Chapter 3

-1-

 

Diana and Joe arrived at Catherine and Vincent’s chamber at seven that evening, and almost immediately Diana knew that things had changed.

 

Catherine glowed, and Vincent was more apt to look people straight in the eye when he talked. He was still reserved, but some of his shyness, his hesitancy, had lessened.

 

Diana glanced at Joe as the four seated themselves around a table. Can he see a difference? She didn’t think so, and for some reason the thought irked her.

 

Diana and Joe sat together with Vincent to Diana’s left and Catherine to Joe’s right. Diana opened the bag she’d been carrying, pulled out her tape recorder and a small wrapped package and placed both items on the table. “Well.” She folded her hands on the table. “Where do we start?”

 

Joe shrugged. “Explain the tape, then play it. There’s no way to make this easy.”

 

Diana nodded. “Right.” She looked at Catherine. “When Gabriel had you during your pregnancy, one of his employees was a nurse. You remember her?”

 

Catherine nodded. “I’ll never forget her.”

 

“I wish I could.” Diana set the “pause” and “play” buttons on the recorder. “She showed up at my place last night.”

 

Her words had a galvanizing effect on Vincent and Catherine. They both sat up straighter and leaned in closer to stare at Diana and Joe as they stumbled over each other’s words: “She came to you?” “How did she find you?” “What did she want?”

 

Diana gestured to the package. “She asked me to give this to you, Vincent. But first you need to hear this.” She released the “pause” button and gave Vincent and Catherine in turn a level look. “Like Joe said...this isn’t going to be easy.” A few seconds later voices began drifting into the silence of the chamber, and Diana replayed the previous evening in her mind...

 

 

 

 

-2-

 

After leading Joe and the silent Vietnamese woman into her loft the evening before, Diana hurried straight to the kitchen. “Do you drink coffee?” she asked Lang, who sat at the opposite end from Joe on the living room couch.

“Yes,” the woman replied.

 

Diana shed her coat and gloves and watched Lang in covert glances as the coffee began to perk. Joe was not an especially large man, but compared to Lang he was a giant. The woman sat perfectly straight on the edge of the couch, her worn black coat settled around her like stately robes on royalty. Diana carried the coffee and three cups on a tray into the living room. “You’ll have to drink it black,” she said, placing the tray on the table. The only milk she had was a tiny bottle of Cathy’s breast milk in the freezer. She poured for all three of them, then sat in a chair facing Lang. “You said you had something to tell us.”

 

Lang sipped her coffee, then nodded once.

 

Diana shot a glance at Joe, who had said nothing since entering her loft. He raised his eyebrows and gave a barely perceptible shrug. She walked over to her office area and pulled a small black tape recorder out of one of the desk drawers. She rewound the tape, set the recorder on a table near the couch and turned it on. “Your name is Lang?”

 

“My name is Ten…” The little woman bit her lip and closed her eyes for a moment. “You may call me Lang.”

 

Diana stood. “Before we get started, I need to frisk you.”

 

“Why?” Lang sounded genuinely surprised.

 

“We have to make sure you’re not armed or wired,” Joe explained.

 

“A wire...of course.” The little woman stood and allowed Diana to examine her from head to foot. When Diana was finished, Lang returned to the couch. She folded her gloved hands in her lap. “You will arrest me?”

 

Diana looked at Joe. “We’ll probably bring you in for questioning,” he said, then hesitated. “It depends on what you tell us now. We may charge you with being an accessory.”

 

Lang’s mouth twisted in a brief, bitter smile. “That is fitting. All the people in this man’s life are accessories. Nothing more.”

 

“How long did you work for him?” Diana asked. Her anger at the strange woman had not dissipated, but now it was tempered with curiosity. Lang seemed intelligent; Diana hoped she would prove talkative as well.

 

“Almost fifteen years.” She raised her eyebrows as Joe and Diana gasped. “You are thinking it is a long time. It was even longer than you can imagine.”

 

“But why…” Joe began.

