The Dark Behind The Moon
A companion piece to ĎBlame It On The Mooní (alternate beginning) Ė What happened to Vincent after their return from Connecticut?
By Catherine Scotton
Vincent looked with such regret and longing at Catherine as they sat in the car at the corner of Central Park.
"Will I ever see you again?" she spoke around a lump in her throat.
"I donít knowóIíve seen your world, thereís no place for me in it," he replied sadly.
He was silent for a moment, his reluctance to leave her apparent.
"Thank youófor everything," he continued, with such passion in his words as he tried to convey the depth of his feelings and the enormity of his gratitude.
"I canít believe youíre leaving like this," she said, exasperated with the closure he was forcing on them.
"Iím sorry, Catherine," he replied softly, "I must go, thank youóagain."
He lifted the hood of his cloak and looked sideways into her grief-stricken face then climbed out of the vehicle and blended into the shadows.
Ten days ago Vincentís world had spun out of control and finally settled on a new, more fragile axis. After his kidnapping and escape he had been rescued by Catherine. Without hesitation she took him into her lake home and cared for him, a kindness he never expected.
They had become close, too close, and one evening their relationship deepened. The resultant kiss broke the spell and brought Vincent back to reality, a reality Catherine wanted no part of. She had pleaded her case and although his ears were not deaf to her words, he had brought up internal barriers and now they had parted.
The moon shone through the trees as Vincent made his way through the park. Shadows formed dancing patterns on the ground as he walked, silently mocking him.
As he dejectedly moved further away from Catherine the frustration he was feeling, the anguish that gnawed at his soul seemed doubled; almost as if her feelings had been added to his. She had told him where she lived, but he could envisage no reason for him to contact her again. He must disappear from her life and she would forget him like a faded dream.
With one last look at the waning moon Vincent stepped into the tunnel. It was time to get back to his normal life, time to restore Fatherís peace of mind. He was home. He operated the lever that opened the steel door and swung the gate open, feeling the rush of tunnel air wash over him with a sense of finality. He must forget dreams too. Just let it go Ö let the past be the past.
Turning a corner halfway back to the central chambers Vincent met an amazed Mouse.
"Vincent," said the wide-eyed young man. "Back!"
"Yes, Mouse, Iím back," Vincent answered tiredly.
"Where?" asked Mouse.
Mouseís speech patterns were singular to him and his brevity was often a blessing.
"To a faraway place," Vincent informed him. "Itís a long story and I must talk to Father first."
"Ok good, ok fine. Glad Vincentís back, missed you," Mouse said, as though in reprimand for Vincentís long absence.
"Iím sorry I was gone so long. Iím glad to be back too," said Vincent, and it was true. He placed an arm around Mouseís shoulder and they made their way deeper into the tunnels.
Father struggled to rise quickly from his chair, leaning heavily on his stick as he made his way to meet his son.
They embraced with great affection. No biological father and son could be closer and in more than thirty years no one could have endured more than this pair had.
"I canít believe it," Father held Vincentís face and looked into his eyes. "I thought I would never see you again."
"For a time that was my fear also," admitted Vincent.
"What ever happened to you?" Father asked as he studied his sonís face, noting subtle changes.
Where to start? Vincent thought. How to explain about betrayal and fear? How to convey the desperation and then the miracle? How to speak of salvation and hopeóand Catherine?
Vincent explained to Father everything that had occurred over the past ten days. Well Ö almost everything.
"You mean this woman living all alone in that wilderness took you into her home?" Fatherís tone was incredulous.
"Yes, she is remarkable. She has a generous nature and a pure heart. She accepted me fully and helped me regain my health."
"And you think you can trust her?"
"Father, I told her nothing," Vincent spoke wistfully. "She doesnít know where we live. Iíll never see her again."
"Humph, that is for the best," concluded Father, wanting no more talk of his son and any woman.
"Now, about this kidnapping business," Father said, dismissing that topic. "You must curtail your trips above until we find out how this happened. There is someone Above who knows too much and we are all at risk, you most of all, Vincent."
"For now, all I want is sleep," said Vincent. "If youíll excuse me Father we can tell everyone else what happened tomorrow."
"Your injuries, I must give you a medical check."
"Truly, Iím fine now. Iím nearly healed, donít worry yourself."
"I will leave it for now, but youíve had a harrowing ordeal and in the morning I want to see you in the hospital chamber for a full check up. Iíll make sure no one disturbs you tonight. And Vincent Ö" Vincent turned, halting on the steps. "Iím so relieved to have you home."
"Iím relieved to be home. Goodnight Father."
News of Vincentís return was on the pipes almost the moment he had stepped into the tunnels but his privacy was respected.
He entered his chamber and for the first time it felt different, he felt different. It was still home, it still held his treasured possessions and a lifetime of memories, but something wasnít right. He removed his cloak and draped it over a chair. Realization dawned on him and he sank onto the edge of the bed, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
He had changed. Heíd been reshaped by events, some terrifying and others wondrous. His shoulders trembled and his hands shook. There was a sadness descending on him and a knot in his stomach he could not identify. He raised his head and held his shaking hands before him, looking at them as if he had never seen them before. They were not the hands of the man he hoped he was inside, not the man he wanted so desperately to be.
He clenched them into fists, so tightly that he could feel the sharp nails break the skin on his palms. He slammed his fists against his knees. Physical pain was better than the growing anguish within him, burrowing deep into his heart. He accepted the pain as his due.
Vincent looked around his chamber. His prison! How could he ever fit into this world again?
He dragged himself back on the bed and tugged a quilt across his legs. He fell into a restless, troubled sleep, still making angry fists with his hated hands.
The following day Father gave Vincent the medical all clear, once again amazed by his sonís power to heal so quickly given the injuries he reported. He was concerned about the fresh wounds on his hands but said nothing, keeping his own counsel after one glare from Vincent.
His tunnel family was overjoyed by his return. Upon hearing an abbreviated retelling of events the council members decided an immediate meeting was in order. After much discussion they were no closer to discovering who had betrayed Vincent and arranged the kidnapping. They felt it was prudent to warn their longest serving helpers so they would be alert to street talk or strangers showing interest or asking questions. Sentry duty was increased, particularly in the tunnel that led to the park, a threshold that was now compromised. They contemplated sealing it permanently but Vincent was adamant this was not to happen. The park was his and, despite the demonstrated dangers, he had no intention of giving it up.
Vincent resumed his teaching duties. Michael had taken over during his absence and in a few years Vincent could see him teaching his own classes. Michael had a love of the classics thanks to his education Below and he instilled his passion for the subject in the other children.
The class had continued, in a subdued manner, to work on their re-enactment of Macbethís witches scene, which they had started before Vincentís disappearance. Since his return their enthusiasm had revived and one evening they put on an admirable performance for the whole tunnel community, with Vincent as the guest of honor.
