A Brazilian Adventure for Devin, Catherine and Elliot.
They walked now in silence, neither keeping sight of the other. Devin striding ahead despite his injury, besides the pain in his heart far outweighed the pain in his knee and Catherine hurrying to keep up with him while eager to put as much distance between herself and Elliot as she could. Elliot bringing up the rear not a bit unhappy about the turn of events. Nothing could take from him the memory of his body sinking into Catherine’s. He would treasure that forever and hoped beyond hope that they might complete the act sooner rather than later.
Knowing that they followed his lead, Devin thought of many ideas and dismissed them. He thought of hurrying so fast and so far ahead that either one of them would stumble and hurt themselves as he had and that in so doing he could leave them behind. Then to be able to tell his brother that they had died, and thus be able to thwart the truth that had to be told about Catherine’s betrayal. No wonder the woman had whisked herself off so willingly to Elliot’s rescue upon her wedding day - it all made perfect sense now.
But why? That was the one thing Devin could not get his head around. Why had she done it? He didn’t think at that moment he had ever hated someone so much and that was saying something after the dreadful experiences he had so recently endured.
When he thought about Sonia and Pepe’ and their beautiful son Vincent, his heart pained him. Through all of this, his one goal had been to find freedom and avenge their murders. That had been the one thing that had kept him going these past few days. Now everything that had happened with Catherine and Elliot heaped further hatred into his heart, and Devin was ready to strike at the least little thing, knowing he would show no mercy next time he was taunted. And if he ever had to endure another day of Elliot’s gloating expression he felt he would kill the man.
He shuddered as the recent events began to sink in. On the surface he knew the trouble that would have to come from their actions. He foresaw the dreadful time ahead when his brother was told and he hated that he had to bring this news, but he doubted that if he didn’t say anything no one else would.
For a fleeting second he thought about the Bond. This was something he rarely considered as being real until Catherine would seem to float away before his very eyes, and he would know that she was spending time with Vincent, even though they were miles apart. Devin didn’t know how deep the Bond manifested itself, but its possible that Vincent would already have detected something had happened. Therefore he would be expecting to hear something. There was one problem though, once they actually found their freedom, Devin wasn’t quite sure whether he or Catherine would return to New York first. He had a lot of tidying up to do that might take some time. A lot of it depended on wherever he may find the murderers, and a lot of it then depended on how he would kill these men for the dear friends whose lives had been lost because they dared to befriend him.
For he knew one thing…one very sure thing…his anger was such now that he would kill them…no matter what.
*** *** ***
Leaning over the discoloured pine desk Leo de Azevedo examined the shard of stone before him. Over one eye he held a magnifying glass, not one of the stronger more expensive types but one that did the job just as effectively, and because it had gone through thick and thin with him, it was one he favoured the most.
“What are you thinking?” Pedro Funari had watched his colleague for the past ten minutes, turning the shard of stone this way and that without comment. Pedro was eager to know its potential value.
Leo looked up, at the same moment laying the stone carefully onto a piece of soft velvet on the table before him, and easing the magnifying glass away from his eye to rest it alongside the stone.
“I’ve seen better but after refining I think we may have something here.”
“It was the best of the haul, but there is plenty more. Are you sure we can we do something with it?”
Leo nodded and Pedro was greatly relieved by that action. It was all he had needed really confirmation that the find would make them wealthy in the fullest sense of the word. There was enough in this find to keep some and sell some.
“I think we will be certain of producing American Blue with these stones, possibly even Sky Blue.” Leo told his colleague looking straight at him. Pedro caught the significance of that unwavering stare, and frowned.
“We don’t have that kind of treatment available here. Are you certain that the cost of the process will be worth it?”
“More than worth it. As I say I have seen better, but these stones are still good enough to bring forth the blue that is so sought after by the rest of the world but we won’t be able to do that here. Fortunately we have come a long way from the time when P.H. Plough first subjected colourless topaz to radiation treatment in 1957.”
Pedro agreed, adding, “The market has been flooded in the last decade by more than a million carats of blue topaz. Most people believe that the production of this has been due to radiation treatment. Surely we can do that here. What does it matter, providing we create the type of blue that people desire?”
“Because my dear fellow, times have changed. We know that better ways exist now, and because this may be our last chance to produce top quality gemstones such that we will never need to work again. It would be better would it not to take our find to a refinery that could turn these stones into something spectacular. Besides I have been hungry for some time to be allowed to follow such a process and know that the end result would be perfection. Surely you have too?”
Pedro nodded, “Yes to be truthful yes. I am just worried about the cost involved.”
“There will be no cost. We simply pay in gemstones and then split the remainder two ways.”
“Why three? Pepe is dead. Besides no one knew of his partnership in this but his wife and that little brat of his and they are dead too.”
“Their eldest daughter Sophia isn’t. Neither are the little ones, they escaped remember?” Pedro felt a cold chill run up his spine for some reason unknown.
“And they are in hiding. Whether Sophia knows their whereabouts or not remains to be seen. I have had her followed since she arrived from Para and she does not appear to have found them, and they are hardly likely to turn up knowing the danger that they are in. Besides who is going to believe children? For all anyone knows that American could have killed their parents.”
“Except that they saw you do it.” Pedro shuddered, and besides he missed Pepe.
“It’s not our problem Pedro. Look all we need do is take these stones to the refinery that has bombardment facilities pay the bill split the remainder between you and I and go live our lives to the full. Sod anyone else.”
“You said it again. You keep saying we will split it two ways. What of Stuart?”
Leo stared at Pedro as if the man had taken leave of his senses, “What has Stuart got to do with this? He knows nothing about gems! He is nothing to us. Do we employ him? Have we ever employed him?”
Put like that Pedro knew it was true. Stuart had just turned up one day. Made himself known and literally tagged along. True he had proved invaluable when they needed to get shot of Burch and so too when that Chandler woman had been hell bent on coming out to Brazil to see for herself that Burch had died. But apart from that he was a nobody, and came and went so elusively that he had rarely been present at any of their plans. He wasn’t even family and what was more he couldn’t even boast brother hood. He was American not Brazilian.
Pedro nodded, “all right you win. I can’t imagine Stuart agreeing but no doubt you will think of a way to cut him from our gain. So when do you want to take the first batch to the refinery?”
“Just as soon as I decide the best place to take them. You just keep the men working at bringing in the find, and I’ll do the rest. Meet me back here the day after tomorrow, I should have something to tell you then.”
They parted company with their customary shake of hands, and the last thing Pedro saw before he exited the room was Leo replacing his eyeglass and picking up the shard of stone once again with a big smile on his face.
*** *** ***
“How long will it take?” Leo had scouted around the best refineries and was now making his final decision.
“How long is a piece of string?”
Leo frowned holding the receiver away from his ear, tempted for the moment to shout obscenities into the receptacle. Instead he drew a deep breath letting it out slowly to calm himself and went on, “I realise you cannot possibly say. So much depends on it. Each stone is a separate commodity in itself, but you must have some general idea.”
“No. It just isn’t possible. Advancement we may have made since the mid-fifties but one cannot rush perfection. However if you are asking me what I think you are asking me, then I can put a prospective value on the find and pay a percentage accordingly. The rest you can collect in stones or hard cash when the refining is completed but of course we have to agree that to do this, the best is reserved for us and not for you. Like taking the pick of the litter so to speak.”
Leo nodded, and then realising that he could not be seen doing so, he affirmed into the receiver, “yes I understand, and no we do not want an advancement. I just wondered that’s all. There is no rush, we do not need the money so quickly. Besides I don’t know yet that I wish to sell any of the stones. I have waited a long time for glory to settle upon me, and these stones are to be my crowning glory.”
“Would you like to watch the process of some of the stones? It might take some time, you couldn’t possibly be here for the duration but you might like to witness the metamorphosis taking place.”
“I’d like that. Especially to see how you produce the colourless to the dark blue and on to the American Blue. That would appeal to me most.”
“It’s quite a simple process actually.”
“Once you know how?”
“Yes.” There was laughter down the line, “Once you know how. Same with everything really. Riding a Zebu is easy once you know how.” They laughed together at this.
“I expect you well know the process for irradiation of topaz Mr de Azevedo…”
“Leo. Thank you. And please call me Claude. As I was saying you obviously know the process for irradiation yet I have to make you aware of everything involved before you bring the stones to us. This is a safeguard as I am sure you are aware. So many people have small finds and expect us to bring forth from that something worth millions and are disappointed by what they perceive to be perfection that we more often than not find ourselves facing lawsuits. You must be made aware and sign a contract to the contrary that the stones will be processed and enhanced by the refinery, but we do not produce miracles.”
“I understand. Please go on. Do you have the time?” Leo added as an after thought. He wasn’t quite sure if all this were to be told over the telephone or if he would have to make an appointment to hear it.
Unbeknown to Leo Claude checked his watch. He also flicked open his diary. Leo waited while Claude appeared to be thinking, finally hearing him answer, “I do have time now if you are certain that you will be bringing the find to us. I’m afraid my diary is quite full for the next couple of months, so if you’ve time, I’ll make it as brief as possible since you know some of what goes on.”
“Thank you. Please continue.” Leo settled himself further into his seat and positioned his legs upon the seat that Pedro usually favoured. He blatantly ignored the seat that Pepe once used. That sometimes provided relaxation for Stuart, but recently had been unoccupied and pushed into one corner of the moderately furnished room.
“I always start by reminding people of the nuclear bombardment on various glasses. You know how it is, or maybe your wife does. Put clear Pyrex into the oven often enough and it will soon discolour to amber. Other kinds of glass can become murky thus losing its transparency. This is always due to particle bombardment and is never predictable. Left untreated these colours will disappear especially when left beneath intense light. Often darkening in fact. Due to which different types of glasses have since been produced that resist such changing of colour when exposed to forms of radiation or heat. Topaz on the other hand can occur naturally in a wide range of colours but usually it is colourless and this is where we come in.
You are probably aware that the first reported production of colourless topaz to blue was attempted by Pough in the mid-nineteen fifties and around twenty years later rediscovered by Nassau and Prescott. A lot of people blamed their process for the arrival of an increased quantity of blue topaz made available around that time. And you well know I am sure that one of the principle qualities that determines the value of commercial topaz is its colour.
Several types of irradiation can be used to alter the stones colour. X and gamma rays, high-energy charged particles and neutrons. Naturally occurring blue topaz is usually very pale in colour and their market value for that reason is limited. Even so only a small percentage of topaz that has been irradiated by electrons will be turned into the intense blue that is marketable. I expect this is what you have found in the processing that you have used?”
“Yes. While we aimed to achieve the standard that the world desired, it always seemed that we couldn’t get it just right. The colours were either wishy-washy blue or had streaks of other colours running through any that we declared to be a perfect reflection of the blue we had hoped for. Many times we had our hopes deflated when we found that we had turned a beautiful colourless stone into something that greatly resembled the bottomless eyes of a shark with cataracts. And who wants to be reminded of that?”
Claude laughed, he must remember that description it was good, and he understood Leo perfectly, “I know what you mean. Those of inky appearance depending on how one looked at the stone a result of different colours appearing along the lines of different axis. Still sellable mind you, but nowhere near in the league of the top quality blue.
Of course it can’t all be blamed on the interference of man. It often depends upon the nature of any given stone. Exposing pale coloured topaz to gamma rays can result in a reddish brown in some stones.
However if these particular stones are again re heated a blue can be brought forth. Generally all colourless or pale topaz will turn blue if given sufficient exposure to high-level energy neutrons. And depending on the use of gamma or electrons we can determine darker or more intense shades of blue.
Our business here is to produce some of the finest blues imaginable. By irradiating at a range of one thousand to ten thousand megarads we can produce the American Blue and the Super Sky Blue. Occasionally some stones may require additional heating of one to six hours of electron bombardment to enhance that quality but this is not always necessary.”
Leo pricked up his ears at the mention of Super Sky Blue. This he deemed to have the edge over American Blue in his opinion.
“So, you see we do have the facilities here to bring forth a butterfly from the chrysalis that you now behold. All that remains for you to do now is to bring the collection along and allow us to show you what we can achieve.”
“Will I need an appointment?”
“Yes that is absolutely necessary, and for your own peace of mind you should either accompany the stones or have them delivered by armoured vehicle. We can arrange for their collection. What will it be?”
“I’ll bring them myself.”
Claude laughed, “I expected as much. So when can you bring them to us?”
“Well they aren’t all mined yet, shall I wait until we have the lot, or bring them over bit by bit?”
“Whatever is best for you Leo. As you heard me mention my dairy is pretty packed for the next couple of months. I should like to meet with you, but we will only have time for a firm handshake I am afraid, but I have several loyal colleagues who will be only too willing to look after you. Perhaps you would like to consult your own diary and get back to me.”
Leo detected that Claude was hastily trying to end the conversation. He noted the clock on one wall, it was way past lunchtime. It’s a wonder his own stomach hadn’t made him aware off that fact by now. Still he had been engrossed in the telephone call. “I’ll get back to you. My diary is modestly filled but I do have a colleague who will wish to accompany me to the refinery. I’ll call later today if I may?”
“That will be wonderful. Just make an appointment with my secretary. She will take care of you. And thank you Leo. I am sure that you will not be disappointed in us.”
The conversation wound down, they said their farewells, and Leo was soon left in a quiet room once again, his feet still propped upon one chair. But in his hands he held the shard of stone, turning it over and over in one hand and staring at the various facets catching what little light filtered through the blinds. “You my beauty are my gateway to heaven.” He told the stone, smiling happily as he allowed the tapestry of his future to unfold before him. He was not to know that those words were to prove to be a lot nearer to the truth than he now imagined them.
*** *** ***
Another day struggled by and Devin walked purposefully forward. As they had continued their bid for freedom, he had been elated to find that the dappled daylight appeared more often now, and with the way his calf muscles pulled and his knee ached that they had been travelling upward for the best part of the afternoon.
He knew Catherine was somewhere close behind but he resolutely refused to hear anything that she might say. As far as he was concerned the woman had died back there. Had ceased to exist.
And as for Elliot Burch!
Devin’s fists curled into tight balls every time he thought on the man. He had no idea how far he lagged behind, the further the better as far as he was concerned. Never did he want to set eyes on the fellow again, yet he could not shelve him into the same bracket as Catherine. While she ceased to exist Elliot had become a potential punch bag if ever he looked upon the fellow again.
Water had long since been an issue. Bile had given him all the fluid that he required to continue on his way. That and a steadfast bid to be out of those tunnels by nightfall. He had things to do, and his temper was such that it forced him ever onward. His first port of call was the offices of Leo de Azevedo and Pedro Funari. He couldn’t wait to beat them to pulp.
*** *** ***
Behind her brother-in-law Catherine struggled with her weary limbs, with her hunger, with a blinding headache and with her heart in tatters. Devin had neither turned at her pleading nor shown that he had heard her. Though by the firm set of his shoulders that she had viewed whenever she had made a plaintive plea she knew that he was aware of her existence. She had though become an ever-present thorn in his side one which she would gladly love to remove and if they ever got out of their tomb to remove it before he reached a telephone. What he might say to Peter, Catherine had no idea. Peter being the only means with which to get a message below. Catherine hoped that Peter would be out or would not find it in himself to report anything back until he had at least heard from her first.
Somehow though Catherine doubted that hope, since Peter had been very much against her coming out to rescue Elliot in the first place. Had he like Devin seen more into her headlong flight out to Brazil as being something more than met the eye? Only Vincent might believe her, but would she have the chance to speak with him first? Even as she hoped it Catherine doubted the possibility of that.
Had it only been six weeks since the day of her wedding? Had it really been so little a time? It seemed more like six years.
Catherine hadn’t even counted the days she had been down in the pit believing fully that Devin would find the way out. No one out of the three of them knew tunnels like he did. Catherine had such faith. Yet when his sudden whoop of delight fell around her ears Catherine was rooted to the spot hardly daring to believe he had found what could only be responsible for such delight.
Hurrying now, stumbling a little in her haste Catherine made it to his side, and in that one split second everything paled away in Devin’s heart. “We’ve made it Cathy! Look we’re out!”
He hugged her tightly for a split second forgetting everything that had happened until she cried “Sunshine! Oh Devin - now I know why Vincent treasures it so much.”
At the mention of his brother’s name, Devin wrenched his arms away from Catherine and began striding forward to leave her behind.
“Devin wait! Please wait.” Catherine ran and caught hold of his arm. He stopped despite his repulsion of feeling her touch him and shrugging his arm free decided to allow her to speak.
