By Wendy De-Veryard
Dedicated to children, Above and Below
"Wake up boy!" the angry faced tutor rapped a ruler hard down upon the desk stunning the young lad into wakefulness.
He blinked rapidly, "Sorry Sir." The boy apologised, watching as the tutor glared down at him, before marching back to the front of the class, to begin teaching again.
"Too many late nights, huh Chad?" the boy alongside whispered knowingly.
Chad grinned, nodded just once but remained silent, the tutor ever watchful in his direction, and began to listen as carefully as possible, though his eyelids drooped, and all he wanted to do was sleep.
His companion at the next desk was right in that respect. Chad had been going to bed late too often just recently.
In fact he couldn't foresee that changing for some time.
Since his mother had been working late for the best part of the month, and he had been under the care of her housekeeper well into the late evening, Chad knew that an early night was definitely out of the question.
They had this understanding you see.
Picking up his pen, Chad began to copy from the words chalked upon the blackboard. His homework for the evening. Oh no, not another Shakespeare sonnet. Chad groaned loud enough to have the tutor analyse him with distaste. "Got a problem with Shakespeare have we lad?"
Chad shook his head, "No Sir." He lied. The reply was what the tutor expected to hear.
"Good. So I expect you to have learned this sonnet off by heart before the week is out, and you can have the grand privilege of being the first to stand up here to recite it."
Chad groaned again, this time inwardly. Only his companion alongside him could tell by his demeanour how Chad really felt about that, and smiled knowingly at him without the tutor being aware.
"And as for the rest of you." The tutor went on addressing the class, "I expect you all to know it word perfect by Friday. I shall randomly pick various students to come up here after Chad and recite it. So be warned."
A loud groan echoing Chads filled the room, as the bell sounded and the students collected their pens and books together to exit the classroom.
Thankfully it was the last lesson for the day. Chad collected his stuff together carefully, checking he had all of his things, putting everything away neatly into his bag, as the tutor eyed him with interest. Chad was taking an awfully long time, almost lingering behind, as if he didn't want to leave.
Looking through the window Chad watched the crowd of children accumulating outside, making their way to their various destinations. Some by car, some by bus, some on cycles, others on foot, and his eyes followed their movements, almost as if he was scanning the crowd for something or someone.
"Is something wrong?" the tutor asked, eager to lock up and get off to his own home. It had been a long and harrowing day, as they all were with teaching seven classes of thirty odd children Monday to Friday.
Chad looked around sharply, "Sorry Sir. No, nothing is wrong." He picked up his bag; flung one strap over his shoulder to take its weight, and picking up his jacket headed for the door.
"Shakespeare sonnet 29, don't forget Chad."
"I won't", Chad replied lifelessly, stepping into the corridor. It was quiet; there wasn't a soul to be seen. But that didn't mean Chad made his way down the corridor, aware that the tutor walked some yards behind him, knowing also that at some juncture the tutor would veer left to the staff room, leaving Chad alone to walk the last forty yards or so to the exit.
Chad began to tremble.
As he heard the tutors footsteps receding away to his left, Chads own feet slowed. His eyes became wary, his breathing accelerated, and he found it difficult to swallow. It took great effort to place one foot in front of the other, so Chad set little milestones for himself. Between where he stood and the exit were three corridors. Two on the right and one on the left. At this time of day the lights would be out. Most of the school would now be empty. Chad stepped forward slowly, holding his breath as he came to the first corridor, plucking up all his courage before jumping forward and looking down its length half expecting to see someone there waiting for him. Chad gave a sigh of relief to find it empty.
And so to the next corridor.
Finally the third.
Chad's heart hammered painfully. From the last corridor to the exit it was only some five yards. If he ran, he could get past and through the doors before they grabbed him.
Starting forward, Chad neither looked nor dared to look as he sped past the final corridor and through the great swing doors, running without letup until he reached the school gates, his bag bumping upon his back, before daring to glance behind him. The playground was stark and void of life. Chad let out an enormous sigh.
There was no one waiting for him tonight. Relief rushed over and through him like the waves of the sea. He felt almost weak with the relief, and started at once lighter of step towards home.
Deep in thought Chad arrived at his home, some five minutes later. The front of the house was as usual, in darkness. Letting himself in with his own key, Chad opened and closed the door quietly behind him. The scent of curry filled the hallway, growing stronger as he walked towards the kitchen, pushing open the door, blinded momentarily by the brightness of the lights therein.
At the sink a woman turned, "Chad. Sit down. It's almost ready. I hope you are hungry?"
Chad smiled, "I just need to wash my hands first Mrs. Leigh, I'll be right back."
He exited the room again, going back up the hallway, and bounding up the stairs two at a time to his room, situated next to that of his mothers.
Pulling off his school uniform, Chad changed into his favourite sports sweatshirt and jeans and slipping a strip of mint chewing gum into his mouth he went along to the bathroom to wash his face and hands. In the mirror his face grimaced back at him. Blue eyes scrutinised that face. He looked okay. The grime from a day at school was washed clean away. There would be nothing for Mrs. Leigh to fret over while they ate together.
His hair could do with a brush though.
Picking up the hairbrush from off a shelf in the bathroom, Chad pulled the bristles savagely through his tawny locks. His hair had to be his worst feature. His mother made him keep it short, but Chad longed to cut it all off. It would never lay one way or another, seeming only to want to stick out in every direction conceivable. It was the one feature for which he endured endless taunts at school.
Fairly satisfied at last that his hair lay in a reasonably passable way, Chad put down the brush, and hurried from the bathroom, down the stairs and back to the kitchen. Mrs. Leigh had already carried the food through to the dining area, and Chad met her there.
"Find somewhere for that chewing gum Chad, and come and eat." Mrs. Leigh told him, bringing a jug of water and glasses to the table.
Taking up his seat before the steamy plate of curry and rice, Chad listened while Mrs. Leigh gave thanks for the food, before wolfing it down with relish.
"You missed lunch again?" Mrs. Leigh asked.
Chad nodded, "Too busy." He told her, lying for the second time that day.
"Chad you must eat. You can't keep missing meals. You're mother would throw a fit if she knew."
Blue eyes looked up sharply.
"It's all right Chad I won't tell her. Though promise me Chad that you'll eat lunch tomorrow, huh?"
"I'll try." Chad replied, at least that was the truth.
"Are you going out tonight?"
Chad nodded, it wasn't an option.
"Try to get home earlier Chad will you. You only just squeezed in before your mother last night. You'll get me shot. Or worse, sacked. And I like this job."
I bet you do. Chad thought to himself. Apart from being a good cook Mrs. Leigh wasn't fit for much else. Why she let him come and go as he pleased. She was absolutely no good at discipline.
His mother worked late expecting the housekeeper to sit with her son all evening, ensuring he did his homework, and went to bed before eight oclock. Chad let out a snort of humour that would be the day.
Mrs. Leigh looked up sharply, "I know it's only temporary Chad. Your mother explained when I took the job, that she only expected to work late for the best part of this month, but hell Chad, this is the best job I have had in a long time. If I continue to let you go out every night, and you get in before your mother comes home at eleven, maybe when the month is up, you'll put in a good word for me and she'll keep me on. I know she already appreciates having a hot meal to come home to, rather than having to set to and make one for herself."
Chad grinned, "Mom was never any good at cooking. You may have a point there."
"So you'll get in earlier?"
Mrs. Leigh sighed; at least the boy wasn't getting into mischief. Going over to his friends house every evening to do their homework together was in fact nothing to worry about. And sometimes the other boy came there. But these past couple of nights, Chad had arrived home just minutes before his mother, and Mrs. Leigh had been having kittens that he wouldn't be home in time before her.
A time or two Chad had come home dishevelled and breathless, but she had accepted his reason of rushing to get home before his mother. At least he knew how important that fact was then.
Finishing his meal, Chad scraped back his chair, and made to stand. "I have to go out earlier tonight Mrs. Leigh. There is something I must do before I go over to Toms."
The housekeeper raised one eyebrow in query, "Don't worry Mrs. Leigh, it's nothing illegal."
The housekeeper laughed, "I should hope not. A boy of your age whatever next? I just worry about you. Where will you be?"
Chad hated to lie. He was used to giving little half-truths, or twisting the truth, it felt somewhat better, but outright lieswell they were something else, and he hoped Mrs. Leigh couldn't see the blush staining his cheeks. If she did perhaps she'd conclude it were from the hot curry.
"I have to see another kid from school first. I lent him my homework book to copy up yesterdays work, and I need it tonight to work with Tom." Once he'd started, the lie rolled off his tongue so easily. None of it was true. But Mrs. Leigh accepted the lie. "Well just make certain you telephone me as soon as you arrive at Tom's okay?"
"I will. I promise." Chad took his plate to the sink, settling his knife and fork upon it and leaving it there to be cleaned. Mrs. Leigh would rinse it later before putting it into the dishwasher.
Drinking half a tumbler of water, Chad settled the glass down to follow the plate, before making his way to the door. "See you later. Don't worry I won't be late." Before he exited the room and made his way to the closet for his jacket and bag, slipping outside into the street some minutes later.
The early evening air met him with icy coolness, and Chad shivered, pulling up the collar of his jacket closer to keep his neck warm. Shoving his bag beneath the usual bush out of sight from the house, he slowly made his way towards Central Park for his usual rendezvous with the people he despised.
He didn't know when it had started. Or how it had began really.
He was just an ordinary seven-year-old kid, living in an ordinary one-parent family. There were hundreds, no thousands like him throughout America. But for some reason the bullies had singled him out, threatened and ridiculed him, until he had promised to do anything they asked.
As he made his usual way to Central Park, Chad stopped just long enough to ring home from a kiosk, and pretended that he had arrived at Tom's safely lest Mrs. Leigh rang there to check herself. A time or two she had done so and found from Tom's parents that Chad hadn't even been expected. It was easier this way, ringing to say he was there. It stopped her from worrying, and from telling his mother.
If his mother ever knew she would put a stop to it, and then his life wouldn't be worth living.
Approaching the usual place near the old carousel, Chad shuddered. It had grown dark, and he didn't like the park at that time of night.
Suddenly a ring of loud laughter had him turning on the spot towards the sound, and he made out the shape of three youths advancing towards him.
"Why if it's not the bastard." One shouted out, followed by laughter from the others.
"What you got for us bastard." They joined his side, pushing and shoving. Chad felt nausea rise up like bile in his throat. He was really frightened of these boys.
"Hey you need a haircut." Said one pulling at Chads unruly hair savagely.
"Yeah, we could give ya one." Laughed another withdrawing a penknife from his pocket.
Chad shivered uncontrollably, as much as he hated his hair, he knew they would not cut it off gently.
"I have a few dollars for you." He stuffed his hand into the pocket of his jeans, extracting it again to reveal a ten-dollar bill.
"That all bastard? You need to do better than that."
"Tell him your idea." Said another.
"Oh yeah. We bin thinking. A few dollars here and a few dollars there, well that's hardly any good between the three of us. So we reckon you could work for us."
"Work for you?" Chad whispered nervously.
"Yeah, get a few things for us."
"Like what?" Chad trembled.
"This and that. Whatever makes money really. Nothing to it really, but the cops know us see. But with a new face and all that we could make a living again."
Chad shook his head, "Stealing! No way!"
"Mr. Righteousness himself." One sneered, his face pressed close to Chad's ear, "You'll do as we say."
"Or what?" Nervously Chad asked the question wishing he hadn't, sounding braver than he felt.
"Or that hair cut won't stop at your head. Get my drift." The youth made the cut-throat sign.
Chad shook his head, "I'm not stealing for you or anyone." He stated flatly.
Looking from one to the other the three youths nodded in agreement, as one started to speak, "Looks like the bastard needs reminding of who we are. Are you getting forgetful bastard? Who was it that stopped you being bullied at school today."
"You did that!" Chad was stunned.
"Maybe. Just like that other time. Remember?"
Chad did. He'd often been bullied at school before. Until these older lads had stopped all that. At the time Chad had believed they'd done it out of kindness, but how wrong he'd been. Get them some money they'd said. He'd done so at first willingly out of gratitude. Stealing even from his mothers purse. How that would hurt her if she knew. He'd even taken it from Mrs. Leigh. Now he was in it up to his eyeballs. If he didn't continue to steal for these boys they'd tell his mother and get the bullies to start on him again. These boys had even picked up on the name that the bullies had ridiculed him with. And Chad hated it. It wasn't his fault he was illegitimate.
But he did know that stealing from home was quite one thing, while stealing from those who would call the police was quite another, and he couldn't do it. Shaking his head, he found courage he never knew he had. "No." he told them firmly, "do what you like. I'm not nicking stuff for you and thats final."
The three boys glared at him, advancing on him, fists clenched. Chad anticipated the feel of those hands even before they touched him. The blows sent him reeling, falling to the earth, his face throbbing, his nose was bleeding.
What were they doing to him? He was only a little kid. Didn't they care? Chad felt the tears sting his eyes.
He curled away into a tight ball, as the fists became boots, boots that kicked him when he was down.
Chad screamed for them to stop, sobbing with all his heart. They wouldn't listen. He heard their shouts of triumph, listened to their hated words as a darkness stole over him, and blotted out their sudden cries of fear, the penetrating animal like sounds that split the night, until only the silence remained.
"How many times must you be told. When will you ever be mindful of my words." Father clutched his bag at his side, hurrying alongside his son towards the hospital chamber.
"It's only a little boy Father. What would you expect me to do? Leave him out there. Let those boys beat him to death."
"No Vincent." Father passed a hand over his weary brow, "You know I wouldn't expect that. But to bring another stranger here, when will you ever learn? Vincent you should have left him outside the hospital, that would have been far better."
"He's hurt Father, there was no time. Those other boys were so vicious."
"Did they see you?"
"Yes Father. But don't worry, they ran far enough away not to follow me down here. Our world is safe."
Father reached the chamber, brushing past Mary as she busied herself washing the caked blood from the child's face.
Father was horrified. "I see what you mean Vincent. Has he regained consciousness Mary?"
"A time or two yes. But he keeps slipping away. He was sick though."
"Definite concussion then. He should be in a hospital. His parents must be told. They will be frantic. It's almost nine oclock. He should have been home hours ago."
"That's if he has any parents Father." Vincent mused.
"He looks well kept. Look at his clothing. Could be stolen of course, but he doesn't appear like a street child. If nothing else he smells clean." Father grew anxious, despite his remark. "We must find someone to take him Above Vincent. The longer he is here, the more dangerous it becomes for our world. Better for us if he stays unconscious, and sees nothing."
"Supposing he remembers all he has seen?" Mary asked. "He woke long enough to be sick and ask where was he. I told him nothing though."
"Then perhaps he will conclude he had a dream." Father told her, checking the boys injuries for broken bones. "Nothing appears broken, and his colour is returning. I think he just needs overnight observation at a hospital. Mary can you find someone to take him?"
"I'll go Father."
"Yes. I'll take him to a to Peter Allcot who can ferry him to the hospital."
"All right then Vincent. But please be careful. Keep your hood up. You never know if the child might wake up before you get back Above."
Walking through the tunnels some moments later, Vincent carried the child carefully. Chad's head was resting against Vincent's shoulder, his body spread over Vincent's strong arms, snug and safe.
From afar Chad became aware of the motion, the strength of a firm embrace, and the mingled scents of something strange, and also something familiar.
As the mists uncurled from his mind, Chad recognised the scent. Candles! Yes that was it candles.
His mother adored them. She would use them rather than switch on the lights. They gave off a hazy, rosy glow that made him feel safe, cosy and loved. "Mom?" he whispered, feeling the sudden stiffness of the body that held him.
No answer came but the pace quickened, and Chad struggled to free his mind of the fog that surrounded him.
His mouth murmured words that he could give no voice to, and Chad tried to struggle, feeling a mixture of fear and apprehension as the strong arms held him tighter. Chad winced. His bruises apparent now and the memory raced through his mind. The attack! For a moment Chad froze, then with fists that felt like lead he began bashing at the body that held him, demanding release.
"Don't be afraid." A voice, warm, with feeling quietened him.
"Who are you?" Chad asked nervously.
"I won't hurt you."
"Who are you?" Chad asked again.
"Where are you taking me?"
"To another friend who will help you."
"I want to go home." Chad told him.
"Where do you live?"
"Near the park." Chad was careful never to give a stranger his address. His answer wasn't strictly true. He didn't live near the park, not any more, but his mother still rented their old home.
Vincent nodded. "I can take you there, but you have had a bad experience, and you should be in a hospital."
"I'll live." Chad said bravely.
Vincent chuckled. The boys courage was amazing.
"Don't you hurt at all?" Vincent asked.
"My head aches. My back hurts. My arms and legs feel sore. My nose feels broken!" Chad struggled in Vincent's arms.
"It isn't. Don't worry, my father is a doctor, he says nothing is broken, but you should be in a hospital."
"He's seen me?"
"While you were unconscious."
"Does he live in that rocky room with the sound of trains going overhead?"
"Yes." Vincent stiffened, what else did the boy remember?
"That woman was nice. Is she your mother?"
"In a way yes."
"You don't say much do you?" Chad asked, trying to see Vincent's face.
Vincent chuckled, "There's nothing to say. Tell me your name?"
"Chad. Thats an unusual name."
"It's short for something."
"But you won't say what?"
"No. I don't like it. What's yours?"
"What's your name?"
Vincent inhaled a deep breath, "After tonight you may never see me again. You won't need to know my name."
"That's not fair."
"Why isn't it?"
"You asked mine."
Within the shadows of his hood Vincent smiled, his blue eyes lighting up.
"So I did. It was rude of me. I shouldn't have asked, not when I had no intention of returning the honour."
"So are you going to tell me then?"
Vincent warmed to the child, "My name is Vincent." he told him.
"That's my middle name." Chad replied, then was quiet for a few minutes, before continuing, "You don't have to take me to your friend. I can just go home. I'll be all right. I feel a bit better now."
"Are you sure? You took quite a beating. If nothing else the police should be informed."
"Did you know those boys?" Vincent asked gently, stopping, and settling the boy to the ground. He wanted to test the child's ability to stand.
Chad nodded, "Sure I know them, they're mates of mine."
Vincent was silent. He doesn't believe me, Chad thought. "Okay, so they're not mates, but if I don't treat them as my friends they'll let other people hurt me."
"Such as?" Vincent was relieved to see that the boy was indeed quite capable of standing up on his own. He was stronger than he looked.
"Good friends love you without conditions. You don't need people like those they will only get you into trouble."
Chad nodded, "Yeah I know. But what can I do? "
"You should tell your parents if you are being bullied."
"Mom is out a lot, and I haven't got a dad."