Vincent reacted as scared, or entertained, as the production indicated but wasnít sure that Geoffrey ending up in the cauldron was actually part of the script. He must reinforce the difference between a comedy and a tragedy in their next lesson.
"What did you think?" A bubbly Samantha asked as she bounced up to Vincent after the play.
"I thought it was most entertaining Samantha," replied Vincent, "and your costumes are wonderful."
"Mary and Rebecca and Sarah all helped to make them," Samantha informed him and then continued. "Vincent?"
"Iím glad youíre back." She looked up at him with large brown eyes.
"Iím glad Iím back too," he replied, with a sad note in his voice that she didnít understand.
Life was returning to a more even keel for Vincent with his tunnel family around him. The extra attention he had received when he first returned was finally subsiding. He had taken up all his previous tasks - from teaching, to tunnel maintenance and sentry duty. However, with more time to think, he regularly fell victim to a growing despondency.
He was actually doing more than before, anything to keep his mind occupied and his body exhausted. The problem was that when he was alone, Catherine was there, inside him. She was always there, in truth, but when he was alone her presence was undeniable. Why was this happening? It seemed a cruel twist of fate that he could not escape the feelings of this woman he wanted but could not have. This Bond he had formed with Catherine filled him with a sense of wonder, but to be united in such an intimate manner confused him.
He had always been empathic with his tunnel family, but the attachments were only fleeting; it was what made him such a good listener, he really knew how they were feeling. Father had once called it Ďhis giftí, some sentient power within that allowed him to connect with people, draw them close, it was probably why so many people accepted him. Whilst Father had said all this kindly, to Vincent as a teenager hearing this explanation had merely pointed out yet another way in which he was different. But thisóconnectionówith Catherine was unlike any that preceded it.
Father talked about accepting everyone and said that people came Below because their gifts were overlooked in the world Above. Vincentís plight was unique and although he was accepted in his tunnel home Father had subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, taught him where his boundaries lay. He remembered doing puzzles in class as a child. Pick out the shape that doesnít belong, find the one that doesnít fit. That was him. Even then he knew he was that Ďshapeí, the one that doesnít fit.
He had been thoroughly indoctrinated in what he could never do, what he could never have or be Ö they loved him, but he was justódifferent Ö
Maybe it was not wise, but in his heart of hearts where hope waits, Vincent still dreamed of impossible things.
He dreamed of Catherine most nights, but these dreams were fragile and interlaced with guns and trucks and snow and pain. Her face would fade into the surrounding snow and he would wake abruptly, trying desperately to reach for her, calling her name.
He began to recognize her range of emotions within him, could separate them from his own. He could tell when she slept; there was sense of pure peace and it helped Vincent to try to sleep at the same time. Other times he felt happiness, satisfaction and occasionally fear. Her fear affected him most, it pulled him toward her and he felt compelled to go to her immediately. Usually her fear abated and he returned without actually meeting her.
On one occasion, three months after his return, he had been in the park one evening when her fear enveloped him. He moved swiftly in her direction and saw her running across the grass. She was dressed for exercise, but something had frightened her. Moving closer he became aware of a man following her. Secluded behind bushes he was keeping pace with Catherine, and Vincent noted the glint of a blade in his hand.
Using his ability for stealth Vincent approached the stalker. Feeling the ill intent emanating from him Vincent dispatched him with a sudden, deliberate snap of the manís neck. He would be no more threat to anyone in this park, no more threat to Catherine. She ran on unaware of her protectorís presence, only certain that the danger, whatever it had been, was past.
"May I come in?" asked Father from the entrance to Vincentís chamber.
"Of course, Father."
Vincent capped his pen, placed it beside his journal and closed the book.
"Vincent, I think itís time we talked."
"What about?" he asked, although he felt he knew what was coming.
"Since your return from youróordeal, youíve changed. Iíve witnessed your moodiness, your inability to re-settle fully to life in the tunnels, in fact, often your distraction is quite evident."
"It was a very traumatic time for me, Father; I thought it could only end in my death."
"Are you experiencing flashbacks? Is that why you are so unsettled?" Father asked.
"Not flashbacks exactly but I have experienced frightening dreams," Vincent admitted, "although, they are happening less often now."
"And other than the attack, did anything happen with that woman to cause such dreams?"
"Catherine!" Merely being able to say her name aloud warmed his soul. "No, nothingóhappened."
"Itís only that I was thinking of Lisa and Ö"
"No, Father!" Vincent answered firmly, cutting through Fatherís line of questioning.
"You mean you spent over a week with this Ö Catherine Ö living with her in a remote location and formed no attachment at all? She must be quite an elderly lady?"
"She is not elderly."
"What did you do all day?" Father had obviously pondered these questions for some time.
"Once I was well enough we read books, talked, prepared meals. We took an occasional stroll down to the lake."
"And thatís all, nothingóelse?"
For all Vincentís differences Father had seen many a female eye wander in his direction over the years, particularly during Winterfest when helpers were visiting Below. Sometimes Father thought it was these very differences that they were attracted to, something exciting and forbidden. In fact more than once he had hindered friendships his son made with females by not utilizing certain helpers, or encouraging girls from Below to find lives Above.
"We became friends." Vincent admitted simply.
"Friends, humph." Disapproval was obvious from Fatherís reply.
"Father, please donít pursue this." Vincent felt frustration rise at Fatherís persistence, but tried to explain.
"Catherine was truly amazing. She virtually carried me inside her home and even though I felt her fear she showed great courage. She cared for me while I was unconscious, kept me warm and cleaned my wounds. She helped me when I couldnít help myself; she fed me, read to me, gave me her company. We became friends."
"And?" Father pushed a little further.
"We were just friends, you taught me well. Nothingóhappened, Father." He tried desperately to keep an even tenor to his voice, unable to acknowledge the precious kiss heíd shared with Catherine. "But I cannot forget her; I have this connection to her still. I know what sheís feeling, I know when sheís happy or sad and I know when sheís afraid."
"I knew there was something distressing you. You must forget this woman Vincent, she can only cause you pain, bring you misery."
"Then Iíll be miserable, but I cannot forget her."
At that Vincent grabbed his cloak from a chair and exited his chamber. Enough was enough. He would endure no more of this interrogation and Fatherís disapproval. Leaving his chamber and a stunned Father behind, he turned into the tunnel leading to the park.
Anger and frustration followed Vincent through the park no matter how fast or far he traveled. There was no moon tonight, for which he was thankful. The dark was darker, the shadows more menacing, people stayed away on nights like this. No moonlit walks down the winding paths, lovers were tucked up safe and sound tonight.
Vincentís journey took him unerringly to the park entrance across from Catherineís apartment building. He had made a conscious decision not to come here in the past months; it would have proved about as useful as baying at the moon. But he found himself here now.
