A MOST PRECIOUS GIFT

Allison Duggins

(Text Excerpts from 'TRIAL RUN' by Patricia L. Ryan RN)

 

Olivia called from Father's chamber entrance. "May I come in? "

"Of course, Olivia, come in." Father gestured from his desk. He rose and slowly walked around his desk to embrace the young woman. "How are you? Is Luke all right? "

"Luke's fine, Father. I got a message from Catherine that she had a letter for me from Kanin. I wondered if she was coming below tonight?

"I'm certain Vincent said Catherine was coming down for supper. You know she regretted what happened to Kanin. Come, sit with me and we will wait for Catherine together. Gesturing to a chair, Olivia slowly sat down as Father returned to his chair.

"It's been five months since he left and I miss him terribly. She wrung her hands and played with her shawl. "It's Luke's birthday on Friday and I don't know how I'm going to handle it without Kanin."

Father grasped her hands gently. "I'm sure he misses you both as well. At least Catherine was able to convince the judge of Kanin's character and get the sentence reduced. They should be here shortly. Until Kanin returns, we will give Luke the best birthday party we can give to a two-year old." Father smiled at Olivia.

While Father and Olivia talked, Vincent waited for Catherine as she slowly descended the ladder. He reached for her waist as she neared him. She turned at his touch and tumbled into his arms.

"Vincent." She whispered as she embraced him. She always felt safe in his arms. Vincent reveled in the implied passion in Catherineís voice as he held her. For long moments, they clung to each other, then he slowly released her. "I have a letter for Olivia from Kanin. Do you know if she is in her chamber?"

"She's been anxiously waiting for you in Father's chambe.r He laughed. "As I have been anxiously awaiting you as well." He leaned down and softly kissed her.

"I also received a letter from the New York City Corrections Bureau this afternoon. I have been trying to contact them. Now Iím afraid to open it."

"Corrections bureau? Kanin?"

"Yes, I didn't want to tell anyone but I've been working with Mrs. Davis to see if we could help Kanin. We wanted to see how soon Kanin could be released. Let's get Kanin's letter to Olivia and then we could go to your chamber and see what Judge Wilkerson had to say to our request. I hope it's good news."

"Come." Vincent took her hand in his and led her down the tunnel to the home chambers. When they entered Father's chambers, Olivia looked up and smiled.

"Catherine, your message said you had a letter from Kanin for me?"

"I do. Hello, Father." She leaned down to kiss him on the cheek then she handed the letter to Olivia. On the outside of the envelope it said 'To my darling Livie.' "It was inside a manila folder addressed to me. He also sent this, she handed Olivia a picture of Kanin that one of the other prisoners had drawn of him.

"Oh!". She gasped in a small voice. "It's beautiful. Look Father." She passed the picture to the tunnel patriarch. "The artist captured Kaninís likeness very well." Father commented as he gazed at the picture.

"Father, Catherine and I have something we need to discuss in private. Would you excuse us?" Vincent turned to lead Catherine to his chamber.

"Olivia, why don't you and I go find Luke. Vincent, you can stay here if you wish." Father rose from behind his desk, took Olivia's hand and walked to the entrance. When they were out of sight, Catherine quietly opened the letter. Vincent glanced over her shoulder as she started to read.

"Ms. Chandler;

In response to your official request on behalf of the prisoner Mr. Kanin Evans for a new parole date, I am writing to inform you of my decision.

Along with your request, I received a very heart moving letter from the victim's mother, Mrs. Davis that supported your request. This letter was central to my decision to hold a hearing.

It is the decision of this court that the prisoner, Kanin Evans will be granted an immediate hearing to determine a new parole date. The hearing is scheduled for this Friday, June 10th, 9AM, in my chambers. I am sorry for the short notice and for any inconvenience it may cause.

Sincerely,

Judge Edward J. Wilkerson"

Judge, 5th Circuit Court of New York

"I can't believe he granted my request!" Catherine exclaimed as she reread the letter. "Kanin was given five years and was not eligible for parole for at least two years. The sentencing judge wasn't going to allow Kanin any breaks because of his past."

