Don’t Leave…

Sequel to “Don’t Be Afraid

by Janet Rivenbark

The rest of the story.

 

Catherine was hesitant to call her dad. She knew she should relieve his worry as soon as possible, but the idea of facing him and Tom was overwhelming. On top of that, she was planning to lie to him. She’d never lied to him before … withheld the whole story upon occasion, but she’d never outright lied.

As she was reaching for the phone, she hesitated, then decided to call Jenny first. She’d try the story out on Jenn, and if it worked, if she believed her, then she was reasonably certain that her dad would believe it. Jenny was even harder to lie to; she always just seemed to know.

She glanced at the calendar, then the clock, as she reached for the phone. It was the middle of the week, a little after six. Jenny should be home. She dialed the number and Jenny answered.

“Hello?”

“Jenn, it’s me, Cathy,” she said.

“Cathy! Oh my God! Where are you? Where have you been? Are you okay? Have you talked to your dad yet?”

“Slow down Jenn,” she said, smiling at the barrage of questions. In the order you asked: I’m home; it’s a long story; I’m okay, but I’ve been better; and no, I haven’t called Daddy yet. I think I need you here when I do that.”

“What it the world? No, never mind. Give me twenty minutes, I’ll be right there.”

“Good. Bring your keys. I’m heading to the shower, and I might still be in there when you get here.”

She hung up and took a deep breath.

In the bathroom she took off the dress. It was past salvaging, and she dropped it in the trash. She turned on the shower and took the rest of her clothes off. She looked at herself in the mirror. The huge bruise on her side was a sickly yellow, and so were all the other bruises. The doctor Below, Vincent had called him Father, had checked the cuts on her face and removed the stitches before Vincent brought her home. The cuts weren’t quite as scary without the black thread he’d used. They were still red and sore; they probably would be for quite some time, but he’d assured her that a good plastic surgeon would be able to obliterate them. She hoped so. He’d also told her that it was all right to wash her face and hair, and she was looking forward to that.

She was out of the shower and putting on her robe when she heard the front door.

“Cathy?” Jenny called.

“I’ll be right out.”

Catherine went to the bathroom vanity and picked up her comb. She combed her hair straight back off her face and looked in the mirror again. The cuts did look a lot better. All the dried blood was washed off her face and out of her hair, and she felt clean for the first time in days. The daily birdbaths, as Mary had called them, had helped, but there was nothing like a hot shower.

She was dreading Jenny’s reaction when she saw her face, but knew she couldn’t put it off forever.

She used a clip to gather her hair at the nape of her neck before she opened the bathroom door and walked into the bedroom.

Jenny was sitting on the side of the bed. She jumped up and was hugging her before she could take a breath.

“I’m so glad you’re okay. I had a dream, and there was blood everywhere. I was so scared that it was about you.”

Catherine pushed back a little so Jenny could get a look at her face.

“It probably was about me,” she said, gesturing to her face. “I’m told I was bleeding quite heavily.”

Jenny finally looked at Catherine and her horror showed on her face.

“Oh my God! What happened? You look like you went face first through a plate glass window!” she gasped.

“Nothing quite that prosaic,” Catherine said.

She led Jenny into the living room, then she went on to tell how she’d been kidnapped. “I’m sure it was a case of mistaken identity. He thought I was someone else. He kept calling me Carol.”

“But where have you been since then? Did they kidnap you and hold you somewhere?”

Catherine shook her head. Now was her chance to perfect her story. If Jenny believed her she was sure her dad would.

“I was found in the park. A man, a homeless man, was there and he saw me dumped out of a van. He said that at first he thought it was just a bag of trash and went to investigate, to see if it was anything useful. When he found me he checked my pulse and said that I was already going into shock. He knew a man, someone who helps the people who live on the streets. His place was closer than a hospital, so he took me there. They thought that I was one of them, homeless, or possibly a prostitute who’d picked up a bad customer.

“The man, I think he said he’d been a medic in the Army and now works in a hospital, stopped the bleeding, stitched up my face and gave me a place to stay until I was recovered enough to come home. I was unconscious for several days, and when I woke up I was too weak and in too much pain to move around much. He said he thought I also have broken ribs, but they seem much better.”

“But how did you get home? Your building security was told to call your dad and the police if they saw you or heard anything.”

“He brought me in through the basement. He knew of a way to get into the subbasement from another building. He didn’t want to be seen. I got my extra keys out of my storage closet in the basement and came straight up here.”

“Who was he? Did you get a name?”

“The man who found me or the one who took care of me?” she asked, picking at a string on her robe.

“Either? Both?”

“Well, I did get both names and I met a few other people, but I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone who he was or where he lives. He’s afraid that he might get into trouble or lose his job. Something about practicing medicine without a license. He’s got a doctor friend who helps him get drugs that he needs. Things like antibiotics, and he does what he can for the street people.”

“I’m thankful that there are still good people out there,” said Jenny as she reached out and hugged Catherine again. “You should probably call your dad,” she said when they separated.

“I’m not looking forward to that.”

“He and Tom have been beside themselves.”

“I can imagine,” said Catherine with a frown.

“You said you were snatched as you left Tom’s reception?” Jenny asked as if something had finally dawned on her. “Wasn’t that on the tenth?”

