The International Year Of The Beast

Chapters 7, 8 & 9

Following a skiing accident in Alaska Devin is rescued by a mysterious race of people whom are like no other except one - his brother Vincent

Chapter Seven

“The angel grows up in divine knowledge, the brute in savage ignorance, and the son of man stands hesitating between the two.” With a leather bound first edition of ‘A Garland of Quiet Thoughts’ in his hands Father dared to peek over the rim of his glasses to access whether or not his son had got the point and Vincent stopped his relentless pacing, turned to his father and said, ‘Persian, Angels and Men.’ I know of the passage, Father, what I fail to see is a) why you have quoted it specifically and b) does it have a direct bearing on me?”
‘Goodness” thought Father ‘if looks could kill I’d be dead’ as Vincent’s steady blue gaze pinned him like a two edged sword. Father decided to word his thoughts carefully.
“To Catherine.” He stated calmly. “You were her angel, her guardian angel and through her eyes you became the man. She never once saw what you see, Vincent when you look in the mirror, not once…” His words trailed away, he hated to spell it out. Fortunately Vincent was there for him. “Until yesterday when I showed her what a brute I really was, then she saw it, didn’t she, Father?” Falling to his knees Vincent bowed his head shamefully. “She says she forgives me.” He murmured, “I know she says this to make me feel better, but her words shame me. Yesterday, I was nothing short of the beast that I am, toward you toward Devin and toward the love of my life, my Catherine, my wife and the mother of my unborn child. How can she forgive what I did, Father? How can she?”
“She loves you.” Father answered simply. “And she understands that your temper of yesterday was borne of frustration. You were hemmed in by well meaning relatives and you were lashing out for freedom. I can see that now, but Catherine, dear sweet Catherine, could see it all along.” Father chuckled remembering his daughter in law of yesterday, and his eyes sparkled with merriment as he went on, “When she challenged you, I had no fears for her safety. Truly, Vincent it was you I feared for.”
Vincent grinned and climbed slowly to his feet. “I have to admit seeing her anger made me realise how I must look. It rocked me, Father, seeing her like that, the way she raised her hands as if ready to strike with invisible claws. And her eyes! What malice. I was stunned I don’t need to tell you that.”
Father chuckled. “It is said that two people when around one another long enough come to be carbon copies of each other. Some married couples even begin to resemble one another as years pass.”
“Lord, I hope not. At least I hope Catherine never resembles me.” Vincent walked to his large chair that he favoured in Father’s chamber and sitting down, wearily rubbed his brow. “Father, have you thought that among these people that Devin has seen, there will be women, female people like me. I have tried to imagine what they will look like, but it is difficult. Have you given it any thought?”
“I have tried to imagine your mother.” Father confessed. “I see her as a smaller version of you. As for how feminine she will be I do not know, as to her features I do not know that either. But if the people Devin saw are truly in your image then the women folk have to be very similar to have given birth to them.”
“Yes.” Vincent nodded but said nothing more. Instead he slipped away with his thoughts and Father watched him wondering what he was thinking but not intending to ask. Vincent would tell him if he thought he needed to know.
Just as Father decided his son needed time to think and had looked back down at the book spread before him Vincent started speaking again, causing Father to look up at him once more. “You know that Catherine has gone above?”
This startled Father. “No, why?” His heart raced. Had Vincent been successful in sending her away? Would she return?
“Yes. She has gone back to the apartment.”
“I thought Devin was up there?” Father asked slightly confused.
“He is. He summoned Catherine and she went. She did not tell me what was in the note that he had sent down to her. She just told me he wanted to see her, and she left within the hour.” Deeply and raggedly, Vincent sighed. “I have as much idea as the man in the moon as to what the two of them are up to. So don’t even ask.”
Father stared at his son with the words ‘I wasn’t going to’ on the tip of his tongue, held back only because he knew to say them would be a lie. He wanted to know as much as Vincent as to why Catherine had gone above, or more importantly why Devin had felt that she needed to go above. Knowing his fleshly son, he would be concocting some foolhardy plan that would include his daughter-in-law’s help.
“Pardon me for saying so but you seem fed up, Vincent, weary for want of a better word. Has all of this gotten to you?” It has me, he added under his breath, if only things could go back to normal. Even Vincent’s not knowing who he was, where he came from, was he abandoned or kidnapped from loving parents was preferable to the uncertainty they all now faced. And did his son still harbour feelings of going away, and leaving the tunnels, that’s what Father wanted to know more than anything, but he was afraid to broach the subject. Best let sleeping dogs lie and all that.
“In a way, I am.” Vincent replied and the weariness was even more apparent in his tone. “Before all this happened Catherine and I were happy. I didn’t know about the baby, but I think had I of done, under the circumstances as they were I would have relished the thought of becoming a father. Oh, I know I would have worried that the child might look like me, but Catherine has shown and made me realise and accept so many firsts, that I know I would have accepted whatever happened plus the child will be loved by two parents so even if it does look like me then at least it would not be alone. Now…”
He hesitated so long that Father felt fit to prompt, “Now?”
Another heavy sigh expelled from Vincent, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Father had the uncanny feeling that the subject he least wanted brought up was about to unfold before his ears. He was right, and as Vincent spoke Father almost cringed.
“Now things can never be the same. I am obligated to leave here. Devin says he won’t take me, and though I have vowed it I know deep down that I cannot go alone, but I feel certain that no matter what, that Catherine will take me.”
Father gasped. “You’re sure of this?”
Vincent nodded. “Yes. Catherine wants only what I want, she knows that if she tries to stop my going then I will only be miserable, the not knowing is worse than before, Father please try to understand. Out there I have a family, they love me too, and have missed me greatly all these years, and though I have never told anyone I have had dreams of snowy mountains on waking that have seemed so real they have left me breathless. I used to think it was the descriptions Devin gave of his mountainous journeys, but somehow it was always more than that, as if part of me was there, belonged there, and now I know that’s where I originate I know what it is. It’s the pull of home, Father. Its where I ought to be.”
Father wiped away an errant tear, he didn’t want Vincent to know how the tears gathered behind his lids and how he wanted to sob, terrified of losing his unique son. He loved him so, but then Vincent knew that, and to tell him again now, would only add salt to the injury, for it would sound like blackmail, wanting Vincent to stay.
However, Vincent did understand, and he looked Father fully in the eye. “I know how that must grieve you but please try to understand. I have to go to Alaska, to my family, and though I do not know how long I will be gone, I do intend to return here to you, whether to visit or stay remains to be seen as time goes by.”
Father knew which it would be. Vincent, given freedom, mountains, blue sky, and sunshine, he would surely return only to visit eager to get back to all that had been denied him for too long, even if that meant living a nomad existence of life on the snow.
Still he consoled himself with the thought that sometimes, though blood was thicker than water, there still remained the old cliché that one could choose thy friends but could not chose thy family and it might be probable that Vincent would miss the family he had known all his life so much so that he could never feel close to those that he truly belonged to. It might mean that he felt too much of an outsider to stay. Or it might mean that being one akin to loneliness he could choose neither, but rather in his newfound freedom just wander the mountains living the life that he wanted beneath the sunshine and all that had been denied him because of who he was. There were too many ways one could look at it, and all Father wanted to do, for selfishness sake or just to keep things as they were, was to shut off all the exits of their tunnel home and bar Vincent’s escape forever. But instead he gave Vincent the answer he needed to hear. “Well whatever you decide to do, Vincent, know you are always welcome here.” He caught himself just in time from saying you are always welcome home, believing at this stage that to say it would have irritated Vincent and he be inclined to correct him by telling him that the mountains were actually home to him. Father didn’t want to hear his son say any of that, so he carefully avoided any reference to where ‘home’ was.
“Thank you, Father. I shall never forget you. You know that?” Vincent pinned his parent with a pair of beseeching blue eyes that were almost Father’s undoing.
‘I don’t want to hear this, Vincent’ he wanted to say. ‘Don’t you know, I can’t cope with it’ instead he just nodded and felt relieved when Vincent rose crossed to the desk and came round to his side to place a pair of strong hands upon each of his shoulders. “You will always be my father.” Vincent bowed his head and kissed his parent’s temple, and it was then that the dreaded tears gathered and fell though Father furiously brushed them away with fingerless gloves.
“I shall be in my chamber if you need me.” Vincent told him, walking toward the exit, and then hesitating he stopped, seemed to remember something and turned to add;
“The angel grows up in divine knowledge, the brute in savage ignorance…’
Father nodded, no words were necessary. His son was a man. Vincent had seen it when he had believed in the things that Catherine had told him, when he had believed in their dream enough to fulfil it…and would have continued to accept that different he may be, but a beast he was not…until now…now when he was forced to face the fact that he was not just a one off, that there were others like him. Others that would be termed brutes, and with his need to be with them and his need to remain in the tunnels Vincent was now torn between the two and that he understood the concept was highlighted by his parting words.
‘And the son of man stands hesitating between the two.’

