BETWEEN THE LINES

 

SHAKESPEARE KNEW EVERYTHING
THIRD IN THE SERIES BY KATHY DE

 

 

Far Below the city streets, Vincent sat at his desk and jotted a small note to Catherine. On his way to deliver it to a helper, he stopped in the library.

“Father, I’m heading to Stan’s to send a message.”

“Hmmm? Did you say a message for Stan?” Father asked as he looked up from his ledger.

Vincent shook his head apologetically. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Father. I said I’m sending a message from Stan’s. Benny is going to pick it up and deliver it for me.” Father raised his eyebrows and waited for him to elaborate so with a sigh, Vincent continued. “It’s just a short note to Catherine telling her that Ellie and Eric are all right.”

Father frowned. “She trusted us with their care, I’m sure she knows they are faring well.”

Vincent shrugged. “Still, I’d like to ease her mind if she’s worried.”

“It’s only been a few days, does she feel worried?”

“No.”

“Well, I’d leave well enough alone then…see if she contacts you…”

“Father, Catherine’s a friend, what objections can you possibly have about me sending her a note?”

“I have no objections I just thought that perhaps…never mind.”

Vincent lowered his head shyly. “I know it seems silly but a part of me wants to reach out to her in any way I can. I feel drawn to her.”

“Like a moth to a flame,” Father grumbled under his breath.

“What, Father?”

“I asked if you were afraid she’ll forget you.”

“No it’s just that I’ve always dreamed of having a friend like Catherine.”

Friends are important parts of our lives, Vincent but remember you already have many friends here…Below.

Vincent shook his head at his father’s lack of understanding then headed out the door. Father looked at him as he left, worried that Vincent was starting to dream of having a different kind of relationship with Catherine.

***

Catherine was walking home from work the next day when a friendly young man pulled up in front of her on a bicycle.

“Catherine Chandler?”

Catherine smiled at him. “Yes.”

“Hi! My name’s Benny. I’ve got a message here for you.”

She shook his hand then took the envelope from his outstretched hand. “Thanks, Benny.”

She quickly opened her purse to dig around for a tip. She finally found a five dollar bill and held it up to open air. She blinked with surprise that Benny had already started to ride away.

“Wait!” He came to a stop and she ran to his side. “Believe it or not this is all I’ve got on me!”

Benny shook his head. “Not for these messages! They’re on the house!”

He wheeled away again and a baffled Catherine looked curiously at him as he rode away. “Nice meeting you,” she shouted.

Benny waved his hand dismissively in the air.

Catherine opened the mysterious envelope and looked at the beautifully written note.

Catherine,

Our latest editions are doing well. Both have adjusted to their new life and send their love.

V

Catherine smiled, knowing that Vincent was referring to Ellie and Eric. She was thankful they were adjusting to life Below. She put the note back in the envelope and began to walk again smiling at Benny’s demeanor and wondering just how many helpers they had in the world Above.

***

Thinking about her attendance at the art donation the following night and anticipating that she’d leave work late, Catherine set her outfit aside for the event. She headed into the bathroom to shower and as she stood under the water, she excitedly thought about the art works that would be on display.

Her mind went through the names of the artists and paintings that the paper had announced would be donated. She got out of the shower and as she dried her hair, her thoughts turned to Vincent. “I wish he could go with me.”

She giggled as she pictured Jenny’s reaction to meeting Vincent. Her face quickly fell when she realized he could never attend these types of things with her. “How sad!” she thought. “He is the one person I know who could truly appreciate them and the significance of this donation.”

She walked over to her bookcase and picked up the book Vincent had recommended and was getting ready to settle down in bed when she heard a noise out on her balcony. With a smile, she headed outside. “Vincent?”

“Catherine…”

“I was just thinking about you.” He handed her a single red rose and she took it and grinned. “You came by just to give me a rose?”

“I wanted to come by, to put your mind at rest. I sent the note earlier but I wanted to tell you how well Ellie and Eric are doing.”

Catherine had eagerly awaited news about the young orphans she had taken Below. “How have they been doing?”

“Good, they were quiet at first but the other children put them at ease.”

“Thank goodness, I’ve been worried about how they would adjust.”

“They’ve been through much for ones so young. Ellie’s shouldered much of the responsibility for the two of them. She seems relieved to have adults she can trust to take over Eric’s care.”  

“She’s a good big sister.”

“Yes, Eric’s even showing signs of independence so Ellie is starting to relax her vigil over him. Perhaps now they can both concentrate on being kids.”

“I’m so happy for them, Vincent.”

“I am, too.”

“Thanks for coming here to tell me. It’s good to see you, can you stay for awhile? I bought that book you recommended…”

“I can’t…” he said regretfully. “I promised Father I would meet with the council about some new safety measures Below. Perhaps I could come by tomorrow…”

Catherine’s face fell. “I’ve got a date.” She puzzled at the hurt look that flashed briefly across his face and quickly explained. “My girlfriend Jenny and I are attending an event together. A man named Elliot Burch is donating some of his art.”

“I’ve read about it, it promises to be an interesting addition for the museum.”

“I can’t wait to see some of it; I wish you could go with us!”

Vincent sighed. “I could wish for nothing more.”

“I wish I could just walk in there with you by my side.”

“It’s a nice dream but you know that it's one that could never be.”

“I know…but…” Catherine frowned. “It’s not fair; I know you would appreciate it so much more than most of the people who will be attending!”

“Perhaps one day I’ll see the pieces.” Vincent smiled at her then turned away. “I should let you get some sleep.”

Catherine nodded. “Okay, I want to get to work early tomorrow so I can get home on time.”

“Goodnight, Catherine.”

“Night, Vincent.”

He left quickly and with one last glance at her outfit for the next night, Catherine went to sleep.

***

Late the next afternoon, Catherine entered Joe’s office with the last of her files. “Here Joe, these are finished.”

Joe took the files from her and glanced down at the top one. “Is the Crowe case in here?”

Catherine nodded. “Third one down. The driver gave his testimony about two hours ago.”

“Really?”

“Well, after we found the evidence in his apartment he decided he should probably tell the truth.”

“Smart guy.”

Catherine shrugged. “Yeah, well, if he was so smart he wouldn’t have been involved to begin with. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You’re leaving?”

Catherine nodded. “If I can, I’ve got a charity art donation to go to.”

“An art donation?!” Joe wrinkled his nose.

Catherine rolled her eyes at his sarcasm. “Elliot Burch is donating his private collection to the museum; surely you’ve read about it…it’s been in all the papers.”

Joe shrugged his shoulders, clearly not interested. “Yeah, so! He can afford it.”

“Joe! Don’t you realize that it means that those pieces can be viewed by everyone! Some of these paintings haven’t been seen in over fifteen years!”

“So why’s he donating them now? What’s his agenda?”

“Agenda? What do you mean?”

“Guys like Burch don’t donate things to the city unless they’re after something.” Joe chuckled. “Don’t tell me, let me guess, he told the press he found them while cleaning out his basement?”

Catherine sighed as she shook her head then turned away. “Goodnight, Joe.”

“Have fun, Radcliffe.” Joe snorted sarcastically.

***

Catherine rushed home and flew through her apartment. She needed to shower and change and meet Jenny in just over an hour. She glanced over at the small vase with a single rose sitting on her bedside table. She thought briefly of Vincent's visit and him bringing it to her, then smiled at his sweetness. 

She hurried through her shower and styled her hair just as quickly then expertly applied her make-up and changed her clothes. She was just putting her shoes on when the phone rang. She reached over and picked up the receiver.

“Hello.”

“Hi, Cathy.”

“Hey, are you waiting downstairs?”

Jenny’s voice quietly floated over the line. “I wish. I can’t come tonight.”

“Aw, Jen! Why not?”

Jenny grimaced as she moved her leg. “I fell and sprained my ankle.”

Catherine gushed with concern. “Oh no! Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m here at the hospital, though. The doctor doesn’t think it’s broken but they’ve just taken x-rays and we’re waiting for them to be developed.”

“How’d you do it?”

Jenny sighed. “I fell off that tall ladder in the back room. You know, the broken one.”

“Jen, you have got to get rid of that thing!”

Jenny chuckled. “I will now, when I fell it crashed next to me and broke.”

“Well, what can I do for you? Can I come get you?”

“No, thanks anyway, Jerry’s here with me. Thank God he worked late tonight. He said he would see me home. You go to the art donation, okay?”

Catherine’s heart wasn’t in it now that Jenny wasn’t going with her. “I don’t know...”

Jenny interrupted her. “You have to go. You have to tell me if Elliot Burch is cuter in person than in the newspapers and on TV.”

Catherine smiled ruefully. “Okay, maybe I’ll go for a little while then stop by your place later on.”

Jenny grimaced. “You know where the key is, let yourself in. I’ll be the lump in bed with my foot propped on pillows.”

“I’ll see you in a couple of hours then. Are you sure you don’t need anything?”

“Nope, I’m in good hands. Have fun!”

“I’ll try.”

Catherine hung up the phone and thought briefly about not going. Before she could change her mind, she grabbed her purse and headed out the door.

***

Catherine got to the cocktail party fashionably late. She was pleasantly surprised to see familiar faces as she ambled her way around the room. Conversation in each of the various groups revolved around the type of man Elliot Burch was. She had been told he was a self-made man who rose up out of nothing to become a powerful figure in real estate developing. Throughout the night, she glanced over at him and wondered what type of man he really was. He had an intriguing life and she found herself fascinated by him.

As intrigued as she was, she was still undecided about wanting to meet him. Her experience with Tom had made her wonder if all developers had the same bad ideals. Some of these shortcomings she had been able to overlook but she could never accept his ability to overlook humanity for the sake of development.

Catherine stood off to the side of the room and talked with one of her friends.

“So, Janet, is your mom watching the kids tonight?”

Janet nodded. “Yes, I don’t know what I would do without her. One of these days she’s going to tell me no.”

