Oblivion 3

Chapters 7, 8 & 9

Part 3 of the Oblivion Trilogy


Chapter Seven

Holding the receiver to his ear, James Burton continued to speak to the caller, bewildered that Mr. Francis had called him at all. “I’ve not heard from Ignatz for some time actually, its funny you should ask Fabian, I should like to speak with him also. Have you tried writing to him?”
The other man sighed, “I don’t really know where to contact him. After he left England he moved around a lot, and I wouldn’t know where to begin. Do you know where he is?”
“Well yes, I do actually, but I can’t let you have his address, not if he hasn’t given it to you first. Look leave it with me, and I see if there is a telephone number listed to the address he gave me him, and have him contact you. It may take a while though, as if there is no contact number I will have to write instead.”
“Could you send a telegram then, and have him call me, it really is most urgent.”
“I’ll see what I can do. You still working on those experiments you and Ignatz started on?”
Guarded, Fabian answered, “What experiments?”
A short sharp laugh came down the line, “You know the one, don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes. Did they ever work?”
Fabian sighed, a thing he seemed to do more and more these days, “Not very well. We never achieved what we hoped for, but there were some variations, not that any survived. So how about you, did you ever pursue it?”
“After the one that Ignatz sent to me went missing, I changed tactics, there didn’t seem to be any more call for that kind of work, after all if Ignatz was wasting his time on it, I didn’t want to do the same with mine. I went on to other things, but I am interested to know if he achieved this.”
“So what were your initial plans with the one that got away so to speak?”
“Dissection really. Quite a waste I know, but who wants a half lion half human growing up at home, I was just curious that’s all.”
“And you never saw it as the taking of human life, dissection would have been murder.”
“It wasn’t like that. Ignatz never expected the offspring to live and after a few days here, he would have died. Then dissection would not have been a problem.”
“But what if he had not died?”
“I never liked to think of that. I guess I would have allowed the thing to die, you know not fed it. After all, Fabian it wasn’t really my field.”
“So how did you and Ignatz come to be working alongside one another on this, I mean instead of sending the offspring to you, he could have sent it to me.”
“Yes he could, but you were a rival for the experiment at the time, he would not want anyone stealing what he had achieved, least of all you.”
Fabian nodded, “Mmm, I guess so, still I need to speak with him now, rival or not, I believe I may be heading for a breakthrough.”
“So you are still working on it?”
“Well, so, so, I’m not committing myself at this stage, I only really want to speak with Ignatz about it.”
“All right then, I can see you are being very cagey. Ha! cagey that’s a good one in the circumstances. I’ll see if I can get hold of Ignatz, either by phone or telegram, leave it with me. Bye”

Fabian Francis replaced the receiver. He was left feeling doubtful. He had never really liked the American scientist, that Ignatz had gone through college with and spoke highly of, there was something about him that never seemed to add up. And he didn’t believe for one moment that he had abolished the idea of creating a being from animal and human sperm, it was after all too big a quest, and if like himself, he had never been able to stop trying, then how far had he gone with it?
Looking around his laboratory, Fabian picked up the photographs laid on his desk, and quirked his mouth. Ignatz believed that he had destroyed Honey, but he hadn’t. He had crossed her with some of his own sperm, and like Ignatz had created a being that still lived. And from that had created yet another being. And by crossing the pair of them he had another. Finally crossing the last with the first until for once, a scan upon the one pregnant at present, finally revealed the shape of a lion, rather than that of a human, and Fabian was hopeful.

*** *** ***

James Burton, replaced the receiver, and flicked through his address book, for the telephone number of Ignatz Strasser, for he had lied when he said he didn’t have it. He had been trying to contact Ignatz for some months, to no avail, neither had anyone at the institute answered. Confused but unable to spare the time to investigate further, he had forgotten all about it, until Fabian’s call. The telephone at the other end shrilled but still no answer, and James let it ring while he thought about what to write in a telegram. Just as he was about to replace the receiver, he heard a click, and lifting the receiver back against his ear heard a woman’s voice ask, “Hello, whose there?”
Preferring not to answer that question he replied with one of his own, “Can I speak to Ignatz Strasser please.”
“Who’s calling please?” Came the female voice again, after a short pause.
“That’s inconsequential, if you would just put me through please, Ignatz knows me.” He replied somewhat sharply, hoping for an immediate response. These secretaries usually obeyed when he spoke like that. However this one didn't.
“I’m sorry Sir, but Ignatz Strasser is no longer with us. However, Mich’ael Reidel would have taken your call, but he is in hospital after a bad fall, I am the only one here at the moment, and can relay a message to Mr. Reidel if you wish?”
James Burton, paused, somewhat irritated, “Is there no contact number to Ignatz Strasser, it is he I really wanted to speak to.”
There was another pause at the other end, and then, Catherine quickly made up her mind and told him “No I am sorry Sir, he did not leave a contact address, so I cannot help you. I can only ask that you give me your own details and I’ll have Mr. Reidel contact you.”
“Absolutely not, my details are private, I shall have to send Mr. Reidel a letter. Can you give me his home address?”
“Mr. Reidel is expecting to go to live in America when he is out of hospital, so he has yet to find somewhere, and this institute is going up for sale. I’m afraid that the only contact address now would be at the hospital where he is recovering. I can give that address to you.”
There was a brief pause in conversation as Catherine spelled out the address and then James Burton told her, “I’m actually calling from America, which part does Mr. Reidel intend on living?”
“Somewhere up in the mountains, a couple of hours drive from New York, he hopes to be able to buy an institute there, well actually part exchange it with the one on Sonn Alp. He was over here tidying the place up, when he had his accident, along with his colleague. They fell through a hundred foot shaft, through the side of Sonn Alp, Mich’ael is lucky to be alive, Sir, they both are.”
James Burton whistled, “The poor guy, and this colleague I take it that would be Hans Kogler.”
Catherine paused, she was getting in deep here, but as there was no longer anything to hide, did it matter anymore? “No, it was a chap called Deryl Weston. Han’s Kogler is dead Sir, I am sorry to have to break this news to you.”
James closed his eyes, “Whatever has been going on there? Did he fall through the shaft too?”
“No, Johannes Kogler was killed by one of Professor Strasser’s wild creatures.” Catherine hoped that bit of news, would worry him, if he knew of the experiments that had been going on at Sonn Alp, which proved to be so, when he made no comment to it.
“Then I have to speak with Mr. Reidel. Look tell him nothing of this conversation, I will contact, Fabi...I mean another chap, and we will send a letter to the hosptal and hope that Mich’ael gets well soon.”
“Thank you Sir, Goodbye.”
Catherine replaced the receiver. What was all that about. Quickly she scribbled down as much of the conversation as she could remember, not omitting the name he started to utter then stopped himself, Fabi, he had said, what was it short for? And who was the caller that lived in New York? If she knew the language she would call the operater and ask if it were possible to be told from which number someone had just called her, but she didn't so that put paid to that idea. There was no certainty the number would be given her anyway. So there was only one thing for it, she would have to speak to Devin and Mich’ael about it as soon as they were well enough.

Catherine had gone along to the institute to check that Devin and Mich’ael had done everything they had set out to do. Mich’ael had been able to tell her bits when he came out of theatre, but he insisted she double checked, as it was unlikely he would ever go there again. Besides, if there was time she intended to take Father around the complex while he was there, and because on the first occasion there with Devin she had left her camera behind and was thankful to find it, still in her villa. Extracting the roll of film she put it deep inside the pocket of her jeans to keep it safe. She wondered about the call, but not unduly, not yet knowing what Devin had uncovered while he had been deleting files several days ago.
Peter had left now, and outside the building a horn blared, signalling the impatience of the driver to be off. She frowned, since Scott had helped them find Devin and Mich’ael he had grown fidgety, and though he had gladly taken her to the institute that morning, she could tell he had something else on his mind, and was not very talkative at all. Taking a last look around, telling herself she would be more thorough when she brought Father up here, she locked the great doors behind her and went across to where Scott sat waiting restlessly for her return.

*** *** ***

Mary met Father at the airport, flinging herself into his arms, sobbing quietly against his chest. “Oh Jacob, I’m so pleased to see you, just hold me will you. I feel so tired. So helpless.”
Father hugged her tightly, until he felt she had calmed, then drew her away to look into her eyes, “You haven’t been sleeping have you?” he asked her gently, kissing the tip of her nose.
“How could I Jacob, there has been so much on my mind. I am so glad you came. Though you must prepare yourself for seeing them, Devin is not good, still comatose.”
Father heaved his shoulders in a great sigh, “It will be nothing I haven’t seen before, but you are right my dear, as it is my own son, it will be a strain to see him. Come shall we go straight to the hospital. Where’s Catherine, I thought she may be here to greet me too.”
“I thought so too. I don’t know where she is. She and Scott went up to Sonn Alp early this morning, rang to say they had left and were well, and there has been no word from them since. I expect she will meet us at the hospital later. She has spent almost every waking moment at Devon’s bedside. She may even be there now.”
“I had hoped that she would return to Vincent now, that I am here, along with Mouse.”
“I don’t know about that. You will have to prise her away from Devin. Something happened with Vincent that she won’t talk about, she makes no sign of wanting to return to him, only saying he deserves what he gets.”
“That’s so unlike her. But I can fill you in there, apparently through the Bond Vincent sent a jolt of jealousy when Peter was holding Catherine’s hands, he mistakenly thought it was this other man, Scott.”
Mary nodded, “Scott is very smitten with Catherine, that I do know, he and Peter had words about it, but as for Catherine wanting to return any affection in his direction that just is not so. She sees him only as a helper.”
“That’s what I told Vincent, still he worries, he feels something terrible is about to happen.”
“Well I hope not, we have all the trouble we need right now.”
“Still, I can’t shake it off myself, he is very compelling you know, when he becomes convinced of something.”
“Oh don’t I know it Jacob.” Hand in hand the laughing pair made their way out through the airport and took a cab straight to the hospital.

