- III. -

 

-1-

 

November 25, 1989

 

“Jacob. Over here!”

 

Little Jacob lay propped on his stomach on a pillow in the middle of his parents’ bed. He lifted his head and followed the sound of his mother’s voice. When he caught sight of her, he grinned and began drooling. *CLICK*

 

“Perfect!” Catherine hurried back to the bed, carrying a camera in one hand and a developing picture in the other. “You took a terrific picture, did you know that? This is going to be great!” She set aside the camera and picture and swooped the baby into her arms. “Did you know you’re the most beautiful baby who ever lived?”

 

Jacob responded by trying to stuff his left hand in his mother’s mouth. Catherine nibbled on his fingers, which made him smile.

 

“Are you going to be left-handed like your daddy? Hmm?” She lay back on the bed, her head on a pillow, and held Jacob on her chest. “You have his eyes, you know.” She stroked his hair, her expression thoughtful. “I hope you’re like him in other ways, little Jake. It’s O.K. if you look like me, but I hope there’s a lot of him inside you.”

 

The baby yawned, fidgeted, wrinkled his face and let out one cry.

 

“I know what that means.” Catherine sat up. She unlaced the front of her dress and began nursing her son. As always, she maintained eye contact with him, talking to him and stroking him. “You’re getting so big. Your grandfather says you’ve gained weight since I’ve been back. Isn’t that wonderful? Do you know how good that makes me feel?”

 

“You should feel very proud.”

 

Catherine turned at the sound of Vincent’s voice. He was standing at the entrance to the chamber.

 

“How long have you been there?” she asked.

 

“Not long,” he replied. He sat beside her on the bed.

 

“No shawl, Vincent.” She shook her head. “Please.”

 

He nodded.

 

“Look at this.” Catherine handed Vincent the picture she had taken.

He smiled as he studied it. “Now I understand why Diana--” He swallowed hard and looked away.

 

“Did Diana give you this camera?”

 

Vincent nodded.

 

“How thoughtful of her,” Catherine said. She gazed at Vincent, whose eyes were again locked on the photo. “She must be very fond of Jacob.”

 

“Yes.” Vincent cleared his throat. “She has become very...attached to him.”

 

“And to you.”

 

Vincent said nothing, still avoiding her eyes.

 

“Look at me,” Catherine said. She placed her hand under his chin and gently lifted until his eyes met hers. “Jacob isn’t the only one she’s grown close to.”

 

“No.” Vincent shook his head. He dropped the photo on the bed and started to rise. “I can’t…”

 

“Yes, you can!” Catherine grabbed his arm and held on until he sat down. “You can talk about this. We can talk about anything, Vincent. You should know that.”

 

He met her eyes, and she sensed the effort he was putting forth. “Catherine. This is difficult for me. I feel a sense of shame...so deep...”

 

Catherine hoisted the baby to her shoulder and gently thumped his back. “I don’t want to put you through any more pain. I know how awful things have been for you.” She hesitated. “I also know that Diana loves you.”

 

Vincent drew back, startled. “She said that?”

 

“She told me the night you first saw me on her roof. But I think I already knew.  I…” She buried her face in the baby’s soft hair for a moment before continuing. “Remember I told you that Maggie showed me Diana and gave me her address and phone number?”

 

“She told you to come to Diana for help.”

 

“Yes, but I didn’t tell you everything. Maggie showed me a few more things. I saw you playing with Jacob on the floor. I saw Diana come into your chamber and stand by you as you both watched Jacob sleep.” Catherine’s mouth trembled; now it was her turn to look away.

 

“And that was all?”

 

“That was all.” All but the dream...and I can’t tell you about that yet.

 

”How did that make you feel?”

 

Catherine heard the dread in his voice, but she held back nothing. “I was so angry! At you, at Diana, at everyone...but most of all at Gabriel, because that should have been me standing beside you, looking at our baby!” Tears spilled from her eyes.

