noticed something hidden in the white covering. As he got closer he saw something that chilled him more than the snow. Frozen faceless bodies…
Vincent sat up with a cry, horror and fear ripping through him. Catherine was startled out of the dream. Realizing that it was not her dream but Vincent’s, and she marveled again at this new connection.
She placed a calming hand on his shoulder and touched his face, letting her love flow through to him.
Vincent lay back again as warmth enveloped him, and he heard Catherine’s voice, "Vincent, it’s only a dream."
"No," he gasped, "I was lost in the storm."
"You were dreaming, there is no storm, you’re in your chamber."
"My chamber," Vincent said, with surprise, looking around him, "last night I was Above in the Park…"
"I know. I found you at the junction door."
Catherine didn’t want to tell him any more. He needed rest and he was feverish. She smoothed his brow and gently put pressure on his shoulder for him to lie down. "Rest my love. I’ll be here. It’ll be all right."
Agitated, but content to let Catherine calm him, Vincent relaxed, and fell into a deep exhausted sleep.
Catherine hoped it was only a fevered dream and not something else, she strongly believed in Vincent’s premonitions. In the past she had not heeded them to her own sorrow, when Steven Bass had imprisoned her in the house he had bought far from the city. Vincent had tried to warn her that something terrible was going to happen but she hadn’t listened. Now, she knew better, now she knew what it was like for him. She tried to keep her own emotions under control and let only her love for him leak out; Vincent must not be disturbed he needed the rest.
Diana Bennett wasn’t content to let the mystery of the passages below Catherine Chandler’s apartment lie unsolved. They were like a Chinese puzzle box she had been given as a child; she hadn’t put it down until she’d solved all its secrets. Catherine Chandler’s secrets were more intriguing and she couldn’t sleep, or stop thinking about this maze under the city. It was taunting her, and she would find out what they were hiding. Something was missing and she intended to find out what it was.
With a torch in hand she went to find out. She had Elliot Burch under surveillance since he had become a suspect in Moreno’s murder but that could be done by someone else. This piece of the puzzle she would keep for herself, she thought as she found the newly bricked up wall…
When he woke again, Vincent was still very agitated and Catherine was worried, but she tried to hide it. Mary and Father were in the chamber and the look on their faces told Catherine that they were worried too.
"There was a storm in the tunnels," Vincent said, staring into the shadows of his chamber with wild eyes.
Mary whispered to Father, "He’s still feverish,"
"Well, we’ll get a grip on that soon enough," Father said, taking Vincent’s pulse.
Catherine watched silently from the big red chair, as they both cared for Vincent. She stayed close, trying not to get in the way.
Vincent threw back the covers suddenly, "I have to go Above," he declared and tried to get out of bed. Catherine came forward, and even in his weakened state, it took all three of them to get him back to bed.
"I took two bullets out of you last night. You are in no condition to go anywhere," Father said sternly, pulling up the covers.
As Mary tried to calm Vincent, Father turned to Catherine, "Catherine, keep him in bed, and if there’s any change at all in his condition call for me on the pipes. Three sharp taps and Vincent’s code will be enough."
"I will Father," Catherine said, "but the fever, Father he’s burning up."
"I know, it worries me too, but maybe the antibiotics, Peter sent down will help. You know how quickly he heals, but with this massive blood loss…"
Catherine, grasped at anything she could, "What about a transfusion?"
Father stared at her, as he considered her suggestion, and a tiny hope filled her, but then he shook his head, "No, Catherine. You’re still recovering, and although your blood might be compatible with Vincent’s now, I don’t want to risk either of you. I don’t know how it worked the first time, how he was able to save you, but I fear trying it in reverse. I could lose you both. No, I’m sorry, the only cure is time, and he must not reopen those wounds."
Although she felt rebellious for Vincent’s sake, Catherine knew Father was right. "All right, Father. I will watch him."
Father, stopped in the doorway, "Catherine, please get some rest. Mary can watch over Vincent, while you sleep."
"I won’t leave him…" Catherine declared rebelliously.
Father smiled knowingly, "I would never ask that, Catherine. All I ask is that you rest. I will have a cot brought in to put near his bed."
Suddenly feeling the sleepless night catching up to her, Catherine nodded,
"I am tired, but I want to be with him so badly."
Placing a hand on her shoulder, and then to cup her cheek in an affectionate way, Father said, "Yes, I know."
In the park a thin man wearing a richly made suit and coat stood watching a black panther prowl around its cage. Behind him another man watched silently.
"Cold night," the newcomer said.
"Yes, wind’s coming up," the man by the cage answered, unsurprised by this intrusion on his solitary examination of the caged animal. The thin man’s head turned to reveal sunken features and cold malicious eyes. "How long have you been here?" he asked.
"Just long enough to make sure you came alone," the newcomer said. He was a man of medium height wearing a black leather coat. He had white hair and his face was scared and his eyes were filled with a look of hatred and cold calculation.
"I’ve outgrown those games. I have a job for you," the thin man said.
"Un-retire," the thin man spoke with menace and command, as though he was accustomed to his orders being obeyed.
"Why should I?" the white haired man was unaffected by the command and unspoken threat.
"There’s money in it."
"You’re boring me," the white-haired man taunted.
Leaning toward his companion the thin man sneered, "For old time’s sake."
"For old time’s sake I could kill you quick…" the white haired man said moving forward as though he would do just that right now, but he was stopped when his companion spoke.
"But then there would be no one left to blame. You’d be all alone."
The white-haired man ignored the statement, "I heard about your little war, it’s no challenge for me to kill a guy like Elliot Burch."
"Wouldn’t dream of wasting a man of your talents on him," the thin man said. "Have you heard of our Merry-go-round murders? The police are keeping a lid on it, but the victims were eviscerated, ripped apart, by something with incredible strength and speed." He took something out of his coat and held a video tape in his hand. He offered it to his companion.
As the white-haired man place his hand on the black plastic case to take it, he saw a ring on the thin man’s hand. It was the same as the one he wore on his own hand. He drew his hand away as though he had been burned. As if this reminder of their joined past was suddenly repugnant to him.
"You might be interested in what’s on this," the thin man said, waving the cartridge in emphasis." The night this tape was made eight armed men were ripped apart."
Reluctantly the white-haired man took the tape. He turned his back to leave. Walking away he waved the tape in the air, "Creature Features," he said with disgust," Maybe I should make popcorn."
"Snow!" the thin man called and when Snow turned around, the thin man added, "I have a child, a son."
"I don’t kill children anymore, not even yours," Snow said making it a threat, and then he turned away again and sauntered into the night.
Catherine met Pascal on her way to take Vincent’s breakfast tray back to William, "How is he?" Pascal asked.
"He is finally allowed out of bed, but this immobility is driving him crazy. I’m sure he would love some company other than mine."
"Catherine, I’m sure you’re all the company Vincent needs," Pascal said, with a grin.
Catherine smiled shyly, "I know, and he might say the same. I’ve been reading him Great Expectations, but even that is not enough to ease his restlessness."
"And how are you feeling?" Pascal asked. He, like the entire community knew what had happened to Catherine and why she was here.
Catherine smiled, but there were tears in her eyes, as she said softly, "I’m better, but I miss my baby."
Pascal was never one for long speeches, but he said, "We’re all praying that he will be home soon, with you and Vincent."
Catherine leaned over and kissed Pascal on the cheek; he blushed and looked uncomfortable, "You are a true friend, Pascal."
Pascal, cleared his throat and went past her, embarrassed by her show of affection." I’ll go and see how he is," he added and, Catherine watched his retreating back and smiled before she continued on her way to the kitchen.
When, Pascal entered, Vincent’s chamber, Vincent was sitting in a chair flipping through an old book.
Vincent looked up, "Pascal," he said in a despondent tone.
"I’m not disturbing you," Pascal said.
"No, come in."
"I met Catherine, in the passage. I just wondered if you needed anything."
"Catherine, and Father and Mary are making sure I lack for nothing," Vincent said with a wry grin, "although they are all determined to keep me in this chamber." And he gazed around his surroundings with distaste.
"Only till you’re well, you need to recuperate," Pascal said coming further into the room.
"It seems as though I’ve spent half my life recuperating," Vincent said, with a note of frustration.
Pascal was never one to pander to his boyhood friend’s melancholy thoughts, as few as they had ever been, so he lifted the book from the table, "Great Expectations. Do you remember the first time we read this book? We all took turns, Winslow, Devin, Molly. We were so young and, Father was so patient with us."
Vincent looked up with a smile in memory of the shared childhood. Without another word, Pascal began to read from where, Catherine had left a bookmark.
After Diana had found the new cement on the wall underneath Catherine Chandlers apartment she went to the Hall of Records, but found nothing about the tunnels, only more mysteries, but she wasn’t going to give up. She almost bumped into a white-haired man as she left.
The man named Snow passed her as she left the building. He had found a blood trail that he had followed to a drainage tunnel under the park. He was on the scent of his quarry now and nothing would stop him.
The next day Diana had a meeting with the new District Attorney. She knocked on the door and strode in, surprised to see that Joe Maxwell was seated behind the desk. Her softly spoken, "You?" brought Joe’s eyebrows up.
"Yeah the suspension turned out in my favor, all the dirt turning up on Moreno was as good as a commendation." Joe said with irony.
"You sent for me?" Diana asked, getting straight to the reason she had been called here.
"Yeah I did. I want you on the Moreno case."
"Does this me I’m off the Cathy Chandler Case?"
"It’s the same case, we both know that."
"I guess we do." Diana said with a nod.
Together they would continue the search for, Catherine Chandler, both hoping that they would find her alive.
The wind was fierce and deathly cold. The Iron Gate clanged and rattled as he stumbled forward. Shapes could be seen in the deep snow, the frozen bodies of those he loved and then he saw himself lying still and cold and obviously dead. He reeled away in horror…
Catherine was woken from another nightmare when, Vincent roared, almost leaping out of bed. She went to him, this duel dreaming quite disturbing, but at least it helped her to know why he was so upset.
"Vincent!" Catherine said, sitting on the bed beside him.
Vincent stood and began to throw his cloak over his shoulders as though she wasn’t there.
"What are you doing?" She demanded softly, the physical pain he was suffering, as well as his tormented mind echoed within her.
She walked over to where he stood by the small table and as she laid her hand on his arm he was trembling. At that moment, Father came into the room. "Vincent, dear God, are you all right, what is it?"
"A storm, I saw it coming, snow howling through the junction door. Wind as cold as death…"
Father, interrupted, his usual authority and common sense coming to the fore, "You had a dream. There is no storm, Vincent," He said quietly.
"I could feel it…" Vincent continued.
Catherine standing beside Vincent kept her hand on his arm, trying to instill peace into his troubled soul with that contact, even though she too could feel an urgency building within him of danger and it was coming from …somewhere Above.
"This was more than a dream," Vincent continued, calmer yet undeterred.
"Just listen to yourself, Vincent. Snow, wind, that’s absurd. No storm can reach us down her, you know that. It’s your fever talking…"
"No, I saw the dead, frozen and faceless. I saw my own death!"
"And now you seek it out." Father was angry now and worried for his son. "Do you want to die is that it, and leave Catherine here alone without you?"
Catherine, felt a stab of pain from Vincent at the thought of such an occurrence. "No," he said simply, but Catherine could feel his deep need to go out. To do something, anything that would stop his dream from being a reality. She knew she couldn’t convince Father and so she stayed silent, leaving it to Vincent.
Without another word to Father and merely a regretful look down at her Vincent began to move toward the entrance of his chamber. Unwilling to let him go without some kind of comforting words Catherine ran after him and wordlessly he stopped.
Catherine took his face in her hands and made him look at her, their eyes met. "I know what you see my love. I know that you must go. I will be with you, but please come back to me." And she lifted up and kissed him long and deeply on the lips, and even in the desperation of the situation she felt the answering echo of his reaction to the kiss.
Vincent squeezed her hands and nodded with a gentle smile for their shared reactions. He turned then and left the chamber with a renewed purpose, bolstered by Catherine’s support and trust.
Catherine returned to where Father waited. "Where is he, you didn’t let him go did you?"
"Yes, Father he’s gone," Catherine said softly, "I trust him. If he says he must go, then I will support him."
"But Catherine, have some sense. He’s feverish and most likely having hallucinations. He can’t be allowed to wander off like that," and he moved to leave the chamber and go after Vincent.
Catherine stopped him by gripping his arm. She looked Father squarely in the eyes, her own flaring with green fire. She could feel Vincent’s pain gnawing at her as he hurried to face the threat. Could this man not understand?
She couldn’t help the sarcasm that came into her voice, or the anger that bubbled up from deep within her as she declared angrily, "You’ve known Vincent all his life, and still you doubt what he can do! Trust him! He goes to protect this world! If you stop him you belittle what he is attempting to do! For once Father, let Vincent be who he is!" She turned from him then letting go of his arm and the old man was forgotten as she sat in the red velvet chair, her sight going inward as she went with her beloved into the unknown.
Father left the chamber, unnerved by the way Catherine had spoken to him. He began fear the extent of what Vincent had done to save her that night. How thorough the mingling of their blood might have been, and how it was changing them both.
So far it had been growing and expanding in a loving and gentle way, but he had seen the wildness in Catherine’s eyes just then. Was that side of Vincent going to plague Catherine as well? Would she be strong enough to fight it, as he had done all his life?
Diana climbed down the ladder in the basement of Catherine Chandler’s apartment building. This time she came prepared with a long lasting flashlight and chalk to mark the tunnels walls and her gun. She would not leave until she knew where these tunnels led.
Snow was well prepared and after trying to move the iron barrier blocking the passage way, he blew a hole in it, the sound echoing off the walls. He stepped through, ready to overcome any resistance. His quarry was hiding down here somewhere and he would not stop until it lay dead at his feet.
He suited up in his sniper gear, night goggles with sensitive earphones, no sight or sound could escape him. He heard tapping on hollow metal, pipes? Where there others down here? Well he’d deal with them too. He could here the sound of water running through the pipes along the tunnel walls, then a female giggle and a man’s voice in answer. He stopped to get their position.
Brooke was so in love with Stephen that she could hardly bear it. This was suppose to be his post but no one ever came this way and so he allowed her to spend his night watch with him. Father and William, had scolded them only this morning, but even they didn’t seem to mind very much.
Suddenly there was a loud noise in the tunnel above them and Stephen drew away from her, "What was that?" he asked looking up the ladder.
"It’s nothing…" she said not wanting this night to end.
"Shh, I better go check. Stay here," that was the last thing that Stephen said to her before he mounted the steps.
Snow waited, hearing the sound of boots on iron steps, and then the vent beside him moved and without thought Snow fired point blank into it.
A scream echoed through the tunnels and Brooke ran. The man caught her and before he shot her in the head as he was asking her name Old Sam came out of the shadows with a club. Snow was too quick and Old Sam died…
Catherine waited in Vincent’s chamber, all her attention on his emotions. She could feel his bone-weary fatigue. Then suddenly there was an echo of gunfire far away in the tunnels and she received a jolt of rage and fear from him as an almighty roar echoed around her. She wasn’t sure if it was heard or felt. Then Vincent had shifted to a tense stillness as danger approached and then he began to calculate the best way to lead the danger away from the innocents of the home tunnels. After some long moments of stealth she could sense Vincent moving away from her, but his fear was not for himself it was for her and his family – and he was being pursued by someone.
She could no longer sit alone as in the back of her mind and heart she could sense what Vincent was feeling, and through it all. in the background was the gnawing physical pain. She hurried to Father’s study.
When she entered, the chamber was full. William was there and Pascal, and Brooke was weeping in Mary’s arms and Pascal was saying, "It’s my fault, I should have gone myself. I thought, Sam was the closest…I sent him to be killed…"
"Pascal, no," William declared, looking down at a distraught and seated Pascal, "You couldn’t have known." He placed a hand on the smaller man’s shoulder.
"It’s my fault," Brooke said, "If I hadn’t run toward Sam he wouldn’t have been killed like Stephen, Sam saved my life," she added then she began to sob softly.
Catherine gasped as Vincent’s mind burst forth with some primal emotion she couldn’t recognize. Moments later Jamie entered saying, "Mouse, heard gunfire!" Catherine knew that it was Vincent fleeing from that gunfire that had hit her so unexpectedly.
"Gunfire, where," Father asked.
"Down in the serpentine under the north well," Jamie said breathlessly. "They were headed down."
"Vincent is leading them away from us," Father said.
"I’m gonna go and get my crossbow," Jamie declared, as she turned away to hurry down the passage, but Father’s words halted her.
"Jamie, come back here!" as she turned sullenly and returned to the entrance, Father continued, "For God’s sake do you think you are going to stop this…this butcher, with a child’s toy?" then in a quieter tone Father added, "Don’t you understand," and he looked at Catherine, "Vincent saw his own death. He’s gone up there to die."
Catherine had known that Vincent was prepared to sacrifice whatever was needed to save her and his family and her eyes brimmed with tears as she fell into a nearby chair. Brooke and Mary forgoing their own grief came over to her, as Father continued.
"He intends to buy our lives with his own." He swallowed and then quoted a well known scripture. "Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life… for his friends." As Catherine’s tears fell, Father swallowed hard again to control his own emotions.
The next few hours were spent in somber silence as all eyes were on Catherine. Waiting for any sign of what might have happened to Vincent.
Diana came to a newly damaged opening. She had become lost several times where there were dead ends and her travels had brought her here. She had heard what sounded like explosions and or gunfire but she had encountered no one, only a raccoon.
She bent and picked up a spent shell in the debris and beside it was a slab of rock. She picked it up and shined her torch on it. Scratched into the rock was the name ‘Vincent’…
When they hadn’t heard anything more from the Hunter or Vincent, Father asked at one point, "Can you feel anything from him Catherine?"
"Yes," Catherine said staring at a spot on the red rug at her feet. "He’s stalking this man, I can only feel deep concentration from him." What she didn’t say was that she also felt his physical pain and fatigue as though it were her own. A burning pain in her right breast and another in her left side grew worse and she was certain that both wounds were bleeding again.
At times she hardly breathed or thought, trying to keep her own feelings from intruding on Vincent’s, but she did try and project strength and peace his way, he needed both to outwit this murderer. Through it all though she felt that he was in complete control of himself, assured of his abilities and skills. Occasionally she received flashes of her own face and that of a small cloth-wrapped bundle which she knew was his mental image of their son. She was certain that these images were what Vincent was using to give him strength to continue to evade this man and come back alive. Then a rumble from deep below them made them jump and for Catherine everything changed…
Vincent knew that he had wounded the man when he had broken the steam pipe right in front of him and slashed at him. Now he could smell his fear.
The Hunter was lost in the lower tunnels and after shooting his gun in this unstable grotto it wouldn’t be long now. All Vincent needed to do was to make him fire the gun one more time and the man’s end would be assured. But the man wanted to talk.
"Where are you?" he asked.
"Here," Vincent answered, the echoing nature of the cavern making it impossible for the Hunter to pinpoint where he stood watching the man.
"I can’t see you," the man said with frustration.
"I know," Vincent answered with pleasure, without his equipment the man was blind, Vincent however, was not.
"Do you have a name?" the Hunter asked.
"Yes," Vincent answered, not for one moment entertaining the thought of revealing it.
"I always learn the names," the man said, "all the names, do you?"
"I know their faces," Vincent revealed the painful truth.
"I don’t suppose you want to call this a draw?" the man asked.
Vincent’s answer was a deep throated growl. Only Vincent would leave this chamber or they would both die here.
"I guess that’s a no."
"He sent you," Vincent needed to hear the words.
"Who, Gabriel," the man said, revealing a crucial piece of evidence to Vincent.
"Is that his name?" Vincent felt a thrill at the sound of the man’s name. His enemy had a name now, he was no longer anonymous.
"One of them," the man said. "It’s your child isn’t it? That’s why he wants it." The Hunter declared. Then he made a peace offering. " Here a peace offering," he said and Vincent could see the stalagmite on which something small was placed by the man’s trembling hand. "You still there, I’m tired of playing ring-round-the-Rosie…" those were the last words he said before he fell for Vincent’s ruse and destroyed a stalagmite upon which Vincent had draped his cloak. With a last blast of gunfire the cavern’s unstable roof fell in.
Vincent barely escaped his own death by the falling rocks. When the dust settled Vincent stepped out of the dust and shadows of the deep cavern, breathing heavily. The Hunter was dead Vincent had out-matched him at every turn. This was his world! Outmatched and in unfamiliar surroundings the white-haired hunter had known in the end that he had lost. Only once before had Vincent used instincts such as he had employed tonight, three years ago a group of Chinese assassins had come to his home in search of Lin the granddaughter of an old and trusted friend and to avenge a death. This time however there had been only one man but it had been a terrifying hunt of equals. He had respected his opponent’s skills in tracking and blind determination to kill his quarry, but he had hated the man’s ruthlessness and callousness in killing innocents.
Slowly Vincent lifted the ring from the waist-high stalagmite and brought it closer to his eyes to examinee it. The Hunter had meant this as a peace offering, but just as he had put the avalanche into motion with his gun, he had forfeited his life and any peace between him and Vincent, when he had killed innocents.
Vincent had two things now he didn’t have before, this ring and a name. "Gabriel…" Vincent murmured to himself as though it was a talisman and he would use them both to find his son. The ring felt solid in his fingers but the name reverberated in his mind. Unlike the Hunter, Vincent knew his enemies face and he had learned his name.
He was in great pain but there was something else he had to do before he could rest and recuperate. He tucked the ring in his pocket and with a deep breath bent to remove the rocks covering the body of the dead man.
When it was over Catherine told the others in the room that Vincent was all right, but he didn’t return. Catherine felt him gathering his strength for some mammoth task. She sensed him straining under a weight, steadying himself for a moment and then making his way out of the tunnels. She caught the sense of him on the city streets, felt the cold on his face but of his thoughts she could glean nothing. It seemed that he too was learning how to shield from her.
To the waiting faces in the room Catherine said, "He’s all right, but he is not returning yet. I don’t know what he’s doing but it’s very important to him."
They all nodded and Catherine made her way back to Vincent’s chamber. She would wait here until she felt he was returning and then she would meet him. She sat in the chair and closed her eyes to try and be with him where ever he was going.
Suddenly after about an hour, Catherine felt an almighty rage build in Vincent and then, like an explosion it was released into the night in the form of one almighty roared word. She couldn’t catch the word but its meaning was abundantly clear. It was an action more primal than man himself – it was a challenge. It said – I am alive – I will find you – and I will never give up...
Vincent stood on the roof of the building where he had found Catherine, cloakless and without fear, his arms above his head. The body of the Hunter at his feet and the primal roar of his enemies name echoing throughout the city.
The Heavens Blaze Forth
As Vincent came through the manhole he was weary and in pain. Catherine was waiting at the bottom of the steps. She threw herself into his arms, knowing that the added pain would be nothing against the comfort that their closeness would bring him.
He held her for a long silent moment, his love washing over her and hers a balm to his soul. "Catherine," he breathed, placing his cheek on top of her head.
Catherine looked up at him and smiled, shedding tears of joy "See, you didn’t die!" she said with a triumphant, yet damp smile.
He frowned, and she felt a shadow pass over his heart, "But others did," he said sorrowfully.
"You couldn’t have changed that, Vincent. This man who has our son is responsible, not you."
