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.
Two days passed and still Jed had drawn a blank. He was sweating profusely now, knowing that his time was running out. He’d gone over every tiny little detail regarding Catherine Chandler a hundred times, and nowhere did he ever find mention of the beast. The only names that cropped up were Joe Maxwell Deputy DA and Elliot Burch, businessman and architect but since neither of these two knew her whereabouts it was unlikely that they knew the beast.
Walking the streets had not been one of his favoured occupations, but in necessity Jed decided to do so. It was possible that people that had nothing, people that might need protecting in the only way possible, would harbour the beast. To befriend something like that to keep them protected they would perhaps ensure his safe keeping and such people lived on the streets. Jed kept to the sidewalks never veering to the left or the right, wishing he had his boss’s courage, wishing his boss would do his own dirty work, wishing he had never made his suggestion. Wishing brought him only one thing, stepping off a sidewalk to avoid a group of people found him in the path of an oncoming car. He braced himself, trying desperately to avoid it, and just as he winced at the pain to come, he was snatched from its path by two strong arms. Jed breathed a deep sigh of relief looking up at his rescuer and finding himself wrapped in the arms of a huge burly Negro whom he had seen earlier on a street corner playing the saxophone.
“Thank you.” It didn’t seem adequate. He said it again trying to muster feeling into his words.
“That’s all right. You just watch where you’re going in future.” The Negro smiled, picking up a case at his feet even as he let go of Jed’s arms and prepared to walk away. He caught Jed unawares and before he had had time to reward him with a few dollars the Negro had gone and Jed didn’t even see where.
He looked up and down the street, people milled around, but no silhouette revealed the Negro to his eager eyes. Simply the fellow had vanished. Jed looked around him. Where they were stood was nothing but a wall, no door, no nothing, except…
Jed decided he would watch and wait another night. He didn’t know why, but he had a feeling, and he had always listened to those gut feelings. In the past they had saved his life more times than he cared to remember. And for the first time in several days adrenaline sang through his veins.
*** *** ***
Absorbed in his reading Jed looked up only briefly to check the clock perched upon the mantelpiece of his Brooklyn apartment. Almost midnight. He was surprised, he never read books but this one was intriguing. It had caught his eye as he had passed the bookstore earlier and he had gone in and bought it to read at home later. It told him things he found absolutely amazing and he had lived and worked around New York all of his life. To think there were people living beneath the city streets, in stretches of tunnel ways, drainage systems and forgotten subways, some of which went down eighty stories or more.
Elated Jed closed the book with a sigh of relief. ‘That’s where he is’ he murmured. He was sure of it. His eyes bright despite the length of hours he had been ‘at it’ Jed knew that sleep would not come until he had at least satisfied his curiosity.
Alighting from his cosy armchair alongside the fire he went to the window drew back the curtains and looked across the vast concrete jungle to where Manhattan lay and concentrated on the things he had absorbed within the pages he had turned all evening.
It made perfect sense, where other than beneath the city streets to hide a beast of that calibre? And that Negro, the one this evening that had started the ball rolling, he had disappeared inside one of those drains. It was the only place he could have gone. Though the alley was a dead end, the only thing to be seen was the mouth of one huge gaping hole, even if it was barred six feet or so in. From the street a man could hide in the shadows inside that drain and not be seen. Jed had to find out if he could gain access through that way, and he had to find out tonight.
Picking up his car keys, and checking his gun was loaded Jed shrugged into his jacket and opened his apartment door. All was quiet in the hall outside, not unusual for this neighbourhood, still Jed checked all around before pulling the apartment door closed behind him, and making for the elevator.
The trip down to the parking lot was uneventful and as Jed had made the trip a hundred times and rarely seen a soul at this time of night, he never expected to see anyone now. So when he stepped out into the basement he was surprised to see a group of men standing a few yards away involved in a heated argument and heard the sound of gunfire just as the elevator doors announced his arrival.
In split seconds Jed was away, daring not to collect his car, but rather to make for the stair well and the ground floor. Whatever he had stumbled upon he didn’t know, neither did he care, but that he was a witness scared the hell out of him.
Footsteps sounded behind him as he crashed through the doors leading out into the street and hailed the first taxi he saw even though it was going in the opposite direction to where he wanted to be. Dashing across the street, he became aware of his pursuers not far behind and a shout signalling to someone waiting in a vehicle to tail the taxi.
“Step on it, can you mate?” Jed leaned forward and cried anxiously into the driver’s ear.
The cabby did not reply, knowing not to ask questions, just checked his rear view mirror before putting his foot on the gas and accelerating away at twenty miles an hour faster than previously.
The car behind kept pace and the driver was well aware that if he wasn’t too careful he might get caught up in something he knew nothing about.
“Where you going?” He asked his passenger nervously.
“Anywhere, just keep driving. Can you lose him?”
“I can try.”
Jed had a sudden thought, “Where does one hide in this city do you know?”
There was silence for a few seconds that seemed like hours as they sped through the streets with their pursuers gaining on them. “Depends what you are running from.”
“I don’t know. I was just leaving my apartment when I heard arguing and then a gunshot and a man went down. I just ran as fast as I could to get out of there and then I saw you.”
The cab driver was quiet, pondering for an awfully long time, and Jed was just beginning to wonder if he had been listening when the cabby replied, “I do know somewhere, but its not for me to say whether or not you can stay there. I will need to ask permission.”
“Sounds ominous. Where is this place?”
The cabby laughed “Now if I told you that, I could tell anyone. The thing is with them tailing us; we don’t have time to ask permission. I will have to take you to one of the half way houses and go from there.”
Without waiting for a reply, the cabby, checking his mirrors took a sharp left and turned into what appeared to be a darkened street between blocks. No sooner had he turned did their pursuers follow them in.
“I’m gonna kill the lights in a moment, when I do, jump out and see that building on that corner?” he pointed and waited for Jed to say, ‘Yeah’ before continuing, “get yourself inside and low. I’ll have someone come and find you, they’ll give three whistles, but you may have to wait awhile. Just try to stay put okay? With a bit of luck the people behind will think your still with me. I just hope they think I’ve dropped you off at the next block but they’ll likely come back here.”
“What should I do, if that happens?”
“Get yourself down into the basement of the building. Try not to disturb any boxes that would signal they’d recently been moved. Just keep going down. Someone will meet you, I promise. Right are you ready?”
Jed could see the lights in the next street but it was still pitch black where they were. The cabby switched off his lights as he turned a corner, “Now git.” He cried as Jed swung open the door and threw himself out. It hurt, he was momentarily winded but he rolled out of sight and lay praying that the second car would turn the same corner and go on by.
It did. Jed breathed a sigh of relief and wincing stumbled to his feet before heading for the area directed.
A block further on, the cabby drew level with a busy sidewalk, stopped the car and made a pretence of taking money from someone laid low in the back. Then reaching over he opened the door and hoped whomsoever had drawn into the curb a few cars behind would assume that his passenger had alighted from the taxi and had mingled with the crowds.
That done he moved away from the curb, not a bit surprised when the vehicle behind continued to follow him. He didn’t really expect them to believe someone had alighted from his car, but it was a good alibi for when he drew alongside a waiting fare to pick them up.
Then as assumed, the car behind ground to a halt and the sound of slamming doors and running feet didn’t surprise him one bit. The waiting customer was rudely shoved aside as three men leaned into the rear of the car and demanded to know what had become of his other passenger.
“That nut case? Got out a block back, thank God. Slid right out of the car like a piece of ‘s**t’, tried to leave without paying his fare.”
They accepted his reply; thankfully, the cabby tried not to tremble as he spoke. He could clearly see the outlines of the guns that they carried in their waistcoats. He had a young family and he wasn’t planning on leaving them to fend for themselves so soon.
Without a reply, they let him go and the cabby waited only long enough to pick up his new passenger before drawing away from the curb. Even so he was three blocks away before he realised that they were no longer tailing him and let out a huge sigh of relief. Now all he had to do was drop off his present passenger and find someone to help the guy he had left waiting in the old warehouse.
*** *** ***
Huddled in his corner hoping that he would not be found Jed remained as quiet as a mouse as he listened to sounds all around him. Obviously whatever the cab driver had done had put them off of the scent for time long enough to secure himself a good hiding place, but only just in the nick of time. Now they were moving boxes and generally trashing the place in order to search for clues as to his whereabouts. The only piece of good fortune on his side was the fact that he didn’t think that they had actually ever seen his face. If they didn’t find him in the warehouse, he could in all probability escape them once they had left. However, he was intrigued now by things the cab driver had told him, and he wondered if seeing the killers this evening had in fact been a stroke of good fortune in the long run. For now it would appear that he was to be actually led into the lion’s den.
Maybe not. Maybe he was way off league, except for one thing the cabby had told him, ‘just keep going down.’ Well down in his opinion meant down beneath the city streets and in light of the book he had spent the evening reading that could mean only one thing.
Time passed, as Jed was occupied with his thoughts he only half heard someone say they were going to give up and return to the earlier job. Jed was thankful that he hadn’t made it to his car. Though there was every possibility that someone would watch for a man of his build and physique for a day or two near his apartment, no one had any concrete evidence as to whether he had seen anything or not. And since he was going to keep quiet about what he had seen, no one was ever likely to know. He’d seen enough people killed in cold blood before and knew what it meant to stay quiet. Neither was he in any hurry to join that particular list.
An hour passed, maybe two, Jed carefully stretched his cramped limbs aware that someone might have stayed behind, aware that any movement could arouse interest to his position. He yawned; clapping a hand over his mouth quietly to drown out the rush of warm breath and with his head leaned against one wall he tried to avoid falling asleep.
He wanted to remain alert knowing the futility of sleeping at a time like this, so when he heard a soft whistle he was stunned when he realised the sound had woken him. Still it had been a light sleep and Jed’s attention was at once drawn to the sound.
Again it came, and again and Jed did not know whether to stay put or make some sort of sound that would highlight his whereabouts. Undecided which to do, he was surprised when he heard a voice whisper “You there?”
Drawing himself to his feet with the aid of the wall behind his back, Jed whispered back a reply, “Yes.”
“It’s all clear, I’ve checked, you can come out now.”
Jed wasn’t sure, but he had no choice but to trust the owner of this voice. Besides he didn’t think it belonged to any of the killers. What he had heard of their voices sounded nothing like this. This was almost childlike.
“Where are you?”
“Over here. To your left. Just walk into the light and I will step into it too.”
Doing as he was bade Jed stepped apprehensively toward the spot where a shaft of light from the moon penetrated the broken windows high in the wall. As he did so a movement to his right caught his eye, and before he could speak Jed found himself looking at two people, one slender and young with a mop of curly black hair and another hidden by the shadows and wearing a long cloak from head to foot.
It was to the latter that drew Jed’s attention. This mysterious noble person appeared there yet not there as he merged with the shadows as if he had been one with them all of his life.
“Who are you?” The three spoke together and Jed stared openly at the softly spoken one that hid in the shadows, never had he heard a voice like that before. Like velvet over gravel. He found that he almost ached to see this person’s face.
“My name is Jed.” He heard himself say as the younger of the two replied with Kipper, and Jed thought it an unusual name even as he took in that the boy’s clothing was unusual also. The figure in the cloak did not reply, Jed thought this was funny and hugely disappointing as he had wanted to know and he had wanted to hear him speak again.
