Out of hospital a week, the bandages long removed and Catherine felt lousy. Not only that but her whole life had changed with the attack of one knife wielded by two men scarring her forever after within where sight could not see. To the outside world, she might appear recovered, but inside she would always carry the injuries of that night. And how it had happened bugged her. It wasn’t as though she had been frequenting an area known for knife attacks. She had been hailing a taxi after leaving her boyfriend at one of his social functions, bored as usual at being left to her own devices while he discussed this new project and that new project in the field of architecture. Catherine had decided to retire early, envisaging the cosy comforts of her own apartment rather than the stark reality of hangers on in the world her boyfriend favoured. That he thrived on praise displeased Catherine, beginning to see what her friends had seen months earlier that to Tom, Catherine was just another bow to his arrow to be savoured and enjoyed as the whim took him. But more often than not to turn heads in his direction, to have him noticed in any corner of his world where there were no colours. And Catherine provided just the right amount of colour just the right hue to have Tom noticed that little bit more than he might otherwise have done standing on his own merits. And for that, and that alone, although her father’s inheritance would make a nice bonus, Tom revelled in having Catherine on his arm, thus glorying in the unmasked yearning of his colleagues.
Well no more - if there was one thing Catherine was sure of in her spiralling world of indecision since the attack - she no longer wanted to be one of Tom’s possessions. But cowardice had come to the fore when she thought on telling him, deciding instead to write him a letter, a letter to which so far there had been no response. Another reason Catherine felt gloomy, Tom had not even had the decency to reply. And so she felt lousy and her life so nearly snatched from her felt tragic and bleak.
Her forehead leaned against the glass of her apartment window Catherine gazed out at the park opposite and wondered about that night. Strange how she had been left for dead so close to home, while she had been accosted so far from it, had her kind saviour of known he could have brought her home. Still she had learned from one of the paramedics since her surgery that while they did not get a clear picture of him due to the fog and the darkness they did know that he felt nervous about moving her in case she had internal injuries. She had plied them for answers to her very many questions, but they could tell her little. He would not give his name, well that wasn’t strictly true, they had asked a number of questions his name among them and though he had answered readily his name hadn’t been forthcoming. They did of course wonder if he had in some way been responsible for the attack and a case of guilt rendered his conscience hurt to such a degree that he had felt compelled to call for an ambulance. But somehow, for some reason unbeknown to them each of the two paramedics had concluded deep in his heart that this hadn’t been so. That what he told them was true, though the manner with which he replied and the tone of his voice had, they decided, been largely responsible for that fact. And that was the one thing that coincided with Catherine’s own memories of that night, her saviour’s voice, soft and gentle, velvet over gravel dulcet tones that caused her heart to whisper of things best left uncovered. Well now she was home, and she longed to do more than just uncover the things her heart yearned for, she longed to analyse each emotion put a label to it and attach the other end to him. For whomsoever he was, this gentle giant of the night, he had stirred within her a need never before met by any other man and Catherine felt certain that she would be left wanting all her life if she did not set eyes on him again. Somehow, someway she had to find him, and as she looked out across the green of Central Park, she vowed that to be the place she would start, and so donning her coat and boots, she set off for that area before anything happened that might thwart her plans. And just as well that she decided to go when she did too, for as she pulled her apartment door closed she heard the shrill tone of her telephone sounding in her apartment, and Catherine hesitated only a moment whoever it was could wait for she had more important things to do.
Strangely though the caller knew where Catherine was headed, it was one of her gifts to foresee special things happening to her friends, and Jenny Aronson replaced the receiver with a sigh, “I know you’re there Cathy but I also know where I will find you fifteen minutes from now.” Jenny chuckled, Catherine would hate her for turning up out of the blue, but hey the park was anyone’s right? There was no reason why she couldn’t just be taking a stroll through it was there? Donning her outdoor wear Jenny strode from her own apartment with her face wreathed in grins, why she needed a telephone at all beat her, she could tell in advance thanks to her dreams and visions where her friends might be at any given time. And then her face fell, thing was she couldn’t always arrive sooner than a telephone call, which was why she had been too late to save Catherine on the night of Halloween. Nevertheless, she knew more than any of them. She knew the face of Catherine’s saviour the thing was who’d believe her? There were times when she had difficulty believing it herself, but her dreams were seldom wrong and so Jenny believed wholeheartedly. Somewhere in the city lived a man, different from the norm, different and strange but honest hearted and good, and she would know his looks anywhere and those eyes… Oh she would know those eyes a million years from now, for never would she ever forget those eyes blue eyes that shone out from a leonine face of a golden hue reminiscent of a Roman God. Shouldn’t be too hard to spot, Jenny giggled. Who was she kidding? Where would one find such a man in the world least of all New York City? Jenny didn’t know, but in the same uncanny way that Catherine knew, both had the inkling that they should start their search in the area of the Central Park.
