BETWEEN THE LINES SERIES 2
SHE WILL BE HAPPIER
SEVENTH IN THE SERIES BY KATHY DE
Catherine headed into work early in the morning. She had mountains of paperwork to go through for a big case they were working on.
In the past two months, the DA’s office had been able to tie together separate incidents in what they soon determined was a crime spree. They had four separate crimes committed in four separate locations, but all had the same characteristics.
At one of the locations, hidden security cameras captured photos of a gang stealing electronics equipment from one of the docks at a warehouse. One of the photos taken was a picture of a man they identified as Renaldo Gutierrez, a deaf man who went by the alias of Lincoln because he wore a penny in each of his ears.
Renaldo had hooked up with a woman named Blanca Estevan. Together they recruited Blanca’s friends Jose, Miguel, Rico, Willis, and Maria to become a part of their gang. Lincoln became the ringleader of the group whose members were united by the fact that they were all entirely deaf.
After spending hours of time, Detective Jerry Deneli from the police department had eventually infiltrated the gang. Jerry’s parents were both deaf, and sign language was ingrained in him. And because he had grown up on the streets, he easily fit in with the rest of the gang.
During the past month, the gang had managed to move stealthily in and out of the warehouses. They had never been violent until last week. A nighttime security guard had come upon them while they were stealing and was gunned down by Lincoln inside of the warehouse.
Jerry had been there that night with the gang, but was in another part of the building when it all happened. He was shocked when he came upon the scene. With his trained eye, he could tell that the guard was already dead. He walked away with the rest of the gang, seemingly indifferent to the man lying on the ground. But when he was able to break away from the rest, he made a call to the police department and told them what happened.
The DA’s office had been working in conjunction with the police department to catch the gang in the act, and now, with the recent death of the security guard, Joe called for an emergency meeting.
When he got into the office around 8:00, he walked over to the conference room to find Catherine fiddling with the controls on a machine. “Hey, Radcliffe.”
Catherine looked up. “Good morning, Joe.”
“You’re here early...”
Catherine nodded. “Yeah. I wanted to get the projector ready for the meeting. The lab created new pictures from the videotapes the warehouse submitted. The pictures are fantastic, much clearer than the last ones we had. In fact, they’re so clear, I think they could easily be used as evidence. Looks like we have positive identification!”
Both of them knew that the admissibility of the pictures would be up to the judge to decide, and Joe shrugged in defeat. “Yeah, that’s something. At least it gives us something to go on.”
“Yeah...” Catherine frowned. “Too bad Jerry wasn’t a witness to Lincoln killing that guard. It would have sealed the case.”
Both of them left the room and went back to their respective desks to work before the meeting.
Officer McQueenie and Parker, his partner, came in around 10:00. Joe settled them into the office, then called out to Catherine. “Cath, you’re up!”
Catherine looked up when Joe called out to her and glanced at the clock on the wall. “Yeah, I’m ready.” She shuffled through the papers on her desk and grabbed a file, then headed to the room where the men sat waiting.
“Hey, guys.” She smiled as she entered.
Parker stood respectfully and smiled at her. “Hey, Cathy.”
McQueenie treated her as he would any other colleague and leaned back in his chair, seemingly disinterested. “Chandler.”
Joe’s eyebrows rose in surprise as Catherine ignored his rudeness and started the meeting. She showed them the pictures the lab had sent and waited for their reactions.
McQueenie looked up with disgust. “How come they’re not making a move, Chandler? Last week you said...”
Catherine interrupted him angrily. “I know what I said!”
Joe couldn’t believe he was about to side with the arrogant officer, but he hesitantly jumped in anyway. “Look, maybe McQueenie’s right for once! Maybe …” he added, as he pointedly looked at McQueenie, then back at Catherine, “we should just leave this to social services.”
Catherine looked at him with shock. “To do what?!”
Joe frowned, but had expected this reaction from her. “Put the minors into foster care ... see what happens.”
Catherine shook her head in disagreement. “Joe, this deaf gang is like a family. There is no way they’ll give up Lincoln.”
McQueenie grumbled, “They’re animals ... like all the rest.”
Catherine shot him a look dripping with contempt. “They’re kids nobody wanted! Most were abused. All they know is anger, and Lincoln is using that. If we don’t get rid of him first, you can forget about social services.” She looked at Joe hopefully. “One more week ...”
Joe looked shocked by her request. He knew the cost to the department and he balked. “What?! No ...”
Catherine pleaded with him. “Just give me one more week to do it my way ...”
“Make it an even month before you write it off.” Catherine saw him softening and plunged forward. “Can you live with that?”
Joe knew he could never deny her request. He wondered briefly why he even tried. “Do I have a choice?” he answered angrily.
Catherine looked at him for a long time. She knew he trusted her to make the most of the extra time, so she slowly let the grin she was suppressing ease onto her face. “Thanks, Joe.”
Exasperated, he sighed loudly and shook his head. “Yeah, but if this fails you’re taking the flack from Moreno.”
She smiled. “Deal!” She turned to the other men. “As soon as I get the word from Detective Deneli, we’re setting up a sting operation.”
Parker nodded. “We’ll be there for you, Cathy.”
McQueenie grumbled as he stood to walk out the door. “What a waste.”
Catherine smiled at him sweetly. “Thanks for your support, McQueenie. Cops like you make this job a real treat!”
McQueenie paled at the reprimand, then look down, clearly ashamed.
Joe raised his brows in surprise at her sarcasm, then quickly diverted his face before McQueenie could see him smile. What an ass, he thought. He was secretly proud that Catherine was able to hold her own against the bitter officer.
Two days later, Detective Jerry Deneli was holding his girlfriend tightly. She had been very upset when she ran into his arms just a few minutes ago. He was offering her comfort and trying to find out what had that upset her so much. She wouldn’t reveal to him what had happened to her.
Jerry took her home, and Laura desperately clung to him. He eventually quieted her mood, then made love to her. Afterwards, she lay safe and satisfied in his arms.
Jerry tilted her head up so he could look into her eyes and then disentangled his arms so he could speak. “What happened today, babe?”
Laura thought back to the incident earlier and shook her head as she answered him, signing ... “I don’t know. It was busy at the stand and... Suddenly some guy was shouting at me ... asking me if I was deaf. I guess it was the last straw. I got so angry I just had to run. You know ... get away from everyone?”
Jerry nodded with understanding. “I remember being frustrated as a small boy when people would get upset that my mom and I took so long to talk about what she was going to make for dinner that night.”
Laura sneered. “Sometimes the hearing can be so impatient!”
Jerry nodded. “Do you feel better now?”
Laura grinned. “I feel wonderful.” She let out a huge yawn. “But sleepy ... I woke up too early this morning.”
Jerry pulled her closer to his side and covered them both with the blankets. Laura snuggled against him and promptly fell asleep.
An hour later, Jerry sat in a chair looking at her sleeping form in their bed. He let his mind wander back to the first time they had met ....
