Catherine finds Vincent's family and a brother who has had cosmetic surgery. Will Vincent have it done too?
The sound of rustling caught his attention, and he turned, straining his ears to listen…
What was that?
It hadn’t been the first time he’d heard it…and he had feared for many days that he was being followed. Yet he knew the Savannah like the back of his hand and nothing had ever confronted him, or challenged his leadership before.
There it was again, and this time he saw…and a strangled cry rose to his lips, but got no further as the great beast stepped ominously toward him.
He shook, not from fear, but from awe.
This beast was magnificent, like no other he had ever clapped eyes upon.
He swallowed with difficulty, watching as the beast circled him, but he did not move, except for the slightest turn of his head, as the great tawny beast came full circle, and settled down before him.
Green eyes challenged blue eyes…and the man knew in that instance who the great beast was…
His father…this great magnificent beast…it was his father…
*** *** ***,
Stepping out of the yellow taxi beneath an early evening New York sky, Catherine Chandler paid the driver and then hitching her black bag higher upon her shoulder she looked up at the tower block in front of her.
She sighed wearily. She had wondered about this meeting all day, ever since Peter Alcott her GP had rung her at the office and asked if she would find time that day to come over and see him. But despite her many questions he simply would give nothing away.
“Just come on over, Cathy” was all he would say, “I need to see you.
Can you make it this evening before surgery?”
Catherine had a mountain of work and an evening with Vincent to look forward to but after hearing Peter out, she re-scheduled everything in order to placate her interest.
A few minutes later after stepping out of the elevator, and pushing open the door to Peter Alcott’s waiting room, Catherine walked across to his receptionist to announce her arrival.
The woman looked up from her notes, “Go straight in, Miss Chandler, Dr. Alcott is expecting you.”
Catherine hesitated at the door for a moment worried about going in.
She had grown increasingly worried during the last few hours. It had been some time since her last check up true, but surely anything that had come out of the tests she’s undergone then would have been revealed fairly quickly. Not now, not months on. So had there been a mix up? Was she about to be told that she had something terribly wrong with her?
Catherine turned the handle, wishing she were anywhere else at that moment. Sitting in the dentist chair would have been preferable to this she decided.
Peter glanced up from his desk as he heard the door handle turn and a smile lit his face as he saw who it was.
Well, thought Catherine that at least is a good sign. He wouldn’t be that happy if it were something bad surely?
“Cathy thank you for coming.”
“I had to, you hardly left me a choice you know?” She grinned at him.
“I’m sorry about that but I just had to see you straight away.”
“What is this about Peter?” Catherine didn’t know if she wanted him to answer that or not and his expression gave nothing away.
“Sit down Cathy, I have something to show you. Can I get you a coffee, tea or something stronger?”
“Will I need something stronger?” she asked him surprised.
Peter understood her concern. “Don’t worry Catherine.” Now she really was worried. He never called her Catherine “This isn’t anything to do with you, well not directly. Look let me show you what this is all about.”
He took her coat and when he was certain she was sitting comfortably he placed a large glossy magazine into her hands.
“Page ten.” Was all he would say.
Catherine stared up at him for long moments, her heart hammering erratically despite his earlier words of comfort and then looked at the magazine in her hands. She noted that it was a medical book and she leafed through the pages slowly until she reached page ten.
The article meant little to her at first.
Peter refrained from saying anything, just leaned back against his desk watching her all the while. Catherine read on.
The article was about a scientist who had developed a way to radically change the appearance of people. There were various photographs of the operation and also a picture of a man who looked familiar. At the bottom of page ten she noted that page eleven and twelve would reveal a centrefold photograph of the patient before the operation took place. Catherine made to turn over the page when Peter stayed her hand. “Wait. Have you read and understood everything, before you turn over the page?”
Catherine nodded. “It’s an expensive operation Peter. Almost a million dollars per patient do you want me to sponsor someone to have it done?"
“Only if you want to do. Have you thoroughly absorbed this article?”
Catherine stared up at him, he wasn’t making any sense, she nodded, “It has been interesting, but I fail to see…”
“Turn over the page Cathy.” Peter’s voice was tense. Catherine grew concerned, and turned the page gingerly.
The moment it was spread before her Catherine drew in a breath and didn’t think she would ever let it out again.
“I know.” Peter smacked her on the back to make her exhale, “It affected me that way too.”
Her eyes when they looked up at him were luminous and filled with questions.
The face looking up at the both of them now from the magazine was Vincent’s face, but then it wasn’t Vincent’s face.
“Who is this?” Catherine squeaked.
“It’s the guy in the photograph on the page proceeding this one.”
Catherine flipped the page back at once. Now she could see why the face was familiar. “The same man?”
“Yes before and after the surgery.”
“I don’t get it, how Peter?”
“Obviously there were two of them.” Peter who had had time to settle everything in his mind by now told her.
“Two like Vincent?”
“Maybe, possibly, I don’t know. That’s not the issue right now.”
Catherine stared at Peter. ‘Not the Issue!’ Had she heard him right? “Peter!”
“Cathy. Look what I am showing you here. This guy whoever he is, is not the important factor, yet. All right so that will need looking into eventually, but for now backtrack Cathy. Look what has happened to him.”
Catherine did. Reading the article with renewed vigour, dawning became apparent in her eyes as she read on. “You want Vincent to undergo this operation don’t you?” she spoke so quietly that Peter had to strain his ears to hear her.
“Think of it Cathy. This man has proven that he has performed such an operation before on someone like Vincent, and look what he has achieved. All right so the fellow still warrants a second glance, his features are still not quite right, but he’s presentable, he wouldn’t scare anyone, and what’s more its changed his life. There is going to be another article next month telling us just how these changes have affected him, but already we can appreciate that just to be able to walk amongst society…” Peter’s eyes flashed with optimism, and Catherine caught the passion in his tone.
“You really think it can be done to Vincent?” Catherine could hardly bare to utter the words. To have Vincent as a man, the possibilities would be endless for him, and even though she loved him the way he was could she take such a chance away from him?
“It would be expensive.” Peter told her.
“I’d sell my soul if it can be done.” Catherine told him forcefully stunned to know that she really meant it.
“Me too. I’d re-mortgage everything I own and still take out a hefty bank loan, and I know that with you that goes without saying.”
Catherine nodded. “Everyone that loves Vincent, helpers included would want to help out too.”
“Yes. I think we could raise the money Cathy, but there are other things to consider. More to the point one other person to consider.”
They said it together.
Peter nodded gravely. “I think it would be best if I dropped this magazine into his lap asked him to read it and waited for his reaction.”
“While you do that I want to look up this Professor Jordan and ask a few questions about him.” she tapped the centre fold photograph.
“I thought you might say that. I made some enquiries. It would be useless even trying to get him on the phone. So here’s the address he’s staying at right now.” Peter leaned over his desk to pick up a sheet of paper he had placed there earlier.
“You might need to take some leave Cathy, he lives in The Carolina’s. His clinic is there too.”
“I couldn’t care less where he lives it’s this fellow that I want to find.” Catherine tapped the photograph again, “Peter he has to be a relative.”
“Yes I believe so too. A younger brother perhaps?”
“It says nothing about his parentage.”
“No that would be classified. Catherine if you can find out anything at all about this young man, if you can find where he is then please tread carefully. If he’ll talk to you be compassionate. You know how it is with Vincent and until he knows you know someone that looks the same way he might be wary of saying anything at all.”
“I’ll be careful Peter, and all those things. You do realise that this man probably holds the key to all of Vincent’s questions?”
“Yes, and he will be able to tell you if in his opinion the surgery was worth it. That in itself will be valuable information to Vincent.”
Catherine nodded making to stand, “I’m outer here Peter. I’ll call you huh?”
“Do that. Take care Cathy.”
“I will you too. Good luck with Father. Will you show it to Vincent?”
“I don’t know. Why?”
“I’d like him to know where I have gone and why, we had a date for this evening.”
“Then I’ll tell him something convenient. Don’t worry if I think he shouldn’t be told at this stage I’ll think of something suitable to say as to why you had to go to Carolina. Take care Cathy.”
“I will Peter bye.”
*** *** ***
Father and Vincent were engaged in teaching the children when Peter arrived. He patiently waited even though he was itching to see Father’s response to the article that he clutched in one hand.
As luck would have it Father’s class finished first and Peter was able to speak to the older man before his son arrived.
Father poured tea, happy to have Peter’s visit, they hadn’t met for some weeks and had a lot of catching up to do, but Peter wasn’t there to talk well not about mundane things. Although generally anything happening in life Below would not have been considered mundane, but right now in his eagerness to show Father the magazine to Peter they were.
Peter sat in his chair while Father poured the tea and he listened politely while Father spoke of a few things until a convenient pause was uttered by Father so that Peter could jump in.
“Jacob I have brought a magazine that you simply must read.”
Jacob Wells scrutinised his long-term friend over the rim of his cup.
If he didn’t know better he would conclude that Peter had not been listening to anything that he had just been saying.
Before he had a chance to say anything though Peter had opened the magazine at the required page ten and had placed it on to the table in front of Father.
“What is this?” Father looked at the page. ‘Some chap undergoing plastic surgery perhaps?’ Father was mildly interested, much the same as Catherine had been at first, politely so.
Eager to proceed, Peter could not help but (wickedly so) turn over the page to eleven and twelve. He almost crowed with triumph. That certainly got the required response!
Father’s cup rattled in its saucer, one hand held the shaking china and the other fumbled with his spectacles, securing them more prominently upon his nose. His mouth fell open. “Vincent!”
“No it isn’t Vincent Jacob, rest assured. A good likeness though.”
Jacob Wells raised his eyes to Peter, his face in utter shock. “Is that supposed to be funny?”
“No Jacob. Just read the article will you before you ask any questions?”
Now the article had his full attention. Father flipped back to the previous page and began reading avidly stopping from time to time to glance back at the following pages with utter disbelief.
“Why have you brought this to me?” Father searched Peter’s face. It was not a question Peter had expected.
“Why do you think?”
Father didn’t want to voice an opinion. His mind was filled with raging thoughts.
Peter sighed with exasperation, “Jacob don’t you see, look what’s before your eyes, don’t you see it?”
“I see many things Peter. What exactly did you have in mind?” His voice bordered on aggression shocking Peter to the core.
“Why Jacob it’s a miracle. This scientist has performed a miracle for this young man, he could do the same for…”
“NO!” Father glowered at Peter.
“I said NO!”
“You don’t understand.”
“Oh I understand perfectly, and I would never have dreamt that you…”
Father spat the word, “Would consider such folly.”
Peter glared at his friend, “Well the right isn’t yours. That belongs to Vincent.” He almost felt like adding ‘so there’ and poking his tongue out.
Father pulled himself up using the table for support and flung the magazine towards the stove. Hurtling at a rate of knots unknown Peter intercepted its descent into the flames and saved it from ruin. “Not that it matters.” He told Father holding it away from the stove “They are for sale in every newsagent this month, but I happen to need this copy. There are some very important telephone numbers written on the back cover that I have taken all morning to find and write there.”
Father cursed. Peter actually heard him curse and raised his brows in surprise.
“You will take that thing out of here Peter. I forbid you to show it to anyone, and I mean anyone.”
“It’s not your decision Jacob.”
“It is my decision. Vincent is my son, anything that concerns him concerns me.”
