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This story was created by participants of Winterfest, piece by piece to create the collective whole. Thanks to eveyone who contributed in the creation of such a wonderful story.
Catherine cradled the infant close treasuring the feel of tiny toes and fingers. Hard to believe he was here and she was once again safe in the world Below. Vincent watched in awe as Catherine traced a featherlight tough along the baby's sleeping face.
"He looks so beautiful - just like you," Catherine murmured, her eyes on the tiny flattened nose and the wisps of kitten-down fur that ruffled as she stroked them. Clear blue eyes stared up at her, intent and intelligent. "He lives because of our love'
"Indeed he does, Vincent. Come sit with us, watch him change from just a few hours ago"
And he grew to know his own beauty and was initially sad he had not known this time with his parents.
Catherine gently laid the baby down to sleep turning to Vincent. It was unbelievable that three short months ago she was held captive with hope running low. The monster was dead, and she was safely home. There were still shadows of the past to deal with. "Joe is going to have to know. At least that I'm alive." Catherine sighed, "I'd love for him to meet you and the baby but that might be too much just now." Vincent looked at her carefully and with love, "You're right, but I wish you would stay here."
"I know." They moved to sit on the bed his arm placed protectively around her."I have to go back."
"When?" he quietly accepted her decision concern still obvious.
"I'll wait til the weekend. I think it would be better to not contact him at the office. Joe pretending to be working when Diana walked in.
"Another cryptic warning?" He said bitterly.
"You might want to stay by your phone this weekend?"
"Thinking of ringing me up?" Their on/off again affair in one of its sour stages.
Joe snorted. If I hear that from you one more time...!"
She smiled wryly. "One last time then...trust me." She gave him a wave as she walked out of his office. He didn't watch her leave, just thought about what he had going on this weekend. Joe shook his head. What had possessed him to get entangled with a red head he still didn't know. She was a great detective, but relationships were another thing. She did tend to be right about certain things though so Joe mentally cleared his weekend. Catherine stood at the pay phone outside Joe's apartment building, a roll of dimes in her hand. This might take a while. On the other hand, he might hang up on her after five seconds. There was no way to know. She dropped a coin in, and prayed.
Joe was watching TV when the phone rang. "Joe..." he answered casually. Long moments of silence. "Hello?" Joe questioned.
"Joe,I need to talk to you. It's Catherine...Chandler." her voice was strained.
Shocked he sat in silence."Who?"
"It's me Joe." 'What sick bitch plays games like this?' He held the phone staring, his head aching as it had when he'd seen her dead in her bedroom.
'Joe, had any chocolate cheese thing-a-ma-jogs?' It was the tone of voice, it was CATHERINE.
'Where are you? Meet me'
"Joe..I need to be careful. Can you meet me somewhere safe?" Catherine asked.
Joe thought of where they could meet. "Bethesda Terrace, lots of people minding their own business. Two-Thirty."
"I'll be there. I'm so sorry to you through this." And a click.
Joe wanted to cry, scream, and laugh. Just then there was a knock on the door. And Joe felt a wave of fear. He peeked through eye hole relieved to see a familiar face, but then sharply he realized no one else could know about Catherine. Joe opened the door part way.
"Gonna let me in?" Diana asked.
"Not a good time." Joe stood firm.
Diana silently nodded.
"Something happened, right?" Diana asked.
"I have no idea what you mean and no time either! I need a shower, so would you please," he answered.
"Joe, I can see your confusion, whatever you do, please be careful!"
"Thanks for the advice Diana, good bye" The detective paused before leaving deciding Mr. Maxwell needed back up whether or not he knew it. Joe sighed relief she had not pushed the issue.
Catherine shifted nervously. She had chosen a table in the back corner brightening at seeing Joe approach. She stayed low in the corner, waiting to hug Joe only when he was closest to her. "Am I losing you again, or does this meeting come out being a winner?"
"Oh, Joe, we both can't win. It's a good compromise though."
"How so, Radcliffe? You tell me" Tears welled. "I saw you dead."
"I barely survived. I couldn't let you believe me dead. That's why I'm here, but too much has changed to pretend otherwise." she confessed.
"Meaning?" he choked.
"Can't stay not now at least, but some you need to know." "We're finally together" she beamed.
"Mystery man and you?" Joe was skeptical.
"And baby makes 3." She grinned with fulfillment.
"Am I Uncle Joe, or will I be a stranger?" his head hung.
"You could be Uncle Joe,he'll need someone like you"
"How so, kiddo? " Joe quipped.
Her soft smile melted his unease. "You've been a good friend. I know you care."
