Chapters 15, 16 & 17
Part 2 of the Oblivion Trilogy
Three Months Later
Mich’ael Reidel had something in mind that he wanted to experiment with, but he was unsure of how to broach the subject. Fiddling with his napkin after dinner, he waited for the right moment to voice his idea to Vincent and Catherine but it was Vincent who noticed his silence and asked him if he had a problem.
Mich’ael looked at Vincent and then at Catherine who waited expectantly for him to speak. When faced with the chance, Mich’ael found he had no voice, so nervous was he.
Finally, after some more prompting from Vincent, he began. “I have been thinking....this...this.. other self that you and Geraldine possessed, maybe your mother too, though she has never spoken of it,” Vincent nodded. He didn’t like to think about it anymore, and knowing his thoughts Catherine squeezed his hand. Mich’ael went on, “I wondered if the pair of you, might permit me, to take a blood sample from your son Jacob, and some also from the babies when they are born.” Before Vincent and Catherine could answer he hurried on, “You see, I am wondering if the genetic make-up is carried by males as well as females. Though you Vincent, bare the unmistakable make-up of the beast, pardon me for using that word, please do not take offence, none is intended I promise you, I see that your son Jacob looks totally human. I know that you are both anxious as to how he will grow up, and I would like to run some tests on his blood to see what percentage of beast blood he carries.”
Catherine spoke first, “But why, what good will it be to us?”
“Not so much to the pair of you, more to the good of your family. You see if we can find out the percentage of the inherited genes, we can perhaps work out a way or eradicating it for future generations. That doesn’t mean that some day someone may have the misfortune of giving birth to a cub, but the chances of that can be minimised, if we know what we are doing.”
Catherine nodded and looked at Vincent. He was weighing it up in his mind. It was rare that someone talked so frankly and so delicately about his bestial side, and he found it rather interesting, instead of offending. “What do you think, Catherine,” he asked her, “For I am agreeable to this.”
Catherine nodded, “Yes, I too am agreeable. How long will it be before we know anything, Mich’ael?”
“A few weeks, once I have a blood sample from the children there is much I can analyse, rather than take more and more blood, and causing the children distress, and there is another thing I want to put to you both.”
“Go on”, Vincent encouraged, for he could see that once again, Mich’ael was bothered about what he wanted to speak of.
“When you went below Vincent, Gerry tells me now, that had you of known it, you could have had a chance of changing totally and coming back as a human. Well, I find this hard to believe, but then I am a scientist, so I am allowed to be sceptical, however, I see that you never had the chance to try this, and perhaps you regret that?”
“Sometimes I do, yes, but I did not know of it, and given the chance, even Gerry refused to try.”
“I know, it is I understand a traumatic experience, however, all is not lost, for either of you. Vincent how would you feel about cosmetic surgery?”
Vincent swallowed hard. Cosmetic surgery, he had never ever considered it, “Do you think it is possible for me?” he asked quietly.
“Oh yes of course, it is possible for everyone. The drawback usually is the price, but I am led to believe that Catherine has a lot of money in the bank, and so there would be nothing to prevent you from going ahead if you wanted to do.”
“But wouldn’t that mean, Vincent would have to be seen by people Above to perform this.” Catherine asked him.
“No, not necessarily. Before I went to work at Sonn Alp, I was involved with cosmetic surgery, and if I weren’t confident in my abilities, I would never have suggested this. All I need is a team, and we already have two doctors on hand with Father and Peter, so that is half the battle. We could even pre-bandage you, and take you into an appropriate clinic, there would always be ways around it to keep your identity a secret, or Peter could use a room at his surgery, so really we have everything we need. I am sure you need much time to think about this Vincent, talk it over between yourselves and let me know. I shall come by to take some of Jacob’s blood later, if that is all right with the pair of you.” He made to leave, but Vincent stilled him, and Mich’ael sat down again, “Wait, there are some questions I must ask before you go. When you say cosmetic surgery, what exactly will you be doing?”
Mich’ael stood up and came to stand behind Vincent, placing his hands upon his face. “Your features will completely be transformed. I have studied your face intently. I will take away the skin from your face, and use grafts from hairless places of your body, to re-cover, the nose will be moulded into a more human nose, and the cleft lip can be stitched to form a straight lip. The bottom lip can be shortened also, and your fangs can be extracted. I think we may have a problem with the jaw, but after X-rays I can work something out. Your hands too can be skin grafted, and de-clawed. All in all, you will not recognise yourself, and you will both be pleased with the results.”
“How long will all this take, Mich’ael?” Catherine asked him, while Vincent tossed it over in his mind. “From start to finish, about four years.”
“Four years!” Vincent exploded, “Why so long?”
“I would not wish to hurry such a delicate job, skin grafts alone take many months, and the face will heal better if it hasn’t too much to cope with at once. The end result will be better if we take our time.”
“And will it be painful?” Vincent wanted to know.
“Yes, it will be painful Vincent, I won’t deny that, but sometimes things are worth all the pain, it depends how badly you want it. Look I have to go and prepare for Jacob’s sample, so I will leave you now, if you have anymore questions please feel free to ask them when I see you later.”
When he had left, Catherine and Vincent were speechless. There was so much to think about, and for once neither wanted the other to know what they were thinking. And so closed off the Bond.
Catherine looked at Vincent’s face, beneath hooded lids, and speculated on his transformed face. She knew how much he wanted to look human, but deep down inside she did not want these changes, she loved him as he was, and in many respects she loved him for what he was. His looks thrilled her, and though he would never believe her, she thought his face was gorgeous. She also loved the roughness of his hands, which at the same time were also smooth, as he caressed her skin so many times, with the back of his hand. For depending on which way the fur was brushed, it were either rough or smooth as silk, and Catherine found that she would miss this, in him. But the decision was entirely his, for only he knew what it was to look that way, and she knew how he felt trapped by his features condemned to a life Below.
Many of the tunnel dwellers, even Devin had told him being as he was didn’t matter, for they by choice had come to live Below rather than within the gross injustice of the world Above, but Vincent had always reasoned, that at least they’d had the choice.
“Shall we go to our chamber Vincent, and think about this there,” Catherine asked him gently, she knew he was in great turmoil.
“You go Catherine. If you don’t mind, I would like to be by myself a while, if you need me I will be at the mirror pool.”
Nodding her agreement, Catherine stood and stretched, reaching out a hand to rub her aching back, and as she did so, felt the tiniest of twinges, deep inside.
Kissing Vincent’s cheek, she started to walk towards their chamber when she felt it again and stopped. “Vincent, if its all the same to you, I think I will go and sit with Father. Don’t worry I won’t breath a word of this to him, I just don’t think I should be by myself right now.”
Quickly Vincent glanced in her direction, and in an instant was at her side, “Catherine what is it?” he asked her, concern written all over his beautiful face.
Catherine said it was just a little twinge, nothing really, but Vincent was troubled. “I’m sorry Catherine, I shouldn’t be thinking of myself at a time like this, and expecting you to walk alone all the way to our chamber. Forgive me, here take my arm and we will go to Father’s chamber together.”
“Actually Vincent, if you are coming with me to stay, I would prefer to go to our chamber so I can lie down. Its lousy timing isn’t it Vincent, I know how important it is for you to go off to be alone to think over Mich’ael’s proposition. But I feel I might need you with me today.” she smiled weakly at him, as another twinge settled upon her.
Vincent put his arm around Catherine’s waist. His arm did not go entirely all the way round now, and he felt concerned that his wife had grown so big. He knew how tired she was, for the babies had been giving her much discomfort. And though she rarely complained he knew how exhausted she had become, for in bed he would place his hand protectively upon her bulge, and marvel at the movement beneath, yet for all the activity, it never woke her.
Settling Catherine onto their bed sometime later, Vincent went in search of Father. He was amazed at how calm he was this time. Compared to his frantic flight through the tunnels when Jacob had been on the way, to find Father, and then having to wait hours before the baby was born, this time made Vincent behave differently. But what Vincent failed to realise was that no two babies are the same, especially when there were more than one baby, each desperately trying to be born first.
As he approached Father’s chamber he could hear the sound of laughter, and stepping inside found Devin and Gerry in stitches. It was a remarkable sight to see Father making Devin laugh so, and Vincent warmed to the situation. Seeing him in the doorway, Devin beckoned him over, “Oh Vincent come and join us, Father is telling us some marvellous jokes that he got from the children, they are so funny. Where’s Cathy?”
