While on a trip home to visit his family Devin goes missing. An advertisement to his disappearance makes the tunnel folk assume he has just gone awandering. However, curious of the person that placed the advert Catherine sets off for South Africa where Devin was last seen.
Later in the chamber he shared with Catherine, Vincent and Beth settled down to some serious talking.*** *** ***
Beth told him, “I don’t want to cause you any stress Vincent. This may be hard for you, but I do believe that you need this. Tell me has no-one ever allowed you to tell about how you really feel before?”
“Sometimes, when we were young, Devin would ask. But Father severely punished him if ever he overheard anything.”
“How did it make you feel, being able to talk about it?”
“Good. Relieved to know that someone wanted to hear about the real me.”
Beth nodded, “Do you still consider it that way?”
“How do you mean?”
“You spoke of the other side of your nature being the real you. Which way do you have a leaning to, human or non human?”
Vincent pondered her question, “I like to think I am human, especially since Catherine came into my life.”
“But if you had not been found and brought here, and had not met Catherine, how do you think you would have leaned then?”
“It is something I have often asked myself.”
“I don’t want to even think about it.”
“Then you have a leaning towards the lion do you not?”
Vincent gasped, and without thinking his lip curled back and vibrated with sound.
Beth’s eyes opened wide. “On the defensive aren’t we, did that remark hurt?”
Vincent was mortified, “I’m sorry,” he stood up towering above her, and told her she should leave, his voice shuddered with the beginnings of a roar, and Beth smiled, “Sit down Vincent, I’m not going any where. Do you think I’m afraid of you?” She laughed, “Vincent, let me show you something.” Pulling up her jersey to her bare midriff, she exposed a huge scar that ran its length around her body, “Devin isn’t the only one with scars from claws, unfortunately for me, I also remember the jaws and the teeth around my body.” She lowered her jersey again, watching as Vincent slowly sat back down. And saw him shudder.
“I don’t wish to antagonise you honey,” Beth told him, letting the endearment slip of her tongue as a way to pacify him. It worked, Vincent felt a huge wave of peace wash over him, and waited for her next remark, his blue eyes bright and eager.
“You are quite something you know that?” Beth told him, “But you don’t have to show menace with me Vincent, I’m not your enemy, just because I speak frankly. You have got to learn to lighten up a little, let yourself go.”
“If I let myself go, I’d kill you.” Vincent told her his voice trembling.
“Really. Do you want to kill me, are you hungry?”
Vincent drew his brows together. “No, I’m not hungry.”
“Then why should you wish to kill. Do you enjoy killing?”
“Then you would not kill me, only maybe if you were hungry.”
Vincent stared at her, and Beth went on, “Vincent, lions only kill to eat, okay some kill for killings sake, but very few, and then usually only if something has upset them. Do I upset you Vincent?”
Beth laughed, her voice shaking just slightly, and Vincent’s eyes shone with a sudden malice.
“My” Beth told him, “You do need help.”
Beth hesitated, she knew he needed calming, and suddenly she wondered if she was out of her depth. How well did she know him anyway?
Vincent’s eyes, now mere slits continued to watch her every movement, and he seemed to have altered, so Beth suddenly asked him, “Tell me about this Bond that you share with Catherine, is it only applicable to her, or has it worked with others?”
Vincent relaxed at once, and Beth saw her trump card. Mention of Catherine tamed the beast.
Regaining his composure, Vincent’s eyes softened, becoming remarkably blue and intense again, “Only with Catherine has it ever existed.”
“That’s interesting. In the wild Vincent, the male lion has several lionesses at his disposal. Do you ever feel the need to love others as well as Catherine?” careful Beth she told herself, as his eyes glazed over again with fury.
“No!” Vincent rose and roared out the word, and Beth rose with him, challenging him her eyes never leaving his.
Together their eyes locked, and Vincent felt a fury rising within him like a tidal wave, and he felt his hands clench and unclench, his teeth chatter, and his nostrils flare. His breathing grew rapid, as he continued to stare at her, his eyes fixed with hers, blue fire against blue fire. Beth knew what she was on with. One never backed down at this stage, one held their own, challenged the other, waited, watched, showed no fear.
One of them would win, and the other would lose, but it would not end in bloodshed. One of them would turn away, thus showing they did not want to fight, and the other would be the victor without so much as raising a claw.
Suddenly Vincent looked away, turned and walked away from her. Beth felt a ripple of excitement run through her, she had tamed the beast, and so easily too. Vincent swung around to face her, saw her smile, and flopped himself down into the nearest chair in sudden weakness.
“What did you just do?” he whispered, “I feel reborn.” he was amazed, he had never felt more human than he did at that moment.
Beth sat down again, “You really don’t know?”
“No.” Vincent shook his head, “It was almost as if I wasn’t here. What happened?”
“That’s amazing. You don’t remember?”
“Well yes I remember, but its like it wasn’t me, as if I was standing back watching someone else. You were very brave.”
“I am amazed how easily the lion came through. It took such little effort on your part. Is he always so near the surface?”
“Yes. But I don’t feel as though he is right now, and that’s most unusual. Usually it takes constant effort just to keep him down, he is always just near the surface.”
“He hasn’t gone Vincent, but he didn’t want to fight with me. A lot of people could help you with him, if they knew how. I almost wish the others could have seen that, to know what to do.”
“You challenged him didn’t you?”
“Yes, and I won. You can rest assured Vincent that no matter what threats your mouth may utter, you will not harm me ever, not now. Now I rule over you.”
Vincent shuddered, feeling something he couldn’t fathom, almost silly.
Beth continued, “This lion side of you Vincent, it’s on the defensive because it is so little understood. It seeks freedom because it is a part of you, forever suppressed, and it needs expressing. If you were to only accept that, and allow it freedom along with the human side, you would find yourself gaining much more peace within your soul,
and find that the lion would not jump up ready to attack at the slightest provocation. I still can’t believe how easily he came up, he takes offence far too easily. And I fear that your human side uses him as a defence mechanism, more than you care to admit.”
“Sometimes,” Vincent told her, whispering low, “I fear that I will hurt Catherine.”
“Do you still feel that you will hurt me?”
Vincent shook his head, “No. Not you, but I love Catherine, why should I want to hurt her.”
“I don’t think its hurt that you want to cause her, Vincent. I think its dominance. I take it Catherine has never challenged you?”
“As you have just done, no. Catherine has been made to believe not to summon the beast.”
“Then I must alter that. I’ll show her what to do.”
“I don’t think I would want to take the risk.”
“But you must. What would Catherine do, if you tried to strike her?”
“I don’t even want to think about it.”
Beth nodded, “Obviously you love her very much, I don’t think you would hurt her, and the fact that you reacted very badly to the suggestion that you might desire others as well as Catherine, shows that here the human element over-rides, bringing fidelity into it. A lion would definitely seek more than one mate, no matter what, and love would never come up.” Beth sighed, “Vincent, I think we have covered enough for today, do you agree. But there are some things I’d like you to do, for a few days for I’m certain you haven’t already.”
“And that is.” Vincent regarded her with some trepidation.
“Just read Vincent, nothing more strenuous than that. I take it you do read?”
“Oh yes, I love to read.”
“Then I shall ask Catherine to get some important books for you.”
“First I want you to read Born Free, and then I shall hope you will read all the books about lions that you can lay your hands on, until we speak again. You need to know about your other self honey, and you need to move backwards before you can move forwards.”
Vincent shook his head, not with denial, but with gratitude, “Thank you Beth.” he told her, “In all my life, apart from a few words with Devin, no one has taken such an interest in how I feel, or dared to know. I have enjoyed this chat, even though it could have been a disaster, you are one remarkable woman.”
“It’s been a pleasure Vincent, we can help each other huh? Vincent you were created for a reason, and I feel honoured to be given insight like this. It’s almost as if the lion has been given voice, and I can learn so much from you that will help me when I return to Mombassa. I wish you could come back with me, now that would be interesting to see.”
Vincent laughed, “I am more than happy here, just as long as I have Catherine, and our children. Once I dreamed of seeing the world. Now it doesn’t seem so important.”
Beth nodded, “Well then I’ll get you those books, and we’ll resume this in a couple of days. Thank you Vincent, it’s been...educational.”
“Yes,” Vincent told her, “It has.”
The following day Beth was almost reluctant when Catherine suggested they go to see the police taking with them her recent photograph of Devin. Not that she didn’t want Devin found yet, of course she did, but Vincent was such an interest to her, and she found it almost impossible to tear herself away.
Catherine laughed at her, “I know how you feel Beth, but for entirely different reasons.”
They walked along through the city streets, deep in conversation, and Beth ventured to ask, “When you and Vincent make love does any of his bestial side come through?”
Catherine stopped dead, turned and faced Beth, a smile began to tease her lips, and her eyes shone with humour, “Beth.” she laughed, “I’ve never met anyone quite like you before. You certainly aren’t backwards at coming forwards are you?”
Beth laughed, “Well,” she told Catherine, “Are you going to answer the question or not?”
“I don’t know if I should tell you anything at all, is this more to do with your research, or mild curiosity?”
“A bit of both I suppose.”
Catherine pondered the question, finally answering, “There are times when Vincent is so very content that he purrs, and when he is in a rage he roars.”
“Really! now that is interesting. And does he ever bite your neck and hold on to it, when he is about to orgasm.”
Catherine stared wide-eyed at Beth, “I am not answering that!” Her eyes darted all around, hoping no one had overheard.
“It’s a simple enough question Catherine.”
“Maybe, but not in the middle of the street Beth.”
“So you’d tell me if we went to your apartment?”
“Perhaps.” Catherine could not believe she was even having this conversation. “What exactly are you trying to establish here?”
“I want to know what makes Vincent tick, and I’d like to see you challenge the beast.”
“Vincent told me about that.”
“He did? I didn’t expect that he would.”
“Well he did, in fact he was coming out with the most craziest of things all night long.” Catherine told her, “Whatever did you do to him?”
Beth laughed, “Was it for the better or the worse?”
