BEHIND THE SCENES
“WHERE’S THE HOPE?”
SEVENTEENTH IN THE SERIES by Kathy
by Kathy De
“Hey Cath ... ” Joe called out across the office. “Can you come in here a second?”
Joe never cracked a smile as he closed the door behind her. Catherine frowned at his seriousness. “What is it, Joe?”
He walked behind his desk and put his
hands on his hips and asked brusquely. “Where are you at on the
Catherine’s brows rose in surprise. “Um ... I interviewed the sister yesterday. She confessed that an old boyfriend had been harassing the family and admitted seeing him near the house the day before her brother was shot. The doctors think the brother will wake up in the next few days but the mother swears that before the ambulance came she thought he said the name Kenny ... which just so happens to be the name of the boyfriend ... ”
Joe let a small smile escape. “Good ... what about the Mandel case?”
Catherine shrugged. “The neighbor confessed during questioning. We’re just waiting for the autopsy to confirm the time of death.”
“No luck ... I had a few leads but they didn’t pan out. I’ve got a couple of the interns tracking down people from a list of phone numbers Rita gave me but ... ”
“Tell Escobar and the interns to turn all the info over to Williamson when they get it ... he can take over from here. What about the Riskowski case?”
“Everything is done. They don’t have a defense. I think they’re trying to build one so they asked for a continuance until next week but we’re ready for court. It should be cut and dry ... ”
“Give the files to Cooper. He can represent me in court.”
“Joe, what’s going on? You’ve never questioned me before on my cases ... why now?”
Joe sighed as he sat down. “Do you remember the Marci Walker case?”
Marci Walker was a woman who had been continually abused by her husband. Each time he apologized, she would find herself trusting him. She forgave him and took him back and then he would wait a little while and abuse her again. Finally one day, she stabbed him with a kitchen knife. The irony was not lost on Catherine as Stephen Bass, an old boyfriend, had visited her about the same time, and she was pulled into trusting him just as she always had in the past until one day he kidnapped her, and Vincent had to come to her rescue.
Catherine snapped awake from her musings. “Yeah, of course I remember.”
“About that same time you asked
“Well, I got one ... a big one. I could really use your help.”
“Of course, Joe. You know you don’t even have to ask.”
“I mean it, Cathy! I need to know that you’ll be right beside me every step of the way ... ”
“It might require a lot of late nights ... ”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “So what else is new? C’mon Joe, fill me in.”
Joe grabbed a file and handed it to her as he flashed a warning look. “It ain’t pretty!”
Catherine opened the file and looked down at the first picture. Her stomach rolled in protest as she covered her mouth and groaned. “Oh, God!”
Tears were pooled in her eyes as she looked at him. “He’s just a baby! He can’t be more than six years old!”
“He’s five ... he was five.”
Catherine thumbed through the other pictures and each one was as equally disturbing as the first. “Where do we start? Do the parents have any idea who did this?” Joe’s face clearly held the answers to her questions and Catherine sputtered angrily. “Don’t tell me they did this him!”
“Okay ... I won’t tell you they did it. But one of them did it. The father is the one who’s being accused. His defense is his wife did it. He claims she’s unstable. Get out of here ... take the file home with you ... read the whole thing. Tomorrow we’ll meet and come up with a strategy.”
Catherine stood and nodded. “Joe, I won’t let you down. I promise.”
“Thanks, Cath. I knew I could count on you to have my back.”
“You took a chance on me when I needed it ... I’m just repaying the favor.”
Joe laughed and punched her arm mockingly. “You did that a long time ago, kiddo!”
Catherine smiled as she walked back to her desk and started to organize her files.
To clear up odds and ends of her other cases, Catherine stayed later at the office than she thought she would before she finally headed home. She changed into her bed clothes and then made herself a light dinner. She ate her dinner as she relaxed on the sofa and watched the evening news. A reporter came on telling about the arrest of Richard Nolan, a big shot on Wall Street, who was accused of beating his son to death.
She knew the name sounded familiar as she
reached for the file in her briefcase. Seeing his name on the reports,
she sighed aloud. “Oh great! A high profile case! Every idiot in
She carried her dirty dishes to the sink, then made a face as she went to her table to spread the file out in front of her.
She glanced at the pictures briefly before she set them to the side and started to read the report. Several times she gasped as she held her hand over her mouth in horror. She continually swiped at the tears falling from her eyes as she sat and wondered what the last few moments of this boy’s young life had been like. Despite doing her best to control her feelings, she knew Vincent would have felt her distress and would be coming to her tonight.
Vincent had felt Catherine’s deep sadness for the past few hours. Having waited patiently for the darkness to descend on the city, he walked into the library. “Father, I’m going to see Catherine.”
Father nodded knowingly. “When you mentioned earlier that she was overtaken with great sadness, I knew you would be heading to see her. Is she still ... ”
Vincent interrupted. “Yes, I want to be there for her.”
“Of course you do.”
“Goodnight, Father. Don’t wait up.”
Vincent turned to leave as Father called out a warning to his back. “Be safe!”
A short time later, Catherine wasn’t surprised to hear the light tap against the window, making her aware of Vincent’s presence.
Sadly, she walked outside and looked up at him. No words were exchanged, but he could see the mixture of emotions on her face.
“What is it, Catherine? What makes you so sad?”
“Sometimes I see things and I can’t help but wonder if there’s any hope left for any of us.”
Vincent knew she was making a general statement about mankind and he tried to figure out where this was headed as he replied quietly. “I’ve known that feeling.”
“A father beats his child to death ... ” she handed him a picture and Vincent went over to hold the pictures up in the moonlight to get a better look while she continued. “What does that say about us? About our world and the way we treat each other?”
Vincent’s stomach rolled as he looked at the picture and slowly walked back. “Evil exists ... it’s real ... we know that ... but when it touches real children ... ”
“It tells us that no one anywhere is safe!”
Vincent stood next to her once more. “We have children living Below with us who have suffered more in their young years than anyone should be allowed to in a hundred lifetimes ... ”
“Where’s the hope?”
He reached out and gave her lower arm a gentle squeeze. “Within you ... within us ... we must not let it die ... we must protect it for each other ... ”
Catherine knew he was right and she was trying desperately to rise up and fight against this atrocity, but she kept thinking about how that little boy must have felt as he took his last breath.
Vincent reached for her hand. “Are you involved with this? Is this a new case?”
