Chapter 6

Joeís Discovery

Joe flipped through the rolodex on his desk, he wanted answers and probably the only one that could provide them, beside Cathy herself of course, was Jenny. He found the card with her number on it and punched the corresponding buttons on his phone. It rang a couple of times before she picked it up.

"Jenny Aronsen, editing," came her voice over the line.

"Hi Jen, itís Joe Maxwell."

"Oh hi Joe. Whatís up?"

"Moreno just gave me a couple of tickets for the Knicks game tonight, you wanna go?"

Jenny took a moment to review the things she had meant to do tonight and decided they could all wait. She liked Joe and she didnít mind a good game of basketball either.

"Sure Joe, sounds like fun."

He arranged to pick her up at her place at 6:00 to give them enough time to grab a bite before tip off. As she hung up the phone it occurred to her that he probably wanted to pump her for information about Cathy. She smiled ruefully thinking even if she told him the truth heíd never believe it.

For his part Joe was sure he would be able to worm something out of her, he wasnít an assistant DA for nothing.

He drove over to Jennyís apartment; found a parking space near it and leaving the car he bounded up the steps. He pressed the button next to her name plaque by the door and waited patiently for her to answer. When her voice came through the speaker he identified himself and she buzzed him in. She opened the door at his knock.

"Come in Joe, I just got home a little while ago, one of our authors was having a fit over a re-write and I had to soothe his frayed nerves. Iíll just be a minute."

He sat on the couch and thumbed through a manuscript she must have been working on. She came out a short while later comfortable in a sweat suit and sneakers.

"Would you mind if we stopped off at Cathyís first?" She hadnít had time after work and she wanted to make sure there was nothing important in the mail.

He said he didnít mind at all, in fact that would probable be the perfect place to confront her as to Cathyís whereabouts. He threaded the car through the evening traffic and pulled up right in front of the brownstone. Jenny fished around inside her purse until she came up with the keys and swinging the car door open made to get out.

"Iíll just be a minute," she smiled at him, levering herself out of the seat.

He smiled back, "Iíll come with you." He met her at the stairs and watched her as she pulled the mail out of the box. She slipped the keys into the locks and pushed open the door. She keyed in the security code and pushed through the doors at the back of the vestibule.

"I just need to go through these to make sure thereís nothing urgent." She called over her shoulder as she went up the stairs. She was startled to see that he was following her up.

"Sure Jen Iíll just wait in the library." Catherine had given him a tour of the house when she had first moved in and he pretty much remembered the lay out. Jenny nodded at him guardedly and continued on to the office. She quickly went through the envelopes putting the important items in a pile and pitching the rest. Finished she went back to the library to find Joe leafing through a book.

"Ok Joe, all set," she smiled at him. "Letís go."

Slowly he closed the book, putting it back where he had found it. While she had been in the office he had gone through the library opening books and checking the fly leafs. Many of them had inscriptions usually starting with to Catherine or Vincent and ending with love always Catherine or Vincent, or love forever Catherine or Vincent. He looked up at Jenny standing in the doorway and quietly asked, "Whose Vincent?"

Jennyís knees almost buckled, she looked down at the floor, drawing a deep breath. Before she could answer him a voice called from downstairs, "Hey Cathy, Vincent where are you guys hiding? Are you ready to have your hairy butt whooped again?" The voice was deep, with laughter in its tone.

Hairy butt? This was getting intriguing and Jenny looked like sheíd liked nothing better than to be somewhere elseÖ anywhere else. She swallowed hard, glanced nervously at Joe, then turned to the stairs and called down, "Weíre up here, Isaac."

Joe heard someone bound up the stairs and then heard the voice address Jenny, "Hey Jen whatís going on? Whereís Cathy and Vincent?

"Thatís exactly what I wanna know!" Joe said coming closer to the doorway. He noted that the new comer was black, stocky and dressed for a workout. He addressed Jen again,

"Where are they Jen and whoís Vincent?" Repeating his early questions, "And who are you?" He looked pointedly at Isaac.

Isaac threw a glace at Jenny before answering, "Iím Isaac Stubbs." He moved closer to Joe holding out his hand.

Joe took it as the name clicked into place, "Cathyís self-defense teacher? You make house calls?" he asked incredulously.

"Yeah well it happens. And you are?"

