When Jamie issued her report back to Father awaiting her return below the city streets, he struggled to stand and only thanks to Winslow’s help could he stagger back into his seat near at hand. “She said she knew nothing?” He asked with disbelief, “Why would she do that?”
Jamie explained about Peter’s presence and his theory that Catherine and her friend had been drugged and had memory loss, but also that there was no way of knowing until the results to the blood test came through whether or not that was so, and if it were then how long term the memory loss would be.
“So we are back to square one.” The dismay in Father’s tone was evident, “And the search parties have revealed nothing so far. Some have even reached Paracelsus’s domain and found it empty. There are no signs of habitation though Paracelsus is clever he would never leave a trace of his whereabouts. Even so, they found nothing to suggest that Vincent had been there. It is a mystery and we are only clutching at possibilities. Paracelsus might have nothing to do with this. We do not know how old the note was that Mary found crumpled in Vincent’s bin. It could be years old.” Even so, he could recollect no time when Vincent had received such a note and Vincent usually told him everything. It grieved him that he had not. “Where was I on the day Vincent disappeared, does anyone know?” Father clutched at straws, “Was I unattainable? Was Vincent looking for me?” Father looked around the sea of faces before him. They looked back blankly telling him nothing. Until Geoffrey spoke up, “I think you were consulting with William. Vincent was looking for you.” Father stared at the boy as if he had misheard him, and all eyes rested upon the boy. “You mean the day he went missing?” Father asked incredulously.
“I think so.” Geoffrey replied nervously, “I’m not really sure if that’s when it was. But there was a day recently when Vincent came and asked me if I’d seen you. I hadn’t at the time and told him so, but only later when I saw you return from the kitchen and knew that had been the way Vincent had gone, did I assume he had found you.”
“That would be the day I saw him intercept Mouse then!” Cullen cried amazing everyone who heard.
“He intercepted Mouse?” Father asked turning to Cullen hopefully, “Did you hear anything between them?”
“No, I didn’t listen. I was with Mouse, we were going to my chamber, and Vincent stopped us. All I know was that he asked us if we had seen you and then he held Mouse back to speak with him. Has anyone asked Mouse what they spoke about?”
Father shook his head, “No, because we didn’t know till now. However, Mouse knows Vincent is missing and he hasn’t said anything.”
“Ah yes, but you know those two, Father. They can be as thick as thieves. If I were you I’d get Mouse down here quick smart and see if Vincent confided in him about anything.” Cullen advised. Father had not needed the advice he was onto it, tapping out the command for Mouse to come to his chamber before Cullen had finished speaking, then that done all waited hopefully for Mouse’s arrival.
When it came the young boy peeked gingerly around the chamber entrance wondering what he might have been summoned for, and if he was about to be scolded, when Cullen took his arm and gently ushered him in. “Its alright Mouse, you aren’t in trouble, Father just wants to ask you a question.”
“Never took anything.” Mouse told Father guiltily.
“I never said you did.” Father replied suppressing a chuckle even though he was anxious to get to the point. “Mouse, Cullen tells me that you and Vincent stopped to speak a few days ago in the tunnels.”
“Yes, you remember Mouse,” Cullen reminded him, “It was on the that day you were coming to my chamber for some wood.”
Mouse nodded, he did remember, “Yes, so?” He asked nervously.
“Mouse, try to remember please because its important.” Father looked Mouse straight in the eye, “Did Vincent say where he was going, after speaking with you?”
Mouse shook his head, “Was looking for you.”
“And he never said about receiving any notification from anyone about anything?” Father asked hopefully.
Mouse shook his head, “Nope. Was looking for you.”
“Did you see which way he went after speaking to you?”
Mouse smiled, “That’s easy. He went back to his chamber.”
“So he didn’t go to the kitchen?” Mouse stared at Father. His look seemed to say that the kitchen was in the other direction. “Thank you Mouse. That’s all I wanted to know, you can go back to whatever it was you were doing now.” The young boy hesitated then realising Father meant it, he scuttled away obviously relieved that he wasn’t in any trouble. Still his arrival and departure had done nothing to lighten the spirits of those in Father’s chamber. “Then we are as much in the dark now as we were before.” Cullen remarked dryly. “No one saw where Vincent went, or knows why he told no one where he was going. As far as Mouse was concerned he was returning to his chamber…wait…unless…do you suppose he was coming here?” Father one step ahead of Cullen yet again was sifting through the papers on his desk, trying to remember what had been upon it the day that Vincent had disappeared.
