Catastrophe strikes when Devin organises an adventure for Vincent. Yet, still all of his dreams come true.
Beneath a starry moon drenched sky, Catherine didn’t think she had ever known, a more wondrous night. Sitting astride a beautiful horse, with Devin riding one side of Vincent and she the other, the three chatted happily about all manner of topics, as the moon filtered rays of refined silver down onto the horses, bringing forth the promised effect of glittering stars upon the rumps and flanks of the trusting animals.
*** *** ***
Vincent had quickly mastered the art of riding, providing they walked at a steady pace, and while Devin and Catherine stayed close by, he relaxed, enjoying the experience tremendously. Vincent was no stranger to night sounds and scents, but this, riding of a horse, the motion, the scent of the faithful animal beneath him, was something he would never forget and would long to do again. Vincent kept having to pinch himself to know that he wasn’t dreaming, and when each time he was convinced he was not, he wondered what Father would say when he was told about this magical experience.
The harness, with its beam of star studded light, moved gently with the motion of each horse, casting tiny rays that filtered through the woodland and along the track flanked by trees.
“This is great isn’t it?” Devin exclaimed more than once, pleased with the affirmation received from Catherine, and especially from Vincent. To be able to bring his brother such joy, touched him deeply. It somehow made up for all those broken promises. All those times when, he had told Vincent, faithfully, that he would return and tell him about all the things he had seen, yet never did.
And tomorrow, to top it all, he would lead his brother into the sunlight. Devin had never felt so pleased with himself. In fact, he acknowledged with wry humour, this weekend was filled with so many first times for Vincent, that it would be difficult for Vincent to give voice to his favourite experience of all, though Devin admitted if he had been in Vincent’s place, he would have known for a certainty which experience would top all others, he’d only to look at Catherine to know the reason for that. And loath as he was to part company with them after the ride was over, he could see how important it was to give Vincent and Catherine some privacy, and so to the lonely log cabin he would depart, wishing with all his might that he could be a fly on the wall inside the big house, sharing with them the intimacies that were so obviously apparent even now. He would have been insensitive, if he could not feel the atmosphere surrounding the pair, even as they rode. Conscious of their eye contact, the long, tantalising looks passing from one to the other, the gentle touch of hands, the invisible current that blazed between them, signifying a night of forthcoming passion, Devin was almost envious, and for the umpteenth time that day he wished that Kitty was there with him. He hadn’t seen her for several days, and when he had driven past her cabin on the way to meet Catherine and Vincent, he had noted that James’s truck had still been parked outside. Oh, Kitty had managed to contact him, once, but it was evident that she was unhappy and wanted to get away from her husband, but she was frightened that he would follow her and harm her. Devin had been filled with anger at the thought of Kitty being terrorised that way, and had wanted to come for her at once, but Kitty had insisted that he stay away. Finally, before she had hung up, Devin had told her that if she was really frightened he did know of a safe place she could go to, where James would never find her.
He then proceeded to tell her about the estate he was going to at the foot of the mountains for a couple of days, and he would find a way to contact her as soon as he got back.
Unaware, he was daydreaming, he never heard anything from his two companions, until bringing him back to earth, Vincent had nudged him, for the third time, “Devin, where were you?”
“I, er, oh, sorry Vincent, were you saying something?”
“Yes, I was saying that this was a wonderful idea.” Vincent answered his brother, after he had spent long moments of intense pleasure, taking in the sights and sounds of the night from a new vantage point, with the motion of the horse beneath him, providing a tranquil peace that filled Vincent’s entire being, “I had no idea what you had planned for me, but nothing could have prepared me for this. I shall remember it all my life.”
“Just drink it in Vincent.” Devin told him, “Drink it in, every sound, every movement, the smell of the horses, the feel of their bodies beneath you, the lights of the beacons, the star spangles upon their rumps, take it all in Vincent, and you can re-live this experience over and over, any time that you chose.”
“Failing that, we could always do this again, sometime.” Catherine ventured, reluctant to interrupt.
“You’d do that?” Devin exclaimed, “But its so expensive.”
“I can afford it, don’t worry, besides its worth it. I don’t think I have enjoyed anything so much in a long time.” ‘Of course the company has a lot to do with it.’ she added softly, to herself, for sharing the experience with Vincent like this was marvellous.
“There’s a clearing just a few yards ahead. I cleared it earlier of debris, and the ground is flawless. Would you like to venture going a bit faster Vincent?” Devin asked, adding, “Its real easy, you just adjust your position to the gait of the horse, if we trot, you’d rise and fall, its a bit painful at first, but you’d soon pick it up, and then as the transition forms into a canter, and then a gallop, its just a question of holding tight and enjoying the experience, almost like sitting in your armchair back home.”
“It sounds easy, but I doubt that it is. Why don’t you and Catherine enjoy that experience, while I wait here for you. I’ll be happy to watch.” Vincent replied.
“Well if you’re sure?”
“I am, its okay Devin, you two go ahead, I’ll be fine waiting back here.”
“Can I have a say in this?” Catherine asked, as the two brothers turned to her and nodded, “How about Vincent and I staying here, while you go off for a gallop, Devin?” she asked in innocence, a smile playing about her lips.
For a moment Devin was agreeable, until he realised, “Hey, now I get the picture, while the cat’s away and all that...no way! You’re coming with me Chandler, I can’t trust you to keep your hot little paws off my brother for five minutes can I?” he laughed, and Catherine wished the ground to open up and swallow her, until Vincent came to her rescue, “You’ve got that wrong Devin, I’m the one with paws around here, and mine are even hotter, so perhaps for Catherine’s own safety, you should insist she goes with you.”
For several moments, Catherine was stunned, then looking coyly at Vincent, found his chest heaving with suppressed laughter, and joined him heartily. Devin took a little longer to recover, this was not what he’d expected Vincent to say, in all his wildest dreams. ‘Wow,’ thought Devin, ‘what ever have I unleashed here?’
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Vincent asked some moments later, when no-one had made a move. “The sooner you go, the sooner you’ll get back.” he looked at Catherine as he said it, his penetrating gaze holding hers, telling her of promises only she would share, and Catherine shivered.
Her eyes told him, ‘ I want to stay here with you my love.’
His eyes told her, ‘the sooner you go, the sooner you will return, and the sooner we can be together tonight.’
With eyes that held promises for each the other, long moments passed in silence, and Devin could only sit and watch the scene unfold with some amusement.
Reluctantly, Catherine eventually gave in, to leave Vincent even for a minute would be unbearable, but they were only going to gallop across the clearing and back, for goodness sake, not travel miles, and if she had not have loitered, already she would have returned.
She nodded, smiling her agreement, “All right, but hold onto the reins tightly, or your mare might try to run after the other two.”
Neither Vincent nor Devin had thought of that. “Might she?” Vincent asked.
“Yes, its possible, no doubt she is eager to stretch her legs too.”
Instantly Vincent made a decision, “In that case, I’ll come with you."
“That’ll be great Vincent.” Devin exclaimed, “Believe me, you will love this. To feel the wind in your hair, the speed of the horse, its simply great, you’ll see, you’ll love it. Trust me.”
And Vincent found that he did. Horse riding was a new experience to him, but compared to scaling tower blocks, it bore no comparison, and instructed by Catherine, he urged his mare forwards by pressing his knees inwards, and his body forwards, so that the mare soon picked up the pace. Within seconds, he found his body swiftly manoeuvred into the gait of rise and fall, and before he’d had time to adjust to that, he was forced back into the saddle as the mare’s strides took him into a canter. For a fleeting moment, the thought of having little control worried him, until he heard Devin call out beside him, “It’s great, isn’t it?” and had to agree that it was.
Coming up alongside him, Catherine rode her mare with the skill of experience, “You’ve done this before?” Vincent called to her with laughter in his voice, as suddenly everything reminded him of riding the carousel.
“Yes.” Catherine called back, “Many times, are you ready to gallop?”
“You mean they can go faster than this?” Vincent sounded surprised.
“Faster than that even. Beyond a gallop, a horse can bolt, and believe me Vincent, that’s fast.” Devin shouted, at his other side.
The thunderous sound of the hooves upon the grass was deafening, and the wind whipping at their hair exhilarating, Vincent was loving every moment of it.
“Just squeeze a little harder and we’ll gallop.” Devin was shouting, urging his own horse on to demonstrate, and Vincent was stunned as Devin’s mare surged ahead, her long tail fanning out behind her, the glittering array of starlight reflecting in the silvery moonlight.
