The Alpha and the Omega
“The first count of manslaughter in the first degree with intent to cause serious physical injury was that on September 25th 1987 you committed serious physical assault against the person of Martin Belmont so that he died. Mr Wells do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“The second count is of assault in the third degree of intent to cause physical injury whereby on October 2nd 1987 you attacked two employees of a Mr Jason Walker and left them to seek their own medical attention. Jason Walker cannot be found to give evidence. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“The third case would have been in your defence. This was on October 16th 1987, when you did so frighten thugs that terrorised some old people and two of these elderly people were scheduled to come forward and give evidence that the only death at the scene, namely Leo Mundy fell to his death from tripping rather than at your hand. However, it must be brought to the court’s attention that though his fear was probably due to seeing your face this cannot be established as fact. So too the forth case, when on February 5th 1988 a Miss Erica Salvin and herself an attorney at the time for the Evans and Brannigan firm would have verified that you prevented two gunmen from killing her, but that you did not harm them. The third count therefore, is of Assault in the second degree when on February 19th 1988 you attacked and maimed a Mr Stephen Bass causing serious mental and physical injury. Mr Bass would have given evidence. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“On March 4th 1988 you displayed the remarkable talent of calming guard dogs that would have attacked Miss Chandler. This also would have been in your defence, since it showed an ability to save the animals whereas most people confronted by such vicious dogs would have thought little to killing them instead. Therein you showed compassion and the owner of the guard dogs was exceedingly grateful. However, he did not agree to give evidence. The next case is a little unusual and because it came from a minor was only to be brought out and discussed. The child maintains that you killed his father, his uncles, aunts and mother during a siege whereby you were forced to protect your family. Would you care to elaborate on that Mr Wells?”
Vincent knew exactly what he meant, but could not say so. This was the occasion when outsiders had entered the tunnels and to explain that occasion would mean giving the tunnels away. He couldn’t do it and so he shook his head, and was forced to lie, “I’m sorry but no I do not know what he refers to.”
“Not even for the fact that it was in defence of your family?” the judge asked seeing no reason why Vincent should wish to lie if he lied.
“No. It would appear that the child is making it up.”
“So be it. Thank you Mr Wells. Then the forth count is of manslaughter in the first degree with intentional homicide under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance whereby on April 7th 1989 you did so cause physical injury resulting in death of the abductor of Miss Chandler who left her to drown in the trunk of her car. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“The fifth count is of manslaughter in the first degree of intent to cause serious physical injury when on April 28th 1989 you saved the life of Mr Elliot Burch by killing three gunmen hired to kill him. Mr Burch would have been willing to testify to your defence. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
While all this was going on there was complete silence in the courtroom. Catherine head in hands listened now with a quiet acceptance that Vincent was relieved to get all of it out in the open, but with a foreboding dread that he had just made a noose for himself and would surely hang. She wondered what life would be without him in it and couldn’t even begin to think about it. Surely they wouldn’t convict him to the chair surely, but even as she thought it she knew that the alternative, life imprisonment would be abhorrent to Vincent, he would she knew, rather be dead than face that. Either way she had lost him, their dream, she decided had well and truly died.
The sixth count is manslaughter in the first degree with intent to cause serious physical injury when on May 5th 1989 you assaulted and killed Mr Beris Woodthorpe to prevent him and a colleague Gary Himsworth from taking the lives of two prostitutes who would have testified that these said men had already killed other women of the same profession. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“The seventh and final count is assault in the first degree to disfigure or disable when also on May 5th 1989 in the same case as the sixth count, you assaulted and maimed the said Gary Himsworth who would have appeared to give evidence against you. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Honour.”
“Thank you Mr Wells. It is to be noted that you compliance in these proceedings will be net with favour and pertaining to a lighter sentence if imprisonment is the penalty. I would next ask that you remain at the stand in order to tell the court the details of each one of those cases mentioned and then be available for Mr Maxwell and Mr Rawlings to ask their questions. Do you need anything? A glass of water perhaps?”
“Thank you, that would be most appreciated.” Vincent replied, and the bailiff arranged for one to be brought to him.
