All I Wanted
"I carry your heart with me
I carry it in my heart
I am never without it
Anywhere I go you go, my dear
And whatever is done by only me
Is your doing, my darling
For you are my fate, my sweet
I want no world
For beautiful you are my world, my true
And itís you are whatever a moon has always meant
And whatever a sun will always sing is you
Here is the deepest secret nobody knows
Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
And the sky of the sky of a tree called life
Which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide
and this is the wonder thatís keeping the stars apart
I carry your heart
I carry it in my heart"
The sound of Vincentís rich, deep voice stopped as he reached the end of the poem. He gripped his wife a little tighter as she snuggled deeper into his side, placing a kiss on the top of her head.
"I carry your heart in my heart, always," he whispered. Catherine sighed contentedly, enjoying the moment. After finishing their chores, they had curled up on the sofa together, reading poetry to each other. The day had turned out dreary with off and on rain showers making the world outside gloomy and forbidding, but here inside they were content. It was the perfect afternoon for a little reading, a little music and who knows, maybe even a little afternoon delight. Idly Catherine trailed a finger down Spudsí forehead, tracing the white marking that ran down his nose. His tailed wagged as he too enjoyed the lazy afternoon with his two legged friends lying close beside them in front of the sofa.
The harsh ring of the telephone shattered their lazy contentment, and groaning, Catherine reached across Vincent to pick it up, "Hello?"
"Cathy, itís Joe, I need you down here right away. Weíve got a situation."
Catherine could tell Joe was upset and she gave him no argument; he wouldnít call her on her day off if it werenít important.
"Of course, Joe. Iíll be right there."
As she hung up the phone, she turned in Vincentís lap so that she could look up at him.
"Iím sorry, my love, but duty calls."
Vincent leaned his face down, kissing her. She wrapped her arms around his neck pulling him closer, deepening the kiss. Breathlessly she pulled away and stood up.
"Youíre not making this any easier." She shook an accusing finger at him.
He tilted his head to one side, a gesture that always stopped her heart. "It wasnít my intention to make it any easier." He stood and accompanied her to the door along with Spuds.
"That last poem was beautiful." She looked at him wistfully, wishing Joe had never called.
"Cummings gave me the words to tell you how I feel, how Iíll always feel about you, beloved."
She had tears in her eyes when she reached up to kiss him. "I feel the same way, my love." He took her raincoat down off the hook and helped her into it. She turned to the door, and with a parting kiss for Vincent and a pat on the head for Spuds, left the brownstone.
"All right, people, settle down, settle down." Joe looked around the situation room that was crammed with as many of his people as he could get a hold of. He stood at a podium at the front of the room. Behind him and to one side a screen was set up, a projector humming a few feet in front of it.
"Iím sure youíre all aware of the recent disappearances of several women in the past few weeks. Now this being New York City, thatís not an unusual thing to happen; however, in these cases we seem to have a pattern occurring. The police commissioner and the mayor have asked my help, requesting that I get every investigator we have to help track down these women. Greg Hughes is here from the police department to fill us in on what they have so far." He nodded to Greg who was leaning up against the back wall. After being acknowledged, Greg walked forward and stood by the projector.
"Will someone hit the lights?" he asked as he entered the first slide into the machine. The image of a pretty blond haired woman in her early twenties shone on the screen. "This is Shelia Matterson, and as far as we can determine, she is the first of the girls to have disappeared." He went on to show four more women, all pretty much of the same coloring and build. All were from middle class families, all had good jobs. The only connection the police could find between them was that they all disappeared on a Friday as far as anyone could tell. They had all gone missing a week apart from each other. So far there had been no ransom note, and thankfully no bodies had turned up yet; although everyone in the room knew that it was probably just a matter of time before they did.
After the briefing, Joe handed out assignments. Catherine, no longer a field investigator, was given the arduous task of going through the files of each girl to try to find some connection that would tie them together. She took the stack of five folders to her desk. Taking out a legal sized, yellow pad, she opened the first folder and began to read, scribbling notes as she went through it. When she finished going over the last file, she reviewed her notes. She shook her head in frustration. As far as she could tell, they had not a single thing in common besides that fact that they were all female and around the same height, build and age. She looked through her notes again, concentrating on where they had been last seen. Again nothing jumped out at her. Every place was different. She let out a deep sigh. Hopefully the investigators out in the field would turn up some more information, but for now she was stuck. Looking around the room, she noticed she was one of the few people left in it. A glance at the wall clock told her sheíd been sitting at her desk for hours and that it was time to go home. Getting up, she saw that Joeís light was still on and she walked over to poke her head into his office.
"Radcliffe, you still here? Come up with anything?"
"Not a thing. You?"
"Nah. Nada, zilch. This oneís gonna be tough."
She nodded in agreement.
