The Tower And The Beast

Catherine & Vincent’s Second Halloween Together


By Thomas Mc



The security guard at the front desk called out a greeting to Catherine as she rushed past him. Stopping just long enough to retrieve her mail, she called a greeting back to him, wishing him a happy Halloween. She pulled out two book sized packages with the rest of her mail and as she closed her mailbox, heard the elevator bell sound. Tucking it all under her arm, she rushed into the elevator that had just opened and pressed the button for the eighteenth floor. While the elevator rose, she glanced at the two packages, then took a closer look as the names and the return addresses on them registered. Both packages had come from Derry, Ireland. She was particularly surprised by the delivery address on the first package because it was addressed to ‘Vincent’ care of Catherine Chandler. The second package was just addressed to Catherine Chandler. 


As soon as she had entered her apartment, she set her brief case, the package addressed to Vincent, and the rest of the mail on the small table located by the door. As she made her way into the living room she tore open the brown paper wrapping of the package that was addressed to her. The box was one of those heavy duty types used to ship items that were easily damaged. When she opened the box she found it contained a mint condition, first edition copy of the book 300 Days. Inside the front cover it had been personally inscribed to her by the author.


To Catherine with great affection.

I hope you will find that magic place 

between the worlds that you and 

Vincent are looking for.

 

- - Brigit O'Donnell. 


As she started to leaf through the book, a slip of paper fell out. It was a note from Brigit.


Dear Catherine, 

I had no address for Vincent, but I suspect you know how

to find him, so I sent the other package through you. I also 

wanted to thank you for what you did for my father and me. 

I will always be grateful to you for your kindness and 

understanding. Write me sometime and let me know how 

things are going between you and Vincent. I harbor a great 

hope for the two of you. You both made me believe in magic 

again. Maybe someday even the wall between your worlds 

will finally crumble away and your dreams will come true.

- - Love Brigit


Catherine was touched by such a wonderful gift. As she stood there gently caressing the leather binding and carefully flipping through the pages, she thought back to that Halloween last year when she and Vincent had both met Brigit. Vincent had told Catherine about the conversation he had with Brigit when they had gone walking in the park. Based on the letter, it appeared that Vincent had told Brigit more than he had realized or Brigit had understood more than they had expected. Regardless, that had been a wonderful time when Catherine and Vincent had, for one whole night found, as Brigit put it, the magic that lies between worlds had made the walls between them to grow thin. They had been able to spend that entire evening and night together walking openly around the city without fear of who might see them. They had ended that magical night by watching the sunrise from the park bench on the jogging path by the bridge. 


Reluctantly, she pulled herself back to the present, set down the book and went into her bedroom to change into her costume. She was supposed to meet Vincent at seven and she was already running late. She also didn’t want Vincent to have to endure Father’s arguments about his safety for too long. She had to hurry. She took a quick shower and put on the costume in record time. As she got ready to leave she took one final look in the mirror to see how the costume looked. Vincent was going to flip when he saw her in it. 


Running out the door, she grabbed the invitations and the package addressed to Vincent. She wondered what Father’s reaction would be when he heard that Vincent had gotten mail addressed to him from Ireland. It should be interesting.


* * * * * 


Jacob knew before the discussion had started that he wouldn’t be able to talk Vincent out of going to this party any more than he had been able to last year. Going to this party with Catherine was something Vincent wanted too much to pass up. He also suspected that Vincent wanted this as compensation for not being able to go with Catherine to her lake house in Connecticut just a little over a week ago. He sighed and gazed pleadingly at his stubborn son. "Vincent, you don’t know how much I have been dreading the return of this day, ever since last year!" 


Vincent sighed, as he watched Father, now pacing up and down the room, muttering to himself. They both knew all the arguments, both the pros and the cons. "Father, you know that it is the safest day of the year for me to go Above! And last Halloween is a perfect example of how safe it is for me.”


"There ARE no safe days for you! Don’t you remember how close you came to being involved in an IRA shootout?”


“But Father, that had nothing to do with my appearance,” Vincent responded. “In fact, my appearance made it easier to help them and get out safely.” Vincent chuckled. “Everyone involved told the police that they couldn’t describe the person that had helped them because he was wearing a Halloween costume.” 


“I suppose you are determined to go regardless of what I say,” Jacob responded. 


Then Vincent brought up what he considered his two most telling points. “This is the only day of the year that I can spend time with Catherine openly Above. You know that Catherine would never do this if she thought there would be any danger.”

 

Jacob had to admit, at least to himself, that, as Vincent had pointed out, he had experienced little difficulty in pulling it off last year despite being entangled in the assassination attempt against Brigit O’Donnell. He finally capitulated as gracefully as he could. “At least I can count on Catherine to do everything in her power to keep you safe.” 

 

After that last statement, Vincent couldn’t help thinking about how much Father’s attitude toward Catherine had changed since last Halloween. A year ago Father thought that Catherine could only bring him pain and eventually destroy him. Now Father thought of Catherine as someone he could count on to protect his son from harm in the world above. The concept made him chuckle again.