“It is a long story, but I will tell it short.” Lang pulled off her right glove, smoothed a few wispy tendrils of black hair away from her face, then replaced the glove. “My husband and I left Saigon when it fell in 1975. We were fortunate; he was a doctor and a high-ranking officer in the South Vietnamese army. We were airlifted to a refugee camp in the Philippines, where we stayed for six months. We were next sent to a relocation camp in the United States, in Pennsylvania. Fort Indiantown Gap.” A true and faraway smile lit her face as she remembered. “We were happy there for a few months, until he found us.”

 

“Gabriel?” Diana asked.  She tightened her grip on her coffee cup, then took a sip.

 

“Yes.” The little woman sighed. “He and my husband were old friends, more than friends, really. My husband referred to Gabriel as ‘my brother.’ I was only twenty-five when we left Vietnam, and my husband was almost fifteen years older than me. I knew little about his life before we married.”

 

“Your husband,” Diana said. “Did he wear a ring? A black and gold ring, very old.” She caught a glimpse of Joe’s startled face out of the corner of her eye, but she kept her gaze focused on Lang.

 

“Oh, yes.” Lang nodded. “It was his most precious possession. He called it the ring of the brotherhood.”

 

“The brotherhood,” Diana softly repeated. She looked at Joe, and his expression was as readable as handwriting: LATER.

 

“I know nothing of the brotherhood,” Lang continued. “I only know it was the reason he took us away from the camp and gave us jobs.”

 

“So you were...what?” Diana asked. “Part of Gabriel’s staff?”

 

“Yes,” Lang replied.

 

“You and your husband took care of Gabriel’s medical needs?” Joe asked.

 

“It was more than that. He employed many people, some of them in dangerous positions. They would get hurt. If possible, we would fix them. If not, they were left to die.” Her words, stark and simple, chilled the air.

 

“Did you want to work for him,” Diana asked, “or did he force you?”

 

“At first, we were grateful to him. We had money, a place to live. He promised us that eventually he would locate our families in Vietnam and bring them to America.” Her mouth trembled; turning down at one corner, then became steady.  “He held this promise over our heads for years, and we believed him! We continued to believe him until it was too late.”

“Too late for what?” Joe asked. Diana watched him lean forward, a look of concern creasing his forehead. You’re such a kind man, Joe. You’re so caught up in her story, and all I can do is listen for lies.

 

Lang’s voice took on a bitter hue. “One day my husband and I told Gabriel we wanted to leave. His activities were more and more of a blatant criminal nature, and we could no longer pretend ignorance. We were sickened by what we knew. But Gabriel...he laughed at us. He called one of his men into the office, and the man shot my husband through the back of the head. “She threw her head back and stared straight at Diana, as if daring her to offer a contradiction. “Gabriel told me that if I ever betrayed him, not only would he kill me but he would seek out every member of my family and kill them as well.” She abandoned her ramrod posture and leaned back on the couch, thin tears sliding down her cheeks. She pushed them away with angry swipes of her gloved hands.

 

“Good God.” Diana’s voice cut the silence. She glanced at Joe, who had pushed himself into a corner of the couch. His eyes were wide and staring as he rubbed a thumb back and forth across his chin. Diana returned her attention to Lang, who downed the rest of her coffee in thirsty gulps. “Tell me about Catherine Chandler.”

 

Lang stared at Diana over the rim of her cup, and her eyes turned hard and dark. She set her cup on the table and, after a brief hesitation, pulled off her gloves and set them beside the cup.

 

“Please,” Diana continued. “I-we need to know.”

 

“She was your friend?” Lang said, still skewering Diana with a relentless gaze.

 

“She was my friend,” Joe said. “Diana never knew her.” He looked at Diana, who understood - and agreed - that no mention of Cathy’s survival would be made. Despite the tragic story they had just heard, the Vietnamese woman had done nothing to gain their trust and everything to hold their suspicion.

 

“I was given no explanation when she was entrusted to my care,” Lang said. “I was told never to speak to her. Some years earlier Gabriel had decided he disliked the sound of my voice and forbade me to speak in his presence unless spoken to. So in a way I had lost the habit of speech.”

 

“Did Cathy ever ask you for help?” Joe asked. Diana recognized this question as a test, to see if this woman’s recollection of events matched what Cathy had already told them about her period of incarceration at Gabriel’s hands.

