And So It Begins...
With nowhere left to go, Vincent returned to the lower levels, he was through with everything. Catherine was a mother now, a mother to the child of Elliot Burch even though he did not seem to take that responsibility seriously. Any doubts Vincent may have harboured as to the parentage of the child were gone even if his dreams were to be believed. Gestation was nine months and Catherine had birthed after six, obviously then the child was Elliot’s and even worse than that was the bitter knowledge that when Vincent had stood with Catherine in her apartment and uttered, 'whatever happens, whatever comes, know that I love you', she had been seeing Elliot Burch without his knowledge.
Wandering aimlessly back into the chamber he had slept in for the past six months, Dominic looked up surprised to see his brother back so soon, “Thought I’d seen the last of you.” He told Vincent while beneath his breath added, ‘thought I’d have to resort to blackmail to bring you back to me.’
“Whatever you are going to say, forget it!” Vincent cried exasperated, “I don’t want any more of your protein, let me expire, I’m through with living!”
Dominic gasped, “You can’t mean that?” And looked to the bed where Jamie lay sleeping thinking he might need to resort to his barbaric plan after all.
“I’ve nothing left to live for. Catherine has had her child and her lover is living in the tunnels, there is no sign of Father, and a strange woman, the one I saw at Catherine’s apartment is below also, what is there left for me now?”
“Yes, I’d heard that Jacob Wells was taken ill, and is above now.” Dominic told Vincent in anxious expectation of his reply.
“Above! Father is living above? I can’t believe it.” But then he reasoned that since he'd gone anything was possible. After all if Elliot Burch was living in the tunnels, then every thing could happen. But why, that’s what he couldn’t understand, just why was Elliot in the tunnels?
“Well that’s what I heard.” Dominic told him then sighed heavily. “Vincent, I really can’t imagine life without you now, please rethink this decision, besides which you are the only one that Jamie knows down here, at least stay long enough for her to get to know me better.”
Slowly Vincent nodded, “Until then but no longer. Give me smaller amounts of the protein, wean me off it, the longer I sleep the better, thinking only brings me pain.”
“On the contrary, larger amounts of the protein would make you sleep, but of course would also prolong your existence, so which is it to be, the oblivion of closing one’s eyes to rest or eternal sleep, that one may never wake from?”
“Except to haunt.” Vincent reminded him. “Is there any way that I can be stopped from wandering these tunnels after death? I don’t think I could bear it.”
“With all unfinished business there is that probability, Vincent. Perhaps you should visit with Catherine one last time and clear the air. Only if you die at peace can you be assured of never returning.” Behind his back Dominic kept his fingers crossed. The longer he could delay the inevitable the better, Vincent might be made to change his mind and remain living in the subterranean levels for the rest of his days.
“I’ll think about it. I would like to see her. As yet each time I’ve endeavoured to do so, I have met with complications. I haven’t actually clapped eyes on Catherine for six months, but I’ll not go back any time soon. In any case Jamie will be waking, and I’ll need to be here for her, there will be many things that she doesn’t understand, just as I didn’t in the first few weeks.”
“Self denial is the worst thing Vincent, you might have a problem convincing her, but I’m sure you will cope. You have accepted the way of things here remarkably well and I feel that I can trust you.”
“You can trust me. I might not have said that a few hours ago, but I realise now that what you did, you did for my benefit, and I apologise, but I had no intention of returning, not even for Jamie’s sake. I cannot tell you how terrible that makes me feel now.”
“I understand, it is not easy to accept entrapment down here and want to stay. Sometimes I feel the need to run from the confines of this prison and get as far away as I can.” Dominic spoke quietly.
Surprised Vincent stared at him, “I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. I never see you take protein, which side are you on, the dead or the living?”
“I’m alive Vincent. Through and through, our father helped me produce the protein so that I might live forever, so that he might live forever, but of course…well we both know what became of him…there was no way he could have survived that.”
“Had he not of goaded me, I would never have lashed out.” Vincent spoke regretfully, “But Paracelsus had been a thorn in our side for so long and the lies he spoke to me were so convincing.” He refrained from telling his brother that Paracelsus had disguised himself as Jacob Wells, that part was too raw even now and Vincent didn’t even like to imagine that he had believed he was striking out at his own father. Which strangely in essence he had been.