Shifting to hide his blush, "Where do we go from here?"
"I'll fill you in on the internal corruption..then we'll keep in touch." she reached for his hand. Rebecca, rarely Above ground moved urgently toward the table. "Mouse said you're needed" Cathy frowned
Joe laughed, "So I'll bet this is g'bye? Even before I meet this lovely young lady?"
Rebecca blushed sweetly. "Joe, this is a good friend, Rebecca."
"Rebecca." Joe nodded and stood to shake her hand.
Catherine stood as well giving Joe a brief hug in parting. "I have to go, but we still need to talk. Be careful who you trust, OK? If you need to reach me, contact Peter."
"Alcott?" Joe blinked.
Joe sat back, the waitress had just delivered a piece of pecan pie and a chocolate sundae. He watched Rebecca sway further and further away, then he pulled both the plates toward him and began to eat voraciously. He didn't look up when Diana sat down.
"You followed me."
"I should know better but I still care what happens to you."
Joe sighed, "I want to meet Cathy's baby, but I can't."
"Because then I will have to arrest its mother."
"What!" Diana gasped. "How do you arrest a corpse? OK out with it Joe. What are you not telling me. Catherine had slipped out the back when they noticed the red haired detective enter as Rebecca proceeded out the front to distract anyone watching.
"Catherine isn't dead, which means she knows who killed Gabriel which means she either tells me who did it or she gets charged as an accessory."
"I have to know. No more secrets. Not after Moreno."
Diana looked, down. "You won't."
"I won't have a choice." He grimly stated.
"You won't arrest Catherine Chandler. She wasn't there." Diana's jaw set Joe stared at her.
"How do you know that?" his anger & disbelief warred.
"I was." she never told to forestall asked risky questions.
"It was you."
"The Feds has already secreted her away to the rehab center. The nurse told me she woke up around the time I shot him. Fitting really."
Joe's head ached.
"I love you Joe, for what it's worth."
"You know I have to bring you in." his eyes blazed a mixture of emotions.
"Yeah, I know." to her credit her voice remained level. Diana was booked & placed in a holding cell. Joe called Dr. Alcott.
"Need to talk to Chandler - need the whole story." "You have to let Diana go." Catherine was pacing in his small apartment.
"That depends on you."
"Gabriel would never have given up on hurting me and the baby if he'd lived."
Catherine thought of Diana, "Vincent." The name was whispered, Catherine winced.
"Who's Vincent?" Joe's anger continued to flair at the layers of secrets.
"Gabriel was obsessed with him..with our baby." She didn't dare say more.
Joe paced & ran fingers in hair. "She confessed to murder."
"She confessed to killing a monster."
Joe was struggling to argue against that. "I.."
"Will you wait until you've met Vincent to decide?"
The need to know was too great. "I will. But don't expect a miracle. Order has to come back."
The look he gave was different from the naive trusting Joe she once knew. Vincent & she had discussed this possibility if there were no other way to ensure Catherine's safety.Father was not told. A risk also was Joe may deduce V's link to other deaths.
Joe did not expect to meet Catherine's mystery date in the basement of a Chinatown herbalist.
He especially did not expect him to have claws.
Joe swallowed hard, he didn't miss that Catherine stood beside this person. Holding his hand tightly. Joe tried to stop the audible gasp that escaped his lips when Vincent pushed back the hood.
"I am Vincent. I am why this madman kidnapped Catherine..our child. Diana tried to spare me the need to kill him myself."
Joe was immobile. Facts didn't change. However the situation seemed to have warrented shooting Gabriel. Diana had protected everyone Cathy loved with 1 bullet. "Your hands. They've been on some other people, haven't they?" Joe asked, bluntly.
"They have." Vincent answered, offering no defense.
"It was to protect me. Always." Catherine defended, begging Joe to understand. "Now Diana needs you for that."
"Can't protect her from herself.She confessed to shooting an unarmed man! Hands are tied."Joe still seemed troubled but determined.
"Have your laws no room for mercy?" Vincent prodded.
"No." he said flatly.
"Find those truly responsible." C offered. The ring of ice around Joe's heart was cracking. Vincent was Catherine's protector.
He would have to be Diana's.
He would save her. But it all depended on finding a nurse who didn't want to be found.
"Goodbye Vincent, I never saw you." Joe left. Impulsively Catherine gave Joe a quick hug in gratitude for understanding & reminded him again to be careful on his search. Catherine & Vincent returned Below. Joe had been handed a file from Catherine detailing as much as she knew. Joe returned home.