Call it chance, coincidence or fate for at that moment a vehicle pulled up outside the apartment and out stepped Catherine and a man. Maybe it was the ĎTomí she had spoken of. Vincent took a sharp involuntary breath and moved back into the shadowed depths beside a wall. He could not move away, even as his mind screamed at him to do just that. The sight of Catherine after so many months fixed him to the spot. He just wanted to see her, see that she was well. He did not mean to listen, but it was such a still night and his hearing had always been acute.
"Arenít you going to invite me up?" The man asked.
"Not tonight Tom," Catherine replied.
"Iíll just escort you up then," he persisted.
"You havenít been listening to anything Iíve said tonight."
"I have. I know this new job with the District Attorneyís Office is important to you, my works important to me too."
"Tom, Iím sorry, I just donít think we want the same things anymore."
"What do you mean? Youíve been happy enough, up till now."
"Iíve done a lot of thinking lately and Ö"
"Youíve done a lot of thinking! I thought I could count on you, I thought you understood where our relationship was heading?"
"Not any more Tom and Iíve never liked you telling me who I can talk to, who I can be friends with."
"And this is what? Are you breaking up with me?"
"Itís over Tom. Itís for the best."
"So who is he?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Your new boyfriend."
"I donít have a new boyfriend."
"You must. Youíve been such a cold fish lately; I know thereís someone else."
"No Tom, thereís no one else, we just donít work anymore."
"Well Iíve already wasted enough time on you. There are plenty of girls out there who would jump at the chance to be with me."
"Iím sure there are."
At that Tom turned and headed for his car, calling Ďfrigid bitchí as his parting salvo.
Catherine watched his car drive away but didnít immediately enter her building. She looked wistfully over into the park and Vincent felt as if she was searching for something, for someone. He looked straight into her eyes, but she couldnít see him in the dark. He drank in the sight of her, felt a cord tighten somewhere beneath his ribs between his heart and hers. He nearly moved to reveal himself when she suddenly turned and with a sigh walked through the doors.
Vincent waited until a light came on in her apartment on the eighteenth floor before leaving the wallís shadow. He was trembling. He focused on her as he wandered back into the darkness of the park and could sense relief and satisfaction, but also confusion. Catherineís feelings, surely? How strange then that they matched his own, exactly.
Time passed. Months came, months went.
Vincentís internal struggles continued. He tried valiantly to find a solution, one to take him through the long years ahead. He was not wanting for friendship; he had William and Pascal, friends from his childhood, also Kanin and Cullen. Mouse too had a claim to his affections; forged through trust and acceptance. Vincent had found Mouse living like a shadow, foraging for food. He had taught him to live a new way and over time gave him language to express himself, as well as a family Below. Yes, Mouse was his friend too. He had the children to teach and on occasion they taught him lessons. They showed such resilience. Many had been through highly stressful events in their short lives and they all managed to move forward with renewed innocence, wonder and excitement for life.
But despite the fullness of his life he was lonely.
Vincentís relationship with Father settled into a more normal routine. Father rarely mentioned his time away from home all those long months before, never inquired if Vincent was coping. He accepted with silent forbearance his sonís continued forays Above to walk the dark streets and wander the park, praying for his safe passage through the night. They played chess and discussed literature; an onlooker would see no difference from times gone by. However there was a gulf between father and son, a ten day absence - a gulf that involved a woman, a gulf Father hoped was slowly closing.
After one particularly trying day repairing leaking pipes in the lower levels Vincent entered his chamber. All he wanted was a long soak in a heated pool and then hopefully to sleep and not dream. He had been sensing Catherineís sadness throughout the day, but what could he do? He could not go to her, wrap his arms around her and offer comfort, which was his natural inclination. There was nothing except this vicarious sharing of pain; it was a torment to him.
He saw an unfamiliar book sitting on his table. Moving closer he picked up the volume and read, ĎExperiences of Celibacy Ė a choice for lifeí. Anger flared in an instant. This was obviously the work of Father, part of his continued Ďeducationí. The intended manipulation was obvious.
All thought of a hot bath evaporated as Vincent clutched the book tightly in his hand and headed for Fatherís library.
With a slam the book hit the desk in front of Father who, thoroughly flustered, fumbled in removing his reading glasses to look up at his angry son.
"You have gone too far this time Father." Vincent released the book and commenced to pace the room.
"Calm down, Vincent," Father said quietly.
"How dare you leave this book in my chamber!"
"I am only trying to help." Father attempted to placate him.
"By once again throwing limitations in my face?" Vincent was exasperated.
"Of course not, I was merely offering you reading material to help you find peace."
Vincent whirled around to face Father.
"Like you Ďhelpedí all the times you stopped my friendships when I was a teenager? Like the times when you encouraged my female friends to leave the tunnels?"
A look of surprise crossed Fatherís face. So Vincent had been aware all along.
"You nurture the man in me Father, youíve educated and civilized that part of me, but the other part of me scares you and that part you try to control and subdue."
"Vincent, I have seen you when you lose yourself. That time when you killed the drug dealers who were using the tunnels Ö if you ever lost control with a woman, well, it would be terrible."
"I am aware of the danger I pose; I would never let that happen."
"But you must remain on guard. I had hoped the book might help you to focus on other aspects of life."
"Then perhaps an education including Shakespeare and the romantic poets was not your smartest move. You should have had me study more pragmatic authors."
"A bit late now," mumbled Father.
"Here is the world Vincentó," a rare sarcasm flowed from Vincent as he spread his hands before him, "óhere are its colors, its feelings. Here is love; this is what it feels like. But do not touch it. Itís not for one such as you."
Father looked hurt. He really had tried his best when raising Vincent, when raising all the children.
"I am sorry, Vincent, you didnít come with an instruction manual."
"No one does Father, no one does."
Vincent turned to leave the chamber and called back over his shoulder, "Donít look for me, you will not find me."
Vincent stalked along empty tunnels then broke into a run.
He had completed the work of two men already this day and now he ran as if the very devil was at his heals. He avoided people and moved deeper, down past the whispering gallery, past the chamber of the falls, down into the lower levels. Down and down until he could no longer hear the pipes. There was no reflected light down here but he could still see; shades of grey, just like his life. Still he went deeper.
He reached the nameless river, ice cold and ink black. Stripping off his clothes he plunged into its icy depths and swam; bank to bank, again and again across its surface, trying to take the edge off his chaotic thoughts and feelings.
Eventually, sheer exhaustion forced him back to the shore. He dragged his naked, shivering body onto a rock ledge and sat huddled, hugging his knees to his chest. He just wanted the pain to stop.