 

“Many times,” Lang said. “She even gave me a note once, asking me to give it to a policeman if I went outside. I remember...at the time I was taking her to be examined. While she was lying on the table, I handed her note to one of the guards. I will never forget the look on her face...”

Diana narrowed her eyes for a moment, then stood. “Excuse us for a moment,” she said to Lang as she motioned to Joe. “We’ll be right back.” She switched off the tape recorder.

 

Lang nodded, her eyes on the floor.

 

Joe stood and started to follow Diana, but he stopped. “You won’t go anywhere?” he asked Lang.

 

The little woman lifted her eyes to him and shook her head. “I have nowhere to go.”

 

Joe gave a thoughtful nod, then followed Diana into the kitchen area.

 

Diana steeled herself for Joe’s questions. He didn’t disappoint her.

 

“What’s all this about a ring?” he demanded in a harsh whisper as they huddled near the sink.

 

Diana kept her voice low. “I couldn’t tell you at the time, Joe, but--”

 

“Oh, hey, Bennett, that’s the story of our lives. ‘It’s nothing, Joe.’ ‘You’re wrong, Joe.’ ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, Joe.’”

 

“Dammit, will you shut up and listen?” She threw a glance at Lang, who sat with her back to them.

 

He stared at her for a moment, then folded his arms across his chest. “I’m listening.”

 

She took a deep breath. “The ring was - is - a connection to Gabriel. Vincent took one from the body of a man Gabriel sent to kill him. He gave the ring to me, and it led me to Gabriel.”

 

“What’s this brotherhood crap?”

 

“That I don’t know.” She gave him a beseeching look. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you everything during the investigation, but I couldn’t.”

 

Joe nodded. “O.K. I think I understand. What the hell, I guess it doesn’t matter now anyway.”

 

“All that matters is what we can find out from her,” Diana said, nodding toward the living room.

 

“Yeah.” Joe grabbed her arm. “Back to the inquisition.”

 

They returned to the living room to find Lang exactly as they had left her, perched on the couch like a weary little bird, staring vacantly at the floor. Diana and Joe took their respective places, and Diana turned on the tape recorder. The three sat in silence until Lang’s body twitched and she seemed to shake herself out of a trance. She looked at Diana. “I have more to tell you.”

 

“We’re listening.” Diana felt an unwelcome twinge of sympathy for the woman seated across from her. Lang’s eyes looked dead; every line of her thin body bespoke fatigue, starvation, and despondency.

 

“I learned very little about Gabriel during my years in his employ, but I will tell you what I know. No one ever called him by any other name, although he had many. One he used was Richard Michael Saltonstall. Another was Michael G. Foster. I could not tell you which one, if any, was his real name.”

 

“He liked Michael,” Joe said in a musing tone.

 

“How did you find this out?” Diana asked.

 

Lang’s face hardened into lines of granite. “Some people talk too much, in and out of bed. And those of us who speak little learn to listen for our survival.” Her gaze was steady as she watched Joe and Diana absorb her words.

 

Diana rested her eyes on Lang for a moment, then leaned forward. “You said you have something to give me?”

 

“It is for the creature...the man you call Vincent.” Lang pulled a small package from her right coat pocket. “It belonged to Catherine. I found it among her belongings when she was first brought to me. I kept it hidden...you cannot imagine how difficult that was.” She handed the package to Diana. “You must give it to him. It was meant for the baby.”

 

“What is it?” Diana asked, examining the package with a vary look.

 

”Nothing harmful, I assure you. Please give it to Vincent. Perhaps it will mean something to him. The woman is dead, isn’t she?”

 

Diana kept her voice even. “Of course she’s dead. Why do you ask?”

 

Lang shook her head. “I only thought...I tried...” She bit her lip. “Never mind. It is over.”

 

“Wait.” Joe raised one hand. “What are you talking about?”

 

“As I said...it is over.” Lang rose and picked up her gloves.

 

“Where are you going?” Joe asked.

