Scent: The Exaltation of Love
By Joanne Grier
Once again Catherine looked at her watch, willing time forward, and
settled to absently flipping magazine pages. Her week in San
Francisco had been interminable and she was unable to shake the feeling
of disaster which had haunted her waking and sleeping hours.
Catherine's frantic phone calls to Peter failed to resolve or ease her
feelings, as his answering service had told her he was out of state.
Being unable to see Vincent before leaving the city had heightened her
distress. Moreno had summoned her to his office and told her she
was leaving on an early afternoon flight. She had refused many
cases involving travel, citing personal reasons, but with Joe out ill,
there was no buffer zone and Catherine was forced to accept the
All she had time to do was send a brief note via one of the Helpers to
Vincent. She felt badly because it had been four days since she
had seen him. Once again, Vincent had told her that she deserved
a full-rich life with someone who could give her all she should have,
someone like Elliot Burch. She had tears in her eyes when she
told him he was everything she wanted. He stepped away from her,
repeating that he could not be what she wanted, that Elliot was a man
of her world who could give her children. Bluntly, he reiterated
that she should go to Elliot. Her cry echoed in the night and he had
bolted from the terrace without speaking.
The seat belt sign came on just as the pilot announced they were
experiencing rough weather. Catherine felt a moment of fear as
she looked out the window and saw blinding snow. The flight attendants
moved through the cabin collecting glasses and cups and rechecking the
The pilot's voice trumpeted through the cabin announcing, amidst loud
groans, the storm was causing rapid fuel consumption and they were
making an emergency landing in order to refuel. Once on the
ground, Catherine was able to see the full unbridled fury of the storm
and she muttered in exasperation when the announcement was made that
the airport was closing. Passengers would be transferred to a nearby
hotel for the night.
As the blizzard raged, the one night delay stretched into three,
imprisoning Catherine in a pristine world of whirling white
crystals. On the fourth morning, the announcement came that the
airport would reopen by mid-afternoon and their flight would depart at
six. By then, Catherine had cheerfully written ten different
letters of resignation, telling Moreno what he could do with his job,
if he ever forced her to travel again!
By the time the plane touched down in New York, Catherine was feeling
frantic but struggled to fight down those feelings so Vincent wouldn't
feel her distress. An accident tied up traffic into the city and she
seethed, as she waited in the endlessly snaking line of red-glowing
tail lights. It was midnight when she reached her apartment,
pausing only to leave her luggage with the doorman before directing the
cab on toward the park. Even the cabbie hassled her, reluctant to
let her out in the desolate park at such a late hour.
She tripped the secret lever and waited as the large door slid forward
allowing her to slip inside. Walking rapidly, she headed directly
for Vincent's chamber, her fears increasing. Stepping inside, she
halted abruptly, terror rising in her throat as she gasped in horror.
Father turned, his face stricken, tears streaming down his lined face.
Dark shadows around his eyes made him appear old beyond his
years. "Catherine, thank God!"
Ignoring his outstretched arms, Catherine ran toward the bed, kneeling
beside the prone figure. She grasped the tightly bandaged, curled
fingers, attempting to bring Vincent's hand to her lips. She
found his wrists strapped. "Oh, God, Vincent, what happened?"
Abruptly, she turned toward Father, her voice filled with rage, "What
have you done to him?"
Vincent tossed his head frantically, baring the tips of his deadly
fangs in a snarl, and a deep growl rumbled in his chest. His body
bucked against the restraints that bound him to the bed.
Firm hands grasped her shoulders, forcing her away. Blazing eyes
met limpid brown as Winslow's large hands forced her toward the
entrance where Father stood. The snarling increased, filling the
chamber with its fury and then suddenly ceased. "Go! I'll stay
while you talk to Catherine," Winslow offered, turning back to his
Father forcefully guided Catherine along the passageway and into the
library. He sank into a chair, his tapered fingers slid through
his hair and finally he looked up, his eyes a sea of pain.
"Catherine, please sit down," he requested. "I'm much too tired to keep
looking up at you."
"Father, please tell me what happened! What’s wrong? Why is he
strapped down?" Her voice was anguished, filled with terror which
gripped and ripped at her soul.
"It began shortly after you left the city, only we weren’t aware you
had gone. Vincent went Above and found your apartment closed with
no trace of you. He thought you had gone to Elliot Burch and had
simply left him. He told me he had told you leave and go to Mr.
Burch, who could give you all he couldn’t. Nothing I said could
dissuade him and he began to prowl the city at night, slipping into the
tunnel well after first light. Then, one night, he did not
return. We frantically scoured the city, nearly everyone going
Above in pairs to search, along with all our Helpers.
"It was then, and only then, we discovered your whereabouts. Some
of the others had gone to Tobias and found him quite ill. He was
relieved to see them because he had not been able to deliver your note,
so suddenly had he been stricken. The children brought the note
to me and when I read it, I realized everything which happened had been
a senseless mistake."
"Oh, dear God," Catherine said.
"After six days of searching, we had nearly given up all hope. However,
the children continued to search and it was Kipper and Eric who found
him. They heard sounds coming from an old abandoned building.
Thinking it might be a child, they ventured in to investigate and it
was there they discovered Vincent."
Catherine allowed a grateful smile.
“We brought him home, and even now, I don't know how we managed.
He raged against us, threatening everyone near him, then suddenly fell
into a coma. Winslow and some of the others managed to get him
Below before he revived and the rages began again. The strange
pattern has continued; one moment he's raging uncontrollably, then he
slips into unconsciousness. It must be the effect of the drugs."
"We learned the place where he was found is a den for drug-crazed
addicts. There has been torturing, burnings and several bodies
found in that building. These sadistic creatures shot...shot ..."
his voice began to falter, "shot my son full of every drug imaginable,
torturing him in ways I can't begin to comprehend."
"I must go to him!" Catherine rose, racing for the stairs.
"No! Catherine, wait, please!" The sharp pleading in his voice stopped her flight and she turned toward him.
"He's restrained for good reason. Two days ago, during one of his
rages, he attacked Pascal, as Pascal was trying to help. Before
Winslow and William could subdue him, or I could even try to sedate
him, he pushed Pascal with such force that the ensuing fall broke
Pascal's arm in two places."
An anguished roar shattered the quiet; the sound galvanized Catherine
up the stairs, running toward the heartbreaking sound. Winslow,
alerted by Father's shout, blocked the passage with his bulk, legs
spread wide. Hitting the ground crawling, Catherine came up
beneath his legs, scrambled to her feet and rushed toward Vincent.
Father rushed in, frightened of what he would find. Vincent
thrashed, pulling at the leather bindings, his face contorted with
rage, his powerful thigh muscles bucking, as he dug his heels into the
mattress. The cords in his neck were distended as he strained
upward against the restraints. Fear-filled screams echoed against
the walls, building to a deafening cacophony.
Ignoring the danger, sensing only his terrible pain and terror,
Catherine threw herself across his wildly heaving chest. Her face
was mere inches from the menacing razor-sharp fangs, her fingers
threading through the matted, filth-encrusted hair as his hot, fetid
breath assaulted her senses.
"I'm here, I'm here, Vincent," she pleaded. Ignoring the sour
odors which permeated the filthy clothes that still covered him,
Catherine brought her lips closer as she murmured, "You're safe, safe,
I'm here and no one will harm you. Sleep, sleep. Rest and
remember always, I love you." As she continued to touch his face,
murmuring against his ear, the screams and his struggle ceased and his
She eased away from his chest, perching against the edge of the massive
bed, stroking his face as his breathing deepened. Her face was wet when
she turned and rose, walking into Father's out-stretched arms.
She sobbed softly against his chest and she drew him closer, embracing
his own shaking shoulders.
"What can we do?"
"Catherine, there is little we can do, only wait. I don't know
what they may have injected him with or forced down his throat.
His chemical make-up is delicate and he reacts violently to the
simplest of medications.
"Because of his erratic behavior--the periods of raving, then blacking
out--beyond getting one vial of blood the first hour he was here, I
haven’t been able to do much. Even when he appears to be
sleeping, if he is touched, he instantly awakes, violently lashing out;
no one has been safe. He frightened Mary when he snarled at her
when she attempted to bath his face. He's dehydrated, but has
ripped out every IV bag I have hung. His violence increases at
the sight or prick of a needle."
His disgust caused his words to soar, echoing in the stillness. "It has
even been impossible to bathe him and you know how...how meticulous he
is." Jacob’s words faded as the lump in his throat robbed him of
speech and he became a worried, frightened father, fearful and
anguished for the life of his beloved son.
Catherine moved to embrace him, and then guided him to sit in the chair
she pulled toward him. Catherine was alarmed at how drawn he
appeared. "How long as it been since you slept?" she asked tenderly.
Father withdrew his handkerchief, wiped his face, and replaced his glasses. "Several days," he admitted.
"Then, Dr. Wells, I insist you go along to your chamber and get some
sleep. I'll stay with Vincent and, yes," she said smiling warmly,
"I'll call if there is the slightest change. You won't be able to
help if you collapse. Your strength may be needed later." She
turned to Winslow. "Would you help Father to his chamber, please?"
The previously silent gentle soul moved from the entry shadows to stand
beside Father. Winslow's sad, soulful eyes momentarily flickered
brightly as he conveyed his appreciation of Catherine's firm, but
gentle insistence that Father sleep. A hint of a smile appeared
briefly as Winslow helped Father to his feet.
"I'll return, Catherine, as soon as Father is settled," Winslow said firmly.
Catherine was sitting on the edge of the bed, busily unfastening the
straps when Winslow returned. "Catherine, I don't know if that’s
a wise move. None of us thought he would harm us, but those drugs
have changed him." A deep sadness resonated through his simple
words and Catherine felt the deeper love--and heartbreak--behind them.
"Winslow, it's late, I know, and you are beyond exhausted, but I need
your strength for one more task. Would you get Kanin, Cullen and
John, and a stretcher and return here as quickly as possible?
And, would you ask Mary to come with clean bedding and linen?"
She placed her hand on his massive arm. "Winslow, I know how much you
and the others love Vincent and I will do anything to restore
him. If I seem demanding, please forgive me, but the thought of
him waking up surrounded with this," she spit out the word violently,
"filth, and the reeking stench is more than I can bear." She
paused, taking a shaking breath, and then rushed on, "I want to take
him to the bathing pools and I need your help." Her eyes pleaded
with him and a slow tear winded unbidden down her face.
"I won't be long," he responded softly, "and, Catherine, I don't think
you sound demanding, you sound like a woman who wants her man
Catherine was removing the last strap from his ankle as the chamber
suddenly filled with people bearing candles. "Thank you all for
coming so quickly," she said warmly.
Winslow moved across the chamber, pausing to lift the desk, placing it
out of the way, and then motioned the others forward. He had
thoughtfully retrieved the folding stretcher, which had blocks
attached, making it possible to lower Vincent's supine form to the
stretcher without placing him completely on the cold floor. As
gently as if he picked up a baby, Winslow lifted Vincent's body from
the bed and, suddenly, Kanin was there, adding his strength, and
together they lowered him to the stretcher.
Catherine snatched the sheet and quilt, tucking them gently around him
as his life-long friends carefully bore their burden toward the
entry. "Mary, would you please get rid of all this," her arm
swept toward the offending linens, "and change the bed?"
Mary wiped the tears from her eyes, smiling sweetly. "Of course, we
will do anything to help. Are you sure you don't wish me to come along
to assist you?"
"Thank you, but no, I can manage. I just need you to have
everything ready when we return." Grabbing a couple of sheets and
blankets, Catherine raced to catch up with the group rapidly moving
toward the bathing pool.
Gently, tenderly, they lowered the stretcher close to the edge of the
pool. "Thank you. Please, would all of you mind leaving,
everyone but Winslow, and then would you kindly return in an
hour?" Catherine was aware of the silent protests as they
reluctantly turned and began walking away.
His eyes full of questions, Winslow watched as his friends made their
way up the shallow grade and disappeared. "I couldn't allow them,
he would be embarrassed...ashamed..." her voice faded as she looked at
Winslow, tears streaming steadily down her face.
"I know," he said softly, "I know." Kneeling beside the
stretcher, Winslow removed the quilt, leaving the sheet to cover
Vincent. With quick movements, he slipped his hands beneath the
sheet and began the process of undressing Vincent. When he had
completed the process without ever exposing Vincent's body, Winslow sat
down and began pulling off his own boots and socks. He rolled up
his pant legs, exposing firm well-muscled calves and rose to his feet
in one graceful motion.
"How do you want to handle this?" he queried.
Catherine began pulling off her own boots and socks and drew the belt
from her slim waist. Thankful for the layers she had chosen to
wear on the plane, she pulled off the bulky sweater, tossed it to the
ground, then pulled the blouse from the confines of the waistband,
giving herself freedom of motion. "Getting wet is how I figure to
do it," she managed a smile, easing the tension and fears she saw
mirrored in Winslow's eyes.
"Okay." Winslow pulled off his flowing wool tunic and then drew
the long shirt over his head. He moved toward the nearby storage
cabinets, removing an armful of towels and two cakes of soap. Placing
the towels near the edge, he stuffed one bar of soap in each pocket and
handed Catherine two wash cloths.
"Go ahead and get in. It's very shallow--this is where the
children bathe--I can get him in here and then we can move to the
Catherine stuffed the cloths into her pockets. When the water
reached her thighs, she turned to face Winslow. Gathering Vincent
into his arms, Winslow lifted him effortlessly and strode toward the
pool. The sheet covered Vincent completely as Winslow waded
toward Catherine. Carefully lowering his burden, Winslow felt a
deep shudder pass through Vincent’s body as the water covered
him. He paused, waiting, fearful that Vincent would awaken and
become violent. He was surprised when nothing further
happened. Winslow hooked his massive hand firmly around Vincent's
jaw and began gently towing him toward the deeper water.
Satisfied with the location, Winslow stopped, looking at Catherine for
direction. Intuitively, he moved to stand beside Vincent's head,
turning his back to the white-draped body which floated
peacefully. Supporting Vincent's head with one hand, Winslow
reached into his pocket, withdrawing a cake of soap and passing it to
Catherine. Changing hands, he retrieved the other cake and began
gently freeing the long flowing tresses of their filth.
"Here," he said quietly, as he stretched his hand behind to grasp the
sheet which he heard Catherine removing. Catherine pushed it into his
outstretched hand and he tucked it firmly into the waistband of his
jeans. It floated, drifting on eddies, like a ghost floating in
an ethereal delight of motion.
Allowing only the briefest of a glance, Catherine began lathering the
cloth and tenderly washing Vincent's face. She washed and rinsed,
moving down the length of his body. Tears streamed uncontrolled as she
freed him from the dirt and filth that encrusted his skin.
Her face registered her horror as she unbound the bandages to view the
damage to his hands - the mangled flesh, grime still visible deeply
embedded on his raw flesh. Father had, she knew, done his best from
what he had said, to cleanse Vincent but she silently sobbed when
Vincent moaned as she moved the cloth over his ribs and down his narrow
hips, discovering massive, angry blackened bruises.
Winslow’s own features contorted in sorrow as he heard Catherine’s weeping.
Upon reaching his feet, she moved back to his face to begin soaping him
again, making certain he was completely clean. Vincent moaned
again, a loud hiss escaping his tightly clenched jaw as Catherine
passed the wash cloth over the deep cuts on his thighs.
Struggling momentarily, Winslow turned Vincent over, and then brought
his own powerful shoulders up and under Vincent's neck and shoulders,
to keep his face from the water, as he allowed Vincent to float freely
on his stomach.
Winslow continued to keep his back to Catherine, giving his unconscious
friend the same respect and privacy he had accorded him during all
their years together. Lovingly, Catherine washed his neck, back
and then moved to cleanse his buttocks and legs.
After turning him over, Catherine covered him with the sheet and
Winslow again towed Vincent toward the shallow end. When they
reached the point of entry, he said, "Go ahead, Catherine, get out and
get as dry as possible." Gently maneuvering around Vincent,
Winslow stood with his broad back toward the shore.
Catherine waded from the pool, leaving a watery trial. Stripping
off her sodden blouse and bra, she quickly dried herself, pulling on
her bulky sweater. After wringing as much water as possible from
her slacks, she drew them back on. Drying her feet, she slipped
back on her sock and boots.
"Okay, Winslow, I'm ready." With smooth, rapid motions, she lined
the stretcher with towels and waited as Winslow waded from the
water. He lowered Vincent to the stretcher and quickly wrapped
Vincent's wet hair in the towel Catherine had placed at one end, for
that purpose. "Go on and get dry, I can handle this," she said
Grabbing two of the remaining towels and his clothing, Winslow moved up
the embankment, while still keeping his back to Catherine. With quick
movements he pulled off his sodden trousers, wrung them as dry as
possible and did the same with his underwear, then began to vigorously
rub himself dry. He re-dressed and pulled on his undershirt and
flowing tunic. Once he had his socks and boots back on, he moved
to help Catherine.
Catherine stripped the sodden sheet from Vincent's body and began
covering him with towels. When he was covered, she drew the dry
sheet over him and worked quickly, blotting and rubbing him dry,
replacing the dampened towels with dry ones.
His growl, as she gently dried between his powerful thighs, caused her
to jump slightly. "Vincent," she entreated softly, "I'm here, you're
safe." The sound of her voice, close to his ear, seemed to soothe
him and he again slipped into a coma-like sleep. She hurriedly
completed the drying and rolled the blanket over him.
