And So It Begins...

Chapter Nineteen

“Vincent! Vincent!” Catherine shook the father of her child as hard as she could, with worried glances in Winslow’s direction, “He’s not dead is he? Winslow tell me he isn’t dead!”

Winslow dropped to his knees beside the sleeping man and sought his wrist for a pulse, “No, he’s alive, Vincent!” He shook his friend hard and Catherine yelled in his ear, “VINCENT! WAKE UP!” And shook him violently. Groggily Vincent moaned and Catherine sighed for despite what Winslow had said she had doubted. “What happened Vincent?”

Vincent tried to remember. He ached everywhere and his mouth felt like sandpaper, and his head! Oh his head ached worse than all the headaches he had ever had put together.

“Try to remember!” Catherine wailed, “Did you see Dominic?”

Who was Dominic? Vincent couldn’t remember anything, “Who?”

“Dominic, your brother. Did you see him?” Catherine yelled at the top of her voice. Vincent clapped his hands to his ears and winced and Catherine quietened down sensing his pain. “Sorry, but have you seen him? Did he do this to you?”

“Leave him Cathy. “ Winslow advised, “He’s not come round properly yet. Here old friend have some water.” He placed a flask to Vincent’s lips and watched him drink thirstily the refreshment bringing an instant turn about for Vincent who sat up almost immediately feeling much better.

“Dominic yes, I saw him. He has my son!” Catherine gasped her eyes lighting with jubilation, Vincent knew!

Struggling to stand, Vincent’s eyes opened wide when he realised that Catherine was beside him, “Catherine! Why didn’t you tell me?” The accusation was there immediately, but before she could make an angry retort Winslow pulled her away, “No time for arguments, we have a baby to find. Which way did Dominic go Vincent do you know?”

“Winslow’s right, there’ll be time for explanations later,” Catherine told Vincent, he swayed a little and she caught his arm, “Do you feel capable of coming with us?”

“Yes, yes don’t worry about me, I will be alright as soon as the drug wears off. Besides I can lead you to where my… Our…son is. We share a bond.”

“So do we! That is so do I with our son, Vincent, only it’s a bit erratic and I need you to help me understand how to control it.” Vincent was stunned “You share a bond with the baby?”

“Yes, I have only just recognised it for what it is, but yes certainly otherwise how would I have known to come down this far?”

Vincent nodded accepting it was so, “It is hard to control but you will learn how to direct it so that it does not drive you crazy.” He smiled then remembering another time, a time that seemed years ago now. Catherine smiled too remembering a similar time and because they were on the same wavelength remarked, “Guess I caused you more strife than you needed at times.”

Vincent chuckled, “Guess you did.”

“Do you still have a connection with me?” Catherine asked as they fell in step one a little behind the other as the tunnel allowed.

“I thought I did, but no it never returned. Perhaps its impossible to have with anymore than one person at a time.”

“Oh yes just imagine!” Catherine laughed out loud, “It would drive you insane.”

“One connection already did that.” Vincent responded dryly, and Catherine was silent for a moment before reaching forward and grasping his arm, “Vincent stop.” Winslow detecting they needed privacy walked on ahead a few yards just out of earshot and waited for them there.

“What is it Catherine? We can talk all we like when our son is found.” He reminded her unwilling to discuss too many painful things at that moment. It was nice enough just talking simply as they were, he didn’t want anything complicated to come up, didn’t think he could stand that right now, on top of worrying about his son.

“Perhaps you’re right.” Catherine let go of his arm and with a deep sigh told him, “Alright let’s go.” But she was surprised when Vincent reached for her hand and tucked it back in the crook of his arm where she had rested it moments before. Catherine smiled up at him, the look of thanks in her eyes it was beginning to feel just like old times.

They walked that way in companionship for some time the descent getting more and more complicated with sharp rocks and lack of light. Winslow led the way with his lamp and the light illuminated the two following just enough to show them the path they were on.

“Catherine?” Vincent questioned after perhaps twenty minutes of silence.

“Yes Vincent?”

“How long did your pregnancy last?”

Catherine smiled, for someone that wanted to talk about things later it was obvious that Vincent did have burning questions after all. “A little longer than six months, twenty nine weeks in fact, or thereabouts, I don’t think I actually made it to the twenty ninth. Mary delivered him.”