“Tell me.” He answered unable to help adding, “Though don’t bank on my believing you.”
Catherine sighed. There were so many things she wanted to say, yet didn’t think he’d give her that much of a chance so she tackled the problem head on. “Devin you know how much I love Vincent.”
He turned to her then, his eyes, pitiful, hurt angry. “I thought I did.” He made to move away from her.
“Please Devin. I would never do anything to hurt Vincent. Please you have to believe me, what happened back there happened without my consent. Elliot raped me.” Those final words were caught on a sob wrenched from her, yet Catherine stood her ground, willing Devin to believe her. He had to, he just had to.
And maybe he might have if at that precise moment another voice had not interrupted his thoughts and sent him striding away from her again.
“My God, Cathy darling! Sunshine!” Elliot had emerged from his prison.
*** *** ***
Usually when anything bothered her food was the last thing on Catherine’s mind, but from the moment she arrived at a small village representing civilisation Catherine had headed for the first bar she could find and had ordered the largest meal on the menu.
Funnily enough, though unseen by her, Devin too had previously arrived at the same bar and sat now wolfing food down while watching her over the top of a prominently placed menu. He remembered his earlier thought that Catherine might be diabetic, but even so, in the light of all that had happened he found it exceedingly unnerving that she should put food above everything else even though he had done the same. It just surprised him that she hadn’t sought a telephone to call home before he could that was all. This only served to make him believe her guilt, even though he noticed that Elliot appeared nowhere in sight.
The object of his musings was in fact doing exactly what Devin had supposed Catherine should do in the circumstances, but to an entirely different person. Elliot was contacting the police, his office in New York, his attorneys and his friends in that order. There was going to be BIG trouble.
*** *** ***
Journalists were everywhere. Once the story unfolded and Elliot had wasted no time in the telling of his tale newspapers were set rolling hot off the presses and onto the streets overnight.
Father sat with the morning’s issue of The Times upon his lap, unfolding it only when he finally lay down his tea tray, his hearty breakfast consumed. The headlines leapt out at him, and in so doing he almost witnessed a return of his breakfast, so deep was his shock. “VINCENT!”
From his journey between his and Father’s chamber, Vincent heard the shout and started running, meeting the patriarch of the tunnels as he entered his chamber. “Vincent there you are. Come see today’s newspaper. Elliot Burch is alive!”
Despite the older man’s excitement Vincent’s rising elation fell. For a moment, and he didn’t know why it should, but for a moment he had thought Father’s excitement had flared after seeing an article about Catherine. Knowing that this wasn’t so brought no response from Vincent whatsoever, so deep was his sorrow.
Father looked at him keenly, “Oh I know you knew he was alive Vincent, but to see it here in black and white, and to have the world know of it, well that surely is something else, isn’t it?”
A grimace of a smile formed on Vincent’s mouth, “It does not tell me anything I already know Father. The work Elliot Burch does is well acclaimed, but the man is the least of my concerns. I just hoped that somehow there would be news of Catherine.”
“Oh but there is.” Father pulled the newspaper toward him, folding it to the column he needed. “I haven’t read it all, but I saw bits, and I know her name was mentioned. Look here… Oh and Devin too! Vincent they are all spoken of. Come let us read it together.”
After reading the entire story three times, Vincent sat down from where he had been standing alongside Father, the older man sitting, the newspaper spread out upon the table in front of the two of them. “Catherine is alive!” He repeated over and over.
His kindly eyes watching every nuance of his son’s ever changing features Father spoke softly, “But then you knew that.”
“Yes I knew that Father… The Bond…” His hands splayed on either side of him emphasised that feature of his and Catherine’s relationship, “But to see it here in writing. Father I am so relieved.”
“She will be coming home now.” It was a statement not a question. “And Devin too.”
“Yes, though maybe not Devin. Knowing my brother as far as he is concerned there is still much to see, and he has yet to visit Rio.”
For the first time in a long time Father heard Vincent laugh. They both knew Devin so well, and after all he had been given a free ticket to visit Brazil in the first place. Devin would surely make the most of that.
*** *** ***
At that precise moment Gary Stuart sat with the headlines of a similar newspaper laid out upon the lobby table in front of him. His eyes were grave yet he could not help feel the elation of knowing that Catherine Chandler had survived her ordeal and was now safely cocooned in a hotel room several floors above him.
The moment he had known of her arrival back at her hotel he had driven along there to see if he might meet with her and glean anything that would help him to ascertain if she meant to press charges against him or not. The knowledge seemed to escape him that he was very much part and parcel of the entire affair and that she wasn’t likely to listen to anything he may have made up in his defence. Still Stuart thought that there might be a chance if he got to her before Leo or Pedro did.
In fact come to that he hadn’t seen Leo and Pedro for several days. Their office had been empty and locked and Stuart had wondered what they might be on with. The mine was almost cleaned of its most recent find, and he began to worry that they might have absconded with his percentage of the deal. That being he would insist that they took the whole blame in the disappearance of Miss Chandler, Elliot Burch and the other American fellow. When he thought about it, Stuart couldn’t decide what in fact he deemed most precious his freedom or his wealth. If he would have both he could.
His musings were broken however when a car drew up outside and from it came three burly looking men in what he could only describe as law enforcement gear recognising at once that the way they were dressed meant business. It didn’t surprise him in the least when one of the three approached the desk and asked that Miss Chandler be informed of their arrival and that she was expecting them. Stuart closed the newspaper and looked disinterested through the window undecided for the moment. He would dearly have loved to have stayed and waited until the three men came back down in the elevator they had now slipped into, and have seen what may have materialised from their visit, but on the other hand he dared not.
The moment the doors closed firmly behind them, Stuart watched until the indicator light showed them disembarking at level three. Well that was something, at least he knew for a certainty which floor she was on. He hadn’t liked to ask at the desk in case the camera positioned there had caught him on it.
*** *** ***
After satisfying his thirst and hunger Devin too had sought out his hotel. All his belongings as had Catherine’s had been placed in security where they would have stayed for three months, before being discarded at the local church.
His next port of call was the bathroom. Looking at himself for a long time in the mirror, Devin had analysed his eyes, his face, new beard and hair. He had never looked such a sight. He’d lost, the scales told him, thirty-one pounds and his bathrobe hung off him. He grimaced, maybe losing the flab wasn’t quite so bad, but he was dismayed to find that even though the last few days had been strenuous his muscles had sagged too and they would surely need building up.
His first bath after so long was sheer bliss. Stepping into the foamy water shivers ran from his feet to his neck and it took no time to immerse himself into the hot water amid many sighs of satisfaction.
It was, the longest soak he had ever undertaken, and there had been some. His past reminded him of other occasions when a bath had come at the end of a long trek, weeks on the trot of climbing dusty terrain, ragged mountain ranges and icy conditions. All of which had placed that long foamy soak in the forefront of his mind as something to look forward to getting home for. The only difference was his real home, for there though the jets of water coming naturally through channelled rock were never quite as warm as he would have liked. Vincent insisted that there was nowhere better on earth after a long hard day’s work in the lower levels chiselling out new chambers for their ever- growing community but knowing there was something better Devin would dispute that.
“You my brother have never lived.” Devin now spoke aloud, his eyes dancing as he pictured the groans and moans that would come from his brother should he ever step into a bath of this dimension. At the mention of his brother’s name Devin frowned, reminded once again that hot foamy baths would be the last thing his brother would want once he knew what he had to tell him. Again Devin wondered about that and only now he allowed himself the time to assimilate everything in a bid to work it out.
First of all was Catherine’s headlong flight to Brazil when she had first learned of his accident. Her belief that Elliot hadn’t died in that plane crash and her disclosure that she and Elliot had spoken earlier that morning prior to her marriage to Vincent. That fact seemed to have been overlooked by everyone. Had they spoken of other things apart from Elliot being unable to make the wedding? What if they had arranged everything, what if Catherine unable to stop the wedding had been persuaded by Elliot to go to him even this late in the day? Had Elliot blackmailed her? Did he have some hold over her that had made her rush headlong to his aid?
Devin dismissed most of these ideas as they fell to mind. Of course Catherine had become her own defence when she had returned at the last, deciding instead to spend the night with Vincent no matter how it may look. That at least was in her favour.
There had been nothing else, nothing that he could remember anyway that told him afterward that she and Elliot were anything more than victims of the same crime, just as he had been. Except there were those times on Elliot’s part where he had seen the fellow looking at her with intense longing and eyes of love. He had dismissed those looks, concluding it was as Vincent had told him, that Elliot would always love Catherine, and so he decided, albeit reluctantly, that if Vincent could ignore it then so could he.
Then the time had arrived when Catherine had been thrown into the ‘tomb’ and how the pair reacted at the sight of one another. Catherine true, had untangled herself from Elliot’s embrace, but that could have been for his benefit if truth were known. There were other instances too much of which had been instigated by Elliot. Those looks, those touches, but if he were honest with himself none had given him any sign that Catherine had enjoyed or wanted them.
Everything from start to finish, could have been a whole lot of misguided coincidences, or a whole bunch of suspicious coincidences that had hung and quartered her before she’d had time to comment.
Devin’s reason for his suspicions suddenly rocketed through him with horror! Both he and Father and Peter they had all been of like mind and thus must all bear the blame. For Devin suddenly knew that they had all behaved thus, because not one of them could understand why someone as beautiful as Catherine could want to marry someone like Vincent over someone like Elliot. And that stemmed to only one thing, that they were seeing Vincent as through the eyes of people that did not know him, did not love him, did not see him beautiful in quite the same unconditional way that Catherine had. They had framed her, made her out to be something she was not, when in fact she was better than they were. Suddenly Catherine’s love for Vincent sang through Devin’s heart as he accepted that she would never want Elliot over Vincent. But that did not answer the question as to why he should find the pair of them wrapped in one another’s arms, and Catherine’s arms and legs holding Elliot closer than a heartbeat.
That was the one thing that went over and over in Devin’s mind, and despite what had or what had not gone on before, Catherine’s was guilty of everything for that act alone. And he simply could not, would not forgive her for that.
*** *** ***
His face shaven, skin squeaky clean, fresh clothes and stomach full Elliot stood by the window looking down at the street below. Everything that had had to be done had been done. His story was told, the police were set to arrest the men that had done this barbaric thing to him and Elliot’s flight back home was booked for the day after tomorrow. He didn’t care whether he ever saw Brazil again. Indeed he had other plans to turn to, another resort to build just as soon as he could do a bit of trading with the Mashuntucket Pequot* tribe of Indians. He had extensive plans for that project, and maybe he would go back to his resort here in Ouro Preto when the memories were not quite so furious. Oh but the joy of Catherine! If nothing else had come from this awful experience the joy of sinking his body into her body had made it all worthwhile. Elliot would never forget the ecstasy of that moment for as long as he lived, and despite everything he still believed that it was only a question of time before she came to him expressing her undying love for him and everything would be wonderful between them again. Never had he found a woman as beautiful as Catherine. Her beauty shone from within out, her beauty went through and through. There weren’t many women in the world that could attest to that fact.
Even so as Elliot was thinking these things, there came a knock at the door. For a spilt second his heart raced. She had come! Catherine was here! And then he realised the futility of that. Had she of come to his hotel she would have gone to the desk and the reception would have informed him of her arrival. He had specifically asked that he should be notified if Miss Chandler should call.
So opening the door expecting to see not his true love but some hotel employee, Elliot was quite unprepared for his first sight of what he deemed could only be the most beautiful woman on earth next to Catherine Chandler.
She held out her hand to him, “Mr. Burch, you don’t know me. My name is Sophia De-Vereyard. Might I speak with you please?”
For several seconds Elliot gazed down at the gloved hand before taking it up in his own, “Are you a reporter? I’ve said all there is to say.”
“No. I am not a reporter, and I have to admit that my affairs are not actually with you, but with the other American, but since I cannot find where he is staying I wondered if you would be able to help me?”
“You mean Devin Wells?”
“Is that his name?”
“You’ve surely read the newspaper or you wouldn’t be here.”
Elliot released her hand and she let it fall back to her side. It had been Sophia’s greatest embarrassment all through her life to have to explain that she was illiterate, but here before this good-looking man Sophia hid that fact with a blatant lie. “I haven’t been able to spare the time for reading.” It was as good a lie as any and true in a round about way.
“Then how do you know about Devin Wells?”
“The newspapers are not the only mode of communication Mr Burch, besides the fact that this town is buzzing with your experience I also learned of this man through another source. I desperately need to find him. Please can you help me?”
Something in the woman’s tone suddenly unnerved Elliot, he stepped aside and with a sweep of one arm beckoned her with the words; “Won’t you come in?”
The woman needed no second bidding, but Elliot was surprised to find tears had run unchecked down her cheeks from the moment she had entered his room to the moment he had closed the door and had turned to face her.
“What’s wrong? Here let me fetch you a tissue.” He crossed to the far side of the room, and snatched a handful of tissues from a box, returning to thrust them into her hand as he reached her again. “Please sit. Can I get you a drink? Tea, Coffee? Something stronger?” His teasing was rewarded by a watery smile, and drying her eyes something lurched in Elliot’s chest as she turned her full attention toward him and smiled.
“If you have spring water that would be greatly appreciated.”
Elliot was about to protest when he remembered just how good water was and readily found a glass and filled it from the dispenser before returning to hear whatever it was she had come to say.
Sipping at the water, the woman watched him somewhat warily for a moment. Now that the chance was upon her, she doubted the rationale with which she had arrived at her contemplation over the last few weeks. What if she couldn’t trust this man?
Almost the moment she thought it he mentioned it, “Please you can trust me. I know there has been a great deal of wickedness going on around here, but know this that neither I or my friends have had anything to do with this. We have all been innocent victims of the most bizarre experience we have ever been forced to undertake. Please whatever it is know you can trust me.”
At the mention of innocent victims, Sophia’s face crumpled and the tears fell swiftly again.
“I’m sorry.” She wiped her eyes. “Whatever must you think of me?”
“Its all right, its all right. Take your time. I’m not going anywhere.”
At those last words Sophia glanced up, her eyes swollen from crying, and for the first time Elliot began to see the pain held in those eyes. Whatever her tears were for they disguised some deep grief for every time they welled in her eyes they obscured the usual beauty he felt once resided there.
“Tell me.” Elliot pulled up a chair and taking up her free hand in his, his blue eyes begged her to unravel her tale of woe.
When she had finished, Elliot could not move. As she had spoken he had seen Devin as he had first arrived thrown into the mineshaft bitter and angry at having endured cold bloodied murders right before him. Quickly Elliot made the connection and could understand why this woman needed to speak with Devin.
“What of the children?” He asked remembering bits of the story that Devin had related.
“I don’t know. I don’t know.” Sophia sobbed harder now forcing Elliot to leave his chair and come to enfold her in his arms. “No one has seen them, yet there have been no bodies, unless, unless…” she couldn’t continue that line of thought. It was too unbearable to think that they had been kidnapped and left to die also.
“I don’t think Devin can tell you much more Sophia. From what you say and what I know, it had been the first time he had seen the children, save for your younger brother. I don’t think he was even aware that you existed.”
“I’m adopted.” Sophia told him as if that answered everything. “I didn’t live with the family. I work in Rio and have a home in Para.” Her eyes refused to meet his, and Elliot detected that whatever it was that she did for a living, she wasn’t proud of it. “But the children need me now, and I need them. My parents were good to me, gave me everything, I miss them so much.” Her tears fell again, seemingly faster than before. Elliot had an idea.
“Look, I know a bit of how you feel. My father was murdered too, and in light of what we have all recently experienced here, I’d say the best immediate remedy would be to get yourself back on to your feet. I think I know where Devin may be, so if you would stay here, have room service bring you up anything that you need, take a long relaxing bath and have a sleep you will feel much more capable of taking this on. Believe me those things may seem immaterial in the face of all the other things that are happening around you, but without them you will come crashing down. Give yourself a rest and I can promise that you will feel so much more ready to tackle whatever comes.”
Sophia nodded, not trusting herself to speak in light of his kindness, she did agree with everything he said, even so far as feeling guilty for the need of those things when her parents and brother had just been murdered. It seemed to her that she hadn’t eaten or slept since she had heard the news two weeks ago.
“And you’ll find him?”
“I’ll find him. I promise. Just you relax, and try not to worry I won’t tell anyone about this.”
Sophia nodded gratefully. It had been hard coming here, not knowing whether she was doing right or wrong, not knowing who was friend or foe. All she knew was she had to find that American that the neighbours had seen speaking with her father and brother on more than one occasion. She hadn’t known until speaking with Elliot that Devin Wells had seen her parents and brother die, and now that she knew she wanted to see him all the more. She thanked Elliot profusely and watched him leave with hope in her eyes for the first time in weeks.