Catherine didn’t need long to answer, “He was remarkably different, kinder somehow, if that’s possible, more sure of himself, less reserved. The Vincent I know always seems to be a taut bow, but last evening he seemed more relaxed, and in control without having to make the effort.”
Beth nodded, “Then that’s good isn’t it?”
They reached the police department, and climbed the steps, Catherine warned, “No funny questions in here, they’ll lock us up.” to which Beth told her, “As if I would.”
Having placed the missing person’s report, the pair of them walked back along the boulevard, towards the nearest bookshop. Beth had already explained which books she wanted Vincent to read and why.
“Its years since I read Born Free.” Catherine told her, “Why do you think it is a good book for Vincent to read?”
“Basically because it’s one of the few that show the remarkable bond between humans and lions. Such a relationship shouldn’t be antagonistic Catherine. One should not be at constant war with the other. I am hoping Vincent will be able to establish that having both within, he should be at peace with himself, not having to play one against the other. He also needs, as a man, to challenge the lion, much the same as I did yesterday, because in the wild one male lion is a leader and the other is a follower, and when humans are involved, the lion just sees them as another lion. Once Vincent has over-ruled his bestial side, and won, he won’t have such a fight against himself in future. As it is I believe right now, no matter what any of you have established, the lion definitely has the upper hand.”
“No I don’t think so, you don’t know Vincent as I do.” Catherine told her.
“Maybe not, but I know lions Catherine, and I tell you this side of Vincent is very much the dominant one. And he easily takes offence. That’s not a bad thing, but he is a badly brought up lion, knows no manners, and needs to be taught discipline, I’m afraid as much as Father believed he was doing right, by suppressing the beast, he has done lasting damage. Its going to take a great deal of courage on your part to tame the beast Catherine and you mustn’t prevent Vincent from speaking of it. That’s the worst part really for him, being around people who believe they know what’s best for him, and him never being allowed to express his true self. He can’t help what he is Catherine, and someone needs to allow him to be what he needs to be from time to time.”
“Often Vincent tells me that the beast could kill me, it’s a fear he lives with constantly.”
“And so he could. How do you answer when Vincent tells you this?”
“I tell him that he would never hurt me.”
Beth nodded, “You see even you who loves him, denies what he is. Catherine when Vincent tells you these things, it is a cry for help, for understanding. Instead of denying what he tells you, you should listen to him, let him talk about how he feels, why he feels that way. In fact I would say that such a statement is in effect on the path of a challenge, rather than speaking to him, you should stand your ground and challenge him, let him see you have no fear. Let actions speak louder than words. Words knock him down, make him frustrated because no one understands how he feels. And words belong to the human element. How he must despair at not being able to make even you understand his own make-up.”
“I’ve never even looked at it like that before. Whenever he goes along that pathway, I try desperately to reach out and bring back the gentle Vincent. It always works.”
“Yes but at what price Catherine. Again the beast is knocked back, left to try again another day. It can’t go on Catherine, one day that beast is going to gain such control, that no one, not even you will be able to stop him. Its really only a question of time believe me.”
Catherine shuddered, she already had experience of that, and she’d hate to have it happen again. Vincent had almost died the last time.
They purchased the books that Beth recommended, and exited the store, it was lunchtime, and Catherine suggested they stop off at a diner for something to eat, telling Beth she knew just the right place.
“Have you lived around New York all your life?” Beth asked.
“Most of it. My father had his business here, and then I went to work for him for a while, before I ventured out on my own, and oh!”
“What is it?”
“There’s Joe, my ex-boss, come on, let’s go over and thank him for backing me up with the airport official in Mombassa.”
As they approached, Joe looked up, his face wreathed in smiles when he saw Catherine, “Cathy!” he cried, then a boyish smile lit his eyes as he told her, “And what the hell were you doing, you old fraud, in Mombassa?”
“Thanks Joe,” Catherine told him warmly, “I owe you one.”
“Who’s your friend?” Joe nodded in Beth’s direction.
“Joe meet Beth, my sister-in-law.” Catherine’s face lit up at the sight of Joe’s expression.
“Your sister-in-law. Well this is a privilege. I’ve yet to meet any of Catherine’s family. So Beth are you Vincent’s sister or what?”
“You’ve never met Vincent?” Beth queried.
“Who has?” Joe laughed and Beth catching sight of Catherine’s face, laughed along with him.
“Well I have,” she told him, “But no, he’s not my brother. I’m married to Vincent’s brother.”
“Vincent has a brother, and does he live in this commune thing too?” Joe winked at Catherine, he’d never believed that story
“No, Devin and I live in Mombassa, we’re just visiting.”
“So the help you needed was for Beth?” Joe turned to ask Catherine, who smiled as she told him, “Yes Joe, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you what it was for. You will just have to trust me.”
“Huh” he told her, “And how many times have I heard that one?” Joe looked at his watch, “Well Cathy, I hate to love you and leave you, but I’ve gotta go, got someone to see, you know how it is?” he made to rise, pushing back his seat, “Nice to have met you Beth, say hello to Vincent for me will you? Tell him it would be nice to meet him someday. I don’t believe Catherine has any intention of ever letting me meet the guy. For reasons best known to herself of course.” He winked at Catherine, and she laughed.
“I’ll tell him Joe, and it was nice to meet you too. Thanks also for covering up for Catherine when we were in Mombassa.”
“That’s okay, I’m getting used to thinking of Cathy as a fraud these days, never know what to expect next, but I know she only does it to help people. Say talking of frauds Cathy, you never guess who I saw just yesterday?”
“No, but I have a feeling you are going to tell me Joe.” Catherine laughed at him.
“Jeff Radler. You remember him, it was thanks to your suspicious mind that we found him out...hey what’s wrong...you okay Cathy?”
Catherine regained her composure through the density of a fog, and stuttered, “Where... Joe? Where did you see him?”
“Joe tell me!” Catherine shook Joe’s arm, “Think, where was it?”
“Hey what’s with the third degree Cathy? I don’t know, he was walking along the street right outside of here, came right up to me, but didn’t know me. Surely I haven’t altered that much in ten years?”
Beth’s eyes had widened with surprise at Catherine’s behaviour, her heart raced, something told her to be silent, until she heard Joe say, “I knew it was him though, he had those three scores on his cheek, you know...”
“You saw him!” Beth understood at once, “And what did you say his name was?”
“Its all right Beth, I’ll handle this.” Catherine was telling her, trying to stop her from speaking, as Joe was saying “Jeff Radler, he used to work with Cathy and I, temporarily that is. He was a fraud. A good fraud mind. He secured the Mansfield case.”
“Joe sit down will you.” Catherine told him, tugging at his sleeve.
Joe checked his watch, “I can’t Cathy, I have to go.”
“Just a few seconds please?” Catherine’s green eyes begged him. Joe felt his heart constrict and melt, “Okay Radcliffe you have two minutes.”
“Joe I don’t want to have to go into details, but can you tell me where I might find Jeff Radler?”
“I saw him here yesterday. Just outside. He looked awful, ill even. And he didn’t seem to know me, though I called out a greeting.”
“Which way was he going, do you know?”
Joe shook his head, “I didn’t see, I’m sorry Cath, I did look back, but he became lost in the crowds. Sorry I can’t help you further, won’t you fill me in?”
“I can’t Joe...if I could...”
“I know...” He told her, “ If you could you would. Yeah where have I heard that before.” he smiled, checking his watch again, “I must go Cathy, I’ll be late. See you again sometime huh?”
“You can count on it Joe.”
“Bye Beth, nice to have met you. Bye Cathy.” Then he was gone, edging his way through the crowded diner back out into the sunshine.
“He was talking about Devin wasn’t he?” Beth asked wide-eyed.
“Yes. That’s how I came to know Devin. He got a job at the D.A.’s office under the guise of Jeff Radler, I had my suspicions about him...”
“Cathy!” Startled Catherine stopped dead, and looked around to see Joe hurtling back towards them, “He’s outside, Jeff Radler, he’s outside, come hurry, you’ll miss him.”
Beth and Catherine were on their feet and outside in seconds, Joe looked around frantically, he couldn’t see Jeff anywhere, “He was here I tell you, right here...say mate?” He grabbed hold of a busker with a guitar, playing outside the diner, “D’you see where that guy went with the scar on his face?”
The busker held out his hand, and Joe fumbled in his pocket for some change, and when he dropped a few cents into the palm, the busker nodded, “he went down into the subway.”
“The guy with the three long scars on his face, looks like a wild animal got to him?”
Catherine, Beth and Joe nodded, wide eyed.
“He went down the subway, asked me for some change for the ticket machine.”
“Thanks mate.” Joe tapped the fellows shoulder, and Catherine opened her purse, and stuffed some dollar bills into the busker’s hand, “Yes thank you.” she told him.
Joe checked his watch, “Gotta go Cathy, can you take it from here?”
Catherine nodded, “Yes thanks Joe, that’s another I owe you.”
They parted company, Catherine taking Beth’s arm as she steered her down the subway steps, and Joe off in another direction, his mind a whirl.
The subway was crowded, and they didn’t know what platform Devin may have headed for, besides that trains were coming and going all the time, he could have so easily have got on one, and gone in any direction.
“We’ve lost him haven’t we?” Beth asked sadly.
Catherine nodded, “Yes Beth, but don’t despair, that’s two days in a row at this time of day that Joe has seen him at this spot. Tomorrow we will come and we will be waiting. we’re closing in on him Beth I know we are.”
Beth smiled happily, and for the first time in months, her spirit soared.
*** *** ***
“I think the best thing we can do today is to go along to the police department and see if they have heard anything?” Father told everyone as they assembled at breakfast.*** *** ***
“I asked them to leave a message at my apartment if there was anything.” Catherine told him, “Perhaps we should start there.”
Father nodded, “I expect the two of you will be gone most of the day then, are you really going to wait outside the subway station in case Devin turns up?”
“No it’ll be too cold. We thought if we got there before the lunch time rush, we could secure a window inside the diner, and watch from there.” Beth told him. “I also think it might be an idea to buy a subway ticket ahead of time, so that we don’t have to queue.”
