“Are you okay?” Joe asked her once the kitchen was cleaned up.
“Don’t I sound okay?”
“You seem on the verge of tears, Radcliffe.” Joe sighed. “Look, Cathy, how about some dessert? Let me take you somewhere.” He named a few restaurants. “You need to be with people.” Joe hoped that taking her to a small out of the way place wouldn’t hurt. He just hoped that she wouldn’t be seen by anyone that would try to harm her.
“It’s been ten years, Joe. How can I fit back in amongst people now?” Her words trailed off. “I really don’t fit anywhere anymore.”
“Do this for me tonight and I won’t ask again,” the attorney told her. “Please?” A half-hearted smile told him that it was okay.
The restaurant was one of the busier ones in the area yet not as noisy as some. Joe hoped that it would help her feel normal again. Both could hear the silence as they were shown their table. All eyes were on them.
“Joe, I don’t know,” She whispered as she was seated. “Everyone’s staring.”
“Guess they’ve never seen a ghost!” Both of them laughed. Then they both stared back at some of the diners close to them. All eyes diverted away. “I could eat the biggest banana split ever made! What sounds good to you?”
She glanced at the menu but didn’t see any of the words written. She’d picked up on something. Not the bond – but a feeling of being watched. She looked up. There was movement outside the window. “I feel jumpy,” she told him. “Like I’m being watched.”
“You’re still pretty attractive, Cathy. For a corpse!” Joe laughed even while he glanced around. Probably the FBI. Always close by. “C’mon, what do you have?”
The waiter moved forward to take their orders. Joe did order a large dish of the ice cream specialty while she settled for a small bowl of sorbet. Their conversation turned to lighter fare. News of the world, the city, recent movies Joe told her about, and then music.
“I heard there’s a piano recital this weekend. Didn’t you attend those a lot with your dad?”
At the mention of her father, Cathy’s eyes welled up. Even after all these years, his death still affected her. Almost as much as it had the day he died. “Yes,” she answered.
“Want to go?”
Catherine shook her head. How could she attend a piano recital without her father? Without Vincent? There’d be no one to share the beauty of the music with. “Maybe next time.”
“Father, have you thought about the cemetery?” Jacob asked Vincent as the child was preparing for sleep. “You’ve been gone most of the day.”
“There was much work to be done,” the man explained. “I will be here in the morning. We will talk then.” The boy didn’t like being put off but something in his father’s eyes told him not to push too hard. “I will be out for awhile. Mary will watch over you.”
“Are you going Above again?”
“I have some thoughts that I need to ponder,” Vincent answered. The boy kissed his father and hugged him tightly.
“Good night, Father.”
“Sleep well, Jacob. Sleep well.” He left the chamber as Mary was preparing to enter it. Her forehead was creased with a frown and her lips were pursed tightly.
“I know that Father told you,” Vincent spoke. “That a Helper believes that Catherine lives.” She nodded as he moved on.
As he walked the tunnels, he thought of the Helper’s words, of Jamie’s words, and of the words of his own heart. Could she be alive – really alive? Could her false death have been planned for her safety? Could she have forged ahead with it for his safety? It was a reality he’d known from the very beginning. That there would come a time that she would have to take to protect him and his world Below. As he’d always known of the risks he would take in protecting her. Another thought came to him – one he’d tried hard not to allow. That it had been time for her to return to her own world. That she knew the grief both of them would be in had she spoken the words aloud to him.
With a heavy heart, the truth sprang up within him. She had died. He’d heard her take her last breath. He’d held her as long as he could before carrying her home. Father, Mary, and others had attended her services Above. He had to remain Below – his sanctuary and his prison.
It was only then that he’d come to recall the words she’d spoken. “We loved . . . there’s a child.” His child. His son. He’d spent many sleepless weeks looking for him. When he’d felt the child’s life also ebbing away, he’d held him for the first time. There was a Bond with him and the Bond saved him.
It was that Bond that he’d been feeling so strongly – the one he’d felt with his child. Nothing else. Certainly not a Bond with the only woman he would ever love. The only woman who had ever made him feel like he was a . . . a man.
Cathy fell into a troubled sleep where rest was elusive and images assaulted her. Vincent blinded and hurt from his night above when he had helped her. Paracelsus taunting her after he’d had her kidnapped as they waited for Vincent far below. Feeling the sorrow and emptiness upon her father’s death. Kidnapped and drugged during her pregnancy. The pain of childbirth and then Gabriel looming over her. Hearing the chill in his voice when he’d told the doctor to finish it. The knowledge that she was moments from death.
“No!” The scream resounded throughout the rooms of the brown stone. She didn’t hear the footsteps over the pounding of her heart.
“Cathy!” Joe exclaimed as he turned on the light. “Nightmare!”
Tears streamed down her face and she wrapped her arms around herself as she trembled. “Always the same one,” she cried. She felt Joe’s arms around her as he tried to comfort her.
“I wish there was something I could do.”
“Let me find him, Joe!” she begged. “Please! Let me!”
“Cathy, I . . . “
Something in the tone of his voice told her that things were not what he had alluded to. “It’s not over, is it?” In the silence that followed, she knew. For a few moments, she allowed him to believe he was still comforting her. Then she drew away from him and wiped her eyes. Suddenly she was wide-awake and very serious. “Okay, Joe, out with it.”