"Hey, why donít you go on home; tomorrow you can come at it with fresh eyes. Iíll see you in the morning."
"Ok, Joe. Good night."
Catherine went home, her mood now as gloomy as the weather.
The days dragged by, and still there was no break in the case. The media had gotten hold of it and had plastered the story on all the front pages of the newspapers under blaring headlines. Women were warned not to go anywhere alone. Gun sales were up and enrollment in self-defense classes seemed to be on the increase. Large dogs were becoming a common sight when walking down a street and still the kidnappings continued. In desperation the mayor called in the FBI, but they were as baffled as everyone else. Frustrated, Catherine had set up a board at home in the library with the victims pictures in a row across the top and anything and everything about them and the facts of their kidnappings written underneath them. Getting home from work, she would stare at it, thinking that she had overlooked something, something important that would tie them altogether and lead her to the kidnapper. Often Vincent would find her there just staring at it. Finally she decided to go to the kidnapping sites herself, studying these womenís lives so closely made her feel somehow connected to themÖas if she owed it to them to do whatever it took to solve the mystery of their disappearance. Vincent was none too happy when she told him of her plans,
"Catherine, you are no longer in field investigations. Iím sure no one in your office expects you to do this. Besides, others have been over each site time and time again. What do you hope to find that they did not?"
"Vincent, please try to understand. I feel obligated to these women somehow; I feel that I really need to do this."
After she had finally convinced him, he had insisted that she bring Spuds with her to Columbia Law School where the first victim was last seen. The girl had been taking night classes and had attended a class the evening of her disappearance, but then had never returned home. Somewhere between class that night and her home she had vanished.
Walking the familiar halls of her old school with Spuds trotting alertly beside her brought back memories of sitting in stuffy class rooms, listening with avid attention to the intricacies of the law; and she smiled as she entered Sheliaís classroom and approached the instructor.
"Excuse me; Iím Catherine Chandler from the District Attorneyís office." She held out her badge. "Iím here investigating the disappearance of Shelia Matterson."
The tall, lanky gray haired man looked at her credentials and frowned. "Youíre about the fourth person thatís come here asking questions. I canít add anymore to what Iíve already told them."
"I appreciate that, but I thought if I just sat in on the class, maybe talk to some of the students who knew her, I could get a feel for what she was like, maybe what her frame of mind was that night. You donít mind do you?"
"No, no. Not at all. The students should be arriving shortly. Youíre welcome to stay. Hopefully it wonít bore you too much."
She flashed him a bright smile, "Iím sure it wonít; Iíll just take a seat in the back."
"I suppose the dog is along for protection?"
She just smiled at him and made her way to the back of the room. Some of the students came in giving her a curious glance before taking their seats. As the room filled up, she noticed that most of the students were young, college age, with a few older adults who were probably trying to get their degrees while working a day job. She studied them as the instructor droned on about real estate law. At the conclusion of the class, Catherine approach a knot of students that had congregated in the hallway, identified herself and asked questions. The answers she got painted Shelia as a well liked, out going, confident woman bent on getting a law degree and planning on working for a corporate law firm. As far as anyone knew, she lived alone and had planned on going right home after class. A number of the students had decided to go get something to eat after class; but she had declined, wanting to make an early night of it to be fresh for a class first thing in the morning. Catherine thanked the students for their time and headed out the door to walk the few blocks to Sheliaís apartment. She stopped the few people she saw in the hallway of the building, finding that Shelia was a well-liked girl with a sunny disposition and a kind word for everyone. As she left the building, she heard a voice call out Sheliaís name; and turning, she saw a young woman approach her.
The girl stopped, confused, then said, "Iím sorry. I thought for a moment you were Shelia. Youíre about the same height and build and from the back, and wellÖ I guess it was just wishful thinking."
Catherine asked the girl a few questions but got the same answers as she had from everyone else. Shelia lived alone, was concentrating on school, was a nice girl, no enemies. Period. Absolutely nothing to give her any ideas as to where the girl could be now.
Her next location was Central Park, the second victimís last known location. The doorman of Patricia Speedís apartment building had seen the brown haired, green eyed woman leave in her jogging attire and head for the park at about 8:00 in the evening, nothing unusual for her since she always ran in the evening on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. She thanked the man and set off for the park, heading in the direction he had remembered Pat taking. Catherine had often jogged in this park; but since moving to the village, Washington Square had become her primary running ground. She enjoyed being on some of her old paths again and almost forgot the reason she came. She felt Vincent close by and tugged on Spudsí leash when he tried to pull her in his direction. He had insisted on coming along, and at this time of night, she didnít mind at all. She glanced up at the full moon whose light shone through the leaves of the trees and seemed to move with the sway of the branches as the gentle night breeze blew around them. The few people she saw she would stop and question, but no one could throw any light on Patís disappearance. She was close to the carousel when she heard footsteps coming closer behind her. She tensed slightly feeling Vincent tensing as well. Suddenly she stopped and waited. Spuds growled deep in his throat and the fur on the back of his neck stood up. A man stopped and stared, keeping well away from her roused protector, then sheepishly excused himself, "Iím sorry. I though you were someone else." It turned out he knew the missing girl and had seen her jogging in the park the night of her disappearance. Catherine took down his name and address in the notebook she had in her fanny pack. She finished her run, ending up at the culvert where she met Vincent. They returned home via the tunnels.