Catherine nodded, “Yes that is a good idea. It was the barriers that prevented us yesterday from going any further, though of course he could have been at any one of the platforms.”
“I wonder where he’s been going?” Beth mused, “And why he shaved off his beard?”
“Perhaps he’s been hunting for work, and thought he’d look more presentable clean shaven.” Vincent told her. Beth nodded, “Maybe you’re right.” She didn't sound terribly convinced.
“But?” Vincent queried.
“Well, no disrespect to you Vincent, but Devin hated having to explain that scar.”
“Perhaps he’s been using it again to secure a job. Now that might be an idea, why don’t we get someone to check out the zoo, see if he is working there?” Father asked hopefully.
Catherine and Beth nodded, “Yes Father,” Beth told him, “That would be great. With everyone helping surely we’ll find him?”
“Its a large city Beth, but at least you have a lead, somewhere to start, only promise me that before you go off on any wild goose chases, you’ll contact us down here first.”
“We promise.” Beth told him, “but you’re probably right about it taking us all day, personally I’d tramp the streets until I find him, but I must think of Catherine’s condition here.”
“Oh I’ll be all right, I’m as strong as an ox. Right then Beth, if you’ve finished your breakfast, we’ll get going.” Catherine stood, picking up her dish and spoon and taking it over to the sink, as Vincent stood up and followed her, asking softly, “I know its futile to say be careful Catherine, but promise me that you won’t take any unnecessary risks like running full pelt after trains. I wish I could come with you.”
Catherine slipped her arms around Vincent’s waist gazing up into his eyes, “I know you do Vincent, and I promise, I will be careful.” She leaned into him, holding him tightly, as his lips brushed her hair, “I miss you already,” he told her.
By the time Catherine and Beth got to the apartment and had sorted through the mail, it was almost time for them to make their way to the diner. There had been nothing in the mail to give them any hope, and as they headed for the elevator Catherine told Beth, “Perhaps I should have offered a reward, but though I did think of it. I didn’t want to encourage letters from people eager to get the money when they really didn’t have any news. That can be so frustrating having to follow up all the leads that go nowhere.” They reached the ground floor and got out of the elevator, thanking the doorman as he held open the door to them on their way outside.
“Do you miss your job at the D.A.’s Catherine?” Beth asked continuing the conversation.
Catherine hailed a taxi, and while they waited she told Beth, “Sometimes I do. At first I missed it terribly. I didn’t want Vincent to know that of course, and would always deny it. He didn’t want me to leave in the first place. He hated the thought of my giving up the life I had just to be with him. It took me a long time to convince him that I loved him enough to give it up, but yes there were times when I missed the work.”
“Joe certainly holds a torch for you.” ”Beth remarked casually. A taxi pulled up, and they got in, as Catherine leaned forward and asked for Nicole’s Diner on 52nd Street.
Catherine nodded, “Yes, Joe is a good man, and I have never encouraged him, but he always hoped that we’d have a relationship. It worries me sometimes, he never seems to have anyone, and his eyes light up when he sees me. I feel kinda guilty at using his kindness in the face of it.”
“Has Joe ever seen your children?”
Catherine lowered her tone before answering, she didn’t want the taxi driver overhearing anything.
“No, he isn’t aware that I have any. That’s one of the hardest things of all, not letting any of my friends know I have children. Every parent wants to show off their offspring, I find it very hard that I can’t.”
“Yet none of them look like Vincent.” Beth whispered.
“Not at the moment, but we can’t be sure that they won’t develop that way. How do you explain to your friends why your child has suddenly grown fangs or fur upon its body. It would be a nightmare.” Catherine looked nervously at the taxi driver’s back, but he seemed to watching the traffic and not listening to her.
“Yes I see." Beth replied sadly, then more brightly asked, "So are you happy, I mean did you make the right choice to leave the life you knew to go Below?”
“Oh yes absolutely, Vincent is everything to me.” Catherine’s eyes shone with happiness, and Beth could see this was so.
“As Devin is to me. I love him so much Catherine, he’s a good man, and I am so worried about him with his tendency to journey far and wide, there’s no telling where he might head next.”
“It’s all so...” Catherine shook her head, “weird though, isn’t it. I am beginning to wonder if he may have lost his memory.”
“That thought had crossed my mind. He was under a great deal of stress, though I didn’t realise at the time, I wonder if he just shut everything off.”
“I wonder if he would recognise you or I, especially you, its years since he has seen me. I’d like to think he would, it’ll make today’s job easier if he sees you first.”
“Yes, and its funny, but I feel on tender hooks, with just the thought of it. I imagine seeing him, calling his name, and him not even knowing we mean him and not turning around, or grabbing his arm, and having him look straight through me as if I was a stranger, what would we do then to convince him to come with us?”
The taxi pulled in at the curb, and they saw that they had arrived, Catherine leaned forward again, paid the driver and thanked him, and turning to Beth she replied. “You have a point there Beth.” The thought had worried Catherine. What would they do? They could hardly drag Devin back Below by themselves could they? “Let’s just hope it won’t happen that way.” she added as they pushed open the diner doors, and made their way over to a seat by the window.
They were deep in conversation, but it was a stunted conversation as they kept their eyes firmly fixed upon the people walking passed the window, and felt certain that as crowded as it had got out there, they hadn’t missed anyone. Clearly by the time two o’clock came and went and they had sat there for almost three hours drinking endless pots of tea, and paying the waitress extra for the use of the table. They knew that Devin either wasn’t coming that way anymore, or he had gone a different way that day.
Disappointed, Beth followed Catherine out of the diner, having decided to go along to the police department, to see if anything had turned up there.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.” Beth told Catherine sadly, “I tried not to get my hopes up, but it was difficult not to, I don’t think I got any sleep last night.”
“Me neither. Did you want to try again tomorrow?”
“Maybe, let’s see what this place has to say first.” They had reached the police department and started climbing the steps. Catherine held open the door for Beth to pass through, and found that the office was unusually rowdy, some drunks had been brought in, and they found themselves having to wait quite some time before it became their turn.
At last as the reception area cleared Catherine made her way to the desk, to speak to the same officer as she had the day before, her heart somersaulting when his face lit up at seeing her.
“Thank goodness you’ve come in today. I was just going to send an officer round to leave a message at your place.” Beth was on her feet and at Catherine’s side in an instance, “You’ve heard something?” she asked excited. He nodded, “If it hadn’t of been for that rowdy lot, I’d have had the message taken over by now. No matter, I’ve got it here somewhere, now don’t go getting your hopes up, its not much and its old news, but it might tell you something.”
“We have news for you too.” Catherine told him, taking the sheet of A4 paper he held out to her, “Mr. Wells has been seen twice near the subway off 52nd Street, right outside Nicole’s Diner. We waited there today, but no luck, however we know he’s been passed there on both Monday and Tuesday around lunch time.”
“Well that’s something. No doubt the ad in the newspaper will jog someone’s memory then, I don’t think it’ll be long now until you find him. Would you like to read the information, I’ll help if you need me for anything.”
Catherine and Beth thanked him, and started to read.
A trucker had given a lift to Devin from New Jersey, just outside the airport during the early hours of the 5th September, and driven him to the Appalachian Mountains.
“That’s where he used to live.” Beth indicated the name, and Catherine nodded, “I know.”
Then the report went on to show, that the trucker clearly remembers Devin for he told him his name and spoke about the lions in Mombassa and his wife expecting a baby, and how Devin had wanted to return the next day to get home to be with her. The trucker had asked why he had been compelled to make the journey with his wife being so close to her time, and Devin had told him that he had suddenly wanted to see his brother, but he couldn’t believe that he’d actually left like that. It had been a spur of the moment thing, but now that he had, he thought he might as well go along to his old home. Collect some belongings, and then go and visit his family, before returning to Mombassa the following day.
Beth let out a long sigh of relief, he’d been coming home to her after all, so why hadn’t he?
Catherine looked up a to find the officer waiting for her to finish, “Do you know where we can find this man?” she asked him.
“He told me that he would be out of the country for a few days, but after that you could find him at this address.” He handed her another piece of paper, “Don’t go there alone though, its a rough area. Come here first and I’ll have someone take you over there.”
“When did you see him?” Beth asked.
“Earlier today. He’ll be back in New York by the weekend. I think he was kinda hoping there’ll be something in this for him.”
“Oh absolutely” Catherine told him, “This information has been very useful.”
“It still doesn’t tell you where Mr. Wells is though, and I doubt the trucker can tell you any more than that, but you never know he might have forgotten something when he came in, that might mean something to you. It’s always worth following up a lead like this. Just remember though, no heretics, you come here before going to see him, I don’t want someone coming in here in a few days time and reporting you two missing as well.”
Catherine nodded, “You can count on it, we’ll come here first.”
They thanked him again, and made for the door, Beth felt almost light-headed, “Oh Catherine where on earth is he and why hasn’t he been Below? I feel as though I am chasing my own tail.”
“At least we’re getting somewhere Beth. Don’t despair, we’ll find him, I’ve flushed out more than Devin in the past, he won’t slip the net I promise you, trust me.”
Beth shook her head and sent Catherine a wry smile, telling her, “I hate it when you say that.”
The next few days proved more than a headache for both Beth and Catherine, not to mention Father and Vincent. There were no more leads, and though Catherine and Beth waited by the diner every day, there had been no more sightings either.
As Friday came and went the two of them were preparing themselves to visit the trucker the following day, when Joe sent a message via someone he knew would always reach Catherine if he needed her, asking her to call him urgently.
“What do you think it’s about.” Vincent asked as Catherine made preparations to go out.
“It could be anything Vincent. You know Joe.”
“Are you going to tell Beth about the message?”
“I don’t know, what do you think Vincent, it might not even be about Devin.”
“I don’t think you should say anything, I would say Beth has taken her fair share of knock backs this week already.”
“That’s what I was thinking, best not tell her I’m meeting Joe either if she asks where I am, she is very perceptive, I think she’d start hoping straight away.”
Vincent nodded, “She’s a remarkable lady. When Devin finally returns and they go back to Africa I shall miss her.”
