BETWEEN THE LINES
THE TIME HAS COME
Devin quietly made his way through the circus grounds towards a tent set way in the back of the lot. He could see a light shining through the gap between the walls and the dirt ground, so he knew that the man being caged there each night was still inside.
With a last look around, he slowly opened the flap of the doorway and walked inside. He stared at the man locked in his cage. The man was so intent on an item he held in his lap that he never noticed someone had entered the room. Devin frowned when he realized it looked like the man was coloring in a book. He also noticed the ever-present hood was on the floor next to the man’s feet. Devin took a deep breath to steady his nerves, then walked forward. “Hi.”
The man groaned as he quickly turned his back towards Devin, blocking his view as he scrambled to grab for the hood to frantically slip over his head.
Devin rushed to introduce himself. “Don’t bother with that. I’m Syd, the knife thrower. I’ve ... already seen your face ... in the show this afternoon. You may as well keep your hood off.”
The man lowered the hood from the top of his head and looked at Devin curiously.
Devin sighed with relief and smiled as he took a step closer. “Actually, my real name is Devin.”
“That’s right. Now, I know what your billboard out there says, but you must have a real name.”
The man wouldn’t turn around but he nodded. “It’s Charles.”
Devin hid his grin as he took another step forward and extended his hand over the man’s shoulder. “Hey, Charles, nice to meet you.”
Charles was shocked but he reached out and shook Devin’s hand. “Nice to meet you too, Devin.”
Devin came slowly around to stand in front him. Charles lowered his head to hide his face as he stared at the ground.
Charles sighed. “When my dad died.”
“Oh, yeah? How long ago was that?”
Charles shrugged. “When I was 14. I’m not sure ... but I’m gonna be 30 this year ... I think.”
Devin gasped aloud. “You’ve been doing this show for 16 years?”
Charles looked up tentatively. “I guess.”
Devin smiled at Charles as he looked at him fully. “Wow, that’s a long time!”
Charles relaxed when he noticed Devin showed no adverse reaction to his appearance. “Yeah.”
Devin found a bucket and turned it over to sit down on it. “So ... after your dad died ... you couldn’t stay at home with your mom anymore?”
“My mom died giving birth to me.” Charles dropped his head in shame again.
Devin sighed as he found he had yet another thing in common with this strange man. “I know how you feel. My mom died giving birth to me, too.”
Charles’ head shot up in surprise. “She did?” At Devin’s nod, Charles continued, “But you’re normal!”
Devin’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he looked at the innocent man. “Being different had nothing to do with your mother dying in childbirth, Charles.”
Charles lowered his head. “That’s what my dad used to tell me.”
“But ... you didn’t believe him?” Charles shrugged, and Devin touched his arm. “Well, if that’s true then why did my mom die?”
Devin could see Charles thinking about this new information.
“You know, Charles, sometimes things happen that are just beyond our control. I bet that’s what happened with my mom and your mom.”
“But Eddie tells me all the time that it was my fault! He said I was a freak and that she died because of it. He said that I killed her!”
“Who’s Eddie, and why would you listen to someone like him?”
“Your brother?” Devin gasped.
“Eddie’s older than me and he’s smart. He knows things ... all kinds of things.”
Devin glanced around angrily. “Where’s Eddie now?”
Charles nodded towards the door. “He goes out at night.”
“Oh, yeah? Why didn’t you go out with him?”
Charles eyes flashed his disbelief that Devin could ask such an obvious question. “ ‘Cause I’m ugly and I’ll scare people!”
Devin sighed as he was starting to get a picture of the dismal life Charles led after the death of his father. “You didn’t scare me! Besides, you’re not ugly, and didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s what’s on the inside of a person that counts?”
Charles smiled shyly. “My dad used to say that all the time.”
Devin grinned. “Your dad must have been a very smart man.”
Charles looked down sadly. “Yeah, not like me. I’m not smart at all.”
Devin waved him off. “I can’t believe that. I bet you learned all kinds of stuff when you were in school.”
“Eddie couldn’t be bothered?”
Charles shrugged. “Eddie told me he was too busy to teach me, and he had things to do and places to go, and he wasn’t going to be held back from doing them by a freak like me!”
Devin’s winced with guilt as his thoughts immediately flashed to Vincent. He wondered briefly if Vincent felt like he had treated him the same way and made him believe he wasn’t worthy of his time. Devin had a sudden ache to return to the tunnels and see his brother.
“Well, Charles, I’m not too busy. If you want, I could spend some time with you at night, you know, teaching you things.”
Charles broke out into a grin. “Really, Devin, you would do that?!”
Devin grinned. “Sure, why not?! In fact, what time does Eddie come back?”
“Oh, not until late, maybe even tomorrow morning, if he finds a girl and ....” Charles looked down with embarrassment.
Devin chuckled at his new friend’s childlike innocence. “I get the picture.” He grabbed the coloring book from the floor. “Unless you want to keep doing this, we could start right now. You got any books around here to read?”
Charles nodded as a grin broke out on his face. “Eddie doesn’t know I have it. It was the book my dad used to read to me when I was young. I can’t read it too good though.”
Devin watched as Charles got up and shuffled over to a big duffel bag on the floor. He brought out a tattered copy and showed it to Devin.
Devin smiled. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. My brother and I used to read that all the time when we were younger.”
Charles grinned. “You got a brother, too?”
“Kind of. His name is Vincent. We were raised together by my father.”
Charles frowned. “Is he older than you and mean to you?”
Devin caressed his cheek with the deep scars thoughtfully and chuckled. “No, he’s younger than I am and any mean thing he’s ever done to me ... I probably deserved.” He reached and took the book from Charles’ hand. “If you want, I’ll read to you for a while.”
Charles sat back and smiled as he nodded. “I’d like that, Dev.”
Devin grinned at his nickname. He knew that Charles was comfortable with him now, and he hoped to be able to make a difference in this man’s life.
He opened the book and began to read. Two hours later, when Charles yawned loudly, Devin closed the book. “Hey, why don’t we finish this tomorrow night?”
Devin nodded. “Yeah, unless you have some other plans?”
“No! I’ll be here, but don’t you have plans?”
“I do,” he said as he stood and watched Charles’ face fall in sadness. “I’m coming here. See you tomorrow night, Charles.”
Charles nodded and smiled widely. “Okay.”
Devin walked towards the tent opening, then turned around and waved. Charles waved back and Devin left.
The next week was filled with the same routine. Devin waited until the men from the carnival went into town
and then he headed over to see Charles. They spent endless hours together reading and doing some basic math problems.
The carnival packed up and moved to a location near New York City, and Devin had hoped to be able to go home for a few days for a visit.
It was early evening when Devin walked into the tent to find Eddie whipping his younger brother.
“Stop it!” Devin yelled across the tent.
Eddie inflicted another blow as he called out over his shoulder, “Get outta here! This ain’t none of your business!”
Devin withdrew the knife sheathed and clipped on the side of his belt. He stomped angrily up to the sweaty man and grabbed his wrist. Eddie had given yet another lashing to Charles, and Devin lashed out with his knife, effectively cutting Eddie’s hand and forcing him to drop the whip.
“What the hell is your problem?!” Eddie asked angrily.
Devin glanced at the man cowering in fear in the corner. “Charles, are you okay?”
Charles nodded slowly. “Yeah, Dev. I’m okay. Eddie was just punishing me for something bad I did.”
“Charles, no one deserves to be whipped for their punishment.” Devin looked angrily back at the man whose wrist he still held. “Eddie, what the hell did he do?”
“Like I said, none of your damn business!”
“I’m making it my business.”
