“The Haunted Clock”

 

A Beauty and the Beast Fan Fiction

By: Linda White

 

Photo collage of Vincent and a clock

 

Authors note:This is my third story submission to the CABB website, and while the stories I’ve written are stand-alone stories, they do follow certain assumptions that I established in the first of my stories entitled, “A Crisis of Confidence”. These assumptions are, that Catherine no longer works at the District Attorney’s office, that she now lives in a multi-story townhouse she inherited when her father passed, and that the house has an entrance to the world Below accessible via a utility door in her basement. With safe passage via that door, Vincent is a frequent guest thereby making it possible for the two of them to finally have some semblance of a life together. My second story also available via CABB is entitled, “Vincent’s Day in the Sunshine.”

Here then, is my third submission, “The Haunted Clock.”

Hope you, the fans of our favorite romantic couple, enjoy my stories.

 

*****

 

Vincent had been working diligently on repairs to the anniversary clock he’d found in a trash bin, using bits and pieces cannibalized from other broken clocks. He’d found it in an alley behind a row of elegant brownstones and although it was in non-working condition, it was mostly intact, including the glass dome that housed it. An old one, probably antique, he’d thought. And seeing it, he had wanted it, thinking it would make a lovely gift for Catherine. He was sure the underlying message would not be lost on her—that every moment they shared was precious to him.

He needed help with the last few repairs though, his clawed hands having some difficulty with the very tiny screws, and had called on Mouse to assist.

As Mouse worked, Vincent asked. “Do you think she’ll like it, Mouse?”

“You fixed it better than good, Vincent. She’ll love it. There! Last screw. Let’s wind it.”

Vincent picked up the key that he’d found taped to the bottom of the clock and wound the mechanism.

Mouse let out a whoop of excitement when the ball weights began to rotate.

Oddly, at the moment the clock began to tick, Vincent felt a small frisson of energy, almost like the feeling you get when you walk across a carpet and then touch a brass doorknob. A kind of tiny electrical jolt. Weird, he thought.

“When will you give it to her, Vincent?” queried the little tinkerer.

Today. She’s in the process of doing some redecorating in her living room and I promised I’d go over and help her paint. In fact, I’d better get going or she’ll finish the job without me and there will be nothing left to do. Thanks for all your help Mouse. I owe you one.”

“No problem, Vincent.”

Vincent gave Mouse a hug, then left the chamber in search of a sturdy box to carry the clock in.

 

*****

 

Some forty-five minutes later, Vincent entered Catherine’s house through the utility door in the basement. He set the box with the clock down on a small table next to the washing machine. He called out. “Catherine, I’m here.”

“Up here, Vincent. I’ve just started taping off the crown molding and…”  She never finished the sentence.

Vincent heard a thump and a jolt of panic came through his bond with Catherine, but it was gone almost as quickly as it had been there. Vincent felt his own panic and flew up the stairs.

“Catherine!” he cried. She lay in a heap on the floor, and there was a gash at her temple. From the angle of her body, he realized she must have fallen from the ladder and hit her head on the corner of the fireplace hearth where the brickwork met the wall.

She was breathing but unconscious.

Vincent knelt beside her and softly patted her cheek. “Catherine, wake up. Please wake up.” But there was no response.

He dashed to the bathroom, and wet a small hand towel and wrung it out. He went back and knelt beside her again, dabbing gently at the oozing. There was an ugly bump already starting to form.

Vincent had often assisted Father during medical procedures Below and knew instinctively that Catherine needed serious help. He looked around the room and spotted the telephone on a nearby table. He opened the little drawer and found Catherine’s address book. He prayed Dr. Alcott’s number was there.

He fumbled through the pages, but found the number and dialed carefully, mindful of his claws. Peter’s exchange answered. “Dr. Alcott’s office. May I help you?”

“Yes, I need Dr. Alcott right away. This is an emergency.”

“Hold please,” came the indifferent answer. After what seemed an eternity, Peter picked up.

“This is Dr. Alcott. What is the emergency?”

“Peter, it’s Vincent.” He nearly shouted. “I’m at Catherine’s. She’s fallen from a ladder and struck her head on the brickwork of the fireplace. She’s breathing, but bleeding and unconscious. Can you come right away?”

“How bad is the bleeding, Vincent?”

