The Alpha and the Omega
Two weeks went by. In that time Catherine did not see Vincent and he could not come to her. Life was difficult, with the cards stacked against her and the date of her trial looming ever closer Catherine felt like a leper as all her usual acquaintances kept a wide berth.
Peter had told her he had spoken with Joe, and that he promised to have a meeting with him, but somehow that meeting never seemed to materialise. Either Joe was busy or Peter was busy, and somehow whenever Peter called at the office whether in person or by telephone, Joe was mysteriously unavailable.
Journalists were the worst. Perhaps Catherine could have been able to pretend all was well apart from the guard at her door, and the one that followed discreetly behind everywhere that she went, but the reporters hounded her relentlessly until Catherine became a prisoner in her own home in order to avoid them, having groceries delivered and mail brought up.
She’d read every book in the place, twice, scanned every newspaper, sick to death of the same old same old, her face on the front page alongside the only footage released by the zoo of a wild and ferocious cat man. Very soon the caption beauty and the beast danced before her very eyes and Catherine wondered why it had taken them so long to think of it, but from then on the title screamed at her from every headline and each time she switched on the television set and saw the news.
However, surprisingly enough permeating through the horrific tales of slashed and gutted victims came a few trickles of heroism. It started slow at first, then as the papers started to print the letters of those who owed their lives to the cat man and more and more questions were asked, the paper was soon swamped with them, and Catherine found them very enlightening, as did, wonders of wonders, Joe himself.
In fact, Catherine shouldn’t have been surprised but undoubtedly was when two days before her trial Joe knocked at her apartment door, announcing his arrival before Catherine could open the door.
“Cathy, its me Joe. Can I come in?” He sounded unsure and Catherine hesitated. Half of her feared what he might say the other half just longed to see him again. The latter won. Opening the door, she bid him enter with the best smile she could manage, and Joe’s first impression was that she had lost weight and looked exhausted.
He tried to smile but found it impossible, instead he asked of her well being and received a noncommittal answer for his effort. They were very much at odds with one another and each watched the other warily wondering who would be first to speak.
Finally Catherine extended her hand showing Joe to a seat and he took it gratefully, managing a smile that had seemed lost to him earlier and then speech followed, “So tell me kiddo what is he to you?”
Whatever he expected it wasn’t, “I love him Joe.” He was stunned, his jaw dropping open and forcing a smile from Catherine when it looked like it might never close again.
“Love him?” he uttered at last disbelief apparent. “Cathy have you seen the papers?”
“I don’t need to see them, but yes as it happens I’ve read them all.”
“And what? It’s all true. Every last bit of it. The killings and the heroism. He does what he has to do, but let me tell you Joe, all of it, all of it, is in self- defence or in protection of an innocent one. He doesn’t kill for the fun of it. In fact he hates having to do so.
Joe was silent digesting her words, then surprised her by asking, “I’d like to meet him.”
It was Catherine’s turn to stand speechless, mouth wide open in surprise.
“I mean it Cathy. If you can love a guy like that, if all these people whom he has saved from a fate worse than death can crop up and tell their stories then maybe, just maybe we can get the city to accept him, and it would make your position a whole lot easier. I mean you wouldn’t need to go to trial for catnapping, or should I say kidnapping, for in actuality it was the zoo personnel who had kidnapped a human being and held him against his will that’s if he is a human being?”
Catherine heard the question in his tone and she shook her head surprising him, “Then what is he?” he heard himself whisper almost afraid to know.
“Don’t get me wrong Joe. Vincent is…”She paused realising she had given his name to Joe but he seemed not to notice just waited for her to continue. She went on, “Vincent doesn’t know his origin. He was abandoned at birth, but he knows he isn’t completely human. However, having said that I believe he is the best of what a human should be. That he looks different, that he has a built in defence system that is used when taunted is no different than any one of us using a weapon when confronted by evil or harm. But what I see in Vincent is the better side of humanity, Vincent has a conscience and it grieves him to an extent that it makes him ill to know he has had to defend either himself, or me or other innocent people because had he not they would surely have died at the hands of another.”
