A MEMORY OF ROSES
(formerly Once a Rose Endures)
A story about the tv show, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
by Steve 0yervidez
Winterfest was coming to the
unknown chambers deep beneath the streets of New York. Forgotten
figures, unseen and unimagined by most of those who lived above, filled
the secret passages with light and motion, their anticipation slowly
growing as final preparations were made. Carefully, candles were passed
from hand to hand with reverence. Excited whispers echoed throughout
every part of the labyrinth network of dusty tunnels, piercing an
engulfing quiet far beneath the harsh sounds and colors of the city
sprawled above. A delicate piece of music started and stopped in the
distance as some unseen musician labored over a difficult passage in
last minute rehearsal. The still air buzzed with life as people hurried
eagerly back and forth through the deep caverns, familiar with every
twist and turn. Tables and chairs slowly made their way throughout the
rough passages, carried with care by arms working in unison. Following
behind were food and decorations, festive and plentiful, accompanied by
candles. Always more candles. Candles everywhere.
Deep down however, one
chamber remained dark. Massive doors of ancient wood stood silent and
closed at the entrance, holding back the continual gusts of
subterranean winds which whispered just outside. The room within was
large and empty as it waited in quiet night far beneath the candle lit
environs above. Its cradled air slept undisturbed. Nothing moved in its
spaces, covered in a blanket of shadow, peaceful and content.
Finally, the door to the
great hall swung open, dimly filling the darkness as tunnel denizens
from above flowed in without a sound. The fragmented wisps from the
appropriately named Chamber of the Winds behind them danced across
their backs. Lit dimly by the glow of the flickering torches outside,
they moved with practiced ease, guided by a single elderly man dressed
in the warm, simple garments of those who lived in the tunnels. He was
the leader of their isolated community, and although most knew his
name, everyone simply called him Father. To many of those below, that
was what he meant to them in mind if not in body, coming as they did
from various bad situations from the world above. Father directed the
work to be done, the confidence in his whispered assurances and various
gestures built upon long years of Winterfests past.
And it would be a large
Winterfest this year. Even Father's wizened face held an air of
anticipation. He watched happily as tables were moved and positioned in
the shadows. Armfuls of tapestries were hung on the empty stone walls
climbing along the staircase which lead to the balcony above. Mouse,
the young man who years ago had lived alone in the tunnels by stealing
food from the others and thus earning his name, scurried over the two
large chandeliers sprawled on the floor. As mechanically inclined as
usual, he inspected every rope and pulley, checking and double checking
their condition. Machinery fascinated Mouse, things that moved or
glowed, and fixing and building things was his singular passion. His
normal, fragmented speech whispered to the others around him as his
excitement got the best of him. Together they bent down to place unlit
candles within empty holders, candles which would blaze overhead after
the lighting ceremony when the iron fixtures were raised.
Slowly everyone moved back to
the windswept doorway where Father waited. Smiles danced across their
faces as if they were children again. When the old man saw that all of
the hall's settings had been placed, he ushered everyone back out into
the chamber of the winds to rejoin the others in the tunnels above.
Then, with a last satisfied glance into the shadowed hall, he pulled
closed the massive doors, leaving the darkness which slept once more,
patiently waiting for their impending return.
Far above, nightfall was
coming to the dizzying heights over the city streets of New York. On an
empty rooftop, an unnoticed figure watched the setting sun as it began
its descent behind the shadowed skyline looming over Central Park. The
sun's dimming rays turned an overhead cloud bank a beautiful
orange-red, bathing the shadows with dim color wherever the sunset's
light did not touch. The watching shadow stood alone on the high roof,
the building beneath it long familiar to him. His features remained
hidden within the deep shelter of the warm, patchwork cloak he wore. No
one watched his movements. No one had seen his arduous climb up the
building's elevator shaft when he had pulled hand over hand up the
thick cables until he made his way at the top to a service opening onto
the roof. Having done it a thousand times before, he had lost, long
ago, any fear of that dangerous ascent. Lately, however, all those
memories had seemed increasingly distant. Faded pictures drawn on air,
that had happened a lifetime ago.
With practiced ease he glided
over to the edge of the building's rooftop, silent and unseen as his
black cloak flapped in the soft breeze which blew past. All across the
city around him, his eyes caught the flicker of lights turning on in
distant windows, as the vast metropolis prepared for the coming dusk.
Even after so many years the beauty of New York at night never ceased
to surprise him. The fact that he would never dare to see it in the
light of day was irrelevant to that appreciation.
There it was below, the empty
penthouse balcony that he had come to see. The one fragment of memory
that still burned in his heart and his thoughts when the others were
dispelled by the breeze. In the vast expanse of air around him,
sunlight flowed past the silhouetted buildings in an orange stream,
flowing towards him as if in recognition of a stranger it rarely
encountered. He felt it play across his face in the chill air, a rare
thing indeed. Then, with one last glance at the glittering vista, he
dropped smoothly onto the empty balcony below.
Far, far beneath him candles
glittered in every corner in a display of their own, bathing the
tunnels with a warm, soft light. People bustled about actively as final
preparations continued above the great hall. A beautiful woman moved
among them, her clothes the new, elegant fashions of the city above
amidst the hand sewn wardrobe the others wore. Smiling, she helped a
small boy gather food into a large tray intended for the great hall,
her smooth, elegant face framed by long tresses of deep red hair that
seemed almost to glow in the candlelight. The boy thanked her and moved
away, happily carrying his burden and reveling in his assigned
The woman rested for a moment
as she affectionately watched the activity around her. Even though she
had known this community for only a handful of years, treasured years
though they were, she was still surprised to be swept up in the hope
and reverence felt by those who had lived in the tunnels all their
lives. To them Winterfest was a statement. A statement against the cold
of winter and the evils in the city above. Against the darkness in the
empty corners of their underground world, where one could feel alone
and abandoned by the world above unless one sought the comfort of
friends and the warmth of family.
At no other time were the
residents below and their helper's above more joyous and united than
when they shared in the singular celebration of Winterfest. But even
then, this year was going to be unique. For many reasons. Helper's who
hadn't been seen in years were expected to attend, the largest
gathering that any one could remember. Most were already there, doing
their part for the festivities. She hadn't seen such a collection of
people in the tunnels since baby Jacob's naming ceremony, and he was
almost nine now. Old and young, rich and poor, from above or from
below, they all worked together. She was still amazed at the patchwork
of people who knew of this place and kept its secret. who helped it
survive and grow. A patchwork as varied as the clothes the tunnel
dwellers wore, sewn together with caring and love. One thing linked
them on this day. Everyone, including herself, held a home-made candle,
distributed to all that attended to be lit at Winterfest from a single
She held more than one
candle, however. Cradled in her elegant hands were two. One for herself
and one for the person she waited for, as she searched the crowd for
the one face that would never be lost in it. The one face that never
left her mind or her heart.
Father rushed past checking
on everyone's progress. Until he stopped in a corner with Pascal to
discuss whether everyone had been contacted or sent a candle in
invitation. As Father spoke with the self proclaimed "master of the
pipes" that the underground community used to tap out messages to each
other, a cluster of children pushed their way between them and
"Diana!" They called as they
ran up to the beautiful woman in the breathless excitement of youth.
"Where's Vincent? Is he coming? We haven't seen him today and if he
doesn't come soon he's going to miss Winterfest!"
Father watched the exchange
even as he listened to Pascal tell him of the tapped communiqués
he had sent and relayed to the far flung parts of the tunnels and the
Diana knelt and placed a
comforting hand on the smallest girl's shoulder, a knowing smile on her
face as she spoke to all of them. "Don't worry. He'll come. Vincent
would never miss Winterfest," she touched the little girl's chin, "or
miss a chance to dance with you , Molly."
Molly broke into a youthful
smile, and just as suddenly as they all had come, they all darted off
again, laughing and giggling as they took in all the preparations in
the tunnels around them. Diana watched with amusement, her body filled
with contentment amidst the controlled bustle of activity around her.
As she soaked it in with the same glee the children had, she knew she
Slowly a smile spread over
Father's face as he watched Diana. Once she had been nothing more than
a stranger, an unknown element who had found Vincent wounded and in
despair above. Back then, Father had not been sure she could be trusted
with their secret. Now, he couldn't imagine the tunnels without her.
When she spoke of Vincent with such assuredness, he wondered if she
knew anything of Vincent's plans for the evening. If she had been able
to intuit his intentions. It was amazing how close the two of them had
become. Even the children seemed to realize it, coming to her to ask
for him. It was as if Diana were a part of Vincent now.
Suddenly Father realized that
Pascal was watching him and waiting for an answer to an unheard
question. The balding little man grinned as he watched Father gaze
affectionately at Diana. With an embarrassed smile, Father turned
"I'm sorry, Pascal. Please,
could you start again?"
Even though the balcony was
empty, in many ways it hadn't changed. Slowly Vincent moved over to the
windowed doors and silently looked into the empty rooms within. Some of
the interior walls still caught the fading orange glow of the setting
sun, and he saw himself outlined in shadow against them. In his mind's
eye, images formed in those empty spaces. Images of the elegant
furniture of her apartment, music wafting out onto her balcony as long
curtains billowed on the night air. Candles. Laughter. Flowers. Faces.
Now all that was replaced by bare walls and the distant clamor of the
How many times had he been on
this balcony with her, taking in the lights of New York, each second a
joy, and a tragedy for being by necessity so short, so limited. How
many times had she rushed into his arms as he stood on that very spot,
both of them relieved to find each other again? Then there were other
times, spent just being there together, talking about everything and
anything, as he watched the city lights cast a glow along the curve of
her face. Other, less happy, images surfaced as well. Of him laying her
dead, pale form on her bed within, then kissing her cool lips as he
said good-bye. In that corner of the balcony, by the low wall, was
where she had read Great Expectations to him. It was almost as if he
could hear her voice, asking him to sit beside her, calling him to-
He turned suddenly towards
the imagined whisper. But there was nothing there but an empty balcony.
Vincent still remembered. But
deep inside he knew that those memories would change tonight, in some
subtle way. He felt the loss of her still. The fragrance of her perfume
seemed to dance at him on the evening air. But she was gone. Years
gone. Since their son, Jacob, was born over eight years ago. He could
still see her face as she had looked up at him and died in his arms on
a distant rooftop far from there. However, he didn't regret what he had
come here to do, to admit to himself. He knew it was right.
For years he had lived on
memories of Catherine. So much so that for a time he had feared the he
had grown empty and bitter, holding on to the shards of a life that
could never be again. Catherine had been his world, but instinctively
he knew how devastated she would be if the grief and loss of her had
destroyed his life as well. Catherine's life meant more than that. So
Vincent faced the rest of his feelings, and found that he had grown to
love Diana. Catherine had never wanted Vincent to lie to himself, and
in life they had always been truthful with each other. Vincent would
give her, and himself, no less in death.
Reaching underneath his
cloak, he pulled out two roses, one red and one white. Bathed in the
setting sun, a winter breeze flowed over their delicate petals. The
conversation he had with Father that morning echoed in his mind as
reverently placed the roses on her balcony floor.
Tonight at Winterfest, Father, I mean to tell Diana
that I love her.
