In her apartment Catherine wasted no time asking Jenny all the things that were on her mind even as the two of them went from room to room discarding outdoor wear hanging it up, placing shoes on the stand and into the kitchen to make a pot of tea and chomp on some biscuits from the tin.
As the kettle sang Catherine launched another question, having been satisfied with those Jenny had answered thus far. “You called him the man with the mask, I only have a vague remembrance of that mask but even so I was impressed at how good it was. Do you think if we look to the manufacturer of such masks we might get a lead on this guy?”
To Catherine’s surprise, Jenny shook her head, “I don’t think we need to act so spectacularly in this Cathy, from what I’ve seen and what you’ve told me for some reason you are magnetically drawn to him. I think it’s only a question of time before you find him. The thing is, oh, I know it was Halloween, but the thing is, I have the distinct impression that mask or no mask he is the sort of guy that will wish to remain hidden. Don’t ask me why, but when I try to ‘see’ beneath the mask all I see is the same mask, almost as if he wasn’t wearing one at all.”
“Huh that is ridiculous!” Catherine laughed out loud, pausing between dipping a biscuit in her tea then wishing she hadn’t as it crumpled and plopped back into the mug en route to her mouth. “Yeuk, I hate it when that happens. Now you’ll find tacky biscuit at the bottom of your mug.” Jenny consoled with her friend.
“I ought to swap mugs with you, it was your fault it happened, shocking me like that. Jen, you’ve told me some pretty tall stories in your time Jen, but that one just about takes the biscuit.”
“Pity it didn’t really in the circumstances.” Jenny grinned eyeing the gold rim of her friend’s blue mug where the biscuit had coated it on its descent to the bottom.
“You know what I mean.” Catherine laughed out loud. She took a deep breath, “Okay then let’s stay away from that ridiculous theory and go back to square one, do you seriously think I’m being led to him?”
“Cards on the table?” Jenny asked. They had pussy footed around it too long, it was time to be serious.
“Yes, cards on the table.” Catherine waited in anxious anticipation for her friend to start talking.
“I reckon the night he became your saviour you were bewitched. You’ve never been magnetically drawn to anyone like this before, and you feel compelled to find him, and not only that but its like you are searching for a better half of yourself that you have only just realised was lost.”
Catherine stared at her friend open mouthed, “Jen, that’s spot on, that’s exactly what I do feel.”
“I know.” Jenny gazed at her friend a long moment before continuing quietly but steadfastly so, “He’s your soul mate Cathy, the one.”
“The one? You mean…” Wide eyed, Jenny nodded.
“Husband material then?” Catherine tried to laugh but it wouldn’t come off and she just stood staring mouth agape at her friend, “This is heavy.” She added at length.
“Don’t you want to find the man of your dreams?” Jenny asked.
“Man of my dreams? Yes, who doesn’t?”
“It would appear you don’t not with a look like that, come on Cathy where’s your sense of adventure?”
“Its too storybook, Jen. I’m a down to earth sort of girl, not taken to flights of fancy, I leave that stuff to you,” Catherine laughed, “and I know I’m drawn to the park again and again, but I think its all a morbid curiosity that’s got the better of me, though thankfully the desire only leads me there in the day. Wild horses wouldn’t get me in there at night no matter how strong the pull is.”
“You say that as if it’s pulled you at night?” Jenny asked and downed the last of her tea while touching the teapot to see if it was still hot. “Can I make another?” She asked reaching for the kettle, “Mine went cold.”
“Mine too, and not just cold.” The thought of those biscuit dregs almost turned Catherine’s stomach. “Yes make another brew, I just have to go to the bathroom.”
On her own in the kitchen, Jenny busied herself making a fresh pot of tea while she waited for Catherine to return. When she heard signs that Catherine had left the bathroom but didn’t return to the kitchen she popped her head round the kitchen door to see what had detained her friend, and saw her looking out across the park via the balcony doors. “What is it?” Jenny crossed to where Catherine stood, offering one of the two steaming mugs that she carried, “Here.” She told her and Catherine took it gratefully, suddenly relishing the warmth of the mug in her hands. “Is he calling to you now?”
