Chapter 11

 
-1-

 

Tuesday, February 27, 1990

 

Diana stood shivering in the cold, musty gloom of her basement, watching Vincent, Mouse and several other men repair the tunnel entrance. She had found the entrance blocked off the week before when she returned to her building from a trip Below. Today Vincent and Mouse had determined the problem: an overhead beam, rotted by age and moisture, had collapsed, pulling with it huge chunks of brick and mortar from the surrounding walls.

 

Diana stood close to the work site. Her job was to hold a high intensity flashlight so the men could do their repair job in the cramped and dusty passage. She was glad to help. She was also glad to have a chance to see Vincent.

 

She stood silent, watching him move, taking in the sight of him as if he were a favorite work of art come to life. It occurred to her that she missed him, missed the opportunities they had had for togetherness before Cathy...

 

Her thoughts made her bite her lip and avert her gaze. At the same time she unconsciously swung the bright light away from the workers.

 

“Diana!” Mouse’s voice brought her head up. “Need light!”

 

“Oh! Sorry.” She refocused the beam and tried to focus her thoughts as well.

 

She knew, as well as she knew anything else that was certain and solid in her life, that Vincent was utterly lost to her. If Cathy died tomorrow (God forbid! she thought, feeling pride in the sentiment), she still would have no chance with this man. And that made her feel, she was working on her feelings, and she nearly had them sorted into neat little rows of emotions. That makes me sad, but it’s also a relief.

 

Joe’s laughing face popped into her head just then, and she smiled. He had invited her to dinner at his apartment last night, but at the last minute he’d received an urgent request from one of his sisters to baby-sit. He and Diana had driven out to Brooklyn in a snowstorm. The car’s heater conked out halfway, and the roads were icy and scary. Nevertheless, Diana thought she had enjoyed the evening at least as much as Joe. His seven-year-old niece, Therese, was a charming tomboy who insisted on kissing Diana goodnight when they left.

 

And when Joe brought her home, he asked if he could spend the night. Diana, for impulsive reasons she couldn’t comprehend then or now, said no. Two months had passed since the first time they made love, so why…? Her smile faded. She shook her head and decided not to think about it.

She looked up to see Vincent walking toward her.  He was perspiring heavily; his dusty shirt was soaked through, his hair was damp. When he stood close to her, Diana felt as if one of the basement walls had uprooted itself in order to loom over her.

 

“It’s finished,” he said.

 

“You fixed it?”

 

“You should have no more problems...provided Mouse’s plans were correct.”

 

Mouse walked up, covered in at least twice as much dust and sweat as Vincent. “Better than correct,” he stated. “Perfect!”

 

Diana smiled. “That’s great. I guess you won’t be needing me anymore?” She gestured with the flashlight.

 

“Thank you for your help,” Vincent said.

 

“Thank you,” she replied. Vincent nodded and turned to follow Mouse. “Tell Catherine I said hello.”

 

“I will,” he said, then left the basement.

 

She watched the opening in the wall and listened until the voices faded, then disappeared. A noise from above split the silence - it was her elevator buzzer, followed by a loud voice: “Hey, Diana! It’s me. You  there?”

 

It was Joe. She rushed to the elevator and punched the button. Maybe he had some good news; actually, any news would be welcome. Last night on the ride to his sister’s he had told her he was getting nowhere on the Gabriel/Pope case. The names Saltonstall and Fuller had not rung any bells or whistles anywhere. He was trying to interview cryptologists at universities and museums throughout the city, but it was a slow process. He was still waiting for most of them to return his calls.

 

Diana shared his frustration. She knew he was pulling this investigation on his own time, since Cathy’s case had been closed long ago. Her own case was still unsolved. Two more major burglaries had been reported since Cathy and Vincent’s wedding, both in luxury apartment buildings on Central Park West. She couldn’t shake the feeling that Lang’s death and the rash of burglaries were connected, and that the illusive Pope - if, indeed, he were out there - was the key to solving the mystery.