“Our friend says you witnessed a murder and your life is in danger?” The youngster asked him.
Jed confirmed this was so.
“Then you will need sanctuary but we cannot take you to our home. Come follow us, we know where you will be safe.”
Jed remained staring as the cloaked figure turned. It was impossible to see his face, covered as it were by the hood but Jed could tell that the man was tall and heavy built, with long legs made for running.
Adrenaline started pumping furiously through Jed’s veins as little snippets of conversation began returning to him. Things he had heard Gabriel say, things he had gleaned from here and there around the other staff.
‘He wears a cloak.’
‘Can’t see his face.’
‘He’s tall, well built, long legs.’
‘A fast runner.’
“I need to know who you are?” He found himself blurting as words swam around his head, and he was half relieved to see the cloaked figure turn back, elated when a shaft of moonlight picked up on long tresses of wavy hair peeking out beneath the cloak’s hood.
‘He has long tawny hair.’
‘It’s like a mane…a lion’s mane.’
“That’s not important.” The soft voice said and then for the life of him and Jed would never know why, he blurted out, “Do you know Catherine Chandler?”
The sharp in drawn breath was all Jed needed to hear to know the answer, but the body language told him more. The moment the name Catherine was out of his mouth, the cloaked figure stumbled, and brought one hand up to his heart clutching his chest in shock. And the younger man rushed to his side anxious to aid him, crying fearfully, “Vincent! Are you okay?”
‘His name is Vincent.”
Jed’s knees became as jelly and despite himself he fell to his knees to the floor. He’d found him! He’d found the beast and he hadn’t even tried!
What to do now though? That was the question. Jed’s mind raced frantically even as he touched his gun for comfort, knowing he could never use it. Gabriel needed the beast alive. Yet what story - what plausible explanation could he come up with to answer the question that would soon be asked? Jed could find none that would suffice but the truth, or nearly the truth.
“How do you know Catherine?” The velvet voice shook with wonder.
“I think I should explain.”
“Yes I think you should.”
“I don’t need sanctuary.”
It was the last thing Vincent expected to hear as Jed went on quickly; “I did see someone murdered, that much is true, but I don’t think they got a clear enough look at me to know who I am. I think I am safe now they have gone from here. I refrained from telling the cab driver that though. I had a hunch.”
“ A hunch?” Kipper spoke.
“Yes. Believe it or not, I was looking for…” Jed had a hard time saying the name, he had only ever known of this person before him as the beast, but he felt that putting it into words might not be taken lightly, so he continued, “Vincent.”
Greatly concerned Vincent remained rooted to the spot when everything told him to run and never look back. His anchor was the name, the name of his true love. How did this man know Catherine? It didn’t matter that the fellow knew of his existence, only that he knew of Catherine’s.
Aware of Kipper tugging his sleeve and hissing anxiously, “Come on Vincent, we’d better go.” Vincent asked, “Do you know where Catherine is?”
There was a long pause, Vincent could hear the blood pounding in his ears as he awaited the reply, watching as the fellow decided upon his answer, feeling faint when it came.
“Yes. Yes I know where she is, and I can take you to her.”
It was then that Jed felt decidedly uneasy, even more than before. He was dropping himself in it with every word he spoke. Visions of photographs he had seen of those slain at the hands of the beast flashed before him. Jed cowered into the shadows even knowing the futility of his back against a wall.
Vincent felt his fear, knew his uncertainty, and knew the situation was perilous. Knew he should return below, seek help, seek guidance, knew he should consult someone like Joe Maxwell or Elliot Burch. He knew all those things but he did none of them.
“Vincent, No!” Kipper cried holding on to the strong cloaked arm with all his might. Jed was impressed when the cloaked figure shook the boy free, lifted him right off the floor as if he lifted a feather. He was impressed and he was terrified. What the power behind an arm like that could do to a neck.
He shuddered, feeling fit to explain, though he owed the beast nothing fear held him in its steely grip. “It’s a trap.”
Vincent echoed the words.
“Yes, they want you to go for her. Expect that you will. It’s a trap, they plan to capture you.”
So, he had been right! He and Father that day they had spoken of this possibility, they did want him, but what of Catherine?
“And if I should allow myself to be captured, Catherine can go free?”
“Yes, I don’t know, I’m sorry. I assume so she is no trouble to us. She is in a coma.”
Vincent shook his head, ‘still in a coma.’ How long before she would awaken? Would she ever awaken?
“Take me to her.”
“But it’s a trap!” Jed cried as if his first words had been of no consequence, “They’ll kill you.”
“I am already dead without Catherine.”
“Vincent, No!” Kipper was still trying to hold his friend back, tears stung his eyes, “Let me fetch someone, someone to go with you. Vincent please!”
Vincent shook his head, extracting Kipper from his arm easily, carefully. “Kipper, No. I must do this alone. If I do not return, have Father and Mary take care of Rose. Tell everyone that I love them.”
“Vincent No!” Kipper sobbed holding on harder still even though Vincent repeatedly extracted his fingers to undo his grasp with the greatest of care, “I have to go Kipper, I have to go to Catherine.” Kipper heard the tears in Vincent’s tone, the tears and the love and the sorrow and the joy. “I must go Kipper.” Then turning to Jed he asked, “Tell my friend where Catherine is being held then we shall leave.”
Jed shook his head, as the words ‘fast runner’ flashed through his mind. If he did that, the beast could be off before he’d had a chance to find a phone to call Gabriel. No if he wanted to live he had to make certain Gabriel’s men were in place before the beast arrived. He shook his head, “No, we won’t go tonight. Meet me tomorrow night and I’ll take you there then.”
A sudden growl terrified Jed, he was stunned that a man could utter such a sound, and then he remembered this was no ordinary man, if indeed he was a man at all. The fact that he spoke as a man could mean anything. Did not parrots mimic? Still, Jed knew he would never forget that wondrous voice for as long as he lived. And if he didn’t warn Gabriel’s men first that wouldn’t be very much longer.
Perhaps he could lead the beast and still make the call. He could find a way surely he could.
“Okay, we’ll go tonight.”
The growl quietened, became almost a soft guttural purr. Jed marvelled at the sound. What must it be to befriend the king of the beasts? He wondered if he was doing the right thing and if in fact he was working for the wrong side.
*** *** ***
Headlong Kipper charged into Father’s chamber shouting as he went, “Vincent’s gone! They’re gonna kill him! Father you’ve got to do something!”
Alarmed Father staggered to his feet, the book he’d been engrossed in sliding to the floor with a heavy bang. “Slow down, slow down, Kipper tell me precisely what happened.”
“We went above… like suggested… went to see who needed help…. There was a guy…” Kipper panted, “knows Catherine…taken Vincent to where she is…Oh Father! He told Vincent it was a trap! But Vincent still went with him!”
Mary hurried over guiding Kipper to the nearest chair her concern plainly evident in her eyes and face pinched with fear as Kipper told them the whole story spluttering over different aspects in his haste to tell it all.
When he was done, his plaintive plea of “Father, you’ve got to help him.” Left Father stunned. He knew not where Vincent had gone, knew nothing of Catherine’s whereabouts. He reeled on Kipper grasping at any hope; “Did you follow them?”
“I tried, Father I tried really I did, but they lost me. I think Vincent intended on losing me. He shouldn’t have done that Father. I know he was afraid that I’d get hurt but he shouldn’t have done that.”
“No, he shouldn’t.” Father agreed. “Kipper, this man was he with Vincent all the way?”
“Yes, no. He went into a deli. Not long five minutes maybe. Vincent waited on the roof, kept cautioning me to go away. I wouldn’t go away. Vincent looked annoyed at that, but I wasn’t listening to him.” Father grinned imagining this before his eyes became troubled again as he continued to listen.
“The guy came out munching something, or so it seemed. I wasn’t sure. I mean I didn’t take a lot of notice, but it didn’t look right somehow now I think about it.”
Father nodded, “I think he was making a pretence of eating as a reason for his need to go into the deli.”
“But why Father?”
“I don’t know Kipper.” He did really he just wasn’t about to trouble the boy further with his speculations. It was obvious to him. The fellow had gone into the deli to make a call to someone. Someone who would be waiting wherever he may be leading Vincent to. And Vincent had known, known it to be a trap yet still he had gone.
“What can we do Father?” Kipper sobbed uncontrollably.
Father sighed, it was a pitiful reply but it was all he could offer, “ Pray Kipper. We must pray that Vincent and Catherine are safely returned to us. It’s all we can do.”
*** *** ***
Her daughter in safe hands, her future secure, Lena had few worries as she trudged home through the streets wishing she were returning to her baby while knowing it were possible that she may never ever see her again.
A sob caught in Lena’s throat. Leaving her baby in the tunnels had seemed the wisest choice; it would have been impossible to have taken the child with her, the life she led left no room for children. Still it had been a hard decision to make but a necessary one even though a night did not go by when her arms would ache to hold her baby once again.
Embarrassment kept her from returning. Embarrassment and shame for the way she had fairly thrown herself at Vincent, offering her body to him, when he loved only one. And even in the absence of Catherine this time just as before Vincent had refused the comfort that she offered him in the belief that somewhere Catherine lived and that she would return.
Lena’s heart ached that she had made the same mistake twice. How could she have expected that Vincent would turn to her arms any more this time than he had the last? Even so both occasions hurt Lena terribly and after that second attempt was refused Lena left the sanctuary of the tunnels, leaving behind her baby with the man that she loved, knowing young Cathy would never be denied his love.
Vincent loved her true, but not in the way that Lena sought. He was everything to her, more man than beast, strong powerful protective. Never had Lena felt so safe than when in his presence. His supreme presence that suggested that nothing could touch him or those that surrounded him. At his side Lena felt much like a princess in the presence of a warrior, a mighty warrior. For Vincent had that ability to make one feel that way.
Rounding the final corner to her home, Lena’s footsteps slowed as some sixth sense highlighted to her that things were not quite right. She walked forward cautiously her ears straining to hear any sound that would tell her to run. When it came she was immobilised as someone placed one hand over her mouth and the other yanked her arms behind her back, “I’ve got work for you.” Someone muttered in her ear, then Lena knew no more until she woke up several hours later to bright lights blazing overhead.
“So, you’re awake at last.” The voice though kindly had an edge. The sort of edge that suggested no nonsense was expected. Lena remained quiet taking in her surroundings, surprised to find that she was in some sort of laboratory.
“Can I get you something to drink, eat perhaps?”
Lena shook her head, her timid eyes wary.
“It’s all right don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you. You can leave it you like.”
That surprised Lena. Leave? She wasn’t a prisoner?
Seeing her confusion the fellow laughed, “Yes, you can go.”
“I don’t understand, where am I, why am I here?”
“I found you. You had been knocked unconscious, I have a feeling that someone may have molested you, but I cannot be sure. Still you were unhurt in any other way and so I carried you to my home and have kept you warm till now.”
Lena was unsure, “Why didn’t you take me to a hospital?”
“My dear do I look as though I can afford a doctor’s fee? Can you?” He looked down at her almost pitifully. Lena was very much aware of her soiled clothing and the fact that it had been a long time since she had a real good bath.