"His name is, Gabriel," Vincent said coldly, and the look in his blue eyes was like ice, and Catherine shivered with the echo of his emotions.
"Knowing his name will not get our son back, Vincent. We need to know more, much more." Catherine was now thinking like an investigator.
"I know," Vincent said with a weary sigh.
Moving away from him slightly and taking his tired face in her hands, Catherine said, "You will get our son back, Vincent. I have complete faith in you," but there was something deep within Vincent that he was hiding from her.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Not now Catherine, please. Perhaps when I have rested a little," he pleaded and although she felt it was concerning the assassin, she let it go for the moment.
"Come on, you need a hot meal and some rest," Catherine said, concerned but trying not to show it, and they walked slowly back to Vincent’s chamber hand in hand.
Father was waiting for them when they arrived. Catherine helped him remove Vincent’s bloodstained tunic with the least amount of pain. Father re-bandaged his wounds, complaining the entire time about reckless sons who rush off into battle without thinking of themselves.
Vincent said nothing as Father worked. Catherine watched the two men from the large red velvet chair. She knew that Father had been terribly frightened for Vincent, especially when he couldn’t be found after it was over.
As he sat patently allowing Father’s ministrations, Vincent held a gold ring, rolling it in his fingers. He had told Catherine that the Hunter had left it for him, and although she could feel his pensive mood, she couldn’t glean his thoughts.
Vincent didn’t have to put up with Father’s scolding, but he knew that it was a defense mechanism for the old man who saw his son changing before his eyes. Catherine would never have wished these circumstances upon either of them, but deep inside she was rejoicing. It was about time Vincent took control of his life.
She had lost her temper with Father last night but she wasn’t sorry. She knew it had disturbed him, but when would he realize that Vincent must be allowed to take control of his own life? She had always wondered why Vincent had accepted his role as protector of the community without question. She knew now that it was all he could give in return for their protection. She had seen however, the changes in that role. Vincent was becoming stronger and more assured of himself and she knew that she and their son were responsible for this change. Like any young man who must stretch his wings and assert himself in society, Vincent, without intent, was doing just that, even to challenge his parent.
Father, Catherine knew, had been shocked by her outburst last night and she too was surprised at how angry she had become. But Vincent had gifts that she now knew were real and should not be ignored, which had proven all too accurate. She smiled at Vincent as their eyes met; gone were the days when she tried to hang on the some of her certainties. She knew better now.
Each moment the Bond between them grew. From her prospective it was new and thunder in her blood, but Vincent had had three years to acquaint himself with this strange connection. To be battered by Vincent’s pain, and the frustration of Father’s disbelief, had been too much and she felt it was time Father understood. She didn’t regret her words, but the look in Father’s eyes told her what he was thinking. He thought she was losing control, or maybe even affected by that unnamed part of Vincent’s psyche that they had all dealt with just before her disappearance.
It was true she was angry, furious in fact, but she was quite capable of venting her anger without Father thinking she was losing control. She was part of Vincent now, and he a part of her, and with that melding there were changes in both, but not the kind that Vincent had dealt with all his life. Catherine Chandler was quite capable of losing her temper without putting it down to some unnamed part of her psyche.
She put aside such thoughts, as Father finished bandaging Vincent’s chest. The wounds had already stopped bleeding and were closing. It wouldn’t be long now before he was completely healed with only a slight scar where the bullets had ripped his flesh.
Vincent looked from the ring to Catherine, as Father fastened the last bandage and a look passed between them, Vincent was on a set course now, unrepentant and unstoppable, and Catherine was accepting of his choices.
It took Vincent a week to recover and Catherine slept beside him in the small camp bed Father had had brought into his chamber.
The night was chilly and still, as Vincent leaned on the port railing of the Compass Rose, waiting for Elliot Burch.
It wasn’t long before a long black car appeared at the end of pier 39, then the figure of the man, he knew to be Elliot, began walking toward him. Vincent waited; making sure Elliot wasn’t followed, before he revealed his position.
When Elliot was standing on the dock, Vincent came out of the shadows.
"So, it begins again," Elliot said when he saw Vincent.
"It never ended," Vincent declared softly.
"Grieving the loss of her child," Vincent answered solemnly.
"I could protect her," Elliot said,
"She is safe where she is, Elliot. She would not leave even if I wanted her to." Vincent said, "She is still very frightened. This man had her imprisoned for six months and then tried to kill her. She will not risk him finding her again."
"He’s killing me Vincent, inch by inch," Elliot declared desperately.
Leaning against the bulkhead, Vincent said, "His name is Gabriel." Then he came forward and handed Elliot the ring, "This is important to him somehow."
Elliot took it and examined it, "Gold, it’s interesting, looks old," he looked up at Vincent, "Where did you get this?"
"From the hand of the Hunter he sent to kill me…but he took it off …in the end." There was no need to explain how that happened, Elliot was well aware of what those words meant.
Elliot shook his head, "You don’t know what you ask of me. If I go on with this I’m risking …"
"…Everything," Vincent finished for him, and the look he gave Elliot was penetrating.
Their eyes met and Elliot sighed, shaking his head in frustration an ironic smile on his handsome face, "I built a sandcastle once. It was a wonderful sandcastle, with walls and turrets. It must have been six feet high. Then the tide came in …" Elliot’s eyes again met Vincent’s, "Gabriel is the tide, Vincent. He’s washing away everything I’ve built in my life. He’s washing away my dreams."
Vincent was silent for a moment, gazing down at the dark water and then he looked up into Elliot’s eyes. When he spoke his heart was in every word, "Dreams can be dreamt again, sandcastles can be rebuilt. Catherine said you are a fighter."
"Catherine was wrong about many things," Elliot said with irony.
"Catherine had a dream, of a happy life with her child, to hold him and see him grow. Now she wakes in the night, weeping at his loss, and all I can do is hold her as she cries."
Vincent looked away from Elliot, remembering those tortured nights. "I dream sometimes of another world, where Catherine was able to hold her child and live a normal life with him, as other mothers do. I wish that somehow I could make it so..." He looked up at Elliot again, sadness and desperation in his eyes. "She and the child are innocent in all of this, Elliot," Vincent’s eyes never left Elliot’s face.
Elliot turned a helpless expression on Vincent as he spoke, and Vincent knew he had won back Elliot’s support, "There’s not much to go on," Elliot said finally. As Vincent’s look turned hopeful, Elliot added with a wry grin, "But I will see what I can find," He turned to walk away, but Vincent’s voice stopped him.
"Elliot," Elliot looked back, Vincent continued, "Be careful."
Elliot laughed mirthlessly, "I think it’s a little late for that," and he turned his back on Vincent, and made his way to his waiting limousine.
Vincent returned very late but Catherine was still awake. As he removed his cloak, Catherine asked, "How is Elliot?"
"Worried," Vincent said, as he sat heavily in the chair.
"About me," she ventured softly.
"In part," he put his head back, resting it on the chair, "he would much prefer that you were where he could protect you."
"I’m safe here," Catherine said stubbornly.
"Nowhere is completely safe Catherine, as long as this man wants my death." He turned an intense expression on her as he added, "if he knew you were alive he would seek your death as well."
Catherine didn’t need to answer.
Vincent had been very pensive, since the man he called the Hunter had come to the tunnels. He had said nothing about what he was thinking. Even though she sensed it had something to do with the deaths of Stephen and Old Sam, Catherine knew; she wasn’t going to like it.
"So what else is he worried about?" she asked trying not to think about it.
"Gabriel is ruining him; Elliot’s entire empire is being destroyed before his eyes."
"His empire is everything to Elliot," Catherine said sadly.
Vincent turned his head and met her eyes, "Not everything."
"Poor Elliot," Catherine said again with true remorse.
"He has always loved you, Catherine,"
Catherine got up from the chair she had been sitting in, and made her way slowly to Vincent. She stood behind him and put her hands on his shoulders. "And I have always loved you, even if it took me a little while to see it. Elliot blinded me with his promises but you know as well as I do they were empty promises. Vincent you have only ever told me the truth and your thoughts have been for my happiness alone, even at the cost or your own happiness."
He put his left hand over hers and squeezed slightly, and Catherine bent forward and kissed his forehead. They had become closer in many ways since her return, and Vincent’s willingness to share a chased kiss now and then, had sent a thrill through her. But apart from that one moment of true intimacy in her apartment all those months ago, which had resulted in their son, either Catherine or Vincent had been too ill to repeat those stolen, beautiful moments.
Taking his hand and pulling on it, Catherine said, "Come to bed, Vincent,"
He looked at her with a question in his eyes and she smiled. He rose from the chair, letting her lead him. She made him sit on the bed and knelt to remove his boots. She had done this for him before when he was ill, but this time what she was feeling was not simply a need to care for him. This time there was an underlying meaning and purpose to her actions.
Vincent was tired but Catherine’s touch and emotions made his entire being hum with something different. As before neither spoke, but this time Catherine was well aware of Vincent’s new perception of himself. There was no longer any fear in him, no longer any doubt of who he was or what may happen if he let himself go.
This knowledge alone gave Catherine the further incentive to continue. She lifted the rose on its leather cord from around his neck and placed it on the table, then undid his belt. Vincent was very still, yet he didn’t try and stop her. Catherine took hold of the hem of his blue over-sweater and pulled it up and over his head, leaving him in his high necked cream sweater and jeans.
She could sense Vincent’s willingness to allow this and where it would invariably lead; even though he was inexperienced he was willing to step into this new world with her to guide him.
Catherine stood up and extinguished all but one of the candles in the chamber, the one on his bedside table. She sat on the bed beside him, and slowly slid into the middle, she lifted a hand to him. He took it and she laid her head on the high pillows watching him, and he did the same.
This was not going to be a hurried, thoughtless coupling as before, but a pleasurable exploration of each other. They were both completely attuned to the other’s emotions, adding a new element to every move.
Catherine lifted a hand to Vincent’s face and ran a thumb over his brow, then smoothed it over the bristled fur on his flat nose to his kittenish lip. He shivered at the touch, but his eyes were intense, never leaving hers, as she traced the cleft in his top lip. All the time Catherine told him with her heart and her eyes, how beautiful she thought he was. Although these touches were intimate they were not erotic. Catherine had known instinctively what would make Vincent relax.
Vincent was enthralled, his every sense alive with waves of love and desire exuding from Catherine. He felt so comfortable with her, so close to her that he placed an arm about her waist and leaned closer, examining her face, it’s every curve and contour.
Catherine moved to her back and put both of her hands on Vincent’s face, smoothing it with her fingers, making his skin tingle. He tightened his hold on her convulsively, bringing her even closer and their bodies touched, but Catherine was very still. It was then that Vincent realized that Catherine was waiting. He smiled down at her, Catherine had made the first move, but Vincent must now make the next one.
He bent his head very slowly and kissed her cheek lingeringly, in the same manner as he had always nuzzled the top of her head. He kissed her eyelids, her forehead, her nose and finally her mouth. Gently, tentatively, only a brief, soft kiss, but he felt Catherine’s reaction and her reluctance for its end. Encouraged, he placed his lips on hers again, this time lingeringly and unhurriedly.
With a contented sigh, Catherine put her arms around Vincent’s neck. The short tentative kisses soon became long slow explorations that made the hum singing in Vincent’s blood louder. Until seemingly without thought or design they were divested of all their clothing and beneath the thick covers of the bed.
Catherine had made love many times, even once with Vincent, but this time it was totally different and its elements totally unexpected. This time with Vincent the soul-bond they now shared, made the experience for her more than purely physical. Her body sang with his every touch, but her mind and senses seemed to mingle and intertwine with Vincent’s. She knew his thoughts as well as his feelings. Two people had never been so close.
Vincent soon overcame any lingering doubts or modesty and became a truly ardent lover, and through his connection to Catherine, he knew exactly what to do at any given moment. Together they crested the waves of passion as one, their mingled blood pounding in sync, their souls blending and their minds ringing with one thought as their bodies entwined as one being. "I love you…I love you…"echoed wordlessly between them, again and again, neither of them knowing, nor caring, which of them had uttered it first.
Gasping, and still joined on so many levels, their heartbeats and breathing slowed. Catherine, her head on Vincent’s shoulder, felt him touch her mind with that same lingering thought, ‘I love you Catherine…’ then replete and as one, they both fell into a deep slumber.
Diana watched through the one-way mirror as Joe questioned Elliot Burch’s bodyguard. She knew this was all wrong, but who would listen.
Joe came into the room. "Elliot Burch, Can you believe it?"
"No," Diana said with certainty.
Joe said nothing but merely strode out of the room, and Diana followed him, "The case is bogus Joe. Somebody set the whole thing up," Diana said as she entered his office.
"Well then somebody did a damn good job." Joe said standing behind his desk. "Do you think I have a choice here? I have motive. I have opportunity and I have a witness," Joe said ticking the last off on his fingers.
"Look me in the eye and tell me that Elliot Burch ripped these two guys into pieces?" Diana asked angrily. "C’mon Joe don’t let them use you. You’re better than that. Go with your instincts."
Joe sat down dejectedly, "I don’t like this any better than you do, but when I moved into this office I took an oath," Joe said helplessly.
Giving up on convincing Joe, Diana asked, "Can you come over to my loft tonight?"
"Why," Joe asked curious.
"I think there are some things you need to see."
At the mirror pool, as they had once said goodbye to Ellie, Vincent and Catherine stood together as the community bid fairwell to two more loved ones. Catherine hadn’t known Stephen or Sam well, but it was because of her that they had died. She felt Vincent’s hand tighten on hers and she turned to look up at him. His eyes were pain-filled as was his entire being, but she knew he blamed himself.
After the ceremony, they were the last to leave, as Father comforted a distraught Brooke. Catherine felt an undercurrent in Vincent that she didn’t understand and she asked. "What is it, Vincent? I’ve felt this in you since you returned from Above, after the Hunter."
"It’s my fault, Catherine. The Hunter came for me and because he did two of my friends are dead." Vincent looked down at their joined hands.
"If you think that, then I’m responsible too, but Vincent, Gabriel is the one not you," Catherine reasoned.
Vincent said no more until they were in what was becoming their chamber, not simply Vincent’s. But he didn’t seat himself, he paced, "Catherine, I’m afraid Gabriel will send someone else after me … If that happens he may kill others or find you…"
"No, Vincent," Catherine declared as she discerned his meaning.
"I must go, Catherine. To protect you from this man…if he should find you…" Vincent spoke with pain in his voice, and she could feel the fear for her safety emanating from him.
Catherine rose from the chair she was sitting in and stood before him," He will not find me and I will not leave here and neither will you." She commanded. "Don’t let this man separate us again. We are in this together, Vincent until the end. However it turns out," she threw herself into his arms, "I will never be separated from you again, Vincent, never."
He held her in a rib bruising embrace, "I don’t want to leave, but Catherine, I cannot bear the thought of you or anyone else being hurt."
"Vincent, whatever happens, whatever comes, remember? I will never leave you." And she crushed her mouth to his and he accepted the import of what she was saying. Vincent realized something momentous; Catherine was truly his, now and forever.
Elliot had just been told that his entire empire was about to fail when he had a visit from Diana Bennett. It was all he needed.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
"Well you can begin by telling me exactly what happened that night at the Carousel," Diana said as she came into the room.
Elliot shook his head, "I don’t know what you’re talking about."
"I think you do. I think you saw everything that happened that night. And I think you know who Vincent is." Diana said with certainty.
"I’m afraid I can’t help you, I’m sorry," Elliot said trying to make it sound like the truth.
"You’re a lousy liar Mr. Burch," Diana said. He had been meeting with an illusive figure that always kept to the shadows and then disappeared when Elliot Burch left the scene. Burch had been the prime target and so her man had followed him and not the shadowed figure.
Elliot Burch laughed self mockingly, "You know there are people who would say that I was a very, very good liar," he said.
"Maybe at one time, but you’re out of practice," Diana declared. Elliot simply stared at her. "Why don’t you talk to me? Why don’t you tell me what you’re thinking and what you know? It’s the only way you’re gonna save yourself."
Elliot turned and stared down at the ring Vincent had given him. He wanted to trust this woman but she was the police. He couldn’t trust anyone. He put the ring back on the desk and turned to face the red haired woman. "I think it’s time for you to go."
Diana left Elliot Burch’s office certain that he knew more than he was saying. He knew who Vincent was and may even know where Catherine Chandler was. Joe was going to arrest him soon, but she doubted he would ever reveal what he knew to the police.
Elliot put the ring back in the desk. Diana Bennett had said he wasn’t a good liar anymore and it was true. Cathy had changed him. He could still keep secrets though and this secret he would take to his grave.
Later that night Diana buzzed Joe into her loft. Elliot Burch had been arrested only hours after she had left his office.
"I saw your press conference on the evening news," She said in greeting.
"That wasn’t my idea," Joe said sourly.
"Come here. Look at these pictures," Diana said, sliding a thick file over to Joe. "Moreno and Cates were ripped to pieces. Coroner says it looked more like an animal attack than a murder. Now I did a computer check just to see if there were any other instances with the same MO in the last three years."
Joe opened the folder, "I remember these cases, like those ‘Subway Slasher’ murders a few years back, but what do they have to do with ours?" he asked.
"Could be the same guy Joe, the first was eight months after Cathy Chandler came to work for you. A third of them tie into cases that she was involved in." Diana opened the file, "Look, slashing, ripping… deep gashes …"
"Yeah, I read the autopsies, " Joe said distastefully.
"Joe, I think Vincent did this, for Cathy."
"It still doesn’t give the guy an excuse for murder." Joe declared angry.
Diana laid the piece of the broken tunnel wall on the table. On Joe could easily recognizable the letters gouged into it.
"Vincent? Where’d you find this?" Joe asked.
"In the drainage tunnel under the Park," Diana said. "Did you know there are hundreds of unmapped tunnels under this city with access through Cathy’s sub-basement?"
"So?" Joe didn’t understand where she was going with this.
"So…" Diana threw up her hands in frustration. "I don’t know…" she said as she walked away from him. "What kind of roses did she like?"
"What do I look like, her florist?" Joe said sarcastically.
Diana bent to the rose bush she had rescued from Catherine’s balcony. It had been touch and go there for a while but she had finally gotten it to shoot and then bloom. Now it thrived happily, its red and white blooms sending a gentle perfume throughout her living room.
"The only way that you can get a red and white rose on one bush is from a special graft, did you know that?" Diana asked.
"Maybe she couldn’t make up her mind," Joe suggested.
"Joe there is a language to flowers, the red rose means passion and love and the white rose is eternity or death. Now, somehow… I don’t know how …Vincent knew when Cathy was in trouble and he came to her. He was her protector."
Joe, ever the realist, shook his head. "You sound like you know this guy."
"Well sometimes I feel like I do," Diana said, shaking her head helplessly,
"Elliot Burch I’m placing you under arrest for the murder of John Moreno. Anything you say, can and will be used in a court of law…" those words had been like the slamming of a door for Elliot. He had stared at Joe Maxwell who looked very uncomfortable. They both knew Elliot was innocent, but blood on his clothes proved that Elliot was there at the carousel the night Moreno was killed and he wouldn’t say how it got there, or what had happened. He had to protect Vincent and Cathy. For Cathy he would go to jail and even face the death penalty. For Cathy he would die.
Hours later when he was let out on bail, Elliot was met by a smarmy weasel of a man with a black moustache and slicked back hair, who took him to meet ‘a man who could help him’ so the black mustached man said. But Elliot knew it was Gabriel.
In the now useless and deserted streets of what might have been ‘Burch Tower’ Elliot climbed out of a black limousine. The weasel pointed to a man standing on the street, overlooking the deserted building site, which Elliot had found impossible to sell. A failure that had ruined him, now this man was flaunting this fact.
As he came closer, Elliot saw the face of the man who had caused so much pain to Cathy, Vincent and now himself… Gabriel. He stood beneath a streetlamp so that Elliot could see his face clearly. A cold face with no expression, the face of a man who had killed without thought of the consequences, the face of an unrepentant mass murderer. And this man had Cathy’s son.
"Look at it Elliot, your dream of a building that would last a thousand years and now it’s a hole in the ground. Once a dream and now an empty lifeless hole," Gabriel sneered coldly, his voice was deep and filled with coldness that even in his dealings with the wrong side of the law, Elliot found chilling.
"Why’d you bring me here?" Elliot asked angrily.
"Does it make you feel uncomfortable?" Gabriel asked.
"Only the company," Elliot countered.
"Elliot, the war’s over. In a month you’ll be bankrupt and in a year you’ll be in prison. Half your people are already mine."
"You’re lying," Elliot almost laughed.
Gabriel laughed as well, and Elliot felt that he had scored a hit, "Maybe I am," Gabriel said with a smile. Then his face changed to an expression of challenge. "How can you be sure?" those words sent a shiver of uncertainty through Elliot.
Gabriel stepped closer to him and said in a cajoling manner, "There’s no reason for us to be enemies, Elliot."
"Cathy Chandler is the reason." Elliot said, anger burning in him, his only consolation was that Cathy was alive, but he realized with Gabriel’s next words that he didn’t know that, and Elliot felt a thrill of triumph.
Gabriel sighed in exasperation, "Catherine Chandler, if I had known all the trouble it would cause, I would never have killed her."
Elliot tried not to smile, as long as Gabriel thought she was dead, Cathy was safe. Elliot was silent; he couldn’t trust himself to speak.
Then Gabriel continued, "She was no good for you Elliot. She changed you; you were once a man who would stop at almost nothing to achieve what you wanted. I know, I watched you climb, even helped you once or twice. I know the price you paid." Then Gabriel sighed again and came around in front of Elliot, "The world is run by mice, but you and I are different. Five hundred years ago we would have been kings. You’ve come so far. You’ve pulled yourself up out of the dirt, half way to the stars." He walked around behind Elliot and continued, he seemed to be like a cobra circling his prey, lulling it before he struck. "Do you want to throw it all away for the sake of a woman who never loved you?"
"She…" Elliot began.
Gabriel stopped him. He stood before Elliot looking at him with a sneer on his thin face. "She what, she told him everything about you and told you nothing about him. She kept his secrets. Your dreams meant nothing to her. She loved him… and she bore him a child…He even took her body away from you to keep in that hole he calls home. He wouldn’t even let you see her grave, to allow you to grieve for her. I didn’t take her away from you Elliot, he did, but I can give it all back to you Elliot, wealth, power. I can help you Elliot." Gabriel slapped Elliot on the shoulder companionably, but he felt as though he had been struck a blow.
Elliot was weakening, everything Gabriel said was true about what Vincent had done, and he was tired and worried and sure that this man had a gunman aiming at his head, if he made the wrong move.
Gabriel pointed at the desolation of Elliot’s dream and added, "Together we can build towers that will last a thousand years, or you can have this…" And Gabriel turned and walked away as Elliot stared at the symbol of what his life had become, a ruin, once full of promise, but now just a ruin…
Catherine and Vincent were talking quietly in his chamber when Mouse brought the note.
"What is it?" Catherine asked.
Tucking it into his belt, Vincent said with a smile, "Hope," he bent and kissed Catherine’s cheek, adding. "I will be back soon," and scooping up his cloak he left.
A few moments after he had gone Catherine saw Vincent’s rose still on the table where she had left it the night before. She picked it up; it was the first time she could remember him ever being anywhere without it. There was time; she would put it on him when he returned…
Diana was on her roof looking for the predicted comet when she heard the phone. It was her contact telling her that Elliot Burch had met with a man in the shadows last night straight after being released on bail.
