Chapter 4

 

-1-

 

 

Sunday, December 17, 1989

The night was full of voices...

 

 

DIANA’S JOURNAL--

 

Joe and Sybil and I talked a long time after we left the tunnels. I know him; he’ll do anything for Cathy, even something as dangerous and stupid as arranging this meeting. I’m trying to be sympathetic. What does Cathy want anyway, for God’s sake? She and Vincent have something so special with each other. Maybe someday I’ll get that feeling.

 

But I’m about to give up on it.

 

 

VINCENT’S JOURNAL --

 

Such turmoil tonight! Catherine is asleep, and I can hear her moaning in her dreams.    She asked if I thought she was being selfish...how could I tell her, ‘Yes’? We can do nothing that might harm Joe or Diana; they are both good friends. Nor would I want to hurt Sybil.    Yet, at the same time, I understand Catherine’s need to confront this woman. I want her to rid herself of this hostility. Never have I seen such anger in her. She must let it go. Forgiveness may be impossible, but forgetting is still a hope.

 

I pray these events will not interfere with what I want to do. I have been trying to find the right time to ask Catherine a question...if she will be my wife. Strange that we live in such intimacy, that we share responsibility for a child, and yet I still hesitate to take this final step. Do I truly believe she will say no? She could, and then what would I do? How would I survive? These fears, these mortal, terrible fears...oddly enough, how grateful I am to have them. How thankful I am for the people in my life who love me and complicate my life. Especially Catherine and Father...Father who is so happy for me. He asked me a few questions this afternoon, just enough to ascertain that all is well between Catherine and me. All is well...

 

 

FATHER’S JOURNAL --

 

I will never understand life’s constant complexity. This morning, all was domestic bliss for Catherine and Vincent. I don’t think they realize how evident, and welcome, their happiness is to everyone around them.

 

But this evening -- dear God!    I can understand Catherine’s desire to confront this woman, this nurse, who helped keep her captive during her pregnancy. But I cannot condone bringing this woman down here or making any kind of arrangements that would involve Joe or Diana. I am hoping that Catherine will have a change of heart or that, indeed, our dear Sybil will be able to help. Heaven knows, she has proven herself a faithful friend in a very short time.

 

 

 

 

-2-

 

Sybil returned to her apartment around 11:30 that night. She had walked back to Diana’s building with Diana and Joe, and the three had discussed and rehashed the events of the evening and Catherine’s wish to confront Lang. Diana was still dead set against the whole idea; Joe was uncertain; Sybil tried to stay neutral. She understood that their first consideration was not to endanger the tunnel world. She left Joe and Diana without settling anything and took a taxi home.

 

As she entered her apartment building she saw the superintendent, a crusty Irishman named Fred Mullen, swabbing a spot on the tile floor with an enormous mop. She fought a smile at the expression on his face. He looked furious, but then fury seemed to be his normal mode of operation.

 

“What’s up, Fred?” she asked in a cheerful voice.

 

Fred stopped mopping and leaned his short, wiry frame on the mop. His bright blue eyes pierced through her. ”Mrs. Barton’s piss poor excuse of a dog threw up after they both went jogging. Can’t you just see it, a stupid fat poodle jogging? So anyway, guess who gets to clean it up?”

 

”I guess that’s why they call you the super, Fred. You’re the best.” Sybil uttered this speech with a straight face, earning a sour look from the disgruntled man. She headed for the elevator, barely listening to his mumbling voice behind her:

 

“Now I gotta go down to that damned basement again, and God I hate it down there…”

 

Sybil jerked her chin up, as if she’d scented something fascinating in the air. She turned on her heel and walked back toward Fred. “This place has a basement?”

 

“Sure it does,” he said, giving her a you-idiot look. “You’ve lived here all this time and you don’t know that?”

 

She shelved a smart-ass reply and simply said, “Will you show me?”

 

He wrung out the mop in the big industrial bucket, keeping his eyes on the tall woman. “You got nuthin’ better to do? Hell, yes, I’ll show you. Watch where you walk, this is still slick.” He picked up the mop and bucket and headed toward the elevators.

