A New York Zoo is under threat of closure until a new and exciting exhibit is discovered
Vincent’s Trial Day One - am.
“The count is Manslaughter in the First Degree. Under our law, a person is guilty of Manslaughter in the first degree when, with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he or she causes the death of such a person or a third person.
Serious Physical Injury means impairment of a person’s physical condition which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss of impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
Intent mean conscious objective or purpose. Thus a person with intent to cause serious physical injury to another when that person’s conscious objective or purpose is to cause serious physical injury to another.
In order for you to find the defendant guilty of this crime, the People are required to prove, from all the evidence in the case, beyond a reasonable doubt both of the following two elements:
One, that on September 25th 1989 in the county of Manhattan New York City, the defendant Vincent Wells caused the death of Martin Belmont.
And two, that the defendant did so with the intent to cause serious physical injury to Martin Belmont.” The Judge looked around the sea of faces and at the jury to his left who in turn had eyes only for Vincent where he sat next to Joe on one side of him and Catherine on the other.
“Therefore,” The judge went on, “If you People prove beyond all reasonable doubt both of these elements, you must find the defendant guilty of the crime of Manslaughter in the First Degree as charged by the court.
On the other hand, if you find that the People have not proven beyond a reasonable doubt either one or both of these elements, you must find the defendant not guilty of Manslaughter in the First Degree as charged by the court. Is that understood?”
This time he had the rapt attention of the jury, who answered in the affirmative and satisfied, he beckoned to the bailiff and whispered, who in turn motioned to Joe to call his first witness.
“I’d like to call to the stand my first witness Ms Ruby Duncan.”
There were echoes of this name outside of the courtroom as the woman was called in and within seconds, she appeared looking a trifle flustered and worried until Joe moved across the floor to greet and reassure her that she was doing the right thing, before settling her at the witness stand. After taking her vows Joe began his opening questions.
“Your name and address please?” He smiled at the woman. She was small, petite, about five one, a hundred and ten pounds, thirtyish and of Jamaican descent.
“Ruby Duncan. 1053 Rachael Boulevard, Cannes, Brooklyn.”
“Thank you Ms Duncan. Would you mind telling the court what it is you do for a living?”
Her eyes darting around the courtroom, Ms Duncan hesitated. Only Joe’s sympathetic smile gave her the courage she needed and so focusing upon him she was able to reply.
“I work for an Escort Agency.”
“Would you care to elaborate on that, for the benefit of the court Ms Duncan?”
“Yes. I provide a service for men or women that need partners to accompany them to various functions in and around Brooklyn and Manhattan.”
“Would you say this was a good job, Ms Duncan?”
She smiled, “Oh yes very. The Agency vet all clients and they pay well, not to mention the meals I get for free when wined and dined by the clients.”
“And is escorting your only service?” Joe had primed the witness on this one, and she knew exactly what he meant.
“I don’t provide sex if that’s what you mean. There are other women for that game. The Agency run a decent set up, it’s not a brothel.”
“Yet there are other Agencies that might expect this of you, is that not so Ms Duncan?”
“Would you care to enlighten the court on one such Agency where sex was expected and also tell the court who ran this establishment?”
“Yes, Mr Maxwell. I once worked for The Mayfair agency run by Martin Belmont. I was expected to entertain wealthy clients and provide a full service if it should be required.”
“And what exactly were those requirements?”
“In a word, sex.”
“And if you were to refuse?”
Ms Duncan cowered here, seemed to withdraw before everyone’s sight. Her hands started to tremble.
“In your own time Ms Duncan. Don’t worry.” Joe smiled reassuringly. When interviewing this woman she had almost gone to pieces relating her experiences with The Mayfair agency. He hoped she wouldn’t clam up now.
It took an age before she even started to speak, and the people waited with anxious expectation in silence, until at last she told the court, “We would be slashed.”
Fearfully, Ms Duncan nodded.
“Would you please explain slashed, Ms Duncan?”
She gulped, swallowing with obvious difficulty her eyes now turned fearfully toward the main gallery and not until she was certain that she knew none of the faces looking back at her did she tell the court, “Slashed is having your face shredded with a sharp knife. The idea is that every time you look into a mirror you will remember your refusal.”
The court gasped.
“Thank you Ms Duncan. No more questions.” Joe crossed to the stand and taking up Ms Duncan’s hands in his he thanked her for her testimony and prepared her for the prosecutor’s questions. He had previously warned her that the prosecutor acting on behalf of the Belmont family might not be quite so tolerant of her feelings. He was right. The moment the prosecutor walked into the centre of the courtroom he began a barrage of questioning that might have had Ms Duncan in tears had she not been ready for him.
“Ms Duncan, is that Miss or Ms?”
“You’ve been married?”
“What of your husband?”
“I divorced him.”
“Not the other way about? As I see it,” He flicked through his notes, “It was he that divorced you, Ms Duncan.”
“Ms Duncan please direct your answers in a negative or positive vein, that is be specific with a simple yes or no.” the judge admonished her.
“Sorry.” She sighed, “Yes, my husband instigated the divorce proceedings. And you may as well know cos your gonna ask anyway, he divorced me because he thought I’d had sex with the clients at Mayfair. But I didn’t. When I refused to have sex and Martin Belmont threatened me with a slash I resigned. That wasn’t the end of it however, Martin Belmont told my husband that I had had sex with clients, and he divorced me and gained custody over our children.”
“That must have made you very bitter Ms Duncan. Did you not retaliate in kind to Martin Belmont?”
“You know damn well I did! I told Patricia Belmont, Martin’s wife that he and I were lovers, but she didn’t believe me, she’s as bad as he was!”
“So how did that make you feel?”
“Make me feel! What kind of pathetic question is that? How would it make you feel? You do your best at a job that didn’t give you the greatest clientele get the sack for not sleeping with clients, get threatened with violence for refusing to have sex with clients, then lose your marriage and your children cos some bastard lies to get his revenge! How the hell do you think I feel? Let me tell you shall I? That man, Vincent Wells, is a hero in my book. Martin Belmont had it coming to him and I don’t mean maybe! This city is a better place without Martin Belmont in it I can tell you! The way he died was just retribution cos slashing was something he loved!”
The prosecutor appeared stunned, “Thank you Ms Duncan no more questions.”
Vincent groaned, that reference to the way Martin Belmont had died through slashing bringing the whole ghastly experience home to him. Ms Duncan might have meant well, but those looking at his lethal hands right at that moment were shuddering and imagining how Belmont had died. Catherine covered his hands with hers, an action that was not lost on the people in court. One by one they relaxed, perhaps the cat man wasn’t quite so bad after all, not if such a beautiful woman could touch him with such affection like that. Still the thought of how Belmont had died would not be completely erased from their minds. It was immaterial that he had threatened to do likewise to Ms Duncan. Maybe she deserved it, or maybe she was lying.
“I’d like to call my next witness Teresa Allen to the stand.” Joe told the judge and the bailiff went to call her.
Teresa Allen was much like Ms Duncan in her build and race, except she appeared more sure of herself and Joe, remembering his recent appointments with her had no qualms about asking his questions. Still he smiled to set her at ease, and she beamed back at him and looked around the sea of faces awaiting her answers. After asking her name and address Joe began, “Like Ruby Duncan you also worked at Mayfair agency is that correct?”
“Yes, from 1982 to 1983. I was an escort.”
“And like Ms Duncan you also were threatened with acts of violence if you did not have sex with clients, is that correct?”
“Yes. But I had no such reasons not to comply. Giving sex meant bigger tips and Martin Belmont increased my salary.”
“Why then did you insist on giving evidence against him? For it was you that approached me was it not when you heard I was seeking witnesses against Mr Belmont?”
“Yes that is correct. As I say sex posed no problems until Martin Belmont arranged a little party for me that I refused to attend.”
“And why was that Miss Allen?”
“Martin had arranged for eighty men to attend a party where I would be the only woman. I was to perform oral sex on each and allow them to fist me.”
“For the benefit of the court, would you describe the act of fisting?”
“It’s the degrading act of allowing a man to ball his hand into a fist and shove the entire hand into the vagina or anus. It’s painful and can do considerable damage to the body.” She replied.
People in the courtroom gasped and there were cries of disgust among them.
“And when you refused to participate what did Martin Belmont do?”
“He slashed me.”
“Leaving you to undergo extensive cosmetic surgery over a period of three years?”
“Did Belmont do this personally, or employ some other men to carry it out?”
“Oh Martin Belmont always did it himself. He got off on it.”
“Thank you Miss Allen, no further questions.”
The prosecutor came forth. Despite how he had felt toward the previous witness, he had to fight down nausea when Teresa Allen had been giving Joe her evidence. This one was close to the bone, he’d known someone personally who had died through the grotesque act of fisting and he found asking his questions a little unnerving. He had only one question to ask of the witness.
“Miss Allen did you ever take legal action against Martin Belmont?”
“Why was that?”
“Fear. That man was dangerous, would stoop to anything. This city is a better place without him in it. I cheered when I heard he’d been killed. Was the best day of my life.”
“Thank you, Miss Allen. No more questions.”
“You may step down Miss Allen, and take a seat at the back of the courtroom if you so wish. Mr Maxwell, do you have a further witness?”
“Yes Your Honour, I would like to call Philma Burrows to the stand.”
When Philma came in Joe aided her to the stand as she found walking difficult. She was an older woman, at a guess in her late fifties with salt and pepper hair that had once been the colour auburn. She weighed in the region of two hundred and sixty pounds and it was her face that had everyone’s rapt attention for around her eyes, along her cheeks, over her chin, and the double one beneath it were scores and scores of scars, some stitched at the time, some not. Joe smiled at her, told her he appreciated her attendance in court and promised that if the prosecutor gave her a hard time he would deal with him personally.
Amid the silence in court, the woman started to speak timidly in reply to Joe’s question of her name and address and then Joe asked her gently, “It goes without saying that you have been the victim of some terrible crime in your lifetime, Mrs Burrows but would you care to enlighten the court as to how this was so?”
“Yes Mr Maxwell. Well it all started when I was a lass, In 1970 I came to America from England seeking a better life but found work harder to come by than I’d been led to believe. With the risk of losing my apartment, I took on work as an escort for Mayfair Agency. It was okay. I didn’t much care for the late nights, I’ve never been one for that, but some of the clients were good company, and I made some lasting friendships. Martin Belmont, who ran the agency told me that one of the requirements of the job, was to be a sleeping partner whenever he needed one. I wasn’t certain what he meant by that and he explained that I would be required to have sex with him if he so wished it, otherwise I would not get the same wage as the other ladies were on. I refused, and received a lesser wage. It wasn’t until I’d worked there a while that I found that we were all getting the same rate, and that they had been told the same thing at their interview. Some had even agreed to sex with Belmont and were furious by this discovery. Anyway, that blew over and we all continued to work for Belmont. Everything was fine, I did what I was paid to do, and I admit there were times when I did have sex with clients, but I drew the line at a few things that were asked of me, degrading things, dirty, unnatural things. One night though Belmont approached me with the invitation of a party. He said that he had chosen me because I had been personally recommended by a client as being able to comply with anyone’s wishes no matter what they were. I was chuffed and didn’t think to ask what those recommendations were and agreed to attend the party. I thought there would be other girls there. Imagine my surprise then when I walked into a room full of men, and not just men but semi naked men at that. I remember screaming and turning on my heels to leave, but found Belmont behind me and forcing me to stay.”
“How did he force you?”
“Literally?” Joe nodded. “He dragged me back into the room, he stripped and raped me before all those men, and then beckoned them forth to do likewise. I managed to get away, men were cheering, hands were grabbing at me, some bastard fisted me in the backside as I bent to grab my clothes and I still have trouble with my bowels over that. I ran from the room and Belmont chased after me muttering obscenities and followed me down the stairs. Then he disappeared and I thought I had lost him, managed to get my clothes on, and continued running down the stairs. When I arrived at the lobby, Belmont was waiting for me. He’d used the elevator, he grabbed me, dragged me outside and beat and kicked me shouting that I had cost him a lot of money that night and would have to go back to the party or if I didn’t then I would remember that refusal every time I looked in the mirror.
Naturally, I refused. I was in pain for one thing, but I wasn’t going back to that. Not for any one. Belmont hit me again, several more times and tried dragging me back to the building, but I wouldn’t go. I started hitting out at him and I saw his hand reaching out to strike my face and in his hand there was something bright and shiny and when it touched my skin I felt the touch of ice and then hot blood running as the knife he was using on my face cut my skin again and again. Well you can see what he did. I could never afford cosmetic surgery in fact it was years before I even went out. I hid myself away and have tried to kill myself four times, as my general practitioner will verify. These days I am the leader of a support group for victims who have been physically assaulted like I was. These days I see the scars as a guarantor that I can help them come to terms with all they have endured. When I heard that Belmont was dead though I broke open the champagne, it had always been a constant worry to me that he would do that to some other woman, and she wouldn’t be able to get away from him, or worse live to tell the tale. Though having said that, more than once I wished that Belmont had killed me that day, and before you ask, it was fear that prevented me from testifying against him. If he hadn’t of been dead you wouldn’t have seen me here today. Belmont was a madman and I’ll take the fear of him to my grave.”
“Thank you for giving evidence Mrs Burrows. I have no further questions.” Joe told her.
“Mr Rawlings? Have you any questions?” The judge asked the prosecutor surprised when he shook his head, “No questions your honour.”
Joe was surprised too. Richard Rawlings was not usually one to ignore the chance of cross-examination, but he did look decidedly green around the gills. Joe wondered as to its cause then forgot about it as the judge announced, “Court will break for recess until one pm.”
“Court rise.” The bailiff announced and as everyone complied the judge made his way to his chambers. This was going to be a long case even he could see that. Martin Belmont wasn’t the only person slain by Vincent Wells there were several other cases to take into consideration before the jury could bring about their verdict of guilty or not guilty. But the judge knew that whatever more he may hear, if any of the next cases were anything like Martin Belmont, then he would feel like giving Vincent Wells a medal for doing them all a favour. In his opinion, people like Martin Belmont should be dead. In that state, they could never hurt another person ever again.
(Authors note: The information on the grotesque parties attaining to fisting and oral sex with up to eighty men present at any one time is taken from the true experience of a man invited to such a party.)
*** *** ***
Being able to spend time with her truelove for the first time in two weeks, Catherine turned to him now and said, “Vincent, there’s something Joe and I have to tell you. Joe’s arranged for you to spend recess with us in an interview room, come let’s follow him.”
After Carl had spoken with Father, Catherine and Joe had decided not to enlighten Vincent until the two of them could see him together, and since Catherine had not been permitted to see Vincent before the trial this had been their first opportunity.
Once in the interview room, Vincent was surprised to find not only Catherine and Joe present but Father was there also. The two embraced and tears fell down Father’s cheeks rendering him incapable of speech for a considerable length of time. “How did you manage this?” Vincent asked of Joe over Father’s shoulder.
