An alternate version to the BatB Episode ‘Though Lover’s Be Lost.’
By late afternoon the tunnel dwellers were growing weary. They had handed out literally hundreds of flyers, and talked to people until they were hoarse. Got into discussions that were new to them, impressed some people and annoyed others, and even made some money as people had left them with donations. And Jamie and Mouse had delivered small piles to the various office blocks, taking note of the reception and security in doing so, trying to ascertain which building looked the most likely to have Catherine inside.
Finally they made their way back to Father who climbing down from his soap box told them, “I think we’ll call it a day. We could come back tonight though with the lighted candles and just walk through the street, that in itself will give an impact, one Catherine can’t fail to notice it.” Nodding, they agreed, and prepared to move off, when Joe touched Father’s arm. “That car, Jacob, see the limo, it’s just pulled up outside 1900, see the guy that’s alighting from it?”
Father nodded, “The fellow with the white hair?”
“Yes, that’s him. He’s the guy that came to see Moreno that day, and was seen, we believe outside the brownstones where Rob Stevens and his friend Sam were murdered. I don’t know who he is, but the fact that he has gone into that building, leaves me with only one conclusion.”
Father’s eyes opened wide. “That has to be the building where Catherine is being held?”
Joe nodded, then catching hold of Jamie’s arm as she walked passed, he asked her, “What did you see in that building over there?” He nodded in the direction rather than point, “See anything suspicious?”
Jamie frowned. “What?” asked Joe, “Why the look?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary. The security in most of the buildings was as tight as any other but I do remember that one as different. This woman appeared at the door before we went inside and called out to us. She asked for one of the flyers and when I asked if her boss wanted to take a closer look, she smiled, and said, ‘Yeah, something like that’. I just thought it odd that’s all.”
“So do I.” Said Joe, “Odd enough not to like it. Do you think they are on to us Diana?”
Diana shook her head. “ I wouldn’t like to say but I do know something.”
“Look, the heavies are coming out of that building now, and making their way over here. I think its time you and I scarpered. No offence, Jacob, but they might recognise the two of us. If they ask you to move, don’t cross them, don’t argue, just pack up and go. These are dangerous people. Besides, we have the information we sought, we’ll just have to hope Catherine was able to see us already.”
Taking Joe’s arm, she turned him, and headed for the subway, taking as many of the children with her as she could grab hold of on the way, ushering them ahead of her. “Keep cool.” She told them. “Don’t hurry and don’t look back. Father will be all right, don’t worry, he will be following soon.”
Father watched as the group of men walked towards him. He tried not to notice them, and started reading aloud from the Bible again, when a hand reached for the book, and he felt strong arms lift him from off his box, and place him on the ground. The Bible was closed and handed back to him, and a tall fellow with white hair started to speak, “That’s enough preaching for today, old man. Collect your followers and go. And don’t come back tomorrow, you understand?”
Father glared at the man, despite what Diana had warned him, he thought it would seem more natural to do so, “But we aren’t hurting anyone.” He protested.
The fellow with white hair looked back blankly at him, and Father noticed his eyes were pinkish, ‘so’ he thought, ‘he is an albino. I must mention this to Diana, there can’t be many of them about’. As the fellow replied somewhat curtly, “You might not think you are doing anything to hurt anyone, but your presence here is distracting. There are people working inside that are being disturbed by your being here.”
Just then a sharp whistle penetrated the air, and the albino turned to look back at 1900 Sixth Avenue, to see a man trying to capture his attention. He frowned, ‘now what?’ and walked back towards the building.
Father felt he had to wait, he didn’t know why, but something was definitely happening, he could feel it in his bones. The other men stayed nearby, and Father could see many of the tunnel dwellers round about stood wondering what to do next, so he told them, “Best collect our things together and get off home then.”
“Wait!” One of the men told him, holding on to his arm. “When Snow comes back he will have something more to say to you.”
‘Snow,’ thought Father, ‘well that’s a start at least’.
Almost on cue, the albino walked back towards them, holding a flyer in his hand. He thrust it beneath Father’s nose, “Tell me what does this mean?”
Father hesitated, he’d been telling people all day what he thought it meant, but was it correct, he didn’t know, and why did these very important, very sinister looking men want to know?
“Well?” The albino asked him.
“Simply what it says.” Father told him, thinking to himself, ‘how would a religious leader speak?’
“I don’t believe you, old man.” Then turning his attention to the other tunnel dwellers he told them, “I’m taking your leader with me. Don’t worry, you can have him back later, but for the time being my brother would like to speak with him.”
The tunnel dwellers gathered into a tight group and fear swept through them as they watched their beloved Father being led into the building. Something was wrong, something was horribly wrong, and they could only stand and gaze after his retreating back and wonder what it could be.
Father was ushered into an elevator, and taken up to the top floor of the building, where the elevator doors opened out into a large spacious room rather than a corridor. Father noticed a half circle of monitors in front of him and floor to ceiling windows, with white net drapes cascading over them. The room was divided into two, one half seeming to act as an office, the other half as a sitting room it was the latter half he was shown into. Lounging upon a white leather sofa, a tall fellow with dark hair scrutinised Father as he was led through. Father felt afraid, the very essence of fear lingered in the room, emanated from the very man himself, as his eyes surveyed Father before speaking. “Your name please?”
Father wasn’t sure how to reply, he hadn’t expected this and uttered the first thing that came into his head which was his own name. “Jacob.”
“Surname or Christian?”
It gave Father just enough time to correct his thinking. “Surname.” He replied.
“So, Mr. Jacob, tell me what is the purpose of your religious movement today?”
“In general or just today.” Father replied, beginning to get the feel for the barbed conversation.
The fellow frowned, “Don’t get difficult with me, Mr. Jacob.” He told him menacingly. “Just answer the question.”
Father swallowed uneasily, and beads of perspiration broke out on his brow that the fellow was quick to notice, “Do I make you nervous, Mr. Jacob?”
“And why is that do you think? I invite you here, to my home, ask you a simple question, one that should be simple to answer yet I sense your fear. Why do you fear me, Mr. Jacob? Do you know anything about me?”
Father thought about that, and tried to pull himself together. “I know nothing about you. I don’t even know your name.”
“No, that is correct, you do not. Its not something I like to tell people, but let me see now… a religious, bible basher like yourself should be trustworthy wouldn’t you say?”
“And as it happens my name is Biblical. Do you like riddles, Mr. Jacob?”
“Yes, let’s just say, I am the one who brought the virgin a message that she was to have a child. I can’t say any more than that. You work it out for yourself. Let’s just see how well you know the scriptures, Mr. Jacob.”
Father’s thoughts run riot. ‘Which virgin?’ ‘Which child?’ ‘Which message?’. Instead he heard his mouth utter. “That’s preposterous, virgins do not bear children.”
“Do they not, Mr. Jacob? I am very disappointed with you. A man such as yourself, a religious leader and you do not even believe that the Virgin Mary conceived by Holy Spirit and bore God a son.”
Father groaned. He’d been trapped in his own snare.
“Exactly, Mr. Jacob. Can we then presume that this religious farce is nothing more than a devious way to collect money from innocent people?”
“No, it isn’t!” Father exclaimed.
“Is it not? Then tell me, Mr. Jacob, for what other reason were you and your friends out on Sixth Avenue today? And why Sixth Avenue? Tell me do the initials C.C. mean anything to you?”
Genuinely, Father frowned and shook his head, “C.C.? No. Should they?”
“You tell me, Mr. Jacob?”
Father felt very much like he was in a cat and mouse situation, and he was very much the mouse, being pawed by the cat.
“I’m sorry, Sir whoever you are, but you have totally lost me. May I go now?”
The fellow frowned, he wasn’t getting anywhere, perhaps he could, but he didn’t have the time to play games. “As you wish, only can I ask one thing of you?”
“Should you manage to work out my name, will you come back and tell me?”
Father nodded again, not trusting himself to speak.
“Take him outside, back to his friends.” He told one of his men. “See that they leave the area.”
After Father had left the room, the fellow turned to the albino with the white hair. “Snow, if Mr. Jacob should come back knowing my name, don’t bring him to me, just take him somewhere and kill him. No one must know who I am. Is that understood? No one.”
*** *** ***
Snow nodded, patted his brother’s shoulder and quietly left the room.
Father was still reeling when he flopped gratefully into his high-backed chair back in his chamber. Vincent’s penetrating blue eyes never left the ashen face for a second, while Diana busied herself fetching Father some herb tea. Mary had taken the children off for something to eat to the kitchen.
*** *** ***
“Tell me what happened up there, Father?” Vincent asked at last, after Joe and Diana had filled him in with what they knew.
“Yes, Jacob, what happened in there? You look like death.” Joe told him.
Father grinned, “You would too. I don’t know. It was the strangest experience. Mainly the feel of the place, sinister, you know? And the questions were really weird. Let me tell you what happened.”
Relating to the three anxious faces everything he could remember, Diana took notes, overseen by Joe, who pointed to this and that as she wrote things down. Joe drew his brow together at various places and when it came to the bit about the messenger, the virgin and the child, Joe mouthed one silent word to Diana, whose eyes lit up and she nodded, as she realised the ring of truth the name brought forth.
When Father had completed his tale, he felt drained, wanting only to close his eyes and sleep. Diana told him. “I’m sorry, Jacob, I can’t let you sleep yet, there are things I need to know. Joe and I believe we have made sense of your experience. Obviously the reference to the letters CC have to be Catherine Chandler and that as well as other things you have said lead us to knowing who is holding her.”
Vincent looked up. “You know? Who?”
“One of the meanest, wealthiest, smartest, cruellest men in America. In Italy he is part of the Mafia. In the underworld he has connections across the globe. He goes under the name of Gabriel. Unfortunately there have been people who have died for knowing that.”
The loss of the flyer and the binoculars distressed Catherine but the knowledge she had gained from having them if only for moments, strengthened her. Her heart was filled afresh with hope. Vincent knew where she was. He was making plans to rescue her and Joe was alive. Not only that but Joe was with the tunnel dwellers possibly living Below and that meant he would have met Vincent. Catherine smiled, wondering what Joe would have made of that, she could just imagine! Still there was so much she needed to know and she tried to remember just what the flyer had said.
That scripture was unfamiliar to her but several things from it remained firmly in her mind the reference to the pregnant woman in the main. So Vincent knew about the baby and he would be frantic by now. She wondered how he had taken the knowledge of becoming a father and would have given anything to have been able to tell him. Many things were lost to her now. Experiences she should have had snatched from her never to be recovered. But no one could take from her the knowledge of their love, or the experience of his loving her and she wondered if he had remembered that first and last wondrous time together when their child had been conceived.
Another reference in the scripture filled her with hope. He would come as a thief in the night. This she did know. Vincent could only go out at night. Yet there was something else, the reference to the words, when they are saying peace and security. There was no such security right now whoever held her captive had been unnerved today by the religious gathering and her own reaction to the flyer. She could have kicked herself, it had put him on edge and she had seen Father being led into the building and then later led out again. So they had questioned him, which meant only one thing, they were suspicious. Catherine knew she had to keep some kind of grip on the situation or they would simply move her and time was very much the essence here. She couldn’t risk being moved and have Vincent and Joe find her again. Already it had taken them over six months to do so. There would not be enough time. Catherine knew that she must think of a convincing reason as to why she had put the flyer under her pillow and it must contain no reference to her present life. Anything that linked her to the religious gathering would mean they would simply move her somewhere else.
She thought of all kinds of things, something to do with her parents, something to do with friends she had known but she dismissed all of these. Finally she could think of only one thing, the reason she had kept it was because of the words at the bottom, ‘and death shall have no dominion.’ She decided to tell them it was something Joe would say when she was working on a difficult case. It was a pretty weak reason, but it would suffice, because they believed Joe to be dead, and they couldn’t check it with him. But more was needed for no doubt they would make enquiries, and there was still John Moreno to consider. So in the end Catherine decided to tell them that the expression was a long standing joke between herself and Joe, something he had picked up from her college days, deciding upon the time when all the students had to get up and recite poetry. True, she hadn’t had to recite that one but she could pretend that she had and made a ghastly mess of it because she had got the hiccups, so couldn’t recite the lines at all. And then when Joe found out, he would rub it in every time she lost a case, saying it was only a slight hiccup. It might just work. She could only hope.
Getting up, she went to stand beneath the camera and looked towards it, saying, “Are you there? Can we talk?”
*** *** ***
For a moment there was silence, then the speaker crackled, signifying a response. “Yes, what do you want?”
“I want to tell you why I put the flyer beneath my pillow.”
“What now that you have had a chance to concoct a story, that is?”
“Is that what you think?”
“Yes. I know you are cleverer than you look, Miss. Chandler. All right then, spin me this yarn and let’s see if I believe you?”
“The flyer had some words on it, a line from a poem by Dylan Thomas.”
“And death shall have no dominion, yes I know, not very apt would you say?”
Catherine ignored the pointed reference to her future position.
“These words were something that Joe and I shared. I just wanted to keep it close. I don’t know why, strange isn’t it? I know it won’t bring him back, but Joe was a dear friend, and it just seemed somehow that all of a sudden he was watching over me, and feeding me the line one last time.”
“Until you meet again, eh?”
“I must say, Miss. Chandler, you have resigned yourself rather well to the inevitable. I find that most unusual. I believed you were a fighter.”
“Were being the operative word. I have no fight left in me. I accept my fate, and as my baby will soon be born, I know you will terminate my life. I’m not afraid to die, I just would have liked to have been there to see my child grow up.” Tears caught her eyes then and a sob tore at her throat. They were not forced the thought had brought them rushing forth of their own accord.
For a moment the speaker was silent, “If I could be certain that I’d have no trouble from you, your life would be spared, but I know that as long as you live, your lover will look for you.”
“And you think he wouldn’t look for the child?”
“He knows you are pregnant?”
Catherine could have bitten off her tongue. “I never told him, but my GP knows.”
“Then rest assured, Miss. Chandler your GP would have kept this matter confidential. Are you telling the truth about your lover not knowing?”