“Yes ... I’m backing Joe up. I’ll do his footwork for him. While he mans the front line, I’ll feed him information.” Vincent cocked his head curiously and she gave him her first real smile as she explained. “He’ll be the one to actually speak in court and as things come up I’ll hand him notes to help with the case.”
Vincent nodded. “Do you trust Joe?”
“With my life, why?”
“Then trust that he’ll do everything in his power to see that justice is served.”
Catherine nodded as she moved closer and laid her head against his chest. “I know he will, but we have so much work ahead of us if we want to make sure no one walks away from this.”
Vincent’s arms automatically came around her as he lowered his head to whisper in her ear. “How can I help?”
Catherine lifted her head and looked up at him. “I don’t know ... I should be reading the files over and over again to see if there’s something in the parents testimonies that we’re missing ... ”
Vincent slowly backed away. “Perhaps I could read them with you. Maybe together we’ll be able to see something.”
Catherine wavered uncertainly. “I don’t want you to have to see the ugliness of my world.”
“Sometimes, Catherine, that ugliness leaves your world and comes into mine. Please, I want to help.”
Catherine nodded and went back inside to grab the rest of the notes. She and Vincent sat down at the table while she began to read through everything. Vincent gasped in shock a few times, but he remained quiet until she was through.
Catherine grabbed a pen and paper and started jotting down notes. “Okay, supposedly the father was at dinner with his older daughter, Amy, leaving the mother home alone with the boy.”
“Yes, but the first officer on the scene reported that the mother ... ” Vincent glanced at the notes. “Molly, seemed confused and every time she told him what happened, her story changed.”
Catherine looked at her notes again and frowned. “Right, first she said he was out at dinner, then she said he had in fact been there then left and then she finally got angry and told the officer to ask her husband himself if he wanted to know where he’d been ... .She’s clearly covering for him, but why?”
Vincent looked away disgustedly. “Because she’s probably being abused herself ... she’s afraid, Catherine.”
“How do you know that?”
“The signs are there.”
“I don’t get it! Her son ... her five year old son ... was just murdered! How could she even think about trying to protect her husband?!”
“Perhaps she couldn’t ... ” Vincent said as he fixed her with a level gaze. “She tried but with no hope of bringing her son back ... she knew that to put herself in further danger would do the boy no good anyway.”
Catherine thought about it then nodded slowly. “That explains the inconsistencies in her stories.”
“Yes, she was probably worried that the same fate awaited her. Abuse usually follows a pattern. I’d be surprised if this is the first time he’s ever hit anyone in the family.”
Catherine nodded. “I’ll look back through the medical records of each of the family members. If you’re right, then one or maybe all of them will have had unexplained bruises or broken bones in their files.”
“It certainly wouldn’t hurt to start there ... ” Vincent grabbed the pen and jotted down the idea. “So what do you think your first course of action will be?”
Catherine thought for a second, then answered. “I need to question Molly by herself. I need to get her to admit that her husband did this. Even then, I’ll still have the hurdle of the daughter’s testimony that she was with her father, but if I can prove the daughter’s lying ... .”
“Most likely, the daughter was touched by this same evil as her brother and she’s afraid of the father as well.”
“Well then Molly is going to have to tell the truth for once!”
“Catherine, Molly’s feeling very vulnerable right now. She’s alone and afraid. She’ll need a friend ... she’ll need to have someone on her side who understands what she’s going through.”
“But I still don’t understand it, Vincent! How could she have let her child down like that?!”
“She’s been beaten and abused ... she’s weak, Catherine. Not everyone has your strength.”
Catherine smiled as she lovingly looked over at him. “Not everyone has you on their side supporting them. Thank you, Vincent for being here.”
Vincent smiled shyly as he stood. “You’re feeling better. I should let you get a good night’s rest.”
Catherine stood and took a deep breath. “I am feeling better. We have a long road ahead of us. We’re going to win this ... but it means I might not get to see you much during the coming weeks.”
Vincent held her gently, then slowly backed away. “Have faith that all will go well and know that I’m always near.”
“Goodnight, Vincent,” she said as he disappeared over the side of the balcony.
As was his usual custom, Vincent would check in with Father before retiring for the night. He was headed to the library when he was side tracked by a noise he heard coming from the boy’s dormitories.
He stood in the chamber doorway and looked inside. All of the boys were asleep, but Vincent could have sworn he saw the image of the boy in the pictures he’d seen earlier on Catherine’s balcony.
He blinked his eyes but the image was still there lying on the bed. The boy was moving slowly and whimpering in pain. Vincent blinked again and started to walk forward but the image was gone.
He leaned back against the side of the rock wall and sighed. He knew he’d be haunted by those images for quite awhile. He pushed off the wall and headed to the library.
“Vincent.” Father smiled as he walked in.
“I just came to tell you I’ve returned.”
Father cocked his head curiously at his son’s somber mood. “Is everything okay with Catherine?”
Vincent shrugged as he sat down. “She’s working on the murder case of a five year old boy.”
“That must be heartbreaking.”
“What’s heartbreaking is that the father is probably the one who murdered the boy.”
“Dear God!” Father gasped. “I will never understand it! How could any person do that to their own child to ANY child for that matter? How could they allow themselves to engage in such a beautiful endeavor as childbirth only to destroy the amazing results of their labor?”
“It’s despicable ... this man is despicable!” Vincent lamented angrily.
Father frowned worriedly. “Well, all we can do is hope that Catherine sees that justice is served.”
“Father, the images of that boy’s lifeless, beaten body are haunting me as we speak.”
Father sighed and put his hand on Vincent’s shoulders. “Son, we can’t save them all.”
“I know but, Father ... ”
“No, Vincent! Don’t do this to yourself. We have to remember all of the ones we have been able to help. How many abused children have been raised here and then gone out to become useful members of the world Above? You were a part of making that happen ... this entire community is a part of making that happen. Rejoice and be thankful in that.”
Vincent sighed and nodded. “We have helped out our fair share.”
Father smiled. “More than our fair share, and we will continue to help any more that need it.”
“Yes ... ”
“Try to get some sleep, Vincent.”
“I will. Goodnight, Father.”
Vincent spent the night tossing and turning in bed, caught up in the throws of a nightmare that wouldn’t end until the boy he sought was resting peacefully.
