And So It Begins...
The first thing Jamie noticed about Mouse’s return was how quiet he was and that wasn’t unusual in itself since Mouse was often quiet when concentrating on the workings of his next gizmo, but generally after a trip to the lower levels he had something to chat about. She’d met him coming up to the main hub and it had been his disposition, she had to admit that had alerted her to his arrival. Mouse had a certain way of walking, but that seemed disjointed somehow and he kept stopping to look back the way he had come almost as if someone was with him and he were waiting for them to catch him up. In fact so much so, that when Jamie first approached him she stood looking back too expecting someone to appear at any moment. “What is it, Mouse?” She asked at length, “Is someone following you?”
Wide-eyed Mouse stared at her then strangely he said, “nothing.” Something Jamie couldn’t work out, it was not an answer and she told him so adding, “Then have you lost something?”
“Vincent.” Was all he replied and Jamie reacted to the all too familiar stab of pain that name brought about these days. “Vincent?” she reiterated, “What do you mean, Vincent?”
Mouse shrugged, walked a few paces forward, stopped, returned and looked back the way he had come. Jamie found his behaviour very odd to say the least but as she was unlikely to get anything concrete out of him she had to let it be. Still she made a mental note to mention it to Father for Mouse was obviously freaked at something and he was definitely not himself.
They walked together, strangely in silence back through the labyrinth of tunnels until Mouse turned a corner and headed toward his chamber. Jamie watched him go. He hadn’t even said goodbye. That something bothered him worried Jamie. Mouse was so full of life always ready to talk and often tiresomely so. Without further ado, Jamie made her way to Father’s chamber.
He was there, with Mary the two of them spending a quiet time together, Father was reading and Mary was sewing. Both looked up when Jamie’s footsteps sounded on the stairs leading down into the chamber from the tunnel above. The troubled expression on her face worried Father and he was up immediately, walking toward her believing her about to impart some devastating news, “What is it, Jamie? Something’s wrong?” He asked reaching her as she walked into the centre of the chamber and straight away she set to put his troubled mind at ease by saying “No problems, don’t worry.” Father relaxed, “That’s a relief then. So why the long face? Something troubles you does it not, my dear?”
“Yes, its Mouse.”
“Mouse? I thought he was away visiting the lower levels.” Father couldn’t yet bring himself to say Vincent’s grave.
“He was, but he’s returned. We walked the last part of the journey home together, but strangely he is very quiet, and he kept looking back the way he had come as if he expected someone to be following him.”
Father was most concerned, “And how did he appear in general?”
“Subdued, bewildered even. Almost as if whatever he was waiting for would be a shock if it arrived. I don’t know what to make of it Father.”
“Well we know Mouse, and that he won’t be likely to tell anyone anything until he feels ready to do so but we can’t presume that someone was following him without checking first. Jamie, do you think that you and a couple of the community could back track on Mouse’s journey and find out if there is anything out of the ordinary to see? If Mouse will go with you, well and good, but I doubt he’ll want to go just yet. He’s probably tired. In fact, that could just be it. He might be exhausted. The journey below is not such a pleasant one these days, he might be mentally as well as physically taxed.” Jamie understood what Father was driving at and she nodded thoughtfully, “Still like the idea of checking though.” She told him, “I’ll see if Winslow is free, should I take my crossbow?”
Father nodded, “It would be wise, best to be forearmed.” Jamie nodded, and then bidding Mary hello and goodbye she left the chamber and went in search of a companion who would go with her back to where Mouse had been.
*** *** ***
In his chamber Mouse stared into space. Sitting at his long bench where he kept all manner of things to build with he idly stroked a chattering raccoon as it ate apples in front of him. The animal was really Mouse’s only companion, and one he could tell things to but this day he remained deadly quiet. Brows drawn together Mouse thought about that ‘person’ he had seen, the one that had helped him climb the shaft and no matter how much he tried to tell himself otherwise, Mouse was left to conclude that he had seen Vincent’s ghost. A chill ran through him, even though he told himself that it had been good of the ghost to help him up to the next level. He had been tired and Vincent’s ghost had known that. Even so, the seeing of such an apparition scared Mouse so much that he decided he never wanted to make the trip to Vincent’s grave on his own ever again. In fact perhaps never at all, because there were times of necessity when he would have to be alone to relieve himself and then the ghost might appear and he would literally do what he had gone to do even quicker.