"Do you think this judge will grant him parole? "

"I don't know. I hope so. Judge Wilkerson is a fair and honorable man. He weighs everything before he makes a decision. It's going to take a lot of work between now and Friday to get ready for this. Will you help me? "

"Of course, Catherine. What do you need me to do? "

"We'll need to make sure the others don't find out what we're up to. I can come down tomorrow and bring what research I have so far. With your help we should come up with the right words to free Kanin. Mrs. Davis had mentioned that she would like to help also. I'll let her know the hearing date and have her meet me on Friday.

"Come, let's meet the others for dinner and then we can go to your apartment and get started." Vincent kissed her hand and led her out to join the others. After supper, they returned to Catherine's apartment and worked long into the night researching ideas to free Kanin. They alternated between her apartment and his chamber the rest of the week poring over every legal text Catherine could get her hands on. The others were curious. All Vincent would say was that he was helping Catherine with a case and that he could not go into any details. He did not want to get everyone's hopes up in case Catherine's request was denied.

Catherine had apologized to Olivia on Thursday to explain that she would not be able to come to Luke's party on Friday. That she had a commitment she could not get out of. She didn't think she could face Olivia if she failed. Olivia was disappointed but understood.

"Catherine, I appreciate all that you and Vincent have done helping me with Luke since Kanin's been gone. I'm sorry you won't be there but I understand your work is important. Vincent said you had an important case you had to be at tomorrow. Good luck."

"Thank you, Olivia. If I get out in time, I will bring my present to the party." Catherine had left her then and met Vincent at her apartment so they could go over everything one more time before the morning.

"I hope this is enough." Vincent gathered the papers scattered over her coffee table. Catherine looked down at the mess. "We've done all the research we could. The rest is up to the judge." Vincent wished Catherine good luck before he left her balcony.

Catherine met Mrs. Davis outside the judge's chambers the next morning. "I hope I am able to help. Kanin is not the monster I expected. He was truly sorry for what happened and was totally ready to take the punishment given. This punishment will not bring my son back but it is keeping him from a son who needs him."

"Kanin is getting his parole hearing today because of your kindness. Your words were what meant the most to him."

Both women looked toward the door as it slowly opened. "Ladies, his Honor is ready for you now." The bailiff gestured for them to enter.

In the judge's chambers, the scene was tense. There were two uniformed policemen standing behind Kanin and a very preppy looking deputy DA from the uptown district facing them as they walked in. Catherine smiled at Kanin as she took her seat. Judge Wilkerson entered a minute later and told everyone they could be seated. The matter was then discussed in length with the deputy DA being more of a menace than the judge. Catherine knew she still had her work cut out for her. The arguments dragged long into the early afternoon.

"Your Honor. I submit that the prisoner has not had enough time to realize the magnitude of his actions. Destroying a mother's life, killing an innocent boy and hiding from his punishment for sixteen years. He should not be given parole at this time." Mr. Delifield began.

"Objection your Honor!"

"Ms. Chandler, may I remind you this is a parole hearing, not a murder trial. If you have something to say, just say it. The judge leaned over the document in front of him with his hands folded.

"I'm sorry, your Honor. I was responsible for getting Mr. Evans to give himself up and face his sentence. I have come to know him and am sure that Mr. Delifield here has no idea just how much the prisoner regretted his actions and how much he had to pay for them, even before he gave himself up. I submit that only Kanin an the dead boyís mother knew just what harm he had caused and only he know how much he wished he could right the situation no matter what the cost to him personally." Catherine returned a defiant look to the DA staring at her.

Judge Wilkerson looked at both attorneys and then turned to Mrs. Davis. "How do you feel about this proposal? Do you understand that it will set free the man who killed your son? Do you understand that he has not served the minimum time allowed by law for his crime? Do you understand all this, Mrs. Davis?

Her voice, broken and quiet at the start of her statement grew stronger with every word. "I do understand everything, your Honor. It will not bring back my son to have this man remain in prison. It was my need to face him. To understand what truly happened and that he was not some unfeeling monster who continued to destroy lives. I know Kanin Evans now. I have talked with him, seen the pain in his heart as well as his eyes for his crime. He ran because he was young and scared. She continued after a momentís pause. "You asked me if I know what this action truly meant. I submit that only Kanin and I know this. She glanced over at Kanin, his head pressed to his hands. Her tears fell as she reached to touch him.

No one spoke after that. Judge Wilkerson stood and moved behind the pair. He placed a hand on each of them. He then looked at the two attorneys. "Counselor, Ms. Chandler, if you all will move to the adjoining chamber I'll give this matter some consideration. I feel I have heard enough to make a ruling.

