EDIE TO THE RESCUE

Joan Stephens

Emerging from the Ventura branch of the First Interstate Bank into the bright California sun, Edie sighed happily. She loved California with its laid-back atmosphere; the warm, sunny days; and the handsome young men. She had found her element, and she reveled in it. Several pairs of dark brown eyes followed her appreciatively as she sashayed down the street. Catching a glimpse of one particularly cute member of the masculine gender eying her with unconcealed delight, she exaggerated the swagger until she was almost dancing. A wolf whistle rang out as she stumbled to a halt in stunned amazement. There striding purposefully toward her was the living image of Catherine Chandler, but that couldnít be. Cathy had been murderedĖwhat was it?Ėfour years ago. It was impossible, but the woman stopped when she noticed Edie staring at her.

"What is it?" she asked, hesitantly, and looked behind her. Turning back to Edie, who was unable to tear her eyes away from this apparition of a dead woman, she asked again, "What is it?"

"YouÖyouÖ," Edie was incapable of coherent speech.

"Do you know me?" the other woman said guardedly.

Edie shook her head, clearing her mind and regaining her voice, "You...you look just like someone I once knew."

"Was she a friend of yours?" the woman asked with a trace of excitement tempered with some amusement.

"Yeah, and you look just like her. Itís amazing how much you look like Cathy Chandler."

"Cathy Chandler," she said slowly as if she was tasting the name, seeing if it was the proper fit, feeling it out, trying it on, hoping to find some resonance in her being that told her it was her name. Then the young womanís face devolved into a mask of sad resignation. "Iím not her...I think."

Edie pounced on her uncertainty. "Whatíd you mean, ĎYou think?í"

"Well, I donít remember any of my past."

"You donít?" Edie chortled, suddenly excited. Could it be? It was impossible! But stranger things had happened. She had to find out. "Girl, letís go some place and get a cold drink, and you can tell me all about it."

The dark young womanís enthusiasm was contagious, so Melody Madison, as she thought of herself, followed her into the air-conditioned dimness of a nearby cafť.

"Donít worry; Iím buyiní." Edie said with a flourish as they slid into a retro-fifties booth. "My nameís Edie Chambers, by the way." She stuck her hand across the table, deciding to treat this woman as she would a stranger. "And you are?"

Melody smiled at her and found herself warming to the exuberant black woman. She was really very charming, in a down-to-earth but flightly sort of a way. "Melody Madison." The other womanís hand shake was surprisingly firm.

"If you donít know your real name, how did you get the name Melody, if you donít mind my asking?"

"Someone thought my laugh had a certain melodic ring to it." Telling this had always been a little embarrassing, but Edie merely nodded her head in agreement.

"Yeah, you - uh - her laugh was like that."

"You mean the woman Iím supposed to resemble."

Edie continued to nod zealously.

"Whatíll you have, ladies?" a tall, skinny blond waitress asked.

After placing their orders for tall, cold glasses of iced tea, Edie leaned forward eagerly and, with sympathy dripping from every word, said, "Tell me about yourself."

Melody wondered at the sudden urge to unburden herself to a total stranger but gratefully gave in to it. She needed to tell someone, and there was no one in Ventura that she felt comfortable enough with to tell her story. "I woke up in a hospital in upper New York about three years ago with a blank slate for a memory. I had been found wandering in a daze and collapsed in the yard of the family that became my friends and benefactors. No one knew who I was...."

"Didnít they run your fingerprints through AFIS?" Edie cut in.

Melody shrugged her shoulders. "Sure, but nothing turned up." That made no sense to Edie because everyone who worked for the D.A.ís office had to be fingerprinted. "I was a nonperson with no past, only a present, and an uncertain future. I was invisible," the young woman added. She would later find out just how invisible she was. The evil force behind all her trouble had had all legal documents pertaining to her removed from the records: birth through death. He wanted no connection to be found to her: the mother of his son. Even after his death, records were still removed as none of his underlings had any faith in the account of his death. He had been known to resurface after similar reports.

"How did you get out here?"

"Well, I had this strong feeling that there was someone in my unknown past that needed me, and I became very depressed. The Smiths, my friends, knew of this world renowned expert in amnesia, and Don, who worked in the hospital where I was going through physical therapy, knew him and made arrangements for me to see him. He also had friends here who helped me find a job and a place to live. Dr. Franzen has helped me come to terms with the fact that I may never regain all of my memory. Short story; short life."

"God, Iím so sorry, Ca Ė Melody. Is there anything I can do?"

Melody leaned forward intently. "Yes, tell me why you think I might be this Cathy Chandler you say I look like."

"Girl, not only do I think you look like her, but you could be her twin. She died four years ago. Murdered is more like it," she said bitterly. "But when I look at you, I canít help but feel that they were wrong. You look like her, you sound like her, and you move like her." A sudden inspiration lit up Edieís eyes. "Can I look at your left ear?"

It was a strange request, but Melody nodded. Edie leaned forward, and with a slightly trembling hand, moved aside the hair in front of Melodyís ear. Closing her eyes, Edie fervently hoped that it was there. She released a deeply held breath of air as she saw the scar. Softly she traced the raised ridges. "Itís there," she whispered to herself. "Itís there," she almost shouted, excitedly bouncing up and down in the booth seat.

"Whatís there?" Melody was thoroughly confused.

"The scar. The scar! The one you got when you were attacked and thrown into Central Park to die."

"The scar?"

"Yes, the scar! It proves that you are Catherine Chandler."

"Catherine Chandler." She shook her head. "It just doesnít sound familiar."

"It should; it was your name for thirty-three years."

"You really think I could be this Catherine Chandler?" Melody was afraid to believe that she had found outĖliterally out of the blueĖwho she was. It was too fantastic, but she felt an excitement rising in her that matched the other womanís exhilaration. Suddenly she was crying, relieved of a huge weight that had been pressing on her since she had awakened to a world that was unfamiliar to her.

Edie moved quickly to her side, comforting her with a firm hug, and rubbing her back. "I know, I know. Let the tension go, girlfriend. Youíll feel much better after a good cry." She dug into a pocket and came up with a handkerchief, which she handed to the sobbing woman.

"Thank you," Melody mumbled moistly. The sobs slowly came to a halt, and she gazed at her newfound friend with big, wet green eyes. "Do you know anything about me?"

"Girlfriend, I know everything about you. Well, almost everything."

"Will you tell me, please?"

"Sure, of course, but Iíll give you the shortened version. Ok? Weíve got time for the long version later."

"Ok," she nodded and waited with bated breath to find out what her life had been like.

"Well, youíreĖletís see, itís been four years so youíd be thirty-seven years old now. You were born in Manhattan. Your parents were Charles and Caroline Chandler."

"Charles and Caroline," she rolled the names around on her tongue, liking the way it made her feel.

"You went to Radcliffe, and then to Columbia Law School and worked in your dadís law firm until you were attacked. Then you joined the Manhattan D.A.ís department. You were pretty good, too. I left a little over six years ago, but we stayed in touch. You were kidnapped...oh, I guess, about five years ago and disappeared for six months. Everyone was sure that you were dead, and you did show up in your apartment, apparently dead. A woman detective finally found your killer, and in the raid on his compound, he was killed. That seemed to be the end of your story until I saw you just now." Edie took a huge gulp of her tea. "Boy, when you tell a story like that, it makes you want to cry."

"There was no husband or fiancť?"

"Nope."

"No live-in lover."

Edie shook her head.

"A boyfriend?"

"Not that I knew of, but you were always very secretive about your love life."

"So, there could have been someone."

"Yeah, I guess so."

Melody looked into space, seeing something that Edie couldnít see. "I have dreams...blue eyes...compelling, loving eyes...and I know his name, but when I wake up, itís gone." She sighed deeply, wishing with all her heart that she could remember. She felt it was essential that she did; whoever he was, he needed her. Leaning her head against the back of the booth, she closed her eyes. She was suddenly exhausted.

Edie noticed her wilted look and said, "You look tired. Would you like to come home with me? I can go further into details, and we could order a pizza. Ok?"

Melody opened her eyes and smiled at her newly discovered friend. "Iíd like that."

As they left the cafť, they passed a colorless young man with a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead. He was slouching in the back corner of the booth that was next to theirs, apparently reading a newspaper. His pale, ice-blue, greedy eyes followed them. So, his suspicions had been confirmed. He had been following Melody Madison for days, hoping to find proof that she was Catherine Chandler and he had. Where he was seated, he had been able to overhear what the women said. There had been a rumor floating around the criminal element that she had not been killed but had been set free in the hopes that she would lead the big guys to the infamous notebook. Unfortunately, the rumor also said that she had lost her memory, and with that, the knowledge of the whereabouts of the book. If he could somehow force her to tell him where the black book was hidden, he could get the reward that Gabrielís successor, Estevan, had offered. He didnít believe for a minute that her amnesia was real. It was just a way for her to hide. Today was the day he would make his move. The black woman was a hindrance, but he was sure he could handle her. He rose and discreetly followed.

In the rear of the cafť, a middle-aged gentleman in a rumpled grey suit observed all that had transpired. Henry Jones was as unobtrusive a little man as you could find and blended seamlessly into the background. He knew the identity of both women and the man that followed them. An FBI agent with a spotless record, he was, nevertheless, extremely ambitious. He had set his sights on becoming Bureau Chief for the entire western seaboard, and Catherine Chandler was the key to that goal. She had been assigned to him three years ago, and he had slowly built the best surveillance team on the West Coast to help him achieve that goal. The Bureau was patiently waiting for her to lead them to Hanlonís little black book which detailed Gabrielís vast criminal empire. His death had not brought his empire to ruin; it had been weakened but had just passed into the hands of another.

Today was Henryís day to shadow her. He had come to admire her. She wasnít representative of the typical Witness Protection case. She didnít even really know she was in hiding. She was just trying to live her life the best way she could. He really hoped that some day she would find out where she belonged. Until that day, he would guard her life with his own. Henry waited until the young man had left the cafť and then quickly hurried after him. He had a feeling that he was up to no-good, that he was tailing the two young women.

***

Following Edie from the alley that was a shortcut to her apartment, Melody was roughly pulled back into the dark alley as Edie was viciously shoved to the side. Her attacker muttered something like, "Where is it; whereís the book?", as he clamped his arms around her. A red rage came over the struggling woman at the thought that this man was touching her. Touching her! No one had the right to do that but.... The embattled woman drove her spike heel into her assailantís foot and spun around. Then, with a sudden mighty shout, almost a roar, she swiftly socked him in the nose with the heel of her hand, driving the nasal cartilage into his brain. He gazed at her, uncomprehendingly, for a few seconds then dropped, already dead when he hit the pavement. Standing over him, Melodyís chest heaved in fright and amazement. Clutching the corner of the building, Edie was weaving slightly. Melody raised frightened eyes to the young black woman who was staring at her in shocked wonder. "Wow, girlfriend, you still got it."

"Where did that come from?" Melody asked in stunned consternation.

"You took self-defense lessons from Isaac Stubbs, thatís where."

Melody nudged the man lying still at her feet with the toe of her shoe. "I think I killed him," she whispered in horror.

Edie bent down and gingerly fingered his neck, finding no pulse. Straightening up, she dusted her hands together and nodded once. "It was him or us. What do we do?"

"Call the police?" Melody suggested tentatively.

"We canít do that. We donít know who is behind this; I have an idea, but we canít chance getting the police involved. They might be part of the problem."

Taking a deep breath, Catherine considered the possibilities. "I suppose youíre right. If Iím who you say I am, then this guy wanted something that he thought I had. He kept saying: where is it, where is it." Glancing around to see that they were still alone, she said, "Weíve got to get away from here."

"Letís go to my apartment and figure out what to do next."

Scooping up their purses, they hurried away.

A few seconds later Jones sauntered into the alley and surveyed the scene. Seems that she hasnít forgotten everything. One less scumbag to deal with.

Hunkering down by the body, he turned it over. "Well, Morris," he exclaimed, "looks like Estevan has lost another of his nasty little parasites." How ironic, killed by a slip of a woman. He chuckled disdainfully and rose to his feet. Heíd better call his crew and clean up the mess Chandler had left behind.

***

While all this was happening, Diana was spending a quiet evening with Father and Vincent. She had just finished a harrowing case of child abduction and needed the peace and comfort of the tunnels. She was watching the two menĖmatched almost equally for the first time in many yearsĖplaying chess. Vincent had seemed distracted all evening and now his head snapped up. He gazed unseeingly into the west. Bounding to his feet, he raced from the cavern. Father grabbed the table to keep it from upending.

"What was that?" Diana asked.

"I donít know," he mused. "Itís almost like...."

"Oh no," Diana replied, realizing what he meant.

