And So It Begins...
Warning - this chapter contains explicit adult material
When Dominic went to check on Jamie he was surprised to find that Vincent had trashed his chamber and that his brother sat head in hands wearily sobbing as though his heart would break. “Whatever’s wrong, Vincent?” Dominic hurried over to his brother, dropping to his knees at the side of Vincent’s chair. Quickly he stole a glance in Jamie’s direction, “The girl hasn’t…” Dominic sighed, no she was still with them, for a moment there, he thought he’d given her an overdose, like he had with the old Negro woman. Though of course Vincent knew none of that and he was never going to tell him.
“Jamie is sleeping.” Vincent replied not looking up.
“Then what’s wrong?” Dominic hoped he sounded convincing, hoped Vincent hadn’t detected that Dominic had been about to ask if the girl was alive or not. That would certainly mess up the whole operation if Vincent started asking questions again. Already Dominic regretted his decision to bring another hostage in, the girl was too clever by far. Maybe an overdose would be appropriate, Dominic mused as he awaited his brother’s reply. It was a long time in coming and he eventually nudged Vincent, “Tell me what’s happened.”
Reluctantly, because he knew the rules, Vincent started to speak, “I went above tonight.”
“No! Vincent, you didn’t! Tell me no one saw you!” Dominic flared angrily.
“I wasn’t seen, stop worrying, besides who could see me, since I am dead?” Too late Dominic realised his mistake but covered well with, “Living dead Vincent, remember? You’re the living dead, not yet an apparition and not still alive. Somewhere in-between.” Vincent remembered and understood, but said no more until prompted with, “So what has distressed you so, did you see something?”
“I went to Catherine’s apartment, onto the balcony. I had to know that she was happy with Elliot.”
“Elliot? As in Burch? She’s with him?” Dominic sounded surprised, but then it would answer a lot of questions, he’d heard rumours that Catherine Chandler was pregnant.
“Yes. They are expecting a child.” Vincent could hardly bear to reveal that piece of information and his voice was thick with tears, tears that fell rapidly once he remembered all he had seen that night.
“I saw, I saw…” He shook his head, a flowing river of copper falling over his shoulders and obscuring his face from view. Dominic leaned forward and brushed the hair from Vincent’s eyes, “Yes, you saw…what?”
“Elliot is being unfaithful to Catherine, and with her best friend. She needs to know, I have to tell her, but how can I?” To his feet Vincent rose abruptly, “How can I?” He reiterated viciously, “There is no way I can warn her of this.” He sat again weary of the whole affair, his heart broken. “I love her so.” Was all he could manage leaving Dominic feeling strangely terrible and annoyed that his brother’s pain had affected him so. “These things happen Vincent. There’s nothing that you can do. You can’t go back, even though you try. You might be able to manipulate events so that Catherine can find out by herself, but that’s all you can do.”
Eyes bright, Vincent jumped on that at once, “How?”
“You could leave her a message. She’ll know your handwriting I take it?” Dominic had seen it and known it was different. Rich flowing calligraphy like handwriting, far different from his own scribble. Talking of which, “Vincent I’m sorry to have to leave you at a time like this, but I saw something earlier and have to remove it. Will you be alright for a while? I won’t be long.”
“I’m going nowhere.” Vincent spoke absently, his mind on other things. If he could get a message to Catherine…there were all manner of things he would say to her…but where was she? On the two occasions he had visited her apartment, he’d found Elliot there, but no sign of Catherine, and it would be risky to go to her office. How could he get a message to her without Elliot finding it?
