IF I FORGET THEE, O JERUSALEM... by Toni Lichtenstein Bogolub Chapter I "Could you tell me where to find Joe Maxwell?" Cathy Chandler, standing next to her desk in the District Attorney's office, heard the question, addressed to someone three desks down. Something about the voice made her want to smile; it was a happy voice, full of deviltry, mischief, and joy. She looked up in time to see its owner, a young woman, being pointed toward Joe's office. Somewhere in her mid-twenties, she was wheat-blonde, thin - nice looking but no beauty. She wore a denim jacket and comfortable jeans, and looked like a farmer's daughter who had stumbled into the city. But her midnight blue eyes danced with secret laughter, and seemed to invite everyone to share in the secret. Cathy watched as she approached the closed door to Joe's little office. She knocked, and giggled as she waited for an answer. There was so much enjoyment in that little laugh that Cathy smiled almost involuntarily. "Come in!", Joe called, busy as usual. She opened the door and stepped in. Cathy edged herself over to see what was going to happen. Joe Maxwell, Assistant District Attorney, was seated at his desk, jacket removed, tie at half mast, up to his elbows in paper. When there was a knock on his door, he called, "Come in!" perfunctorily without looking up. He heard the door open, and looked up to see which investigator wanted a word with him. "Hi, Joe!" The twinkle in her eye was the first thing he saw, as always. "Johnny!" Joe was on his feet, moving toward her. "What are you doing here?" Cathy, eavesdropping shamelessly, wasn't sure if he was pleased or not; but he was certainly surprised. In a moment she knew: the farmer's daughter was in Joe's arms, pressed against him, and Joe was kissing her very thoroughly. When they both came up for air, the woman Joe had called Johnny asked, "Do you have time for lunch today?" Joe looked at the piles of paper on his desk, and Cathy could almost see him cast them to perdition. "Sure." He went to his chair, to get his jacket - and then Johnny pushed the door closed, her eyes so bright Cathy thought irrelevantly that they might light up a room all by themselves. The click of the closing door made Joe turn around. Johnny looked at the door, and sighed, "No lock. Well, I guess we'll just have to improvise. Good thing somebody chucked a stapler through your window." As she dragged the chair opposite his desk to the door, and propped it under the doorknob, she pointed to the temporary boarding covering the glass that normally showed the investigator's pool. "Johnny - what -" That was something Joe found himself saying to her with great frequency. Despite his quick wit, Johnny's outrageous spontaneity often reduced him to monosyllables. She walked to the window, peered out at the sunny May day, then flipped the blinds shut. "Johnny -" The look of angelic innocence on her face made him very nervous. The more innocent she looked, the more outrageous her plans. Right now, she looked fit for canonization; this was getting very serious. "Just remember I have to keep working here." But he trusted her; not even her most far-out schemes and pranks had ever caused him any real trouble or embarrassment. "That's why the locked door and closed blinds," she replied. Then she slowly unsnapped the front of her denim jacket, one snap at a time. Joe swallowed as he realized that the only thing under that jacket was soft, pale skin. She tossed the jacket onto the floor, then removed Joe's tie and began to undo his shirt buttons. "Johnny, no!" he protested - but wherever her fingers touched his skin, he burned; in fact, he was consumed in flames. His hands itched to touch that lovely exposed skin; he remembered just how beautiful it felt. She stripped the shirt away from him, and moved into his arms again. Joe didn't believe the strength of the desire that ran through him. He locked his arms around her, and lowered his head to drop kisses along the length of her neck. She reciprocated by nibbling gently on his collarbone; Joe groaned. She pushed herself away from him, then knelt at his feet. She untied and removed one shoe. "This isn't the time or place for this, Johnny," Joe protested. She ignored him, to remove the other shoe. One hand slid up, to touch his bare calf; Joe shuddered. Johnny stood again. Joe took a step backward, and encountered the edge of his desk. Johnny moved closer, and reached for his belt buckle. Joe put his hands up to stop her, but she leaned into him, her bare skin brushing his palms. Joe's teeth dug into his lip. "Johnny, quit it!" The words were strong, but Joe's rapid breathing gave a different message. She slipped past his outstretched hands, and reached once more for his belt. For one moment sanity raised its prim head again; but it lost to the primitive feeling of her hands removing the rest of his clothing. She paused, ran a caressing hand down Joe's bare body, then kicked off her shoes, peeled off her jeans and tossed them into the corner with her jacket. There was as much under the denim pants as under her jacket. Joe made one final effort. He turned away from her, reaching for his pants. Johnny leaned up against him from behind, and kissed his ear. Everything disappeared in a blaze of white heat. The last nearly coherent thought Joe had, as she pulled him down to the floor with her, was to note that she had carefully laid his pants and shirt out so they would not be wrinkled; she always thought of everything. Then logic fled, and only passion remained. Cathy's