“She’s helped you a lot hasn’t she darling. I’m only sorry that it has taken someone like Beth to help me to understand what should have been in front of my nose all the time. I promise Vincent from now on, whenever you want to talk about yourself, I’ll listen, and won’t keep telling you things as I see them. No-one understands you, better than you do.”
Vincent nodded, “Its a complex thing, I can understand how difficult it must be to understand, there are some things that might frighten you to hear them said, are you sure you want to be a party to that Catherine?” his words spoken low sounded worried.
“Not entirely Vincent, but what concerns you concerns me, and I am certain that things can only improve for you from now on, and I will gain a better understanding into who you really are.”
“Thanks to Beth I have learnt a great deal about myself, things I hadn’t even thought of. Some of the things I have to tell you might seem strange, weird even but that’s because I am still having difficulty with them myself. You really don’t mind me using you as a sounding board?”
“Vincent I love you, you know that and anything I can help you with you know you only have to ask, I might find it difficult but I’ll always be there for you.”
“It seems strange to me, to actually be able to speak of these things. I have held them back for so long, bottled them up even, I think Beth is right when she says I am a dormant volcano about to erupt. Being a man inside this body is more than frustrating Catherine. Sometimes I feel I want to rip it away from myself.”
“Like a thin person wanting to get out of a fat person?” Catherine smiled, but Vincent only half smiled, “No, its worse than that.”
“I’m sorry Vincent, that was callous and uncaring, perhaps Beth should give me lessons too, I do want to be able to help you, and don’t want to be flippant really.”
“We’ll learn things together Catherine. Believe me, just having someone that is willing to listen is wonderful to me. I don’t feel so pent up anymore, or so alone.”
Listening to him Catherine felt sad, and Vincent felt her sadness, he loved her and this was going to prove traumatic for her, but for once he felt as though they weren’t parted by differences, and that he could share his innermost feelings with her. That was worth so much. It was almost as if he had been granted freedom from a life sentence.
Catherine was ready, and Vincent walked with her to the threshold of her apartment basement.
“I’ll be here when you return Catherine, if Joe needs to see you, come and tell me first will you?”
Catherine promised she would, then with a long lingering kiss they parted and Vincent helped her up the steps to the basement above.
Going straight to her apartment Catherine rang Joe’s number, it rang a long time, before she heard the click of his answering, and she had begun to think he was out.
“Maxwell.” He answered sleepily.
“Joe. I’m sorry were you in bed?”
“That you Cathy? No, just taking forty winks. You get my message?”
“Yes Joe that’s why I’m calling. What’s the news?”
“I saw Jeff Radler today. I was working on a lead and believe it or not Cathy, I literally walked straight into him.”
“Did he recognise you?”
“Nope. And when I spoke to him, he didn’t know me either.”
“How long did you speak for?”
“Quite a while. I took him to a diner and bought him breakfast. He wolfed it down like he hadn’t eaten in a month. I told him his name, but he shook his head and said that I must be mistaken and that he had never heard of the name. He was about to thank me and leave when I mentioned your name, and he shook his head saying Catherine Chandler, no that means nothing to me, and I said, hell did I say Chandler, sorry mate that’s not her name now, its Catherine Wells.” Joe paused, then went on “Boy did that take affect. He kept mouthing the surname, you know, Wells, Wells, like it was triggering something, and I got the distinct impression the guy had lost his mind or something. And he had a terrible cough too. I reckon he’s had the flu.”
“Did you tell him anything else?”
“No, and he got up to leave after that, but I called out and asked where he was staying, and he laughed and told me Cardboard City.”
“Yeah just what I thought Cathy, you wanna go there?”
“Of course, I can pick you up in fifteen minutes. There would never be a better time. This late at night he might be home.”
“Yes Joe, come up to the apartment, but wait if I’m not there, I must get a message to Vincent first.”
“Have him come up there, I’d like to meet him.”
“I know Joe, but not tonight.”
“I thought you’d say that. See you in fifteen minutes Cath.”
Vincent knew Cardboard City well, and he was not happy about Catherine going there, not even with Joe’s protection. “I’ll go along there too Catherine.” He told her, “I’ll be nearby if you need me. I’ll also watch out for Devin.”
Catherine hugged him tightly and returned to her apartment, arriving just ahead of Joe.
Cardboard City was a piteous place. Catherine’s heart went out to all the young people who had made their home there. As she and Joe walked through the piles of boxes and newspapers that had become the only home some people knew, she shuddered. A strong desire came over her to call out, ‘come follow me, I know a place where you can live, where you will be warm and loved’ and it was so frustrating not to be able to do. For the secret of the underground world had to remain just that, a secret. If nothing else, if for no one else, Vincent’s life depended upon its secrecy. For the first time Catherine began to see and feel the things Vincent felt when night after night he would see such sights and see such people, and know he could not help them.
“This is terrible Joe, some of these people are no more than children.” She whispered, lest they heard her sadness. Poor they might be, but they had a vicious pride, that did not tolerate pity.
Joe steered her arm through the piles of boxes, turning them over whenever a sleeping form lay face away from them, to see if it were Jeff/Devin. They searched the length of the area, and back again, and Joe apologised, “I’m sorry Cathy, seems like we wasted our time, he isn’t here. Perhaps he has found a warm bed for the night someplace. I know I wouldn’t want to be out here on a night like this, and the guy was obviously in a bad way, maybe he’s even forgotten where the place is.”
Catherine nodded, feeling very sad, “Thanks anyway Joe, and it was great to be working with you again.”
Joe stopped walking and looked at Catherine, “If ever you want a job again Cathy, you know you only have to say. There is always a place for you, you know that.”
“Thanks Joe, I’ll remember that.” What else could she say? Anything else might have led to more questions, and suddenly all Catherine wanted to do was get out of Cardboard City, find Vincent, and feel his healing arms around her. For the desolation of the people around them had made her feel immensely sad.
Joe left her at her apartment building, telling her he’d be in touch if he saw Jeff again, and then he got into his car, and drove away into the night. Catherine was pleased that Beth hadn’t accompanied her after all, it had been traumatic enough for herself, and Catherine didn’t think Beth could take many more disappointments. The toll of waiting and searching and of having hopes dashed to pieces was beginning to tell on them all.
Walking through the streets, Devin stuffed his hands inside his pockets to keep them warm. His whole body seemed to shake with the cold, and his head was swimming. Damn flu, he couldn’t even afford any medication, and living on the streets was no way of staying warm.*** *** ***
He rattled the last of the money he owned in his pockets, a few cents, and had no way of knowing where he might be able to obtain more, and he was so hungry. It had been days since he’s eaten, or was it weeks? Devin couldn’t remember. He couldn’t remember anything.
He didn’t even know his name, and nowhere seemed familiar. And his head was always so muzzy, not just from the flu, but something more, like it wasn’t a part of him anymore. In fact all his limbs felt the same way.
Crossing a street, he was faced with the gates to the park, and he hesitated, something deep in the recesses of time stirred in his memory. Round and round, up and down, the motion affected him, made him draw his brows tightly together, made him want to go into the park. Something was calling to him, but what?
Entering the park, Devin sat down on one of the benches. He was so tired, and so cold, it was hard to think even if he had been able to remember anything. A few days ago, was it days he couldn’t even remember? For now days and nights had merged into one, and he had no sense of time anymore, yet he had a slight recollection of someone stopping him and giving him a meal and a name, a name he thought he knew, and for some reason was connected to the park. But that’s all he did know. And since then day after day he had been drawn there to the park, almost like some migratory bird, or a swallow on the wing, drawn to a destination unknown. Guided only by an instinct and a sensation so strong that he knew without a doubt, that it meant the difference between life and death. For the one thing Devin was certain of, was that with nowhere to belong, and no one to belong to, death was imminent in his present state of health.
He coughed and felt his throat cease up with phlegm. It was hard to breathe, to clear the obstruction in his throat, it would go neither up nor down, and for long moments a fit of laboured coughing ensured. Huddling there in his thin jacket and torn jeans, Devin was filled with a despair so deep that he just wanted to get it over with, to taste sweet death, and not have to worry anymore. But something, something kept drawing his attention, and wouldn’t let him lay down and die.
The motion was there again, and Devin shut his eyes, as from far away in the furthest recesses of his mind he could hear music and the sound of children’s laughter. And then sudden flashes of eyes so blue, so deep and bright, that it made him want to weep, for something lost to him. Something that beckoned to him.
Opening his eyes again, Devin looked out across the park. The sun was just beginning to set, and the golden rays lit up the park as a fire ball, shimmering in the puddles, turning the silvery frost covered grass to refined gold. Devin blew on his hands, trying to warm them, but even his breath was icy, and he felt so forlorn as a great sadness washed over him, for a life he had no recollection of, no one to go home to, and no place to call home.
The cardboard boxes, he had lived among for the past few months, now offered no resistance to the biting wind, or the rain that pelted from the heavens slashing at his face and hands.
Again the sound of music filled his mind, and turning his gaze he sought, he knew not what, but when his eyes became accustomed to a large shed far out across the park, he seemed to know that inside the shed was warmth, and laughter and fun.
Standing up, he made his way across the park towards the shed, almost magnetic in its pull on him, and as he reached the gates that surrounded it, he could see in his minds eye, himself as a child breaking the lock, another child beside him asking ‘should you do that'?
He could hear his own laughter, his own assurance to the smaller child that it was the only way in to the carousel. Finding the same gate, Devin noticed that the lock was now broken, and the gate swung away easily when pushed, though its hinges creaked. The sound brought a sudden flood of new memories to the fore. Devin stilled to listen to his head, there was something he couldn’t put his finger on, but.....he turned, the power of the magnetic force now beckoning from another area, and Devin noticed a large gaping hole that went into the ground, and turning made his way towards it, hearing the gate clang shut behind him, as he let it go.
The journey was not fearful, crossing the grass, going towards the hole, which he now could see was actually a large drain, that led beneath the park, and a sudden flash of thought accelerated through his mind. A huge door then candle light, and long, long tunnels, and tapping, a constant tapping. A welcoming sound.
