Editor's Note:

Although this is not a steamy story, there is a brief passage of adult content toward the end of the story.

 

BEHIND THE SCENES

SEASON 2

Finally finished this project, thanks to Winterfest for getting me back into BATB writing.

I’ve struggled forever writing the next three stories mostly because I hated the trilogy and how it ended and then the subsequent season we don’t ever mention. Because of that I have put my own spin on the stories so they are not as closely related as the others but I hope they are still enjoyed.

“JUST HOLD ME ONE LAST TIME”

TWENTIETH IN THE SERIES BY KATHY DE

The light glinted off the man’s golden mask, temporarily blinding her as he walked into her chamber.

“Tamara!”

“You’re back. I thought you were dead.”

“Do I look like I’m dead, woman?”

She sarcastically tilted her head to the side but wisely kept her mouth shut.

Paracelsus’ eyes flashed angrily as he walked over to her side. “I removed myself from the fools who live here to seclude myself in an environment where I could think properly...plan properly.”

Tamara grabbed another thick slab of clay and began to mold it. “Not another one of your diabolical plans...” she asked sarcastically.

“Ah, but you see...this one is fool-proof.”

“Isn’t that what you said when Erlick kidnapped that woman. Where’s that poor fool now? I know the woman walks free.”

“This one cannot fail!”

“Why not?”

His voice lowered and his eyes gleamed with anticipation. “Because I will carry out the plan myself...it will not be contingent upon some useless pawn who will only serve to disappoint me again.”

“And what is this great plan?”

“It’s time I help my son became what he was destined to be.”

Not wanting to bring on his wrath, Tamara had the sense to look curious. “Are you going to tell me this plan?”

Paracelsus let out an evil laugh. “You are going to be a big part of it...” Tamara looked nervous as he continued. “I need you to create a few faces for me...”

Not looking forward again to staring at the head of a dead person dripping blood on her table she looked at him nervously.  “Whose?”

“We’ll start with Jacob’s”

“You want me to create a mask of Father?”

“Yes...Father.”

Tamara roared with laughter. “You’re insane? You’re going to try to impersonate Father? The boy will see through your charade instantly! He’ll smell the differences in you!”

Paracelsus’ voice lowered angrily as he stepped forward menacingly. “I did NOT ask your opinion, did I?”

“No...” she said meekly. “How am I to see his face to make this mask?”

“I’ve found some tunnels near them that are secluded and rarely used. I will show you how to move about them without being seen. You can observe Jacob as long as you wish.”

“What about the Mouse boy? He is certain to travel those secluded tunnels...”

Paracelsus thought for a few seconds. “I’ll create a minor flooding situation...that will give him something to occupy his time while you finish your job.”

****************************************  

Tamara spent the next week sitting in a small dark cubby hole to the right of Father’s desk. She would sit motionless for several hours a day with only a small hole to look out and stare at the face in front of her.

There was a constant flow of people in and out of the area and she was able to observe all of his moods and see how his facial muscles reacted. 

After she left each day, she would go back to her chamber and immediately work on molding his face. Paracelsus would often come in to observe her work and he smiled delightedly as the clay on the pedestal started to look more and more like Father.

Paracelsus practiced Father’s mannerisms and voice constantly and then he would hide in the passageways near the dining chamber so he could learn everyone’s name and important things about their lives.

He returned one day to see Father’s likeness staring back at him. “Excellent! You’ve finished.”

“Just a little while ago...it needs to dry.”

“How long?”

“Overnight should do it.”

“Good, because we’re going to live Above for awhile.”

“Above? Why?”

“I have work for you to do...”

“And I can’t do it here, Below?”

“I have another face you need to create.”

“Whose?”

“His name is Elliot Burch...”

“The man who almost destroyed the tunnels?”

“That’s him. I cannot bring you enough newspaper clippings for you to get a true sense of his features.”

“Then how do you expect me to construct it?”

“You’ll watch the television day and night. Anytime you see him you can study his features...I, of course, will be learning his mannerisms.”

“I can’t do a passable mask off of an image from the television screen.”

“You will do as I say!” Paracelsus raged, then slowly controlled his anger as he looked at her thoughtfully. “Perhaps we can attend restaurants where he is known to dine. We can pay to get a table close to his...would that help?”

Tamara nodded. “Yes...since you can’t very well bring me his head in a bag that would help greatly.”

“Then we’ll leave in the morning.”

“Where will we stay?”

“I have rented a suite. We’ll stay there until I learn more of Burch’s movements then we’ll make a plan for you to see him more clearly.”

Tamara nodded, then walked into her bed chamber to prepare to leave.

The next day they left to go Above.

*************************************

Every day, Paracelsus brought Tamara stacks of magazines and newspapers.

She spread the newspaper clippings out over the table in front of her and had the television on constantly. She did as much as she could but still the clay likeness in front of her only slightly resembled Elliot.

Paracelsus came home one night and scowled. “Get dressed. I overheard him tell his secretary he’s going to Luigi’s tonight. We’ll go there so you can get a better look.”

Tamara dressed quickly in the outfit he had brought home for her. They got to the restaurant a few minutes after Elliot. Paracelsus immediately sat with his back to him so Tamara could observe him.

It was obviously a business dinner and Elliot was so preoccupied with his associates, Tamara was able to extensively study his features. Paracelsus enjoyed his meal as he watched her. Her face was animated and he could see her hands kneading the air as if she was working her clay mold.

He paid for dinner and they slipped unobserved from the restaurant. Tamara was unusually quiet on the way home and headed to her studio the second they walked in the door. Paracelsus headed to the den to practice his speech. He was able to listen to much of Elliot’s conversation and he picked up some subtle accents he was surprised to hear coming from what he assumed was an educated man.

Tamara worked relentlessly through the night and in the morning Paracelsus walked into her studio to find her fast asleep in a chair, the mold of Elliot drying on the base.

“My God, she’s done it!”

Tamara blinked as she woke up. “Don’t touch it!”

He scowled at her and used his Elliot voice to be condescending. “Don’t speak to me like that! Do you know who I am?”

Tamara smiled coyly. “A man who is about to undertake a very dangerous plan.”

“But the reward will be phenomenal!”

“Reward? All you’ll have to show for your efforts is a beast who kills!”

“Yes...and he is a master at killing. He does it so beautifully and Jacob has stifled that in him since he was a child. With me, he’ll be able to live up to the expectations of all that he is...all that he can be....”

Tamara shook her head with disgust but wisely kept her opinion to herself. “I’ll make two more molds of each face for you. I should be done by the end of the week.”

Paracelsus left her and walked into his study. He was excited when he discovered that Vincent had been hurt recently during an altercation with some men on the docks. He was equally delighted to hear that a short time later Vincent was forced to kill again when some boys went after Catherine in a movie theater. 

“The second masks are ready,” Tamara announced when she walked into his study a few days later.

“You have impeccable timing, my dear. It’s time to carry out my plan.”  

“Why now?” Tamara wondered.

Paracelsus began to pace the room. “Because lately he has been called upon to kill much more than usual, his mind is reeling with the murderous acts he has committed. He tosses and turns in his sleep at night, haunted by the memories of his victims’ dying breaths.”