Long shadows stretched across the parkland as the sun twinkling on the horizon burned low in the sky and Catherine circled the area once again. Ever since she had entered the park an hour ago, she had been compelled to walk the same way over and over and her head - it pounded with ferocity. She thought she would go quite mad with the hammering behind her temples and could not comprehend why she had such a migraine while being out in the fresh air. Her headaches were usually significant of a day spent locked up in the office usually interviewing irate clients. So the shout from across the park was a welcome relief to her shattered mind as she recognised Jenny’s tone and a wan smile at the ready greeted her friend with affection. “Jen! What a wonderful surprise! Say you wouldn’t happen to have some pain killers in your pocket would you?” Catherine tried to laugh but a wave of nausea chose that moment to swamp her and much to her chagrin, Jenny had foreseen this in advance and produced not only the required pills but also a small jar of smelling salts thrusting them right under her nose.
Catherine spluttered her thanks and winced as her eyes began to water managing to speak at last, “Okay guardian angel, so spill it. This was no ordinary ‘I happen to have been in the same place at the same time’ occasion is it?”
Jenny laughed, “I was worried about you. I had a dream. Well it wasn’t about you exactly, but as I stepped from my apartment I had an overwhelming urge to grab the pills and the salts and thought ‘what the hell’ they didn’t take up any room in my pocket. So Cath what’s cooking care to share?”
“No you first, what’s this dream and who was it about, and okay so it might not have been about me but it had to do with me for certain, so let’s hear it from you first, okay?” Catherine grinned from ear to ear swallowing two pills between words. Fortunately, she was one of those people that could get them down with a bit of saliva. “Yeuk, how you ever do that I’ll never know. I’d choke for sure.” Jenny told her watching her friend gag only slightly on the pills.
“When you are desperate you’ll do anything, and believe me I’ve got a stinker.”
“You shouldn’t be out here, it’s too soon. Girl you’ve got guts though I’ll say that for you, coming back here after…well you know.” Jenny added sheepishly.
“Ordinarily wild horses wouldn’t bring me, but Jen, I don’t know, call it madness, but I had this feeling, I was compelled to be here, though now its getting dark I’m not feeling quite so ambitious, though it helps having you near.”
For a moment Jenny said nothing, just gazed passed Catherine’s left shoulder to an area where she knew a storm drain to open out into the park. An area visited by the scum of the city and not a place to be at night in the park, still for some strange reason it compelled her to move toward it.
“Jen?” Catherine watched her friend move trancelike give a shake at the sound of her voice and look back blinking quickly as if she was being brought back from someplace she had gone. “What is it Jen? What did you see?”
Jenny shook her head, “See? Nothing. Look Cath, let’s get out of here, can we go to your apartment?”
“On condition…” Catherine began but Jenny beat her to it, “I promise I’ll tell you everything that I know. We can compare notes would that be okay? You won’t mind talking about it will you?”
Catherine knew exactly what her friend referred to, “It’ll be fine…” She told her sighing heavily. Then linking her arm through Jenny’s the two made to walk back to the inhabited area around the park across the street, “In fact it’ll be a relief to do so, I have so many questions, and something tells me Jen, that you are going to be the only one with all the answers.”
“Well some of them…” Jenny began, “I have a feeling that the real answers lie with the man behind the mask.” Catherine gasped, and hurried her friend forward, for now she knew that Jenny had all the answers, despite what her friend might say to the contrary.
*** *** ***
His mind elsewhere the tall slim fair haired man jumped startled as he stepped through the opening to the tunnel world and encountered Vincent lounging upon the wall just beyond the sliding door. “Vincent! God, you scared me half to death. What are you doing up here at this time of day?” Cullen asked anxiously, “Its nowhere near dark enough for you to descend above yet.”
“I know.” Vincent told him whimsically.
“Then why?” Cullen asked, “Oh are you waiting for someone perhaps? Wasn’t me was it?”
Vincent shook his head, “No, and if I may I’d like to walk back with you, there’s nothing for me up here.”
Cullen passed a sidelong glance at his friend, “That sounds ominous, want to share your thoughts?”