On a similar vein Dominic left his brother deep in thought and headed toward the cave where he had taken the old Negro woman’s body earlier. He hadn’t noticed it when they’d found her there, too busy administering his drug he supposed, but today he noticed that she had engraved letters all over the walls, the floor, ceiling and tomb itself, letters that Dominic had understood at once. Discriminating evidence which if left might be deciphered and blow all his plans to smithereens. Dominic couldn’t take that sort of risk. He’d waited three decades for his brother to join him, and no one was going to take him away now. Least of all did he want Vincent to see the letters and start asking questions and therefore he had to have the letters removed. Of course, H N D could mean all manner of things, but right now Dominic could think of nothing but the obvious and felt that would be the conclusion drawn by anyone else that saw them. Too late he found as he moved through the rock face that someone already had, and not only that but they had discovered his mechanism for moving between worlds. Furious, Dominic summoned his men and before the day was out they had done two things, chipped away the letters so that they were obscured enough not to be seen as such, and removed the way through which he could travel from his chamber to the cave. It was a shame that it had to be done, but a necessity. He would simply have to forget that way existed and if there was any consolation, at least there would be no others slipping through uninvited as the young woman Jamie had done. He’d had to be quick to find reasons for that happening, grateful only that when it did it had furthered the belief that Vincent held about passing through the rock from the living to the living dead having seen it happen with his own eyes and for that Dominic was grateful. Still, the young woman posed all kinds of problems not least discovery and Dominic was afraid of the consequences her arrival might make to his plans. Nevertheless he had handled worse and come what may, he would never relinquish his hold upon the brother he had waited for all of his life, never…never…never… nothing was surer than that.
*** *** ***
Back at the hub, Winslow and Mouse told their sorry tale to Father and other council members, one of which was their newly appointed associate, Catherine Chandler. She appeared to take their news in her stride never knowing what each knife stabbing word did to her heart since she disguised the pain so well. Someone like Vincent? Someone that looked for all intents and purposes like her truelove but one that had a normal face? Impossible. Life or death would not take away Vincent’s beauty, for surely even God could see that Vincent’s leonine looks were beautiful. She had seen it. But then maybe it had been one of Vincent’s greatest wishes to look different in death than he had been forced to endure in life. Maybe his new face was God granted, maybe that’s the way he would be seen from now on. And may be that’s why he had not visited with her, since he would know that she would not appreciate the changes in him. Still he should know that any form that he now represented would be preferable to never seeing him at all, didn’t he know how much she loved him? Would always love him? And did he know about the baby?
“I have to go down there!” She blurted surprising everyone in the group.
“Impossible!” Father jumped to his feet, “Te way is too treacherous for one so heavy with child, I forbid it!”
Breathing laboured, Catherine did not argue, Father, was of course, right, but it didn’t stop her resenting the fact.
“We can tell you everything you need to know, Catherine.” Winslow told her sincerely, “There’s no more than we can reveal. There’s letters all over the walls, like I said, they spell H N D, but then you knew that already, the only new thing is the mechanism in the floor that seems to imply that somehow one can pass through the wall into a place beyond, a place I might add that cannot be reached any other way. I looked. The tunnel passed the cave as you all well know, comes to a dead end. Vincent went down as far as he could that day, and as far as we knew back then anything beyond the cave was solid rock.”
“It might just be an old hideout belong to Paracelsus, not necessarily used now.” Father told the group absently rubbing one hand over a bristled jaw. “Although it might also explain where Jamie went to. As much as I’d like to say leave well alone, it looks as though we have no choice. We simply have to go down there as a group and while some watch, others must try to break through to whatever is on the other side. We might need explosives if it appears that the wall will not reopen to rescue the party that went through, and I’m sure Mouse could help us there.”
“Or Elliot.” Catherine suggested. “He helped us before, and I’m sure he would again.”
“Yes, or Elliot, if Mouse hasn’t enough explosives at his disposal, thank you Catherine.” Father continued, “There is though the question of using too much, and I think it might be appropriate if we removed Narcissa’s casket and Vincent’s tomb before we begin an assignment like that.”
“It’ll be a colossal task.” Winslow reminded them, “With the marble panels, Vincent’s tomb will be so heavy. We might have to take it apart bit by bit.” He shuddered remembering opening Narcissa’s casket and hoped they wouldn’t be required to go down that far. Kanin’s words dashed that thought.
“Winslow’s right, and we couldn’t lift the tomb with Vincent inside when we laid him to rest. We will have to take him out to move it again.” His eyes spoke volumes, he didn’t want to have to do something like that, didn’t even think he could.