The next morning, Catherine headed to work early. She and Joe came up with a plan of attack and the first part included Catherine interviewing Molly. She told Molly her husband had to pay for what he did to their son. Molly refused to testify against her husband but it seemed like she was wavering in her answers. Catherine later told Joe that Molly should be prosecuted for being an accessory to her son’s murder because she allowed it to happen.
Joe explained that their only hope was in Molly reneging on her earlier testimony. Catherine wasn’t sure they could convince Molly but in a few short hours they would be going to court to find out how long they had to do it in.
Joe and Catherine stood side by side in the courtroom and listened in shocked silence as the judge awarded the defense certain privileges with the case. Because Richard Nolan was such a well known and respected member of Wall Street, he was going to allow television cameras in the courtroom and the trial was to begin in less than a week.
They left the courtroom and were immediately bombarded by the news media. Catherine lagged behind as Joe had microphones and cameras shoved in his face. He gave the standard speech until one reporter pushed him too far and Joe grew angry, snapping out a truly inspiring retort about justice being served. He and Catherine hopped into an open elevator and they sighed with relief as the doors closed on the frenzy.
Catherine smiled as they exited the elevator. “Looks like you’ll be dealing with that throughout the whole case.”
Joe grinned. “Yeah ... it will sure go a long way towards securing positions for everyone in the DA’s office. This case couldn’t have come along at a better time.”
Catherine’s face contorted with disgust. “Thank God Richard Nolan brutally killed his son during an election year!”
Joe winced when he realized how bad it sounded. “I didn’t mean it like that ... ”
Catherine shook her head as she tried to push her anger aside. She knew that Joe hadn’t meant it the way. “Let’s just start focusing on our case.”
“Yeah ... ”
They went back to the office, sat down
and worked all afternoon together. Catherine furiously wrote down things
she would need to look up for Joe as he paced the room and rattled off
cases and precedence’s from other trials.
In disbelief because he was taken off the case, Joe walked out of the office and left a stunned Catherine standing alone. She thought about following him and explaining what happened but she was in just as much shock as he was. She frowned at his back as she saw him walk into the elevator. She knew he needed some time to think things through and she knew he would come around eventually to help her out.
Catherine took all the papers she and Joe compiled to the conference room and spread them out across the top of the desk. Knowing it was near quitting time, she quickly ordered several of the interns to bring her various books from their library. She remembered seeing Devin buried under a pile of books frantically trying to put together a case and she wondered if she looked just as desperate right now. She hoped her first draft wasn’t as rough as his was as she slowly began to compose her opening statement for court.
Every once in a while she heard a noise and looked up hoping to see Joe standing there offering his help. Each time she was disappointed that it was only a janitor or one of the security guards, and she would have to shake off the feeling of loneliness and push on alone.
It was after when she looked up and saw what time is was. She wiped at her burning eyes and thought of Vincent. If she ever needed to feel his arms around her, gently offering his love and support, it was now. Exhausted, she headed home and fell into bed fully clothed and was sound asleep within minutes.
Vincent showed up not long after that. He had felt her exhaustion and came to her. He slipped inside her apartment where he took off her shoes and then covered her with a blanket.
“Sleep well,” he whispered before he quietly let himself out once again.
The next day was no better; Catherine went to court alone. She was surprised that Joe was nowhere around, but she gathered her strength and presented their case.
She was given the same treatment as Joe had been the previous day and as she left the courtroom, she was bombarded by the media. She was furious with him right now, but she wished he was beside her, helping her deal with this. Instead, she let her anger get a hold of her and she admonished the media for treating this case like it was celebrity news.
She went back to the office and noticed
Joe’s door closed and the lights off. She looked over at the
receptionist and pointed to his door. “Hey,
“He left earlier, Cath. He said he had to do something for his mother ... ”
Catherine grabbed her files and headed home and once again fell into an exhausted sleep.
That same night, Vincent was walking the streets, being haunted by the images in his mind of the little boy. He rounded a corner and stopped in surprise as he saw Catherine’s face on every television screen in the front window of the local electronics store. The first thing he noticed was how tired she looked and the sadness in her eyes. Then he listened to her words and felt a burst of pride at her strength and determination.
He heard a noise behind him and once again chased after an elusive shadow that wouldn’t leave his mind.
Joe managed to avoid Catherine most of the morning by going to court with some of the less important cases.
By afternoon, she was able to corner him in his office. “Hey, I’m interviewing Molly Nolan in a minute. Do you have some time to sit in there with me?”
Joe looked up and shook his head. “No ...
I’ve got an appointment. We had a lead on the
Catherine tried to hide her anger at his hiding behind an excuse of a case that had no hope of going to prosecution. “Can’t Williamson interview the witness?”
“Are you the only person working here? Williamson needed help! We’ve come to find out it was a professional hit. The witness is probably going into the Witness Protection Program ... This is what ... the 2nd or 3rd talk with Molly Nolan ... you can handle it, right?”
Catherine tried to hide her hurt and she bit her bottom lip as she turned away. “Yeah! I can do it alone!”
She left his office and headed to interview Molly in the conference room. Molly said she would testify tomorrow and Catherine was pleased she was able to convince her to stand up for herself and her son.
As Molly began to leave, she turned to Catherine. “I hope I can do this ... ”
Catherine saw the fear in her eyes and nodded. “You can!”
After Molly left, Catherine sat heavily down in her chair. She knew that if Molly wavered in her testimony they wouldn’t have a strong enough case to convict Richard.
She worriedly gathered up all of the paperwork and headed for her desk. Joe’s blinds were closed but his light was on and she tapped lightly on the door.
“Yeah?” his voice called out. Catherine squared her shoulders and stepped inside and Joe frowned as he sat back in his chair. “What’s up?”
“Molly said she would testify tomorrow.”
“I’m worried she won’t be able to do it. If she backs out ... ”
“You’ve got no case!”
“Yeah ... what do I do then?”
Joe shrugged nonchalantly as he got up from his chair and grabbed his coat. “Worry about it when it happens.”
Catherine stood there in stunned silence as she watched him leave. She headed to her desk and sat for another three hours and worked in the now empty office.
Exhausted and feeling alone and like the world was conspiring against her, she left work, then headed Below.
Catherine stood in Vincent’s door and looked into his empty chamber, a single candle the only source of light.
“Vincent, is that you?” Father’s voice carried around the corner.
