Remember Love

by Ana Luiza Brown

Jacob woke in the middle of the night. He was breathless and his heart was beating so fast that he felt like it was going to jump out of his throat. No, it hadn't been a nightmare. More than that, it was a terrible fear that had been waking him up every night since he had seen a painting of his mom that his father had been keeping hidden away for many, many years. For the first time in his life he had seen what his mother looked like. And she was beautiful. More than that, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Since that afternoon of adventures, when he and little Cathy had found the painting of his dad holding his mom, he had been having this terrible sensation. It woke him up every night about the same time. He could feel that she was scared. Somehow the memory of a mother he had never known created a connection through which he could feel what she was feeling. And she was in danger; Jacob was sure of that.

He had to talk to his father. The man hadn't known anything about the terrible things Jacob had been going through. The reason why Jacob hadn't told anyone the feelings he'd been having for over a month was that he knew no one was ever going to believe him. Catherine Chandler was known to be dead and this connection, everyone would say, was nothing but his own way to deal with the absence of his mother. But to hell with them! He had to tell it to his father and he had to do it now! His mom was in trouble and he and his dad were the only people who could help her.

He walked through the dark corridors to his dad's chamber, being careful not to wake up anyone. It wasn't a long walk from his bedroom to his father's, but he was a bit afraid of dark places. A terrible doom for anyone who lived in the underworld. And this only made the fear he had been inside of him and that he knew was his mom's get worse.

"Dad, I have to talk to you."

Vincent heard his son's voice and slowly turned to face Jacob.

"Did I wake you, Dad?"

"No. I couldn't sleep. It has been one of those nights...But why are you awake? Did you have another nightmare?" asked Vincent, while slowly sitting on the bed.

" Well.... I don't know... It seems to be more than that," answered Jacob, while biting his thumbnail. He didn't know what his father would think about it...But what the hell! It was a risk he had to run. If his dad didn't believe him, he would go save his mom by himself!

"Sit here, my son," said Vincent, indicating a place for the kid to sit down beside him on the bed. "Is there anything bothering you?"

The child took the indicated place just beside his father. Jacob could feel his dad's strong hand on his shoulder. It comforted him and made him feel like he was the strongest man alive. His father trusted him, he could feel it now, and it filled him with the courage to say what he had to say.

"Dad," said Jacob while looking at the floor in order to avoid his father's eyes, "Would you believe me if I told you that I can feel my mother the same way you used to when you were still together? Somehow I feel that she's alive and that she's in trouble. I began feeling her when I saw that painting of you two together. She needs me, dad, I know it..." Then he turned his gaze to Vincent and said, "She needs you and me."

The boy's words shocked Vincent. What was this? The kid was not lying. He knew his son and was sure that the kid would never say such a thing without actually meaning it. Vincent was alarmed. Jacob was probably going through a lot of suffering. He had always known that Jacob blamed himself for Catherine's death and he had never managed to make his son get over this guilt. And now this. What to do now?

Vincent held his son's face between his hands and said, looking straight into the kid's eyes, "Jacob, your mother is dead and nothing will ever bring her back. You have no reason to blame yourself for it. A bad man took her away from us. It's horrible, it's sad and I still feel the pain of her loss. You are everything I have, do you understand? You are my life, and I want you to ignore these things you've been feeling. They are nothing but a lie. You have no reason to blame yourself for her death. Do you understand?"

Jacob was disappointed. For a moment he had expected his father to believe in him. He looked down, avoiding his father's eyes, and said that he would do it.

Vincent held his son tightly. He believed that the kid was telling him the truth. But Jacob knew that sometimes lying is necessary, but only if it is for a very good reason.

****

She was afraid to sleep again. She knew those dreams would come back. But they were more than just nightmares. They were too real to be bad dreams. They had to be memories from her past life. They had to be.

She couldn't remember anything before Richard found her running on the streets. He had taken her home, sheltered her, took care of her. Only he'd never been able to bring any of her memories back. He tried to do it, until one day he decided it was better to leave things the way they were. He said that her amnesia was perhaps the only thing that was keeping her alive.

"Cannot sleep again, Helen?"

"No, Richard," she said while looking through the window of the large living room they were in, "It's just the same dream again. It's a memory, isn't it?"

Richard, looking tired, sat at the marble table. He thought that it could be it. He passed his hand through his thin gray hair and answered that perhaps it was.

"No, Richard, you know as well as I do that it's true. It happened. These horrible things actually happened to me. I want to know who I was. I want to know my real name, no matter if it brings danger upon my own life. "

"Helen, all the evidence surrounding the unusual fact that you're a person who doesn't have any memory of your distant past indicates that something horrible has been done to you. What I mean is..." he paused, "I am sure somebody has messed with your mind and made you forget everything."

"Brainwashing? Are you trying to tell me that I have been brainwashed?" she said quite aggressively, turning her eyes to him.

"Yes, yes, something like that...My point is: who's done this to you? You seemed to be running away from something the night I found you. Somebody was after you, you told me. You just didn't know who. The problem is the person who's done this to you must be very dangerous; normal people don't do these things."

"I don't understand."

"Helen, what I am trying to say is that this person may still be after you and that your amnesia must be exactly what is preventing him from finding you. God knows what secrets you used to know and the dangers they may bring to you when you remember them."

"I don't understand you, Richard...You wanted to help me, didn't you?"

"Yes, but..."

"But what, Richard?"

"I don't want to lose you, Helen"

She reached out for his hand and sat beside him at the table. Richard was a kind of father for her, and he loved her like a daughter; the age difference between theme made them feel like that. Although she couldn't tell how old she was for sure, she seemed to be about forty and Richard was a sixty-five year old man.

"You'll never lose me, Richard. You are my whole family and you know it. I just want my life back. I have been delaying this moment for too long, but I think it's time to find out who I really am. I'm beginning to remember. What I've seen from my past wasn't any good, but I'm not afraid of it. Please, Richard, help me."

"All right, my dear, all right. I know a good person who can help us. She's very good at what she does and she's discreet. But are you really sure of it? The things you've seen from your past life were really horrible. I really don't think you had a nice a life before. Aren't you happy now?"

"Richard, I am now incomplete and I can never be happy this way. I have to find what I'm missing. I'm not afraid of bringing any danger upon my life anymore. For the first time in almost ten years, I feel as if I am able to face anything. "

****

Emily was a young private detective who had once been a police officer. She had been in the force for 5 years and had won many medals and had solved many difficult cases working at the Special Crimes Division with NYPD's Sherlock Holmes, Diana Bennett. The reason Emily left the force was that Bennett had proposed for promotion a dirty cop instead of her. Bennett knew this and only proposed it to please the mayor, who was a personal friend of the dishonest officer's family. The incident hurt Emily's feeling so deeply that she decided that leaving the police was the best thing to do.

She had been working as a private detective since she'd left the force. She was very good at what she did, but people never seemed to take a 26 year old girl with a teen face too seriously. That was the very reason she didn't have many clients.

She would usually open her office every day at 10:00 a.m., but she was going to open it a bit later on that Tuesday morning. She had been working until 4:00 a.m. taking pictures of a woman who had been cheating on her husband. It was boring work, but someone had to do it and the money was good.

Emily arrived at her office in Queens at about 11:00 and reached out for the mail left for her under the door. Nothing interesting, just some more bills to be paid.

She sat at her office's table and hid her face in her hands. So many bills to be paid and so little money...

"Excuse me, are you Miss Barret?"asked the old man at the door.

She raised her head and looked at the well-dressed man. He was old and seemed to be rich. Probably just another guy who wanted his much younger wife to be followed.

"Yes, that's me. Please, sit down. I'm sorry about the mess. You are Mr...?"

"My name is Richard Adam Franklin," said the man, while sitting on the chair in front of her desk, "We have a friend in common, Anton Freeman."

"Oh, yes, I remember him." Anton Freeman was a judge who paid Emily to keep his son under surveillance. He wanted to find out if boy was a heroin addict. Emily found out the truth and advised the man to keep the kid away from the city. He didn't do it and the press found out the whole thing. The papers ruined Freeman's career, but Emily had advised him well and the man was thankful to her since then.

"He's told me you're discreet and that you can solve almost any case."

"I've worked at the Special Crimes Division at NYPD and I've solved all the cases I've investigated. I have worked on all sorts of cases: missing persons, murder, kidnapping. Everything that was creepy and that everyone else wanted distance from. I felt like Dana Scully from the X-Files."

"Dana who?"

"It's a character on a TV show. But which is the case that you want me to solve?"

The old man didn't say a thing at first. He didn't know how to tell the whole story. Weird things happen every day, but people tended to be too skeptical about them. Besides, most people would consider Helen's story too absurd to be true. He took a long breath and began telling the tale.

