BETWEEN THE LINES SERIES
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
Police Officers Jack Davis and his partner Danny Yates were in Yates’s basement talking as Danny was nervously pacing the room.
“So you agree with me? You think Perotta’s getting cold feet?”
Davis shrugged as he thought about his fellow officer. “We’ve been hitting it pretty heavy, maybe if we back off for a while ….”
Yates blew up. “Are you crazy? This is the best money I’ve made in a long time.” He looked up at Davis. “Didn’t you just buy Kerri that new van? How you gonna explain not making payments on it?”
“I can still make payments. All I’m trying to say is we’ve been getting greedy lately.”
“I don’t think so. Look, we said we were all in this together.” Davis nodded, so Yates continued. “So I say we make sure Tony doesn’t ruin it for us.”
Davis sighed and looked guiltily at the floor. He hated this whole business but life as a cop was hard, and he was just trying to save enough to retire. He looked up then slowly nodded his head.
Danny smiled. “Good, I’ll handle it ... tomorrow night.”
Laine Keller walked in and joined them in the basement. He’d been Tony Perotta’s partner for over eight years. He looked over at Danny and wondered what he’d just overheard. “What are you gonna handle tomorrow night?”
Davis flushed guiltily as Yates looked angrily over at Keller. “Your partner is getting cold feet. Tomorrow night I’m making sure the rest of us don’t go down with him.”
Keller’s jaw dropped incredulously. “What? Are you gonna kill him?”
Yates cocked his head. “That’s exactly what I’m gonna do.”
Keller blew up. “I didn’t sign on for that. Look taking a couple of bags of cocaine off the street and selling them is one thing, murdering a cop who happens to be a good friend is a whole different story.”
He looked up and realized Yates didn’t care, and Davis was shaking his head. “I ain’t going to jail, Laine. You know what they do to cops on the inside? We wouldn’t make it a week!”
Keller paced and let his mind race, frantically searching for another answer. “Give me two days. I’ll talk to Danny and get him back on track. After that, I’m out. I’ll never say anything to anybody, but I’m out. I ain’t doing it no more.”
Yates looks over at Davis who shrugged. “Two more days won’t matter. Let Keller try to talk to Tony.”
Yates reluctantly agreed.
Meanwhile in the world Below, Vincent and a teenage girl sat talking together in her chamber. Vincent let his mind wander back to when Laura had first been brought to them.
He was in his late teens and working sentry duty when Ralph, a helper, came in carrying a little girl.
Vincent stepped out from the shadows. “Hi, Ralph. I didn’t know you were coming here today?”
Ralph smiled at his friend. “Father knew there was a chance I would be coming down. I talked to him earlier today.”
“Is there a problem?”
Vincent’s brow furrowed. “Why didn’t you call the police, Ralph?”
Ralph chuckled. “Marci said she couldn’t bear the thought of the girl living in a foster home. She said we would take care of her until we found out who left her or if she was reported missing. My brother-in-law … Chad’s a cop ... he put calls out, but nobody’s reported the kid missing.”
“So you think she was abandoned?”
Ralph nodded. “I think so; Chad seemed to agree with me.”
“So why are you bringing her Below?”
“I was hoping she could stay here for a while. She’s a good kid. Quiet as a mouse, causes no trouble. Marci and I have to go to Ohio on an emergency. Marci’s mom fell, and she needs someone to take care of her for a few weeks. Chad said I shouldn’t take the kid over the state lines with me.”
Vincent smiled. “So she’s going to stay with us for a while?” Vincent bent over and smiled. “Hello, little one. Can you tell me your name?”
The girl’s brow furrowed as she stared at Vincent’s lips. When she didn’t answer, Vincent stood and held out his arms to her in a welcoming gesture. She stared into his eyes for a moment then smiled and came forward.
Ralph looked on in horror. “Uh, Vincent, I think she just had an accident...”
Vincent had already picked her up and grimaced at the wetness but pulled her to the safety of his chest anyway. “Thanks for the warning.”
He quickly tapped out a message and the three of them walked towards the library while the young girl promptly fell asleep against Vincent’s shoulder.
Vincent walked in first with the girl, followed by Ralph. He was surprised to find only Father and Mary sitting there.
Mary shot to her feet. “Let me see the poor dear.” She came around to Vincent’s side and gazed at the cherub face of the little girl. “Oh, Father. She’s adorable.”
Father grimaced. “Vincent, can you set her down on the blanket over there?”
