by Beth Gualda
Written in 1988 but never published
The taste of rain that lingers
A shell of time encased,
Love touches with its fingers
Feelings like smoke, never to be erased.
Power to fall for grand,
This king shies his space.
Warmth felt as we stand.
A poor man's race.
Catherine looked up from the legal pad she was reading from. "What do you think?"
Vincent's face was unreadable. He tilted his head, his eyes distant, considering her poem.
She was watching him, anxious for his opinion.
"It's has beautiful rhythm," he sighed. "But....what exactly does it mean?"
She leaned over and whacked his arm playfully with the pad. He laughed in return.
"It's my first ever," she informed him. "I wrote it when I was sixteen for a creative writing class I had in school. My teacher adored it and found all this symbolism in it that even I wasn't aware of. I got an A on it too." Catherine feigned annoyance. "I thought you liked poetry."
"I do," he replied with a sly smile. "It is beautiful. After all, it came from you, Catherine. It couldn't be anything else."
His fond gaze made her blush. She examined her prized poem once more, then went to put the pad back in her briefcase.
"May I?" Vincent asked, extending his hand towards it. Pleased, she tore off the page the poem had been copied on and handed it over to him.
He took it and placed it inside the cover of a book lying on the table across from his bed. Then he sat back, tucking a leg under him, and looked at Catherine with unconcealed love.
"Thank you," he said quietly. "I hope it is not your final effort."
She shrugged. "I never thought of myself as a poet before. I guess it all depends on inspiration."
He smiled warmly. "I wasn't expecting to see you again so soon." He gestured at her briefcase. "You must have come right from your office."
"Well," Catherine explained, "To be honest, I was coming to see Father. He said it was urgent in his note and--"
"He sent for you?" Surprise filled Vincent's voice. "Why?"
She shook her head. "I thought you knew. I don't. The note just said to see him as soon as possible. So I came right away. Some of the children were playing near the entrance. I asked them to bring me here." She paused and looked around. "He must not have expected me so soon or he'd be here, I'm sure. Where did you say he went?"
"He's helping with supplies. I'm sure he'll be here soon." Vincent stared at her. "Strange. Why didn't he mention any of this to me?"
Catherine easily read the look of concern clouding his features suddenly. Reaching over, she squeezed his large hand. "I'm sure it's nothing. Try not to assume the worse. It probably slipped his mind."
Vincent knew better. He sighed heavily, then sat forward suddenly, looking past Catherine. She turned to see Father entering the room.
"Ah Catherine," he greeted. "The children told me you had arrived. I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long."
Catherine shook her head. She glanced back at Vincent. "I had good company."
Father made his way towards her, taking his time. "Would you please excuse us, Vincent? I need to speak with Catherine. Alone."
A mixture of confusion and worry flooded Vincent's mind. He rose slowly. His body language showed he did not like being purposefully kept ignorant in matters involving the people he loved, but respectfully, he obeyed his father. Silently, he backed away from them then threw his cloak over his shoulders and strode out.
Catherine gave Father an incredulous look. "What is this all about? Why don't you want Vincent here?"
Gesturing for her to keep her voice down, Father waited until he was satisfied Vincent was well out of hearing range before he said anything. His expression hardened as he faced Catherine again.
"I need your help. You are the only one I know whom I can turn to in this matter. I don't want Vincent to know why I sent for you." He withdrew a crumpled letter from an unseen pocket and held it out towards her. She took it from him and read through it quickly.
"What is this?"
"Perhaps, I should start from the beginning." He sighed heavily and settled down on the edge of Vincent's bed. "Legree is a former member of our community. He grew up here. He was a child of a friend of mine who has since passed away." He paused and took a troubled breath. "I exiled him a long time ago. He was always trouble. A criminal in the world above. As it was, he only left because he feared Vincent. But he kept sneaking back down. He would rig traps. Endanger lives. He caught me off guard one time. Thank God Vincent came along when he did. I think Legree would have killed me. He was that angry. But he got above before Vincent could get to him. That was the last we ever heard from him. Or so we thought. Now, after all this time, I get this."
Catherine looked steadily at Father. "This doesn't sound like the same person."
"I know," Father agreed. "That's what frightens me. He could be up to his old tricks again. Trying to catch us off guard."
"This letter is full of 'I love you', 'I'm so sorry', 'I miss you and I want to come home.' Sounds pretty repentant to me," Catherine stated. "Have you spoken with this Legree?"
She sighed. "Why was he exiled exactly?"
Father exhaled miserably. Painful memories began to reflect on his face. "He was always a disturbed child. He would do vicious, heartless things.....to Vincent mostly. I didn't even realize at first." Catherine reached over and touched his hand reassuringly. "He was older than Vincent. Bigger. Well, Vincent was just a child practically. Because he is...the way he is, Legree delighted in torturing him, physically and mentally. But as Vincent grew, he became the stronger of the two and was able to fend Legree's abuse off after a time."
"Vincent never told you this boy was hurting him?" Catherine asked. Her eyes were watering at the thought of someone being deliberately cruel to her gentle Vincent.
"No. The only reason I discovered it at all was because Legree suddenly came to me one day and accused Vincent of almost killing him. When I confronted Vincent, he wouldn't say anything. He neither admitted nor denied it. That is what was so startling. But Vincent's friends came forward. They told me Vincent had only hurt Legree in self defense. They told me what had been going on between those two for a long time. I think Vincent was beginning to hate him." He shook his head regretfully. "All those years. I just didn't see it. In the end, I had to decide. It was either Legree....or Vincent."
Catherine put a cool hand to her forehead to soothe her flushed skin. "I don't care it this person teaches Sunday School now, I don't want him anywhere near Vincent."
"Neither do I," Father said with the utmost certainty. "Even if he has changed, maybe I could forgive him for lashing out at me the way he did, but not for what he put Vincent through. And Vincent lost what little compassion he had left for him when Legree tried to harm me. I fear, if my son ever did see Legree again, he would end up killing him."
Catherine took a steadying breath. "Well what is it that you want me to do?"
Father leaned forward. "We have to keep Vincent underground. He cannot be allowed above until we find Legree. I believe this may all be a trap of some sort. To draw Vincent out. Legree will be watching the tunnel accessways I'm sure. If he spies Vincent above....Well, above he would have the upper hand." He gazed at Catherine unfalteringly. "You can help by finding this man for me. Do what you can to make him leave again...or find something on him to put him away for good. I know he has a police record. With the access to personal information you have it will be easier for you than any of us. Anything would help."
"But what about Vincent? What are you going to tell him?" Her heart was hurting.
"I'm not going to tell him anything at this point. Right now, my main concern is to keep him safe in the tunnels. We've changed them since Legree left the last time. So most likely, Legree won't be able to venture down. But Vincent has to stay here. It's imperative." He sighed heavily. "This is probably the hardest thing I'll ever ask you to do, but you must tell him you don't want to see him for awhile. Tell him you need time to think."
"Well, I'll tell him I'm going away on business," Catherine offered.
"You can't just tell him you are going away because I know he'll sense you. Make up something. Tell him you want to see another man. I don't care. But tell him to stay away."
Catherine paled. "I can't do that to him!"
"You must!" Father insisted. "Just until we know what Legree really wants. Vincent must not know anything about this. He'll seek him out, I'm sure." He rose stiffly, settling his weight on his cane. "When Vincent gets back, he can guide you home. Please, tell him then." He turned away. "I'll see if I can find him."
Catherine followed him out of Vincent's chamber. "Even if I do tell him to leave me alone for awhile, there's no guarantee he'll stay below."
