BETWEEN THE LINES SERIES

 

ANOTHER LIFETIME   
NINTH IN THE SERIES BY KATHY DE

 

 

The sickly woman sat all afternoon staring out through the blinds of her hospital room. Her attention turned back to the room when the pretty young nurse walked in with her nightly medicine.

“Hi, Miss Chase!”

“Hi, Tiffany, how many times have I told you to call me Margaret?” When the young nurse rolled her eyes, Margaret smiled warmly. “Now…how are you doing tonight?”

“I’m doing great but we’re supposed to be talking about you! How are you feeling?”

“The same.”  Margaret sighed then asked excitedly, “Did Tommy ask you yet?”

Tiffany was checking all of Margaret’s vital signs and recording them as they spoke. “Not yet, but I think he might. He asked me if I wanted to drive to my parents’ house this weekend for dinner. He said he needed to talk to my dad about something…”

“That does sound like a good sign.”

Tiffany smiled again. “I know! This time next week I think I’ll be engaged. Isn’t it wonderful?!”

“Yes!”

“Have you ever been engaged, Margaret?”

The woman sighed sadly then looked out the window again and took a deep breath. Tiffany’s eyes widened in horror as she realized she had crossed the line with her patient.

“I am so sorry … I shouldn’t have asked that.”

“Nonsense, you were only curious.”

Tiffany took her hand and nodded gratefully. “Margaret, you’re such a kind woman and you were so beautiful…” She nodded towards the picture at the bedside of a young girl with a man that was clearly her father. “I can’t believe you’ve never been swept off your feet by a handsome prince …”

Margaret smiled weakly. “Maybe I had been but I was foolish and didn’t know what I had ... now how about that medicine so I can get some rest …”

“Visiting hours are still for another 45 minutes … maybe someone will…”

Margaret interrupted her. “No … there’s no one … Allan came by a while ago and…” she shook her head sadly. “There is no one else …”

Tiffany got up and made sure that Margaret took all of the pills the doctor had prescribed.

“Tiffany, please make sure I’m not disturbed tonight.”

Both women turned at a knock on the door and a tall dark haired man walked into the room.

“Margaret Chase?”

“Yes…”

Tiffany smiled as she left. “I’ll check back on you later, Margaret.”

“Miss Chase, my name is Henry Dutton.”

The man’s hand was extended and Margaret shook it as she eyed him curiously.  “Hello, Henry, nice to meet you.”

Henry’s hands warmly cradled Margaret’s. “And it’s nice to meet you. Do you mind if I visit with you for awhile?” When Margaret nodded towards the empty chair he scooted it closer to the bedside and sat back with a smile.

“What can I do for you, Henry?”

“My visit is more about what I can do for you …”

“You have my attention …”

“Miss Chase, when I was young man I lived in an apartment in Queens. I lived alone much the same as any other young man, but in my apartment building right next door to me there was an elderly gentleman that lived alone as well. He got sick and needed my help and even though it meant giving up a few nights a week with my friends I did it because I felt so bad that he was there … alone and dying. He had no family and most of his friends had dwindled away and it was over the next few months that he and I became so close. I was there with him the night he finally passed. Six months later, I found out that sweet old man was actually quite wealthy and had made me his beneficiary.” Henry chuckled as he continued. “He wrote a letter that was read to me by his lawyer during the will disbursement. It said that I had been a huge comfort to him during the last days of his life. He said I had a gift and that I should use it to help more people through those final moments. I would inherit all of his wealth and earthly possessions as long as I continued to care for people the way I had cared for him. His lawyer became my lawyer and together we started a foundation to do just that.”

“That’s a beautiful story.”

“Thank you, but it’s more than a story; it’s my way of life. I’ve continued that work and now spend my days taking care of those people who have no one to be with through the final days of their lives. No one should be alone when the Lord calls them home.”

Margaret lowered her head to stare at her hands. “So that’s why you’re here?”

“I won’t lie to you Miss Chase, not too long ago the newspaper did an article on you and I read about your medical condition ...”

“So you’re here to help me die?”

“No, I’m here to help you make your life more enjoyable for the short time you have left.”

“Enjoyable?”

“Comfortable … I want to see to every one of your comforts … take away all the burdens of medicines and doctor appointments … insurance claim forms …”

“The nurses can do that …”

Henry nodded. “That’s true but only here … in the hospital. I want to see you at home, resting in your own bed, surrounded by your own things …”

“You’ll take care of me at my home?” Margaret asked, curious for the first time in what this man had to say.

“Yes, I need a small desk to work at to handle some of the business affairs of my foundation but otherwise I will be at your beck and call … 24 hours a day.”

“Henry, I’m sick not stupid. No one can be there 24 hours a day.”

“That’s true. But I have a staff that has worked with me since the beginning and if I’m not there for you one of them will be. I can assure you though I’ll only be gone when I need to sleep. I’ll adjust that to fit your needs as well, essentially I’ll sleep when you sleep.”

“This sounds too good to be true …” Margaret sighed as she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. “What do you expect from me in return?”

Henry sighed. “Well, after your death a considerable donation to my foundation is all that I ask.”

“How much?” Henry rattled off a large number and Margaret chuckled. “That is a considerable donation ...”

“Miss Chase, you have no husband or children to give it to, no nieces or nephews. I’m assuming that it’s going to go to some type of charity, all I’m asking is that you consider my foundation.” He smiled weakly as he handed her a folder which contained brochures on his foundation. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of lonely people out there. My foundation helps thousands of people every year and I want to be able to continue that tradition.”

Impressed by his speech, Margaret nodded her head at him. “Margaret … call me Margaret. Let me think about this for a few days, Henry, talk it over with my advisors …”

Henry stood and walked to her bedside. “Of course, run it past your lawyers and accountants. Just remember, the sooner you do it the sooner I can get you out of here and home resting comfortably in your own bed.”

Henry left and Margaret settled back against the pillows and allowed herself to dream … to dream about a time in her life when she wasn’t alone … a time when she was loved and cherished by someone she loved her back just as deeply.

The next morning, Allan came in and Margaret told him all about Henry Dutton and his foundation. Allan looked at her warily, he could tell she seemed too excited about this new development and he was worried about the timing of this man coming into her life. He was already thinking of people he could call who would expedite an investigation of Henry and his foundation when Henry Dutton himself suddenly walked into the room.

“Henry?!” Margaret gasped as he came in with fresh squeezed orange juice and a huge bowl of freshly cut fruit.

“Good morning.”

Allan stood immediately and looked at Dutton. “I’m Allan Taft, Margaret’s lawyer and longtime friend.”  

“Henry Dutton.” Henry said as he extended his hand and briefly shook hands with the lawyer before he gave Margaret his full attention. “I know how bad the food can be in these places … powdered eggs, cold toast … I brought you some fresh fruit and orange juice. I also have a thermos of freshly brewed coffee.”

“Thank you, Henry that was very thoughtful.”

“You’re welcome, Margaret. Now I don’t want to interrupt anything so I’ll leave you to your visit.”

Allan shook his head. “I have some work to attend to, you don’t by chance have a business card with you do you? One with your foundation’s information?”

Margaret pointed to the binder of brochures Henry thoughtfully left the previous night. “You can use the binder he gave me, just bring it back this afternoon.”

Knowing how easily it was to get printed brochures made up, Allan shook his head. “All I need is a business card.”

Henry reached into his wallet and removed one and handed it to Allan with a smile. “Sure, here you go, but if you’re leaving maybe I’ll visit with Margaret, if it’s all right with her …”

Margaret nodded and Allan left. Henry stayed most of the morning and explained more about himself and his foundation and worked at putting Margaret at ease with him. He repeated the same routine the next day and by the afternoon, Margaret had decided to talk to Allan about donating a sizeable portion of her estate to Henry’s foundation upon her death.

Her nights were spent dreaming about her past life and two days later, she woke and looked at the bright sun shining in the sky. She scrambled to grab a pen and paper and write down her thoughts. With the hand-written paper in her hand, she waited for Allan. She had put as much thought into her plan as she possibly could. Her mind was still racked with indecision, but her heart was prompting her into action. Still, the questions ran in a continual sequence through her mind. “Is he still in New York? What will he think if he sees the ad? Will he want to see her again? Is he married? Does he have children? Did he tell his wife about me? Will seeing me again have a negative effect on his current life?”

She smiled as her friend walked into the room. “Allan, you’ve come just in time.”

Allan, her faithful friend and family attorney, bent over and kissed her cheek. “In time for what, Margaret?”

She smirked shyly. “I want you to run this in the newspaper.” She handed him the ad she wanted him to place in the personals column.

Allan reached out with a frown and began to shake his head. “Now, Margaret...”

“No … you can’t stop me.” Margaret held her hand up to stop his comment. “I’ve made up my mind. If it’s possible, I want to see Jacob. I need to see him, Allan!”

Allan sighed, took the paper and tucked it into his briefcase. “Okay, I’ll see to it as soon as I leave.”

Margaret’s eyes sparkled gaily. “Thank you, I can’t tell you how much it means to me!”

Allan smiled warmly at her. “I can see it in your eyes …”

This was the first time in a long time he had seen the gleam back in her eyes. He would do anything he possibly could to keep it there for the short time she had remaining. A knock on the door quickly changed his mood and he scowled at a man as he entered. He turned back to Margaret and sighed. “I’ll go see to your errand now.”

