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.
With lyrics from Michael Bolton’s song ‘Whenever I Remember Loving You.’
Time moved on, and Catherine continued to remain at her apartment defiantly opposing Father’s demands that she should live below. Peter stayed out of it, though he was forced to act as mediator between the two something he was reluctant to do and took ages to impart knowledge from one to the other, so when he finally told Catherine, “Father had the marble panels fitted to Vincent’s grave.” It was in actuality two weeks after the event.
“Why didn’t he tell me?” Catherine wailed crossly, “I should have been there. I wanted to be there, to see them fitted. Have you been down to look?”
Peter took her questions one at a time, “I suppose he concluded that the trek would be too long and arduous for you, and no I haven’t been down to look. Now roll up your sleeve, I need to check your heartbeat.” Catherine did as asked revelling her arm to him until he was finished and satisfied that nothing was amiss. “So what are you doing with yourself these days?” Peter asked fishing into his bag for the required apparatus that he needed to examine her further.
“I’m still working if that’s what you mean. There’s nothing to show that I am pregnant, Joe suspects not a thing, all the same I applied for a desk job. Despite what Father assumes I want to take care of this baby too.”
“Yes I know honey, but I am inclined to be on Jacob’s side over this. You will be showing soon, it might happen almost overnight so how will you explain that to your boss when you walk in one morning looking as if you’ve over indulged at breakfast? Can you lie back, I want to listen to the baby’s heartbeat?”
Plumping up the pillows behind her, Catherine sprawled flat onto her bed and watched lazily as Peter listened to her baby. She remained quiet throughout, knowing he expected it, but when he was done she asked, “Next time you come, can’t you bring one of those monitors that lets me hear its heartbeat?”
“Actually honey, I can do better than that. I wasn’t going to suggest it till I was sure, but I think now would be the time to go along to the clinic for a scan. It is possible that we will see the baby’s sex, though Jacob is convinced it will be a boy and by the look on your face young lady I see that is the conclusion you have drawn also. So do0n’t be so surprised when you find out you will be having a daughter okay, not that I know of course, not until the scan that is.”
“Actually if its all the same to you, Peter I’d rather not know. At least that way I can keep a little of something to myself, and I don’t want Father knowing either. Chances are if it’s a son, he’ll have him named already. And there’s no prizes for guessing what that will be!” Catherine added dryly.
“You two should try to get along, you know. Both of you only want what’s best for the child. Jacob is quite stressed that you haven’t been near nor by the place since you told him you were pregnant. I know he’d like to see you if only to see for himself that you are well.”
“He knows where I live. Tell him to come up and see me sometime.”
“Now you are being particularly obtuse, Catherine and that is so unlike you. Whatever way you look at it, my dear this is Vincent’s child, and whether or not he resembles his father is unimportant because if he does not and you keep him up here, how will you keep him from falling in love and passing his genes on to some poor girl that has no knowledge of what she may conceive?”
Straightening her clothing, Catherine walked with Peter to the door, “You are speaking years ahead. And it doesn’t matter since I will tell him everything and I know you and father mean well, at least you do, but I need to have a say in this too. This is my body, my baby and my life. If I am to be shut away in tunnels as soon as the baby is born do you think I want to hurry and go live there before I need to? I know the score Peter, its just that if there is a slim possibility that the child does not resemble Vincent then I’d like to remain above with him. Thing is, I reckon Father will prevent my leaving the tunnels with him.”
“He can’t do that Catherine. Besides the community would soon be up in arms if he tried. Vincent didn’t know his mother, grew up without one, they wouldn’t bestow that upon his child given the opportunity to have him with you. As it is though Jacob has told no one that you are pregnant.”
That did surprise Catherine! She felt so sure that everyone would have known, one of the reasons why she had been peeved that no one had been to see her from the tunnels. “Why not?”
“I think he feels that is something you should do. And until he knows what you are doing he would have little to impart to them other than the facts. I do think however that knowing you are carrying Vincent’s child would do a great deal of good to a great many people Cathy, losing Vincent was the end of their world too. And they have heard such wonderful stories about Vincent as a child, I’m certain they will be delighted to know they will have the chance to see for themselves how beautiful he was.” Catherine nodded but said nothing, taking in his words until he told her, “Well my dear I must go. Oh by the way, Devin has been and gone and is coming back next week. He was devastated Cathy, I don’t mind telling you and angry with his father because Jacob seems to have come to terms with Vincent’s death already. Devin assumes that Jacob is heartless, of course he does not know about the hope of the grandchild and all it will present in the tunnels. Its like history repeating itself Cathy, honestly I never thought I’d see the day when Vincent would have a child. Didn’t even think it were possible.”
“I heard you thought he was sterile?”
“Well yes, but that was wild speculation. Having no one to compare him with, not knowing his history and not expecting that he would ever have a relationship with any woman let alone one so beautiful, led us to conclude that it was a possibility anyway.”
“Peter, are you busy? Do you have other calls to make?” Catherine had started to open the door and closed it again.
“I can always make time for you, but as it happens you were my last call for the day. What’s on your mind?”
“Do you think there was any truth in the claims Paraselcus made as to Vincent’s parentage?”
“I wouldn’t like to speculate. John Pater was a mad man I’d hate to think you might be carrying the grandchild of such a man. But then looking at the facts, Vincent too was mad at times. Both displayed a terrifying attitude when the mood took them. Its something I have questioned at length in the past. I’d say it was a possibility that’s all. But we’ll never know will we? Paracelsus is dead even if he could be believed alive.”
“Why would he say all those things though? Why did he continually try to have Vincent with him? Everyone assumes that Paracelsus was lying, but what if he wasn’t? What if he became mad because he was forced to give up his unique looking son to another man, a man that claimed the child as his no less?” Catherine leaned back against the closed door thoughtfully, it looked as though she were baring Peter’s exit, but soon moved aside to let him out when he reached for the catch to open the door. “We’ll never know Cathy, and that’s that. And it’s unimportant. Now stop fretting over inconsequential things and take a look at your diary and make an appointment for the clinic on the first Monday or Thursday morning that you can. That’s when I will be in. When you ring up make certain they book your appointment with me. And in the meantime, think very seriously about handing in your notice at work and moving down to the tunnels. None of us know the gestation period of this pregnancy, nine months might be asking too much, and you don’t want to leave it too long. Its four months already.”
Eyes open wide, Catherine looked at Peter incredulously, “You really think the baby could take less than nine months?”
“Despite the fact that it doesn’t yet show, could be down to all manner of reasons, but the position of your uterus has me wondering if the pregnancy will last much longer. At a speculation, and going by other uteruses at that stage I’d say you have a little over two months left.”
Catherine’s mouth dropped open, “Two months!” She exclaimed. Suddenly the walls of her world were closing in on her, and she wanted to escape. “Peter, are you sure?”
He nodded, his kindly eyes examining hers with sympathy. “Just don’t want to take any chances that’s all. None of us know what to expect. We might have had Vincent as the protocol but we weren’t there for his birth or the gestation of his mother’s pregnancy. There’s no one to ask either and no one would know if there were.”
“Maybe Narcissa she knows everything. We could consult her.” Catherine told him.
With brows drawn, Peter looked down at her, “You didn’t know? Of course how would you? Catherine, Narcissa is dead. She was found a month after she went missing at the side of Vincent’s tomb no less.”
Catherine gasped, “Narcissa’s dead? No!”
“There’s nothing to suggest it was foul play, even though her chamber gave us the impression that it had been ransacked and Narcissa carried off against her will. Father concluded that she had heard of Vincent’s death and being unable to believe it had torn up her chamber and gone to see for herself and then with the long trek down to the cave and the cold and damp her heart gave out, either that or she willed herself to die. She and Vincent were very close. Strange though, maybe I shouldn’t worry you about this, but you’ll likely hear it eventually anyway…”
“What?” Catherine asked anxiously.
“On the walls of the cave were letters, written as if Narcissa didn’t want certain parties to know what they meant, thing is as yet none of us have been able to decipher them. Maybe you can. All over the place, on his casket, the walls in the sand on the floor were three letters, H N D, and I haven’t got a clue as to what they stood for.”
“H N D” Catherine shook her head the letters meant nothing to her. “Are they still there, I’d like to take a look and visit Vincent’s grave at the same time. Is Narcissa buried down in the cave too?”
Reluctantly Peter shook his head, “Now that’s the thing I didn’t want to tell you. Soon after she was discovered lying on the floor of the cave by Winslow and Mouse her body disappeared. No one has any ideas as to where it went to though many speculate because Narcissa was known for her strange ways. Some reckon that she just fizzled away into the sand, but those of us that do not believe such things believe that her body was stolen though for what reason we do not know. Either that or Winslow and Mouse were mistaken and that she was not dead at all. Thing is she has never returned to her chamber, so we have to believe that she died. She was very old anyway.”
“Even so…” Catherine began and Peter added, “Well yes, of course, even so age should have had nothing to do with it. If she felt that she could undertake such a long journey than she is to be commended, but obviously it was simply too far one so old.” He shook his head then, “But whatever became of her body is anyone’s guess. None of the community know anything about it. Winslow blames himself, Mouse wanted him to stay behind while he went back to the nearest pipe to send a message, but Winslow wouldn’t stay down there on his own with her and neither would Mouse.”
