The Alpha and the Omega
Peter had just left and Vincent was still reeling with shock and Peter’s last words ringing in his ears. Even Father stood stock still as white as a sheet.
When he had come Peter made no mention of Catherine whatsoever, even so both Vincent and Father could tell by his agitation that he had something he wanted to say about her right on the tip of his tongue. However, they kept the conversation light and steered well away from anything to do with the world above and a certain district attorney.
About to leave, standing upon the threshold to Father’s chamber Peter had stopped and turned back to face the two men and had stated quite matter of factly, “oh by the way, there’s a helper that is about to stand trial for grand theft. Its more than possible they will be jailed.”
That had Father and Vincent’s rapt attention.
Adjusting his spectacles nervously Father enquired, “Oh who?”
Peter almost smiled as he delivered his grand finale, “Catherine.” Was all he said before disappearing down the tunnel at a brisk walk.
He was half way between Father’s chamber and Mary’s when he suddenly heard footsteps running behind him, he calculated that they were Vincent’s. He was right. A furred hand seized his shoulder as he walked on expecting something like that at any moment. He turned, “Who’s that? Oh Vincent? Did I forget something?” He asked innocently and highly amused.
He didn’t know what he expected but he knew it wasn’t tears. They cascaded down Vincent’s cheeks in rivulets and the younger man was trembling.
“Tell me?” Vincent asked in his usual way, except the words were spoken shakily and there was fear in his eyes.
“Just like I say Vincent. There’s a great possibility that Catherine will be going to prison. I’m surprised that you care.”
“OF COURSE I CARE! I LOVE CATHERINE!” Vincent seethed through clenched teeth, knowing full well what was to come.
“Then you have a funny way of showing it. I would have thought after everything that has happened between you, you would have been closer to one another not further apart.”
“How do you know about that?”
“Dah…” Peter’s mouth dropped open with sarcasm, “I would have thought that was obvious Vincent. Catherine told me of course. Who else knows?”
“I’m sorry I should have guessed. Is she alright?”
“I assume you mean relating to that particular incident?”
“Yes she’s alright. I don’t think she sees it as paramount right now. Other things are more important, like going to jail for freeing you from that hell hole, and not having an alibi or a leg to stand on to get her out of the mess, since she has to keep you a secret! I tell you Vincent, the way you and Father have behaved toward her, I would have great trouble sticking to such loyalties if it were me, and I don’t mean maybe!” Peter was fuming.
“I need to see her.” Vincent whispered.
Peter grimaced, “Impossible I’m afraid, you can’t go above. They are searching for you. Catherine’s apartment is being watched, that is Catherine is being watched night and day. All visitors are quizzed. I could only go in as her doctor and I had to show my identity for that. You’d never get out of the park, they’ll recapture you quick smart, and Catherine would still go to jail. I can’t see a way out of it Vincent, I really cant.”
“I can. Catherine must come here.”
“And what? Remain in hiding all her life. Isn’t that what you have been dead set against since the beginning? And now your neck is at stake you allow it?”
“Is that the way you see it, Peter?”
“How else can I see it? You make love to the girl and show her the door, not wanting anymore to do with her until something like this comes along that makes you bend the rules. Well I tell you Vincent, if I were Catherine I’d tell you to go to hell at such a suggestion coming right now, I really would.”
Vincent lowered his head, he felt ashamed. He was also deeply embarrassed by Peter’s words that he had made love to Catherine. He hadn’t viewed it that way. In fact he had tried to shut it out of his mind. It had been abhorrent, he had been abhorrent. How could Catherine possible want anything more to do with him after that?
“Could she be pregnant?” He had to know.
“Then she was right.” Peter spoke as if to himself.
“Sorry Vincent. Catherine found out that you are sterile. Pregnancy would be an impossibility.”
Signing deeply, Peter could see how relieved Vincent was by this piece of news, yet even so he appeared sad tortured.
“Catherine deserves to have children. I know how much that means to her. If she and I were together she would have to forsake that particular dream among others.”
“Right now Vincent, I think being with you anywhere is the last thing on Catherine’s mind. You’ve hurt her badly, you and Father together, and it will take a great deal of encouragement on your part to even have her consider having anything more to do with you. In any other circumstances and knowing your earlier misgivings I might say perhaps that is for the best, only now I can’t think that way. This problem has to be sorted out with you involved. I don’t know how you are going to do it Vincent, but you have to help. Otherwise Catherine is going to go to prison, and I don’t need to tell you what that feels like.”
“No…you don’t. Peter, do you think you could bring her down to the basement of her building? Perhaps if I could talk to her…”
After a long pause Peter nodded, “Alright I’ll suggest it to her. But I tell you now, if you upset her anymore than you already have you’ll have me to answer to!”
Both knew that out of the two Vincent was in all likelihood to be the more aggressive still Vincent didn’t dwell on that right now. Since the death of Charles Chandler, Peter had adopted the father role in Catherine’s life and Vincent felt very much like he was being confronted by that parent. He didn’t dare remark that any fight between them would probably end with him being the victor. And Peter didn’t expect him to. Quite frankly, the way Peter felt at that moment rendered him superhuman. He would protect the girl he had come to accept as his daughter come what may, and no matter who challenged him.
In that, he was probably more courageous than Vincent at that moment, but only at that very moment.
