BETWEEN THE LINES SERIES
A NEW BEGINNING
On a quiet night in New York City, a shadowy figure made his way through an unusually deserted Central Park. An audible sigh could be heard coming from him in the thin, crisp air as he recounted the argument he had with his father just an hour earlier:
“Father, I’m going Above.”
“What?! Again?! You know it’s not safe for you up there!”
“I’ll be safe.”
The elder gentleman shook his head in disgust. “Why? Why must you go Above?”
“It’s been a long Winter. It seems like months since I went Above.”
“You went not three weeks ago!”
“Father, you know the weather prevented me from spending any time Above.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake! For the life of me I can’t imagine what you hope to find; but Vincent, I can assure you, there is nothing up there for you!
“Father, there is so much beauty to behold...the night sky,...the moon and the stars, fresh clean air, the damp grass…soft under my feet....”
“Pffftt...and I suppose nothing I say can deter you?” At his son’s shrug, his father sighed and blew out a long breath then pleaded with him to listen to his warning. “Please be careful.”
Vincent turned away as he rolled his eyes. “I will, Father!”
It was the same conversation they had countless times before; and now, once again, he was returning home unharmed from yet another uneventful night. Feeling a bit smug at proving his father wrong, he chuckled amusedly as the scene played out in his mind.
Suddenly, the sound of squealing of tires made him stop mid-step then run to take refuge behind the huge trunk of a nearby tree. Hidden in the shadows, he peered around the tree and silently observed a van as it slowed to a crawl. He watched as a large bundle was thrown from the van’s side door. It rolled several times before it came to a stop as the van sped away into the night.
Curiosity made him walk towards the bundle; he wondered if whatever it was would be of any use in his world. He gasped when he got closer and realized “the bundle” was actually a person. He slowly backed away and hid in the shadows, trying to detect movement from the body. It only took a few moments before he realized the person hadn’t moved and was probably unconscious, or more likely, dead.
As he walked closer, he detected the strong odor of blood seconds before he saw a woman’s bare leg peering out from beneath a long coat. He gently turned her over then gasped in horror. In the moonlight, he saw deep cuts marring the woman’s face. They were bleeding profusely and he felt immediately for the strength of her pulse. He determined quickly that she wouldn’t survive long enough to make it to a hospital. Making an impulsive decision, he gathered her up in his arms and carried her towards his home.
While he ran, he thought about the path in front of him; and he knew he would never be able to carry her cradled against his chest all the way home. He came across his first obstacle on a winding staircase. He winced with compassion when she moaned as he shifted her weight over his shoulder. He knew the fireman’s hold he needed to use would only increase the loss of blood from her wounds but it couldn’t be helped. He descended the stairs as quickly as he dared without putting them both at risk.
At the bottom, he shifted her back against his chest. He took a risk and chanced another look at her face. She whimpered as she stared at him with eyes that couldn’t focus in the darkness. Then, she suddenly lashed out with her hand. His quick reflexes stopped her hand from connecting with the side of his face.
“No! I’m not Carol!”
He ached with compassion at the pain and fear evident in her voice and couldn’t help but try to comfort her. “Shhh, I won’t hurt you.”
The woman frowned in confusion at his kindness and pleaded with him, “Help me! Please, help me!”
“I will.…” Before Vincent could say any more, her head rolled back and she was unconscious once again. Several times after that, he had to carry her over his shoulder again; but mercifully, she never woke for the rest of the way home.
Luckily, it was late enough and he encountered few people along the way, so he was able to make the journey with unusual speed. He raced into his father’s chamber carrying the woman. “Father, I need your help!”
The older gentleman turned to him and narrowed his eyes at the bundle in his son’s arms. His concern was immediate. “Who is it, Vincent? Who got hurt?”
Vincent shook his head as he looked down at the woman. “I don’t know, Father. I found her in the park.”
“What??!! Have you gone completely mad?!” Father sputtered in rage as he walked over to his son’s side. “Why would you....” His anger quickly vanished as he peered at the face of the woman and his medical training took over. “My God! Get her to the hospital chamber! Hurry, Vincent!”
Vincent quickly followed his instructions as his father followed closely behind him then disappeared as he went to prepare himself for emergency surgery.
The bleeding had worsened on her rough journey Below, and you could almost feel the intensity in the air. Few words were spoken between the two men as his father carefully cleaned and stitched the woman’s face.
“How’s her pulse?” Father asked.
“Vincent, I don’t know if she’ll make it through this.”
“Certainly we must try!”
“Of course, but…my God…even if she makes it.…” the older man sputtered in exasperation. “This woman needs a plastic surgeon! I fear, no matter what I do, I won’t be able to keep the scarring down to a minimum.”
“Father, she’ll be alive. There are worse things in life to cope with than a few scars!”
Father worked quickly and efficiently as Vincent anticipated his needs and handed him the proper instruments when needed.
Once the cuts were stitched and the bleeding was stopped, Father sighed and relaxed for the first time; and he and turned his attention towards Vincent. “You better call Mary to help me.”
Vincent nodded and quickly left the room to tap out a message on the pipes. Father checked the woman’s eyesight with his penlight flashlight and saw that the pupils were dilating normally. He blew out the breath he’d been holding, grateful that her eyesight seemed unaffected.
Vincent walked in and observed his examination. “Her eyes?”
Father looked up and offered a half smile. “I think they’re fine. The injuries were close but nothing seems to have been damaged.”
Father was already holding the woman’s wrist and staring at his watch. “Stronger.…” He heard a noise beyond the curtain. “Now go wait outside, I think Mary has arrived.”
Mary, a kind hearted woman, dashed into the room. “Yes, it’s me. I was just around the corner when you called. Who’s been hurt?”
Vincent sighed. “A woman. I saw her thrown from a van in the park.…”
Mary frowned as she walked around the privacy curtain. “She must have been in bad shape for you to bring her here!”
“Yes, well, she is; but that still doesn’t support his decision to bring her Below!” Father grumbled as he looked angrily at Vincent. “You should wait outside.”
“Who could’ve done such a thing?!” Mary gasped as she looked at the long lines of stitches around the woman’s face.
“An animal!” Vincent said quietly from around the curtain.
Mary and Father examined the rest of the woman’s body. They removed her clothes and Mary quickly covered her with a sheet. Father felt for broken bones along her arms and legs. When none were found, he discreetly opened the sheet and felt along her torso.
With a grimace, he nodded towards Mary. “She has a few broken ribs...”
“We’ll have to tape them then?” Mary asked Father as he nodded his answer. “Should I get Vincent to help us?”
He and Mary taped the ribs securely, and Mary dressed the woman in a warm, long sleeved gown.
Father cleared his throat as he looked at Mary candidly. “When you undressed her…was she...I mean to ask…has she...been...um...violated?”
Mary shook her head. “I don’t think so, her underclothes were intact, and I didn’t see any signs of trauma.”
Father nodded in relief. He went out to see his son who was anxiously pacing in the other room.
Vincent’s pacing stopped as he readied himself for the news. “Father, how is she?”
Father shrugged his shoulders worriedly. “I don’t know! She’s lost a lot of blood, and you saw how many stitches were required. She has some broken ribs as well.” He expelled a long breath and sighed as he continued. “But…she…seems to resting comfortably now. Did you see it happen?”
Vincent shook his head. “No. I saw a bundle thrown from a moving van. When I went to see what it was, I found her.”
Smiling ruefully, Father rolled his eyes. “And as usual, you brought her to me to try to rescue.” Before Vincent could retort, he waved his hand in the air dismissively. “No matter. I wonder who she is. Dressed as she was, she certainly isn’t a prostitute or homeless. She is certain to have someone looking for her.”
Vincent shrugged and paced the floor. “I saw something thrown out with her, perhaps it was a purse. I’ll go up and look for it.”
Father sputtered angrily again. “You will not! What if the people who did this to her decide to come back to make sure she’s dead? Had you thought of that?! Of course not! No, Vincent, it is safer for you down her. Besides, you have a patient to take care of. Now, where do you suppose she should rest while she’s healing, hmmm? You know the guest chambers are too far away for her to be and....”
Vincent raised his hand and interrupted his ramblings. “Father, please! I’ll take care of her. She can recover in my chamber.”
Father turned to him in shock. “In your chamber?! You have gone mad!”
Vincent chuckled as he shook his head. “It’s close to you in case of an emergency and no one will be inconvenienced if she is with me. Besides, her face is heavily bandaged; she won’t be able to see me. Can she be moved safely?”
Father thought for a moment then nodded. “If you’re careful...yes, I guess she could be moved.”
Vincent turned and walked behind the curtain and over to the operating table where Mary was fussing over the patient. He leaned over and kissed Mary’s forehead. “Thank you for helping, Mary.”
Mary smiled up at him. “You’re welcome, Vincent. The poor dear, I hope she’ll be okay, she’s been through a terrible ordeal.”
Mary had looked back down at the woman while Vincent sighed and looked nervously at the floor. He dreaded asking the question but he wanted to know exactly what the woman had been through; what exactly he would have to contend with when she woke up.
Summoning the strength, he looked up tentatively. “Mary, her clothes were intact but I wonder was she....”
Mary shook her head, knowing what he was going to ask. “No, thankfully she was untouched; she’ll have enough to deal with when she wakes up.”
Once again, Mary turned her attention to the young woman and began to straighten her blankets. Vincent reached out to still her hands. “You don’t need to cover her. I’m taking her to my chamber to recover.”
Mary’s only reaction to this bit of news was to nod. “Okay, pick her up carefully. Be mindful of her ribs.” She chuckled aloud. “But I don’t have to tell you that do I? You already know how painful broken ribs are.”
Vincent nodded as he gently lifted the woman and left the room. He cradled her against his chest as he walked to his chamber.
Mary walked behind him holding the IV and stand as they made their way to his chamber. She quickly placed the stand at the head of the bead and hung the IV bag then rushed to begin pulling back the covers on his bed. “Give me a minute, Vincent while I change the sheets.”
“There’s no need, one of the children spilled grape juice in here earlier, I just changed them this morning.” Vincent explained as he settled the woman into his bed. She moaned softly but relaxed into his pillow.
“Fate steps in. Why today of all days did someone spill juice?!” Mary chuckled as she covered the woman up with several blankets and made sure she was sleeping. “She seems comfortable. If you need me, don’t hesitate to call.”
“Father is near as well.”
Mary turned and left while Vincent walked over to his chair. He was just going to sit when Father walked in.
“I’ll need to put in this catheter.”
“All right, I’ve done all I can for right now,” he said abruptly as he left.
Vincent knew he was angry, and he sighed as he made himself comfortable in his chair then reached for a book and began to read.
Two hours later, Father walked into his chamber. “Any change?”
“No, she still seems to be resting comfortably.”
Father nodded his head. “I’m retiring for the evening. If you need me for any reason….”
Vincent stood up and walked over to him as he interrupted. “I’ll come for you.” Father turned to walk away, and Vincent reached for his arm and stilled him. “Father, I know this is the last thing you would have wished for.”
“Yes, that’s true,” he said as he grimaced. He thought for a moment and resigned himself for the coming backlash of his son’s actions and sighed aloud. “But....”
Vincent cocked his head and smiled endearingly. “But you understand after seeing the condition she was in why I made the decision I made.”
“Yes. You’ll still have to answer to the council, though.”
“I know, thank you for your help.”
Father offered a half smile in acknowledgement. “Goodnight, Vincent.”
The woman slept soundly the entire night. In the morning, Father came by early to check on his patient. Vincent was asleep in a nearby chair, and Father went over and touched his shoulder.
Vincent sat upright immediately and looked at the woman. Seeing her still asleep in the same position as before, he visibly relaxed and looked at his father.
“Good morning, son. How did our patient fare last night?”
“She slept soundly.”
Father frowned and walked over to the woman. “Hmmm.” He felt her pulse and discovered it was normal then felt her limbs to see if they were cold. “If she doesn’t awaken by...say lunchtime...we’ll have to send for more fluids.”
“She’ll awaken soon.” Vincent replied confidently.
Father shrugged. “We can only hope.”
Mary came into the chamber and was greeted by the two men. She smiled then turned to Vincent. “I have some free time this morning. Go get yourself a decent breakfast and maybe a bath. I’ll sit with the woman while you’re gone.”
Vincent shook his head. “Mary, I can’t ask you...”
Mary interrupted him with a touch to his arm. “You didn’t ask, I offered, now be a good boy and scoot!”
Vincent smiled then leaned over and kissed Mary on the cheek. “Thank you. I won’t be long.”
Mary shrugged as she sat in a big chair. “Doesn’t matter, I have my knitting with me, take all the time you need.”
The two men walked into the dining chamber and were bombarded with questions from the other tunnel dwellers.
Father raised his hand to silence everyone. “Please, I’ll tell you all that I know. Vincent found a woman in the park last night. She had been attacked and then dumped there to die. Her condition was critical, and she wouldn’t have survived a trip to the hospital; so Vincent chose to bring her Below. We operated and did the best we could for her. She had extreme blood loss, but for now her condition is stable. She’s resting in Vincent’s chamber; and until she leaves, his chamber is off limits to everyone! For no reason is anyone to go to see him there! Is that understood?”
The members of the community each nodded as they let the seriousness of the situation sink in. Vincent had brought a stranger Below, and their security was now compromised. A few of the members of the council started to talk among themselves, knowing they would be called shortly to have an emergency meeting.
Vincent finished quickly and stood. “I’ll go relieve Mary.”
Father frowned. “You can eat more than that if you’d like. Mary said not to rush.”
“The woman’s care is my responsibility, Father. I can’t expect anyone to do more than they have already done.”
“Vincent, you know I will help in any way I can.”
“I know, but the reason she’s down here is because of me. I alone accept the burden of that decision.”
The minute Vincent left the room, people started to approach Father to ask more questions.
After lunch, Father came in again. “How is she?”
“She wakes for the briefest of moments then falls back asleep. I don’t think an IV will be necessary, Father. I’m certain I can get her to take fluids each time she wakes.”
Father frowned as he calculated his limited supplies then finally sighed as he nodded in agreement. “If you’re certain?” At his son’s nod he removed the IV and put a bandage on the small needle mark. “She seems stable now; perhaps we should contact a helper and see about getting her transported to a hospital.”
“Perhaps,” Vincent answered evasively.
“Perhaps?! Vincent, she needs to go Above before she becomes aware of her surroundings!”
“Father, can you honestly say that I can carry her safely through the tunnels? How will her ribs fare when I throw her over my shoulder while I make my way up the spiral staircase? Will her head dangling down my back cause any unnecessary pressure on her sutures?
Vincent sat down and began to write in his journal. An hour later, a moan came from the bed, and he ran to her side.
“No!” she called out.
She began to thrash about, and Vincent grabbed her arms and held them. “No one will harm you, shhh….”
Vincent immediately let go, and she started to wildly flail her arms about, fighting off her imaginary attackers. He gently took hold of her arms again as he whispered. “I won’t harm you. It’s over. You’re safe now!”
Eventually she seemed to hear him, take comfort in his words, and she settled down once again.
“I have some tea here; let me help you take a sip.…”
“Try to take a little more.” Vincent advised.
She took enough to satisfy her thirst and then quickly fell back asleep.
This pattern was repeated over the course of the next eight hours. Vincent’s only consolation was that it was taking less and less time to pull her from her nightmares.
Father finally walked in and assessed her condition “She seems to be sleeping peacefully.”
“I got her to drink some of the tea you sent, but when she wakes, she’s disoriented; and she’s having nightmares, Father.”
“I can slowly reduce the amount of sedative she’s getting.…”
“Sedative?!” Vincent interrupted in disbelief.
“You’ve been drugging her to keep her asleep?! Did you have hopes of removing her from here before she could awaken?”
Father rolled his eyes with disgust as he rushed to defend his actions. “I had hopes of keeping her from feeling the extreme pain that would surely come if she were to awaken too quickly. My supplies are low right now, and there is little I could offer her for her discomfort!”
Remorse flooded through him, and Vincent frowned apologetically. “I’m sorry, Father. If it will help her from feeling pain, you were right to keep her sedated. I’m just anxious to see if she’s all right.”
Father gripped his shoulder and squeezed it affectionately. “I know, son. I know how hard it is to monitor someone twenty hours a day. You must be exhausted.”
“Not at all!”
“Still, I’ll see if Mary will sit with her for a few hours today to give you some relief.”
“Father, she is my responsibility…”
“Yes…yes, I know. You’ve said that before, but this community has always helped out whenever it was needed.”
Mary sat with the woman for a few hours that afternoon, and Vincent hid himself away in a guest chamber and took a well-deserved rest. Afterwards, he indulged in a long soak in one of the hot springs then came back feeling refreshed.
“Thank you for sitting with her Mary,” he said as he walked in and quickly assessed his patient’s condition.
“I was happy to do it for you, Vincent. You started looking a little rundown. You look much better now,” Mary said as she smiled and patted his cheek. “Look, I even finished that sweater I’ve been knitting for Rebecca.”
Vincent looked at the soft pastel colors within the sweater and smiled. “Those are beautiful colors and are perfectly suited for Rebecca.”
“I thought so too! Now I just need to wrap it and hide it away for her birthday next week.”
“I’m sure it will be one of her favorite gifts.”
“I hope so.”
Mary left and Vincent settled into a chair, grabbed a book, and began to read aloud.
Seven days had passed slowly and the woman was continually healing. Father peeked in and motioned for Vincent to come out to the tunnel way. Vincent followed, and Father handed him a newspaper. The front page story was about a woman who had been missing. She was a wealthy socialite who was the daughter of an important lawyer and the girlfriend of a very powerful developer. Vincent glanced at the story and looked at his father, a question in his eyes.
