by Hillary Donitz-Goldstein

Dedicated to my husband, Aaron.


This is the scene that Joe remembered.

Catherine wore an elegant white lace dress, similar to a wedding gown, her light brown hair carefully brushed and styled. Her face displayed a look of eager anticipation. Her eyes shone with excitement and her smile seemed to expand with every passing moment. She was clearly waiting for someone, and from the eager bounce in her step as she began to make preparations, it was undoubtedly someone very special.

Catherine carefully moved a small table to the center of the terrace and painstakingly arranged two chairs so that the occupants could sit in close proximity, sharing their intimacy with no one. She began to light an assortment of candles whose flames gently flickered in the moonlight and artfully arranged them in various corners and on every available surface, lending the unmistakable air of romance to the scene. Various plants in the flowerpots around her lent an enticing smell to the small space. She briefly walked back into the living room and quickly returned with a small, brightly wrapped parcel which she sat on the table. Finally, she looked around with a satisfied expression and walked to the railing to look out over the magical view of Manhattan that her unique vantage point offered. The chaotic sounds and streets of the city she loved were now silenced to a pleasant rumble in these late hours of the night. A light breeze played gently with her hair as she became mesmerized by the pleasures of an enchanted spring evening. Suddenly, she heard a light footfall, one so quiet it was almost inaudible over the rapid beating of her heart.

And then a velvety voice of such unusual quality and resonance it was almost indefinable whispered, “Catherine…” The hypnotic sound held on the breeze by the most tenuous of threads.

She turned toward the voice as a look of complete rapture arranged itself on her features.

First, a shadow…and then a figure, completely covered in a dark, cloak-like garment. His face was hooded, although Joe saw a hint of long blond hair escape from its confines. He couldn’t determine who the stranger was, but the height and broad shoulders indicated that the nocturnal visitor was a man.

Catherine ran to him and they passionately embraced.

The stranger was expected…needed…wanted.

The couple’s faces moved closer together, and…

Joe woke up in bed, startled. He was covered in sweat and his legs were tangled in the bedclothes. It wasn’t the first time he had experienced such a vivid dream about Catherine. Perhaps it was the air of secrecy that she constantly emanated that was now invading his subconscious mind as he slept.

When Joe was younger, he used to sleep without interruption, and, curiously, was never able to remember his dreams when he awoke. They would escape from his memory and completely vanish without a trace. When he was in law school, and spent every waking moment studying for exams like an obsessed madman, and writing papers for demanding professors, he’d tumble into bed and welcome the oblivion that greeted him like an old friend.

He was reluctant to admit that his whole life…indeed, his whole being, had irrevocably changed after he met Catherine Chandler.

Joe nervously ran his hands through his thick, dark hair. He looked on the other side of the bed…he was alone, a situation that was par for the course these days. His married friends envied his single status and felt he should take advantage of his freedom before settling down with someone. Joe would never admit to his friends that he wasn’t the type to sleep around. He had solid values and integrity, which wouldn’t allow him to engage in mindless affairs or break hearts. He wasn’t a player; it wasn’t his style. He didn’t feel comfortable telling even his closest confidantes that he was lonely, and he hated coming home to his empty studio apartment where cold, impersonal takeout food and sitcom reruns awaited him.

As a scholarship student in undergraduate and law school, he didn’t have time to date. His life had centered on academic expectations, and now, as a young professional, he was trying to build a solid reputation as a formidable player in the courtroom. As he didn’t attend prestigious universities, he felt he had to work twice as hard as his Ivy-educated colleagues to achieve the recognition he desired. Therefore, most of his personal time was spent researching cases in the law library and writing briefs, with an occasional basketball game thrown in for good measure. He had made a lot of personal sacrifices over the years and hoped his struggles would be fruitful in the end.