Vincent’s love for Catherine ran deep, and he was better designed to protect those he loved. All the same, he promised Peter that he would say nothing to hurt her, and then in silence and each to his own thoughts the two fell into step and walked toward the tunnel entrance that was situated beneath Catherine’s apartment building.
*** *** ***
Catherine wouldn’t come down. Peter thought he should have been prepared for this but found he wasn’t, he stared at her as she adamantly refused to meet Vincent at the threshold of their worlds.
“I feel I should know honey, but I’m afraid I don’t. I thought you wanted to see him?”
Catherine shrugged, “I can’t see that meeting him will resolve anything, Peter. This is a Catch 22 situation. I’ve thought it through over and over. Look, Vincent can’t reveal himself to anyone, but unless he does I can’t be acquitted. And even if he did reveal himself and who he is, a man not a beast, then he will be arrested for murder not only for those three goons that goaded him to love me in that cell, but for all the murders he has committed over the years. I know, I know they were scum, but they were still somebody’s child, and that somebody will want to see justice done. Vincent will go to the chair, Peter and you know it. Really I cannot see a way out of this one.” Catherine finished miserably.
“I can. There is only one thing you can do, if you were willing?”
“Go to live below? I’ve thought of that. Turn my back on the world, never able to return again. Once that would have been oh so appealing, but to force the issue now with Vincent and Father so hostile against me, I don’t even want to contemplate it.”
“Then you’ll go to jail, are you prepared for that also?”
“How can I be? I sent a lot of people to jail Peter, I’d die in there. There is no two ways about it, I’d be jumped on the moment they took me through the doors. I just don’t know what to do. Even Joe is against me.”
“Surely not! Not Joe?” Peter couldn’t believe his ears. “You are his best investigator.”
“Turned criminal. Peter you saw the lead up to the opening of the zoo’s new exhibit, the whole world held it’s breath. And Vincent would have been everything they had expected and more, truly magnificent, a possible link between early man and modern man. The world would have gone wild over his discovery. Imagine what that would have done to Vincent, they had him naked in there Peter, did you know that? Assumed he was an animal. Caged and fed raw meat. He couldn’t even tell them he was more human than beast for fear of opening up too many questions, and the fact of course of the people he had previously slain, usually in saving my life.”
“And this time you saved his, and you are in trouble. You have nowhere to run and hide. Cathy it’s so unfair. You must come down and tell this to Vincent, you must.”
“It would solve nothing. I’m not going to live below Peter, and that’s final. Not under these circumstances. To have Vincent allow this now, when he has been so adamant in the past, you can understand how that would make me feel?”
“Yes and that’s an understatement. And what am I supposed to do down there? Make pillow cases? I’d go mad inside a week. If I went down there is would have to be as Vincent’s partner, his wife, I’d need to go knowing there was a life for me down there alongside the man that I love. I can hardly see Father allowing that can you? Even if Vincent were agreeable.”
She was pacing the floor by now, Peter watching her with wry amusement. He assumed she had picked that up from Vincent. It appeared to be the only way either of them could reason out their problems by concentrating while on the move.
“Still two heads are better than one, especially when they are both of similar accord. Please Cathy, come down to the threshold.” As she began to protest Peter hurried on, “You know if you don’t go to Vincent, he will come to you.” And he looked toward the balcony so she had no doubts of what he meant.
Naturally, Catherine could not argue with that. Vincent would come to the balcony, and that would prove dangerous to him. Her apartment was being watched, though she doubted they had rigged cameras on the very balcony itself. They would not expect that, but she could be wrong of course. No risk was worth taking when it came to Vincent. Too many of the wrong kind of people had seen him already.
“You know Vincent can never venture above again too don’t you?” Catherine asked Peter. “They’ll be watching for him. They know he frequents the park. He’s going to be as much a prisoner down there as I would be.”
“All the better that you do it together then.” Peter remarked softly.
“You’re not going to give up on this are you?” Despite herself Catherine gave a wry smile.
“I can’t see any other way Cathy. And its not as if you don’t love each other.”
“Well half of that’s true. I do love Vincent.”
“And Vincent loves you. He told me earlier, and it was his insistence that we came by way of your apartment building.”
Catherine chuckled, “Yes, how did you explain that one to the guard?”
Peter smiled, remembering. “It was tricky. Having just called earlier, I wasn’t expected to return so soon, and certainly not via the basement. Vincent thought of lowering me through the trapdoor into the elevator car, but…” Peter grimaced, “I’ve put on a few more pounds than expected. I couldn’t get through it.” He whispered the last making Catherine burst into laughter as she pictured this.
“It’s not funny Cathy, I thought I was doing pretty well. Trousers I’ve had for years still fit.”
“That’s generally the pattern Peter. Oh come on you know. Men put on weight around their gut, but often their hips and waist stay the same.”
“That’s with a beer belly. And you know I prefer shorts.”
“Well shorts can do it too. You know that, there are more calories in shorts than there are in beer. You should stick to wine.”
“Even that can add the pounds, anyway we are going off the subject. Vincent couldn’t lower me down, so he returned to the threshold, and I got into the car via the doors, and intended to come straight up.”
Catherine’s lips twitched as she awaited the outcome.
“Okay, okay quit looking at me like that.” He told her thinking at least it was good to see her eyes dancing again as she anticipated the rest of the story with some delight.
