ALL MY TODAYS
By Dennis C. Callin
Fanfiction: Beauty and the
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
One Month after ‘All My Yesterdays’
When Autumn washed across
The slate gray clouds that
threatened the skyscrapers and city streets of
Beneath the asphalt,
concrete, steel and glass that ruled the surface, another civilization
met each day the same as the previous one. The surface was a protective
roof that shielded them from most of the elements that plagued
Those who lived Below grew
used to rarely seeing the sun and walking up topside. However, early in
his leadership, Father had made sojourns to the surface a standard
requirement because of the health needs of the human body. Sunlight
provided the natural means for the body to produce vitamin D, and so,
protected ventures into places such as
One of these treats was chocolate, and Vincent always received a small parcel of choice chocolates in the shipments. The time of the year dictated what he received, and this time, he found a chocolate ‘orange’ along with an orange-flavored, pumpkin-shaped chocolate patty. Candy corn and pumpkin-shaped confections would later be bagged and given out at the Harvest Festival. Like the world Above, Halloween was celebrated with a costume party with various games and story-telling, with Vincent taking over for Father as the chief storyteller. Certain Helpers were invited to attend, and Catherine was the first one mentioned.
“Not enough,” Mouse was heard as he approached a junction in the tunnels. “I need more! More is better!”
As he came around the corner, his eyes saw an obstruction in front of him. The boots and the long skirt should have told him what blocked his way, but he had to look up to figure out whom they were.
“Enough of what, Mouse?” Vincent asked.
“Pumpkins! Mouse doesn’t have enough! More is better!”
Catherine had to stifle her laughter and managed to tone it down to an amused smile. “How many more do you need?”
“Many!” he replied, still agitated. “For decorations and carving contest. Found some. Need many.”
“Perhaps Pascal can put the
word out,” Catherine suggested. “There has to be a shipment of pumpkins
in the Farmer’s Markets. I can see if the
“Okay good! Okay fine!” Mouse said with a grin. “Need many! No! More than many! Lots! Catherine find lots of pumpkins?”
Even Vincent was having trouble to keep from laughing while Catherine was reduced to only nodding. Mouse merely accepted the gesture, and bounded past them and down the tunnel. “See Pascal! Thanks, Catherine!”
With only the sound of Mouse’s feet slapping on the rock floor of the tunnel, Vincent and Catherine finally let the laughter loose. They were not laughing at Mouse, but rather at his ‘serious’ enthusiasm.
“He is a child and yet he is not,” Vincent finally got out.
“Like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys,” Catherine agreed with a warm smile. The laughter still bubbled just beneath her mental surface, but it began to fade under her control. Beside her, Vincent could feel the amusement, and he enjoyed the way it echoed in the bond.
“And I hope he never does grow up,” he finally said.
“Have you chosen a story yet?”
“As a matter of fact, I have,” Vincent said reaching down into a satchel he wore over one shoulder. “I decided to read to them Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘Tell-Tale Heart’ with a small drum for sound effects.”
Catherine shivered. “Isn’t that a bit heavy for children?”
“It’s a short story, Catherine,” said another voice. “And spooky enough for kids. I might tone down the dismemberment, though, and just go with the entire body being beneath the floorboards.”
“How are your classes going, Janosch?” Vincent asked the graduate student as he joined their walk toward the dining hall.
“They’re going well enough,
but they seem tame compared to what I was doing in
Janosch chuckled fiendishly and swept his left arm in front of him to hide the lower part of his face. His voice lowered and he managed a fairly good imitation of Bela Lugosi’s accent. “Listen to them... The children of the night. What music they make!”
“If nothing else, you will amuse everyone rather than scare them,” Catherine chortled.
“But that’s the whole thing!” Janosch said gleefully. “Ghost stories are supposed to be received that way. You laugh at them until the lights are dimmed and you are in your bed. And with the story in mind, you hide under your blankets from every shadow, phantom noise, and puff of air. Stoker’s Dracula was meant to be the cold chill up your spine in the middle of the night. Remember, in the story, that the author mentions the red eyes in the darkness outside the bedroom window?”
Vincent could feel the shudder within himself, and knew it originated from the woman walking close beside him. Apparently, Catherine did.
Entering the dining hall, which was an open chamber strewn with mismatched chairs and tables, Vincent was hailed by Rebecca who was sitting in the corner with Leona Ashland. Picking up a full tray from one of the meal staff, he steered Catherine and Janosch to the area. Pulling another table to join the one where the two women were sitting, the meeting was now a party of five. Everyone adjusted the chairs, and the breakfast chatter began again.
“I was just telling Leona about the Festival of Lights and the Winterfest,” Rebecca grinned at Vincent’s unasked question.
“Naturally,” Catherine chuckled. “Being the candlemaker, you would want her to know.”
“Guilty as charged. How are classes?”
“Don’t get me started,” Janosch shorted a laugh. “How are you adjusting here Below, Leona? Have you lost the feeling of claustrophobia yet?”
“I must admit that I felt the weight of the world bearing down on me at times,” the elderly woman replied. “However, having a lamp chases away a whole host of ghosts and goblins. How do you manage to get electricity down here without the utility companies knowing about it?”
“We essentially leech it from sources that are not metered,” Vincent replied. “However, we rely mostly on battery power for most lighting. Candles,” he said, pointedly looking to Rebecca, “are the only answer at this time to electricity. Our suppliers are attempting to find ways of increasing their burn time and their luminosity, and that is where Rebecca comes in.”
