And So It Begins...
Reading the message had been too much for Catherine, and if it hadn’t been for Vincent’s unmistakable handwriting she might have concluded someone was having a perverted joke with her, as it was she believed he had been there and written it and it scared her witless.
Mary found her stuffing some belongings into a bag, “Where are you going?” She asked exceedingly concerned, “Father said you were not to go down to the cave, Catherine, you mustn’t!” Mary caught hold of Catherine’s arm but the younger woman shook herself free. “I’m not going down, Mary. I’m going up. Up and away from this godforsaken hole in the earth and I’m never coming back!”
“You…you can’t mean that? Why?” Mary close to tears clutched at Catherine’s arm as she hurriedly used it to collect her belongings stowed away in several drawers around the guest chamber.
“Would you believe, that Vincent left a message? No thought not.” Catherine answered her own question at the look of disbelief on the older woman’s face.
“Vincent left a message? When? Where? I don’t understand.” Mary told her bewildered.
“In his chamber, inside his journal. Mary the ink wasn’t even dry! I must have passed him on my way down to his chamber but he didn’t even stop and reveal himself to me, just left a garbled message about Elliot Burch and my friend Jenny Aronson. What do you make of that? He’s been dead, what, five months nearly and he comes and leaves a message about people he hardly knew! What about me Mary, what about me?”
“That’s not like Vincent. What sort of message about your friends?”
“That’s unimportant as was his telling me of it. What the pair of them do is none of his business, and certainly none of mine…why Mary? Why did he come all this way just to tell me things of no consequence, when he could have told me that he loved me, that he was happy about the baby? I’ll tell you shall I? Because he isn’t. He isn’t happy about the baby and he isn’t happy that I’m living here, or else if he was he would have told me so, it would have been the first thing, no, the only thing on his mind.” Catherine started to cry softly and Mary put her arms around her hugging Catherine close.
“Vincent must have thought what your friends were doing was important Catherine, or he would never have crossed over to tell you. Are you sure you aren’t missing something? Did you read everything?”
“Most of it.”
“Most of it isn’t enough, come we must go back and read it together. Perhaps there was something you didn’t want to see, perhaps…”
“Perhaps I imagined it? No Mary, I didn’t. Vincent’s been to his chamber, he left me a message and it made no sense.” Catherine told her sadly.
“Come.” Mary took Catherine’s arm and led her from the guest chamber heading for Vincent’s. She felt a little nervous but wouldn’t let on, it wasn’t often that ghosts visited the tunnels, but her experiences of things seen with Narcissa had changed her mind about things like that over the years. That and the occasion when Kristopher Gentian had visited with Catherine and Vincent a few years earlier, one could no longer be sceptical about such things after experiencing them first hand.
They entered the chamber in silence and Mary went straight to the still open journal laying upon the desk, almost believing that she would find the current page blank void of an entry for that day, but no, Catherine had been right, as the date boldly attested to. The ink though was dry, still the message was not, as Mary read aloud, “Catherine, my love…there is something I must tell you…I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I know that Elliot and your friend Jenny are having an affair, I caught them together last evening. Please don’t do anything silly he’s not worthy of you. V.”
Mary stared at Catherine, “Why would Vincent feel that you had to know this?” She asked sceptically.
“I don’t know!” Catherine wailed, “That’s what I was saying.”
“So why go above? What is it that you’re not telling us Catherine?” Mary drew her brows together sharply.
“Me, not telling you? Nothing, I’m telling you nothing that is there’s nothing to tell. I don’t know why Vincent warned me of this. What Elliot and Jenny do is their business not mine!”
“Yet you are rushing back above, to find out if it is true, perhaps?” Mary sniffed disapprovingly.
“No! I’m going back to my apartment. Elliot will have to find somewhere else.”
“Elliot is at your apartment? Why?”
Catherine didn’t like Mary’s tone, it was accusing and she told her so, “What are you insinuating, Mary?”