“Yes, I was on my way to tell him that day your men kidnapped me.”
“How very fortunate, for me I mean. Now please continue this story about Dylan Thomas’ poem, how does it fit in?”
Catherine related to him, about her college days, about how Joe would make fun of her, when on odd occasions she would get a hiccup as he called it in a case she was working on, and then he would recite the line. She made the story so convincing, that even she believed it, so when he finally told her, “Yes, I believe you.” She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but did neither.
He watched every move she made. Every expression, every emotion, caught every sigh every smile she could not fool him, so she kept her expression sombre.
“Thank you for telling me, Miss. Chandler, though why you couldn’t have done so at the time beats me.”
“I don’t think I really knew myself. It was spontaneous. It wasn’t until I analysed it that I began to think it was a message from Joe. I know that couldn’t be possible of course, but it just seemed that way, a coincidence I know, but one that seemed to have been made for me.”
“And what of the rest of the flyer, Miss. Chandler, do you not find it awfully unusual that there is a reference to a pregnant woman there?”
Catherine shook her head, “I’m not religious, and I couldn’t understand the scripture, so I only looked at the words beneath. They alone were enough for me.”
“So now that you have told me all this and I have accepted your tale of woe, what is it you want from me, another favour?”
“No, I don’t want anything from you. I didn’t tell you for that reason.”
“Do you know, Miss. Chandler I almost believe you, nonetheless, I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and I shall return the binoculars to you. You seemed to enjoy using them and the religious movement won’t be returning, so perhaps you would like to look at the stars. Believe me, Miss. Chandler you will be amazed at what you can see. Do you know anything about astronomy Miss. Chandler?”
“A little. I like to look through telescopes when I have opportunity to do so. I enjoy searching out the planets, looking at the moon, and at the Crab Nebula in Orion, also Andronoma. It is something I have always wanted to find the time to examine, but so far have only touched the fringes.”
“Then, I’ll make a deal with you, Miss. Chandler. You can have the binoculars at night when I go home, and I will have them in the day. I doubt that at night you can get into much mischief with them. Have we a deal?”
Catherine nodded. “Yes. Thank you.”
Vincent paced his chamber. Diana had been gone several hours. She promised to return by nightfall and it was well after dark. “Vincent do sit down, you’re making me dizzy.” Father exasperated.
*** *** ***
Vincent stopped dead, stared at the older man, and resumed his pacing along with spreading out his hands as he told him, “What am I to conclude, Father? Diana said she would arrange help to bust into the building and rescue Catherine, but she should have been back hours ago. What if something has happened to her? I knew Joe shouldn’t have gone with her.”
“Joe was believed to have been dead, Vincent, he was Diana’s proof of Gabriel kidnapping Catherine.”
“Yes I know that, Father, but Joe believes that even John Moreno is involved with Gabriel, maybe even with Catherine’s disappearance, can he trust the police force? If what Diana says about Gabriel is true, he has his fingers very neatly in all the pies.”
“We just have to wait, Vincent, there is nothing you or I can do.”
Vincent’s eyes took on a faraway look, one Father had seen many times and a ripple of apprehension ran through him, “Vincent? What are you doing?”
“There might not be anything more you can do, Father, but I most certainly can. Catherine is in that building, and I’m not waiting another moment for police intervention I can do it myself.” He grabbed his cloak, and swung it around his shoulders startling Father to his feet.
“No! Vincent, No! It is too dangerous, please wait for Diana, Vincent!” But Vincent had gone, leaving Father stumbling into his chair for support as his legs buckled beneath him.
Catherine gained immense pleasure from the binoculars. The stars were fantastic with such magnification and though she could not see the colours of the Crab Nebula, because the colours were only visible with sophisticated apparatus perched upon a satellite, Catherine could see the star burst, and knew it to be a profusion of different shades of pink. At times she had been able to see Jupiter and Saturn with its rings. It always amazed her that the planets could be seen in the splendour of their colours, but with the stars being more than thirty six billion miles away, it was impossible to ascertain their colours. Some actually picked up the rays from the sun. It also impressed her that the sun was not actually golden but was itself a mass of colours, just like a rainbow. During the day the blue waves being the longest bounced off the earth’s protective layer, thus causing the blue sky, while at night when the sun went down to the horizon it was the red shorter rays that became dominant and spread out across the evening sky. Sometimes one was lucky enough to see a flash of a green sunset, with the green rays being the shortest of all. It had been Vincent who had taught her all that she knew for which she had never ceased to be amazed. That for one who had never stood beneath the noonday sun, could know so much about it.
Catherine made herself a silent promise, ‘if ever I get out of here, I hope I can take these binoculars with me, Vincent would just adore looking through them at the night sky.’ Thinking of him, Catherine recollected a poem he’d read to her, she couldn’t remember it all, but one line came back to her now, ‘Here beneath the moonlight’s star,’ and with that in mind she lowered the binoculars for a moment, to scan the streets. It was difficult to see, because the street lighting was so bright and the magnification so strong that it hurt her eyes, but Catherine toned down the lens to as low as she could get it and could just make out large shapes moving through the streets. Avoiding the luminous lights from the traffic for this hurt her eyes, she moved the lens until she picked out parts of people and then followed them wherever they went.
It was better when they walked far away from Sixth Avenue. The further they walked the clearer she could see them as they came into focus, but they were gone before she could establish anything about them. And as they turned a street corner and went out of sight Catherine found that it was easier on the eyes to look further away than Sixth Avenue. However, Catherine found much to her embarrassment that she could actually see right into the apartments, even as much as watching which programme on the TV people were looking at, and getting involved in their love life. She made a mental note to make certain that whenever she and Vincent were next at the apartment she would keep the lights off until she had drawn the curtains, one never knew who was watching. At this thought a sob caught in her throat. What chance was there of her and Vincent ever being at the apartment together again?
It was while she fought for control that she lowered the binoculars and saw a muffled figure come out of the shadows several streets away and slowly come into focus.
Catherine’s heart leapt in her breast and her child’s own heart did likewise. At this Catherine felt the child jump by her reaction and she frowned for she hadn’t noticed it to that degree before.
Keeping the lens fixed firmly on the figure, Catherine watched as he darted between shadows, making his way silently toward Sixth Avenue. There was no mistaking the hair that ruffled its way around the hood of the cloak that he wore or as his face came clearer, his leonine features. “Vincent!” The name caught in her throat so that the word did not leave her lips. Catherine’s heart hammered in her chest and the baby’s movements increased. Suddenly, the child grew peaceful and Catherine was able to feel its emotions deeper than her own. It was almost as if something had suddenly calmed the child, but what? Her own heart hammered painfully and she was holding her breath, surely the child would be going on her feelings? But no, it didn’t seem to be, it was calmer, but it was still, as if it had paused to listen. But to what?
With the binoculars glued to her eyes, Catherine kept her sight fixed upon Vincent as he stealthily made his way towards the building where she was held prisoner, while her innermost feelings were anchored on the baby’s unusual behaviour and slowly Catherine began to realise. The baby could sense its father’s approach! Was it possible? Or had Vincent found some remarkable way to connect himself to his unborn child? Had the Bond manifested itself within the child, and if so, could she partake of it too? In fact, could the child be the connection to Vincent that she so desperately sought?
Vincent found that his child acted as a beacon this night simply the heart acceleration alongside his own signified that the child was anxious about something and Vincent infused it with his love, happy when the child became peaceable. Slipping quietly through the night, Vincent approached the building that he now knew imprisoned Catherine. It wasn’t until he got closer that he noticed a slight acceleration to the child’s heartbeat. When he stopped for a moment, the child’s heart seemed to hesitate almost as if it were someone holding their breath. Vincent stilled himself to listen within. Something was definitely different tonight. Other nights he had come here, along this same street and the child’s heart would beat peacefully alongside his own. Yet this night, it seemed almost to be following his very footsteps. Each time Vincent paused, the tiny heart seemed to pause and each time he moved forward, the heart beat accelerated. Vincent could not grasp what was the reason behind it, until he told himself if was almost as if the child could see his approach and was reacting to it that suddenly everything became crystal clear. ‘Catherine!’ Vincent mouthed the name, letting the whisper of it hang upon the air just as it escaped his lips. Of course Catherine must be able to see him! It was the only thing that made any sense and the child was both reacting to his infusion of love and Catherine’s emotions as she watched him coming towards her. A tremendous feeling of joy rushed through Vincent as he looked up toward the building, knowing that the eyes of his own beloved were upon him even now as he gazed upward. He didn’t know how she could see him, but he knew for a certainty that she could. And it filled him with an immense feeling of delight.
Suddenly from behind him came the pounding of footsteps and Vincent ducked into the shadows. His thoughts were enforced as he felt the tiny heart beat jump and he waited hidden away with the shadows until a familiar voice called out his name in hushed tones. “Vincent! Are you there? Vincent?”
Recognising the voice to be that of Joe’s, Vincent stepped out in front of him, nearly giving Joe a heart attack. Joe grabbed Vincent’s arm. “Thank God I caught up with you. Diana’s bringing the re-enforcement’s I didn’t want you being exposed. Come, let you and me find another way in, there must be one.”
“If not, I’ll make one.” Vincent grinned.
“Say what’aya so happy about? This is gonna be a frightening experience.”
“Its Catherine, she can see me.”
“The child is our connection, but I know from the way its heartbeat reacts to my movements that Catherine can see me. It is reacting to everything I do via her eyes.”
“What it can see through her eyes? This must be some kid!”
“No, I mean it reacts to her emotions. Whatever Catherine sees sparks a response from the child and I can feel that response. Catherine knows I am here. I don’t know how, but I know she can see me.”
“That’s remarkable. Do you think she could see me too.”
Vincent nodded, “Yes.”
“Then let’s give her something to laugh about. I bet she could do with a good laugh. How are you at doing the knees up?”
“Hey, just give me your arm and do whatever I do. You’ll soon catch on, but hurry we may only have minutes to get out of sight.”
Catherine had watched Vincent coming closer toward her when he had stopped and darted out of sight. She had seen him turn around and saw someone approach him. With the binoculars firmly against her eyes and holding her breath Catherine waited until finally she was rewarded with a sight that filled her heart with joyous rapture.
Clearly visible in the light from a street lamp and arm in arm Joe and Vincent did a twenty second dance along the pavement. She could see the laughter on their faces, see the affection that shone between the two of them and guessed that the idea had been Joe’s. Catherine laughed out loud. For so long she had been without Vincent and now suddenly she knew by their actions that somehow they knew she could see them. This was plainly obvious by the antics of the pair designed she knew to make her happiness overflow. And it didn’t fail. But her laughter did not go unnoticed and Catherine wasn’t really surprised when the crackle of the speaker came on in the room, though she was confused by the length of time it had taken to do so. His voice soon made her understand why. “Miss. Chandler, my bodyguards tell me that something has amused you.”
Catherine frowned, yet kept the binoculars pinned upon Vincent and Joe.
“Your bodyguards?” She questioned, “Where are you?”
“I am at my home. Not far from where you are but not in the same building. Tell me what delighted you so?” The tone of his voice was as always crisply sinister.
“I am using the binoculars.”
“Yes, I know the camera is running and my bodyguards told me of this. They have been watching you. So what did you see that amused you so?”
“Something and nothing. Just the antics of a stray dog.”
Suddenly, Catherine saw Joe tugging Vincent’s arm and the pair dived for cover, just as the street literally swarmed with cars, their lights dipped low. Catherine gasped, and she heard muffled voices come over the speaker. There was a click as it was switched off and all went quiet.
Scanning the street with the binoculars, Catherine saw what appeared to be dozens upon dozens of policemen taking up their positions in the street below with fire arms, while just as many broke down the doors and a shrill alarm sounded throughout the building.
“So much for a thief in the night, Vincent.” Catherine told herself smiling, nonetheless her heart rate hammered in her chest as she realised Vincent was coming for her at last.
The sirens continued to blare, as Catherine, with the binoculars still firmly anchored around her neck, heard the key in the lock turn and wasn’t really surprised to see the nurse and the doctor hurrying in. “What’s happening?” She asked them. “Is it a fire?”
They refused to acknowledge her words, instead each took one of her arms and on either side of her forced her out of the room, along to a flight of stairs and marched her upward. “Where are we going?” She asked them.
“You’ll soon see, Miss. Chandler.” The doctor told her firmly.
“What’s happening?” She asked them again.
“We’re taking you on a little trip.” A voice she recognised came from behind her and she turned to see the owner of the voice she had come to associate as the speaker climbing up the stairs behind her.
“That is inadvisable, Sir.” The doctor held onto Catherine and turned to speak to the man behind her. “The high altitude will not be good for the woman in her condition. It could send her into labour.”
“That’s inconsequential. The woman is not my concern.”
“The child then. What of the child? In such a confine space as a helicopter, anything could happen and we wouldn’t be equipped to handle it.”
“The journey is not a long one, Doctor, I’m certain we will manage.”
“I don’t believe so, Sir. Isn’t it too inadvisable to take the risk especially after having waited so long.”
“Then what do you suggest, Doctor? We have only minutes before the entire police force of New York burst in up here not to mention Miss Chandler’s lover, he has already taken out five of my men as it is.”
“The security doors will hold him yet awhile, won’t they?”
“The doors, yes, but the walls, no. I tell you I have been watching him, simply wherever he goes, if he comes up against a solid wall he crashes straight through it. I am not about to give up this child. If he is anything at all like his father, he and I are destined for greater things. So Doctor I ask you again what do you suggest?”
By now the three of them had manhandled the struggling Catherine successfully to the top level, where the whirling sound of the helicopter’s propellers awaited their ears. And as the doctor hesitated the speaker told him, “You have to perform a caesarean. It is the only way. “
The doctor looked horrified. “I have no scalpel and the woman is not anaesthetised.”
“No matter, I have a knife, now get on with it. Nurse, pull down those curtains over there, they will do to wrap the child in.”