"Catherine, the others are coming. If you aren't finished, I'd
better go up to stop them." The warmth and caring in his voice
touched Catherine deeply. "No, its okay, I'm done."
Cullen's voice cut through the silence, "Have you finished?"
"Come on, we need to get moving fast before all three of us have
pneumonia!" Winslow's voice was slightly gruff, but his smile, as
he raised his arm in welcome to Cullen, was warm.
"Thank you for all your help. Please go back to your beds and try
to get some sleep." Catherine grasped Winslow's large hand,
squeezing it firmly as she smiled her special thanks to him.
Turning at the sound of Mary's voice, Catherine waited as Mary hurried
from the passageway. "I thought you might need these." Mary
looked pointedly at Catherine's still-wet slacks. "I borrowed these
from Jamie." She held out a pair of well worn jeans which
Catherine gratefully accepted.
"I'd be happy to stay with you, Catherine." Mary's eyes darted
from Catherine to Vincent, her shy demeanor belying the deep abiding
love she had for Vincent and her growing love and respect for Catherine.
"Oh, Mary, that's sweet of you. Could you stay while I get out of
these? I know you and Father have gone without sleep for many
nights, but I'll only be five minutes."
Gathering up her clothing, Catherine walked rapidly to the bathroom
Vincent shared with Father. Once free of the wet slacks, she
wrapped a towel around her hips and began pulling off the damp
boots. Rubbing her skin until it tingled, restoring her
circulation, she felt herself warm from her efforts. Looking at
her thoroughly wet panties, she shrugged and grabbed the jeans, pulling
"Mary, would you please ask Father to come see me?”
"Is there anything wrong?" Mary asked, her voice rising in alarm.
"No," she replied. "But I do I need him here. Would you mind getting him?"
"Of course not, dear, I'll get him and then come back." Mary's
worry and concern showed clearly, adding lines to her normally serene
"I’ll assist him, Mary. You need your rest. I'd prefer to
help him with Vincent, if you don't mind." Although her tone was
soft, there was a quiet firm resolve beneath it.
"Of course, I understand. I'll get him." Mary hurried from the chamber, moving quietly down the corridor.
Catherine lifted Vincent's head, removed the pillow and slipped forward
to gently cradle his head in her lap. Tenderly replacing the damp
towel, she began to calmly towel dry his hair. She finger combed
the long tresses, patiently working to remove the tangles. She was
peacefully brushing his now gleaming hair when Father arrived.
"What on earth!" he managed as he met Catherine's eyes. Vincent
lay beneath clean bedding, the chamber no longer reeked of offensive
odors, and Catherine was almost serenely brushing his hair.
"I couldn't stand to have him like that!" Her voice rose defensively.
"Catherine, my dear, I'm not such an ogre that I would rebuke you for
caring for my son far better than I have obviously been able to
do! Please tell me what has happened while I slept."
"I'm sorry," she said apologetically, "I didn't mean to shout. Forgive me."
"Of course, it was a shock for you to find all of this." He reached to grasp Catherine's hand.
"Winslow and the others helped me take him to the bathing pools and
Winslow and I bathed him." In spite of himself, Father's eyebrows
arched at this news, but he pushed the thought of Vincent's reaction to
Catherine's bathing him away, forcing his face to remain impassive.
"He's in a deep, deep sleep, Father, or maybe a coma. There is a
terrible bruising along his ribs and hips. He has a series of
deep cuts along his thigh muscles on both legs which I think may
require stitches. They were crusted with dirt but I managed to
wash most it away. He has a deep gash on his back which runs almost to
the middle of his buttocks, a series of scrapes or maybe burns on his
arms, and his nails, his beau...beautiful hands..." Her voice
broke suddenly as her control began to shatter and Father clearly saw
the early stages of hysteria.
“The fact that you were able to bathe him and noted his various
injuries is very helpful. Because of his violence to all of us,
regretfully, I admit, I haven’t been able to do much to attend
his physical injuries. I’ve wondered if he associates my touch –
a man’s touch – with those who tortured him.
"Catherine, let me help you." Gently Father lifted Vincent's head
and Catherine slipped from the bed. "I need to examine Vincent,
but I don't wish to bother Mary. Would you mind helping?" he
"I'll do anything, you know that,” she said as she swayed on her feet,
determined to fight the sudden feeling of light-headedness.
"Keeping Vincent quiet and comfortable while I try to examine him is
what I need you to do. If you will help me turn him on his side
so you can talk, keeping him calm."
Catherine laid her head on the pillow close to Vincent, murmuring
softly. With practiced movements, Father's fingers gently probed
the outer edges of the largest bruise, working slowly toward the
center. The size of the bruise covering half of Vincent's right
side and stretching beyond his hip bone into the groin greatly
concerned him. "Catherine, I wish to treat his back first and then I
will bind his ribs as a precautionary measure. I'll need to get
Winslow." Father limped toward the entry silently cursing his hip
which caused him to move slowly.
Catherine noticed that Winslow carefully kept his eyes averted as they
bandaged his ribs, never looking at Vincent's naked body, but holding
him as lightly as if he were a baby. When they finished, Winslow
lowered Vincent tenderly.
Jacob adjusted the sheet to cover Vincent and began checking the deep
cuts on his thighs. “Winslow, would you stand ready to hold
Vincent down if necessary? I’ll have to use firm pressure to
cleanse these deep cuts and then I fear I will need to suture them as
they are quite deep. Thank God they didn’t sever his thigh
muscles with their knives.” His voice shook with rage, but his
hands remained steady as he worked. “The fact that you took him to the
bathing pool, Catherine, was a blessing. These wounds are deep
and cleansing them of all the filth and debris has prevented a more
serious infection than what I am currently finding.”
Catherine wept with each stitch Father took, hating the sight of the
needle piercing Vincent’s flesh. Vincent’s growls as Father
stitched caused him to stop until Catherine’s soft voice reached the
deep place within Vincent and he ceased his struggle. Silently,
she sobbed and her body shook. When the stitching was finally
complete, her body continued to shake.
Winslow eased away from Vincent’s shoulder, as glad as Catherine that
the procedure was finally over. "If you need me, I'll be close,
Catherine," he said softly. Turning, he then bade them good night.
"Catherine, try to get some sleep. I'll watch over him while you
rest." She thought of protesting Father's words, but suddenly her
exhaustion took control.
Upon awakening, Catherine felt better. Father slumbered in the
desk chair. Feeling Vincent's forehead, which seemed cool, she
eased herself from the bed. Father stirred, rose and, coming
immediately awake, walked to the bed and, after assuring himself
Vincent was comfortable, excused himself.
The sight of Catherine's lingerie greeted him as he entered the
bathroom causing him to blush scarlet. He recovered himself,
chuckling at his embarrassment as he folded her clothes neatly, and
then stripped for his shower.
Returning later, he found Catherine seated on the side of the bed,
holding Vincent's bandaged hand, lightly stroking it. "Catherine,
would you like some breakfast? You must keep up your strength."
"Tea would be nice, but really, Father, I'm not the least hungry.
"Isn't there anything we can do?" Her eyes mirrored the pain she
saw in Father's warm grey eyes as she beseeched him.
"I wish there was, but I have done all I can. I sent the blood
sample to Peter and hopefully he will tell us something--at least what
kind of drugs they used--when he arrives. He returned to the city
less than 24-hours ago, but until you arrived, there was no hope of
getting another sample." Running his hands through his hair, he
sighed in exasperation. "I feel utterly helpless!"
Looking past Father toward the entry Catherine suddenly broke into a smile. "Peter!"
"Hello, Cathy, Jacob, How is Vincent?" Struggling out of his
heavy top coat Peter didn't wait, but immediately opened his bag and
began his own examination. "Go on, both of you, get some
breakfast. I'm sure you haven't eaten. I can tell you more after
I finish here." Peter turned to stare at them pointedly and
reluctantly, they left the chamber.
Catherine identified the words M-A-R-Y/V-I-N-C-E-N-T among all the many
messages tapped on the pipes. Looking up, Father nodded. "Peter
should be along shortly, he just asked Mary to come to Vincent's
Her sudden hunger had surprised Catherine and she had eaten both pieces
of toast and all the fruit from Father's plate after he had seen how
hungrily she had stared at his food.
"Is there any coffee?" Peter walked easily down the steps,
crossing quickly to the table and taking the vacant seat beside
Catherine. Automatically, Father performed his duties as host and
after taking a sip, Peter spoke.
"I did the blood work myself, avoiding the questions that might prove
difficult. His blood is loaded with high levels of drugs, some of
which I could identify, but many I couldn't. There were traces of
several prescription drugs--Phenobarbital, barbiturates--as well as
morphine, and cocaine. By all known medical standards, he should
be dead. His unique chemical make-up has saved him as he seems to have
withstood their abuse amazingly well.
"I have another blood sample and I'm going to run more routine tests as
soon as I get back. At this point, I feel about as helpless in
this battle as both of you. I want you to continue the IVs, Jacob, and
use this in it." Peter handed a small vial, "I want to avoid any
infections from those cuts. Could you get a couple of your
strongest citizens up here, Jacob? There is a portable," he
smiled as he shook his head, "x-ray unit in my van, but it took four
very strong workers at the hospital to get it there!"
Father walked to the pipes, rapped a quick message and waited. Hearing
the quick response, he knew that in spite of his injury, Pascal was
working the pipe chamber. "They will be here shortly. I
asked Mouse to come, too, as we may need to 'borrow' some electricity
"I also borrowed a small generator--small is not the operative word
here--so if we can steal a few seconds from Mr. Edison, all the better.
I brought it in the event Mouse's genius failed, but I was hoping that
we wouldn't need it. Cumbersome does not adequately describe this
Peter's conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Winslow, Mouse,
John and Kanin. Wasting few words, Peter explained what was
needed and the group set off immediately for his van as Peter struggled
into his coat.
Vincent stirred violently as Winslow eased him back onto the bed after
the x-rays. Catherine was immediately at his side; soothing and
gentling him with her words until he slipped again into a deep sleep.
She was still beside him when Father and Peter returned. "His
ribs aren't broken, only badly bruised. We will leave them
lightly bandaged for protection." Peter shook his head, easing off his
glasses. "He has been through hell! Bruises that size were
made from boots or worse!"
Father drew Peter aside, seeing how visibly distressing his words were
to Catherine. As Peter talked, Father observed Catherine, noting
the way she squared her shoulders to physically push away the pain and
shock of Peter's words. She centered all of her concentration on
Vincent, pushing her fears aside forcing herself to ignore the horrible
possibilities of Peter's words.
"Cathy, dear, I'm leaving now." The touch of Peter's hand on her
shoulder caused Catherine to turn. The warmth and caring she saw
in his deep brown eyes made her smile. "Is there anything you
need? I could stop at your apartment."
"I could use a change of clothes," she responded simply. Digging
into her coat pocket, Catherine retrieved her keys and handed them to
"Peter, let me walk you out. I want to ask your opinion on
something." Turning back to Catherine, Father smiled. "I won't be
Her fingers tenderly caressed his face. "I love you, Vincent, please
come back to me. I love you." Picking up his hand, she
curled her fingers beneath his and brought her hand to rest against her
breast. She continued to stroke his face, periodically kissing
the hand she held so lovingly, as she repeated the litany she had
started hours ago.
Except for an occasional moan while Catherine ministered to his basic
needs, Vincent had not regained consciousness. Father ceased
begging Catherine to leave the chamber, resigning himself to her
constant presence. The only time she left was for her mid-morning
shower. Father noticed that, whenever Catherine left the chamber,
she kissed Vincent, speaking softly to him and that upon her return the
ritual was repeated.
Father stood in the entry, the physician in him admiring Catherine's
devoted, dedicated nursing, but the conservative father in him rebelled
at the sight of Catherine bathing his son. The consummate
scientist knew assuredly that her nearness, the constant touching and
her soothing voice would, if anything could, bring his son back.
"Father," Catherine turned, moving the bowl of bath water away from the bed. "I'm glad you're here."
"Is anything wrong, Catherine? Has there been some change?"
"No, there has been no change. I need you to stay with
Vincent. Tomorrow is Monday and I must go to my apartment to
gather some clothes. I have to see Joe and I can't go like
this. Would it be all right if I asked Winslow, Mouse and Cullen
to go along with me? I'll need help in carrying things back
here." There was no question of her returning Above, it was
understood she would remain Below.
"Of course, by all means, ask them." Silently he wondered what
she would be bringing that she required so much help. He moved to
stand beside her, drawing her into a warm embrace. "Catherine, my
dear child, take your time. You need a break; you haven't been
out of this chamber except for a bath in four days. I don't want
to have you as a patient, too." His deep baritone voice was warm
and genuine as his overwhelming concern surfaced.
Winslow and Cullen quietly entered the chamber, set down several
suitcases and then went to retrieve the remaining bundles. Father
tried not to look startled, but when they reappeared moments later
carrying bulging totes and two trash bags which appeared as if they
would immediately burst, his eyebrows rose. Winslow flashed a
non-committal smile at him as Cullen shrugged his shoulders and they
left without speaking.
Father sat in amazed silence watching as Catherine began unpacking one
of the suitcases, quietly moving several of Vincent's shirts
aside to hang two suits adjacent to his clothing. A warm, long
woolen robe followed, as did several pairs of woolen trousers.
From one of the totes she pulled two pairs of low heeled boots, low
dress shoes and a pair of battered running shoes.
"Would you like to open the box and get it operating?" Catherine asked,
knowing the sooner Mouse was occupied and involved, the less chance he
would disturb Vincent's slumber.
Father sat in a shocked silence, his eyes darting between Catherine who
continued to unpack and hang clothing and watching Mouse, fearful of
what he was confidently constructing. The object was unknown;
Mouse's fascination and quick, deft movements both enthralled and
frightened Father. The object looked very expensive and how he
would ever find the funds to pay for it, if Mouse were to break it, he
was not certain.
"Jacob, would you help me?" Catherine was all but hidden by the
object she held, which was trapped inside the tote and seemed to have
arms holding the object prisoner. Catherine moved toward him,
struggling not to walk into the desk as she tried to accurately judge
They struggled momentarily and finally Father grasped the tote, pulling
it free. His arms were immediately filled with a large airy
quilt. Catherine whisked the old, heavy quilt from Vincent's bed
and, taking the quilt from Father, she tossed it airward and watched in
satisfaction as it settled over Vincent. Carefully, with Father's
help, she folded the old quilt and together they packed it inside the
tote. "I'll take this with me tomorrow and drop it off at the
cleaner's. I noticed there is a lingering odor from....," she
stopped, struggling to control her emotions.
Patting her hand, Father conveyed his understanding and she knew it
wasn't necessary to continue. She smiled, wiping away a tear and
turned to adjust the already perfectly settled quilt.
"All fixed, Catherine, just like the store." Mouse stood,
allowing her to view his work, eagerly awaiting her approval. He was
instantly rewarded by her smile and the hug she readily gave.
Pushing a button, a compartment opened, she adjusted the speaker volume
and minute’s later soft music soared above the chamber. "A boom
box," Mouse said proudly looking at Father.
“They are a newer format of the old phonograph records, like the old
tape recorders, only these are condensed in size and the cassettes are
very portable,” she offered by way of easing Father’s continued
questioning stare. “They run off batteries and don’t require
"Thank you, Mouse, for all your help. I know Vincent will thank
you, too, when he is well. Hopefully, the music will help him
recover more quickly."
Mouse stood before her, eyes downcast and looking up quickly, he gave
Catherine a quick hug and, before the blush stained his face completely
red, he whirled, rushing from the chamber.
Catherine saw Father's smile and she returned it sincerely. "I
decided I couldn't continue like this. I can't keep treating him
like he is going to die. I have to start doing things to make him
want to come back, to leave that place where he has gone to protect
himself from those aw...awful, cr...cruel..." Her voice broke and
she sobbed softly into the sweater she held.
Father moved quietly to stand beside her, taking the sweater from her
hand as she tried to wipe away her tears. He gathered her to his
chest. "Catherine, my dear, it's all right. You’ve been brave
throughout this ordeal. You can't continue to keep this tight
control, bottling up all your emotions." The sound of her
heartbreaking sobs destroyed Father's tightly reined control over his
emotions and, as he held her, he felt his own tears washing down his
Fumbling in his pockets, Jacob produced a large handkerchief, silently
handing it to Catherine. After wiping her own face, she tenderly
applied it to Father's.
"I brought cassettes of all his favorite music, concerts we listened to
in the park. I got a book on physical therapy and with your help,
I'm going to start stretching and massaging his muscles, keeping them
strong. If you will supervise, I know I can do it.
Tomorrow, when I go Above, if you will give me a list I can take
to Peter, I thought maybe we could start him on liquid vitamins,
protein, and things to keep him healthy and strong. I think I can
get him to swallow them. He will open his mouth enough for me to
get a small square wrapped around one finger so I can clean his teeth."
Father was slightly shocked at this news. His focus had been
centered entirely on Vincent’s critical medical issues and he had not
thought at all about his teeth. Catherine’s deep caring had found a way
to bathe his son and take care of his dental hygiene.
"Catherine, your care of Vincent has been exemplary. No one could
have provided better care. Your devotion and nurturing has done
far more than Mary or I were able to accomplish during your absence."
"I love him so much," she firmly stated.
"I know. I doubted the sincerity of your love, the depth of your
devotion to Vincent far longer than I should have." He kissed her
cheek and then suddenly embarrassed, he turned to leave.
