Past, Present, and Future

Jen Bennett

Catherine laughed. From where she stood on the gantry in the Great Hall, she could see all the people she loved, her friends and family. At her side stood Vincent, her husband, with his arm placed lovingly around her waist. She heard his laugh resonate with her own as they watched Jenny and her current dance partner show their moves.

It was Winterfest and they could see and feel the joy of all they loved: Father trying to find a chess opponent he could beat; William guarding his homebrewed cider; and Mary trying to keep the younger children from wreaking havoc. In the background, they could hear classical music, played by the tunnel music group. On the dance floor in the centre of the room, several couples were dancing to an interesting version of the Waltz.

Catherine turned and leaned heavily into Vincent; resting her head on his chest, she sighed. Vincent moved his arm from around her waist to across her shoulders, pulling her further into him. He could sense her weariness through her laboured sigh. Placing his head on top of hers, he whispered.

"You are tired, would you like to leave?"

"No, Iím fine. I was just thinking about the last time we were here."

Vincent smiled, planted a kiss on top of her head and said, "I was thinking the same thing earlier; it seems only yesterday we stood here for our Joining ceremony."

"Hmmm, how wonderful these last few months have been," she said dreamily, "and how much more we have to look forward to." She then smiled and placed a hand on her now swollen belly.

Months ago now, Vincent had taken Catherine to the Crystal Cavern, proposed to her there, and then they had made love, unknowingly conceiving their unborn child. In preparation for their Joining, she had been allowed to tell Jenny about Vincent, her family Below, and why she had been so secretive. Jenny had been overwhelmed with Catherine's extended family and the love they had showed her during her stay for Cathyís Joining ceremony. Only a week later, she had spoken to Catherine about the possibility of becoming a helper. Father and the council had discussed her request and then welcomed her warmly into their lives. Now, several months later, she was, like so many other helpers, a valued, respected, and loved member of the community.

Jenny hadnít been the only new helper at Winterfest this yearóthey were also pleased to welcome the New York District Attorney, Joe Maxwell. After the news of Catherineís pregnancy, the council had agreed, after some debate and arguing from Vincent, that for Catherineís safety and that of their unborn child, Joe should be trusted and told about the community Below. Vincent had argued that as their Bond was impaired, he wouldnít know if Catherine was in trouble or needed his help, not to mention the possible complications of her unpredictable pregnancy, labour, birth, and the physical appearance of the child. The hope was that Joe would be able to support and protect Catherine, both as a friend and a boss. Vincent thought that if Catherine needed help, she would be able to seek it from Peter, Jenny, or Joe, all of whom had been good friends to Catherine. The council had eventually agreed to Vincentís request, not only for the sake of the child, but to calm Vincent. It was rare that he ever asked for anything and he certainly had never become angry with them like he had that day.

Now as Catherine looked across the Great Hall, seeing Joe and Jenny dancing, she remembered his reaction to her revelations. He had been speechless, shocked, and then annoyed that she hadnít trusted him sooner. When she brought him Below for the first time, he had been in awe, but as realization dawned, he began to understand. His first meeting with Vincent had been even more interesting, but now he saw Vincent as a brother, a brother who trusted him to look after Catherine.

Catherine moved her head, making eye contact with Vincent. "Dance with me."

"Certainly, Catherine," he said, slightly bowing his head, as if in honour of the request.

Slowly they made their way down the stairs to the main floor. Vincent took her in his arms and they danced in rhythm to the music. To everybody around them, they made a dashing couple; Vincent looking handsome in his black velvet trousers and waistcoat, high necked ruffled shirt, and long golden mane while Catherine, with her loose fitting, green velvet dress that mirrored the light in her eyes, looked radiant.

As always, these tender moments shared between them caught the breath of all around them, their love apparent to all. They danced around the Great Hall lost in each otherís arms and eyes. After what felt like only a moment to Vincent and Catherine, they realized that they were, once again, the only people in the Great Hall, apart from their shadows dancing on the wall, like in fairy tales.

Later, they extinguished the remaining candles and headed up the windy staircase to their chamber. The chamber had once been Vincentís, but had been expanded beyond the stained glass window to give him and Catherine more room, and privacy, following their Joining ceremony.

Catherine sighed, announcing the full extent of her weariness. She was glad they were back home, in their chamber. The candles were flickering around the room, casting shadows on what was now their reception chamber, which still mostly looked as it did when Vincent was assumed to be a confirmed bachelor. However, several comfy chairs and a sofa had been added to provide a comfortable environment for them to unwind in and for Vincentís senior poetry group to relax in during recitals. Vincentís writing table still graced this outer chamber, but instead of being full of books, it now supported several case folders, transcriptions, and police reports pertaining to the case Catherine and Joe were working on.

Catherine sat down on the sofa, kicked her shoes off, and let the quiet candlelit room relax her.

Vincent, seeing her actions, asked, "Are your feet sore?"

"Just a little," she replied. "I'll be glad when the baby comes so my feet can return to their normal size."

Knowing how sore her feet had become, Vincent motioned for Catherine to lean against the arm of the sofa so he could massage her feet. Since Catherine had become pregnant, they had not been able to "communicate" through their Bond so Vincent, more than Catherine, had found he had to resort to the spoken word.

"How does that feel?"

"Mmm, it feels wonderful Ö" Catherine replied smiling, "and as much as I would love for you to continue, I really think I should be getting to bed. Joe and I have a lot of work to do tomorrow."

"As you wish, my love," Vincent replied, smiling, and then rising to his feet. He extinguished all but the longest burning candle and returned to Catherineís side where he offered her his hand. She took it and together they retired into their sleeping chamber where, as usual, they would cuddle up and drift into sleep together, as one.

***

Catherine rose early the next morning, bathed, and headed for their reception chamber. She made some tea, sat at the writing table with a sigh, and began to read the case notes in front of her. She and Joe had been working on a high profile case and despite her initial reduction in hours to part-time, she was now working full time with Joe on the case. She had wanted to refuse, but had agreed, reluctantly. The case was important to Joe, as it was his first high profile case since becoming District Attorney, following Morenoís less than scrupulous dealings and subsequent resignation. They had worked long into many a night, Joe often coming Below to work with Catherine. Now they had their court date, tomorrow.

Joe entered the reception chamber exasperated. "Radcliffe Ö how we doiní? Are we ready? This is a big case and I wanna win."

"I know, Joe, and we are as about as prepared as we can be," Catherine answered reassuringly.

"Yeah, well I just wanna make sure we are prepared and have done everything that we can. I want this case to be open and shut, no questions, no doubt."

"I know, Joe."

They worked all day, only stopping for rest and meal breaks. By evening, Catherine was exhausted and decided she needed to call it a day.

"Joe, weíve been working on this case for weeks. Iíve hardly seen Vincent and, patient though he has been, I would really like to spend what is left of this evening with him."

Looking up from the papers he was reading, Joe scrutinized her, aware for the first time in weeks that she really did look tired. "Yeah, youíre right, maybe we should call it a day and get a good nightís sleep before tomorrow."

They began to pack away all the reports into the two carry boxes that had been sitting underneath the table.

"Iíll take these with me tonight and then you just have to bring yourself in the morning, Radcliffe."

Catherine smiled. She knew what he was thinking. As much as he had accepted Vincent, Catherine suspected he was still a little nervous of Vincent and didn't want to upset him by letting her carry any boxes. As Joe left the chamber, boxes in arms, he turned. "Now just because youíve had a night off, donít think you cannot be in my office bright and early in the morning."

