TIES THAT BIND

by Karen Morgia


It had been three days, three long anxious days and nights and Father had not budged from Vincent’s side. Mary would peak in from time to time in a futile attempt to get Father to sleep or eat, but on those rare occasions when he did leave, Vincent would toss and turn, moaning and growling in his delirium. Whatever it was that afflicted Vincent, had struck quickly and without warning.

To complicate matters, no one had been able to locate Catherine. All attempts to find her, to inform her of Vincent’s illness, had proven to be in vain.

A Helper was finally able to contact Peter Alcott, who promised to reach Catherine’s friends. It was imperative she be notified immediately of Vincent’s predicament and Father’s desperate need for her presence. The one coherent word spoken by Vincent since the onset of his mysterious ailment had been Catherine’s name.

 

*****

Mr. Maxwell?"

The voice which disturbed Joe’s concentration, sounded tense and vaguely familiar. Marking his place in the brief before him, Joe raised tired eyes to meet the worried countenance of Dr. Peter Alcott, physician and friend of Catherine Chandler. Joe’s face lip up at the interruption, anything to break the monotony of another late night alone in the office.

"Doctor. Alcott, this is a pleasant surprise. What can I do for you?" At the realization that it was quite late for visitors, Joe’s brow furrowed in puzzlement. "How did you know I was here, Doctor?"

"I called your apartment first, Mr. Maxwell; when no one answered, I remembered Cathy telling me that you were putting in late hours working on a very sensitive court case. I simply took the chance that you would be here. I convinced the watchman on duty down in the lobby that you and I had a late appointment." What Peter conveniently forgot to mention was that the night watchman on duty just happened to be a Helper.

"You went through quite a bit of trouble to find me, Doctor. Whatever you need must be very important."

"It is, Mr. Maxwell…it is." Peter pulled a chair next to Joe’s desk and sat down heavily, worry lines clearly etched across his brow. Before beginning his explanation, he drew a weary hand across his face. "Mr. Maxwell…"

"Joe, please."

Peter tried to smile, but it came out a pained grimace. "Joe…I believe something has happened to Cathy. We’ve been trying to reach her for three days and no one seems to have seen her since Friday. Have you heard from her? Do you know where she is? It is imperative that I contact her…it is, quite literally, a matter of life or death."

Joe leaned back in his chair. "What would lead you to believe that I might know where she is, Doctor?"

"Please, Joe…let’s not play games. This concerns the life of someone very dear to Catherine. I am convinced that if she were able, she would be here for him. Without her, he may die and I shudder to think what that would do to Cathy. Where is she?"

Joe got up from his chair and turned from his anxious visitor to gaze thoughtfully out the window behind his desk. It was many minutes before he spoke, his back still turned to Doctor Alcott. He ran one hand nervously through his thick, curly, brown hair. "I don’t know, Doctor. She was supposed to check in two days ago; she never did." Joe turned around. "I’m just as worried as you."

"You said she was to check in…from where? She never even let anyone know she was leaving town. She would have said something to Vin…: Peter stopped himself before saying the name completely.

"You mean ‘Vincent’?" Joe asked.

Peter looked startled at hearing Joe speak Vincent’s name. How did Joe know about Vincent?

"How did you know….?" Peter began.

"….about Vincent?" Joe finished. "When Cathy…died…after that Gabriel incident two years ago, I had Diana Bennett placed on the case. She is a very thorough investigator, Doctor. She found hints all over Cathy’s apartment and traces of this mysterious Vincent in some papers we found. The only problem was, we could never find a trace of him. Then, when Cathy finally surfaced, the first thing she did was vanish again only to turn up two weeks later wearing a great big grin and a wedding band. Oh, she tried to pass it off, but I could tell she was in love…deeply in love." Joe turned pained eyes at Peter; the love he felt for Catherine still a sensitive issue. "Yeah, I love her, too, Doc…still. Anyway, she told me his name…Vincent. Is that what this is all about? Has something happened to him?"