"Joe Maxwell, Cathyís boss and I thought friend," he glared at Jenny. "How come you both know about this Vincent character and I donít?"

Isaac looked to Jenny to take the lead in this; he wasnít about to say anything.

Jennyís mind was racing furiously. How much should she tell him? How much could she tell him? She was good at placating authors not irate Assistant District Attorneyís.

"Joe itís not like that Cathy wanted to tell you, but she was afraid youíd feel compromised."

"Compromised?!" he exploded, "Compromise how?" He threw his hands up in the air "This is nuts!" He was hurt and confused, he always thought he and Cathy were close, more than just boss and employee, he thought much more. He cared for her deeply and now to find out there was someone in her life that she felt she couldnít tell him about, it hurtÖ it hurt like hell.

Jenny broke into his thoughts, "Joe weíre going to be late for the game." She was hoping against hope that he would leave with her.

"Yeah I gotta go too, Iíll be talking to you Jen," Isaac made a move to leave but Joe stopped him cold.

"Nobody is leaving here till I get some answerísÖ sit!" He commanded pointing to the couch; the tone in his voice was the one he used on convicted felons. They sat. They looked at each other wondering what they could say to him that wouldnít betray Cathyís trust in them.

Jenny thought hard, feeling Joeís eyes boring through her, finally she reached for the phone, there was only one person that could sort this mess out and she was praying he would pick up.

Joe had perched himself on the arm of the couch opposite them with his arms crossed over his chest absolutely determined not to leave without knowing where Cathy was and who this Vincent guy was. He watched closely as Jenny waited for her call to be answered.

When it was she spoke nervously. "No, itís Jenny, um we have a situation here, Joe Maxwell and Isaac are here. Do you think you could come over?"

***

When the phone rang Father had hoped it was Vincent, but upon hearing Jennyís voice those hopes dropped as quickly as they had risen. Hearing the nervousness in her tone and the relief when he said heíd be there, he knew she had gotten herself into a sticky situation. He wished Bishop Jack were around to accompany him, but the Bishop had gone topside to visit with a sick helper. The two men had grown close since the Bishop had come Below and Father had found his advice and clear thinking invaluable.

When he left his chamber he tapped out a message to Pascal telling him where he was going. As he traveled the tunnels that led to his sonsí home he went over the possibilities of what was going on over there. He finally decided that there was only one that made any sense. Obviously no one had told Isaac that Catherine and Vincent were out of town and he had turned up at the usual time for his weekly training session with Vincent. For one reason or another Maxwell had gone with Jenny to check the house or he had just shown up on the doorstep while she was there and now Joe Maxwell being the attorney and friend that he was wanted to know what was going on. It was also obvious that Jenny didnít want to be the one to disclose anything to him.

Father sighed then went through various scenarios in his mind that might satisfy Maxwellís curiosity. He disregarded each one in turn finally deciding to just play it by ear. He was afraid that no matter what happened Catherine would find a much changed situation, as far as her boss was concerned, when she got back, if she got back. No he wouldnít think that way, they would both come back safe and sound. He had reached the entrance to the basement and resolutely let himself in.

Joe heard a light tread on the stairs just before seeing a distinguished, elderly man; dressed in a hodge podge of clothing, fill the doorway. When Jenny noticed Joeís stare she turned and leaping up off the couch embraced Father warmly. She whispered, "Iím sorry," in his ear. Father patted her on the back sympathetically as he moved further into the room. Isaac stood extending his hand; Father took it shaking it. "Isaac, how are you?"

"Fine Jacob, Iím sorry about this," he murmured contritely inclining his head in Joeís direction.

Joe stood as Father approached him. "Mr. Maxwell, Iím Jacob Wells I understand you have a few questions."

All of a sudden Joe felt like he was back in school standing in front of the principal. He stared at the old man dressed in funny clothes and something clicked. "Iíve seen you before."

Father chuckled, "Yes I was a guest of your penal system for a short time, unjustly accused of a murder I didnít commit. Catherine was instrumental in finding the real killer."

Joe vaguely remembered the case recalling his puzzlement as to Cathyís involvement with it. He still didnít understand the connection, then he had a flash of inspiration.

"Whose Vincent?" he asked the old man.

He heard Jennyís sharp intake of breath.