“Wide eyed Catherine nodded, “The pull is stronger this time of night. It would have been about now…” her voice trailed away but Jenny understood and placed her free arm around Catherine’s shoulders.
“I don’t mean the attack,” Catherine added by way of explanation, “I mean it would have been about now that he found me. Oh Jen imagine if he hadn’t!” Catherine’s voice rose an octave and Jenny felt the tremor of her friend’s small frame beneath her hand. “You can’t go thinking on what ifs Cathy, if we all did that the world would come to a grinding halt. Time would stand still and nothing would ever get done. You have to move forward and not look back, same with this, you’ll never forget it but you can put it behind you, and just be grateful that someone did find you in time, and it wasn’t some other pervert that might have added to the injury.”
“I’ve thought of that too. Read an article once, some poor girl in France was raped by a guy and left her half naked, and she scrambled for help to a roadside hut where twelve men were working. They didn’t help her, all the did was rape her one after the other. Can you imagine that?” Catherine shuddered half in remembrance of that newspaper report, half in recognition of what might have become of her if her saviour hadn’t been compassionate.
“You said wild horses wouldn’t drag you into the park at night, what about your best friend, and I don’t mean on foot, even I’m not that brave. We could cruise through you and I, see if we can see anything, or find out where your feelings take you. What about that? Doing something constructive might help. Face it Cathy, this far off you are just going to drive yourself into ever increasing circles.”
“I know. Do you think we should?” Jenny heard the hope in her friend’s voice and couldn’t back down now.
“To be honest I don’t know, but we can’t stay here fretting over it. Doing something constructive has got to help. Let’s go shall we?” Jenny sipped at her tea found it had cooled and downed the rest, “Just as soon as I’ve had a pee.” She told her friend turning for the bathroom.
Catherine smiled, “Thanks Jen, I’ll get our coats.”
*** *** ***
Half an hour later, found the two of them cruising in Jenny’s car, it wasn’t as late as they would have liked, but after a certain hour most of the park gates were closed to traffic. “Feel anything?” Jenny asked when Catherine had been quiet since they had driven in. She didn’t know what she expected but she was unprepared for Catherine’s reply of, “All the time. He’s everywhere Jen. Its creepy, but as we drive through I can feel him, he’s so close but I cant see a soul.”
“I take it you don’t want to get out then?” Jenny smiled.
“On the contrary, that’s exactly what I do want. I think being in the car is adding to the feeling of space, I can’t pinpoint his position since we are moving. He’s hardly likely to be everywhere across the park is he? It was flesh and blood that rescued me that night Jen, not one of your evasive Willo the wisps.”
“Hey I have you know, my willows as you call them are perfectly good spirits, and helpful too at that. Who do you think sent me a running to you today with my head full of cotton candy?” Jenny laughed out loud, as she braked and turned off the ignition. As the engine died the eerie silence of the park deepened around them. “Strange isn’t it? Not a dog walker in sight. Its like we are stood still in time and space like the twilight zone.” Catherine remarked looking all about her. Even so, she felt far from afraid as a restless kind of excitement stole over her.
“Come on then, here’s as good a place as any to leave the car under this lamp, we can see from a distance if someone tries to tinker with it. What we’ll do about that beats me, but at least I’m sounding brave.”
“You don’t have to come.”
“Yeah right, like you’d go alone.”
“Actually, strange as that sounds, and despite what I instead earlier I think I would. He’s here somewhere Jenny, I can sense him, but I don’t think he is aware of out presence as yet.”
“Come on loopy, let’s get this show on the road.” Jenny was not one to be frightened easily, but when a friend that she had known as serious and down to earth started to sound like she herself must sound when giving a prediction, it all started to become very unnatural and scary.
