Behind The Smoke Screen

     The rising sounds of sobs and pleading were beginning to echo in the park. A baby wailed along with
this woman that the officers rode toward. A routine surveillance of the park had, in the last five minutes
become a chase to find the woman whose cries echoed off of every tree.
     
     “Please! No! Don’t do this! Please!”
     
     The baby screamed as if trying to reproduce the mother’s words that pierced the night air. The two
officers came up and over a hill, hoping that they were following the sounds in the right direction.
     
     “Let me in! Please! Give him back to me! Please! Please!!”
     
     The baby drowned out the mother’s words for a moment.
     
     “Please don’t take him away! You can’t do this! You hypocritical...! Vincent!!”
     
     The female officer slid off of her horse and ventured into the dark drainage tunnel. Fiercely
determined, the officer pulled out her flashlight and shined it into the tunnel. The light filled the area,
illuminating every inch to the officer. A woman, with a baby strapped to the front of her, had laced her
fingers into the metal grate against the wall of the tunnel and was shaking it fiercely. She seemed to take
no notice of the officer, of the foreign light that was now trained on her.
     
     “No!! No!!”
     
     The baby screamed in sync with her, as it was rocked by the mother’s shaking. Slowly the officer
approached her.
     
     “Ma’am?” The officer called gently.
     
     Catherine whirled around and pinned herself to the gate, as if a trapped animal. She made no
attempt to quiet the screaming child, she only stared at the officer, waiting for the next move.
     
     “Can I help you, ma’am?” The officer took in Catherine’s clothes and the make-shift baby carrier,
immediately determining that this woman was homeless. Catherine shook her head slowly at the officer,
stiffening as she came steadily closer. “Will you come with me please?” The officer reached out her hand
at which Catherine shrank away, finally wrapping her arms around her baby protectively. “I won’t take your
baby, I promise.” The officer inched closer now, so that she could just barely reach to woman’s arm.
     
     Catherine turned back to face to gate and gave it one more strong pull. She cursed something at it
and the officer caught a mumbled, “please just let me in”. But the gate did nothing but squeak at her and
refused to budge.
     
     “Come on.” The officer was close enough to put her arm around the woman. “I’ll take you somewhere
safe.”
     
     “Somewhere safe?” Catherine repeated with irony clear in her tone. “There is no such place.” She ran
her hand along to gate as she allowed the officer to lead her and her sobbing baby out of the tunnel.
     
     “What’s your name?”
     
     “Catherine. Catherine Chandler.”
     
     “Is there somebody we can call for you, Catherine?”
     
     “Joe.” Catherine answered, sounding to the officer as if the name was an admittance of defeat. “Joe
Maxwell.”
     
     “Joe Maxwell? The D.A?”
     
     The dark tunnel, left behind, seemed to sink within itself as Catherine was lead away. That entrance
that used to be such a beautiful and magical portal, became a dark and dirty piece of tin. Before, it had
led to such a wondrous and warm world. Now it was a place of deception and lies. Central Park, once a
place of change where two different worlds met one night and fell in love, was now just grass, trees, and
a lot of painful memories.
     
     “Come on, Catherine. We’ll take you to the station.”     




A Sea of Troubles

     Jacob had slept in his father’s arms for most of the way home. He had cried almost to the point of
waking Anna when Vincent had tried to separate the two. He was amazed at the intensity at which the
two children; his two children, were attached to each other. He had heard and read of twins, separated at
birth, but still connected to each other, as if they always knew each other. Jacob and Anna’s was such an
intense and blind love that matched, maybe even surpassed, the most true romantic love... the love that
he had for their mother.
     
     He thought about this love so long and hard as he walked his son home, that he was tempted to wake
Jacob and tell him about his mother... everything about his mother. The only thing that stopped him was
that he didn’t know everything. What Catherine had told him, horrified him. He didn’t want to believe that
his world, his family had been capable of such terrible things. And if these facts horrified the father, they
would devastate the son.
     
     Sweet Jacob was light as a feather in his father’s arms. The stress and years had taken their toll on
Vincent, as on any man, but he retained his strength. That abnormal strength that had saved and ended
many lives. Ended; the thought struck him as it hadn’t for a few years now. So many terrible things
happened in those brief years he had loved Catherine. Limits were tested, boundaries crossed, hearts
broken, and worlds collided. Everything he did, he had done for Catherine. It was understandable that
Father had worried so. Would he wish young Jacob to run off at any and all times, just to return possibly
injured and forever scarred... all in the name of a woman? Oh, what a Civil War had been waged
between the three; Catherine, Father, and himself. But two children had been born from the ashes of this
metaphoric war. Two innocent children armed with their parent’s knowledge and strength. Yes, Catherine
had retained her strength as well, and had gained more over the years it seemed. She looked as though
she’d been fighting for years and had simply grown accustomed to it. What had she been fighting? Was
it others, as she promised she had once... or was it just herself?
     
     Given, Father had a reason to disapprove of Catherine. Now that he himself was a father, Vincent
could see that. The night he found Catherine, Vincent lost a piece of innocence that no father is ready to
see their child loose. But Jacob... he hadn’t lost anything... he had gained something.
     