***

Vincent raced through the tunnels, headed west, on his way to his Catherine when the feeling suddenly disappeared. With a frustrated roar, he fell to his knees. As sanity returned, he wondered where the emotion had come. It couldnít be Catherine, she had died in his arms, but she had been in his thoughts all evening. He could even remember the time it had started: 6:00 P.M. Dianaís arrival had shoved the feeling into the back of his mind, and there it had remained, distracting him until the sudden call of danger. Wearily, he climbed to his feet. Shaking his head, he sought that earlier feeling, finding only a tenuous filament to someone unknown to him, but how could that be? The only bond he had now was with his son. Who could it be? It was so tenuous; but, nevertheless, he was sure that it was a woman. As he trudged back to Fatherís chamber, he wondered how he was going to explain his actions to Diana and Father. And how could he explain to himself this implausible connection to some woman he didnít know. He had always thought that he would only have a bond with Catherine and with his son. He was shamed and disconsolate at his betrayal of the woman he loved. Suddenly he changed direction, going to his chamber. He needed time alone, and the River with No Name was the perfect place to find the solitude he required.

As he was packing his travel pack, Jacob wandered out of his little chamber. "Where ya goiní, Papa?" he asked, knuckling the sleep from his eyes.

Vincent sat down on the bed and took his son onto his lap, wrapping his arms protectively around him. Catherineís child was the only thing that kept him anchored to this world, and he loved him with a fierce pride and deep devotion. Caressing the tangled mop of hair, he answered, "I need to go away for a while, son. I have some problems that I have to work out."

"Can I go with you?" Jacob asked sleepily, snuggling into his fatherís warmth.

"Not this time, Jacob. I need to be alone to work out these problems. Besides, why arenít you asleep?"

"I had a dream."

"A nightmare?"

"Huh uh. A nice dream. About the Blue Lady."

"The Blue Lady?"

"Uh huh."

"How long have you dreamed about her?"

"Sheís always been there."

"Do you know who she is? Is it your guardian angel?"

"Angels have wings, donít they, Daddy?"

"Yes, they do."

Jacob shook his curly head. "She doesnít have wings. But I know sheís someoneís Momma."

"Is it Mary?" This elicited a negative nod from the child. "It isnít Diana, is it?" Vincentís heart squeezed painfully in his chest at the thought that she could take the place of the mother Jacob had never known.

"No, not her. She doesnít feel like a momma."

"What does this woman look like, son?"

"She wears a long, blue dress. I think sheís pretty; she looks kinda like momma in the picture. We have fun in my dreams."

"Oh Jacob," Vincent whispered. His son missed having his own mother so much that he had to dream about a motherly woman who looked like her. "I wish.... It does no good to wish, but you and your mother would have had so much fun together."

"I know," the child nodded sagely.

Vincent gazed intently into the blue eyes that were so much like his. "You know that she is with the angels; donít you, son?"

"Uh huh," Jacob said absently. Then a new thought came to him, "How long will you be gone?"

"Just a few days. Will you take care of Grandfather for me? Tell him that I will be back in a few days. He will need you while Iím gone."

"Uh huh," Jacob answered; his eyes were getting too heavy to hold up.

Vincent stood up and carried his half-asleep son back to his bed. Kissing him on the forehead, he tucked him in. With a last look at this beloved child, he turned, grabbed his travel pack, and hurried away with even more heavy thoughts rolling around in his mind. He couldnít face Father and Diana; he could barely face himself. Tapping out a message that he would be gone for a while, he asked Jamie to watch over Jacob. Then he disappeared into the lower tunnels.

***

After a frantic and frightened rush to Edieís building with many over-the-shoulder fearful glances, they stood panting in front of her door. "We made it," she gasped. Opening the door, she swept Melody in with a grand gesture. "Welcome to my pad," she said, chest heaving from lack of oxygen.

Melody entered a room that was as flamboyantly colorful as her new friend. Various shades of pinks and purples colored the room with dashes of bright yellow spotted here and there. She gazed around the little three-room apartment thinking that the decor certainly suited the personality of her new friend. Still breathing a little heavy, she fell into a wildly flowered sofa.

Edie collapsed against the closed door. "Well, we made it safely."

"I canít believe I did that. It was like someone else was inside me giving me the strength to defend myself." Melody lowered her head in shame. "And it made me feel good to see him drop like sack of potatoes. Iíve never had a violent thought or action in my entire life."

"Ah, but you donít know what you did in your former life, do you?" Edie shrewdly asked, finally getting her breathing under control.

"No, I donít, and thatís what scares me."

"You donít need to be scared. Remember what I told you in the cafť, and when I finish telling you all that I know, I think youíll discover that you have nothing to fear about yourself."

Melody nodded. "Whereís your bathroom? I need a drink of cold water."

"Through that door; itís to the right." Edie pointed to the door of her bedroom.

Returning to the living room, Melody said, "I hope you donít mind, but I used a wash cloth to wipe my face. It felt so good,"

"Not a bit, it sounds wonderful." And she proceeded to do the same. Returning, she sat beside her friend, one she had never thought to see again. She sighed with a strange sort of happiness. There was still so much to learn about her friend. Going directly to the telephone, Edie asked as she picked up the handset, "Do you still want pizza?" Melody nodded. "What do you want on it?"

"Anything but anchovies," The other woman replied automatically.

"Anchovies?" Edie chortled. "Thatís another thing Cathy couldnít abide."

Melody looked up at the young black woman with a shocked expression on her face. "I donít know how I knew that, but I donít like anchovies, never have." She looked confused and a little excited.

"Heck, Cathy...Iím sorry...Melody, itís one more thing that points to you being Cathy Chandler."

"You really think so, donít you?" It was Edieís turn to nod her head. "Iím so tired of not knowing anything about myself," Melody continued. Closing her eyes, she laid her head on the back of the colorful sofa. Could it be? Was it a possibility that she would soon remember her past life? That strange awful feeling of unending loss swept over her again. It was imperative that she find her lost self; someone needed her.

Edie punched in the phone number for her favorite pizzeria, Round Table, and ordered a large supreme pizza minus the anchovies. With a grin, she said, "I can save it for breakfast."

Returning to the couch, she plopped down, swiveling to face her guest. The other woman seemed tense and unhappy. "What is it, CaÖuh, Melody?"

The other woman flinched at the sound of the name. "Thatís just it; I have this horrible feeling that someone is waiting for me, and Iím afraid that Iíll be too late. And I donít remember being Cathy Chandler." She squeezed her eyes shut in despair. A tear trickled from both eyes and lazily meandered down her cheeks. Opening her eyes, she leaned intently toward the young black woman. "Tell me everything, even the tiniest detail, that you know about Cathy."

"Sure, girlfriend, no problem. Some of it youíve heard before, but I canít tell the story without including that." After an encouraging nod from Melody, she began, "I first met you in the D.A.ís office. I knew who you were; I like to read the society pages. Moreno, the ratÖ." Melody raised her eyebrow at this. Edie continued, "Youíll learn all about him. Anyhow, he hired you. Joe wasnít too happy; he figured that youíd work at it awhile and then tire of the grind and leave, but you didnít. You were introduced to everyone, but there were a lot of unhappy people when you were hired Ďcause they thought theyíd have to pick up your slack."

"Wow! I...uh...she must have had a rotten reputation." Melody was very upset over what she was hearing. She couldnít be that person; she wasnít like that at all.

"You were a debutante, always on the go, to parties, concerts, plays. You were seen everywhere. But after your attack, that all changed, and you practically disappeared into the woodwork."

"Well, thank goodness for that. I couldnít be like that."

"You worked harder than anyone else, sometimes staying late in the evening. Joe came to depend on you. The first case we worked on together was your attack: the one that gave you that scar in front of your left ear."

Melody unconsciously fingered the scar. It had always fascinated her, and she had often wondered how she had gotten it.

"I donít know too much about what happened that night; you never would speak about it. What I got out of the newspapers was this: you were attacked, beaten, your face was slashed, and then you were dumped in Central Park. Then you disappeared for ten days. You never revealed where you were. You claimed that you didnít remember. But we worked together andÖ."

For the next hour and a half, Edie told what she knew and Melody asked question after question. Noticing the darkening of the room, the young black woman leaned over to turn on the table lamp. "Hey, itís getting late. The pizza should be here pretty soon."

"Good, Iím getting really hungry. Do you have any beer?" Melody asked. "Pizzaís not pizza without beer."

"Heck yes, I always have beer. For the guys, of course." She winked, coquettishly.

Melody couldnít keep the laugh back and winked back at her friend. "Sure, for the guys."

Thirty minutes of casual conversation ensued. This time they unconsciously agreed to limit their talk to mundane affairs. Each found out what the other had been doing for the last four years. At last, there was a knock on the door. When Edie opened it, a delighted smile of recognition crossed over her face, "Joey," she crowed, "how are you?" A tall, skinny redheaded young man stood in the hall, grinning at her.

"Fine, Edie, we thought maybe youíd taken your business somewhere else." He handed the large white box to her.

"Are you kidding? You guys are my pals; I wouldnít let you down. Iíve just been a little busy, thatís all." The money she gave him included a healthy tip.

"Gee, thanks, Edie. See ya around." With a wave of his cap, he was off, hurrying to his next delivery.

Melody followed her as she took their dinner into the tiny kitchen. During the most enjoyable dinner sheíd had in many months, Edie asked her to stay the night.

"It wonít be safe for you to return to your apartment. We donít know who might be there or what might happen to you. You can have my bed and Iíll sleep on the sofa."

"No way, Edie. I will sleep on the sofa; Iíll not deprive you of your bed. I donít think it would be wise either, to go back to my apartment," Melody agreed; she didnít have many women friends, and she felt so at ease with her newfound friend.

***

As the two women were enjoying their dinner and the rapport developing between them, below the streets of New York City, Father was still entertaining Diana. The old mantle clock that sat on a ledge by his desk chimed ten oíclock. "It seems that my son is not going to return tonight. Iím sorry, Diana. I thought he might stop by before he left. Something has happened that is upsetting him, and in those circumstances, he usually goes off to some god-forsaken place that only he and possibly Mouse know about. He usually is more considerate than that."

Shaking her head, she said, "Donít worry about it. Iíve become accustomed to his swift mood changes. I really came down for the peace and quiet of the tunnels. And you have helped more than you know by just sitting here and listening to me go on and on about my latest case. It must have bored you stiff."

"On the contrary I found it most interesting and disturbing. Itís frightening to think of what atrocities are perpetrated on the young. The world Above is truly a very sick world. Iím glad there is someone like you to fight the good fight for them." He paused, and then continued, "Catherine did the same. Forgive me for bringing her up, but Vincentís precipitous flight reminded me of how he would rush off to rescue her from whatever thorny situation sheíd gotten herself into."

"It was strange, wasnít it? Is this the first time heís done it since her death?" She was still vitally interested in Vincentís first deep love and in assisting him through the stages of grief. That he was still grieving for Catherine was a hindrance to their relationship.

"Yes, heís been leading a very quiet and peaceful life as you well know."

"Heíll probably be back tomorrow morning."

"Yes, and I shall certainly inform him of my disapproval of the way he had treated you tonight."

She didnít try to dissuade him as she knew it was impossible. "Well, good night, Father. Itís time I went home."

"Shall I get someone to guide you back?"

"No, I think I can find my way after all this time. If I do get lost, Iíll just pound on the pipes until someone rescues me."

"Yes, of course." Father accompanied her to the doorway. "Good night, my dear."

With a nod, she started down the corridor. On the long walk back to her loft, she had plenty of time to think about her relationship with Vincent. She loved him but wasnít sure if it was the love of a friend or that of a lover. She instinctively knew that she would always come second in his heart; that Catherine was enshrined there for all eternity. Vincent was kind, gentle, and loving but very reserved in his affectionate gestures. Right now she was at a fork in the road, and she didnít know which path she would take. Vincentís abrupt departure created an uneasy feeling in her, and those feelings were seldom wrong. Oh well, it wasnít necessary to make a decision tonight. She had plenty of time to figure out where she was going.

***

"Cathy. Cathy!"

She awoke to someone shaking her shoulder. Opening her eyes, she beheld a worried mahogany-hued face hovering anxiously over her. "What is it?" she mumbled, struggling to sit up.

"You were mumbling and calling out in your sleep. I was afraid you were having a nightmare." Edie sat down on the edge of the couch as Melody scooted over, giving her room.

"No, it wasnít a nightmare. Itís a dream Iíve had for the last few years, ever since I woke up from the coma."

"What is it about?" Edie was curious, thinking this could be a key to her friendís lost memory.

"I donít really remember too much about it. Thereís a little boy and me and weíre having fun. He has golden hair and I think of him as my golden boy. The places are always different, and I never get a really good look at him, but I know heís beautiful, and he means everything to me." Melody swept her sleep-tossed hair over her shoulder and smiled mistily at her friend. "I really look forward to these dreams. They are the brightest spots in my rather drab life."

Stroking her chin, Edie meditated for a few minutes. "I canít think of a child thatís connected to you, but like I said, I donít know everything about you." Rising, she grinned down at her friend, "Go back to sleep; weíll tackle this problem tomorrow."

Melody snuggled into her pillow. "Good night, Edie."