He could feel something build inside him and fill his chest. Vincent threw back his head and roared, a horrendous sound, loud and filled with years of frustration and anguish. When there was nothing left and his throat was raw from the effort, he collapsed on the ground and let the darkness take him Ö
He dreamed of blood and killing, of claws striking out at anything, everything Ö anger, fear. He saw faces and people laughing at him, pointing, staring, pushing, shoving, beating him. People screaming in fear and running from him Ö pain Ö No, no, no Ö more darkness Ö
He dreamed then of an angel, with a voice so sweet and so dear. The angel held his hand and stroked its furred back and whispered soothing words. The angel raised his head and placed a pillow under it, so soft he felt as though he floated on a cloud. In this dream, he felt safeóthis dream he never wanted to end, he could stay here forever.
He opened his eyes to the black. Gradually his vision adjusted and the grey returned. Differentódifferentódifferent, always differentóhis mind continued to torment. He lay naked on the cold hard rock feeling wretched and alone with no dream to comfort him, no angel to hold him.
For three days he stayed in this dark world away from everyone who loved him or anything that gave him solace. He ate nothing, only drank from the black river, the cold water numbed him body and soul.
From far away a feeling of contentment washed through him. What! Where! Oh Ö Catherine. He focused on her and felt her happiness, tried to pull her peacefulness inside him. He could sense her well-being and satisfaction with whatever task she was undertaking and he grasped for this lifeline.
He knew they could never have a life together, not the kind of life he wished for, but maybe he had been given this gift, this Bond to help him through the dark times? It was something to contemplate. Was it so impossible for them to be friends? Just friends? If friendship was not possible, this connection with her would eventually erode his very sanity.
Calmer now, buoyed by a glimmer of hope that all tranquility was not out of reach; Vincent resolved to return home.
His journey up was slower, a gradual piecing together of his tattered psyche with each determined step. As he was near, he headed for the chambers where Narcissa made her home.
"Ah, Vincent, come in, come in. And what are you doing so far from home?" the elderly sage inquired.
He spoke slowly, answering himself as much as her, "I have been seeking answers."
"And did you find your answers, Vincent?"
"Maybe the beginnings of them but also more questions," he admitted.
"Oh, Vincent, you wonít find your answers down here deep in the ground."
"You may be right."
"What you seek you will only find with love," came her cryptic response.
"Vincent child, your destiny is Above, for your heart draws you Above and the answers you seek are all inside you."
He had no response to her puzzling words.
"And Vincent," she shook her old finger at him, "make your peace with the Father."
Vincent was truly stunned by this statement. How had she known of their argument?
"Do not be so surprised. The one called ĎMouseí has visited to bring me supplies. He likes to talk, and although I am blind, I can still hear." She chuckled.
"Is there anything you need before I return home?" he asked.
"No, Vincent, just remember to listen, with your heart wide open."
Taking his leave from the mystic woman he continued to climb through the levels of his world. The heaviness in his soul seemed to ease as he left the deeper tunnels behind. His first stop was Fatherís library.
"Father." Vincent spoke the old manís name with mixed feelings; trepidation being paramount among them.
"Come in Vincent." Father gestured to a chair sitting at an angle to his own. "Please, sit."
Taking the offered seat Vincent dropped his head and stared at his clasped hands resting between his knees. "I must apologize for my behavior the other night."
"No Vincent, Iíve had plenty of time to think in your absence and I must apologize."
"But Father, I over-reacted."
"It was understandable, I was not very sensitive. Sometimes I forget you are an adult. Most children your age have left their family home and made a separate life for themselves."
Vincent closed his eyes against this sad truth Ö limits Ö always there were limits.
"Our situation here is unusual to say the least," Father continued. "However, you deserve your independence andóyou deserve my trust son."
"Thank you Father. Your words mean everything to me. I have done a great deal of thinking over the last few days. I do not know what will happen in the future, who I may meet. I know I donít possess a monkís discipline for denial, but I am mindful of the danger I represent. Father, I know my limits."
"Then letís talk no more of this. You have my full trust, Vincent. Go now, you need some fresh clothes, some of Williamís stew and a good nightís sleep in your own bed. One day at a time, Vincent."
"Yes, one day at a time." He echoed Fatherís words.
They embraced with shared relief and then Father held Vincentís head in his hands and kissed his brow. A weight had been lifted from each of them.
Life in the tunnels continued. The routine and discipline involved in the smooth running of the community was vital to the world Below. To feed and clothe, shelter and educate their hidden community required almost regimental precision. Vincent returned to the maintenance crew working on the pipes and took more than his fair share of the sentry duty.
He particularly liked the duty which covered the tunnel entrance to the park. When the moon was full he would stand at the threshold, sometimes for hours, and bask in the reflected glow and allowing his imagination free rein. This is where he found himself on the full moon in the month following his time spent far below at the nameless river.
Standing there so quietly, he could almost touch Catherineís presence. She seemed so close tonight. Was she jogging in the park? Was it just the stillness of the night?
Fear, sudden and unshakable gripped his heart. Not his! Catherineís? Leaving the shelter of the tunnel entrance he sprinted in the direction of the Carousel.
Movement caught his eye behind the bushes. He moved quietly, looking for clues to the unfolding situation.
"Little Miss DAs who stick their noses in where they donít belong get whatís coming to them. A little Ďfuní beforehand is just a bonus, for me, that is."
Vincent would recognize that voice anywhere. Mitch Denton.
He let out a menacing growl and moved closer. Mitch stood and faced him, suddenly realizing who was confronting him. He looked confused.
"Well I see it, but I donít believe it," he tried to maintain his bravado. "I thought I got rid of you eight months ago."
"I should have known that was you Mitch, to betray your own people," Vincent replied. Moving fully into view he could see Catherine lying on the ground at Mitchís feet.
"Youíre not Ďmy peopleí anymore Vincent," shouted Mitch. "You ceased to be that when you turned me away when I needed help, when I needed a place to lay low. I spent years in that stinking prison because of you. You wouldnít let me hide out in your little rat-world, like you thought you were all better than me. Well Vincent, what goes around comes around. I saw to that."
Finishing his words Mitch pulled Catherine to her feet, holding her around the neck and pressing a knife to her throat. Catherineís face was bleeding down one side.
"See what he is. Heís a freak, go tell New York about that," he shouted into her ear.
Catherine realized he was distracted by his anger and in his attempt to shock her with the sight of Vincent. She brought her heel down hard on his instep.
"Bitch!" he screamed turning.
It was enough. Vincent advanced on Mitch grasping him around the neck. He roared a great and terrible roar, hoisted Mitch high and threw his erstwhile friend like a rag doll into the bushes. He knew it wouldnít be the end of Mitch. Even now, with the knowledge of what Mitch had done to him, Vincent could still hear the faint echo in his memory of his childhood friend. While the tunnels could be of Ďuseí to him Mitch would keep the secret. They would, however, all have to monitor Mitch much more closely from now on.
