'When you need someone to run to
the shelter of my love is always near
let me be your cover whenever darkness falls
I'll be there...I'll be there.'
(Michael Bolton – A Safe Place from the Storm)
Returning to his chamber Vincent was stunned to find Narcissa barring his way and he stopped dead in his tracks exclaiming, "Narcissa, what are you doing here?"
He could not comprehend that this old woman had appeared just like that when he travelled so much faster and had left her several hours back at her chamber and she old and almost blind had arrived ahead of him.
It was then that Vincent realised that what he saw before him, was not of flesh and blood, but rather some kind of mirage such as one would see in the desert, one that shimmered and drifted in and out of vision. His senses attuned to the vision Vincent took in the fullness of the apparition before him and allowed it to consume him.
Within the folds of the wispy cloak, he heard Narcissa speak to him and his heart pounded as he absorbed her warning.
"Vincent...hear me. A great storm is brewing. The one for whom you sought me is in great danger. Find for her a safe place from the storm and in so doing save yourself."
With that the vision faded and was gone before Vincent had a chance to recover enough to speak. Heart pounding, breathing rapid Vincent set off at a gallop his cloak flying our behind him reminiscent of some huge bat in flight.
He had gone to Narcissa to see what should be done regarding his and Catherine's relationship and had come away lighter of spirit but still apprehensive of the future to come. Now all that paled into insignificance. Catherine was in danger and she needed him. Needed a safe place from the storm that ironically Vincent had believed to be him.
Rounding the final bend Vincent came to a screeching halt as he met Catherine coming the other way running as fast as he. At sight of each other both stumbled, falling against one another breathlessly as Vincent reached out to steady Catherine.
"Catherine, where are you going? What's wrong?"
"I have to go above, Vincent. Its not safe for me to be here." Her eyes were wide with fear, yet her heart told him that she wanted nothing more than to stay.
"Tell me?" Guiding her to the nearest bench alongside one tunnel wall, he bid her sit bending to sit beside her and taking her hands in his he waited for her to speak.
"The man that killed that person up at the glen threatens to kill others unless he finds me."
Her words were cold expressionless, without hope as she told him about the article in the newspaper that she had heard Mary read out.
"And you think that by going above you will prevent that?" At Catherine's nod, he went on, "But at what cost to you?"
"I don't want to think about that, Vincent. But how can I sit here and let other's die because I am too frightened to go above?"
He shook his head understanding her predicament, yet knowing with Narcissa's warning there had to be another way.
"Where is the least likely place he will look for you if not here, Catherine?"
"It doesn't matter where it is. Don't you see Vincent as long as I remain in hiding someone will die?”
"And what guarantee have you got that he won't continue to kill after he has silenced you?"
Catherine hadn't thought of that.
"Then what can I do, Vincent? What way is open to me?"
"Catherine, think. Where would you feel safest most?" Narcissa's words raced through Vincent's mind as he asked the question. Nowhere was safer than below, he knew that, everyone knew that. And there was nothing to suggest that the killer had knowledge of the tunnels or of Catherine’s involvement in them. Neither Peter nor her father were likely to tell, they would rather die than do so, but that in itself didn't solve the problem. Catherine was right; while she remained in hiding innocent, women would die. No one could live with that as frightened as they might be. What did Narcissa say? Find a safe place from the storm and in so doing save yourself? What did she mean by that? Was there a hidden meaning? Knowing Narcissa there had to be.
He had gone to her to talk about Catherine and what had happened with Lisa. About his fears and insistence that he lived a life alone never knowing love of a woman, but as usual, Narcissa had disagreed, had seen something different, something he had not allowed himself to see. And even now had difficulty in accepting even though he knew it was no use trying to defy the Gods.
"There is no place I'd rather be than with you, Vincent?" Catherine told him sincerely, her lips trembling as she voiced the words. You are my safe place. Vincent. And I would like to be yours."
Like a flash of lightening Vincent understood. The only place possible for either of them was with each other. Whatever they did wherever they went from now on, they should face it together.
Narcissa's warning drifted in and out of his mind, although he believed that he was not yet ready to accept that Catherine was his safe place. How could one such as she provide him with sanctity from the emotions that flared within whenever she was close? It was contradictory - never had she been in more danger than she was while with him. He yearned for her, wanted to seek out the hidden depths of her being, to lose himself in her. Yet, to do so could be her greatest danger and to offer himself and be denied could cause the death of him.
Ruefully he wondered who would be the greatest risk to her he or the killer, since both had the potential to kill her, yet looking at her now fearfully awaiting a response to her reply, he knew that thought to be stupid, he would rather die than put her in a position whereby he might harm her. No, simply, he might be her safe place from the storm, but she could never be his. That was a risk he was not prepared to take, not after Lisa. Catherine was a woman of the world above, how could he expect that she might return his love in full despite what she maintained when Lisa, a woman of below, never could.
"Then I will keep you safe, Catherine." Vincent answered at last. "But you must trust me."
"I do trust you, Vincent. What do you have in mind?"
"We must go above, together. This man must be caught before he can kill again."
"And how do you propose that will occur?"
"Above away from these tunnels you will keep the people below safe, and once he knows where you are that alone, if he is true to his word will save the lives of the many. But we must not allow him to finalise his goal. Don't worry, Catherine I will never let harm come to you. Trust me."
Burying her face against his chest, Catherine knew that she did trust him. She more than trusted him, she loved him and as she watched him flex his fingers with their lethal looking tips she understood exactly what he was driving at. He would be prepared to kill to save her, something she knew he had never done before, save for the time he lashed out and scarred his brother.
She didn't want it to come to that, didn't want him to kill for her. Vincent had enough difficulty handling his differences and using those claws to kill would surely highlight the fact that he was part animal and Catherine hated the thought of him being forced to save her in this way and running the risk of himself being injured or discovered.
Yet what other way was there?
Miserably they each faced the possibility of the only way open to them with a growing sense of anxiety and apprehension and a fierce longing to protect the other come what may as they rose and walked back towards the home chambers to inform Father of their intention to go above.
*** *** ***
Charles Chandler scanned the newspaper headlines with a sense of disjointed belief. Who was this guy that he could callously kill to get at another? And what was this city when the television bulletins were covering interviews of people on the streets who in a bid to save their own children would stoop at anything to give into the demands of the killer? Regretfully he knew the answer to that. Any man or woman would do anything, anything, to save the life of their children even when that meant sacrificing the life of another, so long as that other was not personally known to them. It was human nature but it was wrong. Especially when one spared a thought for Jesus Christ who gave his life as a ransom for complete strangers and for generations to come.
All the same, he was not prepared to offer up his daughter to save the life of the many, yet he couldn't for the life of him see any other way out for the moment and that was the frightening thing. Despite the fact that they now had the identity of the body on the mountain, there had been nothing to link them to the killer, as yet.
If only he could go to where Catherine was, he would be happier. With Peter still indisposed and thanks to the investigation his not having had a moment to spare to seek the entrance to the tunnels through the park, Charles was almost at his wits end when he stilled to listen to a sound that appeared to be coming from the direction of the door. Rising, he reached for the nearest object to hand, which happened to be a letter opener, the thin malicious blade sparkled by the overhead light as he rose and made his way silently toward the hall. There he breathed a sigh of relief as the voice he cherished most in the entire world reached his ears. "Daddy?"
They ran together hugging one another hard, wrapping their arms around each other tightly and never wanting to let go. Then regaining his senses Charles exclaimed, "Catherine...what are you doing here?"
"I had to come...Dad, have you seen today's headlines?"
"Seen them, heard them, the news bulletins are full of it! But none of it was worth coming above for. Catherine there must be a way to stop this man!"
"There is." Not noticing that Catherine had left the front door ajar when she had entered, Charles froze then relaxed as he heard first the voice then saw the carrier of it.
"Vincent will help us daddy. Its the only way." Catherine's eyes begged him to understand.
"What's the only way?" Enlightenment dawned, "Oh no, no Catherine...you're not going to offer yourself up to this madman! I forbid you!"
"Then what would you suggest, daddy? You of all people should know what this man is capable of." Catherine replied sorrowfully.
"Exactly! And I am not about to let him slice away my daughter, bit by bit. Vincent I am appalled, I thought you would do anything to keep her safe."
"And I will, I promise you. But what this man has threatened..."
"Yes, that’s it, isn't it? What he has threatened. He hasn't done it yet though has he?"
"And we have to wait and see if he does first do we?" Catherine replied forcefully. "Dad I well know how you feel. Do you think for one moment that I want to do this?"
Long and hard Charles searched his daughter's face, finally agreeing, "No. But Catherine..."
"Mr Chandler, I promise you that nothing will happen to Catherine. I will personally see to that." Vincent spoke softly yet Charles could tell that he forcefully meant every word. He looked from one to the other of them, was he missing something? What was different about the two of them? Did there seem to be a change in their relationship or was he just imagining it?
The telephone rang.
Jumping at the shrill tone right at his elbow Charles snatched it up, "Yes!"
"Yes, who is this?" Something invisible crawled over Charles skin.
"I see that your daughter is back home. May I speak with her please?"
"Who is this?"
There was silence but Charles could hear breathing signifying the caller waited. With his hand to the mouthpiece he told Catherine, "Someone knows you're home, wants to speak with you. What if its him?"
"Have you an extension?" Vincent asked.
Catherine moved toward the study, "Yes I'll pick it up you listen on this phone."
Charles spoke into the receiver, "My daughter has just arrived home, and perhaps I could have her call you when she is rested?" There was a derisive laugh at the other end, "Mr Chandler, when I am through with your daughter she will have more than enough rest. Please bring her to the phone."
Carefully from her position in the study Catherine signalled to Vincent who in turn signalled to Charles who coughed loudly into the receiver as Catherine picked up the other telephone to disguise the sound, and then sure that Vincent had taken the receiver from Charles she asked, "Hello, this is Catherine, who's calling please?"
The sound of his laughter almost made Catherine sick. She would know it anywhere. It had lived in her nightmares ever since that evening on the mountain; she would never forget the tone of his voice. "Catherine, Catherine...welcome home. Have you had a nice holiday? Got a nice tan have we? Had plenty of sunshine and lots of rest, good, good. Well I'd like to extend that for you, I'm offering you the chance of more rest and to change your skin colour another way." He laughed here sending chilling shivers up Catherine's spine, "mmm let me see now, I expect the Fiji sunshine has turned your skin the colour of golden honey, a colour I'm partial to, but I much prefer another. Would you like to know what?"
"No...not...really." Catherine stumbled nervously over the words. Again, the laughter chilled her to the bone, and Vincent clutching the other receiver had a hard time staying silent.
"Too bad, because I'm going to tell you anyway. How do you think red would suit you? Blood red? I think that would look rather stunning don't you? Of course there is another way."
"What...way?" Trying desperately hard not to lose her courage Catherine asked the question while dreading the answer.
"That you extract your statement from the police, refuse to give evidence should they ever catch me. You see Catherine you and your father stumbled upon an incident that should have lain unnoticed like the rest." Briefly he paused here, before adding quickly, "It had nothing to do with you...had you of left well alone you're life could have been spared, still could be spared. What do you say?"
Her mind in overdrive, Catherine spoke cautiously "You tried to kill me, how can I trust you now?" What had he meant by 'like the rest' had he murdered others and left them on the mountain?
"We have to build up a rapport between us, Catherine. You show me you are willing to co- operate and I will do likewise."
"Huh and what of the woman you murdered at my doctor's surgery?"
"Yet to be proven Catherine."
"You left my father a message, for God's sake! You wrote to the newspapers! How much more proof do you need?"
"Still doesn't mean it was me. There are such things as copycats, Catherine. Still I can only be thankful that whomsoever posted those messages did me a favour; they brought you running home did they not? By the way, who’s your friend?"
"My friend?" Catherine's voice wavered.
"The one you came home with. Is he your lover?" The question was asked with obvious interest.
Vincent seethed, his heart hammering. He wanted to reach through the receiver and squeeze the life out of the fellow for insinuating such obscenities. So acutely embarrassed Vincent was surprised to hear Catherine reply, "And what if he is? What's that to you?"
Lovers. The word sprang out at Vincent, caught him by the throat. He found it hard to breathe, to think. His knuckles grasped the receiver for dear life as much as for something to hold on to as to hear what else was to be said.
"I'm just surprised that's all. Rather large is he not? Is he well endowed too?"
At this, Vincent could not prevent a gasp from escaping and he felt deep shame when the caller laughed derisively, "Listening in huh? Serves him right. So let me ask you a question then Mr Big, what does it feel like to penetrate little Miss Chandler here? What does it feel like to have her virginal muscles hold you tight...her arms around you...her lips on yours? Hmm? Tell me?" There was a sound as he spoke, the sound of a zipper. Catherine, shame on her cheeks visualised what his words were doing to him then visualised what they would be doing to Vincent. She was acutely embarrassed and did not know what to say or do save smashing the phone down. But she knew she must not do that, she had to find out what made this guy tick and she hoped that her father had had the good sense to have his phone rigged with the police department.
"Then tell me please, can you imagine how it would feel to enter her body when it is ripped open and her hot blood runs the length of your shaft?" He moaned then making his actions along with his filthy wicked words obvious. Vincent was incensed, his fury roaring through his ears, his breathing coming hard and fast reminiscent to that at which he was forced to listen.
Ragged words came bit by bit then, "I'll... tell... you... shall... I?"
"NO!" Both Vincent and Catherine screamed as one, making the caller laugh before telling them, "Then you'll just have to wait and see won't you? Bye for now Catherine, I'll be in touch." He laughed sinisterly, "that is, touch being the operative word." Then he hung up leaving both Catherine and Vincent shaking with anger, fear and so much embarrassment that each dreaded facing the other.
*** *** ***
"I think you're mad, you're utterly, utterly mad. Catherine, you can't be serious!" Charles Chandler searched his daughter's face avidly some days later hoping against hope that she was in some malicious way joking about her latest suggestion.
"Think about it, daddy. Where's the place I'm least likely to go? We have to outwit this guy. I, none of us, know when he may strike, and I know..." she looked at Vincent as she went on, "that you will endeavour to protect me Vincent, but what if you are too late, or he is faster than you supposed, what then?"
"You don't have to sell me Catherine. I think it is a good idea to go back to the cabin." Vincent told her sincerely.
"Well I don't!" Charles reminded her of the conversation they had shared with him after the killer had called. “You said yourself that you thought he had killed other people up there. He might think you are fishing by going up there to see what else you can find."
"We have to go, daddy." Catherine's voice was determined, "its either him or me. Here we have to wait for the law to do its bit, there Vincent can protect me."
"What are you saying?" Charles felt he was missing something. Just what had these two cooked up between them?
"You had the telephone tapped, daddy. But did the police catch him? No. Maddening isn't it? He was on the phone for well over three minutes yet by the time they realised what was going on and sent someone to the spot he'd long gone. Imagine if that had been a meeting between him and me that had been set up. By the time they had arrived I'd have been killed twice over."
"And so? Just what is it that you are planning, when you say its him or me? You don't intend to...kill...him. Do you?" He looked to Vincent for his answer.
"You of all people know we ought not take the law into our own hands daddy, but you are also well aware of the system. Let's say he's caught. He'll be sent to prison, maybe even to some rehabilitation centre where some religious group will get hold of him, have him declare he has changed, and a few years from now he'll be a free man spouting words from the bible and begging forgiveness. And what of the scripture that admonishes a life for a life? Simply forgotten I suppose. And when he kills again as he undoubtedly will, and probably it'll be me, someone will say that hard times gave him a relapse and he will be given another light sentence. While people have lost their lives through him, endured horrendous torture before death from what I am led to believe, and what? We are supposed to allow him justice? Offer him treatment? I think not daddy, I think not."
Charles had listened to his daughter with quiet acceptance of the things she had said. She was right, but knowing that and heeding it were two entirely different things. Being a lawyer he was trained to protect the rights of people, but Catherine was right, if they protected the rights of killers who protected the rights of their innocent victims? Still she had not, in so many words, indicated whatever it had been that she and Vincent had decided, and suddenly Charles wasn't sure that he wanted to know. And though he wore gloves now Charles knew that one look at Vincent's long claws would be enough to know the outcome. Still he felt compelled to ask; "Have you done anything like this before, my boy?"
"Killed someone you mean?" Vincent asked softly, shaking his head even as he spoke. "No, but I feel deep inside that if provoked enough it is a strong possibility."
"And you wouldn't let Catherine out of your sight?"
"No Sir, I would not."
"There's something else daddy."
"This may sound strange, but for some reason Vincent is able to detect my feelings. He knows when I am happy or sad or frightened, and more importantly he knows where to find me every time." Catherine smiled at this remembering the hide and seek games she had played with Vincent convinced that he would never discover her location. He always had.
"Yes, you are right. That does sound strange, but if it works then it sure eases my mind. However, I can't let you go up there alone Catherine, I have to come with the two of you."
