A Brazilian Adventure for Devin, Catherine and Elliot.
Using the passage that Pepe’ had described to him Devin made his way to Pepe’s house. His heart was in his mouth, and he kept imagining that any moment now, he’d feel a hand on his shoulder and hear a voice demanding where he was going. He didn’t know why the cloak and dagger existence surrounded Pepe’s family, but he aimed to find out.
Finally at the end of the passage he encountered a door, and he knocked just the once as Pepe’ had instructed.
The door was opened by Pepe’ himself, who ushered Devin inside, quickly checking down the passageway to see if his guest had been followed while Devin watched from the doorway with some humour and much interest.
“You’d think I was a spy.” Devin retorted when Pepe’ returned to his side, and closed the door behind them.
“Not you.” Pepe’ told him.
“Look forgive me for asking, but what is all this? What’s with the cloak and dagger stuff? If I must be treated like a spy then surely you can tell me why?”
“Maybe you are.” A voice sounded at his side, and Devin spun around recognising the young boy Vincent at once.
“Hi there,” Devin readily greeted him his mouth curved into a genuine smile of pleasure.
“Hi yourself.” The boy grinned back.
“What did you mean back then. That maybe I am a spy? What would you have here that would be worth spying on?”
“Its not what we have Mr Wells.” Pepe’ told him.
“Devin please. Call me Devin we are friends are we not?”
Pepe’ and his son exchanged worried glances, they spoke quickly in fluent Portuguese. Devin did not have time to understand what they were saying.
“Come.” Pepe’ took his elbow, “Let’s eat. My family are looking forward to meeting you.”
Devin stood his ground refusing to move, “Then you aren’t going to tell me?”
Devin moved forward then allowing Pepe’ to guide him into the house. Something was definitely wrong here. He would if he could make himself a friend to these people. He would not harm them, whatever they had here, whatever they knew…wasn’t that more to the point? Hadn’t Pepe’ implied that the big secret wasn’t over something they had? Or was he saying that it wasn’t something they had here?
The whole thing was becoming more and more mysterious, and the worst of it all was, that they believed him to be somebody he so obviously was not and that they were cautious and afraid of him. And Devin didn’t like that one bit.
Seated around the table Pepe’s family rose as Devin entered and Pepe’ introduced each one in turn.
“This is my wife Sonia.” Devin remembered Pepe’s early ruse of the girl friend and smiled, not now knowing whether that particular story was true or not. For Pepe’s wife so obviously adored her husband, as she beamed at him while he made the introductions.
“Welcome” Sonia told Devin. “Our meal is humble I hope that you will not be expecting a feast.”
“I am happy with anything you have to offer.” Devin told her honestly. “I’m not a big eater.” He lied upon seeing the meagre spread laid upon the table.
Sonia smiled at him happy with his reply and she visibly relaxed before his gaze. Devin was drawn to her instantly reminding him of the older Mediterranean women he had met on a recent trip to some of the Greek islands and was prompted to ask, “Are you from Spanish descent too?”
“No.” Sonia smiled, “My family are from Athens.” That would explain it then. “I came out here on holiday, met Pepe’, fell in love and the rest as they say is history.” She spanned her family with arms outstretched making Devin laugh.
“Are these all yours?” Devin wanted to make the woman blush. “You don’t look old enough.” She did so becomingly, the compliment flattering her no end. “Thank you Devin. You’ve made my day.”
She smiled at him wholly, causing Devin to realise that she was once a very beautiful and sophisticated woman. Truly her accent spoke of a good upbringing. “Do your family still live in Athens?”
Sonia looked down at her hands, busying herself with a dish in front of her. “Yes.” He detected the sadness in her tone.
Suddenly from what he knew so far Devin felt immensely sad. Pepe’ had never been to the homeland of his father. Sonia had never returned to her family. They were poor people with a large family, but the children were well educated and well dressed. Their home was clean and tidy and bright and smelled of an unusual combination of garlic and flowers. Without thinking Devin said something that ultimately changed their whole outlook toward him and earned him their trust.
“You know I am from America. I’m touring Brazil right now, but when I return, if you should approve I should like to take Vincent with me. I can get him a job,” under his breath he added, ‘make him finish school’ before continuing, “he can live with me, and he can send money home to you.” The more he said the more the idea appealed to him. These people whatever it was that they guarded had given Devin the distinct impression that they knew what it was to keep a secret. Knowledge of his home, the world beneath the city streets would be safe with them he was sure. Still the only one he would entrust with it would be young Vincent, though he wondered if that was because of the name. He would have to be sure, but already he felt as though he could trust this boy. He liked him immensely.
Open mouthed the whole family were speechless. Sonia and Pepe’ stared at one another, their eyes asking a thousand questions, before Sonia found her voice. “But we hardly know you. Why would you do this for us?”
Pepe’ bade his family to sit, and all eyes were upon Devin as they waited eagerly for his answer.
“Someone gave me a chance once. A complete stranger.” Devin was thinking of the time when he had left the tunnels, “I had no one and I could only trust him, and he proved true. I’d like to repay what he did for me to your son, I think it would be the making of him, and he may not get another chance as this again.”
“This is true.” Pepe’ looked to his wife. They spoke in Portuguese, and though Devin could not follow, he could see from the excitement on young Vincent’s face and the disappointment on that of his siblings that it was something good.
“Yes!” Pepe’ said at last, “If you mean this, then yes.” Tears gathered in Pepe’s eyes as he turned to his son, “You will return to us someday?”
Vincent rose and fairly ran around to his father’s side of the table, flinging himself into his arms, “I will return papa, I promise. I will return rich and care for you in your old age just as you have cared for me.”
Devin found a lump forming in his throat, his eyes be-dimming with tears when Vincent next came to stand at his side and rested his hand upon Devin’s shoulder with a firm squeeze, “thank you.” He said sincerely.
“You’re welcome. Can’t say there’s much cause for Zebu herding in New York, but we’ll find you something to occupy your time I’m sure.” Not one for sentimentality Devin tried to change the subject, half of him wishing he had extended this invitation after the meal. He was starving. “That looks tasty what is it?”
“Something I concocted myself. A vegetable dish, wait till you have tried it before commenting further. I am not the world’s greatest cook.” Sonia laughed.
“You must be.” Devin cast his eyes around the table “Otherwise these beautiful children would not have survived.”
Sonia laughed, “You old flatterer.”
“Hey less of the old.” Devin quipped making everyone laugh.
“Pass me your plate.” Sonia told him, preparing to spoon out a portion for him from the dish, “I’ll fill it while Pepe’ introduces the rest of our family. They are eager to make your acquaintance. We hope you can stay for the rest of the afternoon, as they have many questions.” She laughed knowing the depth of her children’s curiosity. An American was coming for dinner, an American who had travelled and had done things, and what was more, an American who was now going to take their elder brother back to the United States to live with him! The children’s minds overflowed with questions!
After the meal, which was Devin truthfully admitted one of the best he had tasted since being in Ouro Preto the family sat around in easy chairs before an old television set. Devin was surprised to find they had one, and crackled though the picture was, he soon found himself glued to the television.
They watched a documentary about Alaska, and then Devin filled them in with his experience of living there. They spoke about Australia, and other countries he had visited. Soon Devin’s eyes were drooping and not just because of the wine he had consumed with their meal. “I should go.” Devin told them unwilling to move.
Sonia and Pepe’ exchanged glances. It had grown dark, and they didn’t want Devin walking back to his hotel at this hour, neither did they wish to escort him.
“Please.” Sonia spoke, “Stay the night with us.” You are very welcome.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. You have already been so kind. Besides I have to call my brother.” It wasn’t strictly true, he had to actually call Peter who would forward the message to his brother, but he didn’t want to have to explain that.
“That would be Vincent?” Pepe’ asked.
“Yes. I call home every three days, if I don’t they only worry. I love my family, wouldn’t want them to worry about me.”
“Then I will escort you.” Pepe’ told him making an attempt to rise to his feet, but Sonia caught his arm her eyes pleading. Devin noticed. “What is that?” he asked them, “You’ve been so kind, yet there is something that isn’t right here, something I can’t lay my finger on. Please won’t you tell me what the problem is? Maybe I can help.”
Pepe’ drew a deep breath, “Devin are you telling us the truth when you say you came here as a tourist?”
For some reason Devin did not reply straight away. How much of the truth did they deserve exactly. How much could he trust them with?
“Not exactly.” He told them softly.
Sonia and Pepe’ exchanged worried glances, and young Vincent’s hopes and dreams collapsed. Tears formed in his eyes. Devin was a fraud, and they’d trusted him! He rolled his fists into a tight ball wanting to punch the man.
“How exactly?” Pepe’s voice was low, holding a hint of malice.
Looking up startled, Devin guessed their thoughts, he smiled hoping to reassure them. “I’m not a spy if that’s what you’re thinking.” His eyes spoke that truth at least Pepe’ was quick to notice.
“I was coming out here with my sister in law. Vincent’s wife. We were going to spend our time looking for a missing friend.”
The colour drained from Pepe’s face as Sonia clutched at his arm tighter. “Go on.” Pepe’ asked through tightly clenched teeth.
“Well to cut a long story short, she didn’t come, and I came here alone. I called her asking if she was coming, she said not, and told me to return, but I’d never been to Brazil so decided to stay and take a look around.”
There was silence.
“Its true.” Devin told them.
“That’s as maybe but there are a lot of missing links.” Sonia told him. “Why did your sister in law change her mind about coming?”
“She had only married my brother that morning. Thankfully she had a change of heart and stayed with him. My brother was willing to let her come here, but she stayed with him after all.”
“And what of this missing friend? Did you find him?”
Devin shook his head, “No.” He didn’t know what else if anything he should disclose. After what he had overheard why should he trust anyone? Especially people who seemed so interested. He looked up at them, his gaze resting upon them steadily, “Do you know where he is?” He asked without blinking.
Sonia as well as Pepe’s skin certainly paled before his gaze, “You do!” Devin exclaimed, “Please tell me where he is?”
“We didn’t say anything!” Sonia cried.
“I know.” Devin told her sincerely, “But you know where he is, you know what they did with him, please tell me.”
“They?” Pepe’ coloured up.
“On the plane I overheard some men saying that my friend had been taken care of. They mentioned names, I know they were talking about the same man.” Devin rushed on his excitement growing. If they could tell him where Elliot was, he could be rescued, and whatever fear these people had now would diminish, he hoped.
“And can you speak names, Mr Wells?” The strange voice to one side startled the occupants of the room, no one had heard him enter.
“Pedro!” Pepe’ jumped to his feet, “How dare you come here uninvited.”
“And did Mr Wells come here uninvited also?”
Fear coursed through Sonia’s heart, what would her husband say?
Taking in the situation as it unfolded, Devin spoke for them “I did.”
“Then if you can so can I.” Pedro replied sarcastically. “So come tell me please who is it that you are speaking about.” He sat down, pulling a cigar from his top pocket and rolling it between his fingers as he surveyed the family seated around him.
“It’s none of your business!” Devin flared.
“Oh but I think it is.” A quick click of his fingers drew their gaze to a movement from the doorway and Devin recognised the men from the aeroplane along with one he didn’t.
“Leo!” Pepe’ exclaimed ”What is going on here.”
“Just what I was asking myself.” Leo drawled, “here we are trusting you, and here you are turning traitor.”
“He is not!” Vincent flung at them racing to stand between his father and the men and Devin watched, his mind reeling as the boy was gunned down right in front of him!
“NOOOO!” Devin screamed, Sonia screamed, Pepe’ lurched forward grasping his dying son as he fell to the floor, his younger brothers and sisters diving for cover anywhere they could.
Tears streamed down Devin’s cheeks, “You bastard!” He flung himself at the man with the gun intent on killing him.
Instead he found himself held tightly, watching in horror as first Pepe’ and then Sonia was blasted in the head right before his eyes.
“No such luck for you Mr Wells. The easy way out is not for you. Besides its time Mr Burch had some company.” The fellow sneered, forcing Devin through the door. “Tidy up in here. Get rid of those rats” He bellowed as they left the house.
Devin prayed that the little ones could escape even as his mind refused to accept everything that had just happened. And the last thing he saw as he was permitted to look back over his shoulder was Pepe’, Sonia and young Vincent’s blood soaked bodies lying twisted on the floor.
*** *** ***
Devin’s heart ached. There was no other word for it. It ached, and all fight had drained out of him. A beautiful family felled like that. The slim hope fading that some of the children had escaped, the vow forming that he would take them to live in the tunnels if he ever found that they had. His heart cried for them, and he didn’t care what happened to him providing he would live long enough to seek revenge on the killers.
Murder, cold-blooded murder. His eyes stung with tears. What a waste what a damn waste of a beautiful family. Now Pepe’ would never see the land of his forefathers and Sonia would never return home. And Vincent, young Vincent whom Devin had found such affection for would never cross the Atlantic Ocean and take his first step onto American soil.
Hatred, blind, ragged, cold hatred built in Devin’s heart. He would avenge their deaths if it were the last thing he did. No one would get away unscathed. Their faces burned in his brain. He would know them anywhere, seek them out and strangle them with his own bare hands if he had to. In his eyes they were as good as dead.
He hardly noticed as the rope was tied, hardly noticed as his body was knocked to the ground and rolled along. And only noticed when his body felt as though it were falling only to be yanked to a stop in mid air, before making the descent in the same manner moments later.
“A guest for you Mr Burch!” The sound carried down from above and passed his ears until Devin detected a movement far below him.
“Who, what!” The distant voice was gruff but recognisable. Devin shouted down to him, “Elliot!”
“So” the voice came from above, “You do know each other. Well too bad that it won’t be a long friendship, now that your food supply has been cut off.” He laughed wickedly. Devin’s stomach lurched and churned. He’d get him someday he’d get him. He vowed that he would.
His feet touched down and the rope came hurtling past him, whizzing past his ear to land with a thump at his feet. Well at least they had a rope Devin thought.
“Elliot?” The darkness was all consuming, but at least he had been spared the sack, not that he knew it of course, although he was to learn that on the coldest of nights Elliot had been glad of its warmth wrapped around his shoulders.
“Who is that?” Elliot’s voice came from somewhere to his left. Devin turned slowly, getting his barings. Even in this inky blackness he was home, but he knew that mustn’t lose his barings.
“It’s Devin Wells. I don’t believe you know me but…” His words trailed away as Elliot interrupted
“Wells, Wells, as in Vincent Wells?”
Devin sighed, “Yes, Vincent is my brother.”
Devin detected the note of anxiety in Elliot’s tone, and laughed despite himself,
“Yes, my adopted brother.”
Elliot relief was palpable and he sighed deeply, “Thank God.”
“For what? For the fact that I don’t resemble my brother or for the fact that you have company at last?”
Exhaling a short sharp breath of humour Elliot replied, “For the fact that you don’t resemble your brother. I want no reminders.”
Devin thought it a strange thing to say and told him so, “I thought you and Vincent were friends?”
“Friends? Yes, you could call us friends…” He hesitated, “And arch enemies too.”
“Why is that?” Devin was intrigued.
“Your brother has just married the only woman I will ever love. Surely that constitutes us as enemies?”
Devin smiled into the darkness, “Oh I see.” Then asked, “You been down here long?”