Father continued walking, searching. "We can keep him busy. We can distract him easily if he isn't going above to see you. You must think of something convincing to say to him. This cannot wait, Catherine." They walked slowly together through the tunnels in a tense silence. Turning a sharp corner, they spied Vincent heading towards them from the opposite corridor. They met each other in the middle of the passage.
"Father," Vincent greeted formally.
The older man merely nodded. "Catherine is waiting for you to take her back up." He gave her one last look of urgency before turning to make his way back to the library.
As soon as Catherine drew near him, Vincent turned, heading back down the tunnel he had just emerged from. Reluctantly, Catherine followed. Her mind raced, struggling to come up with something to tell him. It was Vincent who finally broke the uneasy silence between them.
"I won't ask you to reveal to me what Father has entrusted to you, but I sense a fearful sadness within you that was not there before you two spoke." He glanced back at her and waited for her to catch up to him. "Is there anything I can do to take it away?"
Catherine was finding it hard to look into his eyes. She took a deep breath. "Vincent, I wasn't being truthful with you before. I was the one who arranged this meeting with Father." She stopped, her throat tightening uncomfortably. "I needed his advice, you see. Because I have something to tell you.....and it may hurt you." She blinked her eyes against the oncoming tears.
Feeling tenderness for her, Vincent cupped her chin with his hand, tilting her eyes up to his. He spoke softly. "Tell me."
Summoning every ounce of her strength, she began, "I'm confused now. I'm not sure what I want anymore." Vincent watched her, listening intently. She continued, struggling. "All I do know is that I want to be sure and I'm going to need some time alone to think things through. I would rather....you not...come to me for the time being."
Vincent's expression remained seemingly unchanged. "This is what you say, but it is not what you want."
"It is," she told him firmly, trying her best to add conviction to her words. "I've met someone. We've been seeing a lot of each other lately. I really like him."
Inhaling slowly, Vincent looked away from her. "Don't do this," he pleaded.
Catherine stifled a sob. "Please...just take me back up."
Catherine closed the door to her apartment. She leaned against it and bowed her head. Tears began streaming down her face uncontrollably. Vincent had escorted her to the threshold and then wordlessly, turned and walked away. She thought she had never felt so alone and she hoped in a small way, he didn't believe her explanation.
"What was that name again?" Eadie asked Catherine, peering closer at her computer moniter.
"Anthony Legree," Catherine repeated.
"Actor?" She looked at her friend curiously. "You've heard of this man?"
Eadie nodded, punching in his name. "Yeah. Stage actor. Really came up in the last few years or so." Words covered the computer screen. "There. See, got his first starring role in 'Pepper Man.'" Eadie smiled. "I saw that. He was great."
Catherine continued to stare at the screen. "Present address?"
Eadie pointed it out, and Catherine scribbled it on her notepad.
"Any current run ins with the law? These are all old."
Eadie scrolled through the information slowly. "What is this? What are you looking for?"
"Anything I can use," Catherine answered coolly.
"Here. There was a preliminary hearing. That's all," Eadie said after scanning the paragraph she'd just found. "The evidence was inconclusive. That was about three years ago. He's cleaned up his act since then. No pun intended."
Catherine didn't look up from her pad and continued writing. "What was the hearing for?"
Eadie sat back and frowned. "Rape."
Catherine sighed heavily. "I need everything you can get me about that case. Victim, evidence, dates. Police reports. Everything."
Shaking her head, Eadie began printing the file. "You planning on doing a little blackmailing on the side or something?"
"Or something," Catherine said, rubbing her arms. She suddenly felt cold.
Father looked up occasionally, watching Vincent pace restlessly about the chamber. He sighed finally and closed his book resoundingly. "Please don't be angry with me," he implored his son.
Vincent stopped pacing long enough to give his father a disquieting glance, then continued to walk the floor of the chamber.
Father took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "You can't go on like this. You're making this harder on yourself than it has to be," he scolded.
Vincent whirled around so fast it startled Father. "What did you say to her? Why did you send for her?" he snapped.
"Why are you acting this way?!" Father retorted, trying to be vague. "If she told you she needs time to think, you must simply grant her that courtesy."
Vincent ran a hand through his bangs in frustration. "Because I know she was lying."
Father thought desparately to come up with something to calm his irate son. "When she is ready to talk to you about it, she will. In the meantime, you have to let her have her privacy, Vincent."
Pacing again, Vincent turned away from his father. "Tell me you had nothing to do with her decision," he demanded. "I know you disapprove...of us."
Father's heart twisted. "I don't disapprove. I just don't want to see you get hurt. I didn't know how you two would ever make a love work, but you have. I can see that now. The love you share with her enables both of you to transcend boundaries. It's inspiring. Really."
Vincent lowered his head and sighed. "So it was her decision then?"
"Her decisions are her own. She alone, chooses what she feels is best," Father replied. He knew his son was hurt and confused, but he wasn't sure what to do to help him without disclosing what he and Catherine knew. "Vincent," he began, rising from his chair and walking to him. He took his son's head in his hands and tried to smile reassuringly. "She loves you. She'll come back to you."
"Radcliffe?" Joe called. "You plan on going home tonight?"
Catherine looked up distracted. "Oh, bye Joe. I'll see you in the morning." She turned over the paper she was reading.
Joe walked over to her desk and gestured at the file folders laying about. "What is all this? We just wrapped up the Albany case." He read over her shoulder. "Cathy, in case you haven't noticed, that case you're reading about has been wrapped up too. Charges were dropped three years ago. What gives?"
Massaging her burning eyes, Catherine faced the deputy D.A. "Just some personal investigating."
"Anthony Legree?" Joe continued to read over her shoulder. "A rape case?"
She nodded. "There was no real evidence against him, or at least not enough." She sighed. "The victim's testimony is off."
"What are you looking for?"
She shrugged. "I'm not sure."
Joe smiled. "Go home, get some rest. There are plenty of recent criminals left to prosecute, Cathy. You don't have to look through old files for something to do." He patted her on the back.
Catherine watched him leave. She stuffed the papers back into the file folders laying on her desk and slipped the folders into her briefcase.
She was tired, but going home just didn't sound appealing lately. Maybe she'd drop by Eadie's for a late night cappuccino.
On her way to her car she pondered what she had just read. She thought of the letter this man had written to Father. She thought about what he was accused of doing to a twenty year old girl. And then she recalled what Eadie had told her. He was an actor. A good one apparently. Catherine was starting to believe Father's suspicions. More than likely, the letter was a trap. She knew before she went to bed she wanted to reread the entire file.
The next morning came all too soon. Catherine's alarm clock buzzed for attention. She groaned, covering her head with the pillow and hitting the snooze button. She rolled over, and lay motionless, struggling to wake up, but instead allowed her mind to wander back to her dream.
Her hand slid over the pillow and was caught and pressed into warm and supple lips...He moaned seductively and stretched and was taking her in his arms, drawing her to him...Looking at her with such love and passion...She reached out to brush aside the tawny hair from his sky blue eyes and then there was this annoying buzzing. It grew louder and louder, pulling her away from him.
Catherine's eyes popped open. She grabbed her alarm clock and hurled it across the room.
Vincent woke suddenly. Her thoughts filling his mind. They had come so quickly and unexpectantly, he barely had enough time to grasp them before they were gone. He leaned his head back into his pillow and sighed. Is this what you wanted time alone to think about, Catherine? he smiled knowingly to himself.
Eadie folded the newspaper in thirds, isolating the one article she wanted Catherine to read and tossed it on Cathy's desk.
Cathy looked up. "What is this?"