"Of course Joe, how could I possibly think that?" She laughed. Her friend and boss was the constant taskmaster.

As she leaned back in the chair, she closed her eyes, thinking about having a wonderful soak in the hot bathing chamber. A smile broke onto her face, yes, thatís what she would do, a bath Ö

Vincent entered their reception chamber from the tunnels and stopped in mid stride. He was overtaken by the beauty that met him. It was at times like this that he wished he could stop time, preserve it, and carry it with him for those times when she was nowhere near. Oh my heart, my love, my Catherine, how wonderful and beautiful you look, tired though I know you are. Vincent, thinking Catherine was asleep, bent to pick her up, intent on putting her to bed.

"Oh. Vincent!" she said slightly startled. "Iím not asleep, I was just resting."

"Iím sorry, I didnít mean to startle you. I Ö are you all right?" he asked, concern visible in his eyes and audible in his voice.

"Oh, Iím fine. I was thinking that Iíd like to have a nice long soak in the bath."

"Ah, I see. And would you be liking some company?" he asked with a suggestive glint in his eye. "Perhaps to rub your back, massage your feet, or Ö" He let his words trail off.

"Or?" she said in a very serious voice, causing him to lower his head in embarrassment. She knew very well what he was suggesting, but even now, after over six months of marriage, he could still be shy and easily embarrassed. Smiling and taking his chin in her hand, she encouraged him to raise his eyes to meet hers. When finally their eyes met, he could see the playfulness in hers and he realised that she had been teasing him.

He sighed and laughed heartily, showing all his teeth.

Catherine slid her arms around his neck. "Well Ö shall we?" her eyes moving towards their private chamber from where they would access the bathing chamber.

"Of course, Catherine." Slowly, he slid his arms under her and then stood, holding her tightly against his strong frame.

***

Catherine lumbered into the District Attorney offices early the next morning with coffee and doughnuts in hand. Through the windows of Joeís office, she could see him pacing back and forth, talking to the empty room. She guessed he was rehearsing his opening speech for their court case, the State v. Sanchez. She knew that Joe really wanted to win. The case, in fact, was personal, hitting the very heart of the DAís office.

Sanchez was charged with an A1 felony, kidnapping in the first degree. The accused had kidnapped and held for ransom the daughter of a very well-to-do socialite family who were regarded as royalty because of their close family ties to the Mayor of New York City. Catherine had been brought in as co-council for the case and to act as a liaison between the family and the DAís office because they had been business associates of her father; she had met them on several occasions.

"Coffee!" she said, opening the door and breaking Joeís performance.

"Mmm, good call, Cathy. Come on in and sit down."

She walked in and took a seat in one of the high leather-backed chairs facing Joeís desk, lowering herself slowly.

Joe had temporarily stopped pacing to eye the coffee and doughnuts, but soon began pacing again, his apprehension getting the better of him.

"Joe, will you please stop pacing, sit down, and have some coffee?" she asked in vain as he continued to pace, only pausing to stare out of the window and run his fingers though his hair.

"I just donít know what weíd do if we lost, Cathy," Joe said, almost to himself. Turning to face her, he said, "We really have to win this one."

"I know Ö and we will do our best to win!" Sighing, she continued. "But starting a court hearing without food will certainly not do me any good, so are you going to join me and help me feel less guilty about eating?"

Joe smiled in resignation. "Yeah, youíre right. Where are the coffee and doughnuts again?"

They talked about some of the finer details of the case. How the daughter, Jessica, had been kidnapped in the first place, how little security there had been at the school, and how it had been hours before anybody even noticed the fifteen-year-old was missing. All too soon, it was time for them to leave the quiet of Joeís office and head for the courthouse.

***

Later that morning, Joe and Catherine walked into Court Room No. 1, the place where they would have to argue and possibly bargain their case for the state of New York. They hoped to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty of kidnapping and holding a child against her will for ransom.

The courtroom was still empty and a slight echo could be heard from their footsteps resonating among the large wood panels on the wall. Straight ahead of them was the clerk's desk and behind that the Judge's chair, attached and at the right, the witness box. To the far right of the room were twelve empty chairs where the jury would sit.

They walked down the aisle of spectators' chairs, through the small gate and headed for their seats at the highly polished large wooden table to the right of the small gate. Silently they unpacked their briefcases and seated themselves. Slowly the courtroom filled; the defense attorneys arrived taking their seats at the desk to the left and in front of the small gate. Finally, the judge and jury entered the room to the court clerksí announcement of "All rise."

The opening statements for both the defense and the prosecution had gone well. In fact, Catherine thought Joe had done a superb job and appeared to have already warmed the jury to his way of thinking. However, before long, Judge Henderson called for recess until after lunch, when the state was allowed to call its first witness.

Lunch came and went, as did the next two days of witnesses, examination, and cross-examination of the defenseís witnesses. Joe and Catherine had continued to work long into each evening, preparing their case for the following day. They had worked in the reception chamber next to her and Vincentís chambers, providing Catherine with a relaxing environment. Vincent was never far away, often reading quietly or listening to the discussions between his wife and her boss.

Vincent was appalled at what heíd heard. Jessica had been abducted on her way home from school. She had been collected from school in an identical car to the one normally used and told that the chauffer had been changed due to illness. She had been held in Brooklyn where all her needs had, thankfully, been catered to. The abductors had demanded the family pay them five million dollars in ransom in exchange for her safe return.

Unfortunately, by the third day of the trial, the press had managed to construct and broadcast character profiles of all the attorneys involved in the case. For Catherine, the events that surrounded her attack and disappearance nearly four years ago had, once again, made headline news. There had also been discussion about her social life and her withdrawal from society, and considerable speculation over the father of her child. Joe could see that this line of speculation was clearly worrying Catherine and had, for the first time, made an executive decision for Catherine that was non-negotiable. He had decided that, for her and Vincent's safety and that of the community Below, she should stay with him for the duration of the trial, especially as her apartment building was besieged by reporters.

That evening, Joe escorted Catherine to her building and helped her to pack for a few nightsí stay in his apartment. Whilst there, Vincent appeared on the balcony and made his customary tap tap tap on the doors. He had become concerned when Catherine had not returned to the tunnels at her usual time and had decided to head for her apartment. Catherine, packing a suitcase in the bedroom, heard the tapping and, spurred by a longing to see her husband, made her way to the balcony doors, throwing them open. Catherine walked straight into Vincentís arms for a much-wanted embrace. As they hugged on the balcony, they were joined by Joe.

"So thatís how you two did it! And thatís why you were never alone, even though nobody ever came or went from your apartment."

Vincent, withdrawing from their hug, smiled. "Catherine, I am afraid all our secrets are out now."

Catherine giggled and then her body language changed. "Perhaps more than you think."

"What is it, Catherine?"

"Oh Vincent Ö" she sighed, tears welling in her eyes.

Vincent, without thinking, moved towards her, taking her into his arms once more. He then turned and looked at Joe questioningly.

Joe, unsure of quite how to proceed, decided that his best option was to cut to the chase. "The case we are working on is really high profile, Vincent. The media has profiled all of the attorneys involved in the case. They have started to look into Cathyís life, her assault, and her life in general and now they are trying to speculate on who the father of her child may be."

Vincent lowered his eyes, tightening his hold on Catherine. "I see."