 

“Thanks, Fred.” She followed him through a locked door to the right of the elevator bank, a door she’d seen every day for three years but never really noticed. Once through the door they descended a steep, dimly lit staircase. At the bottom another key from the seemingly endless supply on Fred’s key ring let them through a door marked “Storage.”

 

Fred flicked a light switch to the left of the door. “Watch out down here, too. There’s junk everywhere, and cobwebs big enough to trap an elephant.”

 

Sybil set her briefcase on the floor and stepped inside, wishing she’d just gone on up to her apartment instead. This was even worse than Diana’s basement; this was an absolute pit. Fred wasn’t kidding about the cobwebs. They were everywhere, some of them so thick and heavy with the accumulation of years’ worth of snagged insects that they verged on collapse. The combined scents of dust, mouse droppings and rotting cardboard posed a serious threat to her gag reflex.

 

Fred deposited his mop in one corner, then emptied and rinsed the bucket in an enormous stainless steel sink. He set the bucket next to the mop and looked at Sybil, hands on his hips. “Well - whaddya think, young lady?”

 

“I can see why you hate it down here. It’s creepy.” She glanced up at a naked light bulb that was blasting at least a hundred watts in the middle of the filthy room. The light swayed slightly at the end of a cord. She wondered where the breeze came from.

 

“Yep, it’s the worst part of my job, comin’ down here. Not counting mopping up dog puke.” He pulled his grimy cap tightly against his head. “Seen enough?”

 

“I guess.” She looked around the vast space, trying to avoid the stealthy shadows the room’s single light didn’t penetrate. Countless cardboard boxes were piled in dusty stacks.    So much junk lay scattered and heaped that most of it was unrecognizable. “The door says ‘storage.’ Who stores stuff down here? The tenants?”

 

Fred snorted. “Hell, no. Would you keep anything down here?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I don’t know, I just work here. I keep it lookin’ good upstairs, but this down here is just one big rat hotel as far as I’m concerned.”

 

“Yeah. Rats.” She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. She looked around the room once more. A sudden gust of air swung the light bulb a little farther than its usual orbit, and in that moment of glancing illumination Sybil saw a door in the wall to her left. “Where does that door go?” she asked. She turned to Fred, who was wearing a happy grin.

 

“You really wanna know?” Sybil nodded. “Damn, you’re a nosy woman.” He pulled a flashlight out of his tool belt and walked toward the door. Over his shoulder he instructed Sybil: “Stay close, and don’t never tell ANYONE I showed this to you. I ain’t losing my job because of some nosy shrink.”

 

“You’re a sweetheart, Fred.” Sybil watched as he yanked on the door. There was no knob, only a sturdy iron handle bolted to the door on a metal plate. After a few ear numbing shrieks, the door came open in Fred’s strong grasp. He shoved it open as wide as it would go, then motioned to Sybil. “Take a look.”

 

She stuck her head around the doorjamb and gasped. She was peering into a dim passageway, wreathed in swirling vortexes of dust stirred by a steady breeze. A yellow light bulb was screwed into the wall about six feet above the door. The passageway led off into the distance, but Sybil couldn’t tell how far. The dust got to her; she began coughing and pulled herself back into the basement.

 

Fred was right behind her. “Pretty weird, huh?” he said, as he closed the door. He held the flashlight under his chin, transforming his weathered countenance into the grinning face of a demon. “Welcome to the Twilight Zone!”

 

“Cut it out, Fred.” She coughed a few more times before regaining her breath. “Where does that go?”

 

He shrugged. “Who knows? You won’t find me wandering around down there.”

 

“What about that light bulb?” she asked as they walked toward the exit door, ducking cobwebs. She picked up her briefcase and waited for him to lock the basement door behind them. “Who changes it when it burns out?”

 

“I dunno.” He started up the steps.

 

“You don’t know?” she called after him, then hurried up behind him.

 

“No, I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.” They reached the top and he finished his last door locking chore. “Now you see, young lady, I’m fifty-two years old and I live a real dull life. I clean up, I lock up, I put up with everybody’s shit. So sometimes all that gets me through the day is that one little bit of mystery down there in the basement. Even though I hate it down there. Now remember what I said: don’t let on I took you down there. Boss’d have a stroke.” He tipped his cap a fraction of an inch and left her standing there, staring at the door through which they’d just come. After a moment, she punched the elevator button.