Vincent, I've long felt you ready to love again after all these
and it warms me to see you embracing it... embracing love, once
more. But does Diana share your feelings?
The two flowers, new and
alive, lay on the cold stone of Catherine's balcony as Vincent thought,
the words still echoing as he reached under his cloak again and pulled
out a small white card, his elegant cursive written across it in
expressive strokes. Vincent's clawed hand placed the card lovingly atop
the two flowers. The card read, THO LOVERS BE LOST, LOVE SHALL
If she does share my feelings, she hasn't expressed
them to me.
When I lost Catherine, she felt my loss deeply, and she
wish to trample those memories. Diana needs to hear it
from me first,
or such is my hope.
Vincent, if she truly shares your feelings, then I'm
in every way, that Catherine would approve.
AND DEATH SHALL HAVE
NO DOMINION. Vincent turned and spoke to the empty balcony,
his voice filled with emotion as the sun finally dropped behind a
distant building, leaving the balcony bathed in the orange-red glow
from the clouds above. His memories began to whisper and recede to the
edge of his consciousness once more and his words evaporated on the
chill winter air.
"Whatever happens, Catherine,
whatever comes... know that I love you... forever."
With that he turned and in
one quick and easy motion pulled himself onto the roof once more.
Vincent moved away quietly, making no more noise than a shadow would
make as it became lost in twilight. The two roses were left behind on
the balcony floor when suddenly the front door of the apartment opened,
filling the darkened space inside with light as a silhouetted woman
walked slowly in from the hallway, not seeing his departing form.
Later, the great hall was
filled with light as the now lit iron chandeliers blazed overhead with
row after row of candles glowing from their raised position near the
ceiling. Throughout the hall, people blew out the candles they had
carried at the end of the ceremony as a rousing burst of music poured
forth from the musicians in the corner. The crowded room buzzed with
motion and conversation as the happy throng migrated towards the food
tables, or searched for a dance partner, or just moved to greet old
friends long missed.
Vincent bent down to give his
son, Jacob, a warm hug as several other festival guests converged on
him to say hello, their ardent voices overlapping each other in a press
of well wishing. Diana quietly watched as she stood near Vincent,
smiling as she took in the pleasant feeling from the assembled
gathering around her, even as they began to pepper her with polite
words as well. Everyone expressed relief that Vincent had arrived in
time, and as they came up to him, not a single person even blinked at
his appearance. His face was as accepted as any other, and looking at
him, Diana saw no reason for it to be otherwise.
"Glad you could come,
"Nice to see you, Vincent.
MY, how Jacob is growing..."
"Vincent, it has been too
long. I wish you could see my new shop above..."
"Have you heard from Devin,
Vincent? I heard he's managed to get himself elected to the city
"Vincent, I understand that
Mouse is trying to build some sort of rail system again, right in the
tunnels, to help transport supplies from the helpers. I hope he's not
getting any parts by 'just taking' from above again..."
Vincent took it all in
stride, exchanging handshakes and warmly greeting friends he hadn't
seen in some time. Diana stayed near Vincent as she was approached from
all sides, answering some of the same questions that had been asked of
him and giving her polite take on the evening's festivities. Somehow
everyone knew that she would be found near Vincent, as she always was.
Young Jacob, lost in the
shuffle, fidgeted as he eyed another group of boys already racing
through the crowd in play. He looked up towards Vincent, a question in
Vincent looked down at his
son. "Go. Be careful, but have fun."
"Bye Father, bye Diana, "
Jacob said in a rush. Then, with a grin he ran off, his voice mixing
into the crowd as he called out. "Hey, Timothy, wait up...!"
Slowly Vincent and Diana made
their way through the tide of friends and new acquaintances, until
finally they were at the foot of the staircase that led to the empty
walkway above the hall. Without a word they moved up the stairs,
quietly passing the hung tapestries that depicted old stories long
forgotten. Images passed through Vincent' s mind of another Winterfest
long ago when he had ascended those steps with a different face across
from his, her's a different smile, a different glow. He wrapped those
carefully away, never to be forgotten, and turned to look at the woman
across from him now. They moved out onto the walkway, and stood
silently facing each other, with their faces turned to gaze at the
crowd below. Music flowed up to them, mingled with conversation and
laughter, which made their small walkway seem like a quiet oasis in a
festive storm. The smell of food and candles floated on the air, and a
familiar contented silence passed between them. Warm, but still
slightly awkward with things left unsaid.
"Diana," Vincent began,
"there is something I have needed to tell you... for a long time."
Diana looked straight into
Vincent's eyes and spoke in one quick, anxious rush. "Vincent, I think
I've loved you since the first time I saw you."
Vincent stood speechless. His
rehearsed conception of how the conversation would go lay shattered
before him. But then, slowly, a joyous smile spread across his face,
which for him wasn't an easy thing to pull off physically. Stunned at
what Diana had said, he was suddenly filled with an unexpected bliss.
The worries and concerns of the past weeks melted away in an that
instant, as he watched a smile play across Diana's face as well.
Diana reached out to take his
clawed hand into her own as she looked up at him. "Maybe I wanted to be
the one to say it first," she said as she smiled tenderly at him.
Far above, under the darkened
night sky of New York, light still flowed out onto the empty balcony,
pouring from the apartment through the windowed doors stretching across
its expanse. Inside three figures moved, their voices muffled behind
the glass as they walked through the empty rooms. The two men and
single woman inspected the empty spaces within, searching every corner
and closet as they evaluated what the apartment would look like
furnished and occupied. One of the men, the building's supervisor, gave
his polished pitch to the other two. The woman looked around, keenly
observed by the second man who had come with her, a man who carefully
watched her reactions. She slowly walked past the wide windows,
silhouetted by the glow from inside as she gazed out upon the dark gulf
of Central Park below.
Far across that gulf of
shadowed trees another window looked out over the park from a nearly
empty high rise apartment. Behind its darkened glass, high tech
equipment was silently being set up in the shadows that cloaked the
apartment's interior. A man's black gloved hands quickly turned a knob
on a tripod that held a surveillance camera, raising it into position.
Wires were connected between it and a monitor, which blinked to life. A
high resolution image appeared on its screen of the distant woman
across Central Park, shadowed against the lights behind her as she
looked out into the night. The camera's zoom lens whined softly as it
auto focused on her form while the man's hand centered the image. As
the camera watched her shadow , the two men in the apartment with her
continued their unheard conversation as she turned away from view. Dark
hands clicked another small device onto the camera barrel, next to an
inactive parabolic microphone. A separate screen brightened, displaying
a flat line and the words NO AUDIO. ZERO VIBRATIONS RECEIVED.
The hand flipped a switch and suddenly a thin red laser beam flashed
invisibly across the park, hitting the distant window and bouncing back
in less than a hundredth of a second. Suddenly the flat line on the
display came to life, moving up and down in complex waves as the text
changed to AUDIO RECEIVED. LINK ESTABLISHED.
Headphones were placed over a head in shadow and the distant voices of
the three figures became abruptly clear. As the man listened, his eyes
patiently watched, as beneath his chair another device quietly recorded
Far below, Vincent was
silently able to speak again, as Diana waited patiently. "I didn't
expect this," he said with a soft laugh.
Diana stood there beaming,
beautiful and happy. Her red hair seemed to glow in the candlelight,
surrounding her adoring gaze at him, a gaze that he returned. With a
small enigmatic smile she reached out and touched his cheek.
"Maybe I know you better than
Vincent chuckled. "Perhaps
not. Perhaps I was only going to ask you to return that book of sonnets
Now it was Diana who laughed.
"No, you weren't."
As he looked at her, he
marveled at the wonders that life had blessed him with, wonders more
than any one person deserved. In that instant his doubts were banished.
He was certain that this was the right thing, as he stood there with
Diana, bathed in the feelings they felt for each other. He had all that
he needed, all that he wanted, within the festive confines of that deep
cavern, as the crowds talked and danced below. He looked into her
eyes, his voice warm with emotion as he whispered to her.
"I love you, Diana."
In the city above, the
apartment manager unlocked the glass doors and stepped aside. The
balcony doors smoothly swung open under her hands to either side, and
the woman walked out into the
night air. She turned and thanked him.
"This particular residence is
available immediately if you find it to your liking." the man continued.
The second man moved to the
supervisor. "That's something I needed to discuss with you, perhaps I
As their conversation took
them back into the apartment, the woman walked over to the wall along
the balcony's edge, placing her hands on it as she soaked in the grand
expanse of the city around her. She looked down to the street far
below. Without turning she spoke to the two men behind her. "The view
"Oh, I agree." the supervisor
replied. "This is a very special place. I know you will enjoy your time
here. Well, I wish you the best and I'll contact you tomorrow with the
final details. Feel free to look around further, please lock the door
as you leave."
The second man moved to thank
him as he headed for the door, leaving the woman alone on the balcony.
She tried to imagine waking up with a view like this every morning, of
living her life here, and building new memories. She closed her eyes
and tilted her head to the sky in contentment as a feeling of warmth
and hope came to her unexplained. Softly, she whispered to herself.
"I feel peaceful here. Like
"I'm glad you like it." The
second man stood near the balcony doors where he had been watching her
for several seconds. "I think moving back to the city will be good for
you. Perhaps it will hasten your progress. And in my sometimes not so
humble professional opinion," he said amused, "I think you will be
"Believe me, I'm well versed
in your humility." She smiled. "But you're right. My doubts are gone.
Somehow, this seems right, and I can't quite explain why." She turned
back towards the view of the city. The distant lights glittered around
her like candles. It was strange. She almost imagined that she heard
music, and the smell of wax. A small chill breeze brushed its fingers
across her cheek, but she still felt full of warmth. She turned back to
the man watching her, smiling.
"It feels familiar already."
Jacob was running though the
crowd, watching as they seemed to twist and turn in his vision as he
frantically changed direction to avoid being tagged by Timothy, who
chased just behind. Suddenly he stopped short when he caught a glimpse
of Father, as the old man watched the walkway above the hall with great
interest. Curious, Jacob turned to see what Father was looking at.
Above the crowd, Vincent and Diana were talking alone as her hand held
his between them. Both had eyes only for each other and were oblivious
to the others in the room. Timothy came crashing up behind Jacob and
slapped him on the back in triumph. "You're it." he said, winded from
the chase. Jacob didn't react, but instead turned and whispered into
Timothy's ear, who then turned his head and looked up at Vincent and
Diana along with Jacob. Scattered in the busy crowd around them,
several others had noticed the couple as well.
"You have been incredibly
patient with me, Diana." Vincent was saying up above, "and I know you
have waited a long time. Perhaps in some way that may cause you to
doubt my sincerity or my truthfulness. But you must believe that my
feelings, what we have between us, is genuine, that-"
"Vincent, I do believe you, I-"
Vincent pressed on. "You have
given me so much over the years, so much warmth and love, perhaps I've
treated your love unfairly, denied my emotions and-"
"No, I understand, really I
do, Vincent. You don't have to-"
"Your generosity, your breadth
of spirit. My feelings for you, Diana, are deep and real, they enrich
me far beyond what words can expre-"
Exasperated, Diana moved
quickly forward without warning and kissed him, her lips finding his
instantly. Then realizing that there was no more need for words,
Vincent slowly kissed her back, deeply, as they embraced each other,
flowing smoothly into each other's arms.