This morning he had gone to a building in the lower eastside of town, and then returned to his office. Now he was traveling toward the docks again, no doubt to meet the shadowed figure he had met a few nights ago.
"We don’t have enough to go on yet just watch him, I’ll be right there," Diana said as she grabbed her coat, She had a strange feeling tonight was going to be important to her investigation, but she didn’t quite know how. Like the expected comet it was elusive and far away.
When she got to where her informant was hiding, she had a clear view of the boat tied up at the dock; it wasn’t long before a man in a dark coat came toward it. "The other guy’s already there, I saw him sneak on board about an hour ago."
"Did you get a look at him?" she asked.
"Nah, he’s wearing some kind of coat with a hood. It’s shapeless didn’t even get a look at his body but he’s big."
They both watched as Elliot Burch stopped on the pier and called softly. "Vincent!"
A shadow moved on the lower deck but they were too far away to hear the answer. The two spoke for a few moments and then suddenly Elliot Burch looked behind him before he yelled, "Vincent!" just as a shot rang out. He was thrown into the boat by the force of the bullet. Diana hurried toward the river with her companion right beside her and was not far away when the boat exploded.
She was thrown back by the blast and onto the hard boards of the old docks, staring up at the fireball that engulfed all of her hopes of solving the Chandler case. Her companion had also been blown off his feet and he came to her and asked. "You okay?"
"Yeah only hurt my pride."
They were some distance away from the burning boat and catching their breath, when a sound in the water alerted Diana. They both leaned over the old wooden dock where someone was floundering trying to stay afloat. The flames from the burning boat were beginning to spread.
Without thought Diana and her companion jumped into the icy water and with one on each side of the semi conscious man they pulled him to the edge and manhandled him to the dock. They both tried to find the other body but the flames were too hot. There was no sign. This they knew they must leave to the fire department and the local police. Diana sent her companion to call it in and then she went back to the still unconscious body on the dock.
As she turned him over her companion returned and they both saw the man’s face.
"Jesus!" her companion said, "What is that?"
Without knowing how she knew, Diana found so many things falling into place, "Vincent," She said with triumph.
Diana turned to her stunned companion and said, "Help me get him back to my place. We can talk about this some other time."
"You taken that back to your place?" the man asked disbelieving.
"What’s he gonna do? He’s been blown up and has who knows how many injuries. Geez, he might not even live out the night. Are you gonna help me get him to my car or are you frightened of the boogieman?"
Thoroughly chastised, her companion helped drag Vincent’s heavy body into the back of her small car, and then helped her get him up to her apartment.
"Thanks," Diana said, "I’ll talk to you later." Before the elevator door closed Diana said, "And do I need to say it…"
"No, you don’t. I’ll say nothin’ to no one," and as the door closed on him she heard, "who the hell would believe me anyways…"
Diana went into her bedroom where they had placed Vincent and looked down at the body of the man she had been hunting for so long. Her conviction that he had nothing to do with Catherine Chandler’s disappearance was clearer than ever. He might look frightening but she was certain that he had been trying to find Catherine Chandler, not harm her.
Catherine and Father were at the Mirror pool watching the night sky reflected in the water. Father had said that there was a comet expected and she might like to see it before all the children came the next night.
Suddenly Catherine doubled over and held her head. She screamed and staggered, her legs losing the capacity to hold her up. her.
Father knelt beside her, "What is it Catherine?" he asked concerned.
Weeping uncontrollably, Catherine could hardly speak, "It’s Vincent, something terrible has happened. I can’t feel his thoughts or emotions."
"Tell me what did you feel?" Father asked
"There was a sudden blast of shock and pain and then …nothing. Oh Father I think something terrible has happened."
"Can you sense anything from him?"
"No, only that he is barely alive…"
"Oh, Father…" Catherine sobbed.
Above in the black-velvet of the night sky, the tail of the comet streaked across the heavens."When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes," Father whispered fearing for Vincent.
A Time to Change
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven;A time to be born and a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
Father, helped Catherine back to Vincent’s chamber, he watched as she went to where Vincent’s rose lay in its protective pouch on the table. Then clutching it close to her breast, she curled up on Vincent’s bed, hugging his pillow, as though she were inhaling his scent for comfort. She seemed to have forgotten Father so he left quietly, burdened with his own worries about his son.
Catherine could feel nothing from Vincent, no sense of his vibrant warmth reaching out to her. Only his absence, but she was certain of one thing, he was alive, barely alive, but alive. She didn’t know how she knew this, but for a certainty within her like the beat of his heart, slow and regular.
She held his Rose in her hand, thoughts of him singing in her mind. Where was he? Vincent hadn’t told her where he was going, but she knew he must have been meeting Elliot and something had happened, something terrible.
She clung to her crystal and the rose, both warming in her hands, and whispered his name, telling him to live, with every fiber of her being. "I’m here Vincent, waiting for you. Come home to me, my love…please…"
Finally with her mind and body exhausted, Catherine finally fell asleep, but the dreams were worse than her fears.
Diana stood by the bed, but her mind couldn’t process what she saw. Clawed hands, leonine features, a man-beast who looked incredibly strong. Then she remembered the conversations she had had with Joe…‘the coroner said it looked more like an animal attack than a murder…’ and then her own voice ‘he was her protector…’
This was who she had been searching for, the man who had become an obsession, and now here he was. The man she had begun to think was an illusion. …Vincent…
That he was still alive was a miracle after that explosion, and the implications of what she had done struck her. She had removed an important suspect from the scene of a crime and she was hiding him from the authorities, but she couldn’t tell anyone about this man. She couldn’t let anyone see him and she couldn’t let him be found by anyone else, especially the police. She also realized something that she hadn’t considered before she knew only the minimum of medical training. If she didn’t do the right things now he might not live through the night.
What could she do for him? He hadn’t woken all through the trip here and was in a deep state of unconsciousness, maybe even a coma, what should she do?
He had two deep gashes on his left cheek, so she dealt with them first.
Vincent didn’t move or wake throughout the entire process, she was glad because she knew it would have been a painful one. After Diana had carefully placed a bandage over the now cleaned cuts, she put a light to his eyes. They were unresponsive and she feared a concussion. The explosion alone could have caused that. He had obviously been thrown clear, but not lucky enough to escape injury.
His body looked powerful beneath his strange clothes, legs and arms very strongly muscled and they seemed sound, but he could have broken ribs, where his sweater was torn and marked.
When she laid her head gently on his chest, his heart was slow and regular; at least that was a good sign, Diana thought. All she could do now was watch him carefully and wait to see what happened.
Once assured that she had done all she could for his injuries, Diana allowed herself some time to examine her patient more closely. He was like no one she could have imagined. His hair, even though singed and dirty, was red-gold amid the dirt from the river its coarse strands slid through her fingers, thick and strong.
His features hadn’t really surprised her; it all fell into place now. Why he would hide in those tunnels. She couldn’t help but pity him, lying there helpless and unconscious, battered and bleeding all for the love of a woman.
His hands caught her attention and when she went closer she became drawn to them. They were the most frightening, yet the most fascinating hands she had ever seen. She lifted one from where it rested on his thick leather belt. It was a big hand with thick hair on its back. The long claws were sharp, and she knew how deadly they could be, but when she turned the hand over, the palm was totally human. It was the hand of a man who had worked hard, with calluses and nicks here and there, but it was also the hand of the man who had written those beautiful letters to Catherine Chandler.
Diana laid the hand back on his belt and envied the woman who was loved by such a man as this. Then reluctantly pulling herself away from him, she went to her evidence wall in the next room with a renewed understanding of the story it represented. It was a story of love and danger, and of great sorrow for the man who must balance how he looked with who he really was. She covered the ugly photos with the curtain and sat at her computer to document what she had discovered…
He was lost – in pain and full of rage. The rage swept through him in waves, such rage that Catherine fought against it, trying to overcome it, to calm him, like a gentle touch on his face, and in his heart, as if he were having a nightmare. "Vincent!" Catherine called in her sleep and she felt him instantly relax and fall back into a deep dreamless sleep.
She sighed and went with him, together in their hearts, if not in flesh…
Diana stood by her bedroom door, her heart pounding with fear, as the strange being on her bed, ceased his thrashing and tearing at everything he could reach. It had been a fevered reaction, she was sure and his breathing was heavy, as though with that roaring display of power he was exhausted. She watched as he sighed and his breathing calmed into the stillness of a sleep.
Fearfully, Diana hurried out of the bedroom and took her gun from the drawer, where she had always kept it, never knowing she would one day need it for a guest. Then with a morbid sense of fascination she went back to the room where Vincent lay.
Later as she sat watching over him, Diana noticed that there were beads of perspiration on his face and his breathing was labored. She had given him Tylenol when he had first arrived, crushed in a little milk, and spooned between his dry lips. She knew she should sponge him down with cool water, but she didn’t want to get too close to him right now.
After that display of power, she dared not give him anything else either. She had watched him destroy her bed in a fit of uncontrolled rage, and now she wanted to keep her distance. He wasn’t the comatose, harmless patient anymore, and Diana was terrified and fascinated at the same time. Her mind coming to grips with what Vincent really was, and as she sat watching him she wondered about him.
She had seen his beautiful flowing handwriting in Catherine Chandler’s books and letters and the card on her desk which had sent her down to the basement. He was obviously an intelligent man, even though his appearance suggested otherwise
As he looked now, his unusual clothes and singed hair, his face and hands burned…and those claws. She had seen the devastation he had wrought on human flesh and bone, as well as her bedroom, but Diana couldn’t marry the two together.
Tiredly she sat in the chair, opposite the bed and watched the man who could not exist. Her eyes were growing heavy after a night of tension and fear. As she pondered all the questions which chased each other through her mind, like the carriages of a derailed train, she fell asleep.
Catherine couldn’t stay still the next morning; she cleaned the chamber, found a book to read and then walked through the tunnels, familiarizing herself with where everything was. She found the ‘Chamber of the Falls’ and sat there, remembering the last time she and Vincent had sat here, talking of love and her wish to stay.
"We are something that has never been. We must go with courage we must go with care," he had said.
Catherine had answered, "I’m not scared."
So much had happened since then. Now she and Vincent had gone with courage and care to the highest heights, and out there somewhere she could feel the tiny heartbeat of their son, waiting for them to claim him.
She had brought the book of poetry with her. It seemed to fall open at a passage that warmed her heart. She could remember the last time Vincent had read it to her when she was recovering from that terrible night, and she could hear his beautiful voice echo in the chamber.
So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadow, passes
over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you. That it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.
This helped her, as Vincent’s books often did, to deal with this separation and worry. She could feel that Vincent was submerged in a deep slumber, but he was healing. Of the baby she could feel very little, he too was sleeping.
Vincent’s emotions were swirling from fear to pain as he was submerged in dreams, as he gained strength. She steeled herself for a long wait for his return, but she was ever ready to send him support or comfort when he needed it.
On her way back to Vincent’s chamber, Mary found her. "Catherine, there you are. I’ve been looking for you. Is Vincent all right?"
"I think so," Catherine said, "this is all so very new to me. I am certain something terrible happened, but wherever he is he is safe I think? I can’t help fearing that he is in an alley somewhere lying unconscious and I don’t know where," Catherine confided.
"Father is very worried but won’t talk about it. We’re all concerned, but we have people out looking for him," Mary told her, hoping to allay her fears.
"I hope he is home soon. I miss him terribly," Catherine added solemnly.
"Well that is one of the reasons I was looking for you. You have been alone for so long I thought you might like some company and I have somewhere I would like to show you."
"Oh," Catherine asked intrigued, allowing herself to be distracted.
Mary smiled brightly and asked, "Would you like to take a nice hot bath? There’s nothing you can do until Vincent is found, and staying on your own and worrying will do you no good."
"A hot bath," Catherine asked, hopefully. It had been so long since she had had a long soak in a bath.
"Yes," Mary said. "We have a little place that we all like to go to. You won’t believe how marvelous it is, but since you are here now to stay. The crude facilities in Vincent’s chamber are not enough."
It was then that Catherine noticed, Mary was carrying a bundle. Mary smiled and patted the bundle with her hand, "I have some new clothes for you and some bathing cloths. Come, let me show you where the Bathing Chamber is," she said as she cupped Catherine’s elbow and began walking through the passageways talking all the time of the antics of the children and other happenings in the tunnels since she had been away.
Catherine was thankful that Mary had taken this time to further acquaint her with her new home and take her mind from Vincent’s peril. Finally after a long walk, in which Catherine realized the tunnel was sloping downward, they came to a place that Catherine had never known existed, a magical place where steam exuded from the very walls.
"Where does the steam come from?" Catherine asked.
"We’re not sure. Kanin believes it’s a natural hot spring that travels too far below the city for anyone Above to be aware of it. Wait till you see it. It is heaven."
Catherine was surprised when they came to a huge cavern billowing with steam. In its center was a swimming pool sized body of water with steam drifting above it.
"It’s self cleansing and is wonderfully hot, and very refreshing," Mary said with pride.
"Oh my," Catherine said bending and scooping a handful of hot water in her hand, to test the temperature.
"Come on, there is no one here at this time of day. This is when I do my bathing." So the two women disrobed, and Catherine eased herself into the warm water.
In the days that followed Catherine made several trips to the Bathing Chamber, sometimes with Mary and sometimes alone. However, she was always ready to reach Vincent when he needed her and trying her best to be patient and keep her fears and deeper feelings to herself.
Vincent, felt terribly weak and immensely tired, but something brought him out of the clawing blackness, a presence, a sound. He could feel the hum of Catherine within him. He opened his eyes and could see only vague shapes. "Catherine?" he asked; his mind and his eyes unable to focus.
"No, my name is, Diana," he heard a soft female voice answer. He tried to see, blinking his eyes, but it was useless, and all he could recognize were blurred images. The implications of the woman’s presence and what it might mean to him were lost, as his spinning head fell forward onto a soft surface, and the blackness overtook him again.
Diana came further into the room, struck by the sound and beauty of Vincent’s voice as he spoke that one word, and what was revealed by the name he had called her. He had spoken with the voice of a cultured man, a gentle and refined man, at odds with his appearance and the way he said the name made it abundantly clear how deeply he loved the owner of that name. To be loved like that, Diana thought with a wistful sigh.
Something was very wrong. The smells, the sounds, he must escape, his every nerve cried … run…run… run…
Vincent, half conscious, opened his eyes to a strange room where nothing around him was familiar. He was trapped! He must escape! He twisted this way and that, searching all around him. He stumbled from a cushioned platform. He stood, trying to find a way out. He spun; looking for the door, and finding it he threw himself at it, slashing with his claws. He must get free! Then he was falling …falling back into the dark…
Diana, cringing in the corner, was terrified. What had she done, bringing this …this man here? That door was like tissue paper to him. Her heart pounding, she held the gun pointed at him, but he was unconscious on the floor by the broken shards of the door. She took a tighter hold on the gun, she was taking no chances.
Vincent came slowly to consciousness, and this time he was in control of himself. The pain in his head and throughout his body, was almost beyond bearing. He lay on his back, and there was some kind of debris over him, and he was lying on a hard surface.
He turned and a sharp pain lanced through his head. Someone was there, and fear struck him. He backed up against the wall, fearfully looking about him, "Where am I?" he asked the woman curled in the chair.
"In my loft," Diana answered softly, with fear in her voice, "I…I found you in the water after the Compass Rose exploded," she added nervously.
"I don’t remember…" Vincent said breathlessly, the pain in his head and his body screaming for attention, "I must go…" he said determined to leave, regardless of the pain, but he was unable to move more than a few inches. "You brought me …" he gasped, and then he could take the pain no longer, putting his hand to his head with a groan, as the woman came closer.
"You were hurt. You’ve lost a lot of blood. You’re safe here… You need, you need help," she said, the fear he sensed from her abating. That was the last Vincent heard as blackness overtook him again.
Diana, assured now that Vincent was no longer feverish, or by his manner a threat, took the quilt from the bed and covered him. The crisis was over, she was sure of it. Vincent was lucid and although clearly in pain, he seemed more concerned about escape and the pain he was in than attacking her.
It suddenly occurred to her that he had not once tried to attack her. He had only been trying to escape and lashing out at inanimate objects. Reassured, Diana went back into the main room and placed the gun back in the drawer. She knew there was no need for it now. She came back into the room where, Vincent still slept on the floor, and sat in the big chair by the window to watch him.
The next time Vincent woke, his mind was much clearer, but the pain in his head and his body was still great, but less piercing and more bearable. He saw that the woman was sleeping in the chair watching over him, and he no longer felt a threat from her. So he simply lay against the wall watching her as she slept. He had seen her before, of that he was certain, but his mind was still filled with scattered thoughts and he couldn’t place where.
In time she woke, whether by a sense of his watching her he wasn’t sure. Their eyes met, and Vincent saw her initial fear abate, yet she was still cautious. He’d seen that look before.
"I know you," he asserted.
"I don’t think so," she disagreed.
"Yes," Vincent said with certainty as he tried to sit up, but was suddenly struck by pain across his chest from protesting muscles, and most likely several bruised or broken ribs.
Diana came closer, kneeling before him, "Vincent," she said touching his shoulder.
"You know my name…" Vincent murmured with shock looking up at her.
"Let me help you," Diana said, evading the questions in his eyes. With a steadying hand she helped him to the bed, where he sat on its edge.
"How long have I been here?" Vincent asked, looking about him.
"Three days," Diana answered, from her position kneeling on the floor beside him.
Three days, Vincent was shocked; it was then that Catherine’s anxiety reached him. He sent her soothing thoughts and a sense of his well being, with a promise to be with her soon. He received an answering blast of relief and then a feeling of expectation and excitement. He knew he must return to her soon, but he was still very weak, and besides he must await the night. It was early morning by the light coming through the window to his right.
He turned and concentrated on the woman before him and something struck him, "You were in Catherine’s apartment." He stated flatly, "and Below in her basement. Tell me why?" Diana looked unsure, "Please," Vincent pleaded; he must know what this woman knew, and if she was a danger to Catherine.
"I’m Diana Bennett and I’m with the Police Department. I was investigating…I’m still investigating Catherine Chandler’s disappearance."
"Her abduction," Vincent affirmed.
"Yes, and I thought that maybe you could help."
Vincent looked at her, unsure if he could trust her with the fact that Catherine was alive.
"I found this in Catherine Chandler’s apartment," she said as she stood and picked up a small book from a nearby table. When she came back to him, Diana knelt and said. "I’ve been trying to find you from an inscription," she handed him the book; "I’ve been trying to understand this…"
Vincent took the book and sighed, it was the copy of Dylan Thomas he had taken to show Catherine, when everything in his world was dark and fearful.
"Though lovers be lost, love shall not, and death shall have no dominion…" Diana recited flatly, and was shocked by the violence of Vincent’s reaction.
In his mind Vincent was suddenly on the rooftop again when Catherine had spoken those words. The worst moment of his life, and the scene on the rooftop played in his mind. He stood, and leaned against the wall. He needed to dispel the horrific scene from his mind’s eye, as Catherine died in his arms – or so he had thought at the time.
"I didn’t mean to say…" Diana spoke hurriedly with an apology.
"You’ll never know how those words, burn in my heart," Vincent moaned. Then the pain returned full force as he relived that terrible night. He feared then that it was all a dream and that Catherine was truly dead and every moment since was a dream. He searched within himself and suddenly he could feel Catherine’s reassurance and anticipation as she waited for him to return to her, and he calmed, but he felt drained by the sudden reaction.
Diana drew close to him, "You’re tired, you need rest. You should sleep." And without further encouragement, Vincent lay on the bed and in moments was asleep.
Catherine was woken by Vincent’s distress and she tried with all her heart to convey to him, peace and love and the relief she felt by his now strong connection to her. He was healing of that she was sure. He would come home to her soon; she had understood his distant message.
Catherine went to Father’s study to tell him what she knew about Vincent but William and Mary sat discussing Vincent’s disappearance. Mouse and Brooke were there too and Father had just asked Mouse what was in the note he had brought for Vincent.
"Go on Mouse tell him," Brooke said sternly.
"Compass Rose, meet me, good news." Mouse said, reluctantly.
"Father what are we going to do?" Mary asked desperately.
"Something I should have done a long time ago," Father said with determination.
"Father, Vincent is all right," Catherine said.
"Maybe, but where is he Catherine?" Father asked concerned.
"I’m not sure, but he is safe…" She tried to reassure him and wanted to tell them that Vincent would be home soon but Father wouldn’t listen.
"Safe! Out there! Catherine no one, especially Vincent, is safe out there." And Father moved off determinedly toward his chamber.
Catherine watched a few minutes later when Father reemerged wearing street clothes. He was very serious and determined to help his son and nothing Catherine could say would stop him.
Mary came over to her and put an arm around her, "If only he could see through my eyes," Catherine whispered wistfully, "It would save him so much worry."
"Sometimes, Father acts rashly but never foolishly. He will find out what he needs to know, you’ll see. It will all turn out fine." Mary said with a kind smile.
Catherine hugged her and said, "Thank you Mary, you are always the one with sense."
Mary simply smiled serenely, "Come along dear, you look tired."
Catherine allowed Mary to walk with her back to Vincent’s chamber and while she sat in the big chair Catherine sent her mind out toward Vincent. His mind was at peace at last and he was sleeping, but he was coming home soon …
Diana met Joe in the corridor to his office. "Joe I’m sorry…" Diana was saying as she tried to catch up to him.
"I cancelled a major depo’ this morning because you promised me a progress report," Joe said angrily.
"I know, I said I was sorry."
"So, where is it?" Joe demanded with his hands in his pockets and his expression very unfriendly.
"I didn’t bring it," Diana told him.
"You didn’t bring it?" Joe demanded angrily.
Diana knew she couldn’t tell Joe anything about what she had found out, not now, not yet, so she lied. "Actually, there is no progress report."
Poor Joe, Diana thought, he has no idea what she must keep from him. But now that she had met Vincent she couldn’t tell Joe anything more about him. She hoped that what she had unknowingly told him up until now wasn’t too much.
"Wait a minute, I’m confused here. You said ‘Joe I have news’…"
"Joe, I’m taking myself off the case…" Diana interrupted. She couldn’t do this. She was compromised enough already.
Joe was furious and demanded she follow him into his office. Joe felt betrayed and Diana knew it, but to continue in this she would be betraying Vincent, and she couldn’t do that. She had drawn a line and Joe was on the other side of it. Joe was talking about how she was letting him down…
"A week ago you were telling me about tunnels and roses and this guy Vincent, and how close we are… and now…"
"…now I just need time to step back for a while."
Joe didn’t have to be psychic to know what was going on here, "You know what I think Diana. I think you’re holding something back."
The lie sounded hollow even in her own ears and Joe knew it too, "I’m not."
"I don’t believe you," he stated flatly.
Diana could say no more, she respected Joe but what she knew would compromise him too. She was in an untenable position, but like a car with no breaks heading for a tree, she couldn’t stop now. She left the room slamming the door behind her.
Vincent awoke in the late afternoon and the loft was empty. He sent reassurance to Catherine that he would be Below as soon as it was dark. He rose from the bed and finding the bathroom used its facilities then made his way into the main room, surveying it with his eyes. He found a cup in the dish drainer and turned on the tap. He took a long drink of water and then he noticed a curtained wall. He rinsed the cup and went over to the curtain and drew it curtain back.
