BETWEEN THE LINES
THERE’S STILL HOPE
THIRD IN THE SERIES BY KATHY DE
An angry Joe walked up and threw a file on Catherine’s desk. “Here’s the damn Schafer case!”
Catherine picked it up and looked up at him. “I thought that was settled. With Peter’s testimony and the lab results of the drug screen, we proved Darlene was drugged the night she killed her husband.”
“They got a continuance. They said the husband was the one who brought the drugs home and it was his fault that the stuff he bought was laced with something. They said he was trying to kill his wife...”
Catherine shrugged. “Let me guess. We’ve got to get the body exhumed and get a drug test done on him.”
“Sounds crazy...but there it is. Interesting thing about this whole case...the husband’s supplier was Ramsey!”
Catherine sat up excitedly. “So if we can link Ramsey to Schafer then we finally have enough proof to put Ramsey away for good.”
Joe tapped the side of his head. “Good thinking; make it happen! We also have the O’Mara case.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “Is there anyone left in this city who hasn’t committed a crime that’s drug related?”
Joe nodded. “It does seem to be getting crazier out there. That time of the year, I guess.” He turned to walk away. “Get me the Ramsey stuff before you leave?”
With a wicked smile, Catherine saluted him. “You got it, boss!”
She opened up the file and sighed then let her mind wander back to a time three months ago.....
She had walked into the office early that morning and sat at her desk.
stuck his head out of his office as he called to her. “
Catherine’s eyes blinked in surprise. “Excuse me?”
Joe rolled his eyes. “I mean, did you wear a skirt today or do you have pants on?”
Catherine smiled, wondering why on earth he needed to know this. She stood and showed him her leg. “Black pants.”
Joe came closer and eyed her shoes. “Boots, too! That’s good.”
Catherine shook her head in confusion. “Is there a reason we’re talking about my wardrobe choices this morning?”
Joe looked up. “Oh, yeah, sorry. I wanted to ask if you could come with me and Chambers. We need to go down and interview some...witnesses...at the garage on McEntire?”
Catherine’s nose wrinkled at the thought of the place known to house homeless drug addicts. “Are we taking back up?”
Joe smirked. “I think Chambers and I can cover your back. You scared?”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “No, not of the addicts, just of the slime buckets that go down there and feed them their drugs. They’re usually armed...”
“They don’t come out in the morning.”
“Oh, so no one buys drugs during the day?”
Joe laughed. “Good point. Look, if we go early enough, the junkies will be coming down off their high. We may be able to get some answers.”
Catherine shrugged as she shook her head and frowned. “What good will that do? It won’t be admissible in court.”
“Well, it may give us some leads to work on...” Joe shook his head as he realized he was explaining his actions. “Look...you in or not?”
“I’m in. What time?”
She nodded and he turned to leave then turned back.
She looked up at him.
“I’ll call for back up. I didn’t think about the dealers coming around.”
Catherine went to Joe’s office three minutes before . He finished his phone call, looked at his watch then nodded. “Let’s roll.”
They stopped at Chambers’ desk and he quickly got to his feet and followed behind them. Joe and Catherine settled into the back seat of the taxi while Chambers sat in front by the driver.
The taxi driver heard the address but didn’t want to take them to their destination. “Forget it! That neighborhood’s no good!”
Joe flashed him a smile. “Are you attempting to obstruct justice?”
The driver stared at Joe and tried to determine if he really could be charged with a crime.
Joe rolled his eyes and sighed. “Chambers...read him his rights!”
The driver pulled up to the front of the building and slammed to a stop. “I got you here, now give me and get out.”
“!” Joe grudgingly gave him the money. “Will you wait?”
“Yeah, right!” The driver chuckled as he drove away.
The three scanned the area and saw that nobody was a particular threat to them so they headed for the warehouse.
A cruiser pulled up and an officer got out. “Hey, Joe, Cathy….” He looked pointedly at Chambers.
Joe followed his gaze and pointed at the new guy. “That’s Chambers, Scott Chambers...Scott...this is Dave Thompson.”
Scott waved and the officer nodded then turned back to Joe. “I’ll open the door. Be ready for anything.”
He opened it quickly and the smell that assailed them had Catherine retching, “My God!”
The four of them entered the warehouse. Catherine could see men and even a few women lying in different spots all over the area.
Chambers kicked a syringe out of his path. “This is disgusting. How can these people choose to live like this?”
Dave shook his head. “They don’t choose it. It chooses them. Some of these people were professionals at one time...accountants, insurance salesmen, that lady over there used to be a nurse.”
Chambers looked over to where he was pointing and saw a woman rocking back and forth looking at the clouds. “Why the hell is she here?”
Dave chuckled. “Man, you lead a pretty sheltered life, don’t you? She got hooked. She was successful, got hooked, and blew everything on drugs. Now she’s here instead of sleeping with her husband and two kids. Look around, there’s story after story down here.”
Catherine scowled. “It’s a vicious cycle.”
Dave nodded. “Yeah, they need help to get into rehab then when they get out no one will hire them because they used to be junkies, so they end up using, getting their money turning tricks, selling blood, stealing.” He followed the scent of death behind a dumpster. “This is where they always end up.”
Catherine retched again but managed to hold it together. Joe grimaced with disgust and Chambers walked away, unwilling to even look.
Dave shrugged. “I need to call this in. Wagon will be here within 20 minutes. You guys got that long to try to find someone to talk to then I’ve got to fill out paperwork for John Doe here.”
Catherine and Joe took off and caught up to Chambers, who was already trying to interview a person. Catherine shook awake at least eight people who couldn’t even focus on her face. They had drool coming from their mouths and half-closed eyelids.
The last guy she walked up to cringed at her touch. She gasped when he scooted away from her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you. I just need to ask a few questions.”
The guy looked up and Catherine realized he was only a boy, no older than fourteen. He looked at her with eyes that were clear and she frowned. “You don’t use, what are you doing here?” Her eyes flashed angrily. “Are you selling?”
The boy looked frantically around. “Shhh, lady! Damn! No, I ain’t selling, I’m looking for someone.”
“Your brother? Is this a con?”
The boy sighed. “No, my parents kicked him out ‘cause he uses so much. I saved enough from my summer job. I want to get him started in rehab.”
Catherine narrowed her eyes, trying to decide if she could trust him. “What’s your name?”
“Kyle, Kyle Tanner.”
“My name’s Catherine. Look, Kyle, what makes you think your brother wants to quit?”
Tears fell from his eyes. “He told me. He told me he wanted to stop so bad but the withdrawals were killing him. He was trying to wean himself off. That’s when my stepdad found out. He kicked Kurt out on the street.”
“Kyle, maybe your stepdad had a reason.”
“Yeah, he had a reason, all right. He’s a drunk. He kicked me out the following week because I needed to buy a book for history class, which meant my mom couldn’t afford to buy his beer that day.”
Catherine looked at him with concern. “You’re not living on the streets, are you?”
“No, I live with my Grandma. She goes and spends the night twice a week at my Aunt’s house. On those nights, I try to find Kurt, my brother.”
Catherine thought for a second. “Kyle, have you ever seen the dealers that come down here?”
He nodded. “Sure, all the time.”
Catherine leaned forward. “You’ve seen their faces? Do you think you could identify them?”
He chuckled. “Yeah, why?”