 

“I have been thinking.” Lang pulled on her gloves, carefully smoothing each finger into place. “As you know…” she nodded to Diana “it took many weeks to find the courage to come to you. I wanted to tell you what I knew. I wanted to be arrested and perhaps sent to a safer place, where I could live without feeling eyes on my back. But now...no.” Her voice was decisive. “I see now that I must face whatever awaits me in the world. You will not arrest me; I will not help you.”

 

“Now wait a minute!” Joe slowly rose to his feet. “You are definitely an accessory to a crime. There’s no way we’re just gonna let you…”

 

“You have no choice, Mr. Maxwell.” Lang’s voice sliced through his words. “My life is not much, but for the first time in fifteen years it is mine. I will not allow anyone to take it away. If you try to keep me, not only will I reveal all I know about Gabriel, I will also reveal all I know about Vincent.”

 

Diana sprang to her feet. “You wouldn’t…”

 

“Oh, yes, Miss Bennett, I would. And one of two things would happen: the police would think me insane and discredit my entire story. Or perhaps I would be so convincing that they would launch a search for this Vincent, this mysterious killer.” She sharply turned her head toward Joe. “Has anyone ascertained the cause of Gabriel’s death?”

 

Joe started to speak, closed his eyes, sighed and shook his head.

 

“And I assume neither of you want anyone to find out what really happened. I know a little about the law, Miss Bennett. I may be an accessory to many crimes, but the two of you are obstructing justice. The need to protect one’s self and one’s loved ones often overrides the need for honesty, don’t you agree?” She headed for the elevator before either could answer. “I will leave now.” She turned her back on them and faced the elevator door.

 

Joe and Diana looked at each other, helpless. Finally Diana whispered, “She’s right.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” Joe closed his eyes and sighed. His expression was almost tearful.

 

Diana started to say something, then changed her mind. She walked over to the elevator and pressed the button. Joe moved to her side as the elevator began rising. “How do we contact you?” she asked Lang.

 

Lang turned to look at her. “I will contact you if I need to. At some point I would like to see Vincent and his son.” She ignored the shocked looks on Joe and Diana’s faces. “In the meantime, I would suggest that you both be very careful. There is someone out there who would see all three of us dead.”

 

Diana furrowed her brow. “Who?”

 

“Pope.” Lang spat out the name of Gabriel’s former assistant. “He is out there, waiting. Don’t give him an opportunity.”

 

“An opportunity for what?” Joe asked, raising his voice over the noisy arrival of the elevator.

 

Diana slid aside the gate and door, and Lang stepped inside. She looked at them both as Diana closed the gate and door.  “An opportunity to continue where Gabriel left off.” She pushed a button and disappeared from sight.

 

Joe and Diana stood, staring at the spot where Lang had been. Joe slammed a fist into the gate, setting off a terrific rattling. “Shit!”

 

Diana walked over to the table and turned off the recorder.

 

 

 

 

-3-

 

Diana switched off the tape recorder and leaned back in her chair, waiting for Vincent or Catherine to speak.  Joe looked frustrated and angry; Vincent was stunned. He turned to look at Catherine; Diana followed his gaze and also was stunned. She never would have thought it possible that such anger and hatred could dwell in that beautiful face.

 

Catherine looked up at Vincent, who flinched. She looked at Diana and Joe. “You let her go?” Her voice was still and full of danger. Her eyes were black with rage.

 

Joe threw his hands up in the air. “I know how it sounds, Radcliffe, but there was nothing…”

 

“YOU LET HER GO!” Catherine’s words spiraled into a high-pitched roar as she leapt from her seat, gripping the edge of the table with both hands. “For months I begged that woman for help, but she never said anything, not one single word, and you just let...her...go?”

 

Vincent stood.  “Catherine...” He put out one hand, but she brushed it aside, her huge eyes glaring at Joe.

 

Joe returned her gaze with gentle disappointment. “Cathy...we had no choice. God only knows how much damage she could have done if we’d taken her in.” Tears sparkled in his eyes. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m really sorry.”

 

Catherine closed her eyes, and her face crumpled into tears. Vincent made her sit down and sat beside her, one protective arm around her shoulders.

 

Diana touched the small package lying next to the tape recorder. “She said this package was for you, Vincent, but I didn’t trust her. I checked it to make sure it wasn’t a bomb or something.” She handed the parcel to Catherine. “I’m not sure what all her talk about your death meant, but I don’t like it. I think this really belongs to you, Cathy.”

