ALL MY TOMORROWS

By Dennis C. Callin

Fanfiction: Beauty and the Beast (Paramount 1987)

Disclaimer: The following story is for entertainment purposes only, and not intended to infringe on the copyrights connected with the television program series Beauty and the Beast. The story is fictional, and not intended to portray any person, living or dead, any place, or,  technically, any event, as true. My thanks go to Paramount Studios and CBS for airing B&B for three seasons, and providing a beautiful story based on the fairy tale brought into modern times.

 

Two Months after “All My Todays

 

“The future depends on what you do today.”
Mahatma Gandhi

 

            One’s privacy is sometimes likened to a lace curtain – opaque and yet translucent through the “holes” of the patterns. In this rising age of electronics and the computer, communication of facts and data gives one the feeling that the entire world is like a lace curtain, and everyone knows every detail of your life. But until you do something to make the world aware of you, all of that data stays locked away in electronic files and filing cabinets. Such was life in the later years of the twentieth century. Hiding or running away from the world was beginning to become very difficult. One had to travel to where electronics were nonexistent, or where such equipment was shut off from most of the world.

            Vincent knew about computers, even though they were just beginning to become mainstays of the world Above. Each year, it seemed, people were making advances in producing computers capable of storing vast amounts of information, and then making all of that available to anyone who required it. The first computers, Father had explained to him, used to be huge, often taking up entire rooms for the processing units and the storage units. Some of the machines required painstaking work to enter the data, while others easily read the data from cards and from paper sheets. Vincent even learned that computers could aid the “user” in solving complex arithmetic equations. Some computers could even play simple games.

            Like the lace-curtain analogy, Vincent also knew that not every place yielded up information to the growing world presence of electronic data usage. Because nothing connected the world Below with the world Above, this small part of the world that sat beneath one of the globe’s most advanced cities was like one of the holes in the lace. As long as no one brought a computer down into the tunnels and connected it to the world Above, the world Below was safe.

            “At least, for a while…” he breathed heavily.

            Catherine’s balcony always seemed to be one of several places that held magic for Vincent. He loved the myriad lights that peeked out through the windows of the high-rise buildings that surrounded the apartment. From that lofty perch, the stars seemed closer, and there was anonymity in the darkness and in the numerous portals of all those windows. Like a lace curtain, you were somewhat protected from prying eyes just by that factor alone. But Vincent remembered that the windows held another danger that was analogous to the holes in the lace. All it took to dispel the magic of this nighttime spot was for someone to focus in on it to rob the balcony of its charm.

            Vincent remembered the stalker that nearly cost Catherine her life – the one that happened to see them enjoying a tryst one evening. Here, a computer did not invade their lives, or reveal the whereabouts of their secret place. A chance view through a telescope and then some detective work told the stalker where they were and who they were. The computer just took some of the footwork and personal interaction out of the search. Now, whenever Vincent entered the confines of the balcony, he had to wonder if someone else knew about his presence there.

            He sighed heavily and looked down at his journal. His last thoughts were written on the page, and he suddenly realized that he was using the same anachronistic means, pen and paper, to record his thoughts. Someday he might be using a computer to do this task. Shaking his head, he calmly wrote down that thought as well.

            “Problem, Vincent?”

            Looking up from the page, he regarded Janosch with a touch of amusement. Lately, Vincent considered the young man to be almost a brother.

            “Do you take classes in computers at the university?”

            “I hadn’t thought of it at first,” he replied casually. “However, it’s getting to be prudent to do so lately. Computers are handling more and more of our daily needs, and knowing how to use them is becoming necessary. I’m learning how to program a lab computer in BASIC.” Janosch slung his satchel over the headboard of a chair and sat down, clearly curious. “Why do you ask?”

            “Catherine is beginning to use one in her office to cut back on paperwork,” Vincent replied, shrugging his shoulders. “However, she claims that it now creates more paperwork in the process.”

            The grad student laughed briefly. “The marvel of man’s ingenuity. If one would just create the document on the computer and use it from the computer screen, instead of requiring people to have ‘hardcopy’ available, the practice would indeed cut back on paper. Now, if they could shrink that computer she uses to something I can slip into my carry bag, then that would aid my research abilities immensely.”

            “Perhaps they will, eventually,” Vincent said with a slight cant of his head. “Father told me they used to place a computer in a room of its own. Catherine’s computer sits on her desk.”

            “Which is buried under all the paper and folders that also occupy the desk.” Janosch sat back, trying not to look down at the open journal practically in front of him. However, Vincent’s introspective mood made the enticing page academic. “What is it?”

            Vincent glanced down at the page, and then capped the fountain pen and closed the journal. However, he did not speak for nearly a minute.

Janosch waited patiently, knowing that his friend would eventually tell him what the problem was. When Vincent finally did explain the thoughts that were troubling him, Janosch was almost sorry he had asked.

            “Last night, as I waited for Catherine to come home, I regarded the buildings around her apartment, and then I wondered how many people out there knew I was looking at them. Before the stalker threatened Catherine, I never paid anyone any mind. All those lit windows were stars in an earthbound galaxy that gave beauty to the night. Then, that one incident changed everything. Now, I look out there and see the windows as prying eyes. Small wonder I barely go by there anymore. The image of all those eyes has destroyed the magic.”

            “So you transferred your sojourns to places in Central Park?”

            “To certain locations that can intersect entrances to the tunnels.” Vincent nodded.

            “You realize that people can see you in the Park as well,” Janosch said carefully. “After all, quite a few apartments overlook the Park.”

            “There are more places that are hidden from view in Central Park than there are on a balcony in Manhattan.” Vincent looked up as the faint tattoo of the pipes rattled briefly. “And there are certain ways to be hidden. We have a very private box seat for the summer concerts in the Mall.”

            Janosch grinned. “I think I know that place. I’ll bet you have cushions and a picnic meal and maybe even a bottle of wine for your date.”

            “You sound as though you have had the same type of date.”

            “I might have…. Vincent? You still haven’t answered my question.”

            Patting the journal, Vincent nodded again. “When I thought about the loss of Catherine’s balcony, I also thought about Leona’s home. For years, she was ignorant of the outside world knowing where she lived, or who she was. Then, when I was discovered by the world Above, someone eventually began to search for her. Like Catherine and me, she was discovered, and her place in the world Above was no longer safe.”

            “But she is safe now.”

            “Maybe not,” Vincent said guardedly. “One of our Helpers is watching her mail drop at the Knickerbocker post office. One afternoon, after the mail had been sorted into the P.O. boxes, a man with an Italian surname accosted that Helper. He asked the Helper if he knew of a Leona Ashland, and then gave him a story that he was a nephew looking for her. Something about an inheritance.”