Father cleared his throat. “Vincent, I believe she may be the woman you brought Below. Mary washed her clothes and mended the tears and said they were very expensive, the highest quality she has seen in a long time. Her description also fits the one in the papers. I’ve asked one of the helpers to try to find me a picture of this....” Father glanced down at the paper again to see the name. “Catherine Chandler. If we match them up….”
“Then we’ll know her full name.” Vincent smiled and interrupted him.
Father sputtered with impatience. “Don’t you understand the implications of this? Do you know what a spoiled socialite could do to us? With the crook of her little finger she could ruin this world and you with it!”
Vincent shook his head with disbelief. “Father, she was hurt and we helped her. I’m sure she’ll be grateful.”
“You can’t be sure of that!” Father looked around worriedly. “I don’t think we can wait any longer, if she’s strong enough.…”
“She’s starting to waken more frequently.”
“Good!” Father nodded grimly. “Maybe we can get her out of here before she learns anything.”
Vincent looked away in disagreement. Father saw his reaction and knew his son thought he was being too careful. He shook his head as he walked away, muttering angrily to himself.
Vincent was about to enter his chamber when he saw a young man waving his arms and walking excitedly towards him.
“Mouse?” Vincent stopped to talk to his excited friend.
“Father asked. Got picture of girl.”
“Lou sent…easy…in papers a lot.”
Vincent nodded as he looked at the picture Mouse handed to him. “That’s her.”
“Know name now.”
“Yes.” Vincent stared at the photo. “Mouse, will you ask Pascal to see if he can get an address as to where she lives then let me know if we have an entrance near it.”
Mouse nodded happily and took off to do his friend’s bidding.
In the world Above, in one of the tallest buildings in the city, Charles Chandler, the very prominent attorney that was mentioned in the newspaper article, sat looking forlornly out his office window. His face was normally serene and kind, but today it was etched with worry and fear. He turned in his chair as he heard a knock on the door. “Yes?”
Tom Gunther, one of the most desired developers in the city and his daughter’s current boyfriend, walked into the room.
Charles stood immediately. “Any news?”
Tom frowned angrily. “No. But there’s been a leak to the press. I have a detective coming over here in half an hour to address what New York’s finest have been doing to find her.”
“My word, where has that girl gone to.…” Charles sat back heavily in his chair.
“Probably cooling her heels at some spa,” Tom answered evasively.
Charles shook his head sadly. “I don’t understand what could have upset her so to make her leave that party.”
Tom realized it was time to tell the truth, and he cleared his throat nervously. “Charles, Cathy and I had a small argument.”
Charles looked surprised at the admission. “And you’re just now telling me about it?”
Tom shrugged. “It didn’t seem important at the time.”
Charles face showed his anger. “Monday you called my house asking me if my daughter was there. You told me she had left a party you were both attending and that you checked at her apartment several times but she hadn’t returned there. You checked again this morning and told me that you still hadn’t gotten in touch with her. Now, you’re finally coming forward with the information that she left this party because you and she argued? You were mad at her and that’s why she left a party alone. You left to her own devices to find her way home?!”
Tom grimaced. “It wasn’t an argument, Charles. It was a petty spat over some drunken woman who was crying on her shoulder all night. I had asked Cathy to help me impress the planning commission members. You know how effective she can be at these things....” Tom hinted. “Instead, I look up to see some lush bending Cathy’s ear with her problems. Do you have any idea how disappointing that was for me? I needed her by my side!”
Charles eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “That doesn’t sound like Cathy. Who was she speaking with?”
“Eve Baker, she’s the wife of a drunk....”
Charles held up his hand to stop him. “I know who Eve Baker is, Tom. She and Cathy went to college together. They used to be really good friends at one time. If Cathy wasn’t acting as your hostess, it’s because Eve’s problems needed to take precedence at that time.”
Tom rolled his eyes in disgust. “Do you think Cathy went with Eve somewhere?”
Charles shot him an angry look. “No, she wouldn’t have missed this much work and not called me!” A deep sadness crept back into his eyes as he looked back out over the city, “She’s out there somewhere.…”
Tom made to protest but was stopped by a knock at the door. Marilyn, Charles’ secretary let in the detective and both men turned and gave him their full attention.
Below, Vincent was quietly reading in his chamber when the woman whimpered as she woke from her sleep. Suddenly, a feeling of fear flooded through his senses. Confused, he shook his head at the dizzying feeling that accompanied it then cocked his head curiously as he looked at the woman. Somehow he knew that these feelings came from her, and he rushed to her side.
Catherine saw only darkness but felt like someone was nearby as she fearfully called out to the room. “Who’s here? Who are you?”
The quiet, gravelly voice she had become familiar with answered from close by, “Vincent.”
Thankfully, she had come to associate his voice with kindness, and Vincent felt a measure of relief run through her body. He moved to sit closer to her. “My father and I treated your injuries.” She tried to rise from the bed but gasped in pain and lay back down. He answered her question before she asked it. “You have broken ribs, you need to be still.”
Catherine tried to remember an earlier conversation they had. He had explained to her that her injuries were too severe to get her safely to a hospital. Her mind was flooded with questions. What if this guy was the one who had hurt her? What kind of sick joke was he playing with her? Was he going to hold her for ransom? Should she tell him her name? She tried to calm herself and asked quietly. “Where am I?”
“Where no one can hurt you.”
She wondered why he answered her so evasively. She thought about asking for more details but figured he wouldn’t tell her anything. At his mercy, she decided to tell him the truth of her condition. “My face hurts.”
Vincent could feel that she was in a lot of pain, and he hoped to get her mind off of it by talking to her. “Tell me your name.”
He nodded with relief at her response. “Catherine, try to rest. If you need anything, I’ll be close by.” He got up to leave then turned around. “Don’t be afraid. Please don’t be afraid.”
Catherine nodded. “I’ll try.”
After a few minutes, she tentatively called out, “Vincent, I …um…have to go to the bathroom.”
Vincent realized he shouldn’t have talked Father out of removing the catheter that morning. Catherine heard a sigh from across the room then heard his voice near her. “I could help, I could carry you there, but you’ll have to trust me.…”
Vincent could feel her grasping with the idea when she weakly nodded. “Okay.”
Thankfully, for the time being, she had decided to work with him, Vincent came to her side as she slid her feet over the side of the bed and tried to sit up again. She gasped at the shooting pain in her stomach.
“I want you to hold tightly to this pillow and press it against your ribs for support. I’ll carry you to the bathroom then leave you until you call for me again. Can you manage alone?”
Catherine nodded as Vincent handed her the pillow. She gasped in pain as he lifted her into his arms. She held the pillow against her ribs as he had instructed, and it did seem to help. It felt like only a short walk before she was already being set down. Vincent steadied her as she swayed on her feet.
“Catherine, the seat is directly behind you, and there’s a wash basin just to the right.”
Catherine nodded again and Vincent left her alone as she felt her way around and found the toilet seat. She guessed that it was more of an outhouse type of toilet, but at that point she didn’t care. She needed to go so badly. She finished quickly, felt around with her hands and found a bowl nearby to wash her hands in. When she was done, she called out again and felt Vincent’s return. He wordlessly handed her the pillow, lifted her into his arms and carried her back to bed.
He set her on her feet at the side of the bed. She swayed a little from side to side, and he steadied her until her legs held her weight again. She slowly sat down on the edge of the bed.
“Thank you, Vincent. I feel so helpless....”
Vincent interrupted her. “You’re welcome, Catherine. There’s no need to apologize. You needed help, and it was given. You’ll be feeling better in a few more days, and you can return home to your loved ones.”
“Vincent? How long have I been here?”
She heard him expel a long breath before he answered. “A little over a week.”
“I found you in the park the night of the twelfth…it was close to nine, then you slept for five days. This is day seven if you count that first night.”
“A week?! I’ve been asleep for a week?”
“My father kept you sedated. You’ve been through quite a trauma…your body needed time to heal.”
Catherine nodded slowly as she remembered the night of the attack. “Can I ask.…” She stopped herself abruptly, fearful of angering him.
Curious, Vincent leaned forward in his seat. “What is it, Catherine? Please, you must tell me if you need something.”
“I don’t need anything but…I…was wondering why exactly I wasn’t taken to a hospital?” When he didn’t answer quickly, she moaned fearfully as she scooted away from him. “You’re not going to let me go, are you?”
“What?!” Vincent gasped in surprise at the burst of intense fear he felt coming from her. “No! Catherine, you’re not a prisoner here. You must believe me! You’re free to go at any time; and as soon as your strength returns, I’ll take you back.”
Catherine sniffled softly as she tried to will herself to trust him. “Then tell me the truth! Why am I here and not in a hospital?!”
Vincent sighed aloud. “I was walking in the park when I saw something thrown from a van. I walked over to find out what it was, and I found you. Your condition was grave…your pulse was very weak and your breathing was shallow. I knew that by the time an ambulance could be called and the trip made to a hospital it would be too late to save you, so I brought you to my father.”
Catherine gasped when he mentioned his parent. “Father…Vincent! My father.…”
“Must be beside himself with worry,” he interrupted. “I know….”
“Can I call him?” Catherine begged.
“I’m sorry, but there’s no way to contact him from here. Perhaps when you’re ready to leave we can send word to him or your husband.…”
“I’m not married.”
“Then to whomever you wish,” Vincent said as he stepped forward and gently prompted her to lie back on the bed. “You’re tired. Rest now.”
Catherine lay back on the bed and Vincent helped to cover her. The small trip to the bathroom had in fact exhausted her, and she quickly fell asleep. He waited to see if she would wake again then headed to see his father.
He walked in and looked up to see his father on the upper level of the library.
Father looked down at him with concern. “Is she awake?”
Vincent nodded. “Yes, she’s very frightened.”
Some of the council members had been asking when the disciplinary meeting would be, and Father kept putting them off. Now that Catherine’s health was truly stable, he gave in to his unspoken emotions and shook his head angrily as he addressed his son. “How could you bring a stranger down here, to where we live? You ignored our most important rule!”
Vincent looked guiltily at the floor. “I know that, but there was no other way.”
Father made his way down the steps. “Do you know what they’d do…if they caught you up there or found you down here? They’d kill you! Or put you behind bars and make you wish you were dead. How could you?!”
Vincent pleaded his case. “How could I have turned my back on her and left her there?”
Father handed him a bottle of pills. “Make sure she takes these to prevent infection.
Vincent took them. “I’ll make sure.”
Father continued on. “I was saving them for an emergency, in case anything happened to either of us.”
Vincent could tell he was still angry, and by rights he should have been punished. He shrugged his shoulders helplessly at his father. “Father, try to understand. This was an emergency. She would have died!”
Father looked at him and nodded. “All right, we’ll help her regain her strength; but the moment she’s ready to leave, get her out…and Vincent, don’t tell her anything!”
“Don’t worry...it won’t be very long. She’s already beginning to heal.”
Father shook his head at the humor of the situation. “You know you have the soul of a doctor. When I studied medicine, they wouldn’t admit minorities. I wonder what they would have done with you. Let’s not even think about it.”
He kissed his son on the cheek and looked at him warmly.
Vincent shyly smiled back. “Perhaps I should run to Peter’s to pick up more medicine?”
Father shook his head. “No, Peter’s been out of town. That’s one of the reasons I was saving the medicine. He’s expected to return in a few more days. Besides, as soon as we find out who this woman is I’m hoping to be able to get her somewhere where she can be cared for by someone other than us.”
Vincent turned to sit in a chair. “She told me her name was Catherine. She’s definitely the same woman who’s been reported missing. Perhaps we should have a helper leave word with someone. Her family must be worried.”
Father sighed and looked at his son as he sat down as well. “I’m sure they are, but that can’t be helped. I can’t take a chance on exposing this world to ease their minds. Besides, she’ll be ready to leave in a few more days. I’m sure she’ll contact them immediately.”
Vincent disagreed with his decision but kept his silence. Father looked at him and continued. “Let’s just pray that she gets well before she discovers anything about this world. You must promise me not to tell her anything, Vincent!”
Vincent shrugged and looked at the floor. “Father, I’m sure she can be trusted.”
Father exploded again. “You know no such thing. This woman has led a life of wealth and privilege, and she has just gone through a very traumatic experience. You don’t know what she’s capable of! What horrors her mind has conjured up.”
Vincent rushed to her defense. “She’s alone, and she’s frightened. I won’t tell her anything more than I think she can handle.”
Father rolled his eyes. “Sometimes a person’s kindness can blind them to reality.”
Vincent sighed and gave up the fight as he changed subjects and hoped to distract his father’s ramblings. “How about a game of chess?”
Father grimaced, knowing what Vincent was trying to do but was just as ready for the challenge of a game. “All right. We’ll finish this discussion later.”
Two hours later, Vincent, who had noticeably more pieces left on the board, suddenly stood up and looked off into the distance. “Father, she’s awake again.”
“How would you....” Father gasped in surprise as his jaw dropped open. “You’ve...bonded with her?”
“I believe I have. I don’t know how; I just know she’s awake. I can...sense it...somehow.” Vincent quickly kissed his father on the top of the head. “Please don’t worry yourself so.” He left and rushed back to his chamber.
Vincent rushed into his chamber as Catherine was reaching to take her bandages off.
“You should leave them on.…”
Catherine’s hands snapped away guiltily as she turned towards his voice. “Um…okay…you’re probably right.”
Vincent blew out a breath of relief. Five minutes later and he would have had a catastrophe on his hands. “Would you like something to eat?”
“Maybe just some tea…crackers if you have them.…”
Vincent quickly tapped out a message on the pipes outside his chamber. He wordlessly nodded his thanks to the young girl who brought a tray a short time later.
Catherine nibbled on a delicious scone and drank some tea then lay back and quickly fell asleep again.
Later that night, Catherine was sitting in bed alone, feeling especially frightened by her circumstances.
Vincent felt her fear and came into the chamber. “Catherine?”
“But you’re in pain.”
“Would you like me to read to you?”
“Read to me?”
He grabbed a book then sat on a chair next to the bed.
She nervously remained quiet. She struggled between wanting his company and her fear of him and this place she was being kept in. She decided to take a chance that he would help her. “Vincent, could I remove my bandages? I…feel so vulnerable here. I just want to be able to see again.”
Vincent sighed at her question. “Catherine, your wounds should remain covered to ward off infection.”
Catherine let her mind wander back to the attack. “How many are there?”
“How many? Vincent’s brow furrowed with confusion until he guessed correctly. Wounds?”
She nodded. “I don’t remember much about the attack.”
“Perhaps that’s for the best.”
“I think what I’m imagining is probably worse.”
“Not much, I was thrown into the back of a van and someone held me down. I remember some guy holding a knife and.…”
When she hesitated, Vincent frowned; he knew she needed to be able to tell her story. “Tell me, it might help.”
“I remember feeling the knife cut into me…then…I think I must’ve passed out. I have no idea what they did to me after that but if what you say is true and I lost that much blood, I imagine I have more than one cut.”
Vincent thought about the procedure. “There are two large ones on each of your cheeks, one across your forehead, one near your eye and the last one was by your ear.”
Catherine swallowed hard. “And they all required stitches?”
“How many stitches?”
“I don’t know, saving your life was our first priority, we lost count.”
“Well, that explains why it hurts so much.”
“Please, let me read to you, it may take your mind off of the pain. It’s Great Expectations. Have you read it?”
Catherine nodded her head. “Yes, but not since ninth grade English.”
“Perhaps, you would like to revisit it?”
“I don’t know…I.…”
Vincent opened the book and began to read. His soothing voice calmed Catherine’s nerves, and she settled back and let his words sweep her away into the story.
Catherine fell asleep, and Vincent looked up as he heard a noise outside his chamber. Mouse was motioning for him to come outside.
“Mouse?” Vincent asked curiously.
“Is there access to her basement?”
“Is now…Kanin helped.”
Vincent smiled warmly and grabbed his friend’s shoulder affectionately. “Thank you, Mouse.”
The young man went to leave when Vincent grabbed his arm. “Mouse?”
“Do you know the address?”
“Address?” Mouse shook his head dismissively. “Silly numbers…show you.”
Vincent smiled. “Tonight, when she’s resting for the night.”
Mouse smiled as he walked backwards. “Okay good…okay fine.”
That night, after Catherine drank her tea laced with medicine, Mouse showed Vincent how to get to her apartment.
Over the next few days, Catherine stayed awake for longer periods of time, and Vincent continued to read to her. She was still very frightened but trying to trust that he would not hurt her. At some point, she had decided that if he wanted to hurt her, he would have already; so she let down her guard, and they spent pleasant days together. Surprisingly, she found herself enjoying his company.
Vincent chuckled along with her then couldn’t stop himself from asking. “You went to college then?”
Catherine nodded. “Yes, to Radcliffe.”
“Uh huh, from there I went to Columbia Law.”
“So you’re a lawyer?”
“Yes, I am.”
Vincent was impressed by the level of education she was able to attain. “You must be very dedicated to take on such a profession.”
Catherine snorted derisively. “Sometimes.” She was embarrassed to admit she was less than dedicated to her profession, so she changed the subject. “Vincent, you’re well educated, surely you must have gone to college as well?”
Vincent blinked, surprised for a second by her question, until he remembered she had never seen his features. “No, I...would have liked to have been able to attend but….”
His voice drifted off, and Catherine realized she had mistakenly asked him an embarrassing question. She thought to herself, “Nice going. He probably couldn’t afford to go.”
Vincent sensed she had become uncomfortable and offered the quick solution. “Would you like me to take you to the bathroom?”
Grateful for the distraction, she nodded and he led her towards the facilities. He showed her inside and left her alone. She was putting her clothes back into place when she moaned in pain as her ribs protested against her movements.
“Catherine, are you okay!” Vincent rushed in, noticed her state of undress, then blushed and looked quickly away. “I’m sorry. I...heard you moan...I thought perhaps…. I’m sorry.”