"Oh I'm sorry."
There was an awkward silence for a few minutes, until Vincent asked, "Does your mother go out to work?"
"Yes. She works late, sometimes until midnight."
"And you are left alone?" Vincent was concerned.
"No, not alone. There's Mrs. Leigh."
"Who is that?"
"She's the housekeeper. She looks after me."
"Not well enough then. Does your mother know that you are out until this hour, in unfavourable places? You aren't all that old are you?"
"I'm almost nine." Chad sounded indignant.
"Is that seven going on nine or eight going on nine?" Vincent asked with humour in his voice.
Chad lowered his eyes, mumbling, "seven but I'm nearly eight!"
Vincent chuckled. How Father would have loved to have been a party to this conversation.
"Come I'll take you to my friend and he will take you home."
"Can't you take me?"
"No, I have others that I must see. People I need to visit to take medicine from my father. You will be safe with my friend, and if ever you need a real friend he has grandchildren about your age. Children whom you can trust." Vincent told the boy sincerely.
"Will I ever see you again?"
"I don't know."
Chad looked up at this person half hidden from him by the shadows, half hidden by his long cloak and hood, "Have you got something wrong with your face?" Chad asked suddenly.
Vincent stiffened, "No, but I am not like other people. Sometimes people become frightened by my appearance."
Another silence lapsed for a few minutes, until Chad asked, "Show me what you look like. I promise I won't scream or nothing."
"Not today. Look we have arrived at my friends house. Come follow me, this side alley leads to his clinic."
Together they exited the underground tunnels beneath the streets through an old disused pancake house. Chad recognised the place at once, and made a note of it mentally. So, that was the way back was it? And what was it Vincent had said, his friend had a clinic? Chad froze. Suddenly everything was slotting into place. He knew the area, had been to it before, and he knew exactly where Vincent was taking him.
If Vincent took him up those steps, if Vincent knocked on that door, he would see someone who knew him, and more importantly someone who knew his mother. Chad grew afraid. He couldn't allow that. He could pass off the bruises as a fight between friends that had gone too far, or say he'd fallen, run into something, anything, but then as his mother rarely saw him until the weekend, most of those bruises would have faded by then anyway. There would be no need for her to find out. But if he went with Vincent up those steps, to that door, she would know. She would find out, and Chad couldn't let that happen.
"It's okay Vincent. I feel better now. Thanks a lot. See ya" he shouted as he started to run. Vincent ran a few paces behind him, gradually letting the boy go. He sighed, there wasn't anymore he could do if the child didn't want further help. Listening until Chad's footsteps grew faint, Vincent turned and made his way back through the alley. He felt strange though, almost as if he'd just lost a part of himself.
The last person Vincent expected to see the following evening back in the park was the same young boy again.
Exasperated, Vincent watched from a safe distance, as Chad ground his heel into the earth seeming to be waiting for someone.
Vincent approached slowly, ever watchful. It had been dark for some hours. And Vincent grew wrathful that the child's mother cared so little that she was unaware that her son was frequenting such places after dark. Staying close to the shadows, Vincent passed by the boy as close as he dared, waiting to see what might happen, when the sound of running feet had Chad swinging around on the spot, his countenance so obviously one of fearful expectation.
"Well what-do-you-know?" a voice leered out of the darkness. "The bastards here. They actually told us the truth."
Vincent peered into the darkness. He couldn't exactly see, but the size of these boys showed that they were not those of the previous evening. Suddenly Vincent had the uncanny feeling pass through him. A feeling he had not known for several years. He clutched at his heart as a frantic hammering began there. A feeling he knew wasn't coming from him. Vincent stared all around him, his mind reeling, "Catherine", he thought, wondering from where the fear came. She was close he could feel her. After so long too. Vincent could hardly believe it.
There before his eyes, a scene was unfolding, Catherine was nowhere to be seen but somewhere close he could feel a connection to the heartbeat of another. And he had only ever felt that connection with Catherine. Wherever she was, she was about to walk right into this little lot, and Vincent didn't want that.
His chest began to fill with an ominous growl.
"You hear that?" one of the boys shaking Chad whispered hoarsely.
When had he started to shake Chad? Vincent hadn't even noticed.
"What is it? Sounds like an angry dog or something."
The other boys froze.
They'd heard from the older lads that something awful in the park had scared the life out of them the night before. They'd never believed it of course. Yeah, yeah what you on, they'd laughed. Now those words were coming back to haunt them tenfold.
"I ain't stopping to find out." The boy holding Chad let go, "let's get out of here." He started to run. His friends had hesitated momentarily, then began chasing after him leaving Chad standing his ground, undecided. He didn't want to go with them, yet he too had been afraid of that sound, although for some reason it sounded strangely familiar and suddenly all his fear left him.
Back in the shadows, Vincent was disorientated. That quickly beating heart was stilling now, calming. Fascination warring with disbelief filled Vincents mind. Those feelings, that feeling of fear wasn't from Catherine after all. It came from the boy!
Astounded Vincent could only stand still and stare at Chad.
He'd never, save for Catherine, felt such a connection with anyone else in all his life. He couldn't believe it. But it was there, and as Chad turned to seek out the shadows, his very words confirmed it. "Vincent is that you?"
Vincent drew in a long ragged breath, exhaling his answer along with it, "Yes."
Chads face lit up; "I thought so. That's a neat sound. Can you teach it to me?"
It was dark, too dark for each to see the other clearly. Vincent was grateful. How would the boy feel to know that the sound effects came with a being not quite human?
"I shouldn't think so Chad. But I will be here for you if ever you need help."
Vincent smiled. If Chad had been able to see the smile; he would have seen it light up Vincent's eyes. He really liked this child. There was something special about him, and it wasn't just that he had a connection to him. Although he had to admit that helped. He could tell that the boy had a good heart.
"You shouldn't be out here alone Chad. I would have thought that last nights experience would have been enough for you." Vincent told him softly. "Come let me show you home."
Vincent felt Chads refusal. "No, it's okay. How about you show me to your home instead. Or did I imagine that it was somewhere beneath the ground?"
Vincent gasped, and Chad heard, "I knew it!" he exclaimed, "It is beneath the ground isn't it?" he cried.
"Shh," Vincent told him, "it is a secret place. Many people depend on others not knowing. I can take you there, but you must promise to tell no one. Not even your mother."
"I promise." Chad told him readily. He'd never tell his mother anyway. Permission or not.
"Follow me." Vincent told him, his heart in his mouth. Whatever would Father say this time?
Vincent needn't have worried. Father took to Chad and Chad took to Vincent like a duck to water. Somehow there was a natural affinity between the three, Chad literally taking Vincent's appearance in his stride.
His eyes bright with joy; he leaned forward to touch Vincent's face with his fingertips, sending jolts of pleasure through Vincent at his calm acceptance.
"Gee you are great." Chad told him. "I wish I looked like you."
Vincent was lost for words.
Father's face lit up. His smile lit his eyes, "I think Chad, that you have rendered my son speechless. That is a rare commodity. You have a gift." Father chuckled.
"Mom says I have a gift for many things." Chad replied his face askew. Vincent laughed out loud, revealing his fangs, something he rarely did, and Chad was clearly impressed. His eyes opened wide, "I bet you have no trouble biting candy." He told him, making Vincent laugh all the more.
"So tell me," Father began wiping away tears of mirth, "What gifts does your mother say you have?"
"I can play chess!" Chad told them proudly.
Father was delighted. "Really! Then we must share a game."
"You play too?" Chad was equally delighted. "Mom taught me, but she rarely has time to play these days." His face mellowed, "she rarely has time for anything." Vincent detected the note of sadness, and the connection told him how deeply that hurt went. He felt immensely sad.
"What does your mother do?" Father asked, trying to lighten the problem.
"She's an attorney."
Vincent's heart leapt, causing Chad to look up sharply. Vincent was stunned, was it possible the boy felt a connection to him too, but hadn't established what it was yet? This was very strange. Something he needed to think about at leisure.
Finding his voice, Father cleared his throat, his eyes never leaving his son, whose pallor had grown decidedly paler. "Attorneys don't usually frequent such long hours." He told Chad gently.
"Mom is working on some assignment. She's had to be out most evenings until almost midnight for a whole month. She won't tell me anything about it."
"She wouldn't be allowed to do." Vincent whispered absentmindedly. His thoughts were elsewhere.
"How do you know?" Chad asked.
"Vincent knew someone once who was an attorney." Father intervened.
Silence lapsed for some moments. Chad didn't know why it was, but he sensed that Vincent needed the interlude.
Eventually, Father prompted, "What else are you good at?" but before he had a chance to answer, Vincent stood up and excused himself. "Chad, there is something I must do. Will you be all right with Father for a while? Maybe you could teach him how to play chess?"
Chads face lit up, "Yes, can we? I haven't played in ages. I'll be all right Vincent. I'll see you later."
Father's face beamed, he was looking forward to this. It had been a long time since he'd played with someone new, and he rather hoped that he could beat Chad. It had been a long time since hed beaten anyone.
Inside his chamber, Vincent sunk to the bed. His eyes staring ahead at the blank space upon the wall, where once an oil painting had hung, until Vincent could no longer bear to wake to the sight every morning.
That picture painted with the spirit of love depicting he and Catherine and had hung there for years. Until one morning Vincent had woken from a very distressing dream to see it there mocking him, and he had risen and taken it down, turning it around to face the wall.
His heart heavy Vincent wondered where it was now. Probably Father had had it removed to the storeroom to keep it safe. Vincent wondered why he had only just noticed that it had gone.
Funny, he thought to himself, how one word could turn his world upside down again. That word attorney. Until he heard it said, Vincent had believed he had healed. Oh it had taken a long, long time to do so, but as the years had rolled by, and the pain had lessened, the connection that he had shared with Catherine had grown weaker all the time. Until now, it was only as a tiny thread that hummed softly in the far recesses of his heart.
Yet that day they had parted was as clear as day in his mind now as it ever was.
Rolling over into the foetal position, Vincent allowed himself to remember everything.
Oh, it had been a lovely day.
Catherine had spent the weekend Below, and together they had gone hand in hand, walking through the very many tunnels of his underground world, just happy to be together.
It was rare that they had been able to spend so much time together without being disturbed.
Reaching the Chamber of the Falls, one of their favourite places, they had sat side by side, listening to the fall of water. Mesmerised by the great canopy of water that rolled over the rocks, and fell to a dazzling display of foam into the river, they had wondered at such beauty not for the first time.
"It's beautiful isn't it?" Catherine had told him, looking out over the expanse of rock and water, "Vincent, I have seen so many things in my world, but nothing compares to this. Even Niagara Falls. Why even that does not have the peace that prevails alongside this waterfall. I can think of nowhere on earth I would rather be, than here, beside these falls, with you."
"Once," Vincent began, "I believed these falls to be the most beautiful thing on earth."
Catherine looked up expectantly waiting for him to continue. The look in his eyes caught her breath away.
"And now?" she whispered breathlessly.
Vincent looked down at her, his heart swelled with love, "Since meeting you, I know now that I was wrong." He hesitated, wondering if he should continue, but Catherine's eyes urged him on, "Now I know that your beauty surpasses everything on this earth."
For long moments they had sat gazing at one another, until by mute consent each reached forward and their lips had met.
For long dizzying moments, neither moved. Their lips fastened, their eyes held, each waited, until Catherine's mouth began to manoeuvre for the best contact, and she pressed her lips closer, tighter, needing this from him.
Vincent groaned his whole body swamped with love and desire. Oh the feel of her! The taste of her! So long he had dreamed of this moment!
His arms came up of their own accord, hugging her body closer to him, moulding her length to his, until she lay across his lap tight against his chest, and their kiss deepened, eyes closed and each became lost in the moment.
It was no gentle first kiss.
It went on and on, almost as if each craved the very life force of the other through that kiss. Catherine moaned softly, her hands delving beneath the many layers that Vincent wore to keep out the undergrounds icy chill. As her fingers finally reached their goal, she gasped the feel of his silky skin unbelievable to her touch. For a moment Vincent pulled away, breaking the kiss, his eyes filled with trepidation and fear, until Catherine's whimper of protest forced his return to her lips. And with joy singing through his veins Vincent marvelled at her calm acceptance of his body, relieved that she had not pulled away in disgust.
"I love you Vincent." Catherine had murmured beneath the heat of his mouth. A sob rose as she spoke the words again, "I love you so much."
Vincent's head reeled. The words, the kisses, and Catherine's fingers lovingly caressing his body beneath the layers of clothing sent a spark that ignited into flame and coursed through his limbs. The fire of his passion flew as an arrow straight to the region that all too often had caused him shame. And Vincent shuddered, his longing apparent. Laid across his lap Catherine felt his arousal surging against her lower back, and moaned softly, her own body answering his need in like manner, "I want you Vincent." She murmured, "Please Vincent, I need you so."
His mind spinning out of control, Vincent disregarded the warring his head held against his heart, and he groaned with longing, allowing his body's responses to mould against Catherine's, ignoring the belief he had always maintained, wanting only to love her as she wanted him to love her.
He copied the movements of her hands with his own, exploring her body as gently as he could, lest the long claws hurt her. Her body cried out to him to touch her intimately, and he followed willingly captive to her every need.
There on that rocky outcrop against the waterfall they explored one another. Both were delighting in the body of the other, each finding the other beautiful.
"Are you sure Catherine? " Vincent paused just for a second. He needed to know. There would be no going back, neither did he think it were possible to go back. They had come too far.
Catherines hand wound around the steely throbbing length of him, and her fingers were playing a rhapsody that he was finding hard to endure. Already his seed leaked out and he needed her soon, or he would explode right here and now.
"I'm positive." Catherine had replied, "Take me Vincent, for I am yours." This moment seemed to have taken forever to reach yet through a haze Catherine felt that it was as though only minutes had passed since first they had met. This felt so right, whether new to each other or old acquaintances, this act of love between them was meant to be. It was their destiny to share this between them.
Feeling Vincent's weight upon her was a welcome pleasure, one Catherine would never forget from this day forth. So long she had imagined the feel of him there. Her legs opened willingly to him, their clothing long discarded, and Catherine gasped as she felt the head of his desire probing her warm depths. "Now Vincent", her body arched towards him, mindless of the biting rocks beneath her, and cried with pleasure and joy as she felt him penetrate her body, pinning her to the ground.
That first deep penetration, so many years since she had last made love with anyone hurt her. Catherine cried out, wiggling away, trying to locate a better spot, but it was too late. Enough!
Vincent froze, he had hurt her, just as surely as he had known he would, and he pulled sharply away, his chest heaving.
"No Vincent come back!" Catherine reached for him.
"I hurt you." He was mortified.
"Yes I did, I felt your pain." Tears gathered in his eyes.
"It'll subside. Vincent it's been a long time for me, you'll see, in time it will hurt no more."
"I cannot take that risk. Catherine look at me!"
Catherine did. She smiled. "I like what I see Vincent." She teased him, but Vincent refused to be baited.
"Okay so you are larger than most, but Vincent don't worry we'll manage. You'll see."
"I don't think so Catherine. You are so small. I could really injure you."
"No. Vincent please, I want you so much."
Tears falling Vincent gathered his clothing, his body shamed him. Hot and hard, still pulsing, needing fulfilment. Vincent ignored it as well as the pleading in Catherine's eyes. "This is what you have always wanted from me Catherine. But it is impossible. The risk is too great. I'm sorry, I can't give you want you need."
"You need it too."
"It's wrong. Get dressed. We should go."
"Vincent no, look at you. Please believe me, we'll manage."
Vincent stared down at her. His eyes filled with sorrow, longing for something that would never be, and shame.
Slowly he started dressing, turning his back on her.
Catherine felt the hot sting of tears prick her eyelids. A lump rose in her throat, and she stood, flinging her arms around him burying her face against his back begging him, "Please Vincent. Make love to me. It'll be all right. It always hurts the first time."
"It isn't the first time. For you." He added.
"It's as good as. It's been so long."
For a moment Vincent hesitated, but as her cries played out in his mind again, he continued dressing. "You'll get cold Catherine. Get dressed." He told her listlessly, refusing to turn around.
Sighing Catherine let her arms fall from his waist, bending to pick up her clothing, and dressed quickly. But it was her pain more than the cold that was making her teeth chatter.
Moments later, and in silence they made their way from the Chamber of the Falls towards the hub, their fingers just briefly touching, and throughout the whole journey to the threshold, they were silent. A great chasm of sorrow filled their connection, and neither was able to bridge it.
At the threshold, Catherine made to climb the steps back to her world, but Vincent caught her arm, turning her around to meet his gaze. Her heart hammered at what she read there in his eyes. All hope had gone. They were lifeless eyes, void of compassion. Catherine's heart bled.
"The dream has died Catherine. Our actions killed it. There is no more. We can never retrace this step; neither can things ever be the same between us. Go live your life Catherine." He swallowed with difficulty, the last words almost the death of him, "We must never see one another again."
Catherine stared at him. Her heart was broken, the tears fell swiftly, and for long moments Vincent ached to brush them away. But his hands remained resolutely at his sides, and he turned from her unable to bear her pain. His own was enough.
"Be Well Vincent", he heard her say, "I shall always love you." And then he felt her go. Up to her world, taking his heart with her.
Tears wet upon his pillow, Vincent pulled his body tighter into that foetal position as if seeking the freedom of the unborn. Knowing nothing of sorrow, nothing of pain.
After that day he hadn't seen Catherine again.
For a long time their separation caused him the greatest grief. More so when the connection they shared throbbed with life.
He felt her sorrow. It echoed his own but his shame was too great, and he could not go to her. Neither did she attempt to come Below.
A year passed, slipping into two, then three. Vincent's journals were filled with her. Three years in from the day he had found her had culminated in the greatest test of their relationship, and they'd failed. And it was three years out from that day, before Vincent began to feel free again. Almost to the day in fact, almost as if Catherine controlled his heart, like a puppet on a string, and had seen that after three years she had pulled on those strings long enough.
He never read the papers, and no one spoke of her. And as the bond he and Catherine had shared ceased to threaten his sanity Vincent began to heal. Much to the happiness of those Below, who had watched and waited and agonised with him for those first three years, not knowing what had caused the break up with Catherine.
As the three years had doubled to six and now to over eight Vincent could not believe that he had survived that length of time without ever seeing Catherine. They moved in the same circles, but the ever-present connection however weak, seemed to prevent each of them from being in the same place at the same time. Catherine had also taken on safer cases at work so that she never exposed Vincent to danger in having the need to rescue her.
The sadness still prevailed, and he would never love another, but Vincent was constantly filled with an underlying sorrow that things had gone the way they had. His only wish was that Catherine did not suffer the same.