“Not gushing, more of an oozing. I’ve got a cool compress on it, but there’s already a lot of swelling and I can’t seem to awaken her.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can. You’ll have to let me in the front door when I get there, Vincent.”

“Please hurry,” Vincent replied anxiously.

Peter must have broken every speeding law in the city because he was there within minutes. He made a quick survey of Catherine’s condition. She was still unconscious. He picked up Catherine’s phone and dialed his exchange.

“Madelyn, Dr. Alcott here. Please send an ambulance at once to Catherine Chandler’s house. The address is in her file.” He paused for a moment, and then said, “Alright, thank you.” He hung up.

“Will she be alright, Peter?” asked Vincent, anxiously.

“There will have to be a full examination at the hospital Vincent. I have a colleague named Dr. Randall who is a specialist in head injuries, and I will enlist his assistance as soon as we get Catherine to Emergency. I’m sure it’s a severe concussion, but there could be complications. We’ll know more after the work-up. By the way, that was quick thinking on your part. Was this the first time you ever used a phone?”

Vincent nodded numbly.

“You’d better get back into the tunnels Vincent. I’ll get a message to you as soon as I know more.”

“I have your word on that, Peter?”

“My solemn word. Now go. I promise we’ll do everything we can.”

Vincent took a last, lingering look toward Catherine, then slowly made his way down the stairs. He knew there was nothing more he could do. He had to trust Peter now.

He exited Catherine’s house and made his way back into the tunnels.

He was filled with worry.

 

*****

 

By the time Vincent reached his chamber in the world Below, he was in tears and his heart ached with loss. Suddenly he let out an anguished roar and he collapsed on his bed. He did not know how long he lay there, but presently, he realized he was not alone.

“Vincent, the door was open, so I took the liberty of entering,” came Father’s concerned voice. “What has happened to upset you so?”

Vincent sat up and turned toward Father, tears still in his eyes, and told him all that had transpired.

“I feel so helpless, Father. I want to go to her and care for her as I did when I first found her that night in the park. The worst of it is that I can’t feel our connection, our bond. It’s as though my soul has been ripped from me.”

Father bent and kissed the top of Vincent’s shaggy head. “I know how alone you must feel right now Vincent, but I assure you, you are not. You are not alone.”

Vincent knew Father meant well, but he also knew that Father would never be able to understand the depth of the bond he shared with Catherine. It was not just some static thing. It was as if it had a life of its own. It had been growing and changing even as his relationship with Catherine had grown and changed over the course of time.

In his own private thoughts, Vincent was convinced that the bonding process was something peculiar to his species, even though as far as he knew, he was a species of one. He knew that some animals bonded for life, and he wondered if they, like him, felt that invisible cord tying them to their life-mate. And did they feel absolute loss if that bond was cut off, as he did?

 

*****

 

Peter had finally gone home. It was late and he was exhausted. Catherine had come to on arrival at the hospital. Once there, he and Dr. Randall had stabilized her, then run every kind of test imaginable both mental and physical. She was resting now. They’d given her medication for pain and a sedative to help her sleep.

But Peter had one more duty to perform and he was not looking forward to it. He donned an overcoat and walked to the Chinese restaurant on the corner. He knew the owner, Mr. Chin, very well. Mr. Chin happened to be one of the helpers known to the denizens of the world Below and had a back door in the kitchens with a stairway that went down into the tunnels.

Peter found Father in his study. “Ah, Jacob. I know it’s late but I have news of Catherine and thought Vincent would want to know as soon as possible. Shall we wake him?”

Father stood and was about to accompany Peter to Vincent’s chamber when Vincent himself appeared in Father’s doorway.

“I heard voices and thought it might be you Peter. Is there news?” Vincent’s own voice was raw with emotion and he looked haggard from stress.

“I do have news of Catherine, Vincent, but you are not going to like all of it.”

“Regardless, I must hear all of it,” Vincent replied.

“Well then, here it is. She did suffer a rather severe concussion, but thankfully there was no brain damage. She regained consciousness on arrival at the hospital. She’s been stabilized and the gash at her temple has been stitched up. There will only be a tiny scar. She’s in considerable pain, but is on a drip to help alleviate the worst of it. With rest and care she will make a full recovery from her physical injuries.”

“That’s good then,” said Vincent, looking relieved.