“My skill is often overrated,” the young woman replied. “I basically just make plain candles with a little bit of color to liven up the living areas. Holidays like the Winterfest give me an excuse to make the really pretty ones.”
“You’d be surprised how much a bit of color affects your mood and morale,” Leona said earnestly. “Darkness is hard and oppressive, but light always chases that feeling and the darkness away. Add color to the light, and you can feel rejuvenated.”
“Depending upon the color,” Janosch nodded. “Green and blue are often the colors of choice here below. However, I always find that yellow mimics the sunshine that we don’t see much of here Below. Of course, Vincent does know about some chambers that have skylights in them, and many of us go there, periodically, to make up for actually going topside.”
“In some ways,” Leona said wistfully, “I like the candlelight. It brings back memories, both good and bad, of times when our family was together. Yes, we had danger all around us, but we still….”
Vincent finished her sentence when it was clear she could not do that on her own.
Sadly, Leona nodded, and then smiled. “You have made up for those we have lost – you and Catherine, and little Jacob. You are the candle flames that push the darkness away. Because of all of you, the sadness I used to feel is no longer so oppressive.”
“How is your mother adjusting?” Catherine asked.
“Other than wondering were the windows have gone? She is reliving the times when we were in blackouts. I see our college student is back. What have you found for us this time?”
Once more, Janosch was helping himself to the warmth of freshly made biscuits, scrambled eggs, orange marmalade, and coffee, so he did not answer immediately. However, his expression turned thoughtful.
“Remember when we wondered who might be following your daughter’s husband and her uncle? I had to chew on that one for a while.”
“What is it?” Vincent asked.
“If Johann Vatermann actually became John Pater, then that means he knew about you all the time. From the time you were placed in Father’s arms to the day he actually died, he knew who and where you were. What I don’t understand is this – why didn’t he try to subvert you, capture you and go forward with his own plans?”
“In a way, he did,” Catherine replied quietly.
Janosch looked puzzled, and then critically regarded Vincent. “I don’t understand.”
Seeing that Vincent had bowed his head, Catherine continued. “Jan? You have studied evolution, haven’t you?”
“Required course in biological sciences for general education,” he nodded. “Man is supposed to be a member of the Primates, and cousins to the apes. No one has yet to reveal where the common link is hidden. How does this tie in with Vincent? You aren’t saying that he is related to the big cats and formed an alternate intellectual path, are you?”
“That thought had occurred to me,” Catherine said impishly, but she soon sobered. “However, I don’t think that is quite true. Whatever gave Vincent’s paternal line his characteristics is lost in time. But, I do believe he is really no different than any one of us.”
“You have me intrigued, Beloved,” Vincent said quietly.
“And there is another common trait,” Catherine chuckled, and then nodded. “There is not very much distance between what we consider human and what is considered animal. Look around you anywhere you go, and you will see a wide range of behavior. What do we really call human? Jan?”
“You mean, what sets us apart from the chimpanzee?”
“There’s a loaded question,” Rebecca said.
“Exactly. But, the answer isn’t light or shadow,” Janosch replied with a trace of a smirk. “The definition of Humane means that one is marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals. We tend to think that civilization provides us with a ‘noble’ side that appreciates the good facets of Life. In the Light, we can love, appreciate, sustain, and provide for
those who are downtrodden, forgotten, abused or without the comforts that we take for granted. In an ideal society, we would freely share what we have with those who are in need.”
Once again, Janosch tended to use his fork as a pointer, and various implements on the table, as his exhibits. “However, our baser emotions and instincts ruin that ideal world. The ‘Alpha’ in all of us still wants to dominate others for wealth, possessions, slavery and fear. Every wonderful trait we display in the Light has its counter in the Shadow.”
Catherine’s soft voice broke in. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” Pausing, Catherine smiled sheepishly. “That was one of my favorite Bible passages.”
“Ecclesiastes, Chapter Three, verses one through eight,” Janosh nodded. “People are quite aware of what that passage shows us – namely, Light versus dark in all its variations. What makes a human humane is captured in the substance of that wonderful list of the Light, and the foul list of the Shadows.”
“Sometimes, the darkness must be endured to balance the Light. You cannot have one without the other,” Catherine added. “But…. John Pater, Paracelsus, or even Johann Vatermann, knew Vincent’s weaknesses and how to exploit them. Our animal nature is thinly kept in check by learning how to deal with its raw qualities, and substituting civilized mannerisms. You have heard of the saying that Beauty is only skin deep? Humankind is generally that way. Because of Father, Vincent learned how to be noble and humane. But the ‘Beast’ inside him is probably closer to the surface than anyone else. John Pater knew how to bring out the worst in Vincent and, thus, draw out the animal that Vincent keeps mostly in check.”
“Are you saying that this… man… experimented on my grandson?” Leona said, almost spitting out the word.
“Löwetruppen …” Janosch said soberly.
The others suddenly stopped eating and focused on him. “What?” Rebecca asked. “Whatever you said sounded ominous.”
“Lion troopers,” Janosch replied. “Johann Vatermann had an idea to create an army of them, but he never managed to capture one of the line. Then, he came to the States and finds Vincent. Father never mentioned why Johann gave Vincent up except possibly to see if he could be civilized. And he did – even further than was expected. John Pater had his prototype, but did not know what was required to breed them.”
“Jan, please…” Catherine said.
“Sorry, Catherine, but this is what was supposed to be,” Janosch replied. “Toward the end of John Pater’s life, he must have been driven mad by being this close to Vincent, and to his goal of subduing him. And he almost won.”