Then began the narrative of all the cases mentioned, Vincent giving a detailed account of every one leaving nothing out except he did not attest to the case that the ‘outsider’ child claimed had happened.
And then Joe acting in his defence asked his questions and Rawlings acting on behalf of the prosecutor asked his questions, and everything was reasonably going well until Rawlings announced that he would like to cross examine Catherine Chandler and when she took the stand he launched into the question Joe hoped would be evaded. “Miss Chandler, one thing bothers me in all of this. We have heard how Mr Wells sought your protection time and time again, but we have never established how he knew to the precise second when you needed him the most. Would you please tell the court how you summon Mr Well’s attention when you are being threatened?”
“Cell phone.” Catherine replied innocently.
“You mean to tell me that you know in advance that you are going to be attacked? For we have established have we not that Mr Wells does not act as your bodyguard. Indeed if he did he would have to be with you in the daytime as well as after dark, either that or you would need to employ two body guards one for the night and one for the day, but since you do not employ a bodyguard, Mr Wells cannot fill that capacity. Therefore, I’d like to know when you actually make the call, and if it is as you are being attacked, which I doubt, then how does Mr Wells arrive always just in time to save you?”
Catherine looked to Vincent. She had hoped that this question would not come up. But neither she nor Joe who had been in like mind had realised how much it could help Vincent and she was reluctant to answer. Vincent on the other hand could see the logic of revealing their true connection and saw no reason not to do so, and when Catherine delayed in answering the question he stood up and announced “If I might be allowed to answer, I can tell the court how I manage to arrive in time to save Miss Chandler.”
“I’d prefer to hear it from Miss Chandler, if you don’t mind.” Rawlings told him, looking back in Catherine’s direction, “So Miss Chandler how do you so answer?”
“As I told you, cell phone.” She looked daggers in Vincent’s direction defying him to say otherwise. She truly believed that to reveal the Bond, the jury would see it as some form of teamwork that they used to instigate occasions of violence so that Vincent might rid the streets of crime. Either that or they would think Vincent more of a weirdo than he looked already.
“I’m not sure that is so.” Rawlings told her and turning g asked Vincent, “Mr Wells would you care to enlighten us?”
“I’m sorry Catherine.” Vincent looked at truelove, “But I see no reason to keep this a secret.” Then looking to Rawlings he announced, “Catherine and I share a connection, a bond. Since the moment I met her I have shared her feelings. I know when she is happy or sad or when she is frightened. I act on her feelings. If I feel she is anxious I approach the area where I know her to be, and I wait and listen to the connection and if it reveals a certain fear I act upon it. I can tell before I see her whether she is terrified for her life or for someone else’s.”
In usual circumstances, Richard Rawlings might have scoffed at such an explanation, but he had learned one thing from Vincent Wells, he knew when the fellow was deadly serious, and this was one of those times. He read the sincerity in his eyes and he marvelled at such a connection that would allow one to know the whereabouts and the condition of a loved one like that.
“That must be a remarkable gift, Mr Wells? And can Miss Chandler feel the same about you?”
“No. It is only something I can do. To do with my genetic makeup I believe.”
“Yes.” The judge spoke up, “Well in all fairness Miss Chandler I see no reason why you should wish to have kept the bond a secret. It would answer so many questions and whereas a cell phone would have highlighted the fact that you were knowingly bringing Mr Wells to your aid knowing full well his capabilities, a bond is a different kettle of fish entirely. This is something that Mr Wells is unable to turn off (he wasn’t aware that he could) and therefore cannot be blamed for acting upon it when conditions were such that he was forced to do. No one can sit by and do nothing when they know for a certainty that a loved one’s life is in jeopardy. And I would like the jury to consider this when making their final assessment. However before they do, there is one more witness we wish to bring forth into this case, but I have been notified that they cannot appear until the day after tomorrow as they are coming in from California and that will be the first available flight. Therefore, this court will adjourn until Thursday at ten am. Mr Maxwell, Mr Rawlings will you join me in my chambers please?”
Vincent and Catherine looked at one another. It was all beginning to wear them down and both just wanted to go below and spend the time together. Two days from now anything might happen, two days from now they might be parted forever.
