Though Lovers Be Lost (revised)

By Thomas Mc




Though Lovers Be Lost (revised)  Part 1



The light kept getting dimmer and the mist became thicker as Catherine followed the sounds of Vincent's growling ‘til she could no longer see. Her hand brushed her coat pocket and she felt something solid and heavy. Catherine breathed a momentary sigh of relief as she discovered the flashlight, she had forgotten was there, and she pulled it out. Her relief was cut short by the growling coming from up ahead. The mist in this part of the catacombs limited the range of her flashlight and made it impossible for her to see more that ten feet. As Catherine slowly worked her way down the dark corridor, she could hear Vincent’s growling, punctuated by occasional roars, up ahead. She was reminded of the time, just a little over a year ago, when he had been poisoned by that horrible drug that Paracelsus had been making and selling. This time it was different, though. The timbre of Vincent’s growling filled her with dread; not for herself but for Vincent. This time there was more anguish than rage in Vincent’s roars. Jacob had tried to stop her but she had to go to him. He needed her and she needed him. She knew by the sounds that she was getting close, and she fought down the desire to run blindly towards the sound of his voice. Up ahead, the tunnel made a sharp turn to the left. She knew that he was just beyond that turn.


As Catherine rounded the corner, the vision that was illuminated by her flashlight, less than eight feet ahead, nearly made her heart stop with fear as it tore a heart-rending scream from her. “VINCENT!! … NO!!


Vincent was half crouched in a dead end corner; his eyes wide open ablaze with madness, his claws at his own throat. A trickle of blood flowed from where his claws were pressing in. Then he looked up at her scream.


Desperate, Catherine acted without thinking and dropping her flashlight, she dove at Vincent. The last thing she saw before the flashlight hit the floor and flickered out was a look of despairing anguish in his sapphire eyes. Then there was only darkness as she hit him in the mid section and threw her arms around him. Pushing upward with all her strength, she forced her head and then her whole body upward between his claws and his throat. The sound of ripping cloth accompanied the sharp pain as his claws scraped down her back before he could uncurl his fingers. Pulling her arms up through his, she threw them around his neck while wrapping her legs around his waist. Her actions took less than two seconds but for her an eternity had just passed.


In the darkness, Catherine locked her arms and her feet behind him and clung to him with all the strength she could muster from her petite frame as she fought his desperate attempts to dislodge her. Vincent was very strong and Catherine could feel her endurance draining fast. She hissed into his ear, “You’re not going without me.” She was determined that the only way he was going to turn those claws on himself would be by tearing his way through her body and she knew he would never do that. “I’m not going to live in this world without you.” She growled at him. Her words and her passion beat against his mind as his legs buckled and Vincent slowly collapsed to the floor. Then the only sound was their ragged breathing.


For what seemed like hours, they lay there in the dark, her clinging to him as he half-heartedly continued to try to free himself. Her greatest weapon in this struggle was her unshakable belief that he could never hurt her no matter what. Finally, the fight went completely out of him as he ceased to struggle. After he stopped trying to push her off, Catherine began to softly talk to him. “I’m here now Vincent … I’m not going to leave you … Everything’s going to be all right …” She poured all of her love and desire into the darkness as her soft gentle voice droned on. “I love you, Vincent … I will never leave you and I know you can never harm me … I could not live without you … I need you, Vincent.” In the darkness, she continued to calm and reassure him with her words and her voice. Slowly she felt his steel hard body begin to relax and his breathing become more regular. Then his arms went around her and came to rest across her lower back. She felt a delicious shiver of contentment pass through her to have his arms around her and she kissed the top of his head. Shortly after that, he went completely limp.


When she was sure he had retreated into unconsciousness, she called out to Jacob as loud as she dared. “Father, I could use a little help in here.” Catherine’s endurance was so totally spent that she did not even have the strength left to unwrap herself from around Vincent. She could feel the sting of the scratches on her back more intensely now, but she didn’t care. All that mattered was getting help for Vincent. She looked around but all she saw was total darkness. Where were they? Time seemed to stretch out interminably, there in the dark. Why hadn’t they come yet? Finally, she saw a glimmer of light off to the left. She sighed and laid her head down in relief.


When Jacob and the others arrived, they found Vincent flat on his back on the ground and unconscious. Catherine had her arms and legs wrapped around him and her head was resting on the ground next to Vincent’s head, her shoulder covering the lower half of his face. The back of her coat and her sweater were shredded and eight long bloody wounds ran from her shoulders halfway down her back. Vincent’s head was pressed against her shoulder and his arms lay crossed over her lower back. 


They gently untangled Catherine and Vincent from each other as Jamie and Mouse arrived with a litter. It took Cullen, William, and Mouse together to lift and carry Vincent. When they discovered that Catherine could barely stand up on her own, Jacob and Jamie helped support her. They brought Vincent and Catherine back towards the central chambers.


As they got close to Vincent’s chamber, Jacob tried to lead Catherine off to the infirmary. “No, I have to stay with him.” She protested as she tried desperately to follow the litter with Vincent on it.


Jacob and Jamie finally relented and helped her follow the litter to Vincent’s chamber where they settled her into the oversized chair next to Vincent’s bed. 


About ten minutes later Jacob returned with his medical supplies. At Catherine’s insistence, he treated Vincent’s injuries first. They looked bad but fortunately, Catherine had stopped Vincent before he had hurt himself too seriously. Next Jacob turned to Catherine. It hurt him to see the damage that Vincent’s claws had caused, reminding him of when Vincent was young and had accidentally hurt that other young girl, Lisa. That accident had hurt Vincent very deeply and it had taken Catherine’s help before he was able to finally put the incident behind him. The thing Jacob feared most was what this would do to Vincent when he realized what he had done to Catherine. He was afraid that it could very well destroy Vincent. Catherine’s coat and sweater were badly torn and smeared with blood. It was easier to just cut them off. Then her ripped bra simply fell off of her. She winced in pain as Jacob cleaned and treated the damage on her back but she didn’t cry out. The wounds were not as bad as he had first feared. Just a couple of stitches were needed at the top of each wound, near the shoulders, where they were deepest. Further down her back they were barely more than scratches. It looked like her clothes had absorbed most of the damage. Finally, he had bandaged her wounds and then he gave her a shot of antibiotic to prevent any chance of infection. He placed a thick soft blanket across Catherine’s shoulders and collected the torn remnants of her clothes. 


“You should be okay. His claws are so sharp that the flesh was cut rather than torn,” he told her as he packed his bag and started to turn away. “I’ll check back later to see how you both are doing.” 


Suddenly Catherine grabbed Jacob’s arm, turning him back around and making him look her straight in the eyes, her expression dead serious. “Father, he must never hear of this.” The strength of her grip surprised him. “Promise me, when it becomes necessary to explain my back, let me do it in my own way.” Her eyes were pleading for his acceptance then they became steel hard. “He must not blame himself for this. I won’t allow it.”


Startled by the strength of conviction in her eyes and the steel in her voice, Jacob acquiesced. “I promise he will never hear about this from me.” Once he had given her his word, her hand fell away and she slumped in on herself as if she had expended every last bit of her energy reserves in that plea. Jacob resettled the blanket that had fallen from her shoulders and left, taking the ruined clothing with him.


Catherine gazed over at the sleeping form, longing for his company yet fearing his reaction to what he had done to her back. No! She shook her head. What I have done to myself.This was not Vincent’s doing. She would never let either of them blame him for her injuries. In addition, she swore to herself that she would never let anyone else blame him either. Now that she had settled that in her mind, she continued to stare at him, willing him to recover and return to her. She corrected herself.


Twenty minutes later Jamie brought her a clean shirt and sweater to replace her torn and bloodied clothes. Catherine was so weak that she could not even get the new shirt on so Jamie dressed her as if she was a large toy doll.


Catherine touched Jamie’s hand to get her attention and extracted the same pledge that she had gotten from Jacob.


Jamie could not resist Catherine’s pleas and gave her promise. She placed the blanket back around Catherine’s shoulders and left with a vow to come back by later to see how they were doing.


A short time later, Vincent started to thrash around in his sleep. Catherine shifted over from the chair to Vincent’s bed, and then she just flopped over across his body. Reaching over she gently touched his cheek. Almost immediately, Vincent quieted down. Catherine had no strength left to get back over to the chair so, after laying there for a while, she finally just shifted herself over to his other side and lay there next to him. Laying her hand upon his chest and her head upon his shoulder, she slowly dozed off.


The next time Jacob stopped by, several hours later, Catherine was laying in Vincent’s bed, her back to the stained glass sunrise with her head on his chest and his right hand clasped in both of hers. Her eyes were closed and she appeared to be asleep. Jacob did not want to disturb her so he was about to turn around and quietly leave. Then Vincent growled and stirred in his sleep. Catherine’s eyes instantly popped open. She shushed at him as she reached up and caressed his cheek with one hand. The other was still clutching Vincent’s right hand. “It’s okay,” she said quietly. “I love you and I’m here with you.” Vincent settled back down. She sighed softly and her eyes closed again, her free hand now resting on his shoulder. She never saw Jacob standing there watching that little interlude nor did she hear him quietly leave the chamber.


As Jacob headed back to his own chamber he mulled over what he had just witnessed and what had happened down in the lower tunnels. That girl, he thought, had more courage, determination and compassion than he had ever seen in anyone except Vincent himself. Moreover, her devotion to Vincent was far stronger that he had ever thought possible. He thought of all the times she had come to Vincent’s aid. Then he thought of all the times she had come to the aid of nearly everyone in the community, putting everything she had, including her own future, on the line for them. He realized that she had made herself a permanent place in their lives and they were all the better for it. She was as much a part of this community as Vincent or Jamie or any of the others who actually lived down here. Despite all the problems it posed, even Vincent was better off with her in his life. Only Catherine could have pulled him back from the abyss he had been falling into. 


Then he stopped suddenly and chuckled irreverently as he muttered to himself. “Never thought I’d catch Vincent with a girl in his bed.” The thing that surprised him the most was the realization that he was glad to have her lying there by Vincent’s side. Somehow, it had just seemed so right. Amazed at his own thoughts, he shook his head and, still chuckling, he continued towards his own chamber.


Later on Jamie stopped by to bring Catherine a small cup of William’s soup and a glass of tea. Catherine opened her eyes at the aroma coming from the hot soup. Jamie looked at them for a moment then she commented on how cozy they both looked lying there together. Catherine smiled at her, a faint blush spreading across her cheeks. 


“Jamie, will you do something for me?” she asked.


 “Sure, Catherine, anything you want,” Jamie replied. “What do you need?”


 Catherine gave her the phone number to Joe’s office, which Jamie wrote down, then asked. “Jamie, will you call that number in the morning for me? Tell Joe that you are a friend of mine and that I am very ill with the flu and will be out for a few days.”


Jamie agreed. “Sure, I can do that for you.” She started to leave, then stopped and turned back. “You know, you belong there beside him.” Then, blushing furiously, Jamie quickly left the room before Catherine could respond.


When Mouse stopped by, he was very worried and it took a while for Catherine to reassure him. “Vincent will be OK, Mouse. I’m not going to let anything happen to him. I promise you, I will take good care of him.” She reassured him. “But I need you to promise me something.” She looked at him sternly. “You must never tell anyone, especially Vincent, what happened to me down there.” She was making her voice as persuasive as she could. “If Vincent ever found out, it would destroy him.”