"Well, Miss Barret, before I say anything I must advise you to be discreet and not to make any comments on this case to anyone."

"That is not a problem. We private detectives are like lawyers, we have to keep as a secret everything which is told us by our clients."

"It's very good to know. It is also very good to know that you're used to dealing with the strangest cases. The one I must ask you to solve is really complicated and involves a person who I love very much and who's been like a daughter to me for the past ten years."

"Well, I'm all ears. Does this woman know you're here?"

"Yes, she's asked me to come."

"Why didn't she come herself?"

"She never comes to Manhattan. A traumatic memory, I presume. Perhaps it's something she's still afraid to remember."

"What is her problem, Mr. Franklin?"

"I found her eight years ago, in the year 1990. She was running on the streets near the road to New Jersey. You know there's a hospital by there, don't you?"

"Yes, I do. A psychiatric hospital."

"She was running away from that hospital. Only she was so ill and so hurt that I was afraid to return her to the hospital. She seemed to have suffered some sort of violence in there."

"Whatsort of violence?" asked Emily curiously

"There was a wound on her head. Not so deep, but it seemed to have been inflicted by some sort of blade. There were also bruises all over her body. I took her to my house in Long Island. I'm a psychiatrist and that is the place I usually assist my patients. My office is there."

"Any other evidence of violence?"

"There were bruises on her wrists which seemed to have been caused by handcuffs. Anyway, I took her home and examined her. I was thinking seriously about making a formal complaint against the hospital when I found some evidence that..."

"What, sir?"

"Well, somebody had messed with her mind. Someone had erased all her memories of before that night. She doesn't remember anything that happened before I found her. Not even her name."

"WHAT? "

"I know it seems too weird to be true. I'm a psychiatrist and I know what I'm saying. She's a completely sane person, only she has some fears that are very difficult to explain, and she also has some nightmares that seem to be hidden memories."

"Wait a minute, Mr. Franklin. I'm really sorry, but I can't pick up your case," said Emily quite rudely.

"But, why?"

"I don't believe you, Mr. Franklin. It all sounds too much like The Twilight Zone to me. I think you're making fun of me and I'd be really thankful if you just left my office."

"Please, Miss Barret..."

Emily stood up and pointed at the door. "I'm really sorry, but I have bills to be paid and many cases to solve. I'm pretty busy and I have no time for jokes. Please, leave my office."

The old man looked at Emily, outraged. After he left, Emily just sat down and took a long look at all the bills. "Oh, God, what do you have in mind for me?"

****

Just another boring Monday. That was the thing Emily thought the very moment she stepped into her office. She had just opened the door when she felt a strong hand on her shoulder.

"Excuse me, Miss Barret..."

She turned and saw the same old man who had told her the absurd story a week before. Beside him was a beautiful woman who seemed to be about 39 or 40 years old. The mystery woman of the fantastic tale, perhaps.

"I'm really sorry, but I'm not in the mood for listening to fantastic stories today. I used to love these things when I was a child, but I'm a grown-up now and I..."

"Please, Miss Barret, just listen to us!" asked the woman.

Emily had good instincts, and that was the very thing that made her a good private detective. They had been very useful on many different occasions and somehow she felt that the woman deserved to be listened to. So she decided that it was the time to follow her instincts one more time and help the woman.

"Okay, you two can come in."

Emily took her place at the table while Richard and Helen sat in front of her on a pair of chairs that had been previously placed there by the investigator.

"What's your name?" asked Emily of Helen.

"I don't know my real name," Helen answered slowly. "Richard calls me Helen after his daughter, who died at the age of six."

Something in the woman made Emily believe her. Helen was sweet, intelligent and articulate and spoke in a way that made Emily almost immediately believe the things she said.

"He told me you never came to places such as Manhattan."

"I don't like these places. I feel terribly bad in them."

"So what brought you here?"

"I had to talk to you."

"Mr. Franklin told me how he found you. Do you have any memories from before then, any at all?"

"Sometimes they come to me in dreams. I dream of a child being taken from my arms sometimes. I don't know his name, but I know he's mine. I have also dreamt of..." she paused as if gathering strength to tell a very difficult thing. "Well, I'm in a car in this dream. There are two men holding my arms, beating me up. I feel they hurting me. I feel the pain. I'm sure it's not just a dream, it's a memory. It's too real to be just a dream. They hurt me and call me a name which I know is not mine. Then one of the men picks up a knife and..."

Helen had been telling all these things with a lot of difficulty, making an enormous effort in order to pronounce the words. Talking about these things was very painful to her, Emily noticed.

"You can trust me, Helen. I'm a friend and I'll do whatever is necessary to help you."

"And I feel a terrible pain in my face. Then it's over. I don't remember anything else."

"The guy in the dream hurt your face. But what makes you think that it's real?"

"It's not just a dream, Miss Barret. It's real. It was real. I actually feel the pain. I can remember it!"

Helen was feeling nervous. Thinking about these things and talking about them caused her an unspeakable pain. But she was strong and she knew she had to endure it.

Franklin decided to interfere. He gave his opinion as a specialist and said that he was almost sure that it was something she remembered.

"I don't understand, Helen. Your face is flawless, there's nothing wrong with it. It cannot be true."

"No, I have a scar. It's near my left ear. It was already fully healed on the night I was found by Richard."

"These things seem to be too fantastic to be true. You know, I would never have taken the case if I hadn't met you in person. I can tell whether a person is lying and you're not doing it for sure. I believe you, but I have to be sincere." Emily paused. She stood up and looked through the window. It was difficult to say that she didn't know whether she could solve the case or not. Everything seemed so spooky. "I don't know if I'll be able to find out who you are. But you can be sure of one thing: if I don't do it, no one else can. And one more thing: you two will have to trust completely in me and give me all sorts of necessary information. I'll have to check your fingerprints with the police, Helen. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone if I happen to find out that you did something bad in the past. And I'll have to check the police and hospital files. These things will take a long, long time. And I'll have to spend a long time with you two. You'll have to get used to the idea of having a person as boring as I am annoying you all the time." Emily looked at them and smiled. She was quite fond of joking and liked doing that in order to make other people feel confident about her. "I'll quit all the other cases I've been working on just to work exclusively on yours. And, of course, I'll need to be paid in advance. After all, I have to eat, get dressed, pay the rent and all the bills that have accumulated on my desk."

****

It had been three weeks since Emily had startd working on the case. At first, she went to the hospital from which Mr. Franklin said Helen had run away. They hadn't registered the escape of any patient on the night he found her. Weird. Too weird. Had those mad scientists actually erased Helen's memories in that place?

Then she began checking Helen's fingerprints. Nothing. Well, at least now she knew that Helen hadn't committed any crime anywhere in the country.

She had been spending a long time with Mr. Franklin and Helen. They both seemed to be nice people. Richard had lost his only daughter in the early 60's. The little girl was all his family and Helen had taken the place of his deceased daughter in his heart. She was helpless and needed some sort of protection and he was a lonely man. They needed each other and she loved and took care of him as if he was her own father.

They didn't need to say such things. Emily was a good observer and she had noticed it from the beginning. Helen was a very sincere and good person. It would be too cruel to be true if her past had actually been stolen from her by a mad scientist of some sort.

The house where Helen and Richard lived was very large and beautiful and it seemed to be out of place in New York. The mansion seemed like one of those old New Orleans buildings that Helen was used to seeing in the magazines. They lived there with two servants, a cook and a butler. The cook was an angry Argentinean woman who lived in Brooklyn and the butler was a very old man who should have retired long ago.

One night, Emily and Helen were talking in the kitchen. The cook had just gone home and Richard was sleeping upstairs. They were all by themselves and, for the first time in three weeks, they had an informal conversation. They talked about everything. Helen was a literate person, she was into Shakespeare and romantic poetry, things that seemed to be out of this planet for Emily, a grunge rock fan who had grown up watching MTV. Emily had gone to school, she knew who Shakespeare was, but she'd always thought that English literature was a complete bore.

"You had never told me you knew so many things, Helen. Your taste for literature and arts is very sophisticated. Have you learnt all these things from Richard?"

"No," replied Helen.

"So, you learned all these thing before. I mean, before the amnesia?"

"I suppose so."

"It's amazing. Whoever did this to you didn't want to change you."

"What do you mean?" asked Helen while raising her head to fix her inquisitory stare at Emily.

"I know it's a crazy idea, but I think that the person who did this to you, if there was actually a person who wanted to make you forget things, just wanted to make you forget your past, keeping all your other memories and thoughts untouched. Not changing you as a person."

"But what would be the reason for that, Emily?"

