The longest they had ever been apart was the eight months following Catherine's recovery in the tunnels. Vincent sincerely believed that there might be something significant about that period of time when Catherine disappears from his life once again, and is gone for another eight long months. Only this time he hasn't a clue to her whereabouts and neither can he feel her since the bond is broken.
This is a third season story with the exception that it is Gabriel's intention that Catherine survives his lethal injection because he has other more sinister plans for Vincent's seed.
Though the steady stream of sound was ever present Below, Vincent heard none of it. For almost eight long months he had lain in a similar way gazing up at the ceiling, listening to the sounds from within, praying fervently that something would trigger a response along the connection that he shared with Catherine. And though there had been nothing he would not dare to lose hope.
Deep in the back of his mind Vincent waited. As each forth week had culminated in the turn of another month Vincent ticked it off somewhere in the deepest recesses of his mind, and as the seventh month slipped into the eight, Vincent was poised and ready for action.
This month, it had to be this month.
Eight months were significant between he and Catherine, from the first they had been apart for eight months and this was the only other time she had been away from him when he had not known of her plans.
That other time had been different of course, because then he had known her heart, he had known her feelings, her emotions, had been a part of her very existence in a way he had never been a part of anyone before in all his life.
This was the worst of this second parting, he felt so empty inside. Their bond was broken, severed by a madness he had undergone and only survived thanks to Catherine, but he would gladly have gone mad rather than lose this contact with her.
For this silence, this unbearable silence was sending him slowly insane.
Where was she? Here one moment, gone the next.
If only he hadn’t been so wrapped up in what they had lost he might have learned what had troubled her so. For she had come to him to talk, but instead he had done the talking, and then her moment was lost.
‘Another time’ she had told him ‘it didn’t matter’ and he had let it be, glad only to hold her tight, to be with her, a comfort in itself.
It was only later in the days and weeks and months to follow that he chided himself on his selfishness. She had come to talk and he should have listened, should have made her tell him what she had gone there to say. But he hadn’t and no amount of wishing would change things now.
For Catherine had gone, but where?
So many things had gone through his mind during the last few months. Had she met someone new being the foremost thought? And her continued disappearance only heightened that possibility. Had she found someone and could not tell him, and in the absence of the Bond he would not know? But would she seriously worry him like this if that were so? Perhaps she would, perhaps in all fairness she felt it were the better way?
Better to slip out of his life than bring him the news that she had met someone that she wanted to spend her life with. But Vincent didn’t want things to be better in that way, he wanted to know, he needed to know. He loved her so very much.
That was the worst of it of course, his loving her. He loved her so much it was painful to him. Her disappearance from his life was like a grief. It ate away at him leaving behind a bitter void that was filled with anger and hatred and jealousy. Raging, blinding jealousy for the man that had taken her from him, for the man that had offered her the happy life for which she had constantly sought, and for which he had constantly denied her.
Oh if only he could have their time again!
Never ever again would he deny his feelings, never ever again would he deny her!
He loved her, and she had begged him over and over to live in his world and he had told her gently but firmly no, she was a woman of both worlds, and she was needed above.
Well it had been a hard lesson and bitter pill to swallow, but he knew it now, knew it with shining clarity, that she was needed below too. By him. For he needed her so desperately.
*** *** ***
And these eight months apart from her had been torturous, but they were almost over now and Vincent firmly believed that she would return to him at their end. He didn’t know how or why, but he would be there for her, and he would never turn her away again.
When she came back into his life he would be open and reveal his heart and let her know how much he loved her.
He would tell her and she would know, and they would have their happy life…yes they surely would. With determination Vincent promised himself that they would be together forever. However, he was to find out that promises can be broken when circumstances alter.
Eight months, eight long, awful months.
Peter drew the mug of coffee to his lips, as he idly sorted through some old memos without reading the words thereon, his mind elsewhere. He’d supposed to be sorting his files. His last secretary had been incompetent in not telling him of important messages, but just filing them away in patient’s files as if unimportant. Peter was having a devil of a job taking every file apart, but then it took his mind off of things, things that caused him heartache, things that had no answers.
Eight long months of nothing at all, no news, not even the slightest of leads.
They’d scoured the very streets themselves. He the day shift and Vincent the nights. Elliot Burch had walked the streets too as well as employed almost every detective in New York to dig out any snippet of information that they could that might reveal Catherine’s whereabouts. Even Joe had taken extended leave to search, and now back at work spent his entire weekends in liaison with Elliot, negotiating every possibility, following up every lead that came their way, no matter how remote it might seem to be at the time.
For how could someone disappear just like that?
No one had seen her, and no bodies had been found that even slightly resembled her.
There was that little black book of course - the one that had killed one man and put Joe in hospital. Catherine had been the last one to have it and that was the frightening thing, whoever had intended to kill to get their hands on the book, obviously had Catherine too. But was she dead? That was the thing and if she was then would they ever find her? Would they ever know?
What a time for Vincent to lose the connection…it couldn’t have come at a worse time…Peter sipped his coffee…cringing at the thought of the torture Vincent had, he knew, put himself through at losing the Bond he’d shared with Catherine at such a time. Peter felt terrible enough, but Vincent, well he might never get over it. Even if they should find Catherine, those months of self-inflicted guilt would take their toll on Vincent’s mentality Peter knew that for a fact. Vincent would never be the same after this, whatever came. Whatever happened, those scars went too deep.
The shrill of the telephone made him jump and Peter brushed spilt coffee from off the memo’s before reaching for the phone. “Hello. Dr. Alcott.” He spoke into the receiver.
“Dr Alcott, Doctor Peter Alcott?”
“Yes that’s right who is this please?”
“Dr. Alcott, it’s the police department here, earlier today a young woman was found in a disused warehouse. At first it was believed that she was dead, but sophisticated apparatus has revealed some signs of life.” Peter was at once professional as he listened intently expecting that he would be on his way within minutes of this call to see the woman in question. But the next words he heard sent his mind spinning into oblivion.
“Dr Alcott we have reason to believe that this woman is the missing Catherine Chandler, and we would like you to come and confirm this.”
There was silence.
“Dr Alcott? Dr Alcott are you still there?”
“Yes, yes.” It was all Peter could manage. Catherine found? Catherine alive? A tremendous weight lifted from Peter’s heart as he went on, “I’m on my way, where is she?”
“She was taken to St Vincent’s Sir, someone will meet you there.”
Peter hung up, grabbed his bag and left. The spinning chair caught the mug of coffee and sent it sprawling its contents across the desk. Out of his eye corner Peter saw this but he didn’t care.
*** *** ***
Catherine had been found…alive…and that was all that mattered.
The note was delivered by hand to Father. A scampering child hurried in handed him the note and left. Father smiled, ‘young ones…always off doing something…never waiting to see if there might be a reply to be returned…’He sat down, pushing his spectacles more firmly into position and smiled as he opened the note.
Then it fell from his fingers as though it were red hot and he gasped as he snatched it up again, his heart hammering in his chest, his eyes closing with sheer relief, as he made himself take several deep long breaths to steady his heart. Such shocks at his age could do irreparable damage.
Fumbling for his cane, Father rose, wanting to run and shout and scream, but refraining from doing any of those things although he hurried as fast as his legs would allow straight to the chamber where his son had been pacing the floor for the past eight months.
Reaching his destination Father just could hardly contain himself. The moment he rounded the final bend into Vincent’s chamber, he felt unable to contain this marvellous news for much longer.
Vincent’s blue eyes watched him enter but he said nothing, as he had said nothing for so long. Father watched, waited for the transformation he knew would come with a hidden glee that turned his very limbs to mere jelly. Suddenly he wanted to sit down, as his legs became unable to support him.
Leaning far more heavily on his cane than he was accustomed to Father felt his mouth open, felt himself try to speak, but no words would come.
Vincent though detected the joy in his Father’s eyes, and had begun to rise from the bed as concern for his parent was now clouding those wondrous eyes. Father waved him aside, “I’m all right Vincent, I’m all right. Vincent, “ he began, “I have a note from Above…” He reached for his son then and squeezing his arm tightly told him with the greatest joy, “Vincent, Catherine has been found…Vincent, she is alive!”
In all his days Vincent would never forget the feeling that passed through him when his father had uttered those few words. Relief didn’t even come close…but what followed frightened him greatly.
He had never believed that Catherine was anything other than alive…but to hear that relief in Father’s tone told him that other people had held the morbid fear that she had been murdered.
For Vincent, just those words that Catherine had been found, was enough…it was all that he needed to hear, and clasping his father firmly the two held fast to one another for many long moments without speaking, until finally Father gently pulled away.
“Peter sent a note. He identified her. She was found earlier today and she is in a coma, but she is alive Vincent…Catherine’s alive!”
Vincent’s world fell apart…Catherine in a coma?
This was not what he had expected to hear at all.
In all the months they had been apart, Vincent had been so sure that Catherine was with another man, so much so that this news came as a shock. If Catherine was in a coma, it was possible that she had been in that coma all the time she’d been missing, but if that were so then where had she been, and who had cared for her during that time?
There were so many questions, and as yet only Catherine could answer them, yet Catherine was in a coma, and therefore still separated from him now as much as she ever was. But nothing could dampen the joy that Catherine had been found and for the moment that was all that really mattered.
