Part 3 of the Oblivion Trilogy
Mich’ael Reidel stood at the foot of Sonn Alp, and gazed adoringly upwards. Drawing in a deep breath, and letting it out again in a deep sigh, He said, “You know I never realised I had missed Sonn Alp that much, ‘till now.”
“How many years were you there?” Devin asked him stepping from the car to gaze upwards with Mich’ael.
“Thirty years. This place took a great chunk of my life, but do you know I believed in what we were doing was to the good of humankind and animal life; I was devoted to my work. Somewhere along the way though, I got side-tracked into believing what Ignatz was feeding my mind with, I guess I was gullible, but it all sounded so feasible at the time.”
“You’ve never actually told me how it all came to pass. Was Strasser experimenting with crossing humans and animals at the time when he first started out in Switzerland?” Devin asked him.
“Oh yes absolutely. Ignatz started out as a boy in believing there must be some truth in the myth of mermaids and mermen, and those other creatures, whose name eludes me, they were half human half horse, you know, Devin?”
“Yes, but I don’t know their name either. Yet those creatures were mythological beings, that generally rose to fame at the hands of the Greeks or the Romans, Mich’ael.”
“Still Ignatz believed that all wives tales have their roots somewhere, after all people have believed in fire breathing dragons for centuries, I could sometimes see his point of view, yet I can’t help thinking now that he believed too much in fantasy. and didn’t know that there was a thin line between reality and unreality, that gave each its boundaries. I’m afraid Ignatz crossed over the line too often and mixed one with the other far too much.”
“It seems to me that no-body ever told him there was no Santa Claus, Mich’ael?”
“Exactly. You know a lot of damage can be done to a child when told such untruths. Children are so trusting; they believe and absorb all that they learn. Tell a child about Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy and Jesus Christ in the same instance, and you confuse fact with fiction in their young minds. I know of a family who when they finally confessed that there was no Santa Claus, the child turned and said, ‘so when are you going to tell me there’s no Jesus Christ either?’ Imagine that! Take away Jesus Christ and what are you left with? The whole damn existence of mankind crumbles, Jesus Christ is our foundation from which we build, whether we believe or not. Like a wobbly brick in a wall, it stays intact because of the strength of those around it, so we get carried along in a system that has Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone, and we all benefit from that. Yet belief in a myth, well that’s something totally different. And placing faith in a myth takes the whole thing much further, totally out of perspective. You can believe in the truth, and find much to support it, or you can believe in the myth and find nothing to support it, but for fantasy. It’s when you try to re-create the myth into reality that the problem arises. People have tried unsuccessfully the other way on. You know making Jesus Christ into a myth? But they fail because there is too much evidence which proves he actually existed and is God’s son, but trying to make a myth into reality? Well it's full of problems with big gaping holes. Do you understand what I am driving at Devin?”
“Yes, Mich’ael, its a bit like Evolution. No matter how science tries to fit the theories together, they cannot find the missing links. They say it’s just a question of time, or future technology. And they bang their heads against the wall, all the while saying its true, its true, when even a century from now, they still will not have advanced, because, like you say about the other things, it is only a myth.”
“You know what I always think about Evolution. Okay so I am mixing myth with fact, in doing so. But we were created in God’s image, right? And we all know how powerful God is. He created life on the earth, in seven creative days. A creative day being seven thousand years in length. Well if we were created in God’s image, and then go back to believing we started out as apes.... do you get what I am trying to say, Devin?”
“Yes, I do, and I have never looked at it that way before. That means that God was an ape when he created us, and that leads to all kinds of questions doesn’t it? For today humans exceed the knowledge of apes, so in effect you could theorise that human’s have surpassed the knowledge of God.”
“Exactly, even if evolution said, that God too has evolved by now, it doesn’t escape the fact that as an ape, he was far superior to human’s are even now, quite a subject for discussion, eh, Devin?”
“It certainly is, Mich’ael.”
“But we’ll tackle it another day, I am a great believer in never telling too much at once. I find the recipient remembers far better when fed in small doses. Like the scripture which says that while a banquet stalls a person, they will thrive when fed little and often. Or words to that effect, and when you think of it, you can see the logic in that can’t you, Devin?”
“Yes, in fact when you think about it, there is logic in all the scriptures, I shall look forward to picking up on this subject with you another time. Do you want to continue up the mountain now, Mich’ael?”
“Yes. I guess we had better press on, there is a lot to be done.”
Driving in through the gates some half an hour later, Mich’ael realised how good it was to be home, though he had never really missed the place. It was the warmth of being somewhere familiar that appealed to him.
“It will be strange to be here without seeing Marie. She was forever getting out, and would pop up all over the place. We used to be so grateful that she never taught Geraldine how to get out. It’s funny now to think of it, but I was petrified of Geraldine. What were your first impressions of her, Devin?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“Yes, I do?”
“We fell in love the moment we clapped eyes on one another.”
“That’s incredible. You obviously brought out the best in her, while I, I’m afraid to say, brought out the beast in her.” Mich’ael laughed at his own joke, “nonetheless I am grateful for the way her life has turned out.”
“Catherine and I used to wonder about the West Wing. It looks so secretive, is it really that bad?”
“You might find it distressing. A lot of the experiments we did on Geraldine took place in there. You will perhaps receive an insight to part of her life, she prefers to keep hidden away. When I think of it now, some of the things we put her through was nothing short of the things that were done to Holocaust victims, and really even a dog gets the luxury of anaesthetic, which is more than I can say for Geraldine.”
“Don’t tell me anymore, Mich’ael, I don’t think I want to hear it, and please when we go to dismantle the machinery in the West Wing, please don’t enlighten me further. I’d rather not know what things were used for.”
“I understand, Devin. Well here we are, did you want to return to your old villa, or stay inside the complex. There are some cosy rooms within it.”
“Then I’ll stay inside, somehow it won’t be the same being in a villa with no-one about, and I’ll keep thinking about when Catherine was in the one next door.”
“And how are you going along with that?”
“You know, the Cathy thing?”
“Oh, that’s all in the past. She will always be pretty special to me, but its Gerry that I love.”
Mich’ael nodded, “You know I never really thanked you, for coming here under all that deceit, you and Catherine, but for that where would we all be now eh?”
“Well Kogler and Strasser would be alive at least.”
“Yes, but I would never have come to know your family, or Vincent, or had the opportunity to be with Marie, or come to know what a truly wonderful person Geraldine is. I would have missed so much. Its funny isn’t it, how life works out?”
Devin nodded slowly, “Yes, and its good to know I don’t have to go through that pathetic interview regime, this time I am here.”
Mich’ael pretended to be hurt, then laughed his head of, “My but we got some candid interviewees, you would never believe how desperate some people were to work here!”
“Were there many after the job then, Mich’ael?”
“Oh yes, you’d be surprised. Really the interview technique got boring. I could so easily have nodded off. I’d say we interviewed around fourteen, but there were actually over a hundred applicants.”
“Phew, that many! So what made Strasser short-list my application?”
“Ignatz would never discuss the finer details with Han’s or I, but I know that he was impressed with you. He knew at once that your CV were phoney, but then so too were many of them, I suppose his initial interest was because you were American, and all your references were American while we knew that you were in London at the time you contacted us, and without work. You intrigued Ignatz, and I guess he wanted to know more. But after the interview he told Han’s and I that he felt you was right for the job, and afterwards you thoroughly impressed him with your reports to the questions that he set. You probably don’t know this, but he even spoke of bringing you in on the experiment with Geraldine and Marie, and believe me for Ignatz to offer that job to someone he would have to be pretty sure he could trust them.”
“I don’t know what to say. No wonder he was upset when he found out he couldn’t trust me after all.”
“There was one thing that really infuriated him. He knew that you had realised the villa’s were wired, yet after dark, you would go into the bathroom, the only place that wasn’t wired, and you would stay there for hours. Then he would switch over to Cathy’s villa and find she had done likewise, do tell me what you were both on with?”
“If I said water pipes would it mean anything to you?”
Mich’ael’s hand flew to his brow, “But of course, messages! Very clever. We would never have discovered this.”
“You may have if you looked at the pipes, all the paint is chipped!”
*** *** ***
Thousands of miles away across the Atlantic Ocean, the pipes were busy relaying messages throughout the world Below. It was a comforting sound, knowing that people were caring enough for one another to converse in this way, or to report the goings on of the world Above.
Father was sat in his high backed chair, reading the morning’s newspaper, when Gerry came up behind him, putting her hands over his eyes.
“I know who it is” Father told her.
She remained silent.
“Its Catherine with some furry mittens on.” He told her, laughing and knowing full well that it wasn’t.
Gerry giggled, “Oh Father there’s no pulling the wool over your eyes is there?”
“No, or the fur. So have you come to keep an old man company then, or is there a reason for your visit.”
Gerry shrugged, “I’m missing Devin, and knowing where he is doesn’t help. There are things he will see, that I’d rather he didn’t, things that he will find distressing.”
“If I know Devin, he will be grateful to a view into your past, that way he can understand better when you get your moods, Gerry my dear.”
“Do I get moods?”
“Oh yes, Gerry, but we all do. There are things in all our pasts that we would rather not have to remember, sometimes we rake ourselves over the coals so much that we become a burden to those around us, unwittingly of course.”
“Yes, and I expect you have your share of them too, Father.”