Four months ago he was given a new assignment, so on his way to his new job he had been going to a different newsstand. Immediately, he had noticed the young, dark haired woman who was working. He was surprised to see that she and the owner were “signing” back and forth. He bought a paper, and the man thanked him aloud. Jerry knew then that the woman must be the one who was deaf.
The next few days he gathered up his courage, and the day came when he finally signed “Thank You” to her. The woman’s eyes lit up, and she smiled warmly. From that day on, they spoke in sign each morning, and he eventually worked up the courage to ask her for a date. Laura accepted, and they went out that night to an inexpensive diner around the corner from the newsstand.
After that night, Laura and Jerry were inseparable. The new couple went everywhere together. One night, he invited her up to his room. Since then, she spent most of his nights with him.
The couple talked about everything under the sun, but Laura often wondered why Jerry became so evasive when she asked him about his work. She shrugged it off, knowing that one day he would tell her. Jerry could feel himself falling more in love with her everyday, and he knew that he was long overdue in telling her he could hear.
Then, two weeks ago, they were shopping in a store when a woman and her daughter approached them. Jerry groaned when he looked up from the oranges.
Blanca signed, “Hello.”
“Hey, Blanca.” Jerry looked at Laura who smiled at him and the woman. “Laura, this is Blanca, Blanca, this is my girlfriend, Laura.” Jerry pointed at the young girl. “And that is young Tiffany.”
The blond girl smiled shyly while her mother signed. “Nice to meet ya.”
Laura nodded. “You too.”
Blanca looked angrily at Jerry. “How come we ain’t never met Laura before. She hearing?”
Laura shook her head and immediately answered. “No! I’ve been deaf all my life!”
Blanca looked at Jerry, her eyes revealing that she still did not have an answer to her question.
Jerry shrugged. “Laura works all day. I ... I guess I just like to be alone with her at night.”
Blanca looked pointedly at Laura. “You too tired to hang out with a group of us at night?”
Laura smiled nervously. “No, not always ...”
Blanca nodded. “Good. Why don’t you come over with Jerry next time and I’ll introduce you to everyone.”
Laura looked up at Jerry, who was unable to look her in the eyes. She frowned then looked back at Blanca. “I’d like that. Thank you.”
When Blanca left, Laura turned questioning eyes at Jerry. “Why haven’t you introduced me to your friends?” Jerry shrugged and Laura let her insecurities take over. “Am I not good enough for them?”
Jerry came forward and hugged her fiercely. He stepped back and signed. “Honey, that’s not it at all. They’re not good enough for you!”
Laura looked down sadly. “If everyone in the group is deaf like us, then I’d like to meet them. Maybe I’ll finally feel like I fit in somewhere...”
Jerry debated about telling her he was a police officer. He knew she didn’t trust cops. One night, he remembered …
They were walking down the street. Laura saw an officer approaching them and she grabbed his hand and crossed the street. At the time, he was relieved that she did it. He thought he recognized the officer approaching them and didn’t want his cover blown.
He didn’t think about it until, once again, Laura evaded an officer when he walked into the grocery store behind them. She turned up an aisle and walked right back out the door. Jerry followed her outside and grabbed her arm turning her to face him.
“Babe, what’s up?”
Laura smiled sweetly. “Nothing, why?”
Jerry frowned and wondered if he was imagining it. “Um ... it’s just that ...”
The officer was walking towards the door with a pack of gum in his hand. Fear flittered across Laura’s face and she turned quickly and started to walk towards home. Jerry was shocked that she seemed afraid of police officers.
He ran and caught up to her, grabbing her arm once again. “Laura, are you in some kind of trouble?” When she shook her head he continued. “Are you afraid of the police?”
Laura shrugged and sighed then nodded and signed. “Yeah ... I ... had a bad time with a few of them a while ago. I don’t trust cops anymore ... They’re all crooks!”
Now Jerry stood in front of her, torn between telling her the truth and keeping up the charade for a while longer. He hated lying to her and decided it was time to come clean. He took her hand and caressed it, then dropped it to talk to her. “Laura, I need to tell you something.”
She frowned curiously. “What?”
Jerry imagined the look she would get in her eyes when he told her. “Um ...” He blew out his breath slowly. “Nothing ... never mind.”
“So, can I go with you next time you go to Blanca’s?”
She looked at him so hopefully that he felt his heart melt as he gave in. “Okay... okay. Next time I go ... you can come with.”
Laura smiled widely and hugged him. “Thank you,” she signed when he released her.
Two days later, he needed to go to the club’s hangout, and Laura insisted she come along.
“Blanca invited me, remember.”
Jerry nodded. “I remember.”
Jerry took her with him, and the second they stepped through the door, Blanca took over and introduced Laura to the group. Laura had a good time with Blanca and Cecilia, the other woman in the group. The men went off in a corner and Laura tried to pay attention to them, but the women kept her distracted asking her about her life and how she and Jerry met.
Suddenly Blanca’s daughter ran to the door and opened it. A man came in and flashed the lights, and everyone stopped and gathered in the center of the room. Jerry walked over to Laura’s side and took her hand when Laura looked at him nervously.
A man with pennies in his ears came over and stood in front of her. “Who are you?”
“She’s my old lady,” Jerry signed, then put his arm around Laura’s shoulders.
Lincoln scowled and looked at Laura, then back at Jerry. “She hearing?”
Laura wondered again what these people had against those who could hear, but she quickly shook off the thought as Blanca walked over.
“Leave her alone, Lincoln. She’s cool ... Me and Cecilia checked.”
Lincoln looked at Blanca and then nodded his acceptance to Laura. He walked over to corner, and the men quickly followed him.
Laura looked at Blanca, then pointed towards Lincoln. “Who’s that?”
Blanca rolled her eyes. “My old man. His name’s Lincoln. He ... kind of leads us.”
Laura nodded and kept it to herself that she wondered why Jerry would be following a guy like Lincoln. Jerry seemed so strong and capable, and she was shocked that he was involved with someone like Lincoln.
Her thoughts turned to Vincent and she smiled to herself. If Vincent had taught her anything, it was not to judge a person by their looks, but to wait and see what was on the inside before passing judgment. She looked up and caught a comment Cecilia made to Blanca and laughed with her two new friends. From then on, she and Jerry made a point to visit with their friends every night, or at the very least, every other night.
Last week, Laura had been surprised to come home and find that Jerry had left a note. She walked over to the clubhouse only to find it empty. Wondering what was going on, she headed home.
At home, she sat in a chair feeling very alone and left out. She wondered if the group had rejected her and Jerry just hadn’t had the heart to tell her. She lay in bed that night feeling very desolate, and she ended up crying herself to sleep.
Jerry came home late that night and tried to slip into bed, but Laura woke and accused him of dumping her for his friends. Her hands flew wildly as she told him how alone she felt and how upset she was that she had been rejected.
Jerry consoled her and made every promise under the sun that it would not happen again. They made love, and afterwards, he lay in bed awake, thinking how horrible it would have been for Laura to have been involved tonight.