“Actually…” Vincent had begun to refuse when he thought better of it but Cullen got in ahead of him, “You can tell me to mind my own business if you like…”
“No, its not that, actually it might do good to talk, get an outsider’s perspective on things.” Vincent mused. Talking things over with Father was often too close to the bone so to speak, and Father only really echoed his own reasoning. Cullen being out of it that is out of the normal company Vincent would keep, but a tunnel member and an important one at that all the same, he might just have something constructive to say. As constructive as the creations that he made for the benefit of the tunnel dwellers, by being a craftsman in carpentry.
“I know you are different from the rest of us Vincent, so you don’t have to explain that, if that’s what’s bothering you,” Cullen began as if he understood the reason for his friend’s sudden inability to speak. “Just tell it how it is and I’ll try to help if I can.”
“Thank you Cullen.” They stopped walking each leaning upon the tunnel wall side by side, between the lanterns positioned there so that their bodies cast eerie shadows on the two adjacent and opposite walls. “It is difficult, and not something I have ever encountered before…” Vincent’s voice trailed away. It was hard enough understanding it himself.
“Its since I rescued that woman in the park, you might not have heard…” Vincent looked at Cullen assessing the answer in his eyes, watching as the other man shook his head, “Not really, just bits, you know what news is like down here, especially if Father has intercepted it?” He laughed, as did Vincent. Both were aware that Father would if it depended upon him stop the spread of gossip by preventing it going any further once it reached his ears, keeping tight lipped until he found the source and could deal with it further in his own way.
“Well it was the night of Samhain, I went above, found a woman that had been attacked, called an ambulance for her, I may have saved her life, I don’t know…but ever since I have had a calling…”
“A calling?” Cullen was all ears, “In what way, Vincent?”
“To go above. Its as if I am hypnotised and for the life of me cannot prevent the myself from heeding the call. It scares me for it doesn’t necessarily happen at night, as you have seen. Before you found me there just now, I had been waiting on the other side of that door for the past two hours. It was taking all my might not to open it and go above into the park. Cullen it frightens me, but I feel compelled to heed it no matter the risks.”
“Oh but you mustn’t, Vincent! If you were seen, well you don’t need me to tell you the answer to that. You might be okay up there on Halloween, but any other night…Vincent it doesn’t bear thinking about.”
“I know.” Vincent hung his head sadly, he knew his limitations still it always hurt more when someone, however kindly, highlighted them further.
“I’m sorry, Vincent.” Cullen paused then asked, “So have you any idea what’s pulling you?”
Sadly Vincent nodded, “I know exactly what’s pulling me.”
“You do?” Cullen sounded amazed.
“She is.” Vincent told him.
“She is?” Cullen repeated, “But you said…”
“Yes I know, I don’t know if she is dead or alive, but since I am getting this need to go to her, I feel she must have survived, unless her blood is calling to me.”
“You believe that?”
“It’s happened before. I’ve seen things, and with blood being the life force of a person, after death it is that which cries out to me, even if it is blood that I personally have not spilled.”
Cullen shuddered, there was much that he didn’t know about Vincent, and much he didn’t want to know, was he telling him that he had killed someone? After all those claws looked lethal.
“I don’t know what to say Vincent.” Cullen told him and that was the truth of the matter, Cullen was lost for words.
“That you have listened has helped, thank you Cullen.” Vincent told him gratefully.
“Still I feel inadequate for your needs Vincent. Perhaps you should speak these things with Narcissa?”
Vincent nodded, “Narcissa, yes.” He smiled, “Why didn’t I think of that, thank you Cullen.”
Cullen’s face brightened he was glad to have been of assistance after all. There was a moment there when he had felt incompetent to deal with Vincent’s needs. They were after all too complex and very different from those of his own so just recommending that Vincent sought Narcissa’s help made him feel like he had done something substantial after all.
“Are you going back to the hub first?” Cullen made to move away from the tunnel wall and walk in the direction he had first intended. Vincent shook his head, “No, if you would pass my apologies to Father for my absence at dinner I’d be grateful. I think I should visit with Narcissa as soon as possible, besides which being that far down might prevent me from giving in to the call should it arise again for me to go above in broad daylight.” Vincent chuckled but Cullen detected the seriousness behind Vincent’s words. “Aye I’ll do that Vincent, I’ll tell Father. Have a safe journey and give Narcissa my regards.”
“I will, thank you Cullen, be well.” Vincent added the customary greeting of the tunnel world.
“Be well, Vincent.” The two men parted company and each turned for his designated destination, one to the main hub and hive of tunnel activity, the other to the silent subterranean levels where only stalagmites and stalactites dwelled and one other, Narcissa, the old witchy woman of the lower levels.
*** *** ***
To be continued in part three: