What ravages of Spirit
Conjured this tempestuous rage?
Created you a monster
Broken by the rule of love.
And fate has let you through it.
You do what you have to do.
And I have the sense to recognize
I don't know how to let you go.
Sarah McLachlan: "Do What You Have To Do"
From the album: 'Surfacing'
"That's the fourth one this month, Greg! You've got a description of the vehicle and descriptions of the woman. Now, you're telling me that's not enough for the NYPD to scare up even one serious lead? I don't have enough staff for a wild goose chase, we need something concrete!"
Several of the staff glanced toward Deputy DA Joe Maxwell's office. Their boss seldom raised his voice enough to be heard so easily from outside his closed door. Through the frosted glass, the normally laid back and relaxed figure of Greg Hughs could be seen pacing in frustration - frustration that was mirrored by the woman who sat at a desk nearby, staring into space.
In the last month there had been four assaults with a distinct MO. The month before there had been three. Targets were invariably men. It would begin at some local bar. Flattered, the victim would accept a drink that was sent over by an attractive woman, and anticipate a pleasant evening, hopefully leading to a sexual encounter. When the invitation came, the victims would readily accede to the woman's request to go to her hotel room, since she was 'just in New York for a short business trip'. Arriving there and raiding the room's bar fridge would generally be the last thing the men remembered before waking up in excruciating pain. Four of the victims awoke missing a kidney. One, missing both, would be on dialysis for the rest of his life, unless a suitable kidney was found to replace one of the organs he had lost. A couple of other men had lost an eye. The last one never awoke again, having lost his heart to the mysterious temptress. Literally.
"Yeah, we've got descriptions Joe, but none of 'em match! Look, all we've got is some kind of a dark van seen by a street bum who was too drunk to even know what make it was. The descriptions of the woman are fine and dandy, but they're not consistent! We're doing our best with the little bits we have! Just where do you think we should start, huh?" After a pause the conversation resumed, but with the tone lowered it became nothing but murmurs to anyone outside the office. Catherine forced her attention away and tried to re‑focus on breaking down the Martin deposition. The huge stack of dry testimony was about as exciting as watching paint peel.
Another wave of frustration rolled through Catherine as she tapped her highlighter against her teeth in agitation. This had been going on long enough. Ever since that horrifying night when she had been abducted by a stalker and her resultant near drowning, Joe had been treating her with kid gloves. Admittedly, the constant stress of the last few weeks due to that reporter, Spirko, along with Paracelcus' death and Vincent's mysterious illness had been affecting her work. Sick days, missed time with no explanation, all had been accepted by her normally slave driving boss without a second's hesitation. The work that Joe had assigned her since that night was relative fluff, the kind usually given to first year apprentices to get their feet wet. In its time, Catherine grudgingly admitted to herself, it was just what she needed, something to keep her occupied but not enough to exert any demands. Well, Vincent had returned below very early this morning and seemed on the road to recovery. The time had come to get 'back on the horse'.
The abrupt opening of Joe's office door broke Catherine's reverie. Shaking his head, Greg stepped out and headed for the elevator hallway. With a burst of resolve, she pushed her chair back and set off in pursuit. Rounding the corner to the alcove housing the bank of elevators, she spied Greg slouched against the wall, watching the floor numbers change.
"Greg? Could I talk to you for a few minutes? It's about the organ-snatcher case."
Joe Maxwell worried at a rubber band absently as he leaned back in his ancient wooden swivel chair. Funny how, even though he had tried the fancy new ergonomic ones, something about the solidity of this chair made him always come back to it. Sometimes he felt as if the long hours put in by its previous occupants had left their mark somehow, lending an impression of helpful presences and a vague sensation of encouragement and support. Not that it was helping with this particular case that wasn't quite a case ‑ yet.
Poor Greg. If anyone were to be affected on a personal level by this, it would be him. Ever since he had taken a green investigator from the DA's office under his wing, Greg had been one of Joe's few friends who understood and put up with the necessity of long hours of overtime and the unceasing demands of an office perennially understaffed. Of course, the fact that Greg worked in the same kind of environment helped. Regardless, although it wasn't generally known, the two were fast friends. Turning down his request for help had really hurt. Very few people besides Joe knew that Greg's younger brother, barely 30, had died while on the waiting list for a new kidney.