Mouse hung his head. “I promise, Catherine.”


“Thank you Mouse.” She smiled at him. “Don’t worry, Vincent will be fine. We will all see to that.” 


Finally, Mouse felt reassured and with a parting, “Okay good, okay fine,” he left.


All through that night, Catherine kept vigil over Vincent. Several times Vincent would become restless and each time Catherine would soothe him with her voice and her touch. Once Vincent began to thrash around violently and Catherine had to hold on tightly until he calmed down. Catherine slept whenever she could but she came awake instantly whenever Vincent moved. She didn’t think she got more than two hours of sleep the whole night. Sometime during the middle of the night, Catherine came to the realization that she really liked lying in Vincent’s bed cuddled up against his side and somehow she was going to find a way to make this their normal state.


Jacob would occasionally look in to check on them both. Each time he would leave feeling reassured that Vincent was safe under Catherine’s loving care. 


*  *  *  *  * 


By the next morning, the whole community had heard about Catherine’s rescue of Vincent. Throughout the day, many of them came to see Catherine and Vincent. Catherine would either be sitting on the edge of Vincent’s bed or in the chair next to it. The visitors were all as concerned over Catherine’s welfare as they were about Vincent. Apparently, a rumor had gone around that Catherine had injured herself in the dark tunnels when she went in to rescue Vincent. She assured them that it was just a minor scrape and not important. Though they accepted that she was okay, they could all tell that she was still exhausted. Jamie brought little Naomi by around mid morning because she had heard the rumors and become afraid that Vincent and Catherine would go away just like her family had a few months ago. Catherine assured Naomi that she and Vincent were going to be fine and would both be around for a long time to come. Then she gave Naomi a hug and sent her on her way.


From what Catherine could tell, only Jacob, Jamie, Mouse and four others knew the truth about her injuries and they apparently were keeping silent. Catherine extracted the same pledge of secrecy from each of them that she had gotten from Jacob, Jamie and Mouse.


Once Vincent started to thrash around violently nearly knocking Catherine out of the bed before she could calm him down.


At around noon, Peter Alcott came by with some news about the earlier blood tests they had done on Vincent. 


“I started thinking about when Paracelsus used that terrible drug of his on Vincent last year. So I went back and rechecked his blood sample. I discovered traces of a fungus infecting Vincent’s blood which had apparently skewed the original blood test results. It looks like it may be the same fungus that Paracelsus had been using to make that drug of his over a year ago. Paracelsus probably infected him when they fought five days ago. I’m pretty sure that the infection was what brought on Vincent’s madness. This happened once before when Vincent was young. It could have been this same fungus that caused that attack as well. I decided to take another blood sample to retest.” Vincent was so deeply asleep, he didn’t notice when Peter took the new blood sample. 


As he was putting away his instruments and preparing to leave, Peter noticed some small bloodstains on the back of Catherine’s shirt. “Cathy! You’ve got blood on your shirt.”


 “I injured myself while helping Vincent.” Catherine explained. “It’s no big deal.” 


Peter responded, “It’s bleeding. It must be treated.” He would brook no resistance and had her remove her shirt. Then he got a look at it and his eyebrows went up. “Injured … yourself??”


Catherine looked at him, her face and voice dead serious. “I injured myself.” Her tone implied that she would accept no other explanation. 


Peter had known Catherine long enough to know that there was no point arguing with her when she used that tone. Deciding not to question her, Peter cleaned and treated where the wounds on her back had reopened, then helped her change into a clean shirt. Afterwards he went straight to Jacob’s chamber to get the details. 


“Jacob, what exactly happened to Cathy? I saw her back.” Peter demanded.


“I’m not completely sure. By the time we got there, Vincent was unconscious.” Peter listened amazed and horrified as Jacob went on to describe the scene that had greeted them in that deep chamber. Jacob looked up from his desk at Peter. “She couldn’t even stand up on her own yet she refused to let herself be separated from Vincent’s side. She even slept with her head on his chest so that she was instantly there when he became restless.”


Peter finally smiled. “I always knew Cathy was a very special girl.” 


Jacob nodded. “I think I’m beginning to agree with that assessment.” 


After telling Jacob his thoughts about the fungus and exchanging a few pleasantries, Peter headed back up.


During that second night, Vincent had begun to sleep more peacefully, only becoming restless eight or nine times, but Catherine was always there by his side to calm him.


*  *  *  *  * 


The next morning Jacob found Catherine to be rested and much stronger. After checking Vincent, he checked the wounds on Catherine’s back. “How does it look, Father?” Catherine asked anxiously.


“They aren’t as bad as I feared. They’re healing very well and there doesn’t appear to be any infection.” Jacob cleaned the wounds and changed the bandages then helped her put her shirt and sweater back on. “There should be very little scarring.” 


Catherine caught and held his eyes. “I meant what I said yesterday. He must not be told of this. Let me deal with it when the time comes.”


Jacob nodded his acceptance and understanding then left the chamber.


Around lunchtime, Jamie again brought Naomi by to see them. Naomi asked, “Why does he sleep so much?”


Catherine answered, “Vincent does that when he is healing himself. He will wake up when he is better.”


Late that evening Peter came in. “I’ve got some good news. The concentration of the infection in Vincent has dropped dramatically. His system is definitely fighting it off. I also found out that penicillin is very effective against the fungus.”


“Then it is the fungus that causes these attacks.” Catherine was overjoyed at the news. “That means it is treatable.”


“Yes, it is.” He gave Vincent a penicillin shot then he left to tell Jacob the news.


Except for Jacob, Peter, Jamie and Naomi, the rest of the community stayed away to give Catherine and Vincent plenty of quiet rest that day. Catherine decided that despite what Father might think, she would sleep in Vincent’s bed where she could be immediately available if he needed her. That third night Vincent only stirred in his sleep four times. 


*  *  *  *  * 


It was around mid-morning of the fourth day that Vincent finally woke up. The first thing he was aware of was someone gripping his hand, and then he became aware of a weight on his chest that suddenly lifted. When he opened his eyes, he saw it was Catherine as she raised her head and looked back at him. “Welcome back, Vincent.” She reached up and caressed his cheek. “I’ve been so very worried about you.”


The touch of her hand felt so good against his cheek. Vincent felt more at peace than he had for a long time as he gazed into her eyes. “Catherine, what’s going on?” He asked as he realized that they were both in his bed together. 


Catherine smiled. “I’m here, love. I’m not going anywhere.” She held his hand in both of hers and gave him a reassuring squeeze. “Paracelsus got you with some of that poison fungus of his and you’ve been out of it for a while.” She drew his hand to her cheek where he could see her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “But you’re back with me now,” she lightly kissed his hand, “and Peter says that you will soon be as good as new.”


Suddenly a stricken expression crossed his face. “I have no sense of you. The bond is gone.”


She gripped his hand tighter. “It doesn’t matter.”  She placed one of her hands on his chest over his heart. “As long as you can feel this…” She again gripped his hand and pulled it to her chest. “And this… ” She again kissed his hand, “we’ll be fine.” She felt his other hand come up around her back. She did her best to ignore the pain as his arm moved across where she was injured. She smiled at him. “It’s probably just a side effect of the poison. I’m sure the link will return with time.” Even with the sting of her wounds, having his arm around her back as she lay there still felt so good she wanted to cry for joy. “All that matters is that I have you back and I have no intention of ever letting you go.” The smile she gave him was like the sun coming out from behind a cloud.


Vincent’s brows furrowed in concentration. “The only thing I remember is hearing you scream my name and a blinding light, then darkness.” He looked at her worried about what he might have done to cause her to scream.


Catherine knew what she said next could be critical. “I was so afraid that I was about to loose you.” She now had tears leaking from her eyes. “The thought of being without you was more than I could stand.” She threw her arms around his chest and hugged him fiercely despite the pain in her back. “I’m so glad to have you back.” 


Once again, Vincent became aware that they were both lying in his bed together and he started to become self-conscious about it. Sensing his mood, Catherine got out of bed to get him a glass of water. As he watched her walk away, he noticed several dark red spots on the back of her shirt. And he realized that he could smell the faint odor of blood.


“Catherine, there’s blood on your back.” Fear of what he might have done came flooding back, threatening to overwhelm him.


Hearing the panic in his voice, it took all of her self-control to maintain an air of unconcern and not drop the pitcher she was holding. “Oh, that, I scraped myself on the tunnel walls in the dark,” she lied. “Next time you decide to go away, I wish you would pick a place with more light. My eyes aren’t as good as yours.” This was one time when she was glad he could not sense her feelings. Once she had herself under control, she took the glass to him and sat on the edge of his bed.


Vincent had lost most of his memory of the incident, as well as the bond he shared with Catherine, but he would live. Catherine stayed with him the rest of that day, reading to him when he was awake, watching over him when he was asleep. She also sent a message to Jamie to bring Naomi by, so she could see that Vincent was okay. Naomi was overjoyed and climbed into Vincent’s lap to give him a big hug. 


Once he fell asleep that night, Catherine again climbed into his bed and continued to sleep with him so that she would feel it when he stirred. Four times that night he awoke from nightmares of sinking into a dark morass. Each time she was there to soothe him back to sleep. Again, Catherine couldn’t help thinking about how good it felt lying next to Vincent. 


*  *  *  *  * 


The next day Vincent was up and around but Catherine stayed below with him while he went around reassuring everyone that he was well. Mouse and Jamie in particular were happy to see them both.


That fifth night there was only one lapse when Vincent began thrashing around and she had to climb into bed with him to calm him down. After he calmed down, she dozed off with her arms still wrapped around him. He slept peacefully the rest of the night and she was up before he awoke that morning.


*  *  *  *  * 


The next day was Saturday so Catherine decided to spend the weekend down below. During that weekend, she rarely left Vincent’s side and each night she climbed into his bed after he was asleep and returned to her own temporary chamber before he woke up. In his depleted state, Vincent slept so deeply that he never realized she was there but each morning he awoke completely at peace with himself.


*  *  *  *  * 


Monday morning Catherine went to work after extracting a promise from Vincent that he would not go away again. Later that afternoon Vincent noticed that he could occasionally get a very faint, fleeting echo of the link with Catherine.


When Catherine arrived at work, Joe noticed how worn and ragged she looked. “Morning, Radcliffe, are you sure you’re not coming back to work too soon?” Concern for her welfare was plainly written across his face. “You look pretty wrung out. Do you really feel up to it?”


“I’m OK, Joe. I’m feeling a lot better than I was, and I have a lot of work to catch up on.” She smiled at him. “You don’t have to worry about me.” She continued to her desk. She was very tired but she steadily worked her way through the stacks on her desk. Anything that could wait was set aside for later.


Around lunchtime, Patrick Sanderson, a college buddy of Joe's, came by and they went out to lunch together. The last time Joe had seen Patrick was right after he had joined the New York State Department of Justice. Shortly after that Joe had lost touch with him, he had just dropped out of sight. Patrick told Joe that for the last five years, he had been working undercover but that was now over. Patrick asked Joe about the rich debutante that he had heard was working for him. Joe proceeded to tell him all about the amazing Catherine. 


Near the end of lunch, Patrick gave Joe a package. It was eight inches by six inches by an inch thick and wrapped in brown paper. “Joe, I need a favor. I want you to hold this for safe keeping.” 


