Chapter 13

 
-1-

 

Wednesday, February 28, 1990 -- late night

 

Diana and Sybil rushed after Vincent into the chamber. Vincent called over his shoulder, “Get Father.” Without a word, Diana turned and ran out.

 

Once inside the bedroom Vincent carefully placed Catherine on the bed. He looked at Sybil, silently thanking God for her presence. The doctor was pale as alabaster, but she seemed calm and steady. “We must warm her,” Vincent said. He began stripping off Catherine’s wet clothing. Sybil moved to the other side of the bed to help him. Within minutes, they had Catherine bundled in a warm gown.

 

Catherine had said nothing from the time Vincent picked her up outside. Her eyes were closed. She lay so still that she almost seemed...Vincent sat beside her and chafed one of her hands, trying to bring some color into at least one small part of her body.

 

She opened her eyes and looked first at Sybil, then at Vincent. “What’s happening to me?”

 

Before Vincent could speak, Sybil sat on the bed and grabbed Catherine’s other hand. “You tell us. What are you feeling?”

 

Catherine stared at Sybil. “Just...strange. Weak, tired...just tired of everything.”

 

“How long has this been going on?” Sybil asked.

 

“A couple of weeks (Vincent felt Catherine’s hand tighten on his), but it got worse last week.  The mirror...” She looked at Vincent. “Do you remember? You came in one evening, and I was upset because I thought I looked...terrible.”

 

“I remember.” It was all Vincent could do to keep from lifting her in his arms and holding her. Better to let her talk, with Sybil here to help him listen. “We talked, and then you went out by yourself.”

 

“I went to the Mirror Pool,” Catherine said, her voice dreamy.

 

“Why the Mirror Pool?” Sybil asked. Vincent glanced at Sybil, whose gaze was riveted on Catherine’s face.

 

“I wanted to see what it was like outside.”

 

“Do you miss being outside?”

 

“Sometimes...” Catherine’s brow furrowed. “But mostly I miss the light.  So I go to the Mirror Pool whenever I can get away. Sunlight, moonlight...doesn’t matter; it always makes me feel better. At least, it did for a while. Until…” She swallowed hard “I had to go outside. I just had to.”

 

“Are you unhappy here, Catherine?” Sybil’s voice was quiet.

 

Vincent held his breath.

 

“No, I’m not unhappy!” Catherine squeezed her eyes shut, and tears flowed from beneath the closed lids. “I just feel so...strange sometimes! I don’t know what’s happening in my mind. One minute I’m fine, and the next I want to eat everything in sight, or I feel as if I don’t know what I’m doing here, or I hear voices in my head…”

 

“Voices.” Vincent’s voice held a note of dread.

 

Catherine struggled to her elbow and gave Sybil a look of naked fear. “I’m going crazy, aren’t I? I’m losing my mind!”

 

Sybil snorted. “You’re not any such thing! Lie down and listen to me for a minute.” Catherine lay back down, still holding onto Sybil and Vincent’s hands.

 

Sybil pressed her free hand to her forehead, hard, then ran her fingers through her already tousled hair. “I’ll tell you what I think. It sounds to me as if you’re suffering from light deprivation.”

 

“What?” Catherine and Vincent both said.

 

“Just hear me out. The technical name for this is seasonal affective disorder. I’ve seen quite a few people in my practice who suffered from terrible debilitating depression, to the point where some of them were almost suicidal. Strange thing was, it only hit them during the winter months. Now they all use a special light box that simulates sunlight. They sit by it for a couple of hours a day. That and some therapy and they’re fine. As a matter of fact…” Sybil smiled, “the lights are quite similar to the grow lights you’re planning to use in your greenhouse project.”

 

“So you think...” Catherine spoke slowly.

 

Sybil’s eyebrows rose. “I’d almost bet my license, and you better believe that’s a serious statement.”

 

Vincent exhaled, a sound of pure relief. “Can you get one of these lights for Catherine?”

 

“No problem,” Sybil said. “And I’m sure our friend Mouse can help rig a power source.” She gave Catherine a searching look. “What really happened, Catherine? What did you see in that mirror that started all this?”

Catherine grimaced. “It sounds so trivial now. I just looked at myself, and I remembered how I looked when I lived Above.”