Catherine’s eyes were wide with terror as the full impact of what they planned hit her and she screamed loudly. The sinister voice cut through her ear piercing cries, “Miss Chandler, Miss Chandler I thought you told me you weren’t afraid to die? Come now, it will soon be all over.” He held her down pulling up her nightdress, exposing the bulge beneath where Vincent’s child’s heart beat at an alarming rate and when the doctor hesitated the speaker shouted at him, “Make the incision, Doctor! Make it now!”
The whirling sound of the propellers and the sound of the wind that rushed from them swirled into Catherine’s mind as she fought with all her might against the hands that pinned her to the icy concrete roof. And as she felt the cold blade of the knife touch her warm skin, she screamed again, a long ear piercing scream that filed the night, high above the sound of the helicopter and shuddered through the streets far below.
At that very same moment Vincent’s heart lurched in his chest. The baby’s fear clutched at his own heart, painfully hammering and Vincent quickened his pace.
“Wait for us, Vincent!” Diana yelled, as she ran alongside Joe, quite out of breath.
The police were searching rooms on their way up not knowing where to go, but Joe and Diana were following Vincent who was being led by the child and they were almost to the roof.
Taking three steps at a time, Vincent climbed the stairwell to the roof and crashed through the doors to come to an abrupt halt at the sight of Catherine being pinned to the ground, with a knife pressed tight against her stomach.
Moments later Diana and Joe raced through the opening to stand on either side of Vincent, halted by the sight before them and breathing heavily. Gabriel jumped to his feet, holding out his gun at Vincent, yet both Joe and Diana had their own guns and aimed them at Gabriel. However, all eyes were drawn to the knife so precariously close to Catherine and Gabriel knew he had the upper hand. “Cut her, Doctor,” he yelled down at the other man. “Now!” While at Vincent he sneered, “Take another step and I’ll have the doctor plunge the knife so deep that both mother and child will die. Throw down your guns.”
“Do it, Joe,” Diana whispered. “He means it.”
Reluctantly Joe threw down his gun to follow Diana’s and Gabriel kicked both weapons to his side of the roof. Without taking his eyes or his aim from them, he shouted down at the doctor. “Doctor, do it now!”
The doctor hesitated. He had grown a fond regard for this remarkable woman and it was hard to plunge the knife into her in cold blood. He knew she would die if he performed a caesarean and did not give her emergency treatment afterwards. Plus the dirty knife would cause infection. There was no telling how many people had already died by its blade.
“I cannot.” The doctor called back.
Furious, Gabriel bent, shoving the doctor over onto the ground from where he had been kneeling and without taking his aim off of Vincent, he grabbed the knife and plunged it into Catherine all in one swift movement. Catherine screamed as the knife started to cut through her and blood and amniotic fluid gushed through the wound.
“Stop! You’ll kill the child!” The doctor yelled, scrambling to his feet. Gabriel thrust the knife back into the doctor’s hands, “Then do it, and do it now.”
Just for the briefest of seconds Vincent’s ever watchful eyes saw Gabriel take his gaze from off of him as he handed the knife to the doctor. And though the gun was lowered slightly and dangerously close to Catherine’s feet, Vincent lunged forward, knocking Gabriel flat onto his back. The gun went off and Vincent felt a sharp pain somewhere in his side but he ignored it as his big hands made to swipe at Gabriel, who rolled and got to his feet just in time. Diana, nimble and fast, lunged for the gun, kicking it out of Gabriel’s hands, watching it as it hurtled high into the air to land inches away from the doctor. He took it up quickly and tossed it toward Gabriel, but Joe intercepted the weapon and grasped it firmly in both hands swinging his body to aim the gun at Gabriel.
At this moment Diana scooped up both her own and Joe’s guns and held one at the doctor and one at Gabriel, breathing hard and fast. Vincent was behind Gabriel now and though he was weakening from the bullet in his side he did not waver as he came with arm raised to swipe at Gabriel’s head. Suddenly a shot rang out and Vincent fell, the pain twisting through him like a searing heat. Catherine, wide eyed and filled with terror, her own body bleeding profusely, screamed and the two men who had jumped from the helicopter rushed to save Gabriel dragging him backward toward the helicopter.
“No!” Screamed Gabriel. “The child. I must have the child.” And he tore himself away from them racing back to the doctor, while his men made Diana and Joe throw down their weapons once again as they kept their aim firmly fixed on the now staggering body of Vincent. His pain filled eyes locked with Catherine’s. She saw the agony within their depths, knew it was taking determined effort to remain conscious, and she called out to him through her own distress. “Vincent, stay awake. Don’t try to move. For God sake someone help him.”
“Nobody move!” Gabriel shouted, then turning to Catherine he sneered, “How lucky can you get, Miss Chandler? Now both yourself and your bestial lover can leave this world together.” Then turning back to the doctor, he shouted, “Now do it!”
Already his hands covered in blood and fluid and with a gun aimed at his own head, the doctor made the incision, as Catherine’s screams filled the air.
Vincent, Joe and Diana watched helplessly, wondering where the police were, hoping they would hurry, but at the same time wishing they would stay away, because of catching sight of Vincent.
Moments later, as Catherine’s last scream split the night before she slipped into unconsciousness another cry broke into the last faint echo’s of its mother’s and the doctor lifted the bloodied baby from its mother’s womb.
“Where’s that nurse?” Gabriel yelled.
“I’m here.” A woman hurried forward carrying a curtain draped over her arm and quickly they gathered the child into the folds of cloth and ran toward the waiting helicopter. Gabriel’s men hurried backward keeping their aim fixed firmly on Vincent all the while as they too reached the helicopter, got in, and whirled the great machine high into the sky. As it sped away, Vincent caught a last look of satisfied contempt from Gabriel, before he lost his fight for consciousness and fell with a mighty thump to the ground.
For a few seconds Joe and Diana looked at one another. The doctor still cowered over Catherine, afraid now for his own future. He had expected Gabriel to take him with them and seeing a gun just feet away, he wondered whether he should shoot himself, when Joe grabbed his arm and screamed, “Help her. You’ve got to help her.”
“What about him?” The doctor nodded toward Vincent.
“We’ll see to him, you help Cathy.”
“I can’t do it up here.”
“For God’s sake man, she is bleeding to death, do whatever you have to do, but help her!” Joe was shaking with anger and shock.
“If I do will you let me go?”
“Yes.” Both Joe and Diana yelled back as one.
The doctor placed his hands beneath Catherine’s body and lifted her. “I have to take her to the medical room, you coming?”
Joe nodded, when Diana called him. “No, I’ll go, Joe, you stay with Vincent, try to get him out of view, into the shadows, while I see to the police.”
“You aren’t leaving that maniac alone with Cathy are you?”
“We’ve no choice, Joe. I’ll only be gone a few minutes. Vincent needs help too.”
Almost as soon as she had spoken, Vincent fought against the mists that were weighing him down and groaning he pushed himself up with his hands and staggered toward them. “Vincent!” Diana yelled, “you have to keep still, you are bleeding badly.”
The agony in the blue eyes filled Diana with grief and she caught his arm as he stumbled toward her, whispering “Catherine?”
“The doctor has taken her downstairs to the medical room.”
“The child?” He whispered, gasping for breath.
Joe and Diana exchanged looks. “We’ll get the child back, Vincent, don’t worry, for now we have to deal with you and Catherine.” Diana tried to reassure him as she helped him toward the stairs while Joe ran on ahead to check that Cathy was in safe hands.
Down in the medical room as Joe helped Vincent inside and Diana ran to inform the police about the kidnapped baby, Joe found the doctor giving Catherine anaesthetic, while he repaired the gaping hole in her body. First he had to clean out all the afterbirth. The placenta was ripped to shreds and he knew that he had to find all the pieces or they would become infected and then he had to make certain nothing had been damaged, before reasonably satisfied he began the daunting task of stitching her up. “This is going to leave behind one ghastly scar.” He told Joe and Vincent who still struggled with consciousness. “Here take these binoculars off from round the woman’s neck will you.”>br>
Joe leaned forward and unhooked the strap so that he could slide it from Catherine’s neck. It was impossible to ease it over her head because of the breathing apparatus fixed into her mouth. He looked at the words written upon the casing and gasped, “5000 times magnification. Wow, these are good binoculars, Vincent. At least that answers the question as to how Cathy could see us out there.” Then turning his attention back toward Catherine and the doctor he asked, “Will she live, Doc?” Joe asked, his eyes searching Catherine’s ashen face.
*** *** ***
Not even looking up the doctor replied, “Perhaps. She lost a lot of blood and her heart was strained. We’ll just have to hope.”
“Why did you do it?”
The doctor looked up. “What?”
“Why did you cut her so badly?”
“There was no time and the boss was supposed to take me with him. I didn’t think I’d be left on the rooftop and requested to stitch her up again. She was meant to die.”
“If we hadn’t of made a bargain with you for freedom, I’d kill you.” Joe told him seriously. “And if Cathy dies I still might.”
Vincent groaned and Joe hurried back to his side. The doctor finished his task of repairing Catherine’s wounds turned off the machines and settled her down as best he could to await recovery, then hastened towards Vincent. “Help me lay him up on this trolley.” He told Joe, “and unfasten his clothing.”
Vincent protested, but Joe held him firmly. “Lie still, Vincent, you need urgent medical attention.”
The doctor examined the wound. “I’ll have to operate.” He told Joe, “You will have to assist me.”
At the sight of all the blood Joe could have fainted, but just then Diana swung open the doors followed by Father, telling them, “Look who I found loitering outside, with his little black bag.”
“Just in time too.” Joe grasped Father’s hand firmly. “Vincent is injured badly, Jacob, and the Doc here is going to operate.” Father scrutinised the doctor, he didn’t like him, but the situation was critical. This was no time for hate campaigns. “How’s Cathy?” Father asked giving her one swift glance as he helped to prepare Vincent for the surgery.
“We don’t know yet, she’s still with us, but she went through a traumatic experience.” The doctor answered him.
“Yeah, thanks to you.” Joe told him bitterly.
“How is the child, nurse?” Gabriel asked as the helicopter came in to land on the rooftop of another building many blocks away.
*** *** ***
“Weak, but living. I think he’ll make it, just as soon as we get him into an incubator, and rigged up with some tubes to feed and monitor him.”
“Good, your life depends on his survival, nurse, know that and do everything in your power to keep him alive. My son must live!”
“Yes, Sir.” The nurse did not agree with what she had seen this night but kept her own counsel. She knew what this man would do to her if she said anything to the contrary.
The helicopter shut down and the lights switched off as Gabriel, his men, and the nurse with the child stepped beneath the slowly rotating blades with heads and bodies bend low and hurried toward doors that swung open a by remote control held in Gabriel’s hand as they approached.
They left the cold night air to enter the warm building and the nurse hurried with the child to the examination room. The incubator had been placed ready and was switched on after Gabriel had made a call to more of his men from the helicopter, and all the security doors were locked and alarms turned on.
Gabriel hovered alongside the incubator, as the nurse laid the child inside. He was a little disappointed at what he saw. “He isn’t how I would have imagined. He looks like a human child.” Briefly he wondered about Miss. Chandler’s declaration to the child being Joe’s. “I want a blood sample taken and analysed and brought to me as soon as possible, nurse.”
“Yes, Sir, I’ll bring it to you by morning.”
“If it turns out to be entirely human, you can switch the incubator off.”
“But then the child would die, Sir.”
“I know.” Gabriel walked out of the room his shoulders hunched. He felt defeated. Everything now depended on the results to the blood test.
“All we have to do now is wait.” Father leaned back heavily against the wall, for there was nowhere to sit.
“But we can’t wait here, Jacob.” Joe told him, “We have to move them.”
Father shook his head, “Impossible, not unless we carry them on stretchers and its a long way home.”
“We’ll manage somehow. Can you tap out a message for help?” Joe kept his comments as guarded as possible, shooting a look in the doctor’s direction but Father knew well the folly of giving too much away where strangers were concerned.
“I shall have to insist you come with me down to the station.” Diana took hold of the doctor’s arm.
“But you promised me freedom!”
“And it shall be given you, but there are things you can help us with first. Did you in all honesty believe we would let you go just like that? We have to find the child and you are the one who is going to take us to where he is.”
“I don’t know all of my employer’s movements.”
“Maybe not, but you have been here long enough to know more than we do. And you have no choice, your freedom rests on your helping us.”
“Not at all, my freedom rests with not being seen with you. Do you seriously think that Gabriel’s men aren’t waiting for me now even as I speak? The moment I step outside with you they will gun me down. They might still do, even if I am alone, it’s a risk I have to take. I can’t stay here.”
Father nodded, “He’s right, then there is only one thing for it, we shall have to take him with us. Oh, don’t look so shocked, I don’t mean all the way home, but I think I can remember the system far enough to get you near to the police station. You will need to blindfold him though.”
“Right, Joe, you do that, and Jacob you come with me to send those messages.” Diana told him, then turning to the doctor changed her mind, “On second thoughts, can you go alone, Jacob, I think I should stay here as well.”
Father nodded. “Yes I can make my own way, providing I don’t meet any unwelcome personnel anywhere.”
Diana nodded, “Yes that’s a thought, look Joe you go with Jacob, and I’ll stay here.” Joe was set to argue, his strength over Diana’s, but the sight of the pool of blood on the floor had him feeling queasy, “Okay, but I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he told her, as he ushered Father through the doorway.
The long trek through the tunnels took hours though there were many helpers. The two patients had to be held so firmly and carefully lest any slight movement decreased their chances of survival that the tunnel dwellers put in all their strength both physically and mentally in ensuring their safety. Joe and Diana brought up the rear with the blindfolded doctor. The way into the underground system had to be blocked up for it was imperative that no one ever stumbled upon the way to the home chambers, least of all Gabriel.
Joe and Diana parted company with the group heading for the home chambers, promising to get a message through to Peter when they reached a telephone and with a hand on either side of the doctor they led him through the tunnels beneath the police station.
“Will you be coming to stay, Diana?” Father asked her, “I really think you ought to do, you and Joe both need protection now, and you are more than welcome.”
“Yes, I’d like that, besides, I want to be there when Cathy and Vincent wake up. So just try and stop me.”