“No.” She agreed, though aware that the fellow did indeed look wealthier than she did. “So I can go?”
He nodded, his eyes crinkling with humour at the corners. “There’s the door.” He pointed and Lena alighted from the bed eager to be gone. She did not understand this, nor did she want to wait around for it to be explained, it was good enough that she could go. She did not need a second telling.
No sooner had she left then the fellow turned to a telephone at his side and lifting the receiver spoke into it, “She’s gone, Sir.”
“Good. And did you replace the contraceptive device?”
“And there’s nothing to suggest to her that she was ever inseminated?”
“No Sir. I don’t think we need worry. These contraceptive devices are merely to ward off unwanted pregnancies, whores today always insist on the use of condoms. I think we can be sure that any child she carries over the next few months will be decidedly yours.”
There was laughter at the other end, “Good, good. And the other women?”
“All done Sir, and you’ll know where to find every one of them when the time comes just as you instructed."
“The chip is in place?”
“Yes Sir, the chip is in place.”
“Well done. Stop by at my office on your way home and I will have the cash ready.”
“Thank you Sir.” He replaced the receiver. What a bizarre day this one had been. Taken from his laboratory, asked to perform artificial insemination on three women that would not be aware of the fact until they knew they were pregnant for a man that had donated his sperm in order to have children. He’d done a lot of strange things in his time. He’d even carried out artificial insemination for childless couples but never for a man that had snatched two whores of the streets and insisted that his sperm be inseminated into them without their consent. That as well as one comatose woman in a private hospital, all of which seemed a little like a story from the twilight zone to him.
Still it was none of his business, he had been promised good money to carry out the deed, and he wouldn’t be required again. He was not to know that the sperm he had inseminated was not from the man, he was not to know that the babies that would develop would not be entirely human. He would never know, for as he called to collect his payment he received not cash as expected but rather a bullet right between the eyes.
*** *** ***
Her eyes felt like lead, but something was calling her up from a slumber so deep that at first she felt she would never escape its chains.
Slowly the spinning room came to settle around her and Catherine reached out a hand bringing it up and back to touch her face.
So many dreams… Which ones were real?
The stitches she expected to touch were not there. Catherine dismissed that dream. The scar that she traced with one finger beneath her ear revealed that other dream had in all probability been true or in part thereof. But what of Vincent? Had he been true also? Was there a whole world beneath the city streets? Had she been kidnapped and administered a lethal dose of morphine just after giving birth to the child of the man that she loved?
In part Catherine hoped that to be so. Her memories of Vincent being so exquisite that she could not imagine that he existed only in dreams.
That was her name. Who was using it?
Catherine could see no one. She turned in her bed looking about her. Indeed the room was empty. Still someone called to her.
Stunned, Catherine realised the voice came from within. From deep inside her heart and mind and for a moment Catherine could not understand, until slowly enlightenment dawned. The Bond! Of course the Bond. “Vincent?” She queried with reverence.
“Catherine!” His reply was swift, joyous. She could feel his relief.
“Where are you?” She asked, still confused.
“I don’t know. Nearby, next room maybe.” Came his reply. He was amazed, sounded incredulous that they could converse this way. They had never done so before. Maybe the child had strengthened the Bond. Vincent did not question it further. There would be time enough for questions. Right now, he had to get Catherine out of there.
“Where are we?”
“Trapped. Someone kidnapped you, captured me. I don’t know why. We have to get out of here.”
“Are you shackled?”
“No.” Catherine thought it a strange question then wide eyed asked, “Are you?”
A flare of anger rushed through her that someone would dare chain Vincent. He felt it, reassured and told her it did not matter, so long as she was well. Assured her that they would escape, and find their way back to his home beneath the city streets.
Catherine believed him. Vincent, she knew, could do anything.
*** *** ***
Father had aged ten years, in fact he felt as though he had gained twenty. Seven weeks and nothing no sound no sight, no reports of Vincent or Catherine’s whereabouts. Nothing to suggest they were dead or alive, except maybe one thing, one very small thing, Rose’s perception. Not once in all of those seven miserable weeks had Rose appeared fretful. Her Bond with her father was as ever remarkable as the one he had shared with her mother and Father decided that as long as Rose stayed happy then Vincent, wherever he may be was still alive. He could not be so optimistic about Catherine, but took heart that if Rose was happy, then Vincent was happy, and if Vincent was happy then Catherine was alive. For nothing else could make Vincent happy while under capture, it just wasn’t possible. And it had been Kipper who in time had come up with a suggestion, one that they all wished they had thought of sooner.
Coming to his chamber late one evening, Kipper had knocked almost timidly afraid his suggestion might be met with another solid wall of uncertainty as so many had since, and had found Father staring blankly at the flames of the stove, looking without seeing.
Father turned his face toward the boy, “Yes what is it Kipper?”
“I have an idea.”
Inwardly Father groaned. Not another idea. So many seemingly good ideas had come to dead ends over the past two months. He wasn’t sure his heart could stand to believe in another. Yet Kipper looked so hopeful, so eager, Father bade him come near and asked him what it was.
“Stan told us that he had picked up that Jed fellow from outside his apartment,” already he had Father’s rapt attention as he continued, “Stan is the only one other than me that knows what Jed looks like, and Vincent of course. But Stan knows where he might be found. If we wait there for him, if he shows, maybe he can be persuaded to tell where he led Vincent to, and ultimately where we can find Catherine.”
Open-mouthed Father stared at Kipper. It was brilliant! So simple, so obvious, why had it taken seven long weeks for them to think of it? Even so it was not a job they could carry out, it required professionals, someone able to use authority, and in all probability someone with a gun. Father employed the help of Joe Maxwell, the only man other than Elliot Burch that he had come to trust since the day Catherine had first gone missing now over eighteen months ago!
*** *** ***
“You forgot something.”
Jed froze and then reached for his gun.
“Don’t bother. There’s about twenty firearms aimed at your head.”
“What do you want with me?” Jed replied his mind racing. When he’d expected this it hadn’t happened, as soon as he had started to feel safe, it had. Sods law that was it, sods law.
Joe Maxwell fleeced the guy standing before him, extracting his weapons, two guns and a knife and handed them to the officer at his side. “Now I want some answers.” Joe told him gruffly, “And the first question? Where’s Catherine Chandler?”
*** *** ***
Too late too late
The deed is done
The hand is played
The day is won.
Time has lapsed
The seed is set
I will be the
Everything he needed in his possession, Gabriel left the building knowing that no one could stop him now.
He had accomplished his plans and all he needed to do now was wait, but with three times as likely to succeed Gabriel wasn’t unduly concerned about that.
In his pocket he carried the device for homing in on the three women who now nurtured within their womb his ticket for success along with a tiny chip that aided him to know of their whereabouts any time he chose.
Gabriel was happy, it did not matter to him that a tip off had revealed the entire police force were on their merry way to his offices, the ones he had rented next door to the private hospital where Catherine was being held. Neither did it concern him that there they would find the beast. Gabriel had everything he wanted and that was all that mattered to him now.
*** *** ***
After some moments of reading him his rights and offering him sanctity if he co-operated with them, Jed had finally started talking. “I can only take you to where they are holding the beast.” He blurted nervously. Quickly Joe hastened him to one side, hoping no one had overheard that might put two and two together. That done he whispered hoarsely, “And where would that be?”
“I’ll write down the address for you, got a pen and paper?”
“No, you’ll take me there. My car is just around the corner, come with me, and no funny stuff, you hear?”
Joe was in a corner, facing a huge predicament. He couldn’t just waltz into the building alone yet if he didn’t other people would discover Vincent. There was only Elliot Burch that he could think of that might probably help, but he was out of the country. He would have to use Jed, and just hope he wasn’t double-crossed. For back up he could call a few select men later. He knew they would take orders from him.
Mumbling some feasible excuse to the police department Joe marched Jed to his car and the pair was soon driving toward the location with the directions that Jed gave.
*** *** ***
At exactly the same moment Vincent was struggling against his shackles happy to see that one or two links were indeed stretching to snapping point. He forced harder, twisting the thick metal chain this way and that, until with jubilation he felt them snap and drew his left arm free. From then on able to move one limb, he was able to quickly break open the other links chaining his right arm, torso and legs to the floor, until he was at last completely free of them.
Catherine, believing herself to be in the same building was aware of the moment Vincent was free feeling his elation through their connection. Hastily she searched her room for ways of escape assuming that she too was being held captive by the same person that had held her prisoner during the time of her pregnancy.
“Vincent where are you? Can you come to me?”
“Yes. Stay there.” She heard his voice in her heart and her own started pounding in anticipation of seeing the man that she loved for the first time in too long. How much time had gone by she did not know but she was aware that she had missed much time with her child. At thought of her daughter Catherine felt nausea rise up, not knowing the whereabouts of her child and hoping that Vincent could help find her before they left the building.
Almost at once, she heard Vincent’s voice fill her heart with comforting words that made her cry tears of joy, “Catherine, don’t worry, our daughter is safe, below.”
A gasp of relief brought Catherine sagging to her knees. Vincent knew he was the child’s father, and somehow some way their daughter was in safe keeping in his world below the city streets.
Recovering quickly, telling herself there would be time enough for questions later, Catherine went to the door, placed her ear against it and listened for sounds that she hoped would be Vincent’s arrival at any moment. Therefore, she was stunned when moments later the sound of breaking glass had her spinning round in time to see him crashing through the window feet first from the roof above.
They raced across the room eager to hold one another, overjoyed at being together once again, yet aware that time was perilous and they were still in much danger.
“I will carry you. Hold on to my neck I will take you out through the window.” Vincent told her gruffly. Undecided Catherine looked to the door, even knowing that it was impossible. She didn’t know who was on the other side of that door, but for the moment no one knew what was happening within the room, and freedom was just beyond the window. She hung on to Vincent’s back grasping him around the neck as asked. She felt as safe as an eaglet on the wings of an eagle as he lifted her effortlessly and ducked out of the window scaled the narrow ledge and leapt safely from roof to roof of the buildings nearby
“This is where I was held captive.” Vincent said, amazing Catherine who had assumed they had both been in the same building. “We cannot stay here, there is activity below, they must have discovered my escape.” With her heart in her mouth Catherine dared to look down, she did not know that rather than danger existing for the two of them, help had just arrived in the guise of Joe Maxwell, as Vincent continued carrying her back to the safety of his world.
*** *** ***
“Lena!” Father looked up overjoyed to see the young woman standing before him safe and well and back below at last. Then his eyes dropped from her face to her softly rounded belly and Lena winced.
“I know what you’re thinking Father, don’t.” Lena’s lips trembled as she started to cry causing Father to embrace her in his arms and hold her tight. “There, there Lena, you should know that I would never condemn you. What is done is done, we are here for you and it is wonderful to have you home.”
“Is Vincent here?” Lena hiccuped through her tears.
“Yes, and so is Catherine. You heard I take it?”
“About their disappearance? Yes I may not have been down here, but I kept contact with whomever I met from time to time, if only to see how Cathy was.”
“Your daughter is well, and growing!” Father chuckled, “I hope you will find it in your heart to stay with us now, for the sake of both your children. When is the child due?”