 

“Ah...ha,” Sybil said. “Glamorous Catherine Chandler, in her designer attorney clothes and hair. Avenging the downtrodden and raising hell at every possible opportunity.” She smiled as if to soften the potential sarcasm in her words.

 

Catherine cocked her head toward Vincent, and they shared a quiet smile. “Something like that,” she said.

 

At that moment Father and Diana entered the room. The old man was flustered and fighting sleepiness. He went straight to Catherine’s bedside. “Are you all right, Catherine?”

 

“Jacob, could you...?” Sybil stood and motioned Father to one side, where they held a whispered conference.

 

Diana sat next to Vincent on the bed. She put out a tentative hand and touched Catherine’s knee. “You O.K.?”

 

“Yeah.  I’m just...”  Catherine turned to look at Vincent. “…stressed.”

 

“With reason, Catherine.” He returned her smile as best he could beneath his mounting guilt and the growing certainty that somehow he had failed her.

 

Father and Sybil finished their conversation and returned to stand beside the bed. For a moment no one spoke.

 

Finally Father broke the silence.  “Catherine, Sybil seems to think you are suffering from light deprivation. I’m inclined to agree with her.” He looked at Sybil.

 

Sybil continued: “Don’t worry, kiddo, you’re not going bonkers. What you need to do is rest. I know, I know…” She raised her hands to quell Catherine’s beginning protest “…you’re busy; you’ve got a son to raise and kids to teach and gardens to grow, etc. Fine. Let people help you. When you get tired, rest.   If you start feeling weird, if your head starts telling you stuff you don’t understand or don’t want to hear, tell somebody. Send for me; I’ll come as soon as I can. And I’ll get your light box to you as fast as I can.”

 

“But why?” Catherine’s face wrinkled. “Why is this happening now?”

 

Sybil shrugged. ”I think part of it may be a delayed reaction to all the changes you’ve been through in the last few months. Changes in lifestyle...hey, look! You had a baby, you were in a coma, you came back to people who thought you were dead, you got married, and you’re pregnant again. All this in less than a year.   Honey, you deserve to be a little nuts at this point!”

Sybil’s words had a good effect on everyone in the room. They all relaxed and smiled.

 

“I guess you’re right,” Catherine said.

 

“I believe she is,” Father said. “Now I want you to…”

 

Father stopped at the sound of loud footsteps outside the chamber. Suddenly Zach burst into the room.

 
”Father, Vincent! There’s an intruder…”

 
“Slowly, Zach.” Vincent jumped from the bed and placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders. “Tell me.”

 

Zach took a few deep breaths before continuing. “We got a signal from the sentry closest to Diana’s building. Joe Maxwell is coming this way, and another man is with him.”

 

“Another man?” Diana sprang from the bed and grabbed Zach’s arm. “What did he look like? Tell me!”

 

“I don’t know!” Zach was nearly in tears. “The message didn’t say. It just said that it looked like Joe was hurt and…” He got no further before Diana released him and rushed out of the chamber.

 

“Diana!” Vincent called.

 

“Vincent, go after her,” Catherine urged. He turned to look at her; her eyes were deep pools. “It might be Pope.”

 

He nodded at her, then grabbed his cloak and hurried out.

 

“Be careful!” Father called after him. He closed his eyes and sighed. “Dear God, please don’t let anything happen to them. It would be…”

 

“Jacob!” Sybil’s voice spun Father around to see Catherine doubled up on the bed, gasping for breath.

 

Father moved to the bed, helping Sybil support Catherine. “Catherine, what is it?”

 

Catherine’s eyes filled with tears, and her face was white with pain. Suddenly she fell back in bed, limp and exhausted. “It’s better now,” she gasped. “I don’t know what it...could be...” Her eyes grew huge as she pushed the covers away from her body. She looked down at herself and uttered a soundless scream.

 

“What is it, what’s wrong?” Sybil cried. She tore the covers off Catherine and took two horrified steps backward at the sight of bright red blood staining Catherine’s nightgown and spreading in a shallow pool around her hips.

 

Father turned to Zach; the boy’s eyes were enormous in his white face. “Run get Mary; tell her to bring my bag! Run, boy!” Zach turned and fled.

 

“My baby...” Catherine moaned, her voice cut off as once again her body jackknifed in pain.

