A Brazilian Adventure for Devin, Catherine and Elliot.
“He held the electric torch before him and peered
cautiously into the darkened opening.
Everywhere came the glint of precious gold,
lapis lazuli, emeralds and precious stones,
untouched for over 3000 years.
“What do you see?” asked Carnarvon.
“Wonders beyond my dreams...”
(From an account of the opening of
Tutankhamon’s Royal Tomb, 1908)
Far beneath the streets of New York City one of the finest events that the tunnel dwellers had ever seen was about to begin and in the years gone by there’d been some, but this, this was different. It was the culmination of a dream, and the realisation of it filled everyone’s heart to bursting.
‘Every raindrop that touches your face is blessed
Father with his hair freshly trimmed and in his new black suit with white ruffled shirt looked splendid as he stood before his son dressed in stunning attire especially purchased for the occasion. Both waited with a growing sense of excitement for the bride to make her appearance at the other end of the aisle.
And Devin, Father’s older son was standing there at the groom’s side, a smile playing around his mouth as he cracked jokes in an attempt to put the groom at ease, while looking equally as splendid in his own black suit, white shirt and blue silk tie.
Suddenly there was a hushed silence as the doors to the Great Hall were opened inward and two young girls appeared dressed in beautiful pink satin gowns fit for princesses and they were scattering multicoloured rose petals in their wake. Behind them on the arm of her GP and long time friend came Catherine. She held onto Peter’s arm with a lace gloved hand bedecked with tiny studs in mother of pearl that matched the highlights of her ivory gown and together twinkled in glorious array from the light of a hundred candles positioned around the hall.
At the far end of the aisle her eyes caught Vincent’s and Catherine could not prevent a gasp as she took in his magnificence. Dressed in the darkest emerald corduroy trousers with knee-high brown boots and white ruffled shirt peeking beneath a new brown jerkin, Catherine didn’t think she had ever seen her man look so handsome. His hair was the colour of sun ripened barley and it shone and fell in soft waves over his shoulders to the middle of his back, like a golden halo that only emphasised the beauty of the man. But it was his eyes that outshone all his other features. His eyes, blue as lapis lazuli, that caught Catherine’s breath away and the look of love they held for her, his bride to be physically melted beneath his adoring gaze.
Peter steadied Catherine as her step faltered and smiled down at her tenderly, encouraging her with a wink to slowly take one step at a time until she’d regained her even breathing.
Yet she was unable to tear her eyes from Vincent’s and she hardly noticed Peter’s encouraging smile or the gentle squeeze of his fingers against hers. All she was aware of was Vincent, her beloved soon-to-be husband waiting just ahead of her, his blue eyes beckoning her to his side with every step that she took.
As she finally reached that wonderful place, a quick stolen look at Father showed her that his own blue eyes were wet with tears. And as Peter released her arm for Vincent to take up, Catherine felt a ripple pass from him to her as the Bond throbbed with a life of all its own.
Vincent’s luminous eyes spoke volumes. “I love you,” they told her and to Vincent those words didn’t seem nearly enough, for in Catherine all his dreams had come true. That this beautiful courageous woman could fall in love with him and then take him in marriage was beyond all of his wildest dreams and Vincent had to keep pinching himself to know that it was real.
Father cleared his throat, and tearing their eyes away from each other Vincent and Catherine looked toward him.
“If you are ready?” He whispered tenderly.
Both Vincent and Catherine nodded, and listened as Father first addressed their guests.
“Friends, family, we come here today to witness the culmination of a dream. The marriage of Vincent and Catherine and I know that you are all eager to wish them well, but please may I insist that we have absolute quiet during the ceremony.”
Apart from the sound that came from beyond the great doors where the wind whispered between the cracks, everywhere else was silent.
With arms clasped tightly everyone focused upon the scene and even the tiniest child seemed to hold its breath.
Turning to his son Father smiled tenderly, tears be-dimming his eyes and several fell onto the opened prayer book in his hands.
“My son, do you take Catherine Caroline Chandler to be your lawful wedded wife so far as the laws permit you in our world?”
Vincent gazed with adoring eyes down at his bride. Her emerald eyes were dancing beacons of joy.
“I do.” He whispered huskily.
“And Catherine, do you take my son Vincent Jordan Wells as your lawful wedded husband so far as the laws permit you in our world?” Father smiled anticipating her reaction.
A small gasp escaped Catherine, she had not known that Vincent had a middle name. “I do.” She spoke tenderly, smiling up at her love.
“Then in the eyes of God and your friends assembled may you read both the verses you have written for one another. Vincent?” Father nodded toward his son.
Holding her tiny hands gently in his large ones Vincent faced Catherine and spoke the words of his heart.
Would that my hands could be as soft -
Brushing your hair, touching your cheeks,
Glistening on your eyelids like unshed tears.
No dewdrop sleeping on an early morning rose
Could know such beauty as I see in you.
Truly I am blessed.
Raindrops and dewdrops can only reflect heaven
But I hold it in my arms each time I hold you.’
Hushed whispers flew among the sea of guests as Vincent lifted one of Catherine’s gloved hands and held it for long moments to his lips, as Catherine used her other hand to brush away an errant tear. Then everyone held their breath as with a tremor in her voice Catherine replied;
‘You have given me everything Vincent, everything -
Your gentleness, your strength
And all that you are
But I need you to trust me, to trust yourself,
So that we may pass through your fears,
Lest they become a chasm we can never cross.
Let me take you to the darkest places of your soul,
Let me show you the beauty of everything you are.
There is no darkness in you
Nothing I will ever fear.
So walk this path with me,
Let our souls become one,
My heart aches for your love,
My soul yearns for your touch,
I love you so much
More than life itself,
More than you will ever know.’
For long moments their eyes met and held, Vincent’s filling with tears of deep emotion. Father coughed just slightly, enough to draw their attention back to him, and Mouse stepped forth along with the Master who had conducted Lin and Henry’s wedding many years before. He was there to bless the marriage and he now took over from Father.
Taking their hands within his the Master bound them with a satin sash, before asking that Mouse deposit the rings upon his prayer book. For Mouse this was a grand privilege and one he had been entrusted by Vincent to deliver without mishap despite the fact that the job was usually entrusted to the best man. Mouse’s face was ecstatic with joy and it lit many other faces at the sight of his happiness.
At the Master’s nod, Vincent picked Catherine’s ring up and took her left hand in his, slipping the ring over the third finger as he recited from memory. “With this ring I wed you, with my love I cherish you, within our dream I enfold you, my Catherine I am yours.”
Catherine watched through a blur of tears as Vincent’s trembling hand placed the ring upon her finger, and before he had a chance to withdraw his hand, Catherine lifted it to her lips and kissed each fingertip in turn. A gasp of delight spun through the crowd and more breaths were held as Catherine took up the second ring from the Master’s prayer book. And still with his left hand held in hers, Catherine eased the golden band over his third finger, accompanied by the words, “With this ring I wed you, with my love I adore you, within my arms I enfold you, my darling Vincent, I am yours.”
Vincent and Catherine choked back the tears of joy threatening to spill down their cheeks, and behind the Master Father’s face beamed, wiping away tears that he allowed to fall freely now. Besides, as he looked around the Great Hall he could see that he wasn’t alone in this, for everyone was dabbing at their eyes.
The Master prepared for the final part of the ceremony, holding the sash binding their hands in his own he then blessed their marriage, concluding with words Vincent and Catherine never thought to hear for them.
“Vincent and Catherine, may I pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride Vincent.”
For long moments Vincent just stared as Catherine smiled tremulously up at him and then slowly he brought his head down to capture her lips in sweet surrender, much to the joy of their friends around about who almost lifted the roof with their cheering. Suddenly people surged forward, a sea of faces old and new, were wishing a happy life to the newlywed couple.
*** *** ***
A little later and while the congratulations were under way Father and Peter had their heads together. They were plotting something Vincent could tell but his attention was soon diverted as someone else came to pat him on the back and offer him their best wishes.
Peter and Father were indeed plotting something. In fact something that had been planned for some time without either Vincent or Catherine’s knowledge. Peter was giving up his entire home for the weekend so that the newlyweds might have somewhere to stay in private to be totally alone together.
“Is everything ready Peter? I thought you were dropping the keys off earlier?” Father asked him a trifle concerned.
“There was one or two hiccups Jacob, don’t fret, everything is waiting for them now.”
“Hiccups such as?” Father’s concern deepened.
“A telegram arrived for Catherine at her office. Joe Maxwell telephoned and asked me to collect it from him. I had to make a mad dash and go over there to collect it.”
“Is it bad news or good news?” There was a sick feeling beginning to build in the pit of Father’s stomach.
“I haven’t read it. It’s none of my business.” Peter didn’t seem to notice Father’s unease.
“Do you have it on you, or have you already given it to Cathy?”
“No it’s in my pocket. And burning a hole there I might add, but I wasn’t going to let anything halt this wedding, as if anything could. Look at them, would you ever have thought it eh? When I delivered Catherine into this world and prior to that when you called me here that winter night to see Vincent for the first time how could I possibly have known that one day I would be bringing one to the other on their wedding day?”
Father nodded his anxiety appeased for the moment, “Strange isn’t it? I thwarted their love for so long Peter. I should have saved myself the ulcer it gave me worrying about them. It was like trying to hold back the hands of time. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a happier occasion in all my life.”
“Me neither.” Peter dabbed at his eyes for the hundredth time that morning.
They continued to watch Catherine and Vincent moving arm in arm through the crowds, until after a while they saw the couple making their way toward them.
“This is it then, are you going to hand them the keys first or the telegram?” Father asked Peter anxiously.
“It’s probably just a well-wisher Jacob. I told you not to worry.”
“I have to do. So few of Catherine’s friends know about today, even Joe Maxwell is sworn to secrecy believing Catherine is marrying some guy from the witness protection programme. Anyone that would know would have sent the telegram to her apartment surely?” Father scratched his chin thoughtfully; somehow the telegram’s deliverance rankled in his mind, as breathless Catherine reached their side. “Thank you Peter,” she bestowed a kiss on his cheek, “For giving me away today.”
“You’re welcome Cathy. It was a pleasure. You looked so beautiful in your mother’s dress. Your parents would be proud of you today I think. Now we have something for the two of you. A surprise.” Peter held up the keys to his house.
“What’s this?” Catherine asked with interest.
“The keys to my house. I’m loaning it to you both for the weekend. As far as the outside world is concerned the downstairs windows are shuttered due to refurbishing, so no one will look in at you. And upstairs there are blinds to draw if you so wish, but I can tell you the upstairs receives a great deal of sunlight and I’m certain Vincent would like that.” Peter looked toward Vincent and was satisfied by the look of delight upon the younger man’s face.
“The cupboards are filled with everything you will need. There is wine in the cellar, and the freezer is full. You may use any one of the bedrooms that you choose. All the beds have fresh linen, and the central heating is on, though you can if you wish curl up in front of a log fire, which is also stocked and ready for lighting. And just in case anything should go wrong, you don’t need me to tell you that my basement has access to the tunnels.”
Catherine hugged her long time friend, a man who had become her GP and her father all in one go. Thank you seemed so inadequate so Catherine just hugged him tighter and tighter expressing how his gift had made her feel. Vincent felt like hugging him too, and did so, placing his arm around the older man’s shoulders and speaking his thanks over and over. Peter blushed but deep inside was immensely happy to have delighted them so.
“Oh I almost forgot. Cathy dear, this telegram was delivered to your office this morning. Joe asked me to bring it to you.” Peter watched her closely. He wanted nothing more than to withhold whatever the message bore, but he had no right to do that, but for a reason he could not put his finger on, handing the telegram to Catherine suddenly made him shiver, as if someone had just walked over his grave.
Catherine opened the fold of paper with inquisitive fingers, her eyes dancing with delight, believing as did Peter that it was from some well-wisher but when he saw the colour drain from her face, Peter wished he had read and destroyed the damn thing after all.
“What is it Catherine?” Vincent could feel her distress.
“Elliot Burch?” Father asked, while under his breath he added, ‘now what?’
“What does he say?” Peter asked. Elliot once a rival for Catherine’s affections as far as Vincent was concerned had in fact become a loyal friend, one to whom Vincent owed his life twice over. And was one of the few people Above that weren’t a helper that knew about the tunnels and had met Vincent himself.
“He doesn’t say anything. It’s not directly from Elliot and I don’t get it. I spoke with Elliot earlier this morning. He telephoned the apartment to say he was in South America and that he wouldn’t get back in time for the wedding. He’s developing a resort and there were problems with his work force, something about building on sacred land. Yet this telegram says that a plane Elliot was travelling in has gone down over the Atlantic and it has disappeared without trace about five miles from New York. That’s impossible, he couldn’t be in two places at once.” Catherine frowned drawing her brows together.
“Perhaps he had a sudden change of heart and was trying to get to the wedding after all?” Father suggested.
“No he couldn’t have. It’s too far and besides the timing’s wrong. He telephoned me around six o’clock this morning from Brazil and this report says his plane went down approximately five miles from New York at eight thirty-seven. It would be impossible. This isn’t right. Besides which, you know that gut feeling that tells you there is more to it than meets the eye?” Everyone nodded gravely; “Well I’ve got it.”
“That’s the lawyer coming out in you my dear. Suspicious minds and all that.” Peter joked.
“Nonetheless, I wish there was something that I could do.”
“There is.” Everyone looked at Vincent who had spoken. “You could go out there. To Brazil, to see for yourself if there is more to this than the telegram presents.”
“But Vincent you two have just got married. You can’t seriously expect Catherine to leave you so soon?” Father exclaimed. Catherine remained silent, but Vincent was right, she did want to go and check this out. But Father saw it differently. Elliot and Vincent had battled for her long enough and now that Vincent had won, how could Catherine go running to Elliot’s aid at the drop of a hat? What would that tell her husband? With Vincent’s constant insecurities what would such an act do to their marriage?
“I’ll look into it Cathy. I’ll check the bulletins, if this telegram is for real then the news will be full of it, and perhaps he was on that plane, as sorry as I am to suggest it.” Peter told her gently, rubbing her arm.
Catherine shook her head, “No he’s alive I know it. Don’t ask me how but I do. And he needs help I know that too. And you know what makes all this so damn tragic?” Each of the three men looked at her as they waited for her answer knowing already that it would make them unhappy, “If I don’t do anything about it, then no one else will, for everyone else will believe that he’s dead. And if it’s left too long then that will be the truth of it. Vincent’s right, I have to go out there, and I have to go now, before it is too late for him.” Her eyes said it all, sorrow, grief, wretchedness. Father and Peter were dismayed, but Vincent understood, and drawing her into his arms he kissed her brow, “I owe him my life Catherine, if I could go with you I would. But in spirit I’m with you always. Know that. Go with care and go with courage my love and return home to me safe and sound.”
Catherine nodded, wiping away a flood of blinding tears, and pulled away from his arms leaving him already desolate without her before it became impossible for her to leave him at all.
*** *** ***
There wasn’t anything he could do but wait, and as he lay upon his large bed inside his chamber Vincent opened the Bond fully that he shared with Catherine, feeding upon her emotions. They told him of her distress and unhappiness at having to leave him so soon after their marriage.
Devin wandered in and out of the chamber trying to make sense of it all, trying his best not to show how he truly felt while at the same time trying to cheer his brother up. “Brazil’s not far away Vincent and Cathy is good at her job, she’ll soon suss out the situation and be back here before you know it, you’ll see.”
Vincent said nothing. In truth he wished everyone would leave him alone.
The Bond wasn’t something he could explain. It was enough that Catherine shared it and understood a little of its power, and left alone he could be with her, in mind and spirit if not in body.
Brazil might not be far, but to him anything out of New York was far enough. Anywhere he couldn't reach her should she be in trouble was too far away. And besides he couldn’t rid himself of the same gut feeling that Catherine had had. Something was definitely wrong as far as Elliot was concerned.
“Can I get you anything to eat or drink Vin? I’m going to the kitchen.”
“No.” Vincent’s reply was almost inaudible. Devin frowned. If his brother didn’t watch out, the dark one would see his chance and move on in. Devin was worried, as he’d seen that happen before when Vincent’s guard was down.
“You shouldn’t be by yourself Vincent. Won’t you come with me? Everyone feels for you. I’m sure you would be better off mingling with the guests.”
For long moments Vincent stared at Devin with disbelief. It wasn’t like his brother to be so heartless and Vincent knew Devin couldn’t have meant it the way it sounded so he replied, “The guests will only serve to remind me of Catherine’s absence. I wish only to be left alone.”
Devin nodded, “Does that include me?”
“Yes. Devin I’m sorry. Please don’t be offended. I appreciate your concern, but Catherine and I share a Bond, a connection. And at this moment in time I know exactly where she is and how she’s feeling. If I lie here and concentrate I can be with her every step of the way. I can almost imagine that she hasn’t left here at all.”
Devin couldn’t really appreciate a connection like that, but it sounded wonderful nonetheless.
“Then I’ll leave you in peace brother and tell everyone to do likewise, though no doubt you will have a few callers checking up on you.”
