Toni Carollo closed the file she held in her hands then glanced over at the woman sitting next to her. She reached out and put her hand over the hands that were systematically shredding a tissue. "You know, it’s going to be OK," she said reassuringly, brown eyes sympathetic.
The woman looked skeptical. Her normally clear eyes had gone the color of a stormy gray green sea. "You sound so sure," she said doubtfully.
"I am sure. It is Dr. Padgett’s recommendation. I’m only presenting it."
"What if they don’t agree with Dr. Padgett?" she asked.
"No one here would dare second guess Dr. Padgett, even if he is dead. He was a god in this hospital," said Toni with a laugh. "You just wait. We’ll have you out of here before the end of the week."
The door to the conference room opened and a secretary beckoned Toni. Toni turned to her companion. "You stay put for now," she told her. "If they feel the need to speak to you, they’ll call you in, but don’t worry if they don’t."
Toni gripped her file and walked confidently into the conference room. She took the chair at the end of the table as the secretary distributed copies to the other five people in the room.
The man at the other end of the table rose, and introduced himself.
"Miss Carollo, I’m Dr. Blake. I think you know everyone else; Sister Mary Alice Murphy, head of our nursing staff. Elizabeth Louis, our occupational therapist. Dr. Brian Gaylord, head of psychiatry and Dr. John Emory, from the medical side. I know that this is a different way of doing things, but I felt that it would be a good idea to have input from several different departments, at least until I’m more familiar with the patients and the staff here."
Toni nodded. "I quite understand, Dr. Blake," she said as she looked around the table. "I think everyone here is familiar with Miss West’s case, but I will read a summary of some of Dr. Padgett’s notes so Dr. Blake will know what we are all talking about."
Toni looked down at the typed sheet in her hand and began to read:
"In late September of 1989 a young woman was found wandering in a county park near Westchester, New York. She was wearing only dark blue sweats, a pink windbreaker and tennis shoes. She was extremely disoriented and the only thing she could tell authorities was that ‘the doctor’ had driven her there, let her out of the car and told her to go and hide in the woods until he was able to come back for her. When she was asked who ‘the doctor’ was, she was not able to tell them.
"The police questioned her. She did not know her name, her age, where she was from or anything from before what she called ‘the hospital.’ When they asked her what hospital, all she could do was shrug and tell them that she didn’t know, but that she thought she might have been the only patient; she never saw anyone but ‘the doctor’, an Oriental nurse, and several men in black uniforms who seemed to be guards. She said she occasionally saw another man who seemed to be in charge. The police asked her how long she had been there and she said she wasn’t sure, but thought it might have been a few months.
"She was held over night at the police station while a check was made at all the psychiatric facilities and other medical facilities in the state of New York and several surrounding states. No one was missing a patient."
She looked up from the paper and began paraphrasing what was written: "The next morning she was brought to this facility for evaluation. Dr. Padgett did the initial evaluation, and he was intrigued by the case and decided to admit her here rather than shuttle her over to county or the state hospital; he took the case himself. He eventually determined that the amnesia was probably caused by a combination of psychological trauma and drugs.
"The police department took photos that they circulated shortly after she was taken into custody, they are in black and white and they showed an extremely disheveled, grimy women who looked a lot older than the age of early to mid thirties Dr. Padgett later estimated. There is a copy of the photo in the papers you received. As you can see, she had dark circles under her eyes, her hair was past her shoulders and medium brown. It looked like she had once had it highlighted or lightened. She is about 5’4", and weighed only 90 pounds the first time she got on the scale here.
"Once she arrived here, she was given a private room. She was able to clean herself up with little assistance from the nurse. Then she went to bed and slept for the next twenty four hours, only getting up once to eat and a couple of times to use the bathroom.
"During the first few weeks she exhibited the classic symptoms of withdrawal, although they were mild.
"Dr. Padgett has treated her since she arrived eight months ago, and just before he died, he decided to recommend that "Jane D. West"…Jane D. for Jane Doe and West because she was found near Westchester…be released.
"Before he died, Dr. Padgett tasked me with finding Miss West a job and a place to live. I did that and she has a job and an apartment waiting for her not far from here near Scarsdale. It was Dr. Padgett’s opinion that Miss West has adjusted as well as can be expected to her situation. She is highly intelligent and understands that there is a good chance that she will recover her memory, either spontaneously all at once, or gradually over a period of time. She also understands that there is an equally good chance that she will never remember anything. She learns very quickly and is ready, willing and anxious to get on with her life."
Toni looked up from the notes. "Does anyone have any questions?" she asked.
"Is Miss West on any medications?" asked Sister Mary Alice.
"No, Sister, she isn’t. She hasn’t been medicated since the short period of withdrawal."
"I’m not familiar with this case," started Dr. Blake. "What kind of therapy was Dr. Padgett using to try to help Miss West recover her memory?"
"I worked with him, and he used primarily hypnosis. He opted not to enhance it with drugs. She seemed to be frightened of the idea, probably because drugs had been used before, plus, he determined that she had a pretty high tolerance because of the previous use. He thinks she found some memories, both from the months just before she came here and from childhood, and there was nothing there that would indicate who she is or where she came from."
"Did the police stake out the park to see if anyone ever returned for her?" asked Dr. Blake.
"Yes, they did; for about a week after she was found, but no one ever returned. They came to the conclusion that either this doctor couldn’t return or had never intended to."
"What did Dr. Padgett find from the time before she was found? I’ve read the blood work, and she had a pretty lethal combination of drugs in her system," said Dr. Emory.
"Most of what she said under hypnosis was disjointed and didn’t make a lot of sense, but he gathered that she’d been held captive by someone. Possibly kidnapped. He thought that someone was trying to get information out of her, and that was probably why they used the drugs. The methods were very sophisticated as was the mix of drugs. Dr. Padgett couldn’t break through the blocks she’d put up without causing further trauma and he was of the opinion that her captors never did either."
"Did he ever contact the police when he decided she had been kidnapped?" asked Dr. Blake.
"Yes. I sent letters of inquiry, there is a copy in the packet that you have. It included the photo taken when she was first found, and what little information we had. I sent it to every police and sheriff’s department from the northern border of Maine to the southern border of Virginia and from the coast to the west side of Pennsylvania. I even sent it to law enforcement offices in the area along the border in Canada. I received only a few responses and all of them were negative. The rest didn’t even acknowledge that the letter was received."
There were nods as everyone scanned the letter Toni mentioned.
"Does anyone have any input?" asked Dr. Blake.
"I evaluated Miss West a short time after she came here," said Elizabeth Louis. "My report is in her file. She is extremely bright. She speaks several languages: French quite well and a smattering of Italian, Spanish and German, but English is definitely her native tongue. She’d started doing several things on her own that I usually suggest to my patients. She keeps a journal and that was entirely her idea, and she came to me to find out if there was anything she could do to be useful, she said she was bored." Elizabeth smiled. "I suggested to Sister Mary Alice that Jane might be a good candidate for escort duty. She is completely trustworthy and responsible and has been helping escort patients to appointments here the hospital campus, and lately has even been escorting some on errands into town. She has been paid for her services."
"That pretty much answers my question," said Dr. Gaylord. "Since she has been working, then she has some money. Is it enough to get her started?"
"She has been paid minimum wage for her work and she has consistently worked approximately 20 to 30 hours a week. She has spent very little of what she has earned, and has enough in the bank to cover security deposits, purchase some furniture and clothing. If you concur with Dr. Padgett, she will start a full time job at a large chain bookstore next Monday."
Dr. Blake looked at his notes then at the others around the table. "Are there any more questions?" he asked. There were several head shakes. "Does anyone see any reason why we shouldn’t go with Dr. Padgett’s recommendation?"
Again, head shakes. He turned to Toni.
"As you can see, Miss Carollo, this is a very informal process." He smiled. "I just have one more question and that is, will Miss West be meeting with either you or one of our psychiatrists after her release?"
"Dr. Padgett wanted me to meet with her on a weekly basis to begin with and then taper off to whatever she feels comfortable with. I will maintain contact in case she does start to recover her memory and feels she needs someone to talk to. Once she is established in her job and has medical benefits, the insurance will cover the fees."
"Then, Miss Carollo, I think that Miss West will be able to leave us as soon as she wants to. Do you have any idea when that will be?"
"Day after tomorrow is the first of June and the owner of the property that we have arranged for her to rent said she could move in on or after the first. She can start the job on Monday."
When Toni left the conference room, Jane jumped to her feet.
"Well?" she asked anxiously.
"You can leave day after tomorrow," said Toni with a grin.
Jane had a hard time keeping from dancing around the waiting room. She did punch the air and let loose with a jubilant, if quiet "YES!"
Toni took Friday off to drive Jane to her new home.
Jane inspected the basement apartment and found it to her liking. It was tiny, only a bedroom and a bath on the back and a living room and kitchen on the front. The back was dug into a hill so there were no windows, but the front had one window and the door. There was even a small patio in front.
"It’s small," she commented, "but everything looks new."
"It is," said Toni. "Mr. Stokes, the landlord just bought and renovated the whole place. His mother lives just above you on the ground floor and he and his family are on the top two floors."
"Aside from no windows," said Jane with a chuckle, "it is quite nice; kind of cozy. What about utilities?"
"It’s all in the rent, except for the phone. You’ll have to have that installed. And there is an old fashioned boiler in the back of the basement. As you can see you have radiators to heat the place. Do you know how to adjust them?"
Jane looked at the radiator closest to her, and nodded. "I seem to be able to remember things like that…just not the important stuff," she said wryly. "I see that there are appliances so all I have to do is come up with furniture, a few dishes and some pots and pans. Where do you suggest I start?"
Jane and Toni spent the rest of the morning and a good bit of the afternoon going from thrift store to thrift store. By the end of the day, Jane had furnished the small apartment quite comfortably and with surprisingly good quality pieces. She seemed to have a knack for it. The only thing she bought new was a full sized mattress and box spring.
"How did you manage to talk all three of the store managers into delivering? I saw signs all over the place that said they don’t deliver," said Toni as she helped Jane push a loveseat into a better position.
"I just pointed out that we were driving a VW Bug and that if I couldn’t get it to my apartment there was no point in me buying it. They all wanted to make the sale so they agreed to deliver it if I could wait until after the stores closed. The mattress store was the only place that couldn’t deliver until tomorrow, but at least it will be here in the morning."
"Whatever it was, it worked. Where will you sleep tonight?" asked Toni.
"The love seat. It’s short and so am I, I can curl up," Jane said with a smile.
"So what are you planning to do tomorrow?"
"After the mattress gets here, I need to go find some clothes, didn’t you say that the bookstore said I needed khaki’s and they would supply shirts?"
"Yep, two short sleeve, and one long sleeve. If you want any more you’ll have to buy them."
"I also need underwear, pajamas, other clothing, bedding, towels, and groceries."
"There is a discount store two blocks from here, and a grocery store one block in the other direction. You actually pass it on your way to the bookstore."
"How about somewhere to get my hair cut?" asked Jane as she pulled her long braid over her shoulder.
"Same shopping center that the bookstore is in," said Toni. "How much you going to get cut off?"
"About two feet," Jane said with a laugh. "Actually about up to my shoulders. It will be easier to take care of but still long enough to pull back if it starts to get in the way."
Toni left that evening, confident that Jane was on her way to a normal life. When they met a week later at Jane’s cozy basement apartment Toni was amazed at the differences.
Jane had made a visit to a beauty parlor and the cut was perfect. Her hair turned neatly under just above her shoulders, was parted on the side she had it tucked behind her ears. She had also made a visit to the cosmetic counter at the store where she’d purchased much of her new wardrobe.
"You look fantastic, Jane!" Toni exclaimed after Jane opened the door. "And you’ve done wonders with this place."
"It isn’t too much, is it?" asked Jane referring to the makeup and hair.
"Absolutely not! Just right, in my opinion. I love the little bit of high lighting you’ve done around your face, and the moisturizer and little bit of color on your cheeks and lips is just right."
"Thanks, I did the highlights myself with a kit from the store. I was afraid to do too much, and I think I actually did too little, but maybe next time I’ll have the courage to do more." She grinned and indicated the apartment. "What do you think of the place?"
"Very nice," approved Toni. "You think you’ll be able to find the time to do mine?" she added only half jokingly. She stood in the middle of the room and did a slow pivot and took it all in. Jane had added framed pictures on the walls, several of them simple line drawings and the rest black and white photos of landscapes. Colorful throw pillows, lamps, and a couple of throw rugs added color. She had hung a mirror in the small living room; it reflected the light from the front window and made the room seem brighter and larger. She had worked the same kind of magic in her bedroom.
"Where did you get that beautiful quilt?" Tony asked, nodding at the bed.
"Second hand store. I went into look at the clothing and it was on a rack right inside the door, it is a Queen size so it is perfect as a bedspread on a full size bed. It had a rip in the backing so they were selling it for next to nothing. I got it, several nice pairs of dressy slacks, two silk blouses, a dress and a blazer for $40."
"I need to get you to teach me how to shop! And I love the candles!" There were several in each room.
"I was in the candle department at the discount store and I got a little carried away. The landlord told me that this area is prone to power outages, especially during storms and advised me to pick up a flashlight and some utility candles. We actually had the power go out night before last and I found that I almost prefer the candlelight to the electric lamps." She pointed at an old tarnished candelabrum that sat on the small wooden table that served as her dining table. "That even throws enough light to read by."
The two women seated themselves on the loveseat and the conversation became more businesslike. Toni was glad to hear that Jane was settling in well, adjusting and enjoying her new job.
At work, Jane caught on very quickly, and she surprised even herself at her knowledge of literature. It was comforting to know that she remembered something besides how to adjust the radiator.
She liked the job, and joked that she spent more of her paycheck on books than she did on groceries. She had to make another visit to the thrift shop to buy a bookshelf.
She made friends quickly. But she clicked immediately with a woman about her age. She was a single mother with a four year old son.
Jane spent a lot of her time off with Amanda and Andrew.
By the end of summer Jane had become kind of an assistant to the assistant-manager. The manager told her that if she kept up as she was going she would be an assistant manager by the end of the year. Jane welcomed the challenge and the extra responsibility; it helped to fill the time.
Jane and Amanda were watching Andrew play in the park one day at the end of September when Amanda asked Jane about her family.
Jane hadn’t told anyone her history, or lack of it, and her revelation came as a shock to Amanda.
"To be honest, Mandy, I don’t know if I have any. I’m inclined to think that I probably don’t; if I did, I would think that they would have been looking for me by now."
Amanda looked at Jane with a quirked eyebrow and a slight shake of her head. "What in the world does that mean?" she asked.
"It is a long story, but I guess not as long as it would be if I had thirty something years to tell you about. I can only remember the last year or so."
"Something happened to me last summer, or at least that is the assumed time, that caused me to lose my memory. I’ve been in a hospital where they tried to help me remember. They finally gave up and released me," said Jane.
"Jane, my God! That must be awful! You don’t remember anything?"
"Not consciously. Under hypnosis, my doctor was able to pull out some memories, but they didn’t stay with me once I woke up. When the police found me they said I that I told them that I had to find something and I was trying to get through a metal grate into a large storm drain in a county park not far from Westchester. I haven’t remembered anything and Dr. Padgett wasn’t sure exactly why."
Amanda looked like she was ready to cry, and Jane reached over and patted her hand.
"It isn’t so bad, Mandy. I mean, I’m healthy; I’m sane, even if I can’t remember my past. I’m smart and I can learn a job. I can take care of myself. I seem to have had a decent education. The only thing that bothers me is that I have this constant feeling that I’ve forgotten someone or something really important. For a while I was convinced that I might have a child and had forgotten him or her, but my psychiatrist showed me my medical reports and one of the points that the doctor made in it was that I’d never had children, so at least I don’t have to worry about that. But I still feel like I’ve forgotten something vitally important."
"Like what?" asked Amanda.
"I don’t know…a husband, or boyfriend? Maybe a parent. I just don’t know…"
The women were quiet for a while, then Andrew came over demanding that his mother come push him on the swing.
Later as they were leaving the playground, Amanda turned to Jane.
"My brother Andy, Andrew is named after him, has asked me to apartment sit for him over a three day weekend in a couple of weeks. He needs someone to feed his cats and fish. I thought Andrew and I would make a little vacation out of it. Andy lives in the Bronx and I thought I’d take Andrew to the zoo and the Museum of Natural History while we are there."
"Goin’ to see the dinosaurs!" sang Andrew as he heard his mother.
"Would you like to go with us?" Amanda asked. "You’ve been working like a fiend since you started at the store, you could use some recreation."
"That sounds like fun. I’ll see if I can get the days off."
Jane arranged to have the three days off and was looking forward to the excursion.
The night before they were supposed to go, the temperatures dipped to freezing, the first cold snap of the season. The heat came on for the first time sometime during the night and Jane woke up to the sound of the radiator pipes banging. She sat straight up in bed and her first thought on coming out of a sound sleep was "a message...I have to send a message."
Seconds later she was puzzling over why that had been her first reaction to the noisy pipes. She was sure that was what had caused the thought. She didn’t spend too much time thinking about it, she just noted it in her journal and got up to start her day.
Jane joined Amanda and Andrew on the drive to the Bronx. Andrew was beside himself with excitement as he kept telling Jane about all the animals they were going to see at the zoo. Amanda introduced Jane to her brother and then got the last minute instructions from Andy about his pets, as Jane supervised Andrew’s introduction to Andy’s cats.