 

“Dear God,” Father muttered, casting a stricken glance at Sybil. “We can’t move her.”

 

“No,” Sybil said.

 

The two physicians exchanged one look, then wordlessly began stripping Catherine of her bloody gown.

 

 

 

 

-2-

 

Vincent caught up with Diana within minutes after following her out of his chambers. “Diana!” he called.

 

She slowed down just enough to let him catch up. “Dammit, I don’t have a gun or a flashlight!”

 

“It’s all right.”

 

“What are we going to do?” she asked.

 

“Whatever we must.” The tunnel narrowed and he ran behind her now, the pounding of his heart and breath almost but not quite blotting out a strange, sharp twinge in his stomach.

 

They kept going, slowing down just enough to look around corners, trying to run silently. Neither one had brought any form of light, and when they reached a darker section of tunnels, they stopped.

 

“Vincent, I can barely see.”

 

“Here.” He took her hand. “I can still see. We must move quietly now. Perhaps I will hear something.”

 

They crept through the dim tunnel, hand in hand. Diana dismissed the fleeting thought that not so long ago she would have been glad for any opportunity to hold Vincent’s hand in the dark. But not now. All she could think about was Joe; trapped, cornered, hurt...how badly? She shuddered.

 

“Stop.” Vincent’s soft command made her freeze in place. She barely could see his outline in the gloomy passage.  “Ahead,” he whispered, pulling her with him. “I hear something. And there’s a light.”

 

Diana squinted into the gloom. “Can you tell…?”

 

“Sssh!”

 

She could see him raise a finger to his lips, and she knew then that he was right, there was more light around them. “Is it them?” she hissed.

 

“I hear Joe and...yes.” His voice rode a current of quiet anger. “He is with Pope. I remember his voice.”

 

“O.K.” Diana kept her voice calm, despite the pin pricks of nerves dancing below the surface of her skin. “Is there any way we can get behind them?”

 

Vincent considered. “No.”

 

“Is Joe...can you tell if he’s hurt?”

 

“His breathing is labored. That is all I know.”

 

“We have to do something, Vincent!”

 

“If you turn back and come back down through your building…”

 

“No. Pope probably has people watching for me.”

 

“Then we have no choice.” He looked at her, and she caught a faint gleam in his eyes. “We must face him.”

 

Slowly she nodded. “I’ll go first. Maybe…”

 

“No, Diana!”

 

“I have to, Vincent! Don’t you see?” She placed her hands on his shoulders and stared into his eyes. “I have to.”

 

Vincent gazed at her for a moment, then gave her a quick, gentle kiss on her forehead. “I’ll be right behind you. Take great care.” She nodded and turned, trying to carry with her some of the reassurance she knew he meant to give her. But all she felt was a cold knot of fear in her stomach. She moved forward with quiet, deliberate steps, hoping, praying, that Pope wouldn’t simply shoot her the moment he saw her. Maybe he’s in a playful mood...

 

She rounded a slight bend in the passage and came to a halt. There in front of her, less than twenty feet away, Jonathan Pope was setting a lantern on the tunnel floor. At Pope’s feet, his hands bound behind his back, his head bleeding in several different places lay Joe’s still form.

 

“No.” The word escaped before she could stop it.

 

“Miss Bennett.” Pope’s voice had lost none of its cloying quality. “I was hoping you would show up soon. Have you come for this?” With the toe of his polished black shoe, he nudged Joe, who showed no signs of life.

 

“Let him go, Pope.” Diana spoke in a clear, calm voice. “You don’t need to do this. You’re just making it worse for yourself.”

 

Pope laughed. “Raise your hands, Miss Bennett.”

 

“I’m not--”

 

“RAISE YOUR HANDS.”

 

Pope’s tone had turned deadly, and now Diana saw a gun in his hand. She raised her hands above her head and took a few forward steps, trying to watch Pope and visually examine Joe at the same time.

 

“No further,” Pope said. She halted, and he glanced around behind her. “You’re alone?”

 

Yes.

 

“No, I don’t think so. I think your friend, Vincent, is with you...waiting.”    Pope smiled, and Diana shivered at the deranged merriment in the man’s eyes. “How thoughtful of you, to make this so very easy for me.”

 

Joe uttered a low groan, and Diana had to force herself to stay put. She fixed Pope with a venomous glare. “Why are you doing this?”

