A child with a mysterious request and a stranger searching for his long lost twin brother bring big surprises for Vincent and Catherine
Note from the Author
It was my intention to write this story as a sequel to As Soft Wings Unfold, however, although the theme is similar and the characters from Soft Wings remain intact, this story also had a mind of its own and developed into a different format to Soft Wings.
The story is picked up two years after Catherine and Vincent marry and in the absence of a child of their own they have adopted another daughter, Michelle, to be a sister to young Rachel. And then two new characters arrive on the scene, two people that will change Vincent’s life forever…
When The Crystal Rain Falls
It was a motion like no other and it seemed to come from all around, and from underneath, oh yes, most definitely underneath. It wasn’t unpleasant as such, but it was unusual, and Patricia felt certain that if she should scramble to her knees right now, the motion beneath her would cause her to lose her balance. Either that or it would make her sick, and right now that was the last thing that she wanted. Hadn’t she been sick for long enough already?
Eyes closed tightly over her blue eyes, Patricia absorbed the strange motion into herself as her body swam up into consciousness and she began to notice other things around her. There were smells, strange tangy smells that tantalised her nostrils with the scent of fresh yet salty air and sounds, unusual sounds.
Straining her ears to listen, Patricia forced her eyes to stay shut, trying to get the sense of her surroundings before she opened them to her position.
Creaking was the foremost sound. Everywhere creaked. From little creaks like the sound of rope against a foundation, pulled taut, wet with water, to the sound of wood straining against a rope or maybe a chain or a leather strap. It might even be some other kind of force - a power unseen from something seen.
All at once Patricia remembered that force to be the ocean. That tangy salty air that was the sea, and that creaking was the boat that she was on, sailing to God knows where, but anywhere was better than from where she had come.
A shudder coursed through Patricia as she remembered what she had been running from and how precarious her future lay in the balance at that present moment. She had nothing but the clothes she wore and she had no family except the life of those inside her womb.
A hand strayed now to her belly to lightly caress the small mound just visible beneath her heart and a low moan expelled through clenched lips, as Patricia recollected her past, present and future.
“I’m sorry guys,” she whispered low, “but I couldn’t stay there, I just couldn’t. But what I can promise you I do not know.” The despair came out all of a rush leaving behind its trail of tears.
Patricia wiped them away with the back of her hand, it was no use crying, that would get her nowhere and just upset the unborn.
A low rumble in the pit of her stomach signified hunger and Patricia shuffled backward until her shoulders met a wall that she deemed firm enough to support her shaky legs as she made to stand.
Wherever it was that she had slept now swam before her and Patricia was aware of a dim light penetrating into the room from somewhere above and there were things swinging from hooks lining the ceiling.
With her back to the wall, Patricia allowed her body to flow with the motion, knowing that to lift one foot would make her unsteady. After a time and satisfied that she could put one foot successfully in front of the other Patricia reached out for the nearest thing solid enough to hold her weight and held on tightly as she pulled herself along.
There were, she could see, some steps leading to a closed door and as there didn’t appear to be any other way out of the room, Patricia walked toward them. Fortunately someone had seen fit to install a rail and Patricia held on to this for dear life as she slowly mounted the steps.
At the top, she stopped and listened, her ear pressed tightly to the door and when she was satisfied that all was reasonably safe she slowly turned the handle and pushed lightly. The door gave a little, and Patricia applied more pressure until scraping at the bottom with a loud sound that made Patricia cringe the door opened fully into another room.
For long moments Patricia stood looking her heart pounding in her ears calming herself by taking deep breaths, until she was able to hear other things again.
The room was long and narrow, and much, much lighter than the one she’d left, but still dim in retrospect to some she knew. This one seemed to be some sort of office. Papers and ledgers were strewn about and it was hard to see the long tables beneath. Only the elongated legs anchored to the floor gave them away to her sight.
Walking unsteadily against the motion of the ship and the nervousness she felt Patricia made her way into the centre of the room and surveyed all around her. What pleased her eye the most was the bowl of delicious fruit that beckoned her into one corner, and Patricia picked up three apples. Stowing two inside the pockets of her dress Patricia brought one to her mouth and breathed in the sweetness of the fruit before taking a very large bite. The juice spurted and ran down her chin and Patricia knew that she had never eaten apples as fine as this in all her life.
Looking around for a place to enjoy the delicious fruit Patricia picked up a sheaf of papers and transferred them from the only seat visible to a nearby bench. There Patricia lowered her body onto the soft leather and with a happy sigh she munched on the apple greedily. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten, but certainly it wasn’t yesterday. Yesterday the need for food had been the furthest from her mind.
Yesterday she had been in a state of anxiety and fear. And at that moment she didn’t want to think about what she had left behind ever again, but as the apple was absorbed she began to feel better though it wouldn’t be long before her babies took that little nourishment from her.
So while she felt able she let her mind drift back, needlessly torturing herself by the past.
Simply one day she had been a child and the next it seemed a woman. Thrown into the world of dangers untold by a simple fact, the loss of her family.
One day someone’s little girl, the next someone’s whore. Literally it had been like that.
Anger rose like bile in Patricia’s throat as she remembered the woman within whom she had placed her trust after the death of her parents.
She could well remember awaiting the return of the fishing boat that would carry her mother and her father home to her, only to have a freak storm snatch them away from her as their boat neared the dock. So near yet so far, and she would never forget the pitiful sight of her mother and father clinging to one another in the icy waters desperately screaming her name. How she had run then, how she had dragged anyone that would listen to the dock to help her parents, but it had been too late as the icy waters had swallowed them up as though they had never been.
That very night, lost and alone, ragged with grief Patricia had held on to one slim hope that her aunt would take her in, give her a home until she was old enough to find somewhere of her own.
She laughed now in derision, how pathetic she had been, how gullible to believe that a woman that had no children of her own by choice would welcome her into the household with open arms. Still Patricia had believed this, believing that her aunt would welcome the chance of having a child at long last.
One night she had slept in her aunt’s house, one miserable night. Grief stricken for the loss of her parents her aunt never even came to see how she was in that dim little room above the attic where only the mice were her friends.
And all she remembered of the following day was being led, no dragged down the stairs, through the house and out into the street where her aunt handed her over to a man she had never seen before and he in turn had passed some money to the woman. After that day she had never seen her aunt again. After that day Patricia simply ceased to exist.
She shuddered as she remembered that first day…she was ten years old and thrown into a brothel to work as a child prostitute, starting moments after her arrival with the man that had paid for her.
Thankfully she was unable to recall the rest of that day. Over the years she had successfully built up a wall to protect herself from those memories. She would never think on them again. They were too raw, too painful and she had been, oh so young.
Robbed of her parents, her innocence and her childhood, Patricia survived day to day never questioning her future or her fate. It was just so. At least she had a bed to lie in and a roof over her head. Some orphaned children had nothing but the streets to sleep on, so Patricia had to count herself lucky for what she did have in comparison though she hated her life as it was but there was absolutely nothing she could do to alter it.
As the years rolled by despite everything Patricia grew into a beautiful young woman with curves in all the right places enhanced by golden hair and blue eyes that set her upon a pedestal among her colleagues. Some of which were happy for her, others being jealous.
By her beauty alone Patricia was able to choose her clients thus securing for herself a new way of life in which she could if she chose to, not have to work at all, and in the main she didn’t. There were just one or two men who over the years had been kind to her and she took favour with them for her own comfort.
As times changed and prostitution was outlawed and finally legalised Patricia had finally had enough. She had a bit of money put by and at seventeen years old she left behind the only working life she had ever known and found herself a clean and respectable job selling hats to ladies.
Her reputation to strike a good bargain grew and Patricia was able to put her past behind her until the time when two things happened.
First Patricia was given the opportunity to marry into a decent family and to a man that knew nothing of her past, second one of her jealous colleagues from the brothel found out about it and decided to pay Patricia a visit.
All in all, everything that Patricia had worked for evaporated. She lost her job, her fiancé’ and she lost her dignity. And the street life she had escaped in the beginning as an orphan took her on board now, as Patricia again had nothing.
Aimlessly walking the streets determined not to give in to the pull of prostitution as a way to survive Patricia finally accepted help that appeared to have no strings attached and that would secure her good pay.
It was a little weird to say the least, but Patricia went ahead with it. She could from this one job alone change her life completely, could get off the island and move to the mainland - something her parents had always dreamed of for her.
And so she went ahead with it. It seemed simple enough all she had to do was become a guinea pig so to speak. Just lend a couple of her eggs to some scientist to experiment with. There seemed nothing wrong with that. He had promised not to damage her, she would still be able to have children some day - he would just take a couple of her eggs, pay for them and they need never see one another again.
In theory it all sounded fine, in reality it was anything but. For while under the anaesthetic Patricia was completely at his mercy and it wasn’t until she came around that he had gleefully enlightened her that he had placed back three fertilised eggs into her womb and he would not be paying her until the children were born. Patricia had dissolved into a flood of tears. Would there never be a way out of the life that chained her?
A derisive snort brought Patricia back to the present, unaware that at that very moment her life was already starting to change…
*** *** ***
Thirty-Five Years Later
Racing into the chamber at what appeared to be ninety miles an hour, Rachel screeched to a halt as she met a solid wall of muscle coming the other way.
“Oof!” Vincent steadied the child, at the same time catching his breath and grinning down at her he asked, “Okay, where’s the fire?” Sheepishly Rachel looked up into his wondrous blue eyes and grinned while sparing a moment to look behind.
“Is someone chasing you?” Looking up and beyond into the sparsely lit tunnel from where she had just run Vincent could see no one, but detected someone was there.
“Who’s there?” He asked, aware that whoever it was meant his adoptive daughter no harm.
“Who’s me?” He asked knowing at once that it was the newest member of their community she was another child who had found favour with his wife and on joining their family had become Rachel’s sister.
“Michelle.” Came the timid reply.
“Why were you running?” Vincent asked a little concerned now. “You know that we never run unless there is an emergency. You could have tripped someone.”
“Like Father you mean, Vincent?” Michelle came into view now that she was beginning to feel easier. Despite his lion like appearance Michelle was quickly learning that Vincent was no more ferocious than a lamb.
“Yes like Father. Or like William carrying a tray of scalding tea. How would you have liked that upon your head?”
“I’m sorry, Vincent.” Michelle murmured.
“So why were you running?” He exasperated feeling very much like he was going around in circles.
“Because Mummy is throwing her clothes away.” Rachel told him, as if that answered all his questions spoken and unspoken.
“Oh, that’s a good a reason as any.” He smiled warmly causing his eyes to dance just the way that Rachel liked to see them. “Then I’d best not stand in your way.” He side-stepped to the tunnel wall allowing the two children access into his chamber, but rather than continue on his way to Father’s chamber as had been his intention he followed them back into his own.
“Go…stay…go…stay…go…stay…” Vincent smiled as his wife tugged clothing from boxes, suitcases and drawers where she had first stored them on her arrival to the tunnels over two years ago. In fact it had been the mounting piles of clothing that had sent him to Father’s chamber in the beginning feeling very much like he was being ousted from his own quarters as Catherine’s ‘go’ pile soon exceeded the ‘stay’.
Two pairs of tiny feet halted Catherine with her hands in mid flow as she noticed them standing before the ever-increasing pile. She looked up and her face was wreathed in smiles as she had recognised the footwear worn by her two adoptive daughters.
“Can I get you two something?” She drew herself up with the intention of standing, laughing out loud when Rachel told her, “Stay there, Mummy, don’t try to get up.” Making her feel awfully old all of the sudden. Over the tops of two bonny heads, Catherine’s eyes met those of her husband’s finding him grinning from ear to ear understanding her feelings through their wonderful Bond.
“Mary said you were throwing your clothes away?” Rachel asked eyeing the piles of clothing critically.
“Well not exactly. These clothes are far too inappropriate for tunnel wear and taking up far more space than is necessary.” ‘Especially since Michelle has joined us’ she added under her breath. Once Vincent’s chamber had just been for him, now he was sharing it with a growing family. ‘Without complaint’ she had to admit, but since it took him longer to find anything of his own these days, she thought she better act and not keep saving things for sentimental sake.