“That’s strange,” said Catherine, “Mouse had no qualms staying with Vincent.”
“I know, Mouse says it was because Vincent was his friend and he didn’t look dead anyway.” Peter chuckled, then full laughter followed, “I’m sorry my dear but you have to have been there to appreciate it. Mouse stated that Narcissa had looked dead even when she was alive and he was petrified of being with her body.”
Catherine laughed at that, and realised it was the first real laughter she had uttered in months. It felt good, and she soon realised something else. “I’ve missed Mouse, come to that Jamie and Olivia, little Luke, and Geoffrey, Mary, even Father, I’ve missed them all and have only just realised how much.”
“Well my dear I’m going down there now if you would like to accompany me?”
Catherine shook her head, “No, missing is one thing going down there another, although I would like to visit Vincent’s grave. Maybe I’ll go at the weekend.”
“The longer you leave it the more chance you will have to wait to go to the cave until after the baby is born. For the same reason as Narcissa the trek could prove to be harmful to you. Catherine just before I go, can we at least talk about the birth?”
Catherine nodded, wondering what Peter actually meant.
“How many births have you actually seen?”
“Me? None. What are you saying?”
“I think some self help videos would be in order. You need to know what you are up against and with limited apparatus in the tunnels you will need to be prepared more than most. Naturally you can’t get out of it now, but its best to know what you will have to deal with. A few ante natal classes wouldn’t go amiss either, honey.”
Catherine nodded, “Perhaps you’re right. And perhaps you’re right about the visit tonight. They aren’t likely to hold me there against my will are they? Whatever am I thinking of. If I come with you this evening, how long do you plan on staying?”
“A couple of hours. No time for visiting the cave, but enough to visit with the community. If you are ready, we could leave now?”
Taking only seconds to decide Catherine reached for her jacket and shoes, “I’ll be right with you, just let me switch the answer machine on.”
*** *** ***
Walking through the tunnels within the hour with Peter at her side, the sound of the tap tapping on the pipes announced their arrival to all and sundry and Father met them at the entrance to his chamber, the expression on his face a mixture of apprehension and joy. “Catherine?” He queried cautiously, then “Its so good to see you. Are you well?”
“I am Father, and forgive me for staying away but…” She could find no excuse to tell him but Father understood. “It was my fault, I chased you away did I not? You imagined that I was taking control of the situation, and I was, its true, but there will be no more of that my dear. Please will you visit more often, I have missed you so much.” He was going to add as has everyone and especially the children, but he thought that might sound like blackmail so refrained from saying so.
“Peter thinks that the baby might be born sooner than nine months, I may need to seek sanctuary here within the next couple of weeks. Will the council approve?”
“Well let’s ask them shall we? I haven’t told them a thing, I thought I’d leave that to you.” Hobbling to the nearest communication pipe Catherine detected Father’s joy, and saw him pat Peter’s shoulder in passing. It was obvious that the two had been in cahoots over her visiting but Catherine found suddenly that she did not mind. They only had her welfare and the baby’s welfare at heart after all.
Peter watched the scene unfold with pleasure. Having not been there when Jacob had been told about the baby he had seen the older man’s joy second hand. It would be wonderful to see the reaction of the other tunnel members when they heard.
It was a wonderful welcome home, as members of the tunnel community filed into Father’s chamber Catherine started to cry. She had been so thinking of herself and Father’s attitude that she hadn’t stopped to wonder what her absence in their lives had done to these people, and the children! If only her lap had been big enough to house them all, even so each tried to secure themselves a place near her, on her or around her. It was clear to Catherine that she had been missed and that they were expecting her to leave again soon.
“Members of the council.” Father began when he was satisfied that all had arrived. In fact he had difficulty seeing them all, the chamber looked as though it were filled with every tunnel dweller between Manhattan and Brooklyn. There were faces among them that he hadn’t seen in a while.
Someone clapped their hands and silence quickly spread through the chamber, until Father had their avid attention. “Members of the council, Catherine has come here to partition you. I am sure that you will have no problem with her request, but since it is only polite to ask, we are seeking your agreement.” Then turning to Catherine, a young woman swamped with children, he beckoned, “Catherine, if you will please.”
“I couldn’t stand even if I wanted to.” Catherine told the bemused crowd, “So I hope you will forgive my muffled petition.” Everyone laughed.
“I have an announcement to make. This might come as a shock to some of you.” Worried glances from the children turned her way, large ominous eyes clearly troubled by whatever it was she was about to say. She hugged them, “Its nothing to worry about. Its really rather wonderful.” Father heard the children sigh from across the chamber and smiled. He knew what Catherine was about to impart yet even so he found he was filled with a mixture of anticipation and excitement and with his eyes urged her to hurry along with her announcement.
Catherine saw him and laughed gaily, “The truth is, “ she told everyone, watching Father’s eyes and pausing just enough to leave him panting, “I’m expecting a baby.” She paused just long enough for the penny to drop and then added, “Vincent’s baby.”
Utter silence followed and Catherine found that she was grinning from ear to ear and then two of the smaller children tapped her tummy and one asked, “Is your baby in there Catherine?”
Smiling through a well of tears Catherine nodded, “Aha, yes, and he’s going to be living here with you.” Now everyone started to speak at once, as wild thoughts had been swirling through befuddled minds for the past few minutes all culminating in a similar idea, ‘if Catherine were expecting Vincent’s baby, then where would that baby live? Above or below?”
“And so,” Catherine went on, “I would like to ask the council’s permission to live down here with you all and when the baby is born to continue to live here, though I will from time to time be going back above.”
“But you’ll leave the baby here when you do?” Mary was the first adult to ask a burning question.
“That depends.” Catherine told her truthfully. “I will not deny my child the sunlight if it is possible for him to partake of such sights. If however he looks like his father, then I will have limited choice and a limited say as to what is best for him.”
“It’s a boy? You know that already?” Father asked hopefully.
“No Father, just speculation and the way that I feel. Peter is arranging for me to have a scan that would reveal the child’s sex, only I chose not to know and have asked Peter not to tell any of you.”
“But you would hope for a boy?” Jamie asked with a smile, “One that looks like Vincent?”
Again Catherine wasn’t sure, “I don’t know. It’s a question I have asked myself a thousand times, Jamie. I guess whatever will be will be, and as long as the baby is healthy it is unimportant.”
Everyone knew the difficulty of making such a choice. To be like Vincent, be denied the life that others took for granted, yet to not be like Vincent and be denied the beauty of his father, for Vincent had been beautiful, everyone agreed on that.
“Well lets put it to the vote shall we. All that agree to Catherine and her baby living among us say Aye.” Father asked the room.
A chorus of ‘AYE’ sounded making the vote unanimous, “Well then Catherine, may I be the first to say it?” Father stood and crossed the chamber to gold out his hands to Catherine even though both of hers were otherwise engaged in holding children. She pulled one free and took his and with eyes bright and filled with happiness she nodded.
“Welcome to our world Catherine, welcome home.” The chamber was suddenly filled with joyous shouts, cheers and applause and Catherine saw her new family through a well of tears.
*** *** ***
“You knew didn’t you?” Mary asked Father when everyone had left and Catherine had been escorted back to her apartment by Peter. “How could you have kept such a thing from me?”
“It wasn’t easy, but I felt it was something Catherine had to tell you all.” Father replied.
“You’ll be telling me next it was doctor confidentiality. You could have told me!” That Mary was indignant was easy to see.
“In a way it was.” Father told her, “And perhaps I should have told you. But how would that have looked huh? Once you knew the loss of Vincent would have been slightly reduced, and you would have glowed just as I must have glowed these past few months to know that his child is to be born. It doesn’t take away the fact that Vincent is lost to us, Mary but it does ease the futility of his short life to know that he will live on. And in some small way I had to keep it to myself, for in so doing you have been able to grieve properly as has everyone else.”
Mary wasn’t so sure, but she knew when she was beaten. She was peeved, but she would get by. It was just so annoying to think on the nights she had lain awake fretting that never would they see Vincent again, or anyone like him. News of the baby would have eased her grief just a little that was all. Still she was delighted for Catherine, even though the poor woman looked as if she didn’t know if she were coming or going and it would be worse for Catherine. She would need Vincent so much and he couldn’t be there. Mary’s heart ached for the younger woman’s loss. The child would of course lessen it in time, but even so that still posed Catherine an awful lot of problems. In many respects it might have been better for her if there had been no baby, and Catherine was left to heal and move on. She would always grieve for Vincent true, but in time she would pick up the pieces of her life knowing that was what he would have wished for her and she would have found a merit of happiness with someone else. Now though she was doomed to stay tied to the tunnels, in much the same way as Vincent had been and Mary found that so sad.
“When is the baby due?” She asked, as nothing had been said about that.
Father looked up from his ledgers, “We do not know exactly simply because of the gestation period, but Catherine is four months into her pregnancy.”
“Four months?” Mary was clearly surprised and Father understood at once, “It happen in the cave, just prior to Vincent’s death, and I know what you are thinking, I have thought it too. How could it have been possible, and how did Catherine manage it when Vincent was showing such ferocity? Still she tells me that it was beautiful and so I accept that it was. I am just relieved that Vincent died happy.” Again he chuckled unable to help himself, at times that thought had been the only one to get him through the long empty nights.