Again Lena started to cry, “That’s it Father, I don’t know. I’ve been so careful, the device that Peter gave me has stayed intact, and I have insisted that my…my…” Lena felt so embarrassed about this next part, swallowing convulsively before continuing, “clients always wore protection. I just cannot understand it.”
Father shook his head, “It’s not impossible to become pregnant with such a device, its never one hundred percent proof but with male contraception too, it should have been nigh impossible. Are you certain every client used protection?”
“Quite sure, but Father, there was one occasion about six months back when I found myself in a strange room with a man who told me he had found me unconscious in the street and had taken me in to care for me. I didn’t believe him, I was only too happy that he let me leave but things he said didn’t quite ring true…I can only assume…” Her voice wavered.
“That he raped you?”
“Maybe. I was unhurt, but for a certainty the fact remains that he took advantage. I have returned to the place since with a male friend, but the house is empty.” Lena shrugged, “It’s the only plausible answer.”
“Strange things do happen.” Father rubbed a weary hand over his eyes as he thought of recent events in the tunnels. Lena noticed, “You say that as if it’s not the first time, has something like this occurred before.”
“Yes, my dear, it has. Catherine too is pregnant, with no plausible reasons for being so. Though they have a child already, Vincent and Catherine have not been intimate since Catherine’s return to our world, they had too much trauma to cope with to…well anyway, they haven’t and she is…and its very puzzling I can tell you. Probably more so than what has happened to you, since Catherine has had a relationship with no one.”
Mystified Lena could only stand and wonder how a woman that had not had sex with anyone could become pregnant, at least she as Father put it had a reason, a possible reason for it being so.
“Poor Catherine.” She said now, sympathetically. Then added, “How is Vincent taking it?”
“He doesn’t know what to think. Then there was the reason for his capture. Though anaesthetised he could find nothing wrong when he came round to suggest that anyone had captured him for a reason. It is all very bewildering; perhaps he escaped before they had carried out their plans. At least both of them are safe while they remain below. If the same person was responsible nothing is known of him or his whereabouts, neither do we know if he might try to capture Vincent or kidnap Catherine or the child again. It’s all very mysterious, but hopefully they can learn to put it behind them, although much depends on the birth of this new child.”
“How far along is Catherine?”
“Same as yourself, about six months. You will find things have changed here, at least as far as the atmosphere is concerned. We rarely see Vincent or Catherine laughing or smiling, and we rarely see them together. They each go about their own way much in a world of their own. Each exceedingly miserable, just waiting until the child is born. I fear that Vincent…” Father’s voice faltered, remembering just who he was speaking to, and that as much as he needed to talk some things were just too private to speak to of. And especially to one whom had shown her own feelings in no uncertain terms to his son in the past.
“It’s all right Father, I understand. Thank you for telling me what you were able. Is Catherine staying in the usual guest chamber, I should like to visit with her?”
“You’ve seen your daughter?”
“Yes Father.” Lena smiled and Father detected the joy she had gained from that particular visit.
“Well, yes Catherine is staying in that chamber, but there is no telling that she will be there at this moment. You might find her helping Rebecca though. Why don’t you visit Vincent? I know he is in his chamber.”
Lena hesitated, and Father knew her reasons, “He’s long forgiven you Lena, and will not, I’m sure bring it up. He will be only to happy to see that you have returned to us.”
“Thank you Father, I should like to see him. I have missed him very much.” Lena gave a big smile that lit up her eyes, and Father patted her hand, “Off you go my dear, I’ll see you at dinner will I?”
“Oh yes Father, I’ll be in the dining room when the children are having their meal. I’ve missed so much of Cathy that I ache to spend every possible moment with her.” Father smiled, hoping that this time Lena would stay. Hoping that this time she would find it impossible to leave her child again. Young Cathy was an adorable little girl, growing fast and she needed her mother. And then he began to wonder about the story Lena had told him and how much it was like the problem that Catherine faced. And some terrible thought began to enter Father’s mind, and he shrugged it away unable to accept it, only knowing six weeks later just how close to the truth he had come.
*** *** ***
Ordinarily choosing two hookers off the street that he did not know may have proved detrimental to his plans but Gabriel had that too, covered. Neither woman knew it, but several weeks before their kidnap Gabriel had hired three people on separate occasions to quiz the women on their thoughts of abortion. Starting with a selection of prostitutes Gabriel’s staff had finally chosen two whom they deemed the most likely to abstain from abortion in the event of finding themselves pregnant. However, as a back up Gabriel had an additional plan.
Two months into the pregnancy, Gabriel sought with his special device to seek the women in question, finding one reasonably easily, befriending her and offering her money to be his sole property for the duration of her pregnancy, and offering to buy her child after the birth.
She accepted after much deliberating especially when Gabriel took her to his mansion proving that the child would want for nothing and promising that she could visit the child whenever she wished.
Finding the other two women proved more difficult. One was expected for he had assumed beforehand that he would not know where Catherine Chandler had gone since her disappearance from the private wing of the hospital the FBI had sent her to. But not finding the other woman was becoming increasingly annoying to Gabriel.
From time to time he had himself followed the signal only to find it led into the vicinity of Central Park then vanished. He was not to know that on these occasions Lena had decided to visit the world below had got as far as the tunnels and turned back. And only when she deemed herself in dire need of help had she found the courage to go as far as the main hub and stay.
It was very frustrating to Gabriel, and he began to become incensed as time went on. To start out with three possible babies and to find himself with only one caused him to know anger such as he had never known before. The one place the electronic device did not work was through several feet of soil and concrete, and Gabriel had not known that this was required when he had had the device produced. Neither did he know where Lena disappeared to when he had followed her into the park. It was all very mysterious to him and very annoying.
Still, they couldn’t escape him forever, one day either that other whore or the Chandler woman would surface from wherever they had gone and hopefully with their child and then he would organise their kidnap once again. In the meantime, he did at least have one baby in the making, and so he concentrated all his time and energy on that child, eager to know if it would resemble the beast.
*** *** ***
During her stay below, Lena’s story had softened Vincent’s resolve to disbelieve his Catherine, and though he was still somewhat mystified he and Catherine’s relationship had improved greatly over the last three months.
Still as her time neared its end, Vincent found the strain of wondering whom the child might belong to even more worrying.
To believe of her original absence that she had met and gone off with another man. Then to find out about the child, to come to know that child was his, to find Catherine and then to discover that she was with child again, had all taken its toll on Vincent’s mentality. Not to mention Catherine’s it was a wonder that she had not gone insane with the trauma she had undertaken over the last two years.
It seemed impossible that so much time had lapsed since the fever had almost killed Vincent and Catherine had gone into that dark cave and saved his life with her love. And though Vincent remembered that occasion vividly, it still felt elusive to him as if it had happened to someone else. Only Rose made him face facts. Having a daughter with whom he shared a bond was a constant wonder to Vincent and one he cherished.
Those first few weeks of Catherine’s return had been a voyage of discovery for the two of them. Sharing in the delights of their daughter they had drawn closer than they had ever been, without the act of intimacy. It was that, as much as anything else that had almost toppled Vincent’s newly acquired stability when he discovered Catherine to be pregnant again.
He could remember his father’s diagnosis after Catherine had gone to him, as she was feeling unwell. He had been with them both when Father had taken Catherine’s hands in his and looking from one to the other had told them happily, “Well my dears it looks very much like you are going to make me a grandfather again.”
Those words had shaken the bottom from Vincent and Catherine’s world, as Catherine had blurted ‘There must be some mistake’ and Vincent had roared, ‘it cannot be!’
Father had been unaware that their close relationship had not included intimacy, he had just assumed…
When he discovered how wrong he had been, Father had not known what to think. Calling Peter down for a second opinion had not helped any, just verified the original diagnosis. Catherine was pregnant again, but this time, no one knew who the father was!
*** *** ***
Sitting beside the mirror pool had become a pastime the three had come to enjoy since Lena’s arrival almost three months earlier. Here they could look into the pool and see the stars reflected from the sky above. It was a place to unburden oneself, a place to find comfort, and since they had started to meet there after supper each evening, Lena, Vincent and Catherine had become very close.
The strangest thing of all to Vincent, was his awareness of Lena. It wasn’t that he felt anymore for her than he ever had before. Just the affection of a brother for a sister, but he began to notice that he was aware of her feelings in much the same way as he was aware of Catherine’s and Rose’s.
He found it distracting to say the least, as well as highly embarrassing at times. This particular time more than most for as the three sat around the mirror pool enjoying each other’s company, Vincent suddenly sprung to his feet, an instant before Lena cried out in pain as her labour began.
Concerned Catherine could only watch and do little as Vincent helped Lena to her feet and aided her journey back to the hospital chamber, believing that Vincent would return to her when he was done.
She waited, idly flicking pebbles into the mirror pool, expecting at any moment that Vincent would come to sit alongside her, saying that Lena was in safe hands with Father and Mary. When he did not, she began to feel panicky.
Had something gone wrong? Had Lena made it to the hospital chamber in time? Catherine waited and listened intently, before searching through the connection she shared with Vincent to see what she could glean there. What she found surprised her. Vincent was agitated and anxious, and by his heartbeat she knew he was pacing nervously, probably the floor of his chamber.
Getting up was never as easy as getting down. With Vincent’s help Catherine had always managed both effortlessly, but in his absence Catherine struggled to stand from beside the mirror pool, eager to find Vincent and see what troubled him so. Obviously something was wrong with Lena, why else would Vincent not have returned to her?
As she stood Catherine felt queer. Automatically she reached out a hand to steady herself only realising at that moment that there was nothing near to hold on to. She stumbled, catching herself sharp in an attempt to stay on her feet, and it was then that she felt it. A sheer pain shot through her and her waters broke, gushing down her legs in torrents. Catherine screamed and screamed again as pain after pain hit her and she did not know until she felt firm arms around her that Vincent had returned to her side.
“Catherine!” He shouted in a bid to make her hear him over her screams, hugging her as tight as he dared.
“Vincent!” She collapsed against him, needlessly explaining, ‘my waters have broken.’
“Can you walk?”
“No. Vincent can you carry me to the hospital chamber?” The request was unnecessary, as Vincent had already begun to gather her up into his arms with just that thought in mind. However as he felt another pain shoot through her he gauged that they would not have the time to get her to Father before the child arrived. He put her down again, throwing his cloak down and helped her lie upon it, his intention plain.
“We must Catherine. There is no time, and Father and Mary are busy with Lena.”
“But you have no experience.”
“Yes, all right.” Catherine agreed breathlessly as another contraction carried her away on a wave of pain.
He sat with her urging her through it, helping her as Father had shown them both along with Lena on the weeks proceeding this moment. Perhaps Father had been aware of the possibility of both babies arriving together. Hadn’t he said on more than one occasion that the gestation period for both babies was quite remarkable? And that if they weren’t careful both could be born simultaneously. He had laughed when he had said this, making light of the situation and everyone had conceded that he had been joking. Now both Catherine and Vincent wondered about that.
Yet carrying out a delivery on the woman he loved proved to be more of an ordeal to Vincent then he had surmised. Firstly the removal of her undergarments almost became too much for him and he had to keep reminding himself, that now was not the time for such embarrassment. Catherine needed him; she was about to bring another child into the world. And not for wondering whom that child may favour, whose child he may soon hold within his large hands.