“The sooner the better …” Margaret said as she smiled and held his hand warmly as he bent to kiss her goodbye. “Thank you, Allan.”

Allan left without a comment to the new visitor.

Henry came over with a big smile on his face to greet Margaret. “I’m sorry, Margaret. I had some banking to do this morning.” He nodded towards the door that Allen had left through. “Did you need me to run an errand? You know you could have waited for me and I would have gladly handled it for you.”

Margaret smiled warmly at her new visitor. “Allan handled it for me; it was nothing urgent but thank you any way.”

Henry turned from her with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes as he looked out the curtains to see Allan slip into his car and drive away. He frowned in anger that Allan had been the one she turned to. He needed her to rely on him for everything if his plan was going to work. He pasted on a false smile and walked over to help his ailing patient.

“Don’t be angry, Henry …”

“I could never be angry with you, Margaret. I just get the feeling that Allan doesn’t like me.”

“Allan has been a friend of the family for over 50 years, he’s just being cautious over our new partnership.”

Henry shrugged. “I don’t know why. I’ve given him all the financial records from my foundation, my accountants report to a board of directors quarterly. I have nothing to hide, besides all of that, I consider the people I care for more than just clients, I like you Margaret … I consider you a friend. I’d like you to look at me that way as well.”

“I do, Henry! You’ve been wonderful taking care of me and you needn’t worry. I’ve made the necessary adjustments to my trust and Allan will honor my wishes whether he agrees with them or not.”

A few days later, Margaret’s message ran in the paper and someone from her past did cut it out of the paper then quickly sent it to the world Below.

 

*************************

 

In the world Below, it had only been a few weeks since Vincent had been brought back from being caught and kept in a cage then studied by a Professor and his grad student. The ordeal over, he was feeling much better and was relaxing with Father and enjoying a quiet afternoon in the library, playing an intense game of chess.

Vincent made a strategic move and Father laughed heartily shaking his head. “I don’t know what masochistic impulse ever prompted me to teach you chess.”

Dustin, a boy from Below, walked in to deliver a message for Father from Lou, one of the helpers. Father opened the bottle containing the message while he studied the chess board, his hands automatically opening the note to read. He looked down and read the first line and felt his stomach muscles clench in surprise. His heart beat erratically as he reread the message and his thoughts raced through his head. “Oh my God, it’s her ... after all these years, it’s her! She’s asking for me!  What could she want? What could she need? Is she okay? Is she in trouble? I need to go to her immediately.”

His demeanor had changed dramatically and Vincent looked at him with concern. “Father?”

Father got up and paced around the room and then turned back to face Vincent, unable to put into words what needed to be said.

“What is it?” Vincent prompted him.

Father shook his head, wondering where to find the words to explain to his son what had just happened. “I’ve always wondered when it would happen. Now it has. Vincent, I’ve ... I’ve never lied to you. The things I’ve taught you about the world Above ... so much was to protect you and it was also to help me to forget … forget a world I once loved…”

“I’ve always sensed that.”

“I have … kept certain things from you about my life ... before.”

Vincent was confused, Father was rambling and he wondered where he was going with this? “Father what are you trying to tell me?”

“I have to return. I have to go Above.”

Vincent hid his shock at the news and, in his usual unselfish manner, offered his support. “When will you go?”

“As soon as I prepare myself, I’ll be back this evening. When I return ... we’ll talk.”

Vincent shook his head to protest. “Father, you ...”

Father interrupted him, walking away. “Please Vincent, don’t ask me anything more.”

Vincent left the library, leaving Father alone. He walked back to his chamber and thought about what had just happened. In all his life, Father had never gone Above  for any reason, now in a single moment that had all changed. “What was in the message he received? Who sent it? What was the urgency of the message that pulled at Father’s will, making him change his life long exile?” Vincent sighed as he realized it would be a long day until Father returned and he got some answers.

Dressed in the suit he wore when he left the world Above, Father stopped at Vincent’s chamber on his way out. “Vincent, I’m leaving now.”

Vincent looked up, surprised to see his Father dressed in something other than his usual tunnel garb. “How odd, he looks … like another person … a stranger …” he thought as he came forward to give him a hug. “Be safe, Father.”

Father nodded, a weak smile evident on his face. “Tonight,” he reminded
Vincent as he turned and left making the long trek to the world Above.

 

*********************

Waiting in the world Above, Margaret was getting restless with the lack of response to her ad. Allan came to see her again and she looked at him with relief, hoping he was bringing her good news. Her face fell when she noticed his somber mood. “So, no answer?”

“No.”

“I was so sure …” Tears pooled in the woman’s eyes. “Damn it!”

“Margaret!”

“I’m sorry! I … just hoped I would be able to see him one last time,” she sad sadly as she shook her head.

“It was a long shot, Margaret … we knew that … we don’t even know if he’s still in New York.”

Her voice was filled with desperation. “Someone we used to know certainly saw the message and told him … they had to of …”  

Allan shook his head. “You can’t expect after all this time ... the ads run for seven days now. Do I have your permission to cancel this nonsense?”

Margaret was adamant. “No!”

“Margaret ...” Allan pleaded with her.

Margaret stubbornly shook her head trying to make him understand. “Listen
to me! A day hasn’t passed when I haven’t thought about him, about seeing
him again. Especially now.”

Allan tried to reason with her. “He dropped off the face of the Earth thirty-five years ago. We’re not even sure ...”

Margaret shook her head. “I know he’s alive.”

“This is difficult for me Margaret. I’m worried about you, as your lawyer and as your friend. First this ...” He referred to the news ad she had him run in the paper. “And now, these new provisions you’ve made for your will, your judgment!”

“No, please Allan ... not now, Henry’s due here any minute.”

“That’s who I’m worried about!”

“We’ve been through all this before, he’s a sweet man … he’s good to me, not to mention what he’s done for others. You shouldn’t worry.”

Just then, Henry walked in again, this time with a huge bouquet of flowers. Allan quickly said his goodbye to Margaret and glanced suspiciously at Dutton. Allan knew he was a swindler but he needed to get proof before it was too late.

Henry inquired about Margaret’s health and she smiled at him gratefully. Henry’s concern for her was very touching. He told her he had arranged to take her home and take care of her and her needs. She wondered how she would ever get by without this dear sweet friend. He was too good to be true.

Henry left Margaret’s hospital room and stopped by Allan’s office. They needed to talk. Henry was a con artist. He pitched his foundation to Allan telling about all the wonderful things they’ve accomplished. Allan wasn’t buying it. Henry insisted his foundation was legitimate.

Allan informed Henry he had his finances checked into. His investigator had called from the Cayman Islands. He would have proof of Henry’s indiscretions shortly. He told Henry he wanted him out of Margaret’s life completely. Henry finally cracked and let his guard down. He threatened Allan and walked away.

************************

Father slowly entered the city. The bright sun made him blink and his eyes watered as they tried to adjust from years spent in the dark tunnels. Finally, he gazed at a world he hadn’t seen in thirty five years.

What changes had occurred since then! The noise of the street was deafening, cars and trucks lined up, horns blaring in impatience. Thousands of people milling about, street performers dancing on the ground, storefront windows with mannequins in odd clothing, men with huge radios sitting on their shoulders with speakers turned inward against their ears, volume turned to an astounding level.

Father shook his head at the madness. This was certainly not the world he remembered. He looked up and saw a familiar building. It was the courthouse and he cringed as his thoughts wandered back to the last time he had been there. He shrugged off his thoughts and kept walking.

He stopped and took a deep breath then entered Lou’s barber shop. Lou was a longtime friend of his as well as a helper.

Lou smiled as he looked around the corner of his newspaper. “I knew you’d be here.”

Father nodded grimly as he walked over. “I had no choice.”

“Yes, you did but for what it’s worth I think you chose wisely.”

“Of that, I’m not so certain. I can’t believe after all this time she decided to contact me …”

Lou shrugged. “It doesn’t matter how or why it happened only that it did.” Now how can I help further?”

“The advertisement gave an address. I suspect it belongs to our old attorney, Allan Taft, can you look up his name and verify that information for me?”

“Of course,” Lou said as he got up and went for a phone book. He perused through the yellow pages and found what he was looking for, as he rattled off the number Father nodded.

“That’s the one.”

“So, whoever you’re going to meet is an old acquaintance?”

“An old friend actually,” Father smiled weakly.

“Well, that’ll make it a little easier.” Lou said as he grasped Father’s shoulder and squeezed it comfortingly.

“A little…”

“Do you want me to go with you?”

Father stood up and shook his head. “No, I need to do this alone. Thank you, Lou, you’ve been a good friend.”

Father left and slowly made his way to his destination. He walked into Allan’s office building and stood inside the elevator. He gasped in surprise at the speed when he was whisked up and he leaned against the railing to hold himself in place. He smiled nervously as he made his way to Allan’s office. He and Allan had been good friends at one time. Allan’s address was the one listed in the message he had received earlier. He knew Allan would know how to get in touch with Margaret.

Father entered the outer office and, seeing no one, he continued on into Allan’s office. He noticed there were papers scattered all over the floor and then he noticed Allan lying on the floor behind his desk. Father’s medical training kicked in and he rushed to Allan’s side. Even though he suspected Allan was already dead, he was huddled over him feeling for a pulse when the police stormed in, guns drawn.

Father got up and stammered as he tried to explain. “Look, I’m a Doctor ... he was already ....”