“He didn’t die during the event though surely not?”
“I didn’t ask, but as far as I know, no it was shortly after. When I found Catherine she had him held in her arms. There was no state of undress, so there must have been a good deal of time lapse between the event and that moment. I didn’t pry into that but of course I have wondered. Who wouldn’t? However it is something that we must leave with Catherine, they are her special memories, not ours.”
Mary understood still just as Father had, she spent more time than she ought just wondering about it. How had it happened? When? What had set it off? A man in such a fury as Vincent had been didn’t just change at the snap of a finger and make love did he? “You don’t think she…” Mary spoke out loud, shook her head and added, “No forget that, she wouldn’t. No point, I mean it’s the last thing you think of right? When someone is at risk of dying?”
“Desperate means have desperate measures my dear, but no you are right, besides Catherine told me that they had intercourse, and I have no reason to disbelieve her. As I say we can wonder and speculate but how when and where belong to Catherine.”
Mary nodded, “Yes, you’re right it is rude of me to dwell on such things. Oh but Jacob what a ribbing we missed with Vincent over it. Can you imagine his embarrassment?” Mary laughed and found that was the first time she had in many months. It felt good.
Father laughed and he too realised how good it was to express such a chuckle. He felt his spirits lift. He could almost see Vincent sitting in his large chair hiding behind a curtain of glossy tawny mane due to acute embarrassment. Father suddenly realised how much he had missed such a sight and almost gave way to tears again. “We’ll have our ups and downs Mary, over the next few years but the baby will help us have more highs than lows. I am so looking forward to seeing this child. I hope he looks like Vincent, does that sound selfish to you?”
Crossing the chamber, Mary laid one hand upon Father’s shoulder and squeezed affectionately, “No Jacob it doesn’t sound selfish at all.” And she meant that for she was beginning to feel exactly the same way.
*** *** **
Leaving the world above was not the empty affair Catherine expected it to be. Since her visit to the tunnels and the meeting with the council, she had started packing things into boxes taking her time with the task a few hours after work each day.
Generally Catherine received few visitors, but as Murphy’s law would have it, the first person to call was Jenny. Breezing into the apartment the moment the door was opened to her, Jen spotted the boxes at once, “Having a clear out?” She asked flicking open one of the boxes and nosily peering inside, “Anything to fit me?”
Catherine’s silence turned Jenny’s gaze toward her, and she blushed, “Oops don’t tell me you weren’t trashing this lot after all?”
“Well, no actually…” What could she tell her? She didn’t want to lie and she had given the matter a great deal of consideration. Jenny was her best friend and she along with Nancy her second best friend would want to know where she was going. “Look Jen, there’s something I should tell you, but it isn’t going to be easy.” Jenny took the sofa quietly assuming that Catherine would take her time, and with her gift of perception Jenny knew that it wasn’t something bad but was very important to Catherine. “What is it, Cathy? Come on you can tell Aunt Jenny anything?”
Taking a deep breath, Catherine moved from the door to the opposite sofa and stared at Jenny long agonising moments as all sorts of answers flew to mind, were dismissed and fresh ones sought. Finally, Catherine took the bull by the horns, honesty was after all the best policy and she couldn’t hide anything from Jenny, not really. The other woman would either see through the deception or have a vision that led her to the truth anyway.
“I’m moving Jen. Not far and still in the city.”
“And you were going without telling me?” Jenny sounded genuinely hurt.
“I wasn’t telling anyone. Not until I’m settled. Thought of buying a brownstone, might still do” (one with access to the tunnels) she thought. “The thing is Jen, I’m expecting a baby.”
Jenny gasped and her eyes lit up with delight, “A baby! Why you dark horse, I didn’t even know you had anyone.”
“I don’t.” Catherine’s voice faltered, “That is, not anymore. I’m sorry Jen. There is so much that you don’t know about me, and for reasons I can’t explain I’ve had to keep secrets these past three years, only please know this, if I could have told anyone it would have been you.” With her green eyes pleading Catherine appealed for her friend to forgive her.
“Is it him the one that was coming to see you the night after you were dumped in the river?” Jenny remembered that night as if it were but a day away. Catherine had told her she wouldn’t be alone that night and Jenny had witnessed the love in her eyes. Whomsoever had been coming to keep her friend company had been very special to her. Catherine nodded, “Yes, Vincent.”
It was the first time Jenny had heard a name for him. “Vincent.” She reiterated, rolling the name of her tongue like a sweet caress, “So what’s happened? Don’t tell me he dumped you when he found out about the baby, that would be too cruel?”
Tears welled in Catherine’s eyes, and Jenny quick to notice left her pastel coloured sofa to sit alongside Catherine on the matching one, her arm stealing around her friend’s shoulders and hugging her close. “Its worse?” Jenny prompted gently.
Nodding, Catherine let the threatened tears fall. “He’s dead, Jen.” It was the first time Catherine had actually said those words to anyone and they hurt her deeply. Sobs came thick and fast and Jenny rocked her friend feeling every bit of her pain.
“I’m so sorry honey.” Jenny whispered, “So sorry. If there is anything I can do?”
Catherine mumbled her thanks and sniffing back her tears, turned a watery smile in Jenny’s direction. “He never knew about the baby, and I’m moving to where his family are. They miss him so Jen, it’s the least I can do. This baby is a part of him and it will help them to heal, same way as its presence helps me, but oh Jen, it’s so bitter sweet, if only you knew the full story.”
As best she could without giving away too many details Catherine tried to explain, “Vincent had a gene defect, to many people he looked frightening but to those that knew him he was beautiful. He was beautiful to me, and he had this most incredible spirit, such kindness. It was he that found me in the park that night when I’d been attacked and it was he that nursed me back to health. His father is a doctor, and together they cared for my injuries. We fell in love Jen, but Vincent was always aware of his looks and constantly refused me a life with him. He is…was…afraid to be seen and would only go out under the cover of darkness.”
As Catherine spoke, Jenny began to see a few dreams unfold, and grew to understand much of the missing links of her friend’s life over the last three years. “And you told no one?”
Catherine shook her head, “Not even my father, although on his death bed Vincent visited with him and promised that he would love and look after me until his last breath.” On that Catherine’s face crumpled and she started to sob again.
“Now you can quit that!” Jenny scolded, “He still loves you. The love inside doesn’t stop when people die they take it with them. Wherever Vincent is now, he will know about the baby, and about you going to live with his family. He will know of your selfless offer to be with his family so that the baby might ease their grief, and he will appreciate what you are doing. It is strange though, whenever I have dreams about you and him, and believe me I’ve had many, I always envisage a happy ending for the two of you. I wish I had met him, have you got a photograph?”
Catherine shook her head, “Nothing but my memories. He wouldn’t allow photos.”
“No, of course not sorry I didn’t think.” For a few moments Jenny pondered the situation, and also her own feelings. Her dreams had seldom been wrong and it was true she genuinely believed that Catherine and this man would have a happy life together. “When did he die?”
“Four months ago.” Catherine whispered.
Four months? Well that didn’t add up, Jenny had had recent dreams about these two, nothing told her that the fellow had died and she would have known if he had. Drawing her brows together she frowned, ‘there’s something not right here’ she thought, ‘but why would Catherine lie to me?’
Her silence went unnoticed by Catherine. It felt good to be enfolded in the arms of another, good to have someone take care of her if only for a few minutes. She wished Jenny could visit the tunnels. She would have to ask Father if it could be arranged. Jenny would be a valuable helper, might even take over from where Narcissa left off. At the thought of Narcissa Catherine frowned, she had spared the old woman little thought since she had found out that she had died, and now she found it so strange that Narcissa had made the long trek to the cave and that her life force had expired when she arrived there. Suddenly Catherine blurted, “Jenny, have you ever dreamt about a set of letters, namely H N D?”
“H N D? Not that I can recall, why?”
“Vincent and I knew this old woman, Narcissa her name was, she was like you could see dreams and visions of the future. She died recently near the grave where Vincent is laid to rest and before she passed away she engraved those letters all over the place as if she were frantically leaving a message for someone to see without giving too much away for someone else.”
“Well there’s nothing I can think of regarding them. But just knowing might prompt a vision in the next few weeks. If I have one I’ll come tell you okay, that is assuming I know where to find you?”
“I’ll stay in touch. I’ll call okay, Vincent’s family live in seclusion and I have to ask permission before I can reveal their address to anyone. I’m sorry that it sounds so dramatic, but it’s just the way it is.”
“There’s no electricity either is there?” Jenny asked and Catherine gasped, yet knew the futility of asking how she knew. Jenny would have dreamt it.
“No. They use candles and lanterns and are very down to earth people.” Catherine chuckled remembering a past incident with Joe. He’d almost hit the nail on the head when he had told her that’s the sort of guy she needed. He never knew how close he had come to the partner she already had. Vincent’s home was very down to earth.
“Its quite dark where they live, and cold. Will the baby be warm enough?” Jenny enquired.
“Yes, its warm where his family reside. And other children live there, nothing untoward has happened to any of them due to the cold and lack of light. Besides they play out in the sunshine as often as they can. These people don’t have much but they are a community of people with much love among themselves.” Catherine drew away from Jenny’s arms, beginning to feel a little hot there. “Would you like anything to drink? I’m thirsty. Think I’ll have an orange juice.”