Catherine and Vincent smiled at one another. They had half expected Charles to say this and though neither would admit to it, each felt relieved that he would be there, acting as much as a chaperone to them as another protector to his daughter.
"The thing is, he appears to be watching us. This is something that bothers me greatly." Vincent admitted. "That night I came here with Catherine, I came via the rooftops, only dropping myself down when I reached the house adjacent to this one, meeting Catherine at the gate and coming up to the door with her. Even then I kept to the shadows as much as possible. Sir, Catherine and I were wondering if he may have a camera positioned on the house and can see who is coming and going."
While they pondered this possibility, the telephone rang.
"Hello, Charles Chandler."
"Good evening Mr Chandler." A chill ran the length of Charles's spine. It was him!
"Leave us alone you bastard!" Charles slammed down the receiver. Vincent and Catherine gasped, "Was that him?" Catherine asked needlessly even as the shrill of the telephone sounded again.
Vincent lifted it up and putting it to his ear listened cautiously.
"Not you. Put Catherine on!" Vincent gasped. How did he know? Frantically he searched the hallway. There were no windows. He dropped the receiver back onto its cradle severing the call.
"He knew it was me!" Vincent whispered hoarsely with eyes wide and incredulous.
Again, the telephone rang. This time Catherine reached for it and placing it to her ear the caller shocked her to the core as her told her, "Give your friend ten out of ten for observation. I am surprised that neither you nor your father discovered that I can see everything, and hear everything that is going on in your house. And may I say how delectable you look naked, my dear Catherine. Its a pity I can't say the same for your father." He laughed derisively before continuing, "Can't quite work out your friend though, Catherine. He never takes off his cloak and I've tried and tried to establish what's wrong with him, but that hood very cleverly disguises his face. Ask him where I can purchase such a garment will you? In my line of business it would prove very useful."
Anxiously Catherine tried making gestures to Vincent to indicate that he should use the telephone in the study yet it were her emotions that told him what she wanted. He strode from the room and the caller laughed, "Wants to hear what I have to say does he? That's okay. I have some questions for him actually."
Feeling extremely vulnerable now, Catherine waited anxiously for Vincent to pick up the phone in the study, listening in as the caller obviously now well aware that Vincent was in place began, "So you think you can out wit me? Perhaps kill me? This I would greatly like to see. Do you enjoy hunting Vincent?"
Vincent refused to reply though his anger was rising by the second.
"I do hope so. This is going to be one enjoyable experience I have to admit just you three in that cabin and me waiting outside, oh dear, but where outside? Will I be there ahead of you? Will you arrive first or will we both arrive together in the dead of the night? This is sounding more and more appealing Vincent, the thing is you overlook the fact that I might use a gun."
Catherine gasped. They shouldn't have overlooked that possibility. If he were to gun down Vincent and her father then she would have no one to protect her. The thought of being at the cabin suddenly took on a distinctly evil flavour and for the first time since Catherine had decided that this was a good idea she began to see that it wasn't. Besides, they still had to speak to Vincent's father about it. There was a great possibility that even with all the loopholes ironed out, that Vincent would be forbidden to go, even if at nineteen, he was considered an adult to do as he wished.
Feeling sick Catherine replaced the receiver, and Vincent hearing the distinctive click did likewise with the phone in the study. Wide eyed the three came together back in the hall afraid to speak knowing that he would hear every word.
Finally Charles leaned against Vincent's shoulder put his face almost inside the hood and whispered against his ear, "Do you know how to get to the tunnels via Peter's basement. I know he has a key, but I don't know where it’s kept."
Vincent nodded, and reaching for Catherine's hand tried to instil the plan to her via their connection. It wasn't easy, for while he could read her emotions, she could not do likewise, however his eyes told her to trust him, and nodding she made him understand that whatever her father had said and whatever idea they had come up with she was ready and willing to place her trust in it without question.
*** *** ***
'Run to me when those cold and troubled winds have found you
and I'll wrap my world of love around you...
Run to me to a love that's safe and warm
I'll be yours baby, your safe place from the storm.'
If Charles and Catherine had thought that the police would be angry with their decision they were wrong. In fact, they were almost branded hero’s. To go back to the mountains, to offer themselves up as a sacrifice, as bait, when all knew that the psychopath would be watching and expecting every move. And he would be aware that they hadn’t undergone the risk lightly that they were taking preventative measures such as allowing the police to escort them to the cabin and to set up a twenty four hour surveillance team that were trained and ready for anything. Yet he did not know that the real risk was having Vincent accompany them and not have the police aware of it. That posed the greatest problem.
From the moment that they had decided and known that the police had to be present, Father put forth every obstacle not to have his son involved. But when he realised that Vincent was adamant about going he reasoned on all the possible ways that Vincent could make the trip with them to the cabin without ANYONE seeing him, least of all the psychopath.
Finally, Charles decided to use a truck with a false bottom, a very uncomfortable way for Vincent to travel but necessary nonetheless and as they drove over the very many bumps leading up to the cabin door, Charles winced with every one knowing how it must feel to Vincent some twelve inches closer to the ground than they were. Lying flat, and entombed in a purpose built box not unlike that of a coffin and built by Cullen, Vincent allowed Catherine’s senses to filter through to him concentrating on every little emotion lest his other fear of being discovered in the world above overwhelm him entirely.
They’d been travelling for hours. Making a slow circularly trip to the cabin, choosing roads that were quiet in order for the surveillance team to watch every inch of their journey. And from their positions behind bushes or beneath crags, they saw nothing suspicious and certainly never any particular vehicle of any particular model following either at close quarters or at some distance behind.
Another team had spent the best part of the previous week surrounding the cabin, searching for clues of recent occupation or tracks that would signify that someone waited for the Chandler’s to arrive. There had been nothing and it was concluded that the psychopath was very cunning indeed to outwit them at every turn.
Other cabins had been investigated, most of them were empty, others evacuated for the safety of its members, and for a complete half mile radius of the Chandler cabin cameras had been installed, camps had been set up with guard dogs and personnel trained for combat.
A tracker had been employed, his help invaluable in similar cases, remarkable how he could tell from the merest snapping of a twig how long it had been since someone had passed a certain way and in which direction they had gone.
All in all every avenue had been negotiated yet even so no one could admit to feeling secure about the whole event. This guy was too clever and had outsmarted them far too often. The recent discovery of other bodies buried around the area where Charles had discovered the first had attested to that fact.
Charles and Catherine were well aware of all the activity taking place for their benefit but could not pretend that it was more important than getting Vincent out of the truck and into the cabin and hidden away for however long it took to resolve the matter. They had promised Father that they would return him safe and well and just as importantly undiscovered. It was bad enough that the psychopath knew something of him already. Something secretive. Thank goodness he didn’t know what.
They finally made the last turn and found the cabin within sight. Vincent, unable to see anything sensed the rising panic that filled Catherine’s heart and he instilled comfort into her hoping that he could calm her nerves. It seemed to work as slowly her heartbeat returned to as near normal as possible and Vincent relaxed allowing sounds to filter through and highlight their arrival at the cabin door.
There appeared to be no one about. Charles switched off the engine and snapped down the door locks looking all around him before contemplating leaving the vehicle. He did not forget that the psycho said he might well use a gun, but he didn’t suppose for more than one moment that he would use it on Catherine. She, he knew, would suffer, because that’s what this psycho liked doing best of all. It was discovered that the receptionist at Peter’s surgery had still been alive when he had started to slice off her limbs and a heart attack had actually caused her death. A merciful heart attack possibly killing her after the first limb, her right arm had been removed at the shoulder as she had mounted the stairs leading up to Peter’s surgery. It was sickening that the axe intended for use in a fire and only installed days earlier at the receptionist’s suggestion had been used to kill her.
Charles didn’t want to remember reading that report, didn’t want to know about the stairs found covered in blood from the severed arm left upon them and he didn’t want to remember the body he had found some five months earlier at the glen. And he didn’t want to imagine any of it being applied to his lovely daughter but he found it impossible to prevent the images filling his head. He felt sick, wanted to vomit just as he had that day he had found the body, and his hands shook as he fumbled with the steering wheel wondering if they were in fact doing the right thing even now.
“What is it Dad? Have you seen something?” Catherine looked about anxiously. It was broad daylight and dappled sunlight was streaming through the trees just the way that she loved to see it.
“No honey, nothing literal just remembering.”
Catherine understood all too well, “Oh. Do you want to go back? We don’t have to do this, dad.”
“I know we don’t, and if there was some other way…” he left the sentence unfinished but Catherine knew, they had explored a thousand avenues ever since this one presented itself. Mad as it was, Vincent was their only trump card even though it frightened her to know that he might have to kill someone for the first time in his life just to save her. A feeling of love and sympathy stole over her at this thought. Since that day in his chamber they had never again ventured on anything intimate but suddenly the need to have him so overwhelmingly close enveloped Catherine, and she wondered how he must feel about it, accepting that he could feel her emotions through what he termed as a Bond between them. Knowing that she could clamp down on her feelings and thus shut them off from him Catherine suddenly felt very devious knowing that she could if she wished manipulate actions between them by feeding him her desires so that he could in no way ignore them. Now was not the time however, she’d save that until they were by themselves.
“Are we going to go inside, dad? You know who must be suffocating in there.”
“Yes of course. And I hope that no one questions us taking a new table into the cabin.” Charles remarked nervously as he thought of the box that housed Vincent spread with a large checked tablecloth and complete with fold away legs was meant, for all intents and purposes, to look like a table as they carried it from the truck into the cabin.
“They haven’t set up cameras in the cabin have they Dad?”
“No, I specifically asked them not to. That would invade on our privacy, however I do believe that the cabin is bugged. We shall have to mind our P’s and Q’s not to mention our V’s.”
Catherine giggled, and for the first time since they had started out on the trip, Charles smiled then told her seriously, “He’s a good trump card Cathy, but we need to protect him too.”
“You don’t have to tell me that dad. He’s the only one there is.”
Charles lowered his voice hoping Vincent couldn’t hear what he wanted to say, “You think a lot of him don’t you?” His eyes were sincere, questioning.
“Its that obvious?” Blushing a little Catherine looked away. And her father grew silent. He knew that his daughter liked Vincent, but her reaction had surprised him. Obviously, she ‘liked’ him more than he had presumed.
“I wonder what your mother would have thought of him?” Charles mused out loud.
“She’d have loved him. Daddy, I have a feeling she would have thought of him as my prince.”
“What a romantic you are!” Charles laughed out loud, “Just like your mother!”
“What about you dad?” Catherine whispered, “What do you think of him?”
“That’s debateable. As your friend he’s perfect.” He stopped speaking wondering how much more she wanted to know. He soon found out.
“And as anything more?”
Eyebrows raised Charles shook his head and told her, “I don’t know honey…he’s different… he’s a real gentleman…but I don’t have to tell you that your whole life would change to be with him.”
“I know that, dad. I’ve accepted that. Do you think you could too?”
“Aha the sixty four thousand dollar question huh? The fact is, can he? Talking of which we had better get him out of there or this topic will be unnecessary.” He smiled patting her hand and adding, “let me think about it okay honey. I’m certainly not against the idea, just need to get my head around it that’s all.”
Catherine squeezed her father’s hand, “Thank you, dad.” Right at that moment Charles could deny her nothing, even life with the strangest man he had ever clapped eyes on, if that was what she wanted. It was a long time since he had seen her smile so brilliantly and here of all places too. And Charles Chandler thanked the gods that had brought Vincent into existence for he didn’t think he had ever seen his daughter look so happy or so content but a relationship between them? How out of the question was that? He supposed it depended upon the fact that every parent faced when presented with a possible spouse for their child. Could he accept grandchildren between the two of them and in this case possibly furry ones? And then Charles laughed amazed that the thought didn’t seem half as bad as it ought to do.
*** *** ***
Nothing untoward happened. Left alone yet under surveillance Catherine and Charles carried the heavy ‘table’ from the truck to the cabin and installed it, of all places into the bedroom that Charles had shared with his wife. It was the best place to put it. Heavy double shutters crossed over the windows, and there was enough room for one person to stay put in there to eat sleep and ‘play’ Charles thought wryly. It was also a good bolthole for anyone having to hide from the doorway, and as no one was likely to have need to enter there it was the safest place for Vincent to be.
Sweeping the tablecloth onto the floor, Catherine slid off the lid that secured Vincent from prying eyes. He gasped for air as soon as his face was revealed and Catherine laughed knowing that he had done it to humour her. “At last!” He whispered, “I thought you had forgotten me!”
“As if.” Catherine replied searching his eyes. They were intense and blue and she wanted to drown in them. Her reply and meaning was not lost on Charles or Vincent and both were unable to speak for several minutes. Finally, Charles announced that he would unpack the truck and needed them both to watch from the windows via the shutters and keep him covered. Anything might happen now, but Catherine had other ideas.
“He might shoot you Dad. I doubt he wants to do that to me, and we have left the truck right outside the door. Let me go. There is only one bag.”
Doubtful yet knowing the sense of it, Charles and Vincent let her go, though watching her step outside was nerve wracking especially as she seemed to take a god awful long time about it.
“What kept you?” Charles snapped when she came back into the cabin. He hadn’t meant to snap but his nerves were as tight as a bow.
“The strap on the bag was caught around the handbrake and when I pulled at it the truck started to roll backwards, didn’t you notice?” Catherine snapped back.
“I’m sorry honey, yes I did notice, couldn’t understand what you were doing. Forgive me and at least you are back safe.”
“I was only two feet away daddy.” Still Catherine knew that was no consolation at all. Charles just felt bad that he had agreed to let Catherine go out there at all.
“I’ll make us some coffee. Tea for you Vincent?” Slapping a hand against his mouth Charles knew he was guilty of mentioning a third person among them, but Catherine was quick to respond with, “Will you quit calling me Vincent! Do I look like a man?”
Charles and Vincent grinned and Charles shook his head, “Sorry honey, what alias would you prefer me to use then?”
“Anything female, how about Vicky?”
“Vicky it is then.” Charles hoped that the surveillance team would accept the ruse. And listening in they did, however they found it unfathomable as to why Charles should wish to change his daughter’s name when it was only for their benefit.
*** *** ***
It shouldn’t have been a surprise but it was when half a week later a loud knock at the cabin door and the announcement that the caller was a name they recognised among the surveillance team, had the so called ‘Vicky’ bolting for the back bedroom and Charles answering the door.
“Hello, how’s it going?” Charles asked taking in the other fellow’s sullen face and adding, “What’s the matter? What’s happened?” Beside her father, Catherine quaked, the fear in her eyes apparent as they never left the officer’s face.
“There’s been another murder.” He told them gravely.
“Another? But where? Is it our man?” Charles wanted to know.
“Oh very much so. It was in the city. Seems he is annoyed with our being here surrounding you. He left a message with the victim’s blood similar as before, one death in the city for every police officer he finds surrounding your cabin. We can’t risk the chance that he’s bluffing Sir, this guy is a nut case. We have to withdraw our protection, though not entirely. We’ll stay within three miles radius, see if he can put up with that.”
“Three miles! Is that really necessary, why can’t you make it two or even one?” Charles demanded to know.
“Simply put? Between half a mile from here and three miles away it’s all lakes and clearing. We can see everything with long range binoculars and we still have the cameras in place. If he allows this then something is bound to occur, but we need to lend you some protection. I suggest that you have a couple of our men live at the cabin with you.”
“No!” Both Charles and Catherine shouted together, surprising the officer no end. “I mean,” Charles went on hoping to pacify him, “that would do no good, he’d be expecting that. I have my gun with me, if I could be permitted to use that, surely it would suffice?”
“You don’t need me to tell you the law is a strange thing Sir. Shooting a man in self-defence is one thing, killing him quite another. Your daughter would quite naturally be a biased witness. Any shooting that’s done, I don’t have to tell you, could end up with you facing charges of manslaughter.”
“It’s a risk I’m prepared to take. My daughter’s life for his? There’s no question. Wouldn’t you do the same if you had a child involved like this?”
The officer nodded, “I would want to do, but it doesn’t help the police any. We need this guy alive, he has a lot of questions to answer. A lot of people have gone missing over the past few years in these areas, and we believe he can help us with our enquiries.”
“But you understand my predicament.” Charles suddenly cared for his own and no one else. “My loyalty is with the living.”
“I understand, at least this conversation is being recorded and that alone can be used at your defence, however so will the fact that the risks were highlighted and you chose to ignore them. But I do understand Sir, it would be difficult to do the right thing when faced with such a merciless killer.”
“So when will you be moving you’re men back?” Catherine asked.
“Now as we speak they are packing up. By tonight you are going to be completely on your own up here. That is we’ll be able to get to you by truck within five minutes, but all the same try to stay inside where we can hear you.”
“And if he should cut the connection? Have you thought of that?”
“We have, don’t worry. Look, keep a lamp burning at all times in this window. The moment it is obstructed or goes out we will come. It’s the best we can do in the circumstances, but know this that we are taking every precaution to keep you both safe.”