eyes kept straying to the closed door for the next half hour. Joe couldn't; he wouldn't - would he? When the door finally opened, she was almost disappointed to see how neat Joe looked; neater than he usually appeared. The young woman casually straightened his collar; Joe smiled and returned the favor. They both seemed to be trembling on the edge of laughter. Joe noticed Cathy watching surreptiously, took the hand of his friend, and walked over to her desk. "Radcliffe, I'd like you to meet Johanna Smith. Johanna, this is Cathy Chandler." An odd look entered Johanna's eyes as Joe pronounced Cathy's name; but she smiled, held out her hand, and said, "I'm so glad to meet you." Cathy could feel that her pleasure was genuine; she returned the smile without having to think about it. "I'm going out to lunch, Radcliffe," Joe said, the most completely contented look she had ever seen on his face. For some reason, this was funny; both he and Johanna burst into laughter. Laying one possessive arm over Johanna's shoulder, he pulled her to him, and started toward the door, calling back over his shoulder, "Lunch shouldn't take too long." He and Johanna exchanged looks, and just barely held off another round of laughter. With a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin, he waved. "See ya." Edie, who had witnessed about half that scene, came over to Catherine and shook her head. "Sad when a good man falls like that." She and Cathy exchanged a look of complete understanding, then they both started to giggle as well. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter II Later that night, enjoying the cool breeze on her balcony, she described the incident to Vincent. "Joe looked so happy, Vincent; I've never seen him so much at peace. And his girlfriend - he said her name was Johanna, but he called her Johnny - she made you want to smile as soon as she came into the room; as if she had a wonderful secret..." "And wanted to share it with you." Vincent completed her sentence. As she stared at him, wondering if this was a new level of their bond, he added, "Our Johnny always makes you feel like that." The outermost corners of his mouth tugged upward; Vincent's equivalent to a smile. " 'Our Johnny'; I thought she looked at me oddly! Is she a Helper, Vincent?" "Now she is; she was born in our world, and lived Below until she was fifteen. That was eleven years ago; and I still miss her." He paused, to try to explain. "People have different talents, Catherine; if you need a machine invented, you go to Mouse; messages sent, to Pascal; medical care, to Father. From the time she was a baby, if you needed to smile, you went to our Johnny." "Why 'our Johnny', Vincent?" "Her mother left the Tunnels when she was still very young; only four or five. Everyone helped to look after her; she became a sort of community treasure. I have never seen anyone who loves just living as much as she; and who wants everyone else to love it just as much. Catherine, I recall once, when I was about 18, there was a rockfall, at the mouth of a place the children often played. There were five children trapped behind that fall; Johnny, who was 12 at that time, two babies of four or five, and Tommy and Nancy, who were older; 13 or 14. It took us six hours to dig through to them. We were all frantic; we didn't know if the children were dead, or injured. At the least, we were certain they were terrified. I will always remember; when we finally broke through to them -" * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter III Vincent lived it all again: the dust motes drifting across the shaft of light that shone over his shoulder into the chamber; the desperate ache of his arms, overtired from hours of digging; Winslow's eternal pessimism as he, too, strained every fiber to save the children; the panic that threatened to choke him as he looked within that too-quiet chamber. And saw - Johnny, sitting cross-legged on the floor, blinking up at him. Marie, all of 3 years old, was asleep in her lap; Max, 5, slept with his head on her leg. Each clutched a makeshift stuffed animal, made from one of her gloves. Tommy and Nancy slept too, curled next to Johnny. Johnny smiled - "And I will never forget, Catherine. She smiled at me, and said, "Oh, hello, Vincent. I knew you'd come." And that was all. I found out later that, as soon as the rocks had stopped falling, she'd gathered everyone together, sat them down, and said, 'What a shame. We'll be late for dinner tonight.' " Cathy laughed in amazement. "So practical." "And so correct. Such a perfect thing to say to frightened children; when it is a matter of missing dinner, one may be cranky - but not afraid. Tommy and Nancy told me later that she started them telling stories of silly things. They were laughing, Catherine; Nancy said later that she'd enjoyed that time." Catherine thought of that overflowing mirth she had seen in Joe and his Johnny; tried to imagine her as a child, in the situation Vincent described. Vincent watched her, reading the flow of her emotion as it passed through him. He divined the way of her thoughts, and strove to correct her. "It was not that she didn't understand the danger, Catherine; I know that she dreamed of being buried alive for weeks after that. I woke her from those nightmares several times myself." "I don't understand, Vincent; what are you saying?" Vincent sighed. "Catherine; for me, a room becomes brighter when you enter it. There are colors that were not there before; everything is more beautiful." Catherine flushed with pleasure, lay