“With great difficulty I can tell you, difficult because any person knowing you would have to give evidence. Catherine has asked me not to cross-examine Jacob Wells, and as much as I’d like to do I’ve kept that promise but I have to remain in this room with all three of you, so if there’s anything that you don’t want me to know then you’ll have to gather in that corner across there and whisper.” He told him grinning.
“Well thank you Joe, seeing my father is much appreciated.”
“Your father!” Joe exclaimed, and Vincent could have bitten his tongue off.
“Just forget you heard that Joe, please?” Catherine begged him. Joe shook his head not from refusal but because there was so much obviously hidden, and he didn’t like it but could see that it wasn’t going to help matters any. They’d stick to the plan they had derived between them and that was that. Maybe one day these people could trust him enough to let him in on their BIG secret, whatever it was.
“Okay Radcliffe but you all just be careful okay, there’s only so much a lawyer can forget.” He cautioned them.
“Thanks Joe.” Catherine told him sincerely.
“Now Vincent, if you’d like to sit down we’ll tell you what we came in here to say.” Joe told him.
Vincent looked confused, “You mean there is something? I was thinking you had used that as an excuse so that I could see Father.”
“No Vincent.” Father told him gravely, “There is something else.” Vincent didn’t like the sound of that and sat down a worried expression forming on his face.
“A couple of weeks ago a man came to see Joe,” Father began, “and told him certain things that in general only a few select people that we know would know.” Joe understood why Jacob Wells was being cagey, and he would have loved to have known who those select few might be. Father went on, “Joe took the man to see Catherine, who in turn came to see me, to have me meet with this fellow. Vincent, the man pertains to be married to a woman who claims to be your mother but we don’t think they are telling the truth.” Father hurried on with that last part before Vincent got his hopes up. “In fact Narcissa has maintained that they are lying.”
‘Who’s Narcissa?’ Joe thought.
Despite what he was hearing, Vincent grinned, “You’re believing Narcissa?”
“Well as it happens in your absence I have started to consult the old witch. You know full well I have always taken what she says with a pinch of salt, but on many occasions recently she has been spot on. I find myself consulting with her more times than I care to admit of late, and she is positive that the people claiming to be your descendants are lying, possibly for money.”
“I don’t know about this Narcissa,” Joe cut in, “But I am pretty sure that they are lying, I’ve checked out their story and there are a few things that don’t tally but since they maintain that it is so, we have decided to use their story to help have you acquitted. However, you need to be made aware of these facts, since these people will be giving evidence, and while its all very interesting will only extend the trial possibly for another week as the facts are checked by the prosecutor. I don’t have to tell you Vincent that this trial is gonna take weeks, but after tonight we are hoping to secure bail so that you can stay with Greg rather than in prison. How’s it been by the way?”
“Not too bad. I’m in solitary and they have allowed me books and candles so I’ve been able to shut much of my circumstances out.” Father and Catherine wondered how much of what he said was for their benefit. Both knew how Vincent was with cages. Still both knew that Vincent had surprised them over a few things of late the main one of all coming out and revealing himself to the world to start with. “Are you certain that these people are lying?”
“I wish we could say otherwise Vincent.” Father told him regretfully, “But it would appear that they have been talking to Mitch. Something both they implied and Narcissa said made me draw that conclusion, and Mitch would have the knowledge of your existence to impart and have the reasons for doing so. You and he have never seen eye to eye and he certainly bears a grudge. If he hadn’t been wanted by the police no doubt he would have come and given evidence himself to back their story in any way that he could. At any rate, I would stake my life that they are doing it for money. Imagine how much the papers would pay for their story when the trial is over. Other than the fact that their reasons for your creation is very weak even though it’s logical.”
“Are you going to tell me what it is?” Vincent asked.
“If you like. There’s no reason to withhold it from you.” Catherine told him. “Father?”
“Catherine’s right. Since it’s fabricated anyway and since it’ll be brought out in court you’d best know. Have we time to tell him Joe, what about lunch?”
“I’m not hungry.” Vincent told them.
“I’ll grab a sandwich.” Joe replied, “Catherine?”
“Me too, and I’ll get Vincent one.” I’m sure he will be hungry by the time Father has finished telling him. It’s going to take quite a bit of time Vincent.” Catherine told him. Vincent said nothing, as he prepared himself for whatever information Father was about to impart. “Are you ready Father?” Catherine asked.
Father nodded, “Yes. Okay then,” he added preparing himself for the tale, “this is their story…”
*** *** ***
Vincent’s Trial – Day One - p.m.
After recess, Joe with slight indigestion at having wolfed down his cheese sandwich and cup of coffee called his next witness.
“You’re name is Arnold Stabler is that correct?” He asked the elderly gentleman that had taken the stand to give evidence.
“Yes, Mr Maxwell that is correct.”
“And you are the father are you not of the deceased Carol Anne Stabler.”
“Mr Stabler as carefully as you can would you please tell the court how your daughter died. Take your time, there is no hurry.” Joe reassured the elderly man.
“My daughter was murdered by Martin Belmont.”
“Objection!” The prosecutor cried.
“Overruled.” The judge told him.
Joe went on, “Mr Stabler if you will please?”
“My daughter worked for The Mayfair Agency as an escort. She witnessed some things that worried her and Belmont threatened her if she should reveal what she knew to the police.”
“And did she?”
“No. However, Belmont carried out that threat, but not before his thugs had attacked another woman in a case of mistaken identity.”
At this stage Joe passed some photographs to the Judge who viewed them and passed them on to the jury.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Joe told the jury, “You see before you some photographs taken of my colleague Catherine Chandler, who has given her permission for you to see them this day. Miss Chandler was the woman who was mistaken for Carol Stabler, knifed, beaten and raped and left for dead in Central Park the night of April 12th 1987. The night Vincent Wells found her and nursed her back to health.”
There were various glances of disbelief in Catherine’s direction as the jury couldn’t believe that someone so beautiful was one and the same with the woman glaring out at them from the photographs.
“I know you find it hard to believe, but Miss Chandler will later testify to this act of violence and show one remaining scar. The others have been carefully removed by cosmetic surgery.” Turning back to his witness Joe asked, “Mr Stabler, what do you know of your daughter’s death?”
“I know that Miss Chandler encouraged her to testify against Martin Belmont, and that Carol was dead against it. But then she realised the truth of what Miss Chandler was saying, if someone didn’t testify then Belmont would keep getting away with assault on women. Against her better judgement, Carol agreed to testify. I’m sorry Miss Chandler but had you not have encouraged my daughter do to this, she might well be alive today.” Mr Stabler accused looking in Catherine’s direction. Catherine winced, she couldn’t deny that he was possibly right, but how could they have known that Belmont was having Carol followed?
“What happened after that?” Joe asked.
“Miss chandler arranged for Carol to stay in a safe house, but one of Belmont’s men was following, or Belmont was, we never did find out who. At any rate she was followed and before Miss Chandler could arrive later that day, Carol had been murdered.”
“Members of the jury, it will brought out later in Miss Chandler’s evidence that it was Martin Belmont that murdered Carol Stabler. Mr Stabler’s evidence does not entail this fact since he was not at the scene when it occurred. Neither having said that was Miss Chandler, but you will see that Martin Belmont himself verified the killing of Carol Stabler.”
“Yeah well you would say that, she’s your mate!” Yelled someone from the back of the courtroom.
The judge banged the gavel down onto the bench, “Silence! If you persist in this sir, you will be removed from the court.”
Turning to see who had shouted out Joe did not recognise the man, but Mr Stabler did. “That’s Robert Belmont.” He whispered, “one of the bastard’s son’s.”
“I heard that old man!” Robert Belmont yelled, and the judge signalled to the police at the rear of the courtroom to remove the fellow from the court.
When everyone had settled down again Joe went on questioning his witness, “Mr Stabler, did you never seek legal action for the death of your daughter?”
“Why was that? You know you had Miss Chandler’s solid evidence.”
“Yes I know that. But like I said earlier that isn’t much use to me. I have to blame Miss Chandler for my daughter’s death as much as Martin Belmont, surely you can understand that?”
“Yes. But Mr Stabler during our interview you told me that there was another reason why you did not seek legal action or compensation from Martin Belmont’s estate for the loss of your youngest child. Would you please tell the court what that was?”
Mr Stabler shook his head. Beneath his breath Joe cursed, Mr Stabler had been frightened of repercussions from Belmont’s family but Joe had reassured him that he was doing the right thing. Now with Robert Belmont’s outburst, Joe knew that Mr Stabler would clam up. He had his other children and grandchildren to consider. Joe just hoped that the jury would understand why Mr Stabler had suddenly refused to give evidence. He thought of highlighting the evidence himself, but thought better of it. If anything should happen to Mr Stabler’s family from anything he had revealed he’d never forgive himself. It was a shame that Mr Stabler felt unable to give evidence in this way, but Joe reasoned that his other witnesses might reveal enough information to allow the jury to see the evidence that Mr Stabler was withholding.
“Thank you Mr Stabler. I have no further questions.”
Mr Stabler was just about to take his leave of the stand when the prosecutor Richard Rawlings bid him stay, “one moment Mr Stabler, I should like to ask you some questions.”
“How well do you know the Belmont family?”
Mr Stabler seemed to look right through him. In fact, he was looking beyond him. Only he could see the evil intent upon the face of Daniel Belmont, Martin’s other son and his wife, Patricia, who glared at him willing him to remain silent. Frightened for his life and that of his family, Mr Stabler did just that. He never replied at all.
“Mr Stabler I ask you again, how well do you know the Belmont family?” Rawlings prompted a trifle wearily.
The witness shook his head. And the judge intervened. “Its alright Mr Stabler, you may stand down.”
“But…” Rawlings cried then shut up, perhaps the judge was right. They weren’t going to get anything more out of the old man, he looked terrified and for the first time Rawlings wondered about the family that he had been hired to represent.
“Do you have another witness Mr Maxwell?” the judge asked.
“Yes I do. I’d like to call Frederick Pansive to the stand.”
Moments later a tall grey haired fellow stood giving his vow on the Bible and then Joe asked his first question. “Your name is Frederick Pansive is that correct?”
“And you are the father of the deceased Clive Pansive who worked for The Mayfair Escort Agency?”
“Mr Pansive would you care to tell the court how your son died?”
“He was murdered by Martin Belmont.”
“And can you verify how that occurred and when, Mr Pansive?”
“Yes.” Mr Pansive looked upward toward the back of the court and glared at two people sat there. He’d known they would be in court, and he’d known they would try to frighten him witless, but he’d thought long and hard about his evidence and as a man dying of cancer he had nothing to lose and his only family was dead.
“My son refused to have sex with some of Belmont’s clients and Belmont had him killed.”
“Had him killed?”
“Well killed him then. Belmont always took an active role in the killings. He thrived on it. Same as those bastards up there still do!”
At this, everyone turned in their seats to view the people he referred to. Patricia Belmont shied away by letting her long hair fall over her face as she looked down, while Daniel Belmont covered his face with one hand.
The judge whispered to a police officer and then as the officer moved away he announced, “I would like to ask the Belmont family to remove themselves from this courtroom and if they refuse then to be forcibly removed by an officer. They are not to return until they are required to give evidence.”
There was much disturbance in the courtroom at this request but the two at the back of the court would not permit anyone to remove them. They stood aloof and with many threats to whomsoever stared at them in passing, they left the courtroom.
“Now,” the judge admonished the court, “Perhaps our witnesses will not be terrorised against giving evidence.” None of which was lost on the jury.
“I know this is difficult for you Mr Pansive but would you tell the court how your son died?”
“I thought I did? Oh you mean…sorry.” Looking up at the people listening to him, Mr Pansive went on, “Belmont stabbed my son forty times in a frenzied act of violence.” The last words were caught on a sob and Joe squeezed the hand of his witness, thanked him and told him he had no further questions.
“Your witness, Mr Rawlings.” The judge told the prosecutor. He shook his head, “No questions your honour.” And the judge had Mr Pansive stand down.
“I believe you have one final witness other than Miss Chandler, Mr Maxwell. Its been quite trying today has it not? I think we should just listen to the evidence of your last witness and adjourn until tomorrow at 9 am.”
“Thank you Your Honour. I should like to see how my other witnesses are faring. Some left here rather distressed.”
“I should like to call my final witness for today, Judith Wilkin.”
When Judith Wilkin took the stand she was already in tears. Joe tried to pacify her to little avail and finally he had to ask why she was so upset.
“It would have been my daughter’s birthday today.” She sobbed, “She would have been thirty five.” Tears streamed down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry Mrs Wilkin, I promise not to keep you long.” Joe told her sincerely. “Just one question then, I promise.”
Mrs Wilkin dried her eyes and nodded wanly.
“Mrs Wilking would you please tell the court how your daughter died?”
The woman started sobbing again and it was some time before she was able to reply, even so, the court anticipated her answer. “Martin Belmont killed her.” She told them bitterly, “Shirley wouldn’t do what he wanted her to do and he killed her. She would have been thirty five today.” Then she broke down sobbing her heart out.
Everyone felt for her yet it could not have been a more fitting end to the day’s trial. From what the people had heard and what they had seen that day the cards were stacked very neatly against Martin Belmont and his escort agency.
“Thank you Mrs Wilkin you may step down.” The judge told her not even bothering to ask Rawlings if he wanted to cross-examine her. Which was as well for Rawlings found he hadn’t the stomach for it, her distress was very real, and he had already heard more than enough said against the father and husband of his client’s.
“We will adjourn until tomorrow morning. What?” The judge paused as Joe reminded him of bail conditions for Mr Wells.
“Oh yes, of course. Bail has been set for Mr Wells at the sum of one hundred thousand dollars. Will that be a problem?”
Joe shook his head, “No problem Your Honour, thank you.”
The judge nodded, ‘no problem? He wished he’d said two hundred now.’ He thought as he prepared to leave the courtroom.
There was hustle and bustle as people filed out. Tomorrow was another day, but with Catherine Chandler and Vincent Wells due to give evidence, everyone was wishing that it were here already.
*** *** ***
Showering the following morning in preparation for court, Richard Rawlings contemplated the day ahead. With some clients, Rawlings had that gut feeling that told him what they said was the complete and utter truth, with others, and with some he was downright positive that they were lying through their teeth. What he had never been was wrong in any of those initial assumptions until now. He had been so sure that Belmont had been an innocent bystander slain by Wells, and was positive that he would in his capacity of a fine attorney see that justice was carried out. But after yesterday…he wasn’t sure of that anymore. It wasn’t so much the accusations that had flown between parties but the expressions crossing the faces of the Belmont family, and the threats, not so much in themselves but the vibes and the viciousness with which they were thrown. And what he had heard about Martin Belmont! How could so many people be wrong? And as much as Rawlings wanted to see the cat man Wells get what was coming to him, he found it impossible not to render him the hero that others had praised him with when he thought about the scum he had cleaned from the streets of Manhattan. Still as the prosecutor unless he refused to act on the Belmont’s behalf anymore, he was compelled to see it through. He had to help them as much as he could, because there was one thing he did know, whether it be Martin Belmont’s reputation or the life of Vincent Wells, both were innocent until proven guilty.