“Mary did! But where was Father?”

“In hospital, did you hear about that?”

“Yes.” Vincent fell silent again and Catherine detected bitterness in his eyes.

“He’s old Vincent, and his sight isn’t as good as it once was. The cave was dark, the candle he carried was down to the bottom of the wick and you were in a coma so deep he could not be blamed for assuming you had died. We are all to blame, I washed you for burial and even I believed you had died.”

“You washed me!” Vincent exclaimed.

“Yes, and other things. Did you ever find the lovelock?”

“The lovelock!” The way he said it made Catherine laugh out loud, it sounded like it had given him a great deal of stress.

“I take it that’s a yes?” Catherine’s eyes danced with humour.

“You most certainly can. Catherine that lovelock gave me more sleepless nights and restless days than I can count. Why did you put it there?”

“Why? I would have thought that was obvious, Vincent. I love you.” Catherine stated simply.

Vincent wanted to believe that but found it impossible so he said nothing, instead changing the subject, or rather bringing it back to the one he had first intended. “With a gestation of six months you will deem the next one as taking forever. When is the baby due?” He had noted that she didn’t look too far gone, still as slim as ever.

Catherine stopped dead, “When is my baby due? What do you mean? I’m not pregnant now.”

“You’re not!”

A huge sigh erupted from Winslow, “Will you two give it up? We’ll never get there if we keep having to stop.” He complained.

“Sorry.” Vincent and Catherine said together and hurried after him.

“No, Vincent wherever did you get that idea?”

“Dominic told me.”

Catherine understood, “Ah he must have overheard Father and I talking.” She spoke softly remembering the day, “I did think I might be pregnant after you and I…well you know…” she whispered to him, “made love a second time, but I wasn’t. Dominic obviously never waited long enough to find out the results before telling you.”

“Then I don’t understand.” Vincent stopped again and ignored the exasperated sounds coming from Winslow. “Why did you marry Elliot if you weren’t expecting a baby?”

Despite the ridiculousness of such a question and because she had already been forewarned of it, Catherine burst into laughter, “My has your brother got a lot to answer for, Vincent! I haven’t married Elliot, I’m a free single unmarried mother of one child.”

Speaking as though from afar Vincent reiterated, “You haven’t married Elliot, but then who did?”

“Jenny. You know my friend Jenny Aronson, the one you saw him with at my apartment one night. I was chief bridesmaid at their wedding yesterday.”

Vincent’s jaw dropped a mile but he said nothing. Catherine with a sweet smile hitched it back into place with one finger and taking a liberty she hoped he would not mind because simply she could not resist she followed her finger with a kiss to his chin. “Have you got that now, Vincent?” She asked happily. He detected the humour in her tone and for the first time in a long time, slipped one arm around her waist, “It seems I have been misled about many things, as you say my brother has a lot to answer for.” He told her unhappily.

“We can’t blame him really, when I think of the life he endured…” Catherine told him gently, “and I don’t think he will harm little Vincent will he?”

At the mention of his son’s name Vincent smiled heartily, “Whose suggestion was that, his name I mean?”

“Father’s. I had intended to call him Jacob. Well that’s not strictly true, I gave him the name Vincent Jacob and had intended to call him whichever of the two was appropriate depending on whether you were dead or alive, but father insisted that whatever was so I should name him after his father, just as he had done with his son…” Catherine gasped, “Oops forget I said that, I promised not to tell.” She blushed hotly, but Vincent smelling a good story told her, “You’ve already said too much, and I shall only nag you till you spill, so it may as well be now.” He chuckled holding her back and despairing Winslow further when he noticed they were stalling again.

“Promise you’ll tell no one and that you will never mention it to Father?” Catherine asked dubiously.

“I promise.” Vincent’s blue eyes were looking at her so appealingly Catherine almost forgot what she was supposed to be telling him.

“Father’s mother wanted to call him Devin but his father disagreed and had him registered as Jacob, but his mother continued to call him Devin anyway, hence the reason Father insisted that Grace called Devin by that name.”

“I never knew that and it would have gone a long way with Devin toward making amends would have made him feel wanted and that his father cared about him. I wonder why Father doesn’t want anyone to know, it doesn’t sound so important.”