“I’ll get it. You rest. Want anything to eat? I bet you get hungry these days?” Jenny chuckled remembering her friend’s half eaten salads whenever they had ate out together.
“There’s a sandwich pre-wrapped in the fridge. I’ll have that. You’re welcome to make yourself one.” While Jenny made lunch Catherine drew her legs up onto the sofa and leaned back against the arm. It felt so good to have someone that knew some of the facts if not all of them, and Jenny was so perceptive anyway, look how she had known about the non existent electricity and the cold down there. Though ‘down there’ was something that she hadn’t seemed to have picked up on, as yet.
Eating their sandwiches some fifteen minutes later, Jenny looked at her friend sceptically, “I’m sure that there is more that you want to tell me, but I know your hands are tied, however, if I can be of any help to you in any way, you know you mustn’t hesitate to ask.”
“Thanks Jen.” Catherine replied but could find nothing else to say. Jenny though had a question. “Will I ever get to see the baby?”
Placing her sandwich to the pretty orange and blue plate Catherine shrugged, “I don’t know Jen. If it looks like Vincent, probably not, his family are very sensitive about those things. But if he looks like me then yes that’s a dead cert, as I mentioned earlier I plan to buy a brownstone eventually, one that will give Vincent’s family access to the baby and allow my friends and I to socialise, so I will retain a merit of normality even if I will be an unmarried mother.”
“You might meet someone that will be willing to take on the child as his own.” Jenny asked but Catherine shook her head adamantly, “No, I don’t want anyone else, ever.”
“You say that now, but times change, how can you live forever alone? Just don’t ignore anyone that comes along that’s all I ask, you deserve to be happy, Cathy.”
“I am happy Jen. Oh I know I could be happier if Vincent was still alive, but just knowing his baby grows inside of me gives me all the happiness I need. Vincent was a very private person and though we were close we…well…lets just say his baby is closer to me than he ever was, except for the once.” Catherine grinned sheepishly thus giving away one secret and Jenny laughed.
“It might be tough at first but his family are very caring people and I’ll never truly be alone. I don’t know what to do about my job though, or if I should return to it after the baby is born. All I know for now is that I must opt out while I’m still not showing so that not too many questions are asked. That leads me to beg a favour of you…”
“Anything.” Jen told her.
“Can you tell Nancy, anything that will suffice for the time being I have told you many things today simply because I feel that you have seen a great deal of those things already, but Nancy and Paul are something else, and I don’t want to lie to them or give them a half truth. Besides I won’t be far away, just a little unattainable for a while. Is that asking too much of you?”
Jenny was doubtful, “I’ll try, but what if she should see through me?”
“The least said the better. Keep it light and flippant and she should accept whatever you tell her. After all what reason would she have to doubt you?”
“True. All right, if I see her I will think of something. But I wish you didn’t feel the necessity to keep her in the dark, Nancy cares for you like a sister, we both do.”
“Thanks Jen.” Catherine stifled a yawn and Jenny quick to notice told her, “I’d best be going I can see you need to rest, or is there anything I can do for you while I’m here, pack some boxes or something.”
“Would you? That would be wonderful. I am tired. If you could wrap the ornaments in bubble wrap and box them I’d really appreciate that. The crockery has to be boxed too. Well in fact everything does. Would you mind if I went to shut my eyes for half an hour, if you have to leave before I wake just flick the lock down will you on your way out?”
“Yes, now you go and have a lie down on the bed not in here, all the rustling is likely to keep you awake. Bet you haven’t rested properly in weeks, have you? There are dark rims beneath your eyes.”
“I feel like a zombie Jen, can’t remember the last time I actually had a decent night’s sleep. Pills would ensure one but with the baby, I can’t risk it. Nothing must harm this child, nothing, he is more than precious to me.”
Jenny nodded, “You mentioned that before, calling it a he, do you know that it’s a boy?”
Catherine rose from the sofa and stretched, “No, Peter is arranging a scan that would tell me, but I don’t really want to know. I just feel comfortable calling it a he, it comes naturally.”
Bending to straighten the first box, Jenny smiled a secret smile, it came as no surprise to her that Catherine called her baby a boy, and she did not doubt for one moment that it would be anything else. “What will you call him, any ideas?”
Strangely Catherine hadn’t thought to that stage and she paused at the side of her bedroom door and shook her head, “I haven’t a clue.” She told her friend. “Maybe I’ll name him after his father.”
Again Jenny had the strangest feeling waft over her. “One thing before you go, Cathy. You mentioned a woman that has recently died the one that wrote those strange letters, how close was she to your Vincent, do you know?”
“Yes, they thought a great deal of each other. Vincent’s folks believe that his death caused hers, why do you ask?”
Jenny shrugged, “No reason just wondering. Now you go and take that nap and take all the time you need okay, I’ve got a couple of hours spare, I can get a lot done without interference.” She grinned, “So get going.”
Opening the bedroom door, Jenny heard Catherine’s final ‘thanks Jen’ before she closed it behind her. Only then did Jenny squat on the floor legs cross and allow her mind to blank. There had been something filtering through her head ever since Catherine had told her about Vincent, and Narcissa and those strange letters H N D, and Jenny needed to prepare herself to receive whatsoever vision was about to be imparted to her.
*** *** ***
Down in the tunnels, Father and Mary were preparing for Catherine to join them and were deep in discussion. “Do you think its wise?” Mary was asking, “I mean she might not be able to cope with it.”
“But then it will make her feel close to him. We should at least mention it. Catherine can either use Vincent’s chamber or the guest one until we have one of her own ready. She’s got to go in there one day, might as well make it sooner rather than later and as I say, it might make her feel closer to Vincent. All his possessions are there, many of which he shared with her, and she has some of her own things in there already.”
“Things she left with him for safekeeping, yes, but nothing since he has died. I don’t even think she has entered the chamber since she chose the clothes to bury him in. Please just don’t expect miracles. I think we should as you say, give her the choice, but if she chooses not to be in Vincent’s chamber then we shouldn’t force her to go there.”
“All right Mary, we’ll do that. Now changing the subject have you seen Mouse lately? He can help Catherine carry some of her things down. I feel his chatty self will help lighten her up.” Mary smiled, “Well that’s a turn up for the books, you actually suggesting that Mouse should escort her down. Aren’t you afraid he won’t rush her off on some hair brained journey that he suddenly has a desire to pursue?”
Father stared at Mary, “Oh Lord, I hadn’t thought of that. Who would you suggest then, Geoffrey?”
“Yes, exactly. Geoffrey thinks a lot of Catherine, and he would be proud to help move her in. You know though talking of Mouse, I haven’t seen hair or hide of him for a few days, is he working on another gizmo?”
“I hope not!” Father exclaimed before laughing out loud and adding, “Actually you’re right my dear, I haven’t seen him at breakfast since Monday, and its now Thursday, we should check with Jamie, see if she knows how he is, and where he is!”
Mary laughed, “Well I’m going Jamie’s way, I’ll see if she knows anything. Now did you want me to bring you anything from the kitchen? I see your caddy is almost out of tea.”
“Would you, that would be wonderful, thank you Mary. Some sugar too, if you will, you know what a sweet tooth I have.” Father chuckled, “Though I have to admit the sugar has lasted longer recently, maybe I’m not using so much…” His voice trailed away as he realised why that really was, and Mary came to his side and squeezed his shoulders, “If its any consolation, William says his cookies last longer now that Vincent isn’t wolfing them down.” It wasn’t any comfort, tragically such simple things as having more food around the place became significantly sad for Father and Mary, and just when they thought they had cried all their tears, fresh ones reminded them that it would be a long time yet before their grief subsided.
*** *** ***
Unashamedly they sobbed together and more and more as they began to notice all the other little things they had taken for granted before and were missing. Vincent wafting in with some smile on his face as he remarked on one of the children, Vincent fresh from above bringing down the night air about his person, his eyes shining with love and adoration after an evening spent with Catherine. Vincent, stealing cookies from the kitchen, taking sugar from the jar, Father slapping his hand well into adulthood for the act, ‘ you’ll need dentistry if you don’t stop that, and then where will we be, hum?’ All the little things that meant so much were suddenly overwhelming missed in that instance and father made a sudden important decision. “It would be callous to expect Catherine to take Vincent’s chamber, Mary. How could I have been so stupid? We’ll not mention it at all set her set her own pace, in the meantime everything in there stays as it is.” His tears subdued for a moment Father thanked Mary for her support and making certain that she was capable to leave him without stumbling, he watched her go, knowing she would soon return.
Strangely since Vincent had died people didn’t seem to wander about alone anymore unless they wanted solitude. Grief was shared and sustained by the sharing of a friend or a partner another of the reasons why Father wanted Catherine below. Who did she have to share her grief with? How was she coping? Thinking of Catherine helped dry Father’s tears as he anxiously pondered her welfare and then suddenly glancing around his chamber his eyes rested upon the half finished game of chess he and Vincent had last shared, and his tears came again swift and furious, and he lay his head upon his folded arms and let the grief of losing Vincent rip through him all over again.