*** *** ***

Above, at her apartment, Catherine listened while Devin talked about his idea to go to Alaska and seek out some other helpers that may be trustworthy enough to want to help the clan without lining their own pockets. “It’s not going to be easy.” He told her sitting opposite with his hands clasped and hung between the knees of his open legs. He was wearing black denim jeans and white sneakers with a bright blue arrow along the side near the sole and on the tongue beneath the laces. His upper half was clothed in a red pique shirt with the same logo as his footwear. His black hair was tossed at the front where he had run his fingers through it a dozen times or more since he begun the conversation with Catherine an hour ago. “It’s not as if I know where to look, but if Sarah can be believed then there must have been many a weary traveller who has encountered the clan, its just finding them that’s the problem. No its not the problem, finding them might be possible, what’s the problem is knowing if the helpers can be trusted to aid Vincent without consulting the paparazzi for their own benefit.”
“Well,” Catherine begun hoping to make her brother-in-law feel more at ease. She rested an empty coffee cup on her knee, although it had housed water not coffee, thus giving her unborn child a caffeine free start on life. “I think the best thing you can do is begin with the paparazzi as it happens. Not exactly face to face, but to scroll through some microfilm containing reports of lost souls and rescue missions on the mountains, there has to be some. Try the library for reference, there you will find the microfilm and you can scroll through and select all the information that you need and go from there. What you need is names, and unusual occurrences. Holes in the narrative things that just don’t add up. When you came and first told us about your experience, we all knew you were hiding something or refraining from telling us what really occurred, it was as plain as the nose on your face that you missed certain aspects of the story for reasons known only to you. Therefore others will tell similar tales of their adventures. Search for such reports, and stilted conversations, and you will likely find the people who have been aided by the clan but who are keeping it a closely guarded secret.”
Devin’s face beamed. “Chandler you’re an angel! Sorry, Wells…sorry again…Catherine, right?” Bright eyed, Catherine nodded. “And don’t you forget it.” She told him with an impish grin.
“Still can’t get used to the fact that you married him, Cathy.” Devin shook his head with disbelief. “What a gel, and now look at you, a radiant mother to be, with Vincent’s baby. Its unbelievable, that’s what it is. A beautiful woman like you and ole Fur Ball. How many of your friends know?”
Catherine began chanting and counting on her fingers. “Nancy, her husband Paul, Jenny, Joe that’s about it. Some people had to be told and introduced to Vincent, or they would have searched hell and high water until they had found me. It was unfair to disappear and I couldn’t worry them like that, and in time the worry of hurting them by my sudden disappearance was worse than the worry of them meeting Vincent. And they took it real well, considering.” Catherine laughed remembering some of those meetings. “Joe almost fainted, he went whiter than the snow that lay on the ground at the time I can tell you, and I know he still has an awful lot of questions, but he lets them be. He’d rather not open up a can of worms and risk my happiness, I think.”
“He’s a good guy, Cathy and if I may say so, I think he cares for you a little more than a usual boss should.”
Catherine nodded knowingly. “I always thought so too, but we never went there. He’s still single, but I hope one day he meets someone for he is as you say, a good guy, and he deserves the best.”
“As do I.”
Catherine giggled. “Well yes, of course, as do you.” She grinned at him then sobering to ask seriously, “Has there ever been anyone you’ve been close to, Devin? You seem such a loner sometimes. A drifter forever perhaps?”
“I’ve had a few relationships…” he paused. “Well not so much relationships. I’ve had women friends, the odd few weeks of seeing the same woman, but nothing ever serious. You’re right about the drifter business, sometimes I believe its what I’m destined to do.” He sounded sad and gave Catherine the impression he travelled alone by necessity rather than by choice.
“Does it give you enjoyment, peace of mind?” Catherine doubted that it did. His face had taken on a decidedly sorrowful expression.
Devin shook his head. “Not really.” He fell silent, looking down at his white sneakers and wiggling his toes as if they were really the most interesting things he had seen in a long time and he gave them his utmost scrutiny, while Catherine waited hoping he would be forthcoming with an explanation. When he did not, she asked at length, “Want to try to explain that to me?”
He looked up then, his brown eyes pleading, and she thought she saw that they glistened with tears. These he forced back and his lips trembled only slightly when he replied softly, “South of Oz and North of Shangri-La. Has Vincent ever spoken to you of them?”
Catherine smiled. “Yes, the places the two of you would go to. You’d travel and see the world. Boyhood dreams, Devin, nothing more.”
“But Vincent believed they were more than that!” He spoke forcefully. “And I knew they never would be. I tricked him, Catherine. I tricked him into believing we would do those things together, see those countries, travel the world, when all along I knew that it would never be so, for him.” Catherine began to understand and asked, “So you decided that if he couldn’t see the things you could see, if he had to remain at home miserable and alone, then the least you could do would be to do the same. And that’s why you have denied yourself the pleasure of company, of a serious relationship, of marriage and children, because it would be so unfair to have had it all when your brother had nothing at all?”
Devin stared at her. She had hit the nail completely on the head, a nail that until that moment he had felt primarily as a thorn in his side, but had never tried to loosen and toss aside, because in truth he liked it there. It reminded him of who he was, and more importantly who his brother was not, and for all the pleasures the world had to offer. He could not enjoy them as they should be enjoyed because to do so would be to rob his brother of the dreams they had woven together by the waterfall or while on the raft as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn sailing the Nameless river.
He nodded, unable to reply for to do so the words would come out on a sob as Devin could feel the choking sensation of tears at the back of his throat.
“You know…” Catherine began tenderly, “If all of this comes right for Vincent, you can let go of your pain and loneliness, Devin. I see that soon Vincent will have it all, the ability to see the world, perhaps not in the same way, but he’s going to know the joy of the open country, the mountains, that spellbinding scenery that leaves even one that sees it often breathless each time they see it afresh. And the sunshine, Devin, Vincent is going to have the sunshine. Perhaps at that time you might be able to learn to loosen up a little, thaw out that heart of yours and find your own brand of happiness.”
“Settle down you mean?” He grimaced, totally unexpectedly, and chuckled. “So Vincent finds his freedom and I lose mine? Terrific, Cathy, just terrific!”
Catherine laughed. “Marriage is not a prison, Devin. There are so many rewards, so many firsts…” Dreamy eyed, Catherine’s words trailed away and prompted Devin to ask, “That’s interesting so what was it like the first time for Fur Ball? I would love to have been a fly on that particular wall when that happened I can tell you!” He laughed loudly and Catherine’s cheeks flared pink. “Sorry I’ve embarrassed you, guess I will just have to ask Vincent.” Catherine giggled a little shakily. “If you do that, I can assure you you’ll find Vincent even more embarrassed than I am!”
“Oh, well guess I’ll never know then.”
Catherine shook her head and smiled but said nothing.
Again silence stood between them, each to his own thoughts, each having been touched by the other in ways that had not been expected and each coming to terms with what had been disclosed, or what had not been disclosed. Catherine was left with her memories of that precious first time with Vincent, and Devin with his own unreachable dreams and the probability that they could now be obtained once Vincent gained the freedom that had always been denied him.
From her daydreams, Catherine sighed and that sound alone broke her reverie. “More coffee?” She reached for Devin’s mug and he nodded absently, continuing to look at his feet while Catherine walked to the kitchen to boil the kettle and pour herself a glass of fresh juice. “Hungry?” she called over her shoulder and received his reply. “A bit, sandwich will do, if you’re offering?”
Catherine chuckled. “I don’t keep much in, have you bought anything?”
“There’s ham in the refrigerator some lettuce, tomatoes oh, and slam some mayonnaise on it will you? Lots of it and I’ll have that seeded bread too. Thanks, Cathy.”
Deep in thought, Devin locked out the sounds from the kitchen, cupboard doors opening and closing, the gentle hum of the refrigerator when its door was left open awhile, jars being opened, the sound of chopping, the pop of the lid on the mayonnaise bottle opened and closed again, in-between the squirting sound of the flowing dressing and then the clutter of plates and cups being rinsed ready for their next beverage. Finally Catherine emerged with a tray bearing two mugs, one steaming, one not, and two plates, one filled with two doorstep slices of seeded bread filled with ham and salad vegetables and oozing mayonnaise and her own more petite sandwich filled the same covered by smaller slices of whole grain bread.
“Here.” Catherine handed Devin his plated sandwich after laying the tray on the table between their two chairs.
“Thanks, Cathy.” He took it absentmindedly, biting into it with the same amount of distraction and then as his taste buds wrapped themselves around her delectable concoction, he cried, “This is great! Thanks, Cathy.” Through a mouthful of everything the sandwich contained.
“So,” Catherine asked after swallowing her first bite and gathering her sandwich together before its contents spilled over and she replaced the plate with its sandwich to the tray. “Decided anything? You were awfully quiet there for a time.”
“My mind’s been spinning. Jumping from one thing to another. I had a job to keep up with it. You started something there with your analysis, Doctor Chandler, sorry I mean Wells. Doctor Wells…the er…second.” Thinking of Father both laughed.
“And I had the reason I asked you here to think about also.” Heavily, he sighed. “So it’s back to Alaska and the library’s then. Pouring through news reports and finding someone I can trust to help Vincent.”
“Why the sigh, don’t you relish the idea?” Catherine sounded perturbed as she thought that Devin had wanted to help his brother in this way.
“Yes and no. I just don’t fancy going back to Alaska. Its pretty cold there this time of year, you know?”
“I can imagine. Then why don’t you start here? Might not get the same instant results, but people from all over the globe go to Alaska. Could be, newspapers would be more willing to run a story about local people on holiday in Alaska, than say Alaskan newspapers who hear reports of the same thing all the time.”
“Nice one, Cathy. I never thought of that. So I could start here, in Manhattan, search the micro files from our libraries and hope I get lucky.”
“From here, its not all that bad. I could help you run through them. We could also go to the travel agents and ask if any travellers had any stories to tell of previous holidays to Alaska. You never know someone may have said something. We could be frank and ask directly about the Abominable Snowmen. That would surely get people talking.”
“Might get us arrested too. Or certified. Think I’ll leave that as a last resort if you don’t mind, Cathy.” They laughed together, and Catherine reached for her sandwich. “This is nice ham. Is it honey roast?”
Devin nodded. “Got it from the deli this morning. I always thought you were vegetarian. Bought some cheese for you just in case.”
“No. Whatever gave you that idea? “
“Dunno, you just look like a non meat eater to me.”
Catherine laughed. “Goodness, do I? Well it must be your eyes. William plonks anything before me and expects I’ll eat it, and now there’s this one to think of, I’m always hungry and eat whatever comes my way. I’d like to take some of this ham to William, its really nice, not at all salty as some are. If I give you some money do you think you can carry a ham down there when you next visit?”
“Course. But there’s no need, Cathy, you’re one of them now. You don’t have to help out anymore.”
“I know, but I like to. Besides, what else is there to spend my money on? Father and Vincent scoff when I spend it on them, they say I’m being frivolous when so many need other things, and then when I do go over the top and buy something for everyone they say I’m being extravagant, so I can’t win, but if you brought down a side of ham and told them a helper paid for it, you’d get away with it. You wouldn’t have to say which helper. You could tell anyone that asks that the benefactor wishes to remain anonymous.”
“And they’d know it was you since we are hanging out together right now. No, Cathy, that’s no way to go on. You’ll just have to ignore what Father says, everyone else does” he laughed, “and make Vincent understand that you want to share what you have with others in any way you can. I know William will be rapped to have something this tasty to offer to the community. He’s a whiz of a cook, he’d turn it into something amazing and thoroughly enjoy having something splendid to work with into the bargain. So just you go ahead and spend your money, and don’t fret about my father or brother condemning you for it. They’re just old fogies.”
Catherine laughed, and agreed finishing the last of her sandwich noting his was long consumed. “I’ll wash up.” She told him, but he was on his feet in an instance. “This may be your apartment, but you are my guest in it today, so sit, rest and I’ll do it then I’ll walk you home and we’ll collect that ham on the way.”
“Thanks, Devin.”
“Hey, that’s what brother in law’s are for…” he grinned. “Along with roping their sister in laws, into all kinds of mischievous things, still sure you want to help me with this yeti assignment?”
Catherine nodded enthusiastically, her eyes bright. “Anything for Vincent.” She told him. “You know I’d move hell or high water for him.”
Devin peered at her curiously. “Still I detect on this occasion that it’s something you have misgivings with?”
Catherine shook her head and then nodded truthfully telling him, “As much as I want this for him, I can’t help believing its wrong. I have an uncanny feeling, Devin that something dreadful is going to happen. Not necessarily to Vincent, but to us, to our dream. Maybe its because Vincent has already hinted at that fact, actually out rightly so.” She sighed heavily. “Or call it intuition, but I have a very bad feeling about all of this, yet what can I do? Vincent of all people deserves everything and has already been denied so much, so I have to go with the flow like it or not, don’t I?”
“If it helps, I too have a bad feeling about it. But I personally believe its because Vincent is undergoing exposure. Joe might be one hell of a good guy, Cathy, and no doubt he has unanswered questions revolving around cases where Vincent intervened, and maybe he would keep quiet, but once Vincent ‘comes out’ there are going to be an awful lot of people pointing the finger in this city, Cathy, an awful lot, and that is what frightens me the most.”
“Then should we do it? Help him I mean?” Catherine asked anxiously.
“What choice do we have? We love him, and we both saw how he was the other day when he went berserk over being denied the freedom he has a right to. Perhaps I should have said nothing in fact there’s been times these past few days when I wish I had never met the clan. Ignorance is bliss, is it not?”
Readily, Catherine agreed but it was too late for that. “We shall just have to hope we are wrong, or are being overly protective and pessimistic by seeing things that might not occur.” She thus cheered herself up a little by those thoughts and cheered Devin a little too.
“Maybe that’s all it is.” He consoled her. However, deep down inside both knew that it wasn’t.
“Come I’ll see you home before it gets dark.”