Several blocks away Joe Maxwell was dressing for court. He wanted to leave early, in fact there were a few other calls he needed to make first and the contact numbers were in the drawer of his desk at the office. He thought about the family from California who maintained that the woman Stephanie was Vincent’s mother. He knew that they had fabricated the story for money, but he hoped that grander things might come out of that lie if it were made public. It was a hunch but he hoped it would pay off anyway.
*** *** ***
He also thought about the witnesses he had called to the stand the day before. Ruby and Teresa knew one another, had swapped notes, but he didn’t think either of them had been exaggerating. In fact Ruby, Teresa and Philma had been the tip of the iceberg compared to the amount of people that had come forward against Martin Belmont. In fact, he had a stack of papers attaining to the fact that Patricia Belmont and her sons had followed in Martin’s footsteps quite nicely. They were heaped in several rackets, and did not draw the line at prostitution and drug trafficking. But those cases would have to wait till some future date, for now was not the time.
He also thought about Catherine and Vincent and their relationship and wondered just how deeply involved the two were. And he wondered about the man Jacob Wells and how he fitted into it all, and whether or not the story of Vincent being driven into the city by someone else did in fact ring true. He doubted it, but decided to accept it, as it was immaterial to the case where Vincent actually resided. Chances were only a miracle would allow him to ever go back there. Unless? There was a slight possibility that the jury would return a verdict of justifiable homicide and Vincent would get off possibly with a hefty fine that Catherine would pay. But…and this was a very big but…it didn’t excuse the fact that in order to be on the spot whenever Catherine needed him, Catherine would have had to notify him by cell phone. And that in turn would bring about the verdict of intentional manslaughter or murder simply because Vincent would have been made aware that Catherine needed him in the capacity of defender and bodyguard. Although in the capacity of bodyguard Vincent might well get away with it, but only if he could establish that he literally accompanied Catherine wherever she went, which of course he couldn’t because he never went out in daylight. So, that shot that possibility to bits.
It was going to be tricky all round, and Joe wondered how the present day’s trial would go for the pair. Though it might be that they would not have their chance at taking the witness stand until the morrow, since Richard Rawlings was due to interview the Belmont family this day.
Joe didn’t fancy his chances there. Anyone could see that that family were the scum of the earth, Rawlings would be blind if he hadn’t twigged that by now. Either that or they were paying him over the odds to keep it sweet. Whatever, Joe was glad he wasn’t in his shoes. Might even be a dangerous position to be in, especially if he lost them the case. Joe shrugged oh well it wouldn’t be the first time someone had pulled the wool over the eyes of an attorney, still in his line of business one usually got a gut feeling about a person before they agreed to represent them. Still Joe knew that some crooks were just too good at deception. There was a time or two when he had been fooled into believing in someone and he was sure that after yesterday Rawlings must have had his eyes opened as to what his clients were really like.
Well, he couldn’t worry about that now, in fact he didn’t need to worry about it at all, Rawlings was a good attorney but they had crossed swords before and there was no love lost between them. What he did, or thought or whom he represented was up to him, and Joe didn’t really care since he had his own problems to worry about. And at the top of his list? Joe grinned, well let’s just say he was riding that hunch pretty high this day and all it depended on now was a certain someone from a certain someplace reading tomorrow’s edition of their local rag and being inquisitive or angry enough to act upon it. Joe crossed his fingers, hell he hoped it would flush someone out of hiding anyway. It might be all that they’d have to acquit Vincent Wells. But then Joe didn’t know about the Bond…yet.
Back in California, Carl and Stephanie Windsor were deep in conversation. Carl had returned the day before having stayed in New York to see the start of the trial against Vincent Wells and the Belmont family. His wife, of nervous disposition was showing her true self when she started to tremble and ask her husband if they should continue with their game. He told her, “Its not exactly a game, you do have some genuine information regarding where he came from.”
“Its only speculation though. It was only something I’d read and I shouldn’t even have read that. You know how nutty Dominic was, I told you enough about him when we first met. Half of the stuff he jotted down was pure daydreaming. And at the time, I didn’t know if it was one of his pie eye ideas or if he had literally carried out such an experiment. At any rate the only reference to the cat man was the entry in his diary of January 12th 1954, when he’d written that he had left the infant in the grounds of St Vincent’s hospital in the hope that if the weather conditions didn’t kill him then someone would find and rear him. But if the weather conditions did kill him then the hospital personnel would use the body for experimentation. What he had achieved apparently had terrified him, but he knew that someone somewhere could recreate what he’d begun, if only they had a blue print to go on.”
“But why experiment in the first place? That’s what I could never understand.”
“I don’t know Carl. I couldn’t let him know I’d snooped and read the entry, so I couldn’t ask him any questions. But I spent half my life wondering about that infant and what Dominic had referred to. It wasn’t until that guy appeared and they gave his birth date that I put two and two together. I may be completely off the mark Carl, and this is going to be hard to carry off. And what if Dominic is still alive and he comes forward?”
“Then it’s your word against his. Think of it Steph, the papers would pay us a fortune for this story. We would have enough to feed the children and move to a better place. You wouldn’t need to work and I’d need only one job to help make ends meet. We’d have more time together then and more time for the children. It will work I know it, you just have to stick to the story and not let anything budge you from it. After all no one else has come forward claiming responsibility for him have they and I doubt they will, Dominic was what? In his late fifties when you worked for him, that would make him in his nineties by now, he’s hardly likely to be alive even if he could travel to New York and stake his claim.”
“If he’s died its possible his diaries would have fallen into the hands of his family, and they might suss what he had worked on, after all he worked on the plight of the Asiatic Lion for decades.”
“But they have to make the connection Steph, same way as you did. An entry in a diary among hundreds of entries wouldn’t stand out as much as an entry in a diary read the day after it was written and remembered for thirty odd years by his assistant would it?”
“I don’t know.” Stephanie worried. “You may be right, but I still don’t want to do this.”
“You want a nice home and money coming in don’t you?”
“Then we have to try Steph. Chances like this don’t grow on trees. This may be our only chance to make something of ourselves. Come on Steph it’ll be a cinch and you don’t have to tell them everything, it was years ago you might have forgooten how you did it.”
“Get real Carl. Do you seriously think if I’d done that to myself I would have forgotten? It would have stayed in my mind till I died. When you think of it Dominic was a genius to have performed such an experiment and had it pay off. Not only that but it was a miracle that the lioness didn’t kill the infant as it was.”
“Arh but you are assuming that just because Nell had a litter round about the same time, that she gave birth to the infant. It may have come from quite a different source. Dominic might have planned to make it look as though it came from the lioness in case he had to explain it away.”
“Carl, you’re as nutty as he is you know that?” She laughed showing no malice intended. He laughed too. That she was seeing the humorous side showed he was half way there. Just a little more encouragement and he’d have her eating out of his hand. They couldn’t lose, not on this, and with no one else coming forward to accept responsibility they’d have it made. Yep for sure, his wife could pertain to being the mother of the cat man and no one would ever doubt it. Next stop New York, he whispered under his breath, stand aside, here we come.
*** *** ***
Vincent’s Trial – Day Two – am.
Richard Rawlings called his first witness of the day with some apprehension. After his earlier thoughts he wasn’t looking forward to this and as the woman made her way to the stand, he found it difficult to meet her eye as he asked for her name.
“Patricia Belmont.” She replied proudly.
“Mrs Belmont, you are asked here today to provide a character reference for your late husband Martin Belmont. Would you tell the court in your own time what kind of man your husband was?”
“Martin was everything, everything.” She spoke softly, deliberately pausing for emphasis. “He was a good man, a fine father and an adoring husband. He worked hard, long hours but much of that time we spent together. We ran the agency together.”
“And by the agency you mean The Mayfair Escort Agency?”
“Yesterday we heard from some people who are convinced that your husband had certain sexual perversions and when these were not met he would kill as punishment. How do you view those allegations?”
“How do you expect? Those allegations were lies, all of them vicious, vicious lies!” Mrs Belmont shrieked. “My husband would never do such things. He was a good Christian man.”
“Yet, against the testimony of so many, do you not agree that perhaps there was a side of your husband that you did not know?”
“Never! Most of those people know one another, they will have concocted this story between them, and as for him!” Mrs Belmont looked directly at Vincent sitting beside Joe and Catherine, “He’s the only beast in this city. If you are looking to point the finger its to him you want to point it. He killed my dear husband!”
Strange that word ‘dear’ so emphasised and out of context with an outburst of that kind. It was not missed on the jury, or the judge.
Patricia Belmont looked around her, hoping for the pity of the court. Some people seemed to have been sucked in while others had not and she planned to turn them about with her next statement. “Martin was a good man. Some of those people that worked for us were young people, impressionable people and Martin would take them under his wing and encourage them to become good escorts. But if he felt that they were too nervous, and believe me some were scared of their own shadow then he would not just refuse them employment at the agency, but he would find them work in one of his other enterprises.”
“Yeah like prostitution!” Some joker from the back yelled.
Patricia Belmont’s face contorted with anger, “How dare you!” She spat and looking toward the judge cried, “Sir, I demand that you remove that man.”
The judge cautioned him, but it was hard not to grin when he did so. He’d been thinking exactly the same thing. He’d heard about the exploits of the Belmont’s for decades.
“We have one or two of your employees with us today prepared to back your evidence Mrs Belmont, but I must advise you that the court is aware that you may have possibly paid for their evidence. If that is ever proven in the future you must be aware that this will be considered as perverting the course of justice and you could be jailed do you understand?” The Judge told her.
“And what about the people that gave evidence yesterday? Huh, what of them? Were they paid to slander the name of my husband? He’s dead for God sake, and its unwise to speak ill of the dead.”
“Yeah well we wouldn’t have dared when he was alive, or we’d have beat him to the grave!” The joker from the back cried out.
The judge had no choice. He might well agree but he couldn’t allow such disturbances in court. He motioned for the fellow to be removed from the court with the warning that he was not to return on the morrow if he couldn’t keep a still tongue.
Patricia Belmont was fuming. And it didn’t surprise her when after the joker was ushered from the court one of her son’s discreetly followed him out. She smiled to herself knowingly, for whether the fellow had intended to keep a still tongue or not on the morrow, he would never have the chance to speak about anything ever again after today. No one slandered her husband’s name like that, no one! And there were a few that had appeared in court the day before that would be getting their comeuppance before long too.
“Thank you Mrs Belmont, I have no further questions.” Rawlings were happy to hand her over to Joe Maxwell who rose with a malicious glint in his eye as he regarded the woman coolly.
“Mrs Belmont, I expect you are aware that I am Joe Maxwell, assistant District Attorney for this city?”
How dare he, make presumptions to his status and reputation like that! Mrs Belmont decided to show him just how important he was. “No sorry, I’ve never heard of you, young man.”
Joe fumed. So, she liked to play games did she? “Well I am. And you I take it are the housewife of the late Martin Belmont?” The judge smiled to himself, oh he did so like a game of cat and mouse among the attorneys and the witnesses. He leaned back in his seat prepared for entertainment.
Patricia Belmont refused to reply. She glared at Joe her eyes speaking volumes. If looks could kill, he’d be dead.
“Please answer the question.” The judge admonished her with hidden glee.
Turning to Joe Mrs Belmont shrieked, “You know full well I am not, you stupid bastard!” Those that had begun to believe her earlier comments were quickly being swayed away from that idea. This woman was as slippery as a snake, and just as cunning. Deception dripped off her tongue like venom. She sounded anything but the dutiful wife of a Christian man now.
“So, your husband and your good self ran the Mayfair Escort Agency, did you not?” Joe asked her.
“Yes!” She snapped, tossing her head and signifying by the action that she thought Joe was dumb to even question the fact.
“And you would be where, when your husband had Catherine Chandler abducted?”
“He didn’t do that, and you know it!” She fumed.
“I didn’t say he did.” Joe told her. “We know that on that particular occasion your husband did not take an active role. My colleague’s abduction and assault was a case of mistaken identity Mrs Belmont. If you were aware of everything your husband was involved in, I ask you to tell the court how many other people were assaulted by mistake?”
Mrs Belmont glared at Richard Rawlings. Why wasn’t he shouting ‘Objection?’ She knew that one should not result to hearsay.
“None.” Patricia Belmont winced. That was no answer. And Joe grinned to himself picking up on that straight away.
“Do you so answer that none that you know of, or none at all?”
“None at all you stupid little man!”
“Mrs Belmont please try to control yourself. Such verbal assaults on Mr Maxwell do not help your evidence any.” The judge told her.
Mrs Belmont just fumed. Yet by her mannerism people began to grow uncomfortable. Vibes issued from her person that denoted the sort of person she really was, and they didn’t like it. If Patricia Belmont was anything to go by they could well see the sort of man her husband had been. Some refused to look her way, frightened that if they did they might not live to see another day. They didn’t doubt that such a woman would have connections to have them murdered. Joe was also beginning to feel the same way. He was messing with a dangerous woman here a dangerous woman with dangerous connections. He decided against asking her any further questions, and when announced the judge told her, “You may step down Mrs Belmont.” And to the bailiff, he said, “Please call Daniel Belmont to the stand.”
Daniel Belmont had been waiting outside in the corridor when his brother Robert had followed the joker from the court, but the bailiff was surprised when opening the door to call for the next witness he found both of them outside. “Did you want to come back inside?” He asked Robert.
“No. I’ll wait out here. Has my mother finished giving evidence?”
“Yes. She has returned to her seat. Did you want to speak with her?”
“Yes tell her I wish to see her out here will you?”
The bailiff nodded and ushered Daniel Belmont into the court where he took the stand and prepared for Richard Rawlings to ask his first questions.
After giving his name Daniel Belmont replied to the question of his position within the company.
“I took over where my father left off.”
“There are various speculations as to your father’s position within the company Mr Belmont. Would you please be more specific?”
“Sorry, well actually I didn’t quite fall into dad’s footsteps. My brother, Robert, he’s the eldest, and took over from dad. I just help my mother with the staff recruiting. Robert oversees the escort training and makes the bookings, and vets the clients. That sort of thing.”
“You are the youngest in your family is that correct, there are no other members beside yourself and your brother?”
“That is correct.” And thus the court proceedings continued. Outside in the waiting room Patricia Belmont was just consulting with her son. “I take it you took care of him?”
Her son did not need to question her. “Yes. And don’t worry, Butch has taken him well out of the city, there’ll be no connection to us.”
“The bastard.” Patricia Belmont fumed.
“Yes well, don’t fret so mother, the same will happen to all those that cross us. They know that. I don’t think they will allow our witnesses to speak though. You almost blew it in there, Mother!”