"That's the very thing I want to find out." Emily was worried. Things would get really creepy if someone had actually erased Helen's memories. Normal people don't do these things. Only those who have the power and the knowledge for it. Besides, God knew which secrets Helen was hiding in the depths of her mind! "Well, I don't want to change the subject of the conversation but, Helen, do you know that you're a very beautiful woman? Haven't you ever had anything with anyone during all these years?"

"No, would you believe me if I told you that ...Well, I feel as if I have been missing something, or someone. Perhaps that's the only thing I want to find out. More than about who I am, I want to know what I'm actually missing."

****

Emily spent another entire month working on the case. Old man Richard paid well, so she had no more worries about the rent for the office or her apartment. She worked 24 hours a day on the case, checking all the files possible.

She did an investigation about people missing on the day Helen was found by Richard. Nothing in the city. She did other research about people who had been missing 6 months before that night. She found no one who would fit Helen's description.

Emily felt as if she was walking in circles. Then she came up with the idea of investigating crimes related to the things Helen said had happened to her.

Helen said that three men had attacked her one night. One of them had a knife. She could feel, in the dream, the pain caused by his blade on the flesh of her face. Emily had refused to believe that this story was true. Except for a scar near her left ear, Helen's face was flawless. But since this was the only track Emily had to follow, she did a research on all the police files of cases similar to this which had taken place in the late 80's.

Emily Barret had been a great police officer and she still had very good friends in the force who provided her all the information she needed. It made things very easy for her. She could spend hours and hours in front of a computer at the station at which she used to work and no one would bother her. Even her former boss, Diana Bennett, would leave her alone. She couldn't endure Diana's presence, and Bennett would always avoid her. They ignored each other every time they met, as well as what each other was doing. Even if Emily spent hours at the police station working on her cases, Diana would pretend she wasn't seeing anything just to avoid any sort of confrontation.

Emily did research on the crimes similar to the one Helen claimed to have been victim. The attack should have happened before 1990, since Helen's face was already fully healed the night she was found.

She did the research based not only on the kind of attack, but also on the description of the victim: light brown hair, green eyes, about 62 inches tall. She began the research in the year 1989. No similar attack. 1988, one quite similar attack, very different victim. 1987, no similar attack. 1986...

There was an identical case registered in 1986. The description of the victim was quite close to Helen's. All Emily needed now was a picture and she downloaded it from the police files. She felt her heart began beating like thunder when she finally saw it. It was her! There was no doubt about it!

The picture had been taken just a few days after the attack, so the woman's face was all wounded and bruised. But she could recognize that face anywhere. She read the victim's name: Chandler, Catherine.

That was it! The case was finally solved!

She felt the urge to call Helen and tell her the good news, but then she paused. What if Mr. Franklin was right and it would be very dangerous for Helen to go back to her previous life? Before anything, she needed to know what kind of person Catherine Chandler had been, how long she had been missing. That wouldn't be difficult, but it would probably be the most dangerous task.

****

Jacob was at the apartment where his mom used to live. The place had been closed for months, since the people who lived there left the city. But Jacob was a very smart boy. He had learned from Mouse how to open closed doors without keys and how to get into the most secret places. Mouse had also told him where his mom used to live and showed him the secret entrance beneath his mother's apartment building. The passage had been closed for years, but he and Mouse managed to open it without anyone's knowledge.

Catherine's apartment was Jacob's secret place. He would go there to spend some time by himself. He had never taken any of his friends there, not even little Cathy. The only person who knew about it was Mouse, but he wouldn't tell anyone.

Jacob headed to the balcony; from there he could see the whole city. He could imagine his mother in that place. She would be reading poetry to his father and they would watch the sun rise on the city of New York together.

All of a sudden, he felt a terrible sensation of alarm. He scanned the place with his deep blue eyes, but didn't see anyone. But this feeling wasn't his. NO. It was his mom's! He could tell it for sure. Corpses don't feel, LIVING PEOPLE DO! How could anyone ever think that she was dead?

He had to find her. Sooner or later this connection would become stronger. He knew it. And then he would be able to know where she was. And then he would finally meet her.

He heard some noises coming from the hallway. Someone was opening the door. The place was full of empty boxes and he needed a place to hide. He took a place under a big cardboard box on the balcony and watched carefully the two women who had just entered the apartment.

****

"Well, I guess this is the most appropriate place to tell you the truth, Helen...or should I call you Catherine?" said the younger woman.

"What? Why did you bring me here,Emily? I feel terrible in Manhattan. I told you myself. I don't feel well here. I just want to leave..."

Jacob look through a small hole in the box to the oldest woman of the two. The lights were off, but he could see them very well. He had inherited his father's vision, and it made his adventures in the world above very easy, but its never helped him to overcome his fear of dark places. In his child's mind, he believed that there were strange things inhabiting the darkness, such as demons and witches. He needed to believe that one day he would overcome his fear. One night, not too long ago, he had heard his father saying to one of the elders who lived below that Jacob's fear of the dark was due to the lack of a mother figure. Perhaps it was true, but maybe he would no longer feel it the moment he met Catherine Chandler.

He felt a pain in his chest when he recognized the oldest of the two. The woman in the painting, his mother. She was there, standing just before him! He wanted more than anything to talk to her, hold her and show her how much he loved her. He would never ask her where she'd been all those years. But he couldn't do any of these things. He just stayed there, frozen.

"I brought you here, Helen, to tell you everything. Your real name is Catherine Chandler. You were born in 1956. You went to law school and became an attorney at the DA's office. You were quite good at what you did until one day you simply vanished. You disappeared for six months. And then you were found. They said you were dead. There are files which I've seen which are nothing but a fraud. They say you had been murdered. The detective who investigated the case was Diana Bennett, my former boss. She's a kind of a hero, you know? The one we see in the papers all the time." The younger woman seemed to be really apprehensive and walked round and round making gestures with her hands and speaking really loudly. She was afraid of something, or someone. "Only that...Well, I think she made up the whole thing in order to make things seem like you had been murdered...But you weren't. She's a dirty cop, she would do anything for her career, I'm sure of that. Even things such as this..."

"Wait a minute. How can I be sure that you are not lying? "

The younger women handed Jacob's mother a folder. Then she turned on the lights.

"Read it, Helen. There's everything about you in there. You were a very good person and you owe nothing to anyone. You helped many, many people. I've compiled this file for you. It's your life. If you want it back, you just need to read it. Only, Richard must be right, knowing these things will probably be very dangerous for you."

Helen closed her eyes. So there was no reason to be afraid for her life all these years? Then she opened the file.

"So I used to live here...Why don't I remember anything from this place?"

"I'm not the psychologist here. I'm just a detective and I've just done what I had to do, which was to give your past back to you."

Slowly, Helen turned page after page. Each one of them told a different chapter of her story. She slowly read it all. It was all so hard to believe. It was really scary to live without a past history and then have it all back all of sudden. It was too good to be true, and that was the very thing that scared Helen the most.

"Are you sure, Emily, that this woman is me?"

"Take a look at the picture at the end of the folder. I got it from the police files."

She stared speechless at a picture of herself which had been taken twelve years ago. Her face was covered with scars and bruises. Not a beautiful thing to see. She had always known that what she'd seen in the dream had actually happened, but seeing a picture of herself like that was too much for her.

Helen let the folder with all the papers in it fall on the floor. She was feeling dizzy and everything around her was becoming darker and darker. She rested her back against the wall. She was going to pass out.

"Helen, are you OK?" asked Emily while holding her hand. "Sorry, I've said everything too fast. I should have given you sometime. Just sit here, I'm going to get you some water."

She sat on the floor, where Emily had placed some old newspapers. Slowly she began to feel better. She raised her head and opened her eyes to see a child standing before her.

The boy was about nine years old. He had blond and not-so-short hair and his eyes were deep blue. He was dressed in very weird clothes, of that kind usually seen in movies that take place during the Middle Ages.

Helen stared at him without knowing if he was real or if he was just a figment of her imagination. Maybe he was just a dream, not unlike everything surrounding her. But the child was also staring at her and he was gathering the strength to speak.

"What are you doing, here you little prick?" screamed Emily, running to the kid standing before her friend. "You better tell me who you are or..."

"She is my mother, lady!" replied the little boy, who seemed to be really afraid of the aggressive woman who was holding his arms tightly.

"Stop, Emily, you're hurting him!" Helen ordered, while separating the kid from the investigator.

The boy was crying. He was trying not to do it, but the tears kept on rolling down his face.

Helen looked straight into the boy's eyes, which seemed too familiar. There was also something in the little boy's voice which reminded her of someone she knew. Only she couldn't remember who. "Who are you? Do your mom and dad know that you're here," Helen said tenderly while wiping away his tears with a handkerchief.

