“My brother!” Vincent stared at George as disbelief warring with hope raced across his features. “It isn’t possible.” He looked from Catherine to the stranger and back again, hoping to see some kind of answer written on their faces and found only a smile on Catherine’s and expectation on his.
“Is this true?” He looked to Catherine again, his rich tawny mane a halo around his head and shoulders even as he shook his head in denial.
“I believe so, Vincent. Why else would I bring him here?”
Vincent could not answer that. He knew Catherine, knew she would never jeopodise his world on a whim. But his brother? Vincent shook his head and George unwilling to let him deny the fact told him, “I have proof.”
Wide-eyed Vincent stared at the man before him, and saw not a stranger now, but a similar image of himself. Someone with the same physique, hair, eyes, stance everything standing before him. It was easy to see why Catherine had believed…but proof should he insist on proof? Yes he should, though the fellow had met him face to face, and though he did not show any fear from that, he should ask for proof. If only to satisfy Father later.
Father! What would Father think?
He found himself nodding vigorously, yes he wanted proof, but how would it be given. Nothing about the man resembled the beast, nothing at all. His eyes swiftly devoured all aspects of the stranger standing before him. And noted only one thing that grieved him, the fellow wore only one glove, but there could be any reason for that.
“You’ve seen our birth certificates and I will tell you all that you need to know, but first there is something just as important. Every picture tells a story so to speak.” George told him as he lifted his gloved hand and prepared to unlace the leather covering it.
With interest Vincent watched, noticing how well the lacings on the glove were tied done no doubt so that the glove could not easily be removed. This he understood only too well.
“People assume my hand was burnt as a child, hence the covering…it’s a story they accept…nevertheless one that has caused me much distress in its time.” Reaching the last of the ties, George began to slide the glove down his wrist revealing a matt of thick fur in a rich tawny shade before giving way to long slender fingers equally as furry with blunt tipped claws. Vincent gasped checking the hand extended with one of his own. They matched, apart from his claws being sharper.
“I know what you are thinking.” George went on watching Vincent’s dazed expression, “It could be cosmetic surgery, and yes it could, but on what count? Why would anyone wish to have this done to themselves as well as this…?” Pulling his shirt from out of his pants, George turned so that his back faced Vincent and promptly revealed the fur covering it. “Hiding a hand is one thing, this quite another. Having to wear thick clothing in summer to disguise this thatch beneath my shirt is not easy.”
“How, when, where?” Vincent muttered in quick succession.
George smiled, “One step at a time. How did we get like this?” Vincent nodded eagerly.
Beckoning with his head toward the sliding door George asked, “Can I come in?”
Vincent took only seconds to decide, “Of course.” His mind in a whirl, yet with the comforting throb of the bond between he and Catherine, he knew this to be right. Catherine would not allow a stranger to present themselves as kin if she had had any doubts.
Neither would she have done so without proof. Yet his mind and heart was in turmoil as he allowed George to enter the tunnels, knowing that without a doubt from the stranger’s very first step inside his world nothing would ever be quite the same again.
Circling the park, Bliss kept the small group of people in sight and as soon as Peter’s car pulled away she cautiously made her way back to the spot, reaching Michelle before the child spotted her.
The child turned, “Who are you…oh you’re the lady that was with Uncle Peter.” Michelle winked, “Don’t worry I won’t tell anyone.”
“I didn’t. I just had some business to attend to, but I’ve seen to it now. Tell me is Catherine coming to fetch you?”
“No, Peter is coming back I think.” Michelle had doubts now, “I dunno, maybe Catherine will come. Why do you want to go below too?”
“Yes.” Bliss had no idea what below meant but if Catherine lived there…then it dawned on her…was below linked to the tunnels beneath the city? She decided to ask the child, “Do you like living in the tunnels?”
“Not as much as living above. Its okay down there, kinda dark and cold. William makes the most delicious cookies though.” Michelle laughed and her stomach rumbled reminding her of just how hungry she was.
Michelle laughed, “I can’t remember the way down. I didn’t come this way. I went through Catherine’s apartment building, but my grandparents are too old to bend low like that or to climb that ladder. I know there is a way in through the park somewhere, do you know where it is?”
Bliss shook her head, “Its been so long since I went there, I can’t remember either.” She lied amazed that she had. It was true lying was just like spinning a web, once started hard to stop and far too easy to say despite the fact that her conscience pricked her mercilessly.
“Then maybe Catherine will show the both of us. I hope someone hurries up though ‘cos I’m freezing.”
“I’m surprised that Peter left you and these old people out in the cold. If he knows the way in why didn’t he just take you?”
“I don’t know. He probably has to ask Father for permission, and will have to send him a message first. Hang on!”
Bliss swang round as Michelle started forward with a joyful cry, “Kipper!” She shouted watching as a young boy ran toward them coming to a standstill at their side and looked anxiously from Michelle to her grandparents and then to Bliss before saying, “Father is waiting at the tunnel entrance. Don’t know where Vincent and Catherine are, he says you must come at once, but you must come alone.”
“I won’t!” Defiantly Michelle shook her head, “This is my Nanna and Grandpa and I want them to come with me.”
The sound of a car approaching adverted everyone’s attention, and Bliss was unsure of what to do as she noticed that it was Peter returning. He switched off the engine and alighted from the vehicle walking across the grass in a hurry, fearful of what was happening amongst the group ahead of him.
“Peter. Thank goodness you’re here. Michelle won’t come with me.”
Sternly Peter looked at the young girl and then equally so at Bliss, before striding away to where the elderly couple looked on fearfully anticipating their fate. “Look,” Peter told them as he approached, “ I’ve been in touch with the fellow who looks after the place where Michelle is staying, and he is prepared to see and talk with you after he has called a meeting with the council where he lives. For now I have to take Michelle with me, is there someplace I can contact you?”
“Michelle can stay with us! You’re not taking her away again. What gives you that right?” The pair launched their attack on Peter, who stood his ground in expectation of this.
“Then the law is corrupt!” Flared Michelle’s grandfather, “I did nothing wrong.”
Peter issued the old man a pitying glance, he wished that were so, and true he didn’t know all of the details, but if there was any chance that Michelle was at risk with her own kin, then he would do everything in his power to protect her.
“Two days. That’s all I’m asking, maybe less.”
“I can’t answer that. You will have to take it up with the authorities.”
“We can’t afford a lawyer and you know that!” Michelle’s grandmother sobbed. “And why should we have to? All my husband ever did was show friendship to some kids. He didn’t do any of those things those kids said he did. He wouldn’t. I know him!” Tears ran down her cheeks and Bliss having edged closer and closer to overhear now stepped forward and with a glare at Peter that seemed to say ‘how could you?’ put her arms around the old woman’s trembling frame.
“It’s the only way.” Peter told the old lady, and then to Bliss he added, “And you’d do well to keep out of something that doesn’t concern you.”
“Oh but I think you’ll find it does. As I see it, this child is under the care of Vincent and Catherine, and these people are Michelle’s grandparents, and that makes me, as Vincent’s mother, the child’s grandmother too.” A sweet smile of triumph graced Bliss’s lips.
“Look whatever you say, think or do, I know only this, things have to be done properly. The authorities rule that Michelle is fostered out for her own safety, and until such a time as they rule otherwise that’s the way its going to be. Now Michelle…” He called back to the child, “Get in my car. And Kipper? Tell Father not to wait for us, I’ll bring the child back via another way.” Kipper caught Michelle’s arm as she made to run back to her grandparents, and Peter seeing he would have to act quickly to help the boy hurried away from the group toward his car.
“You can’t do this Peter!” Bliss yelled running after him, “I’m Vincent’s mother…you’ve a right to tell me where he is!”
Kipper stared at the strange woman with the bright golden hair and the intense blue eyes, eyes that were flashing anger right now, and he couldn’t believe his ears. Vincent’s mother! Was it so?
“Thanks Kipper, I’ve got her.” Peter opened the passenger side door and tried to bundle Michelle inside, but she was too quick for him, running past Bliss and back to her grandparents and hiding behind them as if together they were a foreboding match against Peter.
“Alright young lady, you stay with your grandparents, but the authorities will have to be informed.” He strode back to the three speaking as he went, “Just tell me where I can find you?”
Furious Peter turned to walk back to his car, “As you wish” he called over his shoulder, then seeing Bliss and Kipper watching open mouthed he told them, “Kipper, to Father now!”
“Yes, Peter.” Kipper began to run, then slowed to hear what Peter was saying to the strange blonde woman with the bright blue eyes.
“Oh I’m Vincent’s mother all right.” Bliss told him, “No doubt about that. Besides you can’t get in touch with me ‘cos you don’t know where I live.” After how he had treated the old people Bliss’s temper toward this doctor was rising at an amazing rate, if he didn’t soon get out of there, he’d regret it. Her nails dug into her palms, she was so furious.
“We’ll see.” Peter told her getting into his car and glaring at Kipper who was walking backwards slowly. Peter was furious. Not with the people he was facing but with the situation. So much had happened here, and so many people were involved, not least of all the woman that made herself out to be Vincent’s mother. That together with the grandparents of the child that had been Vincent’s adopted daughter. And Michelle herself, what was he to do? Physically carry her off screaming and kicking? Wouldn’t that constitute abuse also?
And Kipper, damn the boy to witness all of that, he knew how wrong it was to eavesdrop. Would he tell Vincent?
Well one thing was for certain, he, Peter, would have to tell Catherine, because right now it looked like only a lawyer’s mind could unravel this problem. That was the whole problem, because for a certainty he didn’t think he could. If it was down to him, he’d probably believe them all. That was the trouble with human’s they could be so downright deceitful and people would believe them. Or they could tell the truth and no one would. They were their own worse enemy. Well Catherine could sort it, he thought, at least she’d know how and while she was at it she could find out how guilty or innocent Michelle’s grandfather really was of the claims made against him.
“Where’s Michelle?” Father waiting inside the drainage culvert asked Kipper the moment the lad entered alone.
“She wouldn’t come, then Peter arrived and took her in his car.” Kipper stated flatly, and it was easy to see that he was preoccupied with something else.
“What is it, Kipper? What’s wrong? And why didn’t Peter bring her straight to me?”
“What? Oh, er…he’s taking her another way. Her grandparents were with her.”
“Oh I see. Well in that case we best go back below. I’ve received a message from Vincent that he and Catherine are on their way back to the hub via the other park entrance and that they have a stranger with them.”
Kipper knew it couldn’t be, but he had to ask anyway, “Is it a woman with blonde hair?”
“Cos there was a woman up in the park with Peter who says she is Vincent’s mother.”
“Sure. And she did look a bit like him, at least her eyes and hair were the same.”
“Was she with Michelle?” Father’s mind was doing overtime. How could someone strange enter the park and admit to being Vincent’s mother, when they did not know he existed? “Michelle must have told her.” He concluded before Kipper could reply. “All the same, I best send a message to Vincent and ask if the visitor is male or female.”
