Shadows of the Past
by Donna Howard
(Originally appeared in the 2005 Conzine)
Vincent was brooding again.
He and Catherine had met earlier that evening on her balcony. As they had watched the moon rise together, they had spoken of their hopes and dreams. She simply couldn’t understand why he would not consummate their love. They had nearly argued before leaving the subject, again, to another time. The night had been too beautiful to spoil.
Whenever he left Catherine, he returned to his chambers and began to brood over their future. It was a depressing subject, which he managed to banish from his thoughts at other times. How long would she love him, when he could not fulfill her? How could he persuade her that their love must remain platonic?
He had explained to her that he was too strong and too primitive to love her. Father had told him over and over as he was growing up that he was stronger than his friends, and that his animal instincts were very strong. If he lost control of his feelings - whether anger or passion - he would hurt those around him. And Father had been right - Father was always right. When he had been infatuated with Lisa he had forgotten Father’s lessons. The memory of the look on Lisa’s face, the blood on her dress and his near-inability to stop, still haunted him. How could he have done that to someone he loved? How much worse would he hurt Catherine, whom he loved so much more passionately? But would she stay, if he did not love her physically?
His thoughts circled round and round, bringing him no peace.
The next day, Catherine was called to the conference room. A FBI agent wanted to talk to her. She walked in to see him standing by the table. He was in his late thirties, not too tall, dressed in a gray suit, white shirt, plain tie - correct but very bland. He had dark hair, and a square face with square glasses giving him an odd look.
“Ms. Chandler?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, looking up from her extremely overloaded desk.
“Bill Harris, FBI.” He flashed a badge. “I understand you worked the Taft murder?”
“Yes, I did.” Her thoughts raced. What in the world was going on ? Why would the FBI be interested in a solved case? She really didn’t have time for this today, but if it affected Father... “Why would the FBI be interested in a closed case?”
“Your initial suspect was Jacob Wells. He is wanted in connection with other crimes. He’s been on the list for several years. I saw in the case file that you were not only an investigator on the case, but you helped clear him. The police noted that you were instrumental in proving his innocence. Do you know where he is now?”
“Crimes? What crimes could he possibly have committed?” Catherine was beginning to worry. This looked serious.
“We have an outstanding warrant on charges of evading arrest, selling classified information, espionage, and treason.” Bill Harris looked particularly severe as he recited the charges. “I have to ask again, do you know where he is?”
“I haven’t seen him in quite a while. I was asked by a friend to help. I am fairly well know among some of the homeless as someone who will help if an innocent man is unfairly caught in the legal system.” Catherine tried to look convincing, but was not sure she had pulled it off.
“I see. Just an anonymous request for help? I am surprised, if you feel that way, that you don’t work for the P.D.’s office.” He had a sardonic look in his eye as he spoke. “We’ll be continuing to investigate. You’ll be hearing from us again. Maybe one of your ‘friends’ will tell you where Mr. Wells is. Here is my number. Leave a message anytime.”
Catherine watched as he walked away. She had a bad feeling that her problems were only beginning. What on earth was going on? Espionage? Treason?!? She would have to talk to Vincent and Father, quickly. Her instincts were to persuade Father to turn himself in, and then work to prove his innocence. Father had suffered badly the last time he had been jailed, however. She was not sure that he would agree. After all, if the FBI knew where he was, they would already have arrested him. Her thoughts circled around and around. Then with an effort, she turned back to her work. There was nothing more she could do until evening.
When Catherine left work late that night, she headed straight for
Vincent was surprised to see Catherine. They had agreed not to meet that night, so tempers could cool. Also, they had both secretly hoped that the other would somehow magically change their mind after a few days separation.
“Catherine! What is wrong? You don’t usually come here.”
“Vincent, I need to talk to you and Father. I had a strange visit today at work.” Her face reflected her disquiet. “The FBI has a warrant for Father’s arrest.”
“Father’s arrest!?” Vincent cried. “How could that be? And how did you find out?” Suddenly, he realized that she was still in her work clothes, obviously tired. “Sit down, Catherine. Rest, and let me get you something to eat. You can tell me what has happened, and then we’ll look for Father.” He blamed himself for his preoccupation, which had made him overlook Catherine’s fatigue.
As she ate, she told him the story of the FBI agent’s visit. As she remembered the details, her worry increased. “This could be serious, Vincent. The FBI has a lot of power, and these are serious charges. They won’t stop. It could endanger the tunnels.”
“We’ll have to ask Father if he knows anything about it. He said once that he had worked in a research facility. Perhaps someone framed him for another’s misdeeds. I think you will need to find out more about the warrants, and the FBI’s case. You can do that, can’t you?” he asked.
“I’ll do what I can. I should have found out more before I came, but I panicked. I could tell that he didn’t believe me when I said that some other homeless people had asked me to help. I suppose it was a weak explanation, but it was all I could think of at short notice.”
“Let’s go see Father.”
Father was in his chambers. He had been reading.
“Hello, Vincent. What are you doing up so late?” He looked pleased to see Vincent. “Catherine, what are you doing here?” he said disapprovingly.
Catherine looked at Father. He looked the same as always - a kindly, elderly man with something of a stern look now. He was in a robe, obviously settled in for the evening.
“Father, I needed to see you and Vincent,” she said soberly. “Someone came to my office today. He was from the FBI, and he said that he had a warrant for your arrest.”
“My arrest?! How could they possibly arrest me?” Despite the surprise in his voice, Father appeared unconcerned.
Catherine was confused now - why wasn’t Father more worried? “Father,” she said, “they are charging you with evading arrest, selling classified information, espionage, and treason. I don’t think they were joking. We need to prove your innocence.”
“I can not believe the FBI is looking for me. It must be a mistake of some sort.”
Vincent spoke for the first time. “We need to find out what is happening, and why the FBI is doing this. If they come looking, they could endanger the tunnels.”
“Of course it won’t endanger the tunnels.”
Father interrupted him, looking severe. “My ‘trial’ was a witch hunt.” He spoke intensely, passionately. “I won’t go through that again.”
“If you help me prove your innocence, I can have the charges dismissed. There is no reason for it to ever come to trial, or for you to go above,” said Catherine.
“No. I will not have the past dragged up again. I came to the tunnels to forget those dark days. I have twice been falsely charged, and I refuse to suffer through it again. I could not tolerate those jail cells another time. I find it hard to believe that you would ask me to. The FBI will never look for me here.” Father looked unmovable.
Vincent was puzzled. “Father, this is very serious. We must believe Catherine when she says that the FBI will continue to look for you. She lives above, and works with them.”
“I know,” said Father. “I believe her.”
“How will we keep the FBI away from the tunnels, then?” he asked.
Father turned to Catherine. “Catherine,” he asked, “how did you find out about these warrants?”
Catherine was very worried now. Father was not taking this well at all, and her instincts were telling her that something was very wrong. “The FBI agent came to my office. He had heard about the murder case, and how I proved your innocence. He asked if I knew where you were. Of course, I said no. He won’t give up easily though, Father.”
Father looked triumphant. “See, Vincent, simplicity itself.”
“Simple? How is it simple, Father?”
“All Catherine has to do is never come back to the tunnels. She is the FBI’s only link to me. As long as she comes nowhere near the tunnels, the FBI will not find them. I am surprised you didn’t see it yourself. For safety’s sake, I think that you should keep away from her apartment too, Vincent. There should be no connection between Catherine and any of us.”
“What? You can’t mean that! After all Catherine has done for us, for you?” Vincent looked shocked.
“Vincent, my boy, I am sure that Catherine would not want to put you at any risk. If the FBI finds the tunnels, it will find you as well. Your life could be in danger.” Father looked rather smug. He had always distrusted Catherine’s influence on Vincent. Here was a chance to eliminate that influence, thrown into his lap.
Catherine’s face paled. “If it means danger to you, Vincent, I will stay away. I don’t think the FBI will simply leave, however. You are all still in danger.”
“Yes, yes, my dear. We will be careful,” Father replied. “I know everyone in the tunnels will appreciate your sacrifice. I certainly do. Vincent will see you to your apartment. We don’t want you to run into any danger on the way. Again, thank you for your warning, Catherine. Good-bye.”
Father waved them out.
As they left Father, Vincent said, “Catherine, we must talk.”
They walked in silence until they reached Vincent’s chamber. He sat her down by the fire.
“I know that Father has always been right,” Vincent said, “but will this really end the danger?”
Catherine was very unhappy. “It will end the immediate danger. The FBI was questioning me, and Father has no other known associates above. They will have no trail to follow to Father. Vincent, why won’t he simply let me prove his innocence?”
“I don’t know, Catherine. I will ask him. The memory of his time in prison may disturb him so much that he could not face it again. Although he has stayed below for over thirty years, he has always been free to come and go if he chose.”
“I find this whole situation very disturbing. Will you see what you can find out, Vincent?”
“I will, although I don’t think there is anything to discover. Father is not a criminal, and it was a complete surprise to him.”
“Then I will stay away until it is safe to come to you again.”
“Catherine, are you sure?” he asked. “It will be hard.”
Vincent could see the pain and resolution in Catherine’s eyes. As he watched her in the flickering firelight, he could tell that she would not back down. She was so beautiful, and so compelling. The light highlighted her scar, reminding him that she was strong as well. How could he live without her presence?
“I will not risk your life, Vincent. However, I do not believe this will last forever. I refuse to believe that it will last forever. Someday, we will be together again. For now, we will be patient.”
They stood and held each other, silhouetted against the fire. Finally, Catherine reached up and kissed Vincent. Vincent could not deny her, not when they were to be parted for an indefinite time. When she broke their kiss he held her close, trying to absorb her into his very skin. He could hear her heart beating in time with his. He then bent to kiss her, his first time initiating a kiss. She held him as if she would never let him go. He kissed her once more.
Catherine woke the next morning with Vincent’s name on her lips. Her mind was still confused from a dream of running after Vincent, calling to him while he moved further and further away. With a shock, she remembered the events of the previous day. She turned into her pillow, crying softly.
When she arose, she scolded herself for her weakness.
“You told him that it would not be forever. Now you need to make that happen!”
As she ate breakfast, she thought over everything which had happened. As she did, some questions stirred in her mind. When and why had the FBI charged Father with espionage? The charges must be very old, since Father had lived in the tunnels for over thirty years. Why had they cared enough to pursue them? And when had NYPD case files been added to NCIC?
Her thoughts raced, as she tried to distract herself from the pain of separation. In the past, she had always known that despite their distance from each other, they would see one another soon. The thought of an indefinite separation was anguish.