“Yes, it was. Friday night. The man who found me told me that it was very early on the twelfth when he found me. The men drove me around in that van for hours. He only cut me once to begin with.” She touched the cut in front of her ear. “I thought that they were going to rape me. They had me tied up and gagged. They stopped at some point, and I heard one of them arguing with someone outside the van. The man was mad that they’d brought me to wherever we were. He yelled and told him that he’d just wanted them to mess up my face. The guy who had grabbed me told him that I’d said my name wasn’t Carol. And the other guy said that of course I’d say that; I didn’t want to lose my looks because my career depended on it. He repeated that he wanted me to remember, and that when they were done to dump me, but to make sure I was still alive. I hit my head pretty early on and I was in and out of consciousness. They finally dumped me, but I don’t remember much after the conversation with the guy who obviously put them up to it.”

“Maybe if he’d looked at you, you would have been spared this.” Jenny indicated her face.

“Probably,” said Catherine, dryly. “Since I wasn’t the right person, and I’d seen them, they probably would have killed me. I would have kept my peaches and cream complexion, but I’d be dead.”

“Oh … I hadn’t thought of that,” said Jenny with a grimace. “Your dad didn’t report you missing for two days.”

“Isn’t there something about waiting forty eight hours?”

“Yeah, but they didn’t realize you were missing until you didn’t show up at work on Monday. I guess no one expected to see you on Saturday or Sunday. Your dad didn’t get concerned until you didn’t show by Monday afternoon. He called here and didn’t get an answer. He called Tom who hadn’t seen you since the reception. Then he called me.”

Catherine groaned. “Tom was angry when I left; so was I. We were supposed to go to lunch on Saturday, but I’m not really surprised that he didn’t check on me when I didn’t show.”

“He did mention that, but he said that when he called you on Saturday morning he left a message. When you didn’t pick up or call him back, he assumed that the date was off. Your dad and Tom were here with the police when I got here that evening. Tom couldn’t remember what you’d been wearing when he saw you last. The doorman downstairs was able to give more information than Tom. He described what you were wearing when you left for the reception and was able to tell them that you hadn’t returned.

Catherine wasn’t surprised that Tom hadn’t noticed what she was wearing. It was the last piece of the puzzle that convinced her that she was in another dead end relationship.

“As nice as this little chat is,” said Jenny, “I really think you should call your dad. I’ve been worried about him. He looked pretty bad when I saw him last.”

Catherine finally reached for the phone and dialed the penthouse number. It was answered before the first ring was done.

“Daddy?” Catherine began. She heard a gasp at the other end. “I’m okay. I’m home. Will you come over? I need to talk to you.”

“Cathy? Thank God! Yes, of course. Tom and I will be right over.”

Before Catherine had a chance to tell him not to call Tom, he’d already hung up.

“He’s on his way, and he’s bringing Tom,” she told Jenny without enthusiasm.

“You don’t want him to bring Tom?” Jenny didn’t need to be psychic to tell that the idea of seeing Tom wasn’t on the top of her friend’s to-do list.

“I’d rather not. I didn’t tell you what happened before I left the party; the reason I left early without Tom. His attitude and the way he’s been treating me lately are just … let’s just say that he’s gotten very controlling. I’d all but decided to tell him that I didn’t want to see him again when I left the party. I mean, he didn’t even remember what I was wearing, does that tell you anything?”

Jenny nodded sympathetically. “I always felt that he was more interested in the Chandler name and fortune than he was in the woman Catherine.”

“You should tell me these things!” said Catherine emphatically. “You know that I take your semi-psychic abilities seriously and wouldn’t blow you off!”

Jenny laughed and Catherine stood.

“How about some tea?” Catherine suggested. “And I think there might be a package of cookies unopened in the kitchen. I could use something before Daddy and Tom get here.”

Jenny followed Catherine into the kitchen.

“Tea? Since when do you drink tea? I thought you were a coffee girl to the end.”

Catherine filled her electric kettle, plugged it in and started getting down the teapot and cups.

“I’ve always liked tea,” she told Jenny. “Mom and I used to drink it almost every day, although mine was more milk and sugar than anything. I drink coffee because I need the caffeine. I never seem to get enough sleep or enough to eat. Coffee is the only thing that keeps me on my feet some days. And I don’t need that right now. I want to sleep tonight.”

They were sitting on the sofa sipping tea and talking when the knock came on her door.

“Would you, Jenn?” asked Catherine. “I don’t want to shock him too much with this.” She gestured at her face.

Catherine remained on the end of the sofa with her legs tucked up under her robe as Jenny answered the door.

She heard a quick, whispered conversation before her Dad rushed to her side and sat down next to her.

She looked up at him with tears in her eyes, thankful that the cuts looked better than they had earlier.

Charles pulled her into a hug.

“My beautiful girl! What have they done to you?”

“Don’t worry Dad,” Catherine said after a few minutes. “It’s not as bad as it looks, and I’m sure a good plastic surgeon can fix it all in no time.” She looked over her dad’s shoulder at Tom who had a truly horrified look on his face. “Tom, I meant to have Dad tell you to stay home, but I didn’t get the chance. This is a family matter, and I think you should leave.”

“I just wanted to know that you are safe!” he argued. “I think I should be here. I was worried.” his tone was reproachful.