“I wouldn’t expect any of you to have to undertake such a grisly task.” Father announced. “If anything like that is to be done, I would insist that Peter accompanied us, for I’d go down there too, and he and I would perform such an undertaking, there would be no need for any of you to be involved, I promise you.” Some may have argued despite the fact that they felt unable to offer help, but Father looked so adamant that none attempted to do so.
“Right then, if that’s acceptable, all that agree, say Aye.” Father looked around hopefully, too hopefully Catherine decided. What was he up to?
Slowly and one by one a unanimous vote was returned, and Father set to preparing the groups that would accompany him on the long trek below, as well as making certain that Catherine was not to be left by herself. He still didn’t trust her completely, knowing her only too well. The first chance she got he was certain she would make the trip to the cave, regardless of the risk to her child. He couldn’t have been more wrong, Catherine would never do anything so stupid, but had she of been able to find a way, perhaps someone to carry her down on a stretcher she would have taken it, and so he was right in a way, for when it came to having anything to do with Vincent, simply, Catherine was not to be trusted.
The assigned groups waited only long enough for Mouse to check his explosive supply and for Peter to arrive and then with many misgivings and apprehension among them three groups set off for the lower levels, leaving an anxious Catherine behind.
*** *** ***
Opening the door to the tentative knock Elliot’s face lit up, “Jenny, hi. Come in. Didn’t expect to see you today. I confess I didn’t expect to see you again, full stop.” Elliot chuckled and took Jenny’s coat as she stepped by him and into the cosy apartment.
“Oh and why was that?” Turning, Jenny lifted her face for his kiss, happy when he obliged. “Just surprised that’s all, thought you might have decided enough was enough, after last night.”
“That kind of enough was never enough, Elliot.” Jenny told him sincerely, “I am ashamed to say that I did not sleep easy, but it had nothing to do with kissing you, well not exactly. I spent a fitful night alone because I would have rather of been spending it here with you.” There she had said her careful rehearsed words and waited in anxious expectation for his reply.
“Come here, Jenny Aronson.” Elliot pulled her close, “I would be honoured to have you spend the night with me. I only showed you the door last night because I thought it was the gentlemanly thing to do. I’m not doing anything this morning though if you are still interested?” He winked at her and she hugged him tight, “I can think of nothing I’d like to do more.” She told him sweetly, “Elliot, I so want to make love with you.”
“Give a lady all she desires, that’s my motto.” Elliot told her happily and with one hand to the small of her back he ushered her into the bedroom and started nibbling her ear telling her, “but as it happens its my desire also. I too have spent a restless night.” Jenny giggled, “Can’t believe I’m behaving this way. Its almost indecent, but I have a feeling about you, my love…feelings that won’t wait.”
Strangely, for it had been the last thing Jenny thought he would agree with, Elliot nodded. “You might not believe me, Jen…but after we kissed…well it felt as though I’d come home. Don’t get me wrong, I do, perhaps always will love Catherine, but when I kissed Catherine, I never received this complete feeling of belonging that I did with you. Strange huh?” He laughed shakily, felt an idiot for revealing such to her but Jenny just smiled and told him, “I understand completely. And you might not want to hear this Elliot, but I see things, have dreams, always have and I guess I always will. Dreams that have saved lives even, one that saved Catherine’s life once. I don’t mock them Elliot, I just accept them.”
“So what are you telling me, that you have dreamed of you and I together?”
To his surprise Jenny nodded, “And more. I have dreamed that you and I were meant for one another though until we kissed I did not know it was you, and when we did it was like I had found my Elysium, I knew you inside and out. Elliot I know the man that you are through and through and I like what I know. Does that frighten you?”
“Frighten me? No. I’m intrigued and strangely I believe you, Jenny. I feel complete with you, I don’t need to pretend, and that would be because you have seen through the exterior I portray for the benefit of others and for my own safety, and I trust you wholeheartedly with my life. Strange is it not, this time yesterday we hadn’t even met?”