*** *** ***

It had been several hours since Vincent had left Father’s chamber quoting the words from Angels and Men, and though Father had done his rounds of the hospital chambers and many other daily chores, he’d had the words ringing at the back of his mind over and over ever since. It wasn’t just what Vincent had said, but the way in which he had said it, so sorrowfully. Father’s heart had gone out to him then as it did every time he thought of it since and he began to see how torn his son was and how justified he had been in his recent outburst.
To have to make that kind of decision must be dreadful, to not know whether to stay with the family you had known all your life or to leave and go to those that were rightfully flesh and blood must be a very desperate decision to make. Topped with the fact that there was Catherine to consider and their unborn child would be enough to make any man swear. And of course Vincent didn’t curse, he ranted and raved and because of who he was, his temper was worse than most and at times appeared uncontrollable.
Once Vincent let go, the mere fact of just being able to do was enough to make him really let rip as his temper was always on a tight rein. Given the chance he would really let go, and all his frustrations, some going back years, came to the fore and that was often the healing he needed and left in its wake a pussycat in more ways than one.
Father knew that any decision his son made now would be done so thoughtfully, considering all options, and the best anyone could do was be there for him, both now and later, hoping for his safe return. Even so words were easier than actions and Father balked at the idea of letting his unique son go out into the big wide world where acceptance of different things was usually unheard of, especially in his day. He would have to hope that things had changed and that people were more readily capable of understanding and accepting others with different ways, and methods and looks.
He hoped but he doubted, and he knew he would never shake off this feeling of unease until the whole thing was resolved, and his son was back where he belonged in the tunnels of his youth. For Father would not let himself think beyond any of that, for to touch on the fringes of anything else was unbearable…and he would not go there…no, not unless he had to.

*** *** ***

Chapter Eight

It took nine days, scrolling through miles of film, eyes boggled by the miniscule print, the lack of sufficient lighting in his dismal corner of the library and endless coffee cups that lined the small space he was allocated but finally, his labour of love paid off, and Devin stared at the report spread out on screen before him as if he couldn’t really believe it existed.
Fortunately it was a day that Catherine had chosen to help and she was sitting in front of a similar machine just yards away and was the recipient of a loud whoop of delight as Devin first gasped then hurriedly read the report through for clarification and jubilantly cried out loud.
“What is it? You’ve found something? Where?” Catherine left her workstation her seat swivelling round and round as she left it in haste to reach his side. Unable to speak Devin just pointed and Catherine peering over his shoulder was able to read the report for herself. It was the headlines that jumped out at her, just as they had with Devin, though the report was given only a side column significant of a subject that held a great deal of untruth and speculation.
All the same it was what they had sought and as the time they had allocated was running out, it had to do.
Mountain Rescuer Loses Memory?
It was the question mark that had done it. Not there, it would just have been a normal report about a mountain rescuer that for some reason or another had forgotten what had happened to him, but the question mark altered all of that, it added doubt. Had he really lost his memory, or was he hiding something? The headline was thus designed so that any reader that might gloss over it would seek it out again, come back for a second look. Just as Devin had done, although in truth it had been the word ‘mountain’ that had actually jumped out at his tired eyes.
The report went on:
Five days after his disappearance on Mount McKinley James Stuart, a member of the rescue team that had been in search of another climber was found seemingly unharmed and in remarkably good shape despite his spending five long nights out on the snow, with no protection or provisions other than a thermos of brandy and a flashlight. When asked how he had managed to survive the cold and the threat of attack by wolves and mountain lions Mr Stuart feigned memory loss and it is unclear at this time when it may return.
Mr Stuart’s colleagues at the rescue station put it down to Mr Stuart’s love of God and the fact that he prays regularly as the likely cause for his survival. Simply it was a miracle. Though there have been similar reports of such survivors on Mount McKinley over the years, this is the first time a member of the rescue team has fallen victim to the sudden mists that occur over Mount McKinley thus disorientating climbers, walkers and skiers alike.’

There was more, and Devin printed up the report while Catherine straightened their workstations binned their empty cups and together they left the library in high spirits heading for Catherine’s apartment to make further plans.
On the drive home, they talked, it was clear that since this Stuart person was part of the rescue team and that the date of the incident was two years previously it was possible that he was still employed there, but because no similarity had been mentioned when Devin had come in after a parallel occurrence it made them wonder if it had been a different rescue team and possibly was, since the one Devin had telephoned and the one that had actually gone out to him had been two different teams. Even so the unlikelihood of such a story not being spread among teams was very remote, and due to the mystery surrounding the whole report, Devin knew he had no choice. He had to return to Alaska and the mountain and find the man himself.
At the apartment, the pair made their plans, they noted the date, and so close to the new year realised that any time now, the newspapers would cover the start of the International Year of the Beast, unknowing of what was to come that would make that title more spectacular than anything that had occurred in the history of man to date. No doubt the clan where so ever they were at that precise moment in time were making their own plans to step forth into the world and Devin really needed to encounter them before that day arrived.
“I won’t return to the tunnels, Cathy.” Devin told her packing a few things into a battered knapsack. “Tell Father and Vincent what I’m doing and that I’ll return as soon as possible with the news that Vincent needs.”
Catherine passed him things he had set out on the bed and he stowed them carefully into his bag trying to make good use of the available space with all that he needed to carry.
“Are you really sure about this, Devin?” Catherine asked, having not met the clan she was still unsure of the whole thing. Though if Vincent was anything to go by, she was certain they would be safe people to return to, unless she thought of Vincent’s other side and then she felt uneasy again.
“About going back? To see the clan? Or just returning to that mountain?” He paused in his ministrations to look at her keenly unsure of what direction her question was taking. “I know what you mean.” He surprised her by laughing. “Know why that is?” Before she had time to answer, he went on, “It’s because of the vastness of the mountain and all that snow! Imagine being surrounded by that, and knowing that’s above you, yet by the same mode I should expect that during the summer it’s rather too warm in the caves. Ever spend summer on a mountain, Cathy? Its awesome!”
Catherine smiled but said nothing in response besides which Devin wasn’t finished. “In reply to the other part of your question, I don’t think the choice of helping or not helping Vincent is ours to make. He expects it of us, because we love him, and we just have to hope that he remembers that blood may be thicker than water, but in this instance it is thanks to the water that he has all he has now. I think he’ll return, Cathy, if he truly loves you he will, but we have to give him time, and that might take quite a while. I guess much of it depends on the media and how far they take this ‘coming out’ business of the clan, and how Vincent will be accepted enough to travel to a and b frequently. If he can visit his family often and us he might just do what you and I have always been able to do, and that is to call on everyone in turn to keep us all happy. I think what we, that is you and I and my father have to keep in mind is how wonderful its going to be for Vincent’s real parents to have him back with them. By so doing it will make our loss easier to bear until he’s home again.”
“That’s the sixty four million dollar question though, isn’t it? Where will home be from now on?” Catherine mused.
“I’ve been to a lot of places, Cathy, no doubt you have too, some have been so wonderful I’ve not wanted to leave, but in all those places, Cathy, home to me was a stinking hole in the ground where candles flicker and where I have to wrap up warm like the Abominable Snowman. Oh dear, did I just say that?” He laughed out loud. “Dare I say Vincent has always been in the right place?” He laughed again, loudly and then for her peace of mind added, “Try not to worry, Cathy, home is where the heart is. Has no one ever told you that?”
Catherine nodded enthusiastically, and after he zipped closed the knapsack’s various pockets and tapped his own back and front to check he had everything she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
“You’ll take care, right? If you need anything ring here, leave a message and I’ll personally pick it up and be in touch, just don’t forget to leave a contact number.” She smiled benignly at him making him laugh. “So you have taken a leaf from my father’s book, I see and have decided my head is full of cotton wool.” Catherine smiled but said nothing and he returned her embrace before heading for the door with the cheery words, “So long, Cathy wish me luck.”
She did, with words and fingers crossed, following him out through the door and down to the foyer via the elevator, where a yellow taxi awaited him for the drive to the airport. Snow was beginning to fall, and it had grown dark. “Stay warm, Cathy, go home via the threshold, too slippery out here. And if I don’t see you before have a Merry Christmas. Oh, that reminds me, everyone’s presents are stored in your wardrobe, hand them out for me, will you if I can’t get back in time. Thanks.”
“I will. Be well, Devin.”
He stepped into the taxi bestowing his knapsack on the other side of the back seat as he settled into the rear. “I will. Be well yourself. See ya.” Then slamming the door they waved goodbye as the taxi pulled away from the curb. Catherine returned to the foyer and the elevator to take her back to her apartment and the things she needed to take below with her. Under other circumstances she would have accompanied her brother in law but with the baby to consider that was out of the question. Hopefully, he would be all the manpower needed to do what had to be done, to find Mr Stuart and to unravel the mystery surrounding him, and hopefully find where the clan resided by way of another helper assuming that’s what Mr Stuart was.