"There are reporters staking out this joint trying to get a glimpse of who Cathy may be involved with, so Iíve asked her to come and stay with me until the trial is over. I also donít think it would be safe for her to continue to access the tunnels though Central Park just in case sheís spotted, and of course using the threshold is out of the question because of the baby."

Catherine raised her head, making eye contact with Vincent, the desperation of the situation evident on her face.

"Catherine, you must be strong," said Vincent "When this is over, we can be together again."

"Vincent, Iíve told her that the moment this case is over, sheís on maternity leave as long as she wants."

"Catherine?"

"I know, Vincent, but I just cannot bear to be away from you. The baby is due in less than a month!"

"You need to be strong, for yourself and for our child." Vincent tightened his grip protectively around Catherine, kissed her head, and rested his head on hers.

Joe withdrew into Catherineís living room, closing the balcony doors as he did so.

***

A few hours later, Catherine was at Joeís unpacking the two bags she had brought from her own apartment. As she unpacked in Joeís spare room, she thought about Vincent and how, once again, it was her world that had come between them.

Sensing her resolve Joe called to her from the living room. "Hey Radcliffe, are you done yet so we can start working on the case?"

"Mmm, yeah, sure Joe, just give me a minute." Always the taskmaster she thought, smiling to herself.

***

Two days later, Catherine and Joe sat at the prosecutorsí desk in the courtroom, waiting for the judge and jury to enter with a ruling on the case. It was Friday afternoon and Catherine hoped they wouldnít have much longer to wait. She wanted the case to be over with so she could retreat Below to be with Vincent and look forward to the impending birth of their child.

At 4pm, the door to the private chamber of the judge opened, as did that of the jury. All rose and were then seated. The judge asked if the jury had reached a verdict; the spokesman replied that they had. The security officer came forward, passing a note from the jury spokesman to the judge and back again.

"Will the defense please rise and face the jury?" asked Judge Henderson.

As the defendant and his attorneys rose, Sanchez turned and looked into the crowd of spectators in the public gallery.

"Mr. Sanchez Ö" said the judge in an almost exasperated tone. "Would you please face the jury?"

As Sanchez turned to face the jury, tension rose in the courtroom. Catherine and Joe held their breath, knowing the outcome of all those weeks of work hinged on the next words spoken.

The jury spokesman rose, projecting his voice, he said, "We the jury, find the defendant, William Sanchez, guilty of kidnapping in the first degree."

"DOWN! EVERYBODY ON THE FLOOR NOW!" a voice had suddenly shouted from the rear of the courtroom. "ON THE FLOOR NOW!" the voice had repeated when nobody had reacted to his commands.

Judge Henderson tried to speak, but they would have been his last words as a bullet landed between his eyes. Silently, he slumped in his chair.

"Now," said the man with the gun. "Everybody on the floor and nobody will get hurt."

In unison, the jury, attorneys, and spectators in the public gallery slid from their seats and in their own unique way, lay on the floor. At the prosecutor's table, Joe slid to the floor and turned onto his side so he could offer Catherine as much assistance and support as he could.

Simultaneously, the gunman walked up the aisle and through the gate. Pointing a gun at Catherine, he spoke. "Not you honey, you can stay in your chair. Iím not completely callous."

Catherine, almost hanging in mid-air, slid back into her seat, giving the gunman a slight smile and nod of the head in grateful thanks. From where she was seated, she could see there were at least two accomplices. Each was dressed in a similar way to the gunman; business suit and raincoat with rather expensive looking shoes. It had been along time since she had followed menís fashion closely, but even now, she could spot an expensive pair of shoes when she saw them.

"Ladies and Gentleman," said the gunman "I would like to assure you that as soon as I get what I want, you will all be free to go. Until that time, if any one of you decides to take the law into your own hands, act rashly, or attempt escape, my colleagues or I will not hesitate to kill you. Do I make myself clear?"

Silence fell upon the room. The clock on the wall at the back of the courtroom could be heard, ticking with every second that passed. Tension rose to an almost intolerable level as the gunmen patrolled the aisles of the courtroom.

***

Several miles away on Staten Island, James MacArthur had just returned home from the library. He had skipped lunch, trying to be home as early as possible. As he walked through his front door, he debated whether to head straight for his room and argue with his rather old and sometimes temperamental television set, or head to the kitchen to find something to eat. He decided on food followed by television.

An hour later, he trailed himself and his newly acquired library books up the stairs to his room. As he switched his television on, the phone rang. Argh, he thought, more distractions. He managed to excuse himself from the telephone call as soon as possible and return to his television set.

As usual, the set was being difficult, taking time for the tubes to warm and even slower to display the picture, so he started to leaf though the library books: Law and Ethics, How to be a Good Lawyer, and How to Pass your Bar Examination. Urgh thought James, How dull, but it has to be done.

James was a 24-year-old, final year law student attending the University of California at Berkley, although currently home for the holiday season. He had been following the case of the State vs Sanchez as closely as possible. In fact, he had been making a study of it for his term assessment.

From where he was seated on his bed, he heard his television spring to life. Out of the speaker, he heard what he thought was a gun shot. Turning in surprise and moving towards the screen, he studied the fuzzy image before him. Starring wide-eyed, he struggled to comprehend the now clear picture on his screen.

What he saw was an assassinated Judge and a courtroom of people being held at gunpoint. He saw everybody being ordered to lie on the floor except for the woman Ö What was her name? Something Chandler? Then one of the gunmen started to shout at his comrade standing at the front of the courtroom, saying how wrong it was and how they should just make a run for it.

As the gravity of the situation dawned on James, he made for the phone on his nightstand falling over his half full bag of library books. Scrambling to his feet, he grabbed for the phone, dialing 911 as he went.

"911, where is your emergency?"

"There is a courtroom in New York being held at gun point."

"What borough are you in?"

"Iím in New York City, Staten Island!"

"What is your emergency?"

"There is a courtroom in New York being held at gun point."

"And which courtroom would that be?

"Iím not sure, the one with the Sanchez case, you know the one where that girl was kidnapped and held for ransom?"

"How do you know about the courtroom?"

"Iím a law student; Iíve been following the case as part of an assignment. Iíve been watching the trial on the law channel."

"Are you watching the show now?"

"Yes."

"What can you see? How many gunmen can you see?"

"I see three men; the Judge is slouched in his chair. Everybody is one the floor except for that lady attorney; sheís sitting in a chair."

"What are gunmen wearing?"

"They are all wearing suits."

"What about weapons?"

"The man who is doing the talking has some kind of hand-held pistol. The other two have bigger guns, half slung over their shoulders."

"And the court officers, where are they?"

"I cannot see them," James had replied, "but I get the impression that there are other gunmen in the room from the way the main gunman turns and talks to the others."

During the latter part of the conversation, the operator had called for her supervisor. She took some time to arrive, having been called to a hoax call about some courtroom being held at gunpoint. On hearing a very similar conversation to the one she had just previously dismissed as a hoax, she decided perhaps there was some truth in the calls. As three more operators signaled for her, she started to panic, aware of what she was possibly about to hear.

***

As one of the gunmen took a snack bar out of his pocket, Catherine wondered exactly how long this would go on for. She could see Joe lying on the floor in front of her, face down. She could tell he was nervous and as the gunman moved away, he turned to make eye contact, first with her and then her swollen belly. As the gunman came back up the aisle, Joe returned his gaze to the floor, but Catherine had noted the concern in Joeís eyes, which served no other purpose than to mirror her own thoughts and concerns.