Peter didn’t want to say it but he did. He was angry now. He had expected many things but not this. This was downright unfair. “He’s not your son.”
Father took one look at his old time friend and collapsed helpless into his chair. Suddenly he looked very old and very haggard.
“I’m sorry Jacob.” Peter rushed forward. He was genuinely sorry. “Of course he’s your son.”
Father waved his attention aside. He was pale, his eyes haunted. “No, no you are right. And I always knew this day would come.” He spoke as if to himself.
“I think you are taking this a similar way as Catherine first did.”
Father raised his eyes, “Cathy knows?”
“Yes I saw her a couple of hours ago.”
“What do you mean I’m taking it a similar way?”
“Both you and Cathy adhered to this young fellow, both of you missed the point entirely. Look again Jacob, what do you see on page ten?”
Father turned back the page, and as with Catherine the page took on new meaning. He shook his head and Peter had difficulty guessing the reason. Denial maybe, disbelief possibly, and a look of loss. Yes it was there just as it had been with Cathy. No matter his differences, no matter the fact that being as he was so obviously limited his life, these two, the ones that were closest to him, the ones that probably loved him more than anyone else did, did not want to see Vincent changed. But both knew that they had not the right to prevent the chance if it arose.
Father’s eyes when he looked up were filled with tears. He had nothing to say, just kept shaking his head slowly.
“Can I show it to him?” Peter asked gently.
“You ask my permission?”
“Jacob I know what this will mean to you. If we tell him nothing of this you will always wonder.”
“I will always feel a traitor. He does have rights, even if I don’t want to accept them.”
There was silence as Peter waited and finally Father nodded, “Yes you must show it to him. Vincent will make up his own mind, I cannot stand in his way.”
Vincent chose that moment to enter his father’s domain, he heard his name mentioned, but was grieved by the tone, “Father have I offended you?”
Father’s eyes rose, “Arh Vincent, no of course not. Come in, we were just talking about you.”
“So I gather. Hello Peter its good to see you after so long.” The two men shook hands warmly.
“Peter has brought something to show us. Sit down Vincent believe me it will come as quite a shock.”
Peter still held the magazine in his hands and was about to pass it to Vincent when Father intervened, and Peter was surprised to see Father open to the centrefold first, before continuing to let the magazine be passed to his son.
Spread before him Vincent stared. His eyes rose a time or two in disbelief before scrutinising the photograph once again.
“How did they get this? I have been so careful.”
“Its not you Vincent.” Peter spoke lightly.
“It’s not me…!”
“No Vincent.” Father intervened gently, “Its another man that looks like you.”
“I don’t understand, where did you get this?” Vincent closed the magazine to see the front cover. He’d seen that particular magazine before and knew they could be purchased over the counter. Father often had helpers buy them for him. That thought alone filled Vincent with terror.
“It must be me.” He whispered.
“It isn’t Vincent.” Peter told him, laying a hand on his arm for comfort.
“It has to be I am the only one that looks like this.”
“That’s probably true now. But it isn’t you and this person no longer looks like this.” Peter looked to Jacob Wells for guidance and when he saw Jacob nod, Peter turned back to page ten. “Here Vincent this is the same young man after the surgery that transformed his face.”
Vincent stared. He could not believe this.
This happy smiling man looking back at him.
The facial hair had gone, the cleft upper lip replaced by a smooth slightly indented lip, the jaws reshaped, the nose, brow, eyes all reshaped. The fangs and long incisors removed. For all intents and purposes this good-looking (in Vincent’s estimation) young man had nothing out of place at all.
“You’re telling me that these two photographs are of the same person?” his eyes wide with disbelief looked first to Father and then to Peter.
“That’s just about the size of it Vincent.” Peter nodded.
There was no further hesitation, “Can it be done to me?” he whispered hoarsely.
“You’d want that?” Peter spoke tenderly now, more for Father’s benefit than for Vincent’s.
“Yes. Can it be done?”
“I don’t see why not.” Peter was jubilant. Vincent had been the only one that had realised the import of the article. It was obvious to Peter how desperately Vincent wanted to be normal.
Vincent was reading the article now like a starving man. He wanted to know everything. His face fell when he saw how much the operation cost. “A million dollars!”
“Yes Vincent, we know it’s expensive, but Cathy and I have worked things out.”
“Why didn’t she come with you?”
Peter chuckled, he couldn’t help himself, “I’m afraid Catherine took the other aspect to this article as more important.” He flipped back to the centrefold tapping it with one long finger, “She’s gone to find him.”
For the first time Vincent accepted the fact that there was or had been another person that looked like himself. His mouth dropped open, “Does she know where to look?”
“Not yet but she’s on to a lead and you know Cathy, once she has the bit between her teeth…”
He said no more, he didn’t need to they both knew what he meant.
Catherine wouldn’t let this drop until she had results.
“Who is he Peter?” Vincent whispered as if to himself gazing at the photo that looked like a mirror image, once again.
“I don’t know Vincent, but if anyone can find out, you know Cathy will.”
*** *** ***
Catherine checked the address as she walked towards the house. It was obviously the place, the numbers ran right, besides if the crowd of reporters floating about outside were anything to go by it must be it.
She hung back undecided for some moments before shouldering on. She had seen reporters working on a case many times before and usually one flash of her DA badge would get them parting for her, but she was out of her jurisdiction in Carolina. So she pushed through the throbbing band of reporters and made her way towards the house without saying a word.
They watched her with gleeful expectant smiles upon their faces.
They had seen this a dozen times already.
Some new upstart swanning up to the door, knocking and being given his/her marching orders. No one could say the right thing to gain entry. It had become a gamble now to see if anyone could.
The door opened just a crack soon after Catherine knocked almost as if someone had seen her approach.
“Reporter?” The question was flung at her.
“You have ten seconds to tell me why I should let you in.” Catherine could not see the owner to the voice but could tell it was a man.
“The person in the article did he once have a brother?”
A hand shot out, Catherine saw it grab her arm and felt herself dragged inside, before the door shut very firmly behind her.
The media outside gasped with surprise. Who was that woman?
Inside Catherine accustomed her eyes to the murky gloom within and the hand released her, followed by the words, “Forgive me but believe me that was necessary.”
“Who are you?” Catherine asked as through the poor light she began to distinguish a man, around five feet ten inches, with blonde hair and a beard and wearing glasses.
“My name is Professor Jordan, and you are?”
They were stood in the hallway still by the door, he took her arm again and ushered her down the long hall, through a doorway and into a room where the curtains were not drawn. Her eyes blinked rapidly by the bright sunlight.
“We’re safe here, the wall is too high for any one to see over. And the dogs prevent any one from trying. Come follow me.”
Catherine followed him through the room into another and another until finally they stopped inside a large conservatory filled with leafy plants. He ushered her to a wicker chair, “Please take a seat.”
In the light Catherine saw he was the man from the article, “It is you!” she exclaimed, “You performed that operation. Professor Jordan would you be prepared to answer some questions?”
“Oh ladies first I insist. Tell me dear, you mentioned a brother to the man in the article. That might just have been a lucky question, so let me ask you something. In your opinion what distinguishing feature would you say these people possess?”
Catherine thought about that for a moment. It had to be a trick question, because everything about the young man in the article and everything about Vincent was distinguishing, she answered with a question, “Would that be an invisible feature?”
Professor Jordan’s eyes lit up, “You do know someone?” he whispered, his delight apparent. “Please dear tell me more.”
“There is a connection, a Bond with a loved one.” Catherine’s voice trembled slightly.
“Yes, yes!” The professor jumped to his feet, “That my dear is classified information, you would not know of it for it has never been published. The only way you could know is if you knew someone like that. Please my dear wait here, there is someone that will be anxious to meet you.”
He rushed to the conservatory door, and for the first time Catherine noticed people in the large garden beyond.
“Jason, Ruth, Robert come here quickly.” He called and Catherine watched all three raise their heads and begin to walk towards the house.
Catherine stood as they approached aware that the professor watched her every expression. Her eyes were drawn to the younger man. His long loping strides so familiar, his golden head of hair so very much loved, and those eyes!
When they were within feet of one another Catherine gasped, the likeness was more than the photograph, this man was Vincent, and yet he was not Vincent, but those eyes were Vincent’s through and through!
The professor beamed and as the three people entered the conservatory he bade them sit, and everyone looked at Catherine.
“My dear let me introduce you. Robert, Ruth, Jason this is Catherine Chandler. You must listen to everything Miss Chandler says. Believe me you must!”
The three people watching her held their breath. It was almost as if they knew what she was about to say.
“Did you once lose a son?” She whispered gently, addressing two of the three people and witnessed the woman crumple in half and stifle a sob.
“I’m sorry.” Catherine reached out a hand to clasp the older woman’s held tightly together in her lap. Her eyes rested upon the younger man so like Vincent. When he spoke it was nearly her undoing. Tears rose to Catherine’s eyes. That voice, it was Vincent’s all over!
“My older brother was kidnapped. “ he told her, looking to the professor for confirmation. At seeing his nod of approval the young man went on, “Thirty three years ago.”
“You know him don’t you?” The older man spoke now, and for the first time Catherine took notice of him. He in no way resembled Vincent, his hair was dark, his eyes too, Catherine made no connection with this man and her beloved so it came as a complete and utter surprise to hear him say. “Please tell me if you know. He is my son.”
Catherine stared at him unable to say anything, and only vaguely heard the Professor say, “Let me get you a stiff drink my dear you look as if you need one.” And before she had time to reply she felt a glass being pressed into her hand. She stared down at the amber liquid, “No.” she politely refused, “I don’t need this.” And lowered it to the coffee table at her side where it was picked up almost immediately by the woman who sat opposite.
“If you don’t mind then I think I do.” She took the glass and downed the amber liquid almost in one gulp. Catherine stared at her, and at the blue eyes that stared back, noticing them for the first time, those same beautiful blue eyes. “You’re his mother aren’t you?”
The woman nodded, “Please.” She begged, “Tell us what you know.” Another sob tinged her words.
Catherine relented at once. She didn’t know why she should but even years of keeping the secret and uttering it to no one made no sense here. These people were Vincent’s family and they had a right to know everything. Well almost everything.
“He was found abandoned as a baby.” Catherine told them. She had never told those words to a living soul. They seemed strange coming from her lips. In her mind’s eye she could hear Father reciting them at every Winterfest when the children would plead for him to tell them that tale again and again.
“Yes.” The woman nodded. “He was only three days old when he was stolen from us.”
“Yes. Stolen by the midwife that had delivered him. We never saw either her or our son again.”
“ I don’t know why she abandoned him have you any idea?” Catherine asked. ‘Why would someone go to great lengths to steal a child then abandon him to the fates?’
“No. We presumed she did it for money, or medical research maybe. We always feared that he had died that way.” The woman sobbed quietly and her husband put his arm around her for comfort.
“He didn’t die. He lived.” Three expectant faces looked up at her with hope in their eyes.
“Is he still alive?” The young man whispered.
Catherine nodded, tears be-dimming her eyes, “Yes.”
“Thank God.” All three uttered together.
“How do you know him?” The woman asked.
“He saved my life one night. I had been beaten and left for dead. He found me, took me to his home and treated me with the man who raised him as his own.”
“He’s been well cared for?” The older man asked as hope flared in his eyes.