Tamara felt a twinge of remorse. “So you’re plan is to drive the beast insane?”

Paracelsus rubbed his hands together. “Don’t you see? It’s already started! I didn’t have to do anything...”

“How do you know that he won’t turn that insanity on you?”

Paracelsus looked at her angrily then reached in his wallet. He threw a wad of money at her. “For when you complete your work....then…you can go back to your chamber and do as you please.”

Tamara instantly took the money. She didn’t dare say she was taking it and flying away from New York. She hadn’t made plans yet where she was going, but she knew she had to get away from him.

A few hours later, Tamara was packing her meager belongings when Paracelsus walked in. “Before you go, I need to have a final fitting of the two different masks.”

“The originals are dry...we can try those on now if you’d like.”

Paracelsus removed his golden mask and slipped on the mask of Father.

Tamara admired her work. “Excellent...except for the eyes.”

“What’s wrong with the eyes?” Paracelsus demanded angrily.

“Father and Burch both have blue eyes, yours are brown...” she stopped herself from saying “and lifeless...”

Paracelsus began to pace. “I’ll be in the shadows much of the time.”

“The beast can see well in the dark. Besides, Jacob’s chamber is extremely well lit...someone will suspect if it’s suddenly dark.”

Paracelsus gently removed the mask and slipped his golden mask back on. “I’ll...I’ll purchase those colored contact lenses...”

“That may work...”

“Of course it will work!” Paracelsus said as he spun angrily on his heel and left the room and eventually the house.

Tamara frantically grabbed her bag and left the house and hopped in a taxi that took her to the airport.

************************************

Paracelsus had spent his last few days in the public library. He read article after article in the newspapers until he found a reporter that he thought would suit his purposes.

He spent his nights observing Catherine, learning her lifestyle patterns. He discovered that on Thursdays nights she often headed Below.

Now that he was ready to start his plan, there would be no turning back. He hired two men to pretend they were police. For three days they drove around the park at night. Tomorrow was Thursday and Paracelsus took the time to send in an anonymous tip to Bernie Spirko, the newsman he found, telling him to be at the park that night if he wanted a headline story.

 

************************************


Like clockwork, it was late Thursday night when Catherine made her way through the park on her way to the tunnels.

The park was strangely quiet and she kept an attentive eye out for trouble. She was comforted when she saw two uniformed police on motorcycles go past her on a nearby road.

“At least they’re patrolling the park now,” she thought as she walked along.

She heard the engines of the motorcycles grow gradually louder and she turned to see where they were heading. Seeing they were coming towards her, she scrambled to come up with a ready excuse for their questions as to why she was alone, late at night in the park.

She started to worry when she became the focus of their headlights. Instincts told her something was wrong and she started to run. The officers on the bikes began to circle around her. While she ran to get away from them, one of them got close enough to kick her in the back and she fell to the ground. Upon impact, she felt a sharp pain in her wrist and held it against her protectively against her chest as she got up to her knees.

She stared in disbelief at them as she realized that these were not real police officers and she was at a distinct disadvantage to try to fight them off with only one good hand.  

She was thinking about running for the street as the two men sat on opposite sides of her, gunning their motors, trying to intimidate her.  

Vincent suddenly appeared and roared a warning. He easily dispensed with the two men and then ran to Catherine’s side.

“Come...” he said as they quickly made their way through the park.

Catherine followed him into the culvert and within seconds they were hidden behind the steel door.

“Catherine, are you all right?”

She nodded. “Yes, but I hurt my wrist...”

Vincent frowned and felt along the bone. Catherine jumped when he touched the tender spot. “I’m sorry, Catherine. I know it hurts but...I...don’t think it’s broken.”

“Me either.”

“Still...we could wake Father. Have him look at it...”

“No, let him sleep. If it’s still sore tomorrow I’ll wrap it up.”

Convinced that she was all right, he turned and began to walk through the tunnels towards his chamber. His mind went back to the images of the men’s faces as his claws dug into their chests. He could still hear the gurgling of blood in their throats as they died.

Catherine looked over at him and knew he was reliving what just happened. She physically felt the pain in him and remorse flooded through the bond. “Vincent, I am so sorry you had to...”

Vincent sighed as he interrupted her. “I know...so am I.”

“I never dreamed that something like that would happen.”

“Why were you walking in the park so late?”

Catherine shrugged her shoulders. “It was stupid, I know. I stopped at that little corner deli to get a salad for dinner. A movie came on and the actor said something that reminded me of you and I was missing you so badly I thought I’d save time and walk through the park instead of heading home.”


Vincent grew quiet as they walked into his chamber. He motioned for Catherine to sit down while he got a cool basin of water. “The park is especially dangerous late at night...”

“I know, but I didn’t see anyone about so I thought I’d be okay. I saw the men on the bikes go past me...I remember thinking how comforted I was by their presence, then they turned around and came after me.”

“You couldn’t have known that the ones hired to protect you were actually the ones you would be in danger from.”

Catherine shook her head. “They weren’t police men...they couldn’t have been.”

“Do you have any idea who might have sent them?”

“Do you really think they were sent by someone?”

Vincent put a cold wash cloth to her bruised wrist. “Well, Catherine, what happened in the park hardly seemed...”

“Random?” Catherine said as she realized he was thinking the same thing she was.

“Who could have done such a thing? Why?”

Catherine sat quietly as her mind raced. “I don’t know. But those uniforms...the motorcycles...were real. Someone had to have access to police issued items or at least the money to buy what they needed from a dirty cop.”

Vincent grabbed a bandage and wrapped it tightly around her wrist. He looked at her and sighed. “That should help with any swelling that might occur.”

“Thanks.”

“I’ll walk you home...”

Catherine stood and she and Vincent headed out in the tunnels.

“I wish I knew if it was just an accident or…”

Vincent took her good hand and squeezed it comfortingly. “Perhaps we should just look upon it like it was a chance encounter.”

“I guess we’ll know soon enough,” Catherine shrugged.

They were each lost in their own thoughts and the walk home was quiet.

At the threshold, Catherine turned to him. “Thank you.”

Vincent nodded then walked towards her and took her in his arms. “I missed you as well and despite what happened, I’m glad you came Below.”

“Me too.”

“There’s a concert in the park tomorrow. Perhaps you’d like to...”

“I’d love to!” she interrupted with a smile.

“Good...until then...”

“Until then, Vincent.”

Trying to make it an everyday occurrence, Catherine leaned forward and kissed him goodbye, then climbed up the ladder as Vincent turned and walked home.

******************************************

That same night, Bernie Spirko, a news reporter, looked down at the phone message someone had put on his desk earlier. He glanced at his watch and sighed as he grabbed his coat and headed to the park. “Probably another bogus tip!” he thought.

When he arrived at the park, he was surprised to find it swarming with police. He walked over to peek at the victims and his stomach rolled when he saw the condition their bodies were in.

“They’re...shredded,” he thought to himself as he swallowed hard.

He bribed the police photographer for pictures he could use for the front page of the newspaper and then went back and wrote his story.

The next day, Bernie got another message from his ‘news source.’ He was supposed to go and meet in person. He wasn’t too worried because the address indicated was in an affluent part of town but when he arrived there and the door was open, he cautiously let himself inside.

