FINDING LOVE ON THE STREETS
by Ana Luiza Brown
He hated it. It was not the first time he had buried a friend, a dear friend. He had enough of burying dear ones. He was tired of doing it.
Diana Bennet had been the best police officer he had ever met. And now she was dead. A teenager had shot her three times during what was believed to be a robbery. She had gone into a snack shop to buy a few beers and some groceries when a teenager, high on drugs, went into the place to rob it. He was pointing his gun to the cashier when she interfered. She had tried to reason with the kid. She had, it was true. But the boy didn’t care about the fact that she was unarmed, he shot her three times in the chest and then ran away. All the officers in town were after the young cop killer, but so far nothing had been found on the kid’s whereabouts. And it had been left to him to bury another dear friend.
Diana had no living relatives. Her parents were both dead and she had never been married. Some co-workers made malicious comments about the fact that it had been years since Diana had been seen with a guy. But he knew these comments had nothing to do with the real thing. He knew Diana loved someone, a man, only that she wasn’t loved in return.
He knew who the man was, only that he had never talked to Diana about it. He had first heard his name a few years before, when Cathy Chandler had been found dead in her apartment. The man’s name was Vincent.
Diana loved Vincent, who was still in love with Catherine, who had been dead for three years. And, if he faced the facts, he himself had always been in love with Cathy. He knew she was dead, but he couldn’t stop thinking about what she would be doing if she were alive. He thought she was the most amazing human being he had ever known. At first he thought she was simply a spoilt up-town girl trying to show the world that she was a good attorney, but then he came to know the real person. He ended up falling in love with her, but she had never given him a chance.
He had been the one who had found her dead. He had been the one who had made the funeral arrangements. And, God, it had almost killed him to do it.
Catherine and Diana had been in love with Vincent, but the man hadn’t been able to save the lives of any of them. And it had been left to him to bury the women who had loved Vincent.
But who was this guy, anyway? Would he show up at Diana’s funeral? No, he wouldn’t. He hadn’t bothered to show up at Cathy’s funeral, why he would bother to come to Diana’s?
The name Vincent was on his mind when he entered the Criminal Courts building. He didn’t say hi to anyone while walking across the many desks of his co-workers to get into his own office. Everyone turned their heads to see him while he headed straight into his office, but he didn’t care to look at their faces.
He was angry. Angry with everything and everyone. Angry with Vincent. Angry with the boy who had murdered Diana. He wanted to run away and go to the furthest place he could get. But he knew he had things to do. He was the District Attorney of Manhattan, people depended on him. And he had arrangements to do.
He didn’t bother to hang his trench coat, he simply threw it on his couch and went straight to his desk. He sat on his chair and held his head with both his hands. How many more people dear to him would he have to bury?
He wanted to cry, but he couldn’t. He was a man, an Italian American New Yorker, he wouldn’t allow himself to cry. He brushed his hair with his fingers and spoke to himself “Oh, Diana, why did you have to die?”
“Can I come in, Joe.”
It was Rita who knocked at his door. The young Assistant District Attorney who had been following Catherine’s footsteps.
Rita was a young black woman in her middle twenties. She had been straight out of Law School when she had been hired by the District Attorney’s office. She wanted to be as good as Catherine’s used to be in her job, but she wasn’t . Catherine knew more about the Law and was reckless, never minding to risk herself to punish the guilty. Rita was more careful, sometimes extremely cautious, which prevented her from achieving the same results as Catherine’s. But Catherine’s lack of fear had led her into her grave, a tragic fate that Rita wouldn’t like to share.
“Come in, Escobar.”
Joe used to call her by her last name, which she hated. Her father was from Cuba and her mother was a pure New Yorker. She loved her father and was proud of him, but she hated the many jokes she would hear about her surname. Joe, himself, would tease her sometimes about it, asking whether she was related to the notorious Colombian drug dealer with the same last name or not. She wasn’t. Joe knew it. It was a joke, everybody knew who she was. But she hated it anyway. But Joe teased everyone in the office. Only that, on that morning, he wouldn’t be in the mood to joke. A great detective and close friend of Joe’s had been killed. He was devastated.
She walked across the room and sat in front of him. He raised his eyes and looked at her. Joe looked tired. This had been the worst morning he had had in a long time.
“Oh, Joe, I know how you two were close. I’m so sorry. “
He took a deep breath and spoke. “I’ll have to make the arrangements for her funeral. Unfortunately, I’m getting too good at doing such things.”
“Why do you need to do such a thing, Joe?”
He raised from his chair and stood in front of the window. It was going to be a rainy day. He couldn’t help thinking that it matched his mood somehow.
“I was the one who made the arrangements for Cathy’s funeral…”
“Oh, Joe. Yes, I remember… But didn’t Diana have anyone else, a relative, perhaps, who could look after it?”
He turned and looked at the young woman. She was trying to be nice and he was thankful for that. Rita was a nice young woman, he cared a great deal about her.
He sat on his chair again and looked at the many folders on his desk. There was a newspaper on the top of them in which you could read on the first page “Detective Slain”.
“No.” He stated flatly.
“Would you like any help?” She searched for his hands across the desk and held them. She cared about Joe a lot and was sincerely sorry for the burden he would have to carry on his shoulders. Another one of his dear friends was dead. She understood him.
“I’ll need it, Escobar. Diana didn’t have anyone. The County is going to pay for her funeral, but I still have to make the arrangements. I’m so sad, Rita, she didn’t deserve it.”
“I know she didn’t.”
“She was one of the greatest cops I’ve known. We had our issues, but… She was always so good at everything she did. She got the guy who killed Cathy, do you remember that?”
“I do, Joe. We at the DA are all very thankful for that. Cathy was one of our own.”
“She was too young to die… She would turn 33 years - old next week. Did you know that?”
“I did, Joe. We were both Gemini. She cared about these things that you guys claim to be so silly, like horoscope. She also played the guitar, did you know that?”
He smiled. Those were fond memories. “Yes, and she played well! Do you remember when we were all at that karaoke bar, last month, and she climbed the stage to sing?”
They both laughed.
“She was terrible, Joe!” Rita said, she was smiling, but she had tears in her eyes. Diana had been such a funny person. Rita would miss her.
“Yes, she tried to sing an old Madonna’s tune…”
“She was so terrible, but we had so much fun…” Rita was on the verge of tears.
“Would you call the funeral home for me, Rita? I’ll have to go to the morgue, to see if they can release her body for the funeral tomorrow. Then I’ll have to go to church.”
“Yes. She would like it there. A Catholic Mass. She was of Irish descent, I believe she would have approved it.”
Rita couldn’t help it anymore and started crying. Joe raised from his chair and took her in his arms.
“Cathy died, and now Diana. They were both so kind, Joe. How could they be murdered? Why did they do to deserve this?”
Joe wished he could answer, but he couldn’t. He had asked himself this same
question too many times after Catherine’s death, and now with Diana’s. What had
they done to deserve being murdered? Why did it happen to them? It was not fair…
And who was Vincent anyway?
There was a city beneath the streets of New York. A city whose inhabitants lived away from society, with rules of their own.
They lived according to different standards of Justice. They believed in love, in caring for each other and existed as a large family.
They didn’t have much, but the place was warm and safe. The community’s leader was a man called Jacob Wells, he used to be a well known researcher until he had been black listed in the 1950’s. He had lost his job, his family and his position then and had been forced to search for sanctuary beneath the city streets. That was the place in which he had been able to build a whole new world, in which forgotten values such as love still existed.
It was Vincent’s home. The man beast who haunted the Subways and the streets above in search of evil doers in order to bring Justice upon them. It was a different kind of Justice, not the one that existed in the world Bellow.
But Vincent hadn’t always been vengeful. He used to be the sweetest man, always willing to help anyone in need. His big heart somehow contrasted with his looks for, even though he was genetically human, his appearance was different from other men’s. He now knew he was human, but the knowledge of his humanity had come to him at a very high price, with the death of his only love, the woman called Catherine.
She had been the one who had showed him his own humanity. She had taught him to look underneath his appearance and into his own heart. But now she was dead and nothing could ever bring him back.
He had his and Catherine’s son with him. The child was the image of his mother, except for his large blue eyes, which were his father’s. Everything else was his mother’s and the child was the only reason he would go on living.
But he still felt angry at the world, for it had killed Catherine. He walked the streets above as a vigilante, like if his deeds would be able to bring some peace to his restless heart. But they wouldn’t.
Gutter press reporters would often write about the street vigilante who mauled drug dealers and rapists, but the more serious journalists wouldn’t mind to write those stories.
Vincent knew that love was lost for him. Diana, sweet Diana, had tried, but he couldn’t. The wounds were still too fresh and he could never see himself with another woman. He still mourned for Catherine, and he unleashed his rage upon the evil doers who walked on the streets of the city above. He couldn’t help thinking that one of those men had killed his beloved Catherine. And, when he killed, he felt like if he was killing Gabriel.
Gabriel was the unmerciful man who had ordered Catherine’s death. Diana had killed him, and she hadn’t been sorry for that. But, when he laid his hand on a rapist, or on any other evil criminal, he couldn’t help imagining that he was killing Gabriel over and over again.
His father, Jacob Wells, the man who had raised him, said that he needed help. Gabriel had been dead for over two years and, even if he wasn’t, his death wouldn’t bring Catherine back.
But none of these words mattered to Vincent. He was too bitter to care about them.
And now those news. He had heard about them on the pipes. Diana was dead, shot three times in a robbery.
He slipped to the floor and crouched against the wall? But how? How could
such a thing have happened? Diana didn’t deserve to die.
It seemed like yesterday that he had seen her for the last time. It had been six months ago. She had come to him and had opened her heart. She said she loved him and he believed in her. But he couldn’t love anymore. His heart was dead.
She cried and begged him to try. He turned his back at her and asked her to leave. She did, and she never returned.
Now that he knew she was dead he regretted what he had done. Not that he felt he could give it a try. He could never love any other woman but Catherine. Diana knew it, but she had insisted anyway. He only wished he could have treated her better. Perhaps he could have made her understand that he was no longer Catherine’s Vincent, that the man Diana had fallen in love with had died with his lover. This new Vincent was a lot different from the old one. Perhaps Diana could have understood it, if he had bothered to explain. But he hadn’t.
And now Diana was dead.
He cried. How could have he been so cruel with that wonderful woman? Diana had given him back Jacob. She had killed Gabriel. She had avenged Catherine. He owed it to her and he should have tried to explain. But it was too late. Many things had been left unsaid.
He bowed his head and felt like if he was choking with his own tears. It
seemed all that was left for him was crying.
One thing that the Press didn’t know was about the existence of an eye witness. Someone had seen Diana’s killer. The cashier was in shock and still couldn’t speak. She was just a sixteen year- old girl working on a Summer job. The Police was expecting her to recover to question her.
But there was another person at the scene of the crime. A woman who had been seen at the door of the snack shop just about to enter when the young killer went out. She had been the one who had called the Police and she had tried to save Diana, but the restless detective had been killed almost instantly.
The Police was after the woman for questioning because everything led them to believe she had taken a good look at the killer’s face.
There had been a couple on the opposite sidewalk who saw the woman coming in and the killer leaving. They went in and tried to help, but it was already too late. They hadn’t seen the killer’s face, but they had seen the woman’s.
“Why didn’t she stay for questioning?” The officer on duty asked the man, who was a teenager with a flannel shirt and long hair. The kid was very disturbed because he had never seen anyone dead.
“What?” Things were going to fast for him. His brain was too disturbed to process that amount of information.
“Why didn’t the woman stay for questioning?”
“How the hell should I know? She was scared. We were all scared. Man, I’m scared now…That man had killed the redhead on the floor… The girl I saw tried to save the woman, she did some massage on her chest, did some mouth to mouth breathing. But the woman was dead. Jesus, I’ve never seen so much blood in my life!”
“Was she the one who called the Police?”
“Yes… I didn’t think about it…None of us thought about it… We were too distraught to think of anything… There was a dead woman on the floor…”
“What did this woman look like?”
“Dead! She is on the floor! Can’t you see that?”
Officer Miller didn’t like the kid’s words, but he had to be patient. It was just a teenager who had watched something horrible. He would probably have nightmares for weeks.
“I mean, the woman who tried to help. Did she say her name?”
“She didn’t say her name. She was in a hush, desperate to get things done.”
“But, what did she look like?”
The kid was too nervous. Officer Miller understood it and drove him to the Precinct, where he could question the boy more easily, away from all that blood and from the horrific scene of a dead woman on the floor.
The boy sat across officer Miller’s desk, who had brought him some hot
chocolate. The kid looked at it and said thank you, but he would’ t drink it.
He would throw up if he did it.
“What did the woman you saw look like?” Officer Miller asked the same question.
“Pretty. In her late twenties. Thirty at most. Light colored hair and very big green eyes. Her eyes seemed ever larger when she talked to us and asked us to remain calm. My girlfriend was passing out and she made her sit down. She helped the cashier too. I remember she said the cashier was in some sort of state… That she couldn’t speak ’cause of it.”
“State of shock.”
“Yes. She said those words. She was this tall.” He gestured how tall he thought she was. “Kinda short. I think.”
The kid started crying. It had been too much for him. He had only wanted to spend a night with his girlfriend and now he was at a Police Precinct being asked about a woman’s death. He had seen the woman’s blood and it had been too much for him.
“Please, sir. Can I go home now?”
She couldn’t sleep. The killer’s face was etched deep in her memory. He was so young, but his eyes were cold and cruel. Why hadn’t he killed her?
She could go to the Police. But she was afraid. Maybe they would protect her from the young assassin. On the other hand, they could find something awful from her past and threw her behind bars.
She didn’t remember her past and had never willed to remember it. The circumstances under which she had been found by the nuns of the Convent of the Sacred Heart had been very strange and somehow scared her.
She couldn’t remember being found and the weeks following it were still blurred in her mind. She had been told she had been found beaten and drugged, dressed in rags, in an abandoned yard near the back of the building. Nobody had seen how she had come, nor if she had been left there by another person.