*** *** ***
Joe, meeting his final witness at the airport, was surprised to find not only Stephanie Windsor but also her husband Carl accompanying her and at his raised eyebrows Carl explained, “We found someone to take care of the kids, and the baby.”
“Oh right.” It hadn’t answered Joe’s thoughts fully, he was more interested in how the two had afforded the airfare, since Carl had explained that scraping together the money for one fare and even two was difficult but three? But he didn’t question it. Someone may have lent them the money.
“You won’t need to give evidence until tomorrow Mrs Windsor, will that pose any problems?”
The Windsor’s looked to one another, and Car asked Joe, “But I thought you said Steph would need to go straight to court on arrival?”
“That’s what I assumed, only there was a change of plan and she will be interviewed tomorrow now, after which time the jury will assemble to deliberate on the evidence and return their verdict. Now I have booked you into a hotel for three nights just in case, but I see no reason why you cannot go home tomorrow night. My company will foot the bill, so you have nothing to worry about.”
“Thank you Mr Maxwell.”
“I have business to attend to now, so I’ll have a taxi take you straight to the hotel and have one pick Stephanie up at 9 am in the morning to take her to the court. You may come too if you wish. After that the time’s your own, you can either go straight back to California or stay that further night, its up to you.”
“Thank you.” Both the Windsor’s replied together, giving nothing away. Both knew that they would stay. With any luck, the journalists would want to interview them. They might even have to give a press conference. They were excited by the thought.
Joe left them getting into a taxi and made his way to his car. The papers were due out tomorrow where he hoped the news of the Windsor’s arrival and who they were would be leaked. Of course ,he had leaked the story, but he wouldn’t admit to that. By this time tomorrow, he hoped that the real creator of Vincent Wells would have had enough time to read the article and turn up in court. It was a long shot but he had to take the chance. Hopefully it would all turn out exactly as he hoped for once.
*** *** ***
“Your newspaper Sir. Is there anything else I can get you?” The carer hovered beside the chair of the older man and waited. Some days he’d like a cup of coffee with his morning paper another time he would not.
“A cup of coffee would be nice, Beth thank you.” He did not look up at her but opened the newspaper to his usual favourite pages, with fingers of his gnarled hands crooked by arthritis. Beth looked down at him fondly, she had known this man for nigh on twenty years and he had never missed a morning paper and as he read avidly she could denote her time to other more demanding residents, knowing it would be an hour or more before Dominic Haley would require her services again.
So she was surprised when rather than accept the coffee she brought to him some ten minutes later she found him agitated and moving about his room with the determination she had come to recognise in him when he had decided something. “There you are Beth, help me will you I have to go out.”
“Out? Out where?” She couldn’t believe she had heard correctly.
“Just out. Will you phone for a taxi for me?” Beth regarded the older man with amusement. It seemed that he had suddenly gone off his rocker. She should have expected it of course, he’d been known for his crazy ideas and she was probably the only member of staff who humoured him and tolerated his outlandish tales.
“Should I come with you?” She hadn’t known why she asked or even that she should. She would have to phone for the relief carer to come in and take her place and that might take longer than Mr Haley was showing he would wait for. He certainly seemed in a hurry as he donned his clothing fit for going outside.
“No that will not be necessary I shouldn’t be gone too long. And in case you are wondering, I have to go to the court. There is a case that I am interested in seeing the outcome of and today is the last day.”
Beth relaxed, well he could come to little harm in court. “I see, fine I’ll call you that cab, but put on that warm coat Dominic, its quite blustery outside today.”
“I will, don’t worry.” Beth regarded him a few moments more there wasn’t much she knew of Dominic Haley, except that for decades he had fought for the plight of the Asiatic Lion from extinction. And she supposed he must have been a good looking man in his day with his rugged complexion and bright blue eyes but years of campaigns and going to this country and that country in a short space of time had worn him down and worn him out. And then he had retired to the nursing home after pooling all his money into the campaign for the sake of the lions, until he was left penniless.
Beth walked to the telephone and called for the taxi then returning to Dominic’s room found him ready to leave. “What have you there?” She nodded toward the sheaf of papers tucked into a folder and held beneath one arm she’d never seen that particular folder before.