Joe knew that women found him attractive; he always received admiring glances when he walked to work or went to the supermarket. When he stopped for a cold beer in a neighborhood bar, he was often offered another drink by a beautiful woman. However, he ignored the mild flirtation. Ever since the unexpected arrival of Catherine Chandler in his life, he couldn’t think of anyone else. All other women paled in comparison.

Joe knew he was in trouble at their first encounter. That fateful day was indelibly etched on his memory. Catherine had come, upon recommendation, to the District Attorney’s office to apply for a position as a lawyer. He watched her for a moment from his office, as she sat in the reception area, awaiting her interview. She was very beautiful, and he felt an unfamiliar stirring within his heart that he later realized was attraction. He couldn’t recognize the feeling at first, as he hadn’t experienced it in quite a while. Strange. He was becoming reconnected to the world around him.

He knew, through the lurid newspaper accounts, about the accident that nearly claimed Catherine’s life and about her long period of recuperation. It was a grisly tragedy in a city where cruelty lurked around every corner. When he interviewed her with John Moreno, he was still suspicious of her decision to leave her father’s renowned corporate law firm to join this decidedly non-glamorous office with its low pay, grueling hours, and assorted heartaches, but she claimed to be committed. Moreno decided to give her a chance, and Joe, however reluctantly, followed suit.

At first, Joe scoffed at her designer business attire, fancy leather briefcase, and diamond earrings that probably cost more than a year of his salary. He knew of her debutante background and reputation as a flighty, hard-partying socialite, always photographed at high-end functions and parties in a crowd of glitterati. He doubted that she’d be a proper fit for his hard-charging office that was tireless in their pursuit of justice for the underdog.

As time passed, Joe was embarrassed to admit that his assumptions were just assumptions. They were untrue and unjustified. When they began to work closer together on challenging cases, he was impressed with her knowledge of the law, articulate manner, and conviction. Often, when Joe would leave for the night, Catherine would still be there, tirelessly working. Many times, he’d come back with takeout food for her, which she gratefully accepted with a smile. He bet that she didn’t eat it, because her devotion to the work was all-consuming, but he was glad to help her. Occasionally, when they both put in late days, and were about to leave the office, he took her out for hamburgers and beer in a neighborhood establishment, which she enjoyed. They developed an easy camaraderie, which added extra efficiency to their work, and helped them achieve one win after the other.

There was more to Catherine Chandler than just a pretty face…she was very strong, both physically and emotionally. Not many people could survive an ordeal like she experienced and emerge with an unquenchable desire to help others. There was no trace left of the “flighty debutante” image, which he felt was probably an invention of his own imagination. Beautiful and smart, she was perfect…perfect for him. He knew that he loved her, in fact, had realized it from the first day. He had never believed in love at first sight, but he was now a convert.

Joe acknowledged that there were vast differences in their lifestyles, financial status, and education. He liked Billy Joel; she delighted in the opera. He enjoyed blue jeans and sweatshirts; she still loved fashionable clothes. He was a poor scholarship student from a middle class family, she was raised in a world of wealth and privilege, and graduated from Radcliffe and Columbia, but these facts were irrelevant. He knew her well and saw that she was not superficial. He often saw tears in her eyes when she worked with abused women and children, and when she railed against a system that often treated people unfairly. There were many times when her pursuit of witnesses led her into dangerous situations, but she emerged triumphant and unscathed, and all the better for it. He admired her courage.

Joe wished Catherine knew of the extent of his feelings for her. While glib in the courtroom, he wasn’t adept at revealing the truths of his heart aloud; he had never felt this way about anyone before and was surprisingly clumsy in how to handle the situation. He didn’t want to ruin their friendship with a misplaced word or gesture. He was careful and circumspect. His friends noticed that he seemed happier as of late, but they didn’t know that the source was a special woman. They seemed to accept that he was a confirmed bachelor.