“Thank you Devin.” Vincent closed his lids over intense blue eyes that swam with unshed tears. It was as much as he could do not to break down. For all his bravery, Catherine was not with him and he was worried about the task she had set before herself.
Devin’s parting question stunned him awake, “Where is she now, do you know?”
“She’s at the apartment, packing a few things, arranging her flight.”
“Oh.” There was a pause and then, “Vincent?”
“Would you feel happier if I went with her?”
Vincent struggled to sit up; “You’d do that?” His heart lifted and filled with a sudden flare of hope.
“Of course. I’ve never been to Brazil, but I’ve heard it has some wonderful cultures. In fact it has everything. I really don’t mind going and if you think I could help?”
“You must hurry. Catherine is preparing to leave. There is a telephone box in the park. Call her, stall her, have her make another reservation on the flight. Yes Devin go with her, keep her safe, and bring her home to me.”
“It’s already done Vincent. See you when I see you then.” Devin left at a run, his heart pounding, hoping he could catch Catherine before she left.
Vincent resumed his position much relieved and winged his love to Catherine beseeching her to wait. Help was on its way.
*** *** ***
Catherine was just closing her apartment door and heading for the elevator, when she felt Vincent probing the Bond in a way that she recognised to halt her. She stilled to listen checking her watch. There was still time and she stepped back inside her apartment and waited for she knew not what.
If help was on its way, it wouldn’t be Vincent, because it was still daylight outside, but perhaps there had been a new development, though she had had the television on the whole time she was getting ready, and hadn’t heard anything new.
While she waited she flicked on the set again. Periodic news flashes between programs showed a wreckage of an aeroplane floating upon the waves of the Atlantic. It had been one of her worst fears to be in a plane crash over an ocean. Land crashes were bad enough; there were sometimes survivors, but a crash over an ocean not so. If the crash didn’t kill the passengers the water would, as the sea was so deep. She found that she couldn’t bear the thought of Elliot’s face looking at the seabed through the plane’s windows and knowing that within minutes he would drown.
Suddenly Catherine panicked imagining how that would feel, and a cold sweat broke out on her skin just as the telephone rang. She snatched it up fearfully.
“Its Devin. I’m going with you.”
“I said I’m going with you. Can you call the airline and make an additional reservation? I’ll be at your door in a few minutes.”
“Where are you now?”
“In the park. I’ve packed a few things and have my passport, but can I borrow some cash?”
Catherine laughed, “There’s no need for you to come Devin I can manage.”
“Maybe, and hey I’m not undermining your experience, its just that Vincent seemed relieved when I offered to help you.”
Catherine could understand that. “All right, but hurry, the plane leaves within the hour.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
True to his word, Devin raced through the elevator doors at precisely ten minutes later. Catherine was waiting for him, the door to her apartment open. “There wasn’t another seat available on that flight Devin. I got you on the next one; it leaves in three hours. You can stay here until you need to leave.”
Devin frowned, “Why don’t we both go on the next one?”
Catherine laughed, “Maddening isn’t it? Same reason, there was only one place left on that one too. The first one out of here with two seats available is tomorrow morning.”
“That would give you time to spend the night with Vincent.” He told her solemnly.
Catherine sighed “You think I’m wrong don’t you?” she asked him gravely, “You believe I shouldn’t be going at all?”
“The thought did cross my mind.”
“Oh come on Devin. You, Father, Peter and probably everyone else think the same. Only Vincent understands how it is and he more than any of you has the right to be annoyed.”
“Vincent is Vincent. He’s made sacrifices all his life, put others needs ahead of his own. He would never ask you to stay. You share a connection Catherine, remember? He obviously knew how desperate you were to go, or he wouldn’t have insisted that you should. The rest of us might not share that connection but we know enough from it to see how badly you wanted to do this and that in itself speaks volumes.”
“What are you saying? That I didn’t want to be with Vincent, tonight of all nights?”
“Perhaps you didn’t. I know you love him, but Vincent is different. His needs and his strength alone could unnerve someone if they were suddenly to consider what they were letting themselves in for. Maybe subconsciously this problem has given you more time to come to terms with that?”
Catherine was furious, “How dare you! If that’s the way you think of me, best we do go alone. In fact best be that you don’t hinder me with your observations at all and stay behind.”
The two glared at one another. Devin wasn’t about to back down, he’d spoken his mind and nothing she said could alter how he felt.
“I’m coming with you if only for Vincent’s peace of mind.”
“Why? So you can report back to him if you suspect that Elliot and I may have planned this? Grow up Devin!” Catherine slung her bag over her shoulder and tugged her hold-all behind, “Lock the door when you leave.” She fumed.
“Wait!” Catherine hurried on. Devin ran after her, “Wait Cathy. It’s not that way at all. I’m coming with you because Vincent feels happier about that and because I might be able to help, but definitely not to spy on you. I don’t think you married my brother and intend an affair with another guy. What do you take me for?” His face showed genuine hurt.
Catherine sighed, “All right I accept that, but it’s what everyone else thinks, right? Vincent knows how it is, was, with Elliot and I. He’s always had a hang up about the guy. I’m not saying that he expects me to have planned this, or that Elliot might have either, but I am concerned that he will start to presume all the wrong things by it. If there were a way to stay and go I’d do it. This night was special to me too you know. It’s the culmination of a dream not just as far as the marriage. I’ve wanted your brother for a very long time you know.” She smiled coyly.
Devin nodded. “I still think you need to put your priorities right Cathy. What exactly do you suppose has happened to Elliot Burch that means you must make a mad dash to help him?”
“If I knew that Devin I’d let Joe handle it.”
“Then why don’t you anyway? It’s not as if he has other responsibilities.”
“Like I do you mean? I can’t make you understand can I? Look Devin there are a lot of people in this city that would look upon this as just another guy getting what’s coming to him. But I know Elliot, Vincent knows Elliot, and he’s not the tough guy he makes out to be. He’s as vulnerable as the rest of us and…”
She couldn’t go any further as Devin butted in, “And you’re in love with the guy.” He stated flatly. Catherine glared at him. “I am not! Once maybe, but that was a very long time ago. I love Vincent, and Vincent only.”
“That’s not how it looks from where I stand. You’re telling me that Joe Maxwell wouldn’t be as thorough in his investigations as you would? You think about this from my viewpoint Cathy. You’ve just married my brother. He’s insecure enough as it is. He has had a hang up about Elliot Burch you said so yourself. And you leave him on a night that he has probably worried about for long enough and just when he has decided he could go through with it you up and leave him! Its wrong Cathy, and you know it is.” Devin fumed.
“I know nothing of the sort!” They were shouting now, incensed with one another. “Now you see it from my point of view. Vincent understands how it is. Elliot has saved Vincent’s life twice before, three times if you count Elliot halting the work on the tower. If I were to stay another day Vincent would know I had done it purely for selfish reasons. How would that affect Vincent to know I stayed purely for the gratification of sex while someone else’s life was at risk? How could we hope to justify the need for each other’s bodies while another person needs help? What if we were to find out that Elliot had died while we were making love, how do you think that would affect our relationship?” Catherine took a deep breath, calming herself before continuing, “Devin I want Vincent so much, but when I give myself to him I want him to know that there is nothing else clouding my thinking, that I am his, mind, body and soul. Surely you can understand that?” Her words had softened towards the end and Devin did understand.
“Yes I can see what you are saying. It’s just that I can’t justify the need for you having to go. Joe Maxwell as I said…” this time Catherine butted in, “hates Elliot Burch.” Devin gaped open mouthed at her.
“He does Devin and for exactly the same reasons as Vincent once did. Not that Vincent’s feelings were so deep, but Joe has held a torch for me over the years too.”
“I don’t get it Cathy.”
“I work with Joe, I dated Elliot, at one time fell head over heels with Elliot. Joe is jealous of that fact, and even though Joe knows I’m getting married this day, he isn’t aware of who I’m marrying, you know that. If I should telephone Joe and insist that he fly out to Brazil on a hunch that Elliot Burch might in trouble, how is that going to look upon my wedding day? He will think the same as you despite the fact that I’m marrying another guy today, He’ll conclude that I still have intense feelings for Elliot to care so much. And to Joe that means hope. If I can still care for Elliot then I can’t care as much for the guy I’m marrying, and that in turn leaves an opening for Joe again.” She paused allowing that to sink in before adding, “Joe is a good friend but it’s saddened me how he has held a torch for me these past three years. Only when he knew all was lost at my wedding announcement did he relinquish all hope of having his chance. I can’t set him back now. It’s taken him weeks to get over the fact of losing me for all time to another. He’s begun to move on. Just last week he started dating a woman and I’m happy for him. I know all that sounds a weak excuse but you can’t possibly hope to understand if you aren’t willing to try.”
Devin nodded, understanding just, “It is complicated. And it’s valid, but it’s not sound enough to be convincing. You say Elliot saved Vincent’s life, but aren’t they equal. Didn’t Vincent save his life too?”
“We aren’t talking equality Devin. We are talking about someone’s life, and wasting time arguing about this is getting us nowhere except for the possibility of making me miss my plane. I’m going Devin and that’s final. Whatever you think, whatever you say, you aren’t stopping me. Now if you want to come, the details of your reservation are by the telephone. Adios amigo maybe I’ll see you there.”
“I’ll be there Cathy. I promised Vincent. At least one of us won’t let him down.”
Catherine expelled a long exasperated sigh, “Have it as you wish Devin. See you.”
*** *** ***
Devin thought about sending Vincent a message to say he’d be on a later flight from Cathy, but he didn’t want his brother being any more concerned than he already was. Brazil was a big country and Vincent would worry that he and Catherine would miss one another in the time it took the two planes to land.
Better that he let Vincent believe they would be travelling together and he’d not let his wife out of his sight so he sent a message informing his brother that he would be with Catherine. It was right in effect. He would be with her eventually, so he had no qualms about the little white lie. In time he would be with Vincent’s wife.
Wife. It had an unusual ring to it when attached to Vincent. Who would have believed it? Not only that Vincent had actually got married at all but that his wife was one of the most beautiful women Devin had ever seen. He was happy for his brother, but still he grieved for him, still believing that Catherine’s reasons for helping Elliot Burch so soon were ungrounded. There had to be more to it. He knew if his newly wedded wife were to go charging off to aid the life of an old flame he would be suspicious. And he knew Vincent. Despite his brother’s gallant show of understanding, did he really not mind? Would he not wonder and worry about his wife’s insistence to help someone she pledged she had no feelings for except those of a friend? Devin couldn’t imagine so. Vincent would be worried. He had to be. Vincent wouldn’t be Vincent if he didn’t.
*** *** ***
Beneath the city streets Vincent wandered aimlessly through the tunnels. Devin’s message had relieved him, but he couldn’t get it out of his head that something awful was going to happen. And besides any of that the fact that Elliot Burch had pipped him at the post at the last.
*** *** ***
He might have just married Catherine, but at that moment which of the two had her attention?
He knew he couldn’t have expected Catherine to stay, but it peeved him just a little that she had gone so readily.
Was it only hours earlier that he had been the happiest man alive? Did he imagine that she had floated toward him, a vision of satin and lace and had stood at his side to become his wife? Had he imagined the happiness he had felt flowing from her or her anticipation of their night ahead?
He had given Peter back his keys. They would not need them now. And that was another thing. The gift had been thrown back in Peter’s face. And as much as Peter had wanted to understand Catherine’s leaving like that, Vincent knew that for the life of him Peter couldn’t do so. Even Father had seemed disgusted.
In fact everyone that he knew had been heartbroken for him. Not one of them had shown any concern over the welfare of Elliot Burch.
Vincent knew he couldn’t blame Catherine, but it rankled that she had been compelled to go, today of all days. Her going had marred the special occasion and it would always stand between them.
He didn’t pay any attention as to where he walked, so he was surprised when his feet led him to the Great Hall where the festivities had fizzled out hours earlier. No one it had seemed had been in the frame of mind to let it continue after Catherine had left. The warmth had gone out of the occasion so when Vincent pushed open the great heavy doors he was surprised to find some people had lingered.
Peter was still there. Mary and Jamie were taking down the flowers and the ribbons, and Mouse was sweeping up the petals that had been showered before Catherine as she had walked up the makeshift aisle.
It all seemed a dream now.
All eyes turned to him as he entered with their eyes wary. It was not unlike Vincent to trash the place. A sudden fury would rise up out of nowhere and he could at any moment sweep the last vestiges of the occasion away as if trying to clear it from his very mind itself.
Mary took a few tentative steps towards him but Peter stilled her progress with a hand to her arm. He too had seen the look that had passed over Vincent’s face. In that frame of mind, one sweep of the younger man’s arm would send Mary reeling before he’d even realised. But Vincent’s temper relented and he slumped down instead into the nearest chair and let the threatened tears fall. Mary pulled away from Peter’s grasp then and hurried to his side, leaning over him to enfold him to her breast. “Let it come Vincent. Let it come, don’t feel ashamed for your tears. Let us cry them with you.” She rocked him, much the same as she had done a thousand times throughout his childhood, and on many other occasions since when things had been too much for him. Especially the occasion with Lisa and then after Catherine had come into his life. More so during the dreadful time when Catherine had been held hostage by some madman who had believed Catherine was pregnant with Vincent’s child. She hadn’t of been but he would not believe that, and had held her for months, and Vincent had been unable to locate her while the connection Catherine had shared with him had been temporarily broken after one of Vincent’s fevers.
It had been Elliot that had come to their aid. Elliot who had taken a bullet intended for Vincent, and Elliot who had reunited Vincent with his Catherine. Mary knew they had a lot to thank Elliot for, but why today of all days?
Vincent clung to her, his tears falling more and more steadily as via the connection he could feel Catherine going further and further away from him. She’d be on the plane now but her heart was heavy and she was as distressed as he was.
Pulling back from Mary’s embrace he told her softly, “Thank you Mary, but I think I will go to my chamber now. I can feel Catherine through the connection and Devin is with her so I can rest as regards to her safety.”
“Devin is with her?” Father who had just entered caught the last few words from his son.
Vincent nodded, “He offered to go.”
Father let out a long sigh of relief, “Thank God for that. That makes me a whole lot happier.”
Vincent stared at him misinterpreting. Father saw the look; “I mean it. I know Devin has his faults but just knowing he’s with Cathy makes me feel a whole lot better.”
“I agree.” Peter told them. “We all know that Cathy thinks she is indestructible and takes far too many chances. At least having someone to hold her back will be an asset.”
“As long as Devin doesn’t allow himself to get caught up in the excitement and go along with her.” Vincent spoke up. Everyone looked to him.
“Such pessimism. Why can’t you be positive for once in your life?” Father chuckled attempting a lighter side of things but he was glad to see that Vincent was smiling.
“You know, did anyone think of contacting Elliot Burch at his hotel in Brazil? Maybe he was all right? Maybe he wasn’t on that plane. Maybe he missed the plane, or made a reservation he couldn’t keep. A simple phone call would have told us that.” Mary asked suddenly.
All heads turned to her mouths agape.
“Surely Catherine…” Father attempted. Peter took it up, “Yes she would have, I’m certain of it. She would have tried that, wouldn’t she?”
Vincent looked from one to the other of them his heart hammering. None of it made any sense. If he were to go along with their train of thought it would be stupid. Catherine always checked her facts, and if on this one occasion she didn’t then why wouldn’t she? Did she after all, use the reason of Elliot’s supposed death to get her out of the night ahead?
Vincent thought back to the days preceding their marriage. Had she shown any indication that she wanted out?
“What are you thinking?” Mary asked looking from Father to Peter in turn.
“I’m not sure that I want to think anything.” Father told her as his glance settling upon the top of Vincent’s head, his eyes seeming to be saying, ‘not here anyway’. But Vincent had had enough. He rose to his feet in one fluid movement shaking his arm free of Mary where she hadn’t relinquished her hold on him. “Catherine has gone to help a friend - can’t any of you see that? If she didn’t call first, if that’s out of character then perhaps that’s because she had other things on her mind, another person on her mind. Me! She married me not Elliot Burch. Me! And she is coming back home to me. I know it here.”
He pointed to the region of his heart, “Catherine loves me, and she will return!” His temper flared at them and his eyes filled with fury before he turned on his heels and run out of the Great Hall. His heart was hammering in his chest, his mind racing. ‘She will return to me, she will!’ he told himself over and over. Yet even as his mind insisted, his heart was full of doubts.
Her heart was really not in it, as Catherine waited for her flight in the departure lounge of the airport for the things that Devin had said perturbed her far more than she cared to admit. Would it really seem to everyone that she had feelings for Elliot Burch, even though she had denied this on more than one occasion?
At first she felt furious that people would assume this, that they would believe her callous enough to marry Vincent yet still be in love with Elliot. Yet as her temper calmed, she began to see everything logically for what it was.
How would she feel if the shoe were on the other foot? If Vincent had left her on her own on their wedding night telling her that he was the only person suitable for the job. As this thought came to mind, Catherine gasped and held a hand to her mouth, aware that the sound had turned the attention of others toward her. Had their roles of been reversed, Catherine knew that she would have concluded that Vincent was only making good his escape because he could not face being with her, tonight of all nights. Was he thinking that of her? Did he believe deep down inside that she had made good her own escape rather than spend the night with him? Once the seed was set it flourished, and Catherine could not get it out of her mind that the possibility of Vincent believing these things was probably so. She knew him, she knew the way his mind worked, and right now he would be feeling pretty much insecure about her headlong flight to the aid of an old flame.