After four cups of coffee and countless re-readings, Joe set Catherine's file down. Her story was harrowing and, to anyone else, unbelievable...but he trusted her and, much as he hated to admit it, trusted Vincent...and Diana. Now how was he to save her? He needed to talk to Diana.. get her opinion on this. His personal relationship with her needed to be put aside for now if he had any hope of keeping her from a murder charge.
Joe sat across from Diana in the meeting room. "Something you need to see."
Diana's coolly beautiful face was impassive as she read. "The nurse heard everything."
"Would she testify? Is she even alive?"
"I don't know, but I know she had a contact with a gangster called Denton. He would know."
Mitch Denton, Joe sighed. "You know him." It wasn't a question. Diana stared at Joe and waited for an explanation.
"I know of him, yes. There was a case where dock workers were being intimidated... killed. Cath-" Joe stopped short.
"Catherine worked the case?" she finished.
Joe smacked his hands together. It was all circuitous, always back to Catherine.
"What happened to Denton?"
"Disappeared. Some of his men were found...dead at a warehouse." Joe admitted.
"You've met him haven't you?" she inferred.
"Denton? No -"
"Vincent." Diana corrected.
"How do you know that?" Joe accused.
"I have too."
Joe's eyes flared along with his curiousity, "Denton is involved with the whole Vincent thing?"
"Not like that", Diana waved her hand as if to sort the thoughts and dispel mistrust. "Denton's connected...how?" She was talking aloud but to herself. "Vengeance.. for something in the past. This is pay back."
"For what?" Joe was drawn in.
"Not sure, but Catherine is the key." Diana confirmed.
"She can't risk coming back." Joe said.
"Not right now. Denton uses a dance club on the east side as a front, start there."
"I'm not going to let you rot Diana."
"I know, but be careful, Denton hates Vincent, I think they knew each other as kids." Diana had said too much. Joe saw it.
"Just how long have you known Vincent?" Joe got suspicious. Diana froze. She knew Joe would be furious to find she withheld this information for months. "HOW Long?" His face hardened as her silence was answer enough to condemn her. Joe stormed out.
Joe stalked back to the office. Could he trust anyone? Was he always out of the loop on Catherine?
Below Vincent watched Catherine settle in to feed their son. There was joy about her, but her eyes still held shadows of the past. After the feeding was complete she sang a lullaby and came to sit with Vincent at the small table.
"He asleep?" V asked.
"Like a baby!" C ran her finger down the soft hair on his nose, V closed his eyes and enjoyed her touch.
"Oh, to be held close within a lover's touch" his voice smoky and deep.
Catherine sat on his lap, "No time like the present, Love", He smiled but made no motion to rise his thoughts turning elsewhere.
"What will your Mr. Maxwell do now?" Vincent softly asked.
She laid her head on his chest. "Find witnesses..." Something else came to her mind. "Vincent, how much does Diana know?"
"She knows...much," Vincent replied. "She figured some of it out before, and more once she met me."
"I should probably discuss this with her. I wonder if I can speak to her by phone?"
Vincent nodded. "Of course, from Peter's house. I'll arrange it."
"It may not be that easy with her being in custody." Catherine frowned. "I'll probably have to go through Joe."
"Catherine... how are you dealing with all this? You spoke little of the time you were away." Vincent offered in concern.
"That's not an answer."
"It will have to do for now beloved." Vincent saw Catherine's distress and remembering.
"I'll meet Joe at his apartment, take Jamie as a bodyguard."
Vincent smiled despite himself, "You'd hardly be any safer Below then. Go." If Joe questioned who the tomboyish teen was who shadowed Cathy he didn't ask, he let the two of them in quickly. His apartment's drapes were drawn, the lights were dim. There was a legal pad and several pencils on the dinette table. Joe watched Catherine closely then brought up the name that Diana had highlighted. "What about Mitch Denton?" Catherine controlled her expression, but not fast enough. "Diana mentioned she believes he is involved."
Jamie shot Catherine a look of alarm. "He shot me, a couple of years ago," Catherine confessed .
"And does he have motive for your kidnapping?" Joe pressed.
Catherine considered what she knew of the tunnel history. "Yes, but I have no idea where he is now."
"What about friends? Relatives?" Joe asked.
Catherine hesitated. "His father."
Jamie piped up, "He's dead....not too much longer after you were shot"
Joe hung his head, defeated. "So how do we find him? A Divining rod?" As Joe, Jamie and Catherine discussed strategy Above, Vincent paced with his restless son far Below. Suddenly Vincent froze. Images played across his mind with a feeling of foreboding. Catherine was not in immediate danger, but it was coming.