Catherine giggled. “That’ll never happen. Your mom loves Trisha and Doug. She might steal them from you but she would never give them up.”

Janet giggled back. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”

Dan, her husband, came over with two glasses of champagne. He handed one to Janet and one to Catherine.

Catherine took the glass then leaned in to kiss his cheek. “Hi, Dan. Thanks.”

He shrugged. “I saw you across the room, you looked kind of thirsty.”

Janet pretended to slap him. “Stop teasing.” She looked over at Catherine. “I sent him for a glass over ten minutes ago.”

Dan leaned over and kissed his wife’s forehead. “I know but Steve over there saw Catherine and wanted me to get him her phone number.”

Catherine glanced over and caught the eye of a man who blushed and turned away.

Janet rolled her eyes as Catherine smiled at him. “Has business been good for you, Dan?”

Dan nodded and smiled. “Yeah, things have been going really well. If only I could make money as fast as the kids spend it, I might just get ahead one day.”

Catherine chuckled. “Doug’s still in hockey?”

“Yeah, he was accepted to the traveling team this year.”

“Great!”

Janet groaned. “Of course it was at the same time that Trisha decided to take up Western riding as well as English.”

Dan shook his head. “Now she thinks she’s getting a second horse! I guess she thinks she can just get a free one somewhere.”

“You sound like my Dad when I was eleven.” Catherine laughed. “You know, Dan, we used to have neighbors in Connecticut that had horses. They might still have some for a fairly reasonable price.”

Janet bubbled with excitement. “Oh, can you send me the address?”

Catherine glanced over and noticed another acquaintance come in. “Sure, Janet, I’ll get it to you in the morning. Look, Grace just walked in and she looks a little lost. I’m going to go say hi. I’ll be back in a little bit.”

“Bring her back with you,” Janet called out as Catherine walked away.

***

Unknown to her, Elliot had also been noticing her as well. She made a beautiful picture in a red strapless gown that flowed freely around her when she walked and she had definitely caught his eye.

Elliot slowly approached the couple and the beautiful woman as they talked in their group. The woman just moved away when Elliot walked up.  Sorry he had missed his chance to meet her but not wanting to appear rude, he extended his hand towards the gentleman. “Hello, I’m Elliot Burch.”

The man shook his hand. “Of course, Mr. Burch, I’m Dan Miller and this is my wife Janet.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Elliot grasped the woman’s hand and raised it to his lips. “Are you enjoying yourselves tonight?”

Janet nodded. “It’s just wonderful that you’ve donated your art. Some of the pieces are extraordinary.”

Dan shook his head in agreement. “I must admit Mr. Burch, I was really looking forward to the game tonight...”

Janet interrupted him as she whispered a warning. “Dan!”

Dan held up his hands. “Give me a chance to finish... I was pleasantly surprised when I came. Most of the paintings are beautiful. I’m glad Janet made me come.”

Elliot laughed. “Thank you and I’ll let you in on a secret. The security guard over there just told me the Yankees are up by three in the bottom of the 6th.”

Dan smiled as Elliot glanced mischievously at the couple. “Now, I don’t mean to be forward but who was that enchanting woman you were just speaking with?”

Dan sized him up, careful of his friendship with Catherine. “Her name’s Catherine Chandler.”

“Chandler…I know that name.” Elliot thought for a few seconds then looked at Dan. “Any relation to Charles Chandler, the corporate attorney?”

Janet nodded and smiled at him. “Yes, he’s her father. She worked for him for awhile but then left to do work for the DA’s Office.”

“Admirable. Do you know who she’s here with?”

Dan looked over at him curiously. “I think she came by herself.”

Janet nodded. “Yes, her friend Jenny had to back out at the last minute.”

Elliot talked for a few more minutes and then nodded as he stepped back from them. “It was very nice to meet you both, enjoy your evening.”

He walked away lost in thought. “So, this woman was beautiful and good hearted. Catherine Chandler…Why do I know that name? I know there’s something more…” Suddenly he remembered. “She’s the woman who was missing for a couple of days earlier in the year. Didn’t she used to go out with Tom Gunther? He left New York about that same time. I wonder if she’s still seeing him.”

While being interviewed by reporters, Elliot answered all of their questions but looked over at Catherine. He was surprised to see she was watching him and as he gazed into the most beautiful green eyes he had ever seen, he smiled. She smiled back, surprised and pleased at the impact his statement to the press had made on her. His words led her to believe he was nothing like Tom and that intrigued her even further.

As the night lingered on, Elliot kept missing his opportunity to meet Catherine. Eventually, she stood alone, admiring a painting. He noticed and immediately came to her side.

He smiled over at her. “Incredible! Everything happening at the same time, passion, humor, danger.”

“A little like life.” She smiled back.

He chuckled. “More than a little. I’m Elliot Burch.”

“Of course you are.”

As he drew back his head in surprise, she giggled. “I’m sorry, but you are the reason we’re all here.”

He smiled again. “I suppose I am.”

“And I’m Catherine Chandler.”

“I know.”

She looked at him in surprise. “You do?” 

He nodded his assent. “Uh huh…I asked one of your friends.”

She smiled with embarrassment and turned away. “Guess it’s my turn to be a little flustered.”

“Yes, it’s only fair.”

“And...um...not entirely unenjoyable.”

He leaned in to her in conspiratorially. “Do you know that it’s been a very long time since I’ve been good and flustered?”

His lawyer chose that moment to interrupt. Elliot gently put him off and took Catherine to a secluded area so they could talk.

“So Catherine Chandler, did you come here alone tonight?”

Catherine smiled at him. “My friends call me Cathy. Yes, my friend Jenny was supposed to come with me but had to back out at the last minute.”

“You’re a warrior then…”

“Why would you say that?”

“You’re brave to come to an event like this unaccompanied…”

“I’ve known some of the people here for years, a few of them had mentioned they’d be coming. I knew I’d be safe coming stag.”

“And you will be. Now, other than your high level of courage, what else can you tell me about yourself?”

“What do you want to know?”

He smiled endearingly. “Everything.”

“Well I was born on…” She stopped and giggled as he looked at her with surprise. “What? Did you mean something more recent?”

“I can learn the rest later but maybe for now this will help; when I asked your friends about you, they confirmed you were Charles Chandler’s daughter. I know of your father. He has an impeccable reputation.”

“Thank you, I think he’s pretty great too,” Catherine answered warily, afraid he was going to be like Tom and use her for her position in society.

“Your friends also mentioned you used to work for him but now you work for the DA’s office.” When she nodded again he continued. “That’s admirable work, unusual but admirable.”

Tom had never wanted her to work for the DA’s office and they had several heated discussions about it. Now, here was Elliot, expressing the exact opposite viewpoint. Catherine started to wonder if he really was too good to be true.

“So, now why did you decide to make the career jump?” Her smile faded and he immediately felt guilty. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”

“No Elliot, its fine.” She sighed and took a deep breath. “A while ago, I was leaving a party and was attacked…”

He nodded. “I know, I remembered about a second after I asked you the question. I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be, it’s in the past. I’ve fought back and become a stronger person. It’s been hard but it’s also been the most wonderful time of my life.”

His brow furrowed with curiosity. “How so?”

She shrugged as she looked at him. “I changed. After my accident, I realized I had led a pretty superficial life and I decided I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. A friend I met during that time helped me find the strength within myself and I learned that I needed to go on with my life. After some soul searching, I decided I wanted to accomplish something more stimulating than corporate law. I wanted to find a way to use my talents to help others. So, I quit my job with my Dad and started at the DA’s office.”

“Your father must have been very disappointed when you left the firm.”

She nodded. “He was, but he wants me to be happy.”

He cocked his head to look at her. “Are you?”

“The work is relentless, exhausting but sometimes it feels like somehow, in some way, I make a difference. That’s a good feeling.”

“Yes. It’s no fun starting at the bottom.”

“Nobody cuts me any slack. But when I do get a kind word, it’s because I’m doing the job, not because I’m the boss’s daughter.”

“You know…you kids who grew up rich…you’ve got just as much to prove as those of us who grew up poor. We spend our whole lives trying to prove to the whole world that we’re worth something. You have to prove it to yourself.” She nodded in agreement so he continued. “If your father isn’t proud of you, he damn well should be.”

“Thanks, I’d like to think I’ve made my dad proud. What about you, Elliot? Tell me about your life.”

“I’d much rather hear about your life.” He looked at her with a smile. “How about if we cover my life some other time?”

“Okay...”

“Now for the important question, is there someone special in your life, Cathy?”

She thought briefly of her friendship with Vincent and sighed. “There are some special people in my life, no one I would call exclusive. How about you? Is there someone special in your life, Elliot?”

He smiled. “Not until tonight.”

Catherine blushed and looked away then scanned the pictures on the walls. “You’ve done something amazing here tonight, Elliot. Won’t you miss these paintings?”

He shrugged. “They’ve been hanging on the walls in my house for years. I’m rarely at home. It seemed like such a waste.”

“It’s kind of you to share them. They’ll bring so much enjoyment to others.”

Elliot looked happily at the walls of the gallery. “Thank you.”

They looked around and realized that most of the people had left the function. She felt guilty for monopolizing his time. “We had such a pleasant talk; I didn’t realize how much time had passed. I’m sorry you didn’t get much of a chance to visit with your other guests.”

“There’s no one I would have rather spent time with tonight. Can I see you home?”

“I’d like that.” She smiled as she took the hand he offered and they made their way to the coat room.

***

The press was trying to get a photo of Elliot Burch and they walked outside into a sea of reporters and flashing cameras. Elliot’s smile didn’t quite reach his eyes as he guided Catherine towards his limo. 

Seated safely inside, Elliot turned to her. “I’m so sorry about all that. For some odd reason who I’m with seems to intrigue people. Tomorrow this will be all over the newspapers. I love my life but sometimes the press can seem so intrusive.”