Catherine shrugged her shoulders indifferently as she turned to wash her hands. “It’s okay, Vincent. It’s not like you haven’t seen me undressed already.”
Vincent’s head flew up at her comment. “Catherine, I haven’t...I mean...I never...um....”
She was surprised by the embarrassment in his tone and turned as she dried her hands on the towel. “You said you helped your father treat my injuries. My ribs are taped and I have on different clothing, I just assumed....”
Vincent rushed to reassure her. “Catherine, there is a woman who lives here as well. Mary was the one who helped Father tape your ribs and get you into more suitable attire.”
“Oh...well…it doesn’t really matter. I look just like every other woman you’ve ever seen.”
She reached out blindly trying to catch his arm so he could lead her back. Vincent quickly recovered from his embarrassment and handed her the pillow, which at this point was more for keeping Catherine’s hands busy than for anything else. He led her back to his chamber and settled her onto the bed.
Catherine told him about the rest of her life, and he finally came forth and answered all of her questions. He told her an unbelievable story about his birth and about the world he now lived in. Catherine wasn’t sure she believed any of it; but until she was stronger, she was at his mercy…and she chose to play along.
The entire time Vincent had spent with Catherine, he had been careful to wear his gloves. That night, as he told her the story of his world, he left the gloves sitting on his desk. While he was feeding her soup, she gently reached for his hand and felt a thick patch of hair on his hand. Her stomach clenched in fear as she gasped in surprise and quickly withdrew her hand. Her mind raced with thoughts. “My God, what was that? Why is he wearing some kind of gloves? Does this guy have some kind of sick fetish?” She was frightened that she was still in possible danger and tried to remain calm so as not to provoke him. She waited until she thought was a reasonable amount of time then started tentatively. “Vincent, I’m tired. Can I rest now?”
Vincent had felt the fear that had flooded through her, and as she lay back on the bed, he sighed. “Yes, I’ll leave you alone.”
Vincent stood outside his chamber and leaned heavily against the tunnel wall. He could feel the turmoil as it swirled around inside of her.
Catherine lay on the bed and restlessly tossed from side to side. Her fears had her conjuring up all kinds of scenarios, and all of them ended tragically. She finally gave up and sat on the edge of the bed. She got up and gingerly stepped around the room.
Curious at the noises he was hearing inside his chamber and the feelings coming over the bond, Vincent walked towards an alcove and then silently climbed up a ladder that took him to the balcony above his chamber. He watched as Catherine fumbled her way around his room. She sensed his presence and called out to him. He offered to read to her and then held his breath until her nerves seemed to settle back down. She admitted her fears to him, and he sympathized with her but told her he could see she was getting her strength back. He offered to get her some of her favorite tea and then her alone.
Catherine waited patiently for him to leave. She had come up with the plan to remove the bandages and get her bearings. She knew she had to get out of here quickly and was relieved that she felt well enough to try to escape. While he was gone, she fumbled with her bandages. She reached up and removed them from her around her head then sighed at the freedom she felt as she held her hands to her face. She nervously felt along the ridges made by the stitches and wondered how bad the damage was.
She blinked as her eyes adjusted to the lights of strategically placed candles and took her first look around at what seemed to be a cave piled with all sorts of odds and ends. She found a shiny bowl, which was the metal from the back of a headlight, and turned it around to look into it. She gasped in horror at the reflection that was staring back at her.
After he felt her burst of sadness then subsequent horror, Vincent ran to her side. His reflection showed in the mirror next to hers and Catherine screamed in terror as she whipped around and threw the headlight. Her aim was perfect and she hit him squarely in the head as he roared in surprise and pain. He shrank away from the look of fear and horror on her face and ran from the room.
In the tunnel way, he fell back against the rock wall and hung his head in shame. He looked down as a drop of blood fell onto the back of his hand. He reached up and felt his head then sighed as he saw his hand was covered with blood. He rolled his eyes as he realized he had to ask for help and headed to see his father.
Father frowned at the look on his son’s face as he entered the chamber. “What is it, Vincent?”
Vincent sat down heavily in a chair and turned so his father could see. “I…have a cut on my temple…could you check it for me?”
Father noticed the dripping blood and gasped. “My God, it’ll probably need stitches.” He grabbed a bowl and filled it with water then quickly got a washcloth from his bed chamber. He dabbed at the area until it revealed where the cut was located. “Hmm, it’s surprisingly small; I don’t think it will require stitches after all. How did it happen?” Vincent sat silently and Father cocked his head curiously. “Vincent?”
Vincent’s shoulders dropped lower in defeat. “Catherine has removed her bandages. She found the “shiny candy bowl” that Samantha gave me. I felt her horror sweep through me as she looked at herself. In my attempt to console her, I ran up behind her. She…saw my reflection…and threw the piece at me.”
Father grimaced at her reaction and tried to down play it. “You surprised her!”
“It wasn’t all surprise, Father! I frightened her! I felt her emotions through the bond; it was definitely fear she felt!”
“Yes, well, I’m sorry, Vincent. I truly am.”
Father expelled a long breath. “She’s obviously well enough to leave, get her out of here! Now!”
Vincent knew their time together had come to an end; and that now that she’d seen him, she would want to get as far away as she could. “I will, Father, as soon as she calms down.”
Catherine had felt the horror overtake her as his image appeared next to hers. She screamed and lashed out and hit him in the head with the object. She was surprised he hadn’t come after her and hurt her further. She was baffled when a look of shame had washed over him, and she saw it reflected in his eyes as he turned and fled the room. Instinctively, she took a step towards him to stop him, but her fear was too great and she couldn’t bring herself to call out to him.
When he was gone, her face crumbled as she sank onto a chair and cried out her pain as thoughts raced through her head. “Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? What if I have to look this way for the rest of my life? Why didn’t I just die in the park?” She cried for a long time over her devastated appearance.
“Vincent! I’ve got your tea,” a young boy said as he raced into the room.
Catherine looked at him with surprise as he grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, lady, I didn’t mean.…”
“It’s okay,” Catherine smiled weakly as the boy looked relieved and nodded. “Um, Vincent’s not here.”
“Oh, well…he sent me to Chinatown for some tea for you. I ran all the way. I guess I can just give it to you.” The boy handed her the package. “See ya around,” he said as he walked out the door.
“Thank you,” she said in disbelief to the empty spot where the boy had just been standing.
She finally stopped feeling sorry for herself long enough for her thoughts to turn to Vincent as she let the truth of what had just happened sink in. She sniffled as her mind raced with questions. “What is he? What happened to him?” She shook her head in disgust at her behavior. “What is your problem?! That man saved your life and you pay him back by hitting him the head! So what if he looks different.You liked him well enough before you saw what he looked like!”
She gazed down at the bag of tea. The thought struck her that he had gone out of his way to make her comfortable. He just sent a perfectly happy, well cared for young boy to Chinatown to get her favorite kind of tea. She curiously looked around the chamber she was in and realized he had told her the truth. He had shown her nothing but kindness, and she cringed in remorse as she remembered the look of shame on his face when he left. She knew she couldn’t leave on her own, so she sat silently and hoped he would come back and give her another chance.
Vincent waited until he felt a new calm settle over her. He steeled himself for the look of loathing that was sure to still be on her face. All of his life, he had tried to get used to the reactions people had to his unusual appearance, but it still hurt him each and every time. He picked up her clothing and walked into his chamber and stood against the wall, his features hidden under the hood of his cloak.
She didn’t look up but he knew she was aware of his presence. He sighed and spoke aloud. “I’ve never regretted what I am, until now.”
Catherine finally looked up slowly, ashamed that she had caused him to feel that way about himself. Her face still showed the bitterness she felt about her own appearance and her remorse about her earlier display. “How? How did this happen to you?”
Vincent shrugged. “I don’t know how. I have ideas. I’ll never know. I was born and I survived.” Vincent stepped forward. “It’s time for you to go back.”
Catherine looked up at him, begging him to tell her otherwise. “Tell me it’s a nightmare. That it didn’t happen, it can’t be....”
Vincent bent over close to her. “It’s not a nightmare. It happened, and you’re alive. Catherine, you survived, and what you endured will make you stronger and better.”
Catherine looked at him dejectedly. “I don’t have your strength. I don’t know how to do it.”
“You have the strength, Catherine.” Vincent looked at her pointedly. “You do! I know you.”
Catherine smiled inwardly at the sudden awe she felt for this man. She had rudely reacted to his unusual appearance, and he easily forgave her and was offering her his support. Knowing he was purposely hiding his features from her, Catherine reached up and removed the hood that was hiding his face in the shadows. Vincent held his breath as she smiled at him and didn’t react again to the differences in his appearance.
He felt her acceptance and visibly relaxed as he stood and dropped her clothes onto her lap. “It’s time; I’ll wait for you outside.”
Catherine got dressed quickly and called out to him. “Vincent?”
He came in and saw that she had neatly folded her gown on the corner of his bed.
She looked up at him tentatively. “I...guess I’m ready.”
“Vincent, I’m really sorry about what happened earlier.”
“My behavior was inexcusable.”
“You were afraid.”
Catherine started to protest but knew that he was right and nodded. “I shouldn’t have been You’ve shown me nothing but kindness.”
Vincent quickly dismissed the incident. “We should go.”
“Before I go, do you think I could....” At his curious look, she nervously continued. “Could I thank your father…for helping me…for saving my life?”
Vincent knew his father wouldn’t approve, but he nodded and led her to the library. Catherine marveled at her first look at the expansive book collection available. She entered behind Vincent but was hidden from view by his size.
Father looked up at his son. “That woman must be over her little tantrum by now. Can’t you get her out of here before she sees too much?” Vincent shook his head trying to stop his father’s tirade, but Father had turned his back. “For God’s sake, Vincent, can’t you see that she has the power to destroy us!”
Catherine meekly came out from behind Vincent and looked into the eyes of a very angry man.
Father looked to the floor and blushed. “I’m sorry, Miss. It’s nothing personal.”
“I understand,” Catherine said as she pasted on a smile and came forward with her hand extended. “Sir, my name is Catherine Chandler. Most of my friends call me Cathy.”
Father frowned and ignored her hand. “Well, Miss Chandler, what can I do for you?”
Catherine blinked at his rudeness but was used to dealing with awkward situations and continued to be gracious. “I asked Vincent for the opportunity to come and thank you for all that you did to save my life. I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”
Father took her hand and looked at her, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully. He had expected hysterics about lawsuits and unsafe medical practices. This woman was smiling at him and thanking him. He didn’t know what to say and gruffly replied. “It would help if you told no one about our world.”
Catherine balked at the unexpected anger still in his voice. “I…won’t. I promise.”
Vincent touched Catherine’s arm, and she turned to leave. Father called out. “Make sure you see someone about those stitches and keep them clean and dry.”
Catherine turned and gathered her coat around her. Father noticed her natural posture and regal stance. Even now she dripped with class and wealth. She hid her surprise at the look of anger that crossed his face, which was in direct conflict with his helpful instructions. “Thank you. I will.”
Vincent led her away, but Catherine overheard a comment muttered about the word of a rich woman not being worth the cost of a phone call. She shrugged at his opinion and followed Vincent.
He led the way as they walked through the tunnels. Catherine saw the sparse conditions these people existed in but was touched that everyone she met offered her a friendly smile. She knew so many depended on her keeping their secret. “I will never let them down,” she vowed to herself.
She stole a glance at the man who was escorting her back to her life. How could she ever thank him for saving her, nurturing her, helping her spirit? She was a woman who was a complete stranger to him, yet he took her in and cared for her. “How many other people would have done what he did?” she wondered. She was embarrassed about her earlier behavior. She had cried because of her appearance, and the man walking beside her had so much more to be upset with life about. “How could I have been so shallow?” she thought.
Catherine’s thoughts raced through her head. They walked past several members of the community, and all of them offered her a ready smile. She finally turned to the quiet man beside her. “Vincent, how did all these people come to be down here?”
Vincent had been discreetly observing her the entire time. He was hoping that the things that she was seeing would have an impact on her and help her to realize how important her silence was. He looked at her and sighed. “We have helpers in the world Above who sometimes see someone in great need of healing or someone who is in trouble. They reach out and offer assistance. Sometimes it is taken gratefully, other times it’s refused. We all try to do what we can to help one another.”
She smiled as she marveled at the generosity displayed in this unique world.
As they walked, Vincent led the way and several times had to reach out to help Catherine walk over dangerous areas. Each time he nervously reached out his hand to her, he expected her to hesitate or refuse to touch him at all, and each time he was surprised that she willingly reached for him with no hesitation.
They came to a final stop, and Vincent surprised Catherine further when he told her that he had brought her to the basement threshold to her apartment building. She assured him she would keep his secret. He knew in his heart he could trust her.
Catherine stepped forward and hugged him in gratitude.
Feelings flooded through him. No one except close family or friends had ever touched him in this way and certainly not someone he had so recently met. He released the breath he had been holding, relished the new feeling of her touch, and tentatively returned her embrace. A voice from Above broke through the moment and he turned and fled.
Catherine called out to him as he walked away but he never turned back. It hurt her to lose the constant strength he had provided to her these past 10 days, but she knew she had to go forward. She pulled her hood over her head and gathered her cloak tighter. She resigned herself to climb up out of the hole she fell into and to try to recapture the life she once led.
After she crossed the length of the basement, she suddenly stopped. A thought popped into her head and she turned around and walked back to the small door she had just come through. She frowned as she looked around then quickly moved some of her personal boxes over to hide the entrance. She leaned back and nodded, satisfied that the door was properly hidden then made her way upstairs.
At her threshold, when they had heard the voices from Above, Vincent quickly ran from her side. Once he felt like he had reached a safe distance, his paced slowed as his mind relived all the events of the past 10 days. He walked into his chamber and immediately felt the quietness of the empty room. Feeling alone, he solemnly started to change the sheets on his bed but then sat down heavily as Catherine’s unique fragrance wafted to him from the pillow he was holding. He was lost in thought when his childhood friend Rebecca walked into the chamber.
“You were supposed to be back a while ago.”
“I…walked slowly” He could tell by the look on her face that she was bringing him news he wasn’t going to want to hear. “Tell me.”
Rebecca sat next to him on the edge of his bed. “I was supposed to tell you that in a half an hour the council is meeting about your…um…indiscretion”
Vincent’s head lowered. “About my bringing the woman Below.”
“Yes, and the rules you broke in doing so.”
“I knew it would happen.”
Vincent smiled at her as he shrugged indifferently. “I’m not. If I had to do it all over again I would make the same decision. I saved her life, and that’s worth something.”
Rebecca giggled as reached for his hand and squeezed it. “It’s worth a whole lot of something. Besides, not everyone on the council thinks the same way.”
“That’s why they’re so effective at keeping us together.”
“One more thing,” she began tentatively as she patted his hand. Vincent cocked his head curiously as she continued. “I was supposed to tell you this forty minutes ago…you’re ten minutes late.”
With a sigh, he got up and walked to his father’s library. As he walked the tunnel way, he heard the council members being called over the pipes to come to the library.
He walked in and glanced over at his father. “I took her back, Father. She’s gone now.”
Father nodded and smiled. “Thank God, Vincent. Were you able to get her out of here before she saw anything?” Vincent lowered his head and Father sighed and shook his head ruefully. “How much did you tell her?”
Vincent sighed as he continued to stare at the tabletop. “Everything.”
“Well, then that’s that! We must increase the number of sentries for the next few weeks, and everyone will be put on full alert for at least the rest of this week.”
“Father, Catherine promised to keep our secret. I believe she can be trusted.”
Father grunted. “You believe, do you? And when you’re proven wrong? What then? She’s a lawyer for God’s sake!”
“I’m not wrong, Father. I can tell that Catherine is trustworthy.”
“How could you possibly know that? Did she say that when she said goodbye?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact she did. Right before....”
Vincent’s voice trailed off as he looked away. Father prompted him to tell the rest. “Right before? What??”
“Right before she hugged me goodbye.”
Vincent turned back to see his father’s reaction. Father’s heart beat wildly in his chest as he tried to cover up his disbelief. “She hugged you?”
Vincent smiled shyly as he nodded and looked at the floor. “Hmmm.”
For a split second, Father allowed himself a feeling of gratitude to the young lady who had shown his son kindness, and then the reality of the situation settled back in. He grimaced but said nothing more as he noticed his son’s unusual behavior. “What is it, Vincent?”
Vincent looked up at him. “I miss her, Father.”
Father nodded in acknowledgement. “Yes, I’m sure she was a nice distraction, for a while.”
“Catherine was more than a distraction, Father. I feel as if I know her. I feel like we are connected somehow.”
Father shook his head. “Well, now she’s back to her high society lifestyle, and she will soon forget all about you. I suggest you try to do the same.”
Vincent’s retort was stopped short as Mary, Winslow, Winston, Pascal, Rebecca and John walked in together. He nodded to his fellow council members who took seats at the long table.
Father grumbled his greeting then swiped his hand over his face before he began. “Vincent, as a council member you can be here; but obviously, since this is in regard to you, your voice cannot be heard.”
“I understand, Father.”
“Now, we’ve been called here to discuss Vincent’s most recent violation of our rules and the disciplinary action that needs to follow.
Mary shook her head adamantly. “The girl was hurt, and he brought her here to save her. He should be commended not punished.”
William balked angrily. “That may be true, but he broke our rules!”
Winslow frowned as he looked at his friend. “I’m sorry, Vincent, he’s right…however good your intentions were.”
Rebecca rolled her eyes. “Why don’t we just increase patrols and build some more false walls. We can monitor them for a few weeks, and if nothing happens.…”
John slapped the table angrily as he interrupted her. “And the extra manpower will come from where? Our patrols are exhausted. They need shorter shifts and less area to keep track of…now you propose we increase their areas?!”
