- VII. -

 

Diana slept on the couch and awoke the next morning with a backache. She dressed quietly in the bedroom, taking care not to disturb Cathy. As she wove her hair into a French braid, she watched Cathy sleep. The small woman was sprawled across the bed in a posture of total exhaustion.

 

Diana shook her head. The steady stream of reality checks she’d fed herself that morning and the evening before had made only a small dent in her amazement at Cathy’s presence.

 

At seven-thirty, Diana left her building and rushed to the subway station. The morning air was cool and fresh, washed clean by last night’s rain. She wanted to get back to Cathy as soon as possible. After all the time she had spent absorbing Cathy’s life, she was anxious to know the real woman. If she understood and accepted it all, so could Vincent. Maybe.  

 

***

 

At nine-thirty Cathy was awakened by lambent sunlight gilding the bedroom. She stretched luxuriously, glad that some of her stiffness had fallen away.

 

She stayed in bed for a few minutes and reflected on her encounter with Diana. The look on Diana’s face during the whole evening would have seemed comical in another situation. I understand how she feels, Cathy thought. It’s not everyday you have a chance to talk to a dead person.

 

After a hot bath, she stood in front of the bathroom mirror for an inspection. Wiping the steam from the mirror, she saw that her face looked better. The dark circles under her eyes had diminished, and the haggard, drawn look had begun to fade. But her hair...God, it was a disaster!

 

Why this preoccupation with your looks? she thought as she brushed her teeth. Vincent never cared what you looked like. He loved you when your face was slashed apart.  He loved you when… When? He loved me then. What about now?

 

A thought invaded her mind: Vincent, tapping on a pipe below Diana’s building...waiting for an answer, waiting to be summoned upstairs.

 

With unsteady hands, she rubbed a towel across her mouth. He still loves me. She looked in the mirror. He has to. And I have to keep believing that.

 

***

 

Diana returned home at ten o’clock. She carried two small packages. Cathy was nowhere in sight, but the kitchen was clean and the dishes had been put away.

 

“Cathy?” she called.

 

Cathy emerged from the bedroom. She wore some of Diana’s clothes and a rueful smile. “I look like a plucked chicken,” she said, fingering her short locks.

 

“Not for long.” Diana pulled a pair of barber’s shears from one of the packages. “I think I can help.”

 

“You cut hair, too?”

 

“Sometimes.”

 

“Lucky for me.” Cathy glanced at the other package Diana had brought. “What’s that?”

 

“It’s for you. But before you open it, there’s someone you need to see.”

 

“Who?” Cathy gave the elevator a wary glance.

 

“He’s downstairs.” Diana raised one hand. “Trust me, Cathy, O.K.? Just trust me on this.”

 

Cathy nodded. “O.K.” She thrust her hands into the pockets of a pair of sweat pants that billowed around her legs like windblown sails.

 

She looks like a little girl. Diana thought. She pressed a buzzer, and the elevator rumbled into action.

 

“Stand over here.” Diana led Cathy to one side of the elevator. “This is supposed to be a surprise.”

 

“For whom?”

 

Diana smiled. After the elevator stopped, she opened the gate and the door.

 

A man stepped out of the elevator. “All right, Bennett, what’s the mystery? I have to be downtown in forty-five...minutes.” He saw Cathy and froze.

 

“Joe!” Cathy exclaimed. She didn’t make a move or another sound. Couldn’t...she was shaking too hard.

 

“Jesus,” Joe whispered. “Cathy. Oh, Jesus.” His eyes filled with tears.

 

Cathy spread her arms wide and Joe lifted her into a close embrace. They laughed through their tears, holding each other tightly.

 

Joe held Cathy at arm’s length. “Radcliffe,” he said, eliciting a merry smile from Cathy. “What in the hell are you doing here? Aren’t you - I thought…”

 

“You thought I was dead.”

 

“I saw them take your body out of your apartment.” Joe glanced at Diana. “I went--”

 

“To my funeral.”

 

Joe’s eyes flashed between the two women, who both looked amused.   “I guess you’ve been through this already.”

 

“Let’s go into the kitchen,” Diana said. She held up the scissors she’d bought. “You two can talk while I work on Cathy’s hair.”

 

“O.K.,” Joe said. He ran his fingers through Cathy’s hair and smiled.

 

“O.K.” Cathy put her arm around him and returned his smile.

 

***

 

Joe left two hours later, promising to return the next day.

 

Cathy felt as if she’d just experienced five Christmas mornings. Seeing Joe had done her a world of good. Talking to him, trying to explain what had happened to her, she began to feel like her old self again, her true self.