"Something I ran across in the paper today. I figured you might find it interesting."
Her curiosity aroused, she put aside her writing to read the print.
"Cast party tonight at Remy Theater. The cast and production company of this year's off-broadway hit 'Toasts to All', is playing host to a party open to the public to give critics and theater-goers a chance to meet the cast. The party is scheduled to begin at eight at 1412 29th Avenue in the theater basement. Among those scheduled to attend are producers Ginny and Russel Dent, director Mark Foreman, and actor Anthony Legree."
Eadie smiled. "Would you like some company?"
Catherine looked up. "Anthony Legree. He'll be there. I could just walk right up to him." Her mind started racing.
That night, she left work early. She couldn't concentrate anyway. Her thoughts shifted from Vincent, to Legree, to the party, to the rape case, and back to Vincent. By the time she got home, her head was aching.
She took a hot shower and some aspirin. It occurred to her that she didn't feel like going to a party and being sociable tonight. What she wanted to do was spend the night on her balcony, her hair loose, doing nothing in particular. Nothing but listening to the sound of Vincent's voice as he read sonnets to her.
Checking over her dress quickly, and giving her lips another coat of gloss, she almost started to cry. She missed Vincent so much. She wondered what he might be thinking right now. Quickly, she grabbed her purse and opened the door.
Mouse frowned and shrugged. "Why me?"
"Because," Vincent explained, pacing restlessly, "He won't let me out of his sight. I haven't been above in nearly a week."
"Father will suspect."
"No. He's used to you coming to him with your ideas. I've seen you spend hours with him. If you go to him tonight, it won't be anything unusual."
Mouse shook his head. "He'll know. Know you talked to me."
"He doesn't know I'm here. I finally managed to slip past him when he got distracted with the children. But I need more time. That's where you come in."
Mouse grinned. "Vincent sneaking?!" He always liked sneaking. Suddenly he frowned, turning away from his friend. "Father will say 'same as lying.' Get us both in trouble."
Vincent sighed and tried another approach. "Mouse. I have to go above to see Catherine. She won't talk to me and I know something is wrong. Please, help me."
"Hmmm," Mouse considered. "Talking good. Don't like the silence." He smiled and patted Vincent on the back. "Okay. Mouse will help."
Catherine felt uncomfortable. She floated around the room, sipping from her drink, trying to listen in on each introduction. Finally, she found an empty sofa and sat with a heavy sigh. The idea of coming here had sounded perfect. Their meeting would be so inconspicuous. She'd talk to him, try to get to know him. Then all those stinging questions would be answered. Her headache was back with a vengeance. She leaned against the arm of the sofa, placing her chin in her hand.
"It's my personal duty, self-assigned naturally, to make sure all our guests are having a good time," a voice from above informed Catherine solemnly. She looked up and saw a dazzingly white smile, shining green eyes, tousled blonde hair, and a square masculine jaw. She tried to smile in return, but was too caught up in just looking. The man moved, seating himself beside her and continued. "I've been watching you since you arrived. You make it look like I'm not doing my job."
Catherine found her voice. "Oh. I'm just waiting for someone to show up."
"Ah," the man said. "The star. Everyone waits for the star."
"I was trying not to look as out of place as I feel," Catherine said. "I'm not sure what I'm doing here."
The man laughed easily. "You're brightening a rather dull party. Don't get me wrong, I'm doing my job. Look at them. They're all having a great time. All but me." He suddenly smiled at her. "Until now. Misery loves company you know. And here I am with you." He studied her expectantly. "You were supposed to laugh. That was a line from the play. My scene with Kevin Vicks."
"Oh," Catherine flushed, embarrassed. "I am sorry. Like I said, I don't know what I'm doing here. I haven't even seen the play."
"Well, there goes my groupie theory," the man replied. He gazed at Catherine with a puzzled look. "You said you were waiting for someone? Who? Maybe I could help you."
Catherine sighed. "I'd like to meet Anthony Legree."
The man's handsome face brightened with an amused smile. "You want to meet that conceited, up-staging, embarrassment to the acting profession?" He laughed, covering his eyes. "I thought you wanted to meet the star."
Catherine stared back at him, confused. "I do. I thought you said Legree was the star?"
"I said no such thing," he answered, shaking his head. His thick hair swayed with the movement. "Legree is not the star. Heaven forbid. Kevin Vicks is the star."
"But I read in the paper..."
"Precisely why Kevin Vicks won't be here. The media is always mentioning me and not him."
Catherine laughed lightly. "I told you I don't know why I'm here. I'm going home. It's been a long day." She got up. "It's really been nice talking to you though. If it wasn't for you, I don't think I would have smiled all night."
He rose. "Don't I even get to know why you wanted to meet me so badly?"
Catherine's smile cracked. "Meet you?"
He threw his head back and laughed. "I don't think I've ever bombed out with a beautiful woman as badly as I have tonight. Don't I even get a name?"
"....Catherine Chandler," she said, thoroughly confused. "I'm afraid I don't understand."
"Mmm, that's obvious," he grinned. "Catherine, I'm Tony Legree. I guess you missed my subtle introduction a ways back. I was toying with you. Trying to find out why you were here. You didn't see the play and you apparently didn't even know what I looked like. I'm sorry." He took her hand.
Catherine lost all the color in her face. She jerked her hand free and backed up. "You're Legree?"
He nodded slowly. "I'm really sorry. I should have just told you. I was trying to cheer you up." He stepped towards her but she backed up more.
"I have to go," she said quickly turning. Her breath felt trapped in her lungs and she wanted to get out into the air where she could breathe again.
Legree caught her shoulder. "Wait, Cathy, please. Don't be upset. What can I do to make it up to you?"
"Look, it's not your fault," Catherine fumbled. "I just need to go now."
Capitulating, Legree released her, watching her push her way through the people to the door and disappear. He stood staring at the door as a woman walked up to him, clucking her tongue.
"Lose something?" she cooed.
He nodded, staring blankly. "Cinderella just realized her limo was turning into a pumpkin, I guess." He looked around the room and frowned. "I'm taking off. Cover for me will you?"
"Vincent, thank God! Where have you been?" Father sighed. "I turn my back for a moment and you disappear."
Vincent glared at his father. Without answering, he dropped into a chair.
"I was hoping you would help me with these new shelves. You know I was counting on you," Father went on, gesturing at a stack of lumber and a pile of metal brackets.
"I went for a walk," Vincent confessed.
Father's brow raised. "Above?"
"No, not above! How dare I go above lately?! How dare I even consider such a thing!" Vincent snapped.
Father pointed an accusing finger at his irate son. "You are becoming intolerable lately." He sighed heavily and ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "Marcus told me you snarled at him earlier. You had no right. He was only doing what I told him to do."
"He was spying on me!"
"He was merely keeping an eye on you. And since when does something like that, provoke that kind of reaction from you? Jamie told me you all but ignored her yesterday when she was trying to talk to you. And when Pascal tried to get you to move those new pipes, you got angry with him."
"I feel like a prisoner!" Vincent retorted. "I feel everyone's eyes on me constantly." He rose suddenly and strode to his room, abruptly ending their argument.
Father took a deep breath, and started after him.
He cleared his throat, pausing at the entrance to the chamber. Vincent was seated on the edge of his bed, his eyes fixed on the floor. He didn't bother to look up.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm sorry for everything. I'm worried...about Catherine." He looked into his father's eyes at last. "I know this all has something to do with what you spoke to her about." He took a ragged, emotion-laden breath. "It's as if you are purposefully trying to keep me from her. I didn't think she was being honest with me when she told me she didn't want to see me. Has she asked you to do this? To make sure I stay away? I don't understand why you and Catherine would do something like this to me."