“Someone pressed the button from the first floor and the car stopped and the doors opened. The guard nearly did a double take when he saw me inside, told me he thought I had left hours ago. I had to bluff my way out of it. Told him he must have been mistaken, but he asked me to step out while he checked the ledger. Sure enough, I’d signed out three hours ago. I had to spin him a yard that I’d forgotten my stethoscope and had gone back for it and didn’t think to sign myself in again. He told me he hadn’t seen me return. I told him I’d entered with a group of people, and he told me there hadn’t been any groups come in. My mind was in overdrive Cathy, I can tell you. Was I getting hot beneath the collar or what?” Catherine giggled.
“Anyway, I then said in my best professional voice, that the facts spoke for themselves. Was I likely to have spent the last three hours riding the elevator, or as I had no other appointments for the day had I been with you? I explained we are friends as well as doctor/patient. Well that got him. He had no answer for that, so shrugged and said he must have missed my return, and said I could go. The thing was I didn’t want to go. I had to go out of the double doors, stop pretend I had thought of something and return again, telling him I’d left my stethoscope again! Fortunately, he found that very funny, and let me come back up. Phew, what I do for you!”
Catherine laughed. “Well after you took all those risks, I suppose I am left with no choice, I shall have to go down and see Vincent. Thing is Peter, how can I be sure that the car will go straight down to the basement from here and not open at ground floor. What possible reason could I give for needing to go into the basement, and if I was checked on and found missing how would that look?”
“I know its tricky, but we won’t know anything unless we try. Surely sod’s law can’t be against us twice in a row? Besides you aren’t a prisoner here, you can go out. Why don’t you take a box with you. You could have it in mind to say you were collecting something stored in the basement if you had to do, oh come on Cathy, you’ve got a good brain you’ll think of something on the spur of the moment, if I can do it, I know you can!”
“Alright, alright, I’ll just get my keys. Though how you will explain why you have come up from the basement again beats me.”
“That’s easy I won’t go down with you.”
“No I have a better idea. I’ll take the stairs, I could do with the exercise, I’ve been cooped up in here for days. You use the elevator and distract the guard, I’ll take the stairs. Hopefully we will get round the problem that way.”
“Just be sure to come home via the basement then and not through the double doors. I think that poor guard will assume he’s had too many late nights if he sees you waltz in through them later as well!”
They both laughed out loud. And Catherine, despite the shadow that hung over her right now, found that she had not felt so light-hearted in days and told Peter so.
“Well I am a good doctor.” He chuckled, and then felt extremely happy when Catherine put her arms round him hugged him tightly and bestowed a kiss to his cheek, “You’re more than that Peter, you are like a father to me. Thank you.”
“You are like a daughter to me too, always have been. So make the right decisions Cathy,” he drew in a deep breath, “You are precious to me and I don’t want to see you go to jail for this.” He shook his head, “There has to be another way, something we have overlooked. I’ll keep dwelling on it. What if you introduced Vincent to Joe?”
“I’ve been considering that. It won’t alter anything, but it might help restore Joe’s faith in me. I’ll let you know before I do anything, besides I might need you as a mediator. Joe isn’t exactly dotty over coming to visit me right now and neither will he answer my calls. I’ve hurt him Peter, disillusioned him. I think you may have to go see him for me, plead my case and arrange a visit to my apartment with him. It’s best that Vincent meet him here, even though that means Vincent risking coming above. The risk of Joe going below could prove to be even greater.”
“Yes I understand. Well…” Peter drew in a deep breath and let it go asking, “If you are ready, I think its time you started work on your future. And Cathy, try to make it count. I know its not going to be easy, but with love anything is possible. And Vincent does love you. Father too if he would only let go of that stubborn streak and face it.”
“In his position I can understand the way he feels. Vincent is his son, and as far as Father can see I’ve brought his son nothing but pain, sorrow and heartache. You’re right Peter its not going to be easy, but I will make it count. Come on then let’s go. I’ll take that box with me, my last pair of new shoes was in it, I was going to save it for bits and pieces.”
Before leaving the apartment Peter had one last piece of advice to impart, “Take care Cathy, and remember I’ll give you a head start and if need be meet you down there. I’ll head straight for the ground floor. Try to walk quietly down the steps and remember that stairwell echoes, I’ll try to make as much noise as I can so he doesn’t hear anything coming from the stairs. And remember those fire doors squeak!”
Catherine laughed and hugged him and replied, “I’ll be careful. Now is there still a guard outside of here?”
“Yes, oh he won’t insist on accompanying you will he?” Peter’s face grew fearful.
Catherine shot him a mischievous look, “Not if you keep him talking.” She grinned while picking up her keys and after donning her jacket, she tucked the box beneath one arm, “Come on then let’s get the dirty deed done then.” She quipped making him laugh, and then together they walked from the apartment into the corridor outside and seeing no guard on duty (must have gone to the bathroom - what luck!) they went their separate ways, he to the elevator and she to the stairwell, both with hearts hammering and hoping that all would go according to plan.
*** *** ***
Waiting below, Vincent, aware of the time that had lapsed since Peter had gone back to Catherine’s apartment found his mind in overdrive.
