BETWEEN THE LINES SERIES
HE NEEDS ME
For two weeks it had been quiet in Catherine and Vincent’s life. Vincent had fallen into the habit of stopping by every few days to see her.
Catherine had come to realize that, for whatever reason, her attempts to get Vincent into her apartment had only resulted in making him uncomfortable. She resigned herself to accepting his needs, and they spent all of their time together out on the balcony.
Many nights were spent together wrapped in his cloak staring at the city, just talking, catching one another up on the daily things in their lives. Catherine cherished their time together, and it helped her get through the relentless days at work.
On this particular night, Catherine was especially quiet. Vincent was behind her and she was wrapped securely in his arms. He leaned his head down and whispered quietly, “What’s troubling you so tonight?”
Catherine sighed. “I’m sorry, Vincent. I’m not very good company am I?”
“Catherine, any time we spend together, even if it’s filled with your silence, brings me happiness, but I can feel your unrest.”
Catherine looked up at him and decided to share her problems. “My office is working on a case. It involves a new drug that’s being pushed out on the streets. It’s outrageously expensive…which of course makes it that much more fascinating.”
“It must be very dangerous if you’re so troubled about it.”
“People are dying from using it. We keep publishing warnings in the media, yet night after night more of the drug is being bought. What would make someone so desperate they would try a drug that’s been known to kill?”
Vincent caressed her arms. “People who are alone are weak, and that makes them vulnerable. I guess for these individuals escape from reality seems like a good solution, even if it’s only for a little while.”
Catherine scoffed. “They need to find the strength within themselves to change their path of life.”
“Not everyone can do that, Catherine.”
“They can if they try.”
“Some people need a support system, loved ones to help guide them through the difficult times.”
Catherine snuggled down his embrace and smiled. “I only needed you.”
Vincent blushed and fell silent. Catherine sensed she’d said too much and pointed at a book. “Would you like to read for awhile?”
Vincent nodded, and they settled down and spent a few hours reading together.
The next day, Catherine sat with her head buried in files almost the entire day. Other than taking a few phone calls and a couple of trips to the coffee pot for refills, she never left her desk and was able to accomplish an inordinate amount of paperwork.
Joe came up and dropped a few more files on her desk. She raised her eyebrows in disbelief and looked at her watch.
He smiled sweetly. “Not yet, Radcliffe. You’re mine for another hour! You should learn to work faster, then you wouldn’t get so far behind.”
Catherine bit back her retort and pretended to go back to work. Joe walked away and gasped as a rubber band sailed past his ear. He turned to see her writing furiously on a piece of paper.
She snuck a peek out from under her bangs, but he caught her looking, so she met his gaze head on.
“Real mature, Radcliffe! But don’t mess with the master.”
The look of innocence reflected in her eyes. “What do you mean, Joe?”
“Just remember, you’ve been warned.”
Joe shook his head and turned around, walked two steps and felt a rubber band hit him in the back of the head. He quickly grabbed a rubber band from the usual place on his wrist and spun around. He shot at her, but Catherine ducked and it flew over her head. He bent and retrieved the rubber band that she had hit him with and shot it without looking up.
Catherine, who had been distractedly looking for another rubber band, looked up in time to have it hit her in the eye. Her hand flew to her eye. “Ouch!”
Joe was laughing until he looked up and saw she had covered her eye. Tears streamed down her cheek as he ran forward. “Oh, God, Cathy, I’m sorry! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Joe.”
“Did it hit your eye? Can you see? Damn, my mom always said I would shoot someone’s eyes out.”
Catherine giggled. “Joe, you did not shoot my eye out.”
“Let me see.”
Catherine looked up and Joe came in as close as he dared. He saw that her lower eyelid had a small mark where the rubber band had hit.
“Wow, that was close. Are you all right? Can I get you some ice?”
“For a rubber band bruise? No, I think I’ll make it without first aid.”
A young intern came up and interrupted them. “Mr. Maxwell, call on line one.”
Joe moved to get up, but Catherine stopped him. “Sit, I’m gonna go see what damage you did to me.”
Catherine headed to the bathroom, and Joe sat at her desk and picked up the phone. “Maxwell.”
“Hey, Maxwell. It’s Morero.”
“Yeah, Jimmy. What’s up?”
“Not much. You guys got anything new on these drug deaths?”
Joe sighed aloud. “We got nothing. How’s it going down at the club?”
“I’m still in. That’s all that matters for now. I can’t believe this damn thing’s running into extra innings. We’ve been working on this, what...three or four weeks! Why can’t we catch this guy?”
Joe grimaced. “We better catch him soon. They’re dropping like flies from this stuff.”
“Yeah, but those are the lucky ones. How many of them are drooling on themselves in an institution right now?”
Joe looked up to see Catherine headed back. “Hey, Jimmy, I got to get up. Chandler was wounded and she needs to sit.”
Catherine had overheard Joe and wondered who he was talking to. Joe pushed a button and put the call on speakerphone.
“Hey, Jimmy,” Joe continued. “You’re on speaker phone now, but I was wondering...do you have any advice for someone who fakes an injury to get out of work?”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “Real funny, Joe!”
Jimmy overheard. “That you, Chandler?”
Catherine smiled after she recognized the man’s voice. “Hi, Jimmy.”
“Joe, giving you a hard time, Chandler? You know he’s only doing it ‘cause he’s in love with you.”
Joe blushed as Catherine giggled. “He just shot me in the eye. The rubber band left an enormous mark.”
Joe looked shocked. “Enormous! You can barely see it!”
Jimmy ignored him. “I would sue him, Chandler. Better yet, make it a matter for public record. I hate to think of him ever running for D.A. with that on his record. I can see the headlines now...Mad Assistant DA Goes on Shooting Rampage.”
Catherine laughed harder. “The public wouldn’t be safe!”
Joe was tired of being teased. “All right, all right. I did apologize, you know!”
Catherine took mercy on him. “Yes, you did. It was sweet! I promise not to sue you.”
Joe rolled his eyes. “Jimmy, did you just call here just to harass me?”
“No, just to check on how you guys were doing on leads to this dealer. I think I got a plan to catch the guy. I’m heading to Farrell’s office right now to present it.”
Catherine nodded. “Good luck. I hope it works.”
Jimmy’s weariness carried through the phone line. “Me, too. I’m tired of working nights and weekends. I’d like to see my fiancé some time this month.” He began to chuckle. “You wouldn’t know what that feels like would you, Joe? You should try to pick up a chick somewhere other than the shopping mall!”
Joe groaned knowing Jimmy was referring to his last date.
Jimmy couldn’t stop himself from teasing even more. “Try to find someone like I did. How about you, Chandler? Who do you snuggle up to at night?”
It was Catherine’s turn to blush and Joe laughed. “I saw what she snuggles with! I was in her apartment after that voodoo guy trashed it. Get this, Jimmy. She’s got a stuffed lion on her bed.”
Catherine looked offended. “I’ve had Leo since I was five. My mother gave it to me.”
“Yeah, well…he’s looking pretty ratty there.”
Jimmy laughed. “Hey, I see Farrell coming in. I gotta go! Bye.”
Joe hung up, and Catherine sat as he got up from her chair. Joe turned to her. “Grab your purse and head home. We’re done here for tonight.”
Catherine grabbed her purse and smiled. “Good. I’ve got a date with Leo!”
Catherine headed out, and Joe grabbed his suit coat and caught up to her. They shared the elevato,r and Joe made sure she was in a taxi, then headed home himself.
“Come in, Chandler.”
Catherine entered the room. “How are you?”
“I’m good. I hate to ask, but has your office had any luck coming up with any leads on this new drug?”
Catherine grimaced. “No. Jimmy told me he had an idea to run past you. I was hoping it was a fantastic one that would blow the lid off this whole case.”