Toting his fretful child to Mary, Vincent headed to the point he last saw her. Within the cover of darkness he exploded above, reading the night for a sense of her. His search led him to just outside of Joe's apartment building. Vincent's keen sense of hearing picked up the small movements from the alleyway. A man waited & watched the entrance talking on a radio. Catherine & Jamie came into view before V could move. Suddenly a second story window opened over the stranger. Distracted he didn't expect the bucket of dirty bleach water poured over him. The radio fell to the ground and the man did a blind and angry dance.
Vincent waved,"Catherine, Jamie" they ran his way.
"Vincent , wait! That man... " noticing the cursing individual, "He's one of the men that moved me when I was being held captive." Joe had followed hearing the chaos and turned to look at the man before he darted off. Joe noticed something on the ground.
"Club Leo," Joe Smirked, "Denton's joint." He looked at Vincent "Take Cathy and get out of here. I got plans for the evening."
In the club's office a woman paced, "You said you'd get me out!"
Denton seethed, "I am, but Plan A just failed."
"Well you best see that plan B does not." Her tone turned icy.
Joe hurried back to his apartment to call in the lead, & get back up before grabbing his keys. The police were alerted to approach without sirens in unmarked cars so as to not tip them off.
At the club the woman ranted some more, "I survive working for a man I'm not convinced was actually human and an idiot like you is going to get me killed!"
Denton smirked, "Look Florence Nightingale, nobody made you shake hands with the devil."
She merely glared back.
A block away Joe briefed the officers that had responded. "Be on the alert for anything, and we need these people alive if at all possible, got it?"
The little room where Mitch and the woman spoke was well hidden in the back. When the chaos started in the club as the police entered en masse, Denton put his finger to his lips and switched off the light. Without the cops knowing the room was there - the entrance concealed by a false wall - he felt safe enough.
They heard the shouts, she panicked "The cops! I'll say plan A just failed."
"Look, I said..." And a terrific bang was the end of Mitch Denton.
Putting the gun back in her purse she slipped out the back door. She had enough.
She was going Below.
When she got to the Tunnel entrance she used to use, something was different. She knew years had passed since last time she'd gone Below, but apparently this one was no longer used. Grabbing a rock from the ground, she began banging bits of pipe code. Vincent cocked his head at the sounds, "Please help...Violet...at...west side gallery..." "Violet!"
Catherine looked troubled, "Who?"
"Violet, she left Below without a word many years ago. And now she wants to return. Stay here."
Catherine shivered. Violet hoped against hope that someone other than vincent would come. She knew she had betrayed the fierce protector but she was out of options.
"Vincent" *well so much for having an easy entrance* "I'm sunk, I have no right to come but let me stay, at least the night."
"You are welcome for at least that long."
"Thank you," *now to somehow avoid Catherine seeing me* .
As the trod the pathways leading Below, Violet settled on a plan. "Look, Vincent, I know you aren't happy to see me. Why don't I stay in the closest sentry's outpost? They'll have a bedroll or something to sleep on, right? I'll be no trouble."
Sensing something was wrong, Vincent replied "That won't be necessary." Tone cool he led the way back to the inhabited tunnels. Violet cursed and broke off on her own at the first turn.
Surprised at the sudden change she was gone before he could follow.
Violet remembered there were many hidden chambers around the Falls. She cursed her Above clothes and hurried to the sound of the rushing water. She didn't notice a woman watching her from a chamber entrance.
The Nurse. Catherine could not even scream. Senses now on alert Vincent tapped out an alert regarding Violet on the pipes. All were to stay clear of her. Vincent didnt know exactly what was happening but obviously Violet had her own agenda.
Vincent first went to check on Catherine.
He found his chamber in chaos, and Catherine huddled in the corner clutching Jacob. And a very big knife William had left with food.
"She won't touch him," she hissed, her eyes were very far away. Vincent knelt down.
"The Nurse...oh god..." Vincent looked around not seeing anyone.
"There is no one else here Catherine. Please, you're safe."
"She's here Below ... I saw her run past here." Catherine wasn't shaking quite as much.
Realization dawned for Vincent "You're safe. You're with me."
Catherine felt the rock against her back. The rock was real, Vincent was real, she put the knife down.
"The woman you know as The Nurse I know as Violet," his eyes hardened, "she will not trouble you ever again."
"No, no more killing, please."
"Catherine I will harm her, but she must be held accountable for what she has done." With a hug and soft kiss to her forehead Vincent's eyes turned hard. This was not the first time Violet had hurt those he loved. This time she would not escape.