“I don’t understand why Elliot Burch is at your apartment, I thought you said you had retained the lease, but I understood it to be empty until such a time that you may want to return above, after the baby is born. I’m only now wondering if there is more behind all of this. Do you intend to return above to Elliot Burch? Is that what Vincent believes? From his vantage point, Vincent would know an awful lot more than the rest of us, he would see things that we could never see. Forgive me but my mind is running overtime, for Vincent would never write such things unless he was sure of his facts and certain that those facts would be important to you.”
“You’re wrong. Elliot means nothing to me. I simply cannot stay here, because Vincent sees fit to reveal inconsequential things to me, when I have missed him so much. A simple ‘I love you Catherine’ would have been all I needed to know. If he is going to appear at all and leave messages, he should at least tell me something I really want to know.” Bitter tears squeezed beneath Catherine’s eyelashes and she brushed them furiously away. “I have to go now, Mary. Don’t try to stop me, and tell Father, that when the time comes, I will have Peter deliver the baby at the apartment or at his clinic.”
Finally believing her but too late to apologise Mary’s hand met only air as Catherine hurried out of the chamber at a quick trot. Mary let her go, it was no use reasoning with the young woman, her mind was well and truly made up about leaving, so Mary did not go after her. Instead she opened the journal to a new page and before she exited the chamber she whispered “Vincent, wherever you are, if you still love Catherine, tell her so. I fear it will be the only thing to bring her back to us.”
*** *** ***
Vincent was a long way from his old chamber when Mary uttered her heartfelt plea and deep in thought he hoped that the simple message to Catherine would find its way to her. He did not know that she resided below now, he assumed that she lived up top in her apartment, with a man that was being unfaithful while her back was turned and he regretted his decision to make an entry in his journal, but it was the only thing he could think of as at the time he hurriedly penned ink to paper he could hear the approach of footsteps coming toward his chamber and had quickly finished what he had gone there to do and ducked out of sight seconds before the visitor reached their destination. He would have liked to have stayed and watched whomsoever went in, but he didn’t dare, the thought of frightening them was too much.
Now back at his new home, the fence between two worlds where he had resided these past few months, Vincent was happy to see that during his absence, Jamie had not woken, neither was Dominic anywhere to be found. Strange how his brother disappeared as often as he did, and on reflection there was still so much that he didn’t know about his new found brother. He believed him, had no reason not to, besides the similarities were striking and then there were their father’s journals. Everything written in them except Paracelsus had never unravelled the mystery of his origins. How Vincent had come to be the way he was had never been established, though Paracelsus had outlined a few probabilities, the main one of which being scratched by a lion many years before he’d met Anna. Paracelsus had concluded that a slight possibility of DNA from the lion in his bloodstream had accounted for the way Vincent had turned out, but there was nothing to support the idea, though he had in his time looked into such a possibility in great depth. There was another thought, a sketchy one, during Paracelsus’s time in Africa when the lion had attacked him, a witch doctor had placed a curse on him. Paracelsus had not understood the lingo and had paid it scant attention but with his later belief in magic and medication he did not doubt that the witch doctor had been to blame for the genetics of his offspring.
Vincent though was strangely disinterested about his origins since he had discovered his parentage. It was enough to know that Anna had loved him enough to keep him, even though her first thought had been to discard him to the elements. If John Pater had not poisoned his wife, then Vincent could well have known a mother’s love, something he had longed for all his life. Hard to imagine that John Pater’s jealousy had denied both his son’s the right to a mother’s love. The burning question was, why had he not told Anna that she’d borne him twins since her discovery of the one with the leonine face? That didn’t make sense. He had to have missed something from John’s journals. John Pater’s jealousy of Jacob Wells was also a mystery, as was the reason why he had murdered Anna.