After they were settled in, they left for the short walk to the Bronx Zoo.
"Uncle Andy says that he lives so close to the zoo that he can hear the lions roar sometimes late at night," Andrew told her in an awed voice as they waited in line at the entrance. "Do you think we’ll hear them tonight?" he asked.
"Maybe, if it is warm enough to leave the windows open. It has been pretty chilly the last few nights, though."
Jane found that she enjoyed the zoo as much as Andrew did. They were both fascinated by the lions. Andrew wanted to wait around for one to roar, but his impatience to see the gorillas overruled and he was off, his mother following in his wake. Jane hung back for one last look at the lions.
One of the big males was pacing from one side of his enclosure to the other. He seemed to notice Jane and started walking toward a spot opposite where she was standing. She started to fumble for her camera. She snapped her picture and was surprised when the lion looked right at her and roared. She had a momentary flash of another face, a human face with blue eyes, as it superimposed over the face of the lion several feet from her. She stumbled back and sat suddenly on a bench behind her. She sat for a moment catching her breath as she tried to make sense of what had just happened. The man’s face, she was sure it was a man, had blended with the lion’s face and she didn’t know where one ended and the other started.
She had almost forgotten the incident when it came back to her that evening as she was writing in her journal before she went to bed. She wrote it all out in as much detail as she could remember, still not able to figure out what had happened.
Jane was sleeping on the fold out sofa bed in Andy’s living room and Amanda and Andrew were sleeping in twin beds in the guest room. The sofa bed was a little lumpy and Jane had a hard time getting to sleep, but when she finally did go to sleep she slept soundly, until a dream woke her. She knew she dreamed just like everyone else, but she seldom remembered her dreams. She felt that if she remembered a dream or something from a dream it must be important so she was in the habit of writing it in her journal.
In the dream, she was in the dark. Normally she was not comfortable in the dark, but in the dream, instead of being frightened she actually felt safe and protected. She could feel arms around her, and she knew she was leaning on someone. That person was behind her and he was talking. She listened and it sounded like he was reciting poetry or reading it. He paused and it felt like he nuzzled her hair or kissed her head and she woke up. The dream was very vivid and she fumbled to turn on the lamp then to find her journal and pen. She wrote down as much as she could remember, then turned off the light and snuggled down again, hoping to recapture the feelings that the dream had evoked. If she dreamed again, she didn’t know, she slept soundly the rest of the night.
The plan for Saturday was to go to the museum in the morning, then get something from a street vendor for lunch and eat in the park before seeing the sights in the park.
Andrew was so excited about seeing the dinosaurs that he could hardly sit still long enough to eat his breakfast. It was also to be his first ride on a subway, and he was almost as excited about that as he was the dinosaurs.
They left around 9AM and they actually found three seats in the subway car together. Andrew spent the whole ride on his knees looking out the window behind them waving at people on platforms as they sped past. One change and three quarters of an hour later, they arrived at what Amanda thought was their stop. Once they reached street level they found that she had guessed pretty well.
"It’s been years since I’ve been to the museum," she told Jane. "The last time I was here we were on a junior high school field trip."
"I didn’t know you were from New York City," said Jane.
"Not the city. We actually lived on a farm with my Dad’s parents north of here. Not far from where I live now. When I was fifteen, Grandpa died; Grandma sold the farm to Dad, and moved to Florida. Then only a few years later Mom and Dad sold the place and followed Grandma to Florida. I have one other sister and brother besides Andy. I’m the youngest and Andy is less than a year older than me. Then our older sister, Alice, is ten years older than Andy and our oldest sibling, Adam, is twelve years older. Dad was in the Navy and was at sea a lot during the ten years between Alice and Andy. Andy and I came along right after he got out."
They had reached the museum and Andrew broke free of his mom’s grip and scampered up the steps with Amanda and Jane hot on his heels.
Several hours later they managed to drag a tired, hungry and cranky little boy out of the museum and across the street to the park. They purchased hot dogs and drinks from a vendor and went off in search of a quiet spot to eat. They found a sunny spot on the grass across the Turtle Pond from Belvedere Castle.
"Is it a real castle, Mom?" asked Andrew as he ate his hot dog.
"Not really, honey," she told him. "At least not one that anyone has ever lived in. I think it is something that used to be called a folly. It is just something that the people who designed the park decided should be there. You can go to the top of it and see a long way."
"Can we go to the top, Mom?" he asked.
"Sure, and we will take pictures too," she told him.
When they finished their hotdogs Andrew was complaining that he was still hungry.
"How about some ice cream?" asked Jane, looking at Amanda for approval. At her nod she continued. "I’m sure I saw an ice cream cart on our way here." She stood and brushed bits of grass off her jeans. "What would you like, Andrew?"
"Ice cream cone, one with chocolate and nuts on top," he said with enthusiasm.
"Mmm, sounds good. I might just have the same thing, what about you, Mandy?"
"How about one of those orange sherbet push up things?"
Jane left with the orders and returned a few minutes later with their ice cream.
Andrew was still plying his mother with questions.
"Why is it called the Turtle Pond, Mom?" he asked as Jane unwrapped his cone and handed it to him.
"I guess there are turtles in it," Amanda answered, "or at least there once were."
"Can I go look?" he asked, jumping to his feet and starting toward the water.
"No, not right now, Andrew. Sit down and finish your ice cream. And when you finish it I want you to sit still for a while to let your lunch settle."
They ate their ice cream in near silence only occasionally broken by Andrew’s questions. And they grew fewer and farther between as the boy succumbed to sleepiness and finally fell asleep with his head in his mother’s lap.
Amanda pried the last bit of cone out of Andrew’s sticky fingers and put it aside with the rest of the trash from their lunch. She rummaged though the back pack she carried in lieu of a purse and pulled out a plastic food storage bag containing several wet washcloths. She extracted one and gently cleaned the accumulation of chocolate and mustard off the sleeping child’s face and hands.
"You have motherhood down to a science," Jane commented as she watched the process. "How do you ever answer all his questions?"
"Sometimes I have to make it up," she answered with a smile. "Like the thing about the turtles. I have no idea if there are turtles in that pond. There could be alligators and sharks in it for all I know."
Jane laughed. "You realize that he will be recharged when he wakes up and we are going to have twice as much fun trying to keep up with him."
"Oh yeah, but at least I get a chance to catch my breath while he sleeps. Speaking of sleeping, I heard you tossing and turning last night. Didn’t you sleep well?" she asked.
"I slept OK. I just had a little trouble getting to sleep, the sofa bed is a little lumpy. Then once I got to sleep a dream woke me, but I got back to sleep pretty easily after that."
"Not a bad dream, I hope," said Amanda with concern in her voice.
"No, actually it was rather nice. I felt warm and protected and some man with a very soft, sexy voice was reading or reciting poetry. I couldn’t see anything, it was dark, but I could feel someone behind me holding me and I think he even kissed my hair."
"Mmm, that does sound nice. Do you think it might have something to do with a memory?"
"I was wondering the same thing. I’ve had several things happen the last few days that are strange, but they all had a familiar feel."
"Dreams?" asked Amanda.
"Not all. The other night at home, the heat came on the radiators started to bang and woke me. My first thought was that I had to send a message and I was listening very intently until I realized what I was doing. I don’t have any memory of ever knowing Morse Code, so I don’t know what I thought I was hearing. And yesterday at the zoo, the lion exhibit was interesting. When the lion roared I had a fleeting vision of another face superimposed over the lions face."
"What kind of face?"
"I’m not sure. It was human, mostly, with lovely blue eyes, but there were catlike features to it, I think," she closed her eyes and pictured what she could remember. "It was definitely male. His hair was reddish gold and looked like a lions mane and his face looked a little like a lion, only not quite. But his upper lip was split like a cat and when he opened his mouth to roar, he had teeth like a cat. It was really strange. But like I said it was only a fleeting glimpse and I could have been mistaken. I could have been blending a man’s face with the lion I was looking at."
"Probably, either that or you worked in the theater as a makeup artist," Amanda suggested whimsically.
"Now that sounds like fun," said Jane with a laugh.
Andrew slept for over an hour and a half and everyone was refreshed when he woke.
Their next stop was Belvedere Castle where they climbed up inside, admired the view and took pictures while Andrew pretended to be defending his castle.
They headed south and followed the signs to the carousel where Andrew rode three times before they convinced him it was time to get off.
They wandered the Ramble and around 4PM it was starting to get dark, and everyone was in agreement that it was time to head back to Uncle Andy’s place to get ready to go out for pizza.
They left the park at 72nd Street, crossed Central Park West and turned right to walk north. They walked a block as Jane was besieged with feelings of familiarity again; they had been coming and going all day. They were in front of an apartment building between 73rd and 74th when Jane felt compelled to stop and look up. What she was looking for, she had no idea, but she noticed that there were balconies.
"I bet those balconies give a great view of the park," she commented, as she looked up. "Especially on the upper floors."
"Can you imagine the rents in a place like that?" commented Amanda." Probably more than you and I make in a month combined."
"I thought most of these buildings were co-ops," said Jane, as they moved past the entrance to the next corner.
They were standing waiting for the light to change so they could cross 74th Street when Jane’s eyes wandered to the grate in the pavement near her feet. For some reason she felt a surge of warmth run through her and she smiled.
Then she felt someone staring at her. She looked up to meet the eyes of a pretty, dark haired, teenage girl who was waiting for the light to change to cross in the opposite direction. The girl was definitely staring at her. Jane smiled and nodded and as the light changed, Andrew grabbed her hand and pointed to a horse drawn carriage that was going up Central Park West.
Samantha had been to the library. She’d put on her Above clothes for the trip: jeans, sneakers, turtle neck sweater, and denim jacket, and she carried her backpack which now contained several books.
She was standing on the corner waiting for the light to change when two women with a small boy between them caught her eye. The one on the little boy’s left drew her attention. There was something familiar about her; the way she held herself and the way she moved. Samantha just couldn’t put her finger on it. And then, as if the woman had felt her eyes on her, she looked up at Samantha and smiled.
Samantha gasped; except for the brown hair which was pulled back in a pony tail, the woman looked just like Catherine. And when she smiled, Samantha was almost positive it was her. But she saw no recognition in the woman’s eyes and she began to question what she was seeing. After all, didn’t just about everyone, except Vincent, think that Catherine was dead?
The light changed and Samantha passed the trio to their left and as she passed she glanced over at the woman. There was a scar in front of her left ear. Samantha turned and walked backwards watching the woman. It had to be Catherine. She was just about to call after her when she almost fell over the curb; that is what she got for walking backwards and not looking where she was going. When she looked back the two women and boy were lost in the crowd.
Samantha ran all the way to the threshold in the park. As she approached it she slowed down and scanned the entire area as she had been taught. No one was in sight, so she ran swiftly down the slope and into the opening. Once through the iron door she ran all the way to the hub. She stopped in her chamber only long enough to drop off her pack and jacket and pull the books that Vincent had asked for out of her pack.
Samantha stopped outside Vincent’s chamber and called out, asking permission to enter.
"Come in, Samantha," he called back.
Samantha walked across the chamber and handed Vincent the two books that she carried. "I got those books that you wanted from the library."
Vincent took the books and turned them to look at the spines. "Thank you Samantha, that was very thoughtful of you. You didn’t make a trip especially for me, did you?"
"No, I had to get something for myself. I have a book report due and I think all the books Below have been done to death; I wanted something different for a change." She looked around the chamber her eyes skimming over things she saw almost every day until she saw a framed photo of Catherine. "Do you have minute, Vincent?" she asked.
"Of course Samantha." He noticed how her eyes lingered on the photograph. "Sit down."
Samantha sat down and stared at her hands for a moment.
"What is it Samantha?" asked Vincent, concern in his voice.
"Something strange happened just a little while ago. I just can’t get it out of my mind." She looked up at him and he could tell she was weighing her words very carefully.
"When Catherine disappeared," she began, "I know you searched for her for months. I was in the pipe chamber with Zach when the relay of the message she sent came through. Everyone was frantic and I know you almost rescued her. You said that it was enough to reestablish some of the connection that you used to have with her. When everyone else was saying that she was probably dead, you’ve always insisted that she is alive, that you could feel enough of her to know that." She tilted her head to one side and looked up at the man who had always been both father figure and big brother to her. "Vincent, I think you are right." She told him. "I think she is alive and I think I saw her today."
Vincent’s heart surged into his throat, and then dropped like a rock to the pit of his stomach. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them again, he appeared calm, but his heart was pounding. He was surprised his voice sounded so normal when he spoke.
"Tell me what happened, Samantha."
"I was standing on the corner of Central Park West and 74th, right across from Catherine’s apartment building. I was looking at two women and a little boy across the street from me. One of the women looked familiar and I was trying to figure out where I knew her from when she looked up at me and smiled. As soon as she smiled and I saw her eyes, I knew it was Catherine. I mean, she looks a little different; she is a lot thinner, her hair is darker and she was wearing it different, but I’m sure it was her."
"Are you sure that you didn’t just see someone who reminded you of her and because of the location you thought it was her?" questioned Vincent.
"No, I don’t think so. She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail and when I passed her I passed on her left side. I looked over at her I saw the scar in front of her ear. A lot of people look like other people, but her eyes and smile were the same and the scar was the same," Samantha insisted. "I was going to call out to her, but I lost her in the crowd before I could."
"They say that everyone has at least one ‘twin’ somewhere in the world," Vincent pointed out, not quite ready to believe.
"Not everyone," said Samantha.
Vincent looked at her with one eyebrow quirked in question.
"Not you, Vincent," she clarified with a smile. "I’m sure you don’t…and I’m sure that woman was Catherine. The more I think about it the more sure I am."
"But if it had been Catherine, she would have recognized you," said Vincent reasonably.
"Not really," said Samantha. "I have changed a lot since she was last here. I’ve grown several inches, and," she blushed as she said it, "I’m not flat-chested any more."
Vincent looked at the girl seated across from him. She was right. She had grown up a lot. At fifteen she was turning into a lovely young woman.
"You’re right, you have changed a lot and Catherine might not recognize you if she saw you." He thought for a moment. "Was she coming out of her building?" he asked.
"I didn’t really notice. I didn’t actually see her until we were on opposite corners. Is Dr. Peter still holding on to her place?"
"He is," said Vincent. "He is executor of her estate but unless the state declares her dead…" It hurt to say the words, "he can’t do much more than manage things until something happens. It could take as long as seven years from her disappearance."
"But wouldn’t Dr. Peter know if she’d come back. She would have to go to him to get keys to her place or something, wouldn’t she?"
"And surely he would come and tell you…"
"I’m sure he would," agreed Vincent.
"Then maybe it wasn’t her…" Samantha’s voice faded as she spoke.
"Samantha, don’t lose faith in what you saw. We will put the word out to our Helpers and I’ll go up and check her apartment. If it was her, we will find her."
Vincent rose and hugged the girl. "Thank you, Samantha," he told her. "Thank you for telling me."
It couldn’t get dark fast enough in Vincent’s opinion. He was waiting and pacing his chamber after dinner when Father came looking for him with the chess board and box containing chess pieces under his arm.
He pretended not to notice that Vincent was attempting to wear a path in the carpet.
"I was wondering if you felt up to beating me at chess again tonight," he asked as he crossed the chamber toward the table.
Vincent couldn’t help smiling at Father’s attempt at levity.
"Maybe later, Father," he said as he reached for his cloak. "I am going Above for a while, I shouldn’t be gone long."
"Above, are you meeting a Helper?" asked Father. Vincent hadn’t gone Above much since he’d given up his search for Catherine, only when he had to run an errand or see a Helper.
"No, I need to check something. Samantha was Above today and she said she saw a woman on the street near Catherine’s building who looked like Catherine. I want to check her apartment to see if she has returned. If she hasn’t I want to talk to Peter."
Vincent settled his cloak around his shoulders and started to step around Father.
Father reached out and grabbed Vincent’s arm.
"You shouldn’t get your hopes up, Vincent," he warned. "Even the police and the DA’s office think that she is dead."
Vincent shook Father’s hand off his arm and turned toward the door.
"She isn’t dead, Father. I’ve told you that over and over. The Bond has returned to a small extent and I can feel her. Not like I used to, but enough to know that she is alive. I can’t tell what she is feeling, where she is or even if she is well, but she is alive! I would know if she wasn’t," he insisted.
"I hope so, son, but what if she never returns to you?"
"At least I will know that she lives, and as long as I have this much of our Bond, I always have the hope that it will return completely someday and I can use it to find her."
Vincent turned and exited the Chamber leaving Father behind, shaking his head regretfully.
When Vincent reached the threshold in the park it had begun to rain lightly.
Good, he thought as he ran lightly across the grass from shadow to shadow, it might make my climb a little more difficult, but it will keep people inside.
When Vincent reached the street there was very little traffic, he ran across then around the corner to the fire escape on the back of the building. From the roof he lowered himself to the balcony of Catherine’s apartment.
The apartment was dark, as it had been every time he’d visited since Catherine’s disappearance. He tapped on the glass of the door into the living room. No answer and no movement inside. He repeated it on the door into the bedroom with the same lack of response. There was still a key hidden in an empty mortar joint between two bricks. He used his nail to pull it out. He unlocked the door and let himself into the living room. As soon as he was inside he knew that no one had been here in quite some time. The room had a stale un-lived in smell in spite of the circulating air from air conditioning and heat. The furniture was still shrouded in dust sheets and nothing had been moved since his last visit over a year ago. He stayed only long enough to assure himself that the rooms, all of them, were indeed empty before he went back to the balcony. He locked the door behind him and replaced the key in its hiding place. Then he began the climb back to the roof.