“What do you mean?” Vincent asked.
“He almost managed to brainwash you into becoming his thrall,” Janosch nodded, as he took a big hunk of egg, munching thoughtfully on the forkful as he realized the path to the answer. “But, John Pater miscalculated the effect of one thing.”
“Don’t keep us in the dark, Jan,” Rebecca said, as Janosch chuckled around a piece of biscuit and orange marmalade. “What did Paracelsus do wrong?”
“Catherine,” he replied in triumph. “One of humankind’s most intense emotions is what poets and authors have utilized over the centuries. Love! John Pater did not reckon Catherine in the equation of his Feldmarschall candidate. When Vincent had to choose between his animal lust and his humane love, Catherine won out, right?”
Janosch knew he had hit gold when Vincent turned away from any direct eye contact and Catherine blushed. “Right?”
“Ladies do not kiss and tell, Jan,” Catherine said, blotting her lips.
“No, but I can tell it happened. I remember Father telling me just before I left that Vincent was slowly going mad. My guess is that John Pater drove Catherine to confront him in some manner of an endgame. In his state, Vincent would either rape you or snap out of the madness. And the emotion that would win out would be love. Deduction here – the latter condition prevailed and he made love to you instead.”
“Wow…” Rebecca said when the two principals declined comment.
“Really…” Leona said dryly. “You make it sound like a college paper.”
“You forget what I am doing, Leona. I am a college student, and this is worthy of a thesis at the least and a doctorate at best.” Janosch spread out his hands in a placating manner. “But, not to worry there. I doubt anyone would believe it, and I would be blacklisted bringing up such a subject without proof.”
Laying the fork down, Janosch picked up his mug that had “I (Heart) NY” printed on it, and wrapped both hands around it. After taking a good swallow of the still warm coffee, he shook his head. “That is how it happened, right?”
Catherine reached over and took one of Vincent’s hands in hers. “A bit simplified, but yes, Jan. At first, I honestly thought the Vincent I knew and loved had become the monster everyone thought he was inside.”
“But we all are monsters inside, Catherine,” Janosch interjected.
“We are indeed, but Vincent’s monster is amplified because of who he is. I saw him, Jan. I saw that monster and I thought I would be dead moments after I shouted his name. But at that moment, something went to war inside of him, and he crumpled… He cried like a little child in my arms. He was frightened…”
“And she gave her love back to me again,” Vincent murmured, almost softer than a whisper, and those at the table had to lean in to hear him.
“Who? Catherine?” Janosch asked quietly.
“No…” Vincent replied heavily. “My mother…”
As Catherine leaned in against his shoulder, Vincent held her tight.
“When Catherine called my name, I heard her, and I thought I saw my birth mother. I do not know if what I saw came from the madness or whether I actually saw her. In times like that, people can see things – things they wish to see, and I saw her for an instant. But in that brief spark of time, I knew she loved me.”
His lips briefly touched the top of Catherine’s head. “And then I saw Catherine. Did I see my mother, or did I see Catherine and only thought she had been my mother? Either way, the madness left me, and… I felt the bond again. Apparently, it had been asleep inside me, or driven into the shadows of my heart.”
“And that is how John Pater’s final scheme fell apart,” Catherine said softly. “In some ways, I don’t think Paracelsus could look past the outward appearance of Vincent. Paracelsus saw the beast, and thought the rest had not matured to a point where it became what Vincent is. To Paracelsus, the painting that Vincent created was a fluke – like the genius of someone who is an autistic savant. However, such a discovery did not matter to the whole. Vincent was to become the patriarch of his Lion Troopers, and the arts were unnecessary to soldiers.”
“I beg to differ with you, Catherine,” Janosch said.
“We know from Vincent’s family history that he was a soldier and yet was quite capable of learning the arts and the finer points of Life. Johann Vatermann knew Vincent’s ancestors were quite proficient at being civilized. The distant royalty of the Balkans may have been a bit primitive, but they knew how to act, and they appreciated beauty and the arts, and justice. John Pater saw glimpses of Vincent following the same path of his forefathers. As Paracelsus, he saw the last chance to prove his theories. But something went wrong….”
“He was the suitor,” Vincent said in a whisper.
Janosch quickly turned to him. “Suitor?”
Nodding, Vincent smiled
sadly. “In the story that was written in
“Gaston,” Janosch said smiling. “Possibly, an affectation of Armel Gaston Patenaude, a relative of Johann Vatermann. Maybe even his father.”
“It is quite possible that he was made into the antagonist of the story,” Vincent agreed. “But we were not in conflict over Catherine, Jan.”
“Here, Vincent, it is you who were the one being sought by Paracelsus and Catherine. Naturally, Catherine wanted you as a lover and as a companion, but Paracelsus wanted to be your father, your ‘natural’ father.”
“A rather perverse one, don’t you think?” Rebecca said.
“That depends,” Janosch replied. “Paracelsus was very cunning about how he maneuvered Vincent. He constantly tried to make Vincent doubt Father’s motives as well as doubting himself. The more confused Vincent became, the easier Paracelsus could sway him. Toward the end, Paracelsus almost convinced Vincent that he was the only one who truly understood him and cared about him.”
Vincent nodded. “He almost succeeded.”
“But he didn’t,” Janosch replied. “The madness you suffered undid everything he tried to do to win you. You killed him in the end, right?”
“He seemed to drive me to that, yes,” Vincent replied softly. “Do you know the why, Jan? Try as I might, I never understood that action.”