Catherine stepped out into the tunnel way. “No, it’s me, Father.”
“Oh, Catherine! It’s late.”
“I ... came by to see Vincent ... I ... only wanted to see him for a moment but ... ”
Father sighed. “He’s not here.”
“I can see that.”
Seeing her distress, Father cocked his head knowingly. “What’s wrong, Cathy. Can I help?”
Catherine’s eyes filled with tears as she shrugged. “I don’t know ... I just needed to talk to Vincent.”
“To Vincent or to anyone?” Catherine shrugged again and Father stepped forward and put his arm around her. “Will a grumpy old man with a sympathetic shoulder do?” The tears fell freely as she nodded and he patted her shoulder comfortingly as he steered her to the library. “Well, come on then ... tell me.”
He sat her down in a chair and poured her tea, then sat back quietly as she began to unload her problems.
“I was assigned to an abuse case in which the father is accused of murdering his son.”
“Yes, Vincent mentioned it.”
“I was supposed to help my boss, Joe, with the case ... you know ... research everything ...”
“The leg work ... ” he interrupted.
“Yes.” Catherine smiled before she quickly looked down again. “Then our boss comes in and announces that I will be the one who will be speaking in court, not Joe.”
Father frowned as he looked at her. “But that’s a good thing isn’t it? Congratulations, Catherine.”
Catherine snorted sarcastically. “Yeah ... Except he’s only using my past as a victim in hopes of getting the sympathy support of the community.”
“I’m sure that’s not true, dear ... ”
“Oh, he admitted it, Father!”
“Oh.” Father thought for a moment, then shook his head. “No! That can’t be the only reason. Surely he wouldn’t take the chance of losing the case. He must have faith in your abilities.”
“Abilities! I’ve only been to court a handful of times, Father! He knows that! He’s taking an awful big gamble!”
“Perhaps ... but I know if you put your mind to it, you’ll do a fine job.”
“I wish I had your confidence.”
“I’m sure ... um ... Joe ... is it ... will help you gather the information to make your case.”
Catherine shook her head as tears pooled in her eyes. “Joe was so upset about being pulled off the case he walked out on me earlier.”
“Vincent said he was a good man, he’ll be back.”
“And if he doesn’t? I’ve been working alone all night tonight ... I feel like I’m in over my head. I don’t know if I can do it and the murdering bastard is going to walk free and it will be my fault!”
He could see the exhaustion in her eyes and on her face and he felt for her as he reached over and patted her hand. “So you came here tonight in search of some comfort from Vincent?”
Catherine swiped the tears from her eyes and nodded. “I guess I just needed a hug.” She realized what she said and her eyes opened wide in horror. “I ... mean ... ”
Father laughed aloud as he stood suddenly and gave her a quick hug. “I understand ... but you may have to settle for that, I’m not sure when Vincent will be back.”
She smiled weakly as he sat back down. “Do you know where he is?” Father frowned and looked away and Catherine grew concerned. “Father?”
“He’s not sleeping well. The news of this case has disturbed him greatly.” Father sighed. “Catherine, he told me he keeps seeing images of the boy who was killed. He dreams the child is crying out to him for help and he can’t ... he’s frustrated that there’s no way to get to the boy.”
“I never should have told him about it. Now I’ve brought this ugliness to his world.”
“Don’t be silly, Catherine. You should be able to share things with him. You had no way of knowing what Vincent goes through when this touches our world.”
Clearly puzzled by his comment, Catherine frowned. “What do you mean?”
Father looked down and played with a piece of paper on his desk. “The abuse that happens in your world often filters down to ours.”
“Vincent said almost the same thing.”
“Catherine, haven’t you wondered why there are so many children Below?”
“I ... Vincent told me that people come here to heal and to learn to be strong. I remember when Margaret came back and we were searching for information on you, I was surprised by how little Vincent knew about your previous life ... he told me then that the past is often left behind and your community respects that privacy about one another.”
Father shrugged. “Privacy for adults is one thing but the children who manage to find their way Below ... ”
“Most of them were found alone in the streets up top. They were abandoned or abused ... left to fend for themselves. One of us or one of the helpers finds them and we bring them Below. That’s when the real work begins.”
“What do you mean?”
“They have no concept of trust. Sometimes they’re almost animalistic in behavior.”
“That’s hard to believe! Looking at any one of them now, you’d never believe they had a hard life.”
“The ones we get under ... say ... the age of five are a little easier to deal with. Mary, Sara, and myself are usually able to safely handle them.”
“Safely?” Catherine wondered aloud.
“Yes, sometimes when they’re older ... they ... um ... need to be restrained first.”
“Restrained! Don’t tell me you tie them up!” Catherine gasped angrily.
“No, of course not! But we do put them in seclusion in a chamber, alone with an adult who works with them to establish that trust.”
“For how long?”
“For as long as they need. Each case is different.”
Catherine thought about the anger of some of the kids when she went to the juvenile homes searching for Eric and Ellie. “And if the child refuses help and starts to fight back?”
Father grimaced. “A terrified child has an amazing amount of strength and only someone with an equal amount of strength can restrain them.”
Catherine’s eyes grew wide with realization as she sat back in her chair. “Vincent has to do it, doesn’t he?”
“It must take a terrible toll on him each time.”
“It does, the stories he hears the children tell ... are horrifying.”
“I can imagine ... ”
Father nodded. “Some of them are less horrifying then others ... You, of course, know about Mouse. We don’t know how he came to be Below but Vincent had a horrible time keeping a hold of him. He was one child I thought we would have to restrain. He would get away, then let Vincent catch him again. I guess he thought it was a game. Vincent spent many hours afterwards teaching Mouse to eat civilly and to speak.”
“I could guess that Mouse was a handful,” Catherine smiled.
“Zac was worse! He was only eight and spoke like a truck driver. His father had abandoned him on the interstate. He was a real fighter! We locked him in Vincent’s chamber for almost a week before Vincent felt Zac had calmed enough to be around other people.” Father let out as small chuckle. “He came around beautifully, and Laura, you know was abandoned in the park. She was easier to handle because she was so young, but her hearing loss presented its own unique challenges.”
“Of course. Who else?”
Father blew out a long breath. “Geoffrey was found sitting alone in an apartment. He was only five when the helper who owned the building noticed a horrible smell in coming from their room. He opened it to find Geoffrey’s grandmother dead. She had passed away a week earlier. The poor boy was crying in hunger. The refrigerator was opened and the food was spoiled but somehow he had survived. He had eaten all the dry cereal and peanut butter and jelly he could find but ... ”
“He couldn’t get out?”