"Father," she said softly. "Thank you. There is no life for me without him."
Catherine finished putting away her clothing and took the small bag of
cosmetics and her brush into the bathroom. Returning to the
chamber, she unpacked the cassettes placing them close to the player
and adjusted the volume lower. As she moved about the chamber she
began talking softly, telling Vincent what she was doing and when she
finished, there was no visible sign she had moved in.
Picking up a book, she settled into the chair and began to read Great
Expectations. She read slowly, remembering when Vincent had read
to her in this chamber and how calming and secure his voice had made
her feel. "You calmed my fears and I hope I can do the same for
you. You are safe, Vincent; please come back to me." She
stared at him for several minutes, willing him to return and then
slowly picked up the threads of the story.
"Catherine, may I come in?"
"Pascal, how are you? Please, please do come in. It's so good to see you."
"Is there any change?" he asked softly
"No, not really, he's in a deep coma, in a place where he is safe,
where those people can't harm him. He will come back, I know he
will." She looked at him expectantly, needing to hear Pascal
validate her thoughts
"If love can heal, Catherine, I know Vincent will recover quickly. Your
love for him has been such a blessing, giving him all that I have long
wished for my dearest friend." His voice was forceful and strong
as he sought to overcome and hide his own fears. Awkwardly, he placed a
tray on the table. "I brought you a sandwich and tea. I'm going
to stay right here until you have eaten all of it."
"Really, Pascal, I'm not hungry, but I do appreciate your efforts."
"You might get Father and William to buy that, but not me.
Eat!" His eyes flashed and Catherine realized she had never seen
Pascal so intent, unless, of course, he was discussing his beloved
"If you read aloud to Vincent while I eat, it's a deal."
"Okay, but you have to eat every bite." He held out his hand and
she grasped it warmly. He picked up the book, balanced it against
the cast on his right arm and then his rich, warm voice filled the
chamber. Casually, he looked up from his reading to be sure she
was actually eating and not playing with her food. He had
supervised too many young children not to be completely aware of the
tricks used by reluctant eaters.
"Pascal, you read beautifully."
"I had an excellent teacher in Father and I learned a lot about
reading, how important diction and inflection are from listening to
Vincent read when we were youngsters. Whenever we had duty in the
hospital chamber, everyone always wanted him to read. They were
hours well spent for me."
"Could you stay long enough for me to get a quick shower? I have
to see Joe tomorrow and I need to wash this," her hand flipped through
the ends of her now stringy hair. "I have just been rushing
through most mornings, and I haven't taken time to shampoo my hair
since I got here."
"Why don't you go down to the bathing pool? A nice relaxing swim in warm water would help you get a good night's sleep."
Seeing her reluctance, he smiled. "I'll stay here and if anything
should go wrong, I can get Father quickly. It's my arm that's
broken, not my legs!"
"Oh, Pascal, I'm sorry, I didn't even ask how you are you doing. Are you in any pain?”
"Other than being awkward and slow on the pipes, I'm fine. Now,
go along, take your shower or go for a swim. I'll be here and,
Catherine, don’t worry. I’ve loved him for a long time, longer
than you, and there is nothing I wouldn't do to bring him back!"
The tremor in his voice was noticeable and Catherine realized, anew,
how beloved Vincent was. She was suddenly made aware that by
keeping others away, she had unwittingly contributed to their
fears. "Pascal, I think I will go for that swim."
He paused in his reading, smiling over the book, and nodded in
acknowledgement. Catherine gathered her things, walked to the
bed, and leaned down, kissing Vincent softly on his lips. "I'll
be gone only a short time, rest and know that I love you." She
straightened and silently left the chamber.
Catherine was assaulted with vivid memories as she slipped into the
bathing pool. Hot tears stung her eyes and, for several minutes,
she gave in to the terror which assaulted her senses. She kept
shaking her head, trying to banish the sense of loss and fear which
filled her mind. "He has to come back, he has to!" Her
voice echoed and her face registered her surprise that she had spoken
aloud. Splashing her face, she forced herself to forget and,
giving herself over to the inviting warmth of the water, she began to
She swam the length of the largest bathing pool, realizing that it was
one of the few times in her life that she had ever swum nude and how
pleasurable it was. She floated for several minutes, the serenity
and peacefulness soothing her raw nerves.
When she left the pool she felt refreshed and relaxed and made her way back to Vincent's chamber.
"Of course, Catherine, I'd be happy to come again tomorrow. Just send me a message and I'll be here whenever you want."
"Thank you. Good night, Pascal. Sleep well."
Moving quietly, Catherine selected a cassette, adjusted the volume
lower until it was soft whisper of sound floating gently on the air.
Blowing out the remaining candle, Catherine undressed, slipped into the
warm woolen gown, padded over to the bed and crawled in around
Vincent. She sat staring at him for several minutes, willing some
visible change, some sign that he was getting better. She sighed;
determinedly she fought to dispel the overwhelming tears which stung
her eyes as she bent to place a soft lingering kiss against his
lips. "I love you. Wherever you are, know I love you and I will
wait forever for you to return." Settling high in the bed so she
could share the same pillow, Catherine pulled the quilt over
herself. Curled on her side, she placed her hand lightly against
his chest, needing the reassuring feeling of his heart beating beneath
Catherine slept soundly, but awoke instantly, staring into the soft
glow of the chamber's stained glass window. She drifted for a
moment then turned, completely awake.
Vincent lay curled in a tight fetal ball, his bandaged hands locked
over his knees as he rocked himself, crying soundlessly. Putting her
cheek against his, she attempted to draw him close. He curled
tighter then, as she continued to press her cheek against his. He
sniffed several times and, haltingly, his arms came up, his wrists
against her upper arm drawing her closer. He trembled violently,
his mouth slightly open, screaming in silent terror.
She murmured gently against his ear. "I'm here, Vincent, you're
safe." Using his wrists, groping blindly, he continued to attempt
to pull Catherine closer and she allowed him to guide her body.
He found what he desperately sought, the soft warmth of her neck and he
buried his mouth and nose against her silken skin. His open mouth
trembled as he continued sniffing, inhaling deeply.
Instantly, Catherine knew he sought the taste, the fragrance of her
skin, that it was her scent he remembered. From within his memories,
the scent which surrounded her had drawn him. Her scent was a
safe haven where the pain, degradation, horror, and perversion which
had been inflicted upon him could not penetrate.
Moving slightly away, she continued to coo soothing sounds in his ear.
He stiffened momentarily then buried his face against her.
Rubbing his face, sniffing continually, his tears wet the gown beneath
his mouth. "I'm here, you're safe." Her voice was a
caressing whisper as she pressed gentle kisses into his hair. His
trembling became more violent, as his anguished cries rose filling and
echoing in the chamber. Catherine held him tighter, his soul-
wrenching sobs breaking her heart as he pressed against her.
"Joe, you are a good friend--understanding without prying--and I
appreciate this more than you will ever know." Catherine's smile
was warm and sincere. The interview with Joe and her request for
extended vacation had been met with minor opposition.
"Your friend must be mighty ill if you feel you need four weeks to be
with him." Joe felt guilty the moment the words left his mouth.
"Cathy, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...well, I'm sorry. I know you
value your privacy and like to keep your personal life private.
My remark was in poor taste and completely out of line."
His obvious embarrassment touched Catherine. "Joe, please, it's
okay, honest!" she replied. "My time off is going to leave you with a
big gap, so I wanted to propose something else to you. If you
want to gather up some cases, ones where I could break down
testimonies, I'd be more than willing to help out. I can just send the
stuff back in via a courier service."
"Radcliffe, hey, that would be great! Are you sure? We are
going to be short-staffed, but if you are willing to do that, it would
be great!" His wide, easy grin was disarming and Catherine
realized again what a good-looking man Joe was. And she wished he could
find someone to love the way she loved Vincent. He deserved and
needed such a love, she thought.
"Let me talk to Moreno. Maybe I could talk him into considering
this as working part-time. That way you could stretch your
vacation time much further. If your friend is this ill, maybe we
had better buy you as much time as possible. Better to have and
not need is my motto."
"Joe, do you think he'd go for it?" she eagerly asked.
"I don't know, but I have been known to be a persuasive talker.
Could you come back in a couple of hours, Cathy? Give me a chance
to get in with Moreno and get those cases pulled for you."
"Sure. I have a few errands to run and that should just give me
enough time. Joe thanks, for everything." She reached
out to squeeze his shoulder warmly. “I won't forget your kindness."
"Peter, thank you, I appreciate your seeing me so quickly."
Unfolding the list Father had given her, she explained what they
"Cathy, most of this I do have, though some of it is in sample
form. I'll give you what I have, then bring the rest down
later." He turned to unlock the cabinet, removing several small
bottles, sitting them on his desk. "Give this," he said as he
placed a small tube beside the bottles, "to Jacob and tell him to put
it on that deep cut on Vincent's back and thighs. I have had
remarkable results with it. Here's the fact sheet on it, he can
check it for any ingredients Vincent might be allergic to before he
administers it. If it works as well as I think it will, we should
see a marked improvement within three days.
"Now, tell me about you." Peter settled firmly in his chair,
leaning forward. "Have you been able to get any rest? I
don't have to tell you how worried Jacob is, not only about Vincent,
but about you."
"I actually slept well last night. Pascal talked me into going to
the bathing pools, rather than taking a quick shower. The water
is warm, tinged with a slight coolness in spots making it excellent for
swimming. I felt so relaxed, it helped me to sleep. And,
Pascal tricked me into eating!" She tried to look indignant, but
she couldn't help smiling.
"Well, good for him! I'll get him to speak to Jacob and reveal
his secrets." Picking up her hand, he added, "Seriously, Cathy,
how are you doing? From what Jacob has told me, the days before
you got home were a nightmare and they haven't exactly been pleasant
since your return!"
"Oh, Peter, I feel responsible for all this! If I had insisted on
taking a later flight, I could have gone to Vincent, told him I was
leaving and why. Then none of this would have happened. He
lies there like he is asleep and any minute he will wake up. But
from all you have said about the drugs they gave him, I know he is in a
life and death battle. I can't let myself accept that he might
die! I can't!!
"He has always been strong but, in seeing what those bastards did to
him, I shuddered when I bathed him!! Seeing those bruises,
knowing he suffers tremendous pa...pain." Her lips began to
tremble as she fought to control the wild heaving of her chest.
"Father says it looks like they put a screw driver into the soft,
fleshy part of his palm, near the little finger." Tears streamed
unbidden down her face, the sea green eyes awash with pain and she
"Peter, do you think the drugs will cause permanent damage?"
"Oh, Cathy dear, I wish I could give you a positive response!" He ran
his hand through his short graying hair. "It's far too early to
tell. You want more than a vague answer, but it is the best I can
give. There are variables, unknowns which defy the laws of
predictability. His chemical make-up is diverse, yet the effects of
Paracelsus’ dust had far longer effects on him. The violent
episodes, have they returned?"
"No, I can't say they have. He has been restlessly crying out,
thrashing, but no violence. When he has been restless, I have
been able to soothe him by talking. He won't allow Father to touch his
hands even when I am sitting beside him. Peter, do you think he
associates the touch of a man's hands with those animals...with the
horrid things they did?"
"I just don't know. He very well may be associating the touch. Does he react in the same way to your touch?"
"If I accidentally touch his hands without speaking first, he growls,
trying to pull away. But, if I speak softly or put my cheek
against his face, he calms immediately."
Peter shook his head. "Our worries are just beginning, I fear.
Healing his mind, undoing the psychological damage their torture has
done, will be a tremendous battle. The drugs may have done
irreparable damage and have far-reaching side effects. The
outward healing of his body will be easy compared to the other." Seeing
Catherine's despair, Peter stood, moving to stand before her and lifted
her, cradling her head against his chest.
Catherine sobbed against him, her tears wetting his shirt. Unable to
heal the consuming pain of his friends, he felt helpless and his
"I'll do some research; bring you the newest books on physical therapy,
treatment of coma patients. Perhaps" he smiled down at the
beautiful women in his arms, "together we will find the solution."
Accepting the handkerchief Peter offered, Catherine wiped her eyes as
she struggled to compose herself. Several minutes passed and she
finally looked up, stepping away from his warm, fatherly embrace.
"Do I look presentable?"
"You have always looked that, Cathy, and much more."
"May I use the telephone, Peter? I need to call Joe to see if he
has spoken with Moreno or if he needs more time." Minutes later,
Catherine hung up and turned back to Peter. "Looks like Joe
pulled it off. I'm officially considered part-time with a total
of 25 hours per week on the clock. Joe says I need only report in
by phone weekly and send in my cases by courier service."
Leaving Bloomingdale's, Catherine hailed a cab, gave her home address
and settled back as the driver plunged into the heart-stopping traffic.
Seeing her struggle, Roger, the doorman, quickly appeared to
help. "Looks like you did some serious shopping, Ms. Chandler,"
he joked good-naturedly.
Once inside her apartment, Catherine headed for the kitchen, tearing
open the packages as she walked. She dumped the new sheets into
the washer and started the machine. Glancing at her watch, she
realized she had just enough time to get the laundry done before she
was due at Joe's office.
Later, she returned, wet the wash cloth she carried, wrung it almost
dry and then, picking up the bottle, she sprayed the cloth with her
perfume. Opening the dryer door, she tossed the cloth inside with
the pillows before returning to the living room.
Catherine removed price tags and moved the stack of new towels to the
kitchen to await their turn in the washer. Removing one pillow
from the dryer, she sniffed, satisfied, as she smelled the light
delicate scent of her perfume clinging to the fluffy pillow
Four hours later, the laundry was completed and Catherine repacked the
now, very fragrant, bedding. It took two trips to transport the
bundles to the threshold and then she tapped a message asking that the
bundles be picked up.
"Catherine, I was beginning to worry." Father pressed her hand warmly, and then released it as she bent to kiss Vincent.
"Did things go as you expected?" Father inquired.
Catherine eased down beside Vincent, her fingers tenderly caressing his face, her eyes moving over him. "Much better."
Father handed her a cup of tea and over it, she explained her job
status. Handing Father Peter's vitamin samples and the tube of
medication, Catherine walked to the armoire, getting a change of
clothing. "I'll only be a minute," she called as she hurried to
She returned, face scrubbed clean of make-up, making her look even
younger, the trappings of the professional, fashion-conscious attorney
hung on a hanger which Catherine slipped into the armoire. She left
again, returning minutes later with a basin of hot water and began
giving Vincent his bath. Father watched in silence. "May I be of
any assistance, Catherine?"
"If you could get the ointment and clean bandages, I'll do his hands
after I finish this. I'd like to get all this out of the way
before we change the bed linen."
He moved to the chair beside the bed, retrieving another pan of water
and adding liquid antiseptic. Under his watchful gaze, Catherine
began to carefully cut the bandages from Vincent's hands. She
took a slow, deep steadying breath as she peeled away the last
bandage. Her eyes closed involuntarily and she shuddered, then
forced her eyes open and began cleansing the raw flesh.
Her sorrow was borne silently as she sought to thoroughly cleanse the
wounds. Father lifted the pan as Catherine tenderly placed Vincent's
hand in the towel which covered her lap. Gently, she blotted the
wetness then began spraying the antiseptic over his hand. After it
dried she applied a soothing ointment, then carefully applied new
Vincent whimpered several times as she worked, particularly on his
right hand which was the more severely damaged. Catherine
soothed him with words, murmuring softly to him, her own eyes filling
rapidly causing her vision to blur as she felt the arcing of his pain.
"Father, would you help me roll Vincent on his side?"
Together they eased Vincent over and Catherine quickly completed his
bath. Bending, she placed her cheek against his face, speaking
softly to him as Father placed his hand against his broad back.
He growled, bearing his fangs, his head thrashing against the pillow
and only as Catherine drew him closer, whispering softly, did his fury
cease. Then and only then did Father know it was safe to proceed.
With quick assured movements Father began cleansing the gash with
antiseptic soap, steeling himself against the pain he knew his harsh
rubbing caused his son. Pulling the chair closer to the bed, he
closely inspected the wound as he began applying the ointment.
“Are you all right, Catherine?" The warmth of his voice broke
Catherine's deep concentration and she exhaled a ragged breath.
She lifted her tear stained face and tried to answer, but could only
shake her head. Father added, "One of the most difficult parts of
being a doctor--or a good nurse--is knowing that, often in order to
heal, we must sometimes inflict pain for that healing to begin.
My heart aches, too, Catherine, when I must scrub his wounds, knowing
my actions bring him pain. Why don't you stay there while I clear
this away?" Father picked up the antiseptic spray bottles, placed them
in his medical bag and disposed of the soiled bandages. He heard
Catherine softly speaking to Vincent, repeating over and over her love,
as he moved quietly toward the entry. He emptied the pan into a bucket,
and then carried the bucket to the bathing chamber.
Catherine's fingers lightly caressed Vincent's face, the pain which was
etched deeply there adding to the heartbreak she felt. Pressing
closer, she felt the trembling beneath his skin, knowing the pain the
cleansing had caused. "I love you. Please fight to get well
so I may look again into your eyes and tell you of my love. I
need you so much; you are my life."
Winslow entered the chamber quietly and, seeing Catherine apparently
asleep holding Vincent in her arms, he turned to leave. "Winslow,
it's all right, come in, please."
"Where do you want these?" he asked, as he eased the bundles from her
apartment from his massive shoulders. "I'm sorry I'm late, but
there was a problem and it took longer to resolve than I expected. Has
Father been here?"
