BETWEEN THE SCENES
WE WILL ENDURE
FIFTEENTH IN THE SERIES BY KATHY DE
It had been two weeks since Vincent told her about the unfortunate incident that happened between himself and Lisa so many years ago. Catherine knew that his “frightening” experience was the one thing that had been holding him back from finally venturing into a physical relationship with her.
She hated to think of the pain that he had endured so long ago but she couldn’t help but be thankful that his timing to disclose this secret had been perfect.
She had been wondering when to broach the subject of moving their relationship on to a physical level. She had slowly been slipping in quick kisses whenever she had the opportunity. Still, it seemed as if her subtle hints weren’t having much effect on him. Now, as she stood in the store with a basket full of various crystal votive cups and candle holders, she stopped herself in the aisle and debated about what she was doing.
It was fast approaching their second anniversary and, aside from a few times when she truly needed him, Vincent had never stepped foot in her apartment. She eventually stopped inviting him in because she knew it made him uncomfortable. But she was hoping, with the new closeness between them, he might accept her invitation.
She looked down at the shopping basket ruefully and wondered, if she set the mood to a full scale seduction, would he run away, or at least give it a try? Impulsively, she headed to the counter with her merchandise.
On the way home in the taxi, she mentally counted the days, and realized their anniversary fell on a Wednesday. “Damn,” she thought. If it had been on a Friday, she may have been able to convince him to spend the weekend.
For the next few days, Catherine mulled over the idea, and finally decided she was going to go for it. She was going to have everything ready for him and then invite him inside when he came. He could always say no, and they would spend the night on the balcony as they had done every other time he had come there.
Now, it was finally the weekend before, and Catherine woke up early, put on her shabbiest clothes, and tackled cleaning every room in her apartment. She vigorously scrubbed each surface and even moved furniture, vacuuming every speck of dust in the place. She removed all of her priceless antiques, and it wasn’t long before the glass in the cabinet was sparkling once again. Finally finished, Catherine looked with pride at her spotless apartment. Over the next hour, she carefully placed her candle purchases all around the rooms.
Satisfied, she took a shower and then decided to light the candles for a “trial run” that night. After the candles were lit, she marveled at the beauty and decided the soft light looked inviting. With a smile, she quickly headed Below for Sunday dinner.
Tuesday night, Catherine came home especially late and listened to her phone messages. One message in particular made her pause until she rolled her eyes and deleted it. “Idiot!” she thought as she glanced around the room for any last-minute touches that needed to be taken care of. Tomorrow was the big night!
She was anxious all day long at work and then, around 3:00, finally gave up and walked into Joe’s office.
“I’m taking some case files with me and heading home.”
Joe looked up in surprise. “It’s 3:00!”
“I know ... ”
Joe glanced outside. “The weather getting to you,
“What do you mean, Joe?”
“It’s unseasonably warm today. You playing hooky like Thompson and Escobar?”
“I said I was taking work with me ... ”
Joe lightened his mood. “Go! Before I change my mind!”
Catherine smiled, then pushed her luck even further. “I ... um ... may not be in tomorrow ... ”
Joe sat back angrily. “Why?!”
Catherine smiled sheepishly. “ ... or Friday.”
“Cathy, come on! You’re kidding me, right?!”
Catherine shook her head. “No! I’ll take extra work home and get to it when I can, but I have some personal things I need to take care of.”
Joe rolled his eyes. “Go ... let me know what’s going on.”
Later that day, Father walked into Vincent’s chamber as he was putting on his nicest shirt. He blinked in surprise and asked curiously, “Is tonight a special occasion I’m not aware of?”
“It’s the second anniversary of the night I met Catherine.”
“Good God! Where has the time gone?” Vincent smiled weakly as he buttoned his shirt and Father sat down at his table. “It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Catherine came into our lives,” he chuckled, “… and turned them upside down.” Vincent didn’t respond, and Father cocked his head worriedly. “Are you okay?”
Vincent was fumbling with the buttons on his shirt. “Yes ... I’m ... ”
“Nervous?” Father supplied.
“Yes ... I ... don’t know what tonight will bring ... ”
Father lowered his head. “Are we talking about ... um ... ” He stopped, unable to finish as well.
“This is the one time I wish Devin were here!”
“No disrespect, Father, but me too!”
Father made a face, then settled back in his chair. “I ... um ... well ... I ... ”
“Father! Please! I know this is embarrassing enough ... ”
“No, that’s not it, Vincent. I just don’t know where to start!”
“Neither do I! That’s what seems to be the problem! I ... know clinically how it all works but emotionally ... ”
Father nodded. “Vincent, please listen to me and take what I have to say to heart. Catherine’s been down this path before ... she knows what to do. Open your heart to her and trust her. Let her be your guide!”
Vincent thought for a moment then nodded. “That’s sound advice, and it was what I was planning on doing already ... ”
“But I was hoping for some insight ... some inside information so I can make sure I ... ” Vincent stopped himself and held his breath.
“Don’t ... disappoint?” Father smiled knowingly.
“Yes!” Vincent said as he looked relieved that Father understood.
“Vincent, I’m going to share the story about my first time with you. Now, just so you know, I had only been with one other woman before I met Margaret. I was a sophomore in college and she was a ... uh ... waitress ... in a bar. The older members in my fraternity thought they were doing me a favor by arranging a ... um ... night for me. Nellie, the waitress, led me upstairs and taught me what I needed to know. There were no feelings and there was no love, there was only the act. Years later, on my wedding night with Margaret, I was a changed man. She was as nervous as I, and together we touched and learned about one another. The only advice I can give is to take it slow ... enjoy it ... revel in it!”
Vincent’s jaw dropped open in shock. “I’m sorry ... I just never thought to be talking about this with you.”
Father laughed and then stood and straightened Vincent’s tie. “Son, you have taught me more about parenting than any other child in my entire life. Go, have fun with Catherine.”
Vincent grabbed his cloak and headed to the door. “Father, I ... might not be back until tomorrow night ... ”
“We won’t worry. Have Catherine send word.”
Vincent left and headed to Catherine’s apartment.
Catherine came home and soaked leisurely in the bath. She thought of all of the possibilities for the coming night as she lay with her head against the back of the tub.
Shaking off her desires, she got out of the tub and carefully wrapped herself in a big towel. She used a light touch to apply her makeup, then dried her hair.
She walked to the closet and took out a slinky blue dress with a low-cut back. Finally, she began to walk around the room, lighting the numerous candles she had set out.
Just as she was finishing, she saw a shadow at her window. She looked out to see Vincent standing there in his best ruffled shirt. She smiled and quickly walked towards him.
Suddenly shy, she stood in the doorway. Vincent looked beyond her at the soft light cast by the candles. Catherine blushed and invited him inside. Vincent looked at her uncertainly then clamped down on his fear and made to step inside the doorway.
At that exact second, the telephone rang, and Vincent stepped back outside. Catherine listened to the answering machine and, when she heard Jenny’s voice, she looked apologetically at Vincent and ran to pick it up.
She hung up, then headed back to Vincent. The phone rang again and Catherine, thinking it was Jenny again, picked up the phone.
“Cathy… I can see you, and I can see him, too.”
Sheer terror settled in the pit of her stomach as the prank caller admitted he could see Vincent.
Vincent made it Below in record time and leaned against the wall as he let the implications of what had happened settle in his mind. He sighed when he heard Catherine approach.
“Do you have any idea who it might be?” Vincent asked.