“Oh yes.” Catherine smiled, “And he is loved by so many.”
“Including yourself.” The woman asked knowingly.
Catherine nodded, “Yes including myself.” Her face softened as his image came to mind.
“Can we see him, would you take us?” The younger man asked.
Catherine looked from one hopeful face to the next, “I want to, you must believe that, and I believe you are who you say you are, but that request is not mine to grant. I must take this information back with me to him and to those with whom he lives and they must decide.
He has lived a sheltered existence all his life, I don’t have to tell you what it would mean if people were to discover him.”
The younger man nodded, “No you don’t have to tell me. I know exactly what you mean. But he is my brother and we have rights too.”
Catherine nodded, “Yes I know.”
“There are things you must be wanting to know.” The woman spoke again, “And there are things that we need to know. Can you stay, it might take some time?”
Catherine nodded, “I need to make a phone call, but yes I think that would be all right, if the professor doesn’t mind?”
“Why should I mind. This isn’t my house my dear.”
“It isn’t but I thought…and you are listed…”
“As residing here? Yes I know. And I have lived here for quite a while, but only so I could be with Jason and his family, and only so that I could perform the operation without publicity.”
“It was done here?”
“Mainly yes. There is a theatre in the basement.”
“You seem surprised Miss Chandler?” Jason stated.
“I am surprised. Forgive me but I thought that you would be living somewhere less conspicuous away from society.”
“The grounds are immense, there has been plenty of room for me to grow, I have not needed to face the world, though of course I had dreams."
How well she knew those words "At least you had the sunshine." She told him.
“I take it by that, that my brother never did?”
“No never, not even now.” She replied sadly, “It has always been his dream to walk in the sunshine."
"Then he must come here and do just that. Can you bring him?"
Catherine nodded, “If he will come.”
Catherine rang Peter’s office he was out so she left a message telling him where she was and that she would be staying a few days. She told him no more, she didn’t know if she should. What could she say, “Oh by the way I’m staying with Vincent’s family? Or Vincent’s mother and father say Hi?” She couldn’t say those things. They were too incredible to be real.
She returned to the conservatory. Everyone was very much as she had left them but their conversation broke off as she entered. They watched her warily waiting for her to speak. “Its all right my friend wasn’t in. I left a message, but told him nothing, although to be fair it is thanks to him that I am with you now. He showed me that article.”
“He buys medical journals?” The professor wanted to know.
“He’s a doctor.”
“Oh that would explain it. And what does he think to all of this, I assume he knows Jacob too?”
Catherine’s mind was in a whirl. How did they know Jacob? She had not mentioned any names, she had been so careful not to do.
“Jacob?” she queried.
“Oh forgive me my dear. Of course you wouldn’t know. Jacob was the name given to the son that was stolen."
Catherine could not believe it.
*** *** ***
It had been almost a week since he’d last seen her and though Vincent knew that she was coming he could not for the life of him go to meet her. He waited, absent-mindedly picking up items around his father’s chamber, waiting for Catherine’s appearance. When she entered his back was to her, and Catherine hovered on the top step unwilling to come any further.
“Catherine my dear.” Father’s voice rang out, “Don’t just stand there. Come in, come in.” He looked at his son shrewdly as Vincent turned slowly acknowledging Catherine’s presence and could not understand why Vincent had not informed him of Catherine’s descent Below.
“Vincent?” he queried the tone of his voice showing his confusion.
Catherine felt different. Her mind bore so much that these two did not know, and it was so hard to tell them. On brief occasions when she had daydreamed that in the course of her DA work she might uncover Vincent’s past, she had imagined herself running hell for leather down to the tunnels and screaming, ‘hey guess what I’ve just found out?’
But now, now that she knew everything she found it utterly impossible to tell them.
And why was that?
Catherine didn’t want to analyse why that was. The reason was too selfish.
“Can I get you some tea my dear.” Jacob Wells was concerned.
Catherine had said nothing, and neither had Vincent. He looked from one to the other of them. What was going on?
Ever since Peter’s visit a week ago with that god damned magazine Vincent had spoken of nothing else. Did he perhaps sense…Father pulled himself up, of course his son sensed Catherine’s feelings. So then what was it that Catherine wanted to hide?
“When did you get back my dear?” Father busied himself making tea and acting normal, while inside he quaked with unease.
“Earlier.” Catherine replied taking the offered cup of tea from Father. “Thank you.”
“You have been away all week?”
“In Carolina?” Lord this was worse than pulling teeth.
Now they had come to the crunch. There was nowhere else for Catherine to run.
“And?” Father asked, noticing now he had his son’s full attention.
The two men looked to Catherine and waited. She lowered the cup of tea to the table and ran a weary hand over the bridge of her nose across her brow and through her hair, “I don’t know where to start.”
She confessed. That much was true.
“At the beginning.” Vincent ventured and Catherine winced at the sound of his voice. Having just spent a week with Jason, that voice could have been uttered by either man.
“What is it Catherine, what distresses you so?” Vincent asked her softly, his concern evident in his tone.
Catherine looked at him a long time before she replied. In him she saw the changes that would be made if he underwent the same surgery that Jason had undergone. Tears be-dimmed her eyes. She wasn’t aware until now just how strongly she loved Vincent’s face. To see it change… well there were no answers to how she would feel, but for him? For Vincent to be as Jason was now?
The opportunities would be endless. How could she deny him that?
If Vincent and Father imagined that Catherine would start at the beginning with her initial investigations they were surprised.
Watching her stare at Vincent’s face both were stunned to hear her say, “You’re so like him Vincent.”
“Who?” Vincent’s voice wavered.
A ragged breath filled Vincent’s lungs and was expelled slowly, “My brother!”
“He’s my brother?” With disbelief Vincent reiterated, his mind very much conjuring up images of that other face he had stared at every day of the past week inside that magazine.
“Yes. His name is Jason.”
Vincent lowered his head into his hands, he could not take this in. He had a brother! Not a brother like Devin, but a fleshly brother, one that had looked like him, one that had faced the same perils and the same heartaches as him just for looking the way that they did.
Father was speechless. As Catherine had started to speak he had felt the tentative grip that he had always held upon Vincent slowly slipping away. He did not care for that feeling. It was frightening.
Vincent looked up, “Tell me more, please Catherine?”
“I will tell you everything Vincent, but it hurts me to do so.”
“I know I can feel that in you. You are afraid, but why?”
Tears slithered down Catherine’s cheeks and she had to pull in her lips to stop herself from crying out. She wanted to scream, ‘I don’t want you to change.’ But she could not. She did not have that right.
She owed it to Vincent to decide. So what could she tell him that would suffice?
She swallowed with difficulty and shook her head slowly from side to side unable to voice her fears. Resolutely she went on softly, “I met your family Vincent. You were stolen from them. You were never abandoned by your family. They loved you.”
Vincent had difficulty taking this in. Hope seared his soul. He was loved. He was stolen. They had not abandoned him. The relief was immense. His eyes brightened neither Father or Catherine had ever seen that veil lift as Vincent’s whole world came to life.
Vincent shuddered through a breath “Tell me more?” He was eager she could tell and he wanted to hear it all. Catherine stole a look at Father. He had said nothing, but in comparison to his son, Father’s face was filled with untold horrors. Catherine identified with some of them. Everything she would say from now on would take Vincent further and further away from the two of them yet she did not have the right to hold it back.
But when she started to speak it was in monotone, without emotion, just reeling off information as if all hope was lost.
“Your parents are alive. I met them. Ruth is your mother, she is normal, the same blue eyes and golden hair, a nice lady. Your father has dark hair and dark eyes, normal features too, his name is Robert. You were their firstborn, and came out as you are. They were shocked but they loved you and knew that they would need to find some answers as to why you were like you are. But the midwife that delivered you stole you from them, and they did not want to bring attention to themselves by asking too many questions. In their own way they made some searches, but those searches revealed nothing.
They are wealthy people, actually millionaires, and when Jason was born some eight years later and he turned out the same as you, it was then that Robert started looking into the problem again.” Catherine noticed Vincent wince at the word problem, but she had felt too cold and miserable inside to be able to find a better word.
“Their search took them back hundreds of years to Africa. But that’s as far as it went. The records before that time were not clear, but it was presumed given the nature of the country and the fact that lions roam freely there, that someone at some stage had been a victim or even a willing participate of bestiality. You and Jason are throw backs, and if you are anything like Jason you will be infertile.”
Catherine paused here, unable to look at Vincent. It was not a subject they had ever touched on, and it was personal.
Slowly she continued “Jason says he is glad of this. Ruth and Robert are saddened that they will never have grandchildren but know that whatever was started hundreds of years ago, and has only just materialised, will end here and for that they are thankful.”
She paused, watching Father’s face. For some reason she was sure she detected his relief at her words.
“I want to meet them.” Vincent spoke softly.
“Yes I can understand that. As they wish to meet you.”
“They know about Vincent!” Father jumped to his feet, “Catherine you promised never to reveal anything!” his eyes were dark as thunder.
“There was nothing that I could tell them that they had no right to hear. They are Vincent’s family. If I wasn’t certain I would have told them nothing. And what little I did tell them they understood.
They don’t know any names, they don’t know of your world, the only thing they know of is me, my name, my office contact number and that I know where to find their lost son.” Her voice rose higher and higher as she spoke, and then as she finished she burst into tears.
“Catherine.” Vincent stood up and pulled Catherine up from her seat into his arms, “Tell me what’s bothering you?” He could see how stressed all this was making her. The bond vibrated with her fears.
Catherine looked at him, allowing her fingers to trace his face, the face she loved so much and Vincent thought he understood though it was too incredulous to believe.
“You want me to stay as I am?” Catherine would not reply. What she wanted was not important. But it was to Vincent.
“Catherine to have the chance to see the world, to walk beneath the sunshine, to do all the things that others take for granted, you would have me stay as I am and be denied that chance?”
It sounded terrible but it was true and she could not lie to him. “Yes.”
Father could have answered the question. It was complex but oh so real. To open up the world to Vincent would be as it opened up to Devin. Vincent would leave the tunnels, and rightly so, but it didn’t make it any easier to live with.
“I love you as you are.” Catherine told him, but Vincent would not accept that.
“But to be normal, to walk beneath the sunshine, to see the oceans and to walk freely along a beach. Catherine we could do so much together. To be different would be better for the both of us.”
Catherine didn’t want to think. She wanted to keep her mind void of expression, but the words came anyway, and Vincent took them to heart. He would never have believed Catherine to be so selfish as the bond told him things he wished never to hear.
“But now you are mine. If you change there will be nothing to tie you to me. You will leave here, and people that have always depended upon you for protection will be lost without you. I love you as you are Vincent. As you are makes you special to me.”
“No!” Vincent drew back from her arms, “That’s emotional blackmail! You cannot blackmail me into giving this up. I am offered a chance and I will take it.” He let her go abruptly, and swept from the chamber, leaving Catherine to stare after him with tears running down her cheeks. “And so it begins.” She whispered. And as she felt Father’s arms draw her against him she pressed her face into his shoulder and the two of them shared the tears of compassionate understanding.
*** *** ***
At Vincent’s insistence Catherine made arrangements for him to spend some time with his family. It would be a long way to travel, but his family had the money and the means and made arrangements for him to be collected from a private air-strip by helicopter. Catherine was not unduly surprised to find Professor Jordan at the controls. Father and Catherine were making the trip with them, but would return by aeroplane if Vincent decided to stay.