 

And Diana had worked wonders on her hair. Despite Joe’s comment – “You look like jailbait, Radcliffe” - the slightly spiky cut was a big improvement over the job she’d done on herself.

 

When Diana returned from seeing Joe out, Cathy surprised her with a quick hug. “Thank you,” Cathy said. “I missed him so much. I didn’t know how much till I heard his voice.”

 

“He’s a great guy.”

 

“The best.”

 

“He never gave up, Cathy. Even after you died--after we thought you were dead, he stayed on the case.”

 

“It must have been hard for him. He idolized Moreno.”

 

“Moreno proved that you can’t trust anyone.”

 

“Do you really believe that?”

 

“Oh, I don’t know.” Diana sat down and tucked her feet beneath her. “It’s the way I’ve always lived. Stay to yourself. Keep your eyes open. Don’t trust anybody.

 

“But now,” Cathy prompted, sitting in another chair.

 

“Now there’s Vincent and Father and Mary, for starters.”

 

”I know what you mean. I don’t feel as trusting as I used to.”

 

“So what are you going to do now? What are your plans?”

 

“Well, I’ve already figured out that my future doesn’t include a desk job and an apartment on Central Park.”

 

“You’re lucky you made it here from the bus terminal. Gabriel had people everywhere. If they’re still out there and they spot you...”

 

“I’m dead. For real this time.”

 

Diana nodded, her eyebrows raised.

 

“Have you learned anything about Gabriel’s organization?” Cathy asked.

 

“I only know what Joe tells me, which is practically nothing. He says it’ll take months, maybe years, to figure it all out, unless someone who worked for Gabriel steps forward. But that’s not likely.”

 

Cathy nodded. “In the meantime...”

 

“In the meantime, I have to be even more careful than usual and you have to stay invisible.”

 

“I know. The only alternative I can see is the tunnels. It’s where I belong now...with my family. The life I used to have - there’s nothing left of it. It might as well have been a dream.”

 

“Nothing left?” Diana clapped one hand to her forehead. “God, how could I be so stupid?”

 

“What is it?”

 

“First let me show you this.” Diana handed Cathy the second package she had bought that morning.

 

Cathy opened it and found a breast pump and a handbook from La Leche League. She favored Diana with an astonished look. “You are amazing!”

“Just don’t ask me how it works.” They both laughed.

 

“How can I thank you?” Cathy asked.

 

“Wait. There’s more.” Diana stood and beckoned. “Come with me.”

 

Cathy followed Diana to a small storage room off the bedroom. Diana pulled a string hanging from the ceiling and the harsh glare of a one hundred watt bulb chased away the shadows. She pointed to two large cardboard boxes pushed to the back. “Help me get these out.”

 

With a little effort, they moved the two boxes to the middle of the bedroom floor. Cathy looked at Diana.

 

“Go ahead,” Diana said. “Open them.”

 

Cathy pried open the larger box. She pulled out a diaphanous blue nightgown. She recognized it immediately; it was hers. She pulled out one article of clothing after another. Shoes, jeans, dresses, pants, robes, even underwear - it all belonged to her.

 

The contents of the second box were equally mesmerizing. Cathy found books, records, perfume bottles, a hairbrush, jewelry, makeup. She unwrapped a small bundle to find an old doll. “Melanie!” She hugged the tiny blonde doll.

 

“So that’s her name,” Diana said. Cathy looked at her for an explanation. “When I was investigating your death, I had to go through everything you owned,” Diana said. “Every drawer, closet, book, paper, unpaid bill...I looked through it all.” She spread her hands in front of her. “I’m sorry.”

 

“Oh, no!” Cathy touched Diana’s arm. “You have nothing to be sorry for. You’ve given me back a piece of my life.”

 

Diana rubbed her fingers over the soft texture of a pink cashmere sweater. “At least these will fit you better than anything I have.”

 

“How did you manage to get all this?”

 

Diana smiled. “Wasn’t easy. But after spending so much time on your case, I couldn’t stand the thought of all your things being given away to strangers. I felt like…”

 

“Like they belonged to you.”

 

“Yes. Yes, I did.”

 

Cathy nodded.

“I thought about giving them to Vincent.”

 

“I’m glad you didn’t.”

 

“He was…” Diana hesitated. “He was hurt enough.” Her eyes lifted and met Cathy’s gaze.

 

“Yes.” Cathy stroked the silky sleeve of a long blue dress...the dress she wore when she and Vincent listened to a concert at the park on a rainy evening, so many nights ago. “You did the right thing.”