She cleaned up and left for the office. First things first.
Once at work she stared at her pile of work, then ignored it. She called one of the staff researchers.
“Are you busy, Michelle? I could use some help.”
“Who needs some help?”
“Sorry,” Catherine laughed. “This is Cathy.”
“I’m ALWAYS busy. You know this office! If we’re not sixty cases behind, it’s a slow day! You’d think this cheap city would hire some more staff, but its easier to pile on the work and use the money to redecorate the mayor’s office. Anyway, what d’ya need?”
“I need some information. An FBI agent stopped by my office yesterday, questioning me about Jacob Wells, a former witness. He said that Mr. Wells is wanted on various old crimes. I was so busy I did not think about it, but it’s been bothering me. Can you call the FBI for me? I want to find out more about these warrants, and what kind of evidence they have. The usual - exactly what are the charges; where and when did the crimes occur; is there material evidence or is it all circumstantial; are there witnesses and if so are they eyewitnesses. Nothing much.”
“You don’t ask for much do you, girl? I’ll give ‘em a call and see what I can shake loose. I’ll phone and let you know!”
With that, Michelle hung up.
Catherine laughed to herself as she hung up the telephone. Michelle was so cheerful and bubbly, just listening to her could cheer up anyone. Perhaps it was a reaction to the sordid, brutal and depressing crimes she researched. Catherine began to think about other possible questions that might be usefully asked. Where else could she go for information? It would take at least a day for Michelle to retrieve the information she had requested. She could have done it herself, but she didn’t have the time to argue with the FBI about why she needed the information. Besides, networking was much more effective. It could take her days to get the information, but the researchers all had friends who would get them information faster and in more detail. In a couple of days Michelle would have anything not classified or otherwise kept under wraps. In the meantime, she needed to find another avenue to investigate.
The next day she was still puzzling over the problem when Michelle called her.
“Hi Cath! It’s Michelle. Was this a test or joke or something? If so, you owe me. I’m busy enough without going on wild goose chases!”
“Hi Michelle? What did you mean? I was serious. I need the information very badly.”
“Well, if you gave me the right name, it’s a dead end. FBI has no warrants for any Jacob Wells. J-A-C-O-B W-E-L-L-S, right? I mean, if I got the name wrong, I’ll call back.”
“What! That’s impossible. The agent was standing here in my office the other day. I still have his card. He said to call him if I remembered anything.”
“Well, call him and ask what’s up. `Cause there ain’t no warrants for that name.”
“Maybe I should check his credentials. I didn’t think to before. Who would come into a DA’s office and impersonate a FBI agent?”
“You should, if it’ll make you feel better about it. I never worry about the feds. They’re always doing weird stuff, and they’ve always got their head up their.... Maybe I shouldn’t finish that in polite company!” She laughed.
Catherine chuckled politely. She was still stunned over the surprising twist. “Thank you very much for checking for me.”
“No problem. Listen, gotta run. Stop by the desk for a good gabfest sometime. See you!”
“I’ll talk to you soon, Michelle.”
Catherine wrote down on her pad, no warrants? She thought for several moments. What in the world had he wanted? She realized that the whole purpose of his visit had been to see if she knew Father, and what her connection was to him. Again, though - why? What did he want with Father, if not to pick him up for the FBI? The first thing was to check and see if he was a genuine FBI agent. She could have asked Michelle, but as Michelle had said, it was an easy thing to check herself. She might need Michelle’s services more later.
Catherine called the FBI and verified Bill Harris’s credentials. However, further checking revealed that he was on vacation. Curiouser and curiouser, she thought. What was he up to? A little later she called again and spoke to a different employee, checking his description, They matched. Bill Harris was Bill Harris, vacationing FBI agent. She made some more notes on her pad, and then started a file. The information she had acquired so far was raising more questions than answers.
After a week of frantic activity at work, and no activity from Bill
Harris, Catherine decided to contact Vincent. Remembering her promise to
stay away from Vincent, she went to a little shop in
She was beginning to wonder if she was a little paranoid. Had she overreacted to Harris’ visit? It was bizarre, but there were no further signs of any threat. With no active pursuit by the FBI as an organization, there might be no need to stay away.
Vincent’s absence was incredibly painful. She couldn’t remember the last time they had gone so long without seeing each other. It was like part of herself was missing. She realized that what was bothering her the most was the suspicion that Vincent was secretly relieved, at least in part. After all, she was no longer pressing him to take the next step in their relationship. No matter how hard she tried, she could not convince him that it was not within his power to hurt her. Sometimes, she could hate Father. His belief that Vincent was inherently violent was keeping them from happiness. Of course, if she could not solve the mystery of Bill Harris that would keep them apart just as effectively. She was sure Vincent’s pain was as deep as hers, but he would take no steps to end their separation. It was up to her to find her way back to Vincent.
After several hours of window shopping, and the purchase of a very soft scarf she thought would look wonderful on Vincent, she arrived at the bookstore. She looked in the window for a moment, then went in. The bookstore was small and cluttered, with bookcases climbing to the ceiling forming odd little nooks. Catherine browsed first one section then another, slowly working her way deeper into the shop. Several other browsers left, and the lady behind the counter went into the back. As she moved, she watched for Elaine, the helper who worked here. The poetry books captured her attention, and she lost track of the world around her as she read some of the poems Vincent had read to her.
“Can I help you?”
It was Elaine. Catherine had seen her only once or twice before. She was a colorful sight - red hair, gypsy skirts in clashing colors, long dangling earrings and a cheerful smile. In the more somber tunnels, she had stood out like a torch in the dark.
“Yes, I am interested in this book,” Catherine said loudly. Then, quietly she added, “Are we alone? Is it safe to talk?”
Elaine smiled as she recognized Catherine, but then the smile disappeared as quickly as it had come. “The owner just went out to lunch. I think we’re alone. I can’t believe you’re here, though. Father said that none of us were to see you or talk to you. He said that you brought danger to the tunnels. You can’t stay here. I could get in a lot of trouble for talking to you.”
Catherine was shocked. How could she tell Vincent about any progress, if she could not contact any of the helpers? What was Father thinking? She hadn’t agreed to that, had she? As she thought back to their conversation, she realized that she hadn’t actually disagreed. She could hear Father’s voice again in her mind “There should be no connection between Catherine and any of us.” As she realized what Father had meant by the phrasing, she felt betrayed and abandoned.
Elaine smiled again nervously at her. She looked sympathetic, but very uncomfortable. “Please let me ring this up for you.”
Catherine panicked at the thought of losing her only lifeline to Vincent. However, she didn’t think that threatening Elaine would gain her anything. “Would you give Vincent a message for me? I promise I won’t bother you again.” She started moving toward the counter, carrying her book with her.
“Yes, but only this once. I have friends below - I won’t risk being shunned.”
“I don’t think Vincent knows the ban is this complete. He’ll have to find another way to send me a message if he finds out anything. Please tell him that the FBI does not have a warrant for Father. There will be no agents or tactical teams searching for the tunnels. More importantly, tell Vincent that I love him.”
“I will tell him. It might take a few days, though. If Father hears that I talked to you, or told Vincent to send you messages...” As the shop door opened, she raised her voice, “Will this be all?”
“Yes. How much is it?”
Elaine rang up the sale, took Catherine’s money and placed the book in a paper bag. “Thank you. Have a nice day.”
As Catherine left, her panic transformed into a grim determination. Patience was no longer an option. It was time to fight back. She walked rapidly uptown, then realized she needed to slow down. She had been careful to make the visit to the bookstore appear random. Leaving the area immediately would make that effort pointless. She saw a small tea shop and went in.
Once in the shop, Catherine took a seat in the quietest corner. When the waitress came, she ordered a pot of tea and a scone. Then, she took her book out of the bag, propped it in front of her, and finally began to think. So far, she hadn’t really taken this situation that seriously. Her preoccupation with Vincent, and her recognition that they needed a little time apart had kept her from acting promptly. The only way to solve this, she thought, was to treat it like a case. What did she know, what loose ends were there, and what could she investigate?
Bill Harris was the most obvious lead to follow. She knew that he actually was an FBI agent. He had appeared in her office, while not on duty, and pretended to be there on official business. He had talked about non-existent warrants. What he had really wanted to know, however, was Father’s whereabouts. If she had thought of it, she could have asked Father if he knew Bill Harris. It was a lost opportunity now. She suspected that even if she had been able to talk to Father, though, she would not have received an answer.
As she thought over what she knew about Father, she began to realize how little it actually was. Everything she knew about his life before the tunnels she had learned while investigating his disappearance. Vincent had discovered the marriage license in Father’s secret cupboard. Father’s name had been Jacob Wells. He had married Margaret over thirty-five years ago, and the marriage had been annulled by her father. They had discovered together Father’s old name badge, which had identified him as a member of the Chittenden Research Institute. She herself had searched the microfiche copies of old newspapers, and discovered the articles about Jacob’s trial. He had been investigated by the Committee on Un-American Activities, on charges of being a Communist. He had been black-listed, and had lost his medical license. There had really been nothing more in the articles except the usual journalistic color and speculation, with a hefty dose of Cold War hysteria. Father had later told her that his friend Allen Taft had been his lawyer, and had stood by him through the scandal. Remembering back, she realized that he had told her nothing else. She suspected he had not talked to Vincent about it, either. For the moment, she could not question Father, even if he would talk. If he ever did open his heart and memories, he would only do it for Vincent. She would have to leave that to him. She needed another place to start investigating.
Bill Harris was the obvious place to start. He would be tricky, though. The FBI’s files were not open to all and sundry, particularly personnel files. She could, however, ask her father for the name of the detective agency he used. She remembered when she was younger, and he had talked about a nasty case of industrial espionage. The detective agency had uncovered the culprit, enabling him to fire the man. He had been amazed at how much confidential information the agency had acquired. She could see what they could find, before using her sources at work. Investigating the background of an FBI agent would raise too many questions at the office, since there was no connection to an ongoing case. She would call her father when she was home again.
In the meantime...she pondered the articles about the Committee on Un-American Activities. She could investigate that part of Father’s past herself. There were entire rooms of testimony, statements, evidence and decisions. Father’s ‘trial’ there would give her a starting place to investigate Father’s past. The National Archives would doubtless have what she needed, but traveling to D.C. would waste time. Her next stop should be the New York Public Library.
Catherine waited in line for over an hour, before explaining to the
reference librarian that she was researching a relative who appeared
before the committee. Where could she find the information she needed?
