Courage and Care

A BatB "SND" Story

Part Eight

     Joe made his way to the appointed place the following morning. “I hope this works,” Joe whispered. He read the code that Mr. Wells had written down for him. Carefully he tapped out the code on the pipes and then waited.

     He was wondering if anyone would hear him when he heard soft footsteps. He used his flashlight to illuminate the hole. “Anyone there?” he called into the darkness. “Hey! Is anyone there?” There was silence. Joe was about ready to tap out another signal when he heard a whispered voice.

     “What is it you want?”

     Joe almost stumbled out of the closet. He was taken aback with the realization that someone was down there. “Look,” he began. “I’m trying to find someone named . . . “ He paused before speaking the name. “Vincent.”

     Vincent’s heart began pounding at the sound of his name. “Why are you looking for him?”

     “Do you know him?” Mr. Wells hadn’t told Joe if Vincent would be the one to actually meet him at this place. There was no response. “There’s a secret that he needs to know about.” Still no answer. “Are you still there?” He heard breathing. “Listen, Pal, if you know who or where this Vincent guy is . . .well take him a message. This secret is something that he needs to know. It’s about . . . “ Joe paused hoping that the next word would be the one that worked “ . . . Cathy.”

     “Catherine?” The voice was louder. “What about her?”

     “She’s alive,” Joe responded.

     Vincent felt as if all the air had gone out of him. This was a cruel joke. It pained him to the core. “She’s dead. She’s been gone for ten years.”

     “No!” Joe exclaimed. Then the realization sunk in. “Listen, Vincent . . . you are Vincent?” No response. “I don’t have time to play games. Cathy is a mess. She ran from her bed the other night to the cemetery. She found a rose. Did you put it there?” There was only silence.

     Vincent shook his head to clear his thoughts. “Why are you doing this? Catherine’s gone.”

     “Vincent, I’m Joe Maxwell. Cathy said she told you about me. I call her Radcliffe.”

     Joe Maxwell – Catherine’s former boss. Could his words be true? So much to comprehend. Vincent willed his breathing to slow. “What is it you need from me?”

     “Look, can we talk somewhere else? It’s hard to carry on a conversation like this through a hole in the ground.”

     “There’s no where else.”

     “How about if I come down there.” Before he could object, Vincent saw Joe’s form moving down the ladder. He put the hood of his cloak over his head and moved into the shadows. “There that’s better.” Joe moved the flashlight around.

     “Turn that off!” Vincent commanded. “It’s the only way I will stay and talk.”

     The beam went off. “You know you just don’t seem like you really want to know anything about Cathy,” Joe sneered.

     “How do you know my name?”

     “She’s been waking up and screaming it out at night,” Joe answered. “The other night when she woke up she started crying and said something about feeling you being near. Another time she said she had a vision. That you had told her goodbye. Mean anything to you?”

     Vincent realized that the Bond they shared had opened again. That is what he’d felt as she surely had felt it too. “What else has she told you about me?”

     “That you made her very happy. She said you could never be together though. I take it because you live down here. I am right about that aren't I?”

     “Why are you here?”

     “I can’t stand to see her so sad, Vincent,” Joe told him. Mr. Wells had instructed him to not let on that they had met the previous night. He took a few steps toward the shape.

     “No closer!” Vincent exclaimed.

     “C’mon, man! I’m her friend. You are the man she’s pined over for ten years. What’s the problem?”

     “What else has she told you about our . . . “ Vincent tried to find the correct word. “. . . our relationship?”

     “Not a whole lot. What I do know is this. Before she came to the D.A.’s office, Cathy was attacked and left for dead in the Park. She disappeared for ten days. My guess is that you were the one who found her and took care of her until she was better. When she came to work for me eight months after that, she’d always have a faraway look in her eyes. Like she was looking past everyone to see the person she wanted. Then there were the times she’d disappear for days on end. Another guess is that she came here to be with you. And even more mysterious is how she managed to get herself out of some of the dangerous situations she was in. Wait a minute – let me guess – you always got there in the nick of time to rescue her.”

     “Her health,” Vincent began. “How is she?”

     “Physically she’s fine. Emotionally she’s a wreck.” Both men were silent. “She’s waiting for you.”

     “Waiting for me?”

     Joe paused a moment as he thought of his next words. “She doesn’t know I’m here. I thought I’d surprise her. Let me take you to her.”

     “No!” Vincent said. He was torn between the need to see her again, to hold her once more and the reality that many things had changed in a decade. This was not something that he could rush into with his heart. He had Jacob to consider. He would have to find a way to break the news to his son.

     “You don’t want to see her?”

     “Maybe it’s best that way.” Before Joe could argue, Vincent went on. “She’s had ten years – we both have had ten years – to adjust to life apart. It’s time she have the life that she put on hold so long ago.”

     “I don’t get it.”