"Your Honor . . . " Delifield began.

"Enough, counselor." The bailiff touched the DA's arm, he grunted and headed toward the door. Catherine smiled as Kanin passed and Mrs. Davis rose to her feet. The door shut behind them as they exited the room. The DA went to make a phone call as the policemen led Kanin to a nearby chair.

"I can't thank you enough for what you said in there." Kanin smiled as Mrs. Davis neared.

"I just hope it was enough." She replied.

"Now we wait." Catherine brought two chairs over so she and Mrs. Davis could sit with Kanin.

Vincent had been feeling Catherine's tension and anxiety all day. He paused while speaking with Father to send his love to her through the bond.

"Vincent, is everything all right? " Father looked at his face with concern. "You seem so far away."

"Catherine is anxious about the case she and I worked on all week. The hearing was today and she wasn't sure she would finish in time, that's why she said she could not be at Luke's party tonight."

"Can you tell me about it? "

"No. I promised Catherine." Vincent turned toward Father. "I'll go check with Cullen to see if he needs any more help with those tables in the dining chamber."

"Very well. I'll check with Mary on the other preparations. We'll see you at the party then." Father limped out of the chamber with Vincent following.

It was nearly two hours before they were called back into the chamber. It had been a long, tiring day. Catherine glanced at her watch. 4:30 in the afternoon. She smiled at Kanin and noticed the bailiff standing at the chamber entrance. He gestured to them and ushered everyone back into the chamber and ten minutes later the judge re-entered.

"You may be seated." He motioned to Catherine. "Ms. Chandler. I have to agree with the district attorney on his point that Mr. Evans had not even met his minimum sentence requirement yet. This motion of yours is highly unusual and required much thought."

Catherine lost a bit of hope and cringed waiting for the bad news. She sent reassurances through the bond to Vincent. She knew he felt all her emotions throughout the proceedings.

"However. The plea from Mrs. Davis was also highly unusual and showed great compassion and caring. I cannot ignore that. You have arranged for Mr. Evans' employment and have offered yourself as sole person responsible for his actions. You do realize that if he goes missing again, you will be put in jail until he is found? "

"Yes, your Honor. I understand everything I have agreed to and stand by it." Catherine straightened her shoulders. Hope started to rise within her.

The judge turned to Mrs. Davis. "I am going to ask you once more. Do you wish this man to be released on parole? "

"Yes, your Honor, I do."

The judge rose from his seat. "You are an incredibly lucky man, Mr. Evans, to have so many people care about you. You understand what will happen should you panic again. Miss Chandler will be arrested and held until you are found. You must keep the job she found for you, keep your scheduled appointments with the parole officer. You are being given a second chance to rethink your actions and do the right thing this time."

"Yes, your Honor, I do. Catherine is risking a lot for me and I appreciate all she has done for me." Kanin glanced at her then down at his hands. " I will not disappoint her or my family again. That sir, I promise . . . "

"Yeah, yeah, this is all very touching but I think we are losing sight of the big picture here. This man . . . " The young ADA couldnít believe that he was about to lose.

"Enough, counselor. One more word and I will find you in contempt. It is the finding of this court that Mr. Kanin Evans is granted parole immediately, to extend to the end of his five-year sentence. I also order community service at a nearby drug and rehab facility. Other young people may benefit from your experience. Do you understand all that is expected of you? Will you comply with the court's decision? "

Kanin's voice was full of conviction. "Yes, sir. I will. Thank you."

Judge Wilkerson rapped his gavel on his desk. "So be it. The parole will begin today. Make good use of it, son. The judge shook Kanin's hand and exited the courtroom. Catherine gave a cry of joy and hugged Kanin. Below, Vincent felt her joy and knew she had succeeded. Catherine had told him she would take Kanin to her apartment to let him get cleaned up and changed if all went well then come below.

"Catherine, I can't thank you enough." Kanin released her and turned to Mrs. Davis. "What you have given me, given my son."

"Just keep him safe, Kanin." Mrs. Davis turned and left the courtroom.

Catherine was lost in thought, sending her relief and joy through the bond to Vincent. Kanin gently shook her shoulder.