“Where are you taking them?”
“Well not down here. I’ve asked around and though the material can be used, most of the ladies living below feel that it would be a terrible waste to cut up these satin gowns and camisoles. So Uncle Peter is going to take them above to sell and bring the money back down to Father, so that he might be able to purchase whatever we do need instead.”
“But not this?” With loving fingers Rachel stroked the bright orange Duffel coat almost with reverence, “You’re not throwing this out are you?”
“Well to be honest I hadn’t decided, it does take up a lot of room. And it does make me stand out like a sore thumb wearing it down here. I thought I may as well part with it.”
Catherine stared at Rachel her heart breaking to see the tears on the child’s lashes and her lips trembling as she began to cry. “What is it sweetheart? Tell me?” Instantly Vincent was at Catherine’s side, joining her down on the floor, his face level with the two children, his eyes appealing for them to tell he and his wife what was the problem.
Rachel shook her head, finding it hard to say. Instead she murmured, “Can I keep it?”
“Oh but where?” Catherine began.
“I can throw it over my bed, it’ll keep me warm.”
Catherine could have argued against that. The coat would fetch a good sum of money above, but it seemed so important to Rachel that she keep it.
“Please?” Rachel swallowed hard causing Catherine to draw her brows together. It was the first time that Rachel had been so adamant about anything since Michelle had tried to take away her cuddly lion. The one that Catherine had bought her that day she had first visited Rachel at the children’s home.
As Catherine remembered that time, as she so often did, she began to realise why the orange coat meant so much to Rachel. It had been the one she had worn that first day, and the one she had worn all the days until she had brought Rachel to live beneath the streets of Manhattan to the secret world Below.
“Of course you can keep it, sweetheart.” Catherine drew Rachel against her hugging her hard, pulling Michelle in for a share of her love, even as Vincent enfolded the three within his large embrace.
“I love you Mummy, Daddy.” Rachel told them hugging them back her tears dry now that her eyes were shining with pleasure.
“Is there anything that you would like to keep, Michelle?” Catherine asked her new daughter.
Michelle shook her head picking up instead a beautiful satin gown in pale lilac, surprising both Catherine and Vincent when she said, “No, but this looks expensive. Can I have whatever money it brings?”
Exchanging glances, Vincent and Catherine stared open mouthed at Michelle, quite lost for words. All the children earned pocket money in the tunnels, not much but enough to buy them a few pleasures. But this gown would bring in hundreds of dollars, money that could be used to a far greater degree in the hands of someone that would spend it and administer the purchased goods in the right way.
“That’s an awful lot of money Michelle. Can you tell me why you need it?” Catherine asked gently.
Vehemently Michelle shook her head. “Can I have it?” She asked again, setting up a gentle tug of war as Catherine held on to the gown.
A predicament settled around the family. They hadn’t faced anything like it before and they were at a loss to know how to deal with it. It also concerned the two adults greatly as each wondered why their new daughter would want such a vast sum of money, and obviously very much so if the way she was holding onto the gown was anything to go by.
“All right.” Catherine spoke at length, not seeing another way out for the moment, “But on condition…”
Guarded Michelle eyed her mother speculatively, wondering about those conditions. She said nothing just waited for Catherine to continue.
…”That you…” Lost for words Catherine could not go on. She had so many conditions she wanted to impose, but Michelle being so new to the tunnels and still learning to trust them and they in turn still learning to understand her, decided that each condition could to be too burdensome for one so young.
“It doesn’t matter.” She finished lamely. “I’ll ask Uncle Peter to try to get a good price for it okay honey?”
Michelle started to smile then, relieved that no conditions were forthcoming. For one horrible moment she thought that she would be made to tell why she needed so much money. And she could never tell them that, the same way that she could never call them Mummy and Daddy as Rachel did so readily now. And neither would these people that she lived with beneath the city streets ever be her family, and never would Rachel ever be her sister…although that last hurt a bit. For Michelle was beginning to love Rachel like the sister she had always wanted but had never had.
Almost as quickly as they arrived the two girls left the chamber arm in arm and in a flurry of excited chatter. Catherine stood up, helped to her feet by Vincent who had stood up moments before. “I wonder why Michelle wants the money?” Vincent asked.
“I don’t know Vincent. It worries me. That’s a lot of money for a girl her age to stuff under the mattress.”
“Assuming it gets that far.” Vincent spoke softly rubbing his wife’s aching back. He knew through their connection that she had been bending too long.
“I wish we knew more about her, Vincent. With Rachel it was relatively easy, having her case records at hand, but since I ceased working as a district attorney, any rights I once may have had to pull strings and inspect files has long since been denied me. And Peter will reveal nothing of her past.” She sighed knowing she had already said too much and what was to come.
“The price you pay for living down here with me.” Vincent mumbled sadly against the top of her head where he rested his chin.
“And I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Catherine told him adamantly “You know that Vincent.”
“Maybe Joe…” He ventured unwilling to go down that old famous road with her. He knew she would never agree with him over his claims anyway.
“Yes, maybe Joe could help.” Even so Catherine didn’t sound too convinced of this. Vincent knew it was because Joe had been very busy ever since John Moreno had been taken ill and hospitalised and he’d been carrying the workload of two men. Just as well they had replaced Catherine, he thought.
“And maybe it’ll solve itself. You know Catherine many children have come and gone over the years through these tunnels. We have always found that time, love and patience has given them confidence to speak of secrets they once may never have told a soul. Perhaps that’s all we should have need of my love…patience. Michelle will tell us in her own time. Or maybe she will tell Rachel.”
“Mmm, perhaps. It may be a bit much to expect Rachel to shoulder any kind of responsibility Vincent, especially secrets. You know how she is with them?”
He did know. He remembered only too well how the very word would conjure up all kinds of horrors for the young girl. Her stepfather had used the word many times to cover up things that he had done to her. Things that the pair of them never wanted Rachel to be reminded of. Yet they had done so over the past few months as Rachel’s nightmares had brought them face to face with it, and love for her had helped them to reach out to and help her forget those atrocities that she had once borne in silence.
“We’ll just have to wait Vincent. Maybe Michelle will tell us in time. Until then I think that whatever she thinks she needs the money for was very real to her. Did you see her eyes? I don’t think I have ever seen her so nervous as she waited for my answer, and if we employ anyone’s help in this and she finds out, she may never trust us at all. You’re right, Vincent we need patience on this one, and time however long it takes. Frankly though I hope we don’t have to wait too long. This whole thing worries me.”
Vincent hugged her tight, instilling his love to her via their connection, and she did feel better as she felt it flow through her. It was amazing how each of them could do that for the other one.
“So then.” Catherine stepped away from him reluctantly as she remembered what she had been doing, “I’d best get this job finished or we might never get to our beds tonight. Want to help me?” She teased him knowing full well that he did not, simply every time he picked up one of her lacy sets of underwear he found other things to do with her springing to mind and then they never got anything else done that day.
Vincent blushed, as Catherine had known he would, and taking pity on him, she kissed his furry nose before telling him, “Weren’t you going to see Father?”
“What? Oh yes. Yes I was. I’ll see you later then Catherine, are you sure you don’t need my help?”
Catherine almost laughed at the hopeful expectation of her refusal became apparent in his tone, “No of course not. I can manage.” They exchanged knowing smiles, and a warm kiss before moving away to get on with their respective jobs. And Vincent smiled for as he moved away from the chamber he heard Catherine resume her chanting of ‘go…stay….go…stay…go…’ as she continued to sort out her clothes.
*** *** ***
From storm laden skies the rain fell in a steady stream, a rhythmic sound that provided a soothing backdrop to the thoughts of the two people that looked without seeing past the rivulets of water cascading down the window panes through to the sodden grass and rain flattened flowers outside.
For two whole days it had rained without letup, casting sullen gloom over the inhabitants of Hunters Creek Nursing Home, forcing them to stay inside the complex.
And as the sound of the heavy rain against the windows penetrated her thoughts, Bliss Jameson exhaled a deep sigh that touched the otherwise quiet atmosphere of her room. Casting her vivid blue eyes away from the outside world Bliss’s gaze fell upon her son who was sitting upon the side of the bed, his chin propped against the window sill, his countenance reminiscent of someone with a heavy weight upon his shoulders. Looking sideways back to the window again, Bliss told her son wistfully, “If only they would let me out of here.”
Lifting his head, her son looked up at her, a concerned expression crossing his rugged features, and not understanding for the moment, spoke in a soft velvety voice, “You’d get soaked out there Mama, and probably catch your death.”
Bliss looked back at him, “I don’t just mean for today Georgie, I mean I wish I could leave here for good.” Then as she directed her eyes back to the outside world, she went on quietly, “I was getting so close Georgie. I could feel it here.” Turning she touched the region of her heart with one slender hand, before continuing, “He’s out there somewhere Georgie, I know it. He’s alive and well, and being cared for by someone good, I am certain of it.” Her voice trailed away, as her thoughts took over and her son barely heard her when she whispered, “Oh Frankie, if only I could see you again before I die.”
Startled, Georgie turned his head sharply, “Don’t talk like that Mama, or is there something that you haven’t told me?”
His mother turned those vivid blue eyes back to regard her son, and she looked at him hard, trying to read the expression upon his face. He looked worried, and she realised what he was thinking, “Oh no, Georgie, no,” she reassured him, “That’s not what I meant at all. I’m not ill.” She saw her son relax and went on. “It was just an expression of speech that’s all Georgie.” She sighed deeply before turning back to the rain drenched world. “Its just that for almost thirty-five years I have searched, and I have come so close, and now this.” She gestured around the room with one arm, “they think I’m nuts Georgie, they think they should lock me away for the safety of others.” She laughed derisively. “As if.” and gave a little giggle, until the laughter died away and once again the enormity of her plight took hold and tears gathered and fell from her beautiful eyes.
Georgie stood up, coming to stand in front of her, extracted a large blue handkerchief from his pocket and pushed it into her hand before putting his arms around her, “Don’t cry Mama, they can’t keep you here forever.”
Bliss sniffed back her tears; “they can you know.” She told him seriously, “as long as I maintain that he exists, they will think I am crazy, and how can I possibly deny his existence when it is the truth? To deny him, would be to deny myself of something I have lived for all those years. It would be such a waste.”
“Maybe not Mama, it might seem so, but if you stand any chance at all of convincing these people that you aren’t crazy, then you have to tell them that you no longer harbour these thoughts.”
Bliss looked at her son in surprise, “Tell them I made it all up!” She cried, “How can I do that? Georgie, he’s real you know that!”
Her son sighed, “I only know what you have led me to believe Mama.” He told her quietly. She gasped but before she could reply, he went on, “don’t despair Mama, I do believe you, besides...” he added somewhat wistfully, “I too feel it in here.” And he too gestured to his heart.
Bliss leaned her face into the solid warmth of her son, before turning it up towards his, “He’s your brother Georgie, your twin, and twins have a special affinity with one another. You were together before you were born and for one day afterward. It was enough to connect you, and you must let that feeling guide you now while I am shut away in here. You will continue the search won’t you Georgie? I can rely on you can’t I?”
Her son patted her shoulders, and kissed the tip of her nose, telling her softly, “You can count on me Mama, I won’t let you down.”
Bliss sighed with relief, yet her son’s safety was also paramount and she told him, “You must promise me that you will avoid the authorities, you mustn’t say too much to people, you will promise me that won’t you Georgie?” Concern tainted her otherwise soft features.
“In case they lock me up too.” He teased, immediately sorry when she reprimanded him, “Its not funny Georgie. It’s a very real possibility. You must keep his identity to yourself.”
“Isn’t that what I was saying to you Mama? Oh I know the importance of finding him, but Mama, while you maintain his existence they’ll keep you locked away here. Better to let them think you are cured of whatever madness suddenly possessed you to speak of him, and then you will be free. Surely a small lie wouldn’t hurt, not when the alternative is freedom.”
Bliss sighed, “I don’t know Georgie, I’ve never told a lie in my life. You know how I feel about lying.”
“That may be so, Mama, but do they believe you now?”
“Yes Mama, about Frankie. Well do they?”