There were times when Joe thought she intuited his attraction; their eyes would meet for a second too long, they’d laugh at each other’s jokes as they possessed the same sense of humor, and they’d share the occasional lunch or dinner where there’d be long pauses that seemed heavy with unsaid words. Sometimes there would be just the slightest hint of flirtatious banter. But these moments would quickly dispel and he’d be relegated, or so he thought, back to the role of “big brother” and protector, much to his disappointment.

He had to accept that Catherine Chandler was a woman of mystery. She never divulged details about her personal life to anyone. He constantly searched for clues and dropped subtle hints, but she was a skilled deflector and never let anyone past the defensive walls that she had carefully constructed around herself. Was this a result of her accident? Then, he began to suspect the existence of another man, a secret boyfriend, perhaps. A woman as beautiful as Catherine would have a host of admirers. He questioned her closest confidante, Edie, who worked in the computer department of their office, about his “boyfriend theory,” but she didn’t have any information to share. Edie had always suspected that Joe had a crush on Catherine and encouraged a relationship between the two, but Catherine wouldn’t heed her counsel. Edie found it odd, but felt that if a situation was meant to be, it would happen, regardless of her input.

Strangely, a friend of Joe’s, a police officer, had privately expressed concern that he saw Catherine walk in Central Park at a very late hour. When Joe questioned her and warned her about the danger in such an undertaking, she explained that she enjoyed evening strolls in the park. He didn’t believe Catherine’s flimsy excuse for one minute, and she understood. Their eyes met in silent communication, she enigmatically smiled, and they continued with the day’s routine. Joe attempted to place his frustration on the back burner, but failed…


Joe’s post-dream reveries were interrupted by the loud sound of a slamming door that emanated from the upstairs apartment. Its inhabitants, a young college-aged couple, often went out to party with their friends and stumbled home at all hours, completely disoriented and intoxicated. He met the two several times and they were all on friendly terms. He vowed to have a word with them; he was concerned for their well-being. Their behavior was self-destructive.

Joe found himself staring out his bedroom window. He didn’t remember having risen from his bed. He checked his watch; it was 1:30 am. He wondered if Catherine was in the park alone, or home, in her spacious apartment with someone. He looked around at his small, unadorned apartment with disgust; he always meant to move to a larger place, but could never find the time to devote to a proper search. He couldn’t afford a more luxurious dwelling, he had reasoned. He looked around at the sparse second-hand furniture, the empty cartons of takeout food that littered the kitchen sink and countertop, and piles of books on the floor, with disbelief. How could he impress a woman with the way he lived? The apartment was just where he slept; he lived at the office. He didn’t appreciate this realization.

He knew he had to get back to sleep. He had a great deal of painstakingly detailed research to begin in the law library tomorrow (or later today, to be more precise) for a complicated case that was scheduled to begin in several weeks. He was very hands-on in his approach to his work, and didn’t like to delegate his responsibilities to the interns. He was the consummate professional.

He pulled back the bedding, lay down, and couldn’t find a comfortable sleeping position. Surrendering to his unquiet mind, he began to count the cracks in the ceiling. Sleep was futile. All he could think about was…Catherine and the seductive dream-voice that pronounced her name as if caressing each letter. Was it a projection of his own subconscious mind, or did it belong to a real man? Somehow, he suspected it was the latter, and he vowed to remain ever more vigilant around Catherine. He knew that the owner of that voice would be a formidable competitor for her love.


Somewhere in the subterranean tunnels below the city, a solitary man with unusual facial features silently prowled through countless passages and tunnels. Vincent carried a book of Shakespearean sonnets. He felt a strong kinship with Shakespeare, as he felt this gifted author understood all facets of life and impossible love. He too, had difficulty sleeping, as his heart longed for a woman he knew he was bonded to forever…Catherine. They only knew each other a short time, but he had intuited from the start that she was the person who was meant for him. He went to the underground river, a faraway place from his chamber, sat down on the banks, opened his book, and began to read. Vincent was grateful for books; they were always a treasured companion when he was lonely, and today, he felt particularly restless. 