Devin’s footsteps quickened, breathing hard, pushing his way through swirls of breath upon the icy air, until he reached the sanctity of the drain, and walked inside, into the darkness.
There in the dark, out of the wind, Devin stood wondering what to do, when suddenly his mind was filled with one long and very happy memory, that lasted several minutes.
Himself as a child standing here at this very spot, beside a smaller child, a happy child. He could hear their giggles, and there was a name, if only he could grasp it, but wait! there were two names, and they’d engraved them in the lintel above the entrance.
Stepping forward, Devin could not see, but ran his fingers up where he knew the engraving to be, feeling the grooves, but not able to read them. Nonetheless, the very fact that he’d once been there, filled him with hope, it was only a start, but here at least was the footing he’d craved, and maybe if he stayed there, out of the wind, spent the night there, he might remember more, maybe even his name.
He was tired now, more tired than he had ever known, and he leaned into the wall, allowing his body to slide down it to the sandy floor beneath, and with his head huddled into his hands, he closed his eyes, letting the gentle waves of sleep wash over him.
Catherine and Beth had spent another distressing day searching. It seemed as though they were always taking one step forwards and two steps back, and though Catherine didn’t want to say so. She was feeling that perhaps she should ease up a bit, as all the activity in her present stage of pregnancy at her age, was beginning to tell. Soon Vincent would pick up on her carefully guarded feelings, and would forbid her to do any more.
Catherine pondered on that, for much as she wanted to help Beth, she would simply offer no resistance to Vincent, he would of course be right, for she did need to rest.
The trucker had been of no further assistance. He told them Devin had a beard when he had offered him a lift, but had shaved it off in his cab with the aid of a battery charged shaver, and they had spoken at considerable length about the scar on Devin’s face.
Devin had changed the story now. Since working at the park, he was saying the accident had happened there.
Beth and Catherine let the trucker go on believing this, paid him for his information and left with the officer who had taken them there.
And that had been days ago. There had been no further word from Joe, and though Vincent had walked Cardboard City every night since, he had not seen sight of Devin either.
Reaching the apartment building, Catherine made to take Beth back Below from there, only to discover that there were deliverymen in the basement, and they could not use that way.
“We’ll have to go through the park.” Catherine told her, “Its not far. We could go up to the apartment I suppose, but the way I feel, I think if I sit down I won’t ever get up again, best to keep going I think.” she made an attempt at laughter but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. And Beth told her, “I’m so sorry Catherine, you’ve been such a help, but I do feel awful dragging you round the city every day. It’s been two weeks now, and we still don’t seem to be getting anywhere.”
“It is tiring Beth, but I keep telling myself how it must be for Devin, what is it nearly four months, and the weather isn’t getting any kinder, in fact the worst is yet to come.”
“That’s what I keep thinking. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever find him soon enough that is...I keep thinking I will awake from this nightmare and find him beside me when I open my eyes, ready to hug and kiss my fears away.” Tears gathered in Beth’s eyes, she shook her head, “Where is he Catherine?”
They were walking across the park, and Catherine didn’t know how to answer, all her reassurances seemed futile now, there was nothing more she could say, and she felt too tired to have any hope herself, let alone give some to another person.
“What’s going on over there?” Beth asked as the sight of red flashing lights held her attention.
Catherine stopped and hesitated, “I don’t know, but they are exactly where we want to be, it looks like an ambulance.”
“Should we go and see?”
Catherine looked back towards her apartment, “Best not, perhaps we should go to the apartment after all. We shall have to try again later. This is amazing, just because I feel so tired, both the entrances are busy, this has never happened before.”
“That’s sods law.” Beth told her, “You can guarantee it. You know when you are driving along a road and don’t see any traffic and the moment you take a blind bend there’s a car coming the other way that almost hits you.”
Catherine laughed, “You sound just like Devin saying that.”
“It was him that told me.” Beth laughed. “He used to come out with the most amazing things, silly things, pathetic things, he used to make me laugh so.”
“Did he ever tell you about the goldfish?” Catherine asked, laughing at the memory.
“Oh yes, the goldfish, did he ever." Beth squealed with laughter. "It must have been his oldest joke, he would start off with it at every party we were invited to. You know someone actually believed him once.”
“No?” Catherine shook her head, “They didn’t?”
“Believe me. We went to this party and Devin was in fine form, and there was this woman sitting beside an aquarium. I saw Devin’s eyes light up, I knew what he was going to say, and I waited. He went right on up to her, and said ‘Its so nice to see fish in a larger tank don’t you think.’ and she looked at the tank and started to tell him about an aquarium she had, and how wonderful it was to be able to put fish into as natural a habitat as one could, and then she literally walked right into his trap, she said...” And Beth mimicked the voice. “I find it simply barbaric when people put a goldfish into a tiny bowl and expect it to be happy. Oh Catherine you should have seen Devin’s face, it was a picture, he really relished his next remark, and didn’t disappoint me, when he told her, ‘actually madam, a goldfish only has a memory span of two and a half seconds, and when it swims around its bowl it says to itself, oh, how lovely, I’ve never been here before.”
“And she believed him!” Catherine squealed with laughter, tiredness long forgotten.
“And what did Devin do?”
Beth drew her lips together tightly, as a smile lit up her eyes, “We had to leave. He laughed so much he literally wet himself.”
Catherine burst into laughter, “Oh Beth, you have simply got to tell that to Vincent... and Father...oh please do, they’ll love it.”
Beth smiled, “Devin’s a clown, he could never fail to make me laugh, what I’d give to have him make me laugh now...” And she burst into tears.
Catherine started to cry too, it was the first time she had, but the situation was so traumatic, she found herself unable to stop, until a voice called out to her, “You okay lady?”
Turning she saw a uniformed man coming towards her, his face wreathed in concern, “Say did either of you see the guy?” he asked, “Is that what’s upset you?”
“What guy?” Beth asked through her tears.
“The guy inside the drain. He looked dead, but he’s just unconscious. Don’t worry about it whether you saw him or not, he’s being taken to the hospital now, soon have him fighting fit again. Though the area is being cordoned off until we are sure there were no suspicious circumstances. I don’t think anyone hit him, but one can never be too sure. Say have you seen anyone running through the park from that direction, or seen anyone acting suspiciously.”
Beth and Catherine shook their heads, and he warned them, “Well until we make sure, have you two got a home to go to? Best not linger around here, not until we know what happened. Besides it’s getting dark. This is no place to be at night. And it’s cold, if I were you I’d get yourselves home.”
Beth and Catherine thanked him, and arm in arm walked back towards the apartment, subdued once again.
*** *** ***
Vincent found them there later, when concerned he made his way up to the balcony, when he saw lights shining out from the apartment above.
“Vincent!”, Catherine flew into his arms, “We couldn’t get back, both the entrances were busy.”
“I was concerned for you when you didn’t come below the basement, and I knew you were all right, but such sadness has followed you today and you are very tired.”
“Yes we both are.” Catherine tried to avoid his eyes, but he lifted her face to his, and looked at her long and hard, “You are doing too much.” he told her, “It isn’t good for you.”
“I am tired, but its nothing a hot bath and a good night’s sleep won’t cure.”
“Then I think its best that you and Beth spend the night here. Mary and I will see to the children and Claudia, however I should like to stay with you for a few hours to see that you rest, and don’t go gallivanting off into the night if Joe should call or something.”
Catherine smiled, “I don’t think my feet would let me.”
“Let me rub them for you.”
“Can you rub mine too.” Vincent laughed when Beth asked him, stepping inside the apartment and making himself at home, he told her, “You’d find the fur ticklish.”
Beth smiled, “You let me be the judge of that.”
Truthfully the thought of rubbing another woman’s feet perturbed Vincent, but in the end he found that he did it anyway, and Beth fairly oozed with delight and pleasure, telling him, “You have soft hands, and yes the fur does tickle. Nonetheless I’m afraid you’ve spoilt me. Devin’s hands will never feel quite the same after this.”
Vincent and Catherine laughed out loud, as Beth wiggled her toes, and told them, “Oh but to have life return to my feet again, thank you so much Vincent. Now it is Cathy’s turn, though I am certain you will not stop at her feet.”
The look on Vincent’s face was a picture and Beth and Catherine burst into peals of laughter, and Beth told them, “I bagsie the first shower, and leave you two at it, I mean to it.” She laughed again, and was gone, leaving Catherine laughing until her sides ached.
*** *** ***
By the time Beth and Catherine returned the following morning, they were feeling much better, but Vincent’s concern for Catherine’s welfare had carried over to Father, and both were insistent that she should stop helping with the search. Beth knew the wisdom of this, but still it had saddened her, though they had come home most days despondent, she had enjoyed the time spent in Catherine’s company, and likewise Catherine had enjoyed Beth’s.
“I think”, said Father, “that those of us that know Devin should accompany Beth in turns each day, and if she isn’t too tired to roam the streets at night, then she can go out with Vincent, but you Catherine my dear are well and truly grounded.”
Beth hugged Catherine, “Thank you for all your help Cathy, I shall miss walking out with you, and hopefully we’ll find Devin soon.”
“Keep optimistic Beth, and keep your eyes and ears open, I may not be allowed to go walkies but remember how my badge and the telephone has powers of persuasion, and the apartment is not that far to walk to.” She glanced up at Vincent impishly. “Or if it is, I think I might be able to find someone to carry me there.”
Vincent’s blue eyes searched her own, he knew she was joking in a serious kind of way, and he really was proud of the way she had tirelessly searched for his brother. Of course he would carry her, to the ends of the earth if she asked it of him.
“At least having time to spare you will be able to do a lot of reading, like those lion books” Beth told her.
“You never give up do you?” Catherine laughed. Beth smiled, “Never. Besides this is important, and you will both thank me for it one day.”
“I thank you for it now.” Vincent told her sincerely.
Beth smiled, “That’s great. You know in many respects Devin’s disappearance did us all good, without it, I may never have got to know you wonderful people, and now that I have you can count on me being a permanent fixture in your lives. I take it I am welcome to come here Father whenever I chose.”