It was becoming increasingly obvious that Catherine wasn’t coming, but he would wait until Peter returned at least. That’s if Peter did return. It was probable that Peter had no excuses left for needing to go straight down to basement level. Vincent had heard the conversation between Peter and the guard earlier, and he thought that any more excuses would only increase suspicion and make future visits from Peter all the harder to accomplish. Then Vincent became angered that Catherine was being watched like this, and all because of him.
Neither could he get his head around the fact that he and Catherine had made love. Not just once but four times all told, three of those times being at the zoo. Vincent could not forgive himself for those times. True he had not been himself and true he had been goaded by the three men but he could not escape the fact that blaming it on his alter ego was wrong. It had been his body, his lustful desire that had taken Catherine over and over and over again, yet he was aware that Catherine had done nothing to stop him. Surely if she had been against it, she would have done something to stop him, have said something, but she didn’t, well nothing that told him she didn’t want it to happen. She hadn’t struggled against him, hadn’t fought him off of her. Had just allowed him to…to…Vincent’s mind abhorred the words make love…he had raped her, there was no two ways about it, he had raped her and before an audience too! How that disgusted him! He would NEVER forgive himself so how could he expect that Catherine would?
Even so, his dreams and his nightmares had been haunted by how it had felt to sink his hard fevered body into Catherine’s slick and welcome heat. Never could he ever forget that! He shuddered just at the memory - he felt the rising desire just at the thought.
And then his mind reminded him of Catherine’s response to his body moving within her and how she had hugged him closer, placed her legs around his hips, urged him on. Eyes closed tightly, Vincent groaned recognising the return of heat spreading even now through his loins, knowing how much he needed her again like that yet knowing that it would be an impossibility. It was unlikely that Catherine would let him near her ever again. And he couldn’t blame it on his alter ego. That dark side of himself that he had always insisted was a separate entity was no more than the side of him that had different ideals. He was one being not two, and he had to start taking the blame for his own actions, no matter how much that grieved him.
As he was thinking these things, he began to turn back toward his world beneath the city streets, inclined to believe that Catherine wanted nothing more to do with him, and could he blame her? He had treated her abhorrently, when as he began to walk away he heard the familiar sound of boxes being shoved to one side and the opening of the threshold doors. He turned not quite knowing who to expect, his heart hammering as he peered into the blue white light, almost fainting with relief and trepidation as he heard Catherine whisper, “Vincent, are you still there?”
He thought he would not find his voice, but he managed to utter, “I’m here.” Amazed that he could even speak, and stepping forward, he helped her down from the ladder with the same familiar ease that he was used to. That done he found Catherine still in his arms as he brought her feet to rest on the floor. Though her back was toward him he could feel the trembling within her, the excited heat thrilling her of being back in his arms and he could only marvel at it.
She turned still within his embrace, and surprised him by standing on tiptoe and brushing her lips across his as she spoke breathily, “Oh Vincent, I’ve missed you so,” and then tucked her head into his neck, kissing him there. Vincent froze, his heart seeming to stop as disbelief warred with hope. She appeared to have forgiven him, but how could she do that when he could not forgive himself? He blurted the first thing that came to mind, “Catherine, I raped you!”
“No Vincent!” Catherine took a step backward but firmly held his arms in place around her to gaze up into his eyes, “Is that what you truly believe?”
He nodded, unable to speak. He was drowning in the green depths of her eyes. Eyes that had haunted him these past few weeks, eyes that had mocked him, taunted him and now eyes that were appealing to him to believe what she believed.
“I am so ashamed of what I did to you.” He told her sincerely, “How is it that you can you not feel the same way?”
“I love you Vincent. And besides you were stressed, you needed comfort, its immaterial that those men instigated the event. I’m angry that they watched, but nothing can take from me the way that you made me feel. I wanted you so and I blotted them out most of the time, it was only after that I felt incensed, but that was because of them cheering and applauding, it was not directed at you in any way. Vincent you must believe me. I love you so much and what you did I loved also.”
Vincent buried his face in her neck inhaling her scent long missed. “Catherine, it must never happen again.”
“Why not? I can’t become pregnant if that’s what’s bothering you.”
“I know Peter explained. But that was only part of the problem.” He couldn’t explain what the rest was, but Catherine thought she knew.
“I want to be with you, Vincent. You can’t deny that we should be together or that our lives and hearts are entwined, and you have crossed the boundary you were most afraid of, and even under those conditions you still never hurt me.”
“I raped you!”
“NO! Rape is considered such when the other party shouts no! Did you hear me say that Vincent? Well did you?”
Vincent shook his head.
“That’s because I wanted it to happen as much as you did, I needed you Vincent, I needed that from you. That other time in the cave…you do remember that don’t you?” Vincent nodded his eyes drawn to hers unable to look away. “Well after that time I found my dreams full of it. My daydreams and my night dreams, I wanted you so much Vincent, I thought I would go mad with the wanting but I thought you hadn’t remembered a thing. It was so frustrating!”
Vincent smiled, “I had remembered. How could I forget something like that? You saved my life and gave me life and I thought you had forgotten. I thought you had wanted to forget. You gave no indication of remembering the event and I didn’t know how to or if I should remind you of it.”
“Oh Vincent!” Catherine hugged him close inhaling his scent deep within her. “I want you so much. I want you now, please Vincent take me somewhere and make love to me again.”
“I’ve never made love to you Catherine. Each time was a desperate release. I took you to satisfy my own selfish needs, I never once considered you. I’m not sure I would know how.”
