What’s happened to Catherine?
For watch out Vincent, look out Joe if Catherine grabs you, she'll not let go!
Two levels down and amid Mouse’s persistent chatter Vincent stilled his aching heart to listen to the frantic thump of Catherine’s. She was awake then, and if her distress of the past few minutes was anything to go by then she had been told of her actions. Even so her heart cried out for him.*** *** ***
Sorrow flooded with regret, and fear, anxiety, doubt and then a strong conviction and disbelief warred within her heart.
Vincent listened for the best part of an hour, until he could stand it no more.
She needed him and despite the way he felt right now he couldn’t let her down. He had never let her down, and this day she needed him more than she ever had. He felt her confusion. Felt the rising of nausea within her and could not allow her to bear it alone.
“Mouse, let’s go back. Catherine is awake now and she needs me.”
Mouse smiled. “Cathy awake. Does that mean she will be better now?”
Vincent nodded. The boy didn’t know what had taken place the evening before but he had overheard snippets of conversation that informed him that Catherine had not been her usual self, and he was happy to hear that she was well again.
“Yes Mouse Catherine will get better now.”
“That’s good, better than good, better than better.” A delighted Mouse led the way back towards the home chambers chattering excitedly, though Vincent, his heart hammering anxiously, did not hear a word that Mouse was saying.
At the entrance to his chamber Vincent hesitated. Images of a naked Catherine flew to his mind, and he shoved the thought away. Entering, the first thing he noticed was Catherine laid in bed staring up at the ceiling, but she looked his way as he came in. “Vincent” her tone of voice filled with sorrow cut through him, “I’m so sorry.” She reached out her hands, and for a moment he stiffened, and Catherine dropped them at once realising how it had seemed, as she remembered Father’s words.
He said nothing, but detoured around his chamber seeming to keep as wide a berth from her as possible, before coming to rest at his high back chair and settling himself down into it. There he gazed at her for long moments, trying to catch his breathing, trying to steady it before he felt capable of speech that did not belie his feelings.
“Catherine.” He finally whispered, leaning forward in the chair so that his hair framed his face and Catherine could not see into his eyes.
“What have I done to you?” Catherine groaned, throwing back the covers and attempting to move across to him.
“Don’t!” Vincent cried, a soft growl evident in his throat. His head was thrown back and he stared warily at her.
Catherine stared at him, frozen to the spot, her mouth dropping open and her lips trembling as he heard her mutter, “Vincent whatever I did I’m so sorry. I never meant it, honestly I didn’t. It was the drug talking.”
“Exactly!” Vincent flared. “Had you of been your normal self you would never have done such things…” His voice lowered as he added, “or have spoken such things.”
“I don’t understand Vincent, what do you mean? What did I say to you?”
“Those words are unrepeatable Catherine.” His voice lost all trace of emotion. He felt heartbroken.
“Vincent please tell me everything, or at least tell me what pains you so. I can’t make amends if I don’t know what it is I’ve done.” She pleaded. It hurt her that he would not allow her to come near to him. He seemed almost afraid of her touch.
“Can you not remember anything?”
“Nothing. And Vincent please tell me or I shall go mad. How did I come to be without my underclothes?”
Vincent drew in a startled breath, and shook his head. He couldn’t answer her he simply couldn’t. To do so would mean telling her of how she had taken off her clothes, and that would humiliate her. For the first time ever he lied to her. “I have no idea Catherine. Perhaps you came below in that state.”
Catherine shook her head. She hadn’t, she knew that, and she also knew that Vincent had just lied to her. The first time he had.
Why had he done so?
What secret was he trying to hide?
Suddenly Catherine felt very much afraid.
And very much hurt.
“Please Vincent, you do know…did we?”
“NO!” Leaping to his feet Vincent paced the chamber with long strides evidence of his anger. He turned on her several times, trying to speak, but no words would form, so he continued his relentless pacing, feeling with every step the distress that his actions was causing Catherine.
Catherine said nothing. She grew a little afraid. Not of Vincent, but for something she had no recollection of. Whatever had she done to make him like this? Tears started to fall silently down her cheeks.
“Don’t cry Catherine!” She was surprised to hear that she was, or that Vincent cared enough to be hurt by them. He stood looking down at her, his eyes taking on a different expression, one now of compassion and sorrow.
“Please.” Her lips trembled, “Please tell me what upsets you so?”
“I can’t.” The words were torn from him. Catherine had never felt so wretched. She lowered her eyes unable to bear seeing him like this and she felt dreadful.
“Do you feel well enough to go home?” Vincent’s question surprised her, she looked up straight into his eyes they were void of expression now. Miserably she nodded.
“Then I will escort you to the threshold.” His voice sounded so final, so unfeeling.
Catherine couldn’t bear it. Burying her face into her hands she openly wept, “I’m sorry.” She sobbed, “I’m so sorry.”
Remorseful Vincent fell to his knees at the side of the bed, “Please Catherine don’t cry. You have nothing to be ashamed for. It was not your doing. The drug made you act so out of character. Please Catherine don’t cry.” He begged.
Catherine sniffed and wiped away her tears with the back of her hand, slowly looking up to gaze at him. “Then why?” she whispered, “Why are you treating me like this? I feel awful. I need you Vincent. I love you.”
Vincent rocked on his heels, her words searing straight through him. Echoes of last night. Her words whispering into his ear as he had held her firmly against him, her hands clasped tightly in his. Those words, those precious delightful words, he could hear them now. “Love me baby, you know you want to do. And you know how much I want you sweetheart. I love you so. Take me honey, and let me teach you things you have only ever dreamed of.”
In remembrance Vincent groaned.
Catherine was at his side in an instance, “What is it? What’s wrong? Vincent let me help you please?”
Vincent threw off her hands, “NO!” he roared rising to his feet again to begin another round of relentless pacing.
“Catherine go home. I think it is best if we didn’t see each other again.” The words had slipped so easily off of his tongue that for long moments Vincent stood staring equally as hard at Catherine as she did at him, both with disbelief that the words had been borne.
“Vincent NO!” Catherine ran to him, “You can’t mean that. I’ve said I’m sorry, you said it wasn’t my fault, what then is the problem? There is something else isn’t there, something you won’t tell me?”
“Catherine…It’s best this way. We are…” He gestured with his arms either side of him, “Too different. What happened last night only emphasises that.”
“I don’t believe that Vincent. And how can I? You know something that you aren’t prepared to tell me, so how can I even begin to agree with that?”
“It’s the way it is. Catherine go. Leave me now. Please. Return to your life Above.” He pleaded with her, his heart was heavy, but he had convinced himself that it was the only way for them. To believe things might ever change was stupid and time was passing them by. Catherine’s spending time with him was preventing her from finding someone who could give her all the things she would not take from him. Could never contemplate taking from him, because they were too different. How could someone as beautiful as Catherine bear to be touched by hands such as his?
No he was fooling himself into believing things would ever be different. That Catherine needed first to be drugged to love him as he had dreamed she could loved him only proved how true that was.
“Go Catherine. I will see you no more.” With that, and before Catherine could react Vincent had swept from the chamber and was running even faster than he run the night before, for this time he was running away from himself.
Joe was working on a hunch but he couldn’t get it out of his mind that Glen would contact him the very next day to see what had become of his spiking.*** *** ***
He was right.
Joe had hardly got through the door when his line was busy and the answer phone was picking up the call, “Joe! Hi its Glen here we spoke last night remember? How was your evening…as if I didn’t know.” He laughed here before continuing, “Can we catch up?” at this point Joe snatched up the receiver, “Hello Glen? Joe here, just got in, yeah you’re right I had a terrific evening, never had one quite like it before guess I never will again, must have been the champagne…” he laughed as did Glen, thoughtful when Glen told him, “Oh I don’t know about that. If you know the right people Joe you might just find how it’s done.” Glen laughed again. Joe fortunately knew exactly what he meant, but feigned ignorance, “What do you mean?” He asked.
“Just meet me today and tell me all the juicy details and I might let you in on a little secret. What you say?”
Joe agreed but didn’t want to meet Glen outside, he had other ideas, “Cathy Chandler might be late in today and I need to see her to go over some files. How about you coming up here and waiting for her with me, and then we can talk while we wait and go out after she arrives.”
Glen had no reason to mistrust the offer, and it would give him the perfect opportunity to see Maxwell and Chandler together, see if he could glean anything from their body language, so he readily agreed.
When Joe put down the receiver he physically leapt into the air, “Gotcha!” he cried with delight. Now all he had to do, was rig up some sort of recording system in his office have a member of the police force on hand and then when he’d got all the proof that he needed he could put the guy away for a very long time.
Catherine felt alone.
More alone that at any other time in her life.
On the way out of the tunnels she had purposely sought William and then Pascal to apologise. If she wasn’t going to come below ever again she needed to do, she at least owed them that. It was difficult and she hesitated as she approached but they were marvellous about it.