“Kyle, I’ll make you a deal. You come with me and help us make a composite sketch, maybe look through some mug shots. I’ll have every cop on the force look for Kurt. We’ll bring him in and I’ll pay for rehab.”
Kyle scowled. “I’ll help you but, lady, ain’t no cop’s salary gonna put my brother through rehab. Don’t lie to me to get me to do what you want.”
Catherine brought out her card and handed it to him. “My name’s Catherine Chandler. I’m with the DA’s office, and you’re right. With my salary, I couldn’t even afford your brother’s drugs.” Kyle snorted with laughter and Catherine grinned back. “But I promise you, we’ll find Kyle, and I will get him clean.”
She reached out her hand to shake on the deal. Kyle leaned forward then grimaced at his dirty hand. It had some kind of dumpster run-off on it, and he tried to wipe it on his shirt. Catherine grabbed his hand and shook it before he could get it clean. She never grimaced as she looked him squarely in the eye. “Deal?”
He looked at her respectfully. “Deal. Let’s go. I imagine you could use the sketch pretty soon, right?”
“Yep, that’s right.” Catherine stood and reached into her purse for a wet nap. She handed him a similar package, and then opened the one in her hands and scrubbed the offending substance off.
He laughed at her. “Thanks. You always carry these?”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “No! If you must know, I had ribs for lunch two days ago and these were extra. I just remembered I had them.”
They walked up to where Joe and Chambers were talking.
Joe turned to her. “We had no luck.” He looked at the boy. “Who’s this?”
Catherine smiled sweetly. “It’s our witness. His name’s Kyle.”
Chambers looked at her incredulously. “No way,
Catherine shrugged and put her arm around Kyle. “I talked to one...Kyle , here.”
Chambers grumbled. “And he’s clean!”
Joe smirked then looked at Kyle. “You’ve seen dealers down here? You can identify them?”
Kyle nodded. “We’ve been through this already. I’m hungry. You buy me a meal, a sketch pad, and a pencil, and I’ll give you some pictures.”
Joe rolled his eyes. “Great, an artist! Look, kid, we have professional artists that will work with you to make the sketch.”
Kyle shrugged. “I’m probably better.” He looked at Catherine. “You like my sketches, I get whatever a cop makes for the hour...you don’t like my sketches, I’ll go to the precinct with you. Deal?”
Catherine chuckled. “You’re a bandit. You want breakfast or lunch?”
They stopped at a drugstore, where Kyle spent $5.00 on paper and pencils. They walked next door to the almost empty diner. Catherine and Kyle sat down and he looked up at Joe. “I need room to draw. You think you and Chambers could sit across in another booth?”
Joe raised his eyebrows in surprise and looked at Catherine, who shrugged.
The waitress came and Kyle ordered a bacon and cheese omelet with hash browns and raisin toast. Catherine had coffee and wheat toast.
Kyle tore off the top sheet and placed it face down on the seat next to him. He repeated the same procedure two more times. When the meal came, he wolfed down his food then picked up the pad again and sketched two more drawings.
Finally he looked up, drank down his milk, and handed Catherine all five sketches.
She took them and dubiously looked them over.
“Oh, my God, Kyle!” Joe tried to look as she gasped. “These are beautiful. You’re very talented.”
Catherine handed Joe the composite and he gasped with recognition. “Sweet Jesus! This picture’s Manny Rodriguez!”
Joe looked at another then showed it to Kyle. Kyle pointed to the bottom of the picture where he had written some words. “Johnson or John Stone, something like that...” Joe flipped the page and Kyle answered before he could ask. “Blonde chick, didn’t get out of the car but I heard one guy say Sheila. Maybe that’s her name... And the last two are just faces, no names.”
Joe shook his hand. “Sorry for doubting you, kid. These are excellent. You get out of high school and come see me. I’ll get you hooked up drawing for the police force.”
Kyle laughed. “Making that chump change? I’m trying to get a scholarship. Maybe I can work for the FBI or something bigger.”
Joe smirked. “Good luck to you. Did you tell Miss Chandler here how she can get hold of you?”
Catherine leaned forward. “Joe, Kyle and I have a deal here. He needs some help looking for his brother Kurt. I told him we’d get his description out to every cop in the city.”
Joe nodded. “We can do that! You got a picture of him?”
handed Joe a picture and smiled. “Yeah, then
Joe looked over at Catherine with surprise. She blushed and looked away and Joe knew that it was true. He wanted Kyle to know it, as well. “I’ll let you in on a secret. She ain’t paying for it with her salary. She’ll probably use that million-dollar trust fund of hers.”
Kyle looked at him curiously and Joe pointed at Catherine. “Look up her name if you don’t believe me.”
Catherine stood up with a sigh and left a twenty on the table. “Kyle, do you need money to get back home?”
“Nope, I’m good, thanks.”
“Keep in touch, okay?”
They started to walk out the door when Joe suddenly stopped and turned back. “Hey, Kyle...” He reached inside his jacket pocket and brought out a photo. “You ever see this guy down there?”
Kyle took the photo and turned it to get a better look. He nodded. “Ramsey, right?”
He chuckled sarcastically. “Yeah, all the time, almost as much as I see Manuel.”
Joe slapped his hands together. “With your testimony, we’ll have Ramsey put away in no time. Kyle...I don’t know how to thank you. What am I saying? Yes, I do! Within the next half hour, every cop in the city will be looking for Kurt. I promise.”
Catherine nodded, and she and Joe left.
Kyle was filled with hope as he watched them leave the restaurant.
Joe followed through on his promise and circulated Kurt’s picture.
Catherine dropped off some files and was on her way out when he came back with a refill on his coffee. “Hey, Cath, I put Kurt’s picture out there. I told anyone who picks him up to hold him until you get there.”
She smiled. “Thanks, Joe.”
He frowned. “You got a second?”
She shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”
She turned around and walked into his office. He closed the door behind him and she raised her eyebrows, wondering what he had to say that couldn’t be overheard.
He motioned to a chair. “Sit.”
She sat and looked up at him expectantly as he leaned against his desk and folded his arms in front of him.
She shook her head. “I don’t know. As much as the average person, I guess...” She saw that he was serious and she sighed and filled in what she knew. “They usually start out with the lightweight stuff. Pot, alcohol... The junk they buy gets laced with the harder stuff, they acquire a taste, and pretty soon they graduate to the harder stuff and become addicted.”
Joe nodded. “Pretty straightforward. What do you know about rehab?”
She rolled her eyes. “You go in, have withdrawals, get clean, go to therapy then you get out.”
Joe leaned forward. “Yeah, you get out, and almost all of them relapse and go right back to using.”
Catherine frowned. “Almost all...so there is some success?”
Joe frowned. “Unfortunately, not a big enough percentage.”
“Why are you telling me this, Joe?”
“’Cause of Kyle. I like the kid, Cath. I’d hate to see him disappointed. His brother’s chances are slim that he’s going to stay in rehab...”
She stood up angrily. “So you should just write him off for dead?!”
Joe’s brows furrowed. “No! I just don’t think two or three weeks in a rehab center will be enough to break a pretty bad addiction. Look, do you remember how it was when you were investigating Hector Ocala’s murder? You were drugged, and it took you a long time to finally trust me. You ran from me that night. Thank God you finally let me help you when you sat in the cruiser. Don’t you remember how sick you were?”
She frowned. “I remember vomiting on you, and I remember having the shakes the next few days.”