The gunman stopped directly in front of Catherine "When are you due?" he asked, waving his gun in the general direction of Catherineís swollen belly.

She had already thought this one out. "A week" she replied. She had decided that this may give her the biggest chance of being released, if they thought she could have the baby anytime.

"Thatís all we need," he had replied, as he began his restless pacing again.

Thankfully, Catherine didnít find the constant motion of the gunmen disturbing. She was used to Vincent pacing in times of distress and had become quite accustomed to keeping her cool in such a situation. In fact, she almost smiled to herself. Once again, her beloved Vincent was looking after her.

***

Outside the courtroom on Centre Street, all traffic had been stopped and diverted by the New York Police Department. The courtroom building had been cleared of all "non-essential" personnel and by the time the hostage negotiators arrived, armed snipers were in place. The Chief of Police was firing off a stream of questions: How had the guns passed through the metal detectors? Why had the security officers not picked up on the gunmen earlier? How many hostages were there and so on. However, the most pressing question wasóWhat did the gunmen want?

The hostage negotiators quickly took command of the situation. An operations centre equipped with maps, telephone lines, and satellite communications had been organised in one of the nearby courtrooms. Files on the nature of the court case had somehow, miraculously, found their way into the operations centre, as had a full itinerary and history of the people in the courtroom.

"So what do we have, Saunders?" the agent in charge, Tibbs, had asked the Chief of Police.

Saunders proceeded to give a summary of the situation. He outlined the points of the case under trial and gave a brief history of the key people within the case: the judge, the defense and prosecuting attorneys, and the defendant.

"Who did you say were the prosecuting attorneys again?"

"Joe Maxwell, District Attorney, and Catherine Chandler, Assistant District Attorney."

"Catherine Ö Chandler Ö"

"Yeah, you remember her. She disappeared after an assault and turned up 10 days later not knowing where or with whom she had been."

"Oh yeah ,.. I remember now. You say she is here, in this courtroom?"

"Yeah, boss, and sheís very pregnant."

"Great! Okay, whatís the number for that courtroom? Get me in touch with that gunman."

***

Back in the courtroom, all was silent. The gunmen had continued to patrol, the hostages remained on the floor, and Catherine had stayed sitting in her chair.

Breaking the silence, one of the gunmen at the back of the courtroom spoke, "I thought you said this would be easy, that they would be in touch."

"They will be, we just have to wait."

Then, as if on cue, the telephone situated on the clerkís desk rang. The lead gunman answered, facing the courtroom as he did so. After several more moments of silence, he spoke: "I will release the hostages when and only when, you have provided us with a helicopter to get us to Kennedy Airport and an airplane, fully fuelled, sitting on the tarmac. Until these terms are met, I will not release any of the hostages, not even the pregnant woman. Call me when you have arranged this." He hung up.

***

In the tunnels Below, Vincent was in the middle of his afternoon literature class. Try as he may, he couldn't concentrate. Samantha had just finished reading chapter 27 of Anne of Green Gables. At the end of every chapter, Vincent would ask questions, starting a discussion, but today, he sat in silence, staring into a void.

"Vincent? Vincent?" Samantha leaned across, touching Vincent on the arm. "VINCENT!"

Vincentís reverie was broken by Samanthaís touch. "Iím sorry Samantha; I donít know what came over me." He consciously returned his thoughts to Anne and the reasons why she had dyed her hair green, but all too soon, his concentration was shattered and he returned to his mesmerized state. Once again, it was Samantha who broke his reverie.

Looking even more embarrassed than last time, Vincent spoke to his class. "Iím sorry, I really donít know what is wrong with me. Please accept my apologies. Class dismissed."

As the class filed out of Vincent and Catherineís reception chamber, Vincent wondered what on earth was going on. He normally enjoyed the light heartedness Anne of Green Gables, but this afternoon, he seemed unable to concentrate.

Vincent rose and started to pace, restlessly.

***

Catherine sat restlessly in the courtroom. "Excuse me, sir. But I really need to use the restroom."

The lead gunman walked across to her and eyed her cautiously. "Very well, I will have one of my men escort you to the Judgeís private bathroom. But know this Ö" he half turned, pointing his gun at Joeís head. "Any tricks and your boss will be dog food. Understand?"

Quietly, Catherine replied, "Yes."

"Brown, escort the lady."

When Catherine came back into the courtroom, the sight before her caused her to skip a breath. Joe had been moved from the floor and now sat in a chair at the front of the courtroom. She was escorted back to her seat, where she sat making eye contact first with Joe and then with the lead gunman.

Noticing her almost enquiring look, her captor said in an almost quiet, reassuring tone. "When my wife was pregnant she needed the bathroom regularly. Please know that you can use the bathroom whenever you wish. However, you have this manís life in your hands whenever you go. He is the perfect target for any of my men sitting where he is. Do you understand?"

Catherine nodded her head in comprehension.

***

Vincent had stopped pacing, but for some reason, still felt quite apprehensive. As he walked along the tunnels to the dinning chamber, he thought about the events of the past week. He wondered if it was all just symptomatic of not being able to see Catherine. After all, with their impaired Bond, it was difficult for him to attune his senses to her and check if she was well.

Vincent remained quiet throughout dinner. He wondered what Catherine was having for dinner tonight. He knew she was staying with Joe and although he would have preferred her to be with him, he understood the reasons why. How I long for this case to be over so Catherine can come home, he thought.

Vincentís silence had not gone unnoticed during dinner. As Father walked past him, he placed his hand on Vincentís shoulder. "Vincent, would you join me in my chamber later? I would like to talk to you."

"Certainly, Father."

***

In the operations office, the situation was beginning to unravel. The lead gunman had been identified as Robert Sanchez, brother of the accused, and one of the other men was found to be Christopher Brown, cousin of the accused. They had both been identified from the security camera in the courtroom.

The courthouse security officers had been unofficially interviewed to ascertain events prior to the hostage situation. It had turned out that officers had been called to a disturbance on the third floor, leaving only a skeleton staff at the building entrance. The metal detectors had only alarmed once, causing a woman to remove all her jewelry. Other than that, the day had been uneventful.

In another part of the operations office, the tapes from the security cameras were being reviewed for glimpses of the other gunmen. The officers had already identified the Judge, arriving early followed shortly after by attorneys Maxwell, Chandler, and Earl, attorney for the defense. Four men had entered the building wearing hats of various sorts, shielding their faces from the camera. They were all dressed in a similar manner to that of Robert Sanchez and his cousin, Christopher Brown. From this, they suspected they were dealing with four gunmen and because they had demanded a helicopter big enough to hold five people, the accused would make five.

Tibbs had ordered the helicopter and the fully-fuelled jet, which were both ready for him whenever he wanted them. However, he wanted to stall the gunmen as long as possible while alternative plans were formulated. He decided to contact Sanchez again.

***

In the courtroom the phone rang. Robert Sanchez answered it. "Where is my helicopter?"

A pause followed Ö

"No! I want that helicopter here within the next two hours. If you donít, I will be forced to shoot one of these lovely people."

At that he had scanned the courtroom with his gun and then looked straight into the video camera. Continuing to look into the camera, he said, "Now, who shall it be?" He brought his gun to rest, first on Joe, then the clerk, the security officer, and finally Catherine.