Violet crouched in her hiding place. *That Doctor may have been kind to her, but I switched the needles with the sleeping serum, that has to count for something*
She heard a growl above her, she felt so calm, it was over.
"Does it matter?"
"Why else? Power. It's the only thing that last. Even you know that Vincent though I doubt you would admit it."
"Turn yourself in to the police." he challenged.
"That is a death sentence. They'd have me killed."
"A good woman will go to jail if you don't."
"I don't think I have to remind you life isn't fair."
"Violet please, if there is any of the woman I knew left in you..."
" 'Violet was a bad girl, Violet had to go away', I did what I had to do."
"Then you leave me no choice."
"You won't kill me." She laughed.
Vincent circled her. He only needed to capture her. When he was in position he stepped forward with a threatening growl causing her to stumble backward right into one of Mouse's nets.
Violet cursed but it was no use. Soon she found herself tied to a chair in Father's library. A circle of faces where watching her. Catherine stepped forward.
"I hope you know no peace for this."
Violet was defeated, "You're alive because of me." "And you are alive only because we allow it." Vincent shrugged. "There is no escape."
Violet rose cautiously. "So, what now, guys? What's the plan? Do you even have a plan?"
Vincent looked around the room. No-one spoke, but some shifted uneasily.
"Untie me and I will write a confession."
"You'll tell Joe Maxwell everything at the precinct."
"I'll tell him about Below too." A gasp across the room. "I write a confession, or you better start packing, that's it."
Vincent looked at Catherine. "We can't just let her go Vincent." The unspoken words were there as well..they also couldn't risk the tunnels being exposed. "Joe would keep the secret." Catherine assured them. After all, Joe already had met Vincent,but Father didn't know that.
Violet was scared, "Then I won't say anything at all if you try to have your friend silence me. And then Miss Diana hopefully will get to see you on visiting days."
Brooke walked up to Violet. "Please tell the truth."
Violet was wary, "Who are you?" Joe huddled in the drainpipe to have V & C join him. Once the story was shared Joe reacted,"If she mentions this place I'll move to have her committed. If she's insane no one will believe her."
"Could you move for solitary confinement?" Vincent asked.
"Yeah" Joe answered.
"Wouldn't that negate the value of her testimony?" Catherine asked concerned.
"Not necessarily - we'd still have all the leads we need. Would just be a little more leg work to track them down."
"Let's do it then." She agreed.
Brooke had overheard this. She returned to Violet and told. Violet broke down, "All right, I'll say just enough, I can't bear to be locked up alone."
"Neither could Catherine."
"Why do you care what happens to me?"
"Ivy was my mother." The wheels of Justice moved slowly...... "But if Ivy was your mother, then who was your father?"
"Don't you know?" Violet looked confused. "You do know how my father was, don't you?"
"Should we?" Catherine raised her hands in defeat.
"He's a man you all know very well. He said so."
Brooke looked down, "Gabriel was my father. Violet saved my mother by bringing her down here."
Vincent remembered, Violet had taken a job topside with an old powerful family. And they had begun to lose her to the lure of wealth and power.
That power and wealth had nearly taken his life and it had taken Catherine's. He shook his head in despair. How could he tell her that? How could he reveal his secret--the tunnels' secret--and not hurt her. Destroy all they had tried to build here.
Catherine looked at Brooke as a stranger, "You've known all along?"
"My mother kept a diary, she was only 17 and Gabriel barely 20 but already full in his evil. She realized too late what he was and she knew he would kill her if she tried to leave."
"But at least she did try to leave. Where would we be now if she hadn't at least tried." Vincent shurgged. "We owe her so much."
"Yes," Catherine agreed, nodding. "So much is owed by all of us. We couldn't have done it without her."
Violet spoke, "I don't give a damn about any of you...but Ivy was the truest person I ever knew." She looked at Brooke "And I owe her daughter something." "Take me to the police, I'll tell them Diana acted according to a threat, and no more."
"But where will that get us?" Catherine questioned, frowning. "How will the truth make Ivy safe?"
"The truth will set you free," Vincent intoned. "Remember, Catherine?"
"I remember." She nodded. "But this is the real world. Our justice is blind."
Brooke smiled sadly, "My mother is safe Catherine, Narcissa blessed her with an enchantment to forget herself...and me, she was given a new name and a new life. You know her."
Catherine puzzled, "I do?"
"I got to pick her new name, 'Jenny'."
"Jenny...?" Catherine's face lit up. "Oh, Good Lord, why didn't you tell me before now?"
"She didn't want you to know. She didn't want anyone to know. It's our secret."