"Catherine. Are you all right? "

"Yes, I'm fine. I was just thinking what a day this has been." Catherine's expression changed as she remembered what else this date meant. "Oh my god, Luke!"

"Luke! What's wrong? " Kanin stopped in horror at her words.

"Kanin, don't you realize what today is? " Her face lit up.

"Luke's birthday! I'll be with him for his birthday!" Kanin laughed with joy. The guards came up to escort Kanin to the prison facility.

"It will take about an hour to process the paperwork. I will meet you there and take you home." Catherine packed up her briefcase and followed the guards out. She sent a note down to Vincent asking him to wait with the others till she brought Kanin down. An hour later she was signing the last of the paperwork and collected her ward. She brought him to her apartment so that he could shower and change.

"Catherine, does Livie know about this? " Kanin inquired hopefully after he exited her bedroom.

"No, but Vincent does. He helped me with all the research. We didn't want to tell anyone in case the hearing didn't work out. I didn't want to raise her hopes in case I failed. I've hurt her enough already. Come on, we have a birthday boy to greet."

The party was in full swing when Vincent sensed Catherine outside the chamber entrance. "I'm sorry I'm late but I hope I can still give Luke a present."

"Certainly, Catherine." Olivia smiled as the woman entered Father's study.

"Actually, it's from Vincent and myself." Catherine motioned Oliviaís attention to the top of the stairs. There stood Kanin dressed in the clothes he had left in. His eyes filled with tears and as he rushed down the stairs and into her waiting arms. Everyone stood in shocked silence watching the reunion. Olivia cried with joy as she held him. Kanin whispered loving words to her as he held her tight.

"Catherine! Your gift is extraordinary. How did you do it? " Father asked. "You must tell me everything." The others uttered comments also as they gathered around the small woman.

"Later, Father. I'll explain everything." Vincent told him.

"It was nothing." Catherine pressed into Vincent's warm shoulder. Vincent smiled down at her and gave her a loving embrace with one arm, the other held Luke, quickly deposited there when Olivia saw Kanin.

"Nothing! She put her career and her freedom on the line for me, for my release." Kanin brought Olivia over to stand next to them. He took Luke from Vincent's arms. "I hear I have you to thank as well." Vincent just smiled and grasped Kanin's shoulder.

"Welcome home, Kanin." Vincent released him and pulled Catherine closer.

"Catherine, you look tired." Mary said with concern.

"Yes, it's been a long day. I haven't had a chance to eat anything. The arguments alone were draining but I'm glad everything worked out."

"Well, we'll fix that." William took charge. "I'll fix a tray for you. You are staying with us, aren't you? Good. I'll send it to Vincent's chamber. I'll start whipping up something fattening. I always thought you looked too thin anyway. He chuckled as he left the chamber.

"Yes, she'll be in my chamber with me. Thank you, William. Come, lets get you settled then. As they moved through the crowd, many expressed their thanks. Once she had eaten, she felt the weariness of the day set in. "Rest, Catherine. I'll be near." Vincent helped her settle into his big bed and leaned against her. "Love is a most precious gift." Vincent kissed her softly and gathered her in his arms as she fell asleep. "Sleep well, my dearest Catherine, sleep well."

Kanin whispered from the chamber entrance "Vincent, may I come in? "

"Certainly Kanin, Catherine's asleep. What do you need? " Vincent rose from his bed and covered Catherine.

Kanin slowly entered the chamber. "I don't know how I can ever repay what you and Catherine have done for me."

"Don't worry so, Kanin. Catherine and I did what we did for you, Olivia and Luke. I'm glad to have you back, my friend." Vincent reached up and grasped his shoulder. "Now you and Olivia can continue to build your lives together."

"Yes. I want to do something for you and Catherine. If you will allow me, I would like to expand your chamber here and create an entrance to the chamber behind your stained glass window so you can have some privacy with Catherine when she is here."

"Kanin, that's not necessary."

"Yes it is. You two need a place where you can be alone without everyone coming into your chamber. I know what it's like to not be with the one you love. I'll get started tomorrow. While I was above, I had time to design this in my head. I want to do this. I need to do this."

"Very well. I look forward to seeing the results of your work. Now, get back to your wife and child."

Kanin smiled at that and left the chamber. Vincent dropped the drape covering his chamber and after removing his vest and boots slipped into bed next to Catherine. Soon he drifted off to sleep.