A cheer of approval rose
unexpectedly from throughout the watching crowd below. For several
seconds, Diana and Vincent didn't notice, until the sound broke through
their long kiss. Shyly, their lips parted and they looked at everyone
below while still in each other's arms, happiness blossomed on their
Father nodded to himself,
sincerely pleased for both of them. Jacob, standing next to him, smiled
and waved up at Vincent and Diana before he ran off, chasing after
Timothy in continuation of their game. Mouse, his face full of wonder,
walked through the crowd smiling with his head tilted up towards them.
"Okay, good. Okay, fine." he said to those around him happily. Pascal
came up behind Father, placing his hand on the old man's shoulder as he
yelled up at the couple good-naturedly. "Well, its about time!" He
turned towards Father. "You would have thought it would take less than
eight years for them to figure it out." he said.
Diana remained easily in
Vincent's arms, leaning her head against him as she watched everyone
smiling up at her and Vincent. The candles seemed to flicker with a new
light, and the air was alive with possibilities. The cavern felt warm
and safe, like Vincent's arms, and she had never felt better in her
Vincent held her tightly,
soaking in the smell and feel of her. His senses seemed to dance around
him, and he felt elevated and content. The candles throughout the
chamber stretched before him like a city, as his friends, no, his
family watched below. He could almost feel their affection passing over
both of them like a breeze. He whispered into her ear.
"I really didn't expect this."
Diana held him tighter, never
wanting to lose this moment as they stood there, feeling lifted by
the approval of all those below who cared for them. She smiled up at
unable to express the wave of emotions that flowed though her. It had
often seemed that she would never reach that feeling, but it had
happened at last. Vincent's arms encircled hers.
"Life's full of surprises,
Alone again on the balcony,
shrouded in the night far above the city, the woman encircled her arms
around herself. She could have sworn she had felt her lips tingle,
unexplainably, moments ago. Suddenly, she noticed something out of the
corner of her eye and she moved quietly towards it, with the distant
street noises rising from below the only sound. Reaching down, she
picked up two roses, one red and one white, that had been laying on the
floor, with a card beside them that she now held in her hands.
Curious, she looked around the
balcony, but found no one there. Carrying her new discoveries, she
walked back towards light falling in from the doorway, unaware of the
small red dot of light that passed across her clothes as she moved
through its beam. She lifted the two roses into the light to get a
better look at what she had found. The light flowed onto her face,
revealing a tiny scar that ran just beneath her left ear. She turned
full into the light to reveal the face of a mystified Catherine
Catherine held the roses in
her hands, cradling them gently as she touched the fresh petals.
Turning the card, she began to read the inscription written upon it in
a firm, flowing, elegant cursive. "Tho lovers be lost..." she began,
but became lost in thought as she wondered about her find. She looked
out over Central Park once more as half formed images passed though her
mind, of earth walls and flowers. And for some reason she couldn't
she could still smell candle wax.
She wrapped her arms around
herself tighter at the sensations. "Very familiar somehow."
Joe Maxwell still wasn't
certain that he hadn't gone completely insane. He moved in a haze, like
a dream overlapping reality. Cautiously, he stepped out of the opening
elevator doors as he tried to compose himself. Before him stretched an
empty hallway that he had never expected to see again. How long had it
been since he had last stood there, he wondered. How long since all the
painful memories of this place had retreated to the recesses of his
mind. He had continued his life, and much had happened since then. But
in a lot of ways this place was always present just behind his
thoughts. Thankfully, he was alone in the hallway, a small comfort. Joe
instinctively felt that he should face this ridiculous folly alone.
It had started out as an
ordinary morning, filled with the familiar workaday bustle and
hardships of every other day at the District Attorney's office. The
usual crisis's, petty and pertinent, had just started to pile up on his
desk when one man had stepped into his office. In a perfectly sane
voice, the man had introduced himself and offered Joe an astonishing
invitation. In that one moment, the press of work seemed suddenly less
important while Joe struggled to grasp the unexpected prospect the man
had offered. Even now he couldn't quite believe it. What he had been
told didn't seem possible.
But, regardless, there he was.
In that hallway and walking towards an apartment door he hadn't seen in
years. A door he had never expected to see again. In a few moments that
door would reveal whether or not he had finally lost his mind. Heaven
knows I'm due, he thought to himself. Still, it wouldn't have
surprised him much to wake up in his bed at any second, left alone to
laugh at his own foolishness. As that thought crossed his mind, he
reached up and knocked on her door without hesitation. How could he
have been caught up in the absurd fantasy that she was still-
Joe stood stunned for a moment
after his outburst. He gazed at the women who had opened the door, his
eyes wide in disbelief as a flood of sensation flooded through him in
that instant. Without quite realizing it, he rushed forward and wrapped
his arms around her.
"My god," he cried, "it's
The world seemed to spin. Joe
heard himself speaking, his voice almost incoherent as he called her
"Cathy! Cathy. Cathy, Cathy!"
As he held her there on her
doorstep, with her alive and warm in his arms, Joe finally accepted
that it was real.
Catherine, somewhat surprised
by his unexpected display, simply patted his shoulder affectionately as
he kept hugging her. Caught up in his excitement, she laughed along
"I really hope you're the Joe
Maxwell I was expecting to come by," she said.
Joe was still flustered as he
"I can't believe this, Cathy!
How can you be alive? I saw you dead, years ago. I mean, how...?"
Realizing that he still held
her tightly, he awkwardly let go. However, an ecstatic grin still lay
plastered across his face as he looked at her, marveling in the sight
"Look, I'm sorry for getting
carried away," he said, "but this is something of a shock. It's not
every day that dear friends return from the grave. I'm going to need a
minute to compose myself here."
Catherine smiled knowingly at
him, her eyes filled with understanding. She had seen that very same
reaction played out several times since her return to New York. She
placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Please, Joe," she said. "Why
don't you come in?" Catherine led Joe into her apartment as the door
shut behind them, leaving the hallway quiet once more.
A crisp morning breeze blew
softly past the thin curtains hung over the balcony doors. It flowed
softly over Catherine Chandler and Joe Maxwell as they sat in her newly
furnished high rise apartment. The weather was unusually warm for
winter in New York. As the sun shined brightly in a flawless blue sky,
it swallowed the chill touch of December with a new hope of the coming
of the distant spring. Somehow that singular promise of life amongst
the dreary days of winter seemed appropriate to Joe as he sat there
with Catherine, enjoying the morning.
Joe still couldn't take his
eyes from her. He was afraid that if he looked away she would blink out
of existence. considering the unexpected turns the morning had taken,
it wouldn't have really surprised him at all if she did.
"I have to admit," he said
more calmly now, "that when Dr. Hayes came to me this morning to ask me
to meet with you, I almost threw him out of my office. I mean, it
seemed like some kind of sick joke. I had been to your funeral, for
god's sake. I'd put it all behind me long ago and gone on with my life.
But now," he said, looking at her, "anything seems possible."
Catherine appreciated his
warmth towards her. "I'm glad you came, Joe. I wanted to call last
night, to give you a little more warning, but Dr. Hayes sensed that you
wouldn't have been able to wait till morning, so we decided it was best
to not deprive you of a night's sleep. I understand that we were
co-workers in the D.A.'s office. And close once. So, I wanted to see
you. To see as much of my old life as possible."
"So, it's just like Dr. Hayes
said," Joe replied. "You really remember nothing of your old life? Of
being Catherine Chandler?"
Catherine nodded. "Next to
nothing. A small bit here and there." She reached across from where she
sat to touch the roses she had found days earlier and placed in a vase.
Her fingers caressed their soft petals, one rose red, one rose white.
"Dr. Hayes has been quite
helpful through all this,' she continued. "He helped me decide to move
back. Back to New York. Back to my old life. He had hoped that I would
start to remember. That I could learn to be happy here again. And
though I haven't recovered any memories yet, on that other point...
he's been right."
"How did all this happen?" Joe
asked emphatically. He needed this bizarre string of events to make
sense. Needed to be able to grasp how life could take such an
Cathy sighed as she began.
"Well, as you know I was held captive by the crime lord Gabriel, in his
secret offices downtown. When my captors decided to relocate, they
planned to simply kill me and leave me behind, leaving the job to
Gabriel's personal physician. He was ordered to give me a lethal dose
of morphine, which for all practical purposes, he appeared to do. In
reality he only tried to induce a deep coma from the overdose."
Joe was confused. "But why? A
sudden burst of conscience? That man had worked under Gabriel for years
and had been a party to numerous crimes, including, reportedly, murder.
All under Gabriel's orders. Why help you after that?"
Catherine answered with a
"Because, several months
prior, he had been forced into becoming a government informant. And as
such, he felt required to save my life, if possible."
Joe replied with surprise. "I
was never told that. I should have been. I was the assistant district
attorney at the time."
Catherine smiled at him. "They
had their reasons. While the FBI was trying to build their case against
Gabriel, they ended up cornering and arresting the doctor. Since they
had already had several agents killed trying to infiltrate Gabriel's
organization, using someone already on the inside seemed the perfect
opportunity. Remember, at the time they knew next to nothing about
Gabriel himself. They didn't even know his name. So they turned the
doctor into a mole, even if he was a reluctant one. He tried to tell as
little as possible at first, afraid he would be discovered. Tried to
himself from both sides. When Gabriel ordered him to kill me, he felt
trapped. Caught by the FBI on one side and Gabriel on the other. He
couldn't save me overtly and he couldn't risk his immunity deal by
killing someone in the D.A.'s office. So he tried to walk the middle by
inducing a deep coma. It was still a risky move. I was told I almost
died, regardless. But from his point of view, it must have seemed a
defensible position to either side. He could argue he misjudged the
Joe nodded. "So, to save
himself he saved you."
"When I finally came out of
it, they continued with the reports of my death to protect their mole.
And me. Faked autopsies, faked funeral. And as a potential witness, I
was whisked into seclusion. They had seen Gabriel's ruthlessness with
witnesses before, since several had died. None had survived to
implicate any of his lieutenants, let alone the unnamed leader himself.
So they kept me a well guarded secret."
Joe's voice resonated with
buried annoyance. "Why wasn't my office told any of this?" He asked.
"After our raid on his mansion, after Gabriel's subsequent death, the
treat was over. Why weren't we informed about you?" Joe asked the most
important question in his mind. "Why didn't you come back?"
In the far distance outside
Catherine's balcony, above the bare, intertwined tree limbs bathing in
the sunshine of Central Park, skyscrapers loomed into the morning sky.
In one tiny, darkened window a man listened to their conversation.
Joe's voice came trough on the headphones the man wore as he watched
through a powerful video camera. Sitting alone in the otherwise empty
room, he continued to listen intently.
Back inside her apartment,
Catherine felt the hurt in Joe's voice, hurt that she hadn't tried to
contact him or her friends for almost eight years.
"They felt it best that I keep
a low profile," she began. "I had no memories to come back to anyway.
