Is Catherine Bewitched when she discovers she has a connection with Vincent and not the other way around?
With disbelief, Catherine gazed at her wan expression in the mirror. Green sombre eyes regarded her with scepticism, her own reflection mocking the memories held inside her head. It hadn’t happened, it was impossible, still the bandages that covered most of her face gave way to the tell tale truth of what lay beneath and of what had taken place that night.
That night. One night among many, yet different in itself, the night when worlds would meet…when the walls grew thin… the one night in the year when good and all that was evil converged as one. Samhain, otherwise known as Halloween.
Halloween, always a splendour to Catherine a time of merriment, of fun with friends, apple bobbing, trick or treating, ghouls and goblins, painted faces, pumpkins glowing with the light of candles. These times Catherine remembered with joy, each fresh year ticked off and stored away to remember over and over with those she shared them with… but not this year.
She would never want to remember this year. Holding a hand to her bandaged face she touched with fingers of light the cuts she knew to be there and in her mind’s eye imagined the scars that would be had it not been for her father’s wealth and the skill of a surgeon’s hand performing cosmetic surgery.
Yet there was something else as she stared at her own reflection and quick bursts of memory came and were gone as something elusive pricked at her heart, her soul, her mind and eyes of blue shone through a cat masked face set to haunt her. Strange those eyes, such compassion! Catherine felt them upon her still except for the strangest of things that they seemed to be within looking out, as if…no that was silly…but as if it were those eyes, those china blue eyes gazed back from the reflection of her own.
Ever since that night, every moment had been haunted by those eyes, and just as Cinderella left a slipper for her prince to find, so Catherine vowed that she would find and thank the kind soul who those eyes belonged to, for without him she…Catherine shuddered…without him she would have died.
Strange those feelings that surrounded her each time she thought of him. It was as if he was a part of her, someone she did not know, might never see again yet had taken over her whole being almost as if he was the other half of her soul, someone that had been destined to cross her path from the beginning of time.
Rarely taken to flights of fancy Catherine chided herself on such wild imaginings. Yet, at the same time she had felt uneasy ever since he had rescued her in the park, and had carried her to the roadside and called for an ambulance at the nearest kiosk, waiting no longer with her than was necessary, just long enough to see her into the ambulance and to wish her two words, ‘be well.’
Strange how until now she had forgotten about that… how could she have done so! That voice, like velvet over gravel expressed care for her well being to such a degree that Catherine knew that they were more to him than wishes of condolences. He meant them, he hoped that she would recover and it would grieve him if she did not. It had been at that moment when their eyes had met blue on green, just as the paramedics had bestowed her inside the ambulance ready to whisk her away, but first preliminaries her name, his name, had he seen anything, who had done this terrible thing…his answers had been lost to her. Maybe someone knew.
Pulling the cord that would bring a nurse to her, Catherine faced the door in hopeful expectation, someone somewhere would know who he was, would tell her so that she could thank him, so her father might reward him for his compassion.
When she came however, the nurse had no such knowledge to impart and Catherine’s notes revealed little. Peter then, Peter would know. The family general practitioner would have received her details by now, in fact, it was surprising that he hadn’t yet visited.
That she rambled over insignificant things, the nurse ushered Catherine back to bed. “You shouldn’t be up young lady, you have two cracked ribs, not to mention that it is only a few hours since the operation. You could faint and how would anyone know? Now to bed with you I’ll try to find the answer to your questions if they are that important.”
Relieved, Catherine returned to her bed willingly, feeling happy with the promise and contented with the company as the nurse fussed over her like a mother hen. Still when her room was quiet again Catherine did not feel alone. It was as if…he was there…still…his awesome figure looming over her in a protective pose and Catherine slept safe in the knowledge that he would take care of her…always…always…
*** *** ***
Amid the flickering candles, a game of chess was underway, each player absorbed in the board and the pieces before him trying at best to outwit the other player and win the game. Vincent, the younger of the two and different to all other men by his leonine looks and halo of golden hair reminiscent of a mane about his head was losing to the older man, grey haired and bearded with merry twinkling blue eyes that spoke of his glorious victory over the chess board. Thus, student and teacher played to win, but as always teacher had the upper hand as he cried joyfully ‘checkmate’ causing the younger man to issue a sigh of good-natured defeat.
“One of these days…” The younger differ man began.
“You’ll beat me.” The older man laughed, “And then Vincent where would I be eh? I do have a reputation to uphold you know.”
The younger man chuckled his face wreathed in a smile that lit up his blue lagoon eyes, eyes to drown in causing the older man to gasp as he always gasped when he saw the beauty transformed before him. How one might possibly decide that this different man was ugly beat him. The older man was well aware that there were some people that referred to Vincent as a beast, but to the older man Vincent was as gentle as a lamb despite his lion like appearance and how he had got like that was anyone’s guess. Of course, they had ideas, over the years, many had been presented but none had any foundation. Vincent was what he was, and there was no disputing the fact that someone somewhere would know his origin but unless his friends were to reveal their knowing him they were unlikely to know where to look to find it.
Brought to the tunnels a foundling, the older man had cared for and raised the strange looking man as his son, and now the two had a remarkable relationship of friendship as well as clan.
“Are you going above tonight, Vincent?” the older man asked with one raised brow. He both feared and craved his son’s answer.
“No, so you can quit worrying, Father. I have some lessons I wish to go over before tomorrow, Geoffrey and Samantha are becoming quite the scholars, I think we have university students in the making.”
“You think so too?” Father leaned back against his chair, the chess game long forgotten as other more encouraging subjects were brought to mind. “Geoffrey’s ability to grasp the concept of chemistry is most surprising, and that reminds me I saw him in quite a heated discussion with Mouse this afternoon, remind me to ask him about it will you?”
“Eavesdropping Father?” Vincent grinned.
“Of course not, but those two together can you imagine it? They might blow us up if they are going to be experimenting in Mouse’s chamber with chemicals. You know as well as I that it doesn’t take much to encourage Mouse to make mischief.”
“Then I’ll remind you. Should I perhaps send Geoffrey to you after his lesson tomorrow? It will finish at ten thirty, will you be available by then?” Vincent asked as he poured tea for the two of them from a battered steel kettle that had seen better days.
“Yes I should be taking a break about that time. Send him here will you?” He told his son thanking him soon after for the offered cup of tea. “So you won’t be going above, and I can rest easy tonight, you don’t know what a relief it is to here that Vincent. Your jaunts up to the park will eventual give me an ulcer I fear.”
“I’m sorry that I cause you such distress, but Father even the likes of me, needs his freedom sometimes. The tunnels can seem like a prison even though they are filled with nothing but love and affection for so many people, and I know that I receive far more than most. I am grateful Father, but I too need my space, and the park is so beautiful at this time of year, so many wonderful scents to enjoy.”
“Vibernum, I should imagine. A heavy scented shrub that wraps itself around you like a fragrant cloak. Small pink flowers upon thin long sticks with small green leaves, sparse toward the top have you noticed any?”
Vincent was smiling, remembering, “Yes I do believe you are right, Father. There are also smaller flowers of varying hues, wallflowers I do believe?”
“And night stock no doubt, yes I can well imagine your joy to mingle with such scents, but the other evening Mary remarked upon another that lingered upon your cloak, a man made scent she called it…” Father chuckled, “actually she said it reminded her of a woman’s perfume, but I told her that would be ridiculous. Not only is perfume in limited supply down here, but you were hardly likely to be consorting with females on your trips above.” He laughed jovially but did not see the sorrow that his remark had caused his son who chose that moment to look down into his teacup in order to mask his emotions.
Vincent knew that his father hadn’t intended to hurt him by the remark he was just stating the obvious. The unlikely possibility that Vincent would ever come close enough to any woman that her perfume might linger about his person was ridiculous. It was also hurtful, and faced with such a fact reminded Vincent of who he was, who he really was and that such a relationship would never come along for the limes of he. Still on this occasion, his father was wrong. “Actually, “ Vincent began, “I did rescue a young woman and it was most probably her perfume that Mary smelt upon my cloak.”
Eyes wide his father looked up at him eager to know more, “You never said. Which night was this?”
“More than two weeks ago now, it was nothing and before you ask no, I wasn’t seen, I was careful even when the paramedics asked their questions.”
Father spluttered on his tea, “The paramedics, and you thought this of little consequence? Vincent! Tell me please before I go quite mad imagining the worst.”
“There was a woman, I saw her dumped from a van, left to die from wounds caused by a knife. At that moment, my only thought was to help her and I was undecided how to do that. I could have brought her down here…”
“I’m pleased you did not!”
“Or I could use one of the pay phones up in the park to call for an ambulance. Since I know your views on having strangers here I regret that I allowed that to influence me…” Father detected bitterness here, “here would have been quicker and safer since she was left for dead not far from the tunnel entrance but I knew that to lift her could pose a threat to her life. There may have been internal injuries that I could not detect, so I ran to the nearest kiosk, dialled 911 and waited until the paramedics arrived. I stayed within the shadows issuing the information they required until I was certain that they had enough to go on and then I left them to it. And that’s all there is to know. I have no idea who the woman was or whether she lived or died.”
“Surely the paramedics were suspicious? I mean a man cloaked and hooded that remained in the shadows, they may have deemed you had injured her?”
“I know, and I took a risk, but Father what was I to do, leave her there to die? You taught me better than that. Despite what I am I could never let another suffer because of being afraid to help.”
His father nodded, “Yes of course. But you still took a risk. Perhaps the papers have something to reveal about it. Two weeks ago, you say? Who would still have a copy that old?” Father scratched one hand over his bristled chin thoughtfully, “I suppose Rebecca might have one. She wraps candles in old newspapers when she has run out of tissue paper, would you ask her for me Vincent?”
It was the last thing he wanted to do, but Vincent promised he would. As far as he was concerned, the least he knew about the woman he had rescued the better, for ever since that night he had been plagued with dreams about her, dreams that filled his waking hours as well as in sleep, dreams he would rather not have. The showed him glimpses of a future he knew that one such as he could never have and they left him feeling bitter and heartbroken as they teased him night and day. Still with time they would pass he was certain of it, he just wished they would stop coming sooner rather than later. He had caught but a glimpse of her face and that cut and bleeding and hard to establish her background, but her clothing and scent had spoken volumes. *** *** ***
Strangely that woman had come from the wealthier side of society he was sure of it, and that further taunted him. If by some miracle he might find a woman to love him as unconditionally as his dreams had led him to believe then certainly it would never be someone that was rich and beautiful. The comparison would be too great and the spectrum too far apart. However, hauntingly he couldn’t put thoughts of her out of his mind even though he was certain of one fact…the unlikelihood that he would ever see her again, despite that which his dreams insisted.
Out of hospital a week, the bandages long removed and Catherine felt lousy. Not only that but her whole life had changed with the attack of one knife wielded by two men scarring her forever after within where sight could not see. To the outside world, she might appear recovered, but inside she would always carry the injuries of that night. And how it had happened bugged her. It wasn’t as though she had been frequenting an area known for knife attacks. She had been hailing a taxi after leaving her boyfriend at one of his social functions, bored as usual at being left to her own devices while he discussed this new project and that new project in the field of architecture. Catherine had decided to retire early, envisaging the cosy comforts of her own apartment rather than the stark reality of hangers on in the world her boyfriend favoured. That he thrived on praise displeased Catherine, beginning to see what her friends had seen months earlier that to Tom, Catherine was just another bow to his arrow to be savoured and enjoyed as the whim took him. But more often than not to turn heads in his direction, to have him noticed in any corner of his world where there were no colours. And Catherine provided just the right amount of colour just the right hue to have Tom noticed that little bit more than he might otherwise have done standing on his own merits. And for that, and that alone, although her father’s inheritance would make a nice bonus, Tom revelled in having Catherine on his arm, thus glorying in the unmasked yearning of his colleagues.
Well no more - if there was one thing Catherine was sure of in her spiralling world of indecision since the attack - she no longer wanted to be one of Tom’s possessions. But cowardice had come to the fore when she thought on telling him, deciding instead to write him a letter, a letter to which so far there had been no response. Another reason Catherine felt gloomy, Tom had not even had the decency to reply. And so she felt lousy and her life so nearly snatched from her felt tragic and bleak.