“Our father had wanted everlasting life Vincent, this protein would have ensured that, but his main objective was to live long enough to bring you home to me. Strangely, he did that, though not in the way he’d expected. The illness you underwent showed me just how much you regretted killing our father, and I do not hold it against you. I am only glad that through it we are together at last.”
Having stood by the entrance all the while they’d been talking, Vincent moved into the chamber and sat opposite his brother at the desk, “There’s something else I need to know.”
“Anything, just ask.”
“My family, that is my old family made mention to having seen me around the tunnels since I passed over. To my knowledge I have encountered no one on my jaunts above, and as we look similar, I wondered…”
“If they’d seen me instead? Yes, Vincent they have. I wander all over this subterranean world, but when someone is near I always hide. However, there have been a few occasions lately when people of your community have seen me but fortunately, I have either been too far away for them to see me correctly, or I have managed to hide my face from them. I also helped a young chap up one of those vertical shafts, I appreciate that it is quite a climb, and as I was passing I gave him a hand but I was careful not to let him see my face. I’ve never been near the hub though, I leave close quarters to you.” Dominic chuckled as did Vincent, and his brother was happy that the air seemed cleared between them. Still Vincent was taken to strange flights of fancy and he would have to keep an eye on him. “Do you have any more questions?”
Vincent shook his head, “No you have answered all my niggling doubts efficiently, and I understand completely now. Thank you, Dominic.”
“There’s still something though isn’t there? I see it in your eyes sometimes. You wonder about something quite deeply and I have heard you calling out in dreams.”
“Anything decipherable?” Vincent asked anxiously.
“Nothing that makes any sense, but Catherine’s name crops up often.”
Vincent nodded slowly, he knew what Dominic meant, but wasn’t prepared to share it. “They're just dreams, “ he told his brother, “For a time I wondered if they had been memories but today I realised that they were not. I doubt that they will bother me again.”
Dominic doubted that and he had a feeling that he knew exactly what Vincent’s dreams were about. He had seen his brother and the woman making love, and he also knew from his visits near the hub that Catherine’s baby was fathered by Vincent, something Vincent seemed oblivious to and he wasn’t about to enlighten him. That sort of thing would surely send Vincent running back to Catherine, and he would lose his brother forever. Thankfully, he still had his trump card he thought as he looked to where Jamie lay sleeping. Using the young woman as hostage would be the lever he would need to keep his brother with him if such a time arose where he deemed it a necessity to do so, and suddenly he had a terrible thought, Jamie might tell Vincent who the baby's father was. “Vincent, you know you are probably right. If Catherine has moved on with Elliot Burch, and it could be that he is seeking sanctuary in the tunnels, you never know, then perhaps its best that you don’t torture yourself with visits back home. It won’t do either you or Catherine any good, will it? Best to remember the time that you had together and forget about things you can’t change. Just wait for her time to join you, like you decided in the beginning, unless you have changed your mind over that too, now?”
“Yes, I have. Waiting for Catherine no longer appeals to me, but I will keep taking the protein and I will stay here with you awhile longer, and for Jamie’s sake. And you are right, I do not need the added burden and pain of seeing Catherine and Elliot together. Don’t worry, today’s visit will be the last one that I make.”
Dominic nodded, he felt elated and wanted to jump for joy, but he refrained from doing so, saying instead, “I think you have made the right decision brother, and I promise you will find happiness here with me.” Beneath his breath he added, ‘the young woman Jamie could pose a problem but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I can always administer a lethal dose of so called protein if the need arises, for no one is going to take my brother away from me now, no one!’ Having made that decision, Dominic told Vincent, “Well its about time for your next dose of protein, are you ready?”
Vincent nodded, “Yes, a usual dose please, don’t worry I’m not going anywhere. I’ll sit by Jamie till she awakes.”
“Good. You won’t regret this Vincent.” Dominic told him as he collected the required medication from a cabinet beneath his desk, “you and I have a lot of lost years to catch up on, it might take us forever to discuss all that there is.”
Vincent smiled, he didn’t know about forever, a year might well be long enough, but right at that moment he didn’t really care, because for the first time in six months, having shelved all his anxieties thanks to his brother’s fine counsel, he felt at peace as he held out his arm.
*** *** ***
It must have been three days later, when Father sitting up in bed welcomed a visit from his long time friend and colleague Peter Alcott and demanded that he be allowed home.