"You are my mother. I'm Jacob, your son."

She didn't know what to think or say. She had a life now, and a past. And now this.

"Why do you think I'm your mother?"

"You're Catherine, ain't you?"

"Yes, I guess that is my name. At least, it's what our friend int the corner says. But I don't remember anything."

"So, you don't remember me?"

"I'm really sorry, but I don't remember anything or anyone from my previous life," she replied calmly, trying not to hurt the boy's feelings. She said all these things looking straight into his eyes and speaking as tenderly as only a real mother could.

The negative answer only made the boy cry even more. Helen held him, trying to comfort him.

"Wait, I'm really sorry to disturb this emotional scene, but the kid may be right!" said Emily.

"What do you mean, Emily?" asked Helen, still holding the child.

"There's a report on your .... well, how can I say it? On your death which says that you had given birth to a child just before you were killed. The part about the death is false for sure, but the part about the labor..."

"So..."

"There's a possibility that the kid is telling the truth. Just that."

The three of them stayed together without knowing what to do. Helen was sitting on the floor with Jacob's head resting on her lap. Their eyes were seeing nothing, only staring at empty space while their minds wandered. They spent hours like that. The kid had finally found his mom, but he was very disappointed with the fact that she didn't remember him. And she was as beautiful as he had seen in the painting and as kind as he had thought her to be. On the other hand, Helen was feeling lost, without direction. She just kept on running her hands through the child's blonde hair.

Emily was sitting on the floor near them. She was also staring at a non-existent point in space. She shouldn't have told all those things so fast. Besides, bringing Helen to the place she had once lived didn't help anything, didn't make her new-found friend become more comfortable about the truth. Surprise, my friend, you are dead! You have been dead for almost ten years. She owed Helen an apology. That was the best thing to do.

"What's your name?" asked Helen softly while looking at the child's face. He seemed so familiar to her eyes. There were things in him which reminded her of no one but herself. Perhaps the kid was actually telling the truth and they were mother and son.

"My name is Jacob. Dad named me after the man who raised him."

"Vincent?"

Jacob raised his head from his mother's lap and looked amazedly at her. "Do you remember him, Vincent, my father?"

That was a question Helen didn't know how to answer. She stared at the child, speechless. She couldn't remember Vincent. The name just popped into her mind, but the simple pronunciation of it brought back the feeling of being loved and protected. Of being complete again.

"Did you remember anything, Helen?" asked Emily, staring in amazement at her friend.

"I simply don't know..."

"For God's sake, Helen! Just try to be more clear!"

"Shh! Stop talking!" said Jacob. He looked at the door. "We'd better get out. There's someone else coming."

"C'mon child! There's no way for anyone to know that we're here!" Emily replied, not taking the child's instincts seriously and not knowing about his enhanced senses.

"Let's go, mother. We have to hide. Come with us, lady!" he said to Emily "I know this building better than anyone !"

Someone put a key at the door. That was impossible, Emily thought, for she had the one apartment key available. Besides, no one knew they were there. Unless...

"Find a place to hide, now!" Emily said while picking up her gun.

Helen and Jacob hid behind the bedroom door. She felt a weird sensation, as if she had already been in that place before, only she was too worried to concentrate on it.

The door opened to show the figure of a slender woman in her late 30's. She was wearing sweat pants and a leather jacket. Diana Bennett. Emily's former boss. She had a gun in her hand and pointed it at Emily as soon as she saw her.

"Hello, boss! You can't imagine how much I missed you!" Helen knew how to be sarcastic at the most critical times.

"Cut the crap, Emily! Where is she? You know you two will never get out of here alive!"

The two of them were pointing their guns at each other. So much hate had been held through the years. Emily had been begging God for a chance to nail her former boss and show the whole department that their Sherlock Holmes was actually a corrupt officer who would do anything to reach higher places.

"Would you sell your soul to the devil for a promotion, Boss? Well, it seems that you've already done it!"

They kept staring at each other. Helen wanted desperately to help her friend, but she didn't have a gun and the child just kept on holding her hand and saying without a word "Don't do it!"

"Why, Diana? Why did you make up all these things? Why did you forge all those documents and reports? I've looked for the doctor who allegedly performed the autopsy on Catherine Chandler. But both of us know that no autopsy had ever been done. He's missing. Did you kill him? What about all the cops that were here when she was found dead. I haven't been able to find any of them. Did you kill them, too?"

"Not me, Barret. I'm not a murderer. I would only kill for personal defense or if I had a cause. A real good cause. And now I have one."

"How did you find out that I was here?"

"I followed you. I became suspicious about what you were doing when I saw you at the station spending hours and hours on the computer. You had never done it before. None of your previous research had ever lasted so long. Then one of my men said you had been investigating cases of aggravated assaults which occurred in the 80's. I know Catherine's past as well as you do. So I thought that perhaps she had come back from the world of the dead or from wherever she's been the past eight years, and that you were helping her. Helping her just to nail me."

"That too. I have evidence against you, Diana. You'll never get away with it!"

Diana shot her. Emily felt a sharp pain in her belly and shot back. She missed the target and just kept on shooting and shooting. Diana protected herself behind the wall of the apartment's entrance. The neighbors would call the police. But to hell with them! She was the police after all, wasn't she?

Emily fell to the floor. She would die if she didn't see a doctor soon and all her bullets were gone. Diana just passed over her, stepping on the hand with which she was holding the gun and taking it away from her.

Diana was heading towards the bedroom's door when Helen opened it violently, making it beat agaisnt Diana's face. She fell to the floor with a bloody nose.

"Come with me, mother! Trust me and I'll take you home!"

Helen headed towards Emily, helping her to run through the door while Diana was on the floor trying to gather the strength to stand up. Jacob was just in front of them, screaming at them to follow him. Helen knew she had no choice but to do it. Either it was follow the kid or wait for certain death with that mysterious red haired woman.

They went all the way down the stairs to the basement of the apartment building. Eighteen floors is a long distance to go when you know there's a killer after you. Helen helped Emily to climb down the stairs, but the investigator was just getting weaker and weaker. Helen could feel the strength of her friend ebbing away. They had to get her to a doctor soon.

****

Diana just waited for the police officers to come. She should have planned it all in a more discreet way. Her gun was equipped to be silent, but she should have anticipated that Emily would be armed and that her gun wouldn't have anything to silence its noise.

The neighbors had called the police. But so what? All she needed to do was show her badge to them and make up a story about following tracks secretly. She said she had been tracking some drug dealers for months and that the empty apartment was the place they were supposed to be. They didn't ask her too many questions. She was their superior and a living legend among the cops.

She had picked up the fallen folder just before the officers arrived and hidden it under her jacket after taking a look at it. It was Catherine's Chandler entire past, from the cradle to her supposed death. And it also showed that her death was a fraud, something made up by a group of coroners, forensic doctors and a police investigator named Diana Bennett. There was not much which could be used against Diana in it. Emily would have hidden all the important evidence somewhere else. But she had seen Jacob with them and she knew where he would take them. All she needed was time to think of a plan.

 

****

After getting to the basement, the two women followed the boy towards a small door hidden behind some big cardboard boxes. The kid removed them and quickly opened the door which lead to a corridor about six feet below them.

Emily kept her arm around Helen's shoulders. She was quickly losing her strength and Helen was helping her to support herself.

"Come down with me. We have no choice. My Grandpa is a doctor, he's gonna help the girl."

He climbed down a small ladd behind the door after he said it. Helen and Emily followed him. Even though Helen never stopped helping her, Emily felt it more and more difficult to go on.

The women ran through the corridors after the boy, who kept on telling them to follow and trust him. Helen kept helping Emily, forcing her to go on. But Emily's strength was gone. She didn't have much time left.

"We're safe now,"Jacob said. "We've taken a way which is unknown to her. Besides, she's never known how to walk down here."

"Stop! Just give some time, please..."

"But we've got to take you to a doctor, Emily," Helen replied.

"You know as well as I do that there's no time, Helen. Please, just leave me here. I'm just making everything more difficult for you!"

Helen pretended not to hear her friend and kept on forcing her to go on, almost dragging Emily, who still had her left arm around Helen's shoulders.

"No, I can't! Let me be. I'm dead," she said, while taking her arm from Helen's shoulders and falling to the ground. Helen stopped and seated Emily against the wall. The girl didn't have a chance, she had lost too much blood.

"I won't leave you alone. Not now." She sat down beside Emily and placed her left arm around her shoulders. She wanted to console Emily, to make her feel safe in her last moments.

"Can I call you Catherine? It's a very beautiful name. You'd better begin getting used to it.," the young woman said with a lot of difficulty.

"Yes, you can."