"Good night, girlfriend." She closed the door behind her and Melody was left alone with her precious dreams.

***

Seated at Edieís two-person table then next morning, Melody bit into the bagel that Edie had fixed for her. "Um, tastes like a New York bagel. Where did you get it?" She stared at her friend. "I did it again, didnít I?"

The young black woman was fairly dancing with glee as she grinned. "Yeah, you surely did."

A pensive look crossed over Melodyís lovely morning face devoid of any makeup. I wonder...has meeting you triggered something in my memory?"

"Oh, I hope so. Maybe youíre beginning to remember."

"Do you supposeÖ." Taking a sip of coffee, she glanced up at Edie. "Edie, do you dream?"

"Do I dream? Of course I do, and some of my dreams would curl your toes. I had a particularly vivid one last night. Me and this guyÖ." She gazed dreamily at something only she could see then snapped back to the present. "But you wouldnít be interested in that."

"Some other time maybe but not right now. When you dream, is it like a continuing story or is it made up of bits and pieces of different scenes?"

"Well, they usually are like short stories with no ending Ďcause I always wake up before the good part. Most of the time anyway. Why?"

"The first time I dreamt about the little boy was the day I came out of the coma. He started out as a baby and now heís five years old. I think heís someone very important to me, and he seems very far away."

"Maybe in New York," Edie asked shrewdly.

"Possibly," Melody conceded.

Edie sank into the other chair and, leaning across the table, took one of Melodyís hands in her own. "CathyÖIím sorry; I just canít think of you by any other name. Do you mind if I call you Cathy?"

She shook her head, "No. You really are convinced that Iím this Catherine Chandler, arenít you?"

"Yes, I am," Edie said earnestly. "Iíd stake my life on it."

Melody laughed Cathyís laugh and said, "Thatís going a little far, isnít it?"

"No, itís not. Iím that sure of myself."

"All right. One nameís as good as another, especially in my case. Call me Cathy."

"Good." Edie shook the hand she held. "Now, what are we going to do to get your memory back?"

"You think we can do it when an expert couldnít?" Cathy looked unconvinced.

"Girlfriend, we have an edgeÖI think." She looked a little undecided then perked up with giggle. "We know who you are and where you belong. I say we go to New York and find your lost past."

"We? Donít you have a job?"

"Yeah, soÖIíve got some time coming. Iíll just take my vacation."

Cathy was silent for a few minutes, deciding whether she wanted to make this move. She lived a quiet, relatively comfortable existence. Did she really want to find out who she was? What if there was only unhappiness awaiting her if she did? Then that feeling that she was needed somewhere came over her. Thinking about going to New York suddenly seemed the right thing to do.

"Iíll have to make some arrangements," she said tentatively. "It may take a little while. Then thereís what happened last night. The police may be looking for us. We need to wait and see if there are any repercussions." She shook her head in bewilderment. "I still canít believe that I did that."

"Well, thank goodness you did. I donít think he had our best interests at heart, do you?"

Shaking her head, Cathy said, "No, I donít suppose he did." She was silent for a few minutes then said, "We need a newspaper."

"Iíll run down stairs and get one," Edie said as she sprang from her chair and was out the door in a flash.

Together the two friends scanned the entire newspaper. There was no mention of the incident anywhere in the newspaper. "I donít understand," Cathy said. "There should be something. The police blotter, at least, should have a mention of a death in the alley."

"Yeah, do you suppose he wasnít dead after all," Edie offered hopefully.

"A person doesnít survive that kind of attack. Heís dead. Oh god, Edie, this gets more frightening by the minute. Someone has to have taken the body. And we donít know whether that someone is friend or foe."

"Whatíll we do?"

Cathy slipped into a mode of thinking that she didnít remember that she had. Cooly, she considered their options and came to only one conclusion. "Weíve got to go on with our lives as if nothing has happened. If we start acting strange, we will only attract attention to ourselves. Iím going to return to my apartment and job and apply for my vacation time."

"Iíll do the same," Edie added. "Let me know when you can get off, and Iíll get my vacation time at the same time." Cathy started to protest, but her young friend cut her off, "Iím going with you. So donít try to stop me. Youíll need me in New York. I know where you should go and who you should see."

"All right," Cathy graciously conceded. Taking her clothes, she went into the bathroom to dress.

"Tomorrowís Monday. Iíll start the proceedings then. Iíll get back to you as soon as I know when my days off will be." She hugged the tiny black woman, "Thanks, Edie, for everything. I hope I havenít gotten you into any trouble."

"Donít worry about it, girlfriend; Iím tough. Weíll find your lost life yet."

With a final squeeze, Cathy left the apartment, carefully acting as nonchalant as possible. It was a lovely day, and she decided to walk to her apartment. Strolling through the streets, she never noticed the dowdy middle-aged woman following her. One of Henry Jones best operatives followed her all the way to her building, then informed Jones that she was safely back in her apartment.

***

A few days later Vincent returned having found no relief to his problem. After letting his son know that he was back, he went to Fatherís chamber.

"Ah, Vincent, youíre back," he said as Vincent entered. "Sit down; we need to talk."

Apprehensively, the younger man took a seat beside his fatherís old desk. "What do you wish to talk about?"

"Your conduct the other night. Why didnít you return and let us know that you were leaving?"

"Iím sorry, Father, but I needed to be alone for a while. I thought the message that I sent over the pipes was enough, and I asked Jacob to tell you I would return soon. I hope you can forgive me."

"I suppose I understand," he said with a resigned sigh. "Diana waited for your return."

"Iím sorry she was inconvenienced, but I had to get away."

"Well, it was extremely rude of you. I hope you will apologize to her the next time you see her."

"I will." He stared down at his clasped hands.

"What happened, Vincent?" Father laid a conciliatory hand on his sonís tense arm. "Why did you rush away like that? It reminded me of when youÖ."

"Yes," Vincent cut him off, "when I rushed to save Catherine." He passed a furry hand over his eyes. "It was exactly like that. Oh, I know itís impossible," he said to forestall Fatherís protestations. "I know only too well. I canít explain it, or how I am connected now to some faceless woman that I know nothing about. I feel as if Iím losing my mind."

Father leaned back in his chair and gave his son a slightly disgusted look. "Vincent, when are you ever going to let Catherine go? Itís unhealthy to keep mourning for someone this long. Look around youÖthere are opportunities for you everywhere. I think, if you would give Diana half a chanceÖ."

Again he was cut off, "I donít love Diana that way."

"But if you would only try."

Vincent glared back at the older man. "Did you try to love anyone else besides Margaret? Grace? And did it work? You cannot force love. It comes of its own volition. If I ever love again, it will happen in its own good time."

"Yes, youíre right, of course," Father agreed. "Iím only trying to help."

"I know that, Father, but no one can help with this." Vincent rose to his feet, putting an end to the conversation. Father watched sadly as his son trudged from the chamber. He hadnít helped a bit. But who was this woman that Vincent felt he was connected with. Now that was definitely unsettling. He wondered if they would ever find out.

Diana melted into the shadows as Vincent passed by so deeply immersed in his conflicting emotions that he wasnít cognizant of her at all. Well, the fork in the road had been made straight. She was so thankful that she had not let her heart get away from her. He wanted only her friendship and that was something that she could freely give him. She called out a greeting to Father and entered his chamber.

***

Two weeks after their accidental meeting Cathy and Edie were flying to New York. It was almost as if they were meant to go there. Everything had swiftly fallen into place.

Seated behind them in a priestís costume, Henry Jones glanced around the airplane, noting his team situated in strategic positions. Heíd had Cathyís phone wiretapped for years and knew when she had bought two plane tickets for New York. He was there to see that no harm came to her. Heíd sent Carmela Sanchez, his second, on to the city to set up a base of operations while he remained behind with the rest of the team and closed down the operation in Ventura. He tried not to get excited, but he felt that things were coming to a head and that soon he would have the black book in his hot little hands.

After the plane rolled to a complete stop, Cathy had stepped into the aisle directly into the path of the priest who had been in the seat behind them. "Oh, excuse me, Father," she said as she backed up to let him pass.

"No problem, my child," Henry said, smiling benevolently at her. He hurried from the plane and into a menís room where he quickly changed into a suit and tie. Carmela had met him at the gate and waited for him in the terminal lobby. Together they followed the two young women into New York City.

On the way to New York, Cathy and Edie had discussed where they would stay. They were reluctant to stay with any of Edieís friends, recalling the attack on Cathy, and they didnít want to put any of Edieís friends in danger. They actually didnít know whom to trust, so they decided to get a hotel room. Edie could safely bring Cathyís friends there for the young woman to meet them. They decided--it was Edie who really decided--that Joe Maxwell should be the first to see Cathy.

***

Now that Jacob had told him about the Blue Lady, he constantly talked about her. One morning he climbed into the big bed and snuggled into his fatherís warmth. "Did you sleep well, son?" Vincent asked, pulling him into a tight hug.

"Uh huh." He smiled happily.

"What brought that happy smile to your face?" Vincent knew of nothing exciting that Jacob would be doing today.

"I dreamed of the Blue Lady. Sheís coming to see me."

Vincent tensed, afraid that his son would be disappointed. After all, it was only a dream. "Jacob, I donít want you to get too excited about this supposed visit from your Blue Lady. It is only a dream. You know that, donít you?"

"I know," Jacob said confidently, "but sheís coming. She told me so."

"When, son? Do you know when?" If there was a specific time, then maybe he could sooth Jacobís disappointment when she didnít show up.

"Sheís coming now. But she has to find her way to me. Sheís lost and doesnít know the way."

"Well then, we will just have to wait and see if she comes." How do you prepare a child for disappointment when they are so positive that their dreams will come true? He could only be there to soothe hurt feelings when the time passed and no lady came to see him. "Now, letís get dressed and have breakfast with Grandfather."

"Ok, but I can do it by myself, Daddy. You donít need to help."

Vincent smothered a broad smile in his pillow as Jacob scrambled out of the bed and hurried into his little chamber.

***

Setting her bag on the bed, Cathy felt an irresistible urge to look at Central Park, and she walked to the windows. The Park sparkled in the late afternoon sunlight; the green of the wide expanse was pockmarked with the deeper green of the trees. It was a restful sight in the middle of the concrete jungle of the city. They had been fortunate to find a modestly priced hotel near to the park.

"Iím going to get some ice," Edie said as she dropped her suitcase on the floor.

"Ok," Cathy murmured distractedly, never taking her eyes from the tranquil green of the park below.

She was still at the window when Edie returned. "Whatís so interesting?" she asked, coming to stand beside her friend.

"I donít know, but it holds a fascination for me." She laughed in embarrassment. "Youíd think Iíd never seen a park before."

"You always loved to run there. Used to scare the bejeepers out of Joe when you ran at night, but you seemed to have a guardian angel watching over you. You never had a single problem."

"Umm." She tore her gaze away from the green park and proceeded to store her underthings in the chest-of-drawers and hung up the rest of her clothes.

As Edie copied her actions, she said, "You know, Cathy, I think it would be better if I went to Joeís office instead of calling him. Probably be a lot safer."

"Youíre probably right."

"I know Iím right. Heís going to come unglued when I tell him that youíre alive. I just donít want him yelling in my ears. Theyíre delicate, you know," she said with a smirk on her brown face.

Cathy laughed merrily. "I can tell that they are." She went to the young black woman and hugged her tightly. "Oh Edie, you have no idea what you have done for me. Not only have you given me hope that I will find my lost life, but youíve made it fun along the way." When she backed away, there were tears in her eyes.

Edie choked up along with her and dashed the tears from her eyes. "Hey, girlfriend, youíre getting mighty serious here. Iím just glad I ran into you." Bustling around randomly, she tried to toss off all the emotion that Cathyís outburst had set in motion. Finding the telephone directory, she looked up the number for the D.A.ís office. After surprising Joe with her call, she made arrangements to meet at his office at ten tomorrow morning.

"Hey, know what? Joeís the D.A. now. I heard that Moreno had a hand in your disappearance, and it sure shocked me to find out he was dirty. He always seemed so straight. Ah well, you never can tell," she lamented.

Cathy made no comment as she didnít even remember the man. "Shall we eat in or go out for dinner?"

"Iíve got relatives in town. Shall I see if I can get an invite?"

"Oh god, Iím sorry, Edie. Go and visit them if you want to."

"Not tonight. Iíll stay with you. After all, itís our first night in town."

Cathy smiled in relief; she really didnít want to spend the night alone. Thinking about what she was about to do had her a little nervous.

"Iím tired; letís eat in. I donít feel like dressing up. Ok?"

"Ok."

"Whatíll you have? Iím having a big Caesar salad."

"Sounds good to me," Cathy said. "And a big pot of coffee."

"How about dessert?"

"Oh, a slice of New York style cheesecake; I havenít had any for a long time." Cathy looked dumbfounded at Edie. "I did it again, didnít I?"

"Yep, you always loved cheesecake especially with raspberries on top."

"Oh yes, please, with raspberries on top."