Her forehead leaned against the glass of her apartment window Catherine gazed out at the park opposite and wondered about that night. Strange how she had been left for dead so close to home, while she had been accosted so far from it, had her kind saviour of known he could have brought her home. Still she had learned from one of the paramedics since her surgery that while they did not get a clear picture of him due to the fog and the darkness they did know that he felt nervous about moving her in case she had internal injuries. She had plied them for answers to her very many questions, but they could tell her little. He would not give his name, well that wasn’t strictly true, they had asked a number of questions his name among them and though he had answered readily his name hadn’t been forthcoming. They did of course wonder if he had in some way been responsible for the attack and a case of guilt rendered his conscience hurt to such a degree that he had felt compelled to call for an ambulance. But somehow, for some reason unbeknown to them each of the two paramedics had concluded deep in his heart that this hadn’t been so. That what he told them was true, though the manner with which he replied and the tone of his voice had, they decided, been largely responsible for that fact. And that was the one thing that coincided with Catherine’s own memories of that night, her saviour’s voice, soft and gentle, velvet over gravel dulcet tones that caused her heart to whisper of things best left uncovered. Well now she was home, and she longed to do more than just uncover the things her heart yearned for, she longed to analyse each emotion put a label to it and attach the other end to him. For whomsoever he was, this gentle giant of the night, he had stirred within her a need never before met by any other man and Catherine felt certain that she would be left wanting all her life if she did not set eyes on him again. Somehow, someway she had to find him, and as she looked out across the green of Central Park, she vowed that to be the place she would start, and so donning her coat and boots, she set off for that area before anything happened that might thwart her plans. And just as well that she decided to go when she did too, for as she pulled her apartment door closed she heard the shrill tone of her telephone sounding in her apartment, and Catherine hesitated only a moment whoever it was could wait for she had more important things to do.
Strangely though the caller knew where Catherine was headed, it was one of her gifts to foresee special things happening to her friends, and Jenny Aronson replaced the receiver with a sigh, “I know you’re there Cathy but I also know where I will find you fifteen minutes from now.” Jenny chuckled, Catherine would hate her for turning up out of the blue, but hey the park was anyone’s right? There was no reason why she couldn’t just be taking a stroll through it was there? Donning her outdoor wear Jenny strode from her own apartment with her face wreathed in grins, why she needed a telephone at all beat her, she could tell in advance thanks to her dreams and visions where her friends might be at any given time. And then her face fell, thing was she couldn’t always arrive sooner than a telephone call, which was why she had been too late to save Catherine on the night of Halloween. Nevertheless, she knew more than any of them. She knew the face of Catherine’s saviour the thing was who’d believe her? There were times when she had difficulty believing it herself, but her dreams were seldom wrong and so Jenny believed wholeheartedly. Somewhere in the city lived a man, different from the norm, different and strange but honest hearted and good, and she would know his looks anywhere and those eyes… Oh she would know those eyes a million years from now, for never would she ever forget those eyes blue eyes that shone out from a leonine face of a golden hue reminiscent of a Roman God. Shouldn’t be too hard to spot, Jenny giggled. Who was she kidding? Where would one find such a man in the world least of all New York City? Jenny didn’t know, but in the same uncanny way that Catherine knew, both had the inkling that they should start their search in the area of the Central Park.
Long shadows stretched across the parkland as the sun twinkling on the horizon burned low in the sky and Catherine circled the area once again. Ever since she had entered the park an hour ago, she had been compelled to walk the same way over and over and her head - it pounded with ferocity. She thought she would go quite mad with the hammering behind her temples and could not comprehend why she had such a migraine while being out in the fresh air. Her headaches were usually significant of a day spent locked up in the office usually interviewing irate clients. So the shout from across the park was a welcome relief to her shattered mind as she recognised Jenny’s tone and a wan smile at the ready greeted her friend with affection. “Jen! What a wonderful surprise! Say you wouldn’t happen to have some pain killers in your pocket would you?” Catherine tried to laugh but a wave of nausea chose that moment to swamp her and much to her chagrin, Jenny had foreseen this in advance and produced not only the required pills but also a small jar of smelling salts thrusting them right under her nose.
Catherine spluttered her thanks and winced as her eyes began to water managing to speak at last, “Okay guardian angel, so spill it. This was no ordinary ‘I happen to have been in the same place at the same time’ occasion is it?”
Jenny laughed, “I was worried about you. I had a dream. Well it wasn’t about you exactly, but as I stepped from my apartment I had an overwhelming urge to grab the pills and the salts and thought ‘what the hell’ they didn’t take up any room in my pocket. So Cath what’s cooking care to share?”
“No you first, what’s this dream and who was it about, and okay so it might not have been about me but it had to do with me for certain, so let’s hear it from you first, okay?” Catherine grinned from ear to ear swallowing two pills between words. Fortunately, she was one of those people that could get them down with a bit of saliva. “Yeuk, how you ever do that I’ll never know. I’d choke for sure.” Jenny told her watching her friend gag only slightly on the pills.
“When you are desperate you’ll do anything, and believe me I’ve got a stinker.”
“You shouldn’t be out here, it’s too soon. Girl you’ve got guts though I’ll say that for you, coming back here after…well you know.” Jenny added sheepishly.
“Ordinarily wild horses wouldn’t bring me, but Jen, I don’t know, call it madness, but I had this feeling, I was compelled to be here, though now its getting dark I’m not feeling quite so ambitious, though it helps having you near.”
For a moment Jenny said nothing, just gazed passed Catherine’s left shoulder to an area where she knew a storm drain to open out into the park. An area visited by the scum of the city and not a place to be at night in the park, still for some strange reason it compelled her to move toward it.
“Jen?” Catherine watched her friend move trancelike give a shake at the sound of her voice and look back blinking quickly as if she was being brought back from someplace she had gone. “What is it Jen? What did you see?”
Jenny shook her head, “See? Nothing. Look Cath, let’s get out of here, can we go to your apartment?”
“On condition…” Catherine began but Jenny beat her to it, “I promise I’ll tell you everything that I know. We can compare notes would that be okay? You won’t mind talking about it will you?”
Catherine knew exactly what her friend referred to, “It’ll be fine…” She told her sighing heavily. Then linking her arm through Jenny’s the two made to walk back to the inhabited area around the park across the street, “In fact it’ll be a relief to do so, I have so many questions, and something tells me Jen, that you are going to be the only one with all the answers.”
“Well some of them…” Jenny began, “I have a feeling that the real answers lie with the man behind the mask.” Catherine gasped, and hurried her friend forward, for now she knew that Jenny had all the answers, despite what her friend might say to the contrary.
*** *** ***
His mind elsewhere the tall slim fair haired man jumped startled as he stepped through the opening to the tunnel world and encountered Vincent lounging upon the wall just beyond the sliding door. “Vincent! God, you scared me half to death. What are you doing up here at this time of day?” Cullen asked anxiously, “Its nowhere near dark enough for you to descend above yet.”
“I know.” Vincent told him whimsically.
“Then why?” Cullen asked, “Oh are you waiting for someone perhaps? Wasn’t me was it?”
Vincent shook his head, “No, and if I may I’d like to walk back with you, there’s nothing for me up here.”
Cullen passed a sidelong glance at his friend, “That sounds ominous, want to share your thoughts?”
“Actually…” Vincent had begun to refuse when he thought better of it but Cullen got in ahead of him, “You can tell me to mind my own business if you like…”
“No, its not that, actually it might do good to talk, get an outsider’s perspective on things.” Vincent mused. Talking things over with Father was often too close to the bone so to speak, and Father only really echoed his own reasoning. Cullen being out of it that is out of the normal company Vincent would keep, but a tunnel member and an important one at that all the same, he might just have something constructive to say. As constructive as the creations that he made for the benefit of the tunnel dwellers, by being a craftsman in carpentry.
“I know you are different from the rest of us Vincent, so you don’t have to explain that, if that’s what’s bothering you,” Cullen began as if he understood the reason for his friend’s sudden inability to speak. “Just tell it how it is and I’ll try to help if I can.”
“Thank you Cullen.” They stopped walking each leaning upon the tunnel wall side by side, between the lanterns positioned there so that their bodies cast eerie shadows on the two adjacent and opposite walls. “It is difficult, and not something I have ever encountered before…” Vincent’s voice trailed away. It was hard enough understanding it himself.
“Its since I rescued that woman in the park, you might not have heard…” Vincent looked at Cullen assessing the answer in his eyes, watching as the other man shook his head, “Not really, just bits, you know what news is like down here, especially if Father has intercepted it?” He laughed, as did Vincent. Both were aware that Father would if it depended upon him stop the spread of gossip by preventing it going any further once it reached his ears, keeping tight lipped until he found the source and could deal with it further in his own way.
“Well it was the night of Samhain, I went above, found a woman that had been attacked, called an ambulance for her, I may have saved her life, I don’t know…but ever since I have had a calling…”
“A calling?” Cullen was all ears. “In what way, Vincent?”
“To go above. Its as if I am hypnotised and for the life of me cannot prevent the myself from heeding the call. It scares me for it doesn’t necessarily happen at night, as you have seen. Before you found me there just now, I had been waiting on the other side of that door for the past two hours. It was taking all my might not to open it and go above into the park. Cullen it frightens me, but I feel compelled to heed it no matter the risks.”
“Oh but you mustn’t, Vincent! If you were seen, well you don’t need me to tell you the answer to that. You might be okay up there on Halloween, but any other night…Vincent it doesn’t bear thinking about.”
“I know.” Vincent hung his head sadly, he knew his limitations still it always hurt more when someone, however kindly, highlighted them further.
“I’m sorry, Vincent.” Cullen paused then asked, “So have you any idea what’s pulling you?”
Sadly Vincent nodded, “I know exactly what’s pulling me.”
“You do?” Cullen sounded amazed.
“She is.” Vincent told him.
“She is?” Cullen repeated, “But you said…”
“Yes I know, I don’t know if she is dead or alive, but since I am getting this need to go to her, I feel she must have survived, unless her blood is calling to me.”
“You believe that?”
“It’s happened before. I’ve seen things, and with blood being the life force of a person, after death it is that which cries out to me, even if it is blood that I personally have not spilled.”
Cullen shuddered, there was much that he didn’t know about Vincent, and much he didn’t want to know, was he telling him that he had killed someone? After all those claws looked lethal.
“I don’t know what to say Vincent.” Cullen told him and that was the truth of the matter, Cullen was lost for words.
“That you have listened has helped, thank you Cullen.” Vincent told him gratefully.
“Still I feel inadequate for your needs Vincent. Perhaps you should speak these things with Narcissa?”
Vincent nodded, “Narcissa, yes.” He smiled, “Why didn’t I think of that, thank you Cullen.”
Cullen’s face brightened he was glad to have been of assistance after all. There was a moment there when he had felt incompetent to deal with Vincent’s needs. They were after all too complex and very different from those of his own so just recommending that Vincent sought Narcissa’s help made him feel like he had done something substantial after all.
“Are you going back to the hub first?” Cullen made to move away from the tunnel wall and walk in the direction he had first intended. Vincent shook his head, “No, if you would pass my apologies to Father for my absence at dinner I’d be grateful. I think I should visit with Narcissa as soon as possible, besides which being that far down might prevent me from giving in to the call should it arise again for me to go above in broad daylight.” Vincent chuckled but Cullen detected the seriousness behind Vincent’s words. “Aye I’ll do that Vincent, I’ll tell Father. Have a safe journey and give Narcissa my regards.”
“I will, thank you Cullen, be well.” Vincent added the customary greeting of the tunnel world.
“Be well, Vincent.” The two men parted company and each turned for his designated destination, one to the main hub and hive of tunnel activity, the other to the silent subterranean levels where only stalagmites and stalactites dwelled and one other, Narcissa, the old witchy woman of the lower levels.
*** *** ***
In her apartment Catherine wasted no time asking Jenny all the things that were on her mind even as the two of them went from room to room discarding outdoor wear hanging it up, placing shoes on the stand and into the kitchen to make a pot of tea and chomp on some biscuits from the tin.
As the kettle sang Catherine launched another question, having been satisfied with those Jenny had answered thus far. “You called him the man with the mask, I only have a vague remembrance of that mask but even so I was impressed at how good it was. Do you think if we look to the manufacturer of such masks we might get a lead on this guy?”
To Catherine’s surprise, Jenny shook her head, “I don’t think we need to act so spectacularly in this Cathy, from what I’ve seen and what you’ve told me for some reason you are magnetically drawn to him. I think it’s only a question of time before you find him. The thing is, oh, I know it was Halloween, but the thing is, I have the distinct impression that mask or no mask he is the sort of guy that will wish to remain hidden. Don’t ask me why, but when I try to ‘see’ beneath the mask all I see is the same mask, almost as if he wasn’t wearing one at all.”
