Catherine heard the key in the lock.
"It's time for your exam. Step away from the door."
Slowly she swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up as the guard entered the room. "The doctor is waiting for you. Let's go!" He grabbed her by the arm, pulled her out of the room and shoved her forward down the hall.
"You don't have to push me!" She demanded as she stumbled into the wall.
"Leave her alone!" Dr. Jones yelled as he ran to help her up. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, thank you."
Dr. Jones led her to the exam room with the guard following and escorted her through the open door. He turned toward the guard. "Wait here. This exam will take longer than usual. I have to run several tests on her and on the baby. Tell Gabriel I will ring when I am through. Well, let's get this over with, shall we?"
The guard nodded and locked the door behind him as he left.
"Come, my dear. Let's see how you are doing."
Her only consolation during her six-month long ordeal was the doctor that Gabriel had gotten for her. Slowly, they had developed a rapport. The doctor made sure the drugs were stopped. She got regular food, vitamins, and he gave her an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. And he told her he would find some way of helping her.
He helped her up onto the exam table. He whispered as he put the stethoscope to her chest. "I managed to finally get a copy of the key made. I found a way to smuggle you out."
Now that the time had come, Catherine was frightened suddenly. "No! You can't! You're the only friend I've got here. If we get caught...Contact Joe Maxwell at the DA's office, he'll..."
"Catherine, once you have your baby, my life and yours will be over. You know it and I know it. Gabriel won't let me live after delivering your baby and he already has plans to get rid of you. He's already killed my family, and everyone else I cared about. Remember he threatened to kill me if I contacted the police or anyone else. He said he would kill you and disappear before I could do anything. Helping you will be my final revenge against him. Contacting anyone else right now would only put their lives in danger.
"I know you're right, but, I still don't like the idea of putting you in danger like this. What do you mean by final?"
"Catherine, what I haven't told you is that I am already dying. I'll be dead inside of six months anyway. I have cancer." She looked at him with tears in her eyes. "I want to do this. I have to do this. Once you're out, do you have a place to go where you will be safe? Where Gabriel can't find you?"
"Yes, I do. Once I'm there, I know someone who will keep me safe until his dying breath and beyond. He has friends who will help him, too."
"That's it then. I'll come for you at six o'clock. I should have all the cameras rigged and the guards drugged by then. Don't tell me anything about where you plan to go. Just be ready to go, okay?"
She gave the doctor a weak smile. "Okay."
"Come on. Gabriel is probably waiting for an update."
Dr. Jones finished the exam then knocked on the door for the guard to come in. "She's ready to return." He whispered "Remember. Six o'clock," in Catherine's ear as she was led out.
Six chimed on the clock as Catherine turned in her constant pacing. She drew in a deep breath and sat down on the bed to wait. She didn't have to wait long; she heard a soft knock on the door.
"Catherine, it's me." Dr. Jones said as he opened the door. Quietly he ushered her out and relocked the door. "I managed to disconnect all the cameras on this floor and in the stairwell. The guards will be unconscious for a couple of hours. I slipped something in their evening coffee. No one will see us if we hurry." He led her to a stairwell door and slowly they made their way to the ground floor. As he opened the exit door, she noticed a cab waiting outside the door.
"I made sure I had a cab waiting. Get in." He opened the door and helped her into the cab.
"No. Get outta here."
"Come with me. My friends can hide you."
"No. I have to stay here and keep them occupied while you get away."
"Thank you for everything."
"Just have a healthy baby, Catherine, and I'm sorry for what Gabriel did to you." He closed the door and went back into the building.
"Where to, miss?" The cabbie asked as he pulled away.
"Take me to Chinatown, please." As she leaned back into the seat, she realized she was finally free. If I can get to Henry's restaurant, he can send a message to Vincent for me, she thought to herself as she gave the driver an address near where she wanted to go. Better not take any chances.
One of Gabriel's men, standing guard outside the building, saw the doctor help her get into the cab. He couldn't reach the cab in time to stop it, but he noted the cab number as it pulled away. It was only a few minutes work at the computer to find out where the cab was taking her.
The doctor was shot dead without a moment's hesitation at Gabriel's orders.
Fifteen minutes later the cab stopped at the address. "Oh God! I don't have any money to pay you." She started to panic.
"Don't worry about it. Your doctor friend gave me three bills and told me to take you wherever you wanted to go and not to ask any questions. Good luck, miss. I hope you get to wherever you're going."
Catherine thanked him as she stepped out of the cab. As he pulled away, she turned and carefully made her way down the street. Cutting through several back alleys, she found The Golden Dragon, Henry and Lin's restaurant, where she asked to speak to Henry or Lin.