 

At that moment Jacob spit up all over Catherine’s shoulder.

 

“Oh, Jacob!” Catherine cried. She held the baby away from her, and he looked at her with innocent blue eyes. She couldn’t help it; she began laughing. She was still laughing when Vincent brought a diaper and began drying off her dress.

 

“Is he all right?” Vincent asked. They both studied their son, who stared back goggle-eyed.

 

“Yes, he’s fine,” Catherine said, switching the baby to her other breast. “Everything’s fine, Vincent. Do you understand?”

 

“I want to believe that.” He sat beside her and wiped away her tears with gentle fingers.

 

They were interrupted by Diana’s voice outside the chamber.

 

“Cathy, Vincent, are you there? Can I come in?”

 

Diana entered the chamber, and Vincent immediately rose to help her. She was burdened with two large duffel bags. Vincent took the bags from her and set them on the floor. Diana stood for a moment and stared, absorbing the scene before her and trying to read Catherine’s eyes.

 

She felt Vincent’s eyes on her, but she dared not look at him. Make your move, Bennett. Get it right. She smiled at Catherine. “You look wonderful.” She walked toward the bed.

 

“Thanks,” Catherine said. She extended one arm, and the two women hugged each other.

 

“Look at this baby!” Diana bent closer to peer at Jacob. “He’s grown so much.” She turned to Vincent. “I told Catherine she’d be good for Jacob - for both of you.” Play your part, Vincent, she thought. Get through it this one time, and we’ll all breathe easier.

 

“You were right, Diana,” Vincent replied after a brief pause. He looked from his friend to Catherine and his son, and his face relaxed. “She has made a difference.”

 

Catherine nodded toward the bags Diana brought. “What did you bring?”

“Your stuff.” With Vincent’s help, Diana dragged the two heavy bags over to the bed. “Well, most of it, anyway. I thought you could come back to my place sometime and go through the rest of it.”

 

Catherine nodded. “Thanks, I’d like that.”

 

Vincent lifted one of the bags and hefted its weight. “Diana, these are quite heavy. Surely you didn’t bring them all the way here by yourself?”

 

“Uh, no, I didn’t. I had help.” She rolled her eyes toward the chamber entrance and sighed. “Come in, Joe!”

 

Joe Maxwell rounded the corner and entered the chamber. “Nice introduction, Bennett.”

 

“Don’t mention it.”

 

“Hi, Joe,” Catherine smiled.

 

“Hey, Radcliffe.” Joe gave her a quick hug. He glanced down at the baby and winked at Catherine. “Finally found something you’re good at?”

 

“Very funny.”

 

Joe turned to Vincent. He gazed at the tall man and held out his hand. “Vincent.”

 

“Mr. Maxwell.” Vincent accepted his hand.

 

“Joe, please.” The two men exchanged a long look. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

 

“And I you.” Vincent released Joe’s hand. “You’ve always held a special place in Catherine’s life. It’s good to meet you.”

 

“Yeah.” Joe realized he was staring and broke off, embarrassed. “Sorry--”

 

“No need to apologize.”

 

Joe gave Vincent a speculative look. A multitude of questions swarmed through his mind: Who are you? WHAT are you? Will you be good to Cathy? All those deaths you  caused...WHY?

 

He settled on one statement. “You will take good care of her?”

 

“You have my word.”

 

“You don’t mind if I drop in every once in awhile?”

“You are always welcome, Joe.”

 

“She’s very…” Joe glanced at Catherine. He returned his gaze to Vincent and lowered his voice. “She’s always been special to me.”

 

“I understand.”

 

Joe looked at Catherine; she smiled at him.

 

“Don’t worry about me, Joe. I’m going to be fine.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” Joe walked to the bed and looked down at the baby. “You know what you’re doing.”

 

“Come on, Maxwell.” Diana linked her arm through Joe’s. “You owe me dinner.”

 

Joe smiled at Catherine. His smile faded when he spoke to Vincent. “Sometime soon I’d like to come back and talk to you. Just the two of us.”