This case though, there just wasn't enough to go on. The District Attorney's office was always spread thin, but recently the problem had gotten worse. His decision to take Radcliffe out of active investigation had really affected the office's capabilities. Joe's chair creaked alarmingly as, with a muffled 'humph' of amusement, he leaned further back and propped his feet up on the open desk drawer. "Who would'a thunk it" slipped across his thoughts, and it was far from the first time. Catherine Chandler, debutante and socialite. When he first saw her sitting so primly outside Moreno's office, he had made no bones about his feeling that she would be more hindrance than help. He was never so glad to have been proven wrong.
Yeah, it had taken him quite a bit to warm up to the girl from the other side of the tracks. Joe remembered sending every dirty job he could find her way, thinking to break her and cause her resignation. Hazing? It certainly was. But he had felt justified ‑ he didn't have the time to hold people's hands. Better she left sooner than later. Instead of leaving however, she dug in her high heels. Grudging respect on his part had given way to genuine liking. Nowadays? Well, genuine liking had been replaced by something else, something he didn't want to examine too closely. Last month, discovering her missing and later finding her in the back of an ambulance wrapped in a blanket, those feelings had been closer to the surface than he would like and that he was comfortable with. Being the boss definitely had its down side.
A gentle knock on the door made him lower his feet and sit up. "Yeah, come on in," Joe responded, as he reached for the now cold cup of sludge that the government called coffee.
'Speak of the devil' he mused silently as the door opened to reveal the object of his recent thoughts. A critical glance swept over Catherine's features as she entered. Arms full of thick files, she propped her coffee mug on the corner of his desk and sank into a chair. 'Still not quite up to snuff,' Joe thought. She looked great& Cathy always looked great. But to those who knew her, the signs were obvious. She'd lost weight; her already slender frame now appeared almost fragile. There was a tired, worried pinch to the corner of her eyes. But it wasn't as bad as it had been. Maybe those four days she took off sick had actually helped; she seemed, to his observant eye (and you didn't get to be someone in his position without being observant) slightly less stiff and preoccupied. At once, he was very glad that he had let up on her. God knows, she led a very private life and unless she volunteered he wouldn't press her, but whatever had been going on since the abduction had continued to take a heavy toll.
"I've finished the Martin deposition, Joe. I've finished all of them, all the little useless jobs you've put me on lately –"
"Hey, come on! You know as well as I do that there are no useless jobs in this office," he interjected in his own defense.
"I know. Don't think I don't understand what you've been doing, and why. Don't think I don't appreciate it either. You've cut me a lot of slack lately, and I'm grateful." Catherine gave an unladylike snort of amusement at Joe's theatrical display of amazement, hand clutching his chest in a mock heart attack.
"Hey, go easy! The old heart can't take that kind of shock!"
Catherine grinned at him, her eyes glowing with a trace of that old humor that hadn't been present for too long. "Jokes aside, I think it's time I got back into the swing of things. I need something I can sink my teeth into, something I can focus on." Left unspoken was the fact that it would take her attention off of something else.
Joe examined her critically. She did look, and sound, more like the old Cathy. That brittle edge seemed to be dissipating, although traces still lingered. "Well, if you think you're feeling up to it. But don't push it if you're not, I want my best investigator back in top form." He lowered his head and rummaged through one of the stacks of paperwork on the desk. "We need someone to track down the witness of the Allenby ‑"
"There's a particular case I had in mind."
He looked up from his search for the Allenby file. She had that stubborn look on her face&
"I couldn't help overhearing, and I went to talk to Greg after he left." She raised her hand to stop his interruption. "Just hear me out. I know you don't think there's enough evidence to even put this on the books as an official investigation, but I have few ideas, maybe a place at least to start. I'll look into the skipped witness as well, but I'd really like to do a bit of digging on this."
'How could you ever say no to her?' Joe thought. Especially when she came up with something he wished he could do anyway. Releasing his breath with a resigned sigh, he responded. "All right, dig away. Use those mysterious contacts of yours to see what you can find. God knows if anyone can scare up something, it's you. But don't blow too much time on it, the Allenby case goes to trial in two months and without that witness we don't have a leg to stand on, capische? Now get out of here! Get to work, you lazy slacker." The rubber band that Joe had been twiddling was aimed and fired past her at ear level and hit the wall behind her head with an elastic 'thwack'. At Catherine's look of astonishment, Joe burst into a full-throated guffaw.