     The image of Catherine sitting with Jacob, reading to him, flared in Vincent’s mind. Jacob hadn’t lost
any innocence at all, in fact he had gained it. By finding Anna, he had gained a sister... and a mother he
never knew. Sweet little Jacob, so bright-eyed, locked in the darkness of the tunnels and longing for the
sunlight!
     
     What was it about these women... ‘the Chandler girls’... how easily they seemed to take in these
men... ‘the Wells children’... without a second thought? How could they be so willing and capable of
saving Vincent and Jacob... fulfilling all of their wildest dreams? What were they? Princesses, angels...
the sweetest of sirens?
     
     Vincent laid Jacob in his bed, marveling at how the child never stirred. Simple innocence,
comfortable complacency... all the things that every adult longs to have back, shown through the little boy’
s face.
     
     “Father?” Jacob’s eyes never opened, and his voice seemed distant, as if he was speaking from a
far-off dream.
     
     “Yes, Jacob?” Vincent sat beside him, waiting. A strong hand was placed on the boy’s slowly rising
and falling belly.
     
     “I like Catherine.” He whispered.
     
     Vincent smiled. That was it, the moment when he knew all that Catherine had told him was true. No
one could abandon that sweet face, those soft tones, that fierce determination for life! “Yes, Jacob... so
do I. But I’m afraid we may have walked into a battle.”
     
     Jacob, shook his head and moaned a negative response, his eyes still closed. “She’s just scared.
She’s very lost.” He rolled on his side away from Vincent, falling back into his deep slumber. “She just
wants to go home again.”
     
     Vincent’s heart ached. Jacob was connected to Catherine, whether or not either of them knew it, he
was able to feel her in a way that Vincent hadn’t allowed himself to in years! There was a moment of
jealousy, and then pride, and then the deepest of despair.
     
     What was he thinking? What did he think would happen? That she would come running back to him?
That suddenly everything would be exactly what they had planned from the beginning? Why would he
assume that she would want to fall in love with him again? All the pain he caused her, not even including
the twins, why would she want to come back? She had carried such a burden for those first three years.
There was so much that she wanted from him, and so much that he refused to give her! And then... when
he had tried to love her, the way she wanted to be loved...
     
     Why would she ever want to come back? He couldn’t give her what she needed, what she wanted.
Why had he allowed himself to dream? Why had he carried this love for her when he knew that it could
never be from the beginning?
     
     But now... now that she was so near. Now that Jacob had found her. Now that he had found Anna...
how could he give her up again? How could he let her go?
     
     Jacob wouldn’t loose her, even if Vincent was forced to. Jacob would always have her... he would see
to it! “Jacob,” Vincent lightly touched the boy’s shoulder, “she’s alive. She didn’t die, Jacob. She’s always
been right here.”
     
     The quiet snore that answered him made him chuckle softly. How perfect his son was... how
incredible Catherine was to give him to the world. How beautiful and smart Anna was... and how lucky
Catherine was to have her. How had this happened? How had he gained so much by a walk in the park
on a whim one dark night so many years ago?



     Jacob awoke, and with only one glance around his chamber, his eyes filled with tears. He groped at
his pillow, hoping to find Anna within it, but the pillow only disappointed him. His father was no where to
be found but, Below, Jacob had become accustomed to that.
     
     His first destination of the morning was the same as always; his grandfather. He ran at lightening
speed, his clothes clinging to him, as he hadn’t changed them in a couple of days, Jacob pushed his
sleeves high up on his little arms, exposing the heavy fur on his arm without a second thought.
“Grandfather!!”
     
     “Jacob!” Father greeted him happily. “Good morning! I didn’t see you all day yesterday, what
adventures have you been on?”
     
     With sweet innocence, Jacob beamed and hopped into the chair next to his grandfather. “I saw a
garden... in the sun!”
     
     “Jacob...” Father began with a heavy sigh, “your father and I have told you, over and over...”
     
     “Father let me!” Jacob’s defenses immediately went up.
     
     Father took a beat, and studied the suddenly angry and defensive little boy. Vincent had never been
so quick to get angry. “Your father... allowed you to go Above during the day... to see a garden?”
     
     “I didn’t see it with Father!” Jacob had tucked his knees beneath him, trying to make himself just a
little taller.
     
     Father took another deep sigh and shook his head quietly. “Yes... your father told me of your new
friend. She encourages this behavior?” Certainly, a daughter of Catherine’s would.
     
     “Anna didn’t do anything, Grandfather! She’s my friend!” Jacob breathed heavily, a fire burning in his
eyes that would only be quenched if he could let out his anger. Vincent had been the child to calmly and
rationally discuss a situation... why was Jacob so impulsive? “Father let me stay with Anna... Above, all
day yesterday. I got to be Above!” Father opened his mouth to protest, but Jacob talked right over the top
of him. “And Anna’s mother, Catherine... she took me to see the garden!”
     
     Father rose and paced the room, stiffly leaning on his cane for support. “Of course.” He fumed. “Of
course she did!”
     