Catherine went to Vincent who suddenly looked vulnerable and ashamed by his display of temper. He raised his head meeting her eyes and the long months of loneliness dissolved for both of them. Without hesitation she went into his arms.
"Oh, Vincent," she cried. "You saved my life."
"I felt your fear, Catherine."
Eventually and with much effort they parted.
"Iíve missed you so much Vincent," she admitted.
"I know," was his quiet, enigmatic response.
"Come on, we canít stay here," she said, looking with loving trust into his soulful blue eyes.
"Catherine. Your face, youíre bleeding," he said in a concerned voice. "Come with me. I must take you to Father."
"But Vincent, your secretó"
"óis safe in your hands."
Vincent reached then for her hand. He wanted to hold it and her heart forever. They walked side by side, hands clasped, toward the tunnel entrance, shyly glancing at each other.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
"There is a world of tunnels under this park, under this city. It is where I live," said Vincent, relieved to be able to tell her the truth this time.
Amazement shone in her eyes, but not disbelief. Vincent had taught her about impossible things.
"The carousel," comprehension dawned. "Itís the one from your story about Devin; youíve been so close all this time."
"Yes." He answered warmly, squeezing her hand slightly.
They reached the entrance to the tunnel.
"Is this where we go in?" she asked.
"It is," he answered, nodding slightly and turning once more to look longingly at her.
Once again overwhelmed by their feelings they moved closer. Catherine threaded her arms around Vincentís waist and rested her head against his chest.
Should he turn back now before this went any further? Did he want to? Could he? Standing here at the threshold, in reality and metaphorically, with Catherine in his arms it seemed the decision was already made. Still, he needed her words to continue.
"Are you sure Ö?" he began, moving to look down searchingly into her eyes, looking for any hesitation or uncertainty, hoping to find none. "Are you sure Ö." He paused again, didnít know how to continue.
"Vincent," she said, sliding her arms from around his waist and taking his hands in hers. "I donít know how to say this without sounding obsessed. For eight months Iíve yearned for you, even in my dreams I couldnít let you go. At times Iíve felt your presence so acutely that I turn, expecting to see you, only to be overwhelmed with disappointment. Yes, Iím sure."
To add weight to her declaration Catherine pulled Vincent closer and reaching up kissed him softly on the lips then she hugged him close once more.
Vincentís heart swelled with hope and possibility. "I have so much to tell you, so much to show you."
Still holding hands they walked the length of the tunnel entrance and Vincent escorted her across the threshold to the inner tunnels. He pulled the gate shut and activated the lever to close the steel door. So much had happened since he had been kidnapped at gun point all those months before, at this exact spot. And quite frankly, he would not change a thing.
They walked slowly, deeper into the tunnel world, Vincent answering her questions as they went. Finally they reached Fatherís library. Vincent preceded Catherine down the short staircase ...
Now to test Fatherís trust! Vincent thought.
Catherine stayed close to Vincent as they descended the five steps into what appeared to her to be a very full, if somewhat chaotic library. Upon reaching the bottom Vincent turned and took her hand, escorting her into the room. Father looked up from his book.
"Ah, Vincent Ö" he started to speak, then seeing Vincent was not alone he rose quickly from his seat, simultaneously removing his spectacles. There was a look of stunned surprise on his face.
"Father, I would like you to meet Catherine," Vincent said, hurrying the introduction, "Catherine, this is Father."
"Catherine Ö?" was all Father could say, obviously at a loss for words.
"Hello sir, Iím pleased to meet you," Catherine moved forward extending her hand, trying to garner more confidence by her actions than she actually felt.
Studying her face Father noticed the drying blood down one side, "What has happened to your face?" There was a look of concern in his eyes.
"I have much to tell you Father but Iím afraid Catherine needs medical attention first," Vincent spoke up, hoping to push past this awkward moment.
"Yes, yes, of course, letís go along to the hospital chamber," Father replied, happy to have a course of action, "we can continue this conversation there."
Locating his walking stick Father led the way, glancing back occasionally and noting worriedly the solicitous manner in which Vincent was escorting this young woman through the tunnel.
Reaching the hospital chamber Catherine was seated on the side of a bed while Vincent proceeded to light extra candles. Father gathered his medical bag and various paraphernalia on a tray. He washed his hands thoroughly in a basin to the side of the room.
The old manís troubled expression worried Catherine, who had become just a little uncomfortable with the situation she was in.
As if sensing her discomfort Vincent moved closer and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Itís all right, Catherine," he said quietly, reassuringly. "Father, how can I help?"
"Pass me the saline solution." The ĎDoctorí came to the fore. "I need to clean the area first so I can assess the wound."
He pinned Catherineís hair out of the way and gently cleansed the cut. She tried valiantly not to show how much it hurt.
"How on earth did this happen?" Father asked when he finally had a clear view of the cut, suspecting it was a knife wound.
Squeezing Catherineís shoulder slightly Vincent spoke, "This is difficult to tell you Father, but it was Mitch Denton who attacked Catherine."
"Mitch!" exclaimed Father as he disinfected the side of Catherineís face, "I thought he was still in prison."
"Apparently not," remarked Catherine, "and heís involved with a crime ring stealing imported goods from the docks. I thought he was a bit-player who could help our case, but it appears he may be more involved than we first thought."
"And thereís something else," Vincent stated.
"Well, tell me," insisted Father, "one more shock tonight shouldnít kill me."
"It was Mitch who arranged my kidnapping last January," Vincent dropped his head. The mention of his kidnapping brought back so many conflicting emotions.
Father stopped momentarily and glanced at his son. He had his own painful memories to deal with from that dreadful time when Vincent was missing.
"Where is he now?" asked Father.
"Nursing a sore neck," Vincent looked meaningfully at Father over Catherineís head, "heís still alive."
"Iíll have to stitch this cut; itís too deep to heal left like this." Father was all business again, digesting Vincentís information in his mind as he worked. "Youíre not allergic to anesthetic, are you?"
"Not as far as I know," Catherine replied.
Donning surgical gloves Father then made a series of small injections around the wound. Waiting for the anesthetic to take effect he threaded a needle with silk thread and positioned a magnifying glass on a stand so he would have two hands free to work. Making delicate stitches he worked silently as he closed the cut, snipping off each stitch as he went. Once finished he placed a dressing over the area and started to clean up his equipment.
"You should get a prescription for antibiotics, Iím fairly confident but I cannot guarantee you wonít develop an infection," he concluded.
"Thank you, I will," Catherine replied. She was starting to feel unwell, so much had happened tonight.
"Vincent, Iím calling a council meeting for first thing tomorrow morning," Father stated, "There is much to discuss. Iíll leave you to escort Catherine home."
With that he retrieved his stick and limped from the chamber stroking his beard thoughtfully.