“There was a call on my answering machine yesterday. I didn’t think anything of it! I just thought it was a prank call!”
Vincent looked at the ground as his mind raced. He was out of his element on this one, and looked to her for advice. “What do we do now?”
“I can’t go to the police. We can’t take that chance. We don’t know what he has ... I mean ... maybe he took pictures!” Vincent remained quiet while Catherine ranted, “Vincent, the balcony isn’t safe anymore ... ” He felt the anger pulse through her body as she looked at him. “That was the only part of my world that belonged to us! I will not let him destroy it!”
“Catherine….” Vincent sighed helplessly. “He doesn’t have the power to destroy what’s between us! That will always be there.”
“Yes! But he destroyed our night tonight.”
“We’ll have another night ... ” he promised sadly.
The emotions finally got to her and she whirled on him with tears in her eyes. “But I wanted this night!”
Vincent reached out his hand to her and lightly pulled her into the safety of his arms. “Catherine,” he said as she broke down in tears. He lightly ran his hand up and down her back comfortingly. “Shhh, we’ll find a way to get back the balcony. I promise ... ”
“We have to ... we have to find a way. I know it sounds silly but that balcony brought you back to me! I won’t let some psycho take it away from us.”
Catherine sniffled and nodded, then steeled herself and her emotions and backed away from the comfort of his arms. “I’m going to find him. I will track him down!”
“Perhaps I can help. What exactly did he say to you?”
“He said he could see us ... ”
“Catherine,” Vincent reiterated, “tell me what he said … exactly.”
Catherine thought quickly. “Um ... he said ... ‘Cathy, I can see you, and I can see him’.”
Vincent lowered his head with a frown, then looked back at her. “And last night?”
“I don’t know ... something about he liked my dress and hated my hair; he warned me not to wear it that way again.”
Vincent’s head shot up as he looked at her with alarm. “Catherine ... this man knows your name ... your phone number…what you do each day…. Perhaps you should consider going to the police.” She shook her head to protest but he continued talking. “Then perhaps, at the very least, you should tell Joe. We don’t know how dangerous this man is. Maybe Joe will have a few ideas.”
Catherine knew what he said was reasonable but she was unwilling to let anyone else know yet. “I’ll think about it. Maybe I’ll try to talk to him tomorrow.”
Catherine frowned as she looked at the ladder. “I was in a hurry to leave and I left all the candles burning. I need to go back up ... ”
“You should try to get some sleep, as well.”
“I won’t be able to.”
“You must try, Catherine. If we have any hopes of finding him, we need to be rested.”
“I know. Goodnight, Vincent,” she said with a wobbly smile.
Catherine started to climb the ladder, and when she was close to the top, he called out to her. “I’ll be near.”
“Don’t come to the balcony.”
“I won’t. Why don’t I meet you on the roof tomorrow night.”
“I’ll be there. I love you, Vincent,” Catherine said as she closed the door.
Vincent slowly made his way back to the home tunnels. He stood outside his chamber then continued on to the library.
Father looked up and frowned. “Did you forget something?”
“No ... I didn’t ... forget something,” Vincent said with an edge to his voice.
Father set down his glasses. “What is it? What’s happened? Didn’t you make it to Catherine’s?”
“Father!” Vincent snapped then immediately looked contrite. “I went to Catherine’s and was about to step inside her apartment when the phone rang. It was her friend, Jenny, checking up on her. Catherine hung up with her, and another call came in right after that. It was ... um ... I don’t know ... All I know is, Catherine is being watched ... stalked by someone.”
“The man has called her each night for the past two nights. He knows her name ... her number ... her address.”
“She told me not to come back but I must, even if I have to spend the night on her balcony.”
“How does she know he’s seen her?”
“He made comments about her clothing and hair style. And he told her tonight that he could see her ... ” Vincent lowered his head, ready for the explosion of anger he knew would come, “ ... and me.”
“I knew something like this would happen one day!! Well, for once, I agree with Catherine, you should stay away.”
“Vincent, someone has seen you! If you go to her, he’ll see you again!”
“How can I leave her alone? She must be protected!”
“If she is in danger, we will find a way to protect her. There are other ways!”
“This is Catherine! I must protect her!”
“Of course.” Father sat down heavily. “And what is she doing to find this man?”
“All she can do, but she’s alone in this. She refuses to seek help. She’s afraid for me ... for our secret ... ”
Father grimaced. “And he probably knows that ... ”
“And will use it to torment her!”
“All right!” Father said as he grabbed a pad of paper and pen. “Instead of ranting about what’s done, let’s be productive. We can ... call on all the helpers to keep an eye out for her.”
“Yes, well, a uniformed police officer is easily recognized. You know our helpers will blend in easier. We’ll have Thomas play his saxophone close to her building all week. Les and Stan can share taxi duties, and the children can watch if she walks anywhere during the day. Do you think Catherine could let Benny know when she has somewhere to go?”
“Father, I’m not sure if Catherine will want to be monitored so closely.”
“Well, you can speak to her tomorrow about it. In the meantime, I will make sure Benny handles all the communication and keeps all the parties involved updated.”
Vincent nodded. “I’ll watch over her at night. If I stay by her threshold, I can be at her side within minutes.”
Father did not dare tell Vincent that it might not be close enough. He thought briefly about asking Catherine to allow someone to spend the night in her apartment. Cullen or Matthew would be good choices. “Why don’t you ask Catherine to come Below at night? It will be safer for her.”
“I already planned on doing that but thank you, Father, for suggesting it.”
“I’ll inform William to keep food readily available to send out. The children can take lunches to the helpers. I don’t want to miss anything because someone left their post for a sandwich.”
The turmoil finally got to Vincent, and he sat down heavily in a chair. “This is my fault she’s going through this.”
Father shook his head. “How on earth is it your fault that someone has taken an unnatural interest in Catherine?”
Vincent rolled his eyes at his lack of understanding. “That part isn’t, but she could be seeking police protection if she wasn’t afraid for me.”
Father sighed and leaned back against his chair. “Vincent ... that part is true, but we will all do everything we can to keep her safe.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Try to get some rest ... ”
Vincent stood and shook his head. “I’m going to grab my bedroll. I’ll be sleeping at her threshold tonight.”
“I ... ” Father went to protest but knew it would be useless. “All right, tomorrow you can sleep while we watch over her at work. Send word if you need anything.”
“I will. Goodnight, Father.”
Vincent left as Father sighed loudly. He grabbed his pen and began to furiously jot down instructions to everyone he would need tomorrow.
Vincent sat for hours, leaning against the rock wall underneath Catherine’s apartment building. It was well past midnight when he finally felt her begin to relax and slip into sleep. A few hours later, he lay his head back against the rock wall and closed his eyes and, in a short time, joined her in sleep.
The next morning, Mouse quietly slipped up to Vincent.
“Daylight up top.”
“Time? Don’t know. Father send Mouse ... Mouse go.”
Vincent concentrated on the bond and realized Catherine was still asleep. “It’s early yet.” He grabbed his bedroll and threw it over his shoulder then turned to walk with Mouse. “Father sent you? When?”
“He’s awake then?”
Mouse held up messages. “Have to deliver. Orders for helpers to watch Catherine. Got to go ... can’t be late.”
“Thank you, Mouse,” Vincent said as Mouse took off running.
Father looked up when Vincent walked into the library. He frowned at his son’s appearance. “You look wonderful,” he said sarcastically. “Did you get any sleep last night?”
Vincent frowned at the comment before he answered. “Some. What can I do?”