“Except in dreams. Make love to me, Elliot, I’ve waited all my life for you to do that with me.” Without another word Elliot scooped her up into his arms and carefully lying her down on the bed joined her there, then with an ease he found alarming he undressed her and succumbed to her beauty with a need he had denied too long. His hands and mouth moving over her firm breasts happy to have her thrash beneath his gentle ministrations, Elliot discarded his clothing bit by bit helped by an eager Jenny until both were glorious naked, then with his right hand tugging at one rosy nipple, his mouth fastened to the other, his left hand slipped between her thighs and gloried at the creamy heat he found there and almost his undoing as his manhood reacted in anticipation, engorged by hot blood pounding along the prominent vein to encircle the tip bulging and hot and needing her to touch him there so much. As if she knew, Jenny’s hand crept down, eliciting a sigh of satisfaction from him as her fingers surrounded the head of his penis and tenderly stroked the dew drops found there up and down from tip to base of his silken shaft. Elliot moaned, burying his face more firmly against her breast his left hand dipping into her honeyed depths, feeling joy as his fingers suddenly became coated with her essence and as the scent cried out to him, his mouth left her rosy nipple and with tiny kisses on his descent headed to where she needed his mouth the most. “Oh please, please.” Jenny moaned against the pillow, her hand only reluctantly letting him go. Her legs fell open allowing the stubble on his unshaven jaw to graze her soft flesh and she screamed with satisfaction as his tongue flicked across the engorged bud of her desire. “Elliot, Elliot!” Her hands fumbled and found his head, tugged at his hair then pushed his face back as it appeared he might leave her high and dry.
“Let it come, baby.” He whispered hoarsely against her, his tongue flicking in rhythm to her pulsating womanhood, “Give it to me, all of it.” Jenny screamed, her body pulsating against his searching mouth, his hot tongue drinking in nectar that she had reserved for him all her life, for never had she allowed another man to touch her so intimately, never had she wanted another to do what Elliot was doing so much in all her life. It seemed right and natural with him, even as he looked down at her climaxing body with such affection and joy in his eyes, Jenny felt no shame, neither did she feel revulsion when moments later with his lips on hers she tasted herself on him and revelled in the musky bitter sweet essence of her self. “Let me, its your turn.” She begged him, reaching for his penis, hungry for a taste of him. Elliot groaned, twisted his body round until head to feet he took her again with his mouth, her yielding soft flesh ready for him, her own mouth eager as she pulled his penis toward her face, flicking her hot pink tongue over its tip and releasing a groan from him that excited her further. With expert precision she’d not known she possessed Jenny drew in his essence, taking him down to the furthest reaches of her throat, delighted that he filled her so, excited by the throbbing length of him filling her mouth. He tasted divine, so sweet, like nothing she had ever experienced before or would again.
“Honey, unless you are fully prepared…” Elliot husked tormenting her clitoris with his lips and tongue, “You had better stop that.” His climax was rushing to meet her, and he felt fit to warn her of it.
“What?” He hardly heard her, thunder was filling his ears, and Jenny felt his hot panting breath tight against her womanhood moments before she realised exactly what was happening but before she could make a decision he was filling her mouth, hot jets of white fire coating the inside of her cheeks and throat and unwittingly Jenny gagged, swallowed convulsively and blinked hard, she didn’t like that…and pulled away the moment that she felt capable. That taste was abhorrent to her and the texture reminiscent to a thick shake, only warmer. “I need a drink!” Untangling her body from his, Jenny dashed for the bathroom, grabbing the toothbrush and paste that she found there and scrubbing her teeth and tongue furiously, but still never quite ridding her mouth of the taste or the texture.
“I’m sorry honey, but I did try to warn you.” Elliot’s voice came from the doorway, and in the mirror, Jenny caught sight of his eyes, they were apologetic and genuinely unhappy for what he had done to her.
“It’s okay Elliot, really. I shouldn’t try biting off more than I can chew.” She’d said it innocently enough but Elliot burst into laughter and when she realised Jenny did too, even though her face coloured with embarrassment. “What are we like?” Jenny turned from the sink and walked into Elliot’s arms. He kissed her neck nibbled her ear and scooping her into his arms returned her to the bed, “What are we like?” He asked her, “Like two would be lovers experimenting with things we have only ever read about. It was the first time for me too, honey. I’ve never wanted to do oral sex with any other woman in my life but with you it came naturally.” He laughed, “Perhaps I shouldn’t have said, ‘came’.” Jenny burst into laughter, leaned forward and took his lips with hers, “Make love to me, Elliot.” She murmured against his mouth, “Missionary style so I can see into your gorgeous eyes as you enter me.”
