And So It Begins...
As soon as Catherine had gone Vincent began to feel bad about not helping her, when she had so obviously sought him out for the purpose and straight after her marriage too. It had been wrong of him to tell her to get Elliot to look for the baby with her, and there might have been all manner of reasons why the tunnel dwellers were not helping her instead. It might even be that Father had not wanted Elliot to know the tunnels in too great a detail and had restrained him from going to the lower levels. That idea Vincent soon dismissed until shortly after he had packed away the provisions left by Dominic, he had an awful quelling feeling that Catherine was at subterranean level and that she was indeed very frightened. The heart beating alongside his was erratic and stressful and without further ado, Vincent slipped on his cloak and headed down at a brisk trot only wishing that he had gone with her when she had asked. Elliot or not, if anything happened to Catherine he would never forgive himself.
At the same time that Vincent made his journey below pulled not by Catherine but by a bond with a baby he did not know to be his, Catherine turned up at his chamber with Winslow in tow. They stood looking around the sparsely furnished chamber not knowing what to do next. Vincent’s cloak was gone and so too his walking boots, and so he must have gone somewhere. “What do you want to do Cathy?” Winslow asked uncertainly.
“We can’t wait, Winslow. He might be gone hours. I will scribble a note for him, hold on, now where’s the most possible place he will see it?” She pondered aloud.
“How about his journal, he’s sure to open that today.”
“Good idea.” Catherine rummaged around the small desk until she found what she was searching for, then opening it at the last entry wrote on a piece of paper to tuck into the place asking Vincent to re-consider helping her as he knew Dominic better than any of them. It was as she was closing the journal that the last entry caught her eye and she gasped as she read; “This time next week Catherine will be married to Elliot.”
“Is that what he believes?” Catherine spoke out loud with disbelief. Winslow walked over to her side, “Is that what who believes?” He asked. Catherine pointed to the entry and at first Winslow backed away telling her, “We shouldn’t be reading what ever he’s written it’s a private journal. Shame on you Catherine!”
“Yes, yes you’re right, but I have to tell you this, Vincent thinks I married Elliot it says so here in black and white. Winslow, if that’s so then it would answer so many questions. If Vincent believed it was me that was marrying Elliot, then I can understand his behaviour of late. I have to tell him the truth, hold on, wait I’ll be with you in a minute.” Winslow was walking back to the exit wanting nothing to do with looking into Vincent’s private things. Catherine picked up the pen again, and at the bottom of her note began writing, “Vincent, forgive me, accidentally saw the beginning of the last entry in your journal. I haven’t married Elliot, Jenny has, my friend Jenny Aronson, who you saw with Elliot at my apartment I haven’t been romantically involved with Elliot for years, please believe me. I love you. Catherine.”
That done she lay down the pen again, and placed it on top of the now closed journal. Hopefully, as soon as Vincent arrived back at the chamber he would see his desk had been disturbed and would find the note inside quickly. Hoping that he would now return to the hub Catherine began to make her way toward Winslow when she suddenly clapped a hand to her chest and cried out causing Winslow to hurry to her side, “What is it, Catherine are you ill?”
“No, but I just had the most awful palpitations its like my heart was going to jump right out of my chest.”
“We’d best get you to Father, you must be under a lot of stress, and it’s a long way down to subterranean level even if we did know where to look. Think you can walk back, or should I carry you?”
“I’ll walk, we’ll take it slow.” Even so, as they kept pace with one another with Winslow slowing down to match Catherine’s she said little, just kept a hand tight to her chest enough to scare him silly, until he didn’t ask again, just presumed she needed carrying and scoped her up into his arms. “No arguing!” He scolded, as she was about to do just that. Catherine thanked him and leaned her head against his shoulder grateful for his support all the way back to the hub.
*** *** ***
Vincent was almost running as he travelled the now familiar tunnels down to where he had first resided with Dominic, thinking as he went that Catherine must have been running to have gotten so far ahead of him and he was amazed that feeling as afraid as she did that she had continued the journey and had not returned. Surely she wasn’t alone? Vincent wondered and cursed the fact that there was no communication system so far down. His only quirk of humour coming from the memory of Mouse suggesting they used homing pigeons for the lower levels. He had laughed at the time, thinking it another of Mouse’s ridiculous ideas but now he wasn’t so sure, and if he ever returned to the hub he would put forth such a suggestion to the council.