“I have Mouse delivering instructions to all the helpers. This letter has to go to Benny. I thought perhaps you might want to send your own message to Catherine ... ”
Vincent nodded and grabbed a piece of paper and pen, then looked into the air thoughtfully before he began to write. He finished and sealed it then handed it to Father.
Zach ran into the room and waited expectantly. Father handed him the papers. “See that these get to Benny immediately.”
“Okay, Father!” Zach smiled.
Zach started to run from the room but Vincent caught him on the steps. “Zach, I know I don’t need to remind you but please tell the other children that this mission today is not a game. Catherine may be in real danger.”
Vincent smiled as he lowered his head. “Thank you, Zach. You keep reminding me daily of how much of a man you’re becoming.”
Father nodded as he smiled at Zach. “Thank you, Zach. Go now.” Zach took off, and Father looked to Vincent. “Go get some sleep. We have this handled for the day.” Vincent looked at him uncertainly, and Father showed him his list. “Les is waiting outside Catherine’s apartment. He’ll take her to work today. From there, she should be safe all day. If she leaves, the children or Thomas will keep an eye on her. We have it covered!”
Catherine was on her way to work when Benny pulled up in front of her apartment building. “Got a message for you, baby!”
As you go about your day today, know that you are in my thoughts. And find comfort that my family and friends are always near to you.
Catherine frowned as she wondered what he meant. She looked up and realized the taxi driver was a helper. “Les?”
Les looked up and smiled. “Hiya, toots.”
Catherine grinned. “How are you? I haven’t seen you since Winterfest.”
“Been busy. The kids keep me hopping.”
“Good! Tell Linda I said hi.”
“I will.” Les grew serious. “Father has the helpers on full alert today. Anywhere you go, someone will be within shouting distance, okay?”
Catherine was touched by the gesture. “I don’t think it’s that necessary ... ”
Les’ face showed his anger. “You’re one of us now, Cath. And family takes care of family.” He pulled up in front of her office building and nodded at a few people.
Catherine saw Kipper and Samantha sitting on a bus bench, looking like kids on their way to school. Thomas was playing his saxophone on the corner and doing quite well, from what she could see. Cullen was leaning against a newspaper machine reading the paper.
Catherine smiled. “Got it.” She reached around and grabbed a piece of paper and pen then quickly jotted down a note. “Can you see this gets Below?”
An hour later, Eric ran into the library. “Father, I got a message from Catherine!”
Father automatically corrected him. “You have a message ... ”
“That’s what I said ... ”
Father frowned. “I’ll take it and give it to Vincent a little later; he’s sleeping right now.”
Eric shook his head. “It’s not for Vincent, it’s for you.”
Your thoughts are greatly appreciated. As I walk the streets, I realize I am no longer alone but surrounded by family and friends. I have you to thank for all of this. Please relay the message to V- that all is well right now.
“Hmmm ... ” Father asked distractedly as he realized Eric was still there.
“Is there a reply?”
Father shook his head apologetically. “No, Eric. I’m sorry to keep you waiting. There’s not. You may go now.”
Eric ran off, but periodically throughout the day he or one of the other children returned to give Father an update.
Catherine was nervous and distracted throughout the day. She sat and listened to her answering machine tape over and over again, trying to find out if the voice sounded familiar at all to her, or if there were any background sounds she could distinguish. She also made a mental list of previous criminals she prosecuted who could possibly be after her for revenge.
Jenny surprised her and stopped by her office. Catherine welcomed the distraction, and the two friends went out for an early lunch.
“I can’t believe I’m hearing from you two days in a row! What’s the occasion?!” Catherine asked sarcastically as they walked to the restaurant.
Jenny was beside herself. “I ... I’ve been worried about you, is all. I wanted to see you.”
Catherine frowned at her friend. “Is this about your dream, Jen? I told you last night, I was fine.”
“I know you did but you know me ... They just seem so real!”
Catherine thought about all the times Jenny had come to her in the past and told her about her dreams. She remembered the ones they laughed hysterically about, and all the ones they didn’t comment on, they just sat quietly, amazed that what she dreamt had actually come true! Catherine rushed to ease her friend’s worries. “Not all of them come true ... ”
“Yeah, well ... we both know some of them do! What about the one I had in college about you and Steven?”
“What about your mom?”
Catherine’s head dropped in resignation as she realized Jenny’s dream that her mother would die had come true. She let her mind drift back to that day ...
She was standing by the car door, waiting for the maid to take her to school, when Jenny came running up the walk.
“Cathy, I am so, so sorry!”
Catherine made a face and laughed. “About what, Jenny? Did you forget to make the questions for the science report?!”
Jenny started to cry. “No! I’m sorry about your mom!”
“Didn’t she die last night?”
“Die? No! She’s sitting at the table, eating toast with Daddy!”
Jenny was so upset, Catherine grabbed her hand and walked her through the house. “Mommy ... Daddy ... ” she sang out as they walked into the kitchen.
Charles frowned. “Cathy, why are you screaming at the top of your lungs?”
Caroline smiled indulgently. “Yes, dear ... we know. I think your father meant to ask you what you’re screaming about.”
Catherine pointed at Jenny. “Jenny had a dream last night that you were sick and died. I wanted to show her you were still alive.” She leaned in to them conspiratorially and whispered loudly behind her hand. “I betcha she watched a scary movie with her brother again last night.”
Jenny hid her face in horror. “I’m sorry, Momma
Neither girl noticed the strained look pass between the adults. Two days later, Jenny’s dream did come true.
Catherine snapped back to the present. “Okay, I’m listening.”
Jenny related her dream while Catherine listened to her. She cracked jokes to keep it light, but Jenny admitted to her that in her dreams, she died.
Catherine’s face fell as she became very worried. Jenny reached for her friend’s hands. “Cath, I’m sure it’s a crazy dream, just like you said it was. Did I ever tell you about the time I dreamed you were walking around in a cave somewhere, and some guy took you back to his hidden lair?!”
Catherine choked on the water she was drinking and dabbed at the corners of her mouth. She smiled weakly at Jenny. “Oh, that’s a good one. Can you imagine me walking around in a cave with my spiked heels?”
“Yeah, that’s what you had on! You also had your red wool coat to keep warm.”
They stood and walked outside together, and then hugged briefly.
“Take care, Cath.”
“You too, Jen,” Catherine said as she looked around automatically.
She relaxed when she spotted some familiar faces around her.
Below, Vincent was sitting quietly in his chamber when Father came in.
“Catherine sent word earlier,” he said as he handed Vincent her letter.
Vincent read it quickly and smiled briefly. “She’s trying to be brave.”
“Catherine is one of bravest women I know, Vincent.”
Vincent snorted. “That’s because you don’t feel her fear coiling itself up inside of her, ready to strike out. It was so bad earlier, it woke me.”
Father frowned. “Vincent, all of our reports indicate she’s safe. The only time she left the office today was to have lunch with another woman. Dark-haired woman, about Catherine’s size ... ”
Vincent shrugged. “Perhaps it was her friend, Jenny.”
“Well, certainly no one that she would be afraid of.”
Vincent looked down at the table. “She’s had a long day. I can feel the exhaustion starting to set in.”
“Well, if you can’t convince her to come Below tonight, at least have someone watch over her so she can get some sleep! I wish this man would just tell her what he wants from her!”
“He doesn’t want anything from her, Father. He wants her!”
Father thought about it, and frowned as he nodded. “You’re probably right.”