District attorney Moreno had already been exposed as an informant on
Gabriel's payroll. No one knew how many others there were like him in
the D.A.' s office. It was believed there were others, especially after
the government's newly acquired mole was killed by Gabriel. They told
me there was some suspicion placed on Diana Bennett at one point. After
the drug dealer she visited in custody was found dead in his hospital
Catherine looked straight at
Joe. "There was some suspicion of you too, for that matter," she said.
"OK. Hold it there. Diana
Bennett I've known for years now," Joe spoke emphatically, "and I'd
trust her with my life. I have on many occasions. As far as I'm
concerned she's beyond reproach. As for me..." He looked at her
affectionately, "Well, you really must have lost your memories, kiddo.
Because the old Cathy would know... that I would never betray her to
Catherine looked at him
thoughtfully. Then her face lightened as she reached out and touched
his arm. "The new Cathy does too," she said. "Because somehow, deep
down, I believe you."
Joe was relieved. "Thank you,"
he said, smiling warmly at her.
Catherine returned his
expression as she leaned back.
"But I do have a few
questions..." Joe began.
Catherine laughed. "Of course.
"I was told," Joe said, "that
you bore a child during your captivity. A child which Gabriel seemed to
have some interest in for some reason. Do you know anything about what
happened to him, about who the father was?"
A sad look crossed over
Catherine's face as she faced some difficult answers. "They know
nothing about it," she said. "And I have no personal recollection of it
on my own. Sometimes I feel that's the worst, not even remembering the
birth of my son. The worst of all the things that happened to me. It
was assumed that someone in Gabriel's organization took him. When
Gabriel died, all those beneath him scattered to the wind. The
authorities started investigations to find him. I started a few myself,
all hoping to pick the pieces and find some trail... But they've been
trying for years and have found nothing. Gabriel's underlings have
hidden their tracks too well." Catherine sat silently for several
moments. "He could be dead for all I know."
Joe felt the sadness her
talking about it brought up, and he began to regret that he had asked.
But then, she continued. "I don't even remember what my child looked
like. Not specifically. I know he had blue eyes. His father's eyes. If
I hadn't been told that he had been born to me, I would have never
even..." Catherine wavered and sat silent again.
Joe decided to change the
subject. "Cathy, after you were abandoned, all the indications were
that someone took you from Gabriel's office building and brought you
here. To this very apartment. Did they ever tell you who? Do you
yourself have any idea who did that?"
"Was it someone who worked for
Gabriel, Cathy? Was it someone else?"
"If anyone knew, they never
"Was it Vincent?"
That name sent an unexpected
spark of recognition through Catherine, a spark that Joe saw in her as
well. Calmly he watched her. She looked out towards the balcony. She
felt at ease, comfortable, with that name. But she still remembered
"Where have you heard that
name?" She asked.
"Diana Bennett," Joe replied.
"She felt he was connected to you in some way. But she never found him."
Catherine thought for a
moment. She replied in a tired voice when nothing came to her. "I'm
sorry, Joe. I don't remember. I feel that somehow I should, but I
Joe backed off. "That's all
right, Cathy. It's just enough to know that you are still alive. I
didn't mean to push."
"No, its OK," Catherine said.
"I'm just as curious about it as you. But I had hoped our first meeting
wouldn't drift into such depressing questions with no clear answers."
Her face strengthened and
changed as she let her momentary sadness pass. Joe suddenly realized
that her smile could brighten the darkest night.
"There's a lot of my old life
that I may never have back again," she said. "And sometimes it scares
me to death. But that won't stop me from building a new life. With new
memories and new joys. Hopefully, mixed with my old ones eventually."
She looked into his eyes. "You
seem to know me pretty well, Joe. I can still feel some sort of
connection to you. And if my experiences have taught me anything, it is
how precious true friends are. And how short life can become. How we
should live every moment. So Joe, I was wondering if you could help me.
Help me to remember."
"Sure, Cathy. Anything you
"Have dinner with me."
Joe looked uncomfortable.
"Cathy, I don't want to mislead you. That wasn't quite the relationship
we had together."
Catherine smiled at him. "I
Joe suddenly felt a long
repressed hope rise within him once more. He felt almost as alive and
vibrant in that moment as the sparkling morning outside, as if he
himself had slipped out of a long winter.
"Well, OK. Sure," he said.
Silently he thought to himself, anything is possible indeed.
"But first, Cathy, I've got to
take you downtown. There's a lot of people who will be dying to see
you, if you're willing. Like the investigator who worked on your case,
Diana Bennett. Most of her cases never have such happy endings. She'll
be thrilled to see you."
Diana Bennett had never felt
so complete in her entire life. The width and breadth of her world was
encompassed within the two, powerful arms that held her with care and
tenderness. Totally contented, she leaned her head against Vincent's
chest, taking in the subtle fragrance of his well-worn leather clothing
as it mixed with the earthy smells of the tunnels and the elegant
scents of melted candlewax. They both stood there together, holding
each other all alone at the intersection which led to Diana's building
and her life above. After her continued trips into the tunnels for so
many years, a passageway had eventually been found which led beneath
It was still mid-day in the
world above, and Vincent didn't chance continuing any further, So, as
they had several times in the past few days, they had stopped here
where they were forced to part, in the end unwilling to do so. That
yearning, to be constantly together, was a new sensation. They had
never had nearly as much trouble saying good-bye before they had
acknowledged their feelings for one another. But now, all the world
seemed different, measured against the hopes and dreams they held in
Diana reflected on her own
life as she held Vincent. All of her life she had been metaphorically
claustrophobic, not so much with spaces but with people. Aloof and
distant as a child, she had, without realizing it, carried those
attitudes with her into her adult life. No one doubted her compassion,
or her kind heart. But getting close to her was a different matter.
Even her high, airy loft atop an abandoned warehouse had served to
separate her from the rest of the city. She had dated throughout her
life, but lover after lover had come and gone while trying futilely to
break into the inner recesses of her soul. In the end she had always
pushed them away when she felt them getting too close. Even her work
with the D.A.'s office had been on her terms. Those terms being that
she only worked alone. Her ability to discern the inner workings of the
minds of others had often been her only company. Sometimes she felt she
shared more of her life with the killers and rapists she tried to catch
than with her closest friends or family. That had all changed the night
she had found Vincent. The things she used to push away, she now
embraced. All inspired by Vincent's unwavering and generous spirit,
when most others in his position would have fallen into despair and
bitterness. She had slowly lost her own fear of closeness. Be it
underground in the cramped tunnels with tons of rock hanging above, or
in the confines of her own heart after finally having let someone in.
Realizing what it meant to be with that particular someone, Diana
relished every second.
Vincent held her in silence,
also enjoying the moments he shared with Diana. His own feelings went
rushing forward, and he had no idea where they would lead him. For so
long he had felt this way only in memory, when reliving the times he
had spent with Catherine as they shared a life together. But without
realizing it, he had slowly grown closer to Diana. He had been drawn to
her grace, her beauty, to the quiet way she helped others, and to her
own empathy for those around her. She had continued to help the tunnel
community below, even when she had no longer needed to. She had been at
his side several times through the years when the despair of
Catherine's loss had threatened to overwhelm him again. But she had
always brought him back, with her insight and compassion. By reminding
him of his life below, and the child he and Catherine shared. She had
redeemed his soul. And through it all she had never asked anything for
herself. Diana had shown herself to be a remarkable, giving woman, as
Vincent realized he had known all along.
Diana sighed as she held him
"I really have to go, Vincent."
His voice rumbled, soft and
warm. "Our time together is so short, Diana. Must it always be so?"
Vincent already felt the pang of separation, an all too familiar
feeling from his times with Catherine as well.
"I'd really love to stay,"
Diana said softly. "But I'm supposed to meet Joe Maxwell today. he
hasn't heard from me since I finished my last case a week ago. I
suspect he'll have something new for me."
Images of photographs taped to
a wall in Diana's loft flooded Vincent's mind. The photos were crime
scene photographs from Diana's last case. She always taped them up onto
the wall, a wall which she hid behind a curtain when she was not
working, even though she knew she couldn't hide them from her thoughts.
Along with the photos were documents and scribbled clues she left for
herself in an effort to coalesce the jumbled pieces until they fit
together. Vincent had been in her loft several times, and he sometimes
caught glimpses of the horrific images arrayed on that wall.
"Such death and brutality,
Diana," Vincent said. "How do you endure it? To carry that weight upon
yourself, trying to penetrate the minds behind such evil. How do you
bear such darkness alone Diana?"
"Somebody has to, Vincent,"
she said somberly. "And everyone bears their own darkness. Besides, I'm
not alone. Even with all the evils in the world above, I draw the
strength for my work from you... and from this place below."
Diana looked up at him as she
continued. "And sometimes even the world above can produce unexpected
beauty as well, Vincent. Almost a year ago, just before winter took its
final hold on Central Park, I took a walk among the trees. Just to
distance myself from the horror I worked with everyday, and to walk
among open air and living things. But most of the leaves on the trees
were gone. The grass was a dead pale yellow. A gray sky loomed over
everything like a shroud, and I found no comfort for the dark mood
which had taken me. The weight of the city seemed to overwhelm every
bit of life in the park. And behind it all, winter still waited
patiently for its reign. But then I noticed it, in some distant corner,
a tiny flash of color in all that gray. So I walked towards it, and
found one small rosebush still blooming full as if it wasn't the middle
of winter at all. Just some stubborn plant that hadn't fallen to the
cold just yet. There it was right before me, a small handful of
unrepentant roses in a huge gray park, all alone, still waiting for
spring. It seemed... poetic. It touched me. A memory of roses, warmer
times. After a few weeks, the rosebush succumbed to the cold as well,
but the image stayed with me. How that one dash of color had changed my
entire perception of the park. And I knew somewhere deep in the soil
those colors merely waited to bloom again. Somehow that made me feel
As she looked at him, Diana
still saw the sadness of her work reflected in his deep blue eyes, eyes
that seemed to look into her soul.
"Vincent, we've both seen the
evils of the world above. We've both felt its terrors. Sometimes that
evil has even wormed its way into the tunnels. But through all of that
we've also seen the goodness above. Ordinary people unwilling to stop
their kindness or generosity, even when surrounded every day with
apathy and violence. I have to believe they do so out the faith that
there's room for beauty anywhere Vincent. Whether in a harsh city where
a kind act is rare, or with a stubborn rosebush facing winter bravely
and redefining an entire park."
Vincent smiled at her. She
looked at him with such honest concern that he was deeply moved. The
ivory curve of her cheek drew an elegant line against the deep red of
her hair, and he reached out to touch it and ease her fears. "There are
all kinds of roses, Diana. Some offer solace with color, others with
honest words from the heart."
He continued. "Thank you for
never being less than who you are Diana. And always more than I could
wish for." They embraced once more before Diana had to go. Vincent
leaned in to kiss her, stopping with his lips a hair's breadth from her
own. "Will I see you tomorrow night?"
She smiled. "At my loft." And
then Diana kissed him, trying to save that one moment in her heart
until they met again. Vincent held her closer, felt her warmth fill
him. They were two small figures, holding each other among the dirt and
scattered brick walls of the upper tunnels. Then Diana broke their
embrace and turned into the tunnel that led above. She glanced back
once at Vincent, and was gone.