Pascal looked over helpfully. “We can communicate easily over any pipes. Maybe we could station the patrols differently to cut down on the area that each is responsible for.”
Father held up his hand to silence the room and looked at them solemnly. “All good suggestions, but we must rule first on what is to happen to Vincent. What his form of punishment should be.”
William scowled. “If we’re being honest here, because it’s Vincent, no wants to punish him; but the crime itself, according to our rules, calls for extreme punishment. He should be given the silent treatment for at least a month!”
Rebecca looked up at Father. “I think that’s too harsh! I propose that since Vincent created this problem, he should have to work nightshift and weekend patrols for the next three months…all three days…Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Father rolled his eyes as he looked down. The punishment was nowhere near severe enough for the crime that had been committed.
John shrugged indifferently. “That would relieve a lot of burden from the current patrols.”
Mary smiled. “That’s a wonderful idea.”
Pascal nodded in agreement. “It works for me.”
Winston scowled. “It works for you because you want to get back to your pipes. He should probably have something stricter.”
John shook his head in disagreement. “You ever try nightshift duty three days in a row? It’s stricter, trust me.”
Mary looked at Vincent and could see he was suffering from the loss of the woman in his life and could use some time alone. “I propose that in addition to the weekend patrols that Vincent be given the punishment of silence for the next week.”
Rebecca followed her observation of Vincent and readily agreed. “If you make it two weeks, I’ll second that vote?!”
Mary nodded. “Okay, two weeks.”
Pascal agreed. “That sounds strict enough.”
Winslow nodded as John piped in. “That will give me time to rearrange the work detail for the patrols.”
William knew he was out voted and shrugged. “It sounds fair.”
Father knew the punishment was not as severe as some would have received, but it was at least strong enough to send a message to others. “It’s settled then. No man, woman or child may speak to Vincent for the next two weeks. At the end of that time, Vincent will resume nightly patrol duties on every weekend night for the next 3 months.”
The members of the council frowned sadly at Vincent as they left the room. Winston and Pascal each squeezed Vincent’s shoulder in a show of support on their way out, and Rebecca bent over and kissed his cheek.
When the room was empty, Father looked down sadly. “Your punishment is to begin as soon as Pascal gets the news announced. Do you have anything you need to say?”
“Not right now, Father.” Vincent got up and made to leave but turned around at the last second. “Maybe when my two weeks of silence is over.”
He turned and left the room as Father looked at his retreating back. A worried frown came across his face as he sent word to Mouse.
Ten minutes later, Mouse came running at his summons. “Here now.”
Father smiled. “Yes, Mouse I can see that.”
“Yes. Vincent took his visitor home. I need you to see that false walls are erected at various points on that path. We don’t want to take any chances that she can find her way back down.”
Mouse frowned. “Make Vincent mad?”
Father sighed. “Probably, but he knows how important it is to maintain our security. Will you see to it, right away please?”
Mouse smiled. “Go now! Get Kanin and Winslow. Be done in two hours.”
Father clasped his shoulder affectionately. “Thank you.”
Catherine wearily let herself into her apartment. She had lain in bed for ten days with little physical activity. Then she walked what felt like several city blocks and had to climb a ladder to get to the basement in her apartment building. She was exhausted. After a brief glance at the couch, she opted to rest in the bedroom. As she settled herself onto the bed, she glanced over at the bedside table. With a huge sigh, she reached for the phone to make the one call she dreaded making.
Her father picked it up on the third ring. “Charles Chandler,” he said tiredly.
“Daddy,” Catherine timidly replied into the phone.
She smiled at the concern in his voice. “Yes, Daddy, I’m fine.”
“Sweetheart, where are you?”
She paused, knowing he would race over to see her. “I’m home. I just walked in the door.”
“Cathy, where have you been all this time?!” When silence met him on the line he quickly continued, “Never mind, I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Please don’t leave!”
“I...Dad?” Catherine sighed as she realized he had hung up. She hung up her phone and thought about taking a shower. Her father had a key. If she wasn’t out in time, he could always let himself in. As she rose from the bed, she decided to make another phone call and sat back down. She dialed the number and waited.
A pleasant voice on the other end answered. “Peter Alcott’s office, may I help you?”
“Hello, this is Catherine Chandler. Could you please leave a message for Peter to call me as soon as possible? I’m at home and he has my number.”
“Certainly Miss Chandler, I’ll give him the message as soon as he’s finished with his patient.”
“Thank you.” Catherine hung up the phone, sighed and walked towards the bathroom.
Charles flew through the office with orders to cancel all his appointments. Only his long time secretary, Marilyn knew that Catherine had called. “Where had that girl been all this time?” she wondered.
Charles was in a taxi within five minutes of hanging up the receiver. Unfortunately, traffic was horrendous. His twenty minute ride turned into a forty minute nightmare. He tried to settle himself down. Catherine was fine and that was the most important thing to remember. His relief upon hearing her voice sent his heart soaring.
Now, sitting in traffic, he had a chance to reflect and questions started flooding his mind. What exactly happened to her? Where had she been all this time? Why didn’t she contact anyone? Should he call Tom?
Okay…settle down…one thing at a time…
Tom should be called, but he would not be the one to do it. He was actually still pretty upset with Tom after he finally admitted that Catherine and he had an argument that night, and that was what led to Catherine leaving the Planning Commission party early. No… if Catherine wanted Tom to be called, she could make that call herself. Now, she had said she was fine, but he would insist she make an appointment with Peter for an exam. The rest of the questions would have to be answered when he got there. He looked up and realized he only had a few more blocks to go before he would be at her apartment, he sank back in relief.
Catherine enjoyed her shower. It had taken every last bit of energy she had to stand under the spray, but she managed to get her hair washed as she held onto the walls for support and let the water spray on her back. The water was soothing to her muscles as she felt the tension drain from her. She knew she had taken too long however, when the water began to turn cold. She felt guilty for making her Dad wait so she got out, wrapped a towel around her hair, then wrapped a bigger one around her body.
As she came out of the bathroom and walked through the bedroom she called out to him,
He wasn’t there yet. With relief, she turned back to her room. She would have time to come up with some type of story. She automatically hit the button on her answering machine so she could dress while she listened to her messages. She listened to several calls made by an angry Tom, then several more from her Dad and Jenny Aaronson, her best friend. She was flooded with guilt when she heard the worry and concern in their voices. She jotted down the name and number of the police detective she would need to contact. Then another call from Tom. She heard the anger in his voice yet again as he demanded she call him immediately. His next call sparked her anger when he asked if she didn’t think she was carrying this whole thing a bit too far. Finally a call came from him expressing his concern about her whereabouts. “Better late than never,” she muttered to herself.
After putting on a pale pink sweatshirt and a pair of comfortable gray sweatpants, Catherine walked into the bathroom. She took the towel from her head and reached for a comb. She grabbed the side of the sink steeling herself for what she was about to see. She gasped again when she saw the deep, long slashes scattered about her face. The stitches were healing but the overall effect of her appearance was still devastating. How could she explain this? Whocould she say stitched her face? She quickly combed through her damp hair, as tears threatened to spill from her eyes. When the doorbell rang, she caught her breath and expelled it slowly as she went to let her father in.
When she reached the door, she took another deep breath to steady herself as she reached for the knob. As the door opened, all her resolve and strength flew out the window when Charles saw her face and gasped as he opened his arms to her. She promptly burst into tears as she fell into his outstretched arms. He held her gently as he led her into the apartment and towards the couch. He prompted her to sit then gathered her tightly while she cried. She cried for all the injustice she suffered through, she cried for the devastation inflicted onto her face, and she cried for the world she spent the last ten days in, the one which held one of the nicest people she had ever met. She cried for the safeness she felt with him and all the kindness he had shown to her. She missed him already.
Charles rocked and whispered nonsensical things to her. The lapse in time gave him a moment to recover from the shock he felt upon seeing her. His daughter’s beautiful face was ruined, carved up with long slashes marring her perfect complexion. “What kind of an animal did this to her?” he thought.
Somehow, he would get her through this. He would find someone to restore her natural beauty. He knew emotional scars could run much deeper, and he was determined to find someone to help get her through that as well. He held her until her tears subsided.
As she pulled away, it tore at his heart when she looked up at him as she had so many times when she was a little girl. She looked at him for the love and guidance he had always given so freely.
He gave her an affectionate squeeze then released her again. “Sweetheart, we’ll get you through this.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
Catherine started to speak then realized how weak her story was and she closed her mouth and shook her head.
Always one to take charge, Charles rose from the couch and began to list the things that needed to be handled.
“First we need to contact Peter, I think he’s back from that medical conference, and you should see him immediately.”
“It’s already been done.” She giggled when he turned around in surprise. “I do remember some of the things you taught me. I called his office right after I hung up with you and left a message for him to call me.”
He grunted his approval. “Well, the police will have to be notified that you’ve returned.”
She looked worriedly down at the floor. “I know. I was hoping you would stay with me while I talk to them. I was waiting until you came here to call the detective in charge.”
“Catherine, there’ll be so many questions. Are you ready for all that will entail?”
She shrugged her shoulders and looked up. “I don’t know Dad. I guess I have to be.”
“No, you don’t! I can call the detective and tell him that you’ve returned and that you will not speak with him until tomorrow.”
She smiled up at him. “That would be nice.”
“Of course, Tom will have to be notified as well.”
She grimaced and shook her head. “I can’t deal with Tom right now....”
“Honey, you don’t have to deal with anyone, right now or ever. Let’s get you to Peter in the morning and see what he recommends. Anything else we’ll deal with as it comes up. Now I want you to try to rest.” With tears in his eyes, he reached up to caress her cheek. “Kitten, I will take care of everything. No matter what happens, you’re still my beautiful little girl.”
Catherine had fresh tears pool again in her eyes. “Thanks Daddy. I love you.”
They both jumped when they heard the peel of the doorbell.
Charles glanced over at his daughter. “Who could that be?”
Catherine couldn’t answer. At that moment, a twinge of fear had settled into the pit of her stomach and all the color drained from her face.
Charles saw her fear and his heart stuttered with compassion. “Honey, go into the bathroom and wash your face. I’ll answer the door and handle whatever comes up.”
She nodded as her mind raced with the possibilities. She started to tremble as the questions popped up in her mind. “What if it was the men who attacked her? Did they come back to finish the job? What if it was police? What if it was Tom?”
After Catherine left the room, Charles opened the door and was surprised to see his longtime friend staring back at him. “Peter! What are you doing here?” He stepped aside to let him enter.
Peter walked in with his medical bag. “I got back into town late last night. My housekeeper left me the article about Catherine’s disappearance. I was about to call you when Cathy called my office. When I saw her message, I cancelled the few appointments I had then called your office. Marilyn told me you were here, so I came right over. How is she?”
Charles shrugged his shoulders. “Well, she could be better…I want to try to prepare you, it’s not pretty.”
“What’s not pretty?”
Charles shook his head in disbelief and choked on his words. “She was attacked, Peter, someone took a knife to her face!”
“Oh, my God.” Peter let the news sink in as he grabbed his friend’s shoulder.
“The cuts have been stitched but they look horrible. I was just going to try to get the story out of her when the doorbell rang.”
Peter jumped into doctor mode. “How bad is it?”
Catherine entered at that exact moment. She kept her head tilted down however, and Peter couldn’t see her face. “Hi, Peter.”
“Cathy! How are…?” he stopped when she looked up and he saw her face. “Oh, Cathy,” he said compassionately, shaking his head.
The tears pooled in her eyes as he gently hugged her then pulled back to look at her again.
“No...No tears. Let’s get this over with. Come into the bathroom with me so I can get a better look at you.” She turned and led the way.
While Peter examined Catherine, Charles called the detective. He informed Lieutenant Herman that Catherine was back and safe. He explained that she was being examined by her doctor. The detective said he would come over immediately for questioning but Charles used his legal expertise and convinced him the interview could take place tomorrow.
Peter sat Catherine on the toilet seat and closely examined the wounds. He turned her head from side to side nodding his approval. “Well from a medical standpoint everything is healing well. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of infection. Whoever stitched the cuts did a pretty good job, however, I think if we get you to a plastic surgeon we can reduce the scarring down to a minimum. Were you given anything for infection?”
Looking around evasively then mumbled her answer. “I…don’t know…I’m not sure.”
Peter frowned at her non answer then shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, I can draw some blood and we’ll see what your levels are. Now, did you get hurt anywhere else?”
Catherine nodded. “I think my ribs were broken. They were taped up. I removed the bindings when I took a shower. They don’t hurt anymore they’re just a little tender.”
Charles chose that moment to enter the room. He winced at the news of her further injuries. “How much had she gone through?” he wondered.
Peter reached for her hands to help her stand. “Let me take a look at them, come lie down on the bed for a minute.”
Catherine gingerly rose from the toilet seat and held his hand then followed him to the bed. She sat and leaned back against the pillows lifting her shirt halfway up in the process. Black and blue marks were faintly evident as he gently probed her ribs.
“Seems like they’re mending well.” He took her hands again and gently caressed them. Looking into her eyes, he hesitantly continued. “Catherine, did anything else happen?”
She immediately knew where his thoughts had turned. “No, Peter nothing else happened.”
“Okay, if you’re sure. Do you want anything for pain or for sleep?”
“I’m pretty tired. I should be able to settle right down. I wonder what time the police will want to….”
Charles interrupted. “I called the detective, sweetheart. He was persuaded to hold off the interrogation until tomorrow.”
Catherine smiled at her father. “I knew I could count on you. Thanks Dad!”
Peter packed up his instruments. “Cathy, tomorrow I’ll call a colleague of mine, Dr. Sanderle. He’s one of the best plastic surgeons in the states. I’ll set up an appointment with him immediately. The cuts are healing well; and I think the surgery will be relatively easy, provided there is no infection. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll schedule the procedure. Think about it and let me know.”
She nodded. “Thanks Peter, but I don’t need to think about it. Set up the procedure as soon as possible. I want to start the healing and put this all behind me.”
He gently hugged and kissed her then said goodnight. “Sounds good, I’ll let you know what Sanderle says.”
“I’ll see you out,” Charles said as he prompted Peter towards the door.
“Dad, you can go too.”
“No! I’ll spend the night.”
“On the couch.”
“You won’t be able to walk tomorrow.”
“I don’t care; I’m not letting you out of my sight ever again.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“That’s what you said in high school, then you left and went to college.”
Catherine grinned at him. “Go home, Daddy.
Charles held his daughter’s hand. “Will you be okay alone? I could call Jenny if you don’t want me here?”
“I always want you here.” Catherine said as shook her head. “But I’m okay and I’ll be fine alone. As soon as you leave, I’m going to sleep.”
When Catherine made to get up, Charles leaned over and kissed her forehead. “We can let ourselves out, honey. I’ll be by tomorrow. We’ll face this together.”
She smiled up at him. “Daddy, thank you for everything, especially for not asking all the questions that must be swimming through your mind right now.”
“Tomorrow is soon enough.” He tapped the end of her nose with his index finger and smiled. “Goodnight, sleep tight.” She looked up and smirked at the familiar saying she hadn’t heard in years.
When she heard the front door close, she breathed a sigh of relief. Tomorrow was another day, and she had at least ten hours to gather her strength and her wits about her. She smiled to herself as her thoughts turned to Vincent. His voice floated to her through her mind. “You have the strength Catherine. You do! I know you.” The thought of his voice alone helped to calm her frazzled nerves. “Maybe I can make it through this! Maybe everything will work out!” she thought. She wished she had his faith.
She got up and went to her bureau, opened it, then got out a warm nightgown. She quickly changed and climbed back into bed. She sighed as she pulled up the covers and settled back then she let her thoughts drift back to the first time she had heard Vincent’s voice.
A few hours later, she was dreaming about the attack. She woke and frantically looked around the room. As she tried to calm herself, she remembered how many times she had woken to hear Vincent’s whispering to her.“You’resafe here,” he had said upon her awakening. “No one will hurt you.”
His voice had a soothing quality; and as she laid back, she remembered how safe she felt as he read to her at night.
She continued to think about Vincent and was able to relax and get the healing rest she so desperately needed. She felt like he was still watching over her. With a smile still on her lips, she fell into a deep sleep.
After the elevator had let them off on the main level, the doorman secured them a taxi. Charles turned to Peter.
“Shall we share a cab?”
Peter nodded with a smile. “Of course. I can grill you for answers.”
Charles shrugged. “Don’t expect any. I have no more information than you.”
“You mean she didn’t tell you anything?”
“No, not a word! I’m waiting for tomorrow like everyone else to get the answers.” Charles paced, shaking his head in frustration.
As they settled into the cab, Charles turned to look at his friend. “Peter, I can’t thank you enough for coming so quickly. I know I felt better when I knew she was physically okay. I could tell Cathy was relieved when you told her the scars could easily be removed. She’s not a particularly vain person, but no one should have to deal with the trauma she suffered through as well as having a constant reminder of that attack staring back at you from the mirror. She has always been such a beautiful person, inside and out.”
Charles choked on a sob. Peter, noticing the tears in his friend’s eyes, grasped his shoulder.
Charles composed himself as Peter glanced up when the taxi slowed. “Well this is my stop. Let me know if there is anything else I can do for Cathy…or for you.”
Peter reached for his wallet and Charles stopped his motion and laughed. “I can cover the cost of a taxi ride for you. Thanks again Peter. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
The next morning, the ringing of the telephone woke Catherine. She fumbled for the phone and held it to her ear. “Hello.”
“Hi Peter. Yes you did, but that’s okay. I need to get up.”
“How did you sleep?”
She chuckled. “Pretty good, it felt good to be back in my own bed.”
“I wanted to call before I left for work. I checked with Dr. Sanderle, and he can see you this afternoon around three-thirty. Can you make it?”
Catherine excitedly sat up in bed. “Of course I’ll be there. I can’t thank you enough Peter. I can’t believe he’ll see me so quickly.”