“They need me!” He wailed in protest as Peter told him that a few more days rest would do him the world of good. Peter smiled, he very much doubted that, but he did realise that Father would probably find a very good reason for sitting still and resting once he got home and discovered the news that Peter himself had received two days earlier.
“Actually, Jacob I doubt that they need you. As I hear it they have all muscled in rather well down there, but on the other hand you will clown me if I make you delay when you find out what has really been happening down there.” Peter left it at that, pursing his lips to keep from chuckling as Father looked dubiously at him. “Why? What’s happened? Oh No, Mouse! Don’t tell me Mouse has made the whole place open plan while I’ve been gone?”
“Nope. Just a minute Jacob, I’ll have your discharge forms signed and promise to keep an avid eye on you, besides they think you are staying with me anyway. You did tell them that you were a visitor from England did you not. Like I asked you to?”
“I did, and I’ve outstayed my welcome, some of those slip of nothing nurses will be more than glad to see the back of me.” Father chuckled prompting Peter to respond with, “I don’t doubt that. You can be so cranky at times.”
“And then some.” A voice from the doorway told them with a hint of laughter. They both looked to see that the doctor who had been assigned to look after him had walked into the room. “What do you think Doctor Alcott? Is he ready for the off yet?”
“Oh I think I can manage to put up with him from hereon.” Peter told the young doctor, “I was just telling him if you can sign the discharge papers I can get him out of here within the hour, besides he has a very good reason to get home…” With one finger Peter touched the side his nose, leaving the other two men wondering what reason that could be. “No wild parties.” The doctor warned Peter.
“As if, and no welcome home gatherings either. No don’t worry, its nothing like that, just a new arrival that Mr Wells will be delighted to see.”
The doctor nodded, “Right then I’ll sign the papers, and collect his medication and you, Mr Wells can start getting dressed.”
As soon as he had gone, Jacob nudged Peter, “A new arrival you say? Who?” His eyes were bright with interest and hope.
“I shouldn’t spoil the surprise, but I’m dying to tell you.” Peter chuckled.
“What, what? Peter if you don’t tell me I’ll have another heart attack.”
“Can’t have that, can we?” Peter played it for all he was worth. Leaned over the bed began fussing around knowing Father was getting more and more exasperated, “Peter I’m going to clown you in a minute.”
“Can’t you guess?” Peter laughed, “Easy when you think of it, what new arrival were you expecting down there?”
Eyes wide Father exclaimed, “No!”
His face wreathed in smiles, Peter responded, “Yes!”
“Vincent has returned?” The hope in Father’s voice was impossible to ignore and Peter’s face fell, of course he hadn’t thought of that. He shook his head, “No Jacob I’m sorry. It wasn’t Vincent. Let’s not think about that now shall we?”
“Its all I’ve thought about.” Tears ran unchecked down Jacob’s cheek, he turned his face into the pillow, “I thought for a moment he was back. Oh Peter where is he!” Jacob wailed broken hearted. To think he had sealed his living son in a casket…Jacob wanted to curl up and die.
For a long while Peter said nothing, just busied himself with collecting Jacob’s belongings together and spreading his clothing out onto the bed. Then he drew the curtains around the bed completely and suggested, “You can get dressed now, Jacob, then I’ll see you home.”
Father said nothing, and Peter feeling terrible looked at him a moment then ducking round the curtain walked over to one window. It was a long time before he heard the sound of movement behind the curtains, and when Jacob finally emerged he looked to have aged thirty years. Peter remembered his earlier attempt at bringing good news to his friend. “Of course,” He told him gently, “If we get there before noon, we might just be in time to see the child partake of his midday feed.”
Jacob’s face was a picture, “Child? What child?”
“Catherine’s child…Vincent’s child…you ready granddad? I’m taking you home.”
Father gasped, “Why didn’t you say? Peter!” Grabbing his bag from the bed Father almost ran from the room, and Peter burst out laughing and we wished he had a camcorder as proof. For Father didn’t even hobble.
*** *** ***
Awake two days Jamie examined her new domain with distaste. Her head felt fuzzy but she had no way lost her mind as Vincent kept maintaining, yet Jamie was aware of the danger already of trying to make Vincent believe anything she told him. Dominic regarded her closely, too closely, and once or twice Jamie swore she had seen fear and anxiety in the other man’s eyes.
