Chapters 1, 2 & 3
Part 2 of the Oblivion Trilogy
Three Months Earlier
Sonn Alp stood as ever magnificent in her gown of steel grey flanked by emerald, and topped with the purest white that sparkled and glittered in the sunlight, so brightly that Micha’el Riedel (pronounced Mick-ale), had to put down his binoculars for fear of being blinded by the magnification of this brightness.
Looking far below into the valley, he waited until his eyesight became accustomed to the shadier side of the mountain, and scanned the area with the binoculars. Sighing he lowered them again. “I can’t see anyone at all, Hans, if they are still out there, they could be keeping beneath the trees. I think we may have to use the tracker dogs after all.”
“Let me take a look.” Exasperated, Johannes Kogler took the binoculars from his colleague; “I’m not convinced that you want them found.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Riedel spoke sharply, his face colouring up.
“You know Mich’ael. Don’t pretend that you don’t. You never did give your full support to the experiment. Ignatz saw through you.”
“Ignatz let power go to his head, he didn’t care about Marie or Geraldine, he only wanted to make a celebrated name for himself, he didn’t care how much he hurt them, about their feelings.”
“You are too soft Mich’ael, we are talking about beasts they do not have feelings, only instinct. Okay, so Marie looked human, but did she act it? No. And whatever Chandler and Wells hoped to achieve by taking them to live within society I do not know, but I can tell you now, beasts like that should be in cages not free to wander about like you or I. Especially Geraldine with her desire to kill. How on earth they got her out of here without a fight I do not know.”
“Yes, I have to admit that part does baffle me, Geraldine was certainly a wild one, not submissive like Marie, are you sure that she didn’t kill them?”
“No, not entirely. I was thinking that perhaps we haven’t been looking in the right places. Think Mich’ael, where does a big cat take its prey to eat in secret? Why up in the treetops of course. Its possible that she has killed Chandler and Wells and took their bodies up high, and if that is the case, she could be stalking us right now without our knowledge. You are probably right about using the tracker dogs, I think I ought to go and arrange that now.” Johannes Kogler put the binoculars back into their carry case, “While I do that perhaps you will make suitable arrangements for the disposal of Igatz’s body. Remember to show insight, we can’t very well say a thunder bolt took his head off can we? The least people know of how he died the better.”
“What do you propose that we do then Hans?”
“I don’t think he had any relatives, or if he did, they wouldn’t have known where to find him. I think we should have him buried here on the premises, he would approve of that, I’m sure.”
Reidel nodded, it was really the only thing they could do, “and I’ll get onto it at once, and see you back in Ignatz’s office later.” He walked slowly back to the institute, his senses strained under the immense pressure of listening and looking for sight or sound of Geraldine. For as much as he had always tried to care for her, more than his colleagues, he knew that she would still view him as the enemy and kill him. Chandler and Wells had to be dead for certain; there was no way Geraldine would have let them near her.
*** *** ***
Beneath the emerald canopy of trees, Catherine and Devin rested, the journey had been hazardous through the darkness, and they had stumbled many times.
“Look at these bruises Cathy, half of them I don’t remember doing.” Devin said rubbing his legs and arms.
“Look at me too, what a pair we are, it’s a pity we can’t make the rest of the trip in the daylight, we could take more care. How much longer do you think it will take to get to the bottom?”
Devin scanned the descent with a hand held to his brow against the glare of the sun, “Don’t know. In the dark, stumbling as often as we do, perhaps another two hours. Quicker if we slip and roll of course.” he said humorously.
“If I thought I’d get any less bruises Devin, I’d seriously consider doing that.” Catherine laughed.
“Of course you could let us carry you both”, Geraldine joined the conversation. “Mama and I are so much more sure footed, it would be no problem.”
“I wouldn’t hear of it, Gerry, but thank you. Marie is far too tiny to sling me over her shoulder, for I assume you would be opting to carry Devin.”
Geraldine smiled and nodded, “Am I that obvious?”
“I’m surprised you need to ask. Look at the pair of you. What! Only known each other a few hours and already you can’t take your eyes off one another.”
“Not even already, Cath, I couldn’t have extracted my eyes from Gerry from the moment I saw her.” Devin remarked seriously, then turning his attention to Geraldine added, “You are so beautiful, and there is something about you that instantly draws me. I think it is because Vincent and I grew up together, some of his magic must have rubbed off onto me and you are drawn to it.”
Gerry looked at him, with his twinkling brown eyes and dark brown, almost black hair, she thought he was gorgeous. “I don’t know what it is Devin, but from the moment I saw you, it was as if I knew you. Like I had waited for you to find me all my life. I look forward to getting to know you better,” she added mischievously.
“I’d like that.” Devin replied, “Can we start now?”
Geraldine’s tinkling laughter filled the air.
“Shh Geraldine,” Marie held a finger to her lips, “They hear you.” As the echo of her laughter floated down the mountainside.
Geraldine blushed, “Sorry Mama, I wasn’t thinking.”
“Do you think it is safe enough here to take a nap, I feel so tired, my eyes won’t stay open?” Catherine asked stifling a yawn.
Geraldine sniffed the air in all directions; “You are safe for now. I have seen the sun pick out the lens of binoculars, so I know that they are searching for us, but they are several hours back up, we will be safe for a couple of hours at least, and we could all benefit from a nap. I’ll take the first watch.”
“I won’t argue with that.” Catherine said gratefully, closing her eyes.
Beneath the coolness of the pine trees, after the long and dusty walk through the night, Catherine was soon sound asleep, Devin not far behind her, and Marie nodded fitfully, unable to rest, her mind full of expectation and anxiety. She didn’t doubt for one moment that Catherine and Devin weren’t who they said they were, or that they weren’t taking her to her son, for she trusted them implacably, but she feared for her daughter. Now that Geraldine had killed Strasser, the other two scientists would stop at nothing to find and destroy her, though she knew that Mich’ael would not find that such a pleasure as Kogler. Catherine had told her that they were heading for a secret place many miles away. It was a long journey, and they would have to fly there in an aeroplane, Marie felt no nervousness whatsoever, for the sooner they put many miles between the institute and themselves, the happier she would be.
She wondered about that secret place. Catherine had told her that it was deep beneath the earth, and that many people lived there, her son among them, and it was a safe place full of love and kindness, and that she and Geraldine would be made very welcome. They could live out their lives there, and no one would ever hurt them again, and though Marie wanted so much to believe this, she was afraid at the lengths Reidel and Kogler would go to, in searching for Geraldine. If they journeyed to the centre of the earth, still that would not be far enough, the scientists would find a way to follow.
Marie wondered about her son. No longer a baby, and though thirty years had passed since she last saw him, only briefly after his birth, she would know him anywhere. His features had imprinted in her mind for all eternity. She had tried hard to put the distress his birth had caused her out of her mind, and had almost succeeded, until the day that she had given birth again, and then it all came flooding back. That child, another male, had been stillborn, so had the next and the next. All males. Marie was past caring. Had any of them lived, they would have been taken from her, like the first one. She could still hear Strasser’s anger each time that a child was stillborn. He had been furious. And then miraculously she had not conceived again for three years, before she gave birth to a daughter, which was born alive but died two weeks later. Marie had been allowed to keep this child, and she had loved her so much. She had reminded her of her first child. Strasser had told her that the sperm was the same, taken from the same lion, whereas the babies that had been stillborn were taken from a different beast entirely. Yet the child was weak and though Marie fed her with her own milk and loved her deeply, her strength weakened daily, and Marie knew long before Strasser that death was inevitable.
When he came into her pen one morning, and found Marie softly weeping and rocking the dead child in her arms, he was furious. He beat her senseless, and had shouted that he would never allow her to keep a child with her ever again, heaping all the blame upon her carelessness.
Marie had huddled in a corner for days, her own grief for the loss of her child hurting more than the blows that bruised and cut her, her eyes full of sorrow, and her heart void of feeling. Mich’ael Reidel had been the only one who had coaxed her back to her old self, with his compassion for her feelings. Of all the scientists, she liked him the most, and when the day came that Strasser decided she was of no further use to them, it had been Reidel who had argued her case, and she was given one last chance to re-produce. The result of that had been Geraldine, the only child that the scientists knew of, that had lived beyond two weeks and now for as long as twenty-two years.