“I’m sorry you were worried,” she told him. “But I need to talk to Daddy, and I’m sure I’m going to have to talk to the police. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Okay.” He threaded his way between Charles and the coffee table and kissed Catherine gingerly on the cheek. “I’ll see to that Jenny gets home safely.”

“No, I want Jenny to stay!” She looked over at her friend who was still standing by the door.

“I thought you said this was for family?”

“It is, and Jenny is like a sister. She and Nancy are the best friends I have in the world. I’ll call you tomorrow and fill you in on everything,” she promised.

Jenny opened the door, and Tom didn’t have any choice but to leave.

When he was gone, Jenny returned to her seat on the other sofa, and Catherine turned back to her dad.

“Are you really okay?” he asked, looking into her eyes.

“It’s all superficial, I assure you. And I’m sure that a good plastic surgeon can fix my face, or at least make me presentable.”

“I’m not worried about that,” Charles assured her. “I’m worried about you.”

She hugged her dad again.

“Thanks Daddy,” she said with a smile. “Really, I am fine …” she continued and told him the same story that she’d told Jenny. “The people who took care of me were really nice people, Daddy. When they saw the story in the papers and realized who I was they started working on a way to get me home. I’m sorry I can’t tell you any more than that, but I did promise the man who helped me that I’d keep their secret. He … they do a lot of good for the homeless in New York, and I don’t want to jeopardize that.”

“You’re sure? You don’t want to reward them somehow?” he asked.

“I’ll take care of that. I know of a couple ways to get in touch with them,” she assured her dad. She didn’t, but knew that she’d have to tell him something to keep him from pursuing it. “Now, I guess we should contact the police and let them know that I’m safe.”

Charles reached for the phone and dialed the number that he’d memorized and Detective Herman showed up with a uniformed officer within half an hour.

He questioned Catherine for over an hour.

“You’re sure you can’t tell us anything else?” he finally asked.

“Nothing Detective,” she assured him. “The crime was with my assault, not with the people who helped me. Yes, I was with them for several days, but I wouldn’t say it was against my will, and they had nothing to do with the men who did this.” She tapped her cheek. “I was unconscious for several days, and they had no idea who I was. They thought I was one of them … homeless. When they found out who I was, they worked on a way to get me home without exposing themselves. These are people who are used to being looked down on because of the way they are forced to live. They have committed no crimes that I know of, and I promised them that I would keep their secrets.”

It was late by the time the police finally left.

“Am I glad that is over!” said Catherine as she leaned back on the sofa and stretched. That man is like a bulldog. He doesn’t want to give up!”

Charles was reaching for the phone when Catherine put her hand over his.

“Who are you calling?” she asked.

“I have a client, a well-known and very good plastic surgeon. I was going to call him and have him come over.”

“It’s late Daddy,” she said guiding his hand away from the phone. Call him tomorrow and make an appointment for me. I’ll go to his office.”

“You’re sure?” Charles asked.

“Positive. I can live with this as long as I know that it can be fixed.” She gave a slight laugh. “You should have seen it earlier, the first time I saw it, with all the stitches still in place. It scared the daylights out of me. Even this way, once the redness fades, I could cover it all with makeup. It’s not that bad; but I agree, I could live without the reminder.”

Charles finally left about an hour later.

“Do you want me to stay?” Jenny asked when Catherine closed the door behind her dad.

“You don’t have to. It’s late.”

“I can call in sick to work tomorrow,” Jenny told her.

“No, it’s okay. I think I just want to relax. I might call you to go to the doctor with me. I might need some hand holding.” She smiled.

“You know I’ll do it. Just call me, okay?”

They hugged and Jenny left.

Catherine debated fixing something to eat. The milk in the refrigerator had been sour and she’d poured it down the drain, so she couldn’t have a bowl of cereal. And she didn’t feel up to facing a delivery boy if she called someone. She went into the kitchen and started rummaging around. The bread was moldy and she tossed it, but there was a loaf in the freezer. She put two slices in the toaster and checked the refrigerator again. No lunch meat, but there was a block of cheese that hadn’t even been opened yet. She pulled a pan out of the cabinet, put the two pieces of toasted bread on it, then sliced some cheese and put it on the bread. A few minutes under the broiler and she had her favorite breakfast or midnight snack. She ate it standing at the counter then wearily made her way to her bedroom and crawled into bed.

She woke the next morning with a start. Something was wrong. It was too quiet. She had to smile at that. She’d gotten so used to the almost constant tapping on the pipes Below that her apartment seemed too quiet.

She was sitting at the small table in front of the door to the balcony drinking coffee and reading the paper when the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Sweetheart, it’s me.”

“Hi Daddy.”

“Did you sleep well?”

“Yes I did. I just woke up a few minutes ago.”

“I’m glad you were able to rest. I called Dr. Sanderly and made you an appointment for two this afternoon. Can you make it?”

She glanced at the clock, it was only a little after eleven.

“That’s plenty of time,” she assured him. “Where is his office?”

Charles gave her the address then asked if she’d like him to go with her.

“No, you don’t have to. Jenny said she’d go with me.”

“You’re sure?”

“Positive Dad. This is kind of a girl thing anyway. I might decide to have him do my nose too, or maybe my ears.”