The police officer told him to shut up. He took Father out of the office, while another officer handcuffed him. They read him his Miranda Rights and hauled him to their cruiser. He was taken to the police station where he was charged with murder. He refused to give them his real name. His picture was taken and he was fingerprinted under the name of John Doe.

The detectives on the case came in and questioned him. They were furious because he was not forthcoming with answers. They accused him of killing Allan Taft, but Father only replied that he hadn’t killed Allan. He would say little else as he would do nothing to bring attention to himself or the community Below.

Frustrated, they led him into a jail cell where he sat and mourned the death of his friend. He was also worried about Margaret’s well being. He thought back to their meeting and their brief life together.

***********************

Twelve hours later, across the city, Catherine was asleep in bed when she heard the familiar tapping at her window. “He’s never this late! It must be urgent, he would never wake me unless it was an emergency!” she thought. With no thought for her robe, she flew out of bed and met Vincent on her balcony.

“Vincent?”

His turned his back in deference to her state of dress. “I’m sorry to wake you,
Catherine.”

She could hear worry and despair in his voice. “Something’s wrong.”

“It’s Father.”

“What’s happened?” she prompted.

“He went Above today for the first time I can remember. He should have been back hours ago.” He worriedly looked out at the city. “He’s somewhere in this city.” He turned to her in desperation. “I need your help, Catherine.”

“Of course I’ll help.” She touched is arm to offer comfort.

He thought of the horrible things that had happened to him when he was in the world Above. He worried that the same dangers existed for Father. “I should never have let him go alone.”

“Where was he going?”

Vincent shrugged. “It had something to do with his life before.”

“When he lived Above?” He nodded his assent so she continued. “What has
he told you about his life then?”

“Only that it was another life lived by another person and that the memory of it was best forgotten. I know he was a doctor.”

Catherine knew that much as well. “Do you know his full name?”

“I’ve always called him Father.”

Catherine knew he realized how useless his answer was. “Oh, Vincent, that’s not much to go on. Do you know why he came Above?”

“He received a message.”

“Well, do you know who sent him the message?”

Vincent shrugged. “I could try to find out. Perhaps if I wake Dustin and ask him he would remember. Father gets so many messages sent to him throughout the day I’m not sure this one message would stand out.”

“Would anyone from Below have any other information about his past?”

“I’m not sure, Catherine. A person’s privacy is held in high esteem Below. If someone chooses not to speak of their previous life their wishes are usually respected.”

She nodded in understanding, thinking of other options. “Do you think Father may have paperwork from his life above, a birth certificate, driver’s license, something hidden away in a file or a drawer?”

Vincent sat thinking and then he began to nod his head. “He has a wardrobe closet. Since I was a child, I’ve always been told that it contained his personal items and that I couldn’t look in there.” He anticipated her next question and half smiled. “I never looked in there.”

She reached for his hand and squeezed it reassuringly. “Maybe it’s time you did, Vincent. I’ll need more information if I have any hope of finding him.”

He nodded and turned to go. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

She grabbed his arm and turned him back to face her. She put her arms around him and offered what little comfort she could. “I’ll be here.”

Vincent returned her embrace and allowed himself the comfort of drawing her extra close to him. “I know, thank you,” he whispered.

He gently pulled away and started to make his way over her balcony wall.

“We’ll find him, Vincent, don’t worry!” she said as he disappeared over the side.

********************************

Vincent went Below and headed for Mary’s chamber. She was inside crocheting sweaters when he appeared in her doorway.

She looked up expectedly. “Has Father returned, Vincent?”

Vincent shook his head solemnly. “No, he hasn’t. Mary, I went to Catherine to ask for her help in finding him. She wondered if anyone Below knew of his real name or anything about his life previous to the tunnels.”

Mary sighed. “I’ve always called him, Father. Peter would know but he’s gone to that damn medical conference until sometime next week. I wonder if there is a way to get in touch with him ...”

Vincent sighed. “That’s a good idea and one we may have to go with but I hoped to have an answer sooner. Is there anyone else?”

Mary frowned in frustration. “Perhaps there is something in his chamber. Have you looked?” Vincent shook his head and Mary continued. “Vincent, I’m sure he has kept some kind of memories from his time Above. You’re his son, I think you owe it to him to look for it, to find a way to help him.”

Vincent let the truth of her words sink in. “Thank you, Mary. I’ll do that.”

Vincent left and entered his father’s chamber. His heart was in turmoil. What he was about to do was unheard of Below. A person’s privacy was treated with great respect. He felt like he was betraying his Father, He knew, though, if he hoped to help him, he had to go on.

He began in his desk, searching through drawers and papers. He overturned books and opened envelopes, dropping things to the floor in his desperation to find any information. He finally had exhausted all possibilities and went to the wardrobe closet. He reached out and slowly opened the door. The closet was mostly empty, but he saw an old suit jacket with an ID from Chittenden Research Institute with Father’s picture on it.

He also found a picture in a frame with a photograph of a bride and groom. The man appeared to be Father. “He was married?!” Vincent thought. “Where was his wife? What happened to her?” He turned the frame over and there was an envelope attached to the back. He went to open it but stopped. He couldn’t bring himself to open it so he put it in his pocket then left to go back to Catherine’s.

 

**********************

Catherine came outside when she heard his footsteps on the balcony.

He skipped the greeting and jumped into the report of his findings. “I don’t know if it is helpful or not but I found an ID from Chittenden Research in his wardrobe.”

“Did it have his name on it?”

“No, but it had his picture.”

Catherine nodded. “Good, that means he worked there at one time. Vincent, if I go to the library tomorrow I can go through the old newspapers from around the time he came Below, Maybe I’ll find something.”

“Could you look tonight?”

She looked at him in surprise. “Vincent, its 2:30 in the morning, the library’s closed.”

“We have a helper who’s a security guard there ...”

Catherine jumped at the chance. “Let me get changed. I’ll meet you Below in ten minutes.”

Vincent nodded and left while Catherine raced to get dressed. As promised, she met him at the threshold and together they went to the side door of the library where the security guard ushered them in.

Safely inside, Vincent made the introductions. “Jim, this is Catherine Chandler. Catherine, Jim Wheeler.”

Catherine smiled at the guard and shook his hand. Jim returned her smile. “What can I help you two with?”

Vincent sighed. “Father is missing; I need to get information on his past life?”

Catherine’s voice was urgent. “I need to get on the microfilms of old newspapers.”

Jim nodded. “Okay, let’s go. I can’t stay there and help you but I can get you started. He led them to the third floor and turned on the power to one of the machines. “What years do you need to research?”

Vincent frowned as he guessed. “Late forties, early fifties…”

Jim walked to a cabinet and handed Vincent a box before he grabbed another one. “You have the box from the 1945 to 1950. I have the box from 1951 to 1955.”

“Let me show you how to use ...”

Catherine interrupted him. “I know how to use it. If you’re busy, Jim, don’t let us keep you from your duties.”

Jim looked up. “Good, I really shouldn’t stay in one area too long. If you guys need anything I’ll be back to check in a little while.”

Vincent shook his hand. “Thank you, Jim.”

Over the next hour, Catherine looked through page after page of old newspapers. She was looking for news information about Chittenden Research Institute from over thirty years ago. She finally found an article from June of 1951. She read to Vincent that the institute was given money from the government to conduct studies on the effects of nuclear fallout. She forwarded to another article printed in November of that year. One of the research doctors claimed that Chittenden misrepresented his findings. She forwarded to the next page and saw a picture of Father.

“My God! It’s him, there’s a photo.” Relief was evident in her voice as she continued to read. “He was forced to retire when he called for the abolition of atomic weapons and a halt to research. His name was Dr. Jacob Wells.”

“Jacob.” Vincent whispered, knowing that the name was the same as the one on the envelope he had in his pocket.

Catherine interrupted his thoughts. “There’s more ... give me a second.”

She forwarded and found another headline. “Anti Atomic Researcher Named a Communist ... Stripped of Medical License.” She sat back in her seat, shocked and dismayed. “He was black-listed! The Un-American Activities Committee!”

Vincent came over and sat by her. “I’ve read about that time.”

Catherine read the story aloud as he reached into his cloak and laid the unopened envelope on the table in front of her. It was addressed to Jacob Wells, the sender was a woman named Margaret Chase.

Vincent quietly looked at the envelope. “I also found this in his dresser behind a photograph .... a wedding photograph.”

“And you haven’t opened it?”

He shook his head no, head hung low. “I couldn’t.”

Catherine nodded in understanding. “Vincent ...” She grabbed a hold of his chin turning his face towards her. She looked deeply into his eyes and continued. “If we have any hope of finding him we need to learn everything we can about his life.”

Vincent nodded, his thoughts consumed with Father’s whereabouts. “I know.”

Catherine opened the letter and read it aloud. It was a letter to Jacob from his young bride. She told how her father had sent her to Paris and annulled her marriage to Jacob. She hadn’t fought with her father to try to stop him, she had just let it happen. She asked for Jacob’s forgiveness for her lack of strength to stand behind him when he needed her most.

Catherine looked at Vincent. Both of them sympathized with Father for the things that had happened to him. He lost his job, his name, his credibility and his wife all at the same time. It was horrific to think of all he must have gone through.

Catherine turned off the machine and she and Vincent made their way downstairs.

“Jim,” Vincent called out quietly.

Jim came around the corner. “I’m here, Vincent. Did you find what you need?”

Catherine nodded. “We did. Thank you.”

Jim nodded and looked behind him. “The other guard is heading this way soon, you better leave.”

They exited the library and headed Below. In silence, Vincent walked Catherine home through the tunnels.  

As they drew close to her home, she turned to him. “At least I have something to work with now. There obviously won’t be any recent records of Father but maybe I can track down some for Margaret.”

Vincent sighed in exasperation. “You can try. Thank you for your help, Catherine.”

Catherine reached out and touched his arm. “Vincent, we’ll find him. I won’t give up until we do.”

“I know you won’t.”

Impulsively, she put her arms around his neck and cradled his head to her shoulder. She had never held him so intimately, she wondered briefly if he would pull away from her. She smiled inwardly as he sighed and put his arms around her and took the comfort she offered.

Too soon, a noise from Above had him pulling away. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Vincent. I’ll try to get word to you tomorrow.”

***********************

Vincent walked home. He knew it was close to dawn and the children would be getting ready for school. He assumed Mary or maybe one of the older kids would handle the classes in Father’s absence.

Normally, he would be expected to fill in but the lack of sleep was starting to take its toll and Vincent was exhausted. Still, he walked into the boy’s dormitories and went over to Dustin’s bed.

Dustin was awake but being lazy this morning. When Vincent walked over, Dustin was afraid of being reprimanded so he shot up in bed and started to remove his covers.

“I’m sorry, Vincent. I’m getting up, see?”

Vincent shook his head. “Dustin, relax, I just needed to ask you a very important question?”

A relieved Dustin nodded. “What is it?”

“Yesterday you delivered a message to Father in an old bottle?”

“I remember, it was right after lunch.”

“Yes, it was. Do you remember who sent it?”

Dustin thought for a second then his eyes brightened and he smiled. “Yeah ... I mean yes. It came from Lou. He kicked it down the storm drain like he usually does.”

Vincent smiled and clasped his shoulder. “Good work, Dustin. Thank you!”

Vincent stood and started to walk away when he turned back and saw Dustin lay back in his bed. “Dustin, you don’t want to be late.”

Dustin shot up in bed. “I know I was just flattening out my pillow getting it ready for tonight.”

Vincent chuckled. “I used to ... flatten out my pillow as well. Still, you should get ready for school.”

Dustin climbed out of bed as Vincent left.

************************

Vincent backtracked and walked to Lou’s barbershop. He knew Lou would be in so he tapped on the pipes in the basement and Lou, hearing the message came immediately.

Lou walked down the steps and saw Vincent. “Vincent, this is a surprise! Are you here for a hair cut?”

Vincent and Lou laughed at the old joke. Lou had tried to cut Vincent’s hair when he was a two year old and Vincent growled and bit him. Father was so horrified that Lou needed stitches in his hand, from that day forward, he made Mary trim Vincent’s hair while he was sleeping.

Vincent grew serious and looked at Lou. “Lou, Father received a message from you yesterday. He left soon after that and went Above. I must know what was in that message.”

Lou shook his head. “I can’t tell you that, Vincent. If you want to know what the message said you need to ask Father yourself.”

“Father has not returned. He’s been missing since, yesterday. Please if you can tell me who the message was from ...”

Lou worriedly sat down on the basement steps. “It wasn’t a message really, Vincent. It was a classified ad from the newspaper. We believed it was sent by a woman from his past.”

“Was it from Margaret?”

Lou looked up in surprise. “He told you about her?”

Vincent shook his head. “No, with the help of Catherine, I discovered the truth of his past life. Lou, can you remember what the message said?”

“It was just a saying ... The Wreck of My Memories and it had an address. I don’t remember the address though … Wait! I looked up a name for Jacob yesterday, it was a friend of his … ”

Vincent was crestfallen as Lou flipped through the phone book. Lou looked up smiling. “Here it is! Oh and hey, my neighbor may still have yesterday’s paper. Let me try and get a copy.”

Vincent smiled. “Thank you, Lou. Can you send the ad to Catherine Chandler through Benny?”

Lou nodded and came over as Vincent went to leave. “We’ll find him, Vincent. Try not to worry.”

Vincent nodded and entered the tunnels and headed to his chamber to try to get some sleep.

 

**************************

 

A few hours later, Catherine found a lead on a Margaret Chase. She was a wealthy socialite who recently moved back to New York. Her age was close to Father’s so Catherine decided to try to meet with her.

A man named Henry Dutton was at her residence and kept Catherine from seeing Margaret, claiming she was too ill. He asked if he could help and Catherine declined saying she would come back another time.  

Henry Dutton had rubbed Catherine the wrong way. She didn’t know why but she didn’t like him. Something wasn’t right about him. Suspicious, she went back to the office and asked Edie to check him out for her.

Catherine finally sat down at her desk then called all the hospitals and shelters in the area and even the police stations and the morgue. There was no record of a Jacob Wells or anyone fitting his description.

Joe came up and grinned at her as he reminded her she was late for a deposition. She hurriedly left the office to go to the prison.

As she walked to the man’s cell, she spotted Father behind bars. Shocked, she slammed to a stop in front of his cell. He looked up at her then worriedly turned his back on her.

She understood his silent message and continued on, her thoughts racing. “He’s here! In prison! He’s alive and okay! What’s happened? What did he do?” she thought. At least he was safe and she would send word Below immediately.

She completed her deposition and went upstairs to the front desk where she smiled at the young clerk. “Hi, Jodie.”

“Hey, Cathy. How are you? What are you doing here so early?”

“I had a deposition to do.”

“Oh, did you need help with something else?”

“Yeah, now that you mention it I do. Two cells over from Bartolli is an older man, grayish hair, full beard.”

“Yeah, John Doe! He’s being charged with murder and the moron refuses to call anyone or see a lawyer.”

That explained why they had no record of Jacob Wells. Catherine looked at Jodie. “Whose death is he being charged with?”

“A lawyer, guy by the name of Allan Taft. The police officers found Mr. Doe leaning over the body. They arrested him and tried to get information out of him but he refuses to cooperate. He’s competent enough to stand trial. I don’t get it, the guy’s going to go to prison for the rest of his life and he won’t try to defend himself.”

Catherine had to talk to him! She had to help him! “Jodie, can I see him?”

Jodie shrugged. “I don’t see why not. Do you know the guy?”

Catherine pretended to not hear her comment by searching for a pen. She looked up and smiled. “Can I see him, now?”

Jodie picked up the phone and made a call. She hung up and looked at over Catherine. “The guys are going to bring him to the visiting area. It’s going to take a few minutes to get him there.”

Catherine nodded. “Thanks, Jodie.”

Catherine went over to a counter and dug out a paper. She jotted a note to Vincent and called for Benny the messenger. She told him to pick up the message at the front desk and she explained its urgency.

“Hey, Jodie, I have a messenger coming in ten minutes for this, can you see that he gets it?”

“Sure Cathy, the guys are bringing John Doe now. They’re pretty curious though, he’s refused to see anyone but he’s reluctantly agreed to you. You can go meet him now.”

Catherine called out as she walked backwards. “Thanks for everything, Jodie. I owe you one.”

She turned and ran downstairs and managed to get there before they brought Father in.

He came in and glanced at her then looked away.

Wanting privacy for herself and Father, Catherine looked up and addressed the guard. “Leave us alone please.” When the guard left, she looked at him with concern. “Are you all right?”

He nodded, breathing heavily.

“Can I get you anything?”

He spoke to her harshly. “No! Please stay out of it!” When he saw the look of real concern on her face, he continued in a quieter voice. “You must. Anything you do to draw attention to me can only ....”

She interrupted angrily, “You are being charge with murder!”

He looked at her and then away. He knew the severity of the charges but didn’t care what happened to him. Vincent and the world Below needed to be protected at all costs.

Catherine sighed. “You must tell me everything that happened!” When he didn’t reply, she was hurt by his distrust and it showed on her face. “Don’t you know by now that you can trust me?”  

Wanting to make her understand, Father answered her. “It’s not that ... I may be a stranger to your world but I’m no stranger to the betrayals of your judicial system.”

Her anger flared again. “I’m the only one who can help you!”

He begged her. “If you really want to help me, please, go away!”

Catherine shook her head. “I can’t do that.”

She would not leave him alone and defenseless. Without her help, he’d be put in a cell and left there to die. She owed him her life. He meant too much to her and to Vincent for her to turn her back on him. “Jacob,” she said quietly. He turned to her, surprised at hearing her say his real name. She continued sympathetically. “I know who you were what you went through.”

“What about Vincent?”

“He knows.”

He had hoped to be able to tell Vincent the truth, now it was taken from his hands. “I didn’t want to keep things hidden from him. I wanted to forget. Does he understand that?”

“Yes, you have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Father was taken aback. “I’m not ashamed.”

Catherine had guessed wrong and for that she was grateful. She still saw some of his fighting spirit and she hoped to get him excited enough to help her get him out of this mess. “Was it Margaret who sent for you?”

Father didn’t want to speak more but his concern for his ex-wife was more important. “Margaret? Have you seen her?”

“No, I tried but she’s too ill to have visitors.”

“She’s in a hospital?”

“No, she’s at home.”

Father nodded, guessing that she was well enough to be at home and not in a hospital. He decided to tell Catherine what he knew. “She sent me a message, The Wreck of My Memories.

Catherine took a note pad out of her briefcase wanting to write down information. “Did her message to you mean that she was in trouble?” 

“I don’t know. I took it to mean that she wanted to see me again.”