The nuns took pity on her and looked after her patiently. They didn’t bother to call the Police because they knew they would take her to a mental hospital, and Mother Superior knew about those places. Anyway, it wouldn’t be the first time they’d be taking care of a lost soul.
It took her time to be able to understand the things that were happening around her. She was told she wouldn’t eat in the first days, so the nuns had to force her. Then, when she could eat by herself, she couldn’t speak and would never leave the bedroom she occupied. She couldn’t remember that time very well. But she had been told.
It had taken her months to speak, and she would only speak to those few she really trusted. Sister Agnes had been like a mother to her since those days, and she was eternally grateful for it.
After one year she started to talk to all the nuns and started to help in the kitchen. She had found out she was a lousy cook, but she could get away with a few things. She ended up being given assignments, like if she was one of them. But she wasn’t. She didn’t wear nun’s clothes, only the things that the church goers would give to the poor.
She couldn’t remember whether she’d ever been a Catholic or not, but the nuns liked her and treated her very well, especially Sister Agnes. They cared and it was all that mattered.
She wouldn’t leave the Convent’s house for a while, but then she started assisting the nuns in several occasions at outdoor activities, such as delivering food and clothes to the poor.
It was on one of these occasions that an oddly dressed citizen looked at her and called her Catherine. He seemed to have recognized her, then he averted his gaze and hid in his own corner. He seemed to be in his own world and she didn’t want to bother him. As a matter of fact, she was afraid of remembering because she knew some horrible things had been done to her. Those things were best left forgotten.
But Catherine was a nice name, and it was Christian. The nuns would approve it, so she became Catherine.
Sister Agnes, a small woman in her sixties and who wanted nothing more than loving the All Might Lord and Mankind, felt very happy with her choice.
“Saint Catherine of Alexandria was a martyr of the first years of the Catholic Church. The Romans tried to kill her in many different ways, they even tied her to a wheel. But her faith in the Lord was stronger and the wheel burst in a thousand spikes that killed her torturers.” Sister Agnes said.
Sister Agnes was a sweet soul, but she didn’t know much about life beyond the Convent’s walls.
And, if she considered things seriously, she didn’t know much about the life
beyond those walls either. She only knew of what she had read in the books, and
the Convent had a good library, with books on many different subjects.
“I’ll tell Mother Superior about your name choice and then we will baptize you.”
She was surprised. She couldn’t remember having seen an adult being baptized. Somehow she thought it was meant only for infants. But Sister Agnes was so happy with the idea that she went along with it.
She had a first name now, but she still didn’t have a last one. She knew she could try to find, Mother Superior had offered her help on it but she gently refused it.
And now this. She had witnessed a crime. She couldn’t hide it.
She loved the people who had so lovingly taken care of her during her darkest hours and she didn’t want to endanger them. What if the killer followed her tracks and found her at the Convent? She was more afraid for the nuns’ lives than for her own.
She laid her head on the pillow and tried to sleep, but the killer’s eyes haunted her. They seemed to follow her everywhere.
And she still could see the woman. She had tried to help. She had, really. But it had been too late for the young woman. It seemed the woman had drawn her last breath when she got on her knees to try to help. The woman looked at her like if they knew each other, and then she was gone.
Did that woman know her from her previous life? It seemed that she did. But she tried to help the dying woman out of despair, no because she wanted to know about her past. As matter of fact, she feared it.
Only that she couldn’t let that woman die. She used skills she didn’t know she possessed to try to bring the woman from the verge of death. But she had failed. She still had the woman’s blood on her clothes from trying to save her.
Somehow she knew it hadn’t been a simple a robbery. The killer had forged a robbery in order to get to his victim. Otherwise he wouldn’t have shot so many times straight into her chest. Besides, he hadn’t taken anything from the store.
The cashier was desperate and she tried to help the girl, who was in state of shock. The woman’s blood had been splashed all over the girl’s face. She couldn’t speak, she couldn’t move.
A couple of youngsters went into the place to try to help, but they couldn’t. The scene was too gruesome and they didn’t manage to do anything. Somehow she managed to call the Police and then she was gone.
She cried till morning came. She could hear the nuns on the corridor, preparing themselves for the morning prayers. Sister Agnes would be desperate when she saw all that blood on her clothes, but not even Mother Superior would make her go to the Police.
She was afraid. More afraid of the present situation than from finding her past. She had to leave, but where would she go? She didn’t know anyone but the nuns and the street people they helped. The beggars would call her the Soup Girl, for she was always with the nuns, helping them to give bread and soup to the poor. They didn’t know her name, and it didn’t matter at all.
And now this. She forced herself to think. What were the possibilities?
But she couldn’t focus on anything. The killer’s eyes and the dead woman’s blood haunted her.
Afternoon came and she didn’ t leave her bedroom. Sister Agnes grew worried. She really liked the young woman that they called Catherine. She had a heart of gold was too innocent. She still could remember when they had found the woman.
It had been a couple of years before, in the spring of 1990. Sister Agnes had gone to a nearby yard to collect flowers to put on a shrine built in honor of the Virgin Mary when she saw it. It was the body of a woman who had been savagely beaten and left for dead. She knelt down next to the body dressed in rags and searched for a pulse. There it was. The woman was still alive. She ran towards the Convent and called Andrew, a seventeen year-old they had rescued from the streets and who worked there as a part-time janitor, in order to ask him to bring the woman into the house.
They checked her for injuries and realized there seemed to be nothing serious. They even called a Doctor who was a faithful devotee of the Virgin Mary to check on the girl. He confirmed what they already knew, only that he added a few more things, telling them that the woman they found had been drugged. He saw no evidence of sexual assault, but he wouldn’t exclude it. She had been seriously beaten and was covered in bruises, but she had no broken bones. He suspected of a concussion and ordered them to give the young woman painkillers as soon as she woke. She was also malnourished and had a high fever. He suspected of pneumonia due to exposition and prescribed antibiotics even before he got the results from the blood he had collected. “Better safe than sorry.” He commented.
Sister Agnes’s heart was broken when she heard the Doctor’s words. She wasn’t simply sorry for the young woman, she somehow shared the horror the poor woman had been through.
Sister Agnes and Mother Superior had taken care of the young woman on those first few days, when she even refused to eat. They had to force her to eat the food they gave, because she was malnourished and sick.
Then she recovered, but she wouldn’t talk to anyone for a long time. After a few months she started talking, but only to Sister Agnes and a few more nuns who were closer to her. Now she talked to anyone and showed communicative skills that were very useful on their work with the poor. The young woman was always willing to help and, like Andrew and so many others Sister Agnes couldn’t count, had become a helping hand, someone they could rely upon to solve difficult situations.
And the woman had picked up the name of a Saint she had been devoted for years. Somehow it moved her. Not that she thought the young woman’s name choice had anything to do with her. She knew it didn’t. But it, somehow, made her care even more about that lost soul that had blossomed into an extraordinary human being.
She loved Catherine like a daughter and she was worried about her. The young woman hadn’t helped them in the morning prayers, neither had showed up for breakfast nor lunch. Could have Catherine gone back to the mental state they had found her those two years and a half ago? She was really worried.
“Catherine, dear, open up the door please.”
She knocked it again and again and again. Then she twisted the door knob.
The door had been unlocked all the time. She closed the door behind her and saw the woman lying on the bed in front of her.
Catherine was covered in blood. Her eyes were unfocused and, for a moment, she suspected the worst.
“My God, Catherine! What has happened to you?”
Only then Catherine moved her eyes towards Sister Agnes.
“I tried to help her, but I couldn’t. She died on my arms last night…” Catherine’s voice was chocked with tears.
She forced herself to sit and told Sister Agnes the whole story. The nun was
horrified. Hadn’t enough horrible things happened to this poor woman? Why did
she have to see all that horror? It would be terrible with anyone else, but
Catherine’s background made it a lot worse. The young woman had terrible fears
rooted deeply in her mind.
”I did try to save her, Sister Agnes. But it was too late. She was about my age and I’m sure it wasn’t a robbery. It was a planned murder. And I know the killer saw me. HE was going to shoot me, but then something happened and he changed his mind.”
“Hush, dear, don’t cry… I’m sure Mother Superior can figure someway out.” Sister Agnes thought Mother Superior was the most powerful human being on the planet. “There was a shooting a few blocks from here in a snack shop. A police officer got killed. Do you think that was it?”
She looked into Sister Agnes’s eyes and froze. The dead woman was a police officer then. Catherine was now sure it had been intentional murder, only that she couldn’t tell how she knew it.
“So she was a cop.”
“The Police has been asking questions around the neighborhood in search of witnesses. Sister Helen, who went out in the morning to buy some candy for the kids, heard about it and told us. It has been the talk of the morning. “
“My God, Sister, what can I do?”
“Let’s not think about it now, dear. You have to get a good shower first and
then get rid of these clothes. I’ll fix you something to eat and then we’ll talk
to Mother Superior. She is very wise and I’m sure she’ll see a way out.”
The police was in a hurry to find the eye witness before Diana’s killer. He would go after her, for sure.
But who was she?
Her testimony was crucial for the investigation for no fingerprints had been found at the crime scene. The snack shop had no security cameras and, on top of it all, the cashier was still unavailable for questioning. The doctors had been keeping her on some heavy medication and would do it for a couple more days. Then it could be too late for the eye witness. And it would be too late for the investigation.
The pressure was high on them. They had to find the killer soon. The Press was on them, the police officer’s Union, even the District Attorney himself. The deceased happened to be a good friend of the DA’s and they had to give him the killer’s head on a silver plate.
And, in order to get the killer quickly, they had to find the eye witness.
They questioned everyone in the surroundings of the crime scene but people knew nothing.
Officer Miller had been the one who started asking the homeless. He had always valued them as a source of information, unlike many of his co-workers. He gave the homeless the description of the woman, young, pretty, green eyes and light colored hair. She was last seen dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a flannel shirt. She could be wearing a trench coat too. It was the best description he could give and he hadn’t been hopeful on it, because of the large amount of the women who had light colored hair and eyes. But he wasn’t counting on one thing: it was a mostly Latin American neighborhood and almost everyone one in it had brown hair and brown eyes. That was when he stumbled on a clue to find the precious witness.
“You must be talking about the Soup Girl.” The street drunk said. “ She comes twice a week with the nuns to give us soup and bread. She is as pretty as an angel. She is our angel. “
“Is she a nun?” Officer Miller asked.
“No. She doesn’t dress like one. She dresses like normal women. She is nice and always gives me a lot of bread before I go home.” He raised his hand and pointed at cardboard box in the alley which he called his home. “Her smile brightens up my day.”
“Do you know where I could find her?”
“No. But the nuns do. She is our angel. But you won’t arrest her, will you?” He seemed worried about it.
Officer Miller chuckled. “Oh, no! I just want to talk to her! She seemed to have seen something and I believe she is in danger.”
The beggar held his hand with both of his. His concerned eyes stared into Miller’s. “Don’t let anything happen to her, sir. She is our angel and we care about her.”
Miller felt an impulse to pull his hand from the beggar’s grasp. But then he looked into the man’s eyes and saw real worry in them. It disarmed him.
“Don’t worry, sir. I’ll take care of her.”
He got to his car and contacted the Precinct.
“Miller here. I need to talk to Maxwell. I believe I know who the witness
Seventy-two hours had passed since Diana’s getting killed. And, the longer it took, the more difficult would be for them to catch the killer.
The cashier in the hospital was already able to talk, but she claimed she hadn’t seen the killer’s face. She said he was wearing a hooded shirt that concealed his face. All she said was that his voice was that of a teenager’s.
“Nothing of this girl’s testimony is useful.” Joe complained. “But she is in danger. I want a Police Officer at her door in 24 hour watch. The killer will go after her. You can be sure of it.”
“I know, Joe. But Mark Miller is searching for the other eye witness. He says he’s got a clue. She was last seen doing charity work with the nuns of the Convent of The Sacred Heart.” Rita Escobar informed. She was in charge of the case. It was her first big case and it was personal, for Diana Bennet was a friend of everyone’s at the DA’s office. Besides, everyone there still felt somehow in debt with Detective Bennet, for she had dismantled Gabriel’s evil empire.
“Are we searching for a nun then?” Joe asked.
“ He said no. It is just someone who does charity work. Mark Miller is great in getting through to elusive witnesses. I believe he will find her.”
“Let’s hope she is not killed by this assassin before he does that, Rita. Besides, the longer it takes to question this woman, the more difficult if will be to catch the killer. “ Joe raised from his chair and started pacing around the office. “I’ll tell Miller to make everything within his reach to contact this witness. Everything. She is our only hope “
“Do you really think this killer will go after her? The little evidence we gathered has made us think that it was a simple robbery. Probably it was just a kid high on drugs who wasn’t aware of what he was doing. Do you really think he’ll bother to go after an alleged witness?”
“I understand what you say, but we can’t take any chances.”
“What if we can’t find her?”
“Then we are lost. She is all we got.”
While the Police and the District Attorney’s Office were walking around in circles, Vincent made his own investigation. He felt he owed it to Diana to find her killer. He regretted having treated her so bad. She wasn’t to blame for his pain, she had done nothing but loving him. He should have been more understanding. Vincent had been cruel to Diana and he could face the reality of it now. But what bothered him the most was that she had died and he hadn’t had the chance to say he was sorry.
”I’m going to make it up to you, Diana.”
The world bellow had many helpers, people who managed to give their community certain things they needed. Among the many helpers were some good people who knew a bit about the life on the streets. The tunnel people were also friends of a Gipsy family that was lead by a young teenager called Tony. It had been through these Gypsies that he had found out about a gang of upper class kids who were involved in many killings in the neighborhood Diana had been shot.
Vincent was shocked to know that the Police was taking the possibility of a robbery seriously. Her death was obviously related to her investigating the gang. He wondered if the fact that one of the leaders of this gang was the son of a Congressman had anything to do with the Police Department’s blindness.
It had been on one of his night prowlings that he found a bag lady who the tunnel community used to help. The lady remembered him and was very glad to talk to him. She told him about the vicious death of the detective and how the Police had been searching for an eye witness. The lady knew it wouldn’t be easy for the Police to find the woman because she was a protégée of the nuns of the Convent of The Sacred Heart. The nuns wouldn’t risk the young woman in any way, especially allowing her to come forward as a witness.