They shook hands briefly and the three separated, each to the completion of his own journey.
“We’ll put them side by side, I think.” Father told those who carried in the stretchers as they reached the hospital chambers. “Someone help to move these two beds together. That’s it, within reach of one another. Whoever wakes first will no doubt jump out of bed to go to the other one, and we don’t want that. They need to lie still.”
“How about if we put them both in Vincent’s bed then?” Pascal asked, “It would make more sense. Just being close to one another in itself would aid recovery.”
“Yes, I know what you mean, but at this stage I don’t want their injuries rubbing up against anything, or anyone, I think its best they are separated for now, but when they are awake, and if Vincent agrees, then they can recover in the same bed. I think they will need to be close. With the loss of their child they will draw comfort from one another.”
Pascal nodded, “Yes, I hadn’t thought of that. Just until their injuries repair then.”
Side by side, the beds were placed and as the patients were lifted carefully onto the beds, Catherine’s eyelids fluttered and then opened. “Where am I?” She asked, then recognising the familiar hospital chamber, tears squeezed out beneath her lashes and she gasped with pleasure. Then suddenly the memory of the last few hours flashed through her mind and Catherine struggled to sit up. “Vincent!” She cried.
*** *** ***
“Be still, my dear,” Father held her back against the pillows, “Vincent is here, he is still unconscious, but he should recover. We had to operate to remove two bullets. I’m afraid neither of you will be going anywhere for some days.”
Catherine felt the tears sliding down her cheeks, as the full enormity of the situation threatened to drown her. “The baby!” She whispered hoarsely. “What of our baby?”
Father shook his head, “Try not to worry, Catherine, everything will be all right, Joe and Diana have taken the doctor to the police station and they will question him and find your baby. Try to keep calm, my dear we’ll get the child returned to you. I promise.”
Catherine shook her head, remembering her own captivity of the past six months. “No, it will be impossible, you don’t know the man like I do, we’ll never see the child again. We don’t even know where the baby has been taken.”
“When Vincent awakes, he will lead us to the child. The Bond you lost manifested itself in your unborn child and Vincent was able to locate you through this. Don’t fret, Catherine, when Vincent is well enough he will lead Diana and Joe to where the child is being held. Believe me.”
“I believe you, Father, but look what they have done to Vincent already. Next time they could kill him.”
“Yes, but they won’t be expecting Vincent to have this emphatic connection with the child, neither will they expect an attack to come from beneath the basement. I’m certain your child will be returned to you, Catherine, just as soon as Vincent is well enough to find him.” Then as an after thought he added, “I take it the child is a him?”
“I don’t know. I never saw it. I have no idea.” Sobs caught in Catherine’s throat and she resolutely forced them back. The time for crying was over she had to remain strong, not allow herself to get over sentimental, someone had taken her and Vincent’s child and she would do everything in her power to help find it, when the two of them were strong enough. Whatever it took.
Gabriel felt happier when the blood samples revealed that the blood wasn’t totally human, but he paced mercilessly up and down his sitting room while he awaited the news of the baby’s health and this only caused the nurse more discomfort. She knew it was no mere threat that she would die should the child lose its life.*** *** ***
There was nothing that she needed. All the sophisticated apparatus that money could buy had been installed so she knew that it was not from lack of the right machines that prevented the child from growing stronger. It was something else, and as the sad blue eyes scrutinised her, she had a distinct feeling that he knew she was not his mother and that he fretted for his parents.
Coming through the door, Gabriel marched up to the incubator, where the nurse was stroking the child’s hand, despising her for even touching him but needing her nonetheless for the time being. “Will he live?” He asked brusquely.
“I think he is missing his mother, Sir.” The nurse waited for the outburst she felt was sure was to follow, but casting a glance at Gabriel she saw the man’s eyes soften unexpectedly, “Yes he is a remarkable child. Still the time will come when he will know myself to be his mother and his father. He does not need the beast.”
“No, Sir.” Something in her tone made Gabriel look down at her. “You don’t sound all that convincing, nurse.”
“I’m sorry, Sir, but try as I might, the child does not respond to anything I do. He is growing weaker. There is nothing medically wrong with him it’s just that he seems to be giving up. I can only assume that he needs his rightful parents to survive.”
Gabriel smashed a fist down upon the table. “He will survive and I will be his father!”
“I’m sorry, Sir, I know what it means for me if the child dies, but I have to face the facts and so do you. Simply the child will not last out the week unless he is re-united with his own family.”
Gabriel glared at her. It was already half way through the week. “Then I suggest you do everything in your power to make him live, nurse! Anything you need just tell me and I’ll get it but he has to survive. I won’t lose him now. I will not!”
Despite their reassurances of freedom, the doctor’s life was taken while he waited in custody to undergo more questions. Diana was frantic. “Who can you trust around here? Does Gabriel pull all the strings?” She ranted as she paced up and down the office while Joe stared blankly at her. “Our own lives are in danger too, Diana. Whoever got to the Doc will get to us now. I think we should get Below like yesterday.”
Diana agreed, “Yes, you are right there. I don’t think he knew much anyway. He didn’t even know his boss’ name.”
“I don’t reckon Gabriel reveals himself to many people. He’s a hidden force behind a huge racket and he will be a tough one to get at. His defences are high and one never knows whom to trust. I think any rescue attempt on the child, is going to have to be down to you me Vincent and, if she is well enough, Cathy too. But that will take time. It will be days before either of them are well enough to stand up let alone walk anywhere.”
Diana nodded. “It’s going to be a tricky one and there is the child to consider. I only hope Gabriel takes fatherhood seriously and keeps the mite safe.”
The journey back through the tunnels was somewhat scary for Joe and Diana. Without the assistance of Vincent or Father, they soon became horribly lost. “Do you know their code, Joe?”
“Not at all, its some kind of closely guarded secret, however, Jacob told me that any indiscriminate tapping would bring someone to where I was. That is what we shall have to do.”
Diana nodded, taking off her shoe to tap the heel against a length of piping, when a shadow caught her eye. “Don’t look now, Joe, but I think we are being followed.” She whispered, pretending instead to loosen a stone in her shoe. “Best not tap the message, we don’t want them alerted to how people move about down here.”
Joe looked back uneasily, he could see nothing, but the hairs on the back of his neck stood up and someone walked over his grave. He shuddered, “What should we do?”
“We have to foil them. Whatever happens they are here now, these tunnels run for miles but any reference to them back to Gabriel could bring danger down below to the people that live here. We have to establish who it is, how many there are of them, and if need be dispose of them.”
“What you mean?” Joe’s hand hovered over his gun.
“Yeah, that.” Diana answered gravely.
It was a problem for they were hopelessly lost and nothing seemed familiar, until the smell of fish seemed awfully strong. “We must be near the port,” Joe told Diana wrinkling his nose at the smell. “If we can find a way out, we could let them think that was our intention all along. Are they still there?”
“I haven’t turned around but I can sense them can’t you, Joe?”
“Yeah, but I was hoping I was imagining it.”
“Look, lets go up this ladder, it obviously leads to the port and we can wait for them up there. They will have to follow us.”
“But what if they have made radio contact with anyone above, we could walk straight into a trap.”
“It’s the chance we have to take, Joe. We have to be martyrs. A lot of people’s lives depend on our leading them clear of the home chambers, not to mention Vincent’s discovery. More than anything I wouldn’t want that on my conscience, would you?”
Joe shook his head, “No, he’s a great guy, isn’t he? You know I saw your face the first time you clapped eyes on him, I reckon it mirrored my own surprise when I first saw him. It sent a shiver running through me, for three reasons.”
“And they are?”
“One, how on earth did he get like that? Two, was he really as friendly as he sounded? And three, how on earth did Cathy fall in love with a guy like that? But you know all the answers rolled into one when I got to know him. He really is a wonderful guy. It’s a pity there aren’t more like him.”
Diana’s eyes misted over. “Yeah, I’ll second that. One for me too.”
Joe looked into her eyes. “Hey, you haven’t fallen for him too have you? What is it with all the good looking women that I come to know and like so much, you all lack the chance of having teddy bears or something when you were younger?”
Diana laughed, “No, Joe. Its probably because we had teddy bears and were forced to grow out of them that we want someone like him to cuddle up to in bed all over again.”
“So let me get this right. What you are saying is that I’d have more luck if I donned a grizzly outfit, is that it?” His eyes twinkled mischievously.
“Tell you what, Joe, you go ahead and try it and then call me sometime. I’ll soon tell you if the effect is as attractive.”
“Are you serious! Me? Dressed up in a fluffy bear suit going to pick you up! Can you imagine it? I’d be arrested before I even got to you.”
“You could tell them you were on your way to a fancy dress party, Joe.” Diana was laughing so much she had almost forgotten their predicament.
“No,” Joe told her, “They wouldn’t believe me, I’d have to tell them the truth.”
“What and risk my reputation? You wouldn’t?”
Joe grinned, “As if. No, I’d simply tell them I was on my way to a teddy bear’s picnic!”
Diana squealed with laugher.
“Well,” said Joe. “After that, I reckon that’s as good as told them we are on our way, if nothing else.” But still laughing he took her hand as they climbed up the steps leading to the port above and carefully removed the grid hoping for freedom.
Vincent was off on some distant plain where the sun shone and the fluffy white clouds passed beneath an intense summer sky. He sighed, what bliss it was to lay flat upon tufts of sparse grass and feel the warm sunshine upon his body. He dozed, his eyelids closing over tired eyes and listened to the sounds of animal life around him. Unusual sounds not like the animal sounds he was used to, but peaceful sounds nonetheless.
*** *** ***
The sound of something like thunder startled him and opening one lazy eye he watched as a herd of Wildebeest came to a sudden halt at the water hole, their hooves sending clouds of dust round about. Vincent felt his stomach react to the sight of them a rumble that started deep within and signalled the first pangs of hunger. Rising to his feet he made his way stealthily towards them watching them lift their wary heads as they sensed his approach. Suddenly Vincent spotted a lame one lingering on the edge of the water hole and he decided to head this one off. He circled it, watching as it trembled with the knowledge of impending death, and stamped its hooves in fear. Yet the need to drink and dispel its parched throat was also strong. Judging the situation, the Wildebeest thought it would have time to snatch one mouthful of the crystal water that looked so invitingly cool to quench its thirst and as it lowered its mighty head to suck in the silken water Vincent saw his chance and lunged forward. He delighted in the slippery feel of warm blood beneath his claws as the body crashed to the earth, quivering. Vincent sunk his teeth into the throat and jets of hot blood covered his face. A tremor ran through the lifeless body and satisfied that his meal was safe Vincent went to the water hole to wash the blood from his face, yet as he did so, he heard a voice in his head say. “ And the first living creature is like a lion, and the second living creature is like a young bull, and the third living creature has a face like a man’s, and the forth living creature is like a flying eagle.”
(Revelation Ch.4 v 7)
And as Vincent saw his reflection in the water from the pool he re-coiled in horror to see half of his face like that of a man and the other as a lion. And protruding out of his head were two horns and upon his back he had wings. And as fear consumed him, the mighty wings flapped and he felt himself lifted high above the savannah watching it disappearing into nothingness while the sensation of spiralling upwards from the confines of the earth brought about a feeling of peace that was quite unlike no other.
Catherine recovered remarkably quickly. Faster than anyone had accounted for, yet the horrors of the past sixth months could only be eased away by Vincent’s loving arms, and as she sat daily by his bedside, holding his hand and talking consolingly to him, no one could get anything out of her. Not even Joe who had kept a constant vigil alongside her. Even he, his heart aching for the man he had grown to know affection for, could not bring a smile to her eyes. Though her lips would twitch at something he might say, he could tell that she barely heard anything he said, waiting anxiously only for the moment when Vincent would open his eyes.
Diana couldn’t settle she simply was not used to being in hiding, yet until Vincent recovered and tracked the whereabouts of the child, there was nothing she could do.
Father fussed over her constantly, now that her nose had started to stream and her body went into spasms of the shivers. This from the intense cold she had sustained when she and Joe, in a last bid attempt to flee from their pursuers, had jumped into the ocean and swum to safety.
“You are certain there was nobody left below when you left the tunnels beneath the port, aren’t you?” Father fussed over and over.
“Yes, Jacob, I’ve told you.” She sniffed, “ Two men followed us out. They raised their guns at us and we jumped into the water.” Diana sneezed hard for several seconds before being able to continue. “There was nothing else we could have done.”
Father did not want her to think he thought her incompetent. His world’s safety depended on remaining a secret and he wasn’t impressed that two gangsters had followed Diana and Joe that far. They would see the various branch offs and they would wonder and would take the news back to Gabriel. There was only one thing for it those tunnels had to be sealed off, yet there were too many of them.
Pascal poured over the maps with Father “The only thing I think we can do Father is to seal off the tunnels that lead to the home chambers. Not at the division either, but half way along from there. Then should anyone go along that way, they won’t know it has just been sealed off and wonder why. It doesn’t have to be permanent, just so long as it stays in place until this Gabriel guy gets what’s coming to him.”
“If he ever does. Can you imagine a man like that controlling from down here, Pascal? It would be like history repeating itself. First there was Paracelsus, now Gabriel. Will evil always follow us down here?”
“Not if we can help it, Father. Did you want me to get on to the sealing straight away.”
Father nodded. “Yes, and take care Pascal and be quiet. Its possible Gabriel’s men are already searching around down there.”
Pascal told him not to worry, the team would take great care and then he left the old man, who gathered up his medical bag and set off once again on the familiar trek to the hospital chamber.
He didn’t like what he saw either as he made his way softly through the entranceway to the chamber. Catherine looked very unwell. It wasn’t just that she hadn’t been sleeping, or eating properly, there was more to it than that and Father hurried to her side, “What is it Catherine? Are you in pain?”
*** *** ***
Catherine turned her eyes to his, trying to mask the agony within their depths, but could not and nodded weakly.
“Where is the pain?”
Unable to speak, lest she vomited, Catherine could only point to the region of her stomach from where the child had been snatched.