“Even I have to ask that,” Catherine said. “If Paracelsus wanted Vincent to become the head of his private army, why martyr himself? Who would lead his Löwetruppen?”
“That, we will never know,” Janosch said, shrugging his shoulders. “Any journal that John or Johann or Paracelsus kept of his last days hasn’t been found.”
“You keep referring to him in three different names,” Leona commented. “Why?”
“Call it a degradation of his personality. Johann Vattermann was a young man in the early stages of World War II. Caught up in the feverous times of power, he had been infected by his father or brothers, or even his grandfather, concerning this elusive ‘man-beast’. Instead of joining the Hitler Youth, Johann decided to pursue Vincent’s great-grandfather’s family under the premise that he could serve the Fatherland in that manner. Thus, the Germans left him alone, and gave him carte blanche to do what he liked.”
Janosch reached out and moved a coffee
cup like a chess piece. “But when the family eluded him and came here to
the States, Johann had to follow them. So, Johann changed his name to
John Pater to blend into American society. However, like Hitler, John
had a sense of megalomania. We all know
that Paracelsus wanted to rule the Below as his own private kingdom, but
John Pater was not quite to that level. He knew that Vincent’s family
was in the States, but not where. Like southern
“And that’s how they found us,” Leona said quietly.
“Yes,” Janosch answered gravely. “Like a treat just out of reach, John Pater now had his goal in sight. We all know the feeling of what that’s like. Dangle something we really want out in front of us, and we will put all our effort into possessing it. Now that John knew where the family was, all he had to do is keep them in sight. So, he placed his agents all around the family locations, and that included the uncle as well as you, Leona.”
nodded. “We know how cunning John Pater became as Paracelsus, but as
John Pater, his approach was still cool and calculative as a man in his
prime. He located his prize – Evina – who was pregnant. All he had to do
was insure that he could track her at anytime and anywhere in
“What do you mean?” Catherine immediately asked, and leaned over her plate.
“The traffic accident,” Janosch said, placing his coffee cup and the creamer in position on the table. “This is only a theory of mine, after I sat down and thought about it. If his mother made it to a hospital, what would have happened?”
That question stunned everyone at the table, including Vincent. Janosch nodded. “A question one does not want to answer, right? Mary!”
Acting as both waitress and cook at the moment, the woman shifted a plate from her hands to a young woman, and then came over. “Yes?”
thinking something through here, and I need your opinions and
professional judgment. Sit down, please, and enjoy some of your
cooking.” He waited as Vincent pulled out a chair, and helped Mary sit
down. “You remember the discussion concerning what might have happened
on the night Vincent was born, yes?” He received a nod. “What if,
instead of Evina being in an accident, she made it to
“I don’t think it would have mattered, medically,” the midwife replied thoughtfully. “However, everyone in that ER would have seen him, and he would not be a secret.”
“Or worse,” Catherine said, shuddering. “Doctors would have wanted to run tests on him to discover how…. Oh, my God….”
Janosch nodded somberly. “Exactly. Vincent would have grown up as a lab animal. You now see why I began thinking the way I have. John Pater could not have that happen. When his agents relayed to him that Evina was on the move, John set his interception team into place. He could not attack her in public, like on the subway, but what about a taxi, and at night?”
Again, he saw that the train of logic stunned his audience.
Catherine recovered first. “Are you saying that the driver of the car that struck the taxi Evina was riding in was a hit man?”
“Set there as a pawn to take out the taxi driver.” Janosch moved the two pieces of crockery into a simulated collision.
“But he could have killed Evina!” Mary said, shocked at the mere thought of it.
almost did,” Janosch nodded and held up the salt shaker and then placed
it next to the creamer that had been the model for the taxi. “Again,
this is all theory. John Pater wanted his agent to merely cause an
accident to incapacitate the taxi. Thus, Evina would exit the taxi, and
“Anna….” Vincent almost groaned. “Paracelsus ordered his wife to intercept her.”
Janosch studied the salt shaker for a moment. He had used it to symbolize Evina, and then respectfully set it back on the table. “John Pater finally had his prototype, and because of the fatality of the mother, he also had the child free and clear. But, he did not know that Anna had Vincent delivered to Father. From that time forward, with Vincent under Father’s guidance, John Pater knew the veneer of civilization would be placed on his pupil by Father, and not by him.”
“And Paracelsus would finish the teaching,” Catherine nodded. “Jan? I’m going to look into the records and the traffic report on that accident.”
you’ll find that the man driving the automobile did not live in
“What about the taxi driver?” Vincent suddenly said.
Even Janosch sat back on that one. “Stage an accident? It’s possible, but I don’t think so. There are too many variables to take into consideration when two cars are involved. No. I really think that the driver of the automobile that caused the accident acted alone, and tried to aim for the back of the taxi. Although passengers normally sit in the rear, the driver probably wanted to hit the taxi in the trunk area. My guess is that Evina was in the rear seat behind the driver. The driver of the car saw that too late, and struck the driver’s door instead.”
“The report did mention that,” Leona said. “The crash forced the taxi into a lamp post and that maybe killed the cab driver. The car struck another post and that killed him as well. Because of where Evina was sitting, she was safe from the collision, but the damage was done. Her water broke and she went into hard labor.”
“Paracelsus made me believe I tore my way out,” Vincent said with a slight growl.
“That would have been noticed,” Mary said quickly. “You know that did not happen, and you knew something else as well, Vincent. If the big cats can birth their young without harm, your mother would have birthed you the same way.”
“As a kitten, I was too weak to do that kind of damage,” Vincent said, nodding. “What killed Evina, then?”