William folded her into his arms, “You don’t know how good you made me feel honey.” He told her with a soppy grin on his face, “Hey I know anyone would have done, but I’m kinda chuffed that it was me.”
Pascal shook her hand shyly being the man that he was and accepted her apology in good humour. His eyes couldn’t quite meet her own, but she felt that she was forgiven. In fact they were all so good about it including Father, that it made her feel terribly sad. Why couldn’t Vincent forgive her as they had?
What could have possibly happened between them that made it so difficult for him to do so?
It disturbed her greatly that she had no recollection of her actions especially in view of the fact that somewhere along the way she had lost her underclothes. And the way Vincent was behaving was causing her mind to work overtime. But he had been quite forceful in denying that, and besides she could never imagine him taking advantage, it just wasn’t in him to do so. But then what could possible account for his actions now.
Thoroughly miserable Catherine hoped that things would resolve themselves in time and that Vincent would relent and come to her.
In the meantime she wasn’t about to let it go, she had to talk about it to someone or she would go nuts. She decided to go to see Peter.
*** *** ***
Down Below the city streets Father plastered his hands firmly over his ears as another sound of crashing came forth from Vincent’s chamber.
“Whatever was that?” Pascal who had gone to see Father cried out as the sound made him jump.
“Don’t ask, just don’t ask.” Father grimaced, “Vincent soon won’t have anything left in his chamber.”
“Perhaps I should go and have a word with him?”
“NO! Don’t. Pascal don’t. In his frame of mind that could prove fatal, to you that is. Best to leave him. He’ll simmer down eventually, or when there is nothing left to smash.” Father rubbed a weary hand over his eyes.
“I can’t understand it Father. I forgave Catherine and you saw what she did to me.” Pascal was such a quite man but even he couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear, “I don’t think I will ever be quite the same again.” He joked. Father managed a half smile. “You and William both. And its true you have just as much right to be annoyed with Catherine as Vincent is, which is why I just cannot understand his actions or his inability to forgive her. You know he’s sent her out of his life don’t you?”
“Yes I had heard. It was a bit severe wasn’t it. Poor Catherine, it wasn’t her fault.”
While they had been speaking things had gone relatively quiet in the direction of Vincent’s chamber and the two men listened for the next outburst. After several moments when nothing happened Pascal asked again about going to see Vincent.
“Perhaps we should both go.” Father replied, “I would like the chance to look at him. Something like this could make him ill again.”
Gravely Pascal nodded, “Here let me help you. Take my arm.”
Slowly the pair walked the short distance to Vincent’s chamber, foolishly unprepared for the disarray that encountered them there or the heartrending sight of Vincent sat amid all the broken pieces of his chamber round about.
His eyes watched them enter but there was no expression in their depths. Father grew afraid, he had seen his son go through some trying times but nothing had ever came close to this.
A guttural sob broke from Vincent’s throat, “I broke the rose.” He told them, and for the first time Father noticed the fragments of white china inside his son’s hand.
Pascal showed no mercy, he liked Catherine a lot and thought Vincent’s actions were terrible.
“You sure did.” He told his friend, “In more ways than one.”
Vincent turned tear filled blue eyes to his. “Catherine.” Pascal reminded him. “Catherine too will be broken.”
Vincent lowered his gaze back to the once beautiful white rose in his hand. He seemed to be in more agony over its demise than he was over losing Catherine herself. “Catherine’s mother gave this to her, to hold in her mother’s absence when she needed to feel her mother close. Catherine entrusted me with it, and now it’s broken.”
“Serves you right!” Pascal flared, and Vincent growled at him. The two men challenged one another with their eyes, leaving Father caught in the middle in a very uncomfortable position indeed.
“Well look at this!” Pascal swept an arm around the chamber, “You are behaving like a spoilt brat who hasn’t been given his usual candy bar. Vincent I am disgusted with you!”
Vincent eyes bore into Pascal’s. He couldn’t believe he was hearing this, and Father watched the anger rise like bile into Vincent’s countenance and he became afraid for Pascal. Then Vincent’s features softened and Father was incredulous to hear him tell Pascal, “You’re right Pascal.” But could find no more words to follow with.
Pascal stepped towards his friend. Broken bits of china cracked beneath his shoes, each crack seeming to make Vincent wince. Years of collections, precious items smashed beyond repair in one mighty sweep of his arm. Vincent felt tears prick at his eyelids, how could he have behaved so badly?
Almost as if he answered his thoughts Pascal told him, “Its because you love her isn’t it? You love her but it all seems so impossible for you?”
“Do you remember Vincent when we were boys and we would tell each other of our dreams?”
Again Vincent nodded. He felt thoroughly miserable but Pascal’s arm around his shoulders felt wonderful to him like the only ray of sunshine in storm-laden sky.
“We all had the same dreams Vincent. Yours were never any different from mine, or Devin’s or Mitch’s. In those days Vincent you were not different, so why should you be so now?”
Father listened. Pascal seldom said so much, perhaps the wisdom of someone else would help Vincent see reason. Standing on the outside as it were looking in, Pascal might be able to tell Vincent things he hadn’t believed before.
“But I am different Pascal.” Vincent whispered, “And before you deny that, don’t. Catherine’s life is so far removed from mine that we are too different.”
“I see your point Vincent, but you are putting obstacles where there should be none. You look different, you act different, but inside you are the same. You have the same ambitions, the same dreams as the rest of us. And everyone else like yourself has the same boundaries that we dare not cross for any number of reasons, real or presumed. Take most women for example, and many men, would they walk the streets where you walk at night and not be afraid? No. Yet you, though you have to be on your guard, you walk the night because the night is your friend. Whereas other people walk the day for the same reason, but even they during the day have to take care. There are still those same life threatening risks to being out and about in the day as there are for you at night. And the same is true where fear is concerned if you were to walk out and about in the day as someone else walking out at night.
You tend to take yourself too seriously Vincent. So many people live in so many different locations. Where we live down here we have love and laughter, warmth good food, work to do that benefits others.
Someone else could live in the desert or in the North Pole. They might live in Alaska or in regions where their lives are in peril every time they leave their home for fear of other people or dangerous animals. If she chose Catherine could go to live in any one of those places. She could live there and have your blessing, and you would tell her she would be free to walk in the sunlight!
Vincent is the sunlight what life is all about? Does everything have to revolve around the sunlight?” Pascal paused allowing room for his words to sink in. He even had Father’s rapt attention. Pascal grinned, probably Father was stunned to hear him say so much.
“Well the earth has to.” Vincent spoke at last, and Father was cheered to notice a brightness had crept back into Vincent’s eyes.
Pascal grinned even more, “Trust you.” He told his friend, “But don’t you see Vincent it’s not the be all and end all to have the sunlight. Oh I know it’s good for your skin and all that, but look at me, when do I ever go above night or day? I love being down here, it suits me fine.”
“Does this lecture have a reason?” Vincent quipped.
“Yes. I went off track for a moment didn’t I?”
“Just a bit.” Father laughed to hear Vincent say this. His son was regaining his humour and that at least was something.
“Nonetheless there was a reason for it. I take it the roots of this latest tantrum lie with your and Catherine’s differences?”
“Actually no.” Both Pascal and Father’s mouth’s dropped open, “No?” they questioned together.
Vincent shook his head, “Not on this occasion.”
“Then if not, then it still supplied a great excuse for setting Catherine free to pursue her life Above?” Pascal asked.
Vincent nodded, “In a way.”
“Then what is it? Can you tell us?”
Vincent shook his head. This was something he couldn’t even tell himself. He wouldn’t even allow himself the beauty of thinking about it. It was just so and that was good enough for him.
“I don’t even want to think about it.” Vincent looked miserable again much to Father’s sorrow.
“So this is it then. Finito. And the broken rose has severed the final link.” Pascal told his friend. Vincent’s eyes filled again with tears and his words were husky when he spoke. “Yes, I shall never see Catherine again.”
Pascal shook his head, “How can you not forgive her. It wasn’t her fault. Have you not stopped to think how she must feel in all of this. Lord if it were me…”
“I do forgive her!” Vincent cried cutting Pascal short.
“Then why?” Pascal’s voice trailed away, “Does Catherine know?” he added.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Vincent looked away.
For long moments Father and Pascal stared at him, then as Pascal felt Father’s hand on his arm he acknowledged that Father wanted them both to leave Vincent alone.
“If you change your mind Vincent I promise to listen.” Pascal told him, squeezing his friend’s shoulder. Vincent nodded, not trusting himself to speak, and hardly noticed when the two men deserted him, engulfed as he was in a fresh wave of misery.
*** *** ***
Peter was just as flummoxed as Catherine.
“When I last saw Vincent he had no valid reason in my mind to send you away.” Peter told her totally mystified by Vincent’s actions. “I mean it wasn’t as if you were in control of the situation.” Peter chuckled remembering the incident with fondness.