“Lie back, will you, I want to take a closer look.” Father pushed at her shoulders gently helping her to ease back against the pillows.
Then lifting her night-dress, Father bulked at the sight that met his eyes. Yellow pus oozed from the wound and around the crude stitches and the stench was abominable. “Catherine! We have to get you Above and fast.” He told her. “The wound is infected. What a mess. Oh, Catherine, why didn’t you tell me sooner, you must have known? Look, there is no time to explain I’ll call Peter, have an ambulance meet you at your apartment. Wait there. I’ll bring some helpers to carry you.”
Catherine never said a word, she couldn’t. She knew that the moment she opened her mouth to speak she would be sick.
Everything came down to waiting. There was simply nothing more to be done waiting for Vincent to regain consciousness and waiting for Catherine to come out of surgery. Father hoped there would be no more troubles looming, he didn’t think he had ever felt so wretched. The two bullets he had taken from Vincent had been side by side. One had gone through his back and the other through his chest, but both had embedded remarkably close to a lung and Father didn’t think he would ever forget the horrors of having to remove those two bullets under such dire conditions.
*** *** ***
Vincent needed specialised care and they had none. Peter was a constant visitor, bringing supplies as Father requested them. And as he waited for news from either quarter, Father was pleased when he saw the familiar shape of Peter descending his steps, yet became afraid when he saw the look on his face as he flopped his shuddering body down into a chair.
“Whatever has happened?” Father asked fearfully. “Its Cathy, isn’t it?”
His eyes wide Peter nodded, then Father saw such sorrow in their depths.
“Is she, is she?” Unable to voice his fears, Father could only sit and stare. Now he understood the feeling of time standing still. Wanting to know, but not wanting to know, only to stay at this precise moment in time forever.
“She’s not dead, Jacob.” Peter whispered, at last, sensing the other man’s anxiety. “But we could have lost her, she came so close. Her insides were one mass of putrid pus how she survived I’ll never know. And her recovery will be a long time in coming. We had to remove so much.”
“Her entire womb. She will never bear another child and it will be a long, long time before she will be well enough to have an intimate relationship, I can tell you. But she’s alive and she will recover in time, though for several months she will feel as though a tank ran over her.”
“But I don’t understand, why did it happened?”
“Apparently Gabriel made the doctor use a dirty penknife to open her up, plus it appears that he left something inside her before he stitched her up.”
“That we may never know, Jacob, the pus was so thick, it covered nearly everything, it was a miracle it hadn’t got into her blood stream, another couple of hours and we would be sat here now arranging her funeral. I tell you, Jacob you don’t ever want to know what we saw inside her I just can’t stop believing that she survived it.”
“Could she, could she... have a relapse, Peter?” Father whispered horrified.
“There’s only a slight chance and yes she could, but I think it is unlikely. She’s going to be in that hospital a long time though and she has already taken more than enough. What with the kidnap, the loss of her child and being worried about Vincent, I think Cathy has taken about all that she can. If all this doesn’t send her insane, that will be another miracle. Of course there is one other problem though, Jacob.”
Father raised his eyebrows. “What?” He didn’t think he wanted to know.
“Gabriel. Now Cathy is out of the safety of Below, anything could happen to her. Diana is going to stay with her constantly, but even she needs to rest a few hours a day. Joe is supposed to be dead and as far as we know neither Gabriel or his men recognised him, but if they see he’s alive and remember where they thought he died, it will give another reference to the tunnels that you can’t afford to take. So Joe must stay down here out of sight. I’m afraid. Everything rests on Vincent’s recovery. Though he too will not be fit enough to do the things he takes for granted for some time to come. Its a right mess isn’t it, Jacob?”
Father nodded, his face grave with distress, “Let’s just hope that the child is in good hands until everyone can move about again. Loath as I am to think of Gabriel keeping the child with him, there simply is nothing more we can do. We don’t even know if the child is still alive and I’m afraid of the consequences for the two of them if it isn’t.”
The tiny baby was indeed still alive, just. Clinging to life now, the nurse could only watch as the tiny chest rose and fell to signify breathing, even as she anticipated that at one time it would rise and fall its last.
“Is there really nothing more you can do?” Gabriel paced the room, the anxiety clearly written on his face.
“Without stating the obvious, Sir, no. I am not qualified enough to know what else there is to be done. The child needs a doctor. It is his only hope.”
“I don’t want to bring strangers in here.”
“Then you must take the child to the hospital, Sir, and without delay. I’m afraid that he might not even make the journey.”
Gabriel stared down at the tiny baby. He felt no love for it. To him it was the means to make his dreams reality and he had come so close, that now to have it snatched away was simply too much, all the money that he had all the contacts and he was unable to prevent the life of the tiny child from ebbing away. He told the nurse, “Prepare him for the journey we’ll leave at once.”
The journey to the hospital was not far, but to Gabriel it was far enough. The child did not move as the nurse cradled him in her arms on the back passenger seat alongside him. His bodyguard drove at breakneck speed, pulling up at the entrance to the hospital where Gabriel took the child from the arms of the nurse, not trusting him with anyone else, and marched through the doors to the reception.
Within minutes he was shown to a room, where a doctor taking one look at the child, had a nurse whisk him away down a corridor. Gabriel made to follow, but the doctor checked his arm. “I’m sorry, Sir, there are some forms you will be required to fill in. Please you stay here, I’ll have someone come to you. Try not to worry. The child is in safe hands now and we’ll do all that we can.” He pulled open the door to hurry away, when Gabriel called out, “Money is no problem, doctor. I want the very best for my son. Whatever you have to do, do it without hesitation.” He called after the doctor’s retreating back before slumping into a chair as he saw all his dreams come crashing around him.
Diana was tired, she longed for a hot bath and a good night’s sleep, preferably back in her own apartment, but one look at the ashen face of the woman she watched over, told her not to be so selfish. Catherine was yet to regain consciousness and Diana was fearful about that all. Peter had called in and told her that there was still no change with Vincent, and Diana could only pace the room and sigh at all the waiting that everyone was having to undertake.
Back at her office, she had so many unsolved cases to work on, so many people relying upon her for help, all those had been put on hold. It was simply unprofitable to be seen back at her office, or her apartment, yet the four walls of the hospital room sickened her. So when the door handle turned and she saw Peter had returned she sighed with relief.
“I’ll take over for an hour, Diana, take a break. Wander around the hospital, but try to stay where there are people. Don’t get careless. I know you are tired, but you must keep your wits about you.”
Diana rubbed her weary brow. “Yes, thank you. Peter. What I’d give for a long hot bath Still I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies.”
“Why don’t you see if there is some place you can take a shower? That would be the next best thing. Ask down in reception, someone may be able to help you there.”
Wearily, Diana smiled. “Yes, at least it would freshen me up. I feel yuck.”
Even though she felt deadbeat, Diana took the stairwell, rather than the elevator, she needed the exercise and soon found the reception area. She was just about to say who she was and what she wanted, when a familiar face caught her eye. Diana gasped; it was Gabriel! She’d know him anywhere. Quickly she hurried into a corner snatching up a magazine to hide behind as he passed awfully close to her and pulled open a door that at the same moment was pushed open from the other side. “Ah there you are Mr. er, I’m sorry I don’t know your name?” The doctor who had taken the child told him. Gabriel told him the same name he had put down on the form, a fabricated name. “The name is Lewis. My son? How is he?”
“Its as well you brought him in when you did. Tell me how is his mother? Why didn’t she come with you?”
“My wife had a difficult birth, and she has gone to stay with her parents. I promised her I could take care of the child. I don’t want to have to contact her unless it’s really necessary.”
The doctor frowned, “No it isn’t necessary, Mr. Lewis, but the child will need to be kept in. We haven’t established what is wrong with him yet, but there are some irregularities in his blood that we are having difficulty in establishing. I wonder, Sir would you mind if we took a blood sample from you and I shall need one from your wife too unless you give me the name of her GP, who could tell me what blood group she is.”
Diana’s mind was racing. The child was here! But why? She listened intently.
Gabriel’s back was to her and she tried not to let the doctor know she was eavesdropping. Nonetheless, he glanced in her direction and took hold of Gabriel’s arm. “Let’s go into the visitor’s room shall we, Sir? It would be more private?”
Diana bit her lip. From where had the doctor just come? There were many unfamiliar corridors, but Peter would know. Tossing aside the magazine, Diana took the elevator back up to intensive care, literally flying through the door to Cathy’s room, to find Peter holding Catherine’s hand, while he spoke softly to her. At first she thought that Catherine was still unconscious, but as the smile on Peter’s face registered, she saw that Catherine was awake. “Oh, Thank God!” Diana, cried, just as Peter remarked, “Okay, where’s the fire?” Taking in Diana’s dishevelled state.
“Gabriel’s here!” She blurted out the words, without thinking, “And the baby, he’s here too. And yes, Cathy its a boy, I heard Gabriel call the child his son. Peter, I need your help. The child is ill, and a blood sample has been taken, and....”
“Slow down, slow down.” Peter told her, while Catherine struggled to sit up, her eyes wide with fear. “The baby is ill? Oh, Peter you have got to help.”
“I will, I will. Now stay here, Catherine. Diana come with me, you can tell me all you know on the way,” then stepping back into the room, he told Catherine, “And you young lady, be prepared to leave. I’m taking you home.”
“Is that wise?” Diana asked him as they hurried towards the elevator.
“Probably not. But I have to weigh up the possibilities here. There is more possibility of Gabriel taking this place apart once he finds the child is missing, and more chance that Catherine will be discovered. However the risk somewhat lessens if we take both mother and child Below.”
Diana agreed. “Then let me tell you everything I overheard.”
“Dr. Alcott, how nice of you to drop by. It’s been a most unusual night. We have a very strange tot here I can tell you.” The staff nurse took Peter’s arm and led him passed the rows of cots toward some incubators at the far end of the room. Peter was still reeling at how easy it was that his plausible reason for being there had sufficed. He wasn’t due there for any particular reason, yet his excuse of just passing, and wondering if everything was all right, was accepted without question.
*** *** ***
“Here he is, nothing out of the ordinary to look at is he, save for the shape of his finger nails, but that will no doubt change as he grows.”
“Then what is so unusual, nurse?” Peter hoped his voice sounded normal, though it seemed to him that it trembled. Inside he was thinking, ‘so this is Vincent’s son, well he looks remarkably one hundred percent human to me. Good old Cathy Vincent will be pleased.’ As he heard the nurse reply, “We have taken three separate blood samples, yet each one comes back the same. There is thirty percent of blood in him that has no human genes. We have never seen anything like it. The closest we can establish is feline.”
“But that’s absurd!” Peter retorted.
“That’s what we keep telling ourselves. Its remarkable.”
“Where are the parents?”
“Dr. Walling is talking to the father down in one of the visitors rooms, he has been up here to see the child and wasn’t happy about having to leave it with us, but we assured him it is necessary. To be honest, Dr. Alcott we can’t find anything wrong with the child. He seems to be fretful, but Mr. Lewis says that the mother is away, so we suppose that could be the reason. Our reason for keeping him with us, is to have the occasion to study him some more. Dr. Walling is going to organise some scans to see what his internal organs reveal. Its quite remarkable isn’t it?”
“How do you make that out?”
The nurse looked at him strangely, “Isn’t it obvious? A human child with seventy percent human blood and thirty percent feline, wouldn’t you say that is remarkable Dr. Alcott?”
“If it were true, yes, but seems to me it’s a hoax of some sort, maybe someone at the lab playing tricks.”
The nurse frowned. “Some trick, doctor, they would lose their job, not to mention disciplinary action against them. I can’t believe anyone would risk that for a joke.”
“Maybe not. May I hold the child.”
“Yes, of course...hey!”
Peter looked towards the door, just in time to see Diana establishing the rest of their plan, pretending to pick up a baby at the other end of the room, and flee when spotted. The nurse sounded the alarm as she gave chase and Peter knew he had only seconds to put his end of the plan into operation.
Gathering the child against him, he grabbed a blanket and then ran out of the room, checked the corridor, and dashed for the elevator just as the doors flew open and two security guards ran through. The elevator came and Peter hopped inside, they didn’t see him, but they saw the elevator going upward and watched to see which floor it went up to, before running up the stairs to intercept whoever had alighted from it. Peter had anticipated this. He stopped the elevator two floors below the one Catherine was on and got out, called another elevator, jumped into that and got out at the appropriate floor. Of course no one suspected him, they were looking for a woman, but he hoped that Diana had got safely away and would meet him as arranged in the car park.
An anxious Catherine met him as he strode into the room and handed the child to her, “No time for cuddles, Cathy, we have got to move. Give me a minute.”
Running back out the door he slowed his pace to a quick walk as the security guards exited the elevator and came running toward him. “You see a woman, come this way, running like?” They asked him.
Peter shook his head. “Sorry, no I didn’t. Why? What’s she done?”
“Nothing yet, its what she was attempting to do that bothers us.”
Good, thought Peter they haven’t discovered the child has gone yet.
Quickly he went along to the room where he knew he would find some wheelchairs, then opening one up, he pushed it back along the corridor to Catherine’s room, lifted her from the bed, wrapped the child tightly against her with the blankets, and checked the corridor. “All clear, Cathy. Have you got everything?”
Catherine nodded, her handbag with all her personal effects was safety upon her la, her child on top of that tucked safely beneath the blankets. He did not stir, he did not cry, seeming only to know that this was where he belonged, safe with his mother.
Back in the elevator, Peter pushed the button for the ground floor. “ I hate doing this to you, Cathy, but we could think of no other way. Gabriel will take this place apart when he finds the child has gone, and we couldn’t have him discovering you are here. Its as well you woke up when you did. I don’t think I could have managed so well without you. Let’s just hope that Diana has given them the slip. Everything depends on her having the car waiting out the back now. We can’t risk going through reception with Gabriel down there, that’s if he still is.”
Catherine was wide eyed with fear, but she would die before she allowed anyone to take her child again. Beneath the blanket her hands caressed the baby’s tiny hands and soft cheeks and his soft breath against her fingers reassured her. He was a remarkable child, all this action going on around him, because of him, and he was sleeping peacefully right through it.