Farrell shook his head. “He had a great idea, but it’s a no go.”
Catherine looked at him quizzically. “Can I ask why?”
“Because we need a female cop and there are none available.”
“Why a female?”
“Jimmy thinks they’ll be less suspicious of a woman, and I agree with him.”
Catherine thought for a moment, then came up with an idea. “Would any female do?”
Farrell narrowed his eyes curiously. “Why? Who you got in mind?”
Catherine stood up straighter and dove in. “Me.”
“You! No way. You’re not a cop. I need someone who can defend themselves in there. Thanks for the offer, Cathy, but no way.”
“I can shoot a gun. You can call Paul at the gun range; he’ll tell you how good I am. And I took a self defense course with Isaac Stubbs. He’ll vouch for me any day!”
Farrell looked at her with a new respect. “You took Isaac’s class?”
Catherine smiled and nodded. “He said I was his star pupil.”
“High praise from Isaac.” Farrell nodded as his mind flew over the possibilities. “Okay, Chandler, I tell you what...Morero approves it and you’re in. I got no problem with using you.”
Catherine stood. “Thanks. I’ll go talk to him now.” She left and headed to Jimmy’s desk.
She walked up and waited for him to look up from his files. “Jimmy?”
Jimmy smiled when he saw her. “Hey, Chandler. How ya doing?”
She smiled back. “Good, how about you?”
“I’m hanging in there.”
“Are you busy?”
He pointed to the mess on his desk. “Paperwork...endless paperwork. I wish I could finish this case.”
Catherine sat down in a chair. “That’s why I’m here.”
He looked surprised. “The case?” When she nodded, he continued. “So you got something new?”
She shook her head. “No, unfortunately not.”
“I’m here because Captain Farrell told me about your idea for catching the supplier. Can you tell me your whole plan?”
Jimmy shrugged. “My idea was to get someone new in there, someone who had heard about the new stuff and had customers wanting to try it. This guy’s been coming pretty regular lately. I was hoping to schedule the bust when he’s there making his delivery.”
“Where does he make the drop?”
“Buckman’s office; he has an emergency exit there. If all goes well, we can have a team come right through that door and collect everybody at one time.”
Catherine nodded. “Sounds easy enough.”
“Yeah, normally Buckman only has one or two guys with him, and the supplier is an old man. Whoever’s in that room should be relatively safe.”
“So who’s going to do it?”
He laughed. “I don’t know…my original idea was to have a woman, you know, a rich, cute looking thing, someone non-threatening…”
She smiled “But?”
He sighed. “But Mason broke her leg last month and Wilson’s out ‘cause she’s pregnant. Stevens is too young to be believable, and O’Malley’s got a huge bust of her own coming up…I can’t ask her to compromise her own work….after that…there’re no other women available.”
Catherine leaned forward in her seat. “What about me?”
He blinked in surprise. “You?”
“Yeah, why not?”
“I don’t know…”
“I can do it.”
“Chandler, you’re not even a cop. Besides Maxwell will have my head if I let you do this.”
“Joe’s not my boss after hours...”
He wanted her to have all the facts and felt her had to warn her. “This could be dangerous. There are no guarantees.”
“Is it more dangerous than this new drug? Look, you’ve got no one else. I’m your only option.” When she saw the change in his demeanor she continued.
Jimmy thought for a moment, then caved in. “All right, all right. I’ll try to clear it with Farrell.”
Catherine giggled. “It’s already done been done. He said it was your call.”
He smirked at her. “Thanks, Cathy. I’ll let you know when, but…”
He hesitated, and Catherine’s eyes rose in question. “But…”
“But tomorrow would be a really good chance... I know it’s really short notice…”
“Tomorrow it is then.”
She got up to leave and stopped when Jimmy nodded at her. “Chandler, you’re pretty brave, aren’t you?”
Catherine shrugged indifferently. “No, I just hate the bad guys that much.”
“Okay, call me.”
“You know I will.”
The next day, Joe gave Jimmy a call.
“Yeah, Morero, it’s Maxwell.”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“There was another death last night?” Joe asked disgustedly.
“Yeah. Young blonde woman. Witnesses say she threw her coat over a fire hydrant and just walked right out into traffic, laughing and smiling...”
Joe grimaced. “The new drug?”
“That’s what the lab says.”
“Damn, I hope we catch this guy soon!”
Jimmy chuckled. “Maybe it’ll be real soon.”
“Why, you gotta break?”
“Farrell approved my plan, we’re setting it up right now,” Jimmy stated, then proceeded to tell Joe his ideas about how to catch the seller in the act.
Joe was excited. This could be the chance to nab this guy. “Yeah? Who’s the lucky one going in?”
Jimmy sighed. He knew Joe was going to blow up when he heard. “Cathy.”
Joe’s brow furrowed. He couldn’t recall a cop named Kathy. “Kathy who?”
Jimmy cleared his throat. “Chandler.”
“What!” Joe stood up at his desk. “Jimmy, we’d better be talking about a different Catherine Chandler!”
“Um…nope. Same one.”
“No way! Are you crazy? How could you ask her?”
“I didn’t ask her. She volunteered!”
“Yeah, well you took her up on it!”
Jimmy shook his head. “Actually, I probably would’ve told her no, but she went to Farrell first and he approved it.”
Joe was furious. Why would she put herself in danger like this? “Jimmy, I gotta go.”
Joe hung up and stormed out of his office and went straight to Catherine’s desk. “Radcliffe, what do you think you’re doing?”
Catherine looked up. She could tell he was aggravated. “What do you mean Joe? I’m going over the Jameson deposition like you wanted.”
“I’m not talking about that. First you signed up for the joint investigation, and now Jimmy tells me you’re going undercover...”
She waved her hand dismissively. “Oh, you mean that.”
“Yeah, I mean that! Are you crazy? Do you know how much danger you’re putting yourself into?”
“Yes, I do, but I’m sick of these drug pushers, and now with this new drug...”
“It’s killing people!”
Joe nodded angrily. “Yeah, I know…and if something goes wrong with this plan, it’s gonna kill you too.”
“Joe, I’m not doing it alone. I’ll have back-up.”
“You’re damn right you will, ‘cause I’m gonna be there watchin’ every move you make!”
“Good!” Catherine shouted angrily as she looked away. She knew he was doing it because he cared, and she looked over at him and grabbed his elbow. “Thanks, Joe.”
He nodded, then walked away shaking his head and muttering to himself. Catherine smiled as he walked away. She liked Joe; he was a good friend. She felt better that he would be near.
The next morning, Catherine sat at the police department with all of the detectives and officers who would be involved in the sting operation. As they carefully worked out all of the details and went over any possible problems, Catherine realized that it really was going to be quite dangerous. She thought about how she would feel and knew she wouldn’t want Vincent to rush to her side. When she got back to work, she sent for Benny, the messenger, to send word to Vincent.
I’m working with the police tonight on the drug investigation. I’ll be with at least six armed officers as well as my boss Joe. Please know that I’ll be fine and safe despite anything that you may feel to the contrary. See you soon.
Vincent thought about her note and hung his head worriedly. He realized if she was warning him ahead of time, she must be putting herself in a dangerous position and knew her emotions would bring him to her side. He frowned when he thought about how he would deal with her emotional turmoil and not race to help her.
That night the stage was set. Catherine was to go in portraying a drug supplier with a wealthy client base who was unable to resist the new drug and would pay whatever the going rate was. After the exchange was made, she was to push open the emergency door and let the police come in to make the arrest.
Joe was pacing outside the surveillance van when Catherine got out of the taxi. He walked up to her and looked at her outfit.
“What the hell are you wearing?”
Catherine looked at her outfit, then frowned as she looked back at him with confusion. “Jimmy told me to look classy, like I had a lot of money, and he said it needed to be loose fitting to hide the pack from the wire.”