Room Service came with their dinner a half hour after Edie ordered it. Neither one of the two women realized just how hungry they were until they took the first bite. When they were through, there wasnít a piece of lettuce or a crumb left.

Taking her cup of coffee with her, Cathy turned on the TV. The two women settled back against the pillowed headboard and turned to the news, eager to discover what was happening in the city. After room service took away their empty dishes, they spent a quiet evening, and then retired early.

***

Edie took particular pains with her appearance. She didnít want Joe to think that she had gone completely native. Clad in a malachite green pantsuit with a pale green blouse, black pumps and a matching over the shoulder black purse, Edie was the model of the career woman. With a Ďhere goesí smile, she swept out of their room and in about thirty minutes she was sitting in Joeís office congratulating him on becoming the Manhattan D.A.

"You look like California suits you. How are you doing?" He couldnít hold back the smile as he settled back into his chair after giving Edie a hearty hug. Edie was still Edie.

"Iím doing just great. Got a good job, I like the climate, and the guys arenít too bad looking either." She giggled and then turned quite serious. "But thatís not why Iím here, Joe. I need your help."

"My help? What do you need my help for? You havenít gotten yourself into any trouble with the law, have you?"

"No, nothing like that." Edie consciously ignored the dead man back in Ventura. "I have this friend that Iíd like you to meet. Sheís someone that I think you know, but she has amnesia. She needs your help to find out who she is."

"Why donít you just bring her here? My time is quite limited, you know."

"I know, but Iím afraid that it might put her in danger. She needs to keep a low profile for a while until we find out who she is." She tossed him a carrot of information. "Sheís someone you cared about very much."

"Well, who is it?"

"I donít want to tell you here; youíd draw too much attention to me and through me to her. Name the time and weíll be waiting."

Wondering at her mysterious actions, he agreed. "Iíll be there around seven tonight."

Rising, Edie nodded acquiescence. "Thanks, Joe. Room 222, the Regency Hotel. And please, donít tell a soul. You never know who you can trust."

He grimaced, remembering how he had trusted Moreno, "Youíre right on that account."

"See you tonight, Joe." Edie swept out the door. Joe settled back into his chair, wondering about the strange interview he had just had with her. He wished he knew what she was up to.

***

Promptly at seven there was a rap on the door. Edie looked at Cathy with surprise. "I never knew Joe to be on time in all the time I worked for him."

Cathy smiled nervously and turned her back on the door, gazing out the window into early night. Would he fulfill her dearest wish and confirm Edieís belief or would he destroy, once and for all, her quest to discover her identity?

"All right, whereís this mystery woman you wanted me to meet?" Joe barged through the open door. Edie nodded in Cathyís direction. Joeís eyes became slits of suspicions and then bulged as she slowly turned around. If he had been a woman, he would have fainted, but as it were, he felt light-headed and stumbled to the nearest piece of furniture, the bed, and collapsed on it when the woman faced him fully. In the bright light of the room, the woman looked exactly as he remembered Cathy. "Who are you?" he croaked.

"I was hoping you could tell me," she replied in Cathyís voice.

He looked to Edie for help. This was too fantastic for him to accept. He had seen Cathyís body, watched them put her in a body bag, attended her funeral. Granted it had been a closed coffin affair, which he had always wondered at, but even Diana Bennett, who had sat in on her autopsy, had been convinced that she had been murdered.

"I think sheís Cathy Chandler," Edie said, coming to his rescue but compounding his confusion.

He shook his head in disbelief. "It canít be. She died."

"She has a scar in front of her left ear just like Cathy did. I saw it one day when she bent over my computer, and she told me it was a souvenir of her attack. It always seemed strange to me that sheíd want a souvenir of such a horrible thing, but it seemed to validate her. She was proud of it. And she," Edie directed her gaze toward Cathy, "has that scar."

Joe looked over at the woman standing rigidly by the window. "So, you think youíre Cathy Chandler?"

"I donít know; I donít remember." She looked tense and uncomfortable as if she was waiting for the axe to fall.

"WellÖwhy donít you sit down and tell me all about yourself. Maybe we can find a clue there."

Cathy stiffly sat down in one of the chairs at the small table and Joe sat opposite her. He couldnít take his eyes off her. It was weird, but he was beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe, she was Cathy. God, how he hoped she was. He had always felt that he had failed her by not finding her before she was murdered. If she was Cathy, then the guilt would not be quite as heavy. He still regretted all the pain and humiliation she must have endured during her captivity by Gabriel. He smiled shyly at her, "Go ahead, tell me what you can."

"Before you do, Cathy, why donít I order some coffee? Or would you like something stronger, Joe?" Edie held the telephone handset in her hand, having already dialed room service.

"Coffee will be fine, thanks," Joe said, thinking that he could really use some now.

"Coffee for me, too," Cathy chimed in.

"Ok, I think Iíll order two pots; we might be at this for quite awhile."

Joe turned back to the subdued woman sitting opposite him and, sensing her uneasiness, he reached across the table and grasped her cold hand. "Itís all right, just start at the beginning, and weíll go from there."

Cathy told him the same story that she had told Edie. Through it all, he held onto her hand as much for her comfort as for his. "And you donít remember anything?" Cathy shook her head. "Didnít they check your fingerprints?" he continued.

Room Service arrived and they waited patiently while Edie poured each of them a cup of hot, strong coffee. She sat back on the bed, watching her friend and her former boss in deep discussion.

"Yes, but they never found anything," Cathy answered disconsolately.

"That doesnít make sense."

"We know that, Joe," Edie said patiently. "Thatís why we came to you. We thought that maybe you could find a way to prove that she is Cathy Chandler."

"Iíll check into the fingerprint fiasco; if theyíve deleted you, maybe we can find a backup file somewhere."

"Oh, I hope so," Cathy breathed. "Iím so tired of not knowing who I am. Is there anything you can tell me beside the fact that we worked together?"

"Oh sure," and he proceeded to do so. "Does any of this ring a bell?" he asked when he finished.

Cathy shook her head, tears standing in her eyes. "Jenny Aronson, Nancy Tucker, Rita Escobar, Elliot Burch," she said in an uncertain voice. "I donít remember any of them. I wish I did. Would it be asking too much to want to meet them?"

"As far as I know, Jenny has moved to San Francisco. She married a writer whose novel was optioned by one of the big movie companies. Nancy and her husband separated, and she and her children have moved to Paris."

"Elliot BurchÖwas he someone I loved?"

He hated to tell her about Elliot, afraid that it might upset her more than she was. "Elliot was killed in a boat explosion, but he was actively searching for you."

"Oh, Iím sorry to hear that. We must have been close."

"Yeah, he loved you, but you loved someone else."

Cathy perked up at that. "Do you know who this someone was?"

"No, I donít, but I think his name was Vincent."

"Vincent," she said, saying the name over again and again in her mind, hoping that it would spark some remembrance. She was disappointed. She looked at Joe sadly, "It doesnít mean a thing."

"Weíll keep at it until you do remember," Joe said with his usual optimism.

"I donít know. Sometimes it seems impossible."

"Thereís something or someone who will jog your memory. Youíre strong; youíll make it."

She felt that someone had said something like that to her long ago and that she had come to believe it. Smiling mistily, she agreed.

Joe glanced at his watch. "Wow, look at the time. Iíve got to get home or Ginaís going to kill me. I told her Iíd be home before midnight, and Iím not going to make it."

Rising, he walked to the door. "Joe," Edie said, "I donít think you should tell anyone about her being here in the city. We were attacked in Ventura, and I just donít think that itís safe for anyone yet to know that sheís here."

"Yeah, I agree. Iíll do it all on the q.t." He stopped in the open doorway and turned back. "You have no idea how glad I am that youíre alive, Radcliffe."

"Then you believe that Iím Cathy Chandler?" she asked with a tentative smile.

"You betcha," he answered forcefully and waved as Edie closed the door.

"See, told you so. Even Joe believes that youíre Cathy. He wouldnít have called you Radcliffe if he didnít." Cathy cocked an inquisitive eyebrow at her friend. "That was his favorite nickname for you," Edie added with a chuckle. "I donít know about you, but all this heavy stuff has got me really tired. Iím ready for bed."

"Me too," Cathy said.

***

This night Cathy dreamt of her golden boy and the park across the street. Together they romped and played for hours and no one paid any attention to them. When the day began to darken and she knew the time had come when he would leave her, he said, "Find me."

"But how? I donít know how. Help me," she pleaded.

"I am," he said and disappeared.

She woke up, holding her pillow close. "How can I find you when I canít even find myself?" she moaned softly into the early morning darkness. She fell back into the bed, surprised that she hadnít awakened Edie, who slumbered peacefully through Cathyís despair and anguish.

She turned over on her side and stared out the hotel room window, trying so hard to remember even the tiniest bit of informationÖto no avail. Weeping silently, she fell into an uneasy half-awake state.

***

"Hey, girlfriend, didnít you sleep good last night? You look like a walking zombie."

Rubbing her eyes, Cathy slowly shook her head.

"The dreams again?" Edie walked over to the window to open the drapes, letting in the bright early morning sun.

"Yes, only this time he asked me to find him. How can I find him? I donít even know who he is."

"Well, letís go about this logically," Edie offered. "Let me give you a guided tour around the city. Maybe that will jog something loose."

Cathy smiled, agreeing to the dayís plans.

Edie took her first to the apartment building where she used to live, but the concierge had been hired after her supposed death and didnít recognize her. Then they visited all the famous landmarks of the city, the last: The Empire State Building. They returned to their room, tired and footsore as the sun began its long descent into the west.

"I swear; Iím going to buy some good walking shoes. My feet are killing me." Edie had collapsed on the bed and was briskly rubbing her sore feet.

Cathy had dropped into a nearby chair and kicked off her high heels. "I agree, especially if weíre going to do any more concentrated walking. Luckily, I packed a pair of sneakers."

"Now, why didnít I think about that?" Edie complained.

After a few minutes rest, Cathy rose to her feet and padded to the window and stared at the park again. Why did it fascinate her? Why did it call to her? Was her lost memory down there? Could she find it there? The park must mean something to the little boy in her dreams. Why had she never asked him his name? Was she afraid that if she did he would disappear? Tonight she was going to ask him. If he could tell her his name, maybe it would make a dent in her memory loss.

The ring of the phone brought her out of her reverie. Edie jumped up and answered it. "Oh hi, Joe. Any luck? . . .Not yet. . . . Whatta ya mean, sheís not in the system? . . . Cathyís fingerprints arenít on file? . . . They should be. . . . The only one I can think of who had the power to do that is Gabriel. . . . You think so too, huh? . . . Yeah, makes you wonder, donít it?" She listened for a few minutes, and then said, "Ok, keep us posted. . . . Yeah, Iíll tell Cathy. Bye."

Cathy had been gazing at her with an expectant look but slowly she slumped in resignation. "Not good news?"

"No, heís run into a roadblock. Catherine Chandlerís fingerprints are not in the system. Someoneís had them removed. And theyíre not in AFIS either. Heís got a couple other places to look. Heíll find out, if thereís any way he can." Edie stomped back to the bed and sat down, trying to think if there was someway that she could help. Tomorrow she would take Cathy to meet Isaac Stubbs. She hoped that that would help. Looking up, she found Cathy standing in front of the window, once again staring at the park.

"Edie, would you mind if I go for a walk?"

"I thought you were tired."

"I was, but I think a leisurely stroll through the park, keeping to the shaded parts of course, would refresh me. Want to come?" she asked, turning to her good friend, hoping that sheíd say no.

"Nah. Iím going to take a good, long soak, and then Iím going to call some friends of mine and see if they still live here."

"Oh Edie, Iím sorry. Here youíve spent all this time with me when you could be visiting your friends. Please, go and see them any time you want."

"Now, donít you fret. I had plans to do that anyway, and youíre invited to come alone." Edie was loaded down with special shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, skin softener, bubble bath, candles, and a bottle of Gallo of Sonoma Merlot, in other words: the whole works. "You just go ahead with your walk, and Iíll save a glass or two of wine for you when you come back."

Laughing gaily, Cathy picked up her purse and, with a wave, left for her walk in the park. Edie sighed heavily as she turned on the water, adjusting the warmth until it was hot enough. Easing herself into the softly scented water, she wondered. What was it about the park that had captivated Cathy? She remembered how Joe used to caution her about running in the park at such late hours. It was like she had a guardian angel that protected her. Maybe the park was the answer to her problems; Edie certainly hoped so.

***

Cathy crossed the street, anticipation building in her. Something was going to happen; she just knew it. Something important. Restraining herself, she slowly strolled through the cool shade, noticing the young families seated on the greensward, carefully keeping a watchful eye on their children running and tumbling in the grass. She felt a pang of regret; she loved children and wanted some of her own, but she wondered if she ever would. Couples sauntered by holding hands and looking lovingly into each others eyes. Why didnít she have the desire to find someone to love? It was as if sheíd had a love like that and had lost it. Looking up, she found a large drainage tube blocking her way. Something about it was familiar. She chuckled. Why would a drainage tube have any attraction for her? Moving forward, she touched the warm concrete and felt a sense of calm come over her. How strange. She hated to go on, but when nothing more happened after a few minutes,

she continued her peregrination of the park, the sense of tranquillity slowly dissipating. Disappointed, she crossed the street and entered the hotel, leaving a very confused and startled young boy behind her by the culvert.