 

“Power, Miss Bennett. Power and pleasure. The only two things in life worth having.” His eyebrows lifted. “I take it you received my messages.”

 

Diana said nothing.

 

Pope aimed a sudden vicious kick at Joe’s ribs, which produced another moan from the wounded man. “This is my final message to you. I know, it took a long time to deliver, but I had to wait until I found this.” He pulled a small black notebook from the inside pocket of his long black overcoat.

 

Diana’s eyes widened. “The book...”

 

“Indeed. My faith in your friend, Joe, paid off handsomely. I knew he would eventually find the book. Better still...” Pope opened the book and withdrew a couple of folded sheets of paper. “The code, Miss Bennett. The keys to Gabriel’s kingdom, as it were.”

 

“And now it’s all yours.”

 

Pope smiled as he pushed the code papers and notebook back into his pocket. “Rightfully so. And now if your friend, Vincent, doesn’t step into the light within ten seconds, I will shoot first Mr. Maxwell, then you.”

 

“You’ll do that anyway, you bastard.”

 

“Yes, but I have the choice as to whether I kill you quickly or with one...slow...strategically placed shot after another.”

 

Adrenaline surged through Diana, and she began trembling. She stared at Pope and thought for one crazy moment that maybe she could stare him down, as if he were a poisonous snake or a…

 

“Time is running out,” Pope said. He pointed his gun at Joe’s left knee.

 

Diana opened her mouth to speak.

 

“Stop.” The gravelly voice drifted from the darkness behind her, and a second later Vincent was at her side.

 

Overwhelming relief washed through Diana, but it only lasted a moment. She realized that Vincent was as helpless as she was. If either one or both of them tried to rush Pope, he would shoot, and at such close range he wouldn’t have to be much of a shot to hurt or kill someone.

 

“I am here,” Vincent said, his voice cold and steady.

 

“So I see.” Pope smiled and took a few steps forward until he stood in front of Joe’s heaped body. “I had expected more, from both of you. A plan, a fight...something.” He gave an ostentatious sigh. “Really, this is too easy. I almost wish…”

 

Pope roared in pain and looked down. Diana followed his gaze and gasped at the sight of Joe, who had sunk his teeth into the Achilles tendon just above Pope’s left ankle.     Before she could say or do anything, Vincent rushed past her, knocking her to the ground.    She hit her head just enough to blur her vision. Through slitted, dust filled eyes she followed the movements in front of her. Everyone seemed to be engaged in a slow motion dance. Joe rolled out of the way as Pope lifted his gun to fire at Vincent. Vincent batted the gun out of Pope’s hand and then, with one precise gesture, circled Pope’s neck with his left hand and snapped it as easily as if it were a dry twig.

 

Diana blanched at the sound of Pope’s body hitting the ground. Suddenly she was face to face with the dead man, staring into his empty eyes. She hurried to her feet, glancing at Vincent to make sure he was all right.

 

Vincent leaned against the tunnel wall, his chest heaving. He looked at her, and she realized that he had not uttered one sound during the whole episode. His eyes were obscured by shadows, and she was glad she couldn’t see them. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know how he felt.

 

“He is dead.” Vincent’s voice was a dull, raspy whisper.

 

Diana felt for a pulse at Pope’s neck and found nothing. She nodded at Vincent. He nodded once and turned his face away. She turned to Joe. He was sitting with his back against the wall opposite Vincent, his chin resting on his chest. “Joe!” She knelt beside him and began to unbind his hands.

 

“Boy, am I glad to see you,” he mumbled through swollen, cut lips. He tried to smile, but winced instead.

 

“Are you O.K.?” she asked, feeling stupid for asking but not knowing what else to say.

 

“I’m O.K.” Joe looked at Vincent. “Thank you.”

 

Vincent nodded.

 

Joe’s eyes flew wide. “The book! He still has it.”

 

Pope had fallen on his side. Diana heaved him over on his back and went through all his pockets, removing everything she found. She handed the black book and folded pages to Joe. “Melton,” she said.

 

Joe nodded and wiped dried blood out of the corner of one eye. “It’s all here, Diana.    Everything we need to know to shut down Gabriel’s operation. And Bruce Melton has agreed to testify.”