Peter considered his next words carefully before answering. "Yes… physically, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him, yet he lies near death. I don’t know how much Cathy has told you, Joe." Peter turned away. Nervous, he chose his words very carefully, "Cathy trusts you, so I’m going to have to trust you, too. Cathy and Vincent share an almost magical empathic bond. This is very difficult to explain…but whenever Cathy is sad, in pain, or in danger, Vincent knows and feels it as well…is able to be there for her." Looking intently at Joe’s quizzical expression, Peter continued haltingly. "He has saved her life on numerous occasions."

Joe turned his head slowly, his expression unreadable. "I knew there had to be a logical explanation." Seeing Peter’s anxious expression, Joe shook his head. "Never mind, Doctor. Please…continue."

As Peter continued his story, Joe paid only partial attention to the doctor’s words. The rest of his concentration was involved in tallying the number of times Cathy’s life had been in jeopardy and the almost miraculous way she had of emerging unscathed. Now, there was a reason that his logical mind could comprehend, but with the knowledge came the realization that apparently Cathy’s husband had been responsible for a number of unexplained deaths over the years. What kind of a man was he that he could slash and maul someone to death? Only one thing remained of any consequence, however, Cathy’s well-being; his feelings for her had not, and would not, change simply by knowing that she was the focal point of such violence.

There were questions that she would have to answer, but they were best left to another time. He cared for Cathy too much to throw her to the proverbial wolves. Her career as a top-notch investigator, as well as her freedom, hinged on keeping her secret. He would never betray the trust Dr. Alcott had just imparted. The main reason for the doctor’s visit remained, however…where was Cathy Chandler?

 

*****

Hot! So hot! "Please…water." Oh, it was so hot!

The woman tossed and turned weakly in her delirium, in an attempt to free her inflamed body from the tortuous cocoon of bed linen. Hurts! It hurts! Every finger-light touch, each gentle caress of the sheets sent rivers of fire coursing through her body; each weakening movement created more agony. In a feeble attempt to free herself, her tormented mind ordered muscles to move, to push the offending material away in a desperate effort for respite from the discomfort, but even this movement brought a new agony as joints, swollen and inflamed from the poison coursing through her system, screamed their refusal to move. No position brought relief from the ache in her joints or from the simple caress of bed linen upon her inflamed skin. The pain and discomfort seemed to have a life of their own, trapping her within their malevolent clutches. No matter that she unconsciously endeavored to free herself from the entrapment, weakly tried to kick the offending items away from her body; solicitous hands would once more cover her nakedness, the deceptive coolness of the soft, white sheets bringing no easing from the constant torment which afflicted her.

"Doctor, she’s getting worse. Isn’t there some way we can help her…even it it’s only to notify her family?" The gray-haired woman, dressed in hospital whites, placed a soothing hand upon the patient’s tormented brow, an action which momentarily calmed the woman’s frantic tossing.

"Vincent," pleaded a weak voice.

"Did you say something, Nurse?" Dr. Jameson looked up from the medical chart in which he as making notations. The Chief of Internal Medicine at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, carefully held the metal flip chart before him like a shield.

"No, sir….she did…she spoke a name…Vincent. Do you think that may be her husband’s name? She was wearing a wedding band when she was found, wasn’t she?"

Again, a beloved name was spoken, "Vincent," and once again it was barely audible to the two medical personnel present.

"Yes, I believe she was," the doctor stated. "Too bad she had no other identification on her; we would be able to notify someone." He double checked the instructions he had just written on the medical chart and flipped it closed, replacing his pen within the breast pocket of his white lab coat.

"Nurse Morales? Why don’t you contact that detective…Garcia, I believe his name was. Perhaps he can add this piece of information to what he’s already been able to piece together about our mysterious "Jane Doe". Perhaps, the name "Vincent" can help him find out who she is and where she’s from."

"Yes, Doctor, right away." Nurse Morales once more adjusted the bed clothes covering her patient and left the room shaking her head in consternation, wondering why no one had come searching for the beautiful, sad, dreadfully ill woman in room 402.

 

*****

The worried expression on Peter Alcott’s face held no solace for Father’s worry.

"Mr. Maxwell knows where she is supposed to be, Jacob, but he’s not heard from her. She was scheduled to check in with him Saturday from a small town in Arizona called Indian Pines, but there’s been no word. It seems she went out there to try to convince a witness to testify. Apparently, they need his testimony and he wasn’t being cooperative. With Cathy’s ability to get witnesses to come forward, they thought she might be able to convince him. She checked in with Joe when she arrived in Phoenix, but since then…nothing. She never showed up for her appointment with the witness, either, and that’s not like Cathy."