Timothy had met Catherine only two or three times before she was kidnapped and murdered and that was five years ago when he had been nine-years-old. He couldnít be sure until he looked at the picture hanging on Vincentís wall, but the woman sure looked like the Catherine he remembered. It was lucky that he had been delayed at Longís grocery store. Otherwise, he would have missed the woman. As he returned to his home Below, the doubts began to set in. It couldnít be Catherine. Even Vincent believed she was dead. There was an old saying he had once heard. Something about everyone having double somewhere in this overcrowded big world. That must be it. It was Catherineís double. By the time he had reached his chamber, he had forgotten all about the woman he had seen in the park.

***

"Nothiní helped, huh?" Edie was sitting on the bed, a glass of wine in her hand, nibbling on some peanuts from the bag sheíd bought at the airport. Catherine looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "I know, I know, peanuts donít go with Merlot." She shrugged her shoulders disdainfully, "Know what, I donít care. They taste pretty good together. Grab a glass and try it."

With a smiling shake of her head, Cathy did as she was bid and surprisingly the peanuts set off the Merlot delightfully.

Edie swung the bag out of her reach as she tried to get some more peanuts. "Not bad, huh?"

Cathy sat back, defeated, and gave Edie her best pleading look.

With a wide grin, Edie gave her the bag. "Finish them, Cathy. Iíve had about all I should have and that includes the wine." Sitting back against the padded headboard, she straightened her bathrobe over her outstretched legs. "Do you want to go to see Isaac Stubbs tomorrow?"

"Heís the one who taught me how to defend myself?" Cathy asked as she took a sip of her wine followed by a small handful of peanuts.

"Yeah, heís the one."

Cathy nodded. "Yes, Iíd like to meet him. Iíd like to thank him for teaching my how to get out a tough situation: like the one in the alley."

"Yeah, you sure took care of him. I donít think Iíve ever seen you move so fast."

"I donít know; I never thought I was capable of killing a man, but you learn a lot about yourself when youíre in a dangerous spot. But what really bothers me is that I felt a sense of satisfaction when he dropped to the ground. It was like there was someone else with me...helping me." Bewildered, she shook her head; she felt so guilty, even though she knew it was their lives or his.

***

The following morning after a breakfast of bagels and cream cheese, they took a cab to Isaacís training school. His eyes nearly bugged out of their sockets when he saw Cathy, and he had to sit down...quick. It was only after he made certain that she was not an apparition that he crushed her in a relieved embrace and assured her that she was Cathy Chandler. It was late in the morning when she finished telling him her story, and he had told her what he had taught her. He was quite proud that his training had still been with her when it was needed. It substantiated one of his pet beliefs: that once you learned how to defend yourself you never really forget.

As they prepared to go, Isaac said, "I know you havenít asked me for any informationĖI donít have a lotĖbut you came to me one night for help in finding your friend. When we did, I got a look at him, and I gotta tell you, he was the strangest looking man Iíve ever seen. Kinda looked like a lion."

"Címon, Isaac, enough with the jokes. This is no joking matter," Edie said, scoffing at what she thought was his poor attempt at a joke.

"I ainít joking. I saw him."

"Ok, letís go, Cathy." Edie grabbed Cathyís elbow and steered her toward the door. "This guy is beginning to ruffle my feathers," she muttered under her breath. "Lion man, indeed!"

Cathy didnít know what to make of Isaacís statement so she ignored them and held out her hand. "Thanks, Isaac. Thanks for saving my life."

"Heck, girl, all I did was teach you how. Youíre the one who did it. Iím proud of you; you were a good student." He followed the two women to the door and whistled up a cab for them.

***

The rest of the day they spent in the library going over back copies of all the NYC newspapers. Somehow the library had been forgotten in Gabrielís attempt to wipe out the existence of the mother of his supposed son. The story of her life fascinated Cathy as she read article after article about her pre-DA days when she was seen on the arm of every handsome and wealthy man in town. A picture of her with Elliot Burch caught her eye. He was so handsome and successful; she wondered why she had dropped him. When she read about the ten days she was missing, she wondered where she could have been. That was an important clue, but a clue to what, she didnít know.

The articles about her during her tenure in the DAís office and the few trials that she had prosecuted intrigued her. Here was the reason for her intense interest in the law. She had been a lawyer and felt a certain amount of pride in that. When she read about her disappearance and the search that had been conducted to find her, it brought tears to her eyes. But the reading of her obituary and funeral had her really crying. Everyone looked so sad; especially an older gentleman in an outdated suit and hat, who was surrounded by some rather strangely garbed people. He caught her attention. He was placing a rose on her coffin. Roses, especially red roses, had always been her favorite flower. There was something about him, and she wished the picture was a little clearer. She couldnít really get a good glimpse of his face. She felt that he was important to her, and she mentioned it to Edie.

"Iíve never seen him before, Cathy. I was out in California when you turned up missing. Well, that looks like all there is." She shut off the microfiche console.

Cathy smiled at her. "Looks as if I led a fairly normal life. Work and very little play."

"Yeah, you were a working girl just like the rest of us. Hey, where do you want to go eat? Reading all this stuff has made me hungry."

"You pick out the place; you know the city better than I do."

"Oh yeah, I forgot. How about a hamburger and some fries?"

"Fine with me."

Taking her by the arm, Edie escorted her out of the building, down the street, and into the nearest hamburger joint. In a short time they were no longer hungry.

***

Cathy awoke from another dream of the little boy, her golden boy. He was standing in the mouth of the drainage tube in Central Park. He waved at her to come in and then turned and darted into the blackness of the tube. Standing by the opening, she felt an instant of fear. Her old fear of the dark was returning to haunt her. ĎI canít come in,í she called out, ĎCanít you come out here?í The little boyís voice floated out of the darkness, ĎNo, you have to come in to find me.í As she took a hesitant step into the culvert, she bolted awake, trembling.

All morning, she was uncharacteristically quiet and subdued. When Edie got ready to go visit her friends, Cathy begged off. She really wanted to be by herself. She had learned something about herself in the dream last night: she was or had been afraid of the dark. She wasnít now. Sometimes the dark seemed like an old friend, comforting and quiet. Finally Edie agreed to go without her and Cathy was left to her own devices. Pacing the room, she constantly found that she returned to the window to stare out at the green expanse that was Central Park. She couldnít see the culvert from her window, but she knew it was there; she could feel its lure even this far away.

At last with an explosive, "Oh hell!" she grabbed her coat and charged out of the room before she changed her mind.

***

As she left her hotel, an excited little golden haired boy rushed past his father, who was sitting at his table writing in his journal, and ran down the corridor.

"Jacob?" Vincent called, wondering what had prompted his son to race pell mell from his chamber. He could sense that Jacob was on his way to the ruined Central Park threshold; that he was hoping to meet someone there. And Vincent instantly knew who that someone was. The unknown woman he had a tentative bond with was headed for the culvert. Jacob was in danger, and he rose and hurried after his son.

***

Father was only now pouring a cup of tea for Diana. She had arrived about fifteen minutes ago, hoping to spend a quiet afternoon with Father, Vincent and Jacob. But Jacob was in his chamber doing little boy things and Vincent was writing in his journal. She knew him well enough to know that he didnít like to be interrupted when he was writing. She proceeded on to Fatherís chamber to chat with him while waiting for Vincent to finish.

Suddenly the pipes erupted with the news that Jacob was running toward the Central Park portal and that Vincent was following him. "I wonder what Jacobís doing? Why should he be running toward the portal?" Father looked very perplexed, which matched Dianaís feelings exactly.

She shrugged an uninformed shoulder. "I donít know. It seems like he must have a good reason to be going there. Heís never done anything like this before, has he?"

"Not that I know of," Father answered. "Iím going to follow them. Iím curious as to why Jacob has broken one of his fatherís cardinal rules: to never go to the Central Park threshold alone. It must be very important to him."

"May I go with you? Youíve raised my curiosity as well." At his nod, she took him by the elbow and they hurried into the corridor.

***

Heading straight for the drainage tube, she raced into large pipe. Where there had once been a door, there was now a gaping hole. The city administration had decided not to repair the damage as the tunnel seemed to end about ten feet inside. The tunnel dwellers had built a false wall to keep out strangers and the riff raff of the city, and the short tunnel had gotten a reputation of being haunted. There were strange noises there from time to time.

The tug on her emotions was even stronger here, and she followed it inside the short tunnel. As her eyes became accustomed to the dimness, she spied a small figure backed up against the end of the tunnel. Suddenly he cried out and rushed toward her with his arms held out, "My Blue Lady. I knew youíd find me."

She dropped to her knees as he hurtled into her and held him tightly against her, feeling the warmth of his little body and smelling his little boy smell. It was heaven. "Yes, I found you because you led me here, and now weíll never be parted again." Crooning to him, she ran her hands through his unruly, golden hair. "Oh baby, baby. Youíre real. Youíre really real." She could hardly believe that she held the dream child in her arms. She kissed him as he snaked his small arms around her neck.

"Iím no baby," he said, pulling back to look at her indignantly. "Iím a big boy; Iím five years old."

"Of course, you are," she said through her tears. "Whatís your name, honey?"

"My daddy named me Jacob after my grampa," he replied proudly.

"Thatís a very nice name. But whoís your daddy?"

He squirmed around, careful to stay in her loving arms. "Him," he pointed to a large figure looming in the end of the tunnel with a long black cape covering most of his body. He sensed that his father had just entered.

Two pairs of confused eyes met over the tousled golden head. They gasped almost simultaneously as recognition came like a cleansing shower. Cathy stood up and took a hesitant step toward him. "Vincent?" She stared at him unable to move any farther. "Vincent." It all came tumbling back: all the pain, the joy, and all the love. "Oh, Vincent."

As she had uttered his name, he shuddered, hearing the voice he never thought to hear again. "Catherine, is it you?"

"Yes, oh yes," she cried. She started to sob as she stumbled toward him, and he met her halfway, sweeping her into fierce embrace and covering her tear streaked face with his kisses. "Oh, Vincent, Vincent, Iíve come home to myself and to you."

"Catherine, Catherine," he murmured over and over again. Just the sound of her name filled him with joy. And to feel the soft solidity of her body pressed against his.... And her lips on his.... Well, no words could express how he felt at that moment.

But Jacob was feeling definitely left out, and he wondered why his daddy had told him he didnít know the Blue Lady. Tugging on his daddyís shirt, he drew his fatherís attention at last. "How come you said you didnít know my Blue Lady?"

Reaching down, Vincent scooped his son into his arms. "Because, my son, sheís not your Blue Lady."

"Yes, she is," he insisted. "Iíve dreamed of her all my life. Sheís my Blue Lady."

"Jacob," Vincent said soberly. "I want you to meet your mother."

"My mommy?" His eyes grew large with wonder. "For real?"

Catherine took him from Vincentís arms and pressed him to her breast. "Yes, really and truly. Iím your mother, Jacob."

"But where have you been? Why didnít you come home?" he asked with a perplexed frown on his cherubic face.

"Iíve been very sick, Jacob, and youíve just now healed me."

"I have?" Boy, did he have something to tell the guys later. He had a mommy and he had saved her.

Vincent gathered his family in his arms once again and was about to kiss Catherine when Fatherís sharp voice cut into their happy reunion. "Vincent, unhand that woman. What are you doing, letting Jacob come here and exposing him to a dangerous situation?"

"No, I donít think I will unhand her," Vincent responded, laughing. "I donít think I will ever unhand her again." He stepped back, exposing Catherine and Jacob to Fatherís amazed eyes.

"Catherine?" His hand convulsed painfully on Dianaís upper arm.

When Diana saw that it was Catherine standing in Vincentís embrace, she unconsciously tried to shut out the sight by closing her eyes, vainly wishing that the scene would be different. But when she opened her eyes, the tableau was the same. Her last remaining dreams crumbled to dust. He was lost to her forever.

"Yes, Father, itís me." Catherine smiled mistily at him. "May I come home?"

"May youÖ.?" he sputtered to a stop. "Dear child, do you have to ask?" He hobbled to the threesome and hugged as much of them as he could. "Welcome home, Catherine. Youíve been gone too long."

"Yes, it has been too long, and Iíve missed out on a lot of happy occasions, Iím sure. But Iím here to stay, if youíll have me?" She looked shyly at Vincent and then at Jacob.

Throwing his arms around his motherís neck, he pleaded, "Stay, Mommy, stay."

"Yes, stay...Mommy," Vincent added, bending down to kiss her again.