In the absence of his brother and with such burning questions in mind, Vincent set off for Dominic’s chamber. He would ask him or seek his own answers. He knew that his father’s journals were kept on shelves that lined Dominic’s chamber. If there was one thing the two shared in common it was a love of books, Dominic was an avid reader, and Vincent knew that Jacob Wells would have loved to have met him, for what Dominic didn’t know about medicine and drugs was not worth knowing as following in their father’s footsteps, Dominic had become a great doctor and scientist of medicine even if few benefited at his hand, the world above were missing two great men, Jacob Wells being only one of them.
Dominic’s chamber was richly furnished, something Vincent had noticed on his first visit there. What he had lacked by not living above he had made up for in his living quarters below. Plush burgundy sofas lined two walls a solid oak desk in the centre, oak shelves and even a patterned carpet covered the floor from wall to wall. A carpet that Vincent’s boots sunk into and made him wish he could feel the texture upon bare feet. He made his way slowly across the chamber, noticing that Dominic was out but in no way feeling like he was intruding on his brother’s domain. Though Dominic had asked him to forewarn him of any visit, Vincent felt that since he was not around to ask, he would not mind. So he crossed to where he knew the journals to be, and flicking along their spines read the dates passing by the ones he remembered having read before. Finally between two dates he knew he had seen lay one that corresponded with the end of the one before and the beginning of the one after, and curiously Vincent extracted that, tucked it under his arm and went back to his chamber, where with several candles blazing he could read it at ease. Besides, he had to be near Jamie, he had been absent enough this day and he dared not spend any more time away from her side. Though Dominic had said two days, and it was still only one, Vincent didn’t want to neglect her, anything might happen, remembering Narcissa and how quickly she had expired, he well knew about that.
Thus, taking the journal to his desk, Vincent positioned the candles there so that he might spread open the book to read at leisure, and that done sat down took a deep breath and started to take in words that Paracelsus had penned over thirty years before skipping the last few pages of 1952 and going straight to the date of his birth.
12th Jan 1953
Anna gave birth – twin boys – I do not know how to describe or where to begin to describe one of those twins. For a certainty they are not identical, God forbid! One has the mark of the beast – how can this be a son of mine?
13th Jan 1953
Anna stole from me the twin with the mark of the beast – cannot say I am sorry – except that she has fabricated a story to Wells that her baby died and she found the other in the grounds of St Vincent’s abandoned beneath a bush. Obviously Anna cannot accept as I cannot accept that this was a child born of human flesh – our flesh! Wells appears taken with the child – let him bring it up as his son!
14th Jan 1953
Saw Anna today she confessed to me that she has always found Jacob Wells attractive, that he has certain qualities I will never possess – damn the woman!
15th Jan 1953
I feel betrayed – Anna refuses to come home and Wells refuses to let go of the child believing it to be an orphan unaccountable to either Anna or I. If I told him it was my son in all probability he wouldn’t believe me. How can I believe it myself? Unless…Could it be? Is it possible? Would Anna have had relations with Wells? Is the child his? It would make perfect sense Anna is extremely loyal to Wells. More loyal than she has ever been to me!
16th Jan 1953
I should erase yesterday’s entry, I know the child is not Wells’ it would be impossible – Jacob would never do that to me despite our disagreements – yet it doesn’t reveal how the child came to be either way. Had he of been offspring of Jacob Wells then why did not Devin turn out thus? Yet had he of been offspring of mine why has his twin not turned out thus? There is only one explanation – Anna must have had sexual relations with some other and I knew not of it – Anna has been unfaithful to me – for such an act she should be stoned to death!
17th Jan 1953
There is no other way Anna must be punished for her crime of infidelity –
18th Jan 1953
Anna died today – with the babe in her arms she went to sleep and never awoke. Wells is devastated and maintains the child must stay with him. I will not fight what has to be – I cannot be seen with such a creature in my midst.