Father walked over to Vincent and sat beside him. Vincent lowered his head to the older man's shoulder dejectedly. Father put his arm around him and kissed his hair affectionately.
"Just know that we love you. We all love you so very much."
Catherine was furious with herself. All her professionalism abandoned her when she needed it most. The party was a perfect place to talk. But he had caught her so off guard, he wasn't anything like she had been expecting. He was supposed to be ugly and mean and sadistic. Instead, he was handsome, friendly, warm, and charming. She knew she had screwed up her one big chance. She couldn't approach him incognito now.
She had to think of another way to get close to him without looking suspicious. But how?
"Catherine is very upset right now," Vincent told Father suddenly, looking up at him, begging to be set free to go to her.
"If you see her now, it will only make her angrier," Father informed.
Vincent shook his head. "I know she has been very unhappy since I last saw her. She thinks of me often. I can feel her heart calling out to me."
Father persisted. "Stay away, Vincent. When she is ready, she will come to you."
"Are you so certain?"
Father nodded. "She just needs time to herself now."
He stood up slowly, stiffly, and gazed sympathetically at his son. "Listen, Mouse wants to see me tonight. He wants to go over some plans for that new hydraulic lift he's been working on. Promise me, if I give you some space and leave you alone, you won't do anything...rash."
Vincent calmly met his father's gaze. "How do you define rash?"
"Vincent! I'm warning you---"
Mouse hurried into the chamber. "Father! Ready? Come now! You'll like, I know! Be surprised!" He and Vincent exchanged knowing looks.
Father sighed heavily in resignation.
Anthony Legree was still a good distance from Catherine, but he had her in his sight. He had been following her since she left the theater, hoping to talk with her some more but she had gotten too far ahead of him so he decided to hang back and see where she ended up. Strangely enough, she headed for the park with a determined stride. She walked right up to a large drainage tunnel and stopped just inside. Legree knew this place from his childhood and he stared at Catherine dumbfounded. She acted as if she also knew there was more to that drainage tunnel than rainwater. She appeared to be struggling with the decision to venture in any farther. Finally she turned on her heel and hurried out.
"Well, well," Legree said under his breath. "How interesting." He stayed by the tunnel access, wondering, watching; letting Catherine get away, but too immersed in his thoughts to really care. What could she possibly have to do with the tunnels? he pondered. As if in answer to his question, a figure immerged. Tall, cloaked, stately. Legree could feel his skin crawl and chills run down his spine. "Vincent..." he hissed. He watched wide-eyed as his arch enemy turned and headed in the same direction Catherine had just gone. "I'll be damned," he muttered.
Catherine tightened the belt to her robe and poured a cup of tea. She turned on the television to catch the news and sat on her couch, drawing her legs under her. She picked up a yellow legal pad laying on the coffee table and uncapping a pen, began to write.
After awhile, she paused, reading it back to herself. Sighing, she tossed the pad down on the couch cushions. She felt too sad to write poetry now. And she didn't want her poem to be sad. Just then, she heard a tell tale thump coming from her balcony. She jumped up, eager to open the doors, when the phone rang. Without thinking, she snatched it up.
"Yes? I mean, hello?"
"Cathy? It's me Tony!"
Catherine inhaled sharply. He had called her. She'd been given another chance. She knew she couldn't mess this up.
"I'm glad you called," she assured.
"I got your number from the phone book. I hope you don't mind. You mean that? You are glad I called?"
"Yes," she smiled, trying to sound pleased. "I'm sorry I ran out on you like that. I was feeling a little overwhelmed is all."
"No, listen. Don't apologize. I called to apologize to you, not the other way around. I figured since my first apology didn't have much pull, I'd try a more sublte, sincere approach. Would you have dinner with me?"
Catherine bit her lip. "Dinner? Yes, I'd like that."
"I'm not much of a dancer."
"How 'bout a walk, then? Do you walk?"
Catherine laughed. "Yes. And maybe walking with you will improve my image."
"Such undeserved flattery."
"Oh come on. You're very handsome and you know it."
"Tell me that's why you ran out on me. Even if it wasn't.""I got flustered."
"Well, that's okay," he conceded. "I'll pick you up at seven tomorrow? How's that sound?"
"Wonderful? Here's my address." Catherine relayed the necessary information then hung up the receiver. He was sweet, she thought. She was having a hard time connecting him to the man Father spoke of. Suddenly, she remembered the balcony. She ran to the doors and threw them open but it was empty. "Must have been the wind," she muttered. Maybe that was a good thing. She sure didn't want Vincent to hear the phone conversation she had just had. Gratefully, she turned off the television and headed for bed.
Back in his chamber, Vincent tore off his cloak and flung it over a chair. He paced hotly around the room, growling to himself, his mind full of indignation and confusion. Was it true after all? Was she really seeing another man? Her words and actions told him she was. Her emotions and thoughts told him something different.
Her phone conversation replayed mercilessly in his mind. She had sounded so pleased to be talking to this man. She had said he was handsome. He had flustered her. It would improve her image to be seen with someone like him. In her heart, Vincent had felt her excitement grow as she talked to this man. He knew she was relieved in a way that he had called her. This entire perplexing scenario was making Vincent's head spin.
Needing to release his escalating torrential emotions, Vincent seized the edge of the table and toppled it over, sending its contents flying. He moved on to the next piece of hapless furnishing and then stopped suddenly. On the floor, the book in which he had carefully tucked Catherine's poem lay open on its spine. The bright yellow paper had fallen from its protective cover and was laying just beside the corner of the overturned table. Vincent dropped to his knees heavily and reached for it. He lifted it slowly, settling back on his heels and hugged it to his chest.
The truth evaded him and with it, any understanding. There was nothing left to do now but wait for Catherine. Vincent tried to console himself by thinking she would want to talk to him soon. He knew she still thought of him and even missed him. He would just have to give her the time she needed, he decided. He also came to the conclusion there must be a good reason behind all this. But what?
Work was slightly more tolerable today, Catherine thought to herself. She had slept better the night before and the idea of finally wrapping this whole Legree situation up and being able to see Vincent again, made her anxious.
"Cathy Chandler is the lady in the green sweater," she overheard Joe say. She looked up to see a colorful basket of flowers coming her way, via a delivery person. He placed the basket on her desk and handed her a tiny card.
"Thank you," she said accepting it. She slit the envelope open with her thumbnail and pulled the card out. "To brighten your day. Looking forward to tonight. Tony." She frowned, suddenly unnerved. They hadn't even been out together and here he was sending her flowers. He genuinely seemed like a nice guy. Maybe he had changed. Maybe his letter to Father was sincere. After all, it had been three years since his last run in with the law.
Perhaps if she talked openly to him. Explained everything, including the apprehension Father felt. Maybe he would decide it would be better not to try to return to the tunnels. Maybe he would even leave New York. It was the only thing left for her to do.
Catherine sighed softly. Whether or not this entire plan succeeded depended on her being able to find out all she could about Anthony Legree. Going out on a date with him would make that easy.
After work, Catherine went into the basement of her building and banged on the pipes for a guide down. She figured one of the children would come and get her. But it was Vincent who heard her message and he came to meet her. She was surprised, but not unhappy.
"Vincent," she greeted and smiled, stepping toward him to give him a hug. He made no move to reciprocate. He said nothing and looked at her with an unwavering gaze. He seemed to be waiting and expectant. Catherine sighed heavily. "I need to talk to Father," she went on. "Please take me to him."