The woman disappeared into her office for several minutes, then
returned. What Catherine needed was the Cumulative Index to Publications
of the Committee on Un-American Activities, 1938-54 and its supplement
covering 1955-1968. There were no copies in this library, but the Labor
By this time, Catherine needed a rest. She went home to start a file and list her findings. The facts were pitifully few, and the questions many. A call to the library at NYU elicited the unwelcome news that the archives were closed on Sundays, and only open business hours during the week. Only a lunch time visit would tell her how much information was available at the library.
Once home, she called her father and asked for the name of the security firm. It was difficult to evade the questions as to why she needed the information. She finally said that a friend needed to investigate a painful family situation. After a short conversation catching up on recent news, and a promise of dinner soon, she hung up. There was nothing more she could do tonight.
Sunday passed quietly, although not happily. Catherine was more than ready for work on Monday. She told Joe she was taking a two hour lunch to run an errand, and that she would work late.
The Labor Archives did indeed have the promised reference, and listed
the surprisingly few pages in which Jacob Wells was mentioned.
Requesting the appropriate volume, she read the complete transcript. The
‘trial’ had been quite brief. She checked the sessions before and after
his hearing. Yes, it seemed that most other hearings were considerably
lengthier, more complete and more heavily documented (no matter how
dubious the supporting evidence). She read the testimony again. The
committee had asked if Jacob had indeed reported that radiation had
inimical effects on human tissue, and if he had lost his job because of
that. They had then asked if he thought that reporting American soldiers
were being subjected to deadly radiation by the government was going to
help the war effort. There were quite a few mini-speeches about the
dangers of subversion, depression of morale, insidious effects of
communism, the undermining of the home front while the troops fought in
She photocopied the pages, and then returned the book. She sat, rereading the documents and making notes. Even by the rather minimalist standards of the time, the evidence had been sketchy at best. Today, any halfway competent judge would throw out the case immediately, as being without foundation. It seemed impossible that Father, or rather that Jacob Wells, could have been branded a communist with no real proof. The mere fact of publishing the results of his legitimate research seemed to have convicted him.
Catherine looked at her watch and realized her lunch hour was over. If she did not find a cab quickly, she was dangerously close to being late. She would have to return tomorrow. She took the precaution of taking one of the librarian’s cards, and returned to work.
Fortunately, a cab was dropping someone off at the building. As she traveled back to the D.A’s office, she reread the testimony, and mused. There was no clue or connections at all in the material, simply the absence of any useful material. Tomorrow, she would definitely need to learn more. Perhaps she should talk to someone. Even though the evidence might seem thin to her, an expert on the committee might shed some light on why it was accepted. She would call the librarian from the office and ask if she could recommend someone.
Elaine went below that night. She brought her usual supplies, and some new books for the children. She visited with her friends, and acted normally. She watched for Vincent, but he did not come. When she was ready to leave, she did not return immediately to the surface. Instead, she slipped away to Vincent’s chambers. She had taken the precaution of bringing a small book of poetry for him. If asked, she could tell any questioner that she had thought he might enjoy it.
Quietly she called, “Vincent? Vincent, are you there?”
“I am here. Come in.”
Vincent looked up from his reading to see Elaine. He did not know her well, but had seen her at celebrations. She looked a little nervous as she entered.
“Vincent, I need to speak to you alone. Is this a good time?”
“It’s fine, Elaine. What do you need?” he asked.
“I don’t need anything. I came to give you a message. Catherine came to the store two days ago. She asked me to tell you that you’ll need to find a way to send her a message if you discover anything. She said to tell you that the FBI don’t want Father, that there is no warrant. Last, she sends her love.”
“Why will I need to find a way to send her a message?”
Elaine was becoming increasingly nervous. She wanted to leave as quickly as possible. She respected both Vincent and Catherine, but going against Father...“ Father has forbidden the helpers to see or talk to Catherine. He said that it was too dangerous, that she could bring searchers down upon us. Vincent, please don’t ask me to go against Father,” she pleaded. “I don’t want to be banned from coming below any more.”
“Don’t worry, Elaine. I won’t ask you to risk yourself. Thank you for telling me. Will you get in any trouble?”
“No. Vincent — good luck. I hope you and Catherine will find a way.”
Vincent was aghast. He watched Elaine leave, unable to move himself. He had not realized that Father would go so far. While someone could follow Catherine to the tunnels, surely an occasional conversation with a helper would not endanger them. After the help she had given Father and all of them, surely she deserved better that to be cast aside like this.
Vincent had not made many efforts to solve the mystery so far. He had been relieved that she had not been pressing him to make love. Despite the pain of her absence, he had been comforted by the knowledge that he would see her again before long. He had been waiting patiently for the danger to pass. Knowing now that he could not even send her a message made it much more painful.
Despite Catherine’s original unease and Father’s concern for the danger, Vincent had not worried. This had seemed like any of the other problems that he had encountered in the past - floods, construction, enemies - they all eventually passed and life returned to normal. Now, however, his instincts were clamoring. Something was wrong.
To check Elaine’s story, he went out to the hall. He asked one of the helpers there if he would take a message to Catherine. The man was belligerent as he told Vincent that he would not, and she would only bring disaster down on them all.
He strode to Father’s chamber, beginning to feel a little angry.
“Father! Father, are you there?”
“What is it, Vincent? It’s late.”
“Father, did you tell the helpers not to take any messages to Catherine?” Vincent tried to speak calmly.
“Yes, Vincent, I did.”
“That was unnecessary. I agreed to stay away from Catherine, and she agreed to stay away from the tunnels. You did not have to forbid any communication.”
Father looked concerned. “Vincent, you know that it was Catherine’s idea. She agreed that it would be dangerous to have any connection to us. If someone were watching her, he could follow the people she talked to. A written message could be intercepted. I think it was very brave and honorable of Catherine to refuse to endanger the community.”
“I don’t think Catherine realized that you were planning such a complete break. How will she tell us what she discovers? How will she be able to tell us that it is safe again?” Vincent was rather confused. Father was acting in the best interests of the whole community. Yet, how could something so unfair, which caused so much pain, be right?
“I hadn’t thought of that.” Father’s frown of concern deepened. “We’ll have to think about it. I am sure we will think of a way - but not tonight! It’s late, Vincent. We can talk more tomorrow.”
Vincent left, and returned to his chambers. Now that it was forbidden, he had a powerful need to contact Catherine. He picked up a piece of paper and began to write.
My dearest Catherine,
The nights are empty, now that I cannot be with you. I have watched you on your balcony from afar. Were you as lonely as I? I will have to find a way to send you this message. If you wish to send me a message, leave it in the public library, tucked in the Bibliography of American Authors under Tennyson. I will check every night. Though I cannot talk to you, I will watch you every night.
He tucked it in his cloak, and waited. He could do nothing more except wait until morning.
By morning, he had thought of a way to have his letter delivered. He went in search of Mouse. He was careful to appear casual. He did not want Father to know what he was doing. Mouse would be able to help him, but not if Father found out. It took all morning. Everyone had a question or a story to tell him. Eventually he found Mouse working on the pipes.
“Mouse, will you do something for me? It would have to be a secret. You would be in trouble if anyone found out.”
Mouse looked up, interested and alert. “I know! You want me to see Catherine!”
“Yes, but if anyone finds out, you could be in trouble. There may be someone watching Catherine. Father is right that someone could follow Catherine’s friends to the tunnels. You will need to do it carefully. Can you?”
“Mouse will do it!” Mouse looked excited. He loved plans and projects.
Vincent was worried, but he needed to contact Catherine. “Mouse, all you have to do is find a way to give Catherine this note.”
“Can do! Will do!”
Vincent held out the letter he had written. Mouse snatched it from his hand and ran off. Vincent sighed deeply. He hoped that he had done the right thing in involving Mouse. When he remembered some of Mouse’s spectacular failures, he shuddered. Still, Mouse was loyal, and would keep Vincent’s secrets. Mouse had had some wonderful successes, too. Musing on how Mouse would deliver the note, he went home.
Meanwhile, Catherine was busy herself. She was in court all day, which did not give her much time to think. When she saw a FBI agent she had questioned in court in the past, she casually walked towards him. Sandy Walton was a bit of a pest, since he refused to believe she would not date him. However, he had one great asset - he was a inveterate gossip. With a little luck...
“Cathy Chandler! What a pleasant surprise. Have lunch with me.”
Catherine eyed him, wondering why she had never been attracted to him. He was very handsome - tall and blond, the all-American look. He was lithe and well-muscled, moving easily in his suit. Somehow, everyone paled against Vincent.
“Yes, but I’ve always got time for lunch with a beautiful lady.”
Catherine saw an opportunity to get some information, but she didn’t want to lead him on.
“I’ll join you, but I only have an hour. I have to be back in court by one.”
They went around to the corner to a small bar and grill. It was packed
with lawyers, since many of them lunched here. As they ordered a
sandwich, they chatted about their colleagues. When
“Bill Harris, do I know him?”
Catherine described the man - making a joke of it by using official terminology. “The suspect was 5'8", approximately 180 lbs, brown hair, brown eyes....”
They both laughed.
“I know who you mean. I don’t know him well, though, He only transferred here two months ago. He’s not my department - counterintelligence. Supposed to be a whiz with surveillance.”
“It’s not important. He just seemed a little odd.”
“He’s rather stand-offish. Doesn’t mix, doesn’t talk. But then, the intel people are often like that. Not like us brave, stalwart, handsome men in the narcotics division, fighting the war on drugs!” He had a roguish look on his face. “So, what about dinner sometime?”
“Sandy, you’re wonderful man. You’re going to make some woman very happy, but my heart is not free.”
A look of mock horror crossed his face. “Make some woman happy? That sounds far too serious. I’m not giving up my career as a carefree bachelor that easily! Tell you what - I’d be happy to go out with out anytime, Catherine. As friends, although I certainly wouldn’t object if you wanted to get hot and naked!”
Catherine laughed again. “I’ll keep that in mind,” she said wryly. “I do like you. I’m just not ready for that sort of relationship. I would like to be friends.”
They finished their meal and parted, each hurrying to their respective court. Catherine hadn’t found out very much, but she would. While she crossed the street, the crowd bumped and jostled her. A thin, shabby girl bumped against her and kept going. Catherine pressed her hand to her purse, but it seemed to be untouched. As she did, though, her pocket rustled.
She lost no time once inside the court, but headed straight for the ladies’ room. She had just enough time, if she ran. She locked herself into a stall, then pulled that paper out of her pocket. She saw Vincent’s handwriting, and nearly cried. It was the first contact with him in weeks. She quickly read the message, then folded it and slid in into her case notes. No one would see it there but her, and she could put it someplace safer later.