His next stop was Peter’s. He went back Below and skirting around the edges of the inhabited hub of their community, he made his way to Peter’s house. Inside Peter’s basement he went up the stairs to the kitchen and tapped lightly on the door.
Peter was in the kitchen making a pot of tea when he heard the knock. Knowing that it was likely to be Vincent, he set another mug on the table on his way to the basement door.
"Ah, Vincent," he said in greeting. "You’re just in time. I was just going to have some tea and a snack. I couldn’t make up my mind…chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal raisin? Neither are William’s but they come from a bakery, not the supermarket."
Vincent smiled and inclined his head as he followed Peter across the kitchen.
"I am rather partial to the chocolate chip, but the oatmeal raisin are more healthy," he observed as he sat down.
When Peter joined him he had the teapot and a plate with both kinds of cookies.
"So, what can I do for you?" he asked as he poured tea into both mugs.
Vincent hesitated a moment then plunged ahead. "Have you heard from Catherine, Peter?" he asked.
"No, I haven’t," he answered, surprised at the question. "Why, have you heard something? Are you feeling something from the Bond?"
"No nothing from the Bond, it is unchanged, but I did hear something. Samantha was Above today and she saw a woman who looked like Catherine outside Catherine’s building."
"And she thought it was Catherine?" asked Peter.
"She said that the woman’s eyes and smile were the same and when she got close enough there was even a scar in front of the woman’s left ear."
"Not wishful thinking?" asked Peter.
"I don’t think so, Peter. She was very sure of what she saw."
"Did she speak to her?" asked Peter.
"No, Samantha said that she lost her in the crowd before she could call out to her."
"I’ll check with security at the building tomorrow, but they have orders to call me and the DA’s office if she should show up, so I doubt that it was her," said Peter.
"Maybe she just didn’t go into the building," suggested Vincent.
"That is possible," mused Peter, "but if it was her and she was there, why wouldn’t she have gone in?"
"I can’t answer that," admitted Vincent, then a thought struck him. "Maybe she is in hiding."
"If she is in hiding, why would she be right outside her building?" asked Peter, logically.
"Hiding in plain sight, in the last place anyone would expect to see her?"
"All that is possible," Peter agreed. "I’ll make some calls tomorrow and let you know what I find out."
When Vincent returned Below, it was too late for a chess game with Father but he did stop in Father’s chamber to tell him what he’d found.
"Anything, Vincent?" asked Father.
"No, no one has been in her apartment in months. It is just as it was last time I was there. I talked to Peter and he hasn’t heard anything. He promised to make some calls tomorrow." He rubbed his eyes, he was tired, but he knew that he wouldn’t sleep well tonight. He seldom did without the exhaustion of work to help him.
"I told you not to get your hopes up," said Father.
"Father, and I told you that I don’t have my hopes up. I know she is alive and that is enough for now. If I ever get any indication from the Bond of her whereabouts, I will follow up on it. But as it stands now, all I can do is wait. I sent notes to several Helpers who know Catherine. It is frustrating and disheartening, but I will continue to wait…until hell freezes over, if necessary. Now, I think I will go to bed and try to sleep. Good night, Father." He turned abruptly and left.
The rest of Jane’s weekend was pleasant enough and there was only one odd dream on Saturday night She recorded it in her journal, but didn’t mention it to Amanda. The images stuck with her when she went back to work the following week.
She was dreaming. Only this time she knew she was dreaming. What did they call it? Lucid dreaming?
It was like the other dreams, or at least it started the same. It was dark, she was leaning against someone, she could feel his strong, solid body behind her and his arm around her, and as the other times, he was reading. The words sounded familiar:
As in the days of her youth, Evangeline rose in his vision.
Tears came into his eyes; and as slowly he lifted his eyelids,
Vanished the vision away, but Evangeline knelt by his bedside.
Vainly he strove to whisper her name, for the accents unuttered
Died on his lips, and their motion revealed what his tongue would have spoken.
Vainly he strove to rise; and Evangeline, kneeling beside him,
Kissed his dying lips, and laid his head on her bosom.
Sweet was the light of his eyes; but it suddenly sank into darkness,
As when a lamp is blown out by a gust of wind at a casement.
He paused and kissed her hair; she was sure it was a kiss.
"What are you reading?" she asked.
"Longfellow’s Evangeline," he answered. "It came up in history class, of all places, today. We were talking about the legend and the Evangeline Trail in Nova Scotia."
"I thought it was familiar," she said, then quoted:
All was ended now, the hope, and the fear, and the sorrow,
All the aching of heart, the restless, unsatisfied longing,
All the dull, deep pain, and constant anguish of patience!
And, as she pressed once more the lifeless head to her bosom,
Meekly she bowed her own, and murmured, "Father, I thank thee!"
"Perfectly done," he said, his arm tightening in a hug.
"I didn’t realize that I remembered it so well," she said. "It’s so sad; I don’t think I’ve read it since I was in junior high school."
"Recall is always perfect in dreams," he whispered, nuzzling her ear through her hair.
"So it is." She was distracted by the sensations he was evoking. "Why is it so dark?" she asked.
"The candles have all gone out," he said logically.
He turned her in his arms and kissed her. It was an innocent kiss at first, just a slight touching of lips, but it seemed to take on a life of its own and grew. He lifted her into his lap and trailed kisses down the left side of her face, lingering on the scar.
Her hands went to his head, to hold him, and she knew that she would find long hair, the texture of raw silk. She pulled him back up to her lips and kissed him with abandon.
"Oh, my love!" she heard him groan as his hands came up under her top. She was wearing the knit tank top and shorts pajamas she’d gone to bed in.
She could feel calluses on his hands; these were hands that worked, worked hard. One came around and cupped her breast, kneading gently. And loved, she added, distractedly.
"Please," she whispered. "Love me?"
He didn’t answer, just pulled her top off over her head and lowered his head. He rubbed his cheek against her breast.
He has a beard; it’s so soft! was her last coherent thought as he captured her nipple and drew it deeply into his mouth.
There was something about his mouth, she’d noticed something different when he’d kissed her, but she’d been so lost in the sensation she hadn’t been able to go beyond different.
He shifted to her other breast, covering the first with his hand, cradling it gently.
He shifted her body again, he handled her as if she was weightless. But then this is a dream, she reminded herself. This time he settled her into a soft surface. A bed? She moved one of her hands above her head and felt pillows. Yes, definitely a bed.
Then she brought both of her hands down to him. So far she had only touched his head with her hands, now she slid them down to his shoulders. He was wearing a loose fitting garment. When he lay down next to her he shifted one leg possessively over hers. Either he is wearing fur pants or he has very hairy legs, she mused as she started tugging at what she realized was a nightshirt.
He understood her unspoken message; he levered up a little and pulled the garment off over his head, and while he was at it he pulled off the knit shorts she was wearing.
Then he was back, his body covering hers. He seemed to have a little more body hair than other men, but it didn’t surprise her. What surprised her was the texture; it was soft and silky, like baby hair. She couldn’t get enough of touching him and the full length of his body on hers…well, it was the most sensual thing she’d ever experienced.
She was distracted from his body by the sensations he was creating in her body. He kissed her passionately; he nibbled, and licked. She felt like she was going to combust any second. His hands were moving over her, kneading and caressing. When he reached the soft hair between her legs he hesitated. She could sense that he was looking at her; that he could see her, even if it was too dark for her to see him.
When his fingers reached the slick wetness that was starting to spread there, she heard his sharp intake of breath.
"You really want this?" he asked. She could hear the surprise in his voice.
"Oh, yes!" she breathed as she pulled his lips back to hers.
His fingers were busy; they were working magic and it wasn’t long before she was gasping and clinging to him, her arching body begging him for more.
He positioned himself over her body, between her legs. His entry was slow and smooth. She could feel him trembling as he kept an iron control on his movements. She didn’t know if she’d ever done this before, with him or anyone else. He felt huge, but he felt so good, like he was supposed to be there; like she’d waited half her life for this.
She wrapped her legs around his waist and tried to pull him deeper. He stayed still for what seemed like forever, both of them trying to calm their breathing.
"I love you," he whispered as he started to move.
He started slow, almost with a delicacy, as if he thought she might shatter, or disappear, but as she started to move with him, he quickened the pace. Each stroke pushed her higher. She thought her heart was going to pound its way right out of her chest.
Then suddenly it was over, in a burst of white light…
She opened her eyes and the sun was shining in the window and she was sitting up in bed, her whole body tingling and twitching from the dream induced orgasm she’d just experienced.
She collapsed back on the pillow with a gasp.
"My God! That was so real!" she whispered. "Who is he?"
Vincent woke, drenched in sweat, breathing heavily with the distinct knowledge that the very vivid dream he’d just had of making love to Catherine, had been the first ‘wet dream’ he’d had since he was a teenager. Chagrinned, he rose from the bed. He pulled the sheets off and stuffed them into the laundry basket before headed off to the bathing chamber.
* * * * * * * * * *
Jane was shelving a case of books in the New Age section when a book on dream interpretation caught her eye. She was leafing through it wondering if a waking vision of a lionlike face was the same as dreaming of lions when Amanda came up with an armload of books.
"What are you looking at so intently?" she asked, dumping her books on Jane’s cart.
"Do I qualify as a young woman?" she asked.
"Well, you’re not old, or even middle aged. What are you? Early thirties?" she asked. "Why?"
"The doctors estimated my age as around that. It is just that dream I had last weekend and then that odd kind of vision at the zoo. Then I had a really wild dream on Saturday night."
"You didn’t tell me about that one," said Mandy.
"It was very sexually explicit," Jane said with a blush. "I dreamed I was making love with the man from the other dream. It was so vivid that I even climaxed. And what was weird about it was that I knew I was dreaming while it was happening."
"Wow, I could use a dream like that every now and then," said Mandy with a smile. "Seriously, what are you reading?"
"Dream interpretation books. One says that to dream of hearing calm and pleasing voices, denotes pleasant reconciliations. And the voice of the man in my dream was calm and pleasing to say the least. I don’t know if I have anyone to reconcile with, but it would be nice. It also says that to dream of a lion, signifies that a great force is driving you, and for a young woman to dream of lions, denotes new and fascinating lovers." She looked up at Amanda and laughed. "I don’t know if a waking vision of a man who looks like a lion means the same thing, but I’m open to the possibilities. I do agree that I have a great force driving me…I want to find out who I am!" She was making light of what had happened, but she was grasping at straws trying to figure out what it all meant.
"This one says that ‘to dream that you are having an orgasm, represents an exciting end to something. Alternatively, the dream means that you are not getting enough sex. You need to relieve some of your sexual tensions.’ Ha!" Jane blushed and laughed. "Well, the dream took care of some of those tensions."
"Anything else?" Mandy peered over her shoulder at the other books.
Jane picked up another book and opened it. "This one seems to be based more on psychology and it says that ‘to dream about sex, refers to the integration and merging of contrasting aspects of yourself. It represents psychological completion. You need to be more receptive and incorporate aspects of your dream sex partner into your own character. Consider the nature of the love-making. Was it passionate? Was it slow? Was it wild? The sex act parallels aspect of yourself that you wish to express. A more direct interpretation of the dream, may be your libido's way of telling you that it has been too long since you have had sex;’ that again.
"Then I looked up darkness and all I could find was to dream that you are groping around in the darkness, symbolizes that you have insufficient information to make a clear decision."
"You do know that most of that stuff is just a bunch of hooey, don’t you?" asked Amanda, tentatively, not wanting to hurt Jane’s feelings.
"Yeah," she said with a sigh, "I do, but…well…I don’t know, the first dream, the one where he was just reading, it seemed familiar, like a memory."
"And the other one?" asked Mandy.
"I don’t know, it was just so real, but it didn’t seem like a memory…I guess I should get back to work." She turned back to the cart and started sorting books.
She held out nearly a month, until the beginning of November, but she finally decided that she had to go back to the city. Over the previous weeks she had dreamed repeatedly of the man reading or reciting poetry in the dark. Sometimes there was classical music playing in the background and sometimes it was quiet. And several times she dreamed of a large drainage pipe. She was reminded of the police report that mentioned that she had been trying to get into a drainage pipe when the police found her.
She had the following Saturday off and decided to make the trip then.
One of her coworkers from the store was driving into the city to pick up a friend and they were going to head to Atlantic City for the weekend. She got a ride with him and asked if he could drop her at Columbus Circle. She remembered how familiar the whole area had been and decided that it would be as good a place as any to start.
"How are you going to get home?" he asked as he pulled over to the curb to let her out.
She hesitated for a moment, she hadn’t really thought about it. "I’ll get a bus or a train," she told him. If I have to I’ll call Amanda, she thought to herself. "Thanks for the ride," she told him. "Have a good time. Don’t lose too much money."
She waved as she watched him pull away then she turned and walked into the park.
It had begun to snow as they had driven into town and it was turning the park into a fairyland. She wandered aimlessly for quite a while, enjoying the scene that was quickly developing into something that looked like a Christmas card. She saw signs directing her to the carousel, but when she got there it was closed. She felt an odd sense of disappointment as she stood there staring at the chained gate, but didn’t dwell on it. She continued north and found a path that she thought might be taking her back toward Central Park West. As she walked she allowed her mind to wander and without realizing it she left the path. When she finally realized what she was doing she was walking through ankle deep snow. She looked up to see that she was standing across a clearing from a large drainage pipe. It looked just like the one in her dream.
"Now why in the world would I dream of a drainage pipe in the middle of Central Park? Did I work for New York Public Works, or something?" she asked aloud of no one in particular.
She quickly scanned the surrounding area, then picked her way gingerly down the slippery slope to the opening. It looked like someone else had done the same thing not long before. There were large foot prints going into the pipe, but none coming out.
Without thinking and with a feeling of excitement that she didn’t understand, she also went into the pipe. She was several feet in when she realized that this might not be the best idea she’d had in a while. The footprints just might belong to a homeless person and from the size of them, he could be a rather large and dangerous homeless person, but before she could make herself stop she reached the end of the tunnel and emerged into a square room. It was empty. Another tunnel went off at a right angle from the one she had come in through, and another opening was blocked by a rusty metal plate and an iron gate. She went over and grasped the gate and gave it a shake and was surprised to see that it wasn’t secured and could be swung right open. She inspected the metal plate and found no way to open it, if it opened. She put her ear against it and thought she heard the faint sounds of tapping. Like the night the radiators had started banging and woke her up. Suddenly nervous, she closed the gate and quickly left the same way she had come in.
This time she was sure she knew where she was going and she eventually found herself standing across the street from the apartment building she had admired when she had been with Amanda and Andrew. She looked up at it again. The day was dark and dreary and most of the apartments had lights on in them. Her eyes were immediately drawn to a set of dark windows near the center of the building about eighteen or twenty floors up. She stood staring for a few minutes then gave herself a good shake and told herself she was cold and needed some lunch. She turned and headed south.
The snow was getting heavier, and she gave up, crossed the street and hailed a cab. She wasn’t sure where she wanted to go, so she just told the cabbie to take her to a good Chinese restaurant. Not long after she found herself in Chinatown. There was a restaurant right in front of her, so she went in.
An hour later, she was back out on the street. While she’d been eating lunch the weather had made a complete turnaround. It had gone from dark, dreary and snowing so hard that she could hardly see five feet in front of her, to sunny with the snow melting and the gutters running with water. Not having anything better to do she decided to do some window shopping. Chinatown looked like a fascinating place and she didn’t know if she’d ever been here before.
As she wandered for over an hour, she left Chinatown and found herself in a part of the city that she knew nothing about. She pulled out her map and studied it, trying to figure out where she was and how to get back to a subway station when someone bumped into her.
The bump threw her off balance. She stumbled and the man grabbed her arm to steady her.
"I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking where I was going," he apologized.
She looked up into a set of brown eyes set in a pleasant face surrounded by curly dark hair.
The man let go of her arm and turned to walk away, then he just stopped cold, turned back and just stared.
"Cathy?" he asked, incredulously.
"Do you know me?" she asked, dropping her map.
"Don’t you know me?" he asked, grasping her arm again, just above the elbow.
She shook her head uncertainly, as if trying to clear something. "I don’t know," said slowly. She was momentarily overcome with dizziness and was grateful for the man’s grip on her arm. "Is that my name? Cathy?" she asked.
"You don’t know?"
She just shook her head.
He looked quickly up and down the street, then linked his arm through hers. "Let’s get off the street. There is a diner just up the block."
She let him take her with him. It was a public place he was taking her to, so she felt safe. In fact, she felt safe with him; as if she had always trusted him.
Once inside the diner he led her to a booth near the back. They both removed their coats and took seats on the opposite sides of the table.
A waitress came over and he ordered for both of them.
"Two coffee’s, no sugar or cream," he said.
"You know how I like my coffee?" she asked when the waitress left.
"I should, we worked together for a couple of years. You drank a lot of that rotgut we call coffee in the DA’s office."
"DA’s office?" she questioned. Nothing he was saying was making any sense.
He looked at her closely. He reached across the table, turned her head and brushed her hair back from her left ear. "You are Cathy Chandler. Your voice is the same, your eyes are the same, and that scar is the same."