“The door had a deadbolt he didn’t know how to use. He was so scared when the helper walked in he hid under the bed his grandmother was lying in.”
“Oh, that poor baby, I’m surprised Child Protective Services didn’t take him.”
“The helper who owned the building had been raised in the foster care system. He knew Geoffrey had no other family so he coaxed him out and brought him to us.”
“How was he?”
“Well, Vincent’s voice, as you know, can be quite soothing. I held Geoffrey tightly while Vincent sat behind a curtain and read stories to him. Geoffrey relaxed and after a few days got the courage to peek around the corner of the curtain.”
“He climbed up on Vincent’s lap and fell asleep.”
“I know exactly how he felt. He trusted Vincent just because of the kindness in his voice.”
“I wish they were all that easy.” At Catherine’s curious look, he continued on relating stories. “Kipper was found hiding in the park. The other children brought him Below when they were playing with him and discovered some infected wounds on his arms. They were cigarette burns he got from the aunt who was raising him.”
“Ohhhhh, Father!” Catherine gasped.
“His parents had died and the biological uncle had died three months before. The aunt was an alcoholic who didn’t want the responsibility of a child ... ”
“Thankfully he got away from her!”
“Yes, and we healed his wounds but sometimes you can’t heal everything.”
“What do you mean?”
“One of them has had such a traumatic event in her life she may still experience emotional trauma later in life.”
“Dear Samantha is the worse case we ever had. Vincent sat with her and held her and read to her from almost every book in the library. He would read for hours on end each day, then watch over her as she whimpered in her sleep. The next day it would start all over again. It was weeks before he gained her trust.”
“What happened to her?”
“She was found sitting on a curb in
Catherine’s stomach rolled as she thought about what came next. “Oh, my God! Father, please tell me he didn’t ... ”
Father nodded his head as tears came to his eyes and he brushed his hand over his beard. “He did ... but it gets even worse. A group of men had paid for the honor of being the ‘first.’ From what she told Vincent she was made to stand naked in front of them and ‘auctioned’ off to the highest bidder.” Catherine gasped and tried to catch her breath as Father continued. “The ‘boss’ then auctioned off second, third, and fourth place.”
“That poor, poor little girl!”
“Yes, it took time but she’s adjusted well enough. I think most times she’s basically a happy child. I’m worried about when she discovers boys in the next few years. We may have some old memories to deal with.”
“Maybe you’ve been able to show her enough real love that she won’t be as affected.”
“From your lips to God’s ear.”
“If there’s ever anything I can do ... any way I can help ... ”
“We’ll ask, I promise.” Catherine tried to hide a yawn and Father patted her hand. “You should go and try and get some sleep.”
“Yes, I am tired. Thank you for listening, Father,” she said as she stood and kissed his cheek.
Father smiled weakly. “You are quite welcome my dear.”
“Tell Vincent I’m sorry I missed him.”
“I will, goodnight.”
Vincent once again went to Catherine’s apartment but she was asleep and he refused to wake her. He admonished himself for being lost in his dreams as he headed Below.
“I’m back, Father,” he said as he headed into the library.
“Vincent, Catherine stopped by earlier.”
“I just stopped by her balcony. She was sleeping so peacefully I didn’t want to wake her. Perhaps I should go back and ... ”
“You will do no such thing! That poor woman needs her rest,” he waved his hand dismissively in the air. “She said she just needed to talk,” he grinned devilishly at Vincent. “Actually, she said she needed a hug ... ”
Father chuckled as Vincent blushed, then grew remorseful. “I should have been here for her!”
Father patted his hand. “I told her I knew I was a poor substitute, but we had a long talk. I think she was in a better frame of mind when she left.”
Vincent sighed with relief. “Thank you, Father, for being there for Catherine.”
“I told you, Vincent ... I would be on the side of the river bank waiting for both of you ... ”
Vincent smiled as he looked down. “We should get some sleep.”
“Yes. Um ... one of the helpers has been sending down updates on the case about three times a day and the newspaper is coming here like clockwork every morning. If you’d like to read any of them, they’re on the table in the dining chamber.”
“Thank you, maybe I’ll glance at them tomorrow.”
The next day, Molly backed out on the
witness stand and her testimony had to be thrown out because she refused
Catherine felt the bottom drop out of her case as she scrambled for ideas. Luckily it was late in the day and she was able to ask for continuance which the judge granted. Rather than face the reporters again, Catherine stayed in the courtroom until it was dark and she knew the reporters would be gone.
“I’m glad to see you,” she said.
“It’s not going well.”
“But the helpers bring glowing reports.”
“Not anymore. We’ve had a setback.”
“I underestimated the power of the man we’re prosecuting. I underestimated his control! He sits in that courtroom with the best defense lawyers money can buy, listening to the atrocities that he’s committed with cold, dead eyes. He’s making a mockery of this trial and of a child’s death, and I can’t do anything!”
“You must continue fighting!”
“Even if there’s nothing you can do, you must do it for the child ... for his memory and for all if us that who refuse to accept that child’s death alone ... in a room ... that child’s suffering must not be forgotten.”
“It won’t, Vincent.”
“It must not be forgotten ... ” he stated angrily. “ ... Because that child stands in judgment of us all.”
Because of her conversation with Father, Catherine knew why the anger was in his voice. She reached out her hand and touched his arm as she sighed. “I promise, I will do my best to see that justice is served. I won’t let you down.”
Vincent blinked in surprise at her before he sighed and took her hands in his own. “I’m sorry, Catherine. I didn’t mean to put any more pressure on you. It’s not your fight alone, it’s all of ours.”
“I’ve been so wrapped up in my anger at Joe for leaving me high and dry I forgot to think about your support ... your faith in me. I’ll have to remember that you’re here for me.”
“Always. Carry that with you into the courtroom.”
Vincent pulled her into his embrace and hugged her tightly. “I’m sorry I can’t be there beside you ... ”
“You will be ... ”
Vincent frowned. “Catherine ... please ... how can I really help?”
Catherine sighed and began to pace. “I was able to get the judge to give me a continuance. Amy Nolan is the daughter. She’s testifying that her father was with her ... I have until next week to find holes in her story ... She’s just as afraid of that monster as Molly.”