As Jacob stood there looking at him, he thought that Vincent did look pretty good in his costume, such as it was. Vincent had on his best cream colored ruffled shirt and some well worn then re-dyed brown leather pants. He was wearing a pair of knee high black leather boots that Mouse claimed to have found. Jacob was afraid to ask for details. Over that was a dark purple buccaneer style coat with brass buttons and a four inch wide black belt with a huge brass buckle. He was wearing his long deep green hooded cape to complete the costume. Basically it was just Vincent dressed with a little more flair than usual, like someone dressing up in their Sunday best. The overall effect was like some magical creature from a romantic swashbuckler fairytale.


“Well, as costumes go, yours does look pretty good,” Jacob admitted. He thought for a moment and chuckled. “Though it’s really just you, being you.” 


"Thank you, Father!" Vincent nodded then his eyes lost focus making it look like he was gazing off into the distance. “Catherine is very near. She should be here any minute.” 


A minute and a half later Catherine entered the chamber through the upper level doorway. Jacob and Vincent both just stared up, their mouths hanging open, at the vision that had just appeared at the top of the spiral stairway and taken their breath away. 


Over a pale green body stocking Catherine wore a long diaphanous dress that looked as though it were made of spider web silk and shimmered when she moved. On her back were attached translucent blue, green and yellow butterfly wings that measured four feet top to bottom. She wore glittering forest green shoes and in her reddish brown hair was a silver tiara bejeweled with sparkling emeralds. Her eye shadow and rouge contained glitter that sparkled in the flickering candle light and seemed calculated to bring out the color of her emerald green eyes. At her waist she wore a silver chain belt on which hung a small forest green pouch that appeared to be made of leaves and looked as though it might just contain fairy dust. In her hand she carried a faceted glass rod topped with a glowing silver star. The overall effect was of an enchantingly beautiful forest sprite. The only apparent imperfection in her costume was the plain brown package that she carried in her other hand. Catherine almost seemed to float as she glided down the spiral stairs. When she reached the bottom of the stairs Catherine and Vincent stood face to face while each drank in the sight of the other. Jacob looked on stunned by the magical picture they made.


The spell was finally broken when Eric and Ellie came running into the room shouting about something that revolved around the phrases “He is not” and “He is so”. They both skidded to a halt at the sight of Catherine and Vincent standing there in their costumes. Both children stood and stared openmouthed at the scene before them.


Ellie was the first to speak as the word “Wow” came out in a soft sigh.


Jacob cleared his throat. “Eric, Ellie, what is all this about?”


Eric spoke up. “Ellie said that Samantha said that Rebecca said that Vincent was going to a party Above.”


Vincent responded. “That’s right Eric, Catherine and I are going to a Halloween party at the top of the Empire State Building.”


“But you can’t do that,” Eric protested. “If you go Above, you’ll be seen!”


Catherine responded. “That’s no problem, because it’s Halloween. When Vincent is seen up there tonight, he’ll be just one more person in a costume. As a mater of fact, everyone at the party we’re going to will be in costume.” Catherine smiled at Eric, a twinkle in her eyes. “Today is the one day in all of the year that Vincent and I can safely go out on a date in the city above.”


“Oh.” Eric seemed to still be a little unsure about it.


“Told you so, silly,” Ellie chimed in as she reached out and smacked Eric on the top of his head. Then she ran out of the chamber.


“Hey!” Eric called out and chased after her.


The smile on her face edged over into one of mischief as Catherine waved the brown package and announced to Vincent, “Something came for you in the mail today,” as she handed the package to him. 


Vincent’s face showed surprise and confusion as she handed him the package. His face visibly brightened when he saw who the package was from. Jacob just looked at them both in stunned silence. 


Inside the heavy duty shipping box Vincent found a brand new book bound in high quality leather and titled The Magic Between The Worlds: The Collected Short Stories of Brigit O'Donnell. 


On the inside of the front cover near the top was a plate that read “Limited Special Edition - # 0001 of 1000” and below that it was inscribed to Vincent. 


To Vincent with great affection. 

Thank you for showing me that 

there is still a place for magic and 

fairie music in this world. I hope 

you find that dream you are 

looking for.

- - Brigit O'Donnell 


Inside the book he found a note in between the first two pages.


Dear Vincent,

After talking to you and Catherine last Halloween, I 

decided that the world could always use a little more 

magic so I put this book together. I have also started 

work on a new novel based on some ideas I got from 

our talk . Most of the short stories in this new book 

are old ones I wrote years ago, but there are three new 

ones that I wrote after meeting you and Catherine. 

Since this book was inspired by the two of you, I

dedicated it to you both. This is the first copy of a 

limited first edition . (The limited edition with the special 

leather binding was the publisher’s idea.) The regular 

release run is due out from the printer at the end of next 

month. The entire limited edition run was already sold 

out by the time it started rolling off the presses. It’s 

lucky I had the first 5 copies reserved. Enjoy.