Vincent stood up. “I’m going to see her soon.”
“Not to her balcony?!”
“No, the rooftop.”
Vincent went to his chamber to grab his cloak.
Earlier that afternoon, Catherine had walked back to her desk and noticed a huge bouquet of roses. Her first thoughts were of Elliot but she quickly dismissed them as she walked curiously towards the bouquet.
She knew she was in real trouble, and walked over and asked Joe if she could talk to him. He dragged the story out of her and promised to help in any way he could.
The rest of the afternoon, she tried to get work done but was consumed with thoughts of the stalker and what damaging pictures he could have of Vincent. Her exhaustion was starting to take over, and she yawned repeatedly as she read through files. Finally giving up, she packed her case with files, thinking she would work on them at home. She was about to leave when her phone rang.
“Catherine Chandler, can I help you?”
“Cathy ... it’s me.”
Catherine’s stomach clenched in knots as she asked angrily, “What do you want?!”
“I hope you’re coming home soon.”
“Is that a threat?!” she spat into the phone.
“Don’t go see him, Cathy. I can make you happier than him! Just give me a chance! We’ll go play at the park, maybe swim in the pond, and we can do it during the day! He couldn’t do that with you!”
Her phone rang again and she got up, ran from the room, and headed home.
Vincent was waiting for her on the rooftop when she got home. She walked wearily over to him and set her briefcase on the ground then stared out into the city.
“Did he contact you?” Vincent asked.
“He sent me flowers.”
“It was more than just flowers.”
“He knows about you ... about us ... and until we find out what he wants ... ”
“Vincent, you have to stay away.”
He blinked in surprise at her. “I feel your fear. How do I leave you alone with that?!”
Catherine steeled herself. “Because I can handle fear.” Tears formed in her eyes as she lost her composure. “But if something happened to you ... ”
Vincent drew her into his embrace and held her to his chest. He rubbed his cheek against her head and whispered in her ear, “Come Below tonight.”
For the briefest second, Catherine thought about spending the night in his chamber in the safety of his arms, then she realized he would probably set her up in a guest bedroom. She also realized that she couldn’t give in to the fear that this maniac was causing in their lives. “I can’t ... I can’t let him do that to me ... I can’t. We’re alone in this ... ” She fell back against his chest and drew whatever comfort she could from his embrace.
“Catherine, we’re not alone…YOU’RE not alone. The helpers will continue to watch over you when I can’t be near.”
Catherine smiled weakly. “It was comforting to see them around me all day ... ”
Vincent looked at her curiously. “Why were you so afraid around lunchtime?”
Catherine lowered her head in shame. She had hoped she had been able to shelter him from her earlier feelings. “I’m sorry. I had lunch with my friend, Jenny. She told me about the dream she had the other night.”
Vincent cocked his head, knowing she was withholding information from him. “And that caused you great fear?”
Catherine knew she had to tell him the truth. “No ... um ... this is going to sound silly but ... sometimes Jenny’s dreams come true.”
“It’s not silly, Catherine. I’ve experienced the same thing.”
She thought about his dreams when she was spending time with Steven, and the warnings he tried to give her. “I remember ... ”
“Catherine,” Vincent cupped her cheek with his hand and made her look up at him, “what did she dream?”
Catherine’s bottom lip quivered at the tenderness in his eyes, and tears fell from her own eyes as she chewed her lip. “She dreamed I died.”
Vincent gasped and brought her into his protective embrace. “I won’t let it happen. I swear on my life, I won’t let it happen.”
Catherine clung to him until the tremors left her body then she slowly relaxed against him.
Vincent leaned away from her again. “Catherine, I can feel your exhaustion. Please consider coming Below.”
Catherine shook her head. “No, I’m ... going to take a long hot shower, then climb into bed. I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll be near.”
Catherine picked up her briefcase and headed towards her apartment while Vincent walked to the threshold to spend the night again.
Catherine was in the shower when she thought she heard someone in her apartment. She left the shower running so whoever was there would think she was still in there while she quietly threw on a bathrobe and came out into the room. Her heart sank when she discovered flowers were neatly placed on the pillows of her bed. Her closet doors were open, and her gun was missing, as well.
Her balcony doors were open as she made her way into the living room. She jumped when someone suddenly started banging on her front door. When she heard Joe’s voice, she flung open the door and told him what had happened. Joe wanted to chase the stalker but he stopped when he heard the guy had her gun. He refused to leave her alone and defenseless.
Vincent felt Catherine’s fear subside, and when he heard Joe’s voice come back inside, he slipped quietly from the balcony.
Joe refused to listen to Catherine’s protests and he called in their detective friend, Greg Hughes.
Joe offered to stay on her couch for the night but Catherine insisted he leave.
When everyone was gone again, her adrenaline was still pumping, Catherine walked out onto the balcony and, with binoculars, looked from light to light, room to room, building to building, for any sign of her stalker. Finally giving up on the daunting task, she sat in the dark on her couch in her living room. She finally allowed herself the luxury of lying on the love seat, the fireplace poker clutched protectively in her hands.
As her eyes grew heavy, a noise in her apartment had her up and investigating the rooms. Finally, too exhausted to take any more stress, she decided to head Below for the remainder of the night.
She pushed the down button for the elevator but when it stopped too long on another floor, she became concerned and decided to use the stairwell instead.
If she would have waited, she would have found Joe coming out of the elevator with a cup of coffee, ready to spend the night in the chair outside her door. Instead, she made her way to the parking garage.
Her stalker came up behind her and covered her nose and mouth with a rag soaked in ether. She struggled and tried to fight back but quickly passed out, and he carried her to his car.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Joe had heard Catherine’s phone ringing and was concerned when she didn’t answer it. He panicked and kicked in her door, only to discover she was gone. He grabbed for the phone. It was her friend Jenny, who thought Catherine was in trouble. Joe ran into the garage in time to see a car speeding out of it. Instinctively, he glanced at the license plate number and committed it to memory, then ran to his own car.
Her “bodyguards” and fellow helpers, Stan and Les, followed the car as best they could and, through radio, relayed the information Below.
Vincent ran through the tunnels, listening to Pascal furiously tap out updated reports. As the subway trains came to a stop, Vincent listened one last time to the latest report, then jumped on what he hoped would be the right train.
Stan followed the car all the way to Stoney Point and then lost him. He quickly found a phone booth and called in tips to the police station, knowing Catherine’s friend would follow the leads.
Vincent ran at full speed, crashing through the woods. His senses told him the general area Catherine was in, but he struggled to pinpoint her exact location. Finally, he felt something stir within him as she slowly came back to consciousness.
He increased his speed as he headed into a clearing. He felt her emotions move from disbelief to desperation to panic, then finally to outright terror … before there was suddenly nothing.
Vincent dropped to his knees as he realized he had no sense of her anymore. His head fell back as he roared his anger to the skies, then he let it drop forward to his chest in despair.
A man came and stood in front of him. “Too late. You're too late.”
With no thought other than vindication, Vincent sprang to his feet and lashed out, instantly killing the man.
A movement from the lake caused Vincent to turn, and he saw a car slowly sinking into the water. With adrenaline surging through his veins, he leapt on top of the car and grabbed onto the hatch of the trunk. With all his strength, he pulled the hatch from its hinges and threw it through the air.
He looked down and saw Catherine's body under the water. Vincent dove forward and pulled her into his arms. Fear coiled in his gut as he carried her unconscious body towards the dry land; her arms dangled at her sides and her head lolled back as he laid her on the ground.