Moving through the mists of the lower levels Mouse trod silently, if he didn’t soon return home Jamie would come looking for him and he had been away longer than he had intended. Close friend to Vincent, Mouse had never really accepted his friend’s death and he visited the tomb as often as he could, earning himself the title of keeper of the cave in his own mind. Sometimes he took flowers with him, picked from above, wilted by the time they were laid to rest upon the marble entombed casket, but Mouse was happy with them and he would clear away any remains from flowers lain there by other visitors of like mind.
The cave was in distance about two miles into the bowels of the earth. Walk able in a couple of hours if it wasn’t for the terrain. In no way flat the steep incline from the home chambers was littered with sudden drops and natural shafts where Mouse had secured ropes to hoist up on the way back and to drop down. Most of the journey was now made with the aid of a correctly positioned lantern giving the maximum light to its location, but there were areas where Mouse felt the need to strike a match and light up a candle which was easier to carry and less cumbersome than a lantern. Mouse liked to travel light, a pack of beef jerky and a canister of water, for though he knew most of the fissures where fresh water seeped through there was always the possibility that it might have dried up.
Almost a mile from home, Mouse peered from the bottom of a shaft to its top and swore he detected movement. “Hellooooo” he called softly, “Jamie, is that you?” A spluttering of pebbles secured the thought that someone was indeed up there, but no one answered him. So with candle extinguished and placed securely in one pocket, Mouse swung himself onto the rope, using his feet as props to work his way up. He was about half way when the tiny pinprick of light above was obscured by a face and the shaft became temporarily dark, “Who’s there?” Mouse called, he was by no way afraid. Vincent had taught him a long time ago, not to be afraid of anything but he was peeved that whomsoever blocked his light did not answer him. That was rude Father said so.
Mouse hurried on, hands and feet pulling him up until strangely he realised that someone was helping him by tugging on the rope from above, and obviously someone strong because he was no mean feat. Too many of Williams’ cookies had seen to that.
His gaze fixed firmly on whomsoever helped him Mouse frowned when the light returned and he was dazzled by a lantern held to his face as he was brought to the surface and then strangely as he blinked rapidly in one of those split seconds when his eyes were closed, the lantern was snatched away and so too whomsoever had held it in front of him. A solitary lantern flickered on a ledge yards from him, but other than that all other light was extinguished.
“Hello?” Mouse called this way and that, but no one answered, and Mouse shrugged, shook his head and decided someone was playing games. The thing was it had to be adult, someone strong enough to lift him right away from the shaft leaving his legs dangling but what adult would play such games? Why did they not stay around and talk? Mouse was baffled, but he didn’t stay around to dwell on it for long. He was still quiet a way from home, and he was running out of beef jerky.
Strange though, but as he walked on he had the weirdest feeling that someone was following. Looking back afforded him nothing but an eerie darkness interspersed by the odd lantern, and it seemed to Mouse that whomsoever played the game, very cleverly kept to the shadows. This peeved Mouse, and he started calling things, “Come here. Where are you?” There was no reply and no movement. Mouse walked on. The hairs at the back of his neck started to prickle, again he was unafraid, but he didn’t like the thought of someone following him. Finally unable to bear it any longer he turned and ran as fast as he could back the way he had come, his element of surprise such that he hoped to catch out whomsoever tailed him and give them the shock of their life. However the shock was on Mouse! Suddenly from before him a cloaked figure loomed and Mouse caught sight of one retreating back, tall and lean and a head encased by long fiery hair and he could have sworn, with absolute incredulity that it had been… Vincent.
*** *** ***
Up above and in her apartment Catherine was coming round from the longest sleep she had had in months. Knowing that Jenny had been there to rummage about in the other room had made her feel so much better as just the company and the fact that if she was very brave she could imagine that the sounds were being made by Vincent. Who having come to check on her had made himself at home while he had waited for her to wake up. Of course, when her eyelids did at last flicker and open to a darkened room, Catherine soon remembered that her dreams had been nothing more than fantasies, and she was left feeling extremely sad, thus dragging herself from the bed she was just in time to see Jenny donning her jacket and shoes and was glad to have caught her.
“Hi Cathy, feeling better? That was some sleep you had there. Time ran away with me have to dash. There’s a casserole in the cooker make sure you eat some of it. I took the liberty of borrowing your keys and went out to the deli and there are some croissants just waiting to be warmed in the bread bin if you can’t face the casserole right now. Just be sure to eat okay?”
“Oh Jenny thank you so much.” Catherine peered around the darkened room where one lamp illuminated one corner and far wall from where she stood, and the room looked sparse yet tidy and cosy as Jenny had placed almost everything in boxes. “All you’ll need to do is pack up your bedroom.” Jenny told her. “Must dash honey. I’ve had some casserole so don’t worry about me.” Jenny crossed to where Catherine was standing looking quite dazed and hugged her friend, “Take it easy huh? Watch some television, crack open a bottle of coke, and call me okay?”
Catherine laughed, usually Jenny would have suggested a bottle of wine and helped her drink it.
“Thank you so much jenny, for everything. I’ll call you, I promise.” With another quick hug and a kiss to one another’s cheek, the two parted and Jenny made a made dash for the door. She was late for an appointment but she wouldn’t have left earlier for the world. She had a strange feeling that Catherine needed her there, even if she was sleeping, and besides there were a few things she needed to get home for before going out. During the trance she had received some very strange messages and had seen those letters H N & D very boldly written on a rock wall and she had an idea, but would say nothing until she was certain and if she was right then Catherine would be getting her happy life after all just as Jenny’s dreams had attested to.
*** *** ***
No sooner had Jenny left did Catherine receive a knock on her door, believing it to be Jenny, she opened it with a huge smile and was surprised to find, of all people, Elliot Burch standing outside in the corridor. “Elliot?” Catherine held open the door, as something about his appearance told her he needed her help. “What is it?”
“Thank God you’re home. When I saw your apartment in darkness, I wasn’t sure. I need your help Cathy, I wouldn’t normally ask, but it’s important. Can I stay here tonight?” His eyes glanced around the apartment as if to decide for himself if she had the room for him and he noticed the boxes. “Going somewhere, or spring cleaning?” He asked beckoning to a stack of boxes by the balcony doors.
“I’m moving actually.” Catherine could have kicked herself. What was it with her, she was becoming a blabbermouth, first Jenny, now Elliot, who else would she tell?
“Moving? Where? Out of the city?” Elliot’s eyes were pained. He knew that Catherine was linked to someone but he still held on to the faint hope that one day she would return to him.
“No, I’m staying nearby. So Elliot, what’s the problem?” Catherine asked eager to change the subject.
“It suffices to say that the least you know the better it will be. If I could just rest up here tonight I’ll be grateful.” He looked nervous.
“So long as no one has followed you.” Catherine worried about that. Gunmen bursting in could kill more than Elliot. They might kill her or worse the risk of dodging bullets could make her lose her baby even if she did live to tell the tale.
The two regarded one another spectacularly and finally Catherine told him, “I was about to make myself something to eat. Would you like to join me?”
Elliot smiled and began shrugging out of his jacket, “That would be grand. Now I know I’m safe, I find that I need to satisfy another need – I’m starving!”
Catherine laughed, wondered about his problem, decided it was no worse than her own and went toward the kitchen to prepare them both some of Jenny’s delicious casserole and to warm the croissants.
Strangely Catherine enjoyed herself. It had been a long time since she had had exclusive male company and Elliot was as ever charming and light. He made jokes and she laughed and if from time to time a certain sadness crept into her eyes he did not comment on it although he was concerned.
Finally the meal over, Elliot suggested that they broke open a bottle of wine, “It’ll be relaxing.” He told her. Catherine grimaced. How could she refuse wine when he knew her so well? Sharing a bottle of wine together had been something they had enjoyed so much when they had been together. “Not for me, Elliot, but you go ahead.”
“What? Did I hear right?” Elliot chuckled, “Catherine Chandler refusing to drink wine, you on medication or something?”
Catherine snatched at the excuse readily, “Yes! Yes I am.” Taking Elliot by surprise even though he’d been the one to suggest it.
“Got a problem? Not depressed are you? Want to talk about it? What’s the medication for?” He launched one question after another until Catherine wanted to scream – ‘its none of your business!’ Instead she sat down and tried to think rapidly of an illness that would warrant medication and one that would suffice on the occasion. Not all medications had an adverse affect with drink.
“Its not that I don’t want to believe you, Cathy…” Elliot began watching her wring her hands together in her lap, and he could almost hear her brain whirling away, “But I don’t believe you. However, if you don’t want to share wine with me, that’s okay, you don’t need to invent an illness for my sake.” He sounded hurt and Catherine wanted to tell him the truth. ‘Must be my hormones’ she told herself, all those years of keeping the secret and now her tongue was as loose as water. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Vincent was gone now, and though the baby might look like him, any excuse could be given for non presentation of her child if it did, and if it didn’t then all well and good, she could take the child above. What would Elliot think if he saw her pushing a pram and remember this occasion, not that it was his business, but why keep a baby a secret unless there was a secret attached? Her mind racing, her mouth began to form the words before she had fully decided it was the right thing to do, and just in time too, because at that moment Elliot draped one arm around her shoulders and reading the signs Catherine knew what he was up to.