*** *** ***

“Where are we going?” Catherine asked Scott as she opened her eyes from her nap, alongside him in her seat.
Scott smiled, “There’s some place I want to show you. Something you missed the last time you were here.”
Catherine frowned, “Where are we?”
Smiling, Scott told her, “Don’t you recognise the terrain?”
In the fading light all Catherine could make out was towering mountains, and though they looked familiar, there was a scent about the place reminiscent of Italy. Struggling to sit up, Catherine’s eyes flew open, as she realised, “Scott! we’re miles from the hospital, why have you taken me here, turn back please I need to be at the airport, Father is arriving this evening.”
Scott reached for her hand, “Don’t fret so my love, Mary was going to meet the old man, and going straight to the hospital, so Devin will be in good hands. I thought you needed a break, and brought you here, to the Dolomites to visit the tour that you missed last time.”
“But I don’t want to do, I need to be with my family. Tomorrow I was going back to America.”
“Sorry Catherine, but you won’t be going just yet, after all you owe me.”
Catherine frowned, “You know I offered to pay, you refused to accept anything.”
“I don’t want your money, my love, however, I do want you.”
Catherine snatched her hand away as he made to grasp it, “Scott! I demand you take me all the way back and now.”
He laughed, Catherine did not like the sound at all “Thank you for the offer. I do intend to take you all the way my love, but back," he shook his head, “Never.”
Grappling with the door handles, Catherine tried to free herself, Scott just laughed at her futile attempts, “Central locking my love, its impossible for you to get out. Besides, I won’t hurt you, or do anything you would not want me to do, just relax Catherine, and enjoy yourself. I’m sure you could if you tried. I know you feel the attraction between us, let it free my love, and we can start a new life together.”
“Never!” Catherine spat at him, “I thought I could trust you Scott.”
“You can. Catherine, look you are a very beautiful woman. I have not stopped thinking about you since we first met. And to have you contact me, well you can imagine how thrilled I was that you thought of me. You can’t deny the truth my Catherine, you know you find me as appealing as I do you.”
“Don’t ever, ever call me that.” She fumed.
“What my Catherine?”
“That. I am not your Catherine. That right does not belong to you.”
“Does it not?”
She looked at him with fire in her eyes, furious with him, and afraid of him. There was something about the set of his jaw that told her she should be afraid though she tried hard not to show it.
He reached again for her hand, “Don’t worry my Catherine, I can assure you , you’ll have a happy life with me, I will give you everything that your heart desires.”
Catherine flinched at his use of a happy life, something her mother had hoped she would have, a life which she had known with Vincent. She wondered whether she should open up the Bond with him. He could not help her himself, but he could get help to her, Scott knew nothing of their emphatic connection, and he would not be expecting anyone to find out where he had taken her. Catherine relaxed, this was her trump card, and she smiled as she relaxed.
Scott saw her smile, “That’s better my love, I knew you would see it my way eventually. We will have a good life together I promise you.”
Catherine thought it best she humour him, so she smiled, and tried to make light of things, “Remember I said I had a bone to pick with you?”
“Yes, I think I know what you are going to say”. He told her sheepishly, “Dorothy told you I could speak French didn’t she? Sorry about that, it was all I could think of at the time to get you to sit closer to me. Am I forgiven?”
“That’s debatable. However, if you would take me back to the hospital I would consider it.”
He laughed at her “Then I’d sooner remain unforgiven then stand to lose you again. Besides I’m sure you need a break and you will enjoy being with me.”
Catherine decided not to argue, instead she closed her eyes and silently called to Vincent.