The man he spoke with stayed in the shadows in the dark room and at his request, Bernie took out a recorder to tape their conversation.

The man told him a story about a woman and the person who protects her. He fed him various bits of information that Bernie would have to use to discover the truth on his own.

Bernie left the penthouse more baffled than ever. He went to the library and discovered unusual killings that had happened in the past two years and he realized the faceless man had been telling him the truth. Digging deeper, he was able to tie most of them to Catherine Chandler, an attorney with the DA’s office.

Armed with new information, Bernie decided to confront Catherine the next day. He introduced himself and then presented her with some of his evidence, but Catherine quickly hid her nervousness and walked away from him.

He followed her and badgered her for more information, then led her to an empty room in her office to read to her facts about other cases she’d been involved with.

Catherine’s stomach was in knots as she struggled to hide her distress and come up with excuses about the past.

Getting no where, Bernie threatened to keep digging for more information and then left her alone in the room to stew.

Catherine held onto the table for support as she tried to process all the things she had just heard. Her mind raced with possibilities and she pulled out a chair and sat down heavily in it.

Twenty minutes later, she was lost in thought and staring at her hands when Joe came in. “What are you doing, Radcliffe?” Catherine shrugged and looked away from him. Joe frowned as he sat down next to her. “C’mon, Cath. We’ve been working together for over two years now...you know you can trust me...”

Catherine blinked as she shook her head. “That’s not it, Joe...”

“Well, if it’s got you this shaken up...you need to talk about. Was that Bernie Spirko I saw leaving here?”

“Yeah.”

“Does he have something on you? On one of your cases?”

Catherine nodded as she frowned. “Yeah...”

“Don’t tell me...let me guess...it’s personal, right?”

Catherine shrugged her answer. Joe stood up and walked to the door. “If you can’t talk to me, you should find someone you can talk to...confide in...” He opened the door and glanced back. “I’m here if you need me, kiddo.”

Catherine nodded as she immediately thought of Vincent, but she knew she couldn’t tell him. Her mind led her to Father, and she knew he was her only hope. She went back to her desk and sent him a message, then made an excuse and headed home so she could go Below.

 

************************************

Father and Vincent were playing a game of chess when Samantha ran into the room.

“Message for you, Father.”

“Thank you, dear.” Father said as he took the message and quickly opened it.

Samantha turned to Vincent and smiled. “Are we going to read more of Jane Eyre today?”

“We can. Do you think the others are ready for more of the story?”

“Yeah!”

“Yes...” Father reminded her absently.

“I mean yes!”

“Perhaps in a few hours...” Vincent started to say.

“Um, Vincent...” Father interrupted. “Why don’t you go ahead and gather the children now...it’s almost time for their reading class anyway...”

Vincent cocked his head curiously at the sudden change and looked at the note. “Was it the urgent news, Father?”

“Hmm?” Father glanced at the note and shook his head. “Oh, no...it was just a reply from Carl at the butcher shop. It reminded me about my weekly meeting with William. He and I need to go over some figures for the budget...although it seems like lately there has been more available from the helpers...You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”

“No...” Vincent said innocently as he lowered his head. Both men knew that Catherine had set up accounts with various helpers to ensure the world Below was kept well stocked with supplies.

Samantha grabbed Vincent’s hand. “C’mon...we can send a message to everyone and start now.”

Vincent stood and followed her out as Father reread the message.

Father,

I need to speak to you privately about an urgent matter concerning someone important to us both.


Can you meet me at my threshold about 1:00?


Catherine

Father glanced at a clock and knew he would have to leave immediately if he wanted to be there on time. When he walked up, he could see Catherine was pacing the tunnel way as he made his way towards her. Worried about the news, he quickened his pace.

“Catherine...”

Catherine stopped pacing and whirled around. “Father! Thank you for coming.”

Father smiled at the relief on her face. “You’re quite welcome, dear.”

“I’m sorry to have made you walk such a long way.”

“It’s all right. I...can only assume that since you wouldn’t come to me this has something to do with Vincent?”

“Yes...I don’t like being secretive but I didn’t want him to know I was talking to you.”

Father could see how distraught she was and stepped forward and took her hands. “What has you so upset, Catherine?”

Catherine shook her head. “I don’t know where to start!”

Father dropped her hands as she pulled away and began to pace. “I find that the beginning is always the best.”

Catherine nodded and swallowed hard. “A reporter from the newspaper came to see me at work today.”

Father leaned against the wall for support. “I’m not going to like this am I?”

“No...I don’t think you will. He led me into one of our empty rooms.”

“For what reason?”

“He had a lot of personal questions for me.”

“Such as?

“He asked me about several unexplained incidents in my past...then showed me pictures...”

Father could tell she was beating around the bush. “Incidents?! Catherine, please...tell me.”

Catherine sighed and turned tear filled eyes to him. “Deaths...unexplained deaths.”

Father lowered his head as he expelled a long breath. “No doubt ones incurred by Vincent’s hands...”

Catherine knew he didn’t need an answer but she gave one anyway. “Yes.”

Father’s voice faltered as he spoke. “How...how many are we speaking about?”

Catherine snorted in disgust and threw her arms out to her side. “Does it matter? There are so many to choose from...the men who attacked me and then dumped me in the park and then later tried to kill me in a brownstone...the four guys that came after me when they started to harass some senior citizens at a tenement apartment...the man who was stalking me and locked me in a trunk to die...the two rich boys from just last week...these deaths were committed in defense of me!”

“And this reporter knows about all of these?”

“He mentioned some of them. He even threatened that if I didn’t tell him what he wanted to know, he would discover my secrets on his own. If he doesn’t know about the rest by now, he can always dig a little deeper and find them.”

Father ran his hand over his face worriedly. “How did he link them all to you?”

“I don’t know…maybe they were tagged together in the computer because of similarities in the ways in which the victims were...found. He must have found out that they were linked to cases my office was investigating.”

Father nodded and frowned. “You’re hesitant about telling Vincent?”

“The memory of those moments is painful to him.”

“Catherine, he should be told...every time you meet, every moment you spend together now increases the risk...”

“I know...”

Father could see how distraught she was. “You mustn’t blame yourself, this was inevitable. I knew from the first moment he brought you to us...”

Catherine interrupted him. “I do blame myself, Father!”

“Well, don’t...”

“It’s me he protects! What he does, he does in my name!”

“He protects all of us...he protects the people he loves.”

Catherine turned inward to try to find the words to say that would explain how she felt. “It’s a feeling of shame, Father. I have watched...I have seen him when...he loses himself...”

“Yes, I know, it’s terrifying.”

“No!” Catherine said in frustration that he hadn’t understood.

“Anyone would feel this way...”

Catherine abruptly interrupted him. “No...part of me shares that with him. In some deep way I wonder, have I been reckless? Have I put myself in danger knowing that he would come to me?”

Father let her words sink in before he answered. He looked up and slowly and walked towards her as he shook his head. “Two years ago I may have believed that about you.” He smiled sheepishly and took her hands. “I probably did believe that about you...but Catherine...I know that you would never willingly put yourself in danger to bring Vincent to your side. Yes, he has a bond with you and yes, he has come to your aid countless times, but I will never believe that you did anything purposefully to gain his attention.”

