Vincent is dead and Catherine must learn to live and bring up their child without him yet despite these things there will be a happy ending for Catherine.
Though the way back was long and arduous it was the only option, and Father carried on the stretcher they had assumed for Vincent’s body protested weakly that they should not obey Peter, that his bearers should take him back to his chamber, that he would get well there. He didn’t need hospitals, and forbid them to take him above. Yet with quiet determination Winslow and William holding each end of the stretcher refused to listen to Father’s petitions, knowing Peter to be right. That attack had scared the hell out of them and a hospital with all its modern apparatus was what he needed right now. It was just unfortunate that they were two miles from the surface and that the terrain was uphill and dodgy.
“Please.” Father pleaded weakly as they neared the final run. “Take me home.”
“No can do, Father. Besides you said yourself how modern apparatus might have spared Vincent, so quit denying that it can help you. Do you want to end up in a casket too?”
“It would be preferable to knowing that I buried my son alive!” Father moaned then winced as a second pain rammed into his chest leaving him panting. Peter was at his side checking his heartbeat, making certain that the final leg of the journey could be completed safely. “We must hurry,” he beckoned to the bearers carrying the stretcher, they knew what he meant and their footsteps did not falter. Peter kept a close eye on Father as the two men carried him through the last labyrinth of tunnels and finally up into the park above where Peter ran for the nearest telephone kiosk. Father had said nothing, his rolling eyes scaring the two bearers witless. They were losing him, it was happening, it couldn’t be happening.
It seemed to take an age before they heard the reassuring blare of the ambulance siren entering the park and moments later saw the vehicle rounding the final bend before screeching to a halt near by. Two paramedics jumped out and with Peter close on their heels they bent down, examined Jacob Wells, and with expertise soon had him up inside their ambulance, where one stayed along with Peter inside and the other jumped into the drivers seat and having left the engine running turned the vehicle around and headed for the exit with the sirens blazing and lights flashing. Winslow and William looked on dazed, their hearts had gone with the man that they loved with their life and they remained still for long after the ambulance had disappeared from sight. Finally Winslow touched William’s arm, “We’d best be getting back, the others will have arrived at the hub by now, everyone will be frantic for news.” William nodded, found no words with which to reply and after folding up the stretcher followed Winslow’s retreating back into the storm drain and into tunnels that would take them home.
*** *** ***
He couldn’t be certain, but Elliot had the queerest feeling that someone was watching him.
He’d had a good day, overseen a few demanding projects and eaten lunch with a colleague, spent an hour choosing the perfect ring for Jenny, and returned to his office. It was while he walked from one part of his building to another that he felt eyes boring into his back, and malicious eyes at that.
Believing in Jenny’s dreams was one thing, reality another. He might well live happily ever after, but it didn’t alter the fact that he could get shot up along the way. Jenny had never said whether their life together showed him in a wheelchair or not. A bullet aimed just so could render him paralysed. Elliot broke out in a cold sweat and he dodged he knew not what, just eyes that were not even there, unless people could see through walls.
The feeling persisted long into the afternoon, and he made a shaky telephone call to Jenny surprised when she did not seem to suspect anything wrong. In fact she sounded on a high and he was surprised to know that Catherine had long since left back to the home of her partner’s family. That Jenny had seen nothing untoward in any one of her visions did nothing to lessen the feeling of unease that Elliot felt, and as he left the building at the close of office hours, he became certain to a point of paranoia that someone was following him.
However, nothing untoward happened and he arrived at the apartment intact, knowing that would not be the end of it. Obviously whomsoever kept their eyes upon him, simply wanted to know where he had been hiding, and once discovered they would return. Well now Jenny was at risk and Elliot would have none of that, and so the moment she answered the door to his soft and persistent tapping, and saw the fear in his eyes, Jenny was donning her jacket and shoes and heading him out of the door.
“Can’t stay here. They know don’t they?” Elliot didn’t have to ask how she knew, just accepted it was so.
“There’s nowhere I can go, Jen. And I will not have you hurt through this. Go home, wait till I call you, I’ll be okay, remember, you’ve seen us living happily ever after.” He tried to laugh but it came out flat and defeated.
“You never actually told me why they want you, Elliot.” Jenny said steering him into the elevator, not certain if they should take the stairs or not.
“The least you know the better, honey. It suffices to say I saw something not meant for my eyes. They’re afraid I will talk, and I might have done, but for you. Now I’d gladly stay quiet.”
“I know a place where we can go, no one will find us there.” Jenny had watched Catherine walk out across the park attempting a brave quick trot from time to time as her condition allowed, and after a satisfied look all round had seen Catherine duck inside a storm drain and not come out. It came as no surprise to Jenny that was one of the ways down to Vincent’s world, knowing how he had taken Catherine home to heal the night she was attacked and left for dead in the park.
“Can’t tell you yet. And when you know, you must never tell, promise?” Jenny sounded nervous. She was about to invite herself into Vincent’s world, and wasn’t certain of a warm reception. Neither did she relish the ticking off that Catherine would receive when it became known that she had revealed the whereabouts of the Vincent’s home, but it was the only safe place that she knew, after all if it had kept Vincent from prying eyes for the past thirty odd years it had to be safe.
“Wherever we go, they are still going to be there when we come out of hiding. It won’t go away Jen.” Elliot stated facts.
“If Catherine can help us, it will. She’ll know what to do she’s handled situations like these before, Elliot, either her or Joe Maxwell. I take it you can’t go to the police?”
“No.” Elliot didn’t elaborate but gave Jenny the distinct feeling that he had either tried that and come unstuck or he just didn’t trust the city’s law enforcement for one reason or another, or maybe they didn’t trust him. No matter, her Elliot, the one she knew, was not the one that they thought they knew, and Jenny decided that she would protect him with her very life if the need arose. How could she live without him now? Impossible. Besides her dreams showed her that she wouldn’t have to, though jenny also knew that dreams only came true if certain things were followed through to the letter, much the same as earlier when she was unable to tell Catherine what H N and D stood for. The out workings of destiny were a little strange sometimes, but one simply had to go with the flow.
As luck would have it, someone else was making their way across the park as Jenny and Elliot moved disjointedly for all the world like two lovers out for a stroll, yet aware of their surroundings very much so, and Jenny recognised the man as being Catherine’s doctor.
“Peter!” Jenny cried and waved frantically, but he did not seem to hear her, hurrying forward to a telephone kiosk, making a call and hurrying out again. Still some way off Jenny called again, but still Peter seemed oblivious to her cries.
“That’s, Peter.” Jenny dragged Elliot along, “Cathy’s doctor, he’ll tell me what I need to know, I’m sure of it.” Mystified Elliot let Jenny drag him forward stopping only when they both found themselves at the edge of a lake, and Peter on the other side. “Must have taken the wrong path.” Jenny announced looking around her wildly, “We can’t lose him Elliot, keep your eyes on him while we backtrack.”
That was easier said than done, until an ambulance burst into the park blaring its siren and they saw Peter flagging it down, no wonder he hadn’t heard Jenny’s shout, he had been too preoccupied. Suddenly Jenny had a terrible thought, “The baby! Oh Cathy!” And started running ahead of Elliot, who stalled for one moment and then ran after her. He had no idea what this crazy woman was doing, only that whatever it was, she was trying to keep him safe, and the whole world too if her actions were anything to go by.
Running headlong through the trees, Jenny and Elliot made their way to the bridge that took them across the lake and then they ran along its bank to the place obscured by shrubs where the ambulance had gone. “Damn!” Jenny cried as she saw the ambulance driving away at speed, “We’re too late!” Frantically she looked around for the doctor, knowing when she did not see him that he must have gone with his patient, who she assumed to be Catherine. Then she noticed by the drain entrance two men who appeared to be watching the disappearing ambulance too. Nothing different about that, many people would stop and stare and wonder, but these two men were dressed strangely, patchwork clothing and they carried a stretcher. Putting two and two together and making five, Jenny grasped Elliot’s hand and running hell for leather closed the gap between them and the storm drain, desperate when she saw the two men bob inside and disappear from view. “Wait!” She cried distraught when the wind whipped her voice behind her, “Wait” she cried at the top of her lungs.
Neither William nor Winslow heard her, and dismayed Jenny watched them enter the drain and disappear from view. “Damn, damn, damn!” Stopping dead, Elliot collided into Jenny’s back, he appeared mystified and a little worried at her strange actions.
“I’m sorry Elliot, but those men would have taken us to where Catherine is living, and where she is living is a safe place, no one would have discovered you there.”
“I think I know this place.” Elliot was full of surprises.