 

Catherine pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and blew her nose. She took the package from Diana and tore off the wrapping to expose a small box. She opened the box; her eyes flew wide. She dropped the box on the table and stood, knocking Vincent’s arm away and overturning her chair.

 

“Catherine, what is it?” Vincent was at her side. She pointed to the box. He picked it up and withdrew a tiny silver music box. He pushed the lid up and the delicate sounds of “Brahms Lullaby” began to play.

 

“I bought that...for the baby.” Catherine’s voice was strained and flat. She turned to Vincent. “I bought it...I was going to tell you…” She clapped one hand over her mouth and fled from the room, leaving three bewildered people and a chiming music box in her wake.

 

Catherine barely made it to the bathroom in time to throw up her dinner, retching until her stomach felt as barren as her heart. After brushing her teeth, she sat on the cold bare floor, a damp cloth pressed to her face. Heavy, familiar footsteps entered the bathroom and stopped beside her, but she didn’t look up. “Please, Vincent.”

 

“Talk to me, Catherine.”

 

She pulled the cloth from her face and found him kneeling beside her. The worry etched across his face nearly brought forth new tears, but she choked them back. “I’m sorry I ran away. I just need some time.”

 

“Talk to me now.” His voice was insistent.

 

“Here?” She glanced around. The bathroom was otherwise empty, but she knew it might not remain that way for long.

 

“Here,” he affirmed, sitting next to her on the floor.

 

Catherine leaned into him, into his benevolent strength. She took a deep breath and began. “You know I waited too long to tell you I was pregnant.” She glanced up at him, and he nodded. “I bought the music box the day I planned to tell you. It was for the baby, but I wanted to give it to you first. I thought...it would be easier to tell you that way.” She gave in to a silent flow of tears.

 

Vincent pulled the music box from his pocket and placed it on the floor in front of then. “This brings back painful memories.”

 

“It reminds me of my own stupidity.”

“I don’t understand...”

 

She turned to face him. “Vincent. I should have told you I was pregnant when I first found out.    It would have made all the difference. But I was afraid.”

 

“Afraid...why?”

 

“I don’t know why. I just thought…”

 

“That having my child would force you to abandon your life Above?”

 

Catherine seemed to grow smaller and shrink into herself. “Don’t make me answer that.”

 

He pulled her into his lap, made her look at him. “Don’t forget what Sybil told us about sharing the good and the bad. You must tell me, Catherine.”

 

She studied his face for a moment, then slowly nodded. “I suppose...yes, of course. I worried about…wondered about your reaction, but I also wondered about the changes I would have to make in my life. I couldn’t see having your child and going on with my life as if nothing had happened. I couldn’t imagine a constant tug-of-war between us

over the baby.”    

 

“And now.” Vincent’s voice was kind. “Do you regret the choices that seem to have been made for you?”

 

She shook her head. “Oh, no, Vincent. I don’t regret anything. I wouldn’t change anything. There are things I miss, friends, my job...but nothing is as important as the life we have together.” They gazed at one another for a few seconds, then Vincent leaned forward to kiss her. She was pleased and surprised; he was beginning to take some of the initiative between them.

 

They were interrupted by footsteps outside the bathroom. Vincent returned the music box to his pocket, then stood and pulled her from the floor. “I think we’ve stayed long enough.”

 

“Me, too,” Catherine said. They left the room arm-in-arm, briefly greeting a befuddled Jamie.

 

 

 

-4-

 

If Dr. Sybil Lawton had known the first person she would meet in the tunnels that evening would be Dr. Jacob Wells, she might have stayed at home.

Diana had given her an elevator key in order to access the tunnels, and Sybil had decided to return to Vincent and Catherine’s chamber to retrieve her equipment. As she walked, the tunnels seemed empty of life, except for the few sentries who recognized her and called out. Finally she came to the last turn leading to the home tunnels. She rounded the corner and saw Jacob walking toward her from about thirty feet away.