“Precaution my ass!” Catherine snorted. Both men looked at her askance knowing she had a point, but it never escaped the fact that this was the only way the psycho would play it. Any other way would mean the life of innocent people back in Manhattan. Anywhere come to that, didn’t have to be in the city, if the guy wanted one death for every officer he saw, he might strike at anyone anywhere and that was a risk they were not prepared to take.
“We’ll look after you, don’t worry.” The officer told them hoping he sounded more convincing than he felt.
Charles and Catherine said nothing more. They did worry, who wouldn’t. Thankfully for all the officer’s promises of protection, they still had one of their own. They still had their trump card sitting listening in the back room. Thank God for who he was and that he could be their stronghold.
*** *** ***
A week went by. In that time, nothing untoward happened in or around the cabin and thankfully, no more deaths were reported from the city. Supplies were delivered to the cabin door but neither Charles nor Catherine saw anyone deliver them. That was nerve wracking in itself and highlighted to them just how vulnerable their situation really was.
Vincent, unused to being holed up in a strange place coped remarkably well both Charles and Catherine thought. It was a shame that he could not speak though, conversing only through written notes passed between the three or when Charles remembered to address him as Vicky on the pretence that he was conversing with his daughter. Of course, Catherine could not use such a guise and wished that at the beginning she had thought to give her father a new identity so that she might use it for Vincent. It was a pain having to write everything down. Or it was, in the beginning. At the end of the first week as their nerves began to settle a little Catherine began to realise that passing Vincent little notes might have its advantages.
Young and reasonably innocent Catherine set out to fool around. Remembering the kiss they had shared fed her goal and after watching Vincent and her father share another endless game of chess she decided to slip Vincent a note of her intention before following him into his back room when her father wanted to retire for the night on the couch in the main living room. Here he had spent the past week, and the last few days making sure that their nightlight did not go out in the window.
As Vincent made to close the door, Catherine held a hand against it. Her father was busy with the dishes from supper his back to her, and Catherine hoped that Vincent wouldn’t attempt to make a scene that would arouse her father’s suspicions as to why his daughter suddenly wanted to spend some time in the back room with their guest.
Eyebrows raised, Vincent said nothing just stepped back and allowed Catherine’s entrance, closing the door firmly behind her when he was sure that Charles had seen nothing. Then heart hammering, he turned to Catherine inside his room, knowing her intent exactly.
They gazed at one another a long, long moment, hearts hammering, and though Vincent had reconciled himself to the fact that what had happened between them before could never happen again, having Catherine in front of him here and now, her eyes filled with hopeful expectation it was altogether too much for his battered nerves to handle. He stepped toward her arms wide, drawing her into a close embrace and lowered his lips to hers. That initial touch of her warm and moist lips beneath his sparked the flame that threatened to consume him and he knew in that instant that he ought not have allowed her even into the room.
Catherine melted within his arms, eyes closed she savoured the touch of his lips on hers. All her dreams crashed around her like waves hitting the rocks of a shore. With emotions and desire filling her and her head spinning she sunk herself into the glorious kiss and the touch of his unique mouth against hers.
They dared not speak, not even the slightest of whispers yet neither could prevent a soft moan of satisfaction escape their lips as Catherine cleaved her body to his and felt his hot and hardened flesh tight against the soft contours of her belly.
Surprised that she could, yet without a second thought, Catherine’s hand slid down between them finding and caressing the engorged flesh and shuddering as she felt it surge and grow beneath the touch of her questing fingers. In response, Vincent deepened his kiss, his tongue forcing her lips apart, tasting the honeyed jewel inside her mouth and sucking upon her tongue, his heart racing, his head reeling. Nothing, nothing could compare with this. He wanted never to stop, wanted her, all of her, needed her like a dying man deprived of air desperately needed to find a way of staying alive.
His hands held her tight against him, his lips never leaving her mouth slaking his thirst with her and taking within his own the whimpers and moans that expelled from her lips. When he felt her take up one of his hands it never registered until he felt beneath his palm the cool and silky touch of soft skin and opening one eye was stunned to see that she had placed it upon her breast. Thrust down between her blouse and her bra his lethal claws surrounded one rosy nipple, now hardened by desire.
At that sight, he tried to snatch back his hand, and broke the kiss but Catherine held him tightly against her anticipating this move, mouthing, ‘No, stay’ against his lips.
His eyes riveted to the beauty beneath his hand Vincent could only stand and stare not knowing what to do, not daring to touch yet afraid to pull his hand away lest his claws cut her.
Understanding his predicament, Catherine took up his thumb and with it passed it to and fro over the rosy nipple moaning at the electrified touch of his roughed hand against her soft yet rigid flesh sent flames of desire deep into the pit of her belly. Despite all his caution Vincent moaned loudly, watching mesmerised as the aurora around her nipple puckered and the rosy bud hardened further still. Never had he seen anything so beautiful, never had he wanted to taste anything more.
Head bent he lowered his mouth down to the treasure that called to him, taking it into the wet heat of his mouth, sliding the rosy tip into the cleft of his upper lip and pulling upon it as he had dreamed of suckling at a mother’s breast for all of his life. Catherine moaned and wriggled beneath him causing him to tighten his grip with the one arm still surrounding her waist.
“Vincent!” Catherine breathed against his neck, her face buried in his hair to disguise her voice and let only he know of her longing. “I love you.” She whimpered, her hand at his groin holding him tighter, showing him in no uncertain terms what she desired most from him this night.
“I love you too.” The words spoken against her breast surprised and pleased her at once and she hugged him tighter to her before using that self same hand to reveal her other breast to him for the taking.
His eyes took in the sight of the other breast begging for his touch and he did not disappoint her, moving his hot and torrid mouth from the first well loved breast to the next, drinking in her essence knowing that she was everything and more than anything he had ever imagined.
Through the fog that permeated his mind, Vincent felt Catherine’s hand leave his engorged shaft and almost cried at its departure until moments later he felt her tugging at the large ornate and leather belt that he always wore, her intent plain.
For a split second he thought of denying her access, but his own need was too great and instead found himself helping her undo the heavy buckle far enough to allow her hand to slide between denim and skin, down and down until her tiny fingers clasped him in their steely grip.
At that first electrifying touch reason assailed Vincent’s senses, “Catherine! We must stop!” He panted heavily, one more moment and he wouldn’t be able to turn aside from the feelings overwhelming him.
“No.” Catherine in total disagreement, pressed her hand more firmly around him her fingers teasing the tip, sliding the honeyed dew along his turgid length. He was hot and hard and wanting and she would do everything in her power to let that happen.
“We must!” Breathing heavily, Vincent pulled back from her, stunned to see her hand down the waistband of his jeans, stunned further to see the top half of her clothing revealing her creamy rose tipped breasts to his avid gaze. “Its not that I…want to stop…” He husked, “But we can’t do this…here.” He could hardly believe he was saying such things, could hardly believe that this was happening between them.
“It will be alright, “Catherine argued her voice so low only he could hear her, “Dad won’t come in. He thinks I’m in the other room and he never disturbs you!”
“It’s not that.” Vincent’s eyes were pained as his desire cooled with the reasonable thoughts surrounding him. Carefully he attempted to detach her hand with some reluctance.
“Then what!” Catherine’s eyes challenged him her hand gripping tighter as his flesh shrank when reason hit him.
Despite the situation, amazing as it was, beautiful though it had been, Vincent found that he was able to smile and tell her, “I don’t think it would be possible to stay quiet - vocally.” He grinned showing the tips of his fangs and Catherine shuddered suddenly remembering them grazing lightly across her nipples only moments before.
“But we will do it?” She asked him stunned that she could. To put it so blatantly into words like that made it sound sinful. “One day?”
Lost, unable to deny her anything, and knowing that now on the road to such discovery he was powerless to resist reaching the end of such a journey, Vincent nodded, “Yes one day. When we are back home. There is a place I can take you…”his voice faltered as embarrassed he realised how that had sounded, “that is take you to.”
Nodding Catherine released him from her grip, extracting her hand and set about tidying up her own state of undress. “I’ll hold you to that.”
Pleasure coursed through Vincent. Pleasure at the thought of things to come. For everything there was the place and the time, and regretfully now was not appropriate.
“Thank you, Catherine.” Words seemed suddenly useless but he had to make her know that what they had shared had been the most beautiful experience of his whole life thus far. His eyes when they looked at her were filled with love and unable to stop herself Catherine closed the gap between them moulded herself to him and leaned in for another long and passionate kiss. Vincent groaned, and Catherine sensing how she was tormenting him stepped back reluctantly, her eyes filled with amusement and love.
“It was my pleasure Vincent.” She whispered at last, “And I mean pleasure!” She added with a grin as she stepped to the door and placing one ear against it listened for sounds of movement beyond. When she had entered the backroom, she had no thought of leaving so soon, having decided that she would spend the night there. Her father might well be still up reading or listening to the radio.
“He’s asleep.” Vincent made her jump when he spoke into her other ear, teasing the lobe with the tip of his tongue as he did so. “You can make your escape and keep your vanity intact.” He chuckled softly, never losing sight of the fact that monitors transmitted every sound above a certain decibel back to the surveillance crew.
“It’s a pity I have to keep my virginity intact too.” She quipped reaching for the door handle, “Till later then, Vincent.” She made to open the door, surprised when one lean and muscled arm pushed it back and Vincent pulled her up against him. “You’re a virgin?”
“Don’t sound so surprised. There are still some of us left you know?” Catherine blushed.
“Its not that. I just assumed…you seemed so…” he sought for the words that he wanted but Catherine found them instead, “Assertive?”
“Yes. I just thought that…well you know.” Acutely embarrassed his cheeks flamed bright red.
“Well I haven’t…that is not all the way…just fooled around a little…but you…” she hesitated wondering how best to say it, “you are different.” He winced at that and she hurried on quickly to reassure him, “Not in the obvious way, my love. You are different from anyone I have ever known and I want…I want to share myself with you, as I have never wanted to share myself with any other boy, period. God Vincent, I love you so much.” Shaking her head as if she couldn’t believe it both of them knew it to be true. Her heart spoke of the intense love she felt for him and Vincent revelled in it.
“Catherine…” his eyes spoke of the love that he felt for her, and though he could say no more Catherine knew how much he loved her too. Besides, he had already told her, though that was while seized by passion. And if there was one thing Catherine did know, no boy should be trusted with words of love when enflamed by passion. They’d say anything to get your knickers off.
A lump formed in Catherine’s throat put there by unshed tears. They knew so little about one another, yet here they were embarking upon an experience that was new to both of them…wait a minute…how could she be sure of that? She should ask him.
Timidly averting her gaze from his Catherine began to ask, “Have you ever…” When suddenly he clamped a hand over her mouth and looking up at his face she was frightened by the look she saw there.
‘What is it?’ her mind screamed unable to voice the words, her ears attuned to whatever it was that Vincent had seemed to hear. Her heart hammered painfully against her ribs as she remembered the predicament they were in here in the cabin and wondered how she could ever have forgotten. Though amazingly she had for in that last glorious hour she had spent with Vincent, she had completely forgotten everything else.
It came back now with rapid ferocity. The psycho, their predicament, the danger surrounding them, and suddenly that fear was heightened by the risk that Vincent would put himself under for her sake. God if she were to lose him!
Terror clutched at her heart and knowing her feelings Vincent kissed her temple, instilling love through their connection desperately trying to calm her racing heart without ever letting go of his uncanny power to sense that something was wrong outside the cabin.
Catherine could not hear what Vincent with his acute sense of hearing could detect, but even to her suddenly it seemed awfully quiet outside. As if everything were waiting with expectation for something disastrous to happen.
Slowly Vincent grasped and turned the door handle putting Catherine behind him in the same movement. He peeped into the living quarters his night vision seeing everything in the dim light of the solitary candle burning by the window.
The room was empty and the outside door was wide open and the only thing left of Charles Chandler was a pool of his blood swept from the couch to the door as his body had been dragged senseless from the cabin – and they had not heard a thing!
Standing staring Vincent pushed Catherine back into the room and whispered that she should scream. Looking at him and not understanding one bit as to why he should suggest such a thing, Catherine pushed past him and yanking open the door cast her eyes around the room beyond. Vincent waited, expecting at any moment to hear the high pitched scream from her that would send the surveillance team running to help, and was surprised when instead of a scream he heard Catherine shout, “Vincent, he’s here!” before she charged back into the room that she had just vacated her eyes wild with fear and terror.
*** *** ***
They stood for long moments undecided. All was quiet in the other room and there was nothing to suggest that the psycho had presumed anything from her shout other than inform this so called friend whom he had known to be with her anyway, of his arrival.
Knowing that her father was securely bound and unconscious outside of the cabin, the psychopath entered the room and proceeded to sit upon the blood soaked couch, such from where he had accosted Charles Chandler over the head with the very same rolling pin that Catherine had used on him months earlier.
There he sat staring at the door, biding his time, knowing that there was no other way out, having secured the shutters from the other side with the aid of a very large tree trunk an hour earlier. He’d been amazed then that no one had heard a thing, he hadn’t exactly been quiet about it. Still if the woman was holed up in a room alone with her boyfriend…the psycho shrugged and hoped they had enjoyed themselves for it would be the last time that either of them did.
Lifting his trouser leg, he pulled out the knife he kept strapped there, its blade glinting in the light from the solitary candle and turning it this way and that he marvelled at the colours of red, yellow and orange captured in its light.
Finally anticipating that soon he would sink the fire reflected blade into soft flesh he drawled, “So what are we waiting for then? Christmas? You can come out Miss Chandler and your friend, there’s no way of escaping me.”
No sooner had he spoken when the sound of engines could be heard outside and tyres screeching on the gravel, yet undeterred he stood and walked toward the door gun held in his outstretched hand, fired and felled each officer as they exited their vehicle. That done he closed the door and returned to his seat on the couch without a backward glance.
Vincent had tried the shuttered window, heaving his weight against it and unable to shift it in any way, and hearing gunshots knew that to leave the room would be stupid and they could well be there a long time before the team that had come to help were missed. The only consolation was that he and Catherine were at least in the same room, but Vincent fumed at the fact that due to their canoodling he had not heard anything other than the sound of his own heartbeat thrumming in his ears as their joint passion had ignited and burned and obliterated everything else around them. Because of what they had done, Charles Chandler could well be dead and he and Catherine were now trapped in the room at the psycho’s mercy!
*** *** ***
It felt like hours but was only in actuality minutes that Vincent remained poised for anything behind the door of the back room. Whatever the psycho thought he would never expect anyone like Vincent, and Catherine plastered against the back wall watched the door expecting to see it flung open at any moment. They had snuffed out the candles and the only light present was that which dimmed from the main room beyond from the slit beneath the door. Watching it Vincent knew when the psycho advanced, seeing the shadow sweep across the tiny orange glow, and he moved to stand on the other side of the door, where he would be least expected to be. He might be different might be quick but was no faster than a bullet and Vincent felt that the fellow would be sure that someone waited behind the door. Sure enough, as a crack appeared in the door a gun held hand flung around it and fired indiscriminately and Vincent was glad that he’d had the foresight to change positions.
The door re-closed “Did I get him?” They heard the muffled voice from the other side of the door, “Is he dead? Is it just you and me now Catherine? What shall we do? Any suggestions? How about strip poker? I know you strip and I’ll kill you with the poker.” The chuckle that accompanied the suggestion made Catherine feel sick.
“Go to hell!” Catherine snapped, her voice hoarse.
He laughed, a deep resonate sound that made Catherine shiver as she remembered it from last time. Suddenly the thought of that axe hurtling toward her had her gripping the night stand at her side until her knuckles ached. She felt no pain, just wished that whatever was to happen would happen faster, sickened by what was to come, wishing she was anywhere else but there, wishing she was back in Vincent’s arms.
She could see him, her night vision now attuned to the silhouette of Vincent standing on the other side of the room and could see that he beckoned for her to join him. It was not good that they were so far apart. If he could overcome the psycho, they might be able to make a run for it after all, the vehicle was still outside that’s assuming he hadn’t tampered with it.
Slowly Catherine left her place and edged closer to Vincent, her eyes never leaving him and arrived at his side just as she heard the door handle rattle again. Vincent took one of her hands in his and squeezed it offering comfort and hope and as the door started to open he seized what he assumed to be the psycho shocked with disbelief as the arm that he held onto seemed clammy and strange.
Laughter came from within the cabin, “Tricked you!” And a body half fell half pushed dropped onto the floor at Vincent’s feet leaving the door wide open.
Neither Vincent nor Catherine could see who it was, but they soon found out, “Your father wanted to see how you were doing. I thought I’d show him.” Suddenly he appeared sauntering over the unconscious body of Charles Chandler like he had not a care in the world the psycho entered gun at the ready for anything that moved. What he did not expect was sound.
A growl had him spinning and firing even as the sound moved from one side of the room to the other growing in length and intensity disorientating the psychopath. “You got a dog in here?” he questioned with disbelief, “Where is it? Let me at the beast!” He fired more shots until there were none left and in the darkness lit only by the dimness of one candle in the room beyond Vincent jumped him from the side sending his gun and knife spinning out of his hand.