“Not you too?” Catherine groaned. “Everyone seems to have memories of that night but me, and it is so frustrating.”
“If you ask me none of it would have happened if that hadn’t of been the case in the first instance.”
“What do you mean Peter?”
“I mean had you not been so sexually high then you might not have chased after everyone as you did. If you could only have seen poor Joe.” Peter burst into laughter.
“I owe Joe a lot by the sounds of it. I expect he will keep dropping little hints, and each one will be more embarrassing than the last, but that I can handle. Any other man could have taken advantage of the situation.”
“Especially when that guy is in love with you.” Peter told her solemnly. “I take it you have noticed?”
Catherine nodded, “I try not to do. Joe has worn his heart on his sleeve for me almost since the day we met, but I feel nothing more for him than a brother. Joe knows that. Nonetheless that’s why I am so grateful to him, given the circumstances he could have taken a chance he might never otherwise have been offered. I owe him such a lot.”
“Is there any advancement on the guys that did this to you? Joe asked me a few questions and told me of his suspicions.”
“I haven’t spoken to Joe. I don’t know anything, what did he tell you?”
“He seems to think the people that played this practical joke on you are somehow connected to the death of a Mr Bowman who died after the same function last year.”
“Does he really? Well that would explain a lot. I shall have to get in touch with Joe, but not for a day or two. I feel the need to keep my head low if you know what I mean?”
Peter nodded, a twinkle in his eye, “If you knew what I knew I would say that would be a very wise move young lady.”
Catherine coloured up. “If only I could remember. Was I so bad?”
“You’d better believe it. And some of your comments were quite … how can I say it … unusual perhaps especially for you Cathy.” Peter burst into laughter remembering the moment Joe had been holding her while he took some blood. “Believe me young lady you are better off not knowing.”
Catherine groaned, “I would really like to know as embarrassing as it is. Please tell me?”
Peter shook his head, “I know its frustrating Cathy, but dear girl believe me its best that you can’t remember and that no one tells you. Your innocence is a blessing in disguise. Honestly Cathy don’t ask, and in time it will be forgotten, even if Joe does cast you some strange looks from time to time.” He laughed out loud again and Catherine grew indignant, “Oh this is so annoying!”
She glared at him for long moments but Peter was unrelenting, and kept shaking his head, “Be a good girl Cathy, I’m not telling you and that’s final. Now when exactly do you intend to return to work? As your GP I insist that you take two days rest, but after that I see no reason why you should not resume your normal duties.”
“I’d like to go back now. I know I said earlier that I wouldn’t want to do but in light of what you have speculated regarding Mr Bowman, I’d like to return straight away. Joe could use my help on this one.”
“Cathy dear girl, you remember nothing. What can you give him? All Joe needs is in his memory, and besides he has already told me that he doesn’t want you having anything to do with this. He felt it would be too embarrassing for you when people found out you were on the receiving end. Joe didn’t think you would want a constant reminder of that. Personally I think it would suit you, and you would understand more than most what a dirty trick those guys are pulling on innocent people, even if you couldn’t remember the actual effects.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Catherine waved his statement aside, suddenly sick of the whole thing, “In the mean time what am I going to do about Vincent?”
“Yes I guess that is the most important issue right now. I don’t know Cathy his actions disturb me. I cannot think of a single reason as to why he should hold this against you. Would you like me to have a word with him?”
“If you think he wouldn’t bite my head off.”
“If I know Vincent he’s past all that. He’s probably smashed up his chamber and slunk off to the lower levels by now. But if you’ll try I’d be grateful, and if you see him you might glean something that would help me to understand his reasons.”
Peter nodded, “You haven’t tried to go back then?”
“No. Vincent made it quite plain he didn’t want to see me anymore. He knows where I am if he changes his mind. What?” Peter was looking at her crossly.
“You are both as bad as each other you know that? Cathy you aren’t in the wrong here, and Vincent has a misguided conception of your behaviour, so you should be down there making him see your side in all this. Hold on to him Catherine.”
“I intend to. I’m not letting him go Peter. Just giving him time.” She paused, “Peter?”
“What do you truly think to Vincent and my relationship. I mean do you think we can take it anywhere?”
Peter looked at her for long moments, “It won’t be without sacrifices Cathy, but then is any relationship? I know you would be happy with him. I know you could give him things he hasn’t even dreamed of…”
“There are no buts. Not this time Cathy If you had heard the rumours from Below you would understand.”
“Everyone it seems are speculating on your future. Yours and Vincent’s, and hoping that the pair of you will see what everyone else has seen for long enough. The two of you were made for one another. No one can doubt that. The connection gives you a clue, why that? What’s it for if not to bind the pair of you? No one can argue with its existence or the meaning behind it being there. I don’t think personally you have any choice in the matter, but it’s not you I have to convince is it, it’s Vincent?”
Tears gathered and fell from Catherine’s eyes, at the thought of everyone Below accepting her and Vincent together like that, but she had to ask nonetheless, “How do they visualise us together Peter?”
Peter shot her an exasperated look, “Like any man and woman Catherine. Like man and wife. They expect the two of you to marry, and that’s not all. They expect the two of you to have a family.”
Catherine gasped, “Even Father?”
“Strange as it may sound, yes even Father. Mary of course, has played no small part in that.”
Enigmatically, Catherine smiled , “I can imagine.”
“So you can’t let them down Cathy. Your sorrow over this latest break up is shared by so many believe me. The last time I was Below I got the distinct impression that the sun had stopped shining down there. You know Vincent wasn’t the only one to find the sunshine the day he found you. You have enriched the life of the one so many people love and they in turn love you for that Cathy. I don’t think any of them would forgive you if you allowed Vincent to make you give up on this now.”
Catherine was very thoughtful and for long moments said nothing. There was such a lot to think about. Then something came to her, “Has Vincent any idea that everyone thinks this way?"
“That I wouldn’t know Cathy. You know how it is with Vincent, so many people keep their feelings guarded where he is concerned, there is only so much that he wants to hear.”
“If Father were to tell him, at least that would be something. So many times Vincent is held back because of something he believes Father would not approve of.”
“Yes I know that. Hence the reason Mary is so involved here for she sees that too. But I’m afraid while Jacob can see the inevitable tide rising and accepts that, he has no plans to further its approach just in case.”
Catherine laughed, she could quite picture that.
“I love Vincent so much.” The silent tears fell again at her omission. “Peter if it were possible I would make the dreams of all those people Below come true. To live with Vincent, to bear him a child, Peter those things would make me so happy.”
Peter felt his own tears rising, he patted her hand, and for long moments could not utter the words that had been on his tongue. He drew a deep breath releasing it slowly in order to do so, “Cathy, can you think of any reason as to why Vincent is behaving this way?”
Catherine shook her head, “None at all. Can you?”
Catherine looked up at him started, “Tell me!” She exclaimed.
“You said that you had no underclothes on?”
“Yes.” Catherine blushed.
“I don’t believe for one moment the reasons for that are as they look. Both you and I know Vincent would never take advantage of you like that. If Joe wouldn’t then why would Vincent, it just doesn’t ring true. I think the clue is in something that was said, tell me again of your conversation with Vincent when you came round.”
“What exactly do you want to hear again? All of it spins around and around in my head relentlessly. You know…” she hesitated, Peter waited for her to continue. “Peter, the one thing that flares to mind is the venom behind one word that Vincent uttered. I told him that I didn’t mean anything that I had done, and that I was sorry, and you know what he said?” Peter shook his head.
“He yelled, ‘Exactly! Now why would he say that, like that? It was almost as if he was telling me that I wouldn’t normally do such things, which of course I wo – uld – n’t.” Catherine began to see it just as Peter did, and held a hand to her brow. Peter exhaled a snort of humour, “I know it really gets you doesn’t it when relating something to another suddenly becomes crystal clear like that? I think dear girl you just hit the nail on the head. Vincent isn’t annoyed that you attempted those things. He’s annoyed that you wouldn’t normally attempt those things and…” He said the last as Catherine echoed almost the same words, “he wants you to.”
“He wants me to.” Catherine’s eyes lit up, “Peter! He wants me to make the first move! How could I have been so blind! Of course! There was me waiting for him to feel happy with making the first move when all along he was waiting for me!” Peter decided at that moment that he had never seen Catherine looking so radiant. She positively glowed all over.
“I can see it now.” Catherine shook her head, “Vincent is so naïve when it comes to love and sex and then there was his disastrous experience with Lisa, so he’s going to be nervous about attempting it again. Why didn’t I see it? Why didn’t I know? All this time, Peter, all this time, wasted. I can’t believe it!”
“So forgive me for asking, but what do you plan to do now?”
“Huh that’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question isn’t it? What am I going to do now? In view of my drug-induced actions, how would Vincent take a second attack so soon? Even if the next time I was in control of my senses but I’m afraid I may have lost my chance.”