The newspaper cuttings disturbed him most, particularly the shredded and bleeding bodies he recognized. He swept the curtain closed with a mix of anger and disgust. Just as he heard a noise from behind him and he turned to see Diana standing in the open door of the elevator.
"That wall is my work," she said in explanation.
Vincent was concerned and outraged. Those deaths had been unavoidable but he still saw their faces in his nightmares, just as he had told the Hunter.
"That wall is full of half truths and shadows," he said in an angry tone.
"Maybe," Diana said as she came into the room.
"You will discover nothing there," he added.
"I discovered you there." Diana affirmed, "See, I try to get inside people. Sometimes, most of time, what I see frightens me. But with you it was different."
Vincent turned to the curtain again flicking the material in emphasis, "You were trying to spare me from myself," he stated flatly, indicating the curtain.
Diana pushed the curtain back revealing all the photos in gruesome detail. "All I had was a smattering of facts, a seed. Sometimes they take root in my imagination, if I’m lucky."
"But there was no imagining me," Vincent declared truthfully.
Diana looked away from him, and then back up to his eyes, "No," she said equally as truthful.
Joe Maxwell whistled for a cab and when the man pulled up to the curb he climbed in and told the driver. "Federal Courthouse Building, please," the driver didn’t move.
"Hey Pal, I’m in a hurry, could we move?" Joe said looking at his watch.
The driver just signaled for Joe to wait just a moment, then suddenly a strange old man, appearing to come from another age, entered the cab and said, "Do you mind if we share?" and before Joe could answer the Taxi sped away from the curb. The next thing Joe knew the Taxi had left the street and was heading down an alley.
"Hey what the hell is this…"
"Now please don’t be alarmed," the old guy said calmly.
Joe ignored him and spoke to the driver, "Hey the courthouse is downtown pal…" Joe thought this day was getting stranger and stranger what with Diana’s loopy behavior, dropping the ball and now this old guy from a time warp.
"Mr. Maxwell," his companion said.
That did it, "Stop this car right now!" Joe demanded.
At a tap on the cabbies shoulder from the old man, the taxi stopped and Joe jumped out.
The old man followed him, "Please, Mr. Maxwell. I know you to be a good man. Just listen to me. I have information concerning Elliot Burch."
That stopped Joe in his tracks, "Who are you?"
"I’m a friend of Catherine Chandler’s," Father said trying to say as little as possible about her, but preparing to do anything he could to get the information he needed.
"Cathy? Do you know where she is?" Joe sounded desperate.
"All I can tell you is that she is safe. But you must ask me no more on that subject, please. It could mean Catherine’s life."
Joe digested that. He had known from the beginning that there were some powerful people in this, Moreno proved that. If Cathy was in danger he would do anything he could to protect her, since it was his fault, and that damned book, that had gotten her in this trouble in the first place, "Okay, I’m listening," Joe said crossing his arms. This had better be good, he thought.
"I know where Elliot Burch was the night he disappeared," Father said flatly.
"Look," Father said desperation coloring his voice, "I came to you because I need information too."
Getting very tired of these games Joe demanded, "Where was Burch?"
Father relented, "He was on board a ship called the Compass Rose."
"Are you sure?" Joe demeaned, some things suddenly falling into place.
"Oh yes," Father said with certainty.
"The same Compass Rose that was tied up on the east river?" Joe asked.
"I believe so," the old man said, he even spoke like someone from the past, Joe thought.
"How do you know this?" Joe wanted to make sure.
"From, Elliot Burch," Father offered, giving credence to his information.
"He told you himself?" Joe asked, all kinds of scenarios rattling around in his head.
The old guy had doled out his small facts now it was Joe’s turn, "the Compass Rose exploded and was burned to its waterline three nights ago," Joe stated coldly.
The stricken look on the man’s face showed it was new information to him, and he began to walk back to the cab. Joe wasn’t going to let him go so easily however, "Who are you? Is your name Vincent?"
The man stopped at the sound of that name, "No, my name is Jacob."
"Mr. Maxwell have they recovered any bodies?"
"No, not yet," Joe said, answering automatically.
"What do you mean not yet…?" Father demanded sternly.
"They have divers in the water today…look if you know where Cathy is you have to tell me. If she’s in danger I can protect her …" Joe said
"Believe me I … I would tell you if I could," the old man said but he was obviously distraught and already apologizing and hurrying back into the taxi.
Joe followed him, "Why can’t you? Are you afraid of someone, is that why Cathy has to hide? If you’re afraid I can help you." Joe put his hand on the open window of the cab.
"Please, "the old man pleaded, suddenly grabbing Joe’s hand in a fierce grip, "tell no one that you know Catherine is alive, or you will undoubtedly cause her death and even put your own in danger. Promise me. I only told you because you are her friend."
The grasp on Joe’s hand became tighter. "I won’t tell anyone, I promise," Joe said, like Diana he knew how to keep secrets, if it meant someone’s safety.
Father hoped he had done the right thing, but he liked the young man and perhaps in time he may be useful in catching the monster that had kidnapped Catherine. There was honesty in his eyes.
"You must be hungry and thirsty. Can I get you anything?" Diana asked Vincent, as she walked toward the kitchen, changing the subject.
"Just water, thank you," Vincent said as he made his way to the window, his thoughts going to Catherine. He looked surreptitiously at the late afternoon sun, ‘not long now Catherine’ he sent the thought to her, hoping she would hear him, or at least feel the essence of his message. An answering sense of concern and love filled him and he became even more anxious to leave, but the sun seemed to be lowering in the sky painfully slowly.
Diana brought Vincent a large glass of water and he sipped it slowly, he was still very thirsty he realized.
"How did you meet Catherine Chandler?" Diana asked, sitting on the couch.
Diana deserved some explanation, Vincent realized, after what she had done for him, and so he began from the beginning. He told Diana only the facts with very little embellishment.
"I was the one who found Catherine in the park when she had been brutally beaten and slashed. I cared for her until she was strong enough to go back to her…home," Vincent had almost said ‘her world’
"You took her to where you live?" Diana asked, Vincent was hesitant, but Diana added, "I’ve seen the tunnels below Catherine Chandler’s apartment building, Vincent."
"Yes, I took her to my world," he said unwillingly.
"And you fell in love with her," Diana encouraged.
"Yes," Vincent stated simply, looking out at the city bathed in pink light. He looked down at the glass in his hand now almost empty, "She led me from the darkness. She sacrificed everything…and I let her be taken."
"Vincent, you couldn’t possibly have stopped what happened…"
"There was a time when I could have saved her," Vincent declared vehemently, turning from the window. "Between us there is a connection, a Bond. I know her, her thoughts, her fears. I can feel what she is feeling at that same moment…as though we are one. But it was lost when she needed me the most."
"When Catherine was in trouble you knew?"
"Yes," Vincent said on a desperate sigh, turning back to the setting sun. The pain of his lost bond with Catherine, at the most perilous time in her life, still haunted him, those terrible months of separation…
"What is it, Vincent?" Diana asked.
Vincent then began to tell Diana of his illness and then Catherine’s abduction, leading inexorably to the birth and abduction of his son. Of Catherine’s present whereabouts he said nothing, but Diana was not fooled.
When he had finished Diana was quiet, "And you have that bond back now?"
"Yes," he said with triumph.
"Look, Vincent, I won’t ask you where Catherine is, but you must know you can trust me…" At that moment there was a buzz from the other side of the room.
Diana went to answer it; she came back saying, "I have to do this. I won’t be long," and she went back to the elevator.
"Diana," Vincent spoke softly, not looking up. The sun was on the horizon.
Diana stopped on her way to the elevator, torn between the need to go and the wish to stay. "I’ll never forget your kindness," Vincent said, looking up at her.
Diana nodded and hurried off. When she returned from talking to Joe, who told her about his strange encounter with the old man, the sun had set and Vincent was gone.
Catherine was brought out of a doze by the sense that Vincent was moving closer his excitement and love filling her with lightness and joy. She ran from the chamber and through better known tunnels drawn by Vincent’s weariness and need to be home. She was waiting for him as he descended the ladder. When his feet touched the ground he turned and took her into his arms, whispering, "Catherine…"
"Vincent…" Catherine breathed, their joy at his return flowing over them both in tingling waves. They stood, simply enjoying the reunion in silence and the simple contact. Their emotions crashing and melding like waves upon the sea.
"Oh, Vincent I have been so worried, even though I knew you were recovering. I still wanted you home," Catherine breathed into his chest, savoring the scent of him.
Vincent moved her away gently, "Catherine, Elliot Burch is dead." Catherine’s eyes filled with tears as Vincent continued, "He almost betrayed me, but in the end he sacrificed his life for mine."
Catherine laid her head on Vincent’s shoulder and quietly wept; a sad touch to their reunion. "Poor Elliot," Catherine sobbed.
They entered Father’s chamber some time later and after Father greeted his son with an embrace, Vincent told him of his ordeal and Elliot’s loss.
A week past and Diana couldn’t forget the enigmatic man she had met, or the story he had told her. She dreamt of him and she thought of him and was drawn to his plight as never before in a case.
One night she found herself in the Park and the drainage tunnel, but found only danger…
Vincent was with Catherine talking quietly when he felt a blast of danger but not for Catherine. With a quick apology to Catherine he hurried to where the danger awaited, to find Diana on the floor of the tunnel, a gun to her temple. Vincent acted without thought and a man died.
Angry and confused that he would be drawn to Diana in such a way, Vincent said, "So, now you’ve seen."
"You saved my life," Diana breathed, still frightened.
"You should have stayed away," Vincent declared.
"I couldn’t," Diana said.
With anger and frustration Vincent turned from her. He needed no one’s help it was too dangerous, Elliot’s death had been enough. He was able to do this alone, but he knew Diana was with the police and that was dangerous enough. If they were to find out about him, or if they knew that Diana had hidden him, or worse if Gabriel found Diana and she were harmed? No, he couldn’t be responsible for her death as well.
Diana ran after him, "Vincent this is not your fault. You can’t continue alone in this!"
"I am not alone," And as he spoke, Catherine came out of the shadows and stood in the adjacent tunnel. Vincent looked at her, their purpose and resolve shared.
Diana and Catherine faced each other. Catherine’s face turned to her, an expression of innocent query on it. Slowly she made her way to Vincent’s side. He encircled her with his left arm, holding her close, and they both faced Diana.
Diana knew what Vincent meant, but it changed nothing. "I can help you, both of you."
"We cannot accept that responsibility," Vincent stated, feeling Catherine’s fear of the man who had their son and his power and ruthlessness.
"You are not responsible for me…"
Vincent let Catherine go in a frustrated gesture to them both. "I could not protect Catherine from this man and now he has my son and Catherine lives in fear of him!"
"I’m not Catherine! He doesn’t know me Vincent. I’ll be safe. You need me…"
"No!" Vincent declared vehemently.
"Please let me help."
"No, you must forget us," and he took Catherine’s hand and began to draw her away.
"I can’t …" Diana said pleadingly.
"Then remember us as you would a dream," Vincent said as he walked away holding Catherine’s hand.
Catherine looked back at the lone figure watching them go. Wondering if Diana was right, she turned back to look up at Vincent but his expression was set with determination. She knew that he wished no one else to be harmed by this evil man. Elliot’s death had hit them both hard.
A Promise Remembered
"Hope" is the thing with
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never sings… at all
He stumbled and fell, the pain in his shoulder and side like fire burning through him. His thoughts were in turmoil, but one thing kept ringing in his fogged brain. A familiar voice echoing the words… "We’ll always be there for you …Always…" and before he knew it he was lifting a heavy manhole cover from its resting place in the alley. He climbed down the ladder and stumbled on until unconsciousness overtook him.
Vincent woke from a strange dream. Catherine stirred in his arms, affected by his disquiet. She lifted her head from his shoulder and asked sleepily, "What is it, Vincent?"
Vincent sat up, slowly bringing her with him. "Someone is calling, can you hear him?"
Catherine gathered the covers around her; it had been three weeks since the explosion and Elliot’s death, and Vincent had recovered well. They now spent every night in each others arms, "No, only a sensory echo from you, your concern," Catherine said, "Who is it?" they both knew it wasn’t their son.
He touched her cheek softly, "I can’t tell," Vincent said as he kissed her lips gently. He then climbed out of bed, pulled on his clothes and stamped into his boots. "I must go Catherine, he needs me…" And without another word Vincent grabbed up his cloak and left the chamber.
As Vincent hurried through the dark tunnels under the poorer part of the city, he examined this phenomenon. This was the second time he had been called to someone in danger in recent weeks.
He remembered that before he had met and fallen in love with Catherine his ‘empathic gift’ as Father had called it, had been attuned only to those in the tunnels.
He had embraced it then, for it was always a comfort, to bring someone peace through his wisdom and caring or help those in danger. The tunnels could be a dangerous place, especially for children. He had never really examined it before but it had manifested itself in many ways, which had sometimes confused him.
When Devin had returned the first time, Vincent had known he was coming to the tunnels that night. He had hurried to the Junction door, sensing Devin’s presence before he had pushed the lever to open the door.
When Lisa had returned, as painful as that had been, she had needed him. Before he was aware of it he had found himself drawn to the Junction Door to be there to meet her.
Many times throughout the years he had found lost children or sensed danger, as with the Hunter. He had even felt Elliot’s betrayal, at the Compass Rose that night, before the explosion.
Now it seemed that Diana too had become one of the many under his protection. Vincent had spoken to Catherine of his concerns, about being drawn to Diana, when they were in their chamber later that night.
Catherine had smiled and taken his hand, "Vincent, Diana had cared for you unselfishly and you’re grateful to her. She did us both a great service," Catherine shook her head, "This thing that is happening to us seems to have no limits. It seems my love, that once you are in someone’s debt, or they are part of your family, they are in your realm of protection as well, whether you like it or not." She squeezed his hand and he looked up at her. "Your love is boundless, Vincent and your care likewise. Maybe your gratitude was enough for Diana to find a place in your heart, but don’t worry; I won’t be jealous."
He had laughed softly at the thought of Catherine being jealous," Perhaps you are right," Vincent had said. That Diana wanted to help them was bad enough, but if she should be put in danger because of him, he would find that unbearable.
And now he was drawn to someone else, someone who needed him. Then all thought left him as the call within him gained in strength, and he could smell blood just ahead. He soon came in sight of a dark bundle lying against the wall of the damp tunnel. As he turned the body over, Vincent saw two bullet holes in the dark jacket the young man wore, and it was covered in blood, and then the dark face of a beloved friend and everything became clearer.
"Rolley," Vincent gasped in astonishment, as visions of the small boy who had captivated everyone’s hearts so many years ago came to his mind, of breathtaking performances on the piano. Rolley, who had had his whole life ahead of him then and those in the tunnels to keep him safe, had disappeared after his teacher, Miss Kendrick, was tragically killed.
Vincent had found him one night many years later, strung out on drugs, but Rolley had run from him. Catherine had tried to bring Rolley back to them and Vincent had promised the boy that the folk in the tunnels would always be there for him, but Rolley had fled, never to be seen until now. It seemed thankfully that in his pain-filled fear, Rolley had remembered that promise.
Vincent lifted the unconscious young man into his arms and carried him back to the home tunnels. He sent a signal on the pipes to Father to meet him in the Hospital Chamber, and as he was laying the boy on the bed, Father appeared with Catherine and Mary behind him.
"Vincent, what is it?" Father asked.
"Father, it’s Rolley, he’s been shot," Vincent said softly, turning to the body on the bed. Father came forward and began to unfasten Rolley’s jacket and care for the young man.
Catherine, sensing Vincent’s disquiet gave him a reassuring hug, "Father will do all he can, Vincent. Don’t worry."
"I know," Vincent murmured, his gaze still on the emaciated body of the young man lying on the bed, "but he has suffered so…"
Catherine knew what Vincent meant and she had to give him hope, remembering the last time they had seen Rolley on that rooftop, two years ago. "He came back to us Vincent, he came back when he needed us the most."
Vincent, looked down at her then with a sad smile, "Yes, he came back," he said softly and then turned to Catherine and put his forehead on hers and sighed, "I only hope it wasn’t too late."
They both stood this way for a long moment, both giving and receiving comfort. Then Vincent said softly, looking pleadingly into Catherine’s eyes, "I must stay Catherine, to see him through this, but you should rest."
Catherine lifted up and kissed him on the lips as she said, "I will be in our chamber," she murmured, leaving Vincent to watch over Rolley.
As he watched Father tend to the young man, Vincent could hear the beautiful music that Rolley would play when he was a child. He remembered the boy he had once known so well, lost, withdrawn and extremely talented.
Father, removed the bullets and came to Vincent, "How is he Father?" Vincent asked softly.
"He’s fortunate. The first bullet passed clean through. He is going to have a hard time ahead. He’s going to need all his strength and courage. He’s going to need help."
"He has his friends around him now, people who love him," Vincent said.
"Yes, we will take care of Rolley, now you go back to Catherine," Father said, "You can do no more here,"
Aware of Catherine’s thoughts, Vincent knew that she understood his need to be with the youth and he smiled slightly, "Catherine understands, Father. I will stay with Rolley. I need to be with him now."
"Very well, call me when he wakes," Father said as he left the room.
"I will," Vincent said, sending a grateful touch to Catherine.
As he watched over Rolley Vincent had leisure to examine this new dual bond with Catherine. It was as though they were two halves of the one whole, in more than flesh and blood. They were truly becoming one being, in thought and soul and heart.
His unconscious communication with Catherine when he was in Diana’s home, once examined was truly remarkable. He had noticed it on an unconscious level then. When he and Catherine had made love, there were no spoken or guided responses in touch or action. Each knew what the other needed and wanted, without hesitation. Although for Vincent there was nothing to compare such an experience with, he was sure that this was unique to them alone.
On some level he felt that it was the complete sensory equivalent of telepathy, yet he knew their bond was beyond any mundane definition. The heart and soul was not involved in psychic talent, emotions and perceptions were of the body and spirit, not the mind.
Was this what their connection was? Not merely the result of his blood mingling with Catherine’s, but a melding of body, soul and spirit? He had always been led by his heart; he believed that it was his best guide, just as he had often told Catherine. To follow the heart was his most important rule, and his heart had never led him wrong, even though Father had often disagreed.
He felt a tentative touch within him, a query from Catherine at his deep soul searching. He smiled and asked himself, was she as aware of how close they were becoming, as she became more attuned to him, like a radio became connected to a station, changing her to become …one with him…like him.
He suddenly realized a wonderful fact. With his blood changing her, Catherine was no longer the bird and he the fish as the old fable told. They had found a way for the bird that flew and lived above, to live in the world of the fish that swam below. The bird had simply become the fish, so they could live happily together in their own little pond.
He smiled to himself, his joy at the revelation lifting his spirits. He received a flare of delight from Catherine, and he could see her in his mind, lying in their bed, then with a sigh drifting back to a contented sleep.
Soon afterward Rolley awoke in terrible pain and all of Vincent’s contentment left him. "Try to lie still Rolley, your wounds need time to heal," Vincent said.
"It hurts, Vincent. I feel those holes in me, burnin’… like fire inside," Rolley moaned. Father, had explained to Vincent that he couldn’t give Rolley too much morphine or risk an overdose.
"Father has given you an injection…" Vincent told Rolley.
"It didn’t do nothin’… help me, Vincent," Rolley pleaded.
"I’m here," Vincent comforted, "I won’t leave you."
Rolley leaned over and put a hand in his coat pocket. It came out with a wad of money. "There’s this guy on Fourth, the Bowery, and name’s Tony. He has what I need, Vincent." Rolley thrust the money at Vincent.
Vincent recoiled in disgust, "You don’t want this Rolley, and you don’t need it."
"Vincent, please," Rolley pleaded, "It hurts so bad."
Vincent stood and began to back away, "Rolley those drugs are poison. They’re what brought you here."
Rolley began to plead and cajole, with promises that he would kick the habit, and that this would be the last time. Vincent was appalled, he knew that it was all lies and that this beloved young man would do and say anything to get more drugs.
"Please… I’m beggin you…" Rolley cried weakly. When Vincent said nothing, Rolley used guilt, "I need a friend…" when Vincent wouldn’t yield, Rolley turned away from him.
Vincent could take no more, and grabbing up his cloak, he hurried from the room. He went out into the night to confront the man who was selling poison to children.
He watched from an alley as a young man beat a boy of about nine or ten for not selling enough drugs. Then as the boy cowered the young man handed him a packet, and threatened him there would be no more unless he brought more money next time.
As the young man came toward the alley Vincent asked, "Tony?"
"Could be who wants to know?"
"A friend of Rolley’s, he’s in terrible pain," Vincent said.
"Aint that too bad," Tony said without care. "Maybe I should send flowers,"
"Rolley thinks you can help him," Vincent said with disbelief.
"Help him, yeah I’ll help bury him," Tony said with sarcasm.
Vincent’s frustration overcame reason and he moved with great speed, like a snake striking it prey, his claws lacerating Tony’s arm. "You already did that," he snarled.
It was rage over Rolley’s lost future that drove Vincent, to follow Tony to his supplier. It was Vincent’s need for revenge on the men who profited from the suffering of others that made him follow Tony’s superior to the warehouse that manufactured the drugs. It was his fury over those who sold such poison that made Vincent destroy everything he saw, and it was his impotent need to stop the drug production and protect innocent children, that forced Vincent to kill.
The buzz woke Diana in the early hours of the morning, with a start. She stumbled to the intercom. "Yeah…"
"Diana it’s Joe…"
Diana pressed the release button for the elevator, and went to the rose bush she had found on Cathy’s terrace. The only connection she felt she had with Vincent and Catherine Chandler. Inhaling the sweet fragrance, as she did each morning, she waited for Joe to arrive. She was still angry with Joe’s demand for her to return to the case; on the same night that Vincent had left her loft. She realized afterward that it might be a good thing for Vincent and Catherine if she stayed in the loop. She might be able to help them even without their cooperation.
"You’re up early," she said to Joe as he stepped out of the elevator.
Joe seemed tired, "I’ve been up all night," he said as he handed her a file, "Look at these. The coroner said at least two of the fatalities were already dead before the fire got to them." Diana made her way to the couch as Joe continued, "Diana, they died of multiple puncture wounds, and deep slashes, the same as Moreno and Cates." His gaze was penetrating, "I think we both know who did this."
"And, you think Vincent did this?" Diana asked.
"He’s Cathy’s protector right, he can’t find her, so he goes on a killing spree, " Joe’s excitement was mounting, "And I’ll lay odds, Burch will have the same wounds, if we ever find his body," Joe finished.
Joe had promised the old man, he had met in the taxi, that he wouldn’t tell anyone that Cathy was alive. He had pulled most of the men off the Catherine Chandler case, but he had to leave the case open to keep up the illusion that he was still looking for her. He still felt guilty about that damned notebook that had put Cathy in danger in the first place. He was also certain there were informants in his office; Moreno’s complicity had taught him to trust no one. Cathy was safe for now, but he knew that the wrong word from him would get her killed. Nevertheless he had to find this Vincent.
Diana spoke with disbelief in her voice, "What are you saying? That Vincent is scouring the city and killing scum like this, to find Cathy?"
"Why not," Joe asked, even though he doubted it. There was something else going on here, and Cathy’s protector or not, he had to catch this guy.