Vincent's eyes narrowed. His stare became oppressive. Suddenly he turned and without a word, started back up the tunnel. Catherine skipped after him. He seemed to be purposefully maintaining a distance between her and himself, lengthening his stride until Catherine had to run every few steps just to keep him in sight. Finally, out of breath and patience, she stopped and yelled his name. She almost expected him to keep walking, but he paused and glanced back at her.
"Wait...please," she panted. She looked unhappily up at him. "Can we at least talk to each other?"
Slowly, Vincent turned and walked over to where she stood. "Only if you agree to tell me the truth," he replied quietly.
Catherine's shoulders drooped. She ran her hand across her forehead, pushing aside her bangs and took a deep breath. "How long have you known I was lying?"
"From the beginning," he told her, sounding insulted that she would not have realized this.
Catherine felt somewhat relieved. "Is that because you sensed it, or am I just a bad liar?" She offered him a thin smile.
"Both," Vincent answered, his mood lightening. "Your heart did not stand behind what you said." He shifted, positioning himself directly in front of her. "I'm worried about you, Catherine. I have felt your unhappiness. Your apprehension." He took a deep breath. "But when I went to see you last night---"
"So it was you! I knew I heard something!" Catherine frowned suddenly. "You left without seeing me."
"I overheard you talking," he began tentatively. "What you said...confused me."
"On the phone?" Catherine shook her head. Enough was enough. She took hold of his hands and squeezed them tightly. "Vincent, look at me. Feel the truth in what I'm saying now. I'm not seeing anyone else. I never was. I've been helping Father. He doesn't want you to know why just yet. If you did, things could become dangerous and he fears for your life."
"My life?" Vincent replied, startled. "If what you are doing is possibly dangerous for me, it must also be dangerous for you. How could he ask you to place yourself in danger?"
"No, it's not like that," she tried to reassure him. "Please, don't be angry with him. There is no danger in this for me. That's why he asked me to help him." Catherine realized she had disclosed too much and at this point Vincent was not going to settle for anything less than the whole truth. "I know you must have been miserable these past few weeks, but we were trying to protect you."
"All this was to protect me? From what?" he demanded. Then suddenly, quietly: "From who?"
Catherine decided there was no sense in trying to keep anything from him any longer. She sighed and licked her lips. "Father received a letter from someone he exiled a long time ago. This person has asked to be allowed to return to the tunnels. He claims to be a new man. The letter was so sincere sounding, begging forgiveness for all the wrongs he had done to the community before, but Father is wary. He thinks it might be a trap to get to you. He asked me if I could find out more about this person. See if he really is reformed or if he has ulterior motives."
Vincent's mind raced. For a moment he was lost in concentration. Then slowly his whole countenance changed. His eyes ignited with anger and his lip curled menacingly over his teeth in a silent snarl. "Legree," he growled, then suddenly turned away from Catherine, struggling with himself.
"We've been trying to keep you below, because if it is a trap, he could be lying in wait," Catherine reluctantly continued. "I'm beginning to think he has changed however. He doesn't seem anything like the person Father described to me. He seems very nice now."
Vincent whipped around to face her. "You must not have anything to do with this man!"
"I'm just going to talk with him," Catherine tried to placate him. "I already met him. He was charming and friendly and maybe, all he wants is just to come home again. After all, he grew up here."
Vincent was shaking his head. "I know him! You don't," he seethed. "He thrives on domination, fear, and pain. He humiliates and insults and terrorizes. It's how he is. A person such as this cannot change. His heart is blackened beyond change."
Catherine reached up and layed her hand soothingly on Vincent's chest. "I know what he did to you. But I don't want you to worry about me. Trust me when I tell you, he won't harm me. I must talk to him. It's the only way."
"I don't want him near you!" Vincent persisted.
Catherine shook her head and put her hands on her hips defiantly. "I promised Father I would help."
Vincent suddenly grabbed her hand, hauling her after him as he all but ran through the tunnels. Catherine soon found herself being dragged into the main chamber very much out of breath. Father stood up, sensing something was amiss. Vincent released Catherine and turned on Father.
"You should have told me Legree was back!"
Father shot a fast exasperated look at Catherine and threw his glasses angrily on the table. "What, and risk your life? I knew you would react this way. It proves my case in point. I feared what you might be driven to do." His voice became quiet. "I know you almost killed him once."
"This isn't about me," Vincent countered. "It's about Catherine! How could you ask her to do something like this, knowing Legree the way you do?"
"She is not at risk. She never was."
"She is! His wickedness knows no bounds!"
"Then credit her courage," Father continued. "Her willingness to aid us when we needed her."
"She didn't realize what she was getting into," Vincent growled. "You did! And you still asked her. That is unacceptable."
"I would never knowingly put Catherine in jeopardy!" Father yelled back.
"Stop it!" Catherine's raised voice broke in suddenly. "You're both talking about me like I'm not even here." Having gained their silence and their attention, she went on. "Please credit me with enough intelligence to make my own decisions. I know what I'm doing. And I wanted to help."
Vincent walked slowly over to her. His voice soft, his eyes imploring. "You are everything to me. You are my life. If I were to let you go to Legree, it would be the same as placing my very existence in his hands. I know he'll harm you."
Catherine sighed. "Why would he want to harm me?"
Vincent could feel his heart melting as he gazed at her. "Because I love you." He turned, lowering his eyes in resignation, and stalked out of the room, leaving Catherine staring quizzically after him. She looked over at Father.
His face was pale and he looked somewhat fearful, understanding Vincent's lividity. "My god, Catherine, he's right," he whispered. "I hadn't thought about that."
"I don't understand," she told him in a small voice.
Father took a deep breath. "Whatever you do, don't let him know about your relationship with Vincent. If he is in any way, the same person I exiled, I'm afraid I have put you in danger."
Catherine could hardly believe her ears. "He hates Vincent that much?"
Father nodded. "Yes. That much," he said gravely.
"I've made a date with him tonight. I thought it would give me the chance to really talk to him," she informed. "I have to tell you, so far, he's been incredibly sweet and likeable."
Father went to her and placed a hand gently on her shoulder. "Be careful, Catherine."
"I will." She tried to smile. "I need to get going." She gestured in the general direction Vincent had gone. "Take care of him for me. Until I get back."
Father smiled and nodded.
The evening was clear and warm. It would have been a nice night to spend on the balcony, Catherine thought, as she closed the french doors behind her and went to answer the soft knock on her front door.
"Hi there," Catherine breathed nervously as she opened the door and saw Anthony Legree.
"Hello. Wow, you look great," Legree responded and smiled warmly.
Catherine caught herself staring at him, taking in his tall lean build and handsome features. He reminded her of one of the dashing movie stars back in Hollywood's gilded age, like Tyrone Power or Stewart Granger. She thought with a face like that, it was no wonder he was a performer.
"I could say the same for you," she said at last.
He helped her with her jacket, and then guided her out the door. They went to an Italian restaurant that specialized in vegetable pasta and seafood. Catherine discovered Legree was a vegetarian and didn't drink alcohol ever. Throughout the meal, he was the perfect gentleman. He kept the conversation light, telling stories of onstage mishaps, auditions, and the basic life of an actor in New York. Catherine listened intently and laughed in spite of herself at his wit and charm. She thought if this were an actual date under normal circumstances, she might have really enjoyed it, but she had one singular purpose in mind and that was to get him to talk about why he wanted to go back to the tunnels. Not once, however, in the course of their dinner, did he say anything that would indicate he was in the least bit vengeful or bitter about his past and Catherine's confidence in him grew steadily throughout the evening.
Back at her apartment, she busied herself making coffee.