Joe looked down at it and asked him, “What is this about?”


Patrick only said, “It is a very important and very dangerous book. I won’t say more except that it contains details of massive corruption in the New York City government. When I’m safe I’ll call you and tell you where to take it.” 


Joe asked, “Why don’t you just turn this in?”


Patrick responded, “The second this book is turned into the authorities, the bad guys will know about it and know it was me. I will be a dead man if I am anywhere they can find me. That is why I need you to hold it and pass it on for me after I’m safely out of the country.”


Joe could get no more information out of him and they both got up to go. Joe put the package in his suit jacket pocket. This was probably the only jacket he had with an inside pocket big enough to hold it. “I’ll be right behind you.” Joe called out as he stopped at the cashier to pay the bill. He grabbed a toothpick, and then hurried out after Patrick.


As Patrick was opening the door to his car, it exploded, killing him instantly. Joe, who was twenty feet away, was thrown fifteen feet by the force of the blast. He was badly injured but alive. A police car was just rounding the corner two blocks away when the explosion occurred. They called in for backup as they raced to the site. Two men in dark suits who were leaning over Joe’s unconscious body quickly turned and left as the police cruiser pulled up. 


When Catherine arrived several hours later, she found him in the emergency room. He was awake but groggy. The package was still in the pocket of his jacket, now hanging nearby. Joe gave it to her and told her that the package contained a book that supposedly would reveal a huge conspiracy in the city government and asked her to hold it for him.


“You get some rest. I will take good care of this.” Catherine had already decided that she would take up the investigation. As Catherine left the hospital, she wondered if this involved the same corruption case she and Joe had been briefly involved in back when she and Vincent had rescued Naomi.


Catherine stopped by her apartment where she opened the package. Inside, she found an expensive journal covered in a fancy grey leather binding. Inside the journal was page after page of neat precise handwritten gibberish. Obviously, the journal must be written in some type of code. She also found an envelope addressed to Joe and feeling only slightly guilty she opened it. Inside was an obviously hastily scribbled letter. 



Joe,

Sorry to drag you into this but your the only one I could trust. 

The two people in the department that knew of my undercover 

assignment are both dead so I’m pretty much on my own. By 

the time you read this I will ether be well on my way out of 

harms way or I will already be dead. Several people have died

because of the information in this book. The maniac this 

belongs to not only kills those that cross him, he kills their 

families as well and he has contacts all through the city. So tell 

no one about this book & watch your back. As soon as I get 

myself and my family to safety, I will contact you with 

instructions. Meanwhile be careful and tell no one.

                   Your friend,

                   Kenneth


Catherine spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find out everything she could, which was very little. That evening, she made a copy of the book. Late that evening she took, the original book home with her and hid it behind a loose brick at the tunnel access to her apartment, then she continued down to see Vincent. 


As she entered his chamber, Vincent looked up from his desk where he had been writing in his journal. “Catherine, I was beginning to think you wouldn’t be coming down tonight.” He looked down at his journal then back to her. “But I am glad to see you.” He closed the journal and stood up.


“I just wanted to be sure you were doing okay.” She responded moving towards him.


Vincent looked at her more closely. “Catherine, is there something wrong?”


“Why would you think there is something wrong?”


“It’s hard to explain. You just seem a little on edge to me.” Vincent held her at arms length and looked searchingly into her eyes. 


“Joe was hurt and I was worried is all.” Catherine did not want to burden Vincent with her problems right now. 


After about a second, Vincent shook his head. “There is more to it than that. Even without the bond I can see that something has you very upset.” 


“It’s not important; I don’t want to bother you with my problems.” 


Vincent was very serious now. “Anything that has upset you enough that I can see it is important to me. Please, tell me what’s bothering you.”


Catherine capitulated. “It’s Joe. He was nearly killed by a car bomb at lunch today. A friend of his was killed.” She felt tears beginning to form in her eyes. “I really care about Joe and he came so close to…” She began to shake and she couldn’t continue.


Vincent held her close while she calmed back down. Finally, he asked, “Do you know why this happened?”


“It has something to do with a coded journal.” They both sat down on the bed. “I looked through the book but I couldn’t make anything of it.”


Vincent held her at arms length again and looked her in the eyes. “Catherine I’m worried about you. This sounds like it could be very dangerous. Please, for me, be very careful and don’t take any unnecessary risks.” He continued to hold her away, waiting for an answer.


Finally, she replied. “Okay Vincent, I’ll be careful.” 


They talked for about an other hour then Vincent walked her to her temporary chamber.


That night she, again, returned to Vincent’s chamber to watch over him. A couple of hours later, she was awakened by Vincent’s restlessness. She tried to calm him but it wasn’t working. He just kept getting more agitated. Catherine was starting to get very worried when Vincent practically exploded upright, knocking Catherine out of the bed and calling her name in extreme anguish.


Catherine scrambled up off the floor and put her arms around him. “I’m right here Vincent.” Vincent was looking at her as if he was seeing a ghost as he began to shake violently. Catherine had never seen him like this and it frightened her. She continued to talk to him as the shakes began to ease off. He put his arms around her and held her so tight it nearly squeezed the breath out of her.


Finally, Vincent let go then he grabbed her arms and held her away while he stared at her like he was trying to verify that she was real. Finally he spoke. “I thought I had lost you.” He continued to study her.


“What happened? Why did you think you had lost me?” She was looking at him just as intently.


Vincent shook his head. “It was a dream.” He looked down. “But it was so real.” He looked back up into her eyes. “I dreamed you had been kidnapped.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “I searched for you for months but without the bond I couldn’t find you. I couldn’t rest and I was going out of my mind.” He opened his eyes. “When I finally found you, I was too late.” He swallowed hard. “Catherine, you died in my arms.” Catherine could see the pain in his eyes. “I joined forces with Elliot to hunt down your killer and to find our… um…” Vincent suddenly got very uncomfortable and seemed to have trouble looking at Catherine. Then he pulled her in close and hugged her again. “I’m so glad you’re here with me now.”


“Well it was only a dream and I’m right here.” Catherine hugged him back. “You’re just missing the link we had, but it will come back eventually” She urged him to lie back down. “Now you go back to sleep. I’ll be right here.”


Once he was settled back down, Vincent looked up at her and asked, “Catherine, what did happen in that deep cavern where you found me? Did I do anything … inappropriate?”


Catherine was startled by his question. “What do you mean?”


Vincent became very embarrassed. “It’s just something odd that happened in my dream.”


Catherine was confused. “What happened?”


Vincent looked away. “It’s nothing. It was just a dream. I’m very tired.” He closed his eyes.


Catherine watched him sleep as she contemplated what he had said. What had he dreamed that could get him so embarrassed and what did her rescue of him a few days ago have to do with it? She finally fell asleep no wiser.


*  *  *  *  * 


The next day, Catherine briefed Moreno on everything that had happened with Joe. Moreno wanted the book himself so she gave him the copy of it, and said that the original was safe with a police officer friend. Moreno did not appear happy about that she spent the rest of the morning clearing up the current projects on her own desk so she would be free to look into what happened to Joe.


After lunch, she got copies of all the reports from the car bomb explosion. Next, she talked to the officers that had been involved. By the end of the day, the only significant information she had was the fact that the bomb had been set off by remote and the description of the two men in dark suits that had been seen bending over Joe right after the explosion. She began to wonder if this was tied into the corruption case from a couple of months ago.


That Evening after getting home from work she was preparing to go down to see Vincent when her phone rang. It was the front guard telling her there was a package delivery for her. A short time later, there was a knock at the door. She looked out and saw a deliveryman. When she opened the door, the man sprayed her in the face with something and the world went away. 


*  *  *  *  * 


Slowly her senses returned. Through a gray mist, she caught the odor of old dust. She didn’t feel quite right. Her body felt leaden and disconnected. She also couldn’t move her arms or her legs. She heard two men talking quietly somewhere nearby. She slowly opened her eyes and saw the two men standing with their backs to her. That’s when she realized that she was tied to a chair. She looked around and it appeared that she was in a vacant office of some sort. The larger of the two men turned and noticed that she was awake. He came over and glared down at her.


"Where is the journal?" He demanded.


"What are you talking about?" She asked.


He slapped her. "Don't give me that. Where is the grey book Maxwell gave you?"


"I don’t know what book you're talking about," She replied.


The larger man delivered several painful slaps. "Where … is … that … gray … book."


"I haven't got a grey book." she yelled back. 


He delivered several more painful slaps and punches. 


"We know you have it and if you don’t give it up things are going to get very unpleasant," the large man threatened.


She mutely shook her head.


Finally the smaller man spoke. “Lock her up. Let her stew for a while. Then we’ll get down to some seriously nasty methods to loosen her tongue."


When they untied her, she discovered that she could barely control her arms and legs.


“Just gave you a little something so you can’t fight back when the fun begins,” the larger man told her with a nasty laugh as they dragged her into another room and dumped her onto the dusty floor.


Once they had closed the door, she began to check the room out as best as she could. She found that she couldn’t stand but she could crawl. They were in some abandoned old office building. She knew that Vincent could no longer sense her so she would have to find another way to get help. She located an old master steam pipe that was no longer in use. This could be a break. She started tapping a coded call for help on the pipe. Her coordination was way off and she was having difficulty getting the message cadence right. She also was a bit limited in her knowledge of the pipe codes She just hoped someone below would hear it. And if they did hear it, would they understand it and be able to trace it to this building?

 






Though Lovers Be Lost (revised)  Part 2



Vincent was sitting in Jacob’s study reading Great Expectations. For the last hour, he had been feeling vaguely uneasy but he could not identify the source. He was just about to head up to Catherine’s apartment to check on her when Pascal came running in. “Catherine’s in trouble. We picked up a call for help from her on the pipes.” He announced as he skidded to a halt.


Vincent jumped up from his seat. “Where is she?”


“It’s from a building not to far from here.” Pascal replied.


Vincent bounded over to him. “Show me,” he demanded as they raced out of the room.


Jacob watched them disappear down the tunnel, worry plainly showing on his face. 


Pascal began filling Vincent in as they ran. “I heard it on an old steam pipe near one of the outer sentries. Vincent, her signaling is so poor, it sounds like she’s drunk or drugged or very sick.”


Pascal was running as hard as he could but Vincent soon chaffed at his slower pace. Very soon, Pascal began slowing down. “Can’t keep this up … much longer.” Finally, Pascal came to a stop and leaned against the wall, panting hard. “Can’t go … any farther … Have to go without me.” He pointed down the tunnel they had been following. “Down that way … right, at dead end … fifth opening on left … big black steam pipe … two copper pipes … either side … lead you right to it.” Pascal slid down the wall and ended up sitting on the floor as Vincent continued on his own. “Be careful, Vincent.” Pascal muttered under his breath.


By the time Vincent reached the abandoned building that the tapping had come from, it had stopped. The first floor was empty so he continued up. Vincent burst into the second floor lobby, passing a dead guard on his way. He went through each room until he found one with two more dead men in it. He could smell Catherine’s scent but she was not there. He went through every room in the building but they were empty. He was too late, and Catherine was gone, taken away by someone else. His sense of her was too weak and fuzzy to track her. For several minutes, Vincent crashed around inside the building venting his rage. He was beginning to feel fear and panic rising in him as the nightmare from last night appeared to be coming true right before his eyes. 


