BETWEEN THE LINES
AN IMPOSSIBLE DECISION
Vincent stood on Catherine’s balcony looking out over the city.
Two weeks ago they had spent a magical night seeing the sights of New York. Catherine fell in love with Halloween that night and wished it came more than once a year.
Wondering at his pensive mood, Catherine watched him curiously for a few minutes then turned to look out at the city as well. “Vincent, I had a wonderful time on Halloween. I wish it came at least once a month instead of once a year.”
Vincent shyly hid his face behind his hair. “I had a wonderful time as well.” His tone of voice changed as he became melancholy. “You deserve to experience this great city every night and have someone walk beside you whenever you wish.”
“If the company was as good as yours that might be fun, but I don’t think that’ll happen. I guess once a year is enough...if it’s with the right person.”
Vincent shook his head in disagreement.
Catherine moved closer and placed her hand on his arm. She hadn’t meant for the conversation to turn this way. “Vincent, I love spending time with you. The things you know about the city astound me! The facts you gave me about the buildings and the stories you told…you have an amazing memory!”
“I’m able to remember more than most people because I have the luxury of relearning it with every new group of school children I teach. I know I’ve always loved the city and I think, like most men, its architecture fascinates me.”
Catherine was getting cold and she moved closer and settled into his embrace. He took the front of his cloak and brought it around her, enveloping her in its warmth.
“Hmmm, thank you, you’re warm. Did you like the carriage ride? I thought it was so…romantic.”
Vincent’s breath caught and his heart beat faster. “It was...magical. The whole night was.”
Catherine realized he was uncomfortable and wondered why. “What part did you like the best?”
Vincent sighed. “How could I choose, Catherine?” He contemplated further. “I both loved and hated the last part of the night. I hated it because the night would end and it would be time for me to go back but I also loved it because the sunlight shining on your hair was like observing a halo shimmering atop an angel’s head...”
Catherine blushed and looked up at him with a smile. Normally he was taller than her but because he had leaned back against the wall and settled her against his chest, he was shorter and Catherine’s face was much closer to his. Catherine looked at his mouth and then up into his eyes.
Vincent held his breath as he was startled by the look. She looked at him with a question in her eyes. Vincent was at a loss for words; he had never seen this look from her before. Embarrassed, he assumed she was noticing his unusual mouth. If he had been thinking clearly, he would have felt her desire, but these weren’t feelings he was used to interpreting when they were directed at him.
When he didn’t bend to kiss her, Catherine realized that she may have read more into their special night then he did. Confused, she backed away to give him the space she thought he needed.
Vincent turned to look out at the city. “It’s been nice having that memory to cherish.”
Catherine was relieved he was all right and came forward and put her arms around his waist. “I know. Hopefully, we’ll get to make many more memories like that.” Vincent blushed and grew quiet so Catherine continued. “I got the rose you left last night, thank you.”
“It was meant as a thank you for Halloween night. When you weren’t here, I left it, hoping you would see it.”
For some reason, Catherine wanted to reassure him of her whereabouts. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here. My father and his friend took me out unexpectedly for dinner. We went to this new place on 3rd Street. The food was wonderful! I wish you could have been there. It was the grand opening and they had a three piece band playing; they were amazing. You really would have enjoyed it!”
“I...I could never do something like that, I’m sorry.”
Catherine winced at the tone in his voice. In her rush to tell him she wasn’t out on a real date but out with her father, she had inadvertently hurt him. “Vincent, I know you can’t go to something like that. I only meant to say that I would have liked it if you were there with me. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.”
His head still hung in shame. “I would’ve liked to be able to go with you, Catherine. But I...can’t go to the places with you that you’d like me to go. I can’t do the things that you’d like me to do.”
Catherine shook her head, trying to clear her jumbled thoughts. In trying to convey to him how much she wished he could be a part of her life, she had only made things worse. “I’ll be right back.”
She ran to her kitchen, went into the refrigerator, and grabbed a white container. She brought it outside with her as Vincent looked at her curiously.
“I brought you some dessert. I remembered from Halloween how much you enjoyed chocolate. Will you have some?” Catherine opened it up.
Vincent looked at the dessert with interest. “It’s so beautiful, I hate to eat it.”
Catherine giggled. “Not me. I had one last night and it was wonderful.”
Catherine’s brow furrowed in confusion. “C’mon, it won’t hurt you.”
She put the fork close to his mouth and he finally took the offered dessert. The chocolate melted on his tongue and he smiled down at her. “It’s very good.”
“Good?! Vincent, it’s excellent!”
She fed him two more forkfuls. When she offered another, he still had some left in his mouth. He held up his hand and shook his head. Catherine put the fork into her own mouth and closed her lips around the fork.
Vincent watched the intimate gesture. Never had anyone eaten off a utensil he had used. He watched as her lips closed around the fork.
Catherine looked up nonchalantly and saw that Vincent had a small dab of chocolate at the corner of his mouth. She raised her hand towards his face and he stopped in mid-chew. She moved to wipe the chocolate off with her thumb. She showed him the small piece on the tip of her thumb. He nodded in understanding then sucked in his breath as she put the thumb to her mouth and sucked off the chocolate.
Vincent’s face flamed in embarrassment and he turned to look out over the city. Catherine had turned to put the container back on the table so she never saw his reaction to her behavior.
Catherine stood next to him at the wall. “My girlfriend Jenny and I have to go to a book signing tomorrow. I won’t be home until late.”
Vincent was grateful for the change of subject. “Who’s the author?”
“Nolan Helms; he’s popular in...”
Vincent smiled at her. “In Europe, yes, I know. He’s written many wonderful travel books.”
Catherine smiled back. “He has. Vincent, I didn’t know you were so interested in travel.”
He sighed and turned back to the city. “Anytime I can read about faraway lands is intriguing to me. I...” Vincent stopped abruptly.
Catherine looked up at him curiously. “You what?” Vincent shrugged, so she prompted him further. “Come on, you can tell me.”
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to travel. There is so much that I wish I could see.”
Catherine tried to stay positive. “Well, maybe someday you’ll be able to...”
Vincent interrupted her abruptly. “No, Catherine, for me that will never be possible.”
He grew silent and Catherine felt horrible again. This night was definitely not one of their better nights. Vincent could feel her sadness and was distressed that he was the cause of it. “I should go; it’s late and you’re working tomorrow.”
Catherine nodded and came over to him and offered him a hug. “Goodnight, Vincent. I hope I see you soon.”
He nodded. “Goodnight, Catherine.”
Catherine was up bright and early the next morning. She managed to be one of the first people in the office, where she busied herself putting paperwork into old files.
Joe came in and walked over to her immediately. “Hey, kiddo, it’s good to see you back at that desk. How are things going with your back?”
“Good morning, Joe. I wish you’d quit asking me that every morning. Denton shot me over a month ago…my back’s fine!” Something told her he may be ready to take her off of desk duty and she leaned forward excitedly. “What have you got for me? I’m ready to dig in...”
Joe narrowed his eyes at her. “Easy, Radcliffe. I agreed to this because you agreed to take it slow.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “I know...I know, but...I’ve been back for weeks and all you’ve given me is phone work. My back’s fine but my rear end is killing me! Now, what have you got for me?”
Joe narrowed his eyes at her. “Tell you what, grab me a big black coffee and follow me into my office, we’ll take a look at the cases together.”
Catherine got to her feet and poured him a cup of coffee and headed for his office. He was hanging up his suit coat and loosening his tie when she walked in.
“Have a seat, Cath.” Joe came over and grabbed his coffee from her then sat in his chair.
He opened up a file, scanned through it then closed it. He did that for two more files until she finally couldn’t wait any longer. “Joe!”
He looked up at her. “Don’t be so anxious. I’ll find one.”
He closed yet another file then opened up the next one on the stack. He looked at it and thought out loud. “Here’s one, but...I don’t know...”
Catherine sighed. “What is it?”
Joe looked at her. “It’s going to be a tough one. Adult day care center, an eighty-six-year-old woman was found hanging from the shower bar. She was tied upside down from her ankles. Nine of the seniors reported that she was with one of the workers an hour before she was found dead. The guy’s in jail but I need depositions from all nine of the seniors. Most of them are 83 years old or older. Memories aren’t that great.”
Catherine grabbed the folder. “It’s easy enough. I can head over there and spend some time with them and slip in a few questions. What else have you got?”
“Teenage girl was attacked and raped in the mall last Saturday. She was led from the food court to the nearest bathroom. Here’s a list of all the people who were in that area; someone may have seen something...”
Catherine grabbed that file as well. “I’ll get started on these right away.”
She stood to walk out the door when she turned at Joe’s voice. “Just be careful, Cathy. I don’t need you to overdo it.”
Catherine was about to make a witty retort but smiled instead and happily started her day.
Catherine came home earlier than she expected from the book signing and had just changed into her nightgown and robe when she heard a tap on the window. “Wow, two nights in a row,” she thought as she ran to the door. She stopped briefly and picked up a package before she headed out to the balcony.