“Yeah, and you got slipped something, what - once or twice? Kyle’s brother has been addicted for a while now. He’s got a hell of a haul in front of him, and it ain’t gonna be easy.”
“Well, then Kyle and I will just have to be strong for him, won’t we?”
“You’re still gonna pay?”
She shrugged. “I made a promise. I’ll get him into a better facility and hopefully talk to his grandmother. Maybe if she gets involved, the future won’t look so grim.”
Joe shook his head. “Yeah, maybe. Good luck with that. Oh, and one other thing...” Catherine turned back to look at him and he smirked. “That’s a pretty nice thing you’re doing for him. I wish sometimes I had the means to reach out and help someone.”
“You help in other ways, Joe. Like here, where it counts. You put the scum away, and each time you make it a little bit nicer out there...”
She smiled and headed to her desk. She put in another long day and left late, exhausted by the workload.
She got home and changed into pajamas. She sat on her bed then looked over at the phone. She checked the clock and debated calling then reached for the phone and dialed.
On the third ring, Peter picked up. “Hello.”
“Peter, it’s Cathy.”
“Sorry to call so late...”
Peter waved his hand. “I had an emergency c-section, I just got home.”
“Did it go well?”
“Yes, yes. Mom and baby are doing excellent. Now, what can I do for you?”
“Peter, I need to know if you can steer me towards a good rehab center?”
Peter frowned and shook his head. “I’m sorry, Cathy. Did you say a rehab center?”
She heard a sigh come over the line. “What, Peter? What is it?”
“Well, it’s just that the relapse rate of addiction is so high. Unless you get into an intense regiment the user tends to slip back into their old habits.”
Catherine frowned. “So I hear. Well, can you point me in the direction of a center with intense regimens?”
He laughed and rattled off a few names. “Check into those first. Some of them are kind of pricey but they are well worth it.”
“Thanks, I’ll start first thing in the morning.”
“Good luck. Let me know how it works out. Good night.”
Catherine grabbed the phone book and jotted numbers down next to the names. First thing in the morning she would call and see what the deal was on each of the facilities.
The next morning, her phone rang a half an hour before her alarm. She groaned and reached for the receiver. “Hello.”
“Radcliffe, Wake up.”
“Auugh, Joe, what is it?”
“I got a call from the 5th precinct. Kurt Tanner was picked up last night. He’s in pretty bad shape.”
Catherine sat up and rubbed her face vigorously. “Wonderful. Look. I need to make a few phone calls. Then I’ll head down there. Thanks, Joe.”
Catherine got up, grabbed a pad of paper and pen, and proceeded to call all three facilities. She mentally chose one and told them to expect her and a patient sometime this morning.
She hopped in the shower and thirty-five minutes later was sitting in a cab on her way to the prison.
She walked in and headed to the main desk. “Good morning, Kelly.”
The girl looked up from her typewriter. “Hey, Cat. What the hell are you doing here this early?”
“You got a guy here that was picked up last night. I’m going to try to get him into rehab but I need to talk to him first.”
Kelly groaned and Catherine grew alarmed. “What, Kelly? Don’t tell me he’s dead?”
Catherine blew out the breath she’d been holding. “Kelly, I need to use your phone.”
Kelly picked it up and hit a button for an outside line. Catherine dialed Kyle’s phone number and an elderly voice answered, “Hello.”
Catherine debated about telling the woman anything. Kyle picked up another line. “Hello.”
Catherine tried to sound like another teenager. “Kyle, what’s up? Cathy Chandler...”
The elderly voice piped in. “Kyle, honey, it’s for you. I’m hanging up now.”
“Yeah, Kyle. I didn’t know what to do...”
He laughed. “It’s okay, Gram’s pretty cool.”
the police found Kurt...but he’s really sick. He’s at
“Yeah. I just talked to Gram last night. She’s on board, she’ll bring me...I know she will. We can be there in…half an hour?”
Catherine imagined him looking at a clock. “Good! I’ll meet you there.”
Forty-five minutes later, Catherine watched Kyle lead an elderly woman down the hallway. She stood and slowly approached them.
They stopped in front of her, and the elderly woman grasped Catherine’s hand. “You must be the dear who is going to take care of my Kurt...”
Catherine smiled and nodded. “I’m Catherine Chandler.”
“Iva Tanner. Pleased to meet you.”
Catherine shook her hand. “I’m pleased to meet you, as well. Mrs. Tanner...”
The women puffed up her chest indignantly. “Mrs. Tanner was my mother-in-law. Just call me Iva.”
Catherine laughed. “Okay, if you call me Cathy.”
“Deal. Now, where is my little Kurtis?”
Catherine nodded towards a closed curtain. Iva walked in slowly and Catherine followed her in. Kyle hovered uncertainly in the doorway.
Iva turned to look at him. “Well, get your butt up here and greet your brother.”
Catherine hid her smile as Kyle stepped closer. He looked down at all the tubes and his face grew pale. Catherine stepped closer to him but Iva leaned over and took his hand.
“Looks just like your Grandpa did when he was here. Just a bunch of tubes doing important stuff.” She began to point at tubes. “This one’s got medicine, and this one’s got some vitamin stuff; all this mess here is just recording what his heart and brain’s doing...nothing to be afraid of.”
Kyle nodded and stepped forward. He leaned over. “Hey, Kurt, it’s me.”
Iva nodded approvingly at him and prompted him on.
“Oh, and there’s a friend I made when I was out looking for you. Her name is Catherine...I mean Cathy Chandler. Kurt, man, she’s gonna pay if you want to get some help. You can do it now, just like you said!”
Kurt was unresponsive.
Iva stepped forward and took his hand. “Kurtis, it’s Grandma. Now, this nice young lady has agreed to help us, and I think you need to wake up and tell us that you agree to take her up on her offer.”
Kurt’s eyes opened a slit and he stared at his grandmother.
She sighed. “Well, goody for you, you opened your eyes. Now, we’ve never been able to afford this opportunity for you and I want you to seriously consider taking her up on it. Are you willing to check into a rehab center and put this all behind you?”
He stared but made no gesture.
“Because if you are...after you’re done, you can come live with me and Kyle.”
Catherine held her breath as Iva talked, and patted Kurt’s hand.
“Okay, maybe you can’t talk yet. How about if you squeeze my hand, or blink twice if you want to do it...”
No gesture was made, and Kyle stepped into Kurt’s line of vision. “You promised me! Squeeze her hand, you butthead!”
He nodded imperceptibly and blinked his eyes while he squeezed her hand again.
Tears fell from Catherine’s eyes and she quickly swiped them away. She stepped forward and looked at Kurt. “Hi, I’m Cathy. I’ll get started on your admission and leave you three alone for a while.” She was going to head out to find his doctor when, as luck would have it, he walked in the door.
He nodded and looked at her then came to address Iva. “Hello, I’m Doctor Davis.”
Iva turned to him. “I’m Iva Tanner. Kurtis here is my grandson, and this is his brother Kyle.”
The doctor nodded to Kyle then turned a questioning eye to Catherine then back to Iva.
She shrugged. “That’s our friend Catherine.”
Catherine cleared her throat. “Why don’t I just step outside?”
Catherine nodded and stepped back.