Since they’d had words about it, and since Catherine had made her feelings known Vincent had not accepted them and he had hardly spoken to her.
He could not believe her selfishness. This was his chance of a normal life. These people were his family, and after spending the past thirty-three years in a hole in the ground with people he only knew as family, he thought it was selfish of them all to begrudge him some time with those that had caused his birth.
And so a rift had developed between him and Catherine, and one was appearing with Father too. That one was not of his making, but he could feel it widening. It was almost as if Father had abandoned him to the fates, had relinquished his hold upon him as his son, and Vincent found that particularly distressing, even more so than the rift with Catherine.
The journey was a long one and made in silence, but Vincent derived immense pleasure from flying and seeing the lights of all the cities they passed over far below. Finally the helicopter came in to land, and Catherine recognised that it was settled down in the grounds belonging to Vincent’s family. She should not have been surprised but she was and for the first time noticed that there was an outer wall running some six feet or so from and around the inner wall between which dogs ran up and down barking loudly as the Professor lowered the helicopter down.
As soon as the helicopter had landed, lights flooded the grounds and so too the house and as the Professor led his passengers from beneath the whirling blades, figures could be seen running toward them from the house.
“Catherine!” a voice called, alien to Vincent who had never heard himself speak, but to Father distinct and almost heart stopping.
“Yes Jason I’m here.” Catherine called and Vincent knew then who had called her.
Catherine took his hand, and led him towards the figure that approached, both hearts pounding now the time had come.
They met face to face. Vincent took in the younger man’s features.
The same tawny hair, the same intense blue eyes, and void of the features he now alone bore Vincent still recognised his own face in this younger version of himself. His arms came up and his brother stepped within and soon they were hugging each other as if they had known one another all of their life but met only occasionally.
“You came.” Jason sobbed, “Oh it is so good to see you. Welcome Jacob.”
Vincent pulled back surprised, and Catherine gasped, “I’m sorry I never told him.” She apologised to Jason, then turning to Vincent said, “Your parents had named you Jacob, it is the name by which Jason knows you.”
Vincent felt as incredulous by this piece of news as Catherine first had. It was remarkable.
“Jacob is my father’s name.” Vincent told his brother.
A voice at his side corrected him, “No it is not. My name is Robert and I am your father.” Firm arms drew around him, “Welcome home son.”
Behind her Catherine heard a guttural sound and turned in time to see Father stumble, she caught his arm. She understood. They were quickly becoming the outsiders here.
Then Vincent’s mother was there, tears flowing freely wanting only to draw Vincent in, to hold him like she would never let him go. Father and Catherine understood their need but it did not make it any easier. Before their very eyes they could see Vincent being enveloped into another life and torn away from them.
The Professor stood at their sides, his face beaming with delight, the re-union pleasing him no end. “Don’t worry.” For a moment Father thought that the man was showing that he understood their feelings, “He is home now.” The Professor went on, dashing Father’s thoughts, “They won’t let any harm come to him. Nothing and no one can touch him here believe me. Its like Fort Knox.”
For some reason Father felt a shiver go through him. Catherine too.
This was supposed to be a visit, but the way the Professor was speaking indicated anything but that.
The family were moving away now towards the house, and Catherine made to follow, but the Professor stilled her. She looked at him uncertainly “I have orders to take you back.” He told her.
“Yes. I’m sorry but Jacob’s parents feel it would be better this way.”
“For whom?” Father flared. “Are we not permitted to meet these people. That is my son they have there.”
“In all due respects Sir it is not. Jacob is their son and thanks to you he is home now, and they have much to discover about one another. Third and forth parties are not required.”
Father felt his blood boil. How dare they!
“Vincent!” Catherine called as the people led him towards the house.
He did not know that Catherine and Father were being detained. He turned, “Catherine? Father?” he questioned making to step back to them. Robert and Ruth caught his arm, “You are home now Jacob. This is your home. You do not need those people any longer. You belong to us. You are our son.” They told him one after the other.
“No.” Vincent told them sadly, “I come only for a visit, to get to know you.”
It was a long way to New York on foot, Robert could clearly see that, but he could also see that if his long lost son wanted to, his physique alone would secure his escape with these people against them. Even Jason paled into comparison, obviously their lifestyles had been so vastly different and Robert relented, “All right a visit then, but you owe it to us to give us your undivided attention. We have so much to talk about.”
Vincent nodded, “Permit me to say farewell to my… friends.” Vincent felt strange calling them that but he had already learned in his short time there that his real family would not be happy if he referred to them as anything more.
Vincent walked back to where Father and Catherine had remained rooted to the spot. He stared down at them in turn. “Father try not to worry about me. I shall be safe here, and I will see you again I promise.”
Father wasn’t certain that he liked the sound of that, but what could he say? What rights did he have over legal parents? He nodded, “Be Well Vincent. I shall miss you.” They hugged tightly for long moments, Father never wanting to let go and then Vincent drew away as his eyes caught Catherine’s.
“Catherine thank you.” He drew her into his arms. That was it?
Catherine felt like screaming. Nothing more? Just thank you? Was that all she had meant to him? She wanted to weep but kept a tight hold on her emotions. She unlike Father reluctantly let go. She had no rights now. She had handed over any rights the moment she had found these people. She had as good as handed them Vincent on a plate. Well she only had herself to blame. As Vincent detected her anger he drew away and frowned. “I’ll keep in touch” he told her sadly.
Vincent nodded and touched his heart, “And in here.”
Catherine knew that he meant the Bond, and relief flooded through her.
“I love you Vincent. Be Well.”
“Be well my Catherine. And be safe.” He well knew that without him there to save her she could be in endless dangers.
“I will. Joe’s given me a desk job. I can keep it until you return.”
She smiled bravely. All she wanted to do was cry.
With a final smile he stepped away and back towards the family that waited as Father and Catherine watched him go. Already Catherine felt desolate without him. Yet she should feel so happy for him. He had found his family, he had found his roots, but she could feel nothing but unhappiness and her pain was immense.
*** *** ***
Four weeks turned into six, the pain did not lessen and Catherine found it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything. She took some sick leave and headed for the tunnels. Father was relieved to see her, “Catherine! Oh how good it is to see you. Are you well?”
“Are you?” Catherine replied with a question. The increased lines around Father’s face were all the answer she needed.
Tears gathered in her eyes as she came down the steps leading into his chamber, and Father met her at the bottom, holding open his arms.
“I miss him Father.” She sobbed against his shoulder.
“As do I.” Father led her to a chair. “Have you heard anything from him?”
Catherine raised tear filled eyes to his. She shook her head, “Have you?”
Catherine was surprised, “He hasn’t written?”
“No.” Father fiddled with things. He never even offered her the customary cup of tea. Catherine could see how hurt he was.
“That’s not like Vincent.”
“No it isn’t. But he has a new life now.” Catherine detected the bitterness in Father’s tone.
“What about the Bond Cathy. Is he well?”
“Yes Father he is well, and he appears happy. I’m sorry had I of known that he had not written to you I would have let you know this sooner.”
“I could have asked. Don’t trouble yourself. I know that you lead a busy life.”
“I’m never too busy for you!” Catherine spoke forcefully.
They stared at one another for long moments, both speaking together as one, “He should have written.”
“He would know I’d worry.” Father added.
“He might have concluded that the Bond would suffice and I’d keep you informed.” Catherine offered in Vincent’s defence, but she wasn’t entirely convinced that she should cover for him.
“He still should have written.”
“Yes.” Catherine admitted, he should have.
“Go to him Cathy. Visit him please?”
“Father we can’t. We promised the Professor on the flight home that we wouldn’t intervene, that we would give the family their chance. I know how you feel Father, I know how you miss him, but we have to think of Vincent now, and those that have missed so much of him.”
“I know you are right, Cathy dear, but it is so hard to do that. Besides I can’t help thinking that all is not as it should be.”
“How do you mean?”
“That comment from the Professor about the place being like Fort Knox. Cathy I’m afraid that Vincent will find living there more of a prison than he found living here.”
Catherine nodded, that too had been her fear.
“You think so too?”
“Yes Father the thought did cross my mind. But at least he will have the sunshine. To be able to be out in the fresh air, amongst the flowers, the trees and sitting by that huge lake that they own. The place might be surrounded by a very high wall but Vincent will be able to do things there that he had only ever dreamed of while he was living here.”
“Still none of it can compare with the freedom to come and go as one wishes.”
“That is true. Jason spoke of that also.”
“Yes. Jason has always had to stay in that place. He has never until recently been out of it. His family haven’t always been rich, but once they were they started making arrangements to change him bit by bit. The way he is now has taken a decade. And they had hoped that now all was in place or out of place as the case may be that they could start to travel with their son and take him to places beyond his four walls. Jason told me that he had dreamed so long of that kind of freedom. Now I fear that they will wait again, until the four of them can venture out as a family. Father that’s what frightens me the most!”
Father caught her drift, “If Vincent decides to go ahead with those changes we might not see him again until it is complete?”
Catherine nodded, “It will take years, and then do you think his family will expect that he should return here when they have waited so long to show their children the world?”
“No.” Father slumped in his chair. “We’re never going to see him again are we? Vincent is lost to us. Damn Peter and that article.”
“Its not Peter’s fault and I don’t believe Vincent would allow that, at least when I thought of this before I didn’t think that he would, but to know that he has broken contact…oh Father the blame rests with me, what have I done!”
“You did nothing. It was that damn article. Why did they publish it? It doesn’t make sense. Why keep their child a secret and then publicise the very fact that he had ever looked that way when he no longer did?”
“It was done to draw Vincent out. If he was alive someone might know. More to the point a doctor might know. To limit publicity they published it in a medical journal knowing a sure-fire way to get his doctor’s eye would be through that. It was a gamble but it paid off. They won.”
Father gasped and then spoke sadly “I miss him Catherine.” He suddenly looked so old.
‘Oh Vincent. If only you could see what you have done.’ Catherine thought to herself as she hugged his father tight.
If he couldn’t have at least written to her why on earth hadn’t he written to Father?
*** *** ***
“I don’t think I have ever seen anything so beautiful.” Vincent gazed up at a noon day sky propped back against his elbows, as he and Jason sat together in the grounds after lunch.*** *** ***
“I’m afraid it is something I have taken for granted Jacob. Seeing the sky every day has been a part of my life. Though many is the time that my dreams have winged their way on a passing aeroplane. Tell me again about the chambers and the tunnels and that spectacular crystal cavern.”
Vincent lay back onto the sweet smelling grass letting its fragrance fill his lungs. “Later. Just look at that sky.”
Jason lay back at his bother’s side and grimaced, “Just don’t try to look at the sun again. Or you will have to wear glasses. Dark ones.”
Vincent chuckled remembering the pain of his first sight of a noon day sun.
“I can’t believe that you have never seen the sun before.” Jason told him.
“Oh I’ve seen it, but never at noon and never sat beneath it like I do now. Its warmth feels glorious on my shoulders.”
“There’s a song that tells of that.”
“Mmm.” Jason started humming a tune before breaking into song, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy. Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry, sunshine on the water looks so lovely…sunshine almost all the time makes me high.”
“That’s lovely who’s it by?”
“John Denver. Mum has all his records.”