“Hello, Catherine. How was work today?”
She smiled ruefully. “Tiring. I think I made about two hundred phone calls! How was your day?”
He smiled. “Easier than expected. We were digging a new chamber and discovered one of the walls was only a dividing wall to a hidden chamber. When we took out the wall, we had a chamber much bigger than anticipated. It cut our expansion time in half.”
Catherine nodded. “That is definitely a good surprise.” She looked out over the city. “It’s a beautiful night tonight, isn’t it?”
Vincent followed her gaze. “Yes, it is. How was your book signing?”
Catherine smiled as she handed him a bag. “Good. I bought this for you.”
Vincent smiled as he took it from her and peeked inside the bag. Curious, he brought the book out and looked at the title of Nolan Helms’ latest tour guide. He knew from the newspapers that it was a best seller and very hard to come by. “Catherine, thank you…”
“You’re welcome; I had Nolan autograph it for you…”
Vincent had read the inside front cover. “I can see that…thank you, Catherine, I’ll cherish this…”
“I’m glad; maybe we can look through it together one day. I’ve been to a few of the places he speaks about and I could tell you what I remember about them.”
“I’d like that.”
“I was supposed to be later than I am; how’d you know I’d be home?”
‘I didn’t…I was…restless…so I brought a book. I thought if you had the time we could read for a while.”
Catherine ran into the bedroom and grabbed a blanket. She quickly returned and laid it out on the ground. She sat on half and tapped the empty space next to her with her hand. “Come on, Vincent. There’s plenty of room on the blanket.”
He settled down next to her and once again she put her head on his shoulder and listened to him read. They read several long chapters of the book together before Vincent closed the book and stood. “It’s late.”
Catherine yawned. “It’s not that late, but I am tired.”
She came and put her arms around him and gave him a hug. He lightly returned the gesture. “Vincent, thanks for coming. I love to spend time like this together.”
He lowered his head. “As do I. Sleep well, Catherine.”
Catherine put in her usual long hours at work. A few days later, Joe and she were in his office having a heated argument over the way to handle a case. Catherine finally convinced him to do it her way.
When she made to leave, he called her back. “Hey, stick around.”
She stood at the door, the anger still showing on her face. “I have a deposition…”
“There’s something we need to talk about.”
She could tell by his tone it was serious. She turned and closed the door for privacy then approached him warily, letting her anger settle.
Joe smiled and handed her a letter. “It just came in this morning.”
She read the return address and looked at him. “Providence, Rhode Island?”
Joe nodded. “The DA up there is a friend of Moreno’s. He’s been looking for someone outside his office to head his domestic violence bureau. Go ahead, open it.”
Catherine looked at the paper. “I don’t understand.”
“What’s not to understand? You’ve got an impressive record. Moreno’s word is like gold with this guy. He wants you...in Providence....a week from yesterday.”
Her mind was racing with the thought of leaving New York. “I’m very flattered but this is very sudden, isn’t it?”
“Well, yeah, it’s like everything else in life. But we’re not just talking about a promotion here; we’re talking about a quantum leap in your career. Go ahead, read the job profile. You’d be coordinating everything from counseling services to court appearances. That’s right up your alley, kiddo.”
She looked at him incredulously. “Joe!”
“Not to mention a fifty percent salary hike, minimum, which I know to you isn’t exactly a top priority. But it would certainly make me smile. Look, nobody knows better than me how good you’ve been for this office, but let’s be honest, here you’re just another foot soldier, anonymous and underpaid.”
Catherine agreed but needed some time to think about it. “I’ll need some time.”
“Fine, only Moreno needs to know by tomorrow,” Joe informed her.
She was flabbergasted. “Tomorrow!” Her mind raced. “How can I make this important a decision overnight?” she thought.
“Cathy, look, you don’t say no to this kind of job because it doesn’t come up again, not like this, and if it does, it won’t be for a very long time.”
Catherine stood quietly in front of Joe. He looked at her, wondering why she wasn’t jumping at the chance. He didn’t think she was involved with anyone. That whole thing with Burch had ended a while ago and then she had been laid up with the back injury from being shot. He knew she hadn’t had time to meet someone she could be that serious about.
His thoughts turned to her family. “So, you want to stay close to your Dad? Is that it?”
Catherine looked at him, pulled from her thoughts of Vincent. “What? No! I mean, my Dad would come visit me no matter where I lived.”
“So, what else is holding you to this fabulous city?”
She knew Joe was being sarcastic and rolled her eyes. “I...guess it must be how much I would miss working with you.”
Knowing she was teasing him, Joe grinned. “Think about it, Radcliffe!”
“I will, Joe.” Catherine turned to leave when a thought struck her and she looked back. “Is this why you’re giving me cases an intern could handle?”
Joe blushed and guiltily looked down. Catherine knew she had her answer. “It’s okay. I understand.”
He looked up and smiled at her as she turned to leave.
Later that day, Catherine had lunch with Edie and told her about her dilemma. Edie couldn’t understand why Catherine wasn’t jumping at the chance to advance. Catherine tried to explain. She told Edie she knew it was the right decision when she left her father’s firm...it had felt right. But this was an impossible decision. This was a move she was definitely unsure about.
Edie told her to make a list of the pros and cons; sometimes when it was on paper, a decision become clearer, easier to make. Edie knew that, for Catherine, this was a wise career decision, so her uncertainty must stem from a relationship or lack of one. She told Catherine a new city might give her a chance to meet someone worthwhile.
Catherine just nodded, thoughts of Vincent coming to her mind.
Edie sympathized even more when she found out Catherine would have to decide overnight.
Catherine went back to her desk and made phone calls, but she couldn’t get her mind off of Vincent. She sent him a message requesting that he meet her tonight at the park entrance at 10:00. “I can’t make this decision alone, I need some input from Vincent,” she thought.
Catherine left work for the day, her emotions in turmoil. She had so much to think about. She entered her apartment and dropped her briefcase by the door then sat down on the couch with a sigh. “What am I going to do?” she thought. She sat for over two hours, thoughts racing through her mind.
With another sigh, she got up to make some tea. As it steeped, she walked back into her living room and set the cup down on the table. She went to her briefcase and removed a large yellow legal pad and proceeded to draw a line down the middle of the page. She was going to make her list, just like Edie suggested.
On the pro side, she started to write all the things that would benefit her and others. Career advancement, salary hike, head of department, opportunity to help more people, abused women, abused children, the use of counseling services, the chance to start over, new people, new faces; the list grew.
The con side was noticeably empty; there was nothing written on that side. Catherine decided to concentrate some effort on that side. She thought of her father. She would miss him but he could always visit. He would be proud of her as long as she was happy. Jenny would miss her but she knew they would talk on the phone all the time and maybe vacation together like they did when they were younger. Nothing appeared on the con side until she wrote one word...Vincent.
She stared at his name and ran her finger lightly over it. Somehow that one name had more power over her decision than everything else on the other side. She had to see Vincent. She had to talk to him.
Later that night, she headed to the tunnels and waited at the park entrance.
Vincent saw her standing at the park entrance bathed in the light from outside. “You look like an angel standing there.”
“I wanted to see you. I have an important decision to make and I need your help.”
He looked at her worriedly. For her to come to him like this did not bode well for what she was going to tell him. He opened the grate and walked to her, waiting for her to continue.
“I’ve been offered another job, Vincent, a much better job, with more responsibilities, a chance to use my training and to help people more than I’m able to now. But it would mean leaving New York.”
His stomach clenched in despair but he didn’t let his reaction show on his face. “Where would you go?”
She looked at him, wanting to gauge his reaction. “Providence, Rhode Island.”
His heart raced as he smiled at the irony of the situation. “Providence is when...something is meant to be.”
“I don’t know what’s meant to be. Vincent, I care about you so deeply. But a part of me is unhappy, and we both know why.”
Vincent knew she was unhappy because she had no one to share her life with in the world Above; he knew she was unhappy because they couldn’t have the normal relationship of a man and a woman. He knew he couldn’t be that person, and he would not let her tie herself to him and become unhappy. She must be allowed to blossom and grow.
“Well, then, you don’t have any choice…”
“But I do! That’s why I’m here.”
“You didn’t come this far, Catherine, to turn back now.”
“I came this far because of you! I don’t want to leave you behind.”
“Beyond these tunnels, beyond this city, is a world of possibilities, and wonders, and things calling out to be done. These things I could only dream about until you came into my life. Catherine, don’t you understand? You must go, you must see, you must do everything you were meant to do, for me, for both of us, and then I can truly be with you, always.”
“There’s no other way?” She couldn’t believe he was sending her away. What more proof did she need that he only considered her a friend?
“No, not for us.”
Unable to hide his feelings for much longer, Vincent looked at her then slowly turned back to the tunnels and left.