"Wait until I get my hands on that woman!" Catherine shook her head.
"...I don't know why, and you said she forgot herself."
"It began to break when she had her visions about The Watcher. We found her wandering the Whispering Gallery a few weeks later. But we couldn't say anything, Gabriel was still alive."
"And now he is dead. That should be the end of all the need to hide and for silence. She can come out now and reveal hereself. Why won't she do that?"
"Because she is afraid."
"Afraid...?" Catherine shook her head. "Of what?"
"Of all of you."
Violet had been untied and she paced, "She blames herself for what happened to Catherine. She feels to reclaim her life is to bring misfortune on yours. Gabriel had rivals, and if they knew about Julian" Vincent flinched "they might see him as a prize."
"A prize?" Vincent questioned, fire sparking in his blue eyes. He bared his fangs. "No one touches my family. Never again, you hear me! No one!"
"It will be all right, Vincent." Catherine put a soothing hand on his arm. "We can trust her."
"Remember love." And Vincent started again at his Catherine's recital of Dream Catherine's words. "Ivy, Jenny loves Below and her daughter, and Violet," the words were hard to say, "I can't forgive you but I believe you love Ivy enough to help."
"Has she asked for our help?" Vincent looked down at his love. "And perhaps it is already too late."
"It is never too late," Catherine replied. "We must believe that. It cannot be. I won't allow it."
"Very well, then. What do you need, Violet?"
Violet smiled mysteriously, "Just scatter my ashes Below. Lets go see your Mister Maxwell."
Joe listened to Violet, and had Diana released within two hours.
Diana and Joe greeted each other warily.
"Thank you Joe."
"You're my weakness Red."
"Can't say the same about you." Diana grinned cheekily. "But whatever gets you through the night, Maxwell."
"Aw, come on, give a guy a break," Joe complained. "When I just rescued you. You could show me a little gratefulness, Red."
While they reconciled, Violet watched the moon from her cell, she smiled. She pulled the morphine syringe out of her blouse. The debt had been paid, it was time for her to choose to leave. She was gone before she hit the floor.
But her legacy would remain. What stories could she have told? Now no one would ever know. It was a shame, but there it was. A dead body in a cell tells no tales. None that the living can hear anyway. Unless that living person was Narsissa. Narcissa sat by her bowl with water sparkling in it..."Come out chile... You gonna suffer in purgatory for what you did... I feel it... You come to me now."
The water swirled and slopped over the rim, splashing across the old woman's hands. "Now play nice, child. I want to know everything." She frowned into the waters. "See, now this is what I want to know. I want to know all that you know and soon..."
V & C had no desire to go further into the darkness from Above that had infected the warmth of Below. They were grateful to be together, safe.Catherine still battled the nightmares.
Joe could never quite figure Diana out which made trusting her hard. And that was ok, Joe sat at his desk, between cases when his phone rang. "Is this the Joe Maxwell, the best NYS Tour guide ever?"
"Yeah, how long are you in town??" Joe was baffled, he hadn't heard from her since she returned to California over a year ago
Gracie smiled into the receiver at the phone booth, "Meet me a Sam's Deli in an hour."
Below Narcissa tried again, the bowl of water became cloudy purple, in the corner of the room a wisp appeared, forming itself into Violet.
"I'm here. I'll talk."
When Joe entered the deli, Gracie rose and threw her arms around him in a big hug. He smiled and hugged her back with fervor. She was "the one that got away" and now, here she was, back in his arms. Joe was so happy he didn't care why she was back.
Gracie looked at Joe over their celery tonics, "I know what you're thinking but that ship has sailed Joey. How's Diana."
"She's good, still on leave until the end of the month."
Gracie could only think *how you'd be furious with me if you knew*. 'Knew what?' Joe grinned hoping she was coming back to NY and him.
"I didn't know I said that out loud," *no time like the present* "Joe I'm not back in NYC for just for you...I'm here to see Vincent."
Gracie nodded, "Family business, I believe you've met my grandfather Jacob."
Joe closed his eyes.
"You're kidding me!" He sighed. "Why didn't you tell me before."
"What could I tell you?" Gracie raised her hands in appeal. "What would you have believed? My family lives beneath the city. I have some rather secretive relatives. What then, Joe?"
Joe grimaced. "I'm beginning to think everyone in New York was in on the secret but me!"
Gracie laughed. "Might be! Anyway, my old man was informally adopted by Jacob - so many kids Below are. I have news for him that must be delivered in person."
It wasn't lost on Joe that Gracie and Catherine had lied to him as much as Diana had - and for much of the same reasons. He called Diana to accompany them.