her head against Vincent's broad chest. He continued, "It was - and is - the same when our Johnny enters a room; but for everyone. We had our own piece of your warming sun with us; it was a great loss when she had to leave." Catherine remembered the aura of delight that seemed to surround Joe's girlfriend. "Why did she leave the Tunnels, Vincent?" "Father sent her away." Vincent's voice, previously filled with the joy of Johnny's memory, was sad now. Catherine shivered. As Vincent wrapped his cloak to surround them both, she said, "Sent her away? Whatever for, Vincent?" "It was the only thing he could do. Johnny was seriously ill when she was fourteen. It left her very weakened. Our world Below is cold and damp; Johnny was often ill, always coughing. After the fourth time Father and Mary barely nursed her through pneumonia, Father sent her Above to live with a couple of our Helpers; a man and his wife who knew her, took good care of her." His lips stretched barely upward at the corners again; another smile. "To this day Father is very strict with her; no more than four hours once a week spent Below. And if she so much as sneezes in his presence, it's back Above immediately." Catherine was puzzled. "You said you still missed her; but if she visits every week -" "Catherine; our dream is of a life together. Think what we would feel if we achieved our dream; and then were forced to return to only stolen moments. It is the difference between family and acquaintances." "How sad." "Yes; 'sad' is it exactly. It is the only time I ever saw our Johnny sad. She was sometimes unhappy; but that was always a small thing, soon passed." He recalled so well the first night he had seen her after Father sent her away. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter IV He was twenty-one; a grown man, just coming into the full strength of his adulthood. There was so much to do Below; so many things to watch, to guard, to explore. There was his young friend Mouse to see, to teach; he had just started a class with some of the children, to share his love of poetry with them. It was six weeks since Father had sent Johnny away, Above. It was for the best, Vincent knew; he missed his "kid sister" vaguely, but he remembered Father's worried countenance and three-day bedside vigil during her last illness. Afterward, Father told him he hadn't thought she'd pull through. When she did, he said, "The choice has been taken from me, Vincent. She cannot live here. Above, warm, dry, she can live a fairly normal life, with reasonable precautions." As soon as she was strong enough to be moved, Robert and Lucinda had taken her to their home. It was far away; Connecticut, Father told him. Yes, he missed her; but in a distant, intellectual way. On that night, he had been on his way to - somewhere; the memory eluded him. As he passed by Father's chamber, Robert approached through the corridor. The man looked worried; his "Hello, Vincent," was distracted and automatic. Just then, Father stepped from his chamber. "Robert! I got your message; what is the problem?" "It's Johnny, Father; she's still - the only word I can use is sad." Robert shook his head. "It doesn't sound serious, Father, but -" "Robert, I know; to think of Johnny and "sad" at the same time is almost a contradiction. But it is understandable. This is the only home she's ever known; of course she'd be sad to leave here." "Father - it's more than that. She tries so hard not to let us see. Lucinda cried yesterday after Johnny left for school. Father, her joy is gone." He stopped, aware his disjointed words didn't express what he felt so profoundly. "I don't know what to do, Father; she was a wisp before, and she's lost weight since she's been with us. She sits by herself and stares out her window." "Robert - you must let her adjust. She was ill; that can also lead to mood changes. Give her time." Vincent, outside the chamber, listened intently to every word. He recognized the concern in Father's voice, the worry that lay beneath his words. Father was grasping at straws, giving Robert advice he couldn't believe himself. "All right, Father." Robert shook his head. "It's breaking my heart. She keeps up a good front, but it's as though - the light has gone out inside her." So saying, he retraced his steps, almost brushing Vincent but not really seeing him. Vincent could not imagine Johnny joyless; more than an appearance, she had a presence, and that presence was joy. Almost involuntarily, he entered Father's chamber. The older man, caught off guard, looked tremendously worried and torn. "Father -" Vincent's furry voice brought the other man out of his self-absorption. "Vincent!" He tried to cover his former mood with heartiness. "What brings you here?" "I overheard your conversation with Robert, Father." The concern returned to Father's eyes. "She will adjust, Vincent. I had no choice in the matter. One more winter here, and she would be dead. Surely anything is better than that." In a scarcely audible voice he added, as if to himself, "I don't think I could bear to lose her that way." Vincent's heart ached for the pain in Father's voice; but he was distressed still. Father went on, still speaking under his breath, "In time she will be able to visit; she is not on another planet, only in Connecticut." "It may as well be another planet, Father; she is exiled from our world as surely as I am from the world Above. Her plight is worse than mine; for I have never lived Above, I have no connection with that world. All my friends, my family, are here." Father had no answer. Vincent stood for a moment, then said, "I'll be back, Father." In advance of Father's command to wait, he moved through the tunnels swiftly, in search of the proper subway line to begin his journey. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter V It all came back to him so vividly as he related the tale to Catherine; the furthest journey of his life, to that far place called Connecticut. He traveled unseen upon the late-night trains, following long-memorized maps; memorized for the sake of bringing reality to his dreams. So many times he had traced routes to Helpers' abodes, to visualize their place in that vastness. So it was with swift sureness he travelled the unlit suburban streets to Robert and Lucinda's. The hour was late, but there was a light showing through one window toward the back of the house. Vincent knew the room had to be hers. Slipping through the shadows, he approached the beacon of light. When he was close enough to look in, he saw - Johnny. Just as Robert had described her, she stared out the window. Although in the night, it was obvious that she didn't see the view, Vincent would have bet she saw nothing of her surroundings even in the light of day. From the safety of a tree's shadow, just a few feet from her window, he watched. His heart contracted with pity and pain. Robert's words hadn't prepared him; this wasn't the girl whose presence could make even Winslow smile. This was a dim copy, a pen-and-ink drawing faded by time. She was pale and drawn, but Vincent had seen her like that before. No, Robert was right; there was no light in her anymore. The window was closed against the night's chill. Vincent slipped up and rapped gently. Startled but still lethargic, Johnny rose from her chair and peered out into the darkness. Vincent let himself be seen; that brought a little animation. She opened the window, helped him in. "Vincent! What are you doing here? How - why -" He took one of her hands in his gloved one. "I came to see you." The midnight blue eyes that danced with light in his memory looked up into his - and he saw only sadness. He released her hand and opened his arms. Johnny hesitated for a moment, then accepted his invitation in a rush. She clutched at him, as if to save herself from drowning. Closing her eyes, she inhaled the smoky perfume of his clothing; the fragrance of home. Vincent felt her tremble, overwhelmed by her homesickness. Her voice was as unsteady as her body; she whispered, "My beloved big brother Vincent - you understand. I've seen the lights of the city draw you - but they can never be yours." She burrowed against him, feeling in his solid body the stone walls of her home. "We're both exiles; you from the world you could love so much; me - from my home." Vincent barely understood her last words as the tears overtook her; she rested her head on his shoulder and cried. She cried quietly, with only an occasional sniffle or sob, but her grief went on and on. Vincent lifted her into his arms, sat them both on her bed, and tried to let the tears wash some of the sadness from her soul. Eventually the tears slowed; Vincent tried to reach her. "Johnny - you will find a life for yourself Above." She shook her head subtly against him; he tried a different tack. "Father, Mary, Pascal; we all miss you." "Do you?" There was a hopeless sound to her voice; Vincent pressed on. "Johnny, Father did only what he had to do; you can have a life here, Above. There was nothing but death for you Below." Her hands slackened their fierce grip on his shirt. "But I'm so lonely, Vincent. What use is a life without friends; without love? Everyone that I love - is out of reach." Vincent tightened his arms around her. Johnny's life was always bound up with people; they were more important to her than places. But she hadn't lost her family; how could he make her see that? "Not out of reach, Johnny. Father says that eventually you may come Below again, although only to visit." "He did? I can?" There was a hint of the girl he'd known as his words sank in. Vincent continued, "But Johnny - we are all with you; within you, always. Think about it, Johnny; know it in your soul. Our love is always with you. Father was heartbroken to have to send you away." "He was?" She sounded puzzled, but heartened. "He seemed so angry, Vincent." "If he was angry, it was at himself; that he could not find a way to enable you to remain with us." "That's not his fault, Vincent!" "I know; and I see that you know. But Father takes the burdens of all of us upon himself; and it is a personal insult if something does not work out in the way he perceives it should." Johnny smiled a watery smile. "Thank you, Vincent." She sighed, her head resting on his shoulder, and he could feel the light slowly rekindle within her. "I thought everyone had abandoned me, and Father was angry. I thought I'd never see them again; or you." She yawned, and Vincent felt the last shred of tension leave her. Her voice became fainter, sleepy. "I guess I knew all along that I was wrong; but thank you for making me see..." Her voice trailed off as her eyes slid closed. Vincent eased her onto her bed, and drew the heavy quilt over her. He stood watching her sleep for a moment; the first thing he'd do upon returning was convince Father to allow her Below again immediately. She stirred then, and her eyes opened just a bit. "Vincent; you need to start back now." Sleep tinged the tone, but it was Johnny's voice again. Her concern warmed his heart. "Go on; you don't want to get caught