“Actually Elliot, I’m not on medication.” Catherine drew away from his arm, standing up and going to sit on the sofa opposite where it was safer. ‘and this is before the wine’ she told herself, ‘best he knows before he gets intoxicated on more than alcohol.’
“Didn’t think you were, honey. So how about sharing this bottle with me? It’ll wash down a fine meal.”
“And make you forget all your troubles into the bargain.” Catherine laughed and Elliot looked sheepish. “Guilty as charged your honour.” He saluted her with the bottle held to one temple then he got up and went to sit at her side. Likewise Catherine got up and went to sit on his recently vacated sofa, making it obvious that she was avoiding him.
“Look Elliot, you can stay I’ve said so, and that’s fine, but you and me are history. And there is something you should know before you intend another advance…”
Elliot’s soulful eyes pleaded with hers, she had never been able to resist them when they had dated, and he remembered her kisses with relish. “What?” he asked lazily.
Elliot looked at her with disbelief, his jaw dropped a mile, “Pregnant, as in expecting a baby?”
“Got it in one.” Catherine laughed as much because he looked so comical as to ease the sudden burden of guilt she was left with by telling him.
“Right.” Immediately Elliot sobered, and he hadn’t even opened the bottle, although Catherine suspected he had had more than his share of fluid before arriving at her apartment.
“So that’s why you are moving? To be with him?” Catherine didn’t dare enlighten him further. Him could be a reference to the baby, it would do. She nodded vigorously, hoping he would accept that. He did it worked, “Is he likely to come here tonight? I wouldn’t want him getting the wrong impression.”
Now Catherine had to lie, “No, he won’t be coming tonight.“ Inside her heart cried ‘nor any night, ever again’ and she had to fight back the tears. The last thing she wanted was to encourage Elliot’s comfort or further questions and suddenly she felt awfully tired again.
“I need to sleep now Elliot, do you mind? These sofas are too small for you, so I suggest that you take my bed and I’ll curl up here.”
Immediately Elliot protested, but Catherine was adamant, “It makes sense.” She told him and the bedroom has an en-suite bathroom at your disposal.
“It’s not that, honey.” Elliot stood and to Catherine’s amazement he began to push the sofas together. “Had a cousin once, spent the night on the sofa, rolled off and lost her baby, wouldn’t want that happening to you. This way should keep you safe.” Catherine was touched by his thoughtfulness, and saw a side to Elliot that she remembered and liked. Then he bent and briefly kissed her cheek, before dimming the lamp and making for the bedroom. There he undressed, showered and threw himself on top of the bed naked, too tired to close the balcony doors or to creep beneath the sheets It had been a long day and a rough night, but for the first time in weeks he felt truly safe and he was soon fast asleep.
Sometime during the night Catherine had another visitor, one that looked in through the open balcony doors and found not Catherine, but a man lying sprawled naked on top of the covers. The visitor gasped and backed out onto the terrace, eyes filled with disbelief. After a while his thudding heart calmed a little and he looked back just to make certain that he hadn’t imagined what he’d seen and at that moment the figure upon the bed rolled onto his back revealing who he was. Again the visitor gasped and hurried away out onto the terrace his broken heart racing. He should have been satisfied that Catherine had moved on and found someone new to love, he should have been happy that she had put the past behind her and maybe he might have been but for two reasons, one, why had she found someone so quickly and two, why of all the people did it have to be Elliot Burch!
*** *** ***
The first thing Jamie noticed about Mouse’s return was how quiet he was and that wasn’t unusual in itself since Mouse was often quiet when concentrating on the workings of his next gizmo, but generally after a trip to the lower levels he had something to chat about. She’d met him coming up to the main hub and it had been his disposition, she had to admit that had alerted her to his arrival. Mouse had a certain way of walking, but that seemed disjointed somehow and he kept stopping to look back the way he had come almost as if someone was with him and he were waiting for them to catch him up. In fact so much so, that when Jamie first approached him she stood looking back too expecting someone to appear at any moment. “What is it, Mouse?” She asked at length, “Is someone following you?”
Wide-eyed Mouse stared at her then strangely he said, “nothing.” Something Jamie couldn’t work out, it was not an answer and she told him so adding, “Then have you lost something?”
“Vincent.” Was all he replied and Jamie reacted to the all too familiar stab of pain that name brought about these days. “Vincent?” she reiterated, “What do you mean, Vincent?”
Mouse shrugged, walked a few paces forward, stopped, returned and looked back the way he had come. Jamie found his behaviour very odd to say the least but as she was unlikely to get anything concrete out of him she had to let it be. Still she made a mental note to mention it to Father for Mouse was obviously freaked at something and he was definitely not himself.
They walked together, strangely in silence back through the labyrinth of tunnels until Mouse turned a corner and headed toward his chamber. Jamie watched him go. He hadn’t even said goodbye. That something bothered him worried Jamie. Mouse was so full of life always ready to talk and often tiresomely so. Without further ado, Jamie made her way to Father’s chamber.
He was there, with Mary the two of them spending a quiet time together, Father was reading and Mary was sewing. Both looked up when Jamie’s footsteps sounded on the stairs leading down into the chamber from the tunnel above. The troubled expression on her face worried Father and he was up immediately, walking toward her believing her about to impart some devastating news, “What is it, Jamie? Something’s wrong?” He asked reaching her as she walked into the centre of the chamber and straight away she set to put his troubled mind at ease by saying “No problems, don’t worry.” Father relaxed, “That’s a relief then. So why the long face? Something troubles you does it not, my dear?”
“Yes, its Mouse.”
“Mouse? I thought he was away visiting the lower levels.” Father couldn’t yet bring himself to say Vincent’s grave.
“He was, but he’s returned. We walked the last part of the journey home together, but strangely he is very quiet, and he kept looking back the way he had come as if he expected someone to be following him.”
Father was most concerned, “And how did he appear in general?”
“Subdued, bewildered even. Almost as if whatever he was waiting for would be a shock if it arrived. I don’t know what to make of it Father.”
“Well we know Mouse, and that he won’t be likely to tell anyone anything until he feels ready to do so but we can’t presume that someone was following him without checking first. Jamie, do you think that you and a couple of the community could back track on Mouse’s journey and find out if there is anything out of the ordinary to see? If Mouse will go with you, well and good, but I doubt he’ll want to go just yet. He’s probably tired. In fact, that could just be it. He might be exhausted. The journey below is not such a pleasant one these days, he might be mentally as well as physically taxed.” Jamie understood what Father was driving at and she nodded thoughtfully, “Still like the idea of checking though.” She told him, “I’ll see if Winslow is free, should I take my crossbow?”
Father nodded, “It would be wise, best to be forearmed.” Jamie nodded, and then bidding Mary hello and goodbye she left the chamber and went in search of a companion who would go with her back to where Mouse had been.
*** *** ***
In his chamber Mouse stared into space. Sitting at his long bench where he kept all manner of things to build with he idly stroked a chattering raccoon as it ate apples in front of him. The animal was really Mouse’s only companion, and one he could tell things to but this day he remained deadly quiet. Brows drawn together Mouse thought about that ‘person’ he had seen, the one that had helped him climb the shaft and no matter how much he tried to tell himself otherwise, Mouse was left to conclude that he had seen Vincent’s ghost. A chill ran through him, even though he told himself that it had been good of the ghost to help him up to the next level. He had been tired and Vincent’s ghost had known that. Even so, the seeing of such an apparition scared Mouse so much that he decided he never wanted to make the trip to Vincent’s grave on his own ever again. In fact perhaps never at all, because there were times of necessity when he would have to be alone to relieve himself and then the ghost might appear and he would literally do what he had gone to do even quicker.
As Arthur the raccoon devoured his meal Mouse wondered if he should mention the incident to anyone. Would they believe him? And would it do any good to tell anyone? Jamie might understand and she might not. It might frighten her, and it would certainly frighten the little ones. Therefore Mouse decided to keep it to himself, and then he turned around quickly as the hairs on the back of his neck prickled and Mouse thought he saw something, but concluded after a long moment that it was his over active imagination. Surely Vincent’s ghost would stay within the lower levels? He wouldn’t come to visit Mouse in his chamber would he? Unsure, Mouse left Arthur to his apples and went in search of company. Suddenly he didn’t want to be alone, and the raccoon was not nearly enough. So, leaving the chamber Mouse was startled when a figure loomed in front of him and he literally screamed out loud. “Mouse, what is it?” He relaxed at Jamie’s concern. “Nothing.” He told her, “Startled me.” Yet Jamie did not accept that, “I’ve never startled you before. Who did you think I was?” She asked suspiciously, then, “Mouse did you see anyone on your trip below?”
“See anyone?” Mouse stepped from foot to foot nervously, “Who?”
“I don’t know Mouse, anyone. Did you see anyone?” Jamie knew he had. She also knew it would be hard getting him to speak. Clearly he was troubled by it. Mouse shook his head and tried to brush past her, Jamie caught his arm. “Mouse, Wait! You can tell me, who did you see?” His back to her Mouse thought about it long and hard. Jamie carried her crossbow so maybe she wouldn’t be as frightened as he first thought and she was a tough lady, Father said so. “Vincent.” He told her without turning around. “I saw Vincent.”
“Vincent!” Jamie cried, “You couldn’t have. Mouse you know that Vincent is…” Jamie was unable to say the word for even thinking it filled her heart with pain, her eyes with tears.