The motion, the moonlight, Vincent felt liberated, and urged his mare onwards, faster, in an attempt to catch his brother, well aware of Catherine clicking with her tongue, to urge her mare into a full scale gallop at his side, her gay laughter filling him to capacity, his enjoyment complete.
The easy gait of the gallop thrilled him, the speed was breathtaking, he had never experienced anything quite like it before. The carousel, as magical as it was, paled into insignificance, this moment, this glorious, wondrous moment, of riding through the night with Devin and Catherine at his side, this beautiful creature beneath him, its quivering flesh eager to please, Vincent had never known anything as awesome in all of his life and he drank in every moment of it with intense pleasure.
It took only moments to cross the clearing, yet even before they had quite reached the other side, Devin had become vaguely aware of a darkening in the appearance of the night around them. The rump of his horse no longer sparkled, and the lights upon the harness, where once dulled by the light from the moon, were now as bright beacons that pierced the darkness.
Slowing his horse to a slow trot, and eventually to a standstill, he turned the mare and waited while Catherine and Vincent drew level with him, their faces wreathed in smiles, altering slowly as they acknowledged his silence. “What is it Devin?” Catherine asked breathlessly, following his gaze upwards, to where large ominous clouds were quickly obscuring the light from the moon.
“I think that storm’s brewing, we ought to take the horses back to the stables before it hits us.” Devin replied gravely, saddened that their enjoyment was to be cut short so soon.
“There’ll be another time, don’t worry, I promise, we’ll do this again, won’t we Vincent?” Catherine hoped he’d agree.
“Oh yes.” Vincent replied with pleasure, “I never thought I would enjoy myself so much. That was really wonderful.”
“Come on then,” Catherine turned her horse back towards the clearing, “At least its not over yet, we still have to negotiate the return journey, and I for one, cannot wait.” With that, she was gone, calling over her shoulder, “Race you.” as her horse surged forth into a gallop, within the space of seconds.
“What are we waiting for?” Devin challenged, “You heard the lady, now ‘git.” he yelled, before urging his own mare onwards, happy to hear Vincent’s laughter bubble behind him, as he too urged his horse forwards into another exhilarating gallop.
Glen slowed his van at an intersection, checking his map for the right direction to take, as a fiery glow streaked across the sky, followed by crashing thunder, “Whoa,” Glen whistled, “That was some baby. I sure hope them gee gees are stabled by now. If anyone is out on them, they are sure gonna get one hell of a ride.”
Tracing a line along the map with his finger, Glen noted the area of his last call. Helena had rung with the good news that two out of the four he’d gone out to see, had been contacted, and Glen was happy to detour. The previous call had been closer to home, but this one, well, it was sure out in the sticks, somewhere towards the Appalachians, in fact, Glen whistled, that was a fair old journey. Obviously someone who wanted real privacy.
Checking his rear view mirror, Glen was pleased to see that traffic was sparse, and switched off the engine, no use wasting fuel, he told himself, while he unfolded a sheet of paper which would inform him of the recipient of the mares that evening. The name jumped out at him before he had taken it in, Devin Wells, sure, he’d heard that before, the boss was always joking about good old Devin making him millions, ‘huh millions, in your dreams man’, Glen laughed, but had to admit that the idea was taking off at a remarkable rate, and this week alone, they had proposed and passed the motion of buying in another dozen mares. There was a waiting list for Nightmares as long as his arm, and Glen found that he had to be impressed that this Devin had sparked off a great idea, and thought it might be nice to meet and shake his hand if nothing else.
Using the chart alongside the map, Glen could make out his route clearly. He checked the fuel level, and whistled again, happy to find that for once the tank appeared full, but then the gauge had been known to stick. Glen tried to remember when he had last filled it, and couldn’t. He didn’t use the van often, usually he and Helena would work shifts together and use the one car, her car, and the van was generally used only for outings over rough terrain, taking the kids out someplace wild.
Glen grimaced, perhaps the van would make it, but he wasn’t certain that it would get him back, not after all those gear changes through the rocky region, and he wasn’t sure of the location of the nearest gas station. No, there was nothing else for it, he’d simply have to risk it, or return, fill up, and make the outward journey again.
Helena would have gone home by now, she’d be waiting for him anxiously, and he longed to get home to her, it wasn’t often that they had the place to themselves. Shrugging, Glen’s mind was made up, he’d risk it, he’d call Helena, tell her he’d be home as soon as he could, and just keep his fingers crossed that there would be enough fuel to get him there and back after all.
Driving beneath the thunder storm some time later, Glen knew that the worst part of it was the lack of rain which seemed to have fizzled out, and he grew more and more concerned as he followed the raging storm.
Electric storms were the worst, the lightening charged with ferocity, and very often leading to thunder bolts of fire. It was the worst storm he had seen in a long time, and what was most unusual was the lack of news bulletins about its arrival.
The radio crackled as he turned it on, but it was no different than when he had listened to it before, any news that was announced made light of the storm’s strength, almost as if they didn’t know its existence. Glen could not understand why the Weather Centre had not warned everyone about its savage advance, and as the storm showed no signs of abating, just continuing to move nearer and nearer to the mountains, at an amazing rate of knots, Glen wasn’t surprised to find the roads littered with storm chasers who were out in full force, hoping to see the development of a twister, and Glen had to admit, the way this baby was going, there would be every possibility of that and then some.
Glen shuddered, still undecided about continuing onwards. Any possibility of warning the riders was, after all, shattered now, for the storm had raged ahead of him, and already above that destination, this awesome ceremony of celestial lights, would be making its presence felt, and Glen could only hope that the horses were stabled, and the riders tucked safely away, for he didn’t like to think of anyone still outside, trying to ride petrified horses. The risk was too great, and there would be certain casualties.
As Glen drove faster now, he found he could only continue to hope that the reason why no-one had yet answered his repetitive call, was because they were otherwise entertained, and not lying in a ditch someplace with a broken neck.
*** *** ***
Travelling down the mountainside, even with very little luggage, Kitty found the way harder than she had imagined. Probably because she couldn’t keep to the road, and had to pick her way over rougher terrain, and what was worrying her too was the ominous approach of dark clouds, with the odd rumble of distant thunder. Kitty hated thunder and lightening. Only able to stand it when tucked up safely for the night beneath the bedclothes.
Of all the nights to run away from home, she had to chose a stormy one. Still, soon she would find Devin at his safe place, and all her worries would be over. James would never find her, Devin would take care of her, they would build a new life together, and in time she would forget the horrors of her life with James.
Picking her way over the grassy crags and between the fir trees growing on the mountainside, Kitty made her way ever downwards. She knew where she was headed, she had seen the estate before, knowing exactly where Devin meant when he had told her about it. It was hard to get into, but she knew of a way, she would get cut to ribbons doing it, but what the hell, getting cut to ribbons would be nothing compared to what James had in store for her for an alternative.
Kitty laughed softly to herself boarding hysteria, her eyes firmly fixed on the way ahead. Devin was down there, somewhere below, and keeping that thought anchored firmly in her mind, she pushed all thoughts of her wicked husband firmly out of her mind.
*** *** ***
For the umpteenth time, Glen stopped the car and checked the map. It was hard to see it clearly with only the help of the interior light, especially as the night grew ever darker, with the thunderclouds covering the light from the moon. Running his finger upon the map, tracing the road he had travelled, Glen sighed with relief. He’d made it. Now he could relax a while. It would be light in a few hours anyway. All the better for seeing if everything was all right.
Folding the map, Glen decided to take forty winks, he really was exhausted, and, he told himself, things would appear better if he rested awhile. Leaning back in his seat, Glen closed his eyes, and beneath the departing roll of thunder, Glen soon fell fast asleep.
*** *** ***
Returning from a trip into town to see his lawyer, James hurried back to the cabin to give the ‘good news’ to his wife.
Money was the be all and end all, in his book. Without it one couldn’t live, and if there was one thing he did know, it was that Kat had grown accustomed to his money.
James sneered, as he pulled up outside the cabin he had built for them some years previously. It was one of the grander cabins on the mountainside, speaking of wealth, and James wondered for the umpteenth time, if that had been the attraction of the man that had been sleeping with his wife, rather than for the beauty of his wife alone. Whatever, James was not about to give either up without a fight. Riches or glory, he intended to keep both. And if Kat could not see things his way, then she would not get a penny out of him, of that he’d made certain, all or nothing, that was his motto. She stayed with him, and shared his money, or she left him and lost everything.