*** *** ***
As Mich’ael Reidel made his way back to the institute, his thoughts were running along the same lines as Marie’s.
Though he believed that the experiments were important, he knew deep down that this was wrong, for despite what Strasser intended, they were in actual fact trapping a human being inside a beast, imprisoning them inside an alien body for all their lives. A prison with which they had no choice but to carry around with them. Never truly being free, even if they weren’t literally behind bars. He was sorry for Marie, she would have been such a beautiful woman, with her petite figure and golden hair, though he realised this hair was probably due to the lion within her. Yet Strasser saw her only as a beast and never a woman, not even accepting her as his daughter.
It had been Reidel who had taken the time to teach her to speak two languages, German in the main, and a little bit of English, and she was fluent in the former both in understanding and speech, and accordingly slower in English in like manner. Reidel tried to spend time with her, helping her to grasp English more and more, using it as often as possible. She was a willing student, eager to learn, and she looked forward to his visits, yet one particular day as he entered her cell, she noticed the sorrow in his eyes, and could see that he had been crying. Hugging her to himself, he told her quietly, “Marie, Ignatz is making plans to terminate your life. He feels that as you cannot produce living offspring, you have become a liability and he has no further use of you. He plans to restart the experiment. Marie I don’t want him to do this to you, but I know that you are unhappy with your life. If you want to live, just say the word and I will try my hardest to change his mind, otherwise... You choose Marie.”
Marie had listened to his softly spoken words. He was right she had no life, how often had she wished to die. To be allowed to do so would be a blessed relief, so why then did she have such doubts about it? The will to live is strong even when faced with the comfort of death. Marie knew that she must not give in, she had to keep living, to see it through. Besides she felt sure that somewhere, her son lived, and he needed her.
“Me live” she spoke up defiantly.
Reidel nodded, “I am glad Marie. Now this is what I propose to do to save you. I shall ask Ignatz to inseminate you one last time, but with an entirely different strain. At least the reprieve will give you another six months for a certainty, and if this child dies we shall have to think of something else, for by then you will have had too many babies. Do your up-most to take care of yourself during this last pregnancy Marie, and pray that the child lives.”
Marie had listened to his words, understanding everything that he said, his compassion showed through, and she had known that he would do everything in his power to help her. She hugged him, and found a stirring she could not recognise from deep within for this man.
Later, Ignatz Strasser had listened somewhat agitated to Reidel’s suggestion, “This idea will put us back another six months Mich’ael, six months lost if the child dies again. The cost is too great, not only in time but finances also. I don’t think the idea is a sound one. Besides I think your attachment to Marie is getting in the way here.”
“Yes I admit that, I don’t want her to die, but I think we owe it to her and to ourselves to try one last time. I propose we use tiger semen and see if that changes things, after all the life of the tiger is much more at threat than the lion, isn’t it?”
Ignatz had reasoned on this, and had eventually nodded, “All right, we’ll do it, one last try remember?”
“Yes, one last try, thank-you.”
Coming back to the present, Reidel crunched along the gravel path, and stopped. The noise it made was too loud, he could not hear anything above the sound, and Geraldine would hear the sound from far away, if she were still within the grounds. Stepping onto the grass, he moved quietly onwards, hurrying as the doors came into view, it would be a relief to be inside the building.
Resuming his thoughts, he brought to mind the day that Geraldine had been born.
She was different to all the others. Bigger set, stronger, with the most striking colouring, more beast than human in everyone’s eyes, and when she had lived for a whole month, Strasser had been beside himself with joy. He attributed the success to his own administrations following her birth. Not allowing Marie to nurse the child, he had painstakingly bottle fed her, cared for her himself, and watched her grow rapidly. Only Mich’ael Reidel had felt sorrow when he looked at Marie, at her sadness at being denied yet another child, and had consoled her with, “At least she lives Marie, at least she lives.”
One question that she had asked him all to often pained him deeply. “And my son?” she would query. Reidel had shaken his head, “There is no word.” he would tell her, wishing he could erase the pain from her eyes. And though they had searched long and hard, that particular child seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth, which of course is exactly what had happened to him. He had been found by Anna Pater, and taken into a secret place far beneath the earth, where a man who helped to run the community living below the city, had cared for him, and provided for him, and accepted him as his own.
And because this special child had been found in the grounds of St. Vincent’s hospital, in New York, USA, he was named after it, ‘Vincent’, and he came to be loved by many and gave much in return.
Reidel wondered for the thousandth time whether that child still lived. Asked that a few months ago and he would have shaken his head for definite. Believing in only the weakness of that child and all the others who were born after him, and their subsequent deaths, he believed that this was the only way for him that he also had died. Until the arrival of Chandler and Wells, who had come to the institute for a purpose, and had known what they were looking for, that and the fact that they came from America, Reidel now wondered if the child had lived after all, and that they knew where he was. Sincerely he hoped so, for they would be taking Marie to be re-united with her son, and Reidel wanted this for her, she had been treated unfairly all her life, and deserved this happiness. Reidel decided there and then if he could thwart Kogler’s progress in searching for Chandler and Wells, if they had taken Marie and Geraldine, then so be it, he would do his up most to help Marie and Geraldine remain free.
*** *** ***
“Wake up sleepyhead,” Geraldine nudged Devin with her toe, “You have been asleep for an hour and a half, and I want my turn.”
Devin stretched, rubbing his eyes, “An hour and a half, you ought to have woken me sooner, that only gives you half an hour.”
“It will be enough, I only need a cat nap, and then when I wake I propose that we descend by way of the shadows beneath the trees as far down as we can, then wait until nightfall to complete the journey.”
“Sounds good to me. Hey can you hear barking?”
“Yes, but don’t worry it is a long way off.”
“Where is it coming from?”
“Kogler and Reidel will be using the tracker dogs. Don’t be alarmed, we are well ahead of them, they cannot get in front of us, we have plenty of time, Devin.”
Devin looked around nervously, trying to see back up the mountain looking towards the sound, “I hope you are right, Gerry.”
“Trust me.” she said, and Devin found that he did. This amazing woman with this amazing bond had transferred her inner calm to him, and Devin no longer worried about his pursuers at all.
While Geraldine took her nap, Devin watched her closely. Sleeping in a cat like fashion almost curled within herself, Devin had the overwhelming desire to stroke her. He smiled at the thought, then reaching out his hand, did just that, he stroked her beautiful hair, smiling all the more as she purred her satisfaction.
Catherine woke and stretched, “Oh Devin you are awake, what time is it?”
“Sometime after three p.m. Look Cathy, don’t be alarmed, but those mad scientists have the tracker dogs out after us. Gerry knows, she said we will be all right, and she is taking her nap now. When she wakes we will make more of the descent beneath the trees.”
Catherine nodded, “ I could do with a drink. Is there a brook nearby, do you know.”
Devin shrugged, “I don’t know, but I wouldn’t go wandering off Cath, we really ought to stay together, we can’t risk twisted ankles at this stage.”
“Yes you’re right, I’ll wait until Gerry wakes up, maybe she can smell water somewhere. Hey, what’s so funny?”
“That expression, smell water, it took me back years.”
“Tell me?” Catherine’s eyes lit up in anticipation.
Devin laughed aloud, quickly smacking his hand over his lips to stifle the sound as he remembered the echo, “It was one of those times when Father was justified in blowing his top....” Devin smiled at the memory, his eyes lighting up, “at me and Vin’...Vincent. It was during the height of summer, and even the heat seemed to penetrate Below that year. Vincent and I were stifled, there was little air, and everyone was lazing about fanning themselves with books and newspapers, doing very little, so Vincent and I decided we would go deeper into the earth to search for somewhere cooler. Even the water in the mirror pool was hot.