“There isn’t a thing wrong with your nose!” he exclaimed.

“Got ya!” she said. She was trying to keep things light, even though she didn’t really feel it.

“I’m glad you’re feeling all right,” he told her. “Call me when you get home and let me know what he says.”

“I’ll do that. I love you dad. Thanks.”

“I love you too, Baby Girl.” He said before he hung up.

He hadn’t called her that in years. He really had been traumatized by what happened.

She picked the phone up again and called Jenny and when she was done with that call, she debated calling Tom. It was going on noon, and Jenny would be there at one. She decided to put it off until after she got home.

They left the doctor’s office later, and Jenny hailed a cab. They were settled in the back before Jenny spoke.

“You’re going into the hospital on Monday. When’s the surgery?” she asked.

Catherine pulled the paper work out of her purse.

“Tuesday at ten. They want me at the hospital Monday morning by eight so they can do some tests.”

“Do you want me to come and stay with you?” Jenny asked.

“You don’t have to do that, but you can bring me a mocha milkshake from that deli when you come to visit.”

“You’ve got it. What about dinner tonight? You probably don’t want to stop anywhere, but we can order. I heard your stomach growling while Dr. Sanderly was examining you. Have you eaten today?”

“No, all I had was coffee; then Dad called and I called you.”

“We will definitely order. Did you talk to Tom?”

“No, I’ve been putting that off. I’ll call him when we get home.”

When they got back, Jenny called for their dinner, then Catherine called Tom’s office. It wasn’t five yet and Tom never left the office until after six.

“I’m sorry, Miss Chandler, but Mr. Gunther was called out of town for an emergency. A contractor had some questions about the Chicago project.”

“Do you know when he’s leaving?” she asked.

“His plane left JFK at 3:15,” she was told.

“Do you know where he’s going? What hotel he’s staying at?”

“They’re building a shopping mall in a suburb outside Chicago. He told me not to bother with hotel reservations. He’s going to try to fly back tonight.”

“Okay, thank you. Would you please leave him a message that I called?”

She hung up and turned to Jenny.

“He’s out of town,” she said in an exasperated tone. “Nice of him to tell me.” She stood. “I’m going to change; I’ll be right back.”

 

The rest of the week went by faster than Catherine had expected it to. She didn’t leave her apartment, but she had plenty of company. Jenny stopped by every evening after work and spent most of Saturday with her, and her Dad dropped by several times. He picked her up and went to the hospital with her on Monday. He stayed all day while they did all their tests.

***

When Catherine woke after surgery on Tuesday, it was almost a replay of waking Below, only this time there was very little pain, but she was just a blind because her head was swathed in bandages. When the nurse saw that she was awake, she came over and asked about her pain level.

“Miss Chandler, on a scale of one to ten, with one being very little and ten being unbearable, can you tell me what your pain level is?”

“About four,” she said, she said groggily.

A few minutes later she felt the prick of a needle then drifted off to sleep again.

When she woke the next time someone was talking. The voice was familiar.

“Vincent?” Her voice sounded raspy even to her own ears.

“Cathy, it’s Dr. Sanderly ... It’s all over.”

“I’m ... in the hospital?” She was more than a little confused.

“Yes, and you’re going to be fine. You must have been through something terrible, but whatever it was is behind you. If there’s anything you want to tell me, or talk about … anything I can do, just let me know.”

Catherine hesitated before she spoke. “You could read me the last chapter of Great Expectations.”

There was no answer; he’d already left. Catherine drifted off to sleep again.

***

A month later Catherine sat in the exam chair as Dr. Sanderly inspected her face closely under a bright light.

“You’re really healing quite well,” he told her. “Except for this one cut in front of your ear. It was deeper than the rest, but at least we’ve cleared the infection. I think we should leave it as is for now. I’ll take another look at it in six months and we’ll decide how best to deal with it.”

“Can I start wearing make up again?” she asked.

“Yes you can and you can wash your face normally, but I want you to continue with the cream twice a day.”

That was Catherine’s go ahead to begin the changes she’d been thinking about since she returned home. Vincent had inspired her. She’d thought long and hard and had decided that if she was going to accomplish anything, really accomplish, she had to leave Chandler and Coolidge. She’d already talked to her dad. He told her that he was sorry to see her leave the firm but knew that she’d do well in whatever she put her mind to.

She’d made a long list of job possibilities, and had almost decided to send resumes to all of them; but when she took a second look at the list, she started drawing lines through them one at a time. One firm was out because it would have been more of the same thing she was doing at Chandler and Coolidge. The next one did mostly real estate. If anything was more boring that corporate law, it was real estate. Next came divorce lawyers and personal injury. She was sure that she’d be depressed and on medication within six months. Criminal law looked interesting, but when she thought about it, she knew that eventually she’d have to defend someone she knew was guilty and she didn’t think she could do it. The same thing applied to the Public Defenders’ Office. The only one that really showed promise and had any appeal at all was the District Attorney’s office. A friend had told her to send them a resume even though they weren’t advertising an opening. He’d assured her that the DA’s office was always short-handed.

 

Catherine walked into Jenny’s office and threw her arms wide.

“You’re looking at the newest Assistant to the District Attorney of New York.”

“Assistant,” said Jenny with a grin. “Sounds important.”