One of Gabriel's men arrived outside the restaurant, quartering the neighborhood. He recognized Catherine, and quickly headed for the nearest pay phone. He knew he would have a problem with the staff if he tried to grab her himself.
"I'm sorry, miss. But Mr. Pei stepped out for a minute and Mrs. Pei isn't here right now. Can I help you or take a message?" The manager asked, watching her pace nervously.
"No. Is there somewhere private I could wait for him please? It's very important that I speak with him right away. I'd rather wait for him, if I may."
He escorted her to Henry's office in back of the restaurant. "Wait here. I'll let him know you are waiting for him. He should be back any minute."
A few minutes later, Henry returned.
Henry looked up as he removed his coat.
"There is a young lady waiting for you in your office. She wouldn't give me her name. She seemed to know you and Mrs. Pei. She's quite anxious to talk to you. She was very insistent. I thought it best to let her wait for you."
"Thank you, Lee. I'll go check it out and see what she wants." Henry went to his office and slowly opened the door. "Excuse me, miss, but Lee said you wanted to see..." His jaw dropped as he recognized Catherine. "My God! Where have you been? We've been looking everywhere for you." He reached out to hug her. "Vincent searches for you every night since you disappeared and we've all been so worried about you."
She pulled back and gave him a watery smile. "Every night?"
"Yes. He's probably up here right now somewhere. Father is worried sick that if he doesn't stop soon, the search will kill him."
"Please, Henry. I have to get a message to him. Let him know I'm all right. That I want to come home." She started to shake uncontrollably.
"Come with me." Henry led her to the basement and into a little room underneath that he found after opening the restaurant. "This is the room we use when we send supplies to Father and the others. You should be safe until we can contact Vincent. What about contacting the police?"
"NO! No police! I don't know who to trust. I can't even contact my boss, Joe. Please, Henry, I just need to get to Vincent. Help me."
"Thank you, Henry."
He led her to the small couch. "I'll be back soon. I promise. The tunnel entrance is locked from the tunnel side. Since many of my employees come down to this area at times, Father and I decided that it should be locked. I can put the supplies here and then when the restaurant is closed, they can pick them up. I'll send a message with Benny to Lou to contact Father for me. It will be safer for Father and my staff if we go through Lou."
Catherine laid down on the small couch as Henry closed the door behind him. He walked back into the restaurant and told his staff that the woman had left a few minutes earlier. He told Lee where Catherine was hidden, then went to a phone and called Benny.
"I need you to deliver a message for me. It's important. I can't leave the restaurant just yet," he told Benny when he arrived.
"Sure, no problem."
Benny came back a few minutes later. "Lou said come now and someone will meet you to take you below."
Henry noticed a man staring at the restaurant as he left. "Lee, I'll be back shortly. Keep an eye out, someone is watching the restaurant." He pointed the man out to his manager. Quickly he went to Lou's Barber Shop three blocks away. "Thanks for letting me use your threshold."
"What's so important that you couldn't use yours?"
"I can't say anything now, I promised. Someone is watching the restaurant. As soon as I can, I'll tell you."
"That's okay. Kipper is waiting for you." Lou and Henry went to the entrance below the shop to where Kipper was waiting for him.
"Kipper, thank you. I need to speak to Father right away."
Kipper led him to Father's chamber. As he walked in he noticed Devin playing chess with Father.
"Devin! Am I glad to see you."
"Henry," Devin said as he stood up. "It's great to see you. What's up?"
"Henry, your message sounded urgent. What's wrong?" Father asked as he turned in his chair.
"Nothing's wrong but finally right. Devin, can you call some of the other men to meet you here right now?"
"Sure, Henry. Who did you have in mind?"
"Cullen, Kanin, Randolph, James, to name a few."
"Please explain." Father asked again.
"The strangest and most wonderful thing happened when I got back to the restaurant tonight. I still don't believe it myself."
"Spill it already!" Devin urged.
"Catherine suddenly turned up at my restaurant tonight. She's terrified of someone. She's in the storeroom we use for you. She wanted me to contact Vincent somehow. I knew Vincent was probably up here searching. That's why I used Lou to contact you."
"Why didn't you bring her down with you?" Father questioned.
"The restaurant is being watched. I think someone saw her come in. I didn't want to take the chance of anyone following me down here."
"You better not be joking, Henry." Devin growled with anger in his voice.
"It's true, I swear! She wouldn't even let me contact her boss. She's so scared that whoever had her would take her again. She wants to come home. She wants Vincent."
Father limped over to the pipe near his desk and rapidly tapped out a message. A minute later several taps were heard on the pipes. "They will be here in a few minutes. We need to find Vincent." Father shook his head. "He could be anywhere in the city by now."