"I have to tell you something. That woman up there is my former boss, Diana Bennett. She's behind many bad things, including ..." Emily paused, gathering what she had left of her strength to speak, "All these things. If it wasn't for her, no one would have thought you were dead. She'd been told to investigate the case of your supposed death. She knew it would happen, then covered up the evidence left that proved you were still alive. Diana did it for someone rich and powerful enough to bribe anyone. She's poison, Catherine, I've always known it. I've gathered a lot of evidence against her. It's in a locker at the police station I used to work at, in Manhattan. John Monroe, a very reliable friend of mine, can show you where it is. Look, this is the key for it."

Emily took a small gold key from her pocket and placed it in Catherine's hand. "Hand all the things in it to a guy called Joe Maxwell, he used to work at the DA's office at the time you did. He's the only guy I trust to deal with this. I didn't tell him you were alive. I can imagine the surprise he's going to have when he finds out that you're well! Monroe knows where to find him. He'll tell you."

"Shh, stop talking," Catherine said softly. "It only makes you feel weaker."

"I wish I had had more time...26 years is not enough. I wish I had done so many things. And getting to meet you was great. You're a wonderful person. I wish I could arrest the bastard who did this to you. It wasn't Diana, for sure. She's no psychologist. It must have been someone really powerful. Be careful. Promise me that you're going to be careful. "

"Yes, Emily, I promise."

Catherine held her friend. She felt guilty for what had happened to Emily. It was horrible to see a young person's life to shortened like that.

Emily closed her eyes and Catherine kept holding her. Emily Barret, private investigator, ex-cop, 26 years old, was dead.

Catherine cried while Jacob watched the scene in silence. He felt sorry for the young woman, but he felt even more sorry about his mother. He was terribly sad to see her crying but he had to get them out of there. Diana had seen them and would be probably be tracking them in the tunnels. There were small drops of Emily's blood along the way which could lead her to the place they were. Jacob was worried. He had to get to his father as soon as he could.

"C'mon mother, let's go! We'll send someone for her after we get to Dad. Just follow me," the boy said while pulling his mother's hand.

Catherine left Emily's body, carefully placing it seated against the wall. She stood up and followed the kid through the corridors. She was still crying and didn't know where the boy was taking her. She was afraid, but the tunnels around her became more and more familiar as they went on, until they got to an entrance closed by a heavy gate of iron bars.

"Wait. I know this place." She was more controlled now, but she still had tears in her eyes.

"You onceknew how to walk down here. Mouse told me."

"But who's Mouse?"

"You're going to remember him. He's quite...uUnforgettable. Would you please push that button over there?"

The child pointed at a bottom beyond the bars. He was still too small to reach it and he had never done it by himself. Catherine reached it without much effort and pushed it just to see the gate of iron bars open before her.

It all seemed too familiar. She didn't know how to explain why.

They walked through the tunnels under Central Park for another half an hour until they saw a man coming towards them. Catherine stopped. She was about to hold Jacob's hand and run away when the child began talking to the man.

"Geoff! Have you seen my Dad?"

The man to whom Jacob was talking now was very young. He didn't seem to have turned twenty yet, and he had a teenageer's face. His hair was dark brown, as were his large eyes. One of the first things Catherine noticed about him was that he was wearing the same kind of clothes Jacob was, which seemed to have been crafted in the eighteenth century. The two of them talking to each other seemed like something from another time and century and totally out of place in 1998's New York City.

The man came close to them and froze. His large brown eyes widened and he kept on staring at Catherine as if he was seeing a ghost.

"Geoff, where's Dad? Can't you hear what I'm saying?" the child asked again.

He seemed not to have heard Jacob at all. He just kept on staring at Catherine. Geoffrey was so astonished by what he was seeing that he simply couldn't speak a word. He was petrified.

"I don't believe it! Am I seeing ghosts now?"

"What are you saying, Geoff?"

"This woman, this woman who came with you. She is Cathy Chandler! I remember when she died! How can she possibly be here?"

"Calm down, Geoffrey. I'll try to explain everything to you later. It's a long and very complicated story. Yes, she is my mother. And yes, she is alive. But I have to talk to Dad now. Where is he? Why didn't he come to me when I was in trouble. He always knows when I'm in trouble."

"Cathy Chandler. You are Cathy Chandler! I can't believe it ! Are you actually real?"

Geoffrey was staying right in front of her without knowing what to do. He was speechless and couldn't believe what he was seeing. He had never told anyone, but he had suffered a lot with her death. Of all the children who lived below, he was the closest to her and he had prayed to God for all the things he had been told about her death to be a lie. But they weren't. At least, that was what he had always thought until now. He opened his arms and held her tightly without saying a word.

Catherine didn't know what to do. Even if she remembered Geoffrey as a boy, it would be impossible for her to recognize him because he had changed a lot through the past nine years. He was a 6 foot tall,19 year old man now, far different from the kid he had once been.

"Geoff, she can't remember you!" Jacob said.

"What?" Geoffrey let her go and turned to the kid standing just behind him.

"Not you, not me, not anyone! She doesn't even remember Dad!"

"No, I think I remember your father," she replied. "It's not actually remembering him, it's more like remembering the feeling of being with him...and..."

"My God! What is this blood all over you? Are you hurt?" asked Geoff with his wide eyes staring at the many large bloodstains left by Emily's blood on Catherine's clothes.

"No, I ...I'm OK. At least, I think I am..."

"Where's Dad, Geoff?" Jacob asked.

"What did you say, Jacob?"

"Where's DAD?" The kid was impatient with his friend who was still too astonished to answer any questions.

Geoffrey held his breath and closed his eyes. It was too good to be true. It all seemed like a dream and he was expecting someone to come and wake him up.

"Vincent somehow felt that you were in danger. Only he didn't know where you were. Little Cathy ended up telling him that you had gone above and..."

"And what, Geoff?" Jacob seemed more and more impatient with Geoffrey.

"Diana Bennett came below and said that you were in great danger, that she knew where you were, and ..."

"And..."

"They left together to look for you."

"Diana Bennett. The woman who killed Emily," Catherine said, "She's going to kill Vincent, we have to stop her! My God, she must have already killed Richard!"

"Wait mother, you're wrong!" Jacob said while holding his mom's hand, preventing her from going. "She loves Dad, I know it! She has always wanted to take your place in his heart but...Dad has never stopped loving you. He could never forget you, mom. He suffers for you even today. I can feel it. He's always had you in his heart and there was no place for another woman in it!" Jacob was very mature for his age and all the things he said only made him sound more grown up. "She would never hurt Dad. She wants you! I can't let you go now that I've finally found you! She will kill, mother. She will kill you..."

Catherine turned to Jacob, got down on her knees and held him tightly. She had no more doubts that Jacob was actually her son.

****

Diana took Vincent to an abandoned slaughterhouse. There was not much difference between the neighborhood of the building and the building itself, both of them were deserted and ruined. A few homeless people used to sleep in the streets near there. And those seemed to be the only inhabitants in that area.

They went through the tunnels as fast as they could and they made it to the slaughterhouse less than ten minutes after the beginning of their journey. Vincent had pulled Diana by her right hand throughout the journey, making her run much faster than she usually could.

They entered through a secret door in a street near the abandoned building. The slaughterhouse was secured by a heavy iron gate which Vincent opened very easily.

"Jacob! Where are you?"

He went into the slaughterhouse desperately looking for his son. The only light in the place came from the streets, but darkness had never been a problem for him because of his enhanced senses.

Diana picked up her lantern and followed Vincent. He was so worried about his son, the only thing he had left of Catherine, that he didn't even care to ask Diana why her face was like that. She was still feeling the effects of Catherine's attack, but she would make her pay for it.

They went into a small corridor, Diana close behind him. She had borrowed one of those guns which are used to put large animals to sleep from a friend at the Brooklyn Zoo and she meant to use it tonight. She raised it and pointed it at Vincent's back. Not even his heightened senses would have been able to prevent him from being shot in the back by his most trusted friend.

Vincent felt the sharp pain in his back. He turned to Diana and looked at her. There was nothing of anger in his expression.

"Why, Diana?"

She shot him again in the chest and he fell unconscious to the floor. Diana didn't know how long the effects of the drugs would last and she had to work fast. She checked how many darts she had left. Twenty. Her friend at the Brooklyn Zoo had provided her all that was necessary to keep a lion or a bear asleep for a month and he had never asked her why. He trusted her. Vincent trusted her. Everybody trusted her.

She picked up some chains in a not too distant corner and tied Vincent's hands and legs. Those were very thick and heavy chains and she had previously left them there. There was no way for him to escape, not even if he woke up. But she would be careful to keep him unconscious.

Diana was feeling terribly tired. The sharp pain in her nose hadn't stopped yet and she was literally exhausted. All her body asked her was to go home to sleep, but she still had too much to do.