(*Spirit of the Dove - sequel to Blue Topaz).
*** *** ***
He had been the last person he had expected to see. A knock at the door, opening it to find HIM stood there. Devin had almost smashed it back into his face when Elliot put out a foot to stop it.
“I’m surprised you can show your face!” Devin flared at Elliot through gritted teeth.
“Believe me nothing would have brought me here had it anything to do with me.” Elliot responded in like manner.
“Then what do you want? Catherine isn’t here.” Devin’s body barred the door.
“I can’t speak here, I have to come in.” Elliot spoke lowly. Walls, wherever one went had ears, he had learned that to his detriment years ago.
“Get lost.” Devin tried to budge him out of the way but Elliot stood his ground. However as Devin leaned close Elliot was afforded with the opportunity to whisper “Its about the friends you saw murdered.”
His words had the desired effect, but even so Elliot wasn’t quite ready for Devin dragging him inside the room, and slamming the door shut behind him.
“Spill.” Was all Devin said as they stood facing one another each breathing heavily.
Elliot related his visit from Sophia.
For some time after Devin remained motionless. Elliot guessed the experience of that day was playing over again in Devin’s mind. He doubted he would ever be able to put it behind him. In that if nothing else they had a common experience. Elliot would never forget the night his father had died when a bomb had gone off in the helicopter he was being taken to safety in. That the bomb was meant for Elliot himself only served to make him bitter about the whole thing.
“So she’s still at your hotel?”
Elliot jumped when Devin spoke replying only when he regained his composure, “Yes. You can go to her there or I can bring her to you here.”
Devin sighed, “If its all the same to you, I’d like to keep my whereabouts a secret until I know who to trust around here. As to that how did you find me?” His question was deliberate and obvious. Elliot shrugged. “It wasn’t easy. There are many hotels and I had expected you to be staying in Ouro Preto. Coming here to Belo Horizonte was almost a last straw. Funnily enough I encountered Catherine’s whereabouts before I found you.”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me?” Any fool could have detected the disgust in Devin’s voice, but Elliot it seemed found it surprising.
“Regardless of what you might assume, Catherine did not tell me where she would be staying. I had in fact found it most surprising to find her still in the country, but perhaps she like me couldn’t get a flight out of here until the day after tomorrow. Maybe we will be on the same flight home.”
“And that will please you greatly no doubt?” Devin quirked an eyebrow despite himself.
“It will please me yes. Catherine I fear will not be quite so happy.” The sadness in Elliot’s tone touched a chord somewhere in Devin inclining him to ask, “The two of you, you do have something going do you not? I mean what I saw…”
Elliot interrupted, “What you saw was two people in love.” He lied much for the fact that ‘rape’ bore considerable weight and besides Elliot was not about to admit to something he did not believe in. He like Devin had seen and known those embraces of Catherine’s. He still believed that she had wanted him…at the time. “Catherine might not be talking to me now, but that is only because she is embarrassed at how things turned out. Had you not of seen us…” Elliot’s voice trailed away deliberately, letting the unsaid bore more weight than the said.
Devin was shaking his head “I can’t believe it yet my own eyes saw it.” He spoke these words as if to himself, as if he were alone and suddenly as he perceived that Elliot was still there he flung open the door, “Get out!” He seethed, “Tell the woman I will be over to see her later this day. And you had better not be there Burch! I’m warning you!”
“Don’t worry. She can take my room, I’ll pay up for two days stay and move elsewhere. There is just one thing though.”
“What!” Devin was holding the door wide willing Elliot to step through it so that he could slam it shut behind him.
“I want to thank you for saving my life. No matter what I shall always be grateful to you for that and if you ever need anything you only have to ask.”
“Get out of here!” Devin shouted wishing with all his might at that moment that Elliot was still rotting away down in that pit.
*** *** ***
Despite the marvellous earth shattering knowledge that Catherine was safe, Vincent hadn’t been unable to shake off the foreboding feeling that something awful was about to happen ever since he and Father had read The Times together. Still nothing could have thwarted his happiness the morning he woke to the wonderful knowledge that Catherine was on her way home to him and he made his way to Father’s chamber to tell him the good news at once.
On arrival Vincent was surprised to find Peter visiting. Both men wore grave expressions and on turning to Vincent’s greeting averted their eyes from him.
“Sit down Vincent. Would you like some tea?”
His father’s tone left Vincent wary. He ignored the offer, rising instead to the reason of Peter’s visit. “What is it? Peter what’s wrong? Is somebody ill?”
“No. It’s not that…” Peter began and with a swift look in Father’s direction he appealed for help in this delicate matter.
“Er hm it would appear that Peter has heard from Devin.” Father began in his most curt tone, in the belief that keeping businesslike might help him through this ordeal.
“And…” Vincent’s tone was guarded, whatever they were going to tell him, he obviously would not like.
“Its about Catherine.” Peter felt inclined to butt in even knowing that Father was searching for ways to tell his son the devastating news.
At this Vincent’s heart lifted, “She is well. Catherine is returning. Our bond enlightened me of this fact just moments ago, don’t worry so Father, Peter, Catherine is well.”
The two older men exchanged worried glances not lost to Vincent, his heart stilled in his chest. “What is it, what’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry Vincent. I have something to say to you that is not pleasant news, but we feel that you should be told as hard as it will be to accept it.” Father’s eyes as kindly though they appeared hid a certain fear deep within - that fear terrified Vincent.
“What, what is it?” his voice sounded hollow to his own ears. He ached to know and not to know, whatever it was they felt fit to tell him.
“It would appear that our greatest fear has proved true. I’m sorry Vincent, but remember Devin would never say these things unless he had absolute proof.” Father hated himself for drawing it out, yet felt unable to tackle it head on. He was still in relative shock of the news himself.
“Proof of what?” Vincent’s tone was beginning to startle them. His eyes rolled warily, Peter and Father knew the signs, knew that what they were about to do could kill Vincent. They had discussed that possibility at length before his arrival, yet they felt he had to be told. He had a right to know that his wife had been having an affair with another man and that man being Elliot Burch no less.
Father decided to tell it as seen by Devin and as Devin had told the story to Peter over the telephone that previous evening.
“…and so you see when Devin hobbled back to where he had left Catherine…he couldn’t believe his eyes…oh Vincent what can I say…Elliot and Catherine they were…they were…”
A myriad of thoughts flew through Vincent’s mind as his father was unable to go on. What were Catherine and Elliot doing that rendered it impossible for Father to relate? Vincent’s speculations went wild, he could only assume what they were trying to tell him. Devin had caught Elliot and Catherine kissing.
He almost laughed, “There could be any reason for that. It doesn’t mean anything. Lots of people kiss for any number of reasons, I am surprised that Devin jumped to conclusions. Father you almost killed me back there, I imagined far worse things.” Vincent was smiling humoured by their troubled faces. As if Catherine kissing Elliot Burch or the other way around would worry him, well it worried him a little, but until he knew any different he would assume that there had been a plausible reason for it happening. Besides he could well remember that dream a few days ago, the one where he had felt Catherine’s distress and he knew that whatever had transpired between Catherine and Elliot his dear wife had not been a consenting party to it. At least that’s what he believed at that precise moment in time and would have continued to do so had Father not spoken further on the matter.
“They weren’t kissing Vincent…”
‘Not kissing?’ Father had Vincent’s rapt attention once again. How he wished kissing was all it had been. Vincent he was sure could have handled that. This next he could not.
“They were making love.” The words were spoken so quietly, yet to Vincent it was as if Father had shouted from the rooftops. His head swam, his heart stopped in his breast and he saw the floor coming up to meet him moments before he knew he was passing out from the disgusting images chasing through his mind.
*** *** ***
Claude held out the container with a smile, as he and Leo completed their business. “You will I am sure, agree that this blue topaz is among the finest ever produced in our land. You are a very lucky and wealthy man Leo.”
Holding the container, Leo moved aside the velvet covering to expose the glittering array of gemstones beneath. He gasped - they were exquisite, beautiful. He saw his future there, saw everything money couldn’t buy. Prestige glory, elevation. Leo had made it.
“Let me see.” Pedro hovering until now on the sidelines so to speak came to the table and rested his hungry eyes on the fruits of his labours. He whistled as he too saw his future in glittering lights mapped out before him.
“I could find you a buyer and make you millionaires overnight but I can see this is not what you want. If you would permit me therefore to publish this find in our journal - well you don’t need me to tell you what that would mean. Your esteem would be sublime. You will be treated as lords and kings through the whole of Brazil and possibly beyond.”
Leo smiled imagining that grandeur, yes that is what he wanted, what he had always wanted, and even sharing the find with Pedro did not lessen that title. Together they could rule the country, there was only one thing that stood in the way of their fortune, the third share that they had owned to Pepe and now to his descendants and the forth share that Stuart felt was his. These two shares would be enough to rock his boat so to speak, but those other two shares would tarnish the glory and the wealth that was for now theirs.*** *** ***
Stuart was one thing, he could be got rid of, the children were another. No one yet knew where the children had run to and there were so many of them. But Leo took pleasure in the fact that in having Sophia followed it was only a matter of time before they could finish what they had started and the whole two shares would remain intact.
His meeting with Sophia De-Vereyard would forever after be branded on his brain. Devin was in love!
Going along to Elliot’s room his mind full of questions, full of things he might say, full of apprehension at meeting her all those things flew from his mind the moment Sophia had answered his knock at her door.
“Hello?” She asked with a smile when he stood staring at her. “Can I help you?”
“I very much hope you can.” Devin drawled aware how he’d implied it, yet surprised by his heart’s interpretation.
“And you are?” Sophia was watching those soft brown eyes with some humour. She wasn’t blind to the knowledge that men fell speechless in her presence. She was quite used to it in fact, yet even so never tired of the effect she had over the male of her species.
“Devin. Devin Wells.” He was on automaton he spoke like a robot. He didn’t care. Sophia held the door open for him, Devin entered neither looking to the left nor the right, knowing only that she left him spellbound. All speech had left him, besides his mouth was suddenly too dry to utter a word.
“Thank you for coming, Mr Wells. Would you like something to drink? Mr Burch has left me this room and there is plenty of food and drink at my disposal. He is a very kind man.”
For the first time Devin spoke, “That’s debatable.” Leaving Sophia a little stunned by his reply.
After the initial shock of finding out who she was and how beautiful she was, Devin was able to listen to her with some merit of focus. It had seemed that after Pepe, Sonia and Vincent had been killed the children had been next in line, but they had scattered and no one had seen them since, not even, it seemed the murderers who had been making enquiries as to their whereabouts. “That’s how I know for a certainty that they live.” Sophia wound up her story “and I must find them, but I know that I am being followed.”
“Were you followed here?” It was the first thing that came into Devin’s mind.
“Yes. But I am sure that they do not suspect I am still in the building, unless they have followed you too.”
“That’s always a possibility. There is a price on my head much the same as the children’s. I saw everything that happened.”
Her mouth dropped open, “You saw everything?” Sophia had not bargained for this even though Elliot had said as much, coming from Devin, the way he said it, the look of sorrow in his eyes, the tears on his lashes as he had remembered convinced her of that truth.
“Was it quick?” The words were out before she could stop them. Sophia didn’t know if she really wanted to hear the answer to her question.
Devin shook his head, still faintly connected in the remembrance of that day. “Maybe for Vincent, but your parents saw him die and your siblings saw all of them die.”
A sob caught in Sophia’s throat, “Those poor little mites.” She paused for a long time, her lips forming and dismissing words before she could speak again, “We have to find them, they will be so frightened.”
“I know a place where they will be safe.” He said it without forethought, just knowing that wherever they were now they were in danger. Even with Pedro and Leo safely behind bars the hearts and minds of the children would still be broken. They needed love and plenty of it and Devin knew just the place. “It’s not here, its in America, although having said that…”
“What, what have you thought of?” Sophia’s heart hammered heavily. To be able to find safety for her brothers and sisters was the only thing on her mind next to finding them at all.
“It wouldn’t have the benefits of America but it could be made so. Sophia, have you any idea how extensive the tunnels are beneath Ouro Preto. Those that have been channelled out from mining?”
“I have no idea, but those tunnels are not safe. No one could hide down there.”
“Oh yes they could, if you had the knowledge to make it so, and you are just so looking at the very guy with that knowledge.” He paused his eyes lighting up as he made his plans, “Sophia if you could trust me I might just know of a way to keep the children safe until Leo and Pedro are brought to trial.”
Sophia nodded enthusiastically. Devin refrained to tell her that there would be no trail. The tunnels would afford him sanctity also until the whole group of them could get away. He still aimed to kill Leo and Pedro knowing that he would never rest until he had.
*** *** ***
From his seat near the aisle Elliot watched Catherine. Amazing that she had not noticed that they had boarded the same plane. In fact he had made sure of that until they were airborne knowing she might probably alter her flight plans had she of known. Watching her from his vantage point Elliot remembered everything in precise detail of their time together, both during their recent imprisonment to the time when they had dated several years before. How happy she had made him then. How distraught he had been when she stopped seeing him. How he had been in love with her ever since their first kiss. Now he couldn’t stop looking at her remembering that last exquisite encounter, his blood singing in his ears as he felt again, over and over again the precise moment when his body had entered hers.
“Oh Catherine.” He breathed unable to stand being so near and yet so far any longer. Unbuckling his seat belt, though the sign to do so had come on long ago, Elliot left his seat heading for where she sat oblivious to his being there.
She too sat in an aisle seat, so he hadn’t to disturb anyone to touch her arm as he approached her side, “Cathy?”
Her eyes snapped open at the sound of his voice, the touch of his hand on her arm and the wrenching away from her dreams of Vincent broke her heart, and not only for that but because it was Elliot himself that now stood beside her. Why did he keep doing that! Why was it when all she wanted was to think about Vincent and their reunion did he have to keep getting in the way?
“Elliot.” Her tone was blunt and brusque leaving him no room for doubts as to what she thought of him. He decided to ignore it nonetheless.
“Cathy, please, we need to talk.”
“There’s nothing to say Elliot, and if you don’t mind I’d rather you left me alone…forever.”
“You can’t mean that Cathy.” He knelt down now, thus blocking the aisle completely but as that didn’t appear to be a problem to anyone but Catherine he stayed where he was and spoke lowly, words only she was meant to hear. “I love you Cathy, you know that. I will always love you, have always…”
“Stop it!” Catherine seethed through tightly clenched teeth. “You raped me Elliot!”
“No. Cathy no, you welcomed it. I was there and I know that you wanted it every bit as much as I did. You can’t deny that you responded to me, I felt no repulsion from you until Devin so rudely interrupted us.”
“Thank God he did. But you are wrong Elliot. You caught me off guard. I was sleeping, dreaming of Vincent. When you touched me I thought it was Vincent.” Tears caught Catherine’s tone at this and Elliot faltered in what he was about to say. ‘Was that so?’ He hadn’t for the life of him thought about that. He had truly believed that she had wanted to make love with him. Had truly believed that she had known all along that it was he that had touched her so intimately.
Oh God if that were so, then looking at it from her point of view he HAD raped her! The colour drained from Elliot’s face, and he visibly shook, “I’m sorry Cathy, I didn’t know.”
All at once Catherine heard him again from the past, those self same words when his building team had been frightening old people out of their homes in order to demolish the houses and build Elliot’s creation in their place. And Catherine turned to him with the same thoughts as she had had then. “Well you should have made it your business to know. In fact you should have known that there is nothing between us in that way. Hasn’t my marriage to Vincent meant anything to you?”
“Yes. It’s meant everything, and that’s why I couldn’t give up Cathy. I can’t lose you I just can’t. You’re not meant to live your life shrouded by rocks and belonging to a man that is only half a man, you deserve better…”
“Shhh” Catherine glared at him silencing him with the one sound. Already people had begun to take note of their heated conversation.
“And if I don’t?” Perceiving a way to trap her Elliot went on; “Perhaps your friends deserve some publicity. Perhaps its time those that know you were introduced to your husband?” He raised one eyebrow baiting her with his words.
“You wouldn’t dare?” Even as she dismissed the possibility of it, a chill ran through Catherine. The way Elliot looked at her now, she could well imagine that he might stoop to anything to win his objective. Hadn’t Devin warned her that too long in the pit had rendered Elliot a dangerous man? That kind of thing could do something detrimental to the brain. For a certainty Catherine perceived that Elliot had become a Jekyle and Hyde character ever since then.