(The next entry was made a year later almost to the day)
20th Jan 1954
Forgotten I was writing this personal journal and this will be its last entry after which it will remain hidden from prying eyes until well after my last breath. I caused Anna’s death by poison spiked in her tea - something I will regret all my days, since DNA has proven that my son Dominic the normal twin is my child – flesh of my flesh – and as much as I would wish it not to be, certain similarities are developing in the two boys. Their hair is rich like copper – same texture – same wildness about it impossible to trim needs to be left alone to grow, though Wells insists on keeping young Vincent’s - as he named him – cut short and spiky – looks ridiculous! Dominic’s fingernails grow in the same way as Vincent’s claw like, though not so prominent as his brother – and I have remembered things, things of the past. When I was a very young man a trip to Africa rendered me the honour of surviving a lion attack and a curse I was unable to decipher put upon me by a crazed witch doctor. I thought little of it then – I wonder greatly of it now. It is the only explanation as to why my sons have turned out with the mark of the lion one more so than the other. Only time will tell what will become of the one marked wholly with the beast – time which I will spend in relentless pursuit of gaining my son back to me without revealing that he has a twin. That is a secret that will remain with me all my life, or until I see fit to pass it on to one other, namely Dominic when he is old enough to understand. For two are stronger than one and a threefold cord impossible to break – I will have my son reunited with me, and the three of us will stand mightily and rule over this rocky domain deep in the bowels of hell – Wells has had his day – It is well past time for my coronation and I aim to see that it will be so!
(There were no further entries).
Leaning back against his chair, Vincent sighed. It all made sense now. Those times when Paracelsus tried to bring him over to his side, by kidnap or drug or just plain threats, and though his tale of how he was born in blood had not been true, Vincent could well understand how such madness could steal over a person and they not be aware of it until even black appeared white. He’d been there, he knew what it was to go crazy, yet his father had spent thirty years and more trying to bring his son back to where he truly belonged, even though Vincent shuddered to think what that would have meant for him - to have grown up in John Pater’s world? An unbearable thought.
Behind him a sound had Vincent turning around and he looked up into the eyes of his brother who glancing onto the table announced, “So you know.”
“It is no more than what you told me, except in our father’s own words. I apologise for taking this journal without permission Dominic but there were some things I needed to know.”
“And have you found them?”
“Yes. There are no more missing links.”
Vincent frowned, “And I feel sad that Anna had to die like that, she loved me, she would have loved you too had she of known. And I think if our father had managed to have me returned to him he would have brought us up on equal terms as the brothers we are.”
“Maybe. I think you are deluding yourself. At first father wanted you back because you were rightfully his son, but when news of your mightiness leaked out, he wanted you back as his protection. You were, are the stronger of us two, brother and I believe that had you lived with us, our father would have exploited that fact to your detriment. You have told me how the blood of your victims cry out to you in dreams, how you can never completely erase the blood from your hands, and it is good that your conscience is such that you can feel that way, but living here with our father I do believe that such a conscience would have been desensitised to know that kind of remorse. Like it or not, our father was an evil man, cunning and devious, one who simply discarded those that got in his way like chaff on the wind. I think we inherited our mother’s charm and good conscience did we not? Then you were the lucky one, you had her undivided attention for the first week of your life, something that was denied me from birth. Out of the two of us, you have had so much more in life Vincent, even though that life has been limited in the things open to you.”
Vincent listened quietly and when Dominic had finished speaking he said nothing – for a certain sadness enveloped the two brothers a sorrow as true as Dominic’s words. Both were aware of it and let it surround them. They needed that peace and tranquillity of togetherness. In that way they were bonded as they brothers they were.
In time Vincent took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly turning his head as something – some sound caught his attention away from his brother – Dominic heard it too. “What’s going on?” He turned on his heel and left the chamber leaving Vincent where he sat at the desk. It sounded as though there were people on the other side of the wall, their voices filtered through in hush like whispers due to its depth. Soon Dominic returned, his eyes were troubled but his words were not, “Visitors” he told Vincent, “Visitors to your tomb, nothing to worry about. Seems everyone has congregated there today.”
“Can I see them?” Excited by the thought Vincent rose, “Take me to where you were able to look upon them and not have them know of it.”