Joe nodded, “And what? Does he go looking for trouble? That is does he go out and about searching for innocent people faced with danger? Does he make that his forte?”
“No, Vincent rarely walks the city. In fact…” Catherine pulled at her lower lip with the tip of her teeth as she analysed her next words. She knew that she may have to lie even to Joe and hoped that he would not see through it.
“Yes, in fact what?” Joe was waiting.
Steadying her voice to sound as normal as possible for Catherine hated lying, she told him, “In fact, Vincent doesn’t actually reside in the city.”
“You don’t expect me to believe that!” Joe snapped, and Catherine blushed hotly knowing she must convince him this was so if Vincent was to remain safe and if the tunnels were to remain a secret.
“It’s true! I don’t actually know where Vincent resides, but I do know that someone drives him into the city from time to time and he visits me when he can and a few others who have been good to him.”
Joe relented, he had no reason not to believe her she had never lied to him before, but he had just assumed… well it didn’t matter and the truth made a lot of sense because the killings were few and far between never dependable and always selective.
“Do you know who brings him in?”
Catherine shook her head. “I’ve never asked. It felt like taking liberties. And though I love him, I know that any future for us is impossible. Obviously wherever he lives is in secret and I don’t know if that’s the kind of life for me.”
“Not that you’d contemplate it if it were, Cathy!” Joe was clearly stunned.
“Yes I’d contemplate it, have contemplated it, but I do know our differences Joe, I’m not that blind. However, I am a better person when I am with Vincent. He brings out the best in people, and children adore him.”
Joe sighed, and knew he was beaten, “So can you arrange for me to meet him or not?”
“It would be difficult. I haven’t seen him for a few weeks and I believe that he is unable to come into the city for fear of being re-captured. However, I might be able to get word to him.”
“So you do know where he lives?”
“No. Only that from hand to hand a message can pass until it reaches him. Despite the way some feel about him, Joe there are an awful lot of people who risk their own lives to protect him.”
“As I’ve read. There’s one thing, how do you explain his being there just when you need him. I mean each dangerous assignment you’ve had he has come along and saved you in the nick of time, to what do you attribute such a coincidence?”
“Cell phone.” It was the first thing that came into her head. “And he doesn’t always arrive in the nick of time. What about the time before I started at the office, and had my face slashed?”
“You knew him then?”
“Of course.” Catherine lied hoping her cheeks would not redden further. “Why?”
“I just assumed…I dunno…just thought that might have been when the two of you met…that he might have been the one to save you and nurse you back to health.”
“Where?” Catherine laughed out loud. “You as well as everyone else knows that those ten days are lost to me.” Previously this had been the only lie she had spoken everything else was secrets that she would disclose to no one not even if her life were on the line.
Joe shook his head, “You got me there Radcliffe. But the way I see it is, if someone drives him into the city then that same someone could quite as easily drive out any victim that needed assistance, care for and return them when they were healed. I’d say this pair are quite a team, and its possible that whomsoever watches out for your friend has known him a long time, either that or they have been rescued by him at some stage. Whatever, that’s not for me to worry about. The journalists though will leave no stone unturned but I’m not about to reveal to them anything you have told me here today. My concern is when I can meet him and if you can arrange it and where?”
“I’ll see what I can do. Though Joe what is your objective?”
“I thought that was obvious, Cathy to save your hide initially and to save his eventually. Come what may Cathy, that guy has killed people self defence maybe, for the sake of an innocent maybe, but he has still killed and by the law he must be tried for those crimes. I don’t have to tell you this. And its no use saying it will all blow over. It won’t. Love might make you willing to stand trial, receive a fine go to jail, but over and above all of that, the questions will not go away. And the next time he kills for you or for some other you will be arrested and tried for perverting the course of justice by withholding evidence as to what he is, where he is and why you protect a killer. I don’t want to see that happen to you Cathy, and if I might be permitted to think his mind, then I doubt that he’d want to see it happen to you either.”