Devin had been right, oh not that she had deliberately done the things he had accused her of, but definitely in the way it had appeared to him and to the others was correct.
Catherine felt wretched, and torn. And it took a lot of soul searching before she could face the future consequences of her actions.
If she went on with her plan to find Elliot she would forever after regret leaving Vincent tonight of all nights, and it would always stand between them as a bitter memory of their wedding day. And if she were to have spent the night with Vincent first and then have gone to Brazil, it would have been as she told Devin, putting sex before the life of another. But then what exactly did Elliot mean to her anyway? Was a headlong flight to assist him really justified? And was it really down to her that she alone helped him? Joe mightn’t have gone, or shown the same willingness to go, but there would have been someone. Someone from Elliot’s own workforce perhaps. Why did she have to go? What was so special about her, Catherine Chandler?
Catherine brought herself up sharply…no it wasn’t Catherine Chandler anymore, she was Catherine Wells now. Well in name anyway. Certainly until she and her husband had consummated their marriage she had no right to using the new name. That thought brought about an additional burden, as she looked at her watch and knew that as of this moment in time, she and Vincent would have reached the true culmination of their dream, and that thought brought the tears flowing down her cheeks.
In a moment of panic Catherine rose from her seat and hurried toward the nearest exit, knowing only that she couldn’t go to Brazil and leave Vincent behind.
At the door a stewardess coming on duty smiled at her, “Is everything all right?” The woman asked concerned.
Catherine smiled at her, “I shouldn’t be here.” She told the stewardess, “I need to go home.”
The stewardess smiled, for any number of reasons, many people get cold feet, “You’re first flight?” She queried, “I promise you, you have no need to worry, travelling by car holds a higher risk than flying.” She smiled hoping to ease the anxiety she saw flicker for one moment in Catherine’s eyes.
“It’s not that.” Catherine told her wishing the woman wouldn’t bar her exit, “I’ve flown before many times, it’s just that I can’t go on this trip.”
“Oh.” The stewardess was temporarily without words, and stood aside to let Catherine pass, but suddenly as an after thought called to her, “Have you cancelled your seat?”
Catherine stopped dead, and whirled to face the stewardess, “No. No I haven’t. Could you do it for me? Here take the tickets.” Catherine handing the tickets over appeared flustered, as if for a moment she was undecided about something and looked at her watch. It was growing late; most of the tunnel dwellers would be in bed by now.
“There’s still time if you want to change your mind again.” The stewardess took the tickets, but held them back out to Catherine again, watching her wonderingly. Maybe the woman would make the flight after all and resolve her problems before the flight was due to leave, but shaking her head vigorously Catherine refused them.
“Is there something I can do?” A firm male voice spoke to her left.
Catherine whirled to face him. She did not know him and had never seen him before. “Pardon me?” she asked.
“I just wondered.” He replied looking flustered all of a sudden, “I mean.” He hesitated, and nodded in the stewardess’s direction. That nod seemed to say, ‘its all right I’ll handle things from here’, before he turned his whole attention back to Catherine. “Pardon me for butting in, but I’ve seen it all before you see.” He took her arm at the elbow and steered her back to her seat. A little flustered, Catherine allowed him to lead her there. For long moments she stared at him, half of her itching to get up and run to the taxi rank the other half wondering what on earth had just happened, why she was back in her seat, and who the hell did this guy think he was!
He smiled down at her humouring her she thought, and Catherine made to stand, “If you’ll excuse me I have a taxi to catch.”
“I thought it was a plane.” He told her grinning, pushing her firmly but gently back to her seat, with a hand to her shoulder. “Its all right, I’m not going to bite you. You’re Catherine Chandler aren’t you?”
“How do you…” she hesitated, suddenly nervous, how did he know her name?
“We’ve met before. Oh not for many a year, but I never forget a face, especially a beautiful one.” He told her sincerely.
Catherine rose again, her annoyance plain to see.
“Please.” He grasped her hand; “Wait let me explain. Have you got a minute? I’d really like to speak with you.”
Put like that Catherine was curious, and she sat down again. “What is it?” She drew up her sleeve to check her watch; he noticed the blatant attempt to have him let her go.
“I won’t keep you long. Its just that I owe your father so much, and I never got to tell him so. I just wanted a chance to thank you for the help that he gave to me. Somehow it feels better than not being able to tell him personally.”
Catherine nodded, and tears welled in her eyes. She understood this much. There were things she would have loved to tell her father but now after his death that were impossible.
“I won’t go into the tale, but believe me thanks to Charles, my life is now a full and happy one. If I might be permitted to shake your hand, it would be enough.”
Catherine nodded, holding out her left hand, for her purse was secured firmly in her right, and they shook hands warmly.
“Is that a wedding ring?” The gentleman asked her as she drew her hand away and made to stand again, “I had no idea you were married. I never read anything about it. So whose the lucky guy?” His brown eyes laughed up at her, as he slowly rose to her level.
Catherine looked down at the bright gold band with adoration in her eyes, “Yes” she whispered, but refrained from saying when or whom she had married.
“So it wasn’t Burch then?” He asked her grinning from ear to ear.
At the mention of Elliot’s name, Catherine’s face crumpled.
“What is it, what have I said?” The gentleman asked her concerned.
“That’s what I was doing here.” Catherine told him, “I was sent a telegram earlier today that Mr Burch’s plane had gone down in the ocean off of New York.”
The man stared at her, not understanding at all, “Then why are you going to Brazil?”
“It’s a long story.” Catherine wasn’t prepared to give away any details, especially not to a complete stranger, no matter how much he thought of her father.
“And what does your husband think of this?” he asked, surprising Catherine that he should indeed ever ask such a question.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, don’t get me wrong, but I assume that your flight to Brazil has something to do with Mr Burch, and he’s an old flame right, and you have recently married and…”
“Whoa! Whoa!” Catherine cried out, “How come you know so much? What gives you the right to assume that I am recently married?”
He looked sheepish at that. “Guess I goofed huh?” He smiled apologetically. “I guess something tells you that I haven’t been entirely honest with you?”
Despite herself Catherine smiled, but again she checked her watch. “I’m sorry Mr…er…”
“Stuart, Gary Stuart.”
“Mr Stuart, but I really have no time to pursue this line of conversation. I shan’t be going to Brazil after all, and I really am in a hurry.”
He shrugged, and for a moment Catherine felt disappointed. Disappointed that he was letting her go without his usual fight. In fact he didn’t seem as if he wanted to stall her at all any longer. It bothered her, but only slightly. She didn’t know him and after today was unlikely ever to see him again, and she had things to do, a life to get on with, and checking her watch for the umpteenth time, Catherine knew that she wanted to start it now.
“I have to go.” She told him, “Goodbye.” Hurrying away, she was suddenly surprised when he caught her up.
‘What now?’ she quietly fumed.
“Do you have a problem, can I help?”
“No, there’s nothing you can do.” Catherine told him eager to be off again “I just shouldn’t be going on this flight. Its okay really, don’t worry, I’m just going home.” Under her breath she exasperated, would he ever let her go?
“Will you be taking another flight to Brazil?” He asked her trying not to sound as though it mattered whether she did or not.
“Maybe, I don’t know, it depends on many things. Why?” For the life of her, she didn’t know why she should ask, but suddenly curiosity had kicked in. Just who was this guy anyway, that he should ask her so many questions?
He shrugged, “I noticed when you checked in that you were going to Belo Horizonte.”
“Yeah so?” Catherine was becoming more and more curious.
“Isn’t that near the area where Mr Burch was working?”
Something inside Catherine snapped, “And what the hell has it to do with you!” She cried in a hoarse whisper, averting her eyes to the other passengers awaiting the flight, and not wanting to make a scene.
“Nothing.” He backed away shielding himself with hands raised, “Nothing at all.” But he could not prevent a tiny grin from spreading. So that was it! Catherine was furious. “How dare you!” she snapped, “Blackmail! Is that what this is?”
He shrugged, caught red handed there was nothing to say, yes there was, there was everything to say, “Well you can’t blame a guy for trying. You’ve recently married a guy and obviously not Elliot Burch or the papers would have been full of it. And here you are charging off to Brazil to the exact same place as he is, and having all these misgivings, and… and I might add twisting your wedding ring nervously around and around your finger like you have something to worry about. So what is a guy to conclude?” He shrugged his shoulders watching her face keenly.
“Not what you are thinking!” Catherine fumed. She had never felt so angry.
He shrugged again, “I believe you, thousands wouldn’t.”
Catherine glared at him, her chest rising and falling rapidly; showing the suppressed anger that she tried to contain.
“Well would they?” he remarked dryly, “Just see it from my point of view. And know that while your father saved my life from ruin, he also charged me dearly for it. I’m happy yes, but thanks to his fee, I’m flat broke, so you see a little blackmail might have paid off.” He lied.
“Why you...”Catherine raised a hand to strike him, but aware of the scene that she had already made public, she lowered it again, “Just get away from me!” Tearing her arm from his grasp where he had started to hold onto her again, Catherine marched away from him almost at a run. He wouldn’t catch up with her this time, he wouldn’t.
Without looking back at any time, Catherine started to run, and run and run, faster and faster, suddenly blinded by her tears. Not so much for what had just taken place, but because deep down inside she knew that it had just taken a perfect stranger to make her realise that the things that Devin had accused her of were well and truly justified.
*** *** ***
Peter was still quietly fuming when the telephone rang, and he was of two minds when he heard Catherine’s voice. One to ball her out and one to ask if she’d had a safe journey - for the moment not realising that she wouldn’t have had time to arrive in Brazil, the other to ask if she were okay.
“Peter I didn’t go.” Catherine told him after telling him who it was.
Her words flummoxed Peter, and he was silent waiting for her to continue.
“Did you hear me Peter? I didn’t go. I couldn’t.”
Peter found his voice then and couldn’t help snapping, “Felt guilty did you? Well its Vincent I feel sorry for, not you or Elliot Burch.”
“I agree” Catherine smiled into the phone.
It was the last thing Peter had expected her to say, and his defences melted. He gasped.
“Its true.” Catherine told him, “You are right, that’s why I’m not going to pursue this silly notion. That’s why I’m coming straight back to Vincent tonight.”
A sigh of relief issued from Peter that rendered him weak, “Thank God. But what of Burch?”
Catherine sighed, thoroughly exasperated with the whole affair, “Why me Peter? Why do I have to come to his aid? Oh I know Vincent and I owe him our lives for more than one occasion, but how many workers does Elliot have? Surely one of those can come to his aid now?”
“That’s the most sensible thing you have ever said regarding helping that man Cathy. It’s a pity you didn’t realise this earlier but better late than never. Would you like me to get word to Vincent of your impending return?”
They both laughed as thoughts of Vincent going to his doom on her return filled their minds, “If you would please.” Catherine replied, and Peter could picture her at that very moment. Her eyes would be as dancing lights on emeralds.
“Consider it done.”
“How was he Peter, when you left?” Peter detected the sadness in Catherine’s voice.
“As well as could be expected.”
“That bad huh?” Catherine sighed, “I’ll make it up to him, make him forget.”
Peter smiled, “Yes, perhaps in the long run he’ll appreciate the fact that you left. I get the impression that the gift of your return will be all the more greater than if you had stayed?”
Catherine chuckled, visualising the moment of her return and the night ahead, but said nothing.
“I’ll get word to him at once Catherine. When will you get back? Will you come to my house as planned.”
“About eleven, and yes thank you Peter.”
“Then have a safe journey Cathy. Be well.”
“Be Well Peter and bless you.”
Peter smiled into the phone before hanging up, then reaching for his pen and notepad he issued a sigh of relief as he began writing out a message to be taken to Vincent.
*** *** ***
To arrive at the airport early, and find that there had been a cancellation on the flight that Catherine had booked herself on enabling him to fly with her after all. Devin looked around the cabin eagerly searching for sight of her as the aeroplane took to the skies.
He hadn’t seen her on boarding, but with over three hundred people on board that was unlikely. Now though, now they had reached altitude and the seat belt light had gone out, Devin unfastened his, and excusing himself past the other passengers sat in his row of seats, he set about looking for her.
The seats were such that he could not see anyone’s head until he actually looked round at them. And focused as he was on looking for someone with Catherine’s coloured hair, his ears were quite open to wisps of conversation around him. So when he heard Catherine’s name mentioned, Devin’s ears pricked up like a German Shepherd’s and he froze in his tracks in the isle just behind the seat where the conversation was taking place.
“Did you have any problems?”
“With Chandler? Nah. She won’t trouble us.”
“Quite sure. Seems the little lady got herself recently married. She won’t bother with Burch now.”
“How can you be so certain, she came this far didn’t she? She booked a flight. Cathy Chandler is good at her job; too good for her own safety at times, if she starts thinking on this again, no doubt she’ll come. Say what you grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat for?”
“A little blackmail goes a long way my friend.” Laughter erupted.
“What did you do?”
“Just reminded the little lady of her reputation. You know what it is, being married to one guy and then hurrying over to Brazil to aid an old flame. She’ll not mess with this, don’t worry, no one will find Mr Burch until its too late.”
From his position no more than a foot away, Devin stifled a gasp. Catherine had been right. Elliot Burch was in trouble, and now that she had decided not to help him Devin knew it was down to him.
He didn’t think they knew who he was, but he couldn’t be certain, and so he reluctantly went back to his own seat, but for the rest of the journey he stayed awake. His idea, to watch every movement either of the two men made. And every time that one or the other of them got up to stretch his legs or use the toilet, Devin imprinted their features in his minds eye, so that he would recognise them anywhere from that moment on.
*** *** ***
Short, dumpy and exceedingly dirty, Leo de Azevedo poured over the many maps littered over the table in front of him, dragging one grubby finger over them, “Here, and here.” He spoke in his native tongue and looked up at the man of similar build standing opposite.
Pedro Funari nodded in acquiescence. He knew exactly the area Leo had in mind. “And what of the man?” He asked, not really caring whether the fellow lived or died, but knowing enough that this was the only person that could hinder the development of their plans.
Leo shrugged, “He’s of little consequence. Don’t worry, no one will find him.”
“Isn’t that murder?” Pedro was mildly interested now.
“Manslaughter maybe. They’d have to prove it, and after all who knows he’s there?”
“He might find the way out.” A third man, taller than the others, slighter of build and reasonably good looking in a rugged kind of way, came into the picture having listened to his colleagues without interruption, “and then again…” his words trailed away followed by a hint of laughter, “he may not.”
“It doesn’t matter if he does Pepe’, by that time the gems will be removed and we’ll be long gone. Burch cannot travel far without water, and those dry mines go for miles.”
“Help was on its way. I heard from Stuart earlier, there was a woman, a lawyer, she was on her way out here, but Stuart seems to have put her off. Let’s hope she keeps well away.”
“If not, you have my permission to see that she ends up in the same place as Burch.”
Pepe’’ shook his head, “Sorry, you know me, getting rid of the guy is one thing, but mishandling a lady is quite another. I’ll leave little Miss Chandler to you two.”
“That her name?”
“Se. And she once had some kind of relationship with Burch, although Stuart says she has recently married.”
“An old flame then.” Pedro grunted, “might be interesting for the two of them to be down there alone. They can draw comfort from one another, not to mention warmth.” He laughed sinisterly.
“I don’t know how you can be so cool about this. Surely there was some other way. You didn’t have to try and kill the guy.” The conversation grieved Pepe’’.
“Who’s talking about killing him?” Leo butted in. “There is a way out of there.”
“If he finds it, and if he can do so before he runs out of water. Don’t be an idiot man you know the way it is down there. Burch would die before he’d find the way out, and that’s the way of it.”
“Enough of this. Burch is the least of our worries now, as well as a woman that might never arrive. It is this that concerns us now.” Leo pointed back to the map, “There isn’t a lot of time and you know it, we have to get down there before the rains come.”
“And that’s another thing,” Pepe’’ was reluctant to dismiss Elliot Burch’s demise as easily as his colleagues had been, “What about Burch if the rains should flood the mine.”
Leo shrugged, and Pedro laughed as Leo told Pepe’’, “If that happens, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about where to find water.”
Nausea rose in the pit of Pepe’s belly, his two colleagues were talking about the life of an innocent man and Pepe’ couldn’t stomach their wickedness. “If you have finished with me, I’d like to get back to the mine.” He told the two men.
“Leo shrugged, “As you must. I think we have just about finished up here. Pedro?” He looked to the other guy and Pedro nodded. “Se Pepe’’ you can go. We’ll meet again on site, eh?”
Pepe’ nodded, and exited as quickly as possible, finding the atmosphere in the room distasteful.
When he had gone Leo turned to Pedro, “I think our friend might cause us some problems. See that he doesn’t.”