The doctor motioned for Iva to sit down then he opened Kurt’s file. “Well, he was brought in last night, unconscious and unresponsive. A police officer ran into his cell and actually restarted his heart for him. He kept CPR going until the ambulance arrived. They stabilized him, and when he came in, we did immediate blood work. It seems like he did a pretty large mix of drugs. My guess is one of them was laced. We’ve got him sedated right now to try to minimize his withdrawals.”
Iva nodded. “Will he stay here or be taken to the rehab center?”
The doctor’s brows furrowed. “I was unaware that he was going to rehab.”
Iva looked over at Kyle then back at the doctor. “He is. We want him admitted as soon as possible.”
Dr. Davis sighed then looked at Kurt. “Mrs. Tanner. Kurt is over the age of eighteen. He needs to decide for himself whether he wants to go to rehab or not. Unfortunately, you can’t make him go.”
Iva looked disgusted. “I know that! He just told me he wants to go.”
Dr. Davis stood and walked over to Kurt. “He woke up?”
Kyle came by his side. “Yeah, just for a second or two.”
Dr. Davis bent over. “Kurt, can you hear me?” There was no response so he spoke again but louder. “Kurt!”
Kyle looked at his grandmother, who nodded her approval. Kyle hit his brother’s arm. “Hey! Butthead! The doctor needs to talk to you.”
Kurt’s eyes fluttered and opened.
Kyle smiled. “Squeeze the doc’s hand if you want to go to rehab.”
The doctor immediately reached for Kurt’s hand. He nodded when he felt a small tightening. “That’s good enough for me, Kurt. I’ll call over to Sunnyview now.”
Catherine stepped forward. “Excuse me, doctor. Can you call Candlewood instead? I’ve already made arrangements with them.”
The doctor sighed. “His insurance won’t cover any of this; Candlewood costs at least three times what Sunnyview charges...”
Catherine nodded. “I’m aware of that. Payment schedules have already been worked out. Dr. Harmon is expecting him sometime soon.”
The doctor smiled over to Iva, who was beginning to look worried. “Harmon’s good ...he’s better than good. Kurt stands a good chance of beating this if he follows their program. I’ll call Harmon now and see what he wants to do with Kurt. He may be able to go there tomorrow, certainly the day after at the latest.”
Kyle went and hugged his grandmother then impulsively hugged Catherine.
The next day, Kurt was transferred over to Candlewood. He spent six weeks there, and was sent to Iva’s home after his discharge. He had gotten a job and was working hard ever since his rehab release.
Kyle called Catherine one day at work.
Catherine distractedly picked up the phone. “
“Cathy, it’s Kyle Tanner.”
Catherine turned her attention to the call. “Hi, Kyle. How have you been?”
“Me? Good. How ‘bout you?”
Catherine heard his voice quiver. “Kyle, what’s up?”
“I didn’t know who else to call...”
“It’s okay...Tell me!”
left my stepdad and came to live at Gram’s with Kurt and me. My stepdad,
Roy, came over here drunk last night and tried to hurt my Mom. Kurt
stepped in and beat the crap out of him.
Catherine sighed heavily. “Where’s Kurt now?”
Kyle sniffled into the phone. “That’s why I called. I can’t find him anywhere. What if he’s using again?”
Catherine grimaced. She had already thought of the same scenario. “Well, let’s just keep positive thoughts that he isn’t. I tell you what though...I’ll call in a few favors and track him down again, okay?”
Kyle sighed. “Okay, thanks. Will you let me know if you find him?”
“Yep, I promise. You take care, and call me if he comes home, okay?”
Catherine hung up and immediately called over to the police station to get them searching. Kelly was on duty again and got the trace sent out. The next day, Kurt was found drunk and asleep in a box in an alley. He was brought into the station and Catherine was called. She headed over to talk to him.
Kurt looked up and groaned as she stood in front of his cell. “What do you want?”
Catherine was angry. “A refund. You went back to using.”
Kurt looked offended. “No, I didn’t! I just had a few drinks with the guys.”
Catherine gripped the bars and her eyes flashed. “You didn’t pass out in some alley from a few drinks. You know as well as I do that you can’t use drugs OR alcohol!”
Kurt blushed and looked down. “I know...I...just needed to forget.”
Catherine sighed. “Forget what? The fact that you beat up a man that was about to abuse your mother?”
Kurt looked up in surprise. “How did you...” Realization set in and he answered his own question. “Let me take a wild guess....Kyle.”
actually it was
Catherine smiled. “Yeah Now, are you going to need to go talk with Dr. Harmon?”
He didn’t answer her, so Catherine reached out to touch him. “Kurt?”
Kurt looked up with tears in his eyes. “Yeah! I do, but I know I can’t afford it.”
Catherine sighed. “Well, if you promise to keep trying, I’ll take you over to him and pay again.”
Kyle shook his head. “You would do that for me?”
Catherine grinned. “There’s still hope for you.”
A loud noise grabbed her attention, and Catherine shook herself from her memories and got back to the work on hand. She also concentrated on putting herself in a better mood. It didn’t take her long; the excitement she felt about her date tonight with Vincent quickly had her in a better frame of mind. She glanced up repeatedly at the clock as the day seemed to drag on.
Six hours later, she excitedly looked up at the clock and noticed the time. It was finally time to leave, and head home to get ready for her surprise date night with Vincent.
She packed everything up
then walked into Joe’s office. Joe was busy digging through receipts,
putting together the quarterly budget, when Catherine walked in and set
the file on his desk. “It’s a draft for the request for Ramsey’s bank
statement.” She turned to leave when his voice carried to her.
“Well...thanks, Cath, I’ll look it over.”
“All right. Good night, Joe.”
“Where you off to?”
He looked at her hopefully. “Um...why don’t you stick around? I found this great Cuban restaurant downtown...great food...maybe we could get something to eat?”
She shook her head. “There’s a concert tonight in the park.”
“I’m meeting someone...”
“Oh, you got a date?” Joe said disappointedly.
“Who’s playing? Maybe I’ll go...”
She was shocked but elaborated. “Tonight? I think they’re playing Schubert...maybe Hayden.”
Joe tried not to grimace as he shrugged. “Oh, well, when you said concert in the park, I thought maybe...”
She smiled sarcastically. “No, Billy Joel is next week.”
Joe looked disgusted. “Schubert, Hayden? You’re really interested in these culture types, aren’t you?”
Catherine thought of Vincent and smirked as she answered. “I don’t think you could call what I’m attracted to...a type.”
“No, but you know what I mean. These smooth guys who go to concerts and know all about wines, take you to all the right places...”
“Well, all I’m saying is there must be a reason you haven’t hooked up with one of these guys yet.”
“I’m talking as a friend here now...”
“Well, obviously you’re not getting what you need. Maybe you need something else.”
Catherine walked back into the office as she sighed. “Joe, I hesitate to ask, but I’m dying to know...what do you think I need? Tell me!”
“Radcliffe, you need someone whose more...solid...you know? More of a down-to-earth kind of guy. You know what I mean?”
Catherine smiled as her thoughts again turned to Vincent. “I think I do.”
Joe looked at her odd smile. He thought he had given her good advice. He wondered briefly if she was considering what he said. “You know I’m right!”
She nodded. “Yeah, you are, and Joe...” She stepped forward and gave him a hug. “Thanks for caring.”
He returned her hug and frowned as she walked away.
Catherine raced home, hopped in the tub, and took the fastest shower of her life. With her hair drying in the towel high on top of her head, she chose and rejected three different dresses.