*** *** ***

Christmas came and went, Devin did not return, Catherine grew anxious, Father grew anxious not just by his son’s delay but by Catherine’s mood, she seemed edgy, and Vincent’s mood had not improved any. Every which way he turned Father felt like he was walking on hot bricks afraid to ask too much, frightened of upsetting Vincent.
Vincent was with them in person but not in spirit as if that was his way of dividing himself between the family he had and the family he was yet to have and it was very disconcerting for all those that had him in person. He rarely heard what they said and if he did often he blatantly ignored people that spoke to him preferring not to answer their questions. His head was most definitely in the clouds to the extent that he might as well have not been there.
Until the day when something in the newspaper caught his eye!

Beast in the City?
Ghostly goings on? Unexplained mysteries? If you have been involved in any of these, it could be that you have been entangled with the city’s beast. Living Lord knows where, this creature that resembles a lion and walks upright like a man has been known to rescue innocent victims of violent crime to the detriment of their attackers, whose torn and shredded bodies have baffled police for years.
Next year has been designated the International Year of the Beast, so will we see more of this creature? Can we expect that he or she will come to the rescue of more innocent people in the fight against crime? I can give a definite answer, yes we can, and not only can we see the one residing in our city but we will also be entertained by a whole clan of these people expected to arrive in New York January 10th where it is hoped the missing member of their family and our very own beast will make acquaintance for the first time since our beast was kidnapped from his family more than thirty years ago.
The editorial department is thus appealing for any information as regards the whereabouts of our very own ‘cat man’ and should that information lead to a personal interview with the city’s beast a substantial payment will be made available to whomsoever brings that information to us.
So get those binoculars out, and those telescopes, seek high, seek low, for somewhere out there folks resides the city beast, and we need your help to find him.

In brackets at the bottom of the report it stated (Please do not approach the beast – it is not known if he is dangerous however it is likely he will not wish to be discovered – therefore telephone this newspaper and or the police department and if there is no answer please leave a message giving your name, contact details and time and location of sighting and we’ll be in touch.)
Happy Hunting.

“Who would have done this?” Vincent passed the newspaper to Catherine and paced until she had read it through, looking up at him from moment to moment trying to assess his mood.
“Vincent, I don’t know, but its obvious that someone did.” He spun on her. “Of course someone did, idiot!” Tears pricked Catherine’s eyes, and she huffed, “That’s not what I meant. I meant that it was obvious that someone in the know did it, and probably that woman that Devin met at the hospital near Mount McKinley. She told him it was her intention to make money from it. And you know what reporters are? They will do anything for a story, blow information out of proportion just to sell their newspapers.” Vincent glared at her, he had been cold toward her for weeks, but that glare was made of ice. How she wished to have the old Vincent back, the one that wasn’t dividend by insecurities, the one that wasn’t thinking about people he had never met as if it were the be all and end all of his whole existence.
“I don’t know, Vincent. What do you want me to say?” Catherine asked feebly, she was closer to tears now than before but held them back determined that he should not know how he had upset her, until suddenly in that same instance something inside her snapped. “If I’m such an idiot perhaps I should leave here.” She challenged him. He glared at her as if she was something that had crawled from beneath the threadbare matting on the chamber floor, “there’s the exit.” He pointed, Catherine gasped and the threatened tears fell. “How did you get to be such a bastard?” She cried as she shoved past him and made for the exit reaching it only to be slung back again by two steely arms that held on to her shoulders and brought her body round to face the intense blue of his eyes. She almost melted in their depths, blue pools where waters ran deep and showed a mix of emotions so diversified that it was hard to keep track of them.
“I’m sorry.” Vincent pulled her up against him. “Sorry.” He kissed her hair, her neck, planting soft warm kisses of apology on her throat. “Forgive me, Catherine.” He pleaded then unexpectedly fell to his knees grasping her around the waist and begged, “Help me. I’m going insane with this.”
“I am trying to help you, Vincent, but you keep pushing me away.” Her words shook, the emotion of moments ago still so close to the surface.
“Can’t help it, my love, feel so trapped, so wretched, these walls, my confinement, you…everything and now that!” He indicated the newspaper. “It all takes away my freedom, how can I find my family when people are looking out for me now?”
“Devin is doing his utmost to help. He’ll find a way, you just have to be patient, my love.” Catherine held his head in her hands idly stroking through the long golden mane with her fingers. “I love you so much, Vincent, and this is killing me too. I don’t want to lose you.”
He looked up at her, his eyes filled with sympathy, they both knew what he was telling her through those eyes where his lips could not. She might lose him, he might not want it, but they had to come to terms with the fact that in all probability it could happen. Anything could happen. He owed it to his rightful family to stay with them a long time and he did not propose that Catherine waited for him.
“I’d come with you, you know that. You only have to ask.” Catherine leaned down and kissed the tip of his nose.
“I know you would, and that’s why I cannot ask. Here at least you are close to all that you have known, your friend’s, stores, places that surround you making you a part of them, but the mountains, and a strange new people, like me, true, but unfamiliar to you, I cannot expect this of you, Catherine, neither do I want it for you, and especially since you are with child.”
Catherine gulped making a decision that she thought would kill her if she had to carry it through but to lose Vincent would be worse. “If there has to be a choice, I would terminate the pregnancy in order to come with you. I’d rather do that then never see you again.” In reply Vincent hugged her fiercely and kissed her abdomen. “No, Catherine a few weeks ago maybe, but not now. I will return, my love, never fear, you and our child are precious to me, but I just cannot say when I will be back. Please try to understand, its not that I don’t love you. You know that I do.”
“I thought you did.” Catherine told him with a sigh. “These days I’m not so sure anymore.”
Raggedly, Vincent sighed also. “As I said, I’m sorry, truly, Catherine. You put up with much from me, things you never envisaged before we were married.” They grinned together and Vincent went on, “So its true one never knows another until they are living together.”
“At least I didn’t discover that you have smelly feet.” Catherine laughed as did he, his laughter quickly dissipating as he told her, “No, you had to discover something much, much worse. Catherine…” For a moment, further words caught in his throat, then he told her; “I love you, and I’m doing you wrong. Just lately I have become to you the beast that I am.” Catherine shook her head adamantly but he did not notice, she was glad because though she denied him, he was right, he had become a beast to live with in more ways than one. “Its just that…I can’t seem to help but lash out at those that I love, Catherine…when I am feeling so wretched inside…for what Paracelsus took from me…from the belief I carried all those years of abandonment…of being left out in the snow to die…of believing that I was a freak that no one wanted…and now to discover all along I had a family…a family that loved me, wanted me, cried for me…Catherine…it hurts…it hurts so much!”
Catherine’s heart went out to her husband and she held him tightly gently rocking him. “I understand, darling, truly I do. But I hurt also. I hurt when you say such things to me, nasty things, thoughtless things, painful things, you have to try to curb the insults, Vincent, because no matter how much I or any of us understand what you are going through, some pain can never be completely erased. Thank goodness you haven’t yet lashed out on the children, but they hear things, Vincent, and I know some are beginning to be afraid when they are around you.”
Vincent gasped. “I tried not to let them see.” He told her. “Oh this is worse than I thought. I must call a meeting and try to make the community understand. Beg their forgiveness.”
“They love you, Vincent. Perhaps it would be best to let them see you more like your old self then try to explain why you are acting out of character. It would go a long way just to let them see you walk with your arm around me as you used to do. If they see us happy, they will be happy and anything that might have worried them will blow over.” She smiled down at him tenderly. She loved him so much, he was her world and already the look of love in his eyes had almost erased the verbal attack he had put her through earlier. To completely erase it he need only be the Vincent she had fallen in love with. “If you think that will be sufficient?” Vincent asked his eyes pleading. Catherine nodded. “Its almost dinner time, we could start now.” She told him and climbing to his feet Vincent agreed. “But first, there is something else that is long overdue.” And his lips met hers in the sweetest kiss they had shared in a long, long time. “Thank you for being so patient with me, and know this, whatever happens whatever comes, know that I love you. I will always love you.”
They embraced, holding one another tightly for a long silent moment, each happy to be loved by the other. Still at the back of both their minds rose the uncertainty that all of it was only temporary…as the unknown continued to beckon.