-  -  -  -


Catherine was wondering again, as she continued to tap out her distress message on the old pipe, if she had been heard below and understood. Suddenly the door banged opened and both men were standing there. “What the $*#@&% are you doing in there? I’m going to break your face … “


That was all he was able to get out before both men were clubbed from behind, hard. They both went down and she saw two other men standing behind them. 

 

She could see blood already pooling under the two downed men when one of the new men said to the other, “Juice her and let’s get out of here.”


The other man came in and grabbed her. She tried to fight back but she didn’t have enough coordination to give much of a struggle. Then she felt a sharp sting in the side of her neck and everything went gray as she began to float in a formless mist.


-  -  -  -


When Vincent had finally calmed down, He decided to go back to Catherine’s apartment. He could look for clues to what happened and maybe he could use what he remembered from the nightmare to track her down. He headed over to the underground entrance to Catherine’s apartment building as fast as he could. Once he got to her roof he scanned the horizon looking for the building where he finally found the dying Catherine in his dream, but nothing matched what he remembered. He finally gave up on that idea and went down to Catherine’s apartment.


When he looked inside from the balcony doors, he was stunned. The place had been torn apart. Somebody had been searching for something. He entered the apartment and checked it out carefully without disturbing anything. He knew someone had been in here recently because he could still smell their scent. He had no idea what he was looking for so he tried thinking and observing the scene like Sherlock Holmes would, but he only ended up feeling silly. Finally when he heard the elevator doors open he gave up and left. He ended up in the park and he found a location where he could hide and watch the front of Catherine’s apartment building. Maybe someone would come along who could lead him to her. Vincent settled down to wait.


-  -  -  -


All day Jenny had been feeling that something was wrong. That evening she suddenly felt a strong need to call Catherine. The first time she called there was no answer so she waited for several minutes and called again. The second time she called, Catherine’s phone was picked up but there was no answer. “Hello, Catherine, is that you?” Still there was no response. Suddenly a cold chill ran down Jenny’s back as she was hit by a wave of overwhelming evil. She slammed the phone down and stood there shivering for several minutes.


When she finally got herself under control, she knew that she had to go to Catherine’s apartment right away. She did not know why but she felt it was critical that she go there first. When she arrived at Catherine’s apartment, the doorman and the guard at the front desk were both missing. She was really getting scared now that she suspected that Catherine was in real trouble. She went up to Catherine’s apartment and found the door unlocked and partially open. As soon as Jenny passed through the door, she felt a strong presence on the balcony but it disappeared before she was all the way inside. Once inside she found the apartment had been trashed. Jenny was able to get a very strong impression of Catherine when she reached the middle of the room. She was suddenly sure she could locate Catherine but she needed more help. She had always been able to tell when something momentous happened to her friends and the stranger her dreams the more likely that they were prophetic. Her friends had always teased her about being psychic, but this was so powerful and so different from anything she had ever experienced before. She knew that she must now go to find Joe.


-  -  -  -


Vincent had been waiting in the park in front of Catherine’s apartment just about a dozen minutes when he saw a woman come out of the building, pause a moment looking around then cross the street heading almost straight towards his hiding place. The woman stopped again very close to his location and appeared to look right at him. 


She called out. “I know you’re out there somewhere and I know you were on Cathy’s balcony a few minutes ago. I think I can find Cathy but I need more help so I’m going to go see Joe. I think we are going to need your help also. Just don’t loose us.” She turned around and headed towards the hospital, which was just a short distance from Catherine’s apartment.


As he took off after the woman, Vincent tried to sense Catherine through the tenuous link but all he got was the barely perceptible feeling that she was still alive but not well.


-  -  -  -


As the gray haze slowly lifted, Catherine found that she was once again tied down to a chair and there was now a new interrogator standing before her. Something about this man looked vaguely familiar. “Welcome back, my dear. You’ve been out quite a while. Once again, it seems that I find you interfering with my operation. I believe you have something of mine and I am going to get it back.” His eyes were ice cold and downright creepy. His voice sent a shiver down her spine. He picked up a manila folder and looked in it. 


Then Catherine recognized him. She had seen him once before. He was the very wealthy and very reclusive Gabriel Mason. He had inherited a massive fortune when his father died fifteen years ago in a mysterious laboratory fire. There had always been strange stories circulating about him and his father Julian. Some believed that he had killed his father and set the fire himself to cover his crime but no one had ever been able to find any proof.


“That little grey journal belongs to me and I will get it back.” The man’s voice was dripping polite oily slime. Something about his presence made her skin crawl. “But before we deal with that, I have another subject to deal with. I have come to suspect the existence of a creature that is found in the areas in and around Central Park. Now I am trying to get information about this creature.” He came uncomfortably close to her. “And I think you may know something about it. I have found several correlations between reports of this creature and incidents that involved you.” He reached over to a table, set down the folder and picked up a hypodermic syringe. “Now I’m going to give you a little something to help you talk to me.” 


Gabriel injected the drug into Catherine and she seemed to be floating in that gray haze again. She was having trouble maintaining any kind of coherent thought. He asked her a couple of very personal questions and she just blurted out truths that she would never have told another living soul. She felt like her body and her brain were not her own. Any thought that entered her head came pouring out of her mouth. 


“Now my dear, you’re going to tell me everything you know about this ‘Central Park Creature’.” 


She felt herself opening her mouth to tell him all about how wonderful Vincent was, when she could suddenly feel Vincent’s presence through the link filling her heart and giving her strength. She hesitated. Her mind became a little clearer. Suddenly she felt like her soul was being softly held in Vincent’s love through their bond. She pictured the creatures in the Central park Zoo. 


“I’ve seen lots of creatures at the park zoo.” And she began describing all the animals that she had seen in the zoo.


Vincent’s love was holding her soul separate from her brain, giving her a limited ability to misdirect her brain down any path she wished as long as it was related to his last question. This gave her a very limited degree of control. Once she redirected the thoughts in her brain, her mouth would just continue talking in that new direction. 


Gabriel quickly stopped her. “No, no, I’m talking about the beast running around free in the park”


This time it was a little easier. Once she had nudged her brain in the direction she wanted it to go, she could relax and let her brain continue on it’s own. She began describing all the wildlife that could normally be found running free in the park until he stopped her again.


“You know what I mean; I want you to tell me about the monster.”


Vincent was not a monster! “I know of no monster.” She paused. “Oh! I do! Frankenstein made a monster.” Once again, she was off rambling on about movie monsters until he stopped her again.


As he got more and more frustrated, he became less precise and it became easier to misinterpret the questions. Gabriel still had not yet realized that the misunderstandings were deliberate on her part. She wondered how long she could keep it up. 


For years, Gabriel had considered his father’s ramblings about an old experiment to be nonsense until the stories about the Central Park Creature had begun to surface. Now he had someone who might have more information and all he could get out of the stupid twit was inane gibberish. Then Gabriel noticed two blood spots on the back of her torn shirt and some stitches through one of the rips. He ripped the back of her shirt open, exposing the scabbed over scratches down her back. The blood had come from a torn stitch.


“I knew it,” he crowed. “Who did this? Who made these scratches?”


“I did it. It was so dark … misty dark … couldn’t see … “ For some reason she was starting to have more difficulty controlling her response to such a direct question. She wanted to tell everyone that it wasn’t really Vincent’s fault. 


That is when two burly men came in dragging a struggling Joe between them. Fortunately, that distracted both her and Gabriel.


They plopped him down in another chair and tied him in. “We got him… Snatched him right out of the hospital room. Almost got caught though. Had to hide for an hour or so.” 


Joe looked over at Catherine. “Cathy!?!”


Catherine’s head swiveled around, and then nodded back and forth slightly as she zeroed in on Joe.


“Are you all right?” He asked.


Catherine responded. “Oh no… I’m kinda loopy … I think they’re gonna kill me.” She started to giggle. “Loopy … Kill me … Loopy … Kill me … “


“Shut up,” one of men growled, and smacked Catherine across the face.


-  -  -  -


Jenny went into the hospital where Joe had been taken figuring Joe would know who could help her. Her unique ability seemed to be operating at an unusually high level. When she got to Joe’s room, she found another woman there but no Joe. She sensed no overt hostility from the woman but there was a careful wariness to her. “Where’s Joe, I must find him. It’s very important.” Jenny stated.


The woman replied, “Joe has disappeared. He was abducted from this hospital room just a few minutes ago, and there are three seriously injured hospital employees left behind.” There was real anger in her voice as she spoke. Then she displayed her ID. “I’m Detective Diana Bennett of Special Crimes Unit 210. I’m investigating the explosion that killed Joe’s friend. What is your part in this?”


Jenny was frantic but she felt certain that this woman was exactly the help that she needed so she told Diana about Catherine’s disappearance. She told Diana, “I know this is hard to swallow, but I can feel Catherine’s presence and she was in great danger.” Jenny knew she had to convince this woman quickly. “I think she was helping Joe with something. I’m positive she will be dead by morning if we don’t find her. I need your help right now or it will be too late.” She was beginning to get desperate. “Please help me! We must go now if we’re going to save her!”


Diana was not sure what to make of this woman, but she could hear the desperation in Jenny’s voice. The woman was obviously frantic and worried even with just the tiniest edge of hysteria, but she seemed to be lucid enough otherwise. Diana had no doubt that she was dead serious and believed every thing she was saying. Diana currently had no other leads now that Joe had disappeared. She made a decision. “OK, lead on.” 


As they left the hospital, Diana started towards a nearby taxi but Jenny stopped her. “No. I’ll lose the lead if I get into a car. This way.” And Jenny headed off.


Diana shrugged her shoulders and followed Jenny’s lead. Jenny led them towards Central Park then followed the sidewalk across the street from the park. Jenny began talking about Catherine, telling Diana about their friendship. When they passed it, Jenny pointed out Catherine’s apartment building. Diana was impressed that Catherine Chandler could afford a place like that. Jenny told her about Catherine’s wealth and how she had never let it go to her head.


Diana finally asked, “Doesn’t all this talking disturb your concentration?”


Jenny responded. “No, actually talking about her seems to strengthen the impressions that I’m following.” Finally, they reached the other end of the park. “This way.” She turned away from the park. 


Jenny was moving so quickly Diana had to break into a trot occasionally to keep up. She had lost track of where they were but she was sure they had covered a couple of miles since the park. Diana also noticed that Jenny was constantly scanning their surroundings. For the last few blocks, Jenny had ceased talking and seemed to be concentrating very hard. Occasionally Jenny was catching glimpses of movement in the shadows. She never saw who or what it was, but she could feel the presence following them. Diana looked around but except for once when she thought she saw someone moving swiftly across an alleyway, she could not see what Jenny was looking for. She wanted to ask Jenny but was afraid to break her concentration.


Jenny suddenly spoke up. “Yes, we are being followed. He is as worried about Cathy as I am and I’m sure we are going to need his help before this is over.”


After several more blocks, they ended up at a large area surrounded by a seven-foot wall. “She’s in there.” Jenny pointed towards the wall and began to try to climb over it. After her second attempt, Diana stepped in and gave her a boost to the top. Far to her right, Diana thought she caught a glimpse of a dark figure leaping to the top of the wall and vaulting on over. She jumped up and caught the top then swung her leg up to hook it over the top. With Jenny’s help, she scrambled up onto the wall.


