BETWEEN THE LINES SERIES
BECAUSE YOU KNEW
Sunday, Catherine spent her first entire day Below. The children put on a play they had learned in class, and she had a lovely time at dinner visiting with the entire community. William made strawberry shortcake, a favorite dessert Below.
Mary smiled. “Mmmm, William has outdone himself this time.”
Mouse laughed. “Yes, love strawberries.”
Jamie laughed at him. “You love any dessert! I wonder where William got strawberries this time of year?”
Winslow nodded. “It must’ve cost a fortune.”
Catherine blushed guiltily and feigned an interest in her dessert, hoping to escape a stern lecture. Vincent sat next to her and moved his leg against hers, offering his support.
She cast him a sideways glance, then smiled coyly when he winked knowingly at her.
Mary gasped at Winslow’s comment. “I hadn’t thought of that!”
Father looked curiously over at Catherine, then at Vincent who shook his head, silently asking Father not to fuss. Father sighed as he nodded. “I suppose one of our helpers has just been especially generous. We should thank her...or him!”
Catherine looked up and noticed with relief that Father was looking at her with a mischievous sparkle in his eye. She smiled and looked over at Vincent.
Pascal caught the exchange and quickly brought up another subject so the conversation
After dinner, Vincent turned to Catherine. “It’s a nice night tonight; perhaps you would like to walk home through the park.”
Catherine raised her brows in surprise, but was unwilling to turn down the offer. “I’d like that.” He stood and took her hand and walked her to the door. She followed him, but stopped for a moment to address the room. “Goodnight, everyone. Thank you for a wonderful day.”
Everyone said goodbye, and several of the children ran over for hugs before she could leave. As they made their way through the tunnels, they held hands whenever they could.
Once they were outside in the park, Vincent realized his mistake in not calculating the weather. The wind was fierce, and he put his arm around her to shield her as best he could. “I’m sorry, Catherine. I had no idea it was this miserable outside. Perhaps we should turn back.”
Catherine thought about how good it felt to have him hold her like this, and she was smiling as she shook her head. “No, I’m fine. It’s not a cold wind, and other than some messy hair, it’s kind of nice to get the fresh air.” When Vincent nodded his acquiescence, she put her head against his shoulder. “Besides, it feels wonderful to have your arm around me.”
Vincent blushed, but they continued to walk and talk. Surprisingly, they encountered few people along the way. Eventually, Catherine spotted another couple long before Vincent did and quietly led him to hide behind a group of trees. Vincent was embarrassed at first, but Catherine kept up an easy banter like what she did was the most natural thing in the world.
They were nearing the edge of the park and the safety of the trees when Vincent stopped. “I...can’t...”
Catherine smiled. “I know. I can make it from here. I’ll see you soon?”
Vincent nodded as she came forward for her usual hug. She backed up too soon and looked up into his eyes. He looked back down at her, wondering what she wanted him to do.
With a sigh, she retreated further and smiled. “Night, Vincent.”
Catherine ended up staying up very late to finish paperwork for Joe.
In the morning, she woke up and started the coffee pot. She walked to the front door and grabbed the newspaper, then walked to the kitchen where she read the headlines. A few minutes later, she popped some bread into the toaster and poured herself a cup of coffee.
She grabbed the toast from the toaster and sighed when she saw how badly it was burned. She lifted her coffee mug to her mouth and tasted her coffee. Yuck, she thought. She sighed in disgust, set down her paper, and decided she would change and go to work. She got dressed, grabbed her briefcase, and walked out her door. She only made it a few steps when she tripped and dropped the items in her hands. She looked down at her shoes to discover one of them had a broken heel.
“I just bought these yesterday,” she moaned to no one. She let herself back into her apartment and changed her shoes. What more could go wrong today? she thought.
When she finally made it to work, Kelly, a new intern, was coming towards Catherine.
Catherine smiled at her. “Good morning, Kelly.”
Kelly looked at her tentatively. “Morning, Cathy.”
Catherine sighed when she saw the look on Kelly’s face. “Tell me.”
Kelly handed her a phone message. “Marci O’Neil was released from the emergency room at the hospital last night. The police took her there with multiple injuries to her face and head, as well as to her back and ribs. The neighbors phoned in another complaint.”
Catherine worriedly looked at the message. “I’ll call her and see if I can get her to come in.”
Kelly shook her head as she looked at her sheepishly. “When you weren’t here, I called Marci and told her to come in around 11:00. I ran it past Joe, and he said if you weren’t in, he would handle it. I’m sorry if I overstepped...”
Catherine interrupted her. “No, Kelly! Don’t think like that! It was a good call. Thanks for your help.”
Catherine glanced at her watch as she walked towards her desk. Marci O’Neil was a classic case of domestic abuse. This was the fourth time that the DA’s office was involved, but each time Marci refused to press charges. Now she would be here in less than an hour and Catherine wanted to be ready.
Joe grabbed her as she walked past his office. “Glad you could make it, Radcliffe!”
Catherine pinned him with an angry stare. “Not now, Joe.”
“Kelly told you about Marci O’Neil already?”
“Yeah. I hope this time she follows through.”
Joe shrugged. “We’ll see. Bring her to my office; we’ll do it together.”
Catherine nodded. She took off her coat and hung it up, then put her purse away and opened up her satchel. She drew out a file. “Here.”
Joe came forward and grabbed it. “What’s this?”
“The Henson file.”
Joe stared at it incredulously. “You finished it!”
She nodded and yawned. “Last night...I mean this morning around 1:30.” Catherine picked up her empty coffee cup and stared at it. She looked at Joe hopefully. “What would I have to do to get you to get me a cup of coffee?”
Joe took the mug from her with a grin. “You already did it! Moreno’s gonna flip when he sees the files completed.”
Joe walked and filled her coffee mug, then handed it back to her as she poured over Marci’s case.
She looked up gratefully and took the offered mug. “Thanks, Joe.”
Marcy O’Neil came in at 11:00 on the dot. Catherine led her into Joe’s office so they could interview her together. Marci finally admitted to them that she had been beaten again by her husband. She was battered and bruised and still refused to press charges against him. She told them her husband promised he wouldn’t hit her again.
Catherine pointed out that he had promised this before. Marci left without filing charges against him. Catherine shook her head in disbelief. She just couldn’t understand Marci’s thinking. This woman was repeatedly beaten by her husband, and, time after time, Marci went back to him because he promised not to do it again. What made this woman forget between beatings how awful she felt and how much she hurt? What made her focus on the few good times and forget about the painful ones?
Catherine got a phone call, and Joe left his office to get coffee so she could take it in privacy.
Jenny’s voice carried over the line. “Oh, it’s great to hear your voice, stranger!”
Catherine chuckled; it had been weeks since she’d heard from her best friend. “Jenny, is that really Jenny Aronson, world record holder for unreturned phone calls?”
“Don’t forget unrequited love!”
“That’s not what I hear...How are ya? What’s up?”
“Oh, I’m fine. I’m great actually. I got a phone call today from Stephen Bass. He’s in town and he’s trying to reach you. I gave him your home number, and it occurred to me about a second later that I probably shouldn’t have. He is so insistent.”
Catherine’s mind raced back to her college years and to the man she almost married. She ignored the slight twinge she felt in the pit of her stomach.
At the silence on the other end of the phone, Jenny became worried. “Cathy?”
Catherine sighed. “Yeah, I’m here.”
“You don’t have to call him back. You don’t owe him anything.”
Catherine knew what Jenny said was true, but she still thought she should see him. “Did he say where he’s staying?”
“Yeah, he’s at the Huntington. If you want we can talk about it over lunch...”
Catherine didn’t think there was anything worth discussing. “No, I don’t. Not yet anyway.”
“Cath, are you sure?”
Catherine wondered briefly why Jenny was so concerned. “Yeah, Jen, I am. It’ll be fine. I’ll just see what he wants, catch up a little, and it’ll be all over.”
“I don’t know. You think it’ll be that easy?”
Catherine shrugged as she thought about Vincent. For her, it would be a piece of cake to tell Stephen she wasn’t interested. “If it’s not, I’ll tell him that I’m with somebody.”
“Oh,” Jenny sang out, “... and are you...with somebody?”
Catherine’s laughed. She wanted so much to tell Jenny about Vincent, share her feelings about him, but she couldn’t, not even with Jenny.
At Catherine’s silence on the other end, Jenny jumped to conclusions. “Hey, how come you won’t tell me about him? What’s the big secret?”