“Damn, why didn’t I think to ask where we would be sitting? How am I supposed to decide what to wear without that information?!”
She took out the last one and knew it would be perfect for wherever they were sitting. She pulled it on and smoothed it over her hips.
She raced down to the threshold two minutes early. She looked at the ladder ruefully. “Forgot about climbing down in a dress. Oh, well.”
She turned and started to make her way down when she felt a steadying hand on her back. Her feet hit the ground and she turned to face Vincent with a huge smile on her face.
His eyes traveled down the length of her body. “Catherine, you look...stunning.”
She grinned even wider. “Thank you. I wanted to look extra nice for you tonight.”
He looked at her uncertainly. “Maybe I should’ve shown you where we would be sitting...” His voice trailed off as his nerves took over.
Catherine grabbed his hand and squeezed gently. “Doesn’t matter. Either way, we should get going. The concert starts in half an hour.”
Catherine kept up a steady chatter until they came to a stop. She looked at him quizzically. “What’s wrong?”
Vincent looked at the chamber, and for the first time saw it as it was. A piece of used carpeting lay on the ground, piled high with old pillows. He sighed and pointed inside the chamber. “We’re here.”
Catherine turned and saw the room. “You’re kidding me.”
His heart stopped for a second, fearing her rejection.
She turned to him and looked at him incredulously. “It’s beautiful.” She walked in and took a look around then smiled. “It’s like our own private box.”
Vincent tried to settle his heart as he realized she was truly pleased. “Would you like to sit?”
“Is anyone else coming?”
“No, it’s just us.”
Catherine sat down and made herself comfortable. She wriggled into the right position then leaned back against the rock wall. She looked up at Vincent. “Is this okay? Did you want to sit here?”
Vincent had noticed that she took the smaller of the two pillows to sit on. He was planning on doing that so that she would have the most comfort with the bigger pillow.
“Are you comfortable, Catherine?”
“I will be, once you sit.” She patted the pillow next to her. Vincent sank down and made himself comfortable as well.
The audience erupted and their clapping was deafening. She smiled at Vincent and whispered. “They’re going to start.”
The conductor talked briefly then the music started.
Catherine remained quiet as she and Vincent let the music flow through them.
Her favorite part was coming up. “I love this part!”
“Yes, it’s beautiful.” He looked over at her and saw her with a huge smile on her face. She was happy and he was curious as to why. “What makes you smile?”
She was so happy being here with him and sharing this together. How could she put all of her feelings into words? She gave up and shrugged. “Everything! This is a wonderful spot.”
Vincent was grateful she was happy with their spot. “I’ve spent many an evening here. I’ve heard all the great music...here.”
“The sound is remarkable. It’s like we’re in the first row.”
Catherine was looking up, and Vincent did as well. “We’re just under it.”
A thought suddenly struck Catherine. “I have been coming to concerts in the park all my life. It’s strange to think there may have been nights we were listening to the same music. That you were so close.”
“I come here and the music engulfs me and I can feel the presence of everyone sitting just above us. You’ll see when the music ends. You’ll hear fragments of conversations echo throughout the chamber and then...all will be very still again.”
She frowned with compassion. “The stillness...did it ever make you feel...”
“Alone? Sometimes, and sometimes I found a wonderful peace in that stillness.”
A blaze of light suddenly lit up the chamber. Catherine looked up to catch the tail end of it. “Lightning?”
Vincent nodded. “I think it was.”
Suddenly the rain began to fall. People Above could be heard scrambling to get to the safety of their cars.
“Vincent, it’s raining....”
Catherine was quickly getting wet but she was feeling very alive and carefree. Vincent went to remove his cloak to offer it to her. She followed his line of thinking and shook her head in refusal. “No...”
She kneeled on the carpeting and let the rain drench her. Vincent finally got over his embarrassment at their location and got caught up in her excitement, and offered her his first real smile.
She was so happy. “Oh, I’ve never...” She collapsed on top of him as she hugged him fiercely. “Vincent, this is wonderful!”
He smiled at her, and up at the unexpected rain. He marveled at her ability to come to a cave underground and get drenched with rain and find such joy in it. He laughed with her as they enjoyed this unusual occasion.
They sat there and both were drenched to the skin before Catherine finally stood. “Vincent, I’m sorry. Here I am making a fool of myself in the rain, and I should have been helping you get the pillows and rugs out of the way.”
“Catherine, it will only take me a second to put them back in the chamber next door. There’s a rack to hang them on. After they dry the dust will just be patted off.”
She bent over and grabbed the pillows. “You get the rug, I’ve got these.”
He wanted to protest but knew it would do no good. He rolled up the rug and walked as she followed him across the tunnel way. He climbed up and hung the rug from a bar high above his head then hopped down and took the pillows from her and placed them on a rack off to the side.
“Thank you for helping. I could have come back later and picked it up.”
She smiled. “Don’t be silly. It only took us a few minutes.”
Catherine grabbed his hand and held it as they began to walk back. She purposefully slowed her pace to spend as much time with him as she could. He smiled and matched her stride, not wanting the night to end either.
“Did you enjoy yourself, Catherine?”
“It was magical. I’m so glad you asked me to go with you!”
“Even though your beautiful dressed is soaked?”
She shrugged. “It’s washable. What about you? Did you enjoy it?”
“It was wonderful. The rain was an unexpected guest but by your reaction to it, not entirely unwelcome.” He smiled shyly.
“The whole night was perfect. I’ve always wanted to run barefoot through the park in the rain. This was the next best thing, and it was accompanied by music.” She sighed. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to hear Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony in quite the same way.”
“I wanted to share that place with you.”
She looked at him shyly. “Thursday night they’re playing the Brandenburg Concertos.”
He was amazed that she really did enjoy the night, and he was relieved that she wanted to go again. “Then I’ll come for you, Thursday night.”
“I’ll be here.”
She moved into his arms and he lowered his head against hers and whispered to her. “Be well, Catherine.”
“And you, Vincent.”
She turned back for one last look as he watched her go up the ladder.
It was still early by Vincent’s standards and he liked to be able to walk the streets at night, especially after a rain. Many times he would walk through the makeshift homes of the street people to see if they needed any assistance. It was always harder to eke out a survival when the elements were harsh.
He had walked for several blocks when he spotted a figure huddle in the alley. He approached, and a young black man sat up and looked at him. He became nervous and took off running. Vincent went after him but the man took off running. When he was almost hit by a taxi, Vincent had to take cover so as not to be seen by the driver.
When the taxi was gone, the man looked over at Vincent. Vincent’s eyes grew wide when he finally recognized him. He knew the man from a long time ago, when he had been a boy named Rolley and had once lived in the world Below.
Vincent pursued him, and the man ran into the Brothers of Hope Men’s Shelter.
Vincent turned and made his way home and let the memories of Rolley’s time Below fill him.
He looked up and realized he was standing at Catherine’s apartment building. He paced, trying to decide between bothering her and his desire to find Rolley.
He climbed to her balcony and tapped at her window. Catherine looked at him quizzically as she came outside.
“Are you missing me already?”
He cocked his head to the side and smiled ruefully. “Always.”
She chuckled then grew serious. “Something’s wrong?”
Vincent began to pace. “Catherine, I need to tell you a story first, before I ask for your help.”
Catherine nodded. “I’m listening.”