The months passed in a flurry of activity. Joe frantically kept up with court dates and other legal matters, Catherine interviewed witnesses in environments from jails to offices, analyzed an endless stream of depositions, and was buried in paperwork. John Moreno pushed everyone to the limit; he was quick to criticize, and even slower to give a compliment.


Vincent performed his many roles Below. He acted as counselor, confidante, and advisor to the denizens of his world, and was the children’s favorite teacher. He also helped build new chambers for recent arrivals and young families who were expanding. Every evening he’d return to his chamber covered in dirt, his blond hair streaked with dust and other detritus from the day’s labors. He would usually lie down for a while before dinner and spend the rest of the evening reading or playing chess, or go Above to visit Catherine. Lately, he sensed her restlessness. She didn’t seem as content or settled as she had in the last few weeks, so he decided to watch over her from afar.


Joe’s blood boiled.

He sat secreted in his office, the tasteless sandwich he had bought from one of the office vendors largely untouched. He also looked with disinterest at the countless packages of salty snacks that filled his large bottom desk drawer to capacity. These often replaced substantial meals when he had to work late. He lived on pizza and hamburgers when he was a student. He remembered Catherine’s concern for his propensity for junk food. He shook his head in dismay. No matter what he did, his thoughts always returned to her. Today’s revelations only forced Catherine’s image into his mind more repetitively. Surprisingly, when he thought of her, the dream-man from all those months ago would also plague him. This was a recent development. It was almost as if Catherine and this “phantom” were inextricably bound, and only Joe was privy to this knowledge. Why him?

Joe realized he was sulking, which was definitely one of his more unattractive qualities that he knew Catherine wouldn’t appreciate. He felt like an overgrown child on the verge of a temper tantrum. His own mother often said that he was too intense and moody, and these qualities could alienate prospective partners. She knew that his work, and the specter of his father’s untimely death, offered him an unpalatable view of the dark side of humanity, and it profoundly affected him. Joe was too embarrassed to tell her that he had two unsuccessful dates in the past year. He met each woman in a bar or a restaurant, yet after the first few minutes, he practically ignored them, only making a comment where necessary. They were attractive, but at heart, they were shallow, spoiled, and unambitious. Perhaps he had forgotten how to date. These were just excuses. He knew the real reason. He couldn’t stop comparing them to Catherine. She was his ideal.

As an hour passed, then two, Joe realized that “sulking” was replaced by “seething.” He roughly shoved his worn office chair aside as he began to pace back and forth in his office. He kicked mountains of paperwork and files aside in his quest for space. He stopped a few feet in front of the dartboard that he strategically placed next to his office door. Then he began to hurtle a series of darts that he kept in a case on his desk towards the bullseye. First his pace was slow, then it became more frenzied, as chaotic as his thoughts.

Once, several weeks ago, Catherine had almost been hit by one of his errant missiles when she walked in to ask him about a court appearance. Embarrassed, he immediately offered apologies, but she understood. He had been deep in concentration; he was strategizing a convincing closing argument for a particularly thorny case where he had to emerge victorious. He had achieved a solid array of impressive wins and wanted to maintain his record. He wouldn’t admit this particular career aspiration to Catherine, but he wanted to ultimately become a corporate lawyer, and knew the only way to accomplish this feat and get recruited by headhunters was to obsessively work. Prestigious firms wouldn’t hire, much less consider, an applicant from the law school he attended. It was unfair, but a fact of life that he had to accept. Politics and connections were always a large part of any game.

Today, Joe imagined that the face on the center of the dartboard was Elliot Burch, the millionaire and real estate developer that had his romantic attentions firmly set on Catherine, and she was obviously torn. This handsome, seductive man was obviously a skilled player, and he played to win. Elliot wasn’t the right man for Catherine. To him, Joe conjectured, she was probably just a challenge, or an “acquisition,” like a building or an account, and her unattainability made her all the more attractive to a person who thrived on challenge. Joe didn’t believe that Elliot’s intentions were honorable, as he had met men like this before, wealthy and superficial, and they failed to impress him. He was not a hateful or vengeful person. He just didn’t want Catherine to have her heart broken by this man.