“Nothing.” He told her, and Beth got the distinct feeling that he was withholding something from her. “You’ll know soon enough.” He added as an after thought.
“Oh.” Beth murmured then, “Well take care Mr Haley and try to be back soon huh? You will need your medication at three o’clock, have you got a sugar cube with you?”
“Yes don’t worry, I never go anywhere without one.”
“Good. But try to be back before you need your insulin.” She walked with him to the front door and found the taxi had arrived.
“I’ll be fine.” He squeezed Beth’s hand, “You are altogether too good to me. Don’t worry, I’ll be back by three.”
She watched him go, bending his long frame into the back seat of the cab the remaining tawny hair at his nape disappearing from view as he stepped into the dim interior of the car. Beth would love to know more about Dominic Haley but in all the years that she had known him, he appeared tight lipped over some aspects of his life. In fact she had to admit he was as much a closed book as the folder he had had tucked beneath his arm. Still he was a fine distinguishable figure of a man even in his early nineties. Beth wondered what he had looked like in his youth. Probably gorgeous she decided and was surprised that he had never married. She concluded that the only females in his life had probably been of the four-legged variety with big teeth and large paws and then she laughed at her fanciful thoughts, feeling for the first time almost envious of all those lionesses he had petted.
*** *** ***
“Have you anything further to add?” Joe questioned his witnesses who had just related how she had, with the aid of a colleague, implanted lion sperm into her womb and had given birth to the man that sat not fifteen feet from her.
“What do you mean?” Stephanie Windsor eyed Joe nervously. She thought she had covered her ground well.
“I refer to the fact that you have not told the court why you felt it necessary to carry out such an experiment. Would you please enlighten us?”
Stephanie knew what to say. Carl had gone over and over it for weeks. “I wanted to see if I could create a creature half human half lion,” she shrugged, “for no other reason than that.”
Joe had half hoped for that reply. He launched his attack, “So let me get this right. This idea that you presented yourself with, this irresponsibility for the outcome of such a gimmick did not concern you overly?”
Stephanie Windsor hesitated. Before now, Joe Maxwell had shown her nothing but compassion, now all of a sudden he seemed anything but compassionate. She looked to her husband sitting in the dock and hesitated before replying, “Well of course I thought about the action. Who wouldn’t? But in all fairness, I didn’t seriously believe the conception would work, and if it did I didn’t seriously expect that the foetus would survive. My colleague and I had expected that my body would self abort the foetus and we could use it for experimentation, but when it went full term no one more than me was more surprised.”
“I find that a little hard to believe, Mrs Windsor. If the general purpose was to use the foetus for experimentation, then why did you not simply abort it by general anaesthesia any time that you chose? Why wait until the child went full term and then panic and hide it in the grounds of a hospital? Surely, you realise even now that you are agreeing to having committed possible manslaughter? Or if Mr Wells had died then it would have been murder?”
“No, because had it of died chances are this case wouldn’t be happening now. Stephanie Windsor replied.
“But since it is, and since you have admitted to abandoning the child not only beneath a bush in the hospital grounds but on a night in the dead of winter with snow on the ground, the question must be asked as to whether you are indeed a fit mother for the eight children that you already have.”
There was no objection since Joe was acting as defence council, but Stephanie Windsor wished that there had of been. That statement hit right below the belt. And she was furious. Not with Joe or herself but for her husband who had not thought this answer through well enough and had dropped her into a manslaughter charge, or a possible one at that one at least for abandoning a baby out in the cold.
“Mrs Windsor did you at any time seek the whereabouts of the child?”
She shook her head, “No.”
“Why was that? Surely, after you had carried the child to term and birthed him you wondered what had become of him. As I understand it no mother forgets the child she carried.”
“I did think about him often but I didn’t know where he was. He might have been dead.”
“And that would have eased your conscience?”
“No. No, it wouldn’t. I didn’t like to imagine that he had died. There was a woman. She was loitering in the area scavenging I assumed for trash, I think she found and took the child.”
Carl lifted his head and staring directly at his wife, he smiled at her thinking ‘good answer Steph, even I hadn’t thought of that.’
“Mrs Windsor did you at any time decide to sell such a story to a newspaper?”