"Let her go," Joeís voice barked. "Back off and I wonít shoot. I donít want to hit the kid." Joe stood just inside the entrance, his gun pointed unwaveringly at Vincentís heart, with a transfixed Edie standing by his side, Her mouth had dropped open as soon as she had gotten a good look at the leonine man holding Cathy. Isaac had been right.

Catherine quickly stepped in front of Vincent, shielding him with her small body. "No, Joe, itís not what you think. Put the gun down."

Edie grabbed his arm. "Uh...Joe, I donít think this is what you think it is. I think itís some kind of a reunion." Cathy had been acting so strangely this morning that Edie had not gone to her friends, after all. Instead, she had called Joe and they had trailed after Cathy. When she hadnít come out of the culvert by the time they had thought she should, they had gone in after her.

"Joe, Edie, this is my son, Jacob, and this is his father, Vincent, the man I love." Vincent kept his arms around her protectively.

"You mean this...thisÖ." Joe spluttered.

"Man," Catherine offered.

"Yeah, right. This...man...is that kidís father?"

"Yes. Joe, do you trust me?"

"Iíve trusted you for years," he shrugged with resigned stoicism. "Why should I stop how? Yeah, I trust you."

"Will you trust me to know what Iím doing?" At his nod, she continued, "Give me some time to get acquainted with my son and reacquainted with Vincent and my family," she swept her arm out to include Father and a few of the tunnel dwellers who had followed their leader out of curiosity, Mouse and Jamie prominently in front.

"And I promise you that weíll talk. Iíll tell you everything that I can," she added.

As Joe lowered the gun and reholstered it, he grunted an ok. "Iíll hold you to that promise, Radcliffe."

"Me, too, girlfriend. I want to know," Edie piped up, fairly bouncing with excitement. "You remember!" At Catherineís happy nod, she exulted, "I told you weíd find a way, and we did." Grabbing Joe by the sleeve, she pulled him toward the opening. "Címon, Joe. Letís leave these people to their catching up." She smiled at Cathy from the ruined opening. "Youíll get in touch with us soon, right?"

"Soon. And thanks, Edie, for finding me and bringing me home. I owe you a debt that Iíll never be able to pay."

"Oh, Iíll find some way for you to repay me, donít you worry about that." She winked at Cathy.

Catherine laughed lightly then sobered. "Before you go, I have a favor to ask of both of you. Please donít tell anyone of this place or of Vincent. Iím sure you understand."

"Yeah, we do. Donít we, Joe?" She elbowed him in the ribs and he nodded with a jerk. Just before she followed Joe through the opening, Vincent caught her eye and nodded his thanks. Soberly, she nodded back. An instant understanding passed between them; they both loved Catherine. He as a lover and she as a good friend. They would do whatever it took to keep her safe.

Outside in the park, the two intrepid rescuers collapsed against the culvert wall. "Did you get a look at that guyís face?" Joe asked.

"You mean that hunk of masculine pulchritude? Yeah, ainít he just gorgeous?" She fanned her face with her hand. "What a hunk!" she repeated.

"You think heís a hunk?" Joe asked, taken aback by her statement.

"You betcha. And Cathy does too. Did you see the way she looked at him? If love was gold, sheíd be the richest woman in the world. And that little boy. Heís downright beautiful." Edie was waxing lyrical.

"Did you see the way they were dressed? Looked like something out of the middle ages. Wonder where they live?"

"Weíll get our answers when she contacts us. Iím going to be on pins and needles until she does." She straightened up and turned to her companion. "Well, come on, Mr. DA. You can take me out to lunch and then drop me off at my friendsí place."

They walked silently out of the park, each one deep in their own thoughts.

***

As the group turned to leave, another figure slid in through the shattered opening. "Hello, Jacob," a voice said, one that hadnít been heard in the tunnel world for thirty years.

Father spun around, causing his hip to flare up in pain. Vincent shoved Catherine and Jacob behind him as he stepped beside his father. "Whoís there?" Father asked.

A chuckle emanated from the dimness as the figure stepped into the light. "Donít you recognize me, Jacob? Iím disappointed. I didnít think youíd ever forgot one of your friends."

"Come closer. Let me see who you are." Vincent was growling softly. Father knew it was useless to try to stop him.

The man moved to stand in front of them and struck a pose, holding his arms out to the side. "Now do you recognize me?"

"Good heavens...Henry Jones. You have been gone a long time. What brings you back to New York?"

"Her," he stated, pointing at Catherine. "Iíve been following her every day."

Everyone turned to look at Catherine. "Me? Why me?" she asked, moving up to stand beside Vincent.

"Do you have your memory back?" he asked instead of answering her.

"Yes."

"Do you remember what happened to you after Joe was almost killed?"

Her eyes darkened in pain. "Yes," she whispered, "I thought I would never forget, but I did."

"Do you remember the cause of all that pain?"

She drew in a sharp breath. "Yes, the notebook."

"We still need it," he said reasonably.

"You - you need it?" She had thought that surely Gabrielís empire had been dismantled by now.

"Yes, when Gabriel died, his empire took a massive hit, but itís coming back as strong as ever. We need the book to find all the perps. Do you still know where itís at?" By this time, he was standing in front of Catherine.

"Who are you?" she demanded. She wasnít about to hand over the notebook to a complete stranger even if he was a former tunnel resident.

"Iím with the FBI, and I was assigned to your case to protect you and hopefully to get the book from you." Henry glanced up at Father, "Jacob can vouch for me."

"Show us your identification," Vincent said, keeping an arm around Catherine protectively. He would die before he lost her again.

As he fished in his jacket pocket for his I.D., Diana stepped forward, knowing she could ease the tension. "Henry, how are you?"

"You know him?" Vincent asked surprised.

"Yes, I met him at Quantico when I went there to learn new police tactics. You can trust him, Catherine."

Catherine looked at her in surprise. Who was this woman who seemed so at ease in Vincentís company?

Vincent sensed her confusion. Since they had come together, the bond seemed to be growing stronger moment by moment. "Catherine, this is a dear friend of mine. Joe assigned her to your case, and she solved your murder and helped me to find Jacob."

"I feel as if Iíve known you forever," Diana said. "Iím glad youíre back. Vincent has been more than unhappy; heís been inconsolable."

And I bet youíd like to have consoled him, Catherine thought, and then was ashamed of herself for her unkind thoughts. "Thank you, Diana," she said truly appreciative. "I would like to hear what you did to help Vincent and Jacob."

"Sure, any time." The redheaded woman replied.

"Fancy meeting you here, Diana. You just never know who youíre going to find in the tunnels. But I hate to interrupt this happy occasion; I need to know about the book." Henry was getting impatient. He wanted that book and he wanted it now. He shot a beseeching glance at the tunnel patriarch.

"Catherine, I think you can trust him. Heís always been trustworthy before. Henry, come with us; weíre returning to our chambers." Father held his hand out and waved Henry to the back of the tunnel where there was a hidden door.

On the way back to his chamber, Father was stopped countless times by inquisitive tunnel dwellers asking what was happening. After the fifth or sixth explanation, he told anyone who asked that explanations would be made at a more convenient time, and yes, the rumor was true: Catherine had returned.

Arriving at his chamber, he told everyone to sit around the council table. Vincent, Catherine and Jacob were nowhere to be found. It seemed that they were taking their time, enjoying their first moments together after such a long separation. But in reality they had been detained by all the happy greetings and hugs that she received. Eventually they appeared. Mary slipped in behind them and took a seat at the table.

The first words spoken were those of Henry. "Cathy, do you remember what you did with the notebook?"

"Yes, itís in a hidden recess in the guest chamber I always used." Vincent had convinced her to give to book to the FBI man, telling her that they would never be free of its influence until it was gone. "Come with me and Iíll show you where it is."

Henry jumped up and followed her. And Vincent, who was not about to let her out of his sight again, stayed close beside her. When they returned, Henry had a huge smile on his face and was patting his coat pocket. He could almost hear the congratulations coming his way and the west coast Bureau Chief position was surely his. Making his excuses, he told Father heíd be in contact soon. Something that Father took with a grain of salt. Not that he didnít believe the man, he just knew that he was very busy.

Catherine looked beseechingly at Vincent. "Father, friends, Catherine and I wish to be alone for a while with Jacob. If youíll excuse us, we will retire to my...our chamber." Catherineís eyes were misty when she thanked them all for their loving reception. Vincent took her hand, and holding Jacob in his other arm, he led her home.

"Well, friends, I think weíve had enough excitement for the day. Letís disperse to our chambers and leave them to get reacquainted. Iím sure weíll hear the tale of her survival tomorrow or the next day."

With happy chatter, the group left with Mouse and Jamie trailing behind. "Glad sheís back. Now Vincent not be lonely anymore," Mouse said as Jamie pulled him through the entryway.

Diana and Father were the only ones left. "Iíve got to be getting back," she said. "Iím truly glad sheís come back to give him a little peace."

"I know you are, and I thank you for all your care and loveĖyes, I know you love him. Youíve been more than a good friend; youíve been a godsend. Thank you again, Diana."

"Youíre welcome, Father, and weíll keep this our little secret, ok?"

"Our little secret," he agreed as he hugged her gently.

She turned to go with a "Good night, Father."

"Good night, Diana. Sleep well."

She was gone, hurrying back to her singular place in the world Above.

Father returned to his chair, and picking up the book he was reading, he settled in for a few hours of peace and quiet. Today had been an amazing day, one he wouldnít ever forget. In the space of a few minutes, his son had been transformed from a grieving widower, for thatís what he truly was, to a vibrant, alive man, once again in love with life. And all this was due to the return of the woman he had given his heart to many long years ago. Ah Catherine, itís good to have you back. He opened the book, and settling back into his chair with a contented sigh, he began to read.

***

In Vincentís chamber the young family was forging the bonds of love that kept a family together. Jacob was proudly showing his Mommy all his beloved treasures. "This is the bear that Diana gived to me." He picked up a shiny new teddy bear from Vincentís bed.

"Gave, Jacob," his father said, correcting his grammar. He was content to let his son have this special time with his mother. His time would come later.

"That Diana gave to me." He placed the brown furred bear in Catherineís hands.

She looked at it closely, examining it more for his benefit than hers. "Itís a very nice bear," she said, as she placed it back on the bed. This woman, Diana, seemed to hold a special place in her sonís heart, and she wondered about Vincentís relationship with the woman. But that was something to take up in the future; tonight was her night with the two most important men in her life.

In his small chamber he showed her his bookcase filled with a variety of childrenís books and a small cot just the right size for a little boy. At the foot of his bed sat a large chest like the one in Vincentís chamber, and she was certain that it contained more of his treasures, just as his fatherís contained his. On the bed laid her old stuffed lion. Jacob noticed her staring at it. "Thatís my most favoritest. Diana brought it to me."

Diana again. She was definitely going to have to get acquainted with her.

Jacobís continuing words cut into her thoughts. "It was my momÖ." He stopped suddenly. "It was yours," he cried, picking it up and handling it to her.

Through her tears, she nodded. "Uh huh. It was my favorite too." Slowly she rubbed her fingers over the worn velvet, remembering the comfort she had felt in cuddling her lion.

"You can keep it, Momma," he said, bravely relinquishing his stouthearted lion.

Placing the beat-up animal back on the bed, she said, "No, honey, you keep him." Glancing up at Vincent, who had never let her get more than a few inches away from his side, she stated, "I have another lion to comfort me." As she wound her arms around his waist, she asked coyly, "Donít I?"

Folding his arms around her small body, he kissed the top of her head. "Oh, most assuredly."

After a few blissful moments enjoying body pressed against body, Catherine scooped her son into her arms. "You have a very nice chamber, Jacob, and you keep it so neat."

"Me and Daddy cleaned today. I knew you was coming."

"You showed me what to do, honey. If it hadnít been for you, Iíd still be searching for you and Daddy."

"Letís go into my chamber," Vincent said, "and Jacob and I will tell you everything."

Seated on his bed, a rejuvenated and relaxed Vincent was holding Catherine, who was holding Jacob in her lap. Together father and son related all that had happened: how Vincent had searched for Jacob and with the help of Diana had found him and brought him home, Jacobís constant dreaming of her, the frantic rush Vincent had made to save her and the tenuous bond that had developed with an unknown woman who turned out to be her, Jacobís dash to meet her and his race to catch him, and his astonishment at actually finding her.

She told them of all that had happened to her since she had awakened in rural New York. When she finished, both she and Vincent were in tears, relieved and happy that they had finally found each other.

The pipes chattered. "Iím hungry, momma. Itís time for dinner," Jacob said, quietly.

"So am I, honey." Wiping her tears away, she smiled into the concerned eyes of her son. He didnít understand why his momma and daddy were crying.

"Arenít you happy to find me?" he asked anxiously.

"Oh honey, these are happy tears. Daddy and I are happy to be back together and to have you with us. Now we can be a real family."

"Are you going to stay here with me and Daddy?"

"If itís all right with your daddy and you."