*** *** ***

Last one. Devin stood in the road opposite the final bar on his list and took a deep breath before pushing open the doors and letting out hot air and the scent of ale and beef pies onto the unrelenting fiercely cold air outside. Well it wasn’t exactly the final bar on his list, there were more back at his hotel room, but it was the last one for today on the list that he carried.
The task had been hard, more difficult than he had imagined and what was worse, was that his reputation had preceded him, each new place people seemed to know who he was and whom he was seeking and Devin had to admit that their mouths were closed as tight as a duck’s arse.
As to why, baffled Devin, because if they all knew about the clan then where was the secrecy, and if they did not, then why did they keep so quiet on the whereabouts of James Stuart? Why was he so important? Or was it just a community thing? Did they all stick together where strangers were involved? Devin just didn’t know.
Still the warmth of the bar welcomed him even if the reception didn’t. Faces turned to him as he stepped through the door and a chorus of whispers swept the room. Devin watched the faces, trying to ascertain a friendly one from among them and saw none, and he almost about turned and left them to it, when someone called, “You ain’t got no business with us, mister. That’s right you just you keep on walking back out that door.” And Devin changed his mind. Turning he sought out the speaker before he had finished talking, and with his eyes glued on him as he asked, “I take it you know who I’m looking for?” Three chins wobbled as the speaker nodded. He was, Devin decided, a giant of a man. Well built in every corner. And he held a pool cue in one hand much like one would hold a club, ready if the need be to beat the hell out of Devin.
“I don’t want any trouble.” Devin told him. “I’m just seeking a guy I hope can help me.”
“In what capacity?” The speaker came toward him, edging around the pool table with the cue held at his side, he was large and rugged and the blue vest he wore over his grey shirt was pulled tight almost popping the buttons down the front. Devin noticed his denim clad legs and knew if they fell on him all his bones would break at once. The man was mighty, not just overweight, but strong. He looked as though he’d wielded axes and chopped tree trunks all his life and probably had since Devin had noticed the log store on his way in.
“Can’t tell you why.” Devin told him truthfully. “But it’s important that I speak to Mr Stuart. Can you help me?”
“Don’t you mean will I?”
“Well yes, I do.”
“The answer’s no. Now git, we had enough of reporters round here to last us a lifetime. Stuart ain’t gonna tell you nuffing.” Devin stood his ground, he’d met with similar animosity for the best part of the day, and now all he’d like to do was sit down rest his weary feet and have a beer. “At least let me have a drink before I go.” He edged toward the bar and found a cue in his face. Knocking it to one side intent on moving ahead, Devin saw it thwack right back again, this time just missing his nose. Covering his face, Devin watched as the wooden pole was raised with intent to come down again should he take another step forward and he raised an arm high to protect himself and it was at that moment that someone shouted from his right. “JERRY, STOP!”
Turning, Devin caught sight of a different fellow, different by his garb, unlike that worn by others within the vicinity of the bar, this one wearing a ranger’s uniform, and he gasped, for from the poor quality photo of the report he had uncovered back in Manhattan this man bore a striking resemblance. “Mr Stuart?” Devin asked hopefully. The fellow nodded, then turning toward the giant with the pool cue told him, “It’s alright, Jerry, this isn’t a reporter, at least not one I am aware of. You aren’t, are you?” Speechless, Devin shook his head.
“Thought not. Come through to the back room, you and I have much to discuss.” The fellow walked forward threading his way between tables amid curious stares from the other patrons. Meekly Devin followed, until almost at a green door on the far side of the room, Devin put out an arm and halted the fellow’s footsteps. “Who exactly are you?” He asked knowing who it was but needing extra clarification.
“I’m who you are looking for. But of course you know that.” He opened the door, and ushered Devin in, closing it behind the two of them before speaking again. “And I’ll tell you what else you know, shall I?” Reaching Devin’s sleeve he pulled up the cuff. “Saw this when you raised your arm back there, good job I did or we’d be sweeping your brains off the floor by now.” He laughed. “Ole Jerry likes the sight of the old grey matter but he’s a good guy at heart, protects me that’s for sure.”
“If you ask me they all do, and that’s what I don’t understand, why are you so darn important?” Devin wanted to know.
“For the same reason you are, if they did but know it, and they will, believe me they will.” And with a flourish he raised his sleeve and revealed the same snakelike tattoo that Devin’s arm bore. “Seems like you’re a helper, just like me, and if that’s so, then you can only be here for one, thing…you want to know where the clan are?” He waited till Devin nodded and went on. “Then brother, you’ve come to the right man.”

*** *** ***

Chapter Nine

The newspapers were reporting again. Nothing had been seen of their ‘beast’ but that had not deterred them, they had pursued the matter till they dropped hell bent on getting the biggest scoop of the century as they do, and even stirring up other editions of the city’s newspapers to do likewise. To the end that every issue of every newspaper that came Father’s way posed a question relating to the whereabouts of the ‘city beast’. Something that did little to thwart the sick feeling inside that seemed to have taken up permanent residence when it came to thinking about his son’s future. Still he read avidly, keeping up to date with developments trying for all intents and purposes to appear like any other interested reader and trying not to remember that he actually knew whom they were writing about.
“Look at this, have you seen this, Catherine?” Father asked with one jammy finger pressed to page four of the third newspaper he had scanned that day. He balanced his doughnut in the other hand ignoring the spillage of sugar and jam onto the blotter on his desk (he’d wipe it up later), now there were more important issues to attend to.
“About the animals?” Catherine asked knowing that the International Year of the Beast would commence with trailers of zoo animals being driven through the streets of the city and special terms for school children and the elderly to pay a visit to the Bronx Zoo, to promote wild animal awareness year.
“No, not that, the bit about encouraging the ‘city beast’ to come out of hiding and be spared any repercussions of his past existence due to the designated year we are entering.’ Catherine shook her head. “No, but it doesn’t surprise me. Unfortunately, humans are fickle and once Vincent made his debut they would brand him with all kinds of injustices, though likely some incidents would be justifiable in Vincent’s case, for don’t forget I know the way the law works and human nature too.”
“I agree.” Father watched Catherine absentmindedly folding sheets and marvelled at her ability to remain calm at such a time. Vincent had not been himself recently and that was putting it mildly, but they seemed to have overcome that particular milestone and forged ahead. He wished he could do likewise, but the foreboding feeling that hung over him constantly prevented a feeling of well being surrounding him.
Heavily Father sighed causing his daughter in law to look at him shrewdly. “I should try not to worry, Father. It’ll eat you up if you let it. I have a philosophy that is, never worry about the things you can’t alter. Oh, I know in this case we have relative control over them happening at all, but at the end of the day the final word lies with Vincent and once his people come out of hiding…” she shook her head ruefully. “I have a feeling that Vincent is going to just walk on up there and join them and nothing we can say or threaten will stop him from doing that. At least then he won’t be one on his own anymore.”
“But what will happen, Catherine?” Father’s voice rose. “When they see him, they are going to know it was him that killed all those people in your defence, they’ll have his hide for sure.” He lay down the doughnut his appetite lost and even his sugar coated fingers held no appeal, as he reached for a wet cloth and wiped them till he was satisfied the stickiness had gone.
“They’ll only make that connection if I’m with him and I won’t be.” She paused to test his reaction to that omission.
“You aren’t going with him?” His jaw dropped.
Catherine shook her head. “Can’t, as you can see they would have his head in a noose if I did. I believe that he hopes Devin will escort him to where his family will be waiting and he can shuffle in amongst them and not be noticed as the one that lives in the city. They can’t prove its him, if there are more than one can they?”
“I guess not.” Father felt a ripple of something better fill him that was one worry less at least, even though the ripples of apprehension far outweighed the minimal relief he’d got. “I just wish we could go back to where we were before all this began.” Father added wistfully and heard his son from the doorway utter, “Well we can’t, and I for one am glad of that. Father can’t you at least feel happy for me? These are my parents we are talking about, my own flesh and blood, surely I have a right to see them?”
“Its not that.” Father faltered, but of course it was, and the sooner he admitted it the better. “Alright it is that. I’m jealous, okay? For over thirty years you have been my son, now I must hand you over to those that gave birth to you, stand by and watch them take you from me and this family, those that love you, your wife and child to be, and I’m expected to like it?”
Whatever wayward thing Vincent had been about to retort he relented. “I do understand how it must be for you, and I owe you everything, and its not as if I’m going to be gone forever. Father, these people, my family are taking untold risks to expose themselves, but by doing so I too have the chance for the world to know of my existence, maybe that will be for the bad, maybe it will be for the good, but for the first time in my life I know I can stand among society and say, yes, this is me, I’m different but I’m not a freak, we are a race and we are proud of the way we look, we have survived thousands of years without civilised intervention and only now when we need your understanding of our plight do we stand before you for your support. And it’s only thanks to the proposed theme for next year that they have the courage to make known their existence, but for that we might never have known that they exist. Other people would continue to live in ignorance.”
Father refrained from saying, ‘well thank the Lord for that’, instead replying, “I believe that the title for next year was actually brought about by the helpers of your family over the last decade. Isn’t that so, Catherine?”
She nodded. “Yes, they knew what they would eventually be up against, and when certain suggestions were made over the years The International Year of the Beast was recommended for the coming year. All around the world there are campaigns to support animals, both wild and domesticated, but mainly those in the ‘beast’ category, which…” She smiled ruefully at her husband, ‘as much as I hate to admit it, you fall into, darling.”
The addition of the endearment prevented salt being rubbed into one of Vincent’s open wounds, as any referral to his bestial side was a great no-no among tunnel residents, however, for once he did not seem to mind. “I’m happy to see that you have at last recognised our differences.” He told her dryly though there was no malicious intent to his words.
“I’ve always recognised our differences, my love, but they have been unimportant to me. Why else would I have married you?”
“Because you loved me?” Catherine saw her husband grin, one of a first in many days, and she nodded. “Yes, because I loved you, but having you believe that was no easy task, my love.”
“Ah, but it would have been easier had I known that what I am I ought to be. You know…” He sighed heavily and sank down into one of the chairs in Father’s chamber. “Just knowing that I’m not a freak of nature, or some result of a scientist’s warped mind, or a mutant, just knowing those things change me, Catherine. I’m so at peace within myself by just knowing those things, and had I not a family out there, all of that would have been enough. I guess what I’m trying to say is, had I of known years ago that what I am is what I should be, then I would not have tried to thwart our dream like I did. Just knowing makes me feel whole, complete, part of society different maybe, but not as vastly different as I once thought myself to be. However since my family are out there…” He paused testing their reaction. “I have to go above to meet them. Surely you can both understand that?”
They could, and each nodded slowly, and Vincent began to relax when Father asked, “But why go above? Why could your family not visit with you here? Why do you have to expose yourself?”
Raggedly, Vincent sighed. Had his father not understood one word of what he’d said? Unsure of how to answer him, Vincent was happy when Catherine did that for him. “Father, I understand it, and I’m surprised you even had to ask. Vincent’s family aren’t the ones that have been imprisoned beneath a city all their lives. Open the cage of a canary, Father and it will eventually peek out and fly. Its cage might represent security, a place to find food and water and shelter, but it cannot ignore the pull to see what lies beyond. Can’t you see that?”
Before Father had a chance to reply, Vincent smiled at his wife and added, “Catherine’s right, and just as that cage is security and home to that canary, Father, these tunnels, this life is home to me. But I have to escape it, if only for a little while, though that time might seem unending for those that await my return. But I will come back, of that you can be certain.” He truly hoped that would pacify Father’s doubts, but it seemed only to irritate him further.
“And what if they shoot you, huh? What if presented with this new race the other people deem them a threat to society? For example what has been one of our greatest anxieties with your marriage to Catherine? A child.” He looked apologetically at Catherine then continued, “We wonder, Vincent, what that child will be like, of course we do, its only natural. But take that out of our world and instigate it in the one above and imagine the fears of parents everywhere, Vincent, imagine them wondering what if their son or their daughter should become romantically involved with one of the clan, what if marriage took place what if children were conceived? I tell you, Vincent there’s going to be a riot up there, people are going to think ahead in leaps and bounds and they are going to become aggravated to the point of murder. Catherine mentioned human nature earlier, and I more than any of you know how that works. Fear corrupts, misleads and gives birth to consequences that only feeds that fear, and it will get out of hand, I can see it. I know it will happen, because people’s ideals are dependable, unchangeable, and they will not accept a new race, or new ideas that might mean infringement upon everything they hold dear. I can’t feel anything but a sense of unease, I’m sorry to say that, Vincent, but its how I feel and nothing you can say or do is going to erase that feeling, apart from you staying here and forgetting the whole foolish idea of going above and exposing yourself to the world that is.”
Vincent knew when he was beaten, Father’s points were valid, but they were set upon experience, things that had happened to him when he lived above. They wouldn’t necessarily be applicable in this day and age. People had long come to expect different things in life, they had open minds these days, and Vincent felt sure that Father would be proven wrong. However, he looked to Catherine hoping to see something positive in her eyes, but found them full of anxiety as if Father’s words had made her realise things she had never thought of before. Again Vincent sighed heavily, and rose from the chair telling them, “I can see there is little more to be said. None of us will budge from our way of thinking, so…” He shrugged, an action that infuriated Father further. “Whatever will be will be.”
“How can you be so flippant?!” Father exploded. “This is your life we are talking about here. Your life and Catherine’s and your child to be, how can you be so…so…” Words failed him and Father stared at his son one minute and the next laid his head upon his arms on the desk and sobbed. Vincent and Catherine’s hearts went out to him and in seconds both were at his side, but Father waved them away. “Leave me alone…” he sobbed. “Just go, do whatever you want, Vincent…and I hope it turns out well for you.” Not once did he look up, and his muffled voice coming thickly through his tears was almost Vincent’s undoing. Almost, but not quite, his own conviction of what was right taking president, so he just squeezed his father’s shoulder and tucking his arm through Catherine’s made to move her toward the exit. Catherine however, shook her head and mouthed the word, ‘no’ looking back at Father in turn. Vincent understood, the pair had become comrades and he was the outsider once again. He hesitated a moment more, sadness in his blue eyes, and then shrugged his shoulders and began to walk toward the exit when Catherine called him back. “Vincent?” she whispered. “I’ll see you in our chamber?” He nodded, turned back toward the exit and was soon gone from her sight. Catherine sighed heavily, as something ominous hung over her, and a bad feeling she hadn’t before experienced settled around her… like… like…seeing her husband go through that exit would be the last time she would clap eyes on him. She chided herself for being so silly, and reminded herself that she would see him later in their chamber, and thus finding relief she put her arms around Fathers shoulders, and offered him the comfort that he needed.
Outside of the chamber, Vincent leaned against the wall with Catherine’s emotions slamming into him but he refused to heed them. “Its time.” He told himself. “Nothing we can do or say now will alter things as they are. We have all spoken our piece, and not resolved a thing. Its best if I take matters into my own hands from now on, and let them alone.” He nodded, happy with his decision and moved silently to his chamber, to pack. He would go to the lower levels and from there await word from Devin…and then he would go above…to meet his family…his real family…the ones to whom he really belonged and more importantly the ones who would truly understand everything about him.