Of course, the lawyer hadn’t exactly told him so, but what did Kat know anyway. She was just a woman. And what did women know about legal matters?
Nothing at all.
No, James was quite certain that he would win all round. He’d keep Kat and his money, and if by some stroke of misfortune Kat did find out that a divorce would entitle her to half his fortune, then he’d kill her first, a sinister chuckle escaped him at some long, but not forgotten memory. It wouldn’t be the first time, hadn’t his first wife mysteriously disappeared? He’d got away with it then, even though it had caused him a great deal of stress at the time, in fearing discovery.
No, loath as he was to repeat murder, because of the inconvenience it brought, James knew without a doubt, that if it came to losing his money or his wife, he chuckled again, then it would definitely have to be his wife. There was no contest. Simply, Kat would have to die.
Looking now towards the cabin, through the side window of his truck, James noted the gentle puffs of smoke coming through the chimney, and knew the signs. Kat would be preparing a meal, possibly baking.
Baking, baking, she was always damn baking!
No matter what the season, Kat was the perfect wifey. James sneered sarcastically. Really he couldn’t fault her in that way. Meals always on time, hot and filling, the bed always made, the cabin always neat and tidy, homely...homely! Huh, typical, “trust me to find the ‘perfect’ wife,” he spat, “WELL YOU JUST DON’T EXCITE ME ANYMORE!”, he yelled out towards the cabin, not in the least surprise when Kat never came to the window.
Did she ever? Did she care about anything he did anymore?
James slid from the truck, he was fed up. No matter what he did, whether he kissed her, abused her, insulted her, Kat reacted the same, just getting on with life, the same old way. She was so weak! Never reacting any differently, no matter what he did to her. Well he’d show her, this time, she had gone too far, and beatings clearly were not enough.
In his eyes, Kat had committed the unpardonable crime. Having herself an affair was something he had never even considered. After all that was a man’s prerogative, wasn’t it?
Incensed now, James strode towards the cabin, his mind filled with ugly, consuming thoughts. It had been a long time, since he’d ‘had’ Kat, he realised, and that was her fault too. She just didn’t turn him on anymore.
Kicking open the cabin door, James strode inside shouting as he entered, “Kat! Stop whatever you’re doing, and git yourself onto this bed. Its time I had what I’m entitled to woman.”
Unzipping his trousers, James turned full circle, searching the seemingly empty cabin for any sign of life. Kat was nowhere to be seen, but he noticed the stove had been stacked, and there was dough ready for rolling on the work surface, also some blackberries in a bowl, but no Kat.
“Guess you’ve gone a picking, Kat.” James spoke to the room, as he held his swollen manhood in one hand, “No matter,” James spoke softly fondling himself lazily, “the longer you take, the madder I’ll get, and then the harder it’ll come.” he grinned wickedly, his deranged mind showing definite signs of insanity. “So you take all the time you need my love,” he whispered hoarsely, his body throbbing in eager expectation growing larger as his anger increased, pleasing him no end, “Yes, Kat”, he added with glee as his eyes glazed over, “you just take all the time you need.”
*** *** ***
She had no idea how she had done it, but when Kitty wiped the last of the rain from her eyes, and could see clearly, she found, much to her delight the shadowy outline of the wrought iron gates of the estate just ahead of her.
Kitty let out a sigh of relief. From now on, the way was easy, well relatively easy in comparison to what she had just undertaken. For scrambling beneath the last of the undergrowth, Kitty had been glad to be beneath a small tree, when a huge streak of lightening contacted with the ground, scorching some grass inches from her, as another long flare had headed in the direction of the estate, and both were followed by the loudest clap of thunder she had ever heard in her entire life.
“Trees! Trees!” Kitty scolded herself, “Kitty Martyn, you know you shouldn’t be under any trees in a thunder storm.” She laughed shakily, though Kitty was certain that being beneath a tree, on this occasion, had probably just saved her life. Kitty laughed with quiet hysteria, “James probably sent the lightening strike to get me...WELL YOU MISSED!” she shouted, feeling somewhat foolish, but all the better for it. “Oh stop being so melodramatic” she chided herself, “You’re not home dry yet.”
There had been no sign of James at all, for which Kitty had been thankful, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t realised she had gone, he could be searching for her on the mountain, even as she thought it.
Now picking her way carefully down the final slope, towards the large iron gates, Kitty wondered if she should just ring the bell, or proceed to her own way of entry.
For many moments, she stood, catching her breath while she decided. Her way in, was quite a bit further yet, but to wait and hope that someone might come to the gates could take equally as long.
Her mind was made up in an instance. Far better to keep on the move. Out there, by the gates she was vulnerable, and from the mountainside, easily recognisable, especially if James should be trying to see with the aid of the binoculars. Not an easy task in the dark, she knew, but every time the clouds uncovered the moon, her surroundings became as clear as day.
Somewhere inside the large estate was Devin. Kitty felt a warmth ripple through her at the thought of him. So near and yet so far, and he had no idea she was coming to him either.
He’d be surprised, she knew that, but she hoped that he wouldn’t mind her turning up like this. He’d told her he was staying with a few members of his family too, and Kitty thought it would be nice to meet them, yet regardless what they thought of her gate crashing their get together, simply she had no other choice. She’d had to get away from James. Devin would understand that, wouldn’t he?
Kitty really hoped so, as for the first time since she had set off, she began to have doubts about descending on these people unannounced. She really hoped that they wouldn’t mind, but she had no choice. Besides she was there now. Pausing no longer, Kitty made her way silently around the large fence, towards the only way she knew of to gain entry into the estate.
*** *** ***
Disorientated and confused, Catherine struggled to stand, not knowing why she was lying on the cold grass anyway. Her head throbbed, and she could remember little. Drawing her brows together she tried to establish where she was. Central Park? Had she been going someplace and been attacked?
*** *** ***
Squinting through the sullen darkness, Catherine could make out the shapes of huge trees, telling her that she was not in Central Park, and the sound of the wind whistling through the branches carried with it another sound, a moaning. Someone was moaning. Who? Vincent?
Frowning, Catherine passed a hand across her brow, feeling as she did so, the matted hair beneath, sticky with the outpouring of blood, from the gash upon the side of her head, as she tried to piece her predicament together.
“Cathy?” the strangled moan spoke her name, “Are you all right?”
“I don’t know.” she spoke truthfully, still sleepy, and dazed. “Whose that?”
“It's Devin. Is Vincent with you?”
“Yes Vincent, did he fall too?”
“Fall?” Catherine’s heart raced. Fall? Where from? Her balcony? No!
“Yes fall from his horse.”
“His horse?” Catherine drew her brows together and winced with pain, “What horse?” she murmured, confused.
“You must have banged your head or something, don’t you remember anything?”
“Very little. Where are we? Why are you here? Where’s Vincent?”
“One question at a time Cathy. Can you stand?”
“What kind of answer is that?”
“It isn’t. Can you stand?” Devin repeated, with urgency, and Catherine noticed for the first time how pain filled Devin’s voice was, and tried to grasp hold of the situation, whatever situation that was, “Just.” she replied, reaching her feet, and holding onto something, that she thought was a tree trunk, for support.
“I’m up. Where are you?”
“Can you see?”
“Yes, at least I think so, its just this darkness. Devin, whatever happened to us?”
“I’m not rightly sure. We were riding the horses, and there was this ear-splitting noise, and the next thing I know I’m laid out here. I think I may have broken my ankle.”
“Perhaps you’ve twisted it.”
“I wouldn’t get that lucky. No, its some divine retribution to halt my globe trotting, you’ll see. All those broken promises I made to Vincent, about returning from each trip to tell him about it, now I’m being punished, and have to stay put, whether I like it or not.” Devin joked, although unable to stop his voice trailing away on a tinge of sorrow.
For a moment Catherine almost believed him, until she heard the note of humour, and smiled, she could always count on Devin to make light of a tricky situation, but knew he was indeed in great pain, if the underlying anguish in his tone was anything to go by.
Hobbling over to where she believed him to be, Catherine soon located him, or rather he located her, as he placed a hand upon her leg, halting her from stepping on him, “Can you help me up? We have to get over to the house, mend ourselves and look for Vincent. He could be anywhere, this is a big estate Cathy, though he should be around here somewhere. If we, experienced riders, could fall off, he would surely have been unable to stay mounted.”