“Yes I know. But I couldn’t sit by and let that bastard walk all over us like that. Who the hell did he think he was?”
“Well you should have let it be and not lost your rag mother. You might have known he was as good as dead from the moment he first opened his mouth against you.”
“You’re a good son Robert, your dad would have been proud of you. I never saw you last night, did you arrange that little party we spoke of?”
They continued to speak, talking business, their kind of warped business, while inside the court Joe Maxwell was cross examining the witness.
“So let me get this straight, Mr Belmont, when your father ruled the business you were still at school?”
“Yes. I didn’t want to take further education like my brother. I was never going to do anything but the Escort Agency so it didn’t matter.”
“The agency must pay well?”
“Mr Belmont, would it be possible to tell us what kind of man your father was, in your honest opinion?”
There was a slight hesitation that people in the courtroom could only surmise at before Daniel Belmont replied, “my father was a calculated man, he knew what he wanted and he wouldn’t let anything stand in his way.”
“Does that include people that might not have been prepared to do as he wanted?” Joe asked.
Again Daniel thought carefully before replying, “Occasionally, but not in the way you are pertaining to. My father would never have killed anyone, and certainly not for something so ridiculous as an employee refusing to work with certain clients. We get it all the time Mr Maxwell, some of the escorts simply do not want to go with certain clients, its their prerogative. We don’t try to force them regardless or else.”
“What conclusion do you draw by the evidence heard that your father had certain sexual perversions that he killed for when they weren’t met?”
“As lies. Fabrication. There are a great many people that are/were envious of my father, Mr Maxwell. He built up a good reputation as a fair and honest man, and the business grew in leaps and bounds and because of my father’s hard work we are the leading escort agency in New York.”
“Yes I know you are. Some might say that much of that was due to fear and corruption.”
“Objection!” It was the first time that Richard Rawlings had objected since the morning’s trial had begun.
“Yes I apologise, but we have seen by the evidence given that a great deal of people were frightened of your father Mr Belmont. How do you feel about knowing that?”
“Knowing my father as I did I find it hard to believe. Naturally, none of us truly know what others are capable of, but since you ask my opinion, I can only give you an answer as I know it. My father was always there for me. He encouraged me to do well in life and he encouraged me to do it honestly and gain respect from people. My mother loved him dearly and so did I, and I find it abhorrent that so many people can come here and give so called evidence that denies that fact.”
“Thank you, Mr Belmont. No further questions.” Joe knew what to think about the whole farce, but it was probable that Daniel Belmont had only ever seen the good side to his father. Interviewing Robert Belmont would be interesting for Joe had heard that he was a tough nut to crack just like his mother.
“You may step down Mr Belmont, and the court will adjourn for lunch until 1 p.m.” The judge told everyone present.
Returning to his seat, Joe placed a hand on Vincent’s shoulder and squeezed it. “After Robert Belmont gives his evidence,” He told him, “It will be you and Cathy’s turn, are you ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be. But what about the people that you told me about, Carl and Stephanie Windsor?”
“Still in California. Carl returned yesterday. His wife is due to fly out tomorrow, so we will have to wait till then. But we might not call her until we have heard all the other cases against you. Martin Belmont was just the tip of the iceberg I’m afraid.”
“Yes, I know.”
“But surely intelligent people can see that all is not as it appears there. Patricia Belmont is one evil woman.” Catherine shuddered, “And if I can see that surely they all can?”
“Maybe but we have to remember Cathy, that in our business we meet these sort of people all the time. The jury might be in ignorance of people like that. And at the end of the day, it’s the jury that have to be convinced, however, I think they believed the evidence from the witnesses of yesterday and your photographs of course.” He smiled apologetically. He hated having to bring that up, especially when he’d noticed Catherine shudder at the mention of it.
“Well I need some air.” Catherine told him, “Do you think we can go and sit in the courtyard?”
“I’ll make some enquiries. That would be a good idea. Give Vincent a chance to sit out in the sunshine.”
Vincent smiled, looking from one to the other in question. “It’s a courtyard in the centre of the building Vincent. All the walls of the court border it and no one can see in from outside. Its not terribly big, just enough room for a bench and some flowers, but it’s a marvellous sun trap. I always like to sit out their between sessions. Your’ll love it.”
It sounded divine. And when Joe returned to say he’d acquired permission to take Vincent out there Catherine was so happy. She had worried so about Vincent these last few days. He appeared to be bearing up and since he had gone back to the tunnels under the pretence of staying with Greg, he had looked even more worried than normal. Catherine supposed a lot was to do with Father and other tunnel members. They’d be putting the pressure on him to go to ground and never rise but Vincent would insist that would have Greg in trouble. Father would argue that Greg was not his keeper but Vincent knowing right from wrong would insist that he do what he set out to do come what may and that would have caused an argument, which was all telling by the tired and weary look upon her truelove’s face.
So, out in the courtyard it was a pleasure to see some of that worry ease away. Vincent sat with his face to the sun lapping every delicious ray up. Even Joe was enthralled at such a sight. He hoped he could get Vincent acquitted now more than ever. A guy denied the sunlight? It was all wrong. Such a simple act should be available to all. Never would he take such a thing for granted again. And if he could have Vincent acquitted he would surely be able to walk free in the city as well in the daylight as he was used to doing at night, and such pleasures as turning his face to the sun would be something he would be able to do any time that he chose. Joe smiled, yep that would be great. He almost felt grand about that, almost…for suddenly he frowned as the picture of Patricia Belmont’s face swam before his eyes. And Joe who didn’t believe in visions suddenly wondered whether he’d just received one, for he knew without a doubt that Vincent would never walk free in the sunlight, not with people like Patricia Belmont around. It would be far too dangerous. So he sighed, and unwrapping his sandwiches began to eat, but it may have well been sawdust, because he tasted not a single bite.
*** *** ***
Vincent’s Trial – Day two – pm.
“Your name please?” Joe smiled reassuringly.
After the last witness had given evidence and been cross examined Joe knew that the people were ready now to hear Vincent’s testimony. Well ready. They had awaited this moment for the past two days and Robert Belmont’s testimony just heard had been so much like his mother’s that a lot of people now wanted to hear what Vincent had to say.
“Vincent, may I call you Vincent?”
“Vincent, we have heard that Miss Chandler first met you when you saved her from death in the park on April 12th 1987, and that since she was so badly injured, there was no time to take her to a hospital, so you aided her yourself, is that correct?”
“In part. I took her to a friend who helped me to nurse her back to health.”
“I know that people will be questioning why you did not contact someone that knew her or take her to the hospital as soon as you were able. Would you please tell the court why you refrained from so doing?”
“Catherine…that is Miss Chandler…received broken ribs, we did not think it wise to move her, and neither did we know at that stage who she was. As soon as it was possible Miss chandler was given the option of leaving, but she made no fuss about remaining with us until ten days had lapsed, when I saw her home to her apartment.”
“You saw her home?” Joe was clearly surprised.
“To her apartment?”
“And no one saw you?”
“There were people in the vicinity but no one saw me. I am careful.” Vincent grinned warming the people at once toward him.
“Yes. Vincent, I have to ask. You made mention once to the fact that to see you would remind people of what they are most afraid of. Naturally, that must sadden you, but having seen you, I can understand how a first impression or sighting must be for anyone. I also know having come to appreciate the compassionate man that you are how this grieves you but I also wonder why you would knowingly place yourself in an area where you could so easily be spotted. Would you mind explaining why you do come into the city?”
“I have friends here. And I do not walk openly among people. As far as possible I frequent the rooftops, so that sighting of me is rare.”
“Is that so?” Joe was surprised. “So you know not to confront people with what you look like?”
“Yes. And just in case I did, I wear a cloak and hood, where I can hide my features within its folds.”
“Therefore, this shows how careful you are not to frighten anyone?”
“After Miss Chandler left your home, or rather your friend’s home, how long was it before you saw her again?”
Again, Joe was surprised. Some of these questions he was thinking of on the spur of the moment, he hadn’t thought to present them to Vincent before.
“And why was that?”
“Its probable that we would never have met again, but I had to know how she was. So I visited her at her apartment.”
“And she was pleased to see you?”
“I hadn’t planned on staying. But when I saw that she was delighted to see me, I stayed all night. We had so much to talk about, and it was a delight to be with someone that could accept me for what I am.”
“I understand that a special relationship was bonded between the two of you that night?”
“Before that night. From the moment I rescued Catherine in the park there was something between us. It is hard to explain but we became a part of one another, we are connected.”
“That’s a strong word. And does Miss Chandler feel the same way?”
“As I understand it, your relationship with Miss Chandler began before she started work at the D.A’s office, is that correct?”
“And not until that time did Miss Chandler’s line of work take her into dangerous assignments?”
“Even though she had been attacked the night you had met her?”
“I know that after that particular attack Miss Chandler took defence classes taught by Isaac Stubbs, so why did you feel the need to protect her further?”
Vincent considered the question but he couldn’t answer it without revealing the Bond.
“Let me rephrase that Vincent. Did you or did you not act as bodyguard to Miss chandler even though she had taken self defence classes and had shown her ability to be able to look after herself?”
“You weren’t her bodyguard?”
“No, not exactly. I wasn’t employed in that capacity.”
“So why did you set yourself up as such?”
“Catherine was just one of the people I would protect with my life if the need arose.”
“Yes, that’s as maybe, but you cannot deny that with the built in weapons at your disposal, not to mention the anger that would emit from anyone protecting the one that they cared for you could in all fairness do far more damage than say someone dishing out self defence. After all the main objective is to disarm an assailant is it not, that is to disarm in such a way as to make them either drop their weapon or cower away from further onslaught. Not disarm by disembodying them.”
Where are you going with this Joe, Catherine wondered, if she hadn’t known better she would have thought he was acting as the prosecution council rather than the defence council.
“Yes.” Vincent agreed but could add nothing further. He too was wondering why Joe was bringing this up. He would have expected it from the prosecutor but not Joe. But Joe had known that this question would, without fail, be brought up by the prosecutor, and he was just smoothing the way toward it. And there was one other thing, but he was the only one that knew of that and he wasn’t about to reveal it, and that was the fact of Catherine calling Vincent to the scene by way of cell phone. For if that were known then Vincent would have known in advance that Catherine was in trouble and he would have gone to the scene with the intent to harm, maim or kill an assailant which would in turn be a premeditated crime.
“So you were aware that you could do distinctive harm to anyone attacking Miss Chandler?”
“Yes, just as they could do to her.”
“Vincent, are you not aware that people should not take matters into their own hands, but rather the police should deal with such things?”
“Yes I’m aware of it, but let me ask you Mr Maxwell, if you were present at such a scene and saw one of your colleagues and a female at that being assaulted by a thug or thugs brandishing knives would you stand by do nothing and wait for the police or do something yourself?”
“I’d do both, Vincent.” Joe told him.
“And in the absence of a radio or a phone, you would do what?”
Ah thought Joe, but you did have a phone, how else would Cathy have been able to call you, you of no fixed address, how would she have known where to locate you without a cell phone? But of course Joe could not bring that up, so he answered Vincent’s question, “ I would do all I could to help her.”
“And so would I.” Vincent replied.
“Thank you Vincent, no further questions.” There was a lot more Joe could ask, but somehow he hadn’t the stomach for it. He knew a bit about Vincent, thought he knew a lot about Cathy, but he got the distinct impression there was something they were keeping hidden from him. How Vincent knew where to find Catherine and arrive in the nick of time beat him. Even with advance warning, when would Cathy have made such a call? When would she have sussed that she would need assistance? How had Vincent arrived in time, always in the nick of time? There was something missing Joe knew it and perhaps Richard Rawlings could find out what it was. Or perhaps he would gloss over it and assume Joe had asked enough pertaining to the matter and it would never be questioned. Whatever, Joe was aware of Cathy looking at him daggers as he returned to his seat, furious that he had brought up the topic at all. And if Joe knew one thing, anyone annoyed like that had something worth hiding. But what, what was it? And why was it so important that they not tell him?
Two weeks ago, Richard Rawlings would have given his high teeth to be able to cross examine Vincent Wells. Now he wasn’t so enthusiastic about that. He’d heard the evidence pertaining to Martin Belmont and had drawn his own conclusions and though they were yet to hear other cases where Vincent wells had caused the death of someone, and it wasn’t over not by a long chalk, he couldn’t help but feel respect for the cat man. So it was with surprising calmness that he asked his first question. Surprising that was to all who knew the type of prosecutor that his reputation spoke of.
“Mr Wells, my learned friend has asked you many questions which I had in mind to ask of you, so I will not go over old ground. However, I will not beat about the bush either. It is fact is it not that on September 25th 1987, you killed Martin Belmont by mutilation? “
“Objection!” Joe cried, “My client has not been asked to plead his innocence.”
“Sustained. Mr Rawlings at this stage the defendant has not been asked to plead guilty or not guilty therefore, please rephrase your question.” The judge told him.
“I apologise. Mr Wells, did you or did you not assist Miss Chandler on the day in question when after discovering the body of Carol Stabler she was attacked by two thugs one of whom was Martin Belmont?”
“I wasn’t aware of who they were, but yes I did assist her.”
“And did you or did you not act in the capacity of her protector against these men with intent to…” he hesitated, choosing his words carefully, “to frighten them into leaving her alone?”
“So then could you explain why both men were found dead at the scene with wounds that could only have been applied by a large animal?”
“Objection!” Joe cried.
“Sustained.” The judge glared at Richard Rawlings who redirected his question. However Vincent surprised them all by answering, “The question is irrelevant, I think we all know how those words were sustained. And I know you mean well Joe, by objecting to certain questions but in all fairness Mr Rawlings is only asking what is logical to presume. I do have claws rather than fingernails and these hands can rent a man in two, I have immense physical power and I do get angry when someone I love is threatened…”
“Vincent!” Catherine cried. She knew he meant well, but there were some things that one just didn’t admit to in court. It wasn’t for the defendant to prove his guilt but rather for the jury to do so. But Vincent shook his head surprising everyone when he told them, “We can drag this out as much as we like. We can spend weeks cross examining witnesses, Joe can do his utmost to have me acquitted but at the end of the day you all know what I am, you can all see what I would be capable of. We are only prolonging the inevitable, and the jury have their own lives to lead, families that rely on them, and the longer it goes on the more people will suffer. I know that the argument is innocent until proven guilty, but I would like to the chance to plead for myself.” He looked toward the judge deliberately ignoring Catherine and Joe, who were motioning for him to shut up quite frantically by now.
The judge admired the man, and decided that a gross injustice would occur if he was sent to the electric chair. “As you wish Mr Wells. Would you prefer it if I read out the names and dates of the crimes in order of occurrence and allow you to return a verdict upon each one?”
“Yes.” Vincent told him. The sooner he got it over and done with the better.
“Then we will break for recess while I collect all the information together from my chambers.”