 

- - Love Brigit


On the dedication page it read, “Dedicated to Vincent and Catherine who showed me that magic can appear in the most unlikely places.” 


Vincent, slightly dazed, announced to Jacob, “Father, it’s from Brigit O’Donnell. It’s her newest book.”


As Father looked at him, eyes wide with surprise, Vincent handed him the letter. 


Catherine could practically feel the childlike glee from Vincent as he flipped through the book, stopping to read the first few lines of each story. Finally, with reluctant resignation, Vincent closed the book and handed it to Father. “It’s getting late. We had better go.”


After they left, Jacob stared at the book he was now holding. He knew enough about rare and valuable books to understand what an incredible treasure he was holding in his hands. Slowly he settled into his chair and re-read the letter from Brigit to Vincent. Then with extreme care he opened the book and began to read.


* * * * *


Vincent and Catherine came out of the tunnels fairly close to the Empire State Building. The party they were going to was located at the top on the observation deck level. They took their time, enjoying the feel of the city as they strolled down the streets towards their destination. For Vincent, it was a thrill just to walk openly with Catherine and not fear that they would be seen. They drew the attention of several people as they walked by, but they were looks of appreciation for their costumes, and Catherine was drawing just as much attention as Vincent. 


When they reached the main doors to the building, two doormen, dressed as skeletons and wearing doorman caps, held the doors open for them.


There were already eight couples waiting at the elevators when they walked up. Several of the couples acknowledged them with smiles and nods. Vincent and Catherine both were complimented on their costumes. One of the elevators opened and a little more than half the people waiting stepped in. Just as the doors closed three more people showed up. One of the new arrivals was dressed in street clothes and asked where the party was. Shortly after that the other elevator opened and all the rest, except one couple who were waiting for some friends, boarded. 


Vincent felt a delicious shiver of anticipation as they stepped through the elevator doors. It was such a novel experience to actually go into the elevator, rather than ride on top of it. This was the one day of the year when the whole world seemed to shift in his favor, and he was determined to savor the experience. 


A man in a skeleton costume and wearing a bellhop’s cap was standing by the controls. As soon as everyone was aboard he pressed the button for the observation deck floor. “Next stop All Hallows Eve,” he announced.


The person dressed in street clothes announced, “Twelfth floor please,” and the operator accommodated him.


Just after the man got off on twelve, one of the women in a sexy witch’s costume leaned over and addressed Catherine. “That is a very lovely costume you’re wearing, dear.” The woman glanced over and up at Vincent. “And your escort is absolutely delicious,” she added, nodding towards Vincent as she winked at Catherine.


When the doors opened again it was to the sounds of a party already in full swing. Another skeleton pair wearing medieval helmets crossed their pikes and barked out “Halt! Who goes there!” Catherine handed them the two invitations. The invitations were examined, returned and they were allowed to pass. 


They entered a large glassed in area. A live band was playing and several couples were dancing while all around the room knots of people were in deep conversation. The members of the live band were all dressed as skeletons and a banner over the stage read “The Grateful Undead”. Outside the glass walls on the open air part of the deck, dining tables had been set up. People were sitting munching on snacks or drinking their wine while gazing out over the city or watching the other revelers enjoy themselves.


As they circulated among the crowd Catherine spotted a knot of familiar faces. Her father was there with Kay, talking to some of their friends. Her father was wearing the same civil war uniform he had worn last year. Kay was dressed as Scarlett O’Hara. Jerry was dressed as Count Dracula and his daughter was wearing a very tight tiger costume. Tom Gunther was dressed as an alien. The sexy witch she now recognized as a friend of her father but she couldn’t recall the woman’s name. Catherine decided to wait a while before talking to them. She didn’t want to spend too much time trying to explain Vincent to her friends. 


 After spending several minutes exploring the party, Catherine pulled Vincent out onto the dance floor. It was the kind of slow dance where the couples held each other close and just sort of shuffled their feet. Tentatively Vincent put his arms around her and joined in the dance. Catherine was totally engrossed in the feel of Vincent’s arms around her. For the present she felt like she was floating halfway to heaven. Catherine looked up into Vincent’s eyes and gave him her most dazzling smile, her eyes misting over, then she laid her head against his shoulder. Vincent could feel the waves of love and contentment washing over him through the link they shared. The force of it was almost overwhelming.


As they were dancing, Catherine’s father and Kay passed close by. He looked over at Vincent and Catherine, nodded to them and smiled. Then he twirled with his partner and disappeared into the throng of dancers. 


Catherine smiled up at Vincent and chuckled softly. “I guess he approves of you.” 


The next dance was a little faster. It was the type for doing the box step. Vincent had no trouble with it. It was becoming apparent that he at least knew how to dance. Catherine nodded to several acquaintances as they passed on the dance floor. They all smiled back and they all glanced at Vincent with obvious curiosity.