 

Diana started to speak, but a sudden movement caught her eye. Vincent was standing away from the wall, his body straight and stiff.

 

He looked at Diana and Joe, and his eyes were glazed.  “Catherine...I must go...she is…” Without another word, he started running in the direction of the home tunnels.

 

“Vincent!” Diana called. She waited a moment, then looked at Joe. “Can you walk?”

“I think so.”

 

“Come on.” She helped him stand and draped his arm around her shoulders, then wrapped her arm around his waist. She looked down at Pope’s body. “I guess we can leave him here.”

 

“He’s not going anywhere.”

 

“The gun.” Diana leaned over, grabbed the gun and stuffed it in the waistband of her pants. “Was there anyone else with you?”

 

“He had some people outside your building, but nobody followed us in.”

 

“O.K. Let’s get you back to Father. You need help with those cuts.” She picked up Pope’s lantern.

 

“I need you,” he said in an urgent whisper.

 

“Yeah,” she said, tightening her grip on him to keep him upright. “Me too, babe.”

 

 

 

 

-3-

 

Vincent ran faster than he had ever run before, risking injury as he brushed through some of the narrower tunnels. His mind was racing ahead of his feet, trying to understand the feeling that spurred him onward, back to Catherine.

 

Catherine...what was wrong? He could feel her again, as if their bond had been reestablished, but the connection was erratic. He knew something terrible was happening, could almost touch her pain and terror, but all he could do was keep running and hope he reached her before...he didn’t know. He just knew he had to hurry.

 

He felt his energy flag as he neared his chambers, but the sound of her screams made him redouble his speed. He burst through the door of his home and into his bedroom and found himself staring at a nightmare.

 

Catherine laid spread eagle on blood-stained sheets. Sybil sat on the right side of the bed, behind Catherine, cradling her upper body. Mary and Father were at the foot of the bed, crouched over Catherine, waiting, watching...

 

As if a giant hand had shoved him aside, Vincent found himself flat against the wall. He watched, as Mary and Father watched, as Catherine groaned from behind closed eyes, and saw a tiny roundness emerge from between Catherine’s legs.

“No,” he said.

 

“Vincent!” The sound of his name made him jerk his head up.

Sybil was looking at him. “Come here!” she hissed.

 

He hesitated only a second, then rushed to the bed. He traded places with Sybil and held Catherine. She looked up at him, and the anguish in her face made him want to die.

 

“Vincent...” she whispered, then closed her eyes.

 

“Father, what is happening?”

 

The old man looked up. Sweat poured down his face, and his clothes and hands were smeared with blood. “She’s in labor, Vincent.”

 

“But when…”

 

“Right after you left. There was nothing we could…now, Catherine! Push!”

 

“NO!” Catherine wailed. Her eyes flew open, and she almost bolted out of Vincent’s grasp. “Please, Father, don’t let me lose this baby, please…”

 

“I’m sorry, Catherine, I can’t do anything - oh, GOD!” Father held out both hands as a tiny, limp body shot out of Catherine. The baby’s skin was a bluish-grey; it didn’t move or make a sound.

 

“Mary, help me.” Father handed the baby to Mary to hold while he suctioned it.

 

Vincent pulled slightly away from Catherine, who held onto him. “Don’t go, Vincent!”

 

“I just want to see…” He choked on his words and froze in place. He looked from the baby to Father, and the infinite sadness in Father’s eyes brought a freezing pain into Vincent’s mind. He stared at the baby again, unable to believe what he saw: the child - tiny, quiet, unmoving - was a miniature of the father. Vincent saw his own cleft upper lip, the beginnings of tiny claws, the fine downy hair that covered the little boy’s body in patches.

 

Father ceased his ministrations to the baby so he could cut the umbilical cord. He nodded to Mary, who wrapped the baby in a soft white cloth and stepped away from the bed. Father turned to Vincent. “I’m sorry, Vincent. So sorry...” He was overcome by tears. Sybil moved to the old man’s side and held him as he wept.

 

Tears streamed down Vincent’s face as he sat unblinking, holding Catherine. “Never again,” he whispered, his voice dead.

“Vincent...” Catherine said. “I’m sorry...”

 

“Never again, Catherine.” He buried his face in her damp hair and wept. “Never, never, never...”

 

Chapter 14