Not wanting to relinquish Catherine so soon, Vincent brought her to his chamber, to rest for a while before it was necessary for her to leave. It was a surreal experience for him to have her enter his chamber, his world. How would she view it? Everything was old, patched and care-worn, undoubtedly the antitheses of what she was used to Above. He was very nervous.
She wandered around the room, delighted, touching this and that and taking it all in, from Lady Justice guarding the entry to the stained glass fan-shaped window, cleverly lit from behind.
"Vincent, this room is amazing." Catherineís eyes lit up with excitement.
"It holds pieces of my life, my touchable memories. I even have the baseball Mitch broke a pane of this window with. We all got into trouble for that one." He chuckled.
Catherine looked at Vincent, amused. "Iím just trying to imagine you as a small boy, and in trouble."
"Believe me I was no angel. We kept the adults on their toes."
"May I sit?" she asked, suddenly feeling weary.
"Iím sorry, of course, please sit here."
He indicated an ornately carved chair by a table. The whole setting was something Catherine could envisage in a castle in some long ago time. The table held a number of books and a diary. Several candles were lit, all burned at different lengths, melted wax holding them in place.
Vincent paced between his bed and the doorway unsure how to proceed, or what to say not to scare her. After seeing where he lived how could she want anything to do with him? Sheíd seemed genuinely glad to see him in the park tonight, but surely that was only because of the circumstances and the assistance he had given her with Mitch. She was right here in his chamber and his confidence was plummeting.
"Stop!" She commanded. "Come and sit down, youíre exhausting me with your pacing."
He finally settled on the edge of his bed, facing her.
"How did you know I needed help in the park tonight?" She asked the question that had nagged at her all evening.
Vincent gasped, looking into her eyes. It was another moment of truth; another proof of just how different he was. Could she accept this too, along with all his more obvious differences?
"After Connecticutó," he spoke slowly, deliberately, truthfully, "óafter we parted all those months ago, I started to become Ďawareí of you, your feelings inside me."
"How do you mean?"
"I began experiencing emotions which were not my own. When you are happy or sad or confused I feel it." He spread his hand over his chest, over his heart, to emphasize. "When you are afraid the feeling is over-powering, thatís why I was drawn to you in the park."
Catherine looked embarrassed; a thought had just crossed her mind.
"What about at other times, like times when I was with Ö?"
"Yes, I felt that too." Vincent dropped his eyes embarrassed by this admission. He had been an unwilling witness on several occasions, and had busied himself in an effort to distract his awareness from the most private of her feelings.
"Then you must know itís over withóhim?" She didnít even want to say Tomís name lest it hurt Vincent. "There is nothing to stop us being together. I canít bear the thought of losing you again. These last months have been so hard Vincent, Iíve tried to be strong but Iíve felt so alone Ö since you left me."
Since you left me. He could hear the accusation, the pain behind her words. Didnít she know it was hard for him too?
"But youíre life is Above." Heíd said these words so often in his head that he almost believed them. How could a woman of the world Above commit to him in any way, no matter how much heíd dreamed of that very thing. With the strictures he was forced to live by, his limitations Ö it was impossible.
"My life is with you," Catherine declared, "even when I thought Iíd lost you forever I couldnít give up hope. Subconsciously, I realize now, the connection you have explained was pulling at me too."
"Catherine, please, as much as I might want this it is impossible. Our worlds are too different, Iím too different."
"Donít start that again. Your Ďdifferencesí saved my life tonight. I would be dead right now but for you and your differences."
"Donít even say that. What if I hadnít got there in time?" The idea terrified him.
"But you did and thereís a saying, ĎIf you save someoneís life then you are responsible for ití."
"You saved my life too, in Connecticut." Vincent reminded her.
"So you see, weíre responsible for each other, weíre meant to be together."
"But there are things about me you donít know, a side of me which isóless than human." It galled Vincent to mention that part of his nature against which he constantly battled for control.
"You mean like in the park tonight," queried Catherine remembering the roar which issued from Vincent and the rage he manifested, "when you saved me from Mitch, when youódealt with him?"
"Worse than that." He rubbed his fists into his eyes then stood and started pacing his chamber again. This was the most painful thing he had ever done. Exposing himself so completely to Catherine, he felt open, wretched and raw. "There are times when the darkness takes over and I lose myself in it, almost feed on it. When this world is threatened or people I love are involved, my reason seems to disappear. I feel like Jekyll and Hyde and the consequences can be terrible."
"Everyone reacts when their loved ones or home is in danger. You are not so different on that score; you just live in a world where the risks are greater." Catherine rose and placed a hand on his retreating back, trying to offer solace.
Vincent turned suddenly at her touch and she was startled into an involuntary backward step. Her words of comfort were well and good, but her reaction spoke volumes to Vincent who instantly put up his well-polished internal wall to protect himself from more hurt.
"Itís time for you to go back." There was firmness in his tone that brooked no argument.
"Vincent, I know you now, I canít Ďun-knowí you, please donít push me away?" she begged, grabbing at his sleeve. "I want what we started in Connecticut, I want more than that, I love you."
"No Catherine. Itís not safe to love me." Vincentís wall was firmly in place now. He had dreamt of her for months, envisaged Ďsomethingí unattainable, impossible. However much he wanted her, he loved her too much to tell her, too much to tie himself to her, too much to give it wings. "Itís late. I must escort you through the park while itís still dark. I cannot be seen Above once the sun is up. You see, Catherine - I bury myself in the ground by day and move in the shadows by night. What future could we ever have?"
"Radcliffe, what happened to you?" inquired Joe Maxwell, Deputy District Attorney. "You look terrible."
"Thanks Joe," Catherine replied with a weary edge, "I know I can always count on you for an honest assessment."
"No, really, what happened to you?" He moved closer and pushed her hair back to reveal a medical dressing beside her left ear.
"You know what they say about bogey men in the dark," she replied non-committal.
"No," he perched stubbornly on the edge of her desk folding his arms, "tell me what they say."
"I just had an incident in the park last night when I went to meet my contact," she said vaguely.
"He attacked you? Who was it, and what do you mean going into the park by yourself at night?" Joe interrogated her.
"It wasnít that late Joe and no it wasnít my contact. I donít know who it was," she lied, having already decided she must do so in order to keep Vincent safe. If Mitch Denton was brought in, she couldnít risk his exposing the world Below. He hadnít thus far, but she wouldnít put it past him to use the information to cut a deal. "Itís just a scratch really."
"So, where are we on the Goldstein case? He seemed to accept her assurances and had moved on.
"I missed the meeting with my contact last night so Iíll have to search him out again," she said all business now. "Iíll make a visit to the docks, sound out a few other contacts I have there and see what I can stir up."
"No more after dark ramblings Radcliffe," said Joe wagging his finger at her like a disapproving father.