            Janosch appeared skeptical. “Knickerbocker? Isn’t that on the Lower East Side near the Manhattan Bridge?”

            “Yes. Mary thought it might be best to choose a post office that was accessible to a subway station that did not come from the Bronx. The F train is a central line from Brooklyn that reaches several places where the Helpers can access incoming and outgoing mail. We had re-routed Leona’s mail to go to the Knickerbocker post office. Every other day, a Helper picks it up and goes home to Harlem. From there, Leona’s mail is placed in a runner’s satchel to come Below with several other topsiders’ mail.”

            “That makes some of the side trips I took in Europe sound simple by comparison. How did this man know her address?”

            Vincent shook his head. “He asked Leona’s brother-in-law, and then Evina’s ex-husband, how to get in contact with her. I can only assume that they did not suspect someone asking for a P.O. box.”

            “Did the Helper discover the man’s name?”

            “I believe he said ‘George Caito’.”

            Janosch wrote down the name and then nodded. “Actually, I would guess that our George is actually a Giorgio, and that he’s second- or third-generation Italian from the Piedmonte province, or somewhere close. If I remember my study of that region, Caito originates around Turin. Does Catherine know about this yet?”

            “I was just notified concerning this incident.”

            “If you don’t mind, I can change into some of my university clothes, and I can touch base with her. Anything I need to know about this guy?”

            “That is all I know,” Vincent said, shaking his head.

            “Hopefully, we can change that. Let’s switch the drop to Pitt Station and make him work for his information. Also, it will give me a chance to get a snapshot of him.”

            “Jan, be careful.”

            “Vincent,” Janosch replied patiently, “I’ve been in areas where the people were in revolution.” He chuckled briefly. “Again, I might add. Romania and Hungary were beginning to cast off Soviet communism, and I had to weave my way through a lot of difficulties. I was fortunate to have command of the language, and papers that were good enough for most areas. The most difficult part of my passages was figuring where the sensitive zones were and staying clear of them. If I can get around the Balkan countries, I think I can maneuver successfully in modern-day Manhattan.”

            “I still feel you should be careful.”

            Grabbing his satchel, Janosch grinned. “I learned that in Hungary, Vincent. Walking in Manhattan just reinforced it. I did better avoiding Russian tanks than I have New York City taxicabs and buses.”

            Vincent nodded, and watched as Janosch exited, and then watched as the grad student, followed by his shadow, disappeared down the corridor to the dorms. Looking down at the page that had the information taken from the Helper on the Lower East Side, he nodded again, and picked up the page and a metal rod. Moving out to one of the pipes, he tapped out his ID code and then began tapping out the message concerning the movement of Leona’s postal address. In addition, he told the network about the new possible threat.

            Soon after he completed his work, he waited for the confirmation code before going back to his room. As he did, he grinned. In a way, the world Below DID possess a computer network.

            A very primitive one….

 

**********

 

            The nice thing about public buildings is that almost anyone in public service is available. However, one does not drop in on certain people and expect to find them in their office, or free from their work. When Janosch entered the District Attorney’s Office, he carried at least two folders that could be used as literal evidence for him coming into the building. And, although he knew where Catherine worked, he made a show of asking where she was.

            From the doorway, Janosch had to stifle a laugh. Impeccably dressed as always, Catherine sat at her desk, surrounded by file folders, trying to talk into a phone while accessing the new desktop computer on her desk. He leaned against the doorpost and waited.

            Having returned from his research trip to Europe a few months back, he finally had the chance to get to know the woman who influenced Vincent’s life. The more he saw and heard, the more he approved. Even though she was terribly overworked, she gave what she could to help those in need, and still had time for Vincent and little Jacob.

            “This is definitely not a devil’s workshop,” he said after she put the phone’s headset in its cradle.

“How so?” she replied, before turning to see who was at the door.

“You don’t have idle hands,” he said, and then looked out into the cubicles. “Do you have a second or two to spare?”

Giving him a wry grin, she waved a hand at the stack of folders on one corner of her desk. “What do you think?”

Grinning back, he sat down in front of her. “Good. I just came from talking with Vincent and he….”

“Is everything all right?” she interrupted with concern.

“That depends,” he started and then put up a placating hand. “Everyone is fine! The thing that brings me here is Leona. Someone has been asking about her address at the post office. We were hoping that the cells that Paracelsus contracted gave up after the one cell was arrested.”

“And you want me to look into who is doing this?”

“You know me too well.” Janosch pulled out one of the folders, and handed it across the desk. “The man’s name is George Caito, and Vincent is asking the Helpers dealing with mail drops to try getting pictures of him. The folder has a report of what the Helper could remember about him, along with a sketch from the description he gave me.”

Catherine made a cursory glance at the sketch and the typed page that outlined what the man had asked and said, “And you think another cell is still active, with this man as one member of that cell?”

“I think so. As I told Vincent, the man’s name is Italian, and I’ll bet you will find that his grandparents came from the same area of Europe as that other cell.”

“What shall we bet?”

Janosch grinned as he got up. “I wish I could say I’d take over for you for a day if I lost, but I think they’d notice the change. How about I take care of Jacob for a night if I lose?”

“And if you win?”

He chuckled. “You get me one of those orange chocolate balls that I crave.”

“Deal.”

As he hurried out of Catherine’s office, he passed Joe Maxwell coming in. As they passed, Janosch knew that the man gave him a cursory glance, and then went to Catherine’s desk. He heard Maxwell call her the customary name of “Radcliffe,” and then begin asking her how she was doing, and telling her that he needed two or three cases worked on. Janosch shook his head. He knew all too well that she, and everyone else who worked here, was swamped with work. How anything could get done in that environment was a wonder. But then, perhaps the new computer network might make it easier to obtain pertinent data and information.

 

Catherine looked at the stack of folders on her desk, then at the two on the blotter in front of her, and then she sighed in defeat as she managed to slide them under the stack. Taking the folder that Janosch had given her, she opened it. Once more, she looked at the sketch that Janosch had drawn, and marveled at his ability to create such a simple work of art. She had seen him do such a sketch during dinner one night. A young girl had a birthday, and Janosch studied her for no more than ten seconds, it seemed. Almost magically, his hand took a blue pencil and began moving about the pad he kept with him. Although an artist’s blue pencil seemed translucent on paper, Catherine could see the face of the little girl appear in the lines that occupied the page. One moment, the page had been blank, and now the cherub face of the little girl seemed to laugh at her.