The name of the street lady was Della and she was very easy to talk and get information from. But she would never talk to the Police. She didn’t trust the men in blue. She was talking to Vincent because she knew who he was and because she respected the people of his community.
“Della, please tell me what you know about this woman.” He asked her from the shadows.
“She helps the nuns with the charity work, but she is no nun, though. I started seeing her around a year, a year and half ago. People say she was found in the yard behind the Church. She had been beaten and left for dead. Poor girl…She spent a long time recovering in the Convent and then we started seeing her around. She is very nice, the kind of person that tries to help anyone in need. I see her walking by herself at late hours on some evenings, like if she was looking for something or someone. The drug dealers and thugs of the neighborhood don’t dare to bother her. I believe they’re afraid of what Mother Superior could do to them if they did it!”
“Yes, the leader of the nuns of the Convent right across the street.” She pointed at the old brick building. “Everyone respects and fears her. The girl I mentioned is her protégée.”
“How can I find her?”
“She lives there, in the Convent! But I haven’t seen her since that beautiful police lady got shot. I saw it on the news…Poor thing…I’m sure she saw it all because I saw her coming into the store just as the killer was coming out. I never saw his face, but I know she saw him. I haven’t seen her around since then”
The Police was still investigating the hypothesis of robbery and had completely ignored the other possibilities.
Vincent was no investigator, but he knew that ordinary criminals tend to commit theirs crimes near the places they lived. Della had assured him that none of the neighborhood criminals was involved, because she had seen the killer climbing on an expensive motorbike after the shooting. None of the criminals of the area rode bikes, it was against their rules. But the mystery witness had seen the face of the killer.
The Police’s line of investigation was totally wrong. He had to get through
to someone important, someone who knew Diana and who could help. He had to find
means to talk to Manhattan’s District Attorney, Joe Maxwell.
Diana’s funeral had been very hard for Joe. How many more friends would he bury? Diana wasn’t the first friend he had lost and he was tired of it. He seriously considered leaving the DA’s office and choosing another line of work in which his and his friends’ lives wouldn’t be put in danger.
Diana had been buried as a hero. Even the Deputy Mayor and the Police Chief had showed up at her funeral. But Joe suspected there were things behind it that he couldn’t grasp, no matter whether he was the District Attorney or not.
He had asked a Judge to order the nuns to produce the witness. He already knew the woman’s first name and where she lived. Legally it was all that was necessary for a Court Order. But the judge insisted it hadn’t been enough to issue an order. Why would the Judge do that, for Christ’s sake? It was a Police Officer’s death they had been investigating! Things were supposed to go even faster!
But it hadn’t been that way. It seemed everybody mourned Diana’s death, everybody was sorry. But Joe had the distinct impression that things were going too slow, no matter how hard he pushed them.
It was twilight already and he could see the sunset. It was gloomy to watch
it surrounded by all those graves. He leaned against his car and lighted up a
cigarette. When exactly did he start smoking? He didn’t remember. He knew it
could eventually kill him, but couldn’t his job do that to him too? He enjoyed
his last cigarette when he saw a strange man walking towards him. It took him a
while to recognize the guy. It was the strange old man he had met during Cathy’s
murder investigation. He remembered being lead by that man and others of his
strange group through a series of tunnels underneath Manhattan. That old man’s
knowledge of the tunnels had allowed them to get the creep who had had Cathy
killed. What was the man’s name, anyway?
The man walked across the graves slowly, leaning on a cane. Joe could now see his clothes. He dressed in an old-style suit that he hadn’t seen anyone wearing it, but this guy, in ages. The man had an aura surrounding him that reminded Joe of the old TV show called Twilight Zone.
“I guess you were a friend of Diana’s too.” Joe told the man as soon he came close to him.
“She was a close friend. My family owed her a lot. I was devastated when I read about her death.”
”Yes. So was I.”
”Have you come up with anything?”
“Me? No. I just prosecute and put pressure on investigators to get results. Unfortunately things have been awfully frustrating.”
“I heard of the Police’s line of investigation…Are you sure it was a mere robbery that went wrong?”
“No. I’m not. But a lot of people seem to be sure of it. It seems that there is an invisible force on the way of this investigation. I try to see it. But I can’t.”
”And you have no idea of what it could be?”
“No. I don’t have the slightest idea. I only suspect that some people in higher places didn’t like Diana. She wasn’t afraid of anyone, nor anything…”
”Like another person we used to know…”
“Like a friend we used to have.” Joe added to his remark. “She was very much like Catherine in every way. Both of them were reckless and had a lot of guts. I guess they wouldn’t be able to do many of the things they did if they weren’t like that…”
“But they both died young.”
“Yes…” Joe was beginning to feel really depressed. He needed to get away. Get to a pub, watch a ball game. Do anything, anything that diverted his mind from losing two of his best friends in such a short time.
“Mr. Maxwell, I believe my son might have come up with something, some information regarding Diana’s death. He needs to talk to you.”
“And who is your son, anyway?” Why was he asking that? He already knew the answer.
”His name is Vincent.”
“The man in Catherine’s life… What is the deal with this guy that he got two of the most interesting women I’ve ever met to fall in love with him? “ What Joe really wanted to know was what Vincent had that he didn’t, but he would never voice those words.
“You’ll have the chance to talk to him tonight.”
“I don’t approve his doing it. I have never wanted to see him involved in this investigation, but he is very stubborn…”
“What can he possibly tell me?” Joe asked as he threw the cigarette on the floor and smashed it with his shoe.
“He would like to tell you in person. “
A couple of hours later Joe got to the place of the arranged meeting. It was an old synagogue in Brooklyn that had been closed for renovation. The old man in the old-fashioned suit had given him the address and the keys.
What was in his mind that brought him to this strange place at those strange hours? Joe couldn’t help wondering as he walked across the synagogue. The lights were on. Somebody was already in there.
He saw a cloaked figure near the altar. It was a tall man who was making some effort to conceal his face. Was that Catherine’s Vincent? Was he deformed in anyway?
Joe couldn’t help thinking of the Phantom Of the Opera. The whole scene seemed surreal.
“Good night, Mr. Maxwell.”
”And you are Vincent?”
They were about twelve feet away from each other.
“Catherine’s Vincent. Why don’t you show me your face? I don’t like talking to people when I can’t see their faces.”
Vincent slowly pulled his hood and waited for Joe’s reaction.
Joe opened his mouth. He wouldn’t scream, neither would he ran away. The photographs of some murders that occurred a few years ago crossed his mind. He remembered the most recent killings of thugs and killers whose bodies had been mauled. Police suspected of a vigilante. Perhaps it had been Vincent again.
“You are the subway slasher!”
“No. That was Jason Walker disguised as me.”
“Jason Walker has been missing for years.”
“Five years. That was when the subway killings stopped.”
“But how about the others?”
“You know the answer to that question.”
Joe didn’t know what to say. Catherine loved that…monster instead of him. How about Diana? The redhead detective who would never be seen with anyone had a crush on that guy. What had been in those women’s heads, anyway? The whole idea of it was repulsive.
“Will you call the Police and have me arrested?” Vincent asked him.
“You know well I should “
“But you won’t…”
Joe felt angry. That man (should he call Vincent a man?) seemed to have the answers to all the questions on his mind.
“No, I won’t… I won’t because I want to know who killed Diana and you can get the killer for me.”
“Now you want me to get the killer for you? Was ‘get’ the word you really used?”
He was beginning to annoy Joe.
“Look, pal, why don’t you just tell me what you know so I can get home.”
“I know who killed Diana.”
“Who is he?”
“His name is Lionel Johnson. He is nineteen years-old and is a student at Columbia.”
“Fred Johnson’s son?”
“Yes. He is the Congressman’s son. HE is the leader of a vicious gang of rich kids who steal luxury cars and who smuggle cocaine in the high circles. They all come from affluent families.”
“Holy shit.” Things were beginning to make sense now. He was beginning to understand the slowness of the procedures.
“They are involved in a number of killings in the neighborhood near the Convent of the Sacred Heard in the Lower East Side. They’ve been trying to control the deals with drugs there and have been fighting with the neighborhood’s criminals. Their money and power have been helping them win that war by leaps and bounds.”
“Did this kid, Lionel, do it by himself?”
“I am sure he did. But only the eye witness I know you have been looking for can testify to that.”
“Yes, Catherine No Last Name. The protégé of the nuns of the Convent Of the Sacred Heart. She is also known as the Soup Girl. I have been trying to get a court order to bring her out and I couldn’t. No judge I asked did it…”
“Yes. Catherine. There are lots of Catherines in the world. The judges told me to get her last name, only then they could issue the Court Order. But how the hell can I do that? And why do they need her last name for the order? That’s what’s been bugging me…”
“Because they don’t want to issue the order. The power of these criminals go far beyond what you and I can see.”
Joe raised from the chair and looked at Vincent, not really caring about his appearance anymore. “I’ll talk to the nuns myself. I was raised Catholic. I was a Church boy as a kid. I know they’ll understand.”
“No, they won’t.”
“But why? Why wouldn’t they help me? Besides this woman’s life must be in danger. She must be placed under police protection immediately!”
“The nuns protect her. She has gone through some sort of trauma in the last years and the nuns try to spare her. She must be pretty shocked after seeing Diana’s dying.”
“Yes. The kids who tried to help her told me Diana died in the woman’s arms. She did everything she could. But…” Joe passed his hand across his hair in a gesture of anguish. “Jesus, I have to find the right means to get to this woman and quickly. No matter if I have to place a cop at the Convent’s door against their will. I will do it!”
“You will be violating their constitutional rights.”
“And you care about constitutional rights! Another woman’s life in danger!”
“You try to get through to them and I’ll watch the Convent.” Vincent said. It seemed to him the most obvious choice.
“I’ll watch the Convent. I know where it is and where I can stay without being seen. I can do it at night. Every night, until you talk to the woman”
Joe nodded. “Yes. I guess you are right. It doesn’t seem to have any other
way, does it?” He no longer cared about Vincent’s outside appearance anymore. He
just wanted to get the bastard who had killed Diana and he knew Vincent’s help
would be in need for him to do so.
Joe Maxwell and the Assistant District Attorney Rita Escobar headed towards the Covent of the Sacred Heart along with two uniformed Police Officers.
Joe would order the two men to remain nearby watching any suspicious activity. He wanted the witness safe and two Police Officers near the building, discretely watching it, had been the best help he could provide until that moment. The judges he had talked to had insisted that they needed the woman’s full name to issue an order that obligated the nuns to stop hiding the witness. It was bullshit, he knew it. But now he suspected the reasons behind it. It was the son of a powerful politician who was involved in Diana’s murder. The Judges didn’t want to get in trouble with a powerful man in Washington who everyone knew had good chances to make it to President on the following elections.
The Police Officers started doing their watch from across the street, very discreetly. There was another officer, who was not in uniform, on the same street. Joe was being as cautious as he could. The people he was dealing with were very powerful and very dangerous.
He and Rita crossed the street and knocked at the Convent’s door. A small nun came to open it for them. She was in her late fifties and wore thick glasses, which hid a pair of kind blue eyes.
“May I help you, Sir?”
“My name is Joe Maxwell. I’m Manhattan’s District Attorney and I need to talk to a woman who lives here. Her name is Catherine and she is believed to have seen the murder of a Police Officer. It is imperative that I talk to her because her life may be in danger.”
The small nun seemed to be trembling, or so Joe thought. She obviously knew the witness, but she didn’t say a thing. She just stood in the same place, like if she had seen a ghost.
“I know the woman you call Catherine lives here. She doesn’t know the kind of people we are dealing with. She may die if we don’t place her under Police protection immediately.”
“I guess you better talk to Mother Superior then. I’ll take you to her office.” And they followed the small nun across the building’s corridors. The place reminded Joe of his childhood in a Catholic School and as an altar boy. He had hated it and going to an ordinary high school in his teens turned out to be a delivering experience. But he still had something of the altar boy inside of him and he respected those women and their beliefs deeply. He felt that, if there was a person who could persuade this witness to come to the stand, it was him. But he had figured out he had to respect the hierarchy of the place. He had to talk to Mother Superior first.
They climbed some stairs that headed to the second floor and were lead to a room with pictures of saints on its walls.
“You may wait here. I’ll tell Mother Superior you need to talk to her.” The small num said as she went through another door.
Joe took his time and saw the pictures on the walls. There was a huge image of St. Catherine’s at the far corner.
“Oh, Saint Catherine of Alexandria.” Joe said as he walked towards the image.
“What Joe?” Rita asked.
“She was a Catholic martyr. Someone here must be devoted to her.”
”By the way, Joe. Don’t you think it is weird that this witness’ description match Cathy’s? You know, our Cathy, the one who died three years ago? Not to mention they both have the same name.”
”Are you nuts, Rita? We both were at her funeral and, in case you don’t remember, I have been the one who have found the body.”
”Yes, Joe. But the casket was never opened. I haven’t seen her body and neither have you after the forensic team arrived. You, as an attorney, know how weird it all seems.”
“You’ve been watching too many B-movies on TV, Escobar. “
He finished these words as the nun called them into the office.
”You may come in. Mother Superior is waiting for you.” The small nun left as they entered Mother Superior’s private office.
Joe and Rita went into the room and saw Mother Superior behind her desk, on the opposite side of the room. The woman gave Joe a chill across his spine and he swallowed hard before he spoke. There was an aura of power surrounding that woman and Joe instantly understood the reason everyone respected her so much in that neighborhood.
“I believe you came to me looking for Catherine.” Mother Superior said with a frown, never bothering to say good morning or even hi to her visitors.
“You went straight to the point, Madam. This woman is a key witness for the prosecution in a crime involving the death of a detective. The victim was a dear friend of mine.”
“And Catherine is a dear friend of everyone here.” Rita noticed a couple of chairs in front of Mother Superior’s desk, but she wouldn’t dare to take a sit. The tone in the woman’s voice scared her. Somehow it reminded her of a teacher she was terrified of in primary school.