Outside the office, the constant thrum of activity receded for a second as the masculine laughter emanating from the closed door was joined by a feminine counterpart. The brief lull was quickly supplanted by the more familiar bustle and noise. Somehow though, the atmosphere seemed to have lightened, as if a ray of sunshine had finally broken through a sky too long overcast.
"G'night, Cathy," came Josh's call. Muttering a semi‑articulate response, Catherine didn't even lift her head from the file that Greg had handed over to her. A part of her mind registered the sound of a door closing
"All right, Chandler, what have we got," Catherine muttered aloud to herself as she unconsciously tended to do when concentrating deeply. "Seven assaults, removed organs. OK ‑ they take them how? Probably right in the hotel room, since no one has seen anyone being carried away. Done on the hotel floor most likely. Physical exam after the fact shows that the job is roughly done and sloppy, especially on the first few victims, although later work is cleaner. Traces of ketamine in victims, an opium derivative but not controlled the way Valium or morphine are. Street name 'Special K'. Each victim visited a bar, met an attractive woman, went with her to a hotel room, and remembers nothing afterwards." Flipping through the photographs attached to the file, Catherine grimaced. "Humph. Leave it to our fellow man to invent a brand new kind of rape." Long waiting lists for transplants had created a virtually unknown 'black market' in viable human organs. Those who were well off, when faced with preserving their own lives or the life of a loved one, sometimes discovered that an extra fee could practically guarantee an appropriate donor organ could be found. Not that anyone would admit to such a thing. Pausing a moment to rub her eyes, she continued.
"The woman's description is different every time, between 5'4" and 5'7", variable hair and eye color. One potential witness, drunk in a back alley, saw a blond woman and a man with a cooler leave one of the scenes and get into a dark van. They must either charter a plane to take the organ somewhere or the recipient flies here and the surgery is done locally. Well, that's the concrete information, such as it is. So where do I start?" Leaning forward to pull her Day Timer calendar forward, Catherine scribbled under Monday's date:
Ketamine ‑ suppliers?
Hospitals nearby? Transplant surgery capable?
Shoving the calendar back to its usual spot, Catherine sighed. The past few days of nursing Vincent had taken their toll and she was tired. Time to head for home. She'd go below first to check on Vincent, maybe take a hot bath before bed tonight. She automatically turned to open the filing cabinet where she kept her purse while at work. Finding it missing sent a quick thrill of misgiving through her, until she remembered swinging it onto the corner of her desk an hour ago after returning from a bathroom break. Vaguely remembering a muffled thump afterwards, she peered over the side to see her purse in a heap on the floor, a compact and lipstick spilling out of a partially unzipped pocket. Leaning over to retrieve the errant handbag, she was surprised to find a crumpled envelope addressed to her underneath it. "Must have been underneath and slipped off as well," she thought as she picked up the note. Registering the familiar handwriting, Catherine paled, sat back in her chair with a thump, and with trepidation unsealed the note to scan the contents.
A few seconds later, Catherine swept from the office, fear and despair warring in her eyes.
The wild and anguished roaring crashed against the rocky walls, the sound washing back in an effect reminiscent of storm‑lashed waves against a cliff side. The sound of Vincent's torment echoed through Catherine's heart in much the same manner. Terrible and beautiful, forbidding yet strangely compelling, like the sea itself. Whether through the bond or through an intuitive understanding of the emotions contained within that sound, Catherine could sense deadly conflict. And somehow, she also sensed Vincent was losing.
Rounding a bend, Catherine finally saw Father leaning heavily against his cane at the mouth of a branching tunnel. As she spoke with him, a part of her felt detached somehow. A part of her that could not speak, only respond. Respond to the horrible depth of pain, both audible and flowing now from the wellspring of the bond, and echo it with wildness and pain of its own. Words could not convey this; they couldn't even try. Moving towards the source of the pain she must stop, Catherine felt a tug as Father grasped her.
"Catherine, no. It's too dangerous."