“Huh that is ridiculous!” Catherine laughed out loud, pausing between dipping a biscuit in her tea then wishing she hadn’t as it crumpled and plopped back into the mug en route to her mouth. “Yeuk, I hate it when that happens. Now you’ll find tacky biscuit at the bottom of your mug.” Jenny consoled with her friend.
“I ought to swap mugs with you, it was your fault it happened, shocking me like that. Jen, you’ve told me some pretty tall stories in your time Jen, but that one just about takes the biscuit.”
“Pity it didn’t really in the circumstances.” Jenny grinned eyeing the gold rim of her friend’s blue mug where the biscuit had coated it on its descent to the bottom.
“You know what I mean.” Catherine laughed out loud. She took a deep breath, “Okay then let’s stay away from that ridiculous theory and go back to square one, do you seriously think I’m being led to him?”
“Cards on the table?” Jenny asked. They had pussy footed around it too long, it was time to be serious.
“Yes, cards on the table.” Catherine waited in anxious anticipation for her friend to start talking.
“I reckon the night he became your saviour you were bewitched. You’ve never been magnetically drawn to anyone like this before, and you feel compelled to find him, and not only that but its like you are searching for a better half of yourself that you have only just realised was lost.”
Catherine stared at her friend open mouthed, “Jen, that’s spot on, that’s exactly what I do feel.”
“I know.” Jenny gazed at her friend a long moment before continuing quietly but steadfastly so, “He’s your soul mate Cathy, the one.”
“The one? You mean…” Wide eyed, Jenny nodded.
“Husband material then?” Catherine tried to laugh but it wouldn’t come off and she just stood staring mouth agape at her friend, “This is heavy.” She added at length.
“Don’t you want to find the man of your dreams?” Jenny asked.
“Man of my dreams? Yes, who doesn’t?”
“It would appear you don’t not with a look like that, come on Cathy where’s your sense of adventure?”
“Its too storybook, Jen. I’m a down to earth sort of girl, not taken to flights of fancy, I leave that stuff to you,” Catherine laughed, “and I know I’m drawn to the park again and again, but I think its all a morbid curiosity that’s got the better of me, though thankfully the desire only leads me there in the day. Wild horses wouldn’t get me in there at night no matter how strong the pull is.”
“You say that as if it’s pulled you at night?” Jenny asked and downed the last of her tea while touching the teapot to see if it was still hot. “Can I make another?” She asked reaching for the kettle, “Mine went cold.”
“Mine too, and not just cold.” The thought of those biscuit dregs almost turned Catherine’s stomach. “Yes make another brew, I just have to go to the bathroom.”
On her own in the kitchen, Jenny busied herself making a fresh pot of tea while she waited for Catherine to return. When she heard signs that Catherine had left the bathroom but didn’t return to the kitchen she popped her head round the kitchen door to see what had detained her friend, and saw her looking out across the park via the balcony doors. “What is it?” Jenny crossed to where Catherine stood, offering one of the two steaming mugs that she carried, “Here.” She told her and Catherine took it gratefully, suddenly relishing the warmth of the mug in her hands. “Is he calling to you now?”
“Wide eyed Catherine nodded, “The pull is stronger this time of night. It would have been about now…” her voice trailed away but Jenny understood and placed her free arm around Catherine’s shoulders.
“I don’t mean the attack,” Catherine added by way of explanation, “I mean it would have been about now that he found me. Oh Jen imagine if he hadn’t!” Catherine’s voice rose an octave and Jenny felt the tremor of her friend’s small frame beneath her hand. “You can’t go thinking on what ifs Cathy, if we all did that the world would come to a grinding halt. Time would stand still and nothing would ever get done. You have to move forward and not look back, same with this, you’ll never forget it but you can put it behind you, and just be grateful that someone did find you in time, and it wasn’t some other pervert that might have added to the injury.”
“I’ve thought of that too. Read an article once, some poor girl in France was raped by a guy and left her half naked, and she scrambled for help to a roadside hut where twelve men were working. They didn’t help her, all the did was rape her one after the other. Can you imagine that?” Catherine shuddered half in remembrance of that newspaper report, half in recognition of what might have become of her if her saviour hadn’t been compassionate.
“You said wild horses wouldn’t drag you into the park at night, what about your best friend, and I don’t mean on foot, even I’m not that brave. We could cruise through you and I, see if we can see anything, or find out where your feelings take you. What about that? Doing something constructive might help. Face it Cathy, this far off you are just going to drive yourself into ever increasing circles.”
“I know. Do you think we should?” Jenny heard the hope in her friend’s voice and couldn’t back down now.
“To be honest I don’t know, but we can’t stay here fretting over it. Doing something constructive has got to help. Let’s go shall we?” Jenny sipped at her tea found it had cooled and downed the rest, “Just as soon as I’ve had a pee.” She told her friend turning for the bathroom.
Catherine smiled, “Thanks Jen, I’ll get our coats.”
*** *** ***
Half an hour later, found the two of them cruising in Jenny’s car, it wasn’t as late as they would have liked, but after a certain hour most of the park gates were closed to traffic. “Feel anything?” Jenny asked when Catherine had been quiet since they had driven in. She didn’t know what she expected but she was unprepared for Catherine’s reply of, “All the time. He’s everywhere Jen. Its creepy, but as we drive through I can feel him, he’s so close but I cant see a soul.”
“I take it you don’t want to get out then?” Jenny smiled.
“On the contrary, that’s exactly what I do want. I think being in the car is adding to the feeling of space, I can’t pinpoint his position since we are moving. He’s hardly likely to be everywhere across the park is he? It was flesh and blood that rescued me that night Jen, not one of your evasive Willo the wisps.”
“Hey I have you know, my willows as you call them are perfectly good spirits, and helpful too at that. Who do you think sent me a running to you today with my head full of cotton candy?” Jenny laughed out loud, as she braked and turned off the ignition. As the engine died the eerie silence of the park deepened around them. “Strange isn’t it? Not a dog walker in sight. Its like we are stood still in time and space like the twilight zone.” Catherine remarked looking all about her. Even so, she felt far from afraid as a restless kind of excitement stole over her.
“Come on then, here’s as good a place as any to leave the car under this lamp, we can see from a distance if someone tries to tinker with it. What we’ll do about that beats me, but at least I’m sounding brave.”
“You don’t have to come.”
“Yeah right, like you’d go alone.”
“Actually, strange as that sounds, and despite what I instead earlier I think I would. He’s here somewhere Jenny, I can sense him, but I don’t think he is aware of out presence as yet.”
“Come on loopy, let’s get this show on the road.” Jenny was not one to be frightened easily, but when a friend that she had known as serious and down to earth started to sound like she herself must sound when giving a prediction, it all started to become very unnatural and scary.
Opening the doors, they alighted simultaneously, long shapely legs uncurling from the foot well of the car and planting firm soled feet upon the drive through beneath them. Jenny hadn’t changed from her grey suit she had worn to work, and Catherine still had on her pink blouse and black skirt she had worn for the office. Neither wore dress suited for a romp in the park, but then neither had intended that they would be leaving the footpaths. Now they weren’t so sure as Catherine’s footsteps took her straight out across the grass and turning around and around in circles Jenny thought at first her friend was dancing, when Catherine suddenly exclaimed, “Jen this is weird. He’s here, yet he’s not here, and as stupid as it sounds its as though I’m on top of him.”
“Hey not so fast, you mean you wish?” Jenny laughed reaching Catherine’s spinning form and trying to grab a flailing arm in passing. “Whoa, will you stop for a minute you are making me dizzy just watching you. Anyone passing will think you’ve just shot up and I ain’t spending my evening in no police cell, thank you very much!”
Despite the seriousness tone Jenny used to impart her final statement, Catherine laughed out loud, “I do feel high though Jen, like I’m on something. Weeeeeee….” On tiptoes she spun round and round emphasising the fact.
“Has to be love, you’re giddy on it.” Jenny remarked caustically stopping Catherine in her tracks at once to stare open mouthed at her friend. “You sound bitter Jen, that’s not like you.” Catherine told her suspiciously.
“I’m sorry, you’re right, just for a moment I did feel that way. But its not how it seems. Its just that here you are magnetically drawn to the soul of your soul and here I am with all my whimsical nonsense supposedly guiding me through life and I’ve yet to meet the man of my dreams. It just grates a little that’s all.”
“Yes, I can understand that, but hey ever thought that your destiny might be linked to mine? Maybe my soul mate has a brother.” Catherine teased with a smile.
“Yeah I wish, and that’ll be the day. Nope I think I am set to be everyone’s matchmaker and stay on the shelf myself directing lives. I ought to find satisfaction in that I know, but sometimes…” Her words trailed away as hot tears rushed to spill down her cheeks and she brushed them furiously away, “Oh look at me, gone all sentimental and slushy, must be the time of the month of something.” She tried to laugh but Catherine knowing she was putting on a brave face for her benefit put both her arms around Jenny and hugged her tight. They stood like that a long while each drawing comfort from the other in the only way special friends could.
“Well,” Catherine drew in a deep sigh at length, “Guess we’re just freezing our butts off out here and wherever he is I can’t see him and I didn’t bring binoculars, though that might be an idea for another night, remind me will you? Shall we go home now?”
Jenny too sighed, “I’d hoped for greater things, but you’re right, we are hardly dressed for the occasion are we. Tomorrow night then say we come prepared, thermos soup, torches, binoculars and jeans…oh and trainers, my heels have sunk into the grass here, look.” Catherine looked down and on doing so a very peculiar emotion passed through he. It was as if at that precise moment she had seen beneath the grass and beyond down to endless corridors where only candlelight could flicker.
“You saw something didn’t you? Hey this is weird, thought I was the one for visions?” Jenny shook her friend lightly holding on to her upper arm, “What did you see?”
“Candles, does that sound strange to you? I saw candles and tunnels, say…” Catherine drew her brows together and for some strange reason Jenny looked up and over to where the storm drain stood that she had gazed at earlier. “I know what you are thinking, Cathy. We did about it a college remember? Beneath some of the city there are tunnels that run from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens those areas, miles of them and people frequent them. People I am led to believe that are otherwise known as the mole people.”
“Anti socialists yes I’ve heard of them.” Catherine shuddered, that her soul mate could reside with them filled her with dread.
“Not all of them, some are homeless, I don’t really know much about who lives there, but if any of those that frequent the streets frequent the tunnels also then they aren’t all bad.” Jenny was remembering one or two people that she favoured, people she would pass the time of day with chatting on the streets without too much of a worry. She wouldn’t like to meet them after dark of course but that was another story.
“Well it’s a possibility. Maybe he helps people like that, maybe that’s why he helped you. Whatever, we can find out if you’re game, there must be a way down there, probably several ways down there, its just knowing who to ask that’s all.”
Open-mouthed Catherine stared at her friend, “You aren’t suggesting that we go down there are you? Jenny, please tell me you are joking?”
“Wish I was, can’t say the idea pleases me any, but just think Cathy, if that’s where he is, then you two will meet at last.”
“If that’s where he is, he can stop there!” Catherine snorted, “And that’s the worst idea you’ve had period! I am not creeping about in no sewers…not even if my life depended on it…so you can get that balmy idea out of your head quick smart got it!” Catherine was deadly serious and Jenny knew it, but she also knew the folly of denying her destiny. “Then if the mountain won’t go to Mohammed, we just have to wait until the gentle giant comes above again. It might take longer, years in fact night after night coming to the park, spinning circles on the grass, by morning the park attendant is going to think aliens have landed when he sees all the circles your feet have made…but…”
“Okay, okay, stop taunting me… It might take years and then so be it, fate and destiny have plans of their own so you’ve always told me. And if its to be years then years it will be with no intervention on our part, but if its meant to be sooner than he will come out from wherever he is, below, on the level or above and that will be that!”
“Well on the level let’s hope he doesn’t come from above otherwise he really will be out of your reach. You might have been rescued by an angel Cathy, have you thought of that?”
“No,” Catherine took Jenny’s arm and dragged her across the grass back toward the car, “Cos you know why? Angels don’t wear cat masks, that’s why!”
“Oh like you’ve ever seen one?” Jenny laughed out loud.