Catherine knew about publicity. Sometimes, being wealthy had its disadvantages as well and she had been raised to deal with it all her life. She rushed to reassure him. “Elliot, it’s not your fault and I’ve dealt with them before. Honestly, most of the time it doesn’t bother me.”

Elliot looked over at her, surprised and grateful. He took her hand and brought it to his lips and kissed it. “Good, I’m glad, thank you for understanding.”

Catherine smiled at him warmly. She was pleasantly surprised that he was apologetic for the press instead of reveling in it like Tom. It was refreshing that this man was so different. Tom would have been talking to the reporters, trying to make sure they knew who he was with and what they had been doing. Elliot was indifferent to them. He respected them but he pretty much ignored their presence.

Too soon, they pulled up in front of Catherine’s apartment building. Elliot walked her to her door and asked if he could see her again. She agreed then headed inside; with one last look, he climb into his limo.

***

That same night, across town, in a different type of neighborhood, Vincent stood in a darkened alley, hidden deep in the shadows. Head back, eyes closed, he was enjoying the impromptu concert provided by an older man sitting at the piano in his basement. Vincent allowed the simple piano music to wash over him.

Suddenly, a car came down the alley, stopping in front of the basement windows. Vincent crouched down and hid behind a dumpster. Two men got out of the car and held fire bombs made from old bottles and fuel. Vincent saw the burst of light as the men lit the wicks then watched in horror as they threw the bottles at the basement window. They broke through it and started a fire. The men leapt back in their car and sped away.

The old man playing the piano called out desperately for help, collapsing on the floor as the smoke entered his lungs. Vincent broke through the other window, flung off his cloak and started beating at the flames which were quickly spreading. Even though he was burned several times, he made short work of the fire. His cloak smoldering, he wrapped it around himself to hide his appearance from the man he just saved.

He stood off in the shadows, waiting for the man to wake up. Finally the man began to stir, coughing to clear the smoke from his lungs, gasping for the fresh air he desperately needed. He begged Vincent to step forward so he could thank him. He struggled to stand then fell back to the floor. Vincent drew closer to lend him support. The man glanced up and saw Vincent’s face then gasped in surprise.

Vincent helped the man to his feet and found a place for him to sit. The man, Micha Langer, explained to Vincent how he and his wife Sophie and the other tenants in the building were being harassed. How men were trying to drive them from their homes. The tenants were getting worried because the men that were doing these things were starting to get violent.

Vincent listened patiently while the man told his tale. He was angered at the treatment these people were experiencing; older people who had so little ability to fight back and these thugs were feeding on their vulnerability. He left Micha, promising to get them help.

***

Vincent had felt all of Catherine’s emotions that night. At first, he wondered what he was feeling when he was flooded with a chaos of emotions, but as he sorted through them, he guessed that she had met someone special, someone who touched her deeply.

He didn’t want to intrude on her happiness but he had promised his new friend he would help. He walked through the tunnel way and grimaced as the burns on his face started to throb. He decided he would leave her a short note and made his way up to her balcony, where he noticed she was home. Not wanting to bother her, he discreetly tried to place the note on a nearby table.

While she was getting ready for bed, Catherine saw Vincent through the patio drapes. She knew he must’ve seen her in her room yet he didn’t appear to be staying. She flew out to the balcony, barely catching him as he was leaving.

“Vincent!”

He shyly walked closer to her. “Did I startle you?”

“No,” She shook her head and smiled at him, excited to see him there.

“I…I came to…leave you a message.” As if to show her proof, he pointed to a note on the table. Unsure of himself and his welcome, he turned to leave.

Catherine reached for the note he indicated then noticed he was going to leave. “Don’t go.” She wondered why he was in such a hurry. She quickly read the note he had written her then looked up at him. “Micha Langer?”

“He and his friends are being driven from their homes, terrorized. They’ve been beaten, robbed.”

The moonlight hit his face and she noticed his injuries and approached him flooded with concern. “You’re hurt! Is that a burn?” She reached for his cheek but saw something in his eyes that made her stop just short of touching him. “Let me get you something.”

He shook his head. “I am not the one that needs your help, Catherine. These people are old, terrified, their homes almost burned tonight.”

“Well who’s doing this to them?”

He shrugged. “The ones hired to chase them out. Can you help?”

“I’ll try. Of course.”

“Good, you have a generous heart, Catherine.”

“It’s something I’ve learned from you.”

“No, it can’t be taught. It’s from the soul and you have so much to give.”

Lost in a confusion of emotions, Catherine looked at him. “It’s all still very new. Sometimes I wonder how all those little pieces will ever fit together again.”

“Follow your heart, Catherine. Follow your heart, you must.”

Her eyes filled with tears as he turned to leave but she reached out and touched his arm. “Vincent, please don’t go yet, can I get you something for those burns?”

He had never meant for her to see him in the first place. He hadn’t meant to take up her time and he shook his head. “No, I...just needed someone to know about the older tenants, someone who could be of help. I’m sorry to have troubled you with more problems.”

Catherine was confused by his demeanor. “You didn’t trouble me. I want to help. Would you like to come in? I could get you some salve, maybe make some tea.”

He looked up at her. “I shouldn’t have come here, I never meant to intrude on your evening, I'll go.”

“Wait!” Catherine desperately grasped for a topic to keep him here. “How are Eric and Ellie?”

“They’re doing well, Catherine. I’ll tell them you asked about them.”

Just then the phone rang, Catherine ignored it but Vincent took the opportunity to use it as an excuse.

“You should answer that,” he said as he quickly turned to leave.

She knew the machine would pick up the call and called out to him. “Vincent?” He stopped and turned to look at her, so she continued. “You’re always welcome here; you could never intrude on my evening…”

Vincent lowered his face with resignation. “You...met someone special tonight...someone that has touched you, deeply...”

Catherine sighed as she realized that he must have felt all her emotions as she became acquainted with Elliot. She wouldn’t lie to him. “Yes, I did.” He nodded as the truth settled into an ache in his heart. Catherine walked over to the wall of the balcony but Vincent remained standing where he was. She looked back at him. “It was Elliot Burch, the person who donated the art to the museum tonight.”

Vincent stood quietly wondering why Catherine was explaining her actions to him. “Perhaps you’ll see him again?”

Catherine blew out the breath she’d been holding. “I’m not sure. I gave him my number. If I had to guess though, yes, I think he’ll call.”

“That was probably the call you just missed.”

“Maybe, whoever it was can leave a message.”

“Is this Elliot a good man?”

“He seems to be.”

Vincent nodded. “Good. You should find someone, Catherine, a friend, someone that can make you happy, someone that you can share your thoughts and dreams with.”

“I have that already with you! You’re one of my best friends, Vincent. I’ve told you more about my thoughts and dreams than I’ve ever shared with anyone before.”

“Perhaps now you’ve found another from your own world that you can share these things with.” The phone rang again. “It’s late; I...should go. Goodbye, Catherine.”

“Goodnight, Vincent.” Catherine sighed and looked at him as he quickly left the balcony. She turned and went to answer the phone.

***

Catherine breathlessly picked up the receiver. “Hello.”

Jenny’s voice accusingly came over the line. “You forgot about me!”

Catherine grimaced and rushed to apologize. “I’m sorry Jen, I just got home. It was late when I left, I didn’t think you would still be up.”

Jenny sighed. “My foot hurts so much I can’t sleep. What do you mean you just got home? You’ve been at the party this whole time?”

“Yeah, I was. Didn’t they give you anything for the pain?”

Jenny chuckled. “Yeah but you know me, I hate to take pills. That must’ve been some party. Did you see Elliot Burch?”

Catherine tried again to change the subject. “Jen, if you’re in that much pain, I can’t believe that you won’t take at least one pill.”

Jenny narrowed her eyes. She recognized a delay tactic when she heard it. “Hey! Why do you keep trying to change the subject? What happened at the party that you don’t want to tell me about?”

Catherine balked. “Nothing, it was a really good party. I’m just sorry you had to miss it.”

“Sooooo,” Jenny sang out. “Did you see Elliot Burch? Is he really as cute in person?”

With a sigh, Catherine told her the story. “Actually, Jen, I did get a chance to meet Elliot.”

Jenny sat up excitedly. “No way! You met him! Like really met him or receiving line, hey, nice to meet you, met him?”

“Really met him, in fact we talked for a few hours and he saw me home tonight.”

Jenny rushed ahead. “You’re kidding?! You are so lucky! Tell me everything. How did you first meet him? What did you talk about? What did he say? Are his eyes blue or green? Did you kiss him?”

Catherine chuckled. “Slow down, Jen, let me get a word in. He approached me when I was alone. I was looking at one of the paintings; you know the one with a quiet country path that…”

“Cathy!”

Catherine realized she didn’t want to hear about the painting so she chuckled and continued. “We introduced ourselves and he led me over to a quiet corner where we could talk.” Jenny sighed as Catherine continued. “I told him about myself and my job. We didn’t realize so much time had passed and because it was so late he saw me home.”

“In his limo?”

“No, on his motorcycle...” Catherine rolled her eyes. “Yes, he had a limo.”

Jenny pried further. “So what’s his story? What can you tell me about him?”

“Not a lot. He promised we would cover his life next time.”

Jenny gasped. “You made another date with him?”

“Well, I’m not positive. He asked how he could get in touch with me and I gave him my business card. We’ll have to see what happens...”

“What happens? What happens! What happens, is that you met your own Prince Charming tonight and he is going to sweep you off your feet and you’re going to be living in one of the ivory towers that he builds. You’ll be Queen of New York City.”

Catherine shook her head in disagreement. “I don’t know, Jen...”

“Aww, c’mon Cathy, you deserve it. You haven’t dated anyone in a while and Tom shouldn’t count…he was an idiot! That man wasn’t good enough to share your taxi.”

“Jen!” Catherine warned.

“Okay, okay…enough said…but when was the last time you went out with a really decent guy?”