“No.” Stephanie Windsor coloured up not missed by Joe.
“Mrs Windsor, on my way into court this morning I was met by several journalists who…” he lifted some papers from his desk, “asked me to offer you up to…let me see now…the largest offer is for $500,000 for your story.” Carl whistled unable to help himself and Joe turned and glared at him a moment before directing his next question at Stephanie Windsor. “I believe that you have done this for money…” He paused as a door at the back of the court opened and closed and there was a slight commotion. Joe turned and saw a tall and elderly fellow enter but would have thought nothing of it had Stephanie not exclaimed hysterically, “Dominic!”
“You know that man?” Joe asked. Wide-eyed and still staring at the fellow that had entered, she nodded unable to speak. Carl was looking decidedly flustered as a police officer walked down the stairs toward Joe and whispered something to him. Joe in turn beckoned for the fellow that had just arrived to come down and before he reached him, Joe went across to the judge accordingly and whispered something to him.
“We will break for recess.” The judge announced and the people rose as the bailiff asked them to.
In the courtroom, the people whispered anxiously among themselves. Who was this man, that had just arrived and why had he so flustered the woman giving evidence? A flutter of excitement flowed through the people as they contemplated the next few hours. Today they had expected an end to the case by a witness that would bring about a grand finale, but never had they anticipated this latest turn of events. This indeed would be an even grander climax because for a certainty, though he was so much older and only a shadow of his former self this new fellow resembled in quite a distinguished way the cat man Vincent Wells!
*** *** ***
When the court reassembled, the people were surprised when instead of Stephanie Windsor taking back the stand, Joe called for an additional witness, namely Dominic Haley. After asking for his name and address, Joe began his questions.
“Mr Haley, thank you for agreeing to be questioned this day. It is to be noted that you came here of your own free will and have agreed to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Therefore, it is with great interest that we wait for your explanation as to the creation of the said Vincent Wells and in your own time would you please tell the members of this courtroom why you felt it necessary to stake your claim to the defendant?”
“Yes, gladly. This has been something that has been on my conscience for the last thirty three years.” He turned to face the judge and jury in turn, “Your Honour, members of the jury, it is I who is responsible for the creation of the defendant, Vincent Wells. In actuality I am his father.”
Vincent gasped loudly and had to hold on to the desk for support. Wide eyes he stared at the man, while others in court did not doubt that confession one bit. Catherine stared from Dominic Haley to Vincent in turn and began to see what others had already seen, that despite the difference in ages there were striking similarities and mainly with the eyes.
“And you can prove this?” Joe asked astounded.
“Oh yes, absolutely. You can forget anything that Stephanie Cross told you, for what I am about to say really is the truth.”
“Stephanie Cross?” Joe queried.
“Yes, or whatever name she goes by now. At any rate, that woman.” He pointed to Stephanie Windsor who was trying not to look anywhere but her feet.
“You know Stephanie Windsor?”
“I knew her when she was Stephanie Cross. She was my assistant at the laboratory, and as already attested to, she was/is the mother of Vincent Wells.”
Genuinely surprised, Carl Windsor gasped. He had not known that and shaking his wife’s arm and whispering hoarsely, he tried to get some answers out of her. Answers he had not known, answers that were just about to be brought out by Dominic Haley.
Joe too was surprised, he had been certain that the woman was lying and took comfort in the fact that a certain, ‘Narcissa’ that everyone believed in had also been wrong about that.
“Mrs Windsor had given evidence that was the case, but we were finding it hard to believe. So let me get this straight Mr Haley, both you and Stephanie Windsor are the genuine parents of the man you see before you, Vincent Wells?”
“And this is not a ruse. You have not concocted the story between you for money?”
“And what we are about to hear from you is the complete and utter truth?”
“Then you may begin Mr Haley by telling the court for what possible reason you and Mrs Windsor deemed it necessary to create Vincent Wells as the man that he is, causing considerable heartache to his person, and abandoning him at birth.”
“I did not know he had been abandoned. Stephanie stole him from me, and I could never track her down. I spent a lifetime searching for the child, but each avenue was met with a dead end. He had simply vanished, as had his mother. I assumed that they had been together all these years.”