“That’s what I have come to tell you. Father, Catherine is having some twinges, and..... Father?”
But Father had grabbed his bag, and was gone, “What did I say?” Vincent asked Gerry and Devin, who both burst out laughing again, “Oh Vincent,” Devin laughed. “That’s the best joke of all, you’re priceless.” And he laughed some more.
By the time the three of them had caught up with Father, Catherine was experiencing twinges that were a lot stronger and more prolonged and had positioned herself upon the birthing bed. Father was clucking like a mother hen, “Vincent, why didn’t you fetch me sooner, the poor girl is well on the way.”
Vincent stood motionless, “I never knew.” He said feebly, “Catherine did you?”
“No”, she told him, “It all happened very suddenly, I had been having a back ache well a hip ache really, all morning, but I didn’t connect it to labour pain and the water’s haven’t broken yet.”
“Should we go, or is there anything we can do?” Gerry asked Father, she had never seen a birth before, and secretly she would liked to have watched.
“Please stay, both of you,” Catherine told them, “We are going to need a lot of arms, when the babies are born.”
“Where’s Mary?” Devin asked, “Should I fetch her?”
“She’s off visiting one of the helper’s Above for the day, so you know what that means don’t you?”
“Well you know how I always hoped you would follow in my footsteps and be a doctor, well here’s your chance.” Father chuckled, and Devin eyes opened wide and he backed away, waving his hands, “Oh no, Father, that would be chucking me in at the deep end.”
Gerry laughed out loud, “Oh but darling”, she purred up to him,” ”I would have thought you were used to that.”
Catherine could not help laughing, “Ooooh.” She said, “don’t make me laugh, or you’ll all be in deep water.”
“Nice one Cathy”, said Devin, “Very droll, but I bet I can do better.”
Infectious banter swiftly got underway, leaving Father to wonder just what had taken place on that holiday of theirs, certainly since the four of them had come home, they had changed, grown even closer, and were always joking about something. They were a pleasure to have around, never a dull moment.
“Here’s one for you,” Vincent told them when briefly Devin run out of jokes, “If it takes one man ten minutes to run a bath, how long would it take two men to run the same bath?” Vincent stood with arms folded, trying to look serious, giving nothing away.
“Five minutes,” Devin told him.
“No, try again.”
“It’s got to be, two men would halve the time.” Devin told him.
“And where would be the fun in that answer,” Gerry told him.
“Hmm”, Devin murmured. “Okay I give up, tell me the answer.”
Vincent laughed, “It would take no time at all.”
“Why?” Devin asked totally baffled.
“Because the first man had already filled it.”
Catherine squealed with laughter, not only at the absurd joke, but because Vincent had told it, it was a rarity.
“Keep that up, you two, and these floodgates will soon open.” Said Father dryly, as he ministered to Catherine’s lower end.
“For real?” Devin asked him, “That’s what you want is it?”
“Yes, it would speed things up, Devin.” Father told him.
“Okay then. Here’s one. I am a plank of wood...” Everybody laughed, “Hang on,” said Devin, “ I haven’t told it yet. As I was saying I have a plank of wood...”
“No you didn’t darling.” Gerry told him.
“I didn’t what?”
“Didn’t say have, you said I am a plank of wood.” She replied laughing at him.
“No I didn’t, did I?” Devin looked sheepish, he could see by their faces that he had, “Hmm,” he began, “I have a feeling that after this, the ending of the joke will go down like a lead balloon. Nonetheless I shall persevere.” He added in a jovial tone. “So, I have a plank of wood.” Vincent tried not to laugh, biting his lip to keep a straight face.
“And,” went on Devin “I ... oh hang on, I forgot something.”
Vincent could contain himself no longer he burst out laughing. Gerry and Catherine close behind. Even Father’s lips twitched.
“Shall I continue?” Everyone nodded, tears coursing down their cheeks, unable to speak.
“Right then, this plank of wood. Its four feet long, getting longer by the minute like the joke...no not really...and if I cut it in half, how long would each piece be?”
There was no reply, though lips twitched in anticipation.
“Oh come on someone please” Devin begged, “Its not that hard.”
“Only as hard as wood.” Father pointed out, not looking up. Laughter erupted again.
“Okay,” said Vincent, I’ll hazard a guess, a four foot plank cut in half would be two pieces at two feet each, or so it appears.”
“Nope. Wrong. Each piece is still four feet long, you see I cut it lengthways.”
Everyone groaned, “You were right Devin,” Catherine giggled, the beginning of the joke was funnier. Let me tell you all one now.”
“You Catherine!” everyone exclaimed at her, and Vincent added, “Do you think you can manage it?” His blue eyes twinkled.
“I’ll tell it between contractions.” She told him, gaily, smiling up at him. He didn’t miss the mischief in her eyes, and smiled broadly back at her.
“Are you listening?” She asked everyone, and all nodded.
“There was once a bear... oooooh”. A contraction grabbed her.
Devin looked perplexed, “Is that it! Cathy, a bare what? Vincent do you know this joke?”
Vincent shook his head, trying not to laugh as he held tightly onto Catherine’s hand, while the contraction gripped her.
“Well that’s not very funny is it, “ Devin continued, “I mean it could be one and a thousand different things, a bare arm”, he rolled up his sleeve, “a bare leg” he rolled up his trouser leg.
“A bare bottom?” Gerry put in, her eyes lighting up hopefully.
Catching her seductive tone, Father gwarfed with laughter. Even Catherine doubled up though she was dutifully panting through her contraction. “You lot are hopeless,” Father told them, “Never have I delivered babies under such clowning before, I must say, I rather like it.” He added with tears rolling down his cheeks. “How about you Catherine.”
“Its great, “ she told him, “I’m almost forgetting why I’m here. Has anyone contacted Peter?”
“Yes, I sent him a message on my way to you, he should be here shortly. Its a good thing he had the forethought to bring the generators and the incubators well in advance, and put them in the next room, I expect we shall need them. I plugged them in on my way here also, so they’d be warm before the babies needed them, so everything is done that needs to be done my dear. All you need worry about is telling Devin the rest of that joke, before he dies wanting.”
Another contraction swept through Catherine as he spoke, bringing them only three minutes apart, time was running out and the waters were still intact.
“I shall have to use that sterile hook to break the waters, Catherine, if they don’t break on their own account soon. Devin try to make her laugh harder will you?”
“She still hasn’t told me about this bare something. Come on Cath, don’t keep me in suspense any longer, this is driving me nuts.”
“Okay, okay, “ she told him, laughing softly, her eyes bright. “There was once this bear...ooooh”
“Not again Cathy!” Devin exasperated.
Vincent burst into laughter.
“Look if we aren’t going to get passed this bare bit, at least tell me what it was that was bare.” Devin pleaded with her.
As the contraction subsided, Catherine told him, “Its not a bare what, its a bear, bear.” At his mystified expression, she went on hurriedly, “ You know a cuddly furry thing.”
Instantly, Devin remembered himself telling Catherine that is how he used to think of Vincent, and couldn’t help remarking, “Heavens Cathy. You must have been around people like Vincent too long, if you find a grizzly a cuddly furry thing. Ouch! Hey that was uncalled for.” He cried as both Vincent and Gerry punched him in either arm. “You’ve disarmed me.”
Trying simultaneously to rub both arms he glared at Vincent and Gerry, in mock anger. They laughed at him.
Catherine giggled, “Now as I was saying, this bear, it walked five miles east, and changed direction to walk six miles south, and ...oooooh.”
Devin was calculating, ‘that’s eleven miles’ he thought to himself. While Father, Gerry and Vincent were also keeping track of the mileage.
Catherine went on, “Then the bear decided he didn’t want to go South, so he walked ten miles west, and forty four miles North... hang on here comes another.”
“Another what, bear?” Devin asked her, “We don’t have to start counting for him too do we?”
“Not a bear dope, a contraction.” Gerry slapped him playfully.
“Oh, so what was it now, eleven plus ten plus forty-four, let me see, that’s, sixty-five. Okay Cathy, got it, you can continue now. This joke is stupid. I hope it gets better.”
Catherine burst out laughing, not so much at what he said, but as the look on his face when he said it.
“That’s it! That’s it!, well done Devin, the water’s have broken, look out!”