Bliss looked away, back out to the extensive gardens outside, where slender daffodils bashed relentlessly by the rain, were still trying to hold their heads erect with pride against the storm, and suddenly Bliss felt like one of them, “No they don’t. They don’t believe me. They think I am lying, or that I am nuts, but I’m not nuts Georgie. Your brother does exist, and yes Georgie, you are right, whatever it takes, even if it comes down to telling my first lie, I have to tell it in order to get out of here.”
“That’s the fighting spirit Mama. I thought you had lost it.” Her son hugged her fiercely.
Bliss laughed, “Never. I just lost sight of it for a while that’s all. I’m getting out of here Georgie, you mark my words and together we can continue this search. In the meantime....”
Georgie smiled, “You want me to go it alone?”
“Am I so obvious?” Bliss laughed, “Only until I can join you. Georgie, I came so close. Look let me show you what I was working on before I was forced to come here.” Turning away from the window, Bliss crossed to the other side of the small room. It was only large enough to hold one small divan, a wardrobe, and a chest of drawers, as meals were taken in the community dining room and four people shared a bathroom.
Bending to the bottom drawer, Bliss opened it and extracted a leather bound journal, tan in colour with gold braiding. The pages bulged from out of one side, from where Bliss had added pages to it over the years, rather than buy more journals. “This holds everything of my search Georgie. There’s thirty-five years packed inside this journal. Many times I drew a blank when the trail went cold, but just lately Georgie, I have been following various reports in the newspapers, which all seem to hold to a set pattern, and all of them involve the same woman.” Going back towards the window, Bliss sat at the edge of her bed by the window, and opened the journal, “Come sit beside me Georgie, and see what I have found.”
From the journal Georgie watched as his mother pulled out several neatly folded newspaper clippings and smoothed them upon her lap. From the heading, Georgie could already see that most were of similar content. Time and time again, his mother pointed to the headlines and Georgie could only nod in agreement, although deep inside he was feeling quite sick. Surely this could not be his brother?
One after the other the headlines spoke of mystery killings. Victims seemingly mauled by a lion. And every time, the one name that cropped up repeatedly was Catherine Chandler, Assistant District Attorney.
This is where you must start Georgie.” Bliss pointed to the name, “With this woman. She knows something, I’m certain of it. You know what I think?”
Georgie smiled at his mother, knowing how she loved a good mystery, startled by her next words, “I think this woman and my Frankie are connected somehow. Maybe they are in love, I don’t know, but what I do know is, that whenever this woman places herself in danger, this...” Bliss struggled for the right words before continuing, “this...being, comes to her rescue.”
“And you think its Frankie?” Georgie was still bothered about that, but his mother’s bright eyes spoke to him the answer even before the words were borne from her lips, “Yes” she whispered, “I do.”
For a moment Georgie shivered, if that were so, what sort of brother was this creature? And did he really want to unearth such a person and lay claim to him? Georgie had never killed another in his life, and it unnerved him to think that his twin could.
“Then, he is somewhere in the city.” Georgie said, speaking his thoughts aloud.
Bliss nodded, “Or beneath it.”
Startled Georgie looked hard at her, “Beneath it?” he repeated, “How?”
“Did you never learn anything at school?” His mother was laughing at him, “Georgie you surprise me.”
“So tell me.” Georgie smiled at his mother, while exhaling a soft sigh of amusement.
Bliss patted her son’s hand, and as she began to relate part of the history of New York to him, her eyes literally came to life with happiness, “Beneath the city are miles upon miles of tunnels Georgie. Leading right through to Queens and Brooklyn, you imagine that! Why living beneath the city streets would be the perfect hide out for your brother.”
“Then he would need friends to help care for him, get him food...” Georgie gasped, “Oh no, Mama! You don’t think he is cannibalistic do you?”
Bliss laughed gaily, “No way Georgie. Have you seen this Catherine Chandler, there’s a photograph of her somewhere,” Bliss went through the bundle of clippings methodically, “Here, look. See how beautiful she is. Surely she would have nothing to do with Frankie if he ate parts of his victims.”
“What does beauty have to do with it? Have you never heard of beauty but no brains Mama?”
Bliss laughed, Georgie was getting ridiculous. “Just listen to yourself will you? If the woman had no brains, and did not care or realise that the being was cannibalistic, do you seriously believe she would have kept him a secret or that he wouldn’t have eaten her too by now?” Bliss pursed her lips together; trying very hard not to laugh out loud, the thought was so funny.
Rather than be offended, Georgie felt his own lips twitch, knowing from past experience when he was beaten. “Okay Mama, you win. Let’s take it again from the top shall we? You are convinced that this creature is my twin brother, lost to you almost thirty-five years ago. The day that you escaped the maniac, jumped on a boat, changed your name and finally reaching Manhattan you trundled through the depths of winter as the snow fell around you not knowing where to go.”
Bliss nodded, as misty eyed she began taking up the story, “I was so frightened for you and for Frankie. You were both so weak, but you were the one that frightened me the most. The winter air was rasping that night, I can still feel the biting wind. It cut through the coat that I wore and swirled around my legs with its icy fingers, and I huddled you both beneath the coat trying to keep you warm. As I hurried through the night, ever fearful that...that...” her eyes rolled with fear even now at the memory, as she whispered, “that monster would attempt to follow my footsteps at any moment, I began to hear you making little choking sounds. I pulled you out from the wraps of the coat beneath the light of a neon lamp, and saw how blue and pinched your face was with the cold, and though Frankie appeared to be sleeping, I was never quite sure whether he was conscious or not.”
“You’ve always told me that Frankie was different Mama, but I could never understand why you left him alone while you took me to the hospital. Why didn’t you take him with you too?”
“How could I Georgie? You know what he looked like. I’ve told you a hundred times. His features resembled a lion cub, how could I take such a child to a hospital and confess I’d given birth to him?”
Georgie nodded, yes his mother had told him a hundred times though he found it hard to believe her as he had grown up. Though they were twins thankfully they were different in many ways and though they bore similarities Georgie could never quite believe his mother’s story of how his brother had looked except for the parts of him that made him doubt his own sanity at times.
“You only saw him for a few moments Mama, and then in poor light, perhaps you were mistaken and with the passage of time the experience has contaminated your memory.”
Bliss stared wide-eyed at her son, “Is that what you really believe?” She asked him incredulous.
“I don’t know Mama.” Georgie’s voice rose, “What do you expect of me?”
“More than that. If nothing else your own hand should tell you the truth of what I say.”
Georgie looked at his hand, oh yes, trust his mother to remind him of that. “Be it that I could cut it off and tear it away from me!” Georgie made to stand, but Bliss halted him with a hand to his arm.
“Don’t Georgie!” She cried tearfully, “despite everything you have had a good life. If I can hope for Frankie’s life being half as good, it would be a consolation.”
“You call this a good life!” Georgie pulled off the leather glove that covered his right hand to reveal long fur-covered fingers with blunted tipped claws. “Never able to reveal this to anyone! Never able to marry, to have children, for fear of what I might produce!”
Rarely had Bliss been witness to such an outburst from her son. “I’ve always loved you Georgie...and Frankie.” She whispered, as tears ran down her cheeks, “and I’ve wished a million times and more that things could have been different. Surely you know that? I only ever wanted the best for you.”
Pushing aside her restraining hand, Georgie rose unsteadily to his feet, “When you left Frankie beneath that bush Mama, you know what you should have done? What would have been the best thing you could have done for the both of us?” His eyes a fiery shade of blue challenged her and when she could only shake her head, he flared angrily, “You should have left us both out in the cold that night. Left us both there to die!”
“No! No!” The words were torn from his mother, “You were beautiful. Different yes, but nonetheless beautiful. I couldn’t have left you there to die. Georgie, you know how its eaten me up all these years just thinking about Frankie, would you have wished a similar fate for me to grieve for you also?”
“Had you of left us in the snow and watched until we took our last breath Mama, you would have grieved yes, but you would have been able to get on with your life, and you would have done us both a favour.” Georgie told her, his voice controlled but deadly serious. “You could have put the horror behind you, and lived a decent life with just a bitter memory. That maniac not only robbed Frankie and I of a proper life, he robbed you of having a decent life too.”
“No he didn’t. As mad as he was, I’ve never regretted having you Georgie. You are special to me.”
“I would never have taken you for being selfish Mama. Look at me! Look at this! You call this a hand? It’s no more than a glorified paw. And my back, what would you call that? Huh tell me? A pelt perhaps?” He sneered.
“Georgie!” Bliss stood up glaring at her son, “Stop it, stop it at once!”
“Why, because it eases your conscience?”
“No.” Bliss flopped herself wearily back upon the bed, “I don’t like to hear you put yourself down like this. Any life is precious Georgie. Some people can’t even walk, or talk, or hear or see. You have all those faculties. So you may have deformities that prevent you doing all that you would like, but look at you, you have achieved so much, and telling people that you wear that glove because your hand was badly burned as a child was a wonderful idea Georgie. No one has ever suspected your secret.”
Exhaling a deep sigh, Georgie searched his mother’s eyes and found the sincerity he’d hoped for there. Though she had seldom borne witness to his outbursts, she had always been there for him come what may, had always encouraged him to reach for higher goals, and yes, she was right, he had achieved much, beneath the pretence of being a burns victim.
“I’m sorry Mama.” Georgie sat back down onto the bed, “That was very selfish of me.”
Bliss grinned, and Georgie knowing the look, grinned with her. “How is it that your eyes can say I told you so Mama, without your mouth ever uttering a sound?”
“Practice.” She told him softly and drawing her arms around his large frame she pulled him toward her, feeling beneath her fingertips the bulkiness of silken fur beneath his shirt and jumper.
A sudden buzzing sound made them both jump, and Bliss sighed, “Damn bells. Bells for this bells for that, this one means its time for the visitors to leave Georgie.”
Georgie sighed too, “When I got your letter Mama, telling me you were in here, I’d hoped it was some ghastly joke. You should never have told anyone Mama, haven’t you always drummed that into me?”
“Yes. I know Georgie, but I was getting desperate.”
“Desperate? After thirty-five years!” Georgie was so surprised. His mother had always acted so carefully in her search for his brother. Always cautious of what she said to anyone.
“It was these reports Georgie. I wasn’t sure at first whom to contact. Before I realised this Miss Chandler kept cropping up, I thought the best place to start was with the journalists that wrote the story. Seems too many leading questions made them jumpy and someone decided I was a mental case with a gruesome streak. Well you know how it is, one thing led to another, until finally their questions tied me in knots, and the next thing I knew they’d had me certified.”
“How much did you reveal to them, Mama?”
“Nothing really specific. Just bits.”
“What kind of bits?”
“Oh you know, this and that.” Georgie heard warning bells sound in his head at his mother’s obvious reluctance to talk about it, but nonetheless ventured, “Did you tell him he might be your son?”
Bliss fell silent, fumbling with the handkerchief in her lap, and Georgie looked at her stunned, “You did didn’t you? You told them he was your son. Mama, did you tell them about me too?”
Bliss’s continued silence had Georgie worried, he whispered in a strained voice, “You did didn’t you? Tell me Mama what did you say?”
Bliss shrugged, “I can’t really remember.” She ventured quietly.
Georgie lifted her chin with one finger to look into her eyes, “Mama you told me that you have never lied.”
“I haven’t.” she whispered, trying hard not to meet his eyes.
“Then why are you doing so now.”
Bliss smiled, she could not stay serious for long, “Would you believe that I am trying to get into practice for the telling of the other one?”
Georgie tried not to grin, yet his lips twitched and he drew her towards him, hugging her, “Oh Mama what am I to do with you?” he laughed then, “So they know that I am the beast’s brother then?”
“Don’t call him that!” Bliss drew back from his arms to look sternly at her son. “He is not a beast. He’s my son.”
Georgie did not want to argue but pointed out, “That’s assuming this creature is Frankie of course. So come on Mama, you can’t stop there, what exactly did you tell them?”
Bliss sighed deeply, “I told them that out of my twin boys he could be the son that I had lost at birth.”
“Yes, basically they were the only words that I uttered. You know me Georgie, I wouldn’t reveal too much. Anything else I said, were questions really aimed at finding out more about him.”