Father came across, holding out his arms to Beth, “Anytime, with or without that wayward husband of yours, you will always be made welcome Beth, I mean that.”
“And to think I was afraid of meeting you.” Beth laughed, “Devin really is a chip off the old block.”
Father’s eyes widened, “You really think so?” He seemed surprised.
“Oh I know so. Especially when it comes to humour.”
“Say, that reminds me Beth. Now’s your chance to tell them about the goldfish.” Catherine reminded her.
“Goldfish?” Vincent and Father echoed together.
“Oh yes, Father you simply have got to hear this...” Beth soon had them in stitches.
“Oh my,” chuckled Father, “I’d have given anything to have been there. I must remember that one. It’ll bring the house down at Winterfest.”
“What’s Winterfest?” Beth was intrigued.
Father and Vincent went on to explain the annual celebration that they shared Below, while Catherine flicked through the morning’s papers, they had just got to the bit about the candles lighting up the darkness, when Catherine exclaimed, “I don’t believe it!” Her eyes widened with shock.
“What is it?” Vincent felt her anxiety via the Bond, and was at her side in an instance, as Catherine was reading aloud, “Police are appealing for any information leading to the identity of a man found unconscious in the park last evening. There doesn’t appear to be any suspicious circumstances, but the man was carrying no identification, and relatives need to be contacted. However, police have revealed that the man does carry upon his left cheek three large scars, like that of claw marks, and anyone with any knowledge of this man’s identity should contact the hospital or the police department urgently.” Catherine stared at Beth in horror, “We came so close Beth. It’s him, its Devin. We’ve found him.”
*** *** ***
“How is he doctor, can we see him?” Wide-eyed Beth whispered, the moment they had introduced themselves, and given Devin some identity.*** *** ***
“Its best that you do, just to see if you recognise him,” the doctor told them grave faced, “But only his wife. And you must be prepared. I don’t know what his weight was before, but now he is several stones under what he should be. And he is still unconscious.”
“Do you know why?” Catherine asked, having been allowed by both Father and Vincent to accompany Beth to the hospital on this momentous occasion.
“Yes, he is suffering from malnutrition, anaemia and worst of all pleurisy. You will see a lot of apparatus around and attached to him, don’t let this worry you, it is necessary, so are the drips, and until he is awake, they will stay on him. I don’t need to tell you, if those boys hadn’t of found him when they did, he wouldn’t be here now. That was such a cold night, even out of the wind, I don’t think he would have woken the next morning.”
Catherine nodded gravely, if they hadn’t of spent so long at the police station that afternoon, they would have been the ones to find him, and then the story would have been different. But as far as his health was concerned, did they have the means Below to have saved him? In many respects none of it dared thinking about.
“I’ll be out here if you should need me” Catherine told Beth, as she took a seat outside of intensive care.
Beth nodded, allowing the doctor to take her elbow and lead her into the room. Devin was the only patient inside, and Beth’s face filled with horror as she walked across to where he lay. She could barely nod, as the doctor asked, “Is this your husband?”
Her heart went out to this lone figure surrounded by machines. The main feature was the three scars upon his cheek. Now with his skin tight across his cheekbones, the scars stretched, and stood out boldly. Beth reached out a hand, and stroked a lock of hair away from Devin’s eyes, remembering with a rush of love how she had done that the last time she had seen him sleeping, beside her the morning that he vanished. How she wished it were that morning now, and none of this had ever happened. Though she had now met his family and loved them, she would gladly have known none of it, just to have had Devin safe and well with her back at the park, with none of this nightmare ever to have taken place.
The doctor brought a chair up to the bed, between the machines, “Sit here Mrs. Wells, only take care not to touch any of the wires. I think it might be an idea if you were to hold his hand and talk to him. He will be able to hear you, and it might make him wake sooner.”
Beth sat upon the chair, reaching out to take one of Devin’s hands, noticing how thin the fingers were, how the tendons bulged upon the back of his hand and his wrists. “Devin,” she whispered, “Its me Beth.”
The response was immediate, a monitor started to bleep and wavy lines appeared on a screen which before had registered a thin green line.
“What happened?” Beth asked the doctor, searching his face.
He was smiling. “That machine registers brain activity. There has been nothing on it until now, keep talking to him.”
Beth stroked Devin’s hand, “Honey, I’m so glad I’ve found you. I didn’t know where to look and so I put an ad in the New York Times, and then Jack paid for another, asking for your family to contact me, and Catherine flew out to Mombassa to see me. I’ve been living Below Devin, and I’ve met all of your family. Devin, I've met all of them.”
The doctor was impressed, as the lines upon the monitor gathered momentum, and beneath her hand, Beth felt a tiny movement from Devin’s, did he just squeeze her hand?
Looking at the doctor, she told him, “From what you told us, I thought we wouldn’t get any response from him for days, weeks even, this is remarkable don’t you think.”
The doctor could only agree. “We’ve been pumping medication into him since he was brought in, and glucose, I never expected anything quite so soon as this though, keep talking to him.”
Beth searched her husband’s face, “There’s something I’d like to do more.” she told the doctor, then without waiting for a response, she raised herself, leaned forward and kissed Devin’s lips. The monitor went wild.
Beth laughed aloud, “Oh Devin wake up, open your eyes honey, there’s so much to talk about.”
Almost instantly, Devin’s eyelids fluttered, and he turned his head, as a smile started to tease his lips, before he whispered, “Beth.”
Beth’s eyes glistened with tears, as she told him, “Oh Devin, I’ve missed you so much, I’d begun to think we would never find you.”
“I’ll be outside if you need me”, the doctor told her, leaving the re-union, with tears in his own eyes. Outside Catherine stood up as he closed the door, “What’s happened?” Catherine could see by his expression that something had, and he smiled deeply at her, “Mr. Wells, has just woken, he is talking to his wife.”
Catherine sat down again and sighed with relief, “Does that mean everything will be okay now?”
“We’re not out of the woods yet, but it’s a good sign that his anaemia has left him. The pleurisy will be the worst to overcome, and up until prior to your visit he was wearing a face mask for oxygen, and we will replace it after you have gone, but I have to tell you I was astounded by how quickly he came round just then. As soon as he heard his wife’s voice, things started happening.”
Catherine smiled, “That’s great news. Could I see him also?”
“Perhaps. I’m just going to do my rounds, if Mrs. Wells is still with him when I return and Mr. Wells is not too tired, I’ll see about you going in there. Why don’t you go and get yourself a cup of tea while you wait?”
Catherine nodded, “Actually, I think I’ll go and make some phone calls. Mr. Wells’, family are anxious about him.”
The doctor grimaced, and concerned Catherine asked, “What?”
“Don’t build up their hopes yet that’s all?”
“Do you think there could be a relapse?” wide-eyed Catherine could not believe this to be so.
“There is always the possibility, and until he can tell us where he has been these past three and a half months, and the conditions he’s been under, we won’t know if we are
treating everything. Please just be cautious that’s all. I’m sorry to sound so negative, but often it’s the best way.”
“Then I’ll be as careful as I can when I speak with them, but just hearing that he knows his wife for now is enough, she has been frantic about him.”
The doctor nodded, “The telephone is in the recreation room. Its on wheels, so if it’s not private enough, just take it along to a quite corner someplace and use it there.”
“Thank you.” Catherine told him.
Back inside Intensive Care, Devin was indeed very weak, he found talking difficult, but Beth, was thankful to see, he had little trouble with smiling, or squeezing her hand, and she was able to get a few words out of him.
“Honey, did you try to get back to me?”
“Why did you leave Devin? I needed you, the baby was coming.”
Devin drew his brows together, and when he couldn’t reply, Beth went on, “I went into labour while you were outside burying Bob. When Jack came in later looking for you, the water’s had already broken, and the baby was well on her way, yes darling, its a little girl, she’s so beautiful.”
Devin’s eyes misted over with tears, and he squeezed Beth’s hand tightly.
Beth continued, “Jack raced for Laura, and the rest as they say is history.”
“Where?” Devin tried to ask where his daughter was at that moment.
Beth frowned, “Where what? What are you asking honey?”
“Is she?” Devin managed, his voice croaky, and laboured.
Beth smiled. “I can’t seem to prise her out of your Father’s arms Devin. He and Vincent take it in turns to look after her. Mary doesn’t even get a look in.”
Devin managed a short rumble of laughter.
Beth whispered, “Vincent is wonderful Devin. I wish you could have introduced us sooner, I have thoroughly enjoyed being with your family, but Vincent is a bonus.”
Devin smiled, the tears lighting up his eyes again, he nodded, “he’s special.” He managed to say.
“Yes.” Beth agreed wholeheartedly.
A short silence lapsed, until Beth asked, “Devin why didn’t you go to see Vincent after all?”
Devin shook his head from side to side, unable to speak.
“You don’t know?” Beth asked.
“No.” then struggling to speak, Devin managed, “Couldn’t remember.”
Beth saw his anguish, felt his pain, and she didn’t want him to feel unhappy, “Try not to worry honey. All that is in the past now, nothing is lost and I have you back, that’s all that matters. When you are well enough you can tell us all that you can remember, until then try not to worry about it, I know none of this was pre-meditated, you weren’t well, but we didn’t know it at the time.”
Devin smiled, he couldn’t think very well, but something clicked inside, that was the way he had come to conclude it, acting so out of character when he loved Beth so much and wanted to be with her at the birth, he had come to accept that whatever had been wrong with him out on the streets, had started long before his headlong flight off to America that fateful day.
Devin closed his eyes, suddenly tired. What little news Beth had brought had already drained him. Beth leaned over and kissed his mouth again.
“I’ll come back tonight honey, would you like me to bring the baby?”
Devin’s eyes flew open at this, and a slow smile once again lit his eyes. “Yes.” he managed, before his eyes closed again just as quickly, and he fell into a deep sleep once more.