"Yes, and he will be right back, he just stepped out. Would you
hand me one of the pillows in that bag?" she asked, as she gestured
toward the larger of the two bundles.
Understanding her intent, Winslow eased the pillow next to Vincent's
body as Catherine slowly slipped from beneath Vincent's arms and
tenderly laid his arm across the pillow. Vincent stirred and
Catherine watched as he sniffed then rolled to lay cradled against the
pillow's fragrant softness. Taking Winslow's offered hand, she
stepped lightly from the bed.
"I gathered you got the Wilson problem resolved," Father asked, as he
stepped into the chamber. "Goodness," he smiled warmly, "but it
smells delightful in here. Catherine, what have you done?"
"Is it too much?" Catherine asked anxiously fearful she had overdone the perfume.
"No!" they chorused together causing both of them to chuckle.
"I discovered Vincent remembers the scent of my perfume, the scent of
my skin, so I thought that if I got some new sheets, towels, things
which we could use to make him comfortable, perhaps being surrounded by
that smell, he would know he is safe. Then maybe he’ll
come...home," her voice trembling, "and know that this, too, is a safe
place." She dabbed at her tears as she tried to smile at both
men, her eyes begging them to understand the desperation that drove her
to try anything to reach him. "I bought new pillows because I
could still smell traces of those odors. I'm going to take his
pillows to the same cleaner who has his quilt."
Winslow held out his hand, startled by how huge it seemed, as
Catherine's smaller hand captured his and brought it slowly to
Vincent's face. She allowed Winslow's hand to rest on stop of her
own as she placed her hand on Vincent's chin. "Smell, Vincent, smell.
It's Winslow and he won't hurt you." She repeated the words over
until finally she saw his nostrils flair as he inhaled.
Satisfied, Catherine lifted her hand and smiled up at Winslow.
Scrambling out of the way, Catherine watched as Father eased the IV
tube and stand away. Winslow eased Vincent onto his back, then
slipped his arms beneath Vincent's powerful shoulders and carefully
raised him to a sitting position.
Father worked quickly, noting that Vincent didn't appear to be in as
much discomfort as when he had first bandaged his ribs. His skin
was still very warm and he debated the merit of attempting to take his
"Let's get him down," Father said as he finished. Winslow eased
Vincent back down. "Catherine, do you think you can coax him into
opening his mouth. I'd like to get his temperature."
Catherine perched gingerly on the edge of the bed. "Hand me the glass
and the cloth," she said. She dipped the cloth into the glass,
and then lightly rubbed it across Vincent’s lips. His thirst
caused his lips to part as he sucked greedily at the mint-flavored
cloth. Twice more, Catherine wet the cloth then carefully wrapped
her finger around it. "Vincent, open your mouth, just a little,
please." Slowly, he complied, and she quickly used the soft
surface of the cloth to clean his teeth.
Father watched in amazement as Catherine slipped her other finger into
his mouth, resting it directly on the surface of one sharp canine.
"Cath..." Her sharp look stopped his words. "He won't hurt
me, Father. Vincent would never hurt me." She held out her
hand and he handed her the thermometer. Slipping it under his
tongue, she waited. At Father's nod she removed it, handing it to
him. She leaned forward pressing her cheek against Vincent's.
Standing, she looked at both men. "Shall we change the bedding
now?" They nodded, and Winslow tucked the sheet around Vincent,
effortlessly lifting him into his arms. He felt the chair
Catherine moved behind him gently tap the back of his knees and he
slowly sank into it. Father moved the IV stand, pausing to check
the bandages that held the needle.
Father struggled momentarily fitting the king size pillow into the case
as the pillow seemed to fight against him, refusing to be encased
within the muted colors.
Winslow's deep chuckle caused Father to look up from his battle and
realizing how silly he must have looked valiantly fighting the pillow
as his own laughter split the air. Catherine and Father stood on
either side of Winslow as he slowly stood then walked to the bed and
gently eased Vincent down.
Catherine sat reading the book on physical therapy, making notes of
procedures and questions to ask Father and Peter. She paused in
her reading realizing the cassette player had shut off as she could now
clearly hear the tapping on the pipes. Her tea had grown cold and
bitter, but grimacing she gulped it down and returned to her reading.
Seeing Vincent stir, she instantly moved to the bed. He moved
restlessly and after watching for several minutes Catherine eased the
pillow away. Holding the IV tubing away from harm, Catherine
struggled then was able to ease him over to lie on his stomach.
Groaning softly, he drew one leg up and settled himself against the
pillow which he pulled close.
Catherine began stroking his back hoping to ease his distress.
"I'll read to you later after we do your therapy. Father is going
to help, but I don't expect to be good at this the first time.
You will have to bear with my fumbling and I'll try not to cause you
pain. Your muscles aren't used to being stretched so it might
hurt." Her fingers continued to massage his shoulders, rolling
and kneading the muscles. "Father said the skin around the gashes
would be sensitive and start to draw, so we have to keep it soft and
She continued to talk, knowing that within his safe place he heard
her. She had read enough about comatose patients to realize how
important it was to maintain brain stimulation by continuing to carry
on normal conversation. Pausing, Catherine listened then placed her ear
against his shoulder as his breathing seemed to slow, becoming
shallow. "Sleep, love, sleep and heal," she whispered against his
skin as she kissed his shoulder. She heard him exhale audibly as
he settled more firmly against the pillows.
The days passed slowly. Mary came often to sit with Catherine,
relieving her to work on the cases she had brought Below.
Mary sat with her, knitting, as she softly sang the songs of Vincent’s
childhood. Between knitting projects, Mary read a collection of
Vincent’s favorite childhood stories.
Almost every evening, Pascal came to sit with Vincent while Catherine
had dinner with Father and Winslow. Pascal and Winslow were
faithful to their friend and cared for Catherine as kindly as if
Vincent was merely sleeping, and it was their duty to look after her
until he awakened; a duty that each man took very seriously.
The fabric door to Vincent’s chamber was drawn closed by Pascal as he
left. Father had already completed his last check of Vincent so
Catherine began to undress for bed. She slipped into a soft wool
gown then found a pair of socks for her feet and climbed into
bed. She slipped beneath the down quilt, angling her body around
Vincent’s bent leg, as he lay on his side. She shifted, so that
her head was slightly above his and she snuggled closer, so that he
would be aware of her scent. Gently, she placed her hand on his
shoulder and settled to sleep.
Catherine came quickly awake as she felt Vincent’s weight shift
dramatically, rolling to rest almost fully upon her body. “Catherine,
come back,” he sobbed. Gathering him closer, she tenderly
murmured his name repeatedly, hoping to bring him from his despair.
“I’m here my love, I’m here. You’re safe and I’m holding
you.” She brushed kisses over his face, tasting the tears that
streamed from his sightless eyes. He continued to sob her name,
repeatedly, his anguish mounting. “I’m here. We’re in your
chamber, safe and warm. There’s no one here who will harm you or
inflict pain, you must believe me. You’re safe.” His
anguish continued and he became more agitated. “Vincent, you’re home in
your own bed, here in the tunnels, surrounded by all your
treasures. Your journal is on the desk and your antique pen is
near, waiting for you to use them.”
She cuddled closer to him, unbuttoning the gown and attempting to draw
Vincent’s face closer to her breasts. He pulled away, then his
nostrils flared and he moved his head closer. He moved imperceptibly
closer, his mouth opened and he drew in a ragged breath, inhaling
deeply. Lightly, he pushed against her silky skin as he continued
to breathe in her scent. Understanding how deep his psychological
wounds were, Catherine knew he needed the physical intimacy and comfort
which he had long denied himself. He had retreated into a world
far removed from the horrors of the physical abuse he had suffered,
into a world where he lived with Catherine, a world encompassed only by
their enduring and abiding love.
Catherine drew him closer, sensing his deep-seated need to be held
intimately against her body. Minutes passed and he began to
quiet, the shivering beneath his skin slowed and his breathing became
calm and deep.
Catherine finally felt herself begin to relax. She held Vincent
lightly, but firmly enough that he was always aware of her being close
to him. She stroked and soothed him as she would a small
child. Remembering how deeply Vincent slept after Mary had sung
to him, she began to hum the song her mother had always sung to
her. After several attempts, she finally got all the words right
and began to softly sing her childhood lullaby.
Another day passed and Vincent still remained in a deep coma. His
day was one of endless tossing, growls and, several times, he cried
out. Catherine refused to leave him with anyone, knowing that she
needed to be near to soothe his anguish.
Pascal appeared in the evening and she asked if he would gather
Winslow, Cullen, and Kanin to help transport Vincent to the bathing
pool. “You were right about my sleeping better after a dip in the
pool, so I hope your idea would help Vincent. He has had a
fretful day; he keeps moaning and trying to remove the bandages from
his hands. He seems to be a lot of pain today. If you could
arrange to have him taken to the pool, Winslow and I can bathe him.”
“Of course, I’ll send a message, and then if you will tell me what you
need, I’ll help gather everything.” Pascal’s voice deepened with
his love and concern as he moved into the passage. Several
minutes later, Catherine could hear the voices as Vincent’s friends
Once again, the group moved efficiently and soon they were at the
bathing pool. The group departed leaving only Catherine and
Winslow alone with Vincent. “This time I brought an extra set of
clothing for the walk back to his chamber,” the gentle giant offered
“So did I,” Catherine replied. “Did Pascal tell you why we are doing this tonight?”
“Yes, he told us that Vincent had a bad day. If this helps, we
can do this every night for as long as it takes. There’s nothing
that is too much to ask for Vincent as far as we’re concerned.”
Together they repeated the tasks they had previously performed and soon
they had Vincent’s sheet-enshrouded body floating in the water.
Catherine gave him a thorough bath, which took far less time than the
bed baths she performed daily. Replacing the sheet over him,
Winslow gently took him by the chin and walked about the pool, allowing
him to glide through the water. Tirelessly, he walked towing his
friend and, as the water soothed, he felt Vincent’s body relax more.
Once in the shallow area, he removed his hand from his jaw and allowed
Vincent to float freely. The entire time he walked and moved
Vincent around in the water, Winslow kept up a steady stream of
conversation. He believed that Catherine was right; they had to
continuously talk with Vincent to reassure him that he was safe and
surrounded by those who deeply loved him.
Over the next several days, this ritual was repeatedly nightly.
On the fourth night, when they reached the bathing pool, they found an
odd looking contraption and Mouse, waiting for them. “Build so
Winslow doesn’t have to lift Vincent so high,” he beamed
brightly. Roughly four feet off the ground stood a rectangular
box with slots cut in the top so the stretcher rods locked firmly into
“Mouse, this is brilliant! Let’s try it.” Seeing it had
Catherine’s full approval, the group lowered the stretcher into its new
resting place. Unlike some of his other inventions, this one did
not shutter nor quake when the box took the full weight of the
“Could you build a second one, Mouse? And another stretcher with
the blocks attached? It would seem to me that if we had another,
it would simplify the process. After we get Vincent out of the
water and dried, we could then transfer him to the other
stretcher. He wouldn’t have to make the trip back lying on damp
towels. That would surely add to his comfort.”
Cullen volunteered to help Mouse construct a second box and Kanin
agreed to create another stretcher. The group departed amidst
happy chatter of Mouse’s invention.
While Winslow towed Vincent around in the calming water, Catherine was
surprised to hear Winslow’s deep baritone voice singing. He
seemed totally unaware that he sang and the song became an anthem of
love and friendship, as he endlessly moved his friend in the soothing
After lifting Vincent from the water, Winslow carefully lowered him to
the stretcher. His hand accidentally brushed against Vincent’s
hip and Vincent began to growl deep in his throat. Quickly,
Catherine touched his face bringing her hand close to his nostrils and
speaking in soothing tones. “It’s all right. That was only
Winslow’s hand that accidentally touched you. You’re safe.
Winslow just helped you out of the bathing pool. He’s your friend
and he wouldn’t harm you.” She reached for and finding Winslow’s
large hand, she placed it on top of her own as she gently moved her
hand near Vincent’s nostrils. “Take a deep breath. Can you smell
the scent of Winslow? Breathe deeply now.” His nostrils
flared and then, suddenly, he relaxed again.
“Some place deep within he knows he is surrounded by his family.
His wounds are beginning to heal but his mind is still controlled by
the horror he experienced. We have to keep assuring him so he can
come back. We have to…” Catherine’s voice broke and she firmly
clamped down on her jaw, knowing that Vincent would hear and feel her
The pattern of their days became routine. Mary, Jacob, and Pascal
came daily to read to Vincent while Catherine worked on the cases Joe
provided. Catherine was surprised to discover that her month of
working part-time was nearly up. She reached a decision and asked
Mary if she would stay with Vincent for two hours while she went
Above. Reaching the surface, she made a quick call to Joe asking
him to meet her at a nearby restaurant away from the office.
She was already seated when Joe arrived. “What’s up, Radcliffe?”
“I’ve reached a decision and felt I had to inform you
immediately. I must take six months leave of absence and if that
can’t be arranged, then I’m submitting my resignation
immediately. My situation hasn’t changed and I know I can’t
return to work full-time for at least six months or longer. It
isn’t fair to you or the Department to keep holding a full-time job
open when you desperately need a full-time staff person.”
“Whoa! Let’s at least talk about this.” Joe sat in shocked silence.
"In fact, in just saying this, I think it would be best for both of us
if you simply accepted my resignation, effective today. I don’t
want to make promises that I can’t fulfill and six months leave may
simply not be enough.” She withdrew a notepad from her purse and
without any hesitation wrote out a brief statement of her
resignation. She slid it across the table to Joe. “I can
finish up the cases I have within a couple of days and courier them
back to you. I don’t think I left anything personal at my desk
except for a pair of shoes and my old black umbrella which you should
keep. Just toss the shoes.”
“Won’t you even discuss this with me?”
“Joe, it won’t change anything. I’m doing this because I respect
you. You deserve a full-time staff and I can’t be that person
anymore. My life is heading in another direction and no job is
going to keep me from my destiny.
“You have been more than a boss. You are a dear friend and I
trust that you will accept my decision and know that my reasons are
valid and significantly important to me. You are the brother I
have always wished I had. Please Joe,” she reached across the
table to clasp his hand firmly, “don’t fight this. Just accept
that it is the best for me.”
“Will you promise to keep in touch? I don’t mean to pry, but I
guess this means that your friend is still seriously ill. I hope
he gets better. I hope he realizes what a treasure he has in
you.” Joe’s face turned slightly pink as he tried to smile.
“He does, believe me. Joe, thank you. I know you want to
argue with me about the decision, but I know you won’t. I will be
in touch as often as I can.” Rising from her chair, Catherine
brushed a brief kiss across Joe’s startled lips and walked away.
Hailing a cab, she headed to her apartment and asked the driver to
wait. Inside she found Roger, the doorman. She quickly
explained to him that she would be away for weeks on end, but she would
arrange to have her mail picked up and that if anyone inquired about
her, they were to say she was on an extended holiday. She gave
Peter’s name as a contact in an emergency and then climbed back into
the cab and headed toward the Park.
“He’s been very peaceful while you were gone.” Mary sat beside
Vincent’s bed with an open book in her hand. “I think the scent
on the pillows helps. It was very cleaver of you to think of
it. Is there anything else I can do before I leave?”
“No thank you, Mary. I appreciate your staying while I went Above.”
After Mary left, Catherine kissed Vincent and sat for a few minutes
gently touching his face. Then she went over to the wardrobe and
changed into her tunnel clothes. She smiled happily as she hung
her suit and closed the door. Taking a tablet and pen she took
the chair beside Vincent’s bed and began writing.
“Catherine, how are you? Mary said you had gone Above. I trust there are no problems.”
“Why don’t you sit down, Father, I need to talk.” He settled into the desk chair and looked expectantly at Catherine.
“I went to see Mr. Maxwell, my boss, and I tendered my resignation
effective immediately. My part-time status expires tomorrow and
there is no way I can return to working full-time. Would you be
willing to act for me in proposing to the Council that I be allowed to
remain Below permanently? Also, I’ve written a letter to Peter
telling him what I’ve done, notifying him that he is the contact person
for my building management and asking him to get a few things for me
from my apartment when he has time. Do you think you could
arrange to have my letter delivered to Peter?”
“I originally came to see if you wanted to do Vincent’s therapy, but I
think that can wait while we discuss all your news. Are you sure
about resigning from your job? It’s a big step. You seemed
to enjoy working with Mr. Maxwell.”
“Originally it was the job I loved but, over time, I realized I was
there more because of Joe and his sense of dedication and
justice. And it is because of my respect and admiration for Joe
that I tendered my resignation. No matter how long it takes until
he is well, I’m never leaving Vincent again. My job was the
reason he was hurt; do you think I can ever forget that?”
Realizing there was nothing he could say and refusing to offer vague
platitudes, Father wisely said nothing. He offered his hand and
squeezed hers in affection. “I can certainly speak on your behalf
to the Council and honestly feel there will be no objections. If
you have finished your letter to Peter, I can take it along with me
when I leave. Would you like to begin doing Vincent’s therapy?”