“What’s wrong with the some of the stuff you wear to work?”
Catherine shot him a withering look. “You want me to wear a blazer with a silk blouse in a night club at ten thirty on a Saturday night?”
One of the detectives walked up. “Hey, Chandler, are you ready to get wired?”
Hoping to get reinforcements Joe tapped Claude’s arm and pointed towards Catherine. “You see what she’s wearing?”
“Don’t you think it’s...”
Claude shrugged. “What? It’s perfect,” he said as turned to climb inside the van.
Catherine smiled smugly as she walked passed Joe. “See!”
Joe rolled his eyes as he followed her inside.
Claude had the equipment for the wiretap laid out on a table. He turned to Catherine. “Okay, the wire gets secured to your waist, then we run the pack around the back and secure it to the small of your back.”
“Okay,” Catherine said as she began to undress.
Joe was shocked when she quickly stripped to her bra so Claude could fix her with a wire. He was amazed at her unending dedication to her work. He couldn’t believe she was putting herself in danger to try to catch a drug dealer.
Claude was relieved that she hadn’t let modesty get in her way, and he quickly set about taping the wire down in various places around her waist.
While Catherine dressed, Joe insisted the police go over the plan again with her. Catherine rolled her eyes and then left to wait inside the club. She walked up, and Jimmy eventually let her into Buckman’s office.
Once inside his office, Catherine was to try to purchase the new drug. Their hope was that they would catch the supplier in the act, but something went wrong, and he was able to slip away, although as a small consolation, they at least had Buckman, who was a huge drug distributor in the area.
The next day they had a meeting at police headquarters. Everyone was congratulating themselves on catching Tyler Buckman, big time drug dealer, but Jimmy stormed from the room in disgust.
Catherine was concerned about him and went after him. Jimmy told her they had blown the investigation. They were supposed to arrest the drug supplier, not the distribution guy. Catherine talked with him for a while, and while she was there a scientist from the lab came up. He gave the results of their findings and, when asked why the drug glowed in the dark, said it contained certain properties that suggested it was grown underground.
Catherine thought about the world Below and decided to ask Vincent about anyone who could possibly be a suspect. After work, she changed and went Below to meet him at the tunnel entrance.
“Catherine, it’s good to see you. I’ve been worried. When I sensed your fear last night it was all I could do to stay Below. I was relieved when the nightmare was over so quickly.”
“It was a nightmare…sort of…the investigation was completed, but we didn’t catch the supplier only the dealer.”
“Then it wasn’t a complete loss.”
“No, but that’s actually why I’m here. I brought a sample to show you.”
“To show me?”
Catherine looked down, unsure of how to proceed. “I need your help.”
Vincent knew there was something she wasn’t telling him. “Go on.”
“I was wondering if you know of anyone who moves frequently between Above and Below. Someone who may be the supplier.”
“You think the supplier may be someone who frequently comes Below?” Vincent shook his head. “We trust so few with our secret, all of them friends, helpers. Each of them knows what a responsibility he bears.”
Catherine hoped she hadn’t given the wrong impression. “I’m not accusing them or any of your people.”
He looked over at her. “I know you’re not.”
She walked towards him. “But our lab has identified certain mineral properties that suggest it’s being grown underground. And this supplier … he’s like a shadow...”
“That grows over your city.”
Catherine nodded. “We’ve already linked forty-nine deaths to this drug so far, and three times that many have been institutionalized.”
“You say you brought a sample of the plant?”
She dug into her purse and handed it to him. He took it and she thanked him, then turned to leave.
Vincent reached for her arm, gently stopping her. “Catherine...since that night...when I found you in the park, I have felt in you, time and again, a need to confront your fear as you did last night.”
She looked up at him quizzically. “Why are you telling me this?”
“I don’t want what happened that night to cause you to take unnecessary risks.”
“Vincent, they needed my help.”
“You survived once.”
“And it’s because I survived then that I’m doing this now, so that others are spared.”
“I can’t lose you, Catherine. Not now.”
She squeezed his arm to reassure him. “I was well protected, surrounded by good men, friends, who wouldn’t let me get hurt. You won’t lose me, Vincent, I promise.”
He sighed as he nodded his head. “I’ll see what I can find out about the plant.”
“Thank you.” She smiled as she turned and left.
Father looked out from between some shelves in the back. “Yes, Vincent.”
Father knew Vincent wouldn’t come so quickly unless it was of major importance. He slipped the book back into its place on the shelf and walked over to give Vincent his complete attention. “Tell me.”
“There’s a new drug being sold in the world Above. It’s killed many people already and harmed twice as many more. Their laboratories link this drug to a plant that grows exclusively underground.”
Father was shocked at the news and frowned worriedly. “Go on.”
“Catherine has asked if we know of anyone who moves often between Above and Below. I have assured her that only helpers and friends come Below, people we trust...”
Vincent handed the sample of the plant to Father, who studied it closely.
Father walked over and opened the sample to put it on a tray. He leaned over it and examined it as best he could. He remembered years ago hearing about a certain set of tunnels that glowed, and he didn’t like the fear that was settling into the pit of his stomach. “What else did Catherine tell you?”
“That the man in exchange for the plants will accept only gold coins.”
“What is it Father?” Vincent looked at him closely and saw his father struggling with some information. “Even if you only suspect…you must share what you know. This drug is powerful, Father. Anyone who has taken it has either ended up hospitalized or dead! Morally you must disclose…”
“Yes! I am aware of the implications, Vincent!” Father spewed.
“Well, then why do you hesitate?”
“Because...” Father sighed. “Because I hope I’m mistaken.”
Vincent couldn’t believe that there was someone Below capable of doing this. “Who can it be, Father?”
“A man…no one you know. We banished him from this place before you were born. It was our first real test of government. His name was John Pater, but he called himself by another name...Paracelsus.”
Father nodded. “Yes John’s model. Philosopher, scientist, magician … John was all of those things. A large part of what we’ve created here we owe to him.”
Vincent wondered what he did to get banished. “What happened?”
“What happened? I don’t know...I think perhaps in trying to seek knowledge he began to desire power.”
“And so you exiled him?”
Father snorted derisively. “He wouldn’t go at first. Finally he was forcibly taken beyond the perimeter.”
“And now? Do you know where he is now?”
Father nodded. “I’ll go to see him. I’ll try to talk to him.”
“Alone? Father, no, I’ll....”
Father held up his hand as he interrupted him. “No, not now, not yet. Let me go first.”
Vincent started to protest. “Father...”
“John and I were very good friends at one time. I know him. He’s bitter and angry, but at one time he was a good person with a very generous heart. I don’t think I’ll be in any danger.”
Vincent reluctantly agreed to let him go alone.
Father left and went to the area where he knew John lived. It still hurt him to see the way John chose to live. They had built this world together at a time when the world Above had turned its back on him. If John’s ambitions hadn’t changed, he would still be living within the community, safe and comfortable.
Father walked into a chamber and saw that John was harvesting more plants to sell. He confronted him and asked that he stop selling his drugs in the world Above. He was bringing attention to the tunnels, but foremost his drug was killing innocent people.
John told him they would have to kill him to get him to stop, and Father left knowing his talk did little good.
Father walked back into the library. Vincent rushed over to lend a hand as Father walked down the steps.
“Did you find him?”
“By the look on your face, I assume that it didn’t go well.”
Father sighed as he took a seat at the table. “No.”
“Did he admit to being the one who was supplying the drug?”
“Is he aware that his plants are killing people?”
“I mentioned it.”
“He didn’t care?” Vincent asked, truly shocked. “I can’t believe he won’t stop!”
Father ran his hand over his face and shook his head as he looked down at the floor. “He said the only way to stop him is…”
“Is what, Father?”