"I've been rambling on all evening," Legree said suddenly. "I haven't given you a chance to say two words."
Catherine shrugged and handed him a cup. "Well, I'm more interested in you and what you have to say," she began truthfully. "Besides, I've never met an actor before."
He glanced at her sideways. "That's an old line if I ever heard one." He became serious. "I get the feeling, you're just not being yourself. Do I make you uncomfortable?"
She sighed. Yes, she thought. I'm very uncomfortable. But said, "I'm just a little tense tonight. I've had a rough day."
"Well tell me," he continued. "Why were you looking for me? At the theater."
"Oh, I heard about you, from a friend. I decided I wanted to get to know you." She took a quick sip of coffee, not liking the direction this conversation was turning.
"Uh huh. Is this a mutual friend by chance? Someone who knows me already?" She didn't answer, but smiled slightly. He went on. "You realize, I know nothing about you. You are quite a mysterious lady." He set his cup down on the coffee table and leaned back against her sofa cushions, studying her. Suddenly his face darkened. "Does this have anything to do with the fact you work for the D.A.?"
Catherine felt a chill run down her spine. "By the way, how did you find out I worked there?" she evaded.
"Your service gave me your work number. It was the District Attorney's office."
She nodded. It was a reasonable explanation. He hadn't been spying on her or obsessively following her. She told herself to calm down and reminded herself, innocent until proven guilty.
"Does this have anything to do with Amelia Moore?" he asked sharply.
"Excuse me?" Catherine feigned ignorance.
Legree sighed heavily. "This girl I was dating went a little overboard when I called off the relationship. She brought charges against me. It was three years ago in Queens." He shook his head regretfully. "You know all about it though don't you? Please, Cathy, don't tell me you went out with me just to question me."
"I didn't," she assured him, forcing herself to touch his hand. "I'm not going to question you about that," she confessed and smiled. "Now look who's uncomfortable."
He rewarded her with an easy smile, his congenial air returning. "I'm sorry to go off and get heavy like that. That...incident haunts me to this day. Even though the charges were dropped, nobody seems to forget it. Nobody seems to want to believe the truth. I've been in trouble a time or two. Mostly because I was a stupid kid. But I've grown up, I've changed and I know what is really important. Family, and friends, and home." He sighed heavily, clutching her offered hand in a tight squeeze. "One of these days, I'm going to go home. It's where I belong. People there don't hold your past against you. They accept you for who you are. It'll give me a chance to start over."
Catherine immediately knew he was speaking of the tunnels at last. She sat forward. "Why don't you then? It sounds like a wonderful place. Is it your career, as an actor?"
He shook his head, looking at her wistfully. "I have no career. It's just a job. A simple one for me. I act because I don't know how to do anything else. I have no real skills. And besides, in case you haven't noticed, I'm not too shabby looking. The offers come easy."
"If it's not that, what's stopping you from going home?"
"A lot of things, I guess. Some of the people there. One in particular."
Catherine's pulse began to race. "Maybe you could talk to that person. Maybe things have changed."
"Oh, I'll talk to him. In time." He took his arm and placed it casually over her shoulders, inviting her closer to him.
"Why did you leave in the first place if you loved it there so much?"
Legree frowned. "I was forced to go." He smiled suddenly. "Don't look so worried, fair Catherine. I'll get back there. Maybe someday,I'll take you there." He leaned over her and kissed her softly on the cheek. "You'll get the feeling you've been there before. It'll be like deja vu. Won't it?"
Catherine suddenly detected a shift in his tone and mannerisms. She tried to inch away from him but he encircled her with his arms.
"Why don't we stop playing twenty questions and concentrate on right now." His hand pushed back the collar of her blouse. He began nibbling her neck seductively.
Catherine tried to remain calm and gently pushed him away. "Could you excuse me a moment. I think it's getting warm in here and I'd like to open the balcony doors."
He sighed and released her readily, somewhat unexpectantly, then smiled. "Sure. Anything to make you more comfortable, Cathy." He leaned back on the sofa and watched her disappear into the bedroom.
Catherine stood in the middle of the room, trying to calm down. She couldn't help thinking about what Vincent had told her and her anxiety was beginning to show. What really made her nervous was that Legree seemed to be implying that she was aware the tunnels were the 'home' he pined for. He also implied he knew Catherine was somehow connected to the community below. But he had yet to mention Vincent and that was her one consolation.
She looked shakily towards her living room, knowing she needed to return to him. She forgot all about opening the balcony doors.
"Feel better?" Legree asked as soon as she appeared from the bedroom.
Catherine nodded. She remained standing.
"What's the matter, Cathy? Did I say something wrong?" He rose slowly and walked over to her. She tried not to back away from him.
"No, why would you think that?" She shrugged and tried to sound nonchalant.
"Ever since I started talking about going home, you've kinda been on edge." He placed his hands on her shoulders, his eyes drifting downward like a feather in a breeze.
"Why do you think your home would be familiar to me?" she wanted to know.
He moved a little closer to her. "Just a hunch." He suddenly crushed her to him and kissed her. Catherine managed to manuever her arms up and gently push him back.
"I think we better say goodnight," she told him.
He released her again without hesitation. "I don't understand. I thought this was what you wanted," he said, sounding a little dazed.
Catherine took a deep breath. She didn't understand either. She didn't know why she was feeling the way she was, because he really had done nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly not anything to be setting off all the alarms ringing in her ears. "I'm sorry. We must have gotten our signals crossed. You are moving just a little too quickly for me."
Legree stood looking at her. "You're a real mystery. Everything about you and this whole evening. Why did you agree to go out with me, Cathy? I thought it was because you were interested. If not in a relationship, than maybe a one night stand? I wouldn't mind. Not with a beautiful woman like yourself." He reached up and touched her cheek with his hand. "You are so very beautiful and I love beauty. I love to surround myself with it. I strive to possess it. It's just a thing with me. I can't stand ugliness. Ugly people...or things. Ever since I was a kid. I just hated anything ugly."
Catherine knew he was referring to Vincent and her heart clenched painfully inside her. "What makes a person beautiful usually comes from within," she told him quietly. "What makes someone ugly comes from within as well."
He smiled disarmingly. "Nah, I'm talking about skin deep beauty. What's on the surface. Usually I find beautiful looking people are just as beautiful on the inside too. And the ugly ones, well, I just don't bother getting to know them."
Catherine was finally getting a dose of his reputed cruelty. She was beginning to see the person Father and Vincent knew all those years ago.
"Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder," she went on. "What is true beauty? You judge a person by contrived arbitrary standards."
He laughed. "Hold on. Don't go getting so defensive. I said you were one of the beautiful ones that I want to get to know better." He looked at her quizzically. "Why do you defend ugliness? I can't understand why anyone would do something like that." He took a deep breath. "I used to know this...boy. He was the most hideous thing I had ever seen. He lived close to me. What I could never understand was that everyone loved him. Everyone went out of their way to defend him. I just depised him. Looking at him always made my skin crawl." He seemed to be studying Catherine closely for some sign of reaction. Her face was like a stone statue but his saw the the excessive moisture pooling in her large green eyes. "His name was Vincent," he announced and was rewarded when Catherine flinched painfully and turned away from him.
"I think you should leave," she managed to say. It seemed to her, Legree was undergoing a metamorphosis, changing from the handsome and charming gentleman to the cruel, heartless criminal of the past. Catherine found herself wondering how she had ever found him attractive and sweet.
"Wow," he gasped. "I must have hit a nerve. You act as if I insulted your best friend! How could that be? Do you know a Vincent, Catherine? Is he as ugly as the guy I knew?"