Impishly Catherine grinned, “I could teach you. Its easy, you’ll soon get the hang of it.”
Drawing a deep breath Vincent steadied his racing heart and tried to ignore the sirens call from below. He was growing hard for her and he wanted her desperately. “Catherine you have to be sure. I had made up my mind that this could never happen between us again and that you would not wish it to happen again. I don’t think I can make this a one off. If you teach me to love you, if you teach me to make love with you, I won’t be able to let it stop there. I would go crazy with the want of you. It frightens me to embark upon this and then have to stop. I don’t think I could bear that.” He entreated sincerely with a desperate shake of his head.
Reaching up to touch his cheek, Catherine stared into the deep blue of his eyes, “What do I have to say or do to make you believe that I love you? Love doesn’t just stop abruptly like that, not in full flow. Loving you comes with condition that you return that love in full measure, and that means making love to me Vincent. Not just once but for the rest of our lives. How can I live without you? There is so much to show you, to teach you and it can’t be accomplished in a few hours Vincent, it will take forever.”
“Forever…we spoke of forever once. I thought the possibility lost to me. Catherine, are you sure?”
Catherine detected the hope in his question, and she knew she would not let him down, “I’m sure my love. But Vincent, there are reasons that I must come to live below, will you promise me that the necessity of them, does not leave you feeling guilty, or make you consider that you have forced this on me? You know that there is no other way left open to me. I have to live here or go to jail?”
“Both of which are prison, Catherine. You know neither of us could ever go above again?”
“Would we want to do? Living separate lives meant it was a necessity. Now staying below is a necessity. I know one thing Vincent, if I don’t live here with you then we will be forced apart one way or another. Whether or not I do go to jail they will still be on the lookout for you. You are trapped here Vincent, forever more. So wouldn’t you rather be trapped here with me?”
He nodded, “I love you Catherine. And I’m so sorry for the things I said when you were last here, can you ever forgive me?”
“I’ve long forgiven you Vincent. You were under so much stress, and the events between us frightened you.”
“No not frightened, Catherine. They shamed me. I felt you could not bear to look upon me after what I had done to you.”
“Have you no special memories of those occasions Vincent?”
Drawing himself to his full height, he took Catherine with him as he continued to hold her, “I tried not to think about it, but found my vision filled with the memories. Night and day, I saw the events roll by over and over again. I could only feel shame and remorse for what I had done to you, but also shamefully my body ached to join with yours again. I’ve not been very amicable to live with I can tell you, Father has described me as a bear with a sore head!” Vincent chuckled then sobered as he thought of their other problem, “And that reminds me!”
“Yes, I was wondering when we would stumble upon that particular problem, what are we to do about Father?” Catherine sounded genuinely worried.
“Father is concerned for me, as only a father can be for his son. Once he sees that you make me happy, that you are down here for good and that I won’t be risking my neck to save you above anymore he will come around. However before I can explain that, I understand that the initial outburst from him could bring the very tunnels down, but have no fear dear Catherine, I will not let you stand his wrath alone.”
“But we don’t have to go straight to the main hub do we? I mean isn’t there someplace cosy and private we could go before then?” Catherine lifted her eyebrows suggestively.
His heart racing, Vincent drew her tightly against him and even through the thick material of his jeans, Catherine distinctly felt the object of his desire. She shuddered with longing holding him tighter and tighter against her, grounding her pelvis to his, making him accept in no uncertain terms that she wanted him, and she wanted him now!
“Yes, I know a place. Come I’ll carry you.” And before she could protest, he had swung her up into his arms. He grinned wryly at her, “You think I could actually make it there with you plastering yourself against me like that?” He delighted in the chuckle that erupted from Catherine and drowned in the green of her eyes. Eyes filled with desire for him, with need and longing and excited anticipation. It was hard to believe it, but Catherine was here in his arms, and they were making their way to somewhere private and cosy where they would not be disturbed. And that he was going to make love to her in ways he had only ever dreamed about, before the days when his actions had robbed him of such beautiful dreams and wiped the possibility of them happening from his mind forever.
Well now it was more than just a mere possibility, he and Catherine would soon be one in every sense of the word, and bending his head he brushed a kiss against her silken lips and groaning he picked up the pace toward the place he had firmly in mind to make her his forever.*** *** ***
Something neither Catherine nor Peter had envisaged during their planning to get Catherine below, was the chance of someone else coming to visit her that day and who should Peter bump into as he the left Catherine’s apartment building? None other than Joe himself.
At first Peter didn’t recognise him and Joe had gone by before Peter realised. When he did he hurried back, and the guard almost did a double take. The doctor returning yet again, what had he forgotten this time?
“Joe? It is Joe isn’t it?” Peter called as Joe signed in.
Joe turned, he thought he recognised the fellow and replied, “Who’s asking?”
“I am.” Peter felt foolish.
Joe did too, “I mean who are you?”
“My name is Peter Alcott, Dr Alcott, Catherine’s general practitioner.”
“Oh right. Pleased to meet you at last, Catherine has told me a lot about you. Been to see her have you? So what do you think of this sorry state of affairs?”
Peter eyed the guard suspiciously, he was aware the fellow was trained to eavesdrop and write down anything that revolved around Catherine Chandler.
“Is there anywhere we can go to talk privately?”