*** *** ***
Across the city a baby whimpered, waving her little fists in the air, reaching for a mother who could not hear her cries.
Grey green eyes squinted as her little tummy knotted in burning pain as the milk she’d been given slowly digested.
Arms reached for her, cool hands on her sensitised skin, lifting her, and a soothing voice comforted her. But she knew, oh yes she knew that this person was a stranger to her, this person was not the one within whom she had grown and since birth had come to love. This was not her mother.
The baby whimpered on, and felt something cool prise her lips apart and a thick coating of liquid fill her mouth. It was distasteful, but the baby swallowed convulsively, until every last drop had gone.
Voices, she could hear two different voices, neither identified with that of her mother. The baby listened, the ache in her tummy dissipating, though not yet from the colic milk, but from being held upright with someone rubbing her back.
“How is she?”
“She’ll be okay Sir. Just the colic again. It’s the usual thing with babies. Try to remember to give her a few drops of this liquid before a feed and she won’t suffer so.”
There was silence as the other person nodded, his steel grey eyes scanning the child. He’d hoped for a boy, a male, and was unable to accept this child as his own. Besides she looked like the woman, with no distinguishing signs of that other being. He sighed; causing the nurse to look up at him warily there was something in his tone that worried her. She’d heard things about this man that frightened her.
It was just a baby, surely he wouldn’t hurt that too…
‘I once knew a girl…’ he was telling her and she brought her attention back to him, watching as that slim mouth spoke words she’d rather not hear, ‘I loved her. I was her first love and she was mine, but she did not care for me as I cared for her, and I could not allow anyone to have her after me, so I killed her, so that her beauty could never be defiled by another.’ He spoke so sinisterly but he clearly saw nothing wrong in those actions. The nurse shuddered, but he did not notice, and she remained silent. Though he had spoken the words in her presence she felt that he had been speaking his thoughts aloud. To reply would seal her own fate, for he would not intend that experience to become public knowledge.
The baby was silent now, her large grey green eyes fixed upon the man as if she could see right into his soul. And as the nurse thought this, the man seemed to think likewise, for a sinister smile curved those thin straight lips and a finger reached out to tickle beneath the child’s chin.
‘You know me don’t you? You aren’t so much her child after all. I can feel you inside me. You are a part of him, and you will make me strong. Too bad that you aren’t a boy, but girl’s can be tough too. You will be great in my world and you will be my stronghold.’
Again those words spoken to the child by passed the nurse as if she wasn’t there. She did not dare to speak, though inside she was quaking. Every word spoken was another nail in her coffin. She knew that for a certainty, he would never let her live once she had completed her duties, once the child no longer needed a nurse. Hadn’t the baby’s own mother been given a large overdose of something from the moment she had outlived her usefulness?
The woman dared not move, and the child was quiet now seeming to sense her nervousness yet with a quiet acceptance that in itself only served to unnerve the woman further.
The man spoke of greatness, of empires and of protection, but this child, small as she was now, was already the greater of the two, the nurse could feel it within her. Despite everything a steady stream of strength infused her tiny frame and the nurse could only marvel.
Indeed this was an unusual child.
The man shifted his weight from one foot to another, and then seeming to notice her after so long spoke directly to her, ‘How much longer will she need to take milk?’
The question was out of context and the nurse trembled, she could not lie though she thought of it, ‘Another month and then she can start on solids Sir. She’ll still need milk, but soon she will be able to hold a mug for herself and will no longer need a bottle.’
The man nodded, his steel grey eyes staring straight into her own. Could he detect her nervousness? Did he know that she knew of her fate?
His eyes seemed to mock her as he told her, ‘you have done a good job here, I am grateful, but your services will not be required when the child no longer needs a bottle.’
She did not want to defy him, but had to stall for time, her life was at stake here, ‘she will still need to wear a diaper Sir, for some time, that will need changing, and there are other things…’ her voice trailed away as her words became unsteady.
He stared at her for long moments, hard grey eyes boring down on her, causing the nurse to look away. The child had gone to sleep now, when had she done that? The nurse had not noticed.
‘I hired you to take care of the child’s immediate needs nurse and I have hired another to take her through the second stage in her life. I thank you for what you have done, but know this that at the end of another month your services will not be required.’
His words brooked no argument, and the nurse nodded, fearfully accepting her fate.
Carefully, as carefully as she could, determined not to let him see her trembling hands, the nurse tucked the child back into her cot, brushing a lock of honey gold hair from her brow, before straightening up to return to her chair positioned in the nursery. He watched her in silence, but as she prepared to sit down, he told her, ‘after tonight you can sleep in the next room, then I will not disturb you when I come in to see my daughter.’
The nurse felt invisible bands tighten on her throat…as the implication became clear… He would not wait another month…after tonight she would die…The trembling in her body began again, and the nurse sank into the chair gratefully, her stomach a twisted knot of fear, as she watched him quietly leave the room and close the door behind him.
*** *** ***
Peter hadn’t been back long when the telephone rang.
“Its Dr Tanner here at St. Vincent’s you know we met earlier?”
“Oh yes Dr Tanner, what can I do for you?”
There was a short pause, before the doctor continued, “We have reason to believe that Miss Chandler has given birth within the last three months or so, I was wondering if you could throw any light on this?”
Peter’s mind went into overdrive, “There must be some mistake, Catherine didn’t even have a steady date let alone a partner.”
There was silence at the other end, and Peter felt inclined to explain, “I know Catherine well, she is like a daughter to me. I would have known if there had been someone.”
“I’m sorry Sir, but there is no mistake. So am I to conclude that you knew nothing of her pregnancy?”
Peter swallowed with difficulty before replying, “No. I knew nothing of it. You’re absolutely certain then?”
“Yes Sir, and there is something else.”
“Something else?” Peter didn’t like the sound of that, “What?”
“When Miss Chandler was brought in we didn’t believe that there was any suspicious circumstances regarding her comatose state, we now know differently…” He paused for emphasis before continuing, “Dr Alcott I’m sorry to tell you this, but Miss Chandler’s life is in danger even now. Someone administered a large dose of morphine into her system. Dr Alcott whomsoever held Miss Chandler all those months, expected her to die, and they, no doubt still have her child. We are in the process of moving her to a safe place and I am not at liberty to say where. I’m sorry Dr Alcott but while Miss Chandler’s life remains in danger, no one can be trusted.”
Peter drew in a sharp breath, this was awful, frighteningly so, and in his silence the other doctor continued, “Dr Alcott, it goes without saying that you must tell no one that she is alive…the FBI are taking it over now and will be contacting you shortly.”
This statement freed Peter’s inability to speak, “Will they allow me to see her do you think?”
“I do not know Sir, that’s not for me to say. Just be sure to tell no one she has been discovered that’s all I ask.”
“When is she being transferred?”
“Now as we speak, and Dr. Alcott?”
“If you can in any way find out who was the father of her child please let the FBI know when they come to see you, its possible the father is behind all of this.”
Peter mumbled an acceptable reply, but could not remember what he had said, as he replaced the receiver. All of what he had just heard was difficult to take in let alone accept. Catherine, a mother?
*** *** ***
Who then was the child’s father? And where was the child now?
Despite his assurances, Peter did not delay to tell someone. Going at once to the lower levels, not trusting a note with anyone, and furious with himself that he had already sent the other he hurried as fast as his long legs would allow.
Father met him as he rounded the final corner into the main hub and Peter hurried to his side blurting breathlessly, “You’ve told Vincent?”
Father beamed, “Yes.” He drew in a deep breath, “And all of our friends here Below.” Peter’s face noticeably paled and Father grew concerned, “I did wrong? You did intend for everyone to know did you not? Your note said nothing to the contrary.”
Peter nodded, “It’s not that. Its just there has been new developments. Catherine may be in danger still, and the least known of her discovery the better.”
“I’ll call a meeting.” Father told him reaching for the nearest pipe with his cane, “No one will say anything to any topsider and we can trust everyone Below. Paracelsus has gone, and there is no one who would knowingly try to hurt Catherine. Peter you know that, why then do I get the feeling that you are withholding something from me?”
“There is something else, yes. Call the meeting Jacob, ask everyone to meet in your study, and I will announce all I know there.”
*** *** ***
It was nothing new to be able to take the baby for a stroll in its buggy through the grounds, and though the following afternoon was bright and sunny the nurse felt icy inside.
Acting as normally as possible, she bundled the child into the buggy under the watchful eye of the security guard, glad when the great oak door was opened for her and she could see that the master’s car was not parked outside.
A small sigh of relief escaped her lips, though she detected that she must act normal and she smiled at the guard, making no comment as to the master’s whereabouts.
He could be anywhere and it was unlikely that they would do the deed at this time of day, more likely it would happen in the house at night, for nothing would be done that might frighten the child. No simply while she stayed close to the child she was safe.
Pushing the buggy beneath the shade of the trees, the nurse was afforded the opportunity to think as the child slept peacefully.
She had to get away from the house and had up until that moment considered only that she should make her own escape. But as she looked down at the sleeping child, she knew that she couldn’t leave her to a similar fate, for as soon as the master changed his mind, he was likely to kill the child too that she knew. Hadn’t he at the last moment stayed the doctor’s hand when the morphine had been administered to the woman, so as not to kill her? Hadn’t she overheard him tell the doctor that if the woman should live she might one day give him the son he had hoped for?