“Not quite. You know Vincent’s energy, he’d be able to stay astride by sheer strength alone.” Catherine began to remember. Bits were starting to come back to mind. She could see the three of them galloping through the clearing, trying to get back to the house and stables before the storm hit, when a streak of fire etched the sky, and hurtled a thunderous cry above them.
Her horse had reared, and Devin’s horse had bolted straight into her mare’s back, teetering him crazily for dizzying moments, before throwing him to the ground, and Catherine had just seen Vincent’s wild eyed mare bolt forward, before she too had slipped from the back of her own.
“He could be anywhere Devin.” Catherine’s anxiety flared.
“Don’t you know? Can’t you feel him?”
“Feel him?...” Of course! The Bond! That marvellous transmitter the two of them shared. Catherine focused inwardly, drawing upon the connection to establish Vincent’s whereabouts, but try as she might there was nothing, almost as if the line were severed.
“I can’t feel him!” wide eyed, Catherine stared at Devin, who had gained an upright position with the aid of her help, and Devin shook his head, “Don’t panic, he’ll be all right, he’s not...if that’s what you mean, I’m sure of it.” Though Devin wasn’t entirely sure, the words were meant as comfort.
“No, you are right. I might not be able to connect with him, but if he were...” she paused unable to voice the word, “... I would know of that for sure. No,” she went on, “he’s alive, that I do know, but where...?” Catherine shook her head with dismay “ that I don’t know.”
“We must get to the house Cathy, I believe its this way, we’ll keep our eyes and ears open huh? Maybe we’ll come across him.”
“Maybe.” Catherine echoed absentmindedly, ‘but why couldn’t she feel him?’ What on earth would they do if he were injured, miles away from the only two people who could help him, medically speaking?
For the first time, Catherine saw Father’s point of view in all of this, and begun to wish she had paid his fears more attention.
“She’s taking her time.” James stopped his relentless pacing, and his anger ceased for just a moment, as he began to wonder what could be keeping his wife.
He went to the door, idly pushing his engorged flesh back inside his trousers, and fastening the zipper as best he could with one hand, while he picked up his jacket from where he had dropped it with the other.
Stepping outside, he scanned the area. It had grown dark since he’d arrived home, and he hadn’t realised. Turning back to the cabin, he frowned. He hadn’t noticed that Kat had lit the lamps either. She only did that when she expected to be back late, so that the light from the lamps acted as a beacon to help her find her way home.
This was most unusual though.
If Kat was in the middle of baking, and had gone to pick fruit, why had she left the lamps burning. She couldn’t pick fruit in the dark, could she? She’d never done so before.
And if she had anticipated enough to light the lamps, then she was also expecting to travel a fair distance, either up or down the mountainside. It was possible she had gone down, but he hadn’t passed her on his way home, so perhaps she had gone up instead? But why?
What could possibly be upwards?
Fruit, yes, if she had really gone out for fruit, but the lighted lamps made mockery to that idea.
James thought hard. It was a long time since he had gone further than his own cabin. Who lived up that way now?
He really hadn’t a clue.
Just then he remembered something. A few days back a chap had come to introduce himself as their new neighbour. He’d gone that way! Was that who Kat had gone to visit? In fact...James’s temper increased, ‘was that who the bitch was seeing!?”
Running now, James, yanked open the door of his truck, tossed in his jacket and slid inside, starting the engine, all in one fluid movement, “Well, if that’s where you both are, I’ll soon surprise you.” he seethed, pulling open the glove compartment, pleased to note his revolver tucked safely inside, “Now I can kill two birds with one stone...” he laughed sinisterly, “literally.”
*** *** ***
Despite their injuries, Catherine and Devin reached the house in record time, and Devin paused before going straight inside, “What is it?” Catherine asked from behind him, “Why have you stopped?”
Devin grinned wryly, “Just look at that.” He nodded indicating the sky, “Absolutely clear now, not a cloud in sight, and those stars! Why the sky is full of them.” he laughed with the irony, “Now this really is a star spangled nightmare.”
Catherine shuddered. Between them they had promised to make all of Vincent’s dreams come true, while instead, had, in effect giving him a living nightmare.
“I know what you are thinking Cathy.” Devin told her.
“You too? Did you and Vincent find some magic pool or something when you were boys, to give you both the ability?” Catherine tried to make light of things but instead was appalled to find herself crying. She hiccuped, and Devin put his arm around her shoulders, “Don’t worry Cathy we’ll find him. If nothing else, with the connection you two share, you should locate one another without a problem. Come now, let’s freshen up, and get back out there. I don’t want to alarm you further, but Star Spangles will be coming to collect the mares in a few hours.”
Catherine groaned, “Oh no, I hadn’t thought of that, surely we should just look for him now, there isn’t much of the night left is there?”
“I need to look at my ankle first.” He told her, wincing with pain.
For the first time Catherine noticed his discomfort, which up till then he had cleverly disguised from her, and told him, “You shouldn’t take off your boot Devin. Whatever it is you have done, and however much it hurts, the boot will be supporting it. You take it off, and the swelling with come up tenfold, then you will never get your boot back on until it heals, and that may take weeks.”
“Such a pessimist.” Devin tried to laugh, but found it hurt too much, “What do you suggest then. I couldn’t walk far.”
“Then you, my friend, are well and truly grounded. You will have to stay at the house. I’ll look for Vincent.”
“But you don’t know the place, you’ll get lost.”
“That’s as maybe, but Vincent...our Bond, hopefully, it will guide me. Don’t worry, you stay here, perhaps one of us should anyway, Vincent may return here. I’ll try not to be gone too long, and if I need your help, I’ll come back at once.”
“All right then Cathy, and I’ll not remove this boot until you are back, just in case you need me to come outside again.”
They hugged one another tightly, and as each said, “See you soon,” before they parted and went their separate ways.
*** *** ***
It took no time at all to reach the other cabin. James stopped just out of sight from it, but was dismayed to find that there was no vehicle parked outside. Perhaps he’d been wrong after all.
‘No harm in looking though’, he told himself, alighting from his truck, and shrugging into his jacket, before making his way quietly over to the cabin.
First off, he listened at the door, and hearing nothing, he peeped through the windows. Nothing. There didn’t appear to be anyone home.
Just in case, James knocked hard at the door. And when there was no answer, he tried the handle. It turned, and the door opened.
James was not surprised. Way up there, where thieves were few and far between, few people locked their cabins. Besides, it was an unwritten law of the mountains to leave cabins unlocked in case any lost or injured traveller needed help or a bed for the night. Although that same law, insisted that doors were always kept closed, because of bears. In view of this, James had no qualms about entering.
It was a sparsely furnished cabin, well kept, and tidy but James could see that whoever lived there, hardly had two coins to rub together.
For some reason this dismayed James. He had considered Kat to be a gold digger, and he couldn’t imagine why she should chose someone who was so obviously poor.
No, he told himself, he must have got this wrong, this guy just couldn’t be the one Kat had been seeing. He wished now, he had asked for a description from the fellow at the store who had seen the pair of them together.
James, had seen enough, and made to leave when he noticed a notepad, alongside a CB set.
Maybe that would tell him something.
Going across, James flicked through the pages. Only one thing jumped out at him, his own code for the radio back at his own cabin, and beneath it the name, ‘Kitty’. James frowned, ‘Could it be? His wife was called Katherine, but Kitty could be a abbreviation of that, couldn’t it? Kat, Kitty, yes, it made sense. Picking up the notepad, James saw something flutter from beneath the pages and drop to the floor, and he bent to pick it up. It was a newspaper cutting, and there was a message written in ink at the top of it. “Catherine to book. Ventura Estate, 11th & 12th April.”
James felt the fury rising again. So! They were together, and this piece of paper had just told him where. Ventura Estate, and he knew where that was! Dropping the notepad, James marched from the cabin, slamming the door shut behind him and headed for his truck. “No one, but no one, makes a fool out of me.” he stormed, as the engine roared into life, and sweeping the vehicle around in a large arc, James was soon speeding down the mountainside, his destination plain.
*** *** ***
The sound of a fast vehicle passing by, startled Glen awake. Rubbing his eyes, he couldn’t, for several moments remember where he was, or why he was sleeping in his van, but he soon gave chase to the vehicle.
Perhaps it was someone from the estate, perhaps there was an emergency. Well he had a mobile phone, he could help, if only he could keep up with them. Flashing his lights, he hoped the vehicle in front would slow down, but it did not, and Glen could not believe the speed they were going. ‘There’ll do themselves an injury going that fast’ he mused, trying his best to negotiate the bends and keep up at the same time, ‘obviously someone that knows the area, to risk speeds like that’ he thought.