Catherine’s thoughts turned to Vincent. She hadn’t thought about him at all tonight when she was with Elliot and for some reason that troubled her. She liked Vincent, he was a good friend but their relationship was so confusing. They barely knew each other but they shared this bond that continually drew them together. Catherine just didn’t know if it went any further that that. He always treated her so nicely but he seemed to push their friendship away at any time. Several times he had met her and he always seemed to be in a hurry to leave. She usually had to entice him to stay with her. She was sure he wasn’t interested in being anything more than friends and if she was being honest she wasn’t all that sure how she felt about him.

Still, when he finally settled down and spent time with her she always felt like there was a connection between them. She startled herself when she realized that Vincent probably felt her seesawing emotions tonight when she was with Elliot. “That would explain his unusual behavior tonight,” she thought. “God, I hope I didn’t hurt him!”

“Earth to Cathy, Are you still there? I can hear you breathing!”

Catherine’s mind crashed from its racing thoughts. “Jen, I’m sorry. I zoned out for a second. What did you say?”

Jenny pretended to be indignant. “I said that when you go out on a second date, you should find out if he has a brother, for a lonely crippled friend.”

Catherine chuckled. “You’re not lonely! What about Lance and Chuck and who was the guy last week? Um...Scott! What about Scott? You said he was an excellent kisser.”

Jenny chuckled. “Well, he was, I mean he is an excellent kisser. None of those guys are rich, though.”

“Jen, just because a person is rich doesn’t mean they can make you happy.”

“Spoken like a true debutante! You know the old saying money can buy you happiness!”

Catherine knew Jenny was teasing her and didn’t take offense. “Um...Jen...I think the saying is money can’t buy you happiness...”

Jenny sighed. “Well, I sure would like to give it a try...”

“Go to bed, Jen! I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay? Call me if you need anything, even if it’s in the middle of the night.”

“I’ll will, thanks. Goodnight, Cath.”

“Night, Jen.”

Catherine hung up and got ready for bed. She let her thoughts drift back to her meeting with Vincent. During the night, she remembered talking with Elliot and having the feeling that she was guilty and doing something wrong. She remembered feeling something she couldn’t put words to and she slowly began to realize those feelings must have been coming from Vincent. She felt bad that he had felt her excitement earlier when she met Elliot and while she was talking with him. She knew Vincent cared for her and she cared for him too, but she wondered where their friendship actually stood.

She winced when she thought about the burns on his face. She had reached out to touch him but something in his eyes made her stop. Why didn’t she continue to reach for him? Help him?  Why was he so accepting when Eric reached out just over a month ago? With Eric and Ellie, Vincent had met them for the first time and treated his appearance with indifference. With her, he treated his appearance entirely different. He set himself apart from her. He once said, “I’m part of you Catherine, just as you’re a part of me.” Then why did he always keep her at arm's length?

Her thoughts strayed to his reason for coming here tonight. He hadn’t come to visit her or see her. He came because some people needed her help, just like the kids from Ridley Hall. He came because he was compassionate and couldn’t stand to see others suffer. “If it wasn’t for these two incidents, I wonder if he would have come to see me at all?”

With a sigh, she climbed into bed and quickly fell asleep. Her dreams took her to the Caribbean where she and Elliot walked hand in hand down the beach and enjoyed the beautiful day.

***

Vincent headed to his world Below. He sighed, knowing that Father was going to have a ton of questions when he saw him. Standing just inside the doorway, half hidden in shadows, Vincent looked over at his Father. “I’m back, I just wanted to say goodnight.”

Father looked up and acknowledged his son. “Good, I have this letter for you. It’s from Ellie and Eric. They asked that you read it the second you came in.”

Vincent knew there was no way of avoiding Father seeing his burns. If he said he would read the letter tomorrow, Father would be suspicious.  He squared his shoulders and headed down the steps.

Father handed him the letter then saw the burns on Vincent’s face. He struggled to get to his feet to get a closer look. “Dear God! What happened to you?”

“I had to put out a fire that was started in a basement.”

While he guided Vincent into better lighting, Father shook his head. “You know, they have a fire department that handles that type of thing!”

“There was no time, an older gentleman was trapped.”

Father looked at Vincent’s face and hands. There were several burns but luckily none of them were severe. “Let’s get you to the hospital chamber and get some salve on those burns. You must be in quite a bit of pain, when did this happen?”

Vincent shrugged, knowing his father would not be happy with the answer. “A few hours ago.”

Father reaction didn’t disappoint. “A few hours!!! Well, for God’s sake where have you been since then?”

“I wanted to make sure the man I helped was all right. He was, but he told me a story about how the older people in his apartment building are being harassed. I went to Catherine’s to leave her a message. Just as I was leaving, she came home.”

Father grumbled under his breath as he walked ahead of him in the tunnel. “Went to Catherine’s...didn’t even have the good sense to come home and get help...”

Vincent leaned over. “Father, it’s hard to make out what you are saying when you mumble.”

“Hmmm...Oh...what did Catherine say?”

“She promised to try to help them.”

They had arrived at the hospital chamber and Father was digging around for ointment. He discovered it and grabbed some bandages for Vincent’s hands. “Good, then you can stop worrying about them. Now, let me see your hands first.”

Father cleaned the burns and put salve on them and wrapped up the ones he could. He noticed Vincent’s odd behavior. “Are you in much pain or has something else happened?”

Vincent wanted to tell him about Catherine finding someone but no words would come. He took the easy way out. “Just pain.”

Father sighed.  “I’m sorry, I wish I could give you something but it’ll pass. Now, I’m heading to bed. Don’t forget the letter from Eric and Ellie.”

“I’ll get it now.”

Vincent walked Father back, grabbed the letter then headed off to his chamber.

***

The next day on her way to work, Catherine went to question Micha Langer. He was outside his apartment building seeing off some of his friends when she introduced herself and asked him to explain what was happening.

Micha looked at her gratefully as he explained about how they were being threatened and driven from their home. His wife, Sophie, added her thoughts as well. 

Catherine looked at them in disbelief. “And you believe all of this is organized?”

Micha looked up as a man approached. “Over there...He’s the one that sends the punks to scare us off.”

A man, Leo Mundy, came over. Catherine questioned him and he said that the older people were being offered a fair settlement. Micha reiterated that this was their home and they didn’t want to move. Leo indirectly threatened them and Catherine, then walked away.

Sophie quietly spoke. “Maybe we should do as he says, he is so powerful...”

Micha shook his head and spoke bravely. “He’s not so powerful. He sends other men to do his dirty work for him.”

Catherine was overcome with compassion for these poor people. They were old and just wanted a decent place to live out their lives. “Micha, Sophie, I promise to do everything I can to help you through this.”

Sophie nodded. “Thank you dear.”

“We can’t let them drive us from our homes,” Micha stated.

“Not again,” Sophie agreed.

Catherine looked at both of them and rushed to reassure them. “No one will be driven from their homes. I promise you, I am going to do everything I can to find out who’s behind this.”

Sophie smiled. “You’re a good girl. Please, can you stay? I made some ice tea earlier, would you like some.”

Catherine smiled at the kind woman and reached to touch her arm. “Sophie, I’m sure your ice tea is wonderful but maybe I can get some next time? I want to find out as much as I can about Leo Mundy. I’d like to get him out of the picture so that you can feel safe again.”

Micha approached. “You are certainly welcome at any time. I hope you can put these crooks away for a long time. We just want to live in peace.”

Sophie nodded in agreement.

“I’ll sure try.” Catherine smiled then headed into the office.

***

The second she walked in the door, she headed to see Joe.

Joe looked up at her. “About time, Radcliffe!”

“It’s 9:30, Joe. I’m a half hour late!”

Joe shook his head as he looked at his watch. “It’s thirty three minutes and...”

Catherine smiled coyly. “So I stopped and got you a bagel from the place on Tenth Street for nothing?”

“You didn’t say anything about bringing me a bagel.” Joe got suspicious. “Hey, are you trying to butter me up for something?”

Catherine blushed as she handed him the bag. “I need to investigate a man named Leo Mundy. He’s been harassing some senior citizens in an apartment building.”

Joe rolled his eyes. “Radcliffe, don’t I keep you busy enough? Why do you insist on finding your own cases?”

Knowing he was kidding, Catherine smirked. “Well...”

He sighed. “How’d you find out about this?”

“A friend gave me a tip...”

Joe shook his head with exasperation. “Make sure the Baker case doesn’t suffer and where’s my cream cheese?”

Catherine chuckled on her way out the door.  “In the bag.”

Catherine asked Edie to investigate Leo Mundy. She found out he called himself a Security Consultant and had a long record of brutality but had never been convicted. She went to Joe for help but he told her she would have to gather more evidence before he could help her.

Elliot called later in the day to see if Catherine had gotten the flowers he sent and to arrange another date for tonight. Her thoughts on Vincent, she hesitated for a second but readily accepted his offer. Every time she glanced at the flowers, she thought of Elliot and eagerly awaited a chance to spend time with him. He had made a wonderful impression on her.

***

Meanwhile, Vincent had felt Catherine’s excitement on and off all day. His feelings were churning through him and in his turmoil, he instinctively went and sat in his father’s library. Father noticed him come in but Vincent wordlessly sat on a chair then periodically paced the room.

“Did you need something, Vincent?”

“No…I…no.”

Father observed him for over a half an hour and Vincent’s demeanor never changed. Instinctively, Father knew that it had something to do with Catherine. He had listened to Vincent speak of her and realized that his son had fallen in love with the woman but he was powerless to do anything about it. Finally, he had to ask. “Vincent? What ways so heavy? Hmmm? Please, tell me?”

Vincent got up and walked across the room, trying to gather his thoughts. “She’s met a man…She’s falling in love.”

Father knew immediately who the she was that Vincent referred to. He was saddened by what his son would have to go through but he still wanted to help him through this stressful time. “Let her…Let her fall in love, Vincent.”

“My mind tells me to rejoice for her, that she deserves the happiness but my heart…is dying. I’m possessed by feelings I’ve never felt before…Father…it hurts.” Vincent painfully, hung his head and hid his face.