The nurse did not understand this and though she did not know for a certainty that Gabriel was not the child’s real father, she was convinced that the child would be better off with her mother.
She knew that on a few occasions when she had gone through the main gates and taken the child down to the lake outside of the grounds a security guard had sauntered down to the lake and tactfully brought her back within the security of the grounds. Just by talking to her and directing his footsteps back to the house he had tactfully but purposefully allowed her to fall into step alongside him as they chatted.
When it had first occurred the nurse had concluded that he was chatting her up but when he did not show further interest, she concluded it was just a ploy to bring her back without unnerving her.
Heading down toward the lake now the nurse had no doubt that the guard would soon be on his way, having seen her exit through the gates with the aid of security cameras. But she was still ahead of him and a faster pace that did not look suspicious could secure her the distance between them that she craved.
Heart in her mouth, the nurse made her bid for freedom, heading straight for the lake, but slightly towards the path that led around it, knowing that just around the corner would be a car park, frequented by families visiting the area.
Walking faster, pushing the buggy ahead of her, the nurse dared not look back. Her gaze firmly fixed ahead, joy surged through her to see not just vehicles ahead but a few people milling about.
If she did not pull this off then her head would roll for a certainty, whether they’d intended to kill her or not. For behind her she felt sure she had heard a shout but refused to acknowledge it.
Her heart thumping now and drowning out any further sound from behind, the nurse picked up the pace, watching avidly as a couple prepared to get into their car and leave the area. She was still some way off from them and could not risk calling out. Unless she called a greeting, maybe that would suffice? At least then she would have an alibi if needed.
She called, waving as she went, hoping fervently that the couple would notice her and delay leaving. She called two names, a man’s and a woman’s the first names that entered her head, it didn’t matter that they were the wrong names, for the security guard was nearer to her than the couple were, and he would hear the names just as well. Afterward if her plan backfired, she could maintain she knew those people, but they had not heard her and she would have to catch them another time. She could make up a story that would suffice, but she did not want to have to do, she wanted the couple to hear her and wait for her to catch up to them.
Shouting louder now, and waving frantically, she watched as the couple got into the car and prepared to leave. Her heart sank, and out of her eye corner she looked back to see the security guard jogging now at a discreet pace behind her.
This was her life at stake now, her bid for freedom, she had to take it. Picking up the pace she started to run, pushing the buggy faster and faster, aware that it swerved this way and that as the wheels pivoted and twisted over the rough ground. The baby woke and began to cry, but the nurse did not slow her pace. Her breath caught and held in her tightened lungs, and she ran on faster and faster, waving and shouting all the while.
The car pulled out of the bay and reversed and though there were other cars parked there were no more people in sight.
The nurse reached the car park just as the car started to pull forward, and then as luck would have it the passenger turned down the window and for the first time heard a shout above the sound of the engine. “Wait!” She grasped the driver’s arm, “I think that woman needs our help.”
The driver hesitated, his foremost thought for his wife and himself. The lake was a reasonably lonely place and it was not unheard of for muggings to take place, though generally not by a woman with a child.
“She’s running from someone, look!” His wife grabbed his arm again, shaking him, and pointing across to the grounds of a vast mansion that they had noticed many times before.
“Maybe she has stolen the child. We should go.”
“We don’t know that.” His wife looked down at her own swollen belly and she wondered what it would feel like to be denied her child. “At least if we take her someplace we will know where she went to. Look let’s take her straight to the police department, let them sort it out.”
Her husband grunted some reply that she knew to be reluctant acceptance, and she alighted from the car, opening the rear door as the nurse and child approached. “Get in, get in, hurry, leave the buggy, just get in.”
She helped the nurse unharness the child and snatched up a bag that she noticed hooked onto the back. Then she threw it in behind the woman and child as they scrambled into the back passenger seats, before getting back into the front, and telling her husband to put his foot down.
Turning in her seat the woman grinned, “I do take it you were trying to get away from him?” She motioned with a nod in the security guard’s direction.
“Yes.” The nurse still catching her breath whispered, “Please we must hurry and you must take me to the police department and then leave me there.”
The woman glanced across at her husband, as if to say “See.”
He patted her hand speaking for the first time, “We’ll take you, don’t worry, just relax, can you tell us what this is all about?”
The nurse hesitated, “Its best that you don’t know, but in my own defence and in case I don’t make it, the child has been kidnapped.’ She panicked as the car slowed down and shouted ‘not by me, not by me, I’m returning the child to its mother so keep going, don’t slow down.’ Something in the woman’s tone scared the couple in front, and they were only too happy to be heading straight for the police department.
The driver put his foot down, desperate now to be apart from their burden, as some sixth sense told him suddenly that all their lives were in danger.
*** *** ***
The entire community of tunnel dwellers congregated in Father’s chamber within the hour, the first arrivals waiting in anticipation for the others to arrive, as neither Father nor Peter gave anything away, and yet their grave faces worried every member.
Vincent too sat still not speaking or smiling, showing no outward signs of the joy he should be feeling knowing that Catherine was alive, and that worried them further.
Father and Peter watched Vincent carefully. Though they had not given him any details for this meeting, each wondered if perhaps they should have.
As one, they turned to one another, and Peter spoke first, “I think I should speak to Vincent somewhere private before I speak to everyone else. Even when I tell you all of it perhaps we should keep this fresh news between us. I will tell you directly after I have spoken to Vincent.
Father nodded, “Its that bad then?”
Peter nodded his face grave, “Yes. I’ll take him to his chamber.” Peter rose, and walked across to Vincent, whispering something into his ear and Father watched as the pair quietly walked together through the throng of people and disappeared from sight. Now all he had to do was wait for Mouse and Pascal, and…his eyes darted around the assembled crowd ticking off in his mind’s eye who was missing and hoping it would not be long before everyone arrived. He desperately wanted to know whatever it was that Peter was telling Vincent.
*** *** ***
“They’ve found her Sir. I heard from your man this morning.” Gabriel was told as he arrived for his scheduled meeting with Mr DA himself. “Found her yesterday. They’ve taken her to St. Vincent’s. So you’ve finished with me now huh? I kept my promise and my silence, so we’re quits huh?”
Gabriel nodded, but unbeknown to John Moreno he manoeuvred a gun inside his pocket, the barrel of which protruded through a buttonhole sewn there for that purpose. The muffled thud was the only indication that a shot had been fired that and the fact that a dead man now lay at his feet.
Gabriel turned, so Chandler had been found, time now for the next employee to move in to watch what became of her. Hopefully she would find her way back to her lover, and hopefully in time another child would be conceived, and when it had, he would be waiting. Oh yes he would be waiting, and this time, hopefully it would be a boy and one that resembled the beast.
*** *** ***
Vincent said nothing as he waited for Peter to speak, and Peter found that the news he bore was unbearably hard to say.
He began in fits and starts, each time retracting what he had said with an apology, and each time trying again. Vincent’s blue eyes continued to scrutinise him, until at last with relief Peter heard him speak.
“Peter tell me, what’s on your mind?”
Peter gazed into those blue compassionate eyes as he heard Vincent continue, “It’s obviously about Catherine, what more should I know?”
“Vincent this is very hard for me, I can’t even believe I have to say this.” He drew in a deep breath, “Vincent, Catherine’s life is deemed to be in danger and the FBI have moved her to a safe place. It appears that someone had tried to murder her.” Vincent made no comment, and Peter could not detect anything to prove that what he had just said had been received by the younger man, so he just continued while on a roll, “Vincent, there is something else, something I was not aware of until earlier. The hospital say that Catherine has given birth within the last few months…” Peter detected that statement hit home, as Vincent’s eyes rolled and he saw the younger man panting for breath. ‘Vincent, I’m sorry to have to bring this news to you, to even ask it of you, but do you know who the baby’s father might be? Its important Vincent, or I would never ask.”
Vincent’s mind reeled. Catherine with child? Catherine had given birth? So it was true then, she had left him for another man. She had found someone else to love. Someone from the world Above to walk with her beneath the sunshine! Though he had assumed this for the past eight months, Vincent found the truth harder to bear than the possibility. And how would he know, how did Peter expect him to know who had fathered the child?
Vincent rose and as Peter watched he knew the answer to his question. Vincent was as much in the dark about this as he had been and he had handled asking him about it badly. Very badly, as Peter watched in horror as Vincent smashed the contents on his desk and Peter cringed and held his hands to his ears as a terrifying roar filled the chamber and bounded off the tunnel walls.
*** *** ***
Back at the mansion, the security guard said nothing as he made his way to his room. Swiftly packing a few belongings so as not to raise suspicion, he bundled them into a hold all, and slinging it over one shoulder walked out of the room, down the stairs and back out into the sunshine. Anything he had forgotten would have to be replaced, but he couldn’t replace his life, and that was the important thing.
Since the nurse had escaped and taken the child with her, his would be the next head on the block. He was not waiting around to find out whether his employer would show mercy or not.
He reached his car without being confronted by anyone and slipped into the driver’s seat. From there he pulled out his mobile, and dialled the required number. It was answered and he gave his employer the bad news before hanging up and throwing the mobile out of the vehicle onto the drive outside.
That done, he drove away from the mansion, hoping he would never see it or anyone that resided within its walls ever again.