"Cathy Chandler?" All she seemed able to do was repeat things he said. She knew she sounded like an idiot.
"Do you have a scar on your back that looks like bullet wound?" he asked.
She nodded uncertainly. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
When she opened them he was still there, sitting back looking at her with his arms crossed.
"OK give, Radcliffe. Tell me what is going on here?"
"Radcliffe?" Damn, she was doing it again.
"A nickname. You went to Radcliffe then Columbia Law School. I went to Westfield…night school." His explanation didn’t bring any recognition to her eyes, so he tried again. "Come on, Cathy, tell me what is going on."
"How long has it been since you saw this Cathy Chandler?" she asked.
"She…you…whoever…Cathy disappeared a year ago last May."
He could tell she was thinking about that. He could also tell when she came to a decision. She hesitated while the waitress put cups of coffee in front of them.
"I don’t remember anything before the end of August that year. I was found wandering in a park near Westchester and was in a psychiatric hospital until last June. A doctor there was trying to help me recover my memory. I was released a few months ago and have been living and working not far from Scarsdale. They call me Jane West…are you sure I’m this Cathy Chandler?"
"As sure as I can be, there a couple of people I can call who can back me up. And we can check your finger prints. You worked for the DA’s office so they are on file."
She sat quietly for a moment. "May I ask who you are?" she asked.
He laughed. "Sorry about that. I was so shocked to see you. I’m Joe Maxwell. I was a Deputy District Attorney. Now I’m the DA. You were an Assistant District Attorney."
"We worked together?" she asked.
"Yes, I was your immediate boss."
"Then you know me well?"
"Probably better than a lot of people. We put in a lot of long hours together. I almost lost my job when you disappeared. I spent every minute I could spare on the case trying to figure out what had happened to you. We all thought you were dead, Kiddo." He reached out and took her hand. "God, am I glad to see you!"
The shock was beginning to wear off and he was beginning to feel emotional. He hoped he didn’t embarrass himself and tear up.
Cathy finally smiled at him. "I think I’m glad to see you too, Joe." She told him as she squeezed his hand back.
"Would you by any chance happen to have a picture of me?" she asked.
"Sure, in my office. Why, don’t you know what you look like?" he joked.
"I don’t know. I think I look different," she told him.
He looked her over then agreed. "You do. You’re a little thinner, if that is possible. You used to wear more makeup, at least at work, and I guess you used to lighten or highlight your hair. It looked so natural that I didn’t realize your hair was darker." He looked at her jeans and turtleneck sweater, obviously well worn, and the quilted jacket she’d put on the seat beside her. "And you used to dress better. Like from those places over on 5th Avenue."
She nearly choked on her coffee when he said that. As she sputtered he patted her hand again and smiled.
"You are a very wealthy woman, Miss Chandler," he told her.
"Wealthy?" she gasped.
"As in millions," he assured her.
"Oh my god!" she said as she sat back and took it all in.
"But the first thing we have to do is prove you are who I’m sure you are and that will mean finger prints. We can go up to my office." He looked at his watch. "It isn’t a weekday and I don’t think I should have any problems getting you into the office without causing a stir. We don’t have anyone on the staff who puts in the kind of hours you used to." He nodded and winked. "I have everything I need in my office to take a set of prints. I can fax them over to someone I know at the PD and he can do a preliminary comparison and let me know if they match, and I’m sure that they will. Then we will start making some calls."
"I’ll probably need to make some calls too. If I am this Cathy Chandler and I stay here in New York, I need to let some people know what is going on."
Neither spoke as they finished their coffee, or on the walk to a building up the street.
They entered the lobby and Joe asked her if any of it looked familiar.
She was looking around her with interest, but shook her head. "’Fraid not," she told him as they got on the elevator.
They exited the elevator and as they passed a door, he pointed at it.
"We used to work in there. The deputies have offices on this end and the bullpen with the assistants is on the far end. You lucked out and drew a desk by a window, not that you ever had much time to look out," he added with a grin.
He led her a little further down the hall to a door with "Joseph Maxwell, District Attorney" on the glass.
"District Attorney," she said as he held the door for her and she went in. "Isn’t that an elected position?"
"Yes, it is. When John Moreno was indicted, I was appointed as acting DA for the rest of his term. I like the work and I decided to run for the office. I was surprised when I won," he told her as he took her coat and waved her to a seat.
"John Moreno," she gave an involuntary shudder when she said his name. "Did I know him?"
"Yes, you did. He was the DA when you started here. He hired you. And from what he told us, he was also responsible for handing you over to the people who kidnapped you. Only he had no idea where they were holding you. You had something that they wanted, and it was what John said that made us all think that you were dead."
"What did he say," she asked, as she watched Joe setting up his supplies in preparation for taking her fingerprints. She took off her jacket and hung it on the coat tree.
"That if his boss couldn’t get the information he needed out of you about the black book, then he probably wouldn’t waste time, and would just kill you. He said that his boss had ways of disposing of bodies and that we would probably never find what was left of you."
He noticed her shudder again, and quickly apologized.
"I’m sorry, Cathy. That did sound harsh, but that was exactly the way John put it. He talked a blue streak once he was in custody. He didn’t know that Burch had come to me with the decoded black book. That was how we got all the dirt on Moreno, enough to put him away for quite a while. That was a stroke of genius to give the book to Burch and have him put his people on it."
He indicated that he needed Cathy to come over to the desk. She did and he took one of her hands and started to take her prints.
"Who’s Burch?" she asked as he worked.
"Elliott Burch," he told her. "Old boyfriend of yours. Rich developer; owns a lot of buildings and properties all over the city; all over the world, for that matter."
"Does he by any chance have long blond hair and blue eyes?" she asked, curiously.
"He has blue eyes, but his hair is dark and curly like mine, and he’s always tanned, looks like he’s just come off the beach. Why?"
"Just a vague picture I have in my head. I thought it might be him," she said, as he finished up and handed her a jar of cold cream and a cloth to clean the ink off her fingers. "What is the black book and who gave it to Elliott Burch?"
"The black book was a coded book that someone gave me. It had all kinds of information in it about a major crime syndicate that was headquartered here in New York. All the who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s and a lot of the why’s. Enough to put a lot of people away for a very long time. An acquaintance gave it to me and the plan was to send me the key when he reached safety, but he was killed before that could happen. His car was booby trapped. It exploded, killing him and almost killing me. You came to visit me in the hospital and I told you to get the book and see what you could do with it. Keep it safe. You gave it to Burch to see if he could decipher it."
"And you said that John Moreno was responsible for my kidnapping?" she asked.
"That is what he said. We found your car in a city government parking garage. It was full of bullet holes. There was also a dead maintenance man on the level below where we found your car. Moreno said that you got away from the goons in the garage but they radioed him and he met the elevator that you were on. Moreno said that two of his boss’s men took you from there. He had no idea where," said Joe from the credenza behind his desk.
She shook her head. "I don’t remember any of it," she told him. "You are sure I’m who you think I am?"
"As I can be. And we should soon have something to back that up. I just faxed those prints and someone should call me back as soon as they know something."
"Won’t that take a while?" she asked.
"They have a new computer, and it can match prints a lot quicker than it can be done by a person. It probably took me longer to pull your original prints out of the file and take a new set than it will for the computer to scan both sets and decide if it is a match."
He offered her more coffee, and she declined pointing out that he’d told her it was rotgut.
He laughed and pointed to a pot on the other side of his office. "I make my own in here and if you wanted some I could make a fresh pot."
He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a bag of what looked like chocolates. He offered her one.
As she was reaching for them she asked. "What are they?"
"Chocolate covered cheese nuggets," he said with a wink as he popped one into his mouth.
"Eew!" she snatched her hand back. "That sounds awful."
"Now I’m sure you’re Cathy Chandler," he told her with a laugh. "That is pretty much the same reaction you had the first time I offered you one of these."
She shook her head and reminded him that he’d promised to show her a picture.
He rummaged in a desk drawer and pulled out a beat up black and white newspaper clipping in a clear plastic sleeve.
"Newspaper reporter took this of the two of us at a reception given by the mayor not long after you came to work here," he told her. "It wound up on the society page."
She looked closely at the photo. Joe was quite dapper in a tux, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the woman. True, there was a resemblance, but the woman in the picture was so polished in what looked like a pale silk gown. She had a hard time picturing herself as that woman, but Joe seemed sure that they were one and the same. The jewelry alone, if it was real, was probably worth more than she made now in a year.
She handed the photo back to Joe.
"You said I was wealthy?" she asked. "I didn’t think that Assistant District Attorneys made all that much."
Joe sat on the front of his desk. "Believe me, they don’t. You had your own money before you started here. I think you told me something about a trust fund from your mother’s family, and when your Dad died, you inherited from him. You used to work for your father’s law firm, Chandler and Coolidge. I guess you got bored and decided to find something a little more exciting. You were one of the best investigators we had, but you had just asked to be taken off investigations and were moving to the trial division when it all hit the fan. None of it would have happened if I hadn’t asked you to get the book and take care of it."
The phone rang and he leaned back and picked up the handset. "Maxwell," he said.
He listened intently, then looked over at her with a grin and winked. "Thanks, Abe. I owe you. Keep this under your hat for a while, will ya? We’ll make an official announcement as soon as she is ready."
He hung up and grinned at her. "You can start answering to Cathy now," he told her. "It is official. You are Cathy Chandler."
"So, what does that mean?" she asked nervously.
"That means I make a couple of phone calls and get a couple of people over here, and we get the ball rolling to get you officially back to the land of the living."
"Is that safe?" she asked. "You said that Moreno said that the man who had kidnapped me would probably kill me. From what happened, I think he did order my death, but the man, the doctor that he ordered to do it couldn’t do it so he let me go. If it is known that I’m alive, won’t I be in danger?"
"I see that your brain is still working, even if it isn’t remembering," he said approvingly. "No, you won’t be in danger. The syndicate was decimated. Between the infighting that broke out and our indictments and convictions, they are all either in prison serving very long terms or dead. When we got to the place that we thought you were being held, it looked like there had been a shootout that would have rivaled the Gunfight at the OK Corral. The head of the syndicate, a man named Gabriel was dead; so was his right hand man, one Jonathan Pope. In all we found eleven bodies. Even two people who appeared to be unarmed, a doctor and a nurse were dead."
"A doctor and a nurse?" she interrupted. "Was the doctor a middle aged, balding guy and the nurse Oriental?"
"Yes they were. Why?"
"A couple of the few things that I remembered on my own was a man I called ‘the doctor’. The police said that I told them that he had dropped me off at the park and told me to go hide in the woods until he came back for me. I also remember an Oriental nurse. That would explain why the doctor never came back for me. If he ever intended to in the first place."
"The doc’s car was in the basement parking garage of the building. There were three suitcases in the trunk. One contained men’s clothing and the other two women’s. It looked like he and the nurse were in the process of packing a pretty extensive medical kit when they were killed," Joe told her. "The bullets found in all the bodies came from the same weapon. We found that weapon in the hands of a known international assassin by the name of Snow. He was also dead. He was killed with a gun that was found in the hands of Gabriel. Looked like they had a standoff and both pulled the trigger at the same time. So, you see, I’m reasonably sure that everyone who might have been a threat to you is dead."
She nodded, and after a pause changed the subject.
"Who are you going to call?" she asked.
"A couple of friends of yours. You don’t have any close family. Your mother died when you were a kid and your father died a couple of months before you disappeared. You’ll probably want to stay in town tonight. You should make the calls you mentioned earlier. You can use the phone on my secretary’s desk.
She went out to use the phone as he picked up the phone on his desk and started dialing.
She sat in the chair behind the desk and dialed Amanda’s number.
"Hello," Amanda answered after a few rings.
"Hi, Mandy," she said.
"Hi, Jane. How was your day? Did you enjoy your trip to New York?"
"Um, that’s why I’m calling, Mandy. I’m still in New York," she began.
"You need a ride back?" she asked.
"No, it isn’t that. It is just that…I seem to have run into someone who knows me, and he’s calling some friends now…"
"Are you sure, Jane?" Amanda asked, concern in her voice. "You know, New York is full of con artists."
"No, Mandy, I’m sure. He had a photo, and I’m pretty sure that it’s me. He’s in it too. He did fingerprints and they matched prints that were taken when I started a job here. And Mandy, he is the District Attorney. I used to be an Assistant DA." Telling someone else was making it seem more real and she was starting to feel excited.
"You’re a lawyer?" exclaimed Amanda. "What’s your name?"
"Cathy Chandler," she supplied. "I guess you can call me Cathy now." She hesitated a minute before going on. "I’m supposed work noon to closing at the store tomorrow. Would you do me a favor and let the manager on duty know I won’t be in? After that I’m off until Tuesday. I’m going to write a letter of resignation. I’ll send it to you and I would appreciate it if you’d take it to the store manager for me."
"Sure Jane, I mean Cathy. Will you be back here at all?" asked Amanda.
"I’ll be back to pack up the apartment," she told her. "I don’t what to lose track of you and Andrew. I’ll stay in touch, and we will make a point to get together just as soon as I’ve sorted all of this out. I’ll call you and give you my number when I have it." She promised.
They talked for a few more minutes, then Cathy hung up and dialed Toni’s number. Toni wasn’t in so Cathy left a brief explanation of what had happened, then promised to call her again as soon as she could.
She hung up the second time and went back into Joe’s office.
"They should both be here in a few minutes," he promised.
"Who?" she asked.
"Jenny Aaronson, and Peter Alcott. You and Jenny are best friends, you have been since college. You’ve known Dr. Alcott all your life. He tells a crazy story about how you two met. He tells everyone that you were naked. The first time I heard the story you added that you were upside down and screaming at the time." At her shocked look, he added, "He’s the doctor who delivered you, and he’s been your family doctor, as well as a good friend your whole life. After your father died, you decided you needed a will and you made Peter the executor of your estate. He’s been managing everything since your disappearance."
"Did you tell them why you want them to come over?" she asked.
"Not the whole truth. I didn’t want anyone breaking any speed limits getting here, so I just told them that there has been a new development in your case. Jenny panicked and I had to reassure her that it was nothing bad. Jenny is quiet a handful," he said with a smile. "More than a little psychic and she has told me that you weren’t dead right from the beginning…Looks like I should put more faith in her psychic abilities.
"That is what I’m always telling you," came a voice from the outer office. "So why are you finally willing to admit that you need to pay more attention to my psychic abilities?"
Joe was standing between Cathy and the door when Jenny walked up. All Joe did was smile and step to one side letting Jenny see who was standing behind him.
Jenny shrieked then flew at her, hugging her and babbling incoherently. Cathy just smiled, and returned the hugs with a lot less enthusiasm than Jenny expected.
Jenny sensed that something was wrong. She pulled back and looked into her friend’s eyes. "Cath, are you OK?" she asked.
Cathy nodded. "I think so, it is just that…well…I really don’t know what is going on. I’m sorry, but I don’t remember you. Joe has been trying to fill me in on everything, but it’s only been a little over an hour since he ran into me, and this is all just a little overwhelming."
Jenny looked from Cathy to Joe in confusion. "What’s….?"
"Amnesia," supplied Cathy. "The doctor at the hospital I was in said that it was caused by a combination of things."
"How did you find your way back here then?" asked Jenny. "Not that I’m complaining, I’m just glad you are home, no matter how you found us."
"Just a coincidence," she told her. "I was in the city a few weeks ago with a friend, and a some things seemed familiar, I decided to come back and investigate."
"We literally ran into each other on the street," Joe continued. "I wasn’t watching where I was going and almost knocked her over. Then you could have knocked me over with a feather when I realized who I had run into."
Jenny wrapped her arms around her friend again and hugged her tight. Cathy was oddly comforted by the gesture and returned the hug.
They heard the outer office door open and Joe called out.
"Dr. Alcott, we are in my office."
"What is the new development, Mr. Maxwell?" he asked as he entered the office.
Again, all Joe could do was point to Cathy who was now standing next to Jenny.
Peter looked, blinked and then swallowed.
"Cathy?" he asked, in disbelief.
At her nod it became pretty much a repeat of Jenny’s reaction, only Peter didn’t babble, his words were reasonably coherent.
"Cathy, honey. This is wonderful. Where have you been? Are you all right?"
Cathy tried to return the man’s embrace, but it felt awkward being hugged by a man who was a complete stranger, but she trusted Joe, and even Jenny, and they both said she knew this man; had known him all her life.
This time it was Joe who gave the explanations. Peter went into doctor mode and started asking all kinds of questions. Finally Cathy had to ask him to stop.
"Since you are my family doctor I’ll make sure that you get all my medical records. When I left the hospital, I asked for copies of everything in my file and they gave them to me. I’m going to have to go back to my apartment to pack up some things…" At their confused looks she clarified: "The place I’ve been living since I got out of the hospital…I have all my records there. Once I get all that moved. I’ll make sure you get everything."
The conversation was going hot and heavy around her, but Cathy was overwhelmed by it all, she leaned back into the corner of the sofa and attempted to shut it out as she tried to assimilate everything that had happened in the last couple of hours. She glanced at the clock. Yes, it had only been a little over two hours since she’d run into Joe down on the street.
It was Jenny who noticed that Cathy was on the edge.
"You guys need to back off for a while. Cathy needs to get some rest. I think we need to take her home," she suggested.
Peter, suddenly thinking that Catherine’s being back in her apartment might set off some internal alarms in Vincent, causing him to show up on her balcony unannounced and suggest that Cathy might like to go home with him.