“I’ve always dreaded this moment for you and I…I suppose I’ve always known it would come. The day when your heart would lead you to long for a life that can never be, Vincent.” 

“Yes, a life that can never be.” Vincent repeated as he dejectedly turned and walked out of the room.

Father stared at his back as he left. There were no words he could speak that would soften the heartache; Vincent would just have to suffer through this.

Pascal walked into the library as Vincent walked out. He smiled at his friend but it was as if Vincent didn’t even know he was there as he walked past.

Pascal frowned at the sullen mood Vincent was in but walked up and handed Father a message. “What’s wrong with Vincent?”

Father sighed and opened the message Pascal handed him. “He dared to dream...”

Pascal looked even more confused. Father knew Pascal and Vincent had always been good friends so he went on to explain. “I fear he has dreamed about having a life that he can’t possibly have and now that dream has come crashing down around him.”

Pascal looked at him curiously. “Is this about his friend? What’s her name? Catherine?”

Father nodded his head. “Vincent just said she met a man and was falling in love. Now he’s heartbroken. Another love that will be unfulfilled.”

Pascal ignored Father’s comment about a life Vincent couldn’t have and zeroed in on the pain of unrequited love. “Maybe I should go and try to talk to him.”

Father shrugged. “What could you say? Vincent will just have to get over this on his own. We’ve all been disappointed by love in our lifetime...”

“I guess you’re right, but for Vincent it’s been over 15 years since he even dared to think about love.”

“Yes, well part of me wishes he could have remembered that pain so he wouldn’t have to go through it again.”

Pascal frowned in disagreement. As he left the chamber, he decided to find his friend to talk to him. He stood in the entrance to Vincent’s chamber and peered inside. “Hey, Vin? It’s just me.”

“What is it, Pascal?”

Pascal entered and bumped into a chair in the middle of the room. “Why’s it so dark in here?”

“I...forgot to...”

Pascal leaned into a table and struck a match and quickly lit several small candles on the table. “I thought maybe you needed someone to talk to so I sent word to Zach that I would be a little longer than expected.”

Vincent shook his head. “He’ll be surprised when you come back early, then.”

Pascal pulled out a chair and sat. “Vincent, it’s just you and me. Who’s hurt you so badly?”

Vincent sighed as he looked at his childhood friend. “Father told you?”

“He didn’t have to.” Pascal shook his head sadly. “I’ve known you my whole life. I’ve seen this look on your face too many times. Mostly when Mitch was around but why don’t you just tell me what happened?”

Vincent cringed as he thought about Mitch. He was a boy they grew up with and had bullied Vincent almost the whole time he was Below.

“I forgot for a moment who and what I was and I dared to dream about a life that someone like me can never have...”

“What do you mean, a life you can’t have?”

Vincent scowled angrily. “Look at my face, Pascal! Look at my face and not as a young boy with a favorite playmate would but as a stranger gazing on my features for the first time. What do you see?”

Pascal shrugged. “I see a man with some unusual features.”

“I don’t see a man at all…”  

“What do you see?” Pascal asked quietly as he hung his head in sympathy for the pain his friend endured.

“I…see a person…destined to be alone…”

Pascal grabbed his shoulder roughly trying to shake his friend out of his mood. “You’re a teacher, Vincent, and I’ve heard you tell more children that they can be anything they want to be. Who says your life is destined to be a certain way?”

“I should have never allowed myself to dream about a life with Catherine.”

“I thought you said you were friends.”

“We are…I…allowed myself the dream about it being something…more.”

“So…why can’t it be?”

Vincent rolled his eyes and stared at Pascal in disbelief until Pascal got angry. “Vincent, there are many people Above and Below who see you all the time who overlook your differences. We all have features we don’t like. Have you looked at my ears lately?” Pascal chuckled and flicked his extra large ears. “These things flap like Dumbo’s but I don’t care…I’m kind to people and I do my job really well and people accept me for me.”

Vincent snorted derisively at the comparison. “Large ears are easily overlooked and no reason for a woman to reject you, Pascal. They are a far cry from a face such as mine.”

“Vincent, there is no one here who has ever rejected you for any reason.”

“What about Lisa?”

“Lisa?!” Pascal gasped. “Vincent, that was years ago and you were just kids. Let’s overlook the fact that Lisa was never good enough for you. I bet your Catherine hasn’t acted like that.” Pascal slipped the comment in hoping to guide Vincent to the meat of his problem.

Vincent shrugged. “The first time Catherine saw me she threw the back of a headlight at me.”

“Why’d she do that?”

“I came up behind her and she saw my reflection and reacted.”

“I bet you just startled her! Mrs. Johnson hit me one year when I was delivering her Winterfest candle. She didn’t know I had come up behind her and she hit me with her wooden spoon,” Pascal laughed aloud.

Vincent smiled and nodded. “She did the same to me one year, only it was with a spatula.”

Pascal grew serious. “See, do you think that maybe you startled Catherine the same way?”

Vincent shrugged indifferently. “Perhaps I did.”

“So, Catherine didn’t really reject you?”

“I...guess not, not in any real sense.”

Pascal shrugged. “Vincent, you two are still getting to know one another. Catherine probably reacted instinctively that first time. You shouldn’t hold it against her; give your relationship time to grow.”

“It doesn’t matter, she’s met someone else.”

Pascal looked sadly down at the floor. “Oh, well that’s a tough one then.” Pascal heard Zach call for him over the pipes.

Vincent looked over at him. “You should go...thank you, Pascal.”

Pascal nodded and stood up. “Don’t lose hope, Vincent. Sometimes things work out unexpectedly.”

He quickly left the room and Vincent blew out the candles. He lay back on his bed and thought about the things Pascal said.

He slowly let the glimmer of hope grow into a flame as he went to sleep dreaming of a lifetime with Catherine. His dreams turned into nightmares as he envisioned being a guest at Catherine’s wedding to a faceless man in a tuxedo. 

***

Elliot Burch and Catherine Chandler were a gossip columnist’s dream come true. Elliot’s prediction was true and the morning after their exit together from the art donation, it was all over the papers.

The next night, Elliot picked Catherine up in his limousine in front of her apartment. He took her to a new restaurant where they ordered drinks and sat quietly talking, waiting for their meal.

Catherine smiled over at him. “Elliot, this place is wonderful. I can’t believe you got reservations here, there’s a three month waiting list.”

“I helped the owner get his business off the ground. He owed me one, besides nothing would be too good for you.”

She lowered her head in embarrassment and changed the subject. “You promised you would tell me about your life.”

He sighed as he took a sip of wine. “I did, didn’t I? Well it’s a typical story with not a lot to tell. I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and fought my way up to the top.”

“You’ve done well for yourself.”

He shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. “I’ve done better that most, not as good as some.”

The first course of soup came and they changed their conversations to people they knew seated about the room. For the most part, they chose to ignore them but both waved and smiled when greeted openly by the others in the room. Then they chuckled at the curious stares many of the couples were giving them.

The waiter collected their empty bowls and Catherine waited until he left to ask. “So, have you always wanted to be a developer?”

Elliot got a faraway look in his eyes. “I’ve always dreamed about leaving my mark on the world.”

“Great,” Catherine thought sarcastically then quickly shook off the feeling of dread. Elliot had made her think otherwise so she tried to stop herself from making the comparison. “I dated a man one time who felt that way...”

Elliot interrupted her. “Tom Gunther?”

Catherine looked at him with surprise. She was a private person and wondered briefly how Elliot knew. “How’d you know?”

He sighed. “When I wanted to meet you last night, I asked around. Your friends gave me your name and I remembered reading about...” Elliot stopped, realizing that talking about her attack might upset her.

“You remembered the reports of my accident.”

Elliot visibly relaxed as he realized she didn’t have a hard time talking about what was certain to be a dark time in her life. “Yes, Tom also had business dealings with some of my banking friends. I remember them talking about his unusual 'business as usual' approach when you were missing for...um...a few days, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Why would he let someone like you get away?”

Catherine sighed. “Tom was an ambitious person. Somewhere along the way he forgot the importance of being a human being. He didn’t let a lot of technicalities get in his way. Unfortunately, I became a technicality.”

“He was an idiot then, in more ways than one.”

Catherine sighed as Elliot took her hand and the waiter came over to replenish their wine.

“What about you, Elliot? What woman has broken your heart lately?”

Elliot shook his head and chuckled. “I haven’t been seriously involved with a woman in a very long time. What with planning and building and construction problems, who has time to fall in love?” He looked over at the beautiful lady across from him. “Cathy, looking at you tonight I realize that the right woman would make me want to throw all those well made plans right out the window.”

Catherine smiled at him and turned to watch the waiter who was delivering their next course. 

Elliot smiled at her. “So, what made you become a lawyer?”

“It was easier to follow in my dad’s footsteps then it was to find my own path.”

“You did it to make your dad proud?” 

“In a way, I guess I did, although now, I think he’d be prouder if I was married with a brood of his grandkids.”

He nodded his head in agreement. “The things we do for the sake of our parents. So, you’ve never been married?”

“No, what about you?”

He sighed as he nodded. “I was married for about an hour and a half when I was around eighteen. Funny thing is, she left me because I didn’t make enough money. She wanted more financial security than I was able to provide.”

“So, you have a child?”

“Me? No, why did you think...” Elliot nodded with understanding. “Oh, because we were so young?”

“I’m sorry, I just assumed...”

He shook his head as he laughed. “No, she wasn’t pregnant. We were just young and stupid. Thank God there were no kids involved.”

Catherine cocked her head and looked at him curiously. “You don’t want kids, Elliot?”

“I haven’t thought about having kids since I was twenty. I guess the thought of raising buildings instead of kids sounded more appealing. If you mess up during construction you only destroy some bricks and steel...”