Vincent’s heart was racing. This he had never expected. That he had two normally human parents. How then did he get the way he was? Dominic was about to reveal all.
“I expect you are wondering how two normal human beings could create such a child? And when I say that Stephanie was his mother, I do not mean that in a literal term. She carried the child true, but it was not her egg that was used to produce him, rather it was an egg taken from an Asiatic lioness. Look I can see this is way over your head. Let me start at the beginning.”
“You’d better had.” Joe told him. “Or we are all going to get confused, not least Vincent Wells.” Joe shot Vincent an apologetic look. This was as much a surprise to him as to anyone. He had no idea Dominic Haley would pertain to being Vincent’s father or he would have warned Vincent in advance.
“If I might be permitted to read from an article which as it happens was only recently written and printed in The New York Times, I am certain that this will clarify matters for you.”
From a folder he handed Joe a sheaf of papers who after briefing them handed them to the judge who in turn went through the papers and after reading a few paragraphs had them returned via the bailiff to Dominic Haley. “You may read these to the people, as you wish Mr Haley but I can see that they are quite extensive do you need to read the article all the way through?” The judge was consulting his watch as he spoke.
Taking the hint, Dominic Haley replied, “Yes Your Honour, and perhaps it would be better to read it after lunch but I am diabetic and need to go home to take some medication by three o’clock without fail.”
“Very well then Mr Haley, we will proceed.”
From his breast pocket, Dominic Haley took his spectacles and putting them on he smoothed out the first page of many and in a voice strangely quiet and confident he began to read an article that would change Vincent’s whole outlook forever.
*** *** ***
“I’d like to read the article from the New York Times entitled Leaping Barriers in the Wild. I strongly believe that this article will explain more fully than I could at this stage my reasons for creating my son.
The article begins with the sub heading: Creating hybrids may be the only way to save some species and continues: ‘In the 16th century, Calusa Indians on Marco Island, Florida, made a wooden carving of a kneeling panther-woman, her head and upper body feline, her lower body human. This hauntingly beautiful figurine, only six inches high is one of countless portrayals of human-animal and animal-animal hybrids – among them satyrs and griffins – found throughout the world for thousands of years.
Those mythic creatures reveal that ‘early humans recognised things were hybridising all around them.’ Said Loren Rieseberg, a professor of biology at Indiana University. Now, using the increasingly powerful tools of genetic analysis, he and other scientists have begun to reveal the under appreciated role of hybridisation in evolution.
Though definitions vary, un general hybrids are created when different species interbreed – or, if not species then animals or plants from distinct lineages or with distinct adaptations to their environment. Hybridisation has been found in a long list of species, mice, leopard frogs, sunfish, insects, Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands, hummingbirds, birds of paradise, willows, iris, oak, sunflower, white tailed deer and mule deer hybridise, as do domestic cattle and bison, cattle and yaks, wolves and dogs, wolves and coyotes and coyotes and dogs.
Research on hybridisation is casting new light on evolutionary processes and raising questions about biodiversity and the preservation of endangered species. (Already) wildlife biologists have saved the endangered Florida panther from extinction by crossbreeding it with the closely related Texas cougar. That program opened the way for the use of hybridisation in saving endangered species. Most species cannot crossbreed because the genetic, behavioural and ecological barriers are too great to overcome. An elephant will not interbreed with a lion or wildebeest for example, nor will a wolf mate with a bear or a prairie dog with a squirrel.
Still, new findings indicate that hybridisation between species does occur and can sometimes produce new species – calling into question the long-standing view that a species is a population of interbreeding organisms that is reproductively isolated from other species.
Scientists have long recognised that the mixing of different lineages usually occurs in areas called hybrid zones. Reisenberg explained that these can be ranging in size from a few feet to many miles, these zones are often border areas, or they may be disturbed habitats, often resulting from human activities. Hybrids created in those zones may ultimately be sterile, but if not they can serve to transfer thousands of genes between the parent populations. Those genes may play no evolutionary role, but they can provide organisms with the genetic flexibility to colonise new habitats. And experts agree that the elusive cat the Calsusa Indians had so elegantly celebrated was headed for extinction.