Father quickly assessed her condition. “Well, she doesn’t seem to be undernourished.”
“Marci’s gotten her to eat. She was starving in the beginning, then she got kind of crampy there for a bit.”
Mary nodded. “Her clothing is in decent enough condition. I wonder if she just got lost.”
Ralph shook his head. “Father, I can assure you she was on the same park bench for close to five hours before I finally went to her.”
Mary gasped. “Well, she’s wet herself and she needs a bath. I need to go pick out a change of clothes for her. Vincent...”
Mary turned to him and noticed for the first time the wetness on his shirt from carrying the girl. “Go clean yourself up then ask William to give you some food. Some bread and jelly, maybe some cheese and a few cookies.”
Vincent nodded instantly, grateful he was being allowed to change his wet clothes. “Okay, I’ll do it right away, Mary.”
He turned to leave, and Father called him back. “Vincent, she wasn’t afraid of you, was she?”
Vincent chuckled. “Nope, she came right to me.”
Mary smiled. “It must be those kind eyes you have. Now, Vincent, please hurry along.”
Vincent rolled his eyes. “Yes, Mary.”
Mary came back and undressed the now awake young girl to give her a bath. Father watched for a few seconds then narrowed his eyes and carefully observed every move she made. Mary sang a whimsical tune trying to ease the girl’s nervousness.
Father shook his head with sympathy. “Mary, you can stop singing now.”
Mary turned to him in mock disgust. “I’m not that bad!”
Father shook his head again and smiled ruefully. “No, it’s not that. Mary, the child is deaf.”
Vincent walked in at that exact moment with a tray of food. The girl smiled up at him as he handed her a cookie. “Father, how can you tell?”
Father came up behind the girl and snapped his fingers right next to her ear. She never moved. Next he clapped loudly and whistled but the girl sat happily munching on her cookie.
Mary shook her head. “The poor dear, sweet child.”
Father nodded. “Yes. I can run some more tests, but I fear the results will be the same.”
Ralph shook his head. “Father, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. That explains why she was always so quiet. Perhaps I should turn her over to Child Protective Services...”
Vincent gasped. “No!”
“It’s okay, Vincent.” He turned to Ralph. “Ralph, don’t be silly. It changes nothing. The girl may still stay Below with us until we figure things out. Check back with us when you come back into town.”
Ralph nodded. “Okay.”
He came forward and bent down in front of the girl who smiled shyly at him. Ralph waved goodbye and the girl nodded like she understood. She waved to Ralph and watched him leave.
Vincent looked at him again. “Father, how will she tell us who she is?”
Father looked at his son. “Vincent, one of us will have to teach her sign language.”
Vincent had never met a deaf person before, and he looked at him curiously. “Sign language?”
Father nodded. “Uh huh. Sign language is a language that is spoken with various gestures of the hands. It is the way that deaf people communicate.”
Vincent looked intrigued. “Do we have books on it?”
“Yes, I believe they are upstairs in the last row behind the art books.”
Vincent headed immediately upstairs to look for the books. The little girl had her arms up, reaching for him and was soundlessly crying. Mary tried to pick up the girl but she slapped at Mary’s hands and cried harder.
“Vincent, she wants you. Do you mind?”
Vincent looked at the girl then back at Mary, clearly at a loss as to what was expected of him.
Mary chuckled. “She won’t hurt you, Vincent. C’mon take this towel and help me dry her off.”
Mary handed him a towel then picked up the girl and put her in his arms. Vincent held her while the girl smiled at him through the tears in her eyes. Mary dried her then reached out with the nightgown. The girl relented and allowed Mary to dress her.
Mary smiled and held her hands out, but the girl shook her head no and clutched at Vincent’s neck. Mary looked up at Vincent. “Will you feed her?”
Vincent was horrified. “Feed her? How?”
Father laughed. “My God, Vincent! You act as if you’ve never been around a child before! She’s old enough, just sit with her and offer her the food on the plate.”
Vincent sat with the little girl while she ate all of the cookies and some of the cheese. She was nibbling on crackers, and Vincent sighed as he watched the crumbs cover the front of his clean shirt.
Father and Mary hid their smiles. The young girl yawned, and Mary tried once again to reach for her. In desperation, the girl clung to Vincent’s shirt.
Vincent was exasperated. “Father!”
Father narrowed his eyes. “Vincent, perhaps if you read to her until she fell asleep we could separate her from you.”
Vincent protested. “But she can’t hear me.”