He flung his arms around her neck and held on tightly. "I want you to stay." Casting a pleading look at Vincent, he begged, "She can stay, canít she, Daddy."

"Jacob, if I have my way, she will never leave us again."

This time it was Catherine who flung her arms around Vincentís neck. "Oh yes, I want to live Below. How could I ever think of leaving my two dearest men?" Soundly she kissed Vincent and then kissed Jacob just as thoroughly, leaving him squirming to get away. Mommas were always kissing and hugging.

He jumped down out of her lap and, grabbing her hand, pulled her toward the entrance. "Iím hungry."

Laughing happily, his parents rose and followed him to the dining chamber where Catherine was welcomed home by all that were there. She was hugged and kissed until there wasnít a spot on her face that hadnít had someoneís lips pressed against it. Overwhelmed with the exuberance of their welcome back, she was rescued by her son and lover and whisked away to a quiet corner where William, himself, served her. She had won a spot in his heart many years ago when she had told Vincent that Williamís soup was the best she had ever eaten.

Later that evening found them reclining on Vincentís bed with Jacob cuddled warmly in his motherís arms. Suddenly he began to feel heavy, and she looked down to see him sound asleep. All the excitement of the day had finally caught up with him, and he couldnít stay awake any longer. "Oh Vincent, heís marvelous."

"Yes, he is," he commented, brushing the childís hair back from his face, "and I have you to thank for him. If you hadnít persisted, if you had given up on me, we would be alone with no child of our own. I owe you everything, Catherine, everything." He touched her cheek, turning her face to his, and with deliberate caution, he kissed her, eliciting a deep sigh of pleasure from her. "You really like that," he said, still amazed that she found him desirable.

"Oh yes," she breathed, reaching up to return his kiss. The heavy weight of her sleeping child inhibited the full expression of her kiss. "Letís put Jacob to bed and then we can have some time for ourselves...to talk."

He wondered if what she wished to talk about matched his agenda for the night. He wanted her to stay with him, in his big bed, laying her sweet body down beside him and holding him in her arms as he fell asleep. However, her plans were much more detailed. She planned to sleep with him and not just in his arms. Their experience in the cavern had proven to her that they could have all the conjugal pleasures of marriage with or without a ring and ceremony.

Catherine had the great pleasure of putting Jacob into his pjs, a chore she looked forward to doing for a long time to come. Pulling the quilt up under his chin, she bent down and kissed him on the cheek. "Sleep well, my beautiful boy, and dream beautiful dreams of what weíll do together."

As she straightened up, Vincent gathered her to him and once again kissed her deeply. Her arms crept around him, holding him tightly as if she would never let him go. He swung her into his arms and carried her to his bed, as he hoped to persuade her that it was their bed. Laying her on the patchwork quilt, he eased down beside her. "What is it you wish to talk about, Catherine?" He bent the full force of his intense gaze on her.

Boldly she looked him in the eyes. She needed reassurances. "I want to stay here, Vincent, in your chamber, in your bed. I want us to become a real family. I donít want to be separated from you or Jacob ever again. Itís immaterial to me whether we marry or not; I feel as if Iíve been married to you forever." Tears began to gather in her eyes. "Donít send me away again to sleep in a guest chamber. I need to be with you and with our son. I couldnít stand it if you didnít want me."

"If I didnít want you? Iíve wanted you for a long time. Stay here, Catherine; itís something Iíve dreamed of in the darkness of my lonely life without you. IÖ." He was suddenly tongue-tied as he had never been. He knew of only way to give her the words he couldnít say. Placing his large hands on either side of her face, he bent to her, putting all his love and desire into this one kiss. Pulling back to gaze into her half-closed dreamy eyes, he said passionately, "I love you." She responded in kind, kissing him until he was half-blind, and before he knew it, he was lying beside her, and both were as naked as the day they were born. Through the bond and her burning kisses, she overwhelmed him with her yearning desire. He had no time to fear that he would hurt her; he was lost in her, and not to himself. Soon they were encompassed in a blazing fire of emotions that was out of control, and when they came back from the heaven they had created, he looked at her in wonder.

She smiled angelically at him. "See; thatís how wonderful it can be."

He crushed her moist body to his sweaty form. "Oh, Catherine...." was all he could murmur.

"It was rather nice, wasnít it?" she said, languidly stretching her arms over her head.

He leaned over her, staring at her, baffled. "Rather nice? It was wonÖ." And then he noticed the sparkle in her eyes and the suppressed grin she was having trouble hiding. Teasing! She was teasing him. Not since Devin had left had anyone been able to tease him as she did. He had missed her teasing as much as he had missed her love.

With a little sigh, she kissed him lightly. "Oh, Vincent," she confessed. "It is wonderful. To finally find the one that completes you as no one else ever could."

"Yes," he agreed, "wonderful." Suddenly he was beset with a huge yawn. And being so comfortable in the company of the woman he loved, he didnít try to hide it but let it blossom fulsomely and toothily.

Laughing happily, Catherine reached up and touched one of his long canines. "Iíve wanted to do that for years," she giggled. "Itís as sharp as I thought it would be. Ooo, what big teeth you have, grandmother."

"The better to eat you with, my dear," he recited. He fell right in with her little game, and he nuzzled into her neck causing her to squirm and giggle even louder. Aha, he had found a new ticklish spot. Lavishing that spot with kisses and licks of his rough tongue, she was soon a helpless mass of jelly in his arms. Not that she fought very long; she loved his playfulness, too.

Looking down at the heavily breathing but supremely happy woman in his arms, he thought, How did I ever live without her joy of life surrounding me? Smothering another yawn, he queried, "Arenít you tired? I think I could sleep for a week, but I doubt if we will be able to. Jacob will be up bright and early."

Catherine smiled at the thought of their son. "I canít believe Iím here with you and that our son is asleep in the next chamber. Itís like a dream."

"Only better?" he asked, recalling Ellieís words when she and Eric came to live in the tunnels.

"Yes, better," Catherine agreed. "Well, if Jacob is going to wake us early, I think we had better go to sleep. Good night, love." She kissed him and then curled up beside him, her arm going over his waist.

Try as he might, he couldnít go to sleep. The wonder of all that had happened on this most glorious of days kept him going over it in his mind. He gazed tenderly at the woman sleeping peacefully at his side. It was a scene that he had only dreamed of. Who was it that had found her? Oh yes, Edie, the young black woman. All the way in California. No wonder the bond had been so tenuous when it returned to life. That and the fact that she didnít remember him. No wonder he thought he was betraying Catherineís love. At the time she was an unknown woman to him. As unknown to him as she was to herself. He kissed the top of her head and composed himself to hopefully fall asleep. Tomorrow would be as stressful as today.

***

In the world Above Joe and Edie waited impatiently for Cathy to contact them. She had promised that she would, and she had always kept her promises. In the tunnels Catherine was having the time of her life getting to know her son and teaching Vincent the arts of love. He was an apt pupil and some mornings it was difficult for her to get out of bed. The late hours were robbing her of needed sleep. After a week, she sent a note to Edie asking her to bring Joe to the Park threshold the following evening. When Edie called Joe, his comment was, "Well, itís about time."

"Címon, Joe, you know what itís like when someoneís on their honeymoon."

"Yeah, but theyíre not married."

Exasperated, she retorted, "Well, they might as well be." They hadnít seen each other since the day they trailed Cathy into the Park threshold. "You saw the way they looked at each other. If that ainít love, I donít know what is. And Iíll bet sheís having a ball getting to know her son."

"Yeah, I suppose youíre right. What time tomorrow?"

"She said sundown would be perfect."

"Iíll pick you up at the hotel about half an hour before sundown then. That should be late enough."

"Ok, see you tomorrow."

***

With their arms around each otherís waists, Catherine and Vincent were waiting for them when they arrived. Edie greeted them with an enthusiastic, "Hi there, you two." Turning her attention to her friend, she eyed her critically. "Know what, Cathy? You look happier than Iíve ever seen you look." She chuckled, "Living with Vincent must agree with you."

"Oh, it does, Edie; it does. You have no idea how wonderful it is."

Joe didnít know whether to scowl or to smile. He wasnít quite as accepting of Cathyís relationship with Vincent as Edie was. He had remembered all the maulings that Cathy had been involved in, and he was busily reviewing them. Now that he knew who had committed them, he was in a quandary. Technically, Vincent had committed murder but only to protect Cathy. And Joe loved her and would do nothing that would hurt her. But he still felt as if he had betrayed his oath of office. It was something that he had to work out by himself, and he figured the best way to do that was to get to know Vincent. So, he smiled and held out his hand. God, he hoped he didnít flinch when the leonine man took his hand. "Hi, Vincent. Thanks for inviting us back. Iím really curious about this place."

Vincent smiled a half-smile. "You are Catherineís friends and are welcome here by one and all." He turned to Edie, "You have my eternal gratitude for helping Catherine find her way home. And my son will thank you in his own way when he sees you."

Ducking her head, Edie was embarrassed. "Shoot, it was nothing. I couldnít believe my eyes when I saw her. But Iím glad I could help. She needs a little happiness in her life; sheís had it bad enough as it is." She was a little started when Vincent engulfed her in a hearty embrace. He seemed to swallow her in his large black cloak. "Wow, big man," she said when he released her, "youíve got some kind of a hug." She grinned as she continued, "It could be addictive."

Catherine chimed in, "Could be? Edie, it is addictive."

Joe was completely flummoxed watching the two women mooning over Vincent. He didnít see anything to make him think he was a hunk and a half. Women! He just didnít understand them. He was surprised to find that he felt a little like a fifth wheel. Not that they were consciously ignoring him, but the leonine man seemed to dominate any room he was in. Vincent suddenly turned to him, seeming to understand his odd feeling, and personally conducted him into the tunnel world.

In lively conversation Catherine and Edie trailed behind. Edie had to know all that had happened to her friend. How was Jacob? Was she happy? Were there any bumps in the road to resuming her relationship with Vincent? Who was that redheaded woman who had arrived with the old man? She stuck out like a sore thumb. Catherine answered Edieís rapid fire questions as best she could. She became fairly rhapsodic over her son. But rather quiet and reserved about her liaison with Vincent.

In the subterranean world Joe was rapidly losing any reservations he had about Vincent. The level of respect and appreciation that the members of the tunnel world extended to the leonine man convinced him that Cathy was right: he was worthy of love and friendship. As they tramped through the tunnels, Vincent introduced him to his world. Their discussion soon turned to sports when Joe said with dripping sympathy, "Itís a shame I canít take you to baseball game." He stopped for a moment, "Or arenít you interested in sports? I got the impression from Cathy that you were more interested in classic music and literature."

Vincent chuckled lightly. "I may not be able to go to the games, but I do keep track of the teams that play in New York. I was greatly saddened when the Dodgers moved to California."

"Aw, címon, Vincent, the Dodgers?" Joe dragged him to a halt by grabbing his sleeve. "What about the Yankees? Theyíre the only team."

Looking down at this new found friend and possible Helper, Vincent gave him a small chiding smile, "But, Joe, the Dodgers are the underdogs, and I always cheer for the underdogs."

"Underdogs, smunderdogs, they arenít the Yankees," he protested, punching him lightly in the arm, beginning to like this strange man immensely. "What about football?" he asked, slyly.

For the rest of the walk to Vincentís chamber, the two men compared thoughts and ideas about their favorite sports and athletes. Joe was amazed at the knowledge the other man had about the statistics of the players and the games.

Highly amused at Joeís astonishment, Vincent said, "We do get the New York Times, Joe. And it is read from cover to cover."

"Wow, all I ever read is the sports section." He got an impish gleam in his eyes. "Iíll bet you do the crossword puzzle too."

"In half an hour," Vincent replied smugly, rendering Joe speechless. They were standing before a golden glowing doorway. "Well, here we," he commented, "my chamber."

Bounding in, Joe was curious to find out what the chamber looked like. It was like the man: full of odds and ends indicating his wide range of interests. The shelves were lined with mementos of a lifetime of curiosity, and the bookcases were filled with every kind of book you could imagine. On the small writing table laid a newspaper opened to the sports page.

Joe glanced up at his large friend and asked, "Did you stage this for me?"

Vincent shook his head, laughing lightly, "No Joe, Iím nothing if not honest. I was reading the sports page when the message came over the pipes that you and Edie were here."

Grinning widely, Joe countered, feigning doubt, "Yeah sure, you canít fool me; Iím a lawyer." Vincent waved him to a chair as Cathy and Edie entered the room.

"Well, Joe, what do you think of our little world?" Cathy asked, putting her arms around the man she loved as Edie sat on the side of the bed.

"Itís something, all right."

At this moment Father limped in, having overheard the question and the answer. "Iím glad you like it, Mr. Maxwell."

"Joe, Edie, this is my father, Jacob Wells."

"Iím pleased to meet the young woman who brought our beloved Catherine back to us. Welcome, Edie."

Edie had bounced forward to shake the tunnel leaderís hand. "Iím pleased to meet you," she said brightly.