“Catherine took me there once. In tunnels beneath the city.” He whispered into her ear adding, “she asked me to forget what I’d seen but I never have. I know of another way down, but we’ll need transport.” Suddenly he had it, “Cathy left me her car, so we could take that. Seem to be going for a drive, if anyone is watching us, all they’ll see is a pair of lovers entering a warehouse, and from there who knows? I’m sure you could play the part of seductress to perfection, my love.” Elliot slapped Jenny’s bottom affectionately.
“Do you think they’re watching us now?”
“Its probable that they’ve stopped watching me since I left the office. I just don’t know who they are, and it’s only thanks to the park being full of people that they haven’t attempted anything yet. That’s why I’m a little scared about going into the parking lot for Cathy’s car, and don’t go saying you’ll fetch it. You are at risk as much as me now.”
Jenny sighed deeply and whispered, “I’m going into the storm drain Elliot, someone might hear us if we shout loudly enough. I saw Cathy go that way this afternoon, and those two men haven’t come out, so it has to be one of the ways down to the tunnels. Maybe we can find the way in ourselves.”
“Maybe.” Elliot agreed, however he wasn’t hopeful. People that didn’t want to be found always covered their tracks, it was likely that any doorway to the tunnels was secretly obscured, still Jenny was right, they’d find nothing out by staying put and reluctantly he took up step alongside her wrapped his arm around her waist and acting like a pair of lovers wanting to be alone, they headed straight toward the storm drain.
*** *** ***
“I take sole responsibility for this man,” Peter told the doctor as Father was taken in unconscious at the hospital, “He was staying with me, when it happened, that is we were walking through the park when he suddenly clutched at his chest and fell over.” Peter was so happy that he’d had the foresight to take Father from the stretcher and lay him down on the grass before the ambulance had arrived, and that the paramedics had not seemed to notice William and Winslow standing by with the stretcher behind them. All the way from Vincent’s cave his head had been racing with ideas of how to convince hospital personnel of Jacob’s identity. “He’s from England,” Peter, explained “And has no history of a heart condition.”
“Thank you Dr Alcott, likely you know the procedure, you may wait in the visitor’s room for news or since you have a clinic here go along there to wait. If its any consolation I think you’ve nothing to worry about, his blood pressure was fine, but we’ll keep him in a few days just to be certain. Does he have medical insurance?”
“No, but that’s not a problem.” Peter knew if he hadn’t the funds to cover Jacob’s treatment, then Catherine would help out and Peter didn’t even have to ask her for he knew she would insist.
“Right then, well I’ll inform you as soon as we know anything. Where will you be, at the clinic or…”
“Yes at the clinic, may as well keep myself occupied.” The two clasped hands shook them and separated each to his own path. Peter knew it might be hours before he had anything to report to those below. It was unfortunate but it was the way of things, still they had enough to occupy their time, for if Vincent really was alive, then where had he been all this time? And more importantly why had he not returned home?
*** *** ***
Sure enough there was no way in, or no way that seemed apparent. Elliot tried kicking at the huge metal door, Jenny hammered until her wrists were sore and yelled until her throat was hoarse since yelling had to be done discreetly, they didn’t want to announce a problem to anyone that might be listening from the park.
“We’re vulnerable here, Jenny, we should get out while we can. Anyone seeing us enter, will assume we are necking or making out and could be on their way to get us by now. We’ve been here too long.” Jenny was inclined to agree still, “Just one more go, Elliot please? What if someone is on their way to let us in?”
Elliot about to protest was stunned when as jenny lifted her hand to bang again, the door started to shift, sliding back to one side as if on rollers, and beyond the large burly fellow that stood in front of them light illuminated the tunnel beyond. “Who are you?” William asked. Jenny could not see his face but assumed it to be one of the two she had seen enter the drain some fifteen minutes or so earlier.
“Please I have to speak with Catherine.” Jenny blurted.
“Catherine? As in Chandler? Just a moment.” To their horror he closed the door on them even though Jenny and Elliot risked losing their fingers as they tried to prevent it from sliding back.
On tender hooks, fearing their predicament, Elliot and Jenny plastered themselves to one wall, as deep in the shadows as possible, and wished that whomsoever had been behind the door would hurry and open it again.
Finally it did, “Let us in, please!” Jenny wailed, William made an instant decision one he was certain he would pay for later when the other council members caught up with him, still these people were clearly terrified of something. He stood aside, let them in and swiftly closed the door behind them. “Someone is after you?”
“Yes, yes.” Jenny cried and to her dismay William replied, “Then you cannot come in this way. If they saw you come in they will expect to see you come out. If they find the drain empty they will become suspicious and…”
“There’s no need to spell it out…” Jenny told him all of a rush, “I know it risks exposing your world, but what else can we do?”
“Just a minute.” William turned walked to a long think pipe that scaled one wall, and to Jenny and Elliot’s astonishment started tapping a tune upon it.
“Hey this is no time for making music mate…” Elliot began and stopped as an answering tapping came back from afar. He stood mouth open stunned as did Jenny.
“I’ll mediate, “William told them, “Catherine is on the other end. She wants to know your names.”
“Its Jenny and Elliot, tell her.” And the couple watched in amazement as William bent down and began tapping again. Very soon, the answer was returned. “She says, you must return to the apartment building. Go to the basement someone will meet you there.”
“To the basement? But it leads nowhere? Does it?” Elliot asked mystified.
“No questions please. You have to go out of here, act normal and hope that whomsoever is watching will still be watching. Its possible that they don’t want to do anything in public, though naturally the storm drain would be ideal. Hurry now, do as Catherine says before someone investigates and finds you gone.” Through a peephole William looked outside into the drain, “All’s clear, now be gone!” He slid open the door and ushered the couple through its large opening, “Remember act normal, and let them think you have gone up to the apartment.” He hissed, then before closing the door behind them and as an after thought added, “Be well.”
*** *** ***
“I thought you said she had woken?” Vincent peered at Jamie she hadn’t seemed to have moved since he’d left her. He straightened looked at Dominic sceptically and pushing past marched out into the tunnel beyond. There, finding no stool with which to stand on, he returned, “Where’s the stool? You did that on purpose didn’t you? Why did you deny my the chance to see my family?” Dominic had been afraid of this, he had nothing to say, but, “Vincent come sit down, you are distraught.”
“I don’t want to sit down. I do want some answers!” Glaring at his brother, Vincent’s chest rose and fell angrily. Brows drawn tightly together he asked, “Why did you not want me to hear what they were saying? That’s it isn’t it? Looking is one thing, hearing another. What are you hiding Dominic?”
“Nothing.” Thinking furiously, he added, “The old man was just about to realise that he had…he had…” Dominic faltered. Whatever he said now would reveal the truth to his brother, and he couldn’t let that happen, he wouldn’t lose him now. “Just a minute, there’s something I must do.”
Vincent watched him go, breezing past only to return a second later and in the space of time it took to blink Vincent realised all too late that Dominic was jabbing a needle into his arm. “What the? No!” Vincent wrenched his arm away, flung the syringe to smash against a far wall and as his head spun the last thing he saw before passing out was his brother’s lecherous face staring down at him.
*** *** ***
“Mr Burch? Mr Elliot Burch?” Jenny and Elliot froze, arms around each other they’d been headed for Catherine’s apartment building when someone had stepped out from behind a bush to the side of them and in the disappearing daylight the watchman inside the building could not see what was happening.
“Who’s asking?” Elliot turned, faced the man, didn’t recognise him, but knew by the signs presented that the fellow had a gun in his jacket pocket.
“That don’t matter. Leave the lady and come with me.” Elliot saw the fingers holding the gun twitch inside the pocket.
“And if I don’t?” Elliot squeezed Jenny’s waist that bit tighter, for no reason was he leaving her alone without him.
“Then she gets it first Mr Burch.” Another voice sounded to Jenny’s left and to her horror the point of a gun lodged in her side. Strangely Jenny had watched all those gangster movies and had always said, yeah that will never happen to me, but when it did she realised how easy it had happened, how unforeseen such an occurrence had been even though they’d expected something similar all the way back across the park. Even so, on all her re-enactments of the movies she had seen Jenny had supposed she would in such a situation attempt a very foolish or very brave stunt that would hopefully pay off, and she used it now. “I don’t think so, Mister! What in broad daylight, you’ll never get away with it.” She almost laughed at the faces of the two gunmen and at Elliot’s he was frightened to death. “Come Elliot.” She dragged at his waist, “Let’s go upstairs.”
“Take one more step and you’re dead!” One of the gunmen hollered nervously.
“So shoot me in the back.” Jenny called over her shoulder without turning round, “But we aren’t going anywhere.”