Together they worked at bending and stretching Vincent’s arms and
legs. The heavy bruising and cuts were fading but his hands were
slow to heal. “I think we might want to try flexing his fingers,
if at all possible. They will become inflexible if we don’t
stretch them but the bruising is still deep so it may be very
Catherine began to unwrap the bandages and, even though she had
cleansed and bandaged them daily, the sight of his damaged hand
continued to cause her anguish. She brushed her mouth across
Vincent’s and then began telling him that she was going to touch his
hands. Slowly, she brushed two fingers over his palm, keeping her
strokes light and even, when she began to gingerly touch his index
finger. Patiently, she worked until the finger slowly unfurled
slightly. “That’s good. Just a little more, try to straighten
your finger a little more.” Her voice was a soothing balm, calm
Her patience was not lost on Father. He realized anew that
Catherine truly had no fears concerning Vincent and his amazing
strength. In her opinion, Jacob realized, he was just an ordinary
man and she found nothing to fear in this extraordinary human.
Patiently, she worked on each finger, slowly getting each one to
unfurl. “Could you hand me a wet cloth? His hand has been
clinched for so long, it’s slightly...” She stopped speaking and
wrinkled her nose. Immediately understanding what Catherine left
unspoken, Jacob handed her a wet cloth and the antiseptic soap.
“Do you think it would be all right if I put a little lotion on his
palm and along his fingers, just to keep the skin soft? I’d be
careful not to get it close to any of the infected areas. What
about his nails on the fingers that weren’t hurt? They’re quite
long and have made ridges against his palm.”
“His nails are quite thick and I don’t know if you would have the
strength to cut them. I’d be willing to do it, if you think we
can get him to allow me to touch his fingers. So far, Catherine,
you are the only one whom he has allowed to touch his hands.”
“Why don’t we see if he would allow you to put lotion on his
palm?” Together they repeated what had become a litany when
others needed to help or touch Vincent. After several minutes of
talking, Father put two fingers on Vincent’s palm and began to slowly
rub in the lotion. He was delighted to see Vincent’s fingers
flex, even a little, in response to the steady even pressure he
applied. The stretching and flexing consumed three hours, but
both Jacob and Catherine, though physically and mentally exhausted,
were well pleased with their efforts.
It was late and the tunnels had settled into sleep. Catherine had
ceased reading to Vincent but continued to sit beside his bed.
Her meeting with Joe was still on her mind, reviewing what she had said
and realizing anew that her decision was right. Nothing would
ever again separate her from Vincent.
Startled, Catherine looked up to see Vincent staring at her. She
quickly moved from the chair to perch on the bedside. “Hello, my
love. Just a moment and I’ll give you some water.” She
poured a few inches of water into the nearby glasses, then moved the IV
stand away so that she could slip behind it. She slid her arm
under Vincent’s head raising it slightly and pressed the glass against
his lips. “Just a few sips.” Greedily, he drank, draining
the glass completely. “I know you are still thirsty, but we need to
wait a few minutes to be certain it settles well on your stomach.
You haven’t had water, in your stomach for weeks.”
Gently, she lowered his head back to the pillow. He stared for
several minutes and then his eyes slowly closed. His ragged
breathing began to slow, then deepened, and she could tell he was once
again in a deep sleep. She continued to sit beside him, silent
tears running down her cheeks. He had looked at her and he had
spoken. “Please, dear God, let this mean that he’s healing and
he’ll come back to me, please,” she murmured into the stillness.
She blew out the candle and climbed in bed, curling her body around and
close to Vincent. She was still asleep when Father came to make
his morning check of Vincent.
Admitting to himself that he was still startled at the sight of
Catherine sleeping next to his son, he had begun to accept that it was
her right to be there. “Catherine?” He spoke her name
softly and was gratified when she opened her eyes and smiled broadly.
“He spoke last night, just one word but he spoke. He wanted
water. I gave him a little but explained he had no fluids for a
long time. He opened his eyes and he looked at me.”
Father’s shoulders shook as his emotions slammed to the surface,
temporarily leaving the physician adrift on a rocky shore. He
smiled, unable to utter a single coherent word.
The community rejoiced to know that Vincent had spoken and the pipes
rang with the happy chatter. In Vincent’s chamber, life continued
in its same routine. Vincent continued in his deep sleep and his
family cared for his slower than normal to heal body.
The “pool gang”, as they had started calling themselves, had returned
from their nightly trek. Winslow had just eased Vincent back into
bed, pulled the quilt over him and turned to find deep blue eyes
staring at him. Unable at first to utter a word, he finally
managed to call Catherine. He continued to stare at his life-long
friend as his warm brown eyes brimmed with unshed tears.
“Vincent, it’s good to see ya.”
Vincent blinked, and then swallowed several times. “Home is
good.” Wishing to express his relief and happiness, Winslow gingerly
touched Vincent’s shoulder and allowed his hand to linger for a few
“I’ll see you again tomorrow. Just rest and get well.” He
bid Catherine good night and quietly walked into the passage. He
walked only a few steps, then he staggered, blinded by his tears of
thanksgiving. He slumped to the floor, his large shoulder shaking
and he cried like a baby.
Smiling joyfully, Catherine sat beside Vincent, her hands touching his
face before she pressed a light kiss on his lips. “I dreamed you
were here. You aren’t a dream, are you?” Vincent whispered.
“No, I’m not a dream. I’m sitting beside you in your chamber and
I just kissed you. How are you feeling?” Before he could
answer Vincent’s eyes drifted close.
Catherine continued to stroke his face, hoping he would open his eyes
again, if only for a moment. Those startling blue eyes were so
precious to her and she longed for the sight of them.
Two more days passed before Vincent awoke again. When he
awakened, he was fretful because Catherine was not within the
chamber. Father tried to calm him, but Vincent wanted only his
beloved Catherine. Father made the mistake of touching Vincent’s
arm which immediately produced deep-throated growls and the appearance
of sharp teeth that threatened harm. Catherine came running,
bursting into the chamber. Her body language echoed the look on
her face; she was ready to battle anyone who was harming Vincent,
causing him to growl so viciously.
Father’s face registered his horror at upsetting Vincent and, seeing
the clear look of a warrior princess on Catherine’s face, sent him
stepping away from his son. “What did you do to him?” she
demanded, her voice shaking with rage. Never allowing him to
answer, she pushed past him and immediately began to soothe Vincent,
her voice gentle as her fingers stroked his face. Stroking and
murmuring, she dispelled the fear and rage which had gripped
Vincent. For the next hour she spoke softly, frequently kissing
his face and lips, as she sought to ease his fears. The trembling
finally ceased and he lapsed into a deep sleep.
By unspoken agreement, Father and Catherine stepped into the
passage. “I apologize for speaking so rudely to you. I know
you wouldn’t do anything to harm him.”
His hand brushed through his hair and he sighed deeply. “He
became fretful when he awakened and didn’t see you. I simply
forgot for a moment that, while he looks like my son, he is not yet
himself. I didn’t think, I just reacted by thinking my touch
would calm him. It had, as you plainly saw, the opposite effect.”
“It’s good to see you Peter. Vincent has been having longer
periods of being awake. By longer, I mean in four or five minute
increments but nothing prolonged. If he finds someone else here
when he awakens –if I have gone to shower or eat – he is fretful,
rolling and tossing. He even growled at Father. Several
people have come to see him and while I don’t want to keep him from his
friends, often their visits cause him trauma. I don’t know what
to do. He even pushed Mouse away and you know how fond of Mouse
“He is beginning to slowly come out of the prolonged coma,” Peter voice
was compassionate and filled with concern. “He has been to hell
and back. His transition won’t be easy. The trauma done to
his mind by the savage beatings he withstood and the drugs they shot
into him have created a vortex of conflicting emotions. The touch
of anyone triggers instant recall of that hell. It’s only your
touch that negates the horror and you manage to reach deep into his
psyche to where he has retreated, a place of safety and sanity.
It is you he needs, not Jacob or Mary - just you.
“The next days and weeks are critical to his discovery. He needs
to be surrounded by a sense of safety and calm. That safety and
calm is simply being exclusively with you. Let me talk with
Jacob. I have an idea, but it will mean a lot of work.”
Leaving Catherine, Peter made his way toward the library. “Jacob,
have you got some hot tea? I’ve just been with Cathy and we need
to seriously talk.” Peter reiterated his conversation with
Cathy. “I think it might be wise, to ensure the best possible
recovery for Vincent, to move him and Cathy to a smaller chamber away
from the populated areas. The interaction with others continues
to cause Vincent tremendous distress and, with each episode, he
retreats back into the safe world his mind has created, in order for
him to survive.”
Peter paused taking another sip of his tea before continuing. “He will
still require a great deal of care in the weeks and months to
come. Some of that care will be impossible for Cathy to perform
alone. I understand about the “pool gang” and their dedication to
taking Vincent to the bathing pool. Do you think Winslow might be
willing to take up residence in another small chamber in order to help
Cathy? I think it’s imperative that we move Vincent to a more
secluded area for this stage of his recovery.”
“Surely if we were to restrict his visitors that would suffice,” Father
replied frostily. “I don’t like the idea of moving him to an
isolated area. It would be more difficult for me, as his
physician, to see him daily.”
“Jacob, his body is healing but his psyche is far from healed.
You need to step back and take a more clinical look at Vincent, not as
your son, but as your patient. His complete recovery, if that is
possible, depends entirely upon Cathy and the glorious love they
“As men, we have both known the joy of loving a special woman, but what
we have known pales when compared to those two. The odds of them
ever meeting, connecting on the level they have, is astronomical.
It is as if all the planets were perfectly aligned to create the love
they share. Never in all my years have I ever seen two love as
profoundly. What they share is that which centuries of poets and
writers have tried to describe, but have failed. What Vincent and
Cathy share defies description.”
“But Vincent needs...” Father’s voice faded as Peter ignored his protest.
“Find a chamber and let Cathy turn it into a cozy nest for the two of
them. Yes, it would create problems for the community but Vincent
has done more for the community, as a whole, than any other citizen.
When you were invaded, it was Vincent who defended this community, who
killed to protect all of you. Have you and everyone else living
here forgotten his sacrifice? Are you aware of the psychological
damage that killing did to Vincent? I saw Vincent regularly
during that period; we spent many hours in deep conversation and I saw,
first hand, his struggle to come to terms with what was forced on him.
“Arrange to have food delivered daily to them and Winslow. Have
their laundry picked up, clean clothing and linens delivered to them.
But, otherwise, leave them strictly alone. Allow Cathy’s deep
love to reach into his soul and provide the path by which he may leave
his mental world of safety and return to the world Cathy’s love has
Peter paused running his hand through his hair, knowing that what he
was asking would create anxiety in his oldest friend. “If you want me
to talk with Winslow, I will. I have seen the man care for
Vincent and it is always with great love and tenderness. They have
always been close as brothers. I only suggest Winslow over Pascal
because of Winslow’s strength. I remember seeing all three boys
together as they grew up and I always envied their deep friendship that
never faltered. Call a Council meeting and I will speak to them.
I can’t stress how strongly I feel about this course of action and that
it must be accomplished quickly.”
“Drink your tea, Peter, and be still. I need to think before I
call the Council to meeting. Just drink and be silent, please.”
They sat in silence as Peter consumed his tea. The logistics of
such a move were staggering, but if it meant Vincent’s return to them,
the Council would approve. Without a word to Peter, Father walked
to the pipe and tapped a message asking for the Council to immediately
convene in the library.
The Council meeting was brief and there were no objections following
Peter’s impassioned speech. He did not sugarcoat the facts nor
did he spare them the reminder of all they owed Vincent. His
private opinion of how much they used Vincent’s strength was now very
publicly known. Peter left the meeting as they began to work out
the logistics of how to develop the most feasible plan to solve the
Reaching Vincent’s chamber, Peter called out before he entered. “Cathy,
honey, I have good news for you.” Once he was settled in the
chair, he explained all he had shared with Jacob and the Council.
“Think about what you will need to set up a chamber and give your list
to Jacob. There are several storage chambers, so almost anything
you wish should be available. A bed will be the biggest problem,
I think. If all else fails, let me know and I’ll check my storage
locker. I may still have an old bed frame that was my
grandfather’s. It’s one of those tall Victorian type things where
the frame is so tall the ladies had stair steps to use in order to
“Oh, Peter, your idea is perfect. Being secluded without worrying
about Father’s constant pressure of wanting to see Vincent will be so
much easier for Winslow and for me, too. I know he means well,
but Father puts such pressure on us to be near Vincent, it puts me in a
“Thank you for speaking up on Vincent’s behalf, especially calling to
their attention how much they owe him from all he did during the
invasion. He has served as their savior but at what cost to
Over the next several days, a chamber that had been used for storage
was found to be the right size and, also, a small nearby chamber for
Winslow. The chambers were two levels Below the Great Hall, well
within reach of the pipes, and the terrain not too rough for Father to
reach Vincent in an emergency. Winslow readily agreed to move and
arrangements were made about pick-up and delivery of items from the
kitchen. Catherine provided the funds for the purchase of a small
grill, wood for the grill, a five gallon water stand and a large-size
camping cooler. One of the Helpers agreed to provide ice as often
as it was needed. Pascal volunteered to provide coverage for
Winslow should his assistance be needed in the home tunnels.
Aside from the bed frame and mattress Peter brought down, there was
enough room for a small chest for their clothing, a large basket for a
change of bed linens, a comfortable petite recliner chair for
Catherine, a small foot stool, and books. Peter also contributed
a large oriental rug from his own personal storage. It served to
soften the hard stone floor as well as keep Cathy’s feet warmer, for
which she was very grateful. Similar items were placed in Winslow’s new
chamber. Several lanterns and a supply of candles were also
provided by Rebecca.
The next evening when the pool gang retrieved Vincent from the bathing
pool, they took him directly to his new home. “You call out if
you need anything, Catherine. Sleep well.” With his parting
good-night, Winslow left to settle into his new chamber.
While she prepared for bed, Catherine continually talked to Vincent,
she described all that was within, to him. He had relaxed
completely in the pool and he appeared to be in a natural sleep.
He was no longer tethered to an IV bag and his back was free of the
tight bandages he had worn.
A small bathroom chamber was literally carved out of the rock by Cullen
and Kanin and their work gang. It was crude, but provided the
basics and they had run an extension from the nearest water line. The
water was tepid but there was no way to get warm water that far
Below. Winslow rigged a curtain over the opening to allow him and
Catherine privacy and, by mutual agreement, they left the curtain open
when the chamber was not occupied to prevent any unexpected surprise
When Catherine walked out of their chamber the next morning, she was
greeted by the sight of Winslow cooking breakfast over the grill.
Three semi-flat stones served as seats around the impromptu camp
fire. “I’m making oatmeal. If we use that wedge pillow
Peter brought down, do you think we could prop Vincent up enough that
you could try to feed him some of this? I know the vitamins you
are giving him help, but I’ll bet he is pretty hungry. I got some
brown sugar we can add to make it sweeter for him. He always adds
about a spoonful of brown sugar when we have oatmeal.”
“We can certainly try. We have to start sometime to get him to
eat, so it might as well be today. I think it should be thinner
in texture than this though, so it would be easier for him to
swallow. Do we have some milk to dilute it?” she asked with a
After finishing their breakfast, they prepared the oatmeal for Vincent
and, together, they headed inside. Winslow left the oatmeal on
the outer rim of the grill to keep it warm while they propped Vincent
up. For several minutes, Catherine tried to get Vincent to awaken, but
his eyes would flutter open, then close. “I guess we need to be
more aggressive,” Catherine muttered as she kissed Vincent for several
long seconds. Winslow smiled at seeing Catherine kissing his
friend. He was still smiling when Vincent’s eyes fluttered open and
stared at Catherine as she slowly drew her lips away. “Hi, sleepy
head! How about some food? Winslow made you some
oatmeal. Let’s see if you can swallow a couple of
spoonfuls.” Winslow slipped from the chamber as Catherine
continued her light, breezy conversation. Winslow handed the bowl
to Catherine, then stepped away so Vincent would focus only on
Catherine’s beaming face.
Patiently, she touched the spoon to his mouth and after several
seconds, he opened it. It took roughly twenty minutes to feed
Vincent five spoonfuls before his eyes fluttered and closed.
“That’s the most work he has done and I’m sure it has worn down his
reserve of strength. We’ll try again later. Could you
arrange for some soup from William?”
Slowly, they worked out the routine of their days. Unless he was
needed to lift or turn Vincent, Winslow left the couple alone. He
kept to his chamber for the most part, where he busied himself carving
new toys for the children, updating tunnel maps, and reading.
Catherine continued to flex and stretch Vincent’s damaged hands.
She knew the flexing was painful because, after she finished, Vincent
always slipped into a deep sleep, a sleep that allowed him to escape
the pain and the memories. “I know my actions cause pain and
inflicting pain on you breaks my heart. If I stop, I fear you
will lose your dexterity as your muscles will atrophy.”
While tears streamed down her face, she began kneading and massaging
his large thigh muscles. The area surrounding the sutures was
still pink and the skin slightly puckered. As she worked, she
continued her conversation with Vincent. “Our chamber is quite
cozy. We moved here so that we could be alone together.
Peter felt it was the best way to help you find your way back
home. Winslow is here, in another chamber, but only to help me
lift you. Otherwise we are alone.”
She sat on his bed, continually stroking and touching him, her words
filled with love and her joy at being with him. Retrieving the
bottle of lotion, she began to spread lotion over one arm. She
stopped once, to stare, as a hint of a smile was visible around
Vincent’s mouth. Once again, she began to rub his arm and, again,
she saw the hint of a smile.
“You may be asleep, in your safe world, but your body likes to be
touched and I plan to go on touching you. You’re so beautiful and
you should never be embarrassed by your body. I love giving you
your bath and touching you without any restrictions. And I love
sleeping with you, having your body curled against mine. I don’t
know if I can adequately tell you how wonderful it has been to hold you
against my body and feel your warm breath on my skin.”