     “She risked her friendships, her family, her career, everything for our secret. To never have the family that was meant for her. She was always in so much pain and to know that I was the cause of that pain was too much to bear. I loved her enough to let her go.”

     “Sounds like you are scared silly of a commitment. How come you never married her? How come none of us ever heard about you or met you? Why was it a secret?”

     “Please, Joe, know that I speak the truth. Catherine is better off Above. She deserves that life that she gave up for our dream.”

     “She’s lost ten years of her life, Vincent!” Joe shouted. “She deserves to make her own choice.”

     “Unfortunately I must make that choice for the both of us.” Vincent moved away. “Please, Joe, I ask you not to tell her that we spoke. I know you care for her. That you’ve always cared for her. Perhaps in time, she will return those feelings. Trust me in this and do as Catherine also promised. These tunnels, my home, is to be kept a secret.” Then he moved further down the tunnel away leaving Joe alone.

     “Damn it!” Joe shouted. Now what? He climbed the ladder. With a heavy heart torn between what was right and what he’d been asked to do, he put everything back in order and proceeded to leave for the brown stone.

*   *   *   *   *

     Vincent walked slowly back toward his chamber. His heart was heavy with sorrow that he had sent Joe away without more information. He had been afraid to hear the answers to all the questions. Where had she been? Why had she not sent word to him before now? Mary was working on some sewing when he arrived at his chamber.

     She could tell he was deep in thought. “Vincent, dear, is something troubling you?”

     Noticing that his son was absent, Vincent sighed heavily. “Mary, I just heard the most amazing news.”

     “What is it?” she put her sewing aside and stood from her chair.

     Vincent kept his head down with his long, golden hair hiding his features. He didn’t want the woman to see the tears that were threatening to spill from his china blue eyes. “Catherine lives.”

     Mary gasped.

     “I heard the news from someone Catherine trusted. It is true, Mary.”

     She moved her head so she could see his face. It pained her to see him so unhappy. “Why isn’t she here then?”

     “She is Above, Mary,” Vincent replied. “Where she’s always belonged.”

     She clucked unapprovingly. “And you still here,” she began. “I never thought you that selfish before, Vincent.” She moved out of the chamber before he could respond.

     Later as he walked the tunnels, he thought of Mary’s words. Was he being selfish for wanting to keep everything the same as it had been for ten years? Was he being unfair to Catherine? He truly did not understand how it seemed as if she’d died right before him yet she was very much alive now. How had it all transpired? And what was her part in it? Why had she not told him? Almost as if she was walking beside him, he felt that he could hear her reply.

     “To keep you and your world safe. I would risk everything for you, Vincent.”

     Yes, he nodded. Just as he would risk anything for her, so she for him. She would have known that he would have put himself in danger had he known that she would live. And their son’s life would be at risk as well. She had given up more than he could ever have asked her to. Their dream. Their Bond. Their son. Tears fell onto his face as he felt the grief she must have had.

*   *   *   *   *

     After the noon meal and Jacob had gone back to his studies, Vincent wandered into Father’s study.

     The older man knew about his son’s conversation with Mary. He wondered if the news he’d heard was the reason Vincent had come to his chamber. “What troubles you, my son?”

     “The mysterious code on the pipes this morning came from the threshold under Catherine’s old apartment building.” Both men looked at one another. “It was Joe Maxwell.”

     “Catherine’s old boss?”

     “Yes. He told me that she’s alive.”

     It wouldn’t do for Father to say anything that would seem unusual. “You surely don’t believe that! First a Helper and now this! How much turmoil can you withstand?”

     “Father! Please! What’s important is that she lives! The Bond re-opened. That’s what I’ve been feeling. And she’s felt it too. She felt me.”

     The older man studied his son’s sorrowful expression. “And you sit here? The woman that you have spent ten years grieving over is alive and well and you sit here? With me? Why aren’t you with her? Why isn’t she here?”

     “I sent Joe away. I told him that she’s had ten years apart from me. She’s learned to be her own person. Perhaps she’ll turn those long ago forgotten dreams into a reality.”

     “You were always her dream,” Father told him. “You and your world.”

     “You know as well as I do, Father, that it can’t ever be. Not then and not now.”

     “You deny your son the knowledge of his mother?”

     Vincent’s tears spilled from his eyes. “No! I can not do that to him.”

     “So you wish to split him so that part of him can be with his mother and the other part here with you – the only parent he’s known.”

     “I can’t split him. I wouldn’t choose that life for him.”

     “Yet you are choosing that for you and Catherine. To be forever apart.” Father then took his leave. Let his son chew on that for awhile.

     He saw one of the Helpers coming toward him and beckoned him. “I need your help Above.”

     “What is it?” the man asked.

     Father gave him some instructions and then sent him on his way. If his son was so stubborn, maybe it was time he had a push in the right direction.
Part Nine

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

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

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