“But, Father I...”

“No, Catherine! Don’t do this to yourself! Did the world Below invite Chang’s friends to come hunt for Lin and Henry in the tunnels? Did our community invite that family of thugs down to murder our men, destroy our things...terrorize us into leaving our homes? Both times Vincent was called on to protect his world...his family...Do you blame us in anyway? Are we to blame that those things happened?”

“Of course not, but...”

“But what? He protected our world the same as he always has...Don’t you think the other men Below feel a certain amount of guilt? Vincent insists he be the one to protect us. He’s even gone so far as to tie the other men up who have tried to help him...eventually the men Below gave up and they make themselves available for...afterwards.” Catherine still wasn’t convinced, so Father continued. “Don’t you see, dear? You feel like you’re to blame for circumstances that were not of your doing. You’re taking your own guilt and trying to place all the blame on yourself for the bad things that happened. I know...I’ve done it myself.”

“Maybe…”  Catherine nodded weakly and sighed. “I have to get back, Father. I need to be available if things start to get out of hand.”

Father reached for her arm to stop her. “Will you be able to stop this reporter?”

“Probably not…but...I have stories for each time something happened...as long as I stick to them, I should be all right. Thanks for listening; I guess I just needed to tell someone.”

Father tenderly cupped her cheeks in his palm and kissed her forehead. “And I am always here for you.” He smiled weakly. “Now, Vincent mentioned your date tonight...”

Catherine nodded. “There’s a concert in the park...”

Father sighed as he nodded. “You two should go...enjoy it...if you feel up to it, you can tell Vincent then about this...reporter.”

Catherine kissed his cheek, smiled, and headed to her office.

*************************************

Later, Father sat quietly in the library, deep in thought.

Vincent walked in and frowned when Father didn’t look up from his ledger. “Are there problems with the budget, Father?” Father didn’t respond so Vincent stepped forward and spoke louder. “Father?”

“Hmmm? Yes?”

Vincent cocked his head. “What troubles you so?”

“Um...nothing...I...”

Vincent knew him too well to dismiss the signs. “Father, tell me...”

“It’s not my place to tell...”

Vincent rolled his eyes sarcastically. “When has that ever stopped you?”

“I...think you should wait to hear it from Catherine.”

“Catherine?” Vincent searched the bond and found her anxious and worried but not any different then she usually was when she was at work. “If what troubles you concerns Catherine and I, then you should tell me...tell us.”

“Catherine already knows...the message I received earlier was from her...she asked me to meet her at her threshold.”

Vincent frowned at the news and started to pace. “For Catherine to request that means she told you something she meant to keep from me...”

“Not keep from you…”

“Then it’s something she’s having a hard time telling me…something disturbing....”

“Yes, it is disturbing. But she was going to keep it from you because she’s worried about how you’ll be affected by it.”

“Father...you know I can’t see Catherine for several more hours...you must tell me what has caused her so much worry.”

Father nodded and sat back in his seat. “A reporter went and visited her today. He was questioning her about some...unusual deaths that have occurred to people around her.”

Of all the things Vincent expected Father to say this was not one of them. He sank into his chair in despair. “He found out about the men I…murdered.”

“Not murdered, Vincent!”

Vincent scoffed angrily. “Call it what you will, Father....It’s true I was trying to protect Catherine, but I still murdered those men.”

Father lowered his head as he sighed. “I’m not having the same conversation with you that I just had with Catherine! Right now, this man only has some pictures and a few wild ideas. It won’t do any of us any good to jump to conclusions, let’s wait and see how this all progresses.”

Vincent sat back in his seat and nodded. “Catherine and I were supposed to go to that concert tonight...”

Father interrupted. “Good! You two deserve some time alone.”

Vincent smiled and shook his head with disbelief. “You constantly surprise me, Father.”

“How so?”

”I would have thought you would be railing about how careless she and I have been in seeing each other. How irresponsible...”

Father smiled as he held up his hand to stop Vincent. “I wanted to...believe me I wanted to. But, I realize that the love you two share is a powerful force that demands that you be together…” At the look on his son’s face, he chuckled. “Yes…I surprise myself sometimes, Vincent. Remember how I told you I would be waiting on the other side of the river for you two to make it across safely? Well…I never go back on my word.”

“Thank you, Father.”

Father’s face changed and he looked at Vincent seriously. “Son...how does it really...make you feel to have to...”

“Relive it all? I’m reminded constantly about the things I’ve done, Father. I try to justify it and sometimes I can trick my mind into believing that the things that happened...happened for a reason. But other times...”

Vincent couldn’t go on and Father grabbed his hand and squeezed it comfortingly. “Let your mind focus on the good thoughts, Vincent. Don’t dwell on the past; remorse can eat you alive if you’re not careful.”

“I’ll try.” Vincent got up and walked towards the doorway, then turned around and looked back. “Thank you for being there for Catherine.”

Father smiled. “Always.”

 

**********************************

 

That night, Vincent got to their favorite listening spot earlier than usual. He set the blankets on the floor and then propped the pillows against the wall. He let his thoughts wander and slowly the sounds of the musicians tuning up their instruments drifted down to him.

Meanwhile, Catherine hurried through the tunnels. She had gotten home late from work, and instead of going through the park entrance and possibly being seen, she walked through the tunnels.

Her mind was focused on coming up with a way to break the news to Vincent. As she neared their spot, she became more and more nervous.

“Catherine...” Vincent felt her approach and turned to greet her. He took one look at her face and saw the turmoil she was in because of her secret. “The reporter... Father’s already told me.”

Catherine was filled with relief and regret. “I’m sorry...”

“No need to apologize...we will not let this defeat us.” Catherine smiled weakly at him as he held out his hand to her. “Come, they’ve only just started...”

He led her to the pillows where she took a seat. He sat next to her and put his arm around her as she immediately snuggled against him.

They both closed their eyes and let the music wash over them. Vincent was absently caressing Catherine’s back and she was fiddling with the strings on his cloak.

Intermission came and Vincent took one of his hands and gently nudged her chin up so he could look in her eyes. “You’re not enjoying it?”

“The music is wonderful...” she lied easily.

“And yet you find yourself unable to relax.”

Catherine frowned as she sighed and looked down. “I can’t believe I let this happen...I...knew there was a possibility of one day being caught and yet I continued to put myself in precarious situations. I’ve endangered everything!”

Vincent knew she was referring to the reporter. “It is I who have endangered everything, Catherine. It is I who sent those men to their deaths!”

“Because of me!”

“Catherine, what’s done is done. You have to find the strength within you to fight this reporter.”

“I will.”

The music began to start again. Vincent pulled her back against his chest. “And until then, we should enjoy our time together.”

Catherine held him tightly, then gradually relaxed against him. This time she did enjoy the concert, and afterwards they walked slowly to her threshold.

“I wish every night was this...peaceful.”

Vincent cocked his head and stared curiously at her. “Yet the turmoil within you is still there...”

“I can’t push this aside, Vincent. Not until I know for sure what this reporter wants with me.”

“He wants a story to tell...”

Catherine sighed. “He wants a front page headline...”

“No, only the fame and fortune it will bring.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

“Perhaps this will be the last hurdle we’ll have to cross...”