"I don’t think you should be alone tonight, Cathy," he said. "I have to be at the hospital early tomorrow, but I think you should come home with me tonight. Jenny can come over and take you to your apartment in the morning. It might be better to go in daylight after you’ve had a good night’s rest."
Cathy nodded. She didn’t care where she went tonight, as long as it included a place to sleep and a place where she could be by herself to try to collect her thoughts.
The four of them left the office together. Peter hailed a cab and ushered Cathy into it. Jenny promised she’d see her the next day around 10AM.
When they got to Peter’s, he led Cathy into the house and showed her around. Then he took her upstairs to the second floor to a room that had obviously been decorated for a young girl.
"You used to use this room when you stayed with us," he told her. "I think there might even still be some of your pajamas in the bureau. They will probably still fit you."
"I used to stay with you?" she asked.
"Yes, you and my daughter Susan were good friends all though school. You went to the same schools until you went off to college. You went to Radcliffe and she went to Bryn Mawr.
"Before your mother died, she often went with your father when he had to go out of town. You would come and stay with us. After she died, your dad didn’t travel as much, but you always came over and stayed with us when he did. Then there were all the sleepovers you and Susan had," he explained.
"In other words: I spent a lot of time here," she provided with a smile.
"There were times when the housekeeper thought I’d adopted you," he replied, returning her smile. "Anyway. The bath is through that door." He pointed across the room. "There are new toiletries in the cabinet. Sleep as long as you want in the morning. I’ll be up and out early and shouldn’t be back until sometime in the afternoon.
"All the utilities and phone are still turned on in your apartment, you should be able to settle right back in. I’ll call building security to let them know to expect you and I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon to check on you." He pulled a pen and a card out of his pocket. He wrote something on the card and handed it to Cathy. "My office numbers are on the front, and I’ve written my home number and my private office number on the back. Call me if you need anything." She nodded and tucked the card into the side pocket of her purse.
"I imagine that you want to be alone for a while, so I’ll get out of here. If you need anything, or if you want to talk, I’ll be downstairs for a while yet and the master bedroom is at the end of the hall." Peter hugged her. "I’m so glad you are home, Cathy," he told her. "You’ve been missed by so many."
"Then there are more than just you, Jenny and Joe?" she asked, hesitantly.
"Oh yes," he told her with another hug. "Many more, and they are going to be very happy to see you. But we will reintroduce you slowly," he promised. "I don’t want to overwhelm you."
"And Susan?" she asked.
"She’s going to be glad to hear that you’re back, but she doesn’t live in New York. She’s been living in Santa Fe since she married."
"I was wondering," she said before he could turn to leave. "Joe said that you’ve been a close friend all my life and kind of a surrogate father since my own father died. Did I ever tell you about a man I was seeing?" She was working purely on a hunch here.
"You seemed to have a new boyfriend every time I asked," he said with a laugh."
"Did I ever mention anyone special?" she asked.
"I think you were seeing someone," he told her. "Don’t you remember?"
"Not really. I’ve had some dreams, but all I ever hear is a voice. I’ve never seen a face or put a name to the voice. The one time I did see a vague face, all I really caught were blue eyes."
"I don’t know, honey," Peter hated lying, but under the circumstances… "I’ll have to dredge though my memory and try to see if I can come up with anything. We’ll talk," he promised.
Before Peter turned to leave he remembered something. "If you need anything to do tomorrow before Jenny gets here, you’ll find anything you need for breakfast in the kitchen and there are photo albums on the bottom shelf of the cabinet behind my desk in the study downstairs. You can look at them. They might jar a memory loose." He kissed her on the cheek and left, closing the door behind him.
Cathy put her purse down then draped her coat over the back of the same chair. She felt as if she’d been wound too tight and needed to work off some tension. She prowled the room, opening drawers and looking at the contents. It was as Peter had said. There were plenty of clothes in the bureau and the closet. They were all a size that would fit her now, although most of the styles were too young. She found a plain white oversized T-shirt, and took it with her to the bathroom where she ran a tub of warm water. She stripped off her clothes and stepped into the tub. The warm water finally relaxed her and the reaction to the stress of the last few hours started to set in and she began to shake. It took a while but she managed to get her emotions under control, then she almost fell asleep in the tub. She caught herself drifting and dragged herself out of the tub. Drying herself was a chore. She pulled the shirt over her head and leaving her clothes in a heap on the bathroom floor, she made her way to the bed and was asleep within minutes.
Peter was in a quandary. He didn’t think that Vincent had sensed anything, if he had, he was sure that he would have shown up shortly after he brought Cathy into the house. Vincent had told him that the Bond gave him some sense of Cathy, but wasn’t nearly as sensitive as it had been before his illness.
What Peter wasn’t sure of, was whether or not he should tell Vincent. He knew that if he did tell him it would take an army to keep Vincent away from Catherine. But Catherine didn’t remember Vincent, at least it sounded like she didn’t. What would her reaction be if Vincent just showed up? Peter was sure that it wouldn’t be good for anyone if Cathy was to see Vincent before she was ready for him.
Peter decided that the best route for all concerned was not to tell Vincent for the time being. Joe had agreed that they wouldn’t make an announcement to the press until Cathy said she was ready. In the meantime, he’d let nature take its course and see if Cathy remembered anything on her own. If she didn’t in a reasonable amount of time, then he would tell her about Vincent, and prepare her. If she wanted to see Vincent, then he’d go Below and tell Vincent what was going on. It seemed a simple enough plan, one that was designed to protect two of the dearest people in his life, but Peter hated subterfuge, and he was already feeling guilty about keeping the truth from Vincent. He kept telling himself that it was for everyone’s benefit that it be kept a secret for now. It would kill Vincent if Catherine was to see him unexpectedly and react badly, with fear.
Cathy woke the next morning after a dreamless sleep. She didn’t remember what time she’d gone to bed but knew it had to have been before 9PM. She looked at the clock and it was 7:30.
Later, in the kitchen she found a note from Peter telling her that the coffee had been made a little before 7AM and that there were bagels in the breadbox. She poured a cup of coffee, helped herself to a bagel and then rummaged in the refrigerator for some cream cheese. Her breakfast on a plate, she picked it and the coffee up and went in search of the photo albums that Peter had told her about.
She found them exactly where he’d said they would be and found that they were all neatly labeled with the contents. She started with the one labeled. "Susan and Cathy, 14 – 18."
The young girls in the photos looked carefree and happy. The shorter one of the two did bear a strong resemblance to her, but none of the pictures brought up any memories. It was the same for the other two albums she looked at. She put everything away, deciding that she’s look at them sometime with Peter, maybe he could tell her stories to go with the pictures that would help. She went back upstairs and started looking through the clothing for something that would be suitable for someone her age. She finally settled on a pair of jeans, a red turtleneck sweater, socks, the Reeboks she’d worn the day before, and a dark blue ski jacket that looked like it was brand new.
She was showered and dressed and downstairs in the kitchen drinking more coffee when the doorbell rang.
When she answered it, Jenny hugged her exuberantly again. "I was worried that I would get over here this morning and find out that I’d dreamed it all," she told Cathy as they left the house and got into the cab that Jenny had left waiting. "Got your key?" she asked.
Cathy nodded. "Peter left it for me. Where is my apartment?" she asked.
"You own a place on Central Park West right across from the park. You have a fantastic view!"
It can’t be, she said to herself. "I own it?" she asked out loud.
"Your dad gave it to you as a graduation gift when you graduated from law school."
Cathy was quiet on the short drive. Jenny tended to talk a lot, so there were no uneasy silences.
When pulled up in front of the building Cathy was surprised but not as much as she probably should have been.
"I’ve walked past this building a couple of times in the last month or so," she told Jenny. "There was something about it…the whole area seemed familiar."
They walked into the lobby and the doorman greeted her as if she hadn’t been gone more than an hour instead of over a year.
"Good morning, Miss Chandler, Miss Aaronson," he said.
The women nodded back at him.
"They know you too?" asked Cathy as the elevator door closed on them.
"Only because I was here a lot the first few months after you disappeared. The police were in and out of the apartment and Peter wanted someone to be there with them every time. We took turns, but I came over on my own a few times, just to see if I could get a feel for what had happened," Jenny told her.
"Joe said that you are kind of psychic. Did you get anything?" she asked.
"Not really. I knew you were still alive, but even Joe kept telling me that it was probably wishful thinking," she said as the elevator doors opened and Jenny led the way down a short hall to a door.
Cathy fished the key out of her pocket and started unlocking locks.
"Are all these locks really necessary?" she asked as she unlocked the last one. "There is security downstairs."
"Your place was broken into several times. Once it was just vandalized, you weren’t home, another time two guys broke in and beat the daylights out of you and another time someone got in and kidnapped you and came very close to killing you. If someone is determined enough there are always ways to get around the security."
"I see what you mean," Cathy answered as the door swung open.
Jenny let her enter first then followed her in, closing the door behind them.
Cathy only went into the room a few feet. Jenny stepped around her and started pulling sheets off furniture, trying not to raise too much dust in the process. Cathy didn’t pay much attention to what Jenny was doing, she just walked across the floor to the French doors and opened them. She stepped out on the balcony and took in the view. A few minutes later Jenny joined her.
"I’ve put all the sheets in a big plastic bag," she said. "We can take them down and put them in your storage in the basement later." Jenny walked over to the ledge and leaned against it. "You had some furniture and plants out here. The furniture…a table, a couple of chairs and a chaise are in your storage in the basement. I took the plants home and have managed not to kill any of them."
"What kind of plants?" Cathy asked.
"The usual stuff, and a beautiful rose bush. You should have seen my amazement the first time it bloomed. It has both red and white roses on the same bush."
"Red and white on the same bush?" questioned Cathy, equally surprised. "How is that?"
"Lady in my building told me that one color was grafted onto the other. I was wondering where you got it."
"Your guess is as good as mine," said Cathy.
Cathy went back inside and took off her coat. She wandered through the rest of the apartment picking up things and putting them down. Jenny followed her and whenever possible she gave explanations or identified people in photos.
"Jenny, Joe said that you are my best friend," Cathy said.
"We’ve been close since we were roomies our Freshman year at Radcliffe. You, Nancy and I were the Three Musketeers."
"Nancy?" Cathy sat on one of the two loveseats that faced each other in front of the fireplace.
"Nancy Alberti, then. Nancy Tucker now. She lived across the hall in the dorm. She got married a couple years after we graduated. She has two kids. She’s going to be thrilled to hear that you are back."
"I assume we stayed close after we both started working. Did we share a lot about our private lives?"
"As much as we could, I guess. Is there something that I might be able to tell you about?"
"Maybe…" she hesitated. "What about the men in my life?"
"There always seemed to be one, if that is what you mean," said Jenny with a grin. "But none of them were good enough for you, that was my opinion, not yours. You lost your virginity when you were nineteen…"
"Oh, I did?" said Cathy with a smile.
"At least you told us you did. That was Jim Baltore. He when to Harvard and was in pre-med. You told everyone that you thought sex was highly over-rated and pretty much swore off it. You still dated just as much as everyone else, but you just didn’t sleep with anyone else for quite a while. I think the next one was your next serious boyfriend, Stephen Bass. You met him your first year in law school and moved in with him a few months later. You were engaged for over a year, but you broke it off just before graduation."
"Why did I do that?"
"You said that he was getting too possessive. He was talking marriage and kids, and you were talking about waiting a few years before getting married while you got settled in your job at your Dad’s firm, and a few more years before you had kids. You didn’t see eye to eye so you broke off the engagement. He quit school and went through some kind of a personal crisis. You were worried about him, which is just like you, but at least you didn’t go back to him.
"In fact, you didn’t even date for a while after that, but once you passed the bar and went to work for your dad you started going out again. There was no one special until your Dad introduced you to Tom Gunther. He’s an architect who had started developing some of his own projects. You were all but engaged to him, but the one or two times I met him I wasn’t impressed. He didn’t treat you right. He was as possessive as Stephen, but not as loving. It was more like he saw you as a possession; a good match to forward his career. You sent him packing not long after your plastic surgery."
"You were assaulted in April of 1987. Some guys mistook you for someone else, slashed your face and beat you up. Then they left you in the park. You disappeared for ten days, when you showed back up, you claimed that you didn’t remember where you’d been. At least that was the story you told everyone but me and your dad. You told us that you’d been taken in by a group of homeless people who had thought at first that you were homeless like them. When you were finally recovered enough to tell someone where you lived, one of them had brought you home and left you."
"Once Tom knew you were safe, it was business as usual and he was out of town most of the time for the next few months while you had surgery to take care of the scars. The two of you hardly spoke, but when he found out you were healed and back to normal, he called. You gave him the heave-ho then.
"Your dad set everything up with a plastic surgeon friend of his and you were in the hospital the day after you came home. The only scar that he couldn’t take care of then was this one." Jenny reached over and brushed her fingers lightly over the scar in front of Cathy’s left ear. "He said that there was a slight infection and it was deeper than the others, almost down to the bone. When it was completely healed and he wanted to take care of it a year later, you told him that you thought you’d like to keep it.
"After your recovery from surgery, you did a complete 180 and left your dad’s law firm and went to work for the DA’s office. You met Elliott Burch at a benefit. You dated him for a while. I thought for sure that you’d found Mr. Right, until you found out that his development company was involved in some shady deals and you dumped him. I think he finally did prove to you that he is one of the good guys, you have remained friends, but you never dated him again."
"Was I involved with anyone at the time of my disappearance?" Cathy asked.
"I’m not sure. I think you may have been, but you were being pretty secretive. Why?"
"Since I left the hospital, I’ve been having dreams. They are all very similar: I’m with a man, he has a soft, sexy voice, but I never see him. It’s dark and he is always behind me reading or reciting. He has his arm around me, and is supporting me, and occasionally he stops talking and it feels like he kisses my hair or nuzzles it before he continues. I always feel very secure and protected in spite of the fact that it is dark; and I don’t like the dark."
"You’ve always been afraid of the dark. We always had a nightlight in the dorm…What is he saying?"
"Sounds like poetry, I’m not sure. I don’t usually remember that part." She didn’t want to go into the one dream that she remembered perfectly.
"And you have no idea what he looks like?"
"I might have an idea. One time I had something like a waking vision. I was looking at the lions in the Bronx Zoo and when one of them roared I saw a face superimposed over the lion’s face. It was a man, with long red gold hair, like a lion’s mane, and vivid blue eyes." For some reason she didn’t mention that he looked somewhat like a lion. "I thought that maybe the reason it happened when the lion roared was that his name might have had something to do with a lion. Like: Leo, or maybe his last name was Lyon. Or maybe he just reminded me of a lion. I don’t know. I’ve been turning it every which way since it happened and none of it makes a bit of sense."
"Maybe you are just trying too hard," suggested Jenny.
The two women sat quietly for a while before Jenny spoke again.
"Do you want to go out to get some groceries, or would you rather order something on the phone?" she asked.
"Is there somewhere around here, close?" asked Cathy.
"Sure. Several different places; you used to shop at all of them. A small grocery, a deli, a green grocer, bakery and a butcher. All within a few blocks. You never had to do a bunch of shopping all at once, but this time I think you are going to need that cart you keep in the pantry. I cleared everything out when you went missing. I didn’t want you coming home to anything that was stale or nasty."
The two women spent what was left of the morning shopping to restock Cathy’s panty and refrigerator. After it was all put away they made sandwiches and had lunch.
"You know, you don’t have to stay with me," Cathy was saying later as they were clearing up.
"I know, but I’m kind of afraid that if I get too far away from you, you’ll disappear on me again," said Jenny.
"We could try pinning my name and address in my clothes," said Cathy with a smile. "Better yet, we could find a tattoo parlor and have it tattooed on my butt."
"The thought must have struck a chord and Jenny started to giggle, and before they knew it they were standing in the middle of the kitchen with their arms around each other laughing hysterically. Each occasionally elaborating on something they could add to the tattoo.
"If found," Jenny giggled, "please return to…who would you like to be returned to, Cath?"
Cathy was wiping tears off her cheeks with a paper towel, "I don’t know. You? Joe? Peter?"
They finally got the laughter out of their systems, they both felt immensely better for it, and sat down with cups of tea to plan the rest of the week. Jenny had taken the whole week off work planning to spend a good portion of it with Cathy, helping her get back into her life; showing her where her bank was, where to get her hair done, her favorite shops.
The next few days were very productive. Jenny and Cathy were together from morning until early evening. Cathy tried on all the clothes in her closet. Most were too big, but when Jenny pointed out that Cathy was a lot skinnier than she had been before her disappearance, Cathy decided to keep everything that wasn’t hopelessly out of style. Jenny had declared shoulder pads passé and that meant that most of Cathy’s suits wound up on the donate pile.
They even found the dress that Cathy had seen in the tattered black and white clipping Joe had shown her.
A plastic dress bag was the last thing that came out of the closet. Cathy unzipped it and what she found took her breath away. She spread the dress out on the bed.
"This is beautiful!" she exclaimed as her fingers skimmed the creamy lace bodice. She picked up the folds of the sheer silk chiffon skirt and let it slide over her fingers. "It looks like a wedding dress."
"I was with you when you bought that," said Jenny. "It is even more beautiful on. Looked as if it was made for you even before alterations. You got it a few months after you started at the DA’s office. I don’t think it was intended to be a wedding dress, but I did get the impression that you wanted it for some special occasion. Try it on, see if it still fits."