Catherine lied easily. “No big secret to tell, Jen!”
Joe walked back into his office.
Catherine nodded to him. “Hey Jen, Joe wants his office back. I’ve got to go.”
“Promise me you’ll tell me what Stephen wants.”
Jenny got serious. “No...Cathy…promise me!”
Catherine laughed, trying to lighten the mood as she held up her right hand. “Jen, Joe will witness that I have my right hand raised, okay? Now, I, Catherine Chandler, promise to tell my best friend Jenny Aronson every last word that Stephen Bass says to me...cross my heart and hope to die!”
Jenny’s stomach clenched in dread. “Don’t say that!”
Catherine smiled into the phone. “Don’t worry! Goodbye, Jen.”
“Call me!” Jenny said as Catherine hung up the phone.
Catherine turned to Joe. “Thanks for letting me take it here.”
“No problem. New love interest, Chandler?”
She smirked. “Nope...old one, from my deep, dark past.”
Joe rolled his eyes. “Yeah, your deep, dark past. What’s the worst he ever did? Buy you something on sale?”
Catherine smiled and shook her head, then walked back to her desk.
She didn’t realize it, but as she walked her smile faded. Her thoughts were on Stephen. I wonder how he is. What’s he done with his life? She sighed and went back to work. She knew he would call her, and she would find out soon enough.
If she’d given her thoughts more time to form, she would have questioned the feelings that settled in the pit of her stomach. Buried deep within the recesses of her mind were memories, doubts that needed to make their way to the surface, and these doubts would have been allowed to surface if Catherine wasn’t guided by her heart. The goodness that was there blinded her to her deepest thoughts and fears. It had been so long since she had seen Stephen that her heart had healed, forgiven. Her mind, however, remembered the truth.
Catherine went home that night and found a message from Stephen on her machine. His voice evoked many memories of him. Unfortunately, the memories that emerged were bad ones: memories of the fights they had, the endless arguments that were always about the same things, the promises to change that were never fulfilled.
Catherine shrugged off the demise of the relationship to them being so young. She picked up the phone and called Stephen back and was thankful when the hotel put her through to his room.
“Hi, Stephen. Its Cathy.”
He smiled immediately. “Hi! Thanks for calling. How are you?”
She smiled at the friendliness in his voice. “I’m fine, Stephen. How are you?”
“I’m great. I’m here in New York on business, and I thought I’d call you, see if we could catch up.”
She sighed. “Um...sure. That sounds fun. When are you free?”
“Any night. How about tonight?”
Catherine blinked in surprise but looked at her watch. It was only 6:30. “Okay. Would you like to come by my apartment? Or I could come by the hotel.”
“No, I’ll come to you. I’m sure you’re tired from working all day. I’ll be there in say...an hour.”
She nodded. “I’ll be here.”
Catherine gave him her address and hung up the phone. She was glad he was coming here. She smiled as she remembered that Stephen had always been considerate of her feelings. He could probably tell she sounded tired. She got up and made some coffee and soon enough heard a knock at the door.
“Stephen?” she asked through the closed door.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
She opened the door and smiled sweetly as she looked at the older version of the man she once loved. He hadn’t changed much other than to fill out in all the ways that men do as they get older. “Hi.”
She motioned. “Come in.”
Stephen leaned in, and they awkwardly hugged and pecked each other on the cheek.
“Thanks for seeing me.”
Catherine smiled. “Five years...long time.”
“Yeah...well it’s not that long.”
She grasped for something to say or do. “Take your coat?”
Stephen glanced around the room while Catherine laid his coat on her bed.
He walked around and admired her home. “The place sure beats the old walk up in Soho,” he said, referring to the place they’d lived in together.
Catherine shrugged and thought back fondly to the home that they had made. “I don’t know...it sort of had something you don’t get eighteen stories above street level.”
He smiled. “Yeah, a lot of noise!”
She smiled as she grasped for another topic. “Can I get you a drink or something?”
Stephen looked at her pointedly, grasping to put them at ease. “This is crazy. I’m feeling stiff and polite. You know I’m neither of those things. Think we could avoid dancing around here like a couple of strangers?”
“We are strangers,” Catherine realized aloud.
He nodded sadly in agreement. “Yeah, I guess we are.” He looked at her balcony doors. “Well...you’re eighteen stories up. Do you have a view?”
“Do you mind?”
She motioned to the balcony doors and they walked out together. They stood and looked out over the city.
He looked over at her curiously. “Well, since we’re total strangers, how about filling me in?”
She laughed. “In a hundred words or less?”
She had been joking, but realized he had taken her seriously, and she turned to look back at the city. She wondered briefly why she felt like she shouldn’t tell him anything.
Stephen really only wanted to know one thing, and he looked at her worriedly as he asked shyly. “Is there someone?”
She smiled and nodded. “Yes.”
He felt like his world was shattering as he grasped for any type of hope. “Do you love him?”
“I’m glad for you, Cath. I really am.”
She hoped he had someone in his life as well. “How about you?”
Stephen quickly shook his head. “Modern love’s too tough a nut for me to crack. Besides the last five years haven’t exactly been the best years of my life.”
She assumed he was referring to the death of his parents and offered her condolences. “I heard about your parents. I’m sorry.”
“How’d you find out?”
Of course, Jenny, the blabbermouth, would have told her. Stephen clamped down on the anger that was threatening to boil to the surface. “Did she tell you I killed them?”
She looked at him incredulously. “What?’
“Well, I was behind the wheel when the car crashed, drunk as usual. The court sentenced me to six months in jail. One terrible thing happening after another. It’s taken me the last five years to get my life back together, and then...”
Catherine could tell by his demeanor that the worst was yet to come “What is it, Stephen?”
“Well, it seems I got this thing in my head. I’ve got a brain tumor, degenerative and about as terminal as they get. Can you believe it? Me and Job, right?”
Sympathy for him flooded through her. “God, Stephen!”
“Well they give me six months, more or less, and they say I’ll be fairly normal for most of that time. It’s why I’m here, Cathy.” At the question in her eyes, he continued. “You know after the anger and denial and all that passed, I did a lot of thinking, took an inventory of my life. I realized that I hadn’t picked up a lot of friends along the way. In fact, there’s no one... You’re really the most important person in my life…
How sad, she thought.
“All I’m asking is that you see me from time to time. No demands, just friendship. What do you say?”
Catherine couldn’t believe there was no one else. Sympathy flooded through her, and she knew she couldn’t let him down. “Sure, Stephen. I can see you once in a while.”
“Will it be a problem for...um…your boyfriend?”
Catherine knew Stephen was hunting for a name. She thought of Vincent and smiled to herself. She knew Vincent would understand her need to spend time with Stephen and help him until the end. She knew she could count on him to stand by and trust in their love.
“No. He knows he can trust me. It won’t be a problem.”
“I don’t want to go through this alone, Cathy.”
She touched his arm. “You won’t Stephen. If you need me, I’ll be your friend.”
“Well, it’s getting late, and I have a full day tomorrow. I’ll call you.”
“Okay, take care. See you soon.”
She ran to get his coat, then walked him to the door. They hugged briefly at the door and then he left.
Stephen stood in the hall and wondered what kind of a man would let his girlfriend spend time with an ex-fiancé. Maybe they’re not as close at I thought; maybe he doesn’t love her. There were no signs that a man was living there. Maybe I still have a chance. I just need to remind her how great it was between us. I need to show her how we can have everything we ever wanted.
Stephen left with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.
Catherine closed the door and shut off the lights, then walked to the bedroom as the phone rang. “Hello.”
“Hey, Jen. What’s up?”
“You promised to call! Did Stephen get in touch with you?”
“Yeah. As a matter of fact, he just left.”
Jenny was shocked. “You had him in your apartment?!”
Catherine shrugged. “Sure, why not?”
Jenny wouldn’t bring up the horrible past if Catherine didn’t want to talk about it. “Oh...well...I don’t know. How’d it go?”
“God, Jen, I feel so bad for him! You didn’t tell me he was driving the car when his parents were killed.”
Jenny balked with surprise. “What? That’s the first time I’ve heard that story. I can’t believe his cousin Kim never told me that. I swear I didn’t know, Cathy...”
“That’s okay. I just wished I had known before I offered my sympathies. He told me he was drunk the night it happened, and he went to prison, but still...”