“I don’t understand what Molly could have been thinking. If the sister had horrendous crimes being committed against her ... when Molly found she was with child, why didn’t she make the ultimate decision to take the boy to someone who could raise it with love?”
Catherine shrugged helplessly. “Sometimes a couple makes the decision to have a child in the hopes that it will bring them close again ... it rarely works. I wonder sometimes if the child would have been better off not being born ... ”
Vincent shook his head disgustedly. “Raised in an abusive home ... having it be the only life you’ve ever known ... ”
“Usually the kids grow up, runaway ... end up on the streets ... ”
Vincent looked down at his hands. “Or as babies they end up abandoned ... left to die ... alone ... cold.”
Catherine looked over at him and knew he was referring to his own circumstances. She could feel his pain and gently reached over to take his hand into hers. “And sometimes, those babies are lucky. They’re found and raised with love and end up being an essential part of the community.”
Vincent lowered his head and sighed. “Yes.”
“It’s the weekend, Vincent. I need to get away from all of this! Can I come Below? Would it be possible to just spend some quiet time with you?”
Vincent nodded. “Yes, I’ll switch my sentry duty with Mouse; we’ll have all weekend ... ”
“I’ll be down tomorrow.”
Catherine did spend the weekend Below. They spent Saturday morning playing board games with the children and in the afternoon they relaxed in the Chamber of the Falls reading to one another. Saturday night they caught a concert in the park and stayed snuggled up on their pillows and blankets talking long after everyone had left the area. Sunday morning they repeated the whole thing over again.
Sunday night they were sitting in the Dining Chamber with Father, Mary, and Pascal. The light-hearted chatter kept them entertained until well after dinner. Catherine glanced at her watch and realized how late it had gotten.
“I need to head back.”
Mary got up and hugged her. “It has been wonderful having you Below this weekend. The children can’t stop talking about the Scrabble game.”
Vincent groaned as Catherine smiled. “They were surprised that someone could beat their teacher.”
Pascal gasped. “You beat Vincent at scrabble?!”
“It was just dumb luck.”
Vincent growled. “She was ruthless! Her vocabulary is amazing.”
Father laughed aloud. “Eric told me she won with the word ox!”
Pascal and Mary erupted in laughter while Catherine looked away to hide her smile.
“I was a triple word score.” Vincent grinned as he stood and reached out his hand. “I’ll walk you out.”
Catherine laughed as she stood and said her goodbyes, then followed him through the tunnels.
They stood at her threshold and Catherine turned to him and sighed. “Back to the grindstone tomorrow. Thank you for taking me away from all of it ... even if it was only for two days.”
“You’re welcome Below at any time.”
Vincent stepped forward and she melted in his arms. They swayed gently as she drew strength from him then gently backed away.
“That should hold me until the weekend.”
Vincent caressed her cheek. “I’ll come to you before then.”
Catherine nodded, then turned to climb up the ladder.
Monday morning, Catherine received word that for personal reasons, the judge was continuing the case until Friday. She received word the next day that it was now going to be continued until Monday. She was relieved to have the extra time but soon discovered Joe was just as unhelpful. His coldness was starting to take its toll on her as she worked Rita relentlessly, trying to find information she could use in court.
At the end of the week, Rita finally came forward with a stack of files but Catherine was so worn by Joe’s attitude all week she decided to head home to read through them.
Exhausted by the time she got home, she left the files on her table as she headed to bed.
Catherine spent all day Saturday cleaning
her apartment and grocery shopping. She and Vincent saw another concert
in the park and after he walked her home she promised to spend the day
with him tomorrow.
Her phone rang and she groaned as she rolled over to grab it. “Hello.”
“Cath? Did I wake you?”
Catherine smiled at the friendly voice. “No, Jen. I just got up.”
“It’s Saturday! Besides, I worked late again last night. I was exhausted.”
“I bet! Now that you’re in charge of putting a well known big wig from Wall Street in jail ... I bet your free time is pretty limited.”
The phone was silent until Catherine hesitantly asked. “How did you know I was heading the case?”
Jenny sighed. “It’s why I called. Did you see the front page of the Times yet?”
“Oh, Cathy! I’m so, so sorry to be the one to tell you ... you’re on it!”
“What do you mean I’m on it?”
“There’s a picture of you on the front page!”
“One of the ones they snapped when I was leaving court?”
“No ... you should be so lucky. They ... um ... got a hold of the old police files somehow. It’s the picture of you right after your accident.”
“Stitches and all?”
“What did the article say?”
“What was the article about, Jen?”
“I ... don’t know ... I saw the picture and called you!”
Catherine groaned. “Well, go grab it and tell me what it says!”
Catherine heard the phone get set down and Jenny talking in the background as she walked over to her table to get the newspaper.
“Okay, I got it ... ” Catherine could hear the phone being picked up again and she guessed Jenny was reading it. “Um ... it says that the DA’s office ploy to use you as a victim has backfired ... ”
“Great!” Catherine interrupted. “Never mind I’ve heard enough ... ”
“I’m sorry, Cath.”
“What do I care? It happened and it’s over with ... ”
“Yeah, Jen. Dad’s not here anymore to be affected by the bad memories and I lived it! I put that past me a long time ago.”
“I don’t know where you find your strength!”
Catherine thought of Vincent and smiled. “It comes to me from somewhere deep Below the city!”
Jenny laughed. “Does it bubble up through the plumbing in your bathroom?”
“Eighteen floors up? No ... I think it blows in through the balcony doors!”
Jenny was still laughing. “Look, I’ve got a shipment of books coming any minute ... I just wanted to give you a heads up.”
“Thanks, Jen. How about dinner Tuesday?”
Jenny consulted her calendar. “Oooo ... I don’t know ... Um ... yeah, if it’s late ... like around 8:00?”
“You got it! Bye, Jen.”
Catherine hung up and stared at the phone. Impulsively she dialed Joe’s number and sighed when the machine picked up.
“Yeah, Joe. It’s Cathy. I ... uh ... I
called to apologize again but then I realized this wasn’t any of my
fault. I was no more aware
Catherine got up and took a shower then headed Below.
Father was getting himself ready for the day when Michael entered the library.
Father came out of his chamber and smiled. “Michael!”
Michael shrugged. “It’s okay. It’s a lot like here. There are always people milling around in the hallways of the dorms.”
