The following night, well armed and protected with a gun between them, Jenny and Catherine set off for the tunnels. A updated map borrowed from the public library gave them an indication as to ways down there, but they were well aware that the tunnels were vast covered miles and that they could well be walking all night.
“Did you bring refreshments?” Jenny asked as she parked her car, slung her pack over one shoulder and waited for her friend to do likewise before locking the vehicle.
“Some chocolate for energy, biscuits for fibre, water for thirst. I’ll be alright for a couple of days, what about you?”
Jenny patted her pack, “Coffee. Who needs more than that?” The two friends laughed. “No, actually I bought along some food as well, would you believe cheese sandwiches?”
Catherine laughed, “They might get squashed…” she began as Jenny cut in with, “So long as they stay edible I’ll eat them. Hopefully we won’t need to do, hopefully we’ll be back before daybreak, but one just never knows. I just hope we don’t meet any deadbeat down there that’s going to cause a hindrance.” Catherine shivered, “Me too.”
The pair walked off across the grassy park, heading for the first entrance they knew of. It wasn’t located on the map as an entrance but Jenny had a gut feeling. “I’ve seen people go in here.” She told Catherine as they approached the storm drain, “And never seen them come out again. I’d have that gun ready if I were you.”
Needing no second warning, Catherine checked her holster, and smoothed the gun with her fingertips. At the slightest provocation, it would take mere seconds to take it out and fire, as Catherine was an expert.
Close to the wall, the pair with torches extinguished listened hearts hammering for sounds from within. It was silent and they edged ever closer until convinced that they were alone, Jenny switched on her flashlight and circled the lamp the length and breadth of their location.
“There’s a gate.” Catherine cried, starting forward as Jenny caught her arm, “Wait! Don’t disturb the footsteps. Look.”
With the beam lighting up the floor, both saw several footprints indicating that some people had stood facing the door, and there were a few that showed others had gone through that way up into the park. The different treads of the soles indicating different footwear. “So this has to be a main through fare.” Jenny remarked, “But I’m pretty sure its not going to be as easy as that to find the way in.” She pushed against the door that did not budge signifying she’d been right. “How about sliding it?” Catherine suggested. Over the door was a wrought iron fence that though one time locked as the broken padlock and chain suggested, it was now drawn back, repeatedly if the rusted hinges were anything to go by.
Jenny shoved her shoulder against the heavy iron door, not surprised when it did not budge. “Has to be another way these footprints don’t suggest bewilderment. These people knew a way in. Could try knocking of course?” Jenny turned to Catherine with one eyebrow raised, “Should we try that?”
“Well if we are to gain access I supposed we have to, though Lord knows who or what will answer to us.” She shivered again, as the reference to what had been said in part to a funny feeling that was stealing over her. The connection she shared with the person that saved her life had grown ever stronger from the moment they had entered the storm drain.
“Maybe there’s a secret knob or something. Some mechanism that seals the door.”
“You’ve been reading too many books.” Catherine chuckled.
“Its my business to.” Jenny reminded her dryly.
Strangely when her hand covered a secret knob high above the door way, Jenny froze with disbelief, causing Catherine to look at her sharply, “What’s the matter. You look as though you’ve put your hand on a scorpion or something…oh lord you haven’t have you?”
Jenny shook her head, “No, hold on to your hats, there’s a lever here and I’m about to pull it.” No sooner had she spoken, when the door ahead of them started to slide open, “Holy s**t!” Jenny exclaimed. “It works.”
They stood for a moment just looking with amazement. Believing that the other side of the door would be dark and eerie, they were stunned to find the tunnel filled with light as lamps hanging from the walls directed travellers onward. “You ready?” Jenny asked letting go of the lever.
“As ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s go.” Together they stepped through the gap arms grasped together, walked a few feet inside and stopped dead. It was painfully obvious that the door remained gaping behind them.
“How do we close it?” Catherine asked turning back to indicate that she referred to the door.
“I don’t know. Maybe there’s some mechanism on the inside for that. Jenny let go of Catherine’s arm who in turn at the break of contact, hurried after her friend. Nothing but nothing would make her stand alone down there, no matter how close her friend might be.
“Can’t find anything, maybe it just slides shut.” And this time when Jenny put her shoulder against it and pushed, it did just that.
The sudden twang as the bolt slipped back in place caused the two girls to jump. “Let’s hope it can be opened from this side just as easily.” Jenny remarked, which did little for Catherine’s state of nerves.
“Well onward then.” Jenny took up her friends arm, “You’ve got to lighten up Cathy, or we’ll never see it through. Come on we’ve got this far, and at least we have bridged the impossible. We’re inside the tunnels, that was the worst bit finding the way in.”
“No,” Catherine shuddered, “The worst bit is finding our way out again.”
“Dah da!” Jenny exclaimed fishing from her pocket two sticks of chalk, “Its Hansel and Gretel time, Cathy, we’ll leave markers to find our way out. Do you think we should just test the door opens first?”
Wide-eyed Catherine nodded, and almost wet herself with relief when Jenny easily and effortlessly managed to slide the door back open to the outside world beyond. “Now I feel better.” Catherine told her friend, “Come on then let’s get this show on the road.”