Catherine’s voice broke from emotion. “Yeah, and on top of all that, he found out recently that he doesn’t have much time left...”
Jenny gasped. “You’re kidding me? Why? I mean...”
“He’s got a brain tumor. They told him he’s only got a few months to live.”
“Oh, Cathy, that’s horrible. I am so surprised! Kim never told me any of this, and she’s always told me the significant things about Stephen. That is so odd...”
“Well, it doesn’t really matter; I just wish... I don’t know... He asked me to see him from time to time. He told me I’m the most important person in his life. Jen, it’s so sad. I’m all he’s got.”
Jenny wouldn’t let Stephen sucker Catherine in again. “No, Cathy, he’s got an aunt and an uncle, his cousins. He has family, Cath. He has people he can turn to.”
“Yeah…maybe, but while he’s here in New York...I can be there for him. It’s only a few more months. Maybe I...”
The two friends sighed at the same time.
Catherine sighed in sadness for the man who had once meant so much to her and the end of that relationship.
Jenny sighed for Catherine. She was worried about her. She had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Maybe I should call Kim,” she thought aloud. “Find out her take on this.”
Catherine ignored the comment as she stifled a yawn. “Hey, Jen, I’m pretty tired.”
“Okay. Call me if anything else happens.”
“I will. Goodnight, Jen.”
“Goodnight, Cath, and please be careful!”
Catherine wondered briefly how odd it was that Jenny warned her to be careful. She yawned and headed to the bathroom to change for bed.
The next day, Catherine went to work and had a pretty uneventful day. She was troubled by Stephen’s call and Jenny’s reaction to the whole situation and the feelings that were flowing through her. She decided to leave work early and go to see Vincent.
She walked to her threshold and tapped out a message. She began to walk and was met halfway by Ellie.
“Hi, Ellie. Thanks for coming for me.”
Ellie smiled up at her. “I don’t think you need help anymore. I can’t believe you made it this far. You’re almost to the outer tunnels.”
Catherine smiled and put her arm around the Ellie’s shoulders. “So how are things going for you and Eric?”
“Good, I mean great! I got an A+ on my history paper. Vincent showed it to the whole class because I was the only one who did.”
Catherine thought about how sweet it was that Vincent always made the children feel special. “That’s quite an accomplishment, Ellie.”
“Yeah, Zachh and Kipper were really mad because they both got Bs.”
Catherine laughed aloud. “Well, that makes the victory even sweeter.”
“Vincent put a trick question in, and if they had taken their time reading it right they wouldn’t have missed it.”
Ellie nodded. “How did you know?!”
“I was in school once, too. It might have been a million years ago, but still…” Catherine smiled as she went to turn left, while Ellie turned right. She blushed in embarrassment and looked over at Ellie.
Ellie shook her head. “No, you were right, but they changed the passageway two days ago. You would have come to a false wall around the bend.”
Catherine followed Ellie, and soon enough they stood in a cross section. “Where are you going, Catherine?”
“To see if Vincent is available.”
Vincent had sensed when Catherine entered the tunnels and came to meet her. At a sound in the tunnelway, they both looked up and watched him walk up to them.
He smiled at Catherine. “Vincent is available.”
Catherine smiled at him then at Ellie. “Thanks again, Ellie.”
Ellie skipped away and called back over her shoulder. “You’re welcome.”
“Congratulations on your A+.”
“Thank you!” Ellie sang out happily as she skipped away.
Vincent turned to her. “You’re always so generous with your compliments.”
“She’s earned her bragging rights. She’s so proud that you showed off her paper to the class.”
“I always make a point of sharing exemplary work.”
“How many of them got tripped up by your trick question?”
“Too many of them. The hardest thing to get them to do is to take their time and pay attention to the questions.” Vincent sighed, then cocked his head curiously. “I’m surprised to see you here so early.”
“I got off work early and needed to talk to you. Are you busy?” She was embarrassed when she realized too late that he may have had other plans that she could be interrupting.
“I’ve made a promise to the children to help them read through Kubla Khan, but I have some time.”
Catherine looked up hopefully. “Will you walk me back then?”
“Of course.” He walked to his chamber and grabbed his cloak, then quickly turned to leave to walk slowly with her through the tunnels.
“What is it, Catherine? What troubles you?”
Catherine shook her head in denial. “I wouldn’t say I’m troubled...” She stopped to gather her thoughts, then sighed. “Vincent, I was engaged to be married once, back in grad school. It seems like a lifetime has passed since then...”
Vincent nodded at this bit of news. “Maybe it has. You’ve had a lot of change in your life. You’ve grown.”
Catherine nodded as she continued. “Stephen called me yesterday, and I met with him last night. He said he came to New York on business, but then later he admitted he was here specifically to see me.”
“He wants you back?” Vincent asked quietly.
“No, I think he knows that would never happen. His doctor’s gave him the news that he’s got a brain tumor. He’s dying. He asked if I could see him from time to time in the short time he has left.”
Vincent knew Catherine’s generosity would lead her to help him. “So you’ll see him.”
“I guess… I feel like I have to. He has no one else.”
“You have a kind heart, Catherine.”
She smiled up at him, grateful that he understood.
Vincent felt self-doubt start to wash over him. He had felt it one other time when Catherine started to fall in love with Elliot Burch. And even though they had grown as a couple since then, he looked at her timidly. “What is it that you feel for this man, Catherine?”
“I don’t know. We have so much history together, it’s hard to know what I’m really feeling.”
“You loved this man once.”
“Once...and I still feel an obligation for him. I don’t know why. Because of his illness maybe … and because of the intimacy we once had.”
“We were happy for awhile. Life seemed so simple then.”
Catherine fondly let her mind drift back to the life she and Stephen led together. Vincent glanced off as she was speaking and became lost in some type of vision.
Catherine looked at him worriedly. “What is it?”
He looked at her with confusion. “I don’t know.”
“There was such...fear in your face. I’ve never seen that before!”
Vincent knew he wasn’t afraid of anything, and he tried to decipher where the fear was coming from. He searched inward, then he looked at her with a question in his eyes. “Are you afraid, Catherine?”
She was surprised at the question. “Me? Of what?”
“This man coming back into your life?”
Her brow furrowed in confusion and concern. “Is that what you’re sensing?”
Catherine sighed. “I don’t think afraid is the right word. Curious, maybe, about the road not taken, what my life would have held, and guilty, because I know I hurt him.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“Five years ago. It was after I’d broken off the engagement. He just wouldn’t accept it at first and we were arguing as usual. It was no different from our other arguments, but for some reason, that day, he believed me, and I never saw him again. Until now.”
“So he’s come back to you when at his most vulnerable time. He must still love you.”
She shrugged as she started to walk again. “I don’t know about that. I’m sure he cares, but last night was different. It was familiar and different all at the same time. We’re strangers and...friends.”
Vincent was still worried that the fear he felt was coming from Catherine through the bond. “A friend you’ve not seen in five years.”
She nodded. They had reached the threshold to her apartment and she turned to him. “Thanks for listening and for walking me back. See you soon?”
He nodded shyly as she walked over and hugged him. He gently circled her in his arms.
She sighed in relief and relished his strength, then pulled slowly away. “Bye, Vincent”
“Bye, Catherine. Be careful.”
Catherine turned away, then thought about what he said and walked back to him, an odd expression in her eyes. “Vincent, that’s the same thing my friend Jenny said to me.”
Vincent thought it was odd that another person close to her had issued the same warning. He felt a twinge of fear, but looked at her and shrugged. “Perhaps we’re just being over-cautious.”
Catherine frowned, then shook her head to clear her thoughts as she turned and climbed the ladder.
Vincent turned and walked back to the home tunnels. He kept his promise to the children and helped them with their reading.
Still troubled by his discussion with Catherine, he decided to go to speak with Father. He could usually discuss his problems with him, and together they might come up with a workable solution.
He walked into the library. “Father, are you busy?”
Father waved him over. “No, Vincent, it can wait. Come in. I wanted to thank you for helping with the children today. I know it meant a lot to them to have that extra study time.”
Vincent smiled proudly. “They’re doing well with their studies. They probably didn’t need my assistance.”
“Yes, that’s probably true.” Father looked up and could tell something was troubling his son. “But you didn’t come in here to talk about the children, Vincent. Tell me.”
“I need your advice, Father. Something’s been troubling me.”
“I’ve been having strange dreams lately...visions almost. They’ve woken me from a sound sleep, come upon me for no reason in the middle of the day, torn me away from my reading...”