“I don’t know, but we shouldn’t mention it. Maybe he has some dark secret under using that name, whatever it’s his business Vincent, promise me you will say nothing to him?” Catherine’s eyes welled with anxiety and Vincent promised he would never mention it.

“Thank you Vincent.” They smiled at one another a long moment knowing that things that had been between them for a long time were slowly being erased, even so Catherine gasped in stunned surprise when Vincent told her, “I love you, Catherine.”

“And I love you!”

“Oh give me strength!” Winslow barked from yards away, “any minute now you two are going to be a condoling and we ain’t ever gonna get this show on the road.” He came back and tapped them both of their heads, “Hello, have you both forgotten what mission we are on?”

“No.” The pair sounded despondent, they hadn’t forgotten as if they could, but making steady progress in the direction they knew their son to be and not being able to travel too much faster because of the terrain they didn’t feel they had been doing anything wrong by talking along the way, and then of course there was the bond they each shared with the baby. It told them he was well and reasonably happy, and perhaps sleeping. Winslow of course did not know this, and the seemingly uncaring way the parents were acting concerned him silly and he was naturally cross that they weren’t rushing at full pelt below to find their son as he thought they ought to be doing.

“We’re coming now.” Catherine told him seriously, “I think we’ve done with establishing the facts, Vincent?” She queried looking up at the love of her life.

“Yes, sorry Winslow, lead the way. When we are close I will tell you and we must discuss a plan to get our son away from Dominic.”

“I could strangle him for you.” Winslow suggested, “Get rid of him like you got rid of his old man.” Winslow refused to believe that Vincent came out of the same mould as Dominic or that he was the son of Paracelsus.

“No.” Vincent replied. Catherine had wondered about that, she had to admit. Father and Mary she knew had both reached the conclusion that with someone like Dominic in their midst the next generation was in for as rough a ride as those that had Paracelsus to contend with. Even so she shared Vincent’s view, whatever his ability and sanity Dominic was still Vincent’s brother.

“Everyone always assumes that the bad guy has to die.” Catherine told Winslow, “But there are other ways. If Dominic can’t be made to dismiss this idea of balancing what his father lost with the aid of our son, then maybe he can be persuaded to live above so that he is no threat to the tunnels and so that living down here doesn’t send him as crazy as his father.”

Vincent agreed and added, “Catherine’s right and I strongly believe that all Dominic needs is family, and he might listen to reason that as long as we promise to allow him visits and accept him for what he is, he will cause us no further harm. I got to know him quite well, and he does have his moments, but like you say Catherine, much of it is due to the way he was forced to live with Paracelsus. No doubt he was told as many lies as I.”

“Its hard to feel sorry for him when he has our son, but I still find that I think that way. Your life was so limited Vincent, yet Dominic seems to have had it even worse. You should have seen him when he was up top with me, he was like a child let loose in a candy store and yesterday at the wedding, several young ladies asked about him. It would take no time at all for him to find a partner believe me.”

Vincent nodded, “Then we must try and make him understand that he has a life beyond kidnapping our son and trying to balance what his father lost, it might be difficult but I think at heart Dominic is a good man.”

“He might need some counselling, but that would be difficult to arrange with someone up top. If there are any helpers that could talk to him it would do him the world of good. Of course, we can’t really say anything until we see how he behaves when we find him. He might have pulled the wool over all our eyes.” Catherine shuddered, she hoped not and she also hoped that Dominic would not harm their son, she was banking on any compassion he did have for that to be so.

“Well seems like we have reached a dead end.” Winslow reached around the rock face in front of him and searching for any tell tale signs of a hidden switch or doorway and finding nothing asked them. “Any clues anyone?”

Vincent looked up, “Yes, there!” Above them a gaping hole in the tunnel revealed the way to go, but it was along way up and their minds boggled at how Dominic had managed to climb into the vertical shaft with a baby in his arms when suddenly Catherine and Vincent realised at the precise same moment that hadn’t been so. “Vincent…I can feel him again. He’s upset.”

“I know Catherine. I can feel him too, and he’s not up there. He’s down here.” Yet looking down gave them nothing but the puddle floor at their feet. “Its impossible!” Vincent stamped into the puddle, “How can our son be beneath us when there is no way to get down there?”

“Another of Dominic’s tricks of illusion?” Catherine suggested.

“Has to be. But how do we work through it this time?”