"Vincent is my son Mr. Maxwell, he and Catherine were married last year."

Joe was floored; he sat back down on the arm of the couch. Married? Cathy was married and she never thought enough about him to even introduce him to her husband.

Father saw the thought plainly on Joeís face.

"I assure you Mr. Maxwell, Catherine would have wanted nothing better than to have had you at her wedding, but she felt that your loyalties would be compromised."

Joe looked sharply at Father, Jenny had said much the same thing. "Compromised? How so?"

"In your job you are sworn to up hold the letter of the law, there have been times in my sons life when he has taken the law into his own hands not because he wanted to," he hastened to make clear, "because he was forced to in order to protect his family, to protect Catherine. Believe me Vincent has never hurt anyone that hadnít already done harm to someone else."

"So what are you saying your sonís a vigilante? And Cathy approves of it?" Joe was shocked that Cathy would sanction something like that.

"Catherine loves him very much as he does her, she protects him with her silence and he protects her from the dangerous situations that you," he pointed an accusing finger at Joe, "have placed her in time and time again."

Joe got up and began pacing, he thought back to all the times Cathy had gotten into close scrapes and had miraculously gotten out alive much to the amazement of her more experienced and senior colleagues. He was always so thankful that she had, and grateful to her guardian angel who always managed to come through for her. Now that guardian angel turned out to be flesh and blood and had a name. He began to see her reticence in telling him about Vincent. If this Vincent were a criminal, then he would feel compelled to put him behind bars; that Cathy loved him would complicate things.

He tried to recall all the cases Cathy had barely survived; the people she had pursued had tried to kill her or have her killed and if he remembered correctly they or their henchmen had turned up dead instead. As he quickly reviewed the facts in his mind a commonality revealed itself, the victims were all slashed as if by a large cat if he remembered the coroners words correctly. Joe shook his head; this was making no sense. What did this guy have a pet tiger or something?

"All right." Joe stopped pacing and stood in front of Father. "All right that tells me why she didnít tell me it doesnít tell me where she is right now."

Father shook his head, "You wouldnít believe me if I told you."

Joe glared at him, "Why donít you let me be the judge of that."

"Very well, but I suggest you sit down."

Joe seated himself at the end of the couch, folded his arms across his chest and waited expectantly. This whole conversation was already pretty surreal how much worse could it get? He glanced at Jenny and Isaac sitting on the couch opposite him, they both looked like the kid who had gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

"Jenny." She looked up startled when Father called to her. "Why donít you get the wedding album?"

Jennyís eyes widened at that request, but she nodded and went to the cabinet where it was kept. She handed it to him slowly, apprehension clear in her eyes. When she resumed her seat Father began.

"Mr. Maxwell, Vincent is my adopted son, he was brought to me as a newborn and until very recently I had no idea who his parents were."

"Yeah well this is all very interesting, but itís not telling me where Cathy is." Joe repeated impatiently.

"If youíll just allow me to finish," Father admonished him.

"As I said we just found out that Vincent is the product of a human female and an alien male."

Joe looked hard at Father. "You mean out of the country?"

"No I mean out of this world." If the situation werenít so serious Father would have laughed at Joeís expression.

Joe jumped up and began pacing again. "This is nutís! You expect me to believe there are little green men running around here?"

He looked over at the other two, they werenít laughing. He looked back at Father, the old man was completely serious.

"Please, Mr. Maxwell, sit down and look at these."

Father handed him the wedding album. Joe sat with it on his lap looking at it as if it might bite. Slowly he opened the cover; there was Cathy on the left hand page looking more beautiful than he had ever seen her. She look absolutely beautiful in her wedding dress and the look in her eyes radiated love.

Then he looked at the right hand page and saw a monster. He sucked in his breath sharply; stunned that Cathy could be in love with something like this. He studied the creature closely taking in the leonine face, the mane, the teeth, and then the hands with the lethal looking claws. These then were the claws that had slashed Cathyís would be killers to death. Her guardian angel wasnít a man with a cat it was a man that was a cat. Joe shook his head in disbelief, the thing definitely wasnít human except for the eyes, they were altogether too human and shone with the same love he saw in Cathyís. Slowly he turned the pages noting the strange surroundings and the even stranger almost medieval dress of the wedding guests. He saw pictures of Cathy dancing with the beast, seeing how happy she was in its arms and how protectively it held her. There was no doubt in his mind that they loved each other, it was blatantly obvious. He closed the book and looked across at Jenny.