“Do you know anymore of it?”
“Yes. I’m almost word perfect.”
“Go on then surprise me.” Vincent smiled, turning his attention at last from the blue of the sky to the blue of his brother’s eyes.
“If I had a day that I could give you…I’d give to you a day just like today…If I had a song that I could sing for you…I’d sing a song to make you feel this way. Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…” He sang through the chorus again as Vincent listened with delight.
“He’s a remarkable singer, did he write that song?”
“I believe so. I like listening to his songs very much. They make me think, but they can make me very sad too. Many of them emphasised my aloneness. But other times they would lift me up.”
“I can’t imagine that you were anything but happy living here.”
“There were times when I felt like a prisoner in paradise.”
“But no more?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’ve never given any indication that being altered has brought you anything but happiness. Why the melancholy?”
“Sometimes all the beauties of the world and all its riches and its freedom cannot buy happiness. Being alone so long is a strange thing. It can do things to you.” Jason whispered.
Vincent understood this. “Yes I know.”
“It doesn’t automatically follow that being different will alter things.”
Surprised, Vincent looked at him keenly.
“Do you regret the changes that have been made to your appearance?”
“Regret them? No. No I don’t regret them. They were certainly painful to undergo but they have opened up the world to me, yet I am no less lonely than I ever was.” Jason swallowed quickly and his eyes filled with tears. “If I could trust you with a secret I would like to talk.”
“You can trust me with anything. I am adept at keeping secrets.” Vincent smiled, his compassion apparent.
Jason smiled too. After what his brother had told him about his life beneath the city streets of New York, he knew that to be true. Even his parents hadn’t prised that secret out of him.
“Once there was someone.”
“A girl. A girl whom I loved.” Vincent understood this.
“There was a gap between the walls, and the inner wall had just one missing brick, although it isn’t there now. Dad had the surrounding walls meet to run the length of the grounds afterward, but at the time Susan and I were able to keep up this friendship through the wall. We could not see one another, but from the moment that we met, there was something developing within me that was hard to explain.”
Vincent understood at once but said nothing.
“As ridiculous as it sounded to anyone else I always knew when Susan was approaching and would come out here to meet her. We would sit and talk and tell each other things we had never told a living soul, except I could not tell her that I was different. I treasured her friendship, and I was afraid that the moment she saw me I would never see her again. Huh! I know that you understand this feeling Jacob. Professor Jordan told me that Catherine Chandler shared this kind of connection with you. You seldom talk about her but when you do I can see that she is special to you.”
“Yes.” Vincent replied softly but he was not prepared to speak about that. “What became of Susan? Did she ever see you?”
“Yes she did. One day she deliberately brought a crowbar and pulled more bricks away.” Vincent laughed at this.
Jason continued, “Through the wider gap she was able to see me. She was surprised, but not afraid. In fact she said it suited me, she said my looks went with my voice.” Jason laughed as did Vincent.
“I was fifteen then, and Susan was the first person I have ever truly loved. Except my parents of course, but then come to that Susan was the first person other than my parents and Professor Jordan that I had ever actually seen.”
Vincent gasped, “You had no one?”
“No not even a make believe friend. Mom and dad were too afraid. They had already lost one son and they would not risk my being discovered too. I could understand their fears, but it didn’t make my life any easier. I had a dog and I had a pony. Animals were no problem and they trusted me not to hurt them, I guess they saw me as a fellow soul no doubt.” Here Jason laughed somewhat bitterly. Vincent understood that kind of pain.
“Anyway Susan and I kept seeing one another. And as the years went by I knew I was falling in love with her, and I was often tempted to pull down those bricks, make a bigger gap to slide through, take her in my arms and never let her go. But I didn't. How could one so beautiful wish me to touch her like that?”
Vincent listened intently. This was like someone reading from one of his own journals. He understood everything Jason told him perfectly.
“But I was wrong about that. One day when Susan told me that she loved me, she confessed that she didn’t just love me but rather she was in love with me, and believe it or not Jacob she actually asked me to make love to her! Can you believe that!” Jason’s eyes were as wide open as they had been on that day when Susan had brooked the question.
Suddenly Vincent felt very uncomfortable. “And did you?” He chided himself for asking. It was none of his business.
“Yes I did.”
Vincent was incredulous, “And you didn’t hurt her!” He already knew from his earlier conversations with Jason that his brother bore the mark of the dark one too.
“No I didn’t hurt her. It was beautiful, nothing had ever compared to it before or since. I wanted to spend my whole life with her, and I made plans to tell my parents. I thought they would be happy for me.” His voice trailed away sadly.
“They weren’t.” It was as much a statement as a question.
“No. Dad had the outer wall completed and I never saw Susan again.”
“You don’t know what became of her?”
“Yes and no. When she learned of the changes I was undergoing, and don’t ask me how, because that information was classified she actually left a note for me in the Summer House. It was before we got the dogs, so she must have scaled the outer and inner wall and climbed over to deliver the message. She knew I spent a great deal of time in there reading. Well her note begged me not to have the changes done. She told me that I was special and unique and that she loved me as I was and that one day we would be together. I believed her and again very stupidly told my parents. I didn’t need to undergo painful surgery costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, that here was someone that loved me for me, but they were furious. Dad had the dogs installed, four Dobermans, and Susan was not able to get passed them. But the worst of it was that as I started to undergo the surgery I knew that her feelings were altering towards me. I felt it in here.” He pointed to his heart. “She withdrew her love and now I feel nothing.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I’m different now. Not only outwardly, but inwardly too. Dad saw to that and having this new face alters my perspective on things. I still feel lonely, because I am lonely, and I don’t think even if I had the world as my oyster that the feeling would ever go completely away, because I have grown up with this feeling, and being different now doesn’t make me any less me. Except to those that loved me.
Before all of this our parents loved me in a special way, and because I was different they took extra special care of me, even to the point of refusing me friends in case I was treated badly. But now I don’t feel their love anymore, it’s almost as if I am now independent of that emotion. I feel it and they feel it, and it doesn’t make me happy. And knowing that I can walk out of here now at any time doesn’t mean I will either.
When I think about it, I lost Susan because my parents were afraid she would expose me, and then I lost Susan because I altered. I went through all that pain and gained what? A face that is only spared a second glance now because something is not quite right, something is slightly mis-shaped, but I am acceptable to society now, so that makes it all right. I am now a number in the mass of humanity but what have I lost? You know Jacob for all the aloneness I once knew I was happier then than I am now and I was loved by a woman too.”
“There will be other women.” Vincent offered by way of consolation.
“Not for me. Susan and I shared something special, we were connected. Don’t ask me why Jacob but while I looked different we shared a connection, and then bit by bit as Professor Jordan and our father altered my appearance that connection altered too, until eventually it faded with the rest of me. I wouldn’t know where to find Susan now, but I do know I would never love another as I loved her.”
“Are you trying to tell me something from all of this?” Vincent felt immensely deflated. Having convinced himself that to be altered would be the best thing to do he was now not so sure. Jason detected this and both were quiet for a few minutes, until Jason gathered himself to stand, “Come, let’s go to the lake its cooler there.”
Vincent was intrigued and gathering himself to his feet followed his brother who spoke along the way, “I used to sit by the lake when things got drab. And believe me Jacob even living beneath the sunshine and having all this fresh air and all this perfume and all this beauty, life can still feel drab.”
“You never mentioned freedom?” Vincent was perplexed. It would have been the first word to cross his lips if he had grown up with all of this.
Jason turned to scrutinise his brother, “that’s because the word freedom has never existed in my vocabulary.” Vincent detected his sadness.
“But you have had everything.”
“But not freedom. Jacob I was a prisoner here, as you will be a prisoner here. Can you touch that sun upon an ocean wave, can you touch the blue sky from the top of a mountain. Jacob those things are always out of reach when you don’t have freedom. Come let me show you something.”
They had reached the lake by now, and the golden sun had turned the usual aqua to molten gold. “It’s so beautiful here. Listen just sit and listen.” Vincent did as he was bade to do sitting down alongside his brother at the edge of the lake.
“Can you not hear it?” For a moment Vincent was transported back to those same words spoken by Catherine one Winterfest when the celebrations were over.
He was surprised to hear his brother say, “The music Jacob. Can you not hear the music?”
Vincent listened, just as he had when Catherine had spoken those very same words years ago, and yes now just as back then he could definitely hear something on the wind.
“I love coming here Jacob. Somehow voices whisper on the wind and I am no longer alone. I can sit here and dream and be anybody going anywhere. Now with this new face I have no more need of dreams, but I don’t know Jacob I feel as though I have lost myself somewhere in all of this. I’m not happy Jacob, that I do know.”
“Perhaps happiness would come again by finding Susan?”
Jason nodded, “That’s possibly true. But would she still want me, especially the new me?”
“You are still the same Jason inside.”
“No not really Jacob. I’ve altered. Besides when I think of everything Susan had, what she had to offer the world, the type of person she was fun loving and compassionate, I think its probably for the best that we are apart. What could I give her? I know nothing of life. All there would be for me would be an endless round of trying to catch up with the childhood I lost. Exploring, adventure that kind of thing. Someone like Susan would probably want security, marriage and children. None of which I able to give her, or none of which I would feel right in offering her. The children bit especially. I am infertile Jacob and you probably are too, its another trait we bear. How could I deny a woman like Susan the right to have a child?”
“But you have so much now. Why you are almost normal.” For all his brother’s words, Vincent still couldn’t grasp why his brother was so negative about everything.
“Jacob believe me you should take it very seriously just what you will be gaining and just what you could possibly be losing by having your features changed as I did. From what I came to know of Catherine she is a very beautiful woman inside as well as out. Are you prepared to face the risk that as a changed person what you two share now could cease forever?”
Vincent drew in a deep breath, “Catherine deserves so much. She deserves the life that she was born for. If I could have this surgery and look like you do now, I would feel better about being her partner. I would be able to walk with her in the sunshine and we would be able to do so many things together that she has a right to.”
“Have you ever stopped to think that the person you are, and the way that you live might be considered romantic by Catherine?”
Vincent laughed, “No, I hardly think that a hole in the ground and life with a beast could be considered romantic.”
“Not to you. But certainly to Catherine and certainly Susan loved me as I was. I know one sure-fire thing Jacob. Being as I am now I am guaranteed a life and women in that life. But I know that I will never find another Susan, as you will never find another Catherine. And you’ll lose her Jacob as sure as eggs are eggs, if she loves you as you are now, you will be a different person to her when you are altered.”
“How can that be, I will be able to offer her so much more?”
“Why are you intent on taking this from me? I have listened to your reasons, and you have admitted that you have no regrets about being altered, surely I should take the chance if it is offered to me?" Vincent found his brother’s views ungrounded.
“I’m not taking anything from you, I just want you to know what you are getting yourself into, what you might lose if you do. It’s a long slog Jacob, it will take ten years to perfect, will Catherine wait that long?”
Vincent hadn’t thought of that. To be away so long hadn’t crossed his mind. He had assumed he would come and go in-between.
And could he do it? Could he spend a decade away from her? Was it worth it?
Jason could almost read his mind. “Yes ten years away from her that could have been better spent with her, it’s a long time Jacob, and even then its not finished. Would you seriously not feel indebted to the people who have just spent a million dollars altering you, and not stay with them after that?”