Charles turned timidly around. “Dev, Eddie says this is a family matter. Just between us brothers. ”
Eddie’s face contorted angrily. “Shut up, you stupid oaf! I told you never to tell anyone, and that’s why you’re gonna get it again!”
Devin shook his head angrily. “You bastard! You’re beating him because he told me you two are brothers?”
Eddie looked at Devin defiantly as he spoke to his brother. “Charles, get in your cage!”
Charles stood and shuffled over and locked himself in the cage.
Devin swallowed in disgust while Eddie arrogantly gloated. “You can leave now!”
Devin shook his head and turned and left. Unknown to Eddie, he immediately headed out to find some kind of a vehicle to escape in. He had given up all hope of securing something when he saw Eddie walking across a parking lot.
He watched as Eddie opened the back of a van and threw something into it. Devin saw blankets and a mattress piled in the back. He skirted around and saw the same advertisement as the one on the tent wall, and knew this must be Eddie’s way of traveling with Charles. He slunk back into the shadows as some other men joined Eddie and they headed out in a car towards town.
An idea popped into his head, and he acted on it before he thought about the consequences. “It’s now or never,” he thought as he walked quickly towards the tent were Charles was kept.
It was already dark when he walked inside. “Charles?” he called out tentatively.
“Why’s it so dark in here?”
Charles sighed. “Eddie said I didn’t earn the right to have a light tonight.”
Devin closed the distance to the cage as quickly as he could. “You’re hurt?”
Charles shrugged. “A little.”
Devin shook his head in disgust. “Charles, how would you like to go with me to a special place I know about? My father and brother are there. It’s a safe place, and the people there are really nice.”
“I don’t know, Dev. Eddie would be really mad ... ”
“Charles, you’re old enough to decide for yourself what you want to do. Would you come with me? If you don’t like it there, we can always come back.”
Charles sat up and turned around. “What will they think when they see me? Are you sure that your father won’t be mad at you for bringing a freak home with you?”
Charles stood slowly and hissed in pain from the injuries caused by Eddie. Devin winced and turned away. He looked for Charles’ duffel bag with all his prized possessions and grabbed it. “Come on, let’s get going.”
Charles shuffled his way through the grounds as Devin slowed his pace so he could keep up. Miraculously, no one observed them, and they got to the van without incident.
Charles opened the side door and climbed inside while Devin closed the door behind him. Devin trotted around and hopped into the driver’s seat.
Devin leaned over and grabbed a set of wires from under the dashboard. He broke apart the two wires he needed and touched them together. The van started, and Devin grinned as they drove away. He found his way to the freeway and headed towards home.
Devin was relieved that Charles was lulled to sleep by the motion of the car. He knew that in sleep he would at least have some relief from the pain. He also knew that once Father got over his fit of rage, he would take care of the wounds inflicted by Eddie, and Charles would be able to heal.
He frowned when he thought about Eddie’s reaction. Devin had just stolen his van, and he knew that he could be facing major problems with the law. His mind raced, and he thought about Catherine Chandler. He wondered if Vincent and she had kept in touch. Maybe he could persuade Catherine to help him out of the mess he’d gotten himself in.
Charles moaned in the back, and Devin pushed the speed limit even higher.
A few hours later, he was making his way through the streets of New York, trying to decide on the safest entrance for him and Charles to use. Suddenly, lights from a police car were flashing behind him. “Damn it, Eddie!” he thought. Devin floored the accelerator and turned sharply around a corner. Two more turns bought him some time, and he and Charles hopped from the vehicle. Devin struggled with the manhole cover, and Charles bent over to help him lift it off. Devin all but pushed Charles inside the dark hole, and followed him down just before the police sighted the abandoned van.
Devin could hear the police officers talking in the street above them and he sighed with relief went they finally left the area.
He pointed down and Charles climbed the rest of the way down the ladder. Devin joined him, and they began a long journey across town.
On the other side of the city, Catherine had been on her way to the tunnels through the park when Vincent surprised her. She had been looking in the other direction when the bushes ahead of her rustled noisily and she slammed to a stop.
He felt her burst of fear and called out immediately. “Catherine?”
“Vincent?! What a nice surprise!”
“It’s a beautiful night, and I wanted to walk with you,” he said shyly.
“I’m glad.” She smiled and glanced around. “Do you think it’s safe?”
“It’s late. I’ve been out for about half an hour and I’ve seen no one else in the park.”
They slowly walked through the park, keeping to the shadows. Catherine was enjoying spending time with him in the crisp evening air. When he grew quiet, she glanced up and smiled as she wondered at the look on his face. “That’s a mysterious smile.”
Vincent was looking towards the sky. “Look ... the moon.”
“It’s enormous tonight.”
“Do you remember the first time you saw the moon?” Vincent wondered.
Catherine chuckled sarcastically. “Who would remember the first time ... ” She glanced towards him and realized that he did. “Can you?!”
Catherine looked back at the moon in disbelief. “You’re kidding!”
“No, I ... was just a boy. Devin brought me Above ... ”
Vincent stopped when they heard sirens coming their way. Catherine was immediately ready and took his hand as they ran together towards the culvert.
Catherine blew out her breath. “I’m sorry our walk was cut short.”
Used to the disappointment, Vincent shrugged. “It’s something that can’t be helped, although the night sky has always intrigued me.”
“That reminds me, Vincent. Can you take me to see Mouse? He’s expecting us.”
Vincent nodded as he tried to hide his curiosity.
Catherine smirked, knowing how curious he was and how hard he was trying to not ask any questions. “Aren’t you going to say ‘What, again? You just saw him last week.’”
Vincent blushed that she had read his mind so easily. “I would never question anything you wish to do.”
Catherine nodded and smiled mysteriously. “Good, because we have a surprise for you.”
Catherine dreamed briefly of him kissing her to distraction to get the answer from her. She blushed and looked at the ground. “And you have to wait to find out what it is ... ”
Vincent took her hand again and smiled. “Well then, we should hurry.”
Vincent was getting more excited by the second and shrugged. “Perhaps another time. We don’t want to keep Mouse waiting.”
Catherine laughed aloud and leaned into his side, laying her head against his arm. “I hope you’re not disappointed.”
Mouse was waiting for them, and together he and Catherine revealed the magic ball they had made for Vincent. When a person touched it, the electricity inside the ball would arc and take on the appearance of lightning.
Vincent was enjoying the gift when Arthur, the raccoon, set off an alarm. Mouse blushed in embarrassment, thinking that the invention was perhaps malfunctioning. Then he began to wonder if it was actually working properly and they had an intruder. Mouse turned to leave. “Catch up after I look ... ’bye, Catherine.”
“’Bye, Mouse,” Catherine said to the air, as Mouse had already left.
Vincent turned to Catherine and cocked his head. “I need to go check ... ”
“I know you do. I should head home anyway
... it’s late.”
Catherine squeezed his hand and gazed at him lovingly. “Maybe you can think of me every time you touch it.”
Vincent shyly lowered his eyes. “You’re ... always in my thoughts, Catherine.”
The alarm buzzed again, and Catherine dropped his hand and nodded her head in understanding. Vincent turned and walked quickly out the door and then began to jog when he got into the open tunnels.
Catherine frowned. “Be safe, Vincent,” she said aloud to no one.
Unknown to her, Mouse had snuck back into the room and scared her as he suddenly stood in front of her and shrugged indifferently. “Not worried ... Vincent takes care of himself.”
Surprised, Catherine gasped for breath, then smiled. “I guess you’re right. Thanks for all your help, Mouse.”
“Welcome,” Mouse said as he fiddled with the wires on the alarm board.
Catherine turned to leave. “See you tomorrow.”
“’Bye,” Mouse said distractedly.
Vincent made his way through the tunnels and slowed when he heard muffled voices up ahead. He stopped at the entrance to the Whispering Tunnels when the voices grew stronger and he could overhear the conversation.