Above with her freedom, surely she would have married by now. Had the family she yearned for by now. Vincent didn't know. He asked no questions, and anything anyone might have known was never mentioned to him.
Inhaling a deep breath Vincent let it out again slowly, as he began to stretch. He'd lain on his bed reminiscing for at least two hours; Chad would probably have played his game by now. On cue with his thoughts, he heard the light tap of Father's walking stick approaching his chamber, and moments later his father's dear face peered into the gloom, "Vincent are you awake?" the old man asked softly.
"Yes Father. Come in. Where is Chad?"
"He was hungry." Father chuckled, coming to sit alongside Vincent on the edge of the bed, "I sent him to William."
"Did he beat you?" Vincent asked, struggling to sit up, and pulling himself back against the pillows.
Father eyed him keenly. "Yes, he did. Someone taught him well. Do you know, he even knows some of your tricks I found that quite amazing. You have never played with him have you?"
"No Father, until today I've not known much about him at all."
Father was quiet for a moment, phrasing his next question carefully in his mind, before asking gently; "It was that word attorney wasn't it? That's why you had to leave us?"
"Yes Father. It stirred up memories."
"I thought so. How do you feel now Vincent?"
"Better. Though it brought everything back. Things I had not allowed myself to remember."
"Can you talk of it?" Father was well aware that no one, not even himself knew why Catherine and his son had parted.
"I don't think so. Forget it Father it was a long time ago."
"Yet just as yesterday. Vincent please talk to me, you keep this bottled up. It's not good for you. However well you believe you are coping."
Vincent shook his head; "No Father some things are better off buried forever. And I try not to think about it."
"Do you mind if I talk about Catherine then?"
"You can talk about anyone you like."
"That's not what I meant and you know it. In the past Ive refrained from mentioning her name. Almost to the point of biting my own tongue off as her name rose to my lips for I knew hearing it mentioned would cause you pain. But sometimes there were things I wanted to speak about, and felt I shouldn't."
"Go on. What is it you wish to ask?"
"Not so much ask, as to tell. You have never wanted to know anything of Catherine since you parted, are you aware of how she is?"
Guarded Vincent looked at his father warily, "No."
"Don't you want to know?"
"No. It is better that I don't."
"You still love her then?"
Father felt tears prick at his eyes, "Oh Vincent, I had hoped for better things for you. When Catherine came into your life, I was so against the relationship, but as the years went by, I began to hope that the pair of you would have your happy life together. It was such a shock when you told me you had parted and would never see one another again. Knowing what that did to you Vincent. It pained all of us that love you."
"I know Father but believe me it was necessary. What Catherine and I shared was just a dream. It had to end, as all dreams must."
Sadly Father analysed his son. He couldn't accept the things he had told him, neither could he accept that all hope was lost, even this late on. They still loved one another he was sure of it. Vincent had just confirmed it, and the little he did know of Catherine, that she had remained unmarried also added to the belief. But Vincent didn't know this. Would it do him any good to know?
"So," Vincent pulled himself up to his full height feigning indifference, "What do you think to Chad Father?"
Father's face lit up; "He's wonderful Vincent. I can understand your attachment for the boy, but can we trust him?"
"I believe so. Oh I know I have known him for only a day, but Father there is something that you don't know."
Vincent lit some more candles, and helped his father over to the large winged chair, taking up his own seat alongside before speaking.
"You remember the connection I shared with" for long moments Vincent was unable to say the name. It stirred his emotions. Though he had uttered her name earlier, that time had drawn them apart, while mention now of their connection, drew them together again. Vincent found it hard to voice.
"With Catherine?" Father prompted.
Relieved Vincent nodded, "Yes."
"What about it?" Father asked.
"I truly believed I would only ever experience a connection like that with her. And over the years, though it has weakened, it is still apparent. It is still there, though as if many miles away.
Nonetheless comforting, at other times frightening. I wonder if it will ever be severed, and what I will feel if it were. However that is not want I want to tell you." Vincent hesitated, choosing his words carefully. His father had believed in the bond with a calm acceptance, neither believing or disbelieving, until he had witnessed the many times of it in action.
He waited patiently as Vincent sought the right words. They came at last. "This bond has manifested itself between myself and Chad. I don't know why, I am filled with a sense of wonder by it, but it is there, and cannot be denied. Father!" Vincent made to stand, but sat down again searching his fathers face; "I do not understand it. Why with Chad?"
Father shook his head. He had no answers. Until thinking things through he clutched at some.
"Maybe it has something to do with rescuing people from the park. Catherine had been beaten, so was Chad. Perhaps this connection has nothing at all to do with destiny after all, but rather with having an affinity towards afflicted ones." Father felt immensely sad by that thought. No destiny with Catherine after all? Oh please no. He went on, "Perhaps your guardian angel like approach stays with these ones until they are strong enough to move on without you, as painful as that is to you."
"Do you really think so?" For the first time in a long time Vincent felt the first stirrings of peace. If he and Catherines destinies were not linked after all, then he had done no wrong in severing their relationship.
Father saw his sons eyes brighten, saw the hope there, but did not understand the reason behind it. Instead his own heart gladdened by whatever Vincent had thought of.
"I cannot think of any other reason Vincent, only comparisons. Why else should you feel connected to the boy?"
Vincent shook his head; "I don't know Father. Last evening when I first felt him, the bond was so strong. I believed suddenly that Catherine was close. It left me feeling disorientated, but then I realised the feeling was coming from the boy. I can't tell you how that made me feel Father."
"I can imagine Vincent. And I can also see why you felt compelled to bring him here. Well go and find him shall we? It's getting late he should be home by now. His mother will worry; she might even call the police. Do you know where he lives?"
"No, he wouldn't say exactly. Just a place near the park."
Father froze for a moment. Another connection then, Catherine too had lived near the park.
They found Chad sat in the kitchen with a large group of children making his acquaintance. He seemed happy and relaxed. Vincent acknowledged, almost at home even.
"Are you ready to leave Chad?" Father asked him gently, "It's very late your mother will worry."
"Can I come back?" Chad asked at once, looking from face to face of those around him.
"It's up to Father." they chorused.
Father nodded, "Yes Chad you are very welcome. Though you don't need me to remind you that you must tell no one of this place. If you did, a lot of people would have their lives ruined, not least of all Vincent. What do you think people from Above would do to him?" Thus enforcing the point home, Chad crossed his heart with his fingers, "I swear I will tell no one." He promised solemnly.
"Come then. Tomorrow is another day. Vincent will see you home."
Chad nodded, "Okay. See you guys. Bye." He stood waving to his new-found friends as he exited with Vincent, "you are lucky," he told him as he took up Vincent's hand in the tunnel outside, "I wish I lived here."
For many months a pattern developed and Chad's face become a familiar sight to those Below.
In turn his status at school developed for the better. After Vincent had taught him to put feeling into the poetry he had to recite, to imagine each line as the poet had written it down, he excelled in his grades in English.
The bullying continued though, more so as his aptitude for Shakespeare increased.
"Why fore it is not the bastard." The bullies would leer at him as he came out of school, yet those days when they would follow and beat him were quickly lessening, as word spread of the thing Chad was friends with that always protected him.
Chad would laugh at them as they chided him. He felt good about himself these days. His friendship with Vincent was at the root of that. His knowledge of the safe and secret place beneath the city streets was at the strength of it. He always had a place to go. Somewhere to hide where the bullies would never find him. And that felt great to Chad.
And his mother's late night assignment had finished, she was home more these days, spending time with him, and Chad had the best of both worlds. A friend in Vincent, a father figure in Father, his dear mother paying more attention to him and Mrs. Leigh to provide nourishing meals Above, when he wasn't partaking of the same from Williams fare Below.
And the friendships he had made!
Such joy abounded for Chad. The children Below were real friends, just as Vincent had promised. Even the adults made time for him, teaching him things. From William how to bake bread. From Pascal how to send messages. From Cullen how to lovingly turn an old piece of wood into something beautiful.
And from Mouse he learned how to be silly, how to run rings around everyone, how to invent things that were useful to all Below.
Life was great. Perfect and Chad hoped it would never end. He visualised himself spending all his life there. For really there was nowhere else hed rather be. Every spare moment he headed for his new home beneath the city streets, with joy singing through his veins.
Vincent in turn was drawn to that joy. His heart was uplifted as the connection drowned out that other lesser one, until one day thoughts of Catherine were but a distant memory. And even that he looked on with happiness now. Remembering only the good times, never the sad.
Father was happy. The child had certainly brought a breath of fresh air into their lives, and he could only live and hope that nothing would ever alter that fact.
"Hey have you ever tried
really reaching out for the other side,
I might be climbing on rainbows,
but baby here goes,"
Catherine polished her home with relish, taking a particular long time with the dining room table, at some sticky stuff stuck to it's underside when the song filtered through her mind from the radio in Chad's room reminding her of years past. She stilled in her actions to listen, picking up on the words as they came and went,
"dreams are for those who sleep,
life is for us to keep,
and if I chose the one I'd like to help me through,
I'd like to make it with you.
I really think that we could make it good."
Catherine found that her eyes were wet with tears, and she brushed them away hurriedly as Chad exited his room searching for her, "Hey Mom, isn't this the song you used to sing all the time when I was little?"
"Does it still make you cry?" he'd noticed her wet cheeks, even if the evidence of tears had been brushed away.
Catherine's smile trembled as she nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
"I remember the line about rainbows the most." He told her fondly. "You used to sing it to me, and I tried to picture myself climbing them. That's what I thought the song was about."
Catherine smiled deeper, holding out her arms to her son, who went into them willingly, and together they continued along with the song,
"No you don't know me well,
but every little thing only time will tell,
if you believe the things that I do,
then we'll see it through,
life can be short or long, love can be right or wrong,
and if you're wondering what this song is leading to,
I'd like to make it with you,
I really think that we could make it good."
By the time they'd finished both were crying. Chad perked up quicker telling his mother, "When I found out that there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, that's what I thought the song was about."
Catherine looked at her son, waiting for him to continue. Chad laughed, "You know what Mom?"
"No tell me?" she hugged him tighter against her side as they sat on the sofa together.
"I used to think that the song was saying the only way to reach that pot of gold was to climb the rainbow on one side, and slide down the other to reach it."
Catherine laughed out loud, stilling when she saw the serious expression on her son's face.
"What is it Chad?"
"It's not about rainbows is it, it's about love?"
"Someone you were in love with?"
"You young man are too perceptive for your age." She tickled him mercilessly.
Chad giggled, wriggling around and eventually falling off the sofa, to sit at her feet looking at her for long moments. Enigmatically Catherine smiled, "What is it? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Did you used to sing it and think of my dad?" he asked her softly, wondering if he should.
Catherine thought hard for long moments. There was much she could have said, much she wanted to say to dissuade him further, but she reasoned that now was as good a time as any to open up and tell him a few things. Perhaps now, even though he was still very young, he might understand a little.
"Yes." She answered truthfully. Then, "Why do you ask?"
"Apart from his surname I know nothing about him. Can you tell me anything?"
Catherine felt a lump rising to her throat, she shook her head, the tears gathering in her eyes, "Only that I still love him." She said simply.
Chad scrambled back onto the sofa and hugged her fiercely. He didn't know what else to say, but he was sorry that she looked so sad, and wished he could do something about it.
He knew his mother had brought him up single handed from the day he was born. Mrs. Leigh was a new addition to the family, brought in only when his mother had been assigned a difficult case. Generally his mother was always there for him. And though once having wealth left to her from her father's will, that had quickly dwindled in buying a home for the two of them, and keeping up the rent of the apartment in town. Chad could never understand the reason for that. They seldom used the place, and it was an expense he felt they could do without. But his mother would never rent it out, and from time to time she would refer to it as her window to the world, and go there with him to stand upon the balcony looking out over the park at night.
At eight years old Chad had the wealth of knowledge that surpassed his years. Catherine had always been well aware of that, and she knew that one day he would have to be told the truth, but for now he was her child, her little boy and she loved him fiercely.
Yet for all her strengths Chad thought of his mother as vulnerable. Many times he had caught her quietly crying, especially after those visits to the apartment.
He wanted to protect her, despite his tender years, one of the reasons really why he never told her of the bullying.
Knowing this Chad admitted to himself that if she knew about the bullying she would take him for the child he was, and not for the son that he wanted to be, her stronghold in times of sorrow and despair.
Besides since Vincent had entered his life he had been able to cope with the bullying. Vincent had seen to that.
No one would touch him with that kind of guardian angel forever appearing at his side, whenever he was threatened.
As Chad sat beside his mother he thought about a conversation hed had with Father one day.
"Why do these boys pick on you Chad?" Father had asked concerned, his kindly eyes twinkling." Surely not because you have no father, a good deal of children are from one parent families these days."
"No it isn't that, not really." Chad had replied honestly. "I don't really know what it is. They don't know me that well."
"There must be something. Are you smaller than most of the children at your school?"
"Possibly. I don't know."
Father could see very well that Chad did know, but he was reluctant to say.
At that moment Vincent had entered the chamber coming to sit beside Chad at the table, ruffling the boys hair affectionately in passing.
Father saw Chad grimace, smoothing down his hair almost at once.
"You have very unusual hair Chad." Father remarked, watching the boy closely. Sure enough Chad blushed, but could find no answer.
"You know" went on Father, sitting back in his chair to observe the child, "It reminds me very much of Vincent's hair when he was your age. His used to stick out all over the place like that too. As I remember it would never lay flat in any one way." Father's kindly eyes twinkled, as Chad looked at Vincent's luscious mane of hair now.
Vincent listening to the conversation looked at Chad sharply, almost seeing his hair for the first time.
"Perhaps mine would look better long like Vincent's." Chad replied, then whispered, "But mom likes me to keep it short."
"And" went on Father, now in full swing, "You have the most penetrating blue eyes I have ever seen, save for Vincent of course. You know the two of you, " he paused before continuing slowly, "well, I think that anyone that doesn't know you aren't related, couldn't be blamed for believing that you were."
"I wish we were." Chad remarked truthfully, looking straight at Vincent, "That would be real neat. Especially if I could growl like you."
Vincent and Father laughed heartily. Fathers laughter underlined by thoughtfulness, Yes he nodded silently, those two could be taken for brothers.
And he decided there and then to find out as much as he could about Chad. Believing the knowledge just might lead him to Vincent's past.
Chad knew none of this. He'd been embarrassed when Father had spoken about his hair. Had Father guessed that was why he was being bullied?
Chad had always hated his hair until that day in Father's chamber. Now the connection to Vincent thrilled him.
Being like his hero was something he was proud of, even if it was only because of his hair and his eyes.
"Mom?" he suddenly had an idea.
"Yes." The song had long finished but Catherine still found herself in a melancholy mood, drifting somewhere between worlds, Above and Below, and had replied absentmindedly.
"Can I grow my hair long?"
That got Catherines attention. She gasped. Her first thought to ask, "Why?"
"I think it will look better, and some of the kids at school wear their hair long these days. You said I had to have it short because the headmaster said so, but that was the old headmaster, this new one don't care about things like that. So can I?"
Catherine ruffled her son's hair, a lump catching in her throat as she watched her fingers sliding through it, "Perhaps a little longer," she told him, "So that it won't stick up so much, but not too long, huh?"
Chad laughed, pleasantly surprised, "that's great mom. How long do you think it'll take to grow?"
"Three, four inches? About six months, maybe less, it depends."
"Eating the right kind of food, less hamburgers, less sweets, less chewing gum. Hey that reminds me. I've a bone to pick with you." Taking his arm she propelled him towards the table she had been polishing just before that wretched song had begun that had turned her world upside down again, "What do you call this?" she asked pointing to a hard mound of gum beneath the table.
Chad coloured up, and grinned sheepishly. "Sorry mum guess I goofed huh?"
"I guess you did." Catherine hugged him, and the two fell into a heap of giggles upon the floor, tickling one another all over.
Peter Allcot sifted through his medicine supply carefully, marking off items that were getting low. He ticked off from a list held before him anything that he had need of that day, and carefully stowed the required medicine and pills into a box that he used for carrying medicines Below.
It had been some time since he had visited in person, and he was looking forward to the visit greatly.
Soon he had everything he needed and made his way through the usual route to visit his friends.
Walking through the chilly tunnels some thirty minutes later, his mind as ever went to the days when he had stepped this way lighter of spirit, anticipating that at any moment he would see Catherine and Vincent spending time together, warming the hearts of those Below. Together they were an impressive sight, true, but his love for them both went far deeper than that. He'd known them both since birth and Catherine was like a daughter to him.
Since she had Vincent had parted, Peter found it a constant strain to come Below and not utter her name. It was alien to him not to do so. One of the reasons he came less often.
Yet now walking through the ever-familiar tunnels, he realised how silly he had been to allow that to have stopped him. He had missed the place. The faces of those that now greeted him with happiness, they were pleased to see him looking so fit and well after so long an absence.
Pausing momentarily outside Father's chamber, Peter anticipated his entrance, the delight on their faces, and stepped forth happily.
Both Father and Vincent had their backs to him, while talking to a child sat before them in another chair. Down the steps Peter came, seeing first not the surprised expressions of Vincent and Father as expected, but instead, surprise registered with horror upon the face of the child before them, making both Vincent and Father glance behind.
"Peter!" both Father and Vincent rose with one accord, hands outstretched to welcome their friend, while all Peter could do was stand and stare at the child before him, his name bursting from his lips, "Chandler what on earth are you doing here? Is your mother with you?"
Chad froze neither knowing whether to run or stay, as Father and Vincent's gaze rested back upon him once more, "You two know each other?" Father queried, his eyes running from Peter to Chad in turn.
"Yes." Peter told him, "Of course I know him."
At that Chad ran like a scared rabbit, brushing past Father in his haste to escape and almost sending the older man reeling.
All three stared out after him.
"What did you call him?" Father queried regaining his composure.
"Chandler. Why what do you call him?" Peter asked, "And what's he doing here?" his face showing definite signs of confusion.
Bewildered Father replied, "His name is Chad."
"Yes Father, but it is short for something. Chad himself told me when first we met." Vincent told them.
"It's short for Chandler." Peter informed them.
Vincent felt his skin pale, and nausea rise in the pit of his stomach. Something was definitely amiss.
Father too felt the same.
"Is Cathy here?" Peter asked.
Vincent froze. What a strange thing to say? "Catherine? No why, should she be?"
"I just thought well the child you know?" Peter looked quickly from one to the other of them. Suddenly realising that they didn't know anything.