She went looking for pipes in the building, pipes which seemed long enough to reach the depths of the big city. Diana found some in a place which should have been some sort of office. She tapped a message on them.

"And now there is just the waiting."

She picked up the dart gun in her left hand and the real gun in her right, went to the place where Vincent was asleep, sat beside him on the floor and waited.

****

Catherine and Jacob were alone in Vincent's chamber. Jacob tried to explain to her about everything, about life in the world below, about how Vincent had met her, about how her son had always felt that she was alive.

She was sitting on Vincent's bed listening to the kid, without saying a word. She had been a person without a past for the past nine years and had been using a name which wasn't hers. But now she not only had a past, she also had a son, a secret which she had to keep for the rest of her days, and a killer chasing her down. Everything had happened so fast that she hadn't had time to think yet.

Jacob just went on talking and talking and walking around the room. He told Catherine about Diana as well. Even though she was one of his father's best friends, Jacob had never liked her. He would always treat her well and respect her because of his father, but the feelings he had for her were not unlike those that a stepkid has for its stepmother. Jacob had always considered Diana an intruder, someone who wanted to take his mother's place.

"Have you sent anyone for Emily?"

"You mean the girl who was with you? Yes, I told some of our friends below. She's going to have a decent funeral. I promise. We are going to find her family and talk to them. Be sure of that."

An eight year old child speaking like an adult. Catherine rose to her feet and scanned the room with her eyes. She remembered this place, there was no doubt about it. And she could remember a voice as well. A voice which she had first heard in this room.

She went to Vincent's writing desk. There were some books on it.

"Isn't it weird? I remember the context of some of these books, but I can't remember reading them," she said.

"Who is Richard? You said his name when we met Geoffrey," Jacob asked.

"He found me one day. I can't recall that day, but he has told me about it. He's been like a father to me since then. He's my protector and I am a kind of daughter to him as well. I thought that Diana had killed him when I first found out your father had gone above with her, but now I see that it's not possible. The only things she knows about me are in that folder Emily handed me, and there's nothing about him in there. The only thing in there about my present life is that the name I use is Helen. I remember it quite well."

She paused for a moment, put her hand on the stains left by Emily's blood on her clothes and said, "I'm sure she cannot do any harm to Richard. She doesn't know anything about him and he's the only one who can help us. I don't think we should just stay here sitting all evening, waiting for your Dad, or for Diana to come with a shotgun."

Geoffrey came into the room. He had been running and he was out of breath.

"I have a message for you, Catherine, from Diana. It has been delivered through the pipes," Geoffrey said.

"She knew I would be here because she saw me with Jacob."

"She told you to go to this place in the Lower East Side. I noted it down because I'm terrible at keeping addresses in my mind," Geoff said.

Geoff handed her a piece of paper. He told her he knew the place and about a secret door which leads to it. He also told her that Diana didn't know anything about this secret passage and about the tunnels which lead to it.

"She has Vincent, Catherine. That's what we could understand from the message. She also said something about evidence, and that you had to go alone."

"I'm going there."

"And I'll go with you, mother."

"No. You can't go in there with me, " She bent down on her knees and looked into the kid's eyes, "It's too dangerous for you. You're just a child. She has taken away my past, and I'm going to have it back tonight. Could either of you two lead me to the nearest telephone?"

****

Geoff and Jacob took her to a public telephone. They were still in Manhattan and she had to get through to Richard. He was her only hope.

Richard met the three of them at the telephone booth from which she had called him. It took him well over forty minutes to get to the place.

"Good Lord, Helen! Where have you been?" Richard said and held her tightly. "I thought you were dead. It's been over four hours since you left with Emily. And, Helen, what do you have in mind for this?" After saying that, he handed Catherine an object in a big brown envelope.

"Look, Richard, Emily found out everything about me. I mean, almost everything. My name is not Helen, it's Catherine, and this little boy with me is my son."

"What?"

"Richard, Emily is dead. See these bloodstains on my shirt? It was her blood. She died in my arms less than four hours ago. She's been killed by a police officer called Diana Bennett."

Richard looked at Catherine's shirt and noticed the blood he hadn't seen before. He was in shock. He liked Emily, she was a good girl, and he couldn't stop feeling guilty about her death.

"My God!"

"Richard, I don't know if I'll make it through the night. Diana has sent me a message. I know where she is but I can't call the police to take her. She has a ...a friend of mine with her and the police would only cause him trouble."

"But, Helen, you can't go there by yourself. Don't ..."

"I'm sorry, Richard. I'll call you when it's all over. I promise."

She handed Richard the key Emily had given her.

"This key was given to me by Emily just before she died. It is a locker key. She told me to look for a police officer called James Monroe at the police station she used to work. Do you know where it is?"

"Yes, I do. But..."

"He knows which locker is opened by this key. Take all the things in it and give them to a man called Joe Maxwell. He used to work at the District Attorney's office. Can you find him?"

"Yes..."

"Tell him that Catherine Chandler is alive and that she, or I, will talk to him later." Catherine paused. It would be difficult for her to get used to this new name. "Emily said he's the only person she trusted. He used to work with me... before all this happened. She has gathered enough evidence to make Diana fall. We have to do it, Richard! We owe her that!"

After saying it, Catherine hugged her adoptive father and left with Geoffrey and Jacob. They went along the street, turned around the corner, and Richard lost sight of them.

Richard was afraid. Afraid of losing the woman he considered a part of his family and who he loved as a daughter. He was also sorry for Emily. She was so young, she had so much to live for and learn. He didn't want Helen to end up the same way.

He held the key tightly in his hand. There was nothing he could do but get all the things in the police station's locker and hand them to Joe Maxwell. Slowly, he turned around, got a taxi and asked the man to take him to the ninth district police station, in Manhattan.

****

They went through a secret door down to a tunnel which Geoffrey said was a shortcut to the Lower East Side. It took them about two hours until they got to the place. All of them were exhausted by then.

Catherine sat down on the floor and opened the envelope Richard had given her. She pulled up a huge gun from it. She didn't know which kind of gun it was. As a matter of fact, she wasn't even sure whether she could shoot it or not.

"Jacob, has Vincent ever mentioned me using one of these things?"

"Talking about you is a subject that always brings him some pain, but Mouse told me that you could shoot. That one night you shot a thug who was threatening our people and that you hurt him in the leg."

"Did I really do that?" She widened her huge green eyes and looked at the boy. It was hard to believe that she had actually shot anyone.

"Yes, you can be sure you did it. I remember it," Geoffrey said.

"What do you remember about me, Geoffrey?"

"You were one of the two greatest women I have ever met! The other one was Mary, who raised me. You looked then very much like you do now, only your eyes didn't seem so sad. I didn't want to believe it when they told me you were gone...but I had to accept that."

Catherine held the gun tightly in her right hand. She had missed so many things during the past nine years. But now it was time to have her life back. She didn't care much whether she died or not. She just wanted to save Vincent and know the truth. And now it was the time for it.

"You two stay here. This is just between Diana and me."

"She's going to kill you," Jacob said. He had a tendency to be pessimistic and he was afraid of losing the mother he had just met.

Catherine held Jacob one more time, left him and opened the secret door which led to the street. The slaughterhouse indicated in the address was just before her, across the road. She looked at the gun once more. She knew she was crazy to do something like this all by herself, but it was the only way.

She went in. The place seemed to be abandoned, as well as the streets surrounding it. No noises at night. She checked the time on her watch; it was exactly 4:00 in the morning.

"I've been waiting for you!" Diana screamed and shot at Catherine. Even though Diana had already turned on some of the place's lights, the whole building was still too dark for a shot as distant as that.

Diana had missed her and Catherine hid herself behind a wall.

"You brought a gun. You weren't supposed to have brought one! " Diana said while clambering down the stairs to the place Catherine was hidden.

Catherine pointed the gun at Diana and shot. She missed her, but at the same time scared for having pointed a gun at a person with the intention of shooting it.

Diana was much closer to Catherine now, only about twelve feet away. She looked at Catherine and shot her in the hand just before Catherine had the chance to shoot once again.

Catherine let the gun fall to the floor and fell down on her knees, holding her wounded right hand. She looked up at Diana. She was really angry. She had never felt like this, not that she remembered. She could have knocked Diana down if the woman hadn't had a gun.

"Show a little decency and give me back my past before I die. I have to die knowing who I am."

Diana went closer to her, less than six feet away. She looked down at Catherine. Killing her now would be so easy that she almost felt sorry.

"I just want you to know that I'm not a killer. I'm only doing this for a reason. And the reason is love. Vincent is mine now and your coming back is only going to make things unbearable for me. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"

"How could you not be a killer if you killed Emily?" Catherine said.