 

Vincent nodded.

 

Catherine and Vincent watched Joe and Diana leave. Catherine pulled the sleeping baby away from her breast and handed him to Vincent to hold while she refastened the front of her dress.

 

“He loves you,” Vincent said.

 

“I know,” Catherine said, as she watched Vincent change Jacob’s diaper. “He’s a good man.” Vincent lowered Jacob into the cradle. He covered the baby and gazed down at him for a second.

 

“You know what he wants to talk about, don’t you?” she asked.

 

“Yes.” He left Jacob’s cradle and sat beside her on the bed. “The deaths I caused; the unsolved cases. It must be difficult for him to look at me and remember all the things I’ve done.” He stared at his hands, lying palm up on his thighs.

 

“He is a good man. He has a strong sense of justice and fairness. But I don’t think you need to fear him. He wouldn’t do anything that might endanger you.” Or hurt me.

 

Vincent nodded, but he seemed lost in his own thoughts. She watched him and felt a sudden sharp longing for the empathic bond that once had united them. “He and Diana seem quite fond of each other,” she said.

 

His head jerked up. “Yes, they do.”

“They’re very different from each other.”

 

He nodded. “She is an unusual woman. She seems to prize solitude above all else.”

 

“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.’” She smiled as he turned to look at her. “Thoreau.”

 

“Yes, I know.” He smiled at the eager light in her eyes.

 

“I’ve been reading your books.” She leaned closer, placed both hands on his arm. “Do you love her?”

 

“I love her as a friend. Nothing more.”

 

“Coming from you that is a great deal.”

 

“She has meant a great deal to me. You understand that.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You said you were angry…”

 

“Yes. I mean, no! What I mean…” She paused. “I was in shock, Vincent. But I want you to know that if you had become closer to Diana, it would not have been a bad thing. I wouldn’t have wanted you to be alone for the rest of your life.” She ran her fingertips down the left side of his face. “That’s not the kind of love we share.”

 

“But what if you hadn’t…”

 

She stilled him with one finger across his lips. “Remember: no ‘what if’s.’ That kind of thinking will drive you mad. Then solitude will be your only companion.”

 

“I would rather have you,” he said. They lay back on the bed and he pulled her close. She leaned against his chest, her arms around his neck.

 

“You do,” she whispered.

 

As she had done many times in the days past, she fell asleep in his arms.

 

 

 

-2-

 

“Whoa, Diana, you’re killin’ me here!”

 

The beam of Diana’s flashlight bobbed several yards ahead of Joe. The light bounced a few more times, then vanished as she dropped the flashlight and leaned against the tunnel wall.

 

“Hey!” Joe caught up with her. He picked up the flashlight and shone it upward. Her hands flew to her face, but not quickly enough to hide her tears.

 

“Come here.” Joe put his arms around her shaking shoulders. She resisted at first, then leaned into him, burying her wet face against his shirt.

 

“That was pretty good back there,” he said, holding her, rocking her. “Academy Award material, if you ask me.”

 

“I didn’t ask you,” came the muffled reply.

 

“You had me convinced. But then I’m an easy sell.”

 

Diana pulled away from him. She raked her sleeve across her face, then looked at Joe in the harsh glow of the flashlight beam. “Cathy,” she said. Her voice quavered, and she swallowed hard.

 

“Cathy’s smart. She knew what you were trying to do.”

 

“Was I that obvious?”

 

“To everyone but Vincent.”

 

“I hope.”

 

“O.K., that’s it. Let’s go.” Joe put his arm around her shoulders and began walking, pulling her with him.

 

“Go where?”

 

“Up and out. I’m going to let you buy me dinner and a couple of beers.”

 

“My lucky day.” A reluctant smile curved her mouth.

 

“You could do worse, Bennett.” He tightened his grip. “You could, you know.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” She put her arm around his waist, and they walked back to her building.

 

Chapter 4