Catherine could feel the fear rising in her. Until now she had not felt threatened, but now, now she felt frightened and was glad that her Bond with Vincent was impaired, so he wouldnít know.

***

Vincent had entered Fatherís chamber much later that evening, having spent the first couple of hours after dinner with Mouse. "Father."

"Ah, Vincent, there you are."

"You wanted to see me?"

"Well Ö er Ö actually, you seemed so quiet and reserved at dinner that I wondered what was wrong."

Vincent sighed. It seemed so insignificant, but he just couldnít eliminate the uneasiness he felt earlier.

"Vincent?"

Vincent took a seat at the same table as Father. Taking another sigh he spoke. "During my literature class, I lost concentration twice Father and then after I felt restless and ill at ease."

Father eyed his adopted son carefully. "Is it Catherine?"

"I donít know. Since Catherine has been with child, I have not been able to sense her through our Bond. I think it may be because I havenít seen her for a few days with the trial."

"Yes, I can understand how that would be difficult."

"Iím sure it is nothing. Please donít worry, Father."

"If you need to talk, Iím here. But in the meantime, can I interest you in a game of chess?"

Vincent laughed. "Yes, as long as you can cope with losing."

As Vincent moved towards the bookshelf to retrieve the chess set, he still couldnít shake the ghost of the feelings from earlier, but tried to brush them off as best he could.

***

Robert Sanchez slammed the clerkís phone down. Looking directly into the security camera, he started to shake his head. The helicopter was now overdue and they had called his bluff. It was time to prove that he meant what he said.

Looking directly into the camera, Robert Sanchez shouted, "I warned you. I told you what would happen if you didnít get me that helicopter."

BANG!

***

Vincent was winning his game of chess and was just about to take Fatherís knight with his bishop when he froze, dropping the chess piece.

"Vincent, what is it?" said Father with concern in his eyes.

"I Ö I Ö donít know. I cannot explain it."

"Is it Catherine?"

"No Father, I cannot sense her." Vincent rose and started to pace. He wondered if he was going out of his mind. The sensation was like the Bond he had with Catherine, but different. He wasnít sensing her feelings, her love or fears. It was almost a sixth sense, just an inclination, but then, maybe he was imagining it. "Itís as if my body is reacting to something, but my mind doesnít know what that something is."

Father raised his eyebrows. "And what is your body telling you now?"

Vincent stopped pacing, turned and looked at Father. "I donít know, I think I would like to walk for a while. Please excuse me Father, perhaps we could finish this game another time?"

"Of course."

Vincent returned to his and Catherineís chamber to collect his cloak and then headed out into the dark. Tunnels and starry skies, it was all the same.

***

The sound of the pistol being fired had resonated around the courtroom and in the operations centre, several courtrooms away. There, Tibbs and his team had looked on in horror and dismay at the sight before them. Tibbs hung his head in disgrace. He had failed!

***

Across Manhattan, Jenny climbed the stairs to her apartment. The elevator was broken, again. She sighed and entered her apartment. Thatís another boring book promotion over, thank goodness, she thought. It was late and she really fancied curling up in front of the television with a hot chocolate, but she had chores to do, first.

As Jenny headed for her kitchen to start washing the large mound of dirty crockery, she mused over the evening. Her thoughts drifted from this to that, to the tunnels and finally to Cathy. She hoped all was going well with the case as she had been having her dreams again. Nothing specific, just Cathy not being able to get out of the courtroom. As Jenny thought harder, trying to analyse the dreams sheíd been having she froze, crockery clattering to the ground with a smash. Oh my God Ö CATHY!

Jenny ran to the television and turned it on. If what she had felt was true, then surely there would be something on television about it. As the set came to life, she tuned into the local News Channel. She could see the courthouse on television with that idiot reporter, Jeff Jenkins, standing in front of the camera.

" Ö once again, a gun shot has been heard from the courtroom where all the hostages are being held. As yet, we do not know if anybody has been hurt."

Jenny stood, in stunned silence, glaring at the television. Jeff began his re-cap of the events of the afternoon and evening, leaving a very frightened Jenny staring at her television in a trance. As the severity of the situation became clear to her, she wondered what her course of action should be. She knew Joe and Cathy had been working on this case together, so calling Joe would be out of the question. What about Peter? If Catherine was in trouble, then Peter was the next person she would need to get in touch with.

She moved towards her phone and dialed Peterís home number. Since she had become a helper, she and Peter and swapped numbers for a "just in case" situation. Just as Jenny was about to hang up, she heard the voice of a very exasperated Peter answer the phone.

"Dr. Alcott!"

"Peter, itís Jenny. Have you seen the news?"

"Yes, Iím just watching it now. Iíve been working a late shift at the hospital and have only just come home. I heard the news bulletin in the car."

"Peter, what should we do? Cathy and Joe are in that courtroom. Iíve been having all these very confusing dreams and now some of them are starting to make sense. Iím frightened for Cathy. Really, really frightened!!"

"Yes, Catherine did mention you had Ö special abilities."

"My dreams are starting to come true and I am frightened that the rest may also come true now."

"What do you mean? What other dreams have you been having?"

Jenny proceeded to tell Peter the snapshots of the other dreams she could remember. They really didnít seem to make a lot of sense, but the general gist of the outcome was very clear.

"Jenny, I think you should go and speak with Father and Vincent, they need to know about this. I will head to the courthouse and see if I can find out anymore. If nothing else, I may be able to persuade them to let me stay as Iím a doctor."

"Iíll leave right now."

Not thinking, Jenny had hung up on Peter, but he hardly noticed. He too was also trying to get out of the door as quickly as possible.

***

Jenny had reached her basement in record time and descended her own personal threshold into the tunnels. Since becoming a helper, Mouse had managed to create a basement access for her into the tunnels, so she didnít have to use the access door under Central Park.

She was still new to descending the tunnels on her own and never had she done so in an emergency before. Knowing that there would be sentries at some point along her journey she started to call out every so often "Itís Jenny, there is an emergency. I must speak with Father."

After one such announcement, she heard a noise behind her and turned. She saw Mouse behind her.

"Mouse!" she exclaimed slightly breathlessly "Cathy is in trouble I must speak with Vincent and Father."

"Vincent Above. Father in chamber. Come." As always, Mouse had been very blunt and to the point, but nonetheless, Jenny understood.

They had only walked a short way when Mouse stopped to tap out a message on the pipes. Jenny was unable to decipher the taps to know what it meant, but she guessed it was to announce her arrival.

***

In the pipe chamber, Pascal was on duty. He heard the emergency message tapping out on the pipe from Mouse in the special short hand code they had developed for such situations. He relayed the information to Father and then sent word to the members of the council, so they would all be assembled for when Jenny arrived.

Over the years, the tunnel community had had several emergency situations to deal with, so the council had decided that for ease and speed in such circumstances, a particular procedure would be followed. A short encrypted message would be sent. It would include the name of the sender, position, the word emergency, and a clue as to the emergency. It had been decided that the person on duty in the pipe chamber would ask for emergency silence and then send messages to Father and the Council, who would then subsequently gather in Fatherís chamber to await news of the emergency.

***

Above, in the city of New York, the shadows appeared to be a little less empty. The street people sensed unrest in the shadows and musings of a being that haunted the darkest shadows of the city had begun again. In recent years, those rumours had subsided, but tonight, the shadows were restless once more.