“Anything could have caused it, especially surviving a car wreck,” Mary said, slightly flustered. “She could have gotten rattled around the interior of the cab like a marble in a box. Or during labor and birthing, the passage of the baby can create tears – natural tears – in the vaginal walls. That’s why most people are born in a hospital. A doctor could take care of the rigors of birthing a baby, and increase the odds of both mother and child surviving. I would say that, and this is just my thought on the matter, Evina received a bad tear and probably bled to death. She managed to stay alive long enough to make sure Vincent could breathe and survive on his own before she died.”
“That’s why Anna gave Vincent to Father instead of Paracelsus,” Catherine suddenly said. “Father was a medical doctor.”
“And Evina?” Leona asked bitterly.
“The mother was expendable,” Janosch heavily. “Only the child was to be saved. Anna had to have been instructed to care for the child first, in all cases. If Evina was okay, then she would have given birth Below, and Vincent would have been spirited away. John would tell her that the baby was stillborn or did not survive birth.”
“That’s cruel!” Leona said, disgusted.
“But well within the methods of John Pater.”
have one loose end to tie up here,” Catherine finally said. “We now know
how Vincent was born, and how he was ‘found’ at
“What do you intend to do, Catherine?” Mary asked, clearly concerned.
“What I do for a living – investigate and catch whoever is out there.”
“Before you do, can I ask a question?” Rebecca remarked. Seeing that the others now had their attention on her, Rebecca continued. “If Paracelsus is the leader in all this, then why are those guys still after Vincent?”
“That is a good question,” Catherine nodded. “Could they be unaware of his death?”
“After nearly two years?” Rebeccca replied. “You’d think they’d know by now.”
Catherine tapped her right index finger against her chin in thought. “Paracelsus could have contracted them. They could receive their pay by electronic means, or have some sort of partial payment at the start and the rest on completion of their assignment. Paracelsus wouldn’t come Above unless he absolutely had to, so I am inclined to believe the latter method.”
“Then the solution is simple,” Rebecca said flatly. “Tell them the contract is over!”
“The trouble is that they probably don’t know who Paracelsus was,” Leona said. “Catherine? If this man is the same as Johann, then he would organize his brutes into cells like the Resistance of France. Groups of three or four would have certain areas or certain assignments. This way, if Vincent or anybody else discovered one cell, then the others were still safe. Only the leader would know his top lieutenants, and he would allow them to choose those under them. The only way to destroy the network was to eliminate them from the top down.”
“So they may be like Rebecca said,” Vincent nodded. “They may not know that their leader is dead, and so they are operating according to their goals or assignments.”
“Vincent? Don’t we have a journal from his lab?” Catherine asked.
“If we do, it would be among Father’s things…”
“I’ll help. Jan? Thank you. Oh! Could you do something for me? If I gave you an address, could you go there, and look for an occupied car, truck or van that is parked on the street in sight of the front door? Don’t try and approach them or anything. Just get a license number, and then get that to me. Vincent? Let’s go.”
though he had been away for two years, Janosch had not forgotten the ins
and outs of the New York Metropolitan Transit system. Changing into his
‘Above’ clothing, he looked like any Graduate student of the various
colleges and universities around the Big Apple. From
the day was a bit blustery, Janosch counted the weather as being a good
thing rather than complaining about it. This way, he could pull up the
hood on his jacket. He walked quickly up the street until he reached
A white Chevrolet van sat near the end of the street, and Janosch saw movement as the driver repositioned himself to look out the side mirror. As he kept walking, he hunched over slightly as if he were protecting his face against the wind. His eyes now covered, he glanced carefully at the license plate and memorized the license number.
As he walked by the van, the driver looked directly at him, but only for a couple of seconds. Janosch waited for the sound of the van’s door opening, but it never came. It took everything he had in him not to break into a run. Making it casually around the corner, Janosch felt his heart pounding in his chest. He found a public phone as soon as he could, and dialed the number Catherine had given him. The phone rang twice before her voice answered.
“Hey, Catherine?” Janosch replied. “You’re right. There’s a van parked at the end of the street, and it has a driver, at least. I didn’t stay long enough to see if he had anyone else in the back.” He looked out to see if someone was looking for him, but no one fit that description. Quickly, he gave Catherine the license number of the van, and then hung up. His end of the investigation was now over. Hustling back to the Christopher Street Station, he boarded the Number 1 Train.
Meanwhile, Catherine had left Vincent to search for any journal in boxes of Father’s personal items while she went to her desk at work. Locating a worker in the Computer Department, Catherine gave her the license number. Fortunately for Catherine, the computer department was able to pinpoint it for her, and that drew an expletive from her lips.
“That sounded very unlike you, Radcliff,” Joe Maxwell said, as he started by her desk. “I would expect a civil ‘damn’ out of you, but never what you just said. Is someone coaching you in the finer points of New York Cabbie lingo?”
replied, pursing her lips. “If I wanted to do that, I could just get in
one and have them drive me through Midtown during rush hour and tell him
I have an extra twenty if he gets me to the other side in less than
fifteen minutes. What I’m trying to do is locate a van that nearly ran
me out into Christopher Park the other day, and I just found out that
it’s reported stolen out of
“Give the number to me, and I’ll have someone in uniform track him down and arrest him,” Joe said, reaching out a hand. Catherine shook her head.
“He’s probably already ditched it, Joe.”
you doing down in
“A friend of mine asked me to see someone who thinks they are being watched.”