Lincoln had gone off and killed the security guard. Jerry tried to do what he could, but he knew the man was already dead, and it would do no good for anyone for him to blow his cover.
That was a week ago, and now, as Jerry sat in his chair and looked at Laura, he sighed as he realized just what a dangerous game he was playing.
Jerry had noticed that Laura gradually started to pull more and more away from the life she knew before him. She slowly began to shorten her work day to spend more time at the clubhouse with her new friends. He knew it was because she was desperate to find a place where she fit in, and he wished he could just tell her the truth so they could get on with their lives. Now that Laura was in the club, it would be harder for him to do his job.
Laura began to stir and blinked her eyes slowly open. She reached a hand out for Jerry and noticed he was gone from the bed. Her eyes darted around the room, then showed relief when she saw him sitting there. She covered her naked breasts with the sheet as she sat up, then quickly located her shirt and slipped into it. She looked over at Jerry again. “I thought you left me alone again.”
Jerry sighed and came over to her, then sat down on the edge of the bed. “No! Never!”
“Are you going to the clubhouse tonight?”
Jerry cringed inside, but only nodded as he signed. “Yes, with you. But you need to get dressed; I want to get over there.”
Laura scooted to the edge of the bed and put on the clothes he had just taken off of her less than two hours ago.
Jerry and Laura headed to the clubhouse and were only there a short while before Lincoln came in. He was quite excited and told everyone they were ready for another warehouse job that night.
Laura looked around nervously but refused to say anything. Jerry rushed to exclude her, but Lincoln wouldn’t hear of it and insisted Laura come with them.
Laura had mixed emotions. She felt like what they were talking about was wrong, and once Lincoln started to lay the final plans in order, Laura knew that what they were planning was against the law.
She looked over at Jerry several times, but his face was unreadable. The group went over the plans several times but had trouble figuring out how to send signals in such a huge area.
Laura signed. “Are there pipes nearby anywhere?”
Most of the members looked at her and shrugged. Lincoln laughed cynically. “All over the place, but what difference does that make?”
Laura swallowed the lump in her throat, held her head up smugly, and signed, “You can use the pipes to communicate on.”
Lincoln frowned but was clearly intrigued. “How?”
Laura searched around and brought him over to a nearby pipe in the kitchen. She placed his hand on it and hit it several times. “See, you can feel the vibrations.”
Lincoln still looked confused, and Laura rolled her eyes. “One tap ... all’s clear. Continual taps ... mean danger.”
Jose and Miguel came over and Laura demonstrated again. They grinned at one another, then Cecilia and Blanca touched the pipe. Laura once again demonstrated the technique. Cecelia looked over at Jerry, who declined.
Lincoln smiled at Laura. “Good idea ... I’m starting to think you are one of us.”
Laura allowed a small smile to come to her face. She thought of the world Below and wondered what Pascal would think about her using pipe communication for stealing. She brushed away the guilty thoughts as Lincoln once again went over the plan.
Lincoln told everyone to be back that night. Jerry and Laura headed home and made love again. When Laura fell asleep, Jerry slipped out and headed to a pay phone.
Catherine was working when her phone rang. “Chandler.”
“Cathy, it’s Detective Deneli.”
Catherine waved Joe over from the copy machine and hit the speaker phone feature. “Yes, Detective Deneli.”
“I just found out. Lincoln planned another job for tonight.”
Catherine gasped in surprise. “Tonight?! Thanks for the short notice!” she said sarcastically.
Jerry chuckled. “I’ll pass your message on to Lincoln.”
“Where’s it going to take place?”
“The warehouse on Paxton Street. We meet at the clubhouse at 1:00, then go from there.”
Catherine looked at Joe, who nodded. “Jerry, it’s Joe Maxwell. I’ll gather a team. We’ll have everyone in place by 12:30.”
Jerry sighed. “Okay. Let’s not screw this up. I’m getting tired of playing this game.”
Catherine frowned. “We catch them in the act tonight and it’s all over with. Can you hang in there a few more hours?”
Jerry sarcastically chuckled. “Like I have the power to say no, right? Like all of this was ever my decision.”
Joe frowned as well. “Jerry, are you in? Can you do this or not?”
Jerry blew out a long breath. “Yeah ... I’m in.”
Joe smiled in relief. “All right. Heads up tonight and good luck. Stay safe.”
The line went dead, and Catherine and Joe both wondered why Jerry seemed to be struggling now that the end was so near.
Joe walked towards his desk. “I’ll call the special crimes unit. You call MacQueenie and Parker.”
Joe turned around to address her. “I want everyone involved at the police station in two hours. We’re going through this thing step by step so there are no screw ups.”
Catherine nodded and picked up her phone.
Two hours later, fifteen men sat in a room facing Joe.
“I want a team in the unmarked van across the road from the warehouse.” He pointed at a drawing of the warehouse and the streets surrounding it. “I also want men hidden at these locations.” Joe pointed at various spots around the warehouse. “No one is to make any move until they receive a signal from Parker. Any questions?”
One man raised his hand. Joe looked up. “Stevens?”
“Yeah, Joe, where are you and Chandler going to be?”
Joe shrugged. “I hadn’t thought about it. Why?”
Callahan, his partner, laughed. “Because ... despite what you two think ... you’re not cops. Every officer here wants to know who’s around that needs to be protected at all costs. We already have to keep an eye out for Detective Deneli. We want to know where you’re going to be.”
Parker stepped forward and pointed at a spot. “I’d say here. You can sit in one of your personal cars, or get a car from the garage here. You can still see everything, but you’re far enough away not to be in the line of fire.”
Catherine wanted to sit in the surveillance van, but knew that it wasn’t going to happen. “Sounds good.”
Joe nodded. He knew if Catherine wasn’t involved he could insist on being in the van, but he wouldn’t put her in danger and reluctantly agreed. “Yeah, I brought my car. We can use it.”
Catherine stood and addressed the group. “You’ve got about forty-five minutes to get over there. I suggest you spend that time clearing your minds. I don’t need to remind you all how important tonight is. We really can’t afford any mistakes.”
Catherine and Joe left while Parker and MacQueenie assigned the marked locations to individuals.
Joe turned to Catherine. “You hungry? Want to grab a burger?”
Catherine smiled. “I’m starving. I forgot to eat lunch again.”
Joe shook his head. “How the hell do you forget to eat lunch so often?”
“You work me like a dog! Ooooh ... that makes me think ... maybe I should get a hot dog with ketchup and mustard, onions, relish ...”
Joe grabbed her arm. “You’re drooling, Radcliffe. Let’s go!”
Catherine smiled. “Should we split an order of french fries? No, maybe onion rings. You do like onion rings, don’t you? Maybe they have some of those little yogurt ice cream sundaes, too, with nuts on the top.” She didn’t wait for him to answer as he led her to his car in the parking garage. “You know what ... Never mind.”
Just as he was about to open the car door, Joe stopped and looked at her. “What? You don’t want to go?”
Catherine looked confused. “No, I want to go!” She smiled sweetly. “I was only going to say I want my own order of onion rings.”