When Father heard what we wanted to do, he was concerned, but decided that we would be more responsible if we had a task in tow. So he asked us to take some supplies down to Narcissa. And some of William’s delicious bread and some fresh fruit that one of the helpers had brought. William thoughtfully sliced the bread and put it in a bag, before we left, now remember that bit, for it plays an important part, and off we went on our adventure. Well we trudged for what seemed miles, and though revelling in the coolness of the depths of the earth, we began to feel dusty and very thirsty, and all too late realised that we hadn’t taken a drink with us. After a while Vincent said he could smell water, so off we went in another direction, though fortunately the way had already been charted so we didn’t get lost, if that’s what you were thinking. Though as you will see later we blazed our own trail quite innocently, and we headed for this unknown by us, water supply.
The air surrounding the pool was deliciously cool, and we were in a hurry to get into the water, and believing it to be quite shallow we took off our shoes and socks, rolled up our trouser legs and stepped into it.” Devin stifled another eruption of laughter, “Oh Cathy, you should have been there, as soon as we stepped into the pool we found there was no floor, it just went down and down and down into oblivion, and we were going with it! And talk about cold, it was freezing!
That part was quite frightening really. I couldn’t see beneath the water, the rocks were so dark down there, and I struggled for air, I wasn’t a very good swimmer back then, and I just kept reaching out trying to grab hold of something. When suddenly two strong-arms grasped me from behind, and I found myself being dragged back to the surface. Vincent, needless to say, had rescued me. Alas, we had nothing with which to dry ourselves, and our clothing was drenched.
We took off as much as we dared, wrung it out and folded it, putting it into the basket beneath the supplies. Yet in doing so there was no room for the bread, and Vincent then had the bright idea, that we could use a couple of slices to soak up some of the water from our bodies. Which did actually prove to be a good idea, it worked.
So off we went on our way, with the loaf tucked under Vincent’s arm, for there was no room for it in the basket now, to finish our journey to Narcissa. I suppose any normal person would have admitted defeat by then, and turned back for dry clothing if nothing else, but we decided that it was further back than forward, and it would save having to do the journey twice.
Well we reached Narcissa without further mishap, and came to hand her the supplies. Oh Cathy, if you could have seen Vincent’s face! He took the bag from beneath his arm, which had contained the bread, only to find that slice by slice as we had walked along, it had fallen out behind us, Vincent hadn’t closed the bag after he had opened it. Narcissa was pleased with the fruit, and had a good laugh when she walked back a way with us and saw the bread blazing our trail half way home. For many years after that she referred to the two of us as Hansel and Gretel. Father needless to say, wasn’t so amused, especially when Vincent caught a terrible cold from it, and I ended up the villain once again. Its not fair you know, just because Vincent is the cuddly furry thing, he always got let off, while I always got the punishment, its a wonder really that we remained such good pals.”
Catherine laughed at the thought of the two of them walking along, talking together and not noticing the bread falling behind them, she rather liked Devin’s expression of Vincent too, the cuddly furry thing.
“That is lovely story”. Catherine turned her head as Marie spoke.
“I didn’t know you were awake Marie, did you hear all the story?”
“Some,” she replied, as a smile lit her eyes, but she hadn’t been able to grasp all that Devin had said.
“And there are plenty more where that came from Marie,” Devin told her, “Believe me Vincent and I were always getting into some kind of mischief. Still do come to that.” he laughed, remembering a more recent escapade, “When we have more time I’ll tell you both some other good tales”.
“Yes Marie, I have heard some of them already, and I am sure they will warm your heart as they did mine.” Catherine told her.
“What he like?”, Marie asked shyly.
“Who Vincent?” Devin looked at Catherine, “How would you answer that Cath?”.
“Vincent is different things to different people. To me he is everything he gives me everything. When we first met, he saved my life, I had been beaten and left for dead in the park above his home, and he found me, took me back to the secret place and cared for me until I was well enough to leave.” Catherine stopped to watch Marie’s face did she understand? “Marie, am I speaking too fast?”
Marie gave her a quizzical look, and Catherine added, “Do you know what it is that I said?”
Nodding, Marie smiled, “Speak, not so...fast.” she asked her. Catherine nodded, patted Marie’s hand, and went on more slowly, “My eyes were bandaged,” Catherine gestured with her hand as she spoke now to enforce her words, “ and I could only hear Vincent’s voice... not see him at all. His voice was beautiful, soft and caring...” A dreamy look crossed Catherine’s face as she remembered, “I fell in love with that voice. He used to read to me every day... and his ability to put feeling into the words would bring the books to life.
Then when I was well enough to have the bandages removed... my first reaction to his face was one of horror. I don’t deny that... but by then I had come to know him, and when I looked at him again, I knew only fascination... and the desire to touch him.” Catherine emphasised the point by gently caressing Marie’s cheek, and found that Marie nuzzled her cheek into the palm of Catherine’s hand, in affection.
Marie had found the tale delightful. She could see the look of love in Catherine’s eyes when she spoke of Vincent. Knew he was special to her. It warmed Marie’s heart.
Catherine went on, “Then when I returned back to my own home, Vincent came to visit me... he told me he felt... connected to me... he knew my feelings... when I was happy, sad or in trouble...Vincent continued to save my life on many an occasion from then on.”
“I know this...feeling.” Marie spoke up. “I knew he not dead. I feel him, here.” She gestured to the region of her heart.
“Oh Marie, how sad you have been.” Devin crossed over to put his arm affectionately around the petite shoulders.
“Sometimes,” Marie went on with tears be-dimming her eyes, “ I feel his joy, it bring me joy, yet...sorrow too. You understand?”
“Yes.” Replied Devin and Catherine in unison.
“Bitter sweet feelings.” Catherine murmured as if to herself, and Marie caught her hand and squeezed it. Then at an attempt to erase Marie’s sorrow, added brightly, “But soon all that sorrow will be forgotten Marie.... you will see Vincent at last.” she told her with conviction.
“And never be apart from him again.” Devin added enthusiastically.
“I cannot...believe this...to be...so.” Marie ventured slowly, “So long...I have...yearned.”
Catherine felt a tear slide down her own cheek, and brushed it away, noticing that Devin’s eyes were also be-dimming with tears. “Three days Marie, in just three days.... you and Vincent.... will be together. I promise.” Catherine assured her. Marie attempted a weak smile that trembled with anticipation, ‘if only’, she thought to herself, ‘if only’.
*** *** ***
The baying of the tracker dogs seemed to Devin to be awfully close, too close, nudging Geraldine he told her of his fears, Geraldine stretched again just like a cat, and listened to the sound. Getting up slowly, she beckoned for everyone to do the same, then whispered, “They seem to have known of a shorter route than the one we took, come we must hurry, but don’t worry it will be dark soon.”
“Not for another two hours at least,” Catherine told her.
“It is enough.” Geraldine replied, “Trust me.”
“I wish she wouldn’t keep saying that, Cath, I find it hard to accept.” At his words, again Geraldine opened the Bond and infused Devin with an inner calm that matched her own, “Now” she asked him compassionately, “Is that better?”
“Its a pity you can’t do that with me,” Catherine told her, realising what had taken place as Devin’s body relaxed before her very eyes, “The sooner we get off this mountain the happier I will be.”
Geraldine hugged her, it was the first time they had made physical contact, and Catherine found immense relief from that hug, “I will not let anything happen to you, lover of my brother, I promise.” She told her, with a twinkle in her beautiful eyes.
Instantly Catherine felt calmer, and a gush of warm emotion spread through her body.
Keeping to the canopy of pine trees, they journeyed as quickly as the loose rocks underfoot would allow for.
Suddenly as Catherine was about to step forwards, Geraldine stilled her from behind, “Stop!”
Catherine’s foot froze in mid air, stepping back as her eyes befell the creature beneath her. A scorpion, tail raised ready to strike, anticipated the arrival of her step alongside it. Swiftly Geraldine struck the creature, sending it flying through the air, to land yards away from the path, dead.
“Thank you.” Catherine whispered hoarsely, “I never saw it.”
“There will be others, it is that time of day, we must all be careful.” Geraldine brushed aside Catherine’s gratitude; she seemed almost embarrassed by it.
“I’ve just thought of something, Cathy” Devin remarked cheekily, as they continued with added caution down the slope, “That you should never have to be afraid of anything ever again, and can expect to live to be a hundred or more.”