Catherine stopped dead, “You’re right. As usual, but Jenny get real…” Catherine shook her head, “I can’t go down there. I’ve never liked to feel closed in but since the attack, well being shut in that van at their mercy…” She shuddered and Jenny understood at once, placing her arms around her friend and hugging her until the trembling stopped before standing back and saying, “Let’s go home, forget this dumb idea. If he’s out here, if he’s your soul mate, you’ll find him. You’re right Cathy, he crossed you’re path once, or maybe you crossed his whatever I don’t know, and since then you’ve been bewitched to having a heightened sense of his existence and maybe, just maybe it’s the same for him. He wouldn’t want you going into places where untold dangers must exist, so maybe we just have to wait on him. After all he might not be in the tunnels.” Jenny shrugged and was surprised when Catherine replied, “No…that is no you’re wrong, he is…why else can I feel him beneath my feet?” Looking down at the grass Catherine tried to see beyond again with x ray vision but saw only grass, “He’s down there Jen, I don’t know why, not sure that I want to know why, but that’s where I’m going to find him.”
“You say that as though your mind is made up. I thought going down there was the last thing you would do?” Jenny asked as they picked up the pace toward the car, it really was getting cold out there.
“It was, but the feeling is so strong Jen, and I tell you something else. If I wait for him, I’ll wait forever. Its up to me Jen, for some reason he isn’t going to acknowledge our connection and unless I pursue it we will never meet again, that I am sure of.”
“So, that’s sounds like I need to wash my thermos out then?” Jenny asked half-heartedly inserting the key to the vehicle with its central locking, and both alighted before Catherine replied soberly “yes and be sure you bring plenty of batteries for that torch too.”
Jenny started the engine, glanced out across the darkened park to where lamps made long shadows out of eerie shaped trees and wished that tomorrow night might never come. Still at the back of her mind a little well of excited apprehension began to build reaching a crescendo by the time she had reversed and headed the car for the exit, “Okay Cathy, you’re on, tomorrow night, come what may you and I are going underground.” She only hoped that she sounded more courageous than she felt.
*** *** ***
The following night, well armed and protected with a gun between them, Jenny and Catherine set off for the tunnels. A updated map borrowed from the public library gave them an indication as to ways down there, but they were well aware that the tunnels were vast covered miles and that they could well be walking all night.
“Did you bring refreshments?” Jenny asked as she parked her car, slung her pack over one shoulder and waited for her friend to do likewise before locking the vehicle.
“Some chocolate for energy, biscuits for fibre, water for thirst. I’ll be alright for a couple of days, what about you?”
Jenny patted her pack, “Coffee. Who needs more than that?” The two friends laughed. “No, actually I bought along some food as well, would you believe cheese sandwiches?”
Catherine laughed, “They might get squashed…” she began as Jenny cut in with, “So long as they stay edible I’ll eat them. Hopefully we won’t need to do, hopefully we’ll be back before daybreak, but one just never knows. I just hope we don’t meet any deadbeat down there that’s going to cause a hindrance.” Catherine shivered, “Me too.”
The pair walked off across the grassy park, heading for the first entrance they knew of. It wasn’t located on the map as an entrance but Jenny had a gut feeling. “I’ve seen people go in here.” She told Catherine as they approached the storm drain, “And never seen them come out again. I’d have that gun ready if I were you.”
Needing no second warning, Catherine checked her holster, and smoothed the gun with her fingertips. At the slightest provocation, it would take mere seconds to take it out and fire, as Catherine was an expert.
Close to the wall, the pair with torches extinguished listened hearts hammering for sounds from within. It was silent and they edged ever closer until convinced that they were alone, Jenny switched on her flashlight and circled the lamp the length and breadth of their location.
“There’s a gate.” Catherine cried, starting forward as Jenny caught her arm, “Wait! Don’t disturb the footsteps. Look.”
With the beam lighting up the floor, both saw several footprints indicating that some people had stood facing the door, and there were a few that showed others had gone through that way up into the park. The different treads of the soles indicating different footwear. “So this has to be a main through fare.” Jenny remarked, “But I’m pretty sure its not going to be as easy as that to find the way in.” She pushed against the door that did not budge signifying she’d been right. “How about sliding it?” Catherine suggested. Over the door was a wrought iron fence that though one time locked as the broken padlock and chain suggested, it was now drawn back, repeatedly if the rusted hinges were anything to go by.
Jenny shoved her shoulder against the heavy iron door, not surprised when it did not budge. “Has to be another way these footprints don’t suggest bewilderment. These people knew a way in. Could try knocking of course?” Jenny turned to Catherine with one eyebrow raised, “Should we try that?”
“Well if we are to gain access I supposed we have to, though Lord knows who or what will answer to us.” She shivered again, as the reference to what had been said in part to a funny feeling that was stealing over her. The connection she shared with the person that saved her life had grown ever stronger from the moment they had entered the storm drain.
“Maybe there’s a secret knob or something. Some mechanism that seals the door.”
“You’ve been reading too many books.” Catherine chuckled.
“Its my business to.” Jenny reminded her dryly.
Strangely when her hand covered a secret knob high above the door way, Jenny froze with disbelief, causing Catherine to look at her sharply, “What’s the matter. You look as though you’ve put your hand on a scorpion or something…oh lord you haven’t have you?”
Jenny shook her head, “No, hold on to your hats, there’s a lever here and I’m about to pull it.” No sooner had she spoken, when the door ahead of them started to slide open, “Holy s**t!” Jenny exclaimed. “It works.”
They stood for a moment just looking with amazement. Believing that the other side of the door would be dark and eerie, they were stunned to find the tunnel filled with light as lamps hanging from the walls directed travellers onward. “You ready?” Jenny asked letting go of the lever.
“As ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s go.” Together they stepped through the gap arms grasped together, walked a few feet inside and stopped dead. It was painfully obvious that the door remained gaping behind them.
“How do we close it?” Catherine asked turning back to indicate that she referred to the door.
“I don’t know. Maybe there’s some mechanism on the inside for that. Jenny let go of Catherine’s arm who in turn at the break of contact, hurried after her friend. Nothing but nothing would make her stand alone down there, no matter how close her friend might be.
“Can’t find anything, maybe it just slides shut.” And this time when Jenny put her shoulder against it and pushed, it did just that.
The sudden twang as the bolt slipped back in place caused the two girls to jump. “Let’s hope it can be opened from this side just as easily.” Jenny remarked, which did little for Catherine’s state of nerves.
“Well onward then.” Jenny took up her friends arm, “You’ve got to lighten up Cathy, or we’ll never see it through. Come on we’ve got this far, and at least we have bridged the impossible. We’re inside the tunnels, that was the worst bit finding the way in.”
“No,” Catherine shuddered, “The worst bit is finding our way out again.”
“Dah da!” Jenny exclaimed fishing from her pocket two sticks of chalk, “Its Hansel and Gretel time, Cathy, we’ll leave markers to find our way out. Do you think we should just test the door opens first?”
Wide-eyed Catherine nodded, and almost wet herself with relief when Jenny easily and effortlessly managed to slide the door back open to the outside world beyond. “Now I feel better.” Catherine told her friend, “Come on then let’s get this show on the road.”
They walked slowly at first, picking their way and remarking over certain surprises that they found. A keg of water and a ladle being one thoughtful item that they marvelled over and the lamps continued to mark their way. Finally, they came to an intersection where lamps proceeded in each direction, but other than that, there was nothing to show them the way they should go.
“Perhaps we should toss a coin?” Catherine suggested as Jenny chanted, Eeny, meanie, miney mo.”
“Maybe I can be of assistance.” The voice made them jump and clinging to one another both looked around in earnest to see where the voice had come from.
“Who’s there?” Jenny cried as Catherine fingered her gun again.
“My name is John Pater, though some know me as Paracelsus. Who is it that you seek?”
Catherine grimaced. “I can’t tell you, that is I don’t know. Someone saved my life recently and I wanted to thank him. At least, I assume it was a him. Where are you?”
“Not far from where you stand.” Came the deep steady voice.
“But all around its light and you sound so close,” Catherine shivered. She didn’t like this.
“Down here my dear things are never what they seem, and as if to prove it, he caused both Jenny and Catherine to shriek as he stepped away from a wall where he had been all along and they had not even noticed he was there.”
“How did you do that!” Jenny exclaimed recovering first.
“Did you think I appeared as an apparition, my dear?” The man called Paracelsus laughed and touched the two girls with a strange kind of foreboding by its tone.
“As I say what appears to be down here, is not necessarily so. Come I’ll show you.” He stepped back to where he had appeared from and with relief the two girls noticed the fissure in the rock where he had stood inside and not been noticed.
“How many more of these could we have passed?” Jenny remarked with awe.
“Ten at least and eyes would have watched you all the way. Believe me child, all down here would have been warned of your approach long before now.”
“Warned? But we mean no one harm.” Catherine told him.
“But they do not know that. Come I will show you the way to the main hub where your presence is awaited.”
Jenny and Catherine didn’t think they liked the sound of that. “How do we know we can trust you?” Jenny asked as he marched ahead and they had not moved.
“You have no choice. You might traipse these tunnels for a week or more and not be found. The chalking you have made may have been cleaned away already.” Twirling round, Catherine and Jenny gasped, finding that he spoke the truth. There was no sign of any of the arrows they had made.
“You!” Jenny flared, “You rubbed them out.”
He laughed, “Yet to be proven ladies, yet to be proven. Now come, the hour is late and we have a long way to go.”
“No.” Catherine caught Jenny’s arm, and her eyes questioned why. Jenny’s next words enlightened her, “I may be wrong, but generally I am a good judge of character, and I’m not certain we can trust you. Whether that will be detrimental to confess or not remains to be seen, but if you don’t mind, my friend and I would lie to continue onward, alone.”
Paraselsus said nothing, though Jenny could tell that he wasn’t happy, just before he disappeared before their eyes. Running to the spot, Jenny found another fissure but this time one that went right through the rock into some place beyond. Something told her not to investigate, but rather to stay on track and enter the opposite tunnel at the intersection.
“Are you certain this is the right way?” Catherine asked repeatedly looking over her shoulder as she imagined the one called Paracelsus to be following them or eyes looking at her from the rock walls themselves.
“Nope, but nothing was going make me go the way he went.” Jenny replied “And besides a gut feeling tells me this is the way.”
“Gut feeling?” Catherine asked suggestively, Jenny was known for her ability to see things that were not there and Catherine trusted in that implicitly.
Jenny laughed, “Well okay then, I’ll confess. Look at the ground Cathy. See the amount of footprints that go this way? I noticed very few went into the other tunnel, it’s a wonder we didn’t think of that before.”
“Well we may have done but then he came along. Do you think he’s dangerous?”
Jenny stopped and seemingly dwelled within, finally replying, “Not to us, though I think he may have used us to flank some other out into the open. I just hope whomsoever that other is, doesn’t make me feel so uneasy as he did.”
“Me neither.” Catherine shuddered. “What I’d give to find someone down here with a friendly face.”
“Me too, Cathy, me too.” Jenny replied grimly as the pair edged ever forward. Back to the sliding door was an hour away now, and apart from meeting Paracelsus and knowing that their presence was known to others, if he was to be believed, Jenny wasn’t certain when they would make the next acquaintance of anyone in the tunnels.
“I read that these tunnels run into Brooklyn and Queens, perhaps we should have started there.” Catherine commented “we don’t really know if any particular section is inhabited or not, though I must say I have been impressed by the tidiness down here.”
“Same here Cathy, I reckon that these tunnels represent home to people, and that’s why they keep them clean. After all such places could host a myriad of germs and diseases untold. It’s almost a pleasure being down here so far. I’d imagined, dank, smelly, wet even tunnels and certainly none with any light. I’d imagined rats and cockroaches and big, big spiders.” Jenny shivered, she hated spiders, “So far I’ve not even smelt a rat.”
“Except for him back there,” Catherine giggled. Jenny did too, “Oh yes, don’t remind me. If ever there was a geezer with a chip on his shoulder, he was one. I hope he isn’t still following us.”
“He went the other way didn’t he?”
“Seemingly so. Nothing would surprise me down here. Hey listen!”
For the first time they became aware of a distant sound, like tapping. But it wasn’t just any old tapping as someone strumming away with fingertips, but rather methodological tapping, as if it meant something. “I hear the sound of distant drums…” Catherine started to sing.
“Oh don’t Cathy. That idea might be closer to the truth than you think, it certainly sounds like a way of conversing down here. Let’s face it they are hardly likely to be connected to a landline are they and my guess is cell phones would not work down here. So they have to have some way to communicate.”