Father laughed at her outspokenness, “That I do, Gerry, that I do. My main one at the moment was in making Mary wait so long for me to return her love, and now she has to wait some more, for Devin to return before we can be married.”
“You know before I came here, I never knew what a wedding was like. Now in less than a year I’ve been to two, had one of my own, and now have your own to look forward to. And I never tire of them. So who’s going to conduct your own wedding then Father?”
“It’s a subject close to my heart. I need a minister and a best man, and I can only think of Devin and Vincent for either parts, the thing is which to ask to do what. Do you have any idea’s?”
“Yes, absolutely. Devin just has to be your best man, he would really appreciate being asked, and Vincent would find it an honour I think to conduct your marriage. I also think that the rest of the community would like to see that honour bestowed upon him.”
“Yes, Gerry, I think they would. Thank you. That is a load off my mind.”
“Is there anything good in the newspaper today Father?” Gerry asked him. Each morning since Devin had been away, the pair of them had taken to sharing the newspaper, and reading side by side at the table in companionable silence.
“I’ve only just started it, so I can’t say this morning, here you take the front half and I’ll take the back today.” Father passed her half the newspaper, and pouring tea for them both, they sat side by side reading.
Gerry hadn’t got far, when some words jumped out at her. Tea-cup half way to her lips, she slammed the cup down again, splashing the hot liquid into the saucer, Father looked up sharply, “What is it Gerry?”
“This.” Wide eyed, Gerry pointed to a small-boxed advertisement, and they read it together.
“Would Devin Wells or known relative please telephone the following number. Of Utmost Urgency”.
“What do you think that is about?” Gerry wanted to know.
Father shook his head, “I have no idea. We must contact a helper at once to make this call.”
“Perhaps Peter would do it, or Catherine. Isn’t she at the apartment today?”
“Yes, Catherine would be ideal, I’ll get word to her at once. Quickly cut out that advert, it can go with the message.”
*** *** ***
Catherine was as puzzled by the advertisement as both Gerry and Father, and didn’t hesitate in ringing the given number. It was soon answered, by a female voice.
“Good morning Social Services, can I help you?”
“Hello, I’m calling about the ad in today’s newspaper, the one about Devin Wells.”
There was a short gasp, and then the female voice went on, “Whose calling please?”
“I am Mrs. Wells.” Even as she said it, Catherine knew how it sounded, but for some reason she did not correct it, allowing the woman at the other end to believe that she was speaking to Devin Wells’ wife.
“Is it not possible to speak with your husband Mrs. Wells?” Catherine held back some laughter, thinking of Vincent, and replied “No he is out of the country at present, but you can tell me why you wish to speak to him. He may be calling later.”
“I shall need some proof of identification before I go into details. If it is convenient, I should like to come to your home to speak with you. I need to see some identification, and references that you are who you say you are. Is eleven a.m. convenient?”
“So soon, well yes. And I can have Devin’s father here too, if that will help?”
“Really! Yes, that would be marvellous. Give me your address, and I will be with you in, just over two hours.”
Catherine gave the required information, and sent word to Father straight away.
By eleven a.m. in Catherine’s apartment, Father was pacing the floor, an action he’d picked up from Vincent.
“What on earth has that boy been up to now, that’s what I would like to know. Social services you say, are you sure Catherine?”
For the umpteenth time, Catherine nodded, “Yes Father, Social Services.”
“And why did you let them think you were Devin’s wife, for goodness sake?”
“It wasn’t intentional, they just took it that way, but it doesn’t matter, anyway I got the impression that had I of been anyone else, they wouldn’t have told me anything, least of all make an appointment to see me. Did you bring Devin’s birth certificate?”
“Yes, finally. It took Vincent and Gerry the whole two hours to locate it. There is also some photographs.”
“Good idea, would you like some tea while you wait?”
Father was just about to say ‘yes please’ when the doorbell rang.
Nervously Catherine opened the door, and was surprised to see not only a young woman in a smart grey suit and blue blouse, stood outside, but a young child also, who looked remarkably familiar.
“Mrs. Wells, thank you for seeing me at such short notice. Let me introduce ourselves. I am Mrs. Brennan, and this here is Timmy. May we come in?”
Catherine was appalled at her own manners, “Of course forgive me, but the child, he looks so... well it’s as if I know him.”
Mrs. Brennan smiled, and inwardly relaxed, then coming into the room, and catching sight of Father, strode across to shake his hand.
Timmy hung back in the doorway, and Catherine smiled reassuringly at him. “Please come in Timmy.” she told him.
Nervously he stepped forwards, and eyed both Catherine and Father in turn.
“Before I go into details, could I please see the ID, I asked for?”
Without a word Catherine fetched everything she had, then said, “I thought rather than a doctor’s reference, it would be better for you if you called Dr. Alcott from here at his surgery, then you will have overall proof that I am who I say I am.”
“Yes thank you. Dr. Alcott you say, I have his number here in my book, may I use this phone?”
While she made the call, Timmy walked around the apartment, while Father watched his every move. Drawing his brows together, Father realised exactly what all this was about, patting the seat beside him, he had Catherine sit next to him and whispered, “Have you seen the way he moves, his hair, his eyes, his looks?”
Catherine nodded, she had, and there was no mistaking the likeness.
“It has to be Devin’s child!” Father told her incredulously, shaking his head. “But I’m sure Devin knows nothing of him.”
They listened while Mrs. Brennan made her call.
“Dr. Alcott, thank you for agreeing to speak with me. It’s Mrs. Brennan here from Social Services. I have one or two questions that I need an immediate answer on, can you spare a few moments...you can...thank you.... Do you have a patient by the name of Catherine Wells?” she went on to relate the address, and when Peter affirmed she continued, “ And Devin Wells is he a patient of yours?”
Peter told her he was, and then asked if she would tell him what it was about, but she said she couldn’t at that moment, as she had to speak with Mrs. Well’s first.
Putting down the telephone, Mrs. Brennan, smiled. “Well that’s that done. Now I expect you are dying to know why I am here.”
“I think I have guessed, “ Father rose to his feet, going across to Timmy, “This is Devin’s child isn’t it?”
Mrs. Brennan smiled heartily, “Yes, Mr. Wells, he is. Though I do believe your son knows nothing of Timmy’s existence. Come let’s sit down and I will tell you all about it.”
Throughout the explanation of Timmy’s past, Father could not take his eyes from the child. It was like seeing history repeated. A child so much like Devin to be a smaller version of him. Father found himself remembering so many things he had forgotten of Devin’s childhood when he looked at Timmy.
Mrs. Brennan told them, that from his birth Timmy had been rejected. His mother had been against abortion, and had wanted Timmy adopted from the onset, but her own father fought against her, until eventually she agreed to hand over her child for him to bring up. Everything had seemed to go well, until the old man had died, leaving Timmy in many ways an orphan, because his mother had since married and her husband wanted nothing to do with Timmy, even if his own mother had wanted him with her, which she didn’t.
Timmy had been a bright child, loved and cared for by his grandfather, until upon his death Timmy had been sent to various foster homes, where he had become destructive, and no-one would have him with them for long. It was obviously not in his nature to be so, for the acts always left him in floods of tears. Mrs. Brennan concluded it was frustration that made him this way. Timmy listened as she spoke about him almost as if he wasn’t there, listening to her ramblings on about his life as if he had heard it all before and probably he had.
“So, now that Timmy’s natural family have been found, I hope that you are going to tell me that he is willing to live here with you, Mrs. Wells, or perhaps with you Mr. Wells?”
Catherine knew that Timmy would be taken Below to live without a doubt, but she gave her apartment as his permanent address, and Mrs. Brennan promised she would bring Timmy’s belongings by the following day. When she had gone, Timmy eyed both Catherine and Father disdainfully, not drawn in by their gentleness in any way, and from the moment he had walked into the apartment he had not open his mouth to speak.
Catherine offered him a drink, something to eat, but got no response from him whatsoever. Father tried.
“Timmy, this is as hard for us as it is for you, unless you speak to us, we do not know how you feel, or what it is you would like.”
Timmy looked long and hard at Father and tears formed in his eyes. Hurriedly he brushed them away, and turned around, his small frame shaking with unshed tears. Father’s heart went out to him, but he resisted the urge to hug the boy, and in some small way Timmy was grateful for this. It reminded him of his grandfather, who had never been over emotional with Timmy, allowing the boy to find his own place in life, to find his own strengths and weaknesses without being reminded of them by others.
Turning he again scrutinised Father beneath hooded lids, neither speaking nor moving, and Father knew that he was being summed up. All this time Catherine sat opposite Father on the other sofa, without speaking. Just watching the scene unfolding.
When Timmy finally spoke, it took Father back years. The same boyish sound as Devin’s, the same defiant look in the eyes, when he asked “Do you live here too?”
Father smiled at him, “No, would you like to see my home?”
Timmy shuffled a little nervously from foot to foot. The ruffle of the curtains coming inwards from a sudden breeze drew his attention, and he gazed through the French doors longingly, Father felt had he of been able at that moment he would have taken flight. So many things came flooding back to Father at that moment, Devin’s desire to be outside, one of them.
Touching Timmy’s arm gently, to draw his attention once again, Father asked him, “Would you like to be outside?”
Timmy nodded. “Grandpa had a garden.”