‘Wait, Vincent, there’s more.” And suddenly, Vincent was wary.

“Yes, and there’s just no easy way to say it. She has amnesia. She’s lost her memories.”

“What?” Vincent staggered backwards and bumped into Father’s desk, nearly toppling over. “Amnesia? Does she remember anything at all? Anything of-- us?

“We’ve told her what her name is, and she has learned memory of course, things like how to tie her shoes or how to speak, but of everything else, nothing.”

Vincent slumped into a chair, his face ashen, and his eyes sunken with despair.

Peter tried to reassure him. “This kind of memory loss is usually temporary Vincent. Sometimes lasting only a few hours or a few days, sometimes longer.”

“Weeks, months?” asked Vincent.

“Yes, I’m afraid so. Only time will sort this out.”

Time!

Vincent’s brain went into overdrive.

It was that damn clock! Catherine had fallen the moment he had brought it into her house.

“I’m sorry to have brought this news, Vincent,” said Peter with sadness. “I love Catherine like a daughter and I assure you I will do everything I can to help her, but if you’ll forgive me, it’s been a long day and I need some sleep.”

“Of course,” agreed Father. “Thank you for all you do for us.”

Peter took his leave.

“Vincent-- Vincent?” Father had to say it twice before his leonine son responded.

“Sorry, Father, what?”

“You looked a million miles away. I have some brandy. Perhaps it will help you sleep.”

“No thank you, Father. I have an errand to run and will sleep later.”

“Good night then, Vincent.”

“Good night, Father. Rest well.”Vincent walked slowly back to his chamber, his emotions in tatters.

 

*****

 

Catherine awoke to pain. The throbbing in her head felt like someone pounding on an anvil inside her brain. She pressed the button, as the nurses had instructed her, that triggered the drip mechanism designed to keep a steady flow of pain medication coming to her.

She reached up and touched her temple, and had a sudden flash of something that sounded like someone banging on pipes, but it was very vague. She tried to recall how she had injured her head, but couldn’t remember that either.

Finally, the pain medication was kicking in and she breathed a little easier. The medication made her feel drowsy, but she supposed that was all right. The nice doctors had said rest would help her heal.

She started to drift into that ethereal netherworld halfway between sleep and wakefulness and thought she was hearing a voice calling to her. “Catherine, come back to me. Please, come back to me.” 

She decided she was dreaming, but the voice was soothing. It seemed to wrap her in a cocoon of warmth.

She slept.

 

*****

 

Vincent walked back through the tunnels that led to Catherine’s basement. He entered through the utility door.

There it was!

Still on the table next to the washing machine, right where he’d left it. The clock that he was beginning to believe had some sort of evil attached to it. He went to retrieve it, when he had a sudden idea. He turned his steps to the stairwell and padded up the three flights to bedroom level and entered Catherine’s room… their room. He went to Catherine’s dresser and opened the second drawer from the top on the left.

There!

The green sweater.

He loved that sweater on her. The color made her green eyes dance with liveliness and vitality. He held it to his nose and was almost overwhelmed with the scent. Subtle traces of her perfume clung to the garment, but more than that, he could smell the actual essence of her, a scent that was now engrained into his senses and had become part of his life.

He folded the sweater carefully and put it in one of the large pockets of his cloak. He had a vague notion that if he could just lay his head against the soft folds it would help him sleep.

He went back down the stairs bypassing living room level. He had no desire to go in that room just now. It would be too painful. When he reached basement level, he picked up the box with the clock and retreated the way he had come.

Back in his own chamber, he set the clock on a table, removed the dome, and with one swipe of a clawed hand, he severed the mechanism that made the ball weights rotate.

The instant he severed the mechanism, he felt another jolt of energy, this one painful. Almost—

Angry?

Was it a coincidence?

 

*****

 

Dr. Peter Alcott’s specialty was not psychology, but he did know Catherine. He’d known her all her life, in fact. After all, he did deliver her! And one of the things he knew, was that even as a small child, she had always loved story books, especially the ones with big glossy illustrations. He’d given her quite a few himself on birthdays and holidays. And knowing this had given him an idea.