 

Her first impulse was to turn and run. She remembered the expression on Jacob’s face the night before, when he had entered the chamber and found Vincent writhing in the throes of a hypnosis-induced nightmare. He was so angry. She waited as the old man drew nearer. I hope everything’s all right.

 

Her question was answered when he smiled, called her name and threw his arms around her in a heartfelt bear hug. After a few seconds, he released her, laughing at her look of astonishment.

 

“Jacob,” she stammered. “I-I take it you’re not mad at me anymore.”

 

“Oh, no, my dear,” he said as he held her arm and led her down the torch-lit pathway. “In fact, I owe you all my gratitude. I don’t know what happened last night, but apparently you worked a miracle.”

 

“Then Vincent and Catherine…”

 

“Are fine. I saw them together at mealtimes today, and I talked with Vincent this afternoon.” He stopped and looked directly into Sybil’s eyes. “They are happy, truly happy. Thank you for helping them.”

 

She smiled at him, the tears in her eyes matching his own. “I’m so glad. What am I saying - I’m very relieved! I was worried about Vincent for a little while there, but I just had a feeling...”

 

“It must be hard to put aside your training and rely on intuition.”

 

“Hard but necessary. You should know that. Even with all your training, sometimes you just have to...go with your gut.” She winced at the inelegance of her words, but his smile told her he understood.

 

“Indeed. And with Vincent, sometimes that is all I have to go on. Were you planning to see them again tonight?”

 

“I hadn’t actually planned anything. I just came back to pick up my equipment. I left everything behind last night.”

 

“I’ll walk with you, then.”

 

As Father and Sybil neared Vincent and Catherine’s chamber, they were greeted by the din of angry voices raised in argument. They gave each other a puzzled look, then entered the chamber.

 

The scene before them was completely unexpected. Diana and Joe were yelling at Catherine; Catherine was on her feet, holding her son in one arm and gesticulating wildly with the other; and Vincent was making a vain attempt to get Catherine to sit down.

 

Father listened for a few seconds until he no longer could stand it. “Quiet!” he shouted over the racket. The voices died down as everyone turned to look at him. “What in God’s name is going on here?”

 

Sybil leaned toward him. “I thought you said everything was fine.”

 

“Well, it was! Can someone please tell me the meaning of this uproar?”

 

“First we must greet our friend,” Vincent said. He stood and welcomed Sybil with a quick embrace. “It is good to see you again.”

 

“Good to see you’re in one piece,” Sybil said. She moved around the table to give Catherine a hug, which Catherine returned as best she could. “You, too, Catherine.”

 

Catherine tried a smile, then stopped. “I’m glad to see you, Sybil, but I’m sorry it’s right in the middle of a pointless argument.” She sat down.

 

Joe pounded a fist on the table. “Pointless my ass, Radcliffe! You must be…”

 

“Mr. Maxwell!!” Father thundered. Instantly Joe was chastened into silence. Father glared around the table at each person in turn. “Apparently there is a great deal of tension among you. If you need a mediator, I would be glad to assist.”

 

Sybil raised her hand. “Me, too.” Vincent offered her his chair, and she sat beside Catherine, whose delicate features were contorted in cold fury. Sybil spoke to her. “What’s up?”

 

Catherine surveyed the faces around her. “How much can we say?”

 

Diana snorted. “Might as well tell her everything. She’s about as deep in this as the rest of us. Maybe she can talk some sense into you.” The two women glowered at each other for a moment. Father and Sybil exchanged a look of concern.

 

Catherine returned her attention to Sybil. “The nurse who was there when I was Gabriel’s captive showed up on Diana’s doorstep last night. She gave Diana and Joe a music box I had with me when Gabriel’s men took me. This woman - her name is Lang - ignored me when I begged for her help. Now she shows up. And she says she wants to see the baby.”

 

Sybil sat in thoughtful silence. “And what do you want to do?”

 

“I want to see her,” Catherine answered.

 

“Doesn’t she think you’re dead?” Sybil asked.

 

“Joe and Diana taped their conversation with this woman,” Vincent said, glancing at the tape recorder. “Certain things she said indicate that she may know Catherine is alive.”

 

“Mmmmmm...” Sybil glanced at Father, who had found a seat on the edge of the bed. “What do you think, Jacob?”