When she left court, she went straight home. She took out Vincent’s letter and read it again. Then she wrote her reply.
I do not have your skill with words. I
have told you before that I would give up everything to be with you. I
would live Below with you happily, rather than be parted forever. I am
searching for any connection between Bill Harris and Father. He is a FBI
agent, but the warrants do not exist. There must be a reason he was
trying to locate Father, since it was not to arrest him.
I am hiring someone to investigate Bill
Harris’ past. Do not worry that this will endanger the tunnels. There is
no visible link between him and the community below. The firm I am
hiring is very discreet and will bring no unwanted attention to us.
I have a feeling that this all
leads to the past. Bill Harris mentioned Allen Taft’s murder, another
link to the past, as how he had found Father. Perhaps, you will be able
to talk to Father about his past. I know it is painful to him, but you
are closer to him than anyone. If he can speak of those dark times, it
will be to you. Please ask him if the name Bill Harris means anything to
him? I hope so, since it would make my investigation easier.
I sit on my balcony each night,
imagining you watching me. Dream of me, as I dream you.
Until we are reunited...
The next day on her lunch hour she phoned the detective agency, Security Investigations. She asked for a complete investigation of the background of Bill Harris. It took only a few moments to give them the little information she knew - that he worked for the FBI, had transferred to the N.Y. field office two or three months ago, and his appearance. Some comments were made about the difficulty of investigating federal employees. She promised to pay the additional fees, and hung up. There was little else she could find out about Bill Harris. Time to concentrate on those areas she could investigate.
She went to the library right after she left work. There she wasted an
hour searching for any information on doctors licensed in the state,
before realizing the effort was futile. She would do better checking
with New York Office of Professional Medical Conduct, and Jacob’s
medical school. They often kept track of graduates. Her time tonight
would be better spent in the newspapers, both recent and old. She read
microfiche files until her eyes ached. There were no reports in the
papers of Bill Harris. Of course, he had only been stationed in
While here, she checked the index of periodicals and found Jacob’s article. It was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was a very understated study on the reactions of human tissue to radiation at various levels. Something about it disturbed her, so she copied it. It certainly did not appear very controversial. It was a very innocuous article to have such a devastating effect. She checked out a book about the Communist scares of the early fifties and the governments attempts to suppress any subversive activities, including the committee’s hearings. If she had any spare time, it would make interesting reading. Just before the library closed, she went to the bibliography Vincent had indicated. She slipped her letter into the section on Tennyson, remembering Vincent reading the poet’s works to her.
Vincent entered the library at two o’clock. The cleaners were gone, and the library was deserted. He didn’t think many people remembered the old storerooms connecting the tunnels below. He wouldn’t take any chances, though. He had spent many happy hours here when he was younger, reading tales of adventure in far-off places and many fascinated hours here when he was a little older, reading books that Father considered unsuitable. He quickly pulled Catherine’s letter from the book and returned below, to the familiar world of the tunnels.
Once safely home he read Catherine’s letter. He was glad she was investigating. He knew that she would fight to return to him and their life together, no matter how incomplete. She had not learned much so far, though. He was puzzled as to why she was concentrating on Father. Bill Harris was the true threat.
Vincent thought back to that short time he had spent with Margaret. There had been no true discussion of the past. Father and she had concentrated on their time together, and their love for each other. Father had not spoken of his past at all. Would anyone else know about those days? Even the other founding members of the community had never mentioned knowing Father before the tunnels. Allen Taft was the only one from Father’s distant past who Vincent knew, and he was dead.
The next day, Vincent watched for a chance to ask Father about Bill Harris. In the afternoon, after reading to the children for an hour, he saw Father standing at the back watching him. Vincent sent the children to play, and went to him.
“I am glad to see you returning to normal. We missed you spending time with the children, and the rest of us. I know it is hard, but you need to go on with your life. Catherine would not want you staying in your chambers, brooding.” Father spoke easily, with a trace of worry in his eyes. “I want you to come eat with me. It has been days since we talked. Perhaps a game of chess?”
“Yes, Father. I have been too isolated and self-absorbed. It is time for me to come out and see my friends again.”
They walked to Father’s chambers. Perhaps, Vincent thought, this would be easier than he had thought. Over a meal, they talked of the small doings of the community. Father mentioned several projects which needed some help. Vincent could tell that Father was encouraging him to help with them and spend time with the others.
Finally, Vincent said, “I am going to check on the further tunnels and make sure that everything is secure first. I need to be active.” After a pause, he went on. “You know, I was wondering, Father. Did you know that FBI agent, Bill Harris?”
Father froze, then said, “I never met Bill Harris. I can’t imagine why he wanted to find me.”
“It is very odd. He knew your name. There must be a reason. Could it be related to those old hearings? The ones before the Committee on Un-American Activities? That is your only connection to espionage.”
Father picked up his glass and took a drink. “I can’t imagine how. If I had not published those warnings about the dangers of radiation, I never would have been investigated. You wouldn’t know how it was in those days, my boy. Anything that damaged the government’s reputation was considered communist activity, and the accusation of communist leanings was enough to ruin anyone. It’s painful to remember. A life destroyed in such a short time.”
“We must investigate it, though, Father. If we cannot prove your innocence, it will be difficult for Catherine to return.”
“I know, Vincent. I was innocent of the committee’s accusations, yet I was convicted. I discovered that one cannot prove one’s innocence, when the assumption is that one is guilty until proved innocent. The charges were so vague - how could anyone ever prove their innocence? Indeed, no one charged by the committee did.”
Father set down his glass and stared earnestly at Vincent. “You must stop looking back, Vincent. It will only bring pain. Look forward, to a new future.”
Vincent met Father’s gaze. “I will try, Father.”
As he left Father’s room he reviewed their conversation. Father’s comments about putting the past behind him did not bother him. Father had never really understood or accepted Vincent’s love for Catherine. He knew that Father wanted him to forget her, not understanding it was impossible. Even if her never saw her again, he would feel her presence in his heart and mind. Deep within where his most secret dreams lived, he still believed and would always believe that there was a future for their love, if only they could find it.
He wondered why he hadn’t relieved Father’s mind, and let him know that the ‘charges’ did not exist. Of course, then he would have to admit that he had been in contact with Catherine. Somehow, he did not think that the news the warrants were false would calm Father’s fears for the community’s safety. Bill Harris still seemed to have been looking for Father, and he was with the FBI. What had he learned from Father tonight? Not very much. If Father did not disapprove of Catherine so strongly, he might be more willing to talk about his painful past, if only for Vincent’s sake. Father had definitely been evasive. Vincent was growing uneasy. Father had not appeared uneasy or hesitant when he had talked about the old days, but he had definitely evaded Vincent’s questions. The requests to stay for a game of chess after dinner had also ended when Vincent had started asking questions. Added to that, Father had reacted to Bill Harris’s name. He would have to tell Catherine, even if he wasn’t sure what the information meant.
Vincent did as he had told Father and went to the outer tunnels. He checked for cave-ins and instability, signs of intruders or people in trouble. The whole time, he thought about Catherine. He began to brood again. What was Father concealing? How would Catherine ever figure it out? Even if she did, and they removed the threat, how could they return to their old relationship? Catherine deserved a full relationship, with a man who could make love to her.
Vincent suddenly realized that it was late. He would never make it back in time to watch Catherine sitting on her balcony. His mood darkened. He might be too late to see Catherine, but if he ran he would reach the library in time. He would not risk a message going astray. When there was no message waiting for him, he was frustrated.
The tension he was under made him reckless, and he ran to the tunnel
exit. Slowly and carefully, he slipped outside.
It was in the early hours of the
morning, and few were roaming
“I have asked him about Harris. He definitely reacted, but nothing more. He will not talk about the past at all. I will try again, but he evades my questions. All my love goes with you, Catherine.”
He hung up and ran quickly back to the safety of the tunnels. He smiled as he thought of Catherine listening to his voice. How she would scold him for the risks he had taken, if she could! Still, it had been worth it. He was still smiling when he slept that night, dreaming of Catherine.
Catherine was frustrated. Joe seemed to be piling on even more work. There was no time to think, much less investigate. When lunchtime came, she sat back with a sigh. She did not want to do anything but slip off her pumps and eat a quiet sandwich. Instead, she picked up the telephone and called the librarian at the Labor Archives.
The librarian was out to lunch.
Rather frustrated, Catherine tried to sit back and relax instead. An hour and a half later, she took a break and tried again. This time the librarian was available, and as helpful as she had been earlier in the week. She referred Catherine to a professor at NYU, gave her his telephone number, and recommended the best time to see him if she wanted to talk to him directly.
Catherine decided to call and make an appointment to meet him. When she reached his answering machine, she left a message that she would like some information on the committee and that she would like to meet him for dinner or a drink and discuss it. He called back several hours later, and they agreed to meet the next day for dinner.
She wrote the appointment in her rolodex, and then tried to think of other things she could do that day. Enough, she thought. It’s time to get back to work. After a half-hour of paperwork, she gave it up and made herself a cup of coffee. She couldn’t concentrate on work, and longing for Vincent would accomplish nothing. She turned her thoughts to the mystery which was beginning to obsess her. She wasn’t sure why she was so convinced that Father’s past held the answer, but she was convinced none the less.
It suddenly occurred to Catherine that there might be another avenue to explore. She hadn’t thought for a while about how Bill Harris had found her. He had been looking for the woman who handled the Allen Taft case. He had seen her name in the police file as the woman who had cleared Jacob Wells. How had he known about that case? She couldn’t believe that the FBI had the manpower to monitor all police cases. NCIC might be a possibility, but a quick call to records confirmed that the NYPD’s case files were not automatically sent to the FBI. Convictions eventually ended up in the system, but Jacob Wells had not been convicted.
The more Catherine thought about it, the thinner the story became. Could there be a connection between Bill Harris and Allen Taft? Harris was too young to be a contemporary, but there could still be a link. Catherine called Michelle, and told her there was a question about one of their old cases. She asked for the complete NYPD file on the Allen Taft murder. A couple of hours later, she walked away with a box of material. It would take some time to read - she would have to stay late.
When she started to sort the box, however, she realized that much of it would not be useful. Jacob had simply refused to talk, so all the transcripts of his questioning could be ignored. Forensics and autopsy reports were irrelevant, as were the reports of the security officers who arrested Jacob. She pulled out the potentially interesting papers, and had a small enough pile to put in her briefcase. Fortunately, tomorrow was Saturday. She could question some of the people Allen Taft had known.