“Yes...well...he owes me one. He owes me more than one, actually; and he said he may be able to get you into surgery as early as Monday. Honey, I have to go. If you need anything or if you have any questions you call me okay?”
“I will. Thanks again. Goodbye.”
They hung up, and Catherine lay back down on her pillow and groaned when the phone rang not five minutes later. She reached for it wondering who it was. “Hello.”
Her friend Jenny’s voice enthusiastically called out. “You are home! I knew it!”
“Hi, Jen. How’d you know I was home? Please don’t tell me it’s in the papers already.” Catherine groaned in worry.
“No, actually I had this unbelievable dream about you. Someday I’ll have to tell you about it. It’s hysterical; but anyway, I woke up from it and, well, just knew you were home.”
Catherine smiled into the phone. “Well, you were right.”
“What happened, Cathy? Where were you this whole time? Are you okay?”
“Oh Jenny, it’s such a long story...some other time?”
She heard a different tone in her friend’s voice, so Jenny backed off for a moment, “Okay…maybe we can have lunch this week?”
“Actually if you’re not busy, can I get you to sit with me on Monday? I may have surgery.”
“Surgery?!” Jenny gasped. “For what?”
Catherine sighed and knew she would have to tell her friend everything. “Jen, I was attacked by some guys with a knife. They did a pretty good number on my face. I’m going to see a plastic surgeon this afternoon. If everything goes as planned, I might have surgery on Monday.”
Jenny was in shock. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“No, I’m not kidding.”
“Oh, Cathy! Well, of course I’ll be there for you. I’ll clear my schedule just in case.”
Catherine sighed in relief. “Thanks, I appreciate it.”
“I know Tom’s probably going to do it, but do you need a ride to your appointment this afternoon? I’m available.”
Catherine thought about her friend’s request. It would be nice to have someone with her. She was actually afraid the press might have heard by now that she was back. She was worried they’d be trying to snap pictures of her. She didn’t want to be seen with these gashes on her face, and she definitely wasn’t ready to be bombarded with questions about Tom.
“Do you mind Jenny? Are you busy?”
“I can do it, Cathy, no problem.”
Catherine nodded. She was relieved she wouldn’t have to deal with Tom today. “Okay. Can you come by about three?”
“Sounds good. I’ll see you then.”
“Bye.” Jenny hung up the phone, and Catherine sat back in her bed. She glanced at the clock then headed for the bathroom.
Charles Chandler showed up at his daughter’s apartment around 9:00am.
The Lieutenant opened a note pad and clicked his pen. “Can you tell me exactly what occurred on April twelfth Miss Chandler?”
She smiled weakly at him. “Cathy. You can call me, Cathy. I was at a party, and I ended up leaving early. I couldn’t catch a taxi, and a man came up behind me and offered to flag one down for me. He seemed friendly enough. After he made a show of trying to secure one for me, a van came down the alley I was standing in front of. It screeched to a halt, and I jumped back; but the man grabbed me and threw me in the side door of the van.”
Charles reached out for her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, offering her encouragement. She squeezed back then continued. “I was shoved onto the floor. Someone grabbed my arms and held me down while the first man came at me with a knife. I screamed when he cut me the first time. I guess I passed out. I don’t remember much after that.”
The Lieutenant nodded his head. “Did either of them say anything to you or to each other?”
Catherine thought for a moment. “The first man, the one who cut me, called me Carol and said something about little girls keeping their mouths shut, and I would remember every time I looked in a mirror.” Tears welled up in her eyes as she spoke.
The lieutenant nodded and made notes in his book. “Can you remember what he looked like?”
“I don’t know...he wasn’t especially tall, kind of husky, dark curly hair, dark eyes…I think. I’m sorry, he was kind of nondescript.”
“Do you think you could identify him if you saw him again?”
She hesitated then nodded her head more confidently. “I’m not sure...I think I could.”
“What about the other guy? The one who held you down, did you get a good look at him?”
She thought back and shook her head. “No...although he did have a tattoo…it was on his hand and arm…a long snake, I think.”
“Good...good. You’re doing fine. Now, Miss...Cathy, this might get hard for you.
“Lieutenant Herman, I know what you’re trying not to ask. I wasn’t raped. Assault and battery are the only charges you’ll get to stick.”
He glanced at his notes as he rolled his eyes. “I forgot you’re a lawyer.”
She smiled. “Corporate law, but I think I could hold my own in criminal court.”
“Okay, let’s get back to the questions. You said you think you passed out. Your purse and ID were found in the park. Do you remember leaving the van? Do you remember being in Central Park?” When she shook her head no, he continued. “Did they hold you captive all this time? What was the next thing you remember after being cut?”
“I...don’t....” her voice trailed off. Keeping a secret was harder than she thought, and she started to tremble. Charles mistook her trembling for fear and held her hand tighter. Her mind raced. “What should I say? What can I say?”
The Lieutenant tried a new line of questioning. “How did you get home yesterday?”
She impulsively answered without thinking it through. “I woke up in the park and walked home.”
“Which part of the park did you wake up in?”
“Oh great, good move Chandler,” she thought. She replied not making eye contact. “Um...on a bench over by the carousel.”
“And you remember nothing else for the entire ten days you were missing?” She shook her head again. “You’re not giving me much to go on, are you?” he said somewhat accusingly.
Catherine winced slightly. Charles jumped in immediately. He could tell where this line of questioning was going, and he would not stand for it. Catherine had been through enough already and he would not stand by and let her be harassed.
Charles got up and the Lieutenant took his lead. “Lieutenant, that’s all she has to offer. You’ll have to work with what she’s given you.” He walked to the door indicating the lieutenant should follow.
“Miss Chandler, if you remember anything else….”
“She won’t hesitate to call,” Charles supplied for her as he escorted him out the door. “Goodnight, Lieutenant, and thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” The Lieutenant was aggravated but knew not to push the issue.
When the door was closed, Charles walked back to the loveseat. He sat down and hugged his daughter.
She looked over at him gratefully. “Dad, how many times have I said thank you since yesterday?”
“Too many times; it’s not necessary. I love taking care of you. You’re still my special little girl.”
“Peter called this morning. I can see Dr. Sanderle this afternoon; and if everything is approved, the procedure can be done on Monday.”
“So soon?! He must have pulled in every favor ever owed to him.”
Catherine chuckled and nodded. “I can only imagine.”
“Honey, are you sure you’re ready for this so soon?”
“Yeah, Dad. I can handle it. Can you take me to the hospital Monday? Jenny said she’d sit with me after surgery.”
“You’ve talked with Jenny then? When did she call?”
She smiled at him. “This morning. She had one of her infamous dreams and knew I was home.”
He chuckled. “Of course I’ll take you to the hospital, and I’ll stay until it’s over.”
“But…what?” Catherine wondered.
“As long as Jenny will be there with you, maybe I’ll leave after I know you’re safe. I need to try to get some work done this month,” he said sarcastically.
“Sounds good to me, Dad. I’ll call you when I know for sure what’s going on.”
“Can I get you something to eat?” Charles asked as he walked over to the bag he had brought in with him.
Catherine stood and walked over to the table. “You brought food?”
“I knew what little you had in your refrigerator had to have spoiled by now so I stopped at Blueberry Hill and brought you your favorites.
Catherine’s stomach rumbled as she opened a styrofoam container and saw a Belgian waffle covered with bananas and walnuts. “Oooooh.”
Charles grinned. “I have a bacon cheese omelet with wheat toast and fruit as well.”
“I’ll eat whatever, you pick.”
Catherine smiled wickedly and grabbed two plates from her cabinet. “Okay, I’ll split them and we’ll each have half of the order.”
Charles grinned as he watched her put half an omelet and half of the waffle on his plate then the other half of each on her own plate.
They ate and talked quietly about the past and had an enjoyable meal. After breakfast, Catherine made coffee and they sat on the couch and reminisced some more.
Catherine yawned loudly and Charles patted her leg. “Honey, why don’t I let you get some sleep?”
Catherine nodded as he got up, and they walked towards the door. She reached up and kissed his cheek.
He gently caressed her cheek. “On Monday this will all be just a memory, just a few more days.”
A few hours after her Dad left, there was a knock at her door. Catherine walked over to it and tentatively called out through the door. “Yes?”
The voice on the other side was rough and demanding. “It’s me, open up.”
Catherine sighed. She had no desire to see Tom right now, but she knew at this point he would never go away; so she reached for the handle to let him in. As soon as he heard the click and saw the door open, Tom stormed into the room.
He ranted angrily throwing his arms up in exasperation. “Where the hell have you been for ten days? Isn’t it nice that I have to find out from a police detective that my girlfriend is back?”
Catherine looked at him angrily. “Do you want to look at me, Tom?”
“What?” He flipped around and his face fell in horror at her appearance. “Oh my God! What the hell happened to you?”
He rushed to her side and hugged her. Catherine wondered why she felt little comfort in his embrace and sighed then wearily pointed to the couch. “Can we sit?”
“Of course Honey, I’m sorry.” They sat and he looked at her, studying her face. “Well?”
She began her story. “I was attacked the night of the party....”
Tom impatiently interrupted her. “I know all of that. The detective filled me in on everything you told him. I’d like to know what you didn’t tell him.”
“What do you mean?”
Tom rose angrily. “Come on, Cath! Where have you been? Did those guys hold you hostage to get to me? No one ever contacted me! Did they finally give up and let you go?”
Catherine shook her head in disbelief. “Believe it or not Tom, not everything’s about you.”
He sat down heavily again. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. I just missed you. I couldn’t believe it when you showed up missing. I’ve never been so scared in my life.”
“I was scared too.”
“I bet you were, Honey,” he said sympathetically as he pulled her close to him and laid her head on his shoulder. “What can you tell me about it?”
“Not a lot…”
“Cathy, you’ve got to try to remember. We need to catch these guys and get the press to show goons like this that our kind won’t tolerate attacks against us!”
Catherine had been resting against him trying to draw comfort from him, but when nothing came forth again, she pulled away. “I don’t know Tom; let’s just drop it for now.”
“Okay…so what now? Do you think you should see a plastic surgeon? Maybe see what he can for you?”
Catherine shrugged. “Actually I’m seeing one this afternoon.”
Tom smiled and kissed her forehead. “Good, maybe he can get you all fixed up and we can put this behind us.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Catherine clamped down on the suspicion that Tom would like to just brush this whole incident off. She was sure he was feeling guilty about their argument and wanted to put this whole mess quickly behind them.
“So, do I need to take you to the appointment?” He glanced with a frown at his watch.
“If you’re busy, Jenny offered to take me.”
Tom got up from the couch looking relieved. “Good, I’ve got a meeting scheduled at three today. I’ll call you tonight?”
“Sure, I’ll be here.” She walked him to the door. He turned to offer her a kiss on the cheek then hesitated and slowly found her lips for a quick peck. He left and Catherine closed the door with a sigh.
Catherine walked to her bedroom. She was planning on taking a shower before Tom showed up. Her thoughts turned to her conversation with him, and she slowly went over everything that had been said. She wondered if he didn’t want to be seen with her until after her face was healed, until after she was herself again. Vincent would never act that way. She smiled and thought about the man who had saved her life, taken care of her and nurtured her for ten days with no thoughts for his own comfort. What a difference between these two men. Catherine shrugged and undressed for her shower. She needed to hurry, Jenny would be here soon.
Jenny knocked on her door a short time later. Catherine let her in, and Jenny cried out at her first look at Catherine’s face.
“Oh, Cathy! My God! What did those guys do to you?” Tears fell from her eyes as she went to offer Catherine a hug.
Catherine was expecting this reaction from Tom earlier, but it never came. Tears fell from her eyes at Jenny’s concerned reaction; and she returned the hug, silently thanking Jenny for being such a good friend.
“I’m okay now, thanks.”
Jenny looked at her trying to assess her condition. “Can you talk about it yet?”
Catherine looked away and shook her head. “Not yet. I’m sorry.…”
Jenny hugged her again. “Cathy, it's okay, I’ll always be here for you, day or night. Whenever you’re ready to talk, just call me, okay?”
Dr. Sanderle had the results of the blood tests, and Catherine had in fact been administered antibiotics. He said it explained why there was a lack of infection. Everything looked good; and he set up the surgery, as planned, for Monday.
Jenny took Catherine home, and they decided to order dinner in. She planned on staying and listening to Catherine’s story. Catherine related the exact story she told the police. “This is getting easier each time I tell it,” she thought to herself. Jenny knew there was more to the story but wasn’t going to push it. She knew Catherine had been through a harrowing ordeal and needed some time to come to terms with all that had happened.
Their meal was delivered, and Jenny kept up a steady stream of funny stories about things that had happened at work. Catherine sat back; grateful Jenny could understand her need for some time. “One day, I’ll tell her the truth,” Catherine thought.
Jenny left later that night with promises to be there for her on Monday.
The phone rang and Catherine picked it up. “Hello.”
“Hey, it’s me.”
Catherine gripped the receiver. “Hi, Tom.”
“So what did the doctor say?”
Catherine balked at his abruptness. “I’m doing well. Thanks for asking.” She sighed as she controlled her resentment, then continued. “He said I was an ideal candidate and he thought he could definitely help.”
Tom’s voice rang out. “Thank God you won’t have hideous scars. Did he say how long?”
Catherine wondered why it mattered. “I didn’t ask…an hour or so maybe.…”
Exasperated, Tom retorted angrily, “Not the surgery…how long until you’re beautiful again?”
Catherine couldn’t believe he just said that to her. Was he indicating that she wasn’t beautiful to him now? She sighed and decided she was being over sensitive.
“Do you think you’ll be better by next month? We have that dinner with the mayor to attend.”
“I’m not sure, Tom. I guess it will be a few more weeks before I heal completely, then the scars will slowly start to fade but with makeup....”
He sounded relieved at the news and promised to try to be there after her surgery. Catherine shrugged indifferently as she hung up the phone. She didn’t hold out much hope that he would show up.
After a long weekend spent in her apartment sleeping, reading, healing, Catherine was anxious for Monday to roll around. Her father picked her up early and they headed to the hospital.
As she awoke from surgery, she was disoriented once again. Her face and eyes were bandaged much as they were before, and she hurt in most of the same places. She listened for familiar tapping but could only hear the silence. She felt someone’s presence in the room with her.
“Vincent?” she called out hopefully.
“I’m in the hospital?”
“Yes, and you’re going to be just fine. You must have been through something terrible, but whatever it was is behind you. Is there anything you want to tell me or talk about, anything I can do? Just let me know.”
After he left the room, she said quietly to no one. “You can read me the last chapter of Great Expectations.”
The door opened again. Charles came into the room and stood by her bedside gently taking her hand in his.
“Hi, sweetheart, how are you feeling?”
“Okay, I guess.”
Charles squeezed her hand. “The doctor said the surgery went well. The scar by your ear gave him some trouble but he did what he could and he said after it healed he would look at it again.”
Catherine nodded weakly. Just then, Jenny walked in with a cup of coffee and some magazines. Charles put his arm around her shoulders. She had been a great support to him while Catherine was in surgery.
“Honey, Jenny’s here.”
Catherine smiled weakly. “Hi Jen, thanks for coming.”
Jenny giggled aloud at her friend’s mummy like appearance. “Well, it sounds like you. How can I be sure that it’s Cathy in there?”
Catherine giggled back. “Well...I bet you have a cup of coffee and some fashion and gossip magazines in your arms, right?”
Jenny laughed aloud as Charles rolled his eyes. “You two are like twins. You know each other too well.”
Jenny laughed as she set down her stash on the bedside table. “If she’s not nice I won’t share the latest news with her. She’ll be out of touch with everything. Celebrities will be getting divorced and she won’t even know that they had been married.”
Charles gasped in mock astonishment then turned to Catherine. “Honey, as long as Jenny’s here....”
“You can go, Dad. I know you have a ton of work. Jenny will sit with me, won’t you Jen?”
Jenny nodded to him. “I sure will. If you leave though, you won’t to get to hear about what the well-dressed man needs for next season.”
Catherine snorted, and Charles rolled his eyes again. “I’ll take my chances and hope that Kay can get me a new wardrobe when the new seasons styles come out.”
Jenny and Catherine burst into giggles. Charles had the same suits for over the last five years. He leaned over and kissed Catherine. “Goodbye, Honey. If you need anything call me, okay? Kay said she might stop by this afternoon, and I’ll come by after work to check on you again.”
Catherine nodded. “Okay, Dad. Thanks.”
Charles kissed Jenny’s cheek and left the room. Jenny pulled up a chair and entertained Catherine with the latest Hollywood gossip and then read to her the society page news. Later, she described in perfect detail all of the new fashion looks on the runway models.
Catherine drifted off to sleep, and Jenny slipped down to the cafeteria to get something to eat.
Jenny was surprised when she ran into Tom. “Hi, Tom, did you just get here?”
Tom turned at her voice. “Hey, Jenny. Yes I did. I was hungry, so I thought I’d try to get some of this appetizing food.” He looked in disgust at the plate in front of him.
Jenny thought it smelled wonderful. “It looks good.”
He looked at her plate and saw a large salad. “Yours looks a lot better.”
She shrugged and handed him her tray then took his. He smiled at her. “Thanks.”
They turned and paid for their meals. Jenny saw some secluded empty tables in the back of the room, but she followed Tom and wondered why he picked a table in the middle of the room. It was hectic, and people were constantly walking by.
Tom put dressing on his salad then looked up. “How’s Cathy?”
Jenny wondered why that wasn’t his first question but kept her mouth shut. She never liked Tom, but Cathy seemed to so...she shrugged. “She’s good. She’s resting.”
Tom nodded. “Good! I found her doctor, but the quack wouldn’t give me any information. He said he didn’t know who I was. The guy must live in a bubble! I can’t believe he doesn’t read the newspapers. So, was he able to fix her up? Are those scars gone?”