“It’s really dark, Dev.”
“I know. That’s why you have the flashlight.”
“I think I want to go back.”
Devin sighed. “Charles, can you just try to trust me? You know I would never do anything to hurt you. C’mon, we only have a little bit further.”
“It’s only echoes, ghosts of old sounds. You’re safe down here, but you’ve got to cross over,” Devin assured him.
“Devin?!” Vincent thought as he came upon them, then waited to make sure he wasn’t mistaken.
In a stilted voice, Vincent heard a man reply.
“Can’t ... I want to go back.”
Devin cajoled some more. “Remember what I told you about the secret place where I was born? Its right over there ... across the bridge ... it’s full of music and candles everywhere you look. And the people ... they’re like a family.”
“Heard them laughing. They won’t like a freak like me ... an ugly freak.”
Vincent knew for sure it was Devin, and he could hear the pain in the other man’s voice. Knowing Devin must trust this man if he brought him Below, he came around the corner and revealed himself.
“There are no freaks ... here.” He looked at Devin and then at a man who hid himself under a hood. Vincent lowered his hood and his face came fully into view.
Devin stood up and turned to look at his little brother, grateful that he had stepped forward and tried to help.
Charles gasped in surprise when Vincent revealed his face, and he slowly walked around Devin. He took a few steps towards Vincent, who was reaching out to him, offering his hand to help him. Devin followed Charles across the bridge.
Vincent cocked his head and smiled at Devin. “You’re back, and it took less than twenty years.”
Vincent held his hand out once again, and Charles tentatively took it.
“Thank ... you.”
Vincent turned to lead the way, then turned back when Charles called out. “Is it all right I came here with Devin?”
Vincent nodded. “Any friend of Devin’s will be welcomed to our community.”
Vincent, Devin and Charles made their way slowly through the tunnel.
Devin watched Charles closely as he struggled with his injuries. “My father will fix you right up. You’ll be good as new.”
Charles nodded as he plodded along. “Okay, Dev.”
The three men walked into the library.
Devin grinned and walked in first. “I’m home!”
Devin waited, and Father came over and hugged him warmly. “You’re back ... and so soon.”
Devin laughed. “I knew you were probably missing me by now.”
Vincent cleared his throat and Father looked up. Instantly, his face changed to worry.
Vincent was quick to try to diffuse the situation. “Father, Devin has brought a friend with him. This is Charles. Charles, this is our father.”
Charles hung back timidly and Father immediately relaxed. He stepped forward with his hand extended. “Nice to meet you, Charles.”
Charles nodded but he had seen Father’s reaction and tried to explain. “Not expecting me ... shouldn’t have come. Not good to surprise people.”
Father heard the fear and the pain in the man’s voice and rushed to put him at ease. “You are unexpected, yes, but not unwelcome. Come, Charles, let’s have a seat over here and get acquainted.”
Charles hissed in pain when Father touched his back. Father immediately removed his hand and looked at Devin for an explanation.
“Charles was hurt tonight. I thought perhaps ... ”
Father knew Devin meant to have him look at Charles’ wounds. He nodded, and grabbed his medical bag. “Of course.”
Devin prompted Charles to take a seat in a chair.
Father tried to examine the wounds Charles had on his back, but as he tried to lift the hood from Charles’ head, Charles nervously lashed out and grabbed at his wrist, inadvertently breaking his wrist.
Vincent took Charles to the hospital chamber and promised to cleanse his wounds while Father sent Devin to get Mary to help set his wrist.
Because of Vincent’s unusual appearance, Charles opened up to him, as he seemed to understand everything he was going through. Meanwhile, Vincent cleaned the horrible lash marks on Charles’ back, and frowned at the scars that were present from other whippings the man must have received.
Vincent reflected on his own life and truly appreciated the way he had been raised, and he realized it could have been so much worse. Poor Charles hadn’t been so lucky.
When he was finished cleaning his back, Vincent helped Charles put on his shirt. He walked over to the cabinet and grabbed a medicine bottle and removed two tablets. With a glass of water in hand, he offered the tablets to Charles. “If you take these, it will help with the pain.”
Charles looked at him uncertainly but could see the compassion in Vincent’s eyes, so he took the pills and drank the glass of water.
“Charles, you can sleep in this bed tonight. I’m sure Devin will sleep in the bunk next to you.”
Charles nodded. “I’d like to lay down now, if that’s all right?”
Vincent smiled and led him to the bed. “Of course, it’s all right.”
Charles pulled back the covers and sat down on the side. “Thank you, Vincent.”
Charles nodded. “I’d like that.”
Vincent began to read but he didn’t even make it through the first chapter before Charles could be heard softly snoring.
Vincent headed towards his chamber and walked in to find Devin sitting in his chair.
They had reminisced for a while when Devin asked about Catherine. “I might need her to help me with some trouble I’ve gotten myself in. What do you think?”
Vincent shrugged. “I know that Catherine would help you in any way that she can.”
Devin nervously started to pace around the room. “Does she come down here every day?”
“She comes down when she is able to.”
Devin rolled his eyes. “What kind of an answer is that? Don’t you two talk at all? You have no idea when she’ll come down again?”
“No, I’m not certain…”
“What? She just shows up at any time?!”
Vincent cocked his head to the side curiously. “Devin, what is this about?”
Devin exploded angrily. “Nothing! I’m asking you simple questions and you won’t answer me! You’ve been seeing a woman for almost two years, and you can’t tell me the next time you’ll see her?!”
“I ... ” Vincent sat down heavily. “I don’t know.”
“Why the hell not? All you have to say is ‘Hey, Cath, you coming Below tomorrow?’ See how easy that was?!”
“I would never ask that of Catherine. When she has the time, I’ll be there for her.”
Devin was so nervous about stealing Eddie’s van and coercing Charles, he lashed out again. “So she gets to call all the shots in your relationship? You’re just her furry pet?”
Vincent frowned as he looked at the floor and tried to control his temper. He knew something was seriously wrong for Devin to be taking it out on him, and he knew Devin would eventually apologize and tell him what was going on.
True to form, Devin sat down again and sighed. “Vin, I’m sorry. I’m an idiot. I shouldn’t have said that stuff. It’s none of my business. I ... got myself into some trouble bringing Charles here, and I need Catherine to go to bat for me.”
Vincent looked over at Devin and saw his sincerity. “It’s all right, Dev. My relationship with Catherine is complicated. But I know she’d help you if you asked.”
Devin nodded, and Vincent changed the subject. “Tell me about Charles?”
Devin explained all about the past few weeks and the time that he and Charles had spent together. He filled Vincent in on what little he knew about Charles’ life growing up, and his continued life with Eddie.
Vincent smiled knowingly at Devin. “It makes you appreciate the life we had growing up, doesn’t it?”
Father chose that moment to walk in. “That’s right, Devin. I know I never said it often enough, but I do love you.” He looked at Vincent and then at Devin again. “Both of you.”
Devin and Vincent exchanged grins.
“I’ve just come from the hospital chamber. Charles is resting comfortably but he seems to be running a slight fever. I’ll check on him periodically throughout the night.”
Devin interrupted him as he stood. “Father, get a good night’s rest. I’ll be bunking next to Charles. I’ll check on him and, if I get concerned for any reason, I’ll wake you.”
Devin stood. “Yeah, me too. It’s been a long day.” He leaned over and kissed Father on the forehead. “Good night.”
Vincent nodded. “Good night, Dev.”
Catherine was rushing to work the next morning when she suddenly felt someone come up too close behind her and grab her shoulder. Just then, the elevator doors opened and she reached out, grabbed the person’s arm, and flipped them over her shoulder.