Catherine smiled up at him. “I’ll cross any hurdle as long as you’re by my side.”

Vincent stepped forward and held her. “Try to get some sleep...”

“You too, Vincent. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Catherine.”

Knowing how poorly she felt and wanting to offer her comfort, he took a deep breath and stepped forward.

Catherine was shocked when Vincent leaned in and initiated a kiss. She returned it immediately, then waited until he deepened it. She moaned and he quickly pulled back.

He looked at her with concern and she smiled to let him know she was fine. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Catherine.”

They hugged again briefly before she went home and fell into an exhausted sleep.

Vincent went to his chamber and thought about the things she told him. He finally fell into a troubled sleep filled with dreams and memories of the men he killed.

He dreamed of the men on the motorcycles and relived their deaths at his hands. The dream took a turn and there was a continual stream of men on motorcycles coming towards him. He fought off as many of them as he could but the fact that they kept coming was overwhelming. Eventually, a net was thrown over him and he was captured. 

He was taken to Professor Hughes’ lab and kept in the same cage as before. They constantly tested his blood and monitored vital signs. They were intrigued by his abilities and often put him in a controlled atmosphere where he was hunted over and over again. In his rage, he would kill as many of them as needed until they would sedate him and it would start all over again.

Vincent woke in a cold sweat. In his dream, he felt himself take his last breath. Shaken to the core, it took him a long time to calm himself and go back to sleep until the next dream overwhelmed him.  

************************************

 

Vincent woke the next morning and sat quietly in his chamber. He tried to clear his mind of the horrible images he had been bombarded with all night. Finally, he felt strong enough to have some breakfast.

Father looked up at him with surprise as he entered the room. “You look horrible, son.”

“Thank you.” Vincent smiled sarcastically.

“You didn’t sleep well?”

Vincent shrugged, but not wanting Father to know how he truly felt, came up with a ready lie. “I...stayed up late reading.”

“Oh? Which book?”

Vincent searched his mind frantically. “A new one Catherine brought down last night.”

Father didn’t know whether he should believe him or not. “Perhaps I could read it when you’re finished...”

“As soon as I’m finished...”

Father and Vincent went to the dining chamber. Father was consistently interrupted by someone needing his guidance and the children kept bothering Vincent with questions regarding their school lessons.

Vincent was beginning to feel overwhelmed by their requests. “We will discuss this later in class,” he roared at one group of children.

They looked at one another guiltily, then turned and left him alone. Father raised questioning eyes to him and Vincent slowly stood.

“I’m going back to my chamber to rest for awhile.”

Father watched his son walk out. He looked as if the weight of the world rested on his shoulders. He knew Vincent was anxious about the news Catherine brought down yesterday,

Mary reached out a hand to touch Father’s wrist. “What’s bothering him?”

“I’m not sure, Mary.”

“Should I go see if he’ll talk to me?”

Father patted her hand and shook his head. “Let him try and get some rest.”

*************************************

A few hours later, Vincent sat in his chamber holding his head, hoping that if he held it steady he could control the speed of his thoughts swirling though his mind. He gasped worriedly as he remembered the one other time he had felt this way. In his youth, a type of madness had come upon him and threatened to destroy him. He had been so young, but he shivered when he remembered that it had started out this same way.

He had been sitting for over an hour alone in his chamber when Father suddenly walked in. He wanted to share a passage from a poem he had found but Vincent stopped him from reading it and got up from the bed.

Father frowned as he walked across the room. “If I asked you, would you tell me the truth, Father?”

“Of course!”

“Am I a man?”

Father’s heart sank in his chest. He had spent a lifetime dreading the day this question would be asked. He always assumed it would have happened when Vincent reached his teens. As the years went on and Vincent didn’t ask, he relaxed and enjoyed their time together. Instead years later, Vincent now stood in front of him. His face showing the distress he felt when Father hadn’t answered right away. He had hoped Father would immediately say yes.

Father looked up at him and answered honestly. “Part of you is...”

“And the part that is not? The part that…takes over...that the man in me cannot forget...cannot close his eyes in peace...”

“I don’t know the answer to that, Vincent.” Father stood. “I honestly don’t know!”

“You have educated the man...you have nurtured the man...read him poetry...taught him to love...but the other...you don’t understand...you don’t understand its power!”

Father came forward to offer comfort. “Vincent...”

Vincent looked at him pleadingly. “Father, I cannot control my thoughts. Father….I’m afraid,” he said as his head lowered.

Father threw his arms around Vincent and held him close. He tried to comfort him but inside he was quaking with fear. He, too, remembered the last time something like this happened to Vincent.

“Can you share those thoughts with me?”

Vincent gasped. “They would only frighten you...”

“I’m more frightened by the damage you’re doing to yourself by keeping it all inside.”

“Always...Father! Always! I always feel as if there is something, clawing its way up from within me...I try to hold it at bay and most times I succeed but each time, Father, it grows stronger....”

Father held Vincent’s hand and squeezed it lightly. “I remember when you were just a small child. Devin would take a toy you wanted and you would lash out at him. I would discipline you and you would tell me that you had a boy living inside of you that would come out every once in a while and do those bad things...”

Vincent remembered as well and looked at him as he nodded. “Yes...and that same boy has grown into a beast that is no longer content to come out once in a while! I have just a little more control over him now than I did then, but he’s quickly growing stronger.”

Father frowned as he shook his head. “You’re exhausted. Maybe you should try to rest.”

Vincent cried out. “I’ve tried! The second I close my eyes, I’m haunted by memories! When I’m not reliving the deaths of the men I killed, I dream of other men from Above coming down and hunting me until I’m dead!”

Father knew Vincent’s lack of sleep was playing a part in his inability to control his thoughts, and he scrambled for a solution. “Perhaps Catherine’s presence would have a calming effect on you...”

Vincent exploded. “Catherine is no more at rest then I am! Her guilt and shame and anxiety are boiling under the surface, her turmoil is only adding to mine!”

“Try to block it out,” Father came over and stood next to the bed. “Vincent, come lie down.” Vincent did as he was asked and stretched out on the bed. Father sat in a chair and began to read the poem he originally came in to share.

Father’s calming voice had the desired effect and Vincent fell asleep quickly. Father continued to read for over an hour but he kept a continual eye on his son. Satisfied he was in a deep sleep, Father silently slipped from the room.

*************************** 

In the world Above, Bernie Spirko went back to the penthouse and talked to the man hidden in the shadows. He had done some investigating of his own and guessed that the man hiding his face from him in the dark was in fact Elliot Burch, he had no way of knowing it was all part of Paracelsus’ elaborate plan.

He listened in fascination as “Elliot” told him about Vincent. He refused to be Bernie’s source and told Bernie to find the information he needed himself. He also gave him the name of someone who could serve as his witness.

Bernie excitedly reported everything to his editor who told him, without Burch’s approval, he would need more proof for his story.

The next day, Bernie wheedled his way into the mental hospital Stephen Bass was staying at. He interviewed Stephen and if it wasn’t for the fact that what Stephen was telling him corroborated with the facts he already had found, he would never have believed him. When Bernie was getting ready to leave, Stephen showed him his scars on his chest and he knew instantly that even though Stephen was considered mentally incompetent, he was telling the truth.