Crashing through the doors, with his back firmly against them, Peter swung the wheelchair around to descend the steps, as a car sped towards the curb, and the door flew open. Diana jumped out. “What kept you?” She laughed, “I was having kittens back there.”
“I know the feeling.” Catherine laughed back managing humour and strangely finding the whole situation exceedingly funny especially with Diana’s very apt remark.
Diana burst into laughter. “Its great to have you back with us, Cathy. Here let me help you. You and I will have to share the back seat with the child and cover ourselves with blankets, there is no telling where Gabriel might be, and my face is as known to him as yours is right now.”
There was no room for the wheel chair, so they had to leave it. It simply would not fit into the boot, and there was no time to tie it in place and leave the boot lid slightly open, so they had to leave it behind. Peter got into the drivers seat, and as calmly as possible, though all his instincts told him to put his foot down hard on the accelerator, he drove out from the hospital grounds, just in time to hear a fresh batch of sirens go off in the maternity block.
“We’re not home and dry yet girls, but I’d say we are safe enough. I think it would be best if I took you to my surgery and then down Below from there.”
Catherine agreed, “Yes, you can tap out a message for someone to help carry me, Peter, and then you had best get back to the hospital.”
“Just what I was thinking. How did you guess the plan, you clever girl? That’s the lawyer in you coming out I suppose. I just hope no one else’s thoughts run along the same lines.”
“What? That you were looking after the babies, when the woman kidnapper came back, and saw you, and this time you gave chase, but lost her, and in the meantime she came back a third time, grabbed a baby, and made off with it. Let’s hope it works, Peter,” Diana told him, “And more importantly, from the little sighting they did get of me, they won’t be able to pass the description on to Gabriel.”
“Oh my, God!” Peter’s hand flew to his brow.
“What is it, Peter? What have you thought of now?”
“The security camera’s, Diana! We forgot about the security camera’s! They would have picked up everything.”
“I’d like to know what you find so funny, Catherine.” Peter told her sternly.
“I was just thinking, Peter, whatever will Father say when he finds out he has to hide out another fugitive.”
Peter groaned. “ Oh no, not me too. Whenever will it end?”
“It won’t.” Diana reminded him. “Not until Gabriel is dead or behind bars. Simply put, until that happens, none of us are safe.”
The huge wings soared high above the savannah again, and far, far below, Vincent could see what looked to be a maze and as the wings fanned out across his back to swoop lower, he established it was, in fact, an open-topped labyrinth. There were familiar people down there and possessions. The great wings took him down to land upon one of the walls to the labyrinth, his great lion paws propelled him along the foot wide wall, as his wings closed over his back, and Vincent saw himself walking along the wall looking down into a tunnel below. Though open to the sky, the tunnel was dark. No sunlight penetrated there, and the tunnels branched off, and sunk deeper into the earth. Vincent jumped down into one, his paws making no sound as they hit the dusty floor, and he padded silently forwards listening intently. The people had gone now, merged away with the shadows, yet he knew exactly where to find them. And as he walked he felt his body grow upright; the paws were replaced by fur covered hands and with every step he took he felt as though he was going home.
*** *** ***
Glancing down at himself he saw he was wearing the garb of a man, and a great cloak swirled around his back and his feet. Knee high boots made no sound just as the paws had made no sound moments earlier. Stopping, he touched his face. Everything was as it should be, he felt the familiar cleft lip, the familiar fur that grew up the bridge of his nose to his eyebrows, and touched the mane of golden hair that framed his leonine face. A feeling of utter peace washed over him as he walked onwards, the familiar scents and sights delighted him as his heart sang, “I’m going home, I’m going home, oh, Catherine! I’m coming home.”
Joe flew down the tunnel, his feet hardly touching the floor, he’d been on duty in the hospital chamber, and almost out of breath he charged like a mad bull straight into Father’s chamber. “He’s awake!” He cried, his eyes bright with happiness., “Its Vincent, he’s awake, and he’s asking for Cathy.”
Father had never seen such a tender sight, and though he felt he were intruding, he simply could not make his feet take his body away from the scene before his very eyes.
Catherine and Vincent lay side by side in his large bed, while both gazed down with adoring eyes at their tiny son, who gurgled happily his little arms raised above him, his hands reaching for a gold chain dangling from Catherine’s neck. Full of the joy of life his big blue eyes were bright with love and happiness, as he gazed trustingly up at these two adorable people that he knew to be his parents.
Vincent’s arm lay around Catherine’s shoulders and as he bent forward to incline his head to hear what she was saying, his great mane of hair fell forwards almost over the baby’s face. The child squealed with delight at being tickled by the curtain of hair, and reached out to grab handfuls of the tawny mane. Before Vincent could raise his head again, he had to untangle his hair from the baby’s fingers. Catherine laughed as she helped him out.
It did Father’s heart good to see these three re-united, especially having Catherine and Vincent back together. The dark days that they were apart still festered in the background, but these two would eventually put those days far behind them, as they healed one another with their love.
When Catherine managed to retrieve the last lock of Vincent’s hair from her son’s tiny fingers, she trailed the lock of hair back over Vincent’s shoulder so that it was well out of the baby’s reach, and as she put it there, her eyes locked with Vincent’s, for a moment time stood still. The baby’s gurgling faded away into the background, as Catherine suddenly became very much aware of those compelling blue eyes, and tears gathered, as she remembered how it felt to be without him all those months. Her lips trembled and twitched and her the gathered tears fell silently without let-up down her cheeks. Father stepped back into the tunnel and let the curtain fall back into place. He really was intruding now, and felt it best he left them alone to deal with whatever had caused Catherine’s distress.
Vincent kissed away every tear as it fell. There was no need for words. The Bond had restored itself fully and Vincent felt Catherine’s pain. However, her whispered words cut him deeper than the agony her heart revealed.
“Vincent, I thought I would never see you again, and you would not know about the baby. I thought Gabriel would take him and I would die, and you would never know.” She sobbed. Vincent shuffled closer, and held her in his arms, rocking her gently. “It was terrible, Catherine, I couldn’t feel you. I knew that you were out there somewhere needing me but I couldn’t find you. I walked the streets, every night, all night, calling out to you deep inside, begging you to scream my name, so that I could hear you. I have never felt so empty in all my life.” Vincent shuddered at the memory of those long and desolate nights when he had walked through the streets searching for her.
“I couldn’t believe that they would hold me for so long. They kept asking questions but I never told them what they wanted to know. Then they started pumping me with drugs to keep me asleep and I felt compelled to tell them I was pregnant. The doctor wanted to stop injecting me, but Gabriel told him to keep on with it. It was only when Gabriel saw you at the warehouse on the TV monitor that he took a liking to the idea of keeping the baby. From then on they looked after me as well as they could, just so the baby would be healthy. I wanted to find some pipes to call you, but I was followed everywhere, and when I was in the room, it was kept locked, and Gabriel watched me constantly from a camera set up in the ceiling. There was no escape and nothing I could do and it was all so tiresome. I read countless magazines until Gabriel let me watch some television. It helped take my mind of my predicament a little but when the programmes ended I felt worse than ever.”
“Tell me about the window cleaners?”
Catherine related to him all he wanted to know, leaving nothing out. When they had told her Joe was dead, how she had felt, when they showed her the film of Vincent at the warehouse, how it was more torturous than the torture had been. Then she went on to lighter things, the joy she had found with the binoculars, culminating, in the wonderful sight of seeing Joe and Vincent dancing in the street. Her eyes lit up then and the tears subsided. Vincent kissed her brow, holding her slightly away from him, to look into her eyes. “Entirely Joe’s idea, Catherine.” He told her.
Catherine gave him a watery smile, “Yes, I can imagine.”
“We have a lot to thank Joe for, my love, and Diana. I don’t think we would be together now, but for them.”
“Peter too. Poor Peter he is trapped Below until we know for sure Gabriel is behind bars.”
Vincent shook his head. “Jail is too good for Gabriel. His sort could rule the world just as well from behind bars as not.”
“Yes, I agree. Gabriel controls everything and everyone.” Her voice wavered with contempt.
“Let’s not talk about him, Catherine, I can see it upsets you. There is something I want to tell you.”
Catherine searched his eyes, they were soft and full of love for her, he swallowed with difficulty and patiently, she waited for him to speak. “While you were gone, Catherine I remembered everything that took place that day beneath the catacombs. When you saved my life.”
Catherine felt slightly embarrassed. “Everything?” She questioned.
Taking her chin in his hand he lifted her face to look into his eyes, and nodded. “Everything,” he whispered huskily. “Don’t be embarrassed, Catherine. Your courage that day saved my life.”
“It was the only thing I could think of...kissing you, the rest just went from there. And you were a very willing participant as I remember.” She grinned impishly.
Oh, Catherine!” Vincent pulled her towards him, holding her tightly for a few seconds before putting her away from him again to search her eyes, and tell her softly, “Your courage put behind us all the fears that had held me back for so long. Your courage was priceless, Catherine, and look what you gave me.” His eyes lowered towards the baby now asleep on his bed. “I could ask for nothing else.”
Catherine leaned her face against his shoulder. “I love you, Vincent.” She told him simply.
“And I love you, Catherine.” Suddenly their closeness in the proximity of the bed became only too clear and Vincent shuffled uncomfortably.
“What is it?” Catherine asked as he shut off the Bond so that she would not know how high his emotions were running. Vincent lowered his head, hiding behind the curtain of hair, but Catherine pulled it back and looked beneath it, her eyes searching his and she smiled. “We are rather close aren’t we, Vincent?” She teased him, “But I fear that is all we can be for the time being. With you unable to lay on your right side, and me unable to lay on any side, I can see that being side by side is the closest we can become for quite some time, my love.”
Vincent laughed out loud. The strain of their predicament easing rapidly at her words, then serious again, he told her, “When you are well enough and when I can move around freely once again....” He didn’t finish, his eyes burning into hers told her the rest of what he wanted to say. Catherine held his chin in her hands, but he could not have looked away even if he had wanted to do as her gaze held his for a precious moment before she leaned forward and gently touched his lips with her own. A sigh escaped his mouth, and fluttered softly against her cheek, and Catherine moaned as her lips returned once again to their place. This time his arms stole around the back of her head and he returned kiss for kiss, drowning in the sensation that was new to him, glorifying in the feel of her hands tangled in his hair.
As they finally drew apart, their eyes shone with love for each other, and both smiled. Vincent spoke first, his voice husky with emotion. “There are no words to tell you what you do to me, Catherine, but know that I love you, and that I want to hold you here with me forever.”
“I will gladly stay here with you forever, Vincent. The world above has lost its gloss all that glitters and is gold is right where you are. I never want to leave the circle of your arms ever again. I love you so much.”
Vincent rested his chin on the top of her head, breathing deeply of the scent that was Catherine, then pulled back again to look in her eyes, “Catherine?” He sighed, “Will you marry me?”
A slow smile lit her eyes, shining through them like a million facets of diamonds. “Oh, Vincent of course I will marry you. You sounded as if you doubted that I would?”
He nodded. “For so long I never allowed myself to believe that my dreams could come true. That even now, after so much has happened, even having him,” he nodded down towards the rosy-cheeked child. “I found it impossible to believe that you would agree to spending your life with me, or even if that you would, I had no right to ask. But now...” He hesitated.
For long moments Vincent gazed into Catherine’s eyes before continuing, “Having our child, we are connected more than we were before. And when I hear you say forever, I know the truth of the word. With our son we are forever, and I can believe in impossible things, even for me.”
“Vincent, I know you have had doubts, but they are in the past now, there is nothing that we cannot be to each other, and I would be honoured to have you as my husband. Till death us do part may be the usual words, but Vincent I believe that what you and I share will go beyond that, even to time indefinite.”
“Then death shall truly have no dominion,” Vincent whispered as he gathered her close. She sighed with pleasure as his lips kissed her hair, her face, her eyelids, telling her of his unending love. Catherine felt as though her body was floating on air as she melted against him and surrendered herself willingly to his blazing trail of kisses.
Not many days after that, Joe, Diana, Peter, Mary and Father were sat around Vincent and Catherine’s bedside, when a much loved face appeared around the doorway and Vincent gasped with pleasure. “Devin!”
Father got up from the edge of the bed from where he had been sat and hobbled across to his son, clasping his hands warmly within his own, and Devin gave him an enigmatic smile. “What gives, old man? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look so pleased to see me?” He asked taking in the strange scene around him. “What’s going on?” And his eyes widened when he saw Catherine laying in bed beside Vincent. “I mean, whatever is going on?” His brown eyes twinkled merrily. “Just look at you two. Is this a private function or can anyone join in?” He asked going across to Catherine and kissing her cheek affectionately, while his hands reached over to clasp Vincent’s.
“Oh, Devin,” Vincent told him. “It’s so good to see you.”
“Yes, my boy and you are the answer to a prayer.” Father boomed.
Then Devin listened quietly as the sorry tale of woe was laid before him and he couldn’t help brushing away a tear or two at certain parts. Even the other listeners were unaffected and by the time the story was told, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
“And so,” Joe took up the tale, “We need a new face. Someone Gabriel doesn’t suspect to act as a doctor employed to look after Cathy who, by the way, is supposed to be in a coma.”
“Don’t tell me,” Devin asked. “I’m him right?”
Joe flashed him one of his most endearing smiles, wrinkling his mouth at one corner. “If you wouldn’t mind.”
“Do I have a choice?” Then seeing the faces drop around him, Devin quickly went on, “Only joking. Of course I will help. When do we start?”
“Well, no one is going to feel safe while Gabriel is on the loose,” Joe told him. “And as much as I hate to say this, Vincent and Catherine’s son is, unfortunately, the only bait that we have. I’m sorry you two, its the only word that fits.”
“We forgive you, Joe.” Catherine told him, snuggling up closer to Vincent. “Go on.”