“And if he does?” Pedro asked, idly flicking out dirt from beneath his nails with a long slim knife. Without blinking Leo stared Pedro straight in the eye, “If he does, then he can keep Burch company.”
*** *** ***
Keeping track of two men on an aeroplane was one thing, but hoping to keep them in sight in a busy airport was quite another, and Devin found that his best laid plans went to pot as far as hoping to follow the two men were concerned.
Outside in the warm sunshine, suitcase in hand Devin scanned the busy streets and hoped for a miracle. He found one. Nearby a newspaper stand gave him the exact information he required, Elliot Burch’s tourist development in the mining district of Ouro Preto was widely acclaimed.
A short bus ride from Belo Horizonte soon found him at his destination and disembarking from the bus into Ouro Preto, Devin felt as if he had stepped back in time. The capital, Brasilia, he knew, was a city with no past, a city where modern buildings were rated above those of historic significance but here then in Ouro Preto was the history, for as long as it lasted. If one turned a blind eye to the development that was so obviously taking place all around one could picture Brazil as it must once have looked the country over.
His battered suitcase tucked firmly now under one arm, Devin tried not to look like a tourist as he walked along the cobblestone streets that meandered around churches and row houses lining the surrounding hills, his eyes looking everywhere at once. There was so much to see, that it was difficult to take it all in.
This was a place Devin knew he could settle in, steeped in history yet vying for a place in Brazil’s modernisation Ouro Preto captured Devin’s heart.
A rugged picturesque country with houses of red tiled roofs that bedecked the high valleys between the hills and the churches that gleamed in their splendour of gold topped cupolas that captured the sun.
This colonial town made rich by the gold rush of the late seventeenth and early eighteen centuries filled Devin with adventure as he noticed the gold that still seeped up from beneath the soil all around him.
Little wonder that Elliot Burch had foreseen Ouro Preto as a great tourist attraction for get - rich quick gold hunters and historians alike.
Picking up a leaflet from a stand outside one of the churches, Devin was easily impressed by Ouro Preto’s history.
The banderantes had grown in numbers from frontier settlements in Sao’ Paulo. Many of them outlaws, these men of mixed Tupi Indian and European blood made good money by searching the backwoods for Indian slaves. Then in 1690 one such banderante by the name of Manuel de Borba Gato and himself an exiled murderer discovered gold in the soil of Rio das Velhas. That discovery led to fortune seekers arriving in Brazil from all over the world.
Smuggling became rife when the Portuguese monarch Dom Joao’ V issued a twenty-percent tax on all mined gold and the people resisted the royal tax. This in turn brought about the formation of the revolutionary Inconfidencia Mineira. Made up of intellectuals and led by a dentist or ‘tooth-puller’ as he was then known, by the name of Tiradentes, the Inconfidencia angered by the crown’s taxation and inspired by the French and American Revolution, attempted its own form of independent republic.
Resembling a bill of rights, they drew up a Declaracao which also included freedom of speech and religion, but in trying to inspire the people of Ouro Preto the plot was uncovered, the revolutionaries imprisoned and Tirandentes executed.
Losing himself in the history of yesteryear Devin found a convenient granite wall to sit upon for long moments to imagine what life must have been like back in 1788. His attention was caught by a sign that had upon it the same words featured upon the leaflet in his hand, and curious, Devin jumped off the wall, picked up his suitcase once more and followed the cobblestone street down to the main square.
Here he went up the steps into the Museu da Confidentencia a museum that held the bill of rights imprisoned inside a small black book, and also the barbaric tools of Tiradentes dentistry as well as a room of granite slabs fashioned like tombstones.
Back outside in the sunshine, the scent of Pap de Queijo a bread made more from cheese than flour reminded Devin that it had been a long time since he had last eaten. Looking around for somewhere to eat, another museum beckoned but it was a nearby church that won his favour and Devin decided to explore one more building before satisfying his stomach.
Pushing open the door Devin gasped at the sight that met his eyes. Huge ornate candlesticks made him think temporarily of life in the tunnels beneath New York City but there the similarity ended.
These candlesticks flanked tabernacles of silver and gold, and upon the walls and the ceiling stretched huge paintings depicting biblical scenes. The walls too were covered with gold painted grapevines backed by pale blue.
Awe-struck, Devin found words popping into his head, ‘Oh yes, Mr Burch, you certainly know how to pick ‘em.’ For Devin could see that Elliot Burch’s development at Ouro Preto would have become as much a gold mine for the modern day man as it had for its ancestry.
Back outside in the sunlight Devin’s stomach reminded him furiously that he needed food inside him and soon, and he followed the scent of the cheesy bread until it led him to a small bar littered with cane chairs along the edge of the cobblestone streets.
Ordering his meal and some beer to follow it down, Devin was stunned to see two familiar men enter the bar and could not believe his good fortune as he recognised them to be the two men he had seen on the plane. One glanced at him, mildly interested, but it was not unusual to meet people from the same flight converging upon Ouro Preto, so they paid him scant interest. Devin though strained his ears over the soft hum of ever-present music to listen to them talking.
Chewing slowly so as not to drown out the sound of their voices Devin tried to seem occupied with the leaflet in front of him so as not to draw undue attention to himself.
They were seated three tables to one side of him, and he could only catch odd words as the bar filled and unfilled with people enticed by the scent of the freshly baked Pap de Queijo went in and out of the bar. But the little he did catch was of profound interest.
“So what did De-Vereyard say when you called him?”
“He was mildly interested, you know Pepe’, once I told him I had put the woman off he lost interest."
“You don’t think Chandler will pose any problems?”
“Not now. She has her reputation to consider besides what could she do?”
He paused as he thought of something else. “And where would she begin? And why would she not believe the telegram I sent her?”
“Exactly, that’s what got me worried. Any normal person would have believed it. The bulletins believed it for God sake, so why not this woman? I’ll tell you shall I, that woman has a nose for trouble, not to mention a thing with old Burchy.”
“No, you’re wrong. Once maybe but not for several years now. Still though I know that they have kept in touch, but that’s just one of those business things.”
“Then why may I ask was she on her way out here?”
“Tying up lose ends maybe. Look I don’t know, and it’s all circumstantial anyway. If she comes she comes, if she doesn’t she doesn’t, either way Pedro will handle it, it’ll have nothing to do with us. Besides…”
A sudden bustle from a group of tourists trying to speak the lingo with the aid of a language book prevented Devin from hearing the last part of the conversation, but he felt he had heard enough.
*** *** ***
Catherine’s thwarted attempt at preventing her from arriving in Brazil had been a blessing in disguise. Whatever the two men had said to her had obviously worked, and it would be both in her and Vincent’s interests if he, Devin, sent a further telegram of his arrival in Brazil and made Catherine believe that he could handle things alone. No one would suspect his involvement and as he followed the two men back out into the sunshine and set about following them once again, Devin was filled with optimism that his deception of being just another ordinary tourist would be a sufficient disguise.
Crossing the lonely red clay road that led from Belo Horizone to Ouro Preto Pepe’ De-Vereyard walked deep in thought.
Well aware of how things stood if Elliot Burch were to discover the fortune that lay now beneath his feet, Pepe’ could understand why his colleagues Pedro and Leo had thrown Mr Burch into the old mine shaft. But for the life of him Pepe’ couldn’t understand how any one could be so callous. They knew as well as he that at this time of year those tunnels were hot and clammy and water supply was limited, yet they did not appear to show any consideration to that fact. What had Mr Burch done to them anyway, that they should treat him so terribly?
A few short weeks ago, Leo was ecstatic that Mr Burch was developing the town into a resort. A resort that would bring more jobs to the town and a livelihood that matched other parts of developing Brazil.
Had it not of been for the fact that he at least had a conscience then Mr Burch would have been dead days ago. For every day Pepe’ had taken it upon himself to serve Mr Burch with fresh water and a basket of Pap le Queijo in the hope that keeping the fellow’s strength up he would eventually find a way out of his dungeon. But Pepe’ also knew that in so doing, he was retaining Mr Burch in the same area awaiting his next hand out.
“Why don’t you go.” Pepe’ asked the air, as he neared the road leading to the top of the mine where Elliot had been pushed, “Why don’t you do as I did and find your way out?”
There was no answer to his questions and Pepe’ expected none. It was one thing to be thrown into a mineshaft when you knew what you were up against, it was another to be thrown into a dungeon where you were unaware that a way out existed.
“Just follow the bats.” Pepe’ told the air, “Use your brain man. Where do you think the bats feed? In the tunnels?” Pepe’ thought Mr Burch must be quite a stupid man if after three days down the mine- shaft he was still in the same place awaiting food and water to be dropped down to him. “What does he think I am? His jailer?” But no matter what Pepe’ thought about the entire situation his heart troubled him. The rains would soon arrive and then Mr Burch’s chances of survival would grow exceedingly thin. He’d have plenty of water true, but the weight of water would crumble the all ready unsteady mine and his escape route, that he seemed unaware of, would be blocked. And yet Pepe’ feared that to make Mr Burch aware of the way out would bring ostracism upon his head when Leo and Pedro were to discover what he had done.
Oh why oh why did the gems have to be discovered on the very same day that the contract for the sale had been signed? After exhausting the mine of its iron ore, why did it have to be that a random dig had revealed a quantity of topaz that was worth a fortune? Usually the amount of cuttable gemstone in any one area was very small. And this had been a mine for iron ore for God’s sake, why did topaz have to be discovered there?
For years they had mined that area, all that had come from it was iron ore and copper a few deposits of gold a little silver, but never any gems. So why on the very day that the contracts were exchanged had topaz been discovered inside it? Was it an omen perhaps? Leo and Pedro certainly believed it to be so. Pedro’s family had been against the sale of the mine from the start. Oh development of the town was tempting, so too was the idea of the resort that Elliot Burch had planned to build, but that shaft had been in the family for generations, and had they really exhausted its entire supply? Could it be that more materials could be waiting to be harvested further down? Surely if conditions were right then the supply should be endless? These were the arguments with which Pedro had been faced, but to which he had turned a deaf ear. Panning gold and mining iron ore was a thing of the past. Let the earth keep its resources, for a greater, faster fortune could be achieved through the development of a resort.
Pepe’ kicked at a stone as he ambled along. He’d seen gem stone mines, they could be as small as a normal sized living room. The conditions that allowed them to grow took time and those conditions could be very restricted, resulting in any area found presenting gemstone to be very small indeed.
No matter how rapidly demand for such stones developed, Pepe’ knew that the rate of developing gems was slow and fixed. It was not something to be hurried, but that too led to the fact that the demand for any discovery would be all the greater.
This mine, this one in question, where the topaz had been discovered had been under threat for years. A dwindling supply of iron ore and copper had produced only one thing, a family growing poorer day by day, an area that should have revealed unspoilt beauty lay open and gaping with the evidence of mining everywhere.
That was no life. A hoped for fortune that came only to the few, while the rest lived on dreams. Well dreams did not feed a belly, did not clothe a child, and did not build an empire, but a resort could. It would bring tourism and trade and it would bring jobs to the many, and just a few short weeks ago the occupants of Ouro Preto had rejoiced to find that a rich American had been interested in buying the land. And then suddenly three families, partners in the mining of iron ore were faced with the sickening reality that the mine beneath their recently sold land was suddenly worth a fortune in gemstones. And that there was only one quick and sure-fire way to harvest the topaz before Mr Burch learned of its discovery and reaped the benefits himself, and that was to disappear the man. Except Pepe’ couldn’t do it. Not that way. Perhaps if they had just shot the man. Perhaps if they just slit his throat one dark and stormy night, perhaps then he could have accepted it, but to push him down a mineshaft, well that was wrong. It meant a slow and tortuous death especially if the man had been injured as Pepe’ had once been.
Swaying slightly now, Pepe’ leaned against a granite wall to take deep breaths. Not a day went by that he did not remember the all-consuming darkness of being trapped in tunnels. He shivered. Not many years ago, he laughed who was he kidding? - Not many years ago huh - Pepe’ knew exactly how much time had lapsed since that dreadful time. He knew to the day - no to the hour and the shivering grew worse as Pepe’ put himself in Mr Burch’s present position.
Three years ago, three years, two months, nine days and seventeen hours ago Pepe’ had fallen into a mineshaft, that very same mine shaft. What irony huh? And for five days he had wandered in total all-consuming darkness with a broken foot seeking the way out. But it was his knowledge of the tunnels that had aided his escape from the living death. It was his knowledge from years of working the mine that had seen him safely through the labyrinth of tunnels, even though his throat cried out for water and the pain in his foot was excruciating. It had only been five days, but at the time it had seemed like five months. Dragging a broken limb over the craggy terrain, hands in front, walking through a darkness so thick that it blanketed his skin, and calling upon all his senses to lead him to freedom had almost sent him mad. And finally toward the end of that fifth day Pepe’ had found himself at his desired destination, having negotiated a labyrinth of tunnels by going ever forward and never turning away from the straight run.
There ahead of him he had seen a tiny pinprick of light, signifying life, and hope and freedom, and Pepe’ would never ever forget the feeling of joy that that sight had brought to him.
After five days he had reached his destination. He had arrived at the mine beneath Minas de Passagem knowing that here in the old mine he would find his freedom.
For this mine had become a tourist attraction. Once its resources of iron ore, gold, copper and silver had run dry, this mine had been turned into a silver resource of another kind. A money spinner, bringing visitors descending into its pit on a small cart until they reached a level deep underground where bright electric lights lit up the tunnels.
It was this light that Pepe’ had seen both in his minds eye on the five day journey and literally when he had turned the last corner and seen it far ahead of him. And he could still hear the pounding of his heart beat rushing in his ears on the day he had finally seen that tiny pin-prick of light so far ahead.
The light at the end of the tunnel that to Pepe’ would forever after represent his freedom.
Closing his eyes now as thoughts of those days trapped in the tunnels came back to haunt him, as it invariable did when he allowed himself to think about it deeply, Pepe’ felt his body sway and he fell to his knees on the dusty red clay road. For long moments he knelt there winded, eyes closed, mumbling a prayer of thanksgiving for his spared life, yet deep down inside did not believe that prayer to be heard in view of his allowing another to suffer the way that he had done. It was worse for Mr Burch for he did not know the tunnels.
He did not know that the coming and going of bats would signify a way of escape, and he did not know that he was not being kept a prisoner only fed until his release… He did not know that he was meant to die down there in that deep dark pit…and he did not know that people already believed him to be dead…dead in an aeroplane that had crashed into the sea not far off from New York City.
No one would come for him, for no one would expect that he had never left Brazil. People would search, oh yes they would search through a wreckage of a plane that had been auto piloted to drop five miles short of New York city, with the supposed passenger of Elliot Burch on board. They would conclude that the crash had killed him, and his body had sunk to the bottom of the ocean and no one would ever know the truth. But for Pepe’ and a handful of other people who did not care. But Pepe’ was not like them, for he had known how deep the pit was, and how it could send a man mad, and how he would not wish that kind of torture upon his worst enemy.
Grief stricken and still on his knees, Pepe’ groaned loudly, hands to his head wishing he were anywhere on earth at that moment except where he was. And suddenly he was aware that he was not alone as firm hands clutched to his side beneath his arm pits and dragged him to his feet, and a voice foreign yes but decipherable asked if he was all right.
Pepe’ opened his eyes, and blinked for several seconds as he brought himself back to reality and sharp focus of his situation. “I’m sorry, it is all right. For a moment there I don’t know what came over me.” He lied. How could he tell the man whose kindly face with obvious concern, looked down upon him now?
“Did you faint?”
“Faint? No, no I did not faint. Believe me it is all right. It was something, a memory that’s all. It over came me all of a sudden. Please don’t worry. I will be fine now.” But the stranger seemed unwilling to go.
Pepe’ felt firm hands upon his brow and then another grasping his wrist, “Don’t worry I am a doctor.” There was a short sharp laugh, “Well that’s not strictly true. I am a doctor’s son. But believe me I know a bit about first aid and health care, and your erratic heartbeat tells me that you should rest and take some water. Here, drink some of mine.” A bottle was thrust into Pepe’s hands, and he mumbled his thanks, but beckoning to the bag at his side showed that he had some of his own.
“Do you live near here?” He was being questioned again. What was it with the fellow, why couldn’t he just leave him be?
“Yes, near by.”
“Where?” With a hand held to his brow the stranger scanned the area but could see nothing but the ugly sight of mining from times past.
“You can’t see it from here.” Pepe’ told him, “Look you have been very kind, but please be on your way. My wife will soon arrive and she will lead me home.” Pepe’ lied again, desperate to have the man leave. Mr Burch will be hungry and thirsty and it would be dark soon. Pepe’ did not want to stumble above the old mine, lest he fell into it again. The thought of that alone brought the memories rushing back.
“We’ll wait for her together shall we? You should not be alone.”
Something inside Pepe’ snapped. Was it fear, anger, what? He just knew he had to get the supplies to Mr Burch before sun down and this stranger, intentions good he knew was getting in his way. He said the first thing that came into his head. “Please go, leave me. It is my girlfriend that is meeting me, my wife does not know, and if you should escort me to my house my wife will worry about me and escort me everywhere from this time on, and my life will not be my own anymore.”