Undecided Dominic hesitated and then since he knew no way to deny his brother’s request without appearing rude or devious he beckoned that he should follow him back into the tunnel beyond. There with the aid of s stool, he motioned that Vincent should balance upon it, one foot on either side and stretch up until he were able to see through the tiniest crack to the cave beyond. From such a vantage point he was not able to discern complete forms, just an arm, leg, the occasional back of someone’s head but with his ear to the wall instead he was able to hear what was being said and frowned at what he heard.
“What is it, Jacob?” Vincent recognised Peter’s voice.
“Do you believe in ghosts Peter?” That was Father’s voice. Vincent’s heart raced and longing for a sight of the one he had known as parent all his life he put his eye to the hole, hoping to see any part of the old man, but saw nothing. Frustrated he put his ear back to the wall having missed some of the narrative and heard Father saying, “My point is, that several of our community say they have seen Vincent. What if he isn’t dead?” Several hushed voices followed.
“Isn’t dead? But you examined him.” From Peter there was a pause then, “Didn’t you?” Father replied, “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?”
Another pause 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 hesitated, then his voice seemed directed to a different location, “You said something similar when you laid him to rest, didn’t you?”
Kanin’s voice then, Vincent was surprised. He’d thought they were visiting his tomb, instead they seemed to be holding council among them as Kanin replied, “Aye, was almost like he was sleeping.”
Dominic tapped Vincent’s arm, “Come down now, you have seen enough, and I believe the girl is waking.” She wasn’t but as Dominic had disappeared and returned Vincent believed that he had been to look on Jamie.
“Just a few minutes more. I want to hear what they are saying, something’s not right.” He wondered what they had meant regarding Catherine and something he had done with her.
“No, I insist, I need your help with the living dead, not those that have not yet passed over. The girl needs us to be there for her. Come now, come!” Dominic pulled at Vincent’s hand, and he had no choice but to give in reluctantly taking the lead as Dominic told him there was something he needed from his chamber. In actual fact the moment Vincent was out of sight, Dominic removed the stool, hid it away in his chamber and then hurried after Vincent before he should notice that Jamie had never woken at all.
*** *** ***
Hesitating outside her apartment door, Catherine was unsure whether to knock or use her key. Having handed over her apartment to Elliot, he deserved privacy and finally she knocked to announce that someone was there. When nothing happened, she knocked again louder this time, and when that failed she grew worried and used her key after all. The sight that met her eyes was alarming. Clothes littered the floor, not just male garments but female too, and Vincent’s written word flew to mind. Jenny and Elliot? Could it be true? Tiptoeing toward the bedroom she knocked on the closed door and called brightly “Come on sleepyheads, wake up.” And smiled at the sudden scuffle sounding on the other side of the door. “Cathy? That you?” Catherine distinctly heard Jenny’s shocked voice, “Be out in a minute, honey.”
“Take all the time you need, Jen.” Catherine moved away from the door giggling, when she heard Jenny say, “She knows I’m here! Elliot, she knows its me!”
Finally after what seemed an age two faces popped around the slightly opened door and Catherine almost laughed out loud at the ‘caught with hands in the cookie jar’ expression that they both gave her as she sat at the dining table awaiting their appearance.
“Well what have we here?” Catherine tried to sound serious, “The moment my back is turned as well…tut…tut…tut…” she waved a finger at them and then unable to keep up the pretence of bring angry any longer burst into laughter.
“Oh Cathy, “ Jenny wailed, “Don’t do that. You almost had me having kittens back there.”
“Mm talking of which…” Catherine let her voice trail away and Jenny being her usual astute self understood at once turning to Elliot with a hand clapped to her mouth and eyes wide, “Oh Lord, oh Elliot, how could we have been so dumb!”
Elliot a little slow on the uptake, mouthed ‘what?’ and paled when Jenny highlighted the fact that they hadn’t used contraceptives.
“I naturally assumed…” Elliot’s voice rose just a fraction staring down at Jenny, while winking in Catherine’s direction, forcing a chuckle from her.