*** *** ***

“First a drink. You do drink, I take it?” Devin nodded and the fellow’s eyes lit up as he poured neat whisky into two tumblers. “Always do this.” He said. “Not often one meets a fellow clan brother, or sister come to that. We’re as unique as those folks are, few and far between.”
Devin watched his companion pour the alcohol and summed him up at the same time, large, tall, well padded, but that could be what he was wearing, thinning grey hair, intense green eyes, a ruddy complexion like one exposed for too long to icy temperatures, chubby face and arching eyebrows, permanently set that way, as if he had been surprised about things all his life, and the hands that now offered him a glass of amber liquid were rugged and large, callused from laborious work, probably felling trees, chopping logs or hard labour on the land.
“Are you a woodcutter?” Devin asked to which the fellow laughed heartily.
“Me? A tree feller? No way!” Devin grinned. Okay so his perception had been was wrong “A farmer then?”
Again the fellow’s big tummy shook with laughter. “A farmer? No, I’m not a farmer. Why do you ask such questions?” He grinned obviously interested to know.
“By your appearance. I imagined you did something like that for a living.”
“Goodness no, never been near a piece of grass a twig or a trunk in years, well save for throwing them onto the fire that is. No I’m a bartender. That was my place you stepped into. I do a bit of voluntary rescue work from time to time though. Guess the only reason my hands are so worn is from lifting the kegs from the lorry to the store four times a week, pretty heavy stuff for a little guy like me.” He guffawed loudly, and Devin cried, “You? Little? You have to be joking.” And the fellow laughed some more.
“I should introduce myself,” Devin told him to which the fellow shook his head then swallowing the whisky told him, “No need, heard you were coming, you’re Devin Wells aren’t you? Reputation precedes you, my friend. That scar, for instance, caused quite a stir among those that believe in strange things. Most people don’t know what we know, but still they wonder, been some strange sightings of strange things around these parts. Not all of mankind are lucky enough to get to meet the clan or to be marked by them. Good job I saw you had one of these, “ he held back his cuff for Devin to see the mark of the beast. “Otherwise we’d be preparing to bury you round about now.” He took another swig, then another and emptied his glass, noting Devin hadn’t yet taken a sip. “Something wrong with the malt, boy?” He indicated Devin’s glass, Devin looked down to where the glass was held firmly between his two hands untouched. “No.” He replied, and took a large swig. His eyes smarted as the liquor travelled down his throat and warmed the pit of his belly. “Its good stuff.” He nodded, as he emptied the glass. “Real good. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. And since I know who you are I’d best introduce myself.” He extended a hand. “I’m Travis King. Nice to meet you, Devin Wells.”
Devin shook the proffered hand but stared open mouthed at the man before him finally asking; “But you said back there that you were who I was looking for?” His confusion spoke volumes.
“I am, name change you see. Not now, but then. Thought it best, damn paparazzi, can’t trust them. Stuart was the name I used for their benefit, good job too if you ask me, loads been up this mountain searching for a story, none found me of course. All my friends know that name’s an alias, people round these parts accept that to the world I’m Stuart, but they all have their strict instructions not to let anyone know my real identity.”
“It’s a wonder they haven’t made money out of it. I know one helper that would have.” Briefly without giving names or places away, Devin told Travis about Sarah.
“That’s not a helper, the clan should know about her, she’s turned journalist, got the dollar sign before her eyes, greedy little bitch, you did right to tell me, and if you give me her name I’ll make sure that she’s struck off the helper database. Can do without insiders like that, she’ll be detrimental to their cause.” Travis was quite wound up by it.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to report her to the clan myself?” Travis nodded, understanding at once but greatly saddened by it. “When we stop learning to trust each other, Devin, how on earth do we hope to support the clan? Still…that’s by as by, you came here to find them and I can take you. How soon would you like to go?”
“They’re still here?” Devin was surprised. It had taken him too long to find them, and he was beginning to think they might have made it to the city already.
“Some of them. The women and the little ones, a few older men, but the elders and some of the younger men have begun the trek to the outside world. Which ones would you like to see, do you have any particular names?”
Devin wracked his brains, he knew a few names, but which ones would be applicable at such a time? He dismissed Singing Jay and Merry Wolf and finally replied, “Prowling Cat. Though if he’s left for the city, I believe his wife has gone with him as well?”
Travis shook his head. “That I wouldn’t know. Hadn’t heard they were taking women along, but Prowling Cat you say, wasn’t he the one that had a kid stolen forty fifty years ago?”
“Thirty seven actually, and yes.” Devin replied.
“Yes, I know where to find him, he’s one of the older men that stayed behind, waiting for someone by all accounts.”
“That would probably be me.” Devin told him thoughtfully. “But then if that’s so, he’s become detached from the group, surely he isn’t contemplating going to New York alone?”
“Don’t know about that, Dev, but I wouldn’t have thought so. And if it’s true what you say that he’s probably waiting for you, I’d best get you up there quick smart, are you ready to go now? Do you need to return to your hotel for anything?”
Devin held up his wrist exposing the tattoo. “I believe this is all I really need?”
Travis nodded. “Aye, it is. But we might be gone several days. Will you need a change of clothing?”
Devin nodded. “I’ll collect a few things and meet you back here in an hour, is that okay, or do you have things that you have to do first?”
“I can leave now. I own the bar, can come and go as I please. Just wondered though before you go if you should give me that lassie’s name, you know the one that is in it for the money? Should she wander by, I’d like my friends to know they can’t trust her.”
Devin thought about it a moment saw the logic of that idea and finally replied, “Sure,” and told him her name, where she worked what she did for a living, then added as an afterthought, “So tell me, since you’ve never seen me before how can you be sure that I’m not in it for the money also?” Travis smiled, “As I told you before, Mr Wells, your reputation precedes you.” He chuckled. “Besides which I’d been notified by the clan to expect you. Seems you have some gem of information that Prowling Cat awaits, and can be trusted as genuine.” Devin smiled, Travis smiled, and then Devin rose from the chair intent on collecting his things from his hotel room. “I’ll see you in an hour then.” Devin told Travis as he reached the door, the two men shook hands and Travis nodded. “Aye, take all the time you need. I’ll be waiting.”
However, Devin knew he would be no longer than he’d said and returned within the hour with his rucksack on one shoulder and found Travis waiting for him with a pony and trap. “Thought we’d take them up some provisions.” Travis indicated the sacks of food and cartons of ale and piles of woollen blankets in the back of the cart. “Usually do when I go up, feel bad about going empty handed. Still, all that will be a thing of the past soon.” He nodded back toward the town as the pony clip clopped its way along the twisty-turny road taking them toward the mountain pass. “And they’ll never know what hit them. Can you imagine the tourism that’s gonna hit this sleepy little town when word gets out?”
Devin hadn’t thought past the way the world would react in general to analyse what the clan’s appearance might do for small communities. “Can’t say I have thought about it.” He answered truthfully. “But now that you mention it, I can imagine what it’ll do to them. Put this place on the map for sure.”
“Not always a good thing but can’t say we don’t need it. Life is hard here, Dev.”
“Yes, I can see it is. I was here before you know, before I met the clan.”
“What happened, how did you meet them?”
For the next couple of hours they exchanged stories, Travis’s being much the same as Devin’s, he was out with a bunch of dogs, the harness on the sled snapped, the dogs ran one way and his sled went another, unfortunately rolling over and over with him aboard leaving him unconscious and injured and his dogs heading for home without him. Their arrival alerted his family who in turn called the rescue team but in the meantime fog came down over Mount McKinley and thwarted their efforts till the following day. It was a bitter up there and when they found him alive and well after several days they had all been amazed. What they didn’t know was that the clan had cared for him and Travis had feigned memory loss of his time on the mountain. “Sure,” Travis grinned. “I said a few prayers, sure I’m a Christian, but it wasn’t me that suggested God saved me, it was those reporters, having not much to go on they make things up you know? Got to watch them, after all their only end is to sell papers, and have their name attached to a report. Glory, Dev its all glory and it will be the ruin of all of us, you’ll see.”
Devin agreed, and they chatted about other things, as the pony made its sure-footed journey up the mountain. “Nice horse.” Devin said at last indicating the golden coloured animal in front of them with a nod of his head in its direction.
“Haflinga.” Travis told him. “Sturdy critters from Germany and Austria. Will pull anything, gentle docile critters Haflinga, cost a pretty penny too, but well worth it.”
“So, Haflinga’s are a breed?” Devin was interested.
“Ah huh. Me brother breeds them now. Had a devil’s own job of getting this one over here I can tell you. And this, my dear fellow, is the one critter the clan will accept among them. You’ll notice that. Dogs yes, they have dogs, but until the introduction of Bella here, they had nothing with which to haul heavy loads, except teams of dogs, and that’s not always applicable for them. Can’t keep dogs quiet enough you see, especially dogs that fight over a bit of meat. So they take the Haflinga among them, maybe one pony to a family, and a great help it’s been too.”
“When I saw it I just assumed it was any old Palomino, not a specific breed of horse, but now I come to think of it, I’ve seen them in Europe.” Devin told Travis.
“You’ve been to Europe? That’s interesting, tell me, ever been to Italy?.” And so they continued chatting the journey away, even so, Devin was aware of his surroundings, taking note of this landmark and that landmark, aware that there might be a time when he would have to find the way by himself. It appeared that Travis was nice, might always help him, but Devin had been around Vincent too long and various vibes had rubbed off on him, to always be cautious, and never expect too much, best know one’s own way just in case.
Finally, Travis asked less questions, and Devin spoke less often, as the terrain became more difficult even for the strong Haflinga, and Travis resorted to halting the beast, disembarking from the cart and leading the animal through some rocky areas surrounded by fir trees. And then he suddenly stopped dead and turned back to look at Devin. “We have to wait here, someone will come to escort us into their village.”
Surprised, Devin answered; “They have a village?”
Travis shook his head. “Not like the ones we know, a settlement maybe, but then again, not one that is permanent. The clan are noted for being on the move, though they do have places they call home that they return to when the coast is clear. Hold on a moment.” Devin watched fascinated while with the reins of the pony over one arm, Travis raised his hands to his mouth and issued a long fluty whistle, before turning back to Devin with a grin. “And now we wait. Can’t do anything else.”
“How long?” Devin enquired, looking all around him but seeing nothing but fir trees and rocks and snow. Travis shrugged. “Never can tell, depends who’s on duty and what they are doing. Might be a few minutes, at worst an hour, but they’ll come, don’t worry. Now would you like a drink while we wait whisky or hot coffee? I have both.”
Devin opted for coffee - he wanted to be sober when he met the clan again.