Devin grunted when he hit the floor, then he slowly got up and looked at her with a smile on his face. “Going down, I guess.”
“Devin!” Catherine gasped in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
Devin ignored her question. “How do you feel about cotton candy?”
“I need you to take a ride to Middletown with me.”
“Yeah, to a carnival.”
Catherine shook her head, clearly exasperated by his unusual request. “Okay, I guess. How’s Saturday?”
“Saturday?! No ... too late. How about today?”
“Today?!” Catherine shook her head. “Devin, I have to work.”
Devin looked down at the ground and then back up at her. “I really need your help, Cathy.”
Catherine could tell he was serious, and she knew it had to be important or he wouldn’t have asked. She sighed loudly as she turned to go back into her apartment. “I’ll have to call the office.”
Devin grinned widely when he heard her response.
She rolled her eyes at him and tried to look indignant. “Do I at least get to know what the emergency is?”
Devin smiled devilishly. “What, spending the day with me isn’t reason enough?”
“Devin ... ” Catherine warned.
Devin’s face fell at the reprimand. “Can I tell you when we get there?”
Catherine reluctantly nodded as she opened her door. “Do I have a choice?”
Devin followed her inside and waited quietly while she called work and told them she was taking a personal day. Catherine hung up the phone, and Devin motioned with his arms as he looked around. “Nice digs, Chandler.”
Catherine glanced around and shrugged indifferently. “It’s okay, I guess. It’s a place to lay my head.”
“Okay?” Devin raised his eyebrows. “It’s not exactly on the same comfort level as the world Below or the places I’ve been.”
Catherine cocked her head to the side. “It also doesn’t have nearly the charm or the feeling of hominess the world Below offers, and I don’t think I want to know about the places you’ve been.”
Devin nodded, secretly pleased with her answer. Vincent had chosen someone that was definitely worthy of him. He made a mental note to tell Vincent that when he saw him.
Devin chuckled. “How’d you guess?”
They left the apartment and headed down to the garage.
Catherine hopped on the interstate, and they were headed out of town before she glanced over at Devin. “So
... you’re really not going to tell me what this is about until we get there?”
Catherine rolled her eyes and changed lanes on the highway. “Well, then, tell me what you’re doing back in town.”
Devin smiled. “Would you believe me if I said that I missed everyone?”
Catherine knew he was stretching the truth, and played along. “Yeah, I guess I could. Let’s see ... you went away for, like, twenty years, with no contact, then after ... what ... like, six months ... you missed everyone so much you came back for a visit?”
Devin nodded. “That about sums it up.” Wanting to change the subject, he looked over at her. “So, how’s my little brother?”
Catherine chuckled at the idea of calling Vincent little. “Your little brother is just fine.”
“I surprised him last night…but we got to spend some time together. We kind of caught up on things.”
Catherine realized that Devin was the one who set off the alarm in Mouse’s chamber. “You must have been the intruder he left me to go see about.”
Devin looked at her to see if there was any anger in her eyes. He grinned when he saw them sparkling. “Yeah, I guess so. Sorry about that.”
“Well, at least I was dumped for a good reason. Mouse’s machine really worked then?”
Devin’s brow furrowed as he tried to remember. “Mouse ... the blonde guy ... loves gadgets and stuff?”
“That’s him. He rigged up some wiring to set off an alarm in his chamber if an intruder walked in some of the little-used entrances.”
Devin nodded with understanding. “Which is the one I used. I wondered how they found me so quickly.”
“Father must have been happy to see you.”
Devin looked back out the window again. “I guess. He says he was.”
“I’m sure he means it. He told Vincent and me how happy he was after you visited last time. He said it had always bothered him that you didn’t know the truth, and then after you were gone it was too late for him to change the past. He said he felt, for once in his life, that he was complete. Your disappearance had created a hole in his heart that only you could fill.”
Devin smiled. “That’s nice to know. I’ve had a lot of time to think about family lately, and I think you’re right. Father can be impossible sometimes, but inside I know he loves Vincent and me.”
Traffic was lighter than usual, and they were at the carnival grounds within two hours. Catherine parked, and followed Devin through the rows of tents. He explained to her how he had taken up his old act of knife throwing.
“I could use a pretty assistant
Catherine continued to laugh with him as he talked with his fellow workers. Suddenly, they stopped in front of a tent, and Devin asked her to quietly listen and draw her own conclusions to the situation he found himself in.
While Catherine stood on the outside of the tent, she listened as Devin confronted Eddie. She overheard them talking about someone named Charles, and frowned as she realized that, despite the fact that Devin had broken so many laws, she felt he did the right thing.
She stepped back and glanced at the caricature of a man on the side of the tent. She instantly thought of Vincent, and knew then that if she was in the same position as Devin, she would have made the same decisions he had.
She walked in on Devin and Eddie arguing. She listened in disbelief as Eddie proclaimed over and over that he had a right to control Charles. With an air of authority, Catherine threatened Eddie with retaliation if he tried to make trouble for Devin.
The two angrily stormed from the tent as Eddie sat down on the step in front of the cage and started to drown his sorrows in a bottle of booze.
“Yeah!” Devin said sarcastically.
“Charles? He’s the man depicted on the side of the tent?”
Devin shrugged. “More or less ... ”
Catherine slowed her pace and looked at Devin compassionately. “Does he look like the picture?”
Devin nodded. “Kind of. I think he has some type of medical deformity. His body is pretty ... different.”
“I take it he’s Below?” she guessed, correctly.
“Yeah, I ... asked Vincent to keep him company until I could get back.”
“Good! That’s a good place for him.” She grew angry again. “We can keep him away from that despicable thing he calls a brother.” Catherine scowled in disgust. “Of all the low-down disgusting people in this world ... ”
Devin shrugged. “You’d be amazed at what kind of people are out there, Chandler.”
“I guess he thought he was taking care of him.”
“Taking care of him? How? By putting him in a cage?! He should have been doing things with him, traveling, enriching his life. He shouldn’t have cared how Charles looked!”
Catherine’s words hung in the air, and twenty years of guilt had Devin staring out the window of the car. He thought of Vincent and the life they once lived. Filled with remorse, he fell silent while Catherine ranted for the next half hour.
She finally wore herself out and they drove in silence. She realized Devin hadn’t said much, and she glanced over at him repeatedly. She thought he looked like he was mulling over a problem in his head, and she stayed silent to let him think.
A half an hour later, she glanced over at him and realized he was still lost in thought. Hoping to get him to talk about it, she smiled over at him. “You haven’t said three words for the last sixty miles.”
“I haven’t felt much like talking.” Devin looked at her. “You run a pretty smooth con, Chandler ... that bit about being the DA.”
Catherine’s brows rose in defiance. “I am a DA.”
Devin smiled. “In Manhattan. You don’t have any jurisdiction up here.”
“I never said I did!”
They smiled together as they shared the joke. Devin grew serious and looked out the window again.
“You thinking about Charles?” she wondered aloud.
Catherine frowned. “Are you worried he’ll be mad at you for leaving today? I’m sure he’s not ... ”
Devin interrupted her. “No ... that’s not it. I ... know Vincent handled it.”
She nodded in agreement as she pulled up in Central Park and found a parking space. “We’ll explain it to him. He’ll understand.”
Devin looked at her uncertainly. “Yeah, well, I don’t know him the way I used to, so I’ll have to take your word for it.”
“Vincent’s a great man. He’ll be fine.”
“He was always a great brother.”
They were walking through the park when Devin suddenly turned to her. “You got any brothers or sisters, Chandler?”
“No, I’m an only child. I had an imaginary playmate once, a pretend sister. I would make tea for us and tell Daddy not to sit on her, and at night in bed ... we would whisper secrets to each other in the dark.”