Joe shook his head. “Look. If you’re searching for work, I’ll have you examine this pile of cases on your desk. What you do on your time off is up to you. Isn’t that boyfriend of yours supposed to be taking you out every once in a while?”
“He does,” Catherine complained, but laughed.
“When am I going to meet this lucky guy?”
“When he proposes.”
“By then it’ll be too late. Really, Cathy. Someone has to sub for your dad, and I sorta volunteered.”
“Well, un-volunteer. I told my father long before he died that I can look out for myself where men are concerned.”
“I should have a uniform go after you then. Give me the number anyway. I’ll have them look for the van and get it off the books. Whereabouts in the Village?”
“Somewhere on West 11th near Bleecker,” Catherine replied, appearing relieved.
As soon as Maxwell left, she called a Helper who had access to the pipes, and gave him instructions to have Janosch call her as soon as he came Below again. While she waited, she attacked the pile of case folders that seemed to compete with the number of skyscrapers that rose higher and higher each passing day. She was on her third case when the phone rang.
“Jan? I need to ask a big favor. I want you to watch the watcher.”
“Is there a reason for that?” he replied.
“The van he is using is stolen, so that rules out tracking him from the license plate. I’m thinking he has at least one accomplice that may pick him up and/or exchange observers. Can you get back over there and see if someone comes by to relieve him? Unless they’re really paranoid, that car should have a good plate.”
“Sure, Catherine. Are you still going to be there for another hour or so?”
“I usually take off around five.”
“Hopefully they’ll be by around noon then,” he replied. “Lunchtime.”
This time, Janosch changed shirt and hooded jacket and took a different route. To his relief, the van was still there, and someone was in the driver’s seat. Now able to look through the windshield, Jansoch could just make out someone in the back. In his mind, he would put the observer in the back with a camera and telephoto lens, and have the driver look for cops. If so, Janosch grinned, then the driver got an eyeful as at least three NYPD cruisers went by in the course of an hour. However, Janosch was not here to look for police cars.
Appearing like he was people-watching and sketching them, Janosch actually completed three or four relatively good works. At one time, he seriously thought about becoming a sketch artist. But, he enjoyed fieldwork more than the studio or courtroom. As he began his fourth sketch of a black woman in her 30’s who appeared to be heading for one of the dress shops, he noted a metallic green Taurus drive past the intersection.
“Third time,” Janosch muttered to himself.
had driven by twice before, and so Janosch immediately wrote down the
license number. He also noted that there were two people in the car – a
man and a woman. He watched it travel down to
“He’s circling,” Janosch muttered again.
the sketch, he kept looking up to see if his hunch was correct. Looking
The exchange had been made.
Janosch could almost feel his body quivering – anxious to get up and run to a phone – but he held his emotions in check, and waited until the Taurus turned down Bleecker and disappeared into traffic. Easing onto his feet, Janosch casually walked north and away from the van. Locating a public phone, he dialed Catherine’s number. After several rings, she finally answered the phone.
“You just caught me, Jan,” she said quietly. “A few people here are trying to get me to go for lunch. Tell me you have a plate number.”
“I have a plate number,” he said and waited ten seconds for her protest. Chuckling, he gave her the number and told her about the makeup of the four people involved. “Are you going to have the NYPD get the ones in the van?”
“Give me their exact location.”
“I’d say about fifty feet south of Bleecker on West 11th. They’re on the left side, which makes it easy for them to pull out and turn the corner.”
He heard Catherine snort on the other end. “Not if the move is planned. Stay there and wait for about a half-hour, and then watch the show. While we wait, I’m calling the plate in and see if they can get anyone from that.”
“I’ll call later and confirm this. Thanks, Catherine.”
Once more, Janosch sat down in the open area of the playground, and appear to continue sketching. Periodically, he would look up and then around at prospective people. But, every other glance went toward that van that continued to sit on the left side of the street. Then, he would quickly glance at his watch. The second hand seemed to creep around the face of the clock as he waited. Filling in some details on the sketches helped ease the tension, but, still, time dragged. Finally, the thirty minutes came, so Janosch shut his sketch book, and looked around.
He noticed two things that seemed out of place almost immediately. A pair of men walked side-by-side on Bleecker headed toward 11th. Then, he noticed the same situation on 11th heading toward the back of the van. Both pairs of men were unusual in that they walked without talking to each other like friends would do. As the one set reached the corner, they stopped and adopted a facing stance that Janosch had only seen border guards adopt when they covered each other. Then, the other pair started a loud argument about a number on one of the brownstones.
“Showtime,” Janosch chuckled, as he realized what was happening.
two NYPD cruisers came out of nowhere, hit their sirens and nosed into
Janosch, now relieved of his vigil, cheerfully whistled as he made his way toward the nearest subway station.
“It had to be the most fascinating arrest I have ever seen,” he concluded as he finished a pork chop. His audience was Vincent, Catherine, Mary and Rebecca, and they had enjoyed the play-by-play action that had occurred Above. “They got the couple that had been watching the brownstone on West 11th, and now all I need to hear is who they are. Catherine? You’re on, as they say down on Broadway.”
“As we thought, the car was owned by one of the cell,” Catherine said. “All four have been picked up – two by the traffic stop and the other two from the car registration.”
“It seems stupid to have overlooked that possibility,” Rebecca remarked. “Why didn’t they steal the other car as well?”
“They needed one address and phone number for public use,” Catherine replied. “You have to live somewhere, and drive a car or have one available. If you don’t, then certain people become suspicious. Utility workers, postal carriers, bankers and others notice anyone who attempts to misdirect them. So, even if a majority of the equipment used by this cell was stolen, they had to have at least one contact that was genuine.”