The two friends talked softly so as not to disturb the individual sleeping fitfully on the bed not far from them. Father still refused to move from Vincent’s side for long.

"Peter, we must find her. I am very much afraid that since they are connected by this bond they share, not only is Vincent’s life in grave danger, but Catherine’s as well. I have examined him thoroughly and there is no medical reason for this ailment…this malady that has afflicted him. I can only assume that whatever is causing this reaction in him has happened to Catherine and that it is she who is gravely ill." His worried gaze was drawn toward the agitated, fitful sleep of the man lying near death. "I am very much afraid that if Catherine dies, so will Vincent."

"Jacob, I think I’d better visit Diana; maybe she can dig up a lead on Cathy. We must find her, for both their sakes." Peter, rising from his chair, placed a sympathetic hand on his friend’s shoulder, then turned to leave the chamber. His exit was blocked, however, by the very person they had just been discussing.

"Diana!" Peter exclaimed, throwing an astonished glance over his shoulder at Father. "We were just talking about you."

"I just got back into town," she explained tersely. "How long has he been like this?"

Father turned to look at her, his grey eyes dark with anxiety. "Three days." The fear he felt for his son’s life caused his voice to catch with unshed tears.

"Where’s Cathy?" she demanded, crossing the room to set beside Vincent’s delirious body. She grasped his fevered hand tightly, as if her mere presence could call him back from the precipice on which his life teetered.

"We don’t know," Peter answered. "Joe was supposed to hear from her two days ago. There’s been no word from her."

Diana nodded silently and closed her eyes as she placed a hand on Vincent’s fevered brow and opened her perception to what he was experiencing.

In his fevered, unconscious state, Vincent had no control of himself… his feelings. Diana cried out and nearly collapsed as his raw, unrestrained emotions bombarded her mind and heart.

"It’s Cathy, isn’t it?" she asked, after taking a deep, strengthening, shake breath.

Father nodded. "We believe so, yes. We must find her, Diana, for both their sakes…will you help?" he pleaded.

"You bet! But were do I start looking? Have you talked to Maxwell? Does he know anything?"

"Do you mean you haven’t seen him?" Peter turned an astonished glance at an equally astonished Father. They had both assumed Diana had found out about Vincent’s illness from Joe.

"No, I came straight from the airport. In fact, my luggage is still there. I didn’t even stop to pick it up. I came here as fast as I could."

"But, how…?" Father began.

Diana merely nodded her head in Vincent’s direction. "He called me."

Both men turned to gaze, amazedly, at the figure lying on the bed.

"Father, would it be possible for someone to pick up my luggage for me and bring it Below? I don’t want to leave him just yet. If I can touch his mind, perhaps I can follow the link back to Cathy."

"Hot! So hot! Water…," Vincent pleaded faintly. "It’s so hot!" He thrashed about weakly in a vain attempt to free himself of the enveloping quilts wrapped around him.

Diana immediately pressed a water-laden cloth to his fever-swollen lips, and her presence calmed him somewhat.

Vincent opened his eyes briefly. No long a vibrant, clear sky-blue, his gaze was pain-filled, his eyes a lack-luster gray.

"Catherine?" he inquired, in a husky whisper.

"No, Vincent. It’s Diana."

He moaned in desperation and pain, and closed his eyes, once again lost in the maelstrom of Catherine’s agony.

 

*****

"Nurse Morales, I want you to continue with the alcohol rubs. We must bring this fever down." Doctor Jameson made a note on the patient’s chart.

"I know, Doctor. Her fever was 105° when I checked it…half an hour ago. She’s not going to make it, is she?" the nurse asked, shaking her head sadly.

"I don’t know, Linda…I just don’t know. The next twelve hours should tell. If she can just make it through another night…," his voice tailed off as he ran a worried hand across his thinning pate. "If she does, she will owe her life to your conscientious care. Be sure to call me the minute there is any change."

"Yes, Doctor."

 

*****

"Bennett, we may have found something!" Joe’s strident voice broke through Diana’s cotton-filled, sleep-laden brain. It was 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and she had only just fallen asleep after spending the better part of the night at Vincent’s bedside.