Joe had a point, even so the thought of Vincent meeting Joe terrified Catherine, let alone the thought of bringing Vincent to justice to answer for his crimes. But deep down inside Catherine knew the law and knew Joe to be right. She could defend her truelove all she liked but she couldn’t argue with the fact that had it been anyone else they would have to take their punishment like all the rest. It was the law and they couldn’t defy it.
A lump in her throat Catherine nodded, “I’ll see what I can do. Will you be prepared to trust me?”
Joe nodded then he smiled that boyish smile she knew and loved so well. “I suppose wherever you set up the meeting will be somewhere dark and mysterious, probably dangerous under any other circumstances, but for some reason I feel no fear. Probably because who could defeat him? Assuming he wouldn’t come after me, I can feel safe right? He would protect me if a dangerous situation arose?”
“You can count on it Joe. And Vincent has impeccable hearing, he would know long before you and I if there were other people in our vicinity. Don’t worry Joe, with Vincent as your protector, you would be safe.”
Joe nodded. “I don’t have to remind you Cathy. Your trial is in two days. I need to see Vincent as soon as possible, and you have to make him understand he might have to come forward at your trial to act as your witness.”
This was worse. Catherine paled before Joe’s eyes, and he hurried to re-assure her, “It’s a possibility that’s all, the last straw, and he would be there as your witness not on trial himself. That would come later.”
“But you and I both know that he would not be able to leave the courtroom. He’d be arrested the moment he stepped inside.”
“No, he’d be arrested the moment he tried to leave. I know Cathy, it’s a risk but the sooner it happens the better, and it might not be all bad. You never know, miracles do happen, and he’d have two good lawyers for his defence.” Joe winked at her and she thought if that’s supposed to make me feel better then you can forget it. And she replied, “I don’t know Joe. There has to be another way.”
His sympathetic look belied that possibility, but Catherine knew she would not give up looking for another way out.
“Think about it Cathy and get word to him, I’ll be awaiting your call. I’ll see myself out.” It was as well he did for Catherine found her feet frozen to the spot as the dilemma facing her was great and seemingly without end unless Vincent came out of the shadows and revealed himself to the world. Yet Vincent standing trial for murder had only one possibility, he’d go to the chair and Catherine knew that she would rather go to jail for life before she would see that happen.
There had to be another way.
*** *** ***
Getting word to Vincent was far easier than Catherine had led Joe to believe. On the pretence of spring cleaning, she moved various boxes down to the basement and once the guard had followed her up and down the flights of steps a time or two, he had reasoned that there was no harm in allowing her to exercise this way, and that she was unlikely to go far in the basement. So, with the ground floor guard watching the main doors, another watching the fire exit and one stationed outside her apartment door, they believed that they had every eventuality well and truly covered. Not one of them would ever consider that there was a secret door where Catherine could secure her escape.
So sending the elevator up to the top floor for the purpose of the ground floor guard, Catherine moved the boxes that covered the trap door and quickly alighted through the opening, pulling the boxes back behind her as she descended the ladder. And she supposed she shouldn’t have been surprised but found that she was to feel Vincent’s strong arms around her as he lifted her down to the ground.
“Vincent!” She breathed, her eyes lighting up when she turned to face him.
“Catherine.” He whispered holding her close, his hands clasped behind her back, “I’ve missed you so.”
“As I have missed you my love.” They gazed with adoration into one another’s eyes, then spoke as one, “I’m sorry,” as remembered their last parting with sorrow.
“It’s alright Vincent, I shouldn’t have put you on the spot like that. Don’t worry.”