*** *** ***

Vincent found joy in his children in his wife’s absence, spending as much time as possible with them. The babies had grown so much, and Jacob adored them, trying to lift them, as he’d seen his elders do. Vincent’s eyes creased into a smile when he saw Jacob sitting with all his brothers and sisters upon his lap. It was a sight to behold, and Elizabeth standing alongside Vincent expressed her desire to paint them. A picture for all to treasure, but not on the tunnel walls, rather in the chamber that Vincent shared with Catherine.
“That would be wonderful Elizabeth” Vincent told her, as he scooped Jade up into his arms. He did not like to show favouritism between his children, but in Catherine’s absence, it was Jade that he turned to with her eyes so like her mother’s. Elizabeth fondled the baby’s hair, “She is beautiful Vincent, you must be very proud of her, of them all.”
“I am. It is still like a dream to me. Five children all mine, I would never have deemed this possible. That someone like me could have found this great joy. And that Catherine could love me enough to have given them to me.”
Elizabeth patted his hand, “Don’t put yourself down so child, you underestimate what it is you have to give. So many people love you, we do not see you as less than a man, but more than a man. You have to believe this.”
“I do try, Catherine says much the same to me. And I am happy. It is only when I catch sight of my hands or my face in a mirror that I am reminded of what I am, or rather what I can never be. I feel at times, great sorrow by the face that looks back at me.”
“Un-yet Gerry your sister, sits and preens herself in front of a mirror, enjoying her own beauty. She has attained the ability to see herself the way Devin sees her and more. This Vincent must be your virtue. If you can begin to look upon yourself the way other’s see you, then a lot of your insecurities will pale into insignificance. You have to believe in yourself before you can trust that others believe in you the way you are.”
Vincent nodded, accepting her wisdom, “Still it is not easy.”
“I never said it would be, that you try is all we hope for you. Vincent I must go back to my chamber now, I have some things to attend to, but please if you would like to resume this chat, come to see me there, when the children are napping.”
“Thank you Elizabeth, I should like that.”
When Elizabeth had left, Vincent continued to play with his children. There was Jade with her gorgeous green eyes, so like her mother’s, her identical twin sister Jasmine, and their three brothers, Connor, Cannon and Jacob the eldest of the five. Vincent loved them all so much, he felt deliriously happy just being with them, yet Catherine’s absence marred his happiness, and no matter what other’s told him, he could not shake away the fear for her safety.
So it came as no surprise to him, when tucking the children down for a nap a little later, the first tentative fingers reached through the Bond and plucked at his heart for a response.
Overjoyed, Vincent welcomed their touch, feeling at once a great weight lifted from him, for since Catherine had closed down the Bond after his jealous outburst, she had not made contact save for the time Devin needed help, many days since.
“Catherine” he answered her overjoyed, then frowned as her tumbling emotions told him all was not well.
“Vincent, I need your help. I’ve been kidnapped.” She told him as gently as possible, so gently that he at first thought it was some cruel joke, but he did not seriously think she would be so unkind, knowing how he worried about her.
She felt his response, his uncertainty, “Its true, though I’m in no immediate danger, I cannot get away, and no-one knows where I am. Please, Vincent, try to get Gerry to reach Devin, or Marie to reach Mich’ael so someone can help me.”
“Who” Vincent wanted to know “has kidnapped you?”
Catherine sighed, “It is Scott.”
Catherine felt Vincent’s anger flare along the Bond, she winced, as she felt it directed at her. “I never encouraged him Vincent, truly I didn’t. Its a misunderstanding.”
“Why did you not tell me about him?” Vincent paced the nursery, his anger rising out of control.
“There was nothing to tell. He was attracted to me, but I made it obvious I wasn’t free.” She wished she didn’t have to tell him that.
“And you called him! A man that found you attractive! How could you be so careless?”
Tears pricked at Catherine’s eyes, “Vincent I came to you for help, not recriminations, don’t you think I don’t know all that, if you won’t help me, I shall have to find another way.”
“Catherine, oh Catherine" Vincent groaned, “Forgive me yet again, of course I will help you. Where do you think he is taking you? Are you hurt?”
“He’s heading for Italy. Into the Dolomites where we first met. And no, I’m not hurt but he has made some threats.” Vincent's sharp intake of breath, hurried her on. “Not to my life Vincent, I don’t think he’d hurt me...” Her voice trailed away. Would he though? He had already made reference to taking her sexually, wasn’t that a kind of hurt if one wasn’t agreeable? Would he rape her even if she refused? Horror flooded her senses as she remembered that other time, the night when Vincent had found her, those men that had cut her, those men that had raped her. But for Vincent she would have died both physically and mentally. Vincent caught her thoughts, knowing what she was hiding from him, thoughts her mind refused to utter, could not utter in words. “Catherine I am with you, my strength is your strength, keep the Bond open, I will help you. I love you my Catherine.”
“I love you.” Almost as soon as she heard the words in her own ears she regretted them, words she had spoken out loud, as well as internally, Scott slowed the car to a halt, turning in his seat, his eyes fixed to hers and smiled broadly at her.
“I knew you would come around to my way of thinking, but love, can it be possible? What can I say, only I think that I love you too.” He told her. At first Catherine thought of taking back her words, but the look on his face told her it may be as well to go along with it, for he reacted differently towards her now.
“Would you like to stretch your legs Catherine.” He asked her. She nodded, and he got out of the car, leaving the keys in the ignition, to walk around to her side to open her door. Catherine hesitated, but in doing so the moment was lost, as Scott retraced his steps, and extracted the keys putting them into his pocket, before going back to her door once more and letting her out.
“Is there anywhere you can run to Catherine”, Vincent asked her, as she stood up to look around her.
“No, there is nowhere, just mountains, no forest at all to hide, I shall have to keep his trust and try at another time.”
“Come sit with me,” Scott told her, “Tell me about yourself. I know so little.”
“Then how can you want me with you, when you know nothing about me.”
“Exactly, yet already I feel as though I know you, and the little I do know, I admire. So what do you do for a living?”
“What nothing at all?”
“I told you I am married.”
“Then what does your husband do?”
Unable to hear Scott’s words, unless Catherine repeated them in her mind, Vincent heard her ask, “He wants to know what you do for a living Vincent, what shall I tell him? I know!” Turning to Scott she told him, “He’s a teacher.” Deep in her mind she heard Vincent chuckle.
“Really, what subject does he teach?”
As he spoke each word, Catherine began to repeat each word in her mind so that Vincent could be a part of the two way conversation. And after a while she got really good at it.
“English, Shakespeare, Music”, Catherine told him.
Scott nodded, “So you are left at home with your children. How many do you have?”
“Five!” Scott asked in disbelief, “but you don’t seem old enough.”
Catherine found herself repeating through the Bond, everything Scott asked her. “I wear well.” Catherine told him, laughing within as she heard Vincent chuckling through the Bond. Perturbed Scott continued, “I thought you said you had only recently married?”
“I did.”
“So how come you have five children?”
“I’m a fast worker.”
Scott looked at her hard, “Are you making fun of me.” His voice showed a hint on malice.
“Careful Catherine,” Vincent told her, and Catherine told Scott, “Of course not. I do have five children, and am recently married.”
“Then they have different mothers. They are adopted.”
Scott shook his head, “Then you had children before you married him.”
“Just the one.”
“I’m sorry, my Catherine,” She heard Vincent suck in a sharp breath when without thinking she repeated Scott’s words and told Vincent, “I don’t like it either.”
Scott went on, “I just cannot understand what you are saying to me, I wouldn’t have taken you for a liar.” His voice held a knife edge of maliciousness.
“I’m not lying Scott, I had a litter, four babies at the same time, and a single child, making five children.”
Scott’s face relaxed, “Oh I see, why didn’t you say?”
“I was enjoying your confusion.” She smiled at him, and his heart somersaulted, and he brought his face close to hers, intending on kissing her, and jumped back sharply as he heard a growl issue from her.
“Nice work Vincent” Catherine told her husband, “That stopped him in his tracks.”
“Did that come from you?” Scott asked looking about wildly.
“Did what come from me?” Catherine asked him, keeping as straight a face as possible.
“Didn’t you hear it?”
“Hear what?”
Getting to his feet, he pulled her up level with him, “Come on let’s get out of here, for I definitely heard something.”
“Like what, I never heard a thing.”
“Like a growl. Okay I know it sounds crazy but I heard it. Just as I was going to kiss you, I heard a growl.”
“You must have imagined it.” Catherine told him, trying to keep a straight face.
“I didn’t.”
He looked at her long and hard, her green eyes glinted in the early evening light, and a ripple of apprehension ran through him. “Come on, lets get going, we are almost home.”
Sitting in the car a little later, driving along in silence, Vincent told her, “Hold tight Catherine I want to try something. Just close your eyes, and pretend to be asleep.”
Doing as he bade her, she waited, and listened, as slowly the sound of purring came through her mind, through her body, and growing louder by the minute. Scott jumped, slammed his foot on the brakes, and screeched to a halt. Catherine’s eyes flew open, “Whatever is the matter now?” She asked him innocently.
Staring at her with the help of the interior light, he trembled slightly.
“What?” Catherine asked him.
“You were purring.”
“Me, purring! Now I know you are hearing things.”
“Then if it wasn’t you, who was it?”
Catherine shrugged her shoulders. “I think you need to get some rest, Scott, obviously your mind is playing tricks on you.”
He was silent for a long time during which time Catherine said nothing. After a while he re-started the engine, and pulled back onto the road.
“Have you contacted Gerry and Marie Vincent?” Catherine wanted to know now.
“Yes, but Devin is still in a coma, and Mich’ael is unconscious again. We will have to do this between us. I must admit, providing we can get you out of there in one piece I am rather enjoying this.”
“I never realised you could still growl and purr. I thought those abilities left you with the dark one.”
“They did, still years of practice and all that. I know what to do.”
“You should have seen his face when you did it, Vincent.”
“I did.”
“Could you hear him too?”
“No, I can only go on what your body relates to me, if you repeat his words in you mind and so on but I can see all that you see through your eyes. Where do you think he means to take you?”
“To his home, that could prove dangerous Vincent, or it could prove better, it depends where he lives, in isolation or not.”
“Then keep your eyes open, watch where you are, look for highways, signs, houses, try to keep a track of the mileage from place to place, ask him how much further his home is, that sort of thing. More important, see if he will tell you an address.”
Catherine nodded, wasting no time, “Scott, are we going to your home?”
“Where is it?”
“In the mountains.”
“When you say in the mountains do you mean that literally?”
“No, I have a cabin nestled in a valley, not far off from where I met you that day. I do however, plan to take you to a place I know you will love.”
“You do, when, where?”
“Tomorrow and it is a surprise. Well you know part of it already. I want to take you on that trip you never continued, but from there, I aim to show you another place, deep inside the mountain. A very special place for me, I hope it will come to be yours also, in fact to make it ours.”
Catherine felt the alarm bells ring, “I think, Scott, I have seen enough of the inside of mountains to last a lifetime, is there no-where else you could show me?”
Scott frowned, “But you will love it.”
“How do we get there?”
“By train and foot.”
“How much foot?”
“A mile, maybe one and a half.”
“Then I cannot go.”
“Why ever not?”
“Its not long since I had my babies.” She lied, “ I have been cautioned not to walk far.”
“Yet you showed no sigh of abating while on Sonn Alp.”
“Nonetheless, I should not have attempted it. That I got away unscathed, only highlights I may not be so lucky if I try it again, especially so soon.”
Scott fidgeted in his seat, “Then we shall have to try it another time. I don’t want to cause you unnecessary risks.”
“And there is something else” She told him hoping it was right to bring it up.
“What is that?”
“I mustn’t have sex, until the stitches are removed.”
“Well done Catherine”, Vincent told her.
Scott sucked in a deep breath, “Damn!” He muttered, “How long will that be?”
Catherine shook her head, “My check up was scheduled for next month, about three weeks time, but there was no guarantees even then.”
“Oh well, not to worry. Though it will be hard to keep my body off of yours, no doubt we can use our hands to satisfy one another until we can do better eh?” He told her a twinkle in his eye. Catherine felt sick, more so, as his hand came across to caress her thigh. Vincent was furious, he growled again, and Scott snatched back his hand, jamming his foot on the brake once more. “You did it!” He cried.
“I did what?” Catherine asked him softly, trying to act as bewildered as she could.
“That growling. It comes from you.” His eyes searched hers, as the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. “When you said you had a litter when you spoke of your babies, was that a joke?”
“Of course it was a joke, what more could it be?”
Scott shrugged, “That you purr, that you growl, what do you expect I would think.”
“Then maybe they were a litter, I don’t know. Though...” She stopped purposely.
“Though what?” Grabbing her shoulders, his face inches from her own, he seethed through clenched teeth her, “Though what?”
“Hey you’re frightening me Scott.” Putting out a hand to pull his away she accidentally racked her nails over his skin, and he snatched his hand back, looking at the scratches she had inflicted, “You little wildcat,” he spat at her. “And to think I thought I knew you. What are you some kind of animal?” Catherine flinched, suddenly feeling drained, “Is this how it feels for you Vincent? I am only now beginning to understand? See the fear on his face? It is real. He is really scared.”
Vincent growled menacingly, louder this time, the sound vibrated through Catherine, making her lips tremble, her body convulse.
Jumping from the car, Scott ran around to the passenger side, wrenched open the door and dragged her out. “Get out, get away from me.” He flung her to the ground, threw her bag after her, ran back to his side, got in and drove off in a cloud of dust.
“Gee thanks Vincent.” Catherine told him, “Now what am I to do?” Then she burst out laughing and crying with relief at the same time, as the enormity of her plight came to her. She was in the middle of no-where, mountains all around, miles and miles of jagged ranges, and not a house or a telephone box in sight.
“Know that I love you my Catherine and at least you are free.”
“I love you too Vincent, thank you for your help, you should have seen his face.”
Vincent chuckled, “Oh I did Catherine, I also saw the seat of his pants.”
“His pants? I never noticed.” Then as Catherine realised the import of his words, she burst into laughter, and heard it echo, echo, echo, all around the mountains.

*** *** ***

Chapter Eight

Reading an old newspaper cutting, James Burton frowned, he had never been able to decide whether it had been a hoax or not, this lion-man which over a year ago had the whole of New York running scared. At the time he had found it most interesting. Believing for decades that the being Ignatz had sent to him, had in all probability died, he began to wonder otherwise when he saw all those reports and that photograph. Still he wasn’t in the league now for doing anything about it, he had given up on all that years ago, believing it would lead nowhere, though he would always be keen on hearing about any one else’s success with it.
Folding the newspaper cuttings, he put them along with a copy of Mich’ael Reidel’s hospital address into an envelope, sealed it and posted it off to Fabian Frances in Germany.

*** *** ***

When Mich’ael finally woke, he opened his eyes to one of the dearest faces he had come to know. As Jacob Wells, sat at his bedside, he smiled when Mich’ael opened his eyes. “Mary, look I do believe he is coming round. Press that buzzer will you, someone should see this.” then “Mich’ael, welcome back, its Jacob here, Jacob Wells, how are you feeling.”
“Groggy” came the reply, as Mich’ael tried to focus, and then as his senses returned, “How long have I slept for?”
“Not slept Mich’ael you have been unconscious, three days, following more surgery, I do believe everything is put back into place now, though it will be some months before you will feel better.”
Mich’ael struggled to sit up, and Father went around to put more pillows behind him, “Is that better Mich’ael, would you like some water?”
“Yes thank you. Do you know what it was I broke?”
Mary leaned over to pat his hand, “Jacob has only just arrived this evening Mich’ael, I haven’t filled him in yet, this is something you can both hear. You broke seven vertebrae, slipped two disks, broke three ribs, and both your legs were fractured, also one finger was broken. I’d say you were very lucky to be here.”
“Will I be able to walk again?”
“They don’t see any reason why not. At the moment it is the swelling which paralyses you, once that has gone down, they tell me you will walk again, but you may always be plagued by pain in those places, especially during the winter, or damp weather.”
Mich’ael let out a great sigh of relief, “That is good news. I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t walk again. Probably thrown myself into the abyss the first chance I got. How’s Devin?”
“Not so good. He suffered two terrible heart attacks. At one point they pronounced him dead. If it wasn’t for that emphatic connection he and Gerry share, and the one Catherine shares with Vincent, he would not be still clinging to life. He is still in a coma, on a life support machine, so I can’t tell you more than that.” Father answered gravely, brushing his tears away, with the back of one hand.
Mary added, “He broke three vertebrae, one leg, one arm, and dislocated his shoulder on the other side to the break, he is much the same as you, still paralysed while the swelling exists. The thing none of us can work out is how it all happened.”
Mich’ael blushed, and spoke very quietly, “I’m afraid I am to blame for all this. Devin was dead against it, so behind his back I used some explosives to break up some machinery, and Devin believes the explosion caused the earth to open up within the mountain. Devin told me it would be unwise to use it, but I wanted to get back home, and thought using explosives would save us several days work. All this is my fault.”
Furious, Father pushed back his chair, and stood up. “That you have suffered much for your error Mich’ael is obvious, but I am afraid for the moment this revelation of your stupidity and the fact that my son’s life hangs in the balance, leaves me with one thought in mind. Until such time as Devin comes round, I will not speak with you again.” With that he left the room, shutting the door hard behind him.
Mary looked hard at Mich’ael, “ How could you do something so thoughtless, no not thoughtless, if Devin bade you not to do it, then it was pure selfishness that made you go ahead with it. I’m sorry Mich’ael, I can’t forgive you for what you have done, not until Jacob does.” She rose to her feet, and followed Father out into the corridor, closing the door firmly behind her, leaving Mich’ael feeling so wretched that he wished he had died.