"What? Who is this?"

"It’s Joe. Wake up, Diana…we may have found Cathy!"

That declaration immediately swept the last drowsiness from Diana’s brain. She was instantly awake.

"Where!" she demanded.

"Greg Hughes just called. There’s a Jan Doe in a hospital in Phoenix who matches Cathy’s description…even down to the scar in front of her left ear. It’s just too much of a coincidence. This Jane Dow is gravely ill and keeps mumbling a name…Vincent. Diana, it’s got to be her."

Diana jumped out of bed. "I’m on the next plane, Joe."

"No…we are…it leaves at 6:30 this morning and I’ve already made reservations."

"You picking me up, or should I meet you at the airport?"

"Meet me there…Gate 16…Newark Airport. It was the most direct route I could get&endash;United flight 321. There’s one stop in Chicago; we won’t have to change planes and we should arrive in Phoenix about 11:14. I’ve already arranged for a car. I just hope this isn’t some sort of wild goose chase. I’ve got a very bad feeling about this."

"Don’t worry, Maxwell. Somehow, I know it’s going to be all right." Diana hung up the phone and quickly began to dress.

 

*****

"Doctor, I found it as I was bathing her&endash;trying to bring down her fever. I don’t think we ever would have round it otherwise.."

Doctor Jameson carefully and slowly parted the hair above and behind his patients left ear. There. Hidden by her hair, was a small swollen insect bite, red and hot to the touch. As the doctor examined it, his patient whimpered in pain. "Nurse! Get me a toxicologist up here stat…and check the supply of antivenin on hand. If this is what I think it is, it’s a miracle she’s still alive."

 

 

*****

The sun beat down unmercifully upon the hard-packed barren earth. Nowhere was there any respite from the incessant, debilitating heat as she slowly placed one weary foot in front of the other. Far in the distance was the promising blueness of a high mountain range. She could only hope that there she would find rest and water and shade.

 

*****

"Why wasn’t this found before?" demanded Doctor Jameson.

"I don’t know, Doctor. Perhaps the personnel down in the ER were too busy the night she came in; it’s possible. She went into respiratory arrest in the ER; since then, we’ve been busy just trying to keep her alive. What type of bite is it?"

"Some kind of insect…spider maybe. Didn’t they do a blood workup down there?" Doctor Jameson paced from the bed to the door and back again.

"I’m certain they did."

Calming somewhat, the doctor stopped his angry pacing to stand beside the bed and gaze compassionately at his patient. "Well, I suppose they were only looking for drugs, not insect venom. I think, perhaps our poor young lade had the misfortune of running into a Black Widow spider, and it looks like the bite is infected. It’s a common occurrence. I just hope we can halt the allergic reaction she seems to be suffering. We might still lose her. Honestly, I don’t know what’s kept her alive this long."

They watched helplessly as their patient tossed and turned weakly, held in thrall by some malevolent force of her mind.

 

*****

She ran a forearm across her perspiring brow and shielded her weary, burning eyes from the incessant, bright globe hanging high in the heavens. The mountains in the distance looked no nearer now than they had when she started her journey across the barren landscape. She turned to look behind her. Far in the distance she could just barely make out a dark shape on the horizon. The thought of returning the way she had come crossed her mind fleetingly, but as quickly as it appeared, it vanished. An almost physical pull turned her around to face the cool blue mountains once more. Not knowing what the attraction could be, she placed one foot in front of the other and continued on her way. The sun continued to drain what little remained of her energy reserves.

*

The ever-shifting sand beneath his boots slid and made walking difficult. The sun high above beat down unmercifully upon his unprotected head, yet he stoically ignored the discomfort. No longer could he trust his five senses to lead him onward. Now he must rely on that one, unexplainable inner connection which tied him to the one he loved, for, once again her life was in danger’ a danger from which he was endeavoring to protect her…if only he could find her. He would bring her home…Below…where she would be safe; where it was cool and far from the beating rays of the sun.

 

*****

"We found the car this morning, Mr. Maxwell…Miss Bennett. It was pulled behind an old abandoned Indian hogan just off reservation land. It seems to be in good working order, so we don’t know why she abandoned it. Maybe she spent the night in the hogan, but why there and not in the safety of a locked car…we just don’t know.