“All is not lost Cathy, but you will have to tread carefully. By all accounts you hurt a lot of people and I do mean physically. You have quite a grip there young lady and I helped tend the wounds where you bit and sucked Vincent’s neck, not to mention poor Pascal and William. It’s not exactly the sort of actions someone as innocent as Vincent would want repeating is it? He might have decided if that’s what it’s all about he’s better off without it.”
Catherine gave a snort of humour, “Seems I have to play it cool all over again then. God talk about ever increasing circles. I wish I could just stroll on in there and drag him off to bed kicking and screaming.” Peter laughed at the picture that presented as did Catherine until she sobered enough to dab at her eyes again, “Lord why do I feel like sobbing my heart out Peter answer me that? Life is so unfair.”
Peter nodded, he had no more words at least none that would make her feel any better.
*** *** ***
Waiting on tender-hooks in his office Joe paced up and down. Sometimes lifting the blinds out onto the street below to look other times watching the door, especially every time that it opened when he would physically jump.
He knew there was absolutely no chance of Catherine making an appearance that day and if he were her he would never want to show his face again. But he knew Cathy was made of stronger stuff and hopefully she wouldn’t remember a thing anyway. He wondered if Peter knew anything. While he waited he lifted the receiver and dialled Peter’s number. The telephone rang quite some time before Peter answered. “Dr. Allcott.”
“Peter, its Joe Maxwell. I was wondering if you knew how Cathy was?”
“As it happens I do. Cathy is with me right now. Did you want to speak to her?”
Joe hesitated, “You think that’s wise. How does she feel?” Joe burst into laughter, “No don’t answer that.” Peter laughed too, and Catherine listening in felt as if she should crawl away. She was obviously the object of their shared joke, if Peter’s knowing looks in her direction were anything to go by.
“Would you like to speak to Joe?” she heard Peter ask. Catherine panicked, at first shaking her head adamantly, but then reason broke through and she leaned forward to take the receiver, “Okay” she told him before he’d had a chance to tell Joe she wouldn’t speak to him.
“Cathy.” There was a pause. Joe smiled, his voice filled with mischief when he spoke, “Say how are you feeling today Radcliffe?” he held a hand over his mouth and pulled the receiver away, lest she heard him giggle. But Catherine had heard the laughter in his voice already.
“I’m sorry Joe. I wasn’t feeling myself.”
“You certainly wasn’t Cathy I can vouch for that!” Joe burst into laughter, and unable to contain himself could no longer speak.
Cathy found much to her chagrin that her mouth twitched at the corners. Peter was right, ignorance was bliss.’
“Just as well I can’t remember a thing I think.” Catherine told Joe, “But no doubt I changed your life?”
Joe laughed heartily, “I shall never be the same again Radcliffe.” He paused then, his manner becoming serious. Catherine detected even over the telephone the way his thoughts were turning at that moment. “I know who did this Cathy, and I’m going to prove it. Just stay away from the office for a few days okay?”
“What are you plotting?”
“I have a few ideas. Don’t worry Cathy, you might well feel inclined to be a part of this, but I can handle it. Joking aside what they did to you could have proved fatal as it did to Bowman.”
“Bowman was pushed.”
“Maybe but not without provocation. I don’t think he would have been dead now if it wasn’t for that drug and you know in your heart that is true. Just think back to how he groped you last year. I know he has always had a thing for you, but last year you have to remember how awful he was toward you?”
Catherine gasped as she remembered, “I wasn’t like that was I Joe?”
Joe could have hit himself. “Afraid so Cathy, sorry to have to make you realise.”
“Oh Joe, I’m so sorry.” As her mind conjured up images of Muffin Man’s fat hands upon her breasts and between her legs she positively squirmed, picturing herself doing likewise to Joe and oh God to Vincent too! She groaned holding her head in her hand, and Peter hurried to take the receiver from her, “Joe?”
“Peter is she all right?”
“Don’t worry Joe she will be, what did you say?”
“I just reminder her of how Bowman behaved the night he was drugged. He fairly molested Catherine. It’s brought it home to her I think of how badly she behaved.”
“Oh Lord, well you wasn’t to know. Don’t worry Joe, just get the bastards okay?”
“I will, you can count on it, in fact one of them has just walked through the door, gotta go Peter. Take care of her for me will you?”
“I will keep in touch Joe.”
Peter replaced the receiver and offered Catherine his shoulder to cry on. She was shaking and he enclosed her in a bear hug. “So now you know honey.” He whispered.
Catherine hiccuped, yes now she knew and she couldn’t believe it, no wonder Vincent wanted nothing more to do with her.
*** *** ***
If only he could get those words out of his head. They raced round and round until Vincent let the broken rose fall into his lap and used his hands to cover his ears in an attempt to shut away the words.
If it were as Pascal said then Catherine wouldn’t treat him any different to any other man she had known.
He knew she’s had several relationships in the past. Probably those men were more experienced than he, but Vincent had been given the impression by Catherine herself that he meant more to her than anyone of them ever had. She knew he was inexperienced. She knew that he loved her. Why then could she not make the first move? If only she would give him some sign of wanting him he would meet her halfway. But he couldn’t risk another rebuff not after Lisa and waiting for Catherine was driving him insane.
She said she loved him, but how much? How deep did that love go? Love for a brother, for a friend, or could she ever look upon him as a lover?
Vincent had often wondered and had waited a long time in the hope that she would let him know.
Alcohol he knew loosened the tongue. Had Catherine of been drunk that night he wouldn’t now be feeling as he did. He would have been filled with hope that under the influence Catherine had shown him where her intentions lay and had been given Dutch courage to tell him. But drugs! Drugs where she could remember nothing of her actions afterward. That to Vincent told him nothing, except fuelled his desire for her and told him what it was he was missing.
When he remembered how she had trailed hot kisses around his neck and jaw-line, and those words she had whispered into his ear. How her tongue had darted deep inside and how she had nibbled around its edge regardless of the soft fur that grew there, Vincent felt shudder after shudder course through him.
No one had ever done such a thing in his life, and those feelings they evoked shocked him by their intensity. Had the situation not been as traumatic as it was, had the circumstances been different, had they not of had an audience then Vincent knew that he would have responded to her attentions.
And how he craved them again! His body fairly shook with desire. As his mind conjured up all the havoc her hands had infused upon his skin Vincent longed to feel them there again.
How could he possibly tell anyone his reason for sending Catherine away. How in his shame could he ever look her in the eye again and not remember the longing she had stirred within his blood. How could they ever go back to what they were before and not go forward. Vincent physically ached for a deeper relationship with Catherine, but he doubted its existence, for without the drug Catherine would never have attempted such a thing with him, would never even have wanted it. And for that reason, and that reason alone he knew they could never see one another again, and that brought the greatest grief.
*** *** ***
Switching on the tape recorder Joe welcomed Glen into his office.
He had to play the part well to get his evidence and he greeted Glen with a big grin that said it all.
“Chandler not in yet?” Glen looked through the glass partition around the office.
“No. Guess she has a heavy night.” Joe laughed, “Man and what a night! I’ve never known pink champagne go to anyone’s head like that in all my life. Hey perhaps I should ring them and find out the brand.” Joe reached for the phone his intent plain.
“No need Joe. It wasn’t the champass.” Glen reached out a hand to stop Joe, his grin spreading from ear to ear.
“Wasn’t the champagne? How do you know?”
“Let’s just say I do know. Tell me Joe was it the first time little Miss Cold Fish has ever let you near her?”
“Little Miss …?” Joe looked confused, “I don’t get you?”
“Chandler. That’s what we all call her. Oh come on Maxwell you must have heard the rumours? She dated Burch and he got nowhere with her. Jeez a guy with all that money and those looks and he never even got her near his bed.”
“Did he tell you that?” Joe was delighted. He’d never known but he’d always assumed that Cathy and Elliot had had a deep and meaningful.
“Not to my face, but apparently to someone. I sure as hell heard it though. What is it with the woman? She’s gorgeous but she won’t look at anyone twice.”
“She has someone.”
“There is someone in her life. Someone she has been attached to for around three years. That’s why I was so surprised last night. Maybe they split up and I got her on the rebound, all I know is that it was one hell of a night.”
“Who is he do you know?” Glen was all ears.
“She doesn’t talk about him. There has been speculation that he’s something to do with witness protection. I don’t think he lives around here. But there’s your answer, and you can tell everyone she is no cold fish. What I know of Cathy she is warm and caring, and the guy she is or was in love with could probably vouch for that.”
“Yeah if we knew where to find him. Still though you got what you have always dreamed of. You can’t tell me you didn’t want her? There have been rumours Joe, and you have never been one for disguising how you feel about her. I remember how you acted when she dated Burch?”
“You do?” Joe was clearly surprised and embarrassed. He couldn’t even remember that himself.
“Yeah jealous as hell. Man you were lousy to know during that time. Seems you bit every ones head off.”
“Yeah so how come I haven’t been the same knowing she has had someone else all these years?”