Kipper waited as Father beat out the message and knew the reply before Father related it. “ They have a man with them. This is most strange. Kipper can you take me back to the place where you left this woman maybe she is still there.”
“There will be no need for that.” A voice came from just outside of the drain.
“Its her!” Kipper cried rushing to stand behind Father. It was one thing confronting this woman in the daylight, quite another in the semi darkness of a storm drain. She could be a mental case. Father felt a bit like hiding behind Kipper for the same reason as slowly the figure of the woman moved into their circle of vision until she stood within six feet away.
“Hello?” She greeted them, “I know this must sound strange, but what the boy says is true.”
“To every word. You didn’t think I wouldn’t follow did you?” Bliss turned to Kipper, “I’ve waited thirty-five years to meet my son again, and nothing is going to stop me now that I’ve almost found him. You do both know where he is don’t you? And if you don’t tell me, I will search for as long as I have to for a way into these tunnels. You can’t stop me from getting in.”
“I think you’ll find that we can. We’ve tackled worse.” Father snapped “And you dear lady will be no trouble at all. Now get out of here!” He swung his cane menacingly at Bliss, causing her to take a sudden step back to clear it as it breezed by, and even the tears that gathered in her eyes, did not stop Father’s relentless attack. “Move! Do you understand…get out of here…I never want to set eyes on you again. How dare you come down here with your slander, your vicious lies. My son does not have a mother, or if he had he certainly doesn’t need one now. If you’re his mother why have you taken so long to find him, hmm? Why did you leave him to freeze to death in the snow? What kind of mother would do that to any child…but especially to one so beautiful as he? Get lost, don’t return…whether you’re his mother or not he doesn’t need you, its too late for that!”
Kipper couldn’t believe his eyes! He had never seen Father so angry and the woman was clearly troubled by that cane more than anything, although Father’s verbal attack seemed to stun her also.
“I have proof, I am his mother. I had no choice but to leave him in the snow, there were reasons. I can explain.”
“Get out of here! Go on get…get…” Kipper had never seen Father move so fast, and he really thought he was going to strike the woman and kill her at any moment with a well aimed whack of his cane. Bliss cowered in the entrance a moment and then turned and ran. Kipper really felt sorry for her.
“There was no need for that, Father.” He trembled as he spoke. What the old man had done was wicked, unjust and downright unfathomable. Father had been like a man possessed, or someone in a jealous rage perhaps?
“There was every need. People like that are dangerous for Vincent, for the community, and Michelle needs a severe ticking off for telling a complete stranger about Vincent.”
“Supposing nothing!” Father snapped. “And you’ll say nothing to no body. Do you hear me?” Kipper nodded, fearful now for himself when Father waved his cane before his eyes. But never had he seen Father behave like that before, and he wished he could tell someone. Maybe the old man was going senile? Too many years living below ground, never seeing the sunshine…Kipper had heard that can do strange things to a man… make him go mad. Well for a certainty it had done that to Father and Kipper had never felt so distressed in all his life.
After leaving the park, Peter wasted no time in going along to the archives of the hospital medical files, to dig for the information he sort. Most of the stuff had been transferred to microsoft machines but he didn’t think that this would be. Too old, too long ago. He prepared to be searching for several hours. Rolling up his sleeves, cup of coffee at hand he began searching through the files of the appropriate year.
Undefeated, Bliss walked away from the storm drain with fury and fear rolled into one following her out. How dare he? How dare she run out like that. How dare she let a miserable old man with a vengeance scare her away from what was rightfully hers? Well at least now she knew the way in, and she would return, and nothing would stop her from meeting her son again. Thus determined, Bliss walked toward home, knowing she’d return later that evening and then nothing would stop her entering the tunnels. However, unfortunately, something did.
Hours later found Bliss making her way steathily across the moonlit grass of the park, fearing nothing as she anticipated her quest. Thirty five years rolled behind her, and now tonight, at any moment she would finally see her son again.
George had not been at the house, nor had he left a message but she had left one for him asking him to meet her at this storm drain the following morning. Hopefully by then she would have been below, found her son and would return above just long enough to bring his twin down. Oh what a reunion she anticipated as she approached the storm drain with torch in hand. The old man had said she could be stopped, but he was wrong, nothing would stop her now.
She laughed, the sound filling the air, and echoing all around her. Someone called back and Bliss ducked quickly inside the drain hoping it would be empty. It was. Now where was the way in?
Assuming it was just a matter of opening the metal barred gate and then pushing open the large metal door behind Bliss pushed and pulled to no avail. It wouldn’t budge. She wanted to bang on it, holler and scream but the sound of footsteps outside cautioned her. She was in a very vulnerable position. Behind her she was trapped, in front of her was someone she didn’t know, and as they walked steadily about, she was sure that they didn’t know she was inside. Still it would take only moments before they found out.
Fear rose up like bile and almost choked Bliss. She extinguished the torch and the complete blackness settled over her like a suffocating blanket. It felt like years were passing instead of mere minutes.
“Hello? You in there?” A voice asked. It sounded slurred. Bliss froze, said nothing, did not move, held her breath, prayed. Prayed like she had never prayed before.
Suddenly it all became too much for her. Out there were people, and space, so much space that she couldn’t tell if she were being watched, hunted or not. Here in the storm drain, true she was trapped but she was also safe. Somewhere on the other side of this door was her son and his community below, even that wild old man was preferable to whatever awaited her outside.
Bliss stayed still until she was sure the person had moved away satisfied that the storm drain was empty, either that or scared to death someone inside might ‘get them’. Then she moved into the darkest corner she could detect and squatted, ready to jump up and run if the need arose. Moonlight shrouded the entrance, she would see anyone that came in and she’d be ready to run if the need be. But if not, she’d stay all night if she had to. For she had the comforting thought that even if she hadn’t reached her Frankie by then, at least George would be arriving to meet her come morning.
In time Bliss slept, wounding herself into a tight ball, breathing shallow, the anxious prayer still in her heart.
Due to the varied ways they had entered, everyone arrived back at the main hub at once or within minutes of one another at least. First Catherine and Vincent with their visitor and then amazingly Michelle came in escorted by a helper, and finally Father and Kipper. All stared for several moments at one another with Michelle behaving like a frightened rabbit. It was almost as if the moment the helper let go of her arm she would run back the way they had come. Father stared at the visitor thinking he had finally gone quite mad. There was such a striking resemblance to his son there, that afterward when he learned of Vincent’s suspicions, he could not for the life of him understand why Vincent had had any. Catherine and Vincent both stared at Michelle, overjoyed to see her, dismayed that she appeared so wary of them and wondered where the helper had found her, and what had happened to her to make her appear so frightened. And Kipper, for all his sensibility looked like he was a troubled spirit, and in many respects much like the frightened rabbit of Michelle. It looked like the first chance he got he would be off too.
“What on earth is going on here?” Father was the first to speak looking from one person to the next. His question seemed to make everyone move and they all began talking at once.
“Michelle!” Catherine hurried toward the young girl enfolding her in her arms, “Are you well?” She touched her, ran her hands up and down over the girl’s arms, then touching her face looked into her eyes willing the child to tell her where she had been, if she was alright, if she was cold, hungry, miserable, and why she appeared to be scared half to death.
For a moment Michelle said nothing and then started to cry heartily, causing Catherine to look back at Vincent appealing for help. He strode forward bear hugged the young girl and coaxed her into telling him what was wrong.
“She came into my store. I remembered her from the time you came in Catherine with the two young girls, and by the message that she was missing I thought I had best bring her down here quick smart. She tried to make me bring her grandparents down, but I thought I ought to check that one out first.” The helper told Vincent and Catherine.
All this was taking place as Father stared at the visitor unable to say a word. It was incredible. If Vincent had the face of a man this was the face he would have. Everything about the fellow reminded him of Vincent. Finally he was compelled to ask, “And who might you be?”
Looking to Vincent and Catherine for guidance and finding them otherwise engaged with the child, George was lost for words. This must be the old man that his brother Joe Maxwell and Catherine referred to as Father. George had already established that this man was some kind of prominent figure to the tunnel community, and he wasn’t certain if he should introduce himself by name or by position or both. While he deliberated, Vincent came to his rescue, placing one arm around the fellow’s shoulders Vincent introduced the two. “Father, this is George Jameson. George this is my father, Jacob Wells.” The introduction was well and fine but it did nothing to explain why George was there. And while Vincent had thought of little else on the journey home, he was still incapable of recognising George as his brother. So he was surprised when Father asked sceptically, “Are you two related?”
George and Vincent looked from one to the other before looking back at Father, “That’s a strange question Father, why do you ask?” Vincent questioned quite mystified.
“Just answer my question first. So are you?” How could he tell him that he thought they resembled one another? How could he explain that he could ‘see’ that they were related? Were they even aware of the fact? It seemed ludicrous that Vincent could be related to anyone. It was something he had never dreamed of happening, well not quite in this way. Oh he had often wondered if Vincent had a living family, but he had always assumed they would hear about it before the relative visited. Never the other way around.
“I believe we are.” George spoke for the first time taking Father aback with his rich soft lilt which was so like Vincent’s, even though it had no gravelling undertones..
“How so?” A shuffle from one side drew his attention away momentarily and Father noticed that Kipper, Michelle, the helper and Catherine were all standing like an audience at a side show, and it looked very much as if each were holding their breath. Though few knew what the other knew, each had realised that the visitor was a lot like Vincent in too many ways for it to be a coincidence. And Kipper was still remembering the woman in the park. Was she related to this man? Had she been telling the truth? If so Father had just turned away Vincent’s own mother. What would Vincent do about that when he found out?
In the time Father’s attention was diverted George sent Vincent a look for help. What should he do now? Tell the old man what he wanted to know? His eyes seemed to question, ‘do you believe me yet Vincent? Can I tell your father, or do you want to tell him?’
“Well?” Father asked when no answer was forthcoming, “How do you think you are related to my son?”
With Michelle’s hand clutched in his, Vincent stepped forward, “George believes that I am his long lost twin brother, Father. But we have yet to establish the truth of that.”
Despite the reply Father sighed. He was greatly relieved yet could not understand why. Later he decided that if these two hadn’t of been related he knew he would have been haunted by the belief that they must be linked in some way. He knew he would have got no rest until he had found that link. It may have taken the rest of his life, but Father knew that he would have done everything in his power to prove it. The relief of knowing that he didn’t have to face all of that was almost too much.
Father nodded. Stunned Vincent asked, “You don’t appear surprised.”
“I’m not. Any fool can see that the two of you are related in some way. You say you have yet to establish the fact. I think the facts speak for themselves, its as plain as the light of day, anyone else think so?”
Then Michelle, “So are you related to the woman with the blonde hair too?” Father gasped, he had almost forgotten about her.