*** *** ***
Gabriel was just sliding into his car when his mobile rang, he answered it and listened gravely, not speaking at all, just a nod of his head indicating that he was taking in the information. The call done, he tapped his chauffeur on the shoulder and indicted that they should drive toward the police department. His driver never queried the request, having just seen his employer kill a man in cold blood, he knew never to question anything, well knowing that he could be next if he did and he wondered about the other chauffeur’s his boss had had. He’d assumed they had moved on to other employment. For the first time he wondered if that were so. Maybe there were other reasons for their sudden disappearance and the driver shuddered as someone walked over his own grave.
*** *** ***
Pacing back and forth, Joe Maxwell, assistant DA pulled and twisted an elastic band between his fingers mercilessly.
He kept stopping every so often to check the clock and then his watch in case one or either of them had stopped or were slow.
His boss had been gone for hours. ‘Mind the fort’ he had said. ‘I’ll only be gone half an hour’ he had said. ‘I have to see a man about a dog’ he’d said.
No toilet this time, Joe knew that expression to mean that John Moreno was onto something, and was either giving or receiving information, but that was hours ago. Joe had had his own plans and he was already way overdue with some of them.
He checked the clock again and sighed. It had seemed like another hour had passed since he had last looked at it, but it was only three minutes, why did time always go so slowly?
Slumping into his swivel chair, Joe twirled the seat around and around, pinging the elastic band from off his fingers, before picking up three darts from off the desk and throwing them at a dart board attached to the back of the door.
Joe smirked, ‘this one’s for you Moreno.’ He cheered when it went into the bulls-eye and he congratulated himself, ‘well done Maxwell.’
The next two darts scored a twenty and a one, nothing significant about those, he thought though something chaffed at the back of his mind. Twenty-one, why did that seem to ring a bell?
Racking his brain Joe thought and thought, until the number became clear in his mind’s eye and he groaned head in hands his upper body lowered toward the desk. 21E, the number of Cathy Chandler’s apartment. Joe felt moisture gather on his fingers, and knew that he was crying, it was always the same these days, any thought of Catherine Chandler reduced him to tears.
Eight months already and nothing, not even the slightest of leads - which was none with anything substantial. For weeks there had been calls of sightings, but Elliot Burch had quickly sorted those out. These were people after a possible reward. When the offer of a reward was cancelled, so the calls stopped coming through. Just the odd one here and there, a person genuinely concerned, or someone Cathy had once helped returning the favour.
Pulling back his sleeve Joe checked his watch again, refusing to turn to look at the clock behind him. He could hear it ticking, so he knew it hadn’t stopped and would tell him nothing different. Only ten more minutes gone by.
Exasperated, Joe reached for the phone, he’d have to ring around and cancel a few appointments. If he hadn’t promised Moreno he’d mind the fort, he would have been long gone, and left a junior in charge, but Joe well knew that when Moreno left specific instructions like that, generally speaking he was expecting someone, or a call from someone and wanted Joe to handle it.
Hand almost on the receiver, Joe jumped a mile when the shrill of the telephone startled him. He snatched it up, ‘if that’s you Moreno I want to know why your ass isn’t over here right now!’ Joe mumbled beneath his breath, before answering the call. ‘Hello Joe Maxwell.’‘
“I just said that didn’t I, who is this?’ Dumb idiot, Joe seethed under his breath.
There was a pause as if the caller wasn’t sure how to retort to the sarcasm in Joe’s tone, and then deciding to leave it went on as if Joe hadn’t spoken.
‘Mr Maxwell, this is the police department, I wonder if you would mind coming down to the station? A body has just been brought in, and we need you to identify it.”
Joe groaned, “why me?’‘
“Because Mr. Maxwell, the ID carried by the victim identifies him to be a one John Moreno, District Attorney of this telephone number and…
’‘Whoa Whoa,’ Joe spoke gruffly, ‘Slow down. That’s impossible John only stepped out for half an hour.’ John dead? Nah.
There was a pause, an almost audible sigh of relief, then “That’s good then Sir, because the body was discovered over two hours ago, but if your boss only stepped out half an hour ago, it can’t be him. Sorry to have troubled you, Sir. Perhaps if you’ll have Mr Moreno contact us when he gets in, he can come and answer a few questions. This guy is carrying Mr Moreno’s ID, wallet, credit cards, even the gun is licensed to him. Can I leave that with you Sir to pass on?’
Joe’s mind was spinning. The more he heard the less he liked the sound of it. ‘Tell you what I’ll come anyway, maybe I just lost track of the time.
’He felt so stupid saying that, he could almost hear the word incompetence in the other man’s tone, ‘well we’ll see you shortly then, Mr. Maxwell. Just come to the desk, and ask for me, that’s Inspector Sharp.’
Joe almost gagged, Inspector Sharp, he was sharp all right as sharp as a pin. Joe could tell from his tone that those few hours Joe had lost track of had not been lost at all. Still what did it matter anyway?
Joe hung up and sat staring at the phone for a long time. Moreno dead? There had to be some other explanation, who would kill Moreno?
Joe knew the answer to that unfortunately…. A good many people were after Moreno’s blood, possibly his too. It was one of the perks of the job. First Cathy, now Moreno. Joe laughed hysterically, and then for some unknown godforsaken reason he started to bawl his eyes out.
*** *** ***
Seemingly lifeless apart from the shallow breathing signifying she was still of this world, Catherine Chandler was carried carefully and lain upon crisp white sheets, on a three by six bed, in an equally crisp white room, with blinds at the window. The cord of these was now tugged to close off the sunlight streaming into the room and the woman was checked for visual signs associated with her condition.
“She should be safe enough here. No one will think of looking here for her.” Came a female voice, as the nurse attended to taking her temperature and tucking an equally crisp white sheet up to her neck. “Its as well she doesn’t require a ventilator. That’s a good sign too of course. Being able to breathe by herself goes a long way to aiding recovery.”
“Any ideas as to when that might be?” A gentleman’s voice asked with genuine concern.
The nurse shook her head, “Its impossible to say. She could sleep for years, or it could be weeks, days even. It’s not only the morphine that reduced her to this state, it’s whatever trauma she underwent prior to that. They say she was missing for eight months?”
“Yes that is correct, and it was at least three months ago that she gave birth. Here are her records by the way.” He handed her a sealed envelope, but she shook her head, “Keep them, copies were sent to me, I know all there is to know about Miss Chandler.”
“Then you know the possibility that she hasn’t been comatose for long?”
“Yes. By traces of morphine found in her blood, it was estimated that she has only been comatose for three days, plus the fact that her breasts are heavy with milk shows for a certainty that at some stage she was breast feeding her child. Possibly up to the day of the drug being administered. Is there any news on the child do you know?”
None. Obviously where she was found was not where she had been staying. There was no sign of a child being kept in the area, nor of any to suggest that the woman may have been held there. It is a mystery. One we might only unravel when the woman wakes up.”
“Well be prepared for a long wait, I’m sorry I can’t be more optimistic than that, but these cases simply take time. Are you going to keep a guard on the door?”
“Yes, but that’s the only one, we haven’t the manpower to use more. Since we are up on the top floor, it is unlikely that anyone will try to get to her from outside of the window, besides until there is another attempt on her life we don’t know what we are working with.”
“Well she will receive around the clock care here, of that I can assure you, and with several security doors to negotiate as you have seen, it is rare that anyone should break in here. Plus all members of staff have to have a key and a pass to get through each doorway. We’ve had people brought here before without any mishap, I think you can safely assume that one guard will be enough if not even too many. I can assure you that Miss Chandler will be as safe as houses here Sir, and we’ll let you know the moment she shows signs of waking.”
The detective nodded, and with a last lingering look at the patient on the bed, he waited for the nurse to slide her card and turn her key in the lock before he could exit. And then the two left the woman sleeping peacefully unaware of anything taking place around her.
*** *** ***
Pulling up outside the police department the couple turned to the woman with the child in the back seat, “We’re here, would you like us to come inside with you?”
“No. You have done enough, please let me out and forget about me. Tell no one, believe me your lives are in danger if you do.”
A cold chill ran through the couple, “Is that a threat?” The driver asked.
The nurse shook her head, “Not from me. I wouldn’t hurt a fly. But the fellow I took the child from, the kidnapper he would kill you if he thought you knew anything.”
“And that’s why you won’t tell us?” The woman asked.
“Yes.” Holding the child in her arms the nurse prepared to open the door and take her leave.
“Wait!” Leaning over the driver stilled her exit, “If there is a possibility that someone might think you told us anyway, you may as well tell us what you are running from.”
Staring straight ahead the nurse stammered for a moment, her lips forming words and then withdrawing them, “Its best you don’t know, but…”
“But?” The couple in the front seats felt a ripple of apprehension and excitement run through them, would she tell them everything?
“Look, just in case for some reason I don’t make it, promise me something?”
Wordlessly, they nodded, and waited wide-eyed for her to continue.
“Have you ever heard of Catherine Chandler?”
Beginning to shake their heads the woman hesitated, “Wait,” she drew her brows together, “Wasn’t she linked with Elliot Burch?”
The nurse nodded, “Yes, that’s her.”
“She’s missing right?”