Having learned CPR as a young teenager, Vincent fell to his knees beside her on the grass and, without any hesitation, began to perform it on her. Because Catherine had been under the water for less than a minute, it only took him a few turns of chest compressions and blowing air into her mouth before he was able to turn her head to the side as she coughed up the water in her lungs. He turned her over and supported her back as she retched more of the offending liquid onto the grass next to her.
“Breathe, Catherine ... please breathe!”
She coughed and retched then finally gasped his name. “Vincent?!”
He knew then that she was going to be all right as he flung off his cloak and wrapped it around her. He turned her in his arms and pulled her to his chest, where he cradled her tightly. “Oh, Catherine!”
Vincent was so overwhelmed with emotion; he kissed the top of her head before he cradled her closer to chest and laid his cheek against the top of her head.
Catherine snuggled her face against his warmth and kissed his shirt before she once again placed her ear against his beating heart.
Vincent felt her shivering and he briskly ran his hands up and down her arms. “Catherine, we need to get you to the hospital.”
“No. I'm all right ... I'm just cold.”
“And in shock.”
“Just hold me, Vincent!”
“I am, Catherine. I won't let you go again.”
Catherine sighed and continued to shiver against him. She heard sirens off in the distance, and she remembered why she was here. She scanned the area and saw her kidnapper lying in a heap on the ground. She cocked her head upwards, and green eyes met blue as she looked at him quizzically. “Is he ... ?”
Vincent lowered his head in shame. “Yes.”
Catherine nodded and then listened again. The sirens seemed to be getting closer, and she looked frantically around the area. She found several squad cars making their way towards them through the park.
Unwilling to take any chances with his safety, she got to her knees. “They're coming this way.”
Vincent followed her gaze and nodded. He looked at her as if he were debating what he should do.
Catherine looked back at him in shock. “You need to go!”
“I don't want to leave you!”
Catherine looked at him desperately. “And I don't want you to leave, but I also don't want you to be caught! Please, Vincent, go!”
She started to remove his cloak and he stopped her and pulled it closed just under her chin. “No, you need to keep warm.”
Catherine glanced at the cars getting closer and closer. Not willing to argue with him, she nodded. “Okay, but hurry!”
Vincent raised the hood of the cloak and brought it over the top of her head. He looked at her with such love in his eyes, and Catherine could see the battle raging within him. She knew he didn't want to leave her, and she reached up and caressed his cheek. “I know ... me, too ... but you have to go! I'll see you in a little while.”
Devoid of Vincent's warmth, the reality of what had just happened finally started sinking in, and Catherine fell against the closest officer. He put his arm around her and led her to a waiting ambulance.
Jim, a friend on the police force, stepped up. “Here, Cath, I brought you some coffee.”
Catherine grabbed for the cup. “Thank you, Jim.”
“You got it. Can I get you anything else?”
“No ... I ... no.”
Catherine watched as the officers scoured the area. Grateful they didn't find any signs of Vincent, Catherine answered all of their questions as honestly as she could.
“Miss Chandler, I’m Detective Mayburg. I know you’re with the DA’s office, and you know the importance of this investigation. Can you answer some of my questions?”
Catherine smiled weakly. “Of course.”
“Good. Can you start from the beginning?”
Catherine sighed. “Yeah. A man has been calling me the past few days. At first, I thought it was prank calls. But today he left me a message and told me he watched me sleep last night. Tonight, he broke into my apartment again. I had the locks changed but I was too afraid to stay there by myself. I was leaving when he grabbed me in the basement of my apartment building.”
“Where were you going?”
“Your stalker ... if he was waiting in your basement, he knew where you were headed. Where was that?”
Catherine lied easily. “My girlfriend Jenny’s ... Jenny Aronson.”
“Go on ... ”
“At the bottom of the steps, he ... um ... came up behind me. When he turned me around, he shoved a rag over my nose and mouth; I don’t remember anything after that ... ”
“You don’t remember him putting you in the trunk of his car?”
“No ... ”
“You don’t remember how you got out of the trunk?”
“No ... ”
Joe came up, and Catherine begged him for a ride home. He put his arm around her and guided her to his car and opened the door for her. Out of the watchful eyes of everyone, Joe wanted to pull her into his arms but Catherine walked around him to get in, and Joe settled for grabbing her hand. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
Catherine nodded. “Yeah, just cold ... and wet ... ”
Joe waited for her to get settled before he walked around to the driver’s side. He looked over at her as she laid her head back against the headrest. “What the hell happened, Cath? How’d he get to you?”
Catherine sighed. “He didn’t. I ... My mind was working overtime. I panicked and headed Below ... ” She startled and looked at him. “You know ... to my car ... ”
“Where were you going at that time of the night?”
“Jenny’s. I thought I’d camp out at her house.”
“He got me in the parking garage ... he put a rag over my nose and mouth. I was out like that,” she said as she snapped her fingers.
“And you don’t remember anything until you woke up on the shoreline?”
“No, I ... ” Catherine had a vision pop in her head.
“Oh, God!” She began to tremble and Joe took her hand. “I woke up in the trunk. I remember wondering where I was, and by the time I realized ... ” Tears fell from her eyes as she shook her head. “The water ... just kept coming in ... ”
Catherine broke down, and Joe slid over on the seat and held her tightly. “It’s okay, Cath ... it’s over now ... we got him ... it’s okay,” he cooed to her while he rocked her back and forth. Catherine tried to find comfort in Joe’s embrace but all she could think about was being in Vincent’s arms.
She backed away slowly and wiped away her tears. “I’m sorry.”
Joe shrugged as he played off her rejection. “No problemo, Radcliffe. Let’s get you home.”
Hurrying so he could be there for her when she got home, Vincent was miles away when he paused as he felt Catherine’s breakdown. He frowned. Knowing he wanted to go back to her but realizing he couldn’t brought him to tears. “Catherine ... ” he whispered.
He leaned against the nearest wall and concentrated on the bond. Eventually, he felt her relax, and he continued making his way home, where he headed directly to the library.
Father looked up worriedly as he came in. “Well ... ?”
Vincent’s throat began to close from his emotional turmoil and he couldn’t answer.
“Did you find her?”
Vincent could only nod his answer while Father questioned him further. “Is she all right?”
“Thank God! Where is she now?”
“I had to leave her at Stoney Point. The police were coming and ... I wanted to stay with her, Father! I didn’t care what happened to me ... I wanted to be there with her!”
Tears were falling from Vincent’s eyes as Father came over and put his arm around him. “But you didn’t ... ”
“Only because Catherine insisted I leave her.”
He needed to ask the question but Father grimaced, knowing that Vincent had probably killed once again. “I hesitate to ask but ... her attacker ... ”
“I ... got there before the police did,” he said as he looked down in shame.
“Well, at least Catherine’s all right.”
“What happened, son?”
Vincent’s strength left him as his shoulders and head sagged and he cried heavily. “He locked her into the trunk of his car then pushed the car into the water. She ... drowned, Father!”
The shock of it was too much for him, and Father gasped as he sat down heavily. “But you said she was all right?! You said she sent you home!”
Vincent shook his head in confusion. “She’s alive ... now ... but I felt her go. I felt the bond go silent!”
Father could only guess at the events. “So somehow you got her out of the trunk?”
“Yes. I had to perform CPR ... ”
Both men knew that CPR was only effective if done immediately. Worried about the side effects of oxygen deprivation, Father grabbed his son’s chin and leveled Vincent with his gaze. “Vincent, how long was she out?”