Catherine chuckled , her eyes full of mischief. “They all want to know who this handsome hunk is that I’m dancing with. My father is going to be bombarded with questions by all our friends tomorrow.”


The next dance was another slow dance which suited Catherine just fine. Vincent had to admit that he also enjoyed the intimacy of the slow dances. During the next dance Catherine spotted Elliot, dressed as a vampire, watching them from the crowd at the edge of the dance floor. They danced through five more songs before Catherine finally capitulated and they left the dance floor.


"Let’s get something to eat and sit down for a while." Catherine hung on to his arm as they made their way to the outside observation deck. The outside temperature was in the middle fifties and there were propane outdoor heater lamps scattered among the tables to keep the chill at bay. Together they went over to the buffet table and selected various snack foods to try.


"Frankly I need to rest," Catherine commented as they walked up to a table for two in the corner.


While they were sitting at their table a man dressed as a skeleton wearing formal tails came up to them. “Would you like something to drink? We have wine, Iced tea, soft drinks, water and fruit juices. We also have coffee, hot chocolate, hot tea and hot spiced wine if you need to keep the chill away.”


Catherine had caught on to the fact that the people working the party were all dressed as skeletons and she couldn’t help herself. She looked at the waiter and dead seriously commented, “Don’t you feed the help here. They’re all wasting away.”


Vincent dropped his head into his hands and shook it. The waiter only rolled his eyes. Then Catherine and Vincent both selected hot chocolate. 


In a very short time the waiter returned with their drinks. “Will there be anything else sir?” He asked.


“No thank you,” Vincent replied.


The waiter looked Vincent up and down and remarked, “Fantastic costume, sir, Would either of you like to enter the costume contest? The entry fee is only one hundred and the prize is a cruise for two, to Cancun.”


“I’m afraid not,” Vincent replied. “Thank you anyway.”


“Very good, sir.” Then he moved on to the next table.


“I would have loved to enter us in that contest,” Catherine chuckled, “but you would have had an unfair advantage.” The mischief in her eyes told him that she really had contemplated the idea. “Although it might have been interesting to see you lounging beside the ship’s pool.” Vincent thought he caught a hint of erotic overtone through the link as she said it and he found he was having difficulty looking her in the eyes.


Catherine stood up. "I think I'll take this opportunity to powder my nose. I won’t be long." She grinned. “Stay out of trouble while I’m gone.” And she went in search of the ladies room, leaving Vincent to enjoy the scene by himself for a while. Vincent sat there, taking in the marvelous sight of people in all kinds of costumes wandering around the observation deck or sitting at the tables deep in their various conversations while the music filtered through the glass walls that surrounded the dance floor. He felt so relaxed amongst all these ‘ordinary people’, it was quite incredible. Four different people complimented his costume as they walked by. 


While he was sitting there alone, a pretty young woman in a medieval princess costume stopped at his table and looked him over. “I love your costume.” She smiled at him. “It would be the perfect compliment to mine.” She was flirting outrageously with him. “Would you like to join me for a dance or two?”


Vincent was so surprised by the attention and the offer, it took him a moment to gather his wits. “It is a very tempting offer, but I am currently here with someone else.” 


The woman shrugged. “She’s a very lucky woman. I think I envy her.” 


As the woman was turning to walk away, Vincent suddenly felt a quick flash of fear from Catherine then it quickly shifted to annoyance mixed with a little bit of worry. Standing and looking towards the glass wall, he saw her trapped in the doorway by three men 


"How about a little dance?" one of them said in an alcohol slurred voice as he tried to pull her towards the dance floor. After she glanced quickly in his direction, Vincent was now feeling only annoyance over the link from Catherine. She obviously felt she could handle the situation and Vincent knew she didn’t want him to create a scene and he knew he could get to her quickly if she did need him, so he restrained his desire to leap to her aid. Then one of the other men also grabbed her and there was a quick flash of anger from her, but she still didn’t feel in danger so he maintained control and just watched. Then he noticed Elliot Burch over to the left making his way towards Catherine and in five leaping strides Vincent was in front of the three men. With a menacing snarl that exposed his fangs he slowly advanced towards the men. 

"Hey, chill out, man! Can’t you take a joke?" one of the three men remarked as they all backed off. The second man muttered something about “not part of the deal,” to his friend as they moved towards the other side of the room. One of the waiters appeared at that moment and urged the three men away from the dance floor to one of the more out of the way tables.


Vincent turned to Catherine with a chuckle, a flourish, and a bow. "May I assist you, my lady?" Ten feet away he spotted a very frustrated looking Elliot Burch glancing at the three men then looking over at Catherine and him. 


"I'm fine, Vincent, let’s go sit down…" A few of the people looked at them as they moved away, but the incident seemed to have already been forgotten. One man dressed as a mummy gave Vincent the thumbs up sign as they headed back to their table. Catherine frowned, worry written on her face. “I shouldn’t have let those drunks bother me. I could have dealt with them if I had to.”