Joe smiled. “Somehow, though the plan is a bit evasive at the moment, we have to set Gabriel up, and if possible John Moreno too, because he played a big part in all of this also. We want to draw them both out, with as little risk as possible to Cathy and Vincent, and the baby, and eventually clear Peter’s name from kidnapping the child from the hospital.”
“Has it hit the papers?” Devin wanted to know.
“No, but then that’s not so strange. Gabriel pulls all the strings around here. He would have had a great deal of explaining to do, if it had, about how the child came to be his, and all that, so fortunately for Peter his reputation is safe as far as the public are concerned. Though I doubt that he will want to show his face at the hospital for some time.”
Peter nodded heartily.
“And this guy who Cathy left the ledger with, Joe, can he be trusted?”
“Elliott? Only Cathy knows the answer to that, Devin, what would you say Radcliffe?”
Catherine felt Vincent give her a reassuring hug, she knew that he didn’t like her to speak about Elliott around him and she smiled up at him gratefully. “Elliott may be many things to many people but he would never cross me.”
“Can you be so sure of this?” Devin asked her.
Catherine nodded and prepared to speak, but Vincent got there first, “I think Elliott Burch loves Catherine almost as much as I do and he would do anything within his power to help her whatever it cost.”
Joe was stunned. “Elliott Burch... is in love with you?”
Cathy nodded, casting her eyes downward, she knew Joe had found it difficult that someone had beat him to it for her affections, but to hear that there was someone else in line too, it totally deflated him.
“Looks like Elliott isn’t the only one.” Devin remarked quietly and Joe blushed. “Anyway, all of this is leading us away from the issue at hand, not to mention embarrassing for some, so let’s get down to brass tacks shall we?”
For several hours they plotted, this little group of people, bringing in the tunnel dwellers from time to time, because they were not to be disregarded after the plan of the religious movement had worked so well. And finally they were able to lean back, satisfied and complete that the idea could work, if all the villains fell in to the trap just the way it was planned.
Father was, as always, apprehensive. Anything that involved Vincent going above always made him so and especially with him still being weak from his injuries. And with Catherine only just starting to walk about stiffly he fussed over them more than usual, only backing down when he was reassured that neither Joe or Diana would allow anything to happen to the three people he loved so much. Thankfully, they weren’t taking any risks with the child, deciding instead to leave him in Father’s loving hands.
“Don’t worry, Jacob,” Diana told him warmly the day they put the first stage of their plan into action, “Really its Joe that is taking all the risks here. Remember they think he is dead. It’s going to cause a pretty big stir when he walks back into his office after all this time alive and well.”
Checking that the transmitters were firmly in place so that Diana could establish Joe’s movements, Father could only stand and watch as Joe and Diana made their way Above, while Devin, Catherine and Vincent waited anxiously for their parts of the plan to commence.
It felt strange to Joe walking into his office after so many months away, and he wasn’t surprised to see two new people, one at his desk and one at Catherine’s, as he walked towards John Moreno’s office. But what he was unprepared for was finding that John was not alone. Knocking on the door and hearing the shout to wait, he peeped through the frosted glass and his heart raced to see a tall man with white hair standing near the door.
Speaking into his collar where the transmitter was located, he whispered, “Diana, Snow is in with Moreno.” And heard her gasp.
“Stick with it, Joe, just as we’ve planned.” Her voice came from another transmitter just beneath his ear and situated beneath his shirt collar, so that only he could hear her.
Joe knocked again, harder. He had to make out he was excited and couldn’t wait to see Moreno’s face. A curt, “Come In,” sounded, and Joe turned the door handle, trying not to notice Snow as he walked in. John Moreno’s face went almost as pale as Snow’s hair and his mouth dropped open as Joe strode towards him, “John! Hi remember me? I’m back.”
“J,J,J, Joe!” Moreno managed to stammer, then he yelled, “And where the hell have you been, Mr Maxwell?” He looked furious and Joe heard the door close silently behind him. He thought Snow must have left, but when he glanced behind, he saw that he was still there, watching the scene.
“You’d never believe it if I told you, John. Look can we speak privately, there’s so much I need to tell you.”
Moreno nodded towards Snow, but Snow shook his head defiantly and Moreno told Joe, “This is our new partner, whatever you have to say to me, concerns him also. Now tell me just where have you been? I thought you were dead.”
“Dead? Me? Whatever gave you that idea? Look I know you said, I ought not continue the Chandler case, but I couldn’t stop it, John. Cathy means such a lot to me, it’s a personal thing and I must have riled someone because I got shot in the process of searching for her and I did almost die. If it hadn’t of been for some friends that cared for me, I wouldn’t be here now. And the most amazing thing of all, John, believe it or not, is I found her, I actually found her.”
Wh, wh, what, Cathy?” Moreno stammered.
“Yes, Cathy!” Joe lowered his gaze and fidgeted with an elastic band in his fingers. “Only she is unconscious, been in a coma for weeks. I’m not sure that she will wake from it, but the doctor is optimistic, and not only that John, she has a kid.”
“Yes, a baby.” Joe’s tone softened.”That’s the saddest thing. The guy she was involved with got killed and hell, John you know how I feel about Cathy, if she ever comes out of this thing, I want to be there for her, and the child, she’ll need someone, and I need her. So that’s all I came to say really, I’m back but I’m not back, if you see what I mean? Not until Cathy regains consciousness that is. Then I’ll be back at work if you still want me. But I felt I owed it to you to stop you from worrying about Catherine and I. I take it you have been worried about me?” He shot John one of his cheekiest grins and John could not help smiling.
“I should like to come and see Cathy. I can hardly believe what you are telling me. Where has she been all this time?”
“That’s the strangest part, She was being held captive by some guy at an apartment block in Sixth Avenue. He held her for six months. Would you believe it! Cooped her up there, just so he could take her child away. Doesn’t make sense does it, a guy like that, all that money, could have all the children from orphanages the world over, but Cathy’s partner was unusual you see, had amazing strength and Gabriel, I guess, that’s the fellow’s name that held her captive, well we think he hoped the child would grow to be like its father. You know though, John, none of this makes any sense.” Joe shook his head, “There’s the ledger that Cathy had and we still don’t know what became of it, or what it all means. Then Cathy gets kidnapped and held for the purpose of Gabriel having her child, his men kill the father of her child, cut Cathy open and leave her in a coma from the trauma she experienced.”
“I thought you said the child was with her?”
“He is, and that’s another story, John, one I haven’t the time to go into now,” Joe checked his watch, “ I must get back to Cathy, I want to be there when she wakes up, John. Tell you what, I’ll call you as soon as I’ve asked the doctor about visitors, then you can come along and see for yourself that she really is alive. Okay?”
John Moreno agreed and got up to see Joe to the door, who glanced up at Snow on his way out, “Nice to have met you again, Sir.” He told him offering his hand, but Snow refused the offer, just smiled down at him, with a smile that did not light his albino eyes. Joe shuddered. The guy had the ability to be creepy even without the albino eyes.
As soon as Joe left, Snow picked up the telephone and called someone to tail him, then Moreno turned to Snow and asked, “What do you think?”
Snow shook his head. “I can’t put my finger on it, but it doesn’t add up. Still as far as I know he has no way of connecting you or I to the crime.”
“Not yet, he hasn’t, but when Catherine Chandler wakes up, then he will. She’s bound to remember that I set her up.”
“Then you must make certain that she never wakes up.”
“Because you have more at stake here if she does.”
“And what will you do?”
“I shall tell Gabriel about Mr Maxwell’s visit. Personally I think it is all a set up to flush out my brother, but Gabriel is intent on getting the child, and so we can play them at their own game, and we can win.”
John Moreno nodded, “Let’s hope you’re right. Catherine Chandler and Joe Maxwell were my best team. We’ll not fool them in a hurry.”
“But we already have, John and we can do so again. Trust me.” He told him softly and John Moreno could not stop the shiver that rippled through him at Snow’s sinister tone.
While Joe had gone with Diana to the D.A.’s office, Vincent, Catherine, and Devin went through the tunnels to Catherine’s apartment, where Devin and Catherine left Vincent at the basement and took the empty carry cot up to the eighteenth floor.
Catherine found it so strange stepping through the doorway into her apartment. All her houseplants had shrivelled up and died and there was mountains of dust everywhere. “Its incredible where it all comes from, isn’t it?” She told Devin as she raided the cupboard for polish and a cloth. He took them from her, put the carrycot down on to the floor and drew the sitting room curtains. “I’ll be the domestic, you rest. It’s a long walk through those tunnels, even if Vincent did allow me to carry you some of the way. Its still a trek for someone who hasn’t recovered from such an ordeal properly.”
“I’m worried about Vincent. He seldom says anything, but I felt him wince many times along the way. He is no more recovered than I and look what we’ve got planned for him. He has to ride eighteen floors balanced on top of an elevator as soon as it’s dark. I just hope he manages it without mishap.”
“I sometimes think Vincent runs purely on adrenaline, Cathy. Don’t worry yourself too much about him, he’ll not do anything he shouldn’t do.”
“Don’t you be so sure, Devin, he hates Gabriel so much, I don’t think anything would stop him.” Her worried expression spoke volumes and Devin put his arm around her waist, pulling her against him, holding her close, telling her, “I’ve always wanted to do that, so I guess that makes me fourth in line.” His impish grin made her laugh. His humour was just what she needed.
He let her go and was quiet for a time. His brother had married a beautiful woman in more ways than one. Her beauty often left him lost for words. This time was no exception. Her courage at what she was prepared to face humbled him in light of all she had already endured. Finally he spoke as the first streaks of night sky appeared through the chink in the curtains. “It’s almost dark, Cathy. So, are you going to get into bed or what?”
“I suppose I had better, Dr. Devin.” She sighed, resigning herself to the plan. She was still very nervous about it. None more than she knew the kind of person Gabriel was and if it all went horribly wrong, they could all die.
Devin carried the cot through to the bedroom, drawing the curtains as he did so then and went out again, while Catherine undressed and got into bed. It was very damp underneath the covers and she wished she had the forethought to change the sheets first. But there was no time as almost all at once, Vincent appeared over the balcony wall and tapped on the doors, as Joe arrived at the front door and let himself in with her key. Devin let Vincent in and the four of them got together in Catherine’s bedroom. “How’d it go?” Devin asked Joe, as he settled down on the bedside.
“Like a dream. I was followed all the way here. I gave them the run around all afternoon, just to make sure I was being followed and to give it time to get dark. No doubt now I am safely tucked away up here, word will go out to Gabriel.”
“But can we be certain he will come rather than send one of his henchmen?”
“It’s a chance we have to take, Devin, oh, and Cathy, John Moreno sends his love.”
“He actually said that!”
Joe grinned. “No, he didn’t actually, but he does want to visit you, to see for himself that you are alive, though I told him you were in a coma.”
“From which, no doubt, he hopes I never wake from.” She grimaced, “So all we do now is sit and wait. Well I hope one of you thought about doing the shopping, because any food there was in the cupboards six months ago is probably as rotten as Gabriel by now.”
“And that’s an understatement.” Joe replied. “Don’t worry Diana is going to bring some goodies over.”
“Thank goodness someone thought of the essentials.” Devin laughed.
The evening went by and as it got late, Diana came by leaving some groceries at the door and with a sharp knock they recognised, made her way down again. Joe brought the fresh supplies into the apartment, checking the corridor as he did so. Nothing moved.
And as the evening slipped into night, Joe commenced Plan B. Taking up the telephone he rang John Moreno at home, actually surprised when John answered the call. He had expected a machine and excitedly told him, “John, hi, its Joe here. Forgive me for ringing you at home, but I knew you would want to hear the news straight away. I’m ringing about Cathy. She opened her eyes a few hours ago and...” Moreno cut him dead shouting, “Did she say anything!” Joe thought to himself, ‘jumpy aren’t we?’ but told Moreno, “No, she isn’t quite conscious yet, but the Doc’s here and he reckons it will be only a matter of hours before she wakes up properly. Its great news isn’t it? Perhaps now we can find out all we need to know.”
“Yeah. Keep me informed of her progress will you, Joe?”
“You can count on it.”
Joe replaced the receiver, telling the others,“ He never asked where she was, I find that kinda funny.”
“Then we should take it that he already knows. I think we should all expect some visitors sometime tonight.” Catherine replied nervously.
John Moreno picked up the telephone and dialled the familiar number, speaking as soon as it was picked up at the other end. “Moreno here, just had a call from Maxwell, he says, Catherine Chandler is waking up. What shall we do?”
“We?” Came the sinister voice.
Moreno flinched, “I’m not going in there alone. You are in this just as deep as me, if you think I’m killing in cold blood, then you’ve another think coming!”
“You are in no position, Moreno to assume anything from me! Nonetheless, I do intend to be there, if only to retrieve my son.”
“Then you’ll meet me over there?”
“No, we’ll go together. I’ll pick you up in fifteen minutes.” There was a click and Moreno was left holding the receiver burring into his ear.
It was the longest fifteen minutes of his life. He kept imagining Catherine Chandler waking up and telling Joe everything, and when he finally heard a knock at his door, he jumped so violently that he began to wet himself. He thought it was the police.
“It’s me, open up.” He recognised Gabriel’s voice and opened the door. “You come alone?”
“That’s a bit risky isn’t it?”
“Do you think I cannot look after myself.? There isn’t a person in this city who doesn’t quake when they hear my name. Do you think I am afraid of being out alone?”
“Hell, no, but you must have a lot of enemies.”
“I don’t deny it, but even my enemies are my friends. Not one of them would allow another to approach me in such a way to cause me injury. I keep this city running, Moreno and don’t you forget it. Now are you ready? My son needs me.”
The drive to Catherine’s apartment unnerved Moreno who bit his nails throughout, spitting the clippings across the upholstery and causing Gabriel to frown in distaste. “You sure we’re alone?” Moreno asked for the umpteenth time.
Gabriel sneered. “Do you see anyone else in the car.”
Moreno shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. Is there anyone tailing us?”
“No. Relax, Moreno. Why should they be?”