This sketch, however, was not a cheerful little girl. The man in one-quarter profile was in his late sixties, slightly thick features with bushy eyebrows, a Romanesque nose, full lips, and slightly hooded eyes. Like his other sketches, Janosch had captured an impression of the subject, and Catherine did not like the feeling. This man liked having things go his way, so she imagined that he would probably be the leader of his cell. How Paracelsus managed to cow this man, this George “Giorgio” Caito, Catherine did not know. Perhaps Paracelsus played to the man’s vanity, and made him feel that his subservience was the trait that best aided the cause.

Looking at the screen on the computer monitor, she typed in the man’s name. As the software began to implement the search and retrieval, Catherine looked carefully around the office. From what she could tell, everyone was too focused or too overwhelmed to notice her activity. Still, the blinking cursor on her screen seemed to scream that her actions were not work-related. But, she was saved from self-recrimination as the screen changed to the information she required. If her first impression was not pleasant, this information did not help change it.

Tapping the key that would send the report to a shared printer, Catherine knew she had to put the other cases to one side for today at least. As she did, she picked up the phone and called her favorite chocolatiers.

“You won this one, Jan,” she muttered to herself. “The next one is mine….”

 

**********

 

            One thing Vincent liked about the Helpers Above and the denizens of the Below was the anonymity they possessed. Clothing was pieced together to wear down in the tunnels and chambers beneath the city, which was where the subterranean pipes that held the fresh water, shuttled the wastes, allowed traffic to bypass rivers and hills, and even gave communication and power cables a place to be out of sight were located.

 People who lived below the surface in a fantasy world needed warmth and light. In most of the tunnels, what was once emergency lighting was strung overhead to push back the darkness. Still, every citizen that lived under Vincent’s care always had matches and a candle (or a reliable flashlight) to serve as a “blackout” deterrent. Nobody wanted to be in the tunnels during a power failure in either the electric grid Above or a short in the grid Below. Vincent knew from personal experience that such a problem defeated even his exceptional gifts. He could see “like a cat” in the near darkness of parts of the Below, but not in pitch black.

            Aware of the problem with Leona’s mail service, Vincent could post lookouts near the Pitt post office on the Lower East Side. Dressed like ordinary people in the world Above, Helpers could keep an eye out on the delivery of mail and its pick-up at the mail drop. Vincent grinned. Henry, one of the postal clerks at Pitt, was one that worked in plain sight, because his uniform was the real thing. In charge of sorting the small mail into the boxes, he almost never had to tip a young child to notify the Below citizens that they had letters, postcards, or packages.

            “Hey, Mister Cobb! You got anything for Missus Ashland?” Janosch asked at a normal conversation level of voice.

            “Sure do,” the clerk replied casually. His accent was from Brooklyn, but it was very faint from being over here in the East Side for twenty years. Because of that, he recognized a lot of people. “How’s classes?”

            “Getting harder every day.”

            ‘You should take the civil service exam and work here. God knows how you get around. Oh, oh…. She has a special delivery. Let me go get it.”

            Only someone who had been Below would understand what had just transpired. If there had been an actual letter, it would be in the small stack already in front of Janosch. Instead, a card would be stuck in the stack, and that card would have a message for him.

            While he waited, he acted like a bored college student who had better things to do, and he began glancing around. Anyone or anything that moved drew his attention, but he only looked long enough to see who or what was there. In one such pass, he noticed an elderly man bent over one of the tables used for filling out forms and addressing small packages.

            “Here it is,” Henry said as he came out. “You’ll need to sign for it.”

            “Even your mother would have to sign for it, Mister Cobb. I know the post office and their regs. Thanks.”

            Henry stamped the form, handed the small stack of mail to Janosch, and nodded.

            Looking at the card, Janosch absently stuffed the other letters into his satchel, and started walking out. As he drew near to the table where the man was still writing, Janosch stopped and bent over. Having palmed a form prior to stepping into the line, he brought it out.

            “Excuse me,” he said politely. “Did you drop this?”

            The man turned his head sharply, and looked slightly up at Janosch. “No. I did not.”

            “Scusa.”

            “Di niente,” the man replied.

            Janosch nodded, and then headed for the door. Behind him, the man went back to his scribbling.

Coming out of the post office, Janosch turned down East Broadway and went to the East Broadway subway station. With any luck, he would be in time for dinner, and a discussion that would be dessert….

 

**********

 

            Mary had managed to put together a savory stew, and Janosch could almost attest that he could smell it from the first gate down Below. Honey, butter, and several jellies, jams, and preserves to cover fresh cornbread promised that no one would leave the table unsatisfied. Shedding his coat, Jansoch grinned at Rebecca, and then nodded hello to Catherine and Vincent. Across from them, Lenoa smiled faintly at him.

            “Well, how did your sleuthing go today?” Catherine asked cheerfully. “Any luck this time at finding them?”

            “I may have,” he replied as he poured water into a bowl to wash his hands. “The man I discovered may have been a brother.”

            “You might have,” Catherine said, her expression sobering. “I was able to research that name you gave me and found out that George has three brothers and one sister.”

            “And that might be the cell,” Vincent added.

            “A family cell? That would be a bit incredible, wouldn’t it?”

            Catherine shook her head. “Actually, it could be a good cover for them. Have each sibling take a certain area, and then meet with the rest of the family at dinner.” She grinned, and pointed an empty fork at the small group around the table. “Just like this one.”

            “I wonder if they are the last, or are there more?” Rebecca pondered.

            “First, we have to catch them doing something,” Catherine said. “We need evidence that they are committing an illegal surveillance, and possible conspiracy. That, however, is a matter for the NYPD to initiate, and possibly get the FBI into. We are talking about international matters, aren’t we?”

            “All the way from pre-WWI.” Janosch nodded. “This last bit is post-WWII though.”

            “I’ll push this in the proper position and hope it doesn’t cost me my job,” Catherine said, and then reached down beside her. “By the way, I think you won this.”

            Janosch fielded a cubic box that read “Dark Chocolate Orange Ball.” He laughed lightly, and then set it down gently. “I’ll sample it later. You know? This talk about families makes me wonder about this whole thing, and I just had a chilling thought,” Janosch said, causing all heads to turn in his direction. When everyone seemed to wait for him to continue, Janosch nodded. “What if… John Pater had siblings?”

            Catherine and Vincent turned to each other, but stayed silent for a few moments. “Father never mentioned anyone,” Vincent finally said.

            Janosch rubbed his chin for a few seconds. “If that isn’t the case, then John Pater had to have a very loyal lieutenant while in France. If not, then this might be the last of them.”

            “Explain.”