Father looked on in concern. “What are they about?”
“It’s always the same...I’m running at a great speed through the woods. It’s dark. I can’t tell if I’m running away from something or to something.”
Father thought about how odd it was that he had visions during the day. “And you say you’ve had them in the middle of the day? What were you doing at the time that brought these visions on?”
Vincent shrugged. “Nothing unusual. Yesterday, when I was reading to the children, and then later when I was walking Catherine home.”
“Catherine was here? During the day?”
“Yes, she had a problem she wanted to discuss with me.”
“Can I ask what the problem was?”
“A man from her past has come back into her life after five years.”
Father wondered briefly if jealousy was the problem Vincent was feeling. “A man?”
Vincent looked over at him. “A man she was once engaged to. They lived together when Catherine was in college.”
Father narrowed his eyes in disbelief. “Catherine told you all of this why?”
In frustration, Vincent held his hands up, then dropped them to his sides. “I’m not sure. He’s dying and asked Catherine if he could see her from time to time. I think she just wanted to tell me about it.”
Father began to suspect he was on the right path with the jealousy issue. “So Catherine is planning on seeing this man.”
“She feels an obligation to him because of their shared past.”
“And what were you feeling at the time when you had this vision? Was it jealousy?”
“No. Desperation. Fear.” Vincent shrugged and began to pace the room. “It’s irrational. I can’t explain it.”
“Well, why don’t you try, Vincent.”
“A powerful image of foreboding every time I think of her.”
“Foreboding... You mean some manifestation of the empathy you share?”
Vincent shook his head. “No, this is different.”
Father tentatively continued. “You know, Vincent, I remember the last time a man came into her life...”
Vincent interrupted him. “Please Father, these feelings are real.”
“I’m not disputing the feelings themselves, only the source of the feelings.”
Vincent turned to him in surprise. “You think I am the source?”
“That doesn’t explain the vision, the threat.”
“The threat to her or the threat to you, Vincent?”
He shrugged and sighed. “I can’t tell.”
“Are you afraid of losing her?”
He shook his head in frustration. “No, that’s not it. I trust Catherine...but I can’t explain this dream.”
“Vincent, I told you that I looked at Catherine with a certain fondness and I do but...”
Vincent looked over at him. “But...?”
Father sighed. “But how can you be so sure that this man is not a threat to you? How do you know that he isn’t still in love with Catherine? That he won’t try to make Catherine fall in love with him again?”
Vincent shrugged nonchalantly. “I know that if he loved her once before, he still loves her now. I also know that I can trust Catherine with my life. I don’t think that there is anything that I couldn’t tell Catherine...”
“Maybe you should tell her about your dreams…”
“I don’t want to worry her unnecessarily.”
“Well, then, Vincent, I don’t see that you have any choice in the matter. You’ll just have to be patient and wait to see what happens.”
Vincent nodded. In his heart, he believed that, deep down, Catherine was afraid of Stephen, and he reconsidered telling her about the dreams. He hoped it would help her come to terms with her buried feelings.
Upon the death of his parents, Stephen became a wealthy man. With his shrewdness in the stock market, he increased that wealth tenfold, but continued to live his life as a pauper. Having no real friends or family, he slipped under the radar of the tabloids and spent all of his free time building his wealth to a level he felt Catherine could appreciate.
Before he came to New York, he contacted a realtor and told her what he was looking for in a house. Two weeks later, she called him excitedly with the news that a huge country estate had recently come on the market. She made an appointment and showed him it and was pleased when he fell in love with it immediately.
It was perfect for Stephen’s plan. He paid cash for it and was now out shopping. Spending his money freely, he purchased all of the furnishings for the house.
He remembered Catherine expressing her wishes years ago, telling him exactly what their dream house would be like, and he decorated according to those wishes.
His days were filled with deliveries and when everything was in place he excitedly placed a call to Catherine at work.
A distracted Catherine reached for her phone. “Catherine Chandler.”
“Hi, Cathy, it’s Stephen.”
“I was wondering if we could have dinner. We never got a chance to talk the other day. I thought maybe we could spend some time reminiscing and catching up?”
The smile faded from her face. Catherine hesitated, but agreed. “Sure, why don’t you come by my apartment...say 8:00pm. I could whip up something simple.”
“That sounds great, but you’re working all day. Why don’t I bring us something for dinner. Do you still like Chinese, or would you rather have Italian?”
She waved her hand dismissively. “I don’t care; either one sounds good. You know what I like. Whatever you bring will be fine.”
“Okay, I’ll see you around 8:00.”
Catherine hung up and wondered for a split second if he was going to call her every day for the next five months. With a frown, she opened the next file on her desk and began to work, immersing herself in the case.
Catherine got home and waited for Stephen’s arrival. He was on time, and they ate their dinner and reminisced about their old college days. They talked about old teachers and friends, old hangouts.
It was a pleasant evening until they started to talk about their relationship. Stephen made some comments that made Catherine very uncomfortable. She attributed it to the guilt she felt for hurting him and tried to push them off to the side so she could be there for him through these last few months.
Stephen knew he had made her uncomfortable and got up suddenly saying he should go home. He turned to her. “Listen, the Met is doing ‘Tosca’ tomorrow night. I know it used to be one of your favorite operas.”
“Yeah, it still is.”
“Why don’t we go then...I mean, if you’re free?”
She thought for a moment about Vincent. How will I ever see him? she wondered. She knew Vincent would understand, so she smiled at Stephen. “I’m free. I’d love to.”
He kissed her goodbye and left.
While Catherine was getting ready for bed that night when her phone rang. “Hello.”
“Sorry to call you so late.”
“That’s okay. I’m just getting ready for bed. Is everything okay?”
“Yes, I’m calling because I have tickets to see Tosca tomorrow night and Kay can’t go with me, I know it’s last minute but I was wondering…are you busy?”
“You’re kidding me? This is so bizarre, I can’t believe the odds…Dad, Stephen Bass is back in town and he just asked me to go with him tomorrow night!”
Charles scowled at the phone. “Stephen Bass! You’re not considering going with him are you?”
Catherine blinked in surprise at the anger in her father’s voice. “Well…yeah, I told him I would go. Why?”
“Cathy, do you really think that’s a wise decision?”
“Why is he back in town?” Charles uncharacteristically interrupted.
“Well…I…didn’t ask. It was his home at one time. I would imagine he’s here on some type of business.”
“So he thought he’d contact you while he was here?”
“Dad, he’s had some pretty devastating news. He doesn’t have much longer to live. I guess he just wanted to let me know.”
“I hope this isn’t one of his wild stories and he’s trying to manipulate himself back into your life…
“Honey, you’ve got to be careful...”
Charles was unusually over-protective, and Catherine frowned in confusion. “I will, Dad, I promise. Maybe Stephen and I can meet you for dinner before the show.”
Charles chuckled derisively. “I’ve seen enough of that boy to last me a lifetime. I’m sorry, Cathy, I have no desire to see him ever again.”
“Oh…um…I understand. I’m sorry I can’t go with you…”
“I’ll give the tickets away. I’d rather do that then take a chance on running into you and him.”
Charles sighed. “Honey, please take care of yourself and call me if you need anything!”
“I will. I love you, Dad.”
“I love you too, Cathy. Goodbye.”
Catherine hung up the phone and worried as she replayed the conversation with her father. She shook her head to clear the confusing thoughts and pushed the whole thing to the back of her mind so she could get some much needed rest.
Catherine had a horrible day at work. Marci O’Neil, the abused woman, had stabbed her husband during an argument. He was in intensive care fighting for his life and she was in prison. Catherine ran to the prison to interview her. She listened as Marci told her she stabbed him because he was beating her up again. She couldn’t remember how it happened; it just did. Catherine sympathized with her, but Marci would be assigned to a public defender. Catherine would be unable to help her, and it would be even worse for her if her husband died.
Catherine left the prison and her pager went off. She recognized the phone number and called Stephen at his hotel.
Stephen was calling to cancel their date. He said he’d forgotten to take his medicine and now he didn’t feel well. He told her to go without him, and she said no, she would rather just stop by his hotel later on instead.
Catherine headed back to work only to discover Vincent had sent word to through a messenger asking her to meet him at the park entrance.
She knew it had to be something important for Vincent to request she come see him during the workday, so she ran past Joe’s office and stuck her head in. “I’ve got a lead; I may not be back.”