“What the…” Warm blood trickled down the psycho’s face and he put up a hand to ward off the next blow when something sharp hit him full on the back of the neck, like several needles piercing his skin at once, and he heard the most deafening roar in his ears.
This stunned him to the core, as unexpected and unpredicted he could never have known what Vincent was. Assuming that he was just a person that wore a cape and hood for reasons unknown.
A slow growl sounded to his left, then almost as soon as he recognised its location it was at his right yet the psycho saw no one move heard no sound and could not predict from where it might come next. Blood in his eyes, his intention was to wipe it furiously away with the back of one hand but the hand never made contact. Instead intense pain shot through his arm as his wrist cracked under the weight of something hard and warm and his mind refused to register that it felt furry too even though the sound that accompanied the action could only be described as feline and large at that.
His mind spinning the psycho pulled back his arm intent on rubbing his wrist and to his horror met hot blood gushing and plopping at his feet. His hand had gone, completely gone!
“What…what is this?” He cried almost sobbing, surprising Catherine that he could. He still had not located her position even though she wasn’t far from him. In the dim light from behind, she was able to ascertain where he was, but he could not see her even if he hadn’t had blood in his eyes.
He stumbled, his intent to flee paramount when an arm crashed down upon his back sending him reeling across the room and tearing huge rents in his flesh. The pain intense, the psycho stumbled running for the door forgetting everything but the need to survive, to get away from this…this…thing…this animal…whatever it was…that was set to kill him.
Vincent pursued him, batting him, flicking aside the flesh that was coming away in strips and glorifying in the squeals and screams as his victim’s life ebbed away beneath his mighty hands. Then suddenly he stopped as Catherine’s horrified screams filled the night and Vincent knew he had gone too far had shown her what he was really capable of, what those lethal hands that had held her breast so tenderly only a few hours before could really do on contact with skin.
Ashamed, Vincent hung his head, aware of the psycho dragging himself away and waited as Catherine reached his side. “Vincent…” she was unable to continue not knowing quite what to say, doubting that she had seen such a spectacle. If she had thought what the psycho had done was bad then Vincent had been no better. It shocked her that he had seemed to enjoy torturing the fellow so, even though at the back of her mind she knew that he’d deserved it. It was just seeing Vincent do that kind of thing, use the built in weapons at his disposal for something so monstrous and what was worse - to seem to enjoy it!
“I’m sorry Catherine. Now you know what I really am.” He stood for several seconds as if he might say more or as if he might be waiting for her to say something or to touch him, anything, but when she did neither he took to his heels and disappeared from view going in the same direction as the psychopath had gone. He would finish him off that was for sure, no matter what Catherine thought of him now, that fellow would not live to see another day to kill an innocent woman ever again.
In the silence that surrounded her, Catherine stood stock still as the last cracking branches could be heard further and further away. She supposed Vincent would return in his own good time, but found that part of her didn’t care if he never came back. And to think just a few hours ago she had dreamed of giving herself to him. How could she have been so blind?
*** *** ***
Morning found Catherine wrapped in a blanket, forehead pressed close to the cold glass staring unseeing at the approaching dawn. Light shimmered on the lake, casting golden hues across its surface and yet her eyes saw none of it. In the back room, paramedics took care of her father who still unconscious was being placed upon a stretcher ready for transport. Officers were everywhere, the hand securely placed in a colourless plastic bag and then inserted into a brown paper one for DNA testing, bullets extracted from the splintered walls of the back room.
“We have to go now Miss.” One of them tapped her arm, “Don’t worry he won’t get far without this.” He held up the bag glad that she couldn’t see into it, though at that moment he doubted she could see anything at all. Shock he supposed, for whatever had gone on there that night he had could only ever surmise at.
It was like a bloodbath in there yet the woman had only minimal blood on her. They couldn’t understand why the psycho had seemingly turned his own weapons upon himself and had not tried to hurt her in anyway - it just didn’t make any sense. But the truth was they weren’t about to give him a second chance, one handed or not he was still at large and might come back at any moment to try and kill her.
Ushering Catherine through the door, she watched as they carried her and her father’s belongings out to the waiting ambulance, the truck they’d collect later. Mr Chandler was in critical condition but they were certain he would survive once he got the care he needed. And Miss Chandler once she had had some counselling would be as good as new though she would never forget whatever had happened at the cabin..
Only one watched them go, from his vantage point high above the cabin Vincent sat on his haunches wondering how he might get back home and yet glad that Catherine and her father were now in safe hands. Then he looked back to where beneath him on the other side of the hill, a man walked back toward the cabin, blood dripping from one handless arm and Vincent knew that he still had to finish him off. However, now that his fury had subsided and the one that he loved despised him for what he was Vincent wasn’t certain that he could do that anymore.
*** *** ***
Ticking off another day, Father closed his diary. That made it eleven, eleven long days since Vincent had left the tunnels for Catherine and Charles cabin. How much longer would Vincent be away? He supposed that it would be impossible that they could get word to him, and he knew that no news was good news but he still wished he knew something.
A slight tapping at the entrance to his chamber had him looking up from where he sat behind his desk and a half smile formed on his lips, “Jamie, did you want me?” He queried wondering why she hovered on the steps leading down to his chamber and did not breeze in as usual. He knew he’d been bad company recently but he also knew everyone realised why that was and forgave him for it.
“Yes. Father, George sent down yesterday’s newspaper, and I wondered if you’d seen it?” She knew he couldn’t have or he’d be raising the roof by now, or pacing or barking orders or being a usual bear with a sore head not wanting to socialise with anyone.
“No, my dear, I haven’t. Where did you leave it?” Misinterpreting the question Father suddenly noticed the newspaper in Jamie’s hand and added, “Oh you mean did I wish to see it?”
She smiled wanly, and completing the few steps walked toward him, nervously. “I’m not sure it will please you,” she began and scolded herself, ‘not sure? She was sure all right. He’d be fuming when he read it. Who was she kidding?’
Already Father bristled, ‘what’s happened now?’ he wondered scanning the newspaper open at the appropriate page when Jamie spread it on the desk before him. She hovered then, expecting him to explode at any moment surprised when instead of that he slung off his spectacles and leaning back against his chair asked the air, ‘My God, Vincent where are you?’
Jamie understood the question, it had been the same one she had asked herself all the way over to Father’s chamber. It was the same question each member who had already seen the newspaper were also asking themselves.
“Shall I call a council meeting?” Jamie ventured gently.
“Huh? What? Oh yes, yes, do that, have them meet me here within the hour.” Jamie saw the tears in Father’s eyes and tried not to let him know she’d noticed.
“I’ll do that then, won’t be long.” She hastened to leave, tears clouding her own vision and her heart echoing Father’s question, ‘Vincent, where are you?’ when she suddenly stood stock still as Father burst into tears behind her. Her heart went out to him and she hurried round the desk to his side placing her arms around his shoulders, “Oh Father, don’t worry there must be some reasonable explanation. I’m sure the Chandler’s know where he is. Perhaps he is at their house.”
“You don’t really believe that.” Father sobbed.
“I want to do.” She told him, “Where else would he be?”
In reply, Father’s sobs increased for he hadn’t a clue. The newspaper showed that the Chandlers had been brought home by ambulance some two days earlier, Charles was still in hospital unconscious, Catherine was in a state of shock and not responding to treatment and the psychopath though maimed was still at large. But what of Vincent? Where was he? Of course, the newspapers would not mention him because they didn’t know he existed, and if there was some small consolation it was that. No mention of Vincent meant he had not be discovered, but where was he? If the Chandlers had been back two days then was Vincent still in the location of the cabin? And if he was and the psychopath was also still in the area, then there was a good chance that Vincent would be discovered. Father supposed that the area would be swarming with police by now. And maimed, they’d said the fellow was maimed, how maimed? And by what?
“There’s nothing we can do Father but wait. With Catherine in a state of shock and her father unconscious there is no one we can ask. What happened up there Father, to render those two senseless?” she didn’t expect an answer and Father could provide none. Her guess was as good as his. But someone had to know something, and his thoughts turned instantly to Peter.
“Jamie, can you take a message for me, get it to Peter? I’m certain that he can find something out. I fear that Vincent is still up at the location of that cabin, maybe Peter can bring him home.”
Jamie nodded. Any hope was better than none, but she seriously doubted that anyone would be allowed to enter within several miles radius of the cabin right now, in fact the paper had said people living up there had been evacuated. Still Peter might glean something from his contacts more than a newspaper reporter could, and so she hugged Father goodbye and then taking his scribbled message went out of his chamber to seek someone that could run it for her.
*** *** ***
If it had been for any other reason, Vincent supposed he would have found great delight to be able to wake up to dappled sunlight streaming through the bush that he had spent the night beneath. But as circumstances were, he knew just how very vulnerable he was out there in the sunlight. With nowhere to hide and not knowing the location he dared not move too far from the inhabited areas although since everyone had been evacuated all the cabins were empty. Still if Catherine should return for him, here is where she would look, and though Vincent doubted that she would he couldn’t give up hope.
That first day when the Chandlers had been taken away in the ambulance and Vincent had watched them go, he had been aware that on the other side of the hill, the injured psycho wandered aimlessly and half blind toward the cabin, but when Vincent checked his progress he had gone. Since then though a trail of blood had afforded him with information that the fellow was still alive though he had not clapped eyes upon him and Vincent found that most disturbing and one of the reasons why he lay beneath the bush now, his eyes ever watchful – his ears ever alert when he slept.
It had become increasingly perilous wondering where the fellow could possibly be, and if he were still a threat to others. Obviously he would have lost a great deal of blood and would not feel strong enough to tackle any other, but Vincent knew by his cunning alone that the fellow could get the better of him and might even expose him as the area was surrounded with police officers. And that was so frightening. Not knowing who they were after the tracker dogs might easily pick up his scent instead, or he might be seen trying to hide and Vincent knew that his life was in as much danger as that of the psychopath.
He was also hungry. A few blackberries had been all he could find the day before but he knew he had to find something to sustain him this day. Vulnerable as he was he had to keep up his strength and he wondered if he might be able to catch some fish at the lake. This was another one of the reasons he had chosen this particular bush to sleep beneath, as it was the nearest and largest shrub by the lake in fact, inches from where he lay, the water ebbed almost touching his fingertips. ‘Perhaps I can fish here’ Vincent thought. It was probable that small fry sought the cool bank to hide from the hot sun, but noon was hours away and he was hungry now but at least he had water.
Carefully slaking his thirst, Vincent sucked up the water as silently as he could feeling the ice cold slide down his throat and send shivers through him as it met an empty and unwilling stomach. This rumbled its disagreement and sounded so very loud to Vincent’s sensitive ears, that his eyes darted all around expecting that everything with ten yards would have heard the sound. Still nothing moved and the birds continued to sing.
He dozed a little, the sunshine, the birdsong the tranquillity of the place soothing his jangled nerves and Vincent let his guard slowly subside so that he was no longer tense, no longer ready to flee at a second’s notice. In that position he allowed his mind to drift back to the time he spent with Catherine at the cabin, dismayed when he felt himself harden instantly when he thought on the things that the two of them had shared. Was it really only three days ago? It seemed a lifetime. But would he ever look upon her again and not see the creamy rose tipped softness that she had offered so willingly? A soft moan sounded in his throat and instantly he was alert, checking around him breathlessly hoping that he hadn’t given himself away. But all was quiet - all was still.
He’d never self-abused himself, though he knew that some of the tunnel boys had resorted to it, Vincent had always felt that to masturbate would be shameful, something he should not allow and from what he knew of it did nothing to help the situation. Still as his flesh grew even harder, the need for release became so very painful - he had never been so aroused, not even with Lisa. Vincent closed his eyes and very carefully changing his position lay flat upon his stomach hoping that here he could grind his heated flesh against the earth and provide himself with a merit of comfort. It didn’t work. He imagined that the contours of the leafy earth beneath him were the contours of Catherine’s body and he wanted to sink himself into her so very badly that he almost climaxed in his jeans. Appalled Vincent buried his head against his arms biting hard against the material of the black cloak that he wore in order to stifle the cry that emitted from his mouth of its own violation. What had she done to him? He knew the answer to that of course. Catherine had shown him how to love, given him a need that he had not known existed, offered him the forbidden fruit he was never meant to have. He wanted to cry but knew how senseless that would be and it might signal his location. Still his fevered flesh beckoned for release and reluctantly, sickened that he could, dismayed that he had to, Vincent allowed his hand to drop down to where his engorged shaft bulged against the restriction of his tight jeans. He hated himself as he rolled slightly to one side, freeing his erection into one calloused hand and began the slow rhythmic rub that would bring the satisfaction his body cried out for. He’d never done this before, but the feelings coming over him swiftly caused him to rub faster and faster nearing completion with every stroke. Finally, finally he almost roared Catherine’s name out loud, as his climax pumped forth coating his fur backed hand in warm milky liquid. The spicy repugnant scent was abhorrent to his nostrils, but was soon lost in the relief that suddenly overwhelmed him.
Lying there in the aftermath as the coolness of the morning breeze touched his withering manhood, Vincent suddenly felt as if he could sleep for a week. His eyelids drooped and he only half remembered tidying himself and zipping up his trousers before he gave in to the feeling that washed over him. There he floated, a soft whimsical smile playing around his lips as he dreamed of Catherine. Of being with Catherine, of making love to Catherine until his heated flesh began to stir again and he awoke feeling as frustrated as before and disgusted that he would have to give in to the demands of his body over and over without letup if he were ever going to get any peace at all. But where would that lead him? He would be a slave to his own flesh and he would come to despise himself. He’d heard about such people, heard how desire and passion led them like a slave until they would stoop at nothing for a fleeting second of bliss. He vowed he wouldn’t be like them, he must think of something else, turn his wicked thoughts aside, and worst of all he must not think of Catherine, not in any way. That grieved him the most, but Vincent knew that this temptress that had shown him a little of what love could be had unleashed in him things he had not known existed, and things that would no more be caged. He wanted her desperately, and he was afraid that in that frantic need he would take anyone at any time whether they were willing or not, and with his great strength he could harm them, just as he had harmed Lisa, or he might even kill them when blinded by desire. And so, with a concerted effort Vincent pushed all thoughts of Catherine firmly from his mind and tried to think on something else. It was difficult but he succeeded and as he spotted some tiny fish swimming into the shore he cupped his hands until they were sucked into his palms by the whirlpool he’d created and he fed on the tiny little fish until his hunger for food was reasonably satisfied at least.
*** *** ***
With Father’s note clutched in his hand, Peter arrived at the bedside of Charles Chandler surprised and pleased to see that he was awake. Catherine too was there, her hand resting in her father’s as the pair of them whispered asking each how the other felt. Peter surmised from that that Charles had not been awake long and though as a doctor he knew that his friend needed rest, he was also anxious for some answers.
“Peter!” Charles husked as he caught sight of his long time friend, “How are you?” The last time he had seen Peter he had still been in a state of shock over his receptionist’s death.
“I’ve felt better.” Peter replied, “How about you?”
“Same here. I’ve been out for the count till an hour ago.”
“So you’ve had a good rest then?” Peter quipped bringing up a seat so that he could sit at the bedside.
Charles tried to chuckle, but found that all he could do was cough. Catherine quickly poured a glass of water and holding it to his lips said, “Here dad drink this.”
His eyes met Peter’s over the rim of the glass and thanking his daughter Charles waved the cup away, he needed no more. Something was wrong. He’d known Peter a long time, and he knew that look!
“What is it? What’s wrong?” For a moment, Charles feared that Peter knew something about his health that hadn’t been revealed to him. Perhaps a bump on the head like that would cause a tumour or something. Perhaps part of his brain had been damaged. Charles wouldn’t be surprised if that was so for he had the most horrendous headache.
“Do you know where Vincent is?” Peter asked and Charles drew his brows together dismayed. It was not the answer that he had expected and for a moment he wasn’t sure what Peter meant.
“Vincent? Vincent who?” Catherine gasped and then he knew, “Vincent?” he turned to his daughter, “Catherine, didn’t Vincent come back with us?”
“How could he dad? He would have been discovered.” Charles did not understand.
“But surely when you brought the truck back…”
“I didn’t…its still up at the cabin…at least I assume it is. I didn’t drive us back dad, we were brought back in an ambulance.”
“What both of us? Honey, what is it that you haven’t told me? You said you were unharmed.” Charles struggled to sit up wanting desperately to see that his daughter was okay for himself but his head swam when he moved quickly and he was forced to lie back sharp. “Oooh that hurts.” He placed a hand to his forehead and his eyes closed tightly, causing Catherine to cry out and pull the emergency cord at her father’s bedside. In seconds, two nurses hurried in ushering Catherine and Peter from the room, despite Peter’s assurance that he was the family GP and should stay.
Outside in the corridor, Peter steered Catherine by the elbow to an empty visitors room and there bid her sit before he launched his questions, “So where is he?” Being the first of many.