The two had met, as Edie revealed to Joe, at a gallery opening where Elliot had donated a substantial amount of his personal art collection for the supposed benefit of the city’s inhabitants. Joe thought he was an opportunist, not a humanitarian, and looked for any chance to be in the limelight. Elliot, in the midst of the press and countless glitterati, had made a pompous speech about magic which aroused Catherine’s interest. Their eyes met, the sparks flew, according to Joe’s and Edie’s imaginings, and they quickly became a couple.

Joe assumed that Catherine was falling in love. His jealousy was in overdrive. He ceaselessly wondered how Catherine could be interested in such a man, who was constantly photographed with one society beauty after another. Titillating gossip about his antics appeared in the newspapers on a regular basis.  Perhaps the debutante in her had arisen, or hadn’t completely disappeared. Joe didn’t understand their world. Elliot seemed flighty and not the type for commitment. Joe was sure that he valued his money and ridiculously lavish lifestyle more than any woman. He realized, in his more rational moments, that he probably wasn’t being fair, but there it was.


Joe didn’t know there was another who closely watched this relationship from an invisible vantage point with profound helplessness and sadness. Vincent, the dream-man, would surreptitiously follow the couple as he kept to the shadowy recesses of buildings and alleyways. Due to his fear of capture, he could never be as physically close as Joe, and wasn’t able to interfere as he’d like. He’d only hope that Catherine would return to her senses and settle the turmoil in her heart. Vincent always worried that someone would come along and usurp his place in her life, and his fears were being realized. When he felt Catherine’s fervor as she kissed Elliot, he thought all hope was lost, yet he was profoundly relieved when he followed them to her apartment building and she didn’t invite him inside. Vincent spent the rest of that evening sitting at a point high above the city, allowing his tears to fall. Even his tunnel family, who intuited his suffering, couldn’t console him.


During the very brief period that Elliot and Catherine dated, Joe’s emotions ran the gamut of jealousy, anger, and fear…fear of losing Catherine forever to someone whom he deemed unworthy of her. A marriage to Burch would ruin her life and there’d be nothing he’d be able to do but offer support. The untold damage would be done. He could almost bet that Elliot wouldn’t be faithful. There was too much temptation offered by his partying lifestyle. He had means and opportunity and Catherine undoubtedly would suffer from a poorly made choice.

After many tense weeks had elapsed, Joe’s suspicions about Burch were fully realized.

Catherine returned to work in the middle of a particularly beautiful afternoon. She had left earlier that morning to interview a witness. Joe was about to open his door to greet her, as was his custom, but thought better of it when he saw she was visibly shaken. He had never seen her in this state before, which she tried to mask under an artificial veneer of composure. She valiantly attempted to restrain her tears, was ultimately unsuccessful, and ran to the bathroom followed by Edie in hot pursuit. She coincidentally witnessed the emotional scene and exchanged worried glances with Joe. The two women were in the bathroom for a long time and Joe couldn’t figure out what happened.

Joe later discovered, after a long, detailed conversation with Edie on the telephone that evening, that Elliot had broken Catherine’s heart. He didn’t know how to feel about the sudden turn of events. He was happy that she was rid of the parasitic Burch, but his heart broke when he observed her grief. Elliot had been involved in a shady business deal that involved the forced eviction of a group of elderly residents from an old building on the Lower East Side, so he could purchase the property and “revitalize” the neighborhood. These people were in his way of progress, he felt, so he tried to have them removed through criminal means. Catherine thwarted his plans. It was exactly what Joe had always suspected. Burch always put profits over people. Even Joe was surprised that he could be so ruthless. Greedy people like him couldn’t change, it was too ingrained into their character. Catherine should have realized this fact.