 

On the way upstairs, she organized her thoughts. I bet that passage…one way or another, is connected tc the tunnel system. A smile lit her face. Maybe we can give Catherine what she wants after  all.  

 

 

 

 

-3-

 

Monday, December 18, 1989

 

Vincent arose early that morning, leaving Catherine and Jacob sound asleep.    He scouted through some of the straighter, longer tunnels, searching for a satisfactory jogging route for Catherine. He was happy to do this for her, just as he enjoyed the many days of labor he had spent on their new chambers. Often he felt as if he could never do enough for her, almost as if he had to repay her in some way for re-entering his life.

 

After two hours’ searching, he returned home. He would have good news for Catherine; he had found what she needed. The exercise would do her good. He would tell her about her new jogging trail, and then he would ask her to marry him.

 

He stopped short outside the entrance to his chamber, amazed at his own transparency. Must I first tell her something she wants to hear before I ask her to marry me? Why can’t my proposal be good enough news by itself? Shaking his head, he walked inside.

 

He found Catherine and little Jacob on the bed, engaged in what Catherine called “baby calisthenics.” Last week one of their helpers had brought a recent copy of PARENTS magazine, and between Olivia, Catherine and Mary, not one idea contained between the magazine’s covers was left unexplored.

 

“Soon he will be strong enough to carry you,” Vincent said. He sat beside them on the bed.

 

“He’s a healthy baby, and we’re going to keep him that way. Aren’t we, little Jake?” She led the baby through another set of motions that ended with Jacob’s bent knee jammed into Catherine’s right breast. “Ouch! That’s enough for one day, you little munchkin. You’re wearing me out.” She sat up and launched herself and the baby into Vincent’s embrace.

 

Vincent kissed both of them, lingering over Catherine’s lips. He pulled back and looked at her.

 

She smiled. “You always look so surprised after we kiss. Are you ever going to get used to me?”

 

“I don’t know.” He considered for a moment. “I’m not sure I want to.”

 

“Good!” She kissed his cheek and stood. After arranging Jacob on a blanket on the floor with a few toys, she returned to Vincent’s side. She pointed to the chamber entrance. “Vincent, I think we need a door. Or a curtain. Anything.”

 

He nodded. “I have two weeks of work left on the new chambers. I will take care of this entrance today.”

“Thank you.” She pulled his hair away from his face and began stroking him, letting her fingers glide from his temple to his chin and down to his neck. “I love to touch you.”

 

“I love it as well, Catherine, but I have some things to tell you and you are not helping my concentration.” He smiled and pulled her hand toward his mouth for a kiss.

 

She grinned. “Good news, I hope?”

 

Very good...I hope. “I have found a series of tunnels where you can run. They’re level and well lit, and you can reach them in a short time. I’ll show you this afternoon.”

 

Her smile widened. “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” She stopped and waited for him to speak. When he remained silent, she leaned toward him. “Was there something else?”

 

“Yes!” The word came out too loud and, embarrassed, he stood and moved away from the bed. “Yes, there is one more thing...”

 

“More good news?”

 

Stop this nonsense!  With sudden clarity, he realized that the days of shyness between himself and Catherine had to come to an end. He could simply tell her what was in his heart. He knew this, knew he had nothing to fear.

 

With careful, deliberate movements, Vincent knelt beside the bed and gestured to Catherine to come closer. She scooted from the center of the bed to the edge, her face full of questions. He held out his hands, and she answered with her own. Catherine, I know of no other way to ask this question, and I must ask it now: will you marry me?”

 

He grew apprehensive as her face stretched into a mask of astonishment. For a few seconds she seemed too dumbstruck to respond. Finally she spoke: “Marry you? Marry you?” She looked around the room, to the chamber entrance, to her son playing contentedly on the floor, and then returned her attention to Vincent. “Marry you.”

 

“If it is too soon, Catherine, I understand…”

 

“Of course, I’ll marry you, Vincent!”