The swing doors had never been so far away, as everything happened in slow motion, the space from danger to safety unbearable long, but all too soon they were entering the building and leaving the two gunmen standing staring after their retreating backs. Jenny dragged Elliot toward the elevator, “Quick”, she bundled him inside thanking the gods that it had been waiting empty at ground level, then pressing one button for basement and as it descended another for level 18 and both leapt out as soon as the doors opened and watched the elevator speed off again up to the eighteen floor. “Let’s hope it doesn’t stop on route.” Jenny told Elliot, “But goes straight past ground level at least.”
“Been meaning to ask about that, why if Catherine lives on the eighteenth floor is her apartment 21E?”
Jenny laughed, “That’s easy, Elliot. There’s basement, ground floor, Nought floor then one to eighteen. Stands to reason her apartment will be number 21.”
Jenny looked around the empty basement impatiently, “Come on Cathy you promised someone would meet us.” No sooner had she spoken than they heard the shifting of boxes against concrete and turning were both stunned to see the packing crates against one wall being pushed toward them. The couple hurried forward and helped pull the crates away as a young lad appeared from behind them. “You, Jenny and Elliot?” He asked hopefully.
“Yes!” The couple replied together.
“Follow me, but hurry. Elliot can you come down last and pull the packing crates back against the doorway? They are hard to shift back this way.” The boy explained. He descended the ladder helped Jenny through the hole in the wall and watched while Elliot brought the crates forward and closed the door behind them. “Phew we’re safe.” Jenny sighed at last.
“Not yet, we need to get out of here. Follow me.” The couple followed the young boy and were surprised when he waited for them to pass by and then bent to pick up some bricks, “Help me replace these.” He told them indicating the hole in the wall where they had ducked through. With three willing pairs of hands the job took no time at all, and the boy announced happily, “Now we are safe. I’m Geoffrey by the way, Catherine sent me. I’m to lead you below to where she is. You will see lots of strange things and I must ask that you promise to tell no one of what you will see, and after today this entrance will be bricked up with cement, solid for good.”
“We promise Geoffrey.” Jenny told the boy, “Thank you so much for coming for us. You don’t know how close we came to being history.” Geoffrey nodded and led the way, Elliot however caught Jenny’s arm, “Talking of which, that was a very stupid thing you did back there, Jenny. We could be dead now.”
“But we aren’t and we would have been had we not tried anything.” She told him truthfully.
Elliot couldn’t argue with that, and tucking his arm through Jenny’s he walked along with her following the young boy Geoffrey to God knows where without another word.
*** *** ***
“I don’t know, I don’t know.” Catherine clutched her aching temples, “I want to help truly I do, but I have to find Vincent first. You’ll be safe here Jen, just let me find him first okay, then I’ll see about helping Elliot.”
Jenny tried to understand but Elliot’s welfare meant so much to her, “He can’t run his business from down here Cathy, as grateful as we are to be here, and neither can I come to that, people will be looking for me.”
“Don’t you think I don’t know that?” Catherine wailed. These last few days had taken their toll on her and she was so stressed. Father in hospital, convincing the community that Vincent was alive, the arrival of her friends, their predicament, hers, knowing where to start looking for Vincent, wondering if Jamie was with him wondering who had placed Narcissa in a casket next to Vincent’s empty one…it was all becoming too much for Catherine and it was beginning to show. “Here sit down, Cathy. You look all in.”
“I don’t want to sit down, I’m pregnant not incapacitated!” She flared. “First things first, find Vincent that’s at the top of my list, Lord Jen, he’s been gone six months now, and if he’s alive and so obviously been here to write me a message then there must be some other reason preventing his return to me. I have to find him, Jen, have to make him understand that I love him so much and that despite what he believes, Elliot means nothing to me in that way!”
“I understand your concerns Cathy, but can’t you at least inform Joe, of Elliot’s predicament. You trust Joe, I’m sure he’d help.”
“I’m certain he would, but that kind of journey will take a whole day. A whole day wasted when I could be searching for Vincent. I’m sorry Jen, I have to do this first, please try to understand.”
“I am understanding, Cathy. I also know things, you know I do, Vincent will return in his own time, and nothing you can do will rush things. He has problems of his own to work through but he’ll be back I can assure you.”
Catherine remained sceptical, “You’re just saying that so I will help Elliot first.”
“No, Cathy! You know I would never use deception, you know me better than that.”
“I thought I did, but alls fair in love and war and all that, and you can’t deny that your loyalties lay with Elliot now.”
“True, but not at any cost to our friendship. That remains the most important thing. Cathy? Are you alright?” Anything else Jenny had been about to say about Elliot’s problem was forgotten as her friend physically paled before her eyes and she saw Catherine clutch at her back and leaning toward a desk hold to it tight for support.
“Pain.” Catherine panted as tears squeezed beneath her eyelashes, “Call Mary.”
Jenny didn’t hesitate, running from the chamber down the now familiar tunnels to where she knew she would find Mary. Rushing in on her Jenny blurted, “Catherine’s in pain, wants you to come.” Mary dropped her sewing and grabbing a medical bag in passing followed Jenny from the chamber.
“Catherine!” Mary exclaimed reaching the younger woman’s side, “How bad is it?”
Shaking her head Catherine pointed down to the floor, and Mary gasped, “Her water’s have broken, quick Jenny, help me with her to the bed, strip the sheets, lay that plastic sheet on the mattress, yes that’s right.” Jenny did it all one handed as she helped Mary support Catherine with her other arm. “Now help me lie her down.” Mary hadn’t needed to ask, Jenny was prepared and protecting Catherine’s head from the bed end she lowered her friend to the mattress. “Anything I can do?” Jenny asked breathlessly.
“Call Olivia, she’ll help, unless you’ve delivered babies before?” Jenny shook her head and raced out of the chamber looking for anyone that might direct her to Olivia or send the woman a message. She and Elliot may have been below for almost a week but the coded pipe corresponding was still a little beyond her. Bumping into a Negro man Jenny blurted out her request amazed at the speed he moved for one so large and listened as he tapped out a message for Olivia and it seemed only seconds before the woman appeared running down the tunnel toward her. “How is she?” Olivia cried as she ran on past. Jenny took up pace with her, “Water’s broken.” She panted and Olivia cried, “Not good, not good!” Fear gripped jenny as she remembered reading something about that. When there had been no contractions before hand the breaking of the waters cushioning the baby at birth could have a detrimental effect on the child and ensure a painful labour for the mother. “Oh God, Cathy we shouldn’t have been arguing, not at a time like this!” Jenny swore silently and hurried back into the chamber peering over the heads of the two women for a glimpse of her friend and was horrified to discover Mary positioned between Catherine’s legs and shouting, “Its too soon Cathy, too soon, The baby is crowning and you haven’t dilated enough.” Mary panicked too late for a caesarean even if they had the experience to deliver in such a way. With Father in hospital and Peter above, there was no one to advise them, but Mary knew one thing, that if Catherine bore down now, she would rip herself and haemorrhage and the baby’s life could well be in danger. “Honey, hold on, don’t push. Can you relax? Good girl.” Mary tried to appear calm, “Take deep soothing breaths, that’s it Catherine, good girl. Jenny? I’m glad you’re here, come and hold Catherine’s hand and keep the sweat from her eyes.” Jenny needed no second asking, she was at Catherine’s side at once, rinsing a flannel in cool water and placing it upon Catherine’s brow, talking soothingly to her, trying to get her friend to do everything Mary asked, even though the contractions were coming thick and fast.
“Everything is…” Catherine panted through clenched teeth, “telling me…to push…Mary.”
“Don’t! Cathy, not yet hold on.” For the thousandth time Mary wished Father was there. She’d delivered babies with him a dozen times and more over the years but this child was extra precious and the helplessness that Mary felt at that moment was even more poignant that at any other time.
Finally…Mary slipped her fingers inside Catherine’s vagina, something she would only do in an emergency, and though Catherine flinched she held her breath wondering what Mary was trying to do. “Work with me honey, I can feel the baby’s face, I’ll try to cup his head as you bear down. It’s the nearest thing to forceps that I have. Pity you never had that scan that Peter spoke of or we might have known how close to delivery you were. Right are you ready, with the next contraction, here it comes, now push!”
Jenny bore down with her, it was difficult not to and Elliot chose that moment to enter the chamber, “Oops sorry.” He made to leave, and Mary called him back. “Wait young man another pair of hands will not go amiss.”
Elliot froze and then on automation walked toward the bed, it was obvious what was going on, even if he hadn’t of seen the commotion outside in the tunnel. It was packed with people. He’d just been looking for Jenny.
“Can’t see how I can help.”
“Believe me you can, just don’t keep Catherine waiting.” Mary replied flustered.