For long moments Father stared at the exit the way Chad had gone, his mind piecing things together. Things he had noticed before. Chads blues eyes, so often intense, and remarkably like Vincent's. And that hair, unruly, burnished copper, again just like Vincent's had been at that age. And the bond, it in itself gave rise to further consideration. Father swallowed hard, looking at his son anew.
"How do you know Chad?" Vincent was asking Peter.
"He's a patient of mine." Peter told them. Now aware how little they knew about the boy and he wasn't about to trade secrets.
"But why Catherine? That's what I'd like to know Peter. Why did you assume because Chad is here that Catherine would be too?"
"Must be the name." Peter tried to shrug it off, "I got mixed up, that's all."
"No Peter it's more than that, won't you tell us?" Vincent asked softly his heart pounding for he knew not what.
"I can't Vincent. Chads background is not mine to tell. If he hasn't told you, then I'm sorry I can't either."
"What's to tell?" Father asked. "I don't understand. It doesn't make any sense. It's almost as if you are guarding some great secret for god's sake, and why mention Catherine?"
"I told you, I got mixed up, I can never quite believe I won't ever find her down here when I visit. I was thinking of her on the way down. Then seeing Chandler, I got confused that's all."
"No." Father insisted, "I'm sorry Peter but I don't believe you. You know something you aren't telling us."
Peter nodded, "Yes I do. But Jacob I can't tell you. The knowledge is not mine to divulge. I'm sorry. Look let's forget it can we? I've brought all the items you needed, shall we go through them together?"
"No. I'm sorry Peter I'm not giving up on this. You can sit there and say nothing or you can help out but one way or another I am going to get to the bottom of this."
"Leave it Jacob." Peter spoke sternly, unusual for him, "Now lets get this stuff itemised, I haven't got all day."
Father glared at Peter then nodded absentmindedly; it was the last thing he wanted to do. His mind was very much elsewhere.
Peter stayed for as long as it took to unpack the items, clearly knowing Father's distress, clearly seeing that the older man wanted a word with Vincent. The child did not return all the time he was there, and Peter felt loath to bring up the subject again. He didn't know how Chad had found his way Below, or how he had come to know Vincent, and regretted the words he had said.
Later Father found Vincent and Chad inside his own chamber awaiting his return.
"Has the doctor gone?" Chad asked fearfully, on the verge of flight should Father say not.
"Not exactly. He's gone to visit some of the sick here Below."
"But nowhere near here?"
Chad relaxed, "Good."
"Don't you like him?" Father asked gently.
"Then why did you run away from him?"
"I thought he might take me home. Stop me from coming here. I didn't know you knew him."
"We know a lot of people Chad. And Peter is a doctor."
"You're a doctor too!"
"Yes, I am, but Peter has access to things from the world Above, medicines, pills, vaccinations, things we need but cannot get down here. Peter acts as a helper in the medical field."
Chad nodded, "I get it. So he didn't come to take me home?"
"No. Is that what you thought?"
"Well he didn't come for you. He didn't even know you knew us. It was a shock to him I think." Father chuckled. Still though something grieved him. He couldn't put his finger on it, but in the past that had happened often. Peter would come Below, and recognise someone, but he never acted so shifty about it. And then there was that mention of Catherine. Why Catherine?
Again Father looked from Chad to Vincent, as he had many times over the past few weeks, more so since Chad had started to grow his hair longer.
Yes there were definite similarities between them. For the thousandth time Father wondered about that. "Chad how about you going along to William and fetching Vincent and I a nice hot cup of tea and a plate of his delicious cookies." Father asked the boy, who jumped up at once delighted to help.
When he had gone, Vincent could tell by Father's demeanour that he had something delicate that he wanted to say, "What is it Father? What worries you so?"
"Vincent, pardon me for asking but I have to know." he paused, unable to go on. Vincent's intense blue eyes watched him warily, "What is it you have to know Father?" he asked softly.
Father drew in a deep breath, "When you and Catherine were together." Vincent stiffened, as Father continued, "Were the two of you ever intimate?"
Father's blue eyes searched out those of his son's watching for any sign, any reconnection that would give him his answer even should Vincent refuse to reply.
"Once." Vincent replied at last, his heart hammering painfully. His mind trying to shut it out, "Just before we parted in fact."
A ton weight shifted from Father's shoulders. It was true then. That was it. It all made perfect sense now.
Chad's likeness to Vincent, their connection, Peter's words especially Peter's words.
"Why Father?" Vincent was asking.
"I might be wrong Vincent", he was saying though certain he was not, "but I think there is more than a possibility that Chad is" he paused fighting for words, finally whispering, "your child."
"My child!" Vincent rose to his feet. Impossible! It was impossible. How could Father think such a thing?
"Look Vincent sit down. Do you think I would say such a thing thoughtlessly? Look at it logically. Look at his hair, it's so like your own."
"That's coincidental." Vincent remarked still shocked at Father's suggestion.
"And his eyes?"
"All right the emphatic connection then."
"So you've got one out of three. What else?" Vincent's shrugged his voice bordering on sarcasm.
"His name is Chandler."
"His surname is Wells." both looked up as from the doorway Peters voice came forth. He entered, "Your patients are well Jacob, I just thought I'd come to say goodbye."
The two were still staring at him open mouthed.
Peter smiled; it was a rare sight to have both Vincent and Father lost for words.
"It's true." He told them, "the child's name is Chandler Wells. But that is all I am saying. I've already said too much. I promise you'll not get another word out of me. You know Jacob doctor confidentiality and all that."
Father coughed, looking directly at Vincent who was looking decidedly uncomfortable, "Is that coincidental too Vincent?" Father asked gently.
"No." Vincent murmured, and neither is this, "his middle name is Vincent."
Father's eyes lit up; "I knew it! I knew it. Vincent the child is yours. He just has to be."
Vincent wanted to laugh. It was so impossible. But then was it?
He and Catherine may not have made love in the fullest sense of the word, but enough had transpired between them for him to make her pregnant. But why had she never told him!
Surely she would never have kept something so important from him? Surely not!
As Vincent struggled with the thoughts in his mind, Chad returned carrying a tray of steaming tea and freshly baked cookies, their aroma proceeding his arrival. He looked at Father and Vincent, his ready smile quickly fading, when he saw Peter and as Vincent stared back at him, Chad felt it was almost as if Vincent was seeing him for the first time.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Chad asked, settling the tray upon the table and coming to kneel at Vincent's feet. He looked up into those compelling blue eyes. "Tell me?" he asked softly.
"Vincent's had a bit of a shock Chad. Don't worry he'll be fine in a minute or two. Perhaps you and I could talk until then."
Reluctantly Chad tore his gaze from Vincent, even as he offered him his hand. Vincent took it, held the young child's hand tightly, for the first time examining it carefully, making Chad feel anxious and a little bemused.
Vincent looked at the hand he held, really looked. If Chad's eyes and hair bore similarities to him, then his hands did not. They showed no likeness to the clawed fingers of his own. Vincent thought he was going mad. What was he doing? What was he allowing Father and Peter to tell him? His mind screamed these things, and he was just about to dismiss them as folly when he heard Father ask, "So Chad, tell me why don't you like the name of Chandler? It has a nice ring to it?"
"It's pathetic." Chad laughed reaching for a cookie.
Father laughed heartily. "Why is that?"
"Because its a surname. Mom named me after her."
"Your mother's surname is Chandler?" Father asked breathlessly.
Chad didn't seem to notice. The cookies were delicious. "Yes."
Vincent felt his skin pale.
Father decided not to let on that he already knew the boys full name, "So if your mother's surname is Chandler, and she gave you that for a Christian name, surely your full name isn't Chandler Chandler?"
Chad gave a whoop of delight; "You are funny! Now that would be pathetic. No Mom's not that dumb."
Father eyed Vincent carefully, and seeing his sons grave complexion, wondered if he should continue.
Instead Vincent found his voice and asked, "What surname do you use then?"
Chads face fell, "that's the only bit I know of my dad." He told them sadly, "Until recently mom would never speak of him. I don't know why. When I asked her anything she just started crying." He paused remembering.
"So what is your surname?" Vincent prompted his heart in his mouth, perhaps Peter was wrong. He tried to avoid Peter's eyes. He thought they'd be mocking him.
"It's Wells." Chad replied.
Oh God, the room swam around him, and Vincent had to clutch at the arms of the chair for support. He didn't think his head would ever stop spinning. His breath seemed to have been cut off, and feeling Father's steadying hand upon him was a welcome relief.
"Vincent, Vincent, it's all right." His father hugged him tightly, "it's okay, everything is going to be okay."
Chad stared wide eyed at the two of them, "What is it?" he asked, "What's the matter with Vincent?" he'd heard things from the other children, and he was afraid. Was Vincent about to go mad?
Slowly Vincent fought for control, seeing the child before him anew. His son? Pride warred with fear and conquered. His eyes filled with tears, and he reached for the child, pulling him onto his lap, making Chad feel a little silly and strange.
"You have the same name as me." Vincent told him, knowing how the child felt.
"For real? You are called Wells too?"
"Then that makes us brothers!" Chad told him delightedly.
Father took in the compelling picture of the two sat together. No, he thought to himself, that makes you father and son. Father rose, "Will you be all right Vincent, there is something I must do?" he eyed Peter distastefully, making the other man cringe. "I'm sorry Jacob, as I said, it's confidential. My hands are tied. Any digging you do has to be without my further help."
Vincent looked from one to the other of them, "Father?"
"It's all right Vincent, I'm not meddling, but we need confirmation do we not, and there is only one person who can do that?" his penetrating look told Vincent all he needed to know, "No." Vincent whispered. "Father leave it. I'll go and see her in my own time."
Despite everything all the facts, despite all the logic, still Vincent was uncertain. Perhaps he wanted it that way, he didn't know. What he did know was that if Chad was Catherine's child, a question he was yet to ask the boy, then Catherine had done a remarkably good job of bringing up the child single handed.
Oh there was the time she had left him with the housekeeper that spoke of neglect, but Vincent knew that Chad's mother was unaware of his late nights, trusting in Mrs. Leighs capabilities totally. And Vincent couldn't blame her for that.
What bugged him the most was if Chad really was his child, when did Catherine plan on telling the child about his father. For she would need to tell him eventually especially if Chad should marry and want children of his own. Chad may not resemble the beast, but the likelihood of a descendent doing so was more than a possibility. How would Catherine explain that?
Well aware of Vincent's misconceptions Father continued to help him grasp the logic every which way he could.
To Father this was the beginning of the happy ever after ending. The child would bring Catherine and Vincent back together. They would live Below and everyone would be happy.
Father could see it all in his mind's eye as clear as day. All it needed was for his stubborn son to be pushed a little in order to begin to make it happen.
One day as the three sat around his chamber absorbed in reading, Father watched Chad closely. His hair now quite long resembled Vincent's so much. In fact some of the tunnel dwellers had remarked upon it, how the child had tried to look like his hero.
"Do you like being here Chad?" Father asked suddenly, causing Vincent to look up sharply and issue a warning look in his father's direction. When was he ever going to drop the matter?
"I love it here." Chad told him sincerely.
"Tell me about your own home?" Father asked gently.
"What about it?"
"Is it a large house?"
"Quite large. The garden is big." At the mention of the garden Father felt his heart drop. Vincent's on the other hand soared. Not that he didn't wish for Chad to be his son. Just that if it were proved false a whole lot of problems needn't be faced.
"Have you been there long?" Father prompted, he tried not to sound too interested. Flicking through the pages of a book absentmindedly at the same time.
Chad too was absorbed in his reading, and replied in like manner. "A few years." He replied, "Before that we lived in an apartment."
Vincent tensed, as Father's eyes brightened. Bingo he thought to himself.
"Where was that, out of town?"
"No. We still rent it actually. Mom takes me there from time to time." Then seeing something he needed explaining on the printed page, turned the book to Vincent, "Can you tell me what this means Vincent", he asked.
Father waited as patiently as he dared while the two before him ran over the contents of the book, until he felt it was fit to intervene again.
"Why do you need two homes?" he asked. Vincent glared at him. That glare said will you drop this Father.
Father shook his head. He would not. He had come too far now, and he wanted to get to the bottom of this.
"We don't, but mom likes the apartment. She calls it her window to the world. She likes to go there some nights and stand on the balcony overlooking the park. I like that too. The lights are so pretty from way up high."
Vincent stiffened. Really the facts did keep climbing higher and higher. He drew in a controlled breath, letting out slowly and asked, "What is your mother's name Chad?"
Vincent felt his world shatter. Everything he had known solid and safe collapsed around him. Father stood up and came alongside his son, thankfully Chad was oblivious to the turmoil his answer had just caused, and didn't notice when Father draped an arm around Vincent's shoulders to stem the shaking in his son.
Still Vincent tried to deny it.
It had to be coincidental. It had to be!
Until Catherine, his Catherine stood there and confessed that Chad was his son he would still doubt it. He had to do. His whole sanity depended on that.
"You know it's the truth, why fight it?" Father spoke to Vincent when Chad had long left for home. "Chad is your son."
"No. I don't believe it." Vincent growled, his anger rising at the very suggestion. "Catherine would have told me."
Fathers kindly eyes held those of his sons, "She may not have wanted to."
"Why? Why would Catherine keep something like that from me?"
"Didn't you tell me so yourself that you had sent her away. Perhaps she decided that having a child you would consider that she had forced herself on to you, into your life when you were not prepared for that. Not prepared to have her give up her life Above."
"And I'm still not. Catherine's life is Above Father don't you see that. Catherine has channelled out for herself a good life Above. I still could not expect her to give all that up for me, despite the fact that Chad likes being here."
"Are so you do accept that Chad is Catherine's child?"
"I didn't say that." He searched his father's eyes warily, "But it is more than a possibility."
"And where pray does Catherine conceive a child that looks like you, if it is not with you? Vincent face the facts, the child is yours, I'd stake my life on it."
Vincent shuddered. He didn't want to admit that Father was right, but he could no longer deny the possibility.
"If Chad is my son, I want to hear it from Catherine herself. But it changes nothing Father; Catherine's life is Above. And nothing will alter how I feel on that."
Father nodded, "I'll send Catherine a message, ask her to visit. How do you feel about that?"
Vincent shrugged unable to voice an opinion.
"Yes" Father rose to walk towards his writing bureau, "I'll waste no more time. I'll send word to her at once."
As Father's message winged it's way Above in the hand of a helper, Chad paid them an unexpected visit well into the night.
Bounding down the stairs leading into Fathers chamber he was happy to see that the two of them were still up, even though they were almost ready for bed.
"Vincent!" Chad ran to his hero, flinging himself into his arms, "We're leaving." He cried.
"Leaving?" Father and Vincent spoke at once.
"Mom has to go away on another assignment, a long way away. She is taking me with her. Vincent I don't want to go, I want to stay with you."
A sigh of relief escaped Vincent. Not for the fact of Chad's going or his distress but for the seemingly good escape he had been given. If Catherine was preparing to leave she would have no time to come Below and he could put off the inevitable.
"How long will you be gone for?" Father asked.
Wide-eyed Chad looked at him; "I don't want to go. Can I stay here please?"
"Chad how can you. You're mother knows nothing of this place." Father felt very guilty about making that statement, but as far as Chad was concerned his mother didn't know anything about the world Below.
"You could tell her. Shed understand. She'd trust you; she'd let me stay. Mom says this case might take three months. I can't bear to be away so long. I love you guys."
Father and Vincent fought back tears, drawing in a ragged breath unable to know what to say for the best.
Vincent hugged the child tight, feeling his pain, taking it deep within himself, and hoping he could draw it away from the child.
He loved Chad too. Fiercely. He hadn't realised until now just how much. And suddenly he fought for his rights. "You can stay Chad."
Chad's eyes lit up, his face upturned towards his hero. "For real?"
Vincent's eyes met Father's, "There's still time. I'll go and see Catherine."
Chad looked from one to the other, "Catherine? My mother?"
Vincent nodded, "Yes. Chad there is something that you don't know. Come let me tell you."
Quietly Chad allowed Vincent to guide him to a chair. Father listened with interest wondering what Vincent was about to say.
"Many years ago, before you were born, I rescued someone else from the park. A woman. She had been beaten and left for dead. I brought her here to heal, and she became a helper for those of us Below. Chad that woman was your mother. She knows about the tunnels, and about me, what she doesn't know is that you know about this place too, about me and Father and all the others down here." He paused. A sound from the doorway caught his attention.
"Till now." The softly spoken voice told them. Vincent didn't need to look up to know that Catherine stood there. Somehow he had known of her approach even as he had taken Chad aside. He'd resolutely ignored it, unwillingly to accept that she was accepting Father's invitation to come Below when she had so much to do at home.
"Hello Chad" Catherine came down the steps slowly, making her way towards Father. "How are you Father?" she asked bending to kiss the older man's brow, "It's good to see you again. You haven't changed a bit." Father's eyes lit up, his smile broadened, and he stood to clasp Catherine's hands in his, "Catherine, you came. Thank you."
"Did you doubt it?" her eyes left him drawn to the presence of the one that held her child, their child with warm possession.
"Hello Vincent." Her breath caught in her throat, "Are you well?"
"Catherine." The softly spoken words were just as Catherine remembered. Tears flooded her eyes.
He stood, placing a totally bemused Chad to one side, and came forwards slowly. Standing before one another, each had to remind themselves just to breathe. Catherine's heart hammered painfully, her eyes never leaving his. Vincent opened his arms and Catherine walked into them willingly, crying opening as those mighty arms enfolded her against him, tight in his embrace.
The words catapulted from Catherine, "I love you Vincent." She sobbed her throat tight with emotion.
Chad's eyes opened wide, a grin spread across his face, he gasped looking first to Father then back to his mother held so tightly in Vincent's arms.
"Mom?" he queried.
Catherine reached out a hand, drawing her son into that embrace, "Come" she told him, "You belong here too."
The three hugged one another tightly, though Chad didn't yet understand it all, but something was suddenly going to be all right of that he was certain.
His mother and Vincent knew each other! No it was more than that. He could see. He might be young but he could see his mother loved Vincent very much, and he could tell that Vincent felt the same way about her. He wanted to stand there and let out a whoop of joy.
Vincent knew how he felt. His blue eyes ablaze with love, he could hardly believe this was happening.
Catherine here! In his arms at last, it didn't seem possible, he thought he must be dreaming.
Releasing her from his embrace, he led her around to his chair, propping himself against the table to stand gazing at her, almost afraid to look away, in case that when he did she would vanish.
Chad climbed onto his mother's lap, waiting for her to speak. There was so much he wanted to say, but he could not decide what to say first.