“About eight years ago a young boy was brought Below by one of our helpers. He had discovered the boy because he snuck in and was playing the piano in his basement. Later, he found out the boy had been living in that basement. He brought the boy Below because he needed a place to stay as well as a place to play his piano. Catherine, I still remember the day when this young black boy sat down. When his hands touched the keys, magic floated through the air. It brought tears to your eyes to hear how beautifully he played. Of course, he was allowed to stay and the children’s music teacher, Miss Kendrick, took on the responsibility of teaching Rolley.”
Vincent nodded. “That’s what I thought, until Miss Kendrick pointed out that Rolley was just like a parrot, mimicking sounds. She wanted to teach him how to read music so he could experience it fully. She took a special interest in Rolley, and came several times a week. He was so dedicated to her. He practiced every second of every day. For a reward, Mouse...” he sighed, “...happened upon a grand piano underneath the canopy in the park. He dismantled it and brought it Below for Rolley.”
Catherine tried to hide her chuckle but Vincent acknowledged it with a smile and continued with his story. “A month or so later, Rolley was to give a performance for the entire community. Miss Kendrick sent him to give the message to Eli, the helper who had discovered Rolley. Rolley took off and never came back that afternoon. Miss Kendrick went out looking for him but her body was found near an abandoned home on the Lower East Side. We never knew what happened to her, and we never heard from Rolley again.”
She cocked her head curiously. “I’m not sure what you need me to do.”
“I want your help finding Rolley.”
“Vincent, Rolley could be anywhere.”
“I saw him tonight...when I was walking the streets after I dropped you off.”
“So you spoke to him?”
Vincent closed his eyes as he tried to find the right words. “Rolley had an older brother who ran with the wrong type of crowd. They drank and did drugs. I think Rolley may have gotten involved with him.”
Catherine knew how unlikely it was that they would be able to find Rolley. “So, if you find him, then what?”
“Rolley’s gift was immense but it was fragile and it was lost to us. I don’t think there has ever been another young person in our world with more promise and desire. Catherine, I must see him.”
“Are you sure he wants to see you, Vincent? To be reminded of that terrible loss?”
“While he’s still alive there’s hope to regain that loss...to recover his gift.”
Catherine leaned towards him. “I’m thinking of you...trying to spare you more disappointment.”
“Catherine, if we don’t act now...next time may be too late.”
She nodded. “Then we must. I’ll be ready in a minute.”
She turned and headed back into her room. She grabbed some clothes and headed to her bathroom to change. She was out on the balcony in no time. “Do you know where to start?”
“I saw him run into a building...the Brothers of Hope Men’s Shelter.”
“That’s as good of a place as any. Let’s chance it. He may still be there.”
She left through her front door and headed down. He met her at the threshold and they walked through the tunnels to their destination. They climbed up through a manhole cover just about a block away then walked to the shelter entrance.
Catherine turned to Vincent. “Wait here.”
She talked her way into the shelter then found Rolley. She tried to sober him up with coffee but he still refused to see Vincent. She finally bribed him with a $100 bill. She tore it in half and offered him the rest after he talked to Vincent.
They went outside, but when Rolley saw Vincent, he chickened out and ran. Vincent pursued him to a rooftop, and Rolley finally talked to him. He told him what happened the day that Miss Kendrick died. He said he blamed himself for not going to her, instead letting his brother Anthony handle it. Anthony tried to rob her and she fought back and fell, hitting her head against a fire hydrant. It was an accident, but she was dead just the same, and Rolley blamed himself. He turned to drugs and told Vincent he couldn’t bring himself to go back Below.
Vincent watched in tears as Rolley climbed down the ladder and left him. Catherine stood before him. She had heard the entire story and her heart ached for Vincent. She knew how much hope he had held out that Rolley would do the right thing and come Below.
Vincent looked at her despondently. “He won’t come back.”
“You did everything you could.”
“Catherine, I feel as though I’ll never see him again.”
“But he knows now that you love him, and as long as you do, Vincent, there’s hope.”
She took his hand and gently squeezed it. Vincent looked at her as he cried. She moved closer to him and brought his head down to rest on her shoulder. Her arms automatically came around him and she cradled him as he let go of his grief.
After a short while, his tears were finally spent and he backed away from her. “I’m sorry.”
She shook her head. “For what, having feelings?”
“For getting you involved. For wasting your time, all...for nothing.”
She took his hand. “It wasn’t a waste of time. You got a chance to tell Rolley how you feel and that’s what we came out here to do. Come on, walk me home.”
Vincent shook his head. “No, it’s late. Perhaps you should take a taxi home. Get some sleep.”
She chuckled. “I won’t sleep worrying about you. Come on.”
She pulled on his hand and led him to the manhole cover and pointed. “You’re up?”
He smiled at her humor and easily lifted the lid. She climbed down and he followed then replaced the lid.
She reached for his hand as he led the way to her threshold. He was silent and lost in his thoughts. She finally squeezed his hand. “Vincent, are you okay?”
“My heart is saddened that he wouldn’t listen. I wish he could have given me more time.”
Catherine shook her head. “I’m not sure more time would have done it. Perhaps Rolley needs some time to decide if he wants to come home to the world Below. At least now he knows you’ve given him that choice.”
They reached her threshold and Vincent turned to her. “Thank you, Catherine.”
“You’re welcome. I wish I could have done more.”
‘You accomplished more than I thought we could.”
“Addiction is a hard thing to deal with, Vincent. There are hundreds of cases a day that go through my office. Each one of them is the same as the other: good people got addicted and their lives were destroyed. Every once in a while you get lucky and are able to get hold of one of them and save them.”
“I can only pray that Rolley is one of those people.”
Catherine came forward and hugged him then backed up. “Me, too! Good night, Vincent.”
“Good night, Catherine,” he called out as she started to climb the ladder.
The next day, Catherine got to work early and finished her paperwork. She headed to Joe’s office with some completed files. She walked in as he was finishing a phone conversation.
“Joe, here are the files you needed. I have some leg work to do, so I’m heading out early. I’ll see you Monday.”
Joe nodded. “Yeah, okay. Um...hey...how was the concert?”
Catherine’s eyes danced as she grinned. “Wonderful.”
“Yeah, right! It rained, you know?!”
Catherine laughed. “Yeah, we got caught in it!”
Joe hoped that maybe her date had been cancelled. He groaned. “Oh, so you got soaked.”
“We did! It was great. I have always wanted to run barefoot in the park in the rain with someone I love.”
Joe gasped in surprise. “Love?!”
Catherine realized what she said and reined in her emotions and minimized the night. “All girls dream of it, you know - knight in shining armor stuff.”
Joe laughed. “I bet your knight didn’t have an umbrella. Hopefully, he at least offered you his coat.”
Catherine laughed and rolled her eyes. “Actually, he did offer me his cloak.”
“Cloak? I suppose it billows out behind him when he walks and catches the breeze?!”
“Good one, Radcliffe! Get out of here!”
They both laughed, but for very different reasons.
Catherine went back down to where the drug addicts hung out. She looked at the faces of the men as she walked past person after person. After checking what seemed like hundreds of faces, she came up with an idea.
“Rolley!” People groaned as she shouted loudly. “Rolley!”
Catherine followed the voice and circled around a dumpster. A black man was propped up against the dumpster with a bottle hidden in a brown paper sack.
Catherine dug in her pockets for a bill. She waved it in front of the guy. “You know where he is?”
The man eyed the money. “He comes here later, after it gets dark.”