“Yes, I guess you are right.” Catherine responded as she tried to make sense of the strange type of Morse code that was being relayed.
“She is.” The voice both startled them and made them whiz round to face the bearer of it. This time they almost fainted with relief to find not an apparition that was absorbed by a wall, but rather a friendly looking warrior in tattered and patched jeans and sweatshirt and female at that.
“Hi!” Jenny greeted the young girl, “Who are you?”
“More importantly, who are you?” The girl replied sternly.
“We mean you no trouble,” Jenny told her sincerely, “We, that is Catherine my friend here and I, Jenny, wish to locate someone that saved Cathy’s life several weeks ago, in order to thank him.”
“There was no need. We do not trouble ourselves as to whether any aid we give is successful or not. It is enough that we try to help when we can. You shouldn’t have come down here. Has anyone else spoken to you?”
“Yes, there was a man, I didn’t trust him, his name was Para, Paracel, Parcel? I’m sorry I don’t quite remember the name.”
“Paracelusus?” the question held a note of concern and alarm.
“Yes!” Jenny exclaimed, “That was it. Do you know him?”
“Yes I know him. You did well not to put trust in that man. He is evil.” Catherine shuddered and thanked God that Jenny had had that gut feeling about the man.
“Well how about telling us your name? I can usually tell just by a person’s name as to whether I can trust them or not, that and the way they say it.” Jenny told the young woman.
“My name is Jamie, and I can assure you that you can trust me.”
Jenny nodded, “Yes, I know. So Jamie, will you take us to find this person that saved Catherine’s life?”
“That depends. Tell me something about the incident, for example did it happen in daylight or after dark?”
Both Jenny and Catherine wondered why that had been the first question, they did not know that their answer would narrow down the possibilities considerably.
“It was after dark.” Catherine told her and saw the young girl nod.
“And where did this act of kindness take place?”
“Here, that is in the park. On the night of Halloween.” Catherine replied holding her breath. She was sure that any moment the girl would reveal her saviour.
“Then it could be one of three people. Did you see him?”
“No, I was unconscious, but the paramedics told me that when they questioned him he held back, would not let himself be seen. It might have been a woman even disguising her tone of voice, or one with a deeper voice. The paramedics said they meet all sorts and could not be sure.”
“I think I know who saved you, but I have to ask you to leave. I will pass on your thanks, but it is not possible for you to meet this person face to face. And please do not tr6y to return, for after today the way you have come will be sealed and you will have to find another way back to this spot. We do not take kindly to intruders down here, our lives would be at stake if we did.”
“You must have a code of secrecy among you.” Jenny asked. “Visitors must make a pact to keep your secret. We could do that. Do you have a leader?”
“I can’t say anymore. Please just turn around and go, I will make certain that Paracelsus does not encounter you on your way out.”
Suddenly both Jenny and Jamie were surprised as Catherine caught Jenny’s arm and shook it, “Jen! He’s close, I can feel him!”
“What does she mean? Paracelsus?” Jamie asked wondering why the sentries had not notified her that the fellow had been creeping up on them.
“No,” At her reply Jamie began to relax, “Not Paracelsus, but rather the one that saved me. Look Jamie, whatever your name is…” Jamie started to protest…”I can’t explain this, not to you, not even to myself, but for some reason, some unexplainable reason ever since this person saved my life we have been inexplicably linked, as if some connection keeps us together. And I know, though I can see no one, that this person that saved me is somewhere even now, hovering close by.” A sudden gasp out of nowhere confirmed her suspicions.
“Please” she begged, “Step out into the light. I owe you so much.”
“You owe me nothing.” At the sound of his voice, Catherine’s mind raced away, straight back to that time in the park when she had been thrown from the van, his voice talking to her. His voice talking to the paramedics before they took her away to be healed.
“It is you!” Catherine exclaimed, twirling around and around. To hear the voice and not see the recipient was very disconcerting, but having learned so recently about fissures in rocks, she eagerly began to check them, searching for him within.
Suddenly he spoke to her again warningly so, “Step no closer.”
Overjoyed Catherine raced ahead reaching out a hand ready to grasp from the fissure that appeared not to be there the one she sought from within, but he stepped back out of reach and with a short sharp snarl that stunned her Catherine snatched her hand back.
“What was that!” Jenny exclaimed, “You keeping a lion down here or something?”
Catherine was shaking her head, “No Jen, you’ve got that wrong.” And she didn’t know how or why, but suddenly everything became frighteningly clear and she heard Jamie’s gasp that clarified her suspicions, as she went on, “He is the lion.”
*** *** ***
“That’s ridiculous!” Jamie flared as much from dismay as incredulity.
“Is it?” Much as she would like to have agreed Jenny found she could not. A mask behind a mask that revealed nothing but the same. His reasons for having to live in the bowels of the earth. His need for protection from the world above. The reason why he could only go above after dark. Jenny didn’t understand why or how, but her earlier suspicions of a Roman God rushed to mind and she accepted the idea fully.
“Step into the light.” Jenny asked toward the area where she knew him to be.
“No.” His refusal came as no surprise.
“You have to go, you aren’t welcome here.” Jamie’s voice rose. She was panicking, she’d seen Catherine’s gun. What if they were to use it?
“Jamie is right.” The velvet voice from the rock wall told them, “You must go.”
“Make me.” To their surprise, Jenny plonked herself down onto the tunnel floor. “You with me Cath? We are making a public declaration, not to leave this spot unless carried.”
Without further ado, Catherine followed her friend’s idea, sitting down beside Jenny, with legs bent beneath her.
Strangely, the last thing either of them had expected was a chuckle emanating from the tunnel wall. “You are even more stubborn than I’d thought.” He told them. There was a slight tremor to his voice as if he was making up his mind about something and both Jenny and Catherine waited in hopeful expectation that he would step into the light, however, his next statement told them quite plainly that even if he had considered it, he suddenly decided firmly against doing so. “I’m sorry, but you will have to leave. If you insist on being carried, then we have men down here that would be able to assist. But as for me, it is best that I remain hidden.”
“Best for whom?” Jenny cocked her head to one side, her eyes squinting against the rock wall hoping to catch the slightest glimpse of the speaker.
“For you, for me. You already know that I look different to other men. You might be afraid of what you see.” Catherine detected the sorrow in his reply and her heart went out to him.
“Even so,” She argued, “I have to know why I feel connected to you. Do you feel the same way?”
“Yes.” Catherine’s heart raced in hopeful expectation soon dashed by his reply.
“I don’t believe you.” Jenny remarked suddenly. “Don’t ask me how I know that, oh blow it I’ll tell you how I know shall I?” Her voice trembled, and the silence that followed told her that all anticipated the revelation, however Catherine intervened, “Jenny sees things. Its thanks to Jenny that we are here now, and because of how I felt.” Her voice trailed away, they were joint conspirators each having a part to play.
Jenny felt fit to explain further, “I see things, in dreams and visions. And while I do not know your exact identity, it comes as no surprise that you are different from most men. I see blue eyes okay so that’s not unusual, but I see a halo of golden hair framing your face and its no ordinary hair, it’s like a mane reminiscent of a lion’s. Your face…is like a lion’s…” Her words trailed away as she heard herself utter things she had not known for sure until that moment.
Jamie tried to laugh, but couldn’t pull it off, instead she looked around wildly, wondering how someone could know so much about Vincent and yet had never met him. She shuddered realising that Jenny was a bit like Narcissa.
Only Vincent said nothing, his heart was racing like a mad thing, his eyes glued to the two woman sat braced on the floor, ready for anything. He had already taken the liberty of examining the face of the one called Catherine, and had known relief that the knives that had slashed her had done no lasting damage. In fact, her skin was flawless, except for a puffiness that gave away the telltale sign that she had received cosmetic surgery to correct her wounds.
“Say something.” Jenny laughed nervously, “Anything will do, only don’t ask us to leave.”
Silence met her words, and Catherine listened to her heart, and his, and knew when he had withdrawn. “He’s gone, Jen.” She looked up at Jamie, “Will you let us follow him?”
Shaking her head, Jamie stood between them and the way Vincent would have gone, “No, you must leave. You know too much though, you will be contacted. Someone will visit your home, can you leave an address?”
Catherine nodded, decided to leave hers, and told Jamie expecting the girl to take out a pen and paper and jot it down, but Jamie just nodded, “I know where that is. It might not be for a few days, but I promise you someone will come. We have certain codes down here, certain rules of conduct. We also have overseers who will ascertain your rights to know more and contact you of the outcome. Do not try to return until you are invited. Is that understood?”
Jamie’s words brooked no argument, and reluctantly the two woman shuffled to a sitting position before helping one another up to their feet.
“Understood.” They spoke as one, and though being escorted out of the tunnels so soon had not been their intention, they allowed Jamie to do just that, even though Catherine was feeling as though she was leaving behind the better part of herself.
Only one watched them go, cunning blue grey eyes in a firm set face, and a heart and mind full of injurious things as a devious plan began to take shape.
*** *** ***
The shrill of the telephone made Catherine jump and groggy eyed she reached for it, “Hello.” She murmured hoping it wasn’t Joe expecting her to come into the office early. She hadn’t had much sleep, and it was doubtful if she would even make the office by nine as it was.
Jenny’s excited voice instantly pulled Catherine from her slumber.
“Jen, what is it?”
“I’ve just woken up. Cath, was it true? Did it happen? I have to know. If you haven’t a clue what I’m on about I’ll know it was another of my blasted dreams.” Jenny tried to laugh but didn’t quite achieve it. Her voice sounded cracked and strained.
Immediately, Catherine gave her friend the answer she sought, “It happened Jen. We went into the tunnels, met, or sort of met the guy that I am attached to, know him to be different, though I shudder to know how so, and we have to wait until someone comes to tell us if we can go down there again. Lord Jen, what makes them think we’d want to?”
“Of course you want to hon. It’s what its all about. But since you gave your address, like I said yesterday or was it this morning, whatever, like I said, just be sure to tell me when they make contact okay? Where you go I go on this one, okay? No hero tics by yourself okay?”
“Okay Jen, I promise. Whatever happens we’ll do it together. Besides I don’t think I could go it alone. Even though we know a face down there, well two if you count that creepy Paracelsus fellow, I would still feel uncomfortable about going back by myself. You started this ball rolling Jen, so you are in all the way.”
“Wish I felt more optimistic about that then I sound, Cathy. Of all the wild escapades we have gone through since we met, this has to be the most hair raising. I would never, in all my wildest dreams, have imagined being down in the tunnels beneath the city, never, no way!”
“I second that.” Catherine sighed deeply, them to her embarrassment yawned.
Jenny apologised, “Sorry for waking you up friend, but I had to know. Can we meet for lunch?”
“Don’t know Jen, I have three depositions to get through by noon, then I’m in court at two, it might be difficult. How about coming over after work, we could order pizza.”
“Can’t. I’m sorry, have a book signing engagement after work. Starts at five, you are welcome to come along, there’s a buffet, save you ordering pizza, and we could chat between clients.” Catherine’s sigh sounded doubtful and Jenny noticed, “Okay, look we’ll catch up tomorrow then, is that okay? You aren’t working on Saturday are you?”
Catherine laughed, “I hope not! One never knows with Joe.”
“Well tell him you are otherwise engaged. I’ll come over for breakfast and we can spend the day together. Maybe we’ll know more by then. Maybe the tunnel folk will have extended that invite.”
“I’m not sure I want them to.” Catherine confessed.
“Want to know a secret?” Jenny asked with a shrill suppressed giggle.
Catherine nodded, then realising her friend would not see it, whispered, “Go on.”
“I’m not sure I want them to either. Don’t get me wrong Cath. I think the people we stumbled on, that is the guy that rescued you and Jamie might be trusted, but what if there are more down there like that Paracelsus? Jamie called him evil, so why don’t they oust him from the community? Imagine if there are others like him down there. Imagine if we walk into something that we will find difficult to walk out of…imagine if…”
“You don’t have to sell me, Jen. I’ve asked myself the same questions all night long. And I’d agree wholeheartedly but for one thing. I can’t get this darn feeling out of my system. For some reason I’m even more connected to that guy now than I ever was before. Jenny, I can feel his heart beat God dammit, right alongside my own!”
Jenny gasped, “Oh God Cathy…you can’t?” Never in all her life had she known anyone to have that kind of weird experience. She couldn’t even begin to imagine how it must feel.