From the moment the article had gone out in the paper, everyone was contacting Catherine with the news. First, when she went to her apartment, she found a pile of letters, one of which was from the police saying they believed the man found in the park was Mr. Wells. There was also one from the trucker suggesting the same thing, and Joe had sent word via the helper, that he thought it might be Jeff Radler in the hospital, but he didn’t appear to connect it with the missing persons article in the paper seeking Devin Wells.
When Catherine thought about it, she could only assume that Joe had been too busy to read all the paper, because otherwise, with Beth telling him she and her husband Devin were visiting, and with her surname being Wells, he would ordinarily have picked up on that straight away. However, when Catherine telephoned to thank him for taking the time out to help, she found this was not the case.
“I was only too pleased to help Cathy, you know I’d do anything for you.”
“Yes I know Joe, that’s why I’m calling to show my appreciation.”
“There is something you can fill me in on though?”
“What’s that Joe?”
“This guy, Jeff Radler, I mean as far as I know the only time you have ever met him was over ten years ago when he came to work for us. But I get the distinct impression that he means more to you than that. Besides, there is something else.”
“How many guys do you know with scars on their left cheek, that looks as though it were put there by a wild animal.”
“Only one Joe.”
“That’s what I thought. So if I were to conclude, that your sister in law’s husband Devin is the guy who has been advertised as missing, and that he and Jeff Radler were one and the same person, would I be right?”
Catherine laughed, “Yes Joe.”
“Hmm, I thought so, but I guess if I were to ask why this is so, you would tell me to mind my own business right?”
Catherine laughed, “Actually on this occasion I’ll make an exception. Seeing how you helped and all that. True when I first met Jeff Radler at the office, it was the first time I’d seen him. But without going into details, one night I discovered him hanging around Vincent’s home, and when I described him to Vincent, I found out that Jeff Radler could be the brother of Vincent’s that had gone missing over twenty years earlier, and whom they had believed to be dead. Well one thing led to another, and that’s the way it turned out. Jeff was Devin, and his recent disappearance was due to him having anaemia and losing his memory.”
Joe sighed, “That accounts for him not knowing me. And how is he now, have you seen him?”
“Not myself, Beth has, she’s taking the baby tonight to meet him. The child was born the day he disappeared, he didn’t know anything about it. It’s going to be an emotional time for them, so I won’t see him for a couple of days yet.”
“Give him my regards will you Cathy.”
“Yes Joe, I will. Thank you.”
“Think nothing of it,” he laughed, “but to think that he’s your brother in law, say does your Vincent look anything like him?”
“Nothing at all Joe.” Catherine laughed.
“But they’re brothers right?”
“Not fleshly, Vincent was adopted.”
“So its back to the drawing board again then.” He grinned.
“How’s that Joe?”
“Well one day Radcliffe you are going to let me meet this husband of yours, and until I do, I can only wonder what he looks like. And I haven’t got a clue.”
Catherine took pity on him then, how must it look to never let them meet, “I’m sorry Joe, but few people get to see Vincent. However, just so you can build a better picture in your mind, I’ll tell you he has long golden hair, and the bluest eyes you’ve ever seen.”
“Sounds like a woman.”
Catherine laughed, “No, Joe far from it.”
“Well Cathy, thanks for telling me, I feel a bit let down despite the description, won’t you let me meet Vincent?”
“It’s not up to me Joe. I can’t.”
“Okay Radcliffe, but one day right?”
“Yes Joe, maybe one day. Who knows, miracles do happen.”
“Do they Cathy...I’ve never had one happen to me yet. Vincent took away any chance I may have had of that.” he sighed, suddenly overcome with a sense of loss and sadness, “Goodnight Cathy.”
“Goodnight Joe.” replacing the receiver, Catherine laid herself wearily down flat onto the bed. Maybe it was the tiredness, maybe it was the relief at finding Devin at last, or maybe it was her condition and her hormones, but suddenly Joe’s parting words had cut her deep, and she loved Vincent with all her heart. Nonetheless, she had never felt so melancholy before as she did at that moment. And gathering the pillow against her face she sobbed as though she might never stop.
*** *** ***
Despite what the doctor had warned, Devin made a remarkable recovery. Very soon all of his dear friends, and family, save Vincent had been to see him, and he loved his daughter with a fierce pride that left tears in everyone’s eyes.
After some five weeks in hospital, the day finally came when Devin was declared fit enough to leave, and as far as the hospital were concerned, Devin and Beth would be returning to Mombassa, which they were, but first there was one place that Devin simply had to go.
Someone he desperately needed to see. Vincent.
Beth found her eyes filling with tears all over again, when Devin finally arrived Below, and catching sight of one another, he and Vincent fairly flung themselves into each other’s arms, and held on as if they would never let go. “I’ve missed you so much Vin." Devin told his brother, to which Vincent replied, “As I have you. Please tell me what became of you, I have only heard bits.”
“I think the same goes for everyone. The staff at the hospital wouldn’t let anyone stay long enough to hear the whole story, and besides it took a while for it all to come back to me.” Devin looked around the chamber at all his dear friends and family and asked, “Should I tell you all now?”
Father nodded, “Yes, if you think you have the energy Devin, don’t let us tire you.”
“I’m okay, don’t worry.”
Everyone took off their jackets, and found a seat, while Devin, with Claudia in the crook of one arm began his story.
“I think it must have begun long before I left Mombassa. Looking back I think missing meals was the start of it.”
“You missed meals!” Father was shocked, “Why?” It had always been drummed into all the tunnel dwellers never to miss vital meals. Lack of iron and vitamins, could cause dizzy spells, which could be fatal while living Below.
“It was a necessity Father. Often the animals needed treatment, and simply there wasn’t enough money. I would give up my wages so that they could receive the care they needed. And when I did that, it meant obviously there was less for us, so we’d give up one meal a day until I got my next month’s money.”
“Oftentimes”, Beth spoke up, “The same would occur the following month though, and the cycle would continue.”
Devin nodded, “Yes, and then as Beth needed more food for the baby’s growth, I gave up another meal for her. I always told her I needed to lose weight, but many’s the time I was hungry.”
Beth scrowled at him, “You should have said something Devin.”
He shook his head, “I couldn’t. The baby meant everything to me. I didn’t want it to be born under nourished.
Then the work load increased and the food decreased, and we ran out of water, and lived on fresh orange and lemon juice, until one of us had time to drive out to the nearest water-hole, or into the city. Water-hole’s are dangerous places, but I used to take Bob with me, he would bark every time he sensed a croc about to bite my head off as I bent down to collect some water.” Everybody gasped. “Needless to say, though the water-hole was nearest, I’d prefer to wait until we had time to get into the city, besides the water was cleaner or could be bought in bottles there. Anyway, for some time, I kept noticing I was forgetting things. Just small things, but important nonetheless. Jack covered up for me a lot of the time, and gave me a good ticking off I can tell you, especially the day I made my biggest mistake when I left the compound gates open. Nothing untoward happened, but that wasn’t the point, it could have, and Jack has several little children, if nothing had wandered in, one of them could have wandered out.” Devin shuddered, “I couldn’t believe how careless I’d been. And then there were the days when I was driving and feeling as if I was floating on air. Weird feelings, I knew I lacked sustenance but what could I do? Beth needed the extra calories, and I wasn’t about to tell her I did too. I thought I’d cope, and as soon as my next paycheque came in we’d get in plenty of supplies. Besides I used to always have a good breakfast, and every Sunday we made certain we had a roast with meat and a pudding. That was the highlight of my week I can tell you.”
Beth groaned, she was feeling real bad.
Devin smiled at her, “You weren’t to know honey. I did a pretty mean cover up job.”
“I should have realised Devin, no-one can live on fresh air for that long. I’m sorry honey.”
Devin squeezed her hand and continued the sorry tale, “Anyway, as I started forgetting things, so my mind started playing tricks on me. I found that my reflexes weren’t as good, or my concentration, Bob my dog, really came into his own then. He saved my life so many times from an elephant or a hippo charge, and I almost got whacked across my right cheek for a matching pair by a lioness one afternoon too.” Devin laughed at the memory and his joke. Bob had saved him yet again. “Who’d have thought that a little Welsh collie could have been a match for such wild creatures as those, but he fairly had them going in circles, he was so fast, despite his years. While he kept them occupied, I was able to make a run for it, or draw my gun. Either way, thanks to Bob, I lived to tell the tale.” he brushed a tear aside, “I don’t think I’ll ever find another like him.” he hesitated, withdrawn for a few minutes before continuing, “The morning Bob died, I simply lost it. So many things were coming in on me at once, and then seeing the lioness eating Bob’s body well that was the last straw, I shot her dead, and that rocked me to the core. Suddenly all kinds of junk bombarded my mind, things coming from no-where, and the lioness made me think of Vincent, and I thought for all I know, he too could be dead, and I was overwhelmed by a sense of longing for him. All I knew then was that when the baby arrived it would be impossible to go away and leave Beth alone to cope, I had to go before the baby arrived. I knew the birth was imminent, that’s why I didn’t dare go back to the lodge to see, I had to leave there and then or I’d never get another chance. I know that sounds selfish, and believe me no one could have punished me more than I have myself for doing that. Still I took the jeep and drove out of there intending to return the following day, just as soon as I’d satisfied myself about Vincent. Even while I was at the airport I kept getting seconds thoughts, but I’d got the ticket by then, and I told myself I’d be back in twenty-four hours. Stupid now when you think of it, to leave like that. I knew Beth needed me, and I’ll never forgive myself for not being there for her. when she needed me so badly.
When I arrived at New Jersey, I hitched a lift, and the trucker told me he was making a delivery just past the Appalachian Mountains. I thought it must be fate. I’d left some stuff at the lodge there, so I asked him to drop me off. I went up to the lodge, collected the things, and it was on the journey back to New York, that everything went wrong.
I was hitching a ride back, when these kids sped by leaning out the windows and calling me names. I took no notice, then the car slowed and I thought they were going to offer me a lift. Instead they all piled out, and came around me. They grabbed my bags. I remember trying to get the bags back, and I remember their laughter, but the next thing I knew was waking on the side of the road with a splitting headache. Someone was leaning over me, and asking if I was all right, and helped me into their car. My head felt as though it belonged to someone else, and they took me into the city and left me outside St. Vincent’s.