A blood test might reveal later the parentage but for now he mustn’t allow himself to think about that.
Laying flat on the hard ground did not make it easy for Catherine to bear down into her contraction, and another pair of hands would have greatly relieved the situation, but for Vincent to leave if only to tap out an SOS was not possible. At first Vincent positioned her flat on her back with her knees bent and legs apart, as he had seen Father deliver babies. The difference being that a soft mattress and pillows had indeed aided the patient considerably. Feeling Catherine’s discomfort did nothing to help matters, and when Vincent became aware of her need to have him support her from behind he changed positions, allowing her to lean on him to bear down. But Vincent became increasingly worried that there was no one to tell them what was happening at the other end, no one to oversee the child’s arrival into the world.
He supposed that some women would deliver babies without help, and he spoke of this now to Catherine, hoping to lighten the mood surprised when she became elated at the thought and swiftly moved out of his embrace to squat over his cloak instead.
“Here, you can… assist the… delivery and I’m… in the right… position to give… birth.” Catherine panted between contractions that were coming fast and furious now.
With the front of her skirt tucked under her chin, and the back pulled up over her shoulders, Catherine’s lower half was completely bared to Vincent as were a soft tawny mound protruding from between her legs. Vincent caught his breath, knowing at once this to be the baby’s head and reached out to touch it instinctively, in order to guide it into the world.
The love he felt at this sight almost overwhelmed him, and he carefully manoeuvred the silken child holding it tenderly as Catherine continued to bear down with each contraction.
Finally with a last strong push the child slid into the warmth of his waiting hands. Its back to his avid gaze, the only thing visible to him the mop of tawny hair that covered the head and the soft downy covering of hair that covered the torso arms and legs.
“Vincent?” Catherine queried, as he made no sound, except that of his ragged breathing. Catherine steadied herself with one hand against him as she delivered the afterbirth her gaze fixed firmly upon him, her head turned as far as was possible to see the child in his hands.
“What is it?” She asked eager to know. Eager to see.
Vincent was quiet. His heart hammered and he did not hear her, only the sound of his heart beating erratically in his ears.
“Vincent?” Catherine squeezed his arm hoping for a response, and managed to shuffle round enough to see the baby that up until now had been deathly quiet.
“Vincent? You’re frightening me, what’s the matter?” Catherine’s voice rose and as it did it penetrated Vincent’s mind, so that he turned the child over and heard its first mewling cry simultaneously.
Like a hot coal he almost dropped the child, flinging it instead into Catherine’s eager hands reaching out now to take the child from him.
“No!” Vincent cried, jumping to his feet, contempt and disbelief at the sight of the child evident in his eyes. “It’s not possible!”.
Catherine looked down at the child and her heart swelled. “Vincent.” She whispered, recognising instantly the parentage of this unique child, yet unable to believe it could be so.
There in her arms covered with a soft down of tawny fur, his cleft lip eagerly sucking, his cute feline expression turning dazzling blue eyes to hers, Catherine could only marvel that somehow, some miraculous way she had given birth to Vincent’s son, a son in his adorable image.
*** *** ***
Back in the hospital chamber Father stood in equal disbelief staring down at the child Lena held in her arms, noting the awe upon the young woman’s face, and the love and fascination that she had given birth to a miniature Vincent.
“It’s not possible.” Father shook his head repeating the words over and over, “And what’s Vincent going to say?”
Lena didn’t care. To have in her hands the son of a man who would always hold her heart was more miraculous than anything she had ever dreamed. Truly it was nothing short of a miracle. How it had happened at this moment did not cross Lena’s mind. That it had would always be a source of joy to her.
Not many minutes after the delivery of Lena’s child, came a thunderous message on the pipes that Catherine too had given birth down by the mirror pool and that Father was needed immediately.
“It never rains but it pours.” Father muttered collecting his medical things together and placing them in his bag. “Mary would you mind staying here with Lena? I’ll try to tell Vincent…the er good news… when I see him.”
Bending to bestow a kiss on Lena’s brow before he left, Father touched the silken head of the babe in her arms, “I don’t know how it happened my dear, but Vincent isn’t going to be happy about this, you know that don’t you?”
Tearfully Lena nodded; it was the only thing to mar her joy right now.
“Don’t worry, I’ll tell him as tactfully as I can. I must go now, Catherine needs me.”
“Give her my love Father, tell her I’m thinking about her.”
Father turned leaving the hospital chamber, turning for one last look before he left. Stunned to see Lena cuddling her baby with a look of possessive love in her eyes and he could only marvel at such a sight.
*** *** ***
Across the city and out beyond the concrete jungle of skyscrapers another child was making its debut into the world.
Gabriel paced relentlessly; he felt that the staff he had hired to deliver the baby were taking an ungodly time to carry out their job eager, as he was, to see the child.
Finally, when one of the medics came to tell him that they would have to perform a caesarean section on the mother Gabriel was elated and insisted that he witnessed the operation. Believing him to be the loving partner of the woman in question, the medics did not question his request instead allowing him to stand alongside her while they made the initial cut.
The atmosphere was fraught with tension as Gabriel watched impatient and fascinated at the same moment, the feeling to put out his hands and rip the woman open in his eagerness to see the child almost overwhelming him. That the staff of two took utmost care of the woman infuriated him, he thought it unnecessary knowing she would soon die anyway but of course they did not know that.
At last Gabriel’s evil eyes rested upon the soft pale skin of the child as it was pulled from its mother’s womb, rubbed free of the silken coating that covered it and turned over for Gabriel to see. He gasped… the shock and disappointment too much to contain and striding from the room he slammed the door behind him furious that the beast had won again. Another girl child and one that did not resemble the beast at all and Gabriel was so crazy with anger that he picked up his gun loaded it and strode purposefully back to the delivery room with one intention in mind.
*** *** ***
Side by side and laughing merrily Catherine and Lena enjoyed their babies, swapping notes comparing growth patterns happy to be united in such a strange and miraculous way. Only Vincent did not come near, only he could not bear to see the two babies that were so obviously fathered by him, or someone like him and that alone led to numerous unanswerable questions
How on earth had it happened being the utmost question in his mind? Father had his own theory.
“You were captured Vincent. Someone for some reason wanted something from you. When you came back here an examination revealed that nothing had been taken from you and nothing had entered you or so we assumed. Something obviously had been taken from you, and for reasons we cannot establish as yet both Lena and Catherine were artificially inseminated with your seed. And I don’t think someone would go to all that trouble for a prank. I believe that someone intended to get his or her hands on these children, and before you go saying I’ve read too much science fiction I’d like you to see these.” Father held out the palm of his hand upon which lay two very tiny silver objects, much like watch batteries.
Lena and Catherine leaned in for a closer look, “What are they?” Lena asked mystified.
“They are some kind of homing device and I found one of each amongst the afterbirth of the two of you. I feel certain that as crazy as it sounds, someone made the three of you victims of the same crime, and its just incredible that Lena knows us and could come below to have her baby otherwise…” Father’s voice trailed away the implications obvious.
“The problem we face now.” He began after a time, “Is knowing if the two of you were the only victims of this crime, and so I propose that we give these microchips to Joe Maxwell and see if perhaps he can run a trace on them to their source. If we can find out who is responsible its possible he or she kept records of his experiments and then we can go from there.”
Up till now Vincent had been silent, listening in moodily as was his custom these days. He had not stopped to wonder if there may be other women in the world above who may also have given birth to one such as he. He looked at Father with eyes wide, his heart hammering and for the first time a fierce possessive love rose into his heart for the babies that were safely with them below.
To know now, that these were in all probability his offspring altered things drastically. Both Catherine and Lena had given him sons in his image and even as he accepted it was so, for the first time he began to feel stirrings of an emotional tug on the connection he shared with Catherine and Rose.
“And assuming they are Vincent’s babies…” Father was adding as Vincent interrupted quite forcefully, “They are.” Stunning Father to silence as he went on; “I can feel it here.” He pointed to the region of his heart. “I share a bond with them.”
“Vincent!” Three voices chimed at once as Catherine, Lena and Father looked at him incredulously.
“Not until you told us about the microchip did I believe and now I can feel them. I have a connection with the children Father, I know that they are both my sons.”
For long moments everyone stared open-mouthed having nothing to say but soon it became obvious how happy Vincent had suddenly become and that in turn brought a smile to everyone’s face.
At last Father decided, now his son had accepted the children as his own, things could only get better from here on. Still he would make arrangements to see Joe. It was imperative that they knew if anyone else had been involved. For all they knew there might be dozen’s of children like Vincent being born into the world. Father felt sick to the pit of his stomach. What mad man would do a thing like that? And more especially why?
*** *** ***
Contrary to what he had told them it seemed to his family that Vincent could not stand to be in the company of his children, since most evenings the moment it was dark he would say nothing, don his cloak and set off for the world above. It became a constant worry to Catherine who had found their relationship had waned to a level suitable for brother and sister and was nothing like it had been be it that wasn’t much more. The only time they had made love had been in the cave and Vincent could barely remember that. Though the memory was restored to him, it was all some distant dream, unreal and Catherine ached to relive that wondrous moment, but it seemed that Vincent just wasn’t interested in her in that way anymore.
She understood that he’d had a lot to contend with this past two years, and she tried to be encouraging and patient, tried to spend her time in his world as if she had been born to it, but without Vincent’s input it was becoming increasingly difficult. Yet she couldn’t leave. To do so would be to leave behind her children, or to take Rose and leave Jacob something she found too abhorrent even to consider. She could not take Vincent’s children from him, anymore than she could take their daughter away from her father. They adored each other and that would be too cruel. And really it was not that she wanted to leave the people she had come to know as family, it was just that one can be lonely in a crowd and Catherine missed the Vincent she had fallen in love with.
Lena it seemed had slipped into the routine of life below with her newest member of her family like a duck to water. A first everyone had deemed that it be nigh impossible for Lena to stay, but she was as much in the same boat as Catherine unable to leave alone, and unable to leave with her son. Young Joshua was growing as fast as Jacob was; in fact one could be forgiven for believing them to be twins. Both taking on the characteristics of their father, neither resembled their mothers in any way, and Father found it hard to accept that there were two of them for quite some time. He would seemingly slip into normality and then suddenly do a double take whenever the two boys were together and since they had started toddling that happened more and more often.
Still life was never dull and neither Catherine nor Lena wanted for an extra pair of hands. There was always someone willing to take on the responsibility of child minding, and especially if doing so included minding Joshua and Jacob.
It was during one such time that Catherine, finding herself with next to nothing to do, decided to seek Vincent out with the intention of facing him with what she considered had now become a ‘major problem’ between them. Seldom could she probe the Bond these days, and it became apparent that Vincent rarely used the same means to communicate with her as he once had.
Waiting until the evening pulled in, Catherine waited until Vincent walked past her chamber entrance as he invariably did most evenings on his way out sometimes popping in to say goodnight other times going straight to the nursery to check on the children and ignoring her completely. Well she would be ignored no more!
This night was one when he would have walked on by, with hurtful intention. Catherine called to him as she saw his figure loom by the entrance to her chamber.
He stopped, seemed irritated that she had hindered him, and stepped into her chamber somewhat anxious Catherine decided.