“And who was Allan Taft?”

“A friend. He defended me during the witch hunts, he put his own reputation on the line.”

“Was he Margaret’s lawyer?”

“He was the family lawyer.”

Catherine thought for a moment. She knew Father hadn’t killed Allan but who had? On a hunch, she looked at Father. “Do you know a man named Henry Dutton?”

He thought back, running the name though his memory then shook his head. “Why?”

Catherine only had her dislike of Dutton to lead her; she had hoped for a link but was now discouraged. “I don’t know.” She sighed. “Well, what else can you tell me about Margaret? Anything that would help me piece this together?”

Father shrugged. “I don’t know. She was so young when I knew her, so beautiful.” He knew he hadn’t helped but that was all he knew about Margaret.

“Father, I sent word to Vincent, he was so worried. I hope you don’t mind?” He nodded, smiling his thanks. “I promise you I will get to the bottom of this. The wrong man will not pay for this crime!”

The word ‘pay’ stuck in his mind. He turned to her apologetically. “Pay … Catherine ... I could never pay you for your services.”

“Did you actually think I would take money from you?” Catherine was hurt again by his words and looked away.

Father looked up at her, surprised that he had offended her. “I …”

“You saved my life and you’re Vincent’s father. You mean the world to him ... and to me. Getting you out of this mess will be payment enough.”

Father was immediately contrite. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply ... but the expenses ...!”

“...Are mine!” She spat out suddenly angry then sighed and calmed herself. “Now, let’s try this again. Is there anything I can get you?”

“No, I’m fine, really.” He smiled at her. “Thank you.”

“If you need anything … anything at all … call me. The guards have all my numbers.” Catherine got up to leave and another attorney walked into the room. She smiled broadly and gave him a hug. “Hi, Brad.”

The man smiled at her as he returned her hug. “Hey, Cat. How’ve you been?”

“I’m good. What about you?”

Brad chuckled. “I’m still here. Cassie keeps me up every night and these clowns keep me hopping all day.”

Catherine chuckled. “Cassie has to be what ... about 4 months old now?”

Brad smiled, touched she remembered. “Yep, in two more weeks. She’s cutting teeth right now.”

Father observed Catherine’s interaction with the other attorney. They were about the same age and both were very attractive people yet Catherine looked at him as an old friend not as a romantic prospect. He tried to listen closely as they talked but he couldn’t quite make out what they were saying.

Brad looked over at Father, who eyed him distrustfully. He and Catherine walked over closer to him. “I see you’ve been talking with John Doe here. I’m supposed to be his public defender but I can’t get him to talk.” Catherine shrugged and kept silent. Brad shook his head. “I’ve been trying for two days to get something out of him, did you have any luck?”

Catherine smiled sweetly. “Yes, he told me everything.”

Brad snorted. “Yeah, I bet.”

Catherine sighed aloud. “Do you have any idea if bail has been set yet?”

He shook his head. “Mr. Doe over here has suddenly become homeless. He said he had no where to go. He would rather wait here for his trial.”

Catherine looked over at Father who nodded imperceptibly. She understood that he couldn’t give an address and had no where to claim he lived.

“Brad, if I took on the responsibility of Mr. Doe’s whereabouts could bail be set?”

Brad shrugged. “I can ask, the judge won’t be in until tomorrow, he did say bail would be high.” Brad mentioned an unusually high amount and Father gasped.

Catherine looked into Father’s eyes as she answered Brad. “Will you see if the judge will set it today then let me know, whatever it is, I’ll pay it.”

Father frowned and it was Brad’s turn to gasp. “You must know this guy then? Can’t you give me his name?”

Catherine smiled and shrugged. “I just saw him in the tombs. He’s innocent though Brad. I don’t know how, but I can just tell.”

Brad grumbled. “Cat, I think you’re crazy, but I’ll call you.” He turned to Father. “You’re a lucky guy, Mr. Doe.”

Catherine smiled and winked at Father, trying to reassure him. Brad opened the door and Catherine followed him out.

Father was led back to his cell where he spent the rest of the time thinking about Margaret.

**************************

Back at the office, Edie approached Catherine. She finished her investigation on Henry Dutton. He was as clean as a whistle. Catherine’s gut told her that something wasn’t right about Dutton, she just didn’t trust him. Margaret was a very wealthy woman. She recently included Dutton in her will, her longtime friend and lawyer was now dead, and she was unable to see visitors. Something was definitely wrong here.

Catherine decided to go to Allan Taft’s office to see if she could find any information about Dutton. There was nobody in the outer offices so she went into Taft’s personal office and located Dutton’s file but it was empty. She glanced at his desk and perused through the mail. She found a large envelope marked confidential. In it was a summary of an investigation conducted on Dutton. It was definitely not in his favor. Catherine took it and left Taft’s office. As she was leaving the building, two men trapped her in the glass turnstile. Despite her efforts to escape, they took her to see Dutton.

Henry was waiting at Margaret’s house. He was not pleased Catherine knew about him and he knew he would have to have her removed from the picture.

Henry, Catherine and Connor, one of his men got into the elevator. Catherine guessed they were taking her somewhere to kill her. Her fear had summoned Vincent to her and she could tell he was nearby.

She sensed when Vincent landed on the top of the elevator. When it slammed to a stop between floors, she was prepared. Dutton and Connor fell into the walls. As they struggled to get up, she knocked them back down. Vincent’s hand broke through the top of the elevator and she grabbed his arm as he lifted her to safety. To get free, they would have to climb up through the elevator shaft. Vincent told her to hold on tightly to him so she grabbed him around his shoulders and chest and locked her arms. He climbed hand over hand up the cables of the elevator and took them to another floor to safety.

“Are you hurt, Catherine?”

“No.”

“Let’s get you out of here.”

“I can’t Vincent! This is Margaret’s house. She’s probably in her bedroom I need to stay here, make sure she’s safe.”

“Okay … I’ll wait.”

Catherine called the police while Vincent kept an eye on their prisoners. He left when he heard the sirens.

Catherine answered the door when the police came. “Officer O’Donnell. My name’s Catherine Chandler. I’m with the District Attorney’s office. I had recently found some incriminating documents on Henry Dutton’s foundation and I think they were planning on killing me. Dutton and another man are trapped in the elevator. Another one of Dutton’s men kidnapped me and brought me here.”

“Miss Chandler, how did you get free?”

“I slammed the emergency button on the elevator. The men fell and I managed to fight them. I pushed Dutton into the wall and knocked him unconscious. The other guy hit his head when I kicked him. I climbed onto the hand rail and tore down a ceiling tile and climbed out.”

The officer checked Catherine’s condition. She did in fact have grease on her hands from the elevator cables and her clothes were in disarray indicating a scuffle.

“You’re lucky. I’ll call you if I need any more information but it sounds pretty cut and dry.”

The other policemen managed to get Dutton and his man from the elevator. They were put under arrest.  Catherine had enough evidence to put Dutton and his men away for a long time. “Father will be cleared off all charges,” she thought smiling.

Margaret had heard all the commotion and came out of her room. She was surprised to see all of the police around and Henry being led out in handcuffs.  “Henry, what’s going on?”

Henry turned on her, knowing he was caught and there was no way to get him out of trouble. “Get outta my way you old bag!”

Margaret’s hand covered her mouth and she stepped back in shock.

Catherine went to her and sat her down on a nearby chair. “Hello, Miss Chase. I’m Catherine Chandler. I’m with the District Attorney’s office.”

Margaret smiled at Catherine’s friendliness. “Margaret, please. Now, what’s going on? Where are they taking Henry?”

Catherine took Margaret’s hand. “Margaret, Henry Dutton is a criminal. He preys on people’s vulnerabilities. His victims have been mostly the sick and the elderly. He’s been funneling money from his foundation into his personal account. Allan Taft had gotten the proof of Dutton’s activities, so he had Allan killed.”

Margaret cried out in dismay. “Allan’s dead and Henry did it? I can’t believe any of this!”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“And you found out all of this because of Allan’s murder?”

Catherine sympathized with her but there was still more, she needed to know. “Sort of … Father .... I mean Jacob Wells was accused of Allan’s murder. Jacob had gone to Allan’s in response to your ad. When he got there, Allan was already dead. The police showed up and assumed Jacob was guilty. Dutton’s man, Connor, just admitted to killing Allan under orders from Dutton.’

“Dear God!”

“I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you all of this.”

Margaret shook her head trying to take in all the news. “Will Jacob be released now?”

Catherine nodded her head. “Yes.”

Margaret looked at her tentatively. “Catherine, you called Jacob, father. Is he ...?”

Catherine shook her head. “No, Father is an honorary title.”

She stopped. She wondered of she should tell this woman anything about the world Below. She didn’t know her well enough to know if she could be trusted. Besides, it was a long story and she wanted to handle Father’s release from prison.

Margaret looked at her desperately. “Can you please take me to Jacob?”

Catherine offered her an alternative. “I can ask him if he’d like to meet with you.”

Tears formed in Margaret’s eyes. “Please, I must see him. You must convince him to meet with me!”

Catherine sensed her urgency. “Margaret? What’s so important?”

Margaret sensed that Catherine was protecting Jacob. If she had any hope of seeing him in time she would have to tell Catherine the truth. “Catherine, I’m dying. I’ve had pancreatic cancer for a while now. I don’t have much time left. I must see Jacob again before it’s too late.”