“Blonde hair?” George’s face lit up, “Where is she, what did she say to you?” The last time he had seen his mother she was in the nursing home. His mind was in overdrive, how did this child know he was related to a blonde haired woman, how had they met, was it his mother?
With the grace to blush Father stammered, “there was a woman in the park. She maintained that she was Vincent’s mother. I didn’t believe her. I saw her off.”
“YOU DID WHAT!!!” Three pairs of accusing voices raised as one, blue and green eyes flashing as Catherine, Vincent and George stared wildly at the elderly man.
“I…I…didn’t believe her. After all how did she know Vincent was down here? I though Michelle must have told her. After all they were together.”
“Was not!” Michelle shouted. “I’ve never seen her till today.” Father looked at her strangely, he had naturally assumed that as they were together they knew one another.
“Peter brought her.” Michelle added.
“He’s our friend and Catherine’s general practitioner,” Vincent told him, then turned thunderous eyes toward his parent as he told him accusingly, “If Peter brought her, you should have known she was telling the truth. Father, how could you send her away?”
“It wasn’t like that. I never saw Peter. I never saw the woman until she followed Kipper back to the storm drain. How was I to know she was telling the truth?”
“Maybe not. If she followed Kipper and you sent her away, hopefully she will stay around the area waiting for another chance. Although it will be dark soon. Does she know Vincent is down here?”
Father nodded. “Yes. I believe she does. Its that which frightened me the most. I really believed that Michelle had told her everything. I’m sorry my dear, forgive me?”
“She might, but I don’t think I ever will. Father, my own mother and you let her go.”
Kipper giggled, couldn’t help himself muttering ‘and then some’. Father glared at the boy, cringing when Vincent asked, “What did Father do?”
Knowing he had revealed too much Kipper shook his head, he didn’t want to say anything more. By the warning look he saw in Father’s eyes, he knew he was already caught in the crossfire and he wanted out.
“Did you frighten her? Threaten her? Father, tell me!” Vincent roared enough to take George aback. He had never heard a man utter such a sound in all of his life.
“I…I…was only thinking of you…” Father cowered a little. Though he knew his son would never hurt him, he knew he had done him a grave injustice, and he was also lying even now. He hadn’t done it for Vincent at all. He had done it because he was jealous, jealous that someone might come that would mean more to Vincent than he did.
Someone natural, blood related, kin. A brother was one thing, a mother was quite something else. Vincent had missed not having a mother and Father didn’t want to lose him to one that might suddenly lay claim to him. But he could never tell Vincent that. Vincent would hate him if he knew.
Finding nothing with which to reply, Vincent returned his attention to George and then Catherine, “We should go back above, see if we can find her. George you will have to come, I don’t know who I am looking for.”
“I’ll take Michelle home.” Catherine told them, “Keep us informed, and be careful up there Vincent.”
Vincent knew what she meant. Despite everything, despite what appeared to be so, may not be. He could quite easily be walking into a trap. George might not be who he said he was, and this might not have been his plan, but they may have just made it easier, whatever it was, to be accomplished. And worst of all this could be one of Mitch Denton’s traps, after all he knew so much about Vincent already and it was just possible that George was working for Mitch. Still he would never know if he didn’t go to find out, and at least by being aware of the possibility of such a set up Vincent went out prepared for anything. It wouldn’t be the first time that Mitch had tricked him.
“I’ll be careful. Don’t worry, Catherine. Kipper, take Father to his chamber, he looks like he needs to sit down.”
Then without another word, he left the small group as he and George made their way back up to the park.
*** *** ***
“Well what have we here?” With flashlights blazing the still form huddled in the corner of the dusty storm drain was eaily distinguishable.
“Bin locked out have we?” A dirty hand shook Bliss awake roughly. She stared at the light. Blinded by its intensity and shielding the beam with her hand, unable to see who stood behind, as fear galloped through her small frame gaining momentum by the second.
“Who….who…are you?” she stammered.
“Just what I was going to say. Who are you?” One of the figures spoke to her. The others laughed. Bliss’s blood ran cold at the sound.
“Nobody.” She replied at length not quite sure how much she should reveal. Keeping secrets was something she had much practice at.
“What are you doing here? You aren’t dressed like you have no home to go to.”
“I’m waiting for someone.” Bliss trembled.
“Yeah, who? Ain’t many people lady that wait for anyone in here. You visiting the folk below?”
At that word Bliss relaxed. Here was someone that knew about the tunnels, maybe they even knew Vincent. If they did and they were bad people, maybe they would be frightened to know who she was to him. Her mind in overdrive Bliss thought of and rejected many ideas in a few split seconds before foolishly deciding on what she deemed to be the best way out. And ordinarily it may have been adequate, if these people had been tunnel dwellers, and though no tunnel dweller would behave so callously to a stranger Bliss was yet to learn this.
“I’m waiting for Vincent. I’m his mother.”
“That so?” The voice drawled. “Well I’ll be damned, old pussy face has a human mother after all.” The other men with him laughed, they didn’t know who he referred to, but it sounded funny.
“Who are you?” Suddenly Bliss knew she had done wrong, and it was imperative that she knew who she was speaking to.
“Me? I’m an old friend of Vincent’s. We grew up together. You could say we are brothers.”
“Oh?” somehow Bliss doubted that. There was too much anger, venom in his tone for him to claim her son as his brother. Bliss thought she detected hatred there.
“Yep sure, me and Vin go back a long way. Tell you what lady, you ain’t gonna get no joy waiting around here all night, ‘cept freeze your ass off. How about I show you another way in?”
Bliss gasped, Oh yes, oh yes, “You know another way?”
“Course I do, I know all the ways.” Bliss realised he was careful not to use any words that applied to the tunnels. Mimicking him she went along with that.
“Then thank you, yes. Beats waiting out here in the cold.”
“Sure does, here let me help you up.” Bliss held out her hand placed it in the rough weather beaten one and felt herself fairly lifted into the air. ‘Wow’ she thought, ‘you’re strong’ but she kept that to herself.
“Right ready? Got everything?” the fellow looked around, swinging his flashlight into all the corners. There was some garbage left around but the woman staked no claim to it. “Good, let’s go then shall we? Soon have you nice and warm.”
Leading Bliss by the elbow, the fellow steered her out of the storm drain and to her surprise toward a car parked a few yards away. Alarm bells sounded but she was also well aware that there wasn’t a lot she could do but trust this person. After all he obviously knew Vincent, even if he didn’t appear to favour him, and he was right she couldn’t stay where she was. Already she was frozen half to death. If he hadn’t of come along she may even have died and would never have known. A sudden thought struck her, “Oh!”
“What’s the matter, what’s wrong?” The fellow asked as Bliss slid into the back passenger seat.
“I’ve just thought. I left a note at home for my other son to meet me, perhaps I should leave one here to tell him I’ve taken another way in.”
The fellow seemed to dwell on this a few seconds before replying, “Its okay, I’ll leave the note, you just wait here. What’s your other son’s name?” He assumed it to be an adopted son, or maybe Vincent was adopted, no matter, this woman referred to herself as Vincent’s mother, so that was good enough for him. Vincent would know who he meant.
“It’s George. Pin it eye level so he’ll find it. Thank you.”
“No probs. You just settle down and get warm. Syd, get the engine running, turn the heater on, let her get warmed up while you wait for me.”
That said he walked with the flashlight guiding his way back into the storm drain, then taking a notepad and a thick felt tipped pen from his back pocket he began to write, then satisfied he made a hole in the paper, found a piece of rag and tied it to the gate where it would be easily seen by some tunnel dweller if not Vincent himself. That done, he stepped back, laughed derisively and with the flashlight took a last look at the note before leaving the storm drain with a triumphant look on his face.
He’d got it made, the cat was well and truly in the bag. He wondered what Vincent would do when he read his little kidnap note, probably go ballistic. Well what did that matter, as long as he got the freak running, running straight into his booby trap? He laughed as he thought of the note he’d left…
‘Vincent…I’ve got your mother…Mitch.’
And then reaching the car he slid into the passenger seat next to the woman and asked Syd to drive down to the docks.
*** *** ***
Rachel was playing with some toys in Father’s chamber when the three returned and on seeing Michelle she jumped up at once and came to hug her ‘sister’, “I’ve missed you.” She told her, “Where have you been?”
“I went above.” Michelle told her, “To my grandparents, but Catherine wouldn’t let them come back with me.”
“Now that’s not true.” Catherine interrupted. “It was Peter who wouldn’t allow them, and then Father backed up that decision. Whoever comes to live below is for the council to decide, you know that Michelle, surely you remember how it was when you first arrived?”
“Yes, and its stupid. What’s wrong with my grandparents? They are nice people.”
“Well if they are, they can come. But that’s not for me to decide. You will have to wait until Peter reports back to present their case. Its not something you or I can do.”
“Where’s Vincent?” Rachel wanted to know, “Did he come back with you?”
“No, Rachel. Vincent has gone above. It will be dark soon so it will be safe for him.” Catherine decided to refrain from telling the child the purpose of his trip above. Best not to tell her any details until they knew more themselves, or she might have questions Catherine could not answer.
“Well you two, its time to eat and then bath and go to bed. Tomorrow is another day.”
Catherine prepared for an argument, surprised when there was none. The two girls seemed happy to be back together and did not challenge her request in any way. Not that she expected it from Rachel, but she had thought that there might be problems with Michelle.
Later, when the two girls were safely tucked up in bed, Catherine sat with a brew of hot tea in her hands her thoughts and heart totally absorbed on Vincent. It had been over two hours since he and George had returned above during which time there had been no word and Catherine was beginning to worry.
*** *** ***
On their way out into the park neither had noticed Mitch’s note and after avidly searching without success the two men returned to the drainage culvert sorry at heart. Neither spoke, for what was there to say? They had said everything during the past two hours. Their mother had vanished, maybe she would return another day, hopefully she would. Even a trip to the house George shared with her had not revealed any sign of life and not delaying for Vincent’s sake had meant that George had overlooked the note that his mother had left for him.
With his acute hearing and eyesight, there was no need for Vincent to carry a flashlight, and as George did not think to bring one, the two entered the darkness of the drain culvert with eyes pinned ahead adjusting their sight to the inky darkness within.
A little concerned about showing his brother where the mechanism was for opening the door, Vincent was grateful for the darkness and reached up to the ledge over the door with ease happy that George could not see him do so. But once the door opened light spread through to the area outside illuminating their shadows and the iron clad door with its note attached.
“What’s that?” George noticed it first.
Vincent reached for the note reading its contents with a sense of unrest, fear, dismay and disgust.
“Its from an arch enemy of mine. It says that he has our mother.”
George gasped. “Would he hurt her!”