The days became weeks and Catherine continued her tireless schedule for
exercising and stretching his arms and legs. Peter came to make
brief physical checks on Vincent, approving of what Catherine was
doing. The pool gang came faithfully to carry Vincent to the pool
nightly. On their way back to the chamber, Vincent opened his
eyes and stared at Kanin for several minutes. The gang was
joyously happy when they arrived at the new chamber.
Individually, they bid Vincent good night and left. The happy
voices echoed as they climbed the trail upward toward the home tunnels.
Slipping into bed beside Vincent, Catherine cuddled against him.
She was always toasty warm when she lay against him, as his body seemed
to radiate heat. “Catherine, hold me closer. I am safe in
your arms.” His voice was a throaty whisper and his need
clear. The scent of her body drew him, evoking memories of warmth
and an all-encompassing love. She gathered him closer, holding
him tightly, as he buried his face against her throat.
“You’re safe, my love, and I will never stop holding you.
Never.” She stroked his back; silently her hands spoke of love
and devotion, pledging her fidelity and commitment. Her voice
became the sounds of love, soft murmurs, sighs, and whispered purrs of
contentment, barely audible. Sounds and touches that conveyed all
the unspoken love which vibrated between them, the fine tuning of two
hearts that beat within one soul. When his anguished tears came,
she clutched him tighter, the softness of her body pillowed his head,
as his cleansing began.
From outside the curtain that enshrouded their haven, Winslow heard the
anguished cries and while his head rejoiced at the purging, his heart
broke for the agony of his friend. He walked up the trail just
far enough that Vincent’s torment was not as audible, but still within
reach, if Catherine should need him.
Morning became afternoon and still she held him. It was toward
evening that his sobs began to abate and, still later, when his
trembling ceased. It had been silent for nearly an hour when
Winslow peeked around the curtain. Catherine saw him and beckoned
him forward. Her eyes were red but her smile was warm.
“Help me get up, please,” she whispered.
Winslow took two of the scented pillows, rolled Vincent slightly on his
back and then pushed the pillows in front of his chest and draped an
arm over the pillow. He extended his arm, gathering Catherine up
and over Vincent’s sleeping form. She hopped on one foot and then
ran from the room, heading for the bathroom as fast as she could
move. Torn as to what he should do, Winslow remained standing
beside his sleeping friend. Roughly twenty minutes passed before
Catherine returned, took his large hand and drew him outside.
They embraced, smiling foolishly at each other. “The road will be
long, but at least we have a toe-hold on his return. Thank you
for everything you have done to assist him to reach this point.
You have been the truest friend.”
“The fight isn’t over, but he will never have a champion greater than your love, Catherine. Your love is his salvation.
“Let me fix you something to eat. You haven't eaten all day. It
won’t take long to warm some vegetable soup that William sent
down. The water is hot if you would like a cup of tea.”
“Both are nice, lovely to have, but if you don’t mind, I’ll stay with
him until the food is ready. I don’t want him to awaken and be
frightened if I’m not there.” Catherine turned to go back inside
while Winslow set to heating the soup and preparing the tea.
Vincent slept without waking for another two days. Catherine
continued her routine, touching him constantly, refreshing the scent of
her perfume on his pillows and stretching his fingers.
Catherine continued reading The Wind in the Willows in preparation for
asking if she could assume teaching literature after Vincent was
well. When she stopped to rest her voice, her thoughts drifted to
how she could best serve the community. No matter what happened
she wouldn’t be returning to a full-time job Above and knew it was
imperative that she become an active, working member who contributed to
the community's well-being.
When she awakened the next morning, she looked into her beloved's blue
eyes. They simply stared at each other for several long minutes.
“Good morning.” Leaning forward, she placed her mouth against his
lips and softly kissed him. She felt the briefest reaction of his
lips. “That was lovely. May I kiss you again?” Once
more she kissed him and again she felt a hesitant response.
“Winslow? I need..” Vincent’s voice faded.
“Oh, let me get him.” She eased from the bed and peeked out the
drape. Winslow saw her motion and he immediately came
forward. “He’s awake and he needs to..”
“You go on, Catherine; I’ll take care of him.”
Winslow had just finished heating some oatmeal and handed the bowl to
Catherine. Vincent was propped up on the wedge pillow. It
was obvious that he was hungry this time as he greedily ate all that
Catherine offered. “Do you feel up to brushing your teeth?
If not, I can clean them as I have been. Brushing would, I think, make
you feel better. I haven’t tried to brush them myself, but I’m
willing to try if you are.” Her voice was so matter-of-fact,
conveying her simple wish to do that which would make him the most
“I’ll try to brush my own teeth. You have, I think, been caring
for me for too long.” Trying to control excitement at his first
coherent words after all the long weeks of silence, Catherine fought to
remain calm. She wanted to giggle and do a silly happy dance but
forced herself to push aside the little girl within and behave as an
adult when all she wanted to do was laugh and emit joyful screams of
Catherine retrieved his toothbrush, the paste, a glass of water and a
small bowl which would serve as a substitute basin. After getting
him set up with the brush and paste, she busied herself moving about
the chamber keeping her back to him and allowing him to assume his
mantle of dignity. The intimacy of hearing him brush his teeth
warmed Catherine and, involuntarily, she hugged herself
He softly called her name and she responded by silently clearing away
the glass and bowl along with the toothbrush. “Would you like
another glass of water? I imagine you are still quite
thirsty.” At his nod, she brought another glass and he eagerly
took several sips before handing it back.
She leaned down to kiss him. His reaction was one of confusion
and pleasure. “Don’t be concerned. I have been kissing you
several times daily for the past four months and you seemed to like
“Would you tell me about these months? I have no clear memory.”
“I’ll tell you anything you want to know, only I’d prefer to be holding
you while I tell you. May I get in bed with you?” It seemed
strange to be asking permission, but she knew that she needed to
restore his dignity as part of his recovery.
He scooted over, making a place for her to rest next to him.
After settling against him, her arms holding him lightly, she began
telling him of the last months. He seemed to accept all Catherine
told him without being upset to know that she had intimately cared for
his body, doing all that a nurse and wife would normally do. As
she talked, his eyes closed and he drifted asleep. The steady
beating of his heart was an anthem of love to Catherine and she, too,
relaxed into a deep slumber. Winslow assumed from the prolonged
silence that they were sleeping and he moved to his own chamber,
suddenly aware of his own weariness, as he had not slept through the
Throughout the next days, Vincent had longer periods of being
awake. Catherine asked if wished to see Father, but he just shook
his head, “No, not yet.” He asked questions slowly, as he tried to
process all that had happened in the months of his coma. Whenever
he tried to talk about what had happened to him, he became upset and
would retreat for days into sleep. Catherine knew it was
imperative that he purge the events that had caused his injuries, but
was reluctant to force the conversation, hoping that it would come
Peter appeared one early afternoon when Vincent was awake. He
asked if he might check him over, especially his hands, which were
still bandaged. “Would you like to sit up and dangle your legs
while I look at your hands? I imagine you are tired of laying on
your back or side. May I help you?” Peter extended his hands and
waited for Vincent to decide about being touched. Vincent nodded
and Peter griped his elbows, swinging him up, then assisting him in
easing his legs over the side of the bed. He stepped away,
returning quickly with a soft throw that had been draped over
Catherine’s chair, and covered Vincent’s legs and feet.
Sitting on the stool, Peter stared up at Vincent. The taller old
Victorian bed had a four-foot ground clearance which put Peter at eye
level with Vincent. Peter began to cut away the bandages from Vincent’s
hands. “Are you able to flex your fingers?” Vincent
responded with small flexing, but was unable to fully extend his right
pinky finger. “This injury has had me worried from the
beginning. I have been re-reading a lot about hand surgery and,
after I study a little while longer, if you are willing, I’d like you
to consider allowing me to do surgery. You might not know it, but
I studied for nearly six month to be a hand surgeon before deciding it
wasn’t truly my calling. From what I saw when this first
happened, I believe a nerve has been nicked but not severed and, with
surgery, I should be able to restore it.”
Gently, Peter touched and probed the area, touching and stretching all
his fingers. “This nail is going to need to be removed. Do
you see the new nail trying to grow out from beneath the damaged
nail? I’d rather remove it than chance that the new nail will
attach itself to the injured nail, making the removal more
complicated. It would require that I put at least two, if not,
three hypodermic needles into that finger. I’m aware that those
bastards used needles on you. I wouldn’t ask this of you if it
was not necessary. Will you think about this and let me know?
“We’d need to bring you back to hospital chamber for the surgery on the
nerve and nail removal. I’d keep you in the hospital area for at
least 36 hours following the surgery, but then I’d want you brought
back here, just you and Cathy. I think you are aware that Cathy
is responsible for bringing you back to us. Once you are mobile
and able to walk on your own, Winslow will return to the home tunnels.
Your complete recovery will be a struggle, and I am sure that, with
Cathy at your side and with solitude, together you will be able to find
your way home to those who love you.”
Peter cleansed his fingers and re-bandaged only his right pinky,
protecting it with a splint. He brought the bandage up and around
his palm, protecting the still-seeping wound. “I want you to work
at flexing the other fingers; use both hands if you need to, but I want
you to extend them for one-two minutes at a time. Would you like
to attempt to stand?” At Vincent's nod, Peter slipped his arms beneath
Vincent’s shoulders and gently helped him to stand. He stood for
only a few seconds when his legs began to wobble violently. “Ok,
that’s enough,” Peter said as he eased Vincent back to the bed.
“I’ll ask Winslow if he could help you re-learn how to stand.
Just a few seconds at a time each day, until you have worked up to
standing for a minute at a time. Baby steps, I know, that will
frustrate you, but they are necessary. You have some deep cuts in
the thigh muscles, so you will need to retrain them.
“Just follow where Cathy leads and trust her completely. Her
instincts are sound and the depth of her love will guide you. She
has been the force behind your recovery thus far and there is no reason
to expect that she won’t lead you the rest of the way home.”
Peter leaned over to place a hand on Vincent’s shoulder, a grasp that
confirmed the unspoken affection and love between the two men.
“Send me word when you decide about the surgery. Otherwise, I’ll
see you in a couple of weeks.”
Vincent stayed awake after Peter’s visit, until Catherine’s return from
the bathing pool. Her hair was damp and she had it wrapped in a
towel. “Was your swim refreshing?”
“Yes, I hope I wasn’t gone too long. Would you like to go to the
pool tonight for a bath? I can arrange for the pool gang to come
“Pool gang? What do you mean?”
“I’m sorry. You were deeply asleep all the times we carried you to the pool so I could bathe you.”
“You bathed me!” His voice shook and his eyes were huge with
surprise and horror that Catherine should have seen him naked.
“OK, you can stop that right now! Get that look of horror off
your face! Who do you think has attended to your body since I
returned to find you still laying in the filth of those perverted
bastards? The first night I returned to the city, after I had
sent Father off to bed, your friends carried you to the bathing
pool. After they left, Winslow carried you into the pool.
He kept his back to your nude body while he washed your hair and I
washed their filth from your skin.
“The thing I cared about was removing the dirt, filth, and smell from
you. You are the man I worship and I wasn’t offended at your
nudity. When I couldn’t get you to the bathing pool, I gave you a
nightly bed-bath. And, just so we are clear, I also attended to
all your bodily functions all these months while you have been in a
coma! So there is nothing about you that I don’t know, haven’t
seen, or haven’t done for you. I’m not ashamed, and I refuse to
allow you to be embarrassed because of what I did for you!
“I don’t know any way to love you but completely, with my whole body
and soul. I can’t love you with half a heart; it has to be with
all that is in me – wholly and completely. I wasn’t repulsed by
having intimately cared for your body, and I refuse to allow you to
create a wall between us, because of this.” Her breath came in an
explosive rush, as she took a deep breath.
She walked over to the bed, took his startled face in her hands and
kissed him with all the love she felt. Her mouth was soft,
pliant, molding itself to his, her tongue licking softly at his lower
lip, seeking to taste him more fully. The soft sound of pleasure
came on a gentle sigh from deep in his throat; as his lips parted, he
felt the joy as Catherine’s tongue feasted on his unique taste.
She continued to deepen the kiss, desperately needing this intimacy,
assuring herself that her beloved was awake and his mouth was eagerly
joining with hers, in this wondrous expression of love.
Tears brimmed Catherine’s lashes when she finally ended the kiss.
She kissed his face, his eyes and throat before she rested her head
against his chest. “I thought I dreamed of your mouth on mine,
the silky feel of your skin against my lips, and your soft hands upon
me,” he huskily murmured. “When I slept, I dreamed of your soft
body, but I didn’t know it was real. I slept with my face against
your breasts, didn’t I?”
“Yes. Many nights, when you relived the horror of what happened,
the only way I could calm you was to hold you against my breasts.
It was the scent of my skin, my perfume, that calmed you and brought
you from your nightmares. I’d put Winslow’s hand on top of mind,
ask you to sniff his scent. It was the only way you would allow
him or Father to touch you.”
Winslow called through the curtain. “Catherine, I’m going up to
meet William, who has our evening meal. I should be gone about
twenty minutes and we can eat as soon as I return. That is, if
you are hungry and ready for dinner.”
“Yes, I think we will be ready to eat as soon as you return.”
Turning to face Vincent, she asked, “When he returns, would you prefer
us to eat alone or would you like to ask Winslow to join us for our
“As much as I prefer your company exclusively, it would be rude not to
ask Winslow to join us. He has given up his world and
responsibilities to help take care of me. The very least I owe
him is to spend time over our meal with him.”
Vincent’s ability to stand proved to be more of a challenge than had
been expected. His legs were weakened by the deep cut inflicted
on his thigh muscles, and it took weeks before he was able to
stand. Tomorrow, the surgery on his hand and nail was
scheduled. He told Catherine he had faith in Peter’s skills, but
he was fearful of his reaction when Peter had to use needles on
him. The horror was still vivid within his mind and he was
literally terrified as to how he would react to Peter’s inserting
needles into his skin. “Whatever comes, whatever happens, I will
be beside you. You won’t be alone.”
The surgery had been prepared and stood ready. Together, Winslow
and Kanin carried Vincent’s stretcher to the surgery. They grasp
his shoulder in farewell, assuring Catherine they would be ready when
needed to transport him back to their chamber.
Jacob and Peter decided to use Ether to sedate Vincent because of his
possible reaction to hypodermic needles. Catherine insisted on
being present during the surgery so that she could calm him. The
surgery was delicate and time consuming, as Peter worked to restore the
tiny nerve that had been nicked.
Three hours passed before Vincent was carried into the hospital chamber
and put to bed. Catherine moved one of the beds against Vincent’s
so that she could lie beside him. Peter decided to keep Vincent
in a medically-induced coma for the first forty-eight hours because it
would be necessary to use hypodermic needles to dull the pain in his
Together Peter and Jacob took turns, along with Mary, in staying with
Catherine, relieving her as often as she would allow, as she continued
her non-stop care of Vincent. She sat for hours stroking him,
softly speaking of her love for him, and kissing his beloved face.
Father tried to get Catherine to move to another bed to sleep but she
refused, insisting that she had to be near Vincent at all times.
The two doctors stood in the passage outside the hospital chamber when
Father spoke in a rush of exasperation. “She acts like I’m going
to harm him. He’s my son and I should be allowed to be alone with
him. Damn! She can be so stubborn!” His voice shook with
“If you ever want your son back, Jacob, you’ll leave them alone.
Vincent doesn’t need his father. Vincent needs his woman!”
Peter chuckled at Jacob’s shocked expression.
They allowed Vincent to awaken naturally late on the third day
following surgery. Peter had him hooked to an IV unit to keep him
hydrated, but also so that he could provide pain medication without
having to use a separate needle. The pain medication was light, barely
more than baby aspirin, because they were fearful of the reaction he
might have, since his body had been ravaged by all the drugs that were
pumped into him. Peter opted to use light doses more frequently
than a heavier dose that would sedate him completely.
Consequently, it was another two days before Vincent was allowed to
leave hospital and return to his home with Catherine.
The first two days they were home, Vincent slept most of the
time. He stirred when Catherine changed the bandages on his hand
and often growled deep in his throat when she touched his finger while
spreading the antiseptic ointment. She resumed stretching the muscles
of his arms and legs, working to bring back muscle tone to his ravaged
Catherine awakened, suddenly cold and shaking with fear Vincent was not
in bed with her. “Vincent, where are you?” She slipped out
of bed, softly calling him and she lit the lantern. She reached
the drapery, ready to pull it aside to call Winslow, when she heard a
low pitch growl. Carefully, she searched the chamber, trying to
follow the sound. It seemed to be coming from near the bed.
Getting on her knees, she peered beneath the tall bed; at first she saw
nothing, then she heard the growling more clearly. “Vincent,
you’re safe.” At the sound of her voice, the growling grew
louder, more pronounced.
Lifting a hand, she reached out, but the growling grew louder more
visceral. “Vincent, you’re safe here with me. No one will
hurt you.” Calmly, she spoke repeating the litany that had calmed
He began to cry, begging them not to hurt him anymore, pleading for
Catherine to come back to him. With the aid of the lantern,
Catherine could see he was curled in a fetal position, his hands over
his head, as if protecting himself from blows. His feral screams
grew more intense, his leg shot out as he tried to kick at his unseen
enemy. He screamed Catherine’s name repeatedly, over and over calling
her to come back.