“Kill him…he said we would have to kill him!” Father gasped as he looked at Vincent.
“There’s no other way?”
Father shrugged. “We’ll call a council meeting tomorrow. See if any of the others can come up with a solution.”
In the world Above, after working all day at her regular job, Catherine stopped by the police department and spent a long evening with Jimmy, reviewing all of the cases on the new drug. When they were finished, she was surprised when he refused her offer to go out for a burger. He informed her that he had a lead on the supplier and was going to follow through on it.
Catherine was nervous when he told her he was going alone, but he assured her he was capable of handling anything that came up, and she eventually left to head home. As she walked out of the precinct her stomach rumbled loudly, and she thought of what she had to eat at home. She glanced over at the burger place she wanted to take Jimmy to and decided to go alone.
Situated across from the police department, many of the officers and detectives frequented the restaurant. Now, despite the late hour, they were busy, and Catherine ended up getting seated at the long bar. She was pleasantly surprised when a few of the officers recognized her and welcomed her over at their table.
She ordered quickly, then spent a pleasant time being entertained with stories. It seemed as soon as one officer got up, another would sit down, and the time flew by as she munched on her burger and fries.
Meanwhile, Paracelsus was taking another load of his plants to the world Above. He was out of the tunnels and close to the staircase that would take him up.
Jimmy had gotten to the meeting place and was hunkered down for a long wait. He hoped to be able to catch the suspect on his way back, but was surprised when he saw a man, that he was sure was the supplier, walking towards him. What luck, Jimmy thought. He must be heading out for the night; he’ll have the drug on him! He stood up, ready to arrest the guy.
Paracelsus pretended that he was old and hard of hearing. As Jimmy drew closer, Paracelsus drew a knife, thrusting it into Jimmy’s gut, killing him instantly. Without a backward glance, Paracelsus continued on his way to deliver his plants to the world Above.
A few hours later, a vagrant called in a tip to the police department. Within ten minutes, the police department called Joe, who rushed to the scene, then called Catherine.
Catherine had just gotten home and ran through her apartment to answer her phone. “Hello.”
“Cathy, its Joe. Sorry to wake you”
“No, I just got in. What’s up?”
Joe rattled off an address. “Are you busy? Can you come down here?”
“Yeah…it’s important. We need to ask you some questions.”
Catherine sighed and grabbed her purse. “Give me ten minutes.”
Catherine arrived on the scene fifteen minutes later. She saw a covered body at the base of the steps and wondered who had died as she walked down to meet with Joe.
Joe explained to her that he thought Jimmy was acting alone. She wondered where Jimmy was, and Joe broke the news that he was the person who was dead.
Catherine started to cry and Joe offered his shoulder and held her while she came to terms with Jimmy’s death. Eventually, she got a hold of her emotions and backed away from him.
She looked up with tear-filled eyes. “Sorry, Joe.”
Joe smiled weakly. “It’s all right, Radcliffe. I know how close you and Jimmy have gotten.”
She shook her head. “Still, it’s not very professional of me. I guess I’m just tired.”
“Yeah, it’s been one of those nights.”
Joe took her elbow and led her to the lead detective. “Greg Hughs, Catherine Chandler. Cathy, Greg’s heading up this investigation.”
Catherine extended her hand while Greg shook it. “Nice to meet you, Miss Chandler.”
“It’s Cathy, and it’s nice to meet you too.”
Joe looked over at Greg. “Cathy here was the last one with Jimmy.”
Greg looked at her with renewed interest. “Really? He say anything to you about this?”
Catherine thought back to her conversation and tears came to her eyes. Joe put a steadying hand on her back as she sniffled and nodded her head. “You guessed right. He was acting on a tip from someone he trusted from the streets. I begged him not to go alone, but he was angry about the way the drug bust went the other night. He didn’t want another chance blown.”
Greg shook his head disgustedly. “Damn, when will these guys learn?!”
Joe sighed. “Jimmy went against procedure and it cost him his life.”
Catherine nodded as she shrugged and threw her hands out to the sides. “I should’ve followed my instincts. I should’ve told someone he was going to try to do this alone. Jimmy told me he wasn’t a rookie, that he could do this alone. I offered to come with him, maybe if I had…”
“You’d be dead too!” Greg’s eyes opened wide with surprise as Joe angrily exploded. “Damn it! What is with you, Chandler? You got a death wish or what? That could have been you down there!”
Catherine knew he was right. “Jimmy wouldn’t let me do it either. He probably saved my life…”
Greg shook his head in disgust. “No, not probably... Whoever this guy is killed Jimmy with no remorse. If you would’ve been here…let’s just say Jimmy’s last act was saving your life!”
Joe grabbed her elbow gently. “Look, Cathy, is there anything more?”
Catherine thought, then shrugged. “Not that sticks out in my mind.”
Greg looked over at Joe. “See that she gets home will ya?”
Joe nodded and steered Catherine towards a cruiser, but she pointed to her car. “I drove over here.”
“Want me to drive you home?”
“No…I’ll be fine. Do you want a ride home?” Catherine asked.
“No, I’ll catch a ride with Hughs. You’re sure you’re going to be all right?”
“Okay…” Joe looked at his watch. “See ya in three hours, Racliffe.”
Catherine groaned and nodded as she got into her car.
Joe grabbed her door before she could shut it. “Cathy, that’s a joke! You get some sleep. I better not see your face before 10:00.”
Catherine gave him a weak smile. “Deal. Thanks, Joe.”
Catherine drove about a mile down the rode and pulled over in front of a convenience store. She let the tears fall freely as she thought about Jimmy and the possibility of what could have been her own death. She made an impulsive decision and headed towards the park. She parked as close to the culvert as she could, then walked quickly through the park.
Vincent was in his chamber when he heard her summons come across the pipes. With a worried frown, he threw his shirt back on, grabbed his cloak, and ran to see her. He knew with the lateness of the hour that the only reason she would need to see him had to be an emergency. He sensed a great sadness through the bond and quickened his pace.
She was leaning against the wall when Vincent opened the sliding steel panel and she stared at him through the bars.
“Thanks for coming.”
He was concerned about her quietness. “Are you all right?”
Vincent tilted his head. “You didn’t come to see me at this late of an hour for no reason.”
“I...just needed to...be with you, to see you.”
“I’m here,” he said gently. “Tell me…”
“It’s this damn drug case!”
“What’s happened? Has there been a new development?” When she said nothing further, he cocked his head, curious, knowing that there was more to her reason. “What is it, Catherine? What makes you so sad?”
“A friend of mine was murdered tonight.”
“The current of your feelings runs deep; he must have meant a great deal to you.”
“I wish I’d had a chance to know him better. There was a lot of…hope in him, idealism. He was engaged to be married.”
“I’m sorry…” He hated to bring it up at a time when she needed to be comforted, but he sensed her exhaustion and wouldn’t keep her long.
Catherine was shocked. “Well, then you must turn him in.”
“If we surrender him to the police he has promised to betray our secret.”
Catherine frowned. “Well then he must be punished to the full extent of your laws. I’ll help...I’ll document what he’s done.”
Vincent shook his head. “The ultimate punishment has been imposed. He was exiled from our world years ago. He no longer lives within our authority.”
“Well, he’s still your responsibility!”
“We are struggling for a solution.”
Vincent felt her emotions boil over, and Catherine exploded in anger at what she considered their lack of immediate response. “I can’t wait! By waiting I put other lives in danger!”
Vincent blanched at the anger she projected at him, but he didn’t know what to say. It was her decision to make. “Catherine, you must live according to your conscience, just as we must live according to the laws that have allowed us to survive.”
He turned from her and started to go back to the tunnels. He knew she was angry that they were not moving quickly against Paracelsus. He wished he could make her understand that it was not that easy. Their society was a non-violent one, and this was an extreme dilemma for them. He would understand if she felt the need to expose their world.