“That I was taking something?” Jenny’s voice rose to near hysteria, “No why should I, do you think I do this sort of thing all the time?” Tears welled in her eyes as she visualised her career going to pot while she brought up a child on her own.
“Relax honey.” Elliot nibbled her ear, “Do you seriously think I’d leave you? If its alright with you, then its alright with me, besides I’m old enough to be a father now.” Jenny relaxed and Catherine almost cried when the two hugged and kissed tenderly right in front of her. Choking back tears she finally managed to tell them “Well it would seem that congratulations are in order, but Lord I’ve only been away a few days and I return to find you two head over heels in love and more besides no less.” She did laugh then, loudly and very unladylike, causing Jenny and Elliot to join her as they walked hand in hand toward the table at which she sat.
“It was sudden, have to admit. Your friend can be one stubborn lady when she wants to be.” Elliot smiled mischievously.
“Me?” Jenny cried, “What about you? Couldn’t see you running away.”
“Yeah, right as if. When a beautiful woman makes it plain that she wants my body, do you seriously think I’d run away?” Catherine laughed at Elliot’s reply. She was so happy for them. These two were her very favourite people, even if she had never let Elliot know that, and never would especially now, he looked so happy with Jenny.
“Anyway, its nice to see you Cathy.” Jenny hugged her friend, “But something tells me this isn’t just a social visit. What’s wrong?”
“Can’t hide anything from you can I?” Catherine tried to sound witty but it fell flat, leaving even Elliot to detect that all was not well with Catherine’s world. “You two want to catch up? I should be venturing out anyway, things I have to do and all that.”
Jenny hurried back to his side, “Will you be safe?” She asked with obvious concern.
“How can you be sure?” Jenny wailed, “Elliot whomsoever was after you might not have given up yet.
“True, but I’ll still be safe, my love don’t worry. I’ll be coming… back that is.” He winked knowingly at her and Catherine was surprised to see Jenny blush beetroot.
“But how can you be so certain?” Jenny tugged at his arm, “Elliot please don’t go, not yet. Cathy and I can go into the bedroom to talk.”
“No, honey, its alright. Look don’t fret so, want to know how I know I’ll be safe, my love? Your dreams told you I was the one, and they showed you us two growing old together, so how can I not be safe? Do you see grey hairs on my head yet?”
Jenny couldn’t argue with that, but Catherine could, “So that’s how it was. Jenny, I’m surprised at you, thought you never revealed to another the way of things unless they asked?”
“This was different. I was so surprised and I just blurted it out. Caught even me unawares. It was when Elliot kissed me…”
“Its okay, you don’t have to explain,” Catherine butted in, “Spare me the details please.” Jenny and Elliot laughed.
“Anyway, my love, as you can see, I will be safe, and returning to you. But there is something I’d like you to consider while I am gone?” His eyes rich brown appealed to her, full of love and hope and a mischievous joy hard to decipher.
“What?” Jenny asked a little nervously. She had to keep pinching herself to believe that New York’s most eligible bachelor and she were lovers.
“I see that your initials are JA, and I wondered if you might mind climbing the alphabetical ladder a little onto the next rung perhaps?” With that said, Elliot saluted her and grabbing his overcoat headed for the door. “I’ll be out most of the day, but you can call me on the cell phone if you need anything, or want to check up on me.” He winked at Jenny, “And I’ve got the number to this apartment. Don’t worry I’ll be back.” Then as an after thought added, “Oh, Cathy, were you staying?”
“Not sure. Don’t worry though, you are welcome to keep staying here.”
“Well I’ll come back anyway, if it seems you are staying Jenny and I can move back to my apartment or hers, play it anyway you like it Jen, okay, I’m easy.”
Jenny couldn’t resist, “You certainly are, my love.”
“Touché” Elliot laughed out loud, then blowing her a kiss opened the door, and left the two women alone to talk.
Jenny sighed, “man is he good looking or what?” Catherine laughed, “I’ll credit him that. Jen I’m so happy for you, the two of you are made for each other. I only wish I’d seen it, would have introduced the pair of you years ago.”
“There’s a time for everything Cathy, don’t worry about it. And believe me its fun making up for those lost years. Which reminds me, don’t go into the bedroom until I’ve tidied through in there. Did you know Elliot has a passion for fruit? No? Well I’m not going to let you see how so!” Jenny burst into laughter remembering the night spent with Elliot, what fun they had had! What a mess they had made! Waking to one’s navel full of apricot had not been nice, but having Elliot nibble up the pieces certainly had!
“Oh Jenny, it sounds great. I’m truly happy for you.”
Jenny frowned, “What do you suppose he meant about taking my name up the ladder a little?”
“Didn’t you get it?” Catherine smiled mischievously much the same as Elliot had when he’d mentioned it.
“No.” Jenny frowned, “Did you?”
“Certainly. Think, what is your surname initial now?”
“A for Aronson.”
“And what would it start with if you moved up a rung on the alphabetical ladder so to speak?”
“Exactly, give the girl a coconut!”
“A B?” Jenny drew her brows together, “I don’t…Oh! Cathy! He didn’t mean…did he?” Jenny asked excitedly. Smiling knowingly, Catherine nodded.
“He’s going to ask me to marry him?” Eyes wide Jenny couldn’t believe it. “Oh Cathy, Elliot’s going to ask me to marry him.” She shook Catherine’s arm hard almost rattling her teeth and then got up and danced around the room, chanting, Jenny Aronson, Jenny Burch, mm I like the sound of that…” She mused dreamily. “You have to be my maid of honour, oh Cathy say you will, say you will!”
“Wild horse wouldn’t stop me.” Catherine rose, moved her bulk around the table and hugged Jenny tight, “I’m so happy for you Jen. Elliot’s a wonderful person.”
“That’s not what you’ve always said.” Jenny reminded her.
“Even so, he is. I’ve always known it, and you two are so right for each other. I know you will both be happy.” Jenny dreamed on imagining a life with Elliot, and it was only when she noticed that Catherine had moved out onto the terrace and stood overlooking the park by the balcony that she went to her side and asked, “You’re not though are you? Oh I don’t mean about Elliot and me, I mean about you. Something’s wrong isn’t it? Want to talk about it?”
With a sigh Catherine, turned, “Actually yes. I don’t know who else to tell, Jenny I need to ask for your help, you know the future and what it holds, tell me, is there any possibility that Vincent and I will be reunited, even in death?”
“Actually Cathy, the day I came here and found Elliot at your apartment I had been coming to tell you about those letters, you know the ones, H N D, the ones Narcissa wrote on the walls of the cave. That day you slept while I packed I had a visit from Narcissa, and followed it up on my return home. She won’t reveal the meaning behind the letters Cathy, but I know it has to do with Vincent. Oh and by the way, I know what he looks like now, Narcissa revealed him to me in a dream. He is beautiful Cathy, so beautiful.”
“Was, he was beautiful, you said is.”
“Well so he is.” Jenny stared at Catherine willing her to see what was plainly obvious, but Catherine with blinkers on just didn’t see it. And Jenny had lied, for Narcissa had revealed the identity of the letters, but had asked her not to divulge them to Catherine. It was something she had to work out for herself along with other little clues.
“Vincent knows about you and Elliot, Jen. He left me a message.” She explained what had happened and why she felt the need to leave Vincent’s home and family and rush back to her apartment. When she had finished speaking Jenny told her, “That’s what it was. I heard something heavy drop onto the terrace, Elliot investigated but found nothing, Vincent would have seen us kissing that night, nothing more at that time, and he would have assumed that Elliot was with you and was being unfaithful behind your back. Like it or not Cathy, what Vincent saw is irrelevant, the fact remains that he was visiting you that night, or so he believed and since then he’s felt fit to warn you that Elliot was betraying your trust.”