The stranger listened and detecting the desperation in the man’s tone did not hesitate to believe his story. “Well just make sure that you rest, promise me that.”
“Then I’ll go. So long.”
Pepe’ watched the tall dark-haired stranger move away and when he was safely out of sight, Pepe’ scrambled to his feet and made his way hastily toward the mine-shaft that had become Elliot Burch’s tomb.
*** *** ***
As Catherine approached Peter’s house in the taxi she anticipated the night ahead. Who would arrive there first she or Vincent?
When the taxi turned into the drive Catherine noted that the house was in darkness, but under the circumstances this wasn’t unusual. Peter would know not to leave on any lights that may illuminate Vincent’s presence or arrival. But somehow, even so, even before she had alighted from the vehicle Catherine detected that the house stood silent and empty. Her heightened awareness in the Bond told her that Vincent was not there, in fact if she put away her excitement and anxiety of the last few hours she could see clearly that right at that very moment Vincent was a long way away.
Nevertheless shaking aside the tiny voice of doubt inside, Catherine mused that Peter’s message may not have reached Vincent as yet. So she winged her love to him from the very depths of her heart in expectation of the warming response from him that she had been used to. When all she met was a solid wall of nothingness her heart sank, but still she resolutely pushed the feeling aside.
Paying the taxi driver, Catherine waited while he counted her change and then from the trunk took her luggage and went with her up to the door. “Here will do thanks.” She told him as brightly as she could. He said nothing, just nodded and walked back to his car.
Catherine did not see him leave only heard the crunch of the car tyres on the gravel drive as she pushed the key into the lock and opened the big heavy door. Tugging her bags inside, she shut the door behind her and stood for several long minutes in the inky darkness while searching through the connection she shared with Vincent trying to ascertain why he was blocking her from him. Devin couldn’t have been right surely? Vincent understood didn’t he? Hadn’t he urged her to go? Didn’t he know that Elliot’s life was in danger? That she had to be the one to go to him? Through all of her sound reasoning, the tiny voice kept haunting her and whispering, ‘yes but why today of all days? Why did you leave Vincent, vulnerable as he was, on this night of all nights?
A deep sigh gushed from Catherine and fumbling for the light switch she made her way toward the kitchen.
“Coffee Chandler.” She told herself resolutely. “Coffee and then time to think straight.” The last few hours had seemed like some torrid nightmare ready to snatch away her happiness like so many of the other occasions she and Vincent had planned to spend together and it had all gone horribly wrong. But this night, this precious night was to have been the culmination of their dream. Sitting at the kitchen table and sipping her coffee Catherine allowed her mind to wander over the last few months that led up to this most amazing of days.
*** *** ***
*** *** ***
It had all begun a little under three months ago.
Catherine had returned from work later than usual, irritated at having missed a concert with Vincent, because Joe had ‘insisted’ that she should work late. Sometimes the man could be so infuriating! But she had relented because she had ‘owed him one’ as he had sourly put it when she had arrived in at ten o’clock on more than one occasion during the past week and he had covered for her with Moreno. And Catherine guessed that everything might have been okay. That she might have ridden out the storm raging inside of her at having missed a rare evening with the man that she loved, had it of not been for those damned hormones that plagued a woman near her time of the month.
So sitting out on the balcony alone, a cup of almost cold coffee in her hands, Catherine had felt the tears begin to flow, those damn emotional tears that a woman knew she couldn’t stop simply because it was so.
Coffee forgotten Catherine had lay her head upon her folded arms upon the table, her seat pushed out, her back slumped forward while the hot falling tears scalded her cheeks.
How long she had wadded in self-pity she did not know, how long she had cried out her heart she did not care. It was as if suddenly the dam had busted and everything, all the denials, all the raging unfulfilled desire had suddenly burst out of her in one almighty rush.
She should have realised of course, but she did not, and it wasn’t until she felt a firm yet warm pressure upon her shoulder that she realised with deepest regret that her tears, her anguish had brought Vincent to her side. That the Bond that they shared so deeply would tell him of her distress and he would come to her like a pin to a magnet, or more appropriately in this case, she sniffed, a moth to a flame.
Yes that was it.
Catherine did not turn nor acknowledge his presence behind her, nor seek through the Bond to know his feelings. Instead she contemplated that likeness. He was the moth, she the flame and he dared to go so close as to not get burned. And she the flame beckoned, this way and that way in fluid dance encouraging and watching him come as close as he dared, but always he was that tiny bit distant, always he remained within his realm of safety.
“Catherine?” She did not know how many times he had spoken her name softly on the wings of a breath, but she was certain it had been more than once before the sound pulled her out of her retrospect. In his voice, that simply utterance of her name Catherine heard all his anxiety, felt all of his love, so why couldn’t it just be so? Why could she not respond to his calling her to him, turning and standing on tip toe to brush her soft lips against his? Why did she always have to brace herself as she continually came face to face with his fears, the same fears that he would not confront and pass beyond? Catherine knew that he loved her, but this relationship was going nowhere, and it pained her deeply. It pained them both deeply if truth be known.
His hand upon her shoulder squeezed a little, the firm pressure drawing her around to face him. Vincent longed to gather her to him, to brush away her tears with the pads of his fingers and to taste from them the salty dew with the tip of his tongue.
If only it were simpler. If only he could turn her to face him, pull her up into his arms and kiss away her tears with his lips.
Vincent’s heart was breaking.
He knew not her distress, but something told him that it had something to do with them, with him.
“Catherine?” He could only repeat her name, borne as it was from the depths of his heart where it nestled constantly.
He asked but he dared fear the answer, “Why do you cry? Has something happened at your place of work?” Though he knew that was not so, still he was stunned when instead of her expected reply she buried her face more firmly upon her arms and sobbed even harder.
That hurt. That really hurt. Vincent’s heart was bleeding with the pain and through a blur of tears each one of his hands reached beneath her armpits and pulled her to her feet. She came to him easily, her back held against the lean hardness of him, as if she were a mere rag doll that lacked substance.
There was no fight in her, and Vincent’s heartache consumed him.
Turning her, his hands tangled in her hair he pulled her face close to his chest, kissing the top of her head as she nestled there and with his heart breaking he let her cry.
Catherine did not know how long she stood in the security of his arms but she suddenly felt very foolish. Her tears dried rapidly and she attempted some speech that would not come. Shyly she drew back just a little, daring to look up at him. In that rare unguarded moment what she saw in his eyes accelerated her heartbeat and her movements froze.
There was passion and desire, and there, yes surely there in his eyes, their dream came wonderfully, fantastically true.
He felt her move in his arms, felt her stiffen as her gaze rested upon his face. Through the Bond he felt her heart race and for one moment the need to flee and to hide from her the raw and naked desire he felt whenever he was around her was paramount. But then he relaxed, what did it matter anyway? Wasn’t she aware of how he felt? Of how he really felt? Did he not share the dream with her? In her?
How long must they continue the way? The way that had been set for them? Almost three years now since he had found her that cold and bitter night. The night that had changed his life forever. And he knew that the dreams Catherine harboured were as one with his own, but could it ever be more than a dream? Could it really?
He felt, rather than saw her fingers touch his chin, glide up over the firm planes to touch his cheeks, to feel his tears wet upon her fingertips. He heard her voice, strangled by a sob, “Oh Vincent.” In that one word, in that simple utterance of his name he felt the complete and utter depth of her love for him and he was lost.
In that rarest of moments, a moment snatched out of time, Catherine could not decide whether it was Vincent or that ‘other’ that suddenly held her so fiercely. The firm pinpricks of his claws touched her skin through her satiny pyjamas and while her mind acknowledged the feel of them there, so too did it reel to find the hard length of him pulsating against her thigh. Catherine moaned, unable to help herself. Liquid desire raged through her limbs culminating in the very pit of her femininity and in like manner she sought the heat of his desire. Her arms gathered him close, closer, their bodies fusing as one, out there against the wall of her balcony, everything real and solid and safe against the unreality of what they were feeling, of what they were doing. Of what Vincent was allowing to happen!
Catherine heard him expel a groan. The raspy sound guttural and muffled against her throat. It had to be that ‘other’. Catherine’s heart plummeted. Unwittingly she had unleashed the beast. It was Vincent that she wanted. Vincent that she desired, not this primal beast that knew no boundaries.
She knew he had always matched her need. Yet hadn’t she tamed the beast before, but how could she allow him to take her? If she did what would that do to the man that she loved?
Catherine felt his hands through a haze of misgivings, felt the pads of both thumbs brush against the sensitised peaks of her breasts and a moan expelled from her throat of its own violation. Oh how she wanted him. Did it matter? Did it really matter that he was not in control? Could she lead him, would he follow if she walked toward her bedroom now? Did she dare? Did she have the courage to get that far and see Vincent run when that ‘other’ gave way as he surely must? And what then would become of their dream?
As she sought her answers, Catherine became aware of his lips searching her brow. When had they moved from her throat? She did not know. In her mind’s eye his hot breath had never left that area, and it was not until she raised a hand to the place and touched the sticky substance of her own blood that she realised why the warmth had remained.
Vincent would be appalled! Her heart pounded in her chest and rationally she sought ways to get out of this situation and fast before ‘the other’ hurt her further as Vincent had always insisted that he could. But those claws were now slicing through the fabric at her back and as wetness seeped down her side, Catherine knew that the same were true of her breast. Almost as she had thought it, the cold air of the night touched her bare skin, and she knew that the front of her pyjamas lay in tatters exposing her flesh to him.
Daring to raise her eyes to his face Catherine drew in a startled breath. In the stark light streaming out from her apartment his eyes so usually blue were green with desire encased golden glints within them that mesmerised her.
Standing staring up at him Catherine became aware when he inclined his head toward her. She saw him blink rapidly and felt him eradicate himself from her softness. Horror swept through Catherine, Vincent was coming back, fighting within against that ‘other self’.
If he should see the damage that he had done, if he should ever know, then she will have lost him, forever.
Catherine acted swiftly. Pulling back before he had won the battle, she excused herself, fleeing not into the stark contrast of light from dark, but instead to the confines of her darkened bedroom, where she donned a robe thus quickly hiding her tattered clothing from his sight.
Next her neck. Racing to the bathroom, she closed the door before turning on the light, and hurriedly scrubbed away the telltale sign before leaving the bathroom and reaching for a silk scarf to tie around her throat.
Catherine noticed herself as she passed by the mirror. She couldn’t prevent a tiny little laugh at the sight she presented. “New fashion” she told herself, imagining walking into a function wearing nothing but a bathrobe and a silk scarf, before her flash of fun vanished and she faced the task in hand.
Drawing a deep breath Catherine hurried out onto the balcony, expecting to find him where she had left him. Her heart almost burst from her chest when she found he had gone.
*** *** ***
That was too much, to expect him there, to expect to see him recovering from himself, from that ‘other self’ and then to find him gone was simply too much.
In automation Catherine walked back to her earlier seat at the table, and slumped into it, the oh so recent tears building behind her lashes once more and she let them come. Let them scald her cheeks once again as wave after wave of utter despair raced through her weary limbs.
Again she did not know how much time had lapsed. That the very streets themselves had become silent did not register in her tired brain, nor did a clock chiming three in the morning penetrate her mind. It was instead a sound, brought about by those ghostly chimes, a shuffling that sounded in the furthest reaches of her darkened balcony that brought Catherine’s head up sharply, her eyes searching through the inky blackness to see what it had been that had disturbed her slumber.
As her vision cleared her heart seemed to jump right out of her breast! Vincent! Vincent was there! He hadn’t been there all along had he? Or had he run from her, only to return afresh drawn by the latest bout of her distress?
“Vincent! How long have you been there?” She whispered, almost afraid that the apparition might melt away with the shadows, that she had imagined his presence after all.
He spoke groggily, the words torn from him, “All night”.
“I’m sorry I didn’t know?”
“Have you been asleep?” Her question was cautious. How much did he remember? His reply stunned her.
“It wasn’t him Catherine, it was me! How then could I sleep?”
For long moments Catherine denied his words. It couldn’t have been. It just couldn’t have been.
“No.” She cried shaking her head, “No Vincent, I saw him, I saw his eyes, green, gold and feral.”
“You saw what your heart wanted you to see, don’t you realise that Catherine? How is it that I can remember? You have no need to don a robe and a scarf to hide what these hands, what this mouth did to sully your perfection. It was me Catherine, me Vincent!” The last words were caught on a sob and Catherine’s heart went out to him. What on earth could she say to rectify matters now?
“You don’t have to say anything Catherine.” She heard him shuffle and knew by the faint silhouette of his position that he was standing now, leaning against the wall of her apartment and she knew what his next words were going to be.
“Wait!” She begged him while rising to her feet but deliberately not approaching him, knowing he would not allow her closeness. “I have something for you.” Her feet felt unsteady and her head light, but Catherine willed herself to say, “Please wait.” As she stepped through into her apartment where the overhead lights blazed.
From his position on the balcony Vincent turned and watched her walk into the room. Though her injuries were covered he could see them still. And he could feel his teeth against her creamy white throat and his claws against her tender skin. And he could feel other things too. What it felt like to hold her close, to be intoxicated by her scent so that every one of his fears was over ridden. He could remember the unadulterated joy singing through his veins when she had cleaved herself against him, willingly giving herself up to the demands of his body and fresh heat surged painfully through Vincent’s thighs as he remembered these things, filling him once again with a desperate need and longing.
Catherine had purchased the book only that morning and went to it immediately. It was as she has left it, bound in gift-wrap and lying upon one of her dinky sofas. It was easier and quicker to lean over the back of the furniture rather than go around to pick up the gift but in that split second of leaning over Catherine gasped out loud.
She had not heard his approach by the soft padding of his footsteps upon the rich density of her carpeting, but she felt him as their bodies had touched. Firm hands grasped her from behind, one either side of her waist, his lower body pressed tightly against her bottom, the circular movements signifying his need, the first gentle then firm pressure of his body tight against hers.
A moan erupted unbidden from Catherine’s throat, as he husked the words, “See it is me Catherine, it is me that needs you so.” Before his words broke into a torrent of tears flooding her soul with heartache.
Shocked her fingers dropped her gift, as her body spun around in time to see him leaving the apartment and her feet on wings of eagles flew after him not knowing that she had even left her place.
“Vincent!” She cried, stopping his retreat momentarily, “Wait!” The word caught on a sob, “Please wait!”
As if words alone were able to mould him into immobility Vincent hesitated. Half over the balcony like someone in fear of his freedom Vincent waited, head bowed and face hidden within the folds of his hooded cloak.
“I love you.” Catherine approached steadily but slowly, “And with love Vincent, all things are possible.”
For a long moment she thought he would say nothing and go, but she was wrong. Her heart hammered painfully in wondrous expectation as he brought back the leg that had already crossed the boundary line, and came to rest alongside the one standing upon her terrace.
He straightened, and Catherine watched hypnotised as he shortened the few feet that separated them, but as the light from her home once again caught his eyes, she knew that she had not imagined this. They were green, the gold glints shining, the feral tint faint but so obviously there.
Catherine held her breath, waiting for she knew not what, almost relieved when he spoke her name.
“Catherine.” It was raspy, it’s resonate sound deep as he came up close to her ear. She felt the hot breath once again on her neck and anticipated the bite to follow. It did not come. Instead Catherine heard the words that would shape and change her future, that would bring their dream to fruition.
“He once said you must go with courage and care my Catherine.” Shivers ran up and down her spine at the chilling sound of the ‘other’s’ voice, “but I say this. Tonight you have seen his passion. You have been shown that equally we are of the same mind. He wants you Catherine. You must be bolder, more daring, you must take the lead, and he will follow. My love, like a lamb he will follow, and the only slaughter will be his.” Catherine swallowed convulsively, understanding the signification at once. If she were to lead and Vincent were to follow, the slaughter he had envisaged to be hers would not happen. The only slaughter would be his, as a lamb to the slaughter he would give himself up to her.
Shivers, delicious shivers rippled over Catherine’s sensitised skin and she watched mesmerised as he stepped away and walked back toward the balcony wall. He would go now Catherine knew that. He would return to his world beneath the city streets taking her heart with him and for now she would let him go.
Their eyes met one last time as he turned to face her and Catherine gasped. His blue and stunningly beautiful eyes met her steady gaze and his voice before he disappeared from her view was husky and purely Vincent’s, “Lead my Catherine and I will follow.”
Coffee forgotten, Catherine went to her bed it had grown chilly sitting out in the kitchen and she was tired. Still her mind refused to relinquish its hold upon the events that had led up to the culmination of their dream, and as she slipped beneath the covers Catherine allowed her mind to feed upon the memories once again.
Awaking groggy and in some other world as the alarm had beat out a charade of sounds set to blow her mind, Catherine smacked the offending thing with one hand, sending it flying across the floor squealing its displeasure. She then glared at it, willing it to shut up, willing the ceiling to fall in and crush out its sound so that she could get back to sleep, when suddenly she remembered Vincent’s parting words.
“Lead my Catherine, and I will follow.” Delicious shivers ran up and down her frame curling her toes in surrender.
“Oooh Vincent Wells, what did you mean?” Her mouth curved into a smile, before her cheeks fused red as she remembered his body tight against hers, the feel of his manly hardness pulsating against her. Catherine leapt from the bed, her eyes wide, “Oh Vincent, I know exactly what you meant…”
Last night had been a dream within a dream. So much so that it had to have been a dream. Her first thought was to rush to the sitting room to see if the gift she had intended to give him was still there. When she found that it was, she knew that seeing it had resolved nothing. Then suddenly, with a hand to her brow and uttering obscenities along with the words, “how could you be so dumb Chandler?” Catherine flew into her bathroom stripping off the robe as she went and peeling away the silken scarf.
They were there!
The marks that she treasured.
His mark upon her - the brandishing marks of his love - a clear sign that everything had taken place exactly as she had remembered!
Oh but how would he be feeling today? Catherine’s joy plummeted.
That irritating sound brought her back to the present and Catherine picked up and switched off the alarm on her clock depositing it back to its place, before walking back to the bathroom to shower.
She should be going into work today, but how could she? How on earth would she explain this love bite! Catherine grimaced, imagine Joe’s face and his words. ‘hot date Radcliff?’ and her reply, ‘Yes Joe, and you don’t know how hot’ her head now conjuring up images and telling her, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet girl.’ That delicious thought playing havoc with her mind.
Leaning against the cold tiling was suddenly the only way to still her molten limbs from burning up. But her hands and the soap washing her flesh became his hands, the remembrance of the pads of his thumbs touching the tips of her breasts infusing her face to full colour, causing her eyes to shut tightly as moan after moan expelled from her lips.
Suddenly Catherine brought herself up sharply as she remembered that he would feel every ounce of her desire but a shudder ran through her as she remembered his words, ‘you lead and I’ll follow’.
In the past such times as these would force her to put a damper on her raging desire for him, but to be given free rein to her feelings was such a relief. “All right Mr Smartypants,” Catherine giggled, “I’ll lead. Oh will I lead.” And the next half an hour was spent in the delicious pursuit of showering and running her hands slowly and sensuously over every curve while imaging that it was his hands that were upon her.
*** *** ***
Down in his chamber Vincent’s cheeks had been crimson. Some said that he didn’t blush. Father said it was impossible for him to do so, but Vincent distinctly felt them burning. It was as well perhaps that from his standpoint Father was right, because as the older man chatted idly to his son about the day’s forthcoming events, Vincent was glad that he was none the wiser to his son’s turmoil.
Catherine was showering. He knew that. With her hands upon her skin and her mind feasted on him. Vincent had to sit crookedly and the strangeness of this action was the only one that Father noticed as out of the ordinary.
“You all right Vincent?” His son was sitting cross-legged in such a way that it worried him. And Vincent’s face wore an expression of tight-lipped pain.
“Yes Father. Please continue. I’m just a little tired.”
Father nodded, accepting his son’s words and continued to speak about the lessons that he wanted covering with the children that morning. Yet his concern returned when Vincent rarely commented.
“Perhaps you should take this morning off Vincent. You seem more than a little distracted today. Has something happened Above?”
Father peered over the top of his spectacles and scrutinised his son. “With Catherine then.”
Vincent did not know what to say. Everything had happened. Everything.
His silence in no way worried Father, just confirmed his suspicions and Father patted his son’s shoulder. “Take the whole day off Vincent. I’m sure that you need to do.”
“Thank you Father.” That his son had readily agreed bother Jacob Wells, patriarch of the tunnels, and there was something else, something that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Something was happening. He could feel it in his old bones. There was something in the air that surrounded his son for him to know that something was changing. Father shrugged, ‘must be imagining things’ he told himself as he left the chamber turning back to look at his son.
Then Father laughed, softly, a chuckle that shook his frame through and through, ‘now I know that I am imagining things. Vincent blushing? Never! Must be the light in there.” And Father returned to his own chamber his face merry.
And suddenly Vincent was blushing even more. For Catherine was coming Below!
The need to run and hide utmost in his mind, Vincent was suddenly rooted to the spot. He couldn’t do that anymore. And really did he want to do? Especially after what had happened last night…
Allowing himself to remember Vincent fed upon the memories, the feel of her softness against him. His parting words, ‘you lead my love, and I will follow’. Vincent knew those words to be as true now, as they were when he had uttered them, but what had made him so bold as to say them in the first place he would never know. But say them he had, just as his actions had spilled over giving away his most deepest secrets and now Catherine was coming, coming to him!
Stepping through his chamber entrance Catherine’s eyes searched for and found the man that she loved sitting in his high backed winged chair watching the entrance for her arrival. He said nothing as she entered, but his eyes were luminous and wide and held a faint hint of fear.
“Hello my love.” Catherine walked steadily toward him, “How are you today?” Her voice held concern and a little uncertainty. Vincent knew she was asking a silent question, one he dared not answer. Not yet, not until he knew why she had come.
“You forgot your gift.” His eyes fell from her face to her hands and automatically his own reached out for the gift-wrapped parcel that she held out to him. “Open it.” She begged him with a warm encouraging smile.
“Later.” He put the gift down upon the table, knowing there was something he must do first. Something that he had intended last night, before that ‘other’ had taken over. In fact though he had been of himself, it was only that ‘other’ that had given him any courage at all. At least that was one thing to thank him for. If only Vincent could be made to realise and accept that there was no ‘other’ that he and that ‘other’ that he blamed for his differences, for his desires, were one and the same, that there was no split personality after all. Just a man hopelessly and deliriously in love with a beautiful woman. But Vincent had not realised that yet.
“Come.” His voice soft and inviting beckoned Catherine closer and Vincent opened his arms to her.
For a second or two Catherine looked at him from beneath her lashes trying to ascertain which of the Vincent’s now sat before her inviting her into his arms. Vincent knew her thoughts, “To me Catherine.”
With a whimper Catherine threw herself into his embrace and felt his arms close around her. “I love you Catherine.” His voice whispered against the crown of her head, “So very much.”
Catherine held her breath, daring to raise her eyes, inclining her face oh so slightly toward his. What she saw beginning to happen sent joy flooding through her limbs. His head was bending toward her and one hand caught behind her head to bring her face up to meet his.
Next their lips softly melded together and instantly with that one touch, that first foremost touch, their passion exploded.
“Why?” It was the only logical thing that came to mind, “Why now?” What had altered that he should become everything that she had ever wanted him to be with her?
“It is time.” He answered her very simply. “Marry me Catherine.”
He swallowed with difficulty and she felt him hold his breath, but hers was stilled also. Had he really just said what she thought he had said?
Her eyes when they searched his asked the question and the doubt there was visibly apparent for him to see. Vincent smiled, kissing the tip of her nose lightly, a bout of humour fusing his heart at his Catherine, lost for words.
“Marry you?” Catherine questioned. Vincent nodded. Catherine expelled a breath, long and deep, “Really?” Her eyes were beginning to shine with hope.
There were a few seconds of silence while Catherine came back down to earth but seeing Vincent sitting there, hopefully awaiting her answer told her all she needed to know. “Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.”
Once she had started Catherine could not stop and her lips were everywhere. On his cheeks, his eye lids, his brow, his chin, all around his mouth, everywhere but where he needed them the most, until at last she pulled back and looked at him long and hard her eyes shining with love for him. And then she answered his desperate need, her lips upon his, soft, demanding and oh so very passionate, and Vincent’s heart opened and blossomed like a flower as finally the last of his fears had melted away.
*** *** ***
How long he stared at the creamy softness of her skin Vincent did not know.
*** *** ***
Her actions had both surprised and frightened him. That she could, would allow him to follow through on such instincts that could only be described as feral he did not know, but even as he fought the instinct that led him now, Vincent knew that it could be no other way.
Reaching out a tentative hand as if he had never touched her nakedness before, Vincent’s finger tips finally encountered warm flesh. Catherine shivered sending spirals of desire shuddering through her frame. He hesitated, his fingers warm upon her but unmoving, as he continued to stare at her body from nape to softly rounded bottom and back up again.
He knew that she waited, holding her breath tightly, and he knew also that she was afraid that he would turn away from her even now.
“I love you.” The words were expelled as much to reassure her, as to tell her of his love, and Vincent felt her relax and release the breath that she had been holding so tightly.
“Roll over.” He pleaded softly and watched as she returned to lying upon her back, her head inclined toward him and watching his every expression. She said nothing, just watched and waited.
Leaning forward Vincent touched his lips to hers and with the muffled words, “you’re sure?” and her affirmative nod, Vincent’s mouth moved lower, seeking out the warmth of her throat.
What she had expected then did not come. She had expected that as before he would feast upon her throat as a lion did his mate before rolling her over and making her his but Catherine was wrong. What he did next both surprised and pleased her for she had not taught him this.
This then was purely instinctive and purely feral.
His tongue, hot and raspy touched her skin, first tentatively and then with a growing agonised need that surprised her.
From her throat to the tip of her breasts he licked her, his tongue tasting from one to the other as if he could not decide where to be most. And then when Catherine thought she would surely go mad with dizzying pleasure, his hot tongue strayed to the tender skin beneath her breasts and he nuzzled there absorbing her scent deeply into his lungs.
From there he licked downward, his finger tips now just grazing her skin lightly, sending bolts of pleasure racing through her inner parts. Catherine wanted to stretch; the desire to do so paramount and all at once she visualised herself as a she cat worshipped by the sun, lying sprawled and wanton in complete abandon to the heat above her.
Vincent, his head surrounded by golden mane and glinting by the light from one solitary candle looked up at her then, and Catherine caught the look in his eyes and her heart soared. They were blue, a deeper shade of blue than she had ever seen them before, and in that light from that solitary candle Catherine was left in sheer amazement that the light of love and unbridled passion from within those depths could be so very clear to her.
Reaching out a hand Catherine stroked her fingers down the side of his cheek and she smiled her encouragement and understanding.
To Catherine Vincent was a man, of that there was no doubt, but he was also half beast too, and there were times when one would over ride the other, and there were times when the two would mingle as one.
This was one of those such times, man and beast, together, loving her together, in complete agreement. That was why the blue eyes revealed the control of the man and the actions spoke of the beast but Catherine a woman of both worlds subjected herself willingly to them both.
“I love you.” Catherine sobbed, her heart aching from sheer happiness and feeling compelled to add, “Both of you. I love parts both of you.”
Vincent smiled and bent his head to nuzzle her flesh again.
Lying back against the pillows Catherine closed her eyes her attention spanned only on the delicious feelings his mouth and hands evoked within her.
This was bliss - this was heaven.
His tongue licked at her sides, up and over each rib beneath the taut skin that covered it, and ever downward to the scent that called to him below. Catherine, her skin sensitised to his every feather light touch absorbed his love deep into herself.
As the pads of his thumbs encountered and strayed over the hardened peaks of her breasts, Catherine expelled a long soft moan as arrow-heads of pleasure shot straight between her thighs causing her entire body to twitch uncontrollably.
For a long while his fingers remained there, softly stroking this way and that over the hardened peaks, his tongue gently lapping around the area of her navel. When suddenly, unexpectedly his hot tongue shot into her navel and Catherine’s hips bucked from the bed, causing Vincent to chuckle just a little. He repeated the action and was rewarded with the same. He had found an erogenous zone, and he intended to return to it another time.
For now though her lower body called to him. Primal yearning drenched his being and her scent heady and dizzying sent him ever on his way.
Sliding himself further down her body, Vincent heard a whimper of protest from his wife as his hands left her breasts, but that was soon replaced by a moan of pleasure as his hands encountered the dewy lips of her femininity.
This feeling was one that Catherine was well used to. After three months of foreplay with him Catherine had grown accustomed to Vincent’s fingers unfolding the petals of her flesh. This he would do while one of his legs held one of hers behind his, and the other pushed her other leg across the mattress, holding it there with his foot, so that her body was wide open to his perusal.
In turn Catherine loved this, giving herself up totally to the capture of her body by his. As his fingers worked and teased her, ripple after ripple of pleasure had brought her to orgasm and he would only release her when she had screamed out his name.
Now in the hazy remembrance of those times, a thought came to Catherine’s mind. Where had he gone afterward while she had lain there recovering?
Always in the aftermath of her orgasm, while she floated somewhere deliriously between heaven and earth, she had known of his absence, but when he had returned on her verge of sleep, he had taken her in his arms, and she had known no more until morning. And vaguely Catherine wondered if he would go, to wherever he went to, this night also.
Yet tonight everything was different even their position. This night, he did not lay at her side bringing her to fulfilment, neither should she expect that after tonight he would refuse to let her see him fully, as she had ached to see him in all his naked glory these past few months. Still though, even while her mind reminded her that she should lead and he should follow, Catherine knew quite well that tonight it was she that followed his lead.
Concentrating hard on the whereabouts of his hands upon her, it seemed that Catherine’s entire focus was on the parting of her flesh before his very eyes. Lazily she lifted heavy lids trying to scrutinise his movements, but could see little without lifting her head from the pillow, and that felt impossible to do. She was drugged. He had drugged her with his love and every limb felt too heavy to move so with a heavy sigh she lay back against the pillows again and gave herself up to his needs.
His hands upon her there, had always amazed her. His claws so treacherously sharp had never, not even once, had damaged the delicate skin of her womanhood. Here he was tenderness itself, every part of him concentrating on the very essence of her, as through the bond he ascertained her every need and complied with it.
Here in the very centre of her he would give, and give until she begged him to stop. Though sometimes he thought now, she would beg him to give more than he was prepared to give, and he smiled with wry humour. Well tonight if she so begged then he would deny her no more.
Tonight after he had sent her spiralling into orgasm he would have no need of leaving her in order to milk his heated flesh in the bathing chamber that he shared with Father. Tonight they would be as one in every sense of the word and he would willingly give himself up to her.
Watching her now, waiting as he felt the rippling tides of her orgasm climbing to a peak, Vincent surveyed the sight before him with lazy, hungry eyes. His timing was perfect. Through the Bond he sensed her climb, his fingers touching and rubbing here, and there, delving deeper around the folds.
Teasing her thus was torturous to both he and her, yet he would not touch her honeyed cavern until the very last, until she had reached the very pinnacle of her passion. Then he would delve his fingers deep inside, bringing her up and over the top and away into infinity and beyond.
How he loved her then. How he would look on with wonder, that she this beautiful woman could allow one such as he to touch her so intimately, could allow hands such as his to touch such perfection as her beautiful body.
She was growing closer now. Vincent could feel the urgency in her, the twitching of her limbs, and beneath his legs, the curling of her toes. Her head thrashing from side to side her hands reaching out on either side of her, her fingers clutching at the sheets wildly. And at that moment Vincent did something he had always yearned to do, had always ached to do ever since her scent had called to him from that very first time.
Bending his head he touched her jewelled offering with the tip of his tongue then delved deeper into the heat of her body.
Oh the taste of her…the feel of her quivering flesh upon his tongue, the scent…Oh the scent…
Catherine screamed, her arms and legs wildly thrashing upon the bed, her hands leaving the sheets to clasp and tangle viciously in Vincent’s hair, holding him tighter and tighter against her…
He kissed her over and over, his mouth dancing a rhapsody of love upon the deepest reaches of her, taking her higher, higher than she had ever been before, until her hands slid from his hair to lay at her sides and her laboured breathing signified her journey to insanity.
At that same moment Vincent rolled her, lying her upon her side, and inched his body closer to hers. His breathing ragged, Catherine half felt one of his hands slide down her belly and reach between her legs to open her to him as the other guided his manhood into her from behind.
Then there was nothing, nothing but the indescribable joy of being fused together as one, his body entering hers, his mouth on her neck and knowing at last the pure and unadulterated rapture of giving pleasure back to the man that she loved.
Joined they moved in perfect harmony, silent for a time, until Vincent lost in a delirious haze of passion shuddered to climax roaring her name. Catherine smiled. That sweet knowing smile of lovers, of first time lovers, as wave after wave of satisfaction and pleasure engulfed them both.
They had made it. They had joined, become as one. The dream had become reality. There would be no more looking back.
With that dizzying happy thought in mind, Catherine slept, curled in the safety of the arms of the man she adored still joined with him as one.
Peter had left little notes around the place, purely for guidance only, and also because he didn’t want the newlyweds to be disturbed by patients calling to make appointments. Therefore he had left a diagram that the telephone in the study was to be ignored should it ring, but the telephone in the lounge with an extension to each bedroom should be answered if it should ring.
It was almost dawn, yet for once had it not of been for the sound of the telephone Vincent would have overslept. Had he of been dependant on leaving with the dawn to escape back to his world beneath the city streets, he would have missed his chance.
Groggy eyed and startled he bolted straight upright reaching out automatically for the offending thing that had woken him, intent on killing it much as Catherine had intended on the very many mornings her alarm clock had woken her.
“It’s the phone.” Catherine’s muffled voice told him from somewhere deep beneath the covers, “I’ll get it.” She made a half-hearted attempt to move, but lost the battle.
Vincent smiled, “I’m nearest, I’ll get it.” He reached out a hand and lifted the receiver bringing it to his ear, “Hello?”
The last voice he had expected to hear was Devin’s!