Joe rolled his eyes upward and pointed at the car. “Get in!”
Joe stopped at a burger joint on the way to the stake out. They quickly got their order and made it just before everyone else arrived. They ate their meal in silence.
Joe looked over and smiled at Catherine. She was sucking the onion out of its breading.
She raised her eyebrows. “What?”
“I can’t believe you ate that whole meal.”
She flushed guiltily. “I told you I was starved.”
“Better watch it, Chandler. You’ll get as big as a house.”
She waved her hand distractedly. “I’ll jog it off tomorrow night ...”
Joe chuckled then looked at her quizzically. “What gym do you go to?”
She shook her head. “No gym ... I head to the park.”
Joe frowned. “Central Park?”
Catherine rolled her eyes and answered sarcastically. “No, the other huge park that I live by.”
Joe turned in his seat. “Cathy, most days you’re at work first thing in the morning, and most nights you leave either with me or after me ...”
She shrugged. “Yeah, so. Why are you telling me my hours? I know how much time I put in.”
Joe made a face. “That means you jog in the park either very early in the morning or very late at night. Judging by how you drag your butt in most mornings, I’d say you jog at night ...”
Catherine was confused. “You would have made a good detective, Joe. What’s the point you’re trying to make?”
Joe grew angry. “You jog alone ... in Central Park ... at night?”
Catherine realized he was worried about her and smiled. “Joe, I always go straight there and head right back.”
“Are you nuts?! Do you have any idea what kind of people hang out in the park late at night?”
Catherine thought of Vincent and she chuckled. “I have some idea.”
“You’re gonna get yourself killed!”
“Joe, I’m careful. There’s almost always someone nearby.”
“Yeah, those are the ones I’m worried about.”
“Look, I always pay attention. I’m never alone anywhere, and I keep a continual eye on the shadows.”
Joe frowned, then nodded as Catherine hid her smile. She wouldn’t offer the information that the reason she looked in the shadows was she was hoping to spot Vincent.
They fell silent as trucks pulled up in front of them. They watched as all the officers headed out to their various hiding spots. Catherine marveled that they were virtually hidden, and she scanned the area and realized that even though she knew where they were located, she couldn’t see them.
The trash was put on the back seat, and she and Joe hunkered down to wait. Fifteen minutes later, Catherine was getting anxious.
The news finally came over the radios that the gang had been spotted. Catherine and Joe slipped lower into their seats and watched the drama unfold in front of them.
The gang was steps away from entering the warehouse when a flashlight blinked a warning and the gang stopped immediately in their tracks. Lincoln called the whole thing off, and the gang members each ran in different directions to escape the police.
Knowing the night was blown, Catherine sat up angrily. She and Joe watched as one of the gang members ran towards the Joe’s car.
Catherine got out to grab the person, but was shocked as recognition dawned on her. “Laura!”
Laura stopped when she saw it was Catherine, then turned and quickly ran from her.
Joe got out and stood next to her. “You know that one?”
Catherine shrugged. “Maybe ... I want to make sure first.”
Joe walked towards Parker and MacQueenie. “She looked familiar. I’m eventually going to remember why...”
Catherine frowned. She knew he would eventually remember, and she was going to have to come clean soon. She needed to find Laura, and she knew she was going to have to tell Vincent about seeing her. With a sigh, she headed towards the others. She walked up to hear the end of Joe’s questions.
“Who screwed up?”
One man in back raised his hand. “I was getting ready to react. She must have seen me.”
Joe frowned at the rookie. “Yeah, well ... mistakes happen, I guess. It was good of you to admit to it. We get an ID on the girl?”
Parker shook his head. “Never seen her. She must be new.”
Catherine nodded angrily. “I’ll talk to Detective Deneli myself about her.”
Joe shrugged. “All right ... wrap it up. We’re done for the night.” He turned to Catherine. “I’ll give you a ride home.”
She smiled half-heartedly. “Thanks.”
Joe dropped her off, and Catherine hovered in the lobby. After he left, she headed straight for the park.
Catherine walked through the drainage tunnel and quickly tapped out a message.
Vincent had been sitting in his chamber when he felt her turmoil. He stood and grabbed his cloak and started to head toward her threshold. When the tapping came over the pipes, he turned and headed toward the park instead.
It was late, and for Catherine to summon him to the park could only mean bad news. He quickened his pace to a jog and ate up the distance to her.
Catherine was leaning against the rock wall when the door slid open. She pushed off of it as Vincent opened the grating.
Now that he stood in front of her, the problem didn’t seem quite so urgent. She should have probably gone to Laura herself and asked her what was going on. She looked up uncertainly. “Thanks for coming ... I ... guess it could have waited for morning but...”
Vincent took her hands and caressed them knowingly. “Tell me.” Catherine knew what she was about to tell him would hurt him. She dropped his hands and began to pace. “Vincent, when was the last time you saw Laura?”
He blinked in surprise at her unusual question, but answered. “It’s ... been awhile.”
Catherine frowned. “She doesn’t come down for visits?”
He shrugged. “She’s trying to make her way in a strange new world. I didn’t expect to see her all the time.”
“You haven’t spoken to her at all? Haven’t gone to see her?”
He cocked his head curiously, knowing she was being evasive. “Catherine, what’s this about?”
“I think ... no ... I know ... I saw Laura tonight.”
“Is she well?”
“I didn’t get a chance to talk to her.”
“Did Laura see you?” Catherine nodded, and Vincent frowned and continued. “For Laura to see you and not say something is quite unusual. I know she thought quite highly of you. I wonder why she didn’t acknowledge you.”
Catherine blew out the breath she was holding. “Vincent, I caught her and the gang she’s joined just as they were about to commit a crime.”
Vincent gasped in surprise. “Are you sure?”
“We’ve been monitoring this gang’s activities for a while. We had an entire team of officers set up ready to catch them as they stole merchandise from a warehouse.”
Vincent shook his head in disbelief. “And Laura was a part of this?”
Catherine ignored his question and asked another one. “How has she been doing in the world Above?”
“It’s been difficult for her alone; we’ve known that for some time. Little by little she began to shed her duties as a helper until last week ... when she disappeared.”
Catherine frowned. “Why didn’t you tell me, Vincent? I might’ve helped.”
He sighed. “Somehow, I still think of the tunnels as her home. I felt certain that if she needed sanctuary, for whatever reason, that she would seek it among us.”
“Well, she’s found it, Vincent, but in a dangerous place ... among people who live by violence. One of them, we think, killed a security guard.”
“And this is her new home?”
Catherine looked at him compassionately. “I’m sorry.”
“Vincent, Laura herself may have broken the law. I’m not sure, but you should prepare yourself for that possibility.”
Vincent nodded with understanding. “We have our own laws, Catherine, and Laura must still answer to them. Until the council and the others determine otherwise, she remains a part of our community.”
“I can’t protect her in any way.”
“I know ... but I must see her ... tonight ... please!”
Catherine softened at the look in his eyes, then nodded. “All right.”