Vincent walked. He moved in the shadows of the city, hiding his face from those who would hate him, or bring him harm. He wandered like he had never done before. As he walked, he remembered all those nights, long before he met Catherine, when he would walk the streets from dusk until dawn. Many of the sights he saw he hoped he would never see again, but tonight, they brought him comfort. He was not sure what that comfort was, but he felt better than he had a couple of hours earlier in Fatherís chamber. He didnít know where he was going, but he knew where he was. He knew the city well, though from the shadows and only ever at night.

***

By the time Jenny arrived in Fatherís chamber, the Council was assembled. Jenny arrived, hot, bothered, and very out of breath. After sending the message, Mouse had run all the way to the home tunnels, knowing that what Jenny had to say was very important. Unfortunately, for a rather unfit Jenny, this rush had reminded her how unfit she was and how she really should enlist in a gym.

As she entered the chamber, Father rose from where he had been seated. "Goodness me!"

"Father, Iím sorry for the intrusion but I really need to speak to you Ö and Vincent."

"Has something happened?"

"Father, let her catch her breath." Mary had interjected, giving Father a reprimanding look. "Let me get you some tea, dear, and then you can tell us."

Jenny nodded gratefully. Although she knew she would never manage the tea, she was glad of the reprieve to get her breath back.

When she could breathe normally again, she started to tell Father and the Council what she had seen on television. She told them about her dreams, her discussion with Peter, and his decision to send her into the tunnels while he would go to courthouse. When sheíd finished, she looked around at the people assembled. She saw worried looks on all their faces and it was only then that she really realised Vincent still wasnít there.

"When will Vincent be back?" Jenny asked

It was only then that Father spoke, having remained silent since his "reprimand" from Mary. "Vincent is Above. He has been having Ö I guess you could say he has been sensing all of these things happening to Catherine. He was here a couple of hours ago and then froze, dropping his chess piece. He then left to walk Above."

"But I thought his Bond with Catherine wasnít working," Mary said, bewildered.

"Precisely! That is what I am worried about. Now Iíve heard about these dreams of Jennyís Ö it all makes sense. I just hope Iím wrong."

Jenny had an alarmed look on her face. Father had more or less confirmed her own suspicions without actually having said anything. She caught his eye and they exchanged a knowing look, the fear she felt, reflected in the eyes staring back at her.

"What do you mean, Father?" Pascal had asked as Father and Jenny exchanged glances.

Father proceeded to voice his concerns for Catherine and what followed was an intense discussion on all the eventualities and possible solutions. Those Below, like Peter, were also aware of how Jennyís dreams often came true. Emergency messages were sent out, sentries were sent out and posted around all the tunnel entrances closest to the court buildings, and all the helpers were alerted. Father felt it was necessary, under the possible circumstances, to have every eventuality covered and use all the resources available to him and the community. The only remaining problem he had was Vincent.

***

Vincent wasnít quite sure what it was that had made him stop in mid-stride. He retreated into the shadows to evaluate his surroundings. He became aware that all was quiet. He could not hear any cars, which was very strange for New York, even at this late hour. There was stillness to the air, but there was tension too. A lot of tension, almost as if time had stood still. He looked up and down the alley he was in. He was alone.

After several minutes of observing the alley from the shadows, he decided to resume walking. As he left the shadows, something caught his eye high above him on the rooftop. Again, he retreated to the shadows. From the distance and angle he was at, he could not make out what it was, so he decided to move slowly, staying deep in the shadows cast by the buildings.

As Vincent moved around the wide base of the building and into another alley, he saw the flash of red and blue lights. He heard a series of unfamiliar noises and in comparison to the previously deserted streets, there were an assortment of vehicles parked randomly. From where he stood on the corner deep in the shadows, he looked around him, realising he was near the Centre Street courthouse.

Vincent wondered why he had walked this far into downtown Manhattan. He could not remember a time when he had had a need or a want to be in this part of town. As he heard yet another siren sound, he decided to retreat to the safety of the tunnels for what was left of the night. Retreating back along the path he had taken, he found access in the dark shadows of an alley two blocks from the courthouse. As he moved to access the tunnel entrance, he froze.

***

In the courtroom, Catherine had turned away. Since being pregnant, she really hadnít had the strongest constitution. But as silence returned, she forced herself to look at the scene before her.

The courtroom security guard now lay in the centre of the floor. He had been shot through the heart and had died instantly. His blood was slowly spreading across the floor, forming a red halo around his body.

"Robert! You told us nobody was going to get hurt!" One of the unidentifiable gunmen had shouted, the fear clearly audible in his voice.

"Shut it!" had been the reply.

"But you said Ö"

"And I said, SHUT IT."

What had ensued was a heated argument between Robert and one of the unidentified gunman, who, in the heat of the argument, had been called Hugh. Hugh had become more and more agitated as the discussion had continued and had then taken his gun and pointed it at his own head. The hostages in the courtroom, were once again, holding their breath, wondering what would happen next.

Catherine listened in despair. Hugh was standing behind her and Robert still continued to pace in front of where she sat. Not only was she struggling to comprehend the situation, but she was really very uncomfortable. She had changed her position several times while seated, but she found herself becoming more and more restless. What she thought she really wanted was to stand up and walk for a little while, but she figured that Robert would never agree to that.

"I tell you Iím gonna do it. I really will." Catherine had heard Hugh say as she became aware of her surroundings again.

"Yeah, well go ahead and then Iíll have one less worry, man."

For the second time that night, a single gunshot could be heard resonating around the courthouse. Catherine had jumped with the sound of the shot coming from directly behind her and a second later, Joe heard a whispered "Oh no" from under her breath. From where he was lying on the floor ,Joe could see what Catherine's "Oh no" had referred to, although he thought that her response was perhaps a little mild for the very obvious gravity of the situation.

***

Vincent hovered around the access door to the tunnels, unsure of what he wanted to do. A few minutes previously, he had wanted to return Below but now he wasnít so sure. He retreated back into the shadows, slightly shaking his head, trying to figure out what was wrong with him.

Surrendering to his instincts, he decided to visit Catherine's balcony and then wandered aimlessly in Central Park before heading down into the tunnels. As he navigated through the tunnels, he didnít pay much attention to the silence on the pipes as they were normally quiet around this early hour. He headed into the chamber he shared with Catherine and sat heavily into his large leather backed chair.

Again, he tried to make sense of the thoughts and feelings he was experiencing. There seemed to be flashes of light, pain, and fear, but nothing he could really make sense of. The more he tried to make sense of it all, the more confusing it seemed to be. He tried to write in his diary, but the random thoughts and feelings kept encroaching on his conscious thoughts.

With a heavy, preoccupied mind Vincent headed into their sleeping chamber where he didnít bother to get changed, but just lay down on his and Catherineís bed. Before his head hit the pillow, he was asleep, but it was a restless slumber he had, filled with images he could not understand. He sensed a pain, bright light, then more pain, crying and Ö "Catherine!"

He woke with her name on his lips. As he tried to make sense of his dream, with its strange emotions and visions, he became aware of movement in the outer chamber. Rising to investigate, he found Father pacing restlessly with Mary at his side trying to calm him.

"Father?"

"Oh Vincent, there you are. We all thought you were Above."

"I was, but I came home early. Is there anything wrong?"

"No Ö Well yes Ö well, we donít really know yet"

"Father, what is it?"

"Jenny came Below earlier. It seems that one of the courtrooms is being held hostage. Actually Ö itís the one Ö"

"Catherine!?"