Reluctantly, Catherine tore herself from the grip of that terrible call from the cavern interior to focus on the man who slowly had become Father to her as well. Reassuring him with words, and reminding him that Vincent was her life, that without him there was nothing, Catherine resumed her interrupted progress.
The cavern had barely enough light to make her footing only difficult, not dangerous. Turning the corner into darkness, Catherine could sense movement. Allowing her eyes to adjust, she made out Vincent's form crammed into a small crevice. Closer now, a screeching noise could be heard below the anguished roars, which seemed to be weakening. The large but indistinct body became marginally clearer after a few seconds, but still seemed just a dark shadow against black rock. Waves of even darker emotions ‑ guilt, anger, despair, soul‑freezing loneliness, crashed upon the shore of her heart. Some of it felt almost familiar. The rage, yes. Catherine had felt it many times when Vincent was called by the bond to protect her from harm, and in the process not only kill her attackers, but parts of himself as well. She remembered finally admitting to Father quite recently that a part of her 'shared that with him.' She had not lied, or exaggerated. She shared in his guilt as well. It always followed the rage, to a greater or lesser degree, and although it was not felt with as much clarity, in the last year she had become aware of its presence.
As she stood pondering her next actions, Vincent slowly turned and faced the wall. Catherine heard a hollow crack as he threw his head against the rock. "Get out," Vincent muttered hoarsely, a note of pleading creeping into his voice. Seeing him shift forward in order to repeat the action, Catherine moved toward him, her only thought to stop him from injuring himself this way.
"Vincent ‑ no!" she called softly but urgently as she approached. Vincent's head whipped around to face her.
"Get out of here! This is - no place for you, not now, not here, not - with me. You're not safe!" The words were punctuated with rough pants as Vincent struggled to regain breath and presence of mind to speak.
"You can't hurt me. I know this. Let me help, let me get Father and we'll take you back‑"
"No! I cannot go back there. The struggle is too great. Someone could get hurt. Catherine, you must go! I'll return& when I can."
"Don't you mean if you can?" she replied heatedly. Gently she continued, "you're trying to hurt yourself, maybe even kill yourself. I know this. I've told you that sometimes I can feel you through the bond, when the need is great, when your emotions are so strong, especially when we're close like now." Throughout her calm speech, she slowly approached Vincent, who seemed to be trying to press himself through solid rock to avoid her.
A rough snarl rumbled through the cavern, halting Catherine in her tracks. "Yes. See? I frighten you. I frightened you before, in my chamber. You cried out. I felt your fear. Remember that. The part of me that kills, that hates, is too close. You don't want to meet that."
Catherine shuddered as she remembered that particular incident. Yes, she had been frightened. And ashamed. Not, however, for the reasons Vincent thought. Again that horrible screeching sound, like nails on a blackboard, echoed through the small chamber. Now that she was closer, she realized the sound was Vincent's claws being drawn harshly over the stone. Compelled by this visible sign of his distress, she knew she must be truthful. "When you turned on me – yes, I was frightened. But do you want to know exactly what I found frightening? It wasn't you. Not truly. I told Father, just before he was taken by Paracelsus, something very personal and very difficult." She noticed the flinch as she mentioned that name, and felt sorrow at having added to his pain. "I told him it was possible I put myself in dangerous situations in the unconscious hope that it would summon you, in the full grip of your rage. And I told him that a part of me responds to that." At Vincent's harsh growl and jerky negative shake of his head, she continued more forcefully. "Yes! I know that this is the truth. A part of me, a part that I never knew before, feels the wildness, the strength and force. And it doesn't frighten me. It draws me! Those feelings you despise in yourself, they strike a chord in me. A part of me& finds them beautiful." Catherine's voice softened. Breaking eye contact by lifting her gaze upward, she added softly, "I was sure you would never accept this. That is what frightened me, Vincent. It frightens me still."