Below, Violet spoke to Narcissa, "Below is in great danger, Gabriel had a brother."
Narcissa frowned. "Tell me his name, child."
"If I tell you, you must tell the others. They must be aware this man is very dangerous. He is Gabriel's older brother. A much more dangerous man. Beware! He wants to kill them all. But very slowly..."
Narcissa waited until she was alone, then cast her bones. They seemed to express a sense of danger in the Tunnels, but whether from Violet or from this person she claimed existed, Narcissa didn't know. Still, she took her concerns to Vincent.
Vincent was watching over Catherine taking a much needed nap, he listed to Narcissa.
"Violet knows she will not be at peace until Below is safe, she is telling the truth," Vincent puzzled, "but who is this man?"
A sleeping Catherine whispered "Ben".
"Ben...?" Vincent leaned down to her. "How do you know this?"
"I know..." Catherine opened sleepy eyes, glancing at Narcissa. "I saw him in my dream. He is pure evil. And he hates us with a passion. Be careful, Vincent. I cannot lose you, not now."
Catherine sent a message to Joe so that he could begin investigating this Ben person. He called Greg Hughes to take on the task of running down leads - he was someone Joe trusted completely.
Gracie made her way Below to see Father, bearing her news.
"Where will it all end?" Father paced his chamber. "Does Vincent know?"
"Yes, and Catherine." Gracie nodded. "It is such a mess. How did it all go so wrong?"
"We must try and fix it." Father shrugged. "What else can we do now, but try...?"
Father called a Council meeting to explain what was happening. Until the "Ben" threat was resolved, those Below were in lock-down. Nobody would come Below, nobody would leave. Gracie's news was reported, as well, although nothing could be done right now.
But Vincent didn't heed the lock-down. He still had to go Above to see what was happening up there. If he could, in some way, stop what was happening to his home, family and friends. He had to be able to do something, just had to be able to. He must... not allow evil to take those he loved.
Joe frowned as Greg finished his report. "This guy is untouchable, Joe."
"So was Gabriel...but we got him," Joe replied. "We have an edge, since it appears he doesn't know we're on to him. If we can grab him up before he realizes what's happening..."
"*We* got him? Joe, the man was dead when we stormed the place. And I still don't think we got all the video footage recovered." Hughes fumed.
"We'll get him." Joe assured.
"How can you be sure?" Greg challenged.
"Because if we don't more will die."
"Then we will get the bastard!" Greg smacked one fist into his open palm. "Where do we go from here?"
"I'm told his name's Ben and he's Gabriel's brother. I'm sure that's just a story. They like to use arch-angel names. I got a hunch he's not Ben."
In a skyscraper as cold as hard as heart Ben plotted. That was his business name, but his real one, Julian, burned on his heart. His brother had killed his father, he was going to complete his coup by killing him and giving that brat his name. No. matter what came to him. But he hated the name Julian as well. In reality he was Michael, God's Warrior, but he kept that name to himself. He knew Vincent was the conqueror. Well, he was not going to conquer this man. He was far too cunning and smart...
...but fire and explosives, brimstone he smirked, could destroy them all forever in that hole. But he worried. Gabriel the messenger, was dead. He Michael, the triumphant warrior, Vincent the defeated conqueror. But Raphael, the healer...
There was the problem. He could blow them all the moon and back, but where's the fun in that? The satisfaction of seeing the look on their faces when he finally revealed himself to them. His own father had taught him the gifts of patience and stealth.
His father had spotted Ivy's potential as a Seer and used her to build the family's fortunes, his brother was foolish enough to think himself in love with her. That treacherous servant who had became a nurse on their money had taken Ivy away. She was key.
Now all he had to do was find the lock that the key fitted. The way down to those tunnels where they all hid out like ground rats and kept him from total glory. He raised his head, a smile of lean, mean hatred coloring his face and eyes. He would have his throne of crystal and stone soon.
Jenny, Ivy didn't belong to her anymore, was hiding out at Diana's loft. Diana handed her a cup of coffee.
"What should we know?"
"He wants me, he won't act unless he's sure he'll win. I can see that for him." Jenny voiced hesitantly. It was rare that people believed her when she spoke of what she saw, and the unveiling of her own secret past had left her confidence shaken. Diana at least knew the value of seeing new perspectives and accepted Jenny's words.
Meanwhile, by following the obscure money trail of Gabriel's businesses, Greg's research had uncovered two possible locations where Ben might be living, both on grand estates with lots of acreage. It would be difficult to scope them out unseen.