"I don’t know Joe, why now? Cathy Chandler has been missing for almost nine months, and there have been no deaths like this in all that time. Why now?" Diana was trying to keep what she knew from Joe, neither of them knowing that they were keeping the same secrets.
"Well, maybe we will find out from the survivor," Joe said and Diana’s shock showed on her face, "Yes Diana, there’s a survivor," he added at her stunned look, "and I’ll be real interested to hear what he has to say."
At Diana’s disbelieving sigh, Joe became angry, "I gotta get this guy Diana, he’s dangerous and he’s killing people. Scum or not, it’s my job to stop him. I won’t have no subway vigilantly, with exotic weapons, tearing up my investigation," Joe said, rising to his feet, "If I catch this guy, Bennett I’m gonna throw the book at him," he strode toward the elevator and threw open the gate, it clanged with finality. "When I got you on this case, I thought you’d be able to make some sense of this, not buy into some Urban Legend." Joe declared as he entered the elevator.
Diana still said nothing; she couldn’t do any more than she had. When he left, Diana went to the blooming bi-colored rose bush, "What are you doing, Vincent?" she asked as she smoothed one of the white blooms. "I can’t help you, if you don’t let me and it’s getting harder to keep your secrets…"
She decided then to find out what she could about the warehouse fire from the survivor.
Catherine was silent when Vincent came into their chamber, covered in blood, the look in his eyes was wild and his appearance disheveled. He stared at his hands still smeared with blood, "Catherine…" he said in a frightened whisper.
There was no need for her to speak; she had known what he had done and why he did it. She had felt his anger burning through her too, and when she had hurried to the Hospital Chamber and seen Rolley moaning in terrible withdrawal and pain, it had all become clear.
Vincent was silent and unresponsive after speaking her name, the guilt and smoldering anger still swirling deep within him. She removed his cloak and laid it over the chair, and took his blood covered hand and drew him out of the chamber, gathering what she would need in her other hand as she left. He followed easily, without saying a word, until they came to the steaming waters of the Bathing Chamber. It was empty at this time of the night.
Catherine smoothed his smoke-stained hair away from his face, and still saying nothing, she began to unlace his vest. Still despondent, Vincent watched Catherine’s face, yet he didn’t stop her as she removed his bloodstained clothes. The scars from the healed bullet wounds where Moreno had shot him were still visible and the bruises from his broken ribs, caused by the explosion, were turning yellow beneath the soft downy fur on his chest. She turned him toward the steaming water. When he was in its soothing warmth she washed him with some soap she had brought, removing all the blood and smoke from his hair until he was washed clean.
Vincent was sitting on a ledge in the shallow end of the thermal pond, the trickle and splash of water in constant movement, echoing off the rock walls, was the only sound.
Catherine knelt behind him and put her hands on Vincent’s thickly muscled shoulders. They were like iron, as were the long cords of his strong throat. She had become familiar with his body in these weeks, and she began a massage of his shoulders and neck, which should have been painful, but still Vincent made no sound.
Catherine was only aware of his deep depression and guilt in what he had done. She wanted only to relieve him of the depression and fear, to bring back the loving gentle man she loved so very deeply. She kept telling him with her heart how much he was loved.
Soon the steam and Catherine’s massage with her hands and her emotions began to do their work and Vincent sighed. His body relaxed slowly, the tension leaving him, like air expelled from a balloon. She continued her ministrations for a few more moments before she asked, "Can you talk about it?" Catherine knew that he couldn’t keep what happened within him. She could feel the guilt gnawing at him.
He was silent for so long that she thought he would not relent and tell her, but then, "Last night…" he said, it was almost a sob, and he spoke as though to himself, his eyes fixed on a spot on the moisture covered walls. He shook his head and changed his thought, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing," he recited the old adage.
He turned his head toward Catherine then, his haunted eyes meeting hers, the guilt riding him. "Last night, I let rage carry me into darkness," as he said it the pain of regret, ripped through both of them.
Catherine realized that it was what often comes from an action, that in the heat of the moment seems very right, but in hindsight when the blood cools it becomes a doubt filled wrong. His voice became strained, as though his throat was closing, stifling another sob, "and tonight, up in that city, children will sell poison to other children." his eyes were pleading and tears filled them as they searched hers, "Where is the hope, Catherine, for the world… for our son?" the last was a strangled sob.
Catherine removed her now damp clothes and entered the steaming water to come around in front of him. She took Vincent’s trembling body into her arms and his head fell to her shoulder with a silent sob. She knew then that after all he had been through this gentle, tortured soul, that she loved so desperately, had come to the end of his strength.
Not his physical strength, which was still in evidence even after all he had faced, but the strength of character that had served him all his life. The child, who was born so very different. The young man who was cruelly shown by the first girl he had ever loved, that he couldn’t have a normal life with a woman, and the grown man who believed himself in an impossible love.
This man, with her help, had overcome so much. To think it all lost when she had been thought dead, then to refuse to accept her death he had done the impossible and all that had followed. After all this, to come to the realization that the world was unchanged and evil still prevailed, and that out there somewhere was the son he had never seen, helpless in the hands of a monster.
This wonderful man, through all this he had fought to keep his humanity intact. Then last night, when in full control of himself, the purely human part of him lashed out in rage as most men are known to do, but for Vincent it was a betrayal of everything he believed. The rage and righteous anger was for a boy who had been like a son to Vincent. A boy who had been lost, and although found, was still lost. For Vincent this had been too close to his deepest fear. That he may never find his own son, and that the babe too would be forever lost to them.
Catherine had no words of comfort but she knew she must show Vincent in a purely human manner that he was a man not the monster he now believed himself to be. So she did all that she could think of to reassure him, that there was more to life than pain, and more to humanity than rage.
She took his face in her hands and kissed him with every ounce of love and joy and passion that she had in her. She bathed him in her love, as the rippling waters around them bathed him. She made her hands do what no words could; she soothed him, excited him and caressed him, more boldly that she had ever done before.
With a soft deep throated moan, Vincent responded, lifting Catherine closer, fitting her to him, as close as a man and woman can be. Catherine wrapped herself around him and for a time they both were propelled outside of time to fly free together, joined body, soul and spirit, further solidifying their bond.
One with the world, with the air and the water and each other, until sated they floated back to their own bodies. Together in purpose and action, but even though the guilt and self-loathing had gone, Catherine sensed within Vincent the question she couldn’t answer…‘where is the hope?’
Diana’s evidence wall was now filled with maps as Joe came out of the elevator.
"What were you doing in Lou Horner’s hospital room?" he asked angrily.
"I asked him some questions, that’s my job," Diana said, not looking in his direction.
"Who authorized you to see him?" Joe demanded in an officious manner.
"Nobody authorized me. What, someone has to authorize me?" Diana was frustrated; she had gotten the name Tony and where to find him from Lou Horner, even though he had hidden his involvement with Gabriel. She knew that Gabriel was connected to the warehouse in some way.
"He’s dead," Joe said flatly. He waited for that to sink in and then continued, "I don’t have to tell you how bad this looks Diana. You visit the only witness we have in a massive narcotics case, and an hour later he’s dead. How did they find him?"
"What are you saying?" Diana was angry now, and scared too. She had no doubt that it was Gabriel who had gotten to Lou Horner. But telling Joe this would achieve nothing, until she found Tony and questioned him.
"I’m only saying what other people are going to be saying," Joe declared.
"And what is that?" Diana asked.
"That you’re protecting Vincent," Joe said waiting a moment for that to sink in before he declared, " I want everything you have on Vincent, right now, the letters, the books and anything you know about those tunnels…"
"Joe, why can’t you just trust me…" Diana pleaded.
"I did trust you; like I trusted John Moreno…" that hit her hard and Diana was silent for a moment, "I’ll send somebody by for your files."
"You’re wasting your time," Diana stated flatly.
"At least I’ll be the one wasting it," Joe declared angrily then he walked toward the elevator, stopped and turned back to her. "I want this guy, Diana and I’m gonna get him with or without your help. So c’mon give me somethin’ to work with. Give me a reason to believe in you, anything." When Diana didn’t answer, Joe made his way to the elevator and stood at the gate, "You know when I got you on this case I thought I was doing the most I could for Cathy Chandler… I guess I was wrong," With these last words he was gone.
Vincent came into the Hospital Chamber to check on Rolley. It was evening and Father was sitting on the bed, it was empty and Father was alone.
"Where’s Rolley?" Vincent asked surprised.
Father turned away, "He’s gone," he said and there was pain in his voice," I did my best to stop him, but I fear he may have gone up Above."
"There’s nothing up there for him but death, you know that," Vincent said appalled.
"So does Rolley," Father said.
Vincent turned to leave the chamber, but Father’s voice halted him. "And if you do find him, what are you going to tell him that he doesn’t already know?"
"Am I meant to stand aside while he’s killing himself?" Vincent demanded.
"If that is a choice that he’s made, you can’t be with him every moment Vincent."
"But I am with him every moment. When he destroys himself he destroys a part of me," Vincent said filled with fear for the boy.
Father watched Vincent for a moment and then said, "This is what it is to be a father." He stood and came over to Vincent, "Your son, have you found anything else?"
"Only the name written on the wind, the memory of a face, the ring…nothing more," Vincent said in a dejected manner.
"So this isn’t really about Rolley?"
"This is about all the lost children…" Vincent said with pain-filled eyes before he walked out of the chamber.
Catherine stood in the tunnel entrance. She had been coming to visit Rolley and she had heard the exchanged between Vincent and Father. Vincent stopped before her, his expression filled with pain and his heart sitting like lead in his chest. Catherine was unable to find a way to comfort him, at this moment of disappointment, her love wasn’t enough. Vincent must find the hope he searched for, or the pain would continue, until that happened all she could do was be there for him with her support.
He squeezed her hand, and she knew that he was going Above. She nodded, tears in her eyes. If he found Rolley what would he do to bring him home, if he didn’t want to come…?
"Are you Tony?" Diana asked the young man seated at the table in the Diner.
"I try not to be," the young man answered fearfully.
"I hear you got into some nasty trouble last night." Diana said leaning over Tony.
Tony’s denial was weak, but Diana pressed him and when she showed him her badge, and saw Tony’s bandaged arm, it wasn’t long before she had the whole story. A cloaked figure had attacked him in an alley, demanding he stop selling poison to children. The face of the cloaked figure was terrible and he had clawed Tony’s arm so fast that he had hardly seen him move, until he felt the pain. Now everyone was dead. He told Diana where he had seen the guy in the cloak and Diana deduced the rest.
She looked up at one point as a teenage boy came through the door; his dark face was filled with pain and slick with perspiration. She had no doubt he was waiting to get some of Tony’s merchandise, by the way he looked hungrily Tony’s way. But Diana would get all her answers first.
Rolley saw the red haired woman talking to Tony and couldn’t take his eyes from them. He was hurting so badly and he knew that the only thing to take away the pain would be what Tony had.
The waitress came to ask if he wanted coffee and Rolley nodded. He may as well have a cup until Tony was free.
As he drank the warm brew, the waitress went to the radio and the music echoing in the Diner suddenly changed. The darkness within Rolley was suddenly washed away by the sound of the Moonlight Sonata. Memories flooded back and he was sitting at the piano in Father’s study again, with Miss Kendrick beside him.
When Diana left the Diner Rolley was gone.
Vincent came out of the shadows adjusting his hood, as Diana turned into the alley, hurrying toward him.
"How did you know?" he asked, surprised.
"I know, it’s what I do. Joe Maxwell came by to see me this morning he knows what happened last night. He’s looking for you."
"He won’t find me…"
"I found you."
"There are no safe places for anyone," Vincent stated and then began to walk past Diana, but was stopped by her next words.
"The place you destroyed belonged to Gabriel," Diana declared, Vincent spun on his heel in shock and Diana faced him. "It was his, I can’t prove it, but I know it’s true."
"Gabriel…" Vincent gasped, surprised and somewhat pleased. He had been able to hurt his enemy.
"Vincent, why? If you didn’t know, why did you do it?"
Vincent let out a gusty sigh as he answered, "I have a friend, his name is Rolley, I did it for him."
"And did it help him, is he better now?" When Vincent looked up at her, Diana continued, "Vincent, I’ve been there too and this is not the way."
"Then where is the way?" he asked, "What would you have me do? Gabriel has my son and I have only these," and Vincent lifted his hands and closed his fists, showing his claws.
"Those can’t help you find your son…"
"They can make Gabriel bleed, night after night, until…"
"Until you kill him, or he kills you. By then it won’t matter who wins, Vincent. If you die, Catherine is left alone and your son has no father. What kind of a father do you want your son to have? If you continue alone in this you are going to lose everything."
"I’m not alone." Vincent said it like a prayer, clinging to Catherine’s presence within him.
"Up here you are, Vincent you need me, both of you do."
"I can’t allow you to risk yourself, too many have died in this war," Vincent said.
"People die in wars, Vincent," Diana stated coldly. "But without help you will lose."
"Then where is the hope Diana, where is the hope?" Vincent said and Diana had no answer, as he turned and went back the way he had come, his broad shoulders slumped and his head bowed in total dejection.
Vincent was on his way back through the tunnels when Catherine met him a few paces from the entrance.
"Vincent, come with me quickly." There were tears in her eyes, but he knew that nothing was wrong. She radiated only surprise and joy as she took his arm and led him unresisting and despondent, until he heard the sound of a piano. Catherine was holding his hand tightly and close to her breast as she stopped at the entrance to an old chamber. In the chamber was a solitary grand piano, dusty and deserted in the bare rock chamber and sitting at that piano was Rolley. Echoing off the stone walls were the strains of the Moonlight Sonata.
"I was walking the tunnels when you left and I began to hear a piano. I followed the sound. I’d heard he played beautifully but this is breathtaking," Catherine said, squeezing Vincent’s hand tightly.
The cold knot inside of Vincent began to unravel; tears came into his eyes as he watched Rolley, totally enthralled by the piano. He turned to Catherine. "There is the hope Catherine…" and he took her into his arms and laid his cheek on top of her head, "there is the hope…" he finished in a choked voice. They both stood in the entrance, afraid to disturb Rolley who was in another world, playing a piano made just for him.
Diana found the envelope the next morning. In it was a note and a gold ring…
This is all we have to point us to Gabriel.
It may be our son’s only hope.
We give it to you with our trust
A Call in the Night
Once a dream did weave a shade
O’er my Angel-guarded bed,
That an Emmet lost its way
Where on grass methought I lay
Troubled, ’wilder’d, and forlorn,
Dark, benighted, travel-worn
Over many a tangled spray,
All heart-broken I heard her say;
"O, my children! do they cry
Do they hear their father sigh?
Now they look abroad to see;
Now return and weep for me."
Lying in each others arms, Catherine and Vincent dreamt:
It was a dark misty realm, filled with danger and menace, and the sky was filled with storm clouds. In the distance a baby cried angrily but as they listened the cry became weaker…pleading. Thunder and lightening crashed around them …
They woke as one; Vincent sat up and drew Catherine with him. Catherine looked up at him, "It’s him isn’t it, Vincent? It’s our baby."
"I think so," Vincent said softly.
"What does it mean, is something wrong with him?" Catherine asked fearfully, the darkness of the dream-image frightening her.
"I don’t know, Catherine, only that he is calling to us."
"But from where?" Catherine almost sobbed.
Pulling her toward him, her head against his shoulder, Vincent looked over Catherine’s head as he said, "We will find him Catherine. We will find him."
Catherine wept softly.
Vincent stared into the shadowed chamber and the dream/vision came again this time the sky was ablaze with lightening and all around him smelt of death. He saw his own shape hidden in his cloak the face beneath the hood unseen, he saw an arrow fired from a bow and felt the bolt strike his chest. He pulled it out and searched this dark realm and all the time the babe cried angry and pleading and the storm raged.
Catherine didn’t move in his arms and he knew she had not seen this part of the dream and he was glad. It was full of foreboding, but he didn’t examine it too closely. It would do him no good to search where he couldn’t see. He knew now that these premonitions must run their course and that soon, whatever it meant, all would be revealed. They must wait.
Diana had taken the ring to three other jewelers before this one. She was uncomfortable by the way the young man was looking at the ring and then at her. Had Gabriel promised a reward for information about this strange ring?
"Can you tell me anything about it?" Diana asked.
"Where’d you get this ring?" the young jeweler asked, staring at the ring through a jeweler’s glass.
"From a friend," Diana said simply.
Still holding the ring close to his eye, the jeweler said, "Let me get my father."
The young man went in the back room to speak to an older man, and Diana was sure something wasn’t right. The older man came out to her pretending indifference, but Diana could see the eagerness in his eyes. He took the ring and held it up to a jeweler’s glass on his spectacles and said all too easily, "what is it you want to know about this ring?"
She could play that game too, "anything you could tell me…"
"This ring is very old," he said, still examining it.
"How old?" she asked.
"Five hundred, maybe six hundred years, the metal is twenty-four carat gold, the stone is a black opal, and the craftsmanship is rare." His tone was condescending and superior.
"Why?" she asked.
He waved the ring in the air, "Why, because it has lasted for five centuries. What have you made lately that would last five centuries." He smiled benignly, which annoyed Diana, but she didn’t let any of it show.
"That’s a very good point," she said, smiling in return. Then she asked her most intriguing question, "What does the inscription say?"
He shook his head, staring down at the ring in his fingers, "I could read it fifty years ago maybe, but today no, if you would like to leave it with me I could find out."
Diana had seen the inscription on the inside of the ring when she had first been given it, but she couldn’t make it out. Why had this man said he couldn’t see it? What would it reveal about its owner? She made up her mind to take a closer look for herself when she got home.
"No, but if you could give me the name of someone who might, I would appreciate it," she said, letting this man know she didn’t trust him.
He turned to his son, "Mike Cullen’s card. Get one for the lady." The younger man was sent for the card and the older man asked, "Are you considering selling the ring?"
"No, I’m not." Diana said emphatically.
"If you do, give me a call," and he gave her his own card and Diana left the shop.
Diana’s suspicions were confirmed later, when she could read at least one of the words engraved on the inside of the ring with her old magnifying glass. "Veritas," Diana murmured when she found the word, then flipping through her Latin dictionary she found its meaning, "Veritas, truth,"she said to herself as she wrote it down on her notepad.
The next night when the men came, she knew it was the jeweler that had set Gabriel’s men on her trail.
They broke into her loft, but she eluded them at first, but after she escaped her loft they cornered her in the phone booth of a nearby Diner. She had been able to call Joe and told him she was in trouble, but she would be gone by the time he got there.
She was thrown in a van, her hands were tied, and tape was put over her mouth and a bag thrust over her head. Then she was taken by helicopter to another vehicle, this time a spacious comfortable one, probably a limo by the smooth ride and the smell of leather.
She was helped out when the limo came to a stop, and then led through a carpeted corridor, stumbling up several flights of stairs and then into a small room. The bag was removed and the tape roughly torn from her mouth.
Diana found herself standing in the middle of a darkened room. Before her stood a thin man with a long face and a pale complexion, he was wearing an Armani suit and an expensive cologne. She had no doubt who this was…Gabriel.
He stood beside a dark wooden crib. He beckoned her toward him, and urged her to look in the crib. She could see a small mound on the mattress, a rounded cheek, a tiny hand resting on the blankets. A baby… but there was something strange about it, a stillness, and a silence that disturbed her. She felt uncomfortable as she watched this child, which looked up at her with eyes glittering in the darkness, watching her.
"This is my son, Miss Bennett," Gabriel said, his voice was deep; the accent she was sure had roots in the poorer parts of the city. "He’s very beautiful don’t you agree? Look at his hands Miss Bennett, and his face. There’s nothing unusual there. Do you find that strange?"
Diana suspected whose son it really was, but she said, "Why would I find it strange?"
"I think the resemblance is in the eyes. What do you think?" Gabriel continued his attention stayed on the child, and he spoke in a tone that could only be described as malevolent.
"I don’t think he looks anything like you," she said, pleased by his surprised lift of the head.
"Precisely…" he sneered and the pasty face turned to her. Then with little emotion he added, "The trouble is, he’s dying." Diana gazed down at the tiny infant, trying to keep her reaction to herself, as Gabriel continued, "Some powerful illness, the doctors don’t know how to help him." He leaned closer to her, "I do, and I believe you do too." He turned his dark beady eyes fully on her then and said, "The child needs his natural father."
"You lost me a few steps back," Diana tried to sidestep his meaning, but Gabriel knew too much.
"You’re fast, Miss Bennett, I give you that, but unfortunately I don’t have any time to play. Maybe a few hours," Some of Gabriel’s anger oozed out of his emotionless façade.
"I still don’t know what you’re talking about," she said, playing for time.
"The ring, Miss Bennett, you were interested in the ring. He gave you the ring. I believe you were curious about the inscription."
"Veritas," Diana said.
"Veritas vos Liberabet," he provided the entire quote, "All that matters is that you find him. Find him and tell him, Catherine Chandler’s child is dying."
"What proof do I have that that’s Catherine Chandler’s child?"
"You have no proof, Miss Bennett, and the child has no time. Take that message to Vincent..."
"And what makes you assume that I can make contact with him?"
The dark eyes narrowed as he watched her face, " You’ll find a way." then he left her in the room alone with the silent baby, trying to find something to identify this location. She looked all around the room and then turned to the hallway, where Gabriel stood talking with a man and noticed the floor tile. That may be enough, she thought, but Gabriel was reentering the room, and she filed every detail of the tile in her memory for later retrieval.
Diana ran through the torn and broken gate, and stumbled over the rubble that was still all around it. Then she came to a dead end, where she knew there had been a tunnel that Vincent and Catherine had walked down the last time she was here. It was blocked. Like the entrance near Cathy’s basement it had been sealed.
Diana was desperate and she searched the walls of the tunnel until she found a grating, she yelled down it. "Vincent, Vincent!" She heard a movement, someone was there. "Hello, is somebody there? I need to see Vincent; I’m a friend of his." She put her head on the wall and said softly, almost to herself, "I need to see Vincent; I’m a friend of his." She lifted the flap, "Are you there?" then to herself again, "Oh please I don’t have much time…" then louder, "My name’s Diana. Please tell Vincent where I am, I’m a friend."
Vincent looked up from the book he was reading to Catherine as a faint tapping could be heard getting louder as it was passed through the entire tunnel system.
Catherine was sewing baby clothes in a chair nearby. She had not given up hope that her son would wear them. The hope that Rolley’s return had given them had changed many things. When their son returned he would need warm clothes. The women of the Tunnels were busy making him a wardrobe too.
The message on the pipes was urgent, Vincent…stranger … calling you…her name, Diana…
"What is it," Catherine was not as familiar with the pipe code as she would like, but she recognized Vincent’s name.
"The outer tunnels, it’s Diana," Vincent said softly.
Catherine stood, dropped her needlework into a basket and threw her shawl over her shoulders, as Vincent put on his cloak, "Well come on, we’d better not keep her waiting," she said hurrying out of the chamber with Vincent close behind her.
It wasn’t long before they were in the tunnel where Diana waited. They had to come from the other direction, since the old tunnel was sealed. They walked hand in hand, and in the light of the lantern, that Vincent carried, they both saw the red headed woman waiting. When they stopped before her, Diana said, "I saw Gabriel."