Vincent tapped out a quick message, then took her hand. As they walked, he told her about the news he had heard. “Willis, her mentor, tells us Laura has spent very little time in her old apartment these last few months.”
Catherine stopped. “Well, then how do you expect to find her?”
“I know Laura. For her to become involved in this gang, she must be very close with one of its members.”
Catherine felt her stomach flip with certainty. “Vincent, how long has she been shirking her duties?”
“Just a short while, the last month or so...”
“I need to get to a phone.”
Vincent cocked his head curiously at her abruptness. “There’s the one at the end of the park.”
Catherine quickened her pace. “Let’s go.”
Catherine plodded towards the phone and hoped that her hunch was wrong.
Vincent hid in the bushes as Catherine dialed. He stood patiently waiting and could hear their entire conversation.
“Officer Jackson. Can I help you?”
“Harry, it’s Cathy Chandler.”
“Hey, what can I do for my favorite little attorney?”
Catherine giggled. “I need to talk to Detective Deneli. Can you give me his address or his phone number?”
“Don’t you think its kind of late to be calling?” Harry asked as paper shuffling could be heard in the background. Finally he rattled off the phone number. “Well, at least you won’t wake his girlfriend when you call.”
Harry was laughing when he said it. Catherine smirked. “His girlfriend? What? Did they just break up or something?”
Harry chuckled. “Naw, it’s only a joke. She’s deaf. You can call whenever you want.”
Catherine sighed at this bit of news. “Thanks, Harry!”
“No problem, babe.”
Catherine laughed. “I’m going to tell Shelia that you’re still calling me babe!”
“Go ahead! She’s so jealous, she’ll come after you, not me.”
Harry and Sheila had been married close to 35 years. They were still so in love it warmed Catherine’s heart. Catherine laughed harder at his joke. “I could never hurt her like that; you’ll just have to get over me.”
Harry laughed aloud. “Night, Chandler.”
The line went dead, and Catherine turned to Vincent. “I have the address. It’s ...”
Vincent took her hand and smiled shyly. “I ... overheard.”
Catherine grinned to show him she wasn’t angry he eavesdropped. “Do you want me to go with you?”
Vincent sighed and lowered his head. “I should go alone.”
He waited for her protest and was surprised when Catherine reached for his hand. “I understand.”
He smiled at her with thanks. “I’ll watch over you as you walk home.”
“No, go see Laura. I’ll be fine.”
He cocked his head thoughtfully. “It’s late. Will you grab a taxi?”
Catherine raised her eyebrows in surprise. “For a few blocks?”
He shrugged. “I’d know that you got safely home then.”
Catherine nodded. “Okay.”
He took her hand and led her over to a well-concealed area of the park, then led her through some bushes. He stopped among them and pushed branches to the side to show Catherine an area where cabs were waiting, idling in a row in front of a hotel.
“I guess this is goodnight then.”
“Yes. Thank you for coming to me.”
“You’re welcome, Vincent. I’ll see you soon.”
Catherine made a step forward to hug him, but the branches caught at her hair. Vincent reached up and untangled the strands, then stepped back. “Goodnight.”
Catherine stepped out on the sidewalk. “Goodnight.”
Vincent watched as she walked over to the first cab and got in. As it took off, he turned and headed to the address he had been given.
Vincent stood and peered into the window of the apartment. Inside, Laura lay asleep in bed. Next to her, cuddled close, was a man who was also asleep.
She had a strange sensation that she was being watched, and as her eyes opened slowly, she gazed up and saw Vincent. Having been wakened by him so many times growing up, she didn’t startle upon seeing his face.
She thought there was a chance he would be coming to see her. She knew that Catherine would have told him about her involvement tonight at the crime scene. She slipped to the edge of the bed and watched as Jerry rolled away from her in his sleep. She steeled herself to meet with Vincent. She felt he would offer his disapproval, and she readied herself to do battle.
Vincent asked her how she’d been doing and asked about her life. Eventually he leaned over to look through the window at Jerry before he looked back at Laura.
“Do you love this man?”
Laura looked in at Jerry and smiled. “Yes,” she answered. She worried that Jerry would wake up and approached Vincent. “You didn’t come here to check up on me. Catherine told you about tonight.”
“Catherine is worried about your involvement with this dangerous group of people.”
Laura shook her head in denial. “They’re my friends! I’m in no danger.”
“Perhaps you aren’t, but there are those who are hurt by the things you steal.”
Laura scoffed. “Who?! Rich men in their expensive homes? The few things we steal won’t hurt anyone. Besides that, I’ve never actually seen anyone steal anything. Tonight was the first night I went with them, and we didn’t steal anything.”
“Because you were almost caught!”
Laura grew angry. “You don’t know that! You’re only listening to Catherine’s side of the story!”
“Laura, please! I’m asking you to come Below. You know the rules. We’ll face the council together ... you and I ... and you can tell us your side of the story.”
Laura looked at Vincent and frowned. She still felt like a member of that world and knew she was expected Below. The child in her wanted to go and follow the rules as dictated, but the adult in her that was starting to emerge balked at the idea of answering for her actions.
Vincent saw the struggle within her and waited patiently.
Laura respected him too much to say no and reluctantly agreed. “Tomorrow morning, after Jerry leaves, I’ll come down. Around 10:00?”
Vincent stepped forward for a hug. She sighed at the safety she felt in his arms, then backed away slowly. Vincent smiled and patted her shoulder, then turned and left.
Jerry headed into work and sat at his desk. McQueenie came over and smirked. “Chandler’s looking for you. Better get your ass over to the DA’S office before she hangs you by your ...”
“Yeah! I got the picture!” he said angrily, as he stood.
He walked out the door and headed straight to the DA’S office. He was furious that they had blown the operation last night, and he wondered how he could possible be in trouble for something they’d botched.
Catherine saw him walk in and waylaid him immediately. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Detective Deneli!”
Jerry nodded angrily. “Yeah, about what?”
“Laura, for one!”
Jerry’s eyes opened wide. “How...” He cleared his throat nervously. “How do you know about Laura?”
“She was a witness in a case I had a while back. But that’s not the issue here! Why was she with a gang of murderers last night? A month ago she wasn’t even a member of this gang”
Jerry frowned. “I know she wasn’t.”
“Now I hear she’s your girlfriend!”
Jerry’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “Yeah, I guess she is...”
“You had an interesting evening planned for date night.”
Jerry shook his head then sighed. “It’s not like that. I tried to hide my activities from Laura but ... one day a woman from the gang approached us at the grocery store. She invited Laura to come to the clubhouse. I ... It just happened. I was powerless to stop it ...”
“Powerless to stop a girl you’d just met from becoming involved with a gang you’re investigating?”
“She doesn’t know I’m investigating them!”
“Why didn’t you just tell her? She would have understood you had to work.”
Jerry shook his head, disgusted with himself. “She doesn’t know I’m a cop,” he mumbled.
“What?!” Catherine asked in disbelief.