Too late a gush of water splashed onto the floor and covered Devin’s feet, “Gee thanks Cath, remind me to return the favour one day.” He said dryly. Vincent was beside himself with laughter, and Father doubled over, “Oh my sides ache” He told them, tears streaming down his cheeks. Then cried out joyfully, “Here comes the first head.”
“I’m not surprised” Devin said looking at his sodden feet, “He’s probably coming on a crest of a wave.”
Suddenly the door opened and a breathless Peter bounded in, “ Sorry I’m late,” he called, “Have I missed anything?”
“Just a bath-tub, a bear and a plank of wood.” Father told him, easing the first baby into the world.
“What?” Peter asked baffled. His face was such a picture that Catherine laughed loudly again, and the baby shot out into Father’s arms.
“Hello little one,” he told the child, “You’re Daddy was supposed to deliver you, but you were too quick for me to change places with him. Here Vincent, another son.”
Lovingly Vincent took his child, lowering him down for Catherine to croon over.
“You’ll have to call him, Cannon, you know that, for he came out fast enough to have been shot from one.” Devin told them, laughing between words.
Gerry hadn’t spoken in a long time. She had never seen anything so wonderful in all her life. “Mama should be here,” she said suddenly, “I’ll go and get her.”
“Yes do that.” Catherine remarked, kissing the baby’s downy head. He looked just like Jacob had at birth. Peter took him from her, to weigh him, and place him in an incubator in the next room.
“Vincent, your turn now, come stand here.” Father told him, as another little head appeared.
The door opened again, and Gerry hurried back, “Here they are,” she called gaily.
“They?” queried Catherine straining to look through the crowd around her bed to see who they were.
“Can we watch too?” She could see Marie, Mich’ael, Mouse and Jamie.
“But of course, why not.” Catherine beckoned them all in with her hand, she was past caring, “The more the merrier.”
Baring down again, the second baby followed its brother, slipping into Vincent’s large hands. “Another boy!” he cried out happily.
“Why do men do that?” Jamie wanted to know, “Always so pleased to have a son.”
Vincent looked at her lovingly, “Because girls are such a worry to their father’s.” He told her, mischievously.
“Don’t you be so sure.” Father reminded him. “Here step aside a moment while I deal with the placenta.”
“Boys and girls both good.” Mouse told them.
As if noticing him for the first time, Vincent questioned Catherine through the Bond. She nodded in agreement.
“Mouse, Catherine and I would be honoured if you would deliver the last baby.” Vincent told him.
“Me” Squeaked Mouse.
“Yes.” They told him together. It was a joy to everyone when his face lit up. Quickly at their request he washed his hands and waited, nervously.
“And here it comes,” said Father, “So Mouse if you would come and stand here, that’s it, now just hold out your hands, and for goodness sake try to catch it. It’ll be slippery, so don’t drop it either.”
Waiting expectantly, Mouse suddenly reddened, realising the situation and exactly what he was looking at. “I, I don’t think I should be looking.” He told everyone, and closed his eyes tightly.
“Its okay Mouse, don’t be embarrassed, just see it as a tunnel for the baby to pass through.” Catherine encouraged him.
Mouse opened his eyes. “You sure? Okay good, okay fine.”
At these words Catherine laughed again, and the third baby slipped into Mouse’s waiting hands.
“It’s a bit slimy.” Mouse said horrified.
“Yes but what is it?” Everyone wanted to know.
“Its a baby.” He told them, “At least I think it is.”
Father took the child from him, and looked down into a miniature Vincent. His heart swelled with love. “A little girl,” he whispered, “ A dear little girl, looking just like Vincent.”
Passing the baby to Catherine, for Vincent still cradled the second baby in his arms, Father wiped away a tear with the back of his hand. He wanted to cry with joy.
“I’ll finish up here Jacob,” Peter told him, “You take a rest on that chair.” Father needed no second bidding, his back did ache, and it was a relief to sit down.
Peter positioned himself to receive the afterbirth, while everyone huddled around the three babies, tears of joy and happiness all around, when suddenly Peter said softly, “Hello, little one, well you are a surprise. You must be the one we thought had got away.”
A pin could have been heard dropping, not a sound was made as everybody turned to Peter, in time to see him deliver another baby. The baby was so tiny that Catherine had felt only slight discomfort at her birth. A sob caught in Peter’s throat, “Catherine, Vincent, look, another daughter, she almost identical to the other little girl, you have truly been blessed this day.”
A little later, happy and satisfied, their friend’s quietly left the room. Mouse was still on cloud nine, as proud as proud can be.
When finally Vincent and Catherine were alone with their new family, Vincent kissed each one of Catherine’s fingertips in turn, “Thank you so much Catherine.” He told her tenderly.
Suddenly the door burst opens, “Hey Cathy, you never finished that joke.” Devin rushed in, dragging Gerry behind him.
Catherine’s tired eyes flew open, she groaned. “What colour was the bear?” She told him wearily.
“That’s it, the end of the joke, what colour was the bear?”
“But what about all those miles, aren’t you going to ask anything about them?”
“No, the question at the end is simply that, ‘What colour was the bear?”
“You’re kidding me.” Devin put a hand to his brow.
Catherine shook her head, smiling broadly.
“That’s pathetic.” Devin mumbled, taking Gerry back out through the door with him, “What colour was the bear, I ask you?” They heard him say as he closed the door firmly behind him.
Vincent and Catherine looked into one another’s eyes, and burst into fits of laughter.
*** *** ***
‘From black clouds crystal rain falls...’
When Mary came home later that day, she was sorry she had missed it all, especially when she heard about all the fooling around, that went on during the birth. “I tell you Mary, from now on I am going to take the four of them to every delivery we have. Catherine hardly yelled at all, she was too busy laughing.”
Peter was flabbergasted listening to what had gone on, while he drank his tea. “I wish I had been there at the start of it Jacob, I seem to have missed a good day.”
“You know Peter since the four of them went on that holiday, it’s as if they came home glued to one another. I don’t think any of them thought for one moment that they shouldn’t all be in at the delivery, it’s as if they had planned it that way.”
“Perhaps they had.”
“No, Devin told me they hadn’t mentioned it, but you know I saw a different side of my son today, one I thoroughly enjoyed. Okay so he acted the fool, but it was more than that, he and Cathy seem to have this rapport, ever since they spent time together in Austria, you know he really cares for her.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed that too Jacob,” Mary told him, “Its almost as if its more than that, a closeness that goes deeper than friendship, but with no funny business, if you know how I mean.”
“Yes, I do. You are quite right my dear, I think perhaps in another life... Well lets just say Catherine was destined to be my daughter-in-law no matter what.”
Mary nodded, “Nonetheless, it’s wonderful the way the four of them are so close, even Vincent and Gerry. You would think they had been around one another all their lives.”
“Yes. You know, when they went off on that holiday, I had grave misgivings, and fretted until they walked back through that door, but if today is anything to go by, I would give anything to have been there with them those ten days, I bet they had a ball.”
“They propose going again don’t they?” Peter asked.
“Yes, apparently every year. Though none of them expected to have quite so many children come into the picture. It may now be impossible.”
“No, Jacob. We can look after them. It will do Cathy the world of good to have ten days rest a year from her family, however much she loves them. There are enough willing hands here, you know that, look how it’s been with baby Jacob.”
“Yes, you’re right again my dear,” Father told her patting her hand, “it’ll do them all good.”
“Do you think Devin will have a family Jacob?” Mary asked him.
Father shrugged his shoulders, “Now you’re asking, its something he has never spoken of, and to be honest from what Mich’ael had told me, I don’t know if it is possible for Geraldine.”
“Oh.” Peter said, “Why is that?”
“Apparently, when she was in Austria, they had her on a breeding programme and she never conceived at all. Mich’ael believed that her body just kept rejecting animal sperm, but since she has been married to Devin, they have had a rather prolific love life, and still nothing has happened.”
“Mmm, that’s interesting. You know if she wanted I could run some tests. While the generator is down here, I could bring a scanner machine down and use it on her. I expect Mich’ael would find it interesting too.”
“Yes, but how would you approach Gerry about it. You have to be careful, she has had more than her share of being experimented on...” A movement in the doorway caught his eye, and looking up he blushed to find Gerry stood there. Seeing his embarrassment, she came down the steps and put her arm affectionately around his shoulders, “I wondered why my ears were tingling,” she told him, “I believe I heard my name mentioned?”
Father looked behind her, “What no Devin, has the glue lost its grip?” He asked her.
“Don’t change the subject, Father, come on spill it.”