“This type of cell would be John Pater and someone very zealous to the cause of finding Vincent’s family. Since we are talking about France, then we are starting sometime around WWII, or 1945 at the earliest. We are talking about people in their sixties or late fifties at the most. More than likely, a lieutenant would have been about the same age as John Pater – around seventy now. Vincent? You said that Father didn’t know of any siblings or relatives that would be living at this time?”

“That is so.”

Catherine raised her fork again. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t any. I would say I could search for any, but I doubt they would show up. The records are slowly being added to the system, but it will take some time, and none of it will be specific to our needs unless the Caitos have done something to earn a record of some sort. The trouble is, even with the amount of people we have converting paper records into electronic ones, finding one of our suspects may be a fluke concerning the most recent date.”

“I take it you’re only entering records that go back to a date like 1890?” Janosch said between bites.

“Try 1870.” Catherine chuckled at the student’s look of surprise. “Although they aren’t often too spry, seniors can commit crimes. We want to make sure that the more modern records are captured in our databases. Not very many people live past 110.”

“Need any help? I’m a fairly good typist, and data entry requires that.”

Catherine nodded. “I have a solution to that idea. I can bring you in as a student intern. The pay isn’t too great – minimum wage at best – but it would be great to have a spare body to do some of the grunt work.”

At that moment, a set of staccato, metallic clanks froze everyone in place. Vincent followed better than everyone, and he stood after placing his napkin on his place. Worried eyes turned to him as he went for his hooded cloak.

“What is it, Vincent?” Catherine asked.

“One of our Helpers assigned to the post office where Leona’s mail is delivered had a visitor. This time, a woman asked about getting in touch with a Leona Ashland, and she flashed a badge – an NYPD detective’s badge.”

           

**********

 

            Normally, travelers in Manhattan took the subway as the quickest means to get from one point to another. However, Vincent did not have the luxury of using the underground like the denizens and tourists did. Even in the cloak, Vincent would be noticed. His style of clothing also stood out. The only time Vincent roamed the Above openly was during the secular holiday of Halloween, when costumes were the norm instead of the exception.

            While the travelers sought some comfort inside the cars, Vincent climbed aboard the car from the outside, and found an uncomfortable perch on top of the rear car. To keep from colliding with various objects that crossed the ceiling of the train tunnels, he had to lie prone on the top walkway of the car. Even if this was the fastest way to get around Manhattan, Vincent’s seat was a perilous one at best, and it seemed like it took hours.

            Eventually, the dangerous journey slowed to a stop at Canal Street and East Broadway near Seward Park. As the riders disembarked from the cars, Vincent carefully climbed down and drifted into the shadows away from the subway station. Here, in the Lower East Side, he was not as certain of the pipes and underground passageways as he was of those around Central Park. But, if he was anywhere near a subway track or station, he knew they had access ports of some sort where he could slip in and out of the Below and place himself in the Above. He let the train depart the station, and then waited for the station to quiet down. The boarding platform would always have a few people – passengers hoping to catch the next train headed from Brooklyn, vagrants curling up in the corner, others trying to coax riders into letting go of some change, and maybe a transit cop half-watching the platform. Vincent knew how to avoid them by searching for the access doors.

            Using the skeleton key that Mouse had laboriously made for him, most locks yielded to him. If a computerized system came into being shortly, they would have to find the means to bypass those types of locks. Of course, if one was going from the underground to the surface, the doors opened without need of the key.

Vincent opened one door, and saw that most of the area was full of shadows, both deep and dim. He waited until the night traffic had a momentary respite, and then crossed the oddly shaped Straus Square and its five converging intersections. Inside the park, Vincent felt more in his element, but he would soon be skirting dangerous territory – trying to contact a Helper at the Pitt post office on Clinton Street.

            Pulling up his hood, Vincent carefully studied the area that lay about the employee entrance to the post office. All he had to do was wait.

            Most post offices had a regular 9-to-5 regimen, and Pitt was no different. The Helper was scheduled to go off work at about 1800 hours (6 PM), and would walk over to the subway stop that Vincent had used.

The door opened, and several people filed out. A security officer just inside watched the door, but Vincent was too far into the park’s shadows to be noticed. One man said something to his co-workers, and then bid them good-night before he started to cross the park. Not too far in, the man stopped.

            “Henry?” Vincent said, his voice at normal conversation level.

            The man looked around before Vincent stepped away from the tree. “Yes, Vincent?”

            “I just received word that someone was asking for Leona.”

            The Helper nodded. “A woman. She’s dark-haired, brown-eyed, a little on the plump side, but you get that way around forty. She was nicely dressed in a business suit that had seen better days, but haven’t we all. She asked me a few questions on whether I knew where Leona lived, what her phone number was, and what-not… When she thought I was hesitating a bit too much, she flashed an NYPD detective’s badge before giving me her card.”

            “Do you still have the card?”

            “Sure.” Henry patted his pockets, and then found a regular business card. “She said to call her if I could provide any further information.”

            “Further information?”

            “You expect me to refuse a cop? I gave her what was permissible and then told her that anything other than the information on her card required a warrant. That’s one perk of being a Federal employee. I don’t have to take no guff from a civilian cop without my boss’ permission.”

            Vincent nodded. “Thank you.”

            “Any time.”

            The Helper continued on his way, leaving Vincent to tap the business card against is palm. Seeing that he needed a minute or two, he angled the card to be able to see the information on the card.

            “Bianca Gatti.”

            Stowing the card in his vest, Vincent knew he had another puzzle piece to add to the one that threatened Leona.

 

**********

 

            When Vincent returned, he had a nice surprise waiting for him. In the cool air of the tunnels, he could easily scent her. She knew not to wear perfume Below because of that, but her soap still left a pleasing aroma.

            “You look happy, and troubled at the same time,” Catherine said as the two embraced. “What did you find out?”

            Slipping her the business card, Vincent studied her face as she read it. The smile disappeared. “Fourth Precinct? That’s convenient for the Lower East Side. And Gatti? I don’t need Janosch to translate that.”

            Despite the gravity of the situation, Vincent chuckled. “Italian for ‘cats’.”

            “Goes with ‘Caito’.”  Catherine nodded.

            Still holding her, Vincent looked down at the card she was holding. “But could she be a member of the cell?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Our Helper said she was around forty. Jan said George Caito was nearing sixty or even seventy. Our mystery woman was near forty. Do you see the problem?”

Catherine’s eyes widened. “A daughter?”

Nodding, Vincent gestured her to precede him. “Let’s find Janosch and add his thoughts to ours.”