Jerry sighed and threw his arms up in defeat. “It never came up, and I hadn’t had a chance to tell her. Then when I found out she doesn’t trust cops ... I ... kept it to myself. I was afraid of losing her. I never thought it would get this far out of hand.”
“I don’t believe you!” Jerry ignored her and continued to look down at the floor. Catherine angrily lashed out at him. “You involved yourself with the girl, and you involved her in a felony! You just killed it for all of us. Months of work! What the hell were you thinking?!”
Jerry rushed to defend himself. “Don’t give me that self-righteous crap. It’s not like I volunteered for this!”
“That is no excuse! You talk to me, Jerry, or I take it to Internal Affairs right now!”
Jerry got angry at the whole system. “I just about gift-wrapped Lincoln for you. You’re the ones who screwed up, not me!”
“That is something different. Don’t confuse it ...”
“I’m not confusing things!”
Catherine wouldn’t be deterred. As much as she wanted to catch the gang, at this point she was more worried about Laura. “You listen to me, Detective. You didn’t just screw up; you broke the law! I am talking endangerment, entrapment, and if anything happens to that girl, God forbid, it is on your head! Do you understand? You have been lying to her and to yourself, and it’s over!”
Jerry looked around and then dragged her into Joe’s empty office. He walked over to the window and looked outside. “Boy, it’s funny.”
“How I feel. I mean ... I’m kind of relieved you found out.”
Catherine nodded with understanding. “Secrets can get pretty heavy.”
“Worst part of it is I was keeping it from Laura. You know my parents are deaf. Sign was my first language. I love her, Cathy. I didn’t want to and I don’t want to, but I do, and I know I’m in major trouble...”
Catherine softened towards him and sat down next to him. “I’ll do what I can to help you, Jerry, but I can’t keep this from the others. I’m sorry. And until we decide what to do, I don’t want you near that gang, and that includes Laura!”
Jerry blew out a long breath. “We’ve ... been living together at my place... Well, sort of.”
Catherine frowned. “Well, sort of make yourself unavailable. Maybe Laura will head back to her old friends. They’ll keep her safe until this is over with. Then ... well ... I guess you can do what you want. You’re both adults.”
Jerry shook his head. “Yeah, I’ll try. I don’t want her to get hurt.”
Jerry left and headed home.
Jerry walked into his apartment and saw a letter from Laura saying she was heading to the clubhouse. He grabbed his coat and went to meet her.
Laura had gotten there earlier. No one was around but Lincoln. He accused her of being the one who had told the police about the warehouse theft last night. Laura denied it, but Lincoln kept approaching her in a menacing way. He demanded she tell him she hated people who could hear. Laura shrugged him off, but he demanded that she say those words. In fear, she finally relented. Satisfied she had succumbed to his authority, Lincoln came closer to her and leaned in to try to kiss her.
Jerry saw what was happening and stepped in between her and Lincoln. He warned Lincoln away from her, then he and Laura left.
They went to their favorite spot in a closed-in yard where there was an abandoned car. He and Laura pretended to drive the car up into the mountains. They professed their love to one another, and Jerry looked over at her worriedly.
Laura asked him to tell her what was wrong. Jerry admitted to her that he was a cop and he had been working on catching Lincoln’s gang in the act.
Laura was horrified to learn that he could hear and speak as well. She ran from the car, and Jerry waited while he debated whether he should go after her or not. He finally took off after her.
Neither one of them noticed that Miguel had come to find them. He saw their entire conversation, then raced back to tell Lincoln.
Lincoln grabbed Miguel’s anxious hands. “Slow down and start over!”
Miguel nodded, then signed again. “I just saw Jerry tell Laura he could hear. He can speak, too. I saw him talking to her.”
Lincoln grew angry. “So he’s the snitch! He can hear?”
Miguel held up his hand. “There’s more. He also told her he was a cop!”
Lincoln’s face screwed up with hatred. “A cop! Are you sure?”
Miguel nodded furiously and showed the sign for police.
Lincoln shook his head in disgust. “Get everyone else. We’re going to find him now. Make him pay!”
Miguel nodded and headed out to round up the others.
Laura ran from Jerry. She walked alone, sobbing as she felt her heart breaking in two. She wondered if she would be able to breathe again. She cried out against Jerry’s betrayal. She had trusted him and he had been lying to her all along. He was a cop investigating their gang. He didn’t belong with them. He was an outsider and he could hear!
She walked in misery and was surprised when she ended up at the entrance to the tunnels. She thought about how good it would feel to sit with Rebecca and pour her heart out to her. Rebecca would listen to her and offer her opinion. She was someone Laura had trusted her entire life.
Laura would explain to Rebecca that Jerry couldn’t be trusted just like the other police officers she had encountered. She would tell her how she hated all men and the lies that they told.
Laura stopped herself from opening the hidden door. She thought about Father and how fairly he always guided the community Below. He never dished out punishments unless they were needed. She thought about William and how he always had a warm cookie, glass of milk, and an open ear to listen to any problems. Then she chuckled when she thought about Vincent and how safe she would feel in one of his embraces. Vincent had always been there for her. He seemed to be able to anticipate her thoughts, and he always offered good advice.
She wiped the tears from her eyes and leaned against the wall. She wondered what Vincent would think of Jerry. She would tell him just what Jerry had done, and in his own way, Vincent would point out that only Jerry could answer as to why he kept his other life a secret. She smirked when she realized he would tell her to go speak with Jerry. Tell him how she felt, what she thought, and then wait for his answer.
Laura’s heart began to soften. She thought of Jerry’s face when he was telling her. He was so upset because he knew it would hurt her. She thought back to other times when she thought that he may have tried to tell her, but stopped at the last minute, unable to follow through. She realized he knew how badly she would take the news and was only afraid of losing her.
Jerry searched frantically for Laura. She had not gone to the clubhouse, or to his home, or hers. The only thing he could think to do was to call Catherine and ask for her help.
While he was on the phone in a phone booth, the gang members attacked him. Catherine heard the glass shattering and Jerry’s screams for help. She thought she heard him scream out an address before the phone went silent.
“Joe!” she yelled, as she quickly jotted the information down. She was dialing the police when he walked over to her desk.
At the same moment the on-duty staff sergeant answered the phone. “Officer Jackson.”
“Harry, it’s Cathy Chandler. Put all units on alert. Detective Deneli’s been hurt.”
“You sure, Chandler?”
“He called me from a phone booth on Avenue N. I heard banging and what sounded like glass shattering. Jerry was screaming for help. I thought he said this address. Can you send someone to pick me up?”
“Got it. I’ll put every unit on it right now, and someone will swing by in a few minutes to get you. Thanks, Cathy.”
Joe knew the procedures when an officer was down, and he grabbed the phone from her. “Jackson, its Maxwell. Have the helicopter pick me up on the roof of my building.”
The phone slammed down, and Catherine felt a small measure of relief. Joe, however, was scowling. “What was Deneli doing by himself in that neighborhood talking on the phone? It’s the gang’s home turf, for Pete’s sake. He was bound to be caught. What was he thinking?!”