Above." She smiled a little. "Just think how angry Father will be when you tell him where you were!" "I don't think Father will be too angry with me, Johnny; he loves you, you know. He was very worried by Robert's reports." "I know, Vincent; I'm sorry to worry everyone. I guess I was just scared, and kind of lost inside my head." She yawned again. "Go back home, big brother. Tell Father I love him; and I miss everyone. But I think I'll make it now." She chuckled. "Especially if I get to go back and annoy everyone with my tales of life Above!" Her voice was again the light in the room; Vincent smiled to himself, and moved back toward the window. As he opened it to exit, she called softly, "I love you, Vincent. Thank you." Then she rolled over, and Vincent took himself into the silent darkness, to return to the world Below before the light overtook him. "So you see, Catherine, Johnny has always been very special to all of us. Her weekly visits are an event many anticipate greatly. I am - everyone will be so glad to hear of her happiness." He looked at the city twinkling below them. "The hour is late, Catherine. I must go." He held her tightly to him for another instant, then vanished to return to his world. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter VI As usual in the D.A.'s office, five o'clock came quickly, and before the work allotted for the day was finished. Cathy closed the file she was studying, stretched, and cleared her desk to leave. Behind her, she heard the click of Joe's office door. "Hot date tonight, Radcliffe?" Jacket slung across his shoulder, tie peeking out of the pocket where he'd stuffed it, Joe stood near her desk, his gaze straying toward the bank of elevators. "As a matter of fact, yes, Joe." He wasn't listening to her. He continued to watch the elevators, plainly watching for someone. Cathy waited for him to move away from his desk, but instead he said, "Did I ever tell you how Johnny and I met?" "No, Joe," Cathy sighed, "you haven't." "I was visiting my sister, in Connecticut. She has three kids, a husband who travels for a living, and an untrained 80-lb. Olde English sheepdog. I was doing her a favor; taking the dog to the vet." Joe stopped and shook his head. "Anything that big can't be called a dog; that thing is more like a horse." Cathy laughed. "Joe, horses are a whole lot bigger than that." "You've never seen Rosencrantz." He grimaced at her puzzled look. "That's the dog's name. My sister's really into that Shakespeare stuff. Anyhow, I drove that monster to the vet." ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Joe had pulled his sister's station wagon up to the animal hospital, then walked around to the back of the car to get the dog. He opened the tail gate, grabbed Rosencrantz's leash, and tugged. Nothing happened. The dog was crouched as far from the opening as he could get, paws braced. Joe pulled with all his might. The dog did not budge an inch. With a sigh, he shut the tail gate. His sister had warned him this might happen. She'd said, "Go into the office and tell them to have Johnny come out and help you." Joe went in, and followed the instructions. He expected Johnny to be a muscular teenage boy, to help him drag the recalcitrant animal into the building. When the thin smiling "farmer's daughter" stepped out and said, "Hi, I'm Johnny," he'd looked at her in disbelief. "Lady, unless you're a lot stronger than you look, you're not gonna get that mutt out of the car either." Her smile had become a grin, and Joe felt its warmth in the pit of his stomach. "Rosie's just scared, Mr. --" "Maxwell. Joe Maxwell." "Well, Joe Maxwell, let's go get Rosie." She lead the way, opened the tail gate, and crawled in with the huge dog. To Joe's amusement, she started to talk to the frightened animal. Her voice was low and soothing, no words discernable. After a minute of gentle dialog, she took the dog's leash and backed out of the car, affording Joe a lovely view. As he admired her, to his astonishment he saw Rosencrantz follow, even cheerily wagging its tail as it stayed next to her. "I've got to admit, you certainly have a way with animals." "Thank you, Joe Maxwell. Let's get Rosie in so the doctor can look at him. Come on, puppy," she cooed to the dog, who looked adoringly up at her. Joe's expression was nearly a match for the dog's, as he followed them in. "Radcliffe, that dog obeyed her perfectly. As long as she stood there, it did anything she asked. After the vet was through, she went away, to take care of something; and I couldn't get that mongrel to budge. I even tried to drag it out. Then she walked back into the room, and damned if the dog didn't start obeying again. After we loaded Rosencrantz back into the car, I asked her if she was busy for dinner. She wasn't; and the rest is history." Before Cathy could speak, Joe stepped away from her desk, waved toward the elevators, and called, "Johnny!" With an acknowledging wave, Johanna Smith hurried to his side. Somehow the fluorescent lights seemed to shine more brightly; the bureaucratic decor wasn't so gray. All of Vincent's tales from the previous night ran through Cathy's head. She looked at Joe; her boss looked younger, and not so hard-edged. There was a gentleness there she had never seen before. Johnny reached his side, flowed against him, and kissed him. Catherine could almost see steam rise from them, even though the kiss, by objective standards, was rated no more than "G". Cathy wanted to tell Joe's girlfriend in some way that she knew of her history; but there