*** *** ***
All too soon, he had lost them, the road came to a junction, and all that could be seen was a swirl of dust indicating that someone had taken one of the roads, leading off from it, but which one, he couldn’t tell. There were no tail lights visible anymore, and the dust combined with the darkness obscured everything. Glen braked, it was no use going on, clearly, whomever it was, had gone.
Checking his map again with the aid of the interior light, Glen worked out where he was, by way of the junction, and frowned. Well he’d been mistaken anyway. The vehicle was heading towards the estate not away from it, so obviously he wasn’t one of the people staying there then.
Probably a local, passing by the road that went around the estate on his way to work or something, Glen told himself, and then thought no more of it, as not many moments later a woman suddenly appeared in his headlights, a ghostly figure that loomed out from the darkness, giving Glen such a fright that he almost wet himself.
Kitty had wandered down the fence-side for the best part of an hour, and had finally found the place she searched, only to discover that someone had bricked it up. Now what? There was no other way in, and she was wet, cold and exhausted. What’s more, she couldn’t go back, even if there had been no other option, simply by now, James would have realised she wasn’t returning and would be looking for her.
Whatever she did, she had to stay off the road, and out of sight, until morning, when hopefully she might see someone through the fence of the estate and attract their attention.
Just as she was searching for somewhere dry to spend the rest of the night, Kitty heard a vehicle approaching. Glad that she was off the road, she watched with her heart in her mouth as the driver sped by, and recognised instantly the shape of the truck, and the florescent stripe down the side, knowing it to be James. Not long after another vehicle approached, slowed down and stopped. Kitty didn’t know who it was, but one thing was for certain, it wasn’t James. She needed help, and she knew that vehicles were few and far between in this area, better to seek help now, than regret not doing so later.
Carefully, making her way towards the car, Kitty jumped when by the light of the interior lamp, a man looked up at her, his face was partly shadowed giving him a menacing look, and as she heard the door open, Kitty screamed.
*** *** ***
“Hey, hey. Its all right, look don’t be afraid, I’m not going to hurt you. Are you lost?”
Kitty stopped screaming as the sound of kind words penetrated her screams, and went forwards cautiously, “Who are you?” she asked.
“And who are you?” Glen asked back, “I’m Glen.”
“My name is Kat, its short for Katherine.” Kitty frowned, why did she always feel compelled to explain that?
“Hello Kat, what are you doing out alone on a night such as this, then?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Kat whispered.
“Oh nothing, I’m looking for a way into the estate actually. My friend is staying there.”
“Yes. I need to contact him.” Kitty replied, wondering why she was telling a perfect stranger all these things.
“What’s his name?” Glen asked curious.
“His name? Why should you want to know?” Kitty was still acting cautious. The man sounded friendly enough, but then hadn’t James when she had first got to know him?
“I might know him. I was on my way to the estate too.” Glen told her.
Kitty’s heart lifted, “You were! That’s marvellous. Do you have a key to the gate?”
“No, but I have a mobile phone, and a contact number. Tell me your friend’s name, and I’ll call and see if he’s there.”
Kitty closed her eyes with relief, her legs weakening suddenly, and had to lean against the van for support, “Steady.” Glen told her taking her arm, “Here get into the van, take a seat. I’ll give you a lift somewhere if you like.”
“No!” Kitty stepped away, frightened again, “You just make the call okay?”
“Sure. Give me his name then.” the woman worried him, she clearly mistrusted him motives, but then, could he blame her? Out there alone, meeting a strange man, both of them miles from anywhere, and anyone, save for the estate and its present inhabitants.
“His name is Devin.” Kitty ventured reluctantly, at last, almost as if she were giving away trade secrets.
“Devin? Not Devin Wells?”
“You know him!?” Kitty couldn’t believe it.
“I’m here to see him too.” Glen told her overjoyed. “Look, do get into the van, its so cold out here, and you are wet, you’ll catch your death. I won’t harm you I promise. I’m not that sort of man. Here, take a look at this photo”, Glen extracted the picture from above his sunshield, “this is the wife and my kids, see, I’m just your run of the mill average fella, and I’m offering you assistance, nothing else.”
Kitty smiled, handing back the photo, “Thank you”, she sighed with relief, “Thank you so much. I am very tired.”
Glen waited while she Kitty slipped into the passenger seat, and watched him warily as he slipped in beside her into the driver’s seat. “It’s okay, relax. I’ll make that call. If I get through, do you want me to wait outside while you speak to him?”
Kitty shook her head, “no, that’s okay.” she smiled, reassuringly, “I have no secrets.”
*** *** ***
Peering anxiously out of the window, Devin had never felt so sick. His stomach felt knotted up inside, and he felt so helpless, unable to go outside to help Catherine search for Vincent at all.
When the telephone rang, Devin jumped out of his skin, it was the last sound that he expected, and he hobbled over to it as best he could, wincing with every footstep, and glad when he got to it, before the ringing stopped.
“Hello?” he enquired, snatching up the receiver.
“Devin Wells?” the caller asked.
“Yes, speaking. Who is this?”
“My name is Glen Brooks. I work for Star Spangles. I’m not far from where you are. I came out originally to warn you about the approaching storm, but it was obviously faster than I was. We tried ringing first but there was no reply. Anyway, is everything all right, did the storm affect you at all?”
Devin paused, what could he say, he didn’t want anyone coming over here, and seeing Vincent.
The pause worried Glen, “Something’s wrong isn’t it?” he asked.
“Nothing I can’t handle, you don’t have to worry.” Devin hoped he sounded convincing.
“What happened?” Glen asked.
“The horses bolted, we all took a fall, but everything is fine now. Tell star Spangles, the mares will be waiting for collection as planned.” Devin hoped the half truth would suffice.
Glen sighed with relief, “That is good news, I’ll go back then. The horse-box should be with you in a few hours, though if your ride was ruined, I am here to offer you and your friends another night free of charge.”
“We only booked the place for the one night.” Devin told him, “Thanks anyway.”
“Another night then, call us, and arrange something.”
“Okay thanks, bye then.” Devin was just about to replace the receiver when Glen stopped him, “Hold on, I have someone with me who would like to speak with you.”
Glen passed the mobile to Kitty, “Hello, Devin?” she enquired nervously.
“Yes, its me. Devin can you let me in. I really need to see you.”
Devin froze. Kitty here? Wanting to come in? No, she couldn’t. She couldn’t. But how could he say that? What would she think? And why had she come? How had she come? She couldn’t drive, had she walked all that way? His mind raced with questions.
“Devin?” Kitty queried at his silence.
“Whereabouts are you?” Devin heard himself asking, ‘maybe he could take her to the cabin in the grounds, perhaps she wouldn’t see Vincent then’, he told himself, as he heard her reply, “Somewhere along the perimeter fence. Glen Brooks will give me a lift up to the gates before he goes back, can you meet me there?”
“No, too far. I’ve hurt my ankle, twisted it I think, can’t walk far. Look drive up to the fence and shine the headlights through, that’s closer, and I’ll head towards you, and I’ll hand you the keys to the gate, then you can get in.”
“That’s great Devin. Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much I need to see you.”
“You don’t need to Kitty, I’ve missed you so much, I think I can guess.”
“I love you Devin. Take care huh?”
“I love you too, see you soon, bye now.”
Devin replaced the receiver, his mind full of doubts. If only he knew where Vincent was. Earlier he didn’t think things could get any worse, now he wasn’t so sure. *** *** ***
There was something different about the day.
*** *** ***
Usually upon waking, his chamber was filled with the soft light from one candle that had remained burning throughout the night. Today this was not so. Today, all the candles burned brightly, every single one of Rebecca’s candles in fact. Why were they all alight in his chamber? They were everywhere, not a shadow to be seen, and Vincent rubbed his eyes in astonishment. Was he still dreaming? That’s if it could be called dreaming, for he’d had the most horrendous nightmare!
He’d been riding, of all things, a horse!
Vincent couldn’t help laughter bubble forth. Him, on a horse! How Father would laugh at that! Though at first, he remembered how he had found intense pleasure from riding the horse, until from out of nowhere a storm broke, and sheet lightening had split the sky, petrifying the horse into a crazed gallop, and he had clung to its back for sheer life!