“I don’t know! I’m not his keeper.” Stunned Peter could only stare at Catherine, she sounded like she hated Vincent, yet he had been led to believe that they thought a lot of one another.
“What happened up there Catherine? You and Vincent were friends, now it sounds as if you wouldn’t care if you never saw him again.”
“Well you’re right about that, I wouldn’t!”
“Catherine!” Stunned Peter could only utter her name in shocked disbelief. He never thought he’d hear her say such a thing.
“So he’s still up at the cabin somewhere, is that what you are saying?”
“Suppose so, unless he’s hitched a ride.”
“Now young lady, you know that isn’t possible. Have you spared no thought to him at all? He’s outside, Catherine for God’s sake. Outside for the first time in his life and in a place he doesn’t know, have you not spared a single thought as to how he must be feeling?”
“Young lady I could slap you!” Peter was furious. “If you could only hear yourself.”
“So slap me.” Catherine sneered.
“Why, you callous uncaring little bitch!” Jumping to his feet, Peter crossed to and flung open the door intent on striding out into the corridor down the stairs to the ground floor and leaving like a maniac in his sporty little car. But what he didn’t expect was Catherine coming galloping after him tears running down her cheeks and sobbing, “Peter wait! I’m sorry!”
He turned to her his temper subsiding as he took in her appearance. She did look sorry, in fact she looked downright miserable, and he was compelled to ask, “So what happened between the two of you, and don’t tell me nothing?”
“Noth…”Catherine began, then with a wry grimace went on, “Ok something did happen, but then I saw what he was really capable of. Oh Peter it was horrible!” She sobbed burying her face in her hands.
Placing his arms around her Peter hugged her tightly not caring that they were making a spectacle of themselves, concerned only with giving her comfort. He’d never seen Vincent in any kind of rage, except those times when a fever had placed him in its mighty grip, but he knew that Vincent had on occasions hurt someone that he’d vowed to love.
“Did he hurt you?” He whispered with obvious concern.
With tear filled eyes Catherine looked up at him, she shook her head, “Not in the way you mean. To me he was…” she sobbed before continuing, “To me he was everything, everything a boy should be. It was when that…that…psycho turned up…Oh Peter I thought Vincent was going to tear him to shreds!” She wailed causing everyone to look up in their direction. And despite the seriousness of what Catherine had seen, Peter felt relieved. At least Vincent hadn’t hurt her.
“Honey, try to understand Vincent is different from the rest of us. And he protects those that he loves in the only way open to him. He is after all half lion.” He spoke tenderly trying to make her understand.
“I know Peter, but looking like something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to act like them too. I just never thought, never realised that his actions, the sounds that he can make would be like that of a lion too. It just never crossed my mind.”
“Then you’ve had a nasty shock in more ways than one, but Vincent is still your friend, still your protector and you’ve left him to fend for himself up at the cabin with no way of getting home, Catherine you can’t leave him there. You’ve got to help me bring him home.”
“You’re going?” She sounded surprised.
“Well up until this moment I hadn’t realised I would be, but in the absence of your father I suppose I’m the obvious choice. However, there is one problem unresolved…”
“The psycho! He’s still at large isn’t he? Oh Peter! He and Vincent are up there together!” For the first time realisation sunk in and Catherine even knowing what Vincent was capable of, was frightened for him. That psycho maimed or not could do terrible things to Vincent, might even have him discovered. “When can we go?” She asked tearfully.
Peter shook his head, “I don’t know honey. I’ll make some enquiries, but I can’t see it being anytime soon. However the second we are given the all clear can you be ready to go at a moment’s notice?”
Catherine nodded her eyes grave and anxious, for suddenly she realised how it must have been for Vincent over the past four days up there, all alone, with only the psycho for company, and she prayed with all her might that he was still alive.
*** *** ***
Whatever had it been?
That question had gone over and over the psychopath’s mind ever since that night that something, some terrible beast had robbed him of his hand, of his sanity. Yet when he could think rationally, he always drew the same conclusion, the Chandler’s had arrived alone, had taken in some furniture to the cabin, but there had only been the two of them, even though he knew that their friend had intended to go with them. And who was this friend? At the Chandler house he had always worn a large cape, his face shielded in the folds and shadows of the hood, impossible to see or tell what he looked like. Impossible to know why he kept himself covered, or why he did not like stark electric lights or why he preferred that they used lamps or candles when he visited them. Was it possible that this person and the something that attacked him were one and the same? But if that were so then when did he arrive at the cabin? These questions went round and round the fellow’s head until he thought his brain would burst from them. And there was something else. He wasn’t certain but he felt that this thing, this person was still in the area, that he hadn’t left when the ambulance had taken the Chandlers away, that he was out there somewhere and possibly looking for him.
The psychopath shuddered, he’d always considered himself so in control, but now he felt like the hunted and not the hunter. It was a new feeling and one he didn’t like.
There was also another problem. Police patrolled the glen where the cabins were built on the hills and vales of this location and around the lakes where deer and black bear trod. From time to time it was even possible to spot a cougar, though he steered clear of them and shuddered when he heard them snarling at night. Those snarls reminded him of that other thing, some other monstrous mighty thing that sounded similar, that sounded more ferocious and deadly than the cougar.
And to add to it all, the stump from where his hand was severed throbbed painfully and the psychopath was certain that by the large red line that ran from the wound and up his arm that blood poisoning had set in, blood poisoning that could kill him. For the first time in his life he was afraid. Each way he looked there was no way out. Somewhere out there something hunted him, the police with their dogs tracked him, his own blood contaminated was killing him, yet he would not give any of them the satisfaction, he would fight them all until the bitter end.
A twig snapped. Head spinning, alerted to the sound the fellow held his breath, what was that? He searched for cover deciding he was probably okay where he was crouched beneath a bush at the bottom of a large hollow tree in which he had spent the night, creepy crawlies included. Those he could stand, those he could get used to. If only that was all he had to worry about a few bugs here and there.
From beneath the bush he peered, something was coming. It was difficult to see in the half-light of dusk what it could be, but it was something black that he could tell. It moved, ambled with an animal gait zig-zagging between the bracken stopping he assumed to sniff the air, and in that moment realised too late that he was upwind of them and too close that he might move and not be seen.
Heart in mouth he watched the shadowy figure and reasoned that this was that thing, that creature that had taken his hand and fury mounted up like eagles taking to the skies. The fellow looked around him, he needed a weapon and knew he had a knife, but where? Where had he last had it? He remembered suddenly, the night before he had snared and skinned a rabbit, had eaten it raw, but had not picked up the knife. Still he could see it just, glinting in the dying rays of a fiery sun burning low in the evening sky. If he needed to, if he could he might roll with one swift movement pick up the knife and plunge it into the chest of the one that approached him. Courage assailed him, and he started to breathe again, flexing the fingers of his solitary hand watching with renewed excitement as the creature drew near him.
*** *** ***
Adept at catching the fish Vincent had spent the last few days deciding on what he had to do. Out and about police still patrolled the area and he had cleverly dodged them till now, but it wouldn’t always be so, with more personnel drawn in, more dogs set loose to track. Though he was grateful that they so obviously had not been set off with any scent of his, for more than once they came close to where he lay hiding, but passed by hot on another fresh trail. Vincent did not know what he might have done had they come up to him, he didn’t even want to think about it and there was something more important, he had to find his way home. Catherine might never return and could he blame her after what had taken place?
He supposed it must be six days at least since he had last seen her and he had masterfully kept images of her from his mind, even clamping down tightly on the bond that he shared with her unwilling to know her emotions, afraid to know what she felt about him. Only in dreams did he have no control, and when he woke each morning erect and frustrated, he became angry at what she had stirred up within him. Maybe in time the need would subside, maybe in time he would learn to forget. Now though he had to find his way home, however long it might take. He knew that such things as telephones existed had on occasion used one, and he felt that if he could only find a directory with the name and number of any one that he knew, he could ask for help to get him back to the city of New York. From there, he could make his way back, from Brooklyn or Queens or Manhattan he could tramp the tunnels that would lead him home.
Travelling by night he felt safest and to sleeping beneath the dappled sunlight filtering through the bushes he grew accustomed. In other circumstances, he might enjoy it, in time to come, he might see it as a pleasurable memory to hold dear. Aware that he had wasted too much time already in the hope that Catherine might return Vincent trod the way carefully, sniffing the air and staying downwind so that any dog he encountered would not give away his position. The psychopath was the least of his worries now. It had been six days, and the fellow should be weak from loss of blood and no threat to him.
Sometimes sounds startled him. Night sounds that he was usually so at home with made him jumpy. Out here so far from the city strange animals roamed the glen and though he was awed by the sight of a grazing herd of deer he was also cautious by the prowling gait of a cougar, or worse the slow moving one purpose in mind, black bear. Eating machines heavy and wild, and some at their most dangerous, mother bears with cubs.
It was fortunate that his night vision made him capable of knowing where he was going, that his acute sense of smell and hearing afforded him time to crouch and hide when danger presented itself, but he couldn’t prevent the odd crack of a twig underfoot, indeed the floor was littered with them. At such times he would pause and wait before moving on, and so his progress was slow and hesitant but constant.
He stuck as close to the road as he dared knowing that in all probability it would be along the road where he might find a telephone kiosk where he could ring one of his friends. Having usually had no need of money, Father, fortunately, had had the foresight to make him take some along and the coins lay comfortably in his breast pocket where he could feel that they were there. He only hoped that when the time came, he had brought enough with him.
Vincent smiled, if only he could hail a taxi, or telephone for one, have the driver take him straight to Central Park where he would alight, pay his fare and slip away to his home beneath the city. But then if he could do that he would have no need to be living in the tunnels beneath the city. For if a taxi driver could trust him with the way that he looked and way out here in no man’s land where anything might befall him, then the whole city could certainly trust him.
So leaving behind the glen, making progress hour by hour, Vincent made his way down the hill and past the very many lakes shimmering silver in the light of a lazy harvest moon. And onward, away from the cover of tree and shrub, out past the clearing where the police had first set up surveillance and down toward the main highway from where they had come almost two weeks before. Strange to think that nothing had been resolved, that the psychopath had never been killed, that in effect he needn’t have risked his life for Catherine after all. Catherine…the very word conjured up all kinds of emotions within Vincent’s heart, not least of all bitterness. Right now, after everything he had endured he wished he had never ever heard the name…yet…those few moments they had spent together…
He shuddered, pulling his cloak more firmly about him and dismissed all thoughts of that time spent with Catherine at the cabin firmly from his mind. He had to do this, he had to, or he would become insane. One day maybe, one day he would find someone genuine enough to love him, but it would be a long time before he would trust anyone again. What was it that they said, ‘once bitten twice shy?’ Well he had been bitten twice now and so he would be trebly shy. Next time, if ever there was a next time he’d be cautious, take his time, not have his heart broken so readily. That kind of pain he could do well without.
He walked on, the shadows of the night his only friend and more at home in the darkness than any other person, at least for that he was thankful. Not having to be spooked by the pitch dark or not having to imagine that all kinds of horrors, ghosts and ghouls were pursuing him.
He was one with the night. Cloaked from head to foot in ebony he blended in with the shadows and he was safe, or as safe as he could be in a strange place and with one thought only in mind. Home, home to life beneath the city, home where he was truly safe. He hurried on, eager now to put some distance between him and the glen. He had a long journey ahead of him, but he would make it. Of that, he was determined.
*** *** ***
The black shape was closer now, almost upon him. He could practically feel its hot breath as the creature sought a path through the trees. Twigs snapped underfoot, and the fellow hiding beneath the bush looked askance at the knife buried in the earth where he had left it some yards away. Easy peasy, he could roll, swipe up the knife, plunge it in the creature’s belly, and then he would whisk off that hood, stare into the face of the man that had taken his hand before he made him pay and finish him off for good.
Sweat broke out on the fellow’s brow as a snarl sounded near by. It sounded to his left but twigs snapped to his right. He frowned, something was wrong. As the dark figure loomed above him it suddenly consumed him surrounded him to his left and to his right, and though he lunged away for the knife he had in sight something stopped his movement with one heavy jab at his foot. Inches away from the knife the fingers of his remaining hand gnawed at the earth intent on dislodging the knife and bringing it toward him. But he was held fast and the sound around him was ear splitting. Snarls and growls and…
He didn’t know when he became aware of it, but suddenly the great weight was lifted from off him and then he felt a sudden breeze about his leg and then something warm running down to his boot soaking his sock. He pulled his leg up managed to kneel and spring forward hand reaching out for the knife that sparkled in the light from the silvery moon, elated when he felt his hand grasp the handle and pull the blade from the leafy earth. He rolled just as he had imaged that he would and came face to face with not a man upright and cloaked but rather two pairs of golden eyes clamping down on him with lightening speed. In a split second he plunged the knife against flesh and fur heard the growl and knew that what had hold of him with intent to kill was not that of the hooded creature but rather of two ravenous black bears! Twisting this way and that he half crawled half stumbled away as strips of his recently scored back came away beneath their mighty claws, and pain shot through him as they rent away flesh down to the bone.
Driven by hunger and incensed by the scent of fresh blood, the bears pounced upon him tearing, mutilating, biting until bone snapped between their teeth and the guttural cries of their prey split the night as blood poured from his throat. In seconds, he was still, the last withering twitching nerves all that remained of the once insane body that had taken the lives of many in much the same way. There were some that would say that death had been too good for him, even death this way, had been too swift too soon, the bears should have let him suffer more, should have killed him slowly, eaten him alive so that he would know how it felt to feel such agony. But the real animals were not of the creature kind, the real animals were those that walked upright and lived in cities and walked the streets of their fellow man. The real animals were human beings. For no animal ever let another suffer, going straight for the jugular swift and sure, to satisfy one craving and one craving alone, hunger and not the depraved pleasure associated with those we know as kin.
All was quiet in the glen, the silent creatures waiting, anticipating their own safety until the familiar sound of the hunter devouring the hunted muted with the breeze rustling through the leaves. And then bit by bit they moved on busy about whatever they did in the darkness, searching for their own needs of fruit or berry, nut or prey.
Vincent having been alerted to the cries and screams that had pierced the night, moved on quicker now, his attention focused on the lights from the highway far below. Obviously, the psychopath was still at large and obviously, he had killed someone else, probably a police officer. By first light the glen and hills would be swarming with cars, men, dogs and helicopters, so he had to move, had to go faster, for out here in the clearing he would easily be spotted and the next canopy of trees was yet three miles away.
Vincent picked up his pace, running with cloak billowing behind him, his breath coming hard and fast, not stopping until the three miles were safely behind him. Only then, did he slow, only then did he seek a place to hide, a hazelnut bush heavy with nuts drawing him near. He could crack them with his teeth satisfy his hunger and sleep. Sleep as the dappled sunlight of day draped its warm blanket over him until the night came round again. And then he would rise and make more progress in the shadow of the darkness – the one who was faithful - his only friend.
*** *** ***
“Peter, can you see anything?”
They’d been driving slowly around the glen for hours now, pausing at the edge of the many lakes, looking for foot prints that might signify that someone had drank there recently.
“No. It’s been ten days, honey. Ten since you last saw him, nineteen since you brought him up here. He might not necessarily have hung around.” But then if he hadn’t then where was he?
Over the past few days Peter had kept checking with Father and knew that the only news he had had was that from a helper who had reported receiving a very strange phone call in the middle of one night but had hung up believing it to be some kind of crank call. It was only when he awoke in the morning and remembered that he wondered if the person that had called himself Vincent might be the one that he knew lived in the tunnels. Father told Peter all about the conversation he had had with Ray, the helper. “I asked him what Vincent had said when he called and he said something like; ‘I can’t rightly remember, something like, Ray, this is Vincent, can you connect me? I didn’t understand and was too tired to think. I checked the clock it was four in the morning and switched on the answer phone. When it rang again the machine picked it up, I just ignored it and went back to sleep.’”
At that Father had groaned, he knew that Vincent had taken enough money with him to make up to four emergency calls, because it had been at his insistence that he do so. “How many calls did he make?” He asked afraid to know the answer.
“In all? Four, including the one I picked up. I’ve written down what he said on the others. Here.” Father reached out for the offered piece of paper with one hand, pushing his spectacles up firmly on his nose with the other and started to read.
First message, ‘Ray, its Vincent. I need help. I need collecting. I’m at Catherine’s glen in …’ the money ran out.
Second message, ‘Ray pick up, please. It’s me Vincent. Ray, are you there? Ray…Ray…”
Third and final message, “Ray, its Vincent, yours is the only number I can remember and there is no directory in this booth, Ray I’ve no money left…”
Silence descended over Father’s chamber as the enormity of what Vincent had said hit him. No money left, no way of calling any one else, no way of knowing who to call without a directory, oh if only Vincent had known Peter’s number.