“Well you could try me.” Elliot told her now his face wreathed in smiles, “It’s really up to you.”
“What are you saying?”
Elliot shrugged, making a point of standing slowly, making her wait for his answer. “You and I have some unfinished business Cathy.” He said no more, he didn’t need to, he just winked at her before returning to his seat. And as it dawned on her what he had been implying the bottom dropped out of Catherine’s world.
*** *** ***
Meditating in his chamber, Vincent had been party to the whole scenario on the aeroplane, even though much of the conversation was lost to him. He was deeply grieved by what he had been able to witness through Catherine’s eyes, and her whole attitude toward Elliot, which had been contradictory. On the one hand, he could ‘see’ Elliot smiling down at Catherine, appearing very much as if Catherine were making him happy, but then on the other hand Catherine’s feelings toward Elliot were anything but social.
In light of what he had just learned, Vincent concluded there just had to be more to it than met the eye. Unless of course Catherine’s advantage, or disadvantage however one looked at it, over the Bond, made her cagey around Elliot for the benefit of their connection. It was all very confusing, and Vincent could not, would not accept that Catherine and Elliot had made love, not only in the location they were in, but also that they just would not do that. They couldn’t at least Catherine couldn’t surely? Not to him. Not to their dream.
Nevertheless, little things kept coming back to remind him, though in the main none of it had anything to do with Catherine. All of it was what others had perceived of the situation surrounded their marriage and Elliot’s disappearance.
And then there was the fact that Catherine had returned to him at the last at any rate. But what of Devin? Vincent well knew how Devin loved him, that he would NEVER have said anything that would cause him anguish or sorrow, on just a whim. That Devin had warned his family would mean that Devin was damn sure of his facts. But then why was Catherine so stand offish toward Elliot on the plane? Why if they could publicly make love in front of his brother could they not speak civilly to one another where their only viewer was via a connection that only Catherine could recognise as being available?
Now only that, Catherine could if she chose close off the Bond between them. Had there been anything going on with Elliot, Vincent could not believe that Catherine would blatantly allow him to ‘see’ what was going on. An affair they might be having, but Catherine would NEVER seek to hurt him so callously, this Vincent would stake his life on.
Still Vincent did not believe that they were having an affair. Everyone was mistaken, just as they had been mistaken when Catherine had first raced off to Brazil after they were wed. Even so, the facts heaped so high against her would not be easy to tear down and Vincent’s heart ached for the welcome Catherine would be returning to. Father and Peter, already had her hung and quartered. It would be difficult making them believe anything else.
Thinking of Elliot Burch always made Vincent uneasy. Everything about the man highlighted everything that Vincent was not. Elliot had been the bane of his life where Catherine was concerned. Vincent had believed for too long that Catherine would have been better off with Elliot. He at least could give her everything her heart desired. Everything it seemed but love. For Catherine had told him over and over that she did not love Elliot. That there was only one man in her life, only one man she could ever love, telling him so often that he finally managed to believe it - a belief that had led to his proposing to her.
A gentle tapping caused Vincent to turn his head toward the chamber entrance. “Come in Father.” He told the solitary figure that hesitated there.
“How are you?” Father’s tone grieved Vincent. He hadn’t heard Father speak so anguished in a long, long time.
“I’m not certain.” Vincent replied in truth. He hadn’t as yet drawn any conclusions, that isn't anything concrete that he could stick with. There were so many conflicting facts that drew him from one thing to another in quick succession.
“Peter wondered if you would like him to meet Catherine at the airport and take her to his house, until you have had time to consider your options.”
“And they would be, what exactly?” The sarcasm in Vincent’s tone surprised them both. “I’m sorry, Father.”
“You have nothing with which to feel ashamed. Catherine…”
“Has done nothing…” Jumping up from his seat, Vincent splayed his hands either side of him glaring down at Father who leaned heavily on his cane.
“But Devin said…”
“Devin said a lot of things last time…as did you and Peter, all of which proved false…”
“But Vincent, those things were speculations. What Devin saw…well you can’t surely believe that he imagined that too?”
“Those tunnels were dark. Anything might have been happening. Elliot could have tripped…fallen onto Catherine…Devin might have read more into it than there was…imagine how Catherine must feel if nothing happened…nothing that is, that Devin is surmising.”
Hobbling into the chamber, Father reached one hand to the table, edging his way around it until he could grasp hold of the nearest chair and lower himself down, “There is some things you do not know. It was enough to tell you the bold facts, but Devin also explained to Peter the whole picture, everything that he HAD seen. Vincent, no trip or fall onto another could render both of them naked from the waist down…”
“NO! STOP IT!” Vincent covered his ears, unwilling to hear another word. “STOP IT!” Reaching for his cloak Vincent pulled it from the back of the chair from where it hung, flinging it around his shoulders, before almost running from the chamber.
“Where are you going?” Father cried fumbling for the arms of the chair to rise to his unsteady feet.
“To the airport!” Vincent flung back angrily. “I’m going to meet my wife!”
*** *** ***
Catherine stepped out into the New York City night air, and took the deepest breath she could fill her lungs with. ‘Home. Bliss.’ There was nothing like home. Her eager feet began the walk toward the parking lot, her shoulder bag slung in place, and a small hold all in one hand.
Her thoughts very much on her destination she closed off the Bond a little nervous of her welcome and then she hesitated when she heard a lowly sound that reminded her very much of her husband. Cautiously, her footsteps faltered and she looked around the steady line of traffic making its way in and out of the parking lot.
“Catherine.” There it came again. Was it from within? Was it from the connection that she shared with Vincent?
This place, so public, held no shadows for Vincent, surely he would not risk coming to her here?
Shrugging, Catherine hurried on, seeking the appropriate line where she knew she had left her car. A shadow moved to one side of her, and she heard her name called again, higher pitched and a little louder this time. She did not recognise it.
Turning, Catherine scanned the parking lot, her heart racing. “Vincent?” She whispered incredulously.
“Where are you?”
“Over here.” Suddenly Catherine laughed derisively. What was Elliot up to now? Vincent would not risk being seen here, no matter how desperately he wanted to see her. There were too many lights, and he would have to cross too many open spaces to get here.
“Go away!” Catherine snapped, “Leave me alone!”
Stung Vincent’s heart jolted almost through his rib cage. He gasped, unable to believe his own ears!
As someone else shouted her name, Catherine spun around, stunned to see Elliot running toward her. Oh No! Frantically she searched the shadows from where the first voice had come, “Vincent? Oh Vincent, it’s really you!”
Tears cascaded from Catherine’s eyes as she realised with horror what she had just done. Believing Elliot had tricked her into believing it were Vincent that waited for her, she had shunned her own husband, only to find that Elliot was now making his way hastily to her from a completely different direction!
A sudden movement drew her attention away from Elliot and back to the place from where Vincent had called to her. “Wait!” she cried, “Vincent wait!” But of course, she knew with a sinking heart that he would not wait. Already he was making his way stealthily between the parked cars putting as much space between Catherine and himself as possible.
As she hesitated, seeking him out, Elliot reached her side breathless at the sudden exertion to reach her before she left in her car. “Cathy, we have to talk.”
Stormy eyes turned to him, flashing thunder, “Talk! Talk! Elliot, when will you ever learn that we have nothing to say to each other!” Tears blinded her eyes, and Elliot misconstrued the situation, believing that he had upset her enough to reduce her to tears.
“Don’t cry, baby please. I can’t bare it when you are upset.” He tried to encircle her in his embrace, but with hands flat against his chest Catherine shoved him away and spitting like a wild cat yelled at him, “Leave me alone, Elliot!”
“Cathy, don’t. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
His apology quietened her for mere seconds, even as she searched frantically around her, seeking out the cloaked figure that she could just see now crouched low between some parked cars thirty or so yards away from where she and Elliot stood. It surprised her that he was still there, but then she concluded that maybe he was waiting until Elliot had gone.
“Go Elliot! Just go.”
“Honey, I can’t. I owe you an apology.”
Again he tried to put his arms around her, but she flung him away and took a few steps back. Her predicament was such that she desperately wanted to get to Vincent. And at the same time in a bid to flee Elliot, wanted to find her parked car, get inside, lock all the doors and wait until Elliot took the very definite hint, that there she would stay until morning if need be, or until he left her alone.
Counting rows, Catherine mentally ‘saw’ where she had left her parked car, and hastened to make her way toward it, even if in so doing, it meant going the opposite way to where Vincent now crouched waiting for her.
“Where are you going?” Elliot called out to her, “Catherine please!”
Catherine stopped, turned and flung at him “Don’t you ever call me Catherine!”
His blue eyes twinkling with laughter Elliot smiled, “But it’s your name.” He couldn’t for the life of him understand why she had suggested that he call her anything else.
Her voice low, Catherine hissed through clenched teeth, “Yes it’s my name. But who gave you the right to use it? Get away from me Elliot I want nothing to do with you ever again.”
“What part of no don’t you understand?” Catherine flung at him spotting her car at last. In the back of her mind she was working out how she might drive it to the location where Vincent was, get him inside and take him out of the area before anyone should see him. His position wasn’t doing anything for his cover. He looked very much like he was up to no good. Someone could so easily believe he was a car thief.
Elliot, however, knew none of this. To him, Catherine was here and he wanted to speak to her. Once she had gone underground in a literal sense, he might not get another chance for too long. It was useless to believe that he would be made welcome in the tunnels, especially when Devin highlighted everyone to the facts. But then again, it was possible that once Devin had done that, Cathy would return above, ousted from her home in disgrace.
“Just let me apologise.” It was imperative he felt that he did at least do that.
“For what? That you raped me!” Catherine snapped wrenching open the vehicle door and flinging her bags onto the back seat.
“No…I didn’t…Catherine, you must believe me…I didn’t rape you…you were willing to let me make love to you….”
“I wasn’t!” Forgetting everything, her dignity, her reputation, even the fact that Vincent could see, Catherine lunged at Elliot, kicking and slapping him at the same time, reminiscent of the way Isaac had taught her to tackle a further attack on her life.
“Whoa, whoa Cathy.” With humour Elliot’s eyes crinkled at the corners, while he braced himself and warded off her blows with a briefcase held very predominantly placed wherever she tried to strike him next. “Think of your reputation.” He laughed softly, thinking that should do the trick.
It didn’t, the assault continued and Elliot was left in no doubt that now wasn’t the ideal time to tell her that he would never hold her to blackmail with her friends below and her friends above, as he had suggested on the journey home. That was awful of him to even have made her believe that he might, however, he still hoped to find a way to have her for himself.
“I see you’re husband has taught you some very bad manners.” He laughed once more, “If ever you come back to yourself Cathy, remember I live in the real world and will gladly take you in with no questions asked. Remember that, and remember that I love you. I will always love you.”
All this was said, while Catherine continued to beat hell out of him, even as he used his briefcase to ward off the blows. And suddenly she stopped. All fight drained out of her, as wave after wave of sorrow seemingly dragged her down.
She stumbled, falling toward Elliot who took advantage of the situation to capture her in his arms, pulling her toward him, and hugging her tight. He was not to know that her sudden surrender was not due to his confession of everlasting love. He was not to know that Catherine had suddenly felt Vincent’s sorrow so deep that it had swamped her with its intensity or that Vincent was now steadily moving away. He only knew that Catherine was in his arms at last, and taking advantage of her limp body pressed so close to him his arms came around her and his lips sought hers while he had the chance.
And the last thing Vincent saw as he turned for a final disbelieving look, at the show that Catherine and Elliot were so obviously putting on for his benefit was his Catherine in the arms of Elliot Burch with their lips pressed tightly together!
*** *** ***
Back in Brazil Devin and Sophia were making plans to hide the children, when they had found them inside the very tunnels that Devin and his party had recently vacated. Taking supplies down to the area under the cover of night fall, the two of them hoped that they had foiled their followers into believing that they were dating and just walking out arm in arm as lovers do.
“This is nice actually,” Devin admitted on their third trip to the tunnels. They had been walking beneath a moon lit star-studded sky and it felt very romantic having on his arm a very beautiful woman.
Sophia smiled a secret smile. She thought so too. Devin was a very good-looking man. Nevertheless before romantic notions could come into her mind she exhaled a heavy sigh causing him to stop walking and turn to look at her.
“What is it? Don’t you like being with me?” He asked concerned.
“No…that is yes…no it isn’t that…” Sophia hastened to reassure him.
“Then what is it? Something I can help with?” He turned to face her, slipping his arm from hers, to place both upon either side of her waist. From this angle Devin thought it would be oh so easy to kiss her. He shivered at the thought.
“Are you cold?” Sophia noticed, and trying to divert his questioning hoped to change the subject.
“No. Now tell me?”
For long moments Sophia fought the words to tell him, not knowing whether she ought or she could. They hadn’t known one another long, but already Sophia had become quite attached to Devin. Sometimes after they had separated for the night with promises of the morrow Sophia had gone to bed hugging her pillow, with wild fantasies about the two of them sharing her bed together. As she thought of those things now, it was her turn to shiver.
“Now you are cold?” Devin teased, running his hands affectionately up and down her bare arms, “Perhaps I could warm you. Maybe we could even warm each other?” His eyes lit up, and beneath the bright moonlit sky Sophia could clearly see he was serious.
Maybe it would be all right to take advantage…she thought, maybe I could step into his embrace just for a little while… just so I have something to remember when he has gone…
Devin in turn was thinking along similar lines. If only I could hold her, just this once…she is so beautiful…I think I am falling in love…
“Yes.” Sophia heard herself say in reply to his suggestion of taking warmth from one another. For suddenly the chance was more than she could bare to lose. “Please.”
Slowly Devin’s arms went around her, only pulling her in more tightly as he felt her step toward him, the contact of their bodies pressed tight soon making him a lot warmer than he had supposed.
There they remained for a good long time, each to their own thoughts, each wishing there could be more in the embrace than what there was.
“Is that better?” Devin asked at length, after he had managed to still his racing heart.
“Almost.” Her reply surprised him, and looking down into her eyes, he detected some humour there, as well as something he hadn’t expected…could that be desire? Looking away, Devin shook that thought from his head. No, it wouldn’t be desire, he was reading too much into the situation. Sophia needed his help, not his body. Hadn’t she just lost her parents and brother? Weren’t the rest of her family missing? Hadn’t she enough on her mind, without expecting that he might fill some of it? Even so, why had she just snuggled tighter against him after she had replied?
Taking a deep breath Devin stole a look back down at her, to find that all that time she had remained just so, looking up at him watching his every movement almost with quiet expectation. He stared at her, first her eyes, then her cheeks then her lips, which parted as his gaze rested there. The invitation was too much to resist, bowing his head Devin touched his lips to hers, feeling the lush pressure beneath give and open like a flower to his questing mouth. Now his arms enfolded her further, bringing her up against the lean hardness of his body, delighting in the sound of the whimper that escaped her as she felt his arousal grow. “Arh Sophia…you set my blood on fire…” Devin panted against her mouth.
“I know, I know…” Breathlessly she whispered against his lips, flicking her tongue over the lower lip, tracing the firm line there tasting him.
“We have to stop Sophia…” He tried to stop, but even as he said it, he knew it would be impossible.
“Why?” she murmured between nibbles.
“Because this is going to get very definitely out of hand if we don’t.” Devin reminded her forcibly by pressing his groin hard against hers.
“And what would be so wrong with that, my love?”
Devin couldn’t believe his ears! Stunned he pulled away to search her eyes, unable to voice any of the words that at that moment galloped through his brain. Finally he decided upon, “well if for no other reason I didn’t exactly come prepared…” He laughed a little at that.
“I did.” Freeing one hand from around his neck, Sophia reached into the pocket of her jacket and extracted a small packet before handing it to him. “Here. This should fit.”
Devin laughed. More for the outrageous way she had presented the gift as for the situation itself.
“You always carry one of those with you do you?”
Despite his gentle teasing Sophia looked shamefully away, and he barely heard her whispered reply, “Yes.”
At the back of his mind something rankled… Devin let her be for a moment, undecided as to what to do or say next. Finally as the silence between them lengthened, Sophia took up his hand, and begged, “Come sit with me Devin. I have something I have to tell you.”
“What?” He didn’t think he wanted to know and he began to wish they hadn’t started this. It was obvious that she was already attached, maybe she had a husband or a partner back in Para.
Sophia let out another heavy sigh reminding Devin that the first one had been the lead up to them sitting holding hands and talking now. Well she was talking. He was sitting upon the damp springy grass listening.