At that the guard stepped forth, “I’m sorry Sir, but that wouldn’t be permissible. Anything regarding Miss Chandler has to be said around me.”
“Oh no it does not!” Peter told him. “As her GP anything regarding my patient is confidential.”
“I beg to differ Sir, but since you are about to impart information to Mr Maxwell here, then I have as much right to listen.”
Peter looked at Joe appealingly he hoped Joe would help him out of this one. He didn’t. “I agree. Anything you have to say regarding Cathy shouldn’t be in secret. If you can tell me, you can tell Corporal Sanders here.”
“No I flatly refuse.” Peter told the two men turning to leave, he had hoped to take Joe to one side and glean from him just how friendly he was toward Catherine still. Peter detected hostility, still he could not let Joe go up to the apartment and find her gone. That would constitute breaking her bail and she would be arrested on her return.
“Oh, you might want to know that Catherine has gone to visit one of the other tenants in this building so you’ll not find her in right now.” He made to exit, when Corporal Sanders called him back, “What do you mean visiting another tenant, I know nothing of this.”
“Why should you? Catherine doesn’t have to let you know every move she makes.”
“No but Corporal Fletcher does. He’s supposed to let me know if she leaves her apartment.”
“Corporal Fletcher?” Peter didn’t like the sound of this. He wondered how long Cathy would be with Vincent and was she likely to have returned to her apartment by then.
“He’s outside her apartment, surely you noticed him?” Sanders asked sarcastically.
“When we left the apartment together, there was no one outside. I came down in the elevator, and Catherine went via the stairs, I assume her friend only lives a few floors down.”
“And you didn’t ask I suppose?” Joe sneered, “Christ doctor, she could have gone anywhere. She might even have that beast holed up in here someplace.” He directed his next question to the guard, “Have all the apartments been checked?”
Sanders shook his head, “ I don’t know Mr Maxwell, I wouldn’t have thought so. Besides lets face it you don’t keep an animal like that penned up in an apartment building and have no one know of it do you?” He laughed as if the thought had been highly amusing.
“I don’t know what you are worrying about. After all is there any other way out of this building except through these doors?” Peter asked.
“Yes there’s the fire escape, but we have that guarded too.”
“Then where’s your problem? My patient needed a break, is visiting a friend, she’s still here for heavens sake, surely you can’t deny her a little pleasure. She’ll lose any rights to them soon enough!”
Joe nodded, “You’re right.” He drew in a deep breath and exhaled it in a rush, “Well as she’s out visiting I might just return later. I have places to go, people to see you know how it is doc?”
Peter said he did, and to prevent the guard becoming suspicious, as he and Joe left the building, Peter deliberately went in a different direction. However, he back tracked on the other side of the street, keeping Joe in his sights and followed him, intent on having that one to one chat.
*** *** ***
Joe, used to being tracked and having that uncanny sixth sense was two blocks away when he turned to face his pursuer. He should not have been surprised to find it was Peter, but he was.
"Are you following me, or just happening to be going my way?" He asked as Peter drew level with him.
"Following. I have to speak with you."
Exasperated, Joe sighed, "Fire away then." He checked his watch, and noticing Peter commented, "This is far more important than any other appointment you have to keep. This concerns Catherine."
"Thought as much. But I am busy, you'll have to be quick."
"When did you get to be so callous? Catherine always maintained that you were a good man."
"Probably when my best investigator turned crim. Something like that tends to kick you in the gut." Joe retorted bitterly.
"Catherine is no criminal. She stole nothing that didn't already belong to her."
"Pardon me? What do you mean?"
"I mean that the person she rescued from that hell hole was being kept there against his wishes and Catherine found out where he was and rescued him. They have known one another for several years."
"Are you kidding me? Have you seen him? I've seen a video of him, and I can tell you Cathy would never..."
"Yes. I've known him since he was a day old." Joe froze at that, his mouth dropping open with surprise. "Since he was a day old?" He repeated at length. "Then where does he reside? In the city?"
"Yes. And Catherine knows where. If it wasn't for him Catherine would be dead now. He's saved her life countless times, and he keeps the scum that prey on innocent people off of the streets. You should be thankful to him, he makes your job a darn sight easier."
"But he's an animal, a wild beast."
"No he isn't. He's a man with a deformity and an ability to use it to the best advantage. But someone captured him stuck him in a cage, took away his dignity and was about to put him on show for the world to see, and naked too I might add. Imagine if that were you Mr Maxwell, imagine if that had happened to you."
Joe was imagining. He didn't like the pictures that were coming through, still he didn't like the pictures he held in his head from the footage he had seen of the creature either. And this fellow called him a man! What was more Peter expected him to believe that Catherine was the beast's friend! Impossible!"
"I'd like you to meet him." Peter was saying much to Joe's surprise.
"Meet him! Have you taken leave of your senses? You forget I've seen what he did to those men. He tore them from limb to limb. God he even raped Catherine! Thats what I can't get my head around. He raped her and still she was filmed leading him out of there wearing bin liners no less. Okay what those chaps did to her was terrible and had they of lived they would have been tried for it, but he never gave us that chance. He just murdered them each and every one. Well save one that was looking down from the spectators stand above."
"Do you seriously think that the footage would have been availavble had they of lived? Surely they would have wiped it."
Joe hadn't thought of that. He hadn't needed to think along those lines. He had thought it a cut and dried case.