Cathy pulled off the robe she’d put on to make the try-ons easier, and Jenny helped her drop the dress over her head. She turned to look in the mirror as Jenny zipped it up. It was a little loose in the waist and through the bust, but it still fit everywhere else.
Cathy turned to view the dress from several angles. "I think this one is a keeper. I don’t know when I’ll ever wear it, but I can’t bear to part with it. Maybe I’ll grow back into it once my life settles down."
"Are you planning to go back to work?" asked Jenny, as she lifted the dress over Cathy’s head.
"I don’t see how I can," said Cathy. "I don’t remember anything about the law or being a lawyer. Joe suggested that I come in to the office a couple days a week and see if any of it comes back, but I’m not sure."
"Maybe you should give it a try," suggested Jenny. "He might have a point, it might come back. Some other things have, and it would keep you from being bored. You never did tolerate inactivity well. If you do plan to do it, then we are going to have to go shopping and replace these suits you’ve decided to get rid of."
That settled it. The next day was passed by spending what Cathy considered to be huge amounts of money on several suits with shoes and bags to match. Cathy even bought a new briefcase when Jenny pointed out that her old one had been found in her car with a bullet hole in it. As she was leaving that store she spotted a lingerie store next door and was lost. Several hundreds of dollars later she had added three new nightgowns and robe sets to her already considerable collection.
And they walked out of the last store with nothing to show for their shopping spree but a hand full of receipts.
"And they will deliver it all to my building?" asked Cathy incredulously.
"It will all be waiting for you at the security desk when we get back and the doorman will help us carry it up to your apartment if we need help."
"I guess there is an advantage to having money," said Cathy.
"Well, the door man will expect a tip and a very generous gift at Christmas," Jenny told her with a smile.
"Well, for that kind of service, he deserves it. Now, what do you say we go get some dinner before we go back and gloat over the loot we’ve collected today."
"I say that it sounds divine. How about Italian? I know great place that Joe took me to a couple weeks ago," said Jenny.
"Speaking of Joe," said Cathy as they climbed into a cab. "Are you two an item?"
"I hope so," said Jenny with a twinkle. "He was in an awful state after you disappeared, and I wasn’t much better. We kind of naturally gravitated toward each other. I’m pretty sure that he was in love with you."
Cathy looked at her in surprise.
"You probably knew it," Jenny told her. "But like I said, you had other interests and didn’t encourage Joe."
"And you consoled him?" asked Cathy with a smile.
"I convinced him that your disappearance wasn’t his fault. He kept obsessing about that black book he’d given you. Once he got over that I think he noticed that I’m a girl."
Cathy laughed at the way Jenny said it.
"We’ve been seeing each other for about six months," Jenny told her.
It was late when they finally got back to Cathy’s. Jenny collected her packages from the considerable pile in the middle of the living room and left Cathy to unwrap and put away hers.
An hour later the hole that had been created in Cathy’s closet by the cleaning spree had been filled, and Cathy was diligently folding bags, and stacking boxes.
Jenny had to go back to work the next week and the time didn’t go quite as quickly or as pleasantly, but Cathy was beginning to learn more and more about her life before her disappearance. She had dinner with Peter one evening and he answered questions about her childhood. Joe dropped in a couple of times, but didn’t manage to convince her to go back to work. She asked him to give her some more time to figure out if she even knew how to be a lawyer anymore.
As she explored her apartment she kept finding things that led her to believe that she’d been seeing someone when she’d disappeared. She wondered why he’d never made himself known to Joe, Jenny or Peter. They obviously knew nothing about him although Joe had able to verify that she was in a serious relationship not long before her disappearance.
"You took time off work to help care for him during a serious illness," he told her when they met for lunch one day. "That was in early May and you disappeared a few weeks later. You never said anything about a breakup and during the time just before you disappeared you seemed a lot happier, more content than you had since I’ve known you."
"But I never told anyone about it? That seems odd."
"I always kind of thought so too," Joe agreed, "but you always were a very private person. When you were dating Burch, he showed up in the office with a fancy catered lunch, you were embarrassed and furious with him. You eventually admitted that it was a sweet gesture, but you still sent him packing, nonetheless." Jenny had already told her about that little escapade, and Cathy knew what Joe was talking about.
"But I still think that if I was that much in love, I would have told someone, my best friend at the very least, and she says that she only had ideas, no concrete proof."
"You haven’t found anything in your apartment that points you in any particular direction?" he asked.
"No, but I’ve been spending so much time playing, shopping and enjoying myself with Jenny that I haven’t really had an opportunity to do a thorough search. Didn’t the police search after I disappeared?"
"Yeah, but we didn’t find anything either. You might find something that we missed, something that means something to you that we wouldn’t have noticed. If you find anything you want checked out, remember, I have connections and can run background checks for you." He winked and left her to contemplate her next course of action.
When Cathy and Jenny had been going through the closet in the bedroom they’d pulled out a wooden chest.
Jenny had told her that it was a Memory Box.
"The girls in generations before us had Hope Chests. They filled them with things that they could use once they were married. You, Nancy, me and a few other girls were determined to show the world that our primary goal in life wasn’t marriage so we used the Hope Chests that our families gave us as Memory Boxes. You might want to go through it; it might help," she suggested.
Cathy had shoved it back into the closet. "Not right now. If I get started on that, we will never finish sorting all these clothes."
Now, she was by herself and it didn’t look like sleep was on the program for at least a few hours, if at all tonight, so she decided to take a look in the box.
She pulled it out and sat on the floor in front of it. The idea of opening it made her a little nervous, but it had to be done.
She lifted the lid. Inside was a tray that lifted out. It had several compartments and contained odds and ends: a handkerchief, a dried corsage, a cracked porcelain bell, ticket stubs, play programs, even a broken charm bracelet. There was also a candle. It had been used, but not for long, the wick was barely burned. It reminded her of a piece of candy corn, the way it was colored: orangey red on the bottom, yellow in the middle and white on top. She decided to leave it out of the box and set it on the corner of the bed. She lifted the tray out and set it aside. Right under the tray was a white feathered mask. Some kind of bird, an owl maybe? she thought. There were a couple of old jewelry boxes; the kind that little girls used. They had the usual little girl jewelry. Only one looked like it might be good jewelry, it was a gold locket on a short chain and it was stored in a velvet bag. She opened the locket, but there were no pictures. There was a pair of pink satin ballet slippers. They didn’t look as if they’d been used much. And on one end, lying on top of a stack of books, was something wrapped in a pale pink baby blanket. She unwrapped it and found a doll. She looked well loved, a little beat up and she made Cathy smile. I wonder what I named you? She wrapped her back up and set her aside.
On the top of the stack of books was a volume of Shakespeare’s Sonnets in a slipcase and bound in red leather. She opened it and found an inscription on one of the front pages:
With love's light wings did I o'er perch these walls
Vincent she repeated to herself. Then she said it out loud. It felt good to say it, a strong, masculine name, but it didn’t conjure any pictures. Did it go with the voice from her dream, she wondered? Then decided that it probably didn’t. The book was in her memory box, probably just an old boyfriend from high school or college, or maybe just an admirer.
Another book was The Velveteen Rabbit, she leafed through it and read a bit here and there. It was familiar, but she couldn’t put her finger on the significance.
She took the photo albums out and leafed through them. They contained a lot of pictures of the same people she’d seen in the albums at Peters.
After a time, she reluctantly replaced everything in the box. She decided to keep the book of sonnets out, maybe she’d read it later.
She carried the sonnets and candle to her nightstand and put them both down. She’d have to find a candle stick for the candle later.
After she pushed the box back into the closet she decided to look at her desk. Keeping a journal had seemed so natural to her that she thought that maybe she’d always done it, but so far she hadn’t found any. There was a locked drawer in her desk, maybe there.
She rummaged through the desk looking for a key. Tried every key on the key ring that Joe had given her, but none of them worked. She finally resorted to something she’d seen in a movie: a letter opener and a pair of scissors. It took nearly ten minutes but she managed to jimmy the lock without damaging it or the drawer. She was disappointed to find nothing more than some cash, several credit cards and some paid bills.
She sat back in the chair and looked at the things on top of the desk: as basket for mail, a framed photo of a girl, she had no idea who she was, she didn’t even look familiar, another smaller framed photo of her and her father. She recognized him from other pictures. A clock that needed to be wound, a small box. She picked up the box, opened it and found the key to the desk drawer. Ironic, but not very secure. Another box contained an address book. She looked through it. No one with the first name Vincent, and the only one with the last name of Vincent was a woman and in parenthesis next to the name were the words (house cleaning service).
There was a blank note pad, a pencil cup with nothing in it, a snow globe and a framed crayon drawing of a violin with the words "You are invited" written underneath.
An invitation? she wondered. She turned the frame over, removed the back and pulled the piece of construction paper out. It was folded and she opened it. There was something written inside in pen:
The children are giving a concert tonight. Meet me below at the threshold.
That name again, Vincent. Maybe he was more current then high school or college, then. There was no date on the card, so it was hard to tell.
She replaced the card in the frame, put the back in place and returned it to its spot on the desk.
Below at the threshold. She kept turning the phrase over in her mind. What does it mean?
She finally gave up and decided to try to get some sleep.
She had a restless night, but she did eventually sleep, and if she dreamed, she didn’t remember.
The inactivity was getting to her. She decided it was time to go to her old place and clear it out. She called Mandy, and arranged to meet her there the next day. She called Peter and asked him if he could help her rent a car. She had a valid drivers’ license, but it was in the name Jane West, and that didn’t match the name on any of her credit cards. Catherine Chandler’s drivers’ license was still good, but missing. She hadn’t got the replacement in the mail yet.
"You don’t have to rent a car, honey," he told her. "You can use my van. It might be better anyway. I don’t know how much stuff you have, but it will be easier to get things in and out of a van."
"Are you sure, Peter?" she asked.
"Yes, I’m sure. What time were you planning to leave?"
"No special time," she told him.
"Then, if it isn’t too early, meet me in front of your building about 8AM, I’ll pick you up; we’ll head to my office and then you can take off from there."
"That sounds great, Peter. Thanks."
Cathy arrived at her basement apartment not long after 10AM the next morning. Traffic had been horrendous and it had taken her over an hour to go less than twenty miles. She would have had to get off the main roads to avoid it, but her knowledge of local roads had deserted her, even if her driving skills hadn’t.
"What took you so long?" asked Mandy as Cathy climbed out of the van.
"Traffic," that seemed to be enough of an answer, and Mandy rushed to hug Cathy.
"It is so good to see you!" she exclaimed as she stepped back to look her friend over.
"I’ve missed you too!" Cathy answered as she led the way to the front door. She turned to see her friend still standing an looking at her.
"Well, do I pass?" she asked with a smile.
"You’ll do," Mandy answered with a grin. "You don’t look any different, well, at least not much."
They were inside and Cathy took off her coat and dropped it on a chair with her purse.
"And why should I look different?" she asked.
Mandy was removing her coat.
"Well, I expected you to be dressed different, better?"
"Well, I am here to work, and I don’t think a power suit would be suitable for this kind of work," Cathy said with a giggle. Then she pivoted in front of Mandy. "These are designer jeans, I got the sweater at Saks last week, I’ve got on a pair of old athletic shoes that I found in the closet at my new…old…place. And you should see the lingerie that I have! Gorgeous bras, panties, slips, nightgowns, robes, you name it. Beautiful stuff! Most of the clothes in the closet were pretty conservative, but what I wore under it all could steam your glasses!"
"Dressing for anyone in particular?" asked Mandy as she followed Cathy into the kitchen and watched her make a pot of coffee.
"Everyone seems to think so. So far I’ve met the man who was my boss, Joe Maxwell, a friend from college, Jenny Aaronson and my family doctor and friend, Peter Alcott. They all seem to agree that I was seeing someone, had been for a while, but no one ever met him. Joe says I even talked to him about the guy, took time off work to stay with him when he was sick, but no one seems to know his name."
It didn’t take long to pack up what Cathy wanted to take with her: a few clothes, books, some pictures and the records and a few other things from the hospital. These fit easily in the back of the van.
They went back inside where Cathy turned to look at the rest of the stuff in the small apartment. "You know, I don’t need any of this. Do you think you could use it, or know of someone who could?"
"Could I use it?" repeated Mandy incredulously. "Absolutely. The furniture I have was almost all bought right after I got the apartment before Andrew was born. And it wasn’t expensive then. Some of it is literally falling apart. Even though you got yours second hand, it is still better quality than the junk I have. How much do you want for it and how soon do you want it out of here?"
"I don’t need anything for it," Cathy assured her, "and anytime before the end of the month, I guess. I’ve already talked to the landlord and told him that I won’t be living here any longer, and I promised to be out by the end of the month. You can have all of it: linens, towels, dishes, pots and pans, coffee pot, clothes; all I want is this." She pulled a large mug with a lion on it out of the cupboard. A memento of her trip to the zoo with Mandy and Andrew.
Mandy threw her arms around Cathy and hugged her, laughing all the while.
"Wow, it’s going to be like Christmas a month early! I’ll get Andy to help me move it next weekend. He has a pickup truck."
Cathy handed Mandy the keys to the apartment. "I’ll let the landlord know and I’ll tell him you’ll drop the keys off after you’ve emptied the apartment."
Before Cathy headed home, she and Mandy stopped at a favorite little diner for lunch. They parted on the sidewalk outside.
"Now remember," Cathy told her. "You are welcome at my place anytime. It isn’t very large but I have two small sofa beds. I’m not working so come see me!"
"Not working, I thought you were a lawyer," commented Mandy as she climbed into her car.
"But I haven’t remembered how to be a lawyer," Cathy explained. "Joe seems to think that all I need to do is start working and it will all come back. Even Peter says it is worth a try, but the idea of facing people that I used to know, but don’t recognize now is a bit daunting."
"I can see that, but I also know that you aren’t one to sit around and do nothing; not for long anyway," said Mandy.
"I’ll find something. I found some of my old textbooks from law school. I thought I’d start reading. If any of it comes back, I’ll try going back to the DA’s office. I suppose I could always do clerical work if all else fails."
The two women parted and Cathy headed back to the city.
"How did moving day go?" asked Peter as Cathy let him into her apartment later.
"Great, there wasn’t that much to move," said Cathy, accepting his kiss on her cheek. "A few clothes, some keepsakes, books, my journals. And I found someone who needs the furniture in the apartment. My friend Mandy is going to take it all."
"Good, I’m glad it went well and that you had help."
Cathy offered Peter a cup of coffee, which he declined. "Would you like to go to dinner with me?" he asked.
"No thank you, Peter," she declined. "I’m not dressed and I’ve still got some things to put away…Oh that reminds me." She went over to her desk and picked up a thick folder and brought it back to him. "These are my records from the hospital. Everything from the time the police found me until I left the hospital last summer; both medical and psychological. I’ve only read a little of it. The medical and psychological jargon was too much to wade through, but you might find it helpful."
Peter took the file and weighed it in his hand. "There’s a lot here," he commented.
"Dr. Padgett had never seen a case like mine and it really interested him," she told him, "I think he actually planned to write a paper on it, but he died last spring."
"Is that what prompted your release?" Peter asked.
"No, I don’t think so. Toni Carollo, the social worker who worked with him, said that he’d made the decision shortly before he died. My release was a little delayed because of his death."
Peter nodded. "Well, I’ll go over this and see if I come up with anything he missed."
Peter left and Cathy finished putting away the things she’d brought home. She put the plastic wrapped package containing the clothes she’d been wearing when she was found on the back of the shelf in her coat closet. She didn’t know why she hung on to it, but she had ever since the nurse had given it to her a few days after her arrival at the hospital.
Peter decided against stopping somewhere for some dinner and decided he probably had something for a sandwich in his refrigerator.
He changed into more comfortable clothing when he got home and carried the file with him to the kitchen. He made a meatloaf sandwich, found some chips and pulled a cold beer out of the refrigerator before sitting down to eat. Afterward he sipped the beer, and sorted the papers in the file into several piles.
He picked up the medical pile first. He was appalled by what he read in the blood work. The mix and level of drugs present in her system at the time she was admitted to the hospital would have killed someone if they had been introduced suddenly. He surmised that whomever had held her had been drugging her for quite some time. Reading further, he wasn’t surprised that she had gone through withdrawal during the first few weeks she was in the hospital. What did surprise him was that it wasn’t more severe. Dr. Padgett had described it as mild, the worst symptom being insomnia. Considering the amount of sedative in her bloodstream he wasn’t surprised. She was still complaining of insomnia more nights than not, but when he’d suggested a mild sleeping pill she’d refused it adamantly. Now he knew why.
The psychological paperwork took a little longer to read through. He agreed with Dr. Padgett’s hypothesis that Cathy’s amnesia was probably caused by a combination of things. It was this that added to most of the bulk in the file, there were several transcripts of Dr. Padgett’s hypnosis sessions with Cathy.
Dr. P: Do you remember any of the questions they asked you, Jane?
Jane: They asked about him.
Dr. P: Him? Who is that?
Jane: Him, you know, the one I’m not supposed to talk about.
Dr. P.: You can talk to me about him, you know.
Jane: No I can’t. It’s a secret and I promised that the secret was safe with me.
Dr. P.: But you know I won’t tell the secret.
Jane: I still can’t tell. I promised. A lot of good people depend on the secret being kept.
Dr. P: What can you tell me about him?
Jane: That I love him…More than I’ve ever loved anyone before. He’s my life…he’s everything.
Dr. P: Then why can’t you tell me about him?
Jane: Because if anyone knew about him, he’d be in danger.
Dr. P: Is that why the people who were holding you wanted to know about him. Was he on the run from them, or from the law?
Jane: No, not that. They wanted him.
Dr. P: Why did they want him, Jane?
Jane: Because he is different.
Dr. P: Different? How?
Jane: He…looks different. And he is very strong, especially when he is angry.
Dr. P: And the people who had you wanted him because of that?
Jane: Yes, I heard them.
Dr. P: What did you hear, Jane?
Jane: They knew that he loves me, and they thought that they could use that to control him.
Dr. P: How did they find out about him?
Jane: The doctor said that he tried to rescue me once, but they got me away before he could. When they saw what he looked like they started researching my background and found some things that the doctor said his boss found very interesting. The doctor said that his boss thought he could use him as a body guard, and maybe use him to breed more like him, with me.
The conversation went on with more questions and answers like these. There were several other transcripts that were very similar. Cathy would never give up any information about him…and he assumed ‘him’ was Vincent.
He read a little further and found that the doctor had come to the conclusion that since ‘Jane’ was so adamant about keeping the identity of her lover a secret, that she had probably subconsciously chosen to forget him, rather than give up any information. The drugs had probably made that easier. He thought that the only thing that would bring back her memory was to be confronted with the man she was in love with, or possibly someone who knew him.
Peter tossed the second idea out the window with a wry smile. He’d seen her every couple of days since she’d moved back into her apartment, but his presence hadn’t brought back any memories.
He leafed through the notes a little more and found one note that the doctor had written in red pencil across a transcript.
Jane mentions that she and her lover exchanged gifts on the first anniversary of their meeting. She said that the gifts were very meaningful to each of them, but I can’t get her to tell me what either of them were. If I could find out what either of them where, I might be able to use the symbolism to bring forward some memory of him.
Peter knew what the gifts were, but had no idea where either one of them were. He knew that Cathy didn’t have her crystal, and he knew that Vincent had always worn the pouch with the rose, assumed he still did.
He was about to put all the papers away, when he came across a note, written by a nurse. It was on the back of a personal property receipt.
These items were in the possession of the patient at the time she was admitted. They were returned to her when she was given a permanent room assignment.
He turned the paper over and read the receipt.
1 - dark blue sweatshirt
1 - pair dark blue sweatpants
1 - pair white tennis shoes
1 - pair white cotton panties
1 - crystal necklace, set in gold wire, on a gold chain
"Bingo!" he exclaimed as he reached for the phone and dialed Cathy’s number.
Cathy was just out of the bath and had finished brushing her teeth when the phone rang.
She looked at the clock as she reached for the phone on her night stand.
"Cathy? This is Peter. I didn’t wake you, did I?" he asked.
"No Peter. It’s still early, not even ten, what is it?"
"Do you still have the clothes you were wearing when they found you? I found a note in your file that they were given to you."
"Yes, I have them. Why?"
"Have you ever looked at them?" he asked.
"No. They’re still sealed in the plastic bag that the nurse put them in when I was admitted."
"Did you ever read the list of what was in the bag?" he asked again.
"No, and again…why?"
"There is something in it that you should see, but I don’t want you to open it until I get there. Give me twenty minutes, thirty tops and I’ll be there and we can open it together."
She didn’t get a chance to ask any more questions before the line went dead.
Since Peter was coming over she decided to put some clothes on instead of the nightgown she had laid out. She absently pulled a pretty ivory bra and panty sent out of the drawer and put them on, then pulled on another pair of the new designer jeans Jenny had helped her pick out. She pulled a deceptively plain pale green cashmere sweater out of a drawer and pulled it over her head. Then she went to the coat closet in the living room and pulled the plastic bag off the shelf.
She carried it over to the coffee table and put it down. She sat down and stared at it for a few minutes then came to a decision.
"The heck with this," she said aloud. She stood and went to get the scissors off her desk. "No reason to wait."
She cut open the bag and slid the clothing out. She neatly folded the bag in half and put it on the end of the table then placed the scissors on top of it. She sat down again and picked up the piece of clothing on the top of the pile.
She unfolded it and found it was a dark blue sweatshirt. Nothing fancy, not even a brand name. She laid it aside on the loveseat next to her. She picked up next piece: dark blue sweatpants. Neither of them has been laundered before they’d been bagged so they were still dirty.
The tennis shoes had seen better days. They had once been white, but were now so muddy and grass stained that it was hard to tell. They were plain w canvas. She picked one up and noticed that there was something in the toe. It was a pair of plain white cotton panties. She picked up the other and there was something in the toe of it too. It was something hard, wrapped in several facial tissues.
She put it on the table and pulled the tissues away; she was surprised to find a piece of jewelry. A large crystal on a chain. She held the chain between her right index finger and thumb and held it up. The crystal spun a little, reflecting the light.
"How beautiful!" she exclaimed out loud. She reached for the crystal with her other hand, cupping her hand around it to stop the spinning so she could get a better look at it. When she did this she had a sudden vision of making that same movement before, when she first received the crystal. She closed her eyes trying to hold on to the elusive vision as her hand made a fist around the crystal. Then suddenly she knew. She remembered every instant of the evening she had received this necklace as a gift.
She remembered wearing the lace and chiffon dress she’d found in the closet the week before. She even remembered that she’d bought it especially for that occasion. What was the occasion? She thought for a moment. Yes, the first anniversary of the night they’d met.
She’d wanted to make it special for him. She’d worked several evenings making a pouch out of a piece of leather. She’d strung the pouch on a leather cord and then put an ivory rose inside it to give to him.
She was leaning back on the couch with her eyes closed and she watched the images play out in her imagination.
It was a lovely, warm spring evening, and she’d bought every candle that she could find that day. They were all over the balcony in every conceivable kind of holder and she’d just finished lighting them all when she heard him on the other end of the balcony.
She turned and saw him and he took her breath away. He was so beautiful.
She remembered saying that it had been one year ago.
He’d answered by saying, "How remarkable you are…remembering such a dark moment with dancing light."
She had crossed the balcony to stand in front of him. She remembered feeling as if she was going to burst with all the feelings inside her. She had to make him understand how important this was to her; how important he was to her.
"It’s a time for celebration," she’d said. "I found hope again that night…I found you."
They had stood and just gazed into each other’s eyes for a time then finally he’d spoken.
"I have something for you. I wanted to give you something from my world; something for you to carry with you…a keepsake." It had been the crystal. She had exclaimed over its beauty.
"It comes from our deepest chamber," he’d told her. "It reminds me of a piece of eternity." He’d placed the necklace around her neck and she’d vowed to cherish it.
She marveled that they had both wanted to give each other something of themselves. She had given him an ivory rose and told him the story of how her mother had given it to her to help her when she was afraid of the dark. To remind her that she would always be thinking of her.
She remembered telling him, "Until you came into my life, Vincent, I’d forgotten how it felt to know that there was someone thinking of me; someone who knows who I am; someone that I’m connected too."
She’d put the leather cord around his neck. He’d told her, "Every moment since that night, I’m reminded of what a gift life is." And he had hugged her.
She remembered their hugs, how wonderful they were and how frustrating.
The voice in her dreams…it was him. It was Vincent. And she suddenly knew she and to go to him and she knew exactly where to find him: Below, in his chamber.
She slipped the chain of the necklace around her neck, and rushed into her bedroom where she pulled on a pair of shoes, put on a jacket and grabbed her keys. She was in the basement heading for the threshold before she realized it. She stopped only long enough to wonder if she’d remembered to lock her door.
Peter was at her door only minutes after Cathy left. He knocked and there was no answer. He was a little worried, so he used his key and let himself in. When he saw the clothing laid out on the love seat he knew exactly what had happened. Cathy always had been one to take the bull by the horns and go for it. He wasn’t surprised that she hadn’t waited for him. And he wasn’t surprised that she’d remembered. He didn’t think he had to worry, she was probably on her way to Vincent right now, but he did want to make sure that she had gone there so he took the elevator down to the basement.
He was pretty sure that she’d been this way. She’d been in such a hurry that she hadn’t moved the boxes back or closed the door behind her. He closed it, and put the camouflaging boxes back. He’d send a message to Jacob when he got back to his place and make sure she arrived all right.
Cathy hadn’t remembered everything in a flood, but as she followed her instincts she started recognizing things and remembering. When she had left her apartment, she’d known how to get Below, but beyond that she didn’t have a clue, but as she moved it became clear and she just went where her memory took her.
She passed what she knew was a sentry post and heard a message go out over the pipes announcing "Catherine is here. Catherine is on her way."
That was why the banging radiator had made her think of messages. They used the pipes as a communication system here.
It was late enough that she met no one on her way to Vincent’s chamber. She arrived, and was disappointed to find it empty. The only light was from the stained glass window over the bed and from an electric light that was suspended from the ceiling.
She felt like she’d finally come home. Since the message had gone out on the pipes she was confident that Vincent would be here as soon as he could.
She turned just in time to see an older man enter the chamber. It took a moment to put a name to the face: Jacob Wells, Dr. Jacob Wells…Father. Vincent’s father.
He limped across the chamber and drew her into a hug.
"Catherine! It is wonderful to see you," he stood back to look at her, but he didn’t let go of her. "How are you? Where have you been?"
She returned his hug with enthusiasm. "Father! It is wonderful to see you. I’m fine…now. And if you don’t mind, I’ll explain everything later. Where’s Vincent?"
"I’m sorry, my dear," said Father. "He is away. He found a new network of caverns that he wanted to inspect and map. He’s been gone almost a week. We expect him back tomorrow morning."
"Can I stay and wait for him?" she asked hopefully.
"Of course you can. I’m sure the guest chamber is ready; you’ll be comfortable there." He started to lead the way out of the chamber.
"Father…" she hesitated then rushed on. "Can I stay here? Can I wait for Vincent here?"
He hesitated only a moment. "Certainly you can, my dear," he said with a smile. "I’m sure Vincent won’t mind. You’ll have everything you need?"
She nodded and hugged him again.
"Then I’ll leave you," he said as he turned and started for the door. "Make yourself comfortable. "I’m sure you know where everything is."
"Thank you, Father," she called as he left the chamber.
She inspected the chamber in minute detail. He’d changed very little during the time she’d been gone. A few new books on the shelves, some new crafts, probably gifts from the children. The room was chilly and she built a fire in the brazier. As it started to warm, she took off her jacket and hung it on the back of a chair. On the bookshelf she found the Great Expectations that he’d given her. She remembered that she always kept it on her night table; he must have gone to her apartment and retrieved it. She hugged it to her chest and sat down to read. She didn’t know how long she read, but she was about a third of her way into the book when she found herself yawning.
She looked over at the bed, it did look inviting. She realized that she couldn’t stay up all night, she’d had a long day. She’d be asleep in the chair if she sat there much longer. Vincent wouldn’t mind if she slept in his bed. She’d done it before, when she was recuperating. She’d even slept next to him there when he was recovering from his illness. She turned off the lamp, threw another piece of wood on the fire then banked it as Vincent had taught her. She toed off her shoes then removed her jeans and sweater, folding them over the back of the chair her jacket was on. She crawled sleepily into the bed wearing just her bra and panties.
She stretched luxuriously, and pulled one of the pillows into her arms and took a deep breath. It smelled like him. That unique scent of soap, smoke and Vincent. She fell asleep before she had much chance to enjoy it.
Vincent had been up since early morning and had been busy all day. He’d stopped for dinner intending to camp for the night then make the rest of the trip home first thing in the morning. But he’d been restless all day, never able to sit still for long. When he thought back, he’d actually been restless since the day that Samantha had come to him and told him that she’d seen Catherine. It had just seemed to have been worse the last week or so. He didn’t want to read anything into it that wasn’t there, but he had checked the Bond more often of late. Nothing had changed.
Tonight he was truly what Zach called ‘antsy’. He couldn’t sit still, and knew that there wasn’t a prayer that he would sleep. He was about four hours from home, it was only about 10PM, he could easily walk home, have the comfort of a hot bath and sleep in his own bed tonight. Sleeping in his own bed had great appeal, especially since he’d spent the last six nights sleeping on the ground with only a thin pad between him and hard rock.
He packed up his gear and set out for home.
He avoided the sentry posts as he neared the hub. He suspected that Father would still be up and he didn’t want to have to talk to him tonight. Tomorrow morning would be soon enough to tell him all about the new caverns.
He took a short cut that took him directly to his private bathing chamber. He and Devin had found it when they were boys, and it was the perfect way to sneak into their bathing chamber when they arrived home dirty and muddy from doing something that they weren’t supposed to be doing.
He dropped his pack and started striping off his clothes.
He’d been cold for what seemed like forever, in spite of his extra layers of clothing, and he was sore from sleeping on the ground The hot water felt good. He quickly lathered and rinsed then washed his hair. It was good to be clean again too. Water had been scarce on this trip and he hadn’t had much extra for anything but brushing his teeth.
He stretched out in the water and relaxed. Letting the gentle eddies work their magic on his sore muscles. He almost dozed off then decided he’d better get out before he fell asleep right there.
He rubbed as much water out of his hair as he could, then dried his body. He pulled a nightshirt off a hook and slipped it over his head then went over to a rivulet of water that filled what served as a sink. He brushed his teeth then ran a wide toothed comb though his hair, working out a few tangles as he did.
The tunnel to his chamber was short and he was surprised to find that the chamber was warm. Maybe one of the sentries had seen him after all, and someone had come to build up the fire for him. That was thoughtful. He went over to the brazier, and stood near it and dried his hair in the heat.
When he turned he noticed the clothing draped over the back of his chair. He reached out and touched the sweater on top. Cashmere and the movement caused a scent to drift up to him.
"Catherine!" he whispered. She was here. He turned toward the bed and there she was.
She was on her right side facing him, and she was holding one of his pillows to her chest as if it was a lifeline. She smiled in her sleep.
He moved to the side of the bed and looked down at her. Was he dreaming? He closed his eyes, shook his head and then opened them again. She was still there. He leaned over and lifted a lock of her hair, and rubbed it between his fingers. It felt just as silky as it always had, and she didn’t disappear.
He wondered if he dared to join her in the bed. He knew they’d shared the bed during his illness and recuperation, in her apartment and here, but he’d been weak and neither had had much on their minds beyond rest.
He finally told himself to quit thinking so much and just go to bed. He was tired and the idea of sleeping with the woman he loved safe in his arms was very inviting. He pulled back the covers then noticed a bare shoulder. He lifted the cover a bit more and was relieved to see that she wasn’t nude, she still had on her bra and panties. There was still a lot of skin showing, but he felt he could deal with it.
He carefully eased into the bed next to her and made himself comfortable with a minimum of movement. As he relaxed she sighed and rolled over, leaving the pillow between them. He moved the pillow to the top of the bed and tried to relax. She was so close yet still too far away, he finally gave into his urges and scooted closer to her. He gingerly put his arm around her waist and pulled her gently back toward him, nestling her body close to his. She wiggled a little, snuggling even closer, then relaxed back into a sound sleep. He lightly kissed the back of her neck, breathing in her scent.
"Good night, Catherine," he said. "Sleep well, my love."
But Vincent didn’t follow her into the land of dreams. All he could think of was the entry he’d written in his journal not long after Catherine’s disappearance. He’d read and reread it so many times that he had it memorized.
I think I may as well concede defeat. I cannot find her. I have walked what seems like every inch of the city, even parts of Long Island and Staten Island, since that night I nearly found her. I did find her, thanks to Old Sam and Zach, but I was not quick enough. They took her out of that warehouse before I could get to her. But I found some of her things there: shoes, her purse, a jacket and somehow I also found a little of the Bond.
I can feel her again, not like I used to, but a little. I know she is alive, and I would know, I’m sure I would know if she ceased to live.
Since that night I’ve also come to a decision. If I find her…no, ‘when’ I find her again, I will not waste any more of our precious time together. I’ve always said that I could never deny her anything, but I lied. Lied to myself and to everyone else, especially to Catherine. I denied her the one thing that I now realize she wanted, maybe even needed, the most, and that is myself. I know she knows that I love her and would do anything for her, but the physical expression of our love is the one thing that I’ve never been able to bring myself to give her, do for her. I would give my life for her, but I would not love her the way she wanted me to.
No more! When she returns to me I will truly deny her nothing. If she still wants me, she shall have me; if she wants to live Below, I will welcome her; if she wants me to go to Connecticut with her, if she wants me to go to Disneyland with her, I will go!
He looked at the woman in his arms. It was almost as if she sensed his scrutiny, she sighed, then rolled over and cuddled into his chest, one arm going around his waist and the other sliding up under her pillow.
Her nose was pressed against his chest where his night shirt was open and he could feel her breath puffing against his skin.
She needs rest! He told himself; he could feel her exhaustion.
What he had just thought hit him. He could feel her exhaustion. He probed deeper. Yes! The Bond was back and it felt as it had before his illness. He held her tighter and kissed the top of her head.
He knew she was dreaming. He didn’t know what she was dreaming but he could tell that it was pleasant and it made her feel good. Then he heard her voice.
"Umm, that was nice," she murmured.
He looked inward to the Bond again to find out if she was dreaming or awake. She seemed to be halfway between.
He slid down a little so that his face was on a level with hers. Then he did something that only a little over a year ago he would have only dreamed of doing…he kissed her.