Winslow burst into the chamber and he immediately dropped to his knees peering beneath the bed. “What the hell happened?”
“I don’t know. I woke up, he wasn’t in bed, but I could hear him
whimpering, and then growling. Give me one of the pillows.”
She fumbled in the dresser drawer, grabbed her perfume and spritzed
some on the pillow and shoved it under the bed. Waiting only a
brief second, she began crawling on her belly under the bed.
“No, Catherine!” Winslow tried to grab her legs and pull her back toward safety. “He isn’t himself, don’t!”
“Vincent, Vincent…take a deep breath.” His cries became louder as
she finally reached out to him. He grabbed her, his screams
echoing in the stillness, and he pulled her against his body, trying to
fold her within the circle of his body. He shivered violently,
causing Catherine to shake, so strong was his grip; he continued to
clutch her tightly. She willed herself to relax, allowing him to
bend, move, and control her body.
Even in the dim light, Catherine was aware of his terror filled eyes,
the tears that streamed down his cheeks. She worked, wiggling
until she got her arm free, and began to stroke his face while
whispering his name. His arm gripped her tightly around her hips
and his back bore down, trying to conceal her completely from the
unseen enemy who sought to harm them.
Suddenly, she heard Winslow’s voice raised in anger. “No, you
stay out there, Father. Leave them alone. If anyone can
help him now, it’s Catherine. You will only make it worse if you
try to go in. Sit down over there and be quiet.”
“Thank you,” she whispered quietly. “He doesn’t need Father now,
he needs me.” She continued to stroke his face, speaking softly
and kissing away his tears. An hour passed before he quieted and
the guttural sounds ceased. She pushed lightly against Vincent’s
chest, and he eased slightly away from her and loosened his tight
grip around her hips. Waiting silently, she finally heard the
deep breathing as his body relaxed into sleep.
“Winslow? Can you slip far enough under the bed to bring the quilt and a couple more pillows?”
“I could lift off the mattress and box-spring, and then lift the bed frame away so we could get him out.”
“OK, but if he wakes up, you will have to stop immediately.”
The gentle giant quickly removed the mattress and box-spring, then
lifted away one of the side frame supports so he could simply walk
straight to where Vincent lay. Carefully, he slowly moved Vincent
so that Catherine could slip out from under him. “Father's
outside, get him so he can help you put the bed back together.
Vincent is dead weight like this and I don’t want to pick him up
twice. Try to move your recliner over this way, so I can sit down
with him while you assemble the bed.”
Father and Catherine worked to get the bed put back together and
straighten the sheets. They both steadied Winslow as he rose to
his full height with his burden. They silently watched as he put
his friend back in bed. Father stepped to the bedside and took
Vincent’s pulse and listened to his breathing. “His pulse and
respiration are normal. What happened, Catherine? I awoke
and could hear his screaming.”
“I don’t know. We had a normal evening, went to bed and I awoke
to find him gone. I haven’t any clue as to what triggered this.”
“Come on, Jacob, I’ll walk you back up to the home tunnels. I’ll
be right back, Catherine.” Taking Jacob’s arm, he steered him
toward the drapery, oblivious to any protest that the tunnel physician
tried to utter.
“No, Winslow, I should remain. Vincent may need me.”
“Father, please. The only person he needs is Catherine. If
you want your son back, Catherine is your only hope. There is
nothing you or I can do; it all rests on her shoulders. Now,
please, come along.” He continued steering Father up the incline,
ignoring his loud protest.
Physically exhausted, Catherine bent to retrieve the last pillow from
the floor. “Oh, my love, you are in such pain. How can I
force you to relive your nightmare? But if I don’t, you will
never be free or be whole again.” Her voice was barely audible
whisper. Shaking, she turned off the lantern and crawled in bed
beside Vincent. He was sprawled in the center of the bed, taking
up a large portion of the mattress. She eased herself into the
tiny space remaining, hoping that Vincent didn’t roll toward her as
they would both end up on the floor.
Throughout the remainder of the night, Vincent moaned, crying out,
tossing restlessly. Knowing that she needed to remain close,
Catherine shifted with him as he tossed. Exhausted and desperate
for just a few hours sleep, Catherine moved across Vincent’s body to
lay on the side closest to the wall. She tugged and pulled until
she got Vincent on his side, with his face cushioned against her
body. She felt his nostrils flare. Catherine’s hands
fisted in his hair; gently she stroked and held him. His body suddenly
shivered, followed by a soft sigh and he settled into deep sleep.
Her own sigh was the perfect counter-point to his, as she followed him
Disoriented and groggy, Catherine awoke to the sensation of Vincent
nuzzling against her. His eyes were closed, and from his throat, came a
deep rumbling sound of contentment. She held him, knowing
instinctively that he needed the intimacy that this loving act touched
within the depth his soul. The man who had struggled to protect
her from his dark side was simply a man who desperately needed the
physical release he had long denied himself. Holding him close she
allowed him to snuggle against her softness.
Two hours later, Vincent spoke her name. The intimacy of his face
buried against her startled and shocked him; he tried to pull away, but
Catherine’s hands held him tightly. “It’s all right, stay where
you are. I have enjoyed holding you.” Her hands spoke
silently of her joy.
Holding onto Winslow’s strong arm, Vincent walked slowly to the top of
the trail and then turned to make their way slowly back. The
muscles in his thighs screamed in protest, but Vincent was determined
to regain the use of his legs. Winslow allowed Vincent to
instigate the topics of their conversation as they walked. Some
mornings, like today, he was silent and did not speak at all.
Breaking his silence, Winslow asked, “Would you like to go to the
bathing pool to soak your legs? We’ve been working them hard
today. The pool should be empty, but if it’s not, I can arrange
to close it so that no more come to use it. You could sit in the
carved- out seat in the deep end with your briefs on and dangle your
legs where the current is swift. Or, if you promise you won’t
drown, I’ll leave you alone in the pool to swim for a while.”
“Could I decide after we get there? The idea of the water is very appealing.”
“Sure. Just let me tell Catherine where we are going and I’ll get
you some clean clothing to wear on the trip back.” Winslow made
quick work of gathering towels and Vincent’s clean clothes plus telling
Catherine they were headed to the bathing pool.
From the niche by the passage entrance, Winslow grabbed the sign
bearing Vincent’s name and stuck it on the hook alerting anyone who
followed them that Vincent was using the pool and requested
privacy. He yelled loudly but no response came in reply, so
he stepped into the large chamber. Again he called, waited, and
received no reply. Together, the two men walked deeper into the
chamber. Vincent inhaled deeply, enjoying the tang in the air and the
sense of power that vibrated in the air from the falls. “What’s
it gonna to be –dangle or a swim?
“A swim sounds great but I don’t know if my legs are strong enough. Perhaps, I’ll just dangle them in the swift current.”
“Do you need my help in getting off your boots? That splint
doesn’t allow you much, if any, dexterity with your right hand.
Come on, let me help get them off and then I’ll leave you. Yell
if you get in any trouble or when you are ready to re-boot.” The
two men sat on the ground while Winslow worked at removing Vincent’s
boots and then pulled off his socks. Standing, he helped Vincent
rise, then turned and walked up the trail toward the passageway.
Once there, he seated himself on the ground with his back to the pool.
Vincent staggered on weakened legs to the rocks near the swift current,
stepped out of his jeans, sat and swung his legs into the cool
water. His muscles bunched in protest but he refused to give in,
keeping them in the water until the muscles finally relaxed.
After an hour, he was more than ready to get out and head back to
“Catherine, why don’t you go up to the home tunnels to visit with Mary
while Vincent and I have a chat? Mary asked me if you could pay
her a visit.” Peter continued talking as he gathered the scissors
from his medical bag and began removing the splint from Vincent’s
finger. Catherine kissed Vincent and then left them alone.
“This looks good. Try to move the finger.” Peter watched as
the finger slowly flexed. “Good, good. Looks like the
surgery saved that nerve and if you keep working, you should have full
use of your hand.
“Vincent, I understand from Jacob that you had a rather violent
flashback. I wanted you to know that if you are willing to talk,
I’m willing to listen. It’s imperative that you speak of all that
happened, to cleanse your psyche and soul of what was done to
you. As long as it remains locked inside, it has power, and that
power is keeping you from your destiny.
“Cathy’s love for you is beyond anything I have witnessed. There
is nothing she wouldn’t do for you; she is willing to go to any length
to bring you back from the horror to which you were subjected. Do
you have the courage conquer it?”
Vincent grimaced, as he struggled to reply. He knew it must be
faced, yet it completely gripped and dominated his mind. Awake,
he remembered only snatches of it, but it haunted and dammed his sleep,
holding him captive. He was aware of all he had subjected
Catherine to in the last months, as well as the devotion of Winslow.
“Perhaps you could begin by just telling me how you came to the building where we found you.”
“I’m not clear as to how I got there. I don’t think I went there
on my own, but rather I was taken there by the gang. Catherine
and I had a disagreement; we parted in anger and hurt feelings on both
sides. She was crying when I left. Unbeknownst to me, Mr.
Moreno sent her out of state the next day. When I calmed down, I
went to her balcony only to find her apartment dark and empty. I
had no sense of her; I knew only that she was gone. My mind was
fixated on her having left me for Mr. Burch. I would die without
Catherine. I roamed the city, staying out later and later.
Once, I found myself asleep in a packing crate in an alley in broad
daylight. There was a fight, but after that it gets fuzzy.”
“It’s a start, Vincent, and that’s what’s important. Just tell me
anything you remember, it doesn’t have to be in order, just what comes
to your mind.”
“I slept after awakening in the daylight. Just before I was fully
conscious, I felt a hard prick in my hand. After that, I don’t
remember anything until I awoke in a building. I was surrounded
by people I had never seen. They were dirty and smelled. It
was their foul body odor that actually awakened me. My vision was
blurry; I kept seeing double. I asked for water and they finally
gave me some, but it tasted dreadful. I think it was spiked with
hallucinogenic drugs. I felt as I did when Paracelsus gave me
those drugs. I saw animals, people coming at me with knives,
“They drove a spike or large nail into my hand and I blacked out after
that. I seemed to exist in a world of pain that I couldn’t
“If they had driven the spike even 1 cm. to the left, you would have lost the use of your hand.”
Vincent began to pace, his eyes no longer registering what he saw or
where he was. Once again, he was within a world dominated by
drugs, people who had lost their sense of humanity. Their only
purpose was to inflict pain, torture, and maim the freak, as they
called him. Vincent screamed as he fell to his knees, rolling in
anguish, his hand tightly gripping his thigh muscles. “Blood, I
have to stop the blood.” His voice rose and his hands continued to
clutch at his torn flesh. His hands came up, covering his head as
he tried to protect himself from the imaginary blows that rained down
He lay on the floor, lost within his nightmare. Seizure after
seizure ripped through him, causing him to jerk upward as he began
screaming, his body curling into a fetal position. From his
position, Peter could see Vincent’s body bow inward and, mentally, he
could see the flash of a board slamming into Vincent’s back as
Vincent’s tried to escape.
“Vincent!” Catherine's scream split the air as she ran into the
chamber. She threw herself onto his convulsing body. Her
hands fought to gain access to his face, to stroke him and whisper of
“No, Cathy, let him relive it. He’s telling me what happened to
him. Go outside and leave us. I’ll take care of him.”
He moved over to where Catherine lay, clutching Vincent and literally
picked her up and off his body. Winslow stood in the door as
Peter propelled Catherine toward him. “Please keep her outside;
she doesn’t need to witness this.”
Screams and words intermingled in a cacophony of agony that continued
for the next two hours. Vincent wept, calling for Catherine,
then, just as suddenly, he was screaming for them not to hurt his
beloved. His legs and arms lashed outward, fighting off the
assailants; his hands lashed out trying to inflict pain on those
attacking him. His mouth was open, spittle flowing, as he roared
and flashed his teeth. He whimpered, tears streaming down his
face, intermingled with raw fear-filled sweat. Groans and moans
followed fresh tears as Vincent crawled several feet and then
collapsed, once again, into a tight fetal ball. His body
shuddered and then he lay still, unmoving.
Peter immediately listened to his heart and took his pulse. His
heart was racing, but the beats were strong. He yanked the quilt
from the bed and covered Vincent, knowing he would soon start to shake
with cold. He stayed next to Vincent on the floor; his hand
gently stroked his back as he softly spoke his name. An hour
passed before Vincent’s pulse slowed to normal and his body relaxed.
The big man’s head appeared through the drapery and he stepped inside.
“Together, I think we can get him into bed. I imagine he will
sleep for a while.” Working together, the two men lifted Vincent into
bed. “Could you get me a pail of water? He’s covered in
sweat and I’ll need to get him clean before he will sleep soundly.”
“Should I let Catherine come in? I had to hold her down out there while he was screaming.”
“Yes, send her in.”
Catherine was inside before Winslow had cleared the entry on his way out. Her eyes were red and her face a mask of pain.
“We need to give him a quick bath. He sweated so much his clothes
are wet. Does he have pajamas handy?” While Catherine got
clean clothing, Peter began the job of undressing Vincent. Aside
from clean pajamas, Catherine brought two clean sheets.
Winslow returned with the pail of water. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Yes. Let’s try to roll him on his side so I can get the bath
sheet from under him. If we don’t, we’ll have to remake the whole
bed because his sweat-stained clothes will cause the bed to
smell.” Silently, the group worked to get Vincent clean and
odor-free. “Maybe we should just have called the pool gang and
taken him there. It might have been easier.”
As he had previously done, Winslow avoided actually looking directly at
Vincent while he helped. He remembered what Vincent had looked
like the last time he had swam naked with Pascal and Devin, and he was
certain his body wasn’t all that different than he had been at twelve,
but this was his life-long friend whom he loved and respected, so he
continued to avoid looking at his nude body.
“Winslow, would you mind staying with Vincent for a few minutes while I
talk with Cathy?” Taking her arm, Peter headed toward the
entrance and moved to sit on the stones which surrounded the grill.
“Cathy, I know you heard all he said. He was so tightly within
his nightmare, he actually showed me with his body movements all that
happened. I’m going to be staying Below tonight, in one of the
guest chambers, and I will be back first thing in the morning.
This is just the first round and, while there is progress, Vincent has
to verbalize what happened. I promised him I would say nothing
and that’s what I mean to do.
“I want you to go back in there and take care of him, just as you have
previously done after he has relived his nightmare. Do nothing
different than you normally do. Talk with him as you have been,
read to him, and touch him. It is your touch that he needs to negate
all the brutality that was inflicted upon his body and mind.”
Catherine’s face was a sea of anguish from all she had heard. She had
tried several times to get inside, but Winslow had prevented her.
She shook with rage that Peter had prevented her from being with
“I can tell from that look that you want to rant and yell at me, but I
hope you won’t. I’m too tried for diatribes tonight. I have
to face Jacob now, because I know, if you heard him while you were with
Mary, Jacob also heard. I would assume Pascal and Kanin have had a
difficult time in keeping him in the library.” He gathered her
into his arms, held her tightly for several minutes and then gave her a
quick kiss. “I’ll see you in the morning. Good night.”
Shaking and fighting to gain control of her emotions Catherine squared
her shoulders, lifted the drapery and walked inside where Winslow was
waiting. “Thank you for all you have done. I’m sorry I was
so difficult out there,” she gestured toward the drapery. “I knew
you were only doing as Peter had asked.
“Catherine, you have nothing to apologize for. You heard him in
agony and instinctively you charged in to help. What you did was
natural and normal. You owe me no apology. I was hard
pressed to stay outside when it first started, but I forced myself to
sit, to wait until I was needed.
“Why don’t we gather up the dirty pillow cases, sheets, towels and his
clothing and I’ll take them up to the washing area. I can get
him, some more clothing, maybe even another set of pajamas, from his
chamber. We should probably be prepared that we might need to do
this again. I’ll get more sheets and towels, too. Will you
be all right here alone? It will probably take me almost an hour
hours round trip.”
“He is blessed in your friendship, Winslow, and I feel blessed, too, in
having the pleasure of calling you my friend. Thank you for
everything.” Although she was ready to collapse from what had
taken place, she managed to stand on her toes to give Winslow a kiss on
his cheek. He smiled and turned a light shade of red as he left
to complete his chores.
Alone, Catherine felt her exhaustion take hold, leaving her weak and
shaking. She checked Vincent, stroking his face and kissing him
several times then settled into the small recliner. She pushed
the lift lever only enough to raise her feet up but not enough to allow
herself to fully recline. Her mind raced over the events as she
knew them. A part of her was still upset with Peter but she also
recognized the deep love and respect that kept him from revealing what
he had seen. Anyone who knew Peter would never question his
ethics and nothing ever made him go back on his word once it was
given. Professionally, this trait had caused him the loss of
several prestigious fellowships but he never turned his back on his
Peter arrived early in the morning, making a quick physical examination
of Vincent, who slept through the entire exam. After a few
questions, he informed Catherine he was going Above to collect a couple
of changes of clothing and he would return quickly. He felt
Vincent would continue to sleep but, if he awoke, he instructed her to
continue as she had been.
Hours later, very casually dressed in jeans and a sweater, Peter made
his second visit to Vincent. This time, he found Vincent drifting
in and out of sleep and purposely decided to push toward keeping him
awake. His friendship with Vincent caused conflicted feelings
within his professional judgment. He knew that, physically,
Vincent was exhausted from the hours-long session of yesterday and that
sleep would benefit his exhausted body, but he was also very aware that
the breakthrough in his mental state of yesterday needed to be
continued. He mustn’t be allowed to build higher walls to protect
himself from the horror that was done to his body and his mind.