Vincent looked up and saw the fear in Father’s eyes, and quickly eased his mind. “I’m sorry, Father ... I didn’t mean to ... ” He sighed. “It was only a minute ... two at the most. She woke up after only a few compressions.”
“Thank God!” Father’s relief was short-lived as he instantly became clinical again. “Did she cough up enough water?”
Vincent nodded. “I believe so. Her breathing sounded clear, and she was able to talk.”
Vincent suddenly stood. “She’s coming back. I need to go. I only came to tell you the news and change clothes. I’ll be back later.”
“Where’s you cloak?”
“She has it.”
Father frowned as Vincent favored his leg and side as he walked towards the door. “Vincent, what’s happened to your leg?”
“Not now, Father.”
Father nodded knowingly. “Give her our love.”
Vincent took off and was soon on his way to Catherine’s.
Joe led an exhausted Catherine up to her apartment. Jenny was there and greeted Catherine warmly before Catherine headed to the bathroom to take another shower.
She locked the door, then turned to see Vincent in the balcony doorway before she ran into his arms.
“I felt you go,” Vincent said. “I felt you go!”
Catherine kissed his neck then held him. “Hold me tighter!” Vincent tightened his embrace but it wasn’t enough for Catherine. “Tighter!”
“I’ll hurt you.”
“No. I need to feel you close. Please, Vincent!”
Vincent engulfed her in his embrace, then buried her face in his neck. He felt her warm breath on his neck, and he felt her light kisses. Unable to let her go, he shut his mind off to the sensations and he just held her.
Although it was warm for being mid-April, Catherine had just been in frigid water, and she quickly grew cold again. Vincent pulled away from her, then reached inside her door to grab the blanket she kept there. He placed it around her shoulders and drew it closed in front of her.
Catherine looked at him desperately. “I just want you to hold me.”
Vincent debated with himself but concern for her well-being won out. He wanted her to be warm, so he led her into the apartment and sat on her bed. He drew her into his lap as she snuggled against him. Catherine’s hand lightly ran over his chest, and soon enough she settled her fingers in the chest hair that was sticking out of the collar of his shirt. Her head was resting lightly in the crook of his neck as he drew lazy circles with his hands over her back.
“You broke down earlier tonight, I felt it.”
Catherine nodded. “Yes, I ... remembered waking up in the trunk of the car ... ”
“I felt your panic.”
“It didn’t last long. I remember seeing a bright light. I remember thinking it was my mom and dad ... and ... then ... I was pulled away from them, and woke up with you kneeling over me.”
Vincent leaned his face down and shut his eyes as he squeezed her gently. “I’m sorry ... ”
Catherine looked up, and her face was inches from his. “I’m not. You saved my life, Vincent. I love my parents and miss them desperately but we’ve come too far to turn away from it all now.” She looked at his lips and wished he would lean in and kiss her, but he looked away instead.
Catherine relaxed against him. It wasn’t long before exhaustion overtook her; she fell asleep in his arms. She barely moved when, an hour later, he lifted her up and carried her to her bed.
With surprising ease, he flipped back her covers and placed her into the center of the bed. He covered her up, then lovingly moved the hair from her eyes. She whimpered in her sleep as he sat gingerly down next to her and held her in his arms. For the next hour, he watched her sleep as the night sky slowly started to lighten.
“I have to leave,” he whispered as he ran his finger gently down her cheek.
Catherine frowned in her sleep and mumbled, “Make love to me ... ”
Vincent swallowed hard as he slipped from the bed. He walked into her living room and grabbed his cloak. “I love you, Catherine,” he whispered to her before he headed out the door.
Below, Vincent headed to Father’s chambers and grimaced when he realized he would have to wake him. “Father ... ”
“Hmmm ... not now ... ”
Vincent chuckled as he shook him. “Father, I’m sorry. Wake up. I need your help.”
Father blinked. “Ugh ... Vincent, what is it? Is it Catherine?”
“No, it’s me.”
Father was instantly awake. “What’s happened?”
“It happened earlier. The man who took Catherine ... hit me with his car.”
Vincent handed him his medical bag. “Father ... can you tape my ribs. I think I broke one or two of them ... ”
“Well, it looks like only four,” Father muttered as he wound the tape around Vincent’s midsection. “Now, what else was hurt?”
“Nothing. I saw the car coming and leapt onto the hood.”
Father nodded as he sat down. “And Catherine is still all right?”
“She was sleeping peacefully when I left her.”
“Good. I suggest you do the same. Tomorrow is ... well ... today is Saturday, and I’m sure Catherine will be coming Below.”
“Perhaps. Goodnight, Father.”
Catherine slept late, and was surprised to wake up to see the light streaming through her windows. She looked at the clock and gasped. “!”
The phone rang, and she picked it up tentatively. “Hello ... ?”
“Cathy, it’s me.”
“You okay, Radcliffe? You get some sleep?”
“I did. In fact, I’ve been up about two minutes.”
“Wow! You did sleep! How’s Jenny?”
“I haven’t talked to her yet ... ”
“No, I sent her home.”
“Damn it, Cathy! What if this guy had an accomplice? What if ... ”
Catherine hadn’t thought of that, and sighed. “Joe, he didn’t ... and I’m fine. Besides, I wasn’t alone.”
Joe blushed. “Oh ... well, um ... I should probably let you go then, seeing as it’s the weekend and all ... ”
“I’ll see you Monday, Joe. Thanks for calling.”
“Yeah, Monday. Later, Cath.”
Catherine got up and combed out her hair. She changed into casual clothes then started to head Below.
She startled when her phone rang. “Hello?”
“Cathy, I had another dream last night ... ”
“Oh, no, Jen!” Catherine laughed, knowing by her friend’s lighthearted mood it was a fun one.
“Yeah! You were in that cave again ... and walking towards some big guy. He had long hair but you couldn’t see his face. His voice, though ... oh, my God! It would melt butter!”
Catherine made a mental note to have a conversation with Vincent about telling Jenny the truth. She was going to find out about it soon anyway ...
“A faceless guy who melts butter? Do any of your dreams ever come with complete guys? Why is there always a severed arm or a faceless head?!”
“Hey! I can’t help what I dream! Look, I just called to see how you’re doing ... not to be harassed!”
“I love you, too, Cath. Lunch on Tuesday?”
“Lunch on Tuesday. See you, Jen.”
Catherine hung up then headed Below.
Vincent was sleeping lightly when he felt Catherine’s presence Below. He quickly got out of the bed and changed his clothes, then rushed to meet her.
“Catherine.” He hugged her tightly, ignoring the twinge of pain in his ribs. Slowly he released her and looked at her critically. “How are you feeling?”
Vincent smiled and took her hand. “Father will make a fuss ... ”
“Oh, I doubt that,” she said as she rolled her eyes,
“He may not show it, but he cares deeply for you, Catherine.” She still didn’t look convinced, so he sighed. “Perhaps we should just go and get this over with ... ”
“Catherine!” Father said with surprise. He walked over and gave her a hug. “It’s good to see you!”
Catherine giggled at the warm greeting. “It’s good to see you, too, Father.”
Father cupped her cheeks between his hands and looked into her eyes. “How are we feeling this morning?”
“We are fine.” Catherine grinned as she shot Vincent a look.
Father felt her forehead. “No fever ... no headaches?”
“Perhaps I should listen to your lungs ... Vincent, go get my bag from my chamber.”