Turning to Joe who was gazing at him as if he was trying to figure out where heíd seen him before, he said, "And you, sir, weíve met before."

"Yeah, I seem to remember you from somewhere. Didnít we meet in a taxi?" Joe was struggling to remember the awful time when Cathy had been kidnapped. He had pushed that terrible and fearful time deep into his unconscious. He shivered then held out his hand to the older man.

Father clasped the proffered hand and shook it warmly. "Yes, our meeting was fleeting but memorable." He sighed deeply. "A most memorable and frightening time." Joe nodded mutely. "Come into my chamber," Father said, "Iíve got a fresh pot of tea and some blueberry scones that William made this morning."

"Iíd like that," Joe said, "but do you have any coffee? Teaís just not my thing."

Father laughed. "Iím sure we can find some coffee for you. William is not much of a tea drinker himself. He always has a pot on the fire."

"Iíll see if he still has some and, if not, get him to make some," Vincent offered, heading for the entryway.

"You go right ahead," Catherine said, "Iím going to take Edie to meet Mary and the rest of the women. Theyíre having a small tea party in Maryís room."

"Hey, that sounds great. Iíd like a little girl talk," Edie said. "By the way, whereís little Jacob?"

"Heís in the childrenís dorm playing with some of his friends. I was finally able to convince him that I wouldnít disappear while he was gone. I know heís missed playing with them, but he didnít want to leave me." Catherine smiled fondly as she thought of her child.

As the two women moved down the corridor, Edie was heard to say, "Guess what, girlfriend, Iíve got a date with Isaac tomorrow. Iíve forgiven him for being right about Vincent."

"Forgiven him?" Catherine chuckled. "Oh, Edie."

The young black woman sighed dramatically, "Heís a real man, and he appreciates my many great qualities."

Catherine laughed gayly. "I was afraid that youíd sweep him off his feet."

"Sweep him? Heís been sending me flowers and candy since the day we went to see him."

Their happy chuckles faded as they continued to Maryís chamber.

***

Joe and Father followed Vincent but turned into Fatherís chamber. "Sit down, Mr. Maxwell. Vincent should return presently with your coffee."

"Call me Joe, please," he said as he settled into a chair by the council table.

"And you may call me Jacob or Father...or Dr. Wells if you prefer," Father said with a light chuckle.

"Which do you prefer?"

"Well, only my old friends call me Jacob. Those who live here call me Father." He went to a cupboard and retrieved three mismatched cups and saucers, then placed them on the table and carefully eased himself into one of the chairs.

"Iím not an old friend, so I think Iíll go along with the crowd and call you Father."

"That will do nicely, I believe. Ah, hereís Vincent with your coffee. I do hope itís relatively fresh and hasnít sat on the stove for hours."

"No, William said he just made this pot, but I must warn you, Joe, he likes his coffee rather strong," Vincent cautioned the other man as he poured his cup full of dark, redolent coffee.

"Heck, it canít be any worse than the sludge we have in the DAís office. Sometimeís thatís so thick it goes glug glug as it comes out of the coffee maker." As he took a sip, his face lit up in pleasure. "This is great coffee. You can tell William for me that he really knows how to make a good"Ėhe drew out the wordĖ"cup of coffee."

"Youíll be a friend for life when I tell William that," Vincent with a half smile.

Until the women returned, they spent a pleasant evening talking back and forth. Joe learned the full story of the founding of the tunnels and how Vincent came to be there. His appreciation of the subterranean world and its leader grew by leaps and bounds as he heard the story. When it came time for him and Edie to be taken back to the world Above, he knew he would return and often. He had found a new friend, in fact a whole host of new friends when he came to know them all.

***

Edieís curiosity about the woman, Diana, set Catherine to wondering about her. She hadnít seen her since her return, and she was of the understanding that Diana had made it a habit to come Below frequently if not almost every day. That night as they were getting ready for bed, she asked Vincent if he knew why she hadnít been Below for so long a time.

"I havenít noticed that she hasnít come Below; Iím sorry to say. Iíve been too busy being happy that you are with me."

Catherineís heart melted at his words, and she threw her arms around him, kissing him thoroughly and soundly. God, how she loved this man. And how thankful she was that she was back in his arms.

"Would you like me to find out why? I have been to her loft many times when I needed the comfort of a womanís understanding."

Alarm bells went off in Catherineís mind, and she wondered what kind of comfort the other woman had given him. There was never a shadow of doubt of his love for her, but she worried about the womanís intentions. She intended to find out. "Yes, please. I would really like to get to know the woman who saved both you and Jacob. She sounds like quite a woman."

"She is, Catherine. She has a brilliant mind, and I told you how she saved Jacob and me, all through following the tiniest of clues."

"Well, enough of talking about her," Catherine said grumpily, turning away from him. She wished sheíd never brought up the subject. "I want to go to bed."

"Catherine," he gasped, "are you jealous of her?"

"Just a little," she pouted.

"You neednít be; you are my only love, and Diana is only a dear and trusted friend." He gathered her into a rather pleased embrace, amazed that she was jealous of him.

With a sigh, she rested her head over his calmly beating heart and then took his hand and led him to their bed.

***

True to his word, he sought Diana out and invited her Below. He couldnít understand why she needed to be invited and told her so. She demurred that with Catherine home she was not needed. Jacob had his mother and he had the woman he loved. He didnít know how much it hurt her when he told her that she would always be welcomed in the tunnel world as she was his dearly trusted friend, and moreover, Catherine wanted to get to know her and thank her properly for what she had done. She knew then that Cathy had been the instigator of his visit and invitation. But she agreed to come Below sometime during the next week. Having her agreement, he bid her a good night, eager to return to his woman. With tears in her eyes, Diana watched him hurriedly leave her roof.

***

Sitting across from each other at Vincentís writing table, a supremely confident but curious Catherine faced a tense and apprehensive young detective. She needed to know the extent of the relationship between Vincent and Diana. She knew that the worst thing she could do was to accuse the other woman of making a play for her man. And besides, she had heard from her colleagues in the police department that the woman was the soul of integrity. Being a woman of principles, she wouldnít consciously try to win the love of another womanís man, even a woman who was presumed to be dead. At least, not until the man had indicated that he was amenable to her overtures.

Catherine took a deep breath and spoke, "I wanted to thank you in person for saving Vincent and my son."

"Iím glad I was able to do so. I wouldnít have been able to if it hadnít been for the few clues you left in your apartment."

"Vincent told me how you found him at my supposed grave and took him to your loft, caring for him until he was well enough to return to the tunnels."

"Thatís when I learned about the love between the two of you. It made me want to have a love like that."

"Speaking of love, what were you to Vincent?"

"Nothing more than a friend." Diana looked down at her hands and then away to the bed. Her eyes darkened with sorrow as she lowered them again to gaze at her locked hands.

"Ah, I see," Catherine said, sympathetically. "You love him."

Diana dipped her head in a faint nod. "I was only a friend, but I would have been so much more if he had encouraged me in anyway. But he never did." She looked up at Catherine with tears in her eyes, "He loves you and always will."

"Iím glad that you love him, Diana."

Diana stared at her in wonder. "Youíre glad?"

"He deserves all the love he can get." She reached over the table and took the other womanís hands in hers. "I donít resent your love for him; in fact, I welcome it. And I hope we can be friends. We can both love and care for him. That way we can keep him safe."

Diana began to smile for the first time since she entered the chamber. Nodding her head enthusiastically, she agreed. "Youíre the woman I believed you to be, Cathy. I was afraid that my reading of your strengths and character were way off. I didnít think anyone could be as understanding as you seemed to be. I donít know if I could have been so generous."

"Oh, I think you could be." She looked to the entryway, her eyes brightening with love. "Come on in, Vincent. Weíve finished our talk, and now weíre going to have a spot of tea."

Diana saw first-hand the evidence of the bond they shared; Cathy had known that he was coming. She had known of the bond between father and son and had even known of the bond that had once existed between the two lovers. It was the loss of that bond that had led to their long and bitter separation. Wistfully she wished that she had been the one that had brought them together, but it appeared that it was their fate that had brought it about. Nothing could keep them apart. Whatever happened to separate them would be overcome, and they would find each other again. She discovered to her astonishment that it didnít hurt as much as she thought it would when he bent down and lightly kissed Catherine on the lips. She smiled and took a deep breath. To be a part of that love seemed to be her lot in life. Even if it was only on the fringes, she was thankful that she had them as friends. After all, friendship was love in a different form. She sighed contentedly, waiting for her cup of friendship.

After a pleasant hour of conversation, Vincent walked Diana back to the threshold to her building. Catherine looked up at him from her place in his chair as he entered their chamber and said, "She loves you."

His smile turned to a sad frown. "I know. I never wanted that from her and tried to discourage her...."

"But she wouldnít be discouraged," Catherine continued for him. He slowly shook his head. "Vincent, my dear sweet love, you cannot keep someone from loving. You have no control over whomever it is they choose to love." She rose gracefully and, coming to him, snaked her arms around his waist. Looking up at him, she continued, "You tried to talk me out of loving you, remember?"

"Yes, I remember. How foolish of me." He brushed her nose with his and then gently kissed her. "My life would be incomplete without you as I have most painfully discovered these last few years."

"Well, youíll never be rid of me now. Iím here to stay."

"Oh, I sincerely hope so," he breathed as he easily lifted her into his arms and strode toward the bed. He meant to show her just how incomplete his life had been. He laughed as he thought that it might take all night.

***

About a week laterĖthe days blurred together living BelowĖVincent ushered Edie into their chamber. Commenting that he would be in Fatherís chamber if he was needed, he left.

"Hey, girlfriend, whacha doiní? Looks like youíre fighting a losing battle."

Catherine was valiantly trying to get Jacob to go to bed. Ever since her return he had fought the end of the day, wanting to spend as much of his time with his mother as possible. "I know," she answered ruefully. "Itís as hard on me as it is on him. I hate for the day to end. I know Iím being foolish, but I resent any time Iím away from him."

"Aw, thingsíll settle down soon and youíll be like any other family." Edie settled into a chair and waited while Catherine finally got Jacob into bed. "Good night, Jacob. Sleep well. Iíll send you something from California."

"Ok. Night, Aunt Edie," he called from his little room.

There was the sound of a big sloppy kiss and then Cathy emerged from the chamber with a full-blown silly grin on her face that morphed into a frown. "Youíre leaving?"

"Yeah, my vacation time is about used up."

"I thought you had decided to stay in New York."

"Well, I almost had. Iíve had a wonderful time with Isaac, but I canít get him to move to California and, frankly, I miss the sun, beach, and all those lovely hunks of men out there."

"I donít think Isaac would be happy anywhere else," Cathy said. She went to the young black woman and pulled her into a hearty hug. "I donít know how Iíll ever repay you for what youíve done for me, Edie. Youíve given me back my life, my son, and the man I love."

"Shucks, twerenít nothiní, maíam," Edie joked to keep the tears from falling. "Seriously, Iím just glad that I went to the bank that morning. I almost didnít, but at the last minute I decided that I should."

"Thank god, you did," Cathy fervently replied. "Iíd still be looking for myself and not finding anything. But Iím going to miss you, you imp, a whole lot."

Edie giggled at her friend who knew her only to well. "Me too, you know, but we can keep in touch."

"You can count on it. Let me give you an address you can send your letters too." She found a piece of paper and using Vincentís pen scribbled the address. Handing it to Edie, she said, "I have your address branded in my brain."

Vincent entered, having felt Catherineís distress. "What is it? Whatís wrong?"

"Edieís leaving, returning to Ventura," she said sadly as she moved into his arms.

Resting his chin on his loveís head, he thanked the woman who had returned to him the most important person in his life. "Iím sorry youíre leaving; we will miss you, my friend. There are not enough words in the English language to express my gratefulness and appreciation for what you have done for me and my son. Please consider these humble tunnels as a refuge and a safe place from the storm if you ever have need of us. And for my dear loveís sake, please stay in touch."

Edie swiped at a tear that trickled down her cheek. "Well, gee guys, I never thought leaving would be so hard. But Iím glad I got to know you, Vincent, and Iím extra glad that I could help to bring Cathy home. Boy, if I donít leave soon, Iím going to flood the place." She gave a watery chuckle as Vincent smothered her in a heartfelt embrace. "Good bye, Cathy. Iíll write as soon as I get home. Guide me to the entrance. Ok, Vincent?" Pushing out of his hug, she almost ran from the chamber with Vincent following close behind her.

"Bye, Edie. Come back soon." Catherine rushed to the entrance and watched as her friend flew down the corridor. By tomorrow morning she would back in California, driving all the young men there crazy with her sparkling personality.

Thoughtfully Catherine turned back to the chamber and sat pensively in Vincentís large chair, thinking of the past month, and how a chance meeting with an old friend had changed her life for the better. With glowing eyes and a thankful heart, she patiently waited for the return of the man who meant more to her than her own life. But now that life stretched before her in uncounted years to be spent with the man of her dreams, and all because of one small, uncommon, young black woman.

 

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