“No more games. This involves my life – my future. Tell me everything now.”
“Cathy, what do you remember?”
“From my time as Gabriel’s prisoner?”
“No, from being in the program.”
She considered that an odd question. “I was told that I had to go into the program . . .”
“Before that,” Joe cut her off. She had a blank look on her face. He took a deep breath and began. “You don’t remember because you were unconscious.”
“For how long?”
“Six months.” The news startled her but she was determined not to deter from the subject. Her eyes remained focused on Joe urging him to continue. “It’s true. We all thought you had died. Including me. You were prepped for an autopsy. At the first incision – very tiny, “ he clarified. “Your hand moved.” Joe rose from the bed and stood by the bureau. He faced her. “They said a corpse wouldn’t have bled like you did. They found a pulse – so faint – but it was there. Immediately I was called. I called the FBI and quick arrangements were made to switch you for a Jane Doe cadaver that had come into the morgue an hour after you did.”
“So there really was a body?” she asked.
“Yes.” Joe saw a ponytail band on the dresser and picked it up. He started working it between his thumb and forefinger. It was a trait he’d always had. “You were moved to a facility in Maine. They told me you might hear everything that was said so I always told you from the beginning that you were in the program.”
“Joe,” she started. “I get a feeling that there’s something you’re leaving out.”
“There were people at your funeral that no one had ever met before. Now, remember, we still didn’t know that much about Gabriel or who was working for him. The investigator assigned to your case – Diana Bennett – she eventually found out who they were.”
Cathy’s eyes went down to her lap. Somehow she knew that they had been members of the community Below. “What else did she find out?”
“That you had a son.” Her head shot up and her eyes misted over. “She became friends with . . . “ Joe paused before speaking the name. “Vincent.”
At the mention of his name, tears fell onto the sheets. “He helped her find your son.” Joe continued speaking but Cathy heard only pieces. “Elliot Burch was killed . . . Vincent’s father, Mr. Wells arranged a meeting . . . “ He’d said enough for her to realize that Joe wasn’t trying to get her to betray her beloved. He told her how Gabriel had been presumed dead but remains were never identified until a few months previous. That for another few days she was still in the program.
“Did this Diana person know that I was alive?”
“Cathy, only I knew that you were alive. And for your protection I couldn’t tell a soul.”
“My son – he was found?”
“Yes.” Joe moved back toward her. He put his free hand on her shoulder. She reached up and put her hand over his. Her eyes were red rimmed as she looked up at him.
“So many people were killed, Joe. How can I live with that?”
“Radcliffe, you didn’t cause their deaths. Most of these people were crooked anyway.”
“But Elliot . . . He really cared about me.”
“Yes, he did,” Joe acknowledged. “I believe he died trying to save someone else.”
“Vincent?” her voice wavered.
Joe shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll never know, Cathy.”
“So I’m still under wraps for awhile?”
“A few more days.”
“Joe, each minute feels like a lifetime. I’m so close to him.”
“Cathy, why so mysterious? How come Vincent never came to your funeral? How come he wasn’t the one breaking down my door looking for answers?”
“Maybe someday,” she began. “All of your questions will be answered.” She took a deep breath. “I don’t know how much longer I can wait.”
Just at that moment, she felt an ache. Allowing what she believed was the Bond to open fully, she realized that the pain was centered in the very core of her being. But not her pain. She was feeling Vincent’s suffering. A roar filled her ears as she realized that he was expressing his anguish audibly. “Oh, Vincent!” she cried. “I’m alive!”
Closing Joe out, she closed her eyes and focused on the Bond, trying to make her own presence known to him. She visualized him in the Chamber of the Falls. His arms outstretched with his head thrown back as he roared in pain. The golden mane flowing down behind him. His blue eyes pools of liquid oil as he confronted his own darkness and aloneness.
In the vision, she saw herself standing away from him. “Vincent,” she called. “I’m here!” He kept his back to her. He couldn’t hear her. “I’m here!” Much louder this time. “Look at me!” Very slowly, his body turned towards where she stood. “Catherine?” his voice was almost a whisper. “Why does your image torment me?” She took a step closer to him. “I’m not a dream. I’m real.” She saw tears fall from his eyes. “I must tell you good-bye. Only then can I move forward.” His words tore through her like a knife. “No! Don’t say good-bye.” He shook his head. “I must. You must move on. I have to believe that someday we will be together again.” She tried to move closer but something was holding her firmly to the spot where she stood. “Please don’t! Vincent, I’m real. I’m in New York.” Her words were carried away by the rushing of the falls. She realized that she was fading. “Vincent!” she cried. “Goodbye, my love. Goodbye, Catherine.” The vision was lost to her.
Joe had stood in the doorway as he watched her. She’d hugged her knees close to her chest. Her eyes were closed and she was almost in a meditative state. He thought she might have fallen asleep until she jerked her head up as she screamed her beloved’s name. Her body shook violently as the sobs tore through her. He found it unbearable. How could he continue to keep her away from Vincent?
All characters are the property of Ron Koslow, Republic Pictures, and CBS. No infringement is implied or intended. Story is purely for entertainment purposes only. "Courage and Care" copyright 2002 ® Wendy Littrell
"Courage and Care" copyright 2002 ® Wendy Littrell
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