What Diana saw was totally unexpected. The wall apparently surrounded a small estate. Most of the land around the house was heavily wooded except to the left where the main drive went up to the front of the house. Jenny dropped clumsily to the ground. Diana shrugged and followed her down. The trees were not very large and from the ground appeared to provide less coverage than Diana had expected.


-  -  -  -


Gabriel had to stop and regain his composure. This line of questioning was getting him nowhere. And she was making him very irritated. There was nothing he hated more than being made a fool of. He decided that he was mistaken about her connection to the creature he was looking for. The notes left behind by his father were so vague that he could not even be sure if there was any connection between those thirty-year-old entries and the rumors of this Central Park Creature. Besides, he had more important things to deal with.


Gabriel started in on Catherine again. “OK, now where is my book?”


With a question this direct and to the point Catherine had to push real hard to direct her babbling. “Oh, I’ve got lots of books. I’ve got a whole library of books. Blue books, brown books, red books, black books … I’ve got a little black book … Got numbers in it, lots of numbers.” She looked at Joe. “Got Joe’s number.” She looked a Gabriel. “Don’t have your number … Don’t want your number. You’re not nice.” 


After a little more of this type of fruitless questioning Gabriel finally gave up trying. He knew that no one could resist the drugs he had been using on her. His informant must have been wrong. Or she just didn’t know what she had. Heads would roll over this fiasco. As it was, she was still a danger to him and would have to be dealt with. He picked up another hypodermic from the table and injected something else into Catherine. “If you won’t give me what I want, you’ll give it to no one else.”


Seeing this, Joe redoubled struggling against his restraints and began cursing. Gabriel now turned his attention to Joe. 


-  -  -  -


Suddenly Jenny looked puzzled. Then she looked very scared as she faced Diana. “Joe, he’s in there, too. Oh my God, they’re both in terrible danger. We have to get them out right now.” Her voice betrayed a rising feeling of panic. “There’s no more time.” There were tears running down her cheeks. 


Diana grabbed Jenny by the shoulders and gave her a shake. “Calm down. Get control of yourself. They need our help right now. You’ve got to focus.”


Jenny and Diana got as close to the house as they dared. There were two armed men on their side of the house blocking the way. Diana pulled her gun. If Jenny was right, they were running out of time. She had to act now and hope she could get both men.


Diana was about to charge in firing when one of the two armed men answered his two-way radio. He talked for a second then both men started off at a trot, heading around to the other side of the house. The women waited until the way to the side door was clear, and then ran across the open space. When they got there, the door was locked. Diana pulled something from her hair and quickly got it unlocked. As she opened the door, she smiled at Jenny. “Dividends of a misspent youth.” 


-  -  -  -


After going over the wall, Vincent went around to the far side of the house from the two women. He waited in the trees for a couple of minutes then he started making low growling sounds. One of the guards spoke into a radio then the both headed towards his position. As the guards approached him, he retreated up into one of the trees. In the darkness under the trees he was able to see better than the guards. He waited until they passed him then jumped them and knocked them out. He eventually took out six guards this way. Then he went around to the side where the women had been just in time to see them go through the side door.


Vincent rushed from the trees to the front of the house. Two men came out the front door and were both knocked over by the large figure as he barreled past them into the house. Inside he was attacked by two more men. 


-  -  -  -

 

As quietly as they could, Diana and Jenny moved down the hallway following Jenny’s lead. The third door was slightly ajar. Inside they could see Joe, Catherine and Gabriel. Catherine was tied to a chair and appeared to be out of it. Gabriel was in the process of questioning Joe. Diana and Jenny burst into the room and surprised Gabriel. Diana then ordered Gabriel to put up his hands and back away. That’s when a henchman neither one had seen jumped out from behind the door, hitting Diana from the side and sending her gun flying. Diana swung on him with a roundhouse that sent the henchman flying. 


While Gabriel had been questioning Catherine, Joe had been working on the ropes that tied him to the chair. When Diana burst into the room, Joe gave one last heave and was finally able to break free. Gabriel dove for the gun and came up with it. As Gabriel straightened up Joe dove at him grabbing the gun that was already in Gabriel’s hands. Diana had to deal with the henchman who had come back at her swinging. While all this was happening, Jenny was busy freeing Catherine who appeared to be heavily drugged. While grappling with Gabriel for Diana’s gun, Joe yelled to Jenny to get Catherine out of here. Jenny got Catherine to her feet and helped her towards the side door. As they passed a table, Jenny spotted a vial and felt an intense need to grab it without realizing why. She shoved it into her pocket and continued to pull Catherine out the door. She could hear some kind of uproar coming from the other end of the house, spurring her on as she headed down the hall towards the outside door.


-  -  -  -


As Vincent dispatched the two men he was fighting, two more showed up. Vincent heard two shots and a crashing sound as he fought these men.


-  -  -  -


Joe and Gabriel both had a hold of Diana’s gun as they struggled for control. The henchman ran face first into Diana’s roundhouse kick. The gun Joe and Gabriel were struggling over went off twice and several beakers full of chemicals were shattered. A second henchman came through the door and dodged the kick but not the knee to the groin and he too went down. A flash and one whole side of the room was engulfed in flames, which blocked the door they had just come in through. 


A third henchman came in the other door and grabbed Diana. Then the world spun dizzyingly for him and he found himself flat on his back on the floor. 


Because of his already weakened condition, Joe was rapidly losing the battle for control of the gun. The first man Diana had kicked jumped up, his clothes on fire, and staggered around the room until he stumbled into the part of the room already ablaze. He went down, smashing his head on a table. Diana’s gun went off again and Joe went down, a bullet in his abdomen. As Gabriel raised the gun to finish off Joe, Diana pulled her backup gun and shot him through the heart. The two remaining henchmen scrambled out the other door and ran for it. 


-  -  -  -


Vincent found his way blocked by a rapidly spreading fire and had to work his way around it. Then he heard two more shots.


From outside, Jenny heard several gunshots then she could see flames in some of the windows. 


-  -  -  -


Diana put away her backup gun then she retrieved her other gun from the floor next to Joe. Gabriel was dead and the first henchman was covered in flames and beyond her help. The fire was spreading rapidly and Diana realized she needed to get Joe out of there fast. She tried to drag Joe, but he was too heavy and she was too exhausted. The smoke was getting thick and she was starting to have difficulty breathing.


Suddenly a large monster appeared, advancing through the smoke. It was huge and it looked like it was half man and half lion. It appeared to be frantically scanning the room looking for something. In fear and shock, Diana stepped backwards as she pulled her gun. Then she tripped over a broken chair and felt a sharp pain in her ankle as she collapsed backwards, dropping her gun.


The monster stepped over to her, picked up the gun, then reached out towards her with his other hand, which she saw, ended in very dangerous looking claws. She heard it speak in a low mellow voice, like silk over gravel. “Get up! You must get out of here, quickly, before this place burns down.”


In the firelight, Diana noticed that he had the most incredible deep blue eyes. Diana tentatively reached out her hand. Suddenly his clawed hand had hers in a grip of iron as he pulled her to her feet, then just as suddenly he had released her and handed her back her gun. “Now go,” he called as he turned, pulled his hood over his head and scooped up Joe like a rag doll.


As Diana started to turn around a sharp pain shot up her ankle again and she cried out as she went down. The monster turned back around and looked down at her as she tried to crawl across the floor. He shifted Joe’s unconscious body over his left shoulder and reached out with his right hand. 


“Take my hand,” he ordered.


When she reached up, he again grabbed her hand and pulled her back up to her feet. Then so suddenly she could barely follow the movement, the creature had his right arm around her back, supporting her, and he started moving towards the second door. She put her left arm around his waist and started hobbling along on her good leg. 


The creature kicked away a burning chair that was blocking the second door and they went through that door. Diana found it hard to ignore the warm tingly goose bump feeling having his strong arm wrapped around her back was causing. Still she did her best not to slow him down as they made their way through the burning house. Finally, they made their way out of the front door of the building. He took them to a safe distance from the burning building and gently lowered Diana to the grass then he carefully set Joe down on the grass beside her. He cut Joe’s shirt away with one of his very sharp claws and quickly examined the wound. He shook his head “It’s bad.” He looked up as sirens could be heard approaching. “But I think he may have a chance if they get here soon enough.” He looked back in the direction of the house and smiled exposing, she noticed, four very deadly looking fangs. “I have to go.” Then he ran off, disappearing into the trees closest to them.


She stared after him and wondered how in the world would she put this in her report? She could just see her superior’s reaction if she wrote that she and Joe had been saved by a lion man. As Diana sat there in shocked disbelief, looking around, she spotted Jenny and Catherine over by the side of the house. That must have been what he had been looking at when he had smiled.


-  -  -  -


As Jenny stood there with Catherine, she was debating whether she should try to go back into the burning house. She had also noticed that Catherine was getting less and less responsive. Then she saw a huge cloaked figure come out the front door carrying Joe over one shoulder and supporting Diana with his other arm. She knew that this was the presence she had felt outside of Catherine’s apartment. The large man set Diana and Joe down on the grass, examined Joe, said something to Diana, and then ran off into the wooded area. Jenny took Catherine’s hand and led her over to Diana and Joe. Catherine was stumbling along, barely able to walk.


Jenny pointed into the woods. “Who was that?”


Diana, still somewhat in shock, shrugged her shoulders. “A … aaaahh … good Samaritan?”


There was a loud Whump sound and half of the house collapsed in on itself. Then the fire trucks, police cars and ambulance arrived. Joe was immediately loaded into the ambulance and rushed to the hospital. Diana identified herself and gave the policemen an abridged explanation of what had happened. She told them that Catherine had been drugged and should be taken to the hospital as soon as possible. Then Jenny remembered the vial that she had put in her pocket. She pulled it out. ”I think this is what they were using on her.” 


One of the police cars took Catherine, Jenny and Diana to the hospital where they turned Catherine and the vial over to the doctors. By now, Catherine had slipped into unconsciousness. Diana was rushed off to X-ray where it was determined that she had a cracked bone in her ankle. The Doctor taped up her ankle, handed her a pair of crutches and told her to put ice on it to keep the swelling down and stay off it as much as possible. He also told her to keep it elevated as much as possible. Then Diana went out and joined Jenny in the waiting room.


For several hours, Jenny and Diana sat out in the waiting room, waiting for news about Joe and Catherine. One of the nurses brought Diana an icepack for her ankle. For them both, time seemed to drag by with agonizing slowness. Jenny got up and got them both coffee from the vending machine and thanked Diana for her help. As Diana sat there she kept thinking about that creature, no, whatever else it was, that gentle voice and the intelligence she saw behind those incredible blue eyes said human. Who was he and where had he come from? All she had was a mystery that was too bizarre or crazy for her to be able to tell anyone about. She wondered irreverently if she was going to be running into Bigfoot next.


Finally, a doctor came out to talk to them. “Who brought the vial?” he asked.


“I did,” Jenny admitted. “Was it the right thing to do?”


The doctor smiled, “You probably saved Miss Chandler’s life. Whoever had her, had given her a lethal dose of that drug. We were able to get an antidote into her in time. If we had not had that sample, we would never have been able to identify the drug used in time to save her. She would have been dead within an hour after she arrived here. As it is, it was still a very close thing. We’ll keep her here under observation for thirty-six hours but I think she will recover fully. She should be able to go home noon, day after tomorrow.”