“Could I accompany you above tonight, Vincent?” Catherine asked, aware that her voice trembled and wishing that it hadn’t.
For long moments Vincent stared at her as if she had asked him to fly into the sky and bring down the moon for her, finally asking, “With me?” Asking as if the possibility of anyone wanting to be with him were the last thing in the world that they would want to do.
“Yes, if I may?” Catherine was aware that her voice still shimmered on the nervous side and was angry for it being so.
“It’s cold up there. You’ll need to put on something warmer.”
Catherine’s face brightened, “Okay. I won’t be long. Why don’t you step inside and wait for me?”
“Actually I was going to say goodnight to Rose, I’ll meet you in the nursery. Is ten minutes enough?”
Catherine’s joy vanished. Why the formality? Vincent was almost hostile with her it was almost too unbearable to continue with the idea of going above with him. But Catherine had her chance and told him, “Yes ten minutes will be fine. I’ll see you then.”
Catherine’s heart hammered as she donned warmer clothing for her trip above finishing her dressing with hat, scarf and mittens before pulling her large orange duffel coat over the top. Finally ready at last, she hurried toward the nursery with seconds to spare.
Waiting for her, Vincent, she could see was anxious to be off, and she fell into step beside him in relative silence. Really neither could find anything to say to start a conversation with. It had been like that a long time. Almost eight months now since she and Lena had given birth to what was obviously Vincent’s children and though Father had given Joe an assignment with the micro devices he had found with the afterbirth there had, as yet, been no news on that score.
However, the moment Catherine and Vincent reached the park Catherine found it impossible to keep silent a moment longer. This was what she had missed. The night air, the scent of the city - it filled her lungs the moment the pair stepped out of the drainage culvert into the park.
“Oh Vincent…how I’ve missed being up here.” She grasped his arm, as she once would have done without thinking perturbed when he shook his arm free.
“Perhaps you should go back.” His words stung her.
“You don’t mean that?” The words trembled off of her lips.
“I think it would be best. You are not of my world, Catherine. You belong, here, above.” His words cut deep and caused her heart to bleed. She choked back tears.
“I cannot go back. Its too late for that.” She whispered almost regrettably. Suddenly she realised where he was coming from, what his next statement would be.
“Because of me.” His words were spoken soft almost inaudible, Catherine detected the underlying sadness of his statement.
“Yes because of you.” He swung on her hardly daring to believe he had heard her right, but instead of seeing sadness etched on her face he saw her smile as she went on, “Because I love you and cannot bear to be anywhere but where you are. You don’t believe me do you? You think that because you saddled me with a child that looks like you I can neither stay nor go - that you have trapped me. But you’re wrong Vincent, I want to stay because I love you.”
For long moments Vincent stared at her and Catherine could see the inward fight he was having. More importantly she knew that he was finding it hard to accept or to believe in her words, so taking the initiative Catherine stood on tip-toes to brush a feather-light kiss across his lips.
Vincent shuddered, his eyes wide searching hers, and then suddenly almost as she had known they would his arms stole around her and he embraced her tightly, hugging her like he hadn’t seen her in years.
“Oh Catherine, can you ever forgive me? I have treated you appallingly. I thought that by so doing you would return to your world, that I was leaving you free to go.”
“Vincent, you are my life. How could I possibly live without you? You know how I feel, you know my heart, and having a child in your image is the best thing that could have happened to me next to having you as my soul mate.”
“Yet another also has my child.” Crestfallen Vincent turned away, unable to look her in the eye.
“Lena? Yes but Lena adores your child too. Have you ever seen differently?”
“No, when I look at you and Lena with the children, it is a constant wonder to me that you could both accept and love children that look like…that…like me… It was one of the things I found hard to accept in the face of believing that you wanted to go back above to live. I couldn’t understand how you could bare to leave our son, yet I truly believed that you hated living below.”
“Only when you are hostile toward me, but even then hate is too strong a word. I have been unhappy yes, but no more, we have found one another again. Vincent, promise me that our relationship can deepen from now on?” Catherine gazed into his eyes, willing him to understand the meaning behind such a request. After a long time he did, though with some apparent disbelief.
“You mean…” He whispered.
Her eyes sparkling, Catherine nodded, “Yes, I mean…that.”
“You’d be willing to let me love you?”
Despite herself Catherine laughed while slapping him playfully on the arm, “Vincent!”
Vincent grinned and then joined her in laughter.
The sound was music to their ears, it had been so long, too long since they had enjoyed the company of each the other and it was wonderful.
“I love you Catherine.” She was surprised to hear him say it, delighted that he had.
“And I love you too, Vincent.” And she would never know why but forever after be pleased that she had taken the initiative to ask, “Will you marry me?”
Staring down at her open mouthed Vincent could find no words with which to reply. Never in all his wildest dreams had he expected to find someone, to fall in love, to have them love him, to have children and then to be asked to marry them!
“Catherine…” He spoke uncertainly.
“I mean it Vincent. I want to be your wife.”
“You don’t know what you are saying, Catherine.” Vincent spoke sadly. If she knew what being a partner to him would really entail she’d get out while she had the chance.
“I know what I’m saying, Vincent. But if believing it is a problem to you, perhaps you had better tell me what that problem is, so that we can move through it together. For whatever happens Vincent, what ever comes, you are going to make an honest woman out of me and become my husband like it or not. I have your children, you’ve a right to marry me.” Catherine told him with a touch of laughter to lighten her speech.
“Lena too…” He began by way of stalling her.
“Lena has your child by artificial insemination, not by choice, though from what I see of Lena with Joshua I say you gave her the best present in the entire world. I, on the other hand, gave you your first child by some other more interesting means.” Her laughter was his undoing and he hugged her close unable to fight her argument any longer.
“Then if you are sure…” He asked holding his breath.
“I’m positive. So will you marry me, Vincent?”
“Yes, Catherine. I’ll marry you. As to the things marriage entails you will have to remind me.” For a moment she thought he was serious and then she caught the humour in his eyes. They laughed together hugging one another tightly and then as if he had done it all his life Vincent bent his head and kissed her lightly on the lips and then with growing passion as the taste of her set his blood on fire.
They stayed up in the park a long time, talking, catching up, kissing and then Catherine sensed a change in Vincent, something he might be withholding from her and she asked him what troubled him so.
At first he denied it, but persistent probing forced it out of him and Catherine was stunned by what he revealed.
“My children below, and you are not the only ones with whom I share a connection.”
“Then who?” Perplexed, Catherine clearly did not understand.
“I don’t know. But ever since the birth of Joshua and Jacob I have been compelled to come above every evening and once here I feel as though something is forcing me to walk the streets searching for something that I do not know. It took me a long time to understand what it was, but recently I became aware of another connection within my heart. A connection which I fear is to another child living somewhere in this city.”
Her eyes wide Catherine gasped, “Another child… you mean someone else with a child like Jacob?”
“I mean that its possible that whomsoever carried out the surgery on you and Lena likely did it on another woman also. I feel certain that another child lives, that some woman somewhere has another child of mine.”
For long moments Catherine was silent, until she finally told him, “I don’t know what to say.”
“I know it is hard to believe.” Vincent told her.
“No, it’s not that, Vincent. It’s not hard to believe what’s hard is the implication behind such a thing happening. If this other child should look like you…”
“I know Catherine. And if it does not, what genetics will it pass on in future years? Its frightening to think of a child of mine growing up in the city and not knowing its parentage, never knowing what might happen in the future. Catherine, I have to find that child. I have to bring him or her to live with us below. But can I expect that your love for me will extend to loving the child of a strange woman also?”
“If the child is yours Vincent, that’s all that matters. Do you know where to find the child?”
“I believe I know the location, one night I thought I had pinpointed the building, but I am unsure of how to approach the situation. Its not as if I can walk in there and demand to see my child is it?”
“No.” Catherine hugged him tightly sensing his frustration and sadness.
“That child cannot continue to live above Catherine. No matter what it looks like, yet how can I justify taking it from its mother?”
“It is a predicament, but I’ve suffered worse. I’m sure we can think of something Vincent. Firstly I think we should talk to Father.”
“It’s not something I wanted to worry him with. You know how he has hated the thought of my discovery in the world above. You know how happy he was that both Joshua and Jacob were born below. To tell him that there may be the possibility of another child like me living in the city might prove too much a shock for him to undertake.”
“Then I will go and see Joe. He knows you, he understands, knows the story. I’m certain he would help. He also understands your connection with me, as best he is able, and he will, I’m sure believe by that alone that another child exists.”
“We will ask him to come below. I do not like the idea of you’re going above without me.” Vincent shuddered. Things came in a sequence of eight months. It was almost that length of time since his sons had been born. Insight told him that Catherine would be safer staying with him. Going above, anything might happen to her. Catherine though was happy to humour him.
“Yes, we’ll ask him to come below. If you accompany me to that kiosk I can call him from there. The sooner we get started on this the better. We have already lost too much time.”
Vincent agreed, but her words, rather than give him reassurance, only served to make him wish that he had told her sooner - eight months sooner.
*** *** ***
Hands in pockets, Jed shivered as he walked from one block to another to where his sister lived. It had been a while since he had visited. Cowardice keeping him away. Now he could put it off no longer and he was reluctant to see her, afraid for what he must do.
Ever since Joe Maxwell had forced him to find the beast, Jed had been on the run, well until recently that was. The moment he had shown Maxwell where he had taken Vincent to that first night, he had known that Gabriel would kill him for turning traitor. And even though he now knew that Gabriel was dead, he was well aware that someone still had to pay for that particular murder.
Yet when Maxwell had ‘found’ him a second time, and made no mention of Gabriel’s death Jed had been led into a false sense of security and began believing that he might have got away with it after all.
That would be good. Perhaps now the nightmares would be extinguished. Though he’d had them so often over the past eight months that he doubted he would ever forget either them or the original experience.
Approaching his sister’s brownstone, Jed looked to the left and to the right. It was impossible to know if he had been followed, he hadn’t taken enough precautions to prevent it, so deep in thought had he been.
He rang the bell, waiting until the lights switched on in the hall, and in expectation as the silhouette of his sister came to the other side of the glass. She called out before opening the door.
“It’s me, Jed.” He called back a grin spreading across his face by her reply, “Jed!” As she yanked open the door and he thought at first she was pleased to see him for himself.
“Where on earth have you been!” She grabbed him and slammed the door shut, “I’ve called every one, no one has seen you, no one knew if you were dead or alive. I’ve been frantic!”
“Thanks for caring.” Jed grinned.
“Caring? No, you’ve got that wrong. It wasn’t your health I was worried about; it’s that damn child you brought me. There’s something wrong with it.”
A chill ran through Jed, “Why, what’s wrong?”
“Come see. I doubt it’s asleep yet. Never seems to sleep. And when it does, it makes the strangest sound. Like its purring.”
“Purring?” Jed tried to make light of that. Inside he was quaking, wondering how on earth the small baby he had handed to his sister eight months ago, could ever have developed the characteristics of her father. Imagining fangs and claws Jed followed his sister into the baby’s room.
“There she is.” His sister stood in the doorway, almost afraid to go any closer. The tiny cot was lit by the shaft of light coming through from the hall beyond, and Jed crossed the room slowly his eyes never leaving the cot. Finally reaching its side, he peeked over the top, surprised when a pair of bright eyes looked back at him regarding him pensively.