Catherine stood there in disbelief at his answer. She started to walk back to her car, then thought better of it. She realized Vincent had walked away because he felt she would have no choice but to expose their secret. Catherine ran back, grabbed the gate, opened it, then closed the sliding panel behind her. She needed to catch up to him… talk to him…explain how she felt. She was angry, but not at him. She couldn’t let him walk away with the fear that she would expose his world. She saw his figure walking slowly ahead of her.
Vincent had heard the sliding panel open and knew she had entered the tunnels behind him. He had already turned to face her.
Catherine ran up and put her hand on his arm. “I told you once before, you’re secret’s safe with me. I would never betray your trust.”
Vincent smiled at the familiar words she had spoken to him so many months ago. He would trust her once again. “I know that. I knew that from the beginning, when you trusted me.”
Catherine sighed. “I’ll find a way! Somehow I’ll catch him Above, and there’ll be no ties to your world.”
Vincent nodded. He knew Catherine would do everything in her power to see it through. “Thank you, Catherine. I know it’s more than we deserve, but right now our world is so very vulnerable.”
“Mine is too. With this monster on the loose spreading his drugs, I have no choice, but I won’t let this evil touch your world.” Catherine reached for his hand and intertwined her fingers with his. “It’ll be okay, Vincent. I promise!”
He cocked his head as he looked and saw the exhaustion on her eyes. “It’s late and you’re tired. Let me guide you home.”
“My car’s in the park.”
He nodded and led her back to the culvert entrance.
“Vincent, I’m sorry I took out my frustration on you just now.”
He shrugged. “It’s all right, Catherine.”
She squeezed his hand. “No, it’s not. I’m tired and angry and sad and frustrated, but that was no reason to snap at you. I guess it’s true what they say about only hurting the ones you love.”
Vincent shyly turned and looked ahead. Catherine smiled to herself that she had rendered him speechless.
Luckily, it was only a short walk and they were soon in the park. Vincent walked her as close to her car as he dared to go.
“Goodnight, Catherine. Sleep well.”
She pulled away and looked up at him. “When will I see you again?”
He squeezed her hand, then dropped it. “Soon.”
She smiled. “Soon.”
He made sure she was safely in her car before he turned and headed home.
The next morning, Father tapped a request that all of the council members meet in the library for an emergency meeting. Within ten minutes, Vincent and the rest of the chief council members filtered in. He and Father quickly brought Mary and Winslow up to speed on the dilemma they faced. Father caught them up with the details of his meeting with John and told them of their problem.
Father shook his head. “John refuses to stop his activities.”
“Well then, he must be made to stop,” demanded Winslow.
“And how do you propose to do that?” Father wondered.
“What if we caught him and turned him in Above?” Mary asked.
“He has threatened to tell of our world,” Father supplied.
Vincent shook his head in disgust. “His activities threaten the same thing.”
“Except that there’s this to consider…Paracelsus could never expose us without exposing himself. If he doesn’t get caught we’re safe…” Mary suggested.
“I’m no gambler, especially not with those stakes,” Winslow said.
“Terrible dilemma. I don’t know what more we can do?” Father said.
“Father, the moment he is caught Above, we are all in peril,” Vincent pointed out.
“Exactly why we have no choice. Paracelsus told you himself – the only way to stop him is to kill him,” Winslow said.
“Would you be his executioner?” Father asked angrily.
Winslow searched for an idea. “We could do it by lottery.”
Father raised his hands to object. “Even to consider such an alternative undermines the very principal this society was built on. Please…we are here to consider viable options.”
“Well discussing the problem isn’t going to make it disappear,” said Winslow.
“It does seem as though the more we talk the more elusive the solution becomes.” Vincent sighed. “We all agree that what is at stake is the greater good of both worlds. Some course, anything, is better than to allow all that we are, all that we have built, to be held hostage by one man’s evil.”
Father looked at him. “So what do you propose?”
Vincent leaned forward. “I can stop Paracelsus from leaving the tunnels with his poison. That will give us time to decide on a more permanent solution.”
Mary asked, “How will you do it?”
“I’ll bring him to the prison chamber until we decide how to handle him...”
That afternoon, Vincent went searching for Paracelsus. He went to the area where Father told him he had confronted him. On his way, he spotted Paracelsus in the distance and followed him.
Paracelsus realized he was being followed and tried to escape as Vincent chased after him. He had just made it into a tunnel way when Vincent suddenly appeared behind him. He closed a false door, buying some needed time, and ran through yet another tunnel way. Hearing Vincent break through the false wall, he took a second to throw some of his drug powder into the air, then took off quickly as the powder floated downward.
Vincent broke through the false door and ran into the next room. He unknowingly stepped right into the particle shower created by Paracelsus and he breathed deeply of the drug-filled air.
He searched for the false wall that Paracelsus had to have used to escape. Breathing hard from running, he stood and felt the full impact as his senses were immediately affected.
Vincent began hallucinating and fell back against the walls. Holding his head and moaning, he tried to gain control of his mind. He got up and stumbled through the tunnels trying to clear his head and get his bearings.
In his mind, he kept hearing the moans of people in pain and the screams of people dying. He saw visions of Catherine surrounded by fire, trying to lure him towards the flame. Vincent battled with himself, but the drug took him over completely. He could not keep the beast within him at bay. He growled and snarled as instinct guided him back to the home tunnels.
As Vincent neared the home tunnels, Father heard his roars echoing through the tunnel ways. He stood and listened as report after report rattled across the pipes. Each sentry was reporting Vincent’s condition and whereabouts.
Father went out to search for him and found him in one of the side tunnels.
Vincent stood against a wall. When he heard the sound of an approaching person, he growled a warning.
Father cautiously came forward down the corridor. “Is that you, Vincent?”
Vincent snarled and growled another warning.
Father peered through the dark at his son. He realized that in the state that Vincent was in, he might not recognize who he was. He slowly approached him, trying to reassure him. “Vincent, it’s me...It’s me, Vincent...Father.” Father continued to approach as Vincent growled more warnings. Finally, Father came too close and Vincent lashed out at him, knocking him to the ground.
Father looked up at Vincent from the floor. He knew then that Vincent didn’t recognize him. For the first time in his life, he looked at his son with fear as Vincent advanced towards him. Just then, Winslow ran in with a torch. He waved it at Vincent who backed away from the flame. Mary fell to her knees beside Father and threw her arms around him as she stared frighteningly at Vincent.
Vincent, feeling outnumbered, ran to the lower tunnels.
Mary sighed with relief when Vincent took off. “My goodness, Father. Are you okay?”
“I think he broke my arm, and I think I might need stitches.”
Father struggled to his feet. He shook slightly from the shock of what had just happened.
As they walked to the hospital chamber, Winslow turned to him. “Father, what happened back there? What’s wrong with Vincent?”
Father shook his head. “I don’t know...I saw a some sort of substance sparkling on his clothing; it glowed in the darkness. I think he may have gotten into some of Paracelsus’ drug.”
Mary gasped. “Oh, that poor boy.”
Winslow looked at her incredulously. “That poor boy almost killed Father!”
Mary rushed to defend Vincent. “But it’s not his fault!”
“How many more people could he hurt and it won’t be his fault? What happens if one of the children approaches him?”
Father took Winslow’s arm. “Have Pascal send a message telling no one to approach Vincent. And Winslow, please take a group and follow him. Watch and see where he goes.”
“I’ll go right now, if you’ll be okay.”
Father nodded. “Yes, go...go.”
Mary got Father to the hospital chamber and sat him on a bed. Amazingly he didn’t need any stitches; his layers of clothing managed to sustain much of the blow from Vincent’s claw. Mary cleaned his wounds, then bandaged them up. Luckily his arm was not broken, just badly bruised, but Mary still immobilized it.
They were both silent through the process, their thoughts on Vincent. When Mary was finished, Father came and stood in front of her. He looked deeply into her eyes and held her hand, caressing it gently. “Thank you, Mary.”
“Father, will he be okay?”
Father knew she referred to Vincent. Mary had been like a mother to him his whole life. She was heartsick right now and deserved his honesty.
He sighed and shook his head. “I just don’t know.”
She nodded in understanding.
“I’ll be in the library,” he said as he took a step forward and kissed her on top of her forehead. He turned and left as Mary sighed.
Father sat at his desk waiting for news on Vincent.
Jamie ran up and noticed his bandage. “Father, are you okay? What happened?”
“I...” Father couldn’t speak. He never lied, but he didn’t want to frighten anyone.
Jamie thought of the earlier conversations she’d overheard between Winslow and Mouse. She nodded, correctly guessing what happened. “It was Vincent, wasn’t it?”
Father grimaced and nodded. “Did you find him?”
“Yes, he’s in the old catacombs. Winslow and some of the others are there keeping an eye on him. Do you want me to bring them a message?”
Father shook his head. “Not now. Jamie, I need you to find Catherine and bring her here immediately.”
Jamie took off, and Father sat down again to wait.
Jamie ran all the way to Catherine’s apartment. She knocked furiously, then waited. No one answered, and Jamie sat in a chair for two hours before Catherine finally came off the elevator.
Catherine took one look at Jamie and felt her stomach roll as her face paled. “It’s Vincent?”
Jamie only nodded. Catherine opened her door and quickly ran to her bedroom, stripping her dress off along the way. As Jamie waited in her living room, Catherine changed, then headed Below with her.
Jamie knew how urgent it was, so she took off running again. Catherine ran behind her, surprised that whatever it was, it was this urgent. Fear flooded through her at the thought of what could have happened.
Catherine ran until her lungs felt like they would burst. “Jamie, wait!”
Jamie stopped, then headed back to where Catherine had stopped.
Catherine panted heavily. “I need a second.”
Jamie was panting just as heavily. “Try to walk around a little. You don’t want to cramp up.”
Catherine stood and they started walking. Through breaths, she grilled Jamie. “Can’t you tell me what’s wrong?”
Jamie shook her head. “I’m not sure myself. There were messages over the pipes. The sentry’s reported that Vincent was acting strange and to be on the alert. Then everyone heard Vincent’s roars throughout the tunnels. I helped gather the children in the dining chamber. Once everyone was in there, I went to find out what was going on. I saw Father and he sent me to find you. He looked like he’d been hurt.”
Catherine felt uneasy. There were strange feelings flowing through the bond and she couldn’t identify any of them. Catherine started to run towards the library and Jamie followed behind.
Father looked relieved when he didn’t have to wait any longer and watched as Catherine came into the library.
She stopped in surprise as she looked at his bandaged arm. “Father, what happened to you? Are you okay?”
He shook his head dismissively as he looked at the floor. “It’s Vincent.”
“Vincent? Has there been an accident?”
Father shook his head. “I think he may have gotten into some of Paracelsus’ drugs.”
“What do you mean?” Catherine’s eyes grew round in astonishment as she realized the impact of his statement. She thought of all the people who were dead. “He’s not...” She couldn’t bring herself to say the words.
Father saw her pale. “He’s alive. He’s just...not himself.”
Catherine thought of the all the others who were institutionalized for all kinds of problems relating to delusions and hallucinations. “Is he delusional?”
Father snorted. “Yes...I believe so. He didn’t recognize me earlier. I think he felt cornered, and he….”
She looked at Father’s arm, then back up into his eyes. “Did he do this to you?”
He flushed but nodded.
“Oh my God, Father! When did all this happen?”
“This afternoon…He went to see Paracelsus. An hour later, reports came in that Vincent was running through the tunnels acting quite strange. I followed his voice to a crossroad in the tunnels. When I approached him...well...I know he didn’t realize it was me.”
“Is that why you think it’s the result of the drug?”
“Yes, I saw some powder glowing like glitter on his clothing.”
Catherine nodded. “That’s what the drug looks like. Where is he now? Did he go Above?”
“He’s holed up in a forgotten place way below us, an old section of catacombs.”
“According to our tests the effects of the drug should only last three to four hours.”
“I can’t let you go close to him; he’s unpredictable. I thought perhaps if he heard your voice…the empathic connection you share might somehow get through to him.”
“Catherine, I have no right and I hate to even ask...”
“Father, please! Of course I’ll go to him. It’s worth a try.”
He shook his head, unsure if he was doing the right thing.
Catherine grabbed his arm. “Come on. Let me at least give it a try. I promise I won’t put myself in danger.”
Father nodded to her and led her out the door.
They made their way through the tunnels as fast as Father could walk.
“Father, why exactly did Vincent strike out at you? Was it unprovoked?”
“When I approached him, I called out several times, but he didn’t seem to recognize me. I guess I finally got too close, and he lashed out.”
Catherine cringed in horror. “So you have deep lacerations?”
“No, that’s just it…I know he didn’t recognize me, but he didn’t attack me either. At the last second he hit my arm away. I assumed by the pain he had broken it, but luckily it’s just bruised.”
Catherine nodded. “I remember the effects of the drug I was given when I investigated that voodoo case awhile back. I know how confusing things can get. Father, has he ever been like this before?”
Father grimaced. “Once…a long time ago. He was much younger then...”
“Okay…but I’m still not understanding all of this. In all of the other cases we handled, the victims were happy and upbeat. I’m not sure why Vincent’s reaction is one of violence.”
Father sighed aloud. “His body chemistry is so different from ours. He never could tolerate many types of medicines. Who knows what Paracelsus put in his drug! I hope there is a way to break the effects.”
Catherine nodded. “Maybe I’ll be able to get through to him.”
They finally got down to the cave where Vincent was hiding. Winslow and the other guards stood guard with their torches lit. Winslow reported that they hadn’t heard anything in over an hour.
Father and Catherine moved in closer. Father looked uncertainly into the opening. “We don’t know how far back he is. I thought maybe if you could call out to him or...”
Catherine nodded in agreement. “Vincent, I’m here now.” Although he growled and snarled a warning, the bond was flooded with feelings of desperation. Catherine could feel that he felt alone, scared, confused, and trapped. “God, he needs me! I have to go to him!”
Father disagreed. “I can’t let you do that! I thought he needed me too, but all I did was frighten him!”
“Well, I have to take that chance.”
“He’ll strike at you. He’s not the Vincent we know.”
She looked at him angrily. “What did you think I would do when you brought me here? Leave him alone like this? I have no choice.”
She stood up and started to walk towards Vincent. She couldn’t see him yet, but he got up from his sitting position and crouched low in his cubbyhole, growling a warning at her.
Catherine walked slower but continued to draw closer. She could see him now. He showed her his fangs; his snarls grew louder and more menacing. She clamped down on her fear and tried to convey nothing but love for him hoping it would flow through the bond.
Her thoughts were on him. Vincent, it’s okay. I’m here now. We’ll get through this. I’m coming Vincent. It’s okay. It’s just me. Shhh, I’m almost there.
She continued to walk towards him, looking him straight in the eyes. He was still in the cubbyhole in the wall, and he straightened up as she got closer. He continued growling at her, saliva pouring from his mouth as his snarls grew louder.
To everyone in the outer tunnels, it was madness that she was approaching him. But Catherine felt the battle raging in him; she felt him fighting for control. She came closer, unafraid, and stopped directly in front of him. As she looked into his eyes, he threw his head back and started shaking it back and forth. She could feel him gaining control of himself.
She stepped forward, leaned against him, and placed her head against his chest. She slipped her arms around his waist, holding him tightly while he fought unseen forces to come back to reality.
At the first touch of her hands, Vincent finally gained control. His arms came around her holding her tightly as he gasped for breath. “Catherine.” He rubbed his cheek against her head, trying to reassure himself of her presence. “Catherine.”
They stood intertwined for several minutes until he caught his breath and his heart stopped racing. He moved slightly away from her.
Catherine looked at him with a question in her eyes. “Vincent?”
“I’m...all right, Catherine. I’m going to be all right.”
She smiled and tried to catch his eye. “I know.” She turned and called out over her shoulder, “Father, he’s okay.”
In the tunnel outside, everyone visibly relaxed. Father turned to them.
The others agreed and quickly left, but Father stayed behind to assess his son’s condition.
Vincent leaned against the wall and tried to come to terms with what had happened. He remembered bits and pieces, but now his mind was racing to make sense of all of it. Catherine stayed by his side, gently caressing his back and holding his hand. Exhausted from his ordeal, he finally threw his head back with a sigh.
Catherine pushed off from the wall they were leaning against. She held out her hand to him. “Come on, Vincent. Let’s go home.”
Vincent wouldn’t look at her but he took her hand and followed her out. Finally, they walked from the cave. Father smiled as Vincent and Catherine walked hand in hand towards him.
Vincent looked up and stopped in his tracks. “Father, are you okay?”
“Yes, Vincent, I’m fine.”
“What happened to you?”
Father blinked in surprise that he didn’t remember. “Well...I...um...that is to say that...” He looked over at Catherine who nodded her head. She didn’t believe he should withhold the truth from Vincent. Father opened his mouth, but no words came forth.
Catherine turned to Vincent and laid her hand on his arm. “Vincent, it was an accident. Father...” She stopped as she realized why Father had such a hard time. She couldn’t tell him either.
Father came forward. “Vincent, I advanced on you too quickly, and in your agitated state...” He stopped unable to say more.
The reality of what Vincent had done made him gasp in shock. He shook his head in shame. “Father...I am so, so sorry.”
Father placed his hand on Vincent’s shoulder. “Nonsense, Son. You were not yourself.”
Vincent had tears in his eyes as he looked at him. “How could I do this to you? Why couldn’t I stop myself?”
Catherine squeezed his hand reassuringly. “Paracelsus made a very powerful drug.”
Father nodded. “She’s right. Be thankful nothing bad happened.”
Vincent shook his head in disbelief as he leaned back against the tunnel wall and started to cry. “Nothing bad happened? Father, I hurt you!” Tears fell unchecked from his eyes. Catherine wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly.
Father shrugged it off. “Vincent, it was only a few small cuts. Mary was just over zealous in her bandaging.”
Catherine smiled at his attempt to lighten the mood. She bent over to look Vincent in the eye. “Come on, Vincent. You look tired. Let’s keep walking.”
“That’s a good idea, Catherine. Let’s go back to the library where I can take a look at you, Vincent.” Father said.
Vincent sighed and hung his head again. “I’m all right. Just a little sore from running into walls.”
Father took Vincent’s head into his hands and looked into his son’s eyes. He nodded, then kissed him on the side of the cheek. “Okay, Son. I’ll have to go address the council after we get back.” He turned to her. “Catherine, will you stay with him?”
She nodded. “Of course, Father.”
Catherine hung back with Vincent and allowed Father to walk ahead of them. She wanted to give Vincent more of a chance to come to terms with everything that had happened. She could feel his distress at all the trouble he had caused. They walked slowly, and Catherine held tightly to his hand. He didn’t pull away from her, but he wouldn’t look at her either. Catherine didn’t try to talk to him and left him alone with his thoughts.
He was quiet all the way back to the library, but his mind was racing. How did this happen? Is Father really okay? Why did he allow Catherine to come to me? I could have killed her! Why did she come after me? Why did she have to see me like that? What could she be thinking of me now? Do I disgust her?
Vincent sat in a chair in Father’s study. Father looked over at Catherine. “Um...Catherine...do you know the way to the dining hall? I was wondering if perhaps you wouldn’t mind bringing us some tea...”
Catherine knew he was trying to be alone with Vincent. She smiled, taking the hint. She leaned forward to look at Vincent. “Vincent, can I get you anything?”
Vincent shook his head, but he still wouldn’t look at her. He wanted to give her an alternative if she truly wanted to leave. “I could send for someone to see you home.”
She shook her head. “No, I’d like to stay here with you if I may.”
He seemed to relax at her statement, although he shrugged his shoulders, still not looking at her.
She smiled weakly at Father. “I’ll go get that tea.”
After she left, Father turned to Vincent. He pulled a chair over and sat down next to him. “Vincent...”
“I said I was fine. I have a few bruises.” Vincent looked over at him. “You on the other hand...I...I don’t remember anything...I remember chasing Paracelsus, then I remember Catherine coming into that cave.” He looked over at the twenty-four hour candle burning on the table. “I was lost to myself for over eight hours?”
Father nodded. “Yes, but you seem to be okay now.”
“What happened to me?”
“I told you. I believe you were under the influence of Paracelsus’ drugs.”
Vincent sighed. “I have images, things that I think may have happened, but I don’t know if they’re real or not.”
Father nodded. “Hallucinations…probably, much like what Catherine went through during that voodoo time not too long ago. Same effect, different drug.”
“I could’ve killed someone...”
“Father, knowing what I did to you, how could you let Catherine come close to me?”
“Have you ever tried to stop Catherine from doing something she’s set her mind to?” Father shook his head and chuckled. “Vincent, it was never my intention for Catherine to go to you. She was only to call out your name. I hoped your empathic connection with her would bring you back to us.”
“So, how did Catherine end up coming for me?”
Father sighed. “You growled a warning, and she stood up and went in for you. She must have heard or, rather, felt something the rest of us couldn’t.”
Vincent shook his head in disgust. “Why would she endanger herself?”
Father heard Catherine’s footsteps in the tunnel way and whispered to Vincent. “Because she loves you.”
From the tunnel way, Winslow and Mary peered into the room. Father hesitated until Vincent spoke.
“Go, Father…I’ll be fine.”
Father left, and Vincent finally let himself think about all that had happened.
“What is it Vincent? What are you thinking?”
He turned his face away from her. She’d risked her life coming to get him; she deserved his honesty. He was ashamed to look at her as he sighed. “How ashamed I am that you saw me as I was...” he began, then turned and faced her and looked into her eyes. “And how grateful I am that you were there.”
She laid a comforting hand on his shoulder, offering him her love.
He placed his hand over hers and held it. “You saved my life Catherine.”
Once again that night, Catherine allowed her love for him to flow through their bond. She squeezed his hand tightly in her own.
Father walked in and felt the love surrounding this couple. He smiled to himself as he thought of Catherine. What an amazing woman she is. In that cave, she walked straight to Vincent without a moment of hesitation, faced the beast, and, in an instan,t brought Vincent back to reality. Now here she stands offering her love and comfort. He would be forever grateful to her. He continued walking forward, and Catherine stood up, never letting go of Vincent’s hand.
“I’ve contacted Mary and Winslow They’re ready to convene.”
“I’m sorry, Father. The time for that is past.”
Father shook his head. “Vincent, I do understand how you feel...”
Vincent’s voice was low. “You can’t understand how I feel.”
Father grew impatient. “We all agreed. Harsh measures are required, but it’s not your responsibility to decide what they may be.”
Vincent gave him a look that proved he could not be dissuaded. “It is mine. I have seen the demons Paracelsus has unleashed, felt them inside me. How can I explain? You become disconnected, as if the dark side of your imagination eclipses all compassion, all dignity.” He got to his feet. “I must go.”
Catherine reached for his arm. “You’re still weak.”
“And there are fifty people already dead,” he pointed out as he looked down at her, then walked out.
After he left, Catherine turned to face Father. “We can’t stop him, can we?”
He sighed and shook his head. “I don’t think so. He does seem determined. His loss of control from that drug...”
“It’s over though! He’s okay…”
“Because of you, Catherine. If you hadn’t been here, I hesitate ...” Father shook his head. “zNever mind. Once again, I find I need to offer you my thanks.”
“No, Father. Thank you. For trusting in me, for sending for me. I’m glad I could be here when he needed me.”
Father smiled. “Let me send for someone to walk you home.”
She shook her head and smiled. “I just need someone to make sure I make it. I found my own way home last time.”
He chuckled. “Good girl. You’ll be a tunnel dweller in no time.”
She nodded and turned to walk away.
Vincent found Paracelsus easily. Paracelsus spouted lies to him about knowing Vincent’s true birth story. He tried to make Vincent feel like he was a friend. Vincent was wary of him, but curiosity made him listen as his mind raced with the possibilities. Paracelsus kept up his banter, slowly drawing closer to Vincent.
Out of nowhere, he drew a knife and stabbed Vincent. Vincent roared and dropped his lantern. He prepared for a fight as a fire started and spread quickly through the chamber. Vincent and Paracelsus fought. Vincent shoved Paracelsus onto one of his growing tables and it tipped over, dumping Paracelsus onto the floor. Vincent tried to drag Paracelsus out of danger, but Paracelsus noticed the fire and lashed out again at Vincent, then ran back into his chamber for his gold coins.
Vincent tried to stop him, but Paracelsus ran through a wall of flames. He waited until the room was engulfed in flames and, from the size of the fire, assumed that Paracelsus had been killed. He walked back and reported everything to the council.
Father and the others were ready when he walked in. He looked over at them wearily. “It’s done. Paracelsus burned in a fire.”
Mary gasped in dismay, but the others looked relieved.
Father narrowed his eyes at a bloodstain on his son’s shirt. “You’re hurt!”
Vincent shrugged. “Yes, I’m probably going to need stitches.”
Mary came forward and pushed on his shoulders. “Let’s go! Now, Vincent!”
Vincent responded to the authority in her voice, just as he had so many times as a boy. “Okay, Mary.”
Mary led him to the hospital chamber. Vincent stripped off his shirt and lay down on the table.
Mary came over. He grimaced when she cleaned the cut, but she took her time and stitched him carefully. Paracelsus’ knife had slashed him, but luckily it wasn’t deep, and Vincent only needed twelve stitches.
Mary looked at the man who was just like a son to her. “You’re awfully quiet.”
“I’m sorry, Mary. I wish everyone knew how sorry I truly am.”
“Vincent, don’t fret. Everyone knows what happened. You’re going to be fine, and so is Father.”
“I’ve never felt that out of control.”
Mary smiled. “I’ve never seen you that out of control. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t scare me.”
“It scared me, too.”
“Well, it didn’t scare Catherine. She walked right in there to get to you.”
Vincent gasped. “I could’ve hurt her!”
Mary smiled. “You would never hurt her. I think you love her.”
Vincent blushed and looked down. “She needs to find a man who can give her the life she deserves.”
Mary shook her head. “I’m not so sure Catherine will agree with you.”
He nodded. “I think I will. Thank you, Mary.”
He went back to his room to lie down. He was so exhausted he soon fell asleep.
Late that night, Vincent made his way to Catherine’s apartment. She was reading in bed when she saw his shadow on the balcony. She got up and ran to the door.
“Are you okay?”
He shrugged and looked out over the city. “I needed to see you.”
“What is it? Is something wrong?”
He sighed. “Catherine, Father told me the story of what happened this afternoon.” She shrugged and he continued. “You shouldn’t have come after me. I could have struck out at you and hurt you. Or worse!”
Catherine frowned and thought for a moment. “Vincent, I felt your feelings the entire time I was walking towards you. I never felt threatened. Even though you were warning me away, I could feel another part of you reaching out for help. The second I looked into your eyes, I knew you wouldn’t hurt me.”
“You shouldn’t have taken that chance.”
“If I had to do it all over again, I would do it the same way. I will always be there for you if you need me!” She moved forward and hugged him tightly. He hissed in pain and backed away as she bumped the wound with the stitches. She looked up at him horrified. “You’re hurt! Paracelsus hurt you?”
Vincent nodded. “We fought. He stabbed me, then ran into a fire to try to save his money. His greed cost him his life.”
Catherine nodded. “I’m sorry he’s dead, but I am relieved it’s over now. And you should probably be in bed resting.”
“I did, all afternoon. I wanted to see you.”
Catherine reached out tentatively and drew in close. She gently hugged him as she laid her head against his chest. “I’m glad you’re all right.”
He held her and pulled her in close.
A light rain began to fall and she looked up at him ruefully. “You should go before you get wet.”
He nodded. “Goodnight, Catherine.”
A few mornings later, Catherine went to work and stopped off at Joe’s office.
Joe looked up at her. “Hey, are you doing okay?”
She smiled. “Yeah, thanks. Anymore drug deaths reported?”
Joe shook his head. “No! I bet the guy got scared off from his confrontation with Jimmy. He’s either gonna stay quiet for awhile or he’s moving on to another city.”
Catherine tilted her head curiously. “So should I stop working on the case?”
Joe smiled and leaned forward then handed her three files. “On to the next...”
That afternoon, Catherine left early to attend Jimmy’s funeral. On the way back, she sent word asking Vincent to meet her. He met with her at the tunnel entrance.
She smiled. “Hi. You look well.”
“I am well.” Vincent came forward. “How are you, Catherine. You seem...sad?”
“I just came from my friend’s wake.”
“I’m sorry. If I had known sooner, perhaps Paracelsus wouldn’t have gotten so far out of control, and your friend would still be alive.”
“He got into trouble because he didn’t follow the rules.” She shook her head in disbelief. “Jimmy wouldn’t compromise.”
“Beyond the sadness, his life had great meaning.” Vincent walked closer to Catherine and leaned on the wall next to her. “Catherine, I understand why you expose yourself to danger.”
She nodded. “Because there are some risks worth taking...”
He nodded, picking up on her train of thoughts. “And there are some things worth risking everything for.”
She nodded and moved to walk away.
Vincent’s voice stopped her. “Catherine.” She turned to him with a question in her eyes, and he looked shyly at the floor. “I was wondering if you weren’t busy tonight if you would like to come Below for awhile?”
Catherine’s face fell. She had been so wrapped up in the drug raid and the subsequent problems, she needed to get some work done tonight.
Vincent sensed her distress and misinterpreted it. “Catherine, I’m sorry I asked. I ...”
Catherine shook her head and rushed forward. “No, Vincent. I’m the one who’s sorry. I wish I could, but I’m overloaded with paperwork from some new cases. Could I make it another time?”
Vincent smiled. “You’re welcome here anytime.”
Catherine came forward and lowered her head to his shoulder. She sighed as she felt his arms gently surround her. She pulled back and looked at him. “What about tomorrow?”
“I have sentry duty. Perhaps the next night...” He stopped as he realized she might very well have some other plans, as it was the weekend and Saturday was commonly a “date night.”
Catherine smiled broadly. “That would be perfect! Can I bring anything?”
Vincent shook his head. “Just yourself.”
“What time should I come?”
Vincent was unused to extending invitations and didn’t know what to say. “I...guess when you have some free time...”
“It’s Saturday. My whole day is free! Why don’t I come in the morning? Around 8:00? We can spend the whole day together.” Vincent’s eyes opened wide with surprise, and Catherine giggled. “Too early?”
He realized she was teasing and nodded. “Perhaps, I could meet you at your threshold around 3:00. The children will be reading stories they’ve created, and dinner is at 6:00 on Saturdays.”
“That sounds wonderful. Until Saturday then…”