Opening the doors, they alighted simultaneously, long shapely legs uncurling from the foot well of the car and planting firm soled feet upon the drive through beneath them. Jenny hadn’t changed from her grey suit she had worn to work, and Catherine still had on her pink blouse and black skirt she had worn for the office. Neither wore dress suited for a romp in the park, but then neither had intended that they would be leaving the footpaths. Now they weren’t so sure as Catherine’s footsteps took her straight out across the grass and turning around and around in circles Jenny thought at first her friend was dancing, when Catherine suddenly exclaimed, “Jen this is weird. He’s here, yet he’s not here, and as stupid as it sounds its as though I’m on top of him.”
“Hey not so fast, you mean you wish?” Jenny laughed reaching Catherine’s spinning form and trying to grab a flailing arm in passing. “Whoa, will you stop for a minute you are making me dizzy just watching you. Anyone passing will think you’ve just shot up and I ain’t spending my evening in no police cell, thank you very much!”
Despite the seriousness tone Jenny used to impart her final statement, Catherine laughed out loud, “I do feel high though Jen, like I’m on something. Weeeeeee….” On tiptoes she spun round and round emphasising the fact.
“Has to be love, you’re giddy on it.” Jenny remarked caustically stopping Catherine in her tracks at once to stare open mouthed at her friend. “You sound bitter Jen, that’s not like you.” Catherine told her suspiciously.
“I’m sorry, you’re right, just for a moment I did feel that way. But its not how it seems. Its just that here you are magnetically drawn to the soul of your soul and here I am with all my whimsical nonsense supposedly guiding me through life and I’ve yet to meet the man of my dreams. It just grates a little that’s all.”
“Yes, I can understand that, but hey ever thought that your destiny might be linked to mine? Maybe my soul mate has a brother.” Catherine teased with a smile.
“Yeah I wish, and that’ll be the day. Nope I think I am set to be everyone’s matchmaker and stay on the shelf myself directing lives. I ought to find satisfaction in that I know, but sometimes…” Her words trailed away as hot tears rushed to spill down her cheeks and she brushed them furiously away, “Oh look at me, gone all sentimental and slushy, must be the time of the month of something.” She tried to laugh but Catherine knowing she was putting on a brave face for her benefit put both her arms around Jenny and hugged her tight. They stood like that a long while each drawing comfort from the other in the only way special friends could.
“Well,” Catherine drew in a deep sigh at length, “Guess we’re just freezing our butts off out here and wherever he is I can’t see him and I didn’t bring binoculars, though that might be an idea for another night, remind me will you? Shall we go home now?”
Jenny too sighed, “I’d hoped for greater things, but you’re right, we are hardly dressed for the occasion are we. Tomorrow night then say we come prepared, thermos soup, torches, binoculars and jeans…oh and trainers, my heels have sunk into the grass here, look.” Catherine looked down and on doing so a very peculiar emotion passed through he. It was as if at that precise moment she had seen beneath the grass and beyond down to endless corridors where only candlelight could flicker.
“You saw something didn’t you? Hey this is weird, thought I was the one for visions?” Jenny shook her friend lightly holding on to her upper arm, “What did you see?”
“Candles, does that sound strange to you? I saw candles and tunnels, say…” Catherine drew her brows together and for some strange reason Jenny looked up and over to where the storm drain stood that she had gazed at earlier. “I know what you are thinking, Cathy. We did about it a college remember? Beneath some of the city there are tunnels that run from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens those areas, miles of them and people frequent them. People I am led to believe that are otherwise known as the mole people.”
“Anti socialists yes I’ve heard of them.” Catherine shuddered, that her soul mate could reside with them filled her with dread.
“Not all of them, some are homeless, I don’t really know much about who lives there, but if any of those that frequent the streets frequent the tunnels also then they aren’t all bad.” Jenny was remembering one or two people that she favoured, people she would pass the time of day with chatting on the streets without too much of a worry. She wouldn’t like to meet them after dark of course but that was another story.