“I know. But I have reasons to believe the criminal will come after her. Her life must be in danger!”
“Do you have any idea of the things this poor woman has gone through? We found her almost dead and she is still recovering mentally from whatever happened to her in the past. Her state of mind is too delicate to be put through a trial and through all the aspects of Justice! Not to mention she could be placed under the Witness Protection Program and would end up losing the only family she has, which are us. I can’t allow it to happen, Mr. Maxwell. We are all that she’s got.”
Maxwell was getting more and more angry. Why couldn’t that angry old woman sitting across the room realize that the witness was in real danger and would end up being killed if not placed under the Witness Protection Program?
“I can’t guarantee her safety if she is not in the Program. She will end up dying.”
The woman shuddered. Did she realize the reality of things? Catherine would end up being murdered if they didn’t cooperate.
“Somehow I wish I could help, Mr. Maxwell, but Catherine left last night. “
“Do you know where she could go? Did she leave a note or anything?”
“No she didn’t.” Mother Superior scrubbed her eyes. She wished things could have been different. She had done her best to protect Catherine from the horrors of the world. But she had failed. She tried to remember why Catherine had decided to go out on that night. Everything would be so different if she hadn’t. But reality had caught up with Catherine once again and all Mother Superior could do was praying for her protégé.” She only left a note in which she tells she didn’t want to endanger us. “The old woman opened a drawer and retrieved a letter from it. “You can see it for yourself if you doubt me.”
Joe got the letter and read every word of it. The handwriting was familiar but he couldn’t remember where he had seen it before. There were so many files, so many petitions on his desk. SO many people had come and gone from the District Attorney’s office that he was unable to remember everyone’s handwriting.
”May I keep it?” He asked the old num.
“It doesn’t matter who keeps it, Mr. Maxwell, what matters is that I don’t want her dead. Could you try to find her?”
“I’ll do my best, Madam. I’ll do my best.”
Mother Superior didn’t know what had happened on the previous night when Catherine left the Convent. She knew Cathy was in danger and that the young woman would not dare to go to the Police. Catherine had left because she didn’t want to endanger the lives of those who meant so much to her.
She wrote a letter to Mother Superior, telling her everything and thanking her for all the good she had done to her in those past years. She left the letter on Mother Superior’s desk, packed her few belongings and was ready to leave when she heard someone behind her. It was Sister Agnes.
“Are you really going to leave us?” The nun asked.
“Yes, Sister. I don’t want to endanger any of you.”
Sister Agnes came close to her and held her. “Are you sure you’re going to do it?”
“Yes, Sister. I have no choice.”
“But you don’t have anywhere to go. You don’t know anyone.”
“I’ll leave the city. I have some money with me. I’m sure I can buy a bus ticket and leave New York. I’ll send you a letter as soon as I’m settled.”
“Wait here.” Sister Agnes went into one of the many building’s bedrooms and came back with some money in her hands. “This is for you. I was saving it for something special, but I believe you need it now.”
”I can’t accept it, Sister…”
“Yes, you can. Take it. It is yours. There are five hundred dollars in there. I believe it’s enough to support you in your journey.”
Both women held each other for a long time. Catherine cried. She didn’t want to go, but she had to do it. Her life didn’t matter, she only didn’t want to get any of those sweet people she loved so much hurt.
It was over midnight when she went out on the streets. She used to feel relatively safe on them, because of the respect everybody felt for the people in the Convent. But she couldn’t feel safe anymore.
She still remembered the killer’s face. She would never forget it. He was tall and blonde. His cruel eyes were of a dark shade of blue. She saw his watch. Was it a Rolex? The kid was rich. He looked straight into her eyes, climbed on an expensive racing motorbike and left. She understood the message in his eyes. He would come to get her later.
She started to walk faster, heading to the bus stop. She had to hurry, the last bus would stop at the neighborhood within fifteen minutes. The next bus would only come in the morning, at 6:30. She had to be fast.
She got to the bus stop at 12:30 p.m. But it never came. She started to get worried. What if it didn’t come? It was late and it had never been late before. She waited for ten more minutes. Nothing. Somebody passed by and told her the bus drivers had been on a strike for a better income. She felt angry with the bus drivers. She sincerely understood their reasons, but did they have to be on a strike on the very day she was fleeing from a cold blooded killer?
She put her hand in her coat’s pocket and felt the money in there. She could get a cab to a hotel in another place in town, somewhere she had never been seen. She thought about going to the Police, but then she gave up. What if she had done something horrible in the past and they were searching for her? She suspected she must have made something horrible, because of the way she had been found by the nuns. Besides, she didn’t want to know about her past life. She had been given a second chance to start from zero and she was glad for it.
She walked a few more blocks in search of a cab. Nothing. She was out of her luck. Perhaps cab drivers didn’t like to drive by that neighborhood at night.
She didn’t notice she was being followed by a motorbike. But it wasn’t the same bike used on Diana Bennet’s murder. It was a dirt bike driven by another rich kid with a Rolex on his wrist. It was another gang’s member. The biker had been careful in following her, avoiding the same streets where he knew the neighborhood criminals did their business. But the woman was so easy to follow. She was so predictable. He parked his bike on an alley and went on following her on foot. He didn’t care if the bike would surely be stolen. He had enough money to buy ten of those if he wanted to.
She was leaving her comfort zone, he noticed, and heading to the Subway station. The last train would be due to 1:00 am. She would have to be very lucky to get it.
She was waiting for the train when he carefully, very carefully, came close to her. He didn’t want to be noticed. There was no one nearby to notice when he pushed her to the trail just before the train came. So he thought.
They could hear the train coming and he came closer and closer. It would be so easy. He almost could feel sorry for her.
But she felt him coming and knocked him on the neck before he could push her.
She ran away as he struggled for air. She couldn’t get into the train, because it would be too easy for him to catch her. So she ran as fast she could.
But he had a gun. His aim wasn’t that good, so he didn’t get his first shots right.
But, as he recovered his breath and then reached for her, he fired once again and hit her in the leg. HE smiled as she fell on the floor, unable to go on running. All he needed to do was getting closer to her, so he could shoot her straight into her head and then everything would be over.
He had a cruel smile on his face as he came closer to his victim. He was about to shoot her once again when he heard a roar coming from behind.
“What the f…” He never had the time to say the word because, as he turned to see what came from behind him, a large hand knocked him down, slashing his throat. He agonized for a few seconds and then died.
It was another evil doer Vincent had killed. He had enough of feeling sorry for those people. He no longer felt sorry for any of them. They didn’t deserve it.
He came towards the injured woman to check her leg. That was when he saw her face.
She was almost passing out from the pain in her left leg. She had heard it from some people who had been shot and who had survived, but it hurt more than she had thought. It seemed like if a piece of burning iron had been placed inside her leg and the pain irradiated in waves. She turned to see her savior and gasped. She had never seen such a face, but she wasn’t afraid. He looked like some character from a medieval tale. His looks almost made her forget about her pain for while.
“Catherine.” He said as he got to his knees. Were those tears in his eyes? It seemed he had known her.
“How do you know my name?”
“How could I ever forget it?”
For a moment he felt like if the sun had started to shine through the clouds after a thunderstorm. There was light in his life again.
“And you know me?” She asked him.
He frowned at her question. How could she act like if she didn’t know him? But he didn’t have time for questions he had to get her to a hospital quickly.
“Nevermind.” He said as he controlled his impulse to hold her. “I’ll take you to a nearby hospital and they will treat you.”
“No. Not a hospital…” She said. She knew the hospitals would always relate to the Police the cases of gunshot wounds.
“All right. But you still need having that wound checked. You are not bleeding too much, but you need to have the bullet removed. I’ll take you somewhere they can take care of you.”
She raised her eyes to meet his. She didn’t understand why, but she trusted him immediately, and it wasn’t only because he had saved her. Somehow she knew what was in his heart.
He lifted her gently from the floor and carried her from the Subway station, taking her through ways that she didn’t even know existed. He turned corner after corner through abandoned tunnels until he placed her on the floor.
“Why are we stopping?” She asked, still amazed at the man who had just saved her.
“You’re still bleeding. I’ll put a tourniquet around the wound, so it will stop bleeding until I get you there. How are you feeling?”
“I’m a bit dizzy.”
He tore a piece from his shirt and put it around her leg, just under her knee. Then he tied it strongly, with a knot.
“It is normal due to the blood loss. But you were lucky. He missed your knee for a couple of inches. Things would be more complicated if the bullet had gotten you one or two inches above the wound.”
She shuttered at the thought of her knee bursting in pieces.
“I need to take you fast. Can you handle it?” He asked her.
“Yes. I’m not doing much of an effort anyway”
“But you’re in pain…”
”Nothing I can’t stand.”
He smiled at her remark. She didn’t seem to know him, but he was marveled at her courage. She was still the same Catherine he had known. He could not understand how it would be possible, but he trusted his eyes and he saw that Catherine was alive. It was all that mattered.
HE got her on his arms once again and led her to the home tunnels. HE imagined how happy everyone would feel when they knew she was back. But he had to be careful. He had to tell everyone that she didn’t remember them, so they wouldn’t bother her with disturbing questions.
“Your sweat is cold.” He said, sounding worried.
“So you’ve been shot too?”
“Yes. The pain comes in waves. It goes away, then it comes back ten times stronger. My father will remove the bullet and give you painkillers. You’ll feel much better in the morning.”
“Your father?” She wondered if there were others like him living in that underground world to which he was taking her.
“The man who raised me.” He had answered that same question years ago, but he didn’t bother to answer once again. He’d be given a second chance and he was eternally grateful for it. “He is a Doctor. A good one. He will see that you are well.”
“But will you be around?”
He smiled. She seemed to need him around, even though she didn’t remember him. “Yes. I’ll be close by.”
Slowly, he pulled her hair to check for the scar his Catherine used to have. And there it was. He had known from the first time he had seen her hurt in the station that it was Catherine, but his reasonable self still needed to be sure of it. He held her even tighter.
”You saw my scar, didn’t you? It ‘s awful.” She said as she rested her head on his chest.
“No. I think it’s beautiful. Besides, who am I to say that anything is awful?”
” I think you’re beautiful.” She said.
He could feel she was losing her strength. He’d have to get her to the hospital quickly.
He was drenched in cold sweat and almost unconscious when he got to the hospital chamber. He sent a message through the pipes asking for father’s presence fast, someone was bleeding in his arms. He didn’t have the time to tell the person’s identity, he just wanted father to be there. And fast.
He gently placed her on the hospital’s bed. He was about to leave to see if Father was already on his way when he felt her hand holding his. She was awake.
“You’re not going to leave me, are you?” He felt her fear in her voice.
He leaned to her and caressed her hair. “I’ll just check if my father is on his way. I won’t be long.” It physically hurt him to leave her, but he had to get Father there fast.
He left the chamber and met Father on the corridor.
“Father, a miracle has happened! Catherine is alive!”
The old man was on his way to the hospital chamber when Vincent came across his way.
“Are you crazy, Vincent? Catherine has been dead for three years.”
“I was the one who found her body, Father. I remember it. But she is alive and she has been shot. She needs medical care. But she doesn’t remember me, nor any of us. SO, please, don’t mention to her anything from the past. I’m afraid she has been traumatized from whatever has been done to her and simply has blocked the memories.”
“Son…” Father put his hand on Vincent’s shoulder. “ I understand your pain. I understand how terribly you must be feeling. But Catherine is dead and nothing. NOTHING. Will ever bring her back.”
Vincent breathed deeply. His father would never believe it until he saw it with his own eyes.
“So let’s hurry. It doesn’t matter who we think she is. She lost a lot of blood and is weak. I managed to stop the bleeding on our way down but I’m still afraid of infection.”
He led Father to the chamber and the old man gasped as he saw the woman on the bed. Were his old eyes deceiving him?
He passed his hand across her brow. She was unconscious and never noticed it.
“But how can that be?” He looked at Vincent in amazement.
“I don’t know, Father. But it is true. And we have no time, the bleeding has started again.”
Father looked at her left leg. Vincent had tied a tissue around it but it was already drenched in blood. He got a pair of scissors from his bag and ripped apart the leg of her jeans.
“She was lucky. The bullet is embedded in the flesh. No major vases were hit, but some minor ones have been ruptured. I’ll have to remove this bullet. Will you assist me?”
Vincent shuddered. The thought of seeing his beloved Catherine in surgery was nauseating. “No. I’ll get Mary to do it. “
“So do it fast! We have no time to waste!”
The surgery was over within a couple of hours.
Mary cleaned her up and dressed her in clean tunnel clothes before Vincent carried her to his bedroom and placed her in his bed. It had been a long time since he had done it for the first time and he cherished every one of those ten days she had passed bellow after the attack.
She slept through the following morning. She couldn’t remember her dreams, but she had never remembered it. As a matter of fact, she was positive that she was unable to dream.
She was awakened by a small hand poking at her. She opened her eyes to see a boy, about three or four years-old looking at her. He was a beautiful blue eyed-boy. His hair was light brown and wavy and he had those huge expressive blue eyes. He didn’t say a word, just stood there, looking at her like if she was a ghost or something. She could see Vincent asleep on chair nearby. So he had given her his bed for the night…She didn’t deserve it.
She turned her eyes back at the boy.
“Hi” She said since he didn’t seem to be speaking anything.
”You’re my mom, ain’t you?” He asked her.
”What did you say that?”
He didn’t say another thing. HE simply kissed her on her forehead and said “I knew you’d be back”. Then he fled from the room. That was when Vincent woke up.
“Sorry for Jacob. “ HE said. “He’s a very good boy, but sometimes he does things that not even I can understand.”
She ignored the boy’s first question to her. She dismissed it because she didn’t want to think about it. Instead of it, she diverted her thoughts from the boy’s words and started asking Vincent about him.
“Is he yours?”
“Yes, he is my son.”
“He is beautiful… Jacob, I like the name. Do you live here with him?”
“Yes. There’s a whole community of people living down here.”
“And where are we? I remember you carrying me through some passages…Or tunnels…I can’t seem to remember all of it very well.”
“Oh, yes. We live under Manhattan.”