“I can’t say. Mitch grew up in the tunnels, we used to be friends… associates… I thought of him as a brother… but he was always cruel toward me and issuing snide remarks. Since he left the tunnels he has tried his best to avenge me. His father and I were good friends, I think Mitch resented that, he has no other reason to hate me.”
“Then why would he kidnap mother?”
“To flush me out. Recently Mitch has sent a series of notes bearing the intent to kill me. He knows he dare not set foot inside the tunnels, but to lure me above…” Vincent shrugged, “Holding our mother would secure his plan. I must go to him.”
“Then I lose you and gain our mother. I can tell you Frankie…sorry, Vincent…if mother knew this she would give her life for yours, but I do not have such courage. I can’t lose her Vincent, I can’t.”
“Then I must see that it doesn’t come to that. “
“No Vincent, not I but we. We will go together. We are brothers, twin brothers, where you go’est I go’est. We have been apart far too long, and she is my mother too. “
“I cannot allow this. It is me that Mitch wants. You should only accompany me some of the way, I will find our mother and bring her to you.”
“And if this Mitch should kill you?” What then? Will he kill her too? After all she would be a witness and your wife is a good lawyer. Surely he would take no such risk?”
Vincent was thoughtful. George was right, yet how could he allow his newly found brother to join him in this quest? Supposing all three of them were killed? Yet supposing George was right? What if he was killed leaving their mother to fend for herself? At least taking George with him, Mitch would not be prepared for that. He would assume Vincent would come alone. “All right, but you must stay close to me, and do everything I say. It is a dangerous place where Mitch resides. He will have people on the look out. We must be careful. And first there is something I must do.”
Vincent reached inside the tunnel and picking up a stone, tapped out a message to Pascal, letting him know what he proposed doing and why. Pascal beat out a hasty, ‘be careful Vincent’, before the two men exchanged goodbyes. That done, Vincent closed the door to the tunnels, secured it, and led George back out into the semi darkness of the park above.
*** *** ***
“So, you are Vincent’s mother?” Mitch pulled up a chair opposite the bound woman before him. “Too bad you can’t answer me, so just nod or shake your head ok?”
Bound and gagged, wide eyed Bliss nodded. Her heart thudded in her chest as it had for the past two hours, petrified as she was to what was happening to her. This man with his promise to show her a short cut into the tunnels, had tricked her, and by the tone of malice in his voice, Bliss realised that she was to become bait to lure her son to him. What an awful moment that would be. To sit and be faced with her son for the first time in thirty five years, only to witness his death moments later. Still there was no way she could avoid seeing it. The bonds around her hands tied at the back of the chair were too tight and her gag almost suffocating. Only her feet were un-strapped, not that it mattered, she could hardly hobble out of the cabin and down its many steps with a chair strapped to her back, any more than she could safely navigate the sidewalk between the warehouses and the ocean.
As Mitch had ushered her from his car to the cabin, Bliss had been aware of her surroundings from decades ago. This was the self same dock she had alighted upon the day her voyage from Bermuda had ended. She had never been back, but the boats that were docked seemed awfully appealing right now, and Bliss wished that she were able to hide out upon one. If she did get a change to escape, that would be where she would head to lie low. There were enough boats moored for it to take a considerable time for her to be found by this man and his so called colleagues. Having her escape plan in mind gave Bliss a measure of comfort, even though she knew the impossibility of carrying the chair with her at least the idea kept her sane.
“His ‘real’ mother?” Bliss almost retched at the animosity behind the question. She knew by the sinister tone that she would have to lie yet again. She shook her head.
“Pity.” Mitch looked disappointed. And for a long while was silent gauging his next question. Finally he asked, “Do you live in the tunnels?”
Bliss wasn’t sure how to answer him, unsure of the way his mind was working. If she should say yes, he might ask her questions that she knew no answers to and he would then know her to be lying. If she said no, would he feel that she was so important to her son after all?
“I asked you a question. Answer me God damn you!” Mitch’s face contorted with unleashed fury and instinctively Bliss shook her head.
“What’s that for, no you won’t answer me, or no you don’t live in the tunnels?” Bliss just stared at him helplessly until he asked her again, “So do you live in the tunnels?”
Bliss shook her head.
Mystified Mitch stood up. If the woman was telling the truth, how long would it be before Vincent would discover the note, or anyone would discover it? If she didn’t live in the tunnels how would they know she was missing? How long would it be before they came looking for her? Would it be tonight? Tomorrow? Tomorrow night? It had been late when he had found her, it was probable that no one would discover the note till morning. Maybe not even then. More like late afternoon when someone was returning, then they would notice it pinned to the bars. Well one thing was for certain, they couldn’t wait up all night, and as much as he despised anyone that knew Vincent, Mitch felt a merit of remorse for the victim he held as bait. Besides she was quite a petite and pretty woman. Probably had been beautiful once.
“I don’t want any trouble, okay?” Mitch stood up and before Bliss drew a knife from his pocket. Her wide open eyes spoke of her fear and he told her, “I’m not gonna hurt you. We just can’t stay here. It might be hours before Vincent arrives. I’m gonna cut your ties and you’ll come with me onto one of the boats, okay?”
Bliss could hardly contain her relief and joy. She tried not to let her eyes show it as he stood watching her for signs of loyalty. “Okay, I think you’ll do as I ask.” Mitch slit the ties behind her back, and taking her roughly by the elbow, pulled her up onto her feet and steered her toward the door. Opening it, he peeped outside. All was still and quiet. His men were on duty in their required positions, but he could not see them from where he stood.
“Come with me.” He barked the order and Bliss fell into step alongside him. Together they walked the length of the jetty and toward the last boat moored there.
Then from out of nowhere Mitch heard a familiar sound that turned his blood to ice. Hot blood thundered through his veins freezing as it reached his heart, as bile rose up like venom when he recognised that the sound could be issued only from one other – Vincent!
Pushing the woman forward, Bliss stumbled over the side of the boat tumbling onto the deck below, but released from Mitch’s hold she quickly regained ground and sped off wrenching the gag from her mouth as she leapt from boat to boat until she was satisfied that she could hide where Mitch could not find her.
There she waited with a bird’s eye view as a cloaked figure stalked her captor under the cover of the shadows.
Suddenly, Vincent knew that they were not alone. And the company was not due to Mitch’s sidekicks. He and George had taken them out on the way in. Stilling to listen Vincent detected voices that told him long before Mitch did that other people had come onto the scene with a similar intent. Vincent could sense their anger, hatred and murderous intent.
Holding to the shadows, Vincent hoped that George had kept to his position, but paid his location no attention. A turn of the head, any rustle would indicate his presence and Vincent remained motionless until he was sure he knew of the whereabouts of every man entering the dock. There he waited, watching intently, his eyes pinned on Mitch Denton to see what would happen next.
*** *** ***
He’d found them! Peter stared and stared at the appropriate records as if he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. But they were there right before him. Date, time and purpose of visit. 12th January 1956, at 21.42 hours, a baby was admitted with his mother. Peter read down the notes with avid interest, his heart beating erratically by what he saw there. The woman had the child stowed inside a blanket and some of the placenta was still attached. However, on examination of the woman not only had the rest of the placenta been discovered, but there were obvious signs that a second placenta had grown into it and had been torn away within the last few hours, yet there was no sign of another child.
And the mother insisted that she had only given birth to one child. It was therefore a mystery, but the records had been closed with the assumption that the woman had carried fraternal twins, and one had died at some stage before birth and had been expelled without the woman’s knowledge, possibly as a previa twin whereby the placenta had been delivered first. This was usually a fatal birth, and often dangerous for the mother, but with a stillborn that had died several weeks before the onset of labour it was just possible that the mother had suffered no ill effects due to that reason. However, there was one problem with that theory – the placenta that had been torn was not old and shrivelled but was in fact full of red and fresh blood, indicating that the child from whence it had come had not been stillborn.
Peter continued to read with avid interest. He, of course, knew exactly what had happened, knew the simple complexity of it all, but for those not in the know, several theories had been put forth.
1) Had there been a second child that was alive and had grown to full term then where was it? That was the first and foremost question.
2) As there was no fraternal twin to the child brought in by the mother, then it was possible that at some stage during pregnancy a child had been expelled without the mother being aware of it, yet the recently torn placenta if grown into the healthy child’s placenta would have continued to grow and nourish the birth child. It was highly unusual but not impossible, except that the birth child appeared weak and undernourished and therefore that brought back the possibility that another child had been born, and recently too. But again where was it?
3) It was also unusual that any of either placenta’s should still be within the womb, and on closer inspection it was discovered that a third placenta had been partly formed in the early stages of pregnancy, and that this too had grown into the preceding placentas. There was no sign of the embryo however, although this was to be expected.
4) A strange occurrence was noted that the placenta’s while growing into one another in actual fact formed a structure much like that of an animal. They were all linked true, but after expulsion it became clear that when laid side by side they very much resembled the afterbirth of a large mammal such as a dog or a large cat not of the domestic variety.
Peter pulled back in surprise at reading this. It was the very proof he needed, if nothing else had convinced by now him that bit did. He left the report of the birth and went on to the Haemoglobin files, and was astounded to discover that the DNA test had proven that the blood taken from the child and the placenta’s had shown a definite result of feline, possibly lion.
Then further dates were added showing that the mother had collected the child the following day, and had from time to time taken that child to clinic appointments, but there was no more information after the year 1967, which would be about the time, Peter presumed, that George had started to grow the fur. The file was thus closed as one of life’s mysteries, and the final theory was that the woman had somehow been contaminated with feline blood and this had been passed on to her offspring, who in turn had suffered. It was considered a possibility that the woman would never carry a ‘normal’ baby to term from then on after.
So it was true then. Well as true as it was possible to be. There was always that niggling doubt that Bliss had got hold of those records and had fabricated a story from them. But why? And if she did what connection had she to Vincent? There was nothing within the records to attain to anything about Vincent’s existence, and chances of Bliss making that connection would be like putting all the parts to an automobile in a huge container stirring it for a million years and have a vehicle at the end of it. No matter for how long it was mixed without human intervention those parts would just not slot together to build a car. And as far as these records were concerned there was no human intervention that could put these notes and Vincent together. Unless it was someone that actually knew the truth of the matter.
Peter leaned back on his seat and drew in a great breath, exhaling it all in a rush. So it was true then. The woman was Vincent’s mother. And he had a brother too, a twin. Well that being the case there were some that had waited thirty five years for this information, so what was he doing sitting there gawking with it in his hands? Peter rose hastily cleaned up after him and left the room, his heart and mind almost dilerious with the news he was about to impart.
*** *** ***
The sound of the voice filled the air and Mitch firmly held in Vincent’s sight spun on his heels toward the sound. Even from his vantage point Vincent could see the rush of fear that came over Mitch as he recognised that voice.
“LARRY.” Mitch answered his greeting a little off key, nervousness fringing the tone. “What brings you here at this hour?”