“Come on, Vincent, it’s time to wake up. You’ve slept long enough
and we have work to do.” Perched on the side of the bed, Peter
took Vincent by the shoulders and raised him to sitting position.
He grabbed the wedge pillow and put it behind him to keep him
upright. “Winslow has breakfast cooking so let’s get your hygiene
out of the way, and then you’ll be ready for breakfast.” Lethargic and
non-communicating didn’t faze Peter, as he continued to prod Vincent to
care for his bodily needs and a brief morning wash.
Stepping to the drapery, Peter walked out to retrieve a bowl of oatmeal
and a cup of tea from Catherine. He smiled brightly at her, but
his voice was steel as he uttered a single word, “Stay.”
Returning to his patient, he handed Vincent the bowl of oatmeal and sat
in companionable silence watching him eat. Occasionally, he
handed over the cup of tea, which Vincent greedily accepted.
Peter joined Vincent in a second cup of tea and then carried the dishes
out to Catherine.
“How much of our conversation of yesterday do you remember?” Peter was
eager to begin the session, not wishing to allow a great time lapse.
“Not a lot, just brief snatches of words, phrases and some mental pictures of what happened at the warehouse.”
“Were you struck in the back with a board or a heavy club?”
Vincent stared in shocked horror, mentally reliving that moment again,
feeling the board with nails being slammed into his back. His
screams of agony echoed within his mind, as he felt the sharp pain as
the nails penetrated his flesh, the anguish as they pulled and ripped
the nails from his body. His voice trembled. “How do you know?”
“Body language. Yesterday, you bowed your back inward, then
screamed, the way your body shuttered. Your reaction was so
vivid; ethereal. I could literally see the board striking you,
repeatedly, as your body reacted to the anguish you were
enduring. The mind holds images long after the memory is
forgotten, which is why it is imperative that we cleanse your mind of
“I realize speaking of what was done to you is difficult beyond all
imagining, but, believe me when I say, it is necessary in order for you
to heal. A man, such as you, does not experience physical abuse
without needing to confront his rage that this happened to someone
others see as invincible, a tower of strength, or one who is able to
handle himself well in a physical confrontation.
Peter paused, taking a deep breath before he continued, judging Vincent’s mental condition.
“Men are not supposed to be weak, yet we all are weak when faced with
being savagely beaten with clubs, nails driven into our flesh, our
bodies shot full of mind-altering drugs, and our bodies cut with
knives. Very few, if any men, are able to come out of that kind
of experience without deep psychological scars. The wise ones
seek help in order to become whole again. The others live a half
life, often venting their rage on the innocent in their own lives.
“It has been the profound love of Catherine that has brought you out of
the rages and nightmares. The distinctive scent of her body, her
perfume, has been buried deep within you and those scents have
protected her. When others have been fearful, she has been
absolutely fearless of you. Do you know how she cared for your
dental hygiene? She got you to open your mouth, then put one
finger on your incisor and wrapped a mint-scented, wet cloth around
another finger and proceeded to wash your teeth. Jacob was
terrified when he first saw her do this, fearful your sharp teeth would
pierce her finger. She was calm, serene, as if she were cleansing
a baby’s teeth.”
A variety of emotions raced across Vincent’s face in rapid succession:
anger, fear, pride and, finally, calm acceptance of Catherine’s
long-held belief that he was incapable of ever harming her.
Within him a spark, a tiny candle flame, grew, pushing back the deep
shadows that had possessed him for three long years.
“You said my rages had been more or less harmless. What do you
mean, more or less? Have I harmed someone here since I returned
to the tunnels? Please, Peter, tell me the truth. I must
“Vincent, you and I have a relationship that is built on absolute
honesty. In one of your rages prior to Catherine’s return, anyone
who touched you was subject to personal attack. Before your arms
and legs were bound, you shoved Pascal hard enough that you broke his
arm. You also shoved Mouse when he accidentally touched your arm.”
Pain and anguish filled Vincent’s eyes as he stared at Peter. “I
broke Pascal’s arm? He must hate me for harming him so
violently. And Mouse, he is a baby brother to me. How can
they ever forgive me?”
“Pascal doesn’t know the meaning of the word hate. He didn’t even
acknowledge his arm was broken until after he had helped calm you and
then, only under protest, did he leave your chamber to be taken to the
hospital. Pascal came to read to you every day before we moved
you down here, freeing Catherine to relax and rest. As for Mouse,
he is convinced that you didn’t push him but that he tripped and fell
backwards, so great is his faith that you would never harm him.”
“Tell me more about them hitting you with the board?”
“They were building something in the warehouse. Three of the
people got into a fight, two big men attacking a smaller man – a young
boy really – and I yelled for them to stop. That angered them and
they began to hit the boy with a board with nails. I must have
said something or tried to get free from the chains they had on
me. They started hitting me. I don’t remember much after
the second blow and the…the nail biting into my flesh…the agony of them
ripping the board away and then hitting me again.” Vincent
shivered, as the intense vivid memories came to the surface.
“That’s the body’s defense mechanism taking over, protecting your mind when your body no longer can.
“The other things that were done to you, the burns and the drugs, do you remember?”
“Pieces float back but not specific details. The torture was more
profound, beyond anything I had ever experienced. My clothing was
in tatters, hanging in strips from my shoulders. They hung me up
by my wrists, while throwing lighted matches at me.” Vincent’s
body began to shake, his eyes shifting all around the small chamber
seeking a refuge, a sanctuary from the mental images that bombarded his
mind. His shaking became a rocking motion, as his arms wrapped
around his body, seeking comfort from his horror. Suddenly, he
began to scream “Catherine, come back, Catherine.” The sound
reverberated within the small chamber, echo following echo, as the
sound grew with intensity.
“Don’t hurt me anymore. I can bear no more. Kill me, let me
die. I want to die. Catherine, forgive me.” His sobs grew
more intense, his face awash with tears and his eyes so large, his
pupils were no longer visible. He slid off the bed, falling and
rolling on the floor, as his cleansing screams continued.
Peter moved toward him and gathered him to his chest, holding this
unique soul tightly, as Vincent continued to scream, words mixing with
screams, followed by language that Peter never thought Vincent
knew. Words and phrases only heard on the streets, in the gutter,
poured from his mouth, as his rage continued unabated. Peter made
no effort to quiet his rage, he simply held him tightly, protecting him
from himself, so that he would do no harm to his healing hands and
body. The screams stopped when he had no voice left and, slowly,
he went limp in Peter’s arms. Peter held him for a long time
after he was silent, his own face wet from tears.
There were few words spoken during the time it took to bathe Vincent
and return him back in bed. Catherine cried as she ministered to
his body, her soft sobs muffled when, no longer able to bear her tears,
Winslow gathered her in his arms. Weary and emotionally
exhausted, the trio worked to make Vincent comfortable. He shook with
cold as they bathed him and, moments later, he would sweat and pant,
begging for water. They struggled to dress him in soft warm
pajamas and were, at last, able to pull the quilt over his body.
“Winslow, go on to bed. I’ll stay here with Cathy for
awhile. I know you are exhausted, too. Thank you for
everything; I’m not sure I could have gotten him into bed alone.”
Winslow made no effort to hide the tears that streamed down his face as
he turned to look, one final time, at Vincent, before slipping away.
Taking Catherine’s hand, Peter walked over to the recliner, sat down
and then pulled Catherine into his lap. Tenderly, he held her, as
she softly sobbed against his chest. After awhile, her sobs
ceased and she lay against Peter, exhausted and drained. “Cathy,
dear, get your night things and get ready for bed. I’ll stay here
and, if you don’t object, I’ll sleep right here.”
Peter jerked awake when his leg muscles cramped, pain shooting through
his calf muscle and shakily got to his feet. He staggered, more
than walked, out of the entrance and began stretching his cramped
aching muscles. Winslow sat on one of the stones beside the
impromptu camp fire. “Is that coffee I smell? I’d kill for
Silently, a cup was poured and the large arm extended. “Ahhh,
that tastes good.” They drank in companionable silence as each
man worked through the process of waking after their physically
“Why don’t you go ahead to the Bathing Pool, try to relax for awhile
and I’ll stay here. A couple of hours away will do you a world of
good. Don’t hurry, just take your time. I’ll go after you
“Thank you, Peter. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. A
swim will help to unkink my muscles. We have already missed
breakfast but it won’t be long until lunch is ready.” Winslow
stood and went to his chamber to gather his belongings.
Peter drank another cup of coffee before he went in to check on his
friends. They slept locked in each other’s arms. He smiled
as he looked down on them and then quietly left to return to the
Afternoon became evening and still the couple slept. Winslow
helped Peter carry the recliner out to the fire and then, together,
they retrieved Winslow’s soft chair. Quietly, they talked as they
waited. Shortly before midnight, Catherine parted the drapery
looking weary, with deep mauve circles beneath her eyes. She
acknowledged both men then, unsteadily, walked toward the
bathroom. She paused upon her returned, “Peter, I think Vincent
may need to relieve his bladder.”
“I know. I have already taken care of him. Go back to bed,
you’re exhausted and he will only sleep peacefully if you are beside
him.” His simple statement touched Catherine’s heart and a tiny
smile rewarded Peter’s loving words.
It was much later that night when Peter and Winslow brought the
recliner back inside the chamber. Before slipping into the
recliner, which was beginning to look very appealing to Peter, he took
Vincent’s pulse and listened to his heart. Satisfied his patient
was doing well, Peter was instantly asleep.
Well into the afternoon of the second day, Catherine came out to find
Winslow and Peter roasting marshmallows over the camp fire.
“Could I have one?” She looked sleep bedraggled, her normally
tidy hair was messy and wild, but the deep shadows were gone from
beneath her eyes. After consuming two sweet treats, she went to
the bathroom, gathered some towels, and headed to the Bathing
Pool. While she was gone, Peter took care of Vincent’s hygiene,
giving him a quick bed-bath as well as attending to his bodily needs.
“Catherine.” She jerked from the recliner at the sound of his voice, as she immediately rushed toward the bed.
Searching his eyes, she knew he was well and truly awake. She
covered his dear face with kisses before her mouth settled upon his.
Vincent’s mouth was warm as she deepened the kiss. He desired her
and wanted to feel her soft body beneath his. The thought of ever
sleeping without her beside him was impossible, now that he had known
some of the joys that awaited them. Catherine laid her head upon
Vincent’s chest, rejoicing in the steady beating of his heart.
They were still holding each other when Peter’s voice interrupted them.
“I heard your voice, may I come in?” His shoes were all that were visible behind the still-closed drapery.
“Of course, do come in, Peter.” It was only after Peter
approached the bed that Catherine reluctantly lifted her body away from
Vincent’s warm chest. She stepped away allowing Peter access to
Professional and competent, Peter quickly examined Vincent and then
proceeded to remove the bandage and splint from his injured
finger. “Flex your fingers for me – all of them, please.” He
watched as slowly the fingers bent and curled toward his palm.
“Good, good. The nail bed looks fine and I can just see a hint of
the new growth of nail. Can you slip your pants down far enough for me
to check the area of your thigh muscles where you were wounded?”
Aware of Vincent’s discomfort Catherine, gave him a quick kiss before
she slipped out the entrance. Alone, Vincent eased down his
pajama pants. “My fingers might be cool,” Peter warned, before
touching the tender pink skin. “You know, Vincent, that as a
doctor, I see thousands of bodies in my practice and, to me, they are
just the bodies of my patients; it is nothing personal. But when
it’s my turn to be the patient, I am as reluctant to undress and be
handled as you are. You aren’t alone in being shy about being
naked. It does, I assure you, become easier over time.
“Cathy understands far more than you realize. She has bathed you,
cared for you intimately, and performed every act necessary to make you
clean and comfortable. Yet, just now, she paid you the greatest
compliment in leaving, allowing your dignity to remain in tact.
Give some thought to all she has done, has seen, and learned from this
experience. She’s not afraid of you and from her actions; she
isn’t repulsed by your body.”
Vincent stared at Peter as he mentally processed all that Peter had
said. Catherine had cared for him, intimately, according to what
Peter had said, and he felt no sense of repulsion about his body within
their Bond. The thought surprised him; could he have been wrong
“The suture line is almost completely healed and the texture of your
thigh muscles is still a trifle weak but with continued work, they will
return. Just don’t overdo your exercising. Try walking a
little farther each day. Go ahead and pull your pants up.”
In spite of Peter’s words, Vincent felt immediately more comfortable
once his pants were up and the quilt covered him completely.
Silently, he wondered if he would ever be comfortable when he wasn’t
“I think you made great strides in purging your mind of your
attack. There will still be some rages, but I think my job here
is complete. Talk with Catherine and allow her spirit and love to
heal the rest of your horror. Don’t be afraid to confide in
her. She heard all of your screams, so there isn’t much about
what happened that she doesn’t know. Cathy is a strong woman and
she won’t break, so don’t be afraid to talk. Her love is the key
to your return to good mental health, just as her love is what destiny
has in store for you. Of that I am absolutely positive! It
may take a while, but I fully expect to be the person who gives Cathy
to you at your wedding.” Peter patted Vincent’s arm, then bent to
give him a gentle hug before departing.
From outside Vincent could hear Peter’s voice, “Winslow, I think you
and I should head up to the kitchen. I don’t know about you, but
I could eat one of William’s hardy meals. When we come back, I’ll
help you move your belongings back to your home chamber. It’s about
time we left these two love-birds alone.” His chuckle echoed and
then faded as the men walked up the incline.
“I would hold you.” His voice had not returned to normal and,
although it was a trifle thready, Catherine was still thrilled.
Gingerly, she slipped into the bed and curled into his arms. The twin
beatings of their hearts made words unnecessary. Each of them
knew that a new chapter of their lives was beginning and the door was
closing on the horror of the past months. From where her head
rested against his shoulder, Catherine kissed all the parts of his body
that were accessible. Vincent’s lips were pressed against her
hair and he breathed deeply the scent that still called to him.
Soft murmured words, half-formed thoughts, and tender touches became
their unspoken language of love. The language wove a magical veil
over the two lovers that encircled and encompassed them with a warm
world of sensory touches. The familiar background tapping of the
pipes became a song of tender love. The light enhanced the
shadows, softened the sharp edges and made them surreal.
They heard Peter and Winslow return, but still they did not
speak. Cocooned within their embrace, they were enshrined in a
world of their making. They drifted within the world created by
the love they shared, a love that knew no boundaries and that was
slowly becoming free of all barriers. A world they had
longed to enter. A world that destiny knew was their joined fate.
They softly laughed when Vincent’s stomach rumbled, and they realized
it was late and they had not eaten. Catherine helped Vincent into
his robe and together they went out to the camp fire. “Oh, how
sweet,” Catherine sighed. Before them was Winslow’s soft chair
with a beautiful knit throw draped over the arm. Arranged on the
outer edges of the grill, were several pots which emitted delicious
smells. On one of the rocks was a note, simply saying that
Winslow had moved home but he would return with food and, if he was
needed, to please tap.
After their meal, they walked up the incline and returned again to the
camp fire. Vincent insisted he was not tired so they moved past
their new home to an area that Catherine had not known existed.
Looking up, they could see a small patch of sky visible through all the
rocks. One lone star encompassed their view and Catherine
insisted that it was their personal star, that destiny hung in the
“You go ahead, I can wait until you are finished.” Catherine
kissed Vincent lightly as she moved toward the bathroom and, upon her
return several minutes later, she again kissed him.
“I think I remember you kissing me,” he grinned shyly at her, “every
time you left me and when you returned. Did I dream that?”
“No. You were so fretful if you awoke to find me not beside you,
so I decided if I kissed you when I left and when I returned, that you
would, hopefully, realize that between kisses, I would only be gone a
short time. I must have done that for nearly a month before you
responded with a slight movement of your lips. I was so thrilled
I couldn’t stop kissing you for a full five minutes. Father was
highly embarrassed when he came in and I continued to kiss you.”
He stared at her, in awe, aware of all he owed her because of her
dedication to his care. She was everything to him; he realized
anew that he was equally everything to her. His place in her life
was as all consuming as hers was within his. The deep knowledge
of Catherine’s love renewed him, creating not an obstacle to their life
together but, rather, a passage by which they could create their happy
“You have been with me every day for months, how is that possible? What of your job?”
“I quit. Nothing was going to keep me from you, so I submitted my
resignation. It was my fault you were injured. I should have
insisted on a later flight, then I wouldn’t have had to trust that a
note would reach you. Can you ever forgive me?”
“Catherine, there is nothing to forgive. Circumstances worked
against us and my own fears, that you would someday leave me, combined
to create the dynamics that conspired against us. I should have
had more faith in our devotion and not allowed my fears of being alone
again to have over-ruled our love.
“I have been afraid to admit the depth of my love, my need to have you
always within my world. I tried to live on what I thought was a
higher plain, by denying what we felt, but I can no longer live – nor
do I want to -- except as a man who worships, adores, and loves his
When Vincent returned from preparing for bed, he found Catherine
already asleep. He eased in beside her, gathering her carefully
into his arms. How right it felt to hold her so intimately, to
feel her softness through the gown that covered her body. He
nuzzled against her throat, inhaling the scent that was uniquely
Catherine. That scent, within his mind, was the essence of love,
a scent that he carried within him and only needed to breathe deeply to
know that was the exaltation of love.