They walked slowly at first, picking their way and remarking over certain surprises that they found. A keg of water and a ladle being one thoughtful item that they marvelled over and the lamps continued to mark their way. Finally, they came to an intersection where lamps proceeded in each direction, but other than that, there was nothing to show them the way they should go.
“Perhaps we should toss a coin?” Catherine suggested as Jenny chanted, Eeny, meanie, miney mo.”
“Maybe I can be of assistance.” The voice made them jump and clinging to one another both looked around in earnest to see where the voice had come from.
“Who’s there?” Jenny cried as Catherine fingered her gun again.
“My name is John Pater, though some know me as Paracelsus. Who is it that you seek?”
Catherine grimaced. “I can’t tell you, that is I don’t know. Someone saved my life recently and I wanted to thank him. At least, I assume it was a him. Where are you?”
“Not far from where you stand.” Came the deep steady voice.
“But all around its light and you sound so close,” Catherine shivered. She didn’t like this.
“Down here my dear things are never what they seem, and as if to prove it, he caused both Jenny and Catherine to shriek as he stepped away from a wall where he had been all along and they had not even noticed he was there.”
“How did you do that!” Jenny exclaimed recovering first.
“Did you think I appeared as an apparition, my dear?” The man called Paracelsus laughed and touched the two girls with a strange kind of foreboding by its tone.
“As I say what appears to be down here, is not necessarily so. Come I’ll show you.” He stepped back to where he had appeared from and with relief the two girls noticed the fissure in the rock where he had stood inside and not been noticed.
“How many more of these could we have passed?” Jenny remarked with awe.
“Ten at least and eyes would have watched you all the way. Believe me child, all down here would have been warned of your approach long before now.”
“Warned? But we mean no one harm.” Catherine told him.
“But they do not know that. Come I will show you the way to the main hub where your presence is awaited.”
Jenny and Catherine didn’t think they liked the sound of that. “How do we know we can trust you?” Jenny asked as he marched ahead and they had not moved.
“You have no choice. You might traipse these tunnels for a week or more and not be found. The chalking you have made may have been cleaned away already.” Twirling round, Catherine and Jenny gasped, finding that he spoke the truth. There was no sign of any of the arrows they had made.
“You!” Jenny flared, “You rubbed them out.”
He laughed, “Yet to be proven ladies, yet to be proven. Now come, the hour is late and we have a long way to go.”
“No.” Catherine caught Jenny’s arm, and her eyes questioned why. Jenny’s next words enlightened her, “I may be wrong, but generally I am a good judge of character, and I’m not certain we can trust you. Whether that will be detrimental to confess or not remains to be seen, but if you don’t mind, my friend and I would lie to continue onward, alone.”
Paraselsus said nothing, though Jenny could tell that he wasn’t happy, just before he disappeared before their eyes. Running to the spot, Jenny found another fissure but this time one that went right through the rock into some place beyond. Something told her not to investigate, but rather to stay on track and enter the opposite tunnel at the intersection.
“Are you certain this is the right way?” Catherine asked repeatedly looking over her shoulder as she imagined the one called Paracelsus to be following them or eyes looking at her from the rock walls themselves.
“Nope, but nothing was going make me go the way he went.” Jenny replied “And besides a gut feeling tells me this is the way.”
“Gut feeling?” Catherine asked suggestively, Jenny was known for her ability to see things that were not there and Catherine trusted in that implicitly.
Jenny laughed, “Well okay then, I’ll confess. Look at the ground Cathy. See the amount of footprints that go this way? I noticed very few went into the other tunnel, it’s a wonder we didn’t think of that before.”
“Well we may have done but then he came along. Do you think he’s dangerous?”
Jenny stopped and seemingly dwelled within, finally replying, “Not to us, though I think he may have used us to flank some other out into the open. I just hope whomsoever that other is, doesn’t make me feel so uneasy as he did.”
“Me neither.” Catherine shuddered. “What I’d give to find someone down here with a friendly face.”
“Me too, Cathy, me too.” Jenny replied grimly as the pair edged ever forward. Back to the sliding door was an hour away now, and apart from meeting Paracelsus and knowing that their presence was known to others, if he was to be believed, Jenny wasn’t certain when they would make the next acquaintance of anyone in the tunnels.
“I read that these tunnels run into Brooklyn and Queens, perhaps we should have started there.” Catherine commented “we don’t really know if any particular section is inhabited or not, though I must say I have been impressed by the tidiness down here.”
“Same here Cathy, I reckon that these tunnels represent home to people, and that’s why they keep them clean. After all such places could host a myriad of germs and diseases untold. It’s almost a pleasure being down here so far. I’d imagined, dank, smelly, wet even tunnels and certainly none with any light. I’d imagined rats and cockroaches and big, big spiders.” Jenny shivered, she hated spiders, “So far I’ve not even smelt a rat.”
“Except for him back there,” Catherine giggled. Jenny did too, “Oh yes, don’t remind me. If ever there was a geezer with a chip on his shoulder, he was one. I hope he isn’t still following us.”