"You were there?"

She nodded, "I was the one taking the pictures."

He addressed Isaac "And you too?"

"No," Isaac shook his head. "I met Vincent shortly after they were married."

Well at least he wasnít the only one. "What about Nancy Tucker, was she there?"

"No," Jenny shook her head. "Nancy doesnít know about Vincent other than his name."

That mollified Joe somewhat at least he wasnít the only one of Cathyís friends not to know anything about this pairing. He looked back at the old man again,

"So where are they?"

"There was a medical emergency on the planet of Vincentís biological father, a pandemic. It turns out Vincentís blood provides the only cure, he and Catherine are there."

Joe got up again to pace, this was way too weird for him, way beyond what he even could have imagined. But the evidence was clear in the photographs he had just seen. How could such a being exist here in this city, in his city without him knowing about it, without the least little hint, how?

He stopped his pacing suddenly as a thought occurred to him.

"When did Cathy meet him?" he asked.

Father calculated in his head, "just under four years ago, the night she was attacked. She was left for dead in the park and that nearly was the case. Vincent found her and brought her to me. I am a physician, I was able to stop the bleeding and suture her face. My son cared for her for ten days until she was strong enough to go back."

Joe remembered the scandal those ten days were, the pressure on the DAís office and the police department to find the missing debutant. So thatís who she was with, she never let on, it all made a weird kind of sense. But then another thought entered his overwhelmed mind.

"He cared for her where? Where has he been hiding all his life? Where does he live?

"That I will not tell you," Father replied. "A whole community depends on its secrecy to survive."

Joe felt the anger rise again, "I seeÖ more secrets!"

"Iím sorry, but thatís all I can tell you."

"Well what youíve told me has already blown my mind, youíve given me a lot to think about. When are they coming back?"

"Thereís no way to know, I was told that they would be able to send messages to us, but so far weíve had no news. I donít even know if they reached their destination safely."

Fatherís head lowered with the heavy weight of worry.

Suddenly there was a humming in the air and as if on cue a beam of light sparkled in the center of the room. All eyes turned to see it come and go leaving behind a sheaf of papers. Isaac was the closest, he came out of the defensive crouch he had instinctually gone into and retrieved them from the floor. Looking at them he could see there were two sets one addressed simply to Father and the other to Jenny.

"What the hell was that?" Exclaimed Joe returning his gun to its holster.

That was also the question on Isaacís mind as he handed one set of papers to Father and the other to Jenny. They both recognized the handwriting on their respective letters as that of Vincentís and Catherineís.

"That was a transporter beam," explained Father as he sat with the precious papers clutched in his hands. "Itís how Vincent and Catherine left." He drew out his glasses and perched them on the end of his nose. He would have liked nothing better than to have gone back to his chamber to savor the communication from his son in private, but he saw that the others were waiting expectantly so he unfolded what he could plainly see were pages torn out of one of Vincentís journals. Beta probably didnít have such primitive items as pen and paper. He looked across at Jenny who held her sheets tightly clasped in her lap waiting for him to decide who should go first.

"Iíll read Vincentís letter first Jenny then if you wouldnít mind sharing Catherineís with us?"

She nodded her head as the other two men made themselves comfortable.

He began to read:

Father, first I will let you know that Catherine and I have arrived safely on Beta. The trip here was extraordinary, we have seen sights that very few people have ever seen. We have been introduced to technology that few on our world have even dreamt of, when we return remind me to tell you of sonic showers.

Our arrival on Beta was quiet owing to the need of security. We were taken to a healerís facility where I underwent a series of exams totally non-invasive and completely accurate. I am sure you and Peter would give your right arms to have the diagnostic equipment I was subjected to.

There is good news Father I am not sterile as we feared, if the fates allow I am capable of giving Catherine the child she so desperately wants, for that knowledge alone it was worth the trip. She has given me so much and I have so little to offer her besides my love and utter devotion, to know I can give her this fills me with great joy.

At the conclusion of their exams the healers who conducted them deemed it safe to extract six pints of bloodÖ.