     “We had bacon for breakfast! Lots of it! And then we had a picnic!” Jacob listed, the fire in his eyes
being replaced with his mother’s smile. “Catherine showed me the whole city! We could see the whole
city from the roof! And then, Catherine... she didn’t want to cook... so guess what we had!” His
grandfather was still, not looking at his little namesake. “We had pizza! I’ve never had pizza! And it had
pepperoni on it too! And then... Catherine read to us! Me and Anna. She asked me what my favorite
book was, and I said ‘Peter Pan’, so that’s what she read to us!”
     
     “Jacob,” Father turned and closed in on the little boy, towering over him, a form of discipline ensuing,
“no matter who you are with, you must understand that the world Above is dangerous.”
     
     “How come everything I like is dangerous, Grandfather?” Jacob readily argued.
     
     “Jacob...” Father’s voice was calm, but harsh, “I’m going to tell you something I should have told your
father long ago. There are so many dangers that await you outside these walls. Do not be persuaded to
risk your life just because it seems like a good idea. Catherine should have known better than to
endanger your life. She should have known as an adult, and as a parent. Do not be persuaded by her
ideas, please Jacob.”
     
     “Father.” That deep rustic purr of a voice sounded from the stairs above the child and the old man.
     
     Little Jacob smiled largely up at his father, who came down the steps to stand before them. His big,
strong hero of a father. “Father! Why didn’t you let me say goodbye last night?”
     
     Vincent gave his son a light smile. “You and Anna were both quite tired. We wanted to let you sleep.
Especially,” he bent low and close to Jacob, “since you have work to do in the kitchens this morning.”
     
     Jacob sighed heavily. “Father... do I have to?”
     
     “Yes. Now, go on! William is waiting. Go on, Jacob.” Vincent smiled as his son, disheartened,
scampered past him and out of the study. His gaze returned to his own father. “I believe that we spoke
about this, Father.”
     
     Father was angry now. “You let him stay Above with her? What are you trying to do, Vincent?”
     
     “I don’t know yet, Father.” That maddeningly calm voice rumbled through the chamber.
     
     “And what do you expect of Jacob?” Father tried to calm himself. “Vincent, no matter what you have
clung to for the past decade, Catherine is not the safest person to go in search of.”
     
     “I didn’t search for her, Father, Jacob did. And now that he’s found her... for both of us, no matter the
risk, Jacob is going to get to know her.” Vincent’s voice was smooth, but resolved.
     
     “Did you hear, Vincent?” Father fumed again. “She took him out... in the daylight!”
     
     “It isn’t as if he’s allergic to the sun. Yes, I heard, and it must have been wonderful for him. She fulfilled
a little boy’s dream. You talk of the heartache she causes, but look at what she has done for both Jacob
and myself.”
     
     “It is all fine and well to grant a wish, but it is not always practical! What if someone had seen him,
Vincent? What then?”
     
     “All my life you taught me to live in fear of myself!” Vincent suddenly raged. “And now you want the
same for my son?”
     
     “If it keeps you both safe, then yes! That is something I am willing to do!”
     
     “Father, look at me! Look at what your ‘protection’ has done for me! Because of your ‘protection’ the
woman who I will always love is cold as ice to me, I have a child I never knew, and my son is becoming
more and more like me everyday! Jacob isn’t me! Jacob is and, I hope, forever will be Catherine’s child.
He is in love with the light, he is suffocated down here! He’s not content to simply take life as it comes.
He wants to make life happen for himself, and let every higher power known to man help whoever tries to
take that away from him. He has the courage and conviction that was never given a chance to flourish
within me! I want to give my son everything that was taken away from me because you told me that it was
too dangerous!”
     
     “So,” Father began, as if he’d been readying himself for years for this argument, “all those years that I
taught you and showed you what life could be for you despite your difference, they are suddenly a burden
I’ve laid on you?”
     
     “No, not on me, Father. But on Jacob.” He breathed, the calm returning quickly. “I am content to go
Above at times, to be a part of the night. To come back here to my home and write my feelings in my
journals, and read the books I’ve read so often, and then wake the next day to fix the lower tunnels, and
teach the children. But Jacob isn’t like me, Father. He’s not content. He wants so much more from his
life! He’s like... Catherine.” Vincent finished with a smile.
     
     “You cannot endanger your child by trusting him into her care. Look at what she has done to him so
far, Vincent! Just leaving him here for you...”
     
     “No!!” Vincent screamed, practically freezing the clocks in time. When he continued, he was near
tears. “Don’t even try to lie to me, Father. I don’t want the proof of that.”
     
     “Proof of what?” Father asked quietly, suddenly sensing that he had just lost this long, long battle.
     
     “Catherine told me. And I believe her, Father. She never left him here of her own free will. She never
could! How could she leave her own child? How could she willingly separate such extraordinary siblings?
And to think of all that you put her through... I can’t even look at you!”
     
     And Vincent was gone again, out with a flourish. It always hurt when Vincent said such things to him,
but Father only stared at the chamber doorway, a look almost like disappointment playing across his
face. “Catherine...” he sighed, “we live in a web of half truths. Alright... it’s your move. Who will tell the
whole truth first?”
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