The court rose as the judge left the room and complete and utter silence descended over the courtroom, with everyone, save Catherine and Joe who at that stage were thinking him absolutely stupid were in full agreement. Vincent Wells, whatever he was, and whatever he’d done, was one sensible fellow.
*** *** ***
In his chambers the judge was consulting with both Joe Maxwell and Richard Rawlings, he understood fully what the defendant was getting at when he had made his request and he admired him but he wasn’t sure about the ethnics of it. All of them knew that Vincent was going to plead guilty to the charges presented before him but without the evidence how were the jury to establish whether that guilt was justified or not?
“There’s another thing,” Joe told the judge unhappy that the prosecutor had to hear it, but in the circumstances… “ I had been leading up to calling a witness that I deem the trump card in all of this. Look, we all know that the owner of a dangerous animal is liable when that animal kills, and I strongly believe that whomsoever created Vincent should take the blame for the person that he is. We know Vincent is a decent and compassionate individual. Had he not got the built in defences that he has he probably would not be standing trial for murder or manslaughter or assault even now. It’s doubtful that we would ever have known him, unless he rose to some other sort of fame. He’d live among us as a normal human being and no one would bat an eyelid. So my argument is the blame rests with those that created him, and they should pay.”
“I see your point of view Mr Maxwell, but were do we find such a person?”
“I’ve found them actually. Well that’s not strictly true, they found me. They live in California, well when I say they, that is the couple, it is the wife that was responsible for Vincent’s existence and the way that he is.”
The other two men were stunned into silence, and Joe went on, “I wish Richard and I to cross examine her and if you would agree Sir, that we apportion the blame of Vincent’s actions to her, and return a verdict of justifiable homicide to Mr Wells for the crimes he committed in being what he is.”
The judge nodded, “that seems acceptable Mr Maxwell. What of you Mr Rawlings do you have any objections?”
Rawlings shook his head. “He’s quite a guy isn’t he? Poor bugger. Tell me am I the only one to think it or have Mr Wells and Miss Chandler got more going for them then just friendship?”
“You thought that too?” the judge asked, “Joe? Do you know anything?”
“Well they wouldn’t want the world to know, but yes they are in love. I think they would like to marry but Catherine is afraid of the repercussions you know bestiality and all that?”
“I once offered Vincent Wells American Citizenship. He neither declined nor accepted it. I felt that he was thinking ahead and wondering how that would excuse or abuse his case being what he is, but if he would accept it, I see no reason as to why the pair could not be married. It would certainly be a wedding to go down in history would it not?”
Both Richard and Joe agreed that it would.
“Well this isn’t getting the baby a new bonnet, we have to return to the court and get this thing under way. So, this is what I’d like to do. I will announce the counts to Vincent and the jury, he will plead guilty or not guilty,” the judge gave a wry grimace here knowing for a certainty which it would be. “Then I’ll have Mr Wells tell the court the story pertaining to each case, Miss Chandler can give evidence if she so wishes, and then the pair of you ask him your questions. Finally and before the jury retire for their final evaluation I will allow you Joe, to bring in your other witness who claims to having created Mr Wells, and then we will let the jury decide the penalty. Is that acceptable?”
Both Joe and Rawlings signified it was and then rising the three made their way back to the courtroom where an uncanny sort of silence had settled over the people. The three felt it the moment that they walked in, and as the judge told them his outline for the rest of the afternoon, the silence was fuelled with a restless expectation as excitement flowed among the people. What would happen now was anyone’s guess.
*** *** ***
“The first count of manslaughter in the first degree with intent to cause serious physical injury was that on September 25th 1987 you committed serious physical assault against the person of Martin Belmont so that he died. Mr Wells do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“The second count is of assault in the third degree of intent to cause physical injury whereby on October 2nd 1987 you attacked two employees of a Mr Jason Walker and left them to seek their own medical attention. Jason Walker cannot be found to give evidence. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“The third case would have been in your defence. This was on October 16th 1987, when you did so frighten thugs that terrorised some old people and two of these elderly people were scheduled to come forward and give evidence that the only death at the scene, namely Leo Mundy fell to his death from tripping rather than at your hand. However, it must be brought to the court’s attention that though his fear was probably due to seeing your face this cannot be established as fact. So too the forth case, when on February 5th 1988 a Miss Erica Salvin and herself an attorney at the time for the Evans and Brannigan firm would have verified that you prevented two gunmen from killing her, but that you did not harm them. The third count therefore, is of Assault in the second degree when on February 19th 1988 you attacked and maimed a Mr Stephen Bass causing serious mental and physical injury. Mr Bass would have given evidence. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“On March 4th 1988 you displayed the remarkable talent of calming guard dogs that would have attacked Miss Chandler. This also would have been in your defence, since it showed an ability to save the animals whereas most people confronted by such vicious dogs would have thought little to killing them instead. Therein you showed compassion and the owner of the guard dogs was exceedingly grateful. However, he did not agree to give evidence. The next case is a little unusual and because it came from a minor was only to be brought out and discussed. The child maintains that you killed his father, his uncles, aunts and mother during a siege whereby you were forced to protect your family. Would you care to elaborate on that Mr Wells?”
Vincent knew exactly what he meant, but could not say so. This was the occasion when outsiders had entered the tunnels and to explain that occasion would mean giving the tunnels away. He couldn’t do it and so he shook his head, and was forced to lie, “I’m sorry but no I do not know what he refers to.”
“Not even for the fact that it was in defence of your family?” the judge asked seeing no reason why Vincent should wish to lie if he lied.
“No. It would appear that the child is making it up.”
“So be it. Thank you Mr Wells. Then the forth count is of manslaughter in the first degree with intentional homicide under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance whereby on April 7th 1989 you did so cause physical injury resulting in death of the abductor of Miss Chandler who left her to drown in the trunk of her car. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“The fifth count is of manslaughter in the first degree of intent to cause serious physical injury when on April 28th 1989 you saved the life of Mr Elliot Burch by killing three gunmen hired to kill him. Mr Burch would have been willing to testify to your defence. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
While all this was going on there was complete silence in the courtroom. Catherine head in hands listened now with a quiet acceptance that Vincent was relieved to get all of it out in the open, but with a foreboding dread that he had just made a noose for himself and would surely hang. She wondered what life would be without him in it and couldn’t even begin to think about it. Surely they wouldn’t convict him to the chair surely, but even as she thought it she knew that the alternative, life imprisonment would be abhorrent to Vincent, he would she knew, rather be dead than face that. Either way she had lost him, their dream, she decided had well and truly died.
The sixth count is manslaughter in the first degree with intent to cause serious physical injury when on May 5th 1989 you assaulted and killed Mr Beris Woodthorpe to prevent him and a colleague Gary Himsworth from taking the lives of two prostitutes who would have testified that these said men had already killed other women of the same profession. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“The seventh and final count is assault in the first degree to disfigure or disable when also on May 5th 1989 in the same case as the sixth count, you assaulted and maimed the said Gary Himsworth who would have appeared to give evidence against you. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“Thank you Mr Wells. It is to be noted that you compliance in these proceedings will be net with favour and pertaining to a lighter sentence if imprisonment is the penalty. I would next ask that you remain at the stand in order to tell the court the details of each one of those cases mentioned and then be available for Mr Maxwell and Mr Rawlings to ask their questions. Do you need anything? A glass of water perhaps?”
“Thank you, that would be most appreciated.” Vincent replied, and the bailiff arranged for one to be brought to him.
Then began the narrative of all the cases mentioned, Vincent giving a detailed account of every one leaving nothing out except he did not attest to the case that the ‘outsider’ child claimed had happened.
And then Joe acting in his defence asked his questions and Rawlings acting on behalf of the prosecutor asked his questions, and everything was reasonably going well until Rawlings announced that he would like to cross examine Catherine Chandler and when she took the stand he launched into the question Joe hoped would be evaded. “Miss Chandler, one thing bothers me in all of this. We have heard how Mr Wells sought your protection time and time again, but we have never established how he knew to the precise second when you needed him the most. Would you please tell the court how you summon Mr Well’s attention when you are being threatened?”
“Cell phone.” Catherine replied innocently.
“You mean to tell me that you know in advance that you are going to be attacked? For we have established have we not that Mr Wells does not act as your bodyguard. Indeed if he did he would have to be with you in the daytime as well as after dark, either that or you would need to employ two body guards one for the night and one for the day, but since you do not employ a bodyguard, Mr Wells cannot fill that capacity. Therefore, I’d like to know when you actually make the call, and if it is as you are being attacked, which I doubt, then how does Mr Wells arrive always just in time to save you?”
Catherine looked to Vincent. She had hoped that this question would not come up. But neither she nor Joe who had been in like mind had realised how much it could help Vincent and she was reluctant to answer. Vincent on the other hand could see the logic of revealing their true connection and saw no reason not to do so, and when Catherine delayed in answering the question he stood up and announced “If I might be allowed to answer, I can tell the court how I manage to arrive in time to save Miss Chandler.”
“I’d prefer to hear it from Miss Chandler, if you don’t mind.” Rawlings told him, looking back in Catherine’s direction, “So Miss Chandler how do you so answer?”
“As I told you, cell phone.” She looked daggers in Vincent’s direction defying him to say otherwise. She truly believed that to reveal the Bond, the jury would see it as some form of teamwork that they used to instigate occasions of violence so that Vincent might rid the streets of crime. Either that or they would think Vincent more of a weirdo than he looked already.
“I’m not sure that is so.” Rawlings told her and turning g asked Vincent, “Mr Wells would you care to enlighten us?”
“I’m sorry Catherine.” Vincent looked at truelove, “But I see no reason to keep this a secret.” Then looking to Rawlings he announced, “Catherine and I share a connection, a bond. Since the moment I met her I have shared her feelings. I know when she is happy or sad or when she is frightened. I act on her feelings. If I feel she is anxious I approach the area where I know her to be, and I wait and listen to the connection and if it reveals a certain fear I act upon it. I can tell before I see her whether she is terrified for her life or for someone else’s.”
In usual circumstances, Richard Rawlings might have scoffed at such an explanation, but he had learned one thing from Vincent Wells, he knew when the fellow was deadly serious, and this was one of those times. He read the sincerity in his eyes and he marvelled at such a connection that would allow one to know the whereabouts and the condition of a loved one like that.
“That must be a remarkable gift, Mr Wells? And can Miss Chandler feel the same about you?”
“No. It is only something I can do. To do with my genetic makeup I believe.”
“Yes.” The judge spoke up, “Well in all fairness Miss Chandler I see no reason why you should wish to have kept the bond a secret. It would answer so many questions and whereas a cell phone would have highlighted the fact that you were knowingly bringing Mr Wells to your aid knowing full well his capabilities, a bond is a different kettle of fish entirely. This is something that Mr Wells is unable to turn off (he wasn’t aware that he could) and therefore cannot be blamed for acting upon it when conditions were such that he was forced to do. No one can sit by and do nothing when they know for a certainty that a loved one’s life is in jeopardy. And I would like the jury to consider this when making their final assessment. However before they do, there is one more witness we wish to bring forth into this case, but I have been notified that they cannot appear until the day after tomorrow as they are coming in from California and that will be the first available flight. Therefore, this court will adjourn until Thursday at ten am. Mr Maxwell, Mr Rawlings will you join me in my chambers please?”
Vincent and Catherine looked at one another. It was all beginning to wear them down and both just wanted to go below and spend the time together. Two days from now anything might happen, two days from now they might be parted forever.
*** *** ***
Joe, meeting his final witness at the airport, was surprised to find not only Stephanie Windsor but also her husband Carl accompanying her and at his raised eyebrows Carl explained, “We found someone to take care of the kids, and the baby.”
“Oh right.” It hadn’t answered Joe’s thoughts fully, he was more interested in how the two had afforded the airfare, since Carl had explained that scraping together the money for one fare and even two was difficult but three? But he didn’t question it. Someone may have lent them the money.
“You won’t need to give evidence until tomorrow Mrs Windsor, will that pose any problems?”
The Windsor’s looked to one another, and Car asked Joe, “But I thought you said Steph would need to go straight to court on arrival?”
“That’s what I assumed, only there was a change of plan and she will be interviewed tomorrow now, after which time the jury will assemble to deliberate on the evidence and return their verdict. Now I have booked you into a hotel for three nights just in case, but I see no reason why you cannot go home tomorrow night. My company will foot the bill, so you have nothing to worry about.”
“Thank you Mr Maxwell.”
“I have business to attend to now, so I’ll have a taxi take you straight to the hotel and have one pick Stephanie up at 9 am in the morning to take her to the court. You may come too if you wish. After that the time’s your own, you can either go straight back to California or stay that further night, its up to you.”
“Thank you.” Both the Windsor’s replied together, giving nothing away. Both knew that they would stay. With any luck, the journalists would want to interview them. They might even have to give a press conference. They were excited by the thought.
Joe left them getting into a taxi and made his way to his car. The papers were due out tomorrow where he hoped the news of the Windsor’s arrival and who they were would be leaked. Of course ,he had leaked the story, but he wouldn’t admit to that. By this time tomorrow, he hoped that the real creator of Vincent Wells would have had enough time to read the article and turn up in court. It was a long shot but he had to take the chance. Hopefully it would all turn out exactly as he hoped for once.
*** *** ***
“Your newspaper Sir. Is there anything else I can get you?” The carer hovered beside the chair of the older man and waited. Some days he’d like a cup of coffee with his morning paper another time he would not.
“A cup of coffee would be nice, Beth thank you.” He did not look up at her but opened the newspaper to his usual favourite pages, with fingers of his gnarled hands crooked by arthritis. Beth looked down at him fondly, she had known this man for nigh on twenty years and he had never missed a morning paper and as he read avidly she could denote her time to other more demanding residents, knowing it would be an hour or more before Dominic Haley would require her services again.
So she was surprised when rather than accept the coffee she brought to him some ten minutes later she found him agitated and moving about his room with the determination she had come to recognise in him when he had decided something. “There you are Beth, help me will you I have to go out.”
“Out? Out where?” She couldn’t believe she had heard correctly.
“Just out. Will you phone for a taxi for me?” Beth regarded the older man with amusement. It seemed that he had suddenly gone off his rocker. She should have expected it of course, he’d been known for his crazy ideas and she was probably the only member of staff who humoured him and tolerated his outlandish tales.
“Should I come with you?” She hadn’t known why she asked or even that she should. She would have to phone for the relief carer to come in and take her place and that might take longer than Mr Haley was showing he would wait for. He certainly seemed in a hurry as he donned his clothing fit for going outside.
“No that will not be necessary I shouldn’t be gone too long. And in case you are wondering, I have to go to the court. There is a case that I am interested in seeing the outcome of and today is the last day.”
Beth relaxed, well he could come to little harm in court. “I see, fine I’ll call you that cab, but put on that warm coat Dominic, its quite blustery outside today.”
