Judy McPherson ©2002

He was crazy.He knew this for a fact.Otherwise he would be safely Below in his chamber.Instead, here he was, trying to sneak into a surgical ward, even if it was the middle of the night.But he had no choice.Catherine had called him, and he was bound and determined to answer her.He could tell she was well, and ought to be satisfied with that, but he wasn’t.He had to see her, talk to her, for himself. There!He could feel her stronger now.She was rousing from the pain medication and uncomfortable.He was so close to her.Finally, there she was.She looked so small and helpless laying there on the stark, white sheets.

Helpless.That’s exactly how he had felt as he had heard the sharp retort of the pistol and felt the momentary spurt of terror before her feelings had blanked from his heart.All he could do was run like he had never run before to the nearby hospital.He knew he would never make it Below to Father’s chamber with her before it was too late.Even now he could still smell her blood as it dried on his shirt.

Their conversation was brief before she slipped back into unconsciousness. But there was a difference this time.He could feel her contentment from just knowing he was nearby.Not yet could they really express just how much they cared about each other, but the feelings were there.Otherwise why would he be standing here?

He knew he would have to leave soon because the nurses would be starting another set of rounds in a few minutes.He stepped close to the bed and stroked an errant strand of her hair away from her face. As she smiled slightly and turned toward his hand he felt his heart skip a beat.That Catherine cared for him was a constant source of wonder for him.

He pulled a notepad with a stub of pencil stuck in the spiral from an inner pocket of his cloak.He quickly jotted off a note to her, wishing her well, and a promise to see her when she returned home.He signed it with a simple “V” so as not to leave any more information for prying eyes than necessary.He folded it over and wrote her name on the outside and stood it up against the glass on her bedside table.With one last look at her, he pulled up his hood and turned to make his way home.


Catherine shut her eyes, nodding and responding with a properly contrite, “Yes, Daddy,” at the appropriate places as her father ranted and raved.Finally, she heard him stop pacing.“You’re not paying the least bit of attention to me, are you?” he asked, some what exasperated.

She popped her eyes open wide, “Oh, yes I am!”

“But you’re still going to do what you want.”Charles had slowly come to the realization that the little girl with the big heart was now the woman with the big heart…and a resolve of steel.

She did have the grace to look slightly embarrassed as she said, “Pretty much.”

He sighed as he dropped into the chair beside the bed.“I thought so.Look, Cathy, I can’t help but worry.You’re my little girl, no matter how old you get.And you’re all I’ve got.”He reached over and covered her hand with his.“All I ask is that you’re more careful!”

“I will, daddy.Believe me!This isn’t something I want to repeat!”Her laugh dissolved into a gasp of pain.“Oh, that hurt!” she whispered.

“I’ll be right back.I’m going to check with the nurse and see when you can have more pain medication.”He rose quickly and exited the room, relieved to have something constructive to do instead of sitting by helplessly.Helpless.That’s how he had felt as he had driven much too fast last night to the hospital after he had received the phone call.That’s how he had felt as he had sat in the waiting room with Peter Allcot as Catherine had undergone emergency surgery to remove the bullet (bullet!!) and bone splinters, and stop the internal bleeding.Peter had assured him she was in good hands, but that was his daughter!A father was supposed to protect his child, and he had been unable to protect her.Not now, not those months ago when she had disappeared for ten days only to show up horribly scarred.Not any number of times she had run head-on with life.

What would he have done without Peter?While he had paced and complained about her new job, Peter had spoken soothingly.Finally, Peter had offered to get him a cup of coffee from the staff room so he wouldn’t have to drink the machine stuff.It was after that he calmed down and could look as the situation rationally.He had even dozed for a few minutes as they waited.“I wonder what the old fox slipped in it?” Charles had wondered to himself.

Catherine smiled through her pain as she watched him leave.She loved him so much!And he tried so hard.She licked her dry lips. She remembered how dry her mouth had felt the last time.Looking over at her table, she tried to decide if it was worth it to try to reach her glass. Then she saw the note propped up beside it.Her heart flipped as she saw her name on the paper written in Vincent’s distinctive flowing script.Yes, it was worth her time to try to get that glass!She tried to turn, but gasped at the pain that shot across her back.Just then, the door opened and her father returned with the nurse.

“Well, how are we doing today, Ms Chandler?”She was friendly, but not overly boisterous for a sickroom.“I’m glad to see you awake.I’ve got orders for a couple of things, depending on how you are feeling this morning.”She turned to Charles, “If you’d leave us just a few moments, I also need to change this dressing.”