"Where is he?" Vincent asked and Catherine shivered, silent and fearful of what this might mean.
"I don’t know, he took me there in secret, I was blindfolded." And as that sank in, Diana looked purposefully at Catherine and said softly, "I saw a baby…"
"A baby," Vincent said, and Catherine gasped in pain, putting her hand over her mouth.
Still with her eyes on Catherine, Diana continued, "He said it was yours…"
Catherine leaned into Vincent, who put his arm about her to comfort her. Looking up at Diana Vincent asked, "You saw our son?"
"I don’t know if it was your son. It was a baby." Diana said, not trusting Gabriel.
Vincent sighed gustily, and held Catherine tighter for reassurance putting his cheek on her head. His eyes turned to Diana blazed with hope and desperation, as he demanded, "Tell us."
"The child’s very ill…"
Catherine gasped again, and Vincent looked down at her, saying, "The child’s ill," as though it explained everything." Then the child is ours."
"We don’t know that," Diana put in, trying to let them know how evil Gabriel could be.
"For days now we have sensed his pain, his strength falling away," Vincent said in explanation.
Catherine turned tear filled eyes to him, "The visions, the waking dreams …" she said fearfully.
"Yes, we know their source now, there meaning." He was holding Catherine’s shoulders now, looking into her eyes and she grasped his meaning. "Our son is dying, Catherine," Vincent said in a choked voice and Catherine held back a sob. Now was the time for strength, not weakness. Now was the time for action and whatever that action was, Catherine would accept it and do all she could to help Vincent.
She nodded bravely, but her chin trembled. Vincent must do all he could to save their son, and Catherine knew she couldn’t go. With one last look to his beloved, his eyes saying so much, and his heart pouring his love into hers, Vincent swallowed and turned to Diana. "You must take me to him," he said with great determination.
"That is exactly what Gabriel wants. You can’t surrender yourself to him like that…"
"There is no other way," Vincent declared frankly.
"Then he’ll kill you… and you know it!" Diana countered, terrified for his life.
Catherine stood beside Vincent, unafraid now, but holding his hand tightly. She had known from the beginning that something like this might be a possibility. Vincent would do anything to save their son and she could lose them both, but she wouldn’t stop him. This was who he was. The man she had fallen in love with, all or nothing. She was one with him when he said, "First I will save my son."
Catherine threw her arms around his neck and kissed him fiercely, ignoring Diana’s presence. When the kiss ended, she put her forehead against his and said softly. "Come back to me my love, and bring our son home."
It was a prayer. She couldn’t ask Vincent not to go. She couldn’t go with him. Gabriel was in control for now and the dreams were now clear. Gabriel hadn’t won yet, and whatever happened whatever comes, their son must live. And if anything happened to her son and his father, Catherine would keep hunting for Gabriel herself, to make him pay until the day she died.
Without another word, Catherine stood back and watched the love of her life and her soul mate walk away, his emotions swirling within him, but one surfacing above the rest… determination. He would save his son or die in the attempt.
Catherine however, was not going to stay idle. Now was the time to act and she began to formulate a plan.
On the roof of the Battery Arms Building Vincent stood still, he had closed his perceptions so tightly around him, that he couldn’t feel Catherine, nor could he project the utter terror that gripped him. She had enough to deal with, waiting for his return. He couldn’t think of what was to come, only that he would see his son. What happened after the babe was saved was beyond his control. If he could save his son and somehow return him to Catherine he would gladly face any future.
Before him however was an old terror and one he had lived with all his life. To be exposed, unprotected by the tunnels and the comfort of rock around him, replaced by open air, in the sight of man and the world Above. He had not feared when he took back the Hunter’s body, because that was the act of a man making a challenge to his enemy. He had survived the worst then and had felt invincible. Now was different, he felt alone and vulnerable.
He could hear the helicopter approaching, its blades slicing through the cold night air; it was like a bird of prey, rising above the rooftops. Hovering, maneuvering, until a man in black became visible in the open door. The sound of a muffled gunshot, the sting of the dart piercing his chest, then a second, and as the drug pulse through his body, dulling his senses, Vincent remembered the dream/vision of the arrow striking his chest.
"Catherine," he thought to her as he dropped to his knees, all his love and devotion in that one word, then he surrendered to unconsciousness.
When morning came to the tunnels Catherine gave up trying to sleep. Vincent’s last conscious thought had told her much. He had been drugged most likely with a tranquilizer dart must the same as Professor Hughes had used so long ago when he had captured Vincent. Now she could feel the hum of his disturbed dreams as he lay somewhere unconscious and she could wait no longer.
She made her way to Jamie’s chamber and luckily Mouse was there as well. They were playing chess; or rather Jamie was trying to teach it to Mouse, who couldn’t understand why the kings didn’t fight their own battles. And they were having a very nice argument about the reasons why.
Even in the face of Vincent’s peril, Catherine couldn’t help but smile.
"Mouse, Jamie, can you help me?" She asked softly from the entrance.
They both looked up and frowned, "Catherine, anything the matter?" Jamie asked coming to where she stood.
"I need your help." Catherine said and then she told them what she wanted to do.
Vincent came awake slowly, his senses muffled. He didn’t mind the chains or the bars. He had expected such a tactic from his enemy. Treat the captive like an animal, put him off guard and make him feel inferior. Well, he didn’t feel inferior at all; he felt powerful. His worst fear had been faced and, as is often the case, once the fear is faced it loses its power; it was the waiting that was torturing him.
He closed his eyes and sent his awareness outward, searching as he had the night he saved Catherine. There he was, his son was nearby, the tiny heartbeat that had been constant in Vincent’s ears since before the boy was born, was louder now but very weak, but it was still there. If Vincent could convince Gabriel to let him see the boy, touch him, he knew that he could help him.
He paced, sensing the man watching him through the cameras in the corners of the cage. He could hear the echo of his son’s heartbeat weak and feeble as precious moments passed. He paced in the six by nine foot cell, keeping clear of electrified bars after the first initial shock of their discovery. He tried to break the chains once, but the drug they had used on him had weakened him, but that would soon change and this gave him hope. The watcher must have thought him a caged animal, Vincent thought, but let him think what he wished. The pacing kept him focused on the building above him and the room in which his infant son lay.
The man was with the baby, making the babe shiver and cringe from his cold touch. They had taken blood from both Vincent and the babe to compare it, but unlike Catherine, the babe was too weak for a transfusion. No, it was a more sensory infusion that the baby needed. The doctor was there too, the figure that the babe sensed as cold and without feeling, unlike the man who was evil and menacing. It was this man who was killing the babe with his calculating possessiveness that was not love. A cold hatred emanated from him, a callus vindictiveness that slid off him like sweat, polluting the sweet innocence of the infant.
It was then that Vincent realized why he had survived as a baby; it was the love and compassion that surrounded him, a creature of overdeveloped senses. He could feel the love and with it he had fought to live, for no other reason than to answer the call to life from those who loved him.
He knew then how to save his son, who was at that moment in the arms of the coldness, as the babe’s perception saw it, in the embrace of death. Vincent had sent a tentative probe into that room, although not a mental touch, he did feel a lightening of the child’s spirit. He sent feelings of love and promise and warmth, knowing that the tiny baby, still a creature of sensation, had felt it. But it wasn’t enough to heal him.
Vincent felt himself growing stronger as the drug wore off and his son’s presence so close, that he tried again to break the chains. With an almighty heave he pulled on them, roaring his frustration as he did so and this time succeeded. The time for waiting is over.
"Gabriel! Gabriel!" Vincent called facing the camera. "He’s dying. I can feel him dying. Bring him to me Gabriel, he needs more than my blood, he needs me. Are you listening? Go to him. Look in him, touch him. He’s dying, can’t you feel it?" Vincent knew he had to convince Gabriel of what he knew. "He’s your son in life, but in death he’s mine. If he dies, you will have lost, bring him to me. Let him live," Vincent put every ounce of his will into that last word, and he knew that if the man wanted the child alive he had no choice.
After this Vincent sat against the wall and waited. He had made his plea and now he must wait.
He felt his son’s nearness before the door opened to admit the sour faced nurse, carrying a bundle and accompanied by the black clothed guards. He stood in readiness, his heart pounding, afraid to move, as the cell door was opened and a pale blue wrapped bundle was laid on the cold concrete floor. The babe moved feebly beneath the blanket, making pleading noises.
Vincent wanted to run to him and scoop him up from that cruel floor, but he held back with immense effort, his eyes never leaving the child. He saw in the periphery of his vision the nurse leave, and heard the door clang shut and the lock click and keys rattle, then the current return to the bars.
He held back until his enemies had left the cellar, before he moved. He saw a tiny hands wave and the small body wriggle in the folds of the blanket, and he moved carefully and then he was kneeling, lifting the blanket from the tiny, pale face. He slid his clawed hands carefully beneath the warm bundle, the manacles at his wrists chinking as he lifted the child into his arms and stood.
He stepped back as a flash of joy struck him, and he wasn’t sure if it was his own or the babes, as a pair of deep blue eyes met his. Vincent’s gaze drank in every feature of the face, and the small perfect body and felt the living weight in his hands. His heart soared and he sent a gentle tendril of love to the baby, like a warm breeze in the cold room.
The babe responded with a sigh, the deep blue eyes widening, and Vincent spoke as though Catherine were standing beside him, "he is beautiful, Catherine." And he felt an answering thrill of joy, and hope and pure relief from Catherine, and an answering gurgle from the babe, amid feelings of contentment and trust.
Time stood still as all three communed in a manner that was pure Vincentian, as mother, father and son began to build an unshakable Bond with each other, that nothing could break, not even death…
Catherine was in their chamber, sewing an old brown coat to aid in her plan, when she gasped and stopped sewing, closing her eyes. Jamie and Mary, who were there with her likewise employed, gazed at each other as Catherine said softly, "Vincent has our son, I can feel him. I can feel them both…" and tears came into her eyes. What this meant Catherine didn’t know but that Vincent was alive and with their son, meant the baby would live and for now that was all that mattered…
The Freedom of Truth
Lay Your Sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm:
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.
W H Auden
Vincent sat with his back against the wall, his son cradled in his arms, he was talking to him without words, and he could feel Catherine’s awareness within him. The child slept, pale skin beginning to show more pink with every moment. Then suddenly an ugly voice echoed in the cellar, shattering the peaceful scene, like a rock through glass.
"His name is Julian."
Vincent turned, and there stood the man responsible for all of his pain over the last nine months, Gabriel. He looked just as Vincent had pictured him, having sensed his malevolent evil from the baby. Vincent was beginning to understand so much about himself and his kind, from birth they were endowed with an acute sense of good and evil, love and hate and it was the negatives that had been killing the babe.
Protecting the child in his arms by holding him closer, Vincent rose to face his nemesis, as Gabriel continued. "Some names have power, but you know that don’t you? Vincent, conqueror…" the man began to spout platitudes and fables about power and blood and what it meant to be such a man, but Vincent stood in readiness, hardly listening. This man might be evil and insane, but he was the one in control for moment, and Vincent must control himself to protect his son. The child was all that mattered.
Then Gabriel said something that Vincent couldn’t ignore, "My son will be a man like that," he said.
Vincent made his voice matter-of-fact as he interrupted, "Gabriel, you have no son." And to Vincent, who had sat all night with this child in his arms bonding with him, it was an irrevocable fact. He had made the connection and the Bond with his son had begun, just as it had with Catherine over three years ago, invisible but solid and irreversible, especially in one so young.
Gabriel went to the wall and pressed a buzzer and the two guards and the nurse returned, accompanied by another man, balding and wearing a suit and tie. The doctor, Vincent told himself.
"It’s been long enough, remove the child," Gabriel ordered, "Do it!"
They came closer, and instinctively Vincent snarled, holding his son closer.
The sound he made didn’t even make the babe jump nor did he seem distressed at all. With a word from Gabriel, two guns were cocked and aimed at Vincent and the baby.
Moving closer to the bars, Gabriel said, "I want the child. The doctor wants another blood sample. If you resist they’ll fire… and not at you…do we understand each other?" Gabriel sneered, then assured of Vincent’s acquiescence, Gabriel turned his back and said again, "Do it!"
Vincent held the babe more firmly and kissed his soft forehead. The child was quiet and content, a tiny hand gripping Vincent’s mane, as though he too wanted to stay with his father. With cautious looks the nurse and the doctor entered the cell, eyeing Vincent warily.
With the essence of death heavy in the room, slowly Vincent, with his every nerve rebelling against releasing his child to these murderers, held him tighter. His gaze traveling to the men, the guns and then Gabriel, finally with great reluctance and a farewell touch on the soft forehead with his lips, and a last look into those beautiful eyes, Vincent surrendered his son to the cold eyed nurse.
The baby began to cry when he was taken from the warm arms of his father to cold ones of the nurse. His squeals of protest could be heard echoing off the walls of the cellar until the door was shut with finality.
Bereft, Vincent backed up and slid down the wall to submit to another blood extraction.
Diana was cold as she watched from the roof of the building across the street from her home. She was afraid to go back to her loft, Gabriel’s men had it watched from a large black car in the street below.
She made her way down the fire escape and from a back alley she ran onto the street mingling with the press of people. She found a phone booth and tried to get to Joe. A strange man answered, and asked where she was. Diana hung up, knowing she couldn’t get to Joe on her own. She roamed the streets for hours before she noticed that she was being followed and ran into an alley followed closely by a taxi. It was a blind alley and she backed up as two men approached her.
Vincent heard the footsteps, but didn’t bother to look up, all his attention was on his thriving son. However when he sensed it was Gabriel all his rage found its mark, and he ran at the bars to kill the man who had taken his son away from him. The electric charge threw him back and he hit the floor hard, when his head stopped buzzing he heard.
"I thought you’d like to know…"
"My son is recovering," Vincent said with satisfaction, "I feel it. I feel him."
Gabriel began to leave and then stopped, turning to throw something to the floor of the cell. It made a metallic sound as it hit the concrete floor and rolled to stop just in front of Vincent, who ignored it. His eyes were only for his enemy.
"Oh, I thought you might want that back, now that the woman’s dead," Gabriel said, and then he turned and left the room.
Vincent never moved until the door was firmly closed, then he looked down at the object on the floor beside him. It was the gold ring he had given to Diana. Vincent had little doubt that she would have parted with it willingly. Gabriel was a man full of lies and Vincent would not let anything the man said make him fear.
For the moment his son was all that Vincent could concentrate on and both Catherine and Diana were out of his range of protection now. All he had sensed was his son’s danger. At the moment he felt only determination from Catherine but he couldn’t help Diana now.
Catherine was in the party that met Diana at the junction door.
"I’m sorry we frightened you, we never meant you harm," Father said.
"Who are you?" Diana asked Father.
"When I lived in your world my name was Jacob Wells. Vincent is my son."
Diana looked from face to face and a young blond girl next to Catherine Chandler said, "We’re his family."
The young man in the cap who had hustled her into the cab added, "His friends,"
"Do you all live down here?" Diana asked, realizing that this underground world was larger populated than she had first thought.
Catherine said, "Some of us,"
Father finally asked, "Last night, you came down here and you called for Vincent, Catherine has told us that he went to save his son. Where did you take him?"
"The Battery Arms Building, a helicopter came a few minutes after he got to the roof. It landed and took off again a few minutes later. I think Vincent was in it." She looked toward Catherine as she said the last.
Catherine’s eyes became moist, but she set her jaw as though she was determined not to weep. "Did you see in which direction the helicopter went?" Father asked.
"Toward the river, Gabriel has men inside the police department. They’re everywhere…I don’t know who to trust. They took my gun; my badge is back at my loft. They’ve completely cut me off. I have no money …I have no clothes. If they find me they’ll kill me…"
Father frowned, a look passed between him and Catherine, and she nodded. Father whispered to Jamie and she hurried out of the cavern. While Jamie was gone, Diana produced the page of a phone book on which was the pattern of the tile in Gabriel’s house.
"This pattern is very unusual, it’s very old. I think if we can find this tile we’ll be able to find Gabriel." She looked up at those around her, "I need to get this drawing to Joe Maxwell."
"No problem," Bennie the delivery boy said, "I’m in and out of there all the time," he added.
Catherine remembered all the times Bennie had brought her messages in sandwiches, but Father would have none of it.
"No, it’s too dangerous," Diana said. "They’re gonna be watching Joe."
"In that case I’ll take it myself," Father stated flatly.
Everyone but Catherine gasped; she knew she would have a fight on her hands with Father, to go ahead with her plan.
"Do you know what ‘Veritas vos Libirabet’ means?"
Father thought for a moment, "Veritas…yes ’the truth will set you free’."
"It was inscribed on a ring Vincent gave me. It seemed to be some kind of symbol to Gabriel and he wears one the same. Do you know what it might mean?"
Father frowned again as he tried to remember something he had read about those words. "Yes, as well as a biblical scripture it is said to be one of the mottos of a sect connected to the Knights Templar," Father said.
"So, you’re telling me Gabriel is connected to the Templars?" Diana asked. "I thought they were monks who fought for good in the 12th to 14th century," Diana was shocked.
"Oh, they have been called a force for good as well as an evil cult. But you see many cults have many different factions that break away. This man’s deeds have proved more to the latter I fear." Father said just as Jamie came into the chamber and handed a cloth wrapped item to him. "Thank you Jamie," he said, handing the packet to Diana. "This is Catherine’s gun. She brought it to me in a time of great danger here in the tunnels." And he turned to Catherine who smiled shyly. "Now the danger is Above."
Catherine had remembered the time of the Outsiders and that Vincent had been shot with this very gun by a young boy, the boy was now in Mouse’s care*.
Father handed the gun to Diana, who opened the cloth wrapping and professionally checked the condition of the gun.
"Thank you," Diana said turning to all the people surrounding her and stopping to face Catherine. "Thank you," she said to Catherine and in that instant Catherine’s plan solidified in her mind.
When Catherine told Father of her plans, he instantly reacted as she had expected he would. "No, Catherine, I cannot allow you to go Above, Vincent is already a captive up there, now you intend to show yourself? No, I will not allow it."
This time with the threat to Vincent and her son, Catherine felt no fear for herself or Vincent. Her plan would work and unlike when she was wracked with Vincent’s physical pain, this time she kept her temper with Father’s irrational behavior, "Father, I am not asking for your permission. In this instance I know that Vincent would support me. I will not sit here in the ground and stay safe, while the man I love and my son are out there in danger!"
"Catherine, please if anything should happen to you and Vincent too it would be unbearable."
She placed her hand on the old man’s arm. "Father, nothing will happen to either of us."
"How do you know that? There is so much that could go wrong up there."
"Because ‘the truth will set us free’, Father," Catherine said then she outlined her plan.
Father sat down heavily, "A lifetime’s fears do not fade overnight Catherine. I will adhere to your plan." And he looked up through his spectacles. "But I don’t have to like it."
Catherine bent and kissed him on the forehead and hurried out of the chamber to get ready.
Gabriel was not happy, "I told him she was dead. Are you making a liar out of me Pope?"
"Oh, no sir it’s just a matter of time," The dark haired Pope said cajolingly.
"When it’s over, bring her here. I want him to see the body. I want him to learn ‘the truth will set him free’."
‘Veritas vos Libirabet… Vincent read on the inside of the ring. He had seen it before, after the Hunter had died and he was recovering. The truth shall set you free, a Christian promise and a motto of the Knights Templar. He had deduced this connection to Gabriel when first he had deciphered the engraving. Why else would The Hunter offer it to him, if not to convey who he was dealing with? An ancient group through which many of the secrets of the world had been passed, from generation to generation, just as this ring had been passed to Gabriel who was one of its present day members. The richest religious group of their time, the Templar Knights were dishonored, killed or forced into hiding five hundred years ago. What else had Gabriel inherited from that group, he wondered, and how could Vincent fight such an organized force. Another question arose then, was Gabriel working alone in his evil machinations or was he part of the larger group. If this was so and Gabriel could be defeated what of this larger group, could they endanger his entire world?
Strange, Vincent thought, in this cage he had never felt so free, so alive. He had seen his son, he could still feel him and although the bars were electrified he felt more in control of his life than ever before. Catherine was at peace as well, even though he could sense that she was concentrating on something important to her, she too felt in control.
Tossing the ring in his hand, Vincent decided to do some of his own redirection to keep Gabriel off balance. He looked up at the camera in the corner and called to the man he knew was watching.
"I’m here, Vincent," Gabriel said through the small speakers.
"I can feel your eyes on me," Vincent said quietly.
"Does it make you uneasy?" Gabriel asked.
Vincent ignored the jibe, "I can feel my son too," Vincent said looking down at the ring. "Our bond is growing stronger, Gabriel."
Vincent was please when Gabriel said, "there is only one bond that counts. I gave this child life…"
Vincent wasn’t angry he spoke the fact. "Catherine gave him life."
"I kept her alive for months when a word could have ended it. I was there when Julian was born. He’s mine…"
Vincent’s gaze burned into the red light of the camera, "He’ll never be yours, hour by hour; minute by minute our bond grows. Nothing you do can stop it."
"Your death will stop it," Gabriel growled.
Vincent smiled, "Death shall have no dominion."
"Tell that to Catherine Chandler."
"She knew it, even at the end, she knew…" Vincent broke off knowing that Gabriel had turned off the camera. He smiled again, if Gabriel only knew that ‘death had had no dominion over Catherine. Even now he could feel her caught up in some task to help him and their son and he was not afraid for her. She wasn’t afraid only determined.
It was late and Joe was frustrated. "So what your saying is there’s no trace of her."
"The guys that grabbed Bennett were pros," Detective Hughes said.
"And what the hell are you, the campfire girls?"
"Now, look Joe …"
"No, you look Greg…"
Just then Joe’s secretary came in. "Joe there’s a man out here insisting to see you."
"Tell him to come back tomorrow…"
"He says he has information about Vincent," the secretary said with exasperation in her voice.
"Bring him in," Joe said, and then to Greg Hughes he added, "Maybe you better stick around."
A small man in a thick brown overcoat came into the room. He was wearing a brown derby hat pulled down over his face. Joe thought he knew who the man was but when the man lifted his head and looked at him, Joe saw the face hidden beneath the hat and high collar of the coat. "On second thought I think I’d like a minute alone with him," Joe ordered.
When Hughes and the secretary were gone and the door closed, Joe expelled his breath. The man took off the hat and a mass of golden brown hair fell about the shoulders of the old coat to reveal Catherine.
"Hi Joe," Catherine said simply, with a tentative smile.
Joe strode forward and took Cathy in a rib crushing bear hug, "Oh, Cathy…" he said, with a catch in his voice.
Catherine held on to Joe and shed a few tears, before she sniffed and stepped back, as Joe held her at arms length. "The old man said you were alive but I was afraid to hope, oh Cathy this is great, but are you safe coming here?"
"No one would have seen me Joe, but you have to be careful, we haven’t got much time, listen…" Catherine then showed Joe the drawing of the tile that Diana had given them and told him that it was from the home of the man who had kidnapped and tried to kill her.
"He has my son Joe, an innocent baby," Catherine said with desperation, wishing she could add Vincent to that statement but she knew that Joe would not be at all sympathetic to Vincent’s plight.
"We’ll get this guy, Cathy and get your son back safely."
"No, Joe you get Gabriel, I’ll get my son," Catherine said with vehemence.
"No, wait a minute Cathy, who’s this Gabriel? I thought you were going to tell me about Vincent."