"We also found some of her things inside. The contents of her purse and briefcase were strewn all over the floor. Why was she out here anyway?"

Intent on finding more indication of what may have happened to her friend, Diana ignored the detective’s questions and entered the dilapidated structure and looked around. She spied something across the room. Lying on the hard-packed dirt floor. She bent down and picked up a wallet leaning against the mud and stick wall. She opened it, and there, on the front of a New York State driver’s license, as a familiar face.

"Joe! Come here!"

Hurrying inside the hovel, Joe stopped in his tracks at the expression on Diana’s face. She held up the license for him to see.

"It’s Cathy, Joe. Let’s get to the hospital."

Together they collected the scattered belongings of their friend and stuffed everything into the briefcase.

"Detective? Can we leave now? We must get back to town…quickly."

 

*****

Shielding her eyes from the harsh glare, the woman gazed toward the horizon. The compulsion to move faster toward the inviting blueness of the mountains increased. She was surprised to see a dark figure in the distance, moving in her direction. Still too far away to make out who it was, it suddenly seemed imperative that she reach the person hastening toward her.

 

*

Stumbling along, he lost all track of time, of his surroundings. The only thing that kept him going was the ever-weakening pull on his consciousness and his heart. The silver thread which connected them was fading as her life faded. He must make haste or she would be lost to him…as she almost had been 2 years ago. It must not happen again. Though his own energy was fast being depleted, he quickened his steps until he was running across the shifting sands.

 

*

Unable to continue, she collapsed on the burning sands; her strength diminished to the point where she could no longer force herself to place one foot in from of the other. She didn’t want to give up, she simply had no strength left to fight onward. She sank to the ground, unaware of a cooling in the air as a shadow passed between her now inert body and the incessant brilliance of the sun.

 

*****

"Diana, slow down!" Joe called, racing behind his colleague as they ran through the hospital corridors.

"I can’t, Joe. There’s no time." There’s no more time, she repeated to herself.

As Vincent was connected to Catherine, through his love for her; so Diana was connected to Vincent, through her love for him, and because of that, she was able to sense Catherine slipping away. Diana couldn’t allow that to happen. Somehow, she must help Catherine maintain her hold on life until Vincent could reach her through their bond.

 

*

Diana slowed her headlong race down the hallway at the door of room 402. Opening it quickly, she hurried to Cathy’s bedside.

"Who are you?" demanded the gray-haired nurse. Joe, following hot on Diana’s heels, calmed Nurse Morales by explaining who they were and their relationship to her patient.

While Joe was busy with the nurse, Diana pulled a chair closer to the bed and, sitting down, firmly grasped Cathy’s hand.

"Hold on, Cathy. He’s coming."

Diana began to calm herself, to turn her awareness inward in order to shield and help bolster Cathy’s dwindling life-force. She reached and gathered in her connection to Vincent, drawing him with her; then, using herself as a bridge, Diana projected her awareness of Vincent inward toward his goal.

 

*****

The sun was not as hot, and a soft breeze gently played with the damp tendrils of honey-blond hair framing her face. Slowly, the breeze was replaced by the feeling of a hand gently caressing her cheek.

Slowly, she opened her eyes. A dark form loomed above her, blotting out the rays of the sun. Squinting into the brightness, she saw the form bend downward and felt the soft scratch of whiskers as a curtain of soft, fragrant, red-gold hair surrounded her face and he tenderly kissed her forehead.

Through parched lips, she whispered a name. "Vincent?"

"Yes, Beloved…I am here. I have come to take you home," he stated firmly, gathering her into his embrace.

Suddenly, the arid landscape changed. A cool, gentle breeze surrounded and caressed them. All around them stood the tall silent sentinels of Nature…massive, ancient oaks, fragrant whispering pines, and dramatic, white-barked birches with their quaking canopy of delicate green.

"I am so tired, Vincent."

"I know, my love. It has been a long journey…for both of us…but now you can rest and begin to heal. Diana will help you."

"Diana?"

"Yes; she is nearby. She will help you back. All you need do is call her name and she will be there for you."

"But I want to stay with you," she pleaded.