 

She knew when she saw Joe’s face through the elevator grating that what he had to tell her wasn’t good. He looked drawn and worried. “What’s up?” she asked as she stepped out of the elevator.

 

He started to speak, then sighed and looked away. Now she was worried, too. “What is it, Joe?” She moved closer and touched his shoulder.

 

The feel of her hand seemed to help him. He spoke in a soft voice, his words careful. “A couple of hours ago, the caretaker at Trinity found that one of the graves had been disturbed.”

 

“Trinity,” she said. A perplexed look crossed her face. That was where they had buried Lang. “Was it Lang’s grave?”

 

“Yeah.” He paused. “It had been completely dug up. There were piles of dirt everywhere; the coffin had been opened...”

 

“Did you see it?”

 

“Yeah.” He was struggling to meet her eyes. “Diana, somebody dug her up, cut off her hands, and threw her back into the coffin. They didn’t put the dirt back. Hell, they didn’t even close the coffin.” He was fighting tears now, and she pulled him into her arms. He rested his head on her shoulder, and she held him close, as if to press some of her strength into him.

 

“Terrible,” she whispered. “Cut off her hands...God, that’s awful!”

 

“It’s not her I’m worried about, it’s you!” He pulled back, still gripping her arms, his face only inches away from hers. “Don’t you see, Diana? This guy is sending you signals, and I don’t like what he’s telling you. I don’t like it one BIT!” He took a deep, shuddering breath. “I don’t give a damn what you think about your privacy or independence or your ability to take care of yourself; and maybe it’s none of my business, but I don’t care, I want you OUT of here TODAY!” He stopped abruptly, as if just realizing that he had been yelling at her.

 

She stared at him, and after a moment, she felt as if she were looking into him, seeing everything he was and everything he meant to her. He was a good-looking man, smart, funny, ambitious, and kind. But more than that, deeper and more important, she knew he was someone who truly cared about her...someone she could trust.

 

She blinked herself back into focus. “You’re right, I can’t stay here. I need to disappear for a while.”    She led him into the elevator.

 

“Your case…”

 

“I never thought I’d say this...but I’m nowhere on it. I’ll give you everything I have, and you can give it to my boss. I’ll call him when we get upstairs…no.”

 

“No,” he agreed. “Call him from a phone booth.” They reached her floor and stepped out into her loft. “Where are you going to go?”

She had flown straight to her work area to start packing up her files. At his question she stopped and made a discreet pointing gesture...downward.

 

He smiled, a relieved, genuinely happy smile. “Lady, I like the way you think.”

 

 

 

 

-2-

 

The first person Joe and Diana encountered on watch was Rebecca, who promised to send a message to Father that the two visitors were on their way to see him.

 

Father greeted them warmly when they arrived in his study. “What brings you two here today?” asked. They sat at a round table, drinking cups of hot spiced tea. Father glanced at Diana’s duffel bag. “Have you brought more clothing, Diana? Really, you’re far too

generous…”

 

”No, Father,” she said. She set down her cup. “I’m here to ask a favor. I need your help.”

 

“Certainly, I’ll do whatever I can.” Father’s forehead creased in apprehension. “Is something wrong, Diana? Are you in some sort of trouble?”

 

“Yes.” She stole a look at Joe, who reached over to squeeze her hand. She kept hold of his hand as she spoke to Father. “It’s a long story.”

 

Father leaned back in his chair. “I have all the time in the world.”

 

Fifteen minutes later Father was out of his chair, pacing as best he could with the aid of his cane. The calm demeanor he had possessed at the beginning of his conversation with Diana and Joe had evaporated, replaced by fear for the lovely redheaded young woman who had become a good friend.

 

“I will never understand the cruelty that goes on in the world Above.” He was muttering, almost talking to himself, as he came to a halt in front of Diana and Joe. He stopped to fix them with an anxious look. “You’ve told no one else of these events, besides Sybil?”

 

“No,” Joe said. We weren’t sure about telling Vincent and Cathy.”