“I will, don’t worry.” Beth regarded him a few moments more there wasn’t much she knew of Dominic Haley, except that for decades he had fought for the plight of the Asiatic Lion from extinction. And she supposed he must have been a good looking man in his day with his rugged complexion and bright blue eyes but years of campaigns and going to this country and that country in a short space of time had worn him down and worn him out. And then he had retired to the nursing home after pooling all his money into the campaign for the sake of the lions, until he was left penniless.
Beth walked to the telephone and called for the taxi then returning to Dominic’s room found him ready to leave. “What have you there?” She nodded toward the sheaf of papers tucked into a folder and held beneath one arm she’d never seen that particular folder before.
“Nothing.” He told her, and Beth got the distinct feeling that he was withholding something from her. “You’ll know soon enough.” He added as an after thought.
“Oh.” Beth murmured then, “Well take care Mr Haley and try to be back soon huh? You will need your medication at three o’clock, have you got a sugar cube with you?”
“Yes don’t worry, I never go anywhere without one.”
“Good. But try to be back before you need your insulin.” She walked with him to the front door and found the taxi had arrived.
“I’ll be fine.” He squeezed Beth’s hand, “You are altogether too good to me. Don’t worry, I’ll be back by three.”
She watched him go, bending his long frame into the back seat of the cab the remaining tawny hair at his nape disappearing from view as he stepped into the dim interior of the car. Beth would love to know more about Dominic Haley but in all the years that she had known him, he appeared tight lipped over some aspects of his life. In fact she had to admit he was as much a closed book as the folder he had had tucked beneath his arm. Still he was a fine distinguishable figure of a man even in his early nineties. Beth wondered what he had looked like in his youth. Probably gorgeous she decided and was surprised that he had never married. She concluded that the only females in his life had probably been of the four-legged variety with big teeth and large paws and then she laughed at her fanciful thoughts, feeling for the first time almost envious of all those lionesses he had petted.
*** *** ***
“Have you anything further to add?” Joe questioned his witnesses who had just related how she had, with the aid of a colleague, implanted lion sperm into her womb and had given birth to the man that sat not fifteen feet from her.
“What do you mean?” Stephanie Windsor eyed Joe nervously. She thought she had covered her ground well.
“I refer to the fact that you have not told the court why you felt it necessary to carry out such an experiment. Would you please enlighten us?”
Stephanie knew what to say. Carl had gone over and over it for weeks. “I wanted to see if I could create a creature half human half lion,” she shrugged, “for no other reason than that.”
Joe had half hoped for that reply. He launched his attack, “So let me get this right. This idea that you presented yourself with, this irresponsibility for the outcome of such a gimmick did not concern you overly?”
Stephanie Windsor hesitated. Before now, Joe Maxwell had shown her nothing but compassion, now all of a sudden he seemed anything but compassionate. She looked to her husband sitting in the dock and hesitated before replying, “Well of course I thought about the action. Who wouldn’t? But in all fairness, I didn’t seriously believe the conception would work, and if it did I didn’t seriously expect that the foetus would survive. My colleague and I had expected that my body would self abort the foetus and we could use it for experimentation, but when it went full term no one more than me was more surprised.”
“I find that a little hard to believe, Mrs Windsor. If the general purpose was to use the foetus for experimentation, then why did you not simply abort it by general anaesthesia any time that you chose? Why wait until the child went full term and then panic and hide it in the grounds of a hospital? Surely, you realise even now that you are agreeing to having committed possible manslaughter? Or if Mr Wells had died then it would have been murder?”
“No, because had it of died chances are this case wouldn’t be happening now. Stephanie Windsor replied.
“But since it is, and since you have admitted to abandoning the child not only beneath a bush in the hospital grounds but on a night in the dead of winter with snow on the ground, the question must be asked as to whether you are indeed a fit mother for the eight children that you already have.”
There was no objection since Joe was acting as defence council, but Stephanie Windsor wished that there had of been. That statement hit right below the belt. And she was furious. Not with Joe or herself but for her husband who had not thought this answer through well enough and had dropped her into a manslaughter charge, or a possible one at that one at least for abandoning a baby out in the cold.
“Mrs Windsor did you at any time seek the whereabouts of the child?”
She shook her head, “No.”
“Why was that? Surely, after you had carried the child to term and birthed him you wondered what had become of him. As I understand it no mother forgets the child she carried.”
“I did think about him often but I didn’t know where he was. He might have been dead.”
“And that would have eased your conscience?”
“No. No, it wouldn’t. I didn’t like to imagine that he had died. There was a woman. She was loitering in the area scavenging I assumed for trash, I think she found and took the child.”
Carl lifted his head and staring directly at his wife, he smiled at her thinking ‘good answer Steph, even I hadn’t thought of that.’
“Mrs Windsor did you at any time decide to sell such a story to a newspaper?”
“No.” Stephanie Windsor coloured up not missed by Joe.
“Mrs Windsor, on my way into court this morning I was met by several journalists who…” he lifted some papers from his desk, “asked me to offer you up to…let me see now…the largest offer is for $500,000 for your story.” Carl whistled unable to help himself and Joe turned and glared at him a moment before directing his next question at Stephanie Windsor. “I believe that you have done this for money…” He paused as a door at the back of the court opened and closed and there was a slight commotion. Joe turned and saw a tall and elderly fellow enter but would have thought nothing of it had Stephanie not exclaimed hysterically, “Dominic!”
“You know that man?” Joe asked. Wide-eyed and still staring at the fellow that had entered, she nodded unable to speak. Carl was looking decidedly flustered as a police officer walked down the stairs toward Joe and whispered something to him. Joe in turn beckoned for the fellow that had just arrived to come down and before he reached him, Joe went across to the judge accordingly and whispered something to him.
“We will break for recess.” The judge announced and the people rose as the bailiff asked them to.
In the courtroom, the people whispered anxiously among themselves. Who was this man, that had just arrived and why had he so flustered the woman giving evidence? A flutter of excitement flowed through the people as they contemplated the next few hours. Today they had expected an end to the case by a witness that would bring about a grand finale, but never had they anticipated this latest turn of events. This indeed would be an even grander climax because for a certainty, though he was so much older and only a shadow of his former self this new fellow resembled in quite a distinguished way the cat man Vincent Wells!
*** *** ***
When the court reassembled, the people were surprised when instead of Stephanie Windsor taking back the stand, Joe called for an additional witness, namely Dominic Haley. After asking for his name and address, Joe began his questions.
“Mr Haley, thank you for agreeing to be questioned this day. It is to be noted that you came here of your own free will and have agreed to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Therefore, it is with great interest that we wait for your explanation as to the creation of the said Vincent Wells and in your own time would you please tell the members of this courtroom why you felt it necessary to stake your claim to the defendant?”
“Yes, gladly. This has been something that has been on my conscience for the last thirty three years.” He turned to face the judge and jury in turn, “Your Honour, members of the jury, it is I who is responsible for the creation of the defendant, Vincent Wells. In actuality I am his father.”
Vincent gasped loudly and had to hold on to the desk for support. Wide eyes he stared at the man, while others in court did not doubt that confession one bit. Catherine stared from Dominic Haley to Vincent in turn and began to see what others had already seen, that despite the difference in ages there were striking similarities and mainly with the eyes.
“And you can prove this?” Joe asked astounded.
“Oh yes, absolutely. You can forget anything that Stephanie Cross told you, for what I am about to say really is the truth.”
“Stephanie Cross?” Joe queried.
“Yes, or whatever name she goes by now. At any rate, that woman.” He pointed to Stephanie Windsor who was trying not to look anywhere but her feet.
“You know Stephanie Windsor?”
“I knew her when she was Stephanie Cross. She was my assistant at the laboratory, and as already attested to, she was/is the mother of Vincent Wells.”
Genuinely surprised, Carl Windsor gasped. He had not known that and shaking his wife’s arm and whispering hoarsely, he tried to get some answers out of her. Answers he had not known, answers that were just about to be brought out by Dominic Haley.
Joe too was surprised, he had been certain that the woman was lying and took comfort in the fact that a certain, ‘Narcissa’ that everyone believed in had also been wrong about that.
“Mrs Windsor had given evidence that was the case, but we were finding it hard to believe. So let me get this straight Mr Haley, both you and Stephanie Windsor are the genuine parents of the man you see before you, Vincent Wells?”
“And this is not a ruse. You have not concocted the story between you for money?”
“And what we are about to hear from you is the complete and utter truth?”
“Then you may begin Mr Haley by telling the court for what possible reason you and Mrs Windsor deemed it necessary to create Vincent Wells as the man that he is, causing considerable heartache to his person, and abandoning him at birth.”
“I did not know he had been abandoned. Stephanie stole him from me, and I could never track her down. I spent a lifetime searching for the child, but each avenue was met with a dead end. He had simply vanished, as had his mother. I assumed that they had been together all these years.”
Vincent’s heart was racing. This he had never expected. That he had two normally human parents. How then did he get the way he was? Dominic was about to reveal all.
“I expect you are wondering how two normal human beings could create such a child? And when I say that Stephanie was his mother, I do not mean that in a literal term. She carried the child true, but it was not her egg that was used to produce him, rather it was an egg taken from an Asiatic lioness. Look I can see this is way over your head. Let me start at the beginning.”
“You’d better had.” Joe told him. “Or we are all going to get confused, not least Vincent Wells.” Joe shot Vincent an apologetic look. This was as much a surprise to him as to anyone. He had no idea Dominic Haley would pertain to being Vincent’s father or he would have warned Vincent in advance.
“If I might be permitted to read from an article which as it happens was only recently written and printed in The New York Times, I am certain that this will clarify matters for you.”
From a folder he handed Joe a sheaf of papers who after briefing them handed them to the judge who in turn went through the papers and after reading a few paragraphs had them returned via the bailiff to Dominic Haley. “You may read these to the people, as you wish Mr Haley but I can see that they are quite extensive do you need to read the article all the way through?” The judge was consulting his watch as he spoke.
Taking the hint, Dominic Haley replied, “Yes Your Honour, and perhaps it would be better to read it after lunch but I am diabetic and need to go home to take some medication by three o’clock without fail.”
“Very well then Mr Haley, we will proceed.”
From his breast pocket, Dominic Haley took his spectacles and putting them on he smoothed out the first page of many and in a voice strangely quiet and confident he began to read an article that would change Vincent’s whole outlook forever.
*** *** ***
“I’d like to read the article from the New York Times entitled Leaping Barriers in the Wild. I strongly believe that this article will explain more fully than I could at this stage my reasons for creating my son.
The article begins with the sub heading: Creating hybrids may be the only way to save some species and continues: ‘In the 16th century, Calusa Indians on Marco Island, Florida, made a wooden carving of a kneeling panther-woman, her head and upper body feline, her lower body human. This hauntingly beautiful figurine, only six inches high is one of countless portrayals of human-animal and animal-animal hybrids – among them satyrs and griffins – found throughout the world for thousands of years.
Those mythic creatures reveal that ‘early humans recognised things were hybridising all around them.’ Said Loren Rieseberg, a professor of biology at Indiana University. Now, using the increasingly powerful tools of genetic analysis, he and other scientists have begun to reveal the under appreciated role of hybridisation in evolution.
Though definitions vary, un general hybrids are created when different species interbreed – or, if not species then animals or plants from distinct lineages or with distinct adaptations to their environment. Hybridisation has been found in a long list of species, mice, leopard frogs, sunfish, insects, Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands, hummingbirds, birds of paradise, willows, iris, oak, sunflower, white tailed deer and mule deer hybridise, as do domestic cattle and bison, cattle and yaks, wolves and dogs, wolves and coyotes and coyotes and dogs.
Research on hybridisation is casting new light on evolutionary processes and raising questions about biodiversity and the preservation of endangered species. (Already) wildlife biologists have saved the endangered Florida panther from extinction by crossbreeding it with the closely related Texas cougar. That program opened the way for the use of hybridisation in saving endangered species. Most species cannot crossbreed because the genetic, behavioural and ecological barriers are too great to overcome. An elephant will not interbreed with a lion or wildebeest for example, nor will a wolf mate with a bear or a prairie dog with a squirrel.
Still, new findings indicate that hybridisation between species does occur and can sometimes produce new species – calling into question the long-standing view that a species is a population of interbreeding organisms that is reproductively isolated from other species.
Scientists have long recognised that the mixing of different lineages usually occurs in areas called hybrid zones. Reisenberg explained that these can be ranging in size from a few feet to many miles, these zones are often border areas, or they may be disturbed habitats, often resulting from human activities. Hybrids created in those zones may ultimately be sterile, but if not they can serve to transfer thousands of genes between the parent populations. Those genes may play no evolutionary role, but they can provide organisms with the genetic flexibility to colonise new habitats. And experts agree that the elusive cat the Calsusa Indians had so elegantly celebrated was headed for extinction.
Only after extensive genetic analysis in the 1980’s by Stephen O’Brien, chief of the National Cancer Institute’s genomic diversity laboratory, did officials approve a radical plan to crossbreed the Florida Panther with a handful of female cougars from the hills of West Texas.” Haley paused to take a sip of water and Joe used the opportunity to ask, “This is all very well,” he had listened with interest for the last twenty minutes to Haley’s narrative, “But for what reason would a human wish to crossbreed with a lion?”
“I’m coming to that. As a rule, biologists prefer not to hybridise subspecies or smaller, unique populations. But O’Brien’s research showed that the various subspecies of puma – also called mountain lions, panthers, catamounts and cougars – were part of a single population that had once stretched from Northern Canada to Tierra del Fuego. Genes had flowed throughout that population before the Florida panther became isolated in its last redoubt. O’Brien also found that a few panthers in the Everglades National Park were descended from hybrids between Florida panthers and the Costa Rican pumas that a private collector had released there in the 1950’s and 60’s. Only this year, Robert Wayne, a specialist in canid evolution at the University of California at Los Angeles, suggested that the preserved red wolf was a hybrid of the grey wolf and coyote and has since proposed that the hybridisation probably originated within the last 250 years, but no earlier than 12,800 years ago.”
When he paused again for more water Joe launched another question, “Pardon me Mr Haley, but I must be missing something here for I still don’t see why you wanted to crossbreed a human with a lion.”
“Well look at the facts. All this hybridisation has taken place only in recent years, that is as far as the written word goes, and the written word as known of by scientists able to have access to such. When I was analysing the Asiatic Lion some forty odd years ago, my thoughts were entirely finding a host for the genes of the lion so that if extinction was definite then at some stage those genes could be extracted from a creature that would live up to a hundred years at least. But in the main a host that would survive for some further fifty or more years from the date of birth. That way the extinction of the Asiatic Lion would not pose any problems when for example technology was such that the same creature or a hybrid could be re-created.”
Ah, now Joe was getting the picture. “So you crossed your own sperm with that of a Asiatic Lioness implanted the fertilised egg into Stephanie Cross as she was then known and hey presto,” Joe gestured to Vincent, “You have him!”