“Not really, the only ones lower on the ladder than the ADA’s are the intern’s, clerks and admin staff,” said Catherine, with a laugh. There is a Deputy in charge of each of several different divisions. I’m working for Joseph Maxwell, Deputy DA for Investigations.”

“Ohh! Is he young? Is he cute? Is he single?” Jenny asked.

“Yes to all of those, but he’s my boss,” said Catherine.

“So, you introduce him to me. I don’t work for him.”

“You are so full of it,” Catherine said. “How about dinner someplace nice tonight, since I’m presentable again. My treat.”

“You’re on. Have a seat and let me take these down the hall. I’ll be right back.”

Jenny carried an armful of manuscripts out of the office and was back in a few minutes.

 

“So, have you heard from Tom?” Jenny asked later after they’d ordered.

“All the time,” Catherine told her. I just haven’t seen his face for more than a few minutes since the day I got home. He’s sent flowers and cards and candy and gifts, but I haven’t seen very much of him. I talked to him last night. He’ll be back in town in a few weeks and wants to go out for dinner so we can talk.”

“I thought you were going to break up with him.”

“I was,” Catherine told her. “I am, but I want to do it in person, not on the phone. We dated for almost a year, and I think that rates more than a note or a message on his machine saying ‘It’s been nice, see ya!’ I want to do it face to face. I owe him at least that much.”

“I don’t think you owe him a thing,” Jenny retorted. “The man didn’t even remember what you were wearing the night you disappeared, but the security guy at your building did. And he’s made himself scarce while you were having surgery and recuperating.”

“His job takes him out of town a lot…” Catherine began.

“Don’t make excuses for him,” Jenny insisted. “He’s not good enough for you.”

Catherine smiled and looked across the table at her friend. “Is that Jenny the friend or Jenny the psychic speaking?”

“Well, Jenny the friend and Jenny the psychic agree on this one. Be honest with yourself. You know that all he’s interested in is the Chandler name and the money that goes with it. The fact that you’re beautiful and intelligent is just an added bonus.” She looked off into the distance over Catherine’s shoulder for a moment before pulling her eyes back to her friend. “And there was that strange dream I had right after you told me that one of your dad’s client’s had asked you out. Remember you were undecided, since he was a client of the firm? But you told me that your dad said that he didn’t see a problem with it since you didn’t handle any of his company’s work. That night I dreamed that you were sitting in a room full of file cabinets, and every file drawer was labeled GUNTHER. You were suddenly swamped with work for him and someone kept sticking their head in your office door and asking if you were done yet, or how it was going, or when did you think you’d be done. It was like I knew that he would try to monopolize your time, which he did.”

“You’re right about that, he did. I didn’t even get a chance to have dinner with my dad unless Tom was out of town. It was crazy. When he was in town, we saw each other five or six nights a week, and sometimes for lunch, but if he was out of town I hardly heard from him. I wish you’d told me about that dream earlier.”

“You take my dreams more seriously than most, but I doubt you would have taken that one seriously. You know what they say about love being blind.”

“You’ve got that wrong, Jenn,” Catherine protested. “I was never in love with Tom. It was just that Daddy likes him, and he’s a good match. We do have some things in common.”

“Then why in the world did you waste your time with him. You deserve to fall in love with someone who loves you as much as you love him. Don’t settle for someone just because he’s a good match and your Dad likes him. If he likes him so much then let him marry him.”

That tickled Catherine’s funny bone and she started to giggle. Jenny saw the humor in it and started to laugh too.

“Well, you know what I mean,” Jenny added when she caught her breath.

“Yes I do. And you’re right. I can’t see myself with Tom twenty years from now, or us growing old together.”

They were both quiet while the waiter served their dinners. When he left, Catherine asked a question that had been on the tip of her tongue earlier.

“So, have you had any more dreams? I mean you dreamed about blood the night I was kidnapped, but have there been any more?”

“Not much, just a dream about a wedding. It was really kind of odd. I was late, and I couldn’t find the place I was supposed to be. It was one of those typical ‘unprepared for anything’ kind of dreams. You know, like the ones where you’re in the hall of your high school, and you know you have a final, but you don’t remember which class, or where it is, or where your locker is, and you know you haven’t studied? Well, I was searching for wherever this wedding is supposed to be. I know I’m a bridesmaid, but I don’t know where my dress is, or where the wedding is. I’m wandering around in the huge, nearly deserted building. The halls are narrow and there is very little light. Something is rattling something awful, and I’m wondering what it is. A storm outside or something. I’m hoping that it doesn’t make that noise during the ceremony. I’m also hearing music, and it keeps getting louder; but it’s not the kind of music that is usually played at weddings. It’s classical, but I don’t recognize it. Then I hear your voice. You’re calling me and telling me to hurry up or we’re going to be late. I was just getting to a point where I could hear the music better, like it was just around the next corner; your voice was louder too, but I was going slower and slower like I was trying to walk through molasses, then I woke up.”

“You’re right, it does sound more like you were worried that you weren’t prepared for something. Whose wedding was it?”

“That’s just it, I’m not sure. I knew I was a bridesmaid, so it wasn’t mine. And you were the only other person in it, but I didn’t see you: so I don’t know if you were the bride or another bridesmaid … It probably didn’t mean anything.”