Elliot chuckled and looking down at Catherine told her, “Never thought I’d see the day Cathy, you laying on a bed legs wide open and waiting for me.” It was all that was needed, Catherine started to giggle and as Jenny joined her, she laughed harder and harder. Mary grinned, Elliot’s quip had eased the tension and Catherine’s uterus gave bit by wonderful bit, the elasticity allowing the baby’s head to pass through while cupped by Mary’s expert hand. “Almost done, Cathy. One last push and it’ll be over. Elliot help her sit up will you, Olivia hold that leg back, Jenny keep moping that brow, right now with the next contraction and on the count of three… Cathy, PUSH!”
For a split second there was silence then a mewling cry filled the air bringing forth tears to every pair of eyes in the chamber. “It’s a boy, Cathy!” Mary announced gathering the leonine child in both hands and holding him out to his mother, “A little boy just like his father.” Mary gasped suddenly remembering Elliot and Jenny and horrified that she could have forgotten just like that – of course there had been a great possibility that the child would look like his father, but she just hadn’t stopped to think, not when the time came, but by the looks upon Elliot and Jenny’s faces she needn’t have worried.
“He’s beautiful Cathy.” Jenny announced touching the baby’s tawny head.
“He’s incredible!” Elliot announced, “And you say he’s like his father? No wonder the poor guy had to live down here.”
“Promise you’ll tell no one.” Mary nudged Elliot’s arm, “Promise.” He noticed her eyes were filled with fear, Elliot erased it with a few well spoken words, “Who’d believe me?” He asked then, “I promise. Not hell or high water would have me divulge this secret, I’ll never tell a soul.”
Mary sighed released his arm and hugged him tightly, “Thank you, you don’t know how food it is to hear you say that.” Jenny felt strangely elevated, Mary had not asked the same of her, and that the older woman so obviously trusted her to keep silent felt good.
“What are you going to name him Cathy? Any ideas?”
Catherine shook her head. “I was going to name him after his father, but since Vincent lives there is no need.” Mary looked up startled, she’d known this news but was unable to accept it, “What about Jacob, do you think Father would approve?”
“Approve! Oh my dear, he’d love it!” Mary cried, “And it’ll help smooth the way of his not being here to deliver the child, for believe me he’s going to be as mad as hell that he missed it.”
Everyone laughed and as they gently chatted among themselves, Olivia and Mary delivered and disposed of the afterbirth, tidied Catherine and allowed in the visitors. Discreetly Elliot and Jenny made their way out of the chamber overwhelmed by what they had experienced and headed for the guest chamber. “Loved you’re quip.” Jenny laughed out loud, “Made all the difference. Cathy was like a prop, so tense wouldn’t give any which way, Mary was so worried till you came along.”
“I almost freaked when she told me to stay and help, it was the first thing that came into my head. Hope I do better when we have a baby.”
“Mm just imagine, Elliot Burch the businessman, relentless and ruthless to Elliot Burch, father and daddy to his children.”
“Children now, is it? Think I have it in me to father thousands?”
“Well maybe not thousands, still that depends on how many wives you have.” Jenny laughed. Elliot laughed too, and as they’d reached the guest chamber that had been assigned to Jenny he whispered, “Say what do you think that we play around a little while everyone else is otherwise occupied with the baby?” Jenny laughed, “I can think of nothing I’d like more.” She reached out a hand and tugged him into the chamber and neither noticed that yards from where they’d stood a sombre figure loomed cloaked from top of head to feet in ebony and furious at overhearing the last part of their conversation.
Incensed, Vincent panted to stop himself from roaring, for having just run all the way from the lower levels to escape his brother, he’d arrived only to find Elliot Burch in the tunnels, speaking ill of his newly acquired parenthood and still playing around with Jenny Aronson it seemed, right beneath Catherine’s nose!
*** *** ***
With nowhere left to go, Vincent returned to the lower levels, he was through with everything. Catherine was a mother now, a mother to the child of Elliot Burch even though he did not seem to take that responsibility seriously. Any doubts Vincent may have harboured as to the parentage of the child were gone even if his dreams were to be believed. Gestation was nine months and Catherine had birthed after six, obviously then the child was Elliot’s and even worse than that was the bitter knowledge that when Vincent had stood with Catherine in her apartment and uttered, 'whatever happens, whatever comes, know that I love you', she had been seeing Elliot Burch without his knowledge.
Wandering aimlessly back into the chamber he had slept in for the past six months, Dominic looked up surprised to see his brother back so soon, “Thought I’d seen the last of you.” He told Vincent while beneath his breath added, ‘thought I’d have to resort to blackmail to bring you back to me.’
“Whatever you are going to say, forget it!” Vincent cried exasperated, “I don’t want any more of your protein, let me expire, I’m through with living!”
Dominic gasped, “You can’t mean that?” And looked to the bed where Jamie lay sleeping thinking he might need to resort to his barbaric plan after all.
“I’ve nothing left to live for. Catherine has had her child and her lover is living in the tunnels, there is no sign of Father, and a strange woman, the one I saw at Catherine’s apartment is below also, what is there left for me now?”
“Yes, I’d heard that Jacob Wells was taken ill, and is above now.” Dominic told Vincent in anxious expectation of his reply.
“Above! Father is living above? I can’t believe it.” But then he reasoned that since he'd gone anything was possible. After all if Elliot Burch was living in the tunnels, then every thing could happen. But why, that’s what he couldn’t understand, just why was Elliot in the tunnels?
“Well that’s what I heard.” Dominic told him then sighed heavily. “Vincent, I really can’t imagine life without you now, please rethink this decision, besides which you are the only one that Jamie knows down here, at least stay long enough for her to get to know me better.”
Slowly Vincent nodded, “Until then but no longer. Give me smaller amounts of the protein, wean me off it, the longer I sleep the better, thinking only brings me pain.”
“On the contrary, larger amounts of the protein would make you sleep, but of course would also prolong your existence, so which is it to be, the oblivion of closing one’s eyes to rest or eternal sleep, that one may never wake from?”
“Except to haunt.” Vincent reminded him. “Is there any way that I can be stopped from wandering these tunnels after death? I don’t think I could bear it.”
“With all unfinished business there is that probability, Vincent. Perhaps you should visit with Catherine one last time and clear the air. Only if you die at peace can you be assured of never returning.” Behind his back Dominic kept his fingers crossed. The longer he could delay the inevitable the better, Vincent might be made to change his mind and remain living in the subterranean levels for the rest of his days.
“I’ll think about it. I would like to see her. As yet each time I’ve endeavoured to do so, I have met with complications. I haven’t actually clapped eyes on Catherine for six months, but I’ll not go back any time soon. In any case Jamie will be waking, and I’ll need to be here for her, there will be many things that she doesn’t understand, just as I didn’t in the first few weeks.”
“Self denial is the worst thing Vincent, you might have a problem convincing her, but I’m sure you will cope. You have accepted the way of things here remarkably well and I feel that I can trust you.”
“You can trust me. I might not have said that a few hours ago, but I realise now that what you did, you did for my benefit, and I apologise, but I had no intention of returning, not even for Jamie’s sake. I cannot tell you how terrible that makes me feel now.”
“I understand, it is not easy to accept entrapment down here and want to stay. Sometimes I feel the need to run from the confines of this prison and get as far away as I can.” Dominic spoke quietly.
Surprised Vincent stared at him, “I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. I never see you take protein, which side are you on, the dead or the living?”
“I’m alive Vincent. Through and through, our father helped me produce the protein so that I might live forever, so that he might live forever, but of course…well we both know what became of him…there was no way he could have survived that.”
“Had he not of goaded me, I would never have lashed out.” Vincent spoke regretfully, “But Paracelsus had been a thorn in our side for so long and the lies he spoke to me were so convincing.” He refrained from telling his brother that Paracelsus had disguised himself as Jacob Wells, that part was too raw even now and Vincent didn’t even like to imagine that he had believed he was striking out at his own father. Which strangely in essence he had been.
“Our father had wanted everlasting life Vincent, this protein would have ensured that, but his main objective was to live long enough to bring you home to me. Strangely, he did that, though not in the way he’d expected. The illness you underwent showed me just how much you regretted killing our father, and I do not hold it against you. I am only glad that through it we are together at last.”
Having stood by the entrance all the while they’d been talking, Vincent moved into the chamber and sat opposite his brother at the desk, “There’s something else I need to know.”
“Anything, just ask.”