“Long enough” Elliot spoke gruffly. Then remembered something, “What did he mean back there when he said our food supply had been cut off?”
“I’m not sure. What did you think he meant?” Backing up against a rock Devin sank to his knees, his body had begun to tremble and Elliot noticed his teeth chattered.
“You’re cold. Here wrap this around you such as it is. Sorry about the way it smells.” He held out the sack in the vicinity of the sound, but Devin refused. “No it’s all right, I’m not cold so as to be warmed. I just witnessed three cold bloodied murders.”
“That’s terrible. Did you know the people?”
“Friend’s of yours?”
Devin took only seconds to answer, “Yes.”
“So am I. For some reason their friendship with me cost them their lives.”
There was silence between them for a time and Elliot noted that Devin was softly crying. He let him be. The guy needed to let it out otherwise it would eat him alive. He knew. Hadn’t his father been murdered also? Elliot could well remember the pain and the shock. It would never leave him.
After a while he detected that Devin slept. His shallow even breathing signifying that the guy was physically and mentally exhausted even as his breathing was interspersed with strangled cries and moans.
Elliot let him sleep it was all there was to do in this place. His stomach moaned, it was getting near to mealtime.
So used was he to his daily survival kit as he had come to call it, Elliot expected that within the next couple of hours food would be delivered. And as a pinprick of light appeared above, something would block out the light, growing larger and larger as food descended down to him on some thread.
Water too, wrapped carefully in paper so that the bottle did not break. Elliot had quite a stock of bottles now. But he had to keep reminding himself, that if the guy above could be believed then that daily survival kit had been cut off.
Elliot gasped and Devin was awoken suddenly by a man choking on a panic attack. For long moments Devin did not know where he was. It was so dark, but the scent of the underground rocks was familiar to him. “Vincent?” He queried.
“No,” came the hoarse reply.
At once Devin remembered. “What’s the matter, what’s wrong?” He scrambled to his feet making his way toward the sound and encountered Elliot’s bunched shoulders as he kneeled upon the floor.
“We’re going to die aren’t we?” Elliot’s voice was strangled and the choking resumed. Devin found his arms and pulled him to his feet, hitting him squarely on the jaw, “We will if you carry on like that.” He yelled, “Stop it man, get a grip!”
Subdued Elliot stopped as quickly as he had started. All the fight drained out of him. Only his throbbing jaw where Devin had punched him reminded him that he was still alive.
“We’re going to die.” Elliot whispered.
“No!” Devin told him and Elliot could well remember newly arriving in this place and being so passionate about escape. Well Devin would learn just as he had learned, there was no escape.
“No we’re not gonna die we’re gonna get out of here.” Devin told him sounding so positive that Elliot almost believed him. And he didn’t know it yet but out of all the people on the earth that could have been sent down to accompany him in his fate, Devin was perhaps one of the few people that knew enough of underground systems to actually get them out of their predicament.
*** *** ***
It was easy to see that something troubled the newlyweds, and Father watched them closely before finally deciding enough was enough, “What’s wrong?” He asked the pair at dinner one evening as each picked over their plate, so obviously distracted with something more important than food.
Father well knew that every married couple would have their ups and downs, and this unique pair would be no different, but it grieved him to see them so at odds.
“Vincent?” Father had to prompt his son for a reply.
“What’s wrong?” Father’s kindly eyes were filled with concern, making Vincent feel that bit too uncomfortable to look at his face for long. His plate looked more appealing right now. “Nothing.” He mumbled.
Father turned his attention to his daughter-in-law, “Catherine?”
“Its nothing, Father don’t worry.”
“But I am worried. To see the two of you so down in the dumps and not be able to help, well I am worried. Please, I want to help.”
Catherine pushed back her seat, picking up her plate as she did so, her meal hardly touched, “Don’t worry so Father, we’re all right.”
“All right my foot!” Father snapped only to be touched on the arm by Mary, he turned and scrowled at her.
“Leave them Jacob.”
He watched his son and daughter-in-law leave the dining area before he turned and glared at Mary.
“Why did you do that? I might have found out what’s troubling them.”
“I know what’s troubling them.” She whispered so as not to be overheard.
“Why am I always the last to know?” Father whispered back. “Will you tell me?”
“Only so that you don’t bombard them further, they’ll sort it out Jacob you’ll see. They’ve covered worse things than this.”
“Worse things? How can I believe you when I don’t know what this thing is?”
Mary edged closer to whisper in his ear, “Catherine wants a baby.”
Father nodded, ‘arh now he understood.’ “And I take it that Vincent isn’t agreeable?”
Mary smiled tenderly, “they’ll sort it out Jacob, let them be.”
“But how can I? Vincent is right Catherine must be made to understand this. A woman’s wiles do not come into it this time. Catherine cannot dispute that Vincent is different no matter what she claims, and he will likely carry those differences over to his offspring.”
“Yes I know Jacob.” Mary sounded if she knew but didn’t agree one iota.
“Mary, you and Catherine are just the same, you don’t see it the way Vincent and I do. All you see is a cuddly, furry baby, a replica of my son.”
“And do you not? After all you saw him as a child. Why should you rob that joy from us?”
“Now Mary that’s not the issue here, and its nothing to do with what you want or what I want, its what Vincent wants that is important here. And I believe he should have the last word in this.”
“And no one cares about what Catherine wants? What Catherine has forsaken to love him to spend her life here with him? Every way I look at it, Catherine is the one that made all the sacrifices Jacob.”
“With her eyes wide open Mary. Catherine knew what she was doing when she married my son.”
“Maybe she did, but even then she believed like every newly wedded wife that their marriage would be blessed with children. It should have been something they’d discussed before their marriage but it wasn’t, and well…Catherine wants a baby. Surely she should not be denied that most basic of needs?”
“Perhaps she can go above and have artificial insemination. If having a child is that important to her.”
“Oh Jacob, she loves Vincent. How could she possibly want any other child than his?”
“Well what she wants my dear and what she’ll get are two vastly different things, because I am off to see them now and talk some sense into that daughter-in-law of mine.” He forced back his chair making to stand as Mary held onto his arm and cried, “Oh Jacob no, you promised.”
“I did no such thing! You told me of your own accord.”
Mary knew he was right, and she felt terrible. Catherine had confided in her and asked her not to tell a soul. She hoped Catherine might forgive her especially after Jacob had spoken with her.
“Then I’ll come with you.”
“As you please.”
Yet as Father hobbled toward his son’s chamber his anger gradually subsided. He could only too well remember Vincent as a babe. And babes grew too fast. In a way he could well understand Catherine’s desire to bear such a child into the world and to the man she loved. But he could also see it from Vincent’s point of view. Vincent had had a terrible childhood in terms of freedom. So much had been denied him and a child of his own facing that? Well Father could clearly see how much that would hurt.
By the time they’d reached the chamber Father had had a change of heart, he stopped and turned to Mary, “Let’s leave them be shall we my dear? They’ll come to us if they need any help.”
Mary hugged him tightly, “thank you Jacob.” She whispered thankful that something had brought him to his senses.
*** *** ***
Within the chamber Vincent read quietly, he seemed to be absorbed in his book but from time to time he gazed over the top at Catherine.
She had said very little to him ever since the start of her period. He wasn’t even sure if it had finished. It had been different from those other times when he had felt the raw ache in his abdomen signalling the arrival of her time of the month. This time he had felt nothing which was why he had not been alerted to the reason that day he had sought her out at the bathing pool.
Putting the book down, he sighed deeply causing Catherine to raise her head and look up at him. He saw sadness etched in her eyes, and another wound opened in his heart. “Must it go wrong so soon for us?”
He hadn’t realised he had spoken out loud until she answered him, “only you have the words to make it right.” She whispered.
Vincent despaired, “Catherine please! I can’t I just can’t. Please try to understand.”
“Try to understand!” Her voice rose hysterically, and Vincent knew much of it was from bottled feelings over the last few days. “What is there to understand?”
“I love you isn’t that enough?” His reply caught on a sob.
“But obviously not enough to want my child.” Catherine snapped.
Vincent stared at her. How could he answer her?
It was all so simple when she had referred to a baby as ‘his’ child but to refer to it as ‘her’ child well that was a different concept entirely. Catherine watched him pale significantly before she dared to smile just a little. Mary had been right. Re-phrasing words had helped. Catherine almost felt sorry for him.
He continued to stare at her grappling for the right words, dismissing them as they came as inappropriate. He had to word his thoughts carefully, if he didn’t he might lose her entirely, but no matter what he thought of sounded wrong even to himself.
So he simply said nothing.
Catherine on the other hand was jubilant at seeing her husband stumped for words and she started to laugh, “cat got your tongue Vincent?” Then she laughed even harder at the look that passed over his face at her comment. “See how it feels now?” She sobered, asking the question flatly. “You can’t answer me can you?”
“So let me get this straight,” Catherine walked over to his chair and paced in front of him much as she would do before a witness in the courtroom. “You love me, but you couldn’t love my child.”
“I didn’t say that!” Vincent jumped to his feet.
“You didn’t say anything my love, at least nothing in your defence.”
Despite himself Vincent grinned. She was playing with him. He decided to go along with it, unaware that was exactly how she had wanted him to react. If he was playing with her then there was a good possibility that she could trip him up.
“The thing is Vincent, I could love both children. I could love your child and I could love my child, as much as I love you, but it seems that where our love is concerned we are at odds.”
“Catherine…you know how much I love you. Do I have to climb to the moon to declare it? Be it that I could I would.”
Catherine’s heart raced then and she took some calming breaths to still its headlong flight. Being taken in by his declaration of love for her would not win her objective.
“Yet would you climb into infinity itself to declare such love for my child?” She asked him sweetly refusing to look up at him as she continued to pace.
“Don’t bait me Catherine.” A low growl from him surprised her. So he had guessed had he? Well she would have to resort to more cunning still.
“I love it when you do that.” She teased, surprising him greatly, “Do it again?”
“Oh go on, it gives me goose bumps.”
Vincent’s eyes sparkled, loving the things she was saying despite everything.
“No is a favoured word with you isn’t it my love? Let me see now, are you ever able to say yes? I wonder.”
“I do know the difference between yes and no Catherine.”
For a few moments they faced one another and their eyes locked for combat. Then Catherine began her swift barrage of questions that fell upon his ears before he’d time to think.
“Do you love me?”
“Do you love yourself?”
“Yes, Catherine what are you doing?” He eyed her cynically.
“Just answer the question please Mr Wells. Do you love Devin?”
Vincent’s lips quirked at the corners, “Yes.”
“Geoffrey, Kipper, Samantha, Jamie, Mouse?”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes!”
There was silence. Vincent backtracked, oh no!
Catherine was smiling, “You answered correctly Mr Wells, I have no further questions.” She sat in the chair watching him beneath her lashes. He was the one pacing now.
“You tricked me Catherine.”
“You were the one who said you knew no from yes. No one was forcing your arm behind your back Vincent.”
“Even so you tricked me.”
“Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no Vincent, you know that. You wouldn’t be disputing that would you?”
Vincent glared at her, “It’s just a game Catherine. You can’t play games with something as important as this, you don’t know what you are doing or saying.” Hands upon the table he leaned forward glaring at her from across the room.
“So even under oath you back down.”
“I was not under oath.”
“You was to me.”
Vincent drew in a deep breath, exhaling it slowly, “Well it matters neither way. It’s all metaphorically speaking anyway, for none of this will come to pass.”
“Ever read Lady Chatterley’s lover Vincent?”
“Nooo.” Vincent was on his guard. He’d heard of the book of course. And if he remembered rightly Father had caught Devin reading it once and had confiscated it. Vincent had concluded from that that it was a bad book, until the day he’d found Father reading it himself!
“Then I’d advise you to do so.”
“So that you can be prepared.”
“Prepared for what?”
Catherine smiled sweetly at him before returning back to her original seat and picking up the sheaf of papers she had been reading, thus dismissed him entirely.
Vincent stared at her, his hackles rising, well if she wanted war then so be it. And Catherine looked at him beneath her lashes, preparing herself to slay the lion. And via the Bond both of them felt a flutter of excitement for the things that were to come.
*** *** ***
A few days later Vincent passed by his wife’s chair noticing the cover of the book as being one he had not seen before. “What’s that you’re reading?”
“I bought it today, its about Brazil.” Vincent felt an icy shiver run up his spine at Catherine’s reply.
“Why the interest?” He tried not to sound too bothered, entering his chamber to collect a change of clothing before going along to the bathing pool. He was sweaty and dusty from his labours down in the lower levels.
Raising her head Catherine watched him. “You might not have realised darling, but it is almost a week since Peter had word from Devin.”
Vincent had realised, “And?”
“And, if we don’t hear from him soon, someone is going to have to go out there and find out why.” She looked back down at the book unable to meet his eyes.
For long moments there was silence, but Catherine knew by the rapid breathing of her husband that he was having difficulty holding his temper. At last he let it go, “So…by that I take it you have decided to be that person?” Catherine winced at his tone. If she didn’t know Vincent better she would have concluded he had become very possessive of her every move. She looked back up at him beneath her lashes and a thrill of excitement ran through her. He looked magnificent!
His long golden mane covered his shoulders, and hung in front of him as he leaned on powerful arms upon the table. His muscles rippling Catherine could just imagine the force and hard length of him holding her within his embrace. His eyes flashed like brilliant blue ice and Catherine could tell it was taking him all his strength to maintain his control. And much of that fury was put there by her over the last few days when she had resolutely refused to sleep with him until he gave in to her demands for a baby. Catherine could see the deep and buried passion blazing beneath the fury of his gaze and her womanhood clutched as a shiver after shiver engulfed her.
Licking her lips she could find no answer. Well none that would suffice his question. “God I want you.” She whispered, stunning him to the core. His fury evaporated to be overtaken by the shimmering heat that lay just beneath the surface and a long low moan erupted from him together with the words, “Catherine what on earth are we doing?”
“I don’t know Vincent. I love you so much.” Her sobbed reply left her lips as she made to stand and come toward him. He met her half way, lifting her clear off the floor engulfing her in his arms and his lips seeking hers with wild abandon. “I’ve missed this.” The relief of holding her so close brought him to tears as Catherine’s hands snaked behind his head, her fingers tangling with his hair, “Make love to me.” She sobbed into his neck.
“Yes, Oh yes.” He carried her to their bed, laying her down gently, joining her there in one swift motion, his large hands cradling her face, his eyes staring down into hers. “Catherine, my love, we must never do this to one another again. Playing games will kill us both.”
Covering his face with kisses, Catherine agreed, and she apologised, “I’m so sorry Vincent, for everything.”
“You do understand?” Even now in his desperate passion and the aching need that filled him Vincent had to know.
Reluctantly Catherine nodded, “Yes my love, to have a child like yourself would bring you the greatest heartache.”
“Its not that I don’t want a child with you Catherine, please know that.” He husked, tears welling in his eyes.
“I know, I know.” She stroked his brow, running her fingers from there to his cheek, to his jaw, to tilt it toward her and kiss him passionately. He returned the kiss and at the same time probing the Bond as something from Catherine triggered a response in him that didn’t feel quite right. But he couldn’t ascertain what it might be either that or she was withholding her emotions from him. He stared at her, his eyes opening wide, questioningly. Catherine preferred to ignore the searching look that he gave her, quickly caressing his body in ways that she had learned would soon make him forget everything else, and most importantly to forget to use the contraception.