While Catherine was making her inquires, Father sat behind his desk staring at the man who stood before him. He noted the body language of the other men of the work crew that had just returned and surmised that they did not have anything good to tell him.
"All right, out with it, Carl. Holding back wonít make it any better."
Carl had been with them for less than a year, but in that time he had proved to be an invaluable asset to the under ground community. In his Above life he had been a master plumber with a business of his own, a house in the suburbs and a beautiful wife, living the so-called good life until an accident had rendered his right hand useless. He had no insurance, and the mounting medical bills and his deep depression had lost him everything. In time the only place he could call home were the streets of the city. Of average height, his once beefy frame was now a shadow of its former self. Only in his early thirties he looked to be much older, and his once black hair was streaked with gray. The streets had not been kind to him, and the hard life had taken its toll. A helper had brought the tunnel communityís attention to Carlís plight, and he had been offered a home Below. It turned out to be of mutual benefit to both parties. Carlís plumbing knowledge had proved invaluable to the community; and with many willing hands to help him, his disability had not been a hindrance at all, and he had done his utmost to repay their kindness. He looked at the tunnel patriarch now, unwilling to have to bring him bad news.
"Iím sorry, Father, but I donít see any way around it this time; itís just been patched till it canít be patched anymore. We need to install a new pipe, and soon, before this one goes altogether," Carl finished glumly. A pipe the size of the one they needed to replace was not easy for the tunnel dwellers to come by.
Father ran a hand distractedly though his hair, if the leaking continued, there would undoubtedly be a work crew from Above coming down to find and fix it. The problem was that this particular pipe was very close to the central hub of the community, and there would be no way to hide the fact of their existence. He looked at the faces of the men that ringed his desk. They were all looking to him for an answer, all aware that this could be a major disaster for them. He saw Mouse abruptly head for the chamber entrance.
"Mouse, where are you going?" he called out to the young man.
"Need pipe. Mouse find pipe." And with that he was gone.
Father shook his head. Fatherhood hadnít changed Mouse at allÖhe was still the same impulsive boy he had always been. He wished him good hunting; he knew if anyone could find what they needed he could.
Mouse first went to tell Jamie that he was going to be gone for a while looking for something Father needed. Then he scurried down the tunnels, popping Above every so often trying to remember where he had seen some pipe of the kind they desperately needed. On and on he went until he reached a location in the lower east side. Carefully he crept into the sub-basement of an abandoned water treatment plant, the twin beams of light from the flashlights mounted in his old leather cap picking out cobwebs and moldy pieces of equipment. Gingerly he threaded his way through the myriad kinds of refuse, looking for pipe.
Finally he saw some stacked against a wall. He scampered over to them, running his hand along the rusted, pitted surface of one. It wasnít perfect, but it was far superior to what they had now. He put his hands into one end of the pipe and tried to shift it. Nothing. Groaning, he flexed his knees and pulled up, again putting all his strength into it, but he didnít budge it a bit. Panting, he stepped back, thinking he would go back and get some of the others. That was his last thought as something struck him in the back of the head, and he fell to the ground unconscious.
Pain. There was a great deal of pain coming from his head. Slowly he opened his eyes, squinting against the light that assailed them. He attempted to sit up, but the pain the movement caused brought tears to his eyes. What had happened? Had he hit his head on something hanging from the ceiling? Again he tried to sit up, this time he made it. He looked around as his eyes became accustomed to the light. He noted that he was no longer by the pipes that he had been examining; rather he was lying on the floor of what appeared to be an office. As he shifted his body to get a better view of his surroundings, he heard the clink of metal and felt something digging into his leg. Looking down, he could see that his right ankle had a cuff of metal enclosing it; and from it ran a length of metal linked chain that ended around the leg of a desk. Mouse scrambled to his feet ignoring the pain. He pulled on the chain, testing its strength. Then he went to the desk and tried to move it, but it was bolted to the floor. He moved away from the desk as far as the chain would let him go, but it didnít even reach to the door. He had been caught. It wasnít the first time, and he went back to the desk and sat on its surface, waiting for his captor to appear. He waited for what seemed like forever before he heard the scrape of a key in the lock. He stood, waiting tensely for what was to come, fully expecting to see a police officer followed by an irate building owner.
"Well, I see my intruder is awake."
Mouse stared as the man came through the doorway.