“Dunno. Perhaps ‘cause it’s been a bit like the invisible man scenario. You can’t be jealous of what you can’t see can you?”
“Guess not? Anyway why are we having this conversation, surely you didn’t come here to talk about Catherine Chandler?”
“On the contrary yes I did. Well in a round about way. Tell me Joe, last night, would you want a repeat of that?”
“I expect I shall get one. After last night I guess you could say Cathy and I are an item.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that. You spoken to her this morning?”
“No she was still sleeping it off when I left her. She must have been exhausted. It’s a wonder I’m not.” He laughed heartily again fitting the picture he presented then as an afterthought added, “Why do you ask? Hey and how do you know it wasn’t the champagne?”
Glen grinned. “Just tell me if you’d like her like that again?”
“Well sure I would. I’ve waited a long time for her to show me any attention.”
“That’s what I thought. At a price I could ensure that for you.”
Ho ho thought Joe, this he hadn’t thought of. Drug dealing now. Whoa if only he could get him to open up.
“At a price, I don’t understand?”
“Look Joe, ordinarily I wouldn’t even offer this service to you. But when you got a mate of mine off of an assault charge, I felt I owed you one.”
“Let’s just say I had as much to lose on that occasion. You helped my mate and that in effect helped me. I always repay my friends.”
’Like hell’ Joe thought. ‘Who does he think he’s fooling?’ Instead he replied, “I’m not with you Glen?”
Glen exasperated, “Lord for one so intelligent you’re as thick as two planks.”
“Have a heart Duffin I had a big night, I’m not exactly functioning right this morning.” Joe laughed.
Glen did too, “I forgive you then. Well this is how it goes, seeing as you can’t seem to follow. You pay me a few dollars and I’ll ensure the little lady gives you a good time again.”
Joe looked at Glen mystified, “What? Did you have something to do with it the first time?”
“I never said I did?”
“Yes you did, you said you’d give me a good time again.” Glen grinned, “Guess I did kinda land myself in that one. Yeah okay so I did, it was me I admit it, but you gotta thank me, you did have one hell of a night?”
“I sure did, and what I’d give to repeat it.”
“You sure about that?” Glen’s eyes lit up.
“How do you mean?”
“Well as at this moment in time I can think of no favours you could give me so I guess we are talking about dollar bills.” Joe still feigned ignorance, “I’m still not with you. Pardon me for saying Glen but I feel like I’ve just walked into the second act of a play and have no idea what’s been happening beforehand. This is totally mystifying, and your talk is going right over my head. What has Cathy Chandler’s night of lust to do with you!”
“You still don’t get it do you? Do you want me to spell it out for you?”
Joe smiled weakly, “Guess you’ll have to if you want to hold my attention. I feel I am talking to a nutter here.”
“I’m aint no nutter Joe. I’ve been called many things, but in the main I prefer dream maker. In fact that’s its name?”
“The drug.” Glen whispered low, and Joe only hoped the recording would pick it up. It was the one word he had hoped for. He emphasised it, “The Drug, what drug?”
“Keep your voice down Joe, we don’t want to tell the whole world!” Glen hissed, lowering his voice again to continue, “You may not know it but I slipped Little Miss Cold Fish a little powder last night.” He waited for the penny to drop, when it seemed long in coming Glen exasperated, “Gee Maxwell, hello is there anyone in there?” he tapped Joe’s forehead with his finger, “Didn’t you hear me?” Joe continued to stare as if with disbelief. Glen got a little ruffled and uneasy in the moments that silence lapsed.
He began to wonder if he’d said too much or too little, so Joe suddenly grinned, “You drugged her! You drugged Cathy?” his eyes were and filled with humour. Glen relaxed, “Sure did, with the dream drug, and that’s how you got your night of passion my friend.”
“Wow!” Joe exclaimed, “I mean wow!” His eyes lit up, and then he asked, “that’s some drug. Did you use much?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Well Cathy was so, so OTT.* You must have used heaps to get her like that. She went on for hours.” “No I didn’t use a lot of it. When I first administered it, it had disastrous consequences. I’ve learnt since that just a few grains are enough to have some fun with and besides it goes further that way.”
“God who did you give an all weeker to?”
“An all weeker?”
“Yeah who did you overdose to be sexually high for an entire week?” Joe asked laughing. He felt high himself, he had just obtained the very facts he needed to convict the guy of the crime, now he aimed for Bowman.
“I’m not with you Joe?” Glen was clearly confused.
“You said at first until you learnt how much or rather how little to administer it had disastrous consequences. Did you give some poor person, or should I say some lucky person a week of sex?”
“Oh that. No, no it was far more lethal than that.” Glen sobered remembering the occasion. “Don’t worry Joe if you buy any off me, I’ll only issue enough for a good time, are you interested?”
“Is it dangerous?”
“Long term you mean?”
“Only if you use it over a period of time on the same person. Its better if you let me know where you might be taking the little lady, so I can be on hand if anything should go wrong. Not that it would mind, don’t panic, but I have a little antidote I keep for such occasions.”
“It’s happened before?”
“Now Joe don’t start to let the lawyer in you rise to the surface. I trust you, you’re a good man, but just in case you aren’t, just remember the drug is colourless, tasteless and you never know when you’ve been slipped any.”
“Are you threatening me?” Joe glowered.
“Hey, hey, not at all.” Glen backed towards the door.
“You’re not leaving? What about my…what are they granules?”
Glen’s face softened, “Powder.” He relaxed as Joe reached for his wallet.
“Got some on you?”
Glen smiled “Sure. Have you got the dough?”
“How long do you want the loving to last?”
Joe grinned, “All night again.”
“Then that’ll be three hundred.”
Joe whistled, “I’d get it for less on the streets. Sex that is.”
“Yeah but not with the woman you love. There’s the difference Joe and you know it.”
Joe nodded, counting out the money, and unbeknown to Glen pressing a bleeper he’d hidden inside his wallet that sounded outside of the office.
Behind Glen’s back a face appeared at the door. Glen fumbled in his inside pocket brought out a tiny packet and handed it to Joe just as Joe handed him the money. Joe couldn’t believe how careless the guy was. He’d witnessed drug dealing before, it was usually a hand over fist operation. Not passing from one to the other so openly. Joe wondered what on earth the consequences might be when Glen knew he’d been tricked into a confession.
At Joe’s nod, the door behind opened, and two uniformed officers came in. Each taking one of Glen’s arms they read him his rights, and Glen just grinned. “I knew I couldn’t trust you Maxwell. I’ll get you for this, and Cold Fish Chandler, you’ll see.”
“Where you’re going you won’t be able to touch us Glen.” Joe sneered.
“I ain’t going nowhere, you ain’t got nothing on me. That package, it contains sugar, yeah that’s right icing sugar. You surely didn’t think I’d trust a lawyer? I only came here to get the word on your night of passion. So I have the upper hand Maxwell. And you ain’t got nothing on me today to make it stick.”
“There’s always tomorrow Duffin. Just take him away.” Joe told the officers. This wasn’t the time to tell Glen about the recording. He’d use that as his trump card in court, and they’d soon get it out of him beforehand about Bowman, and if not then there was still another fish to fry. That guy Tom had been afraid about something when he’d issued the warning the night before, and Joe decided he’d start there.
*** *** ***
It took some time to find the fellow, several days in fact, and Joe was growing frantic that by that time Tom Fitzpatrick would have known about Glen Duffin arrest. So when he literally stumbled upon the guy in a coffee bar, he was most surprised when Tom didn’t beat a hasty retreat. Joe sidled up to Tom pretending at first he hadn’t seen him, Tom was folding a newspaper he’d finished reading, and Joe saw the perfect opportunity, “Finished with that mate?” he asked. Tom looked up, and for a split second fear registered in his grey eyes, then he smiled nervously, “Joe Maxwell isn’t it?”
Joe acted surprised, “Yeah, say haven’t I seen you some place recently?”
Tom physically relaxed. “We met the night of the mayors dinner/dance. I was with some mates and you were with Catherine Chandler.”
Joe acted as if he was thinking about that, then his face brightened as the memory dawned, “Now I remember, hey what was that all about?”
“What do … you mean?” Tom stuttered.
“When we were leaving you seemed to issue a warning, we didn’t get it, what were you on about?”
For long moments Tom tried to think of a feasible answer, and then to Joe’s surprise he totally opened up.
“Glen Duffin slipped Cathy Chandler a drug in her drink. I didn’t like it. He’s killed people with that thing. He thinks its one big joke. People have to sip the drink that holds the powder in order to survive, when I saw Cathy down the champagne I grew afraid. Is she all right?”
Joe stared at Tom with disbelief. He wished he had spoken to Tom first about this it would have saved a lot of foot wear. “Would you be prepared to stand up in court and testify to this?”
Tom looked like a scared rabbit. “I doubt I’d make it that far. I’ve nothing to lose ‘cos I’m HIV positive so I’m gonna die anyway, but telling you this, well death might be quicker and less painful.”