Apparently, Catherine had ended their relationship in a heated exchange in front of her apartment building. Elliot called her many times to apologize, explain his actions, and beg for another chance, but she wouldn’t listen to his false overtures. Elliot was not used to pleading or losing, and it was a remarkably different and humbling experience for him. It was then that he realized Catherine was unlike any woman he had ever met. She stood by her convictions, and her integrity was flawless. He would give her some space, but would not give up on a future with her.


Vincent, in his chamber beneath the city, also sensed Catherine’s grief and acutely felt her heartache. Both Joe and Vincent, men of different worlds, shared the same feelings of immense gratitude and relief, as they both loved the same woman. It was a close call for both.


Joe knew people very well and had never been fooled by artifice, no matter how clever the deception. Perhaps he had been gifted with a unique sixth sense, or, more likely, his perceptions were sharpened by exchanges with those he encountered during his workday – victims, witnesses, legal professionals, and members of the press. He seemed able to look at someone, accurately read their intentions, and have a strong sense of their inner character.

Joe’s prophecy about Elliot Burch was absolutely correct. He accurately intuited that he (and Catherine) had not seen the last of this character and his subtle machinations. Although Catherine dismissed him, and left no hope for reconciliation (according to Edie’s play-by-play of the situation), Elliot refused to give up the chase. Was the brief dalliance with Catherine a game to him or a challenge?  Joe doubted he had an honest bone in his body.

Elliot’s dogged pursuit of Catherine began to adversely leak into the work environment. Twice a week after the breakup, Elliot would send gifts to Catherine at the office. They were a source of constant gossip among her co-workers who stood discreetly to the side as she opened the packages and revealed their contents, and a source of endless irritation to Joe. Edie was impressed by the spurned suitor’s determination, but remained silent. At first, they were small (but knowing Burch, very expensive) items, such as leather gloves and designer scarves. Joe was relieved that she barely looked at the items. She’d just throw them in the garbage with barely a second glance. He silently cheered her decidedly “unladylike” behavior and was glad that she chose to stand by her initial dismissal of Burch. He remembered Catherine’s unhappiness in the weeks after the relationship dissolved. Her tumultuous emotions were clearly etched on her face, and some days she was barely able to function, so Joe (and Vincent) allowed her space to heal. She recovered, however, just barely, and Joe knew she wouldn’t survive another turn on the Burch merry-go-round. She was strong in all aspects of her life, and Joe had no reason to believe that the matter wasn’t settled.


Joe returned to the office one afternoon in an exultant mood. He had a triumphant victory in court that day. His warm, engaging manner, flawless presentation of the case evidence, and solid closing argument which he crafted with the meticulous skill of a surgeon, had persuaded the recalcitrant jury to give his client the desired result, thus earning him another solid win. He was interviewed by the press on the outside stairs of the office building, as it was a high profile case. He spoke with the confidence of a warrior who won his battle, and he basked in his moment of fame. As he traveled in a cab back to the office, he felt that finally his life was back on track. He planned to call his friends and invite them for drinks after work to celebrate his victory. Maybe he’d ask Catherine to come if she wasn’t busy. It would take her mind off recent events, and allow her to relax.

Joe’s feelings of exultation and pride in a job well done were soon deflated as he approached Catherine’s desk for their usual exchange of pleasantries. He stopped in mid-step. His heart sunk as he saw a huge package on her desk delivered by a high end flower shop in the vicinity of the office. Catherine must have briefly left her desk for a cup of coffee, or a chat with Edie. He felt tempted to discard the offending parcel, but knew he couldn’t. He told himself it was just another of Burch’s tricks, but this time, Joe became worried. His heart began to pound, and his hands clenched into fists. Somehow, this overture felt different.

Joe went into his office and was careful to leave his door opened a crack, so he could observe the proceedings. Catherine returned with a cup of coffee, and regarded the package on her desk. He couldn’t decipher the expression on her face. Was it interest or disgust?