*** *** ***

Vincent felt exhausted. He hadn’t slept in almost twenty-four hours. Ever since Catherine had managed to get free of Scott he had been with her every step of the way, as she made the long and tiring journey through the mountain passes, back through Italy and began the long trek to Austria. Had she of seen any vehicles at all, she would have flagged them down for help, but had seen no-one, and the road was up and down so much that her feet were covered in blisters, and her skin badly sunburnt. Thankfully she was able to find fresh water streams to quench her thirst, and some blackberries to eat, but her strength was failing. And only Vincent’s strength carried her onwards. Her first night alone on the mountain had frightened her. The strange animal sounds, the realisation of the danger she was in, the mountains were the home to rabid dogs.
“How much further do you think it is Catherine?” Vincent asked her.
Wearily Catherine answered, “I think I have covered about forty miles, I need someone to help me, Vincent, is Gerry still trying to reach Devin?”
“Yes, but he is not responding. Peter should be back today. One of the helpers told us he was leaving Austria last night, he and Father should have passed in mid-air. As soon as he lands, we shall have word to him, then he can telephone your hotel to speak with Father, or Mary or Mouse, and get help on to you. You must stay near the most frequented road Catherine, or they will not find you.”
“Vincent you should rest. There are a clump of trees coming up, I could rest there also, let us both sleep for a few hours. I don’t think I can walk any further.”
“Very well, Catherine, but know that I am near.”
“I love you Vincent.”
“And I love you my Catherine.”

*** *** ***

Marie had been concentrating hard, reaching out to Mich’ael when she at last heard him sobbing. Distressed at the sound she called out to him louder, until at last he reluctantly replied, “Go away Marie, I do not deserve your love, but for me none of this would have happened.”
Marie did not understand the reason for his sorrow, only the need to make him listen, “Mich’ael, Cathy need help. Call someone help Cathy.”
Frowning, Mich’ael did not understand. Cathy was here wasn’t she, in Austria, why did she need help? Pressing the buzzer, Staff Nurse Hammond hurried in, and he spoke to her in Austrian, “Can you fetch Mr. Wells, tell him it is urgent.”
The nurse hurried away, coming back shortly, to tell him, “Mr. Well’s will not come, he say’s he does not want to speak with you.” She closed the door.
“No!” Mich’ael called after her, “you don’t understand.” He pressed the buzzer again, and it was some time before the same nurse returned, Irritated she told him she had better things to do, then relay messages, “Please” he begged her, “Tell Mr. Wells, I have a message from Marie, its urgent, Cathy needs help.”
Nurse Hammond went out, and walked towards the room where Devin Wells lay surrounded by his family, intending to relay the latest message and get on with her work. But on the way a doctor who asked for her to accompany him as an emergency was coming in confronted her. The nurse quickly took a piece of paper, scribbled down the message, and put it inside her pocket.

Visiting time over, Father, Mary, Timmy and Mouse made their way back to the hotel, “I can’t understand why Catherine didn’t come in today, it is most unlike her Jacob, she has spent every waking moment at Devin’s bedside.”
“That’s probably it dear, I expect she went for a lie down and hasn’t yet woken, she’ll be all the better for it tomorrow.” Father told Mary as he steered her through the doors with a hand on her elbow. “Yes you’re probably right, I will feel better when I get to the room to see for myself though.”
“You’re sharing with Catherine?”
“Yes, why?”
Father steered her away from Timmy and Mouse so he could not be overheard, “Perhaps Catherine would be grateful not to be disturbed. You could perhaps share my room tonight.” His eyes twinkled with mischief, and Mary knew he was just having her on, so he was unprepared for her reply, “That would be wonderful Jacob, I’d like that very much, we get so little time to be together privately.” Father’s face was a picture, and Mary slapped him playfully, “Jacob, if you could only see your face. Really it doesn’t matter, I will go to my own room.”
Recovering enough to argue, Father told her, “No, please, I would be...I mean..that would be lovely, I’d love to share my room with you my dear.” Mary laughed, “Oh Jacob, you really aren’t used to this are you, never mind, the more familiar you become with sharing your bed again, the more you’ll come to like it.”
Father chuckled, “You know Mary, you are quite outrageous do you know that. I think I rather like it.”
“Oh its nothing. I’ve been taking lessons from watching Catherine and Vincent that’s all. Sometimes you know the love between those two leaves me quite breathless.” She told him honestly. It had also made her long for affection before the day when Jacob had asked her to marry him, by the love that shone out from the two of them, Come to that no one in the tunnels had been unaffected. A lot of romances had sprung up since Catherine had entered Vincent’s life.
The two of them made the others believe in fairy tales.

The following morning, Catherine did not come down to breakfast, and unable to wait any longer Mary went along to her room. She knocked hard, louder than she had the night before, when seeing no light under the door had presumed Jacob was right, and that Catherine was sleeping.
Going along to reception, she asked the clerk if Mrs. Wells, had already departed for the day, “No”, he told her, “I have been on since late last night, and her keys have been here all the time.”
“You mean she hasn’t been to bed?” Mary’s voice rose an octave.
He winked at her, “Well, not here anyway,” and flinched when Mary scrowled at him then turned and went to find Father.

“I don’t like it Jacob, where on earth could she be. To think while we were together last night, poor Catherine could be laid somewhere needing help. Its terrible.”
Father patted her hand, “Don’t fret so Mary, she can’t be far away, when did you last see her?”
“Scott was going to drive her to Sonn Alp. She was going to double check that Mich’ael and Devin had completed the work they went there to do. But as far as I know, as soon as she had finished she was coming with me to meet you at the airport.”
“Well the best we can do then is take a car and go up to Sonn Alp, perhaps the two of them have fallen, or are injured, come on we had best hurry, I’ll just collect my bag.”
“You brought it with you?”
“Mary, I never go anywhere without it, you’d be amazed how often I need it. Remember the Orca and the monkey?”

*** *** ***

Catherine stretched, and rubbed her sore limbs. It had been a damp night, but she had been so tired she could have slept anywhere, now she would have given anything for a long hot bath.
Dwelling inside herself, she reached out through the Bond to Vincent. The gentle thud of his heartbeat told her he was still sleeping. He must have been as exhausted as she. Standing she made her way to a nearby stream, it had been the sound of the running water which had given her such a restful sleep, she washed, and drank thirstily, then looked around her.
Yesterday, she had been too tired to notice her surroundings. It was a very isolated spot, but immensely beautiful. The orange of the Dolomites providing a backdrop to the emerald pine forest all around her, and the pale blue sky just past dawn shimmered between the peaks of smaller grey mountains in the foreground. By keeping the Dolomites behind her all the time, she knew that she wasn’t travelling in circles. She ascertained that they were some forty miles away, and this gave her some relief to think that she had made quite good progress on her first day. Still water and berries were not substantial enough for such a long trek, and Catherine knew she must seek help. With another many miles yet to travel, she would surely flake out long before reaching her destination.
Not wanting to set off before Vincent was there to guide her, she looked around for something more to eat, when a sound caught her attention. Listening intently she heard it again, a soft whining, that seemed to be coming from below her. Lying flat she peeked over the edge of a crag, and was surprised to see a litter of brown and white puppies just a few feet beneath her, and drew her brows together, suddenly wary.
They appeared to be alone, but were too well fed to be so, and too young to hunt for themselves. Positioning herself down wind, Catherine watched them, wondering about them, they looked so adorable, she guessed they were some kind of collie, and she hoped if she watched them long enough she would see their mother return obviously from a hunt bringing them something tasty for breakfast. Oh! to be one of that litter, she thought to herself as her stomach rumbled.
After a few moments, the puppies suddenly darted out of sight, and Catherine saw the fronds of fern moving, when a large dog carrying a young chamois appeared, barked and sat back, her tongue lolling as her litter devoured the antelope.
Catherine smiled, thinking to herself, ‘I hope I can be as self sufficient if the need arises.’ Then slowly she back away, and continued on her journey.
As she walked along, she wondered about the collie and her litter. Obviously dogs could travel miles as well as anyone, but it may possibly be that the collie had come from a nearby farm, and Catherine made herself more observant. Suddenly she had a marvellous idea. Looking above and around her, she searched for overhead cables. Wherever they lead she would find a telephone, and where there was a telephone would be people, who would help her. Feeling optimistic, she trudged on, searching for any sign of civilisation, in this remote land.

*** *** ***

Staff Nurse Hammond came on duty later that day, and headed straight for Devin Wells, room. There was no change, still he lay comatose, and his family had not been in to see him that day. Nurse Hammond found that a trifle strange, so she went along to Mich’ael, whom she found unconscious again. “What happened to Mr. Reidel,” she asked the duty nurse,” He’s unconscious again isn’t he.”
The Duty Nurse nodded, “We don’t know why it is. He seemed to withdraw into himself, almost as if he wishes to die. We cannot get a response from him at all, it is very baffling.”
“And Devin Wells, I see there is no change there, have his family been in at all today?”
“No, his Father telephoned to ask about him, but it seems one of their party has gone missing, they are spending the day looking for her.”
Nurse Hammond frowned, and extracted the piece of paper from her pocket she had placed there the day before, reading the message over again, ‘Message from Marie about Cathy, she needs help, Urgent’ she had written. Suddenly she felt cold, “Quickly, Nurse Beck, find me the telephone number of the hotel Mr. Well’s family are staying at, I have to speak with his father.”