As Arthur the raccoon devoured his meal Mouse wondered if he should mention the incident to anyone. Would they believe him? And would it do any good to tell anyone? Jamie might understand and she might not. It might frighten her, and it would certainly frighten the little ones. Therefore Mouse decided to keep it to himself, and then he turned around quickly as the hairs on the back of his neck prickled and Mouse thought he saw something, but concluded after a long moment that it was his over active imagination. Surely Vincent’s ghost would stay within the lower levels? He wouldn’t come to visit Mouse in his chamber would he? Unsure, Mouse left Arthur to his apples and went in search of company. Suddenly he didn’t want to be alone, and the raccoon was not nearly enough. So, leaving the chamber Mouse was startled when a figure loomed in front of him and he literally screamed out loud. “Mouse, what is it?” He relaxed at Jamie’s concern. “Nothing.” He told her, “Startled me.” Yet Jamie did not accept that, “I’ve never startled you before. Who did you think I was?” She asked suspiciously, then, “Mouse did you see anyone on your trip below?”
“See anyone?” Mouse stepped from foot to foot nervously, “Who?”
“I don’t know Mouse, anyone. Did you see anyone?” Jamie knew he had. She also knew it would be hard getting him to speak. Clearly he was troubled by it. Mouse shook his head and tried to brush past her, Jamie caught his arm. “Mouse, Wait! You can tell me, who did you see?” His back to her Mouse thought about it long and hard. Jamie carried her crossbow so maybe she wouldn’t be as frightened as he first thought and she was a tough lady, Father said so. “Vincent.” He told her without turning around. “I saw Vincent.”
“Vincent!” Jamie cried, “You couldn’t have. Mouse you know that Vincent is…” Jamie was unable to say the word for even thinking it filled her heart with pain, her eyes with tears.
“It was Vincent.” Mouse told her unsteadily as he turned to face her then at a whisper added, “Or Vincent’s ghost, maybe.”
Jamie gasped, “Vincent’s ghost! Oh no Mouse, no…” She shook her head backing away from him, “You must be mistaken…Vincent would never do that to us… He’d know it would scare us…you have to be mistaken.”
“It was Vincent.” Mouse reiterated. “I know him and he helped me climb.”
It wasn’t that Jamie disbelieved her friend it was just that it was too incredulous to be true. “I have to tell Father.” Jamie said thinking out loud, “He’ll know what to do.” Even as she said it she knew that would be wrong and Mouse confirmed it, “Father won’t believe you.”
“Someone then.” Jamie told him. “Mouse, Father has asked me to go back where you have just been and see if I can find out what spooked you.” Jamie chuckled, wrong choice of words, she told herself, “That is I know something frightened you. We thought someone had followed you back and Father asked me to check. I wasn’t going alone though, will you come with me?” Adamantly Mouse shook his head, his fear was apparent and Jamie drew her brows together, “But if it is Vincent, surely you would like to see him again?” She asked stupidly for it was obvious that seeing Vincent’s ‘ghost’ had scared Mouse half to death. Furiously Mouse shook his head and again tried to get away from her and once or twice he looked back warily into his chamber and Jamie asked, “He’s not been there too has he?” She peered in nervously seeing nothing but Arthur looking for some more apples.
“Don’t know, might have.” Mouse told her and this time freed himself from her grasp and was away soon out of sight. Left alone, Jamie had a strange eerie feeling drift over her, and even though she was certain that Mouse had spoken utter nonsense she couldn’t get away from the area fast enough. Running after Mouse, Jamie saw nothing of him as quick as his namesake he had vanished, but she did run into Kanin and after he had calmed her down she reluctantly told him what Mouse had just revealed. Jamie thought he would laugh, might even try to calm her jangled nerves but when he stood vacantly staring over her shoulder she was compelled to turn and look convinced he had seen something behind her. “Kanin? What is it? What’s wrong?” Slowly his focus came back to her, “You got a minute, Jamie?” His voice sounded strained and very unlike his own, Jamie nodded, and let him steer her back toward the area of the chamber he shared with his wife. Neither of them spoke, but sidelong glances up at his face revealed to Jamie a firm set jaw and a twitch to one side of his mouth that seemed to say he was nervous about something.