Jenny shook her head at his rudeness and angrily replied. “Yes, that quack said everything looked good and he was able to fix her scars. There’s still a small one by her ear....”
Tom interrupted her, waving his hand dismissively. “She can cover that up with her hair. As long as the ones on her face are gone.”
Jenny just sat there in shock. She looked at him and wondered about what he just said. “Was that all he was worried about? Her appearance?” She chose to ignore his comments. “Look, Tom, I want to eat this quickly then get back up to her in case she wakes up.”
He nodded and they quickly finished their meal. Several people recognized Tom and came over to find out why he was there. He, of course played the doting boyfriend and everyone offered him their sympathies.
Jenny wondered if this was why he chose such a busy section to sit in. She pushed at her tray in disgust. “I’m heading up, Tom.”
Tom was talking to another well-wisher when he looked over at her. “Well, if she’s resting, I think I’ll come back later tonight. Will you tell her I was here?”
Jenny nodded then walked away.
Catherine was in the hospital a few more days then released. Tom called every day and stopped by twice. Jenny sat with her in the afternoons, and Charles and Kay came at night.
It had been only a few weeks of recovery, but Catherine’s face was healing perfectly. A small scar by her ear was all that remained, and it was in fact, easily hidden by her hair. She had spent most of that time catching up on her reading and visiting with Jenny. She even wrote letters to some old friends she hadn’t spoken to in forever. She often sat and stared out at the city through her balcony doors and reflected on all she had become. Tom called her daily and stopped by every few nights. He always raved about how good her face would look again when the healing was done. His comments bothered Catherine, but she shrugged them off. She knew he meant well; but deep inside she knew he was insincere, and she began to question their relationship.
She took a few weeks more to recover but with the help of strategically applied make-up, she finally went back to work at her father’s firm. He kept her work load light in the beginning, but it wasn’t long before she and Tom were working closely together again. She was back to the social scene and being photographed decorating Tom’s arm at function after function.
Catherine was getting fed up with going out all of the time. The phone rang one afternoon and she distractedly picked it up. “Catherine Chandler.”
“Hey, Honey, it’s me. Can you meet me at seven tonight at Mario’s?”
Catherine sighed aloud as she wondered where he wanted to drag her to now. “Mario’s?”
“That new restaurant on 8th street. They’re having their grand opening tonight, and this guy has some pretty big political connections.”
Catherine interrupted him. “Tom, I’m really tired. Why don’t I pick up something on the way home, and you can come over and we’ll have a quiet dinner at my place?”
“Your place? Who would see us at your place?”
Catherine’s jaw dropped at his statement. “Well, no one...but we would see each other. Maybe we could relax have a nice dinner, some wine, sit on the couch, read a book.”
Tom chuckled. “Read a book! Do you have any idea how much I read all day? Some other time, okay, Honey? Look I really need to go tonight. If you’re tired, I understand. I’ll see you over the weekend, right?”
Catherine sighed. “Sure Tom, I’ll see you for that party on Saturday.”
“Okay, goodbye. I love you, Honey,” Tom said distractedly as he hung up the phone.
Catherine shook her head in exasperation. He never even acknowledged that she hadn’t said those words back to him for a very long time. She sighed and went back to work.
A few nights later, after their elegant dinner, a slightly drunk Tom invited himself up to her apartment. Catherine allowed him in, and he followed her into the bedroom as she was hanging up her coat in the closet. He began to loosen his tie and unbutton his shirt. He had already kicked off his shoes at the side of the bed.
Catherine turned and saw him getting undressed. “What are you doing?”
An inebriated Tom slurred his words. “I’m spending the night, what’s it look like I’m doing?”
She shook her head wearily. “You can’t spend the night, Tom.”
Tom looked at her angrily and shouted. “Why the hell not?! Your face has been healed for weeks now, and we haven’t done anything since you disappeared.”
“I know when the last time we were together was. You don’t have to remind me.”
He began to pull his shirt from his pants. “Well, then what’s the problem?”
“The problem is you’re drunk, and I’m tired, and I really don’t feel like it tonight.” She walked to him and held his shoes out to him.
“Well, when do you think you’ll feel like it again?”
“I’ve been going through a lot lately, and I’m still trying to make heads or tails of my life.”
“I know that and I’ve tried to help you in every way I know how but.…”
He stopped himself and shook his head as he began to straighten his clothing.
“But what?” Catherine wondered aloud.
“But it’s not liked you were raped or anything!”
Catherine was so shocked she almost started to laugh. “Tom, let’s talk about this another time please.”
“Fine!” Tom angrily stomped around her apartment as he got dressed.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said as she walked him towards the door.
He turned to her and shook his head. “Yeah, maybe.”
Catherine sighed as she shut the door and locked it. She couldn’t picture Vincent acting this way. She headed for her bedroom to get some sleep.
A few more weeks went by, and Catherine became restless and bored. She went to work every day and came home alone most nights. She and Tom plodded through their relationship. They had tried to recapture the closeness they had before the attack, but Catherine wouldn’t allow it. Tom had actually stopped trying to move their relationship back towards the physical, and Catherine had begun to suspect that there was someone else in his life handling that aspect. She wearily admitted to herself that her fears were correct; he was using her for her name and her family connections. She was merely eye candy for his arm; her position in life raised his public appearance level to an all-time high.
Feeling sorry for herself one night, she sat down on her couch and thought about her entire life; namely her work situation and her relationship with Tom. “There’s got to be more that life has to offer than this,” she grumbled to herself. With a sigh, she got up and made herself some dinner.
Another month went by, and one day, Catherine was in a board meeting that her father was conducting. She couldn’t concentrate on a single word he said. Every case they discussed held the same level of monotony as the next. “Where is the challenge in this? Why am I doing this?” she wondered. Her life had become unsatisfactory, and she was unhappy.
Her mind wandered back to the accident. Thoughts of Vincent popped into her mind frequently. She remembered all he had sacrificed for her and all the chances he took to save her life. She welcomed the knowledge that he trusted her with his secret, despite the fact that he didn’t really know her. She decided that she hadn’t gone through that whole ordeal to continue on the same path to nowhere. She decided she wanted to be a better person and accomplish more in her life. She wanted to help others like she had been helped. “But how?” she wondered.
She was pulled back from her musings by her father’s voice.
“I’m sorry, Dad. Did you say something?” She cringed at the looks of disapproval from some of the other lawyers.
Charles worriedly looked over at her. It wasn’t like her to be so distracted. “I asked if you thought that the partnership agreement we made between Jackson and Howell will put a strain on our relationship with the Harrington Corporation. You know Kyle Harrington better than anyone here. How do you think he’ll take the news?”
“Kyle will be fine with it Dad. Jackson and Howell don’t even run on the same level as Harrington Corporation. I really don’t see a problem.”
Charles nodded. He had expected that answer, but he wanted to show the other lawyers that his daughter was capable of handling her job. “Well good, that’s all we can do for now. Let’s break for lunch.”
Catherine was the first to pack up her things and leave the room. She didn’t know her father watched her leave, a look of concern flashing across his face. She had packed a lunch that day and sat at her desk alone to eat it. She opened up the newspaper and read as she ate her soup and sandwich.
The front page told a story of the latest drug bust the District Attorney’s office had been involved with. An idea popped into Catherine’s head while she read. She had a talent for law, and maybe she could get a job at the understaffed DA’s office. Help them prosecute people and get some of the thugs off the streets. She decided impulsively to try for a position with their office. Impulsively, she picked up the phone and made an appointment for the next morning for an interview. She hung up the phone, shocked at what she had just done, then actually began to feel excited about the interview. She quickly updated her resume then sat back in her chair as a small smile crept on her face.
She jumped as the phone rang; it was her secretary calling to say the board meeting was starting again. With a sigh, she closed the paper she was reading and returned for the afternoon session of the board meeting.
That night at home, Catherine sat on her couch and thought about all she was planning on doing. This would be a complete upheaval of her life. “Am I ready for this?” she wondered. She wished she could talk about this with somebody, but Jenny was at an art show and couldn’t be reached, Nancy Tucker, her friend from college, would be putting the kids to bed now, and Tom would be of no help. She thought sadly about how few people she knew that she could actually count on in her life. Sure she had friends, business relationships, but no one she could call up out of the blue and discuss things with. With a smile, her thoughts turned to Vincent.
Meanwhile in the world Below, Vincent sat playing a game of chess with his father. He was especially distracted tonight, and Father couldn’t take it anymore.
“Vincent, what is it? Tell me, please!”
Vincent shrugged and then sighed as he looked at his father. Many times over the past few months his father had caught him daydreaming, and this time he finally decided to tell him the truth. “It’s Catherine, Father.”
Vincent hadn’t mentioned her in a long time, and Father wanted to be sure they were talking about the same person. “The woman you brought Below?”
Vincent nodded his head as he hid his face. “Yes.”
“Well, what about her?”
“She’s...in deep turmoil.”
“How can you....” Father narrowed his eyes and looked at his son. “After all this time, you can still feel her?”
Vincent nodded. “Yes.”
Father looked at him incredulously. “So, all those times these past months, when you look as if you’re daydreaming...you’re actually feeling her with you?” Vincent’s only answer was a nod so Father continued. “Extraordinary, can you feel her all the time?”
Vincent sighed and looked at him. “I can sense her feelings almost as if they were my own.”
Intrigued, Father sat forward in his chair. “Go on.”
“I can be...chiseling rock in a tunnel way and a feeling of extreme happiness comes over me for no reason at all, sometimes its worry or sadness. Tonight it’s a feeling of turmoil or unrest.”
“It must be hard for you to share her feelings at such a distance,” Father observed.
“I miss the times we shared in my chamber. The conversations we had were enlightening. She is an amazing woman. I wish I could see her again, talk to her.”
“Yes, but you know that can never happen. You know that you mustn’t see her again.” Father gently reminded him.
“Yes, Father, I know.” Vincent quietly answered, not needing to be reminded of his differences.
“I wish it could be different. I wish you could...well, you know how dangerous it is up there. If you were caught....”
Vincent interrupted him. “I know Father. You have told me countless times from as far back as I can remember. I understand the risks.”
“I have only issued warnings out of love for you, Vincent,” Father grumbled.
Vincent looked up and realized he had hurt his father’s feelings. He placed his hand over his father’s. “I know that, Father, and I’m grateful that you care enough to repeat those warnings; but it doesn’t make them any easier to hear.”
Father could only nod in understanding. “Maybe you can try to block her feelings.”
Vincent chuckled. “Most times I do; and then there are the times, like tonight, when she feels something so strongly and so deeply that it is impossible for me to stop them from flowing through me as well.”
“It seems then that it’s a gift as well as a curse.”
Vincent looked over at his father. “To be able to feel what’s in Catherine’s heart is a gift, Father. I could never look at it as something else.”
Father wisely let the subject drop.
Catherine took a deep breath as she was called into the District Attorney’s office.
“Good Morning. I’m District Attorney Moreno.”
“Pleased to meet you,” she said as she extended her hand.
“And this is Assistant District Attorney Joe Maxwell.”
Joe did a poor job of hiding his indifference. “Miss Chandler, please sit.”
Catherine smiled as she took the seat indicated and wondered briefly about his demeanor.
Moreno smiled warmly at her. “Well, there’s not a lot to say is there?”
Catherine looked again at the unwelcome look on Joe’s face and nervously scooted forward in her seat. “I’d still like a chance to interview.
Moreno chuckled. “Interview? Your credentials speak for themselves, Miss Chandler. In fact, you’re grossly overqualified for this job.” Catherine looked surprised and relaxed a little until he continued. “Which leads me to wonder why you want to switch jobs?”
Unprepared for this type of question, Catherine hesitated. “I…want to do my part to help out.” She saw Joe roll his eyes as he looked away, and she clamped down on her emotions. “Truth is…I recently went through a bad experience and it woke me up to the realities of life in this city. I want to get the scum off the streets so no one else has to go through the same thing I did.”
Joe looked over at Moreno and knew he bought into her speech. He nodded as he spoke to Catherine, “Do you know what the pay is?”
Catherine shook her head and Joe rattled off a number with a sarcastic grin on his face. “By the way, that’s for the year not the month. Can you live with that?”
Moreno waited curiously for her answer and was pleasantly surprised when Catherine looked directly at him. “As I said earlier, my choice to seek employment here has nothing to do with needing a job. The pay that you’re offering is adequate, sir.”
Moreno smiled. “Great! Welcome aboard! You can start in two weeks.”
Catherine stood happily and shook his hand. “Thank you so much. I won’t disappoint you, I promise!”
Moreno turned to Joe. “Show her around.”
Joe nodded as he led her out the door and showed her around the office and noticed her surprise at the number of people rushing around.
A few minutes later, Joe turned to her. “That’s it.”
“It’s busy here,” Catherine commented.
“This is a working office not some cushy law firm!”
Catherine ignored the comment. “Mr. Maxwell, I appreciate this opportunity to….”
Joe frowned as he interrupted her. “Yeah…yeah….yeah. We’ll see how it works out and…a…Miss Chandler…we’re pretty informal around here. Call me Joe.”
“Good…I like that…and my friends call me Cathy.” She said as she smiled warmly. “What time do you start work?”
Joe sighed. They were understaffed, and he didn’t want to scare her away by letting her know what hours he usually kept. He decided to give her the intern’s hours. “Ten”
“Ten?!” Catherine blinked in surprise. “That late?!”
Joe flushed. “Well, anywhere between nine-thirty and ten.”
“Okay, I’ll be here two weeks from today.”
Catherine walked down the street, and for the first time in months, felt light hearted. She had gladly accepted the position with the D.A’s office, and now the only thing left to do was tell her father.
She walked into his office late that afternoon. “Dad, I need to talk to you.”
“Sure, Honey. This can wait until tomorrow.” He closed a file that he had opened on his desk and frowned when he saw her face. “This must be serious,” he thought worriedly.
Catherine took a deep breath. “Dad, an opportunity opened up for me today, and I don’t want to let it pass.”
“What kind of opportunity?”
“It’s a job with the District Attorney’s office. I was offered a position, and I decided to take it.” She looked up to gauge his reaction.
He looked at her in surprise. “Cathy, I know you’ve been unhappy working here, but the DA’s office?”
“I haven’t been unhappy working here with you, just with the work associated with corporate law. I want to help others, and I hope I can do that with my work at the DA’s office. I want my work to matter, to make a difference in someone’s life. I just feel like I need a change.”
“Well, it certainly is a change, but if this is really what you want to do I’ll support your decision. I’ll miss you, but I want to see you happy. How soon do you want to leave?”
“I could start when I want but I told them I would have to give a two weeks’ notice.” She looked at him hopefully. “If you’ll let me, I’ll finish out the week and catch up the paperwork on all the cases I have. I could finish maybe by Friday.”
Charles tried to hide his disappointment. “If you’re in a hurry to leave here, your cases can be transferred to another attorney.”
“Dad, I’m going to resign from the firm, not from you.” She smiled and came forward to hug him. “Thanks for your understanding.”
“Not so fast, Honey!” Charles returned her hug then guided her to the couch in his office. “Catherine, is there something else going on?”
Catherine shrugged as they sat down together. “No.”
“Cathy, you would make a fine corporate lawyer if you put your heart into it.”
Catherine smiled ruefully. “How do you put your heart into mergers and acquisitions?”
Charles looked at his daughter. “I understand corporate law isn’t quite as exciting as criminal law, but...”
Catherine interrupted him. “Oh, Daddy, that’s not it at all. I guess I just want to do something else with my life, something more meaningful! I want to help people. I want to put away the criminals who prey on those innocent people. I want to watch with satisfaction as the bad guys finally get what’s coming to them.”
Charles looked at her carefully and saw that she really believed in what she was saying. He nodded with understanding. “That’s a noble calling. Do you think this is because of your accident?” Catherine shrugged her shoulders, and her father continued. “Cathy, you’ve been distant ever since your accident. You don’t seem happy with your life anymore.”
Catherine shook her head. “I’m happy, just not...satisfied…I guess would be the word. I just don’t find happiness in the same things I once did.”
He chuckled and tapped the end of her nose. “Is that why you turned down a weekend shopping trip with Kay last month?”
Catherine smiled at his attempt to lighten the mood. “I guess. I feel almost guilty spending money when so many people are going hungry. Besides, how many shoes can a girl have?”
Charles laughed and felt her forehead as if she were sick. “Now you really have me worried. Is this the same girl from high school who told me she needed a different pair of shoes for everyday of the month?”
Catherine rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand. “Dad!”
He tickled her with his other hand, and she laughed. They soon became serious again and he put his head to her forehead. “How about the problems you’ve been having with Tom lately?”
Catherine sighed. “Tom is...well...Tom,” She glanced at her watch. “and speaking of Tom, I’m supposed to meet him in two hours at that fundraiser. I better get going.”
Catherine kissed him and walked out the door. Charles stared at the door long after she left. “What was going on with her?” he wondered. It’s not like her to make such drastic changes in her life. She was impulsive, yes, when it came to shopping, but not life-altering decisions. Was it a result of what happened to her that night? Was this some kind of delayed reaction? No…no… he thought, she has changed. She was much stronger lately. She was much more forceful in dealing with her business clients and more decisive in her investment portfolio. She had been growing so much these past months. He was extremely proud of her. With a sigh, he realized he would have to let her go to discover her own path, and hopefully it would lead her to the happiness she deserved in her life.
Catherine completed her last week with her father’s firm and began her new job on Monday morning.
She was excited to start and walked in her first day at nine-fifteen…a full forty five minutes early. She blinked in surprise to find most of the workers immersed in work already. She blushed when some of the workers looked at her then rolled their eyes and looked away.
Joe walked out of his office and looked at her with surprise. “Chandler, what are you doing here.”