Only after extensive genetic analysis in the 1980’s by Stephen O’Brien, chief of the National Cancer Institute’s genomic diversity laboratory, did officials approve a radical plan to crossbreed the Florida Panther with a handful of female cougars from the hills of West Texas.” Haley paused to take a sip of water and Joe used the opportunity to ask, “This is all very well,” he had listened with interest for the last twenty minutes to Haley’s narrative, “But for what reason would a human wish to crossbreed with a lion?”
“I’m coming to that. As a rule, biologists prefer not to hybridise subspecies or smaller, unique populations. But O’Brien’s research showed that the various subspecies of puma – also called mountain lions, panthers, catamounts and cougars – were part of a single population that had once stretched from Northern Canada to Tierra del Fuego. Genes had flowed throughout that population before the Florida panther became isolated in its last redoubt. O’Brien also found that a few panthers in the Everglades National Park were descended from hybrids between Florida panthers and the Costa Rican pumas that a private collector had released there in the 1950’s and 60’s. Only this year, Robert Wayne, a specialist in canid evolution at the University of California at Los Angeles, suggested that the preserved red wolf was a hybrid of the grey wolf and coyote and has since proposed that the hybridisation probably originated within the last 250 years, but no earlier than 12,800 years ago.”
When he paused again for more water Joe launched another question, “Pardon me Mr Haley, but I must be missing something here for I still don’t see why you wanted to crossbreed a human with a lion.”
“Well look at the facts. All this hybridisation has taken place only in recent years, that is as far as the written word goes, and the written word as known of by scientists able to have access to such. When I was analysing the Asiatic Lion some forty odd years ago, my thoughts were entirely finding a host for the genes of the lion so that if extinction was definite then at some stage those genes could be extracted from a creature that would live up to a hundred years at least. But in the main a host that would survive for some further fifty or more years from the date of birth. That way the extinction of the Asiatic Lion would not pose any problems when for example technology was such that the same creature or a hybrid could be re-created.”
Ah, now Joe was getting the picture. “So you crossed your own sperm with that of a Asiatic Lioness implanted the fertilised egg into Stephanie Cross as she was then known and hey presto,” Joe gestured to Vincent, “You have him!”
“In a nutshell, yes.” Agreed Haley. “But the experiment went wrong Stephanie stole the child for whatever reason I do not know, and that was the end of that. I’m afraid I didn’t have the heart to try it again, and besides not long afterward I was diagnosed with diabetes and that really put the lid on things. But I had provided a blueprint for others to follow and no doubt they are trying even now as we speak. The human body is the perfect container for such genes. With life up to one hundred years it is the perfect choice.”
“But in this day and age why not freeze the genes?”
“Because my dear man, freezing would not allow those genes to encounter disease such as the general human being faces, and in turn would not become immune to them. This way gives the genes a greater chance of adapting to a new host of the future without the added burden of fighting possible modern disease.”
“But what of the host?” Joe asked knowing how being that carrier had affected Vincent all his life.
“Do you mean the original host?”
“Yes. Like Vincent. Did you never stop to think what it would be like to be him? Were you so engrossed with the saving of the Asiatic Lion that you didn’t stop to consider what it would do for someone to live like that?”
“Naturally I did. But Mr Maxwell you have to agree that in this world there are some that must carry the burden of life. The shampoo you used this morning might have been tested on mice or rabbits so that it did not sting your eyes, those creatures had to be used to carry out such an experiment. There are I know, some that would disagree, but it is a known fact that it happens. Animals are used in a bid to protect humans from various diseases, so surely it is only right that, once in a while, a human has to repay that debt by being the carrier of genes that will at some stage help our cousins survival. I cannot choose who will be the carrier of such genes and it is a miracle that any survived at all. In all my years of studying these things, Vincent was the only one that did survive such an experiment, and as I understand he is sterile, so it is in all probability that he will be only a carrier of the Asiatic Lion gene and not be able to re-produce a new species.”
“What is so important about this lion?” Joe wanted to know. A lion was a lion as far as he was concerned.