“Earlier you asked if anything was wrong?”
Devin nodded. His eyes wide, encouraging her to continue though he remained silent.
“Well yes, there is something. Devin, I have something to say to you and it’s not easy.” Her voice caught and she suddenly burrowed her head into her hands, unable to continue. It was here that Devin offered comfort.
“Please…whatever it is…you can tell me. I promise not to judge. We’ve all done things we are not proud of…for whatever reason forced us to do it…Is that what troubles you? Is it something that you have done?” Oh please, thought Devin, let it be that, and not that she belonged to someone else. Anything was preferable to that.
Greatly comforted by his words, Sophia took courage and looked back at him again. There were so many nice ways of telling him, so many words that would have primed him for what was to come, but Sophia found herself blurting the truth shocked that she had. “I’m a… a prostitute.”
Silence fell between them.
For Sophia deep shame, though the life that she had led had forced her into prostitution, and she would dearly have been anything but…and Devin stunned with relief that she hadn’t told him she was married or engaged…or attached. That he couldn’t have coped with…prostitution he could!
He hugged her, drawing her toward him, almost into his lap to hug her hard, feeling her tears of gratitude fall even as he murmured tender words in her ear, “Is that all? Sophia, is that all?”
Her eyes were incredulous as she looked into his, “Is that all?” She cried stunned to the core. “Devin didn’t you hear me…I said I’m a prostitute. I sleep with men for money…maybe it is called something else in America?”
She waited, hoping that he would now understand, while hoping that it still wouldn’t matter when he did.
“Sophia, let me tell you something now.” She waited her eyes wide, nodding once only. “Where I come from, everyone has been something. Either thieves, vagrants, orphans, homeless or prostitutes. I have grown up accepting that people have to be what they have to be, in order to survive, or to feed a family. Its what they do when things improve for them that is the deciding factor. Would you continue to sell sex if you didn’t have to?”
Sophia shook her head furiously, “No, of course not.” Then as an after thought added, “Even though I do carry one of those things around with me.”
“But then that’s probably because you are still forced into that way of life. Do you always insist that your clients use one?”
“Oh yes! I have seen too many of my friends die from taking just one risk. Aids is a terrible disease.”
“Yes it is, and so then, you are clean?”
“In body maybe, but my mind…my heart…” Sophia sobbed openly.
“…can be healed.” Devin told her tenderly, bending to kiss the top of her head. “Sophia, would it help if I told you that you will never have to turn to that way of life ever again?”
She looked up at him hope filling her heart, “Of course, but how… When I find the little ones, it will need a great deal of money to clothe and feed them…” her voice trailed away, only to whisper further, “I will be forced to sell myself.” And Devin’s heart almost broke by the shame he detected filling those last few words.
“I love you, Sophia.” The words came out suddenly, spontaneously. Even Devin was surprised, but when Sophia looked up sharply with disbelief, the hope that flared for a split second was all she needed to know that he could never have spoken better words.
“You love me…” Sophia’s voice was filled with disbelief, “But you don’t even know me…”
“Then all the more reason to know that in time I will love you more than life itself. Sophia, I can help you…”
The hope died in her eyes, “I don’t want your pity!” And the tears fell fast hot and scalding as the disappointment filled her heart.
“It’s not pity! Sophia I don’t know how or why, but I do know when! From the moment I laid eyes on you I fell hopelessly in love with you. No one has ever affected me that way before. I love you Sophia, I love you!”
For mere seconds they gazed at one another, hearts racing, until Sophia finally snuggled closer leaning in for a kiss that met her half way, “Oh Devin, I think I love you too.”
“We’re gonna have to work on that ‘think’.” Devin chuckled as he deepened the kiss, “By the time this night is out I hope you will be more definite about your feelings toward me.”
Sophia giggled, her arms hugging him close, and for the first time in her entire life, Sophia felt like she actually belonged somewhere special.
*** *** ***
They weren’t in their usual bar or in their office, nor it seemed had their families seen them for several days. Gary Stuart could only think of one other place where they might be and strangely enough that’s where he found them.
“Pedro! Leo! This was literally the last place I looked for you. What are you doing here?” Stuart looked around the room, now empty of furniture, of anything that showed signs of habitation, of anything that showed signs of the three cold bloodied murders he had witnessed there some weeks before.
“We come to Pepe’s home once or twice a week to see if the children have returned.” Leo told him with a heavy sigh, “But there is always nothing. It appears they have gone ‘poof’ into thin air.” He gestured with his hands as a magician might do.
“I’ve been following the big sister as you suggested. Seems she’s shacked up with that American guy, Wells. Last night I watched him fucking her on the mountainside, great entertainment, ring side seats.” He laughed happily and even more so when the other two joined in.
“Which mountainside?” Leo stopped laughing, only now realising what had been said.
Stuart shrugged, “All one and the same to me, especially in the dark.”
“If you could see them at it, you should know where it took place. The moon is very bright right now.”
“Well okay, yes I do know, but what does it matter? They were on the one where the old shaft is. The one where you said tat ta to Burch and Wells that time.”
“And that doesn’t strike you as funny that he should be wanting to go back there sightseeing like?”
“Nope. Maybe he’s showing her where he was held all that time. Maybe he likes going back up there I don’t know.”
“How many times you seen him go up that way?” Pedro was extremely interested it seemed. Stuart shrugged not understanding what they were driving at, but assuming that their interest was not just mild.
“Three, four times. Last night was a first for the shagging though. Might take my flask tonight, gets pretty cold up there for one."
“No, that won’t be necessary. Tonight we will accompany you.”
Pedro looked across to Leo who nodded his acquiescence. “What time do they usually set off?”
“’Bout ten, anywhere between ten and midnight.”
Curious glances fell between Leo and Pedro at Stuart’s answer. Whatever Wells was up to, they felt pretty sure that it wasn’t of a romantic nature. Maybe that had come along in the meantime, but few people walked that mountainside at that time of night. The terrain was dangerous for one thing and the other thing was that all kinds of unscrupulous things happened up there after dark. And they would know.
*** *** ***
Though she no longer lived in her apartment, and though she had given up living there and a new family had moved in, Catherine still had the right to park her car beneath the building. And having done this, she now made her way to the lobby via the elevator. The night porter knew her well, and greeted her warmly, as she deposited her hold-all with him, knowing that it would be safe there behind his desk until someone from the tunnels could come to take it below. The entrance to the tunnels via her apartment building being long ago sealed up. That done Catherine made her way across the park to the tunnel entrance with her purse tucked very securely inside her jacket.
She was unsure of her welcome. Not knowing if Devin had reported back and knowing how it must have appeared to Vincent back there at the airport whether Devin had related anything to them or not. Still her heart told her that Vincent was waiting for her, one of the reasons that she only felt relative apprehension at going through the park at that time of night.
She made her usual journey, though having said that, she had several routes that she took, in order that no one would expect her here or there at any particular time. She hurried, as she always did, aware that the park at night was a dangerous place, and though Vincent was there to protect her, she tried her utmost not to rely on that, and thus place him in any unnecessary danger.
Living Below recently had afforded them both safety since she had rarely gone above since moving out of her apartment to be with him.
She was almost at the drainage entrance when a sudden sound made her steps falter. She listened intently, her heart pounding, sure that the movement had come from within the tunnel. It might have been Vincent, but something told her that it was not. He, she felt certain, was still within the safe boundaries of his world, beyond that huge sliding door that led out to what had once been hers.
She knew the foolishness of calling out, and so heart hammering, she made her way silently toward the tunnel armed with a large rock in one hand and a small pebble in the other.
Reaching the side of the drainage culvert, Catherine crouched low behind a bush, and tossed the pebble as close as possible inside the tunnel, hearing it ping against the wall as she had intended before resting with a plop in some water lying there.
She heard a gasp that only sent her heart hammering faster, and then a voice, slightly muffled, slightly anxious, but recognisable nonetheless. Elliot! Elliot was in there waiting for her!
“Cathy? Is that you?”
Catherine closed her eyes tightly. Undecided of what to do, to remain silent or to confront him Catherine hesitated. With Vincent so close and already in a vulnerable state of mind Catherine found anger seeping into her heart, and a firm resolve to clear Elliot from her life once and for all. She really had had enough of him coming between her and her happiness over the past couple of weeks to last her a lifetime.
“Yes Elliot, its me. You scared me half to death!”
He stepped from the shadows, relief clearly evident on his face in the light of the moon, “I scared you half to death!”
“First lesson in safety Elliot, never speak when you are hiding. I could have been anyone, and you, were in a very dangerous position. In there you were cornered.” She walked toward him, coming down the embankment slowly, picking her way as she had done a thousand times, never taking the route for granted. Anything could have been left there to make her trip.
“I wasn’t hiding, and besides I wasn’t cornered, I know the way in remember?”
“Mmm, of course you do.” Catherine replied and to Elliot it sounded tinged with sarcasm. He decided to let it drop. He hadn’t come here to start an argument with her. “I needed to see you Cathy. I knew that once you went Below, it might be sometime before we would have the opportunity. I needed to see you.”
“So you’ve seen me. Now what do you want Elliot? You know my feelings, and you should know that I don’t return yours.”
“I wanted to apologise, back there at the airport, I wanted to apologise for the implications I made on the plane, I would never try to blackmail you into anything Cathy, believe me. I was angry with myself to even have suggested that I would. And now it seems I have another apology to make, for the way I tried to make the first back at the airport.”
Catherine felt her temper rising, as if either of those things were of import to her, “And what of the apology for raping me!” She snapped, “Don’t you think that should be more important than those other things?”
“I didn’t rape you Cathy. In fact I didn’t get very far at all!” He laughed bitterly. “Your brother-in-law saw to that!”
“And it’s just as well he did!” Catherine retorted angrily. “Elliot, get out of my sight. Leave me alone. If I ever set eyes on you again, it will be too soon!” Catherine pushed past him, making her way to the sliding door, and Vincent on the other side. She could feel his apprehension through the connection they shared, and she well knew that much of her conversation…conversation? More like heated argument with Elliot would have been picked up by his acute sense of hearing.
As she passed him by Elliot caught her arm, “You can’t mean that. Cathy, you are deluding yourself. You know that you love me. You would never have responded as you did, if you didn’t love me.”
Catherine was pulling away as he spoke, wishing she could shut out his words. When would he ever see that it was not him that she had responded to? She had believed that he were Vincent.
“You know how it was…I told you!” Catherine seethed, reaching for the knob to the sliding door as she spoke.
“Sure you told me, but I don’t believe you Cathy. Admit it you have always loved me, will always love me, admit it this stinking rotten place beneath the city is not for you, neither is that… that…”
The doors opened as Elliot finished speaking. “…freak!” And Elliot found himself face to face with Vincent.
Stumbling over the threshold Catherine collapsed against Vincent with relief, though he felt too incensed to place his arms around her. Instead with one arm raised he struck out at the man behind her, his intent only too plain.
“Vincent! No!” That did it. Elliot’s look of triumph as Catherine begged for Vincent to spare his life was the final straw. Vincent’s arm sagged at his side, and with one contemptuous look in Catherine’s direction he strode away from her, from Elliot and the situation that he read there.
In Vincent’s eyes, their dream had just died.
*** *** ***
In the days and weeks that followed Catherine was made to feel an outcast in her own home. No one ever confronted her but neither did she feel the warmth of the tunnel folk as she had come to expect it. And Vincent simply ignored her totally.
That was the worst of it, the fact that for once, miraculously he hadn’t darted for escape to the lower levels. He had stayed within the confines of the main hub and to all intents and purposes put on a very brave face of not letting what had happened bothered him.
Of course, it bothered him, it ate away at him deep inside, and he was not oblivious to the whisperings going on around him, whisperings that linked his wife to his enemy now. Catherine and Elliot, Catherine and Elliot, wherever he went people would cease speaking as they saw him round a corner or come into view. But of course Vincent’s acute hearing had already taken in what they had been speaking about.
Father had spoken to them about it, in Vincent’s best interests believing that in so knowing they wouldn’t make unpleasant remarks that though well intended would only rub salt in his son’s wounds. However, in time it only served to make matters worse, since gossiping though forbidden continued being that Vincent was every body’s favourite person and that Catherine had done this to him they found hard to accept, and had shunned her almost as though she had the plague.
In fact they wondered why under the circumstances, Catherine had not gone back above to live…and she may have except for three very important reasons…her love for Vincent…her innocence…and because…
“Father?” Timidly Catherine peeked into her father-in-law’s chamber her welcome unsure. His eyes rose to meet hers, they were hostile Catherine could tell and her heart broke that little bit more. Nonetheless Father was well aware that Catherine would not seek him out unless it was for a very good reason. Baring in mind that they had said all there had to be said on a certain subject weeks ago, resolving nothing.
“Yes. What is it, Catherine?” He asked, his mouth drawn into a thin stern line, making her tremble all the more.
“Can you take a look at me please?”
Despite his feelings, her humble request brought tears to his eyes, and he was suddenly in the capacity of doctor rather than friend, as she stumbled down the steps leading into his living quarters.
“What’s wrong?” She clutched at her abdomen as she fell into his arms, almost knocking him off of his feet, and for a moment both tottered until they had caught one another and regained their balance. Father led her to his bed, requesting that she should lie down. He didn’t like the look of her colour, not one bit.
Second nature to placing a hand on her forehead, he placed a thermometer under her tongue, surprised when the reading told him that she was quite well. He couldn’t understand it, she looked like death warmed up.
“What are your symptoms?” He asked concern plainly evident in his eyes.
“Vomiting, nausea, back ache, heartburn, hunger…” she even managed a slight grin, “Want me to continue…” she asked.
As she spoke Father ticked off possible causes in his mind, dismissing each until she finally told him one last thing.
“And Father?” Her eyes were wide with a certain hope as she told him, “I’ve missed three periods.”
Immediately he lay his hand upon her abdomen, knowing exactly what her problem was. His examination proved without a doubt that this was so. He stared at her his eyes wide with surprise and shock, not knowing quite what to think and told her softly, “Catherine…you are pregnant.”
If he had expected a gasp of surprise he was sourly disappointed, instead Catherine replied tonelessly, “I thought I was.” Before bursting into tears and despite himself, and his feelings on the matter Father placed his arms around her, if only for the fact that she was a vulnerable mother to be.
He let her cry, waited until she was able to speak again, voicing no opinions of his own. He had much he would like to have said, but refrained from doing so. None of it would help her anyway.
So it stunned him when she sat up and spoke, “It’s Vincent’s.” Her words grieved her when she raised her head and saw him resolutely shaking his own. He didn’t believe her!
“I’m sorry Catherine. You don’t know how much I want to believe that…but it alters nothing…whether it’s so or not. Carrying Vincent’s child…or…or…his child…” He couldn’t even bring himself to say Elliot’s name. “…alters nothing. You betrayed my son and I for one can never forgive you for that.”
“I didn’t…” head in hands, Catherine sobbed, “Father, you’ve got to believe me…I love Vincent so much…” Tears coursed down her cheeks. “I could never do that…anything with another…please believe me Father!” Taking his hands in her own she squeezed them tight, even as he pulled them from her grasp.
“Stop that, Catherine! Nothing you can say will convince me otherwise. Now get dressed, there are some things you need to do to relieve the sickness and I have some exercises to help with the backache.” Back in physician mode again, Father helped her from his bed, ever aware that she would need to know a great deal of things to help her with her pregnancy, while firmly pushing away any possibility that she carried his grandchild. They would cross that bridge when they came to it.
“Father!” Tears coursed down Catherine’s cheeks as she begged him “I’m not doing a single thing until you listen to me!”
“There’s nothing to say Catherine. You know that. In fact perhaps it would be best all round if you were to find alternative accommodation…maybe the father of your child would take you in?”
That did it that really did it. Catherine’s first response was to die at his words, her second drew fury from deep within…
“Listen to me, you old goat!” She paused mere seconds before continuing in a lighter vein, “Elliot is not and never will be anything to me! He raped me! Can’t you get that into your thick skull that he raped me!.” Her arms flung wildly around her seizing him by the shoulders as she finished speaking to shake the living daylights out of the old man. “Believe me won’t you!” through clenched teeth she spat, tears rolling down her cheeks. “E.L.L.I.O.T R.A.P.E.D. ME!” She spelt it out, hoping that he would at last believe her.
Funnily enough, though his rage had come like bile to his throat whatever retort Father had been about to make dissolved in that moment. Was it true? He looked at her eyes wide as everything galloped through his mind at once. In fact though Devin had been so sure, they were yet to ask him to his face and Lord only knew when that would be. He still hadn’t returned from Brazil.