"We need to concentrate on Catherine right now." Devin reminded him. "Vincent would want that."
"That's why I asked for the others. I figured she's safe at the moment and my staff thinks she already left. The only one who knows she is still there is Lee. I saw a man hanging outside the restaurant when I went back to speak to Lee. He was watching the entrance. I'm afraid someone spotted her entering my place. Others may show up to grab her."
"Between all of us we could probably get her here. We have to hurry though." Devin said. He looked up as he heard a sound in the tunnel entrance. He smiled as the other men walked in.
"You called, Father?" Cullen and Kanin asked together.
Devin answered. "Henry said Catherine just walked into his place a little while ago. There was a man watching the restaurant. He may have called for help. We have to reach her before anyone else does. Once she's safe, we can find Vincent."
"You're right, Devin. Catherine is our first and only priority at the moment." Father agreed. "Take care and hurry back. Bring her home safely."
"Be back in a flash, Father, and you better let Peter know too, just in case."
"You're right. There's no telling what type of trauma she has had to deal with all these months. I'll send one of the children right away."
The men grabbed staffs, Jamie carried her crossbow, Devin picked up an emergency medical kit and took one of the staffs from Mouse. Quickly they made their way back to Henry's place.
Suddenly they heard high pitched screams and shouts through the tunnels. "VINCENT! VINCENT!" They broke into a run, arriving at the false entrance at the end of the tunnel a few minutes later. Silently they unlocked and swung open the door and rushed to the small room. They saw two men struggling with Catherine while another held Henry's staff at bay with a knife.
"Keep back. All we want is the girl." The man holding the knife looked at his two companions. One man shoved Catherine toward the other man and started reaching into his coat. Catherine was still screaming and trying to get away.
"GET YOUR HANDS OFF HER!" Devin yelled as he and the others came forward. Jamie fired her crossbow at the armed man, hitting him in his leg. The other men dropped Catherine's arms as the tunnel men quickly surrounded them.
"Devin? Are you really here?" Catherine cried as she was released.
Devin ran to Catherine and pulled her into his arms. "Boy, Chandler
.! When you make an entrance, you really make an entrance!" Devin and the others couldn't help but notice Catherine's condition, but they were too happy to ask questions.
"Devin, I was so scared when they broke down the door. Henry's manager Lee was forced to lead them here. Henry's staff followed them and tried to stop them till that man pulled the knife. They threatened to kill me if Henry's staff didn't let them leave with me. Where's Vincent? Is he....? I need..."
"He's up here somewhere, searching for you. We couldn't get a message to him in time. You'll just have to settle for us rescuing you, Cathy." Devin caressed her shoulder as he held her.
Thank you. All of you."
The others finished tying the three men up and dressing the wounded man's leg. They carried the men up to the restaurant and called 911. "The police will be here shortly. Those men made a mess of the place looking for her. They were going to kill two of my waitresses. Lee had no choice but to take them to where she was." Henry said after returning to Devin and Catherine with the others. "Get her out of here. Lin and I will come down as soon as we can. We have friends who can protect us for the time being. Lee's sorry, Catherine, he didn't know what else to do."
"It's okay, Henry. I understand."
Henry, make sure everyone knows not to say anything about Catherine. She's been through enough without having to deal with those creeps." Devin stated.
"Devin, I think you better hold on to me. I'm suddenly feeling very unsteady on my feet." Devin went to catch her but Kanin and Cullen beat him to it, grabbing both her arms in a gentle grip.
"Come on, Chandler. Let's get you below where Father and Peter can check you out. Afterwards, you can explain how you got a 'bun in the oven'. Right now, I know they are both probably driving Mary crazy wondering what is taking us so long." Devin caressed her cheek in a brotherly fashion.
"Please, everyone, take me home."
Kanin picked Catherine up and started down the tunnel toward the home chambers. As Catherine started to protest about being carried, Devin chimed in. "So help me Chandler, just be quiet and let us take turns carrying you. I know if Vincent was here, he would insist on carrying you himself and that would spoil the fun for the rest of us. So, as the kids say, shut up and enjoy the ride, okay?"
With that, Catherine laughed and laid her head on Kanin's shoulder as they started the long walk back to Father and the others. The men took turns in carrying Catherine, except Mouse. "Too scared, may drop!" As they neared Father's chamber, Devin took over again in carrying Catherine. The pipes were singing with the message 'Catherine returns.' Father had asked everyone to leave them alone until they could check Catherine and reunite her with Vincent. The others left them as they neared the entrance. Peter appeared at the top of Father's chamber and smiled when he caught a glimpse of her. Devin lowered her to the ground but kept her close for support.
"Peter!" She cried as he reached her side. Peter wrapped his arms around her and gave her a big bear hug.