“In a nutshell, yes.” Agreed Haley. “But the experiment went wrong Stephanie stole the child for whatever reason I do not know, and that was the end of that. I’m afraid I didn’t have the heart to try it again, and besides not long afterward I was diagnosed with diabetes and that really put the lid on things. But I had provided a blueprint for others to follow and no doubt they are trying even now as we speak. The human body is the perfect container for such genes. With life up to one hundred years it is the perfect choice.”
“But in this day and age why not freeze the genes?”
“Because my dear man, freezing would not allow those genes to encounter disease such as the general human being faces, and in turn would not become immune to them. This way gives the genes a greater chance of adapting to a new host of the future without the added burden of fighting possible modern disease.”
“But what of the host?” Joe asked knowing how being that carrier had affected Vincent all his life.
“Do you mean the original host?”
“Yes. Like Vincent. Did you never stop to think what it would be like to be him? Were you so engrossed with the saving of the Asiatic Lion that you didn’t stop to consider what it would do for someone to live like that?”
“Naturally I did. But Mr Maxwell you have to agree that in this world there are some that must carry the burden of life. The shampoo you used this morning might have been tested on mice or rabbits so that it did not sting your eyes, those creatures had to be used to carry out such an experiment. There are I know, some that would disagree, but it is a known fact that it happens. Animals are used in a bid to protect humans from various diseases, so surely it is only right that, once in a while, a human has to repay that debt by being the carrier of genes that will at some stage help our cousins survival. I cannot choose who will be the carrier of such genes and it is a miracle that any survived at all. In all my years of studying these things, Vincent was the only one that did survive such an experiment, and as I understand he is sterile, so it is in all probability that he will be only a carrier of the Asiatic Lion gene and not be able to re-produce a new species.”
“What is so important about this lion?” Joe wanted to know. A lion was a lion as far as he was concerned.
“Today the only living representatives of the lions once found throughout South West Asia occur in India’s Gir Forest. These Asiatic Lions are genetically distinct from the lions of Sub-Saharan Africa, although the difference is not large, being smaller than the genetic distance between human racial groups. The Asiatic lion is therefore estimated to have separated from the African population some one hundred thousand years ago, but not long enough for reproductive incompatibilities to have evolved. However, though we need to protect these animals from extinction as we need to protect other species from extinction the reason why the Asiatic Lion needs our help the most is because it is the Asiatic Lion that is a symbol of power and courage for humans. They have appeared in paintings, stories and even in the Bible. They play a huge role in the history of Western culture, even classical writers like Heroclotus and Aristotle have testified to the Asiatic Lion’s presence in Ancient Greece.
Lions and tigers are the closest members to the Jurassic Sabre-toothed Tiger and they help us to learn how cats have changed throughout geologic time. We also need to help these animals because their mating time is very limited with a mating season in October and November only.
The Asiatic Lion is not a solitary creature, it prefers to live in groups, and interestingly the Asiatic Lion is the only lion that can actually roar.”
“Really?” Joe was surprised as were almost every person in court not least of all Vincent himself.
“Yes, and this particular lion’s subspecies once stretched from Greece to Palistine, to Syria, to Ancient Mesopo-tamia, to Iran and finally to India but as earlier highlighted over the years it has decreased to mostly India. In 1908 only thirteen specimens had survived, but by 1936 that had risen to 280 specimens. At one point it reached a maximum of 300 specimens but these days 200 is nearer the mark in Gir National Park. It is hoped that the Asiatic Lion can reproduce outside of the park and new grassland for their habitat is constantly being sought where they can roam and breed free.”
“What characteristics do you think have been displayed of the Asiatic Lion in Vincent?” Joe asked, as he tried to connect the two.
Haley looked to Vincent and after a few moments replied, “In the main I see a lot of myself in my son. His eyes are mine, so too the colouration of his hair, though” he chuckled, “Mine is mostly white now. I think having my makeup served only to enhance his other features to the extreme. For Asiatic lions are handsome creatures with a large bushier coat than their African cousins and a handsome mane though smaller than that of the African lion. They have longer tufts at the end of their tails and elbow joints, and before you ask, no, my son does not have a tail. The colouration of the manes vary from dark to light, though it is understood that the darker they are the more appealing they become to the female population of lionesses. These lions display a rare bonding with mates and family members and while bachelors tend to live solitary lives there have been reports of a single pair of lions living together without the pride and the male always knowing where his mate is even though much distance separates them.” This really interested everyone when they thought about the Bond that Vincent had told them existed with Catherine Chandler.
“And so in conclusion, the Asiatic Lion has been declared the most endangered large cat species in the world, and it was for that very reason and my distinct love for this animal that I did my utmost to save it from extinction. I do believe that Mr Wells carries the genes of the Asiatic Lion and with his permission I’m sure there will be many scientists that will seek those genes from him to use in their valuation and experimentation for the survival of the Asiatic Lion.”
“No further questions. Thank you Mr Haley. Your Honour?” Joe motioned to the judge, clearly impressed by all he’d heard.
“Thank you Mr Haley. There will be no cross examination since you were not called here as a witness, and all things having been considered and heard I now ask the jury to decide the penalties. That is the plea of guilty to manslaughter and assault by Mr Wells, and the charge toward Mrs Windsor for almost perverting the course of justice. Court will adjourn until nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”
Catherine whistled a sigh of relief, never had she heard anything so amazing, and a sidelong glance at Vincent told her he felt exactly the same, even so she was a little surprised when leaving the stand Dominic Haley crossed to the desk behind where Vincent was seated and extended his hand in greeting with the words, “My son?”
For a long drawn out moment Vincent stared at the hand held before his eyes and then glancing up at the man that had attested to being his father he took the hand within his own and shook it, and Catherine felt warm tears run smoothly down her cheeks as Vincent replied, “Yes, your son.” Before getting to his feet and coming around to the other side of the desk, where he gathered Dominic Haley against him, knowing without a doubt that all he had heard from this man had indeed been the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Vincent had found his true father, but while he accepted that gladly, he would never love another father like the one he had known all his life Jacob Wells, patriarch of the tunnels, his soul provider - his real father.
*** *** ***
Five hours already, and the jury still deliberated on voting on a verdict beyond all reasonable doubt. Never had there been a case like this one, and as they approached it again for the eighth time of going over old ground each member hoped that one of the others might think of something different that would help them make a unified vote.
“Look let’s take it from the top again.” One member suggested as the rest head in hands groaned ‘Oh no, not again.’
“We’ve got to do. We can’t go home tonight until we reach some agreement then we can sleep on that and come in early and if we are all still in agreement we can offer that to the judge.”
“But its six o’clock already and some of us have families to go home to. My children will have been picked up by the sitter hours ago but she will soon want to go home herself. How much longer will we be at it?”
“As soon as you stop whinging.” Another told her.
“Okay, okay, another thirty minutes then and no more, I’ve gotta go.”
“Right then,” said the first speaker, “Let’s go through it again briefly this time and try to iron out those problems. Does anyone object if I do it?”
There were murmurs of ‘no’ and so the speaker nodding, drew in a deep breath and started to talk.
“Right then, first of all we have this fella, this strange cat man, I think we ought to start thinking what it must be like to be him, in all of this. Imagine what being like that would do to ya. And this geezer that turns up and says he created him. I heard through the grapevine since the trial finished that it was hoped that whomsoever created the poor sod would carry the can, but since its for something decent like protecting wildlife that has been excused.”
“Yeah I heard that too. But can it be? I mean its all very well crossing a zebra with a donkey and getting a zebdonk but crossing a bloke with a bloody lion well that’s way over my head. How dumb can you get?”
“Maybe some woman wanted a guy that could purr when she touched him.” Someone laughed.
“Yeah a great big ole pussy cat.” Another giggled, “Just like my hubby.”
“Joking aside, we gotta think of something pretty smart.” The first speaker went on with a grin, there would be a thousand and one catty jokes they could make but it wouldn’t solve anything. He grimaced at his own little pun.
“Okay let’s get down to brass tacks. We bin going round and round this dumb case for the best part of an afternoon and now it’s going into evening and I want to get home. We all want to get home, so lets run through it and fast, okay?”
“Yeah come on gang let’s get this one outta the way.”
The twelve members looked at one another all seated around a large polished table smeared with endless pools of coffee rings.
“So we can’t blame the creator, the government would have our hides, they’d be sure to protect him. Not to mention the environmentalists. But we have to cast a vote on that. Obviously, the fellow is carrying some genes that will be of benefit in years to come, so his creator will want rights to them, or at least to be able to extract them when needed. Look this is what I propose see if you all follow, okay?” The others nodded, with it being so late in the day, they would practically agree to anything providing it was feasible.
“Well I don’t think the cat man should go to jail or the chair, I think that had he of been anyone but he would have been dead by now. I mean, that woman he protects, Catherine Chandler hereafter referred to as Cathy, okay? She has been involved in some pretty hair raising stunts, and ordinarily if you had to protect someone like that from armed bandits you would be dead or she’d be dead or both. Unless you went in their with blazing guns in which case you’d be on a murder charge. This guy, this Vincent Wells, hereafter known as VW, well he ain’t like your regular guy, he can’t be called ahead of time, he just follows his gut instincts. We heard how the Asiatic Lion knows the whereabouts of its mate so he just acts on that and can’t do a bloody thing about it. So he just goes on in there and protects Cathy with whatever means he has at his disposal, which for you and I would be our bare hands and teeth, okay? He don’t carry a gun, or a knife, he don’t go racing in there with a method, he just charges on in real mad like and with the way he looks and the sounds he makes… Okay so I know we never heard them but the reports say he roars, and that Dominic bloke says only the Asiatic Lion can roar, so there you have it. So this guy he protects the woman Cathy and anyone else he sees suffering with his own bare hands so what right do we have of convicting him for anything?”
“Hey, you’ve got a point there. He ain’t done nothing. He never carried a weapon.” The enlightenment astounded the members of the jury. “So what he did was justifiable homicide, and without a weapon not even that. He didn’t ask for geezers to come along and molest or assault his woman, he didn’t expect it to happen even though she has some choice assignments that might make any one of us anxious if we knew a family member going out to deal with them, but Christ surely that responsibility lies with the firm that sends her out? And I bet she gets danger money or she wouldn’t do it. So picture this, there’s this guy, VW, he acts on instinct, fights with his own bare hands, scares by what he is rather than fight, and hell he’s got a conscience we’ve seen that. He pleaded guilty for God’s sake, not just to one case but to all of them. And look what he did in exposing himself in the first place.”
Everyone nodded and amid murmurs of agreement the speaker went on, “I suggest we return a verdict of not guilty without justifiable homicide and state that VW be available for Mr Haley to extract the genes from him anytime within the next 50 years. Of course Haley’s not gonna live that long, so we have to pass an agreement that allows whoever Haley gives that right to in his will to collect within the next four to five decades. What do you think?”
“Perfect, or should I say Purr…fect?” Someone spoke up while the others chuckled among themselves and confirmed their agreement. “But what about that woman, you know the one they say tried to pervert the course of justice?”
“Forget her. She’s had her own burden to carry all those years, she was after all the critters mother, well she carried him. It’s all in the past, and really not for us to pursue. If Haley or Wells want to do something about it, that’s up to them, but the woman has eight kids and that can’t be easy. She couldn’t afford a fine and she couldn’t afford to go to prison, I say forget her, or rule not guilty on her.”
“Yeah, okay. That makes me feel a darn sight better. All of it is a great idea Greg, thanks. So to re-cap, it’s what? A verdict of not guilty for Wells, and not guilty for Windsor, rights given to Haley and anything else?”
“Not from us, if there’s anything else the judge can give it.”
“Okay then, that’s fine, so how do we all vote?”
“I’ll ask you each in turn. Helen?”
“Agreed.” And so it was through the whole twelve, they all returned agreed, until the speaker finished with, “Okay then let’s go home. We’ll meet back here at 8 o’clock in the morning ok?”
A united ‘agreed’ rose up among the members of the jury and then grinning they began to pack up and head out of the door, each feeling greatly relieved and happy that they had not only reached a uniformed agreement but all of them felt easy about it.
*** *** ***
“Sometimes I look at you Catherine and I see a certain sadness reflected in your eyes, and other times I see a purposeful resilience that tells me that nothing can touch you.” Vincent remarked as they sat together in his chamber, Catherine lounging on the bed, Vincent in his large ornate chair opposite her.
Catherine didn’t reply. Her eyes luminous in the light from a dozen candles begged him to tell her which way he saw her at that moment. He didn’t disappoint her. “Tonight I see the resilience and somehow I find that resilience bolsters my own flagging optimism. Catherine everything will be all right won’t it?”
“I don’t see how it can be anything but. Any intelligent person can see the man that you are. You have compassion Vincent and you pleaded guilty to crimes where justifiable homicide would have been acceptable. My only hope is that the jury will do you justice, that is the justice that will turn out well for you, and for us.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you Catherine.”
“You wouldn’t have needed to do. Vincent I owe you everything and yet you are here taking the blame. It should be me on trial, not you just because you are different, for let’s face it that’s what all this is about isn’t it?”
“Yes, I suppose it is. My differences again.”
“Blast the differences…I don’t see them, and no self respecting human being should see them either.” They were silent for a time then Catherine asked, “What are you going to do about Dominic?”
“Do? What do you mean by do?”
“Well obviously you aren’t going to invite him here, even if he could make it in his condition, but will you see him at all?”
“Marginally, I owe my life to him but it’s not a life I would have chosen. I am in two minds about him. I accepted him as my father, but I have no other father than the one I’ve always had, no one could take his place, not ever. I think I will leave it for the court to decide and not go beyond that. Joe mentioned that Mr Haley might have certain rights to the genes that I carry, but he told me that I have certain rights too. I don’t have to agree to anything. Mind you, it certainly makes me feel better about myself, knowing that I am here for a purpose and not a freak of nature or some warped scientific experiment. There were genuine reasons for the way I am what I am, even though I think it was wrong of them to have done it.”
“Vincent…all this aside, when its over will you do something for me?”
“Anything Catherine you know that?”
“The judge offered you American Citizenship, will you accept it? It will mean that you will have rights and you can have your birth registered. It might even mean that you will be able to walk freely in some parts of America, even in daylight.”
“I think the likes of Patricia Belmont would see that I couldn’t.”
“Yes I know, but will you do it for me?”
“I would do anything for you, but the reasons you give are not the reasons on your mind, so tell me, why do you really want me to do this?”
Catherine looked at him long and hard. Everything about him was beautiful to her. She loved him so much, and she knew how much it grieved him to think she was tied to him in a world where her friends could not look in and where she would be forced to live without sunshine. But as an American citizen with rights, all that could change. They needn’t invite people to the tunnels, but they could assemble at the apartment. They could be an unusual couple true but what did it matter what anyone else thought providing they were happy? “I want you to do it Vincent so that we can be married up top in front of all our friends, in a church with a white wedding with all the trimmings. Would you still deny me this?”