“Well as we can only go up, then that’s what we should do.” Winslow barked, “Here lassie stand on my shoulders and I’ll hoist you up.” It seemed an easy enough thing to do and Catherine started to comply when Vincent stopped her and with a finger to his lips summoned that they should all be quiet then whispered an alarming fact, “We’ve been too complacent about this, assuming that we can track our son with the aid of the bond, Catherine we forgot about one other very important factor.”

“What’s that, Vincent?” Catherine wasn’t sure that she wanted to know.

“Dominic had me believe that he didn’t possess the gift but I believe he lied. Catherine, Winslow, I think Dominic shares a connection with me and he has been misleading us all along. He knows that we are here, and he knows that I share a connection with our son. Catherine, Winslow, if our son is to be rescued the pair of you must go on alone without me, otherwise Dominic will continue to run rings around us.”

Having started out the journey believing it may all be down to her anyway, Catherine surprised Vincent when she replied, “Then so be it, I am not afraid. If I have to fight the very devil himself I will bring our son back home with me. Wait here Vincent,” she whispered, “Let Dominic assume that he has foxed your way and that you have given up for now, and Winslow and I will find our baby and bring him back to you.”

“Then be careful Catherine. I believe that Dominic has the baby close but they are not together, and Dominic will not be expecting you to be able to find him.”

“I know. Don’t worry my love I will be careful. Winslow, will you lend me your shoulder please?”

Needing no second asking, Winslow knelt down, and Vincent watched as he hoisted Catherine up into the shaft before helping Winslow follow her into the tunnel above. It seemed awfully quiet once they had gone and now in total darkness Vincent had to wait until his eyes adjusted to let him see with night vision the rock that was all around. It felt like the grave but he knew this time that he was most definitely alive, and he thanked God for that, and the fact that he would have a second chance with Catherine. And strangely because he was so totally alone and wanted to try and focus on something else other than the matter at hand feeling so helpless as he was, he remembered something Narcissa had told him, over and over again surprised that he could forget. “Catherine will marry the father of her baby.” And Vincent gasped as he realised now exactly what she had meant, Catherine would become his wife…not Elliot’s…his wife…and his eyes closed tight with relief…because now he knew that no matter what Catherine would be safe, and their child would be returned to him…because never had he known one of Narcissa’s visions not to come true.

*** *** ***

Vincent had been right, Dominic had been able to sense his brother’s whereabouts something he had kept discreetly to himself just in case his plans backfired at some later stage, besides which it was something new to him, only making itself known when he had met his brother for the first time. And now as he walked down to the bottom of the world as he termed it, he was well aware when Vincent had regained consciousness and when he made the decision to follow one of the reasons why he had chosen the particular route with the vertical shaft at its end. Only a rope he had left there had afforded him the opportunity to scale it as leaving the baby at the foot of the shaft he had climbed up dropped down a second rope, swung himself back down on the first and after tying the handles of little Vincent’s safety harness to the rope had re-climbed and hoisted the baby up through the shaft after ward. And then he had pulled both ropes from the shaft making it difficult for anyone to follow him. Once he was satisfied he had made the journey to his designated spot and coming to a similar shaft beyond that of the closed tunnel had done everything again in reverse so that he now continued his journey believing that Vincent would take some time to catch up with him since he would have to scale the vertical shaft without a safety rope and that would be so precarious it would take skill and time.

It was a shame that his brother hadn’t been trusted at the end, Dominic would have liked for Vincent and the baby to remain together, not only because Vincent could quieten the child but because he simply wanted them all to live together as family. But as soon as Vincent had begun to have doubts Dominic had known that it was never going to work, it was just a pity that Vincent had to ask questions…Catherine this, Catherine that…Dominic couldn’t stand any more of that. If only his brother had continued to believe that Catherine had married Elliot and that was that, and her motives and reasons for not telling him about being the baby’s father were better off left with her. But no, Vincent had to have answers, and answers caused problems. Dominic may have acted rashly but in his opinion it was often the best policy. Questions were trouble as far as he was concerned.