"You know youíre trespassing on private property." The man looked sternly at Mouse, causing the younger man to look down at his feet, waiting for whatever punishment was to come.
The man walked over and put a finger under Mouseís chin, lifting his head.
"Itís ok though because I own the building. It used to belong to my father, but now it belongs to me."
Mouse looked at him perplexed as the man moved to sit on the edge of the desk.
Then his face brightened as he realized what the man had said, it was ok.
"Let Mouse go?" he asked happily.
"Mouse? Is that what youíre called? Itís an odd name, but Iíve heard worse." The man moved off the desk and walked around the room. Mouse kept his eyes on him, wondering when he was going to take the shackle of his leg.
When he stopped, he looked at Mouse. "Let you go? No, I donít think so. I think Iíll make you my friend. I donít have any friends. You could help me. I could use another pair of hands. You could be my servant, my house boy."
Mouse became agitated and shifted from foot to foot. "Mouse has friends, lots of friends, theyíll come looking." He hoped the warning would prompt the man to let him go. The man just stared at him in an unfocused way.
"Have wife, baby too! Theyíll worry. Please let Mouse go!"
The eyes of the man suddenly focused again and locked on Mouse. "You have a child?" At Mouseís enthusiastic nod he moved to the door and opened it. "Youíre better off here with me. Youíre better off being my friend. Children are problems. I killed my father you know." With that, he went through the door, locking it behind him.
Mouse stared wide-eyed, then sank to the floor in despair. He wanted to go home. He just wanted to go home.
Vincent was awakened by the sound of the buzzer ringing from the basement tunnel entrance. Someone was coming up from Below, and at this time of night it couldnít be for anything good. He glanced over at Catherine, who still slept soundly; she hadnít heard the ring at all. Quickly he drew on his robe and padded out into the hallway accompanied by Spuds who stood by his side, head down, sniffing the air. He could hear the person quickly making their way up the stairs. He stretched his empathic senses and discovered it to be Jamie in an extremely agitated state. He held out his arms to her as she reached the landing. She all but flew into them grateful for his strong presence.
"Jamie, what is it? What brings you here at this time of night?" He questioned her gently, guiding her into the guest bedroom, and switching on the light.
Jamie stared for a moment. She had never seen Vincent in a robe before, and the fuzzy green one he was wearing now made him look bigger than he usually did. Shaking off her momentarily distraction, she explained.
"Mouse isnít home yet. He hasnít been home for hours, and Iím really worried about him. Everybody else I talk to wonít take me seriously. They say heís just off somewhere like he usually is, but Vincent, he hasnít gone off like this since Winny was born; and I just know somethingís happened to him."
Vincent thought over what she said and had to agree with her, Mouse had faithfully been home every night, enjoying his role of parent tremendously. The frivolous young boy had turned into a doting parent ever since Winny had come into his life.
He gripped Jamieís shoulders, making the girl look up at him. "Wait in the library for me. Iíll get dressed and join you there." The girl nodded and headed down the stairs.
Catherine woke to find her husband gone and whispers coming from the hallway. Donning her robe and slippers, she was just heading out of the room when Vincent came in. "Whatís wrong? Whatís going on?" she asked him worriedly.
"Mouse is missing; Iím going to look for him. Jamieís waiting in the library," he said tersely, shedding his robe and pulling on a pair of pants.
Catherine quickly headed down. Poor Jamie must be frantic with worry. She entered the library to see Jamie staring at the board of missing women.
"Jamie," she called softly as she entered the room.
Jamie turned and rushed into Catherineís arms, tears welling up in her eyes. "If somethingís happened to him, I donít know what Iíll do."
Catherine took the girls head in her hands, "Donít worry. Vincent will find him, Iím sure of it. And heíll be fine." She put as much confidence into her tone as she felt. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Vincent would do it.
Embarrassed by her momentary lack of control, Jamie turned and went back to the board. "Are these the missing women?"
Catherine moved up to stand beside her, "Yes. We still havenít got a clue as to who took them or why."
Jamie cocked her head to one side staring at them. "They all sort of remind me of you."
Catherine looked at her surprised, "What do you mean? They donít look anything like me."
"Parts of them do. Here. Look at this oneís eyes." She used her hands to cover the upper and lower part of Sheilaís face so that only her green eyes stared back at them. "And this one has your hair color...and that one your smile." She went right down the line, pointing out the similarities."
Catherine stood stunned and was startled when Vincent poked his head through the door. "Ready?"
Jamie nodded and passed by him as he went in to say goodbye. Sensing Catherineís distress, he kissed her. "Donít worry. Weíll find him." She nodded distractedly then came back out of her reverie into the moment. She flung her arms around his neck, pulling him close. "Please be careful."
"We will." He held her close, rubbing his cheek on the top of her head, drinking in her scent. He gave her one last squeeze.