“But didn’t you once tell me that you don’t remember your dreams unless they mean something?”

“Yeah, and that’s the way it usually is, but not always. And sometimes, even if they mean something, they are so obscure that even I can’t make sense of them. Like that one.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” Catherine told her.

They ate their dinner, talked of other things, and were finishing dessert when Jenny suddenly asked Catherine a question.

“Did you and Tom spend a lot of time on your balcony?” she asked when she suddenly remembered something.

“No. As a matter of fact, Tom doesn’t like my balcony. He says it’s too small. He prefers the terrace at Dad’s penthouse. Why?”

“I did have one other dream that I’d almost forgot about. I was inside your apartment and you were out on the balcony talking to someone. I could make out your voice, but although I could tell that the other person was a man, his voice was too soft and I couldn’t make out what he was saying.”

“What was I saying?”

“I don’t remember. I think you were asking questions, but I don’t remember what they were.”

They left the restaurant a little while later and shared a cab.

When Catherine got home there was a message on her answering machine. Tom was going to be back in town on Friday, the twenty-fifth, and he wanted to see her. He told her he’d pick her up at seven. 

“Nice of him to ask me,” she mumbled to herself as she headed to her bedroom to get ready for bed.

***

The next couple weeks were non-stop for Catherine. She started at the DA’s office and surprised everyone, including herself, at how quickly she picked up on the work and started being productive. It was as if she was meant to do this kind of work. She and her boss fell into an easygoing relationship. He quickly realized that she’d take on anything he asked of her and she realized that he wasn’t going to ask anything of her that he wasn’t willing to do himself, or hadn’t already done at some point.

She was in his office at the end of her first week, going over some files with him. When they were done, she pulled an envelope out of her pocket.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Mr. Moreno wants me to take firearms training at the police range. Do all the attorneys here do that?”

“Not all, but all of us in investigations are armed. Sometimes we find ourselves in some not so nice neighborhoods, and John wants us all to be able to take care of ourselves. I’ve also suggested self-defense courses, but we haven’t been able to get the brass to pay for that yet.”

“Self-defense as in what?” she asked, curious.

“Some hand to hand stuff. There’s a guy down by the river who teaches his students to fight with whatever they can lay their hands on. That kind of knowledge could come in handy.”

She nodded. It did sound interesting.

“I just wanted to tell you that I’ve already had firearms training. My dad gave me a gun when I moved into my own place when I was in law school, and he insisted that I know how to use it.”

“Then you probably won’t have to spend more than a couple hours at the range. Take your licensing paperwork and any other paperwork you have from the courses you took, and they will probably certify you without you having to shoot. They’ll probably just want you to be familiar with their methods. That’s the way I did it. I trained in the Army.”

“Good, I’ve got a lot of work to do here, and I’d hate to have to spend a whole day on something else; but I would be interested in the self-defense training you mentioned. Do you know how I can get in touch with the man you mentioned?”

“Sure, I’ve got some of his cards here.” He opened a file box and pulled out a card. “I hear he’s good, can show you how to disable an attacker with your keys if that’s all you have.”

“Thanks Joe.”

She called the number on the card when she got back to her desk and she had an appointment with Mr. Isaac Stubbs after work the following Monday.

***

Catherine was in the lobby waiting for Tom when he arrived promptly at seven on Friday two weeks later.

“Why are you waiting down here,” he asked after a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I would have come up for you.”

“I know, but I didn’t want to trouble you.”

In the past there had been times when they hadn’t made it to dinner when he’d come up to her apartment, especially when he’d been out of town for a while. She didn’t want their evening to go in that direction, so she thought it best to keep him as far from her bedroom as possible.

She followed him out to the sidewalk, where he opened the door of his limo and helped her in. The driver pulled away from the curb as Tom settled back next to her.

“I’ve missed you,” he said, putting his arm around her. She was glad she was wearing a jacket that prevented him from getting too familiar. “It’s good to be home.”

“How long before you have to leave again?” she asked.

“It looks like it won’t be until after the first of the year. I want to concentrate on the project here in New York for a change. We will be breaking ground next week.”

“That’s nice. That will be some kind of a record, over three months in one place.”

They were seated in the restaurant and had placed their orders when he finally asked her about her new job.

“So how do you like working for the DA?” he asked. “I’m surprised you’d take a step down like that.”

“What do you mean a step down?” she retorted. “The attorney’s on the DA’s staff are some of the best in the country. John Moreno went to Columbia, Deputy DA Levinson went to Harvard, and we have interns from some of the top universities.”

“But that Deputy you work for, Maxwell, he went to some no name school.”

“Joe, went to school on his GI Bill, he worked full time during the day while he went to college, then law school at night. His law degree is just as good as mine and he worked a hell of a lot harder to get it,” she said indignantly. “Have you been checking up on me?”

“Whoa,” he said holding up his hands. “I didn’t mean to insult anyone. I care about you and I wanted to make sure you were going to be okay. I was surprised that you’d give up the cushy job with your dad’s firm to work for the DA where you’ll be making a third of what you were making before.”