The tunnels, the entry portals, and some of the hidden rooms and passages were all known to Vincent like the back of his hand. If the need arose, he could dive through shortcuts that no one else knew existed. But for this, he did not need to rush. Taking the common way in, he merely allowed his senses to be aware of the woman who walked beside him. How long has it been since I first felt the attraction and pull of this solitary soul? When did I know that I was linked to her? Vincent smiled downward as she looked up to study his face.

“What is it, Vincent?”

“Why am I so fortunate to have you in my life?”

Although innocent, a hint of mischief lay in the corners of her smile. “I could say that it’s because I wanted you to be there. We don’t need the why, Beloved. Just the being is enough.”

Vincent nodded. At times, the answer was just that.

 

***********

 

            In one of the common rooms, Mary and Rebecca had prepared a late supper for them. At one end of the table, Janosch had already laid out a few papers. Although she had been with the young college student, Catherine was still surprised to see the sketch he had made of George Caito peeking out from under the pages.

            “I can see tonight’s meal will be interesting,” Mary remarked as she set a steaming bowl of mashed potatoes on the table near another bowl of string beans. Sliced meatloaf sat on the main platter, and a basket of fresh dinner rolls sat within reach. A pitcher of milk, a carafe of water, and another carafe of merlot were the choices for beverage.

            “What have you learned?” Leona asked as she came in.

            “Just about to get to that,” Mary replied. “Have you eaten yet?”

            “A light dinner only.” Leona smiled. “I could have a little more of this. I could smell the food practically from my front door.”

            “Have you ever been contacted by a woman named Bianca Gatti?” Mary asked. “She claims to be a detective from the Fourth Precinct, which is located on the Lower East Side.”

            Leona concentrated while receiving a plate of small servings. “No, I can’t say we have.”

            “I’ll call that in tomorrow,” Catherine said. “First, I’ll ask if she is actually a member of the detective force there. We can worry about any deceptions if she is not. If she is, I can see if she has a reason to be looking for Leona. Jan? Could you make a sketch of her if Vincent gives you her description?”

            The young man nodded as he savored the meatloaf. “Should be easy enough. Any time.”

            “Now?” Catherine asked politely.

            “Let him eat, Cathy,” Leona said.

            “That’s all right, ma’am. Even half of this meal is enough. Besides…” He grinned. “There’s still dessert.”

            Within a minute or two, Janosch turned to a blank page with a blue pencil in his hand. Vincent had seen the college student at work before, and he was still slightly awed by the quick talent before him. Minutes later, the blank page had a rough sketch of a woman.

When Janosch turned the sketch around, Catherine gasped. Reaching out, she took out the finished sketch of George Caito, and laid it beside the woman’s face.

            “Remarkable.” Leona sighed.

            “If I were to make a snap judgment here,” Catherine said, her eyes glancing at the two sketches in turn, ”I would say that these two are related. Father-daughter, Jan?”

            Janosch nodded. “They do have serious similarities in facial bone structure.”

            “Then why are they here?” Leona asked. “Both of them are too young to have been in WWII.”

            “Even George is a little too young to have been a factor in that war,” Catherine said as she studied the two sketches. “If he was roughly eighteen when WWII broke out, he would be in his sixties today. To have been with John Pater, he would have to be more mature… say, another ten years… Second generation, maybe.”

            “Possibly a cell member’s son?” Mary said.

            “And Bianca’s his granddaughter?” Catherine finished the train of thought.

            Janosch shook his head. “Something tells me that some of us will be sleepless tonight.”

            “I’m going out to make a phone call,” Catherine said. “Vincent? Can you watch Jacob for a little while?”

            “I would rather go with you,” he replied with a look of concern.

            “And I’ll make the decision easy,” Janosch broke in. “Catherine? I can watch him.”

            “Thank you, Jan. Vincent? The nearest public phone is near the rink.”

            “Call it my husbandly duty, then,” he said gently.

            Catherine could only shake her head. “Come along, ‘dear.’ Jan? This won’t take long.”

 

**********

           

            Although Catherine had heard of another invention that would someday make this trek obsolete, the “cell phone” was still years away. So they veered away from her apartment and found a public phone near the Wollmann Ice Rink. The skating rink was open during the winter months, and stayed active until 11 PM on special nights. Since the lights were on, and would be on for a couple of hours more, Vincent agreed to wait nearby while she went to the phone.

            “Fourth Precinct, Sergeant Hunter speaking,” came a gruff voice from an obviously tired middle-aged cop.

            “Catherine Chandler, Assistant DA. Is Detective Bianca Gatti available?”

            “She went off duty at six, Ms. Chandler. Do you want to leave a message?”

            “No, Sergeant. May I know how long the detective has been with the Fourth?”

            “Is there something wrong? Do you need…?”

            “No,” she said quickly, but not too fast to warrant concern. “I’m just starting to research a case and her name was mentioned in a preliminary report. I can call back tomorrow. Thank…”

            She looked slightly perturbed at the phone as it blared a dial tone. “You… Someone obviously needs a cup of coffee and a cream cheese bagel.”

            Back at Vincent’s side, Catherine relayed the brief conversation and waited for him to make his opinion known. He had listened like he always did – staying attentive and silent until she asked him what he thought. He nodded when his thoughts reach a conclusion.

            “Ms. Gatti is actually an NYPD detective then. We still need to know why she needs to contact Leona.”

            “That’s tomorrow, Beloved.”

            Her arm was linked at Vincent’s elbow, and they stood side by side to watch the people enjoying the crisp night and the skating. Laughter drifted back to them as they waited in the shadows.

            “I wish…” Catherine started to say, and the words failed.

            Vincent patted her hands. “You wish we could do that. Need I point out that I would look funny on skates?”

            “I think you would master it as you do a lot of things, Vincent. That couple down there on the right? She’s wearing a red scarf and cap? That is how I see us.”

            “They would think one of the lions had escaped, Beloved.”

            “I could get you a collar and a thick leash,” she replied with a snort of laughter.

            “And you would amuse everyone by being unceremoniously dragged Below.”

            “You wouldn’t dare!”

            “Only if the need arises. Ouch!”

            “The arm-punch is only one of many…”

            “Spanking comes to mind as well.”

            “You wouldn’t….”

            This time, Vincent only smiled and pulled her in close. “Let us go home.”

            As they walked back toward the portal, Catherine continued to glance back at the rink. In her mind, she could see the two of them gliding effortlessly around the small rink under the light of a full moon…

 

**********

           

            Dinnertime came slowly as the clock dragged its hands from morning to evening. As if by magic, though, the staff at the DA’s offices seemed to known when the day shift was over. For Catherine, she did not realize the time until a weary young man dropped into the chair in front of her desk.