Catherine frowned as she made an instant decision. “Margaret, I’m going to go out on a limb here and trust you. There’s a very special place, a secret place. Jacob abandoned this world when he lost everything and went there and started a new world. He’s the leader in this community and many people depend on it for their livelihoods.”

Margaret nodded in understanding. “Will you take me there? To Jacob?”

Catherine ignored her and continued. “In this secret place there is a very special man, an extraordinary man. He was brought to this world as a baby and given to Jacob, who raised him as his son. His name is Vincent. His unusual features prevent him from living anywhere but in this place.”

Margaret shook her head and waved her hand dismissively. “If Vincent is Jacob’s son I would be honored to meet him.”

Catherine smiled then helped Margaret get dressed. They called a taxi and got off in the park. Catherine supported Margaret, who looked at her in surprise as she walked her towards the culvert.

 

*********************

Once inside, Catherine tapped out a message, but Vincent had already sensed her presence and was on his way to her. He was surprised to see Catherine standing with an older woman and he slowed to a stop. Margaret blinked once as she looked into the face of an unusual man, a beautiful, unusual man.

Margaret warmly held out her hands to Vincent. “You must be Vincent.”

Surprised at her ready acceptance, he took her hands in his and guessed correctly. “And you must be Margaret.”

Catherine was relieved. She had made the right decision. Margaret was in good hands here.

Catherine looked at him. “Vincent, I’m going to the courthouse to handle Father’s release. I’m going to bring him home. If it’s okay with Margaret, can she stay here with you?” Catherine looked at them both simultaneously.

“Yes Catherine. If Margaret chooses, she’ll be welcome here. I’ll personally see to her comforts.” He looked at Margaret with a question in his eyes.

Margaret stood there smiling. “I would be honored to stay with you, Vincent. We can talk until Jacob comes home.”

Catherine nodded in relief. “Good!”

She turned to leave when Vincent called her back. He took her hand in his and gently squeezed it. “Thank you, Catherine.”

“You’re welcome, Vincent.” She left with a smile and quickly went to the courthouse.

 

************************

Margaret had slipped her arm into Vincent’s as he escorted her Below. Mindful of her health they walked slowly, enjoying each other’s company.

Vincent talked about himself and the creation of their world. “Father founded this world. He along with some other people created a productive, loving community.”

Margaret was amazed at all Jacob had accomplished. She always thought he was destined for greatness. “How many people live here, Vincent?”

Vincent shrugged. “The number changes all the time, Margaret. I think the most we ever had at one time, was close to one hundred.”

“My goodness! That many! How do you care for everyone?”

“We take care of one another. We have a network of helpers who are generous and with that, combined with the things the world Above casts off, we live comfortably.”

They arrived at Father’s chamber and Vincent sat Margaret down to rest then quickly brought her some tea.

Margaret smiled as the warmth seeped through her body. She looked up at him anxiously. “How long do you think it will take, Vincent?”

Vincent shrugged. “I know Catherine will do her best to make sure it is done quickly.”

Margaret nodded impatiently. “What if he doesn’t want to see me?”

“Margaret, I am sure Father will want to see you.”

“How can you be sure? What if he comes in here and refuses to talk to me? What if he sends me away?”

Vincent was shocked that this woman would think this way. “Margaret, he went Above for the first time in over thirty years because of your message. I’ve never know him to treat someone unfairly. I promise you that he’ll want to see you the second he arrives.”

She nodded and sat in her chair twisting a handkerchief in her hands.

*************************

At the courthouse, Catherine started the release process for Father.

As police officer came to stand at the front of his cell. Father stood up from his bed a question in his eyes.

The officer nodded to him. “You’re free to go sir, all charges against you have been dismissed.”

Father looked at the man incredulously. “Dismissed?”

The officer shook his head in wonder and chuckled. “Yeah, some lady at the DA’s office found the real killer.”

Father smiled. Catherine had come through for them once again. He walked upstairs and found Catherine waiting for him with a smile.

He was surprised when she hugged him warmly. “Hello, Father, are you ready to go home?”

They left quickly and walked towards the subway. Father looked over at her curiously.  “Catherine, did you find out who killed Allan?”

“Henry Dutton, the man I asked you about. He was a con-artist who was swindling people. Allan found out about him so Dutton had him killed. I found Margaret in the process ...”

“Margaret? How is she? Where is she? Can you take me to her?”

Catherine smiled at his eagerness but the smiled quickly turned to a frown. “Father ... I took her Below.” She tentatively sneaked a peek at him, hoping he wouldn’t explode in anger.

Father’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Below?” 

Catherine nodded. “She’s visiting with Vincent while I came to get you.”

Father was stunned at this bit of news but smiled at her as they reached the subway steps

Catherine turned to look at him. “Well, goodbye.”

He reached out to touch her hand. “Catherine, you’ve been more than a good friend to me. I know what you risked and believe me I am grateful!  Goodbye.” He turned and walked down a few steps.

Catherine thought about it then called out, effectively stopping him. “Father? I just want you to know that I would never hurt him ... I love him.”

He smiled, already knowing the truth behind her confession. “I know. I also know it can only bring him unhappiness.”

Catherine looked at him in distress. She hoped that with all they had been through that Father was starting to change his opinion of her. “Why do you say that?’

“Because part of him .... is a man.” He turned and left, thinking about all the things his son could never have.

Catherine thought about his odd statement. She turned and left thinking about the fact that she had just told Vincent’s father that she loved Vincent. “I just admitted I love Vincent!” Catherine thought. She smiled to herself as more thoughts flooded her mind. “When did this happen? How could I have told his father and not him? Should I tell him? I wonder if Father will tell him? What if he doesn’t love me back?  What then?”

 

****************************

Catherine left Father and headed into work. She was sitting at her desk when Joe walked up. “Hey, Radcliffe? We don’t have enough to do in this office? You’re still out solving cases that don’t belong to us again?” Catherine looked at him quizzically and he smirked. “Heard you got a John Doe released, you found the real killer all on your own.”

Catherine shrugged. “I was lucky, right place, right time.”

Joe shook his head. “I bet ... good work. You finish the deposition for the Bartolli case?”

Catherine handed him two folders. “Yeah, and here’s the one on the Greenburg case.”

Joe was impressed. “Okay. How about the Howard case?”

Catherine looked at her file. “Joe, you just gave it to me a half an hour ago!”

He smirked. “I just thought you being Wonder Woman and all that you might have it done.”

Catherine rolled her eyes. “Goodbye, Joe!”

He laughed and walked away.

Catherine settled down and dug into the case file.

 

*******************

Father walked into his chamber. Vincent was there and greeted him warmly. “Father I’m so glad you’re safe!”

Father nodded. “It’s good to be home ... Where is she?”

“Over here Jacob,” Margaret responded smiling, the love for him showing in her eyes.

Father stared at her as she ran to him and reached for his hands. “Jacob ... Oh Jacob!”

He looked at her incredulously. “Too beautiful! I can’t believe you’re here!”

“No words, just hold me!”

Margaret flung her arms around him. They embraced passionately while Vincent discreetly left the room.

Vincent sent out strict instructions that Father was to be left alone for a few days. Everyone was to come to him instead of Father for the time being.

Father and Margaret spent a few hours alone in his chamber catching up. By evening they were getting hungry and he led her to the dining chamber for dinner.

He introduced her and everyone graciously welcomed her. Father sat her at a table with Vincent, Mary, Pascal, Rebecca, and Winslow. They had a wonderful conversation and Margaret never felt more at peace.

After an hour or so, everyone started to go their separate ways. Mary looked at Margaret. “I could prepare a guest chamber for you if you’d like to stay.”

Margaret looked at Father uncertainly. “I thought perhaps I could stay with you?”

He nodded and he took Margaret’s hand in his and looked up to Mary. “My wife will stay with me, Mary, but thank you.”

Mary blushed and walked away, she hurriedly took a gown to Father’s for Margaret to use while she was here.

 

***************************

Margaret followed Father back to his room. Father noticed the gown and secretly thanked Mary for her foresight. He handed it to Margaret who blushed.

“Margaret, if you’ve changed your mind we can ...”

Margaret shook her head. “No, Jacob. I want to be by your side where I always should’ve been.”

He nodded and led her to his chamber. Margaret watched as he blew out most of the candles except a few in the far corners.

He looked over at her. “I’m going to go see William in the kitchen. I’ll be back in ten or fifteen minutes.”

She smiled gratefully. He kissed her cheek as he left the room. She quickly changed and slipped under the covers. She felt as nervous as a new bride on her wedding day.

Father made a show of walking into the kitchen and checking on breakfast plans.

William smiled knowingly at him. “Did you waste enough time yet?”

Father blushed and shrugged. “I should probably give it a little bit more time for good measure.”

William handed him a few cookies and a glass of milk.

Father ate the cookies and drank the milk then smiled at William. “Have a good night, William.”

“I’m sure you’ll have a better one.”

Father blushed and walked away. He walked into his bedroom chamber and smiled at Margaret who lay in his bed.

He blew out a few more candles, leaving only one burning. He sat on the edge of the bed and undressed then slipped in beside her. They lay side by side staring up at the ceiling.

Margaret reached for his hand. “Jacob, hold me.”

Father turned on his side and brought her to him. He kissed her and their love guided them back to being husband and wife again.

The next few days they never left each other’s side. Father told her the history of his world and showed her everything in it. Margaret told him about her life. Their love blossomed again, the past quickly forgotten and forgiven.