Joe whistled, “Gee I’m sorry mate.” He edged a little further away.
Tom noticed, “That’s how it always is. You can’t catch it by rubbing elbows you know.” His eyes pained Joe. “I’m sorry, it’s just a gut reaction. How long have you got?”
“How long’s a piece of string? Who knows? I’m dying that I do know, and the next flu epidemic could be my last.”
They were both quiet for a moment, there was nothing to say and so much to say, yet Joe could find no words to express himself. Tom had witnessed it a hundred times though, and he began to speak, “I’m no queer. I got this from a blood transfusion. You know they say blood is screened, but what they don’t tell you is that it needs to be seventy two hours old before they can screen it, and any blood frozen or otherwise is contaminated if it gets to forty eight hours old or more. I ask you, you either risk it for fresh blood or have screened old blood. In hindsight I would have told them I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and not had it at all. You know them people really do have all the answers. I’ve spoken to them since. They don’t even have blood in operations, they even have willing doctors around the world waiting to operate without the use of blood Joe, and their recovery rate is faster too. The body is seventy percent water, and all it needs with blood loss is to replace the volume, it doesn’t even have to be blood.”
“I never knew that.” Joe told him clearly dumbfounded.
“You know thanks to Jehovah’s Witnesses doctors now do open heart surgery without the use of blood on babies. If it hadn’t of been for the witnesses insisting on no blood the doctors would never have risked it. But they did and thanks to that kids all over the world are benefiting from non blood surgery and surviving.”
“You sound as if you’ve been converted?”
“Hell no, its just that I’ve checked what I’ve been told and they are the facts, and it makes me so angry to know that I needn’t be dying now if those same facts had been made public knowledge, rather than just on the pages of The Watchtower.”
Joe was eager to return to the subject at hand. This was all very enlightening, and one he’d give consideration to at a later date, but call him suspicious but he had the uncanny feeling that someone was listening and that Tom’s numbered days were growing fewer by the second.
“I have some paper here, would you sign it, I can fill in the details later.” Tom seemed surprised, “Have you seen someone?”
“Don’t look now, but over by the door.”
Tom did look, discreetly, his face lost its colour. “You’d best go out the side door too. Here give me that paper.” He reached across and took up the pen Joe offered, wisely signing his name out of sight.
“Want to brief me on the details?” Joe asked, carefully folding the paper as small as small, before placing it in his inside pocket, and closing the zip. He also pretended to stuff something inside his wallet and placed that in another pocket as a decoy.
“Glen makes the drug. He has a laboratory in Brooklyn. Its some kind of plant extracts. Funny enough it was first created in Africa to spread the Aids virus. The whites it seemed wanted to wipe out the blacks, much the same as the Australians created mixamotosis to wipe out the rabbits. Then the witch doctors told the tribes that they were to rape a white woman to cure themselves of Aids, and so it escalated. The drug was then brought into it to make rape easier and less like rape. A willing white woman was a lesser risk.
Anyway Glen got to hear about it on a visit over there, and brought some back and started manufacturing his own.” Tom hesitated, the chap that had stood by the door was making his way towards the bar. Joe noticed, “We haven’t much time. You wanna leave?”
“No use, someone will be waiting outside. This is only to flush us out. Listen I’ll be quick. Glen makes the stuff. He used it on Bowman and the guy was pushed aside and under a train after molesting some guy’s fiancee, but there were others. A Mrs Collins, she was also at that party that night. She died too, thought she could fly, and since then various priests that have molested children and parishioners. Anyone you can find Maxwell that had an unexplained death since that night a year ago, when Glen first used it, you will probably find related to the drug. Glen’s main interest was to give it to people who would make the biggest stir as far as the papers were concerned, hence its use on Cathy Chandler.”
Joe wished he had the tape recorder on him, or even a Dictaphone, he hoped the signed paper would suffice, but more to the point this was a valuable witness, he couldn’t let him be killed. He really needed this guy.
Hustling him by the arm, he edged Tom away from the bar, “Is it a major racket?”
“I’ve already had Glen arrested.” Tom was surprised, “You have?”
“A couple of days back. He thinks I have nothing on him but I have. But you would help put that guy away for a very long time, and die happy.”
“It would certainly make all this worth something. I’ve lived a rotten life. Maybe doing some good at its end will ensure me a finer standing with our maker.”
“Maybe it will. Come follow me, do everything that I say, and we’ll get you out of this alive.”
Tom doubted it, but it was better than just waiting there for a bullet in the head. Dying he might be, and a quick death might be appealing, but life was also precious no matter how short and right now he really wanted to see Glen get what was coming to him.
They went through the side door when Joe checking his watch anticipated a moment when the door would be busy. It was just after coffee time, and already the streets were throbbing with fresh life as people headed for the bar for their daily intake of coffee. Squeezing past the queue that had built up outside Joe led Tom to an area he deemed safe, an area where he knew he could lead Tom in and out other bars, before they needed to encounter any streets.
They were not surprised to find that the chap that had wended his way towards them in the first bar was still keeping pace, his hand very firmly held in one pocket. Joe knew he held a gun there, and knew that given a chance he wouldn’t even take it from his pocket but would just fire through the material straight at his intended victims, hence the cover of innocent people.
“We’ll go through here.” Joe dragged Tom by the arm, but Tom pulled back.
“That way is a dead end Joe.”
“Its not, and I haven’t time to argue.” Joe told him watching as the guy with the gun advance through the crowds.
“It is I tell you.” Tom allowed Joe to pull him along but all the time his eyes tried to look further afield to the end of the alley to prove his point. “The old pancake house was bordered up Joe.” He told him frantically, “It’s a dead end now.”
With disbelief Joe hesitated. He didn’t want to believe Tom, but neither could they take a chance as to get to the end of the alley to find he was right. Backtracking Joe froze to find the guy with the gun was almost upon them and what was worse the crowds were thinning. “There has to be something down there, some way we can get through.” Joe panicked.
“We can climb I guess.” Tom told him, “There is a fire escape.”
“How are you with that? Do you have the energy?”
“I’ll use an adrenaline rush. Don’t worry.” Tom grinned as they hurried down the alley side by side. Joe didn’t know why he was surprised but he was when a shot pinged close to his left ear.
Running faster they soon encountered the fire escape, and as Tom had correctly stated also the boarded up pancake house. Tom took to the first steps, Joe close behind, when Tom suddenly stopped, “You know when I watch those films when something like this happens it always annoys me that the victim goes upwards.”
“This is no time to think about what you watch on TV Tom.” Joe shoved him from behind.
“No. You don’t get it do you? Tom pushed past Joe back down the few steps, “Help me lift this manhole cover will you?” For seemingly long moments Joe stared at Tom as if he’d gone mad, before bending to help Tom lift the cover.
“They’ll expect us to go up. Victims always go up and to what? What’s up there? Nothing but certain death when they fall off the roof. They won’t expect this, but we must hurry before they come around that corner.”
They lifted the cover and shoved it aside Joe helping Tom to lower himself down and then following quickly. He almost despised every one of his seventy-two inches at that moment as it seemed to take an age before he was down deep enough to be reaching for the cover to replace it. His heart hammering he froze as the lid closed off the light of day and they found themselves in complete darkness. Joe jumped when Tom touched his arm and heard him whisper, “I don’t know a way out, but its got to be better than that. Come on let’s get out of here.”
They began running, hoping each new step wouldn’t stumble them. Joe became aware of a dank smell like rats and shuddered, and his feet kept sliding, he hated to imagine what on.
Up above they could hear nothing, so they were not to know that their pursuer had presumed they’d used the fire escape and had gone that way, and that they were at that moment relatively safe.
They ran for as long as they could before gasping for breath. Joe thought his lungs might burst.
“Have you ever been down here before.” He gasped.
“Never. But I know these tunnels go beneath the city for miles upon miles.”
“Gee that’s comforting.” Joe spoke dryly.
Tom gave a snort of laughter, “It won’t be that bad, it can’t be. Somewhere we will come under a grating that will let in light. Haven’t you ever seen them from above? As soon as we find one we can ascertain where we are and get out of here.”
“Oh yeah I can just imagine that, popping my head out in the centre of fifty first street or something and having it flattened by a lorry. Yeah some escape Tom.” Despite himself Joe laughed followed by Tom, “Tell you what we’ll wait until it seems quiet before we exit, that suit ya?”
“Depends. Are you quite certain you don’t know where we are now?”
“Not a clue. Look let’s keep walking huh, we won’t get anywhere standing around talking, besides its cold down here.”
Joe realised the seriousness of that statement. If Tom caught a chill it might be his last, he needed Tom and he had to find a way out of the tunnels to get the guy warm again, sooner rather than later.
“You’re right.” He told Tom, “Nothing will be gained by loitering, besides being down here stinks.” They laughed both having the same thought, ‘in more ways than one.’
