Vincent and Catherine, along with their oldest son, were enjoying the tranquility in their sunny brownstone kitchen. The three were reading the morning papers and having a leisurely breakfast. Jacob, not having class until the afternoon, was enjoying the quiet time with his parents. His teen-age siblings were at school, and the house was pleasantly quiet.
college senior was now headed for
The quiet atmosphere was broken with the ringing of the phone; both Catherine and Jacob looked up, but Vincent continued reading the paper. She always smiled at his complete disregard for its presence.
“Some day, my love, you may have to acknowledge its existence,” she said ever so softly as Jacob reached for and picked up the phone.
“Hi Jen. Sure. No problem. Around then. Ok I’ll have someone meet you there, bye.” She replaced the phone and looked in her husband’s direction.
“Vincent, Jenny needs someone to meet her at the park entrance tonight around , please. She has a meeting with the tunnel council at , and she needs a guide down. Without a guide she’ll get lost, and heaven knows where she’d end up,” she said with a grin, thinking of her best friend wandering around lost.
He continued reading the paper, seeming not to have heard her.
She grinned at her son and said, “And when you’re done reading will you hang out the laundry for…”
“Catherine, I will be happy to meet Jenny myself; and we don’t hang out the laundry,” he said smiling, never lifting his head from the paper.
“Jacob I don’t know how your father does that. He consistently intrigues me; I guess that’s why I love him so much. Just when I think he is ignoring me…”
“Catherine please, I could never ignore you …you’d probably sue me. I certainly hope that isn’t the only reason you love me.”
He looked up, smiled at her, and winked at his son.
“Ok, folks…I’m off to the library and then to class. See you both tonight.” He kissed both of them on the top of their heads before going out the door, grinning, and shaking his head at his special parents.
Vincent neatly folded his newspaper before dropping it in the recycle bin. He came around the table, took her face in his hands, and kissed the top of her head. He continued down and tenderly kissed her sweet lips, lingering for a moment before pulling back.
“Before we lose track of time, my love, we need to be Below for classes. We can continue these…thoughts tonight after the council meeting,” he said, seductively running his tongue slowly across her bottom lip and then lifting her out of her chair.
“Have I ever broken a promise to you?” He said feigning shock toward her with his hands over his heart.
“No, my love, you haven’t. I guess I can wait. Let’s hope it’s a short meeting,” as they left hand in hand to go Below.
Catherine was teaching an ethics class for the older students in the morning and history to a younger group in the afternoon. She loved the challenges of teaching, and the tunnel children were eager to learn.
Vincent had two literature classes to teach this morning before he started his tunnel duties. Usually these included speaking with Jamie about any security issues, Pascal or Kipper about new codes or problems with any pipes, and William about kitchen issues or supplies.
Their normal routine was to lunch with Father in his study. Father was older and slower now, but with a spirit that never seemed to dim. He still tended to his community’s medical needs most of the time, with Jacob’s help.
“Father will you be attending the meeting tonight with Jenny?” Vincent asked as he poured their tea?
“I believe I will, with your help of course. She has some thoughts on mentoring the students who have a flair for writing.
Cathy, Jenny is a marvelous helper, supplying us with books, and assisting the children who go Above to live and work.”
Vincent handed him his tea. “Good. I’ll come for you then at the appointed time. I promised Catherine I would meet Jenny and bring her to the meeting.”
“And I believe you never break a promise…especially to your beautiful wife,” Father said, grinning at Vincent and patting Catherine’s hand.
“Never,” he said with a chuckle deep in his chest. The words so normal, your beautiful wife, a dream that he never thought could be his.
Jenny’s meeting ran a little over, it was dusk as she started through the park. She didn’t have far to go and the evening was pleasant. The walk to the tunnel entrance would let her unwind from her hectic day, she thought to herself.
“Hey lady!” A deep voice called out to her. Startled, she turned to see Jacob striding across the park waving at her. She slowly started to breathe again and waved back at him.