“Today the only living representatives of the lions once found throughout South West Asia occur in India’s Gir Forest. These Asiatic Lions are genetically distinct from the lions of Sub-Saharan Africa, although the difference is not large, being smaller than the genetic distance between human racial groups. The Asiatic lion is therefore estimated to have separated from the African population some one hundred thousand years ago, but not long enough for reproductive incompatibilities to have evolved. However, though we need to protect these animals from extinction as we need to protect other species from extinction the reason why the Asiatic Lion needs our help the most is because it is the Asiatic Lion that is a symbol of power and courage for humans. They have appeared in paintings, stories and even in the Bible. They play a huge role in the history of Western culture, even classical writers like Heroclotus and Aristotle have testified to the Asiatic Lion’s presence in Ancient Greece.
Lions and tigers are the closest members to the Jurassic Sabre-toothed Tiger and they help us to learn how cats have changed throughout geologic time. We also need to help these animals because their mating time is very limited with a mating season in October and November only.
The Asiatic Lion is not a solitary creature, it prefers to live in groups, and interestingly the Asiatic Lion is the only lion that can actually roar.”
“Really?” Joe was surprised as were almost every person in court not least of all Vincent himself.
“Yes, and this particular lion’s subspecies once stretched from Greece to Palistine, to Syria, to Ancient Mesopo-tamia, to Iran and finally to India but as earlier highlighted over the years it has decreased to mostly India. In 1908 only thirteen specimens had survived, but by 1936 that had risen to 280 specimens. At one point it reached a maximum of 300 specimens but these days 200 is nearer the mark in Gir National Park. It is hoped that the Asiatic Lion can reproduce outside of the park and new grassland for their habitat is constantly being sought where they can roam and breed free.”
“What characteristics do you think have been displayed of the Asiatic Lion in Vincent?” Joe asked, as he tried to connect the two.
Haley looked to Vincent and after a few moments replied, “In the main I see a lot of myself in my son. His eyes are mine, so too the colouration of his hair, though” he chuckled, “Mine is mostly white now. I think having my makeup served only to enhance his other features to the extreme. For Asiatic lions are handsome creatures with a large bushier coat than their African cousins and a handsome mane though smaller than that of the African lion. They have longer tufts at the end of their tails and elbow joints, and before you ask, no, my son does not have a tail. The colouration of the manes vary from dark to light, though it is understood that the darker they are the more appealing they become to the female population of lionesses. These lions display a rare bonding with mates and family members and while bachelors tend to live solitary lives there have been reports of a single pair of lions living together without the pride and the male always knowing where his mate is even though much distance separates them.” This really interested everyone when they thought about the Bond that Vincent had told them existed with Catherine Chandler.
“And so in conclusion, the Asiatic Lion has been declared the most endangered large cat species in the world, and it was for that very reason and my distinct love for this animal that I did my utmost to save it from extinction. I do believe that Mr Wells carries the genes of the Asiatic Lion and with his permission I’m sure there will be many scientists that will seek those genes from him to use in their valuation and experimentation for the survival of the Asiatic Lion.”
“No further questions. Thank you Mr Haley. Your Honour?” Joe motioned to the judge, clearly impressed by all he’d heard.
“Thank you Mr Haley. There will be no cross examination since you were not called here as a witness, and all things having been considered and heard I now ask the jury to decide the penalties. That is the plea of guilty to manslaughter and assault by Mr Wells, and the charge toward Mrs Windsor for almost perverting the course of justice. Court will adjourn until nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”
Catherine whistled a sigh of relief, never had she heard anything so amazing, and a sidelong glance at Vincent told her he felt exactly the same, even so she was a little surprised when leaving the stand Dominic Haley crossed to the desk behind where Vincent was seated and extended his hand in greeting with the words, “My son?”
For a long drawn out moment Vincent stared at the hand held before his eyes and then glancing up at the man that had attested to being his father he took the hand within his own and shook it, and Catherine felt warm tears run smoothly down her cheeks as Vincent replied, “Yes, your son.” Before getting to his feet and coming around to the other side of the desk, where he gathered Dominic Haley against him, knowing without a doubt that all he had heard from this man had indeed been the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Vincent had found his true father, but while he accepted that gladly, he would never love another father like the one he had known all his life Jacob Wells, patriarch of the tunnels, his soul provider - his real father.
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To be concluded in part twelve.