"Come, Spuds." He called the dog to him and went down the stairs. Catherine watched him go and then turned back to the board.
Jamie had preceded him down to the basement and was standing by the weapons rack. He reached over and took his sword and scabbard out of its customary place and buckled it on. He felt Jamie watching him intently, then she reached and pulled one of the staffs out. He was about to protest when she turned to him with such a look of determination on her face that he stopped.
"Iím going too!" she declared adamantly.
He inclined his head in acquiescence and opened the portal to the tunnel, waiting for her to precede him. "Weíll need something of Mouseís to give Spuds the scent," he said, closing the door behind them.
"I already thought of that." She swung the bag she had over her shoulder down and pulled out the shirt Mouse had been wearing the previous day, handing it to him. He flashed her a look of admiration before presenting it to Spuds. The threesome then headed off to where Jamie had last seen Mouse.
Looking at the pictures from a new perspective, Catherine realized that Jamie was right. The little whisper that had been nagging her all throughout the investigation blossomed into a shout. These women had all last been seen in places Catherine had been in during her life. Quickly she went to the phone and dialed the number for information. After getting the number for the Cambridge police department, she dialed it, pacing the floor impatiently while waiting for someone to pick it up. When the bored voice of the night duty officer greeted her, she explained who she was and asked if any women had gone missing in the past few weeks or so. It took some time but the lieutenant finally came back and said there had been a girl reported missing from Radcliffe College three weeks ago. When she questioned him further, he said there had been no ransom note, and the case was still being investigated. She asked him to fax over a picture of the girl, thanked him profusely for his help and apologized again for the lateness of the hour. She ran to her office, and again waited impatiently, pacing in front of the little machine until it finally started to hum. She held her breath as the picture of the missing woman slowly materialized. The girlís description as far as height and weight matched all the others, and she wore her hair the way Catherine used to in college. Catherine sank back on the edge of the desk, holding the fax in her hand. She was the keyÖshe was the common denominator that linked all the women together.
Vincent felt her anxiety and mistook it for the missing Mouse. He and Jamie had been following Spuds for a good while now, and they found themselves traveling the seldom-used tunnels of the lower east side. They saw Spuds scratching at a door, and holding up their lanterns they saw that it had recently been opened. Cautiously they entered the sub-basement of the old water treatment plant, peering into the darkness for some sign of their quarry. Vincent detected the metallic odor of blood and quickened his pace, following Spuds closely. If Mouse ran afoul of something or someone, he wanted to get there before Jamie.
Spuds led them to a pile of pipes where he sniffed the length of one of them. Vincent could just envision Mouse lovingly running his hand along it, knowing that he had found exactly what the community needed. Spuds stopped abruptly at the end of the pipe and stood stock still, pointing. Jamie was closest to that end and shone her light on it. A gasp of dismay left her lips as she bent down to retrieve Mouseís cap with its dangling flashlights. She felt something sticky and upon examining her fingers saw that they had blood on them from the cap. Vincent grabbed her as she sank to the floor.
"Oh God," she whispered in a strangled voice, "heís been hurt." She wouldnít believe the worst; she couldnít. Life without Mouse would be no life at all.
"Jamie," Vincent whispered to her urgently, "heís not dead. I think I would know if he was. Look." He pointed to marks on the floor where something had been dragged away.
Taking heart by Vincentís assurance, she rose to her feet. Spuds had left them, following the trail marked out on the dirty floor. It led to a door that had light shining under it. Vincent motioned to Jamie to douse her lantern and stay put. Spudsí tail was going a mile a minute, and extending his empathic sense, Vincent could feel Mouse on the other side, alive and well. There was no one else. He tested the knob and felt it locked. Throwing his shoulder into the door, he heaved and broke through. Mouse was sitting cross legged on top of a desk with a piece of wire in his hand studiously picking at the shackle on his leg. He looked up surprised, dried blood covering one side of his forehead. Jamie rushed to him as he jumped down and embraced her.
"Mouse, are you all right?" she asked anxiously.
"Fine. Was almost done. Would have been free soon."
Vincent laughed and clapped the boy on the shoulder. "We have no doubts about that, Mouse; we just thought you could use a little help."
In truth Mouse had been picking at the lock for quite a while without any results and was immensely grateful that they had shown up. Spuds leaped around the three of them wriggling in excitement, enjoying the congratulatory pats he received from them. Vincent drew out his sword, and with one mighty stroke, severed the chain as close to Mouseís leg as he dared. Jamie examined the cut on Mouseís head and decided he would live. The group made its way back to the tunnels, and once well away from the building demanded to know what had happened. Mouse very importantly told of his finding the pipe for Father and then waking up in the room, chained to the desk. He told them about the odd man and his even odder words. Now that he had been found and was safe, he felt himself very important and couldnít wait to tell Father of his adventures.
