Chapter 4

Joan Stephens

Before stepping into the cab, Joe swept a practiced eye around the street in front of the office building. If Gaines was out there, he was safely hidden among the crowd of pedestrians that lined the sidewalks. As Cathy slid into the back seat, the cabbie turned around and, looking directly at her, asked, "Taxi, lady?"

She immediately recognized him as one of the many Helpers who kept the Tunnel world secret. "Hello, Frank, how is everyone?" she asked with a relieved smile.

Frank knew who and what she was referring to and answered with a grin, "Everyoneís just fine. We got it all worked out."

As the cab pulled into the heavy afternoon traffic, Joe settled back with a sigh of relief. Nothing had happened so far. "You know this guy, Radcliffe?"

"Heís an old friend of mine; heís been my cab driver for years." It was a small lie, but a lie nevertheless. Joe seemed comfortable with her reply and gazed out the window. He stiffened as he saw Gaines step out of the crowd and make an obscene gesture. "There he is," he gasped in indignation. Cathy turned around and saw him out of the back window, shaking a fist at her. God, she needed to get home and down to the tunnels where Vincent waited for her. She needed to feel his comforting presence, the feel of his arms as they surrounded her. She sent him the soothing thought, Iíll be home soon, knowing he had felt her alarm when she spotted Gaines in the lobby crowd.

Joe accompanied her through the lobby, into the elevator and to her door. She had tried to persuade him that she was safe here in her own apartment building, but he would have none of it. Rounding the corridor into the short hallway to her apartment, she was startled to find a uniformed policeman stationed by her door. "Whatís this, Joe? I didnít ask for any police protection."

"I know you didnít," he replied defensively, "but the last time you wouldnít take police protection you almost died. Itís not going to happen this time."

"I . . ."

He shook his head. "Not this time, Cathy."

She growled at him and opened the door. "Are you going to sleep on my little dinky couch tonight?" she asked with a hint of sarcasm. "Or am I capable of defending myself in my own home?"

"Címon, Cathy, you know Iím only doing what I think is best."

Her anger dissipated like an early morning fog. "Yeah, I know. Thanks, Joe." Leaning over, she kissed him on the cheek and closed the door, locking all four locks. She could hear a mumbled conversation between Joe and the policeman and then there was silence.

She hurried to the balcony. Sending disappointment and frustration through the bond, she sank into a patio chair, watching the sun go down behind the skyscrapers. "Oh Vincent," she whispered, "I need your comfort tonight."

***

"When do you expect Catherine, Vincent?" Father limped into his sonís chamber, surprised to find him donning his cloak.

"I donít. For some reason she is unable to come Below, and I must go to her to find out why." Searching through his private library, he found the book of poetry that he wanted to read to her tonight if there was time. "Ezra Pound . . . should fit the occasion."

"She is all right, isnít she?" It had taken some time, but Father had at last come to see that there was nothing he could do to keep the two lovers apart. He had come to appreciate Catherineís courage and commitment to Vincent and to the tunnel world.

"Yes, I sense nothing but discontent and concession. I have to see her to find the reason behind the spike of fear I felt and the disgust and aversion she felt a few minutes later."

"Well, you might as well sit down and talk with me. Itís still light outside, and obviously, sheís not going anywhere." Father pointed at the chair opposite him and Vincent gracefully settled into it. "Do you suppose it had anything to do with the man the police are hunting?"

"Yes, Iím almost certain heís hunting Catherine." Hitting the table with a closed fist, he stated firmly, "I will not allow any harm to come to her."

"I know that is the way you feel but during the day you must trust Joe Maxwell and the city police to protect her." Father reflexively ran his hand up and down his sonís arm. "Iím sure Mr. Maxwell will do his best."

Vincent snagged his fatherís comforting hand and squeezed it thankfully. "He will, but what if itís not enough? I canít lose her, Father. I will die without her."

"Donít say that; donít even think that," Father cried aghast. "Sheíll be all right and that man will be caught."

"I fervently hope so." Rising, Vincent began to pace the length and breadth of his chamber. Somehow he had to burn off the excess energy that accumulated waiting for the night to come. "The day takes so long to get dark," he complained.