Catherine shook her head as she stood. “I’m heading over there now.”
Joe shook his head. “I would argue with you, but I know it will do no good. Be careful, Cath!”
“Yeah, you too.”
The two headed out, Catherine to the lobby, Joe to the roof. Within minutes, both were picked up and headed out to look for Jerry.
Three blocks from the phone booth, Laura walked unnoticed into the clubhouse. Her face fell when she saw that Jerry was tied up to a pole and her new friends were torturing him with a huge radio that they placed against his ear. She ached for the pain he must be feeling as she could feel the vibrations from the music across the room. Jerry’s eyes met hers, and in them she saw worry and fear. She ran from the room to get help.
She went to Willis, her mentor, and asked for his help. He refused until she told him that the man who needed help was a cop. Laura took off to go back to Jerry as Willis phoned the police station.
After he told the officer what he knew, he headed to his basement and sent a message Below.
Father and Vincent were discussing Laura’s problems when they heard the message come across the pipes.
Vincent stood immediately. “I’ll be back, Father.”
Knowing it would be futile to argue, Father nodded. “Be careful.”
Vincent took off at a dead run, hopped on the roof of a subway car, and rode to the address Willis gave.
Laura found the gang again. Jerry was tied to a fence, and the members of the gang were arming themselves with rocks and bricks. Jerry had already been hit in the head and blood was pouring from his temple. Laura pleaded with them not to hurt Jerry, but her pleas went unanswered, and they finally shoved her towards Jerry. Laura tried to shield his body with her own as the members whipped bricks at the two of them. Jerry tried to protect Laura as he threw his leg around her waist and pulled her close to him. The two lovers sank to the ground as they continued to get hit with bricks.
From above in the helicopter, Joe spotted the gang and lit up the area with a spotlight. The police at ground level had been alerted, and units were racing towards the area. The members finally saw the search beam from the helicopter, and they tried to run, but when the cops arrived, they were all apprehended.
Lincoln was furious and picked up a cinder block and was about to bring it down on Laura’s head when Vincent jumped from a roof top and knocked him down. With a quick downward slash of his hand, Lincoln was disposed of. Vincent took a fraction of a second to check on Laura, then left unseen.
Catherine ran from the car and glanced only briefly at Lincoln’s body. She frowned at the telltale signs that Vincent had been there, then walked over to Laura side.
Laura was untying Jerry’s hands from the fence. He was badly hurt. He probably had a concussion, and his head certainly would require stitches.
Catherine saw that they were okay and headed back to Lincoln’s side. She picked up a new penny from the ground by Lincoln’s head. It had fallen out of his ear when he hit the ground. She felt for a pulse and was surprised that he was still alive.
Officer McQeenie ran to her side. “He alive, Miss Chandler?”
Catherine nodded. “He has a pulse…”
McQueenie flipped Lincoln to his back, then leaned back in surprise. “What the hell happened to this guy’s chest?”
Catherine leaned in and pretended to assess the cuts. “It looks like someone got to him with a knife.”
McQueenie shook his head in disgust as the ambulance drivers ran up and started to help Lincoln. “Stupid gangs turn on their own every time! You would think the members would learn!”
“Yeah! You’d think.”
Catherine turned to see Jerry on a gurney headed for the ambulance. Laura stood alone, looking around. Catherine walked to her side and put her arm around her. Laura turned, accepted the comfort Catherine offered, and hugged her back.
Catherine pulled away and tried to convey a message to Laura. “Would you like me to take you to the hospital?”
Laura frowned as she tried to understand Catherine. Finally she shrugged and pointed at the ambulance, then shook her head.
Surprisingly, Catherine understood what she meant. She touched Laura’s arm. “I know Jerry would want you there. He’s hurting and needs you right now.” Laura still looked uncertain. Catherine took her hand. “We’ll go together, and if Jerry doesn’t want to see you, I’ll take you home and you can stay at my place for awhile.”
Laura grudgingly followed Catherine to a waiting squad car, and the officer whisked them off to the hospital.
Vincent was hidden in the shadows and observed Catherine and Laura. It warmed his heart to know that Laura had someone like Catherine to help her through this time. He slipped away after the police left the area.
In the emergency room, Catherine checked in at the desk and told them they were there for Jerry Deneli. She asked for some paper and a pen, then sat down by Laura.
“They know we’re here for Jerry.”
Laura wrote on the paper. “Is he okay?”
Catherine shrugged. “They wouldn’t tell me anything, but they did say they would tell Jerry we’re here.”
An hour later, a harried looking doctor came into the waiting room. “Any one here for Detective Jerry Deneli?”
Catherine tapped Laura’s arm and stood. “We are.”
The doctor came over. He looked at his notes on his clipboard as he talked to them. “Detective Deneli has a concussion. We’re going to keep him overnight for...”
Catherine interrupted. “Excuse me, Doctor.” When he looked up, she continued. “Jerry’s girlfriend Laura is deaf. Could you possibly look at her when you speak?”
The doctor looked chagrined as he set his clipboard down and surprised both women when he began to sign. “I’m sorry. I knew this and just forgot. It’s been a busy night.” Laura smiled and nodded as he continued. “My name is Doctor DeWayne. Jerry has a concussion. He required several stitches in the gash on his head and two more on his upper arm and lower leg. He can be released if someone would be available to keep an eye on him for the next 24 hours. His parents live out of town and ...”
Laura waved her arms and quickly volunteered. The doctor smiled. “Jerry was uncertain if you would be here.”
Laura rolled her eyes. “Ask him where else I would be?!”
The doctor laughed. “Ask him yourself. He’s in room 4 behind the curtain. Go through the door and turn right. It’s around the corner.”
Catherine looked up suddenly at the doctor. “Doctor? There was another deaf man brought in tonight, Renaldo Gutierrez?”
“He’s in surgery. I think he’ll make it. He had some pretty deep cuts to his chest.”
Laura paled as Catherine frowned. “Cuts, huh?”
The doctor rolled his eyes. “Yeah, looks like these idiots came up with a new weapon. Looks like some kind of a triple switchblade.”
Catherine nodded as he turned and walked away. She turned and touched Laura’s arm. “Laura, you look as if you’re in good hands. I need to go check on Vincent.”
Laura grabbed the paper and wrote. Catherine read aloud. “He saved your life?”
Laura nodded. “Lincoln was about to throw a block at my head. Vincent came out of nowhere and knocked him out. Jerry was looking down. He never saw Vincent.”
Catherine nodded with relief. “Good.”
Laura hugged and thanked her. Catherine leaned away so Laura could see her speak. “I’ll check on you tomorrow. If you need anything ...”
Laura nodded and watched as Catherine walked away.
Laura walked and stood at the opening of the curtain. Jerry’s eyes slowly opened and were filled with such relief upon seeing her. He raised his hand to reach for her and she moved forward. They embraced, and he took her arms and pushed her gently away.
“Laura, I am so, so sorry. I wanted to tell you, like a million times, but I...”
Laura touched her finger to his lip and smiled. “It’s okay. I understand.”