"As far as we know, she isnít hurt, but there have been gunshots fired. The judge has been murdered and Ö"

"ROAR!!!!!!"

"Vincent!" said Mary. "Peter is there, he went to see what was happening and offer his services as a doctor. That way, he stands a chance of finding out about Catherine."

Father continued, "We have asked one of our other helpers to go along, so we can exchange messages with Peter very quickly. We also have lookouts placed all around the access points to the tunnels."

"What?" Vincent had interrupted.

Father had proceeded to repeat himself, explaining all the measures they had taken to try to plan for every possible eventuality.

"I ... I was there tonight. At the courthouse. I saw the emergency lights and a man on the roof. I was just walking and thatís where I ended up."

A haunted look appeared on Fatherís face. He was concerned for Catherine and his unborn grandchild, but how to ask Vincent without revealing his concerns? "Iím sure all will be well," he continued. "Why donít you go back to bed and get some more rest?"

Vincent started to pace. "I cannot sleep, Father. My dreams are haunted with visions I understand even less than the distracting day visions Iíve been having."

"Well, why donít I go and make some tea and leave you two to talk about this," Mary had suggested, making her way to the door. As she left, she heard Vincent, in an agitated tone, start to outline his dreams.

When she returned with the tea, she could tell from the look on Fatherís face that all his worries and concerns had been fuelled further, rather than being dispelled. She saw the look of horror in his eyes as he looked at her, welcoming her into the room and assisting with tea making. In fact, she would have gone so far as to say he looked visibly shaken. Thankfully, she observed, Vincent didnít seem to have noticed Fatherís obvious anxiety.

***

Robert had heard Catherineís whispered "Oh no" and had made his way across to her. He wished that he really didnít have a pregnant woman amongst his hostages, but it really couldnít be helped and the best he could do for her was to make sure she was comfortable.

As Robert approached her He, like Joe, had understood Catherineís words, but the more pressing questions was, what he should do about it? He moved to Catherineís side and knelt on one knee.

"How are you doing, Ms Chandler?" he had asked, his eyes coming to rest on the obvious problem.

"Well, I guess thatís kinda obvious, isnít it?" she had almost spat at him through gritted teeth.

"Now, please, there is no need to talk to me like that. I have tried to do everything I possibly can to make you comfortable and this is how you repay me?"

"Yes, well, if you hadnít done this then maybe I wouldnít be in this situation!" She had managed to say, this time without the gritted teeth.

"Trust me, I will do everything that I can to help you."

"Please Ö" Catherine had implored. "Help me."

***

Vincent had continued to pace his outer chamber while explaining the visions in his dream as best he could to Father. As he began to explain, his vision of white light and pain revisited him, causing him to freeze again and then letting out a spine curdling "ROAR!"

Father looked on helplessly. He wondered whether he should tell Vincent what he suspected, or whether is was safer for all concerned to kept his thoughts to himself, knowing that Vincent would rush to Catherineís aid with no regard for his own safety.

***

From where he stood watching the closed circuit television camera, Tibbs could see there were a few unplanned-for problems in the courtroom. He had watched as the security guard had met his end, when Robert and Hugh had exchanged words, and then Hugh had committed suicide and now Ö now there was something wrong with that prosecutor, Chandler.

As he studied the camera feed, he heard a disturbance out in the hallway. There was a shuffle of feet and then raised voices. Through the commotion he heard a steady, calming voice rise above the rest. "My name is Dr. Peter Alcott, I wish to speak to the person in charge."

Tibbs had walked in the direction the noise was coming from and found two of his officers blocking the way, preventing Dr. Alcott from entering the building any further.

"Whatís going on, guys?" Tibbs had asked.

"This man says he is Dr. Alcott, physician to Catherine Chandler."

"I see. And what can we do for you this evening Dr. Alcott?" Tibbs had replied.

"My concern is with Catherine Chandler, whom I believe is being held hostage in that courtroom. My only interest is her and I do not wish to hinder your investigation or negotiations."

"So, I ask again. What can we do for you Dr. Alcott?"

"Please tell me how Catherine is. Her baby is due any day now Ö" He lied, but knew it was possibly the only fact that would allow him access to the situation first hand. "... and I am worried for her and the baby. She really should be in a clinic, but she insisted on seeing this case through."

Tibbs thought, maybe it would be good to have a doctor on site. One never really could tell how these hostage situations turn out. "Very well Doctor. Come with me and I shall brief you on our Ms. Chandler. Actually, I think there is something wrong, but from this angle, I cannot tell what it is."

Peter had listened whilst one of Tibbsí deputies had summarised the situation for him. From where he was, he saw the gunman, Robert, kneeling down beside Catherine and talking to her. Peter had known Catherine for a very long time now and could read her body language. He could tell that she was uncomfortable and restless, but did not appear to be overly anxious. He wondered how he could best serve this situation.

***

Father had sat with Vincent long after Mary had retired to her chamber. Vincent had been somewhat unpredictable, his mood seemed to swing wildly at frequent intervals. He would be quiet and peaceful one minute and then pacing the floor the next. Father realised, given the lack of time between these mood swings, that they could possibly be a reflection of Catherineís emotions.

"Father, Father," Eric had shouted as he ran into Vincentís chamber. Both Vincent and Father paused, turning towards the chamber entrance.

"What is it?" Father had asked.

"A message from Peter, I ran all the way, really I did," said Eric as he handed the note to Father."

The note read:

Jacob, Jennyís intuition is, sadly, impeccable. P

"Oh dear God," Father had muttered whilst re-reading the note.

"Father, what is it? Please tell me. Is it Catherine?"

Father sighed, knowing there really was no alternative but to tell Vincent what he had suspected, what had now been confirmed by Peter.

***

Peter looked at the clock, he couldnít believe he had been in the courthouse for three hours. He sighed worriedly, it would be dawn soon and Catherine Ö he dared not to think about it.

The phone rang, breaking his reverie, Tibbs answered the call; it was Robert.

"Yes, I understand," had been the single solemn reply from Tibbs before Robert hung up.

"Well Doctor, it looks like you have your wish."

***

Two blocks away below the city of New York, Vincent paced. At his side was Father with Mary, Jenny, Cainin, and Jamie. They had positioned themselves at the nearest tunnel access but were prepared to run to another one, if necessary. They were all aware in their own way that Father would be much slower, and Vincent, of course, much quicker.

A stream of light dazzled their faces as the door to a basement opened. Through it one of the children, John, descended the small ladder with yet another note addressed to Father.

The note said simply:

They are letting her go. Be prepared, it wonít be long. P

Father passed the note to Vincent for him to read for himself. Vincent leaned on the tunnel wall, breathed a sigh of relief, and closed his eyes. Then, without warning, he ran up the ladder from which John had descended and headed back out into the night.

***

Peter waited anxiously. He knew Jacob and Vincent would be close, but the whole situation was really too disturbing. He really didnít want to consider the consequences should Catherineís release be delayed any further.

Finally, the doors to the courtroom opened and a very tired, anxious-looking Catherine walked out. She slowly made her way towards Peter, walking slowly, just as she had been instructed to do by Robert. She heard the courtroom door close behind her and as she breathed a sigh of relief, her thoughts switched to Joe, who was still inside.

Tibbs had walked forward saying that he needed to speak to Catherine, but as she visibly winced, Peter stepped forward.

"Agent Tibbs, I am sure Ms. Chandler would be happy to answer any questions you have, but I feel it would be best if we got her to the clinic first." Turning to Catherine he asked, "How far apart are your contractions?"