Understanding Father nodded, “Well I’m afraid Timmy that there is no garden here, only a terrace, but if you prefer we could go sit out there, would you like to?”
Timmy nodded again, and made to move out through the doors.
“I’ll fetch you both a drink,” Catherine told Father, allowing him time to speak one to one with his grandson.
Outside Timmy leaned far too far over the balcony, making Father want to shout “Be Careful,” but he refrained from doing so. He knew this was a test, but he was unprepared for the boy’s view. “Don’t you care if I fall over?” He challenged Father.
“Of course I care. But Timmy everything you do, every way you do things, you remind me of your father, and he would not have liked me to keep saying be careful, I assumed you would be like him.”
Timmy smiled that beautiful Devin smile again, Father thought as his heart lurched at the memory, and replied, “You remind me of Grandpa.”
“Thank you Timmy. I don’t expect to replace your Grandpa, but today I learned that I am your Grandfather also, do you think we can become friends too?”
Timmy regarded Father critically; “Do you have a garden?”
“No...and neither do I have a terrace. My home is a special place.”
Timmy looked down sadly and mumbled, “An old folks home.”
Father laughed, “No, Timmy, look would you like to seem my home, it isn’t far from here, and I am certain you have never seen anything like it before in your life?”
At his first words Timmy wasn’t interested until Father finished, and Timmy felt his interest stir. His eyes bright, he nodded, “Can we go now?”
“I believe Catherine is making us some drinks, and it is rude to refuse. We will have them first eh, and then we will go. Then you can meet the rest of my family and Devin’s wife.”
Timmy shot a look in Catherine’s direction mouth agape, and Father told him, “No Timmy, Catherine isn’t married to your father. Catherine married my adopted son Vincent, who you will also meet. Vincent and his mother and sister are very special, as you will see. Come drink up and we will go to meet them. I know they are going to be very surprised to see you.
*** *** ***
Devin was absolutely flabbergasted when Mich’ael showed him the extensive files on hard and soft disk for the institute computers. “Are you certain that no one has been able to tap into these?” he asked Mich’ael as he scanned page after page of information.
“Absolutely, there wasn’t anybody that knew.” Mich’ael told him, as he pulled files and deleted them. “Make certain they don’t just end up in the recycle bin Devin, they want to be deleted totally. If it wasn’t for how much all these computers were worth, I would smash them.”
“We should be able to destroy everything inside though. We will have to double check by going over each other’s work. Are you certain you know where all the files were kept?”
“Pretty much. Though Ignatz had access to files from his office. We need to ascertain whether this was on computer or paper, or both, and make certain that there are no hidden compartments anywhere in his office. Ignatz was certainly one for hiding things.”
“Like the camera’s?” Devin wanted to know.
“Yes like the camera’s.”
“Wow look at this.” Devin had stumbled across a file, which showed exactly how Vincent had come into being. “This I never knew. Is it all right if I read it?”
“Feel free, only store the information in your head, I want to come away from this place knowing that nothing comes out with us on paper or disk. Everything must be erased.”
“Don’t worry Mich’ael I would never dare throw such a risk on Vincent’s life, or Gerry and Marie’s, but this is so interesting. Should I read it out to you?”
“No, I think I know which you are referring to, it’s about the lioness, am I right?”
“Yes.” Despite Mich’ael saying he knew, Devin could not help himself from reading aloud, “Strasser paid the equivalent of fifty thousand pounds for a lioness that he kept at a colleague’s safari park, now that’s interesting Mich’ael did the colleague know what Strasser intended with the lioness?”
“Oh yes the report speaks of that, the lioness was kept at the park, and cared for by a scientist by the name of Fabian Francis. It shows that he helped Strasser inseminated the lioness known here by the name of Honey, and kept contact with Strasser throughout her pregnancy.” Devin read on, he could not believe what he was reading. “Between them Strasser and Francis kept detailed reports of the lioness’s entire gestation period, and, oh my God! They were both there at the birth. Mich’ael you say you knew this! Is this guy still alive?”
“Yes very much so, but he isn’t aware that Ignatz is dead, or how much further he went with the experiments.”
“Are you certain of that?”
“Well as certain as I can be, Devin.”
“But not absolutely?”
“Well...no. I mean that I know of, Ignatz cut all ties with the outside world, once he set up his own institute in Switzerland, and later when he came here. I never once heard him mention this guy Francis. And when I stumbled upon this same file a few years ago, and challenged Ignatz about it, he made it very plain, that Francis knew nothing of Geraldine.”
“But he did know about Marie, right?”
“Well he would have to do, as he helped deliver her, but Ignatz probably told him she had died.”
“That’s not good enough Mich’ael. The fact still remains that some one else knows how to produce these beings. What would stop him from trying himself? Especially as he has the safari park, and access to wild cats. And what happened to the lioness that Ignatz paid for?”
“Read the report Devin, it’ll answer all your questions, more than I can.”
Devin read on, to himself now, he got the impression that Mich’ael was annoyed about something.
The file showed him that Francis and Strasser had inseminated Honey on several occasions, and ... Devin re-coiled, she had actually given birth to a being a year before Marie, but on seeing the infant had ripped it to shreds. The second time, Francis and Strasser had performed a caesarean section upon her and brought Marie forth. Strasser had insisted that Honey be put down, and he took the child to Switzerland. But from where? No-where did it say where the actual safari park was. So all he had to go on was the name Fabian Francis. At least he would be easier to find than say, John Smith, nonetheless, Devin knew it was going to be a difficult task unless he stumbled upon another lead. He tried all versions he could think of on the computer to pull something on Fabian Francis, to no avail. Devin deleted files as he went along, upset in a way at having to do so, but knowing it was a necessity.
When he came to the final file, and deleted it, he closed down the computer and sat back analysing his thoughts.
“Mich’ael do you know where the safari park was where Strasser kept the lioness?”
“No. He never told us.”
“Mich’ael think. There must be something he said, something over the years that gave some indication?”
Mich’ael shook his head. “The only colleague he ever spoke of was the guy in New York. You know the one that was to collect Vincent that night, alas I don’t know his name.”
Devin groaned, “I should have thought of that.”
“The scientist in New York, whether or not he is this Fabian Francis, I don’t know, but for a certainty he would also know of the experiment. That means a definite one other and a possible two, that we are aware of, could know about Marie and Vincent or both. We’ve got to look into this Mich’ael, it doesn’t bear thinking about that someone else has the knowledge to carry these experiments out, if they haven’t already.”
“Perhaps if there are two different men, they would know one another?” Mich’ael queried.
“Yes.” Devin sighed. “As soon as I get back home, I won’t rest until I have sorted this out fully.”
“At least you can start on home ground.”
“Yes that’s one thing I suppose, the drawback is that being on home soil, one never knows who knows me, it may be a job for you?”
“Yes, if you don’t let on that Strasser is dead, it may be our only hope of finding anything out.”
“You’re right. Okay, as soon as we finish up here, we’ll go back and dig around.”
“I get the impression that you are annoyed about something, Mich’ael?”
“You do?” Mich’ael sighed, “Yes you are right. I am annoyed, but not with you. I am annoyed with myself, for not spotting these obvious things. I thought that once all these files were deleted, that no-one would ever again be able to stumble on this knowledge, and only those that live Below know anything of it, now I see that it could be possible that other’s do know, it makes me angry. Angry that I didn’t think of it, and angry that Ignatz left some very loose ends, but no definite clues as to where to head to tie them up.”
“All I hope is that no-one has ever succeeded where Strasser failed”, Devin told him.
“Me too, Devin, me too.” Mich’ael told him gravely.
*** *** ***
Central Park was beautiful throughout all seasons, but during the summer it surpassed itself. The grass, lush and green from the continual spray of the sprinklers, while the flower borders were a profusion of colour to tantalise the eye, making one wish to linger a while. Even at night the scent from the flowers was so strong that much of the fragrance drifted through the tunnels, much to the delight of those that frequented them.
Timmy was in his glory. The shimmering heat that rose from the earth, the birds and butterflies all added to the beauty he derived from being outside. His eyes lit up as soon as they entered the park, and Father and Catherine gained much pleasure from watching the child come to life.
*** *** ***
There was a particular warm and shaded spot, where the Central Park Gardeners planted exotic shrubs and trees, and Timmy ran over to them. His hands gently stroked the petals of Bougainvillaea, and allowed the cascading fronds of blue Wisteria to slide gently through his fingers. Around his feet lay a carpet of lilac coloured blossom, and looking up Timmy exclaimed, “Jacaranda!”
“What did you say?” Catherine asked him.
He looked at her keenly; his dancing eyes bright with happiness, “Jacaranda. That’s the name of this tree. It was one of Grandpa’s favourites. He got some seeds from Barbados and tried to grow his own. The saplings got so big and died. I wish he could have seen these ones.”
“Is this the first time you have seen them too?” Father asked him, amazed at the boy’s knowledge.
“No, I saw the ones in Barbados, but it was a long time ago, I’ve not seen any growing on home ground at all.”
“How old are you Timmy?” Catherine wanted to know.
“I’m eight.” Timmy told her, still looking fondly at the Jacaranda.
“What just eight, or soon to be nine eight?” Catherine prompted again.
Timmy smiled at her, the first time that he had. “Soon to be nine eight,” he told her, then added, “I shall be nine in six weeks time.”