“Sit down, my dear.” Those words, such tender words, and the kindly way he guided her to the nearest seat brought on a fresh bout of tears, ones of blessed relief. He would listen now, she was sure of it.
“Thank you, Father.” Her reply covered a multitude of emotions.
“Now tell me?” Holding her hands in his across the table, where she sat at one edge and he at the other, with the corner between them, he waited his eyes kindly beckoning her to speak.
Taking a deep breath Catherine started to tell him everything that had happened within those tunnels beneath Ouro Preto, while oblivious to either of them Vincent, who had been summoned by their recent shouting, was listening intently at the entrance of Father’s chamber.
“…so you see,” Catherine wound up by saying, “it wasn’t as you had been led to believe. Just an amazing round of coincidences, and ones that had never been instigated by me, except maybe at the first when I had pig-headedly gone chasing off to Brazil in the most stupid belief that I alone could help Elliot.” Father noticed how Catherine spoke the man’s name most distastefully and that furthered his acceptance in the things she revealed. Of course she had told them all of this before, but he had to admit that at that time neither he or Vincent had been willing to listen.
“I’m so sorry my dear.” Father patted her hands with his, “It would seem that we have done you a grave injustice. How you must have suffered these last few weeks…”tears welled in his eyes, “…it breaks my heart. Will you ever forgive me?”
A watery smile was her only response as she became aware of another presence in the chamber and looked up to see who it was. ‘Vincent!’ Had he been there all along? Turning in her seat Catherine gazed into his eyes, hoping to read her answer there suddenly oblivious to Father’s presence, even as he pulled away, stood and beckoned for his son to take up his seat.
Declining the invitation Vincent shook his head, “No if you don’t mind Father, I would like to take Catherine to my chamber and speak to her there.”
Catherine’s heart soared! It had been weeks since he had permitted her anywhere near his quarters, and soared further still as he held out a hand for her to take. She went to him willingly, feeling the blessed relief as his hand enclosed hers. It had been too long…too long since she had felt the security of her hand in his…tears welled in her eyes and fell steadily down her cheeks for his gentle touch alone.
Her eyes were almost his undoing, there was much yet to resolve. Still, the look she gave him jolted his heart into response and he smiled at her tenderly despite himself. “Come,” he told her softly, “We must talk.”
The walk to his chamber was one of the longest Catherine had ever remembered, and one of the sweetest. To just be beside him again after all those weeks, was a joy in itself. But to have him transfer his hand from hers to around her waist as they walked was a sheer delight.
Reaching his chamber, Vincent let down the heavy drape that led into the tunnel beyond, signalling that he wanted complete privacy to any that might come looking for him. And then leading his wife across the expanse of floor, he bade her sit at the table before pulling up a second chair for himself.
Unable to contain herself any longer, Catherine whispered, “Just how much did you hear, Vincent?”
“I came as soon as I heard raised voices.” He answered, “but anything I did not hear was brought to my attention when Father began giving you his medical advice.” His eyes bore into hers and both knew that there was no need for more words, but still he said them, “You are with child?”
Catherine sobbed, reaching to clasp his hands in hers, “Yes. Vincent, the child is yours, you have to know that!”
He was quiet for a long time, too long a time, but Catherine knew not to interrupt, taking comfort from the expressions that chased across his face and in his eyes as he remained silent.
Finally he spoke, “ I want to believe you, Catherine. And our connection shows me that your heart is sincere, but the facts…”
“…are Devin’s facts!” Catherine retorted angrily.
“Yes. And Elliot’s.” He spoke so softly Catherine strained to hear him, lip reading more than relying upon her ears.
Sighing Catherine squeezed his hands “Devin saw only what he thought he saw, Vincent. And Elliot lied. What you over heard that night were lies, all of them lies! Elliot believes the misguided notion that I love him…I don’t! I love only you, Vincent. Only you.”
For long moments Vincent held her in his gaze, as if doing so could see right into her mind as if her heart and their connection wasn’t enough. His over riding doubt being that with Elliot she would have everything that she had been destined for, and never quite believing that she had chosen to be with him in the face of that.
“Please, Vincent. Believe me. I despise Elliot for what he did, and what he continues to do. He has come between us, and if you continue to disbelieve me then he has won. Can’t you see that’s what he wants?”
“And you’d go to him if I should free you?” After the show they had put on for his benefit Vincent had drawn that conclusion.
“No! Vincent…no!” Fresh tears gathered in Catherine’s eyes, “that’s not what I want at all. You know that! Vincent, we have a life, you and me, here in these tunnels you and me and our child, we have a life to live as a family. Elliot has nothing to do with that!”
“Catherine, we made love only the once without contraception, and then there are my differences…”
“…What are you saying Vincent? That this child isn’t yours?”
Vincent shrugged, letting her see by his silence that was exactly what he thought, though his eventual reply made it plain, “I don’t l know if I could live with a constant reminder of Elliot’s child living with us. Even though you and I will be together, his offspring would be a continuous thorn in my side."
”You want me to go?” Catherine’s tone was flat, broken.
She was surprised to see him nod, “I think it would be best. Catherine…” he pulled his hands from hers, coming to his feet, beginning to pace the floor, “We deluded ourselves Catherine. Don’t you see? We thought we could live the dream…but you’re carrying another man’s child ruined all of that…”
Vincent looked at her steadily, his eyes filled with sorrow, “It won’t be. It can’t be. Catherine accept it, as much as you or I would love to believe it, this child will not be mine!” His words finished on a sob, “You must go Catherine, leave me. You must live the life that you were born for.”
“And if that was to be with you?”
“Then only time will tell. A separation will do us good. In four years we have spent as much time together as possible, yet that time has been filled with risks and impossibilities and wonderful moments, but in all of it neither of us have had the time to stop and catch our breath. A separation would be good for both of us, Catherine.”
“It would, Catherine. And I for one could certainly do with the break.” Though his words were gallant, Catherine saw that he could not meet her eyes when he uttered them.
“Where would I go?” That was the next question, without the apartment she had no other home to go to.
“You have the money to buy yourself somewhere.”
Unable to believe that they were having this conversation, Catherine went on, “And what happens when the baby arrives, and he is born with blue eyes, claws and fangs…what then?” She didn’t mean it to come out the way it sounded, and it broke her heart when Vincent flinched.
Still he remained aloof refusing to be baited, “the child will be born with blue eyes for a certainty, Catherine. Elliot has blue eyes does he not? I hardly think you need worry about those… other… things.”
“Vincent…what does it take to convince you! This child is yours. We created it with our love on the day that we were married.”
“On the day that you ran off to rescue Elliot Burch.” He added sadly.
Sadly Catherine shook her head. They were going nowhere. When it had seemed as though everything was almost back to normal, it had been snatched cruelly away from her. Perhaps a separation would be good for them, though where she would go beat her. Maybe Nancy…or Jenny…
“I’ll pack my things…” Catherine rose from her chair, hopeful at the last that he might stop her. He didn’t, he watched her get up, walk across the worn carpet and exited his chamber. He watched with his heart breaking and breaking again as he heard her sob, “I will always love you, Vincent.”
*** *** ***
Months went by, with many days much the same for Vincent. An all pervading emptiness filled his heart that would never ease, and the tunnel folk, now that they had been told the full story could neither make him smile, or make him change his mind that Catherine belonged with him.
Mouse, bless him, and Jamie had kept tabs on her, and gleefully reported back on a regular basis, that Catherine, was not living with Elliot Burch. Neither was she living with Nancy or Jenny, though she had stayed with both for a time. Catherine had, in actual fact, rented a brownstone in the village, and went about her daily life with the same hollow existence as Vincent.
Even so, Vincent believed that once the baby was born, Catherine would see that she needed to be with Elliot, and in actual fact Elliot would insist upon it.
“What if, she gave the child up to its father Vincent, what then?” Father asked one evening as they were discussing the fact that Catherine’s time was growing near.
“I can’t imagine Catherine doing that.” Vincent replied, “I know how her heart has craved a child.”
“But if she loves you, and the child is a constant reminder to you of Elliot, then maybe she would make that sacrifice.”
“A sacrifice I would never allow!” Vincent was adamant on that.
“And if the child does turn out to be yours…what then?” This was the one thing that grieved Father. If the child were Vincent’s then they would never forgive themselves for the joy they had lost in watching the child grow beneath Catherine’s heart nor for the fact that they hadn’t intervened when Vincent had sent her away.
“It won’t be.”
“You say that with such determination. Yet the impossibility of that fact has never been assessed. Vincent, you could be fertile. Have you not stopped to consider this?”
“Of course I have considered it! But it would be impossible with Catherine. Father don’t you see that?”
“In all honesty Vincent, no I don’t. You tell me that you took the risk once, a risk that you took unknowingly, that is unimagined at the time, until Devin, bless him, reminded you of it. And from then on you ensured the impossibility. You forget I examined her, Vincent. I examined Catherine, and her trimester could so easily have pointed to your wedding night.”
“And just as easily pointed to her time in Brazil! Besides everyone is forgetting that Catherine’s menstruation appeared after the risk that we took.” Vincent flared his breathing rapid. “Forget it Father, whatever you say, whatever you believe will not alter things as they are. Catherine had relations with him, with Elliot Burch! And without contraception why do you overlook that fact!”
Father scratched his chin thoughtfully, as something rankled in his mind. Could it be that none of this had anything to do with whose the baby was? Could it be that this separation between his son and Catherine had nothing to do with all the unrest and doubting that had gone before? Rather could it be that the main cause of Vincent’s anger was the fact that Elliot had had intercourse with Catherine? Was that it? Could Vincent not bare to touch her, could not bare the thought of making love to her ever again knowing that Elliot had soiled her for him? If that was so then it answered a lot of questions, and posed a very difficult problem to break.
Father had read of such things. Some husbands, unable to deal with the rape of their wives, secretly harboured this feeling of filth that prevented them from having a normal relationship with their partner ever again. As much as they might love their wife, as much as she suffered, so they suffered too. Many times the suffering of the partner was overlooked…and….Father just thought of something else….”You blame yourself don’t you?” He asked incredulous that he had not thought of it before.
“You blame yourself. Had Catherine of been the victim of rape here in New York, you might have prevented it. But there, so far away, with a man you had come to trust, you could not protect her when she needed you the most.”
Vincent covered his ears with his hands, unwilling to have the words that had been buried deep within his heart brought to the surface. This was something that had rankled him for weeks, dismissing it almost as soon as it rose to haunt him. Yes he blamed himself, but it was more than that. He blamed himself for allowing Catherine to go to Brazil in the first place. Had he of been of like mind as Devin, Father and Peter had been on that day, then none of this would ever have happened, even if Catherine had resented him for a while at preventing her from going. Even that would have been preferable to what they had between them now.
“I trusted him.” Vincent spoke flatly, “Oh I know that he will always carry a torch for Catherine, but I trusted that he would never hurt her, and certainly not in that way. How could he Father? How could he betray us both like that?”
“His betrayal is immaterial now Vincent. Your duty from this moment on is not to dwell on the workings of Elliot Burch. Did Devin not inform us in his recent letter that being in that situation had rendered Elliot quite mad? He noticed that the man did and said things that were totally out of character for him, and very reminiscent of one bordering on insanity. Therefore, your duty is not to dwell on the actions of an unstable man Vincent, but get yourself above the moment it is dark and bring Catherine back with you. You have done her enough injustice. We all have.”
Vincent shook his head, his eyes pained, “No. Father, don’t you see? For the first time since I have known her, Catherine is free of me. It’s been hard for her, I know that, but lately I have felt an almost palpable relief coming via our connection. I, on the other hand will always miss her, but I believe that setting her free was the right thing to do, and then of course there is the fact of Elliot’s child.”
Father sighed heavily, they were back to that were they? When would Vincent ever believe that there was a greater possibility of the child being his? Perhaps not until it were born…and then even so…Vincent could very well blinker his eyes to what was right before him. If the child bore no resemblance to his son, then Catherine could well continue you live her life free of him…free to live without the man that could not walk with her and their child out in the sunshine.
It was all so tragic…and Father despaired that there would ever be an answer to the problem.
*** *** ***
“Push Cathy, push.” Jenny held a damp cloth to her friend’s brow. “Where on earth is that damn ambulance!” She swore beneath her breath, visualising that at any moment she would have a career move to one of midwife.
“There’s no time…” Catherine panted, “Almost here…”
“Oh Jeez girl you certainly know when to call me…I thought that invitation to tea was genuine…how could you dump this on me…its not as if…”
“Quit whining Jenny…and take a look at the other end…” Catherine grimaced as another contraction hit her. Probably this would all be rather funny in months to come, maybe even tomorrow. But Jenny bless her, was doing a great job, and in the absence of an ambulance too.
“I can see the head!” Jenny screeched, grabbing the telephone receiver as she continued the call she had made to St. Vincent’s. “What do I do now…tell me…tell me…”
A voice calm enough to quieten her spoke precisely, telling Jenny what must next be done, along with the apology, “The ambulance will be there as soon as possible…I’m afraid there has been a RTA that is causing the delay on the route to your house.”
Jenny mumbled something incoherent, her attention diverted on the fact that Catherine’s baby was being born right before her eyes!
“It’s here! It’s here! The baby is here!” She cried dropping the receiver, snatching it up and dropping it again as she panicked not quite knowing what to do next. But Catherine, it seemed knew all about it. With quiet admiration Jenny watched as Catherine leaned forward picked the baby up into her arms, and after a quick examination of counting fingers and toes wrapped the child in a clean white cloth put to the side of her for that very purpose.
“If I hadn’t of seen that with my own eyes, I’d have never have believed it! Catherine just how many babies have you delivered?”
Through her tears Catherine smiled, her reply coming out on a sob, “None, but I’ve watched a lot of video’s recently.”
“Well you’re a natural gel, you should become a midwife. So come on then let’s take a peek.” Jenny stepped toward the bundle enfolded in Catherine’s arms, even as she suddenly became aware of a siren blasting two stories below them in the street outside. “Here come the cavalry…just like those movies one watches, always in the nick of time…except they missed the best bit. Oh Catherine, he’s gorgeous.”
*** *** ***
At around the same moment as Catherine’s son was born into the world, another kind of excitement was happening Below. Devin, home from his ordeal was marching through the tunnels, as the sentries reported his arrival with some visitors. Father and Vincent were waiting for them as they reached the main hub.
“Devin!” Father exclaimed as his son rounded the final bend, “Oh! Devin who is this?” Father looked passed his son as a group of people he had never seen came into view.
“Allow me to introduce you, Dad. This is Sophia, my wife, and her family” Devin laughed at the look that passed over his father’s face and was quick to reassure him, “that is her brothers and sisters, not her children!”
Vincent laughed, he too had begun to assume the worst from Devin’s introductions. He couldn’t quite imagine Devin playing step dad to around a dozen children, even though Sophia didn’t look anywhere old enough to have borne them all.
“Come, all of you.” Father’s voice was choked with emotion, “You must tell me how this momentous event occurred.”
*** *** ***
“In the words of the prophet Sir, the child is born.” Elliot received word from one of his employees soon after Catherine had been whisked to St. Vincent’s her precious bundle safely tucked in her arms.
He was elated!
Knowing full well these past months that Catherine had been living Above, and learning of her pregnancy had been a source of great joy to Elliot. Nonetheless he had kept his distance, only knowing of her whereabouts by careful planning, careful plotting and placing dollars hand over fist for certain privileges. Only now would he make his move. Donning his jacket and straightening his tie Elliot left his apartment and headed straight for the nearest florist before setting off toward the hospital…to see his son.
*** *** ***
It was amazing. Father listened without question to Devin and Sophia’s tale of woe. Vincent and a few other tunnel dwellers sitting close by, eyes wide at all the couple had endured since Catherine and Elliot had returned to America.
“It all came to a head the night Sophia and I made what was to be the final trip to the tunnels to deliver supplies. We had always been so careful, carrying things in small amounts in a backpack and always at night. We were aware that someone was watching us, but it didn’t cross our minds that we might be confronted, not until we had found the children at least. So when we went up the mountain on that last night, we were surprised to find ourselves face to face with Leo de Azevedo and his not so merry men. What they hadn’t bargained for was the fact that I had been seeking them since getting out of those damned tunnels, nor had they bargained for the fury with which I confronted them.”
Sophia took up the narrative as Devin paused, “I never want to see Devin, that angry again! It all happened so fast, but I thought he was going to kill all three with his bare hands. He could have too. Though they carried weapons, he was too quick for them, they had not expected an attack so sudden, and he soon had them pinned to the ground begging for their lives.”