When she left work late that evening, she took home a briefcase filled with transcripts. She tried not to think about how much trouble she would be in if caught taking them out of the office. She stopped by the library, and left a simple note.
I love you -- Catherine
When she arrived home she noticed the message light blinking on her machine. When she played back the messages, the third one made her heart stop. How had he found a phone? Had he come above? How could he risk himself like that? The message itself made her feel his absence even more acutely. She played it over and over again, just to hear his voice. Finally, she took the cassette out of the machine, so there would be no risk of recording over it. She could listen to it whenever she missed his voice.
She sat on her balcony in the moonlight, wishing Vincent were there. Part of her could feel Vincent on the street below, watching her from the shelter of the shadows. When she closed her eyes she could see his face, and hear his voice again. It was as if his love enfolded her.
Finally, it grew too cold and she went inside. Though she had come no closer to rejoining Vincent, tomorrow might be more productive.
It had not all been imagination. Vincent had watched her from the shadows. He could stand there for hours, but eventually Catherine went inside. He reentered the tunnels and walked to the library. Her note had given him hope. His message must have done the same for her.
Fortunately, the next day was a Saturday. Catherine spent the morning reading the transcripts and the investigation notes. Bill Harris was mentioned nowhere. She then visited Allen Taft’s friends and associates. There must be some link. She asked them how long Allen had known Jacob, and where. Had Allen known anyone by the name of Harris? Had anyone been asking about the murder in the last month or so?
The only one who seemed to have any information was his old secretary. She was a shrewd, elegant lady in her early sixties. She had been with Allen Taft since he had started to practice law. All she knew was that Allen had defended Jacob. He had been very secretive about the case, and had not let anyone help him in preparing it. He had seemed very uneasy throughout the whole trial, as if something was bothering him. After it was over, he had never spoken of it again. As far as she knew, except for the annulment he had not contacted Jacob until his newspaper ad on Margaret’s behalf. Since he had been Margaret’s father’s lawyer, that was hardly surprising. He had encountered a number of people called Harris in his years of practice. Catherine dutifully noted them, but felt they were not promising leads. She thanked the woman and left.
She finished her interviews with barely enough time to travel to the restaurant where she was meeting Professor Kline. She nearly laughed when she saw him. He was so stereotypically academic in appearance - slightly unkept brown hair, a pipe in his hand, a tweed jacket with patches at the elbows, dark brown pants bulging at the pockets, and a slightly abstracted air. Somehow she had expected a professor of radicalism to look more - radical.
“Professor Kline? I am Cathy Chandler.”
“A pleasure to meet you.”
She sat and they chatted casually about
“Professor Kline, I have been doing some research into a man who was investigated by the Committee on Un-American Activities. I was surprised to see how short his hearing was. How could something crucial to people’s futures be decided in such a short time?”
“Ah, that was the tragedy of the whole process. You see, the committee
assumed that anyone accused was guilty. It saved time, you see? After
all, better safe than sorry! To be fair, most of the members were
sincere, if painfully misguided. There was a hysteria sweeping the whole
nation, fueled by the
“Still, the whole hearing couldn’t have taken much more than an hour. He had already lost his job, but it cost him his medical license as well.”
“I’ve never actually heard of anyone losing a professional license
through the actions of the committee. Many people lost their jobs, of
course. Witness the
“I saw an article about his license being revoked, and his ‘communist’ ties. I have to admit that I do not remember any details.”
“Well, I would check. The committee had no enforcement powers, after all. They worked through intimidation, the ‘black list’ and ‘scare tactics’. Since no one wanted to be labeled a red, or a supporter of reds, no one would employ or help those blacklisted.”
“I have a copy of the whole hearing here. Would you have a brief look and tell me if anything strikes you as being odd? Since I am not as familiar with the committee’s usual modus operandi, you would see discrepancies I might not notice.”
“I would be pleased to look at it for a few moments.” He looked rather gratified at this appreciation of his professional expertise.
Catherine took the pages out of her briefcase. He accepted them and quickly leafed through the pile. “Hmmmm. Well into the committee’s post-war years. They actually found a few genuine spies in those days, you know. McCarthy had a lot to answer for, though.” He continued to leaf through. “Is this all?”
“This is the whole transcript.”
“Well, the treatment of Mr. Wells was not uncommon. However, usually there was quite a bit more testimony. People were usually questioned for at least a day for accusations like this, especially if they were involved in or might potentially be involved in government work. He had already lost his job, you said, so it was not tied to that. Was it a government facility?”
“Yes, I believe so,” Catherine replied.
“Hmmmm. Still, there were usually other witnesses testifying - fellow employees, secretaries, anyone who could corroborate the accusations. Atomic research was particularly sensitive, of course. Still, his work was peripheral. This was an unusually brief hearing. One would think they had already made up their minds - more so than usual, that is.”
Catherine was fascinated. “It was a very unpleasant time in
The waiter brought their food. The professor returned the papers, and she carefully tucked them in her briefcase. Then she turned to their meal. There did not seem to be much more he could tell her, so she turned the topic to more general subjects. The professor spoke for quite a while on the vicissitudes of academic life. He was a fascinating conversationalist, if a bit long-winded. Before long, she was paying the bill.
“Thank you very much for all your assistance. Can I call you again if I have any more questions?”
“Thank you for a wonderful meal. I don’t think I can tell you much more about your friend’s experience. I would be happy to help, though. I just wish that more people wanting my help offered such a delicious meal in return.”
With that Catherine took a cab home. She had a great many notes to make on her day’s activities. However, she sensed a lead here. She would need to get that information from the Department of Heath tomorrow. They should have the details of Jacob’s medical career.
She went in to the office on Sunday. As she had hoped, no one was around. She opened the box and returned the transcripts to their proper place. As she did, something struck her. The copies of the arrest report, the early questioning of Jacob and his release, all listed him as ‘John Doe’. How had she missed that? As she began to leaf through the other pages, they were all the same. He had never given his name to the police. He had never spoken at all. How had Bill Harris known that it was Jacob Wells who had been arrested? How had he known Jacob’s name at all? The only way he could have connected Jacob’s presence to the murder was if he had seen Jacob’s photograph and recognized it. How could she have she missed something so obvious?
Catherine pushed the speculation firmly from her mind, and left the office before anyone questioned her presence on her day off.
Early Monday, she returned to her office prepared to clear her desk, so she would have more time for her own investigations. On her breaks, she called the Office of Professional Conduct, but could not reach anyone. Finally, she called Michelle and asked her to get the records on the revocation of Jacob Wells’ medical license in November 1952. She spent the rest of the day frantically trying to reduce her backlog of cases, to little avail. That night she listened to Vincent’s telephone message. She had memorized it long ago, but the sound of his voice still soothed her, while sending shivers down her spine. Over and over she played it, until she was ready to sleep.
On Tuesday, Security Investigations called.
“Yes, this is Ms. Chandler.”
“This is Security Investigations. I have a report ready for you. Would you like us to deliver it to you?”
“Please send it courier. I’ll be watching for it.”
“If you need any more work done, please call.”
She crossed her fingers. She was finding more new questions than answers, and none of it was bringing her any closer to solving the puzzle. Catherine considered questioning Bill Harris, and again discarded the idea. Until she had more information, she wouldn’t know what to ask. She bent to her proper work. The more quickly she finished these cases, the more time she would have for the report when it arrived.
It came after lunch. She opened it and started skimming the information. Birthplace, education, and career in the FBI were all listed. She had been right about his age. He would have been in his early twenties when Father founded the tunnels. It was not impossible that they had known each other before then, but not very likely. There was no apparent link to Allen Taft either. She would have to take the file home and study it more carefully.
That night after dinner she examined the file with the careful attention
she gave to a tricky prosecution. In the personal history section the
agency had noted that he was orphaned. His parents had died in a car
crash when he was in his teens. His older sister and her husband had
finished raising him, but she was now deceased, the victim of a murder
in 1956 in
She called the Institute and confirmed that Jacob Wells and Sabrina Harris had worked there together for several years. There were not many unclassified records, but the secretary suggested that she talk to the old department secretary, who had retired a few years earlier. While she had signed a secrecy agreement, if it was not classified information Catherine sought she might be able to help. In only an hour Michelle contacted Social Security and obtained a current address.
Catherine could not wait. She called Victoria Albert who, curious,
agreed to meet Catherine that weekend. She lived in
Despite the long wait for the weekend, Catherine was excited. It was a true lead.
Catherine sat that evening and wrote a note to Vincent.
My dearest love,
I have finally discovered something important. Bill Harris was the younger brother of Sabrina Harris, a research assistant at the Chittenden Institute. Vincent - she worked for father! Something must have happened then. You must ask Father again, and I will try to talk to Bill Harris. He told you that he did not know any Harris, but he must have lied. He worked with her for several years.
I will be thinking of you tonight when I sit on my balcony.
Longing for you - Catherine
She went to the library and returned the book she had borrowed. While there, she left the note. Then she hurried home to her balcony, where she could think of Vincent
Later Vincent took Catherine’s message from the book. It had been four days since he had heard from her. If he had not seen her on her balcony each night, he would have begun to worry. He knew how hard their separation was on her. He had even stopped brooding about their future together, and her desire to consummate their love. All he thought about was how long the wait would be until they were reunited, and what would happen if they never stopped the FBI agent from seeking Father.
Again, he took the message below before opening it. He read Catherine’s letter with a feeling of shock. Father had lied? It did not seem possible. Father had been everything good when he was growing up. He had told them all that lies were the refuge of cowards. Remembering back, Vincent realized that Father had not actually lied directly. Vincent had asked if Father knew Bill Harris, not anyone with the last name of Harris. Still, he should have mentioned her. Why should he lie about that? Somehow, the foundations of Vincent’s life seemed unsteady.
He thought for many hours about what to do next. He should do as Catherine asked. Father should be questioned about Sabrina Harris, and why her brother would be looking for him. Still, Vincent suspected that it would be futile. Father had never spoken of the past.
The next day Vincent sought out Father. It took several hours to see him alone.
“Father, I have to ask you something.”
Father looked worried. “What is it, Vincent? Is something wrong? You do not seem yourself.”
“Father, I have had a message from Catherine.”
“What!” Father’s face darkened with anger. “How could she send you a message? Doesn’t she know how much she risks, how she endangers us? She promised to contact no one.”
“No, Father, she promised to not see me. Do not worry. She was very careful. No one could trace her message to me or the tunnels.”
“How did she send it, then? I don’t see how she could do it without endangering us.” Father was worried. He had hoped that, eventually, Vincent would forget Catherine. The past was best left dead and buried - there were things there Vincent must not know.