Catherine shook her head as she clasped both his hands in hers. “Father, I’m fine.”
“You drowned, Catherine! There may still be lingering effects that you are unaware of…bacteria in the lungs causing decreased lung capacity ... ”
“Father, I can breathe fine. The paramedics gave me oxygen during my examination.”
“Still ... you should have had blood work done to see what your oxygen levels were, and ... ”
Father smiled timidly. “You need to make sure you take care of yourself. Vincent told me he performed CPR but ... ”
Catherine grimaced. “Maybe someone will teach me. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know it.”
“Well, when Vincent’s ribs are healed, perhaps he’ll teach you ... ”
“Father!” Vincent groaned.
Father hadn’t heard Vincent’s groan as he dug through a pile of books. “He broke four when the car that fellow was driving hit him.”
“That lunatic hit you with a car and you never told me?!”
“Catherine ... I ... ”
“You held me tighter than you’ve ever held me last night, and you never once complained about any pain.”
“I didn’t feel it then,” Vincent whispered.
“How self-centered I must seem to everyone Below. I bet you woke up Father late last night to help you, didn’t you?!” Both men blushed, and Catherine knew it was true. “Vincent, how do you think it makes me feel when I find out that you put your own pain aside to take care of mine?”
Father stepped forward gingerly. “Catherine, no one here thinks any less of you because of the choices Vincent’s pig-headedness causes him to make.”
Catherine could see the sincerity in his eyes and she chuckled. “Thank you for saying that, Father.”
He kissed the side of her head as he put his arm around her. “I’m going to guess neither of you has eaten yet this morning. Why don’t you go now and get William to make you something before the noontime rush?”
Vincent nodded. “I could go for something, and I know Catherine is hungry.”
Catherine blushed. “I was rushing to get here and didn’t think about eating. Father, I know it’s early but will you join us?”
Father smiled, pleased that he had been included. “I’d like that, Catherine, thank you.”
Despite the fact that they arrived early, the community members still managed to bombard Catherine with their presence. She smiled for the next two hours as person after person came up and visited with her, either offering their well wishes or railing against the man who did this to her. The children drew her get-well cards, and she found herself praising each one as it was presented to her.
Finally things were starting to die down and they made their way back to the library. They were visiting quietly when Mouse came running up. “Present for Catherine ... ”
Mouse leaned back proudly. “Plan. Mouse make. Fix balcony ... not get watched anymore.”
Catherine looked at the changes Mouse wanted to make to her balcony. It looked like an army fort: brick walls were constructed that, unless you were over eight-foot tall, would block any view of the city. It was cold and impersonal, and she became angry that she actually thought about doing it.
She dropped the paper on the table. “It is safe, Mouse, but no, thank you! I won’t surround myself with brick walls. I need to be able to live ... to breathe ... I won’t let anyone take that away from me ever again!”
Vincent felt the anger fade from her as she became emotional yet again. The stress of the past few days hadn’t left her, and she broke down in tears. “Catherine…” he said as she began to cry.
Father smiled at an upset Mouse. “Mouse, your heart was in the right place ... but perhaps you should go now.”
“Not mean to make Catherine cry. Sorry.”
Catherine looked at him and shook her head. “It’s not your fault, Mouse,” she said as the tears overtook her.
Father frowned and motioned to Vincent to go to her. He lifted her into his arms and, with a nod to Father, took her to his chamber. He walked over to his bed and set her down in the center. When he made to back away, Catherine grabbed his shirt front. “Please, stay with me.”
Vincent silently took off her shoes, then kicked off his own before he climbed into bed next to her. Catherine snuggled against him as Vincent held her in his arms. He reached down and drew his blanket over them. Catherine cried again but soon enough she was fast asleep. Vincent held her for a while, then slowly felt himself go to sleep as well.
Father peeked in on them a short time later and swallowed down the instinct to break up their embrace. He smiled as he walked away, and then sent word they were not to be disturbed.
Four hours later, Father peeked in again, and was surprised to see them still asleep. He knew the stress they’d both been under these past few days, and he figured it had finally caught up to them. Worriedly, he made his way back to the library.
An hour later, Catherine slowly walked into the room.
“Catherine, come sit.”
He looked quizzically at the doorway. “Vincent?”
“Good. Are you feeling better?”
Catherine half-heartedly smiled. “Yes, although I think I need to apologize to poor Mouse.”
Father chuckled. “I explained to him why his idea wouldn’t work. He understood ... I think.”
“I’m not sure why I keep breaking down like this.”
“You’ve had a lot of stress lately. What that man did to you was unthinkable. He terrorized you with his knowledge, knowing you wouldn’t go to the police. That, and a near-death experience ... trust me ... you’re allowed a few tears.”
Catherine laughed. “A few? Poor Vincent. He’s done nothing but hold me for two days while I cry on his shoulder.”
“Yes, I’m sure it was a hardship for him,” he said as he rolled his eyes sarcastically.
Catherine cocked her head quizzically and asked tentatively, “Father ... um ... do you ... approve of our relationship?”
Father sighed aloud. “Catherine, what I have learned these past two years is that it is not really up to me how you and Vincent ... um ... progress. I ... only ask that you ... go with care.”
Catherine felt the shock of his words, then the approval and love with which they were expressed. “Thank you, Father.”
Vincent stepped into the doorway and Father looked up again. “I knew you wouldn’t be too far behind.”
He poured a cup of tea as Vincent came over and took it from him. “Thank you.”
“I’m glad to see that you’re both doing better,” Father said as he looked back and forth between the two of them.
“How are your ribs?” Catherine asked.
Vincent took a deep breath. “They’ll be tender for a few more days. I should be able to make it to the balcony by next weekend.”
“No!” Catherine said adamantly. She blushed when she realized how forceful it sounded, and quickly tried to cover it up. “I’ll come here until Father says they’re completely healed.”
Vincent frowned at her unusual behavior as Father grabbed a book from the corner of his desk. “This just came from one of the helpers. You two may enjoy it.”
Vincent took the book gratefully and looked over at Catherine. “Perhaps you’d like to go read by the falls.”
Catherine smiled. “It would be quiet.”
“And relaxing ... ” Father added. “Just what the doctor ordered. Go ... before someone discovers you’re awake.”
They left and, with a quick stop at Vincent’s chamber for a blanket, the happy couple headed to their favorite site. They spent a leisurely night reading to one another and, after a late night snack provided by William, Vincent walked Catherine home. The next day was spent much in the same manner, and Vincent walked her home once again.
“Work tomorrow.” Catherine sighed. “Back to reality.”
“Yes.” He cocked his head curiously at her feelings. “Are you afraid?”
Catherine thought about it for a minute. “No ... I guess not. I know it’s over.”
“It is. And you’re safe now.”
Catherine thought in her mind about all the things that could have been unearthed in the investigation she knew was conducted over the weekend. She thought of possible pictures of her and Vincent on her balcony and, unwilling to share her knowledge with him, she smiled. “Yes.”
“Take care, Catherine.”
“You, too, Vincent.”
Catherine went into the office on Monday, and Greg Hughes was with Joe in the conference room.
“Cath, come in here, please,” Joe asked.
Catherine wondered at the seriousness in his tone, and moved warily into the room. “Hi, Greg.”
Joe motioned to a chair. “Sit.”