Branches had whipped at his face, he could remember the warm trickle of blood, cooling upon his skin as the wind dried it, and the terrified horse screaming with fright. He’d tried to stop it, as forced forward onto its neck, he called softly into its ear, hoping his voice would calm the frightened animal. And he thought he’d succeeded, when suddenly, for split seconds everything became still, almost as though he were treading on air, and then there was pain, intense pain, and he felt no more.
Vincent drew his brows together, trying to remember what had sparked off such a dream, but when nothing would come to mind, he shrugged, and decided he may as well get up, seek out Father, and get on with the day’s activities. Perhaps it would all come back to him while he worked.
Rubbing his eyes, he again opened them to look around his chamber. He still couldn’t understand why all the candles were lit. Maybe he had been sick, but why the candles? He couldn’t ever remember waking from one of his fevers to such intense light. Besides that, down Below, they hadn’t candles to waste.
Rolling over, Vincent made to alight from his bed, when he became aware, not of a mattress, but something springy beneath him. Cool to the touch, and slightly damp. Looking away from the glare of the lights, his eyes slowly became accustomed to his surroundings, and Vincent gasped in pure astonishment, to find not his chamber, nor his bed beneath him, but instead the scent of fresh grass, bracken and ferns.
Rubbing his eyes some more, Vincent opened them again, slower this time, what was that strange light?
Certainly not candle light, he knew that now, and though he had seldom seen it, it was not daylight either. But it was bright, intense, and blinding.
That he was above was obvious, but where was he? It couldn’t be Central Park, the scents were different, and the sound. An unusual stillness surrounded him, so unlike the city, yet there was a scampering in the grass, signifying a rodent of some kind. Yet those lights, why were they there.
Staring towards them as best he were able, he could just make out a shape beyond the lights. Vincent froze, laying back down into the long grass quickly. It was a car! A car with its headlights on full beam. Had they seen him? A growl started up in his throat, his defences rising. If only he could remember where he was, and how he had got there.
Undecided as to whether to circle the light, and see what was happening from afar, or to stay put, his mind was made up for him, when he heard someone approaching. Vincent flattened himself to the grass, listening as the person walked by, quite close. They had an unusual gait, as if they were injured, dragging a foot perhaps.
He watched, eyes squinting towards the bright headlights, as the fellow’s silhouette became apparent, and Vincent thought he recognised him.
Then with his acute hearing, he could hear the man speak, and his heart lifted. Devin! It was Devin!
Suddenly, everything came crashing in on him, the whole event, the night away, the horses, Catherine...Where was Catherine! The storm! Oh no, the storm! Vincent’s mind raced, as he turned his mind inwards, desperately seeking the connection he shared with Catherine to see if she was well, and almost leaping for joy when he felt her, anxious but un-harmed and not so far away.
In fact, he knew even before she did that she was about to speak, because she was heading in his direction, and would clearly see Devin any minute. No sooner had he expected it, did her voice ring out, “Devin, is that you?”
Kitty had never been so happy to see Devin in all the months she had known him. There he was, coming towards the car, his pain evident by the way he was limping, but coming ever closer by the minute. At first, a movement across the grounds had caught her eye, she’d been certain someone was out there, but when it had quietened down she had assumed it were a deer, and then forgot all about it, as Devin’s figure came into view.
No sooner had Devin reached the fence, and was reaching for her hands through the railings, when she heard a woman’s voice calling Devin’s name, and snatched her hands back, accusation in her eyes immediately.
Devin was with another woman! No! He wouldn’t, he wouldn’t! Kitty started to sob. Were all men the same. She’d trusted him, thought he was different, but this woman, coming closer now...Kitty’s breath caught in her throat, the woman was beautiful...Kitty gasped, how could she hope to compete with someone like that?
“Its not what you think, Kitty.” Devin had summed up the situation, “This is a friend.”
“Huh, you expect me to believe that?” Kitty’s voice broke, “I trusted you Devin, I trusted you...” she sobbed harder, burying her face against Glen’s shoulder as he got out of his car to see why she was so distressed.
“No!” Devin shouted, “You’ve got it wrong. Kitty! This is Catherine Chandler. Catherine is here with my brother. Believe me Kitty, I love only you.”
Catherine smiled, Devin in love? Well, that was a surprise. But this woman, why had she turned up here, and now of all times? And who was the guy with the car?
Reaching Devin’s side, Catherine touched his arm, “Care to fill me in?” she enquired, with an eyebrow raised.
“This is Kitty.” Devin answered.
“That, I’d gathered.” Catherine grinned.
“Kitty is coming inside.”
“In here?” Panic filled Catherine. “Into the estate?”
Devin nodded, and Catherine noticed the nervousness in his eyes.
“I’ve not found him yet.” Catherine whispered, “its too risky.”
“I know, but Kitty needs help too. I’ve got to let her in Cath, something is wrong, she wouldn’t have come here otherwise.”
Catherine took Devin’s arm, helping him to walk a few yards out of ear-shot. “What’s the problem?” she asked.
“I don’t know yet. But Kitty’s husband is a maniac, I think she has run away from him or something, and came to find me.”
“Her husband?” Catherine queried.
“Yeah, don’t look so shocked. He don’t deserve her. She is warm and caring, he is a bully and a monster. I love her Cath.” He added, as if that would make everything right. “Say she can come in, please.”
Catherine nodded, “I could help her too. If she needs protection, a way to get her husband off her back, would she speak to me?”
“Maybe, but not tonight. Right now, I want to take her to the cabin, let her talk, be with her. I’m worried about Vincent though.”
“He’s okay, don’t worry.” Catherine smiled reassuringly.
“I thought you said, you hadn’t found him?” Devin was confused.
“I haven’t, but he’s okay, and he’s close, I’ve just felt him send his love through our Bond.”
Devin let out a long sigh of relief, “Thank God for that. So Kitty can come in?”
“Just keep her out of sight and away from the house, that’s all Devin. We’ll have to think of something in the morning though, or Vincent won’t be able to go outside as planned.”
Devin nodded, “Don’t worry, I’m sure we can think of something to keep us occupied.” he grinned, making Catherine’s smile deepen, “In the meantime, if you could just assist me to the gates, I’d really appreciate it.”
Catherine agreed, helping Devin back to the railings first to pass Kitty the keys, and while they talked she made her way to where she detected Vincent to be.
“Vincent?” she whispered.
“Yes. Whose with Devin?”
“I’ll explain later. Stay here Vincent, I’ll be back soon, I just have to help Devin to the gates, he’s twisted his ankle. Will you be all right?”
“Yes. Take care, Catherine.”
“I will. Don’t worry. I won’t be long.”
*** *** ***
Driving recklessly, James swung the car around. ‘If Kat had gone this way’, he reasoned, ‘I would have spotted her by now’.
Bringing the car to a sudden, screeching halt, James thrummed the steering wheel with his fingertips, peering out through the windscreen, looking for any movement that couldn’t be the wind. It was difficult. The storm, though long gone, had left turmoil in its wake, trees creaked in the slightest breath of the wind, and there was something eerie about the night. Something almost sinister, James couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but turning off the engine, and winding down his window, he listened intently. Yes, that was it, everything was so still, so quiet, as if it awaited something.
Not a creature stirred. That’s what it was! Of course, even after so much rain, his headlights would have picked out a myriad of moths dancing on the beam, but this time there was nothing, not a moth in sight.
James opened the door, and got out of the car. Even the air felt ominous, if that was the right word for it, and James frowned. He’d experienced something like this before, but where? When?
Racking his brains, he tried to remember, when as suddenly as the stillness enfolded him, it was snatched away, as the tail of the almighty thundered in, bringing with it a trail of destruction. James reached for the handle of his car, fear rippling through him, as the car moved out of reach, his body sucked, and whipped back and forth, crashing between metal and something ferocious that had no substance.
With all his might, James fought against its mighty grip, and reached hold of the handle, wrenching the door open just wide enough to slither inside. He sat panting for breath for several seconds, aware that the treacherous wind buffeted his car sideways even off the road.
Suddenly James knew, he should have known, should never have forgotten, but it had been buried long ago, the experience, the horrible, nauseating experience of his family losing everything that they’d owned to the spiralling twister that picked up and carried away everything in its wake.
Turning on the ignition, James put the car into first, second, third, forth, fifth gear as fast as the mechanics of it would allow, speeding forwards, trying to outrun the approaching twister, hoping to find some shelter at least, where he would be safe.