*** *** ***

The chamber was like those back home, except back home they did not adorn the walls with animal skins, nor did they have a blazing fire in its centre with cooking pots positioned at varying levels over it, nor did the scent of roasting meat tantalise the nostrils except in William’s kitchen. Devin looked everywhere and saw the similarities and felt at home even though the people that welcome him into their home made him feel as though he’d had several glasses of malt whisky too many and he was seeing Vincent over and over and over again. For there in a line with one standing next to the other were several people that looked like his brother in various stages of growth.
“Welcome!” Prowling Cat extended his hand, as he knew was Devin’s customary way of greeting. This Prowling Cat had learned from the many helpers that the clan had met over the years. Devin shook the offered hand, noticing it felt like his brother’s, soft and furry and extremely large with clawed fingertips. Prowling Cat noticed with joy that Devin did not balk at having the strange hand in his, but rather accepted it as though he’d held such all his life.
“Meet my family.” Prowling Cat tugged Devin into the circle of people standing around. “This, is my wife, Indigo Sky, and this is my mother, Surefooted Doe, these are our children, their names from the youngest up…” Prowling Cat made them known to him, but Devin caught only a few being overwhelmed by their names and how large Vincent’s actual family were.
“So, Vincent was not your eldest then?” He asked when Prowling Cat had announced all the names of his family.
The family looked from one to the other and by their confusion Devin told them, “My brother, I mean the child you had stolen, whom I know as my brother, he was not your eldest child then?” That much was obvious for Prowling Cat had introduced three others, whom Devin could tell were older than Vincent.
“When The Best of Everything was taken from us, we had two other sons and a daughter.” Prowling Cat told Devin. It was Devin’s turn to look mystified. “I’m sorry,” he told Prowling Cat. “What do you mean the best of everything? Oh do you mean you favoured the one lost above the others?” Devin couldn’t visualise this, nor could he accept that the parents would elevate the lost child over his siblings.
Prowling Cat shook his head even as his wife and family looked perturbed about something. “All of us are equal.” He told Devin. “None of us are above the other. We all have our place in our family and among the clan.” Then at Devin’s look of bewilderment, Prowling Cat went on, “I’m sorry I think we are talking at cross purposes. What exactly are you saying?”
“I’m not sure.” Devin grinned. “Look, lets go back to square one as it were, what was it you were saying?”
“You were asking about The Best Of Everything, whether or not he had older brothers and sisters?” Prowling Cat smiled humorously. Devin frowned and said nothing until slowly realisation dawned. “You mean that was his name? You called the child that was stolen, The Best Of Everything?”
Eyes bright, both Indigo Sky and Prowling Cat nodded enthusiastically, causing Devin to mutter an embarrassed, “Oh” with a hint of laughter to follow. “I understand now. Well in my world, that is the world where your son was brought up, he is known by the name of Vincent.”
“Such a worldly name.” Prowling Cat sounded downhearted. “He is deserving of so much more.”
“I think it will take him time to come to terms with the name you gave him.” Devin added. “You might have to resort to calling him, Vincent.” Prowling Cat shook his head adamantly. “No, our son is known to us only by the name we gave him, and when we meet it is that name we shall use. He is the one that will have to get used to being called by that name, it will be he that will have to resort to his new name.”
Devin decided to let it go, after all he was fighting his brother’s fight, who knew what Vincent would decide, perhaps he’d be glad of his new name and to ease the situation Devin mumbled as much. At this, the family smiled, and bade him sit around their campfire. It was a pleasure to warm the rest of him as warm as his legs had become standing by the fire, and Devin put out his hands to the flames absorbing the heat he found there.
“Come, you must be hungry, we shall eat now.” Prowling Cat indicated to his wife, who turned to the fire and began prodding the meat until its juices run clear and stirring a pot where green leaves simmered. At his look Prowling Cat announced, “Wild horseradish, we pick it in summer, store it till now. And there’s potatoes brought to us by our helpers. The meat is moose, will you join us?” Devin nodded enthusiastically. He was starved!
Throughout the meal all were quiet, and Devin did not speak, sensing that was the way of things, it was only when Indigo Sky started clearing away the dishes and offering the seated members a bowl of water to wash their greasy fingers in that Prowling Cat asked Devin, “So, we must plan must we not, how to return our son to us?”
“Yes, what have you decided, anything?” Devin looked around the family hopefully.
“Yes. Most of our people have already gone on ahead. We have plans to meet up with them. Since Travis is in the village he can take us back down with him as far as the Denali pass and we can go on foot from there. That’s if you do not have to return with him?” Devin shook his head. “I can return for my things another day, maybe Travis will collect them from the hotel if there’s a problem. My room is paid up until tomorrow.”
Prowling Cat nodded. “That would be appreciated since time is of essence, if only you had mentioned to us of our son when you first arrived among us. It would have saved a great deal of time.”
“Yes, I know and I’m sorry, but you have to understand, I had to inform my brother first, and since his existence has been kept a secret from anyone but those that are as family to him it was not something I was at liberty to tell you until I had spoken with my family.” Prowling Cat nodded expressing his understanding, but still a little peeved at the time lost. “Still, you are here now, and we know our son is alive and well, and will soon be returned to us.” In his head Devin heard alarm bells sound when Prowling Cat went on, “And all that was destined for our son will be so, and he will live among us in the way that was set for him before he was born.” A look in Indigo Sky’s direction confirmed to Devin that they had it all mapped out, no matter what Vincent might think about the matter and that worried him. They were acting as though Vincent’s family, the ones that had brought him up should forsake him from now on, and give him back to these others so to speak, expecting that they should forget all about him from now on, and he them. But Devin said nothing once again believing all of this Vincent would deal with in his own tactful way.
“So then, if you are ready?” Prowling Cat stood and picking up some warm furs from a pile alongside him he donned them around his shoulders and pulled on some heavy hide boots, also trimmed with fur. Devin nodded, and watched the family hug their father and their mother as both bade them farewell. Travis was waiting for them when they exited the chamber, having delivered his gifts to those remaining at the village, and as he helped Indigo Sky onto the cart, Devin noticed for the first time that she was pregnant and it troubled him greatly but he said nothing. The people knew what they were doing, likely they travelled great distances in any condition and it was not for him to say that a pregnant woman was taking a risk in his world. For John Pater had stolen a child already and it was not unlikely that seeing her pregnant state some other person with a warped mind and sneaky ideas would do likewise and Devin just hoped that Vincent’s mother would be well protected by her own if they came upon such people. And that in turn frightened him too. For how did these people protect themselves when one of their own was threatened? For if they protected their own the way his brother protected his own, then he could see trouble ahead for the clan. How would the world accept them in that light? How would they accept them as a missing race of humankind in the face of fangs dripping with saliva, claws extended to rent and tear a victim apart?
Not for the first time did Devin have reservations about the whole thing and he began to see the picture for what it was, just as his father had done from the onset, a very dangerous and foolhardy assignment, one that could backfire to the detriment of the clan and to Vincent, and with Devin caught in the middle he wasn’t at all certain what he could possibly do to help either one of them.