Catherine grimaced as she agreed. “I’ve always said people shouldn’t have kids until they’re old enough to know what they really want in life. I see so many children who are being raised by people who should never have been allowed to have them. Sorry…I didn’t mean to get so preachy…”

“Ha! After my ex’s decided lack of emotion I love your passion, it’s refreshing.”

“Thank you, do you ever see her, Elliot…your ex?”

“No, she married some guy, has three kids and lives out on Long Island somewhere. What about you? Do you want to have kids?”

Catherine sighed. “Someday, I guess. When I know I’m settled and ready to take on that kind of responsibility. I guess some things have worked out for the best because I’ve never found a man who I trust enough to have a child with.”

Elliot nodded his head in agreement. “Trust is the hardest issue in a marriage. If you don’t trust the other person fully, there is no chance of overcoming the obstacles daily life throws at you.”

The waiter came and refilled their wine glasses again. They both refused dessert and then enjoyed another half hour of conversation over a cup of coffee. Elliot paid the check and they left the restaurant.

They walked arm in arm through the streets of the city, enjoying each other’s company. The conversation flowed freely and they marveled that they had so much in common. They knew the same people, frequented the same places and enjoyed the same food.

Elliot looked over at her and watched as the lights played across her beautiful face. He couldn’t resist and bent over and gave her a quick tentative kiss. Catherine was surprised but her heart soared as she returned the kiss. With a blush, she turned and grabbed ahold of his arm as he walked her through the streets.

“She is…almost too good to be true” he thought. He knew she had no ulterior motives in dating him. She had her own money so she didn’t need his and she had her own career so she didn’t need him to be her whole life.He was able to relax and be himself with her.

Her thoughts reflected his. “He’s a wonderful companion.” He was generous with his compliments and treated her like an equal. He said all the right things and she was beginning to care deeply for him.

They stopped walking in front of a sculpture and leaned into one another. Their kiss this time was explosive. They continued kissing, enjoying the newness of their passion. Catherine’s arms beckoned him closer and he readily obliged.

He pulled away and smiled down at her. “Cathy, I would love for this night to continue...” The question on his mind left unasked.

A small twinge of denial came from somewhere in the back of her mind. She gently put off his advances, wondering why she was doing so. “Elliot, I would love for that to happen too, but…let’s give it a little more time?”

He leaned in and kissed her gently. “Of course, you let me know when you’re ready. But I can tell you right now, I’m hooked. I’m in this for the long haul.”

Touched, Catherine kissed him back but couldn’t answer him. She liked him so much, she wondered if she was starting to fall in love. She second guessed her decision to sleep with him but something in her mind was preventing her from taking the next step.

***

That same night, as Sophie and Micha walked home from the drugstore, the thugs tried to attack them again. Vincent managed to thwart their attempt. He slashed out at one of them but the men got away and took off in their car. One of them dropped a wallet on the ground. Vincent picked it up and started to run to Catherine’s. He was only a few blocks from her apartment when he felt desire rush over him.

He stopped quickly and gasped as he realized the feelings were Catherine’s.
He held his hand against his aching heart as he headed back to the tunnels; he stopped and turned at the entrance. Bathed in moonlight, her sensations were flooding through him. He realized he was losing her and there was nothing he could do. She was falling in love with another man. The small ray of hope he harbored from the first time he met her was dying, his thoughts flooded his mind. “I could never be a part of her life. What have I been thinking? This man has everything to offer her. He can give her everything she wants, needs, desires. I have nothing to give to her.”

The pain he felt as his dream crashed down around him was almost unbearable.

Vincent stood there and looked out at the dark world for a long time. He felt Catherine’s desires flare to life and his stomach muscles clenched in protest. His heart ached in his chest. He gasped for breath and turned into the tunnel entry.

He decided he would no longer see her. He would no longer burden her with his friendship. He had made a promise to the older couple, though, and he wouldn’t let them down. He had to follow through on his commitment so he walked to his chamber and wrote a note to Catherine. He would send the wallet by messenger in the morning.

***

Catherine walked into her apartment and heard the phone ringing. She chuckled as she quickly grabbed the receiver. “Yeah, Jen. I had a good time.”

Jenny smiled into the phone. “How’d you know it was me?”

“It was your ring. Besides, it’s late at night. No one but you would call this late!”

Jenny protested. “Hey, you were up! So did you go out to eat?”

Catherine rolled her eyes. “Yes, we went to Luigi’s.”

“You’re kidding! That place has a three month waiting list! What did you do then?”

Catherine sighed. “We walked the streets and talked. He’s a great guy and before you ask...he’s an exceptional kisser!”

Jenny moaned loudly. “Well, then why are you home alone! He’s not there is he?”

“No, he’s not here! Jen, it was our first real date!”

“So! Who cares?”

“Jen, I care about him, really care about him. I think I could fall in love with him but I’m just not ready to sleep with him.”

“Hmmm, that’s interesting. I know if I were you I would have done it.”

“Jen.” Catherine warned her off.  “How’s your foot?”

Jenny took the hint. “Better, thanks for the care package.”

Catherine smiled. “Look I promise to come by and spend the whole night with you tomorrow, okay?”

“I’ll be here.”

“Bye, Jen.”

***

Father sat alone in the library reading the newspaper. In the entertainment section he saw a picture of Catherine with a very tall distinguished looking gentleman. He hated to admit but they were a strikingly beautiful couple. Even in the black and white photo, you could tell the couple dripped with wealth and prestige.

Father shook his head in disgust. “This woman would never stay with someone like Vincent. She was born into privilege and she will marry into the same level of wealth. Poor Vincent never stood a chance.” He sighed at the pain that was being inflicted on his son. He knew all parents went through this but he still ached for son. He quickly destroyed the photograph and the article and was just finished when Vincent walked in.

“Vincent, you’re back.”

“Yes, Father. Please see that this is sent to Benny for delivery tomorrow.”

Vincent handed Father the wallet and turned to leave. Father tried to call him back. “Vincent, would you like to sit for a while?”

“Thank you, Father. I thought I’d go to bed. It’s late.”

Father looked at him oddly. “Vincent, I don’t believe it’s past 11:00.”

Vincent shrugged. “I’m tired. Goodnight.”

Vincent turned and left while Father worriedly watched as he exited. 

As much as he hated to admit it, he knew Vincent had fallen in love with Catherine. He guessed it happened when Catherine was Below healing from her attack but then after they reconnected so many months later, he knew Vincent had fallen. He thought about the light in his son’s eyes when he talked of Catherine. The tone his voice took on when he mentioned her name. The faraway look he got sometimes when he was feeling her emotions through the bond.

With a sigh, Father picked up another section of the newspaper. He knew Vincent would just have to suffer through the heartbreak.

***

The next day, Benny, handed Catherine a message from Vincent. Inside the envelope were the wallet and a note.

“Hope this helps, V----”

The message was short and to the point. “Strange,” she thought. “Why didn’t he bring this to me last night?” She thought about what she did the night before and it dawned on her what happened. Her mind reeled with the implications. “Oh no! The bond! The kisses! Had he been able to feel everything I felt last night? How can I spare him this pain?” she wondered.
“Did he think we might be more than friends? He’s never approached me!? Are we anything more than good friends? Do I want something more with him? Does he want something more with me? And what about Elliot?  I really like him and have no clue where this is heading! Poor Vincent, but thank God I didn’t sleep with Elliot last night. I’ve got to find a way to get a hold of my feelings.”

Sighing, knowing there was nothing she could do right now, she hailed a taxi to get her to the office. She would have to think on this later.

The wallet had provided her enough proof to at least get the thugs that had been harassing the tenants arrested. At least, the tenants would be safe for a little while longer.

Catherine wanted to see Vincent so she sent him a message and asked him to meet her tonight at the park entrance. She wanted to update him on what had been accomplished and to try to talk about what was happening in her life.

***

Before she left, Edie walked up to her desk. She had tracked down some information and came to Catherine with her discovery. Every building on that block was owned by a different holding company, but she would need more time to come up with the answers. Catherine at least knew she was on the right track with her investigations.

Later that night, Catherine met Vincent at the park entrance to the tunnels.

She looked over at him gratefully. “I’m glad you came, I wasn’t sure you would.”

He hung his head, hiding his face from her view as he walked over to the opposite wall. “Have you been well?”

It had only been a few days since she’d seen him. She realized he was grasping at straws to make small talk with her. She wondered how they had become like strangers.

“Yes, we’ve been able to help your friend Micha and his friends. We’ve been able to put some men in jail. It’s only the beginning but the violence should stop.”

He glanced up. “Good.”

Catherine knew that Vincent was acting strangely and she guessed correctly why. “Vincent, I don’t want to cause you any pain.”

“Don’t struggle, Catherine. There’s no need.”

She pleaded with him to make her understand. “No need? Why?”

“Because we know, we always knew that this bond between us was only a dream we shared.”

She thought about all the times in the past that thoughts of Vincent had comforted her and she had been able to get through the day and most times through the night. She shook her head in desperation. “A dream?! No Vincent, our bond is the most real thing I’ve ever known, more than anything in my whole life.”

Vincent asked the question that was burning a hole in his heart. “Do you love this man?”

Catherine sighed. “So he did know how I felt,” she thought “How could I have done this to him? Why hadn’t I thought about his feelings? He had felt everything…damn…” She shook her head again and tried to reassure him. “I don’t know, but if I do, it won’t change anything. I won’t let it!”

“Someday…someone will come and you’ll live another life and dream another dream.” His face contorted with the pain he could no longer hide.

“I don’t want to lose you, Vincent!”

Before he broke down, Vincent walked away without another word, but he couldn’t help himself from turning back to look at her one last time.

After the steel door to the tunnel entrance shut, she turned and left. She liked Vincent so much. He was probably her best friend in the whole world, the one constant in her crazy life. And Elliot?  Elliot was another part of her crazy life. She was unsure how she felt about him. She thought that he was someone she could easily fall in love with but something was holding her back.

Feeling miserable, she turned and walked home.