But this time it did not work. “I read the book Catherine.” He told her softly.
“The book? What book? The one I bought today? You couldn’t have, its been in my bag till now.”
Catherine was clearly confused.
“Not that one.” He whispered, holding her gaze.
“Which one then?” Drawing her brows together Catherine wondered what on earth he could mean, and waited for him to continue.
“The one you asked if I’d read several days ago. Remember now?” He kissed her brow, anticipating her reply.
“Oh that book.”
“Yes that book.”
Catherine giggled, “And?”
“And what? It’s a good book.”
“You enjoyed it!”
Vincent toyed with her lapping up her disbelief with pleasure. “I take it you thought I wouldn’t?” He asked her lazily, his eyes brimming with merriment.
“I, I, wouldn’t have thought it was your type.” Catherine whispered, surprised that Lady Chatterley’s Lover had found favour with her husband.
“Ordinarily it wouldn’t be. But you did insist that I read it. And I admit to being curious. And I have to admit that I am pleased that I took your advice. It had pleasantly stimulating content, and I do feel so much more in the know since I completed it.”
Catherine gulped, Vincent in this mood was a force to be reckoned with, and all her cunning wiles flew out of the window. She grimaced, “Goofed huh?”
“I would say most certainly goofed my love.”
“So I have to change tactics then?
Vincent laughed, a deep resonate sound that despite everything made Catherine laugh too. She had not really expected him to read the book, and that he had he now knew every move that she had intended to make. Every cunning move that would have secured her dreams - that of holding his baby in her arms.
Suddenly she had a brilliant idea, ‘this’ll wipe that smug look off of his face’ she told herself. She wasn’t done yet.
“But I have changed tactics my love.” Her words were like ice. And at once Vincent was on his guard. His passion and desire of moments ago vanished and he waited for her to continue warily.
When she said no more he whispered fearfully, “You have?”
“Yes.” She waited then, unsure as to whether she would go too far with this. As they had already realised the game that they played could have had dire consequences, and this time Catherine played with fire. There were too many implications in what she was about to say, and she may have backed down had Vincent not at that moment goaded her. “You’re bluffing?”
Struggling to sit up, forcing herself out of his embrace and up against the pillows to the head of the bed, Catherine’s eyes flashed her indignation, “I am not!”
“Then what are you saying?” The tone of Vincent’s voice provided its own warning, and again Catherine was uncertain. Why did they have to play these games anyway? Couldn’t she just make love to him and hope that in the throes of passion one night he would forget the contraception, throw caution to the wind and make her pregnant? Other people did that and to hell with the consequences.
And when that little baby had been born everything had come right in the end, and Catherine had no doubts that it would do so in this case either.
Probing the Bond Vincent’s eyes became mere slits as he encountered her turmoil. His suspicions grew. She was up to something, but it was something that could tear them apart. “Stop playing games Catherine.” He growled.
“I want your child.” She whispered unaware that she had spoken her thoughts out loud.
Sighing deeply, Vincent rolled off of her, his eyes were haunted. Would they always come back to this? “Catherine…listen…” He began lamely.
“No you listen!” Jumping off the bed Catherine stood in front of him, “What’s so wrong with a baby that’s what I want to know?”
In defeat Vincent spread his hands, did he have to spell it out to her? “So you’re different, so what! The circumstances are too Vincent!” Catherine’s voice rose, and Vincent was quite sure that everyone would hear her. “Shh Catherine.”
“Don’t you Shh me! I don’t care who hears this!”
“Well I do!” Father’s voice came distinctly from the entrance, “Catherine have you taken leave of your senses?”
“Its all right Father, I can handle this.” Vincent told his parent.
“That may as be Vincent, but I am on your side here, and Catherine must be made to see just how unfair she is being.”
“I can see Catherine’s point of view though.” Another voice, a feminine one came from the entrance signifying Mary’s arrival.
“Thank you Mary. I’m pleased someone does.” Catherine looked over to the other woman, her green eyes showing her gratitude.
“Father, Mary, I appreciate your concern, but Catherine and I have to sort this out ourselves without your intervention. Please?”
Vincent looked from one to the other - his father and the woman he had known as his mother for many years. Reluctantly they nodded and stepped back toward the exit. “You’ll know where we are if you need us.” The look of concern in Father’s eyes warmed Vincent. The look in Mary’s troubled him.
“It seems you have an ally in Mary.” Vincent confronted Catherine when the pair had gone.
“Yes.” Suddenly Catherine felt immensely forlorn. Vincent felt it and he was sorry, so very sorry. He swallowed with difficulty, whispering words Catherine had not heard from him in a long, long time “Perhaps you should have married Elliot after all. He would have had no trouble in giving children to you.”
Catherine said nothing, and that in itself told Vincent everything. The tears fell unbidden from his eyes.
Catherine stared at him, her heart breaking, ‘Why was she behaving like this?’ She shook her head, ‘there must be something wrong with me - I’m becoming an emotional fanatic - this is my husband - my unique and wonderful husband - the man I would gladly die for - how can I stand here and hurt him like this?’ Catherine knew she had the power to erase his tears, knew she held in her hands the power to pull them out of the depths of despair to which they had sunk, but she couldn’t. For the life of her she just couldn’t.
Instead walking back to the table she picked up the book on Brazil, and took it to where Vincent sat huddled miserably in his chair. “You wanted to know what my change of tactic was. Well here.”She shoved the book into his hands and then at a brisk walk left the chamber.
Staring down at the book, his vision misted by tears Vincent saw not the book, but Elliot trapped somewhere in Brazil and Catherine hurrying out to rescue him. The book slid from his fingers to lay in a heap on the floor and twin pools of blue over spilled soaking the crumpled pages with his tears.
*** *** ***
Frightfully unhappy Catherine gazed unseeing through the small window of the aeroplane as the landscape came into view beneath the clouds. She felt numb inside, so much so that the last few hours were nothing but a blur in her mind.
Packing her suitcase, snatching up her passport, leaving the tunnels, without even bidding her husband goodbye. Booking her seat and boarding a plane to fly her to Brazil, and only now as the seat belt indicator light blinked did she realise just what she had done!
What on earth was wrong with her?
She wished she knew. Ever since her wedding night, ever since the first time she and Vincent had made love had it seemed she’d been on a roller coaster of emotions most of them broody, weepy and downright miserable. Feelings that she had never in all her life encountered and there had been some.
It was as if her body was at war with her mind. She knew how Vincent felt about pro creation of his kind. She had always known. Once it had not mattered. Once the single-minded pursuit of getting him to bed had been her main adjective and babies had never come into it. So why now? Why when she had her man did she feel that going beyond that was such a necessity?
Vincent was right - there were tunnel children to love - street children to adopt. And what child wouldn’t want Vincent as their father? They adored him. All children loved him, placing their utmost trust in his large heart and hands knowing he would care for them and protect them as no one else ever could. And in many ways that thought was exciting, to be able to extend the love they felt for one another to an orphaned child, to orphaned children and to watch those children expand and grow with love.
So why was it so important that she bore a child of her own? Just her maternal instincts maybe, just that clock that ticked resolutely within that told her time for her was running out to have a child of her own. Perhaps that was it the whole truth of the matter. Not so much that she wanted Vincent’s child, but that she wanted a child, her child, while there was yet still time. What woman could justify never having used the gift she had been given to bring forth a child?
Though her mind told her these things, still her heart was troubled. Catherine could not understand it, but her emotions were fuelled, no geared with a need that became paramount against logic.
She wanted a baby. There was no two ways about it. The need was so great and it surpassed everything. There was nothing else left to think about. In fact it seemed there was nothing else to think about. But still Catherine could not understand the driving force that fed her to want this so much. Had she of been experienced in this, had she of known that some pregnant women with a low placenta still had one or two periods at the start of their term then she would have understood. Her mood was solely reminiscent of a mother to be, because that’s what she was. Catherine was pregnant!
*** *** ***
“So you have absolutely no idea why they threw you down here?” Devin had listened to Elliot’s story a thousand times, and could still not understand it.
“I told you none at all.”
They were sitting, knees bent, backs against the damp wall of their prison, the inky darkness all consuming, but able to see nonetheless the occasional silhouette of each other by a chink of light from above.
“And you don’t know why they threw you down here? I can’t believe they wanted me to have some company!” Elliot hissed, “You had to have stumbled on something.”
“I obviously did, but what beats me!” Devin replied. “I never learned much at all, except that Pepe’ and his family knew something and it seems that their killers assumed I knew of it too. What gets me is why they didn’t kill me on the spot too. They could have.”
“They could have shot me too. They could have shot me and pushed me down this godforsaken hole and have been done with it. I wish they had!”
“I can only assume that killing Brazilians is one thing, but killing Americans is something else entirely.”
“You don’t think then that they plan to release us? That they have a plan for us?” Elliot’s final hope died even as he said the words.
“Who knows? I just wish they would let us go, do whatever it is that they feel the need to do, and let us get on with our lives. Whatever they may think we know nothing, at least nothing incriminating to their cause. Perhaps now it’s not so true. If I ever get out of here I will avenge the deaths of my friends for sure.”
“From what you say, those deaths were senseless, needless killings. Whatever is at stake here, has got to be to do with only one thing. I see it all the time. Only money brings about that kind of evil. Whatever they think we know has something to do with wealth, except here in Brazil that doesn’t quite ring true.”
“Why not here in Brazil?” Though Devin could not see his companion’s face, he turned to him for the answer.
“Because here in Brazil in times of economic collapse such as now, money is worthless. I signed a contract yes, and I paid for the land yes, but the bigger percentage was not with money but with promises. Promises to employ people, whole families, in a bid to help them build better homes, have better lives. These are proud people they work for their living. A get rich quick scheme is not for them not where money is concerned. Having money in the bank means nothing to these people.”
“Then what does?” Devin couldn’t quite believe his ears.
“Gems. Precious stones, gold, silver and the like. A man here is respected for his collection of gemstones. The more he has the more respect he earns for himself. In times of economic collapse, it is gemstones that are used for bartering, for trade. Brazil is the only place in the world where topaz is harvested and the world will pay good prices for such stones, even so finding a Brazilian to part with his collection is very rare indeed. He is estimated by his collection of gems and elevated because of them.”
“So he doesn’t ever have to part with his collection? Just show that he has them?”
“Indeed. The more he has the higher he is in anyone’s estimation. People will give to him gladly just to be known as his friend, just to make an elevated name for themselves. They put him up on a pedestal, and he becomes the richest man that they know, possibly the richest man in the world. This is probably true if he did sell those jewels. Blue topaz is worth a fortune and the rarest of all gemstones.”
“No that can’t be so.” Devin shook his head, “I read somewhere that blue topaz is created from the refining of clear. It’s not something that can be found in its natural state. Blue topaz doesn’t exist literally.”
“Oh but it does. Its rare true, but it exists. Just as blue is refined from clear, natural elements can produce blue. And natural blue topaz can only be found in one place in all of the world.”
“Brazil.” Devin commented.
“Yes that’s true, but one place even smaller than that.”
“Where then? I thought you said topaz comes from Brazil?”
“I did. And it does. No what I mean is that blue topaz can only be found in one place in the whole of Brazil.”
“Yes in Ouro Preto, it is the only place in the world, and I wondered…”
Devin’s mind raced ahead, “You think that’s what all this is about? You think they found it don’t you?”
“It would provide the perfect explanation. What else could be so highly prized so as to kill for? I still don’t know what our parts in it are, if anything. Maybe someone’s fabricated idea that we were involved at all, but yes Devin I do believe that blue topaz, or at least topaz is the reason behind all of this. And you know what?” There was a tremor to Elliot’s question.
“What?” Devin wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
“If that’s so then they can’t kill us. They can’t have our blood on their hands because Americans are among the biggest buyers of topaz when it does become available for sale and killing us would put paid to all of that. Far better that you and I died down a mineshaft while helping them dig for topaz. And that being so they never intend to set us free from here.”
“You’re missing something.”
“Topaz is never found in huge quantities. The world has vast orders for the stone, but seldom are those orders matched. I know what you are saying about economic collapse, about the gem being mightier than the dollar, I understand all of that, but it doesn’t figure somehow. What’s the use of being mighty, no rather what’s the use of having a mighty man in your midst when your family is starving? Surely those that have these stones would sell them to meet the demand whenever possible?”
“Yes I see your point, and that’s why I think that this find is something big, big enough to stay people’s hands. Remember my work force? They just downed tools. Nothing would get them back to work. Not even a higher wage, they were tempted true, but something, or someone held them back. If a small amount of topaz had been found then there would be no leverage but a large amount? Well surely that speaks for itself? A share in a large amount of topaz would evaluate a person, set him on the road to glory, give him something money could never buy. A celebrated name for himself and all the worshippers he wanted into the bargain. It doesn’t have to be blue topaz. A small amount of blue would carry the weight of a larger deposit of pink or brown or orange, but whatever it is, I reckon that is the key. Somehow, and I don’t know when, but somehow at the time of my signing that contract someone found a deposit of topaz, and to stop me from claiming it, I was thrown down here to die. And you my friend unwittingly got caught up in this, and were thrown down here to join me.”
“Then its up to us to get out of here. For die we shall if we don’t find water soon.”
“I’ve never gone far from here, well not since that first time I told you about. But even so I encountered nothing of substance to be of lifesaving content, least of all a way out.”
“Oh but there will be one.”
“What! Did you think that this mineshaft was the only way in? Did you not ever envisage that there must be miles of tunnels that actually led somewhere?”
“Of course I did!” Elliot snapped, “I just assumed they’d be blocked of course.”
Devin shook his head, then knowing Elliot could not see this, remarked, “No, just so far away that they never thought we would reach them without water. But water doesn’t have to trickle to be there. Have you not noticed how damp these walls are?”
“Sure I’ve noticed. Sometimes the damp seeps right through to my bones. If I ever get warm again it will be a miracle.”
“Well let’s start that miracle now shall we?”
“What, like right now?”
“How long you bin down here?”
“Then its time you did something constructive. Come on lets get outa here.”
“Its impossible.” The flat note in Elliot’s tone annoyed Devin.
“Its not. I know the way. You coming or stopping here to feel sorry for yourself?” Elliot could hear Devin scrambling to his feet, could see his silhouette moving to an upright position. He wavered unsure, then got up using the wall behind to aid him. He felt weak yet elated all of a sudden. Doing something no matter how fruitless was better than doing nothing at all. And maybe, just maybe Devin would find a way out.
“I’m right behind you.”
“Good.” Devin replied, “Just grab hold of as many of these bottles with tops as you can and keep up okay?”
Mystified Elliot obeyed. And for the first time in seventeen days excitement rose in his heart.
*** *** ***
“Why’d you let her go Vincent? Answer me that eh?”
Vincent shook his head, his great mane of hair hiding his face, “I don’t know. That is I didn’t know. That is I knew she was contemplating going, but I didn’t know she was going so soon.”
“I told you I’d be in my chamber if you needed me. You should have called me, we might have stopped her from leaving.” Father seemed not to hear or want to hear his son. Mary touched his arm, “Jacob, didn’t you hear what Vincent said, he didn’t know that Catherine planned to leave so soon.”