“I’m sorry” the hotel clerk on reception told Nurse Hammond a few mintues later, “Mr. Well’s and his family have already left for the day. It appears that one of his party are missing, and he will be contacting the hotel later this day to see if she has returned. If you leave a message with me, I shall see that he gets it.”
“Thank you, will you write it down please. It is urgent, and I shall be off duty for a few days after today, please make certain that he gets it. The message is, from Mich’ael Reidel, he says, received message from Marie, Cathy needs help, urgent. I feel it may be about the member of party that is missing, and this message was relayed to me yesterday, so it is even more urgent now. Please don’t forget will you?”
“No, I shall put it in the box with his keys. Don’t worry he will get it, but I don’t know when.”
“Could you also leave a note by the telephone, to be relayed to him should he call by phone rather than call in?”
“Yes, all right I will do that also.”
Nurse Hammond put down the receiver, feeling somewhat easier, at least she had done her best, and she would keep an eye out for the family while she was on duty also.
The hotel clerk scribbled down two notes, one he put in with Father’s keys, and the other by the telephone, then finishing his shift he went off duty.

Father, Mary, Mouse and Timmy made the silent journey to Sonn Alp, and were relieved when they saw that Scott’s car was not parked outside. “At least that confirms that they left here. Should we take a look around all the same Mary?” Father asked her.
“Yes, though we mustn’t climb up the mountain, or go inside it, that is where Devin and Mich’ael fell, it will not be safe, though Scott’s team fenced off the area, there may be other dangerous places.
Catherine had intended showing you around herself, she thought you might like to see for yourself where Vincent could have ended up. Of course the place he was actually born was in Switzerland.”
“Yes, I would like to see this, while we are here though we won’t stay long, we have to find Catherine.”
“I don’t know where to begin looking. I suppose Scott would be the place to start, but I don’t really know where to contact him. Perhaps the emergency services would know.”
Father nodded, “Yes, we could call them from here.”
Tapping on the car window, the driver rolled it down and they asked him to wait in the courtyard then went in through the double doors. “Catherine told me a little about the place, it seems this room is where she and Devin were interviewed, and this one is where Devin worked on assignments, and the villas that he and Cathy were assigned to are within the grounds.”
“So where are the rooms that Gerry and Marie were kept in?”
“Oh they’re in the West Wing, that’s the area we mustn’t go into, I think it is also the area where they did all the experiments on Gerry.”
Father shuddered, “To think, that could have been Vincent’s fate.”
They spent about half an hour thoroughly searching the building and grounds, and calling the hospital services to see if anyone had a contact number for Scott, but drew a blank, finally they called the British Museum, and asked for him there.
Dorothy Turner answered, Hello, British Museum, Can I help you?”
“Hello, My name is Jacob Wells, I am looking for Scott Phillips, and need to contact him, could you help.”
“Is this a personal or business call?”
“Its business, you see I am in Austria, and yesterday Mr. Phillips and my daughter-in-law were scheduled to work on an assignment together, but neither have been seen or heard from since. We need to have a contact number for Mr. Phillips to see where they are.”
“Well, I don’t know about your daughter-in-law, but Mr. Phillips arrived back here in London early this morning, only he is in conference right now, and I cannot get hold of him.”
“But this is urgent, a matter of life and death, please I beg of you, please bring him to the phone.”
Dorothy Turner sighed, “Hold on, I’ll see what I can do. What is your daughter-in-law’s name?”
There was a pause, “That wouldn’t be Catherine Chandler would it?”
“Yes, it is, though she is Catherine Wells now.”
“She was very good to me, sent me a cheque for my help last time she called, I will see what I can do, hold on.”
Father held onto the phone, she was gone several minutes, “At least its not my telephone bill,” he told the others, trying to make light of the situation like he were one to get telephone bills.
Finally, after an age, he heard Scott’s voice on the other end, “Mr. Well’s, how nice to hear from you, sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you. Ms. Turner tells me you have lost Catherine. When did you last see her?”
“I was about to ask you the same question, I haven’t seen her at all since arriving. You were the last person to see her.”
Scott hesitated, not knowing what to say, how could he cover up, finally he decided to get as close to the truth as he dared, “Catherine wanted to see my home, I was taking her there, when she changed her mind, and got out. Actually we had a difference of opinion. I left her in the Dolomites.”
“The Dolomites! The ones in Italy!?”
“Yes, she was making her own way back. I’m sorry I had no time to take her back I had a flight booked for London. Look, I wouldn’t worry she is probably on a bus now on her way to you. If you haven’t heard from her by this evening, give me another call.”
Father replaced the receiver, he found it hard to speak to Scott without blowing his top. Sadly he turned to the others and told them what he knew.

*** *** ***

Catherine was footsore by the evening of the second day, and her eyes pained her from searching for the slightest sign of civilisation. She had been disappointed that in such a beautiful place there was no-one in residence. Vincent had helped her to keep her spirits strong, but as the evening wore to a close, she searched for somewhere to settle for another night. At least she had found some wild apricots and peaches, which made a welcome change from berries. It was frustrating that neither Gerry or Marie had been able to get any response that day from Mich’ael or Devin, though Marie had been able to speak with Mich’ael the night before, and Catherine had no way of knowing if anyone was yet looking for her.
“I shall find somewhere to sleep the night Vincent,” she told him looking for a suitable location. As best she could she had tried not to stray from the mountain passes, but from time to time in doing so this had left her without cover, and the sun had beat down mercilessly upon her, her neck was red and sore from sun burn. Now as she grew tired, and longed to rest, she found herself once again, a long way from any growth that would have shielded her from the bright morning light, so she settled for a smooth piece of rock behind a crag that was visible from the pass. Taking off her shoes, she rubbed her aching feet, blisters had started to crack open and she knew without a doubt that if she did not find help soon, she would not be able to walk the whole distance in those shoes, nor go barefooted over the rough rocks. Using her jacket for a pillow, she settled down, to sleep, while Vincent’s love spread over her like a warm cloak, making her feel safe and secure. “Catherine,” he told her, “I am going to get word to Peter, but my heart will be alongside you. If you need me, just call.”
Catherine nodded, saying yes on the wings of a breath, too tired to talk, and fell into a deep sleep the moment she lay down her head.

*** *** ***

Father, Mary, Mouse and Timmy returned wearily to their hotel, though they had called there earlier that day, the day clerk had told them there were no messages, having not noticed the one by the telephone. So when Father collected his room keys, the second message was handed to him. Unfolding it, he started to read, “Message from Mich’ael Reidel...damn the man,” he said, reading no further, screwed up the note and threw it into the nearest bin. “If it wasn’t for him... Well let him stew in his own juice, I don’t want to hear what he has to say. First Devin, now Cathy, how many more will be hurt because of his foolishness, his selfishness? And how the emergency services can call off the search merely because it has grown dark beats me, I would have thought that would be the time when a lost traveller would be most vulnerable.”
“Perhaps, you should contact Peter, see if he has heard anything from Vincent. Vincent will surely know if Cathy is all right.”
“Mmm, perhaps, but if Cathy has deliberately closed down the Bond, Vincent may not know. She may be trying to prevent him from worry or still peeved at him about the other thing. I wouldn’t want to be the bearer of bad tidings to Vincent if he doesn’t already know. The only thing we can do is get up at first light, and hope there is some news soon. Its a pity none of us could drive, or we could do more ourselves.”

*** *** ***

Twenty-four hours later on the other side of the Atlantic, Peter answered the knocking at his door, surprised to see a helper stood there, with a message from Vincent. Donning his spectacles, Peter read the note crossing the room as he did so, to reach for the telephone.
‘Catherine was missing, kidnapped by Scott! Damn the man’, Peter knew he was up to no good, and now Cathy was somewhere between Italy and Austria, all alone, trying to walk back! Putting down the note, Peter dialled the number of Jacob’s hotel before going Below to see Vincent.

When the telephone rang next to his pillow, Father could not think what it was. For many moments he thought it was an alarm clock and reached out to turn it off. Knocking the receiver off the rack, he heard a voice, “Hello, Hello, Jacob is that you?” and shook himself awake to listen.
Beside him Mary woke, “What is it Jacob? Whose calling, is it about Devin?”
Immediately, Father was wide awake, and grabbed the telephone, putting the receiver to his ear, “Hello, who is this?”
“Jacob thank God. Its Peter, I have had a message from Vincent. Cathy needs help urgently”.

Somewhat relieved to find that Jacob had already put out a search party, Peter hung up, telling him he would call the moment he had returned from seeing Vincent to find out if there was news of her location.

*** *** ***

The night sounds vibrated around the mountain and bounced in the valley below. Chamois called, owls hooted, mice squeaked, dogs bayed and foxes barked. Catherine heard little, so deep was her slumber, and she continued to sleep long past dawn, waking stiff and sore, and feeling as if she could sleep the whole night through again. Rubbing her eyes, she picked her way barefooted over the crags to a small stream, washed and drank thirstily, then feeling more awake, went back to collect her belongings to seek some breakfast.
Had she of been more alert she may have noticed. And had she of been not so weary her brain may have told her to act with caution. So when she put her foot into her shoes, and gave a yelp of pain, she was horrified when extracting her foot, she found a scorpion attached to her toe, its mighty pincers holding on tightly, determined to stay intact.
Catherine screamed, she didn’t know much about life in the mountains, but she knew enough that scorpion bites were deadly, and without immediate help she could be dead within hours.
Hearing her scream, Vincent sat bolt upright, “Catherine!” He called frantically, “What is it?”
Shaking the scorpion, she finally freed it and jumped away as it made to attack her leg. She flogged it to death with her shoe. “A scorpion” Was all she could say.
Vincent froze, “Catherine, did it bite you?”
“Yes, it bit me, Vincent you must help me find someone, the bite is poisonous.” Quickly she sat down on the ground, bent her foot to her mouth, struggling to fit the toe inside, and sucked as hard as she could, then spat out the poison. She repeated the act for as long as she could before her leg grew cramped and she was satisfied she had done the best that she could.