 

“They must be told.” Father’s voice was firm. “In fact, the whole community must be informed. We will hold a meeting this evening to let everyone know you’ll be staying with us, Diana. And, of course, I hope you know that you’re welcome to stay as long as you wish.”

 

“Thank you,” Diana said.

Father gave her a quick smile, then just as quickly his expression became serious. “At the meeting you can explain what has happened. Everyone needs to know; this is a matter that could affect all of us. In the meantime...I think you should be the one to tell Catherine and Vincent.”

 

“I’ll tell them before the meeting,” Diana said.

 

“All right then, it’s settled.”  Father rubbed his hands together. “I’ll go find Mary, and she’ll take you to the guest quarters. Then I’ll see about this evening’s gathering. Joe...” Father nodded to them both and left the room.

 

Diana and Joe sat for a moment, still holding hands, unwilling to break the silence.

 

“Diana.” She looked at him. “Are you sure you want to do this?” Her eyes widened. “What are you talking about? You were the one who insisted…”

 

“I know, I know. But that didn’t mean you had to come here. There are safe houses...other places you could go.”

 

She gave him a calculating look. “I’m probably safer here than anywhere else on earth. Right?”  He nodded. “What’s this all about, Maxwell?”

 

“I was just thinking...” He bit his lip for a moment, looking profoundly uncomfortable.

 

“For a long time...for awhile there...O.K., O.K., I’ll just say it.”

 

“Please.”

 

“What I mean is, maybe it’ll be hard for you to stay down here because of the way you feel about Vincent.”

 

For a moment all she could do was gape at him. Then it hit her: what he must be thinking, feeling. Oh, God, Joe! I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. “I’m not in love with him anymore.” She said the words and they sounded right, they felt right. She waited for a response.

 

“Really,” he said. She raised her eyebrows; he knitted his. “You really mean that, Diana?”

 

“Yes.” Yes, thank God!

 

He slowly shook his head. “Then why the hell wouldn’t you let me stay last night?”

 

Something that had held her heart in a merciless grip for too many years loosened and dissolved. She locked her gaze into his and leaned over the chair arm, closer, closer...    “This seems like a better time,” she said. “Come back tonight.”

“No,” he said, his face twisting in regret. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I’m meeting that guy Melton, the cryptologist at NYU. Remember, he’s the one I told you about.”

 

You think he might know something about Elliot Burch and the black book?”

 
“Yeah.  Dammit, I’m sorry!”

 

“Hey, it’s O.K.” She touched his cheek. “Tomorrow night?”

 

“Yes. I’d like that.”

 

“Me, too.” A warm smile lit her face. “I would like that a lot.”

 

 

 

 

-3-

 

Thirty minutes later Diana found herself staring at a stunned Catherine and Vincent across a table in their chamber. “I’m sorry,” she said. She licked her lips; her mouth felt as dry as cotton. “I hated to have to tell you this, but Father was right...you need to know.”

 

“Yes, of course.” Vincent spoke, but his eyes seemed to be focused on something outside the chamber. He glanced at Catherine. She grabbed the hand he offered, but her eyes never left Diana’s face.

 

“I don’t believe it.” Catherine’s voice was flat, barely audible. “Cut her hands off...her tongue...why?”

 

“I think it was meant as a warning to me,” Diana said. She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms across Jacob, who was snuggled against her chest, half asleep. The room seemed cold, and she longed for one of the thick sweaters she’d hastily packed before coming Below. “That is, if Pope’s the one who did it. And if he found out Lang had talked to me, then cutting out her tongue...well...I guess that’s his idea of the punishment fitting the crime.” Bitterness laced her words, hardening her face into set lines of anger.

 

“But why--” Catherine paused as if searching for words. “Why would he do this? Why not come after you from the beginning?”

 

“Perhaps to him this is a game.” Vincent sounded as if he were speaking to himself.

 

“He worked for Gabriel a long time. Some of that evil must have rubbed off,” Diana said.