That afternoon, Bernie confronted Catherine out on the street as she walked to court. He told her about meeting with Stephen and how he knew about Vincent.

Catherine was shocked. She defended Stephen, reminding Spirko how sick Stephen was. She also threatened him with a harassment suit if it didn’t stop. She angrily walked away as her mind raced. She went into work and, luckily, Joe was tied up with other cases. She sat at her desk as she grappled with all the scenarios of how this would play out.

Her body was shaking in her chair and she had no idea how to stop it. Finally, she gave up and grabbed her purse. “Rhonda, I’m not feeling well, I’m going to head home. Tell Joe I have the Risinki file. I’ll do the breakdowns on the testimonies later tonight.”

Catherine left work and went home. She couldn’t concentrate and quickly closed the work files. While she paced, she thought back to about a week ago, she had been sitting in a diner and slowly reading through Bernie’s headline story. She was lost in thoughts of Vincent when Elliot suddenly sat and joined her. She was surprised to see him there but even more surprised when he told her he was waiting for her and would still be there for her if it didn’t work out with the other man in her life.

With mixed emotions, Catherine had watched him walk away. She was angry that he hadn’t understood that there was no chance for them to get back together but she felt sorry for him that all he had to cling to was the hope that one day they would be together again.

She convinced herself Elliot was at the heart of her new problems. She didn’t want to confront him unless she had some type of evidence that he was the cause of Bernie’s investigation, so she went to the library to look at past news articles.

She was able to find several articles about Elliot that Spirko was the reporter on and she grabbed her coat and headed to Elliot’s office.

She marched past his secretary and barged into his office.

“Cathy!” Elliot blinked in surprise as he got up and walked over to her. “What are you doing here?”

“You set Bernie Spirko to spy on me! How could you do this to me?”

Elliot’s hands went out innocently at his sides. “Honey, I haven’t done anything to you...”

“You came into that diner…”

Elliot was confused by her behavior and tried to interrupt. “Diner? Cathy what are you talking about, what diner?!”

Catherine ignored him as she continued ranting. “You said you came to me out of concern and the whole time you’ve been undermining everything that meant anything to me.”

“Cathy! Calm down! Would you mind telling me what it is I’m supposed to be doing!”

“You know damn well…”

Elliot was floored by her accusations. “Why don’t you believe me?! The only time that I’ve ever seen Bernie Spirko’s name is on a byline for the New York Sentinel.”

“You leaked the Corrales story to him last year and for all I know he is still on your payroll.”

“I’ve never paid him a penny!”

“How can you deny it?!”

“Listen to yourself! You’re supposed to be an attorney. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?”

“This is not a court of law!”

“Cath…” Elliot took a calming breath and tried to start over with her and get her to see reason. “Okay, Cath…I know you’ve got secrets in your life, okay, I know what’s happening is very real and it’s causing you a lot of pain but you can’t…”

Catherine refused to listen to more of his lies and started to walk away from him. “Stop it Elliot! Just stop it!”

After she walked out the door, Elliot grabbed his phone. “Get me Manning.”

A few minutes later, Cleo Manning picked up on the end. “Cleo Manning.”

“Elliot Burch, I need you to investigate Bernie Spirko…” He thought for a few seconds and then frowned. “I also need you to find out if someone has been impersonating me.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me right, Manning. I supposedly met Catherine Chandler in a diner recently…”

“Um…didn’t you and Catherine Chandler date for awhile?”

“Yeah, so.”

“This guy would have to be awfully good to put one over on someone so close to you…” Manning hinted.  

“All I know is I haven’t been in a diner in fifteen years. Now, call me if you find out anything useful.” Elliot scowled before he slammed down the phone.

 

*******************************

 

Needing to see Vincent, Catherine walked home and tried to get Below through her basement but there were workers in the basement and she couldn’t reach the hidden door. She went back to her apartment and waited until it was dark enough to try to go through the park entrance.

Vincent had fallen asleep but within a short time was woken again by a horrible dream. He felt Catherine’s presence and knew she was coming to him and he raced to the park entrance and met up with her right inside the first tunnel.

“What is it, Catherine?”

“It’s Elliot Burch! Elliot is the one who is feeding information to the reporter.”

“Elliot?” Vincent asked clearly distressed.

Catherine’s heart sank with despair as she broke the news. “They know your name Vincent...somehow they got to Stephen Bass.” Vincent closed his eyes and leaned against the wall as he let the news sink in while Catherine continued. “Father’s right, the risk has become too great! We can’t see each other until this is over!”

“Perhaps if Elliot understood...”

“No...”

“But he’s a man who could understand...”

“I thought so too, once. But he’s shown himself...he’s out to condemn us...to destroy us!”

“Condemn us?!”

“He knows that we are different...that we are beyond his experience and that must threaten him...”

“It is I who is different!”

Catherine stepped towards him. “No, Vincent. It’s us. I’ve learned that...we share the responsibility of who we are...together.”

Vincent’s body was filled with rage. He felt the blood boil in his veins as he wanted to run and lash out at those that were hurting them. He could almost imagine the feel of Elliot’s skin as his claws raked down his chest. Vincent imagined he could hear Elliot take his last breath. He grabbed the sides of his head trying to slow the thoughts spinning out of control and took several long deep breaths to calm himself. “My mind is filled with thoughts beyond imagining!”

“If they ever found you!”

His body was preparing to do battle and there was an edge to his voice when looked at her as he walked passed her. “They would never find me! I would vanish...bury myself deep inside the earth...”


“Then you would be lost to me...” Catherine said as she tried to control her tears.

He allowed his feelings to soften his tone. “Without you, I would be lost to myself.”

He came to stand in front of her and she threw her arms around his neck. His arms came around her automatically and they comforted one another as best they could.

Vincent slowly pulled away. “I have to tell Father and the council...we have to prepare...”

“I’ll go with you...”

“No!”

“Yes!” Catherine said angrily. “This is my fault! You can stand by me but I will tell them what happened.”

Vincent relented and tapped out a message on the pipes. He turned and took her hand. “They’ll be waiting for us when we get there.”

“Father’s chamber?”

“Yes.”

Catherine squared her shoulders and walked forward.

They entered the chamber behind William and Pascal. Father, Mary, Mouse and John were already seated.

“What’s going on?” William barked loudly.

Father looked at both Vincent and Catherine’s faces and knew instantly. “Someone found out about Vincent...”

Pascal gasped and John leaned forward in his seat. “Is that true?”

Vincent nodded and Catherine stepped forward. “Yes...this man, a reporter has been digging around and he asked me to tell him about Vincent. He knows his name and he has some damning information about him.”

“What?” Mouse asked.

Catherine shrugged. “I don’t know how long they’ve been investigating me. We’re not sure exactly what he knows, Mouse, but the fact that he knows anything is too much.”

William folded his arms across his chest. “Who’s behind this investigation?”

“A man named Elliot Burch.” Vincent said.

“Tower guy?!” Mouse said.

Catherine nodded. “Yes, Mouse. He was the one who tried to build the tower.”

“He’s the one Catherine led through the tunnels not too long ago...” John stated.

Vincent nodded. “Yes.”