"Ok you have my full attention Dr Alcott. You want me to meet him you say. Well I don't know about that, but I sure as hell want to save Cathy's hide and if I can help with that in any way..."
Relieved Peter shook Joe's hand, "Thank you, Joe, you don't know what that means to me. You know Cathy, she wouldn't do anything underhand, and she really is distressed that you believed that she would."
"Okay, okay I was a heel, but I thought I was justified, just tell me what you want me to do."
"I have to speak to Catherine first. I'll call you okay? As soon as possible?"
Joe nodded, "Just make it quick, the trial is next week, it might last weeks, or a just a day. the cards are stacked very deeply against her you know?"
Peter grimaced, "I know. Don't worry Joe, I will get back to you sooner than you think. I'll go back to see Cathy now." Joe nodded and went on his way as Peter turned back for Catherine's apartment building. Joe couldn't believe all he had just heard. But it would make a lot of sense and he'd never quite believed Catherine could turn criminal anyway, still knowing that she wasn't made him feel happier than he had in weeks. However, he still wasn't certain he'd like to meet her friend face to face.
*** *** ***
“Mmmmm” Vincent stretched languidly, he had never felt so good in his life, so relaxed, or so utterly, utterly spent.
“I’ll second that.” Catherine murmured beside him, unable to move, although a huge grin appeared on her face, “Boy how did I get so lucky?”
“Lucky?” Shifting onto one elbow, Vincent regarded her with amusement.
“You! Vincent, you are amazing you know that! And a very quick learner I might add.” She chuckled as she remembered everything they had done over the last few hours.
“Well you’re a good teacher, although I have to say that there were things you showed me that I never knew existed.” He told her incredulously.
“Some of those things I’ve only ever read about. Never tried before on anyone.”
“Really? But you seemed so sure of yourself. I would never have guessed.”
“Well believe me Vincent, I’ve never wanted to do some of them before, you should feel privileged.” She added with a chuckle.
“Oh I do, I do.” His arm drew her close to him and he whispered in her ear, “I also feel like exploring those privileges again.”
Out loud Catherine laughed, “Oh Vincent, what have I unleashed?”
For a moment Vincent regarded her with some amusement, before his features became serious “ I love you Catherine and what you have given to me, here this afternoon I have loved also. But Catherine, I cannot believe that you would share those things with me and I feel humbled that you have and…” he searched for the words that he wanted before shaking his head and saying, “Is it normal to want to share those things with you again so soon?”
Catherine laughed, “Oh yes my love, believe me it is. I have been celibate for so long, I can’t seem to get enough of you either, but it is growing chilly here Vincent, is there someplace warmer?”
Catherine sat bolt upright, staring him in the eyes, “Your chamber! Vincent we can’t take this up there! Can we?”
“I don’t see why not. Catherine you are mine now and the sooner people see and accept that the better. Oh, I know facing Father bothers you, but Catherine he has bothered me all my life and I’m still here to tell the tale. Everything will work out right you’ll see. Father loves you really, he just can’t see the wood for the trees right now.”
“I don’t know Vincent. Besides, I ought to be getting back to the apartment. If I’m found missing they will consider I’ve jumped bail and I would be arrested for that.”
“All the more reason for you to stay here with me. They might have noticed you missing by now. You may walk straight into the situation and be taken into custody. I can’t let you go back Catherine, I can’t.”
“That’s one of the reasons I came down here today. We have to talk about this Vincent. The problem’s not going to go away, and I cannot see a way out of it for us. One way or another I face a jail sentence and you can never go above again for fear of recapture. We can’t live our lives like that.”
“Why not? With you here with me, neither of us would need to go above. Catherine think of it, we can have our dream, you can stay here with me forever now.”
“My being here, our dream was not dependant on our making love Vincent. That was never the issue. Our dream was dependant on my turning my back on the world above and you accepting that for what it was. Now its been forced upon us, and I’m so afraid it will come between us eventually.”
Vincent was thoughtful. Catherine had a point about that, but for him making love had also been an issue. His belief that passion and desire for love or to kill were one and the same, that he could hurt her that the dark side of himself would not know the difference when put to the test had haunted him for years. With that danger gone he felt that anything else was the least of his worries. Anything else he could cope with, but maybe Catherine…maybe she had her own doubts? Maybe having the issue to live below forced upon her had come before she was ready. Vincent knew he had to face the possibility that Catherine was not truly ready to carry out that part of their dream. And when he thought about it, could he blame her? The situation had been thrust upon her without warning. She was leaving behind friends and colleagues and a bad name for herself - how could he ever allow that? Yes, as much as he disputed it, Catherine was probably right - to start life below under those conditions might in all fairness force them apart eventually. He had to let her go as much as the thought grieved him. She had to come to him on her own terms and not look back. Only then would they both be sure that they could make it last forever.
“I understand.” Vincent spoke at length. “I’m sorry I should not have presumed that you would live here with me just because we have loved.”
“Vincent! Have you not heard a word I have said?” Catherine exasperated at him sometimes. Why did he always turn their problems inward? Why did he always have to assume they lay with him?
“I heard everything you said. You are not yet ready to leave the world above and live here with me, despite…despite what we have just shared.”
“I didn’t say that!”