“Even your vocabulary is like Devin’s now, what are the two of you on?” Father joked, still trying to evade the subject.
“Its called love, does that answer your question.” Eyes wide, Father nodded, “So how about answering mine?” She asked him again, gently.
“We were, talking about you Gerry, not just you of course, we have been speaking about the four of you, but the conversation came back round to babies and then to you.” Peter told her, matter of factly.
“And you want to know when I may have a baby?” She asked him frankly.
He nodded, “Yes, not that its any of our business, you know, it was just something we mentioned.”
Gerry sighed, “It is actually, something that has been on my mind a lot, but not in the way you may imagine. Really I should not want to have any children. It isn’t something Devin and I have spoken about, so I can’t say how he feels, but for me, well, look at me. I’m not going to say anything against those that do bring children like me into the world, that’s their prerogative, and truly, those little girls are adorable. But as for me, I wouldn’t want it, plus you have to remember that I wasn’t just crossed with one big cat, but two, there is no telling what I may produce. Imagine if Devin was to expect a son, and instead I produced a cub. It doesn’t bare thinking about. So yes, it does concern me, and yes I have wondered about it, but I am glad it hasn’t happened.”
“You know Gerry, there are a lot of things I should like to discuss with you, but with Father being a doctor also, he would, I am sure, be interested in the discussion too. I would like to ask you, would you agree to talking about this, and if so, would you prefer we go somewhere private, or do you have any objections to having the discussion here and now?”
“Perhaps I should leave.” Mary pushed back her chair to get up, but Gerry reached across and stopped her, “No, Mary, please stay, it will be good to have you here, you know another woman, and all that.” So Mary sat down again, patting her hand.
Turning to Peter, Gerry told him, “ I should very much like to discuss this, it is a conversation that is long overdue, but before we go on, I think Devin and Mich’ael should join us.”
“Then I’ll call them.” Mary said getting up again.
“Okay, where’s the fire?” Devin cried a few minutes later as he hurried over the threshold of Father’s chamber, and seeing Gerry sat at the table came over to sit beside her his eyes full of concern. Mich’ael followed him in, and took a seat opposite. Peter and Father quickly filled them in.
“Gerry is right.” Mich’ael told them all, “This conversation is long overdue. There is much to be covered. When we experimented on her while on Sonn Alp, there was much we could have avoided had we of known she could speak, and though I am no longer involved in that part of her life, nor intend to be, there are things which I would like to have known.”
“Such as?” Gerry asked him.
“We used to wonder when your most fertile time would be. Was it like a cat, during menstruation or like a human, a couple of weeks afterward. We never seemed to be able to find out, it was very frustrating, that’s why breeding from you was so hit and miss. If you could have told us when you had started one, it would have saved a lot of time.”
“I never have had one.” She told him simply.
A simultaneous “What!” Sounded around the room.
“Not ever?” Mich’ael asked incredulous.
Gerry shook her head, “Not ever.”
“Then that’s your answer Mich’ael,” Peter told him, “Though unfortunately not Gerry’s.”
“Yes that’s right”, Father told them, “Gerry, Peter was saying earlier that while he has the generator down here, he could bring down a scanner machine and use it on you. I think in light of what you have just told us, this would be a very wise thing to do.”
“Okay.” Gerry told them, “I agree.”
“I’ll bring it down tomorrow, after this revelation I expect none of you can wait any longer than that.”
“No.” Everyone, including and especially, Gerry confirmed.
*** *** ***
It was a bleary eyed Vincent that came in to breakfast the following morning, unusually quiet.
“Everything all right Vincent?” Father asked him, spooning his porridge.
Vincent stifled a yawn, “Yes Father.”
Devin cracked out laughing, “Cat got your tongue Vincent?”
“Don’t be so cruel, darling.” Gerry chided him, “You can see the poor man is exhausted. Were the babies keeping you up all night Vincent?”
Vincent turned tired eyes towards his sister and nodded. He could hardly lift the spoon to his mouth.
“We can’t have him like this Devin,” Gerry cried, “Vincent and Catherine will be dead on their feet inside a week, there is so much we can do to help.”
“I agree, Gerry, you and Devin could take some of the pressure off, if Catherine and Vincent were willing to allow you.” Father cut in.
“Thanks for volunteering me, Pop” Devin told him good humouredly, then turning to Vincent said, “How about it Vin, I know you and Cathy first said you could manage, but really we would all love to help.” he shot Father an ‘I’m including you in this look’ as he spoke.
Vincent put down his spoon and stretched, “I don’t know...” He began.
“Nonsense,” Gerry told him, “I’m not waiting for permission to look after my own nieces and nephews, come on Vincent, back to bed with you. Devin bring a tray with some breakfast for Cathy and the rest of Vincent’s and we will take over for a few days if nothing else.”
Father followed them, saying he wanted to check on the babies anyway, but secretly wanting to see if the joking resumed momentum.
Catherine was awake and feeding two babies at the same time as they went in. Quickly she covered herself. The other two babies were crying forcefully, hungry for their turn.
Gerry hurried over to them. “We have come to lighten the load. You can’t do all this by yourself Cathy, you are nothing short of a milk bar. Where do you keep your formula milk. No Cathy don’t disagree, you can still feed the babies yourself, but it wouldn’t hurt to give them all a top up with formula. I’ve been reading about these things. The book tells me, that as long as you give one feed a day to each baby, you will still be providing each with the antibodies it needs for infection. If you can manage two a day then so be it, but remember, it is of no use feeding two at the same time, make sure you stagger it, so that the goodness has a chance to build up between feeds.”
“Okay Nurse Gerry,” Catherine told her laughing up at her, “I can see you have been at Father’s Medical Journals.”
“I didn’t know about that,” Father commented, “Certainly you took a lot of information in.”
“I find it very absorbing, I suppose it’s because of my background, but even I surprised myself at how interesting it all is.” Gerry told him.
“What else can you tell us with the present situation?” Cathy asked.
“The most important aspect about breast-feeding, is the very first milk you give the baby. I don’t know how it would work with four of them whether some would benefit more than others would, but certainly for the first couple of days, it is only an oily substance that comes through rather than milk. Colostrum I think it is called.
What you have to imagine is a brand new pipe that needs lubricating with oil before anything else can be passed through, so that the oil acts as a coating. It is the same with the intestines. When they are brand new, as with a new-born baby, and thus never before has anything passed through them, colostrum is nature’s way of lubricating the intestine and the gut, before the onslaught of food in the form of milk. Naturally the content of breast-milk depends on whatever the mother has eaten, so you must choose your food intake wisely Cathy, nothing spicy, and no onions or garlic, and certainly no beetroot, of you don’t want a fit when you change a nappy a few hours later.
Though the colostrum doesn’t keep working scientists do believe that colostrum does act as a barrier against stomach cancer in years to come. Plus there are more antibodies in the first few feeds than in any of the others.
Really when you think about it, there has to be a reason for colostrum coming first, or it wouldn’t be there would it? I think that nature is a real marvel, humans could learn so much from the natural way of things. Since I have read all this, I feel so sad when I think of all the women who opt for bottle feeding their babies. You wouldn’t tip away the first few mouthfuls of a product or medicine would you, and just give the rest? It would be wasteful. That’s how it is with mother’s who don’t at least give the colostrum to their new born’s. They rob them of something very precious. Not only that, the onslaught to the stomach of formula milk can be too harsh and do irreparable damage without the initial lubrication of colostrum. It’s very sad.” She finished at last, out of breath.
“Well, Gerry, you have surpassed yourself, I couldn’t have put it better myself. You know my dear, you and I are going to have some very enjoyable after dinner discussions I can see, which I look forward to immensely.” Father told her happily.
“That means no more early nights Gerry, from now on we will hardly see one another.” Devin replied sadly, then his face lit up, and he hugged her, “I am very proud of you, even I, a doctor’s son did not know any of that.”
“Well,” said Cathy, “these four have been fed many times in the last twelve hours, I am certain all have had their fair share, but by the time two are finished and rested the other two are awake, and when they are done, the first two are awake. I think I have sat up feeding most of the night, and Vincent has sat up winding them for most of the night, I for one would be very grateful for your help.”
“Right then, lets make up a batch of formula, and get started, but first I want to see both you and Vincent eat your breakfast, and have a good long sleep, Devin, Father and I will take the babies to the nursery, and we will look after them this day.”
“I won’t argue, thank you so much. I am so tired.”
Vincent leaned over and kissed Catherine’s brow, “ I too would be grateful for your help, I do not like to see Catherine wear herself out so, and it makes me feel wretched for being the one to put her through all this.” He swept a hand to encompass the whole room, to make his point, and Father laughed heartily, “Well you will do these things Vincent,” he laughed some more, “ You will do these things.”
*** *** ***
When Peter came Below later that day, he found Gerry more than willing to undergo the tests.
“I’ll be grateful for a lie down.” she told him wearily.
Peter raised an eyebrow.
“Gerry volunteered herself and us to look after the babies today while Cathy and Vincent catch up on some sleep.” Devin told him. He too was finding it difficult to stay awake. “Father and Mary are on milk duty at the moment, you’ll find them in the nursery if you need them.”
“Well we have to go that way, as that’s where Mich’ael was taking the generator and he will be meeting us there. Did you want to come with us Devin? Devin?” But Devin was already sound asleep.
“Typical,” Gerry cried. “An important aspect in my life as this, and my husband falls asleep on me.” She smiled, “No, don’t wake him Peter, the babies have taken their toll on him today, not so much the feeding, but the changing of nappies and the bathing, well you have never known anything take so long.”
“You know Gerry, it is good for Cathy to have you here, your help is an asset to her, to Vincent too, and no doubt everyone in the tunnel world will do their share. But I realise that the babies need certain people to bond with, to see as parents, and really the strain on Vincent and Catherine could be too much, especially as there is young Jacob to consider also. Last night I was doing some thinking. If you really have no inclination to have your own children, and today’s tests could prove that it would be an impossibility anyway, then I wondered if you and Devin would consider becoming acting parents to Vincent and Catherine’s children. What do you say?”
“Too late, Peter. My mind has beaten your thinking to it. I had already decided this when I was reading through some medical books a few days ago. I was just waiting for the right moment to discuss it with Devin.”
Peter patted her hand, “I am glad Gerry, since Catherine’s own father died, I think on her as my daughter, and knowing she has your help would alleviate a lot of worry from my mind. Thank you.”
“You are welcome Peter. Though I never wanted children of my own, it doesn’t lessen the desire for them, I do love children, and looking after Vincent and Catherine’s along with them is just what I need, so I am doing it for purely selfish reasons also.”
“I don’t think so Gerry, from what I know of you, I don’t believe you have a selfish bone in your body, and I’ll defy anyone to say so.”
“Thank you Peter.”
They walked along to the nursery in companionable silence, and found as Peter had expected, Mich’ael already waiting for them. Peter had taken the scanner in earlier and Mich’ael had set it up. Marie was helping Father and Mary feed the babies.
“What eating again!” Gerry cried, “The dear little things will pop.”
“Where’s Devin?” Father wanted to know.
“Sleeping.” Gerry told him.
“Lucky him.” Father told her wiping a hand across his eyes.
She hurried to his side, “Father you must rest also, you too Mary, Mama, Mich’ael and I can take over, what about you Peter?”
“After the scan is done, try stopping me.” He told her happily. “But don’t go Jacob, stay and watch. And you Gerry, before you help, I need you up here young lady, on this bunk.”
The scan proved to be very humorous. As Peter pulled up Gerry’s T-shirt to put a blob of gel on her stomach, he gasped, “Goodness, I never dreamt,” he told her surprised.
“What?” She replied, knowingly.
“That you, er, you, er.” He didn’t quite know how to say it. Gerry helped him out, laughing up at him, “That I would have a furry tummy?”
“Well, yes. It was such a shock that’s all. Nothing wrong with it.” He added, quickly. He stroked her there, “In fact it is rather nice.”
“Hey that tickles.” Gerry told him laughing.
“Better not let Devin see you doing that.” Mich’ael joined in the fun, stroking her also. “Imagine his face.”
Gerry giggled, “ I can see his face now. He doesn’t look too happy.”
“You mean he wouldn’t do.” Peter told her.
“No I mean he doesn’t do.” She told him gleefully. “He’s right behind you.”
Peter and Mich’ael visibly jumped, making Gerry squeal followed by a fit of the giggles. Neither had heard Devin walk in behind them. He stood glaring at them, while they stood there stroking his wife’s stomach with such obvious enjoyment.
“What on earth is going on!” He fumed. Gerry caught the mischief in his eyes, knew he was only playacting with them, but Peter and Mich’ael did not know this. Snatching their hands away as if they had been burned, both of them coloured up, and were momentarily lost for words.
“I’m waiting.” Devin told them, tapping his foot pretending to be annoyed.
“It.. Its not what it looks.” Mich’ael told him at last, “Peter did it first.”
Marie burst into laughter. “Oooh,” She cried, waving a finger at Mich’ael, “You tell tale.”
Devin could take no more, he burst into laughter, and more so at the perplexed look upon Peter’s face.
“Its all right Peter,” he re-assured him, “I was only joking. Mich’ael I’m sorry to frighten you so. I couldn’t resist it.”
“We thought you were sleeping.” Mich’ael told him.
“Well that’s obvious. While the cat’s away, woops sorry Gerry, no offence. I was sleeping but I woke up with cramp, and I’m glad now, because I wanted to be here.”
Taking Gerry’s hand, Devin watched as Peter plopped the gel onto Gerry’s furry tummy and moved the receiver around to pick up pictures. It was a high tech scanner, and revealed everything that was, or wasn’t in situ, within the body.
Father was amazed, “I have missed so much new technology while living Below,”he told them, “That machine is incredible.”
“We can use it to tell the sex of unborn babies, Jacob, and any defects they might have too. I wouldn’t be without it. This is the machine that I used to detect Cathy’s babies.” Peter told him.
“Then it can’t be without its flaws Peter, if it missed a baby.” Father told him.
“True, in one way, not in another.” Peter replied, looking keenly at the screen now. “It isn’t without its flaws, what machine is, but as far as the baby was concerned, I can only conclude that it was hiding behind another, or lying beneath it, for a certainty we only saw three hearts beating there.” Peter told him.
Mich’ael pointed to the screen, and looked directly at Peter, a knowing look passed between them, and Peter nodded. “Yes, I had noticed.” He told him.
“Noticed what?” Gerry asked them, “Come on, its my body, what did you notice?”
“Your inability to menstruate and ultimately to conceive, Gerry. You were born without a uterus and ovaries.”
“Wow,” was all Devin could say. For once, he was lost for words.
*** *** ***
While sitting over a cup of tea and biscuits later in his chamber, Father, Peter and Mich’ael were discussing together along with Gerry and Devin the events, when Mich’ael became thoughtful and finally asked, “Peter, while the scanner is here, there is something I should like to try.”
All eyes turned to him, expectantly.
“The babies Peter. The little girls, do you think we could tell if, they, like Gerry have this problem?”
Peter nodded slowly. “What are you getting at?” He asked him.
“Currently I am working on tests from blood samples taken from young Jacob, and the new-born babies. I want to find out the ratio of big cat genes to human per person. The goal is to see how much is passed on through the generations, in the hope of eventually eradicating the strain. Father and I have already discussed this, and we know that there is nothing to stop someone a hundred or more years from now, from throwing a cub rather than a baby, but with insight we could go a long way to lessen the possibility. I believe since today’s discovery, that nature has herself taken a hand in this, and I wondered if the little girls might be the same.”
“What born without a uterus and ovaries you mean?” Father asked him.
“Yes, exactly. Notice, all the male children of Vincent’s have been born with human faces, and no hairy hands or claws. In fact smooth skin all over, yet the girls bare his resemblance. Therefore it could be that the future males cannot pass the genetic code onto sons, but only to daughters. And if nature has stepped in and prevented the girls from re-producing, then we can be sure that eventually the whole make-up of the beast will be wiped out, at least ninety-nine percent, anyway.”
Peter nodded, “Yes, okay, as long as Vincent and Catherine are agreeable, we will do this.”
Neither Vincent nor Catherine had any objections, and when later Mich’ael returned the babies to the nursery, they could see by his smile that he had made a discovery.
“I don’t know how you feel about this, Vincent, Catherine, but the test reveals that nature has in fact taken a hand in this. For like Gerry, neither of your daughters show any signs of having reproductive organs. As for me as a scientist, I think this is marvellous, though it means that one day there may never be any of Vincent, Marie or Gerry’s kind left, and personally and to those that know you, I think that would be a great loss.”