"Oh Joe, so you do care," she joked. "Now off my desk I have calls to make."
An inkling of a suspicion was starting in her mind, connections were forming. Mitch, the docks and the tunnels; what if he was using the tunnels to hide the stolen goods, to move them away from the dock area and then transport them at leisure. Goldstein was certainly financing the operation and calling the shots, but Mitch Denton had street smarts and Goldstein knew how to align himself with the right people for the job. There was no denying Mitch knew the docks, knew who he could bribe or blackmail to look the other way while goods were Ďredirectedí through a tunnel entrance. Who would think to look at what was right under their nose, or in this case under their feet, to solve this case?
Phone calls forgotten Catherine grabbed her coat and headed for the elevator. She wanted to have a quiet look at the docks herself, to see if her theory had any basis in reality.
The taxi crawled along, caught in heavy traffic. Fortunately the driver seemed disinclined to talk, a rarity among the taxi driving fraternity. Catherine sat quietly in the back seat still exhausted from the previous nightís events. She felt drained, physically and emotionally and totally frustrated by the way she had parted from Vincent.
He still insisted on pushing her away, even though one look in his eyes told her a very different tale. He wanted her as much as she wanted him, but he had some altruistic moral imperative on a loop in his head telling him it could never be between them, that he must give her up to keep her safe. She knew he was different, that was blatantly obvious from the start, but he had such a beautiful soul. His spirit was bound by circumstance, but it called out to hers, perhaps unknowingly on his part. His pulling away was breaking her heart.
The taxi deposited her close to the dock area; she just wanted to wander around quietly. She had her credentials and if she was questioned could say she was here to meet someone, she knew some names to use if necessary.
Most of the activity was much closer to the shore where a large container ship was berthed. Huge cranes were busy overhead unloading containers onto the dock area. Moving swiftly Catherine ducked through the security gate while the guard was busy with a truck and worked her way around the edge of the facility, until it was just her and a sea of containers with narrow alleyways between them.
She wasnít sure what she was looking for as she inspected the empty alleys. It was late in the day and the sun had started to lower in the sky. Long shadows sent tentacles around the containers and a drifting malevolence, whether real or imagined, settled over her. Suddenly this didnít seem like the good idea it had back at her desk in her nice safe office surrounded by noise and people.
A movement! Catherine caught it out of the corner of her eye as she moved past another opening. Crouching at the end of the alley she surreptitiously peered around the corner, allowing her eyes to adjust to the gloom.
Voices! She couldnít make out what was being said from this distance. Momentarily the men moved away and Catherine ducked low and ran silently to a closer vantage point.
She could see better from here too; she could make out men moving boxes out of the open end of a container and handing them through a hole in the ground. A manhole Ė a tunnel access? She felt justified in her suspicions about Mitch using the tunnels to do Goldsteinís bidding. Now she needed to leave unnoticed and work out the best course of action. Maybe if the people Below were aware of what Mitch was doing, they could somehow put a stop to this enterprise without bringing the authorities into the tunnel environs.
She eased up from her crouched position and started to turn just as an arm came down; aimed at her head Ö the world went black Ö
In a tunnel some miles away Vincent came to an abrupt halt. He was still for a moment, searching inside Ö Catherine had been feeling anxious, not fearful and now Ö nothing! He fell to his knees in the dust, threw back his head in despair and roared.
A moment passed. She was still alive Ö he knew that at his core, he must find her. There was no time to waste.
Rising quickly, in a swirl of cape he turned and followed his heart.
Muffled sounds, scraping, dragging, distant voices Ö pain Ö canít move, hands tied Ö
Fear enveloped Catherine, her head felt fuzzy and she couldnít seem to concentrate. She shook her head trying to clear her vision. Someone shone a flashlight in her face.
"Sheís coming around boss," a voice reported, undoubtedly the flashlight holder.
"Well, so she is."
Catherine recognized Mitch Dentonís voice immediately. She couldnít believe it was less than 24 hours since their encounter in the park. Her face still throbbed where heíd cut her and now her head ached on his account. She looked around and saw boxes stacked to the roof, she appeared to be in a cave full of stolen goods. She could only see one entrance to the area.
"So Miss Chandler, we meet again," Mitch commented. "This could make for a very interesting situation. Seems to me that you were not all that surprised to see my old friend last night and I find that most curious."
Catherine glared at Mitch, refusing to be drawn in. "My office knows Iím here today and if I donít report in these docks are going to be crawling with police."
"Is that right?" Mitch chuckled. "Then itís a good thing weíve stopped our operation for the day and that we are not Ďon the docksí."
Fear continued to suffuse Catherine. Her bluff was just that and, even if Joe did know where she was, no one would look underground for her. She really was alone in this.
"My neck is killing me thanks to you," he continued, rubbing at his neck for emphasis. "I donít know what sick relationship you have with Vincent, I donít want to know, but you and I have some unfinished business."
"Do you think it makes you a big man to force yourself on defenseless women?" Catherine hoped that if she could just keep him talking she could at least delay the inevitable.
"Well, you see, thatís the result of being institutionalized. You lose all your morals and humanity when they lock you up and treat you like an animal."
"No, Mitch," she replied, "your lack of moral fiber is what put you there in the first place."
Mitch turned then to his underling, "Guard the entry, I donít want to be disturbed. Got it?"
"Sure boss." The lackey left then, wearing a smirk on his face as he cast a look at Catherine.
Catherineís fear increased now that she was alone with Mitch. She pushed herself back as far as she could but with her hands tied behind her there was little she could do. Mitch pulled a knife from his pocket and flicked it open. He waved it back and forth in front of him as he moved closer to Catherine, menacing her, terrifying her. He reached down with one hand and unfastened the button of his pants.
"Now, where were we when we were so rudely interrupted last night?"
The next few minutes passed in a blur. A roar of incredible anger emanated from down the tunnel; there were shouts, gunshots and screaming. The noises were terrible, but eventually ceased. The guard outside the entrance looked worriedly in at Mitch and then ran yelling at Vincent who had just arrived outside the cave. A moment later the manís body flew across the opening to land like a tossed toy on the ground, his head at an odd angle.
Vincent stepped into the cave but it wasnít the Vincent Catherine knew. His eyes were wild, he was snarling, exposing his canines, his arms extended, clawed hands flexed and red at their tips. He was beyond reason and raced at Mitch who stabbed at him with his knife. Absolute rage was manifest in Vincent as he slashed at his childhood friend. The first swipe gouged Mitchís face and the second, a death blow, across his stomach. Mitch dropped the knife, clutched desperately at his wound and looked with disbelief and accusation at Vincent; there would be no recovery this time. He fell to his knees as shock set in, then fell face forward into the dirt and lay still.