She stared in shock at his retreating form until the steel door shut completely. She turned and walked home, riddled with confusion.
Catherine let herself into her apartment. The meeting did not go as she thought it would. She thought that she and Vincent had grown closer lately. She thought he would be more upset about her leaving. She had told him that she was unhappy and he never once mentioned his feelings. He was supportive of her decision, whatever it was. He almost pushed her to make the move. He said it would be for the both of them and then he walked away and left her standing there alone.
Her thoughts were racing. Maybe she had mistaken what she thought he felt for her. Maybe what they had was just an impossibly close friendship. Had she been pushing Vincent to feel something he didn’t feel? Was he just being kind to her, keeping her at arm’s length so as not tohurt her? He told her to go...how much more of an answer did she need?!
She stood on the balcony and looked out over the city. Her thoughts went back to Halloween night and how much fun they had together. Just recently, when he was worried about her investigation with Mitch Denton, he told her that a life without her would be unbearable. When Vincent carried her to the hospital after she’d been shot, she thought she remembered him saying something along the lines that if she died, so did he, but she wasn’t sure if it was real or a dream. And she imagined that she had seen a flash of desire in his eyes when she was feeding him dessert the other night.
There were so many examples to show her that he cared, but then he nonchalantly told her to take the job in another city.
Catherine continued to stand on her balcony, tears falling, trying to come to terms with her decision. She finally went to bed and fell into a restless sleep.
Below, Vincent had felt the slam of the steel door down in the bottom of his heart. He walked a short distance through the tunnels then leaned against a wall. He held his hand over his chest, seemingly touching the pain he felt settled there; it actually felt like his heart was breaking.
Catherine was moving! The very reason he had found any enjoyment in life was leaving New York forever! Without her, he saw no reason to live. He looked to his life in the next few years and saw only emptiness. His thoughts were jumbled as he grappled to find the strength to go on.
She had asked for his advice but what could he say to her? How could he tell her how he felt about her? He knew she cared about him but he was convinced it was only as a friend. He wouldn’t ask her to stay here for him. She had endless possibilities available to her. How could he try to bind her to him? To a life of darkness? What could he possibly offer herthat would be better than what her future held?
He walked home, and luckily encountered very few people in the tunnels. He walked into his chamber to find Mary putting clean laundry on his table.
She turned around with a smile. “Hello, Vincent. I brought you your laundry. I even repaired the rip in the jeans...” She had taken his jeans and opened them to the spot she mended then glanced over and noticed his demeanor. “Vincent, what is it?”
He sat down and didn’t respond, so Mary came closer and touched his arm. “Vincent?”
He glanced up at her, almost as if he was surprised to see her there. “Mary.”
“I brought you your laundry. Son, what is it? What’s wrong?”
Vincent shook his head. “Nothing, Mary. Thank you for the laundry. I...hadn’t had a chance to pick it up yet.”
Mary knew that this man, who was like a son to her, could be quiet and reflective, but eventually he would tell Father what troubled him and the two would come to some type of solution. “Vincent, Father’s still awake if you need to see him.”
“Thank you, Mary. But I think I’m going to write in my journal then go to sleep.”
Mary caressed his hair and kissed his forehead, something she hadn’t done in a long time. “Sleep well, little man.”
Vincent looked at her with tears in his eyes but managed to smile at her. “Goodnight, Mary.”
Mary left Vincent’s chamber and immediately headed to Father’s. He was reading at the table and having tea.
“Mary, come in. Would you like some tea?”
Mary smiled and sat down. “No, thank you.”
“What has you out so late?”
“I was delivering laundry. Vincent came back from his meeting with Catherine. He seems quite upset.”
Father rolled his eyes. “Yes, well, that’s nothing new.”
Mary shot him a look of disapproval. “Don’t you think you should talk to him?”
Father grimaced. “You know as well as I that Vincent won’t speak until he’s ready to.”
“I know what you’re going to say, Mary, but you and I both know it will do no good. I’ll speak to him if he comes to see me.”
Resigned to the truth, she nodded. “Okay. Goodnight, Father.”
Vincent wrote in his journal until his restlessness sent him to the library. Father was sitting alone reading. He smiled at Vincent but wisely remained silent, knowing Vincent would eventually tell him what was going on.
Vincent tried to start several books, only to quickly discard them and pick up another. He finally gave up altogether as his frustration grew.
Father discreetly watched his son struggle for over half an hour. With a sigh, he finally looked over at him. “Vincent…tell me.”
Vincent sat with his head down but he quietly told his Father, “She’s leaving.”
They both knew he was referring to Catherine, so Father didn’t even ask to whom he was referring. “Leaving?”
“Yes…she has an opportunity for employment in another city.”
“Another city? One of the suburbs?”
Vincent shook his head. “No…Rhode Island. She’s leaving to go to Providence.”
Father expelled the breath he’d been holding. “When did this happen?”
“A little while ago; she came to me and asked my help in making a decision.”
“She wanted my opinion on whether she should stay or go.”
“Really?” Father looked at him curiously. “What did you say?”
Vincent began to pace. “What could I say? I told her she must reach out and grasp at the life she was meant to lead. She must face her destiny and look back with no regrets.”
Father looked down gratefully. He was afraid that Vincent would profess his love and try to hold Catherine here. He was worried Catherine would stay and this impossible relationship would continue. The hurt he knew Vincent would eventually feel would just be prolonged. He wisely kept quiet and instead looked over at Vincent. “That was wise of you to say and…painfully unselfish, I believe.”
Vincent nodded and took a seat as his head hung down.
Father paused before he gave an angry retort. His son was in pain and, once again, this woman had hurt him. His thoughts went back to the last time Catherine had hurt his son. It was just a few months ago, and at the beginnings of their relationship, when she had met up with Elliott Burch. Vincent was crushed to find that she had feelings for another man, and all his dreams had come crashing down around him. Now they had been through so much more as a couple, and it had only strengthened their friendship. This time Vincent felt the hurt much deeper in his soul. This pain would take a lifetime to heal.
Vincent sat quietly for almost an hour but Father watched as he struggled to find peace within himself again. Finally he tried to offer him advice. “Vincent, the pain you feel now will lessen in time and finally pass. That I promise.”
Vincent looked at his father angrily. “So the best I can hope for is to forget her, forget everything?” He picked up a book and slammed it down on top of the table. “Mine was another life before Catherine. I’m changed…forever.”
“All right...Then accept the change, learn from it, but you must let the woman follow her own path, Vincent ...for your sake!”
Vincent had started to walk away, unwilling to listen to his father’s advice right now, when he paused to look back. “Those are just words, Father! Shadows of feelings…they offer no consolation.”
Vincent stormed out of the room as Father called out to him, but Vincent never turned back and started to run through the tunnels.
A short time later, Matthew came to report from sentry duty. “Everyone’s back and accounted for, well, except for Vincent. I saw him go out the park entrance about half an hour ago.”
Father sighed at the lateness of the hour, but only nodded. “Thank you, Matthew. Get some sleep.”
“He’s probably going to see Catherine…”
Unwilling to worry anyone else, Father smiled weakly. “Perhaps…”
Matthew grinned. “He’s so happy lately. I’m glad he’s finally found someone to share his life with…”
Father bit back the angry retort as he realized that, as much as he hated to admit it, Matthew was right. Since Vincent and Catherine had become friends, Vincent had seemed happier. He slowly nodded at Matthew. “Yes…goodnight, Matthew.”
Father sat silently and stared at the flame of the candle as he thought about the last year and how much Vincent had changed. He frowned as he realized that he was unable to protect Vincent from the one thing he had always wanted to shield him from…the pain of heartbreak.
Vincent ran from the tunnels up into the park. He was unaware that he had been observed walking in the park on previous occasions.
The two men sat in a van and kept up a constant surveillance of their surroundings.
“Professor Hughes, how do you know it will walk through the park again?”
“Not it, Gould…him. It’s a man…of that I’m certain!”
Gould rolled his eyes as he looked out his window. “Okay…but just because
“I think he will. I think he lives around here somewhere and he’ll come back again. Just keep looking for him…”
Gould sat up in his seat and pointed excitedly out the window “My God! There he is!”
Vincent, in his distraught state of mind, was unaware he was being watched.
Suddenly, a van’s headlights snapped on him, illuminating him in the darkness. He was completely exposed as he threw his arm up to shield his eyes.
Gould took the opportunity to slip from the van and shoot Vincent in the chest with a tranquilizer dart. Shocked, Vincent pulled out the dart and turned and fled. Gould took off after him on foot while Hughes pursued them in the van. Hughes drove on ahead of them, effectively blocking Vincent’s entrance to the tunnel.
The tranquilizer was starting to take effect and Vincent was slowing down but he pushed on, frantic to get home and safe. He paused for a moment as Gould came up behind him and Vincent lashed out at him, knocking him to the ground. Hoping it bought him some time, Vincent used the last of his strength to run towards the culvert.