Forget tomorrow, forget today, forget everything, take a sickie, Cathy I’m coming over now, and I’m not leaving you alone girl until we get this sorted. I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to you.” Jenny wasn’t quite sure what she meant, but the need to be with her friend was an absolute driving force. Nothing else mattered. Today and until something happened Jenny would not leave Catherine’s side.
*** *** ***
“Any one needs me, I’ll be above. Hold the fort Jody, will you?” Swinging his long black cape around his shoulders, Paracelsus reached for the phial of grotesque looking, foul smelling green liquid at his side, and stuffed it into an inner pocket of his cloak.
“You asked Harold to clean the dungeons, are you expecting company?” Jody asked without looking up from her newspaper. She acted seemingly indifferent, but the fellow knew her better.
“No one you need worry about. Just tell him to make sure the chains are good and clean, with no rusty kinks. And straw, see there is clean straw laid by the walls.”
Her gaze resting idly upon the man before her Jody nodded and replied, “Will do. You having another go at capturing that son of yours?”
“Capturing is not a word I would choose to use my dear, and you’d do well to remember that.” His reply held a hint of venom that Jody was unused to.
“Sorry, inviting him then. Are you going to invite him, John?” This time she looked him clear in the eye, and he nodded, “Something like that. Just see that Harold does as I asked.”
Before she could reply, he had gone. With one sweep of a black cape as deep as midnight he vanished, closing off contact with her. Jody smiled, invite or not, she knew John, he would be up to something sinisterly interesting that would bring the so called Vincent Wells galloping down to their lair, and maybe this time they’d make him stay. Jody checked the chains herself, they were bright and new and would hold ten horses, so Vincent would never escape this time. The only thing that peeved her was why John had insisted that two chains be installed, two on different walls, too far apart to be used by one person, indicating to Jody only one thing, that John expected two guests, but who? Who would the other be? Not Jacob Wells, surely not him? Unless…
*** *** ***
When it came the knock both surprised and terrified Catherine and Jenny as they sat in Catherine’s apartment sipping hot mugs of tomato soup accompanied by a plate each of hot crusty rolls. “Who is it?” Jenny called as Catherine rose to answer the door, “And if its you Joe Maxwell, you can rest assured, Catherine is in good hands.”
Laughing Catherine tugged opened the door as far as the security chain would allow and gasped to see the familiar unwelcome face beyond. “You! What do you want?” Her heart hammered wildly, how had he known where to find her?
“I bring your invite to below.” Paracelsus answered softly, making a deliberate show of making certain there were no eavesdroppers, “Can you come today?”
“We were just taking brunch, can you wait? In the lobby?” Catherine added. The thought of having him lurking outside her apartment gave her the shudders.
“Yes, but don’t be long. I haven’t all day. This invitation is more for your benefit than mine, remember.” Catherine closed the door, and it was only when she leaned back against it, that she realised she hadn’t answered him. His mannerism completely threw her and she despised the fellow.
Her wan face and angered expression brought Jenny to her side, “Who was it?” She half knew already, believing she had recognised the voice.
“That fellow, that Para what’s his name. Jenny he says we are invited below, I guess he’s our escort, but can we trust him? Remember what Jamie said?” Catherine shuddered.
“How can we not trust him, walls might have ears, but he went in another direction to us, Cathy, the chances that he knows of the invitation are remote.”
“But we can’t be certain of that. You saw how he appeared and disappeared through that fissure, he could so easily have kept pace with us and we would have been unaware of that. I don’t like it Jen.”
“Maybe, but even had we not been aware of his presence I’m sure Jamie, or that guy you are connected to, would have known he was about. Think of it they have sentries that watch whose coming and going, had he of still been about, they would have alerted Jamie surely? Maybe he’s telling the truth. After all can we trust Jamie?”
“You said you did, last night when we returned remember, you said you had a feeling she was trustworthy. I’m not going Jen, I don’t like it, and I don’t believe they would send him, anyone but him. He not only sounds creepy, he looks it too. His eyes are shifty.”
Jenny laughed, shakily so, “Well we’ll go with your gut feeling, though I have to admit to not liking it either. We’ll just sit here he’ll soon get the message. Didn’t I hear him say he hasn’t got all day?”
“Then we’ll remain here, and watch from the balcony to see when he leaves. Come on we can take it in turns to look out for him even if it takes all day, which I doubt.” Jenny moved toward the balcony, even as another loud knocking announcing his presence sounded on the door, and the two women froze. “Persistent, I’ll say that for him. Didn’t you ask him to wait in the lobby?” Jenny asked.
“I did, yes.” Another loud bout of knocking had her heading for the door.
“Don’t open it Cathy.” Jenny’s heart was pounding.
“I won’t.” Catherine called over her shoulder, but to the visitor cried, “Hold on, we’re not ready. Can you wait downstairs in the lobby?”
There was no reply and that unnerved Catherine. “Did you hear me?” She cried.
“Come away from the door Cathy.” Jenny tugged at her friend’s arm, “I don’t like it.”
“Its secure Jen, he can’t get in.” Even so as she spoke, both became aware of an odour and a hint of green fog like substance that filtered through the gap beneath the door. It was only small enough to slip a piece of paper but the foggy substance soon filled the room.
“Quick, the balcony.” Catherine dragged her friend across the lounge, out onto the terrace and slammed the doors behind her. “It might be cold out here, but there’s plenty of fresh air.” Even so out there, on the balcony eighteen floors above street level, both Jenny and Catherine were at their pursuer’s mercy as he broke down the door, and with a rag held firmly against his face crossed the room and headed straight toward them. And all too soon both Jenny and Catherine knew that with most of the buildings occupants out at work at that time of day and having no weapons of any use to ward off an attack, they were both in a dangerous predicament. The worst was not knowing what this man wanted with them, or why was he prepared to go to any length to get it, and all either of them could do was stand arms round one another as the man known as Paracelsus stood on the other side of the balcony doors with evil intent in his eyes.
*** *** ***
“I’m going to scream” Jenny announced as they watched the handle to the balcony door turn. It wasn’t locked, they hadn’t seen the necessity of that in their flight to the terrace, not that it would have mattered if they had. The apartment door had been solid, but he had just knocked it down. What kind of man was he?
“Will do it together, one two three…” Catherine and Jenny screamed for all they were worth, eyeing over the balcony down to street level to see if they’d made any impact. A couple of people looked up and waved, two chicks having a party, nothing more than that, they walked on disinterested.
The young women screamed again, “Wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Paracelsus opened the door, and removing the rag from his face and gulped in deep breaths of air.
“Why are you doing this!” Catherine snapped. “Get out of here!”
“Sorry, no can do. You came into our world uninvited, I’m just copying your example, the least you can do is come when invited. Now must we do it the easy way, or…”
“We’re not coming with you!” Jenny backed tighter against the wall, any tighter and she knew she would be over it careering to her death on the sidewalk below. But some things were preferable…
“Are you not? I’m sorry to hear that. Then I will just have to insist won’t I?” Quick as lightening, Paracelsus lunged forward and jammed a needle into Jenny’s wrist sending her reeling with pain and horror, and in the confusion Catherine felt a sharp pain in her shoulder and knew that she had fallen victim to the same attack. “What is it, what have you given us?” Catherine cried with rising panic. Scenes of her life rushed before her.
“Nothing that will harm you.” To their surprise Paracelsus sat down, and in the split second of realisation, Catherine and Jenny charged as one toward the outer door of the apartment, falling simultaneously into a heap just two feet short of their goal. Watching them, Paracelsus waited until he was certain that the green mist had all but gone through the open balcony doors, then he made his way to their sides. “Ready?” He enquired lazily.
He smiled when both Jenny and Catherine nodded, and he held out a hand to help them to their feet. “Now you are both cordially invited to my world, and it is my hope that you will stay awhile, are you agreeable?”
As if they were doing no more than going our for the day, the two young women picked up their jackets, donned shoes and nodded, “We’re ready.” Catherine looked around her apartment, nothing but the broken hinge of the door signified that she was taken from her home by force, and under the affects of the drug, she didn’t even care about that.
“Good, please allow me to help as you might be a little unsteady for a while.”
*** *** ***
Neither woman protested when Paracelsus linked his arms with theirs, walking in the middle and ushered them toward the elevator. Downstairs in the lobby, the Doorman watched them go with a chuckle, and never suspected for one moment that the two women were being abducted. They looked so happy, in fact they looked for all the world like they had found themselves a sugar daddy, as with cloak discarded rolled and placed beneath one arm, Paracelsus in his tailored suit looked for all the world to be a rich tycoon going out for the day with two beautiful women and the Doorman envied him.
Strangely, when Catherine woke up she didn’t know what day it was. Disorientated she looked around the familiar bedroom and rubbed her eyes as if she couldn’t believe she was there. Even more amazing was the feeling that she was not alone, and turning she was surprised to find that her friend Jenny was lying asleep beside her!
Shaking her awake, Catherine did not notice the length of time it took to rouse Jenny, only concerned with why Jen was there in the first place, and finally when Jenny opened groggy eyes to the world both with hands to their heads, uttered the exact same words, “I’ve had the most God awful dream.”
“You and me both.” Catherine grinned, “Lord what hit us? Did you bring a bottle of the last century’s wine with you or something? God Jen I feel like I’ve been hit with a truck.”
“Me too. My head hurts, my bones hurt,” Jenny winced as she stretched more fully awake, “Ow, everything hurts. I feel like I’ve run a marathon up Mount Everest.”
“And then some.” Catherine laughed then grimaced it even hurt to laugh.
“So, what am I doing here? Did you put me to bed?” Jenny glanced around, peeked beneath the covers and yanked them back, “Christ Cathy, I’ve still got my clothes on.”
With the covers back Catherine noticed the same, “Me too. Lord that must have been some intoxication we supped last night, got any more?” Catherine grinned.
“I don’t think I brought anything with me…then again…I don’t remember anything…” Jenny drew tired brows together, “except…” She paused tried to sink back against the pillow but found her limbs protested at even that small gesture.
“Ouch. I need a long hot soak in the tub, would you mind?”
Catherine tried to shake her head but failed. It swam when she attempted it. “Go ahead, think I’ll try to get a bit more sleep.” Her eyes were closing as she spoke. Jenny tried to grin but it hurt. Her mouth hurt like she had been gagged, her eyes as if she had been blindfolded, her wrists as if she had been bound her ankles the same. Everywhere hurt and at the very recesses of her mind something was screaming at her to remember what had happened yesterday…if it was yesterday…Catherine must have slipped her something…she wouldn’t buy that trash, but then would Catherine? It hurt to think, it was all she could do to twist the taps and watch the bath fill…until…water splashed her toes! Jenny shook herself awake, she had not known she had fallen asleep, only the brimming bath highlighted the fact, that and the sodden carpet of Catherine’s bathroom. Horrified Jenny reached into the bath intent on pulling out the plug, but the boiling water scalded her, so she settled for turning off the taps instead and just stared at the amount of water. Just imagine if she had got into the bath…she may have drowned…
Using a toothbrush Jenny curled the chain to the plug round and round its stem until she could yank it from the hole, and watched the whirlpool of water as it sank lower and lower in the bath, only knowing it was empty when the grotesque sound of its final disappearance woke her again. Annoyed that she had fallen asleep on the wet bathroom floor so readily, Jenny scrambled to her feet and disrobed as she made her way back to the bedroom, where Catherine still lay deeply asleep. Her intention had been to go through to the lounge make some coffee curl up on one of the sofa’s and sleep awhile longer, but her thought process never made it that far. Hence, when she woke some hours later to find that she was back on Catherine’s bed, Jenny was most indignant. Even so, she found not the strength to move from that cosy place, but struggled only to a better position pulled the covers up around her chin and closed her eyes once more. It would be another full day at least before either of them woke again and by that time, they would remember nothing.
*** *** ***
Below in the tunnels a crisis was taking place, Vincent hadn’t been seen for the best part of four days, and each was recounting the last time they had seen him.
“We were in here. Father you remember,” Winslow looked up at the older man of their community hopefully, “We were pouring over the maps for levels D and E, we were making plans to send a work party down there in the next couple of weeks to check everything is in order before water levels rise.”
Father nodded, “Yes I remember. But was that the last time you saw him? As I remember the pair of you left together.”
“We parted company just outside your chamber. I heard him stop and speak to Mary.” Looking round the book-clad chamber Winslow searched for the mother of the tunnels, and not finding her among them asked, ”Where is she? I thought you told us all to meet here by ten.”