Catherine did as she was asked, and Joe nodded to Greg. “Greg found dozens of pictures in your stalker’s apartment ... ”
Catherine’s stomach rolled as Greg came over and handed her a huge manila folder. “This is off the record, Cathy. I saw a few and stopped looking. The thought of it disgusts me.” Catherine thought he meant pictures of Vincent, and she ripped into the envelope while Greg continued. “I’m sorry, my guys saw just a few before I took them all away. They said you should change with the drapes closed.”
Catherine blinked in surprise. “He had nude pictures of me?!”
“The guys all swear you still had on your bra and panties. No one saw any more after that. Look through them ... take out what you feel is embarrassing, leave me the rest. I’ll make sure no one sees them.”
Joe clapped Greg on the back. “Hey, I was just about to get Greg here a cup of coffee. I’m sure if any pictures make their way into this empty folder, no one will care.”
The two men left, and Catherine looked through picture after picture. She carelessly threw the pictures of herself to the side. There were a few in which she was in her bra and panties but everything was covered, so she didn’t care.
She gasped when she came across a few pictures of Vincent. She settled down again when she realized his facial features weren’t that distinguishable but she put them to the side anyway. She neatly tucked the few negatives of Vincent in the file folder, as well.
Joe peeked his head into the doorway. “You all right?”
“Yeah, Joe. I’m done. I only took a few pictures and the negatives.” She looked at Greg then came forward and gave him a hug. “Thank you. I owe you one, big time!”
Greg smiled as she headed out the door.
Joe was flipping through the pictures and shook his head. “What the hell did she take?! She left the ones where she’s half naked!”
Joe looked at him angrily. “I better not see copies of these finding their way through the precinct!”
“They won’t. I promised her they wouldn’t.”
“All right! I’ll see you later then.”
Joe walked up to see Catherine. “Hey, Radcliffe. How you doing?”
“I’m good, Joe, thanks.”
“Did you go to the hospital at all, or ... ?”
“A family doctor checked me over,” Catherine lied easily.
Joe nodded his approval. “Good. I hope you took it easy this weekend ... you know ... crashed out on the couch ... watched some sappy movie.”
Catherine thought of her quiet weekend with Vincent. “No, actually, Saturday I slept almost all day, and Sunday ... I spent the day reading.”
Joe made a face. “Don’t you read enough here? When I want to relax, I like to just lie on the couch and watch a game ... ”
“I’m not much for watching sports on TV.” Catherine smiled as she thought to herself, “That’s exactly why there can never be anything between us.”
“Well, to each his own, Radcliffe.” Joe shrugged, then looked at her seriously. “Take it easy this week, all right? And…uh ... make sure you’re available for some questioning.”
“There really isn’t much of a case against this guy. He stalked you, and now he’s dead.” Joe frowned as he looked at her. “But someone got you out of that trunk, and I bet that same person killed this guy ... ”
“Joe, I wish I could. I just don’t remember anything!”
“Yeah ... I know. Greg thinks your Good Samaritan is some gang member.” He smiled at her shock and continued. “Someone ripped that hood off that trunk. We still can’t figure out how. Then that guy was cut from top to bottom with three deep slashes ... kinda reminded me of when that vigilante nut was running around, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember,” Catherine said huskily.
“These gangs come up with new weapons all the time. This is one I hope never becomes popular.”
Catherine tried to change the subject and plant ideas in Joe’s head. “So, what’s Greg’s theory? Some gang sees what this guy’s doing to me and decides to help?”
Joe nodded slowly as he pondered her comment. “Could be ... you were on their turf, and they thought you were one of their own.”
“That’s why they dumped me on dry land then cut out when the cops came ... ”
“More than likely ... ”
“I owe my life to a street gang. That’s a new twist.” Catherine chuckled.
Joe swallowed hard. “I never thought I’d hear someone say that ... but I’m glad you can. I tell you, Cath, I was never so afraid in my entire life.”
Catherine sighed. “Me, too. Thank you for being there when the reality of it finally caught up with me.”
Joe knew she meant her breakdown in his car. “It’s all right, Radcliffe. I know you’d be there for me ... ”
“Yeah, I would, Joe.”
Joe blushed. “Get back to work now, will ya?”
Catherine turned to her files as Joe went to his office.
The following week was pretty quiet. She was questioned by a few different detectives but luckily her story was always the same, and they all came to the same conclusion. She didn’t know anything.
Each night that week after work, Catherine would stop Below to see Vincent. Most of the visits were short in length but, by Thursday, Vincent was starting to question her reasons. Confused, he headed to the library to ask Father.
“Vincent, come in. Did you see Catherine already?”
Vincent nodded. “Yes, I just left her at the threshold.”
“It’s not good, Father!”
Father was confused. “Why not?”
“She’s coming here each night so I won’t go to her.”
Vincent sighed as he sat down in a chair. “I told her that I would come to see her tomorrow night, and she refused. In fact, she became angry with me and said she liked coming Below.”
Father’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “She’s trying to protect you!”
“Yes ... that, and for her Below means safety. She’s afraid to be on the balcony, and she’s slowly withdrawing from her own world ... ”
“And she doesn’t even see it. Vincent, I think you should ... gently insist you meet on her balcony. You have to help her face her fears.”
“How can I do that when she comes here first every night?”
“Perhaps you should go to her now ... surprise her, just don’t stay long enough to upset her.”
Vincent stood. “It’s worth a try. I’ll be back, Father.”
He rolled his eyes as the usual “be careful” warning accompanied him out the door.
Ten minutes later, he could see a light on in her bathroom as he stood outside in the moonlight.
Catherine came through the door and startled when she saw him there. She ran frantically to the doors. “You shouldn’t be here!”
“I needed to return this,” he said as he lamely handed her a book.
“You came here to give me a book?!” she exclaimed as she looked around nervously at the lights of the city. “What if someone sees you?!”
“You don’t know that for sure!”
“No, but I know I miss coming here and being with you. I don’t want to lose that.”
Catherine had tears in her eyes as she looked up at him. “Neither do I, but ... ”
Catherine closed her eyes and nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Vincent slowly drew her into his arms. “There’s no need to apologize. We’ll take it slowly if you need to. I’ll come tomorrow night ... we’ll go from there.”
Catherine nodded and then watched as he left.
As she lay in bed, she thought about all he said and knew he was right. She smiled as she rolled over and made the decision to show him how unafraid she was.
The next night, Catherine moved all her candles out on the balcony. She lit them all and sighed as she realized how beautiful it looked.
Vincent jumped down lightly behind her and put his arms around her waist. “To think we almost lost this.”
Catherine turned in his arms and smiled. “Thanks to you, we didn’t.”
“It’s beautiful out here tonight. The candlelight makes the colors of your hair come alive.”
“I remember thinking about how courageous it was to approach me after all that time.”
“And I remember seeing the acceptance of me in your eyes.”
“This balcony did that for us! But still ... ” She looked nervously out into the city. “Someone could be watching ... ”
“We can’t be afraid, can we? We can’t let that stop us.”
“This balcony is our window, our vantage point, and ... perhaps, Catherine, someone behind one of those lights is watching and smiling on us.”
Her perspective slowly changed. “Perhaps they are.”
“It’s a much nicer way to look at it, isn’t it?”
“Oh, Vincent ... you have the amazing ability to look at something and always find the beauty in it. I love that about you!”
He cocked his head shyly as he took her in his arms. “You make it easy to see the beauty in things, Catherine.”
“No, just very grateful.”
“We’ve endured much.”
“Yes, we have, and I know that in the deepest part of who I am that, whatever happens now, Vincent ... we will endure. We will.”
“Yes,” he said quietly.