Father shook his head. “I realize that but she can feel the vibrations in your chest when you speak. It may help her to calm her down.”
Mary rushed to the children’s section of books. “Father, that’s a wonderful idea.” She came back with a book and handed it to Vincent. “Vincent, come over here and sit in the rocker with her. I promise she won’t make it through the entire book.”
Mary was wrong, and Vincent read through two books with the girl’s hand on his throat feeling the vibrations. He closed the last book and sighed in frustration as the girl watched him.
The girl turned in his arms and kissed his cheek then scooted from his lap and walked over to Mary with outstretched arms.
Mary picked her up, and the girl waved to Father and Vincent then put her head on Mary’s shoulder.
Mary smiled and sang as she walked the girl to her new bed.
The next morning, Vincent sat with a sign language book at breakfast. He was trying to learn the alphabet. The little girl ran to him and looked at the book. She paged through the book and pointed at the letters as Vincent spelled them out. She spelled out “Laura”.
Vincent went back and made the gestures. She looked at him and grinned. Vincent proudly told the room. “Hey, everyone, she just told me her name is Laura!”
Father came over immediately. “Vincent, are you sure?”
Vincent looked down at Laura. “Can you show me another word?”
Laura narrowed her eyes as she looked at Vincent’s unusual mouth then turned to the book. She spelled out the word “Mom.”
Father flipped through the pages and spelled out “Dad”. Laura shook her head and spelled out “Mom”.
Father smiled and fondly caressed Laura’s cheek. “Good girl, Laura.”
Mary had been standing there and kissed Laura then tickled her chest. Kelly, another young girl came over shyly and handed Laura her doll. Laura took it and smiled and followed Kelly to the other young kids.
Vincent looked up at Father. “This sign language is fascinating. I wouldn’t mind learning it and teaching it to Laura.”
Mary put her arm around him. “Vincent, that’s so kind of you.”
Over the next week, Vincent found every book he could get his hands on and taught himself sign language. He then sought out a helper who knew how to sign so he could perfect the language.
Vincent began the painstaking process of teaching Laura how to speak with her hands. He also taught her how to read lips. Vincent held classes for anyone who wanted to learn the language. Surprisingly most of the adults and some of the kids came to the classes. Father and Mary, to their credit, never missed a class. Out of all of the people Below they learned the most as they wanted to be able to care for Laura.
A few weeks into teaching Laura, Vincent was able to discover that her mom and dad had taken her to the park. Her mother was crying hysterically, and her father sat her on a bench and told her “no” and “stay”. Laura tried to follow them, but her father returned her to the bench each time. He finally spanked her, and she decided to sit there. After a few hours, she wet herself and sat and cried until she was found by Ralph and Marci.
Vincent was pulled back from his memories by the touch of the now grown up Laura’s hand. He smiled ruefully at her. “Laura, you have been doing well in your studies.”
Laura nodded her head and smiled at him shyly.
“Your education with us is almost completed. Do you know what direction you want your life to take?”
Laura sighed. She was going to have a hard time telling Vincent. He had been such a good friend, the big brother she never had.
Laura got up and began to pace. “I have something hard to tell you.”
She looked at Vincent for his answer.
“Then you must tell me so that your worries can be put to rest.” Vincent took a step closer to Laura and grabbed her hand. “Laura, nothing you can tell me will change my feelings for you. I’ll help you with whatever it is that is troubling you so.”
“I want to live Above.”
Vincent nodded in understanding. “Lately you’ve been spending a lot of time Above.”
Laura nodded and smiled. “Yes, it’s so…exciting up there, everything happening at one time.”
“Do you mean to further your education?”
She shook her head no. “I thought that maybe I could work, get a regular job for a while and then decide.”
Vincent cocked his head. “It’ll be a challenge, are you prepared to work very hard to live the way that you wish?” He smiled when she nodded yes. “Then maybe we can ask a helper to make your transition a little easier. I’ll talk to Father, and together we’ll come up with someone who can help. When would you like to go?”
She shrugged helplessly.
He nodded. “I’ll go speak to Father tonight.”
Laura smiled and picked up her coat and put it on.
Vincent touched her arm. “You’re going Above…so late?”
When she rolled her eyes he smiled, he realized he was starting to sound like Father.
“William asked me to pick up his order of fruit at the market.”
“The world above is exciting, Laura, but it can also be dangerous, especially at night. Be safe.”
She nodded and they left the room together, each going a different way.
Laura went above to Stan’s grocery store for the delivery.
Stan greeted her warmly. “Laura, how are you?”