“Young man, you gave me quite a scare,” she said as she reached out to loop her arm through his.
“Sorry, I thought you would have already been there by now. But since you’re not, it will be my honor to escort you.” He said, putting his hand on her arm and proceeding forward along the path.
Vincent was leaning against the wall at the park entrance, reading and patiently waiting. He shook his shaggy head and smiled. It seems I’m always waiting for Catherine, Jennifer or Jenny at one time or another. I can’t complain though, they are always worth the wait, he thought to himself contentedly.
He assumed Jenny would be running late, as was her way. He felt a rush in his Bond with Jacob, then it relaxed; he son was on his way home too. Good.
The two walked together chatting about classes, books, and everyday matters. They were not too far from the tunnel entrance when a shift in the wind alerted Jacob. They were not alone! He noticed the slight scent of marijuana in the air and immediately looked around for the user. Jenny was unaware of his apprehension, and he didn’t want to frighten her.
“Aunt Jenny, we should hurry. You don’t want to be late meeting with Grandfather. You know how he dislikes tardiness,” he said, tugging her a little quicker along the path.
“Really Jacob…” she said, trying to keep in step with him.
Vincent felt the anxiety in his son; he immediately left the tunnel entrance and started through the trees cautiously.
Out of the shadows they heard, “Hey, Billy, look what I found. People…with money, I bet!” His speech was choppy from the drugs.
With that, two disheveled looking individuals stepped out from the bushes and started walking toward them, smirking.
“Sorry guys. I’m just a poor college student. No money here. See… just books,” he said moving in front of Jenny to shield her while holding out his backpack.
Jenny clutched his arm in terror and started pulling him in the other direction. Jacob was as big as his father, but not a good match for the knife one of the men had pulled out. Had he been alone, he would have been more likely to attempt to disarm the thug, but not with Jenny at risk.
“Get her purse!” one of the yelled menacingly!
Jacob kept trying to shield her from the man with the knife. The other thief started circling closer and quickly pulled out a gun.
Jacob felt the rush in their Bond; his father was coming! Got to keep them talking a few more minutes, he thought.
“Dad’s coming,” he whispered to Jenny.
“Hey what you tellin’ her kid?” The thief slurred.
“Here take my purse. There’s money in there,” she said, tossing it out in front of them, hoping to distract the thieves.
The one with the knife ran and picked up the purse, ripped it open and grabbed the money out.
“Hey, only 30 bucks. We need more than that lady, a lot more!” He yelled maniacally at the top of his lungs.
He started toward Jenny, waving his knife wildly. Jacob pushed Jenny back and the drug infused man slashed him across his arm.
“Jacob no!” she screamed, trying to pull him away!
A roar exploded as Vincent came out of the trees, grabbing and hurling the knife wielder hard against a tree with a sickening thud. He turned toward the second man, who was staring glassy eyed at him. The man fired his gun just as Vincent struck him, sending the aggressor to a much darker, colder place.
He turned; his son and friend were trying to comprehend what they had just witnessed in front of them. Shame and guilt began to overwhelm him. He quickly closed his Bond with his son.
“Come. We need to get Below. Jenny are you all right… you’re not injured?” he asked, softly taking her hand.
“Vincent, I fine. Let’s get out of here. I’m sorry. This wouldn’t have happened if I was on time,” she said looking at both of them.
He looked at his son’s arm; it needed stitches. Jenny was wrapping her scarf around his arm to stop the bleeding.
Jacob had felt his father closing their Bond. He knew he was shielding him, and it frighten him; Vincent had never closed their Bond before.
Catherine met them half way to the hospital chamber; she knew there had been trouble. Her heart sank when she saw Jacob holding his arm, and blood on his jacket.
“Jacob, you’re hurt! Tell me what happened?” she asked quickly looking from one to the other, and hugging her son.
“Mom…Dad saved us.” he said quietly as they proceeded to the hospital chamber where they knew Father would be waiting for them.