“Well it’s a possibility. Maybe he helps people like that, maybe that’s why he helped you. Whatever, we can find out if you’re game, there must be a way down there, probably several ways down there, its just knowing who to ask that’s all.”
Open-mouthed Catherine stared at her friend, “You aren’t suggesting that we go down there are you? Jenny, please tell me you are joking?”
“Wish I was, can’t say the idea pleases me any, but just think Cathy, if that’s where he is, then you two will meet at last.”
“If that’s where he is, he can stop there!” Catherine snorted, “And that’s the worst idea you’ve had period! I am not creeping about in no sewers…not even if my life depended on it…so you can get that balmy idea out of your head quick smart got it!” Catherine was deadly serious and Jenny knew it, but she also knew the folly of denying her destiny. “Then if the mountain won’t go to Mohammed, we just have to wait until the gentle giant comes above again. It might take longer, years in fact night after night coming to the park, spinning circles on the grass, by morning the park attendant is going to think aliens have landed when he sees all the circles your feet have made…but…”
“Okay, okay, stop taunting me… It might take years and then so be it, fate and destiny have plans of their own so you’ve always told me. And if its to be years then years it will be with no intervention on our part, but if its meant to be sooner than he will come out from wherever he is, below, on the level or above and that will be that!”
“Well on the level let’s hope he doesn’t come from above otherwise he really will be out of your reach. You might have been rescued by an angel Cathy, have you thought of that?”
“No,” Catherine took Jenny’s arm and dragged her across the grass back toward the car, “Cos you know why? Angels don’t wear cat masks, that’s why!”
“Oh like you’ve ever seen one?” Jenny laughed out loud.
Catherine stopped dead, “You’re right. As usual, but Jenny get real…” Catherine shook her head, “I can’t go down there. I’ve never liked to feel closed in but since the attack, well being shut in that van at their mercy…” She shuddered and Jenny understood at once, placing her arms around her friend and hugging her until the trembling stopped before standing back and saying, “Let’s go home, forget this dumb idea. If he’s out here, if he’s your soul mate, you’ll find him. You’re right Cathy, he crossed you’re path once, or maybe you crossed his whatever I don’t know, and since then you’ve been bewitched to having a heightened sense of his existence and maybe, just maybe it’s the same for him. He wouldn’t want you going into places where untold dangers must exist, so maybe we just have to wait on him. After all he might not be in the tunnels.” Jenny shrugged and was surprised when Catherine replied, “No…that is no you’re wrong, he is…why else can I feel him beneath my feet?” Looking down at the grass Catherine tried to see beyond again with x ray vision but saw only grass, “He’s down there Jen, I don’t know why, not sure that I want to know why, but that’s where I’m going to find him.”
“You say that as though your mind is made up. I thought going down there was the last thing you would do?” Jenny asked as they picked up the pace toward the car, it really was getting cold out there.
“It was, but the feeling is so strong Jen, and I tell you something else. If I wait for him, I’ll wait forever. Its up to me Jen, for some reason he isn’t going to acknowledge our connection and unless I pursue it we will never meet again, that I am sure of.”
“So, that’s sounds like I need to wash my thermos out then?” Jenny asked half-heartedly inserting the key to the vehicle with its central locking, and both alighted before Catherine replied soberly “yes and be sure you bring plenty of batteries for that torch too.”
Jenny started the engine, glanced out across the darkened park to where lamps made long shadows out of eerie shaped trees and wished that tomorrow night might never come. Still at the back of her mind a little well of excited apprehension began to build reaching a crescendo by the time she had reversed and headed the car for the exit, “Okay Cathy, you’re on, tomorrow night, come what may you and I are going underground.” She only hoped that she sounded more courageous than she felt.
*** *** ***
To be continued in part four.