 

The old man shook his head. “I don’t like what I’ve heard so far. And the rest of you?” He sought Diana and Joe’s eyes. “I take it you’re both against this idea?”

 

Diana and Joe nodded. “It could be dangerous,” Joe said, shooting an angry glance at Catherine. “Way too risky.”

 

“Vincent?” Father looked to his son.

 

Vincent stood behind Catherine’s chair and gently massaged her shoulders. “I am still waiting to hear Catherine’s reason. I do not want to endanger her, but I do want to understand her decision.”

 

Father looked at Catherine, as did everyone else. She lifted her chin and gave them a defiant glare. “None of you understand how I feel! All those months I was trapped in there, with no one to talk to and nothing to do but worry and wait...” She closed her eyes tightly for a moment, then continued, her face set in grim lines. “I have things to say to this woman, questions I want to ask her. It doesn’t have to be here; I know it would be foolish to bring her into the tunnels. We could pick a safe place.” Her expression softened as she implored Diana: “Won’t you please help me?”

 

The two women locked glances. After a few moments, Diana gave a loud sigh and rolled her eyes. “This is nuts, you know that? It’s stupid, it’s dangerous...” She looked at Joe, whose lips were pressed into a thin line. “What do you think, Joe?”

 

“I think we’re all crazy,” Joe replied. He pressed the heels of his hands to his temples, then dropped his hands and looked at Sybil. “I also think I don’t know who the hell you are.”

 

“Oh!” Sybil said, sitting up straighter. She stuck out her hand. “I’m Sybil Lawton. Dr. Lawton. Call me Sybil.” She and Joe shook hands, and she looked around the table. “Can I venture an opinion here?”

 

“Please,” Vincent said. Catherine nodded.

 

Sybil turned to Diana. “Is there any chance that this nurse is working with someone who might still be after Catherine and Vincent?”

 

“That’s a distinct possibility, and it’s our main objection.” Diana nodded toward Joe. “Lang warned us about Jonathan Pope, who was Gabriel’s right hand man. But she could be scamming us.”

 

“And you think...?” Sybil waited for Diana’s answer.

 

“I think she might be telling the truth,” Catherine broke in.

 

“Well, shit, Cathy!” Diana whirled toward Catherine. “Can you possibly be that naive? There you sit with the baby that woman helped Gabriel steal from you, and you actually think she’s telling the truth?

 

Tension expanded and filled the room as the two women stared at each other. Everyone else remained silent. Finally Catherine spoke in a calm voice. “I’m not naive. I understand the risks. I think they can be minimized. Diana, if you and Joe will just think about it. Please, just consider it.”

 

“It might be a good idea,” Sybil said. All eyes turned to her. “Catherine probably has a need to confront this woman, and I’d like to see her diffuse some of this anger.”    She turned to Catherine. “Seriously, you shouldn’t stay angry. It will interfere with nursing.” Sybil addressed them all. “That’s my opinion, for what it’s worth. I’ll do whatever I can to help.”

 

Diana rose, followed by Joe. She turned to him with a questioning look. ”We’ll think about it,” he said.

 

“We’ll think about it,” Diana said to Catherine. She gave Vincent a brief glance, then followed Joe out of the chamber.

 

“I won’t stay,” Sybil said. She stood and looked around, then spotted her briefcase by the chamber entrance. “I’ll come back again, and maybe we’ll have more time to talk.” She hurried out, briefcase in hand.

 

Father felt Catherine’s eyes on him. He met her gaze.

 

“Have we scared you off as well?” she asked, trying to make a joke of it.

 

Father stood. “Catherine, I think I understand why you want to do this. I can’t say I approve. All I ask is that you take care and do nothing to endanger yourself or anyone else.” He turned and walked out of the chamber, leaning heavily on his cane.

 

Catherine looked at Vincent, who was now sitting beside her at the table. “Am I being selfish, Vincent?”

He shrugged. “What you are proposing could endanger Diana and Joe.”

 

“I don’t want to do that!” she said. “There must be a way to arrange this without risking anyone.”

 

Vincent nodded. “If it is so important to you, we will find a way.”

 

Chapter 4