            “You going to work all night, Catherine?”

            “Only if you hadn’t showed up. Any luck on your end? I’ve been too busy to do much.”

            “It can wait until we have dinner and everyone is there. Catherine? Why does Joe call you ‘Radcliffe’?”

            She grinned and laughed softly. “I graduated from Radcliffe College with a liberal arts degree before going on to law school to make my father happy. When Joe checked my resume, and noted that I left my father’s law firm, he saw that I had attended Radcliffe, and he stuck that as a nickname on me. I wouldn’t be surprised if he picked something out to mark you with.”

            “Other that ‘Gopher’?”

            “Other than that.” Catherine chuckled. “You really did find out something?”

            “You are realizing that we are working a lot on people who are in law enforcement rather than criminals first, aren’t you?”

            “You might be doing that. I am working on recent crime cases that are federal and felony convictions.”

            “Lucky you.” Janosch smiled back. “Don’t ask me how, but I seem to have been assigned files of personnel whose surnames begin with the letter ‘G’.”

            “And the person we are looking for has a name beginning with ‘GA’.”

            “Give the lady a kewpie doll.”

            “Well?”

            “Bianca Gatti is married with two children, and is currently a Detective Second Class with the NYPD in the Fourth Precinct. So, she’s real. The only yellow card she has in our investigation is that she has only been with the Fourth for the past five years. Before that, she spent ten years in the Bronx and another five in Brooklyn.”

            “Any reason for her transfer from one force to another?”

            Janosch shook his head. “No.”

            “I don’t suppose you found anyone named Caito in your stack of records?”

            “Hey, Radcliffe?” a voice said. The owner came around the corner and made it across the threshold before he stopped. “Problem?”

            “Just another puzzle piece in a case, Joe,” Catherine replied, smiling broadly as she looked up at a clock on the wall. “Oh, good. Six o’clock, and that means we have put in our almost mandatory twelve-hour day.”

            “Sarcasm will not win you Employee of the Month, Catherine. Any plans for dinner?”

            “Yes, I have.”

            Maxwell looked at Janosch. “You mean the Professor aced me out?”

            Catherine and Janosch looked at each other and then laughed briefly.

            “Did I say something funny?”

            As Catherine stood and went to a coat rack, she flipped her head to the right to realign her bell-like hairdo. “Jan and I were wondering what nickname you were going to give him. ‘Professor,’ eh?”

            “Well, I rarely see him without a history book or something academic…”

            Janosch stood. “Miss Chandler? I have to go get my things. I’ll be right back. Nice meeting you, Mister Maxwell.”

            As Joe helped Catherine get into her coat, he looked a bit skeptically in the direction the young man had taken. “Isn’t he a bit young for you, Cathy?”

            “Some men like more mature women,” she joked. “Come on, Joe. He’s a student at Columbia, and he’s helping out here. We talked at lunch one time and found some fields of mutual interest is all. Really…”

            He still looked unconvincing. “You need to find someone, Cathy.”

            “Don’t be like my father, Joe. Good night.”

            He called out after her. “Someone has to be him.”

            Catherine let loose the breath she was holding as she exited the office. Even halfway to the lobby, she half expected Maxwell to stop her, and lecture her about her biological clock or something like that.

Janosch met her just as they exited the building. At the foot of the steps, he stopped her. “Ms. Chandler?”

            A woman in her late thirties/early forties waited near the curb. The conservative coat and dark slacks she wore could place her in any number of locations in New York City. It could also hide a gun and a badge. The face… Catherine made a spot guess. “Detective Gatti, I presume.”

            “The night desk received a call from you asking about me,” she said, her voice a pleasant mezzo soprano. “I was in the area, so I thought I would come here and meet you. How can I help the DA’s Office?”

            “That depends.”

            “I’m listening.”

            Holding up a hand to keep the detective, she turned to Janosch. “Can you get grandmother for me? Tell our friend to guide her to my apartment. Also, bring what you need.”

            Janosch nodded at the cryptic missive, and hurried to the subway station at West 125th and St. Nicholas.

Brushing back a lock of hair, Catherine turned back to Bianca Gatti. “Before we go any further with this,” Catherine said guardedly, “are you investigating a woman by the name of Leona Ashland?”

            “Officially, no.”

            “Unofficially…?”

            “May I ask how you discovered my name and identity?” Gatti said, looking in the direction that Janosch had taken.

            “I have my sources, detective, just as I am sure you have yours. Now, before we start a legal dance here, all of this is off the record, I hope?”

            “I would prefer it that way, as well.”

            “Good. Do you mind if we retire to my residence? We can be more comfortable there.”

            Bianca Gatti nodded, and gestured to a dark sedan at the curb. “Please get in.”

 

**********

 

            “A DA’s salary is good to you,” Bianca said as they stepped inside the foyer of Catherine’s apartment. Although Catherine spent a majority of her time Below, she did maintain the apartment for many reasons – one of which was this meeting with the police detective.

            “It helps when you inherit a sizeable estate. I’ll put on some coffee while we wait.”

            “Could you put on a pot of green tea?”

            “That I can do.”

            Catherine nodded as Bianca stepped into the living room, but did not take a chair. Instead, the “detective” slowly looked around at the walls, the furniture, and the items that hung or sat on or inside them. Catherine knew that a lot could be said about what a residence says about the occupant.

            “Whom are we waiting for?”

            “A very special person.”

            Bianca allowed an eyebrow to rise, but did not comment. “May I ask what case you are working on that bears my name as one of the investigators?”

            “Your unofficial one,” Catherine said from the kitchen. The smell of brewing coffee wafted around her – a scent that brought a smile to her face. Lately, she enjoyed a cup while talking to Vincent in the morning.

            “You know Leona Ashland?” Bianca said from the doorway. Grave concern etched lines in the woman’s face.

            “As a matter of fact…”

            A knock at the door froze Bianca Gatti in place, and Catherine flinched slightly as the woman’s hand went toward her coat pocket.

            “That should be our guest of honor,” Catherine said quickly. “Please sit, Mrs. Gatti.”

            As she went toward the front door, she caught a brief glimpse of a shadow on the balcony, and felt a reassuring presence in her psyche. When she opened the door part way, Catherine felt relieved as Janosch stood in the hallway with Leona.

            “Come in.”

            “I brought the items you need, Miss Chandler,” Janosch said, choosing to use that title instead of a married one.

            “And I am interested to finally meet a member of this family that seems to be connected with mine,” Leona said as Catherine showed them into the kitchen, “Mrs. Gatti, I presume?”