It was a light kiss, almost as if a feather had drifted across her lips, but it was sufficient to make her open her eyes.
She gazed at him, almost uncomprehending at first. Then she realized where she was. She brought both her hands to his face and drew his head toward her for another kiss. He didn’t resist her. It was almost the same as the first one, it just lasted a fraction of a second longer. Then she burrowed back into his chest.
"Oh, Vincent. You’re real!" she signed. "I’ve dreamed of you so often lately that I was beginning to think you were a figment of my imagination."
"And I’m finding it hard to believe that you are real too," he told her as he held her tight. "Ever since I walked in here and found you in my bed I’ve been expecting to wake and find myself back at the campsite rolled in a dusty blanket laying on a hard rock bed. God knows I’ve had this dream often enough in the last year."
He sought her lips again and this time the kiss left her breathless.
He tilted her head back and started kissing her neck. Her quick intake of breath told him that she was surprised at his actions, but the Bond told him that she was enjoying it very much.
"While you were gone," he started between kisses, "I made a promise."
"What was it?" she asked.
"That when you returned we would move toward love as soon as you wanted."
He’d worked his way up to her lips and now his eyes were on a level with hers again.
"Whenever I want it?" she asked, a little breathlessly.
"Whenever, Catherine," he said, looking into her eyes and not looking away.
"Now, Vincent?" she asked, tentatively.
"Yes," he told her as his right hand went down to the small of her back and he pressed her lower body against his so that she was made aware of his erection, as if she hadn’t been aware before.
His lips descended to hers once more and this time it was a kiss of passion and discovery. They didn’t rush, they knew they had all the time in the world. They nibbled and tasted. Catherine made a foray into his mouth with her tongue and when he felt her pleasure through the Bond when she did that, he mimicked her actions and the Bond told him that her pleasure was even greater. He wasn’t sure what he was more likely to do, burst into flame or melt into a puddle, he and to stop to catch his breath.
"Catherine!" was all he could manage as he held her close.
"I know," she gasped, "me too," She tugged at his night shirt. "Will you please take this off?"
She was surprised that he didn’t balk at the request, but sat up cross legged on the bed and pulled the night shirt over his head and dropped it on the floor.
Catherine was interested to see that Vincent didn’t have all that much more body hair than an ordinary man. It was the same color as the hair on his head, grew in the same pattern as most men, but it didn’t look coarse; it looked soft and fine. She wanted to touch and as she reached toward him his voice interrupted her.
"What about you, Catherine?" he asked. "I want to touch you." He reached out and touched her breast and even this light touch through the silk caused her nipple to spring to attention. She followed his example and sat up. She reached behind her and unhooked the bra, letting it slide down her arms. With a flick of her wrist, it joined Vincent’s nightshirt on the floor. She rolled up to her knees and started to slide the panties down her thighs, then she noticed that Vincent’s eyes were following every move of her hands. The panties were off and her only thought was that she wanted to feel his chest against her breasts. She expedited that by moving into his lap, straddling his hips and pulling her upper body tight against his.
The hair on his body was soft, just as it had been in the dream. She knew they’d never done this before.
Vincent felt her nipples instantly harden as his arms went around her and he held her against him.
Catherine not only wrapped her arms around his neck, but she also wrapped her legs around his waist, trapping his rapidly growing erection between their bodies.
Vincent groaned and Catherine sighed in delight.
"I had a dream," she whispered.
"We’ve had…that dream…almost since…we first met…Catherine," he said between the kisses he was trailing along her collarbone.
"No, not that dream. I dreamed that we made love, only I didn’t know it was you at the time. It was before I remembered. I dreamed of you several times, but in only the last one did we make love and while I was dreaming it, I knew it was a dream."
Vincent stopped in his progress in kissing his way from one shoulder to the other, and looked at her.
"What was the dream?" he asked.
She described it to him and he gave her an odd look. "When was that?"
"I think it was the second weekend in October. I’d come to the city with my friend Mandy."
"I had the same dream," he told her. "Even down to the quotes from Evangeline. We had talked about it in History class earlier that day. I thought it was just that you were on my mind because Samantha came back from running errands Above and told me that she’d seen you outside your apartment building."
Catherine closed her eyes and visualized what she’d seen when she’d passed the building. She remembered the dark haired girl on the corner.
"Samantha has grown up a lot since I last saw her," she said with a smile. "I remember seeing her and wondering why she was staring at me."
"She lost you in the crowd before she gathered her wits enough to call out to you."
She looked into the eyes of the man who held her so intimately, then she slid her hand between their bodies and touched him.
"Do you think we could talk about all this later?" she asked. "I kind of had something else on my mind."
He kissed her then pulled back to look into her eyes.
"Say what you said in the dream?" he asked.
She closed her eyes and tried to recall, then it came to her.
"Please," she whispered. "Love me?"
"Yes, Catherine," he whispered back. "Always."
Her hand on him was too intense, he had to grab it and pull it away. He drew both her hands to his mouth and kissed each one before releasing them. He took her by the shoulders and eased her back on the bed. Unlike the dream, there was light in the chamber and she could see his eyes as he looked at her.
Her bottom was still nestled in his lap, and her legs were still spread around his waist. Her whole body was open to him. He put his hands behind him and ran them lightly up the outsides of her legs from feet to hips. When he reached her hips he leaned over and kissed her stomach. From there he worked his way up to her breasts. He rubbed his nose up and down the valley between them before he dropped numerous kisses there. If he didn’t touch her soon she was going to scream in pure frustration.
As if he heard her thoughts he moved his mouth to her right breast. He kissed his way around the nipple several times before he finally took it into his mouth. Catherine felt it deep inside her. She’d never thought that her breasts were especially sensitive, but now she realized that no one had ever done this right. By the time Vincent was finished with her left breast she was on the edge, and it didn’t take much to push her over the edge into orgasm. She did just that when Vincent placed his hand on her lower abdomen and began to massage. She went to pieces in his arms, much to both their surprise. He felt her climax through the bond and he almost followed her.
He pulled her up and back into his arms as she trembled and gasped.
"Oh my God," she gasped. "That has never happened before."
"Was that what I think it was?" he asked, stunned.
"Oh yes!" She burrowed into his chest with a happy sigh. "If that happens when you do that, what will it be like when we get to the main event?"
"You mean we won’t have to stop now?" he asked naively.
She gave a little giggle. "Not on your life." The she leaned back and looked at him.
"You’ve had Father’s medical library at your disposal, haven’t you ever read about this?" she asked.
"Most of the books on this subject are pre-1950, Catherine," he told her.
"Pre Masters and Johnson and The Joy of Sex, huh?" she said.
"I’m afraid so," he told her.
"Then we will remedy that little oversight later, but just let me tell you that women, or at least a lot of them, can have more than one orgasm in a short period of time. Our recovery time is shorter than a man’s. For some it is only seconds, but mostly at least me, it’s a couple of minutes."
She bent to kiss him, nibbling on his lower lip and finally allowing her tongue to creep into his mouth to brush lightly against his.
He started to knead her bottom as she reached between them to grasp his erection again.
"Vincent," she breathed into his ear, "I don’t want to wait any longer…I want you inside me…now. We can perfect the foreplay later."
She thought she detected a light chuckle as he used the hands that had been kneading her bottom, to ease her back on the bed again. He rested on his knees and forearms above her.
She reached down and positioned the head of his erection then waited, her eyes closed, with great anticipation…nothing.
"Vincent?" she questioned, not moving. He’d been holding himself above her at least a minute. His arms were beginning to shake with the strain or maybe it was nerves.
"Look at me Catherine!" he demanded softly. "I want to see your eyes."
She opened her eyes and gazed up into his only a few inches above her.
When their eyes met, he started to nudge at her, slowly.
There was an initial resistance, and Catherine had to take a deep breath and consciously relax those muscles. The resistance was gone and suddenly he was inside her, only a little but inside her at last.
She gasped, but she didn’t take her eyes from his; he stopped.
"Are you all right, Catherine," he asked in concern.
"What does the Bond tell you?" she asked a little breathlessly. "It is back, isn’t it?"
He nodded, uncertainly, "You are a little uncomfortable, but here is no pain."
"And the only reason I’m uncomfortable is that I can feel that your arms are beginning to shake." She wrapped her arms around his neck tighter, pulling his upper body toward hers. Then she wrapped her legs around his hips. "Please, Vincent, I want all of you."
He obliged by continuing his slow downward plunge, until she had exactly what she had asked, for: all of him.
He couldn’t believe the sensations that were rapidly engulfing him. He wanted to move, yet he didn’t want to leave the safe, warm, place he’d just discovered. A slight push upward from Catherine started him in the right direction. His movements were slow to start with. Excruciatingly so, but after a few strokes he settled into a rhythm that gradually quickened.
Catherine’s moans disturbed him at first, but when he checked the Bond it told him that she was feeling pleasure. The moans were from pleasure not discomfort or pain. He quickened his pace again and she was moving with him, picking up his rhythm as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Then it dawned on him…it was the most natural thing in the world: this loving. Natural that he should love her and natural that this should be one of the ways that they would express their love. The abstract thoughts flowing through is mind were just enough of a distraction so that he was able to hold his orgasm off long enough for Catherine to peak. What he felt from her through the Bond, combined with her body’s internal contractions, made it impossible for him to hold out any longer. He climaxed with an earth shaking intensity. He buried his face in the pillow next to her head to muffle the sounds he was making.
His bones turned to jelly and he collapsed, Catherine’s body taking almost all his weight. She had wrapped both arms and legs around him in a full body hug and was reveling in the feel of him when he finally came to his senses and rolled to his side next to her.
"Don’t leave," she said, as she felt him move away.
He pulled her close. "I’m not going anywhere," he whispered into her ear. "I just didn’t want to crush you."
"That was the most incredible…" she began.
"I never knew…" he said at the same time.
"Go on," she told him when he hesitated.
"I was only going to say that I never knew it could be like that," he told her.
"Me either," she agreed.
"But you’ve…" he started.
"But it was never like that," she told him.
She turned on her side facing him and started kissing his neck. "Never like that," she repeated.
Vincent could feel the Bond telling him that she was still aroused, but she was also very tired.
"Sleep, Catherine," he told her.
"Kiss me first?" she asked as she pulled away from his neck to look into his eyes.
As he lowered his head to hers he opened the Bond as he’d never done before. He let it guide him and Catherine was left breathless.
"Women always ‘swooned’ when a man kissed them in the old books and movies," she told him, now I know what it feels like. She turned over, fitting her body into the curve of his. "You will still be here when I wake, won’t you?" she asked sleepily.
"Yes, Catherine," he answered as he felt her drift off, "always."
Not long after this interlude, Father rose from bed. As he passed the side tunnel to Vincent’s chamber on his way to breakfast, he decided to check on Catherine. Maybe she’d like to go to breakfast with him and maybe he’d be able to hear her story while they ate.
The chamber was lit only by the light coming through the stained glass window and Father was well into the chamber before he noticed that the form under the covers in the bed was much too big to be Catherine. A second look told him that Vincent had returned that he had joined Catherine in the bed. The nightshirt, bra and panties on the floor told him that they had probably done a little more than sleep.
He smiled as he turned back to the door. There was a time when he would have not approved, but now, after all the two had been though…well, to say he approved would be an understatement. At the door he unhooked the heavy rug that had been put up when Vincent was a teenager. He’d seldom used it in recent years, except when the tunnels became drafty, in the coldest part of the winter. He let the rug drop behind him as he left the chamber. They could use the privacy and the rest, he mused as he made his way to the dining chamber. He would tell Mary that Catherine had returned, and hoped that not many had heard the announcement on the pipes the night before.
When Vincent woke he didn’t immediately open his eyes. He savored what he was feeling. Catherine was warm and naked in his arms. That alone was enough to convince him he’d died and gone to heaven. He’d made love to her and nothing had happened…no, plenty had happened, he mentally corrected himself, but none of it was bad. The pipes seemed unusually quiet. He heard the 9AM announcement, then it was quiet again.
Catherine signed and turned in his arms. He felt her lips on his chest, just over his heart.
"Are you awake, Love," she asked quietly.
"Mmm, almost," he answered, as his eyes cracked open.
"What time is it?" she asked as she stretched.
"Only a little after 9AM," he answered.
She snuggled into his chest. "Do we have to get up today?" she asked.
"We could probably get away with another hour or so, but we might get hungry."
She finally opened her eyes and looked into his. "Right now I’m only hungry for one thing, and it isn’t William’s muffins."
She kissed her way up his jawline then nibbled delicately on his lower lip. Vincent succumbed to her and rolled her onto her back and kissed her passionately.
"You learn fast," she commented, when she caught her breath.
"You are an excellent teacher," he told her, as he lay his head on her breast.
They were quiet for some time; each lost in their own thoughts.
"Catherine, where have you been," he finally asked. "What happened to you?"
"I was in a hospital not far from here. It is not far from Westchester. So close," she mused, "but it might has well have been on the moon."
"How did you get there?" he asked.
"I was kidnapped," she began.
"Yes, your friend Joe found that much out. He told Peter that John Moreno was responsible."
"He was, in part," she agreed. "But he was working for someone else, and that person wanted information I had." She looked up at him again. "They told me that you tried to get to me once…did the Bond return?"
"Not then," he told her. "It was the message you sent out on the pipes that helped me to find you. Old Sam heard it, pinpointed where it came from and relayed it to Zach who came to me. I didn’t get to you in time to save you."
"Oh, but you did, Vincent," she told him. "Once they saw you, everything changed. They had you on video tape, they showed it to me; the man who wanted the information changed his mind. He had all but decided that if I didn’t give him what he wanted in the next twenty four hours, he was going to have me killed. But once he saw you, and realized that there was a connection between us, he said you shouted my name, he decided that he’d hold on to me and try to use me as bait to lure you in again. He wanted you, I’m not sure why, but he did. He kept me alive because he thought that you might find me again."
"Did they hurt you?" he asked.
"Depends on what you consider hurt," she told him. "I was kept locked up, I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone. I only saw a few people, the doctor, a nurse, and some guards and none of them talked to me except the doctor. I occasionally saw the man they all answered to. He would come in when the doctor was getting ready to inject me so he could question me. And they did that nearly every day. I was kept drugged, I was in a fog most of the time. I have no idea how long I was there."
"How did you get away from him? When did you get away," he asked.
"I didn’t escape. I’m only just starting to remember things, but I do remember that something was going on. Everything was in an uproar, and Gabriel told the doctor that he had to get rid of me. I was just on the other side of the door, and I overheard him tell the doctor that the plan had fallen through, Moreno had talked and the police must have decoded the book. He had to get rid of me, kill me, then everyone must disburse and meet in the arranged place. The doctor came to take me out of my room; he had a gun and I thought he was going to do what he’d been told to do. Even in my drugged stupor I was frightened. He took me down to the basement and put me into the trunk of a car, and then gave me another injection. I went to sleep and didn’t remember anything after that.
"The police found me wandering in a park near Westchester. I was disoriented and they said I told them that the doctor had told me to go hide in the woods. I don’t remember much about the next couple of weeks. Dr. Padgett said that I went through withdrawal from the drugs. My clear memory started at about ten days after the police found me. I was in the hospital until last June while Dr. Padgett tried to help me regain my memory.
She continued with the story right up until she’d discovered the crystal and things had started coming back.
"I didn’t remember everything all at once, I don’t even know if that is the way it works. It’s more like a wall crumbled and now I have access to the memories I couldn’t access before. When I need to know something, now it’s there, when it wasn’t before. Like when I was coming down here. I just knew how to find the way. In fact, I was surprised that the threshold was still open and that you hadn’t changed the route."
"That was intentional. I wanted to make sure that your way wasn’t blocked if you should return and want to come Below."
She put her arms around his neck and fit her body tight to his.
"I’m so glad you did that," she whispered as placed a careful kiss on his chest. "I missed you so, even when I didn’t know what I was missing, I knew there was something important that I was forgetting."
"And I’m glad that you have returned. I’ve missed you."
They made love again. This time they didn’t skip the foreplay. It was as if Vincent wanted to memorize every inch of her body and its reaction to his touch. He would find a sensitive spot first with his fingers. Then he would kiss it, lick it even suck on it. He pointedly avoided her genitals for a time.
He allowed Catherine the same access. She found out that he liked it when she nuzzled his ears and sucked on a lobe, he had ticklish spots low on his abdomen just above his hip bones and when she finally got around to his nipples, a flick of her tongue over one and she suddenly found herself on her back with him looming over her.
Even he looked stunned at the sudden change of positions.
"I’m sorry, Catherine," he whispered as he started to move away.
"No!," her arms shot out and she pulled him back to her. "No! That’s OK, in fact it is more than OK, now I know where your ‘on’ button is." She giggled wickedly and pulled his face down to hers. She kissed every inch of it before she settled on his lips.
His kisses were becoming more intoxicating every time he kissed her. He finally relaxed against her and put everything he had into it.
His lower body was moving rhythmically, but gently against hers and his tongue was mimicking the movement. She was having a hard time breathing. She pulled her mouth from his and looked into his eyes.
"Make love to me, Vincent. Please…stop teasing me," she said as he dropped light kisses over her cheeks.
This time there was no hesitation, his entry was sure and strong. His hand slid down her back between her and the mattress to her bottom where he pressed her snugly against him and just held her there.
He turned his head and kissed the scar in front of her ear and she was surprised to hear him speak.
"…and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her."*
Great Expectations—Charles Dickens