Catherine, meanwhile, had called information again and had gotten another number. Unfortunately, it was too early to call. She came to a decision and quickly showered and got dressed. She wrote a hurried note to Vincent and went out to the car. By the time she got to her destination, there should be some people there who could tell her what she needed to know. As she drove, she felt Vincentís progress through the bond and knew when they had found Mouse. She was grateful for the connection that told her everything was fine and strove to keep her anxiety in check, not wishing to alarm her husband. Shortly she would know if her assumptions were correct. As she drove up the driveway, the sun was just rising in the winter sky. It had been a very mild winter so far, but the chill Catherine felt as she got out of her car and approached the buildingís front door had nothing to do with the weather. She tried the knob and released an anxious breath when she found that it was unlocked. Going to the reception desk, she identified herself and made her inquiries.
Afterward she drove back to the city as fast as she could, a recent photograph tucked in her purse. Speeding down the road gave her time to think and she had to admit it all made a weird, perverted kind of sense. She called Joe using her mobile.
"Radcliffe, where the hell are you?" He was practically screaming at her.
"Joe, calm down. I was following up a lead." She kept her voice level and light.
"Is Vincent with you?"
"No. He had to go Below. Mouse was missing."
"Jesus! What next? Didnít I tell you not to go anywhere alone? Last thing I need is a missing Assistant DA." He sounded exhausted, Catherine betting that he had only gotten a few hours of sleep. Heíd been pushing everyone mercilessly since the kidnappings started, but he was hardest on himself.
"Look, Joe, Iím almost home. Why donít you meet me at the house? Vincent should be back by then, and I can tell you both what Iíve found out."
"Yeah, ok, sure what about Mouse?"
"Iím sure they found him, at least it felt that way a little while ago."
"God, you and Vincent, that bond thing you got going? Itís better than a telephone."
"It sure is. Iíll see you soon." She broke the connection.
Vincent felt that Catherine had put some distance between them and was worried; she hadnít said anything about going anywhere. He turned for home when they reached the branch off, bidding the other two goodbye. Lengthening his stride, he reached the house just as Joe was putting his key into the lock. They met at the vestibule.
"Vincent, what the hell is going on? I spoke to Cathy on the phone, and she said Mouse was missing."
"Come, weíll go down to the kitchen. You look like you could use a cup of coffee." He laid an arm across Joeís shoulders, walking him down the hallway. When they got down the stairs, Vincent went right to the coffee pot while Joe made himself comfortable in a chair. He propped his elbows up on the tablesí surface and wearily cradled his head in his hands.
"I feel like Iíve been up forever. I hope Cathy brings us back some good news so I can get some sleep."
"Weíll find out soon. I feel that sheís close."
It wasnít long after his pronouncement that Catherine walked through the door and directly down to the kitchen. Vincent stood as she entered the room and hugged her tightly, then led her over to the table and sat her down.
"Hiya, Joe, you look terrible." She gave him a wan smile.
"Yeah? Well, I hope you brought us some good news so I can look better." He quipped hopefully.
She pulled the picture out of her purse and was about to explain her trip when they heard the buzzer go off and shortly afterward a clatter on the basement stairway. Mouse burst through the doorway with Jamie in tow. After regaling Father with his exploits, he wanted to tell Catherine. He was about to launch into his story when he spotted the picture.
"Thatís him! The man." His excitement suddenly deflated, and he stared accusingly at Catherine. "Howíd you know? Mouse wanted to tell."
"What do you mean thatís the man? Mouse, where did you see this man?" Catherine asked.
"By the pipe. Had me chained. Would have gotten out."
Catherine looked at Vincent who was already moving towards the basement stairs. When she moved to follow, he stopped. "Catherine, perhaps it would be better if you stayed here."
"No, Vincent, Iím going with you." She passed him as he looked to Joe for support. Joe had stood and shrugged his shoulders at his friendís silent plea. "Hey, look. You seem to be the only one that knows whatís going on. Wherever youíre going, Iím going; and you can fill me in on the way." He too passed Vincent by and followed Catherine down the stairs. Vincent sighed, defeated, and continued down with Jamie and Mouse hurrying after him. Catherine had already entered the tunnel with Spuds and stood waiting at the intersection for them to catch up to her. As Vincent approached her, they locked eyes. He desperately wanted her to go back home, but he felt her resolve and moved past her in the direction of the lower east side. As they traveled, Mouse regaled them with his exploits, thoroughly enjoying his captive audience.
When they came to the doorway of the sub-basement, Spuds let out a low growl. Vincent hushed him, but had sensed it too; the building was not empty. He doused the lanternís light, "There is someone in there," he told the others. "Stay here." Silently he moved through the room, his sight not at all hampered by the darkness that engulfed him. As he and Spuds approached the office where Mouse had been held captive, he saw that light was spilling through the open door and detected movement inside. He heard a voice muttering.