Again the nurse nodded, then indicating with her eyes, she looked down at the sleeping baby in her arms, “This is Catherine Chandler’s baby. The man that had kidnapped Miss Chandler wanted this child, he pretends he is the father, but I’m not one hundred percent sure about that. A few things he has said make reference to another man, a person who could be the child’s father instead.”
“So where is Miss Chandler now?”
“That I don’t know, up until a week ago, she was staying at the mansion with us. The kidnapper kept her locked in the attic, and took the child to her only for feeding. Then one day he told me to give the baby formula milk, and said that the mother had gone.”
“Did you ever see her?”
“Only through a two way mirror.”
“So what is it you want us to do?”
“If I don’t make it, if the child is taken back to the house, that you’ll tell someone, someone important, someone like Elliot Burch perhaps, someone strong that will know how to handle this, but know that you take a risk from the moment you become involved.” Her eyes betrayed her fear, it was genuine, and the couple shuddered.
The driver made an instant decision, “Give the child to us.”
Staring at him the nurse thought she had misheard, “Give the child to you, but why?”
“Because we can care for it, we can take it to Elliot Burch, he will know what to do with it.”
“So would the police.” The nurse argued.
“Maybe so, but you go waltzing in there with the child in your arms, and if your boss has already contacted them, they will whisk you off to jail and the child back to the mansion before you can say howdy. Give the child to us, we’ll wait out here. Get out of the car on the other side, walk through that avenue of trees, cross the road and enter the police department.”
His wife laughed out loud, “I think you’ve been watching too many movies darling.”
Her husband looked at her gravely, “Maybe so, but better to be safe than sorry. The child is the innocent victim in all of this, and we can help. That security guard would have contacted someone by now. Do you seriously think that this woman’s story is going to be believed?”
Both women shook their heads, but the nurse would not leave the child with them. How could she trust them? Perhaps they even knew Gabriel. After all they had visited the lake hadn’t they? And that was close enough to the house.
“I’ve said too much.” She told them, “I should never have involved you. Look don’t worry about dropping me here, take me to Lexington Avenue, there is another place I can go.”
Just as she spoke, a slim black car drew up at the curb outside the police department and the nurse froze. “That’s him.” She whispered hoarsely sliding down in her seat, “the guard must have called him.”
The couple looked and watched as a tall dark-haired gentleman in a smart suit alighted from the car and walked up the steps into the police department.
“Its too late now!” the nurse cried, accusation in her tone. “If I had gone in there when we first arrived, they would have believed my story, but not now!” High pitched her voice rose and the fear along its lines became evident. The couple looked from one to the other uneasily, more and more they wondered if the woman could be believed, but they had also heard the story about the missing Catherine Chandler, and they wondered about that also.
Making a decision for all three of them, the man started up the car.
“Where are you taking me?” The nurse cried, wanting to stay and go at the same time.
“There’s only one place I can think of.” The man told her. “To the District Attorney’s office where Catherine Chandler worked, I’m certain that they will be able to help you.”
*** *** ***
Joe arrived back at his office in a daze.
Having identified his boss’s body, he could neither think nor feel. It suddenly brought it home to him the fate of Catherine Chandler. And for the first time since she had gone missing he faced the possibility that she too could be dead.
*** *** ***
With deep concern Father watched his son closely.
Since that first burst of anger, Vincent had slumped into his chair and had not moved since.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Father did not know what to say to console his son. Since Peter had unburdened the same news on him, Father could well understand Vincent’s grief. But not talking about it was not helping and finally Father prompted, albeit gently to get a response from his son.
“Vincent, cast your mind back please. You of all people were closest to Catherine…is there anything that she may have said that might have seemed odd at the time…anything at all that would guide the police to the man responsible?” His words trailed away, as Vincent turned hollow, unfeeling eyes toward him. Father flinched knowing he was twisting the knife with every word he spoke but knowing also that these things had to be confronted.
“Nothing?” He queried.
Slowly painfully Vincent shook his head. It hurt even to move. His heart had died so why did his body still feel such pain?
“I’m sorry Vincent.”
“For what?” There was sarcasm in that tone and bitterness such as Father had never encountered before from his son.
Father looked at his son gravely, what could he say? He shook his head, words failing him, surprised to hear Vincent speak. “I’d always hoped that Catherine might find another man to love…I had always maintained that she should…but Father the believing and the knowing are so far apart. It hurts Father. It hurts.”
Rising from the bed, Father reached for his cane to steady his legs, before crossing to where his son sat and pulled Vincent’s head against his chest to stroke the long tawny hair. This kind of comfort worked for Vincent as a child and the very action itself took Vincent back to those tender years, almost wishing he were there again. Though he loved Catherine not to have known her and not to have had this pain would have been a blessing.
“We shouldn’t jump to conclusions Vincent.” Father frantically tried to appease the situation. There could be any number of reasons why Catherine had been with child.” Rape perhaps, he thought to himself.
Vincent drew away, searching his Father’s face with incredibility, “Not jump to conclusions! Father Catherine was pregnant! What conclusion can one jump to with a fact like that?”
“I’m just saying that it might not be as it appears Vincent. That last day Catherine was here, she made no sign of anything but her love and concern for you, I just cannot believe that anyone else was involved.”
“What are you saying Father, that Catherine fell pregnant out of thin air?”
“Vincent, no I’m not saying that at all.”
“Then what are you saying?”
Father shuffled, he’d given this a lot of thought over the last few hours ever since Peter had told them and he could only draw one very possible yet very improbable explanation.
“Vincent, forgive me for asking, but were you and Catherine ever intimate, even if only slightly?”
Vincent swung on his father, his eyes blazing, “You think that I?” For long moments he was not able to go on. He shook his head trying to clear it, “Father you know how I felt about a relationship, any relationship with Catherine, hadn’t you told me often enough yourself, that such things could never be, for me?”
“I’m sorry Vincent, but it would offer the only plausible explanation.”
Vincent turned in his seat again, facing away from Father, “If only that were all it could be.” He whispered.
“So you never…not even…” Vincent swung back to stare at him and Father hesitated, how he hated being so knowledgeable sometimes and beneath his son’s scrutiny, he found it so hard to continue. But those icy blue eyes could see straight through him.
“There is nothing that happened between us Father, nothing!” The very thought of it frightened Vincent, Father could see that and he hated to continue but he had to do. He had to know everything. Every slight possibility must be made known.
“Vincent I well know how you felt against such a relationship with Catherine, but is there any possibility that something might have happened before you lost your memory?”
Rising from his seat, Vincent glared down at his Father as if he had lost his mind, “Father look at me! How could one such as Catherine contemplate such an act with one such as me!” His words softened as he continued, “If I was not as I am….” Tears followed, flowing down his cheeks afresh, and Father reached for him, holding him close. “I’m sorry Vincent but I had to ask, please forgive me.”
Vincent said nothing, but hugged his parent harder, until Father knew that he was indeed forgiven.
*** *** ***
When the news finally broke that a baby had been found and that the authorities had good reason to believe that the child’s mother was one Catherine Chandler everyone it seemed, wanted to take care of it.
At first the FBI, did not believe Joe Maxwell’s story. That a woman had sauntered into his office one day and had nervously told him that the baby was Catherine Chandler’s daughter. But since no one else knew that she’d had a child, they eventually believed what the woman had told him and no one ordered a blood test.
They were angered though that Joe, first stunned by his boss’s sudden death, coupled with the loss of his colleague and friend Catherine Chandler, and then confronted with a woman telling him the child was Miss Chandler’s, had not apprehended the woman until he could call someone. But in all fairness the FBI understood, that this was probably the last thing on his mind, after receiving one too many shocks that day.
For several days the child had been placed alongside its mother in the hope that sounds from the baby would wake her, but when she did not show even the slightest sign of recognition, the child’s needs were placed foremost and a carer was required in her mother’s absence. The child was then taken into care and it was deemed safer to publicise the news of Catherine and her child’s discovery in the hope of flushing out the father. But no one came forward and reluctantly the decision of the child’s welfare was placed in the hands of the court.
*** *** ***
It was today.
Today when the court was to decide who was to have custody of the child until such time that her mother were to wake from the coma she had been under for the best part of two months now.
Dressing for the occasion, Joe hardly dared believe that he had even put in an application for custody. What did he have to offer a child against the likes of Elliot Burch anyway?
Straightening his tie, Joe looked out of his apartment window to the skyline beyond. Every way he looked he could see something that belonged to Mr Burch. The guy was wealthy, powerful and influential, against him he had nothing to offer but a decent enough home and a steady job. Joe laughed cynically even that wasn’t good enough. He couldn’t bring a child here. He couldn’t support a child on his salary, why he had ever contemplated offering he did not know.
Still it was done now, and today he would hear the verdict.
He still couldn’t quite believe all that he had been told that day some woman had walked into his office carrying a child in her arms.
He’d still been numb with shock over the news of John Moreno’s death, when in she had waltzed and had heard her say to him, “Joe Maxwell?”
He’d remembered looking up trying to establish if he knew her from somewhere. She knew his name after all.
“Yes.” He had answered.
He grimaced even now at the reply. No beating about the bush there.
“Sir this is Catherine Chandler’s child, can you take care of her for me.”
The woman had settled the child into his lap and had exited his office before he’d had time to react.
Catherine Chandler’s child? Those words had buzzed around his head as in a daze he had sat with the child on his knee seeing the likeness to Catherine for how long he didn’t know, until he had felt capable of reaching for the phone.
How could it be that this was Catherine Chandler’s child when there was still no sign of Catherine?
Even so Joe could not help a shudder of relief pass over him, that at least the child proved the possibility that Catherine was still alive!
*** *** ***
From where she lay in secret, the FBI had been frequent visitors to Catherine’s bedside ever since the announcement of the child, but felt it were safest if knowledge of the child’s mother’s whereabouts remained a mystery. Bringing the two together was not a good move, it had solved nothing and since there had been no attempt of further kidnapping of the child since its discovery, the FBI believed that the risk factor was still heaped upon the mother. Unfortunately the child could tell them nothing, but the woman could.
They were not to know that Gabriel knew exactly where Catherine Chandler was being kept, and could at any time get to her if he chose. Neither were they to know that the child was of no consequence to him because of its sex, or the fact that all that concerned him was the beast.
In time Gabriel believed that the beast would act, he would come for the woman, and then Gabriel would be waiting. And he no longer needed the lover or the beast; all he needed was the beast’s seed.
His plans had altered, and he had other women in mind to assist him. Simply to capture the beast, to extract his seed and implant it in those women would secure reasonable success and the higher ratio of a male child being born.
This was all that drove Gabriel now and he had the building where Catherine Chandler lay watched night and day.
*** *** ***
It had been a long two months for Vincent, no respite from his feelings, nor from those of the tunnel community. What they said had made sense, but he could not allow it, could never expect to allow it.
It had been Pascal who had first voiced the opinion backed readily it would seem by every tunnel member in turn. He could hear him now, his words forever ringing in his head “We could do it Vincent. It makes sense. It’s Catherine’s child after all, it’s what she would have wanted and it will be safe here.”
But Vincent had not wanted to know and his reasons were entirely selfish making him feel all the more treacherous because of it.
Pascal’s idea of bringing the child below, either by kidnapping or by some other means was a sound one. The child would be safe with them, but Vincent could not do that. To deny the child, any child the sunshine was one thing, but believing firmly that somewhere that child had a father with rights to its future prevented Vincent from agreeing to anything his family might suggest.
Though they assured him that the moment Catherine awoke she would come running to him, Vincent faced the fact of that remote possibility. Whomsoever fathered the child would be the one to whom Catherine would run and simply that was not him.
To bring her child Below, would put her in a difficult situation. She would be made to come there, be made to face him when she so obviously could not face doing so before.
No, as much as he hated everything that had happened, as much as he grieved the loss of his love, Vincent had to let her go. He had to forget and try to get on with his life.
*** *** ***
A life with limits and a life without the only woman he would ever love.
Walking into the courtroom, the first person Joe encountered was Elliot Burch. Surrounded by reporters the man oozed self confidence and Joe grimaced, the man had it in the bag, what hope did he have?
Still clinging on to any slight possibility Joe shouldered on, entering the courtroom when the case was called, knowing that at least he had one over Elliot Burch, he had experience of such places. Why being inside the court was like a second home to him. He felt at ease there. Huh whom was he trying to kid?
Joe felt as nervous as hell.
*** *** ***
Ever since it was announced, Elliot had wanted the child.
This was his chance with the woman he loved. He knew he was not the child’s father and no blood test would give him the leverage to prove that he was, so he didn’t even ask for one, but he could give the child a good home. And in so doing when Catherine awoke it could bring to him the woman he adored out of gratitude for all he had done for her daughter.
He was a businessman, not yet cut out to be a father, but he could provide the required personnel to take care of the child’s needs and he would be there for her whenever time allowed.
And though Elliot cared for the future of the child, she was but a pawn in his game. It was the child’s mother that he wanted and the child was just a means to achieve that gain.
Still, he would go along to the court and he would pledge his undying love for a child he had only met on occasion and he would make them believe that he had the child’s welfare at heart. And he would win, because there was no other contestant that could provide all that he could provide.
Elliot laughed at the thought of his only real competition being Joe Maxwell. Real only in the case that Joe Maxwell loved Catherine Chandler too and being her work colleague might go in his favour. But it was only a slim possibility. Though the two had become closer since they had spent so many hours searching for Catherine, there was no love lost between them.
So as the day for the court hearing loomed Elliot was ever confident and did not doubt for one moment that he would be taking the child home with him.
*** *** ***
Beneath the city streets as the day arrived, Vincent paced his chamber. Words Pascal had spoken flooded his mind. Things he had heard since warred with Pascal’s words.
Of all the two people, both Elliot Burch and Joe Maxwell had come forward to be the child’s guardian, and though neither staked a claim to its parentage Vincent could not help but wonder if either of them truly were the child’s father.
There was Joe, dear sweet Joe; Catherine had referred to him as on more than one occasion. A man after Catherine’s heart that Vincent did know. Had something happened between them?
*** *** ***
Had Catherine and Joe…Vincent could not even sound the words in his mind…he didn’t want to think on them or to imagine Joe and Catherine together like that.
If Joe was the child’s father then why didn’t he say? And if Elliot was the child’s father why didn’t he say?
The answer to that question filled Vincent with a fury he didn’t want to unleash. If either believed the possibility of being the child’s parent then…well then the answer was obvious, Catherine had slept with the both of them.
Oh how could she!
The thought alone brought bile to Vincent’s throat, as his mind yelled at him, ‘Why shouldn’t she? You would not give her what she desired, and you knew, oh yes you knew what it was she desired. Don’t deny it Vincent, the woman wanted you, she was crazy for you, hungered for you, but you drove her into another man’s arms, and now you have only yourself to blame.’ The voice of that other taunted him mercilessly night and day.
And the nights were the worst. Though the voice did not always come at night the pictures filling his mind stayed with him throughout the day when the voice would taunt him further, ‘you think it is a dream? Fool, it is no dream. You loved her. You made her your own. The child is ours. Our child, her child, your child.” Vincent thought he would go mad as those pictures played out again and again in his waking moments, Vincent was incensed that he could see those things so clearly. Knowing he had never been in a situation like that with Catherine, but here she was in his mind, naked, he naked, he making love to her, taking her, hearing her cries of love, his name borne from her lips, her kisses on his face.
Day and night the pictures rolled through his mind, while that other cried through his madness, ‘It is no dream, it is a memory, it happened, it happened, you loved her, she’s yours, the child is ours.”
And nothing Vincent could do would stop the pictures or the relentless cries, and there was no where he could go to escape them. Save for death, but then such blessed oblivion would take him from Catherine. And while there was a chance that she would recover, he knew he owned it to her to cling to whatever life there was for him, even if he should have to live that life for endless years without her at his side.
That day of the court hearing and unbeknown to anyone from Below Father sat at the back of the courtroom listening gravely as the grant for guardianship was contemplated.
Joe had been the most sincere, Father had thought. Listening to the man, he could tell that Joe spoke from the heart and he would certainly give the child the love that it deserved, but Father could tell that Joe would find it a struggle to do so. And unfortunately that fact came over quite clearly when Joe hesitated about his salary and the bills and debts that he had.
Elliot Burch on the other hand, could provide all the right security for the child, but simply the love was not there. Father detected an ulterior motive for Elliot wanting the child with him and it had nothing to do with love. Well not love for the child at any rate.
This grieved Father, if a guardian was not found, then the child would go into care and even when Catherine did come round then it would be very hard for her to be able to get her child returned to her. Besides children in care very often ended up on the streets and they in turn ended up Below.
If only he were in the position to bridge that gap and take the child below now, saving endless heartache in between.
It was then that the door opened and Father heard a muffled conversation from behind, and felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up, mouthed the name but no words would come, and moved up on the bench as Peter Alcott slid in beside him.
“Jacob, couldn’t keep away huh?” Peter whispered with a knowing twinkle in his eye.
Father nodded, “She was like a daughter to me too, I’m afraid I am acting like the concerned grandparent.” He replied keeping his voice low.
Peter nodded, “Exactly what I was thinking. I’d hoped to be here earlier to hear those two stake their claim, but I doubt I’ve missed anything too interesting?”
Father nodded, “You’re right, they have nothing to offer a child. Joe has the love and Elliot has the security, but each sadly lack in what the other has to offer.”
Peter nodded, “I know what you mean. That’s why I decided to put in a bid for custody.”
Father stared at Peter with amazement, “You! But Peter, you have age against you.”
“Thanks very much.”
Father snorted, “Well you know what I mean. It would solve everything of course, but I can’t see it happening.”
“Neither can I but I had to try didn’t I? I’m certain you would too, if you could give an address.”
Father nodded, of course he would, that’s why he was there wasn’t he?
The jury was still debating. There were other people beside Elliot and Joe, or Peter, childless couple who offered the child a good home, and the court were looking favourably upon such ones, but the judge’s face remained expressionless, and even after he had heard Peter’s pledge, he remained so.
Finally when everyone had spoken, he cleared his throat and spoke to the courtroom.
“This is an unusual case. We are all well aware of this fact and Catherine Chandler is a wealthy woman and it should not be overlooked that any guardian of the child could have an ulterior motive. Even if this were not so, as in the case of Mr Burch who is deemed financially secure beyond that of Miss Chandler I feel that even there a case of ulterior motive exists.” Elliot coloured up at this but said nothing.