"I know, but I did it for love!" Diana replied.

"How about my past, my life? Did you take it away from me for love as well?

"No. I didn't take away your past. Gabriel did it. He was the one who made you forget everything. He had doctors and scientists working for him as well as some cops, such as me. Some of these doctors performed terrible mind experiments with people," Diana answered calmly, almost softly.

"So that's what I was for him, a guinea pig? Nothing but a rat in an experiment?" Catherine looked down at her hand. There was a huge hole in the middle of it which ached like hell. She wanted to scream for help, but she couldn't call Geoff and Jacob. They had heard the shooting for sure, but Diana could easily kill them both. It would be better to keep them out of it.

"No, you weren't. He loved you. At first, he only wanted the child you were carrying."

"Jacob?"

"Yes, little Jacob. He knew about the nature of the pregnancy and that the father wasn't exactly what you would call...human. That was why he wanted the child," Diana said coldly, never diverting the gun from Catherine.

"What do you mean? Not human?"

"So you don't remember him?" Diana laughed. "I wish Vincent had seen this, that his beloved Catherine doesn't even remember his face!"

Catherine rose to her feet and was about to push Diana when she felt a sharp pain in her left knee. Diana had shot her one more and she fell on the floor again. This was too much. What did the woman want to do to her, torture her?

"But don't you want to listen to the rest of the story before you die?"

Catherine lifted her head and stared at Diana. There was no doubt that, for as long as she could remember, she had wanted to know about her past. But she cwould never have imagined that she would have ended up learning about it like this.

"The pregnancy was not normal and Gabriel kept you a prisoner because of the child, but he fell in love with you. Even though he was a nasty person, he was able to love in his own way. And he loved you...and he wanted you to love him. But he knew that you would never love him. You already loved Vincent and you would never give yourself to a jerk like that." Diana paused. "He could have raped you. It would have been very easy, but it would have endangered the life of the child. Besides, he wanted you to love him truly."

"DO you actually expect me to believe in this bullshit?" Catherine asked angrily.

"Oh, my dear, but this is all you have to believe in. But allow me to go on," Diana said ironically.

Catherine was sitting on the floor, and the red pool created by the blood from her hand and knee was getting larger and larger underneath her.

"So Gabriel decided that the best way of having you was making you forget you were Catherine Chandler. He had the means and he had the power to do it. Such things were very easy for him. He made everyone think that you were dead. Even the cops who found you and the coroners who had confirmed that you were dead had been bribed by him. I remember I met the guy who had allegedly performed the autopsy on you, he was another of Gabriel's guys."

"What do you mean by all this?" Catherine asked

"I'm saying that all the evidence surrounding your death was made up by Gabriel. He expected a person such as me to investigate the Chandler case, so he found me."

"And he bribed you. How much did it cost, Diana?"

"I'm not what you think I am. I didn't do it for the money."

"So what was the reason for it?" Catherine asked.

"At first, I just wanted to climb to a higher step in my career. I've been the youngest lieutenant in the police's history. I didn't get ahead by my own credits alone. I had help from some people. Gabriel knew it and promised to help me if I covered all the traces that proved that you were still alive."

"So what has he done to me?"

"He sent you to a comfortable hospital near the road from here to New Jersey. That was the place where some of his doctors performed these experiments. Everything was done in secret, of course."

Catherine closed her eyes and concentrated. She was about to pass out but she couldn't let it happen. Even though this crazy story seemed quite absurd, it made some sense when coupled with all the information Emily had given her.

"And where's Gabriel now?" Catherine asked.

"I had to kill him. I stumbled on Vincent during the investigation of your supposed death and..."

"And what?"

"I've fallen in love with him. Can't you remember anything about him at all? He's very easy to love, Catherine. And you're the only woman he's ever loved in his whole life." Diana Bennett paused, thinking of what she was going to say next. "I didn't know where Gabriel was nor where he kept the child. I only knew where he kept you. So I found out where he was and killed him. He would have killed Vincent or the child. He was completely out of control. That's what power does to some people."

"Yes, I can see it now. "

"Now you know the whole story. I just did it like the villains in the movies. Have you ever noticed how they always tell the whole story in the end? You know you are already a dead woman by now, don't you?"

"Yes, I do."

"But I am a woman of my word. Tell me where all the evidence Emily gave you against me is and I'll spare Vincent's life. There's no way to spare your life. I hope you understand that."

"How can I be sure that you're not going to kill Vincent after you kill me?"

"That's all you have. I'll shoot him in front of your eyes if you don't do it." Diana was now nervous, but she was still managing to control herself.

"How could you possibly kill the man that you love?" Catherine said before Vincent came between them.

Vincent had woken up due to the sounds of the shooting and had managed to break most of the chains that had been keeping him tied up. He was too dizzy to fight. Besides, he didn't want to hurt Diana and tried to argue with her. He kept himself between the two women, protecting Catherine with his own body.

"You don't need to do this. Give me the gun, Diana. I know you're a good person. You've proven it to me more than once."

"Why would I do it? Would it be just so you could slice me in pieces for your beloved Catherine?"

"Diana...You know I would never do that. You're my friend!"

"Shut up, Vincent!"

Catherine reached for the gun Richard had given her with her left hand and shot Diana in the chest. The gun wasn't so distant from her, so picking it up wasn't difficult. But she was a righty and reaching for the gun and shooting it with her left hand wasn't easy.

Diana fell down to her knees. Catherine had managed to shoot her in the chest, but she was still alive. She pointed her gun at Catherine, who shot her three more times.

Diana was now dead. Catherine knew she had killed a person and felt awful about it. She let herself fall, never releasing the gun from her hand. At first, she didn't believe Diana, but then she thought about all the things Emily had told and showed her. The whole crazy story began to make sense. And now she had seen Vincent. Even though she couldn't remember him, she knew she loved him. And no matter if she died now, she knew she was now complete, like she once had been.

Vincent reached for her and held her in his arms. Was it really her? The woman he had always loved H e had heard a large part of the conversation. So she couldn't remember anything...

But how could all that be possible? She had died in his arms nine years ago. He had felt her slipping away. And now she was once again lying hurt in his arms. She was losing too much blood and he was afraid one of the bullets had reached an artery. He couldn't lose her again. He couldn't.

"Catherine, please, answer me if you can still hear me!"

Even though she was about to pass out, she opened her eyes and looked at him. She felt protected, as if nothing in the world could ever harm her.

"You know, I couldn't remember your looks but I've never forgotten your voice...It would come to me in dreams." She felt it difficult to speak because she was feeling weaker and weaker due to the loss of blood.

"My God, I have to take you to a hospital."

"No! I've just killed a police officer. She was about to kill me, it was self defense but...I still don't have any of the proof against her."

Vincent ripped a piece of his shirt, lifted her long skirt and made a tourniquet around her wounded knee. He ripped another piece of skirt and enveloped her wounded hand in it. There were two small holes in Catherine's left knee, one in the front and one in the back, indicating that the bullet had passed through it. The damage in her delicate right hand was much worse. It seemed that the bullet had exploded inside of it, leaving a huge hole which went all the way from her thumb to her ring finger.

"Just promise you're always going to stay with me."

She tried to answer, but she was too weak due to the loss of blood and didn't have any strength left to speak.

He lift her from the floor. He was still too dizzy because of the drugs, but he felt that he still could take her to the hospital they had below.

He ran with her in his arms and opened the secret door that led to the tunnels just to see Geoffrey and Jacob standing near the door.

"What are you two doing here?" Vincent asked them.

"We took her here. We thought that Diana didn't know about this passage," answered Geoffrey.

"But she knew! I led her here through these secret tunnels! " Vincent said

"My God! What has that woman done to you, mother?"

Catherine opened her eyes and looked at the child. She wanted Jacob to know that she was OK, that she wouldn't die. But she was so weak and tired.

"Did you kill her, Mother?" Jacob asked while looking at the gun she had never stopped holding.

"She had to do it, Jacob. Diana left her no choice. Let's take her to your grandfather now. We have no time to waste."

Vincent ran as fast as he could through the tunnels with Geoff and Jacob after him. He would have gone faster if the effects of the drugs had already ceased.

By the time they got to the small hospital they kept below, Catherine had already passed out. She had already lost too much blood and Vincent couldn't feel the joy of knowing that she was alive because of the fear he had of losing her once more.

He delivered her to old Jacob's care, who couldn't help being surprised at seeing Catherine alive and breathing.

****

Vincent waited in his chamber with Jacob and Geoffrey for Father's news. They knew the surgery had every chance of being successful, but Vincent was still afraid for her because of the amount of blood she had lost.

They waited for about three hours until Father came into the room.