“And that’s your answer to everything is it - an exclamation of disapproval? And how was Vincent supposed to stop her? You know Catherine, once she gets a bee in her bonnet about something she’s off.”
“I know that only too well and much of her sudden ideas has been detrimental to Vincent.”
“That was in the past and you know it. Catherine would never put Vincent at risk anymore.”
“That maybe so, physically speaking, but what of mental anguish…”
“Will you two stop speaking about this as if I wasn’t here?”
Vincent rose to his feet and started his notorious pacing, “I didn’t know that Catherine planned to go to Brazil, not right now, this minute, only that she wished to go. And Catherine has a point, Devin has failed to make contact and after he was getting so good at it as well.” Despite everything Vincent grinned thinking of his brother’s sudden ability to actually stick to a promise to contact them frequently. They had heard from him every three days while he had been in Brazil up until the last week then suddenly nothing. It had been that as much as anything that had worried Catherine, and him too if truth be told. Obviously Catherine had picked up the vibes from him, because Vincent doubted anything might have entered her heart at all other than that other problem at hand otherwise.
“So what are you going to do about it?” Father wanted to know.
Vincent swung on him, “Do? What am I going to do? What can I do?”
“Don’t be silly Vincent. You might not be able to leave here, might not be able to go after her or telephone her, but you have a remarkable gift like no other. With the Bond of course you can get through to her, have her return before…” Father’s words faltered and he averted his gaze, but Vincent understood and continued, “before Catherine too goes missing. That’s what you were going to say wasn’t it Father?”
Jacob had the grace to blush, “Yes.” He mumbled wishing that wasn’t so. But it was true nonetheless. Vincent knew it too, Catherine had an uncanny knack of stumbling into trouble, and what could he do, so far away from where she was?
Maybe Father was right the Bond was the only way open to him. Thank God for the Bond.
*** *** ***
She must be rusty, either that or there was some other reason for her heart not being ‘in it’. Usually Catherine would have enjoyed the challenge of searching for someone and she could not allow herself the thought of the possibility that working for a wage had provided the stimulus required to do that well. However, now under voluntary assignment the appeal just wasn’t there.
“Something is wrong with me!” Catherine stamped her foot like an indignant mare as she reached for another plate of Pap de Queijo with a side serving of salad garnish.
The hotel was plush unlike anything that Devin may have stayed in and Catherine had no idea where that may have been. He’d never said, and besides he moved around too much for anything to be home for long. The food was delicious where she had chosen to stay, and she was eating far too much of it, but for some reason she had felt starved since her arrival. ‘must be the air’ she had concluded, eyeing a particular mouth watering serving of chocolate mouse glazed with ripened cherries and vanilla ice cream. She didn’t even flinch when she asked for, ‘a large serving please’ and waited in hasty expectation to savour the first mouthful.
Following her meal with iced mineral water, Catherine reached for a handful of after dinner mints to bestow in her pocket just in case she became peckish later. And she was just passing through the dining area when the scent of a fresh batch of Pap de Queijo besieged her nostrils. ‘Mmm’ Catherine followed the wafting scent, reaching unashamedly for the tray held high above the waiter’s head. ‘he’ll not miss a few’ she told herself merrily as she took them from the tray and stuffed them into her jacket pocket. There the warmth permeated through to her sides, forcing Catherine to take off and carry her jacket as she descended the steps leading out into the street.
The sunshine hit her suddenly strikingly! Its brilliance more than she had ever remembered, and at first by its splendour she did not see the little group of youngsters outside in the street until she had literally bumped into them.
“I’m sorry. Forgive me.” She held out a hand to steady the nearest child, and expecting a battering of abuse was pleasantly surprised to see faces full of grins and dancing eyes in sun tanned faces.
“Diamonds are a ladies best friend, no?” One of the boys’ held a pouch out for her inspection.
“Diamonds?” Catherine smiled, how unlikely that these children could be selling diamonds. She wanted to laugh but decided instead to humour them.
“Yes, see. We have all colours.”
Pursing her lips Catherine bit back a chuckle, diamonds of all colours, now that would be a first. Maybe diamonds that sparkled in all colours but certainly not in the array of different shaped and coloured crystals that lay upon the ragged piece of cloth in the young boy’s hand.
“Where did you get these?” It was her first thought, and as the pouch was snatched away from her eyes she regretted asking. Obviously where they obtained them was not for her to know or to ask. That they were selling them at all should have been all that mattered.
Catherine’s knowledge of Brazil’s gemstones was limited but she did know that selling gemstones there was not taken lightly, and certainly not on street corners by waifs and strays with grubby pouches to hold their wares.
“Let the lady be!” A voice rose to her side, one she faintly recognised funnily enough. Catherine turned with a ready smile on her lips and frowned as she recognised him.
“Hello. So we meet again.” He was all fairness and light.
“So I see.” Catherine made to step away from him, remembering the conversation that had turned almost to blackmail back at the airport that first time.
Stuart followed her, catching her arm, “I owe you an apology Miss. Chandler. Forgive me it was a dumb thing to do.” He told her as if he had read her mind.
Catherine wasn’t taken in by his demeanour but for the time being she let it stand. Being nice to weirdoes was she knew one of the best ways to get shot of them. Play them up and they’d likely to get a shot at you, in the literal sense.
“I forgive you, but please let go of my arm.” She smiled at him, mustering all the enthusiasm she could find to do so and he complied with her wishes.
“So, you came out here after all?”
“It would appear so.”
“Have you found your friend?”
“Wasn’t you looking for Mr Burch?”
“Oh that, yes I was then but not now. I’m here on other business.” Stuart raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry I cannot divulge that.” Catherine told him, “And besides I’m almost done. I shall be leaving again in a day or two.”
“Going back to your husband?”
“I’d be happy to be your guide if you wish to go anywhere for the remainder of your stay?”
Catherine calculated the risks involved. The words keep your friends close and your enemies closer still whispered through her mind, “Thank you.” She told him, “I’d like that.”
*** *** ***
“We’re going too far.” Elliot loitered around while looking back the way they’d come and seeing nothing and everything at once.
Nothing in a literal sense since the well of inky darkness consumed his vision, but everything in a mental sense as he calculated the amount of time they had spent walking and the distance they must have covered.
“Must you keep complaining?” Devin had heard nothing but grumbles ever since they had left.
“Yes, goddammit I must! Why shouldn’t I?”
“Well if nothing else not doing so would conserve your spittle, and it might be a long while yet before we find water.”
“Water! Is that why we are carrying all these damn bottles?”
“What you thought we were going to play skittles when we reached our destination?” Devin quipped sarcastically, “Why else did you think we were carrying them all this way? No, don’t answer that!”
Elliot didn’t. He had plenty to say just wasn’t certain where to start. He also felt a trifle stupid that he hadn’t realised why Devin had insisted that they not only brought the bottles, but had made certain that the screw tops had been in place and that none of the bottles had been broken. And for once his barrage of questions and complaints fell away as he realised that Devin was right. All the grumbling he had done thus far, especially as Devin had been reluctant to answer, had in actual fact left him quite thirsty, and that thirst became all the more unbearable by the sudden thought of water not being encountered for some time to come.
‘We’re going to die,’ he’d uttered those words so much and Devin had only denied them or told him to get a grip. And maybe that was it. Maybe he had ‘lost it’ maybe he was on the brink of insanity, and who could blame him?
The stench, the darkness, the fear, anxiety, apprehension, hunger, thirst, you name it he’d suffered it, and it was all becoming just a bit too much. Glossed by the timeless thought that he would die in this stinking hole Elliot thought it would send anyone quite mad. And he didn’t feel sorry for his situation or the way he was thinking - he concluded that his thoughts were justified in the circumstances.
They walked on in silence now, Elliot putting one foot in front of the other aware only of the presence of another just ahead of him. He couldn’t see Devin, hadn’t seen him for some time, and became lamely aware that his own journey wasn’t hampered as Devin’s was since he trusted Devin to tell him, ‘to mind this, and mind that’ as he followed meekly behind. Devin took all the risks, bottles tied up in his shirt, he walked bare-chested cloaked only in an open jacket and jeans his hands cut and bleeding from tracing the line of the wall at his side and feeling gingerly with his toes for any drop beneath his feet. That he was used to this and that he had grown up accustomed to such a voyage of discovery did nothing to lighten his mood. He had promised Elliot they would get out of the pit, but Devin could never admit that it might not be a possibility. At least doing something was better than doing nothing at all, and they had to try. They just had to try.
*** *** ***
Catherine supposed she should gasp, but she could not for the life of her find anything awesome about the sight before her. The other tourists she knew were spellbound by the sight, but she having made several trips to the crystal cavern beneath the streets of New York City had seen it all before, in fact had seen a far spectacular sight where only she and Vincent had been the observers.
This was a far cry from all that beauty, yet in its own way a dazzling spectacle of splendour that one just did not see every day.
Despite her thoughts on the matter she did notice one thing and spoke of it now, “The gems those boys showed me couldn’t have come from here anyway! ” She laughed. Stuart did too and took her firmly by the arm so that he might whisper away from the tourists; “Fools gold.”
“Fools gold?” Catherine repeated.
“In a manner of speaking. That which the street children sell is in actual fact quartz stone. Otherwise known as smoky topaz. Its as well I came a long when I did, you wouldn’t honestly have bought some of that stuff would you?” He grinned. Catherine did too, and shaking her head vehemently replied “course not.”
“Well just off the record, ‘cos I shouldn’t speak of rubbish while in a place like this. There are a great many unscrupulous persons that attempt to use quartz as smoky topaz, and…” he emphasised his next words, “a great many unknowing tourists that willingly buy this very cheap variety of quartz believing that they are buying cheaply the more precious topaz. More fool them.”
“Why do you say that?” Catherine was instantly intrigued.
“Because those people assume that the children have stolen precious gems and have no scruples about buying the gems from the children. Some people even barter with an already rock bottom price, and get the stones next to nothing. Pity really, there is no loss to an old fool that way.”
Despite herself Catherine found that prospect very humorous but though she was pleased that she had been rescued from spending her money on rubbish, she felt sorry for the children that had to sell such things to make a living. Stuart seemed to read her thoughts.
“Don’t.” he told her, “start to feel sorry for the children.” He laughed, “Surprised eh? It was written in your eyes. Those children are probably sent out by deceitful persons hoping to make a few million cruzeiros and pay the children a pittance.”
“Then I should still feel sorry for the children. They are being exploited and led into crime. Do the authorities do nothing at all?”
“It’s the same the world over. Crime slips through the loopholes and children too come to that. I’m afraid it will be sometime before the rich stop getting richer and the poor stop getting poorer Miss Chandler.”
“And your point is what exactly?” Catherine detected certain contempt in his words.
“Nothing. Look lets catch up with the guide shall we? You’re paying for a trip into this mine and not getting your money's worth. I can vouch for some exciting views just up ahead. Here, you’ll need to turn on your torch.”
Catherine had wondered about that. At the onset of the tour bright lights had blazed overhead, and being handed a torch was the last thing she had expected. Now Stuart enlightened her as they met up with the group of tourists who had obviously been informed out of earshot of why the torches were required.
“Topaz is a night stone.” Stuart told her, “ Best seen in candlelight, but it is too breezy down here for that. Under florescent light it appears to bleed that is both colour and tone are lost and the same too with daylight. One of the reasons why jewellers use quartz-halogen lighting these days - with its white spectrum being natural looking it is so much kinder to topaz. One jewellers tip Catherine, always buy topaz in florescent lighting and sell beneath incandescent lightening.”
“A good tip if you happen to be in the trade of selling topaz. I shall remember that. Would I see flaws then if I were to insist on seeing it beneath florescent?”
“Perhaps, but topaz never has flaws, not unless they are man made ones.”
“I take it by that you speak as an expert?”
“Not so much an expert, but certainly a lover of this particular stone.”
“Sounds intriguing. Tell me more.”
“Later. Listen we are just coming to the main part of this tour. Come sit down, you will be amazed by what you hear.”
Catherine took up a seat beside him. The other people in their group had already taken up their seats and were waiting in expectation for the tour guide to begin. In very few moments Catherine was completely enthralled by all she was hearing, while Stuart sat mesmerised by her beauty and wondering how she had come by a certain scar beneath her left ear.
*** *** ***
Miles away another sat staring into space thinking also of Catherine’s beauty and in the know of how she had come by such a scar. Vincent knew everything about that horrific time of Catherine’s and how since then he had come to love the woman of his dreams.
He wondered what she might be doing at that precise moment. Certainly the Bond fed him her emotions and they were ones of enthralment telling him that whatever she was engrossed in was something of wonderment and joy.
In his heart her eyes sparkled, and if he was very still and very quiet he could almost imagine that he could see through them, see what it was that held her so spellbound.
His own eyes closed, he lay flat on his big bed, face tilted toward the ceiling, his mind buried deep within the folds of the Bond that he shared with his wife. He concentrated deeply allowing her thoughts to transcend time and space until he was sure he could literally see through her eyes.
For a moment surprise stunned him. He could see a glittering array of light interspersed with a brighter light that bounced off other lights picked out by the main beam. He knew it not to be candlelight, and as he concentrated he knew it to be torch light.
Amazingly then something unusual happened he could hear Catherine speaking to him deep in her heart! This was something new, something neither of them had ever experienced to that degree ever before. And at some lower level of consciousness they held a conversation.
“What do you see?” Vincent prompted softly a little afraid that too large a question would fade the apparition.
“Beauty” came Catherine’s reply, “everywhere beauty. Oh Vincent you should see this!”
In his mind’s eye, something familiar returned to Vincent at that moment - something he had read and he applied its significance now gasping with pleasure as he realised what Catherine could see…
“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…”
It was incredible!
Through Catherine’s eyes, Vincent could see a wealth of glittering gems. Maybe not diamonds and emeralds and maybe not precious gold but certainly precious stones to a lesser degree and of equal quality and brilliance.
“What are they?” He questioned. Amazed by her answer.
“Topaz. Oh Vincent aren’t they beautiful?”
He nodded, unable to speak, and in that moment of movement the image faded. Vincent tried desperately to hold on, but it collapsed quickly, until he became aware that he was back in his chamber, alone.
His elation died and once again he felt a million miles away from his love, but then at the back of his mind seared the memory that the Bond had changed. That he could at the right time dwell so deep inside Catherine that he could literally see through her eyes. It brought Vincent such overwhelming joy that he no longer felt alone. He was ecstatic to know that he could share with Catherine every movement she made, and perhaps in so doing protect her even if she were on the other side of the world. That in itself gave him such comfort that for the first time since she had left he drifted off into a dreamless sleep that for once didn’t haunt him with nightmares and visions of Catherine in trouble and he so far away that he was unable to help her.
*** *** ***
“For you.” Stuart held out the small piece of rock and placed it into the palm of Catherine’s hand, “it’ll bring you peace.”
Examining the rock with her fingertips and rolling it round in her palm Catherine couldn’t deny that she felt a tingling warmth that spread right up her arm and deep into her body, bringing about a feeling of well being that she hadn’t known moments before. Or maybe that was due to the fact that she had just realised that Vincent had literally dwelt within her for a time and she had felt so remarkably close to him.