“Are you telling me the truth?”
The man nodded. “Yep. He sleeps over there...” he pointed to a cardboard box, “…every night. Sometimes he lets me sleep in there if it’s really cold.”
Catherine sighed and handed him the money, and watched as he got up and staggered towards the street. She sighed and decided to go home and come back later. She wanted to see Rolley and talk to him for herself.
Catherine stopped off and got herself a light meal. She ate then headed home and changed into some old sweats and a warm coat. She looked up at the clock and grabbed her gun, then headed out about an hour before dark.
She made her way back to the area where the guy said Rolley stayed. She was grateful to find he was already there.
She came and stood in front of him. “Rolley?”
He knew the voice and looked up warily. “Lady...I don’t want to see him!”
Catherine shrugged. “I just wondered if you still have the other half of my money.”
Rolley nodded. “Yeah, I got it.”
“Would you like to earn the other half?”
Rolley looked at her curiously but with a hint of suspicion. “Yeah, I want it.”
Catherine nodded. “Then you have to come with me. I’ll buy you dinner. Just you and me. There’s a diner about two blocks away.”
Rolley nodded. “I know the one.”
“It’s warm there and they have decent food. You won’t have to spend your money on food.”
“And all I have to do is eat with you to get the money?”
Catherine nodded. “Yep. The whole meal, though. No skipping out!”
Rolley stood and nodded. Catherine turned and led the way to the diner.
They entered and the waitress wrinkled her nose at Rolley. Catherine stood in front of him. “He’s with me.”
The waitress shrugged and Catherine walked to a secluded table in the back. She pointed to the bathrooms. “Rolley, I’m going to wash my hands before I eat. The men’s bathroom is right next to mine.”
Rolley nodded. “Yeah, I see it.”
They threaded their way through the tables and went into their respective bathrooms. Catherine came out first and headed to her table. She looked worriedly at the men’s bathroom door then sat back with relief when, ten minutes later, Rolley came out.
He sat down and she blinked in surprise at him. He had not only scrubbed his hands clean but also his face and neck. The waitress gave them a few more minutes then came over to take their order.
Catherine smiled. “I’ll have the chicken noodle soup and a salad with French dressing, please.”
“And to drink?”
Catherine sighed. “Coffee for me. Rolley, do you want coffee?”
The waitress looked over at Rolley, who nodded then stared at the menu. Catherine knew he probably didn’t know what to order.
“Rolley, why don’t you have a soup and salad then order the meatloaf, maybe some mashed potatoes and gravy, and corn or green beans?”
Rolley looked at her hopefully. “Corn.”
Catherine smiled. “Corn, it is.” She looked up at the waitress who nodded then left, only to return with two mugs of coffee.
Rolley looked at Catherine. “Lady, why are you doing this?”
Catherine clasped her hands together on the table in front of them and looked at him pointedly. “Because of Vincent. I love him, Rolley. I don’t want to see him unhappy. Seeing you last night in this condition makes him unhappy.”
Rolley shrugged. “I didn’t ask him to see me.”
“No, but he did see you, Rolley, Vincent as well as the rest of the people Below...love you. They want to help you.”
“I don’t deserve no help.”
The waitress came and dropped off the soup and salad.
Catherine waited until she left before she began. “That’s not true. You have to believe that you’re worthy of their love.”
Rolley started to eat his soup slowly. Catherine let it drop. She didn’t want to ruin his only meal.
After they ate their salad, Catherine sat back against the booth. She pushed her hair back behind her hair. “Rolley, can you see this scar?”
He looked up, frowned and nodded.
“You know how I got it?” He shrugged, and Catherine told him. “I was attacked and dumped in the park. Vincent found me and took me Below. Father stitched me up and saved my life, but the rest of the community gave me my life back.”
He cocked his head curiously at her and she nodded. “It’s true. They gave me a chance at the kind of life that I wanted to live but had just been unable to get. Vincent has been there for me every step of the way. His strength and spirit are remarkable.”
The waitress came again with Rolley’s platter. Catherine smiled and watched as he dug into the food. She, again, let him enjoy his meal. When he finished, she caught his eye again.
“I fell in love with Vincent over the past year or so, and there are so many times that I wished I could be more for him. I feel...inadequate...sometimes. Like I’m not worthy of his love. Then...he says or does something that makes me feel so special and so loved, and I feel like I can just bask in the glow he’s created.”
Rolley sat back and stared at her as she continued. Catherine dug out her business card. “Rolley, you can experience that same feeling. If you ever decide you want help and to get out of this mess...you call me. I promise I’ll help in any way I can. I have the money and the means to get you whatever help you need, if you’re willing to put in the work.”
He shook his head in disbelief. “You’d do all this for me just because you love Vincent?”
Catherine shook her head. “No, because Vincent loves you.”
She reached into her purse and handed him the other half of the torn bill. “You earned it. Promise me you’ll think about what I said?”
He stood and took the money. “I’ll think about it.”
He turned and left the restaurant. Catherine sighed and waited for the check then headed home.
She walked into her lobby and stared at the elevator. She impulsively decided to head Below and share her news.
She made her way through the tunnels and stopped often to visit with various people. It seemed like the tunnels were especially busy tonight, and Catherine visited with so many people she lost count.
After an hour, she finally walked into the library.
Father looked up and smiled. “Catherine!”
He frowned. “Um...Vincent and a work crew are spending the night in one of the lower tunnels. They’re trying to finish some new chambers.”
She shook her head. “That’s okay, he wasn’t expecting me. I just came down to...”
Her voice trailed off and Father could see that something was troubling her. He moved aside some books and pointed at a chair. “Well, now that you’re here, perhaps you’d like to visit with me instead?”
Catherine sat and Father poured her a cup of tea. He looked at her curiously as she stood and started to pace the room. He shook his head and grumbled humorously. “This proves they’re spending too much time together!”
Catherine turned at his voice. “Hmmm?”
He looked at her and patted the table. “Tell me.”
Catherine smiled and sat back down. “After the concert the other night, Vincent walked me home. Afterwards, he went Above for a walk and saw a man that used to live Below when he was a boy.”
Father frowned and shook his head. “He didn’t mention it. Did he say who it was?”
“Rolley!” Father leaned forward in his seat. “Go on.”
“Rolley ran from him but Vincent wanted to speak with him. He came to ask for my help, and we went to the homeless shelter. I went inside and convinced Rolley to talk to Vincent, but he took one look at Vincent and ran from us. Vincent followed him, and when they caught up to each other, Rolley explained what happened to the music teacher. He blames himself for her death, but I believe him when he says it wasn’t his fault!”
Father nodded. “I didn’t think so. So where has Rolley been all this time?”
Catherine sighed. “On the streets. He’s an addict.”
Catherine nodded. “I went back today to see if I could find Rolley...to talk to him. When we had lunch, I saw the track marks on his arms and in between his fingers.”
“Does Vincent know?”
Catherine shrugged. “I think he knows he uses drugs. I’m not sure if he realized Rolley was this bad.”
Father shook his head. “Vincent seemed especially quiet today before he left. I thought maybe he was just tired. What did he say to Rolley?”
“Only that your world is still there if he needs it. That there is a piano waiting for Rolley to return.”
Father smirked. “He could play like an angel sent by God. He was only a young boy when he came Below.”
“After work, I headed out to find Rolley again today. I offered him the other half of the money from yesterday if he went out to eat with me.”