“All three of them…” Devin smiled, “Yep, believe it, all three of them at the same time. A foot here, a knee there, a couple of hands very securely round Leo’s throat, I can tell you it gave me a good feeling.”
“I told him death was too good for them…” Sophia mentioned.
“And I agreed. Oh I wanted to kill them, wanted them to die for the things they had done to my friends, to Sophia’s family, but she was right. Death was too good for them, besides that would have made me no better than they were.”
“So we threw them down the mine shaft…” Sophia laughed as her husband glared at her knowing he had wanted to say that bit. He soon smiled though and added, “Yep, one at a time. We frog marched them for a long walk off a short plank. It kinda felt real good knowing that we didn’t afford them the opportunity of being lowered into the pit though, 'sides we never had a rope…” He chuckled, still remembering their screams as they had fallen down the old mine shaft probably to break limbs as they had reached the bottom. Though being that the shaft was full of water that had probably broken their fall.
“Ordinarily I would never have been so cruel, but they were wicked men dad, you should have seen…” he stopped not wishing that sight on anyone, remembering how they had shot Vincent and his parents in cold blood. That memory would haunt him always.
“And so, once they were down there, we called the police, who came out to arrest them. A trial was called, and they were sentenced to life imprisonment, except for Stuart who got six years. And then miraculously the moment it was announced on television, my brothers and sisters came out of hiding, and we were all reunited.” Sophia’s face altered to one of joy as she looked at each of her siblings in turn.
“And the gems, I guess you want to know what became of them? Well they were sold to a collector and the money split four ways. That is, Stuart, Funari’s and the de Azevedo’s wives and children were given a share each and Sophia and her brothers and sisters got the fourth share. That meant a very definite change for Sophia and her family, and one which in all honesty could have meant them staying quite happily to build new lives in Brazil…” Devin looked at his wife then, his eyes full of love.
“…But I wanted to come to America, and start a new life and to meet the family that Devin had told me would give my family the unconditional love that they so deserved. They have terrible night mares, it will not be easy, but from what I have seen so far, I believe we made the right decision if you will allow us all to stay?” She looked around hopefully, and it did not go unnoticed how hard she clasped her husband’s hand as she asked this question. Several members of the council were present, and though they usually called a meeting and would, they felt that they could give Sophia the answer she so desperately craved right then. They nodded, and Father seeing their acceptance answered for them, “Of course you may stay my dear, and my I thank you for bringing my son home, and making an honest man of him at last. Maybe now he will stop his gallivanting?”
“Oh I wouldn’t go that far…”Devin laughed, then harder still as he realised the pun, happy when everyone in the room joined him in hearty laughter. Finally they came to rest, looking from one to the other happily.
“Just one thing.” Vincent spoke, “I am truly happy for you Devin.” Devin detected that he was, but Vincent’s voice carried an underlying sorrow, that Devin knew was nothing to do with him. “Please I must know, what happened with Catherine…and…and…”
“Elliot Burch?” Devin spoke the words that Vincent could not. There was a shuffle as many made to stand feeling they should not be a party to whatever was coming next but Vincent bid them stay. It was important to him that everyone heard the truth.
“She isn’t here, is she?” Devin had noticed Catherine’s absence the moment he had arrived.
“No, she lives above.” Vincent told him tonelessly.
“Not with Burch?”
“No, alone. She is pregnant.”
“Pregnant?” Devin was genuinely surprised. He drew his brows together remembering this and that, little things that had bugged him during that time in the pit. “That would explain a lot. I thought she was anaemic or diabetic or something.”
“Sorry?” Father prompted, not quite grasping what his son meant.
“Catherine. From the first when she came down there when we met up, she was always so ravenous.” Devin’s eyes widened as he remembered, “Okay, so the terrain was difficulty and gave one an appetite, but Catherine had some chocolate with her and shared it. And over the days, though I reasoned that we should make it last as long as possible, however, when Catherine bit into her supply she would wolf it down, like there was no tomorrow. But if she were pregnant then that would explain it.” His mouth gaped in surprise.
Father’s heart raced as he asked the next question, “And that would be when…before or after you saw her and Elliot…well you know?”
“I’ve been thinking about that, dad, Vincent.” His eyes took in the two people closest to him as family, “I think I may have been mistaken. Catherine told me Burch had raped her. I didn’t believe her, but on reflection it may have been so. She begged me to believe that the response I saw her making toward him was because he had taken advantage while she slept and she had been dreaming it were Vincent… I believe that now…when I think of how crazy Elliot had become…it makes perfect sense…and if she were already pregnant…”
Father jumped on the last few words, heart in his mouth, that had been the answer he sought, “You’re sure about that? She was already pregnant?”
“Well yes, as far as the chocolate was concerned…there’s no doubt about it…” Devin’s voice trailed away, he was looking at Vincent, understanding suddenly becoming apparent.
“Oh my God, Vincent. You didn’t send her away believing the child was Burch’s did you?”
The room swam for Vincent as everyone in it gasped at that implication even as Father struggled to stand and waving his cane in Vincent’s general direction cried hoarsely, “You did, you did!”
“But it makes no difference, Father, you know that!” Vincent cried while staring at his parent willing him to remember the conversation they had had on that very same matter.
“It makes all the difference Vincent, and you know it!” Father turned to everyone in the chamber, “If you would please excuse us, my son and I have things we must discuss.”
“Leave it, Father!” Vincent rose as did several others in the room, they sitting again hesitantly as he brushed past their chairs toward the exit, “I’m going to my chamber, and do not wish to be disturbed!”
His family exchanged exasperated looks and they sighed one after the other. ‘Would there never be a way to make Vincent see reason, and bring Catherine home?’
*** *** ***
“He’s adorable, Cathy.” Nancy rocked the babe in her arms, “I bet you are so proud of him. Look at those eyes, bluer than a summer’s day in California.”
“I can go better than that, “Jenny giggled remembering her friend’s recent visit to Brazil, “I’d call them blue as topaz. It’s the sparkle you see…” she added as both her friends looked at her with eyes wide. “Well it is…” she added indignantly.
“Actually, I’m inclined to agree.” A voice beyond Nancy’s shoulder had all three ladies turning to the source as one, to find a suave good looking man hovering behind and looking at the baby in Nancy’s arms. “Might I permitted to hold my son?” He asked, shocking them further.
“Your son?” Nancy looked from Catherine to Jenny to the baby and then back to him. Those eyes said it all. Nancy gasped, looking directly at Catherine, “But I thought Vincent was the father?”
“He is!” Catherine flared, “Get out of here Elliot! This child is not yours!”
“I’ll call security.” Jenny lunged for the bell, but Elliot beat her to it, covering the bell with one hand, “That won’t be necessary. And whatever you might believe, or whatever Cathy has led you to believe, I am this baby’s father!” He looked to Catherine his gaze running appreciatively over the silken gown that she wore, exposing the swell of her creamy white breasts to his hungry eyes. “You know he’s mine Cathy. You can’t deny it. Your friend’s quip is quite right in the circumstances and because his eyes are the same colour as mine, so try as you might you can’t deny it Cathy, he is my son!”
“Vincent has blue eyes too!”
“Arh yes, lapis lazuli, wasn’t that not how you once described his eyes to me? Well now he has competition doesn’t he? My son’s eyes are blue topaz…just like mine!”
“That may be, but it doesn’t make him your child Elliot.” Catherine seethed.
“Does it not? We’ll see about that. But really the facts speak for themselves.” Even as he spoke he was checking the baby’s records, “It doesn’t speak here of any abnormalities and it would have if there were any. Let me see…” he drawled taking one of the child’s hand’s in his, “Oh how delightful, no claws.” Staring at Catherine, he staked his claim once more, “The child is mine Cathy and so are you....”
No one spoke as he made to leave and with a parting shot he told the stunned group of ladies, “and remember Cathy, I always get what belongs to me.” Before he departed closing the door quietly behind him.
Silence gathered and fell among the group each with her own deadly thoughts, until Jenny found her voice first, “Well! The nerve of the man! Cathy, you’ve got to do something about that.”
“Jen’s right, Cath, if you don’t he might take your son. No matter what is the truth, he is a very influential man… he can pull strings…”
Catherine stared at her, “What do you mean, no matter the truth?” Her voice was low with disbelief.
“Not that Cathy, I didn’t mean that. I’ve seen Vincent, Jen and I both have, but the rest of the world hasn’t. Honey, face it if that man wants to do, he’ll get this child from you and you haven’t got a leg to stand on.”
“Then I’ll tell them he raped me.” Catherine snapped tears falling from her eyes.
“Gee that’ll really help.” Jenny spoke up tartly, “You just admitted that he and you had sex together.”
Catherine knew her sarcasm wasn’t really directed at her, just that it expressed the facts, and how the rest of the world would view it.
“What can I do?” Catherine sobbed adding “Ordinarily the tunnels would be the best place to hide, but Elliot knows of them and I think he would even stoop so low as revealing their nature to the authorities if it meant he’d get this child from me that way. Oh Jen, Nanc, what am I to do?”
*** *** ***
“Anyone seen the papers today?” Devin marched down the steps to his Father’s chamber waving the object of his question in the air, “Cathy’s had her baby!”
Both Vincent and Father stopped whatever it was they had been doing unable to remember what it had been even moments later, and fairly snatched the newspaper out of Devin’s hands the moment he were close enough.
“Oh dear Lord.” Father exclaimed, “Burch is bringing out a law suit for custody.”
Vincent’s heart hammered wildly in his chest. It was one thing to insist that Catherine made her life above, it was one thing to believe that the child was in fact his after all. It was one thing to believe that Elliot could provide a home for both Catherine and their son the likes of which he could never hope to give them… it was quite another to see that Elliot Burch was insisting that their child was his!
Agitated, Vincent threw the paper away from him, well aware that his father and brother stared at him fearfully anticipating his next move.
Sudden and swift just as they had known, a tremendous roar whereupon they held their hands to their ears in an instant reaction. But before Vincent could make his exit, Devin moved to bar his way. “That’s not the answer Vincent, and you know it! Haven’t you run away from this for far long enough?”
At his words, Vincent slumped against his brother all fight draining out of him, “What am I to do?” His question was ragged hopeless.
“I’ll tell you shall I?” Devin told him “You march straight up to her home and you bring her and the baby down here, where they belong!”
“No!” Both were stunned as Father forcibly voiced a very unusual opinion in the circumstances.
His eyes fearful Father repeated himself, “No. It’s impossible. Elliot knows these tunnels, he will be aware of where Catherine has gone. The papers would have a field day speculating Catherine’s whereabouts, and Elliot in his anger would tell them of his suspicions. It’s a risk we cannot afford to make. I’m sorry, but I cannot allow it.” His eyes were haunted.
“Father’s right,” Vincent agreed albeit reluctantly. “I’ve lost her…” His voice caught on a sob.
“No you haven’t Vincent, you haven’t lost her, its just that for a while we cannot become involved in this. I’m afraid we just have to let it go and wait. Several factors would prove that Elliot is not the father.” Devin told his brother.
“A blood test you mean?” Vincent stared at his brother amazed he would suggest such a thing.
“Yes, but not necessarily. It says here that the child has inherited the colour of his father’s eyes. Well true he has, but its unfortunate that Elliot too has blue eyes. It also says that the child favours his mother’s features, that is something Elliot could not use. But it also says that unfortunately the child has not yet grown any hair… and that… hopefully could be the over riding factor… unless of course…”
“Unless he favours Catherine for that too. So we are back to the blood test.” Vincent sighed.
“No. Have you noticed that Catherine refuses custody to Elliot? But at no point has she said that he is not the father. A few weeks ago that would have given us rise for speculation, but we know differently now. I believe she has omitted these facts purely because she knows what a blood test would mean, publicly speaking, for Vincent and for their child. If Catherine is thinking clearly about this then we should too.” Devin looked hopefully at his father and brother.
“What is it you have in mind Devin?” Father asked, his interest flaring along with a sudden hope that Devin might know the solution.
“Simply this. Peter takes the blood test and shows the results only to Elliot. Does Elliot know Peter?”
Both father and son shook their heads, “Not that I am aware of Devin.” Father told him.
“Then Elliot would accept the result without question. He would not question the possibility that Peter had tampered with the test to go in our favour would he? He would just see that a test had been performed and proven who the father was…and I do have another idea…just thought of it actually, but it might seem abhorrent to you Vincent.”
“What is that?” Vincent asked swallowing convulsively.
“I’m sorry don’t take this in the wrong way. But if for any reason Elliot still continued to make waves, even after the test we could ask him how he feels about it becoming public knowledge that he slept with a woman who is married to…” Devin shook his head, “Can’t do it…forgive me…I should never have brought that up.”
“No,” Father agreed, “You shouldn’t have. Though I understand where you are coming from. But it would not make a happeth of difference. Elliot would not care about that since he obviously would not care about making Vincent’s existence public knowledge. Though of course all this is wild speculation on our part. Having said that, I know if I thought I was the father of a child, I would move heaven and high water to prove it was so.”
“And that’s just what I should do.” Vincent who had been listening to the debate, at last spoke up. “And in light of the fact that I cannot bring Catherine down here, I will go to see Elliot Burch myself.”
“Vincent, no you can’t!” Father begged him.
“Why not? He knows me, has met me, there is nothing detrimental that seeing me would do for Elliot, but perhaps I can speak to him, make him understand that he is wrong. That I am the baby’s father.”
“Mmm, it’s possible of course, but I don’t fancy your chances, bro. One of the reasons Elliot tried it on with Catherine is probably because he hoped to make her pregnant. The papers say that ever since their break up he has held a torch for her, and hoped to be reunited with Catherine one day. It also mentioned that he had imagined them married with a family, and hoped that would still be a possibility even though at the moment she wished nothing to do with him. A lover’s tiff the papers are calling it.”
“Well I must try. It is all I can see that might help. And it certainly wouldn’t do any harm, unless you both think differently?” Vincent raised eyes to his father and brother in turn, watching them both shake their heads, though Father commented, “Just so long as you make certain there are no reporters about. Promise me, Vincent, no heroics. “
“I promise Father. Devin, would you like to come with me?”
“Bro, I thought you’d never ask.”
*** *** ***
Back home again and alone now that Jenny and Nancy had returned to their respective places, Catherine looked down at her sleeping child with wonder in her eyes. He was so beautiful. His little thumb inside his mouth sucking intermittently with a slight hiccup, even as he slept on. His soft lashes resting against rosy cheeks, his little chubby body tucked beneath the tiny blue blanket. He was a marvel.
Over and over Catherine blessed the fates that had given her Vincent’s perfect child, with not even a suggestion of the man that had fathered him. As much as that was a good thing as far as Vincent would be concerned, and though it grieved her that her son did not resemble Vincent in any way, it was also a regret to her that because of this Elliot had staked his claim upon the child. Believing that the child’s blue eyes alone made him his.
Catherine sighed, switching on the bedside lamp before turning off the main light and exiting from the nursery her heart heavy. She couldn’t allow Elliot to stake his claim on her child, but she could neither see a way out of the problem. To hide below would bring trouble to those that lived down there, and she could never risk that. Elliot, she knew would stop at nothing now that he had begun and he would seek her out wherever she went.
Head in hands, Catherine sat at the table. Maybe in the long run she should give in. Vincent didn’t want her, Elliot did. She felt too desperately tired to fight it anymore. Her life felt over before it had even began.
A whimper from the nursery startled her and Catherine rose hurrying back to check on her son. He was sleeping soundly, but even so Catherine picked him up and cuddled him close, his small sound of protesting worth it just to hold him in her arms.
Whatever was she thinking of? How ever could she allow Elliot to win? Never could she give up everything she had fought for and give him the satisfaction of knowing that he had won. Never!
Lowering herself into the rocking chair that had belonged to her mother, Catherine gently rocked back and forth, humming a lullaby though the child had not woken. She would gladly hold him all night if she could. That sweet baby smell filling and delighting her, and more holding part of Vincent in her arms brought her such exquisite joy. Sadness too. Sadness that Vincent did not believe her. Had not even been to see her, even though she had been home for two days.
Her life felt tragic, but even so Catherine felt that she had received the finest prize. Nothing was more precious than holding a child in her arms, and knowing without a doubt whom the father was. Still she had a long way to go, and it appeared she would have to go it alone, but by hook or by crook, she would get to have soul custody of her child, even if she had to fight for that right for the rest of her life.