“You don’t understand. All my life I have dreamed of looking in the mirror and not see the beast look back at me.”
“Oh I do understand, don’t patronise me Jacob, I understand all too well. And as I say I wouldn’t go back to that for the world, its just that you have to be prepared for still being lonely, and possibly losing the chance of the only true love you will have ever known.”
“There are other things that I have now that are equally as precious.” Vincent murmured annoyed that he had said this. It was traitorous to Catherine, but he knew she’d understand. He went on, “Having a mother knowing my roots, my history. I needed those things.”
“And now you’ve got them. Nothing will take that from you now. What you will lose Jacob is you. You will lose your identity. You know I am not so vain that when I look in the mirror now I think ‘ oh you good looking guy you’” Jason laughed. “No not that. When I look in the mirror it is a shock to my system. I cannot get used to this face.” He touched his cheek, “I suppose I will in time, but then I will live with it and my parents will come to live with it. But you, you have known so many people and all those people will form their own opinions. Many will not like the changes, because while you are unique you are special, and with that speciality comes affection and love from those that know you.”
Vincent shook his head, “I see all the points that you are making but I still want to do this. It will mean so much to me and I will not feel so bad about being with Catherine.”
“Over and above everything then, you still envisage a future with Catherine?”
“As an ordinary man?”
Vincent hesitated, unwilling to reveal everything he felt.
“That’s okay you don’t have to answer that but Jacob before you do this and if she means that much to you, you must get it out of her first, you must make her tell you the truth. Will she still want you if you were like just another human being coming out of the mould?”
“Such wisdom from one so young.”
“I’ve read a lot of books.” Jason laughed.
“As have I. Even so…”
“I’ve spent a lot of time with nature and being alone. It’s afforded me the chance to think and to build from those thoughts.”
“You think it would be wrong for me to alter don’t you? Even though you’ve done it and have no regrets, you think it would be wrong for me to do it too?”
Jason was silent. But Vincent was adamant.
“Come on, you said yourself that I should get the truth from Catherine, but what about from you? Tell me?”
Jason nodded, “Yes I think you should stay as you are. I think you would be making a grave mistake and losing too much to be altered. If it could be done with someone else’s money, maybe Catherine’s and believe me she did mention it, then that would be different. But our parents will want you to spend your life with them afterwards and rightly so, for many reasons, but your life will no longer be your own.”
“Catherine mentioned paying? She hasn’t got that kind of money.”
“No but she would have got a loan or something and her doctor friend was committed to help. But they knew it would mean working full time for the rest of their lives to pay back the loan, although she told me she would sell her soul to raise the money if this is what you wanted.” Incredulous Vincent could only return a flippant remark, “Well there you are then. If it means that much to her, there’s your answer.”
“You’re missing the point. She said if it meant that much to you, not to her. She was being totally unselfish in putting your dreams first, but it didn’t mean that she liked them.”
Reluctantly Vincent nodded. He remembered back to the time when Peter had first told him about Catherine’s reaction to the article about his brother. What was important to her was finding his family, and not altering his appearance. Even Father had been the same. It was only he that had seen the possibilities on being altered. But then he would, they hadn’t had to live with this face for over three decades had they?
Vincent’s head was beginning to hurt he didn’t know what to think anymore. But right at this moment it was bliss to lie in the sun. It was bliss to have a brother beside him, a real fleshly brother and it was bliss to know he had a mother and a father and a history and people that had wanted him from a baby, that people that had not abandoned him. Those thoughts brought him peace. Whatever he was, and whatever had gone on before, for the first time in his life he was happy. He was complete. And he had been given the chance to be a real man, able to life to the full, to see everything he had ever dreamed about, and doing everything he had always believed to be impossible.
Offered such a chance he couldn’t refuse it, he just couldn’t, and he told Jason so.
“I’m still going to do it. I’m going to take the chance.”
Jason nodded, “Fine, just so long as you realise the risks.”
“There are no risks.”
He was certain of that. Catherine would love him more than she ever did. His relationship with Catherine was nothing like the relationship Jason had shared with Susan. Catherine was made of stronger stuff. She would not forsake him. She would not begrudge him this chance. He would be the man he had always wanted to be and he and Catherine would see the world, together.
His resolve firm Vincent’s heart soared and he gazed up at the beautiful sky once more letting its song fill his heart with joy.
Coming home from work these days no longer had the same appeal for Catherine. Not that she had ever taken Vincent’s visits to her balcony for granted, but since he had been away, Catherine found no joy in arriving at her apartment after a harrowing day at the office.
His longed for letter still never arrived, neither was her mail to him returned, and more and more Catherine found life without Vincent so dismal that she was fast becoming a candidate for depression.
The only thing that kept her slightly sane was the gentle thrum of the Bond between them, for without it Catherine would have been totally lost.
Still there were times when that connection proved too much. On such nights when she would stand upon her balcony overlooking the city lights and remember nights there with Vincent, then her body would physically ache to be in his arms, and Catherine would later cry herself to sleep with the pillow hugged tightly against her.
One night she found it impossible to sleep at all. Not so adept at feeling Vincent’s emotions as he was to her, Catherine was surprised to find that she had felt him more that day than all the while he had been gone. He was anxious about something, undecided. Catherine could only draw her own conclusions as to what that might be.
Then deep into the night his feelings had awoken her and Catherine had been attracted to the balcony, her eyes drawn towards the stars overhead and the moon shining brightly from the sky.
For long moments Catherine knew the meaning of wishing on a star. Vincent could see those self-same stars, that self-same moon, was probably gazing up at them even as she was. And probably if truth be known had instilled within her the need to stand and stare up at the heavenly bodies, just so the link between the two of them could be stronger.
For a moment as she gazed above Catherine was reminded of a conversation she had overheard between two men at a diner one day. Her lips twitched in remembrance as one of the men had said, “That’s a great tan you’ve got there. Have you been away?”
“Yes.” replied the first man “I’ve been to the Canary Islands, the sun was really hot there.”
“Oh” said the first man. “Is it the same sun as we get here then?” Catherine laughed a little. It was so stupid. It was so funny. Still the conversation reminded her now that the moon was the same, whether it was a New York Moon or a Carolina Moon. It was the same one, and both she and Vincent could see it. And only it could connect them at that moment in a way the Bond never could.
Their connection was a bonus true, with it they did not feel so alone, but being able to gaze up at the moon and know that the other was doing likewise brought them together in a different kind of peace.
But it also held its own heartache. So much so that someone had even written a song about it once and the tune and the lyrics came back to remind Catherine now. She mouthed the words softly on the still night air her heart filling with longing “Carolina moon keep shining, shining on the one who waits for me. Carolina moon I’m pining, pining for the place I long to be. Oh I’m hoping tonight you’ll go to the right window scatter your light and say I’m all right, please do tell him that I’m blue and lonely. Dreamy Carolina moon shine on, shine on Carolina moon.” The tears fell swiftly and Catherine brushed them away, but still more fell and with every line of the song that she sang they fell faster and faster. Her body shaking, her heart breaking Catherine slithered to her knees, doubled herself over and rocked with sorrow, her body aching for Vincent’s arms to be around her, for she needed him so much.
*** *** ***
Examining Vincent’s features Professor Jordan took X-rays of the different angles of his face. Jason was allowed to stand by and watch. It seemed strange seeing this happen to someone else. He could almost imagine it was he that lay back on the couch instead of his brother.
“What will happen first?” Vincent wanted to know. Now it had almost come to the crunch he was very nervous.
“Believe me Jacob you don’t want to know. But before we can do anything to anything we have to alter your jaw, lips and teeth.” Professor Jordan told him, refraining from saying how the jaw would have to be broken and bits sliced off the bone, and how that would be excruciatingly painful for months on end, would require numerous pins, and that Jacob would only be able to eat liquefied food through a straw. That the large fangs would be removed which would be particularly painful since the roots were very long, and that would leave quite a hole, that he would need to wear a brace to reform his other teeth which would eventually be ground down and capped. His cheekbones would be the next to be reshaped and his upper lip would be stitched. His nose reshaped, and his eyes restructured. Finally when all that was done and when the shape of a human face began to appear the skin grafts would have to be done to remove all that facial hair. And then they would start on the hands.
Jason had refused to go further than that. The fur on his feet and body would remain. Those were places that could be covered.
Robert came in to check the progress, “How’s it going son?” he enquired. Vincent was sat with his back to a wall and the contraption pinned to his head, and could not speak, “Arh up to that stage are we? Any regrets?”
Vincent shook his head.
“Keep still Jacob, you’ll dislodge the pins.” Then turning to Robert the Professor said, “I’m ready to take the moulds now. From what I’ve seen so far it will be pretty straightforward. Having Jason as the prototype so to speak, I think there is much we can avoid with Jacob to move things on faster and technology has advanced beautifully in the last decade. We might achieve completion in seven or eight years this time.”
“So it won’t cost so much then” Robert laughed and patted the Professor on the back.
“Oh I wouldn’t say that Robert someone has to pay the price for technology. And actually while we are on the subject…” his voice trailed away. Robert’s eyes widened, “It’ll cost more?”
The Professor grimaced, “Afraid so Robert.”
“How much more?”
“We can discuss the finer details later.” The professor tried to thwart Robert, he didn’t really want to discuss this in front of Jacob, he knew the fellow already had hang ups about the cost.
Robert fortunately caught his drift. “Yes okay but whatever it costs it will be money well spent. What do you say Jacob?”
Vincent said nothing. He couldn’t find anything to say but for once he felt like screaming, ‘I wish you would all stop calling me Jacob.’
He’d adapted to his name change remarkably well, but only because it was a familiar name to him, but as he lay there something struck a chord in his heart. He wasn’t just changing his features, he was changing his whole identity. Vincent Wells would be no more. In his place would stand Jacob Bradley. The name was as alien to him as his new face would be. Would Catherine really continue to love him?
Suddenly blind panic filled him, and as the Professor saw his eyes roll, he became afraid. He’d only ever seen this once before with Jason, it was terrifying. “You all right Jacob?” he watched Vincent keenly.
“What is it?” Jason stepped forward as he recognised the signs. “He’s having a panic attack, quick get that contraption off of him and let him get some air.” All hands reached for the metal bars around Vincent’s head resembling some form of scaffolding that would eventually hold the mould and pins in place for the purpose of planning, but Vincent beat them to it. His clawed hands ripped and crushed the contraption from off his face and he leapt out of the chair, turning and snarling at the three other people. Robert had never tolerated this behaviour from Jason, he would do no less for Jacob.
Quicker than Vincent realised what was happening, Robert had him shackled and with his fury rising, cried, "Wild animals belong in chains Jacob. We don’t allow such behaviour here.”
“Don’t dad. He just needs some air.”
“He needs discipline. Why he’s nothing more than a savage. Jason you saw him. You were never like this.”
“I was, you know that.”
“A few times yes, but all that changed, I saw to that. And Jacob will see that he will have to change too.”
Robert spun on Jason, “Get out of my way boy!” But Jason barred his father’s exit, “I won’t let you do that, I won’t he just needs some air.”
Vincent’s eyes were rolling, and his was temper rising like bile in his throat. Whatever was going on was bad. He detected real fear in Jason’s eyes.
Robert pushed Jason roughly aside reaching for the door handle and his son grabbed his sleeve. “Dad please not that.”
“He needs taming son it is the only way.”