“Mary is taking another look in Vincent’s chamber for clues. I have to admit to checking his journal, but he makes no mention of any trip away, or anything untoward except his meeting with the two young women from above.” Father told the assembled group of anxious faces before him.
“What do you think about that? Do you think it has anything to do with Vincent’s disappearance?” Pascal asked anxiously.
“It’s a possibility, and as with all possibilities Jamie is set to embark on that just as soon as we conclude this meeting. She and Kipper are going above to the woman’s apartment to see what she knows if anything.”
“Don’t you think that’s a bit dangerous? You should send someone like Winslow. Someone that can fend for themselves.”
“Pardon me, Pascal” Jamie spoke indignantly, “But I am more than capable of looking after myself.”
“So is Vincent, but he’s missing, isn’t he?” Pascal challenged hotly. Jamie caught his drift, “I’m sorry, I get your point. Perhaps someone should accompany us.” She looked to Winslow, who with a nod of his head accepted the offer. Father felt grateful that they had settled it amicably. It had almost turned hostile for a moment. Tempers frayed he presumed with Vincent missing, everyone was worried sick.
Other people spoke up telling when they had last spoken with Vincent and what mood he had been in, and the opinion was passed that at the time of his disappearance, Vincent had been largely optimistic about a great deal of things. A trifle worried perhaps about the woman from above which was only natural, but generally acting as though nothing had perturbed him in the slightest. Therefore, his sudden disappearance was a mystery indeed.
“This might be something.” All looked up grateful for the distraction as Mary entered the chamber. “I found it in his rubbish bin.” Before them, she flattened the creases out from a ball of paper that Vincent had so obviously screwed up and tossed in the trash. “I couldn’t read it so well in his chamber, the candles are burning low and I couldn’t find where he keeps the matches, in here will do better.” The crowd cleared a path for her to the table behind which Father sat with hands steeped in front of him.
“It’s not clear, but I think it says, Vincent your visitors from above are staying with me, should you wish to visit with them, you’ll know where to come. Its signed simply JP. Who do you think its from?” Mary looked from face to face in hopeful expectation.
“Let me see the note.” Father reached for and took it from her hands. The initials JP did mean something to him, but the handwriting would clarify that thought. It did. Father quaked, “Paracelsus.” He whispered hoarsely, “So he’s back among us.”
Whispers gathered around about, questions like “whose Paracelsus?” rang through the crowd and answers, “He’s evil, you don’t want to know” flittered back again.
“Those women, Father, you know the ones from above, said that they had encountered Paracelsus on their way down. I’m sorry after everything that has happened it went clean out of my head. Besides I expect the sentries on duty that night would have seen him?” Jamie looked around hopefully, dismayed when it became apparent that no one had seen the Arch Enemy of the tunnels.
“That he can come and go among us and not be seen is frightening.” Father told the group, “But we should have known this. John is a master of disguises, and if anyone has taken Vincent, he will have done. We must gather together search parties within the hour, and each must go armed prepared for anything. Winslow, you go with Jamie above to the woman, maybe she can remember something. It might not have meant anything to her, but to us it could be the key to finding Vincent. Bring her below if you have to and her friend. I don’t hold with visions and dreams but in these circumstances anything her friend can offer would be a blessing and Narcissa is too far to consult.”
“Father, have you thought…what if the two women and Paracelsus were in on this together?” Jamie asked thinking aloud as the idea presented itself.
“It is possible, but we will know nothing without questioning them. So go above dear girl, take Kipper and Winslow with you, and ask all the questions you can, and if you are not satisfied, or if you think they are withholding something, them bring them back below.” He turned from Jamie, directing commands at the small groups assembling themselves. People that worked well together, those with experience in searching the lower darker levels. Those equipped in the art of weaponry in case they had the need to use it.
“Mary, I think it would be best if we assemble all the families that cannot take part in the search nearer the home chambers, especially the children. Organise some games for them, but make certain that hide and seek is not among them. If Paracelsus is behind Vincent’s disappearance, the children might be at risk if they were to be found hiding away from the others.”
Mary hurried out, her face pinched with worry, they’d encountered Paracelsus’s antics before, and each time was not something any of them wished to remember. Over and above it though was the underlying truth that if Paracelsus had Vincent who would be a hard person to capture, than none of them were safe. Quickly she rallied groups of young women together issuing commends for the children’s safety and with quiet precision, her orders were carried out without question. Everyone felt the apprehension knew the folly of being oneself at a time like this and each and every tunnel member prayed for Vincent’s safe return.
*** *** ***
“Do you know what day it is?” Catherine opened her apartment door to a highly irritated Joe, and just blinked at him, surprise evident in every line of her face.
“Joe?” She queried, first checking her watch, and then realising it would not tell her the date, help open the door for him and waited for him to explain why he was there obviously annoyed and raging on her day off!
“What’s wrong with your door?” Joe queried, pushing it to behind him. Paracelsus had had people repair it, but it would never be as good as before.
“Nothing.” Catherine eyed her boss sceptically, and he was about to speak when the bedroom door opened a crack and he swung round surprised, “Oh I see. Say no more Radcliffe, too busy in the bedroom I see. Don’t mind the fact that you have a job will you? Don’t mind the fact that I might be worried about you! Christ Cathy, I’m only a phone call away. Whatever happened to etiquette?” He would have said more only the bedroom door opened fully and he was stunned when a woman and not a man as expected exited the room.
“Oops, sorry. I heard voices.” Jenny hurried back into the bedroom, trailing the unfastened robe behind her and emerged moments later with the sash firmly tied. “Sorry about that. You’re Joe, right? Joe Maxwell. I recognise you from the papers.”
Flustered Joe sat down without waiting to be asked. “Something funny’s going on here, Cathy, mind telling me what it is?”
“You tell me Joe, you rage in here bellowing about work on a Saturday, Lord want me to work six days a week now do you?” Catherine grinned hoping doing so would pacify him. It generally did.
“Saturday! Saturday? Christ Cathy, its not Saturday, its Tuesday. What are you on?” Suddenly he noticed her puffy eyes, swollen lips and tired wan expression. Perhaps she was ill. Perhaps that’s why her friend was there, taking care of her, and if she had lost track of the days…
“Tuesday!” Both Jenny and Catherine exclaimed together before bursting into laughter. “I don’t think so. What did you get the pages of your calendar stuck together or something?” Catherine added with a full-fledged grin. “Hello, earth to Joe, it’s the weekend. Lord, I think you must be overworked Joe, even more than I am.” Catherine laughed. She hadn’t worked for the district attorneys office for more than two months, but her desk was piled so high with files that she could barely find her way to the chair behind it some days.
His briefcase at his side, Joe reached into it, and almost smugly opened a folded newspaper contained within, “What date does today’s paper say Cathy? Come on don’t keep uncle Joe guessing?”” Catherine detected the sarcasm but let it go, only reached for the newspaper wondering what on earth he was doing.
“Tuesday 5th.” Disbelieving her own eyes, Catherine hurried to her calendar hung behind the kitchen door, several dates were ringed, and Catherine remembered this appointment and that appointment, and left the kitchen astounded that Joe was telling the truth. “He’s right, Jen. It is Tuesday.”
Jenny, who up until then had been leaning against the table grinning, waltzed round to the nearest chair, flopped herself into it, then jumped up and raced for the bedroom, “Heck!” She cried, “I’m supposed to be in Connecticut this afternoon! That’s if I’ve still got a job to go to.”
“Whoa!” Joe grabbed her arm, “Not so fast, if you ladies really thought this was Saturday, you are in no fit state to go anywhere. What happened here?” He looked back at the door eyeing it sceptically. He was certain it had been tampered with. And when his best investigator suddenly lost three days of her life, something was clearly wrong. “Did you shoot up?” He hated to think that but had to ask.
Catherine’s mouth dropped open, “Joe, how could you even think it?”
“I don’t know you well Catherine, you might do that sort of thing. And it would make sense.”
“Well not this time buster!” Jenny snapped, “We don’t do that sort of thing. We’re good girls, but I’d sure as hell like to know who robbed some of my life. Have you time to stick around and help us try to remember?”
Joe nodded. He’d seen Jenny Aronson a time or two, liked and respected her, and he would have a soft spot for her if that soft spot weren’t already taken up with dreams of Catherine Chandler. He’s actually made up his mind to ask Cathy for a date the next weekend, now he wasn’t so sure, not unless she could find some other way to make him forget what day it was. Joe grinned. Now that could be interesting.
“Hello, earth to Joe.” Jenny waved a hand in front of his face, pulling him from his daydreams with a touch of embarrassment. “Sorry, I was thinking.” He told her by way of covering up, quickly followed by, “What is the last thing either of you remember?”
Wracking their minds, the two young women thought hard. “I can remember eating soup.” Jenny laughed, “Did you spike it Cath?”
“That’s not funny.” Catherine told her friend shooting a hasty look in Joe’s direction thankful that Jenny understood, “Sorry Cath, that was thoughtless of me in the circumstances.” And to Joe she pleaded, “Forget I said that, my friend is not into spiking drinks, or soup come to that. Its just that is ALL I can remember, although…” Her words trailed away causing both Catherine and Joe to search her face alarmingly. “What is it Jenny, anything no matter how trivial might help us here.” Catherine told her. “For I too, can’t remember anything beyond the soup.”
“Its nothing really, just one of my weird dreams I guess.” Apologetically she looked toward Joe saying, “I have strange dreams you see. Sometimes I can see into the future, and I have no way of knowing at the time whether they are dreams of the future or of the past, when they aren’t related to people that I know.”
Joe was sceptical and disinterested in Jenny’s ‘gift’ all he wanted to know was what she could actually remember. “I think its best I called back when you two, have had time to clear your heads.” He told them. “Tell you what you just call me when you want to talk.” He headed for the door, “I really don’t have time for this.”
Stunned a little, in light of the fact that he had said he had time to help, both Catherine and Jenny watched his retreat with some annoyance, but they said nothing, just let him go. Besides when they thought of it, much of what the two women had undergone over the past few days could never be related to him anyway.
“So what do you think did happen to us?” Catherine asked as she checked that Joe had closed the door firmly. Her gaze remained fixed on the hinge for a moment longer than was necessary as something pricked at the back of her mind. What was it about that door anyway?
“Well without stating the obvious Cathy, we were drugged. The thing is, why and when? The last thing I remember was being here with you eating soup and toast. There are those evasive dreams of course but nothing substantial enough to grasp.”
“You might think this strange, but I’ve had similar dreams, at least I think I have. Do any of your relate to dungeons with bars and chains?”
Jenny gasped, “As it happens, yes they do. And a man, white haired balding, with evil intent in his eyes, I know…Paracelsus…remember that man we met in the tunnels?”
“The tunnels?” Catherine queried mystified.
“Don’t say you’ve forgotten? Cathy! Hello,” Jenny waved a hand before her friend’s face, “We went down into the tunnels beneath the city remember, and we met Paracelsus, among others.” By the expression on Catherine’s face, Jenny wondered if she had dreamed all that as well. Clearly, Catherine could remember nothing of the experience.
“This is weirder than I thought.” Jenny remarked very much troubled, “I’m sure we did that.”
“Jenny, the last thing you’d have me do is traipse underground through sewers!” Catherine exclaimed with obvious disgust. Even so, Jenny was jubilant, “I never said where the tunnels were, Cathy! We did do it! I know we did for I clearly remember that before we went into them you had no knowledge of their existence. Well that’s not strictly true. We learned about the tunnels beneath the city in college, but you had forgotten that, remember?”
Catherine shook her head, “I neither remember learning of them, or have knowledge of them now. Are you sure? I mean are there really tunnels beneath the city? I thought there only to be sewers.”
“They might have been built for that reason, but obviously weren’t deep enough for that usage. No, these ones are storm drains, to take away waste rainfall or tidal waves that sort of thing. But in parts of the tunnels people have set up their homes, many are known as the Mole People.”
“Do you mean that people actually live in them?” Wide-eyed Catherine could not believe she had heard Jenny right.
“Not just people Cathy, but we believe that he lives in them, remember?”
“Now you have lost me. Oh you mean this Paracelsus fellow?”
“No, not him! Well yes, him too. I mean the guy that you have the connection with. The one that rescued you that night in the park.”