“My family, that is my old family made mention to having seen me around the tunnels since I passed over. To my knowledge I have encountered no one on my jaunts above, and as we look similar, I wondered…”
“If they’d seen me instead? Yes, Vincent they have. I wander all over this subterranean world, but when someone is near I always hide. However, there have been a few occasions lately when people of your community have seen me but fortunately, I have either been too far away for them to see me correctly, or I have managed to hide my face from them. I also helped a young chap up one of those vertical shafts, I appreciate that it is quite a climb, and as I was passing I gave him a hand but I was careful not to let him see my face. I’ve never been near the hub though, I leave close quarters to you.” Dominic chuckled as did Vincent, and his brother was happy that the air seemed cleared between them. Still Vincent was taken to strange flights of fancy and he would have to keep an eye on him. “Do you have any more questions?”
Vincent shook his head, “No you have answered all my niggling doubts efficiently, and I understand completely now. Thank you, Dominic.”
“There’s still something though isn’t there? I see it in your eyes sometimes. You wonder about something quite deeply and I have heard you calling out in dreams.”
“Anything decipherable?” Vincent asked anxiously.
“Nothing that makes any sense, but Catherine’s name crops up often.”
Vincent nodded slowly, he knew what Dominic meant, but wasn’t prepared to share it. “They're just dreams, “ he told his brother, “For a time I wondered if they had been memories but today I realised that they were not. I doubt that they will bother me again.”
Dominic doubted that and he had a feeling that he knew exactly what Vincent’s dreams were about. He had seen his brother and the woman making love, and he also knew from his visits near the hub that Catherine’s baby was fathered by Vincent, something Vincent seemed oblivious to and he wasn’t about to enlighten him. That sort of thing would surely send Vincent running back to Catherine, and he would lose his brother forever. Thankfully, he still had his trump card he thought as he looked to where Jamie lay sleeping. Using the young woman as hostage would be the lever he would need to keep his brother with him if such a time arose where he deemed it a necessity to do so, and suddenly he had a terrible thought, Jamie might tell Vincent who the baby's father was. “Vincent, you know you are probably right. If Catherine has moved on with Elliot Burch, and it could be that he is seeking sanctuary in the tunnels, you never know, then perhaps its best that you don’t torture yourself with visits back home. It won’t do either you or Catherine any good, will it? Best to remember the time that you had together and forget about things you can’t change. Just wait for her time to join you, like you decided in the beginning, unless you have changed your mind over that too, now?”
“Yes, I have. Waiting for Catherine no longer appeals to me, but I will keep taking the protein and I will stay here with you awhile longer, and for Jamie’s sake. And you are right, I do not need the added burden and pain of seeing Catherine and Elliot together. Don’t worry, today’s visit will be the last one that I make.”
Dominic nodded, he felt elated and wanted to jump for joy, but he refrained from doing so, saying instead, “I think you have made the right decision brother, and I promise you will find happiness here with me.” Beneath his breath he added, ‘the young woman Jamie could pose a problem but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I can always administer a lethal dose of so called protein if the need arises, for no one is going to take my brother away from me now, no one!’ Having made that decision, Dominic told Vincent, “Well its about time for your next dose of protein, are you ready?”
Vincent nodded, “Yes, a usual dose please, don’t worry I’m not going anywhere. I’ll sit by Jamie till she awakes.”
“Good. You won’t regret this Vincent.” Dominic told him as he collected the required medication from a cabinet beneath his desk, “you and I have a lot of lost years to catch up on, it might take us forever to discuss all that there is.”
Vincent smiled, he didn’t know about forever, a year might well be long enough, but right at that moment he didn’t really care, because for the first time in six months, having shelved all his anxieties thanks to his brother’s fine counsel, he felt at peace as he held out his arm.
*** *** ***
It must have been three days later, when Father sitting up in bed welcomed a visit from his long time friend and colleague Peter Alcott and demanded that he be allowed home.
“They need me!” He wailed in protest as Peter told him that a few more days rest would do him the world of good. Peter smiled, he very much doubted that, but he did realise that Father would probably find a very good reason for sitting still and resting once he got home and discovered the news that Peter himself had received two days earlier.
“Actually, Jacob I doubt that they need you. As I hear it they have all muscled in rather well down there, but on the other hand you will clown me if I make you delay when you find out what has really been happening down there.” Peter left it at that, pursing his lips to keep from chuckling as Father looked dubiously at him. “Why? What’s happened? Oh No, Mouse! Don’t tell me Mouse has made the whole place open plan while I’ve been gone?”
“Nope. Just a minute Jacob, I’ll have your discharge forms signed and promise to keep an avid eye on you, besides they think you are staying with me anyway. You did tell them that you were a visitor from England did you not. Like I asked you to?”
“I did, and I’ve outstayed my welcome, some of those slip of nothing nurses will be more than glad to see the back of me.” Father chuckled prompting Peter to respond with, “I don’t doubt that. You can be so cranky at times.”
“And then some.” A voice from the doorway told them with a hint of laughter. They both looked to see that the doctor who had been assigned to look after him had walked into the room. “What do you think Doctor Alcott? Is he ready for the off yet?”
“Oh I think I can manage to put up with him from hereon.” Peter told the young doctor, “I was just telling him if you can sign the discharge papers I can get him out of here within the hour, besides he has a very good reason to get home…” With one finger Peter touched the side his nose, leaving the other two men wondering what reason that could be. “No wild parties.” The doctor warned Peter.
“As if, and no welcome home gatherings either. No don’t worry, its nothing like that, just a new arrival that Mr Wells will be delighted to see.”
The doctor nodded, “Right then I’ll sign the papers, and collect his medication and you, Mr Wells can start getting dressed.”
As soon as he had gone, Jacob nudged Peter, “A new arrival you say? Who?” His eyes were bright with interest and hope.
“I shouldn’t spoil the surprise, but I’m dying to tell you.” Peter chuckled.
“What, what? Peter if you don’t tell me I’ll have another heart attack.”
“Can’t have that, can we?” Peter played it for all he was worth. Leaned over the bed began fussing around knowing Father was getting more and more exasperated, “Peter I’m going to clown you in a minute.”
“Can’t you guess?” Peter laughed, “Easy when you think of it, what new arrival were you expecting down there?”
Eyes wide Father exclaimed, “No!”
His face wreathed in smiles, Peter responded, “Yes!”
“Vincent has returned?” The hope in Father’s voice was impossible to ignore and Peter’s face fell, of course he hadn’t thought of that. He shook his head, “No Jacob I’m sorry. It wasn’t Vincent. Let’s not think about that now shall we?”
“Its all I’ve thought about.” Tears ran unchecked down Jacob’s cheek, he turned his face into the pillow, “I thought for a moment he was back. Oh Peter where is he!” Jacob wailed broken hearted. To think he had sealed his living son in a casket…Jacob wanted to curl up and die.
For a long while Peter said nothing, just busied himself with collecting Jacob’s belongings together and spreading his clothing out onto the bed. Then he drew the curtains around the bed completely and suggested, “You can get dressed now, Jacob, then I’ll see you home.”
Father said nothing, and Peter feeling terrible looked at him a moment then ducking round the curtain walked over to one window. It was a long time before he heard the sound of movement behind the curtains, and when Jacob finally emerged he looked to have aged thirty years. Peter remembered his earlier attempt at bringing good news to his friend. “Of course,” He told him gently, “If we get there before noon, we might just be in time to see the child partake of his midday feed.”
Jacob’s face was a picture, “Child? What child?”
“Catherine’s child…Vincent’s child…you ready granddad? I’m taking you home.”
Father gasped, “Why didn’t you say? Peter!” Grabbing his bag from the bed Father almost ran from the room, and Peter burst out laughing and we wished he had a camcorder as proof. For Father didn’t even hobble.
*** *** ***
Awake two days Jamie examined her new domain with distaste. Her head felt fuzzy but she had no way lost her mind as Vincent kept maintaining, yet Jamie was aware of the danger already of trying to make Vincent believe anything she told him. Dominic regarded her closely, too closely, and once or twice Jamie swore she had seen fear and anxiety in the other man’s eyes.
“So you’re Paracelsus’s son.” She remarked not for the first time to Vincent at dinner, “And how does that make you feel?”
Vincent detected the barbed tone of Jamie’s seemingly innocent question and regarded her coolly, “I told you before, now that I have accepted it, I feel at peace. I had a father and a mother after all, believe me Jamie that kind of knowledge ties up all kinds of loose ends. I have no more need to doubt and no more questions to ask. I’m complete.”
Jamie couldn’t resist, “Yeah, completely bonkers like your old man!”
Vincent snarled, his eyes venomous he regarded Jamie with distaste. “If I did not know you better…” He warned.
“Yeah, you’d what? Tear me from limb to limb, you and whose army?” She told him defiantly. Jamie was afraid of no one. Vincent had taught her that, that was the Vincent she used to know and love. Well she still loved him but knew him no longer. “You are nuts to believe all of this. You’re no more dead than I am, and no more dead than Catherine, who I might add is missing you so much, Vincent! How can you do this to her? How can you stay away? You’re future is with Catherine, not here, with a crazy brother that is selfish to boot!”