“Found it!” He exclaimed to no one in general, though all eyes were upon him with hopeful expectation, as he pulled from the bottom of the pile a sheet of paper he kept upon the ledger where he jotted things down. Spectacles pushed high on his nose Father peered down at his own familiar handwriting dismissing the scrawl until he found that which he hoped to be there and gasped loudly. “He left a message…he left a message…” he began anxiously before reading it out, “Father, received word from Paracelsus, am going to find out what he wants. Don’t worry I’ll be careful. If not back by tomorrow, send search party.” Tears coursed down Father’s cheeks. “He left a message and I didn’t see it…I didn’t see it…oh Vincent forgive me…forgive me…” Cullen rushed to his side beaten by Winslow and the pair placing their arms around Father’s now frail shoulders hugged him tightly. “Don’t blame yourself Father, you didn’t know he’d left a message, you didn’t even know he’d gone anywhere, or that he was looking for you.” They hoped to console the older man but he was shaking his head sorrowfully, “I’m always here, always here, why did I have to go see William that day? I’ll tell you shall I, to get some blasted cookies, as if I’m not fat enough already! And all along my son needed me…what kind of patriarch am I…if anything has happened to my son I will never forgive myself, never do you hear me?” More sobs followed and the two men on either side of him hugged harder. Their eyes caught those of other concerned tunnel dwellers standing around the chamber. Knowing or not knowing what had become of Vincent was of equal anxiety…Paracelsus was a master of disguises and that no one had yet found what had become of Vincent even though they had assumed Paracelsus was behind it, only worried them further. Without a miracle they would not find him, all they could do is hope that Vincent would find some means of escape. But they were not optimistic. It had been four days already…in the past Vincent had got word to them by then…and that he hadn’t signalled whatever Paracelsus’s plan to be it was working and in the face of that and it didn’t bear thinking about, but they had to accept that Vincent might well be lost to them for good.
“Father!” Jamie cried as hope surged forth and all eyes were turned to her. “The woman! The one from above…she said she shares a connection to Vincent…if anyone can find him she can!” Eyes bright Jamie challenged Father to deny her, and just as she’d hoped he brushed aside the comforting arms of the two men at his side and cried, “Do you think she could?”
Many doubts dashed through Jamie at his question, but she shook them resolutely aside, “Yes, Father I believe she can. She came down here didn’t she? Had no reason to know that Vincent lived down here, and her friend, Jenny, she sees things, visions like Narcissa, I’m sure that together they could find Vincent no matter where he is. Oh Father, I’ll go at once and bring them down here shall I?”
Father waved her onward, “Go Jamie, bring them down to us, tell them they must come. Someone call Peter, perhaps they will come with him if they refuse to come with Jamie. No matter what, bring them to me. Any hope no matter how slim, any chance no matter how ludicrous it might be is better than what we have now. For what we have now is nothing and without this woman who seems to have a remarkable gift for tracking my son, we might never see him again. So go, Jamie, Godspeed, and bring her back with you.”
The change in Father was incredible. Hope surged through the older man and that he clung to the possibility of the stranger being able to track his son went without saying. For the last four days Father’s sullen eyes had betrayed his feelings, he was fast losing hope, and since the sudden enlightenment that Paracelsus was involved all those round about had seen the only hope he’d had left dashed to pieces. Well now they’d seen it rise from the ashes and knew that Father placed everything, his whole trust and hope upon the strange woman from above that said she shared a connection with his son. And the tunnel dwellers were fired with optimism that he was right and that Jamie would bring the woman back with her and Vincent would soon be found but not one of them could have imagined that the woman might refuse to help.
*** *** ***
Cautiously, Jody reached the final step and with a coded knock that signified her presence to those within the building, she waited for the door to open. “Sure you weren’t followed?” The guard ushered her inside and peered from left to right behind her and then down the stairs.