Elliot needed no second bidding, he covered her body with his, nudged open her thighs and slipped between. For a moment he held still, his eyes gazing into Jenny’s with a look new to him for any other woman but Catherine, and then seconds before he entered her, Elliot told Jenny something she never expected to hear from him so soon, “I love you, Jenny Aronson, I love you so much.” Her legs wound around his hips and as his body penetrated hers Jenny reacted in the only way open to her, “Soul of my soul, I love you too, Elliot, only you, only ever you.” Then they moved together, reaching heights never before attained with any other, and they were gloriously happy knowing without a doubt that this was meant to be, they were meant to be, and still a little stunned that it had happened they made tender love together too exquisite for words.
*** *** ***
Left alone, well with only Mary, Olivia and Rebecca for company, Catherine wandered in and out of the various chambers looking for something to occupy her mind. The three groups heading below had been gone for the best part of five hours long enough to arrive there spend an hour and return, so what was keeping them? Catherine supposed it would take longer, but she deemed five hours to be more than enough to keep her waiting for news. Surely someone could have gone back to the nearest pipe and at least contacted Pascal?
What she never knew was that no one among the groups had been brave enough to do that by themselves and neither was it safe to split up like that, hence the reason Father had prepared so many men to make the journey. Catherine had been right in her presumption of time, it had taken them two hours to arrive, but no way had an hour been enough to establish anything as with incredulous eyes Winslow and Mouse had stared at the spot they had earlier revealed to have a metal standing and found that nothing existed but the sandy floor. “It was here.” Winslow announced gruffly, “Without a doubt. Mouse tapped the wall, here…” he tapped it to reveal the density of solid rock, “and here…” he tapped a few feet along to reveal again, solid rock. “No!” Winslow cried furiously tapping the rock wall from top to bottom as Mouse interjected with, “Winslow’s right, it was here,” and joining his friend in hot pursuit.
“Well its not here now.” Father told them, though he did not disbelieve they had seen something. The last time he had been to the cave he had been, true, extremely upset, but the cave had offered him peace and tranquillity, now it offered little but the prickle of another presence in the rising hairs at the nape of his neck, and he kept looking toward Vincent’s tomb wondering many things.
“What is it, Jacob?” Concerned, Peter followed his glance and saw nothing but the domineering presence of the marble encased tomb with its plaque of who lay there.
“Do you believe in ghosts Peter?” Peter thought it a strange question, but answered all the same, “Not really. What’s your point?”
“My point is, that several of our community say they have seen Vincent. What if he isn’t dead?” Hushed voices began speaking at once at his words, eyes of incredibility stared toward the tomb.
“Isn’t dead? But you examined him.” Peter drew his brows together, “Didn’t you?”
“Yes, but with poor lighting, no specialised apparatus, and Vincent’s unique make up…Peter, you know what he and Catherine did before he expired don’t you?” Having only recently learned the true facts Peter nodded and Father went on, “Why should he die after something like that?”
“A question I’ve asked myself a thousand times, Jacob. The only conclusion I drew was that after everything else, simply the act proved too much for his heart.”
“An answer I draw too.” Father told him, “Even so, what if I was wrong? What if he wasn’t dead, what if he was only in a coma? Breathing would be difficult to detect, and there are other things, Catherine remarked that Vincent wasn’t as stiff as she’d assumed he would be after twenty four hours, Kanin and Cullen…” Father looked toward the two men, “You said something similar when you laid him to rest, didn’t you?”
Eyes wide, Kanin nodded, “Aye, was almost like he was sleeping.” Father paled before their sight and stumbled, caught from falling by Peter’s strong hand. “There’s only one way to know for sure.” Father eyed the tomb, “We have to open it.”
“Open it!” Winslow exclaimed, “No way!” He backed toward the cave’s exit.
“We were going to have to, if we’d used the explosives.” Father reminded him, “And we only have to lift the lid.”