The fellow Mitch referred to as Larry laughed sinisterly as he replied, “In a word, YOU!”
“Me?” While his body remained frozen to the spot Mitch’s eyes darted around nervously looking for somewhere to run. He’d been expecting this rendevouz with Larry for a long time yet now it had arrived he wasn’t ready. What a night for it to happen, just when he was about to get rid of the beast for good.
“Yes You! Long time no see, huh? Come to that perhaps ‘no see’ would benefit you as it did my brother, know what I mean?”
Mitch did. He had blinded Larry’s brother in a brawl a month ago and then the fellow had died from the head injury that had at first taken his sight.
Larry moved forward with murderous intent and Mitch noticed at that moment that he was not alone. There were five maybe six other men with Larry, all intent on circling him.
Bringing his fingers to his mouth Mitch whistled, he needed help and fast. Derisive laughter met his command, “Don’t bother Denton, you’re men have gone. I encountered no one that was still alive on my way in.“ Larry wrongly assumed that the dead men he had seen had been killed by his own men who had gone in ahead of him.
Sweat broke out on Mitch’s brow, his body shook from fear and dread. This was not good. He was well and truly cornered, and if he did live to tell the tale, chances are he would never see again. He’d heard that that had been Larry’s intent. To take his sight and see Mitch’s empire crumble because he was blind was the sort of retribution Larry could live with.
Backing until he met the water’s edge, Mitch contemplated falling into the freezing water, knowing that it had to be his last resort. Never one good at swimming, the thought of being swallowed by the ocean just did not appeal, not even right now. No there had to be some other way. He sought his mind frantically, dismissing this and that as the henchmen moved in. All he could do was fight. He had a gun but was unsure that he could reach it and pull the trigger before the one’s already aimed his way hit home. He doubted that possibility. The only thing that would help him now was an unexpected attack from the right quarter and with his men dead that was an impossibility. So Mitch stood awaiting his fate, his heart pounding heavily and closed his eyes tightly as he heard the first click of Larry’s revolver.
Suddenly from all around came a sound he hated more than anything in the world, but at that moment one he was more than grateful to hear. And in that element of surprise, Vincent felled all of Larry’s men even amid the gunshots and moments later had slain Larry too. Mitch stood frozen to the spot, his palms sticky with sweat, his heart in his mouth. Would he be next? Vincent had him cornered, but he held no gun. He could get him swift and sure if he wanted to do. Yet noticing the carnage before him Mitch’s straying hand stopped half way to his gun and retreated back to his side as he met Vincent’s fiery blue eyes face to face.
“Go!” Vincent challenged him, as they heard the wail of sirens, “Go Mitch!”
Mitch went. Slow at first then with gaining momentum as his limbs became his own again. He did not look back. The problem with Vincent he knew, could wait another day, now was not the time.
*** *** ***
Daring not to look from her vantage point on the deck of the boat, Bliss huddled in a tight corner listening to the sounds being transported to her from the dock. There were gunshots and shouts, groans and then this terrible roar that sounded like some wild cat had been set loose on someone. For some reason Bliss did not associate it with her lost son. Though she knew by now that he resembled a lion, that he could make utterance as one had not crossed her mind. The sounds were terrifying and even when she heard the calming sound of sirens, Bliss did not move, staying exactly where she was, knowing she would stay there until daybreak if she had to do, knowing that no one would see her where she was hiding and that she was safe. The only one she trusted in this world was Georgie and in his absence Bliss relied heavily upon herself. Tomorrow she would find her son but for now she would refresh herself with the blessed relief of sleep.
*** *** ***
Where had she gone? Though they returned an hour after the police had left and all the bodies had been stowed away in black bags, neither Vincent nor George could find any trace of their mother. In fact had it not been for the fact that Vincent had positively seen Mitch shoving a woman with blonde hair down the steps leading to the waterside, he may well have concluded that George was in fact one of Mitch’s sidekicks after all. Yet seeing that had changed his opinion. That Mitch had held a hostage had been plain to see, the thing now was, where had she gone when she had run away from Mitch? In all the commotion no one had seen which direction she had taken. Was she even still anywhere near the dock? Perhaps she had crept home, returned to the park, Vincent didn’t know what to think and neither was George able to help. Plus there was one other problem one that neither George nor Vincent yet knew about.. In the edition of the evening newspaper there was a photograph of Bliss and a small report that she had escaped from the nursing home and though there was a telephone number to call if she was seen she was not to be approached as she was thought to be dangerous. Apparently she had maintained that she was the mother of the beast that roamed the city streets mauling and slaying innocent victims and might well do the same if provoked.
*** *** ***
Two days later Bliss’s whereabouts had still not been uncovered. It was disturbing, but in the light of other things drawing their attention those two days flew by for the tunnel folk. Peter had returned with his startling news and George had spent the last forty eight hours telling his tale of woe, of how he and his twin had become separated at birth, and of the story of their mother as much as he knew.
Michelle was still a little distracted as much of this did not appeal to her. She missed her grandparents and while what should have been the happiest of occasions for Vincent and Catherine, the latter found it impossible to be anything but, with Michelle’s misery concerning her.
Peter had explained at last about Michelle’s past, leaving Catherine to wonder why she could not have known of this sooner. She reasoned that being a lawyer she might have been able to sort it long ago, thus saving a lot of people from a lot of heartache. However, once the truth was known, Catherine wasted no time and in the absence of her husband who was only naturally spending every given opportunity to spend time with his newly found brother, she went above and sought Joe’s advice.
“Peter told me that the old man had molested some children. But I’ve spoken to him Joe, that is Michelle’s grandfather, and he tells me that this was a lie.”
“Well he would wouldn’t he?” Joe grinned. He as well as any other lawyer knew that any guilty party told lies.
“Yes I know what you’re thinking, but Joe, it just doesn’t ring true. Can you spare anyone to interview the families that were involved?”
“Why don’t you do it?” Joe grinned from ear to ear. He’d do anything to have his best investigator back working for his team again.
“Well for one thing my badge has expired. For another I have responsibilities now that I can’t just put away, and for another…” Catherine grinned sheepishly, “I have another reason why I don’t want to be hotfooting it around town right at the moment.” And she patted her tummy and waggled her eyebrows.
“Cathy! You’re not telling me that you’re pregnant?” Joe’s face lit up with delight.
“No, I’m not telling you.” Catherine giggled, “Because I haven’t told Vincent yet. So just you remember that you weren’t the first to know, okay?”
“Scouts honour.” Joe replied with a chuckle.
“So you’ll help with Michelle’s grandfather then?” Catherine asked hopefully, already regretting telling Joe about the baby. It was a secret she was reserving for Vincent alone whenever they got some private time together.
“Don’t worry Radcliffe, I’ll set someone on to it. Who should I make the account out to though?”
“To me. Whatever it costs it doesn’t matter. I have a hunch that Mr Fletcher, that’s the grandfather, was set up. Either that or it was mistaken identity. And because of that two very dear old people have been deprived of their granddaughter, and much as I love Michelle I see no reason why she should not live with them instead of me.”
“That will sadden Rachel.” Joe mused.
“Yes, but they can visit, and its not as if Rachel will always be the only child in our family.” There she was doing it again. She ought to hurry and tell Vincent before she told the whole world first. Catherine sighed and Joe, being Joe, and knowing the makings of Catherine understood at once. “You’re good at keeping secrets Radcliffe so why are you letting this one slip so well?”
“I wish I knew. Vincent should be the first to know, yet I find myself wanting to blurt it from the rooftops to anyone that will listen. Daft isn’t it?”
“Not really. Especially when you think of the extraordinary child you will be carrying. I say congratulations are in order, but don’t worry Cathy I won’t break out the champagne until you have told Vincent and his family first, okay?” At Catherine’s sigh of thanks Joe went on, “So leave with me all you have on the Fletchers and give me two days and I’ll see what I can turn up.”
“Thanks Joe, I knew I could rely on you, now all we have to do is try to find Vincent’s mother.”
“Still missing then? When you rang and told me I had a couple of guys look out for her while they were down that way, they saw no one of your description and since the article appeared in the newspaper, most people are on the look out for her anyway…” his voice trailed away at Catherine’s look of alarm.
“You didn’t know?” Walking toward his desk, Joe leafed through some newspapers until he found the one he sought, “Here, you can keep this copy I have another at home. She escaped from the nursing home Cathy, the cops are keeping an eye out for her. She told them she was the mother of the beast and they consider her dangerous.”
Catherine gasped, “Oh no!” This was terrible. There was no telling what would happen now.
*** *** ***
‘In the hour of adversity be not without hope,
for crystal rain falls from black clouds’.
“What does that mean?” Rachel, sitting on the orange duffle coat now back upon her bed (Michelle’s grandmother had insisted that Michelle gave it back) and reading from a book of verse, looked up and with one finger pressed beneath the two lines of verse showed the page to Catherine.
“Its good isn’t it?” Catherine replied, “And so true. It shows that nothing is ever as bad as it looks sweetheart. What it is saying is, that when everything looks black and gloomy one should never lose hope. Then it gives an example. Crystal rain falls from black clouds, showing that something good and pure can come from something that at first appeared dismal and dark, even foreboding. Even at such times when there appears to be no end to a problem or no hope, this proves that better times will certainly come.”
“Like the light at the end of the tunnel?” Rachel giggled as she considered this saying was rather apt in the circumstances of where they lived.
“Yes similar. But this crystal rain saying really brings it forcefully home. It maintains that there is a feeling of utter loss to begin with and then encourages that one should not worry so, as help is at hand.”
“It is good.” Rachel agreed. “Do you think it would help George and Vincent to read it?”
Catherine understood at once. “Yes.” She replied, “And perhaps it would be good to make a copy of it for Michelle too, she can carry it with her when everything seems bleek and impossible.”
“Do you mean with her Nanna and Granddad coming to live here?”
“In a way. Come sit with me, I have something I need to talk to you about.”
That sounded ominous Rachel thought, not literally for at her age she had no knowledge of the word but a feeling of the same meaning stole over her at the tone Catherine used.
“You love Michelle don’t you?” Eyes wide with apprehension Rachel nodded.
“So do I. And if Michelle had no body else she would always live with us here in the tunnels, but you see Michelle does have a family above that love her very much, and it may be that those people will be granted the permission to have her live with them afterall.” Catherine grimaced, where had her use of words gone? She hoped Rachel would understand.
She did. “I thought Michelle’s grandparents were coming below to live?”
“Possibly, but they might not want to do. Once Uncle Joe has helped solve the problem they might be able to live above and have Michelle live with them.” Catherine whispered hugging Rachel tightly.
Rachel understood and with trembling lips asked, “Then Michelle won’t be my sister anymore?”
“Oh no sweetheart, Michelle can always be your sister, but she won’t live here with us. She can visit though whenever she wants to do.”