When they reached his chamber he ushered her inside, and seeing Olivia with Luke at the table, Jamie lay her crossbow in a safe place out of the child’s reach as she walked into the chamber and greeted the other woman. “Jamie, how nice?” Olivia exclaimed genuinely pleased to have her visit. Naturally they met often throughout the course of each day, but Jamie rarely went to their chamber. “Pour Jamie some tea will you honey?” Olivia asked her husband who was nearest to the kettle, and she was just about to start talking to the younger woman when she noticed her husband’s strange silence. “What is it, Kanin?” She enquired with concern, “Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know.” He told her and the serious note to his voice had Olivia worried at once and leaving the table she hurried to his side sending curious glances in Jamie’s direction her mind racing.
“Livvy, you remember when you took Luke to the waterfall recently…” Kanin began and Olivia faltered, her feet grinding to a halt in mid stride. Of course Jamie noticed, and being a clever young woman her mind raced ahead and she gasped…”You didn’t see him too did you?” She asked her eyes wide.
Olivia turned, caught between her husband and Jamie she was undecided who to go to first and what to say, when amazingly their young son who had been reading a book at the table looked up and said innocently, “We saw Vincent at the falls.” Before looking back at his book again as if he hadn’t just turned the world upside down.
“Is this true?” Jamie cried with disbelief.
Olivia nodded and started to speak nervously, “It looked like Vincent. I’m not sure now what it was, might even have been the way the rocks were…”
“Except Luke saw it too.” Kanin cut in then by way of explanation told Jamie, “I wasn’t there. The two of them had gone to the falls. Livvy came home in a right state.”
“When was this?” Jamie asked.
“Three days ago,” Kanin replied, “Livvy has been like a cat on hot bricks ever since. Hasn’t seemed to have hurt Luke though.”
“It might have been shadows.” Olivia told them though she did not really believe that and it came over as so.
“Or someone dressed like Vincent?” Kanin suggested. “We weren’t sure if to say anything to anyone Jamie, it seems so unreal but now that Mouse has seen him too…” Olivia jumped, “Mouse has seen him?” Her skin crawled. Jamie nodded, “He thinks its Vincent’s ghost.” She whispered for Luke’s benefit not wanting to frighten the little fellow.
Strangely Olivia accepted that, “Yes could be.” She replied calmly, “The more I think about it, the more possible that becomes. He didn’t do anything, just stood, you know like he was there, but wasn’t there. He was near the falls, I stared at him a long time convincing myself it was a trick of the water and the light when suddenly Luke called out, ‘Look its Vincent!’ Strangely the moment he said it, the apparition was gone, and though I tried to make it out for a few moments more, the rock that could be seen just did not seem to look like Vincent anymore. It was very weird. I came home from there glancing over my shoulder every few minutes too, convinced I was being followed.”
“That’s what Mouse did.” Jamie exclaimed. “Even now he’s freaked by it. He even feels that Vincent has been to his chamber.” Olivia shuddered, “As much as we all loved Vincent, I hope his spirit does not come here. I don’t think I could stand that.” She stared around wide-eyed hoping to see nothing but the usual things and relieved when she did.
“Do you think we should mention it to anyone?” Jamie asked, “I mean what if there have been other sightings? People might be afraid to talk about it.”
“I don’t know.” Kanin told her, “It’s a very delicate matter and what about Father?”
“Exactly,” Olivia cut in, “If anyone should see Vincent, why hasn’t Father? Does he know that Mouse saw Vincent?”
“No, only that Mouse acted like someone was following him back today. He’s been to visit the cave. Surely if Father knew anything he wouldn’t be asking me to check it out with my crossbow, he would naturally conclude that Mouse had seen Vincent too?” Jamie replied.
“I don’t know what to say.” Kanin told them, “Its all very creepy, but for what its worth, if Olivia doesn’t mind staying here, I’ll come below with you Jamie, maybe I can draw some light on this. When were you going?”