Ahead of him, Hughes hopped out of the van and shot Vincent twice more with darts. It was too much for Vincent, and he fell to the ground unconscious.
Gould ran up and looked down at Vincent lying on the ground. “He’s huge!”
“I know…I told you he was!” Seeing Gould’s disheveled state, he blanched. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, he surprised me…shoved me down a hill. His strength is amazing…we’ll have to chain him at the lab…”
“We’ll see. We have to get him there first…”
The two men struggled but finally managed to load Vincent into the van and take him back to the university. Once there, they struggled even further to put him on a gurney. Once he was on it, they were able to maneuver him through the hallways quickly and made it to the lab unseen by anyone.
Below, Father was up early and made the short walk to Vincent’s room. He frowned as he walked in and saw that the room was unlit except for a small candle.
“Vincent?” he said as he lit several more candles on the table. He turned to look at the bed and frowned when he noticed it had not been slept in. With a sigh, he turned and walked to the kitchen to see William.
William looked up as he walked in. “’Morning, Father.”
“Good morning, William. It smells wonderful in here.”
William chuckled. “Yes, cinnamon rolls, they’re Vincent’s favorite. I heard the news about his friend leaving. I was hoping this might cheer him up.”
Father looked at him worriedly. “Have you spoken to Vincent?”
“Not yet, but once he smells the cinnamon wafting through the tunnels, I’m sure he’ll be here!”
Father frowned. “Maybe. I thought that perhaps he had chosen to go to the lower tunnels for a few days. I was hoping he had come here for supplies?”
William looked up worriedly from stirring the batter. “No. He’s not in his chamber?”
“Where is he?”
Father shook his head. “I don’t know. Matthew said he saw him head out to the park last night. I fear he never came back.”
William gasped. “It’s light out by now!”
“I know.” Father turned to leave. “I’m calling a meeting in 15 minutes in the library.”
Ten minutes later, the library was abuzz with conversation. Father walked in and the room quickly quieted. He stood and looked out over the sea of concerned faces. “Before we go any further, who was on sentry duty last night?”
Eight of the men in the room stood and Father nodded, grateful it was all adults last night.
“Matthew reported that Vincent went Above last night. I need to know if any of you saw him return.”
The silence was deafening when each of the men shrugged as they looked at one another and shook their heads “no.”
Father expelled the breath he was holding and sat down heavily in his chair; he looked worriedly out over his family. “I fear that Vincent may still Above.”
Mouse shook his head. “Light out…not Above…play game maybe…sneak back down…”
Father sighed. “I don’t think he was in the mood for games, Mouse.”
Matthew stepped forward. “He left at about 11:15. He seemed kind of distracted.”
Mouse frowned as he shifted nervously. “Shouldn’t let go, then!”
Matthew chuckled nervously. “Did you ever try to stop Vincent? I told him to be careful. I don’t think he even heard me.” He turned back to Father. “I just assumed he came back through another entrance.”
Father nodded with a half-smile. “A natural assumption, I assure you. I’ll need every available team of adults to go Above and search for him. Pascal, send word to our helpers and get them searching as well. Jamie, organize the older children to search the tunnels around the main entrance areas. Perhaps he was hurt and couldn’t get entirely home. All teams report in with their progress every hour. Go now, please!”
The room burst with a flurry of activity as each member rose to do their assignment. The adults quickly split themselves into teams and headed off in every direction. Pascal ran to his pipes and sent word to the helper’s network. Jamie ran to the children’s dorms and quickly had the kids ages 12-14 scouring the entrances. The older 15-18-year-olds headed Above to help with the search. She followed them up and she and Mouse teamed up to search, as well.
Mary sat quietly in Father’s library wringing her hands. “What has upset him so?”
Father sighed and sat down heavily. “His friend Catherine is moving; she’s leaving New York.”
Mary sighed. “The poor thing. He must be heartbroken.”
Father shrugged but made no comment.
Mary was quiet when a thought suddenly popped into her head. “Maybe he’s with her!”
Father gasped. “Good God, I hope not!”
Mary ignored him. “Maybe he stayed with her and it was too light for him to leave and he had to stay Above.”
Father remained doubtful but sent for Kipper. Kipper bounded into the room a few minutes later, eating cinnamon rolls.
Father smiled at him. “Kipper, do you remember where Catherine lives?”
Kipper nodded as he swallowed his food. “Uh-huh.”
“Could you go there and knock and see if Vincent perhaps got caught by the advancing daylight and had to stay there?”
“Vincent went to a slumber party?” Kipper wondered as he took off immediately.
She smiled knowingly at him. “We could always hope that’s what happened!”
Father grew angry and shot to his feet. “For their sakes, let’s hope NOT.”
Mary frowned at his comment then got up as well. “I need to see about the little ones.”
She walked out of the room while Father stared at her retreating form, praying she was wrong.
Kipper was back with the hour and reported that no one answered at Catherine’s apartment.
That same morning, Catherine went into work and informed Joe she was taking the job. He smiled then admitted to her he was hoping she would turn it down. She shrugged and reminded him he had advised her to take it. He said he knew he did, it was a good move for her to make, but he was going to miss her.
Two days later, Father sat alone in his library staring unseeingly at a map of the city.
Mary came in and touched his hand. “Are you all right?”
Father sighed and looked up at her and shrugged. “I guess.”
“Still no word?”
Mary shook her head. “I can’t believe Catherine hasn’t had any luck. She found him last time.”
“I…” Father looked at her, surprised, then frowned. “I’m not sure she even knows.”
Mary was exasperated. “Father! How could you not tell her?”
He balked. “I’ve had so much on my mind, I never thought about it...I…”
Mary shook her head. “That girl deserves to know! They’re friends, for Pete’s sake. Maybe she knows where to look for him!”
Father sighed and nodded in agreement. “I’ll tell her myself. I’ll send word and ask her to meet me at her threshold.”
“Are you up for that walk?”
“If I have any hopes of finding my son, I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
Catherine had spent the last few days finishing up her cases during the day and packing up her belongings in her apartment. She was feeling very melancholy as she kept coming across little things that reminded her of Vincent. She couldn’t get him off her mind as she tried to convince herself she had made the right decision.
A knock sounded at the door and she curiously walked over to answer it. When she opened it there was a note lying on the floor. Her eyes widened in surprise as she picked it up and read it. It was a note from Father telling her it was urgent he speak with her and asking her to meet him at her threshold. She left immediately and made her way through the basement and down towards the threshold entrance. Father was there waiting.
Catherine tentatively walked forward. “Hello, Father.”
“Hello, Catherine. Thank you for coming.”
She looked at him curiously. “Your message said it was urgent.”
“Vincent is missing. He’s been gone since the night before last.”
She looked confused. “But I saw him that night.”
She grasped for an answer to explain his whereabouts. “Is there somewhere he might have gone?”
He shook his head. “No, he would never cause me such undue worry. We’ve searched everywhere; he’s nowhere Below.” He looked at her and debated bringing up the personal subject. “Vincent was not himself after he spoke with you.”
Catherine realized that Father knew and was surprised that Vincent had shared the information. “About my going away? I’m only doing what we both thought was best.”
Catherine thought Father would be happy, but instead he shook his head. “Once, I thought I knew the answer...no longer. We must find Vincent, quickly.”
Both of their thoughts returned to Vincent’s condition the last time he was caught Above.
Catherine ached when she felt that once again an action on her part may have caused this incident then steeled herself to do battle. “What can we do?”
“Our friends are searching the city; beyond that...I don’t know.”
He turned to walk away when Catherine stopped him. She knew how he felt about her and was surprised at his gesture. “Why did you come to tell me?”
Father looked away as he tried to come to terms with the reason himself. “Because I know you care.”
They nodded to each other then turned to go back to their respective homes.
Suddenly, Catherine turned around and called out. “Father?” She stopped his progress and walked through the passageway to stand in front of him. “I have to tell you…you’re right…I do care, probably more than you could possibly know. I...I never meant to hurt him, but he wouldn’t...” Tears sprang to her eyes and she quickly looked down as she fumbled with her hands. “I gave him the chance…he had the perfect opening…but he wouldn’t ask me to stay.”
“How alike these two are. What am I going to do with the pair of them?” He smiled weakly at her downcast face then lifted her chin so he could look her in the eyes. He softened upon seeing the tears gently sliding down her face. “That, my dear girl, is because he can’t, or rather he won’t, keep you bound to him.”
“I’m already bound to him. I care for him so much, sometimes it hurts! But he...” Catherine looked up, unsure of how to continue.
Father nodded his assent. “Go on.”
“Father, he...never shares his feelings. Sometimes I feel like he thinks of me as a…buddy. Someone he can be good friends with. Then there are times when I feel a tug at my heart. Like he’s trying to get in but won’t push hard enough to come to me all the way.”