“Have you always lived in New York?” Father asked him, while he leaned upon his walking stick, longing to sit down.
Timmy noticed his discomfort. “Would you like to sit down, look there are some benches just across there, though its a bit breezy over there, maybe there are some others in the shade nearby.”
“That’s very thoughtful of you Timmy, but if you are ready to move on, I know a place where we can go out of the wind.” Father told him, liking the boy more and more.
“Okay”, Timmy told him, “Which way?”
They continued to walk towards the storm drain, Timmy at a loss as to where they were headed and why, he remembered Father’s initial question and replied to it, “I have never lived in New York. I was brought up in New Jersey. Grandpa took me to New York once, he told me my father came from there, and I was curious.”
“Did you ever try to locate your father?” Catherine asked him now, as they approached the entrance to the storm drain.
“No, Grandpa was afraid that if we did, he may want to take me away, but I used to wonder what he was like. I know he never knew anything about me. When will I meet him?”
“He is away at present in Austria, he expects to be home next week. I can tell you he will be very surprised to know about you, and very happy also.” Father told him seriously.
“Does he have any other children?” Timmy wanted to know.
“No, not that he knows of, and he and Gerry haven’t been married long, but then Gerry can’t have any children, so you are going to make their lives really complete.” Father told him.
“How much further is your home. Is it on the other side of the park?” Timmy wanted to know.
“Its not far now, and as to on the other side of the park, that depends how you look at it.” Father winked at Catherine and Timmy was quick to notice.
“Why?” he wanted to know.
“Because young man, my home is below the park. Look don’t be afraid, just follow Catherine and I, and remember what you are going to see is something very remarkable, and very secretive, you must promise that you will never tell anyone about this place or what you are going to be seeing.” Father told him.
Timmy looked from one to the other, trying to take it in. His eyes widened at the thought of going underground, for a eight going on nine year old boy, such was a real adventure, and he smiled broadly, saying, “I promise to keep the secret, please show me this wonderful place.”
Stepping into and through the storm drain, Father tapped out a message on the pipes and then pressed a button, so that the great steel door slid open.
“Wow, ”Timmy exclaimed, “This is excellent!”
Stepping through, Father waited until Catherine and Timmy had done likewise and then he pressed another button, and the door slid shut.
They walked along the lantern lit tunnels, in silence. Catherine and Father derived immense pleasure from seeing Timmy’s expressions. They could imagine how appealing the world Below was to a young and adventurous mind. Timmy thought he was dreaming.
His eyes opened wider and wider as they descended deeper and deeper into the earth, and when finally they reached Father’s chamber he stopped and spoke to Timmy, “Welcome to my home, young man, I do hope you will come to live here with us.”
“For real!” Excitedly, Timmy wanted to know. “I can live here too?”
Father nodded, tears be-dimming his eyes, as Timmy stepped through the doorway into his chamber and exclaimed, “This is great.” as he turned around and around to take in everything he could at once.
“Alas, Timmy there are no gardens beneath the earth, but believe me if its colour you want we do have some remarkable grottoes and caverns filled with gemstones and the splendour of stalagmites and stalactites to thrill you with.” Father told him, adding, “I’m certain you will find much to occupy your mind, and there are other children living here.”
“I thought you said, my father has no other children.” Timmy replied, almost sadly.
Father looked down at the child, noticing the sudden sadness, but not understanding why, and told him, ““I did. And he hasn’t. It is not just my family that lives here. Although we do know one another as family, there are many people that live down here with me, you will meet them all soon, you will find that they will make you most welcome.”
Timmy nodded, then casting his gaze toward Catherine asked her, “And do you live down here too?”
“Yes. I have the apartment up Above but my real home is here with my family.”
“Do you have any children?”
“Yes, but they are much younger than you. Jacob is one and a half and the babies are just three months old.”
“How many babies?”
“Four!” Timmy exclaimed, “Wow.”
Just then a movement in the doorway caught Timmy’s eye, and he looked to where Vincent stepped into the chamber. A breath caught in his throat, and he grabbed Catherine’s coat to hide behind it. Terror filled his eyes.
This had been why Father had tapped out a message before they went Below. He had asked Vincent to come to greet the boy, without restraint, for he wanted them to get to know one another at once. He did not at that time enlighten Vincent as to who the boy was.
Coming down the steps, Vincent used the same words that Catherine had first heard him utter, she knew the power of their effect, and as he spoke, she felt Timmy’s grip on her relax. “Don’t be afraid,” Vincent told the boy, “Please don’t be afraid.”
Steeping out from behind Catherine, Timmy eyed Vincent still warily, but more out of curiosity than fear.
Catherine found Timmy’s hand, and drew him around to her side, “Timmy,” she told him, “Please, let me introduce you to Vincent, my husband.”
Timmy’s large brown eyes looked wildly up into her own, and then back at Vincent, “Your husband.” he whispered.
Catherine nodded and smiled down at him. Encouraged, Timmy stepped forward as did Vincent and the two met in the centre of the room, alongside the table.
For Vincent, this was a moment when he stepped back in time. He looked at Timmy, then at Father, then back at Timmy. “I feel as though I should know you.” he told the boy softly.
Father laughed, “Tell me Vincent, who does this young man remind you of?”
Vincent looked at the boy long and hard, he found his mouth would not utter what his mind was telling him, and instead shook his head slowly, allowing the thought to penetrate and take root. Finally, he spoke one word, “Devin,” he said.
Father clapped his hands with joy, as his face lit up, and beaming he told Vincent, “This is Timmy. We have just met today. Timmy is Devon’s son.”
Vincent’s jaw dropped open wide, he was stunned, and then closing his mouth again, he began to smile. Timmy warmed to that smile; in fact he had begun to warm to all of Vincent. All the time Vincent had been looking at the boy, Timmy had done his own bit of scrutinising. From Vincent’s leonine features, to his hairy hands and claws, and could not believe what his eyes were telling him. He just had to ask, “Are you for real? Or is that a costume you have on?” Timmy wanted to know his voice barely audible.
Vincent smiled, “I’m all real, I can tell you, and Timmy, it is very nice to meet you. You must forgive me, I am just a little stunned that is all, I knew nothing of your existence.” Then turning to Father added, “Does Devin?”
“No.” Father told him. And went on to relate what he knew of Timmy from Mrs. Brennan.
As he spoke, Timmy reached up to stroke Vincent. Touching his hair, a little cautiously at first, but then when he found Vincent encouraged him by sitting down at the table, he traced his fingers over Vincent’s face and hands, and was stunned when Vincent smiled broadly revealing his fangs. Something which Vincent rarely did, and it made Father smile.
When Father had finished speaking Timmy asked some more questions, Father was impressed that the lad had kept quiet during the time he had been speaking, though he could tell that Timmy was bursting to know much.
“Are you the only one like you?” Timmy asked Vincent.
“I used to think so. But thanks to your father and Catherine here, I now know that I have a sister and a mother, and they live here with me now. In fact your father is married to my sister.”
Timmy’s eyes opened wide, “She does? Can I meet her?”
“Yes of course, I’ll send a message for her to come here. You will like her, she isn’t quite the same as me, and she is very beautiful.”
“But she looks like you, doesn’t she?” Timmy sounded almost disappointed that she may not do.
“Oh yes, but while I resemble a lion, Gerry resembles a tiger. She has beautiful hair, and she is a very nice person. You should get along with her very well.” Vincent told him truthfully.
“I’ll send the message Vincent, “ Father told him, “ I want to announce Timmy’s arrival, I think there will be a lot of people wanting to meet my grandson.”
Timmy smiled. Only this morning, he thought he had no-where to belong, and no-one to love him, now within hours he had a new home, a new family and had been trusted with a secret that he knew to be very important. He felt so good, that his young heart overflowed with happiness.
Though the morning sun had risen hours earlier, it was some time after sunrise before it actually chased away the shadows in the valley of Sonn Alp. So high was the altitude, that the sun seemed to have to physically climb the sheer rock face, before the first rays could light up a path over the institute grounds and then bathe the entire complex in sunlight.
Devin had woken early and was jogging around the perimeter fence, when he stopped to watch as the sun came into view, shielding his eyes against the glare of its magnificence.
With the mountains obscuring the sunrise as they did, Devin marvelled at his first sight of the morning sun in the mountains. Instead of the steady pink glow that edged across morning skies from the horizon, what he saw was a sudden brilliant golden light that peeked between the mountain ranges picking out parts of the valley. Doing so until it rose over the peaks and pushed away the shadows in the valley, bathing the whole of the land in liquid gold.
It was almost as if the dawn had been lost. One moment it was dull as before dawn and the next moment it was day. Devin smiled; it was like having breakfast time and lunch-time rolled into one.
When Devin and Catherine had been on Sonn Alp before, both of them had noticed the stillness, and had been visibly shaken by it, even the birds refused to sing, this time however, it was like stepping onto a new mountain. The whole valley had come to life since Strasser and his experimenting had stopped. The fir-trees, were full of twittering birds, and scampering squirrels, even the chamois had started breeding just beyond the perimeter fence, a sight that Devin loved to see. Before the brilliant sunlight forced the little antelope into the shrubbery for shade, he had taken to rising early to come to watch them as they grazed peacefully, with their little spotted fawn’s at their sides, their small tails flicking this way and that. He thought they were beautiful, and wished Gerry could be there to see them. To think she had lived on Sonn Alp all her life and had never seen a chamois fawn, it saddened him no end.