“He went the other way didn’t he?”
“Seemingly so. Nothing would surprise me down here. Hey listen!”
For the first time they became aware of a distant sound, like tapping. But it wasn’t just any old tapping as someone strumming away with fingertips, but rather methodological tapping, as if it meant something. “I hear the sound of distant drums…” Catherine started to sing.
“Oh don’t Cathy. That idea might be closer to the truth than you think, it certainly sounds like a way of conversing down here. Let’s face it they are hardly likely to be connected to a landline are they and my guess is cell phones would not work down here. So they have to have some way to communicate.”
“Yes, I guess you are right.” Catherine responded as she tried to make sense of the strange type of Morse code that was being relayed.
“She is.” The voice both startled them and made them whiz round to face the bearer of it. This time they almost fainted with relief to find not an apparition that was absorbed by a wall, but rather a friendly looking warrior in tattered and patched jeans and sweatshirt and female at that.
“Hi!” Jenny greeted the young girl, “Who are you?”
“More importantly, who are you?” The girl replied sternly.
“We mean you no trouble,” Jenny told her sincerely, “We, that is Catherine my friend here and I, Jenny, wish to locate someone that saved Cathy’s life several weeks ago, in order to thank him.”
“There was no need. We do not trouble ourselves as to whether any aid we give is successful or not. It is enough that we try to help when we can. You shouldn’t have come down here. Has anyone else spoken to you?”
“Yes, there was a man, I didn’t trust him, his name was Para, Paracel, Parcel? I’m sorry I don’t quite remember the name.”
“Paracelusus?” the question held a note of concern and alarm.
“Yes!” Jenny exclaimed, “That was it. Do you know him?”
“Yes I know him. You did well not to put trust in that man. He is evil.” Catherine shuddered and thanked God that Jenny had had that gut feeling about the man.
“Well how about telling us your name? I can usually tell just by a person’s name as to whether I can trust them or not, that and the way they say it.” Jenny told the young woman.
“My name is Jamie, and I can assure you that you can trust me.”
Jenny nodded, “Yes, I know. So Jamie, will you take us to find this person that saved Catherine’s life?”
“That depends. Tell me something about the incident, for example did it happen in daylight or after dark?”
Both Jenny and Catherine wondered why that had been the first question, they did not know that their answer would narrow down the possibilities considerably.
“It was after dark.” Catherine told her and saw the young girl nod.
“And where did this act of kindness take place?”
“Here, that is in the park. On the night of Halloween.” Catherine replied holding her breath. She was sure that any moment the girl would reveal her saviour.
“Then it could be one of three people. Did you see him?”
“No, I was unconscious, but the paramedics told me that when they questioned him he held back, would not let himself be seen. It might have been a woman even disguising her tone of voice, or one with a deeper voice. The paramedics said they meet all sorts and could not be sure.”
“I think I know who saved you, but I have to ask you to leave. I will pass on your thanks, but it is not possible for you to meet this person face to face. And please do not tr6y to return, for after today the way you have come will be sealed and you will have to find another way back to this spot. We do not take kindly to intruders down here, our lives would be at stake if we did.”
“You must have a code of secrecy among you.” Jenny asked. “Visitors must make a pact to keep your secret. We could do that. Do you have a leader?”
“I can’t say anymore. Please just turn around and go, I will make certain that Paracelsus does not encounter you on your way out.”
Suddenly both Jenny and Jamie were surprised as Catherine caught Jenny’s arm and shook it, “Jen! He’s close, I can feel him!”
“What does she mean? Paracelsus?” Jamie asked wondering why the sentries had not notified her that the fellow had been creeping up on them.
“No,” At her reply Jamie began to relax, “Not Paracelsus, but rather the one that saved me. Look Jamie, whatever your name is…” Jamie started to protest…”I can’t explain this, not to you, not even to myself, but for some reason, some unexplainable reason ever since this person saved my life we have been inexplicably linked, as if some connection keeps us together. And I know, though I can see no one, that this person that saved me is somewhere even now, hovering close by.” A sudden gasp out of nowhere confirmed her suspicions.
“Please” she begged, “Step out into the light. I owe you so much.”
“You owe me nothing.” At the sound of his voice, Catherine’s mind raced away, straight back to that time in the park when she had been thrown from the van, his voice talking to her. His voice talking to the paramedics before they took her away to be healed.
“It is you!” Catherine exclaimed, twirling around and around. To hear the voice and not see the recipient was very disconcerting, but having learned so recently about fissures in rocks, she eagerly began to check them, searching for him within.
Suddenly he spoke to her again warningly so, “Step no closer.”
Overjoyed Catherine raced ahead reaching out a hand ready to grasp from the fissure that appeared not to be there the one she sought from within, but he stepped back out of reach and with a short sharp snarl that stunned her Catherine snatched her hand back.
“What was that!” Jenny exclaimed, “You keeping a lion down here or something?”
Catherine was shaking her head, “No Jen, you’ve got that wrong.” And she didn’t know how or why, but suddenly everything became frighteningly clear and she heard Jamie’s gasp that clarified her suspicions, as she went on, “He is the lion.”
To be continued in part five.