“Catherine, I don’t approve of your relationship with Vincent. I don’t think it can ever be good for either one of you. I think that eventually it will destroy one or both of you...” Catherine went to protest and Father raised his hand to stop her. “But I know my son, and I know Vincent thinks of you as more than a friend.”
She nodded weakly. She knew Father liked her but didn’t trust her yet. “I won’t leave the city until he’s found, Father, and I’ll do everything I can to find him.”
He touched her elbow in a silent gesture of thanks. “Thank you, Catherine. I know you’ll do your best.”
Catherine flicked on her internal switch and turned into the top investigator that she was. “Do you have any idea where to begin looking, Father?”
Father looked directly at her. “I fear it’s like before. I think someone has him somewhere...locked up, maybe sedated...We must find him soon.”
“Well, if any one of the helpers or anyone from Below comes across any kind of a clue or lead, please contact me immediately.”
Father smiled at her. “I will; please return the favor.”
She impulsively hugged him. “I will! Be well, Father.”
Catherine turned and ran up to her apartment and changed her clothes as she grappled to come up with a plan.
Across town, Hughes and Gould were poring over all the information they were gathering on Vincent. They sat for hours and talked extensively about their findings, and finally Gould went out to do some more research.
Lying strapped to the table, Vincent was coming out of his drug-induced sleep and was dreaming. Over and over he looked for Catherine in her apartment, but he couldn’t find her. He finally spotted her across the room, but when he walked to her, she disappeared. She wasn’t there, and he had no sense of her. She was gone from his life.
In anguish he called out. “Catherine!”
Hughes heard Vincent call out and came to stand by his side.
Vincent woke slowly, looking in confusion at his surroundings. He wondered where he was then deduced he was in some type of lab. His first thought was of Peter, the helper who was the consulting doctor for the tunnels. He quickly realized he was tied down to a bed and hooked up to different machines that were monitoring him.
He looked up into the face of a man he didn’t know and his eyes widened in terror. “Oh, my God!” he thought.
Hughes was talking to him and Vincent pretended to slip back into unconsciousness.
Hughes ran from the room to find Gould, who came immediately to review Vincent’s condition. The two men, thinking he was asleep, discussed him aloud. Hughes believed that Vincent was human…a man with fully conscious thoughts and feelings; he told Gould he had even heard Vincent speak. Gould thought Vincent was an animal who had learned to mimic human behavior. To him, Vincent was no more than a lab rat.
The two men realized they had a complete difference of opinion and started to distrust one another.
Despite Hughes’ warnings, Gould decided he wanted to keep Vincent sedated. When he tried to give him another injection, Vincent knew it was now or never and broke free. Weakened, he tried to gain his freedom, but Gould shot him again with the tranquilizer gun.
“What part of that behavior is human, Professor?!” Gould asked sarcastically.
“I warned you…he has conscious thought. He didn’t want to be sedated again!”
“He attacked us…he could’ve killed us!”
“I don’t believe that!”
“I’m not taking that chance. I’m going to the basement to get a cage to put him in.”
“A cage?! He’s not an animal!”
Gould laughed. “We already have him restrained and he broke through those leather restraints like they were ribbons! Next time, he may succeed in getting away…then where will your findings be?!”
Hughes sighed then slowly nodded as Gould ran from the room to get the cage. Within the hour, he was back, and the two men dragged Vincent inside and locked the door securely.
Hughes wanted to treat Vincent like a human, study him some more, test his intelligence. Gould said Vincent was a freak of nature, a genetic accident. He was ready to go public with their findings. Ready for the glory he would get for this undiscovered beast. He didn’t care what happened to Vincent.
Vincent overheard all of this and didn’t care. His life meant nothing to him anymore. Catherine was gone and he was living in a cage. What more could possibly happen to him? What difference did it make if his cage was above ground or below? He had no reason to live anymore and his spirit was broken. He lay his head on his arm and willed himself to die.
Gould left to go turn in his findings. Hughes had noticed Vincent’s interest in their conversation and now he saw that Vincent was crying. He begged Vincent to speak. When only silence met him, Hughes shot Vincent with another tranquilizer and covered the cage. He called for help and he and a janitor moved Vincent to a new location where Gould couldn’t find him.
“What have you got inside this box, Professor Hughes?”
“It’s just some heavy equipment, Ralph. Thanks for helping me move it.”
“No problem. Where are we taking it?”
“To a storage room in the basement.”
Ralph nodded and helped him push the box on wheels. Hughes prayed that Vincent wouldn’t wake up, and they got the cage below with no incident.
“Thanks again, Ralph.” Hughes handed him a fifty-dollar bill. “For your trouble.”
Ralph shook his head. “Like I said, it was no trouble at all.”
Hughes flushed guiltily. “Maybe you could forget you helped me?”
Ralph took the bill and shrugged indifferently. “Okay, thanks. Have a good day.”
Hughes waited a few hours in the basement and stared at Vincent. When he saw Vincent stir, he bent down by him. “Speak to me, please. I know you can. I heard you. You’ve got to let me help you.”
Vincent’s gravelly voice carried to him. “Then release me.”
Hughes sighed with satisfaction; he was correct, this man did have intelligence. “So you can speak...and you can understand what I say.”
“Why did you keep silent in front of Gould?”
Vincent shrugged. “The other man means me harm, no words could change that.”
“I never meant you harm, you must believe that.” Hughes needed to find out more. “Do you have a name?”
“Vincent.....my name is Hughes. I have so many questions. You spoke the name Catherine. Who is Catherine?”
Vincent couldn’t believe he had said her name; it must have happened when he was delirious. “She is everything, but she lives only in my heart.”
“Is she like you? Another of your kind?”
“There is only me.”
Hughes wondered if the statement was true. “Vincent, what are you?”
“I am only what I am. If you cut me I will bleed; if you strike me, I’ll strike back, and if you keep me in chains, I will die. Look at me!”
Hughes closed his eyes in confusion. “I don’t know what to do.”
Vincent begged. “Let me go.”
“I can’t, not now, not yet. I still have so many unanswered questions.”
Vincent begged one last time. “Hughes, I’m dying.”
“You’re not dying. We did extensive research and testing. Your blood work is unusual, yes, but all the other tests proved you’re extremely healthy.”
“Does the being of a person exist only in the shell he lives in? What of the spirit?”
“I promise you, Vincent, I won’t let them hurt you.”
When he realized that Hughes would continue with his plan, Vincent closed his eyes and shut him out.
The next day, Catherine was supposed to be packing but her heart just wasn’t in it. She was worried that Vincent still hadn’t been found. She knew she would never be able to leave the city knowing that he wasn’t safely Below.
Edie stopped by to talk with her and see how she was doing. Edie thought that she looked pretty unhappy for someone heading out to start a new life. They talked for a while, until Catherine spotted the headline of a gossip newspaper Edie had in her purse. “GRANDMA SEES MONSTER CAPTURED” had caught her eye, and she grabbed the article and began reading it, ignoring Edie’s comments about having it because she read the soap opera updates to a deaf aunt. Catherine said goodbye to Edie and thanked her for coming over, promising to see her at work tomorrow.
Catherine went to speak to the reporter of the newspaper article. She begged him to let her speak to the woman who gave him the story. He directed her to Anna Lausch. Catherine went to the eccentric old woman’s apartment and Anna told her the story of what had happened that night.
She had seen two men chase down another man. One man ran after him on foot and the other drove a van. She had glimpsed the hunted man’s face and it was a terrible face, filled with pain. Catherine cringed until Anna told her that the man that had been driving the truck shot at the man with the monster face.
Catherine swallowed hard and hoped Anna had been wrong. Her stomach flipped when Anna showed her with a telescope where the monster had been captured. It was in the park, by the drainage tunnel right in front of the entrance to the tunnels. Catherine’s heart stopped…Vincent was so close to home and safety when he had been captured.
Catherine thanked the woman and left then went down to the tunnel entrance. Anna had said Vincent had been shot and she hoped she could find some evidence of the shooting. She felt a small measure of relief when she bent over and picked up used tranquilizer darts. She drew a long breath as she realized that he had not been shot with bullets and was possibly still alive. She headed for the office to try to investigate who owned the darts.
When she entered the office, she saw Joe coming towards her. “Radcliffe, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be packing?”
Catherine made a split-second decision. “I’m not going, Joe. I’m staying here. Can I have my old job back?”
Joe’s jaw dropped open as he stared at her incredulously. “Are you crazy?”
Catherine smiled, relieved for once with her choice. “No, I think I finally made the right decision. I love my job and my life just the way it is. So can I have my old job back?”
“Look, Cathy, are you...?” He stopped himself mid-sentence, he was so happy she wasn’t leaving; he smiled at her. “You can have your old job anytime you want it.”
“Good. I just need a day or two to track something down. I’ll be back on Monday, okay?”
“What are you looking for? Maybe I can help.”
She shook her head. “Nope, it’s too precious. I’ll find it though...Thanks!”
Catherine went to her desk and picked up the phone. She was able to track the darts from their supplier to the university they sold them to, and finally to a Professor Hughes. She left to go interview him.