Vincent's rumbling growls fell silent. "So. The poison spreads," he said quietly, despairingly. A roar, torn from an abused throat, rushed out to fill the chamber. He flung himself against the innocent rock, clawing frantically as if trying to dig his way into it. Turning with a swirl of rough mane, he faced Catherine again. "The monster affects you now. You, who I must protect from it! You will not listen ‑"
"There is no poison! These feelings are inside all of us‑"
"Quiet!" Vincent snarled roughly. Turning around again and again, he stumbled along the rocky wall to the farthest point from her he could reach. Bending over as if in mortal pain, he covered his ears with his hands. "Never listen, never never," he mumbled to himself. At Catherine's step towards him he straightened, pinning her with a direct glare, enlarged pupils reflecting flashes of light like a cornered animal. From the savage chaos in his mind speech was forced, ground out through gleaming fangs. "None of you. Understand. None of you. Truly listen. There are things inside me – inhuman things! Know this!" Bracing himself back against the wall, he felt anger ebb before numb despair. "Please, listen to me now. Understand. All my life here, living with people. Normal people! What I feel, inside me, it's not the same. I know this. I tried! I tried so hard! Not to frighten people, to act like them. Be human. My fault, that you don't know. I have said and said, parts of me are not human. You think I lie? Or make it up? To avoid you, avoid sharing - with you? No! I would frighten you! You can't understand. Never..." As if giving up after a long fruitless struggle, he sagged further against the wall. Slowly he slid down to rest against the stone, knees up and back braced, face concealed behind a curtain of tangled mane. "Never. Now, go. Please. Your presence& hurts."
Cautiously, Catherine approached the huddled figure of her beloved. Sinking to her knees beside him, she reached out to take his great head in her hands and turn his face toward her. She remembered, far back in the very beginning of their time together, him looking at her through his ragged bangs just as he did now. Fear and trepidation ruled his eyes, which flickered from side to side, fearful of what they might see. 'Full circle,' she thought absently as his eyes finally stilled and met hers. "Vincent, the last time you ordered me away, I told you I loved you and then left. Not this time, my love. I'm not leaving. Not like that again. Not ever. We can see this through, together. And this time I'll amend my mistake. I love you." Following her words, she tipped his head up and leaning forward, brought her lips into contact with his.
Vincent's harsh indrawn moan of denial parted his lips slightly and she immediately pressed the advantage. This was what they most craved, they most needed. Tilting her head, she deepened her soft kiss of love into a melting kiss of passion. She felt him stiffen in shock, but she couldn't bring herself to move away. Finally, after over two years of endless longing, she felt the kiss of her beloved and would not relinquish it. And he was so sweet, his unique lips slowly warming, coming alive under hers. She could feel herself relaxing toward him, and there – yes! ‑ his large hands tentatively stroking into her hair, sliding across to her shoulders. Those hands that had just moments ago so brutally tried to drive themselves into solid rock now whispered softly down her back. A far-off part of her, small as it was, which could still focus on something other than the long and desperately desired touch of his hands and velvet mouth, was aware of a strange rumbling noise from very close. Those hypnotic hands slid hesitantly back up to her shoulders and gave a soft tug, pulling her forward to fall across his chest.
Catherine unconsciously adjusted her body so their hips touched, her breasts pressed firmly against his hard chest. Her hands crept upward to bury themselves as they had always wanted in the abundance that was Vincent's glory, his beautiful thick mane. As she strained closer, closer, the rumbling noise resolved itself into an exciting vibration centered in Vincent's midsection, a sensation felt as much as heard, which spread over her, into her. Throughout this their lips experimented, seeking to find just the right fit, the perfect moist sliding sensation.
Sinking into a warm bed of sensuous pleasure, Vincent felt Catherine's tongue, soft and honeyed, drift across and between his sharp fangs to twine with his. A shaft of desire so intense it almost hurt sped through his torso, coming to rest warmly in his groin. His heart thundered, as if trying to escape the confines of his chest in order to beat within hers. Through their bond, muted by the incredible sensations bombarding him, he could sense her joy. A wave of primal possessiveness swept through him. This woman was his, his choice, confirmed by the bond's existence. She was his mate, body and soul. Echoing through the bond he could feel her subconscious affirmation of his claim, and a mirror claim of her own for him. Two thoughts as one, stating only "Mine! Yes – always. Forever!" Dimly, in the back of his mind, something screamed at him to stop, he had gone far enough, it wasn't time, she wasn't for him now, too much! With a soft growl, he shook off that desperate inner voice. The fire in his blood spoke of more desirous things and he was lost in the swirling currents of scent that arose from his Catherine.