“Vincent that you?”
“So you bedded the wench then…. Sorry. I mean so you and Catherine spent the night together then?”
Vincent smiled wryly and answered softly, “Yes.” And his eyes took on a distant dreamy look as he began to remember the night past.
“Is she there?” Vincent detected the urgency in his brother’s voice.
“Yes. But she is still sleeping.”
“No I’m not.” Catherine half listening to the conversation struggled to sit up beside her husband.
“Can I speak to her, “ Devin was given the distinct impression that if it were up to his brother, Vincent would have denied his request, and his reluctant affirmation confirmed his suspicions.
Taking the receiver from her husband, Catherine placed it to her ear, “Devin where are you?”
“I’m in Brazil. Cathy, you were right!”
“Yes, your suspicions about Burch? Well you were right. He is alive, though where is anyone’s guess. Are you still coming out here?” Excited and anxious Devin awaited her reply. It was a long time in coming.
“I’m still here. Look Devin I think you should come back. Elliot has a whole work force that could handle this…”at mention of Elliot’s name Catherine felt Vincent stiffen beside her, and she continued,
“Just come back home Devin, its not our problem.”
“What does he want you to do?” Vincent asked, then without waiting for her reply, he took back the receiver and spoke to his brother, “Devin?”
“What is it you want Catherine to do?”
“I hoped she would come out here, to Brazil.”
“You’re in Brazil?”
Hearing this Catherine gasped with a hand to her mouth as she realised she hadn’t let Devin know that she was returning home.
“Yes have you forgotten already that I was going? That must have been some night you had Vin.” Devin laughed.
Vincent ignored the last of his reply, “Catherine thinks you should come home.”
“Yes I know.” Devin sounded reluctant.
“What is it?” Vincent asked concerned.
“I’ve never been to Brazil Vin, its nice here, think I’ll stick around awhile, okay?”
Vincent’s smile turned into a chuckle, “And no snooping?”
“God’s honour. Strictly sightseeing. No snooping, I’ll leave that to Burch’s mob though it might be as well to turn the information I heard over to the police in New York. Maybe Joe Maxwell can do something with it even.”
“Maybe I’ll talk to Catherine. So exactly what did you find out?”
Devin explained the conversation he had overheard on the plane, leaving out the bit about Catherine’s part in it, he didn’t want his brother worried unnecessarily, and Vincent promised he would do something with the information to help Mr Burch.
Beside him Catherine listened in awe. It should have been her speaking to Devin. By the sound of things Devin had some crucial information that she being a lawyer had a right to, but Vincent was deliberately preventing her from talking the call. Yet rather than being peeved about it Catherine was awe struck by the masterful way that her husband was handling the matter.
“So we’ll see you in about a month Devin?”
“About that. Don’t worry if the time goes over, there is a lot to see.”
“But you’ll keep in touch? Devin promise me report back every few days. Leave a message here at Peter’s…”his voice trailed away, and Devin understood, “Just so the little wifey doesn’t get it into her head that I’ve been hung and quartered and come rushing out here to find me huh?”
Vincent chuckled, “Something like that.”
“Thought so, thought you’d left it a bit too late to show such brotherly love.” Vincent fell silent. “Aw come on Vin don’t go all quiet on me, I know you love me really.” Devin laughed. “Look gotta go Vin, this call is expensive and then some. Just don’t worry about me huh?”
“I’ll call, I’ll call…don’t worry so much…save it until you have kids…”He laughed again wickedly so, “Bet you never thought of that bro?”
Vincent coloured, no he hadn’t. “Bye Devin.” He heard Devin laugh heartily as he replaced the receiver before turning slowly to Catherine.
“What?” The look of horror in his eyes startled her. One moment talking to his brother, the next looking down at her as if she was the last person he expected to see in his bed at five o’clock in the morning. Concerned Catherine touched his arm, “What’s the matter? What is it?”
Unable to string his words together, Vincent uttered odd phrases. “Devin made me realise… Catherine I never thought… all this time… I never realised… Catherine… Oh Catherine…” He started to sob then.
Pulling him into her arms Catherine clung to him, “My love what is it? What did Devin remind you of?”
Misty blue eyes met green as Vincent looked up at her, his hand touching her belly, “Catherine… I … Catherine… you…”
“Oh that Devin!” Catherine exclaimed understanding at once, “You wait till I catch up with him!”
“Why?” Vincent looked totally perplexed.
“He told you I could get pregnant didn’t he? Well didn’t he?” A huge smile lit Catherine’s eyes. His eyes wide Vincent swallowed convulsively, and nodded, unable to reply. “And so I could Vincent Wells. But so what?”
“Oh Vincent!” Catherine hugged him tightly before drawing back again to search his eyes, and trace her finger tips along his cheek, “To have a child, to have children in your image, don’t you know how happy that would make me?”
Vincent shook his head, “Catherine I cannot…”
“You cannot what? Allow it? It may already be too late for that my love. Isn’t that like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted?” Catherine smiled just like the proverbial Cheshire cat humouring him.
Flopping back against the pillows, Vincent exhaled a deep sigh, his mind filled with raging thoughts, yet unable to utter a single word.
“Vincent?” At her questioning tone, he inclined his head. His eyes filled with such sorrow pained her deeply. “I love you Vincent. All of you, both of you. Did I not prove that to you last night? Did I not accept the whole of you willingly, did I not marry you yesterday, pledging to spend the rest of my life with you?
Vincent my only sadness in this life is that you are the only one of your kind, I can barely understand that kind of loneliness. It hurts me for you, and to be able to bring others like you into this world brings me the greatest of joys. I would be happy to give you babies Vincent. I would be happy to have your babies.”
Vincent could not speak. He looked on still, trying to believe, knowing he must believe because the bond spoke no lies, yet feeling incapable of doing so. He felt thoroughly miserable.
“Love me Vincent.” Catherine’s words husky and impassioned went straight to his heart, and he was disheartened to realise straight to another area also. “Love me like you loved me last night.”
Vincent groaned how could he deny her, that? Didn’t he want her too? Yet what of the consequences?
“It’ll be all right my love.” Catherine rubbed his arm up and down in reassurance, it might be an impossibility you know.” She smiled as he visibly relaxed in her arms, clutching at any hope.
“Yes.” He replied, “It might be that our differences…”
“Yes.” Catherine told him, her bright eyes hiding the ache in her heart as his relief became so apparent.
“Still…” his voice trailed away, “Father is a doctor, he will know what I need. We may have taken a risk last night but we needn’t take any more. Catherine forgive me for I do want to love you, but understand please that we must take precautions in the future.” His eyes grieved her, as hers grieved him, but Catherine nodded nonetheless, pained by his unmistakable sigh of relief that followed.
“Let’s just rest now.” He pulled her into his arms, “It will soon be morning and there is tunnel access in the basement as you know. I’ll go to see Father later about this, and then we can return here to continue our honeymoon. I love you my Catherine.” He whispered, trying to brush away her sadness with tender kisses, “But I cannot allow you to have my child. There are always children below that we could adopt.”
Catherine nodded, trying to sound cheerful as she agreed “Yes.” But even as he kissed her lips, her eyelids, the tip of her nose and held her tightly to his warmth, the thought of never presenting Vincent with a child of his own made Catherine’s heart ache with sorrow.
*** *** ***
True to his word Devin called every three days, and soon almost a week of wedded bliss had passed for the newly married couple.
His last call had been full of the things he had seen and things that he had yet planned to do, filling Vincent’s mind with vivid pictures of the colonial town of Ouro Preto. And from his description Vincent knew that it could well be longer than a month before he saw his brother again. But it pleased him that neither Devin or Catherine had made further mention to Elliot Burch, and Vincent hoped that after the information Catherine had passed on to Elliot’s firm that the situation was well and truly out of their hands.
Catherine’s reasons for her lack of interest in Mr Burch’s whereabouts were purely selfish ones. Left in hopeful expectation that she might have already conceived her husband’s child, Catherine ticked off the days leading up to her next menstruation with a building excitement as the day drew near.
Vincent of course was able to feel her excitement and wondered to its source, but did not pry, knowing that she would tell him in her own good time. Yet anything he might have surmised could never have been anywhere near the truth. Simply since that first ‘risk’ they had taken he had made certain that every time since had been with the aid of contraception.
And the fact that Catherine had never mentioned a child since led Vincent into a false sense of security that she had listened to his sound reasons and had changed her mind.
So on the twelfth day following their wedding Vincent was unprepared for a sudden barrage of heavy emotions flooding from his wife via their connection and went to seek her out.
“Catherine?” He found her in the bathing pool sobbing her heart out and his heart constricted in his chest. “What’s wrong?” For a moment every fear collapsed upon him. Fear that she had changed her mind about being with him at the top of his list, followed quickly by the galloping hooves of her pain signifying that she might be ill, or worse dying of some incurable disease. Wasn’t she holding her stomach as she bent over double on the floor weeping?
At the sound of his voice, Catherine didn’t know if she could face him, let alone answer him. She had been so sure, and her disappointment was great. Three days late and she had never been late in her life. Three days of hoping, praying, dreaming…. Oh yes dreaming…picturing holding in her arms a miniature replica of the man that she loved. Holding to her breast, his child taking life-sustaining nourishment from her. Her weeping grew louder as she felt him kneel down beside her and take her in his arms, his voice husky and ragged when he spoke, “Tell me Catherine, please. Was it something I did?”
Catherine shook her head.
“Something I should have done and didn’t?”
A fresh bout of tears caught Catherine’s throat at the irony of that question. So much she wanted to scream "YES!"
Instead she shook her head, she could never hurt him so. He had his principles and his reasons she knew that, but she had wanted his child so much.
“You’re hurt?” Vincent sniffed the air. There was the distinct smell of blood around her.
“Yes you are.” He tried to move her, pull her to her feet, “You’re bleeding…somewhere.” He searched her over, touching here and there searching for a wound. “Did you fall?”
“No Vincent!” Her tone of voice startled him. It was sharp, angry, and for some reason, some reason he couldn’t fathom her anger seemed directed at him.
“I’m sorry.” Catherine collapsed against him. “Its not you’re fault.” Her lips uttered the words, even as her heart denied them. ‘Yes it is, its all his fault. Why don’t you just tell him?’
But she couldn’t do that to Vincent, she just couldn’t.
“I’m not hurt Vincent. I didn’t fall. You’ve read medical books I know you have…” At her words Vincent’s mind reeled and the vision of her clutching her abdomen earlier returned to him full force. He waited in fearful expectation for her to continue, sighing greatly with relief as he began to understand.
“It’s just a woman thing Vincent. You know the one we women get every month. Nothing to worry about.”
Yet despite his relief Vincent did worry. Why then the tears? Why the rush of excitement these past few days, and now these tears, and this utter despair that raged within her? Vincent was left totally bewildered.
“Come, William has some herbal tea that all the women here below prize for such a time as this. You wait in our chamber and I will fetch some for you.” With his arm around her shoulders he started to lead her back to their quarters when he swung her into his arms instead, loving the feel of her so close against him. The expression in her eyes caught his, and Vincent sighed, “Does it always affect you this way?” It hurt him so much that she suffered so, “Perhaps Father can help?”
“No Vincent…to both your questions. That is William’s herbal tea sounds wonderful.” She finished lamely.
“And as to the other question?” He didn’t know why he wanted to know so much, perhaps because Catherine had deliberately withheld the answer from him.
Catherine bowed her head, burying her face in his sweater, not yet ready to answer that question. Vincent sighed, “You don’t have to tell me anything my love,” he told her, “but I see no reason why you should not. I love you. I want to know everything about you and as well as we know each other there are some things I am only yet learning. Please, my love, don’t shut me out. I want to share everything with you.”
“Oh Vincent.” Catherine nuzzled his neck causing an instantaneous reaction in other parts of his body. After so many years without such intimacies as the right to touch and to kiss, Vincent was yet to control his responses to even the most feather-light touch that Catherine might bestow upon him. By the time he reached their chamber and bestowed her gently upon the bed, he longed to join her there and make love to her.
“How long are you like this?” he bowed his head now, a little embarrassed at needing to know, and knowing that Catherine knew why he needed to know.
“My poor love.” Catherine smiled tenderly, “Three weeks on and one week off. You should spend the time recuperating.” Catherine laughed refraining from telling him that this month was already much different from any she had ever known, more discharge than actual blood. Still no doubt that would come later.
“A week!” Vincent gasped, looking down at himself and then back at his wife, “Look at me now, how am I to get through a week without you?”
A wicked grin spread across Catherine’s face “Perhaps now you will allow me to satisfy you as you once satisfied me before our marriage.” Vincent instantly remembered his hands off attitude in the days before they were married, and he blushed. “Come now Vincent.” Catherine burst into laughter at her choice of words and trying to keep a straight face she whispered seductively, “Put it this way my love, I’m sure you won’t have any complaints.” She looked at him coyly beneath her lashes, enjoying every moment of his obvious discomfort. After all if he hadn’t of insisted on contraception they needn’t be facing this dilemma now. But suddenly Vincent turned the tables upon her, “That rather depends my love…” he watched her boldly now.
“I hasten to ask, but on what?” Catherine whispered enjoying their cat and mouse game delightfully.
Catherine blushed as she realised where he was heading now, it all depended upon her telling him what was on her mind and she shook her head, “No Vincent…its no big deal…I just get moody that’s all…despondent…I’m all right once the bleeding starts.” She hoped he would believe her.
But Vincent didn’t believe her, all those things might be true but she was holding something back. What was it? Then suddenly in an instant he knew!
He stared at her his heart pounding. “You thought you may be pregnant didn’t you?”
Catherine gasped, and tried to deny it. “No.” She laughed half-heartedly, the sound not quite ringing true. “Of course not.”
“Catherine.” Vincent spoke sternly, his tone making Catherine cringe.
They stared at each other, his eyes searching out the depths of hers. She was trying desperately to hide her feelings from him. As if she could! Even if she were able to conceal them with her eyes then their connection would tell him everything that her heart whispered. Catherine hung her head, “Yes.” She whispered.
Had she of expected him to be angry with her she could have accepted it. All those times he had made love to her since that one ‘risk’ that they took, he had rarely thought of the possibility that she might have been carrying his child. But now to know that she had harboured the hope during all that time stunned him to the core.
Not only that but he knew that he would have to have a different approach to the matter from now on. For now he had a wife to comfort.*** *** ***
Enfolding her in his arms he rocked her, stroking her hair, saying nothing. In all honesty there was nothing that he could say. Nothing to say that would bring any merit of comfort to her shattered hope.
She wasn’t carrying his child. And right at that moment Vincent wasn’t sure whether he was relieved or not. And that too worried him greatly.
As the herd of Zebu moved quietly through the streets during the end of the second week of his stay in Ouro Preto Devin noticed that they was led by the man he had helped on the road that day. He watched him for no other reason than of the fact that he knew the man and his son.
In fact after today he would probably never see him again. Having explored as much of Ouro Preto as he thought possible, Devin had been drawn to another name on the map, and planned to leave that afternoon by bus to Espirito Santo.
His main aim was Rio De Janiero mainly because doesn’t everyone head there? How could he justify to himself that he went all the way to Brazil on a free ticket and didn't visit Rio? Yet he knew that nothing would ever rob him of his first impression of Brazil. Ouro Preto would remain in his heart for a very long time. And if only for the fact that here in Ouro Preto he had come to learn about Zebu so much. Here everyone it seemed owned them.
Back in the states people’s favoured pet was a cat or a dog maybe even a horse, but here in Brazil this miniature cow was a firm favourite. And he had to agree with them. Never having been a great lover of cattle, Devin’s introduction with Zebu had been something else. Something that he would hold dear to him. These docile animals were intelligent, friendly and oh so inquisitive.
His first encounter with them had been during an early morning stroll. He had come across a herd peacefully grazing without a boundary fence! How could this be? How could people put cattle ‘just anywhere’ and expect to find them still there in the morning? Yet that’s exactly how it was.
Later that same morning the sound of children’s laughter had drawn his attention and he had found himself laughing with them as he observed the children riding upon the backs of Zebu on their way to the small school in the main square. And he had walked alongside asking his questions.
“Do you ride to school every day?” he’d asked in stuttered Portuguese.
For a moment the children stared at him not quite understanding what it was he had asked them, then an older one asked, “Are you from America?” surprising Devin no end.
“Do you speak fluent American?”
Again Devin laughed, “Why yes, and so do you. How come?” The child followed by the other children began laughing again. “It is taught in school. Many Americans come here, it is good to be able to understand them.”
“Then that’s good because my Portuguese is not very good.”
“And then some.” Everyone laughed including Devin.
“That bad huh?”
“Wasn’t certain what you said back there, something to do with every day. We caught that all right, what was it you wanted to know?”
Falling into step alongside the small cow, Devin grew to like the boy that had taken lead among them. He was about ten or eleven, older than the others, who were more in the five to nine age group he guessed. This boy cheery face, ruddy complexion, as if he’d spent all of his life in the sun, and bright black beacon eyes and a mop of black glossy hair told Devin how happy the lad was. Not just today, but the lad seemed to exude happiness as if it came up from a well deep within.