It took him all of three hours at a steady pace before he reached the cave where he had gone to die all those months ago. It seemed laughable to him now, no ridiculous that he should ever have been in such a state that he had contemplated allowing the fury he had felt from Paracelsus’ lies to have brought him to that and to think that Parcelsus had told him some truth after all, that he was in fact that man’s son. Vincvent preferred not to think about that, considering himself the son of Jacob Wells was far preferable to the alternative. Never did he wish to be associated to the evil Paracelsus, though he was surprised to find that Dominic did not share that view. Perhaps, Vincent reasoned that his brother was more like their father than he had assumed, and that thought led him to wondering if Catherine had been right to assume that Dominic had snatched her baby. It still didn’t make sense though, why would Dominic want the child of Catherine and Elliot Burch? Vincent stopped walking his mouth dropping open, as he realised that had been the first time he had attributed the name Burch to Catherine as well as Elliot. It had come naturally too, had he so readily accepted Catherine as Elliot’s wife?
Turning into the area of the cave some few minutes later, Vincent saw that nothing had altered, the gaping hole blown between the cave and the chamber beyond still remained, but both were empty. Even so Vincent sensed that Catherine was close by if the thudding of the heart alongside his was anything to go by. Cautiously he stepped through the cave and the chamber beyond and picking his way over scattered rocks walked through the area where he knew Dominic had probably gone, and to his surprise moments later the sound of a baby crying and his brother’s raised voice alerted him to their whereabouts. They saw one another at the same moment, calling out one another’s name, Vincent questioning his brother’s motive for having the child, Dominic delighted at seeing his brother appear. “Vincent! How wonderful! How did you know I was here?” Vincent looked all around, though the bond told him that Catherine was close he could see her nowhere and something cautioned him not to enlighten his brother that she was in the vicinity. No doubt being so close she would well see what was happening and know that he would be helping to bring her baby home.
“Any good with babies Vincent? I can’t shut this little shit up.” Vincent recoiled stunned that Dominic should refer to a child like that and he hurried to take the baby from his arms. Catherine was closer now, he could feel her and turning was surprised when he didn’t see her behind him. “Is someone with you?” Dominic asked peering over his brother’s shoulder.
“No, I came alone. Here give the child to me.” Dominic handed the screaming baby to Vincent thankfully relinquishing his hold over the child. He had been ready to knock it on the head prior to his brother’s arrival the baby had done nothing but cry for the past six hours!
Yet even with his back to Vincent, the moment he felt those two strong hands slip around him the baby instantly quietened, and not only that but deep inside Vincent felt the shift in mood from the mad erratic staccato of moments earlier to a peaceful wave of bliss as the baby relaxed against him. “Hello,” Vincent soothed into the baby’s ear, still not turning him round, “There, there,” he cooed softly, “You’re safe, you’re safe now.”
Dominic was stunned, “You’re a born father Vincent and that’s the first time you’ve held him isn’t it?”
“Yes.” As the baby began to coo softly in Vincent’s arms he shifted him from the crook of one arm turning him with the other and almost dropped the baby in stunned surprise. “Whose baby is this!” He cried with eyes wide. Dominic who had expected that to happen at any moment replied with glee, “Why yours of course.”
“Mine!” A huge lump of spittle lodged in Vincent’s throat and he almost choked on it, finally uttering a strained “mine” with utter disbelief.
“She never told you did she?” Dominic moved around the chamber, “Why do you think she held back something as important as the fact that you had a son, Vincent? Was she so obsessed with that other man?” He played his game for all he was worth. Vincent could find absolutely nothing to say, neither could he take his eyes from the tiny leonine face of the child he held in his arms.
‘His son? His child? Was it possible?” Awestruck he walked to the nearest chair and sat staring down at the tiny china blue eyes so reminiscent of his own, a true reflection of himself in the child in his arms, and knew that no mirror ever lied. But why hadn’t Catherine told him? Was she so ashamed that she had borne such a child into the world? And what of Elliot, what did he think? Surely he had seen the baby? Was that why Catherine visited the tunnels so often, did she keep the child below?
A fierce rush of love swamped Vincent coming from nowhere and he kissed the child’s soft downy head, a head where a soft fuzz of tawny hair was beginning to sprout. His son…his son…tears filled Vincent’s eyes…yet, yet…how could it be…this child would have to have been born within six months to have been his and that was impossible. Looking up he caught his brother staring at him, “Are you certain it is my child?” He had to know, “Or is he yours? You could produce such a child as well as me?”