Catherine quickly found his office on campus.
She called out, knocking on his doors. “Professor Hughes?”
“Who is it?”
“My name is Catherine Chandler. Please, may I speak with you?”
“Catherine?” he said to no one as he went to let her into his office. “Was this the woman Vincent had spoken of?”
Hughes opened his office door and Catherine entered the office. “Thank you.”
“How can I help you?”
She showed him the darts and told him how she traced them to him. Hughes looked at her guiltily.
Catherine knew the answer but asked anyway. “He’s here, isn’t he? Is he alive?”
Hughes ignored her questions. “He’s spoken of you.”
Catherine was relieved. Vincent was here and, as far as she could tell, he was okay. The fact that he spoke her name lit up her heart. She looked up at Hughes hopefully. “Take me to him.”
Hughes shook his head. “I can’t do that, I’m sorry.”
Hugh held his face in confusion. “I need time...everything’s happening too quickly. There’s more at stake here than you think.”
Catherine pleaded with him. “No! There is only Vincent! If you’ve spoken with him then I know you understand that!”
He ignored her comments. “My whole career, my reputation, the respect of my colleagues...”
“There’s still so much to learn from him, so much we don’t know...”
Catherine stormed angrily at him. “Who gave you the right!!”
Hughes lashed back at her. “It’s too late. Don’t you understand! Another man’s already seen him!”
Catherine’s eyes filled with tears. “Professor Hughes, I don’t know how to explain this, I don’t even pretend to understand it, but Vincent and I...are connected. I know him and I know that, whatever he is, he is also the best part of what it means to be human, and if you take away his freedom then you take away that very part that makes him most human!”
Hughes stood there quietly then finally looked into Catherine’s eyes. He could see her desperation, and he slowly nodded.
“All right. I’ll take you to him. He deserves that much, at least.”
“He deserves everything!”
“We’ve got to go quickly. Gould, the other man, I think he may have gone to the Dean.”
Hughes brought Catherine to the basement of the building then straight to Vincent. She ran to the side of his cage. Vincent didn’t move, he didn’t even acknowledge she was there! She touched his hair, moving his bangs away from his eyes. He finally moved his head and looked at her but he kept his head down and made no attempt to rise.
Worried that he had given up, she called out to him. “Vincent?” She turned to Hughes angrily. “Let him out of here! Now!”
“Where will you take him?” Hughes asked.
Gould had seen them leave Hughes’ office and he followed behind them and forcefully entered the room. He shut and locked the door behind him. He advanced threateningly at Hughes. “You’re not going anywhere. Give me the key.”
Hughes stepped back away from him. “No!”
Hughes and Gould scuffled over the keys. Hughes tried to persuade Gould to listen to him, but Gould was beyond reason. Hughes hit Gould over the head with a pipe. Gould fell to the floor. Hughes ran to help him, apologizing, but saying that he wouldn’t let Gould hurt Vincent.
Gould grabbed for a screwdriver he found lying on the floor and viciously stabbed Gould in the chest. Catherine gasped at the fact that the altercation had turned violent and leaned forward to pick up the keys Hughes had dropped. She held them in front of her as a weapon and waved them at Gould, who was advancing on her.
Vincent, who had been watching the drama unfold, got up on his knees in his cage. He was distraught that Catherine was in trouble and he couldn’t protect her because he was trapped.
Catherine fought with Gould and, when he grabbed her from behind, he pushed her towards a wall. She pushed off the wall with her foot and sent them flying against Vincent’s cage. Vincent grabbed Gould and snapped his neck then collapsed on the floor of his cage. He had done nothing but lie on either a table or a floor for almost five days, and his muscles were weak.
Catherine opened Vincent’s cage and knelt next to him. She caressed his shoulder, comforting him, and trying to assess his condition.
Vincent was concerned for the man who, in the end, had tried to help him. “Hughes.”
Catherine turned to look at the Professor then went to him and picked up his head. He was dying, and he and Catherine both knew it.
His last words were about Vincent, about how he wished he could have known him better, and then he finally asked for Vincent’s forgiveness.
After Hughes died, Catherine turned to look back to Vincent.
He realized Hughes had died and he hung his head.
Catherine got up and walked over to him and stood in the opening of the cage. “Vincent?”
“You’re really here?”
She smiled and nodded. “Yes, I am. Vincent, we’ve got to get out of here.”
He refused to move and Catherine put her forehead against his. “Vincent, you have to help me. I can’t do this alone. Please, try to get up! Can you do it if I help?”
Vincent finally responded to the urgency in her voice and nodded. “I...I think so.”
She helped him get to his feet. He leaned back against the side of the cage, hanging onto the bars for support, waiting for the blood to flow back into his legs. She looked around the room and found his cloak. She quickly retrieved it and wrapped it around his shoulders then moved in front of him and helped him secure the ties.
“Vincent, we’re at the university. Can you tell me where the closest entrance to the tunnels is?”
He held his head down and shrugged his shoulders. Catherine knew he still wasn’t himself. She grabbed his arms and shook him as she desperately looked up into his eyes. “Vincent! Listen to me! You have to tell me how to get you home. Can you do that?”
Responding again to the desperation in her voice, he thought for a moment then nodded. His mood was starting to improve with his impending freedom. “We have a helper in a bookstore off campus. He has an entrance below his building.”
“On the northeast corner of the square.”
Catherine was relieved it was someplace nearby. “Good! Okay, we’ve got to get you there. Can you walk?”
He nodded and pulled away from the side of the cage. “Yes.”
She turned and went to the door, watching him as she went. His first few steps were tentative but his strength was steadily returning. She peeked out into the corridor. Seeing no one, she stepped out and spied an emergency exit. She motioned for Vincent to follow.
Stopping at the door, she pulled his hood over his head, hiding his features, then grabbed his hand and led him through the door. Once outside, she scanned the nearby buildings but couldn’t see the store. She turned to him, hoping he could show her the way. “I can’t tell which way…”
Weak from all of the tests they had conducted on him, Vincent stood silently, leaning against the wall, gasping for breath.
“Vincent!” Catherine shouted at him.
Startled into action, he quickly got his bearings and they headed for the bookstore. Luckily, the door they exited from put them only about a block away from it. He leaned heavily on Catherine, but the fresh air had done wonders for him, and he was able to gather the strength he needed to quicken their pace.
As they made their way across the courtyard, Frank, the helper in the bookstore, spotted them. He quickly opened the door then ran out to help Catherine get Vincent to safety. Frank stopped to lock the door behind them as Vincent led them through the aisles and straight to the basement entrance.
Once downstairs, Vincent leaned against the wall in the far corner, panting heavily from their race across the courtyard. Catherine stood by his side and gently rubbed his back
Frank came into the basement behind them. “Vincent, are you all right?”
“Yes, Frank. Thank you.”
“I almost flipped when I saw you walking out there in the sunlight,” Frank declared. “Where were you?”
“In the basement at the university,” Vincent gasped.
“What the hell were you doing there?”
Catherine straightened up and looked at the man. “He was being held prisoner.”
“Thank God you escaped!”
Vincent nodded as Catherine smiled weakly. “I’m just glad your store was so close to where we came out. Vincent said there was an entrance Below in here.”
“Can you send word that he’s safe and we’re on our way?”
Frank laughed as he grasped Vincent’s shoulder and squeezed it affectionately. “I’d be happy to…there’s going to be some mighty happy people down there.”
Vincent nodded and relaxed against the wall.
Frank nodded to Catherine as he spoke to Vincent. “And who’s this little lady?”
“Frank, this is Catherine Chandler. She’s a ...friend. Catherine, Frank Miller.”
Catherine extended her hand to his. “Hi, Frank, it’s nice to meet you.”
Frank shook her hand in wonder. “Catherine, it’s a pleasure. You, my dear, are going to be a hero. Vincent’s been missing for four days.”
She smiled as Vincent moved away from the wall and turned to walk down to the tunnels.
Frank called out to him. “I’ll put the word out to the helper community that you’re back safe and sound.”
Vincent nodded. “Thank you, Frank.”
“Any time, Vincent. Catherine, again, it was nice to meet you.”
Catherine let Vincent get ahead of her when she suddenly turned back and looked at the helper. “Frank, Vincent was kept in Professor Hughes’ lab. Hughes is dead, but they may have information and data on Vincent...”
Frank reached out his hand and squeezed her arm reassuringly. “One of the helpers’ sons is a professor. I’ll get hold of him and send him to see if he can get any of the information out of there before it’s found.”
Catherine nodded with relief then quickly caught up to Vincent.
Vincent and Catherine walked slowly through the tunnels.
A thought struck him suddenly; he had no idea he had laid in that cage for four days and he wondered why she was still here. She was supposed to be gone! He stopped abruptly and leaned against the wall, looking down at her.
Catherine looked at him with concern. “Vincent, what is it?”