“It does not matter. Father, I must ask you...what do you remember about Sabrina Harris? Her brother is Bill Harris, the FBI agent who was looking for you.”
Surprise flashed across Father’s face, then it went blank. “I’m not sure,
Vincent. It was a long time ago. I don’t think I remember any Sabrina Harris.”
“Father,” Vincent said patiently, “you worked with her for several years. You must remember something.”
“I have pushed all those memories to the back of my mind. I do not want to remember those dark days, or the pain.”
“Father, it is important. I need to know. Please, you must tell me what you can.”
“She was my research assistant for several years,” Father replied reluctantly. “She was beautiful, although not as beautiful as my Margaret, of course. Rather common in background, I’m afraid. Still, she always had men after her. She was intelligent, and a good assistant.”
“Can you think of any reason why her brother would be looking for you?”
“No. I really must go, Vincent. I promised to see Mary today.”
Father left rather quickly, leaving Vincent staring after him. He wished he had been able to prolong their conversation, but could not think how. Father had not wanted to talk. He was content with the situation as it was, with Catherine banished above. Vincent began to feel rather helpless.
He returned to his chambers, and wrote a note to Catherine.
Father would not say much about Sabrina Harris. She was his assistant. He said she was beautiful and popular with men. She had a common background, and was a good assistant. I think that you are right, and that Father must be hiding something. He evades all my questions. I cannot do much here, Catherine. Our future depends upon you skills in the world above. I will be thinking of you, and watching over you.
As Catherine waited to take the subway to work Thursday, she felt a familiar bump. She stared straight ahead, ignoring the ill-dressed child who darted past her and into the crowd. Once at work she stared at her pile of work, then ignored it. She checked her pocket and pulled out another message.
She read it slowly, savoring Vincent’s writing and hearing his voice in her mind. He was trusting her to find their way through this. Quickly though, her mind settled to practicalities. As she drank her coffee, she thought about the information it contained, and what it implied. She then noticed a file on her desk. It was from the New York Office of Professional Conduct.
She read the file from start to finish. Father had lost his license due to professional misconduct. There was no mention of communism, or the committee hearing. The grounds for the decision were not included. The information was marked as “confidential”. She would need, once again, to talk to someone who might know. She went to Joe’s office.
“Are you busy, Joe? I need some help.”
“Always happy to help. I hope it won’t take too long, though, Catherine. I’m swamped.”
“I need some information. I am trying to find some information on a medical license that was revoked in 1952. The file is marked confidential, but there must be a record of the reasons somewhere.”
Joe looked confused. “I don’t know why you can’t ask Michelle. It’s her job.”
“I don’t think she will have the contacts needed. Didn’t you have that friend in the Department of Health? Besides, it’s personal. I am trying to do a favor for a friend.”
“What’s the name?”
“Jacob Wells. He lost his license in November, 1952.”
“You know, that bleeding heart’s gonna get you in trouble someday. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you, Joe.”
“Sure. You owe me, though.”
“A box of donuts is on the way!”
As Catherine returned to her office she thought about other possibilities. Where else could she go for information? She didn’t know how long it would take for Joe to get the information. Probably not until Monday at the earliest. She could have done it herself eventually, but the old boys network still ruled. In a couple of days Joe would have all the details. In the meantime, tomorrow was Saturday and her long-anticipated interview with Victoria Albert.
It was bright and sunny on Saturday, when Catherine drove to the
“Ms. Albert? I am Catherine Chandler. Thank you for agreeing to see me.”
“Nice to meet you. I was kind of glad to agree. Retirement has been a
bit boring. You said you were from the D.A.’s office in
Catherine took a seat, and tried to look relaxed.
“Yes, I am with the D.A.’s office. However, this is not really official. Someone has been asking me questions about Jacob Wells and his connection to Sabrina Harris. I believe they both worked at the Chittenden Institute?”
“Yes,” she replied, “they did. Why are you interested, though?”
“I got to know Jacob a little when he was jailed for a crime he did not commit several months ago. He seemed like a nice man, and I would hate to see him in more trouble.”
“Seems a little strange to me.”
“I wouldn’t ask you to reveal anything classified. I would just like to know what the situation was at the institute, and what the people were like. Was there anything strange happening when they were there? Did they have the same friends? Gossip, rumors, that sort of thing.”
“Well, there certainly was a lot of gossip! They were a hot item at the institute for most of a year. There were sparks flying! I must say, many wondered how she could afford that fancy apartment on what she was paid. I wondered myself, although I didn’t leap to the same conclusions they did. After all, Jacob would have been hard pressed to pay for it too.”
“Do you mean they were lovers??”
“Well, I would say so. Not that I ever caught them doing the dirty deed myself, but there were rumors that one of the security guards caught an eyeful late one night. If they weren’t, they should have been - there was enough electricity between them to run a generator.” She laughed. “I haven’t thought about those days in years. Everyone was so driven, fueled with the desire to beat the commies and worried about security leaks, I didn’t wonder there were so many affairs. I have to admit, I wouldn’t have minded an affair with Jacob myself, then. He was one sexy hunk!”
Somehow, Catherine had never envisioned Father as a sexy hunk, or as violating his marriage vows by having an affair. She was having trouble fitting this new information into her mental picture of Father.
“Let me see, what else can I tell you. How long did this go on. Oh, until he lost his job. She didn’t lose hers, but she was downgraded to a non-sensitive position. Everyone knew it was because she had been seeing him. No proof, of course, but they wouldn’t take any chances. A couple of years later she was dead.”
“What was Jacob like then?”
“As I said - one sexy hunk! Half the girls there wanted to be in Sabrina’s place, and didn’t he know it! A bit arrogant. He knew his place, and was determined to have every bit of deference due it. Dedicated, brilliant, driven - he let nothing stand in the way of his research. He was very close-mouthed, too. No one knew anything about his background, his family, or his personal life. He was married, but we never saw his wife, either. People speculated a bit, what with Sabrina and all, but not in front of him. No one dared, really. He didn’t welcome what he called idle talk and gossip. I suppose it was!” She laughed again.
“What about Sabrina?”
“She was a nice girl - smart, sassy, a lot of fun. She was beautiful, too, and dressed very flashy. She enjoyed flirting, evenings out, and attention. She loved that brother of hers - talked about him all the time once he came to live with her. Some of the life went out of her when she married, or it could have been the responsibility for raising a younger brother. She was nice, just a little wild and with no common sense. Not much good in emergencies, either. I always thought that was one of the reasons they demoted her.”
“Was there anything else strange happening at that time?”
“Not that I can think of. If you want, I can probably tell you just about everyone who was sleeping around - where, when and how! It was must have been half the institute, though. The only other thing I can think of that is connected to them was Jacob publishing that report. I always wondered why, a little. He hadn’t cleared it ahead of time. Still, he was a little arrogant - probably assumed he would skate through any fuss.”
“He lost his job over that, didn’t he?”
“Yes. Word came down from above. One day security came and cleaned his personal items out of his lab. They met him at the gate when he came into work that day, and told him not to bother coming back. Bastards to work for, but they paid well!”
“Thank you for all this information. I can’t see how it fits in, but hopefully I will. Can I call you if I think of any more questions?”
“Yup. It’ll be interesting to see what you come up with next.”
Catherine drove back
She slept badly that night, tossing and turning. In the morning, she had made her decision. She was going to talk to Bill Harris. She called a cab, and gave the address from her detective report.
Once at the building, she knocked briskly on his apartment door.
A speaker near the door asked, “Who is it?”
After a long pause, the door swung open. She saw Bill Harris, dressed casually now in jeans and a t-shirt.
“What do you want?”
“I think it’s time we had a talk, don’t you?” She took a step forward, and he stepped back in response.
“Come in. Are you going to tell me where Jacob Wells is?” he asked as he swung the door closed behind her.
“Not yet. Why are you searching for him? The story about the FBI warrant is bogus. Does this have something to do with your sister and the Chittenden Institute?” On the way over, Catherine had decided to be aggressive, and treat him as a hostile witness. She needed to shock him into frankness.
He looked surprised, then a look of grudging respect crossed his face. “Since you know so much, yes it does. Jacob Wells deserves to pay for what he did to my sister. It’s time there was justice.”
Catherine sensed him softening, and a pain deep inside him. She crossed to a chair and sat, hoping to calm the situation. Bill followed, and sat across from her. He looked a little angry, but not dangerous.
“Tell me.” She used her most soothing, persuasive voice - the one she used for coaxing fearful witnesses. “What did he do to her?”
“I think you know already, don’t you?”
She could tell that he was testing her, to see how much she already knew, but she also sensed that he was eager to talk. At this point, she didn’t have much to lose.
“I know that he was worked with your sister. They were also having an affair. Still, affairs aren’t that unusual. Why should you want revenge for that so many years later?”
“That was bad enough. Her husband never let her forget it. That she had sinned, and had to pay the price. The worst part, though, was the experiments. He experimented on her. I’ve read the reports. He was testing the effects of radiation at various levels on human tissue, you know. But how much better to use a live subject. She told me how he had told her it was perfectly safe, but it wasn’t.”
“I can’t believe he would do that. Why would anyone do that?” Catherine was rather shocked at this. She had expected the story of a scorned woman, perhaps a child out of wedlock, and a brother’s guilt at his inability to protect a much-loved older sister. Unethical medical research, though, had not entered her wildest speculations.
“Beats me. The needs of science outweighing individuals, or some such garbage. You don’t believe me, do you?” He met Catherine’s eyes with a challenging look.
“I can’t believe you. I’ve met him. He’s a nice man, and the friend of a friend. To do something so out of character - it just doesn’t make sense.”
“I can show you the tests. Even the article he published - it was why they were so upset, you know.” Bill’s voice was rising, growing more impassioned. “It wasn’t the results, even though they didn’t want those made public. It was what they showed of his methods. If you read carefully and analyze the data, it’s possible to tell that it could have come only from live testing. They made sure no reactions or follow-ups were published, fired him, and they had him branded a communist. He disappeared. As good as putting someone in the tabloids today claiming they were abducted by aliens - no one believed a word he said, or paid any attention to his study.”
Catherine shook her head. “It’s just so incredible.”
“Take the study to a doctor who knows these things, and ask him to read it. He’ll tell you exactly the same thing.”
Catherine looked solemnly at him. “I will. I can promise you that. Still, your sister was murdered. How can Jacob be responsible for that?”
“When she was pregnant, she was thrilled. Her jerk of a husband wanted a
son so badly. When he was born, though, he was deformed. A monster, the
self-righteous jerk called it, the fruit of her sin. He threw her out
with the baby, and told her not to come back with it. She told me she
was going to
“What happened to the child?”