Georgie nodded, “And they were your exact words?” Slowly Georgie was beginning to piece things together.
“I believe so why?”
“Just tell me again what you said.” Georgie asked her.
Shrugging, unable to see or contemplate the way her son’s mind was working, Bliss repeated her earlier answer, “ I told them that he could be the son that I’d lost at birth.”
“And what did they say at that?”
“At first they laughed at me, and then someone asked if I have always believed in re-incarnation. And someone else said that my son must have lived a hellish life to have come back as that beast... Why are you smiling like that Georgie? What so funny?”
“Mama, just listen to yourself. They haven’t put you in here because they think that you believe you are the mother to the beast, but rather because they believe that you think your dead son has been re-incarnated as the beast.” Georgie’s voice rose with excitement, “Mama, don’t you see, you can’t be held here,” Georgie was shaking his head, “You can get out of here, you can’t be tried for believing in re-incarnation, its insane.”
Slowly Bliss nodded her head, “You’re right Georgie, I never thought of that. Do you really believe that’s what they think?”
Georgie shook his head, “Who knows. However, it is immaterial whether they do or not, the thing is, the belief provides the perfect escape for you. All you need say is that is what you had been referring to all along. They can’t continue to hold you Mama, not for a religious belief. Not here, not in America.”
Bliss’s eyes were bright with joy, “Will you come here tomorrow Georgie, come see the doctor with me, explain this to him?”
“Of course Mama, you know I will. And I’ll get you out of here I promise. Now, what do you think, shall I take the journal with me, I could study it tonight?”
Bliss flicked through the pages, “You will look after it?”
“Of course Mama.”
“Then take it with you, and make an appointment to see this woman, this Catherine Chandler. Georgie, promise me you will follow that up?”
Georgie smiled and patted her hand as he rose to his feet and he picked up the journal from her lap, “First thing tomorrow morning I’ll call the D.A’s office, but I’ll make an appointment not just for me with this woman, but for you also. This is your last night in this place Mama, come tomorrow, I promise, you will be free again.”
“And then we’ll continue the search together?”
“Yes Mama, together. I promise.”
Bliss smiled, tomorrow, tomorrow, she would be free, and the search would continue, and they would find him, she was certain of it, find her missing son, and the re-union would be as joyful as she had always dreamed.
Watching as Georgie closed the door behind him, Bliss walked across to the window and waited until she could see him striding through the rain towards his car. He looked back and waved before he got in knowing she would be watching him even though he could not see her through the driving rain. And as she watched her son drive his car up the drive and out of her sight Bliss felt the weight lift from her shoulders and she began to have hope again for the first time in several months.
*** *** ***
Father was stunned when Peter handed him the thousand dollars, payment thus far from the sale of Catherine’s clothes.
“I’m certain there are things that you need down here Jacob.” Peter told him, “The money may seem a lot, but believe me it won’t go far. I know how desperate you are for new blankets, ropes, hammers, chisels, you will soon be in need of the next instalment.”
“The next instalment? What next instalment?” Father asked in stunned surprise.
“Catherine’s gave me more clothes than I could carry the last time, I came today to bring the money and collect the rest of her clothing.” He laughed, “you should notice considerable more room around here too, and especially in Vincent’s chamber.”
“Yes, well, it was getting rather cramped in there, I have to admit, and Catherine was right all those satin gowns were hardly fit for tunnel wear. It does seem a shame though that she has had to give them up.”
“Think nothing of it Jacob.” Peter put down his tea cup and checked his watch for time, “I actually think it was Catherine’s way of having you accept some money, be it that you refused to be helped from her bank account. This way she feels she’s helping every one and besides she wouldn’t give away things that she truly loved. I expect some things with sentimental value are stowed away in her drawers.”
Peter was right. Catherine had kept a few things. The midnight blue dress she had worn that night beneath the concert when it had rained. A satin gown in soft peach that Vincent particularly loved the orange duffel coat that Rachel had placed over her bed and a ridiculous feather boa, that she kept for no other reason than the fact that she liked white feathers.
Peter found her amid another pile of clothing, trying to stuff them into three small sacks as he entered her chamber some ten minutes later.
“Hi Peter!” She welcomed him, “Come for the last batch have you?”
He smiled at her taking the offered seat and agreed. “I’ve also brought the money for the dress that Michelle wanted me to sell for her.” He fished into his breast pocket and pulled out a slim envelope. “There’s three hundred and twenty dollars in here, I’ll leave it with you to know what to do with.” He searched her eyes gravely. She had told him of Michelle’s strange request. Neither were happy with a child of her age having that much money.
“How has she been?” He asked.
“No different. Seems to be settling in, but one never really knows. Children hide so much.”
“And you have a feeling that she is hiding something?” Peter asked with concern.
“Actually yes. Not just a feeling either. The knowledge that she wanted this money so much is very real, Peter. But she will say nothing about it, just clams up or runs off when asked. I was wondering if you can throw any further light on her past, anything you can tell me in confidence?” Catherine asked hopefully.
Peter who had known the child pre street days, looked at her gravely, “I can’t Catherine. It’s not that I don’t want to, you know that. But Michelle’s notes are confidential.”
“But as her mother…” Catherine’s voice trailed away.
“Which you’re not. I’m sorry Catherine. Telling you anything that I know could open up a whole can of worms. If you were to hear anything from me, and Michelle told someone, they might want to know why I told you, then want to know why you have adopted her, and where she is living and so on and so on. Its too risky.” Peter told her sincerely.
Catherine nodded, “Just something then. Answer some questions. Can you do that?”
“Depends what they are. Try me.”
*** *** ***
It had become second nature to him to walk the deserted streets at night funny that, Georgie had never found the streets foreboding or dangerous though he knew it were so. Perhaps his face had become known to the people that had come and gone over the years expecting him to ask his questions from those he had never seen before. Each new comer, each new face he had asked the same question, ‘have you ever seen a lion that walks like a man?’
It was a simple enough question, one that wouldn’t arouse as much interest as being said the other way on. ‘Have you ever seen a man that looks like a lion?’ The first time he had asked that question he had caused more of a disturbance than he would liked to have done, and the police had been quickly brought to the scene. Georgie was well aware that he might get locked away like his mother had, only it would be worse for him, because of his hand and his back.
Gloved and covered now those two parts of his body were as good as naked in his eyes. He was always aware of his differences, though he could not see them, he knew that they were as much a part of him as his eyes. Those eyes that were also different in their own way, eyes that made people stare at him. Georgie laughed derisively. They could not see the parts of him that would really make them look but they looked anyway, because never had they seen eyes so stunningly blue as his. Once a young man with a mop of blonde hair and patchwork clothing had stared at him unable to look away and he had seen curiosity in his eyes. George thought that the fellow had been about to ask him something when someone tugged at the young man’s sleeve and drew him away. Georgie wondered about that often. What had he been about to say? It led to other questions, did his brother have similar all penetrating eyes? Did something about him remind people of his brother? Repeatedly he searched the streets for that person, hoping he might find him and have the chance to ask his questions, but never did he see the fellow again.
Sometimes Georgie doubted that his brother would ever be found, but had gone willingly for his mother’s benefit out into the streets searching all the same. Now since his visit to his mother Georgie knew that he had to keep continuing on with the search, for his brother was definitely out there somewhere, if that ‘thing’ was indeed his brother.
He thought about the photographs he had scanned in the paper of the beautiful district attorney Catherine Chandler, and wondered how she could befriend such a being if he was as terrifying as the newspapers made out. Perhaps it was not by choice. Maybe the ‘thing’ had set himself up as her guardian angel. Maybe gratitude allowed her to stay his friend.
There were too many questions. They had raced around and around in Georgie’s head ever since his mother had handed him her journal, scrap books, news clippings and photographs. There was only one thing for it, he’d have to start with the basics. Tomorrow he would go along to the district attorney’s office and make an appointment to speak with Miss Chandler whether his mother could make the appointment or not.
*** *** ***
“Has anyone seen Michelle?” Catherine came into the dining room at suppertime her eyes filled with concern. Some shook their heads others mumbled replies as to where and when they had last seen Catherine and Vincent’s newest adoptive member of the family. “I’ve not seen her since breakfast.” Catherine told them. “It’s unlike her to miss lunch.” Several tunnel dwellers became concerned at that, and rose from their seats offering help to find the young girl, help that Catherine accepted gratefully.
“When’s Vincent due back?” Kanin asked as they exited the dining room.
“Not till the day after tomorrow, and then only if he has achieved his goal. Mapping out the way to the crystal maze might not take long, but I know Vincent can’t resist staying down there longer than is necessary.” Catherine smiled remembering other occasions when she had accompanied him on that particular journey.
“It is beautiful down there.” Kanin agreed, “I can’t say I blame him. Michelle wouldn’t have attempted to seek him out would she?”
“I did wonder,” Catherine replied, “But no, I think its something else.” She found she couldn’t relate the vast sum of money Michelle had been handed on sale of the dress. She and Vincent had decided to keep the knowledge of that to themselves as a family, until they found out why Michelle felt that she needed it.
“I think she’s gone above.”
“Above? Do you really? You must have good reason to think that. Has she done it before?” Kanin began to visualise a bigger problem than he had first decided.
“No, but she has spoken of it. Thing is Kanin, not a lot is known about Michelle and in many respects she has been a bit of a closed book. I know that Peter has been forwarded her medical records from her last GP and he knows more than we do, but he says it’s confidential since we are not really her legal guardians. It’s the first time Peter has been so cagey about one of the children from above. Yet when I ask him if she has any parents he says no. It’s all very mysterious Kanin. Sometimes I don’t know what to think.”
“She gives off the impression that she has settled in down here. Does Father know any of this?”
“Bits. We have refrained from telling him that she asks about going above. You know Father he would worry unnecessary that Michelle might tell someone what we have here.”
“Well yes he would, but he should be told Catherine. Better to be forewarned and all that even if much of it could be said to be a child’s vivid imagination. Once upon a time children were not believed about a great deal of things. These days with all the abuse you’ll find that they are being believed more and more. But then I don’t have to tell you that.”
“No and you’re right Kanin. But until Vincent gets back, I don’t know what to do. I need to discuss it with him first.”
“Wait, am I hearing right? When did you stop being independent? That doesn’t sound like the Catherine Chandler, District Attorney that I used to know. Where’s your guts gone?”
“It’s not that Kanin. Its not that I can’t do anything without Vincent, it’s just that I don’t like to do. He and I are a team, and Vincent is able to look at things with a wisdom I don’t possess. Maybe I am fretting over nothing. Maybe Michelle hasn’t gone above.”
“And maybe I’m a monkey’s uncle. I take it you’ve searched every nook and cranny already?”
“And no one has seen her since this morning?”
“No. No one. Not even Rachel, and usually they are inseparable.”
“Then she’s gone above. Come on let’s find out who was on sentry duty this morning, and see if they saw anything of her at all. We can fill Father in, if the need arises.”
“Thank you, Kanin.”
*** *** ***
Down in the way station, Vincent listened to the distant tapping on the pipes, his ears clearly picking up messages that comforted him so far from home. Much of the language he could ignore at will, getting on with his work using it much like people above would listen to background music, but he always paused to listen to anything urgent just as those above would pause to listen to news bulletins.
This particular day, he was stunned to hear that Michelle had not been seen since the previous morning and an all clear was to be applied until further notice. If the child had fallen or become lost any signal she might be able to send could be heard if the pipes were silent.
Clearing his tools away quickly, Vincent donned his cloak, and running for the nearest pipe section announced that he was on his way back. Catherine, then Father tapped back a reply of grateful thanks, and the tunnel dwellers continued their searching while Vincent made the long trek home.
It was well after noon before he rounded the final bend negotiating the tunnels with ease born of familiarity reaching his chamber to find Catherine pacing the floor anxious for his arrival.
“Vincent! Thank God.”
“I came as quickly as I could. Is there any news?”
“No. But Vincent, I think she has gone above. You know that money? She took it and then she was gone.”
“What money was that?” Both swung around to face Father as he entered and overheard their conversation. Looking from one to the other Vincent and Catherine looked decidedly guilty and were unwilling to say. “It’s nothing Father.” Vincent told him hoping he would let it drop.