The tour was over now and the group of tourists was heading for the gift shop but Catherine was still deeply interested in this wonderful little stone.
“It always amazes me what qualities are attached to certain stones.” She remarked as she picked up a card showing various stones and their meanings. “Listen to this; ‘topaz - the abundant one. A stone that detoxifies the body, warms, awakens and inspires health by powerful assistance to tissue regeneration.’ Do you think that’s true Gary?”
“Oh yes most certainly. I have never felt better since working with topaz. Ask any miner and they’ll tell you the same. This little stone regenerates almost every gland and tissue in the body. It’s soothing, peaceful and tranquillising. I simply love it.”
“It says here that it gives of a creativity and self-expression that co-operates with one’s higher self. I have heard of such things with gemstones, but have never taken much notice I must admit.”
Although that wasn’t strictly true. Catherine understood very well the properties surrounding her crystal, but thought it best not to enlightening him of it, lest he ask questions as to its origin.
They were standing side by side now, and as Stuart was closer than she liked, Catherine moved aside replacing the card in its holder and made a show of checking the time by looking at her watch. “I should go, its getting late. Thank you for bringing me here Gary.”
“Just call me Stuart, everyone does.” He replied before adding,”The day is still young, I had wanted to take you elsewhere. I know the tour has shown you much but there is still a lot of it didn’t show you. I’d hoped to take you to the refinery, show you how the gems are turned into something spectacular.”
“How can you enhance on natural beauty?” Catherine asked.
“By bringing out its best. Do you not like to wear make up, perfume nice clothes? Mind you I think you would still look beautiful without any of those things.”
“Thank you.” Catherine blushed feeling worried that his attention though genuine was beginning to have an ulterior motive and not just one of another person showing her around his favourite places.
“I really should get back to the hotel. I need to freshen up before dinner and take an early night. I only have another day here and would like to spend it wide awake.”
“As you wish. Tomorrow then? Maybe you would allow me to escort you to the refinery, and show you just how beautiful topaz can really be. Besides many of the colours you saw here today are nothing compared to the colours brought about by refining. You will also have the opportunity of buying shares into a topaz mine, if you would like to do so.”
“I’d much prefer buying some topaz to take back with me.”
“Its not always possible. The trade for topaz is difficult. The gemstones are totally unfettered by government regulations so the prices are determined strictly by demand and supply and often Brazilians will hold on to whatever stones that they find since these become a great source of wealth at times of economic collapse. One can barter with gemstones to obtain other wealth. You will be lucky to be able to purchase any stone of value that is the sort of calibre I think you should adorn yourself with. Look I will enlighten you more tomorrow for I can see you are growing weary. Will you let me escort you back to your hotel?”
Catherine nodded, she did suddenly feel very tired. It was unlike her, and she was extremely hungry not to mention thirsty. “Thank you.” She told him sincerely, “I’d appreciate that.” For right now just being able to lean on another human being had its advantages for Catherine felt almost too tired to walk.
*** *** ***
She hoped she wasn’t sickening for something - that would be all she needed right now. She still had much to do, even though she’d told Stuart she was going home the day after tomorrow, nothing could have been further from the truth. She couldn’t leave until she had ascertained what had become of Devin and while she was there what had happened to Elliot. It bugged her that she knew not the answer to neither of these questions and wondered where she should start. For all his gallantry Catherine didn’t trust Stuart but right now he might be the only lead that she had. Perhaps she could ask with caution, maybe she might glean something that would at least give her something to go on. But tomorrow was soon enough, right now reaching the hotel was all Catherine wanted to do then eat drink bath and sleep in that order and the sooner the better for she hadn’t felt so out of sorts in a long, long time.
“Listen.” Devin held up a hand to halt Elliot unaware for the moment that in the inky darkness Elliot wouldn’t even see the gesture. He did however hear the word and halted straining his ears to catch whatever had diverted Devin’s attention. He heard nothing.
“What is it?”
“I can hear water.”
“Water?” Elliot’s mind went blank. So many emotions flew into it at once. Elation being the utmost, but everything at once became too much to think about.
“Yes. It’s dripping, over here I think. Come.”
“Where’s over here?”
“I’m sorry. To your left, hold out the flat of your palm against the wall, see its remarkably wet in places. All we need to find is a rivulet where it is running the most and catch it into the bottles, then we can make faster progress to freedom.”
Elliot did as Devin bade and was delighted to feel his fingers grow wet. “Yes! Its water! Oh thank you, thank you, thank you God.” He leaned against the wall allowing his face to become saturated the feeling was the best he had ever experienced. Ice cold water washing away the sweat and grime of the past three weeks. It felt wonderful!
*** *** ***
“Natural topaz can be divided into two types, namely precious and imperial topaz. During the eighteenth century the hills surrounding Ouro Preto had more than half of the world’s supply of gold mined out of them. These same hills hold almost the entire world’s reserve of Imperial and Precious topaz. Although smaller deposits of topaz have been located in Mexico Ceylon, Burma Russia Pakistan and here in Brazil in the state of Para, Ouro Preto is the only location that is currently producing enough natural topaz to be commercially viable. Interestingly the name Ouro Preto is actually translated as Black Gold.”
Catherine listened with awe as the narrator explained the history of topaz mined in Ouro Preto, the little town where she had stayed for the past four days. And where now she toured the main refinery of that particular gemstone alongside her guide Gary Stuart, a man she wasn’t particularly fond of, but also a man that for some reason wanted to keep a close eye on her.
She knew he found her beautiful, he’d said as much time and again, and she couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt deep down that her beauty wasn’t something that he was necessarily interested in. As in keeping her friends close and her enemies closer still Catherine allowed him to accompany her, purely so she knew what he was up to, rather than have him surprise her in a way that she hadn’t yet worked out.
Obviously he had some designs on her, but she couldn’t understand what, and apart from the fact that they had met at the air port in New York prior to her arrival in Brazil, Catherine knew little else about him. Any observation she made was purely coincidental, for Gary Stuart kept his private life very much to himself.
“Natural topaz is coloured in various hues of yellow through orange, peach orange, pink, cinnamon-pink, dark orange red and violet red. Brown is a secondary hue, while the brownish yellow is sometimes referred to as sherry topaz. Prices vary depending on the range of hues from light to dark, respectfully."
While her attention was caught up in the narrative, Catherine spared some of her interest for the man walking at her side. He’d said little today. Having collected her from her hotel early that morning and accompanying her to the refinery, he had been very quiet since their arrival. Catherine wondered what was on his mind. Maybe she had underestimated him maybe he did find her attractive enough to be concerned about her proposed return home on the morrow. But Catherine doubted it. Her lawyer years had made her susceptible to the out workings of others.
“However topaz can be found in a multitude of hues. Theoretically speaking the variety is infinite and topaz possesses a soft velvety brilliance that is unique. Yet despite that there are some colours that can only be attained through heat treatment and that’s where this refinery comes into operation.”
They walked slowly along following the team of students, tourists and collectors alike through a long corridor into a room similar to that of a dark room for the process of photography. Here soft incandescent lights gave full vigour and vitality to the gems on display. And through a window it was possible to watch the fine art of ‘pinking’ a technique performed under low temperatures as in over the open flame of a campfire.
Stones found with a pink or bluish hue could be made purer this way. The beauty of it was that ‘pinked’ topaz was difficult to distinguish from topaz that is naturally pink, despite some experienced dealers insisting otherwise.
“So someone like me wouldn’t be able to tell what has been touched up and what hasn’t?” Catherine asked with a grin.
The guide turned to her, “That’s about the size of it.” He grinned back exposing a bright flashing smile that left Catherine quite breathless.
“Then why the treatment?” Catherine shrugged, “Why all this if the colour can be mined naturally?”
He grinned at her again, yet Catherine detected the word ‘foolish woman’ in that smile. He neither answered her question nor acknowledged her presence from then on and Catherine was left to wonder whether he actually knew the answer to her question or if he couldn’t be bothered to say. Either way it didn’t matter as Gary Stuart came to her rescue, once again.
“The heat process can bring forth a wider variety of hues than is natural. ‘Pinking’ is only one of them.
From the process of heating we can obtain the widely acclaimed blue topaz. Though blue can occur naturally, the hue can be wishy-washy and not the bright vibrant colour that blue topaz is praised for. Come let me show you.” Taking her arm Stuart steered Catherine past students and the like, into a side room that she hadn’t noticed. Here again the room was dark lit only by soft incandesce lights to show off the beauty of the topaz.
“Notice that topaz is the birthstone for November and it is as previously shown available in a huge variety of hues. Here see, this blue, that was a chunk mined around here around three years ago, its kinda bluish, but not of a hue to excite anyone. Yet see this;” Stuart pointed to a colourless stone, void of any sort of treatment, “this is from where we get the real blue topaz. Colourless topaz is irradiated to produce a vibrant blue, like this one see?”
The difference was stunning! From pale non-excitable blue to colourless stone to a vibrant flashing blue stone that took Catherine’s breath away, the contrast was incredible!
“After it has gone through its treatment it is heated to stabilise the colour, and there you have it, blue topaz fit for a king, or should we say a queen? Can you not imagine being adorned with such finery Miss Chandler?”
“It is beautiful.” Catherine could only remark, and there was something else, the glorious blue made her think of Vincent’s eyes, so much so that she never wanted to stop looking at the gemstone.
“If you’ll come with me?” Stuart broke through her thoughts, edging her away from the sight that held her gaze and over toward another shelf containing more topaz. “This is Imperial topaz. It can only be mined here in Ouro Preto. That is within and around sixty-kilometres of this mine. Imperial topaz my dear Catherine is a highly valued gemstone and one that will soon be in short supply. Blue can always be created from colourless, but this, this shade of orange to reddish orange is expected to be non existent by the end of the century. If you wish to purchase any type of topaz Catherine, then let it be the Imperial Topaz. I can tell you that being able to own such a stone will in time make you a very desirable lady to know. Not that you aren’t now of course.” He hastened to add, “Your beauty transcends any precious stone, but if you were to be in the market for gems the Imperial Topaz would be the finest in your collection.”
“I hadn’t thought about buying any gemstones let alone topaz, but thank you Mr Stuart for bringing this to my attention. I will certainly give it some thought. Shares in topaz could be quite lucrative in a few years time. Shall we go back to the tour now?” Catherine checked her watch, “I’m sure they will be finishing it soon.”
They were. As Catherine and Stuart re-entered the room they had vacated some half hour earlier the tour was just winding down with the words; “…and being that the supply of topaz as we know it is diminishing. And the current situation is that the centre of the world’s topaz trade in Belo Horizonte Brazil’s third largest city and just a short drive from Ouro Preto can be described as steady. Most of the smaller mines will eventually close as supplies wither and finally cease, but the availability of the finest pinks and reds will hopefully continue for a good few years to come. However, having said that I am pleased to report that a fresh find has been discovered here in Ouro Preto and this appears to boast a huge amount of Imperial and Colourless Topaz that will take several years to mine. So perhaps the earth is not yet ready to close its gates on topaz mining. And maybe the next century will produce new techniques for deeper and safer mining, and maybe we will find that even blue topaz of the hue that is presented after refining to be a natural colour that will put Ouro Preto back on the map for another century or more. So ladies and gentlemen that concludes the tour for today. I hope you have enjoyed it and if you have any questions I shall be pleased to answer them after we have all partaken of some refreshment. So if you would all follow me…”
Stuart held on to Catherine’s arm, “You don’t have to follow them. They are only going for something to eat and drink. How about you and I taking another look around down here?”
Something in his tone unnerved Catherine, whatever did he want with her? Catherine shook her head, “I am quite hungry actually, so if you don’t mind?”
Reluctantly it seemed, Stuart shook his head, and took up step beside her once more. She wasn’t leaving until the morrow, time yet to have his way with her. He looked back with longing at the darkened rooms lit only by soft lighting to enhance the quality of the topaz and shrugged his shoulders. It would have been nice to make love to her amid such a setting but no matter there were other places just as beautiful, he could wait. He’d played the game till now with no hiccups, and he could play it a yet awhile. The wait would be worth it. Catherine Chandler was one very desirable and sexy lady.
*** *** ***
Vincent’s head jerked up at the words. “Pardon?”
“I said Lapis Luzali. Vincent you may not know it but your eyes are the most beautiful hue I have ever seen just now. They remind me of lapis lazuli. No wonder Catherine feels able to drown in your lagoon eyes. Why Vincent is that a blush I can see?” Mary laughed as she took up the tea tray beside her adoptive son.
“I’m sorry Mary I couldn’t eat anything. Tell William it’s nothing to do with his cooking.” Vincent’s tone was flat and Mary’s heart went out to him.
Patting his hand she stayed at his side for the moment, “Miss her huh? Is she all right? Do you know?”
“Yes Mary I know, and yes she appears quite well. Tired perhaps, but she seems to be safe. I don’t envisage her return anytime soon however. I miss her Mary.”
“Yes, you will do. Perhaps more now than ever before. And what of that other problem, have you managed to resolve anything?”
Vincent shook his head. “When Catherine returns we still have that to face. I know how you feel Mary, I know too that Catherine deserves children of her own, its just that…”His words trailed away, and Mary patted his large furry hand once more, “I understand Vincent. We women are just being silly clucky old hens, don’t fret so, I’m certain Catherine will feel differently in time. Perhaps you and she could adopt a baby?”
“I have put that to her, but it would appear she wants only mine. I suppose I should feel proud and happy to know that, but I am not. No one but me knows how it really feels to be locked inside this body. If I should pass this heritage on to someone else it would be the death of me. I couldn’t live with that Mary.”
“No doubt you feel that way Vincent, but if it happened you would love that child fiercely. There is nothing like the love of a mother or a father toward their own.” Mary’s eyes took on a distant look, and this time Vincent covered her hand and squeezed it in his. He felt her pain. Mary’s own daughter had died when still very young and she had not had another child of her own.
For some moments the two stayed side by side in silence, until Mary finally straightened and once again took up the tea tray in both hands. “Maybe you’ll come to the kitchen for some supper Vincent. Try not to go without Vincent. Starving yourself isn’t going to bring Catherine home any faster. Besides you need to keep your strength up to contact her via the Bond that you share.”
“Yes. Thank you Mary, I will be down for supper.” Mary moved away intending to leave without another word, when Vincent spoke softly thus calling back her attention, "Lapis Lazuli?”
“Yes Vincent Lapis Lazuli. And true of you in another sense too. It is known as a night stone, did you know that?”
Vincent shook his head, “No I didn’t. What of blue topaz?”
“A night stone also. If ever I saw either I would be reminded instantly of you.”
“For their colour and the significance of the night?”
“Yes and also because both are the very epitome of you in that they represent power, physic abilities and a communicator with the higher self. Without those qualities Vincent you would not be who you are, despite what you may represent in looks, and it is my belief that those that may be around either you or such gemstones will find those qualities magnified in themselves.”
Vincent sighed, he had always found it difficult to accept praise, and this was no exception.
“Thank you Mary.” Was all he managed to say.
“You’re welcome, child.”
Vincent watched Mary walk out of the chamber and then lay his head back against the wing of his chair where he had been leaning upon her entrance, and started to think of Catherine again, only this time with a light of wisdom that hadn’t been present before.