Diana asked, “What about Joe Maxwell?”


The doctor frowned. “Joe Maxwell’s case is critical. He’s in emergency surgery right now. The wound was serious but the surgeons are optimistic. A bullet wound in that area can be relatively minor, or it can be irreversibly fatal. It really depends on exactly where the path of the bullet went. We’ll have a better idea of his chances after he comes out of surgery but the color of the blood indicates that we may be lucky.”


“When do you think I can talk to them?” Diana had switched to her detective mode.


The doctor looked at the clock. “It’s twelve forty-five; Miss Chandler should be reasonably alert by morning, although she may not be completely coherent that soon. In Miss Chandler’s case it will take a while for the effects of the drugs those men gave her to wear off completely.” He thought for a moment. “She should be pretty much fully recovered by late evening.” He looked at both women. “If the surgery goes well, Mr. Maxwell will be out of recovery by tomorrow afternoon. You should be able to talk to him then. We’ll probably keep him here for three to six days depending on the seriousness of his injuries.”


*  *  *  *  * 


Jenny had fallen asleep on one of the sofas in the waiting room while Diana had done her best to stay awake. Around six, Diana’s ankle was really bothering her, making it impossible to relax, so she decided to go check on Catherine. As she reached the door to Catherine’s room, she noticed that it was not closed all the way. Leaning on her crutches, she quietly peered in. There, standing over Catherine’s bed was the lion man. While trying to decide what to do she heard Catherine speak.


-  -  -  -


Vincent had slipped into Catherine’s hospital room around three o’clock in the morning. Fortunately, the window to her third floor room was easily accessed from the roof and easily opened from the outside. Vincent thought how odd it was that they had put Catherine in the same room as that time a couple of months ago after she was attacked in her elevator. She lay there so still that it hurt him to see her like this. Around five, she began to stir. Around six, just as Vincent was about to leave to beat the sunrise, Catherine awoke.


As Catherine slowly came out of her fog, she saw Vincent looking down at her. “Vincent?”


Vincent reached out to take her hand and it hit him like an electric shock. The link between them suddenly snapped into clear focus with a strength he had never felt before. He could feel her love and concern for him flooding into him. At the same time, Catherine felt Vincent’s love flowing into her and forming a warm safe feeling around her heart. It was unlike anything she had ever felt before. She also felt her hazy mind suddenly sharpen to crystal clarity. 


For several seconds neither moved as sapphire blue eyes and emerald green eyes gazed into each other. Vincent recovered enough to speak first. “I was so afraid. I couldn’t feel you over our link and I was afraid I had lost you. It was like my nightmare was coming true.”


Catherine reached up with her other hand to hold his in both of hers. “Never.” She smiled. “I told you before, I would never leave you,” she reached up and caressed his cheek, “and that I would never let you go.” Her hand fell back to the bed. “You’re far too precious to me. I owe everything to you.” Catherine looked around at the surprisingly familiar hospital room. “What happened?”


“It was your friend Jenny. She led a female police detective to you.” Vincent shook his head. “She also knew I was close by. She called out to me in the park and told me to follow her.” Vincent got a sheepish look on his face. “By the way, I’m afraid that female detective saw me.”


Catherine felt a sharp pang of fear. “Oh, no. How?”


“Your boss, Joe, was down, shot, inside the house and it was on fire. I could not leave him in there, and she was too exhausted and her ankle was injured. I had to get them both out.” He patted Catherine’s hands. “Joe was unconscious but she wasn’t. I think I scared her half to death coming at her out of the smoke like that.”


“Joe shot?” Her concern for Joe took over. “Is he alive? How bad is he?”


“It’s bad, but the ambulance got there fairly quickly. I think he’s got a chance.” Vincent reassured her.


“Oh, I hope he’s OK.” Then she remembered the detective. “Vincent, what are we going to do?” This revelation about the detective had her very disturbed. “I can’t lose you again. If that detective says anything to the wrong person and is believed, you could be in terrible danger. You could be killed, or worse, locked up in some government scientist’s cage.”


Vincent smiled. “Don’t worry about me. You know what its like down there. I could disappear into the lower caverns and no one could ever find me. Besides who is going to believe another Bigfoot story? I’ll be fine.”


They remained like that for several minutes when Catherine suddenly got anxious. “The book!”


Vincent was startled by the anxious worry he suddenly sensed. “Book?”


Catherine gathered her wits. “Joe gave me a grey journal that was given to him by a friend just before the friend was killed. It supposedly contains details of massive corruption in several branches of the city government. It was in code so I couldn’t read it. That’s why they kidnapped me. They wanted that book. Then another bunch of men took me from the first group. I remember that man Gabriel saying that the journal was his.” Catherine felt a surge of fear. “Vincent, he knew about you.”


Vincent shook his head. “Don’t worry about that right now. There is a good chance he died in that fire. If not, as I said, I can easily disappear.”


Catherine thought it over for a minute. “Vincent, I need you to retrieve that book and hold it for me till I can figure out who to give it to. You remember that time you were escorting me home and that loose brick near the ladder to my apartment basement came off in my hands?”


Vincent nodded and chuckled. “Yes, you landed on your rear. We both laughed pretty hard over it.”


Catherine rolled her eyes. “That’s where I hid the book, behind that brick. Once I figure out who can be trusted, I’ll send you a message to bring it. Now you’d better go quickly before it gets light out and someone sees you.”


Diana saw the lion man go out the window and up. He must have gone to the hospital roof, but where does he go from there? Diana had only been able to make out about one word in three but she had learned that his name was Vincent, he was very close to Catherine Chandler, and he lived in some kind of tunnels or caverns under the city. She also now knew that there was a lot more to this case than she had originally thought. There was some kind of book or journal that could blow the lid off of a massive corruption scandal. Diana also knew that Catherine was aware that she had seen Vincent … ‘Vincent’. Such a gentle name for such a fearsome looking creature. And how in the world did a wealthy pampered heiress like Catherine Chandler end up involved with something like this Vincent creature? The more facts she acquired the deeper and stranger the mystery became. The big question was, what should she do next? 







Though Lovers Be Lost (revised)  Part 3



Diana shook herself. She had so many conflicting thoughts and emotions running through her mind. Her murder case had turned into something far more massive and complicated than she had been prepared to deal with. And what should she do about that creature, Vincent? Should she do anything at all about him? First things first, protect the witnesses. Then she would have to see about getting Miss Chandler’s trust, which may be difficult considering what she now knew. The question of Vincent would just have to wait.

 

Diana went to the front nurse’s desk and called the precinct. She requested three specific officers who she personally trusted to supply around the clock protection for Catherine and Joe. She also stipulated that the officers be under her direct command. Next, she hunted down the doctor and requested that Joe be put in the room next to Catherine’s after he came out of recovery. She also told the nurses at reception that she was to be told about any requests for information about Catherine or Joe. She also told them that they were not to give out any information about ether Joe or Catherine. “Just refer them directly to me,” she told them. Then she headed back to Catherine’s room. By the time she got there she was really getting tired of having to hobble around on those damn crutches. 


Diana knocked on Catherine’s door, and then pushed it open. “Miss Chandler? Are you awake?”


There was a nurse in the room taking Catherine’s vitals.


“Yes. Who’s there?” Catherine called out.


“I’m Detective Diana Bennett,” Diana replied as she came into the room. “Originally I was investigating the murder of a friend of Joe Maxwell, and then things got interesting.” She chuckled and shook her head. “During the investigation I stumbled across what appeared to be evidence of corruption at a very high level. I went to visit Joe Maxwell in the hospital to find out what he knew; only he had disappeared. Then a friend of yours comes looking for him with news that you had disappeared. By the way, Miss Aronson is asleep out in the waiting room. She tells me that you are in grave danger and leads me to this fancy estate. Miss Aronson and I sneak in and find both you and Mr. Maxwell held prisoner. While your friend got you out, a battle ensued and Mr. Maxwell was shot. Then a ... ah … good Samaritan shows up out of nowhere and helped us get out of the building, which by then was on fire.” Diana looked closely at Catherine as she mentioned the Samaritan and saw a momentary look of confusion and curiosity cross her face. “For now, I’ve ordered police protection for you and Joe. I don’t know yet who’s involved in this scandal and Patrick’s murder so no one will be allowed to see you without escort.” 


“How is Joe?” Catherine asked, her face now full of concern.


“I don’t know yet.” Diana could see that Catherine’s concern was genuine. “The last time I talked to the doctors, he was still in surgery. The doctor said that he was pretty badly wounded and they wouldn’t know anything until after the surgery. I saw the wound. It wasn’t good. My … Samaritan … looked at the wound and said that he had a chance so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.” Diana saw worry on Catherine’s face as she told her about Joe and a look of curious speculation when Vincent was mentioned again.


At a sound of the door opening, Diana dropped a crutch, had her gun half drawn before she realized it was Jenny, and relaxed. “Miss Aronson, you’re awake. Miss Chandler, I have to take care of some things. I’ll be back as soon as I can. Miss Aronson, you’ll keep an eye on her for me, won’t you?” Diana retrieved the crutch she had dropped after putting away her gun then she left the room.


The first thing Diana did was go the phone at the nurse’s station and make a long distance call to a friend of hers that was an agent for the FBI in Washington D.C.


“Hello, Dana, it’s Diana Bennett. … ”

“I’m fine. Look, I’ve stumbled into something here that’s a little above my pay grade and I need your help. ...”

“It looks like a case of government corruption on a massive scale. …”

“I’m not sure how far it goes, but it definitely involves several local government officials. …”

“One man that I know of has been murdered. That’s what brought me into it. …”

“Yes, also an Assistant DA and an investigator from the DA’s office have both been injured. …”

“Yes, there may be a few in the DA’s office. At this point, I don’t know anything for sure. …”

“The investigator from the DA’s office knows more than she’s telling. …”

“No, I think it’s because, like me, she doesn’t know who she can trust. …”

“No, I think this is strictly a local thing. Just at the city level. I don’t think Spooky would be interested. …” 

“James? Yes, I know him. He’s very reliable. I think this may be right up his alley. …”

“That sounds great. I’ll be expecting him.”


Diana hung up the phone as the doctor came towards her with a very serious look on his face.


-  -  -  -


As soon as Diana left the room, Jenny gave Catherine a big hug. “Cathy, I’m so glad you’re okay. The doctor said it was very close. That detective helped save yours and Joe’s lives. I like her. She’s definitely one of the good guys.” Jenny looked slightly puzzled. “Even if she is being very secretive about her Good Samaritan. She knows a lot more about him than she’s telling.”


Catherine asked Jenny what had happened. Jenny described the events of last night from her perspective. When Catherine asked about the person Jenny had called to outside her apartment building, Jenny paused and thought for a few minutes.


“That’s hard to explain. I never really saw him but I knew he was there and I knew he wanted to help you. I think he may have been the one who brought Joe and Diana out of the fire. I’m definitely sure there is something about him she is not telling. For that matter, I think you know more about him than you’re telling. Was that guy your Vincent?”


Catherine looked up, startled. “What?”


“Oh, come on, Cathy, we’ve all known you have a special guy named Vincent ever since that night of Rebecca’s birthday party.” Jenny smiled at Catherine. “Okay, you keep your secrets. I’m just glad you’re Okay.”