When she opened the gift, two dozen red roses ensconced in an expensive crystal vase were revealed. She bent over to smell their fragrant odor. There was also a card attached, which Catherine read. Joe could see her emotions visibly shift, and a fleeting smile passed across her face. Shockingly, Joe heard her pick up her phone, dial, and ask to speak to Elliot Burch. “It figures,” Joe uncharitably thought. “Guys like that always win. Smooth lines, charm, seduction, and a sensitive woman are a proven recipe for disaster.” He shook his head. He watched Edie admire the flowers from across the room. She looked towards Joe’s office, probably trying to gauge his reaction, but he was hidden from view.

Were Elliot and Catherine going to kiss and make up after all that had happened? Hadn’t she learned anything from her ordeal? Could it be that she was just as lonely as Joe? She could still do better, a whole lot better, in fact, although he hated to admit that Burch had a lot to offer in terms of money, prestige, and connections. Catherine probably wanted to get married and have kids, and they would have all of the privileges that their wealth could buy. However, this particular equation left out happiness.

This grand gesture proved to be too much for Joe. He furiously stalked over to his office window, and tried to calm himself by watching the frenzied movements of the pedestrians who scurried in every direction, and the endless parade of messenger bicycles who maneuvered around each other in a dizzying ballet to reach their destinations. He tried to get to work, but couldn’t concentrate. The thought of celebratory drinks with his friends and Catherine permanently cast aside, he couldn’t help but wonder if Elliot and Catherine would see each other on the weekend, or perhaps even as soon as after work. The prospect was impossible to digest.

Joe realized that he had to leave the office, or he’d explode.

He needed a quiet place to think, regroup, and calm his emotions. He had to prepare for another big case, anyway. What better place to accomplish these purposes than the airy, spacious law library located in the building? He always loved libraries. The smell of books lined with precision on the shelves, the feeling of being surrounded by the wisdom of the ages, and the quietude always comforted him. He practically lived in the library in law school, and as a young child. He knew it was the best place for him. He was in search of inspiration.

Joe took his briefcase, and hurriedly left the office, which had become in such a short while, a place of confinement, rather than a sanctuary. He left a note for Catherine that explained his whereabouts, in case she had to contact him. As she was on the phone, apparently in deep conversation. She barely noticed his departure. He was relieved, in a way, because had she not been preoccupied, her razor sharp gaze would focus on him, and sense his distress. She would demand to know what was wrong, and would interrogate him with her best legal skills until she determined the cause of the problem. He could never hide from her. They had a strong, yet platonic connection that he treasured, but always wanted it to develop into a romantic relationship.

Joe entered the library. It was fairly full at this hour of the day. He acknowledged several people that he knew with a wave and felt himself begin to relax. He was glad for this temporary escape. He searched for a place to sit but couldn’t locate an empty study carrel. He quickly became discouraged and began to circle the library like an animal in search of prey.

Suddenly, one of the librarians, Harriet Salven, approached, and warmly offered him a quiet table towards the back of the room, which he gratefully accepted. She had noticed him from her desk, which faced the hallway, so she was able to see his arrival, and quickly plan a conversation. Her heart skipped a beat, as it always did when she saw him.

 Harriet was interested in Joe for a long time. She figured he was taken, as was the case with all the interesting men. Why would a man like that be available? She first noticed him in the elevator when she had begun to work here a year ago, and made secret inquiries about him. His name was Joe Maxwell, he was a rising star in the District Attorney’s office, very aggressive, intelligent, and as handsome as a movie star. She constantly tried to capture his interest, but, so far, had failed miserably. She vowed that if presented with the opportunity, she’d try a more aggressive approach.

It was on these occasions that Harriet envied her cousin, Erika Salven. Erika was a beautiful, accomplished corporate attorney, with the corner office, expensive car, designer wardrobe, and all of the other trappings that came with her position. She had the perfect life, the perfect career, and the perfect apartment, and was the shining star of the family. Most importantly, she knew how to handle the challenges of the dating scene, and Harriet, who was often lonely, despaired of always being single. Perhaps she would swallow her pride and ask Erika for some advice on how to more confidently communicate her intentions to Joe, although she was embarrassed to do so. She always felt less successful in Erika’s radiant presence, but she was desperate for assistance.