“It was Vincent.” Mouse told her unsteadily as he turned to face her then at a whisper added, “Or Vincent’s ghost, maybe.”
Jamie gasped, “Vincent’s ghost! Oh no Mouse, no…” She shook her head backing away from him, “You must be mistaken…Vincent would never do that to us… He’d know it would scare us…you have to be mistaken.”
“It was Vincent.” Mouse reiterated. “I know him and he helped me climb.”
It wasn’t that Jamie disbelieved her friend it was just that it was too incredulous to be true. “I have to tell Father.” Jamie said thinking out loud, “He’ll know what to do.” Even as she said it she knew that would be wrong and Mouse confirmed it, “Father won’t believe you.”
“Someone then.” Jamie told him. “Mouse, Father has asked me to go back where you have just been and see if I can find out what spooked you.” Jamie chuckled, wrong choice of words, she told herself, “That is I know something frightened you. We thought someone had followed you back and Father asked me to check. I wasn’t going alone though, will you come with me?” Adamantly Mouse shook his head, his fear was apparent and Jamie drew her brows together, “But if it is Vincent, surely you would like to see him again?” She asked stupidly for it was obvious that seeing Vincent’s ‘ghost’ had scared Mouse half to death. Furiously Mouse shook his head and again tried to get away from her and once or twice he looked back warily into his chamber and Jamie asked, “He’s not been there too has he?” She peered in nervously seeing nothing but Arthur looking for some more apples.
“Don’t know, might have.” Mouse told her and this time freed himself from her grasp and was away soon out of sight. Left alone, Jamie had a strange eerie feeling drift over her, and even though she was certain that Mouse had spoken utter nonsense she couldn’t get away from the area fast enough. Running after Mouse, Jamie saw nothing of him as quick as his namesake he had vanished, but she did run into Kanin and after he had calmed her down she reluctantly told him what Mouse had just revealed. Jamie thought he would laugh, might even try to calm her jangled nerves but when he stood vacantly staring over her shoulder she was compelled to turn and look convinced he had seen something behind her. “Kanin? What is it? What’s wrong?” Slowly his focus came back to her, “You got a minute, Jamie?” His voice sounded strained and very unlike his own, Jamie nodded, and let him steer her back toward the area of the chamber he shared with his wife. Neither of them spoke, but sidelong glances up at his face revealed to Jamie a firm set jaw and a twitch to one side of his mouth that seemed to say he was nervous about something.
When they reached his chamber he ushered her inside, and seeing Olivia with Luke at the table, Jamie lay her crossbow in a safe place out of the child’s reach as she walked into the chamber and greeted the other woman. “Jamie, how nice?” Olivia exclaimed genuinely pleased to have her visit. Naturally they met often throughout the course of each day, but Jamie rarely went to their chamber. “Pour Jamie some tea will you honey?” Olivia asked her husband who was nearest to the kettle, and she was just about to start talking to the younger woman when she noticed her husband’s strange silence. “What is it, Kanin?” She enquired with concern, “Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know.” He told her and the serious note to his voice had Olivia worried at once and leaving the table she hurried to his side sending curious glances in Jamie’s direction her mind racing.
“Livvy, you remember when you took Luke to the waterfall recently…” Kanin began and Olivia faltered, her feet grinding to a halt in mid stride. Of course Jamie noticed, and being a clever young woman her mind raced ahead and she gasped…”You didn’t see him too did you?” She asked her eyes wide.
Olivia turned, caught between her husband and Jamie she was undecided who to go to first and what to say, when amazingly their young son who had been reading a book at the table looked up and said innocently, “We saw Vincent at the falls.” Before looking back at his book again as if he hadn’t just turned the world upside down.
“Is this true?” Jamie cried with disbelief.
Olivia nodded and started to speak nervously, “It looked like Vincent. I’m not sure now what it was, might even have been the way the rocks were…”
“Except Luke saw it too.” Kanin cut in then by way of explanation told Jamie, “I wasn’t there. The two of them had gone to the falls. Livvy came home in a right state.”
“When was this?” Jamie asked.
“Three days ago,” Kanin replied, “Livvy has been like a cat on hot bricks ever since. Hasn’t seemed to have hurt Luke though.”
“It might have been shadows.” Olivia told them though she did not really believe that and it came over as so.
“Or someone dressed like Vincent?” Kanin suggested. “We weren’t sure if to say anything to anyone Jamie, it seems so unreal but now that Mouse has seen him too…” Olivia jumped, “Mouse has seen him?” Her skin crawled. Jamie nodded, “He thinks its Vincent’s ghost.” She whispered for Luke’s benefit not wanting to frighten the little fellow.
Strangely Olivia accepted that, “Yes could be.” She replied calmly, “The more I think about it, the more possible that becomes. He didn’t do anything, just stood, you know like he was there, but wasn’t there. He was near the falls, I stared at him a long time convincing myself it was a trick of the water and the light when suddenly Luke called out, ‘Look its Vincent!’ Strangely the moment he said it, the apparition was gone, and though I tried to make it out for a few moments more, the rock that could be seen just did not seem to look like Vincent anymore. It was very weird. I came home from there glancing over my shoulder every few minutes too, convinced I was being followed.”
“That’s what Mouse did.” Jamie exclaimed. “Even now he’s freaked by it. He even feels that Vincent has been to his chamber.” Olivia shuddered, “As much as we all loved Vincent, I hope his spirit does not come here. I don’t think I could stand that.” She stared around wide-eyed hoping to see nothing but the usual things and relieved when she did.
“Do you think we should mention it to anyone?” Jamie asked, “I mean what if there have been other sightings? People might be afraid to talk about it.”
“I don’t know.” Kanin told her, “It’s a very delicate matter and what about Father?”
“Exactly,” Olivia cut in, “If anyone should see Vincent, why hasn’t Father? Does he know that Mouse saw Vincent?”
“No, only that Mouse acted like someone was following him back today. He’s been to visit the cave. Surely if Father knew anything he wouldn’t be asking me to check it out with my crossbow, he would naturally conclude that Mouse had seen Vincent too?” Jamie replied.
“I don’t know what to say.” Kanin told them, “Its all very creepy, but for what its worth, if Olivia doesn’t mind staying here, I’ll come below with you Jamie, maybe I can draw some light on this. When were you going?”
“Now, as in as soon as I had found a travelling companion. We won’t need to go far, just go back to where I found Mouse and a little beyond that, and see what we can see.” Jamie shrugged, “Look for footsteps I suppose. Though the way is often trod these days, there are few of us with Vincent’s shoe size. Still though do ghosts leave footprints?”
“Well we have to do something. Livvy do you mind staying here?”
Olivia wasn’t sure, not now it appeared that Vincent had visited Mouse in his chamber, and a rising panic made her announce, “Yes, but look don’t worry, you won’t be gone all day will you? So I’ll visit with Rebecca while you are gone. Luke will be able to study his books there and I can help Rebecca make some candles. It will be very therapeutic for me and I promise not to tell Rebecca anything unless it appears that she too has a similar experience to relate.”
Kanin nodded and kissing his wife, he collected his jacket as she put a few things together for her time away, and as a group they left, Jamie drawing her crossbow from its lodging place on the way out. She felt strangely at ease and wondered if they too might see Vincent’s ghost while they were gone or whether he would appear to them at another time. How did ghosts work after all, did they know when you wanted to see them? Or did they just appear and frighten one half to death? At any rate Jamie was prepared for anything, only Kanin remained quietly sceptical and more than a little frightened about what they may encounter.
*** *** ***
Above, at Catherine’s apartment, Elliot was dressing. He felt so re-charged! A good night’s sleep had worked wonders and nothing ever seemed quite so bad in the daylight. Satisfied that he was presentable, though he wished he had some clean clothes, he left the bedroom and found Catherine sitting at the table reading a daily newspaper and eating toast.
“Hi there!” She greeted him warmly, “Sleep well?”
“I did, thank you. Is there any coffee?” His eyes swept toward the kitchen as if he could see through walls.
Waving her hand in that direction, Catherine told him, “Yes, help yourself. There’s cereal or toast if you are hungry.”
“No, coffee will do, thanks.” Elliot headed to the kitchen soon re-emerging with a glass mug filled with black coffee. “Mm great.” He told her sipping the brew, “Just what the doctor ordered where would we be without coffee?” His blue eyes twinkled.
Catherine laughed, “Where would we be without a lot of things? Which reminds me, care to talk about what happened last night?” Elliot shook his head, “The least you know the better.” He fell silent and Catherine detected he wanted to ask something but dared not. She thought she understood his predicament. There had been many occasions when she had found herself in a similar situation. Being what she was and being what he was often invited the wrong kind of people and she told him, “Elliot as I’m moving out today and retaining the lease on this place, would you like to stay here awhile?”
Laughing heartily, Elliot replied, “That obvious huh?” Then, “Cathy that would be wonderful. I wouldn’t need to go to the office I could work here till the heat dies down. Only I simply must have a change of clothes.” As if to show what he meant he put his nose to his armpit and uttered “pooh”.