“So you’re telling me there are people, as a matter of fact a whole community, in the underground of Manhattan?”
“That is amazing…I could never have imagined it.”
Her words hurt him somehow, but he made an effort not to show his feelings.
“How about you?” He asked.
“What do you want to know?”
“Who are you, for starters?”
“My name is Catherine. I don’t have a last name. Not yet, I mean. “
He frowned. She didn’t even remember her last name.
”But why is that?”
“It simply is. I chose a name out of many Christian names. There was an image of Saint Catherine’s in the Convent and I thought it sounded nice. The nun who was closest to me was devoted to Saint Catherine. I can’t remember which name I had before and I simply don’t want to know it.”
Her last words made him feel sure about a thing he had suspected: she didn’t remember her past. Whatever had been done to her had erased her distant memories. He didn’t want to bother her, so he left it alone.
“I see you were given another chance then.” Vincent said.
“Yes. It is a new life. Everything was going well until I saw something I wasn’t supposed to see.”
“I know it.”
“I promised to a man I know, a very powerful man of the Law, that I would be watching you until he could get through to you. He is Manhattan’s District Attorney.”
She started feeling desperate. The District Attorney was a friend of this unique man? She didn’t want anything to do with the Law.
“Please, don’t him know I’m here!” She started to rise from the bed until she felt a sharp pain in her left leg. “Ouch, that hurt.”
“Calm, you better remain still. At least for today. Here, take these painkillers.” And he handed her a couple of pills along with a glass of water. She gladly took them.
“I won’t tell him you are here. He doesn’t even know about this place. “ He informed her as he retrieved the glass.
“Thank the Lord. I don’t want anything to do with the Police at all.”
“I see. Neither do I.”
She looked at him. His reasons to remain hidden from the Law Enforcement were obvious. But how did he know someone as powerful as the District Attorney?
“You see, Catherine, this place is hidden from most people. We can’t allow the government to know where we live. Many people depend on this place to survive, including me.”
“I see that.” She said as she found a more comfortable position in bed. “Don’t worry. I’ll never tell anyone. But how did you get to know the District Attorney?”
“We had friends in common, including the woman you saw being shot.”
“I never saw her being shot. But I saw the killer leaving the place. He was no thief. He meant to kill her. I don’t know why he didn’t kill me.”
“Thank God he hadn’t done it.” He thought to himself. “ I was a close friend of the Detective you saw being killed. Her name was Diana Bennet.”
“I’m sorry for your loss. I did try to save her. But it was too late…”
“You don’t need to be sorry. I know you did your best.”
“How can you possibly know that? You weren’t there.”
He simply smiled as he helped her to shift in the bed. “I simply know…” He didn’t need to say any more words. She simply trusted him.
“You never told me your name…” She said as he walked away from the bed and sat again on his chair.
“My name is Vincent and I don’t have a last name either.”
And he told her, once again, the story of how he had been found near the hospital called Saint Vincent. She was amazed at the whole tale, like if she hadn’t been told it before. But he didn’t care about telling the whole story again. He was exultant to have her there, next to him.
“I feel like if there was a giant whole in my leg.”
“And there is something like that. The bullet was embedded in the flesh, which had been perforated by the bullet. The muscles had to be separated for the bullet to be removed.”
“Oh, please, spare me the details…”
“You’ll feel better tomorrow. All you need to do now is rest. Your body needs time to heal. Are you hungry? I could give bring you some lunch.”
“Is it lunch time, already?”
“ I’m afraid so. I believe it must have been many hours since you last ate.”
He left and came back with a tray with food. They talked while they both shared the meal and Catherine was amazed at this unique man. They seemed to have a lot in common, especially the taste for music and literature. Was she getting a crush on this guy? She found him very athletic. His body was beautiful and reminded her of some men in the neighborhood she lived who would practice boxing. His face was incredible. She couldn’t remember anyone like that. And his voice was deep and beautiful. His culture and knowledge somehow contrasted with his appearance, and this contrast made him even more attractive to her. But she couldn’t allow him to notice it. What would Sister Agnes think of it? What would Mother Superior say? The little of life she knew had been spent surrounded by Catholic nuns and Catholic beliefs. Somehow all those women surrounding her thought sex was a sin, and she couldn’t stop feeling like a naughty girl caught doing something wrong every time she thought of those things. And this man was attractive. She hadn’t seen anyone like that. And she hadn’t seen anyone that attractive. Oh yes, she definitely had a crush on that man. She just hoped he wouldn’t notice it.
But he did. Vincent had always had empathic abilities, and he could see how attracted she felt for him in every gesture of hers, in every word she said. It would be obvious to him even if he didn’t have any empathic abilities. And it amused him. This new Catherine was naïve in ways that amazed Vincent. He just wished she could remember their life together. But he wouldn’t push her because he still didn’t know the reasons for her amnesia. He didn’t know what had been done to her.
They talked for hours until she drifted off to sleep. That was only when he left to take the tray and the plates back to the kitchen. Then he went to Father’s study.
“How is she?” Father asked as soon as Vincent walked into the room.
“She is great. She is doing just fine.” Vincent was happy. How long Father had last seen him like that? Was it on Jacob’s naming ceremony? Or was it before his near fatal illness in the catacombs, over three years ago? He didn’t remember.
“I don’t understand, Vincent. How can that be?”
“I have no idea, Father. But she is well and she is right here with us.”
“And she doesn’t remember her past. Neither she remembers you.”
Vincent frowned at Father’s remarks. They were true.
“No. She doesn’t. And I don’t want to push her, Father. I can’t possibly know what has been done to her to make her forget. All I can do is standing next to her and praying that her memories will return.”
And Vincent explained Father why she had been shot. Father felt shocked. What else could happen to that poor woman? It made him feel even more protective towards Catherine. Perhaps as protective as he felt towards his son.
“She can’t leave here, Vincent. They will kill her if they see her.”
“I know it, Father. But I won’t push her to do anything she doesn’t want. Her state of mind is still very delicate. I can’t tell her to do anything. I have no right. And, even if I had, she doesn’t remember we had a life together.”
“She doesn’t remember she had a son.”
Those words found echo on Vincent. And they hurt. Father hadn’t intended to hurt him, but reality was cruel.
”I know Father. And I ask you to warn everyone about Catherine’s state of mind. I don’t want her unnecessarily worried…”
“So you better control Jacob then. He is telling every other child in the tunnels that his mother is back. “
Vincent nodded. He would talk to Jacob. But he couldn’t make a child lie.
He took her for a walk on the following morning. Her leg was stiff and she was in no little pain, but she leaned on his shoulder as he took her for a walk along his room and the nearby corridor.
A weird young man wearing an even weirder helmet passed by them and looked at her like if he had seen a ghost. Then he ran away.
“Nevermind Mouse. He is a bit difficult to deal, at times. But he is one of my best friends.”
“I didn’t think anything. I just thought his helmet was weird.”
Vincent chuckled at her remark, then he took her in his arms and went to Father’s library. He took her to the hospital chamber later, where Father was already waiting for them.
She thought the old man was very gentle. Not that she had known many Doctors, but her mental image of them was that of cold and distant people who are more focused on treating the disease than on dealing with the patient. But this man was different. She instantly felt fond of him.
“It looks pretty bad, doesn’t it?” She asked as she looked to the swollen back of her leg.
“As a matter of fact, my dear, it is healing pretty nicely. Just go on with the medication that you’ll be as good as new.”
She felt like she knew this man, but she didn’t bother to analyze this feeling.
“Thank you, Sir. You are very kind.”
Later, Vincent took her to a bathing chamber. He gave her a towel and some clean clothes. Then he left in order to give her some privacy, for she didn’t know what they had shared in the past.
He came back an hour later and was stunned to see her. He couldn’t remember ever seeing her that beautiful. She was wearing a tunnel gown Mary had made for her years ago. It was white and went down to her knees. It had a belt, which resembled a thin rope, which was made out of wool and that was tied around her waist. She had her hair tied in a pony-tail behind her head.
“Do you like it?” She asked him.
He was lost for words. As a matter of fact he was bit shy to say she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life.
“Please, tell me you like it. I’m so used to wearing jeans all the time that I can’t help finding myself ridiculous whenever I wear a dress. Besides, I have this bandage on my leg that looks awful.”
He chuckled. “You’re very beautiful, Catherine. You don’t need to worry about that.”
Later on that day she came to know Vincent’s son better. The kid was amazing. He was very smart for a three year-old child, with a knowledge of language very rare for his age. HE sometimes called her Catherine, sometimes he called her Mom. But where was Jacob’s mother, anyway? She wasn’t anywhere around and Vincent had never mentioned her.
“Are you married, Vincent?” She asked when they arrived at his chamber on one evening.
“How about Jacob’s mother?”
He didn’t want to touch that subject. He felt it was walking on dangerous ground. But, on the other hand, he could give her some information without endangering her well being.
“She is not around anymore.”
It was enough for Catherine. She didn’t want to get involved with any married man. And she believed she was falling in love with Vincent. If what she was feeling wasn’t real love, she wouldn’t want to know what the real thing was, because what she felt for this man was already intense enough. She could imagine spending the rest of her life with that man, bearing his babies and looking after his older son. He was perfect. He was her knight in shining armor. But she was afraid of telling him what she felt. It was obvious that he cared about her. But what about Jacob’s mother? What if he still loved her? What if she came back from wherever she was?
“ I won’t let you sleep there.” She said as he sat on his large reading chair.
“It’s too uncomfortable. I can hardly believe you slept on that chair.
“It is fine for me.”
“No it’s not. You better sleep here. I’m sure I can get somewhere else to sleep.”
They ended up sleeping on the same way as before, he on the chair, she on the bed. Only that, in the middle of the night, she asked him to share the bed with her. An offer he wouldn’t refuse and that she didn’t know how in the world she had gathered the strength to make.
He was amazed at his own actions. Never, in the past, he would have done such a thing. But things were different now. He had been given a second chance with the woman he loved and he would take it. He was aware of his humanity now and he wouldn’t dare to refuse her anything.
They didn’t do anything, just held each other until they slept again.
She woke up screaming a couple of hours later.
She couldn’t remember dreaming before, but she dreamt of Diana on that night. She relived the whole scene of the murder in her head. She could see Diana lying on the floor, bleeding. She could see Diana’s eyes. And she could see the killer’s eyes. He hadn’t said a word, but she knew what he had wanted to say ”I’ll kill you another day.”
Vincent awakened her. Jacob, hearing his mother’s cries from the next chamber, came to the door and watched as his father took a few minutes to wake his mother from a terrible nightmare. Jacob was a gifted child. He knew what she had been dreaming. He hadn’t told anyone yet, but he was as empathic as his father. And he could feel the woman he knew to be his mother more intensively than any other person.
“Catherine, please, wake up! It is just a dream! You have to wake up!”
She struggled to open her eyes. It was a great relief to see Vincent’s face as he gently held her in his arms. She cried all the tears she had been keeping from the day of the murder and he passed his hand through her hair, assuring that everything was all right.
”Nothing is all right. That woman is dead and I couldn’t save her. And I tried, Vincent. I did.”
“ I know you did.”
“And I saw his eyes. The killer’s eyes. He was so young. I don’t think he was more than twenty years of age. But his eyes… He wasn’t high on drugs, nor anything. He enjoyed doing it. And I knew he’d be back for me.”
They spent some more precious moments holding each other as Jacob silently watched them. Things were going perfectly for the young boy. His mom and his dead were together again and that was all that he’d ever hoped for, because he knew his mom had never been dead.
Catherine raised her eyes and looked into Vincent’s.
They looked at each other for a few moments and he kissed her. Jacob smiled as he saw his parents kissing each other and went back to his chamber.
It was Catherine who started removing Vincent’s clothes. She pulled off his shirt and he didn’t resist. She wanted to see him and he was very much as she had imagined. His body was muscular and seemed that of heavy weight boxer. His lower arms and his hands were covered in fur, but not the rest of his body. He was very much human. In every way.
She wanted him. Somehow, in the back of her mind, she could hear the nuns and priests speaking of the nature of sin, but she tried to ignore those voices. She wanted Vincent and she wanted him now.
In her head she was still a virgin because she couldn’t remember ever having sex. She was very inexperienced in her own way.
As for Vincent, he was quite inexperienced himself. He had never been with any other women since Catherine’s alleged death, but he had come to remember what he had done in the catacombs on the night they had conceived Jacob.
It was up to him to teach her what they had to do. And she was as perfect as he remembered.
He just stood there for a while, savoring a vision which had been denied for him for so long. As for her, she couldn’t believe in what she was doing. Some of the Catholic beliefs that had been shoved into her head during the years in the Convent were played over and over in her head. But she solemnly ignored them.
And it was even better than it had been on the first time. They made love for hours, until morning came and they both fell sleep.
Jacob awoke Vincent in the morning. He burst into the room to find both his parents naked under the covers. He laughed and left. His laughter awakened Vincent. All of a sudden he felt embarrassed. He certainly hadn’t planned to be caught up in that situation by his son.
His movement awoke Catherine.
“Vincent?” She said without opening her eyes.
“You don’t think I’m an easy woman because we just made love, do you?”
HE chuckled. “Easy? What do you mean with easy?”
“You know, an easy woman .”She didn’t know how to explain an expression she had often heard from the mouths of the nuns.
“No. Catherine…I understand what you meant…I don’t think you are easy. It is an interesting expression though… I don’t think I had heard it before.”
“I have never done it.”
“You mean you don’t remember ever doing it.”
“Something like that.”
”It is something like that for me too.”
It shocked her. How could any woman refuse that man? She opened her eyes and looked into his. “Really?”
“Well. Just once.”
She laid her head on his chest and rested for a few more moments. “So that
was the first time for both of us.”
Joe Maxwell was furious. He had no witness on Diana Bennet’s murder. The cashier had just been found dead in the hospital. No one at the hospital could explain how it had happened. The Police Officer on duty at the floor had fallen asleep for hours. He woke up just to find the dead girl lying on a pool of blood on her bed. Three shots in the chest. It was the same Modus Operandi of Diana’s killer. Joe suspected the Officer’s food had been spiked with something because he had known the man for ages. He was not crooked.
And the other eye witness, the one who did charity with the nuns, was still missing and no one could find her. HE just wished he had the means to get through to Vincent.
The man (should he call Vincent a man? He still wasn’t sure of it) had told him he would watch the witness to see if she was safe. Could he trust Vincent? Cathy had trusted him. So had Diana. But he still didn’t know if he could.
As a matter of fact, he didn’t know who or what to believe, but he was positive that he needed to talk to Vincent.
Secretly, he got Cathy’s old telephone book from the file on her death and started searching for familiar names. HE needed to talk to someone he knew would be close enough to Catherine to have heard of Vincent. He spent hours searching for names and calling people. HE called Jenny Aronson, in the Soho, but she assured Cathy had never mentioned the name of the man in her life. As for Nancy Tucker, she couldn’t remember Catherine ever mentioning anyone named Vincent. That was when he saw Peter Alcott’s name on the book. He remembered the old doctor. The man was a gynecologist and had known Catherine since birth. As a matter of fact, he had been playing the role of a father for Catherine after her own dad had died from a stroke back in 1988.
He called the old Doctor and told him he needed to see him immediately. The secretary didn’t want to get him though to Peter right away, but Joe was persuasive. Within a few minutes he was speaking to the man himself.
“Dr. Alcott, I need to talk to you about a friend of Cathy’s. I believe you know him. His name is Vincent.”
The old doctor took a few moments to answer.” I don’t remember any Vincent in Catherine’s life.” He stated.
“ But I do. And I know him. He and I had another friend in common, Detective Diana Bennet. I believe he is as interested in getting the man who killed her as I am. At least that was what he made me believe when we met.”
“You met Vincent?” The old man sounded surprised.
“Yes. And I need to talk to you about it.”
“It’s OK. I’ll cancel all my other appointments on this morning and I’ll go to your office. It is in the same place Cathy worked, isn’t it?”
“Yes. I’ll be waiting for you.”
Peter Alcott was indeed surprised at the fact that Vincent had introduced himself to Joe Maxwell, but he didn’t question the younger man’s actions. If Vincent decided to trust a person he went along with him because Vincent was an excellent judge of character. But Joe Maxwell was Manhattan’s District Attorney, for God’s sake!
Peter had arranged a meeting between Vincent and Joe Maxwell in the same synagogue they had met a few days before. Joe had kept the keys and he got to the place before Vincent. Or so he thought.
This time the place was dark and the only light came from the streets through the windows. The place scared him this time. He couldn’t remember ever being comfortable in dark places and the silent synagogue made him relive some of his childhood fears.
Vincent had been waiting for him at the pulpit.
“Good night, Mr. Maxwell. I heard you’ve been looking for me. Sorry for not getting through to you.”
Vincent’s voice startled Joe. He hadn’t expected anyone to be there.
“Cut the crap, Vincent. I need to know where my witness is.”
“She is alive. She has been injured running away from one of the members of the gang I told you about.”
“Is she OK?”
“It was nothing serious. She was shot in the leg, but the bullet didn’t reach any bone or major vase. She is just in some pain, but we are taking care of her.”
“You and who else.”
“I can’t give you such an answer. Many people depend on my secrecy.”
“For Christ’s sake, Vincent! We’re talking about a murder investigation here! This woman is in danger.”
“She is no longer in danger for I am taking care of her.”
“And where is she now?”
“I need to get through to her.”
“You will. But first you must do one thing. Only then you’ll understand the true nature of the problem.”
“Cut the crap, Vincent! I don’t like this talking in riddles of yours!”
“So I’ll be straight. You must exhume Catherine Chandler’s body.”
“Why would I do it? “
“Just do it and then you will understand why I’m being so cautious.”
Joe arranged for the exhumation of body on the following morning. People were expecting to find some bones inside the coffin, but there were nothing but stones inside of it.
“What has happened to her body?” Joe asked furiously.
“I don’t know , sir. Nothing has happened to the grave since the funeral. There is absolutely no recording of that. I considered the hypothesis of the body having been stolen, but…”
“I’m absolutely sure that this grave has never been vandalized nor reopened. The only reason I see for such a thing, especially for the presence of the stones in the casket, is that the body has never been buried.” The graveyard administrator answered him.
“But how can that be?” Joe was beginning to settle down in order to try to understand the things happening so fast around him.
“Stones are placed in caskets of soldiers who died in wars when their bodies cannot be found or when there isn’t much left to be buried. You know what I mean…”
“I didn’t know that…”
“ I had a nephew who died in Vietnam. Unfortunately, I was assigned with his funeral and I was very surprised when we were told to place stones inside the coffin. We do that to prevent the families from further traumatic experience…”
“But I saw her body. I was the one who found it.”
“Have you been to the funeral home to arrange the funeral?” The administrator asked.
“Not exactly… We just chose the coffin and made the arrangements. WE never saw the body after it was taken by the coroners…”
Joe remembered that the coffin had never been opened during the ceremony before the burial. He didn’t care about it then because he was too disturbed to watch for details. His mind had been racing so fast in those days after Cathy’s death that he hadn’t even had the heart to see her body after the forensics had done the autopsy. But Diana had seen it. She should have known something. He remembered that he had tried to see Cathy’s body at the morgue, but Diana stopped him from doing it. He didn’t insist on it because he didn’t have the heart to see Catherine all opened up on a morgue’s gurney.
“SO I think you better start up with the coroners, Sir.”
“No. I know some people who can help me better.”
Joe managed to get through to David Ellis, an experienced US Marshall he had dealt with many times in the past. Ellis had helped the District Attorney’s office at placing people under the Witness Protection Program. If Cathy had never died, she should have been put under the Program. Diana had been involved in placing people under the Witness Protection Program too. He could remember it. But putting Cathy under the Program? Did Diana have anything to do with that at all?
He had to find out.
David Ellis arrived at his office at 11:30 am. He closed the door and sat on
Joe’s couch without bothering to say hi. He simply bowed his head and waited for
“I believe you have something to tell me, David.”
“I’m sorry, Joe.”
“Sorry for what, David?”
“I know you exhumed Catherine Chandler’s body. I heard of it.”
“But there was no body in the grave, David. There was nothing to be exhumed.”
“I know that.”
“And then what?”
The man raised from the couch and started pacing around Joe’s small office.
”Do you mind if I light I cigarette.” He asked Joe, who said it was OK. Joe had become a smoker himself a couple of years before.
“Catherine Chandler didn’t die with the morphine injection that had been given to her.” David said. He was nervous because he was about to admit he had made a mistake and he didn’t like it.
“What?” Joe had been suspicious of something like that when they had opened the empty casket, but being sure of it was a very different thing.
“She had substances in her blood that kept her from dying. She was hardly breathing, and her heart had almost stopped, but her brain was still oxygenated. I don’t know the reasons for that, neither she told us.”
“We placed her under the Witness Protection Program after Diana Bennet contacted us. She knew Chandler was a valuable witness.”
“Diana knew that?”
“Yes, she did. And she never told anyone because she knew she had to keep it as secret.”
“That’s why she didn’t let me see the body, then!” Joe was surprised, amazed, and happy. Cathy hadn’t died. He still had a crush on her, even though he didn’t admit it.
“Yes. Diana knew who we were dealing with. Those were nasty people and Chandler got very close to break the codes in the piece of evidence you had given her.”
“That damned black book… But it has never been found!”
“No. But Chandler remembered many of the names and things in it. She even remembered bank account numbers… Isn’t it funny how the mind works? She remembered all these things but she couldn’t remember ever giving birth!”
Joe nodded. These gaps on Catherine’s memory had always amused him. How couldn’t she remember where she’d spend those ten days after her attack back in 1986?
“She remembered numbers and names? I never knew she had gone so far with the black book’s investigation.”
“Yes, she had. I believe she spent all those months in captivity under Gabriel’s power thinking and rethinking about the context of the book. She had most of it memorized before giving it to Elliot Burch and she analyzed the things she remembered while being kept as a prisoner. The woman was amazing. She had a brilliant mind. “
”I know that…”
“Only that she was severely depressed in the Program. We placed her in a home, being watched by a couple of very competent Marshals after she woke up from a three day coma. Physically, she was fine, but her mind... She was devastated, Joe. She couldn’t even remember giving birth to a child, but I believe that she missed the baby. She would spend days without leaving her bedroom, simply alone in the dark. We were afraid she would commit suicide. We even removed things such as knives and scissors from the house and sent her to a psychiatrist. The man was FBI’s, we could never have thought…”
“That was my mistake, Joe. The man was on Gabriel’s organization’s payroll. He was crooked. He had contacts with some of Gabriel’s associates. Catherine Chandler disappeared as soon as she went to the hospital to be treated for severe depression…”
“She is missing?”
“Has been for the last two years and a half…”
“And you have no clues about her whereabouts?”
“No. We nailed the psychiatrist. He’s doing time now and he’s cut a deal, but he didn’t know where she’d been taken to. I guess we became sloppy after we heard about Gabriel’s dying…”
“No clues at all?”
“No. It was my mistake, Joe. It is my responsibility that it went wrong. It was my mistake.” He passed his hand through his gray hair.” There is not a day I don’t think of it. “
“ I believe I can get through to her somehow…” Joe said. He was thinking out loud.
“I believe she was the one who saw Diana Bennet’s murder.”
“What are you saying, Joe?”
“I think this is a small world, David, and perhaps there is indeed a thing called destiny.”
Vincent was welcomed by Jacob and Catherine the night he returned to the tunnels after meeting with Joe.
The child ran towards him and hugged him. Catherine just watched the two of them together. She felt something very special for this child, only that she didn’t know very well what it was. It seemed that he could read her thoughts at times, which really amazed her.
He insisted on calling her Mom. She had tried to tell him that she wasn’t his real mother, but it was no use. He simply held her and told how much he loved her. She felt she could never say no to such a lovely child.
“How did you two do without me?” Vincent asked.
”Catherine read me books and we played together hide and seek. I kept on finding her all the time!” The child said with a large smile on his face. “Only that she doesn’t want me to call her Mom. But I did it, anyway.”
“Jacob…” Vincent’s tone showed disapproval. The kid raised his head and looked into his father’s eyes. He knew he had done something wrong. “Sorry, Dad. The child frowned and left the room, a bit disturbed, like he did every other time Vincent had reprimanded him.
”Oh, Vincent. It’s OK. I don’t mind it, really… It’s OK if he wants to call me Mom, only that I don’t deserve the name…”
“Why would you say that?”
“I’ve never been anyone’s mother.”
Vincent held her in his arms. He didn’t want her to go to the Police and testify against Diana’s killer because of her state of mind. He suspected she was still too fragile to face a trial. Besides, he didn’t want her endangered anyway.
“But you can be whatever you want to be.”
“What makes you say that?”
”I know you, Catherine.”
They made love again on that night. He didn’t want her to go back above to
face the dangers that waited for her. She had gone through too much trouble
already. He would get the man who had killed Diana himself. The man had not only
killed a dear friend of his, but was willing to kill the woman he loved. He
couldn’t let him get away with that.
Joe arranged a meeting with Vincent a couple of days after his talk with David Ellis. Was Catherine, the Catholic nuns’ protégée who helped them with charity, the same Catherine that used to work at the District Attorney’s office? He suspected she was, but he still had to find out what had made her missing a couple of years before.
“Are you there?” He asked as he closed the heavy synagogue’s door behind here.
“Yes. I’ve waiting for you.”
Vincent was at the pulpit again. Joe got closer to him.
“Is the eye witness we’re talking about here Catherine Chandler?”
“I need to see her, Vincent. I need to see if she’s all right.”
“She is well, but I wish she could be better.”
“What do you mean with that?”
“She doesn’t remember anything from the time before she was found by the nuns in the yard near the Convent.”
“I knew that. Mother Superior told me she had amnesia, that she couldn’t remember her past.”
“It is not only that. She was found drugged and savagely beaten. There was evidence of torture.” He stopped to breath. The thought of somebody doing harm to his beloved Catherine was nauseating. “ I didn’t tell her. But she has a few marks in her body that I believe…” He paused and gathered strength to talk. “Have been caused by electric shock.”
“What? You mean electric shock treatment?” Joe asked that because he knew she had been treated for depression while in the Witness Protection Program.
“No. I mean real torture, like small burn marks in her legs and thighs.” Vincent was struggling with the words. The whole thing was horrible.
“I haven’t told her the origin of those small marks, neither I know if she care’s about them, but I know what they are. I met a refugee from that horrible dictatorship in Chile. I saw the marks on the man’s arms and I have even read about those things …”
“She has been terribly tortured, Mr. Maxwell, so her mind has erased those horrible memories in order to start over. I have been talking to therapists, shrinks, doctors, they all told me the same thing: she erased her past in order to go on living. Her mind did it and she ended up forgetting us in the process of doing so…”
“My God! What else can happen to this woman?”
“Nothing. Because I’ll allow nothing to happen to her.”
Joe turned his back at Vincent and stared at the synagogue’s ceiling. If only he could go back in time and change the past… He wished he could do it and make things right by never giving Cathy that damned book.
“It should have been me to have been tortured. It should have been me, Vincent.” He didn’t turn to face Vincent. “I only wish I could make things right…”
“But we can’t change the things…”
“But how about Diana?” he turned at Vincent with tears in his eyes.”She still deserves Justice…”
“I understand it and I want it done, but I’m afraid to let Catherine go through a trial. Her mind is still too fragile and I owe it to her to protect her. She does not deserve being put in danger anymore.”
“But how about her life? She had assets, money. She had a career. She had a son, for God’s sake!”
“I know it, but I don’t want to push her into doing anything she doesn’t want to…”
“The nun told she had been found drugged… That she had struggled for months to be able to speak. Mother Superior even told me she thought Catherine was simple minded for some time…”
”But she proved to be otherwise…”
“She did. Holy shit. What can I do now?” He was being sincere in asking for Vincent’s advice.
“I’ll protect Catherine and I’ll see Justice done. “ He put on his hood and
left Joe behind. He turned his head before leaving the synagogue and looked at
Joe. “Diana will be avenged. You can be sure of that.”
“You can’t take the matters into your own hands Vincent!” Father argued. Haven’t you had enough of it? You’ve been playing the role of a vigilante for years! I thought you’d get over it…”
“I did Father. Catherine is with me and I have my family complete. But Diana must be avenged.”
“But who are you to play the role of judge and executor?” Father asked him.
Vincent raised from the chair and started pacing around Father’s chamber. They were alone and both were sure nobody was hearing them.
”Father, I have no choice. Catherine cannot go back and face Diana’s killer! The man is too rich and dangerous. He will have her killed!”
”But you don’t need to kill him!”
Catherine had been walking nearby when she heard the argument. She had never meant eavesdropping, but she had been tempted to hear it because they were talking about the murder she had seen.
“But Diana deserves Justice. She was a victim, Father! And Catherine’s state of mind is too delicate, I can’t send her above to become a witness in a murder trial. She’s already been through a lot. She didn’t deserve any of those things that had been done to her. No one deserved it, especially her…”
”I know you love her, Vincent. But she doesn’t need to go back above. She can live down here with us… I saw you two together… You are a family, now. She can stay here and be happy, without facing her inner demons or a cold blooded killer.”
“I know it, Father. But Diana’s death shouldn’t be forgotten…”
Catherine shuddered… Vincent was going to kill Diana’s murderer. It was too dangerous. What if he got caught? It would be bad enough for an ordinary person… But what would the authorities do to him? She didn’t want to think about it. She had to act.
She went to Vincent’s chamber as fast as she could with her stitched leg, for she still felt some pain from the recent surgery, and gathered the few things she thought would be necessary to go back above. She put a few clothes and a her pair of tennis shoes in a bag and was about to leave when she saw Jacob at the door.
”You don’t need to go.” The little boy said with tears in his eyes.
She knelt down in order to face him. “I must, Jake. Only this way I can protect your father…”
“But he should be the one protecting you…”
“It’s not like that. Look, you’re still too young to understand a few things… I’ll come back.” She didn’t promise that, because she wasn’t sure she was going to make it.
Catherine swallowed hard. She couldn’t make a promise she couldn’t keep.
“I promise I’ll try…”
He put his arms around her and held her as tightly as he could. “You are as good and as pretty as everyone said you were and I love you.” Then he ran away. She didn’t understand his words, but she didn’t waste time thinking of them. She had to leave and Vincent couldn’t notice it.
She remembered a way out she had learned from a kind woman called Mary and
went out into an alley. It wasn’t dark already and all she needed to do was
getting to the nearest Police Station. It didn’t matter anymore whether the
Police found out about her past or not. She didn’t care if she had made
something horrible nor if she would be put away for it. All she cared about was
Vincent now. She had to prevent him from doing something stupid and her only
chance was giving the cops the killer they’d be looking for. If she was lucky, a
thing she couldn’t remember ever being, her testimony would put the hit man
behind bars and the detective’s death would be punished. SO she hoped.
The phone rang early at Joe Maxwell’s apartment. Too early, indeed. It was 5:00 when he got a call from Mark Miller.
“Hi there, Joe. Am I waking you ?”
“Yes. You are. Do you know what time is it?”
“I do. Sorry, Joe. But we know who killed Diana. We have our eye witness here. She recognized the killer from a picture. Would you believe it is Lionel Johnson, Fred Johnson’s son? We already got a search warrant for his house and we found a gun there. And guess what? It is the same brand and caliber that has been used to kill Bennet… I’m sending it to the forensic team, but we’re pretty sure it’s the same gun used to kill Diana. Only that the kid was nowhere around to be arrested… An arrest order has already been issued and we’ll have him in the next few hours. Well, we’ll have him in case he hasn’t succeeded in fleeing the country.”
“Miller, these were the best news you could possibly give me…”
“But you don’t know half of it…”
“The eye witness I mentioned, the one who lived with the nuns in the Convent of The Sacred Heart?”
“Yes…” Joe’s heart was beating faster.
“Well, I didn’t believe my eyes when I first talked to her, but it is Catherine Chandler. The one who died working on a case for you… I mean, died is not really the word… I checked her prints. We have them on record because she used to work for the city, and, yes, it is her.”
”I knew it!”
”What are you saying?”
“Listen, I’ll get through to David Ellis from the US. Marshals and we’ll get there right away. Don’t push her too hard by giving her information about her work at the DA’s.”
“It is weird, Joe. She didn’t recognize me, then she wasn’t able to give me her last name. She was surprised to find out her name was Chandler and that she used to work for the District Attorney’s office… She seems pretty coherent, though. She just doesn’t seem to remember anything before 1990…”
”You told her enough… Take care of her until I get there!”
Catherine couldn’t understand what was happening. She had figured out she had never been any criminal, but she didn’t like to hear her last name.
As a matter of fact, she didn’t like to think of any of the things the Police
Officer called Mark Miller had told her. But she couldn’t stop doing it.
“You don’t know your last name is Chandler? It means you don’t remember ever working for the DA’s?”
”You’re telling I am a Lawyer?”
“ Yes. And a damned good one… I know of lots of bad guys who were put behind bars by you.”
“I did what?”
“You’re serious? You don’t remember being a Lawyer?”
She didn’t know what to say. All she wanted to do was getting it over with and going back to Vincent. But she couldn’t.
She had been taken to a room in the Precinct and had been given something to drink. They were being nice to her, but she couldn’t help being afraid. The killer hadn’t been caught yet. She couldn’t leave until he’d been arrested and she’d been told she would have to be somewhere safe during the trial. She was afraid because she knew trials could take months and she was already missing Vincent and his son.
She was sitting on chair at the corner of the room when two men came in. One
of them wore a badge with the name US. Marshal written on it.
They seemed to know her and it scared her. She didn’t like when people seemed to recognize her. It had been different with Vincent and Jake.
The younger man, who seemed to be in his early thirties and who had very thick brown curly hair took a seat beside her.
“I know you don’t remember me.” HE said.” But my name is Joe Maxwell and we used to work together. I just want you to know that you can trust me.”
No matter what he said, she didn’t trust anyone. She had come to rely on the nuns, but it had taken them months to gain her trust. It had been different with Vincent, because she had fallen in love with him.
“I don’t trust anyone.”
“Look, Cathy… Catherine, you can trust me. I am the District Attorney and…”
“Your position doesn’t mean that I can trust you.”
Joe nodded. Moreno had been the District Attorney and he had betrayed Cathy.
“I know that, only that we shared a lot of things in the past. You saved my ass more than once, only that you don’t remember it. Look, I’ll do anything to keep you safe during the trial and after it. This man here is David Ellis and he is in charge of your security.”
“If there is anywhere you felt safe, just let me know and we’ll place cops there to protect you. SO you don’t need to worry.” The US Marshal said.
“ I’m already worried. Very worried…”
“I promised Mother Superior I’d find you…” Joe said. He hoped it would help him to regain her trust.
“You got to know her?”
“Yes, and she is very worried. I guess we could keep you safe at the Convent. Couldn’t we, David?”
“Oh, yes, Miss Chandler. We can.”
“Miss Chandler… I guess I have to get used to this name now…” She thought out loud.
Joe held her hand and she allowed him to do so.
“You have never done anything wrong. “ He’s already been told by Mother Superior how afraid she was of her past. “I will be close by if you need me. We’ll take you to the Convent and we’ll keep you protected there. Is that OK, with you?”
She nodded. Being with the nuns was the safest option, since she couldn’t go back to the tunnels. Besides, she missed them all, especially Sister Agnes.
Sister Agnes was very happy to see Catherine safe. Even Mother Superior, who never allowed herself to show her feelings in public, had expressed her happiness by holding Catherine tightly.
“My dear, we all missed you so much…” Sister Agnes said with tears in her eyes.
”I’m OK, Sister. I’m really OK. I just need to rest…”
“I’ll fix you something to eat and then we’ll talk. Mr. Maxwell told me you had been shot…”
“It was nothing, Sister. It in almost healed now.” And she pointed at the bandage on her leg.
They both left for the kitchen. Joe was left alone with Mother Superior in the Office while Ellis gave two Police Officers orders to keep the Convent safe.
“She is a very brave woman.” Joe said.
“I know it. I remember how we found her…”
“You’ve told me she must have been tortured…”
“Yes. “ The nun lowered her eyes. “That was why we didn’t contact the Police. I come from Chile, I was tortured myself during the dictatorship and I still feel uneasy with the Police.”
“That was a wise choice back then. DO you know her real name is Catherine Chandler?”
”No. I didn’t.”
“She used to work at the DA with me. She was the best ADA we had until she got involved in an investigation. I was supposed to work on it, but there was a murder attempt against me, so I handed her the case. She almost solved it. But then she was kidnapped and kept as a prisoner for months.”
”My God…” Mother Superior said as she sat on her chair.
Joe sat across her desk and went on with the story. “ It seemed they wanted her baby. “
“She’d been pregnant?”
“Yes .And the child has never been found.”
Mother Superior shuddered. The tale seemed even more terrible than she had figured.
“THEY tried to kill her with a morphine injection, but they failed. She ended up being placed in the Witness Protection Program.”
“But how did she end up here?”
“She already knew a lot and helped the Marshals and the FBI with names and information. But she got depressed…Very depressed, which is quite easy to understand, since she had been held prisoner by a maniac for months… It seems she didn’t even remember having a baby. But Catherine seems to have always had these gaps in her memory.”
“She was taken to be treated for depression and that was when she vanished. The Marshals didn’t know where she was until she got to the Police last night telling about the murder she had witnessed. Look, I don’t know what has been done to her, but I do know that she has been tortured. You know that too, you saw the evidence. I believe that is why her mind chose to forget the past. Perhaps it is the only way she can cope with the pain.”
“And we would never know where she was, if she hadn’t witnessed Diana Bennet’s murder.”
“And did you manage to arrest the killer?”
“No…Not yet. I just hope he hasn’t fled the country.”
Vincent was desperate because Catherine had simply vanished. He searched for her in the tunnels, then above. Someone had seen her leaving through an alley in the Lower East Side and that was all he had known.
To make things worse, Jacob had been crying a lot and refused to got out to play and eat. The child knew his mother had left and he knew she might not come back.
“She must have gone to the Police.” Father told him.
“But she was afraid of doing it. She seemed afraid of anything that was related to power.”
”But she might have known you intended to kill the boy who murdered Diana. She probably went away to testify.”
“But it is too dangerous, Father. This killer, Lionel Johnson, has friends in higher places. His father is a politician, for Christ’s sake! She is risking herself too much. I can’t allow that!”
“You can’t stop it. It was her choice to go and there is nothing you can do to change that.”
Vincent sat on his large chair and rested his head on his hands. He was exhausted.
Father came close to him and put his hand on Vincent’s shoulder. “I’ll talk to Joe Maxwell. He must know something.”
Father came with the answer on the same day. Catherine was fine was under Police protection. HE couldn’t tell where she was and it made Vincent furious.
”How can he not tell me where she is?”
“You have to understand his reasons, Vincent. He has been betrayed before, so has Catherine.”
“Not by me!”
“But he doesn’t know that! He still doesn’t know you well, Vincent. Give him a chance to prove he’s right.”
Vincent never said a word as he left. He simply picked up his cloak and went
above for a night walk. He would try to feel her again, like he had done years
ago. Perhaps he could do it again because of the new experiences they shared. He
had sworn to protect her and he would find the means to see her again. He knew
Catherine asked David Ellis if he could go with her to the Public Library. She had gone there several times before, but it had always been to pick books of poetry or novels. This time she wanted to do a research on her own name and see what she could find out about it. She wanted to find things by herself, for she didn’t rely on any of these people who were now around her. She thought all the Police Officers and the District Attorney were nice, but she couldn’t help not trusting them. She had always felt uneasy near the Police, perhaps because she really didn’t know her past nor where she had came. Her fear of the Police was irrational, but she couldn’t help it. Besides, she didn’t like David Ellis. He seemed to be wearing clothes too expensive for a civil servant. He was always dressed in designer’s suits and ties. The man had a state of the art cell phone and wore an expensive watch. She had always been good at watching for details and these small things had made her very suspicious of David Ellis. But he was the only one available to take her out, since one of the other officers had to leave early and the other one had to remain at the Convent.
They left for the Library at 4:00 pm and, as soon as she got there, she
started researching on microfilm and on old newspapers about her name. The
things she saw didn’t seem any good. The first thing she saw was her own
obituary, which shocked her. Was that a homonymous? But then she read about the
alleged deceased woman and saw it had to be her.
“ADA FOUND DEAD AT HER OWN PLACE. Assistant District Attorney Catherine Chandler, 33 year-old, found dead in her own apartment at 44th street, next to Central Park. She had been missing for several months and was believed to have been kidnapped. Her apartment had been closed since the night she went missing and the door was locked from the inside. No one in the building saw the person who managed to place the body in the apartment. “It is unbelievable”, the door keeper said, “The guy must have climbed eighteen floors to put her on her own bed . I was on duty and I never saw anyone coming in or out.” Brian Connely,16, a neighbor of the deceased ADA said everyone would miss her. ”We’re all shocked. I have been praying for her to be found safe for months and I don’t know what to say.” Catherine Chandler was know to have assisted many cases at the DA’s office, as well as have prosecuted many important cases. This is not the first time Chandler has appeared in news involved in strange circumstances. She was found brutalized, with her face severely slashed, on April 1986, after having been missing for ten days. She had no recollection of the place her injuries had been treated and wasn’t able to say who had attacked her. She went through reconstructive surgery and joined the District Attorney’s office, where she became one of the most successful ADA’s. Detective Diana Bennet, who’s been recently put in charge of the case, said the Police believes Catherine Chandler was murdered with a morphine overdose. Bennet also informed Chandler’s death was probably related to a case in which the ADA investigated a book containing evidence of crimes in high circles. This same investigation had almost caused Deputy District Attorney Joseph Maxwell’s death.”
Those weren’t good news. How could the newspaper inform her death if she was right there, alive and breathing? There was the possibility of her being placed in the Witness Protection Program. Could it be?
She was slowly gathering her confidence to claim her past back, especially because now she knew she owed nothing to no one.
She found some old news about cases she had worked on. She even found out about her disappearance, over three years ago. But there were still to many pieces in the puzzle that didn’t fit. She had to find out what had been done to her after her alleged death. If she had been placed in the Witness Protection Program, why had she showed up at the nuns’ yard, amnesiac and with no clue about her past? She had to find out.
“Miss Chandler, it is almost midnight. We better leave. We have to go be at the Criminal Court’s Building early in the morning.”
She checked her watch. She hadn’t seen the hours passing by. “It’s OK. I’m going.”
She got her jacket and followed Ellis. The doors of Library were closed as soon as they left. The car was parked a few blocks away and they were supposed to walk to get to it.
They got into the car and David took a different route from the one that would lead them to the Convent.
“Mr. Ellis, where are you driving to?”
He didn’t answer. He was beginning to scare her.
“Mr. Ellis. Please. “ She tried to open the passenger door. It was locked. “you can’t do a thing, Miss Chandler. The door’s lock is in the front panel, right here. It’s no use trying to escape.”
“What are going to do to me?” She already knew the answer.
“I screwed up once and you lived. I won’t screw up this time.”
He pulled over in an adjacent neighborhood full of decayed buildings and turned to face her. “I delivered you to the men once. And I’ll deliver you to them once again. “ He pulled a gun and pointed at her. “I’ll ask you to leave, please.” She opened the car’s door and noticed a couple of youngsters that had been waiting for them. She instantly recognized one of them.
“You.” She recognized the blonde young man who had shot Diana Bennet. She wanted to run away, but David Ellis had a gun pointed at her already. In the past, she would have managed to find a way out of the situation, but she couldn’t remember any of the defensive skills she had been taught.
“Good evening.” The young man said as he pulled his own gun. “I may ask you to come in because I believe we have matters to be settled that shouldn’t be discussed on the street.” The other young man came and started shoving her into one of the many abandoned buildings.
It was a used warehouse that was crawling with cockroaches. The place smelled like urine and feces and was dark. She could feel the pistol on her back as they walked across the corridors. She could try to run but she would end up being shot.
“So I heard your name is Catherine Chandler. You are causing me a lot of trouble. You know that?”
She turned to see his face. “You should have killed me when you had the chance. Now everybody is going to know you killed me.”
“No way, Miss.” The young man said with a vicious smile. “I’ll have your body vanished. Then all the charges against me are going to be dropped.”
She stopped and turned to face him.
“But you are forgetting about the gun. You forgot to have your fingerprints cleaned.”
”You are lying, you bitch!” The smile on his face vanished and was replaced by a frown.
“No. I’m not. “ She was lying. The gun had been found and the forensics proved it was the same gun used to kill Diana. But there were no fingerprints on it. Without a prosecution witness and with a good defense lawyer he still could get away with murder. The defender could say the gun had been placed by a third person, possibly one of the boy’s enemies, in order to frame him.
“You are, you bitch!” He screamed as he hit her head with the back of his gun. The pain exploded in her left ear as she went down. But she wasn’t unconscious yet.
“You don’t remember cleaning the gun because you haven’t done it. “ She managed to say before he strongly hit her again on the left side of her head. This time she passed out. He was about to fire his gun when both men heard a loud roar ahead of them.
“What is that?” He never knew what it was. Vincent had been so fast that he managed to knock down both young men. The one who didn’t have a gun managed to run away, but Diana’s killer didn’t. Vincent broke his hand as he tried to raise his gun. The young man cried as he saw his wrist bone exposed. But he didn’t do it for long, because Vincent soon broke his neck.
He didn’t like killing, but he wouldn’t care about this one. That young man had murdered Diana in cold blood and had tried to kill Catherine.
Vincent went down on his knees and checked Catherine for injuries. She had
passed out from a strong blow to her head. HE passed his hand through her hair
and felt she was bleeding. Desperate, he grabbed her in his arms and fled
towards the nearest tunnel entrance.
Catherine woke up in a hospital on the following evening feeling a terrible headache. The mere contact of the pillow against the back of her head was killing her. Slowly, she managed to open her eyes and saw Vincent standing next to her.
“Vincent. What happened?” She tried to sit up, but the violent pain in her head stopped her from doing it.
“Shhh. You’re all right. Just try to rest now.” He said as he gently held her down.
“Where am I?”
“In a hospital room”
“But you? How did you get in here?” She was afraid that someone could see him.
“It’s all right. An old friend of mine works here and he’s arranged everything.”
“Is that Peter?”
”Yes. That was Peter Alcott. Do you remember him?”
“Now that you mentioned. Yes, I do remember him.”
“It’s OK. Don’t push yourself. You’ve had two severe blows to you head and needed to be placed under watch. Peter and I arranged to bring you here and get you a brain scan.”
“Was it that bad?” She said as she put her hand on the bandage on the side of her head.
“No. It was not. I was worried, but you just had a concussion and a cut that required a few stitches. Is there anything I can get you? Anything?”
“Some medication for this headache would help a lot.”
“Peter is going to bring it within the next minutes. Just relax and stay calm. I already talked to Joe Maxwell at the District Attorney’s office. He knows you’re here and that an attempt has been made against your life.”
“Did you tell him David Ellis was involved in getting me killed?”
“Not yet, but the whole security team has been replaced. You have nothing to worry. This man, David Ellis, will be arrested.”
“Good.” She said as she drowsily closed her eyes. “And Vincent. I can remember now…” She managed to say before drifting off to sleep.
David Ellis was arrested on the following day and Joe Maxwell planned Catherine’s return to the world of the living. The assets she used to have on her name were no problem, because they had been inherited by Peter Alcott and Jacob Wells, the man in the old-fashioned suit. Those old men were close friends of Catherine’s and wouldn’t represent a problem. But she had to go to Civil Court to be pronounced alive as soon as she left the hospital.
Vincent had told Joe what had happened to Lionel Johnson and Joe didn’t make any efforts in finding the rich kid’s body. Joe hoped the kid was rotting in hell. As for the other members of the gang, they all ended up being arrested due to information gathered by Diana before her death.
Catherine spent a few more days in the hospital and she remembered everything. Vincent was thrilled that she had gotten her memories back, but he couldn’t help being worried because he knew some of these old memories were terrible. He hoped she wouldn’t face depression nor anything related to the violence of some of the memories regained. But she knew she was Jake’s mom now, and it was a source of joy for both her and the young boy.
Joe managed to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. David Ellis had been dirty from the beginning. He had betrayed everyone’s trust during the black book investigation when he had told some of the old Gabriel’s associates where they could find Catherine. He had been the one who had spiked the food of the officer in charge of Catherine’s protection with drugs before she disappeared three years ago. The criminals had managed to get into the hospital and had taken Catherine without being seen.
Killing her would be no use for them because she had already told the FBI everything she knew, and it had been a lot. Their organization was destroyed and they would have to live as fugitives for the rest of their lives, so they wanted to punish her. And that was what they did.
She had been found near the Convent of The Sacred Heart and had been living a totally different life when fate caught up with her and she saw Diana Bennet being murdered. Joe found it ironic how the wheel of destiny had turned: Catherine had seen the murder of the same detective who had investigated her alleged death.
Ellis wanted Catherine dead anyway, because he knew she could remember he had been the corrupted officer who had betrayed her a couple of years ago, so he got through to Lionel Johnson’s gang and arranged for Catherine’s death. He would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for Vincent.
Now Catherine could go back to her old life. Joe had even offered her old job back, which she gently refused. He understood because she had a son now.
They met near a soccer field where some children played on a Saturday morning.
“Hi there, Cathy.” He hugged her. He knew he didn’t stand a chance with her, but he couldn’t help feeling the same about her that he used to feel all those years ago. “Peter Alcott told me you’d be here.”
She held him back. “I’m watching my son, he’s been taking these lessons.”
“Your son, really? You found him?”
“He was with Vincent.” She said as she sat on a bench to watch the kids play.
“How did he do it?” He asked as he sat next to her.
“He can tell you this story better than me. All that I care now is that my son is with me. I’ll be able to see him grow up now, I didn’t think all those things would have been possible…”
“When you were under Gabriel’s influence…”
“Who is he? I’d like to meet him.”
Joe called Jake and the kid came carrying a football under his arm. Joe was amazed at kid who was the image of his mother. The child seemed pretty much at easy with Joe and even asked him for what team he wished.
“Well, Jake. I’m afraid I don’t know much about soccer…”
“How about baseball?”
“That is my game! I wish for the Yankees!”
“They talked about baseball for a few minutes until the other kids called Jake back to the game. The child hugged Joe before he left.
“Congratulations, Cathy! The kid is amazing! He is adorable. But don’t you think soccer is a bit too violent for a child that age?”
Catherine smiled. ”No, Joe. He’s doing fine. He is even doing better than the kids who are older than him.”
“He is amazing… And how about you? We haven’t had a real chance to talk since that day on Civil Court.”
“I’m great! I’m doing just fine. Having Jake with me is all the matters now.”
“And I believe having Vincent too…”
HE suddenly felt embarrassed, so he started to talk about other things. But these things weren’t very easy to talk about either.
”Why did Gabriel’s associates let you live? Do you know why?”
She shrugged like if she didn’t know. Then she looked into his eyes. “They just wanted to set an example. I had gotten away once and I had already told the FBI anything I knew. They just wanted to give me a lesson. They left me there, next to the Convent, to die, but I wouldn’t let myself be killed so easily.”
“And you remember everything they did to you?”
”Is that why I see such sadness in your eyes?”
“I’m not sad, Joe…”
“But you used to be happier…”
“Life changes us all. I can’t erase all the things I’ve been through, so I better learn how to cope with them.”
“Have you searched for counseling?”
“Yes. A friend of Peter’s is helping me out. And I have Vincent too. He is a great source of strength.”
“Where does he live, anyway?”
“I can’t tell you right now… But I’ll do it someday…”
“You’ve always been so full of mysteries…” Joe said.
”Everyone has secrets, Joe. “
“And where can I find you? You didn’t go back to your old apartment…”
“Just talk to Peter. I’ll try to show you my home soon, just be patient. I know I can trust you, but this secret doesn’t belong only to me.” She paused in order to choose her next words.” You know, Joe, I just went to the Civil Court on that day because of Jake.”
”You didn’t want your old life back? You had money, estate, a position…”
“I know, Joe. I know. But, after all the things I’ve been through, I just want to settle down and enjoy being with Vincent and Jake. But then I thought of Jake and of how he deserves all the things I had while growing up. SO…”
“So you returned… And… Well, I’ve always assumed the child was Vincent’s. But I saw Vincent… How can that be?”
“ Vincent is as human as you or me. Only that he looks different. People aren’t always the same, Joe.”
Joe nodded. Catherine was right, like she always used to be. He watched Jake’s practice and said goodbye to mother and son. He still had a giant crush on Catherine, but what could he do? But he had to learn to be happy with just being her friend.
Catherine took Jake to a nearby entrance to the tunnels. That passage had seldom been used in the place, but she looked forward to using it to take Jake to his soccer lessons. Vincent was already waiting for them. He kissed Catherine and went down to hold his son. The kid held him and then ran straight into the home tunnels, completely familiar with the labyrinths he’d been raised in.
“And how about you?” Vincent asked her as they walked hand in hand following Jake from several steps behind.
”Why do you have to ask me that all the time?” She asked as she lowered her eyes.
He stopped and turned at her. The he gently raised her head in order to face her.
“I know what you’ve been through and I know what’s been troubling you. I’m here and I can help.”
“I just don’t want to bother you with all these things I have in my head…”
“It’s important that you tell me, Catherine. I know what you’ve been through in the past years and I can help.”
“I remember what has been done to me. Everything. I’m happy with what I have now, but I can’t seem to forget the past.”
“You don’t need to forget anything. I’ve already told you once, but what you’ve endured will make you stronger…I know you. I feel you.”
“Feel me? You mean the bond is back?”
He nodded. “Stronger than ever. That is how I found you on the night Lionel Johnson was going to get you killed.”
“Oh, Vincent. This is so good.” He took her into his arms and she rested her face on her favorite spot against his chest. “And I have some good news, too. I’m pregnant again.”
He looked down at her. He couldn’t hide his happiness as he lifted her from the floor. “Catherine… This is so wonderful. I owe everything, everything.” They laughed together and they shared each moment of Catherine’s pregnancy in the following months, until she gave birth to a beautiful girl named Caroline.
The nuns who were closer to Catherine came to know the little girl and ended up becoming helpers themselves. They were all enchanted by the baby girl who was very much like her older brother, only that she had green eyes.
It took Catherine and Vincent a while in order to convince Father that Joe Maxwell was reliable. But they did.
Joe was in his office when Peter Alcott walked in, unannounced. Joe was surprised with his visit.
”Did anything happen to Cathy?”
“Just good news, Maxwell. She told me to give you this.” And he handed Joe an invitation.
Joe went to the appointed place on the next day. A herb shop in Chinatown? What the hell did it mean? The young woman who owned the place took him through a passage under the building which lead through a series of tunnels that resembled a labyrinth. “Chandler doesn’t end to surprise me.” He thought out loud. The young Chinese women turned and looked at him. ”But you haven’t seen half of it.”
They got to a large hall packed with all sorts of people. Even Mother Superior and Sister Agnes were among them. HE could recognize Jenny Aronson and Peter Alcott across the hall. The old man called Jacob Wells was there too, only that he wasn’t in his old –fashioned suit, but in some clothes that looked almost medieval. He noticed that many people around wore similar garments.
That was when he saw Catherine with a child in her arms. It was sweet baby girl called Caroline.
“Is that Vincent’s?” Joe asked.
Instead of feeling offended, Catherine cheered, because she knew that Vincent had only accepted his own humanity when he looked into his children’s faces. “I should feel offended with such a remark.” She said with a huge smile on her face. ”But I won’t. I’m just happy we’re all here now for my daughter’s naming ceremony.”
And the ceremony went on as planned with little Caroline demanding attention all the time. And Catherine knew that, no matter what she had gone through in the past, she and Vincent had conquered a happy life.