“I know you had everything under control but what self-respecting protagonist could resist coming to the aid of his lady fair?” Vincent responded, with a twinkle in his eye. “Besides, those nearby seemed to consider it nothing more than an interesting diversion.”


When they reached their table the young woman was still standing there. “WOW! That was awesome,” she said enthusiastically. Then her voice took on a teasing sound as she glanced at Catherine. “I still think your costume would be a better match with mine.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Oh well, you two have a good evening. And it was nice meeting you, kind sir.” Then she smiled at them both and headed back into the crowd.


Catherine looked at Vincent and arched her eyebrows. “What was that all about?” She asked as they sat down.


Vincent shrugged with a lopsided grin and a playful gleam in his eye. “She tried to pick me up while you were gone.” He picked up his cup of hot chocolate and took a sip. “Mmmm! This is quite good.”


"You really are having a good time, aren’t you?" she scowled back at him.


"Yes, I am. Try your chocolate.” His smile was edging into a grin and she could see the tips of his fangs peeking out. 


She gave in, laughed and picked up her hot chocolate.


Catherine and Vincent sat there for a while munching on their collection of snacks, enjoying their hot chocolates and watching the other people. Finally, after all the snacks and chocolate were consumed, Vincent stood up and held his hand out to Catherine, “Come, let us dance again." And back to the dance floor they went.


The young girl that had flirted with Vincent danced by on the arm of a pirate. As she passed she waved to them. Several other dancers smiled at them and soon they both found themselves getting into the fun.


As Catherine was looking at the people around them she spotted Elliot having a heated discussion with the three men that had accosted her earlier. Surely Elliot wouldn’t resort to something as sophomoric as setting up a peril scenario so he could save the day. She shook her head telling herself that she was just misinterpreting the evidence. She put it out of her mind and went back to enjoying dancing in Vincent’s arms.


As the latest dance ended an announcer stepped up to the microphone. "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a few announcements for you all!” He waited for the crowd to quiet down, “First I would like to say that this event has raised over four hundred thousand dollars for the children’s wing of St. Vincent’s Hospital.” A general cheer went up from the crowd. 


Vincent looked at Catherine in surprise. She hadn’t told him about the charity aspect of their outing nor how much the tickets to this thing must have cost.


The announcer held up his hands and the crowd was again quiet. “Now for the Costume contest.” Several preliminary awards were given out. There was the scariest costume that went to a very scary and realistic looking grim reaper. The most unusual costume went to a man dressed as a Jack-in-the-box. The best movie couple award went to her father and Kay as Ashley and Scarlett O’Hara. There were several other minor categories including best couple, most authentic historical, most realistic, funniest and silliest costumes.


The band played a little fanfare and the announcer called out. “Now for the big moment. For the best individual costume.” He waited a beat while he checked a piece of paper. “The Jack-O-Lantern man.” The crowd cheered. 


Like everyone else, Catherine had noticed that particular costume earlier. The man wore a green one piece suit with inch thick padded vines twisting all over the suit. There were several large leaves attached to the vines. His hands also looked like leaves. Over his head he wore a large Jack-O-Lantern made from a real pumpkin. She knew it was real because once when he passed close she had caught the faint aroma of fresh pumpkin.


As the man went up to claim his prize Catherine nudged Vincent. “Maybe you wouldn’t have had such a big advantage after all.”


After the grand prize was given out to the cheering of the crowd, the band came back out and Vincent and Catherine returned to their table which was currently vacant and cleaned off. 


While they were sitting there, Catherine’s father came up to them. “Happy Halloween, Cathy.” He greeted her. “I don’t believe I’ve met your friend.” He paused, waiting to be introduced.


Not having any way out, she performed the introductions. “Father, this is Vincent … Wells,” She wondered if he had noticed the momentary pause. “Vincent, this is my father, Charles Chandler.”


Charles held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”


Vincent reluctantly extended his hand. “The pleasure is mine, sir.”


Charles’ eyebrows climbed halfway to his hairline as he saw Vincent’s clawed and furred hand. After only a moments hesitation, he took Vincent’s hand in a firm grip. “Your costume is excellent, right down to your furry gloves. My compliments.”


Vincent relaxed a little in his relief. “Thank you.”


Charles continued. “Kay has deserted me for the powder room so I’m temporarily without a dance partner.” He smiled at Catherine then addressed Vincent. “Would you object if I borrowed my daughter for a spin around the dance floor?”


Vincent nodded to Charles. “Not at all, sir. Go right ahead.” Then as Charles took Catherine’s hand Vincent added, “But don’t forget to bring her back.”


With a laugh Charles led his daughter off to the dance floor. Catherine was desperately trying to anticipate his possible questions and develop plausible answers. As they entered the dance floor Charles expertly swung his daughter into the dance floor. Catherine remembered that her father had always been a good dancer and had taught her most of what she knew.