“Oh my God, I never thought of it that way. I was thinking that he was deliberately avoiding me that because of the baby, he wanted nothing more to do with me, that he regretted what had taken place between us, that one and only time. Jenny what am I to do?”
“You have to go back, or at least remain here a few days. It’s possible that he will call again. When he does, listen to him Cathy, do not be afraid, just listen to what he has to tell you then put him right on the facts. He’s only had your best interests at heart.”
“But if he believes that I’m with Elliot now, Oh Jenny! To know, to think that I turned to Elliot so soon after he, after he…Oh Jenny!” Tears streamed down Catherine’s cheeks, followed by a look of horror as another thought presented itself, “What if he believes the baby is Elliot’s too?”
Jenny hadn’t thought of that, but it would answer why Vincent had felt so strongly about warning Catherine of Elliot’s supposed infidelity. “You will have to hope that the child looks like him, then he will believe otherwise.” Jenny whispered hoarsely, for the child’s identity had not been revealed to her.
“And be subjected to a life in darkness? No way Jen, this baby has to look normal, it is the only way I could cope without Vincent.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way.” Catherine thought the comment strange but ignored it, she was thinking of something trying to decide if she should, and finally before she changed her mind blurted, “I’m probably telling you nothing that you don’t know already, but Jen, Vincent’s world is in the tunnels beneath Manhattan. I would have to give up all the life I’ve ever known to live down their void of sunlight, with caring people, true, but forsaking all my friends above and all I have ever known, not to mention my job.”
“I know it took a lot to tell me that Cathy, but I have kinda suspected that’s where Vincent’s family resided. Remember you mentioned buying a brownstone so that his family could visit, I wondered then, and I have had dreams of candles and draughty places it all adds up when you think of it. However, despite your misgivings Cathy, you have to believe me, that all is not what it seems, and if only you can work out what the letters H N and D stand for, and why they were so important that Narcissa felt the need to gouge them into solid rock before she died, then the whole jigsaw will fall into place and you’ll have the complete picture.”
“You know don’t you? You know what they mean?” Catherine asked shrewdly, knowing Jenny too well.
Jenny couldn’t lie, “Yes, but I have been forbidden to tell you. You need faith on this one Cathy, faith and an intelligent mind to know what actually is, and not what actually appears to be so.”
“H N D?” Catherine mused out loud, “Winslow and Mouse decided that it stood for Here Narcissa Died, but Winslow said that she would hardly state the obvious so furiously prior to dying.” Catherine remained silent for a while, Jenny hoping that she would work out the meaning behind the letters, and then remaining quiet as Catherine spoke of and dismissed certain options. “H for Here. Here lies…what? Only Vincent lay in the cave, and beside the next letter isn’t an L, it’s an N. What could N stand for? Jenny help me!” Catherine wailed. Sadly, Jenny shook her head.
Exasperated Catherine took a pen and notepad from the table and sitting on one of the sofas, began to write all manner of ideas down, crossing out those that were unacceptable as she went until finally with the pad before her, she froze looked up at jenny and mouthed the correct combination knowing by jenny’s jubilant smile that she was right…”H N D…He’s Not Dead! Jenny!” Catherine wailed, “He’s not dead! Who’s not dead? Did Narcissa mean Vincent?” Eyes wide and incredulous Catherine stared at her friend willing her to answer but Jenny just smiled but said nothing. Suddenly Catherine jumped up, pen and pad flying from her lap and raced for the door, gathering her jacket, shoes and keys as she went, “He’s not dead, Jen! Vincent’s not dead! He’s alive, Jen, Vincent’s alive! Oh Jen, Vincent’s alive!” The slam of the door closing was the only thing that made Jenny let out a long harrowing sigh, and moving to the balcony she waited and watched as Catherine emerged from the building (the threshold being too difficult now for her bulk) and at a pace faster than Jenny deemed she ought, Catherine crossed the road and headed for the park looking for all the world like someone that had just been told they’d won a million dollars.
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To be continued in Chapter Ten.