Joe nodded dismissively as he continued to read a file. “Yeah, be careful.”
She rolled her eyes at his warning and left.
Catherine made her way to the park and carefully looked around to ensure she wasn’t being watched as she ducked into the tunnel entrance. Vincent was waiting for her when she walked up. She smiled, happy to see him. “Hi Vincent.”
“Hello, Catherine. Thank you for coming.”
“Your message said you needed to see me right away. What’s up?”
Vincent looked down at the ground unsure about where to begin. “I have something I believe is of importance that I need to share with you.”
Catherine came forward, worried about his expression. “Okay, so tell me.”
“Catherine, lately I’ve...been having odd dreams, visions. I think they’re warning me about some danger to you.”
She realized he was serious and looked over at him curiously. “What am I supposed to be in danger from?”
“I don’t know. I was hoping you could tell me. Has there been something different going on with you in your life?”
She shrugged. “Only Stephen, but you knew about him.”
“Are you afraid of him?”
Catherine furrowed her brow in confusion. “Vincent, that’s twice you’ve asked me that. Are you afraid of him...I mean, of my past relationship with him?”
Vincent shook his head in denial. Something inside of him knew Catherine’s feelings for this man were those of a friend. He knew she didn’t love Stephen in that way. He truly wasn’t concerned about their relationship.
Catherine tried to come to terms with the things Vincent was feeling. “What else can you tell me about the images that you’ve seen?”
She shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m not certain myself. I have nothing more than a feeling, an image that evaporates whenever I try to touch it.”
“Are you sure this even has anything to do with me?”
“You provoke the image. The thought of you, even your name, brings it to my eyes.”
She became angry at his evasiveness and looked at him in exasperation. “What do you expect me to do? I’ve told you what I’m thinking. You already feel everything I feel, and now you say I’m in danger, only you can’t tell me from whom or why...”
He pleaded with her, wanting her to understand. “Because I don’t know myself.”
She grew angrier. “Is this fair of you Vincent? You know I value your word above all others.”
Catherine had never directed such strong feelings at him. He blanched under her anger. “Catherine, I fear for you.”
“And I’m supposed to take that fear up into the world and live with it? Tonight, when I see Stephen...”
He looked at her with concern. “Don’t go.”
“He’s my friend Vincent and I care about him. He’s dying, and, at the very least, I owe him my trust.”
Vincent wanted to calm her down and offer his comfort. “Catherine...”
She began to cry as she begged him to understand. “He’s dying, Vincent, and I’m all he has!” Overcome by her feelings, she suddenly stormed away from him.
Vincent took a step towards her and cursed that it was daytime as she fled through the park. He turned around and resigned himself to go back Below. He felt her anger flowing through the bond. He knew he had upset her, but he couldn’t shake the feeling of fear inside of him. He had wanted to discuss it with her, but instead he had only made things worse.
He thought about the long hours ahead of him before it would be safe to go and see her. He remembered that she said she was going to see Stephen again tonight. His insecurity kicked in, and he hoped that maybe she wouldn’t go, that she would reject his attempts to talk to her and stay in the safety of her home.
Catherine walked quickly through the park. She was upset with Vincent and her thoughts were racing. How could he do this to me? Why would he try to scare me like this? Is he jealous of Stephen? Why would he be jealous of Stephen? He knows I love him. Is this insecurity showing?”
Catherine’s love for Vincent calmed her down and her steps slowed. She was sorry she screamed at him. She debated going back Below, but decided she would write him a note and send it to him.
She got back to the office, grabbed her stationary, and wrote Vincent that note. She finished up her work and left for the day. She delivered her note to a helper who she knew would see that Vincent got her message immediately, and then she continued on to Stephen’s hotel.
Stephen invited her in and ordered coffee from room service. They talked and this time it was easier. The awkwardness was gone and it was like old times.
Stephen told Catherine he was looking at a house to buy and asked if she would go see it with him. She debated because she was so busy, but he pushed her, and she finally relented and agreed to go with him on Saturday.
When she left, Stephen smiled to himself. His plan was set in motion, but he would have a ton of work to accomplish between now and then.
Vincent worked in the lower tunnels trying to get his mind off of the argument he had with Catherine. Zach ran into the chamber. “Vincent, Father asked me to tell you he had a message for you.”
“Thank you, Zach.”
Vincent spent a half an hour more on his project, then finished it, cleaned up his tools, and left for the library. He walked in by his Father. “Father, you have a message for me?”
“Yes, it came this afternoon while you were on work detail in the lower tunnels. It wasn’t marked urgent so I assumed....” Father handed Vincent the envelope with Catherine’s familiar handwriting on it.
“That’s fin,e Father, Catherine knows the system. If it was urgent, she would have indicated so.”
Vincent took the sealed envelope from Father. He wondered what the note said. He wondered if she was still angry with him. He wondered if she...
Father interrupted his thoughts. “Aren’t you going to open it?”
Vincent nodded and sighed as he opened the envelope and read her words.
I wanted to apologize to you for my earlier outburst. The only excuse I have is that it was an impossibly horrible day at work today, and that, coupled with your fear for me, sent me over the edge. Still, it was no reason for me to take my anger out on you.
Vincent, please know that I love that you know what I’m feeling and how you worry about me. I cherish knowing that you are always near.
For you, I will be extra careful, but I want you to know that I really don’t think I’m in any danger.
Sleep well tonight. Hold my rose close to your heart and know that you can be safe in the knowledge that you alone have all my love. Talk to you soon.
Vincent threw his head back and sighed in relief. She was no longer mad at him. Father saw his reaction to her letter.
“Good news, I take it?”
“Yes, Catherine and I had a…disagreement earlier.”
“All couples argue, Vincent, it’s natural. Besides, making up is always fun.”
Father joked with him, knowing how upset his son must have been when he thought Catherine was angry. Then realized what he just said and blushed.
Vincent was shocked at his father’s response. He was treating Catherine and he like any other couple he knew.
Vincent shrugged and Father continued. “All is well between you two now?”
“Although she didn’t need to do so, Catherine has apologized. It was probably my fault for speaking to her about my dreams. She said she didn’t need the burden of my fears to live with in the world Above. She feels like you…that I’m afraid of this man coming back into her life, but…Father…I still think it’s she who should be afraid.”
“Maybe she’ll be okay, Vincent. Try not to worry. At any rate, it looks like you can relax; she is no longer mad at you.”
Vincent glanced at the letter and then looked at his father. “Yes.”
Vincent went back to his chamber and lay down on his bed. He took out the rose from Catherine and held it in his hand. He absently rubbed it with his thumb as he reread her letter. He smiled and put it on his bedside table, then put his arm behind his head. Once again, the nightmare assailed him. He sat up and gasped in fright as it drifted from his mind.
He lay back and worried about Catherine.
Stephen was pressed for time getting his new house ready for Catherine. Late Friday night, all of the final touches were put into place. He smiled as he walked through the rooms, satisfied that his surprise was going to be perfect.
He left early Saturday morning and picked Catherine up at her apartment. They made small talk on the way out to the house. When it came in to view, Catherine gasped at the beauty.
As they walked the grounds, Stephen surprised her and told her he had bought it already. He walked her to a certain spot and showed her the view from the porch. “Do you recognize it?”
She shook her head in confusion. “Recognize what?”
He held his arms out wide. “The whole thing.”
She shrugged in confusion. “No, should I?”
“Come on...you’ll see.” He walked with her into the house.
Stephen told her he had been working day and night to get the house ready for her. He excitedly dragged her from room to room, showing her how he had decorated it with all the things she had spoken about.
Catherine wondered briefly what he was talking about, but she pushed it to the side and became excited for him. He dragged her up to the main bedroom. She smiled at the expanse of the room and of the beautiful interior. Then she saw a picture of herself, framed, sitting on the dresser top, and had an odd feeling settle in the pit of her stomach as she turned to face him.
“Cathy, you remember how I liked buying you things? Even clothes. I got pretty good at it, I thought. Everything in the right style and size.”
He opened up a huge bureau and Catherine saw that it was filled with women’s clothes.
Stephen was pleased with himself. “Take a look. You won’t have to go back and pack a thing.”
“Stephen, I can’t stay here with you.” At the confusion on his face, she continued. “I want you to take me home.”
“Why? If you need anything, I’ll send for it.”