“I wondered if you rode to school every day?” Devin asked the question again.
“Yes. My father owns this herd of Zebu, and for a small fee I take the children to school every day, then drive the herd home again.”
“And then you go to school?”
“No way! I’m twelve now. I left school. I help my father take care of the herd and lead tourists on the cattle for sightseeing trips.”
“That must be an authentic way to travel. Do you get much custom?”
“Enough to support the whole family and buy more Zebu. We have the biggest herd in Ouro Preto.”
“That must take some grazing, not to mention looking after them.”
“Not so. Zebu don’t ask for much. They are loyal and docile, and are quite happy with a bale of hay. Even in the winter they don’t need bedding. Just a shed out of the wind and they are happy.”
“How old are they?”
“What, these ones?”
“Yes, they look a bit bony.”
The boy laughed revealing a dazzling smile. “Zebu are like that, young and old. I know what you are thinking. Everyone thinks the same when they come here. Believing that we mistreat the cattle, that they are undernourished and ill kept. But that’s not so. What you see is how it is. This bony hump on their shoulders comes from birth. These elongated ears are not pulled to make them longer they come like that. They live longer and breed for longer than Western cattle. This bunch is three to four years old, and many of them will still be having calves in nine years time.”
“You certainly know your Zebu.” Devin was impressed.
“Have to. I’m asked similar questions every day. If I didn’t know what I was talking about, some well-meaning person would report us to the authorities. And no one wants that. The authorities arrive and check the whole place over. Some are all right, but others…” the boy shrugged.
“Yes, the others what?”
“Well don’t tell anyone I said this.” The boy leaned down from the back of his cow to whisper,
“Some just like to make trouble.”
“Why is that?” Devin whispered back.
The boy shrugged. Devin knew that he was withholding the answer, probably because he didn’t know him well enough to trust him. So Devin changed the subject, and unwittingly made the lad ill at ease even further.
“Ouro Preto is a wonderful town, I have enjoyed my stay here. I haven’t been anywhere else in Brazil, but I’ve been reading that compared to other parts of Brazil Ouro Preto is one of the few towns still steeped in history. I’m surprised it hasn’t been developed by now.”
The boy remained silent, save for the occasional click of his tongue to the herd. They had almost arrived at the school, and the herd was falling into line alongside a long platform for the children to dismount.
“Have I said something wrong?” As the boy had not replied, and in fact looked as if he would love Devin to get lost, Devin grew concerned. Only moments earlier the boy had been friendliness itself.
“I’m sorry.” The boy told him, head bent as he stood at the side of a Zebu and helped a child dismount. “I’d best not say anymore.”
Devin was intrigued. If anything interested him more, it was someone that had suddenly clamed up for no possible reason. He thought back to his latter questions, and finding nothing untoward with them decided to leave the boy alone. “Well it’s been nice talking to you. Thank you for telling me about Zebu.”
Now the boy smiled, “You’re welcome. Would you like to ride one?”
Devin hesitated. “Will it take my weight?”
“Zebu are remarkably strong. Fat ladies ride them.”
Devin laughed, “Well then they must be strong.” The boy laughed too.
“All right, can I take it wherever I want, or do you have to come with me?”
“You implied that you have explored Ouro Preto, I think perhaps you will know your way around. Can you return the cow back here at noon? The children will be ready to come home then, and I can return the cow to my father.”
“Yes, I’m sure three and a half hours in the saddle will be more than enough.” Devin eyed the back of the Zebu with some distaste. If the boy thought he was going to sit on that contraption for the rest of the morning he’d be much mistaken.
The boy laughed, “Its not so bad. But I guess the first time or two will leave you sore. Would you like a tip?”
“Just lead the Zebu on flat ground and let it carry you uphill. Let it carry your parcels while you shop.”
“Good idea.” Devin told him grinning. “Do I pay you now or when I return.”
The boy smiled, “I think I can trust you. Besides I know where you are staying.”
“Yes, you spoke to my father recently. He had stumbled in the street and you helped him up. My father makes it his business to know where people are staying.”
“That was your father! Small world. So how is he?”
“He’s okay.” Devin detected that a cloud had appeared again disguising the boy’s sunshine smile.
“Is something wrong? Perhaps I can help you?”
The boy shook his head, “Its nothing. Don’t worry. Please enjoy your morning. Now if you will excuse me I have to return the Zebu for the tourists who will be waiting.”
“Yes of course. I’ll see you later then.”
Devin watched the boy go, the herd of Zebu obediently walking to his left and to his right, always that little ahead of him. He walked on foot now, a guiding rod in his hand but rarely using it, and only when he did to guide an animal rather than hit it. For some reason Devin felt immensely sad. Something was wrong in the boy’s life. If only he could find out what. He might be able to help him.
His intention had been to ask more questions of the boy later that day, but when he had returned the Zebu, an older man had come to collect the children, who was reluctant to make conversation. In fact he did not seem to be able to speak anything but Portuguese and Devin’s knowledge of the language was limited.
Sadly he returned the cow and made his way back to his hotel for dinner.
So this day, several days after that encounter with the boy, and the earlier one with his father, Devin sauntered over to where the old man was leading the herd intent on speaking with him.
“Good day.” Devin smiled because for some reason his tone sounded Australian, a country he had spent some time in several years before.
The old man looked up and nodded, recognising Devin at once. Yet his eyes remained guarded and he quickly looked all around him before replying.
“How is your son? Nice lad you have there.”
The man seemed to relax before Devin’s eyes. “Yes my son is a fine boy. Do you have a son?”
“Me! No. I’m not even married.”
“That does not mean you can’t have a son.” The man smiled mischievously.
Devin did too “Well then I haven’t a son that I know of.”
“That’s more like it.” The old man laughed. He surprised Devin then by holding out his hand, “Pepe’ De-Vereyard.”
Devin took it, shaking it warmly, “Devin Wells. You have an unusual name.”
“Oh. Have you always lived here?”
“Yes. My father came here from Spain. I have never been out of Brazil to visit the homeland.”
“Ever wanted to?” They fell into step alongside one another heading for the pasture to graze the Zebu. Devin guessed it must have been the animals’ day off as there was no school on Sundays.
“Sometimes. But I have so much to do here. It is my wish that my son will travel. Much as my life is full here, young people should see the world.”
“I agree. I wanted to travel from a very early age.”
“You have seen much?”
“Oh yes I have seen much.” Devin answered with a wry grin.
“Would you come to dinner at my house. I am sure that my family would like to speak with you about this.”
“Thank you.” Devin was stunned as well as pleasantly surprised, it was the last thing he had expected.
“I’ll show you where I live. Can you come at noon?”
“I know where you live. That first day we met remember?”
The smile vanished on the older man’s face, “Oh yes that. No, please don’t ask me why, but I lied to you. I do not live on that mountain.” His tone of voice was stilted, ashamed yes, but with an underlying fear that Devin detected instantly.
“That’s okay. You didn’t know me then, come to that you don’t know me now. Are you certain you want a complete stranger to come into your house?”
“It wouldn’t be the first time. Many times I invite tourists to my home. In that way we bring the world to us. It is interesting listening to stories of other people’s lives. Their descriptions of the places they live are very vivid. It encourages my children to work and save in order to see those places for themselves.”
“You speak as though Ouro Preto holds nothing for them?” Devin asked.
“That is true.” Pepe’ sounded downhearted suddenly. Again Devin detected that the family were hiding something. Something that hurt. But Pepe’ shook himself, and spoke next with an optimistic tone, “Once Ouro Preto was filled with gold, and then came the jewels, but most of that is gone now. Save for hiring Zebu to tourists there is no future for my children here. They are intelligent children they deserve to go far.”
“I met your son that takes the children to the school in the mornings. What is his name?”
“I have many sons that take that route. How old was he, did he tell you?”
“Yes he said he was twelve.”
“That would be Vincent.”
“Yes ,why do you sound so surprised it is a good name. It means warrior.”
“Yes I know. It is my brother’s name.” Devin felt stunned.
Stunned because he had been instantly drawn to the boy, and now to find he had his brother’s name, he felt an instant kinship with the child.
“Come you can see my house from here. It is the one with the gold upon the roof.” Pepe’ did not point and grasped Devin’s hand when Devin went to do so.
“Is that real gold?”
Pepe’ laughed, “Not anymore. Once maybe, but real gold has long been stolen from this town.”
“What’s wrong. Why didn’t you want me to point at it.”
Pepe’ frowned “I shouldn’t be seen speaking with you. You are an American. I know that no one can hear what I am saying. Yet if someone were to assume I was identifying my home to you that would be a cause for concern.”
“I don’t understand, who are you afraid of? And how can I enter your house if you are in fear of someone seeing me do so?”
“There is a secret passage, another way in I will show it to you.” Pepe’ changed direction, “Come.” Devin followed, well aware that Pepe’ had deliberately evaded some of his question, just as his son had done several days before.
*** *** ***
What was wrong with these people?
What did they have to hide?
And more importantly who were they so afraid of?
After almost two weeks in the inky darkness, Elliot’s condition was deteriorating. How people could live without sunshine was beyond him.
How Cathy had chosen to live with a man in the bowels of the earth appalled him. Just being able to offer the sunshine was worth more than all the riches in the world, yet he could offer her them both, once and she had turned them both down.
Now he may never have the chance to offer those things to any body, but the fact that he would never be able to offer them to Catherine Chandler grieved him the most.
Had he of not been down in this godforsaken hole she was still lost to him. Lost to a man that was only half a man lost to a life that was only half a life, and Elliot thought it was so unfair.
“Oh Cathy, Cathy” Elliot cried for the umpteenth time since he had been thrown into this place. He missed her so much.
Why had life been so cruel? Just when he had believed he had found the woman he would spend his life with she had been snatched away by the men who had been working for him. Not in a literal sense, but just as so, since their actions had killed Catherine’s growing affection for him, thus taking the light from his life.
In much the same way
just once a day now the overhead sun would cast its light into the pit, and for the hour it took to pass by, Elliot could view his grave. The rest of the time the inky black darkness consumed him, and only the small handouts he received daily were keeping him alive.
Had he of been brave enough he would have refused to eat. He would have let himself die, but he did not have the courage, and besides with each passing day he grew more wrathful, ready to avenge his enemies as well as vowing to win back the love of his life.
The dark did that to people. With nothing to do but think, the mind played such tricks. Elliot plotted and planned every last move with a growing sense of perception.
‘If I ever get out of here’ had turned to ‘when I get out of here.’ Thus ensuring a grim determination that Elliot knew he would carry out to the letter.
“How dare they throw me in here. How dare they do this to me!” He paced his grave ranting and raving the movement alone keeping him warm. Keeping his body supple and agile.
With a growing sense of hatred for the man that passed food down daily, Elliot placed this man first on his hit list. “How can he do this to me! How can he continue to care for me and not have it grieve his conscience? The man must be wicked inside. Well I’ll show him wicked!”
And the stench got to him too. Always a clean man well dressed and impeccable it incensed Elliot to be able to smell himself. To know that sweat and grime after two weeks in the pit had reduced him to this! He hated the stench, and he hated the other stench too, the stench of his urine and faeces several feet away.
In the all-consuming darkness Elliot had scrambled his way through the pit that had become his home. He knew it was a mineshaft. Disused for many years now, and he knew that tunnels branched off from it, but he also knew that his daily handouts were his only form of survival and in keeping strong, despite the damage being done to his eyes.
How often he remembered that night in the tunnels beneath New York City when Cathy had led him to safety. How he longed for her to show him the way out now. Down here he had tried to escape. Making sure that he walked in one direction and counted every turn, noting whether it was right or left and noting it would be reversed on his return, Elliot had spent the best part of his first few days down there trying to find a way out. But it had been no use and once he had become frightfully lost, and had only stumbled back to his place by chance, collapsing from sheer exhaustion when he had finally made it.
Now he stayed where he was, walking perhaps twenty or thirty feet daily, and always when the sun passed over head, giving him that hour, that one precious hour of sunlight in his otherwise darkened grave.
What was worse though was why? Why had they done this to him? And why had no one been looking for him? His office, his secretary knew that he was in Brazil on business, but he should have returned by now.
The dumbest thing he had done before this whole ghastly nightmare had begun was to call Cathy and say he couldn’t make the wedding after all. That wasn’t strictly true. It was just that he couldn’t bear to see her marry Vincent. Not when he still loved her so much and he would always love her that he knew with all of his heart.
How he berated himself on his stupidity. Catherine was very thorough with her job, and when he had not turned up at her wedding, and when he had not called or had not returned after all this time, she would have come looking for him. Why? Because despite what she told him repeatedly, she still cared for him deeply, it was just that she lied to herself when she denied this. But he didn’t know this was going to happen, and he couldn’t watch her marry another guy and so he had rang and begged her forgiveness and smothered her with apologies and made up some story about a problem with his workforce refusing to work on sacred land.
Huh! He laughed bitterly, what irony! Though the story was fabricated it had turned out nearer to the truth than he could surmise. For something had triggered his being taken captive that day, and if it wasn’t because of sacred land he’d like to know what.
How many times had he gone over it in his mind? His brain ached with the amount of times, yet still day by day he pieced it together, over and over searching for some hidden clue that he may have overlooked. Not that knowing it could save him now, but it would make him feel a whole lot better.
It had been simple nothing untoward. He’d signed the contract, paid the cheque and employed his workforce. Everything was set for construction to begin when out of the blue the men had put down tools and gone home.
Elliot could remember being mystified and downright annoyed. Had he not paid them enough? Did they think he expected too much of them? So he had not given them the high wages of US workers, but this was Brazil godammit surely they would be happy with a pittance?
He’d increased their wages, just a little, and a few men had returned to work, but after a few hours they fizzled out until there were none left again. Elliot had decided they wanted to make him pay more, and once again he had met with them in the square, spoken to them and offered them good money.
They had been encouraged, he could see that, many had wanted to snatch up the offer, but something, or someone had held them back. He could remember that day well.
“What’s the matter, surely that is enough for you?”
Some of the men had nodded, there were a few mumbles of “Its good money.”
“Then why don’t you come and earn it?” Elliot had grown exasperated with them. They had turned then in one fluid movement, walking away from him!
The men had stopped in their tracks but did not turn around.
“What does it take for me to get you to work?”
They’d shrugged and had started on their way again. Elliot did not understand it. “Then I’ll build the goddamned thing myself, you see if I don’t.” Furious he shouted after them, knowing that even if it took longer to organise he would fly his specialised team out from New York. But for now, he’d start moving the soil with his own bear hands if he had to.
The men watched him, idly from afar, some impressed that he attempted to carry out his promise, others amused by his actions.
And he had worked hard if only to show them what could be achieved by one man alone.
“Tonight” he had fumed as he dug furiously and moved rocks with his own bare hands, “Tonight I will call my team in New York, and tomorrow they will come, and they will show these people what work is!”
But for Elliot tomorrow never came, neither for that matter did tonight. For while he worked, back bent his intent upon the work at hand, firm hands grasped him around his chest and a grimy sack was placed over his head. Stunned, he left it a split second too late to fight against his captors, and they had carted him off from the site and on to the back of a truck. There several pairs of hands had held him, hollering though he was, and he had felt rising panic at not being able to see them, or know why they were doing this to him.
Had he been digging on sacred land after all? That thought had winged its way through his brain at that time, as it did even now, for the umpteenth time. Was that why the men had refused so blatantly to work there?
If so were they taking him to the airport? Did they want his removal so badly? But he’d signed the contract paid the cheque - the land was his. And there had been no mention of sacred land when his surveyors had reported back to him.
It just didn’t weigh up.
The journey by truck wasn’t far, but it was bumpy and it was frightening. Having a sack over his head stifled him. The day was hot and the sweat from his brow through his labours on site was sticking to the inside of the sack and Elliot could feel feathers and particles of dust getting into his eyes and mouth. He ceased his shouting, regulated his breathing, listening instead to whatever snippets of conversation he could understand around him. But no one gave anything away.
And then the truck came to a halt, and he felt something heavy tied around his waist, and then he was forced to his knees and onto his side, and literally pushed into a huge hole. “Bon Voyage Mr Burch” someone had shouted, amid shouts of ‘Adios’ from other men, and fear had galloped straight through Elliot as he felt himself falling though suspended from above. He’d drop ten feet or so, falling and coming to a sudden halt that winded him, only to hang suspended and then dropped another ten feet, and so on until his feet finally touched terra-firma. Here the rope was thrown in with him, and he was able to remove the sack from his face.
That was no use, down in the inky darkness he could still see nothing, and above was obscured by many faces peering into the darkness. “You down yet Mr Burch?” They’d laughed wickedly.
“Let me out of here, I demand that you let me out of here.” He had yelled up at them.
“Demand all you like Mr Burch, but you will never be free again.”
The men had moved away then. Elliot had listened to their words quietly receding until complete silence engulfed him, silence so quiet that he thought his ears would burst.
And so it had remained, and even though he had long grown used to the silence, Elliot knew he would never get used to the darkness. It consumed him, sending him to the point of madness, turning him into a very dangerous man.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Seven - click on 'Next' below:
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