Vincent watched her leave, still filled with the flush of her with him.
He yearned to do something special for Diana tomorrow night. More than
likely Joe would assign her a new case, and Vincent had learned from
experience that a cloud of darkness would envelope her mood. Soon she
would once again be piercing the corners of a murder's mind with her
intuitive abilities, and he would not stand by to let such gloom
consume her. She would need a reminder of her love, and of the people
who loved her. So he decided to search the park tonight, to see if the
roses she had spoken of bloomed again this year. He'd take one up to
her loft, a living counterbalance to her dark work. Smiling to himself,
Vincent rushed back into the tunnels. He had other duties for the day,
but plans full of roses and candles filled his thoughts.
Diana was still aglow when she stepped off the elevator and walked
towards the District Attorney's offices. Before, she had always dreaded
these walks, since she knew inside that she was about to be assigned
yet another gruesome murder case, or tragic, wrenching child abduction.
Today though, she seemed to glide with an airy step, entering through
the double doors into the bustle within the office proper. Serenely she
slipped past swarming workers darting amongst the desks spread
throughout the room. The buzz of ringing phones and frantic voices
filled the air as usual, but Diana moved as if in absolute quiet, her
elegant form a calm center to the whirling hurricane around her. She
watched her surroundings but was unaffected by them, still riding the
last remaining sensations of her time with Vincent. Around her were
furrowed brows, voices filled with anxiety. But amid such worry and
concentration, Diana's face held a far-off smile that silently spoke
One of the workers looked up from her crowded desk and saw Diana
gliding by. She placed a hand to muffle the phone held against her ear
and called out to her. "Diana! Joe's looking for you. He's got someone
waiting to meet you in his office." The woman spared Diana an enigmatic
smile. "You'll never guess who," she said with amusement.
Diana looked over at Joe's office, nestled at the back of the room, but
his office door was shut. Curious, she moved towards it after a
distracted "thanks" to the woman. She didn't noticed the many surprised
conversations slipped in among the normal business around her;
conversations about Joe's visitor.
"Diana!" Exiting his office Joe Maxwell hustled over to her, his face
enigmatic and excited as he crossed the room. He gratefully took hold
of her shoulders.
"You'll never believe what's happened," he said. "Something amazing,
something extraordinary." Joe suddenly noticed her expression, the
happiness radiating from her. "Hey... what's up with you? Got a new man
in your life or something?" he asked grinning.
"Something like that," she said introspectively, her mind envisioning
"Hmm... He looks good on you. Whoever he is, he's a lucky guy. Anyway,
I've got someone who will make your day even better. Someone you got to
see." And with all the excitement of a child at Christmas, he propelled
her towards his office, moving around to open the door for her.
With a laugh back at Joe for his enthusiasm, as she entered she turned
...and in that one second, Diana's world was shattered beyond all
There, sitting calmly in a chair before Joe's desk, was Catherine
Chandler. Afternoon sunlight poured in past Joe's windows, flowing down
over her with a golden light.
"My god..." Diana whispered in despair.
Joe, oblivious to Diana's mood, closed the door behind him and stood
between the two women. With a smile he enjoyed the shock on Diana's
Catherine smoothly rose to her feet and extended her hand.
"You must be Diana Bennett," she said. "Joe's told me so much about
Without realizing it, Diana was shaking Catherine'S hand. The world
seemed to stretch and she felt herself falling into the abyss which
opened before her. Slowly, she looked over at Joe.
"What's going on here..." Diana asked in a weak monotone.
"Diana, I'd like you to meet Catherine Chandler, at last."
Everything seemed to rush into a booming silence for Diana. She felt
paralyzed, a hint of coming tears, starting to glitter in her eyes. Her
face remained empty, like a mask.
"Catherine..." she whispered.
Catherine smiled at Diana. "The reports of my death have been greatly
exaggerated," she joked.
"How..." Diana stuttered.
"She's been in protective custody for years after her death was faked.
Our doctor on the inside misjudged the dose before he was killed. Put
her in a coma. She lost most of her memories because of it, but she's
alive and well. Pretty amazing, huh?" Joe said, smiling.
"I understand you were assigned to investigate my murder, Diana."
Catherine spoke with genuine gratitude. "I appreciate all your efforts
on my behalf."
Diana stood silent, her gaze despondently fixed on Catherine.
Joe and Catherine began to sense her strange reaction, and they both
shared a glance at each other, confused.
Joe moved over to her with concern. "Diana... what's wrong?"
Diana looked over at him, her eyes flooded with tears. She hardly moved
as she replied.
"Everything." she whispered.
Without another word, she turned in a daze and slowly left Joe's office.
Catherine blinked at Joe.
"Did I do something wrong?"
Diana watched herself walking forward as if she were only a spectator.
Slowly, her dazed footsteps built momentum like a wave breaking. She
moved faster and faster through the outer office space, until she found
herself running, the workers and desks speeding past in a blur all
around. Some looked at her curious about her distress. Then Diana was
through the double doors and out into the quiet of the hall, leaving
the noise and bustle behind her. But the chaos within her however,
still danced inside her head.
Approaching down the hallway, a stranger in a suit slowed, seeing the
tears covering her face. Diana quickly looked around and darted into a
nearby woman's restroom.
The restroom was empty. Its clean white surfaces echoed with the sounds
of her entering, with her despairing sobbing. Diana closed her eyes,
leaning her back against a wall, trying to make sense of what it all
meant. Catherine Chandler... the love of Vincent's life, was still
alive. She had to tell him. She couldn't not tell him, even both of
them had moved on with their lives, the two of them together finally,
after all the pain and sorrow had faded. Vincent needed to know.
Without a doubt, Diana knew he loved her. She was certain of that. But
she was not so certain that couldn't change. Through her tears, the
world was a maze, and she felt caught, alone in the bathroom. Diana
couldn't bring herself to leave, to rush down below to tell Vincent.
She felt her back slide down the wall until she crouched on the floor,
weeping as she dropped her head onto her raised knees. Her arms wrapped
around them as if trying to block out the world. Her soft sobbing
echoed gently through the quiet bathroom.
Vincent was filled with wonder. As he helped the children move supplies
from the helpers above, walking through the tunnels, his blue eyes took
in every rock and corner, every flickering candle or torch. He couldn't
explain it. It was as if he were viewing the world through fresh eyes.
Every expanse and vista that opened up before him as he walked seemed
alive and new, as if he had never seen them before. He even felt a
little fear at being in new surroundings, which mystified him since he
had lived in the tunnels all his life. he couldn't explain where those
sensations came from, as if he were up somewhere high, but he felt
them, deeply. Vincent had suspected his new life with Diana to give him
fresh perspective, but he hadn't expected such a dramatic change.
Father waited up ahead, a torch in one hand and his cane in the other.
The children said hello to him as they filed past, each carrying
armfuls of food and clothing. Vincent felt content as he walked up to
"The helpers seem to have done well, Vincent." Father said. "It is a
most generous bounty they have provided us."
"The helpers have always been there when we needed them." Vincent still
gazed around himself, taking in every detail. "They are all very good
friends, with giving hearts who wouldn't abandon us."
"Yes, but sometimes friends grow apart, Vincent. It can be difficult,
sometimes, to be concerned with us down here when they have concerns of
their own above. We should always be grateful for whatever help they
"They're inspired by your own generosity, Father. You've never faltered
in your faith in others, and neither will they. You're too good a
teacher." Vincent reached out and held the old man's shoulder.
Father smiled, and noticed Vincent still looking everywhere.
"Have you lost something, Vincent?"
"No. But perhaps, I've found something."
"You seem changed somehow. Diana seems to have done you some good."
Vincent looked at Father. "Of that, I have no doubt. Everything seems
new to me, Father. As if I'm experiencing it for the first time. Even
the most familiar sights are bright and alive. It is a strange
"Love's eyes can do that sometimes, Vincent. I still remember being
with Margaret years ago. I'd never seen a sky so blue."
"But there are other feelings as well. Awkwardness. Excitement.
Contentment. They come at me at any time, even when I'm not with Diana.
Seemingly out of nowhere."
"Every relationship is different, Vincent. The interplay of hope, fear,
love, longing. Unique to those involved. If your love for Diana
provides you with fresh perspective, accept it as the gift it is."
"Of course, Father. I cherish any gift Diana gives."
"Come now, Vincent. The children are getting a lead on us."
Vincent placed his hand on father's back as they followed the children.
Together they walked down the tunnel when suddenly Vincent was filled
with a sense of concern, confusion, as if he had hurt someone
unknowingly. Strange, he thought to himself, where did that come from?
Diana's loft was dark, -just as Vincent had expected. Diana had told
him last week that tonight was the night of her niece's middle school
concert. Vincent hadn't planned on finding her home. But still, he
hadn't heard from her in days. It was strange. Diana never seemed to
return home since their last time together either. He looked through
the large panes of glass that looked down onto her living room. he
stood on a small roof balcony outside, the outer edge lined by waist
high brick walls. Skyscrapers loomed all around, most of their windows
dark as well. The misty night sky was soft and gray from the myriad
lights of New York. Vincent regretted the light pollution blocking out
the stars, especially here surrounded on Diana's loft by urban
buildings and streetlights. He listened to the sound of unseen cars
below as slim breeze wafted over the roof. A siren wailed plaintively
in the far distance. He pulled in the patchwork leather coat he wore
tighter against the chill, waiting.
Nearby were the iron metal chairs that he and Diana had occasionally
used. A small table stood between them, where the two of them would
come up to share the night air, and each other's company. Vincent
didn't often go down into her loft. He felt somehow vulnerable in
places where he couldn't make a quick escape if he were discovered.
Until recently, anyway. It had taken some time to become comfortable
inside. And since Diana's loft was only accessible by an old freight
elevator, he had felt safe that no one would casually walk in.
But tonight, he had simply come just to be near something of hers.
Everything about that loft reminded him of Diana. Her style, her voice
seemed to echo off the walls even though she was not there. Vincent
hoped he would finally see her again soon, perhaps tomorrow night. Then
he realized, that he had hoped that she would have been there tonight
after all. As he stood there, he remembered the solace he had drawn
from the roses in the park. She could use some of those roses in her
loft in the coming days. Vincent could just make out the drawn back
curtain in the loft below, exposing an empty brick wall, waiting for
the gruesome new case file pictures they would surely have again. In
that moment, he decided to go into the park, to see if perhaps the
roses were blooming again. Moving like a shadow, he left Diana's
Central Park stretched dark before Vincent, but it held no fear for
him. He often wandered the dark streets of New York, and had become
adept at avoiding contact with the many others who roamed the night,
for reasons of their own. Sometimes he would see a couple, walking
together through the crisp winter air, as he merely watched from the
shadows. Other forms, more sinister, also walked through those dark
places. thugs looking for easy targets. People who enjoyed hurting
other people, like holes in the night. He always watched them intently,
his eyes keenly adapted to viewing in the darkness. They would usually
cross back into the city streets, having found no suitable victims.