was no opportunity. Johnny and Joe finished their kiss, and Johnny fit herself comfortably to Joe's side, beneath his arm. She smiled at Cathy, and some of the frazzle of the day departed. "Hello, Miss Chandler." "Cathy, please." She glanced at her watch. "I've got to get going. I'm meeting a friend for the concert tonight in the park." She thought of Vincent, with whom she would listen to the delicate chamber music from beneath the park, and waved a goodbye to the two by her desk. "Maybe we'll see you there, Radcliffe." Cathy halted in her tracks. "Did I hear you right, Joe? A concert of classical music?" The impish light in Johnny's eyes told Cathy whose idea it had been. "We'll go to the park, eat bad hot dogs and potato chips, sit under a tree on a blanket; does it matter what the music is?" Joe, whose musical taste did not precede 1963, provided yet another proof of how very stricken he was. He nodded, and all three of them moved toward the elevator together. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter VII Later that warm late spring evening, as she moved through the scattered concertgoers arrayed on the grass, toward her rendezvous with Vincent, she spotted Joe. He was sprawled on a blanket, his head on a folded jacket. Curled to his side, one arm flung over his chest, Johnny slept with her head pillowed on his shoulder. Joe cradled her to him. The light in his eyes was tender, and full of awe and wonder. It reminded her of the way Vincent sometimes looked at her; not sure how or why this miracle had come to him. She walked on to the great concrete pipe, and down to the iron gate and secret door where Vincent awaited her. As they strolled toward their listening place beneath the grate, she told him of what she had seen. "I'm so glad for him, Vincent. Joe deserves the very best." "If Johnny loves him, he must." "I wish you could see them, Vincent." "It may happen, Catherine; Johnny is still a regular visitor. Perhaps someday -" "Anything is possible, Vincent." Since I found you, she added silently; then the music began, and they settled into their secret spot, surrounded by the beauty of the sound. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter VIII In the week since the concert, the D.A.'s office had kept Catherine overworked and short of time. Now, on a rare free afternoon, she had determined to visit Vincent below. She walked slowly through the semi-familiar stone corridors. She knew her way to a number of places - if she was careful. Heading for Vincent's chamber, she concentrated on turns and levels. Unaware of anything around her, she was counting openings when she plowed into someone. "I'm sorry!" she began, reaching out a hand to help her victim up. It was Joe's Johnny. The other woman took the proffered hand, and dragged herself up. "Miss Chandler - Cathy!" she corrected herself. She sounded breathless, but that radiant quality banished the shadows from the torchlit corridor. "Oh, I'm so glad I have a chance to talk to you!" Cathy released Johnny's hand as the younger woman leaned a little against the stone wall. "I just wanted to thank you for loving my big brother." Johnny laughed, and the sound warmed Cathy the way the thought of Vincent did. Becoming momentarily more serious, Johnny continued, "He's never more beautiful than when he talks about you." She grinned then, the full wattage of her personality almost making Cathy blink. "But I'll bet he looks even better when he's holding you!" Johnny winked saucily, and breezed away, calling over her shoulder, "I've only got one more hour, and I have so many people to see! Father's next, I guess! Nice to see you here, Cathy!" Then she vanished around a corner, and Cathy swore the lights dimmed. At that moment, Vincent appeared down the corridor, and Cathy would not have noticed anything so mundane as light or darkness as she hurried to him. "You look lovely," he murmured, holding her gently to him. "But a trifle dazed -" "She's like a velvet hurricane," Cathy laughed, and Vincent chuckled knowingly. "Oh, Johnny passed this way, did she?" Cathy nodded, and then Vincent said, "Elizabeth has finished some new paintings. Would you like to look at them?" At her nod, the two of them headed away, now in a world all of their own. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter IX Father, seated at his desk, was bent over a book, as usual. He stood and stretched, removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, trying to ease the gritty ache that often overtook them. There was a soft sound; he lifted his head, and small hands covered his eyes. "Guess who?" Even with his eyes covered, he seemed to see new colors. He reached around, gripped slender wrists, freed his eyes and stood, to face Johnny. She threw her arms around Father's neck, stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. Father's eyes were warm at the sight of her. Vincent had told him of her new love Above; he hugged her, the brightness she always brought intensified by the glow her love had added. As he held her, a warning bell seemed to ring within his ears. Father concentrated; what was giving him this signal? As he slowly released her, it came to him: her breathing was slow and controlled; the muscles surrounding her rib cage had felt rigid and locked under his hands. He transferred his grip to her shoulders, and held her at arm's length for a moment. His professional side took over, surveyed her in painstaking detail. He didn't like what he saw. Propelling her to a chair, he seated her firmly and went