 

***

 

Diana ordered Chinese food for dinner. She watched Cathy as they finished eating. I ought to be used to her by now, she thought. She liked Cathy and felt a strong sense of empathy. How could she not, after looking at the world through Cathy’s eyes during the long weeks of the murder investigation? Still...

 

Diana’s eyes wandered to the desk where photos of Cathy and other remnants of her investigation were stored. Sometimes Cathy’s expression or the angle of her head would remind Diana of those photos, making her feel as if she had time warped into some weird alternate universe where dead people returned to life and intrepid policewomen solved the same case over and over.

 

Cathy had spent a productive and satisfying day. She now wore a pair of her own jeans, a blue chambray shirt, warm socks and -- best of all -- underwear. Although she had regained a few pounds, the clothes were loose. Still, they were her own clothes, and that mattered more than the fit.

 

She read the La Leche League pamphlet in one sitting. Following the League’s instructions, she pumped each breast for ten minutes, producing a flow of bluish milk. She glowed with pride each time she saw the tiny bottle of her milk in the refrigerator’s freezer compartment.

 

She was still eating when she felt Diana’s eyes on her. “What?”

 

“Some appetite.”

 

Cathy answered Diana’s gentle teasing with a smile. “Just following instructions.” “Instructions?”

 

“La Leche League. If I’m going to feed my baby, I have to feed myself properly first.” She started to lift her fork to her mouth, then hesitated.

 

“You look scared,” Diana said.

Cathy nodded. “I am. I hate to admit it, but I am.”

 

“He’ll be here soon.”

 

“I know.”

 

“You ready?”

 

“The truth? Yes. And no. I can’t wait to see him.” She toyed with her fork. “To be with him in the same room...just thinking about it is overwhelming.”

 

“Don’t expect too much of him, Cathy. He’s had - well. He’s been through a lot.”

 

“What can I expect of you, Diana?” Inwardly Cathy winced. Diana had shown such compassion, and Cathy didn’t want to seem ungrateful. But she had to know.

 

“My friendship. My help. And my ability to get out of the way when I’m not needed.”

 

The two women exchanged an uncomfortable look.

 

“Well.” Diana drained her wine glass. ”I guess we should go ahead and get this out of the way now.”

 

“You love him.” Cathy saw tears spring to Diana’s eyes.

 

“Yes. I also think he loves me, but not the way he loves you. Not even close.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“It doesn’t matter.” Diana carried their plates to the kitchen. “He never would have been mine, not the way he belonged to you. I’ve known that all along.” She raised her voice over the running water. “I have his friendship. That’s something.”

 

“If I hadn’t come back…”

 

“Cathy, it wouldn’t have changed a thing. He would have taken his love for you to the grave.” Diana returned to the table. “And once you’ve said that, you’ve said everything.”

 

“I don’t know anything about you,” Cathy said after a few moments. “Do you have a family? Anyone you’re close to?”

 

“I have a sister in Baltimore. I haven’t seen her in four years. We don’t speak.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“She doesn’t approve of my lifestyle.”

 

“A boyfriend?”

 

Diana gave a short laugh. “Not anymore.”

 

“What about the people Below?”

 

“They’re wonderful. They’ve pretty much adopted me over the past couple of months. It’s been nice.” Diana stared into her empty wine glass.

 

“So,” Cathy said. “Tell me more about my baby.”

 

Diana smiled. “He’s terrific. And Vincent’s a wonderful father. He just...he gets so involved in Jacob’s feelings. He feels everything the baby feels.”

 

“Like the bond we used to share.”

 

“You’ll be good for them, Cathy. You’re the only one who can give Jacob what he needs.”

 

“Me.”

 

“Exactly.”

 

The downstairs buzzer rang.

 

“Joe?” Cathy asked.

 

“I thought he was coming tomorrow.” Diana started toward the elevator but hesitated at the sound of a faint tapping at her bedroom window.

 

Cathy bolted out of her chair. “It’s him.” She could feel her body shaking with the force of her pounding heart.

 

Diana’s brow furrowed. “This is strange. He always signals on the pipes before coming up.” She turned on the speaker. “Who is it?”

 

“It’s me, Joe.”

 

“Just a minute.” Diana flicked off the switch and turned to Cathy. “Do you want me to…?”

 

Cathy nodded.

 

Diana started toward the door to the roof but paused when Cathy caught her arm.

Again they heard the tapping, more insistent this time.

 

“Nothing,” Cathy said, releasing Diana. “I’m ready.”

 

Chapter 8