“You didn’t need to. Your heart and your eyes speak what your lips do not. I have read between the lines Catherine, you forget I know you. Even without the Bond I know you better than you know yourself sometimes.”
“You might think that you do, but you are wrong on this one. I have always been ready to live here with you. It was you that thought I ought to follow through on life above first, achieve all I could achieve before I gave it all up to be with you, here forever. And I think deep down inside, despite all we have shared to the contrary, a part of you still believes that.”
Vincent was shaking his head, “I love you Catherine, it should be enough to hear me say that. It was not something I ever dared utter before lest doing so compelled you to think I was tying you to me, expecting more of you than you were prepared to give.”
“I want to give you everything. You deserve everything.” Catherine stared into his eyes willing him to believe her, but he looked away not prepared to see the honesty in her eyes. Believing that it was only momentary and she wasn’t seeing the whole picture for what it was.
“We are both too close to the situation right now. We will discuss it when both of us are calmer. Too much has happened between us this day and we aren’t thinking rationally.”
Catherine knew that wasn’t strictly true, but she also knew not to push Vincent when he’d got a bee in his bonnet about something. He could be so stubborn at times, and completely miss the point.
“Can we still go to your chamber?”
Vincent shook his head, “Best not. It’s a long walk from here and you have already been away from home longer than intended I’m sure. Perhaps its best that you go back now.”
Catherine felt as though the sunshine had just gone out of her world and they were back to square one, but he was right in effect, she should be getting back. In fact she would have to think up some pretty decent excuse for her absence had it been noticed by now. “I’d like to stay.” She told him sincerely and he nodded, “I’d like you to stay, but we both know there are things we must confront first. Can you come below tomorrow? I’ll meet you at the threshold.”
“I’ll try. But Vincent, promise me, if for any reason I don’t come, please don’t come to me. They’ll capture you again and that’s one of the things I wanted to tell you. If you remain as they think, an animal, well they consider you dangerous and have people disputing the right to your life. And if you maintain that you are human you will be tried for murder, not just for the zoo personnel but for all the people you have slain over the years. You’ll go to the chair Vincent, there’s no two ways about it. Either way you lose, you lose the right to live.”
Her last words caught on a sob. Vincent had been a prisoner before, but at least he could walk out at night, now even that had been denied him. No more, would they sit cuddled on her balcony reading way into the night and it was hard to accept that that was in the past. Vincent felt her sorrow but he had not the words to comfort her. Her words had frightened him, made him aware of what he faced if he risked going above to her and suddenly the situation they found themselves in became awfully real to him. And if she should not come to him, what then? Must he assume that it was over? Might he ever know what she had decided, he had to ask.
“No matter what, whatever you decide Catherine, promise me one thing, that you won’t keep me waiting in expectation. That you’ll tell me, whatever it is so I am not left wondering.”
Already he was thinking the worst. Catherine did not know what to say to have him know what he meant to her, that she loved him and nothing would stop her returning to him, nothing!
“Vincent what do I have to say to make you believe that you and I are forever, my love. You think I am saying that I’m not ready to live here with you. I’m not saying that. I’m saying that are we ready for the issue to be forced upon us. Can we accept it? More importantly can you? Please see it for what it is. I have to know that you accept that my being here, even though fate has forced an issue for it to be so, brings me the greatest happiness. I love you, so much Vincent and I want to be where you are.” Catherine felt like she was running in circles chasing him, unable to keep up. He was way ahead of her every time, seeing things that did not exist, putting words into her mouth that she had not uttered.
He did not reply. Catherine could see he was not able to find an answer to her question. She had an idea.
“Vincent, above when two people have loved as we have loved, it is usually customary for one to ask for the other’s hand in marriage.” He looked up then and she had his undivided attention as she went on. “Ask me to marry you, Vincent. See that what we have together is forever. See and believe, my love.”
He looked at her as if she had just asked him to bring the moon down out of the sky. To say he was incredulous at such a suggestion was putting it mildly.
“Catherine you do not know what you ask for.” He shook his head, “We can’t be married! It would be unlawful.”
“We are two people in love, two consenting adults. We have bridged the impossible with our relationship - marriage would be the icing on the cake. Ask me Vincent.” She said hopefully.
Adamantly he refused, and rising to his feet he pulled her up with him, “Come I will see you back to the threshold.” He told her and the pang of regret in his tone brought tears to her eyes.
“Just ask me.”
He said nothing, just took her hand, but she could tell that she had ruffled his otherwise calm exterior, for his hand shook just slightly.
They walked in silent anticipation, each hoping the other would speak first but neither did, and all too soon they were at the threshold. Vincent stopped short of the area before the blue white light expecting Catherine to make her way up the ladder when she turned to face him with the words “I wouldn’t refuse you, you know.” Catherine whispered tenderly. “If you asked.”
“Then why don’t you ask?”
“For that very reason. Because you would not refuse me.” With that, he turned and was gone before she had time to speak again.
Catherine stared at the empty spot for some time undecided as to whether to go after him or not. In the end she decided against it, Vincent needed the time to meditate on her proposition and nothing she could say would speed his proposal along. But he would propose of that she was certain.
Catherine hugged herself. She imagined Vincent her husband, Vincent her partner for life…but for now she was more than happy in dwelling upon some other glorious daydreams - Vincent her lover - knowing that at least with that one she didn’t have to imagine anymore.
To be continued in part four.