“How’s that?” Catherine asked him, puffing a little from the speed they were forced to travel down the steep mountain.
“For now you can depend on having two saviours.”
“Three” added Marie, listening in.
Catherine blushed, “I don’t know what to say, but thank you.”
“You welcome.” Marie added, rubbing Catherine’s arm affectionately.
For a beautiful relationship had developed between Marie and Catherine over the past two days, so much so that Catherine felt that she had known Marie all her life, almost as if Marie had been her own mother. It was that kind of bonding.
They had travelled for almost two hours when they came to the edge of the line of forest, and knew that if they were to travel any further they must do so at a risk of being sighted, from above.
“What should we do?”, Devin asked Geraldine.
“The sun is setting now, but it will still be light for another hour. I don’t think we should delay. If we lie flat and slide down as much as we dare, that will be better. Do you have any clothing in your packs, of a more subtle colour, something that will blend in with the rocks more?” She touched Devin’s bright blue pullover and Catherine’s orange sweatshirt enforcing what she meant.
“Yes, and I should have something better than red for Marie too.” Catherine replied.
Quickly they changed clothing, Catherine to a grey track-suit, handing Marie another in the same colour but with soft lilac stripes, “This should be all right, what do you think Gerry?”
“Should be, the stripes aren’t too bold, do you have anything for me.”
“I thought you looked all right as you are, that cream dress shouldn’t be a problem.”
“The colour is fine, its the dress, it’s impracticable for sliding down the slope, I wondered if you had a track-suit I could borrow too.”
“Cathy is a lot shorter than you Gerry, even if she did you would look silly wearing her clothing, here, I think I have something more your size in my bag, look this black and white track-suit, what do you think?”
“It’ll be fine, thank you, and it’s a bonus to be inside your clothing, Devin.” she added impishly. Liking the way she said it, Devin smiled warmly at her, then donning a navy track-suit he told her, “Hopefully if they spot you or I Gerry, they will assume we are shadows, while Cathy and Marie should be totally camouflaged.”
“Yes, I think we will be fine.” Slipping the dress off over her head, Geraldine shot Devin one of her sexiest smiles, and was thrilled when she felt his instantaneous desire grow at the sight of her near naked body before him. Gazing into his eyes, she offered him everything, and Devin, without thinking stepped forward to kiss her inviting lips.
Geraldine’s head swam as his tongue pushed her lips apart, and tantalised the inside of her mouth. A soft moan escaped her and she leaned against him for support, as her legs weakened, while holding the track suit in her hands between the two of them.
“Hey! Hey!”, Catherine laughed, “Not here, not now.” Grabbing Devin ‘s clothing and pulling him back. He allowed her to move his body away, while keeping his lips fastened to Geraldine’s, and only when Catherine pulled him far enough back did he reluctantly let go.
“Mmm that was really something,” he said huskily, his eyes misting over. Catherine laughed at him, and then at Gerry as she noticed the dreamy look upon her beautiful features.
Snapping her fingers as if to awake someone hypnotised, Catherine laughed some more as both Devin and Gerry came back to earth with a jolt, then her laughter ceased as she heard Gerry whisper to Devin, “I love you.” Catherine felt weakened by the occasion. Warm shivers ran through her. And as the moment was suspended in time, a simultaneous great sigh was exhaled by all four of them, as they gathered up their belongings without further need of words, and stepped out from beneath the security of the pine trees into the setting of the sun.
*** *** ***
Holding the notes in one hand, Elizabeth picked up her fine brush with the other and dipped it into the grey paint. Swiftly she began the delicate strokes, stepping back from time to time to analyse her work. Changing colours as she went.
“Can you imagine it Vincent?” she asked him as the mountain scene came to life before his eyes.
“Yes, it is just as Catherine described. Your work does you proud, Elizabeth, you are a great artist.”
“It is nothing Vincent. You have copied out for me parts of Catherine’s letter to you, and the beauty of Austria shines through her words. It is as if I am giving life to the scenery, here in these tunnels through the window of her eyes.”
“ Through the window of her eyes.” Vincent repeated, “That is a lovely expression Elizabeth. I am sure Catherine will love this painting. It will be a wonderful surprise... for when she returns.” the last was spoken softly, almost unbelieving.
Elizabeth caught his hand, and lifted his chin to look into his face, “Catherine loves you Vincent, do not doubt her so. She will return. Oh I know you have been grieved by the length of time she has been away, but don’t give up child, she will soon be back, I feel it in my bones.”
Vincent smiled back at her, “I know she will be back Elizabeth, but I miss her so much, each day is like a week, each week like a month, I am incomplete without her here, and I don’t know when to expect her return.”
“There is nothing I can say to cheer you Vincent, but look, let us continue with this painting, tell me what you saw in your mind, when you read Catherine’s description of the scenery around her that day. Let me paint the thoughts you had within the scene and then this picture can belong to both of you, and for the moment you can forget your loss. In fact it will take me several days to complete, you can come here daily to help me, and that will help you too.”
Vincent put his arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders, “Thank you Elizabeth, for your kindness.”
Watching as Elizabeth’s brush strokes brought the scene to life, Vincent marvelled on the colours, picturing them as they would look in the sunlight and the moonlight, seeing them during different seasons. Thinking of Catherine lying there, drinking it all in, memorising every crag, every wild flower, in order to be able to relate it to him in detail, during those times when they would sit quietly talking.
For Elizabeth, she held the moment as special. She rarely got to spend so long with Vincent, and his helping her this way gave her insight into his depth of feeling for Catherine and the Bond that they shared. She marvelled at it.
Elizabeth had been working for some hours when Vincent, feeling unneeded walked along the tunnels admiring her past work. He rarely had the opportunity these days to enjoy all her paintings, depicting events of the tunnel people, historic events or things from Elizabeth’s memory that weren’t painful to her.
Walking along, he found himself looking at the most impressive scene, which took up a great length of wall. It was a scene of sunrise upon some snow-capped mountains glowing a soft pink by the rays of the sun. A further scene depicted the sun-rays bouncing off of a golden temple. In a garden in front of the temple stood solid gold llamas, vicunas and condors sparkling in the sunshine. “This is marvellous Elizabeth, please come, explain to me what this is?”
Putting down her brush, and standing to stretch, Elizabeth was glad of a distraction, for the lower work was intricate and her eyes and back were sore from her labours.
Walking across to where Vincent stood, she smiled, “Yes Vincent, this is one of my most recent works of art. It depicts the Inca’s Golden Empire. The temple is called Cuzco which means ‘Navel of the World’.”
“Is it somewhere you have been to Elizabeth?”
“No, my father visited the Andes, and the remains along with artists impressions of what once stood there, impressed him so greatly, that his stories of it, have imprinted upon my mind forever. I wanted to put it all down in paint, before my memory fails me, and I no longer remember the scene as he told it to me.”
“I would enjoy hearing your memories Elizabeth, and I can see you would benefit from a break, please tell me what you know.”
“Its quite an amazing part of history Vincent, how much do you know of it?”
“Very little. I understand that the Inca’s believed that they controlled the world, and that their empire was so vast that they believed there was no limits to it, and whatever lay beyond it, was not worth knowing.”
“Yes, that’s basically it. The empire encompassed an area of 3,000 miles, reaching from the southern part of Columbia all the way down to Argentina. Yet do you know the rest of the world did not even know they existed!
It was between the 14th and 16th centuries that this great empire held sway on the West Coast of South America. Among their people they had brilliant architects and the Inca’s were people who organised to better themselves socially.
The historic event is still taught in schools today in some parts of the world. They learn that myth has it that the original Inca, Manco Capac along with his bride who was also his sister, were sent down by his father the sun god, to Lake Titicaca to bring all peoples under worship of the sun. Those people, who refused to accept the sun as their god, were killed. Their sculls were used as goblets for drinking Chicha; a potent beverage made from corn.
The Inca’s excelled in building huge structures; their architects were able to put together a fortress and a temple of Sacsahuaman, which dominates the city of Cuzco from a high plateau. They used 100-ton monoliths, yet used no mortar to bind them, and do you know Vincent, the structures were so well fitted that earthquakes have had little effect on them. We could do with some Inca’s down here, eh, in these tunnels, just imagine what they could achieve.”