*** *** ***
Biting his nails had always been one of Gary Stuart’s most annoying habits as far as Pedro Funari was concerned, and today was no exception. Watching the fellow nag his nails down to the quick and then pull the length of the finger tip until the nail broke away only to spit the offending thing across the room almost reduced Pedro to screaming pitch. Leo de Azevedo watched the scene with disinterest, but expecting that at any moment Pedro would jump up and slap Stuart’s hands away from his mouth. He’d seen him do that to Stuart before, it’s a wonder the man was letting the habit get a grip on him in Pedro’s company.
“Is something wrong?” Leo addressed Stuart who had said no more than half a dozen words since he had walked into the meeting some half an hour earlier.
One finger half way to his mouth Stuart looked up. “With me?” He questioned seeming surprised to have been asked.
“Yes with you. You seem distracted. In fact we have seen very little of you these past four days. What have you been up to?”
“Such an unusual name for a beautiful woman.” Leo laughed heartily causing Pedro to stare at him questioningly.
“I’ve seen the pair of them together.” Leo confessed, “So what is her name and when’s the wedding?” He laughed again. Stuart blushed and nails forgotten he started to fidget in his seat.
Pedro laughed, “Cat got your tongue?” He turned to Leo, “It must be love. I’ve never seen him lost for words before.”
“Either that or there is a mystery surrounding the woman.” Pedro ever suspicious leaned forward looking Stuart in the eye. “Tell us, is she a spy?” He laughed, but the laughter didn’t quite ring true.
Stuart caught the malice behind it. Pedro was fishing and how long should he hold out on them anyway?
“No she isn’t a spy.” He laughed but to his own ears his laughter sounded false causing Pedro to quirk an eyebrow while looking at him suspiciously.
“But?” He asked his tone deadly.
“Look there’s nothing to worry about. I met her in New York…” he was going to say she was an old friend of a friend et cetera, et cetera but Pedro didn’t give him the chance.
“New York! Is she connected to Burch?”
“In a manner of speaking yes, but…” Again Stuart was interrupted.
“She is! Then why did you not tell us straight away? Where is she? What is she doing here? What of the other fellow does she know him too?”
“Look its okay really it is. She’s just here on some other business, she’s a lawyer…”
“A lawyer!” Pedro passed a hand over his brow and groaned, “This gets worse. And you thought not to inform us?” Are you stupid?”
“Its not that way.” Stuart laughed shaking his head, “She won’t trouble us. And besides she’s leaving for New York tomorrow.”
“So soon?” Pedro turned to his colleague asking, “I don’t like it. How about you Leo?”
“Much the same as you I think. Whether she has found out anything, is immaterial that she is returning proves that she could be going back to New York for reinforcements. I don’t like it Pedro. We mustn’t let her return.”
Leaning toward Stuart Pedro looked him dead in the eyes, “What have you told her?”
“Nothing.” Stuart shook his head, “Nothing, I swear.”
“I hope not for your sake. But we cannot take that risk. Do you know where we might find her?”
“She’s meeting me in her hotel lobby at noon.”
“Good. Good. Then we will accompany you. You may introduce us, and Leo and I will ascertain exactly what she knows, and whom she is working for.”
Stuart saw his best laid plans for Catherine’s last day swept aside and wished he’d feigned ignorance to Leo’s sighting of he and Catherine together but it was too late for that now.
“What will you do with her?” He asked nervously. His tone not going unnoticed by either Leo or Pedro.
“That rather depends on what we glean. But if I feel that she will be a risk to our venture, she will have to be eliminated like Burch and Wells, and you Stuart would do well to stay out of that, unless you’d like to keep the three of them company.”
Gary Stuart shook his head. No, despite what he felt toward Catherine Chandler, he’d rather not keep her company that way. He could still remember Pepe’s horror story of the mineshaft clear enough to not want to experience it for himself. “I don’t think you’ll find her causing you any problems.” Stuart told them. But even though he tried to sound positive he knew deep down that the possibility of that was slim. Catherine may have covered her tracks mightily well, but even Stuart had suspected the real reason for her being in Brazil, and it had nothing to do with some other business she had led him to believe she was there for.
*** *** ***
It was raining. Standing in her hotel room, Catherine regarded the raindrops with dismay. She’d been in Ouro Preto for four days and due to keeping Stuart close had actually uncovered nothing at all. This day she had to move on, to pretend that she was returning to New York, while in actual fact moving over to stay in Belo Horizonte for the rest of her two week or however long it took stay. She’d hoped to not be away for longer than two weeks knowing how much Vincent worried about her. It had been amazing that other day when he had seen right through her in a literal sense, but this only heightened the knowledge of how deeply he was thinking about her. And it distressed Catherine to know that while Vincent put his faith in her to locate his brother, she had in effect betrayed that trust by spending time sightseeing with another man. Well, no more! Today she would check out and start her enquiries from further afield. She could go incognito and Stuart would not recognise her if she kept her distance.
Catherine didn’t know why exactly, but she didn’t trust the man, and then there was the niggling doubt that he knew far more than he let on about Elliot’s and probably Devin’s sudden disappearance.
Her bags packed, the taxi on its way, Catherine surveyed her room checking for any item she may have overlooked when a knock sounded at her door. Assuming that it was the bellboy come to tell her that her taxi had arrived, Catherine gathered up some of her bags and opened the door, surprised to find not one youth standing there, but in actual fact two men whom she had never seen before and Gary Stuart.
“May we come in?” Stuart asked, walking past her into the room without waiting for her reply. “Going I see.” He sounded relieved. Catherine furrowed her brow - his relief was unexpected to say the least.
“Yes. My plane leaves at noon.”
“What, you wasn’t even going to say goodbye?” Now he sounded hurt.
“I’d expected your arrival any moment, but had I missed you I would have left a note at the desk.” This wasn’t true at all for Catherine had no intention of saying goodbye.
“Before you go, I’d like you to meet some friends of mine.”
Catherine had been watching the two men while Stuart had spoken, she didn’t like the way they inspected her bags, or the fact that they had said nothing.
“I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance.” Catherine held out a hand to first Pedro then Leo, not knowing who was who.
They introduced themselves as they returned her handshake, warm and firm, one she noticed took a trifle longer than needed to retain her hand within his. That was Pedro. He stared blatantly at her now making her feel uneasy.
“I’m sorry we could not have met earlier, but as you see I am returning home today.” Dismayed Catherine noticed her voice shook. Half way through she had tried to quell it, hoping they hadn’t noticed. They had.
Concerned glances passed between Leo and Pedro, and Leo was the first to speak. “Before you go might we ask you one or two questions?”
Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Catherine checked her watch, making a pretence of time passing her by, “Only if you are quick. I am anxious to catch this flight. My family are expecting me.”
“And who would that be?” The words were out before Pedro could stop them. He felt he should apologise but then dismissed the idea. After all, it had been what he had wanted to say even if it had come out rather tactless.
“Well not that it’s any of your business, but my husband mainly. We are newly wed, and he is missing me.”
“Oh yes of course the runaway bride.” Leo mocked.
“I beg your pardon?” Catherine felt her hackles rising. She was on dangerous ground she could feel it. The malice behind Leo’s remark was unmistakable.
“Stuart told us, how you hurried out here on business shortly after getting married. Could your husband not accompany you?”
Catherine shook her head, “No it was official business, besides he has much to do in New York, and I wasn’t intending to be gone long. Now if you would excuse me, I really must go.”
“Not so fast.” This time it was Stuart that held her back.
Taking hold of her arm he steered her toward a chair and bade her sit. For long moments Catherine refused until she felt firm hands upon her shoulders forcing her down, and as the only person she couldn’t see was Leo she guessed it were he that pressured her down.
Furious, she held Stuart’s gaze before crying out loud, “What the hell do you think you are doing!”
“I’m sorry, but we need to ask you some questions, and will not let you go until we are satisfied with your answers.”
“I don’t understand.” Catherine shrugged, “What is there to ask? My business here has nothing to do with you. What could you possibly want to know from me?”
“As you say.” Stuart shrugged, and stepped aside while Pedro took up his place in front of Catherine.
“Elliot Burch.” Pedro drawled.
“What about him?” Catherine remarked casually.
“Did you come here looking for him?”
Catherine laughed, trying to make the sound genuine, “For what possible reason should I? Elliot’s plane went down off the coast of New York over two weeks ago, why on earth would I come to Brazil looking for him here?”
“Hm” Pedro grunted, “But what if you didn’t believe that he went down with his plane?”
The lawyer in Catherine took over, “If I didn’t believe? Are you saying that he wasn’t on that plane?” She thus turned the tables on the questioning.
“I’m saying nothing of the sort Miss Chandler. But let me see now, you aren’t Miss Chandler anymore are you? By what name should we call you?”
“Chandler’s fine. I still use it for work. And I don’t see any reason for enlightening you with my married name since we are hardly likely to meet again after this day." Catherine stood up, “Now if you’ll excuse me…” They let her go helping even to gather her bags. She wished they wouldn’t, wished they would go, leave her be, and more especially hoped that they weren’t going to accompany her to where she had to catch the bus. Fortunately for Catherine her wishes came to pass. For as soon as they arrived down in the lobby the three men bid her adios, and left, even Stuart, she was relieved to find went with them.
Her taxi had arrived, and after bestowing her luggage in the truck Catherine got in, and started her journey toward the bus terminal. She did not notice the three men getting into a car several yards back and begin to follow her there.
*** *** ***
The water had been a blessed relief, and stomachs filled Elliot and Devin lay asleep resting before the next leg of their journey to who knew where. They had travelled three perhaps four miles all told, but the terrain was rough and the darkness hampered them. It was mentally more than physically tiring.
Asleep as they were it was some time before Elliot became aware of a feeling around him. At first he thought he was dreaming. The find of water had been wonderful, and his dreams it seemed were full of that feeling of water seeping over his skin, cooling and refreshing. But as he came up to awareness he jumped realising that the feelings he was experiencing were literal, and scrambled to his feet, panic rising as he shouted, “Devin! Devin! We’re drowning!”
A groggy reply came from somewhere to his left it was close and Elliot tried to kick out but the impact he had intended was hampered by the level of water at his feet. Devin came to about the same moment splashing around in the water as their predicament became apparent to him.
“The rains must have come.” Devin and Elliot remarked together. Elliot groaned, “That’s all we need.”
“Yeah” Devin tried to make light of it, “It never rains but it pours.” Then he sobered, “First no water then too much water. Well we cant stay here, its not gonna get any better. I hope you can swim?”
“Swim? Yes of course I can swim? You don’t possibly mean we’ll have to do you?” Elliot’s voice contained his anxiety Devin was quick to notice.
“Maybe. Look I don’t know, but it’s possible that we may have to wade waist deep before we are done. It could be that swimming would make the journey easier, if we looked upon it positively.” That idea had just come to Devin. He decided it could be a sound one. In the long run the rains could prove to be a blessing in disguise.
*** *** ***
“My name is Catherine Chandler. I have a seat booked for Belo Horizonte at ten o’clock.” Catherine handed her ticket over the desk and waited while they were stamped and returned to her with the words; “Terminal Three.” Before the clerk went on to the next person standing behind Catherine in the queue.
Hunger struck as Catherine wandered by a coffee bar, she went in found herself a table and ordered a sandwich and coffee. Then while she waited for its arrival dropped a few coins into a chocolate machine dismayed at her behaviour at succumbing to the craving. “Must be the time of the month.” She told herself as she filled her pockets with several large bars of yummy chocolate.
Anxiously noticing the time, Catherine waited while her order was brought to her, then munching her food, she idly flicked open a newspaper left on a nearby table. Her attention thus diverted she did not notice the three men who had detained her at the hotel saunter into the terminal through the large swing doors.
The three searched through the crowds at once, heading straight for the panel that told them where the terminal would be for the airport. Finding it they were dismayed to find that the next airport bus wasn’t scheduled to leave until three that afternoon. The question rose to mind, ‘Why then did Miss Chandler insist that her flight left at noon?
The answer galloped on the heels of their question…obviously because she had lied to them…but why? For what possible reason would Catherine Chandler lie to them? The only answer they could conclude was that she was in Brazil looking for Elliot Burch after all. And that possibility made them absolutely furious!
*** *** ***
It all happened so fast that Catherine didn’t see it coming. Absorbed as she was in locating the correct terminal and making certain that her purse were set upon her shoulder correctly so that the fastener faced forward rather than behind Catherine jumped to feel a hand on her elbow.
Her first thought was that someone was trying to take her purse and she struggled, clutching the strap against her and then realised that this person was not trying to take her belongings, but was in actual fact detaining her progress. She turned a retort forming upon her lips even as she recognised Pedro’s face alongside her and panic flared like bile to her throat.
In that moment, that one split second, in her eyes fear became palpable and though she sought to disguise it with a look of surprise it was too late, Pedro had seen and he had noted that fear was warranted. Catherine Chandler was up to something, and that something would be detrimental to their plan.
She would have to be got rid of. There were no two ways about it, and so holding her firmly, he ushered her through the crowded airport a gun equally hidden but very prominently fastened to her side!
*** *** ***
In that instant Vincent knew her fear. He roared in agitation knowing he could not aid her. This had always been his main fear that she would need him and he could not go to her. That she would die simply because what he was meant for all his strengths, he could not help her the one time she needed him most.
His roaring shattered the usual peace of the tunnels, and brought Father and Mary running to his chamber.
“What is it! Vincent!”
The roaring continued unabated.
“Vincent!” Father hobbled into the dimness of the chamber and attempted to calm his son, reaching out a tentative hand knowing the risks of doing so. Vincent in this frame of mind was dangerous.
“Vincent?” Father coaxed, over and over trying to calm his son, “Vincent, Vincent, what’s happened, what’s wrong?”
Slowly the terrible roaring ceased and Vincent slumped into a nearby chair, almost taking his father down with him. “Its Catherine.” Was all he could murmur, and fear clutched at Father’s throat, “Is she, is she…”
“No!” The reply came out on a hiss, “No she’s not dead. Not yet.”
“What do you mean not yet? Is there a risk?”
Notorious for his pacing Vincent rose and circled the room, “Father why do you ask? There is always a risk.” His hands spread before him signalling the defeat, the hopelessness of Catherine’s life. Of the times he had rescued her in the nick of time. Then slumping back to his seat, Father detected the hopelessness of this latest quest, knowing the futility of the hope that Vincent would arrive and save her this time.
“Oh Vincent…what can I say?” Father hugged his son, his arms fully around his son’s neck and shoulders, trying with all his might to bring him a merit of comfort, knowing all too well that only Catherine’s presence could truly do that now.
“There is nothing you can say.” Vincent whispered, “That you care is enough, but Father I feel so helpless. Catherine is so far away.”
“While she lives there is hope. And Catherine has proved on more than one occasion that she can take care of herself. Try not to worry Vincent I know that’s easier said than done, but try at least.”
“I will try.” The words were spoken without conviction.
“Perhaps if you were to open the Bond?” Mary suggested speaking for the first time since entering the chamber.
Vincent’s head snapped up surprised to hear her voice, even more surprised to know she was there at all.
“It has worked before Vincent, and did you not tell us the other day how you were able to see right through Catherine to what was taking place before her? Use that gift Vincent, in that way you will be with her.”