“ENOUGH!” Vincent stood and roared, bringing Dominic running from his chamber, “What’s going on here!” He demanded, “As if I didn’t know. Jamie you’re presence here is causing disruptions and friction and I must warn you…”
“That you’ll what!” Jamie flared, “Give me some more of that goddamn drug that you say is protein, yeah right, start telling the truth Dominic, or did your father never tell you what that was!” Jamie flinched as Vincent’s, gloved, fortunately, hand struck her across one cheek and would have sent her reeling had she not held fast to the desk.
“Take that back!” Vincent growled at her, “I will not have my father’s name spoken of in vain like that.”
“You’re father?” Jamie almost choked on the words, “Next you’ll be telling me that you were proud of the evil bastard…hello…anyone in there…earth to Vincent…Go Away!” Jamie screeched as she saw Dominic advancing out of one eye corner, “Stick that thing anywhere near me again and you’ll be sorry!” Jamie eyed the syringe maliciously. Even so brave words were no match for two strong men, each of whom held one of her arms and struggled with her until Dominic was able to administer the drug. She fell unconscious into Vincent’s arms and he sighed as he laid her limp body to the bed assigned for her. “I’m sorry Dominic, she’s a tough nut to crack isn’t she?” He tried to laugh but the sound didn’t ring true.
“I’d hoped to keep her here with us, Vincent. But if she continues to behave this way, I’m afraid there are only two options left to us. I either administer a lethal dose to take her right through to the other side, or I have her taken to the tunnels beneath Brooklyn. She can be returned here when she has understood and accepted the way of things, but that might take some time. What do you think?”
Immensely sad, Vincent wasn’t certain what to think, “Brooklyn would be preferable, but she’ll know no one there. I think we should persevere with her, she has to accept things soon. She can’t keep fighting the inevitable. Passing through the rock is one way, and as hard as she tries she will never have it open to her from this side. I think we should wait it out, as hard as it might be, discipline her when required, be there for her when she finally accepts what is so, and find out what her plans are. She has friends on the other side, it might be that once she accepts the way of things, she will want to leave us and go to join them.”
Dominic nodded, proud of his brother’s speech, in so short a while Vincent had become a great believer, and people like Jamie he could do well without. Still, if Vincent was adamant that Jamie could not sway him into believing anything different, then they ought to be safe. Even so, he would keep that lethal dose handy, for no matter what his brother maintained, the young woman was trouble with a capital T, and Dominic was not about to let her wreck his plans. There would always be other hostages, the simple-minded blond haired fellow, they called Mouse would be an excellent specimen and it would be easy to play with his mind. A plan began to form in Dominic’s head, Jamie and Mouse was close he’d heard. If he could then, endorse an occasion whereby he could use Jamie as bait, he could capture the young man, get rid of the girl and then at last his plans would be realised he and Vincent forever together, where none would ever find them.
*** *** ***
Arriving at the tunnels, there was indeed a welcome party for Father, but all understood his eagerness to be home, and Mary walked with him to where Catherine was staying now in Vincent’s chamber with her baby son.
“Father!” Catherine’s exclamation of delight sent her hurrying to his side as he entered the chamber, “Its so good to have you home.” She told him kissing his cheek, “Come, there is someone I must introduce you to.” She took his gnarled hand in hers and led him to the cot positioned by the bed, and with her other hand pulled a soft blue blanket away from the bonny tawny head to reveal a stunning kittenish face awake to reveal the bluest of eyes. “Oh! Catherine!” Father stared down at the child, awestruck and for a very long time simply could find no words to express how he felt at that moment.
“Beautiful isn’t he?” Catherine asked at length, “Do you think Vincent would be proud?”
Speechless, Father nodded.
“Would you like to hold him?” Catherine reached into the cot, and again Father nodded, and made his way to the nearest chair his eyes never leaving the babe. Soon a warm soft body wreathed in a pale blue blanket was placed into his arms and then the threatened tears started to fall. “Oh Catherine…he’s beautiful…so beautiful…hello little one…I’m you’re granddaddy.”
Catherine choked back threatened tears, “I have a name for him, I’d like to ask if you’ll approve?”
“Approve?” For the first time Father tore his eyes away from the baby to look at Catherine, “Why shouldn’t I?”
Taking a deep breath, Catherine replied, “I have two names for him Father, two very obvious names, but he will be known by the second if his father returns, and by the first if he does not.”
Father gasped, “You believe that Vincent is alive too?”
“Yes Father, I’m certain of it. Remember those letters that Narcissa wrote around the cave? Well I know what they mean now. Narcissa was trying to tell us, without letting someone else know what she meant, and it is that someone else that worries me, but enough of that for now. Father, the letters stand for, He’s Not Dead. That’s Vincent, Father. Narcissa was so adamant about it that she died telling us. Do you believe me?”
“Catherine…” Father shook his head in wonderment, “What a clever girl you are. Of course, its as plain as the light of day, we should have realised, he’s not dead! Oh Catherine you don’t know how wonderful it is for me to hear that.”
“Yes I do Father and naturally there are so many thoughts spring up from such a revelation, the top one, where is he, and why hasn’t he returned. Several people have suggested that he has lost his memory and we are all of the opinion that we should search for him and never stop till he is found. He’s been seen too so that helps, although Winslow and Mouse’s description of Vincent having a normal face now takes some believing, and they are adamant that it was so. Still it might have been a trick of the light, or tiredness, or a plain disguise that Vincent wore, he might feel happier wearing one, whatever there has to be a reason and a plausible one at that if the person that everyone keeps seeing really is Vincent.”
Father agreed, “Yes. Have you arranged for the groups to go out?”
“No, I was waiting for your return and besides I’ve been otherwise preoccupied.” Catherine nodded toward her baby, who had been quietly watching his mother and grandfather without a murmur.
“Yes of course,” Father smiled, “Well as soon as I’ve had a little rest, we’ll make our plans. Terrible aren’t I, you’d think I’d want to rush to it straight away, but I feel content to stay here with your son in my arms and stagnate, does that sound selfish to you?”
“Not at all, I have found it difficult to do much else these past three days.”
“Ah yes but you have had an excuse, giving birth is strenuous.”
“So too, I would think is having a heart attack. We both need to rest Father giving orders will just about be enough for us.”
“Yes.” Father was inclined to agree and he did feel tired, all the same nothing was going to make him relinquish his hold of the precious bundle in his arms. “So what name did you give him?”
“Names. I gave him two, Vincent Jacob, what do you think?”
Father’s eyes lit up, “Perfect, oh Catherine they’re perfect, Vincent will approve I know it, only may I make a suggestion my dear?”
“Whether Vincent returns or not, call the child after him my dear, every firstborn son should be named after his father, it is the fitting thing to do.”
Father smiled, “I’ll let you into a secret if you promise to tell no one.”
Eyes bright, Catherine nodded.
“My mother named me Devin, after her father but my father changed it to Jacob after his when he registered my birth. Mother never quite forgave him, and called me Devin often.”
“I didn’t know that!” Catherine exclaimed.
“No one knows that, and it will remain our secret?”
“Yes, Father. I promise.” Though Catherine could see no reason why it should be so, she knew she would never tell a soul.
“Thank you, Catherine." Father drew a deep breath and looking down at the babe in his arms he softly went on, "And so…” Father's heart swelled with love for the child, “it begins…again. Hello little Vincent, welcome to our world.”
*** *** ***
Peter held fast to the file that Catherine had handed him and checked his orders a final rime before leaving the tunnels, “So I’m to hand this to Joe Maxwell in person and if he is not available I’m to keep returning until he is. I mustn’t give the folder to anyone else, however well meaning they appear, is that correct?”
From her chair, Catherine smiled, “That’s correct, Peter. Only Joe can be trusted with this, and remember if he asks where I am, you can tell him I’m in the process of purchasing a brownstone, which incidentally you could help me with too, if you’re available?”
“Like I haven’t enough to do?” Peter smiled good-naturedly and bent to kiss Catherine goodbye. “I’ll see Joe gets this don’t worry. Do you really think he’ll be able to help Elliot?”
“There’s no one else I can ask, he has to do, Peter. Otherwise Elliot and Jenny become permanent fixtures down here, and I can’t see either of them or Father taking that in their stride, nor Vincent when he returns.”
Peter smiled, “That’s the spirit, Cathy.”
“What do you mean?”
“You said, when Vincent returns. For the last week you’ve been saying, if Vincent returns. You are becoming optimistic and its great to see it.”