“No, Catherine I do worry, I should never have sent you away from me like I did. It was…” He hesitated choosing the right words and smiing just a little, “I was honoured to know that you would agree to any proposal I might make…”
His smile deepened, “But its not the time Catherine…now is not the right time.”
“I know that Vincent. Yet we have been so much to one another and in my world, it is customary, expected even, that when two people become so intimate that marriage is the next step. And I would marry you Vincent, like a shot. I love you so much.”
In answer, Vincent gathered her against him, inhaling the scent he had missed so much as he buried his face in her hair. “I love you too…and know this Catherine…” He leaned back to search her eyes, “Marriage to you is not an impossibility its just now is not the right time.” He smiled at her, and despite all his earlier misgivings on his way to meet her he leaned in and brushed his lips against hers knowing that was what she craved more than anything - reassurance of his love and devotion as well as the words to prove it.
Stunned at first then with mounting passion Catherine returned his kiss, deepening as they clung to one another only to fall apart breathless with eyes shining when the need for air became paramount.
“Vincent.” Catherine reached up and traced his cheek with the loving palm of one hand, “How did you know I’d be here?”
“I felt it.” And her face lit up with delight, “The Bond?” She asked breathlessly.
Vincent nodded, his eyes bright with love for her, “Yes, it has returned. And I know that something also troubles you this day.” He frowned then, “Something to do with me?”
Her heart was troubled and he could see that there were things she was hiding from him.
“Tell me, Catherine.”
“Joe wishes to meet with you.”
Gasping Vincent was clearly stunned, “He knows…”
“About you? Yes. Vincent have you not seen the papers these past few weeks?”
Catherine groaned inwardly when Vincent shook his head. “None of us have. The helpers that usually send them have deliberately withheld them from us. We did not question why, knowing that they were doing it for protection. It has happened before. What the eyes do not see the heart does not grieve over. Though I do know that you are standing trial for rescuing me from the zoo some information does leak our way fortunately. “ He grinned at that.
“Well then you have missed some very important information. Perhaps the helpers were right to keep you in the dark pertaining that no one would discover you down here so it would not matter, but Vincent Joe feels that you should come forth as my witness and if it comes to it stand trial for the people you have killed.” Catherine waited hardly daring to breath after delivering that piece of information. There was no telling how Vincent might react. A calm exterior was not one she had expected however.
“And I take it you do not agree?”
“Yet, to take the risk…” Vincent’s words trailed away as he became silent and thoughtful.
“What are you thinking!” Shaking him Catherine tried to drag a response from him, it was unthinkable that he would ever consider…
“I always knew it would come to this.” He whispered, her heart breaking with every word. “In your world killers must be tried. Catherine do you not see, it is what you are! Your career is this…it brings people to justice…I should be brought to justice…these hands have killed…they are rich with blood.”
“In defence Vincent! Only ever in defence!”
“Catherine, Joe is right. Defence maybe, but that is for a jury to decide. I am not a law unto myself. People have died because of me. And in a way it is a relief to know that I can be tried for my crime.”
“Vincent you aren’t thinking clearly…we must talk it over with Father…he would never allow you to do this!”
“Father has always, and rightly so been against the authorities, but he also knows that people must pay for their crimes. Take Kanin for example. The council ruled that he had to pay for his own peace of mind and for the law. We do not harbour criminals, murderers down here Catherine, yet members of our world face hypocrisy every time they look at me.”
“But you are…”
“Different? Yes, I am different. And at last you see that.”
“I didn’t mean it like that Vincent, and you know it.” Catherine’s green eyes blazed. She had to make him understand, he would be crucified up there. The law might protect him true, but it might well not, he might not even be given the chance as someone could shoot him dead the moment he walked the streets in daylight.