“There’s a law against that sort of thing dad, you can’t beat him.”
Vincent was panting now, he knew he could break the shackles that held him. He detected that they hadn’t been used for quite some time. But he would not break them now. He watched as if through a dream as Robert pushed Jason aside again, and went out through the door only to re-enter again soon after carrying a long whip.
Vincent’s eyes narrowed, if he thought he was going to hit him with that, he’d think again.
Robert advanced slowly, “Know what this is son?”
“Dad please.” Jason was sobbing now and making a grab for the whip.
“Get him out of here!” Robert thundered to the Professor, who hurriedly tried to do as he was told, yanking Jason out through the door. But Jason stood his ground.
“No!” Jason screamed his fury evident now.
Robert looked from one son to the other. Both could smell his fear. Jason was behind and Vincent in front. Robert had never felt so afraid. These were his own children but they were different, something had made them different and they needed discipline just as any child needed discipline. But Robert had learned with Jason in the past that the whip was better than a hand and made faster impact.
Vincent’s eyes narrowed as Robert stepped closer, his lip curled at the sight of the whip and Robert raised it above his head. Jason watched his brother’s eyes, he could almost see them say; ‘If that touches me you’re dead.’
As much as he despised the actions of his father, Jason cried, “Jacob don’t!” as the whip came hurtling down towards Vincent’s thigh. Vincent’s agonised cries filled the room, he sprang forward breaking the chains like match sticks and watched as Robert ran from the room screaming.
*** *** ***
Catherine stood in her apartment and felt Vincent’s fear, his disgust and his fury.
‘What on earth was happening to him?’
She paced the room relentlessly. Oh he was so far away, and he had been gone so long. It had been months since she had last seen him. In that time there had been no word, but through their connection she had detected his peacefulness, his happiness. Now his fury smashed into her body literally causing her to gasp for breath.
Whatever they were doing to him he needed her.
Snatching up everything she would need, Catherine sped from the apartment, hailed a taxi and had it take her straight to the airport.
*** *** ***
It was dark, but Vincent didn’t mind that. The darkness was his friend and right now he needed that. Enveloped in the darkness he felt safe, secure.
What had happened had shocked him. No one who had ever professed to love him had taken a whip to him before. He felt ashamed and very much aware of his differences. More than anything he felt like an animal.
Robert had spoken of discipline, but Father had never treated him like an animal in all the discipline he had administered over the years to himself and Devin and the countless other children that had come beneath his wings. Father’s discipline bordered on love and fairness and truth.
Still shaking as his rage subsided, Vincent heard his name being called. He did not know where Robert had gone when he had ran from the room screaming and he had not known where Ruth had been at that particular time, but she called to him now softly through the darkness.
“Jacob are you out there?”
Vincent said nothing, but watched as the beam of torch-light searched the shadows. He did not move nor cower away. He was afraid of no one and least of all a woman. She showed no fear, Vincent sensed that and she continued to search. Finally the beam of light heralded his tawny mane to her sight. “There you are!” she exclaimed hurrying forward, “Oh Jacob come inside it is so cold out here.”
Vincent had not felt the cold, but on its mention he did. His teeth started to chatter, but he realised a lot of it was probably due to shock.
Ruth took his arm, rubbing it affectionately, “Your father doesn’t mean to frighten you Jacob, it’s just his way.”
“I am not frightened.” He husked.
“To feel ashamed then.”
She understood. How could she understand when his father did not?
“Come on inside Jacob, its so cold out here.” Vincent felt her shiver, and placed his arm around her shoulders, warming her against what body heat he had left. “No.” he told her.
He was one with the night. Those bright lights of the house were alien to him and they hurt his eyes. Besides he didn’t want to go in there. It reminded him of things, things of the past of chains and cages and the will to die.
“I am not an animal.” He whispered.
“Of course you’re not, but Robert sees things differently Jacob.” She laughed a little, “I’m afraid we will never agree over my sons. To me you two are my babies whatever you look like, but to Robert well I’m afraid my dear that you will only be accepted when you are totally human.”
“How can this be? Jason has told me that the two of you loved him equally. He never gave any indication of mistreatment of this kind.”
“It’s the way Jason was brought up Jacob. He knows nothing else, and if the discipline was harsh it did benefit him in the long run. Now your brother is a man both inwardly and outwardly. As you will be eventually.”
Vincent didn’t think he liked the sound of that. His brother was different true. And Jason had explained that with the outward transformation bit by bit he lost his inner self, and the Bond also, but Vincent had taken that to mean that the beast had died somehow when all traces of him had been outwardly removed. He hadn’t for one moment believed that it had happened any other way.
“Where is Jason now?”
“He’s inside with your father.”
“I don’t want to see Robert again.”
“Oh but you must. Don’t be silly Jacob, you live with us now, you can’t avoid him forever.”
“I don’t live with you. This is just a visit, and I think it is time I went home.”
“This is your home.” She spoke forcefully, and Vincent heard alarm bells go off in his head.
“Yes Jacob. We are your family. You were lost to us, but you are found and I won’t lose you again. This is your home now Jacob, and you must accept that.”
Vincent could tell that Ruth meant him no harm and that her words were spoken from the heart, but he could not agree with her. He had a home deep beneath the city streets and he had a family waiting for him to return. But he knew that Ruth would not accept that. To her he was her son, her lost son and she had him back now. He knew she wasn’t going to relinquish that hold on him in a hurry. And he had no wish to hurt her in telling her that she should.
“Ask Jason to come out to talk to me.” Vincent asked as Ruth tried to pull him to his feet and he plainly refused.
“I doubt Robert will let him.”
“He’s no child.”
“I know that Jacob but Jason will still do as Robert asks.”
“And if he does not?” A flash of memory flew through his mind of those chains. How many times had Robert chained Jason to the wall?
Ruth did not reply to that although she made to stand, “I’ll see if Robert will allow it.” She walked back towards the house.
Vincent watched and he waited but after she had closed the door behind her it did not re-open again.
*** *** ***
Inside the house an argument was taking place.
Ruth had told her husband of Vincent’s request to speak with his brother and Jason had wanted to go, but Robert still held the whip tightly in his hands. He raised it now, and Jason slunk away. He’d been the victim to its slashes more times than he could remember. As a boy he’d accepted that form of discipline, but as a man it was humiliating.
“Your brother has too much animalistic spirit. I will break it as I broke yours. You know it is the only way Jason. To put the beast into submission is the only way to uncover the man within. You know the benefits since the beast has been tamed, no longer are you plagued by those visions or that madness but did you think I enjoyed using this on you? Of course not! But it was necessary Jason and Jacob will learn the same way, and in the long run he will see that it was for the best too.”
Jason said nothing. He had a feeling that his father would not find his brother so willing to be as submissive as he had been. Jacob had told him about the times he had killed to protect his world while Jason had never killed a soul. His bestial side was never allowed to develop as his brother’s had done. Good or bad, right or wrong, Jason did not know whether the beast should have been disciplined or not.
“Its as well we didn’t allow him any contact with his past Ruth. And we must make certain that we continue to destroy those letters that come for him, and the ones that he asks us to post for him. If he is allowed to go back to them they will undo everything that we have tried to administer here. Obviously they have taught him no manners at all, but he’ll learn. Too bad it will take longer considering his age, but he will learn, and when he is manageable we’ll see about changing his features too.”
Eavesdropping, Jason was shocked to hear that omission about the letters. That’s why his brother had not heard from Catherine.
Ruth shuddered. She believed her husband to be right, but did he have to do this now, so soon? Their son had only just been returned to them, and they hadn’t yet earned his trust. The discipline that her husband spoke of as necessary for administering seemed a trifle harsh to her.
Robert knew her thoughts by the set of her face, they had been through this before, but there was no other way. Without such discipline the beast would rule. She only had to see the comparison between Jason and Jacob to know that. “It has to be done Ruth.” he told her simply then turning to his youngest son told him sternly, “Go to bed Jason. If your brother wants to stay out all night let him. He can’t escape, not only are the dogs out but the electric wire running at the top of the wall is turned on. Let him spend a night out in the cold and see if that cools his temper any.”
Jason glared at his father for a few minutes, pleading with his eyes, but he knew it was useless. In that frame of mind his father would not budge. Jacob was in for one hell of a cold night but he knew that Jacob would not back down either. They were both as stubborn as each other, this father and son, but for some reason Jason found that it was his brother that he admired the most.
*** *** ***
Watching the door for long moments after his mother had closed it behind her, Vincent eventually gave up on the idea that either she would return, or that his brother would come outside to speak with him.
The darkness heralded a new light now, a light all its own, and Vincent gazed up at the heavenly bodies wishing upon a star that Catherine were with him right now.
A yellow Carolina Moon hung lazily suspended in the clouds. Vincent stared at it, just as he had on many nights since his arrival here, but tonight many of the things his brother had spoken about came back to him.
Jason was right, one might be able to live beneath the sunshine and amongst nature, but it didn’t ordinarily follow that one was free. At least when he had walked through Central Park on his nightly jaunts back home, the moon did not then seem so far out of reach.
This was the same moon as back home, but this moon - this Carolina Moon – looked down on his confinement. Looking up at it now, Vincent felt trapped and caged and every time he thought of that whip that his so-called father had taken to him he shuddered.
Where was the freedom now?
Where was the paradise?
Here he had so much, had deemed that nothing could spoil being amongst so much beauty, but now he understood his brother’s words and how they both longed for freedom, the sort of freedom he’d known all his life, yet had not seen it then as such.
To be able to come and go among people that loved him, for him, and not because one day he might be something else, someone else.
The desire to see Catherine again was so strong, the desire to see Father again was painful. Neither of them had replied to his many letters, and that had brought him heartache. Yet even though the Bond told him Catherine was well and he was thankful for it, Vincent suddenly realised how awful it would be to lose it, just as Jason had lost his connection with Susan.
It was a hard lesson to learn, and it almost broke his heart, but Vincent faced the fact that for all he was now, and for all he may ever be, to be anything than what he really was would make him unhappy. And suddenly, overwhelmingly, all Vincent wanted right now was just to go home.
*** *** ***
Catherine hailed a taxi as she stepped out of the airport and had it take her straight to the Bradley House. It was three o’clock in the morning and she didn’t care that they might be in bed. Throughout the whole of the journey she had felt Vincent’s distress, he needed her and now she was literally on his doorstep she wasn’t waiting another second.
Hammering on the door as well as ringing the bell, a sleepy eyed Robert finally pulled the door open. Recognition was instant, and he made to close it again. Catherine put out her foot stopping its closure, “Wait! Mr Bradley, its me Catherine Chandler, may I see Vincent please?”
“I’m sorry lady but you have the wrong address. There is no Vincent living here.” He tried to remove her foot.
Catherine felt her temper rising, “What do you mean, what have you done with him?” She grew frantic and tried pushing open the door as Robert tried to close it, “Let me in, I demand that you let me see Vincent.”
“Go away. Get out of my house or I’ll call the police.”
“Go on do that, what would they say to know you are holding someone here against their will?”
“And what would they say when they find that someone is no more than an animal!” he spat the words at her. Seeing her expression of shock he was jubilant, “Animals that attack their owners are lethal Miss Chandler, the police would understand the discipline I have been forced to administer.”
“Discipline!” Catherine’s eyes flashed fire, “What have you done to him!”