"Boy! Am I glad to see you." Peter exclaimed as he slowly released her. He also noticed her condition.
"I am so glad to be home. I'll explain everything later. Right now, I just want to see Vincent. Is he back yet?"
"Catherine, dear, we were so worried about you. No, he isn't back yet but the sentries are keeping an eye out for him. They will notify us as soon as they see him." Father told her as he came to embrace her. As he released her, he hesitantly asked "Catherine...ahum...how far along are you?"
"The doctor thinks about six months. Don't worry. He kept a very close eye on me once they found out I was pregnant."
"Did they..." Devin asked as rage surged through him at the very thought.
"NO! Devin, no, they did not rape me. I found out I was pregnant when Joe got hurt."
"Cathy, honey, who is the father then?" Peter delicately inquired.
"It's Vincent, isn't it?" Father answered with the beginning of a smile.
"Yes." She whispered, fearful of his reaction, looking down at her feet and trembling slightly.
"Well! Would you let us examine you? We want to put any fears Vincent might have when he returns to rest regarding you and the baby." Father kept his arm around her.
Catherine looked up. "Devin, would you stay with me, please?"
"I'm not letting you out of my sight."
Suddenly a message was heard over the pipes. One of the sentries saw Vincent enter through the park entrance and he was on his way to the home chambers.
"Well, let's get you checked out." Peter said with a smile.
The pipes were singing with messages regarding Catherine. "Catherine? Catherine!" Vincent heard a message asking Mary to meet Father in the hospital chamber. He began to run, arriving out of breath at the entrance. He saw Devin standing near the privacy screen Father uses.
"Devin? What...?" He gasped.
Peter, Father and Mary came out from behind the screen. "Vincent, she's fine." Father said as he embraced him. "Go to her, son, she needs you."
Vincent stepped around the screen. Catherine stood as soon as she saw him. She looked into the blue eyes she'd seen in her dreams almost every night for the past six months. Vincent's eyes held a haunted look and he, too, seemed unable to make a move.
Vincent came closer and stood staring down at the figure of the woman he
hadloved more than anything else in the world. He could not bring himself to reach out to her for fear she would disappear as she had so often since that night she was taken.
"Catherine?" The sound of her name torn from his lips told Catherine just how much pain this gentle soul she loved so deeply had been through. With tears in his eyes, he looked at her with a mixture of hope and fear. "Are you real?"
Catherine touched first. She placed one small hand on Vincent's chest, covering his heart. "I'm real." Stepping closer, she rested her head on his chest, her arms slipping around his waist to hold him. "I'm real."
"Catherine!" Vincent's arms wrapped around her, pulling her as close as he could in her condition, against him. He whispered her name over and over again, as he buried his face in her neck, breathing in the sweet, familiar fragrance that was hers alone.
Catherine shivered at the sound of his beautifully familiar voice, memories of times spent listening to him read or talking to her about his world rushing back.
The others came into the room as Vincent slowly released Catherine. "Father, Peter, really, how is she?"
"She's fine, Vincent. The baby is healthy and strong. I find this hard to tell you, you're going to be a father. She's pregnant with your child." Father told him. Vincent looked at Catherine who nodded her head.
"She's been through a lot but in time I'm sure she will be fine. Take it easy with her. She can explain everything later." Peter commented.
"Catherine should rest." Mary said with a motherly concern.
"Father, I want to stay with Vincent. I'm not going Above ever again."
"Catherine, what about your life Above? The police are still looking for you. That man is looking for you as well." Father looked at Vincent.
"We will come up with something. I'm sure between all of us we can think of something. Please, Father, I need to be here right now. I need to stay with you and Vincent."
"Catherine, of course you can stay. I didn't mean what it sounded like."
Catherine turned to Vincent. "Please, Vincent, I need to be with you. Don't send me away. Let me stay, Please? I beg you!" She started to sob.
"Forever, Catherine. I want you here with me, I need you here with me. We'll work something out. I'm never letting you go again." He put his arms around her and held her close. "Father, I want Catherine in my chamber, she'll rest easier if I am near." Vincent picked her up and moved toward the chamber entrance.
"Very well, Vincent. I will see the both of you tomorrow."
Vincent turned to Devin. "I can't thank you and the others enough for what you did. I want to know everything."
"It's a long story, bro. We'll talk later." Devin grabbed him by the shoulder and squeezed gently. He kissed Catherine on her cheek and went back to speak with Father and the others.
Vincent placed her gently in the middle of his bed after arriving at his chamber. As she settled, he took a change of clothing and went to the bathing chambers. Returning, he found her asleep. Quietly he slipped into bed and gently took her in his arms.
"Sleep well, my dearest Catherine, sleep well."