Vincent bowed his head, and squeezed Catherine’s hand, “Though our daughters look like me, it has never been my desire to pass on this face to any other.” he told Mich’ael “But I know that Catherine finds it appealing. And for that I should like to answer your other question, spoken before the babies arrived. I do thank you for your kind offer to transform this face, these hands of mine, Mich’ael, but after much sole searching I have decided to decline your offer. I wish to stay as I am.”
Catherine gasped, “Oh Vincent, don’t do it for me, do it for yourself.”
He looked down into her bright eyes, filled with unshed tears at his unselfishness, and told her, “When we married Catherine I promised you that I would be your husband until death and beyond, as myself, not as another. Even now I feel different, since the beast has left me, I do not think I could stand to look at my face in a mirror now and not see this face. This is the face you fell in love with, these are the hands that thrill you, when I look in the mirror of your eyes, I see I am beautiful, I do not need to alter to make you look at me any better than that.”
“Oh Vincent, what would I do without you.” Catherine told him happily.
“Well,” said Mich’ael clearing his throat from a lump that had formed within it, “The offer is permanently open Vincent, so if ever you change your mind.”
Vincent looked down into Catherine’s love filled eyes, “I won’t” he told him, “Not ever.”
Some sacrifices were well worth making.
*** *** ***
A few days later, Mich’ael arrived at their door with a sheath of papers. Opening to his knock, Vincent found him, stood there with a beaming smile on his lips.
“Come in Mich’ael, are they the results to the tests?” Vincent asked him.
“Nodding, Mich’ael looked fit to burst, “ Is Catherine here?”
“Yes, she is feeding the babies, I’ll call her, take a seat, I won’t be a moment.”
Michael looked around the beautiful room. It truly was the best Below, he felt a little envious of the polished wood panels baring carvings of fruit and flowers, and wished his and Marie’s chamber was as impressive. Perhaps Cullen could be persuaded to fit out some more rooms like it. Then he remembered, but of course the panels had been expensive, everyone had chipped in to buy them, and then when Catherine had heard she insisted they all be repaid with the money her father had left her. It was unlikely, he and Marie could afford anything so grand.
Catherine came into the room shortly, cradling one of her daughters in her arms, and took a chair opposite Mich’ael, her eyes bright with anticipation, Vincent followed her carrying the other little girl.
“So Mich’ael, you have the test results, and by your face they are worth knowing, please tell us, don’t keep us waiting.” She told him brightly.
“Yes, I was pleasantly surprised by them. And you may not know...” looking up at Vincent, he saw Vincent shake his head, and mouthed ‘is it all right to mention it’ to which Vincent nodded, and Mich’ael continued, “You didn’t know that Vincent also gave up some of his own blood for the test. Some years ago, Peter took some of Vincent’s blood and found it to be sixty-seven percent human, so just over half, which apparently depressed Vincent no end. Since Vincent has felt different, he wondered how deeply that went, and the new tests revealed believe it or not, that the human percentage is now ninety-four percent. That’s incredible isn’t it?
“Vincent was overjoyed, “Ninety-four percent is marvellous. I can hardly believe it.”
“Now the findings for the children. Jacob you will be pleased to know has ninety-eight percent human blood, so there will be slim chance of his ever ending up with Vincent’s features...”
Catherine and Vincent visibly relaxed and sighed their happiness at this news.
Michael went on, “ And as the babies have no names as yet, well not that we know of.” He winked at them, for the naming ceremony had not yet taken place,
“We labelled them baby, one, two, three and four. Baby one, namely the one Devin affectionately refers to as Cannon, has like Jacob ninety-eight percent human blood. Baby number two has ninety-seven percent human blood, baby number three...” Catherine nodded, and Mich’ael continued, “The baby in your arms then Catherine. She has eighty-one percent human blood, and baby number four, the one in your arms Vincent, now she was the one that gave us all a shock wasn’t she? Well she has eighty-nine percent human blood. By these findings we can see, that there is a slim chance of the boys passing on the genetic hiccup to their offspring and as the girls have no re-productive organs, there is no chance at all of their ever passing it on. Now, we knew this when we took the blood, so really the findings were inconclusive, in that respect, but Vincent and Gerry wanted to know what chance there would be of them ever having to do battle with the dark one. We can therefore, see that though they might have to go through this, they are both in a stronger position to conquer, having more of the human factor within them, therefore, I believe the findings are tremendous, and will I’m sure give you much re-assurance.”
“How about Gerry and Mama, did you not take some of their blood too.” Vincent asked him, his face radiant.
“Yes, your mother was the most surprising, a staggering ninety-eight and a quarter percent, and Geraldine the lowest of all, just seventy-seven percent. No doubt before her battle with the dark one recently, she was a lot less.”
Catherine found her voice at last, it seemed to have been stuck permanently in her throat. “This is incredible, “ she said, “ I am so happy, I expect you are too Vincent?”
“Yes, to think all these babies brought forth from my loins, have such a staggering degree of the human element is truly amazing. And to know that they were conceived before the dark one died, before I lost all of the traces of him within myself, well that is even more remarkable to me. Just imagine what could be achieved now if we were to have anymore children, why I could literally produce a child of one hundred percent human blood, it makes me want to try it.”
“Oh no you don’t mister, “ Catherine told him firmly, “This is something that you will have to keep wanting, for I don’t intend to have any more babies, so if you intend to know for a certainty, it won’t be through me.”
“Mmm,” said Vincent, “If I didn’t know you better, Catherine, I’d say you had just given me my freedom.” Vincent laughed at her, then seeing the sorrow in her eyes, instantly regretted the words. “I’m sorry my love, I never for one moment meant that, I love you too much to ever be unfaithful to you.”
Sensing the sudden tension, Mich’ael thought he’d best try to ease the situation, but in fact made it worse, when he said, “Talking of which Catherine, Peter sent word that the operation for your sterilisation is set for two weeks today.”
Suddenly, Catherine burst into tears, “You can tell him I’m not having it.” She sobbed and ran from the room.
“Oh dear Vincent,” Mich’ael said apologetically, “I do think you are embarking upon your first row, I’m off, See ya.” And then he was gone, leaving a perplexed Vincent holding the baby.
*** *** ***
There was something that Geraldine had kept a secret. Not that she had intended to do, but the thought when brought to mind was too abhorrent to be credible, and she found it impossible to utter the words. Now, when Mich’ael was again thinking out loud to everyone over dinner one day, she found it impossible to hold it back any longer.
Listening to Mich’ael speaking about the disappearance of Hans Kogler, Gerry pushed the half-eaten dinner around and around her plate.
Noticing, Devin asked her, “Not hungry Gerry, that’s unusual for you, aren’t you feeling well.” He put a hand to her brow, “You do seem a bit hot, what’s wrong?”
“I’m not sick,” she told him, “Not in that way. There is something I have to tell Mich’ael, and the confession makes me feel sick.”
Mich’ael eyed her keenly, “What is it, Gerry?” He asked her softly.
The words would not form, and Gerry had to close her eyes, and concentrate on them, like putting one foot in front of the other after a paralysing accident, and learning to walk again.
“Its....Kog...ler.” she told him. Now how to say it? She wanted to get around to it, but also wanted to say it as quickly as possible, and then flee.
“What about Kogler,” Devin prompted her. Gerry could feel all eyes upon her, everyone was sat there waiting, and the dining room couldn’t have been more fuller if it had needed to be.
“I...I...” Gerry began, and finished quickly, whispering, “ate him.”
Pushing back her chair to flee, Devin grabbed her arm, “Gerry wait!” He told her, she assumed he would be as sickened as she was by the revelation, so she opened her eyes in amazement at the caring tone of his voice. “Stay Gerry, you don’t have to go.”
There was silence. Half finished meals, were looked upon, and the plates pushed away, all appetites had gone.
William decided to break the ice, “Was he nice?” he asked her, smiling, “ Maybe you can give me the recipe?”
A burst of laughter erupted, and Gerry smiled weakly through her tears, “I was so afraid of telling anyone,” she said, “And it sickened me every time I thought of it. To think I actually ate a human being.”
“Oh God, so did I.” Vincent suddenly remembered. And all eyes turned to him.
“Yes, I know, Vincent. You started on him, and I finished him off.” Gerry told her brother.
Father interjected , “Yes, but neither of you were yourselves, you shouldn’t torture yourselves so, you were driven by animal instinct, not human.”