The moment Peter’s arrival was announced, Vincent was running to meet him, they colliding in one of the tunnels, “Peter, thank you for coming. It is worse than you know. Catherine has been bitten by a scorpion, you have to get help to her at once.”
Peter did not delay, “Vincent meet me at Catherine’s apartment, we have to work together on this, it is dark so you will not be seen, have you a key, you will have to let me in.”
“Yes, but it is back in my chamber, there is no time, come, I can still gain entry, I am certain Catherine will not mind a broken window when her life is at stake, hurry, we are wasting time.”
Both men turned and ran, parting company once outside, Peter running across the park towards Catherine’s apartment building, and Vincent to scale his way up to the eighteenth floors from the outside.

The moment Father received the second call from Peter, he wasted no time in contacting the emergency services. It was first light, and he gave them an accurate description of the location she was in as possible, explaining that a scorpion had bitten her and that she was English. They wanted to know details, as to who had found out this information, but Father brushed them off with, “No time to explain, we have to hurry.” And he sighed with relief when they actually heeded his words without further question.

*** *** ***

Hobbling along the mountain pass, at first Catherine did not feel any different save for the swelling on her toe, growing more inflamed by the second, and proving more and more difficult to walk. Still she knew if she was going to stand any chance of survival she had to keep to the pass, even though traffic was so infrequent. This was the way Scott had brought her, but it had now become unbearably apparent that the main highway ran through a select part of the mountains, for the pass was far too stony for frequent traffic.
Her head began to feel muzzy, and her throat tightened while noises sounded in her head. Vincent’s strength was all that kept her going. And at the back of her mind, she became aware of a saying she had once heard that reminded her of his love as he carried her along. ‘Once I had a dream, I dreamed that whenever I was happy in my life and everything was going well for me, Jesus walked alongside me. As I walked along a beach, I could see the imprints of his footsteps alongside my own. Then I noticed that during the times of my life, when I was most vulnerable, hurting or in pain, only one set of footprints were visible in the sand. So I called to Jesus, ‘Lord, why is it that whenever I am happy and have no problems you walk along with me, but whenever it is that I am hurting or in pain you leave me’ and the Lord said to me, ‘My dear, dear child. It is true that whenever you are happy I walk alongside you and you see my footsteps alongside your own in the sand, but whenever you are hurting or in pain you see only one set of footsteps in the sand, but I never leave you. For that’s when I carry you.’
Catherine felt relieved by those words, knowing that Vincent carried her now, as her own footsteps became sluggish, and all she longed to do was just lie down and slip into peaceful oblivion.

*** *** ***

“Slow down I think I saw her.” Glen Watson, English speaking paramedic, cried to the pilot, as he circled over the area he thought could possibly be the right place by Father’s description. “Look down there, can you see her, she keeps falling to the ground, and struggling to get up. Can you put the bird down nearby, we may only have minutes left for her.”
Jimmy Anderson, checked beneath him, the terrain was rocky, but huge plates of smooth rock made his descent an easy one, he was able to land the helicopter yards from where Catherine had finally come to rest relieved to see help at hand.
Ducking beneath the huge propellers, Glen ran towards her, his bag in hand, while Jimmy keeping the engine going, ran to help him. Barely conscious, Catherine managed a weak smile, as gentle hands grasped her, and carried her between them to the waiting helicopter. Soon they whirled away into the bluest of skies, and for the first time in many days, Catherine let out a long deep sigh.
“Scorpion.” She managed to utter, pointing to her toe.
“We know. Hold still I’m going to give you an anti-serum jab, this will correct matters for you. Then I shall give you one for the pain, and then I expect you will like something to eat and drink.” He smiled gently at her, thinking how beautiful she was, and Catherine thanked him weakly.
For some time he worked in silence. Giving her the injection, then checking her heart rate, administered to her sun burn, the cuts and scrapes upon her skin, and then holding a cup to her lips, while she drank thirstily of some hot sweet tea. Jimmy asked her, “That was some trek you underwent, why didn’t the person that sent word to your father-in-law help you further?”
“The person? What person?” Catherine asked him confused.
“Your father-in-law gave us a specific description of where you were, I recognised it at once. Someone must have contacted him, as you so obviously couldn’t.”
“There was no-one, I never saw a soul after Scott Phillips abandoned me.”
“Then how did you get a message through?”
Catherine knew she would have to give an explanation, “Telepathy,” she told him, “My husband and I share this gift and I was able to keep in contact with him through it.”
“My that’s some gift. I can tell you honey, that’s what saved your life. I’d say another five minutes and you wouldn’t be alive now. Why did you travel along the pass though, that’s what I’d like to know. I mean had you have gone along the highway, you would have been home days ago. The pass is only used by goat-herders and wild animals, its a very isolated spot.”
“Tell me about it,” ”Catherine grimaced, “The only sign of life was a dog with a litter of puppies.”
“You didn’t go near them did you?” Glen asked frantically.
“Near them yes, but not close enough to touch, and I was down wind so they didn’t know I was there.”
“A lot of the dogs around these parts have rabbis, some are almost immuned to it, but if one bit you, I wouldn’t fancy your chances. You know honey, you have been one hell of a lucky woman, but I insist that you rest before embarking upon your newest venture.”
Catherine shook her head, smiling broadly, “No chance. The first thing I intend to do is travel eight thousand miles back to my husband, and then take all the rest I need in his arms.”
A look of utter amazement crossed Glen’s face as he cried, “Eight thousand miles, wow, that’s some telepathy!”

*** *** ***

Chapter Nine

Fabian Francis, looked at his watch, he seemed to be working later and later into the night, these days. Rubbing his brow, he decided it was time to go home. Shutting down the computer, he rose picked up his keys, and went to check along the dens.
Each den housed one being. He had no other name for them. They were neither man nor beast and had little intelligence. Switching the wall lights on above the barred dens, he looked at them.
The big male crouched low in the corner, his perfidious eyes glinting in the half light beneath the thick mane of hair around his head. Fabian stepped closer, and heard the ever present growl come from the being’s throat, and he shivered. Going along to the next den, he looked at the eldest female, her catlike features and ferocious eyes darting wildly as she watched him. Then the next den, containing the pregnant female, her body swollen, and the same savage eyes that watched him.
“You all look okay to me, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Switching off the lights Fabian left them there, feeling as he walked away their eyes burning into his back, almost seeing inside their heads the desire to tear him to shreds given the slightest of chances.
Whatever was he going to do with them if he didn’t hear from Mich’ael Reidel soon? There had as yet been no reply to his letter, and he wondered about making the trip to see him, yet there was no-one he could leave the creatures with. Until he heard from Mich’ael he did not know what to do with them. Knowing only, that he needed them no longer.

*** *** ***

“Catherine you had us so worried.” Mary hugged her, as if she would never let her go, “You poor thing, just look at your feet, you must have walked endless miles.”
“It wasn’t the miles so much as the terrain.” Catherine told her honestly, “All that up and down, if it hadn’t of been for Vincent urging me on, I think I would have given up.”
“So you have forgiven him for his flash of jealousy then, huh?” Father asked her, “He is very sorry about that but really Cathy, his fears were grounded. He knew something terrible would come of your friendship with this Scott person, even if he did go about it the wrong way.”
“Yes, I realise that, and I suppose I can understand his insecurity, given the shoe on the other foot so to speak. I think I would be much the same if he had to leave me and travel thousands of miles to spend in the company with a good looking woman. I think this is something that we will have to come to accept between us, without letting it destroy us. I sincerely regret shutting off the Bond between us now. Especially that without it I may not be here now. It is a wonderful gift, one that should not be taken for granted.”
“To think that you came so close to dying though if you hadn’t of received that anti-serum jab in time, it doesn’t bear thinking about. If only we could have known sooner, even a few hours sooner, you could have been saved from the scorpion bite if nothing else.” Father told her rubbing her hands in his, as tears stung his eyes.
“So what are you going to do for an encore Cathy, my but you lead an exciting life.” Mary told her, laughing a little to ease the tension.
Catherine smiled, “The only thing I want to do is see Devin and Mich’ael then go home to Vincent. I vow I will never leave my husband’s side ever again.”
Father chuckled, “Famous last words Catherine my dear. And as to your wish to see Mich’ael I am afraid we are all giving him the cold shoulder right now.”
Catherine’s eyes flew wide open, “Why, without his help I would not have been found surely.”
“His help? No it was Peter that called us.” Father told her frowning.
“Yes, but Marie got a message through to Mich’ael first, didn’t you get it?”
Slowly Father remembered the note, and groaned, as he realised, “Oh Lord, Cathy. Oh my dear.” As the import of his words gained impact, he suddenly realised that the note from Mich’ael could have saved Catherine so much pain and suffering. Regretfully he related the sorry news to her.
Catherine sighed, “So Mich’ael must be feeling pretty rotten by now. I’m surprised at you Father. You of all people. Okay I know Devin has suffered badly, but don’t you think Mich’ael knows that? He has it to live with all his life. Surely keeping him in Coventry wouldn’t have punished him any more than he will punish himself his life over. And I understand he is unconscious once again. The poor guy probably brought it on himself, wishing to face oblivion rather than life. I have to see him.”
“Then I will take you in the wheelchair, I must see him too. I owe him an apology if he wakes up.” Father told her unhappily.