The world below, further than any tunnel resident had ever gone, was dark and dismal, no place for a baby but Dominic wasn’t so stupid that he didn’t know that. The pretence of taking the child to live below was just that, a ruse to have the tunnel dwellers keep looking below, when all the time he had taken the baby to live above, in a brownstone similar to that of Catherine’s and actually not so far from where she lived. It was a house where his father had resided and a house where Dominic had spent much of his life. He had even been above, had even eaten hamburgers and had even attended a wedding or two but the one thing he had never been able to get at was his father’s money, since he had no legal documents attaining to his birth and no way of obtaining any. Catherine, bless her had done more for him from a kind gesture than anyone had ever done for him for now he was rich, rich enough not to have to seek work to pay his way, and certainly rich enough to look after a baby, although there would be times when he would have to leave the child alone while he went for supplies. They would be unfortunate times, but necessary, since Dominic did not know yet whom he could trust with the child’s differences. That’s where Vincent would have been worth his weight in gold, but what was done was done, and Dominic did not dwell for long on what might have been.

Thinking of Vincent though, Dominic wondered if his brother might be instilling some kind of calm into his son. Ever since he had left his brother behind the baby had been less fidgety and quieter, and apart from one burst of crying had remained relatively calm though how he had responded to his father’s unconscious state beat Dominic, but he didn’t dwell on the reason he would not know that Catherine was also instilling calm into her child as any concerned parent would if that gift were made available to them. Whatever the ability, Dominic was grateful for it, since he had been at his wits end and had almost given up his plans when the baby had cried non stop for six hours. Brooke had said he’d been fed and changed but Dominic had no way of knowing how long such things lasted even so he was well aware that by now some ten hours later the child should soon be creating for food or at least a diaper change but he was so quiet one would never believe so. “You’re one strange kid I give you that.” Dominic told the baby who had been awake and alert for some time. Dominic marvelled at the child’s leonine looks, and decided it would be wonderful watching the baby grow. He would see in him all he had missed with his brother. “Perhaps I should have waited for the other child to be born and taken you together, you would have had company. Still all is not lost there is nothing to stop me trying to snatch that one too when the time comes. You would like that wouldn’t you little one, having someone to grow up with. Such pleasures were denied me, and believe me I know what it is to be lonely I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

The baby gurgled happily, this person was not unlike the one he was connected to and little Vincent felt safe with Dominic now that his father so obviously trusted him.

“Well we have reached the end of the road little Vincent.” Dominic paused looking back up at a series of shafts that he knew they would have to climb, or he would have to climb and the baby would either have to be hauled up level by level or when space aloud for it he could be strapped to Dominic’s back. “This is the vault, few people have seen this part of the subterranean world, see…” he held the baby up to view the shafts that were aligned one after the other up and up until the reached just beneath the street where the brownstone was situated. “I once slipped down the ropes all the way from the top in just under thirty minutes.” Dominic told the cooing baby. “Smart huh? It’s taken us ten hours to get down here the hard way. Do you think your father might be tired by now? I can certainly sense his frustration.” Dominic chuckled, “By the time he gets here and finds that he has to climb all the way up again without the aid of ropes he’ll be exhausted just thinking about it. Oh well not to worry, that’s his problem, he had his chance. Now, you just hold tight while I do a bit of climbing and we’ll soon have you up top where you can have something to eat, you must be hungry even though you are showing no signs of it. What a marvellous thing the bond is.”

*** *** ***

Vincent was indeed frustrated, but not from chasing his brother. Still where Catherine and Winslow had left him he paced the small area to keep warm and wondered how much longer they might be. Dominic was taking his child so far away and Vincent wanted to be off and after him but dare not. Everything was down to Catherine now, who with Winslow’s help could provide the perfect element of surprise. Even so it was frustrating waiting the only consolation to that being that Dominic would feel that emotion and derive anything he liked from it but Vincent hoped Catherine would hurry up the darkness had afforded him a great opportunity to know what to do about their relationship and he was eager for Catherine’s return. Because of his stupidity they had wasted too much time already, and Vincent wanted to waste no more. And so as he waited he kept telling himself, ‘this time tomorrow all will be well…this time tomorrow our son will be back with Catherine and I…this time tomorrow…all manner of things about the next day, thus living for that perfect moment got Vincent through the next few lonely hours as he daydreamed all the perfect things he and Catherine would achieve together, with the icing on the cake making true Narcissa’s vision…’Catherine will marry the father of her child.’

*** *** ***

To be concluded in Chapter Twenty