“Now, as in as soon as I had found a travelling companion. We won’t need to go far, just go back to where I found Mouse and a little beyond that, and see what we can see.” Jamie shrugged, “Look for footsteps I suppose. Though the way is often trod these days, there are few of us with Vincent’s shoe size. Still though do ghosts leave footprints?”
“Well we have to do something. Livvy do you mind staying here?”
Olivia wasn’t sure, not now it appeared that Vincent had visited Mouse in his chamber, and a rising panic made her announce, “Yes, but look don’t worry, you won’t be gone all day will you? So I’ll visit with Rebecca while you are gone. Luke will be able to study his books there and I can help Rebecca make some candles. It will be very therapeutic for me and I promise not to tell Rebecca anything unless it appears that she too has a similar experience to relate.”
Kanin nodded and kissing his wife, he collected his jacket as she put a few things together for her time away, and as a group they left, Jamie drawing her crossbow from its lodging place on the way out. She felt strangely at ease and wondered if they too might see Vincent’s ghost while they were gone or whether he would appear to them at another time. How did ghosts work after all, did they know when you wanted to see them? Or did they just appear and frighten one half to death? At any rate Jamie was prepared for anything, only Kanin remained quietly sceptical and more than a little frightened about what they may encounter.
*** *** ***
Above, at Catherine’s apartment, Elliot was dressing. He felt so re-charged! A good night’s sleep had worked wonders and nothing ever seemed quite so bad in the daylight. Satisfied that he was presentable, though he wished he had some clean clothes, he left the bedroom and found Catherine sitting at the table reading a daily newspaper and eating toast.
“Hi there!” She greeted him warmly, “Sleep well?”
“I did, thank you. Is there any coffee?” His eyes swept toward the kitchen as if he could see through walls.
Waving her hand in that direction, Catherine told him, “Yes, help yourself. There’s cereal or toast if you are hungry.”
“No, coffee will do, thanks.” Elliot headed to the kitchen soon re-emerging with a glass mug filled with black coffee. “Mm great.” He told her sipping the brew, “Just what the doctor ordered where would we be without coffee?” His blue eyes twinkled.
Catherine laughed, “Where would we be without a lot of things? Which reminds me, care to talk about what happened last night?” Elliot shook his head, “The least you know the better.” He fell silent and Catherine detected he wanted to ask something but dared not. She thought she understood his predicament. There had been many occasions when she had found herself in a similar situation. Being what she was and being what he was often invited the wrong kind of people and she told him, “Elliot as I’m moving out today and retaining the lease on this place, would you like to stay here awhile?”
Laughing heartily, Elliot replied, “That obvious huh?” Then, “Cathy that would be wonderful. I wouldn’t need to go to the office I could work here till the heat dies down. Only I simply must have a change of clothes.” As if to show what he meant he put his nose to his armpit and uttered “pooh”.
“Well since you are staying a few days, why don’t you wash those clothes and use a few of the garments I have around the place, only wash and leave them here when you are finished okay. Some were my father’s.” She refused to add that some had been Vincent’s too, a few items of clothing that she had purchased for him and he had slipped into after he had been caught out in the rain one or two times namely a night robe and some jeans and sweaters. Catherine didn’t want to think of Elliot wearing them, but as she wouldn’t be there, she wouldn’t see it anyway, and they might as well be used. Vincent would understand that surely, Elliot was in need.
“Thanks Cathy. I wish I were able to help you carry your stuff to your new home, but…” He shrugged and with a twinkle in her eye Catherine told him, “I know been there done that, the least that is seen of you until the heat dies down the better.” Elliot laughed, “Knew you’d understand and I owe you one Cathy, any time night or day, remember call me if you need a favour, no questions asked, okay?” In reply Catherine nodded and smiled a genuine affectionate smile, Elliot she knew, could pull strings and there might be a time when she’d need someone that could do that, and she was grateful for his offer.