“Oh, yes!Of course!Cathy, I’ll be just down the hall in the waiting room.”He walked over and gave her a kiss on the cheek before leaving.

The nurse, Debra, explained about the two drugs, and asked about any problems she had had previously with them.After ascertaining which would be best she reached to pour a glass of water, and saw the note.“Looks like you’ve had a visitor!” she said as she handed it to Catherine.

Catherine could feel herself blushing.“It’s from a very special friend…but daddy doesn’t know him.”

Debra nodded understandingly.“I won’t say a word.”She grinned at Catherine, “Only child?”At her nod Debra laughed, “Me, too.Believe me, I really understand!”

With Catherine at ease, she helped her turn so she could change the dressing.She was efficient, but gentle.She showed Catherine the individual wipes she was using that dissolved the adhesive on the tape so it would come off without pulling.“I’ll send a few home with you.These doctors don’t remember them often, but they sure do help when you’ve got to wear bandages for a while!”

She had to know, “How bad is it?” Catherine asked, almost dreading the answer.It felt like at least 10 inches!

“Well, not too bad.It’s about 3 inches, or so.It hurts so much because the bullet nicked a bone and they had to remove some splinters.That’s as bad, or worse, as a break.You’ll have a scar there.”

“So what else is new?” thought Catherine wryly.


Catherine finally laid her head back against the pillow, glad of the chance to rest.She could groan and look like death warmed over if she wanted, now that Charles had left.She had wanted to reassure him she was all right.There had been so much she had wanted to explain to him about the case, and about how she had gotten to the hospital. But she just couldn’t.Sometimes she felt so helpless as she watched him trying to understand all the changes he saw going on in her life, in her personality, in her heart.Did he know there was someone new in her life?She thought he suspected, but really didn’t want to ask.She brought out the note from Vincent from under her pillow and read it again.It wasn’t very long, but it didn’t need to be.He had risked much just being here with her, if only for a few moments.That in itself spoke volumes.She had a vague recollection, almost a hazy dream, of Vincent gathering her to his chest and roaring his anguish to the empty street.She had roused a time or two, just enough to know Vincent was running with her. She remembered fear, deep and sharp, but didn’t think it came from her.She was past feeling such emotions by then.Could it have come from Vincent?The poor man!Then he had risked so much to come to her room just to check on her! He was so special to her, very special.With his note close to her cheek where she could catch a faint whiff of candle smoke and earth, Catherine finally drifted off to sleep.


Vincent lifted the shirt out of the bowl of water where he had left it soaking the night before, too tired to try to wash it out when he had finally staggered home.The smell of blood was sharp.The thought to whose blood was nauseating.

As he was lifting it from the water to inspect the stain, Father walked in.Seeing the bloody water and the stain on the shirt, he thought the worst.“Vincent!What have you done now?”He hobbled quickly over to his son and began prodding his middle, looking for the bandages he knew had to be there.

“Father!Please!” Vincent exclaimed, twisting away from him.“I know what you’re thinking, and this isn’t my blood!”

“Well, thank heaven for small favors!”He collapsed into Vincent’s chair beside his table.“Are you going to tell me what’s been going on?If that’s not your blood, then just whose is it?” he asked, aggravated at all the trouble his son seemed to get into.

Softly Vincent replied to him, so softly he almost couldn’t hear the words, “The blood is Catherine’s”

Father sat straight up in the chair.“Catherine!My dear boy, is she all right?What happened?

Vincent related the night’s events to him, skipping the part about going to see her in the hospital.He didn’t think his father’s charitable reaction to her injury would extend to late night visits to the hospital!He picked up the shirt again and began to wring the water out of it.“Do you know,” he asked, “what it’s like to feel the life of someone you love slowly slipping away?To feel their blood warm on your skin as it drains from their body?Do you?”He turned deeply troubled eyes on his father.“I wish I didn’t!”The shirt dropped to the floor as his knees seemed to buckle; he barely made it to his bed before he collapsed onto it.He covered his face with his hands as sobs shook his frame.

Father moved the chair closer to the bed and reached out to grip his shoulder.He couldn’t find anything to say that didn’t sound like a mindless platitude. He knew Vincent was finally getting over the initial shock of what happened and the reaction was setting in.He had to get it out of his system.

“How is she?” he asked, almost dreading the answer.He was relieved when Vincent said, “Sleeping.She’s still in pain, but it is deadened somewhat.Probably from medication.”