Laura had gotten good at reading lips and was able to communicate with many helpers. She nodded that she was okay and pointed at Stan.
“Me? I’m just fine; thanks for asking. What can I do for you?” Stan thought for a second then answered his own question. “I bet you’re here to pick up fruit for William.”
Laura nodded and smiled. Stan motioned for her to follow him, and together they brought the food to the front of the store.
Stan touched Laura’s shoulder and turned her to face him. “It’s awfully late. Would you like me to walk home with you?”
Laura held up her hands and shook her head. She motioned to the clock and then laughed and showed him that she was an adult.
Stan laughed as he caressed her cheek and waved his hand waist high then above her head. “But I still think of you as a little girl…I’ve forgotten you’re a grown up. You be careful, okay?”
Laura nodded, picked up the fruit and headed out. She turned at the door and nodded goodbye. As she walked through the streets, she spotted a big bag of things lying on the ground next to a trash can. She stopped and foraged through the bag then looked inside the garbage can.
She was always amazed that the people Above often threw away perfectly good items, most of the nicest things Below were acquired from the world Above. If a good item was found, it was brought down and cleaned. If the person who found it didn’t want it, the item was offered to another in the community, or it was saved for the future. Very little was wasted Below.
Down the block, Yates was walking from a bar with Perotta. Danny was telling him to put the stolen cocaine back in the property department. Yates assured him that he would, then walked with him to his car; but after Danny sat down, Yates shot him in the head.
Laura was in an alleyway digging through the bag when she saw a flash out of the corner of her eye. She looked up and saw a man shoot two more times into a car, killing the person who was inside.
In fear, Laura stepped back and knocked over the garbage can and drew the killer’s attention to her. Their eyes met, and he knew that he had been seen. Laura ran and the man chased after her. Luckily she was able to get away.
She ran straight home through the tunnels and flew into Vincent’s arms, crying hysterically. Vincent held her tightly, desperately trying to offer her comfort.
Pascal came up to them and frowned as he looked down at Laura. “Is she okay?”
Vincent caught Pascal’s eye over Laura’s head and shrugged. “I’m taking her to her chamber. Tell Father I’ll be late for our meeting.”
Vincent led her to her chamber and sat her on the bed. She cried and cried until finally her tears were spent. He wrapped a blanket around her shoulders and offered to get her some tea. She declined the tea and sat there looking forlornly at the floor.
Vincent sat in a chair across from her and took her hands in his. “Laura, are you all right?”
She nodded. “I am now,” she thought.
Vincent tried to get her to talk about it. “Can you tell me what has upset you so?”
She sighed and nodded as she took a deep breath. “I picked up the fruit for William, and I started walking home. I saw a bag on top of a garbage can and it looked like there were good clothes in it so I stopped and started going through it. I saw a flash and looked up and saw a guy shoot someone that was sitting in a car. I backed away but tripped over the garbage can and he saw me and came after me. I ran and barely got away.”
“Laura, you were not harmed?”
“No, when I tripped and fell, I felt something pass over my head. I got up and continued to run, I was never so afraid.”
Vincent put his arm around her. “You have a right to be afraid. Laura, are you sure you’re not injured?”
Laura shook her head. “No, I just wanted to get home. I ran so hard. I just wanted to get here.” Laura thought for a moment. “I dropped the fruit. There were about a dozen fresh oranges. I’ll have to apologize to William.”
“Laura, don’t be sorry. It’s you we care about. William would easily give up a few oranges if it meant your safety.” Vincent noticed how tired she looked. “You’re home and safe now. Why don’t you try to get some rest?”
“Would you like me to send for Mary or someone else?”
She shook her head.
She smiled back at him. “Goodnight, Vincent.”
Father looked up when Vincent came into the library. “Vincent, Pascal told me that Laura was hysterical tonight when she came back from Above. Has something happened?”
“Yes, Father. Laura witnessed a murder. The killer came after her, and I believe he may have shot at her.”
Father rose to her feet. “Dear God, is she okay?”
Vincent nodded. “Yes, she is, Father, please sit. I’ve been with Laura all this time, comforting her, talking to her. She’s resting now.”
Father blew out his breath. “Good, with something that traumatic happening to her, she’ll need her rest. I’ll ask Mary to check in on her periodically tonight. Her chamber is so close to Laura’s.”
“Father, Laura is not a child anymore. If something is bothering her, she knows she can come to any one of us for comfort or advice. Please don’t trouble Mary tonight. With all the little ones brought Below she barely gets enough rest as it is.”