He smiled with relief. “I love you, Laura.”
She signed. “I love you too.” Then gently climbed in next to him and cuddled up to him.
An hour later, Dr. DeWayne came in. Laura sat up looking guilty as he began to sign. “Jerry can go home, but you need to watch him for any headaches or blurred vision.” He smiled briefly. “And for tonight, no ... um ... relations.”
Laura blushed profusely and Jerry snapped his fingers. “Damn!”
Laura pretended to punch him, and Dr. DeWayne laughed. Jerry sat up to get dressed to leave.
Dr. DeWayne nodded. “Release papers will be at the front desk. Take good care of him, Laura.”
She nodded. “I will.”
Catherine thought briefly of stopping by the park entrance, but she knew that Vincent would be waiting for her on her balcony. She headed through her apartment and straight out her bedroom doors.
She smiled as she walked into his arms. “Hi. Sorry I took so long. I waited at the hospital with Laura. The doctor came out and took her to see Jerry.”
“I saw the ambulance take him away. I guessed that you would help Laura at the hospital. Her boyfriend ... he’s all right?”
“His name is Jerry, and yes, he’s all right. Some stitches and a concussion. I think they were going to release him tonight if Laura was going to be with him. How did you know she would agree to go to the hospital with me?”
Vincent shrugged. “I know Laura’s heart.” He looked down sadly. “And the other man?”
“The doctor said he thought he was going to be all right.”
Vincent looked relieved. “I didn’t ...” He stopped mid sentence, unable to go on. Finally he sighed. “I jumped from a rooftop. He never knew what happened.”
Catherine nodded. “You saved Laura’s life.”
“By almost taking another’s.”
Catherine squeezed his arms. “But you didn’t, and it wouldn’t have mattered if you had. You were only protecting an innocent person. Are you all right? You weren’t hurt in any way?”
“No, Catherine. It’s late. Perhaps I should go.”
Catherine caught his eye. “It is late, but if you want to spend some time together and stay, I’d be more than happy to sit with you for awhile.”
Vincent shook his head, wanting to distance himself from her and the events of the night. “You need your sleep.”
Catherine nodded disappointedly. “Okay. Goodnight, Vincent.”
He disappeared over the side of the building, and she turned and headed off to bed.
The next day, Catherine went to Jerry’s apartment. She rang the bell and was surprised when Laura answered.
“Hi, Laura. How’s our patient?”
Laura put her hands against her face and pretended like she was sleeping. Catherine frowned. “Well, then how did you know the bell rang?”
Laura let her in and pointed at a light that came on whenever the bell was rung. Catherine nodded with understanding.
Laura grabbed a pen and paper. “Is Vincent okay?”
“He’s worried about you.”
Laura shrugged. “Me? I’m fine!”
Catherine chuckled. “I think he’ll believe that when he sees you again.”
Laura knew Jerry would sleep for a few more hours. He had been up off and on throughout the night.
She wrote a note to Jerry, then one to Catherine.
Catherine read hers. “You want to see Vincent now?”
“Are you busy?” Laura wrote.
Catherine shook her head. “No. I was just going Below to spend the afternoon. I stopped by to see you so I could give Vincent a good report.”
Laura grabbed her coat and motioned for Catherine to follow. She and Catherine made their way to the park. With a quick glance around, they entered the culvert. Laura tapped out a message and Vincent appeared within a few minutes.
He was surprised to see both Laura and Catherine together. He smiled at Catherine, then turned and hugged Laura warmly.
Catherine watched as the two spoke easily with their hands, and she secretly thanked Vincent for including her in their conversation, for speaking Laura’s words out loud.
“Laura, it’s good to see you are safe.”
“Thanks to you, Jerry and I are both safe.”
“Catherine told me that he is recovering with your help.”
“Vincent, are you mad at me? I know you have every right to be. I mean ... I’m not even sure how all of it happened.”
Vincent smiled. “I’m not angry with you. I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t come to me sooner. I may have been able to help. But I understand why you didn’t. And sometimes life moves so quickly that we cannot seem to stop ourselves from doing things that under normal circumstances we would never consider doing.”
Laura nodded. “Will you ask the council if I can meet with them sometime soon and begin my punishment? I want to be able to come Below to see my family.”
“Laura, you will always be welcomed Below. I’ll speak to the council. You’ll probably have to do some community service, but we’ll see what can be arranged.”
Laura explained that she felt bad about the whole thing and that she hoped he and the community Below could one day meet Jerry. Laura told Vincent she loved Jerry and that her life was with him. They hugged goodbye before she then headed back.
Catherine knew Vincent’s heart was breaking. She knew how hard it was for him to let Laura go back Above. She turned to him to offer her comfort. “You have a lot to be proud of Vincent, all that you have given Laura and taught her.”
Vincent’s voice held a trace of melancholy. “I never realized until now just how much she had given me and how much I miss her.”
“She’s been through a lot.”
He nodded. “The world has tested her.”
“And yet she chooses to remain Above.”
“She’s in love.”
Catherine marveled at Laura’s ability to move forward. “That she could forgive Jerry ... that took great courage. It’s the rarest kind of love.”
She looked at Vincent with such love in her eyes, and he wondered briefly if she was also talking about their own relationship. “To surrender yourself completely to your heart, to trust in it fully, to believe in it without doubting ...”
Catherine knew he understood and nodded. “...to let it guide your life .... Somehow Laura’s found the way.”
Catherine wondered aloud, “Will it make her life any simpler, do you think?”
Vincent chuckled. “No ... not simpler.”
“But she’ll be happier.”
Catherine stepped closer to him. “Trust me, Vincent. She will be happier.”
Catherine reached up to affectionately squeeze his upper arms. She let her hand slide down and he quickly caught it within his. He turned and led her towards the tunnel entrance. He closed the sliding steel door behind him as they entered the tunnels.
Catherine moved closer to him and laid her head against his shoulder. “I can’t believe we have the whole day to spend together.”
Vincent smiled shyly. “How shall we spend it?”
Catherine thought of his bed, then quickly let the thought leave her mind before she shocked him. “I’m up for anything you can throw my way.”
Vincent cocked his head. “Reading by the Mirror Pool?”
Catherine smiled. “That sounds relaxing.”
“I need to talk to Father first and tell him of Laura’s request.”
“That’s fine. We can sit and visit with him for awhile, then maybe have lunch with everyone else.”
Vincent chuckled at how well she knew his family and community. “Do you feel that’ll give everyone enough time to spend with us? Are you thinking that they will leave us in peace while we spend some time together this afternoon?”
Catherine pretended to blink innocently. “Do you think that would work? I would’ve never thought of that by myself.”
Vincent broke out into a rare grin, his fangs clearly in view. Catherine rejoiced that he felt so comfortable with her. It warmed her heart to see him so at ease.
“Catherine, it’s lucky that you chose to be a lawyer. You’re a horrible liar. You would have made a terrible criminal.”
Catherine nodded. “Well, I think that’s a good thing.”
They walked hand and hand towards Father’s library.