***

After taking a warm, soothing shower--seeing Gaines so close had chilled her--Catherine fixed a light dinner. She wasnít particularly hungry, but knew that she needed to keep her strength up. Taking a cup of tea, she settled into a corner of one of her love seats and pulled an afghan over her. Her silken negligee and peignoir were not quite warm enough on this cold, still evening. She could start a fire but didnít feel like stirring from the warm cocoon she had made for herself. She was trying to think of a way to get rid of the policeman in front of her door, but knowing Joe as well as she did, she thought that it was a futile practice.

Vincent landed lightly on her balcony and took a few minutes just to look at the woman he loved in an unguarded moment. He was well aware that she liked to do the same thing. He allowed it even though it made him very uncomfortable. Quietly he knocked on her French doors.

She startedĖhe wondered where her thoughts had beenĖand hurried to open the doors. "Come inside, please, Vincent," she whispered with a finger to her lips. "Itís too cold to stand out on the balcony." She pulled him in with only slight resistance from him. "Letís go into my bedroom."

"Why? Whatís wrong?" he whispered back.

"Thereís a policeman stationed outside my door, and heíll be there all night." She led him toward the bedroom.

"Oh," he breathed in relief.

Catherine closed the doors and turned into Vincentís arms. She sighed with pleasure as his arms flowed around her and pressed her willing body against his. "Mmm, I havenít felt so safe all day."

"Surely you had enough guards around you to feel safe," he said with a chuckle.

"Oh sure, but none of them make me feel like you do." She snuggled deeper into his embrace.

He looked for a place to sit down. The little chair in front of her dressing table didnít look sturdy at all. That left only the bed. With trepidation, he followed her to the bed and stood looking down into her upturned, smiling face, hesitant to sit beside her.

She patted the bed next to her, "Sit down, Vincent. I donít want the policeman to hear us."

With a tight, shy smile, he figuratively perched beside her. Capturing her hands in his strong, furry ones, he asked, "Did Joe assign the policeman? What other safeguards has he taken?"

"I didnít even know he had done it, and there was no way I could get a message to you. Everyone in the office building has been alerted to be on the lookout for him."

"I felt a spike of fear around the time you were to come home."

"I saw Gaines in the office building lobby and it frightened me." She reached up and caressed his cheek. "Thank you, by the way, for having Frank pick us up. It was unexpected but very comforting to know that the Helpers are doing their part."

Turning his head, he kissed the palm of her hand. "Itís been a stressful day and you are tired." He raised his hand cutting off her denial. "I can feel it in you, Catherine. You need your rest."

She grinned at him sheepishly. "Oh, all right. I am tired." He started to rise, but she caught him by the arm. "Iíll go to sleep if you stay with me."

Inordinately pleased, he agreed. He didnít want to leave; he wanted to make sure that she was safe and well. Catherine turned down the bedclothes with Vincentís help, and after using the bathroom, slipped into bed, peignoir and all. Vincent made use of the gleaming bathroom and laid down beside her. He gathered her to him and kissed the top of her head, "Go to sleep, Catherine. I will wake you when I have to leave."

"Thank you, Vincent." She squirmed until she had a nest made that suited her. In a very short time, warm and safe, she was fast asleep. Before long Vincent followed her into the realm of sleep.

***

This became the pattern for the next few days. Joe watched over herĖdiligently--during the day, and Vincent looked after her at night. Her person was so closely guarded that Gaines couldnít get near her. Everything he tried failed, and he was getting angrier and angrier, beginning to lose control. The woman had to be taught a lesson. No woman messed with Bruce Gaines and got away with it. His wife had learned her lesson the hard way and his daughters . . . . His daughters! Why hadnít he thought of that before? He could use them to force the Chandler woman to come to him.

Finding a young, inexperienced social worker was no problem, and he used his considerable charm to learn where his daughters were being hidden. Before leaving for upstate New York, he vented his rage at the Chandler woman by beating the young social worker to death. As he drove northward, he threw her body out on the edge of the highway.

With a plan in mind, his control reasserted itself. He sang and whistled happily to a song that played on his car radio. The lyrics of the song ĎBehind Blue Eyesí fit him like a glove: ĎNo one knows what itís like to be the bad man, the sad man behind blue eyes.í This bad man was going to show them a thing or two. He would have his vengeance.