***

The next day at work, Catherine went to see Edie. Edie had discovered that the holding companies all used the same New York city street address. Catherine wrote down the address, thanked Edie then set off to find who was doing business at that address.

Catherine wasn’t surprised when she found herself at a lawyer’s office. She walked in and immediately recognized Elliot’s attorney. She clamped down on the sinking feeling in her stomach as he looked at her trying to remember why she looked so familiar.

“Have we met?” Elliot’s lawyer questioned.

“Almost. The other night at the museum opening.”

“Ah, yes of course. You’re Elliot’s a…new friend…come in. Please sit.” He motioned her to a chair. “What can I do for you?”

Catherine handed him a list of names then asked him who the principals were on the holding companies of these names and addresses.

He refused to answer, claiming client confidentiality. In her heart, she already knew the answer but she inquired anyway if these holding companies belonged to Elliot Burch. Again, he refused to answer her and politely escorted her out of his office.

Catherine thought long and hard about the case. These men were harassing and terrorizing senior citizens to get control of a building, actually a whole city block, in fact.

Who would have plans for a whole city block? She feared that the paper trail would lead her directly to Elliot. She had hoped that she was wrong and Elliot would prove to be nothing like Tom but she was afraid he was more like him then she originally thought.

She couldn’t believe that the man she was falling in love with could be so heartless. She couldn’t believe he would allow people to be hurt for the sake of a building project. She couldn’t believe that the man who could treat her like a princess one day could treat others like pawns the next.

Catherine had to see Elliot. She had to ask him these questions as she looked into his eyes. She hoped he would be able to dispel the dark thoughts that had crept into her mind and they could put this all behind them and move forward in their relationship.

***

Across town, Elliot Burch was sitting at his desk and absently picked up his ringing phone.

“Mr. Arthur is on line one, he’s says it’s urgent.”

“He’s an attorney, it’s always urgent,” Elliot grimaced as he hung up and picked up the line on hold.

“Burch.”

“Elliot, its Arthur.”

“I’m busy Arthur, this better be important.”

“Catherine Chandler just left my office and I believe she may be heading to see you.”

Elliot immediately stopped what he was doing. “Cathy came to see you? Why?”

“She managed to track the ownership of the Tower Development properties to me. She found I was the principal attorney on all of the locations.”

“Why would that have any interest to her?” Elliot wondered briefly if he was wrong in his assessment of her and she really was a gold digger.

“The District Attorney’s office is investigating some claims made by some of the residents in the last occupied building.”

“I thought they’d all be empty by now.”

“Elliot, we offered those people up to four times the value of their current homes in addition to moving expenses.”

“Well, that seems more than fair.”

“I thought so too.”

“So why would the District Attorney’s office have any interest in that?”

Arthur cleared his throat. “I…um…hired a firm to handle the negotiations. Let’s just say that the men they sent got a little rough.”

“What do you mean, Arthur?” Elliot asked with a feeling of dread.

“They…um…got a little exuberant trying to convince the occupants to take the generous offers.”

“You’re beating around the bush! Exactly what crimes are they being investigated for?”

“Petty stuff…disconnecting the elevator and turning off the hot water heater.”

“Well, that’s inconvenient but nothing that would turn the heads of the District Attorney’s office.”

“There’s more…when they didn’t get the desired results they started vandalizing the apartments and threatening the occupants.”

“You can’t do that!” Elliot exclaimed.

“Look, Elliot, they're a bunch of stubborn senior citizens who refuse to leave their homes. If you have any hopes of starting that project in the spring, you need to get them out of there!”

“Stubborn senior citizens! You hired goons to rough up a group of elderly people. No one thought to go down there and sweeten the deal for them? Let’s just rough them up a little! So now the authorities are involved.”

“I don’t know, you’d have to ask Miss Chandler.”

Elliot frowned as he called Catherine’s office and then her home trying to talk to her. He was frustrated with the lack of response, but left several messages on her home machine as well as with the receptionist at work.

***

Catherine went back work where she discovered that the thugs they apprehended were out on bail and she angrily stomped into Joe’s office.

She ranted in anger that they had posted bail and were back on the streets. Joe sympathized with her but only offered to see about an increase in patrols.

She was so angry; she decided to go and confront Elliot at work, hoping if it were true he would be able to call off his dogs and keep the people safe.

On her way out, Edie stopped her. “Whoa, girlfriend! Is you’re desk on fire?”

Catherine scowled. “No, I just have a hunch I need to check it out.”

“Why are you so angry then? Afraid it won’t be true?”

Catherine sighed. “No, actually I’m more afraid it will be!”

Edie nodded her head. “Cathy, I don’t want to be the one to tell you this, but those holding companies are registered to...”

Catherine raised her hand to stop her and with tears in her eyes sighed. “I think I already know, Edie. You don’t have to tell me.”

Catherine walked past her friend. “Sorry, Cathy.” Edie called out to her back.

***

Catherine marched passed a sea of reporters waiting for their press conference and passed his secretary and right into Elliot’s office.

Elliot hung up the phone as she walked in the room and smiled gratefully at her. “Cathy, I’ve been trying to reach you all morning. I just got off the phone with Arthur, he told…”

She interrupted him. “You own the building.”

“Well, yes I…I had no idea what was going on…you gotta believe me, I didn’t…”

She interrupted again. “Leo Mundy works for your management company!”

Elliot sighed. “Cathy, I’ve got hundreds of employees! I can’t monitor everyone of them. Listen, I’m appalled at the things that have been going on.”

“I’m not so sure, Elliot!”

She tried to stop herself. Why was she thinking these things about him? Why couldn’t she just trust in him to tell her the truth?

“Oh please!” he said in disgust, unsure of why she didn’t believe him.

“I think these old people are just obstacles to you, to be removed regardless of the price.”

“That’s not true and…even if it was, what are we talking about, thirty people, fifty people? The project I’m planning for that block will employ ten thousand people. When it’s complete it will generate millions of dollars of new jobs, revitalize the neighborhood.”

She was getting very angry and blew up.  “At what price? We’re talking about human beings!”

He tried to reason with her. “I’ve been very, very generous with these people.”

Doubts had begun to creep in and she felt like she was having a conversation with Tom again. And now, there it was…his admission. He did know about the bribes to get these people to move!

“You are rationalizing everything you’ve done! Men on your payroll have tried to murder people!” she accused angrily.

He tried to gain control of the conversation again. “Honey, that’s a pretty wild accusation...”

She looked at him in disgust. “I don’t have enough to go public yet but I promise you this isn’t over.”

She turned and stormed from his office, holding back her tears. He chased her out the door but was caught short by the reporters hovering outside his office.

Her heart was broken. How could she have been so misguided? How could she have been so easily fooled? Was Elliot really that ruthless? Did lives mean so little to him? How could she have fallen for someone with so little compassion? Was the thrill of the takeover all that mattered to him? “My God! How could I have been so wrong, he is just like Tom!

She was hurt…deeply hurt and her composure broke as the tears started to fall.

***

Catherine went back to work and as she walked past his office, Joe called her inside. She meekly entered the room.

Joe thought she looked like she’d been crying but he wisely didn’t ask her about it. Edie had supplied him with the information she found on Burch. He suspected correctly that Catherine just had a confrontation with him.

“We’ve increased patrols and sent the people in the building notice of the punks’ release. They were told to be extra vigilant.”

Catherine nodded her head. “Thanks, I’m planning on heading over to see them tonight. I feel like I owe them that much.”

Catherine’s voice was husky and Joe knew then that she had been crying. “Hey, it’s pretty slow around here if you want to take off early.”

Catherine looked up at him and smiled gratefully. “Joe, who are you trying to kid? It’s never slow around here. But, I’ve got a couple of things to finish up, then I’ll leave.”

“Okay, kiddo. See you tomorrow.”

Joe nonchalantly picked up some files on his desk and pretended to read them. Catherine headed out and back to her desk, thankful that Joe was being so understanding.

***

Vincent sat pouring over maps in the library. Father walked in and came over by him.

“You’re checking the maps, is there something wrong?”

Vincent looked at his Father then shook his head. “No, I was walking along a tunnel in the lower south side of the city and saw an entrance to a tunnel I’ve never seen before. I thought I would check into it. I can’t find it here on the maps.”

Father shrugged as he opened a book. “Perhaps with all the rain some walls have collapsed and exposed a new tunnel. Have you asked Mouse about it?”

No answer came so Father looked up and saw that Vincent was looking off in a daze. “Vincent?” He tried again, even louder. “Vincent?”

Vincent snapped to attention but there was a look of pain in his eyes. “Sorry, Father.”

Father grumbled. “Is it Catherine, again?”

Vincent nodded. “She’s in deep emotional turmoil.”

“Like what she put you through?”

Vincent ignored his comment. “I think she may be crying.”

Father shook his head in disgust. “Well, it’s daylight and there’s nothing you can do about it right now.”

“Catherine is my friend, Father. I don’t wish to see her in pain.”

Father snorted in anger. “She had no problem causing you pain...”

Vincent interrupted him, immediately defending her. “Father, Catherine doesn’t know how I feel about her. The pain I feel is my own fault. She was concerned about my feelings and said she valued our bond and promised to not let things change.”

Father exploded. “Vincent! How can you be so naive? Do you think she is going to get married and have kids then sneak off to this world to read books with you? Or do you envision yourself reading with her and her husband, their children on the floor in front of you?”

Father winced when he realized how harsh he had been. He truly didn’t want to hurt Vincent but he wanted to make him realize how absurd his relationship with Catherine was. He wisely searched for another subject. “So, did you ask Mouse about the tunnel?”

“No, perhaps I’ll go find him now and see what he knows.”

“Good idea, Vincent.”

Vincent left quickly. Father turned his attention to his book. His thoughts on Catherine were not very nice. “So the little princess had a tiff with her new lover, I suppose now she’ll be back again full force.”  He shook is head disgustedly then felt his heart soften as he frowned. He knew how painful it was to lose someone you love and was sad that anyone had to go through that. With a sigh, he picked up a book.