He wouldn’t. “Oh but I think it is. Has Michelle stolen money from you?”
“No. Not stolen.” Catherine replied looking to Vincent for guidance.
“You’d best sit down Father.” Vincent drew out a chair for him while taking up the other gratefully. “Catherine and I will tell you about it.”
Father said nothing for several long awful minutes, gauging his words Catherine presumed. But by his silence Vincent and Catherine could tell of Father’s annoyance over allowing Michelle to have so much money. And he was trying to understand why the two people he loved most in the world had done such a foolhardy thing. It was so unlike them, especially Catherine who knew all about money but Vincent’s part in it bore considerable weight too as he knew all about children. And all three of them knew so little about Michelle.
“You’ve searched of course?” He asked at last, looking gravely from one to other of them, unwilling to voice his real feelings on the matter.
Vincent exhaled an audible sigh of relief which did not go unnoticed by his parent. Father’s shrew eyes took note and his lips formed into a firm thin line. “Yes I should hit the roof, you are right to presume so. But its done now, what use would it be...besides...” His voice trailed away and Vincent searched his father’s eyes for clues even as he asked nervously, “Besides what, Father?”
“Its not that I don’t share your concern over the child,” Father began while extracting a slim envelope from one pocket, “But other circumstances make the problem take a back seat right now.” Catherine started to protest when Father raised a hand silencing her, “I’m sure my dear you will agree after you have read this.” He handed the envelope to Vincent. “Its for you, it was marked urgent so in your absence I took the liberty of opening and reading it.” The tremor in Father’s tone showed his underlying fear of the letter’s contents.
“Read it to me, Father. So that Catherine can listen.” Vincent asked. With Michelle’s disapearance surely nothing could be of more import? It was true, nothing could be, but as Father read the letter both Vincent and Catherine reeled in shock. It was the last thing they needed right now.
“Its from Mitch Denton. You only need to read it yourself to see how serious he is. Vincent, he speaks of killing you! I’m so afraid, I fear he really means it this time.”
“Castles in the air, Father. Mitch has vowed to kill me for decades. He could do so any time, he knows I am at a disadvantage and where to find me, I ceased worrying about Mitch’s hatred of me a long time ago.”
“Mitch speaks of not revealing the tunnels to anyone above, probably because he knows that to do so would mean losing a possible hideout for himself in the future. Although how he could expect that we would accept him after killing you, I do not know. But then, that’s Mitch. He was never one for his intelligence.”
Despite the seriousness of the matter, Vincent chuckled at his father’s jibe of the boy he had almost known as his brother. But the laughter soon faded, and Vincent leaned over and patted his father’s arm, “Try not to worry unnecessarily over this Father. Mitch has made threats in the past, I’m sure he was just having a bad day when he wrote it. He’s probably forgotten all about it by now.”
Father wasn’t convinced. “I don’t think so, Vincent. That letter is full of venom. Seems to me whatever plan of his you foiled last was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I think he really means it this time. All in all, its not the ideal time to be above searching the streets for Michelle. Promise me that you will let someone else handle that matter. Maybe Michelle will return of her own accord.” Father suggested the last hopefully.
Catherine sighed, much as she wanted to find Michelle, she had to admit that Father was right, Vincent was precious to so many and not just to her, and they had to take Mitch’s threat seriously. They already knew what a dangerous man he was. Mitch might have had a change of heart since, but it was true, Vincent had unwittingly thwarted a great deal of Mitch’s projects in the past, generally while saving someone else, sometimes her, causing Mitch to be taken into custody. She could well remember the last time they had seen Mitch and the sound of his voice ringing out through the night; “You wait, I’ll get you Vincent. You see if I don’t.” It all seemed such a long time ago now, obviously Mitch was back on the streets and the venom had festered. Now he meant business. A cold chill swept through Catherine’s body felt by Vincent through their bond, and he gathered her against him infusing his love through their connection in the hope of calming her. It worked. Nonetheless it also reminded her what it would be like to lose that precious connection, and more importantly to lose Vincent.
Catherine shuddered; “Father’s right, Vincent. You should stay below if the need arises to go above to search for Michelle.”
“If Mitch’s intention is to kill me come what may, he won’t necessarily wait until I go above. He could in all likelihood come below. Mitch knows these tunnels as well as the next man, even though we do seal and open tunnels frequently. If he’s that determined, Mitch will find a way. We can’t allow him to ruin our lives by placing over us a threat that might not even come to fruition. “
“No, but we can step up security, Vincent. And I’ll get on to that right away. In the meantime what are we to do about Michelle?”
“I’ll make a thorough search below with the aid of Mouse. He knows nooks and crannies like the back of his hand, places where a child might go. If that turns up no results, then we will have to go above. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary, hopefully, Michelle will return by then.” And though Vincent spoke optimistically, all three knew the slim chance of that.
In her tiny hands Michelle held a fortune, and she had needed it for a purpose. Since money was hardly needed below, then only one conclusion could be drawn. Michelle had gone above. The real question was, why?
*** *** ***
“If I could help you I would, but Catherine Chandler left this office over two years ago with no forwarding address.” That wasn’t strictly true, but Joe wasn’t about to tell some perfect stranger where his best investigator had gone after she had stopped working for him. “Tell you what, leave me your name and contact number and if I should find out anything of her whereabouts, I’ll have her contact you.”
Georgie smiled, understanding at once, “Look, I realise that this might sound strange to you. And I know that you don’t know me from Adam, but I really do need to speak to Miss Chandler on a personal and private matter. If you do know where I might find her, I’d rather you say so now to save us all some time.”
“Hey you aren’t wasting any of mine pal...” Joe put in sarcastically.
Georgie sighed, “Maybe not. But perhaps you could call her on your phone, and pass the phone over to me. Would you do that at least?”
Joe shook his head, “Sorry no can do. Where Cathy is there aren’t any telephones...” His words trailed away, as a guilty flush stained his cheeks, already knowing he had said too much. If this fellow had an inkling, any inkling at all of the tunnels and Catherine’s part in them he’d as good as handed her to him on a plate.
“No telephones...” Georgie repeated somewhat dazed, “Where is she on a desert island?”
Relief flooded through Joe, and he hastened to reply, “Yes. But don’t tell anyone I told you.” There were thousands of desert islands, and only one set of tunnels beneath the city. Joe let Georgie believe that Cathy was living with sand between her toes on some idyllic island in the sun.
“Then perhaps you could send her a telegram...” Georgie asked hopefully. With every word he said the chance of finding Catherine Chandler slipped further and further away from him and he’d already wasted three days since he had promised his mother he would go to the District Attorney’s office. His appointment today had been the only time that week that Joe had been free to see him.
“Maybe. I’ll think about it.” Joe stood arms folded in a defensive manner. Georgie got the impression that he was acting as a shield to the woman. Either that or she meant a lot to him in some other way.
He shrugged. He would have to ask elsewhere, this fellow was not going to budge. The moment Georgie had walked through Joe Maxwell’s door, Joe’s distaste of him had been plain to see. Georgie was used to such looks, but none made him feel any easier.
“I really need to speak to her.” Georgie told him for what seemed the hundreth time.
“So you keep saying, but you won’t say what about.” Joe reminded him.
“I can’t. Its private.” Georgie hated having to say that, but what else could he say? This guy might know the creature, might even know that Miss Chandler and the creature were connected. Or he might not. What could he say? I think I’m related to Miss Chandler’s partner. You know the ferocious one with the big teeth? It seemed too laughable for words. But maybe there was something he could edge on something he’d been reluctant to say before in such a way. “Do you know the man that looks like a lion?”
Joe paled. Yes he knew of one. Had met him on a few occasions. The guy was awesome, if that was the word for it. Couldn’t quite grasp what Cathy had seen in him even now, but Joe knew that she loved him more than anyone on earth, any fool could see that. And that she had married him spoke volumes. But what did this fellow want with Vincent? And how did he know of him, and yet not know where he lived?
Silence was his answer and George was elated, “You do! You know him! Tell me are they together?”
“Yes.” Joe suddenly wanted him to know that Cathy was safe in Vincent’s presence, otherwise he would have said nothing.
“On the island?”
Joe almost said what island, when he remembered his decite, “What? Oh Yes. They live there together.”
Georgie wasn’t convinced. Something about Joe’s tone didn’t quite ring true. But he had learned more about these two than he had known when he’d walked in so at least he should be thankful for small mercies.
“Please, contact them for me. Its imperative that I speak with them.”
Joe shook his head. Then thoughtfully began to reply, “Look, I don’t like this. But give me a couple of days. I’ll see what I can do.”
Georgie almost passed out with delirium, “Thank you! Oh thank you, Mr Maxwell.” He held out his ungloved hand to Joe. In so doing Joe noticed his other sheaved hand.
“What’s with the glove?” He nodded down at the arm Georgie held at his side.
“What? Oh that. I burnt it. Looks ugly, I keep it covered.”
“Oh.” Joe wondered about that, but accepted it nonetheless. He took the offered hand and shook it, “can’t promise anything. Call me in two days.”
“I will. And thank you again Mr Maxwell. I won’t forget this.”
Joe just grinned as Georgie left his office, adding to the silent room, “I have a funny feeling I won’t either.”
*** *** ***
Outside on the pavement, just as Georgie was leaving the building he passed a woman exiting a taxi. He looked at her briefly and looked again deciding that he knew her from somewhere and stood watching as she went into the building he had just vacated. Strange that, he had spoken to few people since he had begun this particular day time search and she didn’t appear to be one associated with the night. For a reason unknown Georgie pulled the photo he carried of Catherine Chandler from his wallet and stared at it. Okay, maybe the photo was a Xerox copy and old, but he could have sworn that woman that just passed him by was the spitting image even though she appearred stressed and grim about something.
*** *** ***
He might be wrong, he might have had too many late nights, but Georgie rode the hunch and turning walked back into the building heading for the elevator.
A lie detector test! Huh that would be the day! Bliss hurried head down face tucked into the collar of her coat lest she be recognised and made her way to the address where she knew her son to be staying. Georgie would be furious that was for sure, but she couldn’t wait, and she couldn’t allow them to give her that test, all sorts of things might have been revealed once they started asking their questions. Bliss snorted, and Georgie thought it would be an easy case of religious belief. If only.
From the moment her appointment had started and she had maintained that she had a belief in re-incarnation, she had been disbelieved. Well there was only one thing for it. If they thought they were going to keep her locked in that dungeon another day they were mistaken. First chance she got Bliss was out of there, and she marvelled at how easy that had been. Posing as a visitor by stealing their coat and leaving the building before visiting time ended...well Bliss laughed now at how simple yet how nerve wracking it had been.
*** *** ***
Now all she had to do was find Georgie and begin their search together. It was as simple as that.
“Vincent! Vincent!” Rachel flew into the chamber her face wreathed in anxiety. “Has Catherine worn the orange coat to go above?”
Vincent frowned, it had been a long time since Rachel had called either of them by their Christian names. In fact it had proved a source of joy to them both when the child had referred to them as mom and dad. Only distress could have caused the transition.
“I don’t think so Rachel, why?”
“I was wearing it the other day. You know the day Michelle went missing.” Vincent pictured Rachel in an oversize orange duffle and could not prevent a smile from forming. Fortunately Rachel did not appear to notice his humour or she may have thought he was laughing at her anxiety now.
“Well I left it at Olivia’s and today when I went to get it back it had gone, and Olivia said she hasn’t seen it since that day. She assumed I’d been to collect it. So did Catherine take it, Vincent?”
Knowing the loss of her precious garment meant a lot to his adoptive daughter, Vincent knelt to her level and offered his open arms to her. Rachel went into them gratefully and feeling cosseted by his love for her waited for his gentle reply. However it wasn’t the one that she had hoped for.
“I distinctly remember your mother wearing her brown leather jacket when she left here earlier, and she has said nothing about retrieving the duffle coat. I’m sorry Rachel I haven’t seen it since the day you lay it over your bed, have you asked Father?”
“No, but why would he want it? You know what I think?”
Vincent didn’t think he wanted to know by the tone of Rachel’s voice but he encouraged her to go on anyway with a kiss to the top of her head before replying, “No. Go on. Tell me?”