“Hello.” He spoke softly, surprised when his sister snorted derisively.
“Not get a word out of that one, Jed.”
“It’s too soon anyway, isn’t it?”
“I guess. But I’d be surprised if it ever spoke. Just try picking it up.” Arms folded his sister waited with gleeful expectation.
Reaching into the cot, Jed jumped back in surprise when the child spat at him, hissing like a cat.
Jed did see.
He straightened, turned and looked at his sister; “You want me to take it away?”
“And where would you take it?”
“To its family. I know who its father is.”
“And does he scratch and hiss too?” Jed’s sister laughed almost hysterically. Jed wanted to confirm this was possible but refrained from doing so. Maxwell had asked him to bring the child back with him. He had thought it might be impossible. Now he was almost relieved that his sister’s distaste for the child was so apparent.
“You want me to take it away or not?”
“Well, it can’t stay here that’s for sure. Do what you like with it, only compensate me for keeping it all this time before you go.”
“It doesn’t look as if you have smothered it with love and affection.” Jed began to notice things as he stared at the child. How thin it was being the most apparent. How dirty it was coming a close second. Still compensate her he would, if only to ensure her silence.
“You think that was possible? I’d get more loyalty from a cat. That thing doesn’t even come close. Just take it away Jed, and see that you bring no more freaks into my house.”
“How do I pick it up?”
“Carefully.” His sister retorted with much laughter. “Its nails are a bit sharp. You’ll probably find they are claws. I’m afraid after they cut me a few times too many I didn’t dare take a closer inspection. Use that blanket, yes that one, wrap it up in that and get it out of here.”
Carefully Jed drew the blanket over the child, sure to cover its hands, gingerly holding it as it struggled against him, then more tightly to keep it still. He wondered how on earth he was going to get it all the way home without drawing attention to himself.
“Do you have a box?”
“Like a pet carrier you mean?”
Jed didn’t, but if that’s all that was available…”Yes.”
“You can use the dog’s, be sure to return it.”
Jed felt an absolute heal bundling the child into the pet carrier but he had no other choice. However, under the circumstances he decided to ask to use his sister’s phone with the intention of calling Joe Maxwell for advice.
“You know where it is.” She left him at it, relieved to see the back of her burden and returned to viewing her television set.
*** *** ***
“Vincent!” Catherine ran into the chamber scouting this way and that, sure she had felt her husband inside dismayed when she found it empty.
Hurrying out she bumped into Father, “Were you looking for Vincent, my dear?”
“Yes, Father. Do you know where he is?”
“He shouldn’t be long. Came straight from the lower levels and went to our shared bathing pool. He thought you would be bathing the children about now in the one he shares with you.”
“I was, but I’ve finished. Do you mind if I talk to you later Father, I have something to tell Vincent, and it won’t wait.”
Before he could reply, Catherine had gone. Father shook his head, things had greatly improved over the past couple of weeks, ever since Catherine and Vincent had married and he was happy to see ‘old times’ almost returning. The only difference being the presence of the children.
Hurrying to the bathing pool Vincent shared with Father, Catherine found her husband mid deep in water as soon as she entered. Bubbles of shampoo coating his head. “Vincent!” She couldn’t wait to speak to him, and watched as he rubbed soap from his ears and eyes before turning to face her.
“Catherine? What is it?”
“I’ve heard from Joe. He’s found the child. He wants us to go and collect it tonight.”
Vincent sank down in the water; his relief making his knees go weak, yet something told him all was not as it seemed. “Why doesn’t he bring it here?” He asked her.
“Joe’s message didn’t say, just that he wanted us to meet him at his apartment after dark and tonight. Will we be going?”
Stepping from the pool, having rinsed off the soap, Vincent reached for a towel and wrapping it around his body came toward his wife.
“Yes, Catherine. If you are sure about this?”
“We’ve spoken at length about this Vincent. I’m fine about it don’t worry. However, do you think we ought to tell Father now?”
Vincent shook his head. “Later, when we bring the child home. No use worrying him further, especially of the fact that we are going above.” It rankled at the back of Vincent’s mind also that today was exactly eight months ago that Jacob and Joshua had been born. It shouldn’t have surprised him but it had that something momentous should happen this day. Perhaps it was meant to be then that his ‘other’ child should be brought home on such a day. Even so that did nothing to lighten his mood, only made him believe all the more firmly that things for him happened in cycles of eight months, and he hoped that collecting the child would be the only event to take place that night.
*** *** ***
Pacing his living room floor, Joe eyed the clock for the thousandth time, hoping they would hurry up. He’d told them after dark but he wished he’d been more specific about that. After dark could be anywhere from four o'clock and he could have hours to wait.
He hoped not, and looking at the child where he had placed in a makeshift pen in the corner of his sitting room, he wondered how Catherine might cope with such an addition to her family.
Perhaps giving birth to such a…such a… Joe could find no words to describe the child that did not sound horrendous, but decided that to give birth to whatever it was would probably have brought about a fierce protective natural love, whereas adopting such a child might prove too much to ask of anyone.
He knew Vincent had his moments, but at least he could speak. Joe wondered if this child would ever develop human speech. The guttural wild cat sounds he had heard from it so far caused him to doubt the possibility.
It stared at him, never took its eyes off of him. Like he was its prey or something, Joe decided with a shudder. Lord, when Vincent and Catherine had first approached him about such a child a fortnight ago, he had thought it would be impossible to locate it even with Vincent’s uncanny connection. Yet to see it now, Joe knew that there was no doubt at all as to whom had fathered this child. Its eyes were all knowing, all seeing. Crystal clear and blue as a summer’s day, its face framed by a mass of tawny hair that looked as though it had never seen a comb, and it stank. Boy did it stink. It was painfully obvious that pity if nothing else would persuade Catherine to take this child in, that and the fact that the child had Vincent’s eyes.
When it came a knock at his door startled Joe, so deep in thought over the child was he. He asked who it was, opening the door only when he heard Catherine’s voice, aware at the same moment that a slight tapping came from outside his window. Of course, Vincent couldn’t make a normal entrance. Just as well, hopefully he would take the child out the same way, save his neighbours seeing it leave his apartment.
“Hi Joe.” Catherine greeted him entering his apartment with eyes diverted to the window, “Think you’ll find that’s Vincent. Shall I let him in?”
“Sure.” Joe spoke without thinking as he closed the door, only spinning round at the sound of Catherine’s sudden gasp. Of course she had to pass the child to reach the window!
Vincent forgotten, Catherine could only stare at this strange child, wary eyed and hissing at her as she reached for the window latch. “Joe?”
“It’s like that. Sorry Kiddo, I wanted to warn you, but how do you prepare someone for something like that? Here allow me to let Vincent in.”
Oblivious to her husband’s entry Catherine bent slowly at the side of the pen that held the child, amazing Joe that after her initial shock she was doing quite remarkably at coaxing the child to silence.
“Hello Joe.” Vincent stepped into the room; “It’s good to see you again. Catherine and I were wondering how you knew that the child was the right one, but I know that it is, I can feel it here.” He tapped his heart before casting his gaze from Joe to where Catherine was kneeling and then beyond to the child squatted in the corner of the pen.
Blue eyes regarded blue eyes quizzically and an instant bonding took place. And for the first time in probably all of its short life so far the child smiled.
“Hello.” Bending to his knees Vincent reached out a hand across the wall of the pen beckoning the child to come to him. Catherine and Joe stood back in utter amazement as slowly the child edged closer seeming to sense that this one could be trusted.
“I fear you have a problem on your hands there.” Joe whispered to Catherine. The guy that brought her to me…” He got no further.
“What guy?” Both Vincent and Catherine asked together.
“It’s okay, don’t worry. You know him, at least Vincent does. It was Jed. You remember him, the guy that led me to where you were being held captive?” Vincent nodded, relieved that no outsider knew of the child.
“Well, anyway, as I was saying, Jed explained to me that his sister, who by the way won’t say anything, had been left in charge of the child, but well she couldn’t cope with…” Joe’s voice trailed away as he sought the right words, finally finishing with, “well, she’s quite an unusual child as you will see.”
“That’s to be expected.” Catherine replied.
“Yes, I know, but you don’t understand.” Joe began.
“Oh I think we do.” Vincent interrupted. “At least I do. I see nothing abnormal about this child. Society may deem her different, but she has the same needs as you and I.”
It was on the tip of Joe’s tongue to reply, “So has a dog.” But refrained from doing so. That would have been too offensive. He just couldn’t get them to understand that no normal child hissed and spat, purred and snarled unless there was something wrong with it. But that would reflect on Vincent, and he couldn’t for the life of him offer such an explanation.
“Don’t worry Joe. Vincent knows what to expect, and she isn’t all that unlike Joshua and Jacob, except in looks. She’ll be fine with us, you’ll see. Does she have a name do you know?”
Joe shrugged. Jed had referred to her as wildcat. He had thought of her as thingy. “No I don’t think so.” For some reason that saddened him. It did Catherine too.
Catherine had pre thought about this. They had Rose, a symbolism of their love and she had decided that if the child was a girl they might call her Crystal. She mentioned it to Vincent earlier and he had agreed.
“It’s all right Joe, we have a name for her. See if you like it. We are going to call her Crystal.”
Joe nodded, it was nice and at least it suited her sparkling eyes. Eyes that he noticed were fully focused on Vincent disregarding both he and Catherine ever since she had clapped eyes on her father.
He was also amazed to see that Vincent had coaxed her to crawl over to him and was allowing him to ruffle her hair, and seemed not a bit perturbed to hear her purring.
Inside Vincent’s heart was breaking. That someone could neglect this child hurt him terribly. People were the same the world over whatever was different was made an outcast. He thanked God for Father at that moment, for without the love of that patriarch of the tunnels Vincent could have been left to a similar fate.
“Vincent? Should we go now?” Catherine asked eager to get Crystal safely below.
“Yes.” Carefully he reached out and picked up the child, elated when she snuggled into the folds of his cloak. Catherine noticed the tears in his eyes, but said nothing. She could feel his pain, and her heart went out to him as it did to his child. That anyone could mistreat her different as she was Catherine could never understand. The child was painfully malnourished and neglected. Catherine didn’t doubt that Father’s medical skills would change all of that, but what of the damage done to the mind of one so young? She vowed there and then to lavish all of her love on her new daughter and make her one of the family.
“Thank you, Joe.” Catherine helped Vincent position the child inside his cloak where a harness placed for the purpose had been strapped to him, before she turned to the door to leave.
“Yes, thank you Joe.” Vincent echoed his wife, then as an afterthought added, “What of her mother? Is anything known?”
Joe shook his head, “Jed didn’t say. Or wouldn’t say. Got the feeling he knew a whole lot more, but he wasn’t about to tell me. I shouldn’t worry. I got the distinct impression that you wouldn't be bothered by her." Greatly relieved Vincent nodded, smiled and made his descent leaving Joe to close the window.
*** *** ***
The children, all except Rose were sixteen months old, and Catherine heavy with child waddled to sit beside her husband as he read stories to all his children as they sat gathered upon his lap and in the crook of both arms. He looked the perfect picture of happiness to Lena who moved about the chamber collecting dirty play clothes now that the children were in their pyjamas, ready for bed.