I suppose they’d intended I went inside for treatment, but I couldn’t think why I was there, or who I was. The only thing that seemed to mean anything to me was the name of the hospital, the words Saint Vincent’s went round and round in my head for days.
Thus begun the wandering. I had no money, well only a few dollars I’d found at the lodge, no clothing and no memory.”
“Then how did you survive?” Vincent asked.
“Handouts, stealing,” Devin shook his head, “When you are at the other end of the survival chain you will lower yourself to anything. I even searched through trashcans. The worst was that I did not know who I was. Yet something kept drawing me. The amount of times I must have come to the park, I couldn’t think why. One day I sat and watched some birds flying south for the winter and I felt like one of them. Somewhere deep inside me I had an instinct to go someplace, and didn’t know where, only that it meant the difference between survival and non-survival. And I kept seeing these blue eyes, but found myself mixed up, they seemed to be in varying directions. Of course I know now, that I was confusing Beth’s eyes with Vincent’s. Her eyes had been one of the things that had first drawn me to her, she reminded me so much of Vincent. I thought anyone with eyes like Vincent must have a beautiful spirit, and I was right.” Beth reached for his hand, “Thank you darling”, she told him, her eyes moist with tears.
“One morning I found a place where people were living in cardboard boxes. It was a terrible place, but it was warm for a time. Once the cold weather came into its own, I couldn’t bare it. Then this guy came and called me Jeff, the name meant nothing to me. He brought me a meal, it was the first hot food I’d had in weeks. He kept telling me he knew me, but he couldn’t give me an address. Then he told me a woman had been searching for me, he told me her name, I didn’t know here, then he told me her married name, and that rang a bell. A very big bell I might add. It circled my head from then on, and I kept being drawn back to the park. I kept visualising things from the park, and the day I passed out in the drainage tunnel, I kept seeing the carousel and hearing the sound of Vincent’s laughter when he was a child. Inside the drainage tunnel I even remembered Vincent and I engraving our names above the lintel. I decided I’d rest there, thinking that when I awoke I’d remember more, and the rest as they say is history. To think Beth and Catherine were only minutes away on several occasions,” Devin shook his head, “So near yet so far, its frustrating when you think on it.”
Everyone was nodding slowly, the times they had just missed one another, was too incredible for words.
“But you’re here now.” Father told him when at last Devin’s story came to its conclusion, “And I for one am so glad everything turned out well. Devin I’ve never told you this, and perhaps its too late, but when you were missing I realised just what an old fool I’d been. You mean everything to me Devin, and I love you, I really do.”
Devin was speechless, he couldn’t say a thing. He had waited all his life for those words. Perhaps Father was right, perhaps now was too late. He made up his mind never to treat his child the way Father had treated him, no matter how many children he had.
Father’s eyes filled with tears as Devin lacked response, he would carry his guilt with him to the grave, how could he expect Devin to forgive him anyway? What he had done was brutal. And it had taken a near tragedy and some truth from other people, before he had been able to see what he’d thrown away. He was sorry, and he said so, “I’m so sorry Devin, if you could find it in your heart to forgive me I’d appreciate it, but I wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t.”
Devin looked at his Father long and hard, “Its probably too late for you and I, too much water gone under the bridge and all that, but if you could be there for Claudia as her grandfather, then maybe that would take away some of the hurt.”
With tears in his eyes, Father nodded, “You can count on it.”
“So, what will you do now?” Vincent asked him, a sob catching in his throat at the atmosphere that had developed.
“Well if Beth is certain, then we will return to Mombassa. There is a great deal needs doing there. And I understand that she is eager to try out some ideas, thanks to you Vincent.”
Beth’s eyes brightened, “Vincent has been wonderful. I have learnt so much from him.”
“As I have from you. What you brought here Beth, what you gave to me, was a treasure beyond price. And thanks to you Catherine and I now have long discussions about my deepest feelings, you don’t know what a relief it is to actually be able to share them with someone. No disrespect to you or Mary, Father, I know you only did what you thought best, but Beth has really tamed the beast as none of you ever could.”
“I’m glad Vincent really I am. And I promise we will come and visit, even if it won’t be often, we will have to save for the airfare, and this time I am not going to allow Devin to miss a meal in order to put money to another use.”
“No and don’t worry about saving money either Beth.” Catherine told her sincerely, “When you and Devin want to come, just send word and I’ll gladly pay for you, a return flight too.”
Devin gasped, “We couldn’t let you do that Cathy.”
“Oh yes you could, how else do you expect your father to be a proper grandfather to your children if he seldom sees you. It makes sense so don’t argue.”
Beth and Devin exchanged glances, knowing when they were beaten, “Thank you Catherine.” They both said together, “That’ll be great.” Devin added.
“So who’s for a cup of tea then?” Mary asked as she stood up.
Devin grinned, and in humour croaked, “I thought you’d never ask.”
*** *** ***
Devin and Beth stayed for several more weeks, allowing Beth to enjoy her very first Winterfest, while Devin grew stronger and stronger, especially with William’s cooking. The cook plied Devin with more food upon his plate each day than he’d seen in a week in Mombassa even when they did have plenty to eat.
“You need building up my boy.” William told him fondly.
“I’m not complaining William this is great.” Devin told him happily as William beamed.
“It’s great for us too.” Vincent told him, “William is trying out all his recipes in one go, and we all benefit. I’ll be sorry when you are gone.”
“Nice to think you’ll miss me, for the benefits I bring.” Devin laughed, as did Vincent, becoming serious, “I’ll miss you for a lot of things. I always have.”
“I’m sorry about that Vincent. If its any consolation when I did lose my mind, so to speak, it was always your face that swam before me, as I closed my eyes each night wherever I lay down my head, I found images of you a great comfort, strange when you think about it. To think I could remember your face and not be afraid, yet could not connect where to find you, your name, or who you were to me. Still something always drove me on, searching, searching, always searching and whenever I did remember anything, no matter how slight, it was always something happy, always something that we did together. You’re my brother Vincent and I love you, and nothing, not even memory loss took the knowledge of that love away from me. It was the one thing that kept me going through it all. No disrespect to Beth of course, but I believe that even she would agree with me, you have become pretty special to Beth too.”
Vincent didn’t know what to say, but happiness poured itself from his soul, and he put his arms around Devin and hugged him tightly. He loved him equally as much, and they were more than brothers.
And so it was a tearful farewell when the day arrived that Beth and Devin were to return to Africa, and Father, Mary, Catherine and Vincent who carried Claudia, walked with them along the tunnels as far as the park entrance.
“You will come back won’t you Devin?” Father asked his son.
Devin had given his Father’s declaration a few days before a great deal of thought. Knowing how his silence had hurt the old man, but knowing it was nothing in comparison to the years of silence his Father had treated him to. Nothing could make up for time lost, not even the belated and longed for words of ‘I love you’. Still two wrongs didn’t make a right, and if he, Devin was to have no regrets, he had to be the one to make the next move.
He nodded, “We’ll be back dad, don’t worry. We’ve a lot of catching up to do you and I.” he hesitated, the next words were so hard, they formed in his head but would not transfer themselves to his throat. Beth understood his difficulty, and squeezed his hand for reassurance, making the first move when still Devin had trouble with it. “We’ll be back Father I promise, and I’m so happy to have come to know you, all of you, I love you.”
Devin nodded, “Yes”, he told them his eyes searching all their faces, “I love you too.” But his eyes lingered that bit longer on his father’s face, and Father knew he was included, as a feeling of thankfulness and gratitude swept over him. They would still have a long way to go, but they could build from the foundation of love, of that he was certain.
“So Devin,” Mary began brushing away a fallen tear, “Let us know that you have arrived safely, send Peter a message huh?”
Devin nodded, taking Claudia from Vincent’s reluctant arms, and handed her to Beth. Vincent had come to love the little girl very much.
“And don’t leave it so long next time before visiting.” Vincent told his brother, “Do you promise?”
“I promise Vin. I won’t let anything stop me. We’ll probably come in the winter though, when there is a little less to do at the park. That’s if nothing stops us.”
“Well you’ll have no trouble from me.” Beth told him sincerely. “I’ll certainly be urging you to come.”
Devin looked at everyone, “I feel like I should say something witty but I can’t think of anything, and this is too emotional for words.” He told them as he hesitated at the large steel door that led up to the park. “I think its just going to have to be goodbye, so long, farewell, adios, see you soon.” he picked up his bags, giving Vincent a final hug before stepping through the entrance with Beth holding his hand.
“Goodbye” Beth told them, with a last lingering look, she’d miss them, all of them, but Vincent was special, she’d miss him the most.
“And don’t go a wandering anymore.” Catherine laughed as she directed the words at Devin.
He smiled at her, she’d given him the words to a perfect farewell, “If I do, I’ll wander in this direction. From now on I’ll be like a swallow on the wing, and migrate home every winter. You can count on it.”
As soon as he had said it, Devin realised he had said ‘home’. He hadn’t meant to do, but on reflection it suddenly dawned on him that there was a certain truth in the word. That these tunnels, this life Below really was home to him.
It gave him a good feeling, a sense of belonging somewhere at last, and though he still wanted to see the entire world, he knew now he always had a place to return to.
Father watched as his son struggled with his feelings with renewed hope in his own heart for he too had noticed the significant little word that his son had uttered, and the wealth of joy it had brought to hear it. And Father found he was holding his breath, until finally he was able to exhale it in a long low sigh of relief as he saw Devin nod and whisper. ”Yes you can count on it, no matter what, from now on nothing will prevent me from coming home, and that’s a promise.”
And as Devin stepped out into the sunshine he was filled with a great sense of well-being to know that for once in his life he had everything he’d ever searched for. And a great sense of joy and happiness swept over him in knowing that he belonged somewhere at last. Yes, truly, he belonged somewhere. And to Devin that was the greatest feeling in the world. He had a home and he had a family and a father that loved him and yes, for a certainty, the Prodigal would return...
He nodded, yes he would return...just like a swallow on the wing.*** *** ***
The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.