Catherine ran her hand absentmindedly against her sons hair, allowing the silky strands to pass through her fingers. It had a soothing effect on her son, usually making him sleepy. Tonight Chad fought against that feeling. He needed to stay awake. Something exciting was about to happen he was certain of it.
"So Vincent how did you meet your son?" Catherine asked at last, after struggling with the words to find a way to bring it up.
Vincent gasped. Father's eyes lit up, but Chad spoke first. "His son?" he wiggled to turn and look into Catherine's eyes. She nodded, "Yes," she told him happily, "Vincent is your father."
That whoop of joy left Chad's lips without restraint. They burst from him, and he scrambled from Catherine's lap, to fling himself against Vincent's legs hugging him tightly. Tears streamed down Catherine's cheeks at the sight. "I see you have captivated my son, as you did me." She spoke lightly, her eyes filled with happiness.
"I love him." Vincent spoke from the heart. "Would you believe we have a connection?"
Catherine nodded, "It doesn't surprise me. I can see that it did you though?"
"At first yes."
"I began to believe that Chad might have been a relative to Vincent in some way. The likeness is certainly there. I had no idea that Chad could be his son, until something Peter said one day, come let me tell you all about it." Father told Catherine, "This might take some time, can you stay?"
"Nothing will prise me away." Catherine told him sincerely, "Besides I really want to hear this. And I have things of my own to tell. Can we spend the night here Father?"
Father nodded, " Of course my dear, as if you had to ask."
"I love you Catherine. I've never stopped loving you. Is there anyone in your life?"
"No one but you my darling." Catherine felt as though she had come home after a long and arduous journey.
Wrapped in Vincent's arms, the scent of him alone intoxicated her. "I loved you so much Vincent, I could never get you out of my mind. And then Chad was born. I'd see him, and I'd see you. He was a constant reminder that I loved to have yet despaired to have all in one go. Chad made me yearn for you so much. I don't know how I got through the years without you."
"You should have told me Catherine. I had a right to know."
"Yes you did. But I told myself that I would not go to you. You severed the dream Vincent. If you had come to me I would have told you."
A great sadness washed over Vincent. He had missed so much. Even so his earlier fears had not altered, he was still unsure about the future for the two of them.
"He's beautiful Catherine. Weren't you ever afraid?"
"I was petrified. Peter helped me through it all. I gave birth at his home, while his wife was away with friends. When I saw how Chad was, it was almost a relief. Not because I don't find you beautiful Vincent, because I do, but because it meant I could continue living Above and you need never know, unless you came to see me."
There were so many questions Vincent wanted to ask, so many he dared not. He was silent for some time, happy only to be able to hold Catherine close again after so long apart.
"Catherine this trip you have to undertake. Is it dangerous?"
"No Vincent, I gave up undertaking dangerous assignments, when you and I parted. I decided it wouldn't be fair on you to feel any threat to my life and be compelled to come to me. If I'd have wanted to do I could have done that. At times just to see you again would have made all that worthwhile, but I loved you Vincent, and I didn't want to expose you to unnecessary dangers. I still don't. No this case isn't one I am personally handling, this time I am there as a witness and nothing more."
Vincent nodded, "You'll allow Chad to stay with me?"
"You're sure?" her eyes widened with surprise.
"I love him Catherine. And now he knows who I am, we have a lot of catching up to do. He'll be safe here you know that."
"Yes I know he will. Of course he must stay."
"Thank you I know you will miss him Catherine."
"Yes I will, but he'll be better off with you. He can go to school as usual, someone from here can take him, and his life won't have to be an upheaval just because of my job. It will be better for him to stay, and better for you to have him stay."
"When you return Catherine." Vincent was unable to go on. What could he offer her after all?
Catherine understood, "I'll come back to visit more often Vincent, I promise. You can start coming back to the apartment too if you wish, I kept it with you in mind. Your window to the world."
"Our window to the world. Catherine, I can promise to offer you no more than before, can you accept only friendship from me?"
"I love you Vincent, I love you as lovers love, I cannot pretend to be happy about your offer, you know I need more, that's why we broke up before."
"No Catherine we broke up because I caused you pain."
Catherine felt laughter rising, her eyes danced, "And how so!"
"You thought making love to me caused me pain Vincent. Yet you left me with something more lethal. Chads birth was excruciating."
"I'm sorry Catherine." Vincent's sorrow reached his eyes.
"No, no Vincent." Catherine clasped his hands in hers, "Don't be sorry, it wasn't that bad, I coped, and look what I gained. Look what you gave me. Our son, I couldn't have asked for more than that. But I did."
Tilting his head birdlike in the way Catherine had missed and loved so much, he asked her, "Tell me?"
"I asked for you Vincent. I wanted you. I still want you. If I came Below and became a regular visitor again, Vincent can we try, can you try to accept my needs, your own desires. Vincent nothing has changed. Maybe time has increased the intensity, but other than that I want you Vincent as much as I ever did, and I know that you need this too. You deserve so much."
"You have already given me enough Catherine. And I cannot expect you to leave all your life behind because of me."
"Is that what this is all about? Really and truly, the fact that you don't want to deprive me of my life Above?"
Vincent nodded, "You belong Above Catherine. It is your world. Your friends, your job are all Above, you can't turn your back on your destiny Catherine, I won't allow it."
"Supposing I keep all that then, but still have you?"
They were talking alongside the mirror pool, watching the reflection of a blue sky and fluffy white clouds passing by overhead, and Vincent was well aware that in this place both their worlds combined.
He didn't have answers to her questions; he didn't like to presume too much.
His silence saddened her.
"Vincent Wells, you know what?"
"Being without you these eight, nearly nine years has been a death sentence for me. I lived, I breathed, and I worked purely as a matter of instinct. Chad was my happiness, my only happiness, my only link to you, since the bond was being withdrawn from me. I forsook everything I knew, to be alone to spend my evenings working when I had to do, with my son whenever I could do. The life that you knew me to frequent Vincent, died the day that you rescued me in the park. I want only you Vincent I always have and nothing else comes close."
Vincent drew her into his arms hugging her close. There was a lot to think about, perhaps it was as well that time apart was coming between them again, "I'll miss you Catherine when you have gone, and I will think about the things that you have said, but I offer no promises."
Just let me into your life Vincent that's all I ask. Accept what I offer you. I love you so much."
Vincent nodded, "I'll think about it."
Catherine was well aware that he would do just that.
A sudden storm resulting in a break of sunshine filtering through the clouds, had Catherine startled. It was so beautiful. She had not seen anything quite like it for a long time, especially beneath such a setting.
The ocean beckoned to her from off the great sandy beaches of California, and Catherine drawn to the ocean spray and the dark sombre clouds overhead walked towards the seas edge thinking how much Chad would like to have been there.
She'd missed him, these past eight weeks, but the case was wrapping up nicely, and it appeared that she would be home a month earlier than expected.
His letters, witty and informative had helped her through, and the fact that most of the pages were filled with Vincent this, and Vincent that made her smile. It was this latest letter that had altered everything.
Extracting it from the envelope Catherine had read it during her lunch break from the court, and the first thing she had noticed on scanning its contents, was the absence of that delightful name. There was no Vincent.
Not until the very last when Vincent himself had signed his name.
Reading it through Catherine began to see why Chad had refrained from using the name. Now his letters had altered, and Catherine smiled with quiet resignation, happy for the bond that the two of them had found.
Mouse got into trouble again today, he didn't mean to do, he just overheard grandfather say that they needed some foam rubber down here. Grandfather wanted to create a play for Winterfest and needed some props. Apparently Mouse thought he would help. You know Mouse though mom, he didn't know how much Grandfather needed, and because there was plenty of the stuff he took it all Below. You should have seen it mom! Dad and I were coming back from a trip and literally bounced in the dark as we met a solid wall of foam. We were running you see, having a race. It was unexpected and it made dad growl, cos he didn't know what it was in the dark, and Mouse had extinguished all the lamps in case of fire with all that foam about. Grandfather was furious, and it took five people to pull all that foam rubber from out of the tunnel. Dad and Grandfather are laughing about it now, especially the bit about me and dad bouncing off of the foam and as it turns out most of the foam rubber makes very good bedding that can be rolled up when not in use. And Father has got his prop for Winterfest, so everything ends well. When are you coming home mom? I miss you and dad misses you too.
Hurry home, Love from Chad.
Be well, Vincent."
So that was the way of things now was it? Grandfather and dad. Catherine felt her heart constrict, happy families perhaps? If only, she sighed wistfully, if only it could be that simple.
A curtain of rain gently fell as Catherine walked the beach deep in thought, and as the sun continued to peek through the ever-present black clouds, a rainbow arced across the sky and Catherine stopped to look at it.
It was beautiful and she smiled remembering Chad's words of the rainbow, how he would love to be able to slide down its length to reach the pot of gold.
There was another metaphor to be had there too.
Life was very much like climbing rainbows. Just as it was very much like chasing rainbows. The difference was that with the latter one had to realise that the probability were impossible, but with the former it involved taking a risk with something that was already available and hoping that it would turn out well.
If Chad had accepted Vincent as his father, and Vincent was happy to allow Chad to refer to him as such, then she was half way there. Still it would do no harm to help out, and in her mind she began to put together a letter she would reply to Chad with later, when her day was done.
She decided she would tell him about her walk along the beach, about the rainbow, and her memory of his thoughts about that song about climbing them. If Chad showed the letter to Vincent, Catherine felt certain that would open up a conversation which Vincent, being Vincent, would think about more deeply later when alone.
Catherine could visualise his thoughts, and she hoped that he would draw the right conclusion.
Back at the courtroom some time later, Catherine settled into her seat in a much lighter frame of mind. The walk along the shore had done her good, the fresh air, the beauty of the rainbow, and for the first time in many weeks her heart soared on wings of doves. Peacefulness washed over her, and she listened avidly to the remainder of the case as it was being wound up. As soon as the defendant was jailed, she could go home, get on with her life and hopefully change it drastically too. She wanted nothing more than to live Below, with Vincent, and hoped that he would allow her to do so.
Chad received the letter two days later, taking it to his room to read it by candlelight. He could picture the scene; his mother had painted it so well. He could almost taste the salt spray on his lips, the feel of the sea breeze in his hair.
Vincent found him quietly going over the letter for the third time some time later when he brought him some tea.
"It's a letter from mom." Chad told Vincent happily, "Would you like to read it?"
"Is it to the both of us?"
"No only to me, but you are welcome to read it. I think you would like to do. Mom is writing about the beach, it's really nice, go on read it."
Vincent took the letter from his son, holding it up to the light so as to read the words upon it.
The paper smelt delicately of roses, with Catherine's own scent running through it's pages, and Vincent felt tears prick at his eyes.
The letter painted a picture in his mind. He could almost see himself walking along that beach with her, much as Chad had earlier, feeling the sea air and the rain upon his skin.
"Your mother writes a wonderful letter Chad." Vincent handed it back when hed finished it.
"You keep it dad, you can read it to grandfather."
Vincent nodded, folding the letter and slipping inside a pocket.
"So what would you like to do today?" he asked his son.
"Cullen would like me to help make a stool. And then William said he'd show me how to bake a cake. He thinks I've never baked one before."
"But you have?" Vincent grinned.
"In a way. Mom was teaching me."
"Say no more."
Chad burst into laughter, "You've obviously fallen victim to mom's cooking before."
The two of them laughed loudly, "Good job you lived to tell the tale." Chad told him between bouts of laughter, "Good job you did." Vincent added somewhat seriously.
"Mom's a great cook not." Chad laughed even harder.
"We can't all be good at everything." Vincent's lips twitched, as he tried not to laugh anymore at Catherine's expense.
Chad quietened, "I miss her." He said suddenly.
"So do I."
Hugging one another, their laughter turned to tears.
As Catherine had hoped Vincent did indeed dwell on the contents of that letter, but missing the point about rainbows entirely.
He sensed her sadness even though she was able to walk through the beauty of natures wonders. And he gave consideration to that.
If only he could get it out of his system that she really would never hold it against him to shut herself away from her world to live in his. If only he could believe that she really would be able to accept his kind of life.
That Chad spent every moment he could Below only served to enhance the fact that it was possible. Chad preferred life Below to life Above, and had asked if he might leave his school and partake of lessons Below if his mother approved upon her return.
Vincent couldn't find the answers to his questions, but he came to one conclusion. He still loved Catherine, and he loved his son, if nothing else, that more than any thing gave him the answers he sought.
Chad needed a family, a mother and a father living together. It might not be easy, it might not be possible, but Vincent knew that at least for his son he had to try.
Joe Maxwell paced his office restlessly. He'd just received the most awful telephone call. He was having difficulty coping with it's implications, accepting that his best investigator would have to be put onto the witness protection programme and that he would never see her again.
Catherine knew nothing of this yet. It had been left to him to tell her. How would she take it?
They had worked tirelessly for years to rid the streets of lifes criminals, and this was her reward. Vanish and live or die and vanish.
How would she feel to know that the past nine weeks had fed her nothing but her face to those would be killers? Seeing her in court every day giving her evidence they knew everything about her. Knew her address, where she was staying temporarily, where she lived, knew she had the apartment, knew she had a child. That telephone call had threatened more than just his best investigator. Joe felt a rise of nausea wash through him. He had no idea where Chad was staying, only with friends was all he knew. Could the killers reach her child before they reached Catherine?
With shaky fingers Joe dialled the number of the other person he knew that might know, grateful when it was answered, "Peter Allcot."
"Peter! Hi this is Joe Maxwell, Look I have some bad news and very little time to go into details. The case Catherine Chandler was working on, well it blew up in our faces. The guy walked free, and he's out for revenge. He's threatened Cathy's life and that of her son. I need to make certain the kid is safe."
Peter gasped, his head spinning. "Don't worry about the child Joe, he's as safe as houses where he is, it's Cathy I'm worried about, does she know yet?"
"I'm about to call her next. But Peter you don't understand, Cathy can never return, they'll be waiting for her, somehow we have to bring the child to her, and the witness protection programme will make a new life and a new identity for the two of them someplace else. I need your help Peter. I need to make arrangements for Cathy and the child to get together. Will you help me?"
"No. I have a better idea. Leave this with me Joe. Ring Cathy, telling her I'm on to it; tell her not to worry, every thing will work out for the best. Tell her that all her dreams are about to come true."
The guy wasnt making any sense, nonetheless Joe didn't have any time for riddles, "I'll tell her Peter. Gotta go. I'll be in touch. Bye."
The worst of it was awaiting Catherine's arrival.
It had been three days since Joes telephone call to Peter, and Peter's subsequent dash to the tunnels to give Vincent the bad news. Or was it good news?
That suddenly Catherine's future had been made up for her, that she had no choice but to go into hiding permanently now, and the best place for her would be Below with her son without a doubt.
But what of Catherine?
Peter had waited for Joe to ring again, but in three days he'd heard nothing.
Below Vincent and Father waited nervously, telling Chad every thing for his own safety. He could not go Above it was too dangerous.
"I can't understand it Vincent>" Father had told his son for the umpteenth time, "We have heard nothing. Where are they?"
"Catherine is safe Father that I do know, but as to her whereabouts? I'm afraid that my sense of her is not as strong as it once was. Chad's emotions over ride all that I once felt for Catherine now. It appears that it is an impossibility to be able to feel the emotions of more than one person at any one time. The connection is not infallible anymore Father."
"You know what they say, no news is good news." Mary intervened, sitting with them this particular evening, "And Catherine is good at handling herself."
"Once there would have been no need of that. Once I could have gone to her, I would have known her exact whereabouts, and could have helped her. How do you think it makes me feel knowing that now when she needs help the most I am unable to be there for her?" Vincent hung his head, his heart hurt.
Wordlessly Chad manoeuvred himself so that he was sitting at Vincent's feet, grateful when Vincent reached down to pull his son onto his lap. Chad snuggled into his father's warmth in a bid to feel warm again. All this talk about the danger his mother was in had made him feel cold right down to his bones.
Together they drew comfort from one another. There was nothing they could do, not until the heard something new.
As the three days became five, Vincent's relentless pacing increased. Chad grew afraid; he had never seen Vincent like this.
Other people had told him that his father was prone to fits of rage where his other side ruled, and Chad was at a loss as to how to handle it. His heart ached to see Vincent's stress, and he hoped and prayed that his mother was well.
Finally, at last, Peter got word. "We're back Peter." Joe spoke breathlessly down the telephone, "No time to explain. As soon as I can I'll contact you." With that he'd gone, leaving Peter to carry another distressing message Below.
Returning from the tunnels Peter had an idea, he telephoned Chad's school, at first with the intention of asking if they could remind Chad to come to his surgery after school for his check up explaining that Chad had forgotten the last time. None of it was true; he was just testing the water so to speak. His call paid off, "Dr. Allcot, thank you for ringing. Perhaps you can help us. Chad's uncle has been here enquiring as to his whereabouts. We explained that his mother had taken him with her to California, but his uncle insisted that Chad had been staying with him but had run away. He wanted to know a list of Chad's friends and their addresses to be able to seek out his nephew. We have been reluctant to part with this information, and haven't told him anything. We were suspicious as Miss. Chandler has never mentioned a brother or a brother in law, do you know if there is one?"
Peter explained that there was no such uncle, and if the man should call again, that they should keep him talking while someone else notified the police, in fact, Peter informed her, best to notify the police about the situation beforehand so that they would hurry when she called them.
Peter was concerned that the unknown uncle had persistently been to the school every day for the past week.
This made the problem very much real. Peter's heart hammered as the consequences hit home. Catherine's life was really in danger. If these men had intent to harm an innocent child, if only to flush out the childs mother, then they were indeed dangerous men.
Peter wasted no time, in delivering this information Below as soon as possible, trusting no one with it but himself.
While he was out Joe telephoned.
He could not call again.
"I don't know what to do Cathy. There is no place to hide here in New York. They will find you, let me arrange something. We can re-unite you with your son as soon as possible." Joe paced the room wringing the life out of a rubber band.
"Joe, it's okay, just get me to the park, or anyone of these addresses. Trust me, I know of a place. I'll be safe there."
Joe checked out the list of addresses, knowing them to be dead ends.
"Have you lost control of your mind Cathy? These lead nowhere."
"I have contacts too Joe. Trust me. I'll be safe."
Joe shook his head; "You could walk into a booby trap. Believe me Cathy, these men know what they are doing. They know your every footstep; they've kept a silent vigil upon you for far longer than we know. They anticipated this. There is nowhere you can hide in this city."
"Then I wish you'd tell me where. I may need it someday."
"If it ever comes to it, just ask Peter to contact me, I'll get you in there too."
Joe stared at Catherine for a long time.
"There's a place I could hide you temporary. If I can will your friends be able to rescue you from there?"