As they were dancing Charles initiated the conversation. “How have you been doing lately, Cathy? I see so little of you since you left the firm.”


“I know. It seems like we’re always just missing each other.” She did feel a little guilty about her part in their lack of contact. “ But I’m doing great, Dad,” she replied.


“How’s your job going? Is your boss treating you right?” he asked.


“The work is hard and sometimes Joe takes advantage of my generous nature.” She shrugged her shoulders. “But the work is rewarding. I’m very happy there and feel proud of my accomplishments.” She smiled. “Actually, Joe is very dedicated and very supportive. He’s demanding and he pushes me to do my best, but he supports me when I need it and appreciates the work I do. … He’s really the perfect boss.”


Charles smiled at her. “I’m glad to see that you have finally found what you were looking for.” He whirled her around. “And what about this Vincent fellow?” He chuckled. “I like what … little ... I’ve seen of him so far.” He smiled. “Where did you meet him?”


The question left her flustered because she hadn’t figured out how to answer that one yet so she just blurted out. “In Central Park.”


 “I could see the sparks between you two from the other side of the dance floor.” Again he chuckled. “How serious is it between you two?”


Catherine became introspective as she considered her response for a few moments. “We’re still in the process of figuring that one out.” Then she got a look of pure mischief in her smile. “But I’m working on improving my chances of landing him.”


Charles eyebrows climbed as he took in his daughter’s expression. “The poor guy hasn’t got a chance.” He smiled. “It’s that serious , is it?”


Catherine’s expression became a wistful half smile. “I think it could be.” She got very sober. “But he’s been hurt before and his defenses are formidable.” 


Charles understood that both her feelings and their difficulties must run very deep. He could also tell that she was reluctant to discuss it. “I wish you both luck, and remember that I’ll always be here for you if you need me … for anything.”


Catherine smiled and her eyes got a little misty as she heard the sincerity in her father’s voice. “Thanks Dad, I really appreciate it.”


They danced in silence for a while then Charles decided it was time to change the subject. He thought for several seconds then laughed. “I don’t know if you realized it, but that little incident with the three men earlier?” He chuckled again. “I think he was coming to your rescue but Vincent beat him to it.” He shook his head. “It was funny seeing him frustrated in such an ironic manner.”


Catherine huffed to herself, then she laughed. “I do seem to have a habit of jinxing his plans, don’t I?”


The rest of the dance and the next one were spent pleasantly exchanging tidbits of news and gossip about all of their friends and acquaintances. Catherine found that she was really enjoying this time with her father, though she was getting antsy to get back to Vincent. 


- - - -


It had been a few minutes since Catherine had been taken away to the dance floor by her father and Vincent was looking out over the city. He always loved looking at the city lights at night but he had never done it from this high up. 

“Good evening. Mind if I join you?” Vincent looked up to see Kay standing at his table. “My date has made off with your date, so I thought I might sit with you till they come back. By the way, my name is Kay.” Vincent was caught off guard by her unexpected appearance but he quickly recovered. He knew this could be tricky. He would have to be extremely careful how he handled this. 


“Please join me,” he responded as he indicated the chair Catherine had recently occupied. “My name is Vincent.”


Kay was momentarily startled as she caught sight of his furry, clawed hand. “That is a most impressive costume you have. It looks so real, right down to your claws.”


“Thank you,” he responded as he fought the urge to hide his hands. 


“Where did you find that mask? It’s incredible,” she said in admiration.


“Actually I suppose you could say that I made it myself,” Vincent replied, trying to stay as close to the truth as he felt safe in doing.


Something about the way he phrased his answer sounded a little off to her but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. “Well, you should go work for Hollywood as a makeup artist with a talent like that.”


The waiter came by the table and Kay ordered a glass of wine.


“How long have you and Cathy known each other?” she inquired after the waiter left.


Vincent was momentarily nonplussed by her question and he replied “About a year and a half.” Then he thought that he shouldn’t have been so accurate.


“And what do you do when you’re not busy putting every other costume to shame?” she asked.


Vincent thought fast. “I teach.”


At that moment Charles and Catherine returned to the table, much to Vincent’s relief. Almost on their heels, the waiter arrived with Kay’s wine. Catherine also ordered a glass of wine for herself. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Charles and Kay headed off into the crowd.


“That was certainly an interesting experience.” Vincent sighed with relief.


Catherine spoke up. “I didn’t know for sure how to answer some of his questions.” She shook her head. “I’m afraid I told him we met in Central Park.”


Vincent sighed. “I told Kay that we’ve known each other for a year and a half.” Vincent shook his head. “I wonder what conclusions they will come to when they compare notes.” Then he grabbed Catherine’s hand and stood up. “Let us dance.”


At midnight as the party began to wind down Catherine and Vincent decided to leave. As they stepped into the elevator, her father and Kay came up right behind them. Then the doors closed on the four of them.