“Yes, the buildings are very impressive Elizabeth, but surely the Inca’s themselves do not hold the same attraction, in fact I see that you have not painted any people into the scenes.”
“No, while the buildings do impress me, so too the architecture that went into them, the Inca’s are a race which I do not have affection for. They offered human sacrifices to their sun god, and some of these were children. I wouldn’t really want Inca’s in our world. I find their mode of worship abhorrent.”
“Yes, Elizabeth, as do I.”
“In the royal city of Cuzco, Vincent, the Inca’s organised a priesthood for worship. They met in a huge temple made from polished stone. The interior walls were embellished with pure gold and silver. Archaeological evidence has found that the Inca’s offered human sacrifices, and bodies of children have been found frozen on some Andean mountain peaks. There have been channels found carved into the rocks, down which ran the blood of the sacrifices.
Enough of that grotesque talk Vincent, let me continue to talk about the work of the Inca’s. Do you know the Inca builders constructed a network of roads that stretched over 15,000 miles? Starting from Cuzco, they built roads to link the most distant parts of the empire.”
“ Very impressive, what happened to the Inca’s, do you know Elizabeth?”
“Yes. About the year 1530 a Spanish conqueror named Francisco Pizarro and his army came from Panama, enticed by reports of pure gold in this unknown land, which was at that time under civil war. Prince Huascar, legal heir to the throne had been defeated and imprisoned by his half brother Atahuallpa. While the civil war raged Francisco Pizarro and his army moved in. At first Atahuallpa welcomed the Spanish army, but they later tricked him and held him captive while they slaughtered thousands of his troops.
Though, even while captive, Atahuallpa continued the civil war. By sending messengers to Cuzco he had his half brother Prince Huascar killed, as well as hundreds of the royal family, unwittingly simplifying Pizarro’s plan of success.
Atahuallpa needed a way to get free and hearing of the greed of the Spanish army for gold he promised to fill a room with gold and silver as a ransom for his release. The Spanish army allowed him to think that his plan was working, but as gold and silver piled up, Atahuallpa who was considered an idolater by the monks was first baptised as a Catholic and then strangled. His murder was a final blow to the Incas but the empire continued to resist the invaders resulting in a war that lasted forty years.”
“Amazing”, was all Vincent could find to say.
Elizabeth nodded in agreement then continued, “Pizarro brought in reinforcements and moved on to Cuzco to lay their hands on more Inca gold, not being adverse to cruel acts of torture to extract secrets of further treasures from the Inca’s.
Huascar’s brother prince Manco II aided Pizarro, and arrived at Cuzco to ransack it of its immense golden treasure, most of the beautiful images were lost forever when they were melted down into bullion for Spain. This was when the English pirates of the oceans were at their most rife in seizing the Spanish galleons carrying the rich treasures of Peru. Nonetheless, Pizarro made it to Lima where he used a lot of the gold, to found the city there to be the centre of his government.
By this time, Manco Inca Yupanqui the once Prince Manco II, had realised too late the extent of the greed of the Spanish conquerors and staged a revolt. However, the Indians were forced to retire to places of safety to fight as well they could, one of those safe havens is believed to have been the sacred city of Machu Picchu hidden deep in the mountains.
Finally Tupac Amaru, a son of Manco Inca, became Inca in 1572, when Spanish viceroys now governed Peru, their aim, to finish off the Incas.”
Elizabeth paused and took a few sips of the water, Vincent had poured for her, noticing how her voice cracked from all the wondrous story telling. Sated Elizabeth continued, “The final part makes me so sad, despite the fact that the Inca’s probably deserved it for all those children they sacrificed. One such Viceroy named Toledo took a large army into the depths of the mountains and captured Tupac Amaru and his pregnant wife, and took them back to Cuzco for execution. I hate to think of the death of that poor unborn child. Thousands of Indians gathered in the plaza and groaned in sorrow as the excecutional blade was raised over Tupac Amaru, and watched in horror as he was beheaded. His captains were then tortured to death or hanged, and thus with cruel and callous dispatch the rule of the Incas came to an end.”
“That is a sad story Elizabeth, despite their wicked worship, these people obviously were very intelligent in the ways of architecture, it is a sad loss.”
“Yes, because the viceroys slowly spread their own influence, and the Indians left remaining became slaves and were forced to work in the gold and silver mines. To survive their miss-treatment the Indians resorted to using the coca leaf for its drugging effect, and it was not until the 19th century that Peru and Bolivia gained their independence from Spain. Imagine Vincent, their sufferings went on for over five hundred years.
Today we have people of mixed blood, descendants of the Incas who have managed to preserve their colourful dance sequences and music, and these people are very hospitable. My father told me that many people who come to know them well, would catch a glimpse of the old Inca Empire, save for the sacrifices. A people who within their daily struggle to maintain their roots, reach out to others with a story that really tears at the heart. And do you know Vincent, such is their sorrow, that the coca leaf still influences the lives of many.”
“It is such a terrible thing, Elizabeth when such beauties of the earth’s treasure trove, prove to be the demise of so many races of people. For if it were not for the gold and the silver, the Spanish nor any other, would not have destroyed the Inca’s.”
“Yes, Vincent, for in time the Inca’s could have been taught not to sacrifice humans, and the world would have benefited from such a race of incredible people.”
“Thank you for telling me this story Elizabeth, truly I have enjoyed my time spent with you today.”
“Another day Vincent, when you are feeling unable to cope with Catherine’s absence, do come again, for look, the next scenes upon this wall, are about the Ancient Native Americans, and once again, I have much I can tell you.”
“I shall look forward to that Elizabeth, thank you.”
“Now Vincent, you had better run along, no doubt your son will be anxious for your return, and if I know Father, he will be wondering where you have got to also. Perhaps you will come by in a day or two to see how the Austrian scene has developed.”
“Yes, Elizabeth, I shall, thank you.” And with that Vincent moved away from the tunnel of art, a little reluctantly, for he had enjoyed the fascinating distraction, and now had to return to his chamber, to his large bed, to try to sleep knowing that once there, the longing for Catherine would overpower him once more.
*** *** ***
Hans Kogler raised a hand in the air as a sign of halt. Mich’ael, stopped dead behind him checking the dogs at his heels. “What is it Hans?”
“Down there, look through the binoculars, I saw a movement. I am certain it is them.”
Mich’ael Reidel took the offered binoculars from him, and raised them to his eyes. Scanning the area, he did indeed see the movement Kogler had spoken of, but he chose not to say so, “I cannot see anything. Perhaps it was a chamois.”
“No, too low, something moved along the ground, an unusual gait for an animal, that’s what drew my attention. Take another look.”
Mich’ael raised the binoculars once again. Through them he could see four people sliding down the slope on their bottoms, trying at best to keep to the shadowy crags. He watched them until he was satisfied that they were out of sight then handed the binoculars back to Hans Kogler. “Nothing”, he lied, “It must have been a chamois.”
“It wasn’t, here, let me have those, let me look again.” Irritated, Kogler snatched back the binoculars, to search the mountainside himself. “Its gone now”, he snapped, “But I tell you, something, or someone was there. If we hurry we can head them off, to the left.”
“You might want to risk your neck for an illusion of light Hans, but not me, the other way is too steep, especially for the dogs.”
“Dogs can be replaced, they are of no consequence.”
“Then the way is too steep for me, or am I of no consequence also?”
Hans Kogler surveyed his colleague, contempt rising in his gut for the man, “You yourself said it.” he retorted, then instantly regretted his outburst, as Mich’ael forced the leashes into Kogler’s hand, and turned to stride back to the institute.
“Wait!” Kogler called after him, “ I need your help, I cannot hold onto the dogs, the tranquilliser gun and use the binoculars at the same time.”
Mich’ael carried on walking, not looking back.
“Wait, look I am sorry, please you have to help me.” Kogler begged.
Mich’ael stopped, and looked back, “Only if you go the sensible way down the mountain, then I will help you.”