“I don’t appreciate you putting your nose in where no one asked you, and it’s not all about the money, Tom. It’s about job satisfaction. I didn’t even have to interview for the job at Chandler and Coolidge. I’d never even written a resume. When I decided I wanted to do something else, I had to go buy a book on writing a resume. It was the first time for me. I actually got this job on my qualifications, not because I was the boss’s daughter. I work harder, longer hours, but when I get my paycheck, I feel as if I’ve actually earned it for a change. But that isn’t what’s important. I finally feel as if I’m doing something that is making a difference. I guess I needed to prove something to myself. That’s important to me … not what everyone else thinks, but what I think.”

“I understand,” he said and smiled at her. But his tone of voice and his smile told her he really didn’t.

She changed the subject by asking him how the work was going on the out of town project.

That took his mind off her new job and he spent the rest of the meal talking about himself.

 

“Can we walk for a bit?” she asked as they left the restaurant later.

“Sure,” he said, signaling his driver to follow them. “Any place in particular you have in mind?” he asked. He lived only a few blocks from where they were.

“Oh, just in the general direction of my place,” she said as they started walking.

“So why this sudden interest in physical conditioning,” he asked as they strolled down the busy sidewalk.

“No reason. It’s just that I’ve been cooped up inside all day, and the air feels good. I always find the first cool weather of the autumn invigorating.”

The walked along side by side for a little way then Tom took her hand.

She decided that now was as good a time as any. She didn’t want to start out accusing, so she tried another direction.

“Tom, I’ve been thinking … With this new job of mine, I’ve been putting in fifty, sixty hour weeks, and you work long days too … Maybe we should take a break, not see each other for a while.”

“I’ve always been able to make time for you in the past,” he said. “I don’t see why we can’t keep doing that in the future.”

“But I just told you. I work ten, sometimes twelve hour days. I leave home before the sun comes up, don’t get home until late, I usually still take work home, and I’ve even worked on Saturday a few times.” It was a slight exaggeration, but not by much. “I really feel that I need to concentrate on my job right now. I can’t do that if I’m worried that I might upset you if I have to back out of a date at the last minute.”

She stepped on something on the sidewalk and stumbled. Tom caught her arm and waved at his driver who pulled up to the curb.

“Let’s get into the car where we can talk about this,” he said as he opened the back door and helped her inside.

She rubbed her ankle that hurt a little from the stumble. She noticed that he didn’t ask if she was okay.

“It’s not going to make any difference where we talk, Tom. I’m still going to feel that I need some time away from you.”

“But we’ve had time apart. Hell, I just got back into town, and I’ve been gone more often than not since the end of June.”

“And while you were gone, I had a lot of time to think … and I think I need to be my own person for a while.” Her voice was getting firmer each time she spoke.

The car stopped in front of her building and she reached for the door handle to get out. She climbed out and Tom followed her.

“I’ll walk you up,” he said catching up with her.

“No, that’s all right,” she said as she turned away.

“No, no, no, I’ll walk you up,” he insisted firmly.

“You haven’t heard anything I’ve said tonight.” She didn’t know if she was more angry or just exasperated.

“What? That your work is important to you? I understand that. My work’s important to me. But that doesn’t mean we can’t see each other,” he insisted, turning on the charm.

“Good night, Tom,” she said.

She leaned toward him and kissed his lips quickly. He held her for a moment.

“I’m not gonna let you slip away,” he whispered. “I’m not gonna let that happen.”

He leaned down and kissed her.

Catherine pulled away first.

“Good night Tom,” she said firmly.

She walked into the building, mentally shaking her head.

That man doesn’t know when he’s being told to go away.

She hadn’t been lying about bringing work home most nights. She had a briefcase full tonight. She used to fall asleep reading romance novels, but lately, more often than not, she’d fallen asleep reading case files.

In her bedroom she quickly changed into a nightgown and robe then retrieved her briefcase from the living room and carried it to the bed. It was the largest space she had to spread everything out. Her desk wasn’t big enough, and even her dining table wasn’t that large. Sometimes she used the coffee table, but even then she wound up with files spread over the table and at least one of the loveseats.           

She pulled out a file and started to read. A few minutes later she thought she heard something on the balcony. She looked up at the French door, but didn’t see anything.

Pigeons, she thought. They’d roosted on her balcony at night before. They made a mess, but it was cleanable. She went back to reading, but she heard it again.

That’s an awful big pigeon, she thought as she reached for the gun she kept in her night stand. She slipped off the bed, not bothering with slippers and went to the door where she peeked through the curtains. She couldn’t see anything.

She opened the door and stepped out onto the balcony. The first thing that caught her attention was the book on the floor. She picked it up and turned it so she could see the spine, Great Expectations.

She knew who was there, she looked up and could see a large shadow at the end of the balcony. She’d know him anywhere!

“Vincent!”

She was so surprised and pleased to see him that she rushed to him and hugged him.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you. I’m sorry,” he said.

“No, no, I’m so glad to see you!”

She stood back and the light from the living room fell on her face. He looked at her in surprise.

“Your face ...”

“They fixed it,” she said awkwardly.

“Yes.”

“Come inside,” she invited.

Vincent backed away from her a bit.

“No, I have to go now.”

“No, not yet.” She was almost frantic to keep him there a little longer she had so much to tell him. She hadn’t realized how much she missed him until she saw him.

“I should never have come here,” he said, almost as if to himself.