for his stethoscope. Johnny sighed with long-suffering patience. "I'm fine, Father." "Young lady, I have heard you say that when you suffered from double pneumonia." He returned, donned the earpieces, and slid the stethoscope beneath her sweater to listen to her lungs. "Father -" she protested sharply, trying to dodge the instrument, but Father ignored her attempts at escape. All he said was, "Take a deep breath." She seemingly complied, but Father frowned. "Again - and I mean a deep breath, Johnny." She took the deep breath this time; and it set off a coughing spasm that went on and on. Father didn't need the stethoscope now; all he could do was to hold her as she struggled to recage the cough, to breathe around the congestion within her lungs. Slowly she brought it under control, breathing in shallow pants as she leaned against Father. Just as he was about to begin a stern admonition, concluding with an order to see Peter, a Helper who had been her doctor since he sent her above, Johnny reached into the pocket of her blue denim jacket and withdrew a brown plastic bottle; a prescription. She handed it to him, still unable to speak. As he looked it over, slowly she regained the power of speech. "I saw Peter yesterday, Father." Her voice was still not steady, she was still short of breath; but Father could hear what sounded like resignation. Carefully she brought her breathing under control; after a moment of silence she continued, "His advice was the same as always." Father nodded; he and Peter had been trying to convince her to leave the cold climate, to find a warmer, dryer place, for years. Some part of him wanted her to always refuse the advice; even her short weekly visits brought colors and brightness. But it was the same advice that had exiled her from the Tunnels; her constitution was not suited to the climate. "I didn't want you to worry, Father." Her voice was a whisper now. "I didn't want to ruin our time together." "Johnny..." Guilt overwhelmed him. Johnny stood up carefully, stretched to her tiptoes, and kissed his cheek again. "You were just worried, Father; because you love me. I know." Her voice was nearly the same as when she'd walked in, but Father heard that unfamiliar note still. She stood away from him, ran her glance around the well-known stacks and piles of books. "You're right to worry, Father; I am sick a lot. I'm not very strong." "Johnny -" Father tried to put in a word, to reassure her; this was not at all what he had wanted to happen. But Johnny forged on, allowing no interruptions. "I suppose you and Peter are right. Peter especially. I'm just being foolish again." The words weren't addressed to Father as much as to herself. She turned back to the older man. Father wanted to take back every word he'd spoken since she'd entered; the radiant light in her eyes was extinguished, as if it had never been. Johnny saw the guilt and sorrow on his face; returning to his side, she hugged him again. "Don't look so guilty, Father. It needed to be said. I've been burying my head in the sand." Her voice was resolute, but Father heard a dream dying as she spoke. "There are certain limitations on your life, Johnny; but within them, you can still live a very full -" She silenced him with a shake of her head. "No more daydreams, Father." Her eyes locked into his, focusing all his attention. "It was time I woke up. Past time." Her eyes shimmered; but now it was with unshed tears. "No sadness, Father; I'm not going to do anything stupid. In fact, I'm just going to listen to advice - for a change." Hugging him hard one last time, she whirled and fled before he could move. After she was gone, he stood very still in the center of his chamber, as she had left him. His shoulders sagged; his eyes were haunted. "I'm so sorry, Johnny," he murmured after her. "I'm so very sorry." * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter X Satisfied to be getting an early start on her day, Cathy strode into the investigator's pool, ready to put away some of her backlog. She wasn't the first one in, but close enough. She stuck her purse in the drawer and sat down, pulling out the first file she had earmarked for this morning's labors. Before starting, she glanced around the room, curious to see who else's dedication brought them in at the first light of dawn. Joe's office door was open a crack, and the light was on inside. But it was unlike Joe to be in early; working late was more his style. Cathy went over, to tease him about yet another change in his life. She rapped gently on the door; it swung open beneath her touch. Joe was seated at his desk, his chair turned to face the window. "Good morning, Joe," Cathy started tentatively. Something about the way he sat chased all thoughts of teasing from her mind. "She's left me, Radcliffe." The words were stark; Joe's voice was harsh and hoarse. "Oh no, Joe! I'm so sorry." "She said she loved me, Cathy. She said she loved me, then she said goodbye." Joe still hadn't turned away from the window. "She said she wasn't what I needed." Finally he swung his chair around to look at her. His face was ravaged with bewildered pain and anger. A plain black jewelry box was in his hand; he flipped it open. The deepest blue sapphire Cathy had ever seen gleamed in the ring within; it was almost exactly the color of Johnny's eyes. "I asked her to marry me, Radcliffe. What a laugh." His voice was bitter. Silence prevailed for a long moment. "She said she loved me, Cathy. I know she did. How could she leave me?" Thoughts of her own recent near-breakdown, and how Vincent had broken off their relationship at his perception of the pain it caused her, filled Cathy's mind. "I'm sure she thought she was doing the right thing, Joe. She really does love you. Maybe she'll come to her senses..." Hope lit Joe's eyes quickly, then faded. "She's gone, Cathy. Her aunt and uncle; all they'll say is that she's gone." "Oh, Joe." Cathy put her hand on his shoulder. "Thanks, Radcliffe. I'd like to be alone now." "All right, Joe." As she left the office, she heard Joe's chair swing around again. As she shut the door behind her, she could see him staring out the window again. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chapter XI Father had been waiting for the hammer to fall for two days; when Vincent entered his chamber slowly, carrying an envelope, it was like the stroke of doom. Before Vincent was halfway across the chamber, Father asked, "Johnny?" Vincent nodded, brought the envelope to Father, seated at his desk. "She left this for you. I promised her to give it to you, stay while you read it, and reassure you." "Vincent, I never meant to -" "I know, Father. Johnny knows as well. I did my best to dissuade her, but she is nearly as stubborn as you are." Vincent proffered the envelope, and Father reached for it. He turned it over in his hands, seeing the familiar half-legible scrawl of Johnny's handwriting. Vincent seated himself, and waited. With trepidation, Father removed the folded note. The scribbled words were barely readable, but Johnny's voice filled his mind. "Father - As I said, I'm taking your advice. You and Peter together convinced me. I'm off to warmer climes. Goodbye - I love you. Johnny" He read through the few lines three times, then cleared his throat. "Johnny never was much of a writer." "No, Father. Her gifts were with people, not paper." "Did she tell you where she's gone, Vincent?" "West, she said. Father, don't blame yourself. Johnny told me - Peter has warned her repeatedly that to carry a child would endanger her life. Johnny did not feel she could bind - Joe - to her so." Knowledge and new pain illuminated Father's face. "Yes, that is surely Johnny. She would take the responsibility." Vincent shook his head. "She told me Joe had spoken of children. I am certain she is wrong in this, but she felt she could not force him to chose between herself - and those future children." Both men sat silent, each one seeing his life's love before him. Father would have sold everything except his soul for Margaret's company for the past 30 years - just Margaret. And Vincent knew Catherine would satisfy him as long as he lived. There were other memorials than children of one's loins; other contributions to the world. Father sighed. "Johnny is as stubborn as she is special. I hope she will at least write; or visit." "Perhaps her heart will lead her back one day," Vincent murmured. "Her heart will never leave here; not where there are so many that she loves." Silence descended again upon the two men in the great, book-strewn chamber. The only answer lay in the future; they would have to wait for it to come. The End.... About the Author TealBee@aol.com - Toni Lichtenstein Bogolub lives in Deerfield, IL and is a member of the Chicago Area Tunnel Society (CATS). Toni has written over 20 Beauty and the Beast stories that are in various zines, and four of her own Beauty and the Beast zines. She can say, like so many of us: "It (B&B) changed my life!" She would love to hear from anyone who wants to e-mail her about her stories online as she is always interested in fanzine feedback. Toni's stories are scattered about in a number of zines: Two of Nan Dibble's "Phoenix" zines One of Kathy Resch's "Masks" "Media Rare" - a CATS publication "Rich in Hope" "The Chronicler's Tales" "The Garden" and in the brand new "Media Well Done" (a CATS publication) Her own zines include: "To Dream of Daring/From the Branch to the Earth" "Origin/Destiny" "Ad Astra" "Yearning Hearts" - written with another of our America Online family, Debbie Ristick (DRistick), which received three nominations for Fan-Qs at Tunnelcon III, and contains "Thy Sweet Love Remembered", a novella co-written with Debbie Ristick How to get them: "Origin/Destiny" (a very limited number of copies are left) is available for $11 postpaid. Teal Bee: A Lothlorien Enterprise, c/o Toni Lichtenstein Bogolub, 437 Swallow Lane, Deerfield, IL 60015. "Media Well Done" is available for $20 plus postage. Send a SASE for info to Jackie Paciello, 9109 S. Parkside, Oak Lawn, IL 60453. "Phoenix" zines are available from Nan Dibble, Therion Press, 379 Amazon Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220. Send SASE for pricing. "Masks" - for information on ordering, e-mail Kathleener@aol.com And look for two Beauty and the Beast stories in the upcoming "Remote Control #6", due out in May of 1996. Send a SASE to Kathryn Agel, 9-11 Ayres Ct., Bayonne, NJ 07002-3510 for info (or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). Be sure to mention you are interested in stories by Toni Lichtenstein Bogolub (she was bumped from the 1995 issue!). AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hope you liked the story! Anyone interested in the sequel to this story, "The Promised Land" (15,000 words--about twice as long as this one) (which is what Nan Dibble calls a "Fourth Season" story; i.e., it takes place after third season, and accepts what happened therein), just email me (TealBee@aol.com), preferably with comments about the story, and I'll be glad to send it to you.