Since Devin had mastered the art of contacting Gerry through the Bond, that day beyond the catacombs, he had deepened it with her, and even across thousands of miles, he marvelled at how strong the Bond continued to work. He would come to sit beside the perimeter fence each morning, watch the chamois, and open the Bond wide with Gerry and be with her. He delighted in feeling her emotions, and longed for her intensely, ticking off the days until they could be together again. Yet there was something else, an excitement in her that he could not fathom, something had happened that she longed to share with him, but had closed off her thoughts, so that he could not read them. Obviously, it was to be a homecoming surprise.
As the sun rose higher, Devin checked his watch, and knew it was time to meet Mich’ael to complete the last of their work. They had deleted all the files now held by the computers, had ransacked Strassers office, finding all the paper files and burnt them, even a secret compartment in the floor, extracting disks and paper files which told them of hidden codes in the computer and these too had been deleted. Devin had read as much as he could, trying to hold onto the information in his head to relate to Vincent and Father later, and hoped that after another four days, he could leave Sonn Alp forever. This day they were venturing into the West Wing, and Devin could not stop himself from feeling nervous about that. He knew that was the place that Gerry still had nightmares about, and he did not know whether he wanted to see it or not.
Meeting Mich’ael an hour later, after a shower and breakfast, Devin followed him through the complex wordlessly, as they came to the great swing doors of the West Wing. Devin hesitated, as Mich’ael unlocked them, and stepped through, beckoning Devin inside, switching on a panel of lights as he went in.
“Welcome to the West Wing Devin,” he told him warmly, trying to put him at ease, but Devin found it impossible to enter and his throat constricted.
“Its not as bad as it seems”, Mich’ael told him warmly, “As you will have no idea what’s what, everything will just be machines to you, please step inside, I need your help to remove some of this stuff.”
Still Devin hesitated, only stepping forward when Mich’ael told him, “The sooner it is completed the sooner we can go home.” The thought of being back with Gerry urged Devin forward.
In many respects the West Wing resembled the tunnels back home, save for the wall lights being powered by a generator, rather than fitted with candles and lanterns, and coming off the tunnels were hollowed out rooms almost like offices. Devin found it was very cleverly done. The walls within the rooms had been boxed off with plasterboard, and some even had wall paper. It was hard to imagine that they were actually travelling beneath the earth, through the side of a mountain.
As they entered the first room, Mich’ael looked about him, “These machines can remain here, there is nothing untoward with them. They were used strictly for climatology, so too the next half a dozen rooms along this corridor. Then we have to branch off. To go straight we would just keep going upwards to the mountain peak, whereupon a radar is set up, again strictly for the usage of climatology. So we won’t need to pursue that area either, unless you would like to see the sights. Believe me, from that altitude though the air is weakened, the view is breathtaking. What do you think would you like to go, perhaps after we have finished our work here, as a reward for our labours?”
“I’d like that very much, is the climb long?”
“It takes a couple of hours to walk it, but Ignatz had a small train installed, well it’s a glorified buggy really. He got the idea from a sightseeing trip in the Dolomites, and really it saves the legs no end, especially the calves. I used to find my calf muscles ached for days after climbing to the peak. The buggy reaches the summit in about twenty minutes.”
“Sounds like the trip Cathy was going to make when she was in the Dolomites, except that trip went beneath the earth. She never completed it though, the area reminded her so much of Vincent, that she felt too homesick to continue.” Devin replied.
“Was it run by the British Museum, Devin?”
“Yes, I believe it was.”
“Then that would be organised by Scott Phillips, he’s a good chap. Ignatz had him come here before we started using the West Wing, to ask his opinions on the mountain. It was he that told us about installing the buggy.”
“Did he see anything of Marie and Gerry?” Devin was worried.
“Oh no, definitely not, we kept them out of sight, and he only came for a couple of hours. Even when we had the workmen come for weeks afterwards to install the track and the buggies and hollow out the rooms, they had no indication of our work here.”
Devin groaned, “This gets worse. One moment I believe that only a handful of loyal staff know this place exists, and then all of a sudden I learn that a host of other people know of it also, how many more surprises will you have for me, Mich’ael?”
Mich’ael smiled, “Just a few more, believe me. Some jobs we just could not do by ourselves, and it made our work here so much easier to have these things installed. You have to remember also that as a government funded institute, we had to train people from all over the world. You never knew it, but once you know, every one of the villas around the complex were filled with young students. There were at one time over two hundred people all over the place. I can assure you that Marie never got out, and no one ever saw her or Gerry, or broke into any of the files. We did a pretty neat cover up job there, and got away with it. Though I have to admit, that was a very trying few months for Hans, Ignatz and myself, with just the thought that it could happen. We all gave a big sigh of relief when at last everyone had left here.”
“I can imagine. Those must be the people that left behind the various books that Marie got for Gerry to help her learn all those languages.”
“Yes, I believe so, though I had no knowledge of it at the time. I’m afraid that cleaners were very thin on the ground here, Ignatz did not like to employ local people, who could come and go on a daily basis, so the employees and students were encouraged to do all their own cleaning. The thing was that when it came to leave, a lot of people left items behind that they had no further use of, generally books in the main, much to Gerry’s delight I have later discovered. She and Marie ran almost a library rental service. Marie would bring Gerry books, and when Gerry had read them, Marie would return them to the villa’s and fetch some fresh ones, eventually, Gerry had got every book on the complex read to detail, so we never discovered a mountain of books in her cell.”
Devin shivered, “That sounds terrible, your use of the word cell, brings it home to me, how much of a prisoner Gerry was. In many respects like Vincent, longing to be free and out in the sunshine, and never granted the right to do so. It was only thanks to Marie that Gerry learned anything at all about the outside world beyond her bars.”
“Yes. And I was amazed when Marie finally confessed recently, how she used to get out. The only thing I am still not sure of is actually where from. Devin, perhaps we will find it when we go up to the peak, as far as I am aware it is at a spot located, somewhere along the buggy route.” He paused, as they turned a corner and reached another locked door. Extracting his keys, he found the one that he wanted and inserted it into the lock, “ Well, here we are, this is the first of the medical rooms, there are five in all. We can take the machines outside via a door in the mountainside, and dismantle them there. I do actually have some explosives, I wondered if we should make a pile and blow them up, what do you think, Devin?”
“That depends largely on the terrain, if the mountainside can cope, we wouldn’t want to create an avalanche. I’d need to examine the rock a lot more closely, before I can give you an answer to that question Mich’ael.”
Mich’ael smiled at him, but didn’t speak, Devin guessed he was wordlessly trying to tell him something. “What?” he asked Mich’ael.
“I think we can get our work accomplished a lot quicker here, if we can use the explosives, and I know you are an informant on mountains, I thought that having this to concentrate on, it would take your thoughts away from the work in hand.”
Devin smiled back at him; “Well you have certainly given me a lot to think about. When people look upon a mountain, they often just see a gigantic rock, and assume that all mountains are the same, but they are not. There are so many different types of rock, and mountains are made up of plates, which are moving all the time. Though substantial movement is only noticeable over thousands of years, and I would really need to be certain that we aren’t creating any danger not only initially but also long term. And not only to us, but also to the people that live in the valleys on the other side of these surrounding mountains. Do you really think that blowing up the machinery is so necessary?”
“Yes, if we can dismantle it, someone can assemble it again, we have to make sure that no-one can ever do that. Explosives are the only option.”
“And if not, what then?”
“Then we have to cart it all down into the valley, dig huge holes and bury it.”
“But won’t we have to do that anyway, with all the bits that are blown to pieces, Mich’ael?”
“No, there is a great chasm, that goes deep into the mountain, much like the abyss really, but the top of it is quite narrow, only wide enough to drop bits into. Some of the dismantled parts can go in there also.”
“Do you know where this chasm leads to?”
Mich’ael shook his head. “No, but its deep, its unlikely that anyone will ever find the bits and pieces.”
“What I mean is, if it finally ends in water, the machinery would rust in that water and cause toxins that could possibly find their way down to the lower valley’s. Personally, I think we had best put it in sacks and bury the stuff, no matter how time consuming that is going to be.”
“Then it will put days on our work here, Devin.”
“Then so be it, I’d sooner know that we had done the job properly, than hurry for our own benefit. I don’t want anyone, ever, knowing about Gerry and Marie, then ultimately Vincent or cause an environmental problem. Whatever it takes, however long it takes, then to do it properly will be worth it.”
Mich’ael nodded, “Okay,” he drew a deep breath, “Then let’s get started.”
*** *** ***
Timmy stared and stared as Gerry came down the steps into Father’s chamber, then as she approached, he stepped forward to greet her, his brown eyes glowing with happiness. She stopped in front of him, tilting her head to one side, in a similar gesture to the one reminiscent of Vincent, and stared back at Timmy.
“Hello”, she told him warmly, “You look remarkably familiar, have we met before?”
Timmy’s face beamed, “No, but I believe you know my dad.”
Father coughed, he was enjoying the scene very much, and quite proud of Timmy’s courage, “Would you like me to do the introductions young man?” he asked him happily.
Timmy nodded, his smile growing deeper; waiting the grand moment when Gerry would be told who he was.