“And your schoolwork?”
“Pfffttt ... piece of cake ... well ... I have a tutor for Math ... you taught us calculus so long ago, I’ve forgotten some of it. And English Lit ... we’re studying Shakespeare ... Hamlet ... .” Michael started laughing. “I sleep a lot in that class ... the professor hates that when he calls on me I can recite almost any part of the text!”
Father tried to hide his smile. “Well ... not many children in the public schools up top study Shakespeare so extensively!”
“Yeah! And not many of the teachers know it as well as Vincent!”
The two men chuckled as Father sat down. “So what brings you home Michael? Are you just here to visit?”
Michael reached into his case and brought out a folded newspaper and handed it to Father. Father took it, a question in his eyes. “You came down to bring me a newspaper?”
“Open it!” Michael said seriously.
Father looked down and gasped when he saw the front page. “My God!”
On the front page was the picture of Catherine. Her face looked as it did the day she left the tunnels after her horrible attack.
“Did she really look like that, Father?”
Father nodded as he grimaced. “Yes ... I’d forgotten how bad it was.”
“I can’t believe this is her!”
Father glanced at the article and saw that it was only derogatory comments about the DA’S office using Catherine’s notoriety as a victim to gain public sympathy. “Useless article! I don’t think Vincent needs to see this!”
“See what?” Vincent asked from the door.
“Vincent!” Michael gasped as he stood.
“Michael ... ” Vincent said as he hugged him. “It’s good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you too, Vincent.”
Vincent stepped back and looked at both men curiously. “Now ... what is it you two are hiding from me?” Both men looked away as Vincent rolled his eyes. “What is it I’m not supposed to see?”
Father frowned and handed him the newspaper.
Vincent saw the front page and sucked in a breath, then sat down heavily. “Sometimes ... I forget how bad it actually was.”
Michael leaned forward. “It must have been horrific!”
Vincent’s thumb ran lightly over Catherine’s image. “Yes.”
Father nodded in agreement. “I never admitted it, Vincent, but I was never so afraid in my entire life. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to save her.”
“Save who?” Catherine said from the doorway.
Michael grinned. “I’ve forgotten how non-private conversations are Below.”
Catherine blushed. “I’m ... sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude ... ”
Michael nodded shyly. “Hi, Catherine.”
Catherine came and put her arm around his shoulders. “It’s good to see you, Michael. How’s school going?”
Father grinned proudly. “Michael was just telling me how easy English Literature class is ... ”
Catherine smiled devilishly. “So was Juliet the woman you were talking about? The one you couldn’t save?”
Not wanting to get the wrong impression, Vincent frowned and took her hand then guided her to the edge of his chair. “We were just talking about your picture on the front page of the newspaper.”
Catherine saw the paper in his hands and put her hand out. “I hope it’s a good one!”
Father was horrified. “Cathy, No!”
Catherine glanced at the photo and smiled. “They caught my bad side!”
Michael snorted with laughter while Catherine giggled. “I’m sorry, I already knew. My friend Jenny called me this morning to warn me about this.”
Father hung his head in shame. “When I saw it, I was reminded about how crudely and carelessly I stitched those cuts.”
“You know what I see?” Catherine said as see walked over by him and laid the paper open in front of him so he could look at it again. “I see stitches that were made in an emergency situation as my life hung in the balance. These stitches may be crudely done but they weren’t carelessly done. They are what kept anymore blood from leaving my body and because of that I lived. You saved my life, Father!”
Catherine laid her head on top of his as she hugged him. Father had tears in his eyes as he nodded thankfully. “I just wished I had the time to do a better job. Because of it, you had to go back in for more surgery.”
Catherine took his hands and knelt beside him. “I’ll be honest. I wondered myself at the stitches, Father. But I went to a highly skilled plastic surgeon. The best money could buy and he said that given the situation I would have had to do this anyway, that any surgeon’s first priority is to stabilize the patient. He said that even if he had performed the initial surgery he couldn’t have done it any different.”
Father patted her hand. “Your kindness knows no bounds!”
Catherine stepped away from him and walked back by Vincent. “I’m not being kind ... I’m merely stating the truth, Father.”
Vincent squeezed her hand as she sat down on the arm of his chair. “Perhaps we can speak of something more pleasant?”
They spent the next hour visiting with Michael and then the rest of the day visiting with their tunnel family.
As the day progressed, Catherine grew wearier. Finally, on the walk home, Vincent could no longer ignore her mood. “What is it, Catherine?”
Gathering strength for the battle, Catherine blew out a long breath. “I’m going in to work.”
“Catherine, it’s Sunday and it’s almost 9:00 at night. You should rest ... ”
“No, I’ll rest later ... I have to go over my notes for court tomorrow and I need some of the legal journals.”
Vincent frowned as he nodded. “I’ll leave you then ... ”
Catherine hugged him quickly. “See you soon?”
“Yes ... ”
Catherine made a thermos of coffee and packed some crackers and headed to the library at work. She was buried at a back table when Joe came up behind her.
He had listened to her message and felt like a heel. He had seen the morning paper and gasped as his stomach rolled in protest. He had never seen these photos before and hadn’t realized exactly how bad her attack had been.
He walked to her apartment and knocked on the door. When she didn’t answer, Joe turned to leave and almost walked into a blond teenage boy.
“Sorry,” Joe mutter.
“Its okay… Miss Chandler’s not here.” The boy said as he slipped an envelope under her door.
Joe nodded. “Okay, thanks, I guess I’ll just see her at work tomorrow.”
“You work with her?”
“You’re her boss.” The boy smiled and extended his hand. “I’m Brian. I live a few floors down. Miss Chandler’s mentioned you before.”
Joe’s look turned to curiosity. “Really? What’d she say about me?”
Brian shrugged. “No much, just your name.”
Brian started to walk towards the elevators. “She left for work about an hour ago.”
“Uh, huh, she said she needed the library there.”
Joe made his way into the office, then caught up to her at a table in the library. He apologized for not being there for her and offered to help. Catherine forgave him, then presented him with the file of Amy Nolan’s medical records. Joe knew where she was heading with it and told her to go with it.
The judge ordered that closing statements be made the next day. Catherine went home and practiced her speech in front of the mirror. She was nervous the next day but felt confident in the strength of the speech.