His first and foremost thought was the estate, there had to be somewhere there, somewhere he could hide. The building was sturdy, hundreds of years old, so because of its age, it would have a large basement, and he would be safe there, he knew it.
As his memory came to life, he was as a child again, the fear knotting his stomach at the remembrance. His mother’s screams, the crying of his sister, his father trying to protect his family, shielding them with his body, even though the bunker was reasonably sound. And then the horror, as the departing twister revealed the calamity that was once their farm. There was nothing, simply nothing, even the debris of the collapsed buildings had gone. Nothing but wind tousled grass for miles upon miles, and not a building or a fence in sight.
He’d only have been a toddler, no wonder his mind had shut the experience away, thankfully it had afforded him the peace he would otherwise have lost had the memory of stayed with him.
Reaching the perimeter fence at last, James stopped the car. The gates he knew, would be locked, and the vertical railings would be difficult to climb. Here, some of the railings were criss-crossed with horizontal bars, James didn’t really know why, perhaps at one time this section of fencing had broken, and this different type of fencing was the only sort available in an emergency. All he knew, as he started to climb, was, that if he had to make a choice between the barbed spikes at the top of the fence and the oncoming twister, then simply, there was no contest.
Besides Kat might be in there somewhere, by now, he told himself, as an afterthought.
Placing each hand between the spikes, James carefully manoeuvred his body to straddle the spikes, mindfully bringing his body over, trailing his legs behind, and bit by bit, sliding himself head first down the bars on the other side. Heart in his mouth, he found himself suspended for mere seconds that appeared hours as sweat broke out on his brow, and his boots became wedged, so that he could go neither up nor down. To yank hard, and pull off the boots, he would force his body down faster than anticipated, maybe cracking his skull on the hard ground beneath, but once again, the thought of the chasing wind, which was already beginning to suck and pull at his clothing, was enough to make him take the risk.
Wiggling his feet this way and that, James loosened his boots, and then with a mighty pull on his arms he slid further down the bars for mere seconds, his legs somersaulting over his back, and James screamed as his spine was bent almost inside out. He let go of the bars at the same moment, allowing his body to flatten, but in so doing, his head came down with a resounding crack against the hard concrete path that ran the length of the perimeter fence.
Holding his throbbing head in his hands, James scrambled to his feet. There was no time for delaying, the twister was hot on his heels, and James ran dazed and disorientated towards the big house.
*** *** ***
Standing alongside Devin, Kitty and Catherine, Glen was undecided as the wind made its intentions obvious, he wanted to go home, he really did, but would he make it home safely?
“Perhaps I could stay here?” he ventured, unsure.
Catherine looked at Devin, and Glen noticed the hesitation to agree, “I don’t want to sit out here in my car, nor attempt the road.” he told them, hoping to sway their obvious reluctance, “I’ll not be any bother. Its a big house, I’m sure I could find some lonely wing some place, where I’ll be out of your way.”
Catherine nodded reluctantly, what else could they do? Everything was going horribly wrong, and they hadn’t even found the horses yet.
“Yes” Devin backed her up, “Come in, you’re right, it is a big house, there will be plenty of room, but we should hurry, do you want to bring your car inside, you could drive us up to the house, it’ll save the leg if nothing else.”
Glen smiled, “Of course, climb in.” he opened the door for Devin and Kitty, expecting Catherine to follow, surprised when she refrained, “No, I’ve just remembered, there’s something I must do, I’ll meet you back at the house,” and before anyone had the chance to argue, Catherine had melted into the shadows.
*** *** ***
Aware that an ill wind was blowing, Vincent was undecided about his hiding place. Catherine had said she would return, and he could, in fact, feel that she was getting closer, but she was decidedly uneasy about something, and Vincent rose to lounge against a tree, scanning the area with his unusual ability of hearing, seeing and smelling over large distances.
From the left he could feel Catherine’s approach, from the right he could hear the gathering wind tossing and twisting everything in its path, and from the centre, straight ahead, he could hear someone’s approach. It wasn’t Devin, he knew Devin walked with a limp right now, plus another sound in the distance was that of an engine. If Devin was out of action, and Catherine was walking towards him, who was driving the vehicle, was it one of the two people he’d seen earlier with the car? And if so, why were they coming inside?
Keeping out of sight, Vincent waited anxiously, his senses heightened by the fact that Catherine and the intruder were making their way unknowingly, towards one another, and that the wind was growing at frightening proportions, and gaining momentum!
*** *** ***
James stilled himself to listen. Someone was coming. Though his head still throbbed, and the wind howled behind him, clearly he could hear that the sound of crunching footsteps upon the gravel drive leading up to the house and around the grounds, exceeded the pounding in his head and the noise from the wind.. Peering from behind a tree, James watched the approach of the person. It wasn’t easy to see, and with the wind bending the shrubbery this way and that, James could not get a clear view, but from out of the sound of the howling wind, a voice broke forth, a female voice!
James gasped, it didn’t sound like Kat, but then the wind whipped away her voice the moment it was borne and besides, what other woman would be there? James felt the hope and the fury rise up inside him like a tidal wave. She was calling to someone, asking where they were, someone called Vincent.
Blind rage filled James, and too late, James remembered his gun, left behind in his car in his hurry to flee from the wind, yet there she was, right before him, and he wouldn’t get another chance as good, and with the approach of the twister, things couldn’t be more perfect, the body would get taken by the tornado, and if ever found, it would be presumed that the twister had broken her neck. Heat fused James’s body, an erotic sensation that he associated with only two things, sex and murder. Both fuelled his body to a height that he could not resist, and, he sneered, now that he could have both, one after the other, and as the footsteps came ever closer James held his breath.
*** *** ***
Catherine hesitated, the Bond telling her that Vincent was apprehensive about something, and Catherine reacted with caution.
The wind was howling now, and very frightening, and Catherine knew that she was in a perilous situation, but Vincent was close, and this, lessened the fear a little.
Her instincts heightened, Catherine stopped walking, holding onto a tree for support, as the winds of the incoming twister buffeted her body this way and that, and listened intently. Other than being on the fringes of the twister, what else was it that Vincent was so afraid of?
Was someone there?
It had to be that.
Though she could neither, see, hear or sense another person, it could only be that, which so frightened Vincent. But who? With Devin, Glen and Kitty up at the house, who else would be there?
Then Catherine thought back to something Kitty had told Devin, her husband, yes that was right, her husband would come looking for her, but she would be safe at the house, he wouldn’t know to look for her there. But suppose he did, suppose he had seen her enter? Was he really as dangerous as Kitty had implied? And if so, were she in any danger from him also?
Vincent felt her fear, felt the churning, stomach knotting sensation climb to her throat, rendering her speechless, and softly he called to her, infusing through their connection at the same time, all of his love.
James heard the anxious warning, ‘Catherine’ the name was ‘Katherine’, James was overjoyed, it was her! It was really her, but he’d have to be quick, he’d have to be fast, no time now for rape, he’d have to strangle her quickly before this Vincent had a chance to reach them. James was jubilant, at least she was closer to him, than the other guy, this Vincent guy, and in this howling wind he would not hear her death throes. By the time he found her, it would be too late, and he, James would be long gone.
Everything seemed to come together at once, James, Catherine, the strengthening wind, as Catherine fought away the whipping leaves from her face, the wet from the hail that had disintegrated somewhere over the mountains, in the pitch darkness she felt an hand touching her head, pulling her hair, pulling her backwards, and as another hand clamped over her mouth, a menacing voice sounded in her ear, “Got you, you bitch. Now I’ll teach you for betraying me.”
Catherine could not scream, the hand that held her, pulled her tighter against a hard body, hard as steel, while the long fingers of the other hand grasped her throat, stifling the breath from her. But Catherine screamed, she screamed in her heart, through her mind, through the connection, the bond she shared with Vincent, and suddenly James felt an erotic sensation of another kind, one which seared his back, sending his legs into jellied spasms, as the heat from his blood pounded through the open wound exposing his spine.
“What the...” James spluttered, trying to turn around to see.
As suddenly the whole night was filled with a terrible sound, the deathly, churning, ear-splitting savagery of a ferocious animal. For split seconds, James’s whole life ran before him, like some deliciously slow tapestry passing before his eyes, a whole life time of events mapped out in front of him, and James fought hard against its pull. No!
He would not let it kill him whatever it was. He was strong, stronger than any wild animal, even when that wild animal did sound like a lion. James fought back, unwilling to die, and yet even as the glint of fangs and blood soaked claws reached out to strike him yet again, James felt his body transcend time, being pulled up and away, out beneath that horrific nightmare, sucked beyond the pain he knew, into another more deadly than that.