Here Father stopped, looking up he exclaimed, "Dear God six pints of blood, itís not reasonable!" Jenny glared at him and he stifled his indignation and continued,

Öon a daily basis. Father please do not worry, I can hear you now disagreeing with their assessment, but I have had it done twice now and I do not feel the worse for it, just a little tired. After the extraction, the two healers fill me with their healing energy and I sleep all morning. This then shall be the pattern of our days, extractions early in the morning, rest and then the afternoon and evening to do whatever we feel up to.

And here is news that will cheer you and hopefully lighten your worry over me. Sher-Kanís blood was tested and now carries the same virus fighting elements that mine does so he is now also contributing, albeit not to the same degree as I am as he is still recovering from his recent illness, only a pint is being taken. It is assumed anyone else that is healed by my blood will in time be able to provide vaccine as well so they will not be relying totally on me.

Right now it is afternoon here and Catherine and I are sitting outside with our backs to a huge oak tree that Sher-Kan had brought back from Earth as a seedling many years ago. The gravity being lighter here the tree has grown to enormous proportions. We sit under its boughs with a red sun shining in a purple sky with lavender clouds floating by. So often I have wanted to do this on Earth, but with the exception of our honeymoon I couldnít. Here there are no fears, I need not be constantly on my guard and we plan to be outside often to enjoy Sher-Kanís vast estate. He has plants and flowers he has collected from all his many trips to other planets and those that would not thrive in Betaís atmosphere he has installed into biospheres that support their existence. Catherine and I are hoping we have the chance to see all of this beautiful estate before we leave.

I must tell you that Sher-Kan is an avid swordsman and has already engaged me as a sparring partner. I will have to tell Isaac that my swordsmanship is not wanting, I was able to hold my own against a much more seasoned fighter. In fact after the crisis is over Sher-Kan wishes to host a tournament here and have me participate in it.

Please do not worry yourself over much about me Father, Catherine and mother hover over me like the proverbial hawks, I canít imagine two more ferocious caretakers yourself included.

I will write again soon, please give my love to all Below and tell them that I miss them very much.

Love

Vincent

Father took off his glasses letting them dangle in his hand while he pinched the bridge of his nose with thumb and forefinger wearily. He had been so keyed up worrying about Vincentís well being that knowing everything was all right with him came as a blessed relief, as if a very heavy weight had been removed or a breath tightly held had been released. He carefully folded up the pages and placed them reverently in a pocket to be read again later then looked expectantly at Jenny.

Jenny took her cue and unfolded her sheets.

Dear Jenny,

I want to thank you again for taking care of everything for us on such short notice. Everything is going well so far and we are adjusting to the life that will be ours for the next few weeks. Right now Vincent and I are outside in one of Sher-Kanís lovely gardens, I wish our garden looked like this, but you know Iím hopeless at growing things maybe while weíre here Sher-Kan can give me a few pointers. I donít know how long we will be here I hope looking after the house wonít be too much of a burden, but we had news that the patients who received the first batch of Vincentís blood are all recovering rapidly and that they in turn will be able to provide vaccine so that should cut our stay down somewhat.

I wish I didnít have to be so abrupt with Joe when I told him I had to go, I hate him not knowing where I am perhaps you could give him a call and tell him youíve heard from me and that everythingís ok.

Jenny looked up and flashed Joe a little smile; he nodded for her to continue.

Jen when we were at the healers facility and they were testing Vincent I got up the nerve to ask about his ability to father a child and I got the best news in the world, make that universe. Heís not sterile; we can have a child together. I canít begin to tell you how that made me feel. I donít think Vincentís ever considered the possibility of becoming a father heís still coming to terms with being a husband.

Anyway it looks like our days are going to start out the same, the two healers assigned to Vincent, Briur and Darer come by after breakfast and take blood from Vincent. Sher-Kan has been assigned a healer of his own, a female named Beltar. Then the two guys go down for a nap until about mid-day. Thatís when Emily and I keep ourselves busy; so far sheís shown me how to handle things around the house. Let me tell you this technology is wonderful, if you have a question about something you just ask the house and it tells you. No kidding I mean it. I say computer where are the towels and boom it tells me.