He’d gathered a series of photographs and was now sitting next to Catherine’s bed in the hospital watching very carefully for reactions as she looked through them. He started with a photo of her former boss, Joe Maxwell. No reaction. Next, a photo of her good friend, Jenny Aronson. Still no reaction. Next, he showed her a photo of her old apartment building. Her face remained blank. But then, he showed her a picture of a lion.

Catherine’s eyebrows knit together as if she was straining at some elusive thought. Peter noted the reaction and remarked. “Quite a majestic looking fellow isn’t he?”

“Yes, he’s beautiful. May I keep that one?”

“Of course. Would you like any of the others?”

“No, just him.”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could talk to the animals? I wonder what this handsome fellow would say.”

Again, he watched for reactions. There was such a look of wistfulness on Catherine’s face and he could tell she was straining to recall why this photo appealed to her.

Maybe there would be a breakthrough soon, but he didn’t want to push too much lest she relapse. He changed the subject.

“Here, let’s have a look at that dressing,” he said casually. He checked the bandages at her temple, checked her vitals and satisfied himself that all was as it should be. “You do look a lot better Cathy,” he remarked. “Dr. Randall will be coming by in the morning as well.”

“Okay.” She yawned.

Peter knew the painkillers were kicking in again. He retreated.

 

*****

 

In the past, Vincent and Catherine had often used the public library’s microfiche system late at night to do research. It just so happened there was a gap in the wall behind a large bookcase in the building’s basement from which the tunnels could be reached.

Vincent sat at a large oaken table, hunched over a screen doing research on the addresses of the brownstones where he had found the anniversary clock. He had started with the addresses closest to the bin he’d found it in and on his second try, he hit pay dirt, at least he was pretty sure that the information he was looking at was relevant.

While following a chain of title on one particular house, he discovered that it had been owned in the past by a woman named Xenobia Greene. This name stood out because he had also found the name in three other references, most notably in obituaries. It seemed that a certain Xenobia Greene had buried three husbands, all of whom had died under rather mysterious circumstances, leaving poor, grieving Xenobia with rather sizeable fortunes.

Apparently, the authorities had grown suspicious after husband number three bit the dust and had done an investigation, but clever Xenobia had cremated all three of them so the bodies could not be exhumed, and the case went cold for lack of evidence.

A Black Widow!

Vincent was convinced she had murdered her three husbands.

Fate had eventually caught up to her in the end however, for Vincent found one other obituary detailing the death of Xenobia after she had fallen down a flight of stairs and broken her neck.

The last reference he found was an announcement for an estate sale whereby the worldly goods of Xenobia Greene would be sold at auction. There was a grainy old photograph showing some of the items to be sold, and there among the curiosities was the anniversary clock!

Was it possible an inanimate object could absorb evil merely by being surrounded by it, for surely the house of Xenobia Greene had been permeated with her evil.

There was only one person who would not laugh at him for having such an idea.

Narcissa.

A visit to the deep cavern where she dwelled suddenly seemed like a very good idea.

 

*****

 

Catherine was dreaming. Dreaming of running, her bare feet stumbling over rough rocks, but she had to keep going. She was searching for something. It was important. She staggered and fell, skinning her knees on the rough stones, but she got up and kept going. Suddenly, she was enveloped in fog, swirling around her like a living thing.

The fog hindered her ability to see. She slowed down, groping her way forward. The fog grew thicker, twisting and curling like eerie fingers. She stopped running and tried to feel her way forward. The fog wrapped its tendrils around her throat.

She awoke, sobbing.

The night nurse heard her cries and came to her. “It’s all right honey, just a dream. Just a dream. Go back to sleep.”

“But I couldn’t reach him,” Catherine cried.

“Him?”

 

*****

 

Vincent was dreaming too.

He was drowning!

Somehow, he’d been cast into a raging sea with monstrous waves crashing all around him. He was choking on great gulps of salty water and his clothing was waterlogged and heavy, dragging him down. He fought to surface, fought for breath, but the relentless maelstrom had no mercy, no pity. He knew the end was near.

He awoke, gasping.

Horrible!

Horrible dream.

He shivered, suddenly cold. He needed warmth. Catherine’s warmth.

 

 

And then it hit him. Catherine’s sweater! It was still in the pocket of his cloak. He arose and went to the old wardrobe where he’d hung it. He found the sweater in the large pocket where he’d put it and brought it back to his bed, smoothing the soft cashmere over his pillow. He laid his head against the folds of fabric and his frazzled nerves were immediately soothed.