Diana came back into the room. “That’s good advice about keeping secrets. I just talked to one of the doctors. Joe is out of surgery. His injuries were very severe but they were able to patch him up and they think he will be okay. As soon as he’s out of recovery, I’m having him placed in the room next to yours so I can keep my eye on both of you.”


At this point the nurse came back in to perform more of her standard routines, causing Diana to roll her eyes at the interruption.


Jenny looked at the door, puzzled. “I think some friends are coming.”


The nurse finished and was leaving when a very young woman poked her head into the room. She looked around nervously then shyly came into the room stopping just inside the door. She was dressed in several layers of worn and patched clothes. She looked like a cross between a street person and a medieval peasant, except that despite the condition of their clothes she was too clean and tidy to be a normal homeless person. “Catherine, are you okay.” She asked nervously.


Catherine looked very surprised. “Jamie? What are you doing here?”


"She came with me," replied an older man who poked his head in behind her. He was dressed in a finely tailored suit that appeared to be decades out of date. As he entered the room Diana noticed that he was lame and the cane he used appeared to be made from a rough tree branch with a handle and forearm brace attached. The man appeared to be very nervous as he came forward.


"Father! You too?” Catherine’s surprise and pleasure both increased dramatically.


Jenny looked curiously at Catherine and the older man. “Father?” She mumbled under her breath.


 Diana didn’t quite know what to make of these new intruders. The young woman’s name was apparently Jamie but why had she called the man Father? Diana knew that Catherine’s father had died recently. Catherine was obviously very surprised to see them here. It was also obvious that she was very pleased to see them and that they knew each other fairly well. 


Jamie replied. “I know we shouldn’t have come but Mouse has been beside himself with worry since we got your message. I had to see you myself so I could reassure him.” 


Jacob spoke. "We both wanted to reassure ourselves as well." The older man hobbled over to Catherine, leaned over and gave her a quick hug. "Everybody sends their love. Take care of yourself, Catherine. You are very important to all of us." He looked nervously at the others in the room and when he spotted Diana he peered intently at her. "You’re the detective, aren’t you? ... Thank you for saving our Catherine." Then he got very self-conscious “Well we’d better go now.”


Catherine smiled. “Thanks for stopping by, Father, Jamie ... and tell everyone that I’m fine.”


The young girl ducked out the door and was gone. The old man left right behind her. Diana was beginning to wonder what type of person Catherine really was. She seemed to have friends in the strangest places. A street person that was too clean. An old man that seemed to have stepped out of a time warp. And Mouse? Who or what was Mouse? And what was that about a message?


Diana made her way over to Catherine’s bedside. Her face and voice were very serious. “Miss Aronson, Miss Chandler, I meant what I said about keeping secrets. I don’t yet know just how deep or high up this corruption we’ve all stumbled into goes so I called a friend of mine at the FBI. She told me that an agent that specializes in government corruption cases is coming here. ‘Til he gets here, I’m just going to sit tight and try to keep you and Mr. Maxwell alive. Miss Aronson, I want one of us with Miss Chandler at all times and no one is to see her unless escorted by one of the officers I put on guard.” She frowned. “That is, if they ever get here.”


Another very distinguished man poked his head into the room. “Cathy, are you okay?”


Diana muttered something about Grand Central Station and where are those policemen. But Catherine’s face immediately brightened. “Peter, it’s wonderful to see you.”


The new man was older and was very well dressed. As he entered the room, Diana asked the new arrival who he was. Before he could answer, Catherine identified him. “This is Dr Peter Alcott, an old friend of the family, and the family doctor.” Catherine gave him a stern look. “And if you pull out that old joke about how you first met me I’m going to hit you.”


Peter looked at her, all surprised innocence. “What, you mean about you being totally naked?”


Jenny broke out in giggles and Catherine threw her pillow at him. 


As Peter picked up the pillow, Catherine asked, “How did you know I was here?”


Peter handed the pillow back to Catherine. “I got a message from Vincent.”


Jenny and Diana both looked surprised at Peter’s mentioning Vincent’s name.


Peter continued. “By the way, I’m taking over as Joe and your primary attending physician. Rank hath its privilege.”


Catherine smiled. “That sounds great. It’s nice having a family doctor with pull.”


Diana looked at Dr. Alcott in surprise. He was very important if he could change attending physician assignments that easily. This was getting stranger by the minute. Vincent and Catherine both apparently had some very surprising connections. Peter pulled up a chair and began talking about her medical case and about other recent events. Diana noticed that they were both being very evasive about Vincent around her and Jenny. There was a knock on the door and three policemen entered. Diana posted two of them outside Catherine’s room and the third was to act as relief as well as keeping an eye on the recovery room. She insisted that there were to be two officers on guard at all times and absolutely no one outside of the four people currently in this room were to be allowed in without an escort.


Jenny finally got to her feet. “I have got to go call my work and tell them I won’t be in today. Then I’m down to the cafeteria for something to eat. Anybody want me to bring back anything?”

Nobody wanted anything. “Okay, be back in a bit.” And she left.


Diana went outside the door and was giving some instructions to the police officers. Catherine spoke to Peter in a low urgent voice. “Peter, I need you to do something for me.”


“Of course, Cathy, whatever you need,” he replied.


“I gave Vincent a book to keep safe for me. I need you to get it from him long enough to make a copy of it.” She glanced over towards the door. “Then I want you to bring the copy to me here.” She grabbed Peter’s hand. “Peter, be very careful, that book has already cost one person his life that I know of, and it almost cost the lives of Joe and me.”


Peter patted her hand. “Don’t worry about me. And I’ll also get a report on Joe for you before I leave.”


Diana came back in. Peter reached out and shook Diana’s hand. “It was a pleasure meeting you. I’m going to go get a report on Joe for Cathy, then I need to get back to my other patients.”


Diana responded, “If you’ll hold on ‘til Miss Aronson gets back, I’ll go with you. I need to check on Mr. Maxwell’s condition for my report. Also I need to get the forms so I can write my report.”


Peter agreed and as soon as Jenny returned, Peter and Diana left.


Catherine asked, “Do you think Diana can be trusted?” Catherine had learned over the years to trust Jenny’s judgment about people.


Jenny replied, “Oh, yes, I do. I like Diana. I feel safe when she’s around. I’ve already trusted her with your life.”


“I hope so. When she comes back, I’m going to be telling her things that could get Joe and me killed if she betrays us.” 


Jenny nodded her head. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”


Peter came back to report. “Joe’s doing just fine. The doctors think he’ll make a full recovery.” He smiled at them. “I should be back around lunch time.”


An hour later Diana came back with a briefcase. After a while Jenny began to doze off. Catherine was eating the breakfast brought to her by the nurse.


There was the sound of voices outside the door and Jenny suddenly sat bolt upright. “It’s not right. Something is very wrong.” 


One of the policemen stuck his head in the door. “Ma’am, I have to go. There’s a family emergency at home. My replacement has just arrived.” Then he left.


Five minutes later the new policeman came in the door with a new doctor. Without a word, both men pulled guns. Catherine’s breakfast tray went flying as three shots rang out and both men went down. Diana holstered her gun, which had been under her clipboard and hobbled over to Catherine as she got up from the floor on the far side of the bed. 


Diana saw a trickle of blood on Catherine’s left arm where the bullet had grazed it. “Miss Chandler, your arm.” 


Catherine looked down at her arm and back at Diana. “Ow.” 


The other officer came running in, gun drawn, saw the two dead men on the floor and holstered his weapon. “I am so sorry, ma’am. He asked me to get him a cup of coffee, I knew as soon as I heard the shots that I’d been duped.”


Diana looked at the officer. “It’s over now. Call it in and have them send Johnson out. And when Archer gets back, I want to see him. Get Samson over to help until reinforcements arrive.” 


When Johnson arrived, he was given a rundown of the situation. The CSI men arrived right behind him and did their thing while a doctor treated Catherine’s wound. Then the coroner arrived to cart away the bodies. Shortly after that, Archer returned and reported that the emergency had been a false alarm. With four officers, Diana set up a better watch schedule. Each man would get six hours off, six hours standby and twelve hours on watch. 


About an hour later Diana noticed Jenny half dozing in the chair. “Miss Aronson, you look whipped. Would you like to get some rest while I stay with Miss Chandler?”


Jenny shook her head. “No, that’s okay. I’ll just rest over here in this chair.”


One of the officers poked his head into the room. “Ma’am. You said you wanted to know if anyone was asking about Miss Chandler. We’ve hat two inquiries. One was from an Elliot Burch. The other was from two men that were hanging around the hospital and asking suspiciously leading questions.”


Catherine spoke up. “Elliot is devious, stubborn and powerful, but he’s no threat to me.” She frowned for a moment. “You could check, but I suspect the other two men work for Elliot.”


Diana responded to the officer. “Have those two men checked out and if they do work for Elliot Burch, let them know that Miss. Chandler is doing well.” Then send them on their way.


The next couple of hours were relatively quiet. While Catherine and Jenny dozed, Diana worked on filling out her report.


Around noon one of the officers on guard poked his head in the door. “Ma’am, two orderlies want to bring Joe Maxwell into this hospital room.” 


“This is the wrong room.” Diana told them. “He’s supposed to be in the room next door. There is already a female patient in here.”


“They say the room next door is already occupied.” Reported the officer.


“They can bring him in here for now.” Diana answered.


“That’s all right; he can spend the night with me.” Catherine quipped as they wheeled Joe in. “It’ll make for some very interesting gossip at the office.” 


Joe turned bright red. “Cathy!!” The orderlies wheeled Joe over to the blank space where a second bed would normally be.


Catherine grinned. “I guess he’s not healthy enough yet to be dangerous.”


“Radcliffe, I survived this bullet,” Joe glared at her. “But you’re going to be the death of me yet.”


“Oh, I hope not!” Retorted Peter as he came in. “Cathy! What happened to your arm?”


Diana responded, “We had an assassination attempt a couple of hours ago.”


“Assassination attempt?” Joe looked startled.


“It was no big deal.” Catherine shrugged. “Diana took care of them both before they could do more than get off one wild shot.” She winced. “It’s just a flesh wound, Kemo Sabe. I think I actually may have dodged into it when I was trying to get out of the way.” She smiled. “Ah, Peter, did you get it?”


“Yes, I’ve got it right here.” He waved a large envelope he was carrying.


“Give it to Diana.” As he handed over the envelope, Catherine continued. “Diana, Jenny says that you can be trusted and she is never wrong about people. That is a copy of the book Joe gave me.” Joe looked up in surprise. “When I was grabbed, only two people knew that I had the book, Moreno and Joe.” She looked grim. “The kidnappers were after the book. That means that Moreno is corrupt or else he told someone else who is.”


Diana and Joe both looked upset at that revelation.


“The book is in some kind of code,” Catherine continued. “It’s all gibberish but it’s organized gibberish.”


Diana stood up. “I’ll be back shortly.” And she hobbled out of the room.


Joe looked over at Catherine. “Do you really think Moreno is bent?”


Catherine gave him the only honest answer she could. “I don’t want to believe it, but he was the only other person to know that I had the book. He’s the only one who could have let the information out.” 


The look on his face was hard for Catherine to see. She knew that Joe had always admired the man. It was Moreno who gave Joe his first big break. She also knew that the one thing Joe hated the most was corrupt government officials. If it was true, this news would be devastating. 