“Well did you enjoy the party?” Charles asked Catherine.


“Very much. It was actually good to see you again. Since I left the firm we don’t get to see each other often enough. Maybe we can get together next week.” Catherine replied.


“I would like that very much … but we’re completely snowed under for the next month and a half on this McMillen Industries contract case. Even our meals are turning into strategy conferences.” Charles frowned. “I’ll see if I can sneak a couple of non-working lunches in when the partners aren’t looking.”


“It’s the same thing with me. We have cases lined up like boxcars all through December and January.” Catherine responded. “After that we could spend some time together. I know February is usually a slow month for both of us.” Catherine was hoping her father would be free then and they could really spend some time together. 


Charles thought for a few seconds. “That sounds like a good idea. Maybe we could spend a few days out at the lake house in Connecticut.” He looked over at Vincent. “Maybe you could even bring Vincent.” 


Charles noticed a look of deep sadness pass across his daughter’s face then disappear. He couldn’t help wondering what he had said to bring that on. He was unaware that she had contemplated that very thing just over a week earlier only to have her hopes crushed by the realities of Vincent and his tunnel community.


“It sounds like a possibility.” Catherine replied quietly.


Vincent, sensing her mood and knowing the cause, took her hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze. She squeezed back acknowledging the comfort it gave her.


Kay had been looking at Vincent at this point had noticed a flicker of pain flash across his face and the squeeze he gave Catherine’s hand. Catherine’s response had also sounded empty to her. Maybe Charles would know what that was about.


The elevator doors opened and they exited the building. There was only one taxi currently waiting in front of the building.


“We can share this taxi.” Vincent offered as a second taxi pulled up to the curb.


Charles asked them. “Where are you headed?”


“We’re Going to the Central Park amphitheatre,” Catherine answered. “Their putting on a midnight Halloween concert.”


“I’m afraid we’re going in the other direction,” Charles responded. “Why don’t you two go ahead and take this taxi and we’ll take the other one.” 


“Are you sure?” Catherine inquired.


“We’re sure,” Charles replied. “You kids go on and have fun.” He smiled at her.


 Catherine and Vincent got into the taxi. “Central Park Amphitheatre, driver.” Catherine told him.


As the cab pulled away Charles turned to Kay smiling. “I think she has finally found the right one.”


Kay smiled back. “I think you’re right, Charles, I do like him. I wonder what he looks like under all that costume and makeup.” She chuckled. “Although, he does look pretty magnificent in his costume.” She looked in the direction of the taxi. “From what he told me, she must have met him about the same time she was mugged.”


Charles looked at Kay, startled. “She told me she met him in Central Park.” Kay looked back at Charles in surprise as he continued. “She has always said that she doesn’t remember those ten days she was missing.” He looked back the way the cab had gone. “I wonder if he …” Charles shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and taking her hand stepped up to the other taxi.


- - - -


After he had reached Central Park, the cab driver complimented them both on their outfits. "Those are really great costumes you both have on. That mask you've got there is so real looking. Where did you find it?"


"Thank you. Actually I sort of made it myself." Vincent responded with amusement. This was becoming a common refrain for him.


“I bet your young lady there gets a kick out of it, too.” 


“Oh, I love the way he looks,” Catherine assured him as she caught and squeezed Vincent’s hand, her eyes sparkling with amusement.


“I guess it was worth all of the work you had to put into it then, aye, Mister?" The taxi driver glanced at Catherine in admiration. 


"Definitely!" Vincent agreed, also looking at Catherine.


"Well, here we are.” The driver announced as he pulled over. They got out and Catherine paid him. “Have fun now, and be careful," he called as he pulled away.


Catherine and Vincent walked over to the free concert that had already started. As they found a pair of empty seats and sat down, Vincent felt a shiver run up his spine. This was the first time he had ever been able to listen to a concert while above ground and surrounded by normal people … well nearly normal, considering some of the costume he spotted scattered throughout the crowd. He put his arm around Catherine and felt her rest her head on his shoulder. Everything seemed so real and yet so unreal at the same time. Tonight the very air seemed to sing with magic as the music washed over him. 


Finally the concert was over and the crowd began to disburse. Hand in hand Vincent and Catherine walked through the park. As they walked around one of them would comment on whatever drew their interest. Most of the time though they were just quietly enjoying each other’s company. 


The area around the amphitheatre was heavily patrolled by mounted police at night so Vincent normally would avoid this part of the park. But tonight he was able to walk around openly among the other people and even occasionally exchanged greetings with one of the officers. Catherine even recognized one of the officers that she had dealt with on a couple of cases. He hailed them so they stopped and talked for a few minutes. Vincent was a bit nervous as the officer glanced at him several times while they continued talking, but the officer didn’t give him more than casual acknowledgment except when he complimented them both on their costumes. As they walked away Catherine and Vincent both sighed with relief.


“Sorry about that but I couldn’t just ignore him,” Catherine told Vincent.