“What happened to her?” Father asked next. He was prepared for a story about how Catherine run afoul a criminal she had been investigating, but he had been totally unprepared for it to be Mitch Denton.It was hard to believe someone you knew personally could be involved in something so despicable. He tried so hard with all the children, but there were some he simply couldn’t reach.All he could do was try his hardest and hope for the best, helpless to stop the heartache he saw coming. After they had talked a few more minutes he left Vincent lying in bed and turned to the chamber door.On his way out, he stooped and picked up the wet shirt.He would take it to the laundry room.It was the least he could do.


Catherine felt she deserved an Oscar.She had definitely given an Academy Award performance.But boy! Was she paying for it now!She had convinced the doctor she was ready to come home a day early, and her father she was fine in her apartment instead of going back to the town house with him.Not that she wasn’t grateful for all he had done, but she missed Vincent.After all that had happened, she needed to see him and he had promised to come to her when she got home from the hospital.

Right now, she hurt.And she was hungry.And she was tired.And…lonesome.She tried to open a can of soup but the way her sling was tied down made it almost impossible to use her right hand.But she had to take her pain medicine with food, or she would definitely live to regret it.It was the same stuff they had given her before (she tried not to think about the pain in her face from the plastic surgery), and one time taking it without food had been enough for her!She finally growled in frustration and grabbed the jar of peanut butter, some grape jelly and the bread.Sometimes you just had to get back to basics! After managing to put together a sandwich, with only a little getting on her sling, she sat down with a glass of milk and proceeded to feel miserable.She had gotten used to being independent, and being so limited in her movements wasn’t setting well with her.The old Cathy might have enjoyed playing the helpless female, but the new Cathy wanted to take charge!Well, obviously it wouldn’t be today.

After she ate, she went into the bedroom to lie down, too worn out to even make the trip into the kitchen to put up her dishes.She tossed and turned as she tried vainly to find a comfortable position on the bed.She finally positioned two throw pillows behind her so that the incision was in a gap between them.Without her weight pressing on the wound, she was able to get relief. In a few moments she was asleep, making up for those days in the hospital where it had been impossible to get more that 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep time.


Vincent went about his chores with a purposeful air.He had to get these done, because Catherine was home.He could feel from their connection that she was much closer than she had been these last three days.And more uncomfortable.He also felt her frustration and loneliness.Well, he had promised her he would be there the night she returned, and he had every intention of keeping that promise.If he could get these boxes of groceries unpacked and put on the shelves, the boxes broken down and taken to the storage chamber, and the lumber Kanin had found left over from a construction job sorted and stacked.Which was why when suppertime rolled around he was still hard at work.

Another hour found him cleaned up and ready to head above.He had paused by the kitchen area to pick up some food for Catherine, knowing she could at least heat plates if he could get it to her.William had prepared meatloaf, green beans, potatoes and biscuits for the evening meal, and he gladly fixed some of the leftovers for Vincent.The people Below didn’t share Father’s reservations about Vincent and Catherine, and so they had decided to help things along whenever possible!

Vincent dropped almost silently to the balcony, listening to be sure Catherine was alone before he stepped up to tap on the window.Catherine struggled to sit up on the bed, but finally motioned for him to come in.Vincent paused a moment before turning the handle and opening the door.

He walked over to the bed and gently sat on the edge.“How are you feeling tonight?You are definitely more awake then the last time I saw you!” he added, teasing a grin from her.

“Other than feeling like I’ve been slammed, I suppose I’m fine.”

He nodded toward the doors, “Catherine, the doors were unlocked.Any one could have walked in on you!”

She stopped him before he could get going on the dangers of the city, “Vincent, think a moment.If someone has just climbed up 18 storied just to rob me, do you think a little thing like locked French doors are going to be much of a deterrent?”

He had to grin with her, “Since you put it that way, I suppose you are right.”

She motioned for him to open the drawer of her nightstand.There, beside her revolver, was an envelope.Catherine told him to take it.At his questioning look, she told him it was a key to the French doors.When he started to protest, she told him not to be silly.If she had access to his chamber, surly he ought to be able to enter her apartment?What if there was an emergency?What is he needed to retrieve something and she wasn’t home?He couldn’t just break down the door, now could he?He finally took the envelope and stuck it in a pocket inside his cloak.He didn’t tell her until later he knew at that moment just how woozy-headed she must be from the medication, for she was using all those wonderful arguments on him…after just saying there was no point in locking the door!He could tell she would hardly find humor in the situation just now.Later, however, he intended to rib her about it! 