**********************

Unknown to anyone, Margaret sent Catherine a letter. She requested that Catherine come and see her, so Catherine met Kipper at her threshold.

“Hi, Kipper.”

“Hi, Catherine.”

She smiled as they walked. “So what’s the big secret?”

Kipper shrugged. “I don’t know. Margaret asked me to escort you to Vincent’s chamber and I was told not to tell anyone about it.”

Catherine shrugged. “Oh, and you did it?”

“She gave me five whole dollars.”

“Wow! That’s good money for an hour’s worth of work.”

“I have to escort you back too!”

“That’s true, maybe we should run so it makes it worth your while.”

Kipper looked at her excitedly. “Really?”

Catherine smiled ruefully as she stopped and lifted her pant leg, showing him her shoes.

His face fell as he looked at her high heels. “Oh.”

“I’m sorry, Kipper, I shouldn’t have said that, I was only teasing.”

“That’s okay, Catherine. I like spending time with you, I just thought that maybe you were in a hurry …”

Catherine ruffled his hair. “Nope, I have no reason to hurry, because I like spending time Below with all of you.”

Margaret had sat patiently waiting at Vincent’s table and smiled when Catherine walked in.

“Hello, Margaret. How are you?”

“I’m well, Catherine, and you?”

“I’m fine.” Catherine leaned forward curiously. “Your note said that you wanted to see me ...”

Margaret smiled. “Yes, I wanted to speak to you alone.”

“And you chose Vincent’s chamber?”

Margaret shrugged. “He offered it so I took it. He said he would make sure we weren’t disturbed.”

Catherine nodded, now it made sense. Vincent’s always said his chamber was normally busy. “Margaret, what can I help you with?”

“Catherine, I want to make you the executor of my trust.”

Whatever else Catherine thought that Margaret wanted, this was the last thing she expected, and she raised her brows with surprise. “Margaret, I’m flattered but ...”

Margaret interrupted. “Wait, hear me out. Jacob has told me your whole story. I understand that, like myself, you come from a wealthy family.”

Catherine blushed but nodded, so Margaret continued. “I want to stipulate to you that the monies be used to help this community. It is a vast amount of money and I want to leave it with someone I know and trust. Allan was that person and now that he’s gone well ... anyway … coming from wealth, you understand how it can change a person. In the short time I’ve known you, I realize that you can be trusted to do what is right for this community and still keep its secret intact.”

Catherine was honored. “Thank you, Margaret, but what does Father say to all of this?”

Margaret sighed. “He says that they have all that they need and I should do something useful with the money and then refused to talk anymore about it.”

Catherine chuckled. “That sounds like him.”

Margaret looked at her again. “Catherine, I owe Jacob everything. He deserved a much better lease in life than he got. I’m hoping that when I’m gone he will have the comforts I could never provide. How soon can you get started?”

“Margaret, I’ll draw up the papers and give them to a lawyer friend of mine. He can review them and I’ll bring them, Below for you to sign.”

Margaret pushed a piece of paper at Catherine with an address and phone number. “Jacob said this man is a lawyer as well as a helper. He has already drawn up the papers. I’d like to know if you can review them and if you’re happy with them sign them and bring them to me.”

Catherine nodded. “Of course.”

Margaret touched her hand. “Catherine, it needs to be done as soon as possible.”

Catherine could tell by Margaret’s urgent tone that the end was drawing near. She took her hand in hers and, with tears in her eyes, rushed to ease Margaret’s mind. “I’ll do it this morning. I’ll be back this afternoon.”

Margaret nodded and Catherine called for Kipper. “I’m ready to go now.”

She was surprised when Vincent entered the room instead. She smiled up at him then turned to Margaret. “I’ll see you later, Margaret.”

**********************

Vincent was silent almost the entire way to her threshold. Catherine knew he was wondering what was going on but it wasn’t her place to say anything. “Vincent, I have to see Margaret again this afternoon. Should I call on the pipes?”

He looked at her curiously but only nodded. “Yes, if I can’t come, I’ll send someone to get you.”

Catherine touched his arm. “I’m sorry that I can’t talk about it but Margaret asked for legal advice and being a lawyer is like being a doctor...”

Vincent placed his hand over hers. “...and a person is entitled to their privacy. Catherine, I’m sorry. I am curious but I’m also distracted right now with a drainage problem we’ve been working on.”

Catherine blushed. “Of course, Vincent, I didn’t mean to infer that you spent your whole day thinking about me.”

He cocked his head at her embarrassment and couldn’t help but tease her. “Well, not the whole day anyway.”

Catherine smiled and left as Vincent went back to work.

 

**********************

Vincent needed a tool that he left in his chamber. He walked in and Margaret was still sitting in his chair, staring out at nothing, lost in her thoughts.

“I’m sorry, if I had known you were still here, I would’ve ...”

Margaret laughed. “Vincent, don’t be silly! This is your chamber after all. I was just wool gathering. Let me get out of your way.”

“Please, I just came to pick up a tool.” Vincent bent over and picked up the tool that was lying on the floor by his bed.

Margaret walked up to him. “Can you spare a second to listen to me?”

Vincent nodded. “I can spare all the seconds you need, Margaret.”

She patted his hand. “Vincent, I was an only child and as such was the sole beneficiary of my father’s estate. I never married again and have no heirs. When I pass, I planned on donating my estate to charity but I want you to know that I am leaving it to Catherine instead.”

Vincent was surprised by the news but didn’t know what he should say. “I’m sure she’ll be pleased ...”

Margaret laughed. “You’re so much like Jacob sometimes. Catherine will be the executor of my trust. She’ll be the one to oversee the distribution of my wealth.”

“Catherine’s very trustworthy, Margaret. She’ll follow your wishes to the best of her ability.”

Margaret smiled. “She’ll need your help because its to be used Below for anything that this world needs and that it is unable to obtain.”

Vincent gasped. “That’s very generous of you, Margaret.”

Margaret waved her hand dismissively. “It should have been mine and Jacob’s all along. If my father wasn’t so controlling it would’ve been. Now, indirectly it will still be mine and Jacob’s.”

Vincent shook his head in confusion. “Margaret, why are you telling me this?”

“Vincent, I want you to promise me that any time you need funds for the world Below that you’ll make sure Jacob uses the money available. He can be so damned stubborn sometimes ...”

Vincent chuckled that she knew him so well. “I’ll do my best, Margaret.”

“Good boy, now can I get you to help me to the library?”

Vincent put his arm around her and supported her as they walked into the library. He sat her down and poured tea for her. “Margaret, if you’ll be okay now, I’ll send word to Father that you’re here.”

Margaret nodded and Vincent left.

 

************************

Catherine had a taxi drop her off at the address that Margaret had provided. She went to the office and the secretary immediately let her in to see the lawyer.

“Mr. Baxter? I’m Catherine Chandler.”

Jeff stood up and closed the door behind her as he smiled. He walked over and shook Catherine’s hand. “Hello, Catherine, please call me Jeff. I feel like we’re in this too deep to sit on formalities.” Catherine smiled in agreement as Jeff motioned towards a chair. “Please sit.” Catherine sat and he continued. “I’ll tell you I was surprised when I got such an unusual message this morning.”

Catherine chuckled. “Yes, me too!”

Jeff sighed. “Well, in view of the recent events of Dutton’s actions, I think we can easily change Margaret’s trust to show you as the beneficiary. I wonder if you’ve thought of a story to tell people if they ask.”

Catherine shook her head and Jeff nodded in understanding. “I guess I’ll just say that Miss Chase walked into my office off the street and asked me to draw up papers. What story can we give as to why you’re the beneficiary of a trust that could feed most third world countries?”

Catherine sighed. “I guess I can just say that being that I only met Margaret recently, I was just as surprised.”

Jeff shrugged. One story was as good as the next. He handed Catherine the papers and they reviewed them together. Catherine found no changes that she would recommend.

“Jeff, these look fine.”

“Good, I’m going Below right now to have Margaret sign them. At least I’ll get to witness her signature first hand. Tell me, I’m curious. How on earth do you think you’re going to be able to support the world Below without Father knowing it?”

“I have no idea!” Catherine shrugged then nodded and stood. “Jeff, I work at the DA’s office, if you need me for anything you can call me there. I was supposed to bring the paperwork to Margaret, if she needs me, tell her to send a message to me, okay?”

“Sure thing, Catherine, it was nice meeting you.”

“Nice meeting you, Jeff.”

Catherine left his office and hurried to work.

******************************

Joe pretended to scowl at her. “You gonna make a habit of coming in late, Chandler?”

Catherine looked at her watch. It was only 9:33. She rolled her eyes at him. He motioned for her to come over. “Hey, Cathy, come in here a second will ya?”

Catherine followed Joe to his office. He sat down and handed her some files. “I just wanted to tell you that Connor, that guy that was with Dutton is singing up a storm. The FBI is handling the investigation because of all the money Dutton laundered from people. Someone said he killed that attorney, Taft? Was it? So he could take the money from some rich dame who’s about to kick it.”

Catherine winced at Joe’s description. “Well, at least he’s finally been caught.”

Joe smiled. “Yeah, now maybe you can concentrate on cases that belong to us ... like the ones in your hands.”

Catherine smiled. “I’ll get right on these, I promise.”

 
********************************

Jeff went Below and walked to Father’s library. Margaret had just woken from a nap when he walked in. Father was sitting with her while they had a cup of tea.

“Jeff, come in.”