*** *** ***
Several blocks away, Vincent and Devin were picking their way through certain routes toward the Burch penthouse, when Devin paused.
“What is it?” Vincent asked softly.
“Why don’t we go to visit Catherine first?” His question had a ring of hope to it, causing Vincent to sigh heavily.
“She would not want to see me.”
“On the contrary, right now don’t you think she would welcome us? Who’s on her side of the river now Vincent?”
Surprised Vincent stared at his brother, “Father told you about that?”
“His river bank talk with you? He must have done, can’t remember when though. Maybe he mentioned it once. Even so don’t you think she needs us? Sure Cathy is well off, and will fight this case tooth and nail, but Elliot is a millionaire Vincent. He can afford to go with it for years, especially now.”
“The mine. You know the topaz mine.” Devin laughed derisively surprising Vincent that he did. “Funny that. You know when Elliot signed the contract for the land at Ouro Preto he made a good will gesture, nice bloke that he is…I mean was… It stated that whatever was found on the land within one month of the signing of the contract would legally belong to the previous owners. Get that! Had Funari and de Azevedo looked into the small print they would have known that they were entitled to that find and there would have been no need for those senseless killings, or for the torture they put Burch, Catherine and I through. Well since then, the land has become legally Burch’s and as topaz is still being found, and possibly will continue to be found before his resort is completed, then Elliot will be receiving a nice little earner for many years to come. Not to mention the prestige he will gain when in Brazil, at owning one of the finest production mines in Ouro Preto.”
“He’s going to continue with the idea of building the resort?” Vincent was surprised to hear this. Hopeful too, that would mean Elliot being out of the country again.
“That and another. He mentioned at the trial that he is currently negotiating with the Mashantucket Pequot in Connecticut to build a hotel on some land there. He’s not doing very well on that one though, and was quite cagey about it when reporters quizzed him after the trial. Guess he’ll find a way round it though, his sort always do.” Devin drew in a deep breath, “But all this is resolving nothing right now. Do you want to see Cathy or not?”
Vincent nodded. “Yes. I want to see her. I don’t know where she is living though.”
“…would tell me, yes, but I feel that you would guide me far swifter this night. You know where she is don't you?"
“Is it far?”
“No, not far, but in the opposite direction to Burch. I think Cathy would have liked to have been even further away from him than that, but since her friend Jenny rents her the house, she had no other choice. No doubt she will move somewhere else eventually.”
“Then I hope not to Connecticut. Not if Elliot will be there.”
“Hmm. Poor Cathy, seems wherever she would like to go, he beats her to it. I wish there was something we could do?”
“At least we are trying, even though I feel I could have done something long ago… if only I wasn’t so… so…”
“Pig headed?” Devin offered with a chuckle.
Vincent smiled, “Yes. Pig Headed.”
“So you’ll come to see Cathy?”
“Yes now.” Devin squeezed his brother’s arm, grateful at least that he had suggested it and had finally made Vincent agree to it. “This way then bro. Just follow me.”
*** *** ***
Right at that same moment, Father was making his own plans. Sending word to Peter, the two men met and he suggested the blood test that had been spoken of earlier that day. Peter agreed it would be the best thing to do, and promised that he would not let Elliot know that he personally knew Catherine outside his profession as her doctor, or that he also knew Vincent and his family.
“It would be best all round if that fact were kept from Mr Burch.” Peter agreed.
“Can you call her? Let her know what we are thinking of? Perhaps it would be best to have her come to your surgery. I wouldn’t put it passed Burch to have had her phone tapped while she has been in hospital.” Father wondered even as he said it whether he had been reading too many James Bond books. Still he reasoned, it was always better to be safe than sorry.
Peter agreed, and the two men parted company arranging to contact one another again if anything further should develop.
*** *** ***
Asleep now, it was some time before Catherine rose up from her slumber to the sound of knocking at her front door. She checked the clock, 11pm, too late for callers at this time of night.
Rising she made her way to the window, and with one hand firmly holding her child close, the other she drew back the curtains, to peer down at the street below. Catherine gasped, recognising the cloaked figure at her door instantly, and guessed that his companion was Devin.
Quickly she hurried to the intercom, switched it on and announced that she would unlock the door for them. That done, she waited breathlessly as they entered and climbed the stairs.
Catherine hadn’t seen Vincent for six months and her memory of him was not as she had believed. The moment he came through the door ahead of Devin, Catherine gasped. The first thing she noticed was his eyes. They seemed bluer than she had remembered, even in the subdued lighting of the two lamps positioned around the room. Lapis Lazuli was indeed a good way to describe them. Not only for the colour but because they danced and sparkled like their namesake.
Next she noticed his hair, blonde and tawny in the same instant, a golden red halo that framed his face and tumbled over his shoulders in wild disarray. In that instant Catherine was drawn to wishing that she could take great handfuls of it in her hands and run her fingers through the silken mane.
Then his mouth, that unique wonderful leonine mouth that was smiling just for her a smile that lit up his dazzling eyes even further.
In that one moment Catherine thought of nothing else but being in his arms and kissing that adorable mouth, teasing the exotic cleft with the tip of her tongue. In her minds eye she could almost hear him panting and moaning as he had the first time she had tenderly attacked that erogenous zone.
“Catherine.” Oh and that voice! Like velvet over gravel. That was the one thing that had held firm in her mind…his voice…it would be the one voice she would remember vividly until her dying day…and maybe beyond…
“Vincent.” His name gushed from her, heavy and passionate, causing Devin to check his step, turn and head toward what he hoped was the kitchen, “I’ll make some tea.” He told them as he left them together, though neither of them heard.
“Are you well Vincent?” Catherine spoke, and her voice sounded strange to her ears, hollow, false. An enigmatic look passed over her face as she shook her head, smiling sweetly knowing full well that while her lips uttered polite words her mind screamed, ‘love me Vincent… Oh love me.”
Memories of those few short days following their marriage swept over her, filling her.
Thoughts and emotions that she had long since locked away, lest they depress her in their absence.
“I’ve missed you so much.” She found herself saying.
“As I have missed you. Catherine, will you ever forgive me?”
She didn’t get a chance to reply, because somehow she was in his arms, their bodies close and aware that another life lay before them.
With great effort Vincent tore his gaze from Catherine’s eyes, to look upon the sleeping babe in her arms, a babe oblivious to the momentous event of his parents reunited.
For long moments Vincent stared at his son in stunned disbelief. And then came the feelings… fierce possession, pride, joy, awe and love. Love in its purest sense…deep fulfilling…and very protective.
“He’s beautiful, Catherine.” Vincent whispered, unable to stop looking at the child.
“Yes he is. Thank you Vincent.”
He looked up then amazed that she had thanked him, confusion evident in his eyes.
“For giving me our son.” Catherine explained simply with a deep smile that softened her eyes with tears.
“There is no need to thank me. Catherine, your faith and your love were what brought him into the world. How could I ever hope to thank you for that?”
“I love you, Vincent and if you are saying what I think you are, then anyone would be a fool to have wanted to abort this child. Look at him, he is your son, yet who would know it? All the beauty that you have within you, Vincent created our son. You only have to look upon him to know it.”
Her words were meant to be uplifting so she was troubled when a cloud passed over his eyes. “What is it, Vincent? What’s wrong?”
“Who would know that he is my son? That’s the problem isn’t it? The world knows nothing of my existence, and our son bears no trace of me, it is no wonder that Elliot…”
Catherine silenced him with a finger to his lips, “I will not have that man’s name mentioned between us ever again.” Vincent was surprised at the animosity directed at Elliot Burch. It was almost as if his wife hated the man.
“Yet we have to talk of it, Catherine. We must. Devin and I were intending to pay him a visit after leaving here tonight. We have to try to reason with him, make him see sense.”
“Peter rang just before you arrived. It appears that he has just left Father, and they have decided between them that a blood test run by Peter and sent to Elliot would suffice. I don’t think Elliot would listen to you Vincent. Please, forget the idea of going to see him, let’s try Peter’s way first.”
Cocking his head to one side, birdlike, as was dear to Catherine, he asked, ”Is there something that he might tell me that you do not want me to know?”
“No! Vincent, its not that at all. I just believe that in his frame of mind he will act derisively to you, he will belittle and offend you. You will come away from him feeling more wretched than when you arrived. Believe me, Vincent Elliot has changed.”
“She’s right Vin. I’d forgotten about that. I guess what with everything that has happened to me recently, I’ve forgotten about the out workings of an insane mind. Something happened to Burch while he was imprisoned in that stinking pit. I think a lot of it was to do with personal hygiene. Burch has always been a fastidious man and it did something to his head to have to live like that. Remember he had no way of knowing how long he would be down there, and with Pepe giving him handouts, he never tried hard enough to find a way out.
Being at the mercy of another was more than Elliot Burch could take. It did something to his mind, made him bitter and twisted. Reminds me of the story of the genie.”
“The genie? What story is that?” Vincent asked with interest.
Devin laughed, “Something and nothing really, but it helps to grasp the reason why Elliot became as he did. Baring in mind how wealthy the man is, and knowing that with all that money he couldn’t buy his freedom. Same as the genie.”
Catherine’s eyes sparkled, “Yes, but what genie?”
Devin shrugged and started to relate the tale; “There was this genie. He was enclosed inside his lamp and for some reason thrown into the sea. Well for a hundred years he remained on the seabed and during that time vowed, whomsoever sets me free I will give him all the wishes of his heart’s desire. But no body rescued him. Another hundred years went by, and then more and as they passed the genie’s reward became less and less as he became more and more bitter. He had everything, but the sea enclosed him so tightly that he didn’t have the one thing wealth could not buy…his freedom. Finally after five hundred years, he vowed, whomsoever rescues me, I will grant three wishes. And then after a thousand years, he vowed whomsoever rescues me now, I will kill the moment he sets me free. Well soon after he made that vow a humble fisherman raised the lamp in a net and brought it to the surface. He was overjoyed! Anticipating the chance of three wishes he rubbed the lamp vigorously only to discover that when the genie appeared he was so angry at having been imprisoned for a thousand years that he granted the fisherman three ways to die. But the fisherman was one step ahead of the genie, and laughed derisively saying, “I don’t believe you are a genie. I don’t believe you could fit inside that little lamp!” Fooled the genie rose to the bait and said, “I’ll show you!” And promptly disappeared back inside the lamp, at which point the fisherman slammed in the cork and threw the lamp back into the sea, where as far as anyone knows it still lies today.”
“That’s a very good story, Devin. You should tell it to the children. It teaches much about the detrimental effect of anger, and the beauty of righteousness. That genie should have been so happy that he was set free, he should have granted the humble fisherman anything his heart desired.” Vincent told his brother.
“Yes,” Catherine said, “He should have given more for the longer he was imprisoned, not the other way around. That shows the sort of heart he had from the beginning.”
“He was proud and arrogant he believed he was better than anyone else, which was why he offered everything to start with. Whether or not he would have given it is another matter. But don’t you see that it fits Elliot Burch to a tee?”
“I feel I should know, but I’d still like to hear your theory, Devin.” Catherine replied. By now she and Vincent had moved from one another’s arms, and were sitting side by side on the sofa. The baby was still fast asleep.
“Well Burch has held a candle for you Catherine, he always hoped that you and he would get back together some day. Can’t blame the guy for that, you are a very beautiful woman, inside and out.” Catherine blushed. “And while he was in that godforsaken pit he dreamed dreams about you and he, about the short time you had spent together.
Apparently for the first few days those memories kept him going. Then as time went on, he began to regret that he hadn’t been more assertive in winning you back, and he began to believe that he had more to give than Vincent. And after more time, he began to see Vincent as an enemy rather than a friend. Until such time as he vowed that he would have you back come what may that if he ever got out of that pit you and he would have the life he had envisaged for you and Vincent could go to hell. Okay, he never said as much, but his body language spoke of it, and from what I gleaned between the lines of what he did say, worried me greatly. He’s a dangerous man Cathy, you shouldn’t underestimate him.”
“I don’t. Not anymore. But how can I stop him applying for custody of my son? He truly believes that the baby is his.”
“That’s most unfortunate, and I wonder if that is what he had planned all along. How better to make you his, how better to make you have to go back to him to gain contact with you. Whatever his motives Cathy, his taking advantage of you gave him the very leverage he needed, and he knew it. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he planned it. The one thing in your favour was the fact that you were already pregnant and the other that I came along when I did.”
“Thank God you did.” Tears welled in Catherine’s eyes as Vincent put his arm around her and drew her against him, kissing the top of her head, “Through this whole thing I wish I had listened to you in the first place, and left Elliot to rot in that stinking hole.”
“I’d like to believe you Cathy, but you know as well as I that had you done that, you would never have forgiven yourself. No Cathy, the problem wasn't you, it was Elliot. He has harboured a secret longing for too long, and he let it get the better of him. Think what he has lost…not just you…but his self-esteem. It must gall him to know how bitter he has become, I just hope that in time he recovers and reverts back to the gentle man he once was.”
They were each silent for a while, and in that silence the baby seemed to decide it was time to wake. With a gentle flutter of golden lashes, he opened his eyes, gazing fully up at his mother, a small smile upon his lips as he recognised her, even so soon in his life. He knew her. He knew her scent, her love. But at that moment he also knew his father, and he turned his bonny little head in Vincent’s direction, and the stunning blue of his eyes that held his father’s gaze rocked Vincent. The child knew him and loved him in that instant, and the feeling was mutual.
“Have you chosen a name for him?” Vincent whispered.
“No. I was rather hoping to reserve that right for you.”
Catherine whispered back her eyes never leaving her son’s face. “But it has to be something beautiful. Something worthy of him.”
“Jacob.” Vincent whispered, not knowing why. Catherine and Devin stared at him, it was tunnel custom to keep the child’s name a secret until the naming ceremony.
“Its perfect Vincent.” Catherine nodded enthusiastically.
“It sure is…and the old man is gonna love you. Way to go Vin.” Devin exclaimed with humour. At the sound of his voice the baby turned toward his uncle, and Devin gasped, “Oh boy, but it suits him! See how he looks at me?”
Everybody laughed. It was true, the baby looked at Devin just as they had seen Father look at him, almost expecting the worst. The baby’s mouth trembled and his eyes creased before a hearty wail was uttered from his lungs.
“Yep.” Devin sighed wearily, “Sounds just like Father, too.”
*** *** ***
Reluctantly, Elliot accepted the results written before his very eyes. It was more than his heart could bear, but he couldn’t change the facts. The child was not his, never had been and never would be.
It was hard to accept hard to take in, and hard to let go, but Elliot soon bounced back just as Catherine knew he would, when he absorbed himself in his newest venture. The papers were full of it.
“Burch Baby - Case Dropped”
“Elliot Burch announced today that the baby he had claimed to be his, has been proven to have been fathered by another man, (Vincent loved that bit) and has therefore decided to drop the court proceedings to gain custody of the child.
“And she always will be.” Catherine added as she finished reading the newspaper report. “I am never leaving these tunnels!”
Mr Burch is now concentrating on his new venture in Connecticut while his company continue to construct the Burch Resort in Ouro Preto, Brazil.
The baby’s mother, Miss Catherine Chandler was unavailable for comment.”
“Till the next time.” Devin laughed.
“Well you just hold me to that then.” Catherine told him seriously, “I mean it, I never want to go Above ever again. There are too many risks up there. Besides I don’t entirely trust Elliot’s motives even now and its best to let sleeping dogs lie. If he should see me again…well you know…he might…” her voice trailed away unhappily.
“Hey, no time for negative thinking today, Cath, it’s the day of the naming ceremony, remember, and I can’t wait to see the old man’s face when you announce it. This is gonna be pretty good, me thinks."
Sophia hugged her husband tightly, “I am only just beginning to see that there are a great many stories that your father has to tell me.”
“Hey you leave him out of it…you wanna know some great stories babe, you leave the telling of them to Vincent and me…and that reminds me…did I ever tell you about the time Vincent and I sailed on a raft down the nameless river…”
A burst of laughter filled the chamber, happy contagious laughter… and everyone looked up at the sound with eyes sparkling…
It was the first time in a long time that some of them had heard Vincent laugh like that. In his arms, held high in the air his son gazed down at his father, his sweet face wreathed in smiles, a bundle of gurgling delight and eyes so blue they outshone even the brilliance of Imperial topaz…or…of blue…
Blue topaz those eyes…those beautiful, stunning, crystal clear, dazzling, wonderful, radiant, delightful eyes…were blue…like refined topaz…
…and a joy to his father’s heart.
*** *** ***
The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.