“I don’t know. She took it with her. I always thought it had died that night, too. You see now why he deserves to pay.”
“I can see why you are so angry with him. How can you bring him to justice, though? He’s done nothing criminal.”
“I’d like to kill him,” Bill replied angrily.
“He has already lost his wife, his job, his reputation - his whole life. Isn’t that enough? Killing him is no answer. That would be murder.”
“You may be right. Legally, there may be no justice for what he did. Morally, though - he’s alive, and she’s dead. “
Catherine was rather disturbed by what she had heard. She was beginning to feel very sorry for this man, still haunted by the past. If she wanted a future with Vincent, though, she had to persuade him to stop this vendetta. “Revenge only begets revenge. Do you really think Sabrina would have wanted you to waste your life in a quest for vengeance? You should be making a new family.”
“My family died with Sabrina. She was all I had. You may be right, but I grew up on ‘an eye for an eye’. I can’t just walk away. He deserves to suffer as she did. I won’t rest until I see him, and make sure he pays in full for what he did.”
“Please let me think about this.”
Catherine left Bill Harris’ apartment in shock. His story was unexpected and rather unsettling, but rang true. She would have to follow up and verify his story. Somehow, though, it all fit together.
Monday she was still worrying over her weekend’s discoveries when Joe called her in.
“Great donuts, Catherine. I have that information you wanted.”
“Jacob Wells lost his license for research that violated professional standards. The reasons are not just sealed, though. That part of the records has disappeared. The guy I talked to said there were rumors in the office back then that the fix was in. After all, it usually takes murder before they throw out doctors. He figures Wells crossed the wrong guy, someone powerful.”
“Did you find out anything else?”
“No. He said there really wasn’t much in the records. Wells didn’t really fight the license thing. I guess he knew there wasn’t any point. Curiosity satisfied?”
“No, but maybe it won’t be. Can you think of any place else to check?”
“No, not offhand.” Joe laughed as he shooed Catherine out of his office. “I refuse to do all your work for you, especially when it isn’t even official! Your caseload is as bad as mine. I’m surprised you have time to breathe, much less pursue ancient history.”
“Thanks Joe - I still owe you.”
“A date would settle the debt.”
“I’m sorry, Joe, but my heart’s still not free.”
The information was rather redundant, now, but it did confirm part of Bill Harris’ story.
At dinner, she met a friend of hers from college, who was a doctor now. They ate and talked over old times, laughing at their wild escapades, which seemed rather tame in retrospect. Afterwards, Catherine asked her to read the article, explaining the allegations which had been made. Her friend confirmed that parts of the research seemed to indicate that living human tissue had been subjected to measured doses of radiation. There probably had been human experimentation. She told Catherine that the rules had been different thirty years ago, particularly in government and military circles. A woman’s eggs could have been affected, producing changes in her children, if she successfully carried to term at all.
It was late when Catherine left her friend. She had just enough time to get to the library before it closed at nine. She slipped in and went to the top floor. Then, she hid among the stacks, tucked in a small alcove she had noticed earlier. Someone walked by, checking for any lingering visitors. Then, the lights were turned out. She waited for an hour, until she was sure everyone had left. Then she went downstairs and settled to wait.
She had to talk to Vincent. She wished she could have thought of a better way. It was going to be an uncomfortable night. Still, meeting Vincent this way should be safe for them both. If he did not come himself for a letter, she could send the messenger back for him. This simply could not be explained in a note.
After several hours she awoke from a light doze, sensing Vincent’s presence.
“Catherine?” he called, obviously shocked at her presence. “What are you doing here? You should be home in your bed.”
“We need to talk, Vincent. This is the only safe way I could think of.”
“I have felt your unhappiness and turmoil, and I know that you would not lightly take a risk like this. What is wrong?”
Catherine started walking over to him. He quickly met her.
“You should not walk in the dark. You might hurt yourself.”
“I can’t exactly turn the lights on Vincent. I’m not supposed to be here, after all. The last thing we need is the police looking for prowlers.”
With a happy sigh, Catherine reached out and hugged him, pressing her head to his chest and listening to his heartbeat. Vincent enclosed her in his arms, his cloak shielding them from the world. She luxuriated the warmth and security she felt nowhere else. Slowly, their heartbeats synchronized and they felt peace flood through them. It had been so long.
Finally, Catherine broke their embrace.
“Can we sit, Vincent? There is so much I need to tell you.”
He sat, and then pulled Catherine onto his lap.
“I still need to feel you close, Catherine. I cannot give up the feel of you against me so soon. We can talk like this.”
She hoped he would still feel that way when she told him what she had discovered. He worshiped Father. Her news would be very painful to him. She knew he would always love her, but it was possible to dislike the one you loved. Soon he might not be liking her very much. He might simply disbelieve the news. Somehow, she almost hoped for that. It was difficult to be disillusioned about someone you loved.
“Vincent, I have questioned several more people since I wrote you. I think I have pieced together why Bill Harris was looking for Father. The secretary from the Chittenden Institute said that Jacob Wells was having an affair with Sabrina Harris, Bill Harris’ sister.”
“What? That cannot be. It must have been before he married Margaret.” Vincent’s face reflected the shock he was feeling.
“According to Harris and the company secretary, it happened the year he lost his job. In fact, they corresponded for some time after he left.”
“Father committed adultery?” Vincent wondered if he had ever known Father at all. How could Father have done such a thing?
“Yes, Vincent. It seems he did.”
“I don’t understand. Even if this were true, why would anyone seek out Father now? That was over thirty years ago.”
Catherine could sense the strain in him. The unease and distress he was feeling were strong enough they had broken from his control and were resonating through their bond. She didn’t want to tell him more. Their only hope for a future though was to continue. Somehow, she had no sympathy for Father any more. Certainly, exposure of his past seemed a small price to pay for Vincent’s and her own eventual happiness.
“I spoke to Bill Harris yesterday, Vincent.”
“You what! That could have been dangerous! How could you take such a risk?”
Vincent’s arms tightened around her, as if at the thought. She savored the feeling for a moment. She had needed it for so long now. Slowly, she eased back.
“There was no danger, Vincent. He’s an FBI agent, not a homicidal maniac! He could be a danger to the tunnels, not to me personally.”
Catherine looked Vincent squarely in the eyes. Much depended on how he reacted to her next piece of news. She tried to project love and reassurance and calm through their bond.
“Vincent... Vincent, he told me that he was trying to find Jacob Wells to get justice for his sister. She was subjected to radiation in Father’s experiments. It caused her many problems. Because of them, she was seeking Jacob when she died. He blames Jacob for the effects of the radiation and for her murder.”
“But, how can he blame Father for those? He did not murder her, and he must have been exposed to radiation too in the course of their experiments.”
“It’s not that simple, unfortunately. It appears he may have deliberately exposed her to radiation, to chart its effects on living human tissue.”
“What!! Father would never do that. Why would you believe him? He must have been lying.”
“Vincent, Jacob must have done it to at least a few people.” Catherine was trying hard to stay calm herself now. Vincent was looking angry as well as confused. “The research he published shows clearly that live humans were used in the tests. A friend of mine, a doctor, read the study he published. She said that it was clear that there were people involved, and that the government had sometimes engaged in questionable research.”
“I have to think about this, Catherine.”
Vincent was silent for over an hour, still holding Catherine closely. He did not know what to think. His feelings were tumultuous, yet his thoughts were blank for many minutes. Finally, he began to think, to consider what Catherine had told him. Catherine’s love and concern for him poured though their bond, giving him a lifeline to hold on to. Catherine’s sincerity could not be doubted. He had felt it as she spoke to him, and her pain at hurting him with this new knowledge. These were the facts, as she knew them to be. It simply did not seem possible. Father had been the rock of his youth, had taught him about honor and responsibility. How could that same man, the man whose kindness and compassion he knew so well, experiment on people? How could he break the Hippocratic Oath that way? Could Catherine have made a mistake, or been misled?
“Catherine...” his voice rumbled in her ear. She looked up from where she was resting against his chest. She had been concentrating so deeply on sending him her love and support through their bond that she had not realized he was focusing on her again. She had to lean back slightly to see him and meet his eyes. “Catherine, is it possible that they lied to you? Father...how could he have done those things? Surely, they must have lied.”
“I don’t think they were. I’m not perfect, but my instincts said that they were speaking the truth. The article Jacob wrote confirms part of the story. Joe spoke to someone he knew at the Department of Health. Jacob lost his license as a result of unprofessional conduct, the details of which were thoroughly hidden. There was no suggestion that communism was involved, and a historian I talked to said that he had not heard of anyone else losing a professional license because of an accusation of communism.”
“Still, it would mean that Father’s whole life here has been a lie. How could that be?” Vincent’s voice sounded tormented.
“Vincent, you told me that Father was evasive when you talked to him. He has refused to answer any questions. You know, everyone I have talked to has agreed that times were different then, that standards were different. Perhaps he could not live with what he had done, and he made himself into a new person. It would explain why he would not talk to you. It was a previous life he did not wish to remember.”
“It is not that I do not believe you, Catherine. It is just...”
Vincent turned Catherine’s words over in his mind. Somehow, he must come to accept this. Still, it made everything Father had told him seem unreal, a lie. How could he trust anything he had said?
They sat together until dawn. Slowly, Vincent achieved a peace with himself. He had accepted this new knowledge, and needed to decide what to do with it. He bent down, and brushed a kiss over Catherine’s hair. She had fallen asleep in his arms, and he cherished the knowledge that she trusted him enough to do so.
“Catherine,” he whispered, “Catherine, you must wake. It is morning.”
She sleepily opened her eyes, pressing closer to him. Then she lifted her face and kissed him.
He felt her love and desire rising through their bond, more clearly that it ever had before. Somehow, the night’s emotions had scoured him clean. Father’s prohibitions and warnings seemed distant indeed, even irrelevant. His pleasure at her kiss, and his stirring desire, echoed through the bond to Catherine. She opened her eyes wide, suddenly awake. She had never felt him so strongly. She reached up and kissed him again. He pulled her still closer and returned her kiss, allowing their tongues to mate for the first time in an imitation of what he hoped would someday follow.
Catherine’s joy was profound. She had worried that Vincent would not be able to accept the disturbing news she brought, and that he would pull away from her as he had so many times before. Instead, it had brought them closer. She could feel Vincent’s desire to deepen their embrace, to press her down onto the floor and bring her pleasure. Before long, however, his lips lifted away.