“I think Michelle took it. She said she wished it were hers.” A sob caught in Rachel’s throat and Vincent drew her up into his arms and hugged her tightly asking softly, “Why would she want it? It is far too big for her.”
“She wants it for her grandmother.”
“Her grandmother!” Vincent exclaimed, “Michelle has a grandmother?”
“Yes, she lives above...Oh Vinc...daddy...what can I do?” Rachel wailed, “I loved that coat so much.”
“I know you did sweetheart.” Vincent’s mind was in a whirl. If Michelle had a grandmother that lived above, then everything was slipping into place. Thats whom she needed the money for. But why then could she not have told them? More importantly, why had Peter maintained that the child had no next of kin? It didn’t make any sense. But Vincent vowed he would get to the bottom of it and as soon as possible too.
*** *** ***
“Say you like it Nanna, please?” The child’s troubled plea softened the old lady’s heart.
“It’s not that I don’t like it Michelle, its just that I’m wondering how you came by such a beautiful garment. It looks expensive.”
“I didn’t steal it, if that’s what you think.” Michelle looked at her grandmother forlornly, “The lady who it used to belong to didn’t want it anymore.”
“I can see it isn’t new, but even so, Michelle, how do you know such wealthy people?”
“Catherine is a friend.”
“And do I get to meet this friend and benefactor?” The old lady twirled in front of the mirror, enjoying the reflection of herself in the bright orange duffle coat more and more with each passing second. It wasn’t just beautiful it was warm too.
“One day.” Michelle replied evasively. “And I have something else for you that she gave to me.
“Oh, and what’s that dear?”
She almost fainted when Michelle opened her hand to reveal a palm full of dollar bills.
“Michelle!” She cried snatching up the money. “Where did you get all of this?”
“From Catherine.” Michelle told her smugly.
Her grandmother looked at her searchingly. Already all kinds of fears were galloping through her mind. What had her granddaughter got herself mixed up with? She had heard about child prostitution and it wasn’t an impossibility. She almost laughed derisively, huh out of the frying pan into the fire, and there the authorities were thinking Michelle would be safe with them! If truth be told, the authorities were to blame for Michelle’s downfall. Still what was she to do? She couldn’t go complaining, if she did, Michelle would be taken away from them quick smart. No she would have to keep quiet and try to protect Michelle from what ever she had got involved in by herself. Well with the help of Michelle’s grandfather of course. But even so it was a foreboding task for the two of them.
“Its true. You don’t believe me do you?” Michelle pressured her grandmother to believe her. “You ask Dr. Alcott.”
“What has Dr Alcott got to do with it?”
“He was the one that got Catherine to give me a home. He’ll tell you I’m telling the truth.”
“That may be so, but why don’t we just go along to Catherine’s house and ask her ourselves.” The grandmother knew they couldn’t see Dr. Alcott either, or he would have Michelle taken back into care and really that was the last thing she wanted to happen. It was a blessing that the child had located them at all, and her grandmother wasn’t about to let her go back to wherever she had come from.
“Because we can’t. I can’t tell you where Catherine lives. Its a secret.” Sudden thoughts of what Vincent might do if she disclosed Catherine’s whereabouts made Michelle keep that particular secret safe.
Her reply made her grandmother worry more and more. She was convinced that this ‘Catherine’ was an immoral woman despite the fact that she had so obviously had Dr Alcott’s recommendation. Maybe he was one of her clients, in this day and age anything was possible. Maybe with all that kind of money to throw around she had even bought the child from him, from the authorities even.
“Well no matter, Michelle, I am grateful for the coat, and your grandfather will be over the moon when he sees all this money. But you must stay with us now, promise me, you won’t go back to this Catherine?”
As an answer, Michelle threw herself into her grandmother’s arms, “I knew it! I knew it!” She shouted gleefully.
“Knew what dear?” Her grandmother, slightly bemused hugged her back.
“That if I got you enough money I could live with you. Dr. Alcott told me that I couldn’t because you were too poor, and couldn’t afford to have me here. But you aren’t poor now are you? I can stay can’t I?”
Hugging her granddaughter fiercely, the grandmother nodded, “Yes, Michelle you can stay now.”
It had never been a question of money but Michelle hadn’t known that although her grandparents did find the rent on their home hard to meet. The problem was something far more serious and one that would mean the authorities taking Michelle away from them if ever she was discovered in their care. Well she wouldn’t be. She couldn’t be that was for sure. The moment her husband arrived home from work they would start packing. They would leave this flat find somewhere else, somewhere where the authorities would never find them again.
Somewhere safe where they could have their granddaughter live with them. They loved her and they would look after her in the best possible way. And no one was going to stop them. Silently the grandmother offered up a prayer for this mystery woman Catherine and her wealth, whatever she did for a living she had unwittingly sent their granddaughter home. But the grandmother vowed one thing; this Catherine was never going to get Michelle back, not now. Not ever. She’d die first before she’d let that happen. Michelle was all they had left.
*** *** ***
“Cathy!” Joe stared at the woman standing alongside his desk as if he has just seen a ghost, then recovering remarkably quickly left his seat to enfold her in his arms in a huge bear hug that left her breathless.
“Joe?” Catherine queried a wry grin on her lips.
“I was just thinking about you.” Joe offered by way of explanation. He sobered somewhat releasing her to return to his seat, “there was a guy just here asking questions about you.”
Behind them they both heard the door to the office open and close but neither looked toward it, believing it was just Joe’s secretary coming in to impart a message or to ask about bringing Catherine some tea.
At Joe’s comment Catherine’s smile faded, not from what he told her but more by the way he said it.
“I don’t know, Cathy.” Joe grimaced. “You tell me. He was asking about Vincent too.”
“About Vincent?” Now Joe had Catherine’s full undivided attention. “What about Vincent?”
However, the next voice to speak was unexpected not only by its tone but also by its content.
“I believe that the person you call Vincent is related to me.”
Catherine swung around to face the intruder as Joe leapt to his feet and started toward Georgie. “Get out of here, now, or I’ll call security.” He grasped hold of Georgie roughly hurling him back toward the door.
“Wait!” Catherine’s request stopped Joe in his tracks, he looked directly at her believing she was out of her mind.
“What do you mean, related?” Shrewdly Catherine took in Georgie’s countenance, not missing the blue of his eyes that reminded her instantly of only one other.
“You can’t be related to Vincent. That would be an impossibility.” Joe blurted out with a derisive laugh.
“Sometimes I wish that were so.” Georgie looked down at his feet, then back up at the two before him, “Look I know this is hard to accept, but I have definite reasons why I stake claim to Vincent…is there any way that you could introduce us?”
Immediately Catherine calmed somewhat. It was becoming obvious that this stranger with the all penetrating, unnerving blue eyes knew not where to locate her husband.
“And why would I want to do that?” Catherine asked.
“Because I am probably the only person but one that can tell him of his past. Can we go somewhere Miss Chandler, maybe for some lunch?” Sceptically he eyed Joe, not quite knowing how much he should reveal in the guy’s presence.
“That won’t be necessary,” Joe intervened, “Vincent has told me everything of his history. Tell me, exactly how much do you know?”
“In brief? That he was left beneath a bush in a the grounds of a hospital on the 12th January 1957, the day we were born.”
“We?” Joe and Catherine exclaimed together, with Catherine adding, “How do you mean, we?”
There was only one thing for it. Georgie remained silent as he contemplated what he was about to do. If he hadn’t been so sure that these people knew his brother, he would never have even considered it. “I’d like to show you something.” He began nervously, and Joe seeing him reach for his gloved hand swiftly placed himself between Catherine and Georgie convinced that the fellow held a knife in the glove covered hand.
“It’s alright. I mean no one any harm. But on second thoughts, perhaps you could both answer me one or two questions before I reveal my proof to you?”
“What sort of questions?” Joe asked suspiciously.
“I’ve only ever read of Vincent, have never seen pictures of him, I doubt even that there are any. My only knowledge of his appearance is through the media and that which my mother has revealed to me.”
“Your mother?” Catherine’s heart was pounding as excitement began to creep around the edges of her nervousness gently easing away her anxiety as she slowly began to accept that she could very well be facing a relative of Vincent’s.
“Father should be here.” Catherine told Joe and he understood at once.
“Father?” George looked from one to the other not understanding.
“Yes.” They replied in unison offering him no explanation. “Would you like me to send for him Cathy?” Joe asked.
“Would you? Thanks Joe. It’ll take him a couple of hours or so, maybe three. Do you have any pressing appointments for today?” Catherine knew that Father would need to change into his above clothes and walk slowly uphill and with his arthritic hip that would take quite some time.
Joe checked his watch, “None that can’t be cancelled for you, Cathy. I can see how important this is to you. I’d like to stand in if you don’t mind?”
George listened to the exchange with some interest. It was obvious that these two were closer than work colleagues, and that Catherine trusted Joe explicitly.
“Look, Mr…er…what did you say your name was?” Joe looked down at his notepad, he knew he had scribbled it there somewhere when the fellow had introduced himself earlier.
“Actually, I lied.” George offered, “The name I gave was fabricated. You didn’t seriously expect me to give my real name and then announce I was Vincent’s brother did you?”
“His brother!” Wide eyed, Catherine gasped watching as George rose two bushy eyebrows over intense laughing blue eyes.
“Oops, guess I let something slip huh?”
“Now let’s get this straight, Mister whomsoever you may call yourself.” Joe began, his tone suddenly hostile, “Now I know that you are lying. Vincent is a one off, there is no one like him in the entire world.”
“We don’t know that Joe.” Catherine interrupted her eyes never leaving George’s. “What were you going to show us?” She nodded toward his gloved hand.
Looking back at his limb, George issued a huge sigh, “I don’t want to have to do this, but I do understand that you aren’t going to allow me to meet Vincent without some kind of proof as to what I say is true. Perhaps after I have shown my hand to you, you will believe?” He looked from one to the other as neither verified his request. He could so easily be pulling a hoax, although already what he had revealed had certainly posed an awful lot of questions.
Slowly George untied the many lacings of his glove. He had to make certain that it was well covered, that no one however hard they tried could pull it off. Mesmerised Joe and Catherine watched in silence, each holding their breath as the last of the laces were drawn free of the leather glove. At last, George looked up, searching their faces, his look of hopeful expectation mixed with nervousness, plain to see.
“Go on.” Catherine encouraged softly. She wasn’t sure what was about to be revealed, but for a certainty the small scream she uttered as George’s hand came into view was soon echoed by Joe’s exclamation, of ‘holy shit!’ Then recovering somewhat faster than his colleague Joe cried, “That’s not real! Get out of here.” Causing George to replace his glove as quickly as possible his eyes pitying as he surveyed the two people before him.
“It is.” Was all he would say, “As is this.” Turning he surprised both Catherine and Joe in turn as he pulled his shirt from his pants and revealed the pelt of honeyed fur upon his back, his heart sick at what he was being forced to do to have these people believe him. He felt like some animal on view at a livestock auction.
“And you expect us to believe that kind of gimmick?” Joe laughed derisively, “Get outta here!”
“No wait!” Tentatively Catherine reached out a hand, “Forgive me.” She asked as she placed her fingers upon George’s fur covered back. He jumped. No body, but no body had touched him other than his mother in all his life. It felt strange to say the least. He held his breath closing his eyes against the feel of another upon him.
Her breathing shallow, and the fact that Catherine knew the difference between fake and real, she allowed her hand the grace of sliding around to George’s side then faced him with the question, “Tell me. Tell me everything.”
“You believe?” A huge sigh escaped George. He hadn’t realised how much until this moment he had doubted that she might.
“I believe that something has happened to you to cause this. Whether you are Vincent’s brother remains to be seen. However, there are remarkable similarities. You have his eyes, and your voice is not unlike his. There is someone I should like to have you meet. I promise that you will only have to reveal yourself to that one. Would you permit me to arrange a visit?”
“Who is this person? Is it the one you call Father? For I take it that the pair of you aren’t related and it is not your dad that you are speaking about?”