“Do what?” Brows drawn together, Catherine stared at her friend totally perplexed. “I was what? Rescued from the park? Why would I be rescued from the park? I know my way out of there for God’s sake!” Catherine laughed, what Jenny had said was ridiculous.
“Cathy! Don’t you remember anything?” Jenny grew worried. Either she had had a damn weirder dream than ever before, or Catherine’s memory loss was worse than her own.
“At this moment in time if you told me the sun had turned green three days ago and I saw it happen with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe you. Besides…” she laughed shakily and pointed to the window, “the truth is plain to see. The sun is still yellow.”
“It might have turned back to yellow.” Jenny remarked, but knew that was not the issue and did not want to get into that sort of debate, not at that moment. “Cathy, look I’m sure I wasn’t dreaming this, besides why on earth was I here? We don’t usually share a bowl of soup in the early hours, do we? “
“There’s always a first time. Come on Jen, its one of your dreams isn’t it? Only this time its one that has appeared so real you have believed it actually happened. How do you know, for heavens sake, that its not like you told Joe, a dream about an occasion that’s yet to be?”
“Because this feels as though we did it already. Oh Cathy, usually when I have such a dream, various aspects of it remain veiled. I can’t see faces clearly, I can only surmise at places. But in this one all the corners are visible, and all the rough edges are formed, there are no ghostly places where my eyesight can’t penetrate. Everything is clear, whole complete. It wasn’t a dream Cathy. We did it, it happened.”
Catherine laughed out loud, “Then how is it I don’t remember?”
Jenny sighed, “I don’t know how or why Cathy, but someone drugged us. They came up here to your apartment, they broke down the door and…hey…what is it? Have you remembered something?”
Catherine was looking at and then walking slowly toward the door. Jenny watched her mesmerised as she too recollected something happening to it in what seemed a lifetime ago.
Tracing the door frame with her fingers, Catherine sought out her mind’s elusive messenger that told her the door had been broken down, and recently too. Cathy knew that there had been no other occasion when that had happened, and she wasn’t one to have strange dreams as Jenny had.
“Someone broke it down.” Catherine told Jenny, “Why I remember that and nothing else beats me. But just a few days ago, this door was broken off its hinges, and as if to prove that, see here…” she touched the bright brass hinges, “they are new, Jenny. The hinges are new…but the lock…it’s the same, though look…I have to lift the door slightly to make it fit. I never had to do that before.”
“You likely remembered it because it left you vulnerable. Your possessions were left unprotected while we were gone. Because we were gone, Cathy, deny it all you like, but someone broke in here, drugged and carried us off. They placed us in chains and used us to capture another and then they brought us back here and let us think we had imagined it all. The only thing was they gave us more of the drug than intended…” Jenny shivered, “Or less than they’d thought. Perhaps we were never meant to wake up, Cathy!”
“I don’t know Jen, but I know you from of old. I’m inclined to believe you, even though I remember none of that. Tell me more about the tunnels, and about this other person you said I knew would be there.”
“Don’t you even remember that?” Jenny was clearly amazed. “Cathy ever since the night you were attacked in the park…”
“Whoa…whoa…” Catherine exclaimed, “I was what? Attacked? When did this happen?”
“Oh Cathy!” Jenny exclaimed tiredly, “Sit down, I can see I have a lot to remind you of.”
When she had done, Catherine still could not believe her friend, it all sounded ludicrous, especially the bit about being connected to her saviour. Catherine would have laughed had Jenny not taken it so seriously. The thing was what were they to do about it for if Jenny was right, then they had left a lot of loose ends unattended.
“You don’t believe me do you?” Sadly, Jenny asked at length.
“Its not that. I want to do. You have a great track record, Jen. But you also have a great track record for seeing into the future. How do I know that these are not things due to happen? There’s not a scar on me, and yet you say I was attacked?”
“Cosmetic surgery…hey…your doctor he would know…it’ll be in your medical records…call him Cathy, call him and ask if what I say has happened to you.”
Catherine laughed out loud, “Give Peter any reason to carry me off to the funny farm, Jen and that would be it. I’m not calling him with that question, no way.”
“Then I will.” Jenny left her seat with the intention of opening Catherine’s telephone book and making the call.
“You’re serious?” Catherine stopped laughing, then started again, “Go ahead, call him, maybe he’ll cart you away instead.”
Jenny said nothing, she knew she was right, and three minutes from now, Catherine would know she was right also. The thing was, Jenny felt that the proof would not be enough to convince her friend of everything else that had happened. And while she might remember more than Catherine did, there were still some things that Jenny had a problem with, like where was the entrance to the tunnels and who was the mystery man that Catherine had shared a connection with? More to the point, why was it that she no longer shared that connection with him? For surely if she had then she would know of it. What then had severed that feeling? Jenny grew worried as she dialled Peter’s number. Whatever his answer it would be the tip of the iceberg for Jenny had the distinct impression that the receiving of drugs in her system was only part of Catherine’s problem. Jenny felt that it had provided the perfect excuse for her friend to hide recent events away, to forget they ever happened and to bury them somewhere deep inside where they could never again remind Catherine of the night she was attacked or the events that followed it.
*** *** ***
It didn’t help that Jenny was right, and Peter’s anxiety sent him hurrying around to the apartment the moment surgery was over for the day just to check on Catherine. Of course there was only so much Jenny could tell him, as far as she remembered the fact of people living in tunnels beneath the city was not something she ought not pass around, even to someone who could hold a confidence, like a doctor. So, all Peter knew was that someone had broken into the apartment for a reason known unto them given some kind of drug to both Jenny and Catherine and now Catherine could remember nothing at all. That Jenny’s memory was minimal concerned him but not being her doctor, he could only advise that she made an appointment to see her own, and relate the results to him as soon as she knew them. Better still, he told her, if he had the name and telephone number of her doctor, they could swap notes about the two patients. And so reluctantly, Jenny left her friend in Peter’s loving hands and made her way home, intent on calling her doctor for an appointment when she got there.
“Now young lady, I want you to tell me exactly how you feel?” Peter asked Catherine as he rolled her sleeve and took some blood from her arm.
“My head hurts.” Catherine told him, “But then after finding out that I’ve been involved in an attack I cannot remember, that’s not surprising. Peter who rescued me, don’t you know?”
“You asked me this before Cathy, and I didn’t know then. The park is a big place frequented by lots of people. It could have been anyone. We were just grateful at the time, given the hour, that it was someone compassionate enough to help you. Anyone else might have added to the injury.”
“Peter, I have to know…” Catherine’s lip trembled and with eyes wide she asked, “Was I raped?”
“No.” The relief his answer gave her was tremendous. “No, Cathy, just left for dead. You owe your life to your saviour, and as I remember have spent a great deal of time looking for him ever since.”
She was just about to ask him how he knew, when there came a knock at the door. A slight hesitant knock as if whomsoever it was were nervous about doing so.
“Shall I get that?” Peter asked standing up from where he knelt at Catherine’s side.
“Yes, please do.” Ordinarily she would have asked her visitor to call out first, but being that Peter was well over six foot and strongly built she felt he would overpower anyone with malicious intent, so said nothing. Not that she could imagine him listening to her anyway. So when Peter crossed over to the door and Catherine saw him open it she was surprised when his countenance showed genuine surprise at seeing whomsoever stood on the other side. Hushed whispers filtered across to Catherine, and he looked back over his shoulder at her, his eyes cautious and full of trepidation. Finally, he beckoned the caller inside, but it was not anyone that Catherine recognised.
“Catherine, this young woman says she knows you, is that so?”
Catherine looked from Peter to the roughly dressed young woman at his side and shook her head, “No, sorry. Who is she?”
“I’ve got a tongue in my head thank you! You can speak to me. And you do know me, or is your memory so limited that you have forgotten already. Or maybe I look different in the daylight.”
“Peter what is she talking about?” Catherine deliberately disregarded the young woman further. There was a distinctive smell about her, one Catherine’s nostrils found no favour with and she deliberately made that plain by holding her nose with her thumb and finger.
“Are you sure it was Catherine, Jamie?” Peter asked with obvious disbelief. “Only I can’t imagine that Catherine would…sorry Cathy…what was that?”
Something had pricked at the back of Catherine’s mind, “What did you say her name was?”
“Its Jamie,” both Peter and the young woman answered together, while the woman went on, “We met the other night in the tunnels.”
“Jamie!” Peter scolded with a glare that sent daggers her way.
“Its her, Peter. I’d know her anywhere. I’m not telling her something she doesn’t already know. Think I’d be that stupid?” Jamie glared back at the doctor. “Where’s your friend? Does she live here too?” Jamie looked around the apartment taking in its plush interior a little enviously.
“My friend?” Catherine asked with a sidelong glance at Peter.
“Yes, Jenny. The one you came into the tunnels with. Oh, come oh stop pretending it wasn’t you. You were even wearing the same clothes that you are wearing now, which if you don’t mind me saying so, smell just about as bad as you seem to think I smell.”
Despite how rude that was, Peter laughed, “I didn’t want to tell you Cathy, but now that Jamie has mentioned it, you do pong a little. In fact not too unlike the tunnels themselves.”
“That’s impossible, I bathed after we’d been…” Anything else Catherine had been about to say trailed away as a sudden flash of memory came and went and she frowned trying to keep a hold of it but it vanished from her mind leaving her feeling bewildered and apprehensive.
“Yes, after you’d been where?” Peter jumped on the statement. Though he had been sure that Jamie had been mistaken, for a moment there Catherine had seemed as though she was about to admit having been into the tunnels.
“I don’t know.” Catherine shook her head, “I can’t remember.”
“Yeah right!” Jamie remarked disdainfully, “And I bet if I asked you wouldn’t remember where Vincent was either, right?”
“Whose Vincent?” Catherine asked.
“I rest my case.” Jamie snapped. “Peter, she’s lying. Any fool can see that, and cos she is, I know that she must know more than she’s letting on about Vincent’s disappearance.” Jamie advanced on Catherine and grabbing hold of her sweater dragged her close and started to shake her, “Tell me, what did you do with him! Tell me!”
“Jamie!” Peter cried intervening and tearing Jamie’s hand away. Catherine was furious, “How dare you! Get out of here!” She stood intent on frogmarching the young woman to the door bellowing about calling security if the young woman didn’t go, while Peter did his best to pacify her.
“Catherine, its okay. I’ll see Jamie out. Look don’t fret so, there has to be a plausible explanation and I’ll get to the bottom of it don’t worry.” All three reached the door as he finished speaking. “I’ll just fetch my bag.” Retracing his steps, Peter reached and scooped up his bag in seconds finding the two women glaring at one another furiously on his return. “I’ll get the results of the test done Cathy, and call you, in the mean time try to rest and let me know if either you or Jenny remembers anything more.”
“She does know a Jenny?” Jamie queried who on the brink of wondering if she had been mistaken about Catherine, now knew differently. Peter nodded, “Yes but no more questions Jamie. Something’s not right here, Catherine has memory loss, but we’ll get it sorted I promise you.”
“And in the meantime, Vincent’s whereabouts remain a mystery. Its not on, Peter, she must know where he is! Where does Jenny live do you know?”
Catherine listened to the exchange in silence, until Jamie asked about Jenny’s address. “You’ll leave Jenny out of this. Peter don’t you dare tell her where Jenny lives. I’ll never forgive you if you do.”
“I won’t.” Peter began as Jamie flared, “Oh yes you will!”
“I won’t” Peter reiterated, “And I couldn’t if I wanted to, I haven’t a clue where Jenny lives.” Jamie sighed all fight leaving her feeling desolate. She had been so sure that coming up here would reveal the information that they so desperately needed to find Vincent and her parting shot made Catherine feel infinitely sad.
“If you remember then, if you suddenly remember what happened to Vincent, let us be the first to know, do you promise?”
Catherine said nothing, believing that she knew nothing, but her heart ached all the same. Whomsoever Vincent was, he meant a great deal to the young woman that was plain to see.
“Come away now, Jamie give Catherine some space, I’m sure if she remembers anything she will let you know.” Apologetically, Peter winked at Catherine as he took Jamie by the arm and led her toward the elevator. The most amazing thing about all of what had just taken place was only just sinking in. It was possible that the woman he had brought into the world and considered as a daughter all her life knew about the tunnels, and about Vincent, and strangely if that were so, Peter knew it would provide him with a great deal of relief and comfort. Because for the first time in thirty years he would have someone he considered ‘family’ to share the secret of the tunnels with, and that felt good, it felt really good.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Six - click on 'Next' below:
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