“Catherine, it’s been four days...”
“You’re still here?”
“Yes…?” Catherine asked with confusion.
“You were supposed to be gone.”
“How could I leave when I knew you were missing?”
“How did you know I was missing?”
“Father came to me and told me; he knew I’d want to know.”
Vincent was shocked that Father had reached out to Catherine. “I’m sorry. He shouldn’t have burdened you with my problems. What about your new life?”
“My only life is here, Vincent. Before Father even came to me, I was regretting my decision. I love it here in New York, my job, my apartment, my family, my friends, and I love...” She looked deep into his eyes and stopped herself before she revealed too much. “…whatever I have with you.”
He looked at her in surprise. “Catherine, there is so much good that you can accomplish there. Are you sure you want to give up that chance?”
“I can accomplish just as much good here, Vincent, and still be close to everything I love.”
He nodded. “So you’re not leaving?”
“I’m not leaving.”
He noticeably relaxed but didn’t say anything more.
Catherine stood in front of him, hoping he would be the first to proclaim his feelings. When he didn’t, she sighed and reached out her hand to him. “C’mon, let’s get you home.”
He took her hand and pushed off from the wall.
Vincent had heard Frank tapping out a message to Father announcing his return. He also heard Father make the announcement to everyone in the community that Vincent was to be left alone until tomorrow.
Loving his family as he did, he was still grateful to Father for giving him a chance to recover before being overwhelmed with well-wishers.
Silently, he guided Catherine towards the library as they walked the tunnels in silence. A part of him was still in shock; he couldn’t believe her words. Was she really staying? His heart lightened and he felt his strength returning. Through the bond, he could feel she was happy. For the first time in days, things in his life felt right again.
In the library, Father was anxiously pacing the floor.
Vincent and Catherine walked in together and Father turned to them.
“Vincent,” Father exclaimed, relieved his son was back.
He walked over and hugged him then stepped back and quickly assessed his son’s condition. Vincent was disheveled and dirty. He looked exhausted but he appeared otherwise unharmed.
Vincent greeted him warmly and, anticipating Father’s next question, answered him before he could ask. “Hello, Father, and yes, I’m okay.”
“Well, you do look much better than the last time you were caught Above. Why don’t you go clean up and change? I’ll entertain Catherine until you get back.”
Vincent turned towards Catherine for approval and she nodded her assent. He left and Father went to the pipes and tapped out a message to prepare Vincent a tray of food. He took Catherine’s hand and led her to a seat. They sat as Father poured them both some tea.
“Catherine, I don’t know how I can thank you for finding him.”
“There’s no need. He means so much to me.”
He nodded and smiled at her then fumbled in his attempt to try to get the whole story. “Catherine, where did you..? How did you..? I mean…”
She grasped his arm in understanding and gently related the story. “He was tranquilized right outside the park entrance to the tunnels. I found the spent darts and tracked the serial numbers to the supplier then to a professor at the university. He had Vincent there...” Catherine’s voice cracked as tears came to her eyes. “...in a cage.”
Father gasped as he caressed her hand. “Was it like before?”
Catherine knew he was referring to the time Vincent was captured and tormented by a gang. “No, it doesn’t seem like they hurt him physically, but Father...” She stopped, shaking her head in disgust. “I think they broke his spirit.”
“I know my son, Catherine, and they couldn’t break his spirit.”
“I’m not so sure. I had to fight to get him to respond to me. I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to get him out of there.”
“I think he’s probably more horrified that you saw him caged...like an animal.”
Catherine’s brow furrowed in worry. “Father, he couldn’t possibly think like that, could he?”
“He might. That and his feelings about you leaving are sure to be playing havoc with his heart.” He took a second then looked up at her. “When are you leaving?”
“I’m not…I’m not going to Providence. I turned down the job.”
“You’re staying here?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Vincent’s too important to me. I can’t leave him behind.”
Part of Father was relieved at the news, but another part was also quite worried about it. “Do you think that’s the wisest choice to make?”
Catherine shook her head. “I don’t know...I only know that when I thought he was missing, everything in my life was put on hold; nothing mattered but finding him.”
Nodding in understanding, he smiled at her, surprised at her words. “Maybe I was wrong about her?” he wondered. Out loud he asked, “Does Vincent know of your decision?”
“Yes, I told him on the way here.”
He chuckled. “Humph, my guess is that, with this news, he’ll recover quickly.”
A short time later, Vincent came back into the room.
Father looked up, pleased that he looked better already. “I think you should try to get some rest.”
Vincent ignored him and turned to Catherine. “I should walk you home.”
“No, Vincent, Father’s right…you should rest.” She turned and looked at Father. “Is it possible for one of the children to escort me home in a little while?”
He nodded his approval. “Of course.”
She turned back to Vincent. She knew how relaxed she felt when he read to her; she hoped it would do the same for him. “Why don’t we go to your chamber? You can lie down and, if you like, I’d love to read to you for a bit.”
Father smiled at her, knowing it would help to settle Vincent down. “That’s a fine offer, son. I’ll have the tray of food I ordered sent to your room.”
Vincent nodded shyly and Father looked to Catherine. “Catherine, you’ll let me know when you’re ready to be escorted out?”
She beamed at him, grateful he had agreed to her sitting with Vincent for a while. “Yes, thank you.”
Father smiled as they left. This was an amazing woman. Her first thoughts had been for Vincent’s comfort. Father chuckled and wondered what else she had in store for them in the future.
Vincent led her to his chamber. They weren’t there long before Kipper and Ellie came in carrying trays. Vincent and Catherine sat at the table as the trays were set down in front of them. Catherine assumed the food was all for Vincent and was surprised when the two trays held similar food, and Ellie told her one of them was for her.
She smiled at the children. “Thank you, Kipper, Ellie. It smells wonderful.”
Kipper blushed and started to walk to the door. Ellie smiled and came over to Vincent’s side. She reached up and threw her arms around Vincent’s neck. Vincent hugged her gently and patted her back.
She pulled away and looked at him. “Vincent, I’m glad you’re back. Everyone was so worried.”
“Thank you, Ellie.”
Ellie nodded and ran after Kipper.
Vincent turned to Catherine with a shy smile. “You’re welcome to eat if you’re hungry.”
Catherine’s stomach had clenched the minute she smelled the food. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast and even that was just a slice of toast and coffee.
Vincent dug into his food and Catherine smiled at his exuberance. She ate as well, but couldn’t possibly finish her dinner.
She pushed her tray towards Vincent. “Vincent, I’m finished if you’d like some of mine.”
He looked up at her, trying to gauge if she was actually full or not. Catherine looked content but misinterpreted his reaction. “I don’t have cooties, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
He looked at her in shock; that wasn’t what he was thinking at all. He saw the humor in what she said and shook his head. “Catherine, I was just wondering if you were really full or if you just wanted to see me eat more.”
Catherine laughed. “I’m stuffed…really. Didn’t they feed you there?”
Vincent’s face fell. He hadn’t eaten the entire time he was there. They had offered him food but he ignored it and willed himself to die. Without Catherine, his life had no meaning.
Catherine sensed the change come over Vincent. He picked at her food and only occasionally took a bite. She reached over and touched his arm. “Vincent, I’m sorry to have brought it up.” He shook his head but didn’t speak so she continued. “Can I read to you for a while?”
Vincent nodded, so she indicated he should lie on his bed. She scooted a chair over and sat nearby the bed. She began to read a book she found lying there. She read fluently until she got to a particular passage. She knew how well the next passage fit their situation.
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
She stopped and looked deeply in his eyes and smiled up at him, letting her love flow to him through the bond. He looked content and peaceful, so she continued to read.
When Catherine looked up again, Vincent had scooted down on the bed and was fast asleep. She read slower and eventually stopped. She sat quietly for a few minutes to see if he would wake.
When he didn’t move, she got up and grabbed the blanket at the end of the bed and gently covered him up. He stirred and drew the blanket closer. Catherine gently caressed his cheek.
She stood up and saw Father standing in the doorway. She blushed when she knew he had seen her caressing Vincent’s cheek.
Father held his finger to his lips and motioned for Catherine to follow him.
She did and they met out in the tunnelway.
Father took her hand. “Vincent will probably sleep for a long time, possibly late into the morning tomorrow.”
Father answered for her. “I’ll…tell him you said you’d see him soon.”
Kipper walked up and Catherine smiled. “You’re welcome, Father. See you soon.”
Father shook his head in wonder as the woman walked away from him. He walked back to his library to find Frank, the bookstore owner, standing there.
Frank handed him a box with file folders. “This.”
Father opened it up and saw x-rays, blood work, EKGs, EEGs, and all types of medical findings. “Frank, is this all about Vincent?!”
Frank nodded. “Yes, it is. Catherine was worried about somebody finding the work. I sent Ricky, Brian and Kristine’s son, over to the lab. He thinks he has all the results of all the tests that were done to Vincent. He searched and couldn’t find any more. He said he barely got out of there before he was discovered. I hope this is all of it.”