Vincent did his best to protect anyone in the park, but he had learned
long ago that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't be everywhere.
It was a painful wound, that most people above learned to live with in
their own way, carrying it like a scar. That sometimes, bad things just
happened. It was a scar Vincent shared with them, one he hoped he would
never grow to forget, because that would mean he no longer cared.
Quietly, he moved among the trees, steering clear of the walkways and
slinking behind every bush. His face was covered within the hood of his
dark cloak. Here, when he looked up he could see the stars somewhat.
Over the branches to either side, skyscrapers still poked their tops
into the sky, distant and glittering in the night. Vincent loved that
pocket of nature, a refuge of living things the park provided,
especially for him. He had never dared travel outside of the city. In
the tunnels far below, he had read of exotic places in poems and
stories, strange lands full of beauty and wonder. It filled him with
the yearning to see them, to breathe there. It was a yearning he knew
he could never pursue, looking as he did. Still, walking under the
trees he could feel himself in those distant places, far beyond the
tunnels where he lived. And looking up at the stars, he could almost
imagine himself in another time, a time where he could walk openly
among the people around him.
Vincent continued to search through the park for any hint of a
rosebush. Then suddenly he was filled with a strange sensation, a
feeling of himself ascending, in some closed space, that he couldn't
explain. Then he saw it in the dark, a rosebush in a far corner. He
moved towards the dormant plant, and was surprised to find many buds
blooming a deep red. It was strange for roses to bloom in December, and
it seemed a miracle that they did. The warm day must have fooled the
plants into believing it was spring again. He reached down, to take a
few blossoms for Diana. As he held two of the red buds, he thought of
telling her that roses still bloomed in the park, in defiance of all
logic, as a reminder of the beauty that could still be found in winter.
And then again, Vincent got the sensation of himself above the park,
and he looked up. There, looming just in sight, was Catherine's old
building. It was an elegant, upscale apartment structure, a doorman
waiting patiently up front. His eyes rose upward to where he could just
see her darkened balcony. Vincent smiled to himself. Perhaps the roses
were a gift from Catherine somehow. An effort to support him in his
life with Diana. Vincent's mind filled with memories of being on that
high balcony with Catherine, as they looked out over the park.
Then as he watched, the lights in the apartment beyond turned on, a
small, distant star that hung over the park. Vincent was curious,
someone was living there again. Again, strange sensations washed over
him of someone near, contentment, growing familiarity, sensations he
couldn't place. His curiosity got the better of him, and he moved
silently towards the building.
Soft music floated through Catherine's apartment as she laughed. Joe
smiled as he sat across from her, trying to keep from laughing himself
as he told his tale.
"So then, Ben comes over to me and tells me the deposition for some
Rollins case or other had been moved up to three o'clock. And me, being
so caught up and flustered by yet another last minute change in
scheduling that I had no chance to prepare for, automatically believed
They both held glasses of wine in their hands, relaxing into soft
couches across form each other. Outside, past the open balcony doors,
the dark night air seemed to stretch forever. Together, the two of them
sat in a private haven. Catherine had lit candles all around the room,
and they flickered in her eyes. Joe watched her with amazement as he
spoke, not certain he could be as centered and content as she was after
all she had been through.
"So finally," Joe continued, "when I was about to totally lose it, you
came up to me with another case file and in a completely off hand sort
of remark, told me straight faced that there was no John Rollins, that
he had never existed, and that the whole case was bogus. After which
you quickly vacated my office of course."
Catherine beamed. "I did that?" she asked.
"Oh yeah. All the somersaults and hoops I tried to jump through to get
this guy deposed, only to find that you and the rest of my staff had
completely made him up. I didn't know whether to laugh or scream."
"What did you do?"
Joe looked at her. "I laughed. A lot. Too much even. Because I needed
it. And somehow, you seemed to know I needed it too."
Catherine tried to hold her giggles in check.
"We all need laughter sometimes, Joe."
"Absolutely. And you helped a lot of people with things like that. You
were really great Cathy. With the job, with us, everything. Everyone in
the office liked you. At first we were prepared not to. Some rich man's
daughter who quit her cushy corporate job to come rushing in to our
office. Probably out of whimsy, or boredom, or rebellion. Or naive
idealism, trying to save the world. With no real intention of doing the
actual work. Didn't take us long to realize you weren't like that at
all. You were there because you cared. You carried your own. And more."
"Those sound like good times. I wish I could remember them."
"They weren't all good. Some of the cases got a little rough. Well...
considering what you've been through, what happened to you, I'm sure
you realize that. It's hard, taxing work. Full of thankless hours and
unforgiving deadlines. Are you sure you want to come back?"
"Without a doubt," she said. "I still feel that I belong there, where I
can help people. Even without my memories, I'm still the same person
inside. The experiences, the drives that led me to your office in the
first place are still part of me, even if I'm not conscious of them.
And whoever it was who inspired me to try and make the world above a
better place, that's still important to me."
"Above?" Joe asked. "Above what? Is that some sort of Ratcliff humor?"
"I... I don't know," she said, a little confused. "I don't know why I
said that. I do still remember Ratcliff though. All that tedious study
is burned into my brain." Catherine spoke with a smile.
"That's the way we like it." Joe laughed.
"I remember more about case law than my own life. But I can still do
the work, Joe. And I'd like to come back."
"We'd love to have you, Cathy. As soon as you're ready."
Joe checked his watch.
"It's getting late. I have to go. I've got a deposition in the morning."
"Who, John Rollins?"
Joe laughed. "Sure. John Rollins..."
They both rose and placed their wine glasses on the table. Catherine
walked him to her door.
"Thank you for dinner, Joe. I had a wonderful time. We should do this
"Sure, Cathy. Anytime." Joe slipped his jacket on over his shoulders,
preparing for the cold air outside.
"Joe, I do have one question... Why haven't you tried to kiss me?"
Catherine looked warmly into his eyes.
He gazed at her for a moment, entranced by her beauty, her openness.
"I... don't want to rush anything, Cathy."
"Look, Joe," Catherine said in a level tone. "I'm not in need of some
sort of protection. I'm a big girl, and I know what I'm doing. Just
because I've lost some memories, doesn't me I can't decide things for
Catherine smiled at him as she subtly moved closer. "I went out to
dinner with you because I wanted to. Not out of some old sense of the
past.. And anyway. It's not a crime to kiss me..."
She moved closer still, her lips inches from his as she whispered.
"Besides, it could lead to something new. Would that be so horrible?"
"No," Joe said. "Not horrible at all."
Their lips crossed that last thin space between them and finally
touched, softly. Suddenly their arms held each other, and they stood
there, melting deeply into the kiss.
After several moments they separated, each caught in the new emotions
flooding through them. Catherine smiled at him, as Joe clumsily
adjusted his coat. "Well, I better go. I'll call you tomorrow."
"Till tomorrow," she replied.
Catherine quietly closed the door behind Joe as he left, turning to
lean her back against it with a contented smile on her face. It had
been a wonderful evening, and she felt alive, exploring the
possibilities of a new life. Surely she had been attracted to Joe on
some level before, she thought. Why wouldn't she? He was handsome in
his own way, and she enjoyed his company. Had she been with someone
else? Was that the reason? Regardless, if memories returned of a
previous attraction to Joe, fine. If not, then just as well. It just
meant she was starting over with a new life after all.
Catherine effortlessly moved around her apartment, blowing out the
glowing flame atop each lit candle, leaving fragile wisps of rising
smoke behind. her finger pressed the lit power button on her stereo as
she passed, suddenly filling the still air with silence. The warm flush
of Joe's kiss still held her in the quiet of her apartment, so she
moved towards her open, balcony doors, where the city of New York
Gracefully, she stepped onto the darkened balcony, light flowing
outward behind her as she silently swung the doors further apart. Still
smiling, she glided over to the balcony wall and looked down at the
darkened park. It was a perfect night, with only a touch of winter in
the night air. Catherine calmly soaked in all of New York, the
sparkling buildings lighting up the night sky all around her. Far below
was the soothing hum of traffic. She could make a new life here. She
was certain of it. She felt safe, beyond measure.
Then she saw the shadow, and a chill filled her.
Someone was standing there, watching her, unseen on her balcony.
Catherine tried hard not to scream at the apparition in the shadow of
her balcony, her bewildered eyes trying to pierce the darkness of the
strange outline watching her. She knew she should be calling for help
and running out of her front door. Or perhaps fighting for her life.
But something unknown, something undefined held her there, alone, as
the distant sounds and lights of New York wafted up onto her quiet
balcony. She felt it, something inside her. Almost like a distant
memory or forgotten dream. Steeling herself, Catherine stood her
ground, realizing she was not a woman who ran away, not anymore.
A soft whisper, full of warmth, flowed over her.
"I mean you no harm...
She tilted her head, curious.
His voice sounded almost as scared as she was.
"How do you know my name,"
The hooded figure bowed his
head, and it seemed a wave of sadness washed over her like a winter
breeze. But then it passed, and he looked at her, his eyes still hidden
in his cloak. She could hear longing, and a tint of new joy,
rediscovered in his voice as he continued softly.
"That is a long story. One
you used to know. Do you not remember it?"
"No," she said, feeling less
afraid. "I don't even know who you are."
The shadow turned his head,
looking out over the city.
"Then I will remember for the
both of us. I could tell you, if you wish."
Her curiosity held. "What is
She blinked when she heard
that name. "Vincent..." whispered delicately past her lips.
His voice sounded like it was
amazed, rumbling with quiet wonder. "I have trouble accepting... that
this can be real. That I'm not dreaming again, after so long. To find
you here... is miraculous, Catherine."
"You knew me from before,"
she said, almost completely past her previous fear. It felt insane
inside her, but she trusted him, felt comfortable, home. Slowly, she
seated herself in an outdoor chair, still making certain she didn't
move any closer.
"Yes," he said. His voice was
mesmerizing to her, a low, whispery sound, full of warmth and
compassion. Catherine had never heard anything like it. She watched
him, watched the way he moved. There was a tenderness in his bearing as
he spoke to her, such that she could almost see what he was feeling,
and almost feel it herself. She felt his moments of pain at her
questions, at her lack of recognition.
"Do you have no memory of me
at all?" he asked.
"No..." she said. "But Joe
has told me of you."
Vincent seemed surprised.
"Joe Maxwell? What has he said?"
"He said there was a Vincent
I knew from before, whom they never found. He thinks you brought me
here, after I was left for dead. Was that you?"
"Yes... You did know me...
Once. We spent much time together, here, on this balcony."
"Only here? Why did no one
else know you. Was there nowhere else we went?"
She sensed he was holding
something back. "Nowhere else..."
"How did you know I had come
"I saw your
light... I was curious. But now I realize, I felt you near... We have a
connection, Catherine. A connection I thought I had lost forever."
Catherine sensed he knew much
about her previous life. "Tell me," she said.
Vincent looked at her, the
wonder still evident in him even in the shadows. His soft, elegant
"We spent time together here. You were injured, many years ago, and
left in the park. Cut. Bleeding. I took you to my father, to heal your
wounds. He is a doctor. Then I brought you back. We were together her.