Stephen grabbed a satiny negligee from the closet and smiled at her. “I really want you to try this one on. Cath, it’ll look beautiful on you, I promise.”
She looked at him forcefully. “Stephen, you’re making me very uncomfortable. Please take me home!”
He was really confused now. “But, Cath, you are home.”
“I’ll be waiting outside in the car,” Catherine demanded as she stormed past him and made her way downstairs.
Unhappy that she was not going forward with his plan, Stephen went after her and followed her from room to room, trying to convince her.
She reached the front door and discovered it was locked from the inside. She realized it couldn’t open it without the key. She looked up at him with disbelief and ran to another door, and it too was locked. She started to panic. She ran to a window, unlocked it, and was trying to raise it up when he grabbed her from behind. They struggled, and she pushed him over. When she tried to run past him, he tackled her, and they struggled on the floor as he quickly overpowered her.
Catherine was kicking and trying to get away when he reached for a statue and hit her over the head with it, knocking her unconscious.
Below, Vincent was unable to sleep and was walking through the tunnels. After Catherine’s first burst of fear, he came to a dead stop. He concentrated fully on the bond trying to sense her location. He knew she was some distance away, but he had a general idea of the direction.
He roared in anguish when he felt the bond go silent. He knew something bad had happened to her. He ran at top speed through the tunnels toward the subways.
He stopped briefly to tap out a message declaring he would be gone, then hopped a train that would take him closer to her location. He knew he could get within a mile or two of her, and he hoped the bond would open up again soon.
Catherine was unconscious for quite awhile.
Stephen sat with her the whole time. When she slowly began to wake, he put ice on the bump on her head to reduce the swelling as he caressed her arms, offering her his comfort. She was still lethargic, and he helped her get into a sitting position in a chair, then tied her arms down so she couldn’t escape.
Her head fell forward as she found herself waking slowly with a pounding headache.
After she became fully conscious, she found herself seated in the formal dining room at a beautifully set table, in romantic candlelight. She saw it was dark outside and realized that several hours must have passed since they’d arrived here. Stephen had left to bring her the dinner he had prepared for them, and she frantically looked around the room, trying to come up with an escape plan.
Stephen looked over at her from across the table. “Why don’t you eat something, sweetheart?”
Catherine looked at him with sympathy. “Stephen, you need help. Please, let me help you.”
He wondered what she was talking about. “Help me?”
“You’re not thinking clearly anymore.” She assumed it was his brain tumor making him act this way.
Stephen looked at her angrily. “I don’t understand you. I’ve done everything possible to give you everything that you wanted. I mean, this is what you wanted, isn’t it?”
She knew he was talking about the house and its lavish furnishings. “Once, maybe, but not now. I’ve changed. You don’t know me anymore!”
“Don’t say that!” he exploded, banging his hand down on the table. “Look, all I am asking you is to trust me. We can be happy here together; I know it. No one can love you like I love you.” He moved closer to her and took her hand.
She glanced down at her tied wrist. “Is this how you love?”
“Do you want me to show you or tell you?”
He giggled as he grabbed her and kissed her. Catherine struggled against his kiss until he exploded in anger.
“You never trusted me! That was the problem!”
He moved in to kiss her again as she screamed and pulled away frantically. She heard the splintering of the wood as she broke loose the arm of the chair. She grabbed for the piece of wood and hit Stephen over the head with it, then ran and crashed through the glass door. She fell to the ground and gasped from the impact. She ignored the pain in her hands as the glass cut into her, and she got up and ran into the woods.
Stephen recovered and chased after her. He pursued her through the dense woods and quickly overtook her, tackling her to the ground. He overpowered her and sat on top of her as he put his hands around her neck and began choking her. Screaming at her, begging to understand why it couldn’t work between them
Vincent had leapt from the train at a point near where he thought Catherine was located. He walked and hid in the woods until he felt the bond slowly open again as she regained consciousness. When he could feel her fully again, he followed his heart, knowing it would lead him to her.
Twenty minutes later, Vincent was reliving the scenes from his nightmares. He ran full speed through the woods towards Catherine.
He came upon her and Stephen and, with a roar, jumped into the clearing. Stephen left Catherine as he backed away in fear from this monster coming after him.
Vincent pursued him and lashed out, ripping downward across Stephen’s chest. He’d raised his arm to deliver the final blow when Catherine scrambled off the ground. She grabbed his arm and struggled to turn him towards her, screaming to get his attention. “No, Vincent. No, Vincent!”
He stopped immediately to focus on her as he tried to gain control over himself.
Catherine leaned against his chest as he came back to reality. “It’s over.” She buried her face in his chest. “It’s over,” she repeated as his arms tightened their grip on her.
Both of them tried to catch their breath. Finally, Catherine pulled away from him.
He noticed the cuts she had on her arms. “Are you okay?”
She nodded her assent. “Are you?”
He nodded his answer.
“I have to call an ambulance, Vincent, will you help me get him back?”
Vincent nodded , picked Stephen up, and carried him home. He laid him down on the couch inside the broken glass door, while Catherine called for the police and an ambulance.
Catherine turned as she hung up the phone. “They’ll be coming soon. You should leave.”
“Not until I know you’re safe.”
Vincent shrugged. “The same way I got here. It’s not me you should concern yourself with...” He looked at Stephen, then back at her apologetically. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m the one who should be apologizing…” They heard sirens in the distance. “Go…” she pleaded, as he turned and left.
Catherine looked around the room.Her mind raced for an excuse as she hurriedly put on her jacket and hid the cuts she had sustained. The police came to the front door and she directed them to come around to the door that Stephen had opened.
Officer Kyres came through first and looked at Stephen, then back to Catherine. “Are you all right? We received a call...”
Catherine nodded as another officer came through and introduced himself as Vail. Vail rushed to Stephen’s side and assessed his condition. He called over his radio to see how far away the ambulance was. Since they were out front, he went to meet them, and it wasn’t long before the paramedics had Stephen stabilized and on his way to the hospital.
Catherine motioned to the officers to sit down. “Officer Kyres, Officer Vail, my name is Catherine Chandler; I’m with the District Attorney’s office in the city.”
Officer Kyres nodded as he wrote down her name. “What happened here tonight, Miss Chandler?”
Catherine sighed. “The man in the ambulance is Stephen Bass. He’s my ex-fiancé.”
Catherine watched as Vail called in Stephen’s name. Kyres looked over at her curiously. “How long ago did your relationship end?”
“We broke up a little over five years ago. Stephen came back into town recently and asked to see me. He told me has a degenerative brain tumor and that he only has a few months left to live. He asked me to come with him this afternoon and give him an opinion on buying this house.”
Vail looked over at her curiously. “Didn’t you think it was odd that a man who had less than six months to live was buying a house?”
Catherine looked up at Vail as she realized how ridiculous it sounded. Why hadn’t she thought of that earlier? She shrugged. “I guess I just didn’t think of it. Anyway Stephen brought me here. Once he got me here, he got very excited. He kept pointing out things that he said I had told him I wanted.”
Kyres looked up again. “Things you asked for recently?”
Catherine shook her head. “No, I guess it must have been things we talked about when we lived together back in college. Anyway, he had a closet full of women’s clothes that he said he picked out for me. It was then that I realized he thought that I’d be staying here with him. I got uncomfortable and asked him to take me home.”
Kyres nodded. “Go on.”
“I came downstairs to head for the car and realized he had locked us in. He must’ve locked all of the doors from the inside with a key. I ran to one of the windows and tried to open it, and he grabbed me from behind and stopped me from getting out. I’ve taken self defense classes and I was able to knock him to the floor. As I passed him, he grabbed my legs and pulled me to the floor, then hit me over the head with a statue or something.”
Catherine felt around and found a bump still on her head. She pointed to Vail who reached up and felt the bump also. He nodded over to Kyres, who looked at Catherine. “Do you want to get that checked out?”
“No, I’m all right. I was unconscious for quite some time though. When I woke up, I discovered Stephen had tied me to a chair in the dining room.” He left me alone to cook an elaborate dinner and while he was eating his, I tried to reach out and talk to him. Explain to him that he was no longer thinking clearly. He came over and began to kiss me…I was afraid he would try to...” Catherine’s voice trailed off when she remembered the revulsion she felt while Stephen was kissing her.
Kyres finished her thought. “You were afraid he would rape you?”