Father cleared his throat, “Gerry meet Timmy. Until today Gerry, none of us knew of Timmy’s existence, least of all Devin, now I am honoured to introduce Timmy to you as Devon’s son.”
Gerry’s mouth dropped open wide, and her eyes lit up, “You’re Devon’s son!” she exclaimed happily, “My, is he going to enjoy you.”
“Do you really think so?” Timmy asked her, unsure.
“Oh yes, Devin would love to have his own son, alas, I cannot have any children, you are going to make his life complete, believe me.” Gerry told him truthfully.
“I have never had a mother or a father, only a grandfather.” Timmy told her, then sadly added, “But grandpa died.”
“And now you have a whole family, all in one day.” Gerry told him brightly.
“Will you be my mother?” Timmy asked Gerry a little nervously.
Gerry smiled, triumphant, “Oh yes, of course I will, if that is what you would really like?”
“Like! I’d love it, you are beautiful.” Timmy told her sincerely, and Gerry found herself hugging him tightly, “I think Timmy,” she told him happily, “That you and I are going to be the best of friends.”
Catherine felt Vincent’s arm slip around her, he was unable to speak, only stand shaking his head almost in disbelief at this child so young, accepting this total stranger as his mother, and happy to do so. The moment was very emotional, and Father wiped away a tear.
“Well Timmy,” Father told the boy at last, “We shall have to find you somewhere to sleep, would you like to have a room of your own, or one with Devin and Gerry?”
Timmy looked adoringly up at Gerry, “Can I be with you please?” he asked her hopefully.
“Yes of course, we do have that alcove Father, we could put a bed for Timmy in there, until he feels he would like a room of his own, then maybe we can excavate a room close to our chamber, what do you think?”
“I think that is an excellent idea, would you like to show him your chamber now, while I rally everyone together to come and meet my new grandson.”
“Yes”, Gerry told him, then turning back to Timmy took his hand and said, “Come Timmy, you must also meet my mama, my, she is going to be as happy to have an instant grandson as I am to gain a son.”
As Timmy took her hand and the pair of them left Father’s chamber; Father smiled at the exchange he could overhear between them, “Is your mother like you?” Timmy was asking hopefully.
“A little, more like Vincent, but her face is normal, like a human, “Gerry told him, to which Timmy sighed and said, “That’s a shame.” Then Gerry added, “But she does have claws and big teeth.”
Timmy’s voice lifted, “For real! That’s great, I can’t wait to meet her.”
Their voices trailed away, leaving Father, Vincent and Catherine in gales of laughter, “I have never...” Father spoke between laughing, “never, known anyone... so impressed...” He found he couldn’t finish for laughing, and Vincent continued for him, “So impressed by people that look like me? He’s great isn’t he?”
“He’s marvellous Vincent,” Father chuckled shaking his head.
“I can see Father, that history will repeat itself, Timmy is so much like Devin was at that age.” Vincent told him happily.
“Oh don’t remind me Vincent,” Father groaned, “I had quite forgotten that aspect.” Father sat back into a chair wearily, “I don’t think I have the strength to cope with all that again.”
Vincent laughed out loud, “You won’t have to worry so Father, this time its down to Devin, he can come to know just exactly what he put you through now.”
Father smiled mischievously, “You know Vincent, I rather like the sound of that, look out Devin, welcome to fatherhood, ha, divine retribution at last!”
*** *** ***
While Devin was otherwise occupied mentally, he was able to push all thoughts of what his hands were undertaking to the back of his mind. Screwdriver in hands, he followed Mich’ael’s lead in unscrewing nuts and screws, and extracting panels, laying them upon their sides against a wall. From time to time it registered momentarily that some sections had arm, leg and body restraints attached to them. And some stirrups from the ceiling over a bed made him shudder. Though mostly he was able to shut off his mind to all he saw, and he was grateful that Mich’ael had given him something important to think about.
He didn’t know the make up of Sonn Alp well, so he classed it as other mountain ranges that were perpetually covered in ice, and sliced through with ice the higher the altitude. Generally natural forces were the cause of wearing mountains down. Thinking aloud, he asked Mich’ael “What is Sonn Alp like in the winter, does it freeze much up at the peak?”
“Oh yes, most definitely, Devin. The other side of Sonn Alp is a favourite location for skiers. With it being virtually sheer, the skiers can reach top speeds, and even Ignatz and I have skied down there a time or two, I can tell you it is exhilarating. Why do you ask?”
“Just thinking aloud really. I have been considering the explosives idea. Is there a stream at all running from the top?”
“Only in the springtime, when the snow thaws, it runs right down through the valley.”
“Does it gush or trickle?”
“It trickles. Its funny you should ask that Devin, for I have often wondered how so much snow, thaws to a mere trickle, Hans used to say most of it evaporated into the atmosphere.”
“Some of it would, but the fact that in the main, only a trickle came down causes me some concern as to the use of explosives. I don’t really think it ought to be done. You see, if the water gushed down, I would conclude that we might get away with it, but as it is, with a mere trickle, then obviously most of the water creeps into the mountain into cracks and crevices. If we could be certain that this water escapes some other way, it wouldn’t be such a problem, but mostly water lingers in depth, where the sun cannot penetrate, and when the frost comes again it freezes and expands, and exerts a pressure, which eventually splits the rocks apart. The water will dissolve minerals and produce new compounds, and eventually limestone caves form. Also the fact that you found it relatively easy to sculpture out rooms within the West Wing proves how soft the rock inside is. I think we will be opening up a hornet’s nest with explosives. It is not something I want on my conscience I can tell you, Mich’ael.”
Mich’ael looked downhearted, “But it would save so much time, Devin.”
“Would it though? What if we created an avalanche that prevented us from descending the mountain. Its too risky Mich’ael, we have to take the stuff into the grounds and bury it, however long it takes.”
Mich’ael sighed deeply, scanning his eyes over all the large panels of steel, “If you say so.” He reluctantly agreed, already his back ached with just the thought of digging all those large holes.
Changing the subject a little Devin asked him, “ So just how far do the tunnels go through the West Wing, do you know Mich’ael?”
“What. Oh, er, about two miles.” Mich’ael wasn’t really listening, his mind was on other things. He was pretty certain Devin was wrong. Sonn Alp not only looked indestructible, but appeared so large and solid that Mich’ael doubted that a few explosives could do much damage. He needed to get back to America within the week, if he was to stand a chance of meeting with the owners of the institute of climatology in the Appalachian Mountains, and offering them a part exchange with Sonn Alp. He decided to set up the explosives after all, while Devin was distracted elsewhere. Aware Devin had spoken to him and awaited an answer he asked, “Sorry what did you say, I’m sorry I was daydreaming?”
“I was telling you about the longest stretch of tunnels I have ever encountered.”
“Where was that, Devin?”
“It’s in a National Park in Kentucky. There are 345 kilometres of mapped passageways. Imagine, I bet Vincent would like that, he could pop up anywhere, and see sights he only ever dreamed of.”
“Yes it is a pity really, that his home is beneath city streets. Had it of been in a mountainside, he would probably have got away with never being seen by anyone, and could have ventured out into the sunlight as often as he wished. Unfortunately there would be no balconies with beautiful women on, in such a location.”
Devin burst into laughter.
The pair of them continued throughout the day dismantling everything in the first, second and third room, before resting for the night, and then started afresh the following day with the last two rooms. Finally, Mich’ael was satisfied that everything had been done, that needed doing, and they began the work of moving all the parts out through the West Wing doors. Then while Devin went on ahead to start digging in the grounds, Mich’ael stockpiled small items outside the West Wing.
Mich’ael could see Devin busily digging, and satisfied with the thought of how long it would take him, Mich’ael started to carry the larger panels, out through a side door that Devin knew nothing about, and there he set the explosives beneath them. Satisfied, with his work, he set the timer on the detonator and left it just inside the doors of the West Wing then went to help Devin with the digging.
“You took your time,” Devin greeted him, as Mich’ael came alongside him with a spade.
Mich’ael made no comment, causing Devin to straighten from his digging, and look at Mich’ael searchingly, “Anything wrong Mich’ael?”
Mich’ael shook his head, “No, should there be?” An unmistakable blush crept along his cheeks, which made Devin frown.
“What have you been up to?” Devin wanted to know, he laughed when he said it, so was put out when Mich’ael retorted, “That’s none of your business.”
“Hey, okay, okay, that’s fine by me, sorry I spoke.”
Immediately, Mich’ael was remorseful, “I’m sorry Devin, I didn’t mean to snap. There was just some things I needed to do, that’s all.” He looked at his watch, only another twenty seconds. Sweat broke out on his brow, and Devin frowned again, then more and more as Mich’ael kept checking his watch, yet he did not like to question him further, so continued to dig in silence.
Suddenly a large explosion ripped apart the silence, throwing Devin to the ground as the earth beneath his feet shook violently, and in an instance he realised! “You idiot, Mich’ael.” he flared, “What was the use of asking my advice if you were going to ignore it.”
“I haven’t the time to linger here, Devin, I have to be at that meeting at the end of the week to put my offer forth, you know how it is.”
“You only had to say, I would have stayed here, and finished the work. You could have helped carry all the stuff down here before you left, and I would have finished off here.”
“I never thought of that, why didn’t you say something, Devin?”
“Because I didn’t think you were so stupid as to blow everything up in your haste to leave. I just hope you haven’t done untold damage. We had best go and check.”