“I like having her here.” Tears began to slide down Rachel’s cheeks.
“I know you do honey,” Catherine hesitated, Joe was right she was becoming hopeless at keeping secrets. She shook her head took a deep breath and went on, “But you know sweetheart, that verse you read applies in your case too.”
“Well as I say Michelle will always be your sister, and of course you will miss having her here, but there are other children you can play with.” Catherine hoped that would suffice and she could retain her secret.
“But they are friends not family. Why can’t I have a brother or a sister of my own?”
With a wry grimace Catherine told her, “You can.”
Looking up with eyes wide and uncertain Rachel next asked, “I can? How? Are you going to bring another child into our family?”
Her eyes welling with tears, Catherine nodded, “Yes sweetheart, I am.”
Rachel’s face lit up, “Who? When? How old are they? Can it be a baby? Oh please let it be a little baby!” Her excitement was plain in every word she spoke.
At the entranceway a figure leaned, his countenance poised, interested in the conversation taking place between his adoptive daughter and his wife. He had particularly enjoyed listening to the way his wife had handled the meaning behind the crystal rain verse. But this latest topic held his interest more. He and Catherine had not discussed the possibility of adopting another child, especially in light of the fact that no one as yet knew the outcome of Michelle’s problem. He was surprised therefore at the way the conversation between the two was developing and listened intently.
Catherine, oblivious to her husband’s presence behind her, paused uncertain as how to answer. She still hadn’t told Vincent her news, yet here was Rachel in need of the comforting knowledge that she wouldn’t be left alone in this family. And Catherine wanted to impart that knowledge so much, but knew that in this instance she had to wait. Vincent should be told first.
“I can’t say right now honey. But believe me someone will be coming I promise.”
Rachel nodded, accepting Catherine’s promise, “And then the black clouds will all be gone and the crystal rain will fall?” She asked hopefully.
Catherine hugged her tight and kissing the top of her bonny head whispered, “Yes sweetheart, then the crystal rain will fall.”
“That’s all right then.” Turning Rachel hugged Catherine back, and in so doing noticed Vincent standing at the entrance to their chamber and greeted him warmly. “Hi daddy!”
“Hi to you too.” Vincent grinned stepping forth into the chamber and taking up the place Rachel had just vacated beside his wife. “Father was looking for you Rachel. Something about your chess lesson?”
Rachel pursed her lips, showing her displeasure, “Can you pretend that you didn’t find me?” she asked impishly, causing both Vincent and Catherine to laugh out loud dismayed when they shook their heads.
“Oh all right.” Rachel flounced off, “If I have to.”
A time of silence ensured after she had left the couple. Catherine wondered how much Vincent may have overheard, Vincent wondered how much he should reveal of his eavesdropping until finally unable to stay silent any longer Vincent told Catherine, “You should not make Rachel a promise it might not be possible to keep, my love.” And to show that he meant no offence by his words he leaned in and kissed her cheek.
“I wasn’t. Vincent there is something I must tell you.”
He wasn’t certain he was going to like this. Something in her tone put Vincent on his guard. It sounded as though the news she was about to impart would dismay him. He waited anxiously as Catherine twisted her wedding band around and around her finger - something he knew she did when nervous.
“What is it Catherine? You know you can tell me anything.” He offered gently his heart thumping. He felt anything but the calm he tried to instil in her.
“Vincent…” Catherine turned to face him, her heart filling with love for the concern in his eyes…and the fear…yes she detected that as well. “It’s all right, its nothing bad…well I don’t think so…” her voice trailed away as she smiled mischievously, yet his features did not change. He was worried. Worried about what she might have to tell him that caused her such anxiety.
Delving the bond, he found love there, love and a deep feeling of possessiveness that he could not understand, but knew that whatever Catherine was about to disclose meant a lot to her, and she was not about to change her mind or alter her opinion over anything he may say against it. Her mind was thoroughly made up. Vincent could sense her determination, that come what may this is what she wanted more than anything. Fear galloped forth yet in light of her earlier conversation with Rachel, Vincent found nothing there to forewarn him. He could not read her mind, he would just have to be brave about whatever his wife was about to say.
“I know we discussed it Vincent, I know you thought it was impossible, but it isn’t and I can only hope that you can find it in your heart to be happy about this because Vincent I tell you now nothing you say will make me go against it, nothing you can say or do will make me get rid of it. NOTHING!”
Truly mystified now, Vincent could only nod, his heart in his mouth waiting for her to continue. With only the words “tell me?” shining forth from his eyes.
Taking a deep breath, Catherine replied, “Vincent we are going to have a baby.”
“A b…b…baby?” It was the last thing Vincent had expected her to say. And in light of the fact that they had adopted Rachel and then Michelle as children, he asked, “Whose baby?”
“Whose baby? What do you mean whose baby?”
“I mean whose child is this baby? Is it someone you’ve met recently? Someone from above, or in the tunnels?” In his mind’s eye Vincent could not see anyone in the tunnels that might want to have their baby adopted. “And why did you not discuss it with me beforehand?”
“Because I didn’t know, it just happened. And as to your earlier question…duh…” Catherine tapped him on the forehead then with a grin asked, “hello, is there anyone in there?” Before continuing with, “the baby is ours Vincent. Yours and mine. I’m pregnant.”
The world spun away. Wordless Vincent could only stare at his wife with mouth agape until he finally whispered incredulously, “You’re pregnant?”
Smiling, tears welling, Catherine could only nod as she waited expectantly for her husband to come back to earth.
“Yes Vincent.” Catherine grinned, her husband looked definitely shell shocked.
“With my child?”
“I hope so Vincent, or I am going to have to do something about what’s in the air down here.” Catherine giggled.
“I can prove that it isn’t.”
“I love you.” And he pulled her toward him hugging her like he might crush the life out of her before coming to his senses pulled her away with a startled look of alarm in his eyes as he asked anxiously, “I didn’t hurt you did I? I’m sorry I didn’t mean to hold you so tight. Are you okay?”
“Vincent, I’m fine. We’re fine. Just tell me that you love me again.”
“I love you, I love you, I love you, oh Catherine how I love you.”
And as they held one another tight happy crystal tears fell from two sets of adoring eyes.
*** *** ***
Rocking, there was no other word for it. Rocking to and fro, the floor beneath unsafe making it impossible to stand.
*** *** ***
Bliss shuddered, it was cold and wet, the air tangy with salt, the night breezy. She had felt this way before, a long time ago. It had to be a dream. There was no way that it could be happening again. She had not put herself in that situation. Or had she?
Last night…was it last night? Or was it this night? How long ago was it that she had boarded this particular boat with the intention of staying only long enough to rest? Surely she would not have slept so long? She wasn’t that tired was she? How long had it been then, a day? A night? A night and a day and then another night? Well whatever it was, it was immaterial because Bliss knew that she was most definitely out at sea. She was a stowaway as before…and just as before she had not an inkling as to where she might end up. Only this time it was worse, for this time she was leaving her babies behind!
Once the facts came to light Joe found the task set before him easy. He’d certainly handled worse. This case nasty as it had been had been based purely on slander. He was surprised that the authorities had allowed suspicion to rule against a man gaining custody of his own kin. That a child had been shunted from pillar to post in her eight short years grieved Joe no end. Red tape, he decided had more than enough to answer for, that and government funding both of which were part and parcel of the same thing when it came down to it. The worst of it now was nobody would take the blame for the years of suffering caused both to the child and her grandparents, but in view of the outcome that seemed to go by unnoticed.
Watching as the jury gave a verdict of ‘not guilty’ in the grandfather’s case, Joe’s delight was as plain as the light of day. His face positively beamed with pleasure as he envisaged the joy to come when the grandparents were handed the child into their custody for the rest of their lives.
Catherine and Vincent would continue, Joe knew, to act as guardians to the child, mainly due to the age of her grandparents, but they would take a back seat as to her care and upbringing while her grandparents were capable of carrying out such duties.
This too, was noted legally for the authorities were more than happy with the development of the child Rachel in Catherine’s care, though they knew nothing of Vincent or the tunnels. As far as they were concerned Catherine and Rachel lived at the apartment and Rachel had flourished both in growth and academically since that arrangement was granted.
So it was a happy man that imparted the good news to Vincent and Catherine when he visited the tunnels, and then he had to sit and pretend that he knew nothing of their other news when Vincent told him about the baby that Catherine was carrying.
“Are you happy about it Vincent? Truly happy?” Joe asked with concern. He and Vincent had once talked at length about the possibility of children and Vincent had seemed pleased that children between himself and Catherine might be an impossibility. But he needn’t have worried. Having had time to come to terms with the fact Vincent beamed, positively beamed at the thought of becoming a father.
“Of course,” Vincent told him with a chuckle, “How can it not be beautiful with Catherine for a mother.”
“Well you’ll get no argument from me on that score.” Joe commented causing Catherine to blush as he had intended, “And if you don’t mind me saying so, this child should be awesome, beauty from both parents and intelligence too.” This caused Vincent to redden, however he found the compliment appealing and said so.
“Thank you Joe. You are a good man.”
“Why because I speak the truth? Vincent its before my very eyes. I see nothing but the truth, you may be different but its not without merit, in my mind you are the most handsome man I have ever clapped eyes on, but then beauty from within shines without. Anyone that really knows you can see that without a doubt.” His words were spoken sincerely and Vincent didn’t quite know what to say so said nothing. Catherine on the other hand rose to hug her old friend and thanked him for his insight.
“So, how’s your brother?” Joe asked somewhat embarrassed himself by now, and eager to change the subject.
“Missing our mother. That’s a mystery Joe. She seems to have vanished into thin air. We think that Mitch might have her again, it would be the only possible explanation. Have you heard anything, anything at all?”
Joe shook his head, “Nothing. I know the authorities haven’t found her though. I was quizzed a few days back about Catherine’s involvement on cases where you had appeared. I told them I knew nothing, and that Catherine kept her private life very much to herself.”
“What sort of questions did they ask?” Catherine wanted to know.
“Basically much of it was due to the confession Bliss had made while at the home. She mentioned your name, said her son was involved in some way with you. With that link they thought you might know of her whereabouts or even of Vincent’s (Joe was loathed to say the Beast as the authorities had referred to him). I shouldn’t worry it will blow over eventually. Bliss Jameson is just another name on their list, and amongst all the other more terrible cases they have on file, its nothing really that important. Just a woman that made claims to a mystery they have never been able to solve.”
Vincent nodded, and told of his own worries, “The trouble is, it may not be the authorites that will find the greatest interest. No one knows where I came from, although George has told me his version I’ve yet to hear it from our mother if she is in fact our mother. Peter had opted to do a blood test to verify both George and Bliss being related to me. The other problem is with the person they say did actually create George and I, what if by all of this he discovers Bliss’s whereabouts and comes looking for us?” This had been Vincent’s greatest fear since meeting his brother and hearing George’s story.