Catherine nodded. “I was so scared. I kept yanking on my arms and the arm of the chair eventually broke off.” She lifted her shirt sleeve and showed them deep burn marks and cuts in her wrists from the rope she was tied with. “I hit Stephen over the head with the arm of the chair and crawled out a window. Once I got outside, I ran into the woods.”
Vail bent over and lightly ran a finger over her wrist realizing her story, so far, was believable.
The officer looked over at her. “How’d Stephen get those cuts on his chest?”
Catherine shrugged. “I don’t know…I heard the shattering of glass and Stephen scream out in pain. When I came back to see if he was okay…”
“You came back?” Kyres asked incredulously. “Why?”
“I don’t know…” Catherine thought quickly. “I told you, I heard him scream out in pain. I was concerned…”
Vail rolled his eyes as he got a call over the radio that reminded Catherine of Joe’s reaction when they were interviewing Marci O’Neil.
She swallowed hard as she continued. “Stephen was lying on the ground when I came back. I guess he jumped through the window. He must have been cut then. He woke up enough for me to help him to the couch and then he passed out.”
Vail came back and looked at Kyres. “Bass is a psych patient. He was released a few weeks ago.”
Kyres nodded at this bit of news, then closed his note book. “You’re free to go, Miss Chandler. There’s a deputy outside who can give you a ride home or to the nearest hospital if you want to go those wrists checked out.”
“I’ll go home. Thank you.” Catherine walked to her purse and handed Kyres her business card. “If you need to contact me for any reason...”
“I will,” he said as he took it and thanked her, then waved for an officer. “Jack, take Miss Chandler please.”
“You got it!” the young deputy said as he smiled at Catherine.
Catherine was strangely quiet on her way home as her thoughts centered on Vincent. She thanked the officer, and, as she walked inside her apartment, she decided to go Below and check on him.
She made her way through the tunnels as far as a false wall, then tapped a message on the pipes. Brooke came and got her and led her to Father.
Father looked up in surprise as she came in. She didn’t look upset, so Father relaxed. “Catherine, what a nice surprise.”
Catherine tried to smile, but it never quite reached her eyes. “I came to see if Vincent was back yet.”
Father narrowed his eyes. “Back from where? What’s happened?”
Catherine sighed. “I was with someone today who I thought I could trust...”
It was Catherine’s turn to be surprised. “Vincent told you?”
“He told me he had dreams about you, nightmares. He was worried.”
“I should’ve been too. Stephen took me to a home in New Rochelle under false pretenses. Once there, he locked me inside with him and told me I had no need to return here, that he would send for anything I needed. I panicked and tried to escape. He knocked me unconscious. When I woke up...” Catherine began to cry. “I discovered that he’d tied me up; I tried to reason with him, but he was delusional… One thing led to another and he…tried to kiss me. I fought and eventually broke free and crashed through the glass door to get out. I took off running into the woods, but he followed me. He caught up to me, and after he got me to the ground he started choking me. I was about to pass out…I don’t know where Vincent came from, but he was suddenly just there.”
“Dear God, he killed him?”
“No, I stopped him in time, but he had knocked Stephen out. I had to find a way to cover it up and asked Vincent to carry him back to the house for me. I called the police and Vincent said he would get home the way he’d gotten there...Whatever that means.”
“It means he rode on the top of a train. New Rochelle you say? The trains don’t run as frequently out there this time of night. My guess is he’s waiting somewhere for a train.”
Catherine looked up through tear filled eyes, realizing what he said made sense.
Father stood and came closer to her. “Now, you say you were knocked unconscious?”
Catherine nodded and reached up and found the spot where Stephen had hit her, then took Father’s hand to the area so he could feel it.
Father rubbed it and frowned at the size of the bump. “Are you having any vision or hearing problems?” Catherine shook her head, so Father continued. “How long were you out?”
Catherine shrugged. “I don’t know it was late afternoon when it happened and almost dark by the time I was fully awake.”
Father grabbed a flashlight from nearby. He shined it into her eyes and watched as the pupils dilated normally. He mumbled something unintelligible, then noticed the red marks on her neck. He lifted her chin and gasped at the deep fingerprint bruises evident around her neck. “Catherine, are you having any breathing problems or any problems swallowing?”
Father reached for her wrist to take her pulse and Catherine winced in pain. He lifted up her shirtsleeve and studied the bruise. “How did this happen?”
“He had tied me to a chair. When I panicked, I pulled the chair arm off, but the rope dug into my wrist.”
Father reached for her other hand. “Come now, follow me, let’s get these cleaned up.”
Catherine stood and followed him to the hospital chamber.
“Catherine, take off your coat and lift your sleeve up past your elbow.”
Catherine did as she was asked while Father readied the antiseptic and cloths. He turned and gasped at the torn shirt and blood on her shoulders and upper arms.
Exasperated, he pointed at her shirt. “Did you forget to mention this?”
Catherine looked down and realized she was cut pretty badly. “I...didn’t know.”
Father rolled his eyes and called for Mary, who came immediately. Catherine changed and sat with a towel wrapped around her body as Mary and Father extracted pieces of glass.
Father sighed as he removed dozens of small pieces from her shoulders and neck, as well as some from the palms of her hands. Luckily none of the cuts were deep, and Catherine wouldn’t need stitches. Finally, Father was finished, and Mary cleaned everything thoroughly. Father wrapped her upper arm in thick gauze over the worst of all the areas before he turned his attention back to her wrists.
Mary gasped at the severity of the cuts as Father put a soothing salve over the rope burns and wrapped her wrists in gauze as well. He looked into Catherine’s eyes and could see she was tired and in pain. “Anywhere else?”
Catherine shook her head. “No, Father. Thank you.”
Mary came over and handed her a tunnel shirt. “Here. No need to put on that blouse. It’s ruined I’m afraid.”
Catherine shrugged indifferently. “It was old anyway.”
Catherine put the borrowed shirt on, and Mary cringed in horror when she saw the dark bruises on Catherine’s neck.
Catherine looked over at Father. “Do you think Vincent will be home soon?”
He shrugged. “I don’t think he’ll be here for a few more hours. I want you to get home and get some rest.” When Catherine opened her mouth, Father knew it was to protest and stopped her. “No arguments, young lady.”
She nodded, and Father called for Jamie to accompany her home.
Jamie walked into the hospital chamber. “Hi, Catherine.”
Father looked over from cleaning up. “Jamie, would you kindly make sure Catherine gets home?”
“Sure!” She turned to Catherine. “Are you ready?”
Catherine looked uncertain, and Father walked over. “Yes, she is ready! Catherine, may I remind you that you promised to get some sleep?”
Catherine nodded and surprised Father when she kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you, Father.”
He smiled. “You’re quite welcome, my dear. Now off you go!”
Catherine and Jamie left and started to walk home. Catherine filled Jamie in on what had happened that night and then expressed her concerns for Vincent’s whereabouts.
“I think the last train leaves around 11:00. Vincent won’t be home until well after midnight.”
“Once he gets off the train, it’s another hour walk.”
Catherine sighed. “I wish I could just pick him up in my car.”
Jamie laughed. “That would be a sight for someone. Can you imagine seeing Vincent’s face in the car next to you at a stoplight?”
Jamie giggled and Catherine couldn’t stop herself from giggling as well. She stopped and became serious. “At least I would know he’s home and safe.”
They walked and were almost to the threshold when Jamie heard a message over the pipes. “Shhh.” She listened, then smiled “It’s Vincent. He’s back.”
Jamie tapped out a message and waited for a reply. She turned to Catherine. “He said he’s fine; he just got off the train. He also said he has a long walk and you should go home because you’re tired.”
Catherine sighed. “I wish I could tell him I love him.”
Jamie turned and to Catherine’s horror tapped out a message on the pipes. “Jamie!”
“What? I told him you said you’d be thinking about him.”
Catherine was relieved, and she turned and headed for home.
Catherine walked into her apartment and listened to her messages.
“Cathy, it’s Jenny. After our talk the other day I called Kim Bass, Stephen’s cousin. I don’t know what kind of a line he handed you, but his parents died on a bus trip, you remember the one that skidded off the highway in New England? They were on that. He wasn’t with them when they died, and no one knows anything about a brain tumor. They did say that, since college, Stephen’s been being treated for depression and delusional behavior. Maybe you shouldn’t see him anymore, Cathy...Well, call me.”
Catherine sighed. Now she tells me, she thought as she picked up the phone and dialed Jenny’s number.
“Hi, Jen. It’s me.”