“Mr Maxwell was the only one who impressed upon me that he would love the child, but unfortunately Mr Maxwell would not be able to provide for a child on his salary and his proposed promotion to senior DA will not come through soon enough in this instance. However, should the child be given into foster care and Mr Maxwell ever receive the promotion he is expecting, then this case can then be reviewed at a later date in view of that.
For now though I see no alternative but to place the child into the care of the foster parents, the said Mr and Mrs. Laythorne, until such time as Mr Maxwell’s promotion, Catherine Chandler’s recovery or the identity of the child’s true father is revealed. Case dismissed.”
There was uproar and rejoicing, depending upon whose side they were on, and for the first time Father and Peter noted that the child had actually been inside the courtroom all along, peacefully sleeping through it all.
As the child was lifted up out of its baby seat and handed to the Laythorne’s something struck a cord within Father’s heart. But from his vantage-point he could not see as well as he would have liked and so he hobbled across, taking his time, scouting around the overjoyed couple and their relatives as the baby was passed from one to the other of them.
And then it happened.
It couldn’t have been more perfect. Standing behind some relatives while the baby was being passed from one person to the next, hugged and kissed and passed on, Father suddenly found himself with the child handed into his arms, and with a hearty ‘here granddad’ people began to surge away from him as the reporters arrived in the room.
Fading quietly into the background, Father caught Peter’s eye over the top of the crowd and could have sworn he saw the man wink and indicate with a nod of his head to the back of the room.
With his cane hooked over his arm, Father walked towards Peter with the child still in his arms. And couldn’t believe it when no one intercepted him, or tried to take the child from him before Father found himself at Peter’s side and the pair gazed down with loving eyes for the first time at the daughter of Catherine Chandler.
“She’s so like her isn’t she?” Peter tickled beneath the child’s chin and was delighted when the child rewarded him with a full-fledged grin.
Father was staring at those beautiful grey green eyes, at that smile he knew so well, but there was something else about the child that appealed to him, though he could not put a name to it. The child was totally Catherine, not a hint of anyone else about her at all. Her hair was Catherine’s, her face, eyes, everything, but Father felt an uncanny bonding with the baby like he’d had with only one other and that disturbed him greatly.
“Cover me Peter.” He heard himself say that, but couldn’t quite believe that he had.
Peter understood that was the worst of it, “You’ll never get away with it Jacob, but good luck anyway.”
He couldn’t believe he was even contemplating this. But he could not give her back he could not. He was doing the right thing he knew it. The courtroom door was open and beyond Father could see out into the street. All the reporters were in the room, congratulating the proud foster parents, there was no one waiting in the corridor outside and plenty of people were passing by on the sidewalk. He’d quickly be lost in amongst them and he’d soon make it to the nearest entrance to the tunnels.
*** *** ***
Heart in his mouth, Father made a dash for it. Holding the child firmly against him, marvelling that she trusted him at all, this perfect stranger, Father fled the court with his precious bundle and did not look back.
Afterwards Father wondered how he’d ever had the nerve, and whether Peter might be in trouble, but as he reached safety at last within the coolness of the tunnels, Father expelled his first deep breath of relief.
He’d actually done it!
Jubilation lasted mere seconds as horrified he realised what he had done…he’d stolen a child! Kidnapped it right from under the parents nose…right from the court house…his heart hammered painfully, Lord if he were ever seen after this…they’d have his head…and if someone had seen him, noticed him entering the alley surely they would search there and find the tunnel’s entrance?
Lord what had he done…and why?
Whatever had possessed him to steal the child away?
Father looked down at the baby, her big grey green eyes scrutinising his with such trust and love…and Father knew…that’s why he had done it…this little scrap of life was the only link to her mother and he had done it for his son…
*** *** ***
Despite everything he had assured himself of and despite everything he had believed in, Father’s gift when he had brought the baby to him had softened Vincent’s heart.
This child, was Catherine.
He’d only to look into those beautiful grey green eyes and Vincent was lost.
Everything about her spoke of her mother. From those beautiful eyes to that impish smile, to that honey gold hair and Vincent loved her on sight.
Everything that had gone before – all his thoughts, his dreams and nightmares faded into nothing, as Vincent took care of the child of the woman that he loved more than life itself.
And it was a sight that brought joy to the eyes of everyone that saw it, even though for many days those eyes were drawn to Father’s face splashed across every newspaper in the whole of the United States. But down in the tunnels, although Father had received some terrible words from his tunnel friends about his foolhardiness, his stupidity, his ‘practice of what thou preach’ reminders Father could not help but feel happy for what he had done and deep down inside no one blamed him one bit.
Peter was rapped across the knuckles quite forcefully for a few days, but when he had finally made everyone believe that he only knew the old man in passing, they had let him off the hook and spent the manpower on following up other possible leads.
Elliot Burch was not above suspicion, neither was Joe Maxwell, but after several days of watching both avidly and revealing nothing, even those suspicions were dropped.
Sadly the baby had been kidnapped again. And while people had been congratulating the happy couple in the courtroom that day, everyone had overlooked the fact that no one knew the description of the original kidnapper and he could well have been there among them awaiting his chance.
Well that chance had been handed to him literally although a great many could not believe that the old man would hold a woman and child for so many months on his own. He’d had to have had an accomplice, which is why Peter Alcott then came under suspicion at first since he was the only one who appeared to know the old man, but in time even that idea proved false.
Suspicions were rife though on everyone until one afternoon the New York Times received a telephone call that put everything right.
The child’s nurse, having seen the papers, telephoned the editor saying who she was and explained that the old man might have taken the child, but simply he was not the original kidnapper, but she refused to say who was. In fact since that day she had beat a hasty exit after giving Joe Maxwell the child she had not been out of hiding.
After that day though everyone knew of her.
Found the following morning with a bullet between her eyes, and a note in her pocket with the telephone number of the newspaper and the name of the editor and a few scratchy details about the child, the papers were full of it, but for those that wanted facts the trail had gone cold. No one knew who had the baby now or why, or who had had her from the beginning. All they could do was sit and wait, and pray that Catherine Chandler, the only link to any of this, would recover from her coma and be able to tell them.
*** *** ***
Vincent was convinced that everything would come to fruition at the end of eight months.
Just as he was sure that Catherine would turn up at the end of the second time she had been out of his life, and she had then Vincent felt certain that she would awaken at the end of another eight months.
It was a while to wait yet though, another five weeks, and it had been five months since Catherine’s child had been brought Below for the tunnel dwellers to care for, though in the main Vincent had taken that role upon himself, along with Mary’s help of course.
And though they had named her, they had not had a naming ceremony, and it had been the first time that a child had been so named without one, so that everyone knew of the child’s name.
They’d named her Rose. It had some symbolism between Vincent and Catherine, but it had been Mouse who had thought of it first.
Her cheeks, he had told everyone, were flushed pink like rose petals.
Yet in all the time that baby Rose had been cared for Below, no one could understand why Catherine’s whereabouts was being kept such a big secret. They knew everything of course. They knew that the FBI were guarding Catherine’s whereabouts, but it grieved them to know that Joe Maxwell and Elliot Burch were still searching for any details as to Catherine Chandler’s whereabouts. This grieved Vincent, for somewhere at the back of his mind, his conviction remained that one of these men was indeed the child’s father.
At the same time Father was doing his own calculations. No matter what his son had said to the contrary, dates told him quite differently.
Rose was approximately, true, eight months old. She had been with them for five months and obviously with her captors for about the same length of time, give or take a couple of weeks. A pregnancy lasted nine months, but his presumption was that the gestation period in these circumstances, though he could only speculate, might be shorter. At any rate, the date of conception took him straight to the time Catherine rescued Vincent from the cave, or three months earlier. Surely in all that time Catherine would have said something?
Surely she would have known?
Father could not contemplate that a woman such as Catherine would keep that kind of knowledge to herself. Though she had surprised him at her ability to keep secrets, he couldn’t begin to believe that she would have kept that one from him. Or from Peter come to that matter. So surely somewhere there was someone who would know?
Unable to tell anyone, and unable to now go Above, Father sent word to Peter, detailing his concerns, knowing that Peter was in all likelihood being watched for he had not been Below in months. And Father just hoped that Peter could turn something up where he couldn’t.
*** *** ***
And there was something.
Peter cursed his secretary and himself for his own incompetence.
Holding Father’s letter in one hand, Peter sat at his desk, sifting through a sheaf of papers with the other and wondering how on earth he had ever missed the fact that on Catherine’s file was a memo from the hospital revealing her pregnancy. Not only that but also giving a suggested date of conception though only a scan would verify that.
Peter’s whoop of joy could have been heard across the street, but he soon fell flat again, this news helped no one…or did it?
What was Jacob Wells thinking of?
Scribbling a note containing all the answers that Father had been seeking, Peter had a messenger to take it Below without delay.
*** *** ***
A sight that reduced him to tears met Father as he stood in the entranceway to Vincent’s chamber and he watched a gentle tug of war going on between Vincent and the baby with Peter’s reply clutched firmly in one hand.
He watched as tenderly Vincent fought to retrieve a white china rose from the mouth of the child, while telling her the story of the rose’s symbolism and of her mother’s courage and love. Father watched them both through new eyes.