"Erm Ö not long Ö about 5 minutes I think, maybe less."

"Well Agent Tibbs, there is your answer. So I suggest that unless you are prepared for Ms. Chandler to give birth to her child here and take any consequences that may arise as a result of improper healthcare, please allow me to escort her to my private clinic."

Tibbs sighed. He knew he had to let her go, but he also needed to find out what she knew.

"Agent ... Tibbs, is it?" Catherine enquired. "Sir, I work for the DAís office and I am fully aware of the information you require. I would be happy to submit a written deposition to you, but please, I really must go; my baby is coming."

"Very well, but ..." He turned to Peter. "I would like your contact details, I already have Ms. Chandlerís."

Peter handed his business card to Tibbs and then made a hasty exit towards the door with Catherine.

"Peter, the baby really is coming."

"I know, please donít worry Catherine. Help is very close at hand."

They exited the building. Catherine was astonished by all the police, television cameras, and bright lights. The press had run forward, having heard that a hostage was being released, but Peter was quicker and had managed to usher her into a waiting taxi before she herself was aware of what was happening.

Catherine recognised the driver as one of the helpers. Though she had seen him on very few occasions, she knew he was just as dedicated to the tunnels as she was.

"Hi Catherine. Donít worry, we are only going a couple of blocks and then weíll get you Below."

Catherine managed a half smile before her next contraction came.

***

Vincent stood in the shadows opposite the building he had exited not long ago. He sensed dawn was in the air, but Catherine was in labour and he now sensed the contractions through their Bond. He had not realised at first what the flashes of bright light and pain had been, but as her contractions had become stronger and in light of Fatherís rather accurate guesswork, he sensed that her time was near. He guessed that as his child prepared to greet the world, it had begun to relinquish its physical Bond with Catherine, which was why he had sensed some of her emotions.

Vincent saw a car turn the corner two blocks ahead of where he hid. The car was traveling quite slowly and carefully. As it crossed one intersection and then the next, he realised that it was Gregís taxi, which meant Catherine was coming to him.

The taxi stopped and Peter got out. He walked around the other side of the taxi heading for the building, but Vincent stepped out of the shadows.

"Peter, I am here. I will carry Catherine. Father and the others are waiting."

Peter added acknowledgement as Vincent, light on his feet, had circumambulated the taxi. He opened the door and never had his breath been taken away so easily. There sat Catherine Ö his Catherine. Vincent bent and took Catherine in his arms easily. He and Peter then made their way into the building and headed for the basement.

Vincent had descended the ladder first with great care. Catherine was able to assist by holding onto him, allowing him the freedom to navigate the steps more easily. Peter had followed, covering their tracks by replacing strategically placed boxes and finally bolting the access doors.

"Oh Vincent, Catherine how are you?" Father had implored, his eyes traveling to meet Peterís.

"Jacob, I think itís best we get Catherine back to the home tunnels as soon as possible; her contractions are less than five minutes apart."

Vincentís eyes had widened in fear over the gravity of the situation. He looked first at Peter and then at Father, while unconsciously holding Catherine even closer.

Father, seeing the anguish in Vincentís eyes, said, "Why donít you go ahead with Catherine, Vincent? Perhaps Peter and Mary could go with you and I will follow as quickly as possible. I donít think Catherine has long."

Vincent had lowered his head in acknowledgement and headed off down the tunnel. Mary had set off at a run/walk to try to catch up with Vincent and even Peter, with his lithe physique, had followed at a slight run. As considerate as Vincent was, his stride and anguish over Catherineís wellbeing had unconsciously drove him to full speed, much to Mary and Peterís dismay.

Catherine, despite knowing the arrival of their child was imminent, savoured the familiar smell of the tunnels and the reassuring feel of Vincent holding her. She was only vaguely aware of where she was, but she cared little, knowing that she was now home.

***

The sun rose in the East, just as it did every other morning. Reflections of the early morning sun cast themselves off the large glass buildings of Manhattan while others stood in silhouette against the dawn. Far below the skyscrapers in the city that never sleeps, a childís cry echoed. It, like the dawn, heralded the start of a new journey.

The child stared at its surroundings, its bawl subsiding rapidly after a rude spanking. The childís piercing blue eyes staring first at the shadows on the wall cast by the dancing candles. As the child was placed in Catherineís arms, its focus switched to the dark green eyes staring lovingly back. Catherine cooed to the child she held as Vincent, sitting slightly behind her on the bed, took her and their newborn child into his arms. As he looked over Catherineís shoulder at their child, he saw his own eyes reflected as if looking into a mirror.

"Heís beautiful Ö" Vincent had declared. "Just like his mother," he had added, in a much softer tone, kissing Catherine on the head.

"Yes he is and he has your eyes, Vincent." Catherine had said, turning and placing a kiss on the corner of Vincentís mouth.

Peter had looked on silently, grateful that they had managed to get Catherine Below in time. Catherine embraced her son with the love only a mother could have and Vincent looked like the proud husband, and now father, he had become.

Father had assisted Peter with the birth of his grandchild. He was used to dealing with births and felt that both Catherine and Peter would welcome his aid. He had been the first person to hold the child and welcome him into the world before passing him over to Catherine. Now he stood, pleased and proud to be part of the family he saw before him. Looking on, he realised how far they had come and how much they had achieved, how blessed they all were, not only for the gift of Vincent all those years ago, but for Catherine, who had given Vincent all that was previously thought impossible. How remarkable, Father had thought.

Mary had just returned to the bed chamber, having messaged Pascal in the pipe chamber to announce the birth of Vincent and Catherineís son. She came to stand next to Father, tears in her eyes. It seems only yesterday I held Vincent in my arms, she thought.

EPILOGUE - FOUR MONTHS LATER

Vincent, Catherine, and their son, Charles Peter Wells, retired to their chambers. They had enjoyed a quiet, intimate meal with Mary, Father, Jenny, and Joe in Fatherís chamber. Joe had finally made it Below after recovering from the injuries he sustained by the gunmen in the courtroom. At Catherineís request, he had recounted the events in the courtroom and told of the weeks he had spent in plaster at the hospital and his long recuperation at home.

As soon as they entered their own chambers, Catherine retired to nurse baby Charles. Vincent had stayed behind a moment to extinguish all of the candles in their reception chamber and then headed into their bed chamber. He stood motionless, awe struck.

Catherine lay in bed nursing Charles. The look of wonder and love on her face took his breath away. How lucky I am to have such a wonderful family and the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, he thought. He stood, staring at his wife and child and then, tilting his head to one side, a look of curiosity settled upon his face. As realisation dawned, he smiled a knowing smile.

He walked into their chamber, undressed, and slid into bed next to Catherine, taking her and their son into his arms.

"Catherine, I feel a change in you," he whispered into her hair.

"What kind of change?"

Vincent laughed. "The kind of change I felt before you told me you were pregnant with Charles Ö"

"Ohhhhhhh Ö" she replied, turning to make eye contact with him. Regaining her composure from the revelation, she said. "I guess Charles will have a little brother or sister soon then."

Vincent kissed Catherine on her head, tightening his loving arms around her, knowing that what he held was the best part of his past, present, and future.

 

Acknowledgements

With many thanks to Moira and Allison for helping with the accuracy of content, Monica for her superb suggestions, comments, and editing and Jodie, for her unfailing support.