“And find what?” Winslow shouted, “Vincent’s claw marks on the lid signifying that you buried him alive, do you really want to see that, Father!”
Stumbling, Peter caught Father again before his knees hit the floor, “No, of course not! But I don’t think we’ll find anything.”
“What are you saying?” William who had accompanied them down to the cave asked.
“Several people have seen Vincent, or profess to have seen him. His face appearing normal remains a mystery, but I for one don’t believe in ghosts, nor life after death, and so if Vincent is being seen there is only one plausible explanation. He never died at all and somehow in-between laying him to rest and fitting the marble panels, Vincent left the tomb and wandered who knows where. I’m inclined to believe he lost his memory, knows none of us, and is frightened to the point of fleeing when he sees someone. The only way I will rest is by opening that lid, I have to know, whatever it reveals. Who’ll help me?”
No one spoke, but all shook their heads, defiantly no. Peter felt he was the only one that Jacob could rely on even though it was the last thing he wanted to do, “I’ll help you.”
“Thank you Peter. There’s no time like the present. Those of you that can’t watch can leave the cave, and wait outside. Kanin pass me that wrench.” Reluctantly Kanin did as asked then turned and went outside of the cave into the tunnel beyond. Winslow followed him, he had no desire to see or smell the dead again so soon.
Taking a deep breath, Father looked to Peter and nodded and together with hands clasped the two men began to prise the marble panels away from Vincent’s tomb.
*** *** ***
Back at the hub, Catherine wandered into Vincent’s chamber, she had stepped inside reluctantly on occasions, but today for some reason felt compelled to visit. Mary, she knew kept it clean and tidy, but even so Catherine was surprised to find a solitary candle burning on the desk with of all things Vincent’s journal lying open at its side. Brows drawn tightly together Catherine wandered closer, her hands reaching for the journal from the other side of the desk and turning it toward her. Her breath caught and held and as the hairs on the back of her neck rose, Catherine glanced all round but the chamber was void of all life but hers. “No, it couldn’t be…” Catherine mumbled nervously, even so the glisten of fresh ink on the pages before her told no lies, the words thereon were recently written. Blindly Catherine dragged a chair to the desk, sitting awkwardly down on it as her eyes remained fixed on the journal and she gasped as she recognised the current days date, and there beneath it written in Vincent’s flowing hand began the words, “Catherine, my love…there is something I must tell you…”
Down at the cave, Father hesitated when he and Peter inserted the wrench beneath the now exposed lid. His heart hammered and Peter awaiting his command felt he couldn’t take much more. This was the moment of truth, and he only hoped whatever was revealed would not be to Jacob’s undoing.
“Now.” Father pushed down upon the wrench having gathered his courage together and expecting Peter to be ready frowned when the lid did not give due to his not having enough strength to lift it. “Peter, help me!” He cried almost angrily and Peter pushed down too, with all his might, regardless of the cracking wood that would mean they’d need a new lid later. The two put their might and strength into lifting the lid and though they had loosened the very many nails surrounding its edges it gave only slowly to their ministrations. “Harder!” Father cried putting everything he had into it now, sweat broke out on his brow, and he didn’t say anything but his heart was hammering wildly and his left arm was beginning to tingle. He had to know, and he had to know now, and nothing was going to stop him finding out the truth not now they had come this far.
“It’s giving.” Peter announced and Father felt jubilation as the lid began to lift revealing first the silken innards placed inside lovingly by Mary and Olivia months before. Suddenly Father stopped, and with the lid lifted but not off completely he turned to Peter his eyes watery, “Notice anything, Peter?”
Peter shook his head, not sure what Jacob expected him to notice.
“There’s no smell. Peter there’s no smell!” With a flourish Father prised off the lid completely letting it drop onto the sandy floor on the other side of the casket and revealing by its absence a casket void and empty of life or death. Nothing, the casket was empty and by the look of the silk therein had always been empty. Father gasped, clutched his chest and stumbled backward and Peter staring into the empty casket did not see Father fall to his knees, nor did he realise that his long time friend and colleague of medicine was having a heart attack until it was almost too late.
*** *** ***
To be continued in chapter nine.