Mich’ael looked terrible as they opened the door to his room and went inside. Nurse Hammond was busy changing his dressings as they approached.“Arh, Mrs. Wells, I heard you had been found. I am so glad. I was beside myself when I realised you could have been found so much quicker if only I had given Mr. Wells the message from Mr. Reidel the night you went missing. Unfortunately I didn’t remember until the following day, and by then Mr. Wells had left the hotel. I don’t think he actually received my message until late evening of the second day.”
“So let me get this right Nurse Hammond, when you came to tell us Mr. Reidel had a message for me, and I told you I didn’t want to know, was it about Catherine and did he give you another?”
“Yes, and I was on my way to tell you again when I was called away for an incoming emergency. Mr. Reidel told me he had a message from Marie, that Cathy needed urgent help. I’m so sorry, Mrs. Wells, you could have been spared so much suffering. What I can’t understand is where this Marie comes into it, certainly I have never seen anyone save you people visit Mr. Reidel.”
“She is his wife” Catherine told her, “Both myself and my husband, Mich’ael and his wife and Devin and his wife share the gift of telepathy, without it I would not be alive now to tell you this.”
“That’s incredible, so you mean to tell me that Mrs. Reidel contacted her husband to tell him where you were?”
“Yes, after I contacted my husband who passed the message on to Mrs. Reidel, who is his mother.” Catherine could see the nurse was very impressed, and a little stunned by this news.
Father chuckled beside her almost unable to control himself, whispering, “Telepathy, really Cathy.”
Catherine smiled as Nurse Hammond replied, “I can hardly believe it, I never thought it were possible, there are some who would like to know about this to research it. You should contact someone about its strength, it is remarkable. Tell me did you use this method, the day Mr. Wells was assumed dead also?”
“Yes, by his wife reaching out to him, he heard her and responded, thanks to this gift his life was saved.”
“Amazing, incredible. That answers a lot of questions. You would not believe how his recovery has been a topic for discussion here since it happened. At least now I have the answer, you don’t mind me telling do you?”
“Not at all, only don’t let the press get hold of it will you? We wouldn’t want publicity.” Catherine begged her.
“I promise, though I think it should be documented, the medical association should know about this.” They left the room to stand with her outside in the corridor, and Catherine begged her, “I’d prefer it if you kept out names out of it, or if you do, we shall all deny it.”
Nurse Hammond nodded and changed the subject, “Well now, I expect you want to know about Mr. Reidel, he is conscious again, but sleeping, also have you been to see your son today Mr. Wells?”
Father looked up sharply, “No, we haven’t why?”
“Because though he is still unconscious, we believe he is coming out of the coma, he keeps muttering words we cannot decipher, but one name comes through clearly, he keeps calling Gerry.”
“That’s his wife’s name, he must be answering her.” Catherine told her.
“So his wife is pulling him out of the coma, through this telepathy?” she shook her head in disbelief, “Really if I hadn’t of seen and heard it for myself, I would not have believed this. It is truly remarkable. If only everyone could apply it.” She smiled impishly. “If only I could apply it. My husband could do with a few sharp home truths. None better than to see them flashing through his head from mine.” She laughed, “Yes the more I think about that, the more appealing it sounds. I shall have to work on it. Just think I could get him to do things I’ve wanted him to do for years, and all the while he will think that he has thought of it first.” Giggling deliciously at the thought, she left them, the sound drifting down the corridor. Catherine, Father and Mary looked at one another and burst into gales of laughter.
*** *** ***

Panic over, Vincent walked aimlessly through the tunnels, longing for Catherine’s return, when he met Elizabeth coming towards him. “Vincent come, I have finished the painting in the chamber you and Catherine share. Once the smell of paint has gone you can move back in there.” She told him her eyes bright with happiness.
Following her back to his chamber, he was stunned at the faces on the walls that met him and smiled his appreciation. “Elizabeth this is marvellous, Catherine will love it.”
“Have you heard anything of her yet child?”
“Yes, she is back with Father and Mary now. She intends to come home as soon as she is fit enough. I must say that day cannot come soon enough for me.”
“Yes child, you two do seem to have more than your share of troubles. If you have some time to spare I should like to tell you about my latest painting in the tunnels, I’m sure you will enjoy hearing the tale that goes along with it and it may take your mind off of things for a while.”
“Yes, thank you Elizabeth I’d like that. Should we go now?”
“Yes, then I can tell you all about it on the way."
Walking side by side along the well lit tunnels, Elizabeth told him, “I was inspired by Catherine’s love of mountains to paint this latest scene. I found out some information about the place and just wanted to share it. The place is called Georgia and lies between Europe and Asia.”
Reaching the stretch of tunnel Elizabeth spoke of, they were met by a scene depicting tremendous fifteen thousand foot mountains, snow capped and densely forested in the productive valleys, Pointing to the scene Elizabeth told Vincent, “this is where the famous Silk Road, taken by Marco Polo on his way to China lies. Its capital, Tbilisi is a bustling city, which is situated between East and West, and do you know Vincent the city has been invaded 29 times by people passing this way because of the city’s financial and cultural wealth. Imagine, it would make one very insecure wouldn’t it to live there? Nonetheless, because of its long standing architecture it is a favourite location for tourists. One of the things I find the most impressive however, is Georgia’s natural elements. Eighty-seven percent of the terrain is mountainous and through it run some twenty-five thousand rivers. Can you credit that Vincent? I bet they are ice cold too what with coming down from off the mountain tops, yet many are full of trout.”
“Is Georgia a naturally cold place then Elizabeth?”
“You would think so wouldn’t you by all that snow on the peaks, and it does sustain frigid weather systems from the North. Fortunately the great range known as Caucasus mountains shield it from the bad weather and it receives warm and moist air from the Black Sea. It has therefore quite a mild climate, and because of this produces five hundred different varieties of grapes and wine.”
“When you painted Cuzco and the Inca’s golden empire you omitted the people. I see here that you have put them in, what sort of people are they Elizabeth? Do you know?” Vincent asked her with interest as he peered at the paintings of men, women and children going about their daily business around Tbilisi.
“They are wonderful people. Intelligent, hospitable, humorous and they have a great love of life. Their culture is rich with song and dance and they frequently sing some of their many folk songs during mealtimes.”
“Perhaps we should adapt some of their ways down here, huh, Elizabeth?”
“Actually Vincent that isn’t such a bad idea. I remember a time when children were always required to sing for their supper. Do you think we could ask that of the children here?” Her eyes twinkled mischievously.
“Oh, we could ask, Elizabeth.” Vincent told her fondly, “But I doubt we would achieve it. Still telling the children such wonderful stories as you have told me may inspire miracles.”
“You know the final thing I wanted to say about Georgia is the literacy of that country, it dates back as early as the fifth century, using a beautiful and unique Georgian alphabet. It was one of the earliest languages to be translated into the Bible. Truly it is an amazing part of history isn’t it Vincent? One of the few places that still boasts the linking of ancient and modern traditions. I thought it more than deserved a place along these tunnels so that it can be preserved down here for all to enjoy.”
“You did well to paint it Elizabeth. Thank you for telling me this wonderful story, I shall always remember it and tell my own children about it when they are older.”
“You are welcome child, come by anytime, there will always be something new to delight you, until the day I run out of tunnels.”
“That will never happen Elizabeth, for a certainty if you should, then we shall find you others, there are so many tunnels that would benefit from being brightened by your skill and your love, and if we do run out of tunnels you can start on the other chambers.”
“Thank you Vincent. And now I must begin another scene, my fingers have minds of their own, there is so much I want to paint that sometimes I regret having to lie down to sleep.”
Vincent chuckled, “I feel like that when I look at my children, they are so beautiful I never want to miss a moment of them, and speaking of which I should go to them now. Thank you for the painting in my chamber Elizabeth, Catherine will love it as do I.”
With that he was gone, walking along the long tunnels, dreaming of his wife’s homecoming, and searching for her once again through their livesaving Bond.
*** *** ***

Holding Devin’s hand Catherine spoke softly to Father. “I owe your son so much, it is unthinkable that he almost died. I don’t think I would ever have got over that.”
“And I Catherine, I owe you so much. But for you I would have lost two sons, and that is unthinkable too. What would I have done without either Vincent or Devin? I owe Devin such a lot. Since he has had this accident, since I heard he had sustained those heart attacks, I realised how important he was to me. No even before that, when Timmy first came into our lives. Seeing him, the way he is, he reminded me so much of Devin as a boy, I came to realise too late just what I had missed.”
He paused, holding onto his son’s other hand, then as his eyes glanced at his son’s face, his heart leapt to see that Devin was smiling. “Devin” he cried, as Devin slowly opened his eyes, saying in a croaky voice, “Hello dad, don’t stop there, that was sooo beautiful.”
Catherine flung herself over Devin, as best she could, giving him the biggest hug and kiss that room would allow for, causing a huge smile to spread across his handsome face tinged with a little pain. “It is so good to have you back.” she told him, “You don’t know how much we have all been praying for you.”
“I had to wake up, I thought Gerry’s voice in my head was going to send me nuts if I didn’t. You know once she gets an idea of something she won’t let it go, mind you she said some lovely things.” A dreamy look came over his face, and Catherine laughed out loud with joy and happiness, “I can imagine.”

Once Devin had come out of his coma, he made a rapid recovery. Catherine stayed just long enough to satisfy herself that he would soon be up and about, though he would need extensive physiotherapy, as would Mich’ael now he had become conscious again, happy that Father and Mary had forgiven him and Devin was getting better at last.
Sitting alongside Devin as she used up time before her flight, Catherine spoke to him about inconsequential things, joking with him, enjoying his company, when she happened to say, “While I was on Sonn Alp, a telephone call came through for Ignatz. The guy never left his name, but he was most abrupt, and he mentioned some things which I found interesting. Eventually I told him Ignatz had moved away with no forwarding address, that Han’s had been killed by a wild creature, and that he could contact Mich’ael at the hospital. He told me a friend wanted to contact Ignatz, and that it was urgent. As he rang off he mentioned a name, but didn’t finish it, and also that he himself was calling from New York.”
Devin sat up, plumping up the pillows behind him, “That is interesting, can you remember the name of the guy he was going to mention?”
“Yes, I wrote it down. It was Fabi, he...” Devin didn’t let her finish, excitedly he cried “Fabian!”
“You know him?” Catherine could hardly believe he did, and then when he went on to tell her about the information he had learned in the files at Sonn Alp, she was even more amazed.
“Mich’ael and I were hoping to follow this up. You know Cathy when you and I found Marie and Gerry we assumed that was the end of it, but it could be the whole sorry story is yet to be unfolded. Mich’ael and I wondered if there are more of Vincent’s kind yet to be discovered.”
“Oh no, Devin, you aren’t serious? When will it ever end?”
“Not until all the people who worked on it have been stopped no doubt. You know what this means don’t you?”
“I hate to think.”
Devin smiled, “As soon Mich’ael and I are well enough we must go to see this chap. Assuming he has written to Mich’ael by then, or it may take some time to locate him. And so you know what that means for you and I don’t you?” he answered his own question, “ That means Holmes and Watson are off on another case.”
“Holmes and Watson?”
“Well, you and I then, are you ready to embark on this again with me baby?”
Catherine laughed, shaking her head, “You,” she told him, “Are going to be the death of me.”
“I hope not Cathy, but we are a good team, and I for one won’t rest until I am satisfied we have covered every last avenue.” He told her solemly.
Catherine considered his words carefully, “You’re right, as much as I want to stay put and never have to leave Vincent again, I suppose I have no choice. We do have to pursue this thing until its conclusion, or we will never forgive ourselves for coming so close and letting it go.”
“That’s right Cathy. Sometimes fate is handed to us on a plate, we have only to recognise it for what it is, no matter how it affects us. Obviously some one up there has assigned us this work, and we have to see it through to its completion no matter what.”
“Yes it does seem that way doesn’t it. Suddenly there are a lot more loose ends, and you are right we have only one option, we have to tie them up. But just tell me Devin, how on earth will I explain this to Vincent?”
*** *** ***