We read stories to each other. On this very balcony. Do you remember
Catherine suddenly smiled,
one particular memory surfacing. She felt Vincent rejoice beside her,
as if he knew what she was feeling.
"I saw no shadow of another,
parted from her," Catherine recited.
They looked at each other and
together Vincent and Catherine shared a moment of warmth in remembrance.
Then there was a knock at the
Catherine turned her head and
looked into her apartment. She heard the sound of quiet movements and
looked back towards Vincent, catching the swirl of the trailing edge of
his cloak as it disappeared onto the roof. Neither of them saw the
small red laser light that darted across Vincent's back.
"Vincent!" she cried, moving
forward to call him back, but he was gone. She stared in wonder at the
edge of her roof, amazed he had moved so fats and unexpectedly. There
was another soft knock on her door. With another look upward, she re
entered her apartment.
Joe Maxwell stood behind her
front door when she opened it.
"I'm sorry, Cathy. Did I wake you? I made it all the way to my car
before I realized that I forgot my keys. Guess I was distracted," Joe
smiled, until he noticed Catherine's expression. "Are you alright?
"Vincent was here," she said.
"Here? Where?" Joe became immediately concerned, and rushing in,
started searching through her apartment for intruders.
"No, Joe. He's gone now. He was on my balcony."
The two of them stepped quickly outside into the shadows of the night
air. Then Joe looked at her.
"Where did he go? I didn't see anyone in the hall."
"He left," Catherine explained. "Via the roof."
"The roof?" Joe looked up, amazed. "Guy must be an acrobat to try that."
"He was standing right here, Joe. In the dark when I came out. We spoke
to each other for a minute before you came. Then he ran away."
"More like flew away. Did you see him? What did he look like?" Joe
"I don't know... It was dark. I don't think he meant me any harm."
"Well, at any rate my office has a lot of questions for Vincent if we
ever get a hold of him."
Far across the park, a man watched Catherine's balcony through a high
zoom video camera and night vision. He watched the shadow of Vincent
dart across the roof and into an access hatch.
"Subject is on the move. Capture teams, are you in your positions?
He's on his way down."
"Affirm. He can't leave the building without being seen.""
Vincent quickly descended through the dark innards of the building's
elevator shaft, his mind still swimming with the shock of his
conversation with Catherine. She was still alive, he had sensed her
feelings for days and not known it. And then, Vincent felt his heart
empty. He was a stranger to her. The fear she had felt upon seeing him,
as nothing more than a shadowy intruder, had ripped through his
emotions beyond measure, bringing up memories of a mirror thrown at his
face, all over again.
Suddenly, he felt someone below. Without knowing how, he paused with
the knowledge that there was a man, a stranger, watching, waiting in
the shadows. If he listened, he could almost hear him breathing.
Vincent's body tensed, at last realizing that he was being hunted.
Far below, on the shadowed roof of the motionless elevator, a man
waited, his eyes covered by low light goggles. Carefully, he scanned
the elevator shaft above, but found nothing. Gloved fingers gripped the
dart gun he held, squeezing ever tighter. A strap with a compact
automatic weapon hung against his hip. The black metal of a silencer
protruded from the small rifle's muzzle. If things got ugly, it paid to
be prepared. And in the man's mind, he knew that if he had to kill the
subject, it was all the same to him. It was only a matter of time.
Vincent hid as best as he could, glancing down the dark shaft. Then he
looked all around him, searching for an escape. Closed elevator doors
lead to another floor of the apartment building. Not knowing what lay
beyond them, Vincent hesitated. he would be seen, cornered in those
bright hallways. And he could feel seconds ticking away, knowing the
man must have seen him by now, and not acted yet. As he hung there,
Vincent thought quickly, a dozen floors from the elevator shaft's
bottom. The man still waited below. They must want him alive. At this
height, a fall down the shaft could kill him. They were waiting for him
to get lower. He knew it was a they, felt it now. And he knew they were
about to be disappointed. Quickly, Vincent began climbing back up the
way he came.
The man below saw his target pause, as if sensing something. With a
silent curse, he pulled the dart rifle sight to his cheek and aimed
upward, just as they shadowy figure began climbing upward along the
cables. Without hesitation, he pulled the trigger. A whispery puff
bounced his muzzle back as the dart sped away.
Vincent felt something unseen brush his cheek as a loud metal clang
sounded over his head. Looking up, he saw a metal dart imbedded in a
junction box. He climbed even faster.
Below him the man reloaded his gun, pausing only long enough to hit the
top of the elevator cab twice with his fist. At that signal, his
partner in the elevator compartment itself pushed a button for the top
floor, and it began to rise, following Vincent.
The cable Vincent clung to began to descend, as others moved upward
past him. he was moving downward as the elevator came up. He knew that
any second now another dart would lance out, trying to pierce him.
Holding his breath, Vincent pushed off of the descending cable,
flinging himself into mid air, across the gap and onto the rising
cable. His balance faltered on impact and he almost lost his grip,
holding on with one hand before stabilizing himself. A puff of concrete
erupted from the hard elevator shaft wall where he had just been, and
he heard another errant dart bounce its way back down to his attacker.
He began climbing again, moving even faster on the rising cable. With a
final, desperate lunge he was in the machinery at the top of the shaft,
darting towards the opening to the roof.
"This is Sentry 7, target has evaded. Target has evaded. He's back
on the roof. All units move in."
Vincent ran back into the night air, his heart pounding. He was trapped
on the darkened rooftop, pursuers only seconds away. He moved forward
to the edge, but heard voices. Joe and Catherine talking on her
balcony. Fighting the urge to return to her, he darted in another
direction, seeing a different darkened balcony below, unused. He
dropped down just as he heard the rooftop door slam open behind, as
several dark figures swarmed through.
They quickly fanned out in an increasing semicircle across the rooftop,
all outfitted with dart guns and automatic weapons on their hips.
Searching behind every vent or machine, they saw nothing.
"ALL units, this is Watcher. South side! South side!! Descending."
Without any need for acknowledgment on their radios, the figures as a
coordinated whole moved silently in the direction the distant watcher
described. The point man of the group looked down over the edge, seeing
Vincent below, a shadow clinging to a small outcropping as he slowly
made his way down the building's exterior. The passing headlights of
cars were visible on the street far below him.
"CONTROL, we don't have a clear dart shot. Request we upgrade force
"Affirm. Take him. By any means."
As one, the figures on the roof shouldered their dart guns as they
pulled their automatics forward. The man on point motioned with his
fingers, and two men darted back, going through the rooftop door. The
point man keyed his radio.
"Ground units, be advised. He's coming down to you."
The man leaned out over the edge for only a split second, quickly
scanning the empty balcony before pulling back. Seeing it clear,
without hesitation he dropped down onto it.
Vincent was scared almost beyond reason. His powerful hands gripped the
buildings outcropping as he clung to the side a dozen floors above the
street. The wind was cold. His breath came faster and faster, and his
senses seemed to rev into hyper sensitivity. Above him he could hear
soft scrapes, someone moving on the balcony he just left. And then the
brick wall erupted around him as a sharp searing pain tore into his
shoulder. Debris clattered downward against the building's side.
Vincent's already dazed mind suddenly saw the bullet holes in a line
across the wall. He then realized he had been hit, one of those holes
was in his shoulder. Blood poured down his side.
Joe and Catherine still stood on her balcony as they talked. Suddenly
they heard a staccato series of pulses, and the sound of pebbles
falling. A man cried out in pain.
"What was that?" Catherine asked.
"I don't know... It almost sounded like weapons fire." Joe walked to
the far corner of the balcony and leaned out, looking in the direction
the sound had come. He saw a shadowy figure on the next balcony turn
and point something at him.
Joe barely had time to drop prone to the ground as bullets suddenly
sparked and exploded across Catherine's balcony. He pushed himself to
sit against Catherine's balcony wall for cover, as Catherine darted
into her apartment, glass shattering behind her.
"Christ!" Joe cursed out loud as another volley erupted over his head.
Then there was silence.
Catherine called out from inside. "Joe! Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Get on the phone, call the police!"
He sat there, unwilling to move. Then he crawled across the broken
glass and into Catherine's apartment, muttering to himself.
"What the hell's going on
Vincent ignored the pain in his shoulder as he tried to climb sideways,
shifting to get under the balcony the shooter was firing from. He heard
two more soft bursts of gunfire, but they weren't directed at him.
Hidden, blocked underneath the balcony now, he looked around as he
clung to the side of the building. A dark window faced him, an
apparently empty apartment within. With a low growl, he punched his
clawed hand through the window, letting out a beast like roar in pain
from his wounds. Knocking away the glass, it fell far below him as he
cleared a larger opening for himself before crawling into the shadows
Catherine paused as she spoke on the phone, rushing over to Joe to help
him off the floor. Together they leaned on an interior wall as far from
the balcony as possible. A tiny cut bled on Joe's forehead, where some
stone shrapnel had clipped him. Catherine held the phone receiver to
her neck as she spoke.
"The police are on their way,
"Okay," he breathed. "Stay on the line."
Vincent leaned on a plush chair in the darkened apartment a few floors
down. He moved away, not realizing that he left a stain of blood
behind. There were more people hunting him than he expected, and they
seemed to be following his movements very well. He blended into the
shadows by the front door, waiting for the someone he knew would follow.
Steps thumped outside, then several seconds of silence. Scrapes were
heard as something opened the lock. The doorknob slowly turned and the
door swung open, silent, filling the dark with a shaft of light.
Looking down, Vincent searched for a shadow on the carpeted where the
light was falling, but he found none. He held his breath. A small red
dot appeared on the far wall, then another. The two lights swept the
room in opposite directions .Vincent remained motionless behind the
door, still watching the floor for motion.
Then he saw it there, the dark outline of a figure entering the
apartment, a small, lethal gun shadowed in his hands. Vincent tensed,
waiting for the right moment. The figure was almost inside.
Without warning Vincent ripped through the door he hid behind and tore
open the man's throat with a blurred swipe, ducking down behind the
door as a stream of bluets from the second man in the hallway rippled
through the wood. Finally, the first man dropped like a stone. There
was silence again as the second man waited outside. Without a sound
Vincent moved to the opposite wall of the doorway, giving him partial
cover from the gunman's line of sight. He glared out into the brightly
lit hallway, and saw nearby a corner, opposite the still concealed
shooter. He waited for the second gunman to make his move.
He heard a step, and saw the forward end of the gun muzzle begin to
enter the apartment. Vincent slammed down on the gun with all his
might, roaring loudly as he suddenly leapt outwards, sprinting for the
corner he had seen as the gunman tripped to the hallway floor. Vincent
was followed along the wall by weapons fire from a third gunman he
In desperate flight, Vincent ran down the brightly lit halls. Footsteps
pounded behind him. he turned another corner and found the hallway dead
ended after a short distance. A window looked down on a sub roof one
level below. Behind him the footsteps grew louder. Vincent started
towards the window at a full run, not stopping. He crashed through, and
found himself in mid-air, glass shards and his cloak billowing around
him. Then he hit the rooftop below, sliding to a stop in a rain of
debris. Two gunman appeared in the wrecked window above and immediately
Bullets sparked all around him as Vincent ran for the edge of the roof.