“Absolutely.” Jody replied as she accustomed her eyes to the darkness beyond the stairwell. “Where is everyone?” The guard closed the door, fastened the locks and without replying signalled by the beam of his flashlight that she should follow him. They crossed the room, some forty yards of open space going by the echo their footsteps made on the tiled floor until the beam encountered a door where upon the guard tapped a signal. Minutes later it was opened and a shaft of light deluged the room beyond only long enough to grant the visitors entry.
“Did you get it?” Jody turned at the sound of the voice she recognised, “Yes, here. They said it would be the last though, no matter your promises. Something about you being even now.” Jody eyed her mentor suspiciously but he was not forthcoming, just extracted the bag from her grasp and peered within. “It will have to do. There should be enough. Can’t give him too much of this drug it could have an adverse affect on him. He’s not like most people.” Jody watched the man she knew as John cross the room and pour the contents of the bag into a jar labelled with its name. It hardly filled a quarter of it, but she knew that was enough to render up to fifty people incapable of remembering anything for several weeks.
“So where is he?” Jody’s quick appraisal of the room had revealed little to answer that question, and John was not about to enlighten her. “The least you know, the better it will be. This isn’t the only drug available my dear, there are some that will loosen the tongue.” Though he smiled at her, Jody detected his mistrust. She supposed she couldn’t blame him, he had striven for years to accomplish this particular plan and she had to admire him for having succeeded without even using Jacob Wells as bait as she had presumed. She knew John, he would feel elated that having taken Vincent from that particular patriarch of the tunnels any punishment he had felt Jacob Wells should receive would be well and truly apportioned over the last few days. In fact, she had heard along the grapevine that the older man was out of his mind with worry about his son’s disappearance but refrained from telling John so. He had his own dogs, so they could sniff out such information and report to him. After all, if John was going to keep her in the dark, why shouldn’t she withhold information from him too?
“After tonight I want you to return below. Don’t come back here, your journey will be wasted, for I don’t expect to be staying in this part of the city much longer. Now that I have what I want, there is no need for me to return to the tunnels. And in actuality, another place has been reserved for my son for some time. We will be happy there and undisturbed and with my guidance my son will soon obey my every command. No more of this whimsical fantasy that has surrounded him for the past thirty years. My son is a warrior, aptly named and I aim to see that the world soon knows of his existence, but in my own time, no one will force me to reveal him before the due time.”
Jody thought John spoke in riddles, but then he often had. It was hard keeping pace with him, and in many respects, she wondered if he had lost his mind. The years had been hard and filled with the bitter knowledge that his son might be lost to him…well now all that seemed to have changed, but it did not alter the fact that John Pater otherwise known as Paracelsus to his enemies had a perverted sense of justice when it came to achieving his goals.
“Well in that case…” Jody announced making for the door, “If you no longer need me?” She asked indifferently not expecting he did, “Shall I go now?”
John Pater nodded, saying nothing, his eyes revealing nothing, only when she left the room did he signal to the guard his intent with the sign of a cutthroat. Understanding his master’s demand one nod of the guard’s head signified that the deed would be done and by the time he returned, the darkness that Jody encountered as she left the room had become hers eternally. Her body would not be discovered for several days more and by then John Pater, his one remaining soon to be extinguished guard and the one he called his son would be long gone – slipped away into the fissure of life where he expected no one could follow.
*** *** ***
Four days became seven, and Peter a constant visitor to Catherine’s apartment had to stand and tell Jamie time and again that his patient remembered little of what had happened to her and nothing whatsoever of any connection she had shared with Vincent. In fact, that ability if ever there was one, had become a constant irritation to Catherine herself.
Jenny, remembering a little more than her friend had tried over the last three days without any success to have Catherine respond to anything she told her. And it seemed more and more likely to Jenny and finally to Peter that the drug was only partly responsible for Catherine’s memory loss, and that in the main she simply did not want to remember. Jenny supposed she could not blame her for that. Since the attack, she had seen her friend change from the courageous woman she once was to a shadow of that former self, almost afraid to go anywhere, if it meant going alone. Still having to sit by and know that so many people relied on and hoped that Catherine would remember made the passing days even more poignant and tragic, both by being acceptable and unacceptable in view of the facts surrounding her friend.