“Well the search parties have been gone for four days now, and though they haven’t reported back, they well know that until there is anything worth reporting, their intention is to remain down there for as long as it takes. They’ve a lot of ground to cover I know, but I feel certain that they won’t return empty handed.”
Peter frowned, “Being a little pessimistic won’t hurt, Catherine, and it might be a protection, especially if Jacob is building up his hopes too.” Catherine disagreed and adamantly shook her head, “Vincent’s alive Peter, and we’ll find him. Narcissa died telling us that, her death mustn’t go in vain. This time next week, you’ll see, Vincent will be home.”
“I hope so, dear.” Drawing himself up to his full height Peter sighed, “Oh well back to the grindstone. I’ll visit when I get a free hour or two, and of course, if Joe needs me to run an errand.”
“Thanks Peter, be well.”
“Be well, Cathy. Be well, little Vincent.” Peter touched the babe’s cheek with one finger, “He’s so beautiful Cathy, and so like Vincent at that age, its truly incredible.”
Proudly Catherine gazed down at her son, “I loved all the stories Father told of Vincent as a babe, felt I’d been there they became so real, but nothing prepared me for how beautiful he must have been. I’m so happy Peter, and when Vincent returns everything will be perfect.” Peter said nothing, he had his reservations and Catherine detected them, “I know you have doubts Peter, but how can Vincent not accept his own son?”
“You’re probably right, Catherine. I’ve just been a doctor too long. Whatever is keeping Vincent from you, I don’t seriously think it’s by choice. Call me as soon as you hear anything, promise?” Again Peter kissed her cheek.
“I promise.” Catherine nodded wholeheartedly. It was difficult letting Peter go, but Elliot was anxious for his help, and Catherine knew Peter would return as soon as he could, “I’ll say goodbye then.”
“Yes, be well Catherine.” Peter waved the folder at her, showing he would not forget and Catherine watched him walk out of the chamber. She’d never be alone, she knew that but sometimes just having someone from her world made all the difference and with Jenny preparing to leave, as needs must, it left only Elliot in the tunnels as her connection to the outside world and as much as Catherine appreciated his company, she also realised that Vincent would not. So the sooner Peter left and saw Joe, the sooner they would get that particular ball rolling, even so Catherine felt quite alone when Peter had finally gone, but then her attention was soon whisked away by the beauty of her son and she smiled down at him, loving him so much. Strange, how before his birth she had insisted that he would be denied nothing no matter his looks, for now all she wanted to do was protect him from everything life might attempt to throw at him. Wrap him in cotton wool and keep him safe eternally. For the thousandth time, she wondered what Vincent would think to their babe, and for the millionth since he had disappeared from her life she wished he were home. “Soon, soon, Cathy.” She told herself, “Soon he will be here, and you will have your happy life.” Bright blue eyes stared back at her, trusting her, loving her, blue eyes so reminiscent of his father’s that Catherine’s heart ached. “Oh little one, I love you so and I miss your daddy so much.”
The baby cooed in his cot, little milky bubbles coming from between his lips, as though he was speaking to her and in his own way he was, and suddenly Catherine made a startling discovery, eyes wide and incredulous she exclaimed, “The Bond! Of course, how could I have forgotten the bond? You can feel him can’t you darling? You’d know where he is!” Elated Catherine began to weave all kinds of fantasies, if her son were connected to his father, then his father was connected to the child…so…”Bring him home, darling…bring him home…” Catherine begged her son as any qualms she might have reserved deep down were obliterated forever. Now she knew without a doubt that Vincent would return, for their son would call him home.
*** *** ***
Jamie, ever watchful and knowing now to keep quite, hoped she had fooled Dominic and Vincent enough while she waited for an opportunity to escape. The way through the rock face was blocked, but she knew that she was not dead for what person could menstruate even during living death? It had been that as much as her staunch belief that had convinced her of Dominic’s lies, and Vincent’s quiet acceptance of them only served to infuriate her further. Even so she let them believe that she was beginning to trust in all that they said, even down to the fine art of asking bold questions amazing herself at her ability to act so well. “So, I remain here, what, until Mouse joins me?” She asked Dominic one afternoon. Vincent was, she could see, discreetly preparing a pack, and she tried not to look too interested as she wondered if he might be intending a visit to the hub.
“If that’s what you want.” Dominic told her. He was no fool usually, but Jamie was a fine actress, and he was beginning to accept that the drug was working on her as well as it had his brother. Forgetting that his brother’s fever beforehand had been a contributing factor to that, and also his brother’s state of mind had not been at its best when he’d found him, Dominic assumed that Jamie had accepted that she had died too.
“I do think a lot of Mouse, but I don’t love him or anything. If I decided to pass on through you’d let me go would you?” Dominic nodded and Jamie was struck all over again by those blue eyes and how he resembled Vincent, even with the normal human face.
“Still, Mouse might be happy to find me here. That’s if he doesn’t die by blowing himself to smithereens.” Vincent overheard the remark and laughed, “Now that would be a possibility, except that he’d probably bring half the occupants of the hub with him if he did, and where would we put every body?”
Dominic chuckled too, but Jamie detected the wary glances that he gave her, a question had arisen out of Vincent’s innocent remark, would Jamie see and act upon it? Jamie wondered about that too, and decided to ask anyway, “That’s an interesting concept Vincent and leads me to ask you Dominic, if we are as you say, the living dead by means of the protein your father produced, why are we here? That is, how come you get to play God?”
From his packing Vincent paused, he had thought of something similar many times over the last six and a half months but had never voiced the question. He was eager to know how Dominic might answer.
“Let me show you something.” Surprisingly, Dominic left the chamber only to return soon after with a bible in his hands. There, re-sitting back in his place before the desk that Vincent deemed as his, since they were in Vincent’s chamber, Dominic opened the bible and began to read…”The day will come when all those in memorial tombs will come out.” Dominic looked up and to Vincent and Jamie in turn, neither commented on the scripture awaiting Dominic’s explanation.
“My father presumed that since people did not come out of memorial tombs then the scripture was pre written for such a time when someone would produce some medication that would make this possible. All scripture is inspired of God, but God is also well aware that there is a time for everything, as King Solomon rightly said. It would not do if cave men were giving the insight to produce motor cars would it, nor rockets to the moon. Their advancement was not such that it would have been permissible to expect their intelligence to have reached those significant goals in time. Therefore such things as the dead coming out of their memorial tombs were reserved for the day when something would be made available for it to occur.”
“Great words,” Jamie told Dominic, “But misconstrued. True, what you say regarding technical advancement, but as to the scripture regarding memorial tombs you have missed something.”
“I have?” Shrewdly, Dominic challenged Jamie to dare say what. Unafraid she told him, “Yes, you missed the part that says, all those in memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out. Who’s voice? Your father’s? Did God think so highly of your father that he had it pre written that great things would be founded by him that all mankind would benefit from? Or did God mean his son that is Jesus? Will there come a time somewhat yet future when Jesus will call upon those that have died and through his father restore them to everlasting life?”
“There are many roads…” Dominic began and Jamie blurted, “And not all lead to God, nor do they lead to the truth and I think you are deluding yourself and whatever this medication is that you use to preserve life, I don’t think it has God’s backing, nor do I believe that you have the right to conserve life as you do. Dead is dead, life is life and there is no in between, Dominic. What does the bible also say? That those in memorial tombs have no remembrance or wages and they are asleep awaiting his promise. What promise might that be, Dominic? A quick jab in the arm with a syringe?” Jamie knew she had gone too far, but couldn’t help herself, she was on a roll, “No! Jesus said I am the way and the life and everyone believing in me will have everlasting life or words to that effect. In essence only those believing in Jesus and his Father will inherit life after death, life I might add reminiscent of what you are trying to achieve here, but not the same. Life back to life, not a state of somewhere between, no sitting on the fence there, Dominic, its either one or the other, life or death.”
“You are speaking in riddles, Jamie.” Dominic sounded furious but he did not move, rather flicked through the pages of his bible eager to present his truth. He didn’t like the way Vincent was hovering in the background, saying little to dispute Jamie’s reasoning, in fact, if truth be told, he appeared a little perturbed by the things she had brought up.
“Its better than speaking in tongues, Dominic. The native tongue that you speak goes contrary to mine. You have created nothing but a mini Babylon here, Dominic and your beliefs are in direct opposition to God, had you of been alive at the time of the building of Babel you would have been among those whom God confused the language. Until that time everyone spoke the same truth, it was only when Nimrod made himself King that things changed. Nimrod wanted to rule all the people and have them serve only him, and in direct opposition to God he had the people build a city with the intention of building a tower so high that it would reach into the heavens. Those people listened to Nimrod, Dominic, because he had made them believe in him and they wanted to be famous and have honour for themselves. But God put a stop to their glory by confusing their language so that they did not understand one another and the tower was never built. People went their separate ways, each with another that they could understand, and so languages came into existence.”