Peter had to leave the room for about forty-five minutes to check on some of his patients. Then he came back in to check over both Catherine and Joe. They were both recovering nicely.


A little over an hour after she had left Catherine’s hospital room, Diana came back looking unhappy. “I was hoping you were wrong about Moreno, Miss Chandler, but I’m afraid not. I called Moreno and told him you had died but had mentioned hiding a book in a bus terminal locker. He denied knowing anything about it. And he was just now arrested in the bus terminal trying to destroy the fake one we planted in the locker.”


Joe looked crushed.


“I’m so sorry, Joe.” Catherine tried to soothe him.


Then Joe became angry; his eyes blazed with emotion. “We’ve got to decode that book. Then we’ll bring down Moreno and all the other filth that worked for that slime ball Gabriel.”


Diana asked Catherine, “You do still have the original book, I hope?”


“Yes, I’ve still got it and it’s safe,” Catherine replied.


“Good. You keep it safe for now. We can’t afford to lose it, and until we can decode it, we won’t know who we can trust. This copy will be sufficient until arrests are made and we go to trial.” Diana smiled at Catherine, then scowled at the copy on the table. “Joe’s right. We’ve got to decode this book.”


Jenny woke up at this point. “I just had the strangest dream.”


Catherine looked over. “I know you, the stranger the dream the more important it is. I remember when the watcher was stalking me. It was your dreams that saved my life … So, what was your dream?”


Jenny looked thoughtful. “Well, I saw some man writing in a book. Over his head were two lines of letters in alphabet order. Each time he wrote down a word the bottom line of letters shifted right by two letters.”


Peter spoke up. “That sounds like a rotating offset substitution code. We used something very similar when I was in France during the War. It’s a very easy code to implement off the top of your head and it’s very difficult to break without the key. Jenny has just given us the code type and half of the key. All we have to do is find the starting point.”


For the next couple of hours Peter and Diana sat at the little table poring over the book and making notes. Catherine and Joe exchanged their versions of what had happened over the last two days. 


Catherine couldn’t resist teasing him about getting himself shot just so he could spend the night with her.


“You’re never gonna let me live this down, are you?” He glared at her.


“Not in a million years, Joe.” She grinned back.


Suddenly Diana smacked her fist on the table. “That’s it!!” 


At the same instant Peter declared. “I’ve got it!”


Joe could barely move, but he wanted to help so they brought the table over by his bed. Joe, Peter and Diana worked together translating the book. Occasionally they got into technical discussions when one of them ran into a problem. Peter’s pager went off and he made a call to his office.


After Peter hung up, he told them. “I’ve got to go, folks. New baby on the way. I’ll check in on you tomorrow morning.” 


Jenny spoke up. “Don’t worry, I’ll look after her.”


Shortly after Peter left, one of the policemen poked his head in again. “Excuse me, ma’am. There is a man from the FBI out here to see you. I’ve verified his I.D.” 


“I’m expecting him. Show him in.” Diana ordered

 

The officer escorted a tall man into the room while maintaining a careful watch on him.


Jenny announced. “He’s one of the good guys.” Then she smiled at the man whose eyebrows arched as he looked back at her.


Diana smiled. “James, it’s so good to see you.” She turned to the officer. “This is agent James McClendon of the FBI. You can add him to the list of those with special access to this room. He and I will both be in charge from now on.” She told the same thing to the other officers.


Diana turned to introduce Agent McClendon to the rest when he recognized Catherine and Joe. “I crossed paths with Miss Chandler and Mr. Maxwell just recently. She helped us smoke out a couple of bad apples in the local FBI office a few months ago. It’s good to see you again. It looks like you’re up to your old tricks again.” He looked around. “Do they keep this room reserved just for you?”


“Seems like it.” Catherine smiled back in acknowledgement. “Did you ever locate your missing witness?”


James shook his head. “No, I’m afraid not. The word on the street is that he absconded with his surviving daughter. At least, that’s what the bad guys will have heard.” He looked at Catherine with a kind of half-knowing smile. “Do you think his missing daughter is still okay?” 


Catherine smiled back. “I’m sure that wherever she is, she’s doing just fine.”


James nodded. “That’s good to hear. By the way, I’ve been reading a lot more Shakespeare since the last time I saw you, and he did know everything.” 


James turned to Diana who was looking at them in obvious curiosity. After a few seconds, Diana proceeded to fill him in on the current situation. She showed him the copy of the book and the translation they were working on. 


“From what you’ve told me so far, I’m pretty sure that this is all part of the same case Joe, Catherine and I were involved in when I first met them. I’ve been on this case for almost a year now and this book of yours may finally be the break I’ve been looking for.” 


At that point Joe started cursing a blue streak for five minutes straight. The rest of the room looked on in frank admiration of Joe’s colorful, paint-pealing use of the language.


Catherine was the first to recover. “What’s wrong, Joe?” Her eyes were dancing with suppressed amusement.


Joe looked up, pain in his eyes. “I just found the section dealing with Moreno. He was a lot deeper in than we had thought. The bastard’s been screwing the whole department for years. He was responsible for everything that went wrong on that case two months ago when the family of Agent McClendon’s witness was killed.” Joe looked over at James. “It seems you were right to grab up the evidence when you did.”

 

The amusement disappeared from Catherine’s eyes as the extent of Joe’s feelings of hurt and betrayal became evident in his voice.


Diana’s eyes went wide as she made the connections as well as some educated guesses. 


James nodded. “We knew there was high level corruption, but we didn’t know who was dirty and who was clean. So we came in and grabbed everything before it could disappear. Unfortunately, there were some compromised agents in our New York office and our witness and all of the reports still disappeared. Catherine flushed some of them out but we think there are more. I’m hoping that book will tell us who the dirty agents are.”


Catherine spoke up. “I still have copies of all of those original reports hidden away. I’ll make some more copies for you once I get out of here.”


Joe spoke up again. “Oh hell, here’s an entry that says Moreno reported that your witness had been terminated.” Joe looked up at James. “We’re going to nail that @#$%!&^$%# to the wall.” He spat out.


“We, sure as hell, are going to try,” replied James with feeling. “Your buddy Henry will be coming up from D.C. in two days to help in the investigation.” 


Jenny piped in. “The three of you can do it.”


James looked over at Jenny and back to Diana. “Who’s she?” He asked nodding towards Jenny.


Diana grinned. “That’s Jenny Aronson, Miss Chandler’s friend. You remember when you first came in and she pronounced you a good guy?” James nodded. “Well if she had not okayed you, I would have tossed you out so fast you would still be wondering what happened.” Diana nodded at Jenny. “That woman has proven to be one hundred percent accurate in her assessments of other people. That’s why we are all still alive.”


James looked at Jenny thoughtfully for a couple of seconds. Then he decided to accept Diana’s explanation for the time being and they all went back to decoding the book.


Joe again spoke up. “Here is a recent entry about helping a foreign dictator get a hit squad into the country to take out Elliot Burch.” He looked over at Catherine. “Is that what all that hub-bub with Elliot and the CIA was all about?”


Catherine nodded. “I’m afraid so. The CIA didn’t want it known that there were foreign hit squads running around in the U.S.” 


As night approached, they discovered that all the rooms were occupied, so Joe was stuck in Catherine’s room. Catherine couldn’t resist teasing him again. 


“Well Joe, it looks like we’re just going to have to spend the night together.” A mischievous grin spread across her face. “Don’t worry Joe, I promise to be gentle.” This brought laughter from every one else as Joe turned bright red. 


Around ten o’clock, Diana sent Jenny home to get some sleep and the nurse came in to give Joe a sedative. A few minutes later, they brought in a privacy screen to put between Catherine and Joe. By midnight James and Diana had gotten a large portion of the book translated. It contained contact names, bribe lists, even bank account numbers. Most of Gabriel’s operation was detailed in it. James picked up the phone and spent over an hour arranging for arrest warrants. Afterwards, he left, taking the translation with him. Before walking out the door, James told Catherine that he would spread the word that the girl had been placed with some very good foster parents. Catherine and Diana continued to talk quietly for a while. The subject drifted around to Joe then to men in general and Diana talked about her ex-boyfriend. She asked if Joe was available. Catherine admitted that she was unaware of anyone in his life currently. 


Joe was floating in and out of a gentle sea of unconsciousness when he heard his name mentioned.


Diana stopped talking and peered around the privacy screen at Joe who appeared to be sound asleep. Then she got a look of wide-eyed innocence on her face as she leaned on her crutches. “There’s something I’ve been dying to ask you, once we were alone.” She broke out into a grin. “Where in the world did Vincent come from and how did you come to know him?”


Catherine was so startled, it took her a few minutes to gather her wits. “Jenny approves of you, so I guess you can be trusted. But how did you know that I knew him?”


Diana smiled. “I was just outside your room when he came for a visit. That’s how I learned his name. Also Dr. Alcott let his name slip earlier.”


Catherine chuckled. “I was too far out of it and he must have been very worried to not have noticed you out there.” She shrugged. “No one knows where he comes from. He was found as a newborn infant abandoned behind St. Vincent’s Hospital. That’s where his name comes from.” Catherine shifted to a more comfortable position. “As for how I came to know him, that’s a long story.” Over the next hour Catherine told Diana the story of how Vincent had found her dying in the park and saved her life.


“Well, you can be sure I’ll never tell anyone. No one would believe me anyway. Does Joe or Jenny know about him?” 


“Well, not really. Jenny knows that I am secretly very close to a guy named Vincent but no details. I think Joe suspects that I have a secret boyfriend.”


Words kept floating in from the darkness but Joe was having trouble making sense of them as he slipped away into a deep sleep.


“OK. What about those two people who came to visit you this morning?”


Catherine smiled. “They’re friends of Vincent. The older man is the one that found and raised him. Jamie is an orphaned street kid that Jacob took in and raised.” 


“If you don’t mind I have one more question. What was that deal about the small daughter of James’ witness you two were talking so cryptically about?” The curiosity was plain on her face.


Catherine smiled, her eyes again dancing with amusement. “Naomi is five years old. She was thrown from the family’s car when it crashed. Vincent was there and caught her in mid air. She currently considers Vincent her very own, personal, guardian monster. Her own words. She has no other living family and since there were leaks in the witness protection system, James felt it was safer to keep her out of the system. He asked me to keep her safe ‘til his corruption case closed. With her father dead, I hope James will let her stay with us. It’s the best place I can think of, short of her own family, for her to be raised.”


“You certainly have an interesting life Miss Chandler.”


“It’s Cathy to my friends.”


“Goodnight then, Cathy.” Diana hobbled over to the window, opened it and leaned out. “You will keep an eye on Cathy for me won’t you Vincent,” she called out half in jest.


To Diana and Catherine’s surprise, Vincent swung in through the open window. “As often as I can.” He replied.


Diana stood there for several seconds looking him up and down as if she was tying to convince herself that he was real. “Good, then I’ll leave her in your hands.” Diana reached out to touch his arm. “Amazing.” She shook her head, then turned and left the room mumbling to herself. “Why can’t I ever find a guy like that?”



The End



‘Beauty and the Beast’ and its characters are owned by Witt-Thomas Productions and Republic Pictures. No infringement on copyrights is intended. This story is presented merely for the enjoyment of fans. Original concepts and story elements may be used by other authors as long as appropriate credit is given.