“Still Father, he went through this same mouth, down this same throat, can you imagine what it is like to know that?” Vincent told him unhappily.
“No. But then he was only passing through.” Father chuckled at his own joke, and trailed off when he noticed that few others laughed with him.
“Well at least I won’t have to wonder anymore about how he is.” Mich’ael spoke flatly. “Did he feel anything?”
Vincent started to remember, while to Gerry the thoughts had never left her.
“Yes.” They spoke in unison, and with his eyes tightly closed Vincent continued, I could smell him. I think he must have known I was coming, though it was pitch black. I could smell his fear, and he had urinated. The stench was coming up through his clothing, and his sweat was mingled with blood. It was the blood smell that incensed Haid’es, I was powerless to do anything. I could see what was happening at the time, but it was as if I was watching a movie from another room, very unreal. When Haid’es had eaten the dogs, it never seemed so bad, but a human! It was abhorrent, I shut it off from my mind from the very first bite he took, and until now had not remembered it, I wish I never had.”
“When I came across him, Vincent, he was badly mauled. The-ri’on too could smell the blood, that’s how it all began. I had seen Devin’s thoughts and knew you were returning home and I was on my way back to meet Devin, when the blood assaulted my senses. At first I thought someone was injured, and so I went to look, the whole time I battled against The-ri’on, over that scent. It is the one scent that pulls The-ri’on, perhaps its as well that you all know this, every time it assaults my senses, I feel her coming to the surface, it is only your love for me that stops her. Through it I draw on your strength, so if you ever feel suddenly weakened, then know why. Anyway, there I was slowly going to investigate, and I saw him. He was unrecognisable, but actually walking. I didn’t know who he was, until he laughed when I told him who I was, it was his usual sinister laugh that I hated so much. I am afraid that is when I became so angry that The-ri’on took her chance. I told him, the same as I told Strasser that I was going to kill him. Amazingly, he thought it had been me that had started him off.”
“Did you tell him otherwise?” Vincent asked her.
Gerry looked at his tortured expression. What good would it do him to know?
That one of them bore the guilt was more than enough. Gerry told him her first and only lie, “No.”
The relief on his face was worth it, he didn’t even know he was holding his breath for her answer until he let it out, long and relieved. “I’m glad.” He told her, “It somehow makes me feel better.”
Nodding, she went on, “When I killed him, it was quick, he didn’t feel a thing, and he knew before I struck him, for I sensed a calm come over him, like he was at peace. I felt no remorse then, I don’t now, only sickened that I actually ate him.”
There was silence. What could be said. Devin hugged Gerry, sensing her hurt, he also knew she had lied to Vincent and why, and he loved her for it.
The silence ensued for a long time, each person sitting still, trying to quell the motion in their stomach.
“Right then,” William tried to sound jovial, “Whose for pudding, its jam roly-poly and custard?”
Everybody bolted for the bathroom.
*** *** ***
Several days later Devin was making plans again.
The anniversary of their idyllic holiday in the sun was looming up, and Devin wanted to make the second time even better than the first. And as it was no secret this time he enrolled the help of his companions.
The four of them were sat in Vincent and Catherine’s living room, pouring over booklets and lists, of things to take, and things to do.
“I can hardly wait, darling,” Gerry told Devin, “ to get you back there its going to be great.”
Devin slipped an arm around her waist, and pulled her close to him, whispering something into her ear, which neither Vincent or Catherine heard, but the dreamy look which passed over Gerry’s face, made them laugh out loud.
“Just to be back beneath the sunshine, is good enough for me, present company included too of course,” Vincent added as he nuzzled Catherine’s neck.
“I just want to rest and rest and rest.” Catherine sighed.
“No chance of that my love,” Vincent teased her, “It seems so long ago that we actually had time to be alone.”
“Do you really think that Father and Mary will be able to manage all the children, I do worry about that. Perhaps if we got a bigger boat we could take them all with us. After all I have enough money to hire a cruise liner.” Catherine told them.
Devin was thoughtful, for a few moments, then said, “ Half of that statement is not a bad idea, Cath.”
“The bit about the cruise liner. Well not literally that big, but if we were to hire a larger boat, there are some people I should like to bring with us, though not the children, not on this occasion anyway, maybe when they are older.”
All eyes turned to him, “Who?”, they asked simultaneously.
“Charles, and Father.”
“Father!” They chorused. “He would never agree to leaving the tunnel world.”
“Then he would have to be kidnapped.” Devin smiled impishly.
“And how do you propose to do that, darling?” Gerry asked him.
“Let’s think about it seriously shall we, that is if we are all agreed?”
“I think it’s a marvellous idea.” Vincent told him, “Father is well overdue for a holiday, and though we showed him those photographs it can never be as good as seeing the real thing. Personally I think he was envious of us all being there.”
“Yes, I got that impression. In the first few days that we returned, he was very quiet. I think it will be great to have him come with us this time.” Catherine added. “Especially if we bring his chest set too.”
“Me too, but darling, how will we kidnap him?” Gerry turned adoring eyes upward to Devin’s face. A look, which always sent, shivers coursing through his veins.
“Well we don’t want to give him a heart attack, so it will have to be something subtle, and we shall have to make certain his bags are packed before time, and that sounds like fun to me.” Devin stated, eyes twinkling with mischief.
“Yes it brings me back to the original question Devin, now there will be one less to look after the babies.” Catherine frowned.
“Don’t worry Cath, Father only spends his time ordering everyone else around, anyway, so really while he is away everyone can have a holiday.”
At the sound of laughter he went on, “But to answer your question, we will make certain that before our own plans are accomplished, that we have made thorough plans for the welfare of the children. It will be no holiday for you, if you spend ten days worried about your family, will it?” Devin told her seriously.
“To be honest, I think Mary should come with us too.” Catherine told him, “Though that means there will be even less people to look after the children, so it is a suggestion that selfishly I wanted to hold back.”
“Well lets see, shall we? There will be Jamie, Marie, Mich’ael, and possibly Peter. Mouse, Pascal, William, Elizabeth, and numerous others who will willingly jump at the chance of looking after the children. Why we cannot keep them away even now, just think how they will feel when they know the parents and adoptive parents have cruelly abandoned the poor little orphans.” Vincent laughed, “I really don’t think there will be cause for concern Catherine, but if it makes you happier, you could run up a rota, to take with you, then each moment of every day, you will know who is looking after who and when.”
“That’s a marvellous idea, Vincent. Yes that would relieve my mind very much.”
Catherine told him happily, “Right then, now that is sorted, let’s talk about how we can kidnap Father, do we need to kidnap Mary too?”
“No, I think Mary would get every bit as enjoyment as we would from keeping this from Father, and she could be an asset in helping to pack his clothing too.” Devin told them. “Come on let’s get down to it, shall we?”
*** *** ***
A thought would not leave Catherine’s mind. It was something Devin had mentioned, in passing. Their plans for the holiday would mean a lot of expense, which Catherine offered funds for willingly. It suddenly came to her, that she was the only one with access to her Father’s money, yet there were so many that could benefit from it, and if she should ever die, what would become of it then? So she decided to make a will.
Peter naturally helped her.
“It’s a great idea Cathy, but why wait until you die. The tunnel people would be able to do such a lot of they had access to it now. I propose you have a joint account made. That way should you ever die, then the account won’t be frozen.
I understand that everything you have you would want to be passed on to Vincent and the children, but as Vincent could not go above to legalise his right, this is impossible.”
“Yes, Peter, and also I want to have trust funds made up for all the children. With the exception of the girls, for the same reason as Vincent, unable to go Above. But for them I propose putting their shares into two of their brothers, so that the brother’s know to share it, when the trust comes to maturity, and if I’m no longer around to administer this, then there must be someone who will ensure it is done, other than Vincent.”
“Good Cathy, that is good. Now let’s see, this joint account, who do you think should be included?”
“Yourself for definite.”
“Me, but aren’t you afraid I may embezzle it, to buy myself a larger practice?”
“No, but its the temptation, it will always be there.”
“Would you like a larger practice so that the temptation can be eradicated?”
“Who wouldn’t?” He laughed at her.
“Then so be it, Peter. No, don’t try to stop me, it is the least I can do, and it will take away the likelihood of further temptation.” She smiled at him, “If you don’t get on to it, I will.”
“Thank you Cathy, I don’t know what to say.”
“Just say you will be one of the joint holders.”
“Yes, okay thank you.”