Down in the tunnels wasn’t much different. Jamie ranted that Catherine deliberately refused to comply with their demands that she helped track Vincent, and Father with the quiet acceptance of Peter’s counsel that Catherine simply could not remember, along with the fury that John Pater had robbed the young woman of her memories and a remarkable ability to trace his son. Whether or not John knew of that gift he did not know, but if he had of known, Father could well imagine John laughing that the drug had killed the gift. And it was that as much as anything else that goaded such hatred to rise in Father. To have a gift so remarkable thrust upon them and then snatched away was a crying shame, and in his heart, the loss was almost too much to withstand.
As far as Catherine was concerned, life was returning to normal whatever that was, so long as people stopped bothering her. It had become obvious that something had happened because so many people, sane people insisted that she had had something remarkable and she no longer possessed it. But not being able to distinguish between that now beheld to that which was lost all Catherine knew was that the ability to feel connected to anyone other than her father simply did not exist. In fact, it was almost laughable, and Jenny’s latest remark that she had actually confided that she could feel the fellow’s heart beat alongside her own almost sent her running screaming from the room, now that was ludicrous!
So, in a world deemed as near normal as she could remember, Catherine set about continuing with her life to the best of her ability in so far as others would allow. She went to work, came home, went to bed, got up went to work, each day much the same as the next person believing that everything was right with her world while resolutely forcing away any niggling doubt that it was not, until the day that Joe asked her for a date.
“Pardon?” Incredulous Catherine’s face beamed at her boss sure that she had misheard the question.
“I said, if you aren’t busy maybe we could go out to dinner this evening?” Joe tried to keep his eyes locked with hers but they shifted away annoyingly and became pinned to the rubber band that he pulled this way and that between his fingers.
“And that would be for what reason?” Joe detected the humour in Catherine’s voice and raised his eyes from the rubber band to meet her gaze.
“Everyone has to eat Radcliffe, even you.” Joe passed an appreciative gaze over her curves. She had a beautiful body and he knew she worked out.
“Are you asking me out on a date Joe?” Something in the way she asked sent tender hooks galloping through Joe. He was in two minds how to answer, deciding in the end to be truthful.
“Guess I am, Cathy.” He told her hopefully.
Strangely, Catherine wanted to nod and agree to go out with him, and he thought he saw that until she drew her brows together and told him, “Sorry Joe, but I can’t.”
Anxiously Joe asked, “Why can’t you? I happen to know that your diary is free for this evening, I checked it myself…” he laughed a trifle embarrassed to have confessed that, “unless you have a little black book you keep at home.”
“Something like that, Joe. I’m sorry but I’m not free tonight or any night.” She spoke almost sadly. Joe detected the sorrow in her tone and had to know why it was there.
“Don’t you fancy me?” Joe laughed nervously hoping she wouldn’t confirm that particular suspicion.
“Its not that.” He noticed that she tugged at her lower lip with her teeth in a very becoming yet apprehensive way before taking a deep breath and continuing, “Joe, you are a great person and good looking…”
“So why do I get the impression that there is a very big but tagged on to the end of that Cathy? Something you can’t or won’t tell me?”
“I wish I could tell you. I can’t even make sense of it myself. Just accept that I can’t go out with you Joe, and leave it be okay?” For a moment, he wanted to do anything but that, but the look of resolution on her face changed his mind. He didn’t think he had ever seen her look so determined about anything. She wasn’t going to tell him her reasons and that was that.
“Sorry, Cathy. Forget I asked okay?” Sadness stood between them. Catherine felt terrible. He’d only asked for a date not to marry her for goodness sake…and she felt so foolish for refusing…but…
Joe was right, there was a very big ‘but’ tagged onto the end of her refusal and it was one that even she refused to acknowledge. All she wanted at that moment was to get out of her office, run home and hide in a corner from herself and the terrible, terrible truth…
There was someone else, and what was worse…the feeling of his heart was suddenly and erratically pounding alongside her own…
*** *** ***
To be continued in part eight.