“Well there is no sign of an avalanche Devin, that there was any snow to come down anyway, at this time of year.”
“That’s not the point, avalanches aren’t just on the outside of mountains, they can be inside too, you may have just blown up your whole institute.”
Horrified, Mich’ael’s face twisted with dread, “Oh no, tell me you are joking, Devin?”
As Devin shook his head, Mich’ael threw down his spade and started running towards the reception doors.
Devin caught him up, and both were relieved to see that nothing untoward appeared to have happened inside. They checked the corridors and rooms, and though some books had fallen off of shelves, there were no cracks in ceilings or walls. Even the West Wing looked normal, and Mich’ael was jubilant when he saw that the explosion had ripped apart all the large panels, leaving tiny twisted fragments all over the place. “See,” he told Devin happily, “Now all we have to do is take these bits and bury them. At this rate we can be out of here the day after tomorrow.”
Devin nodded, true, nothing untoward seemed to have happened, still he felt chilled, as if something inauspicious was about to present its ugly head.
*** *** ***
Father knew when he was beaten. Folding up the chess board, he sighed wearily, “That’s another game to you Timmy,” he told the boy ruffling his hair, “I should have liked to have played a game with your Grandpa, he taught you well.”
*** *** ***
Timmy smiled broadly, a smile that Father had come to love. Timmy had the most captivating smile, one to melt hearts, and whenever he cast it in Father’s direction, the old man was transported back in time to when Devin was a boy, the only difference being that Devin rarely smiled for him at that time. Looking back Father realised a lot of what Devin had said was true. He did favour Vincent at the time, and he was too hard on Devin, to his own detriment, for he had seen Devin smile at others, and never at him. Now seeing Timmy cast such a loving smile in his direction, Father for the first time in his life realised how much he had missed out on. He vowed to make things right when Devin returned, it was never too late to love, even if long overdue.
“Will my dad be home tomorrow?” Timmy asked as he kissed Father goodnight, a question he had asked every night since arriving.
“No, not tomorrow, but maybe the day after. Not long now Timmy, and I can’t wait to see his face when he sees you.” Timmy smiled more broadly than ever, “And I can’t wait to see his face either. Goodnight Grandfather.”
Gerry was waiting for Timmy when he arrived back at her chamber. “Well did you let him win tonight?” she asked him, smiling knowingly.
“Nope, I was going to do, but he played a silly move, and I saw my chance to beat him. I couldn’t resist it.”
“Perhaps he allowed you to win, huh?”
Timmy was thoughtful; “Do you really think so?”
“I’m not sure. Father is the best player we have down here. He taught everyone else, Vincent is good though, and he can beat Father, so I expect a good chess player such as yourself could beat him also.”
“Grandpa, told me I could play for championships if I wanted to do, but there was always so much to do in the garden, that I never really got time to play as much as I would have liked to do.” Timmy replied wistfully.
“Didn’t you spend any time playing with your friends?”
“No.” Timmy replied somewhat rebelliously.
Gerry’s brow creased into a frown, “Why was that? You did have friends I take it?”
“None that were worth having.” Timmy answered her.
“But you are such a lovely boy, kind, gentle and funny, surely you made friends easily?”
“Grandpa, didn’t have many friends himself. We had each other, and we spent all our time together in the garden.” Timmy brushed away a tear, and Gerry hurried to his side, putting her arm around him.
“Timmy, there are a lot of children here, have you made any friends with them yet?”
“No. I don’t know...how to.” He replied sadly.
“Hmm.” ”Gerry murmured thoughtfully, “It seems to me, that is why you get on so well with adults, would you like to have friends your own age?”
“Yes, but I’m nervous. The only kids I’ve ever known called me names.”
“Such as?” Gerry prompted gently.
“They used to call me Savoy.”
“Why Savoy? It sounds a very regal name?”
Timmy smiled, “That’s just it, they thought I was a snob, and they called me Savoy because I spent all my time in the garden with Grandpa. Grandpa used to grow champion cabbages, hence the name, you know the cabbage patch kid, and all that. A Savoy is the name of a cabbage with crinkly leaves.”
“I don’t know actually, but I take it you took offence at that?”
“What other way could I take it?”
“Could be that they were jealous of you, Timmy.”
“Yes, of your close relationship with your Grandfather, not a lot of children have a loving family these days, they are left to their own devices. You speak to some of the children living Below, I would say all those who have come here to live come from broken homes, they have no mother or father the same as you, but you don’t see them smiling the way you smile. What your Grandfather gave to you was a solid foundation Timmy, a lot of children would be envious of that.”
Timmy listened to her words of wisdom, “I never thought of it that way before.” he was silent for a while, ticking it over in his mind, finally asking, “Gerry?”
“Tomorrow, would you take me to the other children and introduce me to them?”
Gerry nodded, “Of course I will, I know that they are already asking about you, they will be pleased to meet you.”
“Are they nice children?”
“Most are, those that have lived here a long time, others are shy and hurting, you must be very patient with these ones. And now I think it is time for you to get some sleep.”
“Yes, I will, thank you, goodnight Gerry.”
“Goodnight Timmy.” she bent to kiss his forehead, “You know Timmy, when you feel comfortable with it, you can call me mum.”
Timmy smiled, a most delicious smile, that reminded Gerry of Devin, and her heart melted. She too longed for the return of Devin.
Sliding into bed herself a little later, she allowed herself the comfort of reaching out to him through their Bond. He said he would be away for a week, and it had already passed that length of time.
Through their connection, she could tell that he was looking forward to returning every bit as much as she was, and for the first time in many days she felt his excitement, and knew that the work was drawing to a close. Hugging the thought to herself, believing him to be home soon, she did not notice the tiny flicker of apprehension, coming through, which he was trying to disguise from her. For far away across the Atlantic Devin still could not shake off the ominous feeling that had prevailed all day. Ever since Mich’ael had set off the explosives.
There was nothing he could put his finger on, and certainly no visible signs, yet something was not right. Suddenly he remembered that prior to an earthquake everything grew deathly silent. That was it! The silence. Having been used to no bird song before on Sonn Alp, he had never quite got used to hearing it since they had returned, and now it had stopped again, as if every living thing waited in expectation of something, but what? Could be that the explosion had quietened them of course, or it could be that with their acute hearing they knew something was happening, some movement perhaps that he could not hear. For Devin could not believe that an explosion of that size would go without repercussions, it was almost as if he waited in expectation of something. He tried to shake away the feeling, but it would not budge. Maybe he was just being pessimistic.
They had spent the entire day burying all the tiny twisted pieces of metal, and all the small components and parts that would not burn, and tomorrow they planned to take a trip up to the peak, before leaving Sonn Alp for ever. Devin had enjoyed returning. He had to admit that to himself, but he wasn’t sad to be leaving. Besides he had felt Gerry’s joy these last few days, and he longed to get back to find out what it was that was the cause of it. Other than the fact that he missed her dreadfully.
Mich’ael well knew that an explosion of that size would not have gone without damage. But when no avalanche occurred, and no cracks appeared on the walls or ceilings within the buildings, he had led himself into a false sense of security that no part of the mountain had suffered in any way. Devin on the other hand having made mountains a topic for study over the years knew for a certainty that something had to have occurred somewhere. And he felt almost as if they were sitting on a time bomb. Every extra second he had to spend on Sonn Alp filled him with anxiety.
So when Mich’ael announced it was time to ascend to Sonn Alp’s peak to take in the view before leaving the mountain for ever, Devin was apprehensive. “Perhaps we should forget that idea Mich’ael. After all, the view from one mountain is much the same as any other.”
Mich’ael shot him a quizzical look, “ Have I heard you right? I thought there was nothing to stop you from climbing mountains Devin?”
“Ordinarily yes, but I want to get home, I miss Gerry so much.”
“And I miss Marie, and I too want to get home, but look, our flight is not until later this afternoon, we have plenty of time to get up the mountain and back, and still have time to wait, come on, I can assure you, you will not regret it.”
Devin hesitated, and Mich’ael eyed him keenly, “There’s something else isn’t there. You aren’t still believing the explosion will have repercussions, my it’s over thirty six hours ago, surely something would have happened by now, if it was going to do?”
“Not necessarily, Mich’ael. You know that the earth is made up of plates, and sudden movement can cause these plates to jam up against one another. A tension thus ensues, and a build up which culminates in the plates lurching forward, in sudden violent jerks, when this happens in the lowlands, it causes an earthquake. And as with an earthquake any explosion does not necessarily cause damage close by, but vibrations spreading outwards from the focus can sometimes be so intense that buildings will collapse miles from where the earthquake or explosion took place. You know sometimes Mich’ael aftershocks are felt hundreds of miles away, but up on a mountain, the aftershocks will have gone deep into the rock causing untold damage that we cannot as yet see, and that is why I am so worried.”
“Are you intent on reminding me so, that I should not have done it.” Mich’ael spoke sharply.
“No, of course not. Yes, you shouldn’t have done it, I agree with that, but it is not my intention to keep rubbing salt in the wound, what is done, is done, nonetheless I can’t help voicing my fears. I know without a shadow of a doubt that the explosion of that size could not have gone unnoticed.”
“So are you going to come up the mountain with me or not?” Mich’ael exasperated.