Pascal frowned. “So he knows about our world?”

Catherine shrugged again. “Maybe...”

Mary cried. “If they find us...they’ll find the children!”

William shouted. “They’ll take them away from here!”

Mouse stood. “Put up walls...start now.”

John agreed. “That might buy us some time!”

Pascal nodded. “I’ll send the word out to the helpers. Maybe the kids can stay with them for awhile!”

“Enough!” Father shouted as he held up his hand. Everyone quieted to let him speak. “We are forgetting that Vincent lives here with us. We cannot go off without a plan. Now Mouse had a good idea about sealing off the entrances. We’ll go down the list and close off as many as possible. Pascal also had a good idea about alerting the helpers. We’re going to have to limit our contact with our friends Above for awhile. No more deliveries unless they come through the warehouse.”

“What about the children’s trips Above, Father?” Mary asked.

John rolled his eyes. “It’s obvious that they can’t take them!”

“But they so enjoy it!” Mary protested.

John’s face contorted with disgust. “They’ll enjoy it even less if they can never come back here again.”

“They’ll be like prisoners here...” Vincent sighed. “I know that feeling.”

The room quieted again as they realized this was the only place that Vincent could ever live.

Mouse wanted to make everyone, especially Vincent, feel better. “Not prisoners...safe...” 

“Until they come down and take them away from us...split us all up.” William grumbled.

“That will never happen,” Catherine said quietly as she slowly stood. “I have the power and I have the money....and I promise that if the day ever comes where this community has to leave the tunnels...I will find somewhere for everyone to go...together...as a family.” She looked up at Vincent and stared into his eyes. “Everyone!” 

Father actually found comfort in her words. He knew that if anyone could make it happen it would be Catherine. “We’re not in that predicament yet so let’s concentrate on the things we can do!”

Catherine sat back down and listened as the council made plans to handle their latest crises. Father kept detailed records and Pascal wrote message after message that needed to be sent.  Catherine was overwhelmed by all the trouble they had to go through because of her relationship with Vincent.

The meeting ended and Vincent wearily stood. “Come, Catherine. I’ll walk you out.”

Catherine had noticed his exhaustion earlier but thought that he was having the same issues as she was and just wasn’t sleeping well. Father and she exchanged a quick glance. He realized he knew what he was thinking and he indicated with the briefest shake of his head what he thought. 

She shook her head as she looked at Vincent. “Can we go to your chamber for awhile?”

Vincent stood and led the way and once inside, started to light more candles.

“Don’t light any more, please.” Vincent stopped and looked at her curiously. Catherine motioned to the bed. “Can we just lie down together for awhile? I’m so tired, Vincent, I just want to be close to you.”

Vincent didn’t have the strength to fight, so he lay down on the bed. Catherine lay down next to him and snuggled up against him. He put his arms around her and she relaxed her mind until she felt him slowly drift to sleep. It wasn’t too long before she fell asleep as well.

Vincent rolled over in his sleep and Catherine woke up when she felt a chill. She slipped out of his bed then slowly backed out of the room and headed to the library.

Father looked up as she walked into the chamber.

“He’s sleeping...” she mumbled tiredly as she tried to wake up.

“Thank, God!”

“He looks exhausted!”

Father nodded. “He’s in great turmoil!”

“I know how he feels...”

“Catherine, I don’t think you do.” Catherine frowned at him and he continued. “He feels your emotions as well as his own. I don’t think he’s slept in days...”

“Me either,” she said. She hadn’t thought about the implications of their bond and she sighed aloud. “I’m heading home. I’ll do some work while I try my best to control my emotions...maybe he’ll get a good night’s sleep.”

She started to walk towards the door when Father stopped her. “Catherine?”

Catherine turned. “Yes.”

Father looked down ashamedly. “I wonder...if you were...um...telling the truth about taking care of this community if God forbid, that time ever comes.”

Catherine walked back to him and took his hands in her own. “Father, if it ever came to that, I promise you, no one in this community will be left behind.”

Father smiled with relief as she kissed his cheek and left.

*************************************

Bernie Spirko went back to the penthouse and told the shadowy ‘Elliot Burch” everything he had discovered on his own.

‘Elliot’ looked at him happily. “There is an entrance to a tunnel in the basement of Catherine Chandler’s apartment building. Behind some boxes in her storage area is a door. Climb down the ladder there and hide yourself in the shadows. Have your camera ready, and around 11:00 tonight, you’ll have your proof and your story.”

Bernie walked away and wondered how Elliot Burch could be so successful but so strange as well. He still had no idea that he was dealing with a madman instead of the real Elliot Burch.

Paracelsus arranged for Catherine to be kidnapped from her home. On his instructions, the men dragged her down to the tunnels and waited there for further instructions.

Vincent burst through a false wall and quickly disposed of the kidnappers while a shocked Bernie watched, his camera flashing constantly.

Vincent advanced on Bernie and was about to deliver a lethal blow when he suddenly stopped and walked away.

He waited in the tunnel way and listened while Catherine begged Bernie not to print the story. He heard her tell him it would destroy both of them. Bernie told her nonchalantly, right before he turned and walked away, that he was a reporter and it was his job to deliver the news.

Disheartened, Catherine went in search of Vincent. She found him in an alcove just past where the men were killed.

“I’m shaking!” she exclaimed.

Vincent came forward and wrapped her tightly in his arms as he spoke quietly. “What you said was true, Catherine. It must end now...we must end...they know everything!”

“No!” Catherine cried out as he backed away.   

“This man will never stop...Elliot will never stop! They will hunt me until they find me...or until I’m dead.”

“Then I’ll come with you!”

“It’s no life for you...”

“Or for you!”

“But it is my life...”

Catherine was so frustrated she began to pace. Her mind raced to find an answer...should she disappear with Vincent or go back Above and try to dispel Bernie’s claim? “I don’t know what to do!”

“You must face what we both feared might come to pass from the beginning...”

Catherine knew where he was heading and she wanted him to stop talking before he said something they would regret. “Vincent!”

“It’s all we can do...remember our love...let it guide you...give you courage...know that what we had could never be taken away.” Vincent slowly started to back away from her.

“Vincent, don’t!” she cried out as she saw him pulling away. Her face contorted with pain as tears began to fall.

Vincent’s mind was racing with the possibilities of taking her with him. He felt his strength begin to fail him and he pleaded with her to go before he changed his mind. “Catherine! Go...quickly....please!” 

Catherine felt like her heart was shattering into a million pieces. She looked at his back as he walked away and desperately cried out to him. “Hold me!” Vincent turned as she begged him. “Just hold me one last time!”

They came together and she fell into his arms then started to cry hysterically. Tears flowed from Vincent’s eyes as well, as the two lovers tried to find comfort in the arms of one another.

Vincent’s head hung down low on her shoulder. It seemed like hours, but a short time later, tears spent, Catherine’s body heaved as she took a deep breath and then turned her face inwards to kiss his neck. She felt a shudder go through his body and she backed away to look into his eyes.

In them, she could clearly see the love he felt for her and she moved back against him as she tilted her head to prepare to kiss him. Her mouth was inches from his when she realized she wanted to give him the opportunity to stop her.

“Vincent?” she asked.