“Hi, Joe, I came to work.”
“You’re starting today?”
“Yes, I left you a message on Friday.” She looked around at the room in general and added loudly. “You told me to come in at ten…I was a bit anxious and came in early. I see you actually start earlier...my guess is nine.”
Her coworkers exchanged glances around the room, and Joe blushed when he realized he had been caught. “Um, yeah. I…uh…didn’t want to overwhelm you on your first day.”
Catherine frowned as she accepted the truth in his statement. “I’ll be in at nine from now on.”
Joe sheepishly offered her a real smile. “Come on, I’ll show you to your desk.”
He set her up at a desk near his office. As she put her purse in a drawer and settled in, Joe came up with a few files.
“Here you go, why don’t you start off with these?”
“What are they?” Catherine said as she took them and glanced through the pages.
“Depositions…review them…find loop holes…write notes for any details you feel are lacking…when you finish bring them to me in my office…we’ll review them and go from there.”
Joe walked into his office and glanced at his watch. “nine-thirty…bet she comes in around two-thirty and says she has an appointment she can’t miss.” He chuckled as he shut the door.
Catherine quietly knocked at Joe’s door. He glanced at his watch. “Eleven-thirty,” he muttered as he waved her in. “Yeah?”
Catherine smiled as she let herself in. “I reviewed the Wilkes case and documented everything the way you asked. I found that the son’s testimony has the most loopholes. He has conflicting stories in his timeline, and some of the things he said just don’t add up.”
Joe blinked in surprise. He had been expecting her to quit, and instead she came in here with the same misgivings he had. Anxious to hear her ideas, he motioned for her to sit. “Like what?”
Catherine sat and glanced at her notes as she itemized the list of questions she had come up with. Joe nodded his approval when he discovered she came up with some new angles he hadn’t thought of.
Catherine handed him the first file. “The Quigley case really has me puzzled. Why would a husband kill his wife after six months of marriage? Witnesses say her adored her…that they had a perfect marriage.”
“I don’t think he killed her, Joe. The police report said he was so distraught they couldn’t speak to him. Oddly enough, a Detective Hughes said that his daughter wasn’t quite so distraught. She was methodical in her answers…and in his words, almost removed from the whole thing.”
Joe raised his eyebrows. “You’re trying to tell me that a straight A honor roll student killed her stepmother? What’s the motivation here?”
Catherine shrugged. “I don’t know…it’s just a hunch…”
Joe shook his head. “We work with facts here not hunches, good work, though. You want to break for lunch then come see me for some more files.”
Catherine shrugged. “No, I brought a salad. I’ll just eat while I’m reading if that’s okay with you?”
Joe smiled. “Yeah.” He grabbed two more files and handed them to her. He knew they were more involved than the first two cases, and he hoped she would be able to handle them.
Catherine went back to her desk to work. Joe glanced at her a few times and was surprised to see her hunched over, diligently working.
At five-thirty he came out of his office to see her still working. The last of the workers were leaving and she was still there.
“Hey, Radcliffe, it’s five-thirty.”
Catherine nodded. “Yeah, I just wanted to finish this.”
“Finish it in the morning. I’ll walk you out.”
Catherine scribbled a few more lines then nodded. “Okay, I’m done…first thing tomorrow we can go over it?”
They walked towards the elevators, and Joe pushed the down button.
Catherine smiled over at him. “I’ll be here by nine tomorrow.”
Joe blushed again. “I’m sorry. I…didn’t think you’d actually come in. So when you asked I gave you the same starting time as the interns.”
“It’s okay, Joe. I figured you worked nine to five.”
Joe chuckled. “I never get out this early! I promised a friend I’d make it to my godson’s basketball game tonight. He’s a freshman starting in his first varsity game. It starts at seven.”
Catherine nodded then cocked her head curiously. “Isn’t that late for a basketball game?”
Joe shrugged. “No, the junior varsity plays at five-thirty and varsity plays at seven”
“Is that the schedule for all schools?”
“Yeah, most of them are like that.…”
Catherine gasped and grabbed Joe’s arm. “That’s it!”
“Tiffany Quigley’s boyfriend!”
“Yes, he said he couldn’t have killed Amanda Quigley because was at a varsity football game that afternoon.”
Joe gasped as he recounted the testimony. “And that game wouldn’t have started until seven, which gave him plenty of time to kill Amanda!”
Catherine nodded as the doors to the elevator opened. She looked at Joe and punched the number to their floor on the panel. Joe ran from the elevator with Catherine following closely behind. He grabbed the file and reread the testimony then grabbed the phone to tell Detective Hughes their findings.
The next day, Catherine came in to work to find that Germaine Wilson was charged with the murder of Amanda Quigley.
Filled with pride for a job well done, she buried herself in the job, and her days at the DA’s office became exhausting. She worked extra-long hours trying to prove herself. Each night she threw herself into bed, her energy totally spent.
Despite all this, she loved her work. Joe threw everything at her, and she impressed him with her tenaciousness. She was always prepared and completed each case in a quick and efficient manner. She didn’t realize that he knew she worked well past closing time most nights.
After only a few weeks of working hard, she began to feel like this was where she belonged. On her way into the break room one day, she suddenly stopped when she noticed her shoe had become untied. As she bent to retie it outside the doorway, she overheard some of her associates talking about someone.
“Did you see today’s outfit? I bet I could feed my family this week on what she spent for that blouse.”
“Yeah, she’s been here what? Like three weeks, and I’ve never seen a repeat of clothes. Must be nice. I wonder how much longer before she climbs back into her ivory tower?”
Catherine looked down at her blouse, and her eyes widened as she blushed. They were talking about her! Her eyes filled with tears as she backed away and went back to her desk. She decided to bring her own coffee pot tomorrow. She would put it where anyone could take some if they so desired but she would never go back into that break room again.
Later that night on his way out, Joe looked over to see she was immersed in a file, scribbling away on her note pad. He was surprised to see how late it actually was. Here was this rich girl, who probably didn’t need to work, furiously pouring over a brief, hours after the rest of the working stiffs left. He knew then they had made a good choice. He was hard on her, and he felt guilty. “Damn!” he thought.
He walked over to her with a smiled on his face. “Hey, Radcliffe! You going home soon?”
“What?” She looked at her watch. “Wow, it’s that late,” she thought. “I don’t know, Joe maybe in an hour. I should have the Stevenson case done by then.”
“The Stevenson case just got continued until next month. The call came in about half an hour ago. Pack it up and we’ll share an elevator down.”
“Okay, let me grab my purse.” Catherine closed up her files and opened the bottom drawer where her purse was kept.
They walked to the elevator in companionable silence. She knew Joe had been pleased with her work. He was much friendlier lately, and she loved when he joked with her. It made her feel like she belonged.
She looked over at him, a question in her eyes. “Hey, Joe? Why, Radcliffe?” He smirked and raised his eyebrows as she figured it out on her own. “Never mind.”
He chuckled then turned to her. “Hey, you ever eaten something called a hamburger?”
She looked at him disgustedly as she rolled her eyes. “Yes, I eat hamburgers. I even use my hands!”
Joe gasped. “No way! But I betcha you eat the fries with your fork...” Catherine blushed, and he laughed. “Ha! Gotcha! Want to head to a little diner I know around the corner?”
Catherine smiled. “You mean Luke’s?”
Joe looked at her incredulously. “You’ve been to Luke’s?”
Catherine giggled. “Luke hates to admit it, but they have good salads there.”
It was Joe’s turn to roll his eyes. “Salad?! You’ve got to be kidding me! You went to the home of the best burger joint in New York City and ate a salad? You’re killing me, Chandler.”
Catherine smiled. “It’s close. I go there for lunch most days.”
Joe looked at her curiously, he had been hearing some rumors and he wondered if they were true. “Yeah, I heard you don’t eat in the lunchroom?”
Catherine smiled sadly. “I don’t think it’s the place for me....”
Her voice had trailed off. Some of her colleagues said she was too stuck up to eat with them but Joe didn’t believe it and was leery about asking. “Not good enough for you, huh?”
Catherine looked up at him and blinked to keep the tears from her eyes. “I think it’s more that I’m not welcome there.”
Joe’s jaw dropped as he looked at her in shock. Every time he had dealt with Catherine she was nothing if not helpful and kind. He had a nagging suspicion that the people in his office had pushed her away. He suspected that they were jealous of her and vowed he would discreetly look into it. He, too, had thought she was shallow, but Catherine had proven to him her worth. He would take one of her over ten of the other morons he worked with.
He felt bad for her and tried to put her at ease. “Hey, how about grabbing that burger? My treat!”
Catherine smiled at him and nodded her head. “Okay, a burger sounds great.”
They laughed as they made their way to the diner. Joe held the door for her then guided her to a booth. The waitress came and Joe ordered a double cheeseburger with fries and a vanilla shake. Catherine surprised him and ordered the same but with a chocolate shake.
Their shakes were dropped off and they began to sip at them. Catherine smiled at him then touched her lip to indicate to him he had some whipped cream on the side of his mouth.
Joe wiped it away with his paper napkin and smiled. “So, do you like it so far?”
“The shake? It’s really good!”
Joe chuckled. “I’m glad, but I actually meant the job. You think you’re going to stick around for a while?”
Catherine looked at him confused. “Why does everyone think I’m leaving right away?”
It was Joe’s turn to look confused. “Who’s everyone?”
“Edie said the same thing to me last week. She said something about me coming here and shedding a tear for humanity then leaving to go shopping.” Joe looked embarrassed, and Catherine realized why. “That’s what everyone thinks, isn’t it? Everyone just thinks I’m here biding my time until something better comes along.” Joe sat silent and wouldn’t look her in the eyes. “Let me just tell you this, Joe Maxwell. I’m good at my job. Damn good! Nobody can tell me otherwise. I’m staying…so you can just spread the word down the gossip chain!”
Catherine choked on a sob and pushed her shake away. Joe looked up and offered her his handkerchief. “Thank God, it’s clean,” he thought.
He ordered some water then pushed a glass in front of Catherine. “Here.”
Catherine wiped her eyes and smiled at him gratefully then took a sip of water.
Joe offered his comfort. “Hey, Cathy, I’m really sorry. I know how hard it is to be the new kid in an office.”
Catherine sniffled and blew her nose into a paper napkin. “It’s not your fault, Joe. I guess it’s human nature. I should have known better but I just didn’t think about it.”
“Didn’t think about what?”
“Everything. How people would react to me, my clothing, my....”
Joe was confused again. “Your clothing? Who the hell cares about your clothing?”
Catherine shrugged. “The people in the break room I heard talking about it. I didn’t mean to shove my wealth in people’s faces, Joe honest! I just got dressed in the morning in what I thought was appropriate clothes for the office. I didn’t realize people would discuss what the cost of my blouse was.”
Joe looked down, ashamed that her coworkers had been so petty and he didn’t even notice it. He vowed he would change that starting tomorrow. “Hey, perk up, Kiddo. Tomorrow it’ll be better.” He nodded at the waitress. “Besides, the hamburgers are coming.”
They ate the rest of the meal as Joe told Catherine humorous stories about past cases. Catherine declined dessert, and Joe paid for dinner then waved her down a cab. He made sure she was safely in it before he headed to his own cab.
On the way to their respective homes, they both smiled at the friendship that had been struck up between them.
One day, late in the afternoon, Joe approached her desk.
“Hey Cathy, come with me for a little while?” Joe said mysteriously.
She smiled and got up to follow him. “Sure where are we going?”
Joe sat her in a car and drove to the police department’s gun range.
“You ever shoot a gun, Radcliffe?”
Catherine shook her head timidly. “No.”
Joe smiled and grabbed her elbow. “Well, today’s your lucky day. Let’s go.”
They walked inside, and Joe introduced her to a friend of his. Joe talked Paul into letting him teach her how to shoot a gun.
Joe shot a few rounds then handed Catherine the gun. She took it in her hands and squared off the way he showed her to. Her hands shook in fear as she closed her eyes and tried to pull the trigger.
Joe laughed aloud as he came up behind her. “Let me help for the first time.” He put his arms around her to help steady the gun. He allowed her to pull the trigger and Catherine gasped at the power behind each shot.
They shot a few more rounds then Joe dropped his arms and let her shoot some by herself.
They thanked Paul then headed out the door to the car.
“Joe, I appreciate this, but I don’t know if I could ever shoot anybody.”
“Yeah well, you never know when the need to protect yourself is going to come up.”
“It’s funny you should say that. I decided to look into ways to protect myself. I’ve been thinking about self-defense classes. I’ve investigated different techniques but decided that some of them just don’t fit into my lifestyle.”
“I think I may know a guy you should go to. He’s supposed to be the best; a lot of the female officers go to him.”
Catherine nodded. “Okay, it’s a place to start.”
“C’mon, we should get back.”
A few days later, Catherine used the number Joe gave her and went to her first lesson. She immediately liked the instructor. Isaac was an extremely nice man who put her at ease. He guessed that she had been through some tragedy and was here to make sure it never happened again. They worked two days a week in the beginning and quickly switched to three days a week. Isaac was surprised how quickly Catherine caught on. She was growing stronger every session. They spent hours together training, and Isaac grew to care about this young woman who had so much to fight for. She was timid in the beginning and unsure of how to react; but her body had recovered fully from the attack, and her confidence was growing.
One afternoon, he got her particularly angry, and she fought back like a junkyard dog. They laughed at the change that had come over her in such a short amount of time.
He picked himself up off the floor from her brutal attack and smiled as he tried to catch his breath. “Cathy, you’re my best student.”
She laughed along with him and rolled her eyes. “I bet you say that to all your students.”
He grew serious. “No, you’ve poured everything you’ve got into learning, and it shows. You’re doing great. I’m really proud of you.”
“Thanks, Isaac. I couldn’t have done it without you.” Catherine came up and hugged him.
Isaac was surprised but returned the hug. Cathy was the first student he had that had ever hugged him. “Hey Cathy, how about we clean up and head out for something to eat?”
Catherine smiled warmly. “Isaac, that sounds wonderful.”
He chuckled. “I suppose I have to wait forty-five minutes for you to make yourself pretty?”
Catherine grabbed her duffel bag and ran towards the woman’s locker room. “Ha! I bet I can beat you!”
Isaac, up for the challenge, ran to the men’s locker rooms. He smiled to himself. Cathy had become a good friend. She was nothing like the spoiled little rich girls who walked into his gym then walked out in disgust never even speaking to him. Isaac leisurely showered giving her plenty of extra time to get ready.
He was surprised when he walked out and she sat putting on her shoes, her hair still damp on the ends.
Catherine smiled up at him. “Told you!”
“No way! You cheated!” He reached over and touched her hair. “Still damp!”
Catherine reached up and touched his. “So’s yours.”
Isaac raised his arms in defeat. “All right, I give, you win. Let’s get something to eat.”
They went to a nearby restaurant and ordered a meal. Catherine and he talked about their jobs until their food came. Much to Isaac’s surprise, Catherine gobbled down her food with gusto. She finally sat back looking satisfied.
A rough looking group of men walked in and wolf called out to her. A flash of panic came across her face, and she paled as she saw a knife flash in one of their hands. She quickly composed herself. Isaac saw her look at the table for her silverware and then he saw her gauge the distance to the door. Isaac watched her reactions and was proud that she overcame her fear and thought defensively.
“Good girl,” he whispered across the table.
The heavyset waitress came over and rapped the biggest man over the head. “Leave that sweet little girl alone, you big oaf!”
The man covered his head with his hands. “Aww, Mom that hurt. We didn’t mean no harm.”
His friends chuckled until the woman glanced their way. Each of them looked down at the floor worriedly. “You fools apologize to her nicely, you hear?”
The men nodded then came over and apologized to a grinning Catherine. The waitress came over with a piece of pie for each of them. Catherine and Isaac thanked her and then sat quietly eating their pie and drinking coffee.
“You did good, Cathy.”
She smiled ruefully. “I panicked for a minute.”
“That’s okay. You overcame it quickly enough. Can I ask you something?”
Catherine’s face paled and tears came to her eyes. “How’d you know?”
“I saw your reaction to the knife. Why didn’t you tell me?”
Catherine shrugged. Her hands were trembling, and Isaac covered them with his own. “Hey, next week, you and I are going to start work on getting you over that fear, okay?”
She nodded and smiled up at him. They paid their bill, and Isaac made sure Catherine was in a taxi before he left to go home.
Not long after her dinner with Joe, people at the DA’s office started coming around. Catherine was having lunch with Edie, whom she now considered a friend. She had asked Edie to help her investigate her assault the previous April. With only a few clues, Edie narrowed the field down to one victim, Carol Stabler.
Catherine tracked her down the next day. She told Carol she thought that what had happened to her that night in the park was meant for her. She wanted to know if she could help her in anyway. Terrified to talk to her, Carol closed the door on her.
Catherine had a horribly busy day at work; and that night at dinner, Tom refused to listen to a word she said.
She looked over at him while he cut into his steak. “I’m so frustrated with this case. I can’t get any of the witnesses to testify and turn this guy in. I’m positive they know something but they’re just afraid to come forward.”
Tom ate his steak and glanced at her occasionally. “Well, if you can’t get a witness then you can’t get a conviction. Case closed.”
Catherine’s eyes flashed angrily. “So you think I should just let a murderer go free?”
Tom blinked in surprise. “I didn’t say that. I’m just wondering why we’re talking about your cases. Shouldn’t you leave your work at work?”
Catherine sighed. “Tom, my work is important me. I just wanted to talk to someone about my frustrations.”
Tom looked at her apologetically. “I’m sorry, Cathy. Of course you did.”
A couple came over and interrupted their dinner. Tom stood up and gushed over them. “Jake, Sylvia, how are you?” He turned to Catherine. “Cathy, you remember me introducing you to Jake and Sylvia at the art benefit last month?”