 

“It’s not fair.” Catherine looked at Vincent. “It’s just not fair.”

He shook his head, then looked at Diana, who was attempting to stifle a yawn. “You must be exhausted. Perhaps you should rest before the meeting this evening.”

 

“Good idea.” Diana stood and passed the baby over to his father. She started to leave but stopped and turned around, her face blank. “I don’t remember where I’m supposed to go.”

 

“I’ll show you.” Catherine stood, giving Vincent a quick kiss before leaving with Diana.

 

“I’ll take you the short way,” Catherine said, gesturing to Diana to follow her into a side tunnel. They walked in silence for a few minutes, each woman lost in her own thoughts.

 

“Thanks, Cathy,” Diana said. She walked with her hands pushed deep into her pockets.

 

“Oh, it’s nothing! I’m glad to show you…”

 

“No, I don’t mean that. I mean...thanks for being a friend.” She stopped and so did Catherine; the two women faced each other in the narrow, dimly lit passage. “It can’t have been easy for you.”

 

Catherine smiled up at the taller woman. “Some times were easier than others.” Her smile was answered by Diana’s. “I’m glad you’re here...safe.”

 

“Me too.”

 

They turned and began walking again, and Catherine linked her arm through Diana’s. “You’re not in love with him anymore.”

 

“No.” The answer came with no hesitation.

 

“Good. I’m glad...for both of you.”

 

“For all of us.”

 

The two women gave each other the briefest of smiles, then turned the corner into the guest chamber corridor.

 

At dinner that evening, Diana embarrassed herself by consuming enormous quantities of food. She chalked it up to weeks of eating little; that plus William’s encouragement and professed horror at her thinness combined to give her the best appetite she’d had in a very long time.

 

The community meeting held after dinner was short and to the point. Diana gave a brief explanation of the events that led to her decision to come Below. The community unanimously approved her stay, and everyone made sure she felt welcome.

She found herself in bed, exhausted, before ten that night. Sometime in the night she was awakened by footsteps outside her chamber. She thought she saw someone dressed in white flash by the door, but she fell asleep again before she had time to wonder or think.

 

 

 

 

-4-

 

A little after midnight, Vincent awoke with a start. He knew instantly that Catherine was not in bed. After a few seconds he also knew she was nowhere within their chambers. A few minutes later a worried feeling crept over him and he decided to find her.

 

Something - a twinge of cold, an ache in the soles of his feet - led him to the huge drainage pipe under Central Park. He followed his senses, certain he was right behind her, convinced he could catch a trace of her scent on the still night air.

 

He passed through the secret door and walked softly up the tunnel. He stopped when he saw Catherine framed in the frigid light cast by a cold winter moon. She was clad only in a white flannel nightgown; the soft swell of her stomach was clearly visible beneath the fabric. He felt a stab of terror when he saw that her feet were bare.

 

He hurried to the tunnel entrance, no longer trying to hide his footsteps. When he reached her, he pulled her back from the entrance and wrapped her in his arms. Her body was freezing, so cold that the touch of her skin burned him. “Catherine, what are you doing? You’re freezing!”

 

She said nothing, simply burrowing against him as if to steal his body heat.

 

“Are you all right? Catherine...” He took her face in his hands and almost cried out at the look of anguish in her eyes. “What is it? Please, tell me.”

 

“The moon,” she said. She sounded like a child reciting from a primer. “The snow. The cold air. It’s here, Vincent. It’s still here.” Her words dissolved into hot tears, spilling down her cheeks and across his hands. Her face was a mask of abject misery. “I just wanted to make sure...it was all still here...” She stopped, overcome by sobs.

 

“Oh, Catherine.” He picked her up, cradling her to his chest, and walked back into the tunnels. He wanted to run, but his knees shook so badly that he could not.

 
She said not a word on the journey back to their chambers, where he tucked her in bed. He climbed in next to her; he opened his arms, and she nestled against him. Only when he was sure that every inch of her small body was warmed did he allow himself to fall asleep.

 

Chapter 12