“Like me and Vincent, only sometimes we would get too loud and Father would hear us, and we’d have to pretend to be asleep. I’m not sure we ever really fooled him.”
“What would you talk about?”
Devin smiled as he broke out in verse. “’The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to speak of many things ... ’”
Catherine interrupted him with a grin. “’Of ships and strings and sealing wax ... ’”
Knowing she completely understood, Devin smiled back. “;Of cabbages and kings ... ’We hatched plots, made up stories, called each other names, talked about fears you can’t talk about during the day ... and dreams. Oh, God, how we dreamed! Things we were gonna do, Vincent and me and places we were gonna go ... anywhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.” He lowered his head. “Then I grew a little older, and one day I realized that I was never gonna do any of them unless I left Vincent behind.” He looked down disgustedly and then hit himself in the chest. “So I guess Eddie and me ... we’re not so different after all.”
Catherine touched his arm in comfort and led him towards the culvert entrance. “I don’t think that’s true, Devin. Vincent told me once that you were the only one who was irresponsible enough to dream dreams that included him. He looked up to you so much ... ”
“Yeah, and I let him down.”
Devin shrugged. “By running away.”
Catherine sighed. “You were young, Devin ... just old enough to think you could take care of yourself but young enough to not realize that you couldn’t. You were angry and you made an impulsive mistake. Vincent doesn’t hold it against you.”
“I’m not so sure, Chandler.”
“I am. He’s always looked back on his childhood with fond memories.”
They had come up to the first sentry post and were surprised to see Samantha and Geoffrey keeping watch.
“Samantha, Geoffrey ... what are you two doing here?” Catherine asked.
“Cullen is helping out on the search for that new guy,” Geoffrey said.
Devin’s stomach fluttered and he looked down at the two children. “You mean Charles?” Samantha nodded, and Devin continued. “Was there a problem?”
“Yeah! We heard the guy went crazy in Mouse’s chamber. He smashed a bunch of stuff,” Samantha informed him.
Devin flashed Catherine a look and the two started to run through the tunnels. They flew into the hospital chamber, where Father was cleaning Mouse’s wounds.
“Hello, Catherine,” Father greeted her glumly while Mouse hissed in pain.
“Father ... ” Catherine acknowledged.
Father glanced over at Devin and was ready to make an angry retort. He frowned and stopped himself when he could see Devin was so distraught. “I don’t know what happened. You might want to go help your brother find Charles. Last report we heard, they were headed towards the spiral staircase.”
Devin nodded, and he and Catherine took off again. They made their way down the staircase and stopped when they heard a man scream out. Catherine jumped nervously back, and Devin steadied her with his arm. They walked a few more steps and stopped when they could hear Vincent talking, trying to convince Charles to come to him. They both listened to him tell a story about himself to Charles.
“When I was young, I only knew these tunnels. But I would hear the other children talk of the world Above and all its wonders, and I wanted to see them too. So one night, Devin took me up to the park. The lights went on forever, and the night was full of sounds, smells, and music. So much so that it made me dizzy, and when I looked up ... ”
“Was it an airplane?”
“No, it was the moon. It was the most magical thing I’ve ever seen, and I was afraid that if I looked away, even for a second, that it would vanish, and I would never see it again. A car passed by no further from me than you are now, but I never even heard it, and when I looked ... I glanced at a face pressed against the window. It was a little girl no older than I was. She saw me.”
Charles frowned with understanding. “Was she afraid?”
“She began to cry. I didn’t know why ... not then ... but I knew how much it hurt.”
“Didn’t know ... didn’t mean ... to hurt.”
“But it hurt just as badly. I told Devin and Father and whoever would listen that I would never go back again.”
“But you went back?”
Vincent nodded. “A month later. Devin made me. He promised that he would stay close, and he reminded me that the moon would be full again.”
Catherine ached inside for the pain that Vincent as a little boy had endured. Then she glanced over at Devin and smiled. She loved the fact that he had pushed Vincent to once again face his fears.
Charles shook his head slowly. “I can’t ever go back ... to see the moon.”
Devin’s voice carried down to the men below. “Who says?”
Vincent and Charles both turned to gaze up at Devin and Catherine. Charles stepped back in the shadows when he saw Catherine standing there with Devin.
Catherine frowned at his reaction and walked down a few steps to be on the same level as he was. She leaned over and extended her hand. “Hi, I’m Catherine. Devin’s told me a lot about you, Charles. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
Charles reluctantly shook her hand. “Nice to meet you, too.”
Catherine wondered about his child-like manner. “I’m glad you were able to come here with him.”
“Dev’s a good guy.”
Catherine smiled as Charles became comfortable and slowly came out of the shadows. “Yes, he is.” She leaned in towards him and conspiratorially whispered, “Sometimes ... ”
Charles broke out into a grin, and Catherine laughed with him.
Vincent looked gratefully at Catherine, silently thanking her for her ability to put anyone at ease.
Devin stepped forward. “Charles, we stopped by the hospital chamber first, then came down here. Mouse is all right, just a few burns. I think we should go there and clear up this misunderstanding.”
Charles shook his head. “They’ll make me leave.”
Vincent reached out to touch Charles’ arm. “Not if you don’t want to.”
Charles cocked his head inquisitively. “Are you sure?”
Devin nodded. “Charles, you’re free to do whatever you want. You can live wherever you choose to live. You can stay here or you can travel with me.”
Charles was surprised. “You’d let me come with you?”
“Sure! It gets lonely out there. It would be nice to travel with someone. If you don’t like it, we can always come home.”
Charles gasped in disbelief. “Home?” A thought crossed his mind and he frowned. “I don’t think I have a home anymore…”
Vincent chuckled as he touched Charles’ shoulder. “There will always be a place for you here, if you want it.”
Vincent motioned for Catherine to start walking, and he slid past Devin to follow her. Catherine reached for Vincent’s hand, and together they led the way through the tunnels. Charles and Devin followed closely behind them.
Charles pointed at Catherine and Vincent’s clasped hands and shot Devin a questioning look. Soon, he lagged further behind and leaned over and whispered, “Are they in love?”
Devin smiled as he whispered back, “I think so.”
Charles frowned. “But Vincent is different.”
“Yes, he is.”
“Yet she still loves him?”
Devin shrugged. “Looks like it.”
Devin laughed and leaned over to whisper to Charles, “She’s beautiful, but don’t tell Vincent I said that.”
Charles was intrigued by their relationship. “She doesn’t see that Vincent is different?”
“Haven’t you ever heard the saying ‘love is blind’?” Charles shook his head, so Devin explained. “It means that you love the person for what’s on the inside, not their outward appearance.” Charles nodded, but Devin wondered if he really understood, so he continued to explain. “Catherine up there ... ” Devin nodded ahead of them, “she knows Vincent’s different but she’s come to accept those changes, and she loves him despite his unusual appearance.”
Charles grew quiet and looked at Devin. “Did you ever love someone like that?”
Devin grunted and shook his head. “I travel too much, Charles. I’ve met a few women in my time who’ve came close to making me want to settle down, but I always left before they could convince me.”
“That’s why you’re lonely when you travel?” Charles stated.
Devin grinned. “I guess so. Maybe you’ll decide to come with me and I won’t be lonely anymore.”
“Maybe ... What about Eddie?”
Devin snorted in disgust. “What about him?”
“He’ll be mad. I don’t want to get into trouble.”
“Eddie won’t cause any trouble, Charles. I promise.” Devin lowered his head with worry and prayed that he could keep that promise to Charles.
Up ahead, Catherine leaned into Vincent’s shoulder. “Devin came to my apartment this morning and talked me into taking a ride with him. He took me to the carnival in Middletown.”