Devin sighed, he really didn’t want to risk it, but he could see it was important to Mich’ael. This mountain had been his home for so many years, and it was painfully obvious that Mich’ael wanted to say goodbye from its very peak, and wanted some company to share it with him.
Reluctantly Devin nodded, “Okay, but let’s not linger too long, huh?”
Mich’ael’s face creased into a smile. “Thank you, now come on, there is this spot where from there you can see the whole of Austria, or so it seems. And...” his voice trailed away as Devin allowed his thoughts to wander. Tonight he would be home. Tonight he would hold Gerry again. Tonight he would... He sighed, if only it were already tonight, he thought as he climbed into the buggy alongside Mich’ael to begin the journey up to the top of Sonn Alp.
The buggy trundled along peacefully enough, and Devin began to relax, the tunnels were reminiscent of the ones back home, and he remembered how Catherine had felt when she had tried to descend into the Dolomite mountains and found that the longing for the more familiar tunnels was unbearable. He could hear her words now, as she came back sobbing, hanging on to him, and telling him how being there had made her long for Vincent so much, that it was physically painful. Knowing that in the Dolomites there was no light at the end of that tunnel for her, as there would always be at the end of those beneath the lawns of Central Park, as long as Vincent waited there for her, had broken her heart. Now with his present longing for Gerry he knew that pain too, and like Catherine he felt he was going in the wrong direction, travelling tunnels that had no joy awaiting at their end, wasting time spent in tunnels beneath the wrong country. Yet beside him, he felt Mich’ael’s joy, his excitement at climbing ever upwards to see for one final time, the sight that he loved so much.
Uneventfully they reached the summit, and climbed out, to walk back out into the sunshine and to stand gazing down at the sheer drop to the valley below. The sprawling complex dazzled white in the sunshine, surrounded by the emerald foliage, and sun dappled villas, stood peacefully throughout the grounds, as the sun filtered its way through the fronds of pine and conifer trees.
On the other side of the mountain Devin saw at once the ski route that Mich’ael had spoken of. Saw how, even without the presence of snow. Just how exhilarating the descent would be, and far, far away, it was just as Mich’ael had promised. One could almost visualise the whole of Austria stretched before them. Peak after peak of mountain ranges interspersed with green valleys. And turquoise lakes, outcrops of forest and flower draped villas, hotels and shops. And little carts here and there pulled by Haflinga ponies taking tourists along little sandy coloured mountain passes. Up high to tiny little tavernas perched on mountain slopes. Where they relinquished the thought of a long glass of cool Apfelsaft to quench their thirst.
Shielding the sun from his eyes, Devin raised a hand to his brow, “Is that a herd of chamois I can see grazing across there, Mich’ael?”
Following his gaze, Mich’ael nodded, “Wow”, said Devin, “That must be the largest herd of chamois I have ever seen”.
“Since they have been protected they have increased tenfold. Once you know, tourists could buy their pelts for souvenirs, that is a thing of the past, fortunately. Though their pelts are still classed as valuable, and the illegal hunter still kills as many as he can, the same with everything really. Funny you know, that’s one of the reason’s Geraldine was created with the use of Siberian Tiger seed, those magnificent animals are a dying breed.”
“I never knew that. That she had been crossed with the Siberian Tiger I mean. I always assumed it would be Bengal.”
“No, hence her strength. The Siberian, is the largest of the tigers, and the strongest.”
“Well, thank you for showing me this sight Mich’ael, I’m sorry for my apprehension, and glad you talked me into coming, it is a wonderful sight to behold.”
Mich’ael nodded, “ I think that is why Marie escaped so often, she could not get enough of being up here, she told me it was her passport to freedom.”
“That I can believe Mich’ael. Up here is where freedom exists.”
“Other than love huh?” Mich’ael smiled at him.
“What makes you say that, Mich’ael?”
“Just a quote from a song really, you know, love lifts us up where we belong, where the eagles fly on a mountain high...”
“Devin smiled back at him, “Yes I know the one, and yes I agree with that, there are only two experiences in the world then, where one can find total freedom from problems, from life, and that’s within love, and upon the summit of a very high mountain. And that gives me an idea...”
“Oh no, not one of your ideas looming, oh please spare me.” Mich’ael held back his laughter, wondering what exquisite morsel Devin would be dreaming up next.
“Then I’ll spare you, and keep it for a surprise.” Devin told him happily, “Well, are you ready then to leave. Which path shall we walk down, inside or outside of Sonn Alp?”
Mich’ael smiled. “You know Devin when I was a boy I used to firmly believe that when there were two ways open to you, one would lead to life and the other to death. The problem is knowing which is which. You have to analyse the pros and cons, and decide which one would lead you in the right direction.”
“I used to do that too, or I would believe that we only had so much breath, and to waste it talking unnecessary would mean a shorter life span.” Devin laughed remembering, “Oh, I had forgotten such silliness.”
“But is it? I mean what if we were to travel down the outside of Sonn Alp and live, or travel on the inside, and have the tunnels cave in on us, like you were obviously expecting them to do, on our immediate ascent here.”
Devin blushed, “You noticed?”
“It was hard not to. If you could have seen your face. Worry etched into every line, you would have noticed it too.”
“Well as I so obviously didn’t trust the inside, then I guess we had better trust my instincts and go down on the outside, then the least we could do is slip and fall to our deaths.”
“You are such a pessimist.” Mich’ael laughed, making Devin frown once more, “I have a saying Mich’ael, if you always look on the black side of things, then when it turns out as expected you are not disappointed, but if it turns out well, then you are pleasantly surprised.”
Mich’ael erupted into laughter, “I must remember that.”
Together they took the gravel path that wound its way quite steeply down the mountainside, holding on to one another here and there for support. Breathlessly they stopped from time to time to rest. “I suppose...”puffed Devin, “You can call the buggy back down from the lower level.”
Mich’ael clapped a hand to his mouth, “Lord, I forgot about that. No you can’t.” He stopped and looked backwards, they had travelled quite a distance, and he didn’t feel like going back up again, “Oh well,” he sighed, “Its not my problem any more, I don’t expect to use it again.”
“That’s okay then, right are you rested enough, what’s the time?” Devin asked him.
Mich’ael looked at his watch, “Eleven thirty three,” he replied, “The flight is at two fifty, we’ll make it with time to spare.”
No sooner were the words out of his mouth, when Devin, whom he had been holding onto for support, lost his footing and slid. “Are you all right Devin?” Mich’ael asked helping him up. Devin frowned, “Yes, but how did that happen, it was almost as if the floor sank in before me, look Mich’ael put your foot just there, yes that’s it, there, it feels spongy doesn’t it?”
Mich’ael felt with his foot, true the ground did feel spongy, yet the grass was as sparse as it had ever been, short and nibbled by chamois, and nothing looked out of the ordinary about it. “We’ll give this bit a wide berth, Devin.” Mich’ael told him, and made to step aside, when the same thing happened to himself. “Strange I have made this descent a hundred times, and never had this happen before, the whole path has always been firm and hard, what could it be?”
“This is what I feared Mich’ael. Can’t you see. Though the grass covers it well, beneath the grass a chasm has opened up, and we don’t know how far it stretches, or how deep it goes down, I think we ought to go back, and come back down in the buggy, after all.”
Mich’ael nodded his agreement, “Yes as do I, but the way is steep, and I am tired, I won’t be able to hurry.”
“Then I will help you as much as I can, look I’ll go behind you and push you forward, Mich’ael.”
“Thank you Devin, come on then back up we go.”
“Obviously your belief was right then on this occasion Mich’ael, one path was precarious.”
“Have faith then Devin, if this path is obviously the wrong one, then the other way will be safe after all and we will get home without a hitch.”
Suddenly as if to mock him, a scorpion raced out from beneath a crevice and ran up his boot intent on hiding in the shade beneath his trousers. Mich’ael jumped, away, so that the scorpion fell off his boot, and as he made to kick at it, his other foot slipped on the gravel. Everything happened so fast. He fell backwards, forcing Devin down behind him, and as the pair slid and rolled downwards, clutching wildly at anything they could, the terrain came away in their hands, and they felt themselves hit the spongy grass, below. For a moment, winded they lay still. “Are you all right Mich’ael?” Devin asked.
“Yes, nothing broken yet.” Mich’ael told him.
“Yet! Now who’s the pessimist?” Devin asked him.
“You do realise where we have landed don’t you Devin?” Mich’ael answered gravely.
“Yes, but its held us so far, we may be lucky, look can you move, try to edge your way up to where we know it is solid, I’ll hold on to your foot.”
Mich’ael laid flat as he had seen it done on TV, when some unfortunate person had fallen into deep mud, and he edged his way gingerly towards solid ground. There was the strangest sensation beneath him, and Devin knowing it too, remarked on it, “It makes me think of those cartoon character’s Mich’ael, you know the ones who run right over a cliff and don’t know they have and keep running for several seconds in mid air. It’s just like that, as if there is nothing beneath me at all.”
Mich’ael shuddered, “That’s probably truer than you think. It makes me feel as though I have landed on a plate of glass that shattered beneath me, but didn’t break right through, yet with my every movement the risk grows greater and greater.”
Before Devin could comment, he felt the grass bow beneath him, and unadulterated fear coursed through his entire being as the ground opened up, and he felt his body engulfed by nothingness, as his limbs seemed to separate and fall one by one into the great void below!
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Four - click on 'Next' below:
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