He’s seen it before of course this quiet interchange, and he had hoped, yes, he had hoped, but now the scene took on new meaning, a frighteningly true meaning and one that he had to speak of yet again.
He cleared his throat “May I come in Vincent?”
Blue eyes looked up and Vincent nodded, “Of course Father.”
Father watched with incredibility as those huge lethal looking hands gathered the tiny child from the bed and placed her upon his lap as he sat on the side of the bed “What is it Father, your tone sounded serious. Is something bothering you?”
“Yes. Vincent there is something I must bring up again… I am reluctant to do so, for you…” He hesitated as Vincent’s eyes grew wary, but Father drew on his courage and went on, “But I must speak to you about it again.” He watched the child sitting quietly upon Vincent’s lap, and for the first time it struck him hard.
Father gasped, how had he missed it before?
But then perhaps he had always known?
Everything about the child was solely Catherine but for one thing and he could see it now oh so clearly, the way the child watched him avidly. Her clear grey green eyes all knowing. Father rejoiced and Vincent became concerned by his father’s evident joy.
“I know we have mentioned it before Vincent.” Father was uplifted now. He had his proof, though it was not proof enough. That would come later, for now he had to make his son believe.
Vincent said nothing, a tiny seed of doubt brewing in his mind, a tiny web of fear weaving around his heart.
“I asked once whether you and Catherine…”
“STOP IT Father!” Vincent snarled and that was another thing the child did not even flinch. She knew, she had anticipated this move, this action from her father.
Jacob Wells jumped to his feet. It was so obvious to him now and as clear as the light of day! Vincent had lost his bond with Catherine, with anyone, but this child, this wonderful, wonderful child knew and there was a connection!
Thinking back now Father wondered how he could ever have been so blind.
Rose stilling on Vincent’s approach though he was as yet out of sight, Rose knew. She would smile before Vincent had entered a chamber her head turning anticipating his entrance.
She would respond to his moods, she knew when to be silent, when to comfort him, even at her tender age.
Father could not withhold that kind of news, any longer. “Vincent whatever you say, the child is yours. She’s your child Vincent! I can see it. She’s yours Vincent. Rose is your daughter!”
Vincent stared, and it was unusual to hear him say anything outrageous, but this time he made an exception, “Are you crazy old man, you can’t be serious. Father!”
Stunned Father could only stare at his son, where on earth had he learned such street talk? Father’s lips twitched at how funny such talk sounded coming from his regal son, but he understood the implications behind such an outburst. Vincent was furious, not only that but he was embarrassed and shocked that his father could say such a thing, and with such conviction too.
Father was shaking his head, “I don’t know how Vincent…” What was he saying of course he knew how, but the idea posed such an impossibility that it was deemed untrue, yet looking at the child, the facts presented themselves so sharply.
“Please Vincent you know I would never make rash statements unless I thought them justified and I don’t know when or how this happened, but somehow you and Catherine came close enough to bring forth a child.”
About to argue Vincent stopped in mid stroke, as flashes of a reoccurring dream and whispers in the night came before his eyes. He sank back down to his bed, the child still firmly held in his arms, and marvelled that even during his sudden outburst she had not flinched, had not seem to mind or care that his whole life had suddenly been turned inside out.
“Are you so certain nothing happened between you?” Father prompted gently now, sensing something important on his son’s mind.
Vincent shook his head, and whispered, “I thought it was a dream.”
Father’s spirits lifted, “There is the possibility?”
Vincent’s eyes rose to that of his father, his voice trembled when he spoke, “Maybe.”
Expelling a long deep breath Father’s whole body relaxed. “Would you like to be alone, or to talk perhaps?”
“I’d like to talk.”
There was a long silence, but Father waited knowing it would take his son some time to get his thoughts into words. The wait was worth it, for once Vincent began he did not seem able to stop.
“I have been having such dreams about Catherine and I…about things between Catherine and I.” He continued to tell his father of the intensity of his dreams before adding; “I see Catherine in those dreams as I have never seen her before, and she, she sees me.” He paused begging Father to understand with eyes filling with pain and embarrassment unable to put those things into words.
Father understood and he added the missing words that were silenced by his son.
Vincent looked away, embarrassed, “Yes.” His reply was barely audible.
“When then Vincent, do you know?”
“In my dreams everywhere is dark, only a dim light is glowing. It is enough to see her, but not enough to see where we are, but I think, I feel that we are somewhere deep, somewhere alien, I can feel the unease and the cold of the place surrounding me.”
Father nodded, “The cave then, that day when she went in with courage to save your life. She brought you back from the brink of death Vincent, from the madness, and you have been different ever since.”
“But a child?” Incredulous Vincent looked down at the baby upon his lap, seeing her through new eyes.
Was it possible?
“You said Catherine had something that she wanted to tell you that last day you were together?” Father reminded him gently.
“Do you think…”
“That she wanted to tell me about the child?”
“Yes.” Vincent told him, “I believe that was why she was so troubled.” He swallowed hard, as new implications of this amazing event unfolded before his eyes. “And that’s why she was kidnapped, and that’s why the child was stolen, and why Catherine lies in a coma today. Father somebody knew, somebody knew and they wanted this child, only because she is my child!” His voice rose and Father looked on startled, “Then someone knows about you, enough to know of your link with Catherine?”
“Someone evil, someone who will stop at nothing to get what they want, but none of this makes any sense. Was it just a mistake that Catherine never died, was it a mistake that during the time the child was at the hospital no one made any attempt to take her back? Father it doesn’t make any sense. What then are they after?”
The truth hit them both simultaneously and Vincent’s eyes widened, “Its me, they want me don’t they?”
“If your theory is correct then yes, possibly. Vincent have you ever attempted to go to Catherine since she has been found?”
“I don’t know where she is. No one does, why even Elliot Burch and Joe Maxwell are being kept in the dark. No body knows where the FBI are hiding her, not even Peter her own GP!”
“It must have messed with their plans when the child disappeared. If they know where Catherine is they are probably having her watched. They would not know that Catherine had not told you about the child.”
“But why not? Catherine did have time to tell me even if she didn’t, but they don’t know that, unless she told them otherwise.”
“And she might have done Vincent. To protect you Catherine would do anything.”
“As I would Catherine, but it is because of me that all this has come about. It is because of me that Catherine has undergone so much pain.”
“You don’t know that for sure.”
“First you tell me that the child is mine and then you imply that she isn’t. What am I to believe Father?”
“Vincent, I didn’t say that, I didn’t imply that she wasn’t your child, I stake my life that she is, everything about her speaks of you, and then of course there is the connection.” Father’s merry eyes twinkled.
“You may have lost your bond with the child’s mother Vincent, but Rose certainly shows signs of sharing one with you. She knows when you are near she responds to your approach through solid rock Vincent. How does she know that? Tell me huh, if Rose shares a bond with you from whom does she get it, from you or from Catherine?”
Vincent shook his head, as if clearing it again. This too was unbelievable, but if it were true, if the child were his, then Catherine had carried that knowledge with her and had still returned to him. She had acted with love and with kindness around him, indicating that whatever he had done with her she had been a willing participant. Suddenly that thought became unbearably too much, and Vincent needed time to think.
“I need time alone Father.”
Father reached for his cane and rose to his feet, “Of course you do Vincent, I’ll be in my chamber if you need me.” He crossed the room, and bent to kiss first the tawny head of his son, and then lower still to plant a kiss upon the silky head of his granddaughter.
Father smiled with pride, yes she was his granddaughter, Vincent’s daughter, and incredible as it may sound, Father realised he had never doubted it for one moment.
The telephone rang for what appeared to be the umpteenth time that day, and Gabriel snatched it up, hoping for the news he sought.
“Sir, its Jed, I’m sorry Sir we’ve drawn a blank again. He just didn’t show. And Sir?”
“Yes?” Gabriel shook with rage as he grasped the receiver in one hand his tone barely civil.
“If I might be permitted to make a suggestion Sir.”
“Is it possible that he doesn’t know where she is?” The voice quaked on the other end of the line. Daring to even suggest that his boss hadn’t thought of that filled the caller with dread.
Nonetheless Gabriel held his silence for a few moments signalling to the caller that he was still present only by the sound of his ragged breathing. He neither acceded to nor refused the question, instead he replied, “What would you suggest?”
There was a long in drawn breath at the other end of the line, and Gabriel waited aware that the caller was selecting his words carefully, afraid of upsetting him. Gabriel smirked, someone had trained the fellow well, only been on the payroll two weeks and already he cowered before him.
“To make the beast know of her whereabouts. There must be someone that knows where he is.” The timid reply suggested.
Gabriel thought it over for a second or two before answering sharply, “Get it done.” And then hung up, how his men got it done didn’t concern him, only the outcome of their actions did.
With the telephone receiver burring in his ear, the caller stood for some moments collecting his thoughts together. It had taken all his courage to make the suggestion and at no time had he assumed that his boss would expect him to carry the suggestion through. The man shook. He was on a spot now and if he did nothing he would die. If he did anything and failed he would die. Before him appeared a colossal task and he had not the contacts with which to make it happen. Still if he didn’t try his boss would have his head. He replaced the receiver just as a high-pitched wail issued from its tone, and walked slowly back to where he had left his car.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Seven - click on 'Next' below:
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