He wished he could hold the owner of that garment. Wished he could bury his face in the soft cascade of her hair and he wished he could kiss her soft lips. “Catherine,” he whispered. “Come back. Please come back. You are my life.”

 

*****

 

Narcissa knew Vincent was approaching several minutes before he actually arrived. She may have been all but blind with cataracts, but her inner senses were as sharp as ever.

“Veencent,” she greeted him when she heard his footfalls approaching. “What brings you into de deep caverns, Child?”

“I seek your wise council, Narcissa,” he said solemnly.

“Do you not find wisdom in de council of de wise Father, Veencent?”

“Father is a wise man, Narcissa, but he does not know all and there are some things he prefers not to know.”

“Ah, you are seeking de kind of knowledge only crazy old Narcissa can impart to dee, eh?” She chortled.

“You have your own kind of wisdom, Narcissa.”

“Ask your questions den, Veencent.”

Vincent did not waste any time beating around the bush. He went straight to the heart of the matter. “Can an inanimate object be haunted-- that is, harbor some kind of residual evil that can manifest toward people causing bad dreams and even physical harm?”

 

 

Narcissa shivered. “Yes, Child, yes. Dere are many such examples. Spirits can haunt people, houses and objects. Why do you suppose de church of Rome performs exorcisms even to dis day?I have heard tell of a plantation in de South haunted by a mirror and dere are many tales of haunted dolls, even a haunted piano dat seems to play by itself. Have you had such an experience child? You must tell old Narcissa.”

“Yes,” and Vincent told Narcissa his suspicions regarding the anniversary clock and how he believed Catherine’s accident was no coincidence.

“And where is de clock now, Veencent?”

“In my chamber. I have severed the mechanism that makes the clock run.”

“You must do more den dis, Veencent. You must destroy it. “Smash it to pieces, burn de pieces until dere is nothing but ash, den throw de ash into de Abyss.

Do not destroy it where dere are other objects nearby, Veencent, lest de evil spirits transfer demselves to another object. Take de clock to de cave of crystal dat I told you of long ago. De crystals have dere own protection and de evil spirits cannot enterdem. You must protect yourself too! Here, take dis.” She handed him a rose-colored stone on a long leather thong. “Dis will protect you, Veencent.”

“Thank you, Narcissa. I will follow your instructions to the letter.”

And he did.

Hours later, standing on the edge of the Abyss, he hurled the ashes, all that was left of the haunted clock, into the void. And once again he felt a tiny frisson of energy, but this time it faded into nothingness even as the remains of the unholy object plummeted into the bottomless depths.

Now that the clock was destroyed, would his bond with Catherine resurface?

He tentatively reached out to her. “Catherine?”

Nothing.

 

 

No, wait! There was something, but it was very faint, very elusive, like a tiny wisp of smoke, yet, it was there.

Barely!

It was as if her essence was floating somewhere above her body unable to attach itself to her physical self, yet he knew it was there.

It was the first time in days he felt a small glimmer of hope.

 

*****

 

Peter was sitting with Catherine again at the hospital. It was rather late, but it was the first opportunity he’d had in three days. This time he had brought both pictures and objects, hoping sensory input would stimulate her memories more forcefully than pictures alone.

He did start with photos of her parents, however. She lingered over these and he was hopeful that he was on the right track. She picked up the one of Charles Chandler, gazing at it wistfully. Then, she picked up the portrait of her parents together.

“These were my parents,” she said quietly.

“Yes.” Peter was not certain whether she was actually remembering or guessing so he handed her another object. It was a bottle of her perfume.

She sniffed and looked up at him. “This seems so familiar, but I can’t place it.” She was straining, but this time, Peter allowed her to strain a little. Her head injury was much better and he felt she could bear a bit of deep concentration. After a moment however, he said, “Let us pass from that for now.”

He handed her a gold chain with a long, clear crystal droplet. This had been a gift to her from Vincent. The hospital staff had removed it when she was wheeled into emergency and he had put it in his pocket for safekeeping. She lingered over it for a long time fingering it delicately, and he knew the memory was right near the surface.

There were tears in her eyes, but she held up the chain gazing longingly at the beautiful crystal. She undid the clasp and fastened it around her neck. “This is mine, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” he said.

“Would you mind if I read something to you,” he asked.

“Of course not.”

Peter knew he did not have the wonderful speaking voice that Vincent had, but he coughed once to clear his throat and began.

“In Xanadu, did Kublai Khan,

A stately pleasure dome decree,

Where Alf, the scared river ran,

in caverns measureless to man,

down to a sunless sea.”

“Caverns…”  whispered Catherine.

“It’s a rather long poem,” he said. “Would you like me to leave the book of poems with you, so you can read it at your leisure?”

“Oh no, don’t bother. I have a first edition that was given to me by, by--Vincent!”

The memories came flooding back. All of them.

“Peter, you’re a genius,” she cried. “You knew exactly the right stimulus to throw at me.”

Peter smiled a huge grin. “I hoped Cathy, I hoped. And with your memory back, I think you’re well enough to go home!”

 

*****

 

Vincent awoke with a jolt. “She’s back! Catherine’s back,” he cried to no one in particular. He felt her through the Bond and knew she was in a taxi headed for home.His heart somersaulted in his chest. “She’s coming home!”

He flew to his wardrobe, throwing on whatever clothing came to hand. He raced for the tunnel that would lead him to the basement of her house, and then he ran through those tunnels with a sureness and a swiftness unmatched by any of the denizens of the world Below. He would have moved heaven and earth to get to her.

He burst through the utility door in the basement and ran for the stairs, crying out as he took them two at a time. “Catherine, Catherine. I’m here.” He found her in the bedroom, lying on the bed, resting. He fellon his knees next to the bed and gathered her into his arms. “I thought I’d lost you,” he cried. He kissed her head, her lips, her hair, her eyes.

“It was Peter, Vincent! He knew how to reach me… how to stimulate my mind in a way that would make the memories resurface.”

“Then I owe him an enormous debt for bringing you back to me. I feel ashamed though. I was insanely jealous of him. I wanted to be the one caring for you, holding you and helping you. I always want to be the one to protect you from every harm.”

“Peter knew our bond was the strongest link back to my memories, Vincent. The stimuli he used proves that. It’s what I responded to. Somehow, you were in my dreams too. Your unwavering faith and love was there with me even though I couldn’t quite bring it to the forefront. Peter knew the direct path to my memories was you, Vincent. Always you.”

“That part is true, Catherine. My love for you is unwavering, no matter what travails we may face.”

Catherine snuggled deeper into his embrace. She always felt so safe, so cherished in his arms.

“But, how remiss of me,” he said suddenly. “I was so ecstatic to feel our bond again, I forgot to ask you how you feel. Is there still pain?”

“Mmmm, quite a bit of tenderness just here,” she touched her temple gently, “but not anything like the throbbing that was there before. The swelling has gone down considerably too. Peter and Dr. Randall want to check on me again tomorrow. Peter will pick me up. He says I shouldn’t drive for a while. Other than that, I feel fine.And you, Vincent? You must have endured your own kind of pain.”

“Your injuries caused me a great deal of distress, Catherine, but I admit when I heard of the amnesia, it was almost more than I could bear. I feared you were lost to me forever.”

“Hold me, Vincent, just hold me.” She had tears in her eyes. “Will you stay tonight? I need you near. I don’t want to be alone.”

“Wild horses couldn’t drag me from your side Catherine,” he replied. “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” she replied softly.

Vincent shed most of his clothes and crawled into the bed next to her and readjusted the covers. They lay there like that for a long time, locked in each other’s arms, and then finally, they both drifted into peaceful slumber.

The first in many days.

 

*****

 

Vincent returned to the tunnels the following afternoon after Peter picked up Catherine for her check-up. As he walked slowly through the tunnels, he was mulling over whether to tell Catherine about the odd coincidence of the anniversary clock and his theory that it was not only a haunted object, but that it had caused the horrific accident that had befallen her.

Would she think him crazy or delusional? Yet, his research in the library had shown there was at least evidence that evil did permeate the house of Xenobia Greene.

Then again, perhaps it was better to say nothing. After all, Catherine was recovering and she had regained her memory. Was it a coincidence that she had regained her memory after he had destroyed the clock?

In the end, it was Mouse who spilled the beans.