“So you’re Paracelsus’s son.” She remarked not for the first time to Vincent at dinner, “And how does that make you feel?”
Vincent detected the barbed tone of Jamie’s seemingly innocent question and regarded her coolly, “I told you before, now that I have accepted it, I feel at peace. I had a father and a mother after all, believe me Jamie that kind of knowledge ties up all kinds of loose ends. I have no more need to doubt and no more questions to ask. I’m complete.”
Jamie couldn’t resist, “Yeah, completely bonkers like your old man!”
Vincent snarled, his eyes venomous he regarded Jamie with distaste. “If I did not know you better…” He warned.
“Yeah, you’d what? Tear me from limb to limb, you and whose army?” She told him defiantly. Jamie was afraid of no one. Vincent had taught her that, that was the Vincent she used to know and love. Well she still loved him but knew him no longer. “You are nuts to believe all of this. You’re no more dead than I am, and no more dead than Catherine, who I might add is missing you so much, Vincent! How can you do this to her? How can you stay away? You’re future is with Catherine, not here, with a crazy brother that is selfish to boot!”
“ENOUGH!” Vincent stood and roared, bringing Dominic running from his chamber, “What’s going on here!” He demanded, “As if I didn’t know. Jamie you’re presence here is causing disruptions and friction and I must warn you…”
“That you’ll what!” Jamie flared, “Give me some more of that goddamn drug that you say is protein, yeah right, start telling the truth Dominic, or did your father never tell you what that was!” Jamie flinched as Vincent’s, gloved, fortunately, hand struck her across one cheek and would have sent her reeling had she not held fast to the desk.
“Take that back!” Vincent growled at her, “I will not have my father’s name spoken of in vain like that.”
“You’re father?” Jamie almost choked on the words, “Next you’ll be telling me that you were proud of the evil bastard…hello…anyone in there…earth to Vincent…Go Away!” Jamie screeched as she saw Dominic advancing out of one eye corner, “Stick that thing anywhere near me again and you’ll be sorry!” Jamie eyed the syringe maliciously. Even so brave words were no match for two strong men, each of whom held one of her arms and struggled with her until Dominic was able to administer the drug. She fell unconscious into Vincent’s arms and he sighed as he laid her limp body to the bed assigned for her. “I’m sorry Dominic, she’s a tough nut to crack isn’t she?” He tried to laugh but the sound didn’t ring true.
“I’d hoped to keep her here with us, Vincent. But if she continues to behave this way, I’m afraid there are only two options left to us. I either administer a lethal dose to take her right through to the other side, or I have her taken to the tunnels beneath Brooklyn. She can be returned here when she has understood and accepted the way of things, but that might take some time. What do you think?”
Immensely sad, Vincent wasn’t certain what to think, “Brooklyn would be preferable, but she’ll know no one there. I think we should persevere with her, she has to accept things soon. She can’t keep fighting the inevitable. Passing through the rock is one way, and as hard as she tries she will never have it open to her from this side. I think we should wait it out, as hard as it might be, discipline her when required, be there for her when she finally accepts what is so, and find out what her plans are. She has friends on the other side, it might be that once she accepts the way of things, she will want to leave us and go to join them.”
Dominic nodded, proud of his brother’s speech, in so short a while Vincent had become a great believer, and people like Jamie he could do well without. Still, if Vincent was adamant that Jamie could not sway him into believing anything different, then they ought to be safe. Even so, he would keep that lethal dose handy, for no matter what his brother maintained, the young woman was trouble with a capital T, and Dominic was not about to let her wreck his plans. There would always be other hostages, the simple-minded blond haired fellow, they called Mouse would be an excellent specimen and it would be easy to play with his mind. A plan began to form in Dominic’s head, Jamie and Mouse was close he’d heard. If he could then, endorse an occasion whereby he could use Jamie as bait, he could capture the young man, get rid of the girl and then at last his plans would be realised he and Vincent forever together, where none would ever find them.
*** *** ***
Arriving at the tunnels, there was indeed a welcome party for Father, but all understood his eagerness to be home, and Mary walked with him to where Catherine was staying now in Vincent’s chamber with her baby son.