“Who are they?” Janosch finally asked after ten seconds, and she grinned.
“Aren’t paybacks a…? Well, it serves you right for doing that to me.”
Catherine reached out and picked up
a fairly thick folder. From this, she extracted four photos, and placed
them on the table in order. “Meet the Catalano siblings: Peter, David,
Charles and Blanche. From their records, they are second-generation
citizens. From their family name, their ancestors are from the
“Which also adjoins southern
“So says our college graduate,” Rebecca said.
“Let me guess this,” Vincent remarked. “They were hired because Johann Vatermann knew their parents and grandparents.”
“Your guess is right,” Catherine
nodded. “Peter is the oldest, and he was our driver of the van. He and
Charles, who was the baby of the family, were arrested at their home in…
“Where?” Leona asked guardedly.
“That’s practically next door,” Leona replied. “The Park Slope district is just to the east of the Gardens.”
“If John Pater was aware of you,” Catherine said carefully, “then they may have moved there to be close to you. That’s another good reason not to go back.”
“What about the couple in the van?” Janosch asked.
“David is the middle son, and Blanche was born just before Charles,” she answered. “All four of them have rather sparse records with the police: traffic citations, parking violations and the things that ordinary citizens are prone to get. Unless the journal that Paracelsus kept tells us differently, my guess is that he wanted this team to be observers only. They were not to stand out in the neighborhood, so they stayed as clean as possible.”
“What about the stolen van?” Janosch asked.
“That,” Catherine said, smiling and shaking her head, “is the priceless part of this whole thing. They needed a van to use as an observation post, and so they ‘borrowed’ the van from a friend. The friend got tired of his van being gone all the time, so he reported it missing. When you say something like a car is missing, you might as well say ‘stolen’.”
“So they now face grand theft auto?” Janosch asked.
“Only if they can’t convince their friend that they didn’t mean to keep the van that long. If they created a grudge, then yes, they could be arrested for theft. My office may use that one to prosecute them.”
Vincent leaned forward, drawing attention. “How will this help the surveillance of the families, Catherine? They could post bail and be out on the streets in a matter of hours.”
“Being married to me has rubbed off on you,” she chuckled. “Here’s the thing. They get a phone call, and you can bet that they will try to call the number that Paracelsus used for contacts in the world Above.”
“They will not get an answer,” Janosch said, nodding.
“Right,” Catherine ticked off her index finger. “And when they do not get an answer?”
“They will know something is wrong,” Vincent said, leaning his chin unto his left hand.
“This is what I think will happen,” Catherine said, continuing to tick off points on her fingers. “They will face a hearing without a lawyer, without bail, or any support from the officers of John Pater’s Cells. If they get anyone, the foursome will find that they are not the top-money personnel they expected.”
“What does this mean for my family?” Leona asked, and then she placed a shaky hand on Vincent’s arm. “And you, Grandson?”
“I think it means that the watching will stop.”
Janosch shook his head sadly. “Or someone will eventually come forward to take up what Johann Vatermann left undone.”
For a few moments, the others sat in stunned silence. And then, everyone glanced at each other in hopes that they had the explanation for what Janosch just said. Finally, Leona spoke.
“What do you mean?”
The young man took a deep breath and looked down at his coffee cup for a moment before he raised his gaze. As he spoke, he made sure he established eye contact with everyone.
“You need to look at the cell system like it is a train with each car like a cell. The train can lose cars, gain others and still function. Here, the train’s engine has been pulled and one of the major cells is out of action. The question here is – will anyone try to replace the engine?”
“For what reason, Jan?” Vincent asked. “Paracelsus had a personal reason for all of this. Surely these cells are filled with mercenaries, and are only loyal as long as they are paid.”
“Which might not be the case right now,” Janosch countered. “The problem is this, Vincent. The Nazi movement did not die with World War II. Even today, there are people who live according to Nazi codes. Many of them believe in what Adolf Hitler advocated prior to the war, and now practice his lifestyle.”
“I will never understand those people,” Leona said distastefully.
“And they would say the same thing
about you,” Janosch replied. “You have to remember that
“And the saddest part was that the world did not understand that until it was almost too late,” Catherine said quietly.
“Or they did know, and did not do anything to stop it,” Leona replied bitterly.
Catherine gave that comment a sad
smile. “So now you understand that, with Paracelsus gone, someone could
take his place, and look for the next super-soldier, or the movement
could fall apart. After all, they do know something is in
“Why?” Rebecca asked.
“Because I know where to find the one they are looking for,” Leona answered flatly, and then her voice turned soft. “My mother and my grandson and his son are all the family I have right now. If that means I spend the rest of my life here, then that price is easy to pay. Besides. It is not such a bad place to be in, and the people are nice. Let them search for me all they want.”
Reaching out and taking Vincent and Catherine’s hands, Leona gave them a genuine smile that radiated the warmth she felt. “Honestly, you two. This place has been a Haven, not only to me but also to many people who were adrift in that world Above. You offered them a harbor to shelter in, and a township that they could call home. My mother and I are comfortable and making new friends. While we have been here, we have seen more things of beauty and wonder than I have ever seen before. And, if we still need to move in the trees and taste the wind and rain and snow, all of that is a mere walk away. No, my dears. If this is a sacrifice, I would still take it and all that comes with it.”
She patted both the hands she held and pulled back to glance at Rebecca. “Now. I would like to hear more about something that Miss Rebecca was telling me about. Something called ‘Winterfest’?”