But he would do his best or die in the attempt, so to speak. He grinned, hardly. "I'm gonna get this guy," he swore softly. "Bennett is not going to get all the glory this time. I'll make sure of that. NYPD pride and all that." His grip tightened on a flashlight as he crept through the ground of the estate.
Back at Diana's, Jenny felt a vision come, her eyes grew misty, "My child stands in a field of bone dressed in blood. The Archangel falls on the Lion. The Lion falls on the stone. Both die."
"But that is only a dream," Diana said. "It is not reality. You have to focus on what you know, not what you think you see. The future is not set in stone, it can be changed. We can change it. We must change it for everyone's sake. Do you believe me?" Greg evaded the cameras and dogs, slipping onto the porch behind one of the mansions. Carefully he crept to a doorway and looked inside. Men with guns sat around a table playing cards.
At another window, all was dark. Greg quietly jimmied the lock.
He crept in just enough to confirm Ben at the table. He radioed for help.
Above and Below people went to work. Sentries were posted and the tunnel folks moved from the other ring to the library. The children did not cry as they left with Helpers.
Greg settled back to wait for back-up. But his gun hand itched to draw his weapon. He knew this "Ben" character went by another name entirely. He'd seen Diana's file and it irked him that these rich people gave themselves such airs and graces. They wanted to rule the world and they didn't care who they hurt as they clawed their way to the top.
Ben lifted his head. "I know you're there," he said.
Greg stepped out of the shadows, noticing the gun on him.
"Give yourself up," he demanded.
Greg ducked sideways, feeling the sting of the bullet passing his head. Turning as he fell, he aimed his gun upwards, firing at the bulk of the man, catching him high in the right shoulder, spinning him around and throwing him into the wall with a sickening smack. Ben struggled to turn and lifted the gun with his uninjured arm. Before he had another chance to fire, Greg took him down with a shot through the heart. Ben's men rushed in, saw their boss dead...and fled. Greg was alone as the police rushed in, guns pointing at the body on the floor. "It's ok..." Greg gasped. "I got the bastard. Give me a hand somebody."
He took the hand of the nearest man and pulled himself to his feet, swaying slightly. His head was still ringing from the near -miss of the bullet Ben had fired. Joe arrived shortly after, rushing to his friend to ensure he was OK. Pounding him on the back after ascertaining he was fine, Joe said, "I gotta say, jail was too good for that guy. I'm glad you're OK...and you got him.
"Add his scalp to the one Diana took." Greg grinned. "Makes us about even I think. You know his name wasn't Ben, eh?"
Joe nodded. "Yeah, but I like to leave the arch-angels to the church. They can take care of them. Me, I stick to the real world,
Word of Ben's death spread rapidly among those Below. With no further fear of reprisals, everyone flooded back to their home Below.
"So much for your vision, Jenny!" Diana said as she hung up the phone after talking with Joe. "He's dead. You're safe."
"Are you so sure?" Jenny frowned. "My dream was so real."
"It's over." Diana took her hand between both of hers. "You just gotta believe the facts."
"But..." Jenny put a hand to her head. "There is another Gabriel brother. "Did you not know?"
Diana groaned. "In the same business?"
"Well, it didn't take long to dismantle this much of the empire, I doubt it'll take long to run him to ground either. I'll call Joe. Before I do...any other brothers we should know about?!"
The man called Raphael was taking no chances. His ancestors had built Below long ago. It was his birthright. But The Lion had not fallen. Ivy called Jenny was watched by too many people. But Brooke, the seeing water, might have her mother's gift.
Diana and Joe discussed this latest...and hopefully last...threat. Greg's map of the money trail did disclose some accounts not related directly to Gabriel or Ben. Those would be checked out now. Word was sent Below to prepare again for trouble. But having already defeated so much evil the tunnel world and it's allies above were ready and quickly did away with the remaining threat.
Father approved of the celebration party that was in the planning that was sure to rival Winterfest in it's scope.
Invitations were sent out quickly, as everyone was ready to relax and celebrate. The past was now firmly dead, and they could look forward to a peaceful future. Catherine and Vincent stood together, accepting congratulations about their child. And Ctherine reveled in the beauty of her little family and the wonderfulness of the large family surrounding them. Father proudly said, 'When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.'
V & C held their son close, a new fire kindling in their eyes. At the same time a man named Uriel ( his Brothers Luzifer) was preparing to revenge his Brothers and get the money they had (some legal for the front). As he took his plane he didn`t know he crashed in that sturm. Nobody knew him. All heard wererelieved Alone V & C took time for each other. Within each other's arms Vincent whispered into Catherine's ear “Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along.”
And their loving began once more.....