Kogler reluctantly nodded, he could not go alone whichever way he chose, not with the dogs pulling him along, “All right, but can we hurry, they can’t be more than an hour in front, and we can catch them if we hurry.”
Mich’ael came back, and without a word gathered up the leads, and started the descent once again.
“Can’t you go any faster.” Kogler chided.
Mich’ael, did not want to go faster, did not want Kogler to reach the four ahead of them, wanted Marie and Geraldine to escape. A plan formed in his mind. Picking his way over the loose gravel, Mich’ael pretended to twist his ankle, and lurched forwards, clutching at Kogler for support. “Damn”, he yelled in mock pain, “I think I have sprained my ankle.” he hobbled a few feet, and yelled, “Ouch, I am sorry Hans, I have to rest, I cannot put any weight upon my foot.”
He thought Hans would explode. His face reddened and reddened in his temper, as uncaring, he tore the leads from Mich’ael’s hands, and marched on down the slope alone without looking back, and without saying a word.
Mich’ael watched him go, with some amusement, knowing his journey now, would be a burden, a slow one, and the four would surely be able to escape. He hoped one day that he would be able to tell them how he had aided them in this way.
Kogler stumbled many times, but managed to save himself before actually hitting the earth, unwisely, his footsteps quickened as he continued the rough descent, and to his dismay felt his feet roll from beneath him and his back thrown to the ground with a pain-searing thump.
Kogler lay there stunned for some moments, eyes closed as the pain spread through every limb. He wondered if he had broken his ribs, for he lay twisted over a jagged crag, and found breathing difficult.
Becoming aware of his face being licked by the slobbering tongues of the dogs, he hastily scrambled to a sitting position to push them away. The action sent searing pains shuddering through his body, and he realised he had in fact done much damage, yet the groan that escaped him, was in having to accept that the chase was over, rather than for the pain that engulfed him.
Forced to admit defeat at this time, Kogler vowed that as soon as he were able he and Reidel would go over to the USA, and continue the search from there.
*** *** ***
“I shall have no backside left in this track-suit, if we have to go much further.” Devin whispered to Catherine, as he slid down the slope, and felt the sharp rocks penetrating.
“Me either.” she replied, “Still it can’t be for much longer, look the sun has set, it will soon be dark.”
“Yes, Cathy, and then we should be at the airstrip within a couple of hours, and start to make the journey home. Did you want to contact anybody?”
“I never thought to do, but yes, it perhaps would be as well. I could call Peter, have him send a message Below to announce our impending arrival.”
“Oh ho, impending, I like the sound of that. Whatever will my father think of me now Cathy?”
“What to know you have brought ostracism upon yourself once again with your latest escapade, this should be good for a laugh.”
“You don’t really think he will take it that way do you Cath?” he asked her seriously.
“No, not really. Initially maybe, but if I call Peter, ask him to put in a word for us first, it would give Father and Vincent a chance to get their heads around it before we arrive, what do you think Devin?”
“I think that is an excellent idea.” he replied with relief.
*** *** ***
Once the sun had set and the cloak of darkness enveloped the land, the four weary escapees, were able to make faster progress, and soon reached the foot of Sonn Alp. “Say goodbye to your mountain, Marie and Gerry, it’s unlikely you will ever return to it.” Devin told them.
“I have no wish to look back, thank-you Devin, from now on my life starts here and stretches before me, how about you Mama?”
Marie patted Gerry’s arm, “I too.” she told her happily.
“There’s someone coming!” Catherine spoke suddenly, “Look across there, I can see a flashlight.”
Frantically the four looked about them for cover, “Quickly, we can lay in this cleft, its deep so be careful, lie still and hold your breath, they may not see us.” Geraldine pushed each in turn to a lying position once again, into the crater at the foot of the mountain. It was very deep, and they had to hold on precariously to the sides, which were covered, in tough grasses, and loose rocks. “Try to steady yourself, to make no movement.” Geraldine whispered, as the beam from the flashlight bore down upon the area they had been stood. It was difficult to see whether they knew the people behind it or not, but as the light approached it became obvious that they did not, for they could see clearly that they were indeed illegal hunters, with guns slung over their shoulders. Out for the night in the hunt for unwary chamois. Which were the native antelope of Austria, and also mountain rabbits and foxes. As the hunters passed by, so dangerously close, Devin stilled Geraldine, anticipating her response, by holding her arm tightly; “Don’t.” was all he said to her.
The two hunters passed by unknowing, and the four sighed with relief. “I could have brought them down, easily.” Geraldine spoke angrily, when safe to do so.
“And for what, Gerry. So that in the morning their bodies would be discovered as killed by a ferocious beast, that no one knew existed. What if we haven’t left the country by morning, what then would our fate be?”
“Yes, Devin, you are right, I did not think.” Geraldine replied apologetically.
“That’s all right. Look Gerry, don’t always assume you have to kill to win the battle. Where we are going I want you to put all that behind you, you will never need to kill again.”
“Devin’s right, Gerry. Vincent has proved that. Where I once worked I had some dangerous assignments, and very often people tried to kill me. Vincent always knew when I faced such danger, and he would come crashing through walls to kill my assailants, and though he saved my life, these trails of murders have left many unanswered questions. Each time he killed to save me, he put his own life at risk. You must never do that. Promise me.”
“So when you are in danger now, does not my brother step in to save you any longer?”
“No, it’s not like that anymore. Since before our son was born, I gave up that life style, and went to live Below with Vincent, thus protecting his existence into the bargain.”
Geraldine nodded, “Then I promise. I don’t like killing anyway.”
They made their way slowly out of the cleft, helping one another out, and made the final journey unhindered to the airstrip. The plane was exactly as Devin had left it, and after stowing Marie and Gerry carefully on board, he put on the luggage.
“Where can I make the call home, do you think Devin?”
“From inside the plane, I have a mobile phone in there, you can make a connection to transfer you to Peter and speak to him directly. It could be too risky to go into the village. Either Kogler or Reidel could have notified someone by now to look out for us. Come, as soon as you have spoken to Peter we will leave.”
Minutes later, Catherine replaced the receiver, to find Devin holding back his laughter. “Cathy, whatever did he say? Two priceless gems indeed! He must have thought you had broken into a vault, I bet he had a fit.”
“In so many words yes, he did, he thought I wanted the limo with the darkened windows, because I was on a hit list. I found it very funny.”
“I could tell. So what did he say when you told him who the priceless gems were, that we have stolen?”
“When I told him we were bringing Vincent’s mother and sister back with us, he was silent. He couldn’t speak, I only knew he was there by his breathing. Then when he realised I wasn’t joking, he said he would get word to Father at once. I expect he is on his way there now as we speak.”
“Right then, let’s get this bird in the air shall we, we have a long way to go, and I can’t wait to see Vincent’s face.”
“Neither can I, Devin, neither can I,” Catherine replied happily.
*** *** ***
(Note: - Scriptural quotes are not exact in meaning that is, they have been placed herein to fit the details of each chapter to this story. The real meaning behind these scriptures is contained only in the Holy Bible - New World Translation)
Three Months Later
It was the most delicious pain Vincent thought, even though Father chided him for being so careless, Vincent revelled in the pain. With it, beautiful memories flooded through his mind, and nothing could dispel the glorious thoughts, least of all the discomfort of sunburn.
“Oh but Father, if you had only of been there, you also would have wanted to spend every moment beneath the sun, there was so much to do, so much to see. When Devin gets the photograph’s back from one of the helpers who promised to develop them you will see what I say is true.”
Secretly Father was a little peeved at all this talk of the idyllic holiday in the sun that he hadn’t been a part of. The one thing he had always dreamed of was showing Vincent the sunlight, the sunset and sunrise, he felt robbed that someone else had done this, and he hadn’t been there to share it.
Smacking a handful of icy cold after sun cream onto Vincent’s reddened back, he grinned wickedly as Vincent roared with horror, then felt regret as Vincent shouted, “Father! You’ll give me a heart attack”.
“I’m sorry Vincent,” he genuinely replied, and then as an afterthought so that Vincent did not come to know why he had acted so thoughtlessly, added, “the coolness will relieve the heat of the sunburn.”