“I see your point Vincent. But there’s nothing that can be done about it. Its circumstantial for one thing, ‘what if’s ‘ hold no place in my life of work. If we could change the past I think it would be a daily occurance and few people would move forward. However, having said all of that I’ll keep my eyes and ears peeled and be on my guard when questioned in future, not that I haven’t all ready. But its as well to know that not all questions might come from government officials. If this doctor does get wind of it, he could approach me in any guise. I will be careful, don’t worry.”
“Thank you Joe.” Vincent drew and exhaled a deep breath, “So will you be taking Michelle back above with you?”
“Not today. There is still the question of her grandparents living quarters. It is thought they will receive compensation for their years of suffering from the slander imposed upon Mr Fletcher, but until they do they are homeless.”
“No they aren’t Joe they can live at the apartment if they aren’t happy with coming below. When they visited the tunnels I could see that Father’s arthritic hip bothered them quite a bit. I think these cold and damp tunnels would worry them too much about turning out the same as Father. If they need somewhere to stay offer them the apartment, no one is using it right now, and as far as Rachel & I are concerned we could be staying with friends if the authorities should wonder why Michelle and her grandparents are living there and worry about there not being enough room for us all. Having said that they rarely call anyway, if they did I think they would have written asking why Rachel and I aren’t home very much!” Catherine laughed.
She only ever went to the apartment with the pretence of living there when the authorities wanted to check on Rachel. The rest of the time the two of them lived below in secret.
“Ok Radcliffe I’ll do that.” Joe made to stand, hesitated and sat down again, “anything you need regarding the little one,” he nodded toward Catherine’s belly, “You know you only have to ask.”
“Thank you Joe.” Vincent and Catherine were touched by Joe’s kindness and looking from one to the other made an instant decision that Vincent voiced.
“There is something you can do. I realise the request is way ahead of its time but you would do Catherine and I the greatest honour if you agreed to be the child’s godparent.”
Joe’s mouth dropped open, “Me!” He squeaked. He was delighted. “I’d love to, thank you.”
And so it was agreed that when the time came Joe would be present at the naming ceremony following the birth of Vincent and Catherine’s first baby.
*** *** ***
“Who are you?” the voice barked Bliss wide awake in an instance. She looked like a frightened rabbit, and the man’s voice softened. “I’m sorry to frighten you, but what are you doing here? There are no women on this ship.”
“I didn’t expect you to be going out to sea.” Bliss replied, rubbing the sleep from her eyes to see him clearly. He looked friendly enough. Bliss supposed she had startled him that was all. “Someone was chasing me near the docks, and I jumped on board to hide and then fell asleep.”
The fellow nodded, it was a reasonable enough answer, and besides it wasn’t as if his ship was going anywhere, just out fishing for the day. They’d be back in Manhattan by sundown.
“Well you can’t stay there. Come, my quarters are warm and there is coffee brewing. We will be returning inland later today, you are welcome to rest where you will be out of harm’s way.”
Bliss took his offered hand gingerly, she was unsure, but he seemed nice enough. And what could she do if he wasn’t? There was no where to run and she couldn’t swim THAT well. It was miles back to the harbour.
Together they walked in silence, Bliss slightly behind until he ushered her into his cabin, and the aroma of rich coffee assailed her senses causing her stomach to rumble mercilessly.
He laughed, “The name is Bert.” He told her kindly, “And you are…”
“That’s a nice name. Unusual.” He liked her, there was something delicate about her. Something that made him want to enfold her in his arms and never let her out of his sight. “So who were you running from?” He pulled up a chair for her at the table and went to pour her a brew.
Bliss said nothing. Where could she start? What should she divulge? It was all so complex and she didn’t quite understand it herself. Why had Mitch kidnapped her? Why did he hate her son so much?
“There was a man. He took me by force to a container, tied me to a chair and made certain threats about what he was going to do with me. I escaped, jumped onto several boats, from one to another until I felt I was safe on this one. He came after me, but I lost him. I don’t know who he was.”
It was a true enough story. Bliss had left a lot out, but in making it feasible she was believed. “You should not frequent the docks late at night.” Bert frowned, he was beginning to think that she was a prostitute.
“I wasn’t. I was in the park. It wasn’t even dusk. I was waiting for a friend, and this fellow grabbed me, pushed me into a car and took me to the docks.”
“For no reason?”
“No. That is I don’t know what his intentions were and I wouldn’t like to dwell on them.”
“Yes of course, I understand. Let’s just be thankful that you had a lucky escape. But on your return you should inform the police. He might take some other woman by force and carry out his intentions if left to do so.”
“Yes I will. Thank you.”
“For what? I’ve done nothing.”
“Yes you have. You have extended kindness to a perfect stranger. I’m truly grateful.” Bliss smiled, and Bert’s heart lurched in his chest. She really was a beautiful woman. A brief thought went through his mind of just how safe she truly was in his company, but he forced it aside. Maybe he could get to know her, maybe they could go out for a meal when she had got the ordeal out of her system, he’d take it slowly, not rush her into his bed. She might be the one gem he had searched his life for.
“Well, you drink up, and rest here. You’ll be pretty much by yourself while we bring in the catch. Try not to wander too far. The loo is over there, and there is a shower cubicle if you need to wash. There are shelves of books in that cabinet, and food in the refridgerator. Just make yourself at home. I’ll pop by in a couple of hours okay?”
“Yes, thank you.” Bliss nodded enthusiastically. Already for the first time in as long as she could remember she felt herself coming back to life. He really was a nice man. A true gentleman and she liked him more than she cared to admit.
*** *** ***
The newspaper spread before him, Doctor Francis Samuals ran his finger down the column with delight. “I knew it! I knew it would come home to roost if I waited long enough.” He spoke to himself. “That bitch owes me one. Owes me two. Now all I have to do is join her in the search for this long lost son, and reclaim what is mine.” He raised his coffee cup in the air saluting the room adorned with cages where several strange creatures looked back at him vacantly.
Some resembled lions, and some resembled women. Samuals nodded in their direction, “Soon…soon…” he promised them, “You will have some company. I’m bringing your mate home.”
*** *** ***
Mitch for all his threats knew when he was beaten. It curdled his gut to admit that he owed Vincent a very big thank you, but it stuck in his throat and he found uttering it, or even writing it into a note absolutely impossible. There had to be some other way he could show his gratitude without losing face. They would never be bosom buddies he knew that for sure, but he was aware that a lot of people relied on Vincent and many actually loved him. Devo for example. Who would credit it huh? That a man so with it in the ways of life would actually admit to Vincent being his brother? Devo actually liked having that critter for a brother, huh…Mitch shook his head, even now that fact was hard to believe.
There was a guy, a man he had heard of once. At the time had passed it by as some kind of tall story probably derived from the tunnel folk. Still Mitch thought he would check it out. If such things were possible, he could thank Vincent for saving his life by doing the guy a favour. And he still hadn’t dismissed that initial fact that Bliss had told him she was Vincent’s mother even though she had maintained later that this was not so. If her story could be believed it was possible that this fellow, this Dr Samual’s he had been told about, would know all about it.
The one thing Mitch did realise was that with Vincent brought up in the tunnels he had freedom in a relative sense, and these other critters he had heard about were apparently behind bars. Had spent their life behind bars. He could only summise at what that must have been like, having been jailed before in his life for short periods, and knowing that to have been bad enough.
And if those stories were true, and if Samuals had any sense about him then his intentions would be for Vincent to join those others in the cages. And while part of Mitch’s brain thought that very becoming for his old tunnel associate, he knew it would drive Vincent quite mad and for once in his life Mitch realised that kind of madness actually saved lives sometimes. Of this he was a prime example.
Mitch had killed before. Held no qualms about it, and his intention was plain as he sought the object of his means. Stealing into the laboratory at the address given, he searched the appropriate floors until he found what he was looking for. Upon the glass door were written the words, Dr Francis Samuals, with a load of fancy letters behind them.
He knocked. Movement within the room was detected, and a startled “Who’s there?” called out to him.
“You don’t know me. My name is unimportant. I have information about that beast for you.”
The door was flung open so quickly that Mitch jumped back startled, “Come in.” The gruff voice bade him, and when he hesitated further still, a hand shot out grabbed his arm and dragged him into the room. Mitch found himself face to face with a guy whose eyes reminded him of Paracellsus.
“Are you related to John Pater?” Mitch asked without thinking.
“Never heard of him. Now state your case and go. I am a very busy man.”
Mitch shrugged, “You’ll have time for me. I know where the beast is hiding. He and I were brought up together as brothers.”
Samual’s eyes lit up. “Sit down. Tell me what you know.”
“Later. What’s behind those screens.”
“Nothing you have never seen before, if your story is to be believed.” Samuals caught at Mitch’s arm as the younger man rose his intention to go over to the cages plain.
“Oh I’m telling the truth. I just want to know if I’m telling it to the right guy. Let me get this straight, you are responsible for the beast’s existance, aren’t you?”
Samuals hesitated. “I have photographs. You do not need to look behind the panels. There is nothing there that you need to see. Come I will show you the pictures.” And from a nearby drawer Samuals pulled a folder and from within it grasped hold of some photographs and handed them to Mitch.
His hands shook as he opened the packet. Mitch did not like that. He took a deep breath, steadied himself and then began to extract the photographs from their folder. He gasped at the sight of the first, but from then on made no show of seeing anything out of the ordinary. Samuals, watching with interest was delighted by the fellow’s calm response and felt certain that the young man really had seen something like the creatures depicted before him at some other time in his life.
“Are these, they?” Mitch nodded toward the panels.
“Yes. Older now of course, but one and the same.”
“How many are there?”
“And they’re all female?”
“Yes. Hence the reason that I want this beast. He will make a fine mate for them I am sure.”
“And do you keep them naked, still?”
“Yes naked. You do know what that means?” Mitch sneered sarcastically. In truth the photographs had touched a notch of humanity within his heart. He actually felt sorry for these women.
“Yes of course I do! You are missing the point. Those photographs…”he gestured toward the cages, “These creatures are not human, they do not need clothing…” he laughed derisively, “ they are nothing but animals.”
“I beg to differ. They look like normal women to me.”
“Then your eyes decieve you. Do you not see that their features are no more than that of lionesses? They even have the fangs to go with it.”
“Oh I do not doubt that. But in every other way they are human deformaties. Look they have two breasts, not eight, they stand upright, not on all fours, they have no tails…”
“They have pelts, fur, they roar, growl, rip meat…I’ll prove it to you!”