“No, not our Father. Mine passed away a few years ago. This man that I speak of is known by his friends as Father, though not for religious reasons, if that had been your next question. And, he is also Vincent’s father by adoption.”
George gasped, “Then someone does care for my brother. My mother insisted this was a possibility.”
“She is a shrewd woman. Tell me, where might we find her? I assume she is still alive?”
“Yes. She’s in the city. It is at her request that I came here today. She felt certain that if anyone knew the whereabouts of her son, you would Miss Chandler.”
“Call me Catherine.”
“Thank you, however, if you don’t mind I would prefer to remain formal. It makes it feel equal since you do not know my real name. Miss Chandler will do fine, if you don’t mind.”
“Actually, I do. Chandler was my maiden name.”
“Yes.” They regarded one another for long moments each with questions and answers of their own, each undecided about uttering them, until finally Catherine relented. Maybe she was being an idiot, maybe so, but something about this fellow struck a chord with her heart. “You may call me Mrs. Wells.” Then making a definite decision she added, “Vincent is my husband.”
*** *** ***
Even so, logic set in after Catherine and George, leaving Joe behind after all set off for the park. What was she doing? How could she be sure that this fellow hadn’t paid for some kind of cosmetic surgery in order to flush Vincent out? It was possible that the police department had arranged it.
Remembering The Watcher and the lengths he had gone to and how she so very nearly died by his perverted actions, Catherine started to grow nervous as they entered the park and proceeded to walk across it.
George of course had no idea where they were headed. He’d been through Central Park a thousand times in his lifetime and only assumed they were using it as a short cut for blocks on the other side. And Catherine’s sudden bout of agitation troubled him. He could almost feel it, silly as that sounded, but not so strange when he realised that he had felt a similar connection with his mother, but of course then they were blood related and it was to be expected. He remembered the newspaper bulletins he had read regarding the beast and the referral made to a strange connection being between him and Miss Chandler. Though that was only circumstantial and one not understanding such a bond could not easily verify that it actually existed. But it would make a lot of sense. How else had the beast saved her so many times? How had he known in the nick of time that she was in danger? Unless he was always close by. George found his eyes darting this way and that, suspicious of bushes that moved more than a breeze warranted and he wondered if the beast was watching, following them even now.
George shuddered, Catherine noticed, “Are you cold?” It was the first time they had spoken since entering the park. There seemed so much yet so little to say, and Catherine was aware that Vincent would ask the same questions. They may as well come to know the answers together.
“Not really. Why?” George slowed down catching her arm, “Where are you taking me?”
“I’m not certain. That is, my first intention was to allow Vincent and his father to give you the benefit of the doubt, but now I admit to being nervous about that. For all I know you could have had cosmetic surgery. You may only wish to flush Vincent out for reasons known only to you.”
George nodded then quickly explained, “Of course you are right, I could be doing all of those things, however I have something I should show you before we go any further.”
“Not here.” Catherine surprised him. What was wrong with where they were? It was sunny and the light was good for the folder that he was about to spread before her showing his mother’s thirty-five year collection. He was bewildered when Catherine strode forward seemingly headed for the sanctity of a drainage culvert where she slowed and waited for him to catch up. “Here will do. Now what is it?”
George found her behaviour strange. His past had taught him to analyse things, to see beyond what was normal. From his standpoint the mouth of the large gaping hole seemed foreboding yet Miss Chandler seemed to show no such anxiety.
“How do we know its empty?” He inclined his head toward the tunnel, “What I have to show you…” He thought he made it plain, thought that Miss Chandler would ask him to go inside and check, or at least move beyond it, out of possible harms way.
“Few people frequent it.” She gave by explanation, which was no explanation at all. How did she know that? What purpose did she have with this place? His mother’s words returned to him…’you know what George, I think he lives beneath the city.’ George now knew that she was right. This great hole in the ground would lead to the tunnels, he was sure of it. And now it made perfect sense. Miss Chandler felt safer here, nearer to her husband, and that reminded him that she was no longer Miss Chandler, but he was unable to remember the new name.
He didn’t pursue it, and that in turn rather than make Catherine feel better, doubly concerned her that he accepted what she had said without question. However, she shrugged it aside, knowing full well that Vincent was close by, her anxiety of earlier bringing him running to protect her if necessary.
“So show me.” Catherine watched as he undid his long coat, and from within pulled out a large ring binder packed with papers.
“My mother handed me a diary with all these papers inside. I left the diary at home, and transferred the papers to bring out with me today. You will notice they are all of the cases you and Vincent have handled over the past few years, and I know by your eyes that you may deem me to be some loony with a sadistic interest in your work, and I can’t dispute that. However, there is one piece of paper, well two actually, that might make you sit up and take note. You will be, I’m quite sure, aware of what is fake and what is genuine, and you will see that these two birth certificates are authentic. This is mine, and this one is Vincent’s.” He held them before Catherine, encouraging her to take and examine them in turn.
She held them, taking more interest in the one he had maintained was Vincent’s. It was, as he said, genuine, but did it attain to Vincent? The name written upon it was Frankie Jameson. However, the date of birth leapt out at her, 12th January 1957. Scanning the contents avidly, Catherine learned that his mother’s name was Patricia Bliss James and his father was unknown. That alone caused her eyes to fix back on George for one moment as she cross-examined his certificate, seeing similar details. Father unknown, birth 12th January 1957, mother Patricia Bliss James, child’s name Georgie Jameson.
“These look real.” Catherine commented.
“They are real.” George told her. “What are you thinking?”
“I don’t know what to think.” Catherine told him honestly. “Look perhaps I had better take these and get back to you. You are asking a lot here, and whether you meet Vincent or not is not for me to say. A lot depends on it.”
“Seems a shame to have come so close and be turned away.” George commented his eyes bright. “And what more must I give? What more proof is there?”
Catherine held the birth certificates up, “Forged papers, cosmetic surgery, a vivid interest in my cases. I don’t know Mr Jameson, even with all of this, I cannot be sure.”
“How about this then…” he inclined his head toward the drainage culvert, “Vincent is waiting for you inside there isn’t he? It’s the doorway to his home beneath the city isn’t it?”
Catherine gasped and her heart began to race, “How do you know?” She said the first thing that came to mind, realising at once that she had gone over and over this a thousand times. If anyone should ask such a direct question she would adamantly refuse, laugh it off as being ridiculous, certainly not verify that this was so. She felt terrible and in dreadful need of Vincent’s comforting presence around her.
“I thought so. Don’t ask me how except mother assumed that’s where he would be.”
Those very words began to smooth away the doubt in Catherine’s mind, though she was yet to prove that he had a living mother. In all the years Joe had investigated the cases surrounding her work, in all the years that the FBI had been assigned to them, no one had ever drawn such a conclusion. Because no one knew Vincent’s existence or what he looked like enough to wonder if he might be in need of such sanctuary.
“Wait here.” Catherine moved toward the culvert, “Don’t follow me.”
George watched her go, then as soon as he deemed it safe he walked the way she had gone. He was a few feet away from his brother. No woman was going to stop them meeting, not now, not ever. Silently he trod the way, making little noise listening ahead for sounds from within, surprised when he heard a loud commotion that sounded like that of a sliding door being opened.
And then he heard voices, Catherine’s hurried, whispered, anxious. And his, the soft velvet rich tones of his brother’s and he knew at once there was no mistake, the beast and his brother were one and the same…for a moment George cowered against the flat of the concrete wall unsure of his welcome and listened to the conversation within.
“How could you bring a stranger here?”
“Vincent, its not how it looks. I have something I must show you. Come to the light, see two birth certificates, notice the dates.”
There was a long pause, and audible gasp, and then bewilderment as Vincent asked, “Who is this man?”
“He says he is…” Catherine paused hearing the approach of footsteps, and Vincent quickly stood between her and the sound.
“I’m your brother.” Came the voice from the silhouette standing in the entrance of the culvert, “You’re twin brother and I can prove it. Hello Vincent, so we meet at last.”
*** *** ***
Delighted to be with her grandparents at long last, Michelle was troubled when they announced that they had to find somewhere else to live. She couldn’t understand why. Surely with the money she had brought them they would be able to stay. Michelle did not know that the money she gave her grandmother barely covered the rent owed and now with her residing with them they had to move away out of the area, go someplace where the authorities would not find the child with them. That would be difficult, Michelle needed to go to school a mountain of problems were set before them as her grandparents contemplated the immediate future none of which they found answers for.
Though the loved Michelle, though they were happy to have her with them, the future looked bleak and terrifying. If Michelle was found with them again, she could be taken out of New York, and they might never be able to see her again. That thought was too unbearable to think about, and they knew they would have to take her somewhere safe enough where they could all three be together in secret.
“I know of such a place.” Michelle told her grandparents when she overheard them worrying about somewhere to go. “Its where Catherine is.”
At the mention of the woman’s name, Michelle’s grandmother felt chilled to the bone, yet the way Michelle’s eyes lit up when she spoke of her showed that the woman couldn’t be all that bad, but then what did a child know? Especially one so vulnerable and who had been entrusted with so much money.
Still it would do no harm in asking, and at least by so doing they would find out where the woman resided.
“Oh, can you take us there Michelle?” Her grandmother asked while casting messages to her husband with her eyes. He understood those looks, knew that his wife was fishing for information.
“Yes, of course!” Michelle jumped from her seat eager to be off, “Its not far. Come on I’ll take you.”
Dubious the elderly couple rose to their feet, “We’ll just pack a few things, you can help if you like?”
Michelle agreed and when at last her grandparents were ready they set off following their Granddaughter in the direction of Central Park.
*** *** ***
George wasn’t at the house. Bliss waited a full anxious hour before deciding that she would investigate a few other leads by herself. The first of which was seeking out the practitioner where she had found Catherine Chandler was a patient. A Dr Alcott, Peter Alcott. The only other person was Joe Maxwell, but George had promised to investigate there already. And Bliss knew that she had to present herself that day, before anyone noticed that she was missing at the nursing home.
Map in hand, she left the house with the intent of going straight to Dr Alcott’s practice. With a bit of luck she could glean something from him if he knew anything at all, just by letting slip a few bits of information. She would watch his eyes, study his body language, and if a few direct questions failed to show her anything she would try somewhere else, but for now he was her best bet and Bliss was hopeful of success.
She found the place with little hardship. Having lived in New York for the last thirty five years, she knew most of it like the back of her hand, but found when she was anxious or excited about something her vision seemed to become impared as if her mind was working faster than her eyes.
Always a courageous woman, Bliss entered the reception area and went straight to the desk, “I need to see Dr Alcott.” She told the woman who sat behind a typewriter.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No. But I need to speak with him urgently.”
“What are your symptoms, Dr Alcott has a full book today, you may need to make an appointment and return another day.”
“That’s not possible, I need to speak with him urgently. It’s a private matter.”
“What is your name?” Well aware that this was going to be a difficult one simply by the woman’s approach the receptionist went through all the correct procedures while frantically trying to find a reason good enough to allow this woman to see the doctor ahead of all the other people waiting.
“What does that matter?” Bliss retorted.
“I shall need to get your notes for the doctor.”
“I’m not a patient here.” Bliss surprised her, “I need to speak to the doctor about someone that is.”
“Oh...well give me their name. I’ll find their records instead.”
Aware of the scene she was making, Bliss calmed down, all eyes were upon her and she didn’t want to be carted off by the police for causing a disturbance. “That won’t be necessary. Their records will not be needed for what I have to say.”
Her agitated demeanour worried the receptionist. This one was more than she could handle, and she could not call the police without first checking with Dr Alcott. If this woman had indeed information on another patient, only he could handle it. “Take a seat.” She told Bliss, “I will inform Dr Alcott of your arrival.”
With relief Bliss sat. She was half way there.
It seemed an age before the patient with the doctor left and she was ushered in to his room. He was taller than she had imagined with shrewd eyes that seemed to look right through her. She decided to cut to the chase. “Dr Alcott? I believe you know my son?” Surprising even herself that she should say this, Bliss caught herself sharply as the doctor’s eyebrows rose. Prior to coming in here, being faced with him, Bliss had been certain she would say she was there on behalf of Catherine Chandler, but at the last something told her that unless she was specific she would learn little. After all what was so shocking about saying she knew the woman? Far better to say that she knew of her partner.