"I have to go soon Joe, but there is one thing you must know. My baby’s father’s name is Vincent. He has been protecting me from men like Gabriel for three years. It was Vincent who saved my life three years ago, after the attack, and it was Vincent who saved my life three months ago when Gabriel tried to kill me. If you try to prosecute Vincent you will have to prosecute me as an accessory. I love him Joe." Catherine wanted Joe to understand what Vincent meant to her.
"Cathy I have been searching for this guy for months. Now you tell me I can’t touch him?" Joe was disappointed and angry.
"You won’t find him Joe, or me, if you keep hunting him. But if you drop the case against Vincent and put all your effort into catching Gabriel, I will be able to give you all you need against him. Kidnapping, wrongful imprisonment, and attempted murder for starters. Most of the murders were ordered by Gabriel, mine included, and Elliot Burch. Vincent had nothing to do with them."
She then told him about the meeting with Diana the next day at the museum. Then as an afterthought she asked, "Joe can you give these to Jenny for me," and she handed two envelopes to him." One’s for Jenny the other’s for Nancy."
"Sure," Joe said taking the envelopes.
Catherine began to turn toward the door, preparing to leave but Joe stopped her.
"While we’re being so honest here, did Moreno have you kidnapped?" Joe asked.
Catherine stopped and turned back to him, "Yes," she said with pain in her voice.
"And who killed Moreno and Cates?" Joe’s face was stern; he suspected who that might be.
Catherine couldn’t incriminate Vincent because in essence it was self defense, "Someone who was trying to save Elliot Burch’s life, after being shot by Moreno, I might add."
"You mean Vincent." Joe wasn’t going to let it go.
"Don’t try to find Vincent or me, Joe. I will come to you when this is all over. These are ruthless and dangerous men, outside and above the law."
"No one is above the law," Joe said emphatically.
Catherine put the hat back on her head, tucked her hair under it and continued to walk toward the door; she turned when she got there, "You keep telling yourself that, Joe and tell that to Moreno. I’ve learned a great deal in the last year. There are some fights we can’t win. Fight the fights you can win Joe, get Gabriel and I will help you, but first I have to get my son." She opened the door turning her head to face him, "Be careful, they’re watching you," and she was out of the office and then the building before Joe could digest all he had been told.
With Jamie and Mouse helping her Catherine was back in the tunnels within the hour.
"Did anyone follow us Mouse?" Catherine asked as they stood below the manhole.
Mouse, who was wearing an identical coat and hat as Catherine, with Jamie next to him in the same attire, "Just like in the chess game, we got them to look at us so they didn’t look at you," he said with a childlike grin.
"Yeah one’s riding the night train," Jamie said, "no stops till morning."
"The other got stuck in the Bowery, lots of men in coats down there at this time of night," Mouse said.
Catherine laughed and put a hand on each shoulder, "You two are great…"
As they made their way back to the home tunnels, Catherine realized how this experience with Gabriel had shaken her faith in the law. She had once believed that with the law on her side she could win every case that came across her desk. Now her eyes had been opened to the fact that those fighting for good were low in number and that there would always be a bigger fish to catch. The experience with Gabriel had taught her that Vincent knew more about the way her world worked than she did. From now on she would, as Vincent had always done, fight the fights she had a chance at winning. And leave the bigger fights to those better equipped for the sacrifices needed.
Vincent stood as the outer door opened and Gabriel and two of his gunmen entered the cellar.
"We could have been great friends," Gabriel said, then to the gunmen "Fire!" Both men aimed their guns at Vincent and fired. When both guns were empty, Vincent stood unmoving, watching Gabriel. He had been prepared for the death, which didn’t come.
"Leave us," Gabriel ordered. The two men left and Gabriel came over to the bars, "It doesn’t have to end that way. Even enemies can join hands. I have so much to offer you. Your life, your freedom…"
Vincent was burning with a cold anger. This evil man had taken his son, imprisoned Catherine and would kill her if he knew she was still alive. Kept the babe until it was clear the child would die, before he would allow Vincent to help him. And now he offered friendship?
"Nothing you could give me could replace what you took," Vincent declared angrily, let Gabriel think Vincent meant Catherine, but there was too much this man had taken from him, and still he took, by keeping the baby and Vincent a prisoner.
"Love," Gabriel said in a questioning tone.
"You don’t know the meaning of love," Vincent countered.
"Julian needs both of us…"
"My son needs nothing from you. You have nothing to give," Vincent interrupted, his insides clenched tightly every time this evil man spoke of the babe as his son.
"I can protect him. I can show him the way the world works, the real world. I can make him a king," Gabriel said as though trying to convince Vincent that he would be a good father.
"I’ve seen your kingdom, it’s a kingdom of shadows, and it’s a kingdom of death," Vincent almost snarled the last.
Gabriel leaned forward, "it’s our kingdom, Vincent," tapping his head, he added, "Remember." Vincent never forgot those he had killed but at least he had remorse for their deaths. Gabriel, he knew would never be sorry for those he murdered.
Gabriel sneered and then lifted his hand and pressed something in it. A blue light came on in the wall to Vincent’s left, "Julian will see this one day. It’s important a boy knows who his father is." Then the cries and gunshots rang out in the cellar, as a film played against the back wall.
Vincent didn’t hear Gabriel leave as the screams of dying men echoed off the walls, amid his own roars. He tried to ignore it, putting his hands over his ears, but the memory of those men dying couldn’t be ignored for long, he saw their faces over and over again, and no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t escape them…
Joe handed out the paper copies of the tile to everyone in his office the next morning. With orders to find the house that the tile was sold to.
Gabriel held one in his hand less than an hour after the meeting broke up.
"It must be that woman," Pope said.
"You mean Diana Bennett, the woman who should be dead by now," Gabriel asked.
"Somehow she’s gotten to Maxwell," Pope defended himself.
"I thought you had Mr. Maxwell under surveillance?"
"Well, we do, but…"
"No more buts. Let Maxwell lead you to her then eliminate them both," Gabriel demanded as he turned his back on his incompetent lawyer.
Joe was glad to see Diana alive at the museum at noon. They had become close throughout this case and he had become fond of her, even though she had been acting strangely about Vincent. How she had found Cathy, Joe didn’t know but as long as she was able to help him now, nothing else mattered.
Suddenly there was a commotion nearby as two men stopped another man in a trench coat from pulling a gun out of his coat. The man was handed over to the security guard and when Joe asked who the men were one said simply, "Dinosaur fans," Joe wasn’t fooled, something was going on here that he was missing. But his beeper interrupted him then and the two men faded into the crowd. Joe called Greg Hughes who gave him a list of homes where the tile had been sold.
"Bingo," Joe said, "the tiles are Italian made, the turn of the century, they cost a fortune. The importer gave us a list of addresses."
Diana ran through the list, "Staten Island, Westchester and the rest are all in Manhattan."
‘Yeah so?" Joe asked.
Diana shook her head, "the chopper flew over water so it’s gotta be Staten Island."
"Well, let’s move," Joe said.
"Joe, this guy is gonna’ have an army waitin’ for you. Now it’s gonna’ take you hours to get organized and by that time he’s gonna know you’re commin’," Diana said.
"What are you gonna do?" Joe asked as Diana began to leave.
"I’m gonna do whatever I can," Diana said as she hurried out of the museum to the Park.
Joe went to assemble a task force and Diana to meet with Father and Catherine.
Vincent was lying on the floor of the cell, the sounds now no more than noise. His entire being was filled with guilt and horror at what he had done. He knew when this had been recorded. It was when Catherine had tapped out a call on the pipes for his help, in the time when Vincent had lost his bond with her. He had rushed to the origin of the message and had tried to save her, but failed. Vincent had come to many a conclusion in these last hours and one would change his life forever.
Gabriel’s voice sounded above the din, "You are not looking well my friend. Is there anything I can do to make you any more comfortable?" There was smugness to Gabriel’s voice that Vincent ignored.
Suddenly the video feed changed to one of the healthy sounds of a baby. Vincent turned his head and looked at the wall where the reflection of his son played, "Better? See, I know how to be merciful," Gabriel said as though it was some great good he had just done, rather than relieving a torture he himself had begun.
"We need more blood," Gabriel said. There was the sound of keys and the gate of the cell clattered and Gabriel demanded, "Lucas the doctor needs help," and then the sound of the door opening.
Vincent didn’t move, he felt his arm wrapped with a tight strip of rubber and then felt the prick of a needle. He tried to ignore Gabriel as he spoke about how grateful he was that Vincent had given himself up to save ‘Julian’ and that he owed Vincent a life. Vincent tried not to listen, but as before one thing stood out more than the rest.
"Look at him Vincent, isn’t he beautiful. Catherine saw that he was beautiful too. I let her hold him, just as long as I could." Gabriel spoke as if he were speaking to a child, telling a fairy tale.
Vincent knew this was a lie, Catherine had told him that the baby was only shown to her briefly and then swiftly taken away. As the doctor continued to take blood from his cooperative patient, Gabriel continued and Vincent knew that something was coming. If he knew something about this evil man at all, it was that he didn’t do anything without a reason.
"I’m sorry about Catherine," Gabriel lied again, "she must have been a very special person. Her death…well…" then he paused and Vincent knew that what he said next was what he was truly here for. "Of course it was the doctor who killed her…"
Vincent couldn’t help his reaction. This man beside him had promised to ‘do no harm’ the oath of a medical man. Vincent’s own father was a true example of this oath, but this man who called himself a doctor had injected Catherine with poison. The man began to deny it and then to plead with Gabriel and then to accuse him of giving the order. It was too late; Vincent had moved away from him and slowly gotten to his feet.
Gabriel goaded Vincent by offering him the doctor’s life in exchange for the child. The expression on Gabriel’s face was one of eagerness and joy as the doctor cowered before Vincent, pleading for mercy.
However, Gabriel had not been with Vincent in the last hours of his torture when he had heard the men dying. He had not been in Vincent’s mind during the deaths of all the other men Vincent had killed. And he had not heard Vincent’s fervent vow that he would never kill again, no matter what the reason or crime. From now and forever he would draw back from the killing blow and before him was the ultimate test of this vow.
Vincent stood over the man, his blood hot, and a vision of Catherine dying in his arms on the rooftop, flashed before his mind’s eye. And he saw the needle on the floor where the doctor had dropped it, splashing his own blood over the concrete floor. He felt the blood dripping from his arm where the vein still leaked, warm and wet.
Vincent snarled with the hatred he felt for this man, who would betray his promise of care. Gabriel stood on the other side of the bars, goading him on to kill his face an ugly caricature of evil.
Vincent took in a shuddering breath and with great effort he got his blood lust under control. He took another deep breath to cleanse himself of the need to kill and looked up at the grotesque face of his enemy. He realized in that instant that he had won over Gabriel, no matter what happened now he had overcome his last demon.
As he spoke he felt relief flow over him. He looked Gabriel in the eyes and said, "No,"
He would not be Gabriel’s instrument of death, if Gabriel wanted this man dead, he would have to do it himself. Vincent washed his hands of murder once and for all. Diana’s words came to him then. ‘What kind of father do you want your son to have?" And Vincent’s journey to humanity was complete. His son would have a father of love and peace; no longer would he be the silent avenger, not even for Catherine. He would give his life to save her, but from this moment on, he would never willingly take another life.
He turned his back on Gabriel then, and the pitiful man in the cell who wept like a child. The smell of it was a vile stench in Vincent’s nostrils.
"Get him out of there!" Gabriel demanded.
"Vincent!" Gabriel called, and when Vincent turned to face him, one of the guards shot the doctor in the chest.
Vincent was appalled and he watched as Gabriel left the room, leaving the still warm body of the doctor on the floor, a pool of hot blood spreading out on the concrete floor.
That’s when Vincent began to gather his strength. Catherine was coming he could feel her, and he knew he must act soon. If Gabriel was cornered, there was no knowing what he would do to the infant.
Father, Catherine and Diana planned the way to get into the mansion using old water and sewerage plans. Father remained behind and in the taxi Diana and Catherine went over their plan.
"Now remember, Father said the tunnel will be narrow, so we have to crawl part of the way," Catherine told Diana, "And you say the baby is on the second floor," Catherine asked
"Yes, and Vincent will most likely be in the basement," Diana added.
"I will go for the baby and you go free Vincent since you have the gun," Catherine said, "I can feel that he’s building his strength for something so be ready. He might even be there before us."
Gabriel knew that he was going to be caught if he didn’t leave soon, but there was something he had to do first. Pope had told him that Maxwell was planning a raid and most of his men had deserted him, including Pope. There were only a few men down in the cellar still guarding Vincent. He rose to his feet, he felt tired, it had all been for nothing, but he would rebuild. He had done that before. It wouldn’t take long, whether he went to prison of not, you can rule the world from a prison cell, a long dead mentor had once told him. He had one more thing to do and so he made his way to the nursery.
The taxi stopped in a deserted street and Sam the driver helped them lift the old manhole cover. He handed them a flashlight and wished them both good luck. Catherine wearing Father’s old coat climbed down first and Diana followed as Sam replaced the cover.
Vincent felt his blood boil as he sensed danger for his son. He could also feel Catherine nearby. Careless of the pain it sent through him, he took the electrified bars in his hands. The first shock threw him back, but the danger to his son and to Catherine increased. And so with no thought of the pain or damage that would be done to him; he took hold of the bars again.
Sparks flew all around him and pain surged up his arms, but he held on and tore the bars from their hinges. He threw the gate aside and ran from the room, knocking men aside like dolls if they tried to stop him. He felt invigorated, charged with purpose as well as strength, as though with all three of them, his son and Catherine, so close to him he became more powerful. He dodged bullets and struck out with his fists not his claws to send bodies flying, still not intending to kill, only to remove them from his path, as he ran up the stairs to the baby’s room. With his enhanced awareness Vincent knew that the men were only unconscious or some still moved feebly on the floor, but none were dead.
Catherine and Diana climbed out of the narrow tunnel covered in dust and coughing. They dusted themselves off and hurried through the ground floor of the house. They were in the utility room behind the kitchen, having come in through an unused steam main. There was no sign of Vincent so they ran up the back stairs to the second floor. "There’s a corridor that leads to the baby’s room down that way." Diana said remembering that she had turned left upon reaching the top step in the main hall, and these steps were on the other side of the baby’s room.
"Okay, you go to Vincent, and be careful there aren’t many men around and that worries me," Catherine said as she ran down the corridor looking in every room. She finally came to the room where the baby was kept just in time to see a thin man bent over the crib with a pillow in his hands.
Vincent threw the last man guarding the door to the upper floors, down the steps and entered the corridor, "Vincent," he heard Diana’s voice, and looked up to see her hurrying toward him.
"Hurry," he said, as he ran toward where he sensed the baby was.
"Get the hell away from my baby!" Catherine yelled, lifting a large lamp from the table beside the door. Hitting the man over the back, with the ceramic base which smashed into pieces, probably priceless Catherine thought, I hope so. The blow sent the man reeling and stumbling away from the crib to fall to the floor.
She hadn’t aimed for his head, too afraid the shards might hit the baby, so she had decided to try diversion rather than unconsciousness. He looked up at her, dazed from the unexpected blow, and then the look on his face changed to recognition.
At that moment Vincent came to the door with Diana right behind him, both were breathless. There was no time for greetings as Gabriel looked up at Catherine Chandler, standing before him. Her eyes wild with hatred and breathing heavily.
"No, I killed you," Gabriel exclaimed in disbelief, "You can’t be alive. I killed you!" he yelled the last, his eyes going wide.
"No, Gabriel," Vincent said quietly with triumph, as he came to stand behind Catherine. He put an arm around her, the chains dangling unnoticed from his wrists. "You failed. Your entire life is a lie and a failure Gabriel."
Catherine bent and picked up her crying son, cradling him close and rocking him gently. He stopped crying instantly. Vincent put his arm tighter around Catherine and took a quick look at the face of his son before he said, "We defeated you Gabriel; all three of us together. For us ‘death had no dominion’. Now let the truth set you free Gabriel. Our love defeated your hate." Vincent’s smile was full of triumph.
"No! No!" Gabriel screamed running at the two of them, his arms outstretched to grab for the baby or attack Catherine, no one was ever sure. Vincent drew Catherine away from the crazed man as a loud report of a gunshot sounded in the room.
Diana, holding Catherine’s smoking gun, stood in the hallway. Gabriel crumbled to the floor, a bullethole in his temple, his blood splashing over the white pristine sheets of the crib.
Diana bent over him, "He’s dead, he can’t hurt anyone now," Diana said, "You two go, the police will be here any minute. This is self defense so don’t worry about me, you go."
Catherine and Vincent hurried down to the kitchen and the escape tunnel, as the sound of helicopters and men’s voices could be heard from above them. They stopped for a moment and gazed down at their son’s sweet trusting face, his deep blue eyes watching them both, before they carefully wrapped the blue blanket lightly over his face, to protect him from the dusty tunnel. Their eyes met for a moment, their hearts saying so much. Tears glistened in Catherine’s, "Come," Vincent said to Catherine, "Let’s take our son home…"
* He’s My Brother part 2
Father was waiting for them at the entrance to the home tunnels. He looked tired and very worried. Vincent and Catherine were walking slowly, staring down at their son, and Vincent had his arm around Catherine’s shoulders. The miracle that this child was finally here with them was too much to take in.
Father hurried forward when he saw them and looked first at each bright face and then down at his grandson. The babe was sleeping peacefully in Catherine’s arms, wrapped tightly in the blanket. Father’s eyes brimmed with tears and he said, "He’s beautiful."
Catherine and Vincent gazed down at the babe and then up at each other and smiled, "Yes, he is," Vincent said to Catherine.
They made their way back to the central hub of the tunnels as quickly as possible. The pipes rang throughout the community, declaring Vincent’s return and the rescue of their son. Along the way tunnel dwellers greeted them, wishing them well and congratulating them on their success.
When they entered their chamber it had changed slightly. On the bed was a myriad of baby clothes and needs and beside the bed was a small mahogany cradle, covered with white sheets and a colorful handmade quilt. Mary and Olivia were there waiting for them.
The two women instantly drew Catherine away, admiring the baby and showing her all the gifts they had gathered for him. Vincent and Father stood watching for a moment and then decided to leave the women to fuss over the infant alone.
Vincent scooped up clean clothes "I will come to your chamber after I have bathed Father." He was sure Father wanted bandage his burned hands and to know what had occurred to bring about this happy outcome.
That night the babe didn’t sleep in his new cradle, he slept between his parents in the warm bed. Vincent and Catherine hardly slept at all, they were too amazed by this precious bundle of humanity sleeping between them. They only dozed, holding hands over the small body.
They both woke when they sensed the babe’s hunger and as his cries echoed in the chamber. Vincent calmed him as Catherine pulled on her robe to prepare his formula, which was waiting on the small camping stove in the corner.
The days that followed were filled with joy as Vincent and Catherine settled into being parents.
Catherine was all fingers and thumbs as she dressed her son, the coming ceremony was all she could think about. The baby must look his best but he only wanted to gurgle happily and grab at her hands and the strings of his clothes. Vincent had gone to bring Diana down and Catherine would be meeting Jenny and Nancy in the park soon.
She wished Joe could be here too but he was too caught up in tying up the loose ends in the Gabriel case. The man might be dead but his connections had far reaching affects, like the roots of a weed that had to be found and cut out.
Catherine had given her statement to Joe last week, detailing everything she knew about Gabriel’s connections to organized crime. They had tracked down Pope and the nurse who had turned state’s evidence and given them more names and information. They had found the notebook that Joe had been given and which Catherine had in turn given to Elliot Burch. It had been found in Elliot’s safety deposit box, the key held by his lawyer, to be given only to Catherine Chandler.
Catherine knew that they wouldn’t catch everyone involved with Gabriel but Joe was determined they would catch as many as possible. Many names appeared in the notebook, when the code had been finally broken, but some couldn’t be found or had left the country. The rest were under lock and key or had become witnesses for the prosecution.
Joe had kept his word and dropped all charges against Vincent, since there was no proof that he had been involved in any of the murders. His only connection to Catherine had been his writing in her books and letters. Catherine hoped that one day Joe and Vincent could meet as friends, but for now it was better that they stay apart.
These last few months had shown her that the sacrifice she had almost made was not worth it. From now on her life’s work would be for her family and those who were without a voice. The shopkeepers and single mothers struggling to feed their families, she had thought that she was helping those who needed her in the DAs office, but she knew there were people who needed her help in smaller things. That is where she would put her energy and time from now on, she would help those who couldn’t help themselves
The baby began to cry and Catherine placed him in the beautifully carved crib and began to prepare his formula. He was gaining weight and had become very demanding when his stomach was empty. She and Vincent took turns caring for him and it was a joy they both relished.
It was late afternoon when Catherine left the baby with Brooke with a promise that she wouldn’t long. She left the culvert and walked up the path to the Carousel, where she had told her friends to meet her. It was late Fall now and the trees in the park were wearing their golden foliage and the ground was covered in an amber carpet. All this, and the setting sun’s orange glow made the park look like a golden wonderland.
Catherine had sent one of the children to Jenny’s office with the note a week ago. Telling her and Nancy to meet her today at this time, hoping her friend could clear her schedule for this all important ceremony and that Nancy could arrange to come down from Westport. She hadn’t seen either of them since before she had been kidnapped and she was a little nervous.
Joe had told her that Jenny was overjoyed when he took her the note she had given him on her nighttime visit to his office. In the note she had told Jenny that she was alive and to tell no one until she contacted her again and Nancy’s had been the same. Catherine had asked their forgiveness for not telling them earlier but that her life had been in danger. She hoped that they would understand.
As she made her way to the Carousel, Catherine wondered if her friends would notice how much she had changed. She was slimmer now and her hair was much longer. The coat she was wearing for this meeting was a little bigger on her now than it had been the last time she had worn it, on the night of the concert when Brian had become lost in the tunnels. It matched the tunnel dress that Mary had made for her, and Vincent hadn’t seen it yet. It was cream wool with a crocheted neckline in a lacy pattern. She wasn’t going to wear it to this ceremony but Mary had insisted, and there was a sparkle in the older woman’s eyes that Catherine found odd.
Then all her thoughts faded into the background when she saw her two friends standing together by the Carousel fence, their attention on the closed building. "Jenny? Nancy?" Catherine called.
They both turned to her and the next few minutes were taken up in a joyous trio of wide open arms and clashing bodies, amid cries of joy.
"Oh, Cathy," Jenny said, when the embrace eased slightly, "When Joe brought me your note, I cried and cried."
"Me too," Nancy said, "Although it was Jenny who brought mine, so we cried together."
And they did, even now all three were weeping happy tears, and as the sun set Catherine tried to answer their questions on where she had been and what had happened and all important where was she living?
Catherine told them only what had happened in vague detail. That she had been kidnapped and held captive for six months and when she had escaped she had had to go into hiding for fear of her life. She had asked Joe to say nothing to her friends about her son. Catherine wanted to tell them this news herself.
"Oh, Cathy," the two chorused this time, and there were more tears.
Catherine brought herself to task. It was full dark now and Vincent would be bringing Diana soon and the ceremony would be due to begin, and she had so much to prepare her two best friends for before then.
At last Catherine said, "Well, come on or we’ll be late."
"Late? Cathy," Jenny said startled, "Where are you going? We have a table booked, this is a big deal."