Mitch was elated as he watched Samual’s rise from his chair and walk toward a switch on the wall. He pressed it and the panels slid aside slowly revealing the occupant within each cage behind. Now Mitch gasped over and over as each was presented to his sight. His heart went out to them. Sorrow shone from their eyes, sorrow and fear, embarrassment and longing. As each tried to cover herself with her hands Mitch knew what he had to do. There was one thing he knew about Vincent that troubled him and in fact had guided him over the years. Such freaks despised themselves, what they were, what they should have been. They had no identity, fought an inner demon and never found the release they so desperately searched for in trying to find out who they really were.
From his pocket Mitch took his gun. He knew exactly what he was going to do, and with Samual’s back to him, Mitch lifted the gun and with arm outsretched pulled the trigger. It was swift and silent, Samual’s body slithered to the floor expelling his last breath before touching down.
“You’re next.” He told the first woman. “I’m not doing this to hurt you, but rather to free you. None of you will suffer after today.” Mitch did not admit it but he thought he saw appreciation in their eyes, as he shot them one after the other and watched them slither to the floor.
In the deathly silence that ensued Mitch collected the photographs and one that he found of Samual’s himself on the fellow’s desk. He gathered files that he thought might be useful, and then throwing all manner of flamable chemicles onto the floor he threw a lighted match into the pot and ran for it. He hadn’t even made it out of the building before the first shards of glass rocketed through the corridors as one explosion followed another. Still he got away safe with his precious cargo, and headed straight for the place where he knew they would be secure for the rest of all time.
*** *** ***
Alighting from the ship some hours later, Bliss thanked Bert for his kindness, and promised to meet him again within the week. There might be something there, Bliss thought beginning to feel the pangs of romance stirring. Bert had practically told her his life story on the way home, and though she had told him little of herself, he seemed to accept that doing so was more of an impossibility rather than a need to hide who or what she was from him. For some reason Bert trusted her and if she did need sanctuary in any way, he knew just the place to take her.
After they parted, Bliss headed back to the park. The last person she expected to intercept her was the fellow that had kidnapped her the night before. They literally ran into one another as Mitch was leaving the storm drain and Bliss was entering. Startled Bliss turned to run, but Mitch caught her arm and only the words, “It’s okay, I won’t hurt you this time,” stopped her from struggling.
“It’s true.” Mitch told her, “What I did last night was dreadful of me. I apologise.”
Taken aback by his change in manner, Bliss could only stare and as he let go of her arm, he shrugged, “It’s okay if you don’t believe me, I wouldn’t blame you. Just know that a lot of things have happened since last night. I don’t harbour those same resentments any more.”
“And my son?” Bliss clapped a hand to her mouth, she hadn’t meant to say that. Kindly eyes looked back at her anxious ones, “Vincent’s safe. Don’t worry I won’t come after him ever again.”
As he was speaking the sound of a large door sliding aside had them both turning around, and Mitch tugged Bliss into the drain anxious to see who it might be. He had left the parcel of photographs and files at the door unable to get any further. He would have liked to have delivered them by hand, preferably to Vincent himself. Therefore, he was as surprised as Vincent to find himself face to face with what had once been the arch enemy of the both of them.
“Vincent! Its okay, don’t worry, I’m not here to harrass you. I come only to issue you with this parcel and to tell you that as far as you and I are concerned from now on, we’re equal okay?”
“I could never be equal with you.” Vincent told him with a snarl, mistaking the fellow’s calm exterior for one of sarcasm.
“Sure you can. I think when it really boils down to it Vinnie, you and I are tarred with the same brush only you just can’t see it. Any road, as I say take the parcel, and we’ll call it quits okay?”
“I don’t want this…” Vincent flung the parcel at Mitch as he was leaving the shadows and stepping out into the sunlight.
“Oh I think you’ll find that you do…at any rate your mother here will find what’s inside very interesting…it contains some information about a guy called Samuals.” Mitch’s laughter carried through out into the park. The last thing he had seen before he left the drainage tunnel was the sillohette of the woman snatching the parcel from the ground.
“See ya Vinnie.” He called over his shoulder, and then because he suddenly felt good about himself, he found the words he had previously thought unable to utter and called out softly, humbly, “And thanks Vincent…thanks for saving my life. I owe you one.”
For several long moments after Mitch had left, Vincent stood staring at the parcel held in the woman’s grasp, unable to look beyond her hands. So usual those hands, so white and clean, with fingernails so normal they could have been Catherine’s hands. Yet they weren’t. His eyes rose to meet a pair of eyes so uncanningly similar to his own that Vincent gasped. It was almost like seeing himself in a mirror, save for her totally human features. Features that resembled George’s.
“Hello son.” Bliss was the first to make conversation. “You don’t know how long I have dreamed of this moment.”
“If it is anything like the dreams I have had, I know exactly how you feel.” Vincent assurred her, and then he opened his arms and she stepped into his welcome embrace as happily and as easily as Catherine did. Accepting him readily for who he was, and what he represented, and as an equal and more importantly as a fellow human being.
Vincent was elated! There had been times in his life when he had been happy, and nothing would rob him of those occasions, but this…this moment surpassed all others…he had a mother…and that mother cherished, loved and adored him…and she was here, right here, safe within the circle of his arms.
*** *** ***
Celebrations were all too few and far between in the tunnel world. More often than not the customary Winterfest was the only event looked forward to and expected year after year. Occasionally someone would get married, occasionally a couple would have a baby. There would be a naming ceremony for the child and a happy celebration of family and friends would follow in the Great Hall.
Rarely did all three occur simultaneously, and when one did, it went down in tunnel history and was supported by every living member of the tunnel world both past and present.
Almost a year had passed since Vincent had enfolded his mother into his arms for the very first time in his life. A wonderful year of coming to know one another and accepting that he now had roots – a family.
A year of great upheaval in his life of coming to terms with the other creatures that Mitch had murdered, believing in all possibility that he was doing the right thing, a merciful killing, but in all likelihood another way might have been possible, had Vincent and the tunnel dwellers at least been given the choice.
Still that was in the past now. And with the slaying of Samual’s, Bliss could at least rest knowing for a surity that she was at last safe on that score, no one would come looking for her anymore.
Along with discovering his mother, Vincent had to contend with losing her again in effect to another man, as she and Bert saw more and more of one another and fell in love. Bliss’s own turmoil came in finding a way to tell her future husband of her sons and why they were as they were. She needn’t have worried, Bert had something he wanted to tell her. There was a place he went to from time to time, to recuperate – re charge his batteries, a place that was like no where else on earth. In fact it wasn’t on earth but rather underneath it.
What joy it was for Bliss to discover that Bert knew about the tunnels, that he knew Vincent and Father, and all those wonderful people she had come to accept as ‘family.’ What joy it was for Bert to discover that his future wife was none other than the mother of his great and noble friend Vincent, and that she had another son, a twin no less of this wonderful man.
They set their wedding date to coincide with another great occasion in tunnel history, the naming ceremony of Vincent and Catherine’s first child, Bliss’s first grandchild.
Taking his time to look down upon his grandchild’s bonny head, Father cleared the lump from his throat and prepared to read the famous words from the book laid open in his hands; “It is said that the child is the meaning of life…”
Hushed whispers filled the Great Hall bedecked with ribbons of pink and white and pale mint green, colours that Bliss favoured, colours that had matched her bouquet as she had walked down the isle earlier that day to wed the first man that had stolen her heart since as long as she could remember. That other time put as far from her mind as it could possibly go. Bliss knew now that that other time when she should have wed would never have worked out, for this love, this companionship with Bert was based on a more solid foundation with no secrtets between them and true love, love like that shared between her son and his wife Catherine.
For her eyes adored them, this son that stood noble and proud alongside his beautiful wife, one arm about her waist another around the shoulder’s of Rachel, the youngster he and Catherine had adopted as their own several years before. Rachel’s eyes shone with love and joy as she anticipated the delight that was to come upon the announcement of her new brother’s name.
“Vincent…Catherine… have you chosen a name for your son?” Father beckoned them kindly.
Catherine looked up her face radiant and brushed her tears away as she nodded, unable to tear her gaze away from that of her son. He was beautiful, the image of his father and she adored him. She adored them both.
“Yes Father, we have chosen a name.” Vincent replied, “But first I would like to make a speech.” He eyed his brothers’ sheepishly, “A short one.” He added with a chuckle.
“Oh not another one Bro.’” Devin dug George in the ribs, and seeing them Joe thought if they didn’t watch out the pair of them could soon become the awesome twosome. Father had already noticed how alike George and Devin were in certain ways. They got along like a house on fire. All day the pair had been making amusing quips about Vincent’s endless speeches, though much to the delight of their guests.
At George’s quip and Vincent’s announcement Father’s eyebrows rose. He had awaited the news of his grandson’s name with bated breath, but he would wait a while longer if Vincent felt the need to speak to those gathered around them.
“I heard something once.” Vincent began by kissing Catherine’s forehead, “Something that appealed to me more than anything I have ever heard, something that sums up my life as it was then to how it is now.
Once I was in darkness. Catherine was my only light in all that darkness. But even she could not completely eradicate the darkest places of my soul. Now all I know is light. I have a fleshly brother, and a mother as well as a dear dear Father. I have a wife and a son and I have my good friends gathered around me, all of whom are family to me. But most of all I have light…light, dazzling light, sparkling where once there was nothing but gloom and darkness, and I have all of you to thank for that.” He paused seeking the words to sum up his speech aware that tears gathered in the eyes of a great deal of faces looking up at him in anticipation.
“I just wanted to say, that when all seems hopeless, when all seems lost, when nothing but darkness and gloom prevails, when ominous clouds are gathering there is always a reason to keep going, because one day soon, when you least expect it all your troubles will be washed away and you will see the sun shine again.”
An unusual metaphor from someone that had never seen the sunshine, Father thought, yet he understood what Vincent meant, and choked back his tears as Vincent’s speech drew to a conclusion.
“I just want you all to remember that in the hour of adversity, be not without hope, for crystal rain falls from black clouds. Rachel taught me this, and I will never forget it. Please take it to heart, let it guide you, for good can often come out of the bad even when it appears that it is an absolute impossiblity. For all those terrible years I endured there was a purpose, there was a meaning, and thanks to Catherine and her courage and love I have a child of my own and through that son I can see now what everyone has always told me, that even someone that looks like me, can be beautiful. And on that score I’d like to announce our son’s name, so that you might all welcome him into this wonderful family that I feel so proud to be a part of…Father, Mother, Brother’s, family and friends, Catherine and I name our son Jacob. May everyone love him as unconditionally as you have loved me.”
For a moment there was silence, and then the Great Hall was filled with the sound of joyous laughter and happiness – and bright crystal tears falling from love filled eyes that were radiant with joy.
From now on Vincent would not look back, the past was gone, finished, over with, he had his whole future to look forward to, a happy future with his wife and children…and Vincent had never been so happy. And as he quietly looked upon his dear family circled around him Vincent remembered the things he had said and he knew for a certainty that Rachel had been right - crystal rain certainly did fall from black clouds.
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Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.