After discovering she had not eaten supper, he told her about the plate William had prepared for her.When he took it from the pouch he had slung around his shoulders, the smell wafted across to her.Much to her embarrassment, and his delight, her stomach chose that moment to announce to the world it was empty and would someone please take care of that? 

Holding the plate with one hand, Vincent extended his other to Catherine to help her from the bed.As she stood, Vincent caught sight of blood on the pillows.He stepped to one side and checked her back.Sure enough, there was blood on her shirt.All his feelings from that night came rushing back like a hurricane.He couldn’t seem to get a breath and the blood was roaring in his ears.

Catherine felt a jolt, but didn’t know from what, until she saw the look in his eyes.All color seemed to have drained from his face, and he seemed to be having trouble breathing.In fact, he looked terrified!When she turned slightly and saw the pillow she understood.She reached up and gently turned his face so she could look into his eyes.Catherine had to call his name three times before he finally focused on her.“It’s all right!I have a drain in for a couple more days.The doctor told me it might leak a little.It’s not as bad as it looks, just very gross!” she ended with a wry grin, trying to lighten the mood that had seemed to have fallen on him.

Vincent put his arm carefully around her shoulders, “Seeing that blood brought it all back to me.I was so frightened!I couldn’t bear for anything to happen to you!”His heart skipped a beat when she wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned against his chest.She was so small!He wanted nothing more than to keep her safe!

After a moment he gently disengaged himself from her arms, using the excuse she needed to eat.When he had seen her seated and eating, he returned to the bedroom and stripped the pillowcase and pillow cover from the soiled pillow and took them into the kitchen to put into water to soak.As he filled the sink with cold water and placed the items in, he was struck with a sense of déjà vu.He shook his head sharply, his long hair flying, and quickly left the room.

He re-covered the pillow and then asked her if she had any old towels.At her puzzled look, he explained that if she put the towel over the pillow, it would protect it, and make cleaning easier.He could almost see a light bulb go on over her head as it registered with her; she directed him to her “scrub towels”. 

When he had the bed fixed to his satisfaction, he called her to return.Catherine went to the bathroom and returned to sit on the bed with a package of surgical pads and tape.Vincent watched with curiosity as she worked with the tape and pad.Finally, he had to ask.“Um, Catherine?What are you doing?”

She looked up and said, as if it should be obvious, “Getting ready to change my dressing.This one is too messy to lie down with; it’ll get my clean pajamas, well, bloody.I thought of a way to do this.If I put tape all around the edges, then make a circle of tape and put it in the middle, I can stick it to the door at the right height and lean against it so it will stick to my back!Pretty neat, huh?”

“Have you tried it?” he asked.

“Well, no.But it ought to work, don’t you think?”

He sighed heavily.“Catherine, give me the pad and turn around.You forgot, you still have to get the old one off!” he added with a grin at the “Oh” she gave him.

Armed with adhesive remover, pads and tape, Vincent prepared to tackle the job of changing her dressing.Having helped Father with minor first aid chores, not to mention numerous injuries of his own through the years, Vincent felt himself well prepared to objectively help Catherine.Oh, how wrong he was!

Catherine had turned her back to him, thankfully, and couldn’t see the look in his eyes as she unbuttoned her top and pulled it down from her shoulder.He closed his eyes and swallowed hard before closing his mind to the sight of Catherine in such an exposed position.Working as if on one of the residents Below, he deftly removed the old pad.His resolve did falter at the sight of the incision in her smooth skin and the ugly drain sticking out of it.“Oh, Catherine!” he whispered, and the pain he felt was so clear in his voice.If he had only been a little quicker!

Catherine turned then, holding her shirt in place with one hand as she laid the other on his knee.“Shhh.It’s all right.I’m fine,” she said, emphasizing the fine.“Don’t blame yourself for the actions of others!”When he would have continued to cut himself down, she wouldn’t hear of it.Finally, her concern penetrated and he was able to continue with his task.

As he smoothed the last bit of tape, she pulled her top back into place and buttoned it.Trying to lighten the mood, she said as she turned back to him, “I guess you were right.That was easier than the door frame!” and was rewarded with a small smile from Vincent. 

Vincent stepped forward and smoothed an errant strand of hair back from her face.She looked small and fragile against the pale blue sheets.She sighed and smiled slightly in her sleep and turned toward his hand.That Catherine cared for him was a continuing wonder to him.A wonder he was helpless to fight…but it was a nice kind of helplessness.