“That explains why he was gone so long.”
“We were actually only there a little while. It didn’t take me long to discover that Devin made the right decision getting Charles out of there.” She grinned and rolled her eyes. “He did it by ... slightly less than legal means, but Charles’ brother Eddie is ... impossible.”
Vincent nodded. “Devin told me a few stories about Charles’ life.”
Catherine snorted in disgust. “It wasn’t a life for an animal, let alone a man.”
Vincent thought of the time he was captured and put in a cage. He sighed and changed the subject. “Will Devin face charges?”
Catherine blew out a long breath. “I told Eddie I was with the DA’s office, and not to think about causing trouble. I think as long as I get him his van back and maybe a small amount of money for his inconvenience ... he won’t press charges.”
Vincent reached up and squeezed her hand. “Thank you. It seems like you’re always helping some member of my family.”
“I get back just as much from all of them.” Vincent cocked his head in disbelief, and Catherine rushed to explain. “Look, just last week, Mary saw the hem of my skirt coming out and mended it for me ... and Mouse offered immediately to help me to build my piece of sky for you. The children ... ”
Knowing she would talk about every member of the community, Vincent interrupted her. “Catherine ... ”
She stopped talking to look up at him, and she noticed the twinkle in his eyes. She smiled when she realized what she was doing and asked him innocently, “What?”
Devin called from behind them, “Hey, Chandler!”
Vincent and Catherine turned around and noticed they had slowly gotten ahead of the two men. Catherine winced when she saw how Charles struggled to keep up, and felt guilty for not paying attention to how fast they were walking.
Devin and Charles caught up to the couple, and Devin pointed at Charles. “I think my friend here needs some reassurance that his brother Eddie won’t cause any problems.”
Catherine shot Devin a look of uncertainty but she saw how worried Charles was, and she looked away quickly while she gathered her thoughts.
Charles worriedly stepped forward. “Eddie will be real mad Dev took me. I don’t want to cause no trouble.”
Catherine decided to stretch the truth to put Charles’ mind at ease. “Charles, according to the law you were no longer a minor after the age of 18. At that time, you became responsible only for yourself and you were no longer under Eddie’s care. You can’t get into trouble for deciding to leave.”
Charles frowned. “Took his van without permission.”
Catherine sighed. “Yes, you
borrowed his van for a little while. I can only assume you didn’t get his permission because he wasn’t available, right?”
Charles shook his head to argue. “Didn’t go to the hospital ... ”
Catherine was surprised that Charles was quicker-thinking than he actually led her to believe, and that he had thought of that problem himself. “No ... but Devin did take you to see a family member who is a doctor. Now, Father, I’m sure, has conferred with his colleague in the world Above, and that person, I know, would easily step forward and assume responsibility for your health care.”
Vincent stood back and listened with pride as Catherine spun her defense for Devin.
Devin broke out into a huge grin. “That’s the attorney I remember working with!”
Catherine smirked at him while Charles continued to mull it over. Devin came forward and nudged him. “See, I told you it would be all right. Now, let’s go to straighten up this little misunderstanding you had earlier.”
Vincent turned and Catherine followed his lead and once again the four friends headed to the home tunnels. They quickly made their way to the library and cleared up the earlier mishap.
Father welcomed Charles into the community and blinked with surprise when Charles turned him down, stating that Devin didn’t want to be alone anymore, so he was going to be traveling with him. Father smiled with pride at Devin, knowing full well that it was only partially true. Devin caught his eye and winked back at him.
Catherine turned to Vincent. “I should leave, as well. I had an important brief I was supposed to finish today. If I work on it the rest of the night, I might be able to have it for Joe tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll walk you out.”
She immediately touched his arm. “No, I’m going to head to the park entrance and grab a cab. I have some notes at the office I need to pick up first.”
Vincent nodded while Father looked up at him. “Vincent, perhaps you could walk with her as far as the cross tunnel and then head to the kitchen ... ” He turned to Charles. “You missed lunch earlier; perhaps you’d like something to eat ... ”
Charles nodded shyly and Vincent chuckled. “I’ll bring a tray.”
Mouse stepped forward. “Mouse take Charles. Eat together.”
Devin touched Charles on the back. “Charles, would you like to eat lunch with Mouse? It’ll give you to a chance to become friends.”
Mouse nodded. “Eat lunch ... go my chamber ... make stuff ... ”
Charles shrugged shyly. “Don’t want to cause trouble.”
Father frowned. “Yes, well, I’m counting on Charles to keep you out of trouble. Do you think you could do that, Charles?”
Mouse laughed. “Okay good ... okay fine ... come.”
Vincent turned to Devin. “Would you like me to get you a tray?”
Devin smirked. “Yeah! And make it a big one. Chandler all but starved me today!”
Catherine rolled her eyes and pretended to ignore him. “Charles, it was very nice meeting you. I hope I’ll be able to make it Below before you leave.”
Charles shrugged shyly. “That would be nice.”
Catherine winked at him then looked at Father. “Goodbye, Father.”
“I’m sure we’ll see you soon, Catherine.”
Mouse grabbed Charles’ sleeve. “Come now ... say goodbye forever.”
Everyone chuckled as Mouse dragged Charles out the door.
Devin walked and stood in front of Catherine. “Thanks, Cath.”
Catherine smiled warmly back at him. “You’re welcome, Devin.”
Devin opened his arms and looked at her hopefully. Catherine laughed and came forward and hugged him.
Devin hugged her and then stepped back and winked at her before he cocked his head towards Vincent. “As soon as you get tired of spending time with him, let me know. I’ll come back for a visit.”
Catherine rolled her eyes and smiled at Vincent. “I can’t see that happening.”
Vincent blushed and looked down at his feet while Devin shrugged. “You never know, Chandler. Spend some more time with me, you may find what you’re looking for.”
Catherine crossed her arms in front of her as she grinned. “What makes you think I haven’t already found it?”
Devin looked at her thoughtfully before Vincent walked up to his side. “Perhaps we should leave before Devin puts his foot in his mouth again.”
Catherine laughed and reached out her hand to Vincent. He took it, and together they walked from the room.
Devin turned towards Father and smiled as he found a seat. “He looks happy.”
Father smiled and nodded. “Yes, he does.”
“I was relieved when I came back to find out she was still in the picture.”
“Yes, I would imagine you were. She is such a successful lawyer, I’m sure she could have gotten you out of whatever trouble you managed to get yourself into.”
Devin shook his head. “No ... well ... yeah, but it’s more than that. I can see a side of Vincent I’ve never seen before. He looks ... comfortable with who he is. Do you know what I mean?”
Father sighed as he nodded in agreement. “Catherine has changed his life.”
“For the better, I would say.”
Father made a face that he tried to hide from Devin but an astute Devin quickly caught it.
“What is it? Do you know something I don’t know?”
“Hmmm?” Father said.
“Spill it, Dad. What have you got against her?”
Father shook his head. “Nothing. Catherine is a dear sweet woman.”
“But ... ” Devin prompted.
“But I fear that their relationship is drawing closer and closer to an end.”
“An end? Why?”
Father looked pointedly at Devin. “Because of the man your brother is.”
“I’m afraid, Devin.”
“Afraid? Of what!”
“They’re getting so close that the inevitable is bound to happen, and I’m afraid that in the actual ... um ... act ... that Vincent might ... lose himself ... and hurt her.”
Devin’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, then he frowned when he realized the implications. “Are you telling me Vincent has never ... ? That he’s still a ... ?”
Father cut him off with a grimace. “Yes, I believe he is.”
“I can’t believe I’m having this conversation but here it goes…” Devin rubbed a hand over his face. “Why do you think he’d hurt her?”