            “You are not as I pictured,” Gatti replied as she was about to rise, but the elderly woman motioned her to stay seated. “Leona.”

            “You mean the red hair? Genetics took that away from me as I matured.”

            “But you are…?”

            “I am his grandmother,” Leona stated calmly. Then a thin layer of ice crept into her voice. “Now, I must ask this of you. Why do you continue to persecute my family when the last of my line departed from this world?”

            “I assure you, Mrs. Ashland, that your fears are groundless,” Bianca replied softly. “My great-grandfather worked for John Pater, whom you obviously have successfully fled from. My grandfather, however, did not share Pater’s ambition or his desires. The Germans and their sympathizers in France turned him from that path. Instead, we have been seriously attempting to right a wrong that has passed from generation to generation for nearly four hundred years. My father holds that inheritance now, but it will pass to me by my finding you.”

            “Is this him?” Catherine suddenly said, sliding out a sketch.

            A hint of surprise crossed Bianca’s face as she looked at Janosch’s sketch. “This is my father, Giorgio. How did you…?”

            “My friend here is a budding artist as well as a student.” Catherine nodded. “Jan discovered your father at one of the post offices that held Leona’s mail. He also knew that the postal clerks would be able to give him a description of anyone asking about Leona.”

            “And that would unmask your stalker.” Bianca nodded in return. “All these years… How did you avoid my family all these years?”

            Leona shrugged her shoulders. “I learned from the best – my father. When you are in the Resistance, you learn the art of deception very easily. Never stay in one place too long. Change your name each time you meet someone. Trust only those you know. Family was both my strength and my weakness, it seems. My salvation came from good people that have since become my family.”

            “And now we come to one last problem,” Bianca said, smiling weakly. “I need to return something to you, but I do not have an address to do so.”

            “You have this apartment,” Catherine said.

            “And I know you are still alive,” Bianca said, looking at Leona. “Tell me, did you have children?”

            “One, a daughter. Her only child died in a car accident.” Leona glanced at Catherine, and received a nod in response.

            Bianca snorted a short ironic laugh. “All those grand visions Great-grandfather had. All of them now are but broken dreams of power, greed, and a grand legacy. I am so sorry, Mrs. Ashland. I wish we could make some restitution, but how can one make up for that amount of time? If you would come with me, Miss Chandler? Your presence will make this exchange easier to do. And… you can keep Leona’s home secret.”

            “My pleasure. Jan? See that Leona stays safe and I will see all of you later.”

 

**********

 

            When the car stopped and Catherine got out on the curb, she looked up at the modest brownstone that stood with like buildings throughout the Upper and Lower East Side. From what she had heard, most of the old building would eventually be torn down and modern brick apartments would take their place. In a way, Catherine had learned to love the old late-1800s buildings, but also whistled at the prices that went with living in one. With her estate, she could easily sell her present apartment and buy one of the precious five-story residences. However, she needed her apartment because of the entry tunnel that started in the basement, and ran into the rooms of the Below.

            “Here’s my time to ask about a police detective’s salary,” Catherine said as she scanned the exterior. “These are hard to come by, and expensive, to boot.”

            “It’s part of the last purchases of the old money, Miss Chandler. Most of that money has already gone back to those from whom it was taken during the wars and the persecutions. When a relative could not be found, then that estate was used to finance our searches. We still have a lot to go, but I am especially proud to finally put yours to rest. Please come in, and can I offer you something to drink? I have a fairly decent Bordeaux if you care to indulge.”

            “Searches?”

            “My grandfather saw the writing on the wall, so to speak, in the latter days of WWII,” Bianca replied as they mounted the steps. “We were able to convince many of the authorities that we were vintners and we wanted to go to America to start anew. Of course, every truck had false bottoms, and those compartments held artwork, historically important books, statuary, and plenty of bullion. The treasure was amassed mostly from French and Italian families who did not favor the ‘Bosch’ in the Forties.”

            “Aren’t you afraid of Interpol interfering with your family’s private recovery team?”

            Bianca smiled sadly. “As what was wisely said, we learned from the best.”

            The interior of the brownstone was a bit more ostentatious than the exterior claimed. Even without reference books, Catherine was aware that some of the “bric-a-brac” were really historical and period pieces that would cause many a collector to literally drool.

            “Father? I have a guest,” she shouted up the stairs, and then she gestured to a comfortable chair that was more modern than any of the antiques in the room. “Please be comfortable. My father is not as spry as he used to be.”

            A man in his late sixties appeared at the mid-point of the stairs to the upper floors. His temples showed the gray that peppered the rest of his scalp. At the moment, he scowled down at Catherine and Bianca. “Not as spry, eh? I can still get around well enough. Who is this, daughter? I was not aware that guests would be arriving today.”

            “This is Miss Catherine Chandler, father. She is from the DA’s Office, but for the moment, she is representing Mrs. Leona Ashland.”

            The man’s demeanor changed almost instantly – apprehensive at first, and then relieved, as he completed his journey down the stairs. “You found her?”

            “More like she found me, or, I should say, her adoptive family did.” Bianca turned to Catherine and then gestured to her father. “I suppose you know my father, George Caito?”

            “We have not personally met.”

            “I need to find something of hers,” he said resolutely. “Will she be coming here to collect her possessions?”

            Catherine shook her head and then combed a stray lock back from her face. “We deemed it prudent to hold back until this matter can be analyzed. And…if you do not mind, I can direct you to a safe home to receive her heirlooms.”

            He nodded. “Wise. It is too soon to trust. Too many avenues of deception and trickery to unlearn. Forgive an old man his mutterings…”

            “I will tell Leona of your work. Perhaps that will remove some of the misgivings.”

            George showed tears in his eyes as he took Catherine’s hands. “That would be an answer to my prayers. My grandfather would have been proud to do what I will do in his place. It is always a happy moment when my family can reunite those who originally had these items and money. But this… It was her family who suffered the most from our hands. Please, tell her that my grandfather would have wished to have given her back that which was taken from her.”

            “What was his name?”

            “Vincente Leonardo Caito.”

            “Vincent…” she whispered.

 

**********

 

            “Well, Leona?” Catherine said as the woman sat back in her chair. On the table in front of her a padded canvas box revealed a painting of a gruesome scene of the sixteenth century. Next to it, a jewelry case that openly displayed a gold necklace sat in museum-grade condition.

            “I am overwhelmed!” she replied breathlessly. “Your young friend said that this was once in my family?”

            “If I am to trust his sources.” Catherine nodded. “Jan went to a lot of painstaking digging to discover these two items. The sketches of the painting and the necklace came from some of the darkest times and places.”

            “Mister Caito? I cannot thank you enough for this.”