“There is no distinction Catherine. I am what I am, the Alpha and the Omega they were probably right to call me that. I cannot be like you Catherine, you cannot overlook my differences when it suits you and remind me of them when that suits you too. There is no other like me, and your world would have a hard time trying to establish how best to treat me, but over and above it all, people have died at my hands, and I should pay. Their blood is on my hands. And if your world should rule a life for a life then so be it.” Catherine gasped and shook her head, pained by the look of resolution she saw in his eyes. “It has to be this way Catherine, I always knew it to be so. In fact, I don’t think I can live much longer with the guilt. It is not for me or for you to presume my innocence. Self defence or not, I have to let the law decide my fate.”
Vincent shook his head, “It has to be this way. And it is the only way you will be allowed to walk free. You rescued someone that Joe believes has rights, and if that were so then the law should be allowed to hold me by assigning those same rights to the families of those I have slain. To say I am not afraid would be to lie, but Catherine don’t you see, if I can be acquitted then I will be free as I have never been free before. The enemies of this city will be forewarned that I protect the innocent and you never know it might make them think twice about committed a felony.”
“And that would turn you into a vigil anti and you would be back behind bars before you could blink. I know what you say Vincent, but I still believe that we are opening up a hornets nest here. Why can we not slip into the shadows, forget it ever came to pass, go to ground, slink away. A few months from now all of this will have been glossed over and no one need ever know.”
“I would know.”
“Yet you could forget. I could forget. We could live here together, and the world would forget.”
“And never be able to go above again…could you really live life that way Catherine?”
“It would be better than going to prison. I’d die in there.”
“Yes, and it is for that very reason we have to do what Joe says.” A lock of honeyed mane fell over Vincent’s face and Catherine smoothed it away. His eyes told her of his resolution, she knew his mind was made up and she felt sick.
“Catherine, understand me, for once in your life listen to reason and to logic and not to your heart. You know Joe is right. You know we could not live by being forced to give up even the merest visit to life above. You know it would come between us. I can take you away from your world no more than you can make me stay in the boundaries of mine.”
Catherine was adamant, “We can make it work! Vincent I know we can. We have proven already that you would not harm me when we make love. We can be together, my love. For ever.”
He hugged her then, tightly, drawing her close wanting to believe everything that she said, but that tiny little voice of conscience would not obey. He’d known for long enough that his relationship with a lawyer left them at odds with the world. Their love might sustain them but their different ideals would tear them apart eventually. Catherine looked upon what they had with rose tinted glasses, she overrode the fact that he was a killer, that he had slain people in a fit of rage and ordinarily she would bring a killer to justice for that. And she was being a hypocrite if she felt that he should be protected. It was for the law to decide what was right and what was wrong, for witnesses to come forth and plea on his behalf, for families to come forth and insist on justice for the death of their loved ones. There was no other way, and he could not live anymore with the blood of the slain ones upon his hands and presume that because of his differences, because he was the only one of his kind that left him innocent. In all fairness, he had to stand trial no matter the outcome. And deep down inside Vincent was at peace with this, for he had worried about it long enough. Guilt had worn him down and he needed the release whatever that was. Release from his crimes or release of death, whatever the law should decide and however much against this his family might be, Vincent knew that it was the only proper thing to do.
“Tell Joe that I will meet him. Arrange it with a helper for tomorrow night. I’ll be there Catherine, and whatever will come will come.”
Catherine sobbed, and Vincent hugged her tightly seeking her lips with his and aware now that they were standing on the precipice to a new order where anything might happen they clung to one another for all each was worth.
In Vincent’s world time had stood still for long enough and it was ready to move forward taking him along. He was ready and he would face whatever came, whatever happened so long as Catherine didn’t suffer because he had remained silent.
Catherine’s mind on the other hand was racing. She would do whatever she had to do to protect the man she loved from stepping out into her world, because no matter how Vincent felt, she knew, as only she could know, what the law - what society did to people like him, and she knew he would not stand a chance among them.
What he was intending to do terrified her, there just had to be some other way out for him and she intended to find it!
*** *** ***
To be continued in part five.