They chatted a while for the rest of the morning, until Catherine’s taxi arrived. Her car was parked beneath the building but on the spur of the moment she held up the keys to Elliot, “My car is downstairs in the parking lot, the registration is on the key ring, and its on level two, you know the one, I still have it.” They laughed together remembering a time it had let them down when they had been out together and they’d been towed home. “Its been fixed now so shouldn’t let you down. If you need it feel free, I won’t be needing it where I’m going.” Mystified Elliot wanted to question her further but by the firm set of her jaw knew not to. Instead he thanked her and took the keys then knowing it was the least he could do, he took her boxes to the elevator, placed them inside, held the door until they were all in and bid Cathy goodbye. He was sad to see her go and wasn’t sure when they would meet again, “Don’t worry I’ll look after your place.” He told her as the doors were closing her off from his sight, “No wild parties or anything.”
Catherine laughed, “Feel free just stay safe, okay? Bye Elliot. Be well.” Then she was gone, her last words shut out with the closing elevator doors and leaving Elliot alone and he sighed heavily before returning to her apartment to watch her from the balcony and wonder where she was going to go. Wherever it was, he wished that she would be happy and hoped it wouldn’t be too long before he saw her again, baby or no baby, partner or no partner, Elliot would never stop loving Catherine Chandler, and that was a fact.
*** *** ***
After leaving Olivia and Luke safe with Rebecca Jamie & Kanin met up with Winslow her first choice for company and was happy when he decided to tag along. They filled him in on the way sceptically so unsure of his reaction. Neither wanted to know that he might have had some ghostly experience of his own and both were relieved to know he hadn't. All the same he was most interested to know that Vincent’s spirit still watched over them and he felt that Father would be inclined to agree. Winslow knew that Father fretted as much for the tunnel’s vulnerability without Vincent’s protection as he did for the loss of his son itself.
They walked slowly, talking quietly ears and eyes focused on their surroundings and made the falls within a few minutes. There standing beneath the ledge that Vincent favoured, they looked out across the expanse of water to where it cascaded down from an unknown source above and saw the rock that Olivia had said could have been ‘Vincent’ and knew that’s all it was, a rock. Gingerly Jamie looked above them expecting to see Vincent perched on his favourite ledge and she almost cried to find it empty. That shock as much as seeing him sitting there were almost too much for her, and she wondered if she should leave Kanin and Winslow to it and go back to the main hub. The thought was short lived however, when the two men began to walk onward leaving her little choice but to follow, besides she was the one carrying the crossbow, and they only surmised that this fellow was a ghost, it could just as easily be an intruder who looked a little like Vincent, obviously not the same as there would never be another like him, save for Catherine’s baby of course, but at that moment that was by the by.
The thought of that topic though brought questions forth and hurrying to catch up with the two men Jamie asked, “What do you think about Catherine having a baby then?” It was an innocent enough question but a sudden spattering of pebbles falling to the ground from somewhere above them had all three whirling around to see what had caused it.
Kanin looked down at the cluster of pebbles before looking up at Vincent’s ledge. From his vantage point he could see no one but it was possible someone could be up there, and he mouthed for his companions to keep vigil while he mounted the steps leading up to the ledge quietly and two at a time. His heart in his mouth he almost didn’t want to look as he reached the top step and silently cursed when a stone crunched beneath his foot and from just around the next corner he heard the distinctive sound of someone moving quickly away yet he knew it was a dead end. There was nowhere to go but up or down and that would have to be past him. Hissing to Winslow, he beckoned for the other man to watch out for anything and Jamie hitched her crossbow into place ready to fire at anything. Then slowly with heart pounding Kanin approached the ledge and paused only long enough to make a sudden charge forward hoping to scare the living daylights out of whomsoever hid there. As he lurched forward Jamie cried out, “There!” And Kanin was just in time to see a flash of black as something seemed to glide over the rocks adjacent to him and dart swiftly onto a ledge no wider than an inch up the rock face. Stock still, Kanin watched with disbelief as the black cloaked figure scrambled with tip toes along the ledge and back to them Winslow and Jamie could clearly see from their vantage point everything Kanin could see only from below except the very thing they needed, they couldn’t see who it was. “Should I fire?” Jamie wailed and Winslow shook his head clamping his hands down upon the crossbow in case she did anyway. “It might be…it might be…” Even as Winslow uttered the words he knew the stupidity of saying them, and if it was Vincent’s ghost did they really want to see the shot go straight through him?