“Vincent! I’m glad you did! Come here, sit down.”

She urged him toward a bench at the end of the balcony. She suddenly realized that she still held the gun in one hand and the book in the other. She put them both down and reached for Vincent as they sat.

“I wanted to see you. There are so many things I wanted to tell you,” he told her.

“I have so many things to tell you.”

“I know.”

“It’s been hard, Vincent,” she began.

“Yes.”

“I’m learning to be strong.” She wondered if her conversation with Tom qualified under that heading.

“I know, Catherine, I feel the things you’re feeling, when you do.”

“How do you mean?” She looked up at him. What did he mean by that?

“Just know that it’s true and that your pain is my pain. Sometimes almost as if we are one.”

She could only look at him. She knew he was an extraordinary man, but she had no idea what he was talking about. Before she had much time to think about it, he continued.

“I came here because I wanted to see that you were well—and because I wanted to see you—one last time.” He looked as if the words caused him pain.

“I’ll never see you again?” she asked. She didn’t want to think about that possibility.

“I’ve seen your world. There’s no place for me in it. I know what I am. Your world is filled with frightened people. And I remind them of what they’re most afraid of.”

Catherine thought she knew what he meant. “Their own ignorance.”

“Their aloneness,” he corrected.

She wasn’t sure she agreed with him, but he did have a point. Vincent was alone, he was one of a kind, but she wasn’t sure that most people would see that and be reminded that we are all, ultimately, alone.

“Yes,” she said.

“So … now I have to begin to forget,” he said sorrowfully.

“Forget me?” She didn’t want that. She knew she’d never forget him, even if she never saw him again.

“No, I’ll never forget you,” he assured her. “But I must forget the dream of being part of you. Find someone, Catherine, to be part of. Be happy.”

He started to back away from her.

“Good-bye.”

She wasn’t about to let him leave that easily. She wanted him in her life. She wasn’t sure how, but she knew she did. She reached out and touched his hand.

“No! Not yet. There’s still time; it’s still dark. Don’t leave.”

Vincent took her hands and looked at her.

“I’d like to stay, but I really should go,” he told her. “I don’t know what possessed me to come.”

“You said you feel what I feel. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately; maybe you sensed it.”

“No, it was something else. Something has been bothering you, but tonight, it was as if you’d finally found some closure. The worry and irritation suddenly seemed to just … stop.”

He looked down at her hands in his. Such a contrast. Hers: small, soft, delicate, well-manicured. His: large, hairy, calloused, and clawed. He was surprised she allowed him to hold them as he was doing.

“I finally broke up with Tom. He’s the man I was dating before the assault. I haven’t seen much of him over the last few months because of his work, or at least that was the excuse. I got the feeling it had as much to do with the way I looked as anything. He’s back in town and we had dinner. I told him that I didn’t want to see him again; but from the way he was talking, I don’t think he understood.”

“He loves you,” Vincent said.

“Not really,” she said wryly. “He loves what the Chandler name and prestige can do for him and his career; and as my friend, Jenny, said, the fact that I’m attractive and intelligent is just an added bonus.”

“You were engaged?”

“No. We hadn’t talked about marriage, but he was acting like we were married. Trying to order me around to do his bidding. I won’t be going out with him again. He takes too much of my time, and with my new job, I don’t have a lot of that these days.”

“You said you worked for your father. You left his firm?”

“Yes, Vincent. The time I spent with you inspired me. I was bored working for Daddy. There was no challenge, and I just felt as if I wasn’t doing anything important. Anyone with a law degree could move into my office and seamlessly pick right up where I left off, and probably do it better. I wanted to do something that made me feel like I was making a difference. I interviewed with the DA’s office and started there almost a month ago. The work is hard, it’s demanding; I can’t let my attention wander. I’m putting in ten hour days, and I’m bringing work home, but I love it. I’ve already seen where things I’ve done, even though it was only research or a witness interview, has helped convict someone who committed a crime and hurt someone. It’s good work, Vincent. I was leaning in that direction before I met you, but knowing you gave me that little shove that I needed to make the change.

“I was worried that Daddy would be hurt, or wouldn’t understand, but he did. He told me that I’d always have a place at Chandler and Coolidge, but that I had his blessing, and that he knew that I’d do well. When I left his office he was laughing and telling his law partner, Jay Coolidge, that someday I’d be DA, or a judge.”

“He’s a good father,” Vincent observed. “He encourages you to do what fulfills you.”

Catherine nodded. Her eyes fell on the book he’d brought.

“You know, we never did finish that,” she said. “I read it in junior high school, but I don’t remember how it ended.”

“We should finish it,” he said, reaching for the book and offering it to her.

“Could you start?” she asked. “I miss hearing you read to me.”

He opened the book to the beginning of the last chapter and started to read.  

As she listened, she noticed the contrasts. Below in his world there was silence, except for the almost constant tapping on the pipes. Here, Above, in her world, his voice was accompanied by the ever-present sounds of the city. She leaned her head back and listened.

Half way through the chapter he handed the book to her and she began to read ...

“…and as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.”1

As Vincent listened to those words, he wondered if they were prophetic, for he could see no shadow of another parting from the woman who read them to him.

 

  1. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

 

 

 

Return to the Stories and Poems Index

WFOL Logo