“Cathy, I’m so sorry. Jacob met me to walk me here, two drug high thugs wanted to rob us, and he tried to protect me,” she said, starting to cry.
Catherine turned and put her arm around her friend to comfort her while they continued to the hospital chamber.
“It’s not bad enough I have had to stitch your father up many times, now I have his son. Come my boy and let me look at that,” Father said trying to ease the tension he felt hanging in the air.
Catherine looked over at Vincent, who had been staying behind them and totally silent. She knew that look of pain in his eyes.
He had to kill again!
She could feel the flood of emotions from him; guilt, shame, despair. She needed to sort them out to be able help him.
“Vincent, why don’t we take Jenny to our chamber; I’m sure she would like to sit down and catch her breath,” she said softly. She could feel the tension in him when she reached out and took his hand in hers.
When they arrived at their chamber, she guided Jenny over to the side of their bed. Jenny sat on the edge; Catherine sat next to her rubbing her back to ease her feelings of fear and guilt at what had transpired.
“Jenny, it’s not your fault, please don’t think that,” Catherine whispered to her distraught friend.
“But, Cathy, he could have been badly hurt; or worse, he could have been…”
“Stop it Jenny, don’t say that! He’ll be fine and will have a thin scar, and a great story to tell all his friends,” she said giving a new twist in the conversation to deflect the fear in her best friend.
“Cathy, Vincent saved us; he came out of nowhere. They had a gun and a knife, and I was terrified they’d kill him and us! I can never thank him enough…” she said sobbing into Catherine’s shoulder.
He quietly stood leaning against the entrance of their chamber. He hadn’t moved or said anything. Catherine could feel his pain at having to kill again, completely flooding their Bond.
A few minutes passed before Jenny completely calmed down, took some deep breaths, and tried to smile at both of them.
“I’m sorry I’m such a baby. I have never been so frightened in my whole life,” she said as Catherine gave her an extra hug.
“Jenny, I need you to do me a favor and check on Jacob, please. I need to talk to Vincent for a few minutes.”
“Sure, Cath, I need to tell that boy he’s my hero!” She rose, and as she passed Vincent, she squeezed his arm and kissed his cheek. “Thank you Vincent.”
He silently stood there, his head hanging down, not able to look at either of them. Jenny continued down the tunnel to find Jacob.
Catherine looked up at him “Vincent, tell me what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling…please?”
He only stood there looking down, she knew he was tearing himself up inside. She got up and put her arms around his waist to surround him physically with her love.
Quickly she pulled her hand back and looked at it; there was blood on her sleeve!
”You’re hurt! Vincent…let me see.” She guided him toward their bed.
“Stay here, keep pressure on that, I’m going for Father!”
They were back quickly, followed by Jacob and Jenny. Father removed the towel and opened his shirt to get a better look at the wound.
“Dear God, Vincent, you’ve been shot! Fortunately it passed straight through, thank goodness. Catherine, get him a clean shirt; and Jacob, come here and help me, please. We’ll get this cleaned up and stitched, you’ll be good as new in a few days, barring infection of course,” he said, noticing the lost look in his son’s eyes.
When he was finished stitching and dressing the wound, Father suggested Jacob and Jenny join him for tea in the library. “Doctor’s orders,” he insisted, leaving Catherine alone with Vincent.
He hadn’t said a word, he couldn’t look at her. She sat beside him on the bed, gathering her thoughts, and took his hands in hers, kissing them tenderly.
“Vincent, talk to me…look at me…please. Tell me what you’re thinking.
She waited, knowing how difficult this was for him.
“Catherine…my son…has seen me kill…he has seen how I kill.” He spoke so softly that she almost didn’t hear him.
There were tears running down the sides of his face, and he still hadn’t looked at her. She could feel shame and despair filling their Bond. He was in such agony. She sent love and strength to him, hoping to ease it somehow; she had never felt his pain this strong before.