Janosch chuckled. “You might call it our form of Christmas. Actually, I think it is just Rebecca’s way to drum up business for her candle-making.”
“I don’t make anything from of those candles and you know it!” Rebecca countered.
“We’ll tell you,” Catherine said, laughing lightly. “Besides. Isn’t this a good time to visit with your grandson?”
“Heavens, yes. Another blessing to consider from being here Below. Lead the way.”
Of all the places in the world
Below, the chambers that had special properties always fascinated
Janosch. On the
“Fascinating, are they not?” a gravelly voice, that was not a Whisper, said quietly.
Janosch smiled. “Yes, they are. I want to thank you for bringing me here that first time.”
Vincent shrugged in his characteristic, humble manner. “I wanted you to have something to remember while you were gone.”
The grad student looked about the
chamber. “You definitely gave me that. One time, while I was in a church
Tilting his head, Vincent tuned his ears to a certain Whisper, and then pointed. “If you can sort it out, you can hear High Mass from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.”
“You can really do that? I mean, sort out the different sounds?”
Again, Vincent shrugged. “It takes a little practice.”
“And cat’s hearing,” Janosch said jokingly. “Vincent…. Did we do the right thing?”
“Uncover everything about your family. True. You learned who your mother was, and now you have a Great-Grandmother and Grandmother. But, in the process, we condemned them to living Below, and hiding from persecutors once more.”
“They are better off here where they are among friends and are protected, Jan. Surely you can see that.”
“What about you? What I uncovered was not very pretty.”
Vincent looked up at the shadows were the voice of a motorist and a cabbie argued their perspective right-of-ways. He smiled and shook his head. “You uncovered the truth, and it did, indeed, make me free – at least, free of the ignorance concerning why I am what I am. We still do not know why I have the strength and abilities of a lion, but we know that not every male member of my line has to be like me. Little Jacob demonstrates that fact, Jan. You even solved why Paracelsus was motivated to do what he did. If his spirit wandered the tunnels after his death, surely your truths freed him as well.”
“After what he did, I don’t think his soul has a chance of finding Heaven, Vincent.”
“Maybe not, but maybe his soul now has a chance to continue on, and maybe find a place where he can find a second chance in Life.”
Vincent again shrugged. “Some cultures believe it exists. Jan. If what we did was wrong, do you not believe that you would have heard it from me? After all, your research was centered on who and what I am. If it had offended me in any way, I would have told you so, or maybe Catherine would have. Jan? There is something that I do not understand.”
“If I know about it, I’ll try to explain.”
“Do you really believe someone will take the place of Paracelsus?”
Janosch shook his head. “To tell the truth? I honestly do not know. John Pater slowly became obsessed with stealing you away from Father, and that type of obsession, coupled with his intelligence, drove him mad. From my European study, I could almost say that John Pater followed the example of Hitler, who had plenty of loyalists with him right up to the end. When Hitler committed suicide, many of his top officers did as well. Of course, many of them knew that their lives were not worth much in the hands of the Allies. The answer to your question depends on the level of fanaticism in his followers.”
“Many of the people he had with him Below were not more than brutes,” Vincent said guardedly. “They followed orders, but that was almost the limit of their abilities.”
“The ones in that van were not blind followers,” Janosch replied. “Speaking of which, did you find John Pater’s journal?”
“Yes, but many pages were torn out.
Neither Catherine nor I could see anything of value in the rest of the
notations. Most of it dealt with the war and the immigration to the
Janosch smiled. “I am surprised that Catherine did not think of this. You know how you can tell what was written on a missing page? When a person writes in a notebook, they leave an indention of what they wrote on the page beneath it. To discover what they wrote, you rub a pencil lead across the surface of the page, and the lettering shows up. I’m sure they could probably use special filters on cameras that would do the same thing.”
“Huh… I shall mention that to her.”
“With any luck, the ones we caught watching the uncle’s house were the last of the mercenaries. Just to make sure, I could go by their house as well as Leona’s house.”
“I think someone else better do that work, Jan,” Vincent said softly. “You might have been noticed that last time. Some of the Helpers can go by the houses.”
“I guess my detective days are behind me then,” Janosch snorted a laugh. “Thanks for believing in me, Vincent.”
“You made it easy to do that,” Vincent said, reaching out and giving the student’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Father thought you would prove to be a good student, if given a chance.”
“He certainly gave me that. I doubt
you would tell me who funded my travel expenses while I was in
“Father told me that the donor would stay anonymous. He kept the secret even from me.”
“I guess it really does not matter. Well, I guess I should turn in. Are we still going to have the Festival of Lights this year?”
“A lot of our people want to celebrate Christmas this year, so Father designed the Festival to mirror the one Above. Rebecca experimented with wicks and wax to show colors in the flames. It will cut our use of electricity if they work out well enough.”
“I hope so. See you at breakfast?”
Janosch nodded, smiled and left Vincent behind on the bridge. Going silent, he allowed the many conversations and sounds flow around him. Several times, the voices directed him to someone in need. At other times, nothing touched his senses. A child calling for a pet, however, caught his ear.
Without a thought against it, Vincent sniffed the air in the direction of the voice, and knew his route. As he ran through the familiar tunnels, he realized that the bane of his existence could also be a gift in disguise. And then, he remembered all the times Catherine needed him, and he once more blessed his ‘differences.’ Today, he was helping the world, even if it was just to assuage the fears and concern of a child.
For him, that thought was enough….
***** finis *****