"So is what I have to show you," Catherine said, "Come on."
"Okay," Jenny said dubiously, considering where Cathy was taking them. It was toward a wooded area then down a dusty track toward a drainage tunnel, "but Cathy, these are new shoes." She complained.
Nancy laughed and they made jokes about Jenny’s large collection of shoes. When they were standing by the culvert both women hesitated. Catherine turned and said, "Come on, live a little. Haven’t you ever wanted to find a secret world under the city?"
"Under the dirty city streets, where there’re dark holes to fall into and rats …oh Cathy, my dress is new too," Jenny complained.
Nancy was uncomplaining, she had a suspicion that this had something to do with Vincent, the man Cathy had told her about over two years ago, and she could wait.
Finally they were at the Junction door; it had been replaced by Mouse and Kanin only last week. It had taken the two all that time to find a piece of Iron large enough to fit in this space, Catherine remembered it was quite a party that followed the replacement of such an important door to the outside.
Catherine had arranged with Vincent to be there to meet her and to wait until she tapped on the door. "Now," Catherine said, "there is something I have to tell you. You both know I have been seeing someone."
The two nodded.
"Well, I met him at the time of the attack three years ago. He found me, he saved me. From that moment I knew I could never live without him."
Oh, Cathy that’s wonderful," Jenny said looking suspiciously around them, "Does he work down here?"
Nancy smiled knowingly as Catherine said, "No, he lives down here."
Jenny’s face fell into confusion as Catherine continued. "Vincent has lived down here all his life and when you meet him you will know why. But the most important thing I have to tell you is that when I was kidnapped I had just found out I was carrying Vincent’s child. The man who held me kept me alive so he could take the child. When my baby was born they took him from me. Vincent found me and saved my life again, and I have been living down here with him ever since."
Neither of her friends spoke as Catherine told her tale, but the expressions on their faces showed the pain they felt for her. "A few weeks ago we rescued our son from that man and that’s why you’re here tonight to meet Vincent and our baby and help us celebrate our son’s naming. You’re the closest thing I have to family, you’re my best friends, and I wanted to share my new life with you. Vincent has a family who live here with him, and they have taken me into their lives too. He is not like other men, which is why he lives here, but he is the most wonderful, caring, cultured and honorable man I have ever met." Catherine finished, and was silent waiting to gauge her friend’s reaction.
Nancy had heard some of this story before and she knew how much Cathy loved Vincent so she was the first to recover, "You said we’d meet him one day Cathy," she said as she embraced Catherine.
"Oh, Cathy," Jenny said with a sniff, also hugging Catherine.
"Vincent and I have a very special bond, we feel what the other feels and I know that he’s waiting on the other side of this door right now, waiting to meet you."
"Well open the door?" both friends said in unison.
Catherine tapped her knuckles on the door.
Diana heard a tap on the window to the roof, and she knew it could be only one person. She lifted the curtain and was rewarded when she saw Vincent standing there. She hurried outside to meet him.
"I was hoping you’d come," Diana said in greeting.
"I wanted to see you, to thank you for everything," Vincent said.
Diana shrugged, "It’s over now. He’s dead, Gabriel is dead." She said it like a mantra, hardly believing it to be true. She had seen the body in the morgue and filled out the report, omitting certain details and adding that it was her that Gabriel had tried to attack, causing her to be forced to shoot him in self defense.
"For so long he was a shadow in our lives," Vincent said softly.
"When I shot him, it seemed the right thing to do. I knew exactly what I was thinking. But when I try remembering, it’s almost as if it never really happened."
"Memory can be a forgiving thing," Vincent remarked encouragingly, his own memories of that terrible time were fading, as though it had happened to someone else in a dream.
"I don’t want to forget," Diana declared fervently.
"Sometimes it’s best to forget," Vincent suggested.
"I don’t believe that," Diana was adamant.
"You must do what you think is right," Vincent said, Diana must find her own balance.
"How’s Catherine and the baby?" Diana asked, changing the subject.
Vincent smiled tolerantly, "Catherine is well and our son is thriving. In part that is why I am here. There is much you do not know about where we live."
"I know about Jacob," Diana said.
"Yes, but there are many others, good people, whose lives depend upon how and where we live," Vincent said.
"I’ve tried imagining but…" Diana shook her head indicating how that world was hidden from even her.
"It is a more wondrous place than you could imagine, because it is real." Vincent said, with the love of his home in his voice. Diana was silent and Vincent continued, "Ours is a world woven of the most delicate threads. Our only protection against those who would threaten us… is trust."
"Tell me more about this world?" Diana asked.
"No, let me show you," Vincent said lifting a hand for her to accompany him.
Vincent showed Diana all his favorite places ‘The Chamber of the Winds’, ‘the Chamber of the Falls’ and ‘the Whispering Gallery’ then he led her to Father’s study. He introduced her to his family and friends who were gathered there. He sensed that Catherine was waiting at the Junction Door, so he excused himself to meet her and her friends.
As he walked, he sensed Catherine’s nervousness as she told her friends what had happened to bring her here. When he had waited for only a few moments the tap came on the iron door. He took a deep breath preparing himself for whatever might come and flipped the switch.
The door slid open to reveal Catherine and two women. They were both slim and well dressed, his eyes glanced at them shyly, but he met Catherine’s eyes with a smile and he felt her love flow over him in greeting. She smiled, stepped over the threshold and took his hand. Turning back to her friends she said happily, "This is Vincent, the man I love."
Vincent was struck anew at the miracle of those words but his attention was taken by the two women. There was surprise at the sight of him; he was accustomed to that …he waited, but no fear came, only concern. He found it strange how many ways his appearance had been received. Sometimes fearful, sometimes with disgust and then the strangest of all, instant acceptance; and the latter was what happened now.
The dark haired woman was the first to recover from her surprise. She came forward, her hand outstretched to take his in a firm grip, "Hello, Vincent. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you," she said, "I’m Nancy."
"Welcome, Nancy," Vincent said softly.
Jenny stepped up to him then, giving him a very penetrating look, which he sensed had nothing to do with his appearance. It was the examination of a caring friend, gauging the worthiness of the man her best friend loved. She nodded, her eyes never leaving his and then she too took his hand and said, "Hello, Vincent, I’m Jenny."
"Welcome Jenny. I am glad to meet you, Catherine has spoken much of you both," Vincent said squeezing her hand gently.
Jenny turned to Catherine and her eyebrow lifted, and she added to Vincent, "Vincent, would you be interested in a new project I am involved in. It’s recording audio books, they are mostly for the blind at the moment but it’s becoming very lucrative for people who just want to be read to. We need readers though, especially people who have good voices. What do you think would you like a job?"
With that statement Catherine and Vincent relaxed. Catherine laughed, an expression of incredulity on her face. She placed her hand on Jenny’s arm, "Jenny you are incorrigible," she said.
"I’m serious, I’m on the look out for good voices and he’s got one." Jenny added. They all laughed as Vincent closed the door and led the way, Catherine’s hand tightly held in his.
Jenny nudged Vincent as they walked, "Just think about it," and then she changed the subject, "Now where is this beautiful son of yours Cathy?" Jenny asked.
Catherine always eager to show off her son said, "He’s in our chamber, come this way." And when they reached the main tunnels Vincent parted from them and Catherine took the two women to meet her son.
Later when everyone was assembled in Father’s study, Catherine stood next to Vincent; their son cradled in her arms, next to Catherine stood Jenny and Nancy.
Vincent had nodded with appreciation at Catherine’s gown; it was very flattering the cream wool flowed over her slight figure to touch the top of her boots. Vincent was wearing his white frilled shirt beneath a new brown tunic and their son was dressed in thick cream baby clothes, also made by Mary.
"Well," said Father, silencing the excited talk around the chamber, "We are here to celebrate so many things. Our beloved Catherine has her son and Vincent has his family. Who could believe that such a wonderful outcome could occur?" There was a buzz of agreement to that statement.
"Together we have weathered a storm, a great storm. Which at times I feared might never pass, finally it did pass. After much sorrow and loss, the time of darkness is ended, bringing us to this day, allowing us a time of peace, and rejoicing."
Catherine had tears in her eyes as she said, "Holding my son in my arms I feel as though two lives have been given to me."
Vincent continued, "There are no words to express the gratitude to each of you."
"To all of you," Catherine added.
"Our Family," Vincent finished.
Vincent turned to Catherine then and took the baby from her and handed him to Nancy. Catherine was surprised but not alarmed as Vincent took her hands in his and faced her. He gazed deeply into her bewildered eyes.
His eyes were deep blue and sparkling with pleasure. Catherine was at a loss, she had thought this was to be their son’s naming day but it was clear Vincent had something else planned. She searched his emotions but could sense only his deep, abiding love. The smile in his eyes deepened as he felt her probing, the smile becoming more secretive, which made her pause. He was hiding something from her, how strange, she thought.
Vincent began to speak then, his voice deep and echoing his love, his expression changed to one of utter solemnity, no mirth touched him now he had only an air of purpose.
"Catherine," he breathed, and in that one word was all the love that had always been there when he spoke her name. "Before we name our son there is something I wish to say to you." He hesitated a moment, and Catherine knew that he was still a little uncomfortable with sharing his feelings for her with others. This very private man was sharing his private feelings with his family for the first time. "In every way you are my life. Our hearts beat as one. My life and my every breath are dedicated to you."
He put a hand in the pocket of his vest and drew out two simple gold rings, which he had obviously asked Mouse to make. Three narrow bands of gold wire had been woven around each other, much the same as on the crystal Catherine wore around her neck. "As our lives have been entwined in one love, one soul and one bond, so three bands of gold have been woven into these rings, three into one," he hesitated a moment, becoming more comfortable with this speech.
"Catherine, I have not asked you what any other man would have, were I from the world Above. Long before now I would have spoken these words, were I a different man with a different life, but you lived in another world then and I thought myself unworthy. I sought only that you might, in that other world; find another life, a happy life. But Catherine, you have shown me that I have erred, and at last I believe that where you should be is here with me and the life you should have is also here. I now believe that I can give you that happy life…" he again hesitated the meaning of his manner and his words suddenly reaching Catherine’s startled brain. "Catherine, I ask that you accept this ring, in the custom of your world and mine to become forever my wife?"
He waited, Catherine was so touched by his words and their meaning that she could hardly speak, she caught her breath and tried to still her pounding heart, as she said happily, tears glistening in her eyes, "Oh, Vincent, yes..." she said holding out her left hand. Vincent placed the smaller of the rings on Catherine’s finger.
With her entire being singing, Catherine took the other ring from Vincent’s palm. She lifted his left hand in hers and as she spoke, her eyes gazing deeply into his, glistened with happy tears, "Since the moment I first met you Vincent, I’ve loved you. You’ve saved my life in so many ways since that day. You gave me everything, everything. Today I am a part of you in ways I never thought possible. We are connected in ways that astound me. I want to tell all those present that I will be a part of you, loving you, living here with you in this world, until the day I die. We will never be separated again." There was a catch in her voice on the last word and then she slipped the ring on Vincent’s finger. With complete abandon she then threw her arms around his neck, and in front of everyone, she kissed him with such passion that many faces turned red.
Father’s voice echoed around them, he cleared his throat and then spoke, "Before this company and all these witnesses, let it be known that Vincent and Catherine are now man and wife. In the traditions of this world, may they live in happiness always," Father finished
A cheer went up from everyone in the room as the couple kissed again, but the celebrating could not start yet.
Catherine took back their son and Father said, "It has been said, that the child is the meaning of life. The truth of that has never been more apparent to me as it is on this day, when we celebrate this new life begun by Catherine and Vincent, and as we welcome their son into our community. We welcome the child with love that he may be able to love. We welcome the child with gifts that he may learn generosity, and finally we welcome the child with a name."
All eyes turned then to Vincent and Catherine, who were looking down at their son. Then together with their bond singing between them they said in unison, "We name our son Jacob." And they looked toward Father for his reaction.
All eyes turned to Father, who was grinning ecstatically. "Well," Father said, "in honor of Vincent and Catherine, and of course young Jacob, William has prepared a king’s feast in the Great Hall."
And as the gathering broke up to move to the Great Hall, Vincent watched Catherine as she went over to speak to Mary and Mouse who were standing together by the steps, "You knew, didn’t you, you knew Vincent was going to do this and you never told me." It was not exactly an accusation for Catherine was smiling brightly.
"Vincent, made Mouse and Mary promise," Mouse said. "Not
allowed to break a promise," and as Catherine’s joyous laugh echoed in the
Vincent thought. They are but beggars that can count their worth; but my true love is grown to such excess, I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth,
Sensing his thought, Catherine turned to him and smiled with utter joy and her love flowed into his heart.
Later that night after the festivities in the Great Hall were coming to a close, Nancy and Jenny were guided back up to the park by one of the sentries. They had made plans to see Catherine the following week.
Mary came to Vincent and Catherine, "I will be taking young ‘Jacob’ with me for tonight," she said and she lifted the basket in which the babe slept. "Father and the rest of us have a surprise for you," She added with a twinkle in her eyes. Mary handed the basket to Brooke and asked her to take the babe to her chamber.
Father came over then, "Well you two it’s about time you see what Mouse and Kanin have been preparing for this long awaited night."
The newly wedded couple was then led down a tunnel leading away from the main tunnels. Finally they came to the entrance to a large and beautifully carved chamber. Father placed the torch he was carrying into a sconce in the wall to reveal a chamber decorated with a fairyland of lit candles.
Olivia touched Catherine’s shoulder as she was taking in the candlelit chamber, "You did the same for us, it was only right that I return the favor and lighten your wedding chamber," she said.
"Oh, Olivia it’s beautiful," Catherine said as she walked into the chamber where all of their things had been moved. Catherine could imagine all the hustle that had gone on behind the scenes to accomplish this miracle and she took in every part of the chamber.
To the right of the entrance was the arched opening to another smaller chamber where Jacob’s cradle and everything they would need for caring for him, was placed neatly. To Catherine’s left was a beautifully carved double bed, made of a dark wood to match the cradle and covered with an intricately woven cream lace coverlet, and in its center was a spray of long stemmed red and white roses, their fragrance floating on the warm air made by the many candles.
"Come and have a look here," Father said and he led the startled couple to the far wall of the chamber where two heavy wooden doors had been hung. Above them was a duplicate of Vincent’s fan-shaped window which let in a golden light.
Father opened the doors and both Vincent and Catherine gasped as a balcony was revealed. It was clear that it had been carved by Kanin’s expert hands. They stepped onto it, awed by its beauty and looked in all directions. The light from the high vaulted cavern outside echoed with whispers and the faint sound of music. The low wall of the balcony had been masterful decorated with vines and columns carved out of the rock. Vincent and Catherine, touched it to feel its texture, to prove it was real.
Vincent looked up to the outside of the balcony and gasped. "It’s the Whispering Gallery," he said with awe.
"Mouse and Kanin found it some months ago and they have been enlarging it and making it habitable for you and Catherine. It was only when you told Mouse to make the rings that we all helped finish it as a wedding gift. The other chamber is for the baby," Father said.
Mouse and Kanin came up behind them then and Mouse said, "Knew Vincent would make Catherine his own one day when baby Jacob came home, and so we worked," Mouse said simply as he lifted his hand, indicating the chamber.
"Vincent told us about your balcony Catherine, and when it had to be sealed away and you couldn’t return to it, we thought you needed a new one," Kanin said with a grin.
"Kanin you are a true romantic," Catherine said, giving him a kiss on the cheek in thanks.
"Well, come on let’s give Catherine and Vincent some privacy," Father said leading everyone out of the chamber.
Catherine turned to Vincent, "We have our balcony again, Vincent."
"And a chamber of our own, far from the bustle of the main caverns," he said.
"Well only for tonight," Catherine said," Tomorrow we become parents again." And she looked into the small room set aside for the baby.
With an arm around each other Catherine and Vincent walked out on to the balcony. "We will have all our lives to enjoy this balcony, Catherine," Vincent said. "Our son will grow fast, and before we know it he will be living a life of his own, but we will still have this…" he lifted his arm to the panorama surrounding them.
"Listen," Catherine said, "you can hear the music, it’s just wonderful." Then her eyes sparkled as she saw her music box with the dancing couple, set on a nearby table. She went to it and wound it up and came back to Vincent. They both knew the words to the old Al Jolson tune and as it played they danced.
Oh how we danced on the night we were wed.
We vowed our true love, though a word wasn’t said.
The world was in bloom, there were stars in the skies,
Accept for the few that were there in your eyes.
Dear as I held you close in my arms,
Angels were singing a hymn to your charms.
Two hearts gently beating, murmuring low,
Darling I love you so.
The night seemed to fade into blossoming dawn.
The sun shone anew, but the dance lingered on.
That we, but recall that sweet moment sublime,
We’d find that our love is unaltered by time.*
They stood in silence for a long moment when the tune stopped, listening to the sounds of the city above.
Vincent was so overwhelmed by his good fortune and he knew that this was the moment he had waited for to say things to Catherine that he had never dared speak before now. They had shared so much, and even now he could feel her heart racing but he had one more gift to give her. "Catherine," he murmured softly.
Catherine’s eyes sparkled in the candlelight as she looked up at him, "Yes, Vincent," she answered.
"There is something I wish to say to you. I know you can feel what I feel, but I must speak these words."
Catherine could sense his emotions swirling within him, "What is it, Vincent?"
"There is so much I wish to tell you," he said.
Catherine was reminded of the night he came to her balcony for the first time and he had said those same words, "Just say it, love," she encouraged, touching his cheek.
He lifted his hand to cover hers and he drew it first to his lips and then his chest and held it there. Although he could feel her calm acceptance of anything he might say, and she would feel his love for her, Vincent needed to put what he felt into words.
When he spoke it was in a soft loving tone, "When you were lost to me for all those months and I cried out to you with no answer. I promised myself that when we had the leisure I would no longer hold back anything from you, thus our impromptu wedding," he grinned, "I promised myself I would tell you what was in my heart. No longer keeping you at a distance, now we are one, yet Catherine, still I hear the words that were never spoken between us, echoing in the dark recesses of my mind and I must tell them to you now."
He hesitated, collecting his thoughts. Then he began to speak softly with love in every word, "There was a moment, when the way was still new, and I was afraid to hope. You put your hand on mine – and nothing had ever felt like that to me – like your touch," He pressed her hand to his lips in emphasis, and continued, his eyes seeking hers, "You turned and looked at me, and your eyes were filled with dancing light; and I was bathed in your warmth. I believed in that moment that even for me – all things were possible. In that moment – in your light – I felt what it is to be beautiful." Vincent’s voice broke on the last word, "How many lives have been touched by yours? How many lives have been transformed by your courage to give, and to love? How many became beautiful in your light?" He shook his head and looked away from her, "I know we promised to always share the truth – always," then he turned to gaze deeply into her eyes, "But Catherine, there is a truth beyond anything…beyond everything I had ever known…or ever dreamed. It is the truth of all you gave…all you sacrificed for me. The truth of your love humbled me – silenced me. And the truth that I could never share with you until now was the truth of how deeply I love you."
Catherine had no words to follow this declaration and so she simply lifted up on her toes and putting her arms around Vincent’s neck kissed him. This man who was one with her, her other self joined by one love, one soul and one bond had finally given her everything she could possibly ever want…
Vincent was in the lower tunnels dealing with a cave-in, no one was harmed but the tunnel had to be unblocked. He suddenly felt Catherine’s call and the shaft of pain that accompanied it. He had been aware of something strange in their bond all day, now he was sure.
Dropping the heavy rock he was lifting, Vincent told the crew he must leave and he took up his cloak and ran up the passage to where he sensed she would be.
Catherine’s mind touched his, "I am fine for the moment Vincent, but I will need you soon." He heard in his mind, the evolving nature of their Bond was always a source of amazement even though they had been able to communicate in this fashion for some months now.
He readjusted his direction and went to the Whispering Gallery chamber to change and clean up. When he entered the room where Catherine lay with Mary soothing her, Vincent felt the now familiar caress of Catherine’s love wash over him when she saw him, and he gave her an answering smile.
"You made it in plenty of time, Vincent," Mary said, as Vincent came to sit on the chair beside the bed.
"I know," Vincent said smiling down at Catherine, placing a hand on her swollen abdomen. "But I wish to miss none of this one’s appearance into the world."
"Our daughter is anxious to meet her father," Catherine said with glowing eyes.
"I have wondered if she disliked me, while her kicks kept me awake," Vincent said with a broad smile. Catherine laughed, but it was cut off by another contraction which caught at her breath.
Another time in this room came to Catherine’s mind when she sat watching Lena hand her newborn daughter to Vincent. Then she had been more envious than she could admit at the time. Now as Vincent stayed with her through the next hours of her labor, holding her hand or rubbing her back or taking her weight as she paced, Catherine was happier than she had ever been in her life.
Six months ago when they had brought Jacob home, neither of them knew that Catherine was already carrying this new life. It wasn’t until a few weeks after Jacob’s naming ceremony and their impromptu wedding that Catherine began to feel the effects of her pregnancy.
When Father confirmed it, they were happier than they could have possibly imagined.
"I think we need to talk about precautions after this child’s birth, Vincent or you will both be the cause of a population explosion within the tunnels in no time," Father said. Catherine had been the one to blush; Vincent had been too shocked to be embarrassed,
Two hours later Sharlotte Catherine Wells came into the world with a loud bellow and a swift blast of fear, which both her parents felt and instantly tried to dispel, with voice and hearts. Like Jacob she was going to be a handful once her emotions began to develop. Jacob would project his emotions to his parents even now, but Catherine and Vincent had learned to dampen their own and even their thoughts in the months since the transfusion, so they were teaching this to Jacob along with other behavior modifications. He was only ten months old but was already walking and talking, a gift from his father, and he had already won the hearts of all the females young and old in the tunnels.
Sharlotte, named for Catherine’s favorite poem ‘the lady of Shallott’, was born with her father’s golden hair, Catherine’s heart shaped face and her eyes developed into dark green orbs like her mother’s. Of Vincent’s unique features, as with Jacob there was no evidence. Further proof of Vincent’s inherent humanity, but in what counted such as Vincent’s beauty of soul and gentle and noble nature there was an abundance.
Sharlotte was as good a baby as was her brother and as she grew she became one with her parents and brother. Deciding that two children were enough Father’s precautions were put into action and these two were all Catherine and Vincent would allow themselves, even though the third generation of the Wells family was utterly spoilt by everyone in the community.
It was late evening and in the small shop in the quiet street of the lower east side, a young woman sat at a desk. Beside her were filing cabinets filled with files of people she had helped with their legal problems. She had worked here now for four years and she resisted all suggestions to move to better premises.
She closed the shutters and left the small shop, carrying her battered briefcase and turned into a nearby alley. A cloaked and shadowed figure met her. They embraced and together they walked further into the alley.
"I promised Jacob that he and Sharlotte can come up to the park tonight. Do you feel up to it?" a deep throaty voice asked.
"As tireless as those two are I wouldn’t miss it for the world," the soft woman’s voice answered with a laugh, "Don’t you have some reading to tape for Jenny?" she asked.
"I will do that when the children are asleep, and you can listen," he said leaning down to touch the top of her head with his lips.
"That sounds heavenly," she murmured leaning against him as they walked.
They were soon swallowed up by the darkness…
* The Anniversary song by Al Jolson