Even though he sounded genuine, Moreno did not believe Gabriel who kept checking his mirror with his eyes. Moreno felt certain Gabriel’s henchmen were bringing up the rear.
“Do you think this could be a set up?” Moreno asked him.
“Oh absolutely and we wouldn’t want to disappoint them would we? The police force do as I ask, so we’ll have no trouble there and I find the taking out a few of Catherine Chandler’s friends rather stimulating don’t you?”
“You say that as if you don’t believe Cathy is there.”
“Well, do you?”
“Oh, she’s there all right, and I feel quite certain she is not only awake, but has been for some time. But what can she do to me? The one thing I am assured of is the knowledge that her stomach was slit open and it would take longer than this to recover. She will be little match for us. And with her lover dead it will be a walk over.”
“You do believe some of what Joe said then? About her lover I mean? Him being dead and all that?”
“Oh absolutely, I saw him fall. He took two bullets. I think we can rest assured that it will be only Joe Maxwell, Catherine Chandler and possibly Diana Bennett that we have to deal with.”
John Moreno nodded, feeling much better and settled down in his seat, just as he recognised the street they had turned into was where Catherine’s apartment building stood.
Joe’s transmitter crackled and he inclined his head to listen. “They’re here, Joe.” Diana told him calling from her vantage point a block away with the aid of Gabriel’s binoculars. “Gabriel and Moreno have just pulled up outside and wait, yes there are three cars pulling in behind him. Re-enforcement’s no doubt. Take care, Joe.”
“Right action stations everyone, Gabriel and Moreno are outside.” Joe told the others in the apartment. Catherine’s heart thudded, causing Vincent to hesitate. He wanted to stay with her but knew he had to be out on the balcony, hiding against the leafy pot plants, deep in the shadows.
Devin stood behind the bedroom door, a revolver in one hand and Catherine went into her bedroom to climb into bed, taking a revolver with her, while Joe stood behind the main door, also with a revolver in his hand.
The first knowledge Joe had of anyone outside, was first a knock at the door, then when he did not answer, the door handle rattled and he heard hushed whispers from outside. He was not surprised when a slim card was placed in the door jam and wiggled up and down until the catch lifted and the door opened slowly. The apartment was in darkness and Joe sidled back a few feet toward the kitchen, as Moreno and Gabriel entered the apartment and closed the door firmly behind them.
*** *** ***
“Try the bedroom, Moreno.” Gabriel told him. I’ll take a look out on the balcony.”
Joe froze. Would he see Vincent?
Gabriel flung open the balcony doors. Joe watched his every move. This hadn’t been planned to happen this way. Did he suspect anything? Joe wondered.
Vincent watched as Gabriel came out onto the terrace and pulled a small remote control out of his pocket that he took across to the wall, with the intention of signalling to his men below. But Vincent felt a chance as good as this may never come again, he had Gabriel right where he wanted him, unsuspecting, unknowing, and seemingly unarmed.
Raising his mighty arm, Vincent brought his claws down hard on Gabriel’s back, ripping through cloth and flesh, before Gabriel had time to react. The remote control slipped from his fingers, to land on the wall, as Gabriel turned towards his attacker, pulling out his gun as he did so. Vincent saw the glint of the revolver and struck it, watching as it flew out of Gabriel’s hand and out over the balcony wall to the street below. His other clawed hand struck Gabriel’s chest, and Vincent was repelled as it opened up before his eyes, and blood pumped out. Vincent watched as Gabriel looked down at his body appalled to see his own beating heart through the gaping hole, where once his chest had been. His shocked eyes were bulging and took in Vincent’s appearance/ He gasped with disbelief when he saw who standing there. He had truly believed that Vincent was dead. A growl sounded from Vincent’s throat as the sinister eyes scrutinised him then with another almighty swipe of his clawed hand Vincent sent the whole of Gabriel’s body reeling over the balcony wall, to gather speed and splatter onto the street eighteen floors below. He watched as car doors opened and slammed and heard the running of feet and many shouts as people gathered around Gabriel’s torn and motionless body.
Within the apartment John Moreno had watched the scene with horror. Never had he seen anything like Vincent in his life, and terror overtook him. The little spot of urine that had escaped at his home, soon spilled over to become a pool that soaked his trousers and ran down his legs into his shoes. He turned to run, but his feet were immobilised and a cry of terror bubbled from his throat and stuck there. His eyes bulged with fear as he saw Vincent turn and look at him and he heard a long slow growl rising up from deep inside the ferocious beast.
Moreno stepped back, searching his gun belt for his gun, and finding it clasped the handle with relief but before he could pull it out from the holder, he felt another gun in his back, and yet another against his temple. “Drop it, John,” he heard Joe’s voice and relaxed slightly. “Drop it.”
Another growl from Vincent had the gun falling from his fingers and Devin bent to pick it up, frisking Moreno from behind. Moreno’s eyes never left Vincent. “Don’t let it get me, Joe.” He whispered in fear.
“I should do, for what you did to Cathy.” He told him.
“Why do you say that? What has that thing got to do with Cathy?”
“He’s her partner, the father of her child. And boy is he mad with you.”
John Moreno stared at Vincent unable to believe what he had just been told. That was Catherine Chandlers partner? That! What on earth was it? Was it even a man? It looked like something from the twilight zone. Vincent growled as Moreno stared at him and Moreno was sickened by the stench of his own sweat.
Suddenly the door burst open and some of Gabriel’s men led by Snow rushed inside and opened fire, catching Joe in the back. He fell, Vincent roared, raised his arm to strike Snow who ducked and Vincent struck Moreno full across the face. Moreno put up a hand, felt the side of his face flapping beneath it and vomited, while Devin swung around and fired indiscriminately at the men coming in through the doorway. At the same moment the bedroom door opened and Catherine pumped her own shots into those that had entered. There were scuffles and shouts and gunshot, but over and above all those sounds, there was a ferocious roar that in itself proved mightier than the gun, as those of Gabriel’s men remaining fled out into the corridor and down the stairs, their faces full of fear. They would never forget what they had seen back there.
By the time Diana arrived with some loyal members of the police force Catherine and Vincent had gone and the trail of carnage that met her eyes sickened yet gladdened her. Gabriel’s body still lay on the street below and news had travelled fast through the grapevine of his death. Within minutes of the news empires had crumpled and others that had been held down rose up again. And though Gabriel’s enemies had been in awe of him not one of them wept at his passing. In fact there was great joy in the city that night.
Inside the apartment, John Moreno’s body lay mauled and bloodied and Snow’s body was slumped over one of Catherine’s dainty sofa’s with a bullet through his head, while other bodies lay round about.
“Whose apartment is this, Miss. Bennett? One of the police officers wanted to know.
“It used to belong to Catherine Chandler. Gabriel kidnapped her and had her killed.”
“I don’t understand, so where’s the connection?”
“Miss. Chandler had a book that Gabriel wanted to get his hands on, seems to me that someone else had the same idea and beat him to it and they met here tonight for a shoot out.”
“Call this a shoot out, looks to me like someone let a lion loose in here. There sure are some strange things happening in this city, Miss Bennett.”
“Tell me about it?” She replied, sighing with relief that he had accepted her story. Everything had gone better than planned. Gabriel was dead, Snow was dead, Moreno was dead, there was no one left to connect Catherine, Joe or Devin to the crime. No one that would come forward that was. Gabriel’s henchmen would slip away as if they never existed fear making that so. Not one of them would ever want to encounter Vincent again.
So it would just go down as another of those gangster verses gangster crimes, unsolved and soon forgotten.
Yet everyone gave a sigh of relief that the man at the top had got what was coming to him and they knew there would be a lot of people dancing in the street that night.
Once he explained that Gabriel had kidnapped the child he had taken from the hospital to reunite with its parents, Peter’s name was cleared. Though as a matter of privacy and confidentiality, he would not say whom the frantic parents were.
*** *** ***
Hospital staff were still curious about the blood samples but Peter explained that to the doctor quite matter-of-factly. “It was that mad man Gabriel. So intent was he to disguise the child, that he transfused the blood with that from a cat, just in case you recognised the blood sample as being that of the missing child.”
The doctor shook his head in disbelief, “The thing was, Dr Alcott apart from the strange blood, we couldn’t find anything wrong with the child, so Gabriel needn’t have brought him to us in the first place. It was lucky you happened to spot him and the child. I’m so sorry about all this. I will dispel the rumours about you at once, even if I have to speak to every single member of staff in this hospital myself.”
Peter thanked him “I’d appreciate that. It has worried me such a lot that my reputation was in ruins. But you have to understand that until Gabriel got what was coming to him I had to remain in hiding.”
The doctor understood. “Yes, life should be a lot more peaceful around here, now he is no longer pulling strings. Do you know though, until that night he brought in the baby, he was just a name to me, mind you a pretty forceful name, one of those names you love to hate.”
Peter agreed. “Yes, we’re going to see a lot of changes. Good changes mind you in this city now he is no longer in control.”
“Until the next mad man rises, Dr. Alcott. There’s always got to be someone hasn’t there?”
“Regretfully, yes but that’s life, I guess. Still it will take time for anyone new to establish that kind of power again. If only the people weren’t so gullible and in need of money what a better world it would be.” Peter replied ruefully..
The doctor replied sadly. “Yes its a darn shame when the whole system becomes corrupt isn’t it? Usually whenever money is at stake. Can’t live with the stuff and we can’t live without it.” He shook his head, clasping Peter’s hands as they reached the outer door. “Well, Peter, we’ll see you soon huh? Thanks for dropping by.”
Peter bade him goodbye and headed for the car park, relief spreading through him like ripples on a pond.
Father cradled the child in his arms, it had become one of the highlights of his day, to be entrusted with looking after his grandson, while Vincent and Catherine took their nightly walk through the park, very often meeting Joe and Diana up there. The baby slept now, oblivious to all the turmoil that had taken place around his short life so far. One day he would be told, but not till he was grown, and then hopefully he would never have to experience anything quite so evil again. Father shuddered when he thought back to how close they had come to losing Catherine. She was fully recovered now, and Vincent too, only Joe had difficulty walking, perhaps always would, where the bullet had splintered one of the vertebrae in his back, causing the nerves to set off an ache in his left leg that never seemed to go away. Father could identify with that pain, and knew that it would never get any better. Any injury like that never did. Still since Joe and Diana had started dating regularly Joe didn’t seem to find time for worrying about aches and pains and had put all the trauma firmly behind him. In fact, they all had, and Father found it truly remarkable that the agonised days of Catherine’s disappearance, the suffering that Vincent had undergone, and everything that had taken place at the apartment was never more discussed as if it had never happened.
He did not suspect that was how the four of them wanted it, so as not to worry him further. For night after night, they did little else but talk about the many things that had taken place, until they could finally get all the wickedness that was Gabriel out of their system.
That particular evening Joe walked arm in arm with Diana, and Catherine was tucked beneath the folds of Vincent’s cloak as the four of them walked beneath the moonlight discussing the past few weeks. Joe told them, “Of course, you do realise, Cathy that as far as the world is concerned you are dead now, don’t you?”
“Not so much the world, darling,” Diana corrected him. “But certainly to New York.”
Catherine nodded. “Just as well I will be changing my name then isn’t it? No one will suspect when I turn up as Mrs Wells.” She felt Vincent’s arm tighten approvingly around her.
“You two getting married!” Joe could not believe his ears.
“But of course, and you are both invited.”
“Hey that’s great, Radcliffe, I am delighted for you. Truly I am.”
“Have you a date in mind?” Diana asked excitedly.
Catherine looked up into Vincent’s eyes and when he smiled her heart thudded madly with love for him, “We have to discuss it with Father first.” Vincent told them, “But hopefully it will not be too many days after this. I hope you can both be there. We owe you so much.”
“I already feel more than repaid, just by your naming the baby Jacob Joseph. I was stunned when I heard you say it, simply stunned.” Joe grinned happily.
“And pleased as punch too,” Diana shook his arm. “Go on admit it?”
Joe grinned. “Well maybe just a little.”
“Huh,” Diana said disbelievingly. Vincent and Catherine laughed out loud.
Reaching the soft amber glow of the tunnel entrance they bade one another good night promising to meet again the following evening after dark, and as Catherine and Vincent watched them retreat into the darkness. Catherine hugged Vincent close her eyes looking deeply into his. “You know, Vincent, the one thing that kept going over and over in my head when they held me captive all those months, was the very words of that poem by Dylan Thomas, the one that you had kept reciting those days when you were unwell. Do you remember?”
“How could I forget.” Vincent nodded. “Besides, they also echoed in my head night after night as I searched the streets for you. Nothing seemed to be more poignant at that time then those few words, for they held a ring of truth then that kept my faith alive.”
“And that truth, Vincent, was the truth of our love. Gabriel could separate us, could take my life but he could not erase our love, Vincent. Not ever. And that’s what gave me strength day after day when I was forced to be without you. Nothing could destroy what we are to one another nor our love. And when the bond was lost to me, it connected to our child. The bond is very precious to me, Vincent. Since knowing you, I have been thankful for it so many times.”
Vincent drew her close, kissing the top of her head, “As have I. Though you were lost to me, Catherine our love was not. I felt it even through the emptiness, even through the despair as the days dragged into weeks and then months the fact of our love gave me the strength to endure.”
Catherine nodded, pulling his head down to hers, to brush feather light kisses on his lips. “Though lovers be lost,” she murmured tenderly.
“Love shall not.” Vincent answered her, sighing softly.
“And you know, Vincent, they could even take away my life and separate us by death, but our love for one another is so strong that not even death could sever it. That knowledge in itself comforted me.”
“Our love is forever, Catherine, forever.” His blue eyes sparkled.
Catherine sighed, they had been through so much, undergone such pain, but had survived it all. The future stretched ahead with promise and she was happier now than she had ever been in all of her life. They had each other, they had their child, and their Bond had returned to its rightful place within their hearts. Resting her head against Vincent’s chest and hearing the gentle thud of his heart, Catherine smiled. The knowledge was clear, nothing would ever separate them again not even death, for their love was to time indefinite, even forever...
‘and death shall have no dominion.”
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