Catherine smiled and nodded. “Of course, it’s nice to see you both again. Sylvia that dress you’re wearing is gorgeous.”
Sylvia smiled shyly and thanked Catherine. Tom looked at her lovingly; he could always count on Cathy to be the consummate partner. She always said the right things at the right times.
Jake glanced at his wife. “Honey, our table is ready. Tom, Catherine, will we see you at the museum benefit next week?”
Tom replied. “Of course, we wouldn’t miss it.” Catherine glanced down angrily. Tom never even asked her about going. Didn’t he realize she had to work that day?
Tom sat down and smiled at her. “Thank you for remembering them. Jake is an important lawyer over at Levinson’s.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “I know, Tom. We talked to them for over an hour the night we met them. I wonder how their daughter Julie made out with her surgery.”
Tom shook his head as he paid their bill. “I didn’t remember them talking about children.”
Catherine sighed. “Sylvia talked about it all night that night. Their daughter had a tumor removed from her abdomen.”
Tom’s eyes glazed over. “Sorry, I just remember talking to him about handling the takeover on that lakefront property we were trying to acquire. We’ll see them next week. You can ask her then, okay?”
Catherine got angry again. “Tom, I have to work that day. I told you that.”
Tom waved his hand dismissively. “Honey, just take off.”
“I can’t take off!”
“Cathy, it’s just a job! They can make it without you for one day!”
“Yes they can…but Joe has just given me some cases with more substance to them, and I don’t want to let him down.”
“What about letting me down? Ever since you’ve gotten this job you’ve been distancing yourself from me!”
“Tom, my work is important to me. Its work that actually matters, and I feel like I’m making a difference.
“I know it certainly makes a difference when you’re with me. I need you by my side at these events. We make a great team.”
Catherine sighed as she remembered all of the good nights she and Tom had together. “I’m sorry, Tom. Those things just aren’t as important to me as they once were.”
“You’ve changed so much since your accident. I miss the old Cathy.”
Catherine bit down on the anger that was starting to rise in her. It wasn’t Tom’s fault she changed, but she wished he could see the good that had come out of it. “Maybe, but sometimes change is a good thing.”
“Yeah…sometimes.” Tom frowned as he paid the bill and escorted her outside.
Catherine left and walked angrily ahead of him. She sat quietly in the limo as he escorted her home. She looked over at him and realized she had nothing in common with this man anymore. She knew she would have to break it off.
That night after he saw her home, Catherine gave him the news that she wouldn’t be seeing him anymore. His only answer was that he wouldn’t let her slip away, as he kissed her goodnight.
Unknown to her, in the world Below, Vincent had been pacing, trying to still his thoughts.
Mary walked in unexpectedly. “Vincent?”
“What is it, Mary?”
“I was wondering if you would mind taking a group of children to the concert in the park tonight? It’s a Disney tribute night, and the young ones have been so restless lately. I had hopes to do it; but Sara isn’t feeling well, and I need to stay in the nursery.”
Vincent looked at her with frustration. “Is there no one else? Rebecca or Jamie?”
Mary balked at his unusual demeanor. “I’ll ask. I’m sorry to bother you with it.”
She made to leave, and Vincent sighed before his hand shot out and he grabbed her arm. “I’m sorry, Mary. I have a lot on my mind. If no one else can do it, I’ll take the children.”
Mary patted his hand as she smiled. “I bet if I ask Jamie and Brooke to take the kids they will.”
“Great news, Father!”
“Jamie and Brooke and Mouse and Michael will all escort the children to the concert tonight.”
“I thought you were going to ask Vincent?”
Father nodded then shrugged. “Well, the important thing is the children won’t miss the concert.”
“I’m going to go tell them the good news!” Mary exclaimed excitedly.
Father sat for a while going over book work, then Mary’s words started to trouble him. With a sigh he went to see Vincent.
Vincent was pacing again when Father came into his chamber and sat down. “What troubles you so?” Vincent shrugged and continued to pace and Father continued timidly. “Is it that woman, Catherine?”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know, Father. I just have this burning need to see her again!”
“Hmm…I see…and exactly what is it you hoped to get from this meeting?”
Vincent shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Well, you must have some reason you want to see her, Vincent!”
“I guess I’d like to see if we could be friends.”
Father shook his head in disbelief as he swiped his hand down his face. “Do you have any idea how completely insane you sound?!”
“Wanting to spend time with someone from the world Above makes me insane?!” Vincent demanded.
“No! Wanting to spend time with a complete stranger from the world Above makes you insane! This woman is neither a helper nor a friend. She’s a stranger who you helped for ten short days. Don’t throw away thirty some odd years of safety and security on the whimsical dream that you can have a friendship with her!”
“So you mean to say that no one would ever want to be friends with me unless they were a helper?”
“Then what is it you’re saying?”
“I’m saying that you have nothing to offer this woman! How do you suppose this friendship will work? Do suppose she is going to come down and stand around in a cold damp tunnel to talk to you? Mice scurrying past her feet. Can you see her giving up dinner at the Tavern on the Green to carry her tray through the food line so she can have dinner with us in the Dining Chamber? Do you suppose after dinner, she will be happy walking through drainage tunnels and old sewers to get home instead of getting into a limousine and being driven home?”
“Father, Catherine isn’t like that!”
“You don’t know how she is!” Father sighed loudly. “She can only bring you unhappiness!”
“Then I will be unhappy!” Vincent said angrily. “But I can’t forget her! We’re still connected. I can feel what she’s feeling…I know what she’s thinking…when she’s frightened…when she’s happy…or sad.”
His mind made up, he grabbed a book then headed for her apartment. He made the long trek, and his mind began to flood with doubts. “What do I have to offer her? What could she possibly want with me? I should tell her I just wanted to see her to say goodbye.” By the time he made it to her balcony, he had convinced himself not to bother her but to merely leave her this book and let her know he had thought of her.
After breaking up with Tom, Catherine went up to her apartment and was sitting on her bed when she heard a strange noise out on the balcony. In fear, she grabbed her gun and went to investigate.
She saw a familiar book lying on the ground. “Great Expectations?” she thought. It dawned on her who could have left it, and she looked up in disbelief. “Vincent?!”
Vincent had come to her balcony and was nervously standing in the shadows. It had been eight months since she had seen him last. She was so excited to see him she ran to stand in front of him then impulsively hugged him. He relished her ready acceptance and hugged her back warmly.
“I didn’t mean to frighten you. I’m sorry.”
“No!” Catherine said as she rushed to reassure him. She pulled away and looked up at him. “I’m so glad to see you.”
As she pulled away, he got a good look at her. “Your face?!”
She looked at him in surprise. She had forgotten that the last time he saw her it was still scarred. “They fixed it.”
“Yes.” His mind was racing. He came here to offer her his friendship, but she was beyond all that. Her face had been transformed back to its original beauty. Her scars were not even visible. He had nothing to offer someone of her stature.
“No,” he said backing away slowly. “I have to go now.”
“No, not yet!”
Regretting immediately the impulse to see her again, he turned away. “I should never have come here!”
He tried to leave, but she reached for him and begged him to stay. He couldn’t bring himself to say no, so he stayed and they talked.
She told him all about the changes she was making in her life. She told him how hard it was, but she was learning to be strong. He told he knew how hard the battle was for her. He explained to her that he knew how she had struggled, he had been able to feel what she felt through a bond he has with her, he felt when she was happy or sad or angry or confused.
Catherine looked at him in disbelief, but she smiled knowing she had found a good friend. He told her he came to tell her goodbye. There was no place for him in her world.
She secretly hoped it wouldn’t happen, and she prayed he would return again; but in the meantime she grasped for a way to make him stay.
“Can you stay long enough to finish reading Great Expectations?”
Vincent’s first impulse was to say no, but his heart screamed out for him to stay. “Yes.”
He settled himself down on the floor away from her as she read the last chapter to him. Her melodic voice relaxed him, and he settled into the end of the story.
It had only taken a short while; but he was unwilling to take up any more of her time, and he stood quickly after she finished. “I should go.”
Catherine closed the book slowly then looked at him with a smile. “This was nice.” She held up the book. “Sharing the story. I hope we can do it again some time.”
“I’m sure you have other people to share your life with. Other places you would rather be.…”
“I do have others in my life, but I liked spending this time with you.”
Vincent nodded shyly. “I liked it as well.”
Catherine got to her feet. “Well, then it’s settled. Next time you come to see me, I’ll have a book for us to share. You will come again, won’t you, Vincent?”
“Perhaps. Goodbye, Catherine.”
Unwilling to let this be the end, she touched his arm. “Goodnight, Vincent.”
Catherine smiled as she walked back into her room.
The next day, Carol Stabler showed up at Catherine’s office. She was ready to testify against the men who attacked both Catherine and her. Catherine set her up in a friend’s brownstone that was being renovated. She figured Carol would be safe there.
It was later that night, when Catherine was bringing groceries that she found Carol murdered on the third floor. Now, the same men that had attacked Catherine the first time were slowly closing in on her. She ran and fled through the house and down the stairs. She encountered one of the men and pushed him down the steps. As she passed him, he caught her ankle and she fell. She reached around frantically for a weapon of some sort, but the other two men were already coming down the stairs. The leader raised his gun to shoot her as they heard a noise coming up from the basement.
Vincent, driven to her side by the fear she felt, crashed through the door leading from the basement and quickly disposed of the man with the gun. He snapped the neck of the next man and slashed the face of the third throwing him to the ground. He leapt onto the man’s back and dug his claws into his sides and ripped down the length of his body.
Catherine watched in abject horror at the scene playing out in front of her.
When it was over, Vincent realized she had seen who and what he had become. At the look of shock on her face, he hung his head in shame, hiding his face behind his hair and seemingly shrank into himself.
Catherine quickly recovered from her shock when she saw his face contort with shame. She took a deep breath, and concern for him flooded through her. She walked over to him, grabbed his bloody hands in her own, and tugged gently. “We can’t stay here.”
A feeling of disbelief washed over him but he got up, held her hand, and led her through the basement and into the tunnels.
After they walked about a block, Vincent suddenly stopped and without looking at Catherine told her what he was doing. “I need to build a wall. It won’t take me long.”
She had wondered why there were so many loose rocks in one area and decided correctly that he must have broken through the wall that had been there previously. She watched as he silently set about building a false wall. She leaned back against the wall behind her; the shock of all that happened was starting to sink in. She began to tremble as her mind registered the fact that not twenty minutes ago, she was almost killed. She gasped as she fought to hold down the churning in her stomach.
Vincent stopped and turned around then quizzically looked over at her. “Are you all right?”
Catherine smiled weakly as she looked up at him. “I...don’t know...I guess so.”
“You’re in shock.”
Catherine nodded her head in agreement. “I guess. I had a witness to one of my cases staying there. I thought she would be safe. I was bringing her dinner. I found her dead on the third floor. Then they found me. I tried to run...but....” Tears fell freely from her eyes.
Vincent leaned against the wall next to her, unsure of how to help. Catherine leaned over to put her head against his shoulder. Vincent’s arm came up slowly as he gently patted her back.
A few minutes later, a thought struck her and she stood back to look at him as she sniffled. “Vincent, I was never so happy to see anyone in my entire life, but why were you there? I mean...how did you know?”
He looked at her cautiously. “I told you that night on the balcony that I could feel what you feel. I felt your fear, Catherine. It...overwhelmed me, and somehow I knew you needed help.”
“And you came and....”
Vincent looked down with remorse, and Catherine stopped as she realized she had inadvertently led them back to a place that was best forgotten.
She reached out to him and touched his arm. “Vincent, are you okay?” He shrugged, and she continued. “Did you get hurt?” He shook his head but didn’t answer her. She frowned as she sympathized with what he must be going through. “Tell me what you’re thinking about? Do you want to talk about what happened?”
“Please don’t think about what happened back there…erase it from your mind.…”
“Vincent, you saved my life! What happened to those men was their own fault. They would’ve killed me if you hadn’t come in when you did!”
His head flew up, and he looked at her with such anguish she blinked back fresh tears. He shook his head and lowered it once more, effectively hiding his features behind his hair. Catherine sighed. Any other questions or comments she tried to make were met with silence, so she fell silent herself.
Suddenly Vincent pushed off from the wall and went back to work building the false wall. His mind was reliving the violence of the deaths he just caused. He felt again the life leave each of his victims and the shame and horror of knowing she had witnessed him in that condition. He felt her staring at him and wondered if she was disgusted with him.
He would be surprised to know what she was really thinking.
Catherine’s thoughts were of a much different nature. She remembered thinking in terror that her death was imminent. She remembered the relief she felt when Vincent showed up. If it weren’t for him, she would be the one who was dead. She was horrified that he had to kill those men to protect her, but she was so grateful! How could she ever thank him? Again!
She watched for a few more minutes then thought back to the condition of the basement foundation as they entered the tunnels. She realized the danger of having the police searching this far and decided she could help him. She came over to hand him bricks as he stacked them neatly, creating a barrier. She stood back and watched with awe as she realized how hard it would be to detect that this was a false wall. She was again intrigued by the ingenuity this world used for their very survival.
Vincent finished the wall, and with a quick glance her way, turned away and once again began the journey home.
It was a long walk, and each was lost in their thoughts.
When they got to the familiar junction right outside her threshold, she stopped and turned to him and said, “I owe you everything….everything.”
“You owe me nothing. I’m part of you, Catherine, just as you’re a part of me. Wherever you go, wherever I am…I’m with you. Goodbye,” he said quietly, intending to leave.
She couldn’t let him go, not like that. Impulsively, she threw her arms around his shoulders and rested her head at the base of his neck. He gently returned the hug. When he made to pull away, she pulled him closer. He held her tighter until she slowly released him and let her hands fall down his arms as she squeezed them quickly.
“For now,” she said with a half-smile.
They each turned to go their separate ways. After a few strides, they simultaneously turned back to look at one another. As she turned back around, the thought suddenly struck her. She had no way of contacting him; and if she wanted to see him, she would have to wait for him to reach out to her!
At the urgency in her voice, he quickly came to her side. “What is it, Catherine?”
“What if I want to see you again? How can I contact you?”
Vincent blinked in surprise at her request. “I didn’t think...I mean…after everything.…”
Catherine smiled as she came forward and touched his arm. “I like spending time with you, and I thought that maybe we could see each other from time to time.”
Vincent shyly looked at the ground. “I….”
Seeing him flounder, she smiled curiously. “What is it? You can tell me.”
“It will seem silly to you…but… it’s always been a dream of mine. I never thought it to be possible to have a friendship with someone like you. I’ve never had a friend of my own before.”
“It doesn’t seem silly.” With a sigh, Catherine leaned back against the tunnel wall. “Vincent, I was very lucky in my life in that I didn’t have any of the same financial struggles that a lot of my peers had, but with that wealth came many false friendships. I only have a few people in my life that I trust and would consider myself especially close to.”
“Once you’ve been hurt, it’s hard to allow your heart to trust again…to let someone close enough to become a friend.”
“Yes, and I have been hurt.” Catherine looked at him curiously, “You said there are so many people that live Below and that you all help one another. Surely you must be close with everyone.”
“Some more than others.” Vincent sighed. “I have friends, Catherine… people I grew up with, or others I’ve met through helpers, but no one that I’ve personally ever met first.”
“Vincent, I often find myself thinking of you throughout the day, wondering what you would say or do in various situations. You’ve become an important part of my life, and that to me defines a friendship.”
“I feel the same way about you, Catherine.”
“Well, then to deny that friendship…this bond we share…would be a grave disservice to both of us.”
“It’s settled then. Now…how can I reach you?”
Vincent reached for her hand and took her to a big pipe against the far wall. He searched the ground then bent over and grabbed a rock. “You can tap out a message on the pipes....here I’ll show you.”
He turned to Catherine and handed her the rock. “You try.”
Catherine gulped nervously as she took the rock from his hand. She mimicked the first set of taps closely and was only off a little.
Vincent nodded. “Good. You only missed one tap.” He bent over and covered her hand with his then tapped it out again. “There, that’s my name.” Catherine smiled up at him, and he realized how close he had gotten to her and subtlety stepped back. “Okay, here’s your name.” Once again he covered her hand and helped her tap out the message. “Good. Now try both by yourself.”
Catherine concentrated and did both names correctly.
Vincent nodded his approval. “That’s all you have to do to call for me.”
Catherine smiled excitedly. “That was easy. You’ll come here then?”
Vincent shyly lowered his face. “I’ll come wherever you are. You can tap that message out on any pipe in the city that leads below ground level. We have entrances leading Above scattered all throughout the city. I’ll always be able to find you.”
Catherine looked intrigued at the possibility of contacting him at any time. “Where are the other entrances that go Below?”
Vincent shrugged. “Many are in the basements of helpers, in their homes or storefronts. A common entrance we often use is in the culvert in the park.”
“Yes, the one beyond the bridge near the carousel. It’s a short walk through the culvert before it opens up to a larger room. There are a few hidden alcoves you can use to ensure the way is safe before heading into the park or Below. It has a door that slides open with the use of a hidden mechanism. Once inside there is a series of tunnels that all lead to that one opening.”
Catherine nodded as she smiled widely “At least I know I can get a hold of you.”
“If you wish to…I’ll always be there for you, Catherine.”
His voice sounded strange and Catherine reached out to touch his arm. “Vincent, I’ll always be there for you too! That’s what friends are…people who are there for each other.”
“I’m sure you have many friends, Catherine, friends who can share your life Above with you.”
“You can share my life with me too…well…sort of.… I mean we can relate the details about our lives to one another…share what happens in our lives.”
“I would like nothing more.”
“I’m glad. Goodbye, Vincent. I hope I’ll see you soon.”
Vincent nodded but remained silent as she turned and walked away.
The bond had taken root.