"They would rescue me from anywhere Joe."
Joe looked at her hard; "You'll need to send them a message. It'll have to be in some sort of code, something only you and they know, but will also lead them to where you'll be."
Catherine nodded, "Tell me what you have in mind."
Vincent fairly tore the note out of Father's hand when he delivered it, "This came for you Vincent. It's travelled well; whoever delivered it wanted the trail to go cold. I just hope that these men really can't find Catherine when she does eventually come Below."
Vincent stared at his father gravely. He knew Father had a great deal of peoples welfare at heart, but at this moment it seemed to him that Father felt that Catherine was just the bait that might lead to their demise.
Unfolding the note, the message was brief, but it was Catherine's handwriting, and her scent lingered there.
"What does it say dad?" Chad, wide-eyed waited holding his breath.
"At the end of the rainbow, and remember the song." Dismayed Vincent looked up, "What does it mean?"
Chad smiled. Just like his mother to think of something spectacular.
For long moments Father, Vincent and Chad looked from one to the other, "What does she mean?" Father asked rubbing his whiskered chin thoughtfully.
"That's the easy part." Chad told them happily, "It's what she is referring to that isn't."
Vincent rose an eyebrow, "Tell me what you know?"
"There is treasure at the end of the rainbow, I thought everyone knew that?"
"Yes." Vincent replied. Treasure that was it, but how did it tie in? And what song?
"Would you like me to bring some of the others down here Vincent, maybe our friends can she'd some light on this?" Father asked gently.
Vincent nodded, "It may help. Yes please call them Father, everyone loves Catherine."
Later, when many of the tunnel dwellers had assembled, Vincent read them the message, explaining the treasure bit, but admitting to not seeing how it pieced together.
The answer came swiftly.
"I know what she means." Cullen told everyone, "It's got to be that."
All eyes turned to him, "Well don't keep it to yourself my boy," Father told him, "Tell us."
"You remember the treasure that Mouse and I found?" Everyone nodded, how could they forget? It had almost wrecked everything that they had Below, when greed had risen its ugly head. None more than Mouse and Cullen had been affected by that.
"We were going to throw it into the abyss, but Vincent intervened" his voice trailed away, as Vincent gasped and started forward, grabbing his cloak in passing. "Dad where are you going?" Chad called after him.
"Stay here" Vincent called back "I know where your mother is."
Catherine paced the tiny room endlessly. The wait was grievous to her sanity and she wondered if anyone had been able to decipher her message.
They would in time, she was certain of that, but time was something that she didn't have, and the longer she stayed with these dear women the more likelihood that they would get dragged into it with her and lives would be taken.
Joe had left her. Going back the long way, right across New York dropping her note off on the way. Perhaps they hadn't received it yet; perhaps she had a long time to wait.
It had been the only thing she could think of. When Joe had told her that he could hide her at the convent, Catherine's only knowledge of a link was the treasure chest that Cullen and Mouse had found, and that she and Vincent had left outside the convent to be found by the nuns. She almost wished that she could tell them while she was there, but that would mean answering some very tricky questions, and someone might call the police and the less attention she drew to herself the better right now.
Catherine stopped her pacing. The one thing she had hardly considered these past few days was her future.
Now if all went well, if she survived this, her future would be Below, for all time. How would Vincent feel about that?
Suddenly to have a son he never knew he had bestowed upon him and now the mother of his son too.
She still loved him, would always love him, and Catherine was certain that Vincent loved her too, but what would life be like living in a world where the man she loved more than life would not enter into a deeper relationship with her ever?
Catherine didn't think she could bear that. Especially while putting up the pretence for the sake of their son.
She could only hope and pray that everything would now work out for them for the better, now that her living Below permanently was being forced upon him.
Reaching the convent within the hour, Vincent made his way steadily through the streets. It hadn't been dark long, and there were still many people about. Catherine's message had run through his mind continuously since he had left the home chambers, "At the end of the rainbow, and remember the song." It was that last part that he couldn't decipher. If Catherine were at the convent and he was positive that she was, for that had been where they had taken the treasure chest, why add more onto the message about a song.
If only his perception of her was still as it was, he would have no need of such messages. The Bond would have led him to her no matter where he was. Now reaching the convent he knew he could not just enter through the doorway, and he knew no other way in. That had to be why Catherine had mentioned the song, but what song?
Frustrated Vincent could only stand and stare at the convent knowing he was so near yet so far, and admitting defeat he returned back to his home in the hope that someone had made sense of all the message in the time he had been away.
Sitting with his mother's note in his hands Chad read it over again for the thousandth time, hoping that Vincent had been right.
Every one had left the chamber now, and returned to their own quarters and Father was aimlessly pottering about his own trying to take his mind off of things, aware only slightly that Chad was humming softly to himself as he remained behind in Vincent's large chair.
"Will he be long?" Chad asked almost to himself, stroking his mother's handwriting with his fingers.
Father hobbled over to Chad's side.
"He will find her Chad. He has never failed yet. Try not to worry."
"I'm trying grandfather."
Father resumed his pottering, and Chad continued with the tune. Something in its tone caught Father's attention, "That tune Chad, do you know where it is from?"
"Tune?" Chad looked up startled.
"You've been humming something since everyone left."
"Have I? How does it go?"
Father smiled, he wasn't about to make a fool out of himself in singing, but clearly Chad hadn't noticed that he was humming the tune. "Something like this." Father started, having to clear his throat when a loud pitched wail first came out.
"Don't know that one." Chad grinned.
Father glared at him, "Let me find my voice first." He cleared his throat with a cough, and started again, Chad listened and smiling hummed along with him.
"That's it!" Father cried "What is it called do you know?"
"It's a song mom used to sing to me when I was little."
"Do you know the words?"
"Yes, do you recognise the tune?"
"I think so. Can you sing it to me, something keeps telling me there is a message within that song." He gasped, remembering the note, "Chad, your mother could she possibly have meant that song?"
"Of course!" Chad's eyes were bright, "Of course why didn't I think of that, the rainbow of course! Of course!"
"Tell me" Father grasped Chads hands, "Sing it to me." Hope shone from his eyes.
Chad started to sing, the song stopping when he came to the vital part, his eyes lighting up, "I might be climbing on rainbows." He paused, his eyes bright, "Thats it isn't grandfather? The message? It's something to do with climbing on rainbows?"
Father frowned, "It's an illustration Chad it's not possible, you can't climb a rainbow."
"No but you can climb." At the sound of the voice Father swung around, "Vincent! You're back! Is Catherine with you?"
"Not yet, I hadn't received all of the message, but I have now. Thank you Chad. Wait here, I'm bringing your mother home." With a fluffy of dark cloak Vincent had swept out of the chamber and had gone again.
"I remember the song Chad." Father told him, "It's one I particularly liked when I heard it once on Mouse's radio. It held special meaning for me at the time."
"It's special to mom too, it used to make her think of dad and make her cry."
"Yes" Father nodded, "I can understand that, the words are very poignant to the relationship that your mother shared with your father. Let's hope the song makes her cry no more." Father hugged the child hard and they drew comfort from one another. All they could do now was sit and wait.
Climbing of course!
He still didn't understand how they had deciphered the message but that didn't matter now. Vincent was jubilant. Of course, there was no way in to the convent from the ground without being seen, but to climb to the belfry, now there would be the way.
Stealthily Vincent made his way through the grounds. The lighting was sparse. If the nuns spent the treasure money on anything it wasn't electricity, but at that moment Vincent was glad of that as no one saw him as he began his climb up the tower.
Catherine had stopped her pacing. For some reason she held her breath. There was a sound of scraping, just outside. Bracing herself Catherine peeked through the window arch, open to the elements, and looked Below. A cloaked figure made its way steadily upward.
"Vincent", Catherine whispered closing her eyes, as the relief washed over her in warm waves. He'd come for her. Everything would be all right now. She was safe at last!
"There's something wrong." Chad walked the length of Father's chamber and back again in an age old way that Father knew so well from the boys father.
Father stopped what he was doing; peeking at the boy over the rim of his spectacles as fear knotted his stomach.
It was true Vincent had been gone an awful long time, considering the time it had taken to go there and come back in the first instance.
"Perhaps the rescue was harder than your father realised"; he spoke consolingly to the child, hoping to waylay some of those fears within Chad.
Chad shook his head, "No, I feel it here." He pointed to the region of his heart; "Something is the matter. There's a problem. Father can you take me to this place where mom is? I want to go there."
Father shook his head, "No Chad, I'm not one hundred percent sure that I know where Vincent has gone, I've only my suspicions, and besides if I or anyone else were to take you, you would only be in the way. As it is your father has his hands full with worrying about your mother, let alone being afraid for you too. At least being here he knows that you are safe."
"But I feel so helpless." Chad wailed, "I want to do something."
"I understand Chad really I do. There has been many times when I have had to wait here while Vincent went off on some errand or mission of mercy, and I could only wait and pray for his safe return." Father sat down as memories of some of those times filtered through his mind.
Chad sighed, flopping his body into the nearest chair, and sprawled his legs out in front of him. "When mom comes Below everything will be all right then won't it? Dad won't have to go Above anymore, and mom will be safe here."
"Yes she'll be safe Chad. But will she be happy? Your mother is used to life Above. I worry that she will miss all those things that she is used to."
"I don't miss them, I could live down here forever, and it still wouldn't be long enough."
Father smiled, "You're young. Being Below for one so young is like an adventure, I'm not certain your mother will see it as such, especially knowing that she cannot go Above even if she wished to do. It puts a whole new perspective on things Chad. I'm afraid your mother might view the necessity of being here as a prison sentence."
"But she'll have dad with her."
"Yes there's that, but it mightn't be enough." Father hoped it would be, but he had his doubts. Catherine needed more from life than all that could be offered her Below. And he knew Vincent harboured grave misgivings of having Catherine come to live Below, for there were still things that Vincent was unprepared to face.
Chad was quiet, thinking about things. His mother had to like it there. For him there was no other place he'd rather be, and his father was the most wonderful person he knew.
When he had found out that Vincent was his father it was a dream come true. His hero, his father, someone loved and respected by so many. Vincent was his best friend, and it troubled him that his mother might not be happy living Below. He couldn't live without either of them, and he could not bare the thought of being shared.
Thinking hard he made a promise to himself, no matter what it took he would make sure that his mother stayed. His mom and his dad were meant for one another, everyone told him that, and he knew it to be true, and hed make certain his mother stayed Below if it was the last thing he did.
"Is this the place?"
"Sure, the boss said that Maxwell left her here late this afternoon. "
"We can't just storm in there. It's a convent for God's sake."
"Very apt. Don't worry, she can't stay there. Our little Miss. Chandler is no innocent virgin. It would be sacrilege to have her stay there. Someone will be coming for her, and then weve got her."
They waited. The vehicle they drove in dark and sleek, hidden easily within the shadows, offering a good view of the tower from their vantage point.
"What makes you so sure she's up there?" one of the men asked the other as he held binoculars to his eyes.
"Its the obvious place. Chandler wouldn't put the nuns at risk, and besides it's as I said, she is no innocent virgin, they'll not want her anywhere else."
"So someone has to climb up, and together they have to climb down?"
The guy with the binoculars nodded, "Yes and it looks like we won't have much longer to wait, take a look through these." He passed the binoculars over with one hand, while he reached forward with the other to a gun that lay on the dashboard.
From a briefcase on his lap he then took a silencer, and screwed it to the end of the barrel, before checking it was suitably loaded.
"Are you gonna stay here?" he asked.
"You want me to keep the engine running? Can you get a clean shot from here?"
"Yes and no. Keep the engine running, but cruise along to the gates. I'll kill them both and we can be gone before they hit the ground."
The other guy nodded, and started the engine, "Get going then, I want to get home early tonight."
The moment Vincent had slid over the wall, Catherine was there, wrapping her arms around him, glorifying in his strength and his warmth.
"Catherine are you well?" his voice was husky with emotion as he held her tightly against him.
"Well but tired Vincent. I'm so glad to see you. I was so afraid that you wouldn't understand my message, and I trusted no one. Joe and I were followed all the way back from California."
"You went by road?"
"We had to do. Those guys that aim to kill me would have stopped at nothing. If I'd boarded a plane they could have planted a bomb on it. It wouldn't have matter to them that three hundred odd people would have been killed with me. I couldn't risk it Vincent. These people are dangerous, are you sure you were not followed?"
"There is nothing to connect me to you, but no, no one followed me, believe me I would have known if they had."
"He's well." Vincent's eyes brightened, "He's a fine boy Catherine."
"Yes he is."
"He worked out the last part of your message. Cullen worked out the first part."
Catherine's eyes were bright, "Just as I hoped then. I couldn't think of anything else."
"Are you ready to leave?"
"Yes I have no luggage. And I'd kill for a hot bath. Joe and I have been sleeping rough since we left California."
"This man Catherine the one that wants to kill you, what did he do?"
"He's behind practically every bad thing that goes on in this city Vincent. He's evil. I was the only witness that actually knew where he resides, and what he looks like. I took a risk giving evidence, I knew that, but we were so sure that we'd got him. He could still rule the world from a prison cell but we were hoping for the death sentence. Instead he walked free. Consequently I have a price on my head."
Vincent shuddered, "You can never walk free again?"
"No. At least not as I am. I never realised till now the horrors of witness protection. To have everything you have ever known cut away. If I couldn't have gone Below, I would have had to move to another town in another city changed my identity, the way that I looked, the way that I moved. I would have had to adopt a new life style, and still never feel safe. For the rest of my life I would have been on the move. Even if by some remote chance that I could have managed all that, how do you think it would have affected Chad? You know Vincent, I thank God for you."
They embraced again, each clearly knowing that things would have been far different for both of them if he didn't exist. Chad wouldn't be there for one thing. Neither was sure that they could have stood that.
Now Chad was there, now that they had known him, it seemed that there never was a time when the child had not existed. Both loved him fiercely.
"Come Catherine, let's go home." Vincent turned her towards the open window, the way he had entered, but stopped her short of reaching it.
"What is it Vincent?"
"By some remote chance that I was followed, we'd be open targets climbing down from this tower. Is there another way out?"
"No. The door was locked from the other side. It was a ploy to keep me safe, and no one will hear us shouting from up here."
"I could break down the door."
"It would cause too much disturbance. We have to go out the way you came in."
"Then we'll test the water first. Help me to roll up this mattress."
Pulling the mattress off from the iron springs, Vincent ripped the blanket upon it into long thin tatters with his sharp claws and tied the mattress securely so that it resembled a body from a distance. Next he wrapped a blanket around the mattress, to make it look more like a cloaked figure.
"How do we manoeuvre this so that it looks like someone crawling over the ledge?" Vincent asked when the job was done.
"I have an idea." Catherine told him, taking another strip of blanket and fastening it to the dummy half way up from the ground, "If you hold onto the rope from the top, I can pull from here, and see, it bends the mattress. From behind, it should look like someone moving their legs and bending them to find suitable footholds. And if we move the candles so that the light doesn't highlight the dummy too much this might work. At any rate it's the best we can do, and it mightn't be necessary."
"Let's hope it isn't."
Carefully they lifted the mattress and rolled it equally as carefully over the ledge. Below was a fifty-foot drop, and even if they had been going down themselves, Vincent would have needed to lower Catherine in much the same way. The trick was manoeuvring the dummy so that it looked real, and as Vincent pushed the mattress over the ledge, Catherine tugged on her strip of blanket, that she had tied into lengths to make it to the bottom with the dummy, and caused the dummy to bend in half. Much the same as a person would who was searching for places to put hands and feet.
The dummy was almost half way down when a loud thud sounded, and the vibration ran the length of the rope, quickly followed by another.
"Someone is shooting at it Vincent, make it quiver." Catherine cried in a hoarse whisper.
It was hard to do, but together they jerked the plaited rope so that the dummy resembled a person in pain, and as a further thud hit the mattress Vincent groaned loudly hoping the sound would appear to come from the area of the dummy.
At once Vincent tugged at the rope, pretending to pull it back up as Catherine shouted his name, making everything seem as real as possible, hoping that the gunman was fooled.
"Good job that wasn't really you." Catherine whispered wide-eyed. "Do you think we fooled them?"
There's only one way top find out. Let the mattress go Catherine. Let it drop to the floor. Then scream my name again."
Catherine let go of her end of the rope. From the back it appeared that the body was straightening, before Vincent let it fall completely, as Catherine's anguished cries came from Above, "Vincent Noooo!" before ducking back out of sight as a ricochet bounced off the wall to one side of them.
"They know there are two of us Vincent. They won't let up until they are certain that they have shot us both." Catherine searched the tiny room, "We need something else, something to make it look like I am coming down to you."
"Doing that. You'd want you're head examining if it were real." Vincent told her.
"I'm a woman in love Vincent, I'd want to get to where you were as fast as possible despite the risks, or I wouldn't care, for I couldn't live without you."
For a few heart-stopping moments, their eyes met, "I love you Catherine." Vincent told her huskily, "Don't worry we'll get through this. I won't let anything happen to you."
It would have been wonderful to have stayed and savour the moment, but both felt the urge to move. This was neither the time nor the place.
"There's the pillow Vincent. It has two cases, one inside and one out. If we split the ticking and fill the two cases it might pass for a smaller person, like me, going down another rope to reach you. There isn't anything else."
"There's another blanket. We could cover the pillow, make it look like another cloaked figure." Vincent spoke quickly; well aware that time was running out. The supposed body had fallen several minutes ago.
Without further thought or question they pounced on the idea, carrying it out, until both were reasonably satisfied that it might work, and then as before, but with more speed they lowered the second dummy over the ledge towards the ground. Sure enough the same thud hit the dummy, and as before both Vincent and Catherine jerked on the ropes and Catherine let out a cry of pain. As another thud hit the dummy, she screamed, but this time they had tied it with a slip knot and when Vincent let the rope go, only the dummy fell leaving the main rope behind and landed on top of the first dummy in a crumpled heap.
"Now what do we do?" Catherine whispered.
"Now we wait." Vincent told her standing back from the window with a clear view to the ground, "Someone will have to check that they have shot you."
Not many minutes after Vincents words proved true, as the running of footsteps on gravel signified someones approach. Above the sound of their footsteps, Vincent teetered on the window ledge waiting to pounce. From behind him Catherine held her gun steadily in her hand because they were unaware of how many killers there were.
As the killer approached the two dummies cautiously, he drew his gun and suddenly the entire grounds were a blaze of lights.
Quickly Vincent stepped off of the ledge and back into the darkness, pulling Catherine with him to stand either side of the window to look out.