"You will, Catherine, but things are not as they seem. Look around you. What do you see?"

She wearily looked all around then, not understanding what her eyes told her. "But, I was walking through a desert!" she exclaimed, weakly.

"No, Catherine…not in truth. You are ill&endash;gravely ill. What you journeyed through was only a manifestation of that illness. This," his arm swept around the horizon to encompass their location, "this, is all an illusion. I am far away…in my chamber. Though miles may separate us, we are still bound together by our love, never to be separated or alone again." Vincent pulled her closer into his tender, loving embrace. "Call Diana, my love…call her, so she can bring you home to me."

Catherine, gazing up into his beloved face, into his startling blue eyes, suddenly understood why she felt drawn toward the cool mountains of her fevered illusion…the distant mountains mirrored the blueness of Vincent’s eyes. She cupped a weak hand against the side of his beloved face and smiled.

"I love you so much, Vincent," she whispered. Gently applying pressure to bring his face closer, Catherine kissed him tenderly. She smiled and looked above them at the protective green canopy of the trees. "Diana! Diana! I want to go home," she called.

 

*****

Diana inhaled sharply and opened her eyes, Catherine’s hand still grasped firmly in her own. The delicate fingers she held began to move weakly. Slowly, Catherine opened her eyes, blinking slowly as they focused on the face of the person beside her. She smiled weakly. "Hi!" Her voice cracked with dryness.

Nurse Morales hurried to her side and, pressing the call button beside the bed, placed an anxious palm to Catherine’s forehead. "The fever is gone!" she declared, smiling.

A harried Dr. Jameson, fearing the worst, burst into the room, drawing Catherine’s attention. "Doctor," she croaked, "when can I go home?"

Dr. Jameson nearly laughed in relief. "Why don’t you give me a chance to check you out and run a few tests, first, then we’ll see. Nurse…."

While Dr. Jameson outlined what he wanted done, Diana tiredly rose from her chair and joined Joe at the foot of the bed. She stumbled slightly and his arm was around her waist immediately to steady her. She smiled at him gratefully. "Thanks, Maxwell."

"You’re welcome, Bennett. How ‘bout a cup of coffee. My treat," he offered.

"Thanks, I could use it." She placed a hand on the bed to get Cathy’s attention. "We’ll be back," she promised, and then let Joe lead her from the room.

 

*****

Awareness returned slowly. A deep sigh drew Father’s attention away from the book he was attempting to read. "Vincent?"

"Father," answered the soft, breathy voice.

Father grasped Vincent’s hand in excitement. Struggling to control himself, Father began to examine his son.

"I am fine, Father. Catherine will be coming home soon. I reached her in time…thanks to Diana."

 

*

In the days that followed, Catherine’s health and strength returned rapidly. Neither Joe nor Diana left her alone for long, both concerned that she might slip back into the cauldron of illness she had barely escaped.

Catherine awoke early one afternoon to find Diana sitting quietly at her bedside, a look of concentration furrowing her brow.

"Hi!"

"Hi, yourself! How ya feeling today?"

"Much better, thanks. You looked confused about something. What’s wrong, Diana?"

"Well, Joe and I haven’t been able to figure out why you left your car out there in the middle of nowhere, and started to walk to town."

"I didn’t."

"What?" Diana stared at Catherine’s admission.

"I never made it out of town," Catherine continued.

"But…."

Catherine smiled, nodded in confirmation a she attempted to sit up. Diana rose and adjusted her into a more comfortable position. Expelling a sigh of relief, Catherine earnestly grasped her friends’ helping hand, a more important subject foremost in her mind. "Diana…how is he? Is he all right?"

Diana smiled. "I talked to Dr. Alcott last night; he’s just fine, but very anxious for you to come home."

"To think that my illness almost caused Vincent his life," Cathy mused, shaking her head sadly.

He was so precious to her, such an important, necessary part of her life. Since their marriage, she had taken precautions to insure that her life would no longer be in jeopardy because of her job; that Vincent’s inner balance would no longer be strained.

This trip was supposed to be quick, simple…trying to talk a frightened witness into testifying. That circumstances would unfold, jeopardizing both their lives was something no one could have foreseen. Cathy began to explain the events to her confounded friend.