Vincent made to roll over, “I think Father that is enough of your ministrations, thank you, I shall have Catherine finish me off, lest you do.”
Father smiled at the joke, and handed Vincent the bottle, “Yes, no doubt Catherine’s soft hands are more welcome than these old things.” he told him, though nonetheless he felt hurt.
Vincent quick to notice, took the old man’s gnarled hands into his own, and kissed each finger in turn, “Many’s the time, Father, these hands have brought me relief, comfort and help. Never assume Father that I love you less since Catherine came into my life. I will always love you as much as I ever did.”
Father drew his hands away, both embarrassed and comforted by Vincent’s words, “Thank you Vincent.” was all he could manage.
As Vincent dressed to go in search of Catherine, Kipper came to speak to him.
“Vincent, do you know where Devin is, he promised he would read the little ones the story of Treasure Island?”
“Yes, Kipper”, Vincent replied ruffling the boy’s hair, a touch which now he was older embarrassed the lad greatly, “He was taking Marie and Gerry to the waterfall to talk about our holiday. I expect he has lost track of the time.”
“Would you tell us the story then Vincent?”
“Oh if Devin has promised to read it to you, no doubt he has another delicious story in mind to accompany it. If I were you, I’d wait for him, or go and find him if you can’t wait, it could be he’d be glad you did.”
“Well, perhaps he doesn’t want to sound rude by freeing himself from talking to Gerry and Marie, to go to read to you. So go on run along, he won’t mind.”
“Okay.” The boy was gone in a flash.
“Treasure Island indeed, whatever is that son of mine up to now. What kind of island was it that you went to Vincent?”
“It too was a Treasure Island Father, but of a different sort. The sun was the gold and the ocean was the sapphires, the palm trees were the emeralds, and the crystal glasses you gave us for a wedding present caught the sunshine and turned them into diamonds, while the sand was like dusty, refined silver. Father it was perfect. Come let me tell you of the things that we did, has Devin told you yet about the daily fishing?” Vincent laughed aloud as he said this, the memory of Devin and Gerry’s daily chase around the boat still fresh in his mind; it would always be in his mind, being one of the highlights of the trip.
“No, he hasn’t. Come Vincent let’s go and find Catherine and together you can relate details of this wonderful time you shared.”
As Vincent had said, Devin was still engrossed in conversation with Gerry and Marie by the waterfall, when an out of breath Kipper rushed in behind them.
“Devin, there you are. Have you forgotten you promised to read to the little ones the story of Treasure Island?”
“Kipper, Hi. No I hadn’t forgotten, but the time ran away with me, I’ll be there shortly. If you go ahead of me, you can tell them I am coming.”
Kipper hung around, for a few moments, undecided.
“What is it Kipper?” Devin asked him.
“Would you mind awfully, if I stayed here to talk with Gerry and Marie, I’d like to get to know them?” He asked nervously, shuffling from foot to foot.
“That’s a lovely suggestion, I am sure they will love to spend time with you, Marie, Gerry, what do you think?”
Gerry held out her hand, “Come sit with us please, there is much that you can tell us.”
Relieved, Kipper took her hand and sat down between the two, sending a grateful smile at Devin as he bent to kiss Gerry and Marie a farewell. “See you later”, he called after himself, and made his way back to the chambers.
*** *** ***
“I’ll read some more tomorrow, kids,” Devin told them putting down the book.
“Oh,” the children cried in unison, “Can’t you read us some more today, it’s a great story?”
“Yes it is, but I have another I wish to tell you, that you will like equally as much.
Let’s have a drink first shall we, then I’ll tell you all about the island that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write the story of Treasure Island, shall I?”
“Oh yes please Devin, that would be lovely.”
Getting up to fetch himself a drink, Devin was startled to find Father, Vincent and Catherine with Jacob in her arms, stood in the doorway, “How long have you all been there?” he asked them. “We came in at the end of part one. Do you mind if we sit in and hear you relate the next tale?” Father asked him.
“Not at all, come Father take my seat, I can sit on the bench.”
“Thank you Devin.”
Settling down into the high backed chair, was bliss after the long walk through the tunnels. Father found his arthritis getting the better of him these cold days.
Thirst quenched, Devin took the bench and began his story.
“Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island after being inspired by an island that lies some 300 miles off the Southwest coast of Costa Rica, that is known for its buried treasure.”
“Wow, there really is buried treasure, it’s not just a myth?” Helena asked, eyes open wide in surprise.
Devin smiled at her, “Wait and see. There is treasure and there is treasure, it depends what it is you yearn for, and how you see it, Helena.”
A knowing look passed between Vincent and Catherine.
“The island was discovered in the 16th century, and is known by many different names. The Spanish call it Isla Del Coco, which means when translated, the Isle of the Coconut,” (he winked at Vincent and Catherine as he said coconut to which they knowingly, laughed out loud) “Was it something I said?” He asked them innocently, and Catherine laughed some more. Father shot her an enquiring glance, and Vincent mouthed, “We’ll tell you later.”
Exasperated at this strange exchange between the adults, the children prompted him, “Go on, Devin, tell us.”
“Where was I, oh yes, the island of the coconut”, he tried to keep a straight face, “and in English it is known as the Cocos Island.” Momentarily Devin sought through his thoughts to the best way to tell the story, which he had encountered during one of his assignments at the Institute of Climatology on Sonn Alp, Austria, and went on, “ The Island is actually a tropical rain-forest. Now here is something amazing about tropical rain-forests, that I learnt myself only recently, did you know, that despite the lush vegetation of the forest, the soil of the forest floor only goes down two inches! I was amazed when I read this. That may not mean much to you, until you see the comparison. The soil of a temperate forest, which is secondary to the lush rain forest, goes down as much as seven feet. Now do you see why the rain-forest is so special?”
He allowed the information to sink in, and listened to the delightful response as the children, each in turn realised the significance of soil depth.
“Then how do such beautiful plants grow Devin, do you know?” Jamie asked him. Jamie always took delight in hearing Devin’s tales.
“Yes, the forest literally feeds on itself. Nothing goes to waste, another time I will tell you about the rain forest in particular, but not today or I will get away from the main story.
Now the Cocos Island lays between Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands, remember they are the islands where Charles Darwin first invented the myth of Evolution?” The children nodded. “Well between these islands, there is an undersea land-mass known as the Cocos Ridge, where volcanic activity gave birth to its only island, a rugged speck of land that is actually the only major island in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Yet it receives enough rainfall every year to support its tropical rain-forest, so much rain in fact, that during the 17th and 18th centuries the fresh waters of the Cocos Islands served as an ocean oasis for sailors who passed by on their ships.
Now you have all heard of pirates, have you not?” The children nodded enthusiastically, “Well pirates operated much as street gangs do today. When sailing ships were basically the only mode of travel over long distances, the pirates used armed robbery on those ships to steal and plunder and murder, not only to people who travelled from one country to another, but also amongst themselves. One pirate group was not averse to threatening another pirate group.
Generally speaking though, among themselves per ship, they were generous men, sharing the stolen goods equally between the crew. The only problem was, that once divided each crew member had to find somewhere to stash his treasure, lest another man with the eyes of the green eyed monster, killed him for his share.
Faced with the dilemma of how to safeguard his share, each pirate had to find a secret location to do so. On board ship this proved impossible, so someone hit upon the idea of burying the treasure on desert islands. Do you get my drift?”
“Very apt, Devin,” Father drawled.
“Hence all the stories of treasure islands. And because most of the islands at that time were uncharted, their whereabouts were known only by whomever discovered them, and from the crude maps they made, as the key to re-finding their hidden treasure.
Now one of the traditions of the Cocos Island is that after many successful raids of ships along the Pacific Coast of Central America. One pirate band overloaded with gold and jewels, chose to use the Cocos island as the perfect place to stash the treasure, and according to one version of the story, dividing the treasure in pot-fulls took a whole day. Can you imagine that? All that treasure, and then using ropes the pirates climbed the huge cliffs around the island, and went off to find some secret place beneath the rain-forest to bury his share. Now if you had been a pirate where would you have buried your treasure?”