“There was someone once, a long time ago. Vincent held her too close and his nails ... ”
Devin unconsciously rubbed a hand over his scarred cheek. Father watched and shook his head. “No, Devin, it wasn’t anywhere near the same type of injury.”
Devin realized what he’d done and dropped his hand onto the table in front of him.
“Devin, please! Do you think I’m wrong? You know your brother as well as anyone.”
“I haven’t been that close to him in twenty years!”
“But you still know him! You know his heart!”
Devin shrugged. “All I can tell you is that he is desperately in love with her.”
“If you want my advice, you should
Father turned to Charles. “Charles, if you are leaving with Devin when he goes, perhaps you would let me look at your injuries. I’d like to make sure that they are properly healed before you take off for ... ” He looked at Devin to fill in the blank.
Devin shrugged. “Where do you want to head to, Charles?”
“You pick, Dev.”
Devin shook his head. “No way, buddy. This is your adventure. Where have you always wanted to go but you never could?”
Devin reached over to touch Charles’ arm. “The mountains it is!”
Catherine went to work and grabbed her notes, then headed home. She worked feverishly on them for hours and was able to finish them that night.
Satisfied, she leaned back against the headboard of her bed and realized it was only 10:00 when she looked up at the clock. She grabbed the phone and quickly dialed.
“Cathy! I was just talking about you at lunch today.”
“Oh, yeah? With who?” Catherine wondered.
“Augh! Where’d you see him?”
“Luigi’s. I had lunch with Marla and he came in.”
“And he said hi to you?!”
Jenny laughed. “Yeah, right after he dumped the blonde bimbo on his arm on a bar stool. He asked about you ... ”
Catherine shrugged. “Oh, yeah?”
“Not interested, huh?”
“No! Not at all!”
Jenny laughed and squealed, “Oh, thank God! He is such a creep!”
Catherine laughed with her. “Geez, Jen ... don’t hold back! Tell me how you really feel.”
“It would take all night!” Jenny offered before she quieted down again. “And unfortunately, I haven’t got all night. I have a meeting at 7:00 tomorrow morning.”
Catherine sighed. “Oh, okay.”
Jenny frowned. “Why did you call? Did you need something?”
“No ... I can find another way.”
“Cath!” Jenny warned. “What is it?”
Catherine knew Jenny wouldn’t give in until she told her, so she dove in. “A friend of mine had to go out of town suddenly and he had borrowed a van and asked me to return it for him.”
“So, what’s the big deal?”
“I have to return it to Middletown.”
“Uh huh. I was going to do it tomorrow but I need a ride home.”
“Oh, Cath. I wish I could help but ... Hey, wait ... ” Catherine could hear her rummaging through some paperwork and then she came back on the line. “Yep! I have Carlos delivering books to a place in Roxbury. Middletown’s on the way back. He could swing by and get you.”
“Really, Jen? That would be great. What time can he get there?”
“Um ... well ... if he leaves at 8:00 and he gets there ... ” Catherine stayed quiet while Jenny figured it out. “About 1:00, I think.”
“Perfect! Tell him I’m going to be at the circus right off the highway. I’ll stay near the Ferris wheel.”
“I’ll tell him. Soooo ... who’s this friend? Is he cute?”
“Jen!” Catherine warned.
“Just asking! Hey, I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
Catherine got up the next day and dressed casually. She headed to work and walked into Joe’s office.
“Radcliffe,” Joe said without looking up. “You better have that ... ” He stopped when Catherine set the file down in front of him. He looked up sheepishly, then frowned at her attire. “You investigating something today, or is that a new look?”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “I need to run an errand. I’ll be gone most of the day.” Joe started to protest but Catherine stopped him. “I know, I know, I was gone yesterday. I finished the brief you wanted, and I’ll take some work home with me and finish it tonight.”
Joe grabbed two files on the corner of his desk. “Deal!”
Catherine grinned and took the two files. She glanced briefly at them and moaned, then looked up at Joe’s grinning face.
“You ain’t finishing them tonight, sister. But you could put a dent in them ... ”
Catherine shook her head and waved the files in the air as she turned to go. “Thanks a lot.”
“Anytime, Radcliffe, anytime.”
Catherine left and went over to the police station. She lied to the police officer and paid the fine to get Eddie’s van out of the impound lot. Within half an hour she was on her way towards the circus.
The grounds were unusually empty as she made her way through the tents when she spotted a group of men.
The men started whistling and calling out to her.
“Hey, sweet thing!”
“If you’re boyfriend ain’t making you happy, I got something here that will make you smile.”
A clean-cut handsome one hit the other two men. “Leave her alone. She’s got more class in her pinky finger than you two got in your whole body.” He turned to Catherine. “Sorry, lady. Who ya lookin’ for?”
“Thanks.” Catherine smiled.
She walked into the empty tent and saw Eddie cleaning out the pens of goats.
Eddie turned and saw her, then his face screwed up in anger. “You bring back the freak?”
Catherine held back her anger. “No, your van.”
Eddie looked at her and tried to hide his surprise. “You brought back my van.”
Catherine threw him the keys, which he caught easily. “Yeah.”
“And the freak?”
Catherine’s eyes flashed with anger. “Charles is with friends right now. He’s decided to give up his carnival days. As a sign of friendship to him, I offered to compensate you for your loss.”
Eddie suddenly looked intrigued. “What do you mean?”
Catherine brought out her checkbook. “How much is it going to cost me to have you stay out of Charles’ life?”
Eddie laughed. “You’re kidding me, right?” Catherine’s face remained unchanged as Eddie rubbed his hands together and he started to chuckle.
“Don’t blow the deal, Eddie. Your van’s outside with a full tank of gas.”
Eddie looked at her and realized she was not going to take kindly to him trying to rip her off.
Catherine ignored him and started to fill out the check. She stopped and looked up. “Well?”
Eddie looked up defiantly. “$20,000 will cover what I should have made this year off of him.”
Catherine wrote a check for $10,000 and handed it to him. “Since Charles was the one earning the money, I suppose he’s entitled to half?”
Catherine shook her head. “I’ve got my reasons. Once you sign that check, you’ll be admitting you sold your brother for $10,000. I imagine that should keep you honest. Leave Charles alone.”
Eddie sneered. “Tell him I said have a nice life.” Eddie laughed as he walked away.
Catherine shuddered in disgust, then walked to catch up with her ride.
“Hey, Carlos said you talked his head off.”
Catherine laughed. “He’s a great guy, Jen. Thanks for sending him to get me.”
“You do realize I pay him right?”
“Yeah ... ”
“It was not necessary to give him a couple-hundred-dollar tip.”
“Jen! The man’s got five kids.”
“You’re a softie ... ”
“No! I really needed help and he came through for me.”
“Yeah, well ... ”
“Jen, I wanted to.”
Jenny knew it was futile to argue. “Okay. Hey, can you do lunch next Tuesday?”
Catherine frowned as she thought about her calendar. “I think so. I’m pretty sure my day is clear.”
“Good. I’ll call you Monday and we’ll decide where.”
“Sounds good. ‘Bye, Jen!”
Catherine hung up the phone and headed out the door.
Vincent and Charles were reading in a chamber filled with children. Charles sat fascinated while Vincent’s voice carried throughout the room. Catherine stood silently in the doorway but Vincent knew the instant she was there, and he finished the chapter he was reading. He stood and handed the book to Samantha. “Can you finish this while I speak to Catherine?”
The children whipped around, and Catherine greeted them all. “I’m sorry. I won’t keep Vincent long, I promise.”
“That’s okay, Catherine. When Samantha gets tired, I’ll take a turn,” Zack offered.
Vincent blushed. He and Catherine both knew how much Zack hated to read in public. For him to offer to do so in order that they could spend some time together was obvious.