Finally she took his face in her hands and kissed his eyes, his cheeks, and then his lips. He slowly raised his eyes to look at her. He saw only her love looking back at him, and it made him release the breath he was holding. Then she held him sending love and gratitude for what he had to do.
“My love, you had no choice. Our son and Jenny were in great danger. Their lives are worth what you had to do. I’m sorry. I know we have never talked to Jacob about the things that happened before he was born. I believe now he is old enough to know and understand. I think we should speak to him together. Vincent, you’re not alone in this.” She smiled and laid her head on his chest listening to his heart beating a little slower now.
A short time later, Jacob came to check on his parents, and brought a pot of tea for them.
He could see the tears in his father’s eyes, even though his father hadn’t looked at him when he came in the room. He turned to leave, still feeling his father shielding him.
“Jacob… please…I need to speak to you if you’re not too tired after your ordeal. Your arm, son… much pain?” he asked softly.
“No, Dad… its ok. Grandfather gave me a shot, and stitched it up. It took 12 stitches, and he said I’ll have a thin scar to sport about.
I’m really glad Aunt Jenny is ok and didn’t get hurt. Dad, I didn’t realize you were hurt. I thought he missed you. I‘m sorry,” he said softly.
“Jacob, I’m sorry you…had to see what I did to those men. It shames me,” he slowly said with tears filling his eyes again.
“Your father did what was necessary to save you and Jenny, but it makes it no easier for him. He has always been the protector and guardian of his world and all of us. This has caused him great pain…” she said almost in a whisper.
Jacob turned his back to them and took a deep breath. “Dad…I know about what you had to do before I was born. Grandfather told me a few years ago. I had noticed two of your scars when we were swimming; they looked like the pictures I had seen of bullet wounds. I approached Grandfather, he told me about the outsiders and the two other killers. He made me promise not to ask you because of how it made you feel. Through our Bond I think I understand that feeling now. You have been shielding me tonight, but something still came through.”
Now Jacob turned to face his father. “Dad…you did no more or no less than any soldier or police officer would do in that situation. You must never feel ashamed for protecting your world, or mother or any of us. I recall you telling me once, after a nightmare I had, that you would never let anything or anyone hurt me or any of us.
Just because you didn’t use a gun or knife doesn’t make it wrong. You have only courage and yourself to depend on. I’m proud of you for saving us. But I’m more proud that you are my father. I love you Dad,” he said kneeling beside the bed, kissing his father’s cheek and hugging him.
Vincent and Catherine had tears streaming down their faces. Their Bond was full of love for their son, and it flowed over into his Bond. They stayed holding on to each other, savoring the warm feeling of love in their Bonds.
Jenny came back after talking with Father; not about books, about Vincent and Jacob. She understood him so much better now, and why Cathy protects him and loves him so much.
“Hey, you two, Father said you should stay here tonight. Jacob, I’ll go home with you to be with your brothers and sister. We’ll have some explaining to do and I’m really too tired to go all the way home anyway,” she said without taking a breath.
“Thank you Jenny, Catherine and I will rest here tonight. Please tell our children we love them and will see them in the morning,” he said finally smiling at her.
“Oh Vincent, I’m so happy to see you smile. It makes me all warm inside.” She bent down, kissed his forehead and winked at him, then pulled Jacob along with her down the tunnel.
“Night, folks. See you in the morning, the gang will be down for breakfast, tomorrow is Saturday.” Jacob managed to say.
“Me, too” Jenny announced.
After a few minutes of quiet Catherine asked, “Vincent, are you in much pain?”
“Catherine, the pain from the wound is mild; the pain from what I had to do is slowly subsiding. Our son helped me understand more of what you were trying to tell me. He gave me the most precious gift; he said he was proud that I was his father, even after he saw what I did.”
“He was right you know… no more or no less that any protector would do.
“Catherine, I regret I may have to break… no postpone the promise I made to you this morning. I’ll make it up to you soon, that I do promise,” he said smiling and showing his canines.
“Promises…promises,” she whispered.