“Well since you are staying a few days, why don’t you wash those clothes and use a few of the garments I have around the place, only wash and leave them here when you are finished okay. Some were my father’s.” She refused to add that some had been Vincent’s too, a few items of clothing that she had purchased for him and he had slipped into after he had been caught out in the rain one or two times namely a night robe and some jeans and sweaters. Catherine didn’t want to think of Elliot wearing them, but as she wouldn’t be there, she wouldn’t see it anyway, and they might as well be used. Vincent would understand that surely, Elliot was in need.
“Thanks Cathy. I wish I were able to help you carry your stuff to your new home, but…” He shrugged and with a twinkle in her eye Catherine told him, “I know been there done that, the least that is seen of you until the heat dies down the better.” Elliot laughed, “Knew you’d understand and I owe you one Cathy, any time night or day, remember call me if you need a favour, no questions asked, okay?” In reply Catherine nodded and smiled a genuine affectionate smile, Elliot she knew, could pull strings and there might be a time when she’d need someone that could do that, and she was grateful for his offer.
They chatted a while for the rest of the morning, until Catherine’s taxi arrived. Her car was parked beneath the building but on the spur of the moment she held up the keys to Elliot, “My car is downstairs in the parking lot, the registration is on the key ring, and its on level two, you know the one, I still have it.” They laughed together remembering a time it had let them down when they had been out together and they’d been towed home. “Its been fixed now so shouldn’t let you down. If you need it feel free, I won’t be needing it where I’m going.” Mystified Elliot wanted to question her further but by the firm set of her jaw knew not to. Instead he thanked her and took the keys then knowing it was the least he could do, he took her boxes to the elevator, placed them inside, held the door until they were all in and bid Cathy goodbye. He was sad to see her go and wasn’t sure when they would meet again, “Don’t worry I’ll look after your place.” He told her as the doors were closing her off from his sight, “No wild parties or anything.”
Catherine laughed, “Feel free just stay safe, okay? Bye Elliot. Be well.” Then she was gone, her last words shut out with the closing elevator doors and leaving Elliot alone and he sighed heavily before returning to her apartment to watch her from the balcony and wonder where she was going to go. Wherever it was, he wished that she would be happy and hoped it wouldn’t be too long before he saw her again, baby or no baby, partner or no partner, Elliot would never stop loving Catherine Chandler, and that was a fact.
*** *** ***
After leaving Olivia and Luke safe with Rebecca Jamie & Kanin met up with Winslow her first choice for company and was happy when he decided to tag along. They filled him in on the way sceptically so unsure of his reaction. Neither wanted to know that he might have had some ghostly experience of his own and both were relieved to know he hadn't. All the same he was most interested to know that Vincent’s spirit still watched over them and he felt that Father would be inclined to agree. Winslow knew that Father fretted as much for the tunnel’s vulnerability without Vincent’s protection as he did for the loss of his son itself.
They walked slowly, talking quietly ears and eyes focused on their surroundings and made the falls within a few minutes. There standing beneath the ledge that Vincent favoured, they looked out across the expanse of water to where it cascaded down from an unknown source above and saw the rock that Olivia had said could have been ‘Vincent’ and knew that’s all it was, a rock. Gingerly Jamie looked above them expecting to see Vincent perched on his favourite ledge and she almost cried to find it empty. That shock as much as seeing him sitting there were almost too much for her, and she wondered if she should leave Kanin and Winslow to it and go back to the main hub. The thought was short lived however, when the two men began to walk onward leaving her little choice but to follow, besides she was the one carrying the crossbow, and they only surmised that this fellow was a ghost, it could just as easily be an intruder who looked a little like Vincent, obviously not the same as there would never be another like him, save for Catherine’s baby of course, but at that moment that was by the by.
The thought of that topic though brought questions forth and hurrying to catch up with the two men Jamie asked, “What do you think about Catherine having a baby then?” It was an innocent enough question but a sudden spattering of pebbles falling to the ground from somewhere above them had all three whirling around to see what had caused it.
Kanin looked down at the cluster of pebbles before looking up at Vincent’s ledge. From his vantage point he could see no one but it was possible someone could be up there, and he mouthed for his companions to keep vigil while he mounted the steps leading up to the ledge quietly and two at a time. His heart in his mouth he almost didn’t want to look as he reached the top step and silently cursed when a stone crunched beneath his foot and from just around the next corner he heard the distinctive sound of someone moving quickly away yet he knew it was a dead end. There was nowhere to go but up or down and that would have to be past him. Hissing to Winslow, he beckoned for the other man to watch out for anything and Jamie hitched her crossbow into place ready to fire at anything. Then slowly with heart pounding Kanin approached the ledge and paused only long enough to make a sudden charge forward hoping to scare the living daylights out of whomsoever hid there. As he lurched forward Jamie cried out, “There!” And Kanin was just in time to see a flash of black as something seemed to glide over the rocks adjacent to him and dart swiftly onto a ledge no wider than an inch up the rock face. Stock still, Kanin watched with disbelief as the black cloaked figure scrambled with tip toes along the ledge and back to them Winslow and Jamie could clearly see from their vantage point everything Kanin could see only from below except the very thing they needed, they couldn’t see who it was. “Should I fire?” Jamie wailed and Winslow shook his head clamping his hands down upon the crossbow in case she did anyway. “It might be…it might be…” Even as Winslow uttered the words he knew the stupidity of saying them, and if it was Vincent’s ghost did they really want to see the shot go straight through him?
In seconds the figure had escaped them and dropping down from the ledge they watched him duck around the waterfall near the rock where Olivia had seen him, and then in that split second, whether by some miracle or possibly the wind the hood of the figure’s cloak fell back and revealed to them a head of long flowing tawny hair just before he disappeared from sight!
Winslow, Kanin and Jamie gasped, whoever it was did look like Vincent, but it couldn’t be him nor his ghost, for dead or alive there would be no way Vincent would run from them, no way at all, for why would Vincent be afraid to be seen? Of like mind all spoke at once, almost the same thing, “We have to follow him, might not get another chance this good.” And the three started to run, using the stepping stones positioned across the river by Vincent himself concentrating on their balance and using each other as props as they splashed through the water trying not to fall in. Once across to the other side, they took up pursuit. Jamie only stopped to tap out a quick message on the pipes, ‘Seen intruder we’re going down.’ Knowing that would suffice and put the community on alert and then she scrambled after her friends hoping that they had gone in the direction that she intended to go.
*** *** ***
Back at the main hub someone else was arriving and Father welcomed her with open arms, “Catherine…how wonderful it is to have you with us at long last. Mary has prepared the guest chamber, would you like to rest there now, or stay awhile and chat with me?”
Detecting that he hoped for the latter Catherine smiled, “Stay here,” she told him then kissing his brow took up Vincent’s chair alongside him and they spoke together, “So how have you been?” and laughed at the same question. “You first,” Father beckoned and with a deep sigh Catherine told him, “I’ve felt better.” Father nodded, “Yes I know, me too. Catherine I want you to know that we will make your stay here as pleasant as possible, and I for one will try not to interfere with any decision you make regarding the child. If you wish to remain with us all your days it will be entirely up to you.”
“Thank you Father I…” Whatever Catherine was about to say was forgotten as Jamie’s message was relayed to them via Pascal, “Alert, alert! Intruder in tunnels, Jamie, Kanin and Winslow in pursuit.” Immediately, Father stood up hobbled to the nearest pipe and chimed in with “Be vigilant stay near hub, no one be alone.” Followed by a second message asking the council members to come along to his chamber. “Should I go to the guest chamber after all?” Catherine asked unsure of what to do. Father shook his head, “No stay here where I can keep an eye on you, besides we have discussed that you should take Vincent’s place on the council and would be honoured if you would accept?”
Surprised, Catherine readily agreed, “I’d like that, thank you.” She had wondered what her position might be in the tunnels, and council member she knew was an important one, she was happy to have been selected.
Very soon the rest of the committee had arrived and they began the usual preparations to track down and dispose of an intruder, Catherine added input when she deemed it appropriate and tried not to hinder the operation with unnecessary observations and everything went along rather well she thought until suddenly from the doorway Kanin and Winslow rushed in both shouting loudly and stunning everyone into silence.
“What did you say?” Father asked as they reached his desk out of breath and red faced, “Jamie is missing.” Winslow told him, “Must have gone a different way. And there’s someone down there Father, someone that looks like…” He stopped dead, this was going to sound ridiculous but he had no choice.
“Yes, looks like who?” Exasperated at being made to guess at a time like this Father sounded angry then gasped and staggered forward at Winslow’s sudden reply.
“It looks like Vincent.”
Catherine paled before his gaze, “That’s impossible.” She told no one in particular. Winslow turned genuinely surprised to hear her voice, and spoke apologetically. “I’m sorry Catherine, I didn’t know you were with us.”
“Well it can’t be Vincent! Besides no one else has seen him.” Father snapped crossly. Winslow and Kanin had to have been mistaken even so his heart had lurched at the possibility, until he remembered that he had pronounced his son dead, had seen him with his own eyes, had buried him, encased his tomb with marble, his son was dead, and so if it was really Vincent then there was only one other explanation. Racing ahead Catherine’s mind reached the same conclusion but it was little Luke that actually spoke the words. Hitched upon his mother’s hip he frightened everyone almost to death when he announced innocently “We’ve seen him. Vincent’s a ghost now.”
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter 6 - click on 'Next' below
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