“Another can be Devin.” She told him, then catching sight of his face, said, “What?”
“Devin, now he can’t be trusted anymore than I can.”
“Once maybe, but not now, Devin will be perfect. Don’t worry Peter. I trust Devin implacably. And another has to be Father, and finally I think, hmm, who would you say Peter?” Catherine pulled at her lower lip with her top teeth, unsure of whom to ask.
“Do you want someone younger or older?”
“Younger I think, younger than Devin perhaps.”
“Jamie!” they both said together, while Catherine added, “Jamie would be perfect.”
“And before anyone of them can draw on the money, they have to obtain the signatures of all the others on the cheque first?”
“And what about yourself, are you going to be on this account?”
“No. What I will do is transfer money on a regular basis to this account from my account, just In-case anyone turns tail-coat, and then if I should die, all the funds in my account will be automatically transferred into the other one. There will be stipulations upon my death though, that Vincent receives a great deal of money, and... Hold on, I could do that now. He could have his own account set up, from which we are joint holders. Yet maintained so that one or either of us can draw from it, it won’t need both signatures, then if I should die, he will be able to draw from it, by means of establishing another joint holder to draw the money for him.”
“Well it sounds logical Cathy, so let’s get down to it shall we. I’ll make all the necessary arrangements Above, and you can come up when there is anything that needs to be signed. In the meantime put all that down in writing, and I’ll take it to your solicitor.”
“Okay Peter. That’s fine. And Peter?”
“Don’t forget, the next time I have to come to see you, it will be at a different address.”
“A different address, Peter, surely you haven’t forgotten so soon? The bigger practice Peter, get on to it, I wasn’t joking, I aim to see that you have your heart’s desire, or I’ll put it in my will, and then you will have to explain that to the other beneficiaries.”
“Why that would be so embarrassing., Cathy.”
“I know, aren’t I wicked.”
“No Cathy, far from it, far, far from it.” Peter kissed her cheek, “Thank you Cathy.” he told her happily, a bigger practise had been his lifelong ambition, and in one wave of her wand, Cathy had just made his dream come true.
*** *** ***
Flight LA907 arrived at New York, one Wednesday morning. It had been delayed due to bad weather, and the passengers were irritable. None more than, Drayton O’Connor, the tramp that Reidel and Kogler had paid $500 to, for information about Catherine Chandler in an LA coffee bar, so many months previous.
As he had heard nothing further, he wondered what had become of them. The tail he’d had on them had drawn a blank, they, like Catherine Chandler and Devin Wells, had seemingly fallen off the face of the earth. So he had decided, a good job was better done by oneself, and had come to New York, with his gun firmly tucked into his backpack, to see if he had better luck in locating the bitch.
*** *** ***
When Peter had finally reached the stage whereby all it took was Catherine’s signature to make it legal, he called for her, and made an appointment for her to come above on Wednesday morning.
Vincent was reluctant to let her go, “I know Catherine that it is important to you, but really it is so unnecessary. The people Below, have no need of wealth such as you are about to bestow upon them, it can only bring greed to our community.”
“But Vincent, should anyone ever need anything, the money will be there. It’s not for everyday whims. Only if someone needs a life saving operation or you need something for down here. Some specialised tools, anything that would make life easier. Even down to making the other rooms as comfortable as our own. Why, all the chambers could be fitted with wood panelling, now that would be something.”
Vincent could see, that he wouldn’t alter her mind, and reluctantly agreed to her going Above for the day. “Hurry home Catherine,” he told her, kissing her goodbye at the threshold of her apartment building, “ I miss you already.”
Kissing him back, she lingered longer than intended, savouring his lips on her own. When they parted, Catherine felt a shiver of apprehension run through her and he, in his unique way tilted his head to look down at her, “What is it Catherine, something troubles you.” he asked her concerned.
“Its nothing Vincent. Probably I’m nervous, it has been a long time since I went Above without you.” She told him.
“But I felt you shudder?” He told her.
“Yes, someone just walked over my grave that’s all, I don’t know why it happened.” she told him truthfully. “Look Vincent, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine, I might even pop into the apartment for a few hours, see the sights, its a long time since I did so.”
“Good job you kept the apartment on Catherine, it has been a real asset for those tunnel dwellers, making the transition to the outside world, is anyone using it at the moment?”
“No, so how about you meeting me there after dark, and we go over old times together, Vincent.”
“I’d like that Catherine, it’s a long time since I stood on your balcony, looking over the city lights.”
“I could get some ice-cream and some chocolate cake in, and we could fool around a little.”
“Better and better.” He told her, kissing her again, “even better if I can have you as my desert.” He told her, huskily.
“Desert!” she exclaimed, “Why Vincent, and there I was thinking I would be the main course.” He smiled as her tinkling laughter drifted around the empty space where she had stood, as he watched her descend the steps to the basement, and returning Below, he found that he looked forward immensely to the coming evening.
*** *** ***
Catherine met Peter in his office, knocking and going straight in, she looked around her. There were boxes everywhere, crammed and over-spilling with all Peter’s belongings. “I am glad that you have taken me seriously Peter, when do you move into the new building.”
“The day after tomorrow, hopefully,” he told her, “ And Catherine, I can never thank you enough, the new place even has its own theatre, where I can perform minor operations, and of course that will always come in handy should yourself or your family need help there. Also, Mich’ael would like to come in with me, there are some specialised paths he is qualified in, that can only benefit me by working with him, so you are helping two people fulfil a dream.”
“Anything you or Mich’ael need afterwards, Peter, if there is not enough money in your own account to cover it, you know you only have to ask.”
“Yes Cathy, bless you. Now come along your solicitor is waiting, and the papers are all ready for your scrutiny and signature.”
Cathy was pleased with everything. Peter and her solicitor had done just exactly as she wished. The trust funds were set up, the bank accounts were ready for signing by the selected parties, and Catherine’s will had been made up. Grateful and satisfied, it was a happy Catherine who left Peter to go to the store to buy ice-cream and chocolate cake, dreaming about the evening with Vincent.
*** *** ***
Drayton O’Connor, got out of the cab that had taken him to Central Park, the one place he knew of that Catherine Chandler frequented, or used to do. He thought he would start there. His colleagues, had been unable to turn up any information, but then they were working from a photograph, while he was working from memory. He felt certain he would be successful. Checking that his gun was loaded for the umpteenth time, Drayton walked the length of park, and back again. He could sense her in every step he took. Could see her there in the courtroom that day, humiliating him in front of friends and family, making him appear small. She had stripped him of everything he had, his pride, his self-esteem, his friend’s, his family, even his wife had left him, and Drayton vowed he would kill her the moment he could get out of jail. His parole however, had prevented him leaving LA and it wasn’t until he risked leaving to go to New York on a day trip that he realised he may get his chance.
The park was windy and cold, ice lay in puddles and the grass was still frosted over where the weak winter sun had not yet penetrated. Drayton walked with his pack slung over one shoulder and hands in pockets, his face huddled into the collar of his green jacket, so that at first, head down as it was, he didn’t notice her.
Catherine came around a corner, carrying a bag of shopping, a dreamy look upon her face. She had decided to walk through the park on her way home, rather than take a cab, for it had been such a long time, since she had walked there in the daylight. And she wanted to relay everything that she saw to Vincent when he spent the evening with her in the apartment later.
There were a few people in the park, not many, just those that came regularly to feed the birds, or jog around the perimeter, and these took no notice of her, this woman in her orange duffel coat.
Yet it was the colour that eventually caught Drayton’s eye, and lifting his head, he was stunned, “Its her!” His mind told him excitedly, “It’s actually her.”
Boldly, he pulled the gun from his backpack, and checked it again to see if it was fully loaded. Catherine came ever closer towards him, and he knew that he couldn’t miss. Looking briefly around him, he could see no-one but Catherine Chandler, and holding the gun steadily, he fired, once, twice, three times, four times, five times, six times. He saw her face. She saw his face. Recognition was instant. Her cries of pain and anguish, bringing him only satisfaction, as smugly he watched the bag fly from her hands, and the red stains blotch her orange coat, her body slump to the ground. He didn’t wait around to see if she was dead, for a certainty she had to be, who could survive six shots at close range, even if they were fired indiscriminately. He had killed the bitch, done it at last, joy flooded through his entire body, as he ran out of Central Park, and hailed a taxi to take him back to the airport.
*** *** ***
To be contined in Chapter Eighteen - 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.