"Drop the weapon." A voice over a loudspeaker was heard, "We have you surrounded." And the killer made to run. Instantly a shot rang out, and he fell to the ground lifeless.
"We can escape if we are quick Catherine." Vincent told her edging her away from that window towards another at the other side of the tower, "While all this is going on, we can get away."
Catherine nodded, her mind racing overtime. If they didn't get away, the police would come for her, obviously Joe had sent them possibly he was with them.
Looking out of the other window Vincent could see a slim ledge running right around the tower. About ten feet from one corner of that ledge was a lower building possibly an outhouse. Vincent knew he could leap it, he'd done similar things before, but he didn't know about Catherine.
"There's never a drainpipe when you need one, is there Romeo?" Catherine said light-heartedly.
"Yes there is" Vincent told her the delight in his voice apparent, "Do you think you can slide down it?"
"With your help I can do anything."
"Quickly knot the last of those blanket strips together, I'll take your weight until you reach the pipe." He told her gathering the strips up as he spoke.
They worked quickly, soon having enough length to satisfy Vincent. Already beneath the other window the sound of voices rose. "Miss Chandler are you up there?"
Vincent shook his head, touching a finger to his lips, Catherine nodded understanding at once, and tied one end of the rope around her waist, and allowed Vincent to pick her up and begin to lower her to the start of the drainpipe just beneath the ledge. Once he was satisfied that she was reasonably safe, he lowered himself down to the ledge, and sure-footed he scaled it's length until he reached the corner. From there he sprang forward, touching down upon the outhouse roof deftly almost soundlessly, and dropped himself to the ground, just in time to help Catherine down the last few feet from the drainpipe.
For a few seconds they caught their breath, before making off low across the grass well away from the commotion, and never stopped running until they knew they were safe.
Joe Maxwell touched the pile of rags gingerly. He'd been told it was nothing but a mattress and a couple of old blankets, but he had to see for himself.
Ever since he had left Catherine up in that tower alone, he had fretted and worried until he was able to get some men together and watch the place. And that had taken time to organise. Joe dubiously believed that any one would come to rescue Cathy or make any sense of her message. Rainbows indeed! The whole thing was absurd. There was more chance of someone climbing the damn things.
Now Joe couldn't believe that Cathy had escaped in all the commotion.
And not until he was satisfied that what lay before him was just an old mattress and a pillow made to look like two people, did he exhale a sigh of relief that Cathy had obviously got away. And not only that but he had to acknowledge the fact that someone had been there to help her and had taken her somewhere safe.
Where to he had no idea but the relief that he felt made him almost weak at the knees. If that had really been Cathy shot in the back he knew he would have wanted to die. He loved her.
"I have never been so glad to see this place, and that's saying something," Catherine told Vincent as they entered the tunnels at last. They were still a long way from home, but the long dusty tunnels represented a safe haven to her like no place on earth.
"What will happen now?" Vincent asked her.
"With a bit of luck Joe will let everyone believe that was us out there that got killed. With a bit of luck Gabriel will believe it when he hears of it."
"Gabriel?" Vincent asked.
"Yeah unusual name huh for a guy that controls the world from a goldfish bowl don't you think?"
"An unusual expression too if I may say so."
"Compared to the world New York is but a goldfish bowl, yet that man can pull strings from here that make people on the other side of the world jump. Believe me Vincent he is one dangerous guy." Catherine shuddered, and Vincent drew her against him.
They hugged one another close for long moments replaying in their mind all they had undergone during the past couple of hours, before continuing on the journey home.
The welcome home committee was all Catherine had dreamed it would be when she used to visualise bringing Chad Below in the days before Vincent knew he had a son.
Sometimes she would imagine the joy that would welcome her if she ever plucked up the courage to take Chad there. Only the hollow coldness of Vincent's eyes that day she had left him for the last time at the threshold prevented her from returning.
Now those that were there to welcome her home brought a flood of fresh tears to her eyes, in the quiet poignancy of the moment.
Yet for all their love and affection Catherine wanted nothing more but to spend quiet moments someplace with her son, she had missed him so much.
When at last she got her wish, Vincent led them both to the warmth of his chamber, gathering his clothing together, and bidding them both stay in his bed for the night. "I'll take the guest chamber Catherine." He told her, " until we have worked out a permanent place for you and Chad to stay."
Catherine nodded, "But you don't have to leave just yet do you. Please stay and sit with us awhile."
Vincent lingered, though the sight of Chad upon Catherine's lap in his own large chair brought a rush of possessiveness that he was afraid to dwell on.
"I have things to do first," he took the cowardly way out, "Try to get some rest while Im gone."
Before Catherine could comment Vincent had gone.
"Dad's been so worried about you mom" Chad snuggled up closer. He could hardly believe his mother was back with him at last, "So have I and Grandfather. Everyday we spent sat around Grandfather's chamber waiting to hear something about you. I'm really pleased you got away from that man, I thought I might never see you again. Will you live here now?"
Catherine sighed, letting the breath come out slowly, "I want to do Chad, but I don't know if I can. It's all so difficult, there are things that you do not know, or could not understand, some of them reasons why your father and I parted in the first place."
"I don't understand mom but dad loves you, and you love him, surely that is all that matters."
Briefly those words winged their way back to the time many years before when over dinner Nancy had said something similar. "Does he make you happy Cathy? When all is said and done, nothing else really matters." Catherine brushed away a fallen tear, her heart aching, "Chad, will you stay here on your own for a while, I need to speak with Vincent."
Chads face brightened, "Yes that's okay, I'll be all right, I'm really tired anyway."
Tucking him into Vincent's large bed before she left, Catherine kissed his cheek, "There will be a lot of changes Chad if we stay here, you may never see the sunshine or the rain again."
Sleepily Chad wound his arms around his mother's neck returning her kiss, "It doesn't matter mom, even the waterfall has rainbows. It's beautiful down there, have you seen it?"
Catherine nodded as a lump rose to her throat, oh yes, she'd seen the beauty of the waterfall, had spent the last eight years thinking of that occasion at its side, "Yes Chad I've seen it, it is beautiful." She kissed him again, staying at his side until his lashes closed over those sweet blue eyes, and not before she was convinced that he was sleeping did she move quietly away.
Searching for Vincent led Catherine straight to that place. Unable to find him at any of his usual haunts Catherine finally located him beside the giant falls.
"I'm surprised you can bear to come here." She told him as she approached, "It was the last place I expected to find you."
Surprisingly Vincent exhaled a breath of humour, "It was a long time ago Catherine, much has happened here since."
"Hopefully nothing like that though." She gently teased coming to sit alongside him.
For long moments Vincent said nothing, just toyed with the leather pouch hanging around his neck, Catherine's eyes were diverted to it, "You still have it then?" she asked. At Vincent's puzzlement, she indicated with a nod, "The rose. The one I gave you. I take it, it is still inside that pouch?"
Again a breath of humour escaped Vincent, "Yes, though I'll admit to your stitching not lasting so long. This is a new pouch made by Mary. I'm afraid my constant stroking rubbed the old one away."
"Vincent I'm so sorry." A sob caught as Catherine spoke the words, making Vincent look up sharply, to draw his arm around her shoulders hugging her close.
"I don't know what life is going to be like for you living here Below Catherine. I wish I could make it so that you have everything that you need, but even after all this time, even after all the thinking I have done, I still don't know if I can be what you want me to be. Is it so important to you?"
"It's not that Vincent. I guess it's what we are used to. For me, loving someone deeply highlights the need to express that love. I spent eight years away from you Vincent, but the need and the desire never faded in all that time. It's as intense now as it ever was, and my mind fed constantly on the short time we did share in that way. I don't think I could stand to be around you and not want to share that again. You really never hurt me you know."
Gazing into her eyes, Vincent dared her to defy that, and Catherine shifted her glance away, "All right you did, but it wasn't what you thought, I'd been hurt like that before and lived to tell the tale. Vincent it would only have got better, believe me."
"I want to believe you Catherine. So many times since you told me about Chad's birth, I have wanted to believe, but still it changes nothing. To tie you to me in that way would be wrong. When you had a life above I could not deny you that right. Things are somewhat different now, but it doesn't make the fact any easier to live with."
"You don't think I'll hack it do you? You think that I will feel trapped here? And you're right Vincent I will."
Startled Vincent met her steady gaze; "I will Vincent if you offer me nothing more than you offer me now. However if we were to make a life together, if you could believe that would be possible, then I doubt very much that I would crave life above ever again for everything I need would be right here with you."
Exhaling a deep and ragged breath Vincent drew her tighter against him but could find no words with which to answer. He wanted to be what she wanted him to be, he just didn't know if he could risk it.
"Don't worry about it right now Vincent. We are both tired. Chad is asleep in your bed, I think I'll join him, we can talk about this another time huh?"
Vincent nodded, gathering himself to stand and helping her up. Silently they walked arms entwined, hearts heavy back towards the main hub.
Somewhere in the night a nightmare enclosed Chad in its steely vice. He thrashed from side to side, screaming for his mother, and she was awake instantly. At the same moment Vincent bounded through the doorway looking dishevelled and fearful. "What is it Chad?" he cried, before it registered that Catherine was there.
"He's having a bad dream." Catherine whispered, rocking her son until his tears subsided, "Shh, it's okay, you're safe, it was only a dream."
Chad's eyes searched the chamber frantically, "Don't let them get me mom." He cried, "Where's dad?"
"I'm here." The softly spoken voice came from the entranceway, coming closer to kneel at his side "it's all right Chad it was just a dream. No body is going to hurt you I promise."
"Stay with me." Chad's lower lip trembled, "Please." His eyes filled with sorrow.
"You're mother is here now, and I'm not far away. Only in the guest chamber."
"No!" Chad cried, "Please dad, stay here with me, there's room for us all."
"You stay Vincent," Catherine beckoned pulling back the blankets, "I'll go to the guest chamber."
"No!" Chad clung to her tightly, "Don't go. Please, both of you stay. Let me sleep in the middle of you, please." He searched the faces of one to the other.
Catching one each others eyes, Catherine issued a silent invitation to Vincent, before reaching over Chad to draw back the blankets on that side, indicating that she expected Vincent to climb in beside their son. With a sigh of resignation Vincent slid onto the bed, drawing the covers back over him, and snuggling down beside his son, drawing the child against him.
Catherine blew out the candle by the bedside, knowing Vincent would prefer the darkness, before snuggling down on the other side of her son, and closing her eyes.
Deep in her heart she visualised Vincent lying so close, and listened to his uneven breathing, knowing what this did to him to share a bed with her even though their son lay between them.
"Goodnight Vincent, Goodnight Chad." She murmured sleepily as she felt herself drifting away and for the first time in a long time she felt completely happy.
As Vincent lay there, holding his son close, he fought the need to go, while fighting Chad's need to stay. So often these past few days, since Catherine had been known to be in danger, he had slept alongside his son, offering comfort, and Chad could see no reason why this should not continue.
Yet being so near to Catherine brought about other needs of his own, and for a long time Vincent lay awake fighting against the desire of the body that in Catherine's presence shamed him.
Chad smiled in the darkness. It had worked! He bit his lower lip to stop himself from laughing out loud, and stilled his racing heart to prevent his father from knowing. Now all he had to do was insist that they spent every night sleeping together, until he was certain that it was time to make his next move!
For the first few days, everything was new. Vincent continued to insist that Catherine and Chad needed a chamber of their own, and searched the tunnels with Catherine for just the place. In his absence Chad employed Father's help in his little plan.
"Do you think mom and dad should be living together?" he asked innocently one day as Father was planning his next move at the chessboard.
Father looked up startled, "Well yes, actually I do. Everyone can see that they should be together, except for your father. I'm afraid he can be rather stubborn at times."
"And then some!" Chad laughed out loud, his thoughts sobering to quiet reason as he asked, "Grandfather?"
"I have an idea. Will you help me?"
"With your next move?" Father thought Chad referred to the game in front of them.
Chad laughed, "You could call it that." Making Father raise his eyes to see the humour sparkling from Chad's face, "What trickery have you planned now young man?" he asked him well aware of Chads aptitude for fun, especially when Mouse had anything to do with it.
"You know mom and dad are sleeping with me at night?"
Father nodded his eyes bright, as a sudden idea formulated in his mind.
"Tonight grandfather I shall keep awake until they are both asleep and then I shall get out of the bed and leave them alone together. Can I come into your bed with you?"
Father burst into laughter, "Why you little rascal." He cried, "You've played this game all along haven't you?"
Chad looked away sheepishly, "Its all I could think of." He mumbled.
"And it's working?" Father looked bemused.
"It looks like it, they haven't suspected anything yet." His eyes were bright with mischief. "I want them to be together Grandfather."
"Yes Chad we all do. All right I'll go along with your plan. Only if they should ask, I wasn't aware that you had crept in beside me, is it a deal?"
"Only if you keep them enthralled with the possibilities of sleepwalking." Chad laughed.
"It's a deal." They shook hands, each smiling gleefully. The night couldn't arrive soon enough for either of them.
"I don't think I have ever been here before Vincent. You surely don't find me that great a burden do you, that I need to be so far away from you?" Catherine teased, wiping the damp from her face. The stalactites and stalagmites were awe inspiring and the mists that rolled through the chamber warm and clammy, totally unsuitable for living quarters.
Despite her words Vincent chuckled, "No Catherine, I haven't brought you here to look for somewhere to live. You are right I have never brought you here before, and as it is close to where we wandered, I thought you might like to see it."
"Where does the warmth come from?"
"No one really knows. It can be quite an eerie place to explore alone, and there has been no real reason to come here. Occasionally I walk this way though, there is something appealing about the feel of the calcium deposits," he told her adding beneath his breath and the taste.
But Catherine knew, looking at him she saw more than the man, something about his demeanour told her this. He was clearly disturbed about his other needs in her presence. She could not begin to understand the complexity of his make up but she wanted to ease his guilt.
Reaching out a hand, Catherine stroked the chalky substance, bringing the particles upon her fingertips to her nose to smell its scent. With deliberate intention she touched her fingers with the tip of her tongue ready to fight off the desire to cringe if the need may be, but surprisingly found the taste not to be so unsavoury. "It tastes salty." She told him, "and there are traces of something else. Like water before it is purified, but not mineral water."
Vincent nodded, reaching out his own hand to slide off gratings of deposit with his claws. From finger to mouth he passed the chalky substance, crunching the deposits while closing his eyes to the relief as his need was satisfied.
Catherine watched him carefully, an idea forming in her mind. "You know Vincent one of the things I will miss by living below, is the ability to indulge myself in French fries covered in treacle sauce whenever I want to do."
Vincents eyes widened, "You eat French fries covered in treacle sauce," he pulled a face, "that's disgusting."
"I know it sounds it. But how does my stomach know that they went down together? What difference would it make if I were to eat the fries first followed by the sauce? As far as my stomach is concerned it's all the same when its mingled, so why not?"
"But on the tongue? Oh Catherine how could you?"
"I like it. At times I crave it." She laughed, "It's nothing to the things I craved when I was expecting Chad."
"Tell me? "Vincent's eyes lit up.
Catherine laughed, "Would you believe onions and hazelnut spread?"
Bright eyed, Catherine nodded "Between two pieces of bread. And chocolate mmm," she closed her eyes, licking her lower lip with the tip of her tongue in remembrance, "chocolate, hot and runny with lashings of sticky marshmallow and fresh cream."
"Now that I could live with." Vincent laughed. "Is there a meaning behind all that you're telling me?"
Catherine leaned towards him taking up his hands in her own, "Vincent we all need different things, sometimes for our own perverse cravings other times for our health. Don't feel ashamed if you should need to come here for yours."
He hung his head, "You noticed?"
"That you need the salt and the calcium? Yes Vincent and its okay really it is, don't cows and horses need salt licks?"
"They are animals Catherine."
"Yes I know, but people know they need those things to be healthy. And people know what other people need to be healthy, just look at the drug stores with all the vitamin supplements that are on sale. Perhaps if it would make you feel less guilty such things could be brought down here for you."
Warmth spread through Vincent at her words. He knew she was trying to make him feel easier about his own make-up. Father was the only other person who had ever understood this need of his.
"I love you Catherine."
"I love you Vincent. Please don't be ashamed by your need to partake of salt and calcium, it doesn't mean you are more animal than human, and thats what you were worrying about wasn't it?"
Vincent nodded, "I am driven by instinct to partake of these things. Sometimes the need is so great and at times it has been embarrassing. Now William keeps his salt store tightly locked."
"But it hasn't lessened your need has it? And by it you are driven to come here to gain what your body craves. Don't worry Vincent, things will change now I am here, no one, not even you, least of all you, should be driven to such lengths to obtain what they need. Peter can bring down the required vitamins for you. Would that make you feel better?"
Vincent nodded, drawing Catherine to him and kissing the top of her head, "Thank you for understanding Catherine." He told her, turning her away from the misty chamber to walk back towards home, "I was so afraid that you would be repelled when you saw" he paused and chuckled before continuing, "how the other half lived."
Catherine too laughed at that, hugging him close, her arm firmly around his waist, but did not comment.
They walked for some time in silent companionship, happy with this new closeness that they shared, when suddenly Vincent asked her, "It was just a trick wasn't it? A trick to help me see that you have cravings for things too. You wouldn't really eat fries with treacle sauce?"
With a steady gaze Catherine searched his eyes, saying nothing.
"Catherine? You wouldn't?" he looked decidedly green around the gills.
Catherine refused to reply, her lips twitching and her eyes bright with laughter.
"Oh Catherine how could you?"
She burst into laughter at the look on his face.
"Like I said Vincent it's all the same when its gone down."
"Yes but treacle sauce!" he cried, before surprising her with, "Now I could understand it if it were raspberry." He teased before swinging her up into his arms and delighting in the look on her face as he burst into laughter.
As the city Above quietened and its inhabitants slept, the last of the subway trains trundled into the station where it would wait until the early morning commuters required it again.
As all became still an eerie silence settled upon the subway tunnels as the last of the echoes died away into the distance through rock and stone, deep beneath the citys streets to the subterranean world.
Chad listened, his breath held knowing that the last train signified the time to be well after two in the morning. He and his parents had been in bed for the best part of three hours, and he could tell that both slept soundly alongside him.
Carefully, as he had planned for this, he wiggled his way upwards, carefully extracting his father's grip from around him as he had on a previous night so that in his sleep Vincent was not concerned, and placed his father's hand upon his mother instead. With a grin, Chad carefully scrambled, hands and knees across the pillow behind his mother's head, and slipped down from the bed to fumble in the darkness for strategically placed slippers that he'd positioned earlier, before quickly making his way happily with fingers crossed towards Father's chamber.