Relating the tale to Peter later that day, Peter had jumped from his seat and called over his shoulder in leaving, “I’ll find him for you Jacob, don’t worry. Now that psycho is dead the restrictions around the glen have been lifted. If Vincent’s out there I’ll find him, or I won’t return without him.” All this as he exited the chamber calling louder and louder as he trod the tunnel beyond, filling Father’s heart with relief and hope and prayer. He knew he could count on Peter, but he just wished that there was something more that they could do. Vincent was lost in a strange place, and between there and home was a spaghetti junction of freeways that he would have to cross. That thought terrified Father, and as prayer was the only thing left to him now he used it, he prayed like crazy with all of his heart.
*** *** ***
Dismay warred with disappointment as Vincent penniless and weary of time and occurrence decided his options. Ahead was a concrete jungle of unknown buildings and roads unfamiliar. Even if he did suss a route, he couldn’t be certain that it would take him home. It might well take him miles out of his way. Behind him and four days away was the glen, back there, Catherine’s cabin where stocked with food and fuel he could hole up and wait until someone came. It might not be the Chandler’s but Vincent did know that Peter had a cabin up there somewhere, so maybe there would be a chance that he would come instead.
It annoyed him to think that he had spent four perilous days hiding, slinking away scared to death like some dog every time he heard the sound of an approaching car, though generally it had been, to his surprise, police cars coming down from the glen, and the expected helicopters had never arrived.
That more than anything made Vincent wonder. Had they just decided to give up? Perhaps government funding didn’t stretch far enough to spend week after week searching for a man that had been so badly injured he might well be dead anyway. But what of that which he had heard the night he had left the glen? From whom had that bloodcurdling scream come from? Was it possible that the psychopath himself had met a gruesome end?
Standing undecided Vincent watched with ease from the safety of his vantage point at the vehicles speeding by on the freeway at the bottom of the last hill that signalled the start to Catherine’s glen. He’d been there a day already trying to muster up his courage to continue on his way not knowing which way to head and wished he had a compass, wishing he had been able to see the direction Charles Chandler had driven that night. Was the glen to the east, south, north or west of Manhattan? He should have known, and he kicked himself for his tired brain, foggy that it was from lack of food and perilous days on the run. But somehow he couldn’t remember, couldn’t fathom which direction home was in.
It was as he pondered this that a car came into view and he followed with his weary eyes, watching it indicate to leave the freeway and turn off onto the road that led up to the glen. He noticed it because in all the days he had been travelling no cars had gone in that direction. They had all come down from the glen. And he noticed it because it seemed familiar to him.
As it climbed up the hill it came within a hair’s breadth of Vincent and like a slap in the face, he was met with Catherine’s emotions slamming right into him leaving him stunned and incapable of movement. When the car had passed he stood watching it, the dust from its tyres swirling in its wake, before he cried out her name at the top of his voice, “CATHERINE!” And began to run after the quickly disappearing car.
There was no option now, he had to return to the glen, to Catherine’s cabin, some four days away, closer probably now that he didn’t need to hide so much, but uphill nonetheless. And what was more he had to go by way of the road, for what would happen if they should reach the cabin, search and find him gone, and come away again? If he missed them, if they missed him, he’d have to go back to the freeway and from among the many finally choose a road that he hoped would lead him home.
*** *** ***
“How long are we going to stay up here Peter?” Catherine asked on the second day after they had arrived the previous morning.
“As long as it takes. We’ve a big area to cover. And we can take consolation that the police so obviously did not encounter anything suspicious or we’d have known about it by now. But we also have to remember that that goon was killed by bears that could so easily attack us too. So we must stick together Cathy, not only to stay safe, but because two pairs of eyes are better than one.”
“Won’t that mean hunters arriving to track and kill the bears. Since they have killed a man that is?”
“Usually yes, but apparently its been considered that the fellow sustained an injury that had considerable blood loss. The bears were only doing what bears do, homing in on the scent of blood. One of the reasons women on a menstrual cycle are told to avoided such places where bears and cougars roam.”
“I didn’t know that.” Catherine sounded worried and Peter giving her a sidelong glance asked, “You aren’t on one at the moment are you?”
Wide eyes she nodded, “Its almost finished though, so don’t worry.” If this had been anyone else but her own GP Catherine would never have answered the question.
“Then you’d best make certain that you are well padded when we go out and stay close to me. It’s possible that until you can wash them, the scent will remain on your jeans. Better still would you have the courage to stay at the cabin while I took a look around outside?”
“Only if you didn’t go far.”
Peter shook his head, “What would be the use of that? We may need to search further a field, perhaps even take our knapsacks and set up under the stars for one night at least. Is that asking too much of you, honey?”
As he had been speaking Catherine felt the old familiar knot of fear spreading through her body, and she nodded unable to speak.
“Well then we will probably be up here for quite some time, and there are some roads we could drive along to search. We could go slowly and keep stopping to call his name. We’ll do that until your period has finished, only just remember if you get the call of nature to try to hold it until we get back to the cabin. It wouldn’t be advisable to do it under a bush, that would be like telling the bears its dinner time.” He tried to make light of it by chuckling, but Catherine just shuddered. So much had happened around these parts just lately and all of it to do with blood. There was no way she would pee outside, she would hold herself until it became painful if the need be. She’d only just escaped with her life the last time, so she wasn’t about to take any more chances of staying alive. It was incredible that she had decided to come back at all.
“I can’t believe I’m back here and that’s the second time I’ve said that this year. I think dad will sell the place after this. All those treasured memories gone.” She said sadly, tears gathering on her lashes.
“Not gone honey, memories can’t go. You’ll still have them.” Peter standing beside the window looked out. He loved the place too.
“I know but this place conjured up those I had forgotten. We loved coming here Peter, it was the place we both felt closest to mom.”
Peter nodded understanding at last. Of course, Caroline and Charles had brought Catherine to the glen often. It would be a shame if Charles should sell the cabin. Perhaps they could find some new memories that would override the horrors they had experienced enough to keep them returning to the glen. But he doubted it. He knew what that kind of experience did to the mind, and he was the last person to encourage them to do any different. After all he had been unable to return to the building where his surgery had been, preferring instead to sell it, have someone else remove its innards and move into another practice elsewhere. For he would never again have been able to look behind the desk where his receptionist had sat, and not see her severed body lying there.
“How well do you know Vincent, Peter?” Catherine surprised him with her question.
“Well I’ve known him since the day he was first brought to the tunnels. He was found abandoned you know?”
“Yes, he told me. But what about the person he is, do you know much about him?”
Peter thought it an unusual question since Catherine and Vincent had written to one another for years. They ought to know a great deal about one another…but then there would have been a lot that Vincent couldn’t have told her.
“I know he frightened you honey. But Vincent is what he is, and he has had to fight his own brand of demons all his life.”
“He’s possessed?” Catherine asked with surprise.
“Oh no, not possessed. I don’t mean it that way, though there are some that might argue that point.” Catherine’s eyes grew anxious, and Peter walked toward the couch, “Come sit here with me, let’s talk about this.”
Catherine followed him eager and yet nervous about knowing, and sitting alongside Peter on the soft blue couch waited for him to begin.
“It can’t be easy having two varying spirits inside you. Imagine how it is, honey. You probably feel a bit like your father and a bit like your mother, that doesn’t mean that you have their life force, their spirit within you, but rather that their DNA that created you made you also like them. Imagine then, how that must be if the two sides of you weren’t of the same mould, that is the same human match. What if your father was animal and your mother were human, or vice versa since no one rightly knows. Imagine that kind of pull upon your person. Well poor Vincent has had this battle every day of his life. It is commendable that the human factor over rides the other in the main, but there have been times when the other factor has overruled and Vincent has become impossible to handle. Usually these times result in terrible fevers that come upon him, scaring Father witless that Vincent’s heart will give out.”
“I know that he hurt his brother Devin was that one of those times?”
“Fast and furious yes. It didn’t last long, but long enough for Devin to become injured. Vincent was young then incapable of holding back, but he has grown up these past nine years learned to control himself. But it’s not been easy and there are times when things happen that he did not foresee and reacted badly to. The thing is honey, when these things occur he takes them so much to heart. Sees his animal side ruining what he had, snatching from him people that he cared for. It scares him honey, and he has this self-loathing for the person he is inside. Sometimes he is almost like a split personality but it is not a medical term or an illness its just part of who he is. He can no more control that aspect of himself than we can call the moon down out of the sky. Having said that, I don’t mean he can’t control the ferocity that he feels within from time to time, but he can’t tame it either. There are times when holding it in just becomes too much and he lets rip. If he had been ordinary like you or I, that might have resulted in a temper tantrum or hitting out at something, but with Vincent it can be lethal, like a lion in full attack.”
“What happens then?” Catherine asked nervously.
“Well if there are people about, they restrain him. But as I say in the past this has only occurred when he has been ill, has a fever or a vision. As far as I know there have only been two occasions when he physically hurt someone.”
“Oh? Who was that other? I knew about Devin.”
Peter wasn’t sure he should tell her. If Vincent hadn’t then there might be a reason for that. “I’m sorry honey, I’m not at liberty to tell. Maybe you should wait and see if Vincent will tell you. It didn’t happen that long ago, he might well feel incapable of talking about it. Don’t push him. If he wants you to know he’ll tell you in his own good time.”
Catherine’s mind was racing. It hadn’t happened long ago. What, a year, around about then? Her thoughts flew to that missing letter, the one he had written when he had been crying. Had that been why he wanted to retract it? Had that been why he hadn’t wanted her to know? But he had wanted her to know he had just assumed that she hadn’t wanted to know him after reading it. But she hadn’t read it, and if only she could find it…”Thank you Peter,” she jumped up and headed for her bedroom, if the letter was anywhere it would be somewhere in there.
Surprised, Peter replied, “You’re welcome honey.” And watched her beat a hasty retreat. He wasn’t certain why she had jumped up like that and gone bounding off to her room, but then he had always found women hard to understand. And it was that time of the month after all so he shouldn’t be surprised.
Once in the bedroom Catherine closed the door and thought back to that day almost six months ago when she and her father had first come up to the glen for a vacation. It seemed an age ago now, but since it had only been herself that had frequented the room then she was certain that anything lost would still be in there.
So, she had placed it on top of the bedside cabinet. Of course, that was empty now, save for her travelling clock. And she had put the others into the drawer. She opened it not that she expected to find it there but rather to retrace her actions of long ago. And then her father had called her for breakfast and they had gone riding, and she had decided to read the letter upon her return. Of course that never happened and when she had hastily packed her things, it was possible…
Quickly she dropped to her knees and peered beneath the bed scanning the murky depths for any sign of paper noticing instead that there was a thick wad of dust that tickled her nose and she held back a sneeze. Then squinting she noticed that in one corner the wad of dust piled a little higher and she reached in, belly flat against the floor, wriggling until half of her was under the bed and grasped whatever it was, jubilant when it felt like paper!
Pulling it free and dusting it down Catherine recognised the familiar handwriting and knew she had found what she had been searching for. Then came the guilt of knowing that she ought not be reading this, Vincent had asked for it back…but then she reasoned that since that time she and Vincent had almost become lovers…and if she was to understand him better surely she should be allowed to know what it had been he had originally wanted to tell her. Besides he wasn’t around to ask and supposing she never saw him again…so what harm was there? That decided she felt a little better and curling up in her mother’s favourite rocking chair Catherine started to read...*** *** ***
In his perfect handwriting, Vincent had written:-
My Dearest Catherine,
It is so long since I have heard anything from you and I hope that this letter finds you well.
I have missed your letters, missed hearing about your life, your friends your studies. I expect that you will be sitting examinations soon and going off to that college you told me about. Radcliffe wasn’t it? A few young men and women from my community are hoping that their results will enable them to go there also perhaps you will come to know them, befriend them I am certain that you would be a good friend for them to know.
My dear, something happened here recently where I lost the best friend I ever had. I am ashamed to speak of it, but feel that I must as I know how putting feelings down in writing can comfort and help one to see more clearly the whole picture but still in this instance it does not change the outcome.
I may never send this letter Catherine, for telling you these things is too private. There is so much that you do not know about me, so much I could never tell but know this that I would never intentionally hurt anyone and yet it grieves me that I have.
You’ve heard me speak of Lisa. Lisa my dearest, dearest friend, so beautifully she dances. It was her aspiration to be a great dancer and I am certain that will never change. The world deserves to know her, she moves so gracefully so perfectly…
Oh Catherine, I despise myself for believing that she felt any more for me than a friend, and I am ashamed to admit that I began to have romantic notions about Lisa and I together. How could I of been such a fool! As if someone so beautiful could be with someone like me in that way! Disillusioned though I was I built my castles in the air, surrounded Lisa with love - was there for her always. And I dreamed and I imagined that she felt toward me the same way as I felt toward her, but to Lisa I was no more than a friend. A brother, someone she had grown up with had been with all her life. And I had to ruin it!
Catherine, believe me, I never meant for it to happen, but as I watched Lisa dance just for me, I reached out for her intending to show her how I felt about her, and she fought against me Catherine, pulled away from me, and rather than let her go I held on and I…oh Catherine… I hurt her…these hands…these hands hurt her…and she is gone…
Oh Catherine…Lisa is gone… What am I to do? I love her so much…
It was here, Catherine supposed where Vincent had unleashed a torrent of tears, for it was here where most of the smudging occurred and he had not even signed it, but rather than feel sorry for him, with what she now knew, she grew afraid.
What had he done to Lisa? And more importantly would he have done the same to her? What if having offered herself to him he had done something that had hurt her, and she had asked him to stop? Would he have done so? Could he? Or would that other side of him, the one Peter had shown existed have overruled and he of hurt her as he had so obviously had hurt Lisa. His letter was contradictory though. He’d spoken of the world coming to know Lisa, but had he been speaking in the past tense? Was he so overwrought when he had penned the letter that time and space ceased to exist?
Whatever, reading the letter had done nothing to help Catherine re-find the Vincent she had come to know and trust, in fact had done the complete opposite, for now she knew that she feared him even more and wished she hadn’t of come back to the glen to find him.
*** *** ***
It had been a struggle but Vincent had managed to make his way back to the glen within two and a half days and now weary and thirsty he set off straight for the lake to bathe and slake his thirst, before as was his intention to go up to the cabin.
It was still early afternoon, and as no cars had passed down the road on his way up he felt certain that he was safe for another hour at least. Time enough to wash and rest before going to greet his friends who would surely be staying another day or they would have set off earlier to beat the noon day traffic.
So laying his garments at the edge of the lake, he dove into the lake, gasping as the cold water went over his head, coming up feeling refreshed and reminded of the ice cold depths of the mirror pool. The only difference being that here he came up beneath brilliant sunshine and the sound of birds singing in the trees.
Swimming to the shore, he stopped where the water was waist deep and sponged himself with some water weed floating there. It didn’t work very well but at least it wiped away the sweat and grime of two days of travelling and made him feel alive again.
That done he rose from the water, his golden fur sodden, sure that he looked like some half drowned rat, and then stopped dead as he realised he wasn’t alone. Catherine…he could sense that Catherine was nearby…and a sudden gasp highlighted her position.
Staring at one another as if it was the last thing either of them would see at the lake, both bolted, Vincent for his clothes and Catherine for the safety of the nearest tree, shinning up it like a squirrel chased by a dog. But rather than afford her with cover it only gave her a better view of this golden covered man hastily pulling on his clothing over a still wet body. Ordinarily at such a sight, she would have laughed but she found her heart thumping all too painfully to even think it was funny.
At last fully clothed he looked up at her, knowing all along that she was there. He did not speak, focusing instead upon that which her heart revealed to him. She was afraid and it was he that made her react that way.
Ashamed Vincent made to move off through the bushes intent on going anywhere so long as he put as much space between the two of them as he could when suddenly he thought he heard her shout his name. Slowing to walking pace he listened again, and sure enough she was calling to him. He stopped, thought about it and turned going back to the tree where she hung her legs crossed firmly together beneath one branch about twelve feet up from the ground.
“I hope you don’t want me to catch you?” He asked thinking it was best to speak of something light.
He was surprised when Catherine grinned but the action was soon replaced by her face set grim with anxiety and she did not reply.
“Thank you for coming back for me.” Vincent told her.
“It was Peter’s idea.”
“Peter is here? I thought your father had brought you.”
“No. He’s still in hospital.”
“Oh. How is he?”
“Getting better. He was unconscious a long time. The psycho is dead do you know?”
Vincent shook his head, “No, though I did wonder though when I heard the screams. How did he die?”
“Bears killed him.”
“It’s a wonder you didn’t think it was me.” Vincent retorted sharply as something in her tone told him that in the beginning she had thought just that.
“It crossed my mind, but then the post mortem revealed it had been bears, possible two large adults. The blood had drawn them.”
“One of the reasons why you should not be out here right now…” His voice trailed away. He hadn’t meant to say that but was concerned for her safety.
“What do you mean…” Catherine cried sharply.
“I’m sorry forgive me, I shouldn’t have been so presumptuous. It’s just that there are things that I sense…and I know it is dangerous for you out here right now with such wild animals about.”
“As I see it Vincent, you are the only wild animal that I should worry about!”