They didn’t know for how long they walked, but the grid that Tom had spoken of never materialised. The black darkness was all encompassing, and now that they had ceased running they held onto a wall on either side of them and to each other. To himself Joe managed a bit of humour. Later he would laugh at walking through the black dark arm in arm with a guy with the Aids virus.
At first both thought that their eyes played tricks on them. Up ahead was a pinprick of light. “Are you seeing that?” Tom asked breathlessly.
“Yeah must be one of those grids at last.”
“Not unless its beneath a neon light.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ve been walking for hours Maxwell. I’ve counted my watch bleep on the hour six times. Its past four o’clock, it’ll be almost dark up there now. So it can’t be sunlight.”
“Well maybe it is beneath a neon light. What does that matter?”
“You really want to climb out on a sidewalk in view of a load of people?”
“It mighn’t be that way.”
“Most neon lights are over bars and shops. There will be people frequenting those places.”
“Hey you got a better idea? We ain’t seen nothing ever since we got down here, and that light whatever it represents is my escape route, you got that? You can stay down here if you like, but I’m going up.”
Tom said nothing, they had walked a lot closer and it didn’t represent a grid to him anymore.
Joe noticed too. “It’s a god damn lamp. Who the hell would place a lamp down here?” Joe touched the glass as he approached. He expected it to be hot, but it wasn’t. “Its cold.” He remarked mystified, “the glass feel it, it’s cold.”
“It’s not been lit long then. Maybe it’s not a real candle burning inside. Maybe it’s electric and is switched on at a terminal in the city.”
“That doesn’t make sense, why would anyone want to waste electricity down here?” Joe lifted the cover of the lamp, “Its not electric it’s a candle, look.” He pinched the flame with his fingers snuffing out the light.
“Well that wasn’t one of your brighter ideas I can see.” Tom told him, “Do you have any matches on you?”
“No I don’t smoke. You?”
“Me neither. So now what do we do?”
Joe looked around. He was disorientated. “Did I turn around when I approached this light Tom?”
“I don’t know did you?”
“If I did which way were we facing?”
“The lamp was on your left, do you know where it is now?”
“I know where its cover is now, in my hands, as to the candle I haven’t a clue.”
“I have, you can smell it.”
They both sniffed, until their noses led them to the place. Joe laughed, “Never let me hear you tell anyone I’d turned bloodhound.” He replaced the cover, “so we were heading thataway.” He nudged Tom’s elbow with his own. “Come on let’s keep going.” He added dryly.
They walked again for a good fifteen minutes before the way ahead was infused with a halo of amber light, signifying not just one lamp but several. “What is this place?” Tom asked as they reached the spot where all the lamps were glowing. A shuffle sounded somewhere around them, and Joe spun on the spot unable to identify from where the sound originated.
“Maybe it was a rat?” Tom suggested.
“A bloody big rat.” Joe answered as the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. “Who’s there?” he called nervously.
He never expected a reply.
“Who are you?” Came a soft voice, one that Joe could only identify as a child’s.
“We’ve lost our way, can you show us the way out of here?” Tom called back.
“I’ll fetch someone. Stay there.” The child replied, and Joe and Tom were both surprised to hear a soft tapping, something resembling Morse code coming from all around them.
In awe they listened, each asking the silent question, ‘what is that?’ and Joe wondering what he had in fact stumbled on here.
After many long moments they heard the child speak again, but not to them. “They’re just down there.” Then they heard a rustle and some footsteps, and a voice. A voice that sent warm shivers coursing through Joe’s body. It was like velvet and gravel mixed together.
“Who are you and what do you want?” Came the voice.
“My name is Joe Maxwell, I’m the District Attorney.” Joe threw that in for good measure. He hid behind his title, it afforded him protection from the unknown. Joe heard the voice gasp before asking again, “What do you want?”
“I’m, er, we’re lost. We were trying to escape a guy intent on killing us, and entered these tunnels. Please if you know a way out, please show us, we’ve been wandering around since this morning.”
“You must be tired Mr Maxwell. I sense your fatigue. Is there anything I can get you before I lead you out of here?”
Joe relaxed, they were getting out! “No, the way out would be just fine. Tell me do you live down here?”
Joe felt the hesitation to speak from his guide. Heard a few hushed whispers, and then the voice spoke again, “Mr Maxwell I have heard much about you, but not so your colleague. I believe I can trust you but can you trust the one who is with you?”
Joe felt a trickle of fear, and he disregarded the last part of the question, “You know me? How?”
“We have a mutual friend. Catherine Chandler.”
“Cathy! Cathy knows of this place?”
“One question at a time Mr. Maxwell. Now can your colleague be trusted?”
“He can speak for himself.” Tom answered up. “Its thanks to me that Miss Chandler’s latest escapade will have answers.”
“Tom’s right.” Joe felt fit to explain, “Tom was giving me information about the guy that drugged Cathy a few days ago, when someone decided they should shut him up. I need to get him back above and onto the witness protection programme like yesterday.”
There were a few moments silence then the voice told them. “He would be safer here with us. You too if you need protection. If you prefer I can have word sent to Catherine to meet you down here?”
“That would be great. When?”
“Soon. But we have our own rules that you must comply with as Catherine will explain to you.”
“I understand, and I guess we won’t be shown the way out until we promise?”
The voice chuckled, “You guessed right Mr Maxwell, and these tunnels go for miles.”
“Don’t I know it. Say have you a name?”
“Yes.” There was a slight hesitation. “My name is Vincent.”
*** *** ***
Sitting in the dark on one of her dinky sofa’s Catherine was brought out of her reverie by a gentle tapping upon her balcony door. ‘Vincent!’ her heart cried, as her body rose to fly across the room and pull open the doors, “Vincent!” her mouth cried as she saw him standing there.
“I bring only a message.” Vincent whispered. He needn’t have come. He could have had someone send it, and all the way over to her apartment he had chided himself for not having done that. But he had the chance to come and he might never get another. Now he was here though he wanted only to flee the sight of her doing things to his limbs that he had not bargained for.
“Vincent please. We have to talk.” Catherine disregarded his reason for being there.
“No! I bring only a message. Joe Maxwell and another man are in the tunnels. I want you to speak to them.”
“Joe Maxwell!” Catherine spoke the name slowly with disbelief, “Has he seen you?”
How like her to put him first. “No. But we have spoken, and he is aware that you and I are…” Vincent hesitated, “acquaintances.” He finished making Catherine feel very sad.
“Where is he?”
“Meet me at the threshold and I’ll escort you to him. He has another man with him.”
“Who?” Not Moreno? Catherine’s mind raced.
“A witness. Someone who is helping him convict the man that drugged you.”
Catherine’s heart beat rapidly. In a dream she heard herself tell Vincent she would be with him in five minutes. In a dream she watched him disappear over the balcony, and in a dream she closed the terrace doors.
In an equally dream like state she found herself stepping down the ladder to meet Vincent at the threshold.
Emotion constricted her throat when he did not offer his embrace as he had always done at this point, Catherine wanted nothing more than to be enfolded in his arms. Her body ached to feel him close.
“I can’t do this.” She told him. “Find someone else.” She’d meant it to mean find someone to help Joe, but Vincent took it the wrong way. “There will never be another for me.” He told her his words barely audible. Catherine decided not to tell him that wasn’t what she meant; yet she could find no words with which to reply. For long moments neither spoke nor could Catherine look at him. Vincent, she knew, was staring at her.
“They are this way.” Vincent spoke at last, and Catherine found herself putting one foot in front of the other to follow him.
Her heart was heavy, so heavy she had to remind herself to breathe. Mere yards ahead of her Vincent strode. She longed to race up to him swing him around to face her and hug him tight. She fought that desire with every step that she took. He had sent her away; he would have to make that first move.
They walked quite a distance, a long way from the home chambers. Vincent said nothing, but he dared to open the bond a little, unprepared for the barrage of Catherine’s emotions. They were so complex he couldn’t unravel them, and there was a lot of anger mixed there.
After about an hour Catherine could hear voices up ahead, and Vincent stopped walking allowing her to draw level with him.
“Who’s there?” Catherine recognised Joe’s voice.
“Vincent.” Vincent replied.
“What do you want me to tell him?” Catherine whispered.
“Listen to what he has to say. You make the decision and check it with me. I’ll stay right here.” Vincent told her.
“Who’s that with you?” she heard Joe call.
“It’s me Joe, Cathy.”
Catherine stepped into the light and heard Joe’s gasp of relief, “Cathy what the hell is all this? What is this place?”
Catherine ignored him, her gaze resting on the fellow at his side. “Hello, you were at the dinner/dance weren’t you?”
“Cathy this is Tom Fitzpatrick he’s prepared to give evidence against the guy that drugged you.”
“You were in on it too!” Catherine flared, “You issued the warning!”
“No!” Tom scrambled to his feet, “The warning yes, but I was never agreeable to the drug being administered.”