Vincent searched Catherine’s eyes. They were sincere, she really meant it, and he loved her more at that moment then he had ever loved her before. Rising from his seat, he crossed the short space that separated them and gathering her up against him he held her tight, brushing his lips against hers.
“Will you marry me Catherine?” He asked as he settled her down to the floor. She gazed into the blue of his eyes, read the love she saw there and marvelled that there were doubts within them, no doubts at all.
“Yes Vincent my love my life, I will marry you.” And then they kissed and sealed the contract that would bind them for all time.
*** *** ***
‘Nine o’clock and all’s well,’ thought Joe, as he kept his fingers firmly crossed when the judge joined the courtroom and acknowledged the already present jury, who gave nothing away by their demeanour. As everyone sat back down there was not a sound to be heard but the rustle of bottoms touching seats and then nothing as silence flowed through the courtroom, until the judge started to speak and remind everyone of the case, as if they needed reminding.
Joe looked swiftly toward Catherine and Vincent sitting as if they were both scared stiff and clutching his fingers together even tighter Joe waited anxiously as the judge directing his attention toward the jury started to speak. “Members of the jury have you reached a decision?”
“We have, Your Honour.”
“And this would be a burden of proof beyond all reasonable doubt?”
“Yes, Your Honour.”
“Then how do you find the defendant on the count of manslaughter in the first degree with intent to cause serious physical injury on September 25th 1987 against Martin Belmont?”
The judge’s mouth dropped open, then he mouthed the words ‘not guilty’ as if it had been the last thing in the world he had expected to hear, and only the rumpus from the back of the court coming from shrieks by Patricia Belmont and angry shouts from her two sons brought him round. He ignored them and went on to ask the jury, “And of the second count of assault in the third degree of intent to cause physical injury whereby on October 2nd 1987 you attacked the two employees of a Mr Jason Walker, namely brothers Joseph and Michael Dullen?”
The judge began to smile, just a little, assuming what was to come. Vincent Well’s looked as though he couldn’t believe he was hearing right and he kept rubbing his eyes as if he thought that he must be dreaming. The judge could well understand this for it was a dream come true.
He asked the jury about the other counts, and each was returned with the same ‘not guilty’ and as they returned the same with the final count, the whole courtroom went wild. People got up and danced in their places and hugging one another and whooping for joy. Joe hurried across and shook Vincent’s hand who still staring into space was anywhere but in court at that moment, until Catherine’s cry of joy beside him brought him to his senses, when rising from his seat he stunned everyone into silence as he cried, “Objection!”
“You wish to say something Mr Wells?” The judge enquired dumbstruck.
“The jury are wrong, either that or too kind. Please just because of what I am doesn’t justify that what I did was correct, or needs no punishment. I killed with these hands. I should be punished.”
“Speaker.” The judge turned to the member of the jury who had returned the verdicts, “Could you please explain how you reached the verdict of not guilty. Mr Wells does have a valid point.”
“He said it himself, Your Honour. He said he killed with these hands. Be it that those hands are different from those of yours or mine is immaterial. We felt that Mr Wells acted only with what he had available to him, and at no time did he carry a weapon, therefore he was justified in acting as he did to protect Catherine Chandler. And the fact that he acted on instinct when he felt her emotions was something we felt if found in the same situation, none of us could ignore. The crime actually relates to those that caused it, namely the criminals and not to Mr Wells who was only protecting his own just as we all would do.”
But Vincent wasn’t happy, something was niggling at the back of his mind and he blurted, “But I can ignore the connection.”
“That’s as maybe Sir, but would you be expected to do. Anyone in their right mind wouldn’t turn aside from helping another when they knew about it would they?” The speaker asked.
“If they knew about it no, but what if they didn’t know about it?” Vincent asked him. Catherine shook his arm and whispered ‘Vincent!’ sharply wishing he would let it go. He was digging another grave for himself, but Vincent shook his arm free and gazing down at her Catherine could see that he had to do this, or it would eat at him all his life and ruin whatever future they had together.
“What do you mean, if they didn’t know about it? You explained that you have this gift, a connection that enables you to know when Miss Chandler is being threatened, or when her life is in danger, do you mean to tell us that that isn’t so after all?”
“No, it is so. I do have that connection, but I can shut it off, that is, there are times when I do not wish to encroach upon Catherine’s rights so I am able to close down on our connection and give her that privacy. If I had applied that when I knew she was on certain dangerous assignments, then I would never have known that she needed help.”
“And she would be what? Dead?” The judge asked. “Mr Wells, can we ask that of you? Do you think it would be reasonable to expect that for the sake of the people that put Miss Chandler in danger you would have to close down your connection with her? I think not. I wouldn’t do it. If I had a gift like that, I’d use it to its full advantage. Just think what potential such a gift could be if given full rein to help others. I for one would sleep easier in my bed knowing there was someone out there with that ability to do something like that for me. Miss Chandler helps hosts of people in her line of work and your part in this makes certain that this continues. You are a team Mr Wells whether you like it or not, and I for one have absolutely nothing against it. If it works then use it, between you the rest of us can feel a whole lot safer around here. But if you wish to pursue the idea of punishment then I can rule for justifiable homicide and give you a short term of imprisonment or a hefty fine. But since you have no money, someone would have to pay that for you and then that would make you either feel guilty that you owe them, or dissuade from the punishment entirely. That leaves a short prison sentence, but I feel that the people in this courtroom would revolt even if I suggested it. So do you know what I think you should do?”
Vincent shook his head.
“Go home Mr Wells, go back to wherever it is you come from and thank your lucky stars that you are still free.” A huge cheer went up from the people.
Finally, Vincent head bowed murmured his thanks, and in full view of everyone Catherine grabbed him, tugged him toward her and kissed him passionately on the lips. Another cheer broke them apart and the judge suddenly surprised everyone by announcing, “There is one thing you can do Mr Wells?”
Looking up Vincent asked what it was and the judge told him with a very devious grin, “You can accept American citizenship and then a form of punishment.”
Brows drawn together, Vincent clearly didn’t understand and then everyone laughed out loud as the judge went on, “You can marry that woman.” He cried jovially.
“That would not be a form of punishment Sir,” Vincent told him with tears in his eyes, “It would be a pleasure.” He kissed Catherine’s brow, “I love this woman more than life itself.”
While this had been happening Joe had been scribbling something down on a sheet of paper and he handed it now to the judge who read it and whispered, ‘is that so?” Then, “Mr Wells it has been brought to my attention that you have never had an opportunity to sit in the sunshine, something we all take for granted. And as I do not think that any form of monetary compensation for the things you have suffered would be acceptable in your case, I rule this. That you accept American citizenship, marry Catherine Chandler and have the wedding of a lifetime at the expense of the crown prosecution and then a honeymoon of at least one month on an idyllic island in the sun. And I won’t be happy until you have sent me a postcard showing that you have done this, is that understood?”
Vincent smiled, the first time he had truly smiled since the case began, and everyone that could see his face marvelled at the beauty presented before them. His eyes like a blue lagoon shone with happiness and his rugged kingly features resembled the golden hue of the sun at dawn. He shone, he physically shone and as those that were furious of the outcome were ushered from the court, everyone else joined Vincent and Catherine with tears in their eyes happy to have been a part of this great day that would certainly never come again.
“It’s understood, Your Honour. Thank you.” Vincent replied at last, only seeming to realise the request required an answer.
“May I be the first to congratulated the happy couple.” Joe stepped forward with hands outstretched, surprised when the judge who he had never even seen leave his seat brushed past him and made everyone laugh out loud when he said, “No, Mr Maxwell, you may be second. I’m going to be the first.” And with his own hands outstretched, he not only grasped Vincent and Catherine by the hands but he tugged them into a warm embrace and whispered, “You two have a happy life you hear, or you’ll have me to answer to.”
“We’ll try.” Catherine began, and then changed her mind as she saw the look of disapproval in his eye, “No, make that we will.” She added reassuringly.
“That’s better my dear.” He told her with a wink and then looking at these two, the judge didn’t doubt that they would have their share of problems but in the main they would be good for one another and work-wise they did make a great team. And with that thought in mind, suddenly he had an idea “Miss Chandler, before you leave I wonder if you and Mr Maxwell would be kind enough to accompany me to my chambers. There’s something I’d like to run by the two of you.”
Catherine looked toward Vincent and with a shrug followed the judge out of the courtroom along with Joe while Vincent sat back down to await their return. By the clock on the wall above the bench he noticed that they had been gone some thirty minutes when John Moreno came in from the back of the court and at the bailiff’s request he too disappeared inside the back room, surprising Vincent no end. He worried that Catherine might be in trouble but that anxiety evaporated when the four came back out soon after with faces wreathed in smiles. A few members of the public and the jury were still in the court and a few reporters had wandered in. All had stayed to see what was happening and to hear what the judge had suddenly thought of.
Making his way back to the bench the judge soon enlightened them when he announced. “It crossed my mind that as Mr Wells pleaded guilty and while the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, there was nothing to say that in the future Mr Wells would not protect Miss Chandler and find himself back here with more manslaughter charges against him. So, I had an idea and when I asked the three Attorney’s what they thought about it this is what we proposed. That Mr Wells was put on the District Attorney Payroll and acted as Miss Chandler’s bodyguard. True, there would still be conditions to be met and crimes to be paid if for instance he overstepped the mark, but rather than kill to protect he could be trained in combat to turn his aggression into fighting, thus using his hands as other men would use their hands and fists to aid another. This then would be considered self-defence and protection, and wherever possible while he held the assailant at bay Miss Chandler could call for back up in the way of her colleagues or the police department. That way they could truly become a team, and knowing that they were on any one case would in itself hopefully deter any would be assailants from attack.
However, after discussing the idea with Mr Maxwell and Mr Moreno it was considered that Miss Chandler is fully capable of starting up alone as her own attorney. But with one condition that Mr Wells takes up the partnership with her and together they set up The Alpha/Omega Agency of Attorney for Abusive Youths a name, which I am sure, you will agree, speaks for itself. As the word abusive covers a wide range of emotions that youths of today often display, violent, vicious, offensive, obnoxious, insulting and sadistic to name but a few. All we need to ask for is Mr Wells’ consideration and hopefully acceptance of this idea. So, Mr Wells what do you say? But before you so answer let me tell you that with someone like yourself helping to keep kids in line in this city I would sleep easier in my bed at night. The city needs someone like you with your compassion and ability to protect and to show that you’ll stand for no nonsense among the younger generation. Naturally, there are a lot of loose ends to consider but between us, I’m certain that we can iron these out. All we need now is your willingness to help. So, what do you think Mr Wells? Naturally you will be working with Miss Chandler in the daylight hours and for that we will arrange protection for your own back.”
Vincent didn’t know what to say but one look at Catherine’s face told him that it would work, and they would be together all the time. They’d work together and they’d be helping young people from broken homes and those that had got into bad company a bit like the way Father aided such youths that came to live in the tunnels. And any time that Catherine had to work on a case that involved being out of the office, he could protect her so long as he only used his hands for fighting. That might be difficult learning to rein in his anger, but with training? He found himself nodding, and wasn’t certain that he had until Catherine threw her arms around him and was telling him ‘oh thank you thank you, Vincent…I know it will work. It will.’ And he suddenly found that he had to agree, for yes, it surely would work, because together they made a great team.
“Thank you Mr Wells, I’ll have the necessary papers drawn up. And what about the name, you do not think it will bring back certain bad memories?” The judge asked him.
“On the contrary, no I think it is a wonderful name.” Vincent replied honestly, “And it doesn’t offend me at all. In fact, I have always found the name to be appropriate in my case and now I know certain facts I hope that it will always be so.”
“I suppose you refer to Dominic Haley when you say you hope that there will never be another like you?” Joe asked him.
“Yes, because its not been easy being me and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.” Vincent told them and they could tell that was an understatement.
“I can imagine.” The judge told them. “But now you can use the way you are not only to your own advantage but to the benefit of young offenders to prevent them re-offending probably in a better way than anyone who has ever tried. Vincent, I don’t have to tell you that you’ve got your work cut out for you, are you certain that you’re up to it? Maybe you need time to consider?”
Pausing before replying Vincent really thought it through. To be able to help the children in the city as well as those beneath it, to be able to walk in the sunlight, to be accepted for what he was by the people of the city to be known among them as an American citizen, and to be with Catherine all the time? What was there to consider? It was perfect and he told them so adding, “I don’t think I have ever felt so at peace with myself. Thank you, all of you.”
The judge drew in a deep breath, much more of this and he would start to cry, he had always considered himself a soft touch, but didn’t want to make that known among his colleagues. “Well, I’d say its been a good day, what do you all think?”
Everyone agreed in their own way that it had been for what ever reason they deemed it had been so, and finally they started to drift out of the courtroom, bidding one another farewell with handshakes and embraces, until finally only Vincent and Catherine remained in the now empty courtroom. The clock ticked loudly on the wall signifying time going by and listening to it neither felt capable of speaking. There was something indescribably wonderful about standing there - just standing there, and knowing that within these walls something had taken place that day that would never happen again. Vincent had found his freedom, not just from guilt of the lives he had taken, but within himself and he felt as though he was standing on the brink of time, and any next step he took would take him someplace wonderful, but he dared not make that first step.
Thus in limbo he lingered, treasuring, savouring the moment knowing that Catherine watched him with love shining from her eyes as she contemplated their future and their dream come true until finally he could stay silent know more and gathering her close he whispered, “Thank you Catherine, thank you for everything. I love you.”
Her heart full of love for this unique and special man Catherine hugged him tight and then with her arm around his waist attempted to guide him toward the entrance near the court that would lead them down to the tunnel world where his family anxiously awaited them. But he held her back to gaze down at her, his eyes serene lagoons of love and peace and Catherine knew then that she had never known him be this happy in all the years she had known him. “Vincent.” She whispered wanting so much to convey all that she felt at that moment.
“Yes?” He husked his warm breath fanning her cheeks.
“In you I have found my first and my last my beginning and my end. Vincent, I love you so much.” Feeling tears prick his eyes Vincent pulled Catherine toward him and they stood embraced for long moments without speaking until Catherine finally went on, “Vincent, when they first bestowed that title upon you I was so incensed but now I find it fits you perfectly, for it covers everything you are to me and you know something, Vincent?”
Listening Vincent held his breath, knowing that he would believe anything that she told him at this moment because she loved him and would say nothing that would bring him pain.
“Tell me.” He whispered, brushing her face with soft kisses.
Holding him tightly and never wanting to let him go Catherine made him believe her as she tenderly replied, “Whichever way you look at it Vincent, they were right to give you that name because you know what?” She searched his eyes wondering if she should tell him, and then knowing for sure that he would understand she added the truth of the whole matter. “Vincent, you are and always will be my Alpha and the Omega.”*** *** ***
The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.