“Yes.” Vincent was silent for a few moments, then went on, “Thank you Mary. Father, Mary if you would excuse me, I need to concentrate in peace and quiet to be with Catherine in this way.”
Father straightened bestowing a kiss to his son’s cheek as he did so, “We will see that you aren’t disturbed. Good luck Vincent.”
They left then, quietly slipping away aware that Vincent was already drifting into a trance that would bring him into an encounter with Catherine.
He hoped he could help her, far away as he was. What use was the Bond otherwise, if it could not aid them when they needed it most?
*** *** ***
Just as Devin had surmised the water reached a level that enabled them to swim easier than walking. It was cold, but the action of swimming warmed them in time. This way at least they were able to go with the flow and follow the tunnel’s gradual ascent without worrying too much about encountering anything that might cause them injury. Much ground was covered this way until at last they came to a place where they could go either down with the water, or up onto their feet again to a higher level.
“The water goes subterranean here.” Devin remarked as his knees touched the bottom, “I think its best that we go up, besides…” he grinned though Elliot was unable to see it, “I have just found something rather wonderful.”
“What?” Elliot asked squeezing water from his clothing as he came to stand alongside Devin.
“Pipes!” The jubilation in Devin’s voice was unmistakable but it was lost on Elliot.
“And there was I thinking I’d gone mad! What do you mean by pipes?”
“Where I come from the very word would instil excitement to a lost traveller, here not so much. Nonetheless it tells me that where there are pipes there was or is civilisation. And just by following them we should in time reach freedom.”
Now Elliot understood. “Oh Thank God.” He sighed deeply repeating again “Thank God.”
*** *** ***
“Whether it’s a blessing or not Miss Chandler remains to be seen. Simply the gentleman in me cannot allow you to suffer by putting you with your friends. So I have chosen another tomb for you.” Pedro laughed wickedly.
“And I’m supposed to be grateful?” Catherine seethed, not for the first time struggling against the firm grip on either side of her.
“You would be. Believe me unless you are a fish you would not want to be taken to the same place as your friends. The rains you see…” he shrugged as if those words made everything self-explanatory, but Catherine failed to ‘see’.
Her puzzled expression angered Pedro, “Must I spell it out for you? The rains will have flooded that particular area. It would be certain death for you if I should throw you into that pit.”
“Yet that is your intention? That I should die.” Catherine questioned.
“Yes in time. Yes, but this way I do not have your blood on my hands. There is a way out, you have to find it. Maybe your friends have found it maybe they have not. Maybe they have drowned.” He thought of Elliot awaiting his next meal from Pepe’, and grinned, “Mr Burch’s intelligence left a lot to be desired. He wasted too much time I fear.” He shrugged, “But you already know that there is a way out, and I think perhaps you have more intellect than Mr Burch. It will be entertaining to see who actually comes out alive from down there.”
“So you are taking me where exactly?” Catherine asked.
“To another mine shaft higher than the first, you will be relatively safe there for another week at least. But be warned Miss Chandler, make haste for all the tunnels do flood in time.” He shrugged again, “But at least you will have water, something I fear that your friends did not have for some time.”
The cart they had been travelling in came to a standstill as he finished speaking, “We are here.” He motioned to Leo to hold her tighter while he alighted from one side and came round to the other to help hold her on either side once again. “Come offer us no trouble Miss Chandler and I will promise that you will at least be offered a chance of survival.”
“And if I don’t?” Catherine stopped struggling though her eyes never stopped searching for a way of escape.
The gun was pressed against her chest “Then I may just have to alter my opinions toward the sanctity of life in your case. It is easy if I allow myself to believe that you are of this race and not American. We all ready have too many rats here.”
Not understanding what he meant Catherine let it be. At least she would have a chance, and if she was very lucky she might be able to find Elliot and Devin. Although she had of course no way of knowing just how far apart each were, and whether she could find them before her own time ran out!
*** *** ***
In actual fact the distance wasn’t too far. When Catherine was lowered down a mineshaft she did not know how dark it had been for Elliot and Devin since she had relative light where she was set.
Overhead from time to time sunlight filtered through cracks in the rocky crags above, and water ran in rivulets down the tunnel walls.
Nonetheless Catherine went from one bout of optimism to one bout of desperation in next to no time, causing Vincent a great deal of stress from where he lay absorbed in the Bond.
The worst and most stupid thought of all she decided was hunger! It caused her some amusement to think that at a time when she would have thought it would be the last thing on her mind, her stomach kept rumbling to remind her that she had missed dinner. And so she was more than grateful for the store of chocolate that she had bestowed into her pockets earlier that day. However, a sudden panic attack left her feeling terrible as she realised that her supply might have to be eked out over several days to come.
Taking a bite and chewing slowly, Catherine savoured the mouthful of chocolate hoping that that she would get the better of her hormones before the chocolate ran out, while telling herself that chocolate boosted energy levels, if only for a short time. All in all it was as well she had chocolate on her for with it she might make faster progress to freedom than without it.
She walked onward ever uphill for what seemed to be half a day. At least she was home in the tunnels. A person unused to such a way of life could become too petrified to move. Catherine found that the tunnels were second nature and ambled slowly along, knowing what to avoid, what to look out for, how to negotiate turns and shafts, how to be safe in an underground world.
And then she found something really exciting - pipes!
*** *** ***
Holding on to the pipe at his side Devin heaved himself out of the water and up onto a dry ledge, holding out a hand to Elliot for him to do the same. “It’s not much warmer up here, I’m afraid, but at least for the moment it’s dry.” He told him as Elliot came to stand alongside him.
“I’d just be grateful to be able to see where I am walking.” Elliot replied, “Swimming blind wasn’t so bad I guess.”
“Well being able to hold onto these pipes will help, though we still have to be careful where we put our feet. Perhaps more so. The pipes may give a sense of false security. They could pass right over a shaft and we wouldn’t know it. We still have to be careful.”
They started their climb, ever upwards each walking with hand over hand on the pipes at their side. The rings on Elliot’s fingers rung on the pipes and set up a singsong sound in their heads as they walked. It became a sound to walk to and with it they talked not at all walking along in silence each to his own thoughts.
“What’s what?” Elliot could hear and see nothing.
“Take your hands away from the pipe a moment, I was sure I heard another sound.” Elliott complied and Devin listened hard.
At first there was nothing and just as Devin was about to sigh and announce he must have imagined it, both of them heard it again.
Devin gasped, he understood the lingo! And began tapping back right away with a pebble he had picked up for the purpose.
“Didn’t you like my tune?” Elliott remarked, humour in his tone as he started banging his rings against the pipes once again to emphasise his point.
“Stop that!” Devin yelled, “Listen.”
As Devin stopped tapping also, a responsive tone came back, almost like a message and Devin was clearly overjoyed.
“Catherine? Cathy Chandler?” A lump caught and held in Elliot’s throat. He had to tell himself to breathe.
“Yes. Come on, she cant be far ahead. Seems they threw her down here too.”
“Cathy? Cathy’s here in this God forsaken hole? Come on hurry she must be scared out of her wits!”
Devin doubted that, but nonetheless he started to hurry.
*** *** ***
Catherine couldn’t believe her ears. She’d been down there less than a day and she had already found them! That repetitive sound had alerted her, a sound that she later came to know was Elliot’s sovereign and onyx rings banging against the pipe every time he brought his right hand over his left.
Oh what joy was that reunion! Not only to find one another, but also for Devin and Elliot to see shards of daylight at last!
“Cathy, oh Cathy.” Elliot clung to her showering her face in kisses, his warm lips searching out hers, his arms tightly around her holding her close. “You came for me, you came for me.” He muttered over and over, “Oh Cathy you don’t know how good that makes me feel.”
From his vantage point a few feet away Devin caught Catherine’s gaze her chin as it was pressed upon Elliot’s shoulder, and his look worried her greatly. He didn’t still believe that she had feelings for this man did he?
*** *** ***
Carefully she untangled herself from Elliot’s grasp, so as not to offend him yet at the same time trying to make it plain to Devin that she felt nothing but a sense of relief to find them both alive and happy that she had found them at all. Still no matter how hard she tried, she could tell that Devin’s suspicions had been roused and nothing she could do for the moment would alter his opinion of her.
Elliot’s devotion to her had caused all of that.
Still little could rob them of the joy of being together, and they spent a great deal of time resting and trading experiences over the next couple of hours before deciding what they should do next.
Almost a week had passed before the bodies of the De-Vereyard family were discovered and the small town of Ouro Preto mourned the loss of their friends. Fear quickly spread through the town. The De-Vereyards were prominent people in their own right, having the largest herd of Zebu for miles around, and almost as many children!
That these children were missing grieved the people of Ouro Preto, and none more than an older daughter who lived in Para and who came now to Ouro Preto to help in the search for the bodies of the little ones.
Her face ashen through crying Sophia accepted the hospitality of her parent’s nearest neighbours, knowing these to be good people and so the grim search began.
*** *** ***
Greatly relieved that there was in fact a way out of their tomb the three trekkers walked ever upward through the tunnels. Darkness and daylight became interspersed as they travelled, and Catherine found the support of either Elliot or Devin to be a blessing as the inky darkness surrounded them time after time. This she wasn’t used to. In Vincent’s world the tunnels were always lit with welcoming light, and if not she had a flashlight or a lamp to carry to mark her way. This darkness, touched her skin surrounded her made her feel that alone she would have gone quite mad, much the same as had affected Elliot to begin with. In fact had continued to affect him from time to time as he recollected those days of being alone in the darkness.
“You rest.” Devin broke contact, untangling his fingers from Catherine’s as he bid her to sit. “The way forks here, you may as well take the weight off your feet while I take a look. Elliot can you take the other fork?”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to rest too.” Devin was surprised by Elliot’s reply, but didn’t insist he should help him.
“All right I shouldn’t be long. Make the most of it.”
‘Oh I intend to do.’ Elliot mused to himself.
Listening as the crunch of Devin’s footsteps disappeared somewhere ahead Catherine took off her shoes and rubbed her aching feet unaware that Elliot’s eyes were focused upon her even though he could not see her.
For a while each were silent, absorbing the chance to relax their weary bodies, until Catherine finally heard the disturbance of gravel nearby and knew that Elliot was moving. Next she heard his breathing close by yet she still jumped when she felt his hands reach for her.
“What? Elliot? What are you doing?”
“Cathy come on. You know you want this.”
Panic filled Catherine’s heart, “Elliot NO! No you’re wrong!” She felt his hands on her breasts, his thumbs tracing the line of her nipples and the damning effect it had on her. Immediately her nipples hardened causing Elliot to feel a sudden ecstatic jubilation!
“Cathy, how is it that your body responds to my touch? You deceive yourself when you say you don’t want this. You know that you do. Please Cathy let me love you. I have thought of nothing else since I have been down here.”
Catherine struggled pushing his hands away, her breathing fast and sharp. “No Elliot, No!” She moved away from him as far as the walls would allow, hoping he would not follow.
That hope died as she felt him beside her once again his hands on her shoulders and she struggled harder as they cupped her face, to bring her lips to his. His kiss was everything she had remembered, sparking a memory bitter and sweet, lighting the embers to a need deep in the pit of her femininity that disgusted her.
Elliot’s hands - Vincent’s hands. So different, so utterly, utterly different, yet a caress so tender so loving that in the dark, Catherine could well imagine it was either of them if she wanted to. But she didn’t want to and so she struggled harder and harder fighting against the man intent on making love to her as he had always dreamed.
“What’s going on!” He could not see, but could hear the hard and fast breathing, the scuffle somewhere to his left, and the sound of lips on lips.
“Devin! Help!” Catherine’s voice muffled yes, angry maybe, frightened perhaps. Devin wasn’t sure, could not see, did not know if what he had stumbled upon was an act for his benefit or something else. Something he had suspected, something that had happened the very moment the two of them had the chance to be alone.
*** *** ***
For now though he would give it the benefit of the doubt, and reaching out grasped the back of Elliot’s jacket, heaving him away angry enough to knock the sense out of him, yet losing him in the darkness, unable to do so, swiping only the air.
For long moments heavy breathing permeated the surroundings, then Catherine’s voice flared angry, “Don’t you ever do that again!”
Devin unsure what did she mean? To whom did she direct that retort? He moved away his heart heavy. He hated being right all the time - the cow - poor Vincent. How would he ever be able to tell him?
They moved in silence.
Devin angry with Elliot and Catherine both, but mainly with Catherine.
Catherine furious at Elliot and with herself for being too pigheaded to see him as everyone else had seen him, still in love with her, still living with hope that she would be his one day. Furious for the way her body had reacted to his touch. And furious that he had known of it.
Elliot furious with Devin for coming back when he had, for depriving him of the chance for he and Catherine to make love as they surely would have done given time. For her body had responded to his touch and he could still feel the pinpricks of her hardened nipples against the pads of his thumbs. Could still taste her honeyed lips beneath his. Could still hear the rush of hot blood singing through his veins as his body had moulded to hers, as he had felt all of her curves cleaving to his. No he hadn’t imagined it, she had wanted him, try as she might to deny it, her body language had spoken volumes searing Elliot’s heart with joy and with hope that there would be another time, another chance and they would take it and she would be his at last.
*** *** ***
Day two three and four passed by. Weary and extremely hungry Catherine allowed Devin to lead and Elliot to follow, conscious of the fact that any chance he got he would touch her bottom. It annoyed Catherine that she had to let it pass with just a slap of her hand lest Devin hear her say anything to Elliot and have him form more incorrect views on the matter.
So Catherine kept it to herself not realising that in so doing Elliot believed she was just playing hard to get and continued to form a plan to have her to himself.
His mind in overdrive Elliot calculated. It would only take a moment. The life she had chosen with Vincent was no life at all. She had lost her way, allowed gratitude to stand in the way of love. Vincent had saved her life so she had given up hers to him, given herself up to a beast when she could have so much more. She was a remarkable woman, but Elliot could give her everything, and with her new found wealth if she so wished she could build a safe haven for her friends in the tunnels. Could make a place of refuge for her so-called bestial friend.
If only he could make love to her, if only he could give her his child, she would stay with him. Catherine was not the sort of woman to abort a child, and besides had her body not told him that she wanted him, so too she would want his child. He would give her a child and she would be his forever and they would have a happy life, Elliot was certain of it.
The best part of the journey came he decided when at last after almost four days of complete darkness, dappled daylight penetrated the tunnels from somewhere higher than where they stood. Now Elliot’s hungry eyes could feast once more on the woman that he loved more than anything or anyone else in the entire world. Her beauty despite the grime of the last few days astounded him, and he felt a familiar stirring in his loins that was ever present when he thought of her.
“Oh Catherine.” He whispered low enough for her ears only. She looked at him shaking her head, understanding at once the look of desire in his eyes, knowing that he still hadn’t given up the idea of her being his.
“Want to rest?” Devin’s question turned her gaze from Elliot’s and she shook her head, “No, why?”
“Just thought you looked as though you needed to.” Devin laughed. The first time he had in four days. “I hope I don’t look as bad as that.”
“Believe me Devin you look worse than I feel.” Despite the tension she was feeling Catherine laughed.
Over the last four days Catherine had shared her chocolate but even so Devin looked awful and Elliot looked as skinny as a rake. His clothes hang from him ragged as they were and his beard had grown so that much of his face was covered with whiskers where it wasn’t covered with grime.