His jumbled sight saw a metal emergency staircase on the building
across a harrowing gap, just slightly below. realizing he no longer had
a choice, he jumped at a full run, his heart in his throat as he felt
the chasm beneath him. Then he slammed into the hard iron of the
emergency staircase, pain cutting through his body. He began to slide
off, his feet dangling above the alley below, but he pulled himself up
onto the stairs .Quickly, he darted downwards, moving lower, flight
after flight, as distant police sirens grew closer.
They were waiting down below, he knew. It was all too well planned. So
he climbed onto another small sub roof on the new building and
clambered down an access shaft, hoping they weren't in all the
surrounding buildings as well. Vincent had grown up moving in the
night, traveling unseen from alleyway to alleyway, rooftop to rooftop.
He knew of a hidden passage in this building that led to the tunnels
A hatch was kicked open and Vincent fell out. He was in a basement.
Pausing for a second, breathing heavily, he saw red and blue lights
flashing from police cars through the hazy street level windows near
the ceiling. More sirens screamed in the distance. Quickly, Vincent
darted into a hidden corner, opening a concealed hatch and disappearing
into the tunnels beyond.
After a few minutes of running, Vincent paused in the tunnels to catch
his breath. The wounds in his shoulder began to burn. Cuts and bruises
peppered his body with pain. Vincent swooned, sweat and dirt caked with
the blood on his shoulder. Slowly, he stumbled in a daze towards home.
He didn't notice the small red rose he had picked for Diana fall from
where he had saved it in a pocket within his cloak, It fell onto the
dust, a few petals crushed loose from all Vincent had done to escape.
It lay ignored on the floor, as Vincent walked away, disappearing
into the shadows.
Diana felt unexplainably cold. She crossed silently over the
underground threshold beneath her building, entering the twisting maze
of dusty tunnels beyond. Her face was bare and emotionless as she
strode forward, the coldness inside her settling into the pit of her
stomach. Dread filled her as she thought of what was coming.
She had been alone for days, away from her loft, away from everyone,
since meeting Catherine Chandler. She hadn't been home, knowing Vincent
could find her there. All because she felt lost. But she also knew she
couldn't run forever. She had to tell him, that was why she finally had
come down to the tunnels. Fearfully, she imagined the consequences to
her life, to Vincent's life, but resolutely, she continued, knowing it
was what she had to do, pushing past the despair inside her that didn't
seem to want to leave.
Around her as she walked, the passages were silent. Empty. They held
none of the feelings of warmth and family that she was accustomed to
when she entered Vincent's world. Rock walls and dusty floors stretched
before her, barren and accusing. Diana had never felt so alone in her
As she made her way deeper in, each step began to seem like an
eternity. Candles began to appear more abundantly as she entered the
more populous areas. Some of those who lived below watched her pass
with concerned looks on their faces when they saw her grim expression.
All of Down Below seemed somber and muted, as if they already knew what
was going to happen.
Some small part of Diana still held onto hope. Vincent loved her. She
was certain of it. He had moved on. Catherine Chandler being alive
couldn't sever what they had together. Vincent would relish Catherine's
return, would rejoice that perhaps now Jacob would finally be given a
chance to know his mother. But in the end Vincent would come back to
her, to the love he and Diana shared.
If only she were certain that were true.
She paused for only a moment, trying to compose herself as she closed
her eyes. Then she walked straight into Father's library, but it was
empty. Looking around, she called out.
"Vincent! Are you here? Vincent, I need to talk to you!"
Only her echoes answered her. It wa strange for the tunnels to be so
empty. Diana stood there alone, wondering what to do. She decided to go
to Vincent's bed chamber. Maybe he was there.
Suddenly there was the sound of running feet approaching, thumping in
the tunnel outside. As Diana turned towards the entrance, she saw a
young woman sprint past it, her face lined with worry but not stopping.
Diana sped out after her, calling out.
"Jamie! Have you seen Vincent?"
Jaime stopped and turned, surprised to see Diana in the tunnel behind
her. "Diana! We've been looking for you. Haven't you heard? Vincent's
been hurt. Shot. Father's with him now in the medical chamber. Come
Although she wouldn't have believed it a few seconds earlier, Diana
suddenly realized that things still could get worse than she thought
they were. A larger fear eclipsed her previous concerns, pushing them
aside. She looked desperately into Jamie's eyes.
"Please, lead me to him, Jamie!"
"This way! Follow me." With that Jamie sped off, Diana running right
Vincent sat upright in the medical chamber on what they used as an
examination table as Father tended him. Dressed in surgeons garments at
least forty years out of date, Father worked on the wounds in Vincent's
back. The tools he used were as antiquated as his clothing, hold-overs
of when he worked as a doctor in the world above. Holding a pair of
surgical pincers, he delicately probed one of Vincent's wounds. The
pincers bloodied points finally pulled back, grasping a crushed bullet
that had been lodged in Vincent's shoulder. Vincent's face tightened in
pain, his grimace revealing the tiniest bit of fang between his lips.
With a thud, Father dropped the bloody bullet onto a metal plate beside
Several of those who lived below watched from the doorway, clustered
tightly around the chamber opening. They ahd all known Vincent for
longer than most of them could remember, and the concern they felt
showed plainly on their faces as they saw him in pain. Still, they ahd
seen on several occasions that father was an expert physician, even
with his limited supplies. They knew he would do everything he could.
Softly picking up a bundle of sterile, white gauze with another
pincers, Father dabbed at the wound to soak up some of the blood. Mary
came to assist him as she always did, carrying long, clean bandages.
Together, she and Father began to wrap the white strips tight over
"You should be alright now," Father said. "I've removed all the bullets
and sutured the more... serious injuries. The rest will be left to your
remarkable, recuperative powers."
Vincent replied with a stifled gasp.
"Thank you, Father."
As he pushed his equipment aside, Father began to remove the surgical
gown he wore, its surface marred with small smears of Vincent's blood.
"Perhaps now you can tell me what happened to you, Vincent. If you he
The crowd behind them parted, and Diana darted into the chamber, Jamie
following behind. Diana immediately rushed to Vincent's side, her
lovely face for wrinkled with worry as she looked over his
bandages and wounds. Vincent reached out and held her with his
uninjured arm, and she collapsed against him, trying her best not to
his injuries. Hoping to keep most of the fear out of her voice,
she whispered into his neck, relieved to see him alive.
"Thank god you're okay, Vincent. What happened?"
"Diana," Vincent said, his body seemingly drawing strength from saying
her name. He leaned his head against hers.
"I'm pleased that you are here, Diana." His voice was full of warmth.
"Who did this to you?" she asked.
"There are so many things to tell. I do not know where to start."
"Vincent, please. Tell me."
"I've seen Catherine. She's alive."
A stricken look crossed Diana's face.
Behind her, Father wasn't sure what he had heard. "What?" he asked
Vincent seemed distracted, voice full of wonder. "I don't know how, but
Catherine is alive. At first I merely sensed her, not realizing... I
was drawn to her balcony. And then... she was there. I would never have
imagined it. Never have dreamed. It was her. I spoke with her."
"Vincent..." Father began, as he checked Vincent's forehead for fever,
"you have just gone through a severe physical trauma, you must have
"He's not hallucinating..."
Diana's soft words seemed small, broken as she interrupted Father.
Quietly, she pulled away from Vincent's arm. Vincent looked at her,
grateful for her support of what he had said. But as he looked at the
expression on her face... he saw it, saw the knowledge in her eyes.
Surprise and shock blossomed across his features.
"You... knew." he said in disbelief.
"Yes." She replied simply, her spirit crashing.
"How long have you known?"
"Three days..." Diana's heart seemed empty inside.
Father felt the tension building between Vincent and Diana, and sensed
what to do, turning to those watching behind. "Come, everyone. Vincent
needs his rest. Let's leave him alone with Diana."
With shocked looks, all the others filed out of the medical chamber,
leaving Vincent and Diana to gaze at each other in awkward silence as a
myriad of emotions tumbled through them, unspoken.
"Diana..." Vincent began, but was unable to continue.
She looked stricken, her face covered with regret. Gathering herself,
she took a deep breath, loud in the tensed air. "I was called into a
meeting in Joe Maxwell's office three days ago. Catherine was there. I
hadn't expected it, I thought she was dead too. Vincent, I... I didn't
know how to handle it. I didn't know what to do. So I ran. I left Joe's
office and haven't been back there since."
Vincent tried to make sense of what she was saying, and what it meant.
"You knew it was truly her..."
"Yes. They explained to me how she lost her memory from an overdose.
How fearing for her life, she was kept secretly, a witness. One they
never used, since her memory never came back. And yes, they assured me
she was actually Catherine."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I don't know."
"These past few days, you knew and didn't tell me..."
"Vincent, I'm sorry, I--"
"You didn't tell Jacob his mother was alive."
"I was going to. I promise. It's just--"
"You lied to me." Vincent's words were soft, brimming with hurt, anger.
That statement shocked Diana into silence. her eyes glittered as she
stared disbelieving at Vincent. "I can't believe you think that."
"It's true, isn't it?"
"Vincent, she's lost all her memories. She knows nothing of you, of
this place. I... I didn't know how you would react."
"Did you fear that seeing me would make her remember?"
He looked at her. "Make me remember."
"No, Vincent. That's not it."
"Ask yourself truthfully, Diana. You tried to keep her from me. Afraid
of what might happen if I saw her again."
"I didn't want to see you hurt, Vincent. How do you think she would
react to you as a complete stranger again? Having lost all those
previous feelings she had for you? The first time she saw you, she
threw a metal plate at you! I was trying to protect you."
"I already know how she would react, Diana. I saw her tonight... and
she accepted me, even as a stranger. She was not afraid."
"Did she get a good look?" Diana regretted it the instant she said it.
Vincent turned his face away from her.
"Vincent, I'm sorry. I was coming to tell you--"
"Your fear wasn't for me. It was for you. You feared what I would do.
That I would still love her. And she me." His head hung down, speaking
quietly. "And that's why you didn't tell me."
"Vincent, I love you. I would never do that."
"I know you would never do that, Diana. And yet.... you did."
Diana felt helpless, frozen as her emotions churned and tore through
her. A tear flowed down her cheek, followed by another. She stepped
closer, where he sat with his back turned from her. She reached
uncertainly out, unsure what to do.
"Vincent..." she whispered in despair.
Unseen by her, Vincent closed his eyes at the sound of hurt and longing
in her voice, his cheek wetting with tears as well.
"Leave me..." He said softly.
Diana pulled her hand back, trembling as her outstretched fingers
closed on empty air. She looked at him facing away from her, and for
one moment feared it was the last image she would ever have of him. The
sound of his words echoed in her, filling her with hurt.
"Perhaps, Vincent, we reflected our own fears off each other."
She stood silent for a moment, wiping the tears from her face as she
watched him. When he didn't speak, she turned... and left the chamber
without a word, disappearing into the tunnels beyond and leaving him
Vincent sat silent, confused, unsure of what to think, what to feel.
The gunshot wounds that still burned in pain across his body felt
trivial by comparison. He had never felt more alone in his life.