Sher-Kan has this elaborate weapons salle where he keeps a collection of weapons from other times and places. Heís a bit nervous about Vincentís security so he showed us a modern weapon called a phaser and made us take one to carry with us. He has a target range set up in the salle and Iíve been practicing, itís nothing like a gun except that you hold it in your hand, thereís a button on itís side that you push and a beam of light shoots out of it and depending on the setting it either knocks whatever youíre pointing at out or it disintegrates it. Cute huh? Vincent didnít want one but Sher-Kan insisted, in fact he and Emily are carry one too just in case; hopefully weíll never have to use it.

I have to tell you about the colors here, everything in that regard is so different from Earth. The sun is red and there are two moons that have a pinkish glow at night. The sky is a deep purple with lavender clouds, thereís a brook that flows through the middle of Sher-Kanís house, yes believe it and thatís purple. The grass for the most part is peach and I canít even begin to name all the colors that are in the gardens, think of a Crayola crayon box the big one and youíll start to get the picture.

Iíve mentioned the house, but let me describe it to you, it is situated in front of a cliff and part of it is actually built into the cliff wall. Thereís a waterfall that comes in through the roof and right down the two stories to the floor of the living room where thereís a swimming or bathing hole set up with flowers and benches all around it. Then from there a stream runs off of the pool through the room and out the front. Itís wild! Iíve taken some pictures so youíll see what I mean. The front of the house is shaped like a semi-circle or half-moon both ends meeting the cliff face. The roof of the house can be made translucent so you can see the sun shining during the day and the stars at night. The bedrooms are actually carved into the cliff face and feel very much like the chambers Below, we even have a bathing pool in our bathroom just like Vincentís and Fatherís.

Itís all sort of a funny juxtaposition of old and new just like home, like Above and Below. I have to laugh to think we traveled all this way and still find at the core of everything itís still the same on both worlds.

Well enough philosophizing, Vincent and his father squared off last night for a little sword fighting. Here when they fight they wear this sort of jumpsuit made of a spandex like material that registers hits to the computer. Believe me when I tell you Jen it leavesÖ

Jenny looked up red faced at the men surrounding her. "Hum I think Iíll just skip over this part." She quickly read through the next few lines. Then began reading out loud again.

They told us that you should get this in a couple of days, by then we should have a few more letters to send, they promised us mail service and we are determined to keep that courier busy. I wish you could write back but hopefully weíll be back before I get too home sick.

Love ya Jen

Cathy

P.S. Please call Joe Ė thanks.

Jenny looked up at Joe, "Well I guess I donít have to call you huh?"

"NoÖit sounds like theyíre doing ok doesnít it?" relief evident in his voice.

"Well it sure sounds like my training is coming in handy." Isaac slapped his hands on his thighs and got up. "Look folks Iím gonna get going. Youíll call me if you get another letter?" He looked from Jenny to Father. "That is if you donít mind?"

"Iíll call you Isaac donít worry." Jenny gave his arm a squeeze and watched him as he disappeared through the library door.

Joe looked from one to the other then got up as well. "I gotta tell you, this has been the weirdest night of my life and when they get back Cathy and I are going to have a little talk."

"Iím sure you will Mr. Maxwell, but right now I need to know what you plan on doing about my son."

Joe crossed his arms and taking a parade rest stance looked Father in the eye, "I honestly donít know, I want to talk to Cathy first."

Father nodded and slowly stood up, "all I ask is that you keep an open mind, Vincent might not go by the letter of the law just because of what he is, but he does live by the spirit of the it."

"Yeah right," Joe answered sarcastically. He was fully determined to pull all of Cathyís old cases out and check them for any hints of Vincent, until then and until he spoke to Cathy he would reserve judgment.

"Come on Jenny letís get a bit to eat Iím starving."

Jenny stood and after giving Father a hug preceded Joe down the stairs. Just before going down Joe turned to Father.

"Look itís obvious you love your son and itís obvious Cathy does too Iíll take that into consideration, but thereís one thing Iím definitely going to insist on."

"And what would that be Mr. Maxwell?"

"Well for one thing stop calling me Mr. Maxwell, call me Joe and for another I want to meet with Vincent when they get back."

"All rightÖ.Joe heís been wanting to meet you and now that you know about him Iím sure theyíll be no problem with that."

"All right then, Iíll be in touch, goodnight."

Father watched as Joe descended the stairs. Poor Vincent, he thought, he wonít know what hit him when he gets back.

Revised 5/22/06

10/13/06