 

Her words rang in the air. Still gripping her hands, he stared at her, unsure of what he had heard. “You will?”

 

“Will I?!” She threw herself over the side of the bed and he caught her, a warm giggling bundle of smiling love. He pulled her into a hug that he didn’t want to end.

 

“You’re sure, Catherine?” He whispered the words into her hair.

She pulled away to answer. ”Yes, I’m sure. Oh, poor Vincent, I’m sorry!” With gentle hands, she tried to smooth away the lines of anxiety in his face. “It was just such a surprise.”

 

You are surprised that I would ask you to marry me?

 

No, not at all. It just seems ridiculous that we waited this long. And it’s funny...for some reason; I always thought I would have to ask you.” Her smile shifted to a sober look. “You are so brave, my wonderful Vincent. And I am so glad you asked me. I will marry you gladly - whenever you want. Today...tomorrow!” She kissed him with such force that they toppled over onto Jacob’s quilt.

 

When they ended the kiss, they parted to find that Jacob had crawled over to his father’s shoulder and was looking at them with curious baby eyes. Vincent and Catherine looked at each other and burst into laughter. She sat up and Vincent reached over to lift the baby to his chest.

 

Do you hear, Jacob? Your mother has consented to marry me. Isn’t that good news?”

 

The baby grinned as if he understood every word. Perhaps he does, Vincent thought.

 

Catherine planted a kiss on the baby’s cheek. “It’s the best Christmas present you could have given me, Vincent. The best I’ve ever had.” She grasped his hand, and they spent the next few minutes basking in their love for their son and each other.

 

The rest of Catherine’s day was full, as they all seemed to be lately. After lunch, she left Vincent to the task of rigging some privacy in their chamber and dropped off little Jake with Rebecca. She made her way to the schoolroom, where three of her regular students were waiting for her.

 

When Father and Mary first approached her with the idea of tutoring some of the younger students Catherine had balked, not out of dislike of the idea but out of uncertainty.     Father was able to persuade her when he insisted that these children needed her as much for the attention she could give them as for the help with their lessons. Catherine had relented and soon discovered that working with the little ones was far more challenging and rewarding than she had dreamed.

 

Today she spent her class time helping two seven-year-olds struggle with multiplication tables and consoling a tiny six-year-old girl on the loss of her favorite doll. Catherine ended the hour with a promise to help the girl, whose name was Annie, look for the doll. She thought of Melanie, the doll from her childhood that Diana had saved for her. Little Melanie was wrapped in one of Jake’s diapers and stored in the back of a deep bureau drawer against Catherine’s unspoken hope that one day she could give the doll to her own daughter.

 

When Catherine returned to her chamber, carrying a sleepy and very heavy Jake in her arms, she was surprised to see Joe and Vincent waiting for her. She pulled the recently installed drapes across the entrance and smiled her thanks to Vincent. He returned her smile, but his expression grew serious as he turned his gaze to Joe.

 

Joe smiled a greeting. “Hey, Radcliffe.”

 

“Hi, Joe. What brings you here?” She settled the baby in his cradle and joined the two men at the table.

 

Joe hesitated, and Vincent spoke. “Joe has some questions he has waited a long time to ask you.”

 

Catherine gave Joe her complete attention. “I’m here. What do you need to know?”

 

Joe leaned back in his chair and let out a sigh. “Jeez, Cathy, this is tough. I feel like an idiot. We should’ve talked about this weeks ago...but I didn’t know how.” He met her eyes. “The black book, Cathy. What happened to it?”

 

“Ahhhh.” Catherine leaned back as well, shot Vincent a quick glance, then crossed her arms over her chest. “I’ve been wondering when you would get to this.”

 

“Come on, Radcliffe, make this easy on me…”

 

“Make it easy on yourself, Joe. Quit blaming yourself for what happened to me. You know if our situations had been reversed, I would have done the same thing you did.”

 

He nodded. “I know.”

 

“There isn’t much to tell. At first Moreno wanted the book. I told him I would make him a copy.”

 

“Did you?” Joe asked.

 

“Yes. It’s funny. I had no reason not to trust him then. I just felt I had to hang onto that book.”