In seconds the figure had escaped them and dropping down from the ledge they watched him duck around the waterfall near the rock where Olivia had seen him, and then in that split second, whether by some miracle or possibly the wind the hood of the figure’s cloak fell back and revealed to them a head of long flowing tawny hair just before he disappeared from sight!
Winslow, Kanin and Jamie gasped, whoever it was did look like Vincent, but it couldn’t be him nor his ghost, for dead or alive there would be no way Vincent would run from them, no way at all, for why would Vincent be afraid to be seen? Of like mind all spoke at once, almost the same thing, “We have to follow him, might not get another chance this good.” And the three started to run, using the stepping stones positioned across the river by Vincent himself concentrating on their balance and using each other as props as they splashed through the water trying not to fall in. Once across to the other side, they took up pursuit. Jamie only stopped to tap out a quick message on the pipes, ‘Seen intruder we’re going down.’ Knowing that would suffice and put the community on alert and then she scrambled after her friends hoping that they had gone in the direction that she intended to go.
*** *** ***
Back at the main hub someone else was arriving and Father welcomed her with open arms, “Catherine…how wonderful it is to have you with us at long last. Mary has prepared the guest chamber, would you like to rest there now, or stay awhile and chat with me?”
Detecting that he hoped for the latter Catherine smiled, “Stay here,” she told him then kissing his brow took up Vincent’s chair alongside him and they spoke together, “So how have you been?” and laughed at the same question. “You first,” Father beckoned and with a deep sigh Catherine told him, “I’ve felt better.” Father nodded, “Yes I know, me too. Catherine I want you to know that we will make your stay here as pleasant as possible, and I for one will try not to interfere with any decision you make regarding the child. If you wish to remain with us all your days it will be entirely up to you.”
“Thank you Father I…” Whatever Catherine was about to say was forgotten as Jamie’s message was relayed to them via Pascal, “Alert, alert! Intruder in tunnels, Jamie, Kanin and Winslow in pursuit.” Immediately, Father stood up hobbled to the nearest pipe and chimed in with “Be vigilant stay near hub, no one be alone.” Followed by a second message asking the council members to come along to his chamber. “Should I go to the guest chamber after all?” Catherine asked unsure of what to do. Father shook his head, “No stay here where I can keep an eye on you, besides we have discussed that you should take Vincent’s place on the council and would be honoured if you would accept?”
Surprised, Catherine readily agreed, “I’d like that, thank you.” She had wondered what her position might be in the tunnels, and council member she knew was an important one, she was happy to have been selected.
Very soon the rest of the committee had arrived and they began the usual preparations to track down and dispose of an intruder, Catherine added input when she deemed it appropriate and tried not to hinder the operation with unnecessary observations and everything went along rather well she thought until suddenly from the doorway Kanin and Winslow rushed in both shouting loudly and stunning everyone into silence.
“What did you say?” Father asked as they reached his desk out of breath and red faced, “Jamie is missing.” Winslow told him, “Must have gone a different way. And there’s someone down there Father, someone that looks like…” He stopped dead, this was going to sound ridiculous but he had no choice.
“Yes, looks like who?” Exasperated at being made to guess at a time like this Father sounded angry then gasped and staggered forward at Winslow’s sudden reply.
“It looks like Vincent.”
Catherine paled before his gaze, “That’s impossible.” She told no one in particular. Winslow turned genuinely surprised to hear her voice, and spoke apologetically. “I’m sorry Catherine, I didn’t know you were with us.”
“Well it can’t be Vincent! Besides no one else has seen him.” Father snapped crossly. Winslow and Kanin had to have been mistaken even so his heart had lurched at the possibility, until he remembered that he had pronounced his son dead, had seen him with his own eyes, had buried him, encased his tomb with marble, his son was dead, and so if it was really Vincent then there was only one other explanation. Racing ahead Catherine’s mind reached the same conclusion but it was little Luke that actually spoke the words. Hitched upon his mother’s hip he frightened everyone almost to death when he announced innocently “We’ve seen him. Vincent’s a ghost now.”
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Six.