“Your son?” Peter queried showing her to a seat. “Tell me his name.”
Bliss took the offered seat gratefully, her tongue almost drying for the moment as she sought the right words. Dr Alcott was to one side of her, she needed to see into his eyes as she answered him. “Please, go back to your seat Dr Alcott, I am fine, thank you.”
A little strange, Peter thought, this woman was certainly eccentric, and jumpy too, only in a calm exterior way, her eyes were the only indication that she was up to something. He returned to his seat on the other side of the desk and regarded her intently, “Now tell me, who is your son?”
“To me he is Frankie, however you may know him by some other name.” She paused gauging his reaction to her next comment, “He has the face of a lion.” She told him, watching his eyes, joyous when his whole face seemed to pale before her, quickly recovering enough to ask, “A lion you say?” Was that a tremor she detected?
“Yes. I don’t know his name, that is the one he has now, but my son lives beneath the city streets…”
“Whoa…Whoa…” Peter jumped to his feet, “You can’t go saying things like that, how did you come by that kind of information?” Stunned Peter garbled, aware that he was faced with a dilemma that had hounded him for thirty-five years, what would he say if confronted so directly about Vincent and the world below? He was annoyed with himself for not being cautious, for not having denied the possibilities when he had had enough preparation to have done so.
“You do know him?” Bliss’s whole face had lit up stunning Peter to the core.
“You mean to tell me, that you weren’t sure that I did?”
Bliss shrugged, “It was a long shot. You know Catherine Chandler, I thought there might be a possibility that you would know of her partner too.”
“A slim one. Catherine keeps Vincent’s existance very much a secret. Most of her friends know nothing about him, only a select few. There are actually only two that know.”
Elated Bliss rejoiced at learning the name that had been given to her son. His identity was taking shape at last and she wondered who the two friends of Miss Chandler’s were that knew of his existence, “Would Joe Maxwell be one of the two that know of him?” She asked Peter hopefully.
Peter nodded, watching as Bliss’s features turned to jubilation, “Then my son will have been successful too.”
“Your son? Vincent? I’m sorry I don’t understand?”
“No not Vincent, but rather my other son, Vincent’s brother. Actually his twin.”
Peter paled before her eyes, swallowing convulsively before he spoke. His stomach was in knots as he felt he had been very cleverly deceived to give away Vincent’s secret existence to a perfect stranger who knew more than she ought or perhaps assumed that she did.
“I need some proof.” He told her, “Just a moment please.” Aware that he couldn’t possibly see any more patients that day in view of the shock he had just received, he picked up the telephone and asked the local hospital to send him a locum to take his surgery for the rest of the day. Satisfied that one would be with him within fifteen minutes, he then buzzed through to his receptionist and told her to tell his patients that he was sorry but an emergency had arisen and that a relief doctor would be seeing them instead. With that he waited around only long enough for the locum to arrive, saying nothing to Bliss the whole time, and then as soon as he could, he took her by the arm and led her through the back door down to the parking lot beneath his office building.
Only there did he speak, “Please take the passenger seat in the front, and don’t speak until I tell you to.”
Bliss obeyed without question. She was delighted. Yes, he had surely been ruffled by her direct approach, yes he was certainly doing something about it. Now all she had to do was convince him that what she said was true, and if all went well she would be seeing her son again before sundown. Never had she known such happiness. And sitting there in silence as Peter drove with purpose to Lord knows where Bliss could hardly contain her joy.
Peter drove straight into Central Park because he knew that if this woman was genuine Father and Vincent should know about it. Slowing the car to a stop, he turned in his seat to face her, “Now tell me.” He asked bluntly, “I want to know everything.”
“Where do you want me to start?” Bliss held his gaze steadily.
“With your name perhaps?” Bliss detected sarcasm.
She smiled, “My name, my real name is Patricia Bliss James. I changed it to Bliss Jameson when I left Bermuda back in 1955. I have lived in New York or surrounding areas ever since then.”
Now in different light Peter was stunned by the blue of her eyes, and her hair, a rich tawny gold, like burnished copper one moment and ripened barley the next. There was no denying that she had Vincent’s looks in that respect. Peter found the aspect unnerving.
“Why did you leave Bermuda?”
“Something happened to me…” Bliss paused unwilling to remember, hoping she could gloss over it as much as possible. “I became pregnant…had to leave…to save the life of my babies.”
“Why? What of their father? Did he not care for you?”
“I don’t wish to go into that if you don’t mind.”
“Oh but I do.” Peter interrupted, “If you are who you say you are, that might be the key to all of this.”
For long moments Bliss said nothing, then with her eyes focused upon some tree swaying in the breeze several yards away, she began to speak slow at first then with more momentum as her courage increased.
“I was tricked. Offered money for a favour…”
“What sort of favour?” Peter questioned suspiciously.
“To give a couple of my eggs for experimentation.” Peter gasped at this, but said nothing. He had always wondered about such a thing in Vincent’s case.
“I thought the eggs would be removed and I’d be paid the money and go. Not so.” Bliss laughed derisively, “No, when I came to, the eggs had been fertilised with God only knows what, and I was to wait until their birth before I was to be paid.”
“Can you remember the face of the man that tricked you?”
“Always. Though I try to forget, he returns to my dreams. I would know him anywhere.”
Drawing his brows together as a sudden thought presented itself, Peter pulled out his wallet from inside his jacket and then flipping through several compartments extracted an old and battered photograph of Jacob Wells, John Pater and himself taken over forty years earlier, and handing it to Bliss he asked breathlessly, “Is he among this group?”
Bliss studied the photograph, and Peter studied her. He didn’t know whether to be relieved or not when he could see clearly that John Pater was not the man that she spoke of. Bliss shook her head, “No. How could he have been? Why do you ask?”
“All will be revealed, please continue with your story, I will try not to interrupt from now on.”
“No tell me, why did you think he would be among that group?”
Peter sighed, “One of those men portrayed to being Vincent’s father. Said he created him.”
“Oh. Well he didn’t. None of that group resemble Samuals. That was his name, Dr. Samuals, or so he led me to believe. Anyway, he somehow made me pregnant, and though I didn’t like it I accepted it at first. Keeping my appointments, allowing him to check on the growth rate of the babies. He was overjoyed when he knew there would be twins. I didn’t care, at first all I wanted was to see it through, get the money and run, but little things that he let slip started to bother me. I asked one time if he would allow me to visit the babies at some future date, after all I was carrying them, building a bond with them I thought it was the least he could do. But he told me that would be impossible since he did not expect them to survive long. I remember being worried by that and for the first time started asking questions about Dr Samuals to other practitioners. What I discovered terrified me. It appeared Dr Samuals was more into disection and experimentation. At one time he had crossed species and had killed the offspring to analyse in his laboratory. I suddenly felt sure that was his intention for my babies and I became frightened, wondering what my eggs had been fertilised with. Certainly not a human of a different race, what was the interest in that? I knew then that my eggs had been fertilised by what I assumed to be an ape of some description but whatever it had been suddenly those babies became very real to me. They were half mine, they were in my womb and were a part of who I was. I could not give them up to any experiment he had in mind, and so I fled the island, stowing away on the first ship out of the port, which happened to be heading for New York. So there you have it.”
“Almost.” Peter encouraged her further, “How did you come to lose one of the babies?”
At this Bliss’s eyes glazed over, soft and warm and Peter could detect love within them as she remembered the time of the babies birth. “They were gorgeous. Different yes, at least Frankie was different. Georgie has become different since, although his hand was always deformed of course, and the nails did not want to grow normally. I was at least relieved that they were not born furry, that came later, or that they were not apes. However, it became clear to me the moment I saw Frankie, that Samual’s had used the sperm from a big cat, probably a lion, though at that stage it was difficult to know for sure. Now since the newspaper bulletins and Miss Chandler’s involvement I feel certain that it was a lion.”
“Yes but how did you become separated with Vincent?” Peter asked as Bliss seemed to fade away lost in her memories right before his eyes.
“Frankie.” She corrected him, “I called him Frankie.” Peter nodded accepting the fact that this was the name she related her son with and waited for her to continue.
“Georgie was ill. Weak, I could see that. I had given birth to them in a subway, and it was freezing down there. I had a home, don’t get me wrong, but I was some distance away when I went into labour, and the snow was so thick at that time, I knew I’d never make it. So some vagabonds helped me, wrapping the babes in rags until I could get them home. On the way, Georgie’s breathing became laboured. I had to pass St Vincent’s so I acted impulsively. I left Frankie beneath a bush, because of his features arousing too many questions and took Georgie inside. I was in there longer than anticipated. When I came out Frankie had gone.” She shuddered and tears slipped down her cheeks. “I never saw Frankie again.”
Peter was elated. If her story was to be believed there would be proof. “What name did you give when you went into the hospital, can you remember?”
“Yes. I had changed my name by then. Samuel’s knew nothing of my middle name and I lengthened my surname, now I had sons, so I called myself Bliss Jameson. Both Georgie and I have records at the hospital, though Georgie has never been back there since the fur started to grow.”
“Then I can see these records?”
“I expect so. Someone in your profession should be allowed access.” Bliss shrugged, “But they know nothing of Frankie. Except…”
“Yes! Except what?”
“It caused quite a stir that there had been two placentas. Knowing nothing more than delivering babies I had not waited around for afterbirth. As soon as I had been examined and the two placentas’s taken away and questions were asked I exited the building. I was in turmoil, whether to stay with Georgie at the hospital or collect Frankie and take him inside or away to my home. To this day I don’t know what I would have done, but Frankie’s disappearance saved me from deciding. I simply went back into the hospital, stayed overnight with Georgie and left with him the next day. I know the double placenta caused quite a commotion, and I never told them about the other child.”
Peter knew he could go along to St Vincent’s and check the facts, and he knew that the information Bliss had just related was genuine, it had to be. No one else knew so much, no one unless someone from below had told of Vincent’s story and this woman was using it for some kind of leverage. What though, he didn’t like to presume.
“Where can I find you after today?” Peter asked starting up the engine.
“What do you mean, where are you going?”
“I have to check the things you have told me. If I think you are telling the truth, I will need to see you again to take you to Vincent.”
Bliss relaxed, “Come, you can drop me off, I live near the hospital these days.”
Turning in his seat, checking his rear-view mirror and all around Peter noticed a group of people out of his eye corner, “Just a minute.” He sounded amazed, and then stopping the car once more, wound down his window and shouted toward the group, “Michelle? Is that you?”
It was, and she was clearly overjoyed to see him. “Peter!” Leaving the two elderly people behind, the child ran toward the car, “Peter, you’ve got to help me.”
“What are you doing here?” Peter asked the child aware very much of Bliss’s interest at his side and trying desperately not to give anything away, “And who are they?” He thought he knew them, and then it dawned on him, “Michelle, what are you doing with your grandparents?”
“I came above to see them, and now I can’t find out how to get back below. Vincent and Catherine will be worried.”
Bliss pricked up her ears. ‘Above? Below? Vincent and Catherine? This was interesting.
Flummoxed Peter faced his dilemma, “I was just leaving Michelle. Look you know the secret,” he winked at her and indicated with a backward toss of his head to the passenger alongside him, “I’ll just take this lady home, then I’ll come back and help you.” He looked toward the two elderly people, not quite knowing what to do about them, but knowing at least Michelle would be safe with her grandmother, he hoped. “Wait here for me will you, I’ll be about twenty minutes.”
“Okay Peter, but hurry, ‘cos we’re freezing.”
“I’ll hurry.” Starting the engine once again, Peter revved the accelerator pedal and sliding the car into gear backed out of the car park intent on driving out of the park to take Bliss home, when suddenly she opened the door, and alighting before he knew what was happening, she started to run across the grass, shouting after her, “I’ll call you Dr Alcott.” And she was gone before he had time to adjust.
“Who was that?” Michelle came round to his window, “Your girlfriend?” She grinned impishly.
“No.” Peter watched the disappearing figure with dismay, “No, Michelle, just some patient needing advice.”
For some reason Michelle did not believe him but she decided to keep that fact to herself.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Six - Please click on 'Next' below:
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