Catherine knew he was being facetious now. "You need to leave, now."
Instead, he came up behind her and put his arms around her as if to console her. "I'm sorry, Cathy. It's just that I get crazy even thinking about him. If it weren't for him, I'd still be home. He tried to kill me once. But instead of getting rid of him, they got rid of me. They all love him and he's nothing but an animal really. Some hybrid freak of nature." He leaned his head over her shoulder and whispered in her ear, "But you know that, don't you? You know Vincent and Father and the secret world below this city and that's why you so desparately wanted to meet me isn't it?"
Catherine's eyes grew wide in astonishment. How could he have possibly known all this? How could he have connected her to the tunnels? She took a shaky breath and nodded, resigned. At least she could lay her cards on the table now. She didn't have to pretend to be the sociable date anymore.
"Father wanted me to ask you why you want to come back," she began.
Legree smiled triumphantly. "It's my home. Mine. I would have never left if it weren't for that animal that lurks around down there."
Catherine fought to keep her voice level. "Father is worried about you. He doesn't think things would work out if you came back. You should just leave them alone."
Legree tightened his hold on Catherine. "Because of Vincent right?" he hissed. "You know, I have just as much right to live there as that creature. I was born there. I was happy. Do you realize what it was like for me to be forced to go? To know if I didn't, I would be torn into shreds while they all stood around and watched."
"You can't go back there," Catherine persisted and tried to wiggle free of his arms.
"I had it all figured out," he continued. "A way to dispose of Father and his pet in an accident. Cave ins are unfortunately common down there. With them out of the way, I'd be free to live my life in peace and everlasting beauty."
Catherine finally managed to pull away from him. She turned to look at him with undiguised revulsion. "I didn't want to have to resort to this but, I found evidence enough to reopen the Amelia Moore case and I promise you, it will go to trial and you will go to prison. I know why your victim changed her testimony. Maybe...you ought to think about leaving New York entirely." Catherine hoped her lying this time was convincing.
Legree laughed humorlessly. "You little bitch," he seethed. He turned and lifted his jacket from her chair. "I'm leaving, don't worry your pretty little head about this matter anymore. I can see now, nothing has changed down there. I would still be second in line to that...that mutant." He started walking for the door. "So what's the story with you and dear Vincent?"
Catherine tried to keep her voice as steady and toneless as possible. "He's a friend."
"A friend?" Legree smiled slyly. "Have you ever seen him? Or does he just talk to you hidden in the shadows or behind a wall like the phantom of the opera? You know, I once told him, that no sighted woman with any sense would let him within fifty feet of her. I told him women would find him even more repulsive than I did and the best he could ever hope for by way of companionship was maybe some greasy alley cat in heat."
Catherine's tears spilled from her eyes.
"Of course he'd just be your friend," Legree pressed on. "What else could he be to you?"
Catherine bowed her head, determined not to let him see how upset she was.
"Hey Catherine, when you decide you want a real man, give me a call."
With that, Catherine could contain herself no longer and leapt toward him in a fit of rage.
"Vincent is real, and beautiful, and I would make love to him a hundred times before I would even consider someone like you! You are soulless and unconscionable and so very ugly to me! Get out of here now! Get out of my sight!"
Legree merely smiled slowly. "Sounds like quite the, ah, friendship..." He stepped towards her. "Could it be, that monstrosity found himself someone to love? You must love him. How else could you be so blind?" He laughed coldly. "I actually suspected as much. How nice of you to confirm it for me." With lightening speed he grabbed Catherine in a vice-like grip. "Hey, I just thought of the most splendid idea. A sweet final revenge on my part. Something that would tear open that oversized heart of his until he bleeds to death in agony." He suddenly started dragging her to the bedroom. Catherine was almost too stunned to react. She struggled but he was ten times stronger than he looked and she couldn't seem to get enough leverage to throw him off her.
"What...are you going to do?" she gasped, panic filtering through her voice.
"Sometimes," Legree explained calmly. "The most effective way to hurt someone is to hurt the one they love."
Vincent suddenly sat forward. Father was still talking to him, but he didn't hear him anymore.
"Vincent? What is it?"
Pain. Fear. Desparation. A flood of frightening emotions surged into his mind and gripped him with astounding clarity.
"Catherine," he managed to convey. "Something is wrong." He was already up and on his way out when Father yelled his name again. Sensing a panic in his father equal to the one he was sensing in Catherine, he turned, confused.
"Hurry. Legree is with her tonight," Father confessed.
Vincent spun around and charged out of the chamber.
Legree managed to throw Catherine on the bed and back-handed her across the face. She rolled away from him, but he pinned her down with his body. He hit her again and she drove her elbow forcefully into his chest, knocking him back momentarily. He swayed backwards in pain, swearing furiously, and Catherine stretched towards her bedside table, pulling open a drawer, uncovering her gun.
Legree suddenly saw what she was after and grabbed at her wrist just before she was able to reach the gun. He planted his knee into her elbow and yanked her arm viciously back. There was a loud crack and sudden, overwhelming pain. Catherine screamed, then felt faint. Legree seized the gun, aiming it at Catherine's temple. He turned her over and sat on her legs.
"Don't scream anymore, Cathy," he said quietly. "It makes it sound as if you're not enjoying this."
He leaned down and kissed her tear stained cheek softly. Catherine tried to turn her face away. She was dizzy with pain and fear, but lucid enough to try to plead with him.
"If you do this...Vincent will kill you. He knows...what I feel. Leave now...while there's still time."
"Oh I have lots of time. He won't be able to find me."
"You don't understand," Catherine continued hurriedly. She began trembling as Legree unbuttoned her blouse. "He's coming here. Right now. He knows. He feels...whatever I feel."
"Interesting." Legree smiled, placating her, but not really believing her, his hand reaching down to stroke her exposed skin. "Do you think he'll enjoy this then? I certainly don't want him deriving any pleasure from our act of love. Maybe I should just kill you. I know he wouldn't like that."
Catherine screamed, doubling her efforts to fend him off. He struck her again and placed the tip of the gun barrel at the base of her throat.
"This is the last warning, Cathy. No more screams." He cocked the gun.
Shattered glass fragments suddenly showered the bedroom from the imploded balcony doors and the sound of a blood curdling roar pierced the deepest recesses of the night. Vincent lunged at Legree.
Shocked, Legree was momentarily paralyzed beyond reaction. Catherine seized her opportunity and pushed him off of her with enough force to knock him off the bed. He thumped loudly to the floor. The gun went off and time itself seemed to come to a halt. Legree backed up against the wall and struggled to his feet.
"Back off!" he seethed and turned his only salvation on Vincent. Vincent froze but snarled menacingly.
Catherine clutched at her arm, feeling like she was going to pass out again. Vincent spared her a fast look of concern. She tried to reassure him through their bond, repeating over and over that she was all right.
"Well, if it isn't Vincent," Legree spoke again, his voice cracking. "She said something about you stopping by, but I really didn't believe her."
"Legree," Vincent growled, his fangs flashing unspoken threats. "Is there no limit to your evil?"
Legree smiled and took better aim with the gun in his hand. "That's kinda like the pot calling the kettle black, don't you think? You're as much a criminal as I am. But at least I'll be a civilized killer. Just a single gunshot between the eyes and down you go. I won't rip you open and watch you bleed. I really don't enjoy that kind of carnage the way you do. Besides, if I killed you, I'd be a hero, not a murderer. I'd be ridding the world of a monster that should have never been allowed to reach his first birthday." He paused and gestured at Catherine. "The headlines will all say that I saved a beautiful lady from the clutches of a beast."