"Gone. My friend is gone. Stolen from me just like everything else. Why did he leave? I thought we were friends."
The disjointed rambling went on and on, the sound of footsteps pacing accompanying it.
Vincent felt Catherine move up behind him and before he could stop her she was through the door.
"Steven." She called softly.
Steven stopped pacing and whirled around to see who had come into the room.
"Cathy, youíre here? I canít believe it. Itís so good to see you. How did you know where to find me?"
Catherine looked at the man she was once engaged to. His once sandy, brown hair had liberal streaks of gray and his face was prematurely lined. His eyes were bright and shiny with a maniacal glow to them. "I went to the clinic, Steven, they told me you had made remarkable progress in the last year and that you were well enough to be released." She kept her voice even and calm as she spoke to him.
"Yes, yes they had a new procedure that restored the use of my legs. Look, I can walk again. Isnít it wonderful?" He demonstrated by walking the width of the room for her.
"Itís a miracle, Steven, Iím so happy for you."
"Itís so good to see you Cathy. Iíve missed you. Why didnít you ever come to visit me?"
"I wanted to, Steven, but the doctors thought it would be better if I stayed away."
He was standing in front of her, staring at her. Suddenly his whole demeanor changed, "No, donít tell me that. Donít tell me it was the doctors who told you to stay away. It was him! He wants you all to himself!" His whole face took on a menacing look. The sheared end of the chain that had shackle Mouse was in his hand. He took a few steps toward her and suddenly it was Vincent who stood before him, his sword out pointing at Stevenís chest.
Steven stopped in mid-stride and stared at the sword and then at the cut end of the chain.
"It was you." He pointed an accusing finger. "You took my friend away. You take every thing away." He turned his back to them and slammed the end of the chain on the desk, the metallic ring almost deafening. He turned around again, and in an almost normal tone, added, "But itís all right. You can have Cathy, youíve already got her brain washed." He folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the desk. "Iíve got my own Cathy now." He added smugly, "Youíve got yours and Iíve got mine." His eyes unfocused and he got a dreamy look on his face. "Iíll take care of her; give her everything she wants, pretty clothes, jewelry, food. Everything!"
"Steven," Catherine moved up beside Vincent, "where are the girls? Are they all right?"
His eyes refocused on her and he glared, "Of course theyíre all right! What do you think I am, a monster?" His eyes soften again, "Theyíre not you of course...I know that, but each one has something that reminds me of you. I can look at them and have you with me. You donít have to worry; Iíll take good care of them."
"Where are they, Steven? Are they here in this building?"
"In this building?" He looked at her as if he didnít know her. "No, this was only a stop in the journey. My father owned this building. He abandoned it when the city built its own treatment plants. He used to bring me here. I killed him you knowÖmother too." His voice faded away and he lost focus again.
"Steven!" Catherine called sharply. "The girls, where are they?"
Steven refocused on Vincent, glaring at him and shouted, "You canít have them! You have her! What more do you want? She was everything to me, and you took her! You took her!"
"She left you before she ever met me." Vincent said softly. "The girls, you canít keep them. Theyíre not yours to keep. They have a right to choose who they want to be with."
"Youíre not thinking clearly, Steven," Catherine added soothingly, "We can help you; we can get you the help you need."
He was staring at the floor and said in a voice so low she could barely hear him. "All I wanted was to love you, Cathy." Tears welled and trickled down his face. "Was that so wrong?" He met her eyes, pleading, "Was it?"
Compassion for him overwhelmed her; and she made a move toward him, holding out her hand. "Iím so sorry, Steven; I never meant to hurt you."
"We were happy together, werenít we?" he whispered.
"For a time we were, but itís over Steven. Itís been over between us for a long time." She took a step closer. "You need to tell us where the girls are, Steven. Please." Vincent tensed, feeling her pain and turmoil, aching to hold her to give her comfort.
Suddenly Stevenís head shot up, and he began to shout, "Does he want them too? Does he get to have everything? Am I to have nothing? Nothing! I canít live without loveÖI wonít." He screamed and before anyone could move he grabbed Catherineís outstretched hand and pulled her toward him. A gun appeared in his other hand, and as he held Catherine in front of him like a shield, he stuck the muzzle of the gun under her chin.
He pulled her to the wall with him, and with his back to it he slid along it towards the doorway. Joe had his gun out and was looking for a clear shot, but none presented itself. Vincent had had no time to move. Stevenís sick mind hadnít telegraphed his intentions at all. He followed them, growling deep in his chest, fighting to maintain his control. Catherine clutched at the arm Steven had around her throat, fighting to breathe as he pulled her along. Mouse and Jamie dropped back behind Joe when Steven pulled Catherine through the doorway. "Stay back or Iíll shoot her; I swear it! Iíll shoot her."