Harriet and Joe spoke for a few minutes. Joe suspected that Harriet had a crush on him, or perhaps she was just doing her job in an extra-efficient manner. She always gave him a bright smile, found all kinds of reasons to talk to him, and acted like he was the only person in the room. When her investigation revealed that he liked sports, she hinted that she was an avid sports fan and would see a game with him, but he didn’t take the bait. He was flattered; she was attractive, tall, intelligent, and very friendly, but he couldn’t take the next step. He had to face the fact that he had other things…people on his mind.

An hour slowly passed. While Joe tried to work, he found he was still distracted by visions of the vase of roses and Catherine’s dreamy face. He couldn’t accomplish a single task. He silently admitted defeat and put his head in his hands.

“Are you all right Joe?” Harriet asked. He jumped, as he didn’t realize she had approached. He was embarrassed by his distracted state.

“Just tired, I guess. Big case…” he clumsily tried to explain.

“Maybe you’re just hungry,” she said. Nervously, she pushed her long, brown hair behind her ears. “I was just about to leave for lunch. I’m fighting a losing battle against the growling in my stomach. Would you like to come?” she asked hopefully, accompanied by that enormous smile. It was probably her version of a “come hither” look.

It was hard to turn her down, but he was an emotional wreck. The day had been overwhelming.

“I’m sorry, Harriet, I can’t. I have too much to do.”

“I understand,” she said. “Maybe next time. There’s a deli around the corner that I haven’t tried yet.”

He nodded. “Thanks.”

Harriet walked back to her desk. “Another strikeout,” she thought.

He was sorry. She was terrific, and persistent. Maybe sometime…

Joe returned to his books, but couldn’t concentrate on the words printed on the pages before him: they blurred, until they made no sense. He hastily gathered his legal materials, said goodbye to the disappointed librarian, and left.

All he could see was Catherine.


Joe had another vivid dream.

He found himself wandering through a veritable maze of dark passages and tunnels. He could barely see the ground in front of him, but could feel a rough texture beneath his feet; he was surrounded by dampness and gloom. He heard the pleasant strains of classical music, the sound of rushing water, and the laughter of children. Where was he? This was certainly a place he didn’t recognize; he had never been here before. As he proceeded to explore and walk ahead, he heard an air-rending roar that seemed born out of rage and heartache. It seemed to emanate from the very depths of the soul and bounced and echoed off the gray stone walls in this strange place. Then, he thought he heard tears.

More curious than afraid, Joe tried to reach the source of the sounds and suddenly saw a brief glimpse of a tall, broad-shouldered man who wore an old-fashioned garment that completely covered his face and body. He realized that he somehow recognized this stranger. He followed him for what seemed like miles of unexplored territory, and then the tall man stopped by an enormous waterfall. Joe regarded him from several feet away, careful not to disturb him. He sensed that the cloaked figure wanted to be alone. Slowly, the mystery man turned towards him, pulled the cloak away from his face, revealing a shock of blond hair and…

Joe awoke with his heart pounding. He thought of the phantom man. This was not the first time he had seen him in his dreams. There must be a reason that he had this vision more than once. Although the roar was intimidating, and the mystery man looked powerful, Joe sensed that he was gentle and kind, and that in another situation, they’d be friends.

Joe left his bed, went to the kitchen and had a warm glass of milk, a comfort that remained from his childhood. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep and, instead, went to the living room, where he thought about Burch, Catherine, and that most extraordinary dream-man. He had the feeling that this stranger, whoever he was, would be a key player in all their lives.


Simultaneously, on a solitary walk through the darkest shadows of Central Park, Vincent gazed at the moon. Its bright light reflected his tears.