The children all shouted at once. “In the sand”, “Beneath a tree.” “In a hole inside the cliff”, “Tied in a sack up a tree.” Devin laughed out loud to that answer, and the child looked at him downhearted, “What’s wrong with my answer, Devin?” the little boy asked him sadly.
“I’m sorry Benji, its just that you have to remember that wherever you hide your treasure it has to be somewhere safe, so that if the container rots, the treasure will still be where you left it. A sack up a tree would soon disintegrate, and the treasure would fall to the earth, to get grown over, or found by someone else going there to bury their treasure. Do you see what I mean? And for those others of you who have chosen the sand, or beneath a tree, or in the cliffs, make certain that in so doing you have drawn a map, where X marks the spot. For there is a lot of sand and a lot of trees, on a desert island, can you remember exactly where you left your treasure?”
The children thought long and hard.
“Perhaps after the story you can all go and draw treasure maps and show them to me.”
“No,” Benji said still somewhat hurt, “I’ll draw the map but I won’t show you, or you may go and steal my treasure.”
A loud outburst filled the room as Father, Devin, Vincent and Catherine burst into gales of laughter, “Ho, ho, Devin, your reputation proceeds you, my son the pirate, ha, ha, ha,” bringing tears streaming down Father’s cheeks. “I haven’t laughed so much in ages.”
“Hum”, spoke Devin dryly, “Let’s get back to the story shall we?
So the pirates in question stashed the treasure on the Cocos Island, and while some trusted their memory, others intended to return with maps that only they could understand, that would lead them back to their treasure. Unfortunately, this was not to be. Since legend has it, that after stashing the treasure on the island, and sailing away to search for greater gain, the captain fearing mutiny, stopped at the next port and put ashore the suspected rebels, hoping that they would be recognised as pirates and be hanged. However, his plan backfired when two of his crew made a deal with the authorities who wanted to capture this particular captain, and the British Navy sent after the galleon, captured the captain and killed him and his crew.
“So the treasure was never collected?” Catherine caught up in the tale, asked incredulously.
“No. And over the last century this legend has fuelled the hopes of treasure seekers. In fact more than 500 organised expeditions have gone to the islands to explore, but as yet not one of them have uncovered any treasure.”
“So what happened to it all then?” Catherine asked again.
“Well, it was just a legend after all. It could have been another island, or the treasure so well hidden that it is impossible to find, perhaps the mysteries of the rain forest has something to do with its disappearance. There was one man who really believed to find the treasure. His name was Captain August Gisler. He anticipated that the treasure was worth in the region of $60,000,000, and he spent $50,000 of his own money and 19 years searching for the treasure, but to no avail. Eventually he became bankrupt, and in 1908, he left the island broken in spirit and not a single gemstone to show for his efforts.
And so remains the myth, is there treasure of gold and gemstones on Cocos Island, or is the real treasure to be found there of a different kind. For would you like me to tell you what has been discovered on those islands, and as I stated at the onset, depending on what it is you yearn for, treasure can be different things to different people. What do you think children?”
After allowing for their response, he went on. “ Cocos island continues to be known for its stories of pirates and buried treasure, and it still attracts treasure hunters from around the world. However, the greatest wealth of all found upon this remarkable island lies buried in its natural resources and the flora and fauna that grows there.
Nowadays, as well as the gold diggers, the island is visited by Scientists, Ecotourists and Naturalists, discovering the flora and fauna and the treasure-trove of marine life in the ocean around the island.
Covered by lush vegetation, there are some 450 species of insects and arthropods, although it is estimated that there are actually about 800 species on the island. There are 28 rivers, which twist and turn and spill over the huge cliffs in magnificent waterfalls. There are 97 species of birds. One of such is the white tern, known to the Spanish as the Espiritu Santo, or as translated means, holy spirit, referring to the holy spirit in the shape of a dove that was seen over Jesus Christ when he was baptised in the River Jordon.
And deep beneath the waters surrounding the island is a world teeming with natural treasures. Hammerhead sharks, white tipped sharks travelling in schools of 40 to 50, feeding on plankton and algae, along with the dazzling display of tropical fish in all their vibrant colours.
The marine life and life on the island is protected and patrolled nowadays, and parts of Costa Rica itself is now a National Park, and in 1978, the Cocos Island itself was declared part of that park. Therefore the natural resources to be found on Cocos Island are now protected, which means that this beautiful treasure-trove will always be available for everyone to have a share of.”
“That was a wonderful story Devin, I never realised what a good teacher you would become.” Father told his son, truly impressed.
“I learnt so much while at the institute where we found Gerry and Marie, in many respects I was sorry to leave. But for its sinister undertones, it really was a great place to learn.”
Catherine involuntary shivered, at the mention of the institute, which Vincent was quick to notice. Drawing her tighter into his embrace, he comforted her, wondering exactly what fears lay locked inside her mind, of the place where she had willingly gone, in order to find his roots. He would be forever indebted to her for the great risk that she had undertaken in doing so.
Devin looked quizzically at Catherine, as the children got up to leave. “ Ghosts haunting you again, eh Cath?” He asked her, she nodded, “I hate hearing mention of the place Devin.” Catherine had never quite gotten over Strasser’s subtle threat to kill her, and how she had felt afterwards, vulnerable, longing for Vincent’s protection so far away.
“Yeah, me too.” Devin added, “I often have nightmares that seem to join up with Gerry’s. We both awake sweating and clinging to one another. Its not that anything untoward happened to us there Father, Vincent, as much as the place itself, it was really creepy. As soon as both of us arrived there, our mutual feeling was one of feeling alien in a very weird setting. Nothing you could lay your finger on, it was just there.”
“What I hated most Devin, was all those trees, all those birds, yet not one of them uttered a single note. A strange silence enveloped the whole complex, as if everything waited in suppressed anticipation. Very eerie.”
“Yeah”, was all Devin could manage, remembering.
This was the first time either Father or Vincent had heard an exchange pass between Catherine and Devin about the institute, and they were loath to cut in. It was healing to both Devin and Catherine to talk about it, let out their fears, their unease at the memory. Their conversation exchange came out slowly, oblivious to the fact that Father and Vincent were listened in.
“Do you think Strasser would really have had us killed, Devin?” Catherine whispered, trembling at the thought.
“Yes, I do. And I think the danger still exists Cathy, though Strasser is dead, Gerry still feels that Kogler and Reidel will stop at nothing to find us. We will be safe here Below, but we cannot risk going Above.”
“I know. Marie is adamant that Gerry’s life is at risk, for her killing of Strasser. I wish there were a way of knowing for sure if they were already in the USA. I was thinking, maybe Joe could make some discreet enquiries, though what would I tell him?”
“No, Cathy, don’t involve anyone else. I still have some contacts left over from my undercover DA days, I could start there.”
For the first time Father intervened, “I think you should let sleeping dogs lie, both of you. You are safe here, as is Marie and Gerry, Vincent too, but once you start unsettling the dust, all kinds of trouble could loom up. Please, please, leave it alone, forget it, there is enough trouble in the world, without going in search of it.”
“Father is right,” Vincent spoke up, “Whatever horrors imagined or horrors real may come from this, then let it find you, we will increase security, have the helpers Above keep us informed of anything unusual or anyone asking questions. And perhaps if you give a description of these men that will help also. You have both risked your lives too much for me already, it is enough, I cannot allow you to do more.”
“But now it’s also for Gerry and Marie too.” Devin spoke up.
“No, it is for all of us, we are all in this together, not just for us four, but for baby Jacob, for Father, for the whole community. If these men are as dangerous as you say, we are all at risk, and we must be prepared to keep our secret place safe.”
“Yes, Vincent, I have no desire to meet with these men again, though from what I have heard Marie say, Mich’ael Reidel, is not so bad, she has a fondness for this man, he means quite a lot to her, perhaps, just perhaps he would be worth getting to know.”
“We’ll see Catherine, if they come here, we’ll see. Corruption breeds violence.”
Father told her, to which Devin added, “And bad associations spoil useful habits, Cath. Could be that Kogler and Strasser left an impact on Reidel that is hard to dispel, we cannot take any chances with this man.”
“No.” Catherine replied softly. They couldn’t.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Four - click on 'Next' below:
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.