Catherine stared wide-eyed at Vincent. She was open-mouthed and sober. The appalling knowledge of what Vincent was, all his facets, sinking deep into her. He had tried to tell her, tried to warn her about this side of his nature. Had she only wanted to see him through rose tinted glasses?
The rage left Vincent quickly and was replaced by shame and guilt. He looked from Mitch dead on the ground, to his claws and then to a wide-eyed Catherine huddled against the wall. His eyes made the circuit a second and third time; he stepped backward once and then again. Catherine was suddenly terrified he would leave.
"Vincent," Catherine called to him, breaking his trance, "please help me, my hands are tied."
He moved to her then as she leaned forward to give him access to the rope. Releasing the knot he sat back on his haunches looking down at the ground.
"So now you have seen." The words were torn from him, his voice haggard. "Now you knowówhat I am."
In answer, and before he could protest, she threw herself into his arms. "Who you are, what you are, are irrelevant to me, Vincent Ė youíre the man that I love."
What she had just witnessed changed nothing. Heíd rescued her using claws instead of a gun, he had felt her fear and come to her aid, no thought for his own safety, only hers.
"Letís go." She took his hand and pulled at him until he rose. "Come on, before someone else comes."
Vincent guided her through the tunnelsóit was a long, silent walk. Eventually, he stopped at a break in the wall where the bricks were missing.
"Where are we?" she inquired.
"Under your apartment building," came his toneless reply.
"We are?" she was stunned.
"Yes, the ladder leads into the basement."
She turned to him then, unsure. Parting from Vincent was always difficult.
"What can I say to you?" Her heart was aching. "How can I thank you?"
"Donít trouble yourself, Catherine."
She moved closer and rested her head on his chest, her arms around his waist. She could feel the comforting thud of his heart through the layers of clothes. Vincent didnít move.
"Wonít you hold me?" she asked her voice small and tentative.
"Iím standing here with blood on my hands, how can you ask me that?"
Avoiding her reply he moved out of her embrace and without a backward glance, disappeared through the wall.
Catherine sighed, her heart heavy and her energy sapped, but her loveóintact. She moved slowly toward the ladder and began to climb.
Ten days passed.
After leaving Catherine at the threshold of her building Vincent had returned to the tunnels at the docks. Trying not to think, numbed to the reality of what he was doing, he set about disposing of bodies down a deep shaft. It felt surreal, almost as if another person was accomplishing the gruesome task. The true horror of what he was doing hit him when he returned to the cave that held Mitchís remains. Remains Ė a strange word to use Ė Ďwhat is left behindí. Mitch left more than his body behind and his legacy was not a positive one. Sam Denton would have to be told of his sonís death. Vincent would see to it himself and try to explain, seek forgiveness. Sam may forgive him, but he was not sure he could afford himself the same grace.
The dreadful work completed Vincent spent the entire night moving stolen goods back through the manhole onto the dock. Once the task was done he jammed the manhole cover so it couldnít be opened. It would hold until they returned with welding equipment.
Over the course of the next week teams of tunnel dwellers worked nights to seal entrances and change passageways in the dock area. It was grueling work, but they pushed themselves to finish the job as quickly as possible. Their attention had been diverted from this area lately as theyíd been using extra security at the park threshold. They had forgotten to watch their backs. Rosters were re-written, they were so vulnerable Below and they feared exposure above all else.
"You realize you have just left your king exposed," inquired Father. He looked with concern at his son. He had seemed unsettled for months after his kidnapping but this current depression and morose introspection was concerning him more.
"Ah, yes," his tone was indifferent, "well it appears you win." Vincent started to reset the board but was stopped when Father placed a hand over his.
"Son, go to her," Fatherís words were direct. "I know I have not always been supportive of the idea of you with a woman, but go to heróbefore I lose you again."
Vincent looked up in stunned surprise at Father. What he had suggested was his dearest wish, but how could he? He felt less than human and worthless with it.
"How can I?" he voiced the words.
"How can you not?" rejoined Father.
They looked at each other with understanding for a long moment and then Vincent came to a decision. Both men stood and embraced.
"Go, with my blessing," said Father.
"Thank you Father." He voice sounded thick with emotion. "I donít know what will happen; I guess Iíll still have to take the days one at a time."
"Good idea son, good idea."
Vincent had often thought about the logistics of reaching Catherineís balcony. On those darkest of nights when there was no moon he would climb to the top of buildings and sit for hours looking out at the city lights, imagining other possibilities, other lives where he was a normal man. However, as dawn approached his visions would fade, what normal man would be sitting on the roof of the world, wishing on a star?
So, it wasnít really all that difficult in the end. He had to be careful during the final swing onto the balcony, lest he slip, but with that accomplished he suddenly lost his nerve. How could he approach her? She might have company? He knew she did not, her emotions were too even, but his mind was playing games with him. He had brought a book of Shakespeareís Sonnets to give her. It was after reading a sonnet so long ago in Connecticut that they had first kissed. He should just leave the book and go.
Moving out of the corner shadow Vincent knocked a chair in the process of placing the book on a small table. He gasped at the noise it made and shifted back into the corner, trying to be invisible, terrified she would come, and even more terrified she would not.
He stood there holding his breath as the door rattled open and Catherine emerged holding a gun. She looked beautiful and he feasted his eyes on her from the shadows. She reached down and picked up the book, reading the title. Comprehension dawned and she searched the balcony until she saw him in the corner.
"Vincent Ö!" she cried, leaving the gun and book on the table she launched herself into his arms.
"Iím sorry," he replied, "I didnít mean to frighten you."
"No, no, Iím so glad to see you," she tried to calm his fears, worried that he would disappear as mysteriously as heíd arrived.
"I had to see you again," he confessed, tightening his hold on her.
"Iíve felt like half of me was missing," she said as tears shone in her eyes, "Iíve been so sad."
"I know, Iím sorry." He shut his eyes and raised his head feeling paralyzed to continue.
Catherine, sensing something wrong looked up at him.
"Tell me, Vincent," she encouraged him.
"I donít know how to start, where to start," he confessed.
"Tell me what youíre feeling," she suggested, returning her head to his chest. Maybe if she wasnít looking at him it would make it easier.
"What Iím feeling?" he repeated, "Iím feeling petrified, I have so many hopes, so many dreams, Catherine."
"Am I in them?" she asked looking up again as he looked down into her eyes.
"You are them," he revealed. "You are every wish, every want, every dream I have ever had. Catherine, you are everything."
"Everything! Are you sure, Vincent?" she asked, echoing the question he had asked her previously.
"If you can see me at my worst and still accept me with such courage, then Iím sure."
"Itís not courage, Vincent, itís love."
He moved his head lower at that and met her lips in a gentle kiss, filled with love and hope. Once they parted, Catherine gently took his hands, kissed each in turn then drew him slowly, confidently, across the threshold and into her apartment.