“Thank you, Zack.” Catherine smiled.
Vincent led her away and Catherine took his hand. “I actually just came down to tell Devin I returned the car he borrowed.”
Vincent cocked his head. “Thank you. I’m sure Devin will be grateful to hear that.”
“Grateful to hear what?” Devin said as he walked up.
Catherine and Vincent turned to face him. Vincent put his arm possessively around Catherine’s waist. “Catherine has returned the van to Eddie.”
“You did?!” Devin gasped.
“Yeah, and I offered him a small compensation for his trouble.”
“How small?” Devin narrowed his eyes as he wondered how much this was going to cost him.
Just then, Vincent could hear arguing from the other room. “Excuse me,” he said as he went into the chamber.
Catherine shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. I ensured Eddie’s silence.”
Devin frowned. “Look, Cathy, I don’t expect you to pay my way out of trouble. I’ll get you the money. How much?”
Catherine looked at him curiously. “What do you mean?”
“If you won’t tell me, that means that it’s a lot of money we’re talking here.”
Catherine blushed and looked away.
Devin snorted. “What’s the going rate for brothers?”
“Ten,” she mumbled.
Devin’s jaw dropped. “I know you don’t mean dollars.”
Catherine shook her head. “No.”
Devin stepped forward. “Look, I don’t have that kind of money. It may take me years to pay you back ... ”
Catherine’s eyes flashed angrily. “I never asked you to pay me back, did I?”
“Forget what?” Vincent asked as he stepped back into the tunnel way.
“I ... uh ... wanted to pay Catherine back for the gas she used in the van,” Devin lied.
Catherine caught Vincent’s eye and then looked away. He knew instantly Devin was lying, but whatever it was about was between Devin and Catherine.
Catherine cleared her throat. “I have to go home. I have a lot of work to catch up on.”
Vincent nodded. “Can I walk with you?”
Catherine looked into the chamber. “What about the children?”
Devin stepped forward. “I got it. You two go. Thanks, Cathy.”
“You’re welcome, Dev.”
Vincent held her hand as they made the journey to her threshold. Catherine yawned and smiled sheepishly. “Sorry.”
“You need to rest.”
Catherine nodded. “It’s been a long day. I have a few hours of work, then I’m going right to bed.”
Catherine leaned her head against his shoulder as they walked in silence.
They arrived at her threshold and Vincent turned to her. “Sleep well, Catherine.”
She smiled and came forward to hug him. He drew his arms around her and she sighed. “This is my favorite place to be.”
“Good night, Vincent.”
A week later, Charles was healed enough to leave with Devin. He had spent many hours with Vincent and Devin and even Father, reading and talking about all different things. Charles healed under their watchful gaze and he began to come out of his shell.
Monday morning, Catherine was on her way to work when the elevator doors opened at her floor and there stood Devin.
“Not again! Don’t tell me ... you rescued the Iron Man?”
Devin laughed. “Good one, Chandler.” His smiled faded quickly. “I do need another favor ... ”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “I hesitate to ask but ... ”
“I need you to rent a van for me.”
This was the last thing Catherine expected him to say. “Really?!”
Devin nodded. “Yeah, one way. I’m heading to the mountains.”
Devin shrugged. “I don’t know. Let’s say ... Washington.” He withdrew a wad of cash from his pocket. “This is all I have right now. I’ll send you some more when I get a chance.”
“How much is here, Devin?”
“What will you do about gasoline and food?”
“I kept a couple of hundred. That will get us by for a while.”
Devin nodded gratefully. “Thank you!”
Catherine smiled. “When will you be leaving?”
“If you can arrange it ... tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll get it today for you.”
Devin hugged her warmly. “I keep saying thank you.”
Catherine smiled mischievously. “Don’t worry, I’m keeping track. One day I might need your help.”
They rode the elevator down and Devin laughed. “Remember, when you get tired of my brother, call me.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Devin.”
She walked to the office and called around to a few rental places. She gasped at the enormous prices they were asking for a one-way rental. Joe overheard her and came over curiously. “You planning a bank heist, Radcliffe?”
Catherine sighed. “No, a friend of mine needs to rent a van. I said I’d call around for him, but it’s a one-way rental and everyone is trying to rip me off!”
“What kind of van?”
“A moving van. Why?”
“My mechanic’s got one for sale on his lot. He’s asking $1500 for it.”
Catherine’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “They want $800 for a one-week rental!”
“You want me to call him? It’s not much to look at but it runs good.”
Catherine nodded. “Yeah, thanks, Joe. If he says it runs good and you trust him, I’ll take it.”
Joe nodded. “I’ll call him right now.”
Joe left and called him, then came back right away. He handed Catherine a slip of paper. “Here’s his address. He lowered it for you to $1200. He’s there until 5:00.”
Catherine looked at her watch and then back at Joe, who smiled knowingly. “I betcha you’re going to tell me you need to leave early today, aren’t you?”
Joe rolled his eyes as he turned to go back to his office. “You owe me!”
Catherine sent word Below that she had secured a van. Then she took it upon herself to pack it with some needed supplies. The next morning, she headed Below.
Vincent was in his chamber talking with Devin when he glanced through the empty doorway and whispered, “Catherine.”
Within the minute, Catherine walked slowly up to the entrance to his chamber. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” Vincent greeted as he pulled a chair out for her to sit on.
Devin was lying against the headboard of the bed as Catherine walked over and reached out to hand him the van keys. “Your chariot awaits, sir.”
Devin grinned as he took them from her and shot to his feet. “Thank you, ma’am. I promise your kindness will be repaid one day.”
Catherine giggled as Devin took a deep bow.
Devin stood up and sighed. “How long were you able to rent it for?”
“Um…don’t worry about it.” She waved her hand dismissively.
“Cathy! I can’t afford some outrageous bill, plus I need to find which rental location I can return it to.”
Catherine blushed and looked away. “Um…I didn’t rent it.”
“You didn’t rent it. So…what? You took a page from my book and stole it?”
Catherine looked sheepishly at Vincent and then looked down again. “I …”
The room grew silent and Devin grasped for answers. “You what … borrowed it?”
“I bought it!” Catherine snapped.
“Bought it!” Devin gasped.
She reached into her pocket and brought out an envelope and handed it to Devin. He opened it up and took out the document, then quickly scanned the bill of sale, which listed him as the owner. Devin sat down heavily on the bed.
“Chandler, in the real world, men like me can’t afford to buy whatever they want.”
Catherine sat down next to him as she opened up the document and pointed at the bottom line. “Devin, it didn’t cost that much more than a week’s rental would have cost. Joe Maxwell’s mechanic gave me a great deal on it, and I decided to just buy it. I didn’t consult you because I’m not asking for reimbursement.”
Devin sighed as he looked at her, then hugged her warmly. “Thanks, Cathy.”
Catherine hugged him back, and as she pulled away she saw the devilish grin return to his face.
“Are you sure you won’t dump this oaf and come with us?” he asked as he pointed at Vincent.
Catherine walked over to Vincent and slid her arms around his waist. “As interesting a proposition as that is, Devin, I am happy right where I’m at.”
Devin wondered at the look of uncertainty on his brother’s face and then grinned when Vincent tentatively put his arms around her shoulders and drew her closer.
“You’re a lucky man, Vincent!”
“Yes … I … know.”
Devin stood, then slapped Vincent on the back as he walked. “I’m starving. Let’s get something to eat.”
They joined everyone else for breakfast in the dining chamber.
Charles and Devin said their goodbyes to everyone in the community and now Charles shuffled behind Devin as Vincent and Catherine followed them out.
Catherine smiled as she realized, it was a different man that left the tunnels that day from the man that had come Below just a short time before.