“Yes I suppose I could, but this is most definitely Catherine’s child, and as beautiful as I find her I regret to say that she and I have never been that close, however I know that the two of you have. I would have told you had you not remembered. That first time in the cave I was alerted by the sounds of…well you know…unmistakable sounds and upon investigating I found to my surprise the two of you…well you know…and I admit to being fascinated enough to watch because my dear brother that was the very first time in all of my life that I had clapped eyes on you.”
Embarrassed Vincent hid behind a curtain of hair, hair that delighted his child as it tumbled over the baby’s face and tickled his cheeks and caused the baby to chuckle softly. Vincent smiled tugging his hair back from the tiny fist that had wound it round and round his hand and bent to kiss the baby’s nose. “I can’t believe it, Dominic.”
“Well its true. Now what are we going to do about it?” Dominic asked.
“What do you mean?” Vincent looked up at his brother.
“I knew Catherine was never going to tell you about your son, and with you away from the hub you played right into her hands. And now she plans to keep the baby above at a house that Elliot Burch is having built with access to the tunnels. But I was one step ahead of her Vincent, I took the baby from her while she was at the wedding and brought him down here, where I hoped that you would reside with me and your son, just as it should be, huh?”
Put that way Vincent could do little but agree, all the same Catherine would know, she was close…or was she? Suddenly Vincent made another startling discovery…the bond that he had assumed to be connected with Catherine…was in actual fact connected to his son! Vincent gasped, ‘now I know you are my son’ he told the baby cuddling him close. Dominic smiled happily, “So what do you think then? Will you and the little one stay here with me? Catherine doesn’t want him, all she wants is the glittering lifestyle of the world she has always known, and besides she will soon have another child to take his place.” Vincent had forgotten about that…and his mind galloped ahead, what if that child too was his? The gestation period bothered him no more, somehow Catherine had borne his son within six months of conception so it was possible the same could be true of the second child unless…wait…what had Narcissa ranted? Catherine would marry her baby’s father. Then that must be it. The second child must be Elliot’s and that was why she had married him and left her first baby in the tunnels. Thank God for Dominic! Vincent smiled at his brother, “I owe you so much.” He told him, “Of course I will stay here with you and my son will stay also. But Catherine is looking for him and no doubt search parties have been assigned to help, we should go somewhere else, somewhere where they won’t find us.”
“I know just the place.” Dominic told him happily. All his plans were coming to a glorious conclusion, his father would be more than proud of him. “Follow me.”
Carefully standing, Vincent tucked his son safely in the crook of one arm and without a doubt in the world or a thought to anyone and least of all to Catherine he followed his brother to wherever he might lead.
*** *** ***
Straightening Father shook his head, the stethoscope dangling from his neck and announced, “Nothing is wrong Catherine. Your heart is as sound as any young person’s should be. Beating a little faster than normal but that is to be expected, but nothing more.” Catherine continued to clutch at her chest her eyes wild with anxiety, “But Father I can feel it pounding. I can hardly hear myself think for the sound in my ears.”
“Let me listen.” Mary rose and taking the stethoscope from Father leaned in to listen to Catherine’s heart. It was just as Father had said, steady, a little fast but nothing out of the ordinary. But as an added precaution Mary also checked Catherine’s pulse at her wrist and found just the same steady heart beat. She shook her head, “Normal Catherine. Just as Father says.”
“But it can’t be! It feels as though my heart is going to jump clean out of my chest!” Catherine wailed then taking the stethoscope from Mary asked, “Can I listen to my own heartbeat?”
“Yes, yes you can. Might sound like it has an echo, but yes most certainly it will show you the normality of your heartbeat.” Father told her. He was concerned and was beginning to wonder if Catherine might have an ear infection that could be causing her to mistake the thudding for her heartbeat.
Listening to her own heart Catherine could hear that it was as Father and Mary had said, but she told them, “This is ridiculous. I can hear my heart quietly beating while inside its hammering ten to the dozen. Are palpitations the same Father can they be detected with a stethoscope too?”
“Yes usually, Catherine perhaps I should look at your ears you might have an infection.” Father reached for the appropriate apparatus inside his small black bag when Catherine suddenly announced, “It’s stopped! Ha, amazing, it’s stopped just like that.” Slowly she took her hand from her chest her eyes twinkling with relief, “That was so weird, whatever was it?”
“Maybe you share a connection with your son.” The words were spoken softly and half hearted from Winslow who had been observing from the other side of the chamber, but even so what he said had everyone stopping whatever they were doing in their tracks and staring at him.
Finally Father spoke, “That might be a possibility. Catherine didn’t you say that little Vincent knew your feelings?”
“Yes but…you don’t seriously think I can feel his too?”
“Well why not? It never developed properly between you and Vincent because he blocked it most of the time, but the baby wouldn’t know how to do that, or even know that it is a gift that few people have. Catherine imagine its possibility, can you still feel it?”
Closing her eyes Catherine dwelt within herself and with a smile lighting her face and her eyes still closed she nodded, “Yes, its there, just faintly above that of my own, but its there.” Her eyes opened wide with incredulity and she laughed, “Oh Father, I have a bond with my son! Now I can find him wherever he is! Father…I can find him…Winslow thank you so much…oh thank you so much!”
*** *** ***
Deep inside the bowels of the earth to a place even Vincent on his wild escapades with Devin had never discovered Dominic took him. It was a journey to the ends of the earth, and miles and miles from the hub. Not only that it was damp and cold and Vincent feared for his son’s safety. “Dominic we can’t live here.” Vincent told his brother as they kept pace one behind the other. Green luminous lichen grew on the wet rock walls, and there were puddles where fissures had overflowed upon the floor.
“Its not so bad where we are going, and it doesn’t have to be forever, just until the search parties give us up as lost. Don’t worry roughing it awhile never hurt anyone.”
“It would hurt my son.” Vincent told him, the baby’s breathing already concerned him it sounded strained and the air was terribly thin like that found at the top of mountains but worse since it was filled with the spores of the lichen they loosened as they passed through the narrow rock tunnels.
“Then what do you suggest?” Dominic turned in the narrow tunnel causing more flaking lichen to fall and dance around them. Vincent covered his son’s face with the shawl, thus protecting his tiny lungs. “There has to be a better way than this. What are we running from? I’m certain once Catherine knows that I know about my son she will not prevent my looking after him, especially since she leaves him at the hub anyway.”
“And what about the house that Elliot is building? Do you think it is her intention not to use those facilities? Your son will be brought up in a house Vincent, he will never know where his roots lay.”
“That is not so bad. Knowing Catherine she will see to it that my son has access to sunshine and as many things that will make his life as near normal as possible and she will bring up both her children as equal.”
“What are you suggesting?” Dominic sounded irritated.
“That we return. Perhaps to the hub, and if we do have to make such a journey again, that we do it after we have prepared a home down here for my son. When he is older and his lungs are more fully developed such a life down here might not be so threatening to his health as it is now.”
“Perhaps you’re right.” Vincent relaxed. He thought that his brother would have put up much more of a fight so intent it seemed was he to live in the bowels of the earth. “Let’s go back.” Turning Vincent now took the lead his son in his arms and Dominic was quiet saying nothing for several hundred yards. Suddenly out of the blue, Vincent felt a sharp prick in the side and top of one thigh and assuming he had brushed too close to the sharp rock wall thought little of it but to say ‘ouch’. A little later a tiredness stole over him that made him stumble and Dominic quick at hand made a grab for the baby, “Careful Vincent, here let me take him, maybe he’s heavier than you think.” Vincent relinquished his hold on his son and brushed a hand across his eyes, “I do feel strange, must be the air…and then reaching out to rub the area where he thought he had hurt himself and he asked his brother in shocked disbelief, “You didn’t…Dominic, you didn’t…” His words were slurred and difficult to say, his tongue feeling thick in a dry mouth.
“Sorry Vincent. But you wouldn’t come with me. I thought that you, the baby and I could live quite happily in our father’s world, but it seems I was wrong. You’ll wake in a few hours don’t worry, but by then your son and I will be long gone. Don’t waste time trying to find us Vincent, where I’m going we will never be found!” Vincent tried to make a grab for his son as Dominic turned to head back the way they had gone, but disorientated and falling at an alarming rate Vincent’s hands met and slithered down the wet lichen clad walls, and though he struggled to stay awake his eyelids closed over drugged blue eyes and he fell as dead to the puddle tunnel floor, the water oozing into his clothing being the last thing that he would feel until Catherine’s hands roused him several hours later.
*** *** ***
To be continued in chapter nineteen