"Steven, please," she gasped. "Let me go. You donít want to do this."
"No, I donít want this. I never wanted this." Suddenly he shoved her away from him, hard. She fell to the floor as he turned and ran. Vincent was by her side in an instant, helping her up. "Iím fine," she assured him. "We have to catch him." He nodded and ran in the direction Steven had taken with the others gamely trying to keep up.
Suddenly they heard a gunshot and rushed in the direction of the sound. Vincent got there first and knelt down beside the prone body. Spuds whined at the overpowering smell of blood as it flowed out of the wounds in Stevenís body. The light from Jamieís lantern illuminated the gruesome scene as the others entered what used to be the control room of the plant. Catherine threw herself down beside the body, "Steven!" she called in horror as she saw the extent of the injuries the bullet had inflicted. "Vincent, do something! Help him!" she implored him hysterically.
"Iím sorry, Catherine. There is nothing to be done. Heís gone." He rose, drawing her with him. She clung to him, sobbing into his chest as his arm encircled her and held her close.
Joe holstered his gun and squatted down beside the body. "Jeez, what a way to go."
Steven had evidently put the muzzle of the gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. The splatter of blood had reached far back to the wall and onto an old, skewed, dusty picture of the crew that had once worked the plant, his father in the foreground.
"Look, why donít you guys get out of here. Iíll stay with the body until the cops get here." Joe shook his head sadly as he stood up. "We still donít know where heís got the girls stashed."
Catherine turned her head from Vincentís chest and whispered in a small voice, "New Rochelle. He had a place in New Rochelle."
Joe nodded, "All right, kiddo, when you get back to the house, call the commissioner and tell him where I am. Tell him to send the coroner," he added softly. Catherine looked at him and nodded. She left Vincentís arms for a moment and gave Joe a hug.
"Iím sorry, Cathy." He returned the hug and then let her go. "You know thereís just one thing I donít understand. Why Fridayís? He always took the girls on a Friday."
Catherine sighed deeply, bowing her head, "Because it was our date night, our special time when we didnít have to worry about classes the next day." Tears welled again. "We always went out and had a good time on Friday nights."
Joe nodded, "All right, get going. Just leave me a lantern. This place gives me the creeps."
Jamie gave Joe her lantern, then held Mouseís hand as they followed Vincent and Catherine back the way they had come. Spuds trotted along beside them, his tail tucked between his legs, a reaction to the morbid mood that surrounded him.
When they neared the tunnel entrance, they took pains to obliterate their tracks so that no oneís attention would be drawn to their underground world. The group trudged back, splitting up at the turn off to the brownstone. Catherine dutifully made the promised call to the commissioner, giving him Joeís location and the address she had gotten from the sanitarium. She was sure it was the mansion Steven had purchased a few years earlier, the place where he had planned on keeping her to himself, a prisoner of his misguided love.
That evening the news broadcasts were full of the death of the mysterious kidnapper. The girls had indeed been found, alive and well, locked in the house in New Rochelle.
Catherine and Vincent sat on the glider that occupied a corner of their bedroom balcony, Spuds curled up beside them. Catherine was snuggled up against Vincentís side, his arm draped around her shoulders protectively. The night, winter air was crisp with a cold bite to it, but Vincentís warmth kept her comfortable; and for the moment, she did not want to be surrounded by walls. Together they watched the moon creep up slowly above the tops of the buildings, rising to its height in the black sky. As it rose, its milky, white light illuminated the landscape beneath it and gave the clouds scudding by it a ghostly gray sheen. They sat in companionable silence for a while before Vincent brought up the subject that was on both their minds.
"He wanted to die, Catherine. He would not have survived for long in the sanitarium."
"I know that," Catherine replied. "He was so tormented, so unhappy. I just canít help feeling some responsibility for what happened to him. Perhaps if I had paid more attention to him, given him more of my time..."
"Catherine, donít torture yourself with what ifís. The events of the day played out as they had to. Nothing you could have done would have changed it. Steven is at peace. Know that and take comfort in it."
"Youíre right, Vincent. I know youíre right, but I canít help feeling the way I do." She squeezed his waist tighter with the arms she had wrapped around it.
"I know that, Catherine. Your compassion is one of the many reasons I love you so much."
He looked at her upturned face, the moonlight shining down on her, giving her a glow that was otherworldly. He stared at her lips. Drawn to them, he lowered his head and covered her mouth with his own. She moved her arms from around his waist to wrap them around his neck, pulling him closer. They drank deeply of each other, the events of the day giving them a sense of urgency, a depth of need that soon overwhelmed them. Standing, Vincent scooped her up and carried her into their bedroom, the depth of their love needing a physical release, a release that would wash away the pain and reaffirm a love that had been meant to be. A love that had its completeness in these two beings that now became one.