“Hey, where the hell have you been all day? Did you get my message?”
“Yeah, a little late though.”
“You were with Stephen today? What did that creep try to pull on you?”
Catherine told Jenny the whole story as Jenny gasped and groaned.
“I knew you shouldn’t have talked to him. The second I gave him your phone number I regretted it. I should’ve remembered how hard it was for you to break up with him. He suckered you back in to him every time.”
Catherine sighed. “Except that last time, the last time he finally got it.”
“Yeah, only because your Dad threatened him with a law suit.”
Catherine had forgotten about that. She shook her head, wondering how she had forgotten how relentless Stephen always was in his pursuit of her.
The next day, Catherine called the hospital only to discover Stephen had been moved to the psychiatric ward. Worried about what he was saying, she hopped into the car and drove out to the hospital. She walked on to the floor where he was being kept and stopped at security and flashed her badge.
“My name’s Catherine Chandler. I’m with the District Attorney’s office in the city. I’d like to speak with someone about Stephen Bass.”
A doctor happened to be walking down the hall and turned around at her words. “I’ll speak to you, Miss Chandler,” he said as he walked up and took her card from the guard.
The guard waved her past and Catherine followed the doctor to his office. “Please take a seat,” he offered as he walked around the desk to take his seat. “I’m Doctor Robinson. I was on duty last night when Mr. Bass was brought in.”
“How’s he doing?”
The doctor ignored her question as he read through his files. “Is this an official interview?”
Catherine looked confused. “No, why?”
“You’re with the District Attorney’s office so…”
Catherine immediately shook her head and interrupted him. “Dr. Robinson, Stephen and I met in grad school and started a relationship. We’d been living together for almost two years when we became engaged. About four months later, Stephen’s behavior began to change and after a few more months, I called it off and moved out.”
The doctor nodded as he started to write notes in a file. “So you’re the Catherine he speaks about?”
“How long ago did you break up?”
“It’s been about five years now.”
“And you’ve had no contact with each other since that time?”
“So you reconnected after all this time?”
“Stephen called me up, and we saw each other a few times. He told me about his brain tumor and how little time he has left. With his parents gone now, I thought that I could be there for him; help make his last days comfortable.”
Catherine pictured herself in their kitchen, ready to go out with Jenny. They were going to go to the mall to do some Christmas shopping, then make their annual trip to see The Nutcracker with her Dad. She gasped when she remembered Stephen grabbing her arm and accusing her of trying to get away from him. She rubbed her wrist as she relived the pain from him twisting it to bring her closer to him. She remembered the exact moment he grabbed a wad of her hair at the back of her head and roughly pulled it back. She remembered being afraid of the anger in his eyes as he told her she would never find anyone to love her the way he did. Jenny chose that moment to knock on the door and let herself in. Catherine lowered her eyes shamefully as Jenny gasped at the rough grip Stephen had on her friend.
“Cath?” Jenny had asked nervously as Stephen quickly loosened his grip and smoothed down her hair.
“Two more minutes and you would have caught us making love.” Stephen chuckled.
Catherine could feel the bile rise in her throat at the thought of him touching her and she grabbed her purse and keys from the counter. She grabbed Jenny’s hand and opened the door before she turned back to face him. “I’m spending the night at Jenny’s tonight. I want you and everything you own out of here by the morning. I’ll have the campus police come with me in the morning as well as a locksmith. Don’t leave anything behind.”
She remembered hearing the door close and she remembered grabbing on to Jenny’s hand as they walked to the car
“So the final straw was him getting violent with you?”
“I wouldn’t say it was violent…he grabbed my wrist and pulled my hair…”
“And you don’t feel that’s violent?” Catherine waffled until he looked at her. “If you had a case of domestic abuse and this happened to the woman, would you tell her the man wasn’t violent and send her back for more?”
“Of course not,” Catherine said quietly, as her thoughts turned to Marci and she realized she was making the exact same excuses for Stephen that Marci made for her husband .
Robinson set his pen down and closed the case file. “I’m going to tell you something off the record.”
“Stephen Bass is a physically healthy man. He has no known physical conditions at this time.”
“I can’t discuss Mr. Bass’s health with you, but as an investigator for the DA’s office, I can repeat to you what I just said. Stephen Bass has no known physical condition that would prevent him from standing trial for his actions. His mental stability is another matter that we are currently assessing.”
Robinson shook his head ruefully. “I can’t let you see him. The fact that he tried to kidnap you and kept you hostage in his home is just a small part of his problem. The police report said he tied you up and when you escaped he jumped through a window to try to get to you.”
Catherine clamped down on her emotions as she blinked in surprise. “He is?”
“He said he chased you into the woods where you called out for your pet lion.”
“My pet lion?” Catherine repeated incredulously in the hopes of showing Stephen’s continued delusional behavior. “The one I left in the car with the windows rolled down?”
“We’ll do what we can, but he will eventually be moved back to the long term facility he came from.
Catherine smiled weakly as she stood and extended her hand to the doctor. “Thank you for your time.”
Catherine left and made her way back to the city. She thought about going to the tunnels, but knew Vincent would come to her if he felt like seeing her. After the way she treated him, she felt she would leave it up to him to make the first move.
That night, she heard a noise on her balcony and made her way outside wrapped in a big blanket. She threw the blanket on the table as she smiled tentatively at Vincent. “You got home okay?”
“Yes. Is Stephen okay?”
She shrugged. “Yes, they took him to the hospital.”
He looked down in embarrassment. “I’m sorry I had to hurt him.”
She touched his arm to comfort him. “He was hurting me and you stopped him. For that I’ll be forever grateful.”
He hated that she had to lie because of him. “The police...must have had questions...”
“I covered it up. They believed me.”
“He saw my face, Catherine. If he tells someone about me and they find out about...”
Catherine interrupted him. “Vincent, please try not to worry. Stephen has been under psychiatric care for the past few years. They took him to a local ward. I don’t think they’ll believe anything he says.”
“Have you seen him?”
“They wouldn’t let me.” She noticed his strange behavior and attributed it to the shame she thought he felt. “Don’t be ashamed Vincent; you only did what you had to do.”
“I know that.”
Catherine sighed. “I was the one who was unfair. I just thought that you were feeling betrayed. I forgot for a moment how you trust me. I should have trusted you.” She looked up at him. “How did you know?”
“I knew because...somehow...somewhere deep inside you...you must have known!”
She turned from him and let the truth of what he said wash over her. She had fought with him because he recognized in her the true feelings she was suppressing. He knew her feelings better than she did. She felt horrible.
Vincent knew she felt guilty and in his usual manner wanted to comfort her. He touched her shoulder and gently turned her to look at him. “Catherine.”
She reluctantly met his eyes. He held open his arms to her. She moved gratefully into them and he held her close, tucking her into his favorite spot under his chin. Catherine wrapped her arms around him, thankful for his love that was surrounding her.
Vincent soothed her as he gently ran his hand up and down her back. Catherine snuggled down into his embrace and listened to his heart beating steady and strong.
Catherine eventually leaned back slightly and looked up at him. “Have you forgiven me for ignoring your warnings?”
“There is nothing to forgive.”
“If I had listened to you none of this would have happened.”
He tilted her chin up. “If you had listened to your heart, this wouldn’t have happened. I remember telling you once that your fear could keep you alive. You still need to learn to listen to it more often.”
Catherine nodded. “I’m working on an abuse case at work. I thought this woman was so naive for continually believing her husband wouldn’t hurt her. Why didn’t I see the same things in myself? Why did I let Stephen drag me in the way he did? I remember thinking he was already starting to monopolize my time. I remember resenting it! Why did I let him do it?”
Vincent caught her eye. “Because you’re a caring individual who wants to believe that people are good. That’s not a bad trait to have, Catherine.”
She smiled at him. “How do you do it, Vincent? How do you always know the right thing to say to make me feel good again?”
He smiled shyly. “It’s easy when you know a person so well.”
“I should listen to you more often. You know me better than I know myself.”
Catherine laid her head back against his chest. Vincent cuddled her close and walked her over to the corner of the balcony. He left her for a second to grab the blanket off the table and spread it out on the ground.
Catherine waited for Vincent to take a seat, then thought of the book they had been reading.
“Vincent, would you like to finish the book?”
He smiled. “I would love to finish the book.”
Catherine went inside, turned the ringer off on the phone, and headed back out. She settled on the blanket next to Vincent, opened the book, and began to read.