Filled with emotions, he was unable and unwilling to stop her. Vincent felt the wall he had erected around himself crumble. He groaned as he lowered his head and tasted the salt from her tears when his mouth came down on top of hers. Catherine moaned aloud, cupping the back of his head and deepening the kiss.

Desperate to ease their pain, they shared a passionate kiss. Catherine clung to him as he gently responded to her exploration of his mouth. She kissed him a few more times, then pulled back slowly as she rested her forehead against his.

“Make love to me, Vincent.”

Shocked, Vincent tried to back away. “No…You can’t want…”

She grabbed his shirt in her hands and tugged roughly. “I’ve never asked you for anything before!”

“Catherine...”

He had started to protest but Catherine kissed him passionately and pleaded with him again. “Please, Vincent! I need to feel you inside me. I…just want… let me have one of my dreams fulfilled!”

“Catherine…”

Feeling defeated, her shoulders fell and she slowly lowered her gaze. “I understand,” she gasped as she turned away.

Time stood still as he felt the regret course through their bodies. They had been moving towards this for months and Catherine had stood by and waited patiently for him to accept her love. Now, Vincent felt his world crumbling around him and he knew there was a chance he would never see her again. Realizing this might be his last chance to fulfill her wish gave him the strength he needed to go on. He gently reached for her arm and stopped her retreat, then turned her to face him as he reached up with his hand and gently cupped her cheek.

“Catherine,” he said wondrously as he lowered his mouth to hers once again.

As they kissed, Vincent’s head finally gave in completely to his heart and he turned himself over to his desire. Their kisses deepened and in moments they were panting heavily. Catherine guided Vincent’s hand to her breast. She sighed as he tentatively caressed it through her thin nightgown, then moaned in ecstasy as her body responded and her nipple hardened in his hand. She felt her body ready itself for him and leaned back and guided his hand downward, then waited for him to touch her womanhood. Vincent’s hand slipped down under her gown and he moaned as he savored the feeling of her body and then gasped for breath when he felt her readiness. “Catherine...?”

“Don’t think, Vincent...” she said as she lowered her hand down his front and gently caressed his full arousal.

He backed her against the wall and groaned. Her legs weakened at the desire she heard in his tone and Catherine threw her arms around his neck. Her nightgown slipped back over her hips as she threw her legs around his waist and ground against his manhood. He lifted her into the air and gently held her up against the wall. With a growl, he released himself from his pants and slowly entered her.

Driven by passion, the coupling was over too soon. Vincent had just taken them over the edge and their heartbeats were slowing returning to normal when he heard a noise come from the tunnel way behind them.

“Catherine!” he warned.

He set her down and adjusted himself back into his pants while Catherine straightened out her nightgown and grabbed for her robe. Vincent moved to stand in front of her as he readied himself for another attack.

Mouse came around the corner followed by John and Kevin.

“Everyone all right?” John asked.

Catherine was relieved it was no one coming to harm them, while Vincent remained speechless. “Yes,” she said as squeezed Vincent’s arm and looked at him lovingly.

Mouse came forward timidly. “Saw Vincent run...came to help...not do alone...”

Kevin was there as well and had peered back around the corner. He pointed back with his finger. “There’s two...”

Catherine interrupted him. “We know, they...took me from my apartment and brought me down here...Vincent...”

John touched her shoulder knowingly and shook his head as he interrupted her. “I got it…we’ll take care of it from here...”

Kevin and John went around the corner and covered up the faces of the men then prepared them to be put on the stretchers.

Mouse shifted nervously from foot to foot in front of Vincent. “Two men...need four to carry stretchers...you help?”

“I...” Vincent’s mind raced with everything that had just happened and he couldn’t look Catherine in the eye.

Catherine shook his arm lightly to get him to look down at her. “He’ll be right there...just give us a second Mouse...”

Mouse grabbed the stretchers and disappeared around the corner.

Vincent was still in shock by what they had done and Catherine leaned over and kissed him. It was enough to bring him out of his daze and he took her hands in his. “Catherine...I’m...”

“Don’t say it, Vincent.”

“But…”

“No! It was beautiful…”

Vincent was disgusted with himself at taking her in a dirty tunnel way and he waved his hands at his surroundings “It was not beautiful…”

“It was to me…don’t you dare try to apologize for it…”

Kevin peeked around the corner. “We’re ready when you are, Vincent...”

Catherine kissed Vincent on the lips as tears came to her eyes. “Thank you...you gave me something I can cherish in these coming days! I don’t know when it will be safe to see you again, but I promise you I’ll find a way, and remember that I will always love you! ”

She was gone and climbing up the ladder before Vincent could say another word.

Vincent watched her leave. Part of him was still in shock that they had just consummated their relationship, the other part was dreadfully aware that he would probably never live to see her again.

Mouse and Kevin took off with their stretcher as John came up and grabbed his arm. “Vincent, we really should get this one out of here...”

Vincent snapped from his musings and turned to the task of helping to dispense with the bodies as he took the other end of the stretcher that John carried.

They walked towards the abyss and John stopped when he heard a moan come from the stretcher. “Shit!” he said as he lowered his end.

Vincent had also heard the moan and knelt down close to the man. The man looked up with clouded eyes and coughed hard. Blood splattered Vincent’s face as the man took his last breath.

Vincent sat back as he gasped in disbelief. Matthew appeared around the corner and looked curiously at John.

John touched Vincent’s shoulder. “Matthew and I will take it from here. Why don’t you go to your chamber and get some rest.”

John nodded his head towards the stretcher and Matthew and he picked up either end before they headed down the tunnel.

Vincent’s mind reeled with horror and he slowly started to walk towards his chamber. He could barely walk as he entered his chamber. He glanced at a bowl of water and he quickly scrubbed the blood off his face.

He looked at the bed but he knew he would be haunted by dreams, so he moved to the chair. He stared at a spot on the floor across the room and struggled to keep his mind focused and clear but he could feel the anger inside of him boiling under the surface.

****************************************

Above, Catherine walked into her apartment and sat heavily down on the bed. She thought about making love to Vincent and wondered if she had only dreamt it. She started to relive the night and wondered why something so beautiful had to be tainted by so much ugliness.

Instead of her and Vincent celebrating what had just happened...they were apart, a reporter and his looming story were standing between them and happiness. Bernie Spirko now had the power to destroy their lives as well as countless others.

Catherine got up and changed her clothe,s then went to bed...hoping for a better tomorrow.

******************************************

Bernie settled down from his grisly encounter, then angrily decided to go to the penthouse and confront ‘Elliot Burch.’

Bernie told Elliot that he realized he had just sent four men to their deaths for the sole purpose of feeding him the story on Vincent.

Paracelsus revealed his true identity to Bernie. Bernie began to get nervous but he knew this was the story of a lifetime and he wasn’t ready to let it pass. The instant Paracelsus stabbed him in the stomach he realized that he had let him get too close. His final thought was that the story of a life time had cost him his life.

Paracelsus looked down in disgust as Bernie took his last few breaths. He had hoped that Vincent would have killed Bernie. He called out to his hired men and had the body removed, then dumped in a river.

Curious if Bernie had at least helped push Vincent towards the edge of insanity, he headed back Below to carry out the rest of his plan.

THE END