 

*****

 

A week after Catherine came home, Dr. Alcott pronounced her well enough to return to her normal routine. Vincent had barely left her side the entire week, and had only relaxed his vigilance long enough to let her go to the market and get some groceries, the larder being bare. When she returned, he helped her put everything away.

“Come Below tonight, Catherine,” he suggested. “Everyone has been so worried about you, especially Father. And I should check in with him to see if there is anything requiring my attention.”

“That’s a good idea,” she said. “I could use a change of scenery. Do you think we could bring some wine, fruit and cheese and go sit in the Chamber of the Falls?  It’s so beautiful and peaceful there.”

“Indeed, it is, but it is even more beautiful when you are there, and I can’t think of anything I would rather do, except perhaps to kiss you right now.”

And he did. Deeply, passionately, and with exquisite tenderness. Catherine responded in kind.“Would an hour or so from now do as well?” she asked.

“I am in absolutely no hurry,” he responded.

 

*****

 

A couple of hours later, they arrived Below to a welcoming Father, who hugged Catherine longer than was his usual custom. “We’ve all been so worried about you, my dear,” he said. “It is good to have you back.”

“Thank you, Father. It’s good to be back.”

“If you have no pressing need of me Father, Catherine and I want to go spend a little time in the Chamber of the Falls.”

“By all means, go,” he said. “It’s restful there and will do Catherine good.”

But just then, Mouse and Jamie showed up, entering from the opposite side of Father’s study.

“Heard on the pipes Vincent and Catherine were back. Catherine must tell how much she liked the clock,” blurted Mouse.

Vincent had completely forgotten that there was one other person besides himself and Narcissa who knew about the clock, although Mouse did not know of all the things that had happened after he’d put those last little screws in.

There was a moment of awkward silence where nobody said anything. Catherine’s face was a study in sheer puzzlement.

“The clock has been destroyed Mouse,” declared Vincent solemnly. “It is gone. I will explain later. Will you excuse us? Catherine and I need to talk privately.”

 

*****

 

Catherine grew quiet after Vincent told her everything thathad happened regarding the clock, and Vincent knew she was digesting everything in her analytical mind. That trait was one of the reasons she had been so good at her job back when she was with the District Attorney’s office.

“You weren’t going to tell me, were you, Vincent?”

“No,” he admitted shamefacedly. “I felt guilty for having brought it into your house in the first place, but then, after I destroyed it, you seemed to be healing and your memories came back, so I wondered if there was any point.”

“Vincent, Vincent, Vincent. My brave, invincible warrior and protector. Don’t you see? Regardless of whether the clock was truly haunted or whether everything that happened was a huge coincidence, the point is that you believed! You believed it had somehow caused harm to me, and took every step within your power to destroy the threat.That action is so you, Vincent! And it is why I love you so much. So very, very much.”

“Then, you’re not angry that I didn’t tell you about it?”

“No, because in a way it’s my fault that you didn’t.”

“Your fault? How could it possibly be your fault?”

“Do you remember the time we encountered Kristoffer Gentian, and the decidedly odd events connected with that?”

“I remember it well, Catherine.”

“You were convinced Kristoffer was a ghost, but I-- I was skeptical and I didn’t want to believe. And I was critical. It’s no wonder you hesitated to tell me about something that obviously falls into the realm of the paranormal.You figured I probably wouldn’t believe it, and in the past, you’d have been right. It wasn’t until my own father appeared to me after his death that I began to understand that there are some things that go beyond the normal… some things that one must simply accept.”

He nodded, understanding what she meant.

“You say you researched those properties, and you researched the woman Xenobia Greene. You came to your conclusions based on that research and based on your faith in Narcissa, and on your own uncanny sensibilities.”

“I don’t know if my senses are uncanny, but yes.”

“Trust me, your senses are extraordinary. And I believe everything you just told me. Everything! My faith in your intelligence, your abilities, and in your utter devotion to my well-being, tell me that there was truly something there-- something evil. And just as you have saved me from flesh and blood evil many times, you saved me from this evil too. And I love that you love me so much you would do battle with unseen threats, unseen forces. You are my hero, Vincent. Always.”

Vincent pulled her into his arms embracing her tightly. “Your hero, Catherine? I always wanted to be a hero.”

“You are that, and so much more. I love you.”

“I love you too, Catherine.” he whispered. “Always!”