“And your point is what exactly?” Dominic sneered.
“One you’ve obviously missed!” Jamie flared, “Vincent do you understand?”
With a look that clearly said, ‘leave me out of it’ Vincent said nothing, and Jamie turned back to Dominic, though she had never completely taken her eyes off him, he was too devious for that. “My point is this, Dominic, that city, the one called Babel came to be known as Babylon, which means confusion. Now do you get my point?”
Dominic stared at her, he had no answers, but one, get rid of her. She was too clever by far, but the damage was done, he could see the growing doubts in Vincent’s eyes.
“I too have wondered…” Vincent began and for the first time since he had met his brother Vincent suddenly feared him. In his eyes, there was a certain look, one he had seen before with one other - the look of the crazed man Paracelsus shone out of Dominic’s eyes.
“Jamie, come!” Jamie needed no second bidding, she was up and at Vincent’s side, taking his hand and running with him away from Dominic who followed at speed. They knew not where they were going, but Jamie trusted that Vincent might know a way out, and he did, only Dominic had prepared for that in advance and had had the way barred. Reaching the only exit Vincent had known and finding it blocked he turned whisking Jamie around and dragging her blindly through tunnels he had never been, yet strangely even as they ran with Dominic in crazed pursuit, Vincent felt no alarm, it was almost as if someone were calling to him from somewhere deep inside and without question he gladly allowed that one to guide him.
*** *** **
“Where are we going?” Jamie collided with an outcrop of rock, stumbled and fell, Vincent picked her up and dragged her along never letting up until he paused for breath listened and ran onward again. They seemed to be going around in circles, and through tunnels he had never seen before, but always Dominic remained behind them in hot pursuit, comforting though fearful, because Vincent knew by it that his brother knew no other way to head them off. “Not sure, just keep running.” Vincent huffed, “We must find somewhere to hide and think.”
“Here,” Jamie exclaimed, “There!” She pointed upward, where in a vertical shaft in the ceiling above them hung a rope, too far off for her to reach but on Vincent’s shoulder’s a possibility.
“Climb up my arm,” Vincent told her bending so she could manage it. Jamie needed no second bidding, and Vincent hoisted her high enough to reach the dangling rope, stepping away only when he felt certain that she had tight hold. “Go, don’t wait for me!” He called after her as he heard Dominic’s approach, “And be quiet!” He hissed. Understanding at once Jamie swung on the rope not daring to start her climb lest the rock sides crumbled beneath her feet and highlighted her presence in the shaft. Heart in mouth she listened as below her Vincent ran onward and not many seconds passed before Dominic flew by underneath her, his clattering boots against stone revealing his speed of pursuit. Only when the sound of his boots receded into the distance did Jamie begin her climb, holding on to the rope for dear life she meticulously made her way to the top, almost falling when someone above her started to tug on the rope thus helping her up. Too far to fall now, Jamie had no choice, hoping against hope that it was Vincent that helped her and not Dominic, she screamed when a lantern was held to her face as she could not see who it was, and then equally as sudden she almost fainted with relief to hear a dear and familiar voice shouting with joy, “Its Jamie, I’ve found Jamie!” And knew it to be Mouse!
*** *** ***
“So there were two of them?” Father shook his head with wonder. “It all makes sense now Paracelsus just never gave up trying to take Vincent back but then who would? His true son, a man would go to any lengths to have him back, I almost pity the stress John would have endured by it.” Father was genuinely sorry, “If only I had known the whole story.”
He’d been giving Jamie a health check and straightened, “There seems to be no lasting ill affects young lady, and you don’t need me to tell you that you are lucky to be alive, and alive you most certainly are.”
“No, thanks Father.” Jamie told him rolling down her sleeve. All that was left of her trauma were the endless pinpricks where Dominic had administered the drug and whatever her nightmares would reveal, “But it was all so frustrating. Dominic was very believable, well…”
“To some. But you know Jamie, the drug, such as it is, has no real power. The traces of it left in your blood, Peter has told me would have done little but delude you. That’s why it was so difficult to comprehend how Vincent was mislead by it all, and you weren’t until Peter made me realise that Vincent likely wanted to believe it and you did not. But why? That’s the big question here, why does Vincent want to be deluded in that way, why has he allowed it to happen?”
“He was happy to be with Dominic, after all they are brothers, “Jamie shrugged, “But yes I know what you mean. Vincent never hankered for going home, he accepted what he was told without question, like he was happy with his new life, yet it held more restrictions for him than he had known before and it was a life without Catherine.” Jamie looked sympathetically in the recipient’s direction, “I’m sorry Catherine, but though he spoke of visiting you, he never spoke of an intention to return for good. He seemed to be waiting for you to join him, and though he knew of the baby, he was happy for you to leave him behind. There is something though…it might be a fanciful idea, but first is it true that Elliot Burch is here?”
“Yes, he and my friend Jenny sought sanctuary here, and though Jenny has returned above and still visits, Elliot remains until it is deemed safe for him to return above. What is your objective?”
“Do you think that Vincent might believe that you and Elliot are a couple, and that Elliot is the baby’s father?” Catherine began to shake her head, but changed her mind. Jamie had a point. “He wouldn’t do that, would he?” Catherine looked to Father for assistance.
“It is possible, and you well know how he feels about Elliot. You told me yourself that he was always trying to palm you and Elliot off together. It would make perfect sense. The drug that Dominic used has no persuasive powers by itself, but with a heart inclined to accept an outlet that didn’t insist on facing one’s problems, then with something like that Vincent would gladly grasp hold of such a concept rather than face what appeared to be so. And it hasn’t helped to know that Elliot is in the tunnels either, something like that would draw the conclusion that the two of you, for whatever reason, have moved below, perhaps for sanctuary but at any rate together. I think we have to face the possibility my dear that this is why Vincent is staying away. He feels he has lost you to Elliot Burch and it is more than he can bear.”
“Oh poor Vincent.” Catherine exclaimed, “We have to find him, make him believe otherwise. Of course if he could only see his baby, he would know the truth of it, but how long will it be before he gives into the pull of the connection he shares with his son?”
“That’s great!” Jamie exclaimed, “What are you worried about? Vincent can’t ignore something like that, he never could.”
“In effect no, but such a connection would only bring him running if the recipient were in danger, what am I supposed to do, scare my son witless in order to have his father turn up here? I couldn’t do something like that and would forbid anyone else from trying.”
“Have you never heard, my dear, that curiosity killed the cat?” Father added his input. “I think it’s only a question of time now, and Vincent does have his doubts, about his brother at least, unless he ignores them regardless. You say he returned before Jamie, so we may have to face facts that he is in his brother’s clutches again. Do you think you could guide a group down there?” Father asked hopefully.
“Not a chance, we ran in circles, and only thanks to one of Mouse’s strategically placed ropes am I here now. I wouldn’t be able to guide anyone, and you say the way I got there is now blocked?”
“Yes, won’t move, Dominic obviously got to it first.” Father sighed deeply, “I don’t know any other way of getting through rock that thick, I really don’t.”
“I do.” Everyone looked up at the new speaker among them and found that Elliot had entered the chamber, “Forgive me I wasn’t eavesdropping, have no idea what you are discussing, but I heard the tail end of your conversation and I could help if you are needing to blow through solid rock, and I certainly owe you one.”
“Elliot!” Catherine exclaimed with a shake of her head, “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”
“The thing you are needing is always in the last place that you look.” Elliot stated with a chuckle, “when it was always right beneath your nose all the time.”
“But you can’t go above, how long will it be before you could arrange to bring us what we will need?” Father asked with dismay.
“How about tomorrow? That’s what I was coming to tell you Cathy, Joe came good, everything is okay again, I can return above.”
“Oh Elliot, that’s marvellous! But I will really miss you.”
Elliot laughed, “If I believe that, I’ll believe anything.” Raucous laughter followed him out, “Write down what you need Cathy, I’ll be packing my things. I’ll call in before I leave, and if there is anything I can do personally just say wouldn’t want the young Mouse man to blow you all to kingdom come.”
“Thanks Elliot, we owe you one.” Catherine told him sincerely, Elliot shook his head, “Oh no you don’t sweetheart, after this we are well and truly even and I cannot thank you enough believe me.”
Catherine watched him go with a song in her heart. She had greatly misjudged Elliot Burch, and one day she would tell him so, but not now. Now all she wanted to do was delay matters no longer, and with Father’s and Jamie’s help began to jot down on a notepad the things they would need to dig Vincent out of the hellhole where his so called brother, Dominic had placed him.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Thirteen - click on 'Next' below:
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