Vincent was sitting beside the waterfall, deep in thought, when he felt Catherine coming home. A broad smile lit his face, reaching his blue eyes and his heartbeat quickened. Though she had been away for less than two weeks, it had seemed a lifetime. He was also missing Devin, Father and Mary. Never in all his life had everyone he held most dear been away from him at the same time. He even missed Mouse’s chatter, and wondered if he might be returning with Catherine. It had been awfully quiet without him. Yet he expected that for months afterwards Mouse would fill their lives with tales of his adventure, just like he’d never stopped talking about the island, again full of pride that he had been included. And he would no doubt love Catherine all the more for agreeing to let him go with her to Austria.
As he felt Catherine whirling overhead as her plane made to land, he wondered where she intended on going. Either straight Below or to her apartment, and he hovered by the tunnel entrance. Either way he would meet her.
He felt it when she got into a taxi and his heartbeat increased as he heard her whisper, “Vincent, I’m back. I’m going up to the apartment, please meet me there.” Pulling his cloak tighter around him, and raising the hood, Vincent crossed the deserted park, and made his way deftly up to the eighteenth floor.

Catherine had the taxi take her straight to her apartment, where Mouse also got out with her, and together they walked to the basement. “Will you be all right from here, Mouse? I’ll come to see you later.”
He nodded his eyes bright, “Thank you for taking me.” He told her again for the hundredth time, “Are you seeing Vincent now?”
Catherine nodded, “Yes, and I expect Jamie and Brook will be waiting for you.” At mention of Jamie, Mouse’s eyes lit up, “Yes.” He cried, “I can’t wait to see Jamie, must tell her about Concorde.” With that he scurried away like his namesake and was quickly out of sight.

Catherine couldn’t get the key in the lock fast enough, she dropped them twice, as she balanced the mail and her bags in her arms and tried to apply the selected key to the keyhole at the same moment. Finally the door flung open, she ran inside, dumped her bags, kicked the door shut with one foot, and ran across the room to release the catch to the balcony doors, and then in less time than a heart beat flew straight into Vincent’s waiting arms. “Hold me” she beseeched him, “Just hold me, like you will never let me go.”
“Never” he murmured huskily into her hair, “Oh, Catherine I have missed you so much.”
Placing a finger beneath her chin, he tilted her face to his, bringing his lips down to hers, tracing burning kisses across her face, her lips, her cheeks, her brow, down around her throat, and back to her waiting lips.
“Vincent, come inside. I have something I must tell you.” Her voice held a tinge of regret and Vincent pulled her closer, looking into her eyes. “Please Catherine, please, don’t tell me you have to go back, I couldn’t bear it, not another separation, please.”
Catherine swallowed hard, “I’m sorry Vincent, you know if there was any other way. Believe me I don’t want it to have to be like this.”
His eyes searched hers, saw the sincerity within them, and hugged her close, “Whatever is it Catherine, why do you have to leave me again?”
“You know when Devin and I found Gerry and Marie, and reunited the three of you, we truly believed that would be the end of it. With the death of Strasser and then of Kogler, and with Mich’ael destroying all the evidence, we thought your secret would be safe for eternity. Oh, but Vincent now it would seem that this isn’t so. There are others who know, and to top it all, Devin and I believe that there may be others like yourself somewhere. We can’t just leave them. Tell me we can’t”.
“What would you have me say, my Catherine? That you put yourself in danger for others like me, just to free them. Free them from what? You can never free them from the biggest bars they will ever encounter. The eternal prison they live in is within themselves. Providing neither Gerry, Marie or ourselves are in any danger then as selfish as it sounds you must stop this quest to free all living things such as myself, for where will it end? And can it end?”
“No Vincent, I would never forgive myself if I did not try. We know for a certainty that one of the scientists, lives here in New York, and another somewhere else in the world, and it is possible that one or both of them have created people like you. We have to find out Vincent. It is important.”
Vincent put his arm around her drawing her close. “I was fortunate to have been brought up by Father. And Gerry was fortunate to have been given the chance to read and write with Marie’s help, but people who have been kept in cages and denied these things, will surely be as beasts, rather then men. I do not want you to get involved in this Catherine. If Devin and Mich’ael want to pursue it, then so be it, but Catherine you have taken enough risks already, and there are others that need you, if not me, then our children.”
“Vincent I know these things, it grieves me to think of having to leave you yet again, but I have to go, though I do not intend to do so until Devin and Mich’ael are back home, and that may be months yet. Don’t fret so Vincent, we have a lot of time until I need to leave again.”
Vincent began his pacing of the room, something he did when he was desperately trying to put his thoughts into words without causing offence. “Catherine” he told her, then paused to gaze down at her, “Really, how is it for you when we are apart?”
“You know how it is, Vincent.” She turned pain filled eyes to his, “I miss you so much.”
“Yet you are kept busy with your latest quest, your days are filled with daring and excitement, even laughter and joy, and these things you do are good things because you risk so much for the benefit of others. But me, well I have no such excitement to fill my days, save for the excitement my memories stir, and they only heighten my pain. My longing for you. When you are away from me Catherine, the pain is unbearable, and each time it happens a little of me dies. I know the reunions are wonderful but in-between times, my Catherine, the pain tears me apart. I do not think I can stand anymore separations, and as selfish as that sounds Catherine I am sorry, but there it is. I love you so much, and if you were to be lost to me, I would surely die. Please Catherine reconsider, for these risks are no longer yours to take.”
Catherine looked at him long and hard, disappointment flaring within her. She had wanted so much to seek this latest case, to help Devin and Mich’ael to search for more lost and lonely souls, and a little bit of herself rebelled against Vincent’s words. Until through the Bond she saw it as he did and realised he was right. Perhaps she was the selfish one. Did she really want to look for more of his kind, or did she just love the thrill of working on it, as she would have done while working as a lawyer? She analysed her feelings and had to admit, that a lot of what Vincent had said was well grounded. Really she was taking huge risks that could cost her her life, and then what would become of Vincent? He would surely die without her, and their children needed him so much, what would become of them? A domino effect would take place if anything should happen to herself. And she knew that no matter how important it would seem to give freedom to people who had been created like this man she loved, it was far more important that she gave of herself to those that needed her more. Yet, if logic told her this reasoning was right, why did a tiny little voice keep pricking her conscience saying, ‘yes but if you don’t help Mich’ael and Devin find these poor people, then who will, for who will know?’
Vincent read her thoughts quietly, his expressions changing from one of joy to one of despair, as her final words were formed in her mind. He shook his head, “I have been without you Catherine for almost two weeks this time. I am overjoyed to have you back, but I don’t know if I can stand to have you back knowing you will be leaving again. Then I will have to wait and worry once more. If you knew what your absences did to me, truly did to me, you would not ask this of me. I well know how important these things are, but Catherine, I need you too.”
“What are you saying Vincent?” Eyes wide she asked him quietly.
Vincent took a deep breath, “I don’t often say that I know what is best for you to do Catherine, but I do think you take our Bond for granted. Had it not been for our connection where would you be now? Though your trek across the mountains was dangerous and tiring, it was also exhausting for me, and it needn’t have been. There was absolutely no reason why you should have gone up to Sonn Alp with Scott Phillips that day, you could have driven there yourself, and taken Mouse with you for company. Yet you put yourself at risk, especially when you knew how Scott felt about you. And you expect that I will always be there to unravel the problems that come from your taking these risks. Not that I mind helping you, how could I not? I love you. But sometimes Catherine the risks are so unnecessary, and I believe this latest idea is just one of those.” He paused, was he going around in circles? How could he make her see what he was driving at without being blunt. “Catherine, until you decide what it is you do want, then I think it best that we do not see one another.” There he had said it, but he didn’t like the way it had come out. He could see her pain, feel her pain, and his heart cried out for the anguish it brought her.
Catherine’s mouth dropped open, “No, Vincent,” she ran to him, held on to him, tried to turn him around to face her. “Don’t do this to me, to us. Whatever we share no matter how brief the time, it is precious. Please Vincent, please, I beg of you take back your words.”
It took all his strength not to look into those eyes. Those beautiful green eyes that loved him so much. But slowly, his whole body trembling, he told her, “You have to chose Catherine, are you to go or are you to stay?” He dreaded her answer.
Looking at him, loving him the way she did, Catherine knew that if she should go, it would be with a heavy heart, she could not perform as well she might, and that he thought it unnecessary would only heighten the fact that it was a risk she needn’t bear. On the other hand to stay and not to try would also be a burden she would carry for the rest of her life. Yet weighing one against the other she knew she could not bear to be without him, not now, not ever, and reluctantly she replied, “If that’s the ultimatum Vincent then I have no choice." Scared to death he held his breath, “I have to stay, for I could not bear to see you walk away from me now and not look back. I love you Vincent, and I am as dead without you.”
Vincent expelled a huge sigh of relief, yet the knowledge that he had won did not bring the absolute relief he had anticipated, and as their lips met in a passionate kiss, he felt that somehow a tiny little piece of his Catherine was lost to him forever.

*** *** ***

To be continued in Chapter Ten – click n ‘Next’ below:



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