With bloodied hands, Vincent reached for Catherine, who had stood speechless with shock and fear, and he tried to grasp hold of her just before he too, felt himself spiralled away from the earth, leaving Catherine far behind.
The phenomenon was mind blowing. Vincent had never felt anything like it, nothing to compare it with at any rate, and he moved too fast to give thought to it anyway.
All he knew, was the thunderous sound in his ears, his mane spinning around and around his head, his clothes twisted tightly upon his limbs, ripping to shreds in places, as the ferocity of the twister strangled his entire body, attempting to wring the very life from him.
*** *** ***
At the time, Catherine could not have explained it had she of wanted to do. However, an hour later, after several whisky’s, something she rarely drank, she was able to tell a concerned Devin and Kitty just what had happened.
Still holding a glass of amber liquid in her hands, Catherine searched their faces, wide eyed, willing them to understand, “It was awful” she ventured at last, “there was this man, he called me a bitch...he tried to kill me...but then, then,” Catherine sobbed at this point, her head bent, her hands leaving the glass propped between her knees to use them to cover her face, until she lifted her head again to whisper, “Where is he Devin?”
“Who” Devin asked, shooting Kitty a look that made her uncomfortable. “If you’d like to talk in private, “ she asked, “I could leave the room.”
“No.” Catherine was aware of her unease, Kitty still didn’t quite believe that Devin and she were nothing more than friends, “Its not necessary. I’m talking about my partner, Vincent, he saved my life out there, from that man, but the wind...the wind...it...” Catherine buried her face into her hands again, trying to shut out the image.
“What happened Cath, go on.” Devin prompted gently.
“It sucked him away.” her voice high pitched, disbelieving, filled Devin with dread.
“Its a twister Cath, you did know that didn’t you?” Devin told her.
Catherine nodded, “Yes, I realise that now, but at the time, no, it came on so sudden. It was very windy, but then suddenly...Devin, I’ve never felt anything like it! Oh Devin...what if he’s...”
“No.” Devin refused to believe that, “Besides you’d know for sure wouldn’t you?”
“I’m afraid to search.” Catherine answered weakly. Every time she had attempted to reach Vincent, on the way to the house, there had been nothing but a swirling sensation of feelings that had no element.
Kitty looked from one to the other of them, The woman must be delirious, she made no sense, yet, Devin seemed to understand her. He never batted an eyelid at the strange content of words, passing from one to the other of them.
“I’ll think I’ll go and see how Glen is.” Kitty started to rise from her seat, as Devin stopped her, “No wait, Kitty, there’s something more here, Cathy, can you describe this guy that attacked you?”
Kitty sat back down, searching Catherine’s face for clues, almost as if she believed she could see straight inside her mind. Kitty’s heart started to hammer painfully, surely Devin didn’t think it was...Oh God no, surely James hadn’t found his way into the grounds.
“I couldn’t see him. Vincent became aware of him first. I felt his apprehension, I was wary, but it wasn’t until Vincent called my name that the man struck me.”
“Your name?” Kitty’s voice rose an octave, “Its the same as mine, but with a C.” Her eyes wide with fear, both she and Devin turned to face one another, “Its him, Devin, its James, its got to be. It was clearly a case of mistaken identity, James truly believed that this Catherine was me out there.”
Devin nodded, “Yes,” he told her, “It does seem that way.” Before turning back to Catherine and asking, “Do you know what happened to the fellow Cathy?”
“Vincent struck him, and then the wind took him, moments before it took Vincent as well.” her head was clearer now, now this murderer had a name, “James is your husband?” Catherine enquired, as Kitty nodded. “Its possible that he’s dead.” Catherine told her, “Vincent hit him rather hard.” she was not about to go into details, that Vincent hit the man would be good enough for Kitty.
“I wouldn’t get that lucky.” Kitty whispered, with tears be-dimming her eyes, and falling quickly down her cheeks, “Oh Devin, will I never be free of him?”
“Catherine here, works for the D.A’s office, if anyone can help you, she can Kitty. Look don’t worry, whatever happens, I promise you, James will never hurt you again.” Devin drew Kitty into his arms, “But until we know where he is, you keep close to me, Glen can look after himself, he knows where the kitchen is, the bathroom, bedroom etceteras, he’ll be okay.”
Kitty held Devin tightly, looked on by Catherine, wishing she could be in Vincent’s arms that way. The thought, brought forth a fresh flood of tears. “I have to find him Devin, Vincent I mean, and you can’t go far with that ankle, but I don’t want to be out there with that crazy guy, perhaps Glen could go with me?”
“Do you think that’s wise Cath.?”
“No, but then what else can I do?”
Devin nodded, “I see your point, but Cath, we made Father a promise too, and its not as if you aren’t experienced in this kind of stuff. Now that you know what you could be walking into, I’m certain you will manage alone.”
Catherine agreed, nodding slowly, thoughtfully, “All right, but listen out for me, promise. If you hear me scream, you’ll do something?”
“I will, you can count on it, damn this foot Cath, if I could walk I’d go with you.”
“Yes, I know that Devin, but Kitty needs you here. Don’t worry, if nothing else,” Catherine attempted a shaky laugh, “all those whisky’s will have given me Dutch courage.”
*** *** ***
The almighty gathered momentum, speeding out across the estate, encompassing half the area in its wake, and collected everything within itself, uprooting trees, centuries old, buildings made from timber, vehicles and gravel upon the drive, its hungry unrelenting appetite knowing no bounds, swallowing everything in its path.
The first thing that Catherine heard as she attempted to tug open the heavy door was the whizzing sound of a ricochet, and then another and another. “Gunshot?” Catherine queried, yet it didn’t sound like gunshot, more like something held taught and released, a high pitched pinging sound, that whistled through the thunderous sound of the raging wind. Closing the door again, Catherine knew that she could not go outside just yet. And suddenly, as never before the enormity of the whole thing caved in on her, and she slid down the great oak door to the cold tiled floor below, reliving everything in her mind.
How she had stumbled home she did not know. One moment, Vincent was reaching for her and the next he was swept away, up out of her grasp, his tortured cries of shock and horror echoing her own. The darkness and the wind had sucked at her too, but she had thrown herself to the ground, out of its magnetic vice, and in seconds it had passed by her. It was just misfortune that Vincent had been standing nearer the fringes of the twister and had been caught up within it, yet Catherine wished in many respects that she had been able to go with him.
What terrified her the most, was not the fact that Vincent had been taken up into the whirlpool of wind, but that at some stage it would release him from its mighty grip, and he would fall feet or miles to the earth, and there was no telling where he would land!
Leaving her place on the floor, Catherine walked to the window, and gasped! That day when she had brought Father there, she had stood at this self same window, and been dismayed to see nothing but the courtyard and trees, no view of the estate beyond at all through their density, and now, the sky heralding dawn streaked its brilliant hues of red and gold through an almost open void. Where once had stood the old oak trees, now the twister had ripped apart the ground, and huge gaping holes were the only mark left of the tree that had once stood there, its snapped and fleshy roots exposed to the oncoming light. If such an evil wind could rip apart such a robust tree, what chance did her beloved Vincent have?
Tears palpitated her throat, and Catherine forced them back, she needed to know, she had to know...gingerly, opening the bond, she searched for him. There was nothing. The cold truth leapt at her like a viper, and Catherine felt her heart stop before beating frantically again.
Wherever he was, she had to find him. Tugging open the door again, Catherine noted with relief that everything was quiet, deathly so, the twister had passed over, ‘like an angel of death’, she shuddered, why had she thought that? Her footsteps hurrying, she exited the courtyard, at least with the coming of dawn she was able to see now, at least that was something in her favour.
From his vantage point at the drawing room window, Devin watched her go, with his fingers crossed. He wished he could go with her. Kitty had wanted him to call the police, but thankfully, the phone lines were dead. At least it afforded him a reason for not involving the law.
When Catherine was out of sight, Devin rested his forehead against the cool glass of the window, and casting his eyes heavenwards, he prayed, as he had never prayed before, ‘Please let Vincent be alive’, and as he did so, he noted with raw irony, the sky, star filled, twinkling in the remnants of a night sky, and told himself, “Well Devin, you did it, you certainly did it, for if nothing else, this certainly is a star spangled nightmare.” And he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Eight - click on 'Next' below:
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