            George nodded briefly. “We did nothing but keep it safe for over four centuries from the Ottoman Turks, and the Bosch during WWI and WWII. When we first viewed it, my family only thought of its value in gold and its authenticity. We had many offers over the years, but my father was adamant about trying to find its owner. He made a vow to find your family, and asked his children to continue the search until he died.”

            “Is he still alive?” Catherine asked.

            “Sadly, no,” he replied. “However, as oldest, I renewed the vow, and found a fresh trail thanks to John Pater.”

            “What?”

George Caito glanced at his daughter. “Although we failed to discover your address, Mrs. Ashland, we did discover that your family had left France and came here to America. So, we came here as well.”

“Well, you were getting close,” Catherine said quietly.

“Until you went underground and covered your tracks,” Bianca commented.

Catherine and the daughter exchanged glances. The detective seemed to understand something and Catherine wondered what it was.

“What will you do with these heirlooms now?” George asked.

“I will pass it on, or find a museum that has a collection of European art and jewels like these two.” Leona reached out and ran a trembling hand over the heavy necklace. “Can you tell me something? It’s important.”

“You can ask us anything, Mrs. Ashland.”

“Am I in danger anymore?”

Bianca stood. “Not from our family. Of that, I am certain. Father?”

He also stood. “The last of the hounds have been put away and they now know of the death of John Pater. As long as these pieces are kept in darkness, no one will disturb you.”

“He means,” Bianca interjected, “if they are kept secret.”

A haunted look crossed the Italian’s face. “Perhaps the gold remains pure, but I am not sure about the Eye or the painting. Please…keep them safe still.”

Leona nodded. “I believe I understand, knowing the origin of the painting and the necklace. There are things that cannot be explained…”

“Quite so.”

Bianca shook her head. “Superstitions die hard, especially with this family. Many items in our keeping are said to be cursed, or dark, or even frighteningly eerie. This is just one of the darker pieces. I can tell you that I think you are safe as long as no one knows about the gold. If I were you, I would have security doors put on, and find that museum soon.”

“We need to leave, daughter,” George said softly. “Thank you once again, Mrs. Ashland. And this thanks goes to Miss Chandler and her ‘friends’ as well. I hope and pray that our two families are now at peace with one another.”

“My card,” Bianca said, handing Leona a business card. “Let me know if we can be of further help.”

“I will, and you are most welcome.”

The room remained silent for the time it took for the father and daughter to leave, and for Catherine to return. At that moment, Vincent slid carefully in from the balcony. He carefully viewed the two items on the table, and then placed the lid over the painting.

“He appears to have a family resemblance,” Vincent said softly.

“He also had a family propensity to rescue the weak, dispense justice, and to hold honor and truth above all else,” Leona said. “Catherine? Vincent? I am going back to my apartment and become a Helper as long as I am able. I appreciate your hospitality when I needed a place to stay. As for these two items, I need to see that they go to their rightful owner. Young man?”

Janosch nodded when the elderly lady gestured to the jewelry case. “Vincent? Please kneel before me.”

“I do not deserve this.”

“Just do it, Vincent.” Janosch grinned. “I really need to be an archbishop or something. For the want of anything better, you get me. Kneel.”

When Vincent went to one knee, he was now just tall enough for Janosch to slip the necklace’s heavy chain over his neck. His mane caused a bit of difficulty in positioning it on his shoulders and chest. When Janosch made the last adjustments, the Eye sparkled and appeared to glance around the room.

“Arise, my Lord.”

“I think that makes you a prince, Vincent,” Catherine said, stroking the gleaming thick gold links on Vincent’s chest.

“And that makes you my princess, Catherine.”

As they have done for several weeks, she waited for Vincent to carefully arrange his mouth and lips to kiss her. For her, the act was almost foreplay in his almost stealth approach. Ever since they had discovered the correct method of kissing, the result was always magical.

“The necklace is back where it belongs,” Leona said softly, but her smile showed her amusement. “I shall let Catherine find the proper place for the painting.”

“Oh, fine. Give me the darker one.”

“You have your sources.” Janosch chuckled.

            “And you have a school vacation coming up.” Catherine chuckled back.

 

**********

 

EPILOGUE

 

            Although Vincent informed Leona and her mother that they were welcome to stay Below, the two women politely refused. They did agree, however, to keep the apartment that had been their house and home in the quiet solitude of the Below. Leona’s apartment Above had not been truly sold, but rather “borrowed” by a Helper family who performed housesitting for a living. And so the two women were able to reclaim their familiar residence and neighborhood. A long night and the convenience of a pair of trucks made moving the two women’s furniture and belongings back into their home simple. By morning’s light, all was like it had been. The only explanation given was that they had been “visiting” old friends.

Leona’s mother eventually passed away, but she expressed her assurance that she no longer felt the fear of the past. She thanked Vincent for proving that the line continued, and that she had the legacy of a great-grandchild. Leona continued to live at her home AND her apartment Below.

            Because Mstislav was European and linked to the old Austria-Hungary empire, arrangements were made to send the painting of the “Slaughter of the Highwaymen” to Innsbruck, Austria, and place it in the same gallery as an equally gruesome royal figure – namely Vlad Dracul, or Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The identity of the principal subject of the painting just mentioned that this was a Balkan prince of the sixteenth century dispensing justice.

            Vincent kept the Prince’s Chain and wore it only on certain holidays practiced below. One night, just before the sunset of the night of Halloween, he discovered quite by accident what George Caito meant by the eerie quality of the necklace. The Eye, or the central setting that held a large golden tiger’s eye, already had an uncanny resemblance to a cat’s iris. As the sun slid behind the western skyline, the iris seemed to open. When it did, anyone looking into the Eye saw the scene that the painting had captured as well as what happened afterward – namely, the Prince rescuing his future wife. From that point on, Vincent left the necklace in the jewelry case during the reign of Samhain.

            Janosch continued to live in both the realms of Above and Below as a citizen and professor. Many times, Vincent allowed Janosch to take Father’s duties as teacher and storyteller for the children of Below. He eventually married and added his line to membership in the dual citizenship of the two worlds.

            The Italian families that possessed the plundered items of Vichy France continued to search and find those families who lost valuables in the wars. When George could no longer get about, his children took over. Bianca eventually was promoted, but her major accomplishment was becoming one of the first policewomen to be accepted Below.

 

***** Finis *****

 

The author, Dennis Callin, holds a Master’s Degree in Theatre Arts (SDSU 1979) and enjoys writing fanfiction for CATS. He has an actual novel in the making and hopes to publish it in the near future. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Sandra, and two furry children.