Joe watched in horror as he realized Catherine was going to wing it. The attorney finished her speech and Joe was about to lean over and tell Catherine to ask for a continuance when she got to her feet and started to address the jury.
As he heard her go through the motions, his chest swelled with pride. He watched the juror’s faces for signs and wondered if she may have possibly swayed some of them but their faces remained impassive.
The court went into recess while the jury deliberated and a lone man slipped quietly from the courtroom.
Father and Vincent were sitting in the library when Steven, a helper, walked in. “Father, I have it!”
Vincent looked at Steven then Father curiously. “Have what, Steven?”
“I just came from the courtroom.”
“The jury’s come back already? Is that good?” Father wondered.
Steven shook his head. “No, that can take hours sometimes ... but I did record the closing statements from the two attorneys. Would you like to hear them?”
Father waved him over while Vincent brought a chair for him to sit in. The room was silent as the defense attorney spoke. They listened carefully and Father sighed at the end.
“I’ve been in their courtrooms ... that woman is quite amazing.”
Vincent nodded while Steven laughed aloud. “Wait until you listen to Catherine’s speech ... she was fantastic!”
Father and Vincent heard Catherine’s voice come over the recorder.
“We have just heard … that Richard Nolan is a man suffering from a disease. He passed that disease to his wife we’re told, she passed it to their son and the boy…died from it ... very simple ... and the name that’s been given this disease is abuse. Well ... I will agree that there is a disease here and I will agree that Richard Nolan suffers from it but I won’t agree that it’s contagious and I won’t agree that it’s fatal and I won’t even agree to its name!”
“Good girl,” Father said proudly.
“Shhh ... ” Vincent admonished.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to tell you about a place ... it’s a special place I know where this disease does not exist. It’s a place that many people go to when they’ve been in pain and when they’ve been abused. So the disease does come there but it never stays.”
Father gasped in horror wondering if Catherine was about to reveal their secret but Steven patted his hand and shook his head as Catherine continued.
“It is in our hearts ... in that room where hatred and cruelty do not belong. I have told you that Richard Nolan’s disease needed a different name. The name I would give it is heartlessness. Only a man with an empty heart could brutalize and terrorize the ones that loved him. I believe that Richard Nolan has no heart and I believe that the proof of that is on Molly Nolan’s lonely face. And we also know why that woman could have never hurt her child ... she sat on that stand when all of us knew what Richard Nolan had done to her and still she could not speak against him because she knew that to do so would bring pain to someone that she loved. Molly Nolan has a heart. I am asking you to go to that place in your hearts to find justice for a brutally murdered little boy. That place is where the truth lives ... that place is where each of us carries the cure to this terrible disease ... thank you ... ”
Steven was smiling widely as he shut off the recorder. “I told you she was good. I had to come down and let you guys hear her at work!”
“She is impressive and certainly held her own ... ” Father added.
Vincent played with a paper clip. “Now it’s up to the jury to decide if the man who killed his son walks away freely or pays for his crime ... ”
Steven lowered his head as he sighed. “The jury did a good job of remaining impassive. I really couldn’t tell if Catherine swayed any of them or not.” He stood and pointed behind him. “I’m going to go back ... I’ll bring word as soon as we hear ... ”
Vincent watched the man leave and wished it was him heading to Catherine’s side. He wished he could be next to her when the verdict was announced.
Above, Catherine and Joe waited outside
“Good work, Miss Chandler.”
Catherine saw the sincerity in the woman’s eyes and reached out her hand. “It’s Cathy ... and thank you.”
“You know ... I was pretty sure of my win
when they took Maxwell off the case here ... I mean ... you’re lack of
trial experience was astonishing and I was sure the sympathy card would
blow up in
Catherine cocked her head sweetly. “Is there a point you’re trying to make Ms. Sheets?”
“The point?” Joe asked.
Joe gasped as Catherine looked at him. “Go for it, Radcliffe ... ” he whispered.
Catherine smiled as Richard Nolan walked
“Well ... you’re not Boggs or McMillian so I’m assuming that you don’t have much of a choice on the cases you take.”
“So you sold your soul to the devil and defended a child abuser for a paycheck?”
Catherine shook her head in disgust and
Catherine walked away while Joe trailed
Joe grabbed Catherine’s arm and turned her to face him. “You sure about this, Cathy? I mean come on ... the pay alone ... ”
“Is enormous!” Catherine cocked her head to the side as she looked at him pointedly. “Didn’t you learn your lesson from Erica? Most times, Joe, the pay is just not worth it!”
An hour later, it was announced that the jury had reached a decision.
Catherine turned to Joe. “That’s bad isn’t it?”
They were both truly shocked when the jury found Richard Nolan guilty as charged. They had won the case.
Joe excitedly grabbed Catherine’s hand
and congratulated her as Richard was led from the courtroom by the
Joe helped Catherine leave the courtroom and get past the photo hungry newsmen. They went back to the office where a celebratory party erupted.
After putting in an acceptable amount of time, Catherine went to Joe. “I’m heading home early. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Joe was feeling slightly tipsy when he nodded his head. “You want I can leave here with you and maybe we could go have dinner somewhere?”
“Um ... some other time? I’m supposed to meet Jenny.”
Joe hid his disappointment. “Yeah, okay, Radlciffe.”
Catherine left and went home to change, then head Below.
Vincent had been playing chess with Father as he tried to ignore the stress Catherine was feeling. Finally he felt a wave of excitement come through the bond.
“What?” Father asked.
“I think she may have won the case! She’s beyond happy ... ”
“You don’t know for sure! She could have seen a puppy for Pete’s sake!”
“I don’t think so ... she was worried, then aggravated for some reason, then slightly amused. It was quiet for a while, then she felt intense worry, then excitement and happiness.”
Father nodded. “Well, I’m sure we’ll hear soon enough!”
Vincent stood. “I’m going to the Whispering Gallery for awhile.”
“To try to find the child’s voice?”
Vincent ignored him and left.
Catherine found Vincent and told him the good news. She was amazed to find the whispers silent. Vincent explained that sometimes when the winds shift they would disappear.
He held her to him as they reveled in the silence.
Catherine looked up at him and smiled. “I think I know why they’re silent ... ”
“I think they’re at peace right now. Justice was served and that little boy is able to move on to whatever comes next.”
Vincent agreed with her and hugged her close. “You did that for him.”
“We did it! You helped me find the hope!”