Father looked at her incredulously. “You paid him to talk to Vincent?”
Father chuckled. “Children try to lie to me all day long. You, young lady, are out of practice! How much is a little?”
“Half of a hundred.”
“You gave Rolley $50 dollars to talk to Vincent?!”
“No, I gave him half of a $100 dollar bill. He got the other half after he talked to me tonight.”
Father nodded respectfully. “Good idea!”
Catherine smiled. “My friend, Isaac, taught me that trick when we were looking for Vincent near Broome Street.”
Father shook his head with amusement. “I guess it’s a good trick to have.”
They laughed together until Father grew serious again. “Can I ask what you said to Rolley?”
“I told him the truth. That he’s well loved, and that there are people Below that want him in their lives. I offered to help him go through rehab if he needed it. I gave him my card and told him to contact me when he was ready.”
“That’s very generous of you, Catherine.”
“Thank you. I wanted to tell Vincent that I saw Rolley again....that there’s still some hope that he’ll reach out for help.”
Father sighed in resignation. “So many addicts go back to their same lifestyle once they’re released. Recovery is a long hard road, even in ideal conditions.”
Catherine nodded in agreement. “I know. I helped a young man not too long ago and he slipped twice before he finally stuck with the program.”
“Did he have family around?”
“Yeah, he has a younger brother and his grandmother.”
“Rolley has no one; he’s alone.”
“That’s not true, Father. He has a whole world of people who I know would help...if only he would ask. He also has something that no one else in recovery has. He has Vincent!”
Father nodded. “That much is true. Well, Vincent will be home sometime late tomorrow...Sunday morning at the latest.” With a teasing smile he looked at her. “I can’t imagine him missing a Sunday with you.”
Catherine blushed again. “I have enjoyed these past few weeks!”
“Oh, how was the concert last night?”
“Oh, Father! It was wonderful. The spot Vincent found is perfect. It’s just under the first row and you can hear everything!”
He smiled at her ability to enjoy the little things his world provided. He frowned. “One of the children said it rained last night. Did you get wet?”
Catherine squealed with delight. “Absolutely soaked!”
Father groaned aloud. “Oh, no! I’m sorry your night was spoiled.”
“It wasn’t spoiled! The concert was over before the first flash of lightning. I told Vincent I had always wanted to run barefoot in the park in the pouring rain with someone I love. Last night was the next best thing.”
Father quietly looked down at his hands. “You truly love my son, don’t you?”
Catherine touched his hands and he looked up into her eyes. “With all my heart, Father.”
He lowered his head. “There are times when I’m thankful that you are in his life, and there are times that I’m so afraid...for both of you.”
Catherine looked at him quizzically. “What do mean?”
Father waved his hand dismissively. “Never mind. I’m just an old fool who’s tired.”
Catherine took the hint. “It’s late, I’ll head up. I just wanted to deliver the news about Rolley.”
“Yes, well...thank you.”
“Good night, Father.”
“Good night, Cathy.”
The next morning, Catherine got up early and looked at her calendar. “The holidays will be here before you know it!”
She looked around at her empty apartment and for the first time wanted to decorate it for Christmas. “What if I can get Vincent to come in one night? I wonder if I could sneak mistletoe above a doorway.”
She got dressed and headed to a store to purchase lights and tinsel and mistletoe and bells and anything else she could find.
Four hours later, she was loaded down with packages as she headed home. She ran out to her balcony first. This was the first place Vincent would see when he came here. She looked around critically and decided to keep it simple - lights in the windows, maybe some garland around the railing, a poinsettia on the table top, and mistletoe above both sets of doors.
Catherine cleaned as she went along, and soon enough the balcony was decorated, as well as a few angels displayed in her bedroom and some Santas in her living room.
A delivery boy came an hour later and set up a small tree in the corner of her living area. Catherine put lights on it and decorated it with beautiful ribbons and small antique ornaments she found in a shop.
She worked the rest of the day and ordered take out. After she ate, she headed for a long luxurious bath. She soaked until the water turned cool then she put on warm pajamas and settled down in front of the fire.
The apartment smelled fresh and clean and the lights from the tree lit up the darkness and gave it a cheery glow. Catherine smiled wondering what Vincent’s reaction would be to the decorations.
An hour of reading had her exhausted, and she headed to bed.
Below, an exhausted Vincent made his way to the library.
He called out in the empty room, “Father!”
Father appeared from inside his chamber. “Vincent, it’s so late I thought you’d come back tomorrow morning.”
“We finished the chambers. There are four extra guest rooms for Winterfest. Kanin wanted to get home to Olivia, and Matthew to Rebecca, so we decided we could haul furniture in a few days.”
“That’s fine, Vincent. Everyone can rest up and start fresh.”
Vincent turned to leave and Father called him back. “Catherine stopped by last night.”
Vincent looked up in alarm. “Is everything all right?”
“Yes, yes, I’m sorry to worry you. She told me about Rolley.”
Vincent looked down dejectedly. “Yes, I wanted to tell you before I left but there was no time.”
“Catherine told me. She also wanted you to know she went back the next day to find him. They went out for dinner and Catherine offered to help him get through his addiction.”
“Recovery is a long process.”
“She knows that, Vincent, and still wants to help. She gave Rolley her card and told him to contact her when he’s ready. She wanted you to know that there’s still hope.”
Vincent was so tired he was swaying on his feet. “That is good news.”
Father pointed. “Yes, now you...off to bed. You want to be rested when Catherine comes Below tomorrow.”
“Good night, Father.”
“Good night, son.”
The next morning, Catherine headed Below later than usual. She walked into Vincent’s chamber just as he was putting on a second shirt.
She thought to herself, “Late by a few minutes, damn!” She looked up and smiled at him. “Good morning. I wasn’t sure you would be here.”
He was embarrassed to be caught dressing in front of her. “We came home late last night. I’m sorry, I should have been there to meet you but I just woke up.”
He tried to smooth down his hair as she waved her hand dismissively. “Don’t be silly. I know my way here. You must have needed the rest.”
She walked over to his dresser and grabbed a brush. She turned and indicated a seat. “Sit.”
Vincent eyed her curiously but followed her request. He gasped when he felt her touch the brush to his hair. “Catherine, I can brush...”
She interrupted him. “I know, but this is much more fun, isn’t it?”
He grew silent. His body fought against him and he sighed as he enjoyed her light touch. Catherine made quick work of his messy hair.
Father walked in just as she was finishing. “Oh! Um...sorry...I didn’t mean to disturb...”
Vincent stood up guiltily. “We were...um...”
He fell silent and Catherine walked around him and smiled at Father as she finished Vincent’s sentence. “…going to breakfast. Would you like to go with us?”
Father was relieved at the change in conversation. “Yes. I was unaware you were here already and was headed to ask Vincent the same thing.”
Catherine took his arm and looked back at Vincent. “Father can escort me if you need to finish getting ready.”
She turned and let Father lead her. Vincent quickly threw on his shoes and caught easily up to them.
At breakfast, Vincent turned to Catherine. “Father told me what you did for Rolley.” He bowed his head graciously. “Thank you.”
Catherine nodded. “I wanted to tell him all the things that he wouldn’t let you say to him. He listened. I’m glad. I think it worked.”
Vincent nodded. “We can only hope.”
Catherine reached out and squeezed his hand with reassurance. “There’s still hope.”