Surprisingly Vincent seemed unphased by his cruelty. He merely shook his head. "I hardly find your words or threats disturbing anymore," he rumbled deeply. "I only find you pathetic."
Legree's smile slipped. He lowered the pistol slowly and Vincent took a step forward. But then, Legree raised the gun at Catherine. "No, shooting you wouldn't be enough for me. But if I shot her---"
"No!" Vincent hissed, stricken.
Catherine looked from Legree to Vincent. She took a deep breath as Legree took aim.
"Bye Catherine. It could have been beautiful but it's all over now and I'm tired of this game," Legree said calmly. "Vincent can kill me afterwards. I'll be gone. But at least I'll die knowing he'll be left with nothing." Legree cocked the pistol.
Catherine suddenly winced, and with a cry of pain, collapsed heavily to the bed, fainting. The distraction gave Vincent all the time he needed to act and he lunged forward, striking out with honed speed and accuracy and raking his claws down Legree's chest. The pistol dropped on the bed and fully coherent, Catherine grabbed it and fired. Legree slumped forward without a sound.
Vincent froze, stunned. He stood over his enemy's lifeless form, breathing deeply, his eyes flashing wildly. Catherine began to cry. She dropped the gun and fell back on the bed, covering her face with her one good arm. Vincent turned to her and scooped her up carefully in his arms, cradling her against him.
"Catherine. Catherine. Catherine," Vincent breathed, stroking her head as she sobbed into his chest. In the distance the sound of sirens could be heard. Then somebody was pounding on her front door. Startled, she pulled back and wiped impatiently at her eyes.
"Someone must have called the police," she whispered. The sirens were getting louder.
Vincent was alarmed but was too concerned for her to flee. "You're hurt..." He gently began stroking her bruised face with his fingertips.
Catherine nodded. "He broke my arm." The pounding on the door became frantic. Muffled voices were heard from beyond. "You have to get out of here!"
Vincent was trembling. "I can't leave you like this. Let me take you with me."
"No!" she protested. "Someone has to answer for this. The police are coming! You need to leave now or they'll see you!"
Vincent tore himself from her, tears streaming down his face. He disappeared through the shattered remains of her balcony doors just as her front door finally gave way.
Joe Maxwell came flying into the room. "My god! Cathy are you all right?!"
"Joe?" She struggled to slide off the bed. "How did you know?"
He was looking around, taking in the destruction that once passed for her bedroom. "I heard your address being given over the police scanner," he said numbly. "Gunshots fired." He suddenly spied the body lying on her floor on the other side of the bed. He took a deep steadying breath. Police came flooding into the apartment. "Get forensics down here," Joe said to no one in particular. He took Catherine's hand and helped her up. "Christ, what happened to your arm?"
"I'm a little dizzy," Catherine said somewhat dry mouthed. She couldn't think. Her only concern was whether or not Vincent had gotten away safely. "I need to get out of here."
Joe took off his jacket and put it around her shoulders. He guided her slowly into the living room. "Come on, I'll take you to the hospital. We'll get your statement there."
Catherine eased herself carefully down the ladder and walked out of the shaft of white light and turned into the dimly lit tunnel entrance. It was nearly morning and she was so tired and drained, she thought her eyes were playing tricks on her. She paused her descent and tried to make out the form half hidden in the shadows just ahead of her. Someone was sitting on the ground, their back to the craggy tunnel wall. She stepped closer and smiled.
Her beloved slept there, his head resting on his folded arms which encircled his knees. His long gold hair spilling down, veiling his face. Bending down, Catherine began stroking his head softly. He stirred and sat up suddenly.
"Catherine!" He was on his feet in seconds and gathering her into his arms. "Are you all right? I waited here. It took all the strength I had not to go back up."
She covered his face with kisses, hugging him tightly, feeling overwhelmed. "I love you! I love you so much!"
He rocked her slowly, soothingly. "Please...tell me you're all right. I feel so many different things within you. I can't make sense of it."
"I just need some time. Time to heal. Time to be with you. I need your love around me right now. I need you to hold me and never let me go."
Vincent sighed deeply. "Come." He took her hand in his and began leading her down. He looked sadly at her arm, tightly bound, and folded across her chest in a sling. Her face was bruised and cut in places and his heart twisted painfully inside him just looking at her.
"I'm all right," she assured, sensing the distraught nature of his gaze. "Everything is all right, really. I had perfectly good explanations for what happened and although I'll be subjected to an investigation, I was assured it would come down to self defense. A date gone wrong."
Vincent sighed again and shook his head. "I wanted to be with you. I knew how frightened you were."
"You were with me," she told him and tried to smile. "Feeling you with me, gave me the courage I needed." She looked deeply into his eyes, still so troubled and pained.
"None of that mattered to me. I only needed to know you were safe."
Vincent raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. "I would have stayed with you if that's what you wanted. I would have faced them if you needed me too."
"I know," Catherine said. She squeezed his hand and smiled.
It was quiet in the tunnels now. Vincent wrapped a blanket around Catherine's shoulders for her since her arm was still in the sling. He settled into the chair beside his desk and faced her on the bed.
"With all this extra time you have lately, I don't suppose you've been writing anything?" he hinted.
Catherine had been given sick leave to recuperate, being next to useless with her arm in a cast. She had chosen to spend most of it below, letting Vincent pamper and wait on her, knowing it made him feel helpful. She smiled at him affectionately.
"As a matter of fact," she began. "I did start on another poem. I have the first stanza down, but now...." She gestured at her broken arm.
"Of course," he noted duly. "But I can always write the rest down for you."
She laughed. "You want me to dictate to you? I couldn't, it's too private." He raised his brow with intrigue, which made her laugh harder. "No, I mean it's about you. I can't have you writing it as I try to compose it in my head. You're only supposed to see the tenth and final draft."
He smiled easily and picked up a pen and a sheet of stationery from the desk. "Ignore me. Just let your words and feelings flow. Take your time to construct it in your mind first. Then tell me."
It was clear to Catherine, he wasn't about to let this drop. She took a deep breath and began to relay the verse she had already written. As she began relaying the words to him, he looked up from the paper with a startled expression.
"....That's beautiful," he breathed and quickly wrote it down. His heart began pounding madly inside him.
Catherine was enjoying his reaction. Her awkwardness dissolved and she told him a second and third stanza.
Finally, he looked up at her, his eyes misting with emotion and love. "Is it finished?"
Catherine smiled. "No. It'll never be finished. It'll go on and on." Then she had an idea. "We can write it together. Everytime either one of us feels inspired to do so. It's your turn now. You write a verse."
He blinked up at her and sighed, then bent over the page with the utmost concentration, scrawling the fourth stanza on the paper after a few minutes. Then he handed it to her. She began to read and he closed his eyes, absorbing every word into his heart.
To have your soul within reach of mine
Bending back the grass of time.
Fields of passion with our love flower,
Having you near filling every hour.
His locks personify my sun.
An earthbound spirit allowed to run,
Flowing life into my veins.
Entrusting hands control my gains.
Whispered winds, my love's upswept
To look at him, my heart protects.
Mirrored morning in his eyes,
Breathing love to me, he sighs.
Her belief in me, she wonders
Who is the man, the beast, is under,
Feeling her love with mine entwined,
Slipping through worlds, our hearts combine.
Catherine took a deep breath and focused on Vincent. He looked up at her, his sky blue eyes shining, clearly reflecting the love he felt for her.
"Have I ever told you," Catherine began softly, "How beautiful I think you are?"
Vincent took her small hand in his and simply smiled