“Those guys are your friends that makes you one of them?” Catherine seethed. Right now she could have scratched the guy’s eyes out, in fact she raised a hand to do just that.
Joe grabbed her arm, “Cathy No! Tom will testify. I’ve already got Glen Duffin banged up in jail, but it’s a bigger racket than we supposed and there have been more victims than just you and Bowman. Other people have lost their lives.” Catherine’s breast rose and fell with her fury. Watching from the shadows, Vincent thought that he had never seen her so angry.
“Your dirty little trick cost me more than my life.” She snatched her hand away from Joe and struck out again at Tom sending the guy reeling. Catherine stepped back, she hadn’t hit him that hard, but he fell like a stack of cards.
“Tom’s dying Cathy. He’s HIV. It’s taken all his strength to come this far and we’ve been walking for hours.”
Catherine let her arm drop by her side. She felt no remorse but her guilt washed over her in gentle waves. She had struck out at an innocent man. After all he hadn’t been the one to administer the drug and he had issued her with a warning. In fact it was thanks to that warning that they had been able to piece the whole thing together.
“I’m sorry.” She was unaware that she had said it out loud until she heard it with her own ears. She realised she meant it.
“In your shoes Miss Chandler I think I’d react the same. It was a dirty trick, and believe me whatever I can do to help stop it happening to anyone else I’ll do. I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m gonna die anyway.”
Catherine sucked in a breath; “They’ll kill you? They’re your friends for God’s sake!”
“The racket extends beyond friendship Cathy. Duffin has a lab in Brooklyn where he farms the stuff. It’s called a dream drug. He offered to sell me some.”
“What on earth for?”
Joe had the grace to blush. “I let him believe that you had your wicked way with me, and he offered me another glorious night of lust at a price.” Joe shuddered as he heard what could only be described as a growl coming from the shadows. “What was that? You got a large mastiff down here or something Radcliffe?”
Cathy chose to ignore the remark, secretly pleased that Vincent had reacted so violently to Joe’s remark.
“He fell for it?”
“But it’s all your word against his Joe.”
“Ordinarily yes, but I had planned for his visit, anyway it suffices to say I have a trump card, which I am not prepared to reveal here and now.”
Catherine understood. Tom Fitzpatrick might be prepared to testify but if anyone got at him he might also be prepared to switch sides. No witness was trustworthy when it came down to the stakes.
“So what are we talking here, asylum?”
“Yes if you know somewhere?”
“For both of you, or just Tom?”
“Tom definitely. As for me I don’t know about that. If I’m in danger so could you be, there’s no telling. And the only way any of us is going to find out is to get back up there and see.”
Catherine thought it over, she had asked all she needed to ask, and gained all she needed to know, the rest wasn’t hers to give. “Vincent?” she called.
“Yes.” Joe heard the rich velvety voice reply. He hadn’t even known the guy was still there.
“Do you have somewhere that Tom could stay?” She spoke guarded. Joe detected it, Vincent understood it. He knew she wanted Tom keeping away from the home chambers even though he was a dying man.
“Yes I know of a place.”
“He needs to be kept warm.” Joe felt he had to explain.
“That’s not strictly true.” Tom intervened, “warmth isn’t an issue, but I have to be away from draughts. If I should catch a chill it’ll escalate into pneumonia and that is the beginning of the end.”
“That could be a bit difficult. Draughts are a part of life in these tunnels.” Catherine told him.
“There might be a place.” Vincent added.
“Just a minute.” Catherine told Joe, and he watched as she disappeared into the shadows, from where the velvety voice had come.
“What are you thinking of?” Catherine whispered the moment she came close to Vincent; “Will it be safe? For you?” She added.
“Don’t worry about me Catherine or my world. I would do nothing to jeopardise it, you know that. I won’t bring him near to the home chambers but there is a place where he can be looked after by us and still not be a danger to us.”
Catherine felt slapped. Somehow Vincent had made her feel so stupid. Tears pricked at the back of her eyelids, “Why are you doing this to me Vincent?” He heard the sob as it caught in her throat. “It hurts.” She told him turning away. She stepped back towards Joe brushing her tears away furiously with the back of her hand.
“Its time for the two of you to split up.” She told Joe and Tom who were waiting anxiously for her return.
“Joe you come with me, and Tom you wait here. Vincent will have some one escort you to where you will be safe.”
“Why can’t he do it?” Tom asked he didn’t want to stay in those eerie tunnels alone.
Catherine knew Vincent had already gone. “Because he’s left us. Don’t worry he’ll send some one back to escort you, and when Joe needs to see you over the next few days I’ll escort him to wherever you will be.” Catherine’s voice was void of emotion. Joe noticed at once.
“All right.” Tom relaxed and slipped back down to the floor.
“You won’t have long to wait Tom. Joe will you follow me?” Catherine started to walk back the way Vincent had led her and with a final look and a nod to Tom Joe took up step beside her.
Joe was impressed by Catherine’s knowledge of the tunnels. She knew them like the back of her hand and they were soon beneath her apartment building. They hadn’t spoken all the way, but now as Joe climbed the steps and recognised their destination he gasped, “Why Cathy you are sure a dark horse. How long have you known about that place down there?”
“Come up to my apartment Joe, I’ll fill you in.”
Catherine told him all she dared. She explained how Vincent had found her after her attack. How he had taken her into the tunnels to heal where he sometimes went with a few of his friends. She left out the bit about the home chambers, about all the people that lived down there, instead she made it sound like a place where people frequented only occasionally and where very few people ever went.
“It’s mainly a place for children to play, and for the occasional person who wants to get his head together. However there is a kind of law enforcement down there, no one running from the law is allowed entry and there are no criminals lurking in those passageways.”
“With you in residence I should think not.” Joe joked. “So who’s this Vincent?”
Catherine lowered her gaze, colour infusing her cheeks.
Slowly Joe’s mouth dropped open. “It’s him isn’t it?”
“Him?” Catherine feigned ignorance.
“The guy you are in love with. Oh come on Cathy, the guy you have loved for the past three years. That’s it isn’t it? He rescued you and the two of you fell in love. Way to go Radcliffe that’s quite some fairy tale you have there. But tell me if there are no crims down there why did he keep to the shadows? I mean why didn’t he show his face?”
“Vincent is different. His face is different. He keeps himself covered in case his appearance should frighten anyone.”
“You mean he’s deformed?” Joe could not picture the beholder of such a fantastic voice being anything but perfect.
“Not exactly. Vincent was born the way he is, and to those that know him he is beautiful. It suffices to say he is different in ways you would never understand, but without those tunnels Joe he couldn’t survive and if for nothing else then you must give your word that you will never tell a soul about what you have seen or heard this day?”
“I would never do it for someone I don’t know Cathy, but for you I’ll do it. Even though this guy is a rival to me for your affections.” Joe attempted a laugh and Catherine smiled, but Joe was quick to notice there was sadness lurking in her eyes.
“What is it Cathy? What’s wrong?”
Catherine drew in a deep breath, “Since the night I was drugged Vincent has wanted nothing more to do with me. Apparently I attacked him the same way as I did to you.” Catherine looked down into her lap at her clasped hands twisting together anxiously.
“It wasn’t your fault Cathy, how can he do that to you!”
“I wish I knew.” A sob caught in her throat. Joe hurried to her side placing his arm around her shoulders, and Catherine buried her face into the wool of his jacket and sobbed quietly.
“I can’t understand it Joe, why can’t he forgive me?”
Joe felt his gut constrict. Exactly why couldn’t the guy forgive her? It wasn’t her fault. “What did he say to you?” He wondered if perhaps Cathy had misconstrued the whole thing. No one could hold something like that against her. It just wasn’t fair.
“He said we were finished. Joe there is much you don’t understand or know. Because of Vincent’s differences, he practically lives in those tunnels. He can only come above at night and then only if his face is covered. You see even then he has to stick to the shadows. He visits me here but at great risk to himself (she refrained from saying how he climbed to the balcony). Life with Vincent as it is, is only half a life and Vincent will not allow me to come any closer. I love him Joe, I’d give him anything, but he won’t accept it. I believe that my being drugged and disgracing myself in front of him must have disturbed him so much that he realised how great those differences were between us, and prefers that we went our separate ways. He has always maintained that his being with me prevents me from meeting and falling in love with a man who could give me a real life, not just a half life in the shadows.”
“We none of us can help who we fall in love with Cathy. It’s not as simple as that. Believe me I know.”
Catherine lifted her face, and for the first time saw in Joe’s undisguised love for her.
“I’m sorry Joe. It’s a hell of a life isn’t it?” She attempted a chuckle.
“I love you Cathy Chandler. I’ve always loved you, but I’ve known for a long time that you only had eyes for someone else. I find I can’t even hate the guy. Hell that voice, I could fall in love with him myself.” Joe attempted a laugh that shook with sorrow. Catherine’s arms stole around his body and she hugged him tight. Quietly they cried together for the unfairness of love and life.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Six - click on 'Next' below:
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