“Hello, Father, Miss Chase.”

“Jeff, please call me Margaret.”

Jeff nodded. “Okay, Margaret. I have those papers drawn up ...”

Jeff stopped as Father stood and excused himself. He hated to deal with legal work and he still felt that Margaret’s finances were none of his business.

Jeff looked over at Margaret. “Catherine has her work cut out for her.”

They laughed and Jeff continued explaining everything. Margaret was happy that Catherine approved and signed all the documents.

Jeff took her hand. “Margaret, these will be filed today.”

She smiled. “Good, there’s not a lot of time left.”

Jeff smiled sympathetically. “I’m sorry.”

Margaret nodded. “Please send Jacob back in.”

Jeff gave Father the message and then left. Father rushed to be by his wife’s side.

*************************

Catherine went home late that night and was getting ready for bed when Vincent came to see her.

She came out to meet him. “Hi, Vincent.”

“Good evening, Catherine. I won’t stay long. I only came by to bring you a note from Margaret.”

Catherine nodded as he handed it to her. She opened it and read what Margaret wrote. She finished and looked up at Vincent. “She’s thanking me for the legal help I gave her.”

Vincent smiled. “Catherine, Margaret has explained to me what she has done. I think it’s wonderful that she trusts you with her money.”

“I’m glad she told you. I can’t stand not telling you everything.”

Vincent smiled shyly. “It did lead to some pretty inventive speculation.” He sighed. “Margaret said the end is near. She made me promise to help guide you with spending the money.”

Catherine nodded. “I don’t know half of what you need, Vincent. I’m glad we’ll be on the same team.”

Catherine’s phone rang and Vincent turned to leave. “I should go, goodnight, Catherine.”

“Night, Vincent!”

Vincent left and Catherine raced to the phone only to discover it was a wrong number. With a sigh, she got ready for bed and climbed under her covers. She was asleep within minutes.

*******************

One week later, Father woke in the early morning. He leaned over and kissed Margaret’s cheek. They had made love the night before and connected with one another on a truly magical plane.

Margaret slowly opened her eyes and looked up at him. “Jacob, I’ll love you always.”

Father blinked back the tears. He knew it was close to the end. “Me too, Margaret.”

“I’ll wait for you on the other side,” She whispered as she closed her eyes.

Father leaned over and held her as she took her last breath. He sat and held her for what seemed like hours. He stood up and got dressed then wrapped Margaret’s body in a blanket.

He went to nearest pipes and tapped out a message.

Jeff had arranged with Margaret earlier, that the easiest way to avoid an inquiry into her affairs would be if it was discovered that she fell asleep at home and never woke up.  

As much as Margaret would have like to be buried by Jacob, she agreed to let her body be taken Above and buried in the family crypt.

Four of the tunnel men came into Father’s chamber and removed Margaret’s body. She would be taken to her home and left in her bedroom. A neighbor would call in an anonymous tip.

Vincent had heard the message and quickly ran from the work site only to see the men leaving Father’s chamber with Margaret’s body. He stopped by them and placed his hand on Margaret’s arm and said his goodbyes.

He nodded to the men who left and he walked into Father’s chambers.

“Father?”

Father looked up surprised to see him there. “Ah yes, Vincent, what is it?”

Vincent came closer and put his arm around his father’s shoulders. “ I came to see if you’re all right?”

Father nodded. “Yes, I’m all right. We knew it would be soon. She passed peacefully.”

Vincent squeezed his shoulder. “Can I do anything for you? Can I get you anything?”

Father sighed. “No, Vincent. I think I’d just like to be alone for a while.”

Vincent nodded. “Okay, if you’re sure?”

Father never answered and Vincent backed slowly out of his chamber. He sent word for everyone to continue to come to him and not Father for any problems that came up.

News spread quickly and everyone made sure that things operated smoothly and that any minor problems were handled immediately.

 

************************

That night, Vincent stood on Catherine’s balcony. She walked out and knew from the look in his eyes that he had bad news. “Margaret passed away this morning.”

Catherine’s eyes welled with tears and she went into Vincent’s arms. They hugged each other, each seeking comfort from the other.

Catherine sighed and pulled away. She wiped the tears from her face and looked up at Vincent. “She was such a special person. I’m going to miss her.”

Vincent nodded and smiled.  “I had dinner with her almost every night. I came to see glimmers of the girl that Father fell in love with.”

“Where’s she now?”

“We were able to get into her home. She was put in her own bed then a tip was called in. She should be at a funeral home by now.”

Catherine nodded. “It’s hard to believe that it was just over a week ago when this all happened. I wish they could have found one another sooner, had more time together.”

Vincent looked at her. “Margaret said that the last seven days were the happiest in her life.”

“And how is Father?”

“Healing, alone, grateful.”

Catherine smiled. “The truly loved each other.”

“Yes.”

Catherine reflected on Father’s life, happy that he and Margaret had found one another but saddened because they had so little time left together. “It’s so sad ... to have a beginning and an end .... and all the time in the middle empty.”

“They had seven days, Catherine ... seven days.”

They both thought of their own relationship, thankful for whatever small time they spent together. Catherine walked into Vincent’s arms and held him tightly.

Catherine spoke into his chest as she let the tears fall. “Vincent, it’s almost as sad as Brigit and Ian.”

Vincent hugged her tighter. “Catherine, try not to dwell on the time spent apart but rejoice in the time spent together. Don’t be sad for what you can’t have, be happy for what you do have.”

Catherine looked up at him. “You’re right. I look forward to spending any time I can with you, even if it’s just a few minutes at the end of the day. Somehow it makes it all right.”

Vincent held his head down shyly. “I understand what you mean.”

“Vincent, can you stay for awhile?”

He leaned back against the wall and Catherine stood in front of him with her back to him. He put his arm around her neck and drew her to lie against his chest. They stared out at the sky in silence, each contemplating their own mortality.

Catherine felt warm in the safety of his arms.

***********************

The next day, Margaret’s story hit the papers. They told about her father and the empire he built and about the charity work that Margaret did regularly. At the bottom of the article the reporter proclaimed that Margaret had been married briefly but her husband was thought to be dead.

Catherine attended the wake and the funeral. She made personal donations in Margaret’s name to all of her favorite charities.

She grabbed a remembrance card from the wake and a flower from the bouquet that adorned Margaret’s casket to send Below to Father.

She left the funeral and walked to Stan’s Market. She bought a sympathy card for Father and signed it, “You are in my thoughts, Love, Catherine.” She placed the remembrance card and the flower from the bouquet inside the sympathy card and sent it Below.

Maria smiled approvingly at Catherine. “Such a nice thing you do for Father. He will appreciate it.”

“It seems so insignificant for the amount of pain he must be feeling.”

Maria nodded. “Yes, but soon it will lessen and then eventually pass. Winter is coming soon and there will be many more problems to deal with then grief.”

Catherine was intrigued. “What kind of problems, Maria?”

Maria shrugged. “The usual, not enough blankets or fuel for stoves, fresh fruit and vegetables are harder to come by, the children getting colds and fevers ...”

Catherine nodded but squirreled away the information for the future. Knowing she had just found the first need she’d be able to help with, she smiled as she left the store.

********************

As Jeff predicted, few people inquired about Margaret’s will. They knew recent changes had been made because of the whole incident with Henry Dutton. The fact that another wealthy person had inherited was not newsworthy material.

Catherine inherited the money and she and Jeff decided together where the best place for investment future would be.

Although, she set up a checking account so she could have easy access to money anytime of the day. She dreamed of the checks having hers and Vincent’s name printed together on them. She giggled at her silliness and continued to look over the investment portfolio they created. She went home and filed the paperwork away for safe keeping.

Vincent came over later that night. As she came out to the balcony he smiled at her.

“Catherine, Father loved the thoughtfulness of the card you sent. He said to tell you thank you.”

Catherine smiled. “The flower was off of Margaret’s funeral bouquet. Maybe he could press it ...”

Vincent interrupted her. “He already has. I left him some time ago. He was grieving and wanted to be alone. I think he regretted missing the funeral but his fear of being discovered kept him away.”

Catherine nodded. “I’m glad he didn’t go. There were a lot of people there, mostly representatives from organizations she donated to. There weren’t very many friends or family members that she was close to.”

“Margaret said that her father kept her pretty sheltered from others. She felt he thought that after her marriage to Father, she couldn’t be trusted to make good judgment calls.”

Catherine shook her head and chuckled. “Too bad that Father and Margaret didn’t have a child together. Being a grandfather would have softened the old coot.”

Vincent hung his head. “Margaret told Father that shortly after her father annulled the marriage she found out she was pregnant. Her father told her she would never carry a Communists child to term. Margaret said that all the stress caused her to lose the baby in the fourth month of her pregnancy. She shared the news and she and Father mourned the loss of their unborn child.

Catherine’s eyes filled with tears. “My God, Vincent what kind of a monster was her father?”

Vincent sighed at the loss and Catherine fell into his arms.

A few minutes later, Vincent pulled back. “Just think Catherine, if Margaret had followed a different path I would not have lived and we would have not met.”

Catherine looked up at him with tears in her eyes. “How’s that supposed to make me feel better, Vincent? That’s sad too!”

Vincent held open his arms. “It’s supposed to make you realize that all actions have good and bad consequences.”

Catherine smiled at him. “You’re definitely one of the good consequences, Vincent.”

He smiled and drew her close. “As are you, Catherine.”

 

 

THE END