“Father!” Catherine’s exclamation of delight sent her hurrying to his side as he entered the chamber, “Its so good to have you home.” She told him kissing his cheek, “Come, there is someone I must introduce you to.” She took his gnarled hand in hers and led him to the cot positioned by the bed, and with her other hand pulled a soft blue blanket away from the bonny tawny head to reveal a stunning kittenish face awake to reveal the bluest of eyes. “Oh! Catherine!” Father stared down at the child, awestruck and for a very long time simply could find no words to express how he felt at that moment.
“Beautiful isn’t he?” Catherine asked at length, “Do you think Vincent would be proud?”
Speechless, Father nodded.
“Would you like to hold him?” Catherine reached into the cot, and again Father nodded, and made his way to the nearest chair his eyes never leaving the babe. Soon a warm soft body wreathed in a pale blue blanket was placed into his arms and then the threatened tears started to fall. “Oh Catherine…he’s beautiful…so beautiful…hello little one…I’m you’re granddaddy.”
Catherine choked back threatened tears, “I have a name for him, I’d like to ask if you’ll approve?”
“Approve?” For the first time Father tore his eyes away from the baby to look at Catherine, “Why shouldn’t I?”
Taking a deep breath, Catherine replied, “I have two names for him Father, two very obvious names, but he will be known by the second if his father returns, and by the first if he does not.”
Father gasped, “You believe that Vincent is alive too?”
“Yes Father, I’m certain of it. Remember those letters that Narcissa wrote around the cave? Well I know what they mean now. Narcissa was trying to tell us, without letting someone else know what she meant, and it is that someone else that worries me, but enough of that for now. Father, the letters stand for, He’s Not Dead. That’s Vincent, Father. Narcissa was so adamant about it that she died telling us. Do you believe me?”
“Catherine…” Father shook his head in wonderment, “What a clever girl you are. Of course, its as plain as the light of day, we should have realised, he’s not dead! Oh Catherine you don’t know how wonderful it is for me to hear that.”
“Yes I do Father and naturally there are so many thoughts spring up from such a revelation, the top one, where is he, and why hasn’t he returned. Several people have suggested that he has lost his memory and we are all of the opinion that we should search for him and never stop till he is found. He’s been seen too so that helps, although Winslow and Mouse’s description of Vincent having a normal face now takes some believing, and they are adamant that it was so. Still it might have been a trick of the light, or tiredness, or a plain disguise that Vincent wore, he might feel happier wearing one, whatever there has to be a reason and a plausible one at that if the person that everyone keeps seeing really is Vincent.”
Father agreed, “Yes. Have you arranged for the groups to go out?”
“No, I was waiting for your return and besides I’ve been otherwise preoccupied.” Catherine nodded toward her baby, who had been quietly watching his mother and grandfather without a murmur.
“Yes of course,” Father smiled, “Well as soon as I’ve had a little rest, we’ll make our plans. Terrible aren’t I, you’d think I’d want to rush to it straight away, but I feel content to stay here with your son in my arms and stagnate, does that sound selfish to you?”
“Not at all, I have found it difficult to do much else these past three days.”
“Ah yes but you have had an excuse, giving birth is strenuous.”
“So too, I would think is having a heart attack. We both need to rest Father giving orders will just about be enough for us.”
“Yes.” Father was inclined to agree and he did feel tired, all the same nothing was going to make him relinquish his hold of the precious bundle in his arms. “So what name did you give him?”
“Names. I gave him two, Vincent Jacob, what do you think?”
Father’s eyes lit up, “Perfect, oh Catherine they’re perfect, Vincent will approve I know it, only may I make a suggestion my dear?”
“Whether Vincent returns or not, call the child after him my dear, every firstborn son should be named after his father, it is the fitting thing to do.”
Father smiled, “I’ll let you into a secret if you promise to tell no one.”
Eyes bright, Catherine nodded.
“My mother named me Devin, after her father but my father changed it to Jacob after his when he registered my birth. Mother never quite forgave him, and called me Devin often.”
“I didn’t know that!” Catherine exclaimed.
“No one knows that, and it will remain our secret?”
“Yes, Father. I promise.” Though Catherine could see no reason why it should be so, she knew she would never tell a soul.
“Thank you, Catherine." Father drew a deep breath and looking down at the babe in his arms he softly went on, "And so…” Father's heart swelled with love for the child, “it begins…again. Hello little Vincent, welcome to our world.”
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Twelve.