“Catherine,” he chuckled, “it is morning. We must go. Can you hide here until it is safe to leave?”
“Yes. Vincent, what will we do?” She could not help asking, even though it seemed like tempting fate.
“I do not know, Catherine. I will think, and write you. You should not hide like this again. Write me, if you think of a solution. Talk to Bill Harris again, if you think it will help. If he would only give up this idea of revenge, all would be well.”
“I will see what I can do, Vincent. You can be sure of that!” Her determination was clear.
It was a long day at work. Her exhilaration carried her through the first part of the day, but by afternoon her fatigue began to show. While she worked, part of her mind was distracted, mulling over the one thing that had bothered her in Bill Harris’ story. Eventually, she asked Michelle to pull the file on Sabrina Harris’ murder.
The file came quickly, and she checked to corroborate the theory which
had formed in the back of her mind. The murder had happened in January.
The body had been found in an alley only a block from
Catherine thought to herself. Vincent had been found in January. A frightened young woman would consider a baby looking like him deformed, since she could not know his spirit. Catherine could not imagine giving away her child, but many women did. What if she was taking Vincent to Father when she was attacked? She might have put in him in a dumpster for protection. She died before she could tell anyone. But how could anyone ever know for certain?
After a good night’s sleep, Catherine’s energy had returned. By the time she had reached the office, she had thought of a possible way to confirm her idea. Bill Harris needed to be offered something which would distract him from his long pursuit of vengeance. This might be just that thing.
She asked Michelle to do some more research, and got the name of a firm which specialized in a new kind of paternity testing. A short time later, she had two vials. She had to think of a way to get one to Vincent. Finally, she took it home and placed it in a small box marked “Vincent”. She included a note, asking Vincent to follow the instructions with the vial. She then left in the library, hiding it behind some books. A note in the usual place told Vincent where to look. She crossed her fingers and hoped.
The next day she visited Bill Harris at his apartment again.
“Are you going to tell me where he is?”
“Not yet. I want to ask you something. I believe I know where your sister’s child is. He survived, although he does not look ‘normal’. If I can prove it, and introduce you to him, will you forgo your vengeance?”
“Alive! How could that be?”
“Someone found him after your sister’s death and took him in. He is a fine man, someone I know well. He has to hide from people, however. His appearance is frightening to many.”
“How do you know he’s my sister’s kid?”
“There is a new test. They can check your DNA against his, and determine with a high level of accuracy whether you are related. Will you agree to give a blood sample, so we can find out?”
“Yes. It would be almost like having her alive again. She was the only relative I had.”
“If the test is positive, I will take you to see him,” Catherine promised. “He does not usually see strangers, but he has always dreamed of having a family.”
She left Bill Harris wondering about the possibility of a new family, and went home. When she arrived home, a small package was sitting on her balcony. It was the box she had sent Vincent, with a red rose on top.
A few weeks later, the results were in. She had explained about the “child” having deformities due to radiation exposure in the womb. The lab was uncertain whether they would be able to confirm anything or not. When the envelope arrived, Catherine’s hopes were fulfilled. There was a one in a trillion chance that the two samples were not related. Vincent had an uncle.
Catherine left word at the library that she needed to see him on her balcony. Then she waited. A few hours later, she sensed his presence in the shadows.
“Vincent, come inside. We can close the curtains, so no one can see us.”
She waited until the curtains were closed, and then kissed him. He returned her kiss eagerly. Their bond had been strengthening all week. She could tell that he no longer protected her from his emotions. Now she felt his desire as strongly as her own. She knew they could not make love now, but it was hard to stop. Finally, they broke their kiss and stood holding each other close.
“Catherine. What did you need to see me for?”
“I think we should sit down, Vincent.”
He could feel anticipation, happiness, and a hint of apprehension through the bond. He sat, still holding her close.
“What is it, Catherine?”
“I was thinking about the story of Sabrina Harris’ murder, and I did
some checking. She died in January. Her body was found only a block from
Vincent looked stunned. He had not been expecting anything like this.
“I took that blood sample to a lab that does paternity tests, Vincent. They compared it with Bill Harris’. Apparently your genetic differences did not affect the test. The chances are a trillion-to-one that he is not related to you.”
While Vincent struggled to grasp this, Catherine explained how the testing process worked. There had been so many shocks and readjustments in the last few weeks. This was a happy one, however. He broke in, interrupting her explanation.
“I have a family?”
“Yes Vincent, you have an uncle!” Catherine beamed at him, obviously pleased with her surprise. “I believe that when Sabrina Harris thought she would be attacked, she placed you in that dumpster for safety. Since she died, she could not come back for you. You were never abandoned.”
Vincent smiled. He had lived his whole life believing he had been thrown away. Now that he knew the truth, another shadow had been lifted from his heart. He was free to love Catherine.
Catherine kept quiet about the rest of her discoveries. There was no need for him to know that his mother had been planning on giving him away. Her rejection of him would remain a secret. If he ever discovered it, she would help him deal with it. Otherwise, it would only depress him.
“Catherine, this is a great gift you have given me. To know that I had a mother who tried to protect me... How can I ever thank you?”
“There is a way. Your uncle would like to meet you.”
“No!” said Vincent. “I cannot.”
“Yes, you can, Vincent.” Catherine spoke reassuringly. “He knows that you look different from most men. He wants to see his only living relative, his only connection to his dead sister. Vincent, he has said that if he meets you he will not pursue Father any more.”
“Then I will have to meet him. It must not be the tunnels, though.”
“What about here tomorrow night? You will be able to leave easily enough, if you need to. He already knows that I am connected to Father, so there is no greater risk there.”
“Very well, Catherine.”
They kissed again and again, longing for the day when they would be able to stay together without worry or interruption.
Vincent broke away with difficulty.
“I must leave, or I will not be able to leave at all. Until tomorrow, my love.”
The next evening she could feel Vincent’s fear mixed with hope and anticipation as he waited on the balcony. Soon the doorbell rang, and she let in Bill Harris.
“Remember, please, that he looks very unusual. He is not dangerous. I told him you were coming, and he is looking forward to meeting you.”
The door to the balcony stood open, and the sheer curtains billowed in the breeze. As Bill looked around, he could sense movement beyond the curtains. A voice spoke in a deep, rumbling tone, “Bill Harris? Catherine said that we are related.”
“I can’t believe it myself. You know, I checked on that test. I wasn’t sure she was telling the truth at first. She was mighty set on having me stop chasing Jacob Wells. I thought it might have been a scam of some sort. Couldn’t believe Sabrina’s son was still alive. I thought he had died the same night she did. I know I was too young to help her then, but I always felt somehow that I had failed her.”
He was peering into the shadows as he spoke, trying to see his new nephew. He tried to move closer, but Catherine’s hand on his arm restrained him.
“Vincent, this is your uncle. Won’t you come out to meet him?” Her voice coaxed, while her heart promised love and support.
Slowly, he moved into the doorway, and then the edge of the room. He wore his cloak pulled up over his face, fully covering him.
“I do not know what to say,” Vincent said. “I never thought I had a family. We always assumed I had been abandoned.”
Bill could tell something was odd about the shadowed face in the cloak. It was the only thing he could tell for certain, though slowly some of the features were becoming discernable.
“Please,” he asked, “won’t you show yourself? I’d like to see my sister’s kid again. I haven’t seen you since you were a baby.”
Reluctantly, Vincent pushed back his hood.
Bill saw the furred hands reaching for the hood. Memories flashed through his mind of many years ago, a small baby in his sister’s arms covered with hair all over, and a strange scrunched-up face. He saw Vincent’s face before him now, the leonine features and the mane of hair. He stared for several long moments.
“You have her eyes.” His own eyes began to fill with tears. “You have Sabrina’s eyes.” Suddenly he sat, as if his legs would hold him no longer. “It’s like having her back again. Vincent...she would have liked the name.”
They talked for hours. Vincent told him of his life in hiding, and Bill spoke of his sister and his own life. They each felt they had found a true relative, a family.
The next day, Bill met Catherine again at her apartment. He had agreed to be blindfolded, and they took him Below. Once in the main tunnels, they removed the blindfold and took him to Father’s chambers. Vincent entered first, alone.
“Father, are you alone now? I need to speak with you privately.”
Father looked a little apprehensive. He said, “Of course, my son. We can speak privately now, if you want. Come in.”
At that, Catherine entered, with Bill Harris following.
“Catherine! How dare you come down here! You could be endangering us all! You promised not to come here again. And to bring someone else with you! The council will not approve.”
Father was extremely angry. He had hoped to break her influence over Vincent for good. Vincent had always been his, and he did not wish to share. After all, she still might turn out to be like Margaret. Margaret should have stuck by him, no matter what he did. A wife’s place was with her husband.
Vincent cut through Father’s accusations. “Father, I brought her. There is someone we wanted you to meet. Father, this is Bill Harris. Bill Harris, this is Jacob Wells.”
Father paled. Some of his nightmares were coming true. What did Vincent know?
Bill Harris stared at Father for several moments before he spoke, his voice full of scorn. “I always wanted to see the man responsible for my sister’s death. She knew those experiments had hurt her. I’ll always hold you responsible. She was coming to see you when she was murdered, you know. Why she thought you’d help I don’t know. You’re a pretty contemptible excuse for a human being. If I had my way, you’d be rotting in prison or dead like her. The only good thing I know about you at all is that you helped raise Vincent into a fine man. It’s for his sake I’m ending this here. I know what you are, and they know what you are, and now you know that we know it.” Bill turned away with a look of disgust and contempt. “Let’s go.”
Vincent looked steadily at Father. “Father, Sabrina Harris was my mother. I hope you will be happy to know that I was not abandoned, and that I have a blood family as well as my family here. I am going to spend some time with my uncle, now. Then Catherine and I will be having a week of vacation here. Please leave us alone. I still love you, but I need time. A great deal of time.”
With that, he left. Bill Harris was already in the hall outside, waiting for him. Catherine looked at Father, feeling some pity. He seemed to have shrunk in a few short minutes. The knowledge of his loss was etched deeply on his face. As she watched, he looked up at her. Only his eyes were alive, deep and angry.
“Go!” he spat out. “You won, didn’t you? Leave me alone.”
She followed, feeling sorrier for Father than she had ever thought possible.
Later that night, her mind turned to Father again, the evil he had wrought and his refusal to accept his responsibility for it. As she lay in Vincent’s arms, though, she could not regret the pain and anguish which had brought them to that point. They were free to live the life that had always been meant to. As they made love, their bond had intensified, and she had felt his pleasure in her own body. Their lives would be forever entwined now, and their love would never die.