It had been a strange eight months, a voyage of discovery for Catherine and Vincent with Crystal. Finding that she wasn’t much different from Rose in that her ways had been brought about largely from mimicking another. Vincent supposed that Jed’s sister, whom had ‘cared’ for her would have taught the child to hiss and snarl when she had discovered that Crystal purred when sleeping. For as soon as Crystal was introduced to her brothers and sister she soon became as any other child at that age. Still it was a trying time for a while, for the assumption of her mimicry did not come about until several months had gone by. And Vincent would never forget the day everything changed as far as their belief about Crystal’s speech was concerned.
They had been seated as a family around the dining table. William had brought them their meal as requested since Catherine, heavy with child was finding it difficult to make the long trek to the kitchen and back. Father had joined them, as had Mary and Lena with Joshua and Cathy when suddenly Crystal had shouted; “Dada more wart wart.”
Stunned the whole family had stopped what they were doing to stare at Crystal, who seemed quite unperturbed that she had spoken her first words ever and not only that but her reference to what it was she wanted was spot on. The glass at her side was empty. The child simply wanted a refill.
Yet she got more than she bargained for, as one by one people rose from the table and went round to her seat, lifted and hugged her, smothering her in kisses. Vincent smoothed her long tresses of amber hair from her eyes kissing each of her rosy cheeks in turn, as his tears fell steadily. “Oh I love you, Crystal.” He told the child, delighted when she responded with, “Love you, Dada.”
Catherine’s heart and throat were choked with emotion, her eyes full of tears as she crossed to the pair and hugged them getting as close as she was able in her condition. Joy didn’t even come close. They had worried and fretted about this child for so long, beginning to wonder an unspoken word that she might be in some way mentally retarded. Not knowing what had happened to her at birth caused them a great deal of unnecessary stress. Now it would seem that nothing untoward had happened, just circumstances for the first eight months of her life taking their toll and these last eight moths of love and affection in abundance had reaped the reward.
“I know I should stop being pessimistic about time, but it hasn’t failed me yet.” Vincent began to the adults in the room, “So far for the past five and a half years something spectacular has happened, be it good or bad every eight months. I tried very hard not to let it get to me as this month loomed around signalling the closure of another period of time, but I found it impossible to ignore.” He shrugged, “And look what happens. It is eight months today that Crystal came to live with us here below, and it is on this day that she has spoken her first words. Is that coincidence or what?”
No one had an answer for him. It had happened too many times for it to be a coincidence although Catherine looked down at her swollen belly with wry amusement. “Mmm, this little one is due anytime. Remind me to stay away from Vincent for the next eight months will you?”
Everybody laughed and then laughed some more as Crystal started giggling joined by her brothers and sister happy to be included in whatever was making everyone so happy.
*** *** ***
What a sight. Joe shook his head with disbelief. Though the bodies had been removed, the stench still pervaded and he had to wear a mask covered in cologne to hide the smell a bit.
“You say they weren’t reported missing?” He asked the officer in charge.
“Nope. Nothing to say they laid here, till some kids came snooping round, no doubt intent on burglary, but proving that is another story. I think it might be a long time before they attempt such a way of living after this. It was one hell of a shock I can tell you, even to us.”
Joe could understand that. Four bodies, undiscovered, having gone through the heat of two summers - well he didn’t want to have to think on it anymore than that, but he did. Imagining the blue bottles, the maggots…Joe felt sick.
“They were all shot. It’s difficult at this stage to see who went first and naturally why. Obviously murder though.”
“Why do you say that? Could have been a suicide pact.”
The officer pointed, “See the bed? There was a woman laid upon it. It’s already been established that she gave birth by caesarean section sometime prior to the killings, yet there was no body of a child found anywhere in the house. Whomsoever killed these people took the child, for whatever reason we don’t know, but we will, don’t worry we will find out what went on here. Someone must know.”
For some reason Joe felt strange after hearing those words. He exited the room, glad to be free of it, glad to be able to stand by a window and draw in draughts of fresh air. Maybe it was other things that rankled, other snippets of information that fought for supremacy. Whatever it was, Joe had something on his mind and it was not about to go away and he intended to wait until the story hit the papers and then do some digging. However, he didn’t have to. The mountain came to Mohammed.
*** *** ***
Pushing back his chair, Jed folded the newspaper onto the table paid his bill and left the room. So the story was out was it? Still it had taken longer than he had surmised for the bodies to be discovered. No doubt there would be questions now, well he wouldn’t be around to answer any. His ticket for Australia in his wallet, Jed headed for the airport terminal that would assist him to his new life in a new country. A place he had always had a liking for, somewhere hot and sunny, half a world away from New York. He’d be safe there, but even so Jed felt he owed it to a few people to leave word behind.
Scribbling a note, he took from his briefcase an envelope and stamp, sealed the letter inside and posted it on his way to the appropriate terminal where he would catch his plane. That done Jed felt happier than he had in a long time. They wouldn’t have to know where he had gone and he’d left no leads. Hopefully he could get away with it - he had no plans to ever return to America. A price would be on his head if he did.
*** *** ***
“What you going to do with that letter, Joe?” Catherine eyed her old boss critically her anxiety obvious.
“What can I do with it?” Joe shrugged. “Know what I should do of course.”
“Of course.” Catherine remarked, “But will you?”
“It would open a whole new can of worms.” Joe shuddered, in light of the pictures he had recently seen, that was definitely the wrong phrase to use still Catherine would not know that and she understood him precisely.
“That it would. Might start a ball rolling that would never stop.” She told him.
“Until it rolled this way.” Vincent quipped, his feelings akin to those of his wife’s.
“Just what I was thinking.” Joe told them both grimly. “Doubt you’d want that, so…” They could not believe it when he held a corner of the letter Jed had sent him up to a lighted candle. Catherine stayed his hand. “Don’t let us tell you what to do. Someone told me a long time ago that I should follow my heart. I have no regrets that I listened to her. Make sure you won’t.”
“I know what I’m doing Radcliffe. Had this letter too long – can’t find a good enough reason to have kept silent about it now. Don’t worry. It’s best this way. The file will be closed. Already there are dead ends, if you pardon the pun. Gabriel had what was coming to him everyone says. He won’t be missed. As to the other people? They were loners, no family, Gabriel sure knew how to pick them. Side’s without a blood test there is nothing to verify that Crystal and the dead woman were related it’s all-circumstantial anyway. Are we to believe Jed? ”
“Yes. Quite frankly, yes. Let me read that letter again before you burn it.” Catherine took it from him, smoothing the creases as she unfolded the crumpled letter and in the light of a dozen candles began to read;
By the time you read this, I’ll be long gone. Not saying where, just know I will never set foot on USA soil again. But before I go, just wanted to help tie up a few lose ends. What you do with the information is entirely up to you, but as far as I am concerned I never wrote it. See its unsigned and you would have a pretty hard job getting out of your involvement in this one I think.
I’ve been reading the papers. I see that the recent discovery at The Grange is quite a mystery. Well let me enlighten you. You will find that a guy that called himself Gabriel owned The Grange. Gabriel kidnapped Catherine Chandler with the intention of stealing her child. That plan foiled he made fresh plans. He captured Vincent, stole sperm from him, and with the intention of creating a bodyguard so great that no one would attempt to touch him, he had it placed inside the wombs of three women.
Then after you had me tell you where Vincent had been taken to, I knew that Gabriel would have my head. I got fed up waiting for him to hit me and decided to get him first. No one had ever attempted that, and doing so made me a king in my own right, yet even so put a price upon my head at the same time. When I arrived at The Grange I found the doors unlocked and no sign of any staff. That wasn’t unusual, Gabriel had a habit of paying with the bullet rather than a cheque when something did not suit him. Incidentally, it was Gabriel who killed your boss, John Moreno and had that nurse killed that blabbed about Catherine’s kidnap. Apparently Moreno had more to do with Miss Chandler’s kidnap than you probably are aware of. Anyway, as I say, I wasn’t about to wait for my bullet for knowing all of this any longer than I had to, and decided to see Gabriel face to face. It was gonna be him or me. I won’t say I relished the fact. I was sh***ing bricks I can tell you when I went into that place. It was deathly quiet, except for one eerie sound. The sound of a wail that made me think of someone treading on a cat’s tail. I followed the sound and as I did heard gunshots that made me run. I burst into a room to find Gabriel holding a gun to the child’s head about to pull the trigger and did the first thing that came into my mind. I kicked the gun away, right out of his hand. There was a struggle, he and I went for the gun at the same time, I got it and fired at point blank right between his eyes. He fell dead at my feet, and for long moments I did nothing but stare at what I’d done, until I began to notice other things in the room. Gabriel had killed three people and had been about to kill a baby. I cleaned the gun and then calmly took the child out of there and took her to my sister to care for, and the rest as they say is history.
Hope that clears everything up Maxwell, as I say do what you like with this, but remember there will be a whole lot of questions you might not like to answer.
Oh and do something for me will you? Give Vincent my regards. He’s one great guy.’
Without a word Catherine handed the letter back to Joe. It all made sense now, and it was over. There was no one to grieve and even though Jed may never answer for his crime, neither would Gabriel who had killed so many. Death was too good for him.
Joe felt much the same way, and he held the letter back toward the candle watching Vincent and Catherine in turn expecting either to still his hand. When they did not he placed the paper into the flame, dropping it only when so little remained that his fingers were about to burn.
“And so it’s finished.” Vincent remarked as the ashes piled upon the dish where the candle was sat.
Joe nodded, “Aye its finished.” He smiled, somewhat relieved now that the decision had been made. “So are you going to show me the latest addition to your family or what?” He asked grinning. “She must be almost three months old by now, where is she?” He looked around the chamber expecting to see a cot or something.
“With Mary. Catherine is supposed to be resting.” Vincent grinned sheepishly.
Joe quirked an eyebrow, after the life his best investigator had led before, the life she had now was to him one long rest. Knowing where he was coming from Catherine laughed out loud. “I do have an alibi.” She told him patting her stomach to which Joe’s mouth fell wide open.
“Not again Radcliffe!” He remarked as soon as he had found his voice.
“Well, we’re making up for lost time.” Catherine giggled.
“So when’s this one due?” Joe could hardly believe it. But Catherine made one happy mother. She positively bloomed.
“Anytime from seven to eight months.”
“It’ll be eight.” Joe and Catherine looked up at Vincent who had spoken. Vincent grinned, “It will, trust me. The best things always happen at eight months.”
Not attempting to dispute the fact in light of the past few years’ experience, Catherine nodded, then laughed out loud as she thought of something funny.
“And then mister after its born you can definitely go celibate for the next eight months.”
Joe laughed, as did Vincent while leaning forward and with a twinkle in his eye whispered to his wife, “Arh you say that now…but just look at the last time…”
Joe listened and delighted in the carefree banter between his most favourite couple. And he knew he’d done the right thing regarding Jed’s confession. Nothing should mar Vincent and Catherine’s happiness, nothing should cause them anxiety or dread. If he spent the rest of his life protecting them he would, he’d do it gladly.
They had a relationship made in heaven and Joe just wished that he could find someone that would love him as much as Catherine loved Vincent.
Eight months later he did.
*** *** ***
The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.