Vincent flinched. He’d deserved that, but it didn’t make him feel any better. He turned to walk away tears gathering in his eyes. He didn’t want her to know how distressed that comment had made him.
“I’m sorry Catherine.” He told her as he walked away.
“Wait! Don’t go. Vincent wait!”
Had she of called sorry he might have lingered, but since she seemed hell bent on twisting the knife some more Vincent walked on. He could feel her emotions, knew that she was intent on hurting him as she felt he had hurt her. And in her condition, her hormones would be making her say things intended to cause pain, and probably make her feel guilty and remorseful later when she had had time to think about what she had said.
She was only hitting out he knew that but right now after the experience he had had these past three weeks he didn’t need it. He just wanted to go up to the cabin, greet Peter set off in the car and go home. And he’d never leave home again…not for anyone ever!
He’d gone about thirty yards when something prickled at the back of his neck and Catherine’s emotions that he had tried unsuccessfully to block off altered from one of anger to one of fear. Vincent slowed and listened. All was quiet and that in itself, sent the alarm bells in his head into a frenzy. Something was wrong. And then he heard the low distinguished moan of a bear nearby.
Running back as near as he dared, he saw the tree with Catherine now climbing higher and her fear clutched around his own heart with steely fingers in a tight grip. One black bear was climbing the tree behind her and another anticipating her falling waited directly below, altering course as she changed position up in the branches.
He heard her call, though she never uttered a sound. And he felt it when she acknowledged that because of what he was, he could save her. That acceptance washed him clean. As in the face of danger such as this, he was to her the only one that could possibly save her life. And as the only gun was with Peter who back the cabin was oblivious to what was happening, Vincent knew that any rescue attempt was down to him.
He’d never been faced with such a situation before. The only time he had ever tried to kill someone he hadn’t completed the mission, and he wasn’t certain that after almost two weeks of living on small fry, nuts and berries that he would be strong enough to carry it through. But it was obvious that Catherine could do nothing and so it was down to him.
Perhaps he wouldn’t have to kill the bears. Perhaps in all probability, he could scare them off. Or maybe they would see him as a challenge to prey and fight back. That rather depended on whom he charged in there as, and summoning all his courage around him he stepped closer to the tree and as close to the bear on the ground as he deemed necessary.
At first it did not see him and when it did it looked back twice before recognition dawned. Hovering between a standing on two legs position and that of four the bear danced and growled low in its throat signalling to the other up in the tree that danger was present. The bear above stopped climbing and looked back down, saw the man and sniffed the air. The scent of Catherine’s blood assailed his nostrils and he growled, but he did not sense anything that should worry him about the man and so continued climbing up after Catherine.
His actions calmed the other bear and likewise he chose not to worry about the appearance of the man. People didn’t bother them, and so long as they did not seem to present a threat the bear would leave him alone.
That being so Vincent was able to move in closer and cautiously until he was almost at arm’s length by the bear on the ground and then he challenged him. Emitting a long low growl of his own the bear swung round to face Vincent surprise evident with every hair raised upon its back.
At the sound of an unfamiliar growl the other bear above stopped stalking Catherine and looking down growled menacingly now that his source of food was challenged, but this creature was strange, such as he had never encountered before and cowardice took over. He watched from his vantage point above as the bear on the ground and the strange creature paced around each other.
Looking into those golden eyes of his opponent Vincent’s gaze never left that of the bear, and with the low warning rumble that signalled a fight would erupt if the bear did not back down Vincent stepped closer ready to strike out if the need be.
From high in the tree Catherine froze with terror. What was more she could see the cabin and Peter leaving to come looking for her. He would walk right into the ambush if he wasn’t warned, but Catherine didn’t know if she should cry out to him or not. Looking down she called to Vincent instead, “Peter’s coming should I shout him?”
Never taking his eyes from those of the bear Vincent replied, “Yes, tell him to stay away, keep in the cabin or the car.”
At the sound of his voice the bear hesitated unsure now, where only moments ago he had summoned enough courage to whack this strange creature he held back and growled. But to Vincent this growl was not the challenge he had uttered only moments earlier but rather one that told him that he did not want to fight was unsure of what he was fighting and thus uncertain of his victory. Dropping to all fours the bear ambled quickly away, just as Catherine shouted for Peter to go back for the gun.
Watching his mate take off through the trees the other bear pursuing Catherine slid back through the branches and down the trunk of the tree as desire to flee took hold. Whatever this creature was he didn’t want to know. That he could sound like a cougar and speak like a man terrified the bear and he ran full pelt after the one that had gone ahead and was soon out of sight.
Vincent stunned and unable to believe that the pair had given up so easily stood staring after the way they had gone before asking Catherine if she was all right.
“Yes, but can you help me down. I can usually climb trees no problem but I’m still shaking.” She confessed.
“Catherine! Catherine!” Peter’s voice surprised them both, and a second later he came crashing through the trees, “What’s wrong honey…” He stopped dead, “Vincent!” Overjoyed he flew his arms around the younger man and hugged him tightly. “Oh its so good to see you.” He told him so obviously delighted, “But what’s the problem…” He took in the sight around him, Catherine half way up a tree, Vincent preparing to climb it, Catherine screaming for the gun…“What’s going on?” He asked warily.
“There were some bears.” Catherine called down, “And I could see that you were going to walk right into them. Vincent told me to tell you to go back, but then I remembered the gun…”
Relieved Peter’s whole body relaxed, “Oh thank God, I thought….”
Suddenly Catherine understood, “Oh you thought I wanted you to shoot Vincent?” She laughed albeit shakily so, “No, Peter…” Then, “Oh my God just imagine if that’s what you had thought and didn’t see the bear that was chasing me first you might have killed Vincent.” Catherine was horrified.
Peter shook his head, “My dear, under no circumstances whatsoever would I kill Vincent, not even for you.” He spoke gravely with sorrow in his eyes, but she could hear the sincerity behind his words.
“Then it’s just as well you feel that way.” Vincent responded with a grin, “Now Catherine if you could let yourself drop from there, I’m sure I could catch you.”
She climbed down instead, unable to let go and fall in the hope of being caught before she hit the ground, but when she was some six feet from the bottom she felt Vincent’s arms go around her waist helping her down to her feet.
“Thank God you were here then Vincent. Have the bears gone?” Peter glanced all around him unsure.
“They might be back and its best Catherine stays at the cabin for the rest of her stay here. They were interested in her scent.”
“What did I tell you, young lady!” Peter snapped. “I couldn’t believe it when I found that you had left the cabin. Listen to me next time okay?”
“I’m sorry.” Catherine told him genuinely so.
He patted her hand, “Just so long as you are alright.” Then he hugged her close, “If anything had happened to you…” And shuddered.
“I think we should all return to the cabin, I for one am starving…did you bring any food with you?” Vincent asked hopefully.
“Oh Lord yes, you must be, how have you survived out here boy? It’s a pity there were no picnic baskets…” the two of them followed Catherine and despite the horrible experience she had just undergone, another to chalk up in this place, Catherine found it delightful listening to the easy banter between the two old friends as they all made their way toward the cabin by the lake.
*** *** ***
Even so things were not yet smooth between Vincent and Catherine as when evening came and Vincent was stuffed and well rested they sat in silence in the living room when Peter had retired into the back room for the night. Vincent had assigned himself to the couch knowing that Peter needed his rest with the long drive planned for home the following day.
“Something bothers you, Catherine?” Vincent asked gently after they had sat in silence for too long.
“If you regret what took place between us, I will understand. I will not expect anything more from you, if that is what bothers you.” Vincent could think of nothing else.
For a moment, he didn’t think she would reply, then taking a deep breath she surprised him by saying; “No that’s not the problem, although you’re right I’m not certain that I want to…well you know its just…” She paused uncertain of how to tell him or even if she should, but she had to know, needed to know the answers. Despite everything that had happened, he still meant a great deal to her.
“What is it Catherine, you know you can tell me anything?”
“Vincent I found your letter.” She whispered hardly daring to look at him and mystified he did not understand for the moment.
“My letter, what letter?”
“The one that you wanted back, you know the one with the tear stains on?” She looked up then needing to see his expression even though it made her flinch when it came.
“Did you read it?”
Vincent sucked in a breath. He felt betrayed, “You promised that you wouldn’t.”
“No I didn’t. I promised that you could have it back. I said I hadn’t read it, but I didn’t promise not to if I found it.”
“But surely knowing that I regretted sending it to you should have told you that I didn’t want you to know of its contents.”
Catherine refused to get into that one, “What happened to Lisa?”
Gasping Vincent stared at her wide-eyed before rising to his feet and begin the notorious pacing she would come to know him for. “Lisa has gone.” He told her at length.
“I know that! I mean what happened to her…did you kill her?”
Swinging around Vincent’s mouth dropped open in stunned surprise, “Kill her! Kill Lisa…how could I ever kill…Catherine! Is that what you think? Is that why you have been so afraid of me?”
“Not exactly but it didn’t help. You mean you didn’t kill her?” Despite how each word made him feel Catherine’s heart began to race. He hadn’t hurt Lisa in that way after all.
“Of course I didn’t kill her…I love her!” He shouted then hoped that he hadn’t woken Peter. He listened only intending to continue when he was certain Peter wasn’t coming to see what was going on except Catherine beat him to it.
“You love her?” Catherine felt her heart sink. Vincent felt it too.
“No…I loved her…past tense. Lisa meant everything to me…but since she left the tunnels…”
“She’s gone! Left the tunnels?” Catherine was flabbergasted, that hadn’t even crossed her mind.
“Yes, Father sent her away.”
“Oh Vincent…I’m sorry.”
He shrugged, “It doesn’t matter now. It was probably for the best. I think Lisa would have gone anyway and that would have made me feel far worse knowing she had chosen to go.”
“And you don’t love her anymore? Are you sure about that? What if she suddenly turned up and begged your forgiveness…say what did you do to her anyway?”
“I scratched her. Tore her dress, I wanted to kiss her, she didn’t want me to…” Catherine could see that the memory pained him still and she longed to wipe it all away, but she had to know. “So would you welcome her back…if she returned?”
“Yes I’d welcome her back…she was a favoured member of our community…and…what? Sorry what did you say?”
“I said, I didn’t mean it in that way. I meant would you welcome her back. That is, would you hope she had returned for you?”
“I doubt that will happen.”
“But would you wish it were so?” Catherine’s heart hammered madly. She needed to know how he felt about this girl so much.
Sighing deeply Vincent answered her truthfully. “Six months ago I would have wished for nothing more, but then I met you, and in you I realised that what I had felt for Lisa was just infatuation. What you and I had was so much more solid… I would rather wish that…”
“What we have.” Catherine was smiling up at him, tears gathering on her lashes and he didn’t understand.
“You said what we had, but its not that at all, it’s what we have. There is no past tense. Vincent I still love you.”
He gasped, this he did not expect, and his heart began to beat erratically as she continued to gaze up at him the love she spoke of now filling her eyes.
“You still love me! But Catherine…you have seen what I am…what I am capable of…”
Catherine smiled, “I’ve seen some of what you are capable of…however that which is most important I have yet to see.”
“You can’t mean…” He shook his head a halo of a golden hue scattering about his face, looking exceedingly appealing to Catherine right at that moment.
In reply she stood, held out her hand, “Its getting awfully late Vincent, and you can’t possibly sleep on that couch, its way too small for you, why don’t you share my bed?”
Unable to reply he nervously reached for her hand and allowed her to lead him through the living room blowing out the candles as she passed and into the golden glow of her bedroom beyond.
“Now then my love, I think we have some unfinished business to attend to, don’t you think?”
Vincent couldn’t think, but he reacted in the only way that she had hoped, by pressing his lips against hers and reminding her of the glorious way that he could kiss…
*** *** ***
Peter stirred, and rolled over to sleep. He hadn’t caught all of the conversation between the two young people, but he had listened just in case something awful happened between them. Now he was sure they had made up their differences and all would be well again. He smiled, pumping up the pillow, drawing it beneath his ear to the comfortable position he favoured and sighed. He could go to sleep at last.
Catherine safe in her room was probably blowing out the candles even now, and Vincent…Peter chuckled…how he would sleep on that little couch he’d never know…probably have to curl his legs up into the foetal position…or perhaps he should change places with him after all…
Reluctance to do the gentlemanly thing in the face of the cosy bed that he was in, delayed Peter long enough to not do it at all for soon he was fast asleep.
*** *** ***
Sometime in the night he would wake and remember and intend to go and relieve Vincent from the couch, but since he had not been woken by the younger man falling off the couch and onto the floor, he decided that he shouldn’t wake Vincent after all and rolled over and went back to sleep. And so Peter stayed inside the back room oblivious to anything happening in the cabin around him and never knowing that he would have had a fit if he knew…
Vincent had known he would never forget the creamy rose tipped softness of Catherine’s breasts, but being presented with them when he had believed that he would never have that pleasure again was almost too much and he loved her so tenderly that it brought tears to her eyes. A reverence sprung up between them as awed by the sight of each other’s naked body they touched gently neither expecting or giving more than the whisper of fingertips, soft tantalising touches that set their souls aflame.
“I love you, Catherine.” Vincent whispered against her throat and Catherine truly believed him.
“I love you too, Vincent.” Young as she was she wanted to mother him. Give him the love he had never known, show him what it was to have the love of a mother, and at that thought remembered her own. Peeking out over his shoulder where she laved kisses, she gazed at the rocking chair where her mother had spent so many hours reading to her or rocking her to sleep, and she could almost imagine she sat there now. Smiling, despite what her daughter was up to, Caroline was smiling and so happy that her daughter had found her prince and would have the happy life that she had wished for her.
“I love you too, mother.” Catherine mouthed without uttering a sound, “He is everything, isn’t he? Thank you for finding him for me.”
His hands sought out the places he had only ever imagined and with her warm fingers Catherine grasped his seeping erection closer to her body. “Vincent, I need you. I need you so much.” She told him as a swirling vortex opened up somewhere in the lower pit of her belly and seemed that nothing would fill the longing that stemmed from there. At her words they half tumbled half drew one another down to the bed, and in an act as ageless as time slipped into the position that would enable them to become as one.
Poised above her, his eyes searching the honeyed green depths of hers Vincent begged entry into her intensely beautiful body and with one nod of her head he plunged deeply where stars went on forever.
Nothing compared to the rapture that he felt at being joined to another for the first time in his life, and as Catherine manoeuvred her body so that he might sink deeper still, he began the timeless motion that would bring them both exquisite pleasure.
“Oh God, oh God, Vincent its beautiful…” He felt Catherine kiss his face, his neck, his throat, but he could not speak, as words were snatched away from him the moment the rapture of entering her body had exploded around him. This was bliss, this was perfection personified…this was heaven itself…Finally, “Oh Catherine, Catherine…I love you so much.” The words gushed from him as his body climaxed deep inside her and she clung to him, heart racing her own body pulled along with his, shaken fuelled whisked away to a paradise from where she never wanted to leave.
Slowly, slowly normality returned and they came to rest still locked together, “Marry me.” Vincent husked, “marry me, dear sweet Catherine, because I love you so much.”
Yet, strangely enough rather than fill her heart with joy, the proposal terrified Catherine. As suddenly she saw herself having to give up the life that she loved for one with him deep in the bowels of the earth, far beneath the city she knew as home, to live in tunnels void of sunlight and void of the very many things she still intended to do with her life.
Sadly, he watched her shake her head, knowing the refusal was there from her heart and her eyes even before the words left her lips, “I can’t Vincent. I’m sorry, but I can’t.” And in that moment all his dreams that had so recently flown to infinity and back as he’d loved her sunk into a well as deep as the abyss never to return. He wished he could take back the proposal, wished with all his heart, just like he’d wished he hadn’t reached out for Lisa that time, just like he wished he hadn’t been so presumptuous then he wished he hadn’t been so presumptions now. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Forget that I asked.” He begged knowing even as he spoke that things between them were changing. He was losing her he could feel her slipping away from him. He hated himself for spoiling what they had just shared by blurting out something like that without first giving it some forethought.
Of course, she wouldn’t marry him. She had her whole life to live, a life apart from his and a college to attend and a future in law to take up at her father’s firm. How could he have expected that she would give it all up for him? He’d been a fool to expect so much.
Pulling away from her, the simple act of his body leaving the warmth of hers was almost too much. It was tragic, for he was certain he would never enter her again. “Forgive me.” He begged sorrow flowing through him when she did not reply or try to prevent him from leaving her bed. He stood looking over her a moment more, but she had turned away from him and though he could feel her heart slowly breaking he was unable to do anything about it. His too was breaking and he was lost to his own sorrow.
He left the room quietly, making his way in the dark toward the couch in the centre of the room, and there tugging on a few items of clothing he sank himself uncomfortably beneath the blanket placed there for him and closed his eyes, but he could not sleep. For he had assumed too much of the one he’d loved and was so ashamed. Even so, the stillness of the night and the essence of Catherine that still lingered upon his body eventually soothed him and he slept, a deep dreamless sleep that by morning would help him to decide what he ought to do. He’d set Catherine free.