The scent of her! In all those forbidden, stolen embraces of their love he had always found a way to brush his face against her hair, to sweep his cheek across its silken softness, releasing the intoxicating scent that was Catherine. That alluring natural perfume which distinguished her from any other, that scent by which he would still know her if he were struck blind and deaf. The scent that had always tugged at and fought his control, begged him to spend more time, to linger in its heady spell. It engulfed his senses. The world faded until all it contained was his Catherine, the feel of her under his hands, warm and receptive.
Catherine too was lost, enchanted. Control of the kiss she had initiated was wrested away, with her willing acquiescence. The harsh looking bristles on his nose and chin rubbed against her by turns, unexpectedly soft. His callused hands on her shoulders had begun to move as well, in a soft kneading motion that sent trickles of delight down her spine, lighting fires within. Starbursts of sensation seemed to explode through her body, answering the rumbling vibration that shook through her, finding its silent echo within. The feel of his strong body so long forbidden, the musky warm scent of him, his breath, his very being was inhaled into every cell. It felt as if a part of him, wild and joyous, was entering her soul and curling up to stay, warm, loved, contented.
Eyes snapping open, Catherine returned to herself suddenly. The kneading motion on her shoulders was quite obvious now, the sharp points of his claws beginning to dig in a bit. The erotic contact was resulting in occasional sharp, almost painful, needle pricks. 'He can't hurt me,' she thought absently as she re-immersed herself in his kiss, the feel of his mane in her hands, gathered and released to slip like liquid gold through her fingers. Drifting downwards, her hand passed over the solidity of his chest under hers and her lips slid from his to begin trailing a line of sucking, moist kisses down the side of his throat. The rumbling beneath her hands, surrounding her, within her, grew in intensity. Catherine's lips stilled slowly. The motion of his hands on her was becoming stronger yet, pressure increasing to a point just past pain.
Turning to glance up at his face, Catherine caught her breath. He wore an expression she had never seen before fully, one which she had only caught the occasional hint of; an unfocused, glazed look reminiscent of the night she had potted roses on her balcony, when he had licked and kissed blood from a thorn scratch on her hand. She nearly jumped as one of his kneading claws scraped against the top of her shoulder blades, puncturing through the fabric of her jacket. "Vincent," she breathed softly. "Gently now, love..."
Dimly, Vincent heard Catherine speak to him. She felt so right under his hands! As she lifted her head, another wave of that intoxicating, drugging scent rose to embrace his senses. In her desire to see his face she had tilted her head back, exposing her ivory throat, so beautiful and delicate. His mouth dropped open as the sight struck him like a blow. An overwhelming imperative swamped him, hammered at him to take that lovely neck in his fangs and hold, hold her firm. Her words were incomprehensible, swept away by the force of that instinctive demand.
Catherine could see that her gentle entreaties were having no effect. 'I can't push him away,' she thought with a touch of desperation, visions of his previous experience with Lisa Campbell passing like a curse. With a sharp gasp, she flinched as the claw on his right thumb scored across her collarbone. Shaking him lightly, she tried to make him aware of her once again. At her movement, Vincent's claws tightened and the soft rumble grew harsher, more insistent. Reluctantly she spoke again, more forcefully. "Vincent!"
Catherine's eyes widened as in the dim light she saw the glint of his fully exposed fangs. That secret, hidden part of her that loved the wildness leapt as she felt the tumultuous, rushing desire from him, the dominance. In a swift movement, he bent his head to her exposed throat and she felt those deadly sharp fangs connect and begin to exert pressure. "Vincent, please be careful. Vincent!" Beginning to be truly frightened, Catherine attempted to twist her head away. Reflexively, he tightened his grip further. Catherine felt his sharp claws puncture through her jacket and blouse, driving into her flesh.
"Vincent!" she screamed in desperation. Instantly the grip of teeth and claws disappeared. The sudden loss of his hold caused her to overbalance, and she toppled backwards to the ground. Opening her eyes, she could see Vincent staring at her, blinking in an attempt to come back to himself.
Raising his hands in front of him, Vincent's eyes widened with horror as he beheld the blood, her blood, Catherine's blood! dripping down them. Throwing his head back, he screamed his anguish and horror at the uncaring ceiling. With all his strength, he threw his head back once again against the unforgiving rock.
A red wetness spread darkly into golden hair as he slid down to collapse on the cold stone floor.