She shouldered the door now, intent that nothing would bar her entry.
“Who is it Robert?” Ruth called from the top of the stairs, on hearing the commotion.
“Its nothing Go back to bed.”
“Mrs. Bradley, its Catherine Chandler, let me in please, I have to see Vincent.” Catherine called.
“Robert what are you doing. Let Catherine in.”
Catherine heard footsteps hurrying down the stairs and then saw Robert Bradley pushed to one side, his wife glaring at him as she held open the door. “Come in Catherine. Why didn’t you let us know you were coming?”
“Its as well I didn’t.” Catherine snapped as she stepped past Robert into the hallway. “Where’s Vincent?”
“He’s outside dear. He’s been outside all night, he wouldn’t come in.” Catherine detected the note of sadness in Ruth’s voice.
“The cold might have cooled his temper.” Robert snapped. Following the two through to the conservatory all three were surprised to see Jason coming in through the outer door.
“To see my brother!” Jason snapped. His eyes issued a warning, “And to take him a blanket and a hot drink.”
“I forbade you to do that! Jacob’s got to be taught!” Robert flared raising his arm to strike his son. Catherine’s eyes widened in shock, “STOP!” she screamed and hung onto his arm. Robert shook her off, “How dare you! This is nothing to do with you!” he seethed through gritted teeth. “These are my sons, I will treat them as I see fit.”
Catherine’s blood boiled, she wrenched open the door and started running out into the darkness, “Vincent!” she cried, “Where are you?”
“CATHERINE!” at the sound of her voice Vincent stumbled to his feet and started running towards her. He hadn’t known that she was coming. His misery had been so deep that he had felt nothing but desolation. To hear her call him was bliss, pure bliss.
They met in the centre of the grounds, arms embracing one another, holding tighter and tighter, as if they would never let go. “Oh Vincent what have they done to you?” Tears streamed down Catherine’s cheeks.
“Get away from him!” A shout from behind her had Catherine spinning around just in time to hear the whistle of a whip and the subsequent crack as it struck the air just in front of her face.
“Jacob get inside!”
A menacing growl filled the air. But Robert was not afraid, so long as he had the whip he was not frightened. The whip had broken Jason’s spirit and it would break Jacob’s too. He advanced, holding his ground, “Get inside.” He glared at Vincent and pulled Catherine roughly aside, “And you get out of my way.”
Ruth ran to her husband holding on to his arm, “Robert stop this.” She was appalled that all this was taking place in front of the woman that had brought their son back to them. Whatever would she be thinking?
Robert raised the whip over his shoulder intending to let it fly at Vincent, but Jason caught it from behind and tore it from his father’s grasp. Robert gasped - no whip, no power. His courage failed him instantly.
Spinning around he reached out for the handle of the trailing whip slipping across the grass as Jason reeled it in, running after it, always that fraction out of reach until Jason held it up in his hands, “Want this old man?” his lip curled into a snarl.
“Jason what are you doing. Stop that at once!” Where the whip failed Robert raised his arm to strike his son, but it was caught from behind.
With one son in front and the other behind Robert began to tremble violently. Now he was afraid.
Ruth was sobbing, “Don’t hurt him. He loves you.”
Vincent let him go abruptly as Jason stopped snarling.
Breathing heavily Robert stared at his youngest son. He dared not turn to look at his firstborn. He could feel the heat from Vincent’s breath on the back of his neck. By that he knew how close he was. That alone increased his fear.
“Can you take me home Catherine?” Vincent whispered.
It was still dark, but it may just have well have been broad daylight. “Not without the helicopter Vincent. Is the Professor here?”
“No, but I can fly the chopper.” Jason told them.
“You are going nowhere.” Robert snapped.
Ruth pleaded with her son, “Jason please don’t leave us.”
“I’m not leaving you mother, I’m taking my brother home.”
“But he is home. Jacob, look don’t worry we’ll work something out, Robert won’t use the chains again will you Robert?”
Robert refused to answer.
Chains! Catherine’s mind reeled. He’d used chains as well as a whip, no wonder she had felt Vincent’s disgust and anguish!
“Robert promise you won’t and Jacob will stay.”
Standing with his arms folded Robert stared straight at his wife, “I won’t promise Ruth. You know it is all we can do. The beast’s spirit must be broken if we are to gain two sons, two normal sons.”
Catherine seethed, “Go pack your things Vincent, hurry. Jason you too.” She could not bear another moment of this and to think she had brought Vincent here to start with!
“Catherine is right you are welcome to come with us.” Vincent told Jason.
“Just for a visit?”
Vincent smiled, “If that is what you wish.”
“I’ll be back mom I promise.” Jason hugged his mother and bounded into the house and down the hall to the stairs, with Vincent close behind.
Robert said nothing but inside he was an angry, broken man.
*** *** ***
Father picked up several sentimental items in Vincent’s chamber. He hardly saw them through a blur of tears as he thought to himself ‘will Vincent ever see these things again?’
It had been almost eleven weeks since his son had last slept in this chamber. And in that time they had heard nothing.
It was a long time to be without knowledge of one you loved.
Father felt forgotten. Felt as though his usefulness was over. He had raised Vincent and Vincent was more than a son, he was a friend, and Father could not understand why Vincent had not corresponded as that friend knowing how those he had left behind would wonder and worry.
Picking up one of his journals from off a shelf, Father wiped away the dust and lovingly stroked the soft leather bound book. Within he knew, he would find the outpourings of his son’s heart. Words that he had been unable to speak to no one, but a letter? Was it so hard to write a letter? Was it so hard to speak the thoughts of one’s heart and not lock those words away?
In his pain Father almost relented, almost opened the bound volume if only to bring his son close once more. The outpouring of his soul to paper was better than this painful silence. But he knew he couldn’t do it. If Vincent had wanted him to know of those things, he would have consulted him instead of writing them there. These journals held private thoughts and Father knew it would be wrong for whatever reason there may be to read them.
He replaced the journals, unable to stop the loving caress with which he passed his hand upon them as he replaced them on the shelf.
He could not stay here. This chamber brought back too many memories, and without Vincent to share them with, being there was too painful. Father turned and reluctantly made his way back to his own chamber to sit in his chair and think about his son.
*** *** ***
For several hours Father hardly moved. In all that time in his minds eye he conjured up memories both distant and near. He had brought himself to tears and had brought himself to laughter. He felt better even though deep down the relentless ache still remained.
Laying his head back against the winged chair he closed his eyes to let sleep claim him. He was tired. His shoulders ached as did his hip really he should retire to his bed. He had been up half the night.
Father struggled to stand, fumbling for his stick, eyes still half closed when the stick came up to meet him and his eyes flew open ready to thank Mary for passing it to him though he had not heard her approach.
Suddenly in his breast Father’s heart somersaulted and a ragged breath was exhaled as he thought he must be dreaming, “Vincent!” He cried, stumbling forward to draw his son into his arms, his body wracked with sobs of joy, of relief and of overwhelming love.
“I’ve missed you Father.” Vincent could not see through his tears, they blinded him running freely and unashamedly from his eyes to soak the blanket wrapped around his father’s shoulders.
“Oh Vincent I too have missed you so much.” Father stood back to survey his son, noticing as he did that two people stood a few yards behind. Father wiped away his tears with the back of one hand, “Catherine is that you?”
“Yes Father.” Catherine stepped towards him with a smile.
“And who’s that with you?”
“Its Jason Father. We didn’t think you would mind if Jason came to stay for a while.”
“Of course.” Father reached out a welcoming hand, “Of course you may stay for as long as you wish.”
Father looked beyond him, “There is no one else, your mother your father?” Father looked up at Vincent.
“I have no father but you. As to my mother, she is well but she did not come.” Father detected bitterness in his son’s tone, but did not pry. Vincent would tell him in his own good time. For now it was good enough that he was home. A sudden thought plagued him. “Will you be going back when Jason does?”
“No Father rest assured, this is my home. I shall not leave it again.” Though he would miss the sunshine and the intense blue of the sky Vincent had no desire to return to the home of the people that had caused his birth unless his father’s attitude changed.
Again Father detected the bitterness. He would not allow it to mar this homecoming. Vincent would tell him when the pain was not quite so evident.
For now his son was home and that was all that mattered. Father rejoiced. “We must let everyone know.”
Vincent smiled, “We met Mouse on the way in. I believe he’s been on one of his foraging expeditions Above.” Father groaned. “We asked Mouse to wake Pascal and announce that I am back.”
“You’ve been back several minutes. I have not heard anything.” Father frowned.
“Maybe Mouse forgot.”
No sooner had Vincent said it then footsteps could be heard hurrying towards the chamber and suddenly dozens of happy faces appeared. “Vincent you’re back! We thought Mouse was kidding.”
“Or maybe he did not.” Vincent added finishing his sentence.
Mouse appeared, “Couldn’t find Pascal. Weren’t in his chamber. Asked everyone, no-one seen him.”
Vincent chuckled, he could picture Mouse going to everyone asking if they had seen Pascal because Vincent wanted him to announce to everyone that he was back.
“I know where he is.” William announced as he gave Vincent a huge bear hug, “He’s with Sally.”
“Sally!” Vincent echoed.
“Oh but you wouldn’t know. Vincent, so much has happened while you have been gone…Sally has moved Below, Pascal has fallen in love and…”
“Did someone just mention my name?” Pascal’s sleepy voice came from the entranceway. “Vincent! You’re back!”
Jason hung back with Catherine. He had never seen anything like this in his life. And he had been led to believe that he never would.
His father had convinced him that unless he looked human then he would have no life at all. But his father had been wrong.
The unconditional love that his brother was surrounded by amazed him and he was envious of that.
Their upbringing had been so different. He had grown up with the sunshine and with two people who had sworn of their love for him but who had striven to make him fit into their mould and into society as they knew it. While his brother had been deprived of the sunshine but had been surrounded by people who had loved him despite what he was and had accepted his differences and had not tried to change him. Instead had tried to understand him. Even Catherine, like Susan, had seen passed those differences to the man within.
And Jason felt so happy to be there.
His brother had told him of the crystal caverns and the towering rock, of the stalactites and the stalagmites and the great thunderous waterfall. Of the mirror pool and the subterranean pools where warm jets of water acted like a spa and eased away ones aches and pains. Jason had been thrilled to hear of the magical world beneath the city streets. It seemed but a dream to him and he had longed to see it all for himself.
And now he was there, and now he had seen some of it, but the most overwhelming of all the magic was here with these people that showered his brother with love.
And his brother may not have realised it yet but he had no need of the sunshine nor the singing skies nor the dancing waters turned golden by a midday sun because nature’s abundant treasures were incomparable to the things that his brother had amongst all these wonderful people.
They might both have felt alone in their time, but doesn’t everyone at some stage in their lives?
Jason didn’t think that either of them would be alone again.
He felt firm hands upon him, hands that had once been his own, clawed and furry, but warm and loving, and his brother’s voice filling his ears, “Everyone please, there is someone that you must meet. This is Jason, my brother.”
And Jason was enfolded by a dozen and more welcome and loving arms and his eyes shone with tears and his heart was fit to burst and he had never felt so happy or so accepted in all of his life.
“Oh yes, Oh yes,” his mind reeled with hope and joy, ‘neither of us will ever feel lonely again.’
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Four - click on 'Next' below:
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