 

“Once when he visited me in the hospital, he told me you were making some progress on the code.”

 

Catherine raised her eyebrows. “Yes and no. I figured out some of the names, but the code itself...” She shook her head. “I told Moreno it was coming together just to keep him off my back. I was determined to figure it out for you. But I hit a dead end, and eventually I gave the book to Elliot…”

 

“Elliot? As in Burch?”

“Yes, Joe. He told me he knew someone who might be able to decipher the code. I gave Elliot the book, and that’s the last I saw of it.” She gave Joe a helpless look. “I’m sorry. That’s all I know.”

 

“You don’t know who Elliot gave the book to?”

 

Cathy shook her head. “He said something about a cryptologist, but that was it.”

 

“Well, it’s a lead anyway.”    Joe leaned forward. “Do you remember anything at all, any names, something that might help us?”

 

Her expression darkened. “I was going to tell you and Diana last night, but I never got the chance. Gabriel’s people used a lot of drugs on me to get me to tell them what I knew, and I think my memory was affected because of that. But here’s what I can recall: Malloy Davidson; Hanover North; Gabriel; and a couple of sets of initials: RMS and MGF.”

 

Recognition lit Joe’s face. “RMS and MGF. Richard Michael Saltonstall and Michael G. Foster.” He nodded, a slow smile creeping across his face. “O.K., Radcliffe, O.K. It’s not much, but it’s a start. I’ll tell Diana tonight, and we’ll get to work on it.”

 

“Is she still furious with me?” Catherine asked.

 

“She’s cooled down to boiling, I think. That reminds me of the other reason I came. Sybil called Diana this morning with an idea on how to arrange a meeting with Lang.”

 

Catherine turned to Vincent, and they shared a smile. “Somehow that does not surprise me,” Vincent said.

 

“Sybil’s pretty sharp. Here, Vincent, she asked me to give this to you.” Joe handed Vincent a small piece of paper. “It’s Sybil’s address. She thinks a door in the basement of her building leads into the tunnels. She asked if you would check it out and get a message to one of the three of us.”

 

“And if it does check out? What then?” Vincent asked.

 

“We wait until Lang contacts us again.”

 

“If she contacts you,” Catherine said.

 

Joe grimaced. “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be in her shoes when she meets you.    Don’t get me wrong, Cathy, I understand why you’re mad. But she’s just so...pathetic. Compared to her - compared to most people - you have everything. She has nothing.”

 

“Because of her, I almost had nothing. Don’t expect any charity from me.”

 

Joe nodded and rose from his chair. “I’ve got to go. I’m cooking dinner for Diana tonight.”

 

“Trying to impress her or scare her away?” Catherine teased.

 

“I don’t think it depends as much on my food as on her mood.” He gave her a quick hug and clapped Vincent on the shoulder. “I have one more thing to say, Vincent.”

 

“I am listening,” Vincent said.

 

“For a long time I’ve meant to come here and ask you about some of our unsolved cases that I think you were involved in.”

 

“The murders,” Vincent replied, his voice even.

 

“Yeah,” Joe said. He looked Vincent in the eye. “You were protecting Cathy when you killed those people?”

 

“Either Catherine or someone else I loved.”

 

“That’s what I thought.”  Joe nodded thoughtfully, looked at Catherine, then back to Vincent. “I’ll never ask you about these deaths again, Vincent. I don’t want to know. I’m going to leave then marked ‘unsolved’ and forget about them.”

 

Vincent’s voice was soft and emotion filled. “Thank you, Joe. I know this conflicts with your dedication to your Job.”

 

“My dedication to my friends has become a lot more important lately,” Joe said. He winked at Catherine. “I’ll see you later,” he said and left the chamber.

 

As soon as Joe was gone, Catherine and Vincent let out huge sighs. They turned to each other and embraced.

 

“You were right, Catherine. He is a good man.”

 

“He’s one of the best friends we’ll ever have,” she replied.  The baby began crying, and she picked him up. “I know he would never betray us.”  Catherine began nursing the baby as she and Vincent discussed their wedding plans.

 

Chapter 5