Vincent chuckled. “I don’t think we need to tell Father about that encounter.” Vincent nodded towards the departing policeman. “I believe it would surely give him a heart attack.”


Catherine laughed. “I think you may have a point there.”


Twice they came across lovers entwined on one of the park benches, oblivious to their passage. They also crossed paths with several other couples out for a romantic moonlight walk. Three of those couples even had on Halloween costumes


As they were walking near the edge of the park they noticed an all night deli across the street and headed for it, intending to get a light, late night snack. As they were crossing the street, they saw two people in cheap plastic masks enter the deli. When they reached the door they could see that both men had pulled out knives and one of them was waving his dangerously close to an old woman’s face. She was backed up against one of the booths with nowhere to retreat to. Vincent caught a flash of fear that quickly turned to anger and determination. Looked inquiringly at Catherine knowing how she felt about knives, he saw her hand was already on the door. She could not just ignore the situation, especially with that knife so close to that woman’s face. He shrugged his shoulders and nodded his understanding and support to her. 


As Catherine pulled open the door they both heard one of the two shouting at the man behind the counter, “Hurry up, old man or I’ll slice her up good.” Both men turned at the sound of the bell on the door only to be faced with Vincent lunging at them his claws outstretched and his fangs exposed as he cut loose with a blood-curdling roar. Both robbers were momentarily stunned by the apparition before them, then Vincent hit them both with his full weight and speed knocking them to the ground. One of the knives skittered across the floor towards the door where Catherine stopped it with her foot. Vincent hit the ground in a roll and came up on his feet on the other side of the two. The old woman was looking at Vincent with a look combining relief and fear in equal parts. Both of the men had lost their masks and were revealed to be young teenagers. As they struggled back to their feet Vincent raised his clawed hands and roared at them again. The boy that still had his knife dropped it, wet himself, turned and bolted through the door that Catherine was still holding open. The other boy tripped over his own feet twice as he scrambled out of the shop. The old woman finally shook herself free of her momentary paralysis and ran around the counter into the arms of the old man.


Catherine watched the two young men running up the street for a couple of seconds, looked over at Vincent and busted up laughing. Catherine staggered over to Vincent and held on to him to keep from falling down with laughter. Soon there were tears running down her cheeks as Vincent also began to chuckle. After a couple of minutes she got herself under control and turned to the couple behind the counter who were staring at them with mouths hanging open, and requested a take home box. She got a couple of napkins and the take home box from him and carefully picked up the knives preserving any finger prints and put them in the take home box. 


When the old man behind the counter finally recovered his wits, he thanked them and asked if there was anything he could do for them. They each got a hot tea and they split a sandwich. All the time they were in the deli the old couple kept peering at them from behind the counter. When they finished their little late night snack, Catherine tried to pay for it but the man refused her money. After they left the deli, they headed towards the other side of the park and Catherine’s apartment building.


“What are you planning to do about those two kids?” Vincent asked.


“They didn’t look very experienced to me. I’m going to run their fingerprints to see if they have records. If they do I’m going to have a couple of friends of mine among the police go by and give them a serious scare. If they don’t have a record then they probably won’t try anything else for a long time so I will probably let it drop. Give them a chance to straighten themselves out. That way there will be no questions about you to answer.”


After watching the sunrise from the same park bench as last Halloween, Vincent insisted on escorting her up to her apartment door this time. Catherine was quite happy to be able to ride up her elevator WITH Vincent. When they reached her apartment she unlocked and opened her door then turned to face Vincent. As they stood before her open door, she yielded to her impulse and suddenly stretched up and gave Vincent a quick kiss on the lips. She ended up putting a little more passion into it than she had intended. As He stood there stunned, she said good night and went inside.


Catherine closed her door, then leaned against the wall as she felt her heart racing. That kiss had been so impulsive. She probably would not have done it if she had taken time to think. She could still feel the unique touch of his lips against hers. She felt like a giddy schoolgirl after her first kiss. Finally she pushed herself away from the wall and went to her bedroom. All the time she was getting ready for bed, she kept going over that kiss in her mind. As she fell asleep she vowed that somehow there would be many more like that.


After standing at her closed door for several seconds, Vincent finally turned and headed home. That kiss had been so sweet and he had sensed the surprised passion that was behind it. He could also sense a kind of giddiness coming over the link. All the way back to the home tunnels he walked in a daze. He finally came back to earth when he reached the central part of the community. He stopped by Father’s chamber and found him asleep with the new book open on his lap. Smiling down at him, Vincent gently removed the book, closed it and set it on the desk. Then he put a blanket over Father and finally went to his own bed. It took a while but Vincent finally fell asleep still thinking about Catherine’s kiss.


The End




Authors note: every costume described in this story is based on costumes I have seen at parties with my own eyes, including Catherine’s costume (seen at a college Halloween party) and the Jack-O-Lantern man (seen at a party at my son’s day care). 


‘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.