Devin didn’t look much better. Catherine had never seen him sporting a beard. In many respects it suited him and at least covered the telltale scar that Vincent had rendered to his cheek many years before.
“Well take a rest anyway. I’ll just scout ahead for a moment, and you…” he motioned his head to Elliot, “Can come with me, like it or not!”
“Don’t you trust me?” Elliot remarked settling down making it blatantly obvious that he wasn’t going anywhere.
“Its all right Devin.” Catherine intervened, “I’ll come with you. Elliot can rest awhile.”
Looking from one to the other Devin was for a moment undecided. Catherine looked as though she needed to rest. The last time he had seen her in the light she had looked wane now she looked really ill. He didn’t like it and despite her sharing with them the chocolate she’d had with her, he also noticed that she was getting through her own supply much faster than he was with his. Devin wondered and not for the first time if she may be diabetic. It worried him, and despite the risk of leaving her with Elliot he concluded that if he were right about them anyway then she would welcome the guy and wouldn’t need protecting. However, he supposed if he didn’t go far then she could quite easily accompany him for a way and he could leave her somewhere else away from Elliot, while he walked further afield. Thus feeling better about the last, he replied, “Okay. Come with me.” Then to Elliot remarked, “We wont be long, make the most of the rest.” Before taking Catherine’s arm and walking off with her much to Elliot’s dismay.
They walked some fifty yards or so, when Devin bade Catherine sit. “Don’t come any further Catherine, you need to rest, wait here for me, I’ll be about ten minutes.”
Catherine smiled, “Thank you Devin.” She sat gratefully, so quickly that Devin wondered about her decision to go with him at all. She looked so tired.
“You all right?” The concern for her was paramount. Catherine felt it and responded to his genuine warmth.
“Yes, I’m fine. Devin?”
“It wasn’t what it looked like…back there… when Elliot you know… it wasn’t how it seemed… I didn’t want it…please believe me.” Her eyes so luminous and appealing had Devin kneeling beside her in an instant.
“I believe you. But you must keep your distance from him. I’m worried about Elliot. He’s been down here a long time, something like that - it can send a person nuts.”
“Yes. I have to admit he frightened me. Elliot might not like to accept a refusal from me, but he does usually understand the word no. The other day he didn’t. Didn’t even seem to hear it.”
“You’ll be okay here. I won’t be long. Try to rest huh? Hopefully he’s doing the same.” Squeezing her shoulder Devin stood, “Try to get some sleep. You look as though you need it.”
“Yes.” Already her eyes were closing. Curling herself into as comfortable a position as possible Catherine gave way to the weariness that washed over her in soft waves. She barely heard Devin’s footsteps as he walked away from her.
*** *** ***
Beneath the streets of Manhattan Vincent closed his eyes with blessed relief. Catherine he knew was well. Weary but well. He sensed just a little apprehension but felt that she would be able to deal with whatever had caused it. For a long time he had meditated but all he had been able to see through her eyes had been sheer darkness, but she had not appeared to be frightened. Cautious maybe, but Vincent could tell that in the company she was in, she was able to place trust in others to secure her freedom.
Able now to let go of the deep concentration he had been under, the peacefulness of Catherine’s slumber soon lulled Vincent to sleep. He needed this rest, his tired mind and body felt as weary as if he had climbed to the tops of all the tallest buildings in New York and back down again.
Elliot was awake and scheming.
*** *** ***
He hadn’t gone far when Devin stumbled. Silly really. He knew tunnels like the back of his hand, even tunnels that were new to him. He understood in complete darkness - the loss of sight - that hearing came into play. That he could assess the terrain before him before stepping onto it. Yet time, stress and bitterness dulled Devin’s senses, and he stumbled. It wasn’t even that it was a bad trip. In fact he didn’t fall far, but he landed heavily cracking one knee on the tunnel floor. He swore rubbing at the wound swiftly, trying to ease the pain, and while his leg was bent the pain did ease, it was when he came to stand that it returned full force to remind him that a bit of massage would not appease it.
Fortunately he hadn’t gone far out of the light, but he had in that one moment made a grave mistake. When he had tripped he had turned around, not once but twice maybe three times, and not complete turns either, so that now when he hobbled to a standing position and leaned against one wall he wasn’t quite sure of the way he had come.
“Catherine!” He whispered loudly, knowing the folly of shouting too loudly in a mineshaft, “Catherine! Can you hear me?”
He listened but there was no sound. He felt that he hadn’t gone far enough for the echo of his voice not to reach her, and concluded that she must be sleeping. “Catherine!” His whispered louder his voice bordering on a low shout.
“Elliot!” In desperation he called to the man, hoping that Elliot, though further down the tunnel might hear him better.
The problem was he wasn’t quite sure which direction to call, and bit by bit called in all four directions, until he was satisfied that if they were awake they would surely hear. And then he waited, the pain in his knee throbbing, the nausea in his stomach rising and the tension of the moment leaving him almost numb with anxiety.
Catherine hadn’t heard Devin call out, that much was true. Deeply asleep and comfortable in the knowledge that Devin had believed her, Catherine had allowed herself the luxury of falling into a deep and dreamless sleep. However fifty yards further along Elliot had heard Devin’s desperate cry and had drawn his own conclusions.
He waited several seconds, trying to ascertain whether Devin needed help from wherever he had gone or might be returning to seek it. When he did not come, Elliot breathed a deep sigh of relief. That Devin had called Catherine’s name had already greatly relieved him that the pair of them had parted company some distance from where they had left him.
It was reasonably light here and Elliot had been thankful for that light and it grieved him to move forward to be consumed by near darkness again. Maybe it wouldn’t last long, maybe in this part of the tunnels whatever light had penetrated this stretch of tunnels would hopefully appear again soon but at least there was light enough to see silhouettes.
He moved slowly his hand to the wall at his side, ever conscious of keeping his vigilant silence. If things were as he hoped, he should soon find Catherine not much further on. Devin, he hoped, would be some distance beyond that.
As he approached her Elliot became aware of the sound of breathing. He could tell that the person was sleeping. No movement came from them except the soft swish rise and fall of breathing and Elliot’s heart raced as he realised it was Catherine. His tortured mind was elated - things could be easier than he had at first supposed. Quietly he edged forward, delighted when he saw her lying curled in a ball beneath the only shard of light that had penetrated from above.
Carefully, his heart in his mouth Elliot crouched low, falling into position of all fours and crept slowly toward her. In the misguided belief that Catherine would not shun his advances Elliot reached out a hand and to his great joy touched the warmth of her inner thigh without waking her. His fingers immediately began a soft kneading, anticipating a favourable response if he could rouse his true love from her slumber and Elliot smiled when she rolled onto her back allowing him access to greater intimacies.
Elliot’s heart raced and sweat broke out on his brow as his erection filled with hot pulsating blood. Catherine wanted this. She was his, his for the taking. But they must be quiet for somewhere up ahead Devin was waiting, perhaps listening but Elliot hoped that something might prevent Devin from returning too soon.
Catherine moaned as the hand on her thigh worked its magic and she knew not Elliot’s hands touching her intimately but Vincent. It was Vincent that prised her legs apart to touch her there, it was Vincent to whom she now reached out her arms - it was Vincent who went into her open invitation so willingly. And it was Vincent who tugged at her jeans and panties and slid them down thus baring her body to his hungry perusal.
Catherine shuddered, her heart singing Vincent’s name as she felt the weight of a body upon her and of their own violation her legs wrapped around his hips drawing him into her.
“Oh Cathy, Cathy.” Elliot could not help the expulsion of her name torn from his lips as he felt his body sinking into her warmth, and knew he’d come home. He had yearned for this with all his heart ever since he had met her and now to know how good it felt to join his body with hers, Elliot felt complete and so utterly, utterly in love.
Confusion dawned as Catherine’s eyes snapped open, even as Devin’s cry rang out around her, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!” And Elliot was partially lifted partially pushed away from the place where he had found his heaven.
“Get off me!” Elliot with his pants down around his knees lashed out at Devin, his fist meeting hard rock as Devin ducked. Cursing, holding his hand tightly against his chest as tears of pain and anger filled his eyes Elliot glared at Devin wishing looks could kill.
Catherine stared. Just stared her disbelief warring with anger. How could he? How could Elliot take advantage of her and while she had been sleeping? And where had Devin been to allow it to happen? She looked raggedly from one man to another, finding her voice suddenly “How could you!” leaving each man only to wonder at whom she had directed the question.
His eyes mere slits of contempt Devin flung Elliot away from him, allowing him to fall like some rag doll as all the fight drained out of the man.
“Cathy.” Elliot tried to appease her, “You know how much I love you.” He said this as if it was the answer to everything. As if it gave him rights to assume that she would allow him to make love to her.
“I hate you!” Devin spat, and Catherine assumed that he meant Elliot as she added, “Likewise.” Unable to say more as she fumbled with her clothing hastily hiding her body from prying eyes.
Devin stared at her incredulous that he had heard her right. Contempt rising in the pit of his belly that this woman had pledged love to his brother when all along she loved another man. He didn’t get it, he couldn’t comprehend why she had promised to spend her life with Vincent beneath the city streets and thus forsake all that she had above when she had intended to be with Elliot all along. Had it of been the other way around it would have made perfect sense. Had she of pledged her undying love to Elliot, had she of married Elliot and then gone to Vincent it would have been logical. But why marry a man that had nothing to give but his love when she so obviously wanted to be with one that could give her everything?
Devin shook his head, unable to clear from his mind the image that had presented him as he had hobbled around that final bend. Elliot and Catherine making love, and so obviously enjoying one another if the way Catherine’s arms and legs had been fastened around the man was anything to go by.
Why he hadn’t of just let them get on with it, he would never know. He supposed shock and stunned disbelief had something to do with it, and probably the misguided notion that maybe just maybe it was rape and Catherine didn’t know what was happening. But her arms and legs around the guy had changed all that. It hadn’t been rape, Catherine had consented, and Devin hated her for that.
The ice in his eyes worried Catherine. As Devin looked at her contempt was written in those large brown orbs that seemed to burrow deep into his heart. She shook her head trying as she might to comprehend why he looked at her with such venom in his eyes. ‘He didn’t believe…surely?’ Catherine shook her head again, ‘no it was too ludicrous for words, Devin would never think that she had been willing to make love with Elliot would he?’
“Devin?” She queried her voice wavering, uncertain of his response.
“What!” He flung at her his chest heaving, his fists in tight balls at his sides. It was taking everything he had not to pound Burch to pulp for his brother’s sake. It was taking everything beyond that not to do likewise to Catherine.
“You surely don’t think…?” Catherine’s voice faltered. As she had started to speak Devin stared at her fully and the naked hatred she saw in his eyes filled her with nausea.
“Devin please.” The words caught in her throat, her eyes filling with tears as she choked out, “I didn’t want this. You have to believe me…”
A derisive laugh echoed around them, “Didn’t want it?” Elliot’s face leered at her, “Am I hearing you right? Cathy don’t fight it, you love me you know that you do.”
“NO!” Her heart broke as Catherine turned first to Devin and then to Elliot, her eyes pleading and begging each to believe her, “No Elliot, No Devin you have to believe me. It was…. It was…” The word stuck in her throat, she thought never to have to utter such a word and apply it to herself ever again… That was in the past… and since that dreadful night when he had found her Vincent’s protection had assured her that she would never have to suffer such atrocities as rape ever again.
“It was what Cathy?” Devin sneered, “Lust?”
Elliot laughed nodding wholeheartedly, readily agreeing with that.
“No!” For a split second Catherine remained rooted to the spot as she denied the possibility and then seeing Elliot nod so enthusiastically, she flung herself at him fingers outstretched and sharp nails renting open flesh wherever she encountered it around the stubble on Elliot’s face.
“You little wildcat!” Elliot laughed and pinned both her flaying hands in his to thwart a further strike, “how about doing that down the length of my back sometime?” His laughing eyes crinkled at the corners.
Devin spat saliva like venom onto the dust at Elliot’s feet, “You disgust me…both of you…you disgust me!” Before hobbling away eager to put as much distance as he could between himself and them. Dismayed Catherine watched him go only just realising that he was injured. “Devin wait!” She turned to hurry after him only then realising that Elliot still held her hands, “Let go of me!” She flung at him through gritted teeth. Instantly he complied though Catherine was dismayed to note that the laughter still hadn’t left his eyes and it was disconcerting for her to know that he seemed to think that she was playing some game even now.
“You raped me Elliot!” She seethed through clenched teeth.
“Did not. It didn’t go far enough, besides it would never stand up in a court of law. Our only witness would say as I would, that you were more than willing.” His arms were folded as he stood smiling at her, humouring her, “Cathy.” He beseeched her the tender tone to his voice making her fume “You know it had to happen, you know you wanted me as much as I wanted you. Don’t fight it anymore my love.”
“You’re despicable! I hate you!” Catherine flung at him as she turned on her heels to seek out Devin. This was a nightmare and Catherine hoped that she would soon wake up.
*** *** ***
He’d made as much haste as he could, putting a good distance between them before he killed them, but even so Devin had slowed as he had heard Catherine’s final words to Elliot, and for one split second Devin wondered if he might have misread the situation. Could Catherine have been telling him the truth? Had Elliot taken advantage? Had Elliot raped his sister-in-law? But then the memory of the pair of them together had rushed to remind him that no one being raped would welcome such an intrusion with such ardour. No, whatever way he looked at it Catherine had betrayed his brother’s love and trust and Devin hated her for that.
At the thought of Vincent, Devin groaned. Who would tell him? Catherine wouldn’t he could be sure of that. Elliot might but then that would be asking for his own slaying. Vincent would not withhold his fists and claws from Elliot on hearing such a thing.
And so that left him. He would have to tell his brother of his wife’s betrayal and that alone left a bad taste in Devin’s mouth. How could he…how could he ever tell his wonderful brother such a thing? Maybe Father could do it. That was the only way left open, yes it would have to be Father that brought his brother such devastating news.
*** *** ***
Yet Vincent already knew. At least he knew something. Awaking from his slumber as if someone had thrown cold water over him Vincent had started sitting bolt upright in his bed, his mind inward and clutching hold of images as they fled through his mind. Something was dreadfully, dreadfully wrong. One moment he had been dreaming of making love to Catherine and the next she had been pushing him off of her, the fear and the disgust in her heart plain to be seen.
Disorientated Vincent’s hammering heart calmed somewhat as he realised it was just a dream, but those feelings from Catherine remained even so. Through the Bond he could feel her disgust, he knew her dismay and he felt her heart breaking and the venerability of having no one to believe her. That was what got to him the most, what was it that she desperately wanted to be believed for? He felt it in her, felt the desperate need to be believed and that left a gaping wound in Vincent’s heart.
He knew not what had happened only that something dreadful had transpired. Nothing that was life threatening, but something of equal proportions, something that in effect could kill him when he knew. Catherine was covering this fact, hiding it deep in the recesses of her heart so that he could not probe the secret and that in itself told Vincent how serious, this, whatever this was, would be. And they were so far away, there was nothing he could do but stay at home and wait, and Vincent roared with frustration at knowing he could yet be waiting quite some time.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Thirteen – click on ‘Next’ below:
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