"The investigator who was slated to make the trip came down sick, too sick to go. All the others were too busy on their own cases to get away. I was available, the case I was working on had just been granted a stay. I wasn’t even supposed to be gone that long: fly down Friday afternoon, meet with the witness Saturday, fly back Saturday afternoon&endash;quick and easy. Hah! Sure didn’t turn out that easy."

"That’s for sure," Diana agreed. "So what went wrong?"

"Well, when I woke up Saturday, it was such a beautiful day, I decided to get an early start. I wanted to be able to take my time getting out to Indian Pines, that way I could concentrate on the countryside&endash;for Vincent."

Diana nodded in understanding. She had found herself doing much the same thing…paying more attention to her surroundings, the colors, the scents…in order to share her sensations with Vincent.

Catherine continued, "I stopped on the edge of town to fill up before going out into the country&endash;I didn’t want to be stranded out there if I ran out of gas.

"I pulled into this gas station and when no attendant came out of the office, I got out of the car to look for help." She chuckled. "Isaac would be very angry at me."

Diana smiled. "Why?"

"I was so busy looking at the beautiful, sunrise, I wasn’t paying attention. The next thing I remember, was waking up in a shed with a terrible headache.

"The only thing I can think of, is that I just let the beauty around me lull my normal sense of caution. I never saw who hit me. The shed I woke up in was cluttered with old equipment, tools, some old tires, and there were cobwebs everywhere."

"That must have been when you were bitten."

"Probably," Catherine agreed. "I remember feeling cold&endash;at least I had the shivers. I remember hurting all over and once I got out of there, I was violently ill. I felt faint, but I knew I couldn’t stay out there so I started back toward town. The reason I had to walk was because the rental car was gone. Whoever knocked me out must have stolen it."

"The State patrol found it abandoned and when we found your purse and briefcase, we couldn’t figure out why you had just left everything."

"Yes, well…the only thing I remember after that is the desert&endash;the heat&endash;and a real need to get to the mountains."

"But you were never in the desert, Cathy."

"I know that now, but it seemed so real. If it wasn’t for you…," Catherine reached and grasped Diana’s hand firmly.

"That’s what friends are for, Cathy…to help. Your friendship means a lot to me, and you know how I feel about Vincent."

When it came to how she felt about Vincent, Diana found that she was not a convincing actress. Not long after Catherine’s ‘resurrection’ the two of them had spent a tense evening together coming to terms with their uncomfortable situation.

Catherine had long known how intensely attractive Vincent was to her and naturally assumed that he had the same effect on other women, so she wasn’t too surprised when Diana admitted her feelings. The fact that Diana loved him too, did not worry Catherine for she had confidence in his love and in the strength of the bond which connected them.

Catherine smiled and nodded. "Each person who comes to know him, loves him. Each person who cares for him becomes another thread in the tapestry of his life. Each thread creates new vistas for him, enriching his life, and theirs, with new designs and colors.

"No matter where we are, or who we are, we’re all part of the same family; those of us who live Above and those of us who are fortunate enough to live Below, our lives are bound and woven together into the tapestry of life."

Catherine sighed, and felt along the gossamer thread that connected her to that other half of her heart, to her soul-mate. She felt Vincent’s love wrap itself in a comfortable warmth around her heart and knew that their love was the thread which bound them together for all eternity.

 

*****

One week later, feeling much stronger, Catherine was safely returned to her own home Below, escorted by Diana. Descending the ladder of her apartment house subbasement entrance to the Tunnels, Catherine felt herself swept from the final rungs and into the welcoming arms of her beloved husband.

Seeing that she was in good hands, Diana departed silently back up the ladder, knowing that Cathy would be well looked after. The two lovers never noticed her departure.

"Catherine…I told you Diana would bring you home to me."

She wrapped her arms around Vincent’s neck and thankfully buried her nose in the fragrant mass of his golden mane. Oblivious to everything but the living presence of the remarkable being in whose arms she lay cradled, Catherine kissed the soft skin of his neck just behind his ear, sending tendrils of electricity coursing through his stalwart frame…a promise of what awaited them once they were alone.

Looking neither to the right nor the left, Vincent carried his precious burden home.

 


 

Written in March 1992.

Submitted/published in ‘A Secret Place’, Volume 10.