***

That night Catherine went to sit with Micha and Sophie. She wanted to tell them to be extra cautious because Leo Mundy’s men were back out on the streets. She felt it was her job to help them since they were strong enough to testify for her. She told them she had ordered extra patrols for the area but she didn’t know if it would be enough.

Mishca was resting and Sophie invited her to stay for dinner. Catherine accepted and spent an enjoyable meal with the older couple.

Sophie had served a very simple meal and Catherine, mindful of the small amount of food that had been prepared, carefully took small amounts.

Sophie reprimanded her. “You need to eat more than that! You’re just a little slip of a thing!”

Catherine was starving but would never say so. She knew these people lived on a fixed income. It worried her to think that they would offer her everything and not have enough for themselves. So Catherine, not wanting to hurt their feelings, lied. “Thank you, Sophie but I ate a late lunch. I’m not very hungry right now.”

Catherine helped clean the dishes. After dinner, the phone rang. It was another tenant warning about intruders in the building.  The phone went dead while Sophie was still talking and then the lights went out. Catherine and Sophie hid in one of the abandoned apartments while Micha ran to organize the other tenants, hoping as a group they could try to protect themselves.

Leo and his men were breaking down doors looking for the old people. As they got closer, Catherine’s fear exploded and Vincent ran to help her. The thugs were fighting the old people in the hallway when Leo came across the room Catherine and Sophie were hiding in.

Catherine fought back and they struggled as they made their way out into the hallway.

Suddenly, Vincent crashed through the window. He quickly disposed of the two men and advanced on Leo. Leo backed away from the snarling beast in front of him. Not looking where he was going, he tripped over one of his own men and fell through the open window to his death.

Vincent whirled around to see that Catherine and the others were all right. Sirens could be heard in the distance, nodding to him indicating that she was okay, she prompted him to go before the police came.

Vincent made his escape as the police cars pulled up to the front of the building.

***

Micha led the group to the first floor so they could speak to the police. An officer approached them as they were coming out of the building.

“I’m Officer Carter, is everyone all right?”

He saw that most of the tenants nodded. A few of the men had bruises and cuts on their faces. “Can someone tell me what happened here?”

Catherine came forward. “Officer Carter, I’m Catherine Chandler with the DA’s office. I was here informing these people that the men they bravely identified in a police line-up had been released and were back on the streets. These same men came here tonight and started a fight. As you can see by the bruises on some of the people, they were not just threatening them this time.”

The officer nodded. Micha came forward. “That’s right. The men cut the power and the phone lines and came at us with bats. We armed ourselves and fought back. Two of the men are upstairs on the third floor. I believe they may still be alive. A third man, Leo Mundy tripped over his friend and fell out the window. No one was even near him when it happened.”

The officer nodded as he wrote down all the information. He nodded to his partner who came forward. He and several other officers had made their way into the building. “Four guys down. Three on the third floor, two were unconscious, one has deep cuts in his chest and back, he’s dead, the third guy was on the ground level, must’ve fallen out of the window. All four had weapons of some sort and nylon masks on them.”

Officer Carter turned back to the group. “Can any of you explain how the man had cuts to his chest and back?”

One of the older men shrugged as he held up a gardening tool. “It happened so fast, I could have done it...”

Catherine knew they were covering for Vincent and rushed to assure him. “Don’t worry. No jury would convict you, it was self defense.”

The officer nodded again. “That’s true. Do all of you collaborate with this man’s story? Does anyone have anything to add?”

Heads nodded and the police officer began to write their names. Catherine sighed as she handed her business card to the officer then said goodbye to the tenants.

***

Below, Vincent marveled at Catherine’s strength. He knew that most of the day her heart had been broken and that emotionally she was spent. He had felt the depth of her despair and guessed that something had happened between Elliot and her, something that angered her as well as saddened her. He also knew the moment she broke down and cried for all those lost dreams.

He ran to grab a book from his chamber. He jotted a quick note in it then left to take it to her balcony before she got back, mindful of her need for privacy.

***

Catherine left Micha and Sophie and thought about heading Below to thank Vincent for saving her tonight but she remembered that after the last time he was called to protect her, he went away for a few days. She decided to give him the space she was sure he needed.

Elliot caught up with Catherine at her apartment complex. She was not in a good mood after nearly being killed by men on his payroll. It gave her the strength to fight him. She told him she had enough on his management company to stop his project. The people would be safe in their homes. She walked away from him in disgust, shamed by the person he actually was.

After she entered her apartment, she succumbed again to her heartbreak. She changed into pajamas and went out onto the balcony to gaze at the city. She saw a book on the table in front of her and discovered it was a book on sonnets written by Shakespeare.

Vincent had carefully inscribed it…“Shakespeare knew everything” then left a dried rose marking a particular passage where she should read.

When in disgrace with fortune in men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate
Wishing me, like to one more rich in hope
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope
With what I most enjoy contented least
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising
Haply I think on thee and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Catherine thought fondly about Vincent. He understood everything and even as much as she had hurt him, he still came to her to ease her burden of heartbreak. Not intruding, but giving her the space she needed, while surrounding her gently with his thoughts.

The phone rang inside her apartment. Earlier Elliot had tried to call so Catherine let the machine pick it up. She heard Jenny’s voice so she ran inside to answer.

“Hi, Jen.”

Catherine’s voice was husky from unshed tears and Jenny knew immediately that something was wrong. “Hey, what’s up? Are you okay?”

Catherine sighed and sat down on the end of the bed. “I will be...”

“Something happened with Elliot, right?”

Jenny guessed correctly and Catherine smiled at her friend’s intuition. “Yeah, it did.”

“Want to tell me about it?”

Catherine paused for a second. “Let’s just say he was more like Tom than I care to admit...”

“Aww Cath, I’m sorry, I know you really liked him.”

Catherine sniffled. “Yeah, I did. But unlike Tom, this one really hurts.”

“Well, there’s not much I can say. If it wasn’t for this stupid ankle I would bring over a gallon of that double chocolate chunk and some topping.”

Catherine giggled. “Thanks, that’s just what my hips need!”

Jenny sighed. “It’ll get better. Somewhere out there is a great guy waiting for you.”

Catherine smiled as her thoughts went to Vincent. “You’re right Jen, there is.”

“Maybe he’ll have a brother for me.”

Catherine laughed harder. “Jenny Aronson! You are impossible!”

Jenny laughed with her then stopped. “Hey Cath, my mom just got here I’ve got to go.”

“Tell her I said hi and Jen? Thanks!”

“Anytime, bye Cath.”

***

At work the next day, Elliot looked up as the police walked into his office.

“Elliot Burch?”

“Yes.”

“I’m Detective Greg Hughes from the 33rd precinct.”

“Yes.”

“I’d like to ask you some questions about your Attorney, Ralph Arthur.”

“As of 9:30 pm last night, Mr. Arthur is no longer in my employ.”

“Can I ask why?” Greg wondered.

“In an attempt to prove his worth to me, I discovered that Arthur made some questionable decisions in the past few months.”

Greg chuckled sarcastically. “Arthur has been arrested for hiring Leo Mundy’s firm. It was proven by the men who worked for Leo that Arthur had informed him to get the tenants out of that building any way that they could. He had approved their less than ethical means and even offered a bonus if they were out by the end of the month.”

Elliot nodded. “If he would have taken ten minutes to run a check he would have discovered that Mundy is bad news.”

“Mundy was bad news. He’s dead, he fell out of the window of your apartment building last night.”

“What?!”

“He and his men tried to convince the remaining residents to leave and they went there last night. The residents banded together and fought them off.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“Nope, Mundy’s dead and two more were unconscious. The fourth guy was shredded by a garden rake and bled to death.”

“The old people killed a guy?”

“District Attorney’s office had someone there. She testified that Mundy came after her personally. They struggled and she shoved him. He fell over his friend and fell out the window. She guaranteed it was self defense.”

Elliot gasped. “Who was there?”

He already knew the answer and his stomach rolled when Hughes told him it was Catherine Chandler. He was sick with worry and called Catherine’s apartment and office several times but she refused his call. He tried to stop by her apartment but the doorman wouldn’t let him inside. He sent letters to her but they were returned as well. His heart ached with the need to explain to her what had happened, to prove to her he wasn’t involved.

With a sigh, he left to go home to his mansion.

***

Below, a few days later, Vincent was reading the newspaper when he came across an article regarding Catherine and Elliot. He caught his breath and groaned softly. Father looked over at him.

“What is it, Vincent?”

Vincent sighed. “My suspicions have just been confirmed. There’s an article on Catherine and Elliot Burch in the paper.”

Father nodded and waited patiently for Vincent to comment further. When nothing more was said he impatiently asked. “Well are you going to tell me what it says or can I read it?”

Vincent shrugged. “It says that Catherine was seen leaving Elliot’s office just before the press conference. The reporter inferred that Catherine looked like she was crying. He also indicates that it took Elliot several moments to compose himself and conduct his interview. It goes on further and explains how Catherine was instrumental in shutting down Elliot’s latest building contracts. They’re calling it a multi-million dollar lover’s spat.”

Father sighed as well. “At least Catherine was able to help those people keep their homes.”

Vincent shook his head. “But the price for her was heartache.”

Father narrowed his eyes. “For you too, I suspect.” Vincent shrugged his comment off but Father continued. “Vincent, can I offer some advice...”

Vincent looked up at him angrily. “Father, if you’re going to tell me to stay away...”

Father interrupted him. “No, I wouldn’t do that again. I was merely going to suggest that you give Catherine a little time to come to terms with everything that has happened recently.”

Vincent nodded, surprised his Father had offered this insight. “Thank you, Father. I think perhaps that’s a good idea.”

Vincent sent her a few notes over the next few weeks. She smiled whenever she saw Benny or the sandwich man coming towards her. The notes never said anything of importance they were just a reminder to her that he was near. She wondered when she would see him again.

With a smile, she opened up the next case file.

 

THE END