Two Years Later
“Weather…huh…who’d account for it, what is it they say…’Whether the weather be cold or whether the weather be hot, whatever the weather we’ll weather the weather whether we like it or not!” Catherine flopped herself wearily down onto the sofa in her father’s study and he grinned at her.
“I take it you’re peeved about something that the rain has prevented from taking place?” He asked setting aside his pen from where he had been writing at his desk.
“Its not just the rain…its…its…” She sought for the right word.
“Everything?” He offered.
Catherine grinned, “Yes everything. If only life were simple. If only I didn’t have so many options to choose from.”
“Ode to the rich girl.” Her father chuckled, “You should be so lucky.”
“I know, a bitch aren’t I? I have everything yet want none of it. Daddy, why is life so hollow?”
“It depends what your goals are, and whether they are attainable. What is it that you want from life exactly?”
He nodded, “Yes truly.”
“Even if you are disappointed in me.”
“Even then. I only want your happiness Cathy, and at the end of the day you are your mother’s daughter as much as you are mine.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because as much as I’d like you to follow in my footsteps and take up corporal law and take on this firm when I’m too old and decrepit to manage it myself, I have a feeling that you want to do the complete opposite. In fact I believe that you would like to follow in your mother’s footsteps.”
“And that is?” Catherine laughed out loud enjoying every moment of the debate.
“Simply put to be someone’s wife and someone’s mother.”
He’d hit the nail on the head, but rather than agree Catherine grew silent. He watched the many expressions chase across her face until finally she told him, “Huh but that’s the sixty four thousand dollar problem isn’t it. Where do I find someone to propose to me?”
“A beautiful young woman like you should be fighting them off.” He sounded surprised that no one had asked her.
“Oh I’m fighting them off all right!” She shrieked with laughter causing him to join her, “But they want what I don’t want to give and what I want is the last thought on their mind. Daddy, am I set to be an old maid all my life?”
He laughed, “Cathy you’re nineteen almost twenty, you have years ahead of you yet.”
“Not if I want to enjoy my children while I’m young and fit enough to do so.” She laughed. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have refused the opportunity when I had the chance.” She mused almost to herself.
“Someone asked you to marry them? When? Who?” Charles was exceedingly interested.
“Vincent! The one and the same Vincent?”
“Yes, that Vincent.”
“You never told me.”
“I never told anyone.”
“Is that why the two of you split up? You never wrote to him again after you brought him home from the cabin did you?”
“Well yes actually I did, but he never replied.”
“Well I can’t say I blame him, you probably hurt his pride. Though why he assumed you would marry him in the first place beats me.”
Catherine swallowed convulsively before explaining, “We became lovers.”
“Lovers! You and Vincent? Do you mean you kissed? Catherine that isn’t being lovers!” Charles grinned.
“Daddy I know what it means to be lovers, and no we didn’t just kiss, we went beyond that.”
“He made love to you!” Charles was stunned, “And I didn’t know!”
“Like I said, no one knew.” She sounded so sad that despite all he had heard Charles’s heart went out to her and if he admitted it to Vincent also.
“Did he hurt you?” He had to ask.
“No, Daddy he’s just a man, there are still similarities.” She grinned mischievously and he joined her.
“You sound as though you wish you and he were still together.” He told her.
“There have been times when I wished for nothing more, but I always found something else to occupy my mind. But just lately dad, he’s all I ever think about. I still love him you know.”
Charles nodded, he’d have to be blind not to see that. Her face was radiant when she spoke of Vincent. In fact, the few times she had spoken in the past, he had assumed that that was so. Only Catherine hadn’t seen it then, or so he’d supposed. Perhaps she was just a good actress.
“Why don’t you go and see him?” He ventured gently.
“And what ask him to propose again? He might even have met someone else by now.”
“Still you could visit the tunnels, it wouldn’t hurt. He might be pleased to see you.”
“I don’t doubt that daddy, but he might be just polite, it would be awkward. If I had some way of knowing beforehand how he felt it would help. But I don’t know who to ask.”
“Peter might help?”
“The same Peter who is spending three months in Canada right now? Dad, I don’t want to wait three months!”
“You’ve waited two years.”
“Well it’s enough already. Daddy, I want to see Vincent now. I need to see him now!” She sounded so desperate that Charles wished he could help. A plan began to build in his mind.
“I’ll make some enquiries, someone must know him. Leave it with me.”
“Oh dad, you’d do that? Oh thank you. How long do you think it will take?”
“I don’t know honey, I’ll get onto it today if you like, but didn’t you say that you were going to be staying over at Nancy’s this week?”
“Yes, but there’s been a change of plans, I’m only going for the one night now, I’ll be back by Friday.”
“Well I’ll try to have something for you by then. Now, enough of this, I expect you are hungry? You’ve been out all day and there is a casserole in the microwave. I’ll be along shortly to join you, perhaps you’d butter some rolls while you’re waiting for me?”
Catherine nodded and leaving her seat went over to kiss her father’s cheek, “You know.” She told him, “When I came in here, it was as if a huge storm was brewing around me, it felt ominous and imminent, but now it’s as if all those clouds have completely gone. Thank you dad, I love you.”
“And I love you too, honey.” He hugged her then watched her leave the room feeling a little anxious that he had deceived her. For he knew exactly how to get a hold of Vincent, and he wasted no time the moment she closed the door behind her. Come what may, he’d do his utmost to get those two back together. Any fool could see how much she loved him he just hoped that Vincent still felt the same way about her.
*** *** ***
“A message for you Vincent.” Father had waited until the History class was finished before he hobbled into the chamber and handed his son the note that had arrived an hour earlier. “And how was the class today? Did they grasp the concept that you put before them?”
“Yes Father, thank you for helping me with the assignment, I hadn’t exactly looked at it in that light before. I’m certain your teaching skills were wasted when you lived above.”
“Wasted or not, I am only too glad that they are of help here. We are building quite a utopia are we not? Some of the children will go out and make a better world for those up top by what they learn here, of that I am certain.”
“Yes Father, but the credit should still go to you. However before your head is too big to pass through that door I will keep further impressions to myself.”
Father chuckled, “Your message Vincent?” He reminded him pointing to the note with his cane that Vincent seemed to have forgotten all about. “It might be important.”
Vincent turned the note over in his hand, he didn’t recognise the handwriting of his name upon it but it did seem vaguely familiar. “I’ll read it in my chamber. Don’t worry if I need to discuss it with you I will know where to find you.” He grinned knowing that his father would have given anything to know what it said and whom it was from, but would never pry, well not directly.
Father chuckled, “I’ll leave you to it then.” And he hobbled back the way he had come almost disappointed that he would have to wait a while longer. Vincent received so few notes, and any that did come his way were almost certainly attaining to trouble or something exciting.
Back at his chamber Vincent took the note to his desk, and there sliding open the envelope with the knife on his desk used for that very purpose, he pulled from it a single sheet of paper, and read first, “Dear Vincent.” Before skipping the content to see whom it was from, “Sincerely Charles Chandler.”
His heart hammering Vincent began to read back from the beginning with relish wondering for what possible reason Charles Chandler had written to him after all this time.
*** *** ***
Answering the knock at the door, Charles knew who it would be at this hour, but it was still a surprise to see him standing beneath the porch clothed in his usual cloak and hood.
“Vincent! Thank you for coming.”
“You wanted to see me, is something wrong?” He peered over Charles shoulder into the dimly lit room beyond and marvelled that this man had thought to put him first. Dimming the stark overhead lights to a mere shimmer and placing the odd welcoming candle around the room so that he might feel at home.
“Come in, Vincent. Yes I wanted to speak with you, and no nothing is wrong, so you can relax.”
Intrigued, Vincent stepped inside the house, automatically remembering the last time he’d been there and though two years ago, it was as clear to him as if it were but yesterday.
“Can I take your cloak?” Charles asked, ushering the younger man into his sitting room.
“No, if you do not mind?” Vincent replied, and Charles remembered that Vincent seldom removed it while above. Though they may seem safe, the younger man was always alert and ready to flee at a moment’s notice.
“I’m not expecting anyone and Catherine is away for the night, but as you wish. Please take a seat. Can I get you some tea?” Vincent shook his head and preferred to stand. He felt uneasy Charles was making too much of small talk, not coming to the point.
“Why did you ask me to come?” He demanded to know surprising Charles. Vincent sounded worried.
“Its nothing wrong, I told you, but I have something I need to know. Well that’s not strictly true. Vincent, please sit down. I would prefer it.” The younger man was such an impressive figure that he appeared to dominate the room, leaving Charles feeling nervous.
Reluctantly sitting, Vincent waited, knowing now that Charles at ease would begin to tell him why he had asked him to his home that night, and while Catherine was away too.
“Recently, I have come to learn that two years ago you asked Catherine to marry you.” Charles began and Vincent jumped back to his feet to begin pacing the room.
“Yes I asked her, and I’m sorry. I should never have presumed that I knew her well enough to ask. Please forgive me and if its any consolation know that I learned from that mistake, never to get that close to another woman ever again.”
“No Vincent, you don’t understand, I’m not condemning you for asking my daughter to marry you, quite the opposite in fact. Look please sit back down, I’d like to talk to you man to man.”
Surprised Vincent did as asked and again waited for Charles to speak.
“I know you see yourself as different, but believe me Vincent I would be proud to have you as a son-in-law. After all you saved my daughter’s life twice didn’t you?” Before Vincent could reply, Charles went on, “Oh I know that shouldn’t make her indebted to marry you, but believe me when I tell you Vincent, that my daughter still loves you.”
At this, Vincent gasped and did find it hard to believe. “I felt sure that she would have forgotten me by now.” He whispered.
“How could she ever forget you?” Charles asked with a chuckle, “however if you won’t take my word for it surely you can tell how she feels about you through the connection that you two share?”
“No. Since the day I last saw Catherine I have kept that connection closed.”
“You can do that?” Charles sounded amazed. “Oh but you shouldn’t have. Can you open it now? I’m sure you will find that Catherine is thinking about you.”
Vincent wasn’t so sure, and he still wasn’t certain why Charles had asked him here this night. Just to talk over what might have been? But his note had sounded so anxious, it had to be more than that.
“Vincent if I asked you, would you see Catherine again?”
Surprised by the question Vincent simply replied, “Why?”
“Because she is ready to settle down and because I am certain that if you asked her to marry you again she would not refuse you a second time. So, would you see her? That is assuming you have not found someone else?”
“No, there is no-one else, as I explained earlier I would never be so presumptuous again. But how can you be sure that this is what Catherine wants?”
“Because I have discussed it with her, only yesterday in fact. Vincent she still loves you and she is ready to live life with you down in that world of yours.”
His heart beginning to open and blossom for the first time in two years Vincent had to know, “And how would that affect you?”
“Me? Why whatever makes Catherine happy I’m okay with. But that’s not what you asked is it?” Vincent shook his head. “Thought not. You want to know how I’d feel about her marrying you? Well as I said a few moments ago, I’d be proud to have you as my son in law, and not just because I can see what a good protector you would be for my daughter.” He grinned, “Vincent you are a wonderful man, you’re kind, gentle…no, no…you are…” he added when Vincent tried to deny it. “You are gentle, and you love Catherine do you not?”
“Then that’s all there is to it really isn’t it, you love her and she loves you and I think a lot of you too. I’ll accept whatever the two of you decide but whatever it is I hope it will make the both of you happy.”
“Thank you Charles. I promise I will love Catherine until my last breath, and if she will have me I would be only too willing to propose to her again. But please know this that I have to be certain. I will open the connection that binds us and I will decide if this is truly what her heart longs for. And if I have doubts I will see her again, and we will take up our relationship from where we left off, and see what develops from there. Not until I am certain will I propose again. Please try to understand. Its not that I don’t want her as my wife.”
“I understand, you are afraid of another rebuff. I’m sure you wouldn’t get another one, but I do understand your principles. So what do you think, will tomorrow at midnight in the park be convenient to you? I will bring her myself in the car.”
“Surely if Catherine is genuine she will bring herself.”
“Yes, I know, but she too has received a rebuff. You did not reply to her letters Vincent, and she is afraid that you would not show up.”
Vincent nodded and understood. “Yes you are right. Tomorrow at midnight in the park then it is. I’ll be waiting.”
“Thank you Vincent, now how about that tea? Will you join me in a cup, tell me how your father is?”
“I’d like that, thank you.” Vincent smiled and Charles warmed to that smile. His daughter was one lucky young lady and he knew without a doubt that if she let him, Vincent had the ability to make her very happy and her mother would be so proud of her.
*** *** ***
The beeper on the car alarm sounded twelve times and Catherine looked at her father sitting alongside her in the car. Her eyes seemed to say, ‘this is it, dad’ but she said nothing out loud.
They’d been waiting in the park a good half hour, Charles deciding that if she was going to change her mind she could do so in the time leading up to midnight. But rather than grow anxious she had chatted with him about the new life awaiting her, and of her plans to visit at every opportunity, both she and Vincent together.
“It is time, honey. Do you want me to come with you?” Charles searched his daughter’s eyes for clues.
“No. You’ve done enough already, thank you, Daddy. But do you really think he’ll be waiting?” She had asked the same question a hundred times that day and Charles smiled, “I’m sure of it.” He told her. “I think he would have sent word had he of changed his mind.”
“Yes.” Catherine drew in and exhaled a deep breath, “Oh well then here goes nothing.” She leaned forward and opened the door with her right hand while squeezing one of his with her left, “Wait for me will you just in case?”
“I’ll drive passed the entrance on my way out honk and wait a full minute. If you don’t come out I’ll know you’ve gone inside with him, will that be okay?”
“Yes. Right then…here I go.” She smiled nervously though he could tell it was an excited kind of nervousness. She had been like a cat on hot bricks all day and had gone through her wardrobe a thousand times choosing something suitable to wear and bagging the rest to take below. Now tugging at her suitcase she pulled it out from behind her seat and bid him farewell with a kiss to his cheek.
“Take care honey, and be well.”
“I will dad, try not to worry. Vincent will look after me.”
“I know he will, honey.”
He watched her close the door of the vehicle with a slight but firm click and then through the windshield watched his only child walk out across the silvery grass wet with dew, her feet leaving emerald footprints behind her and as she neared the storm drain, he saw a figure emerge from within. A figure cloaked and hooded, but one that lowered his hood as she came close. And with his heart in his mouth Charles waited and he hoped and he prayed that all would go well for these two young people and that his daughter would have the happy life he and her mother had always wished for her to find.
“Catherine.” Vincent greeted this woman that he had dreamed of every night for the last two years with a little apprehension. He had opened the connection that he shared with her as promised but her emotions had been so jumbled these past twenty four hours that he had not been sure of anything.
“Its so good to see you, Vincent.” Catherine told him stepping closer. Her heart raced with anticipation.
“As it is you, Catherine.” His matched hers for every beat.
“I love you. Vincent, I have never stopped loving you.”
Tears gathered and fell from Charles’s eyes as he watched the pair embrace and kiss for the first time in his life. And he marvelled at his daughter’s courage and ability to see beyond the obvious and look to the man within. For Vincent truly was a wonderful man.
“Forgive me Vincent, “Catherine breathed as they broke apart, “Forgive me for doubting. What we have is worth everything.”
“Everything.” Vincent reiterated, “Catherine, I love you so much.” And then from within the folds of his cloak Charles watched Vincent extract something, something small, and hand it to Catherine. It was a box and she opened it and found nestled on a square of sapphire velvet a ring with a cluster of rose quartz and a crystal in its centre. The rose quartz had worked for Lydia and Vincent hoped it would bless Catherine with his children too.
“Something from my world.” Vincent explained, then he bent down on one knee and Charles felt the hot tears fall more rapidly as he realised Vincent’s intention.
“Catherine, I would be honoured if you would marry me.” He asked, his heart hammering painfully and hoping he had not assumed her feelings a second time.
Not lingering at all with her answer Catherine’s whole face lit up as she replied, “I would love to marry you, Vincent.” And she held out the ring so that he might slip it onto the third finger of her left hand. It was a little big but Vincent knew that Mouse could alter that for her. And then Charles watched his only daughter walk hand in hand with the man that she loved toward the entrance to her new world, where both turned and waved to him, before disappearing inside. And Charles sat there a long time before he started the engine for home. He was happy and sad and closed one chapter of his life as another one opened but he was eager to start on it imagining all the joys to come.
“Be well Catherine,” he spoke aloud as he drove his car by the entrance to the storm drain, “I know you’ll be happy.” For with Vincent, Charles knew that his daughter would always be protected. Not only from mad men but also from any other calamity that might occur in the world. Her life would be simple but she would have everything and more importantly, as she lived in the haven beneath the city streets where both of them had found protection, Charles knew that he would no longer need to worry about his daughter, where she was, what she was doing, or whether she was safe. For he knew that from now on, his beautiful daughter would always be safe…safe in the arms of that wonderfully unique man…Vincent, Catherine’s safe place from the storm.*** *** ***
The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.