"She is well now. I only don't know whether she'll be able to move her right hand again or not. Vincent, how did this happen to her? And how can she be alive? I went to her funeral, I saw them burying the coffin. How can this be possible?"

Vincent didn't answer his father and simply stared at the gun on his writing table. Catherine had killed Diana with it. It was too hard to believe it...

"Dad," Jacob said, "We have to call the man who gave the gun to mom. I still have his number with me. He'll be able to help her with everything. Are you coming with me, Geoff?"

"No, Jacob. I'm sorry. You know I would do almost anything for Catherine, but I'm just too tired to do anything now. You go there and tell me what happened later."

It was past 8:00. Everybody was feeling tired after the previous night, but Vincent and Jacob simply couldn't sleep.

Jacob left the chamber to call the man called Richard. His father stayed behind. He couldn't think of what to do. Having her backagain was wonderful, it was too good to be true. Only she didn't remember him. He still loved her with all his heart, but he didn't know whether she still loved him or not.

What about Diana? He had always considered her his friend. His closest friend. He had always known about her feelings about him, but he'd never given her any hope. Diana had always known that he belonged to Catherine, and he would never have another woman as long as he lived.

Vincent could never have imagined that Diana would betray him. She was hiding from him the fact that Catherine was still alive. How could she have done that? Even though he knew very well whatever his old friend had done and all the pain she had caused to him, he couldn't help feeling sorry for her.

He stood up and walked around the room with just a few words in his mind. "Will she ever love me again?"

****

Catherine woke with little Jacob beside her. What kind of place were they in? A hospital? She still could feel some pain in her right hand and left knee, but it was much better already. She lifted the sheet and saw her legs. Everything seemed to be OK with them.

"I've been waiting you to wake up," Jacob said.

"How long have I been here?"

"19 hours and 54 minutes. I thought for a moment you would never wake up, but Grandpa said you would be just fine. He also told me that you'll be able to walk within three weeks, but you'll have to use a cane for a while. As for your hand...Grandpa said he did the best he could...but...well..."

"But..."

"He didn't all have the stuff here to make it be like it was before...I'm sorry..."

She looked at all the bandages around her hand. Was she a cripple now? No, there was no need to exaggerate about it.

The child held her good hand. He was glad to see her OK, but he was afraid that she would go back above.

"I've called that man, Richard. He's worried about you. He wants to see you. I couldn't allow him down here because of our secret. No one knows we live here. But I told him you would be fine. I haven't told him that you had been shot. I didn't have the guts to say it. He said he's got all the evidence against Diana in that girl's locker."

"You mean Emily?"

"Yes, in Emily's locker. He's already given it to that guy ...Maxwell. Diana is no longer a cop hero anymore and some other guys have been arrested too. There is one more thing. The man also told me that you are clean and there is nothing against you. They think Diana was killed by one of the bad guys she had worked for. You are not officially...well...How can I say it?"

"Dead?"

"You are not officially dead anymore. Everybody knows that you are alive now. Only no one knows where you are. You won't leave us again, will you?"

She wanted to promise the child that she'd always been there. She had no other place to go. This was her life and now she had it back. But she was so afraid of what was about to happen that she didn't know what to do.

Vincent was standing at the entrance watching the two of them. They hadn't noticed his presence yet. And they looked so beautiful together.

"It all seems like a dream, doesn't it?" said a person standing behind him.

He turned and saw Geoffrey. He had just arrived and was also watching Catherine and Jacob.

"It seems that at any time, someone is going to come to wake us up, doesn't it?" Geoffrey asked.

"Yes."

"But it is not a dream. Vincent, you are my friend and I've always loved you like a brother. I know you and I know you want to talk to her. So, why don't you just do it?"

"I don't know whether she'll accept me again. Look at me Geoffrey! I'm a monster! She accepted me in the past. But now... she doesn't even remember me! I love her too much to cause her anymore trouble. She has already gone through so many things..."

"But you won't cause her any trouble if you talk to her! If she accepted you in the past, there's no way for her to refuse you now. Feelings are things that you never forget, and I'm sure that, somehow, in the bottom of her heart, she still remembers that she loves you."

Vincent didn't move. It was still too difficult to believe that she was alive. It was simply too good to be real...

"Will you go there or not, Vincent? See? They've already noticed us here. Go there and talk to her!"

Geoffrey had never imagined that one day he would see Vincent like that, looking like a shy teenager, too afraid to talk to the girl he loved. The Vincent he had always known was the underworld hero to whom limitations and boundaries meant nothing. But he could understand Vincent more than anyone. He knew what Catherine had always meant to Vincent and how good it was to have her back. But she couldn't remember anything. And that was the very thing that was hurting Vincent so much and which made him feel afraid. Vincent and Catherine had shared so many things. And he was the only one who remembered them.

"Come with me, Vincent. I will help you," Geoff said before going into the room. "Good morning, Sleeping Beauty. How are you doing?"

"I'm OK. Jacob said I'll be walking within three weeks. Only spending three weeks in bed is going to be too boring," Catherine answered.

"Oh, but don't worry, we'll provide you enough entertainment for a whole lifetime while you're in bed. Do you plan to stay with us? I mean, do you want to stay here after you get better?"

"Well, I think so. I feel well in this place. Besides, Jacob is here and I don't want to be away from him. "

"That's a very good reason. But allow me to give you one more. Vincent, come here! Don't be shy, my friend! I'm sure the Sleeping Beauty here wants to talk to you as much as you want to talk to her!"

Vincent approached the three of them slowly. He looked at her. So many years had passed and she still seemed the same. He was almost sure she would feel afraid of him. She had forgotten everything. How could this have been possible?

"Well, Jacob, we'd better get going.These two have much to talk to each other about."

Jacob kissed his mother and left with Geoffrey. Before he left, he hugged his father and said that he didn't need to worry.

"Don't you feel afraid of me?" Vincent asked.

"No, why would I?"

"But you don't remember me, do you?"

She looked into his eyes. She somehow felt she still loved him and that whatever they had shared in the past was still alive. She wished she could tell him that she remembered him. But she couldn't. All she could remember was the feeling, the love she had had for him. Besides, she simply loved him. Did he need any explanations besides that?

"Don't you remember anything we shared in the past?" he insisted once again.

Catherine went on looking into his eyes. She didn't want to answer no, but she couldn't lie.

"I have dreams which always repeat themselves. I believe they're memories of the person I was. Memories from before it all happened to me," she said.

"But you can't you remember me?"

"No, I can't."

He felt as if someone had driven a knife through his heart. It hurt him so badly that he couldn't remember a time when he had felt so much pain. Not even when he thought she was dead. He couldn't prevent the tears from coming from his eyes. He sat on a bed beside the one she was in and cried like a child.

"Vincent, please, don't cry!" She sat on her bed with some difficulty. "Come and sit beside me."

Vincent raised his head and looked at her once more. Now he had lost all the hopes that she would ever love him again. He was feeling miserable.

He sat on the bed Catherine was in with his back turned at her. He didn't want her to see his face.

"Vincent, I'll need your help to remember everything. Could you do it?"

"I can help you with anything you need, Catherine. I would do anything for you. Anything."

"Look at me, please."

Slowly, he turned at her. Oh, God, how much he loved her. He wanted to hold her in his arms and say it, but he couldn't. There once had been days when he could feel what she was feeling. But now everything she had on her mind was a mystery to him. Did she still love him, after everything she had been through?

"Vincent, I can't explain but...I love you. I can't explain why. I simply love you, nothing but that. Why is it so difficult for you to accept that."

"But you can't remember me!"

"No, I can't. I simply know your voice from dreams I always have. I often see myself sick, on a bed. I'm feeling terribly afraid, until I hear your voice. You say that I'm safe and that no one can hurt me. "

"But it really happened. It was over ten years ago, when I found you.."

He stopped. He didn't want to bring back such a painful memory .

He was more in control now and had already stopped crying. But he was still so full of fears.He pondered that she might be even more afraid than him. He put himself in her shoes and thought how terrible those years must have been to her, without remembering anything from her past life. He held her wounded hand carefully. She was so fragile and delicate that he felt a desperate need to care for her, to protect her.

"Do you feel any pain?" Vincent asked.

"It'll be over soon."

"I imagine how all those years must have been hard for you. Without knowing who you were. Didn't you feel alone?"

"I felt incomplete. As if there was a part of me which was missing."

And they held each like they used to before she had been taken away from him.

"Catherine, I missed you so much. There hasn't been a day I haven't thought about you. I have dreamt of a moment when I would see you again. I could never have imagined that you were still alive... never."

"I'll always be here, Vincent. I know that I have my life back now. And I love you.I don't think we ever forget the feelings, do we?"