In sleep Vincent drew what he thought to be Chad towards him, and willingly Catherine went, snuggling against him, her arms wrapping around his waist in a protective manner. Believing it to be Chad, she kissed him aiming for the top of his head. Her eyelids fluttered as her lips met skin, but she did not waken, and she did not realise it was not her son.
Vincent on the other hand stiffened as the kiss touched his throat, his body awakening to the touch.
Catherine's scent filled his nostrils, and not yet fully awake, he pulled her closer to him his hands gently caressing her limbs.
In sleep Catherine's dreams altered, as the gentle stroking heightened her reflexes and she moaned softly, stirring Vincent to wakefulness.
For several moments his fingers continued to move across her body, and bit by bit his senses revealed to him the length of the person alongside him. His feet touched other feet; his head lay near another head. His hands slowed as realisation dawned. This was no child that lay beside him!
Yet Catherine's easy breathing convinced him that she slumbered on and Vincent relaxed just enough to be able to enjoy the sensation of holding her close in the warmth of the bed, although his hands ceased their tender probing.
He slept again, relaxed and happy, Catherine safe in his arms.
Some hours later Catherine woke. Night or day it was always dark in the chamber unless the candles were lit. The luminous hands of her watch showed it to be almost five in the morning, and she reached out her other arm to cuddle Chad closer to her.
A bolt of surprise settled around her heart as she realised that she lay not next to Chad but against Vincent, his even breathing telling her he was sound asleep.
Catherine smiled, what a rare opportunity, but where was Chad? Rolling over reluctantly, Catherine alighted from the bed, picking up matches from the bedside and striking one to light a candle. As the soft amber glow pushed back the darkness, it revealed that Chad was nowhere in the chamber. Concerned Catherine pushed her feet into her slippers, put down the candle to slip on her gown, afterwards picking it up again to go in search of him.
With some concern she tiptoed through the tunnels, peeping into the various chambers along the way, holding the candle high to illuminate her path. Her heart beat rapidly as each chamber revealed Chad's absence, and she was just about to go back to Vincent's chamber to awaken him when she heard her name being softly called.
"Catherine is that you?" Father's voice echoed in the still of the night.
"Yes, I'm looking for Chad. He's not in bed, have you seen him?"
"Yes, he's with me." Catherine entered Father's bed chamber, the candles glow picking out the tawny head of her son laid upon his pillow, she smiled, "What is he doing there? Hold this, Father, I'll carry him back to Vincent's chamber." She held out the candle as she walked towards Father's bed to lift her son, when she stilled as Father caught her arm, "No Catherine leave him. I really don't mind. Besides he is keeping me warm."
"Well if you're sure?"
"I am. You get back to bed, it will soon be time for breakfast."
Catherine nodded, and kissing Father goodnight she left his chamber heading back the way she had come, her heart beating faster at the sudden chance that presented itself. Being able to sleep alone beside Vincent in the warmth of his bed.
Despite her warm robe and slippers, Catherine felt chilly as she slid into the big bed, and instinctively she sought out Vincent's closeness. Fully awake now, she wondered what he might do if she was to explore his body, and pretend that she was sleeping should her actions wake him.
Smiling at the delicious chance this presented, her hands reached forward and traced a line from his thigh upwards, edging around his groin and travelling on up to his chest.
He wore thermal sleep pants and vest, but the material was quite old and worn and very revealing. Through the thinness of the material Catherine could feel his nipples and traced her finger around them gently. Vincents reaction was immediate!
A hand clamped upon her wrist holding her captive even as a sound rose from way down in his chest to erupt from his mouth in a sensuous moan, followed by his voice, husky and strained, "Catherine what are you doing?"
"Be still Vincent." She knew it was useless feigning sleep now.
Her other hand still free continued the slow exploration along the path her first hand had travelled, this time lingering in the region of his groin for long dizzying moments.
Even Vincent's warning, "Catherine!" did not still her actions, as pressing closer to him, she kissed his face, trailing kisses across his cheek, down the bridge of his nose and down to the cleft on his top lip.
His grip tightened on the wrist he held captive, but he did not move away from her. Instead he stilled, as if waiting, anticipating her next move, totally unprepared when it came.
Her tongue hot and sweet delved into the cleft of his upper lip and Vincent's whole body reacted with a spasm that started from his toes and flew straight to his brain.
Before he'd time to recover, her hot and probing tongue sought him out again, sucking at his upper lip in a sensuous way that made his head spin.
Her intent was plain, as her free hand gently caressed the now hot and throbbing length of his arousal, and an irresistible moan broke from her lips. At that sound Vincent was lost, his body burned for her touch. A shudder swept through him as he released her imprisoned hand anticipating the fire its release would bring as she brought it back to its place, caressing his chest through the thin material. His nipples hardened, his breath accelerated and his mouth sought hers hungrily.
The kiss brought back with it a wealth of memories that galloped through their minds, and instantly they were both transported back to that day by the waterfall. For a brief moment Vincent froze as he remembered, but Catherine's hands were seeking out the places of his body, that no one had ever touched save Father, and then not since he were a child.
Vincent moaned as his muscles flexed beneath the warm caress of Catherine's hands.
He ached to touch her, and sensing this Catherine took one of his hands and placed it over her breast. A soft moan escaped Vincent as he felt her nipple straining against his touch, and as his fingers probed there her nipple hardened into a firm peak. Vincent gasped, as fire coursed through his veins and Catherine snuggled tighter against him, wanting to feel the pulsating hardness of him close against the pit of her belly.
As their bodies made contact Vincent froze. "Catherine no!" he cried, "We must stop."
"Vincent no, we must continue." Catherine teased him, her tongue once again darting into his cleft. For long dizzying moments Vincent was lost. His mind was dazed as Catherine's hands, lips and tongue searched out all the most erogenous zones, deep down knowing this would thrill him.
Her breath quickened, her passion heightened, and as his hands caressed her curves Catherine thought she would die of longing. The pain of her need intensified and she wanted him so much.
"Vincent love me please." She begged.
Her words deep and rich with emotion broke through the silence that encircled them, and in that moment Vincent wavered, his hands slowing until they stilled and dropped away from her reluctantly. "I can't Catherine" he told her the sorrow in his tone evident, "I want to do, but I can't."
Evidence of this became apparent as his erection softened. The fear was real then, the thought drifted through Catherine's mind, what else would render him to that state?
Sorrow combined with determination filled Catherine's resolve and she whispered, "It's all right Vincent, don't worry. Look I'll turn over. Only hold me close Vincent please."
He seemed happy with that. Her back presented no problems, even though her bottom was pressed intimately close to his groin. He savoured the feel of their bodies pressing close together, and his hands came up and around her holding her close. He felt more in control and eased himself lower so that he could reign soft kisses along her shoulders. Catherine shuddered. His attentions were doing little for her desire. She simply ached to roll back the other way and let her hands continue their search. Yet she remained resolutely still allowing him to caress her naked arms and thighs, while holding back a moan of pleasure in case his fear returned.
When his fingers accidentally touched the straining peak of her breast, Catherine wiggled closer against him, delighting in the sudden surge she felt from him against her lower back.
For split moments, dizzying passion engulfed her, and Catherine knew in that instant that they would never go forward until she did something drastic to help him change his mind about such a union.
His arousal hot and hard throbbed against her, and in an instance Catherine captured it with one hand between her own legs, holding the steely length tightly and before Vincent knew her intent, she had guided him to her threshold, and had pushed herself down upon his silky length. Vincent's roar thundered through the chamber mingled with Catherine's cry of pleasure, and her inner muscles clamped hard against him making withdrawal impossible.
For long moments each revelled in the intense pleasure of their joining, until Vincent's instincts gave way to the rhythmic motion of making love. Then with slow and deliberate movements he pulled away and thrust back as her muscles released and held him tightly within.
This feeling surpassed all his dreams. Vincent floated someplace distant and beautiful and as glorious starburst filled his mind his body erupted with fire hot seed and Catherine writhed against him.
Hot and sticky, his mind still somewhere on that distant plain, Vincent's body slowly came back down to earth. Catherine lay snug against him, and he was surprised to find that he was still deeply embedded within her. Almost at once as his mind revealed this to him he hardened anew and began a lazy rocking motion within her and Catherine moaned sensuously pushing back against him delighting in the feel of him hot and hard inside her.
Before the morning arrived they continued making love in this way, over and over again, until satiated and blissfully content, they lay locked in each other's arms, their faces rosy and flushed with the blossom of love.
By late morning the pair were still fast asleep, and Chad was getting more than anxious about that.
"Shall I go and see them now?" he asked Father for the umpteenth time after he had been shifting things around absentmindedly.
Father observed Chad over the rim of his spectacles, "Now I don't think they would appreciate that do you. Don't worry Chad they'll turn up when they are ready. In fact if your plan worked we might not seen them for some time." Father chuckled, and Chad pinned him with a firm glare.
"I'll go and see them shall I?" Father asked him.
"Oh yes, would you?" Chad's face lit up, "I just want to make sure they are well. Mom is never up late."
Drawing a deep breath, Father left his chamber, he didn't really want to do this. He felt it was spying, but that was because he knew the possibility of the way things could be.
Shrugging his shoulders, he decided to feign ignorance, after all neither Vincent nor Catherine were aware that he knew of the pair of them being in bed alone together. He groaned, chiding himself on how ridiculous that sounded, of course they would know. Any one in their right mind would know that with the child out of the room, of course it left the pair of them alone together.
Slowing as he reached the entrance to Vincent's chamber, Father held his breath, Perhaps if I just listened at the doorway he told himself, perhaps that would be enough.
For long moments he did just that, hardly daring to breath, but no sounds came from within the chamber and reluctantly he convinced himself that it would do no harm to peek.
Stepping forward, holding onto the wall for support so that his stick made no sound, he edged nearer until he could just see into the chamber.
The candles had burnt low, and the light was dim, but Father could just make out the two sleeping forms upon the bed.
They lay close, arms wrapped around one another, and as some of the blankets had been thrown back, Father could see that they were both partially naked. Father sighed with relief Then that was the way of things was it? Everything should be all right now. Catherine would stay, she and Vincent would have their happy life together, and Father was startled by the sudden thought, that there might even be more children for the pair of them. Moving away from the chamber, Father made his way back to his own. He couldn't tell Chad of everything he had seen of course, but he could tell him some of the good news, and Father couldn't wait to see Chad's face when he told him.
Chad's reaction far exceeded Father's expectations. The child fairly threw himself at him the moment he stepped back into his chamber, Father stilled him with a hand raised, his face a wreath of smiles.
Expectantly Chad waited his eyes bright with hope.
"It would seem young man that your plan has worked." Father began. Chad leapt into the air, his arm raised, "Yeees!" he squealed with delight, "Yes! Oh Yes!" and began dancing around the room. "I knew it would work. Do you think mom will stay here now grandfather?"
Father's blue eyes twinkled merrily, "I think it's more than a possibility Chad, all your mother ever wanted was a normal relationship with your father, but we mustn't say anything to them all right? When they do finally wake up we mustn't let on that we know." Well not straight away anyway, he thought to himself. Knowing at some stage he would tease them mercilessly about it.
Chad agreed, "Oh" he cried hugging himself tightly, "This is just great!"
It was well into the afternoon before Vincent finally awoke. For long moments he lay quite still as his mind played tricks on him.
Or were they tricks?
Did he really imagine that he and Catherine had finally made love together, did he dream that, or was it real? It seemed real, in fact the last time only minutes ago.
Slowly he opened his eyes, and the first thing that he noticed was his dishevelled state, his partial nakedness and the blankets in a crumpled heap.
Startled, he sat up with disbelief.
It was no dream, and besides as he rolled over he could feel that Catherine lay alongside him fast asleep, tranquil and content.
For long moments Vincent stared down at her. She was unharmed, that much he could tell, and as his memories of the night returned with a vengeance Vincent could hardly believe that could be so.
He groaned as he remembered Oh how could he have done that! He'd used her. Tears gathered and fell whatever would she think of him!
As she sensed his distress Catherine stirred, her eyelids fluttering before opening to set upon him with some concern. "Vincent what is it?" she asked anxiously.
"Look at us Catherine!" he whispered hoarsely.
Catherine reached out her hands, (for her eyesight in the dark was not as good as Vincent's) and as she found the mound of blankets in the centre of the bed, her eyes lit up as she remembered, "Oh Vincent, it is rather a mess isn't it, but what do you expect, we were rather active if you remember?"
"Remember! Catherine I remember every moment, but it was too much. Catherine I used you!"
"Too much?" Catherine sidled closer against him, "Oh no Vincent not too much. More like not enough." Her fingertips caressed his chest, sending little shudders through him. "God Vincent you were an amazing lover, how about reminding me of that?" She teased, laughing at his sudden gasp of surprise.
."Catherine you can't mean that?" he tried to pull away. Her nearness was making his head spin.
"Oh but I do." Her lips followed the pathway her fingers had trod, delighting when the shuddering increased, knowing now how the passion was gripping him once again.
"No buts Vincent."
"But Catherine we did it more than twice already."
"Not twice Vincent."
"Three times then."
Vincent's eyes opened wide, "Four?"
Catherine shook her head, quietly laughing as she continued to kiss and caress him, "Not four Vincent."
Stunned Vincent dared to ask, "Five?"
Catherine shook her head, a smile playing around her mouth.
"Six?" Vincent groaned oh no he couldn't have? Not six. It would have been impossible.
Catherine laughed out loud, telling him, "You know Vincent I have a friend who only gets to see her partner once every six weeks. They spend the entire weekend in bed, and do you know how many times they do it?"
Vincent shook his head, not knowing whether he wanted to hear this or not.
"Twenty-five times Vincent. Twenty-five times!"
He repeated with disbelief, "twenty-five times!"
"Uh huh, it seems they can't get enough of each other, after six weeks apart. And Vincent" her voice trailed away, the corners of her lips twitching, her eyes bright with humour.
"We have been apart for eight years!"
"That's an awful lot of time we've to make up for don't you think? So this weekend we have another eighteen to go before we have exceeded my friend, at the very least"
Vincent gasped, he could well count, "Seven times! We did it seven times?"
Catherine nodded, "So who's counting?" she grinned, "Are you tired Vincent?"
His blue eyes blazed, "Are you?"
"Me! Never. What time is it anyway?"
The candles had burnt away, the chamber completely dark. "At a guess I'd say it was coming up to tea time."
"Tea time! You mean we have been in bed almost all day!" Catherine exclaimed.
"That's why I'm no longer tired, my Catherine." He no longer shuddered, instead fire coursed through his veins.
"Oh but you will be." Catherine teased him.
"But not for some time my Catherine."
Catherine squirmed with delight. Vincent unleashed was unstoppable.
"Perhaps we had best put in an appearance. People will be worried."
Vincent chuckled, "Now who's the frightened one?"
"Frightened? Me?" I'm not frightened Vincent."
"Then you should be." He teased.
Catherine shuddered as his long claws trailed delicious rows up and down her bare thigh.
"Then I surrender." She told him tenderly, snuggling down beneath the blankets at his side. Vincent pulled them up over the two of them, wrapping his arms around her, "So Catherine, are you ready for number eight?" he teased nuzzling her throat.
Catherine giggled, "You'd better believe it Vincent."
Sitting beside the mirror pool Chad looked into the water as the sunset reflected from Above. He loved it there, and it was one of his fathers most favourite places, his own window to the world.
Chad felt so happy. Happier than he had ever been in all of his life.
Living below the city streets in his secret world with so many wonderful people, and best of all both his mother and his father, Chad felt truly blessed.
And now his mother would be happy too.
Chad hugged himself with glee.
As the sunset blazed red and gold, Chad could just make out the first few stars appearing in the mirror pools reflection, and he remembered the many times he had wished upon a star. Now all those wishes had come true, he would have his happy life, and he would never be bullied again.
He sighed with pleasure, looking up with a ready smile upon his lips as a sound disturbed him. His eyes lit up, "Mom, dad you're up."
They sat each to one side of him, taking one of his hands inside their own. His mother looked intensely happy. And his father's face seemed different somehow. More relaxed.
Chad gazed from one to the other waiting for someone to speak.
"I believe we have you to thank for the happiness we share just now?" Catherine spoke at last.
Chad looked down at the water, a little embarrassed, "It was all I could think of." Chad mumbled softly without looking up.
"Well I'm very pleased that you thought of it." Vincent told him gently ruffling his hair.
Chad smoothed it down, (old habits die hard) he grinned at his father.
"And we've some news for you." Catherine told him, smiling as Chad gasped and held his breath.
"Your mother is going to live Below with us from now on." Vincent told him, reaching across Chad for Catherine's other hand.
"Oh I know I was rather limited in where I could go before, Chad. But it did cross my mind to risk living Above if I couldn't be certain of being happy down here."
"But now you will be happy?" Chad asked hopefully.
"Oh yes Chad, now I have everything that I ever hoped for."
"And we have you to thank for that." Vincent told him.
The mirror pool was dark now, reflecting a night sky ablaze with stars.
"Remember how you used to wish upon a star Chad?" Catherine asked.
Chad nodded, "I was just thinking about that before you turned up. " he told her.
"Are there any wishes that you would like to make now." Catherine asked gently, her eyes shining with love for him and the man at her side. Vincent squeezed her hand.
"Yes." Chad told her, his eyes shining, "Yes there is just one more thing."
"Won't you tell us? Perhaps it is something that we all might wish for."
"If I could have one last wish it would be that you guys get married and that we all live happily ever after" he looked from one to the other of his parents hopefully.
Vincent smiled, "I think I could manage that." His gaze shifted to Catherine, "Will you marry me Catherine?"
Catherine gasped with delight, "Oh Vincent! Yes I will."
For several seconds Chad watched mesmerised as his parents kissed, his heart pounding with happiness, and the stars in the mirror pool twinkled back at him, as a comet blazed across the sky its tail an infusion of colours.
Seeing the comet Chad remembered that once upon a time he had believed that he could only ever find treasure if he climbed one side of a rainbow and slid down its other side. Now he knew that that wasn't so. Neither did happiness stem from wishing on a star.
No he reasoned that wasn't it at all. Love was the key to happiness, and as he looked up into the two smiling faces above him, he knew that the two of them shared that in abundance, and what was more they shared it with him too.
Chad was so happy that he couldn't contain himself, dancing with delight, Catherine and Vincent's kiss was ended abruptly by the sound of Chad's cry, "Yeees!" he shouted, arms raised, "Yeees " he literally jumped up and down for joy, "Yeees, Oh Yes! Oh Yes!"
And with happiness shining out of their eyes, his parents drew their son into a firm embrace, knowing without a doubt that the happy life for the three of them had begun together at last.