*** *** ***

At midnight the chimes sounded over the city of Washington, announcing a new year and to the members of the White House a new era, one that they had received word of for the last few weeks but took nonetheless as some prank or another, even though some discreet photographs had been forwarded to the President, of the so called ‘forgotten race’ that would be entering the grounds of his home a little after midnight of December 31st.
It was a prank, had to be, he thought as he looked out of an upstairs window to the grounds below, but even as he thought it, his eyes were drawn to the flicker of lighted torches, not of the battery kind, but rather naked flames held above the heads of a large crowd of people whom appeared overly large and ominous as they walked from the gates and up the long drive toward his home. And all around them lights appeared as word had undoubtedly leaked to every newspaper in the land that something spectacular will take place upon the chimes of midnight at the Whitehouse, ‘so get yourself down there and don’t come back without a story!’ Thus editors had told their staff. The President watched with uncertainty as the large group of people carrying lighted torches and tapers hesitated and then forged on ahead even though vehicles and men and women running on foot intercepted their arrival at the Whitehouse doors. Jostling and shoving and the flash of cameras, spurned the President into action, as with his bodyguards and security he ran from the room and made his way down the stairs to meet with the people coming to see him.
Moments later as the doors to the Whitehouse opened inward, everyone outside froze for the merest of moments and then The President was approached by a representative of the clan, a human helper, one who had sent in the photographs, and extending his hand, explained why the clan were there, and what they expected from the meeting and amid the sound of cries and cameras clicking, cars honking, people shouting, he opened the doors wider to allow the clan to file through and then had the doors closed behind them admitting not one reporter, until he knew for a certainty that he had something specific to announce.
For hours those doors remained closed, but by morning every newspaper around the world bore the same headlines with similar photographs depicting strange cat like people shrouded in furs, with reports of cavemen, and yeti and the lost tribe to fascinate readers all around the globe. Thus by midday of January 1st the whole world were glued to their television sets, with a great many people heading for airports and the first aeroplanes out of their particular country bound for the USA.
Strangely though, that idea proved detrimental, when news leaked out that other Presidents and other Prime Ministers in other lands had received a similar visit from such people in other countries around the world following the chimes of midnight, soon the whole world waited in a frenzied kind of excitement to hear everything and see all about the race of people that had been with them for thousands of years but until this day few had ever seen. News spread like wildfire around the globe, and even those that did not have access to television or radio found some other means with which to keep up with reports on what was happening as it happened, not one ear was inclined any other way. This was news with a capital N and everyone wanted a piece.
By late evening, when telephone lines had become jammed by country after country calling one another and establishing the truth of the matter, that these were genuine people with a genuine cause, the leaders of the land were ready to make their announcements, that from the following morning people such as the world had never seen would be presenting themselves for photographs and interviews to a select few. Already there was money to be made from them, and only editors from the wealthiest newspapers and magazines would run the story of the lost tribe, or whomsoever out-bided the other for the privilege of so doing.
“Uh oh, I don’t like this.” Father told Catherine, as they watched the latest news bulletin from the comfort of her apartment. “If only we knew where Vincent is, we could warn him to take care.”
“I think he knows that, Father, but I do see what you mean. As you predicted there’s going to be a riot and Vincent could get caught up in it badly.”
“He will if he just ups and walks out there. I wonder where Devin is. You would have thought he’d have sent word by now.”
“You know he would have if he could. Chances are he’s among them somewhere, and we haven’t heard of any of the people arriving in New York yet so maybe he’s escorting them in.”
“I don’t like this, Catherine. I don’t like it at all.” Father’s face was sick with worry.
Catherine agreed she didn’t like it either. People were so unpredictable and so predictable too she knew that from her courtroom days. The one thing she knew was that human beings didn’t like major changes, and still even after the passage of a hundred years or more since the end of slavery, many white skinned people were still prejudiced against those darker skinned people. So if they could be that way because of skin colour what more could they be against someone that had other more striking differences, and whom had waited till now, till the International Year of the Beast to reveal themselves for had they not been partly animal they would surely have exposed themselves at, for example’s sake; ‘The International Year of the Child?’
Strangely, not long after she had had those thoughts the telephone rang and picking it up she heard Devin at its other end. “Cathy? Good, you’re there? Take it you’ve seen the news? Look, I won’t have time to see Vincent, so can you get a message to him?”
“No, Devin sorry I can’t. Vincent disappeared several days ago” She heard Devin curse and went on, “ We assume he went to the lower levels but no one has seen him, though we have an inkling that Mouse might know more than he’s letting on.”
“Well lets hope so, cos I really need Vincent above, like now, within the next couple of hours. I’m bringing his ma and pa with me and around thirty of their friends and we expect to meet up with Vincent in Central Park, unless you have a better idea?”
“Yes, I do actually, but it’s not possible. Thirty people you say? Can hardly smuggle them below without people noticing otherwise that would have been the better option…hold on…Father is waving at me.”
“Father’s with you?” Devin heard Catherine conversing with his father and a few of his father’s angry words with ‘idiocy’ being the main feature among them.
Soon Catherine returned the receiver to her ear, and Devin could almost feel her embarrassment. “Forget I even suggested such a thing, Devin apparently, thirty odd people emerging from the tunnels into the street would cause chaos also. Look, I’ll get word to Vincent somehow. Where would you like him to meet you?”
“By the Carousel in Central Park. I’m using one of the older tunnels to get them near enough to bundle them all inside and wait there, but make it snappy, Cathy, all hell is breaking loose out here.”
Catherine heard the tremor in his voice, knew he was thinking the same as was she in that would Vincent be safe going up top in broad daylight? Or would it be wiser to wait until things had calmed down?
She replaced the receiver and turned to Father telling him, “I have to get word to Vincent. Are you staying here? Mouse might know where to find him. I’ll nip down to the threshold. I wont be gone long.”
With tears in his eyes, Father waved her away, “Go, nothing I can say will stop my son making this foolish trip, just if you see him wish him well, Catherine. Just wish him well, from me?”
Catherine promised she would and headed for the door in haste. Then she wondered why she hurried so, and slowed somewhat after all she was in no hurry to seal her husband’s fate, and with feet that felt like they were made of lead she entered the basement and finding it empty made her way slowly down the steps leading to the threshold where she intended tapping out a message for Mouse to contact Vincent at once and have him meet his family at the Carousel as soon as possible. But she never got the message done, because no sooner had she descended more than half a dozen steps down the ladder from the basement above then did two strong arms wrap themselves around her and carefully lift her from the ladder onto the floor. She did not need to turn around to know who had helped her down as sense of him washed through her. “Vincent!” She cried turning with his arms still around her. “You’re here, how did you know?”
He said nothing but instead kissed her sweetly then announced. “I knew, my love, because your heart told me. Besides I have never been far from you and followed you and Father when you came to the apartment yesterday.” He inclined his head then in a manner that told her he was enquiring of her sudden need to find him.
“Devin’s above with your family…” Vincent’s eyes, she noted lit up at the news. “You’re to meet them at the carousel, inside and as soon as possible.”
Vincent smiled, and turned to run, then he returned and kissing her soundly, thanked her and ran off again. At first his actions made Catherine laugh and then she sobered and said aloud; “What? And that’s it? No goodbyes? Finito?” Tears bedimmed her eyes, sure Vincent was excited, sure he was only acting on the command to go above, but even so…she was his wife, the mother to be of their unborn child…yet… he had left her…just like that…standing there…alone…and she wasn’t even sure when or even if she would ever see him again. Then the threatened tears began to fall and Catherine sobbed like she would never ever stop.

*** *** ***

Of course Catherine’s sorrow washed over him, and Vincent faltered, he could at least take his wife to meet his parents, after all his brother was there with them, but as he made that decision to return for her, he felt her grow further away from him and sensed her journey back up to her apartment where he couldn’t reach her, not in broad daylight. And that thought alone slammed into him like a magnitude of bricks, broad daylight? He had to go above in broad daylight? True there was an entrance near the Carousel, but it would still mean actually crossing an expanse of grass and going in through its doors. Just as well at this time of year it was enclosed in a shed and not full of people riding the horses, but then had it of been Devin would never have suggested meeting there.
So dubiously and as fast as he dared, Vincent made his way to the tunnel exit by the Carousel, never having been so thankful to find Devin waiting there for him in all his life!
“Vincent! Thank goodness. I thought I might have hours to wait.” Devin exclaimed and hugged his brother in greeting. “Come, we have delayed enough, the meeting will be brief I’m afraid, for the clan have an appointed time to assemble in the park this afternoon.”
“In the park?” Vincent was surprised. “Is that wise?”
“Yes, it is. You probably aren’t aware that groups of the clan have been presenting themselves around the world since midnight yesterday. The early papers have run the first stories and in Washington the President has a large group of the clan staying at the Whitehouse. The party that arrived with me earlier represent New York’s group to be poked around and manipulated, and if you don’t think I mean that think again, bro, the ones I’ve brought here have already been subjected to all kinds of inspections as we made our way here. How on earth we managed to get to the old tunnel that leads to the Carousel without too much public interest beats me, though I don’t think it will take the public long to realise where we actually disappeared to, so are you ready?”
Vincent nodded. “As ready as I’ll ever be.” He told his brother and followed him out through the tunnel that led to the short journey over to the Carousel. There were people about, but dodging was second nature to the two men, they’d done it all their lives for one reason or another and soon they arrived unseen at the doors of the Carousel. “This is it, then bro. As soon as I open this door, you’ll see your family for the first time in your life.”
“Second time in his life.” The words filtered through the crack in the open door, and Devin recognised the voice as that belonging to Indigo Sky. “Who said that?” Vincent wanted to know as the door opened fully from within. “I did.” Then Vincent felt himself grasped and pulled into the arms of a woman that bore a striking resemblance to him. “My son, my son.” She sobbed as she held him tightly. “Oh, how I have missed you!”
Devin stood back, feeling much the outsider as he watched the clan crowd around his brother, because for the first time since all this had begun he had to admit that Vincent looked right among them, looked a part of them in a way that he had never looked a part of the society he had grown up with. He was theirs and they were his, and suddenly that thought made Devin exceedingly sad and thoroughly doubtful that now back with those to whom he belonged Vincent would ever truly feel at home with anyone else, whether those persons be, himself, or Father, or Catherine…and there Devin’s anxiety set in. As standing back and watching as Vincent met his mother and his father and his two older brothers, his aunts and his uncles and family acquaintances, Devin had an ominous feeling that he had suddenly lost a grip on his unique brother, and that Vincent might never enter the tunnels beneath the streets of New York City ever again.

To be continued in Chapter Ten.




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