Father gasped. He was amazed at all of the knowledge they were able to get in such a short time. The doctor in him was intrigued but the father in him was horrified. “Yes, let’s hope they weren’t able to get any more information. Thank you for your speed in handling the matter. I shudder to think what would have happened if anyone else would have seen this.”
“Hey, Catherine was the one who should be thanked. It was her quick thinking that prompted me to send someone over there. Well, it’s late. Goodnight, Father.”
“Goodnight, Frank. Thank you.”
Father had more reason to wonder about Catherine’s ability to handle any crisis. He had even more reason to thank her now.
Catherine went home and fell asleep immediately. The next day was Saturday and she woke early.
She looked around at all the packed boxes and groaned. “Well, I needed to clean this place thoroughly and at least I went through and got rid of a lot of stuff before I packed.”
She spent the morning unpacking and putting everything back in order. By noon her place looked pretty much the same as it did before.
She walked into the kitchen and grimaced at the empty refrigerator. With a sigh, she grabbed her keys and headed to Stan’s market. She walked in the door and Stan and Maria came running over. “We heard the good news that you’re staying!”
Catherine smiled, surprised that news had spread so quickly. “Yes, I am. I just came to stock up. I had nothing left in my kitchen.”
Maria helped Catherine fill a shopping cart. Catherine laughed out loud. “Maria, I’ve never had this much food in my apartment before.”
Maria winked knowingly. “Maybe you cook for your man one night?”
Catherine blushed and looked down. “Maybe.”
Maria knew she had embarrassed Catherine. “Come, let’s get you checked out.”
Stan rang up Catherine’s purchases. He looked at her ruefully. “Catherine, this is too much for you to carry alone. I’ll have my boy bring this by.”
“Thanks, Stan. All these cans will get pretty heavy. I was thinking I would have to make two trips.”
Maria smiled. “He’ll be there within an hour.”
Catherine nodded. “I’ll be there. I’m going home right now and hopping into the shower.”
Catherine went home and headed straight to the shower then got out and quickly changed. She was combing her damp hair when a knock came at her door. Knowing it was her food delivery, she quickly ran to get it.
Stan and Maria’s fifteen-year-old grandson, Thomas, came and put the groceries in her kitchen.
Catherine followed behind him. “Thanks, Thomas, this is for you.”
Catherine held out a bill. Thomas looked at it uncertainly. It was a large tip and he wasn’t sure if he should take it.
Catherine sensed his indecision. “C’mon, take it. I won’t tell your grandparents.”
Thomas blushed. “I shouldn’t, Miss Chandler.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “Thomas, call me Cathy, and couldn’t you use it to go and see that blockbuster movie coming out this weekend?”
Thomas’ eyes lit up and Catherine waved the bill. “It would be your admission and maybe some popcorn!”
Thomas smiled and took it. “Thanks, Miss...I mean...Cathy. I was wondering how I could afford to go with my friends.”
Catherine led him to the door. “Tell me how the movie is.”
Thomas opened the door. “It’s going to be really gory; I don’t think a girl would like it.”
“Ha! You’d be surprised at the movies I like!”
Thomas grinned and left as Catherine shut the door. She walked to the kitchen to put groceries away and get something to eat.
Below, Vincent had, in fact, slept late. He was finally up and going about his morning routine when Mary came and stood in his doorway with a breakfast tray in hand.
“Good morning, sleepyhead.”
“Good morning, Mary. Please come in.”
Mary walked in and put the tray down on Vincent’s table. He walked over and sat down but showed little interest in the food.
Mary noticed his behavior. She knew Vincent was physically all right but something was bothering him.
She sat down in the opposite chair and waited. Vincent looked over at her. “Thank you for the tray. Perhaps I’ll eat it in a little while.”
“What is it, Vincent?”
“Is something wrong with her, dear?”
“No, she’s fine. I...Mary, she gave up the chance of a lifetime to stay here in New York.” Mary nodded but stayed silent and Vincent continued. “She hinted that part of the reason was me…”
“She cares for you, Vincent.”
Vincent shot to his feet and began to pace. “She shouldn’t! She deserves all that life has to offer her.”
“Maybe she believes that all that life can offer her is right here.”
“I told her that the world is filled with endless possibilities, that she should go out and experience all of them. Now, I find that she is giving up that chance, that she is planning on staying here. I don’t know why she would choose to stay...I fear that she will come to regret her decision in the future.”
Mary shook her head. “I believe that Catherine feels her future lies here. She doesn’t seem like the type to make impulsive decisions. I’m sure if she chose to stay, it was for a very good reason. I think she loves you.”
Vincent whirled around at her words. “No, Mary! She could never love me!”
“Well, for goodness’ sake, why not?”
“Look at me.”
“I am looking at you, as I’ve looked at you for your entire life. I’ve also seen the way that Catherine looks at you. She’s in love with you.”
“Who would know better what’s in a woman’s heart?”
Vincent sighed and shrugged then came to sit back down. “She’s never said.”
Mary smiled at him tentatively. “Have you ever told her that you love her?”
Vincent looked up at her in shock and shook his head in denial. “I...”
“Vincent, talk to Catherine. Tell her how you feel. Maybe that’s what she’s waiting for.”
Mary kissed the top of his head and left the room. Vincent stared at the table as a small ray of hope started to grow in his heart. He looked again at the tray of food and dug into his meal.
That night, Vincent headed to Catherine’s balcony, to find her sitting outside. Nearby she had a blanket and a book ready for his arrival.
She smiled at him when his feet hit the landing. “It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?”
He came close to her. “It is.”
He noticed the blanket and book sitting on the chair. She followed his gaze and turned to him. “I was hoping you’d stop by tonight.” He shyly lowered his head and she continued. “Are you all right?”
He nodded and looked up at her. “I knew you’d be concerned. I wanted to let you know I was doing well.”
Catherine put her hands on his arms. “I’m glad. I was never so relieved to see anyone in my life.” She put her arms around his waist and laid her head on his chest.
Vincent tightened his arms around her. “I wish you hadn’t found me the way that I was, but I’m glad you did.”
Catherine squeezed her arms tighter. “Let’s just put it behind us. You’re here and you’re safe. That’s all that matters.”
Vincent tucked her head under his chin and breathed in her fresh scent. He held her securely, glorying in her presence. Catherine felt his emotions through the bond, and wondered when he pulled back and began to speak but stopped himself.
He couldn’t tell her how he felt. His doubts crept back and he decided to give her another chance to leave. “Catherine, I hope you’re not going to come to regret turning down the job offer.”
Catherine’s heart had skipped a beat as she clamped down on her emotions. She didn’t think that it was what he originally planned to say. She wondered why, whenever they became closer, he backed away, and she tried to reassure him. “I won’t. I don’t think I ever felt right about the decision in the first place. This time, my choice feels right.”
Vincent nodded and turned to look out at the city. Catherine touched his arm. “Do you have time to stay? Would you like to read for a while?”
“I have all the time in the world, Catherine.” He blushed and looked down. “Well, until dawn anyway.”
Catherine giggled and turned to grab the blanket and lay it down on the balcony floor. She and Vincent sat down side by side.
Catherine went to open the book but Vincent reached for it. “You read last night, Catherine. Would you like me to read to you tonight?”
Catherine smiled and nodded and Vincent opened the book to the first page. As he began to read, Catherine drew closer to him and wrapped her arms around his. She laid her head on his shoulder and snuggled closer.
Vincent’s heart soared and he tilted his head sideways to where it would rest against her head. Catherine sighed as he continued to read.
They took turns reading as time slowly crept by. When they decided to quit, both were surprised to realize that they had spent several hours with the book.
Catherine’s hadn’t dared to complain, but her butt was starting to ache as she moved to get up. Vincent had gotten to his feet first and turned to help her, so she grasped his hands and let him help her up.
She grinned ruefully. “I should think about getting better furniture for out here.”
“We’ve never spent this much time out here before.”
Catherine nodded. “I loved every minute of it! I wouldn’t change any part of it.”
“It has been wonderful.” Vincent smiled shyly. “And…I wanted to tell you that I’m glad that you decided to stay.”
Catherine looked at him, knowing that it was as close to him telling her of his feelings as she was going to get. “For now,” she thought.
“I....” Vincent had tried to tell her how much he cared but he just couldn’t bring himself to say the words. Now he knew why so many writers put their thoughts on paper. It was much easier than saying them in person. “…should leave.”
Catherine tilted her head, curious about what he had meant to say but didn’t. “Okay, Vincent. I’ll see you soon.”
She came forward and put her arms around him as he drew her close. She backed up and looked at him. He looked down and saw her face so close to his and panicked.
He backed away quickly and without a backward glance called out, “Good night, Catherine.”
Catherine watched his disappearing form. To herself she spoke the words she longed to say. “Good night, Vincent. I love you….I think…”