Father chuckled. “Perhaps you’re right. Mary would still be checking on you if I hadn’t stopped her.”
Vincent looked up in amusement and cocked his head curiously. “When did you finally stop her?”
“When you were ten.”
Father and Vincent chuckled over Mary’s instinct to mother.
Father grew serious. “Laura wasn’t seen entering the tunnels was she?”
Vincent shook his head. “I don’t believe so, she never mentioned it. She knows to be careful. I can’t believe that she would be careless, even though she was that upset.”
Father shrugged. “Still, we can’t be too sure.”
“I’ll send word to the sentries to be extra diligent tonight.”
Father nodded, satisfied with the answer. “Thank you.”
Vincent stood. “It’s late, Father. I’ll see you in the morning.”
The next day, Laura was feeling better and headed to the library. She wanted to read the time schedule for the movies. The front page was about the arrest of the man who had shot a police officer last night. Laura knew it was the murder she witnessed. She gasped when she realized the man that was arrested was not the man who committed the murder. They had the wrong man in custody.
She came to Vincent’s chamber with the newspaper in her hand. She told him the wrong man had been caught. She was certain the article was about the murder she had witnessed. The killer was not the black man they had taken into custody, the man she saw doing the shooting was a white man.
She paced the room angrily. “It’s not fair the wrong man is being punished.”
“I agree, but his innocence must be proven.”
“I could prove it. I could tell my story.”
“You would do that?”
Laura nodded bravely. “Sure, if I knew it would help catch the real murderer; it’s the right thing to do.”
“It’s good that you came to me. You’ve heard me speak about my friend Catherine. She works in the District Attorney’s office. If I contact her, she’ll help us through this.”
As the reality of what she was about to do sank in, Laura turned to him. “I’m afraid. I don’t want to have to see him again.”
“Don’t be afraid. You’re not alone. I promise.”
Laura looked at him uncertainly. “Do you trust Catherine?”
“With my life. She will take care of you, Laura. If she’s with you, it’ll be the same as if I were there with you.”
Laura let out the breath she had been holding. When she had been brought Below, Vincent was the first person she decided to trust. He had been there for her every step of the way. How could she not trust him now? If he trusted this Catherine woman, how could she not?
She nodded towards Vincent.
Catherine was at work the next day and saw that Joe was getting ready for a press conference. There was major coverage on the Curtis Jackson case because it had been a cop that he was accused of murdering.
Joe nervously paced in his office, going over his statement in his head. Catherine came in and pretended his clothing was in shambles.
“Joe, it would probably be a good idea to fix your tie.”
“You’re funny, Radcliffe.”
Joe straightened his tie then looked at the clock. “Why are you harassing me? I’ve got ten minutes before they start showing up.”
Catherine chuckled. “Why are you so nervous? Joe, we did good work. Curtis Jackson was apprehended in record time. You should be proud! You’re delivering the best news in the world.”
Joe shrugged. “I just don’t want to appear like a bumbling fool.” He nervously tried to straighten his tie and Catherine came forward and did it for him. “Hey, Radcliffe, how do you know how to do this?”
Catherine shook her head as she chuckled. “Because every boy I ever went to school with ruined their tie at lunch recess. The girls always helped them so they wouldn’t get into trouble. Although, I don’t know why we ever helped them, they still pulled our hair.”
Joe smiled. “Thank God, for prep schools.”
He put on his jacket and looked respectable. Catherine went out to see if the reporters were ready. When she came back she motioned for Joe through the window then followed him and stood in the back of the room while Joe delivered the news.
The conference was over and the mood in the office that day was upbeat.
At lunch, Benny brought a sandwich which contained a note from Vincent. He requested that she meet him at the threshold in the park that night at 9:00.
It had been about two weeks since Catherine had seen him. She wondered what prompted his note. Why he wasn’t coming to her balcony to meet her. She shrugged and went back to work. “I’ll find out soon enough,” she thought.
Later that night, Catherine walked to meet Vincent.
She smiled up at him. “Hi, Vincent, it’s good to see you.”
He nodded back. “Thank you for coming.”
“I would always come if you asked me to.” She came over and offered him a hug while he blushed. She noticed and changed the subject. “How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been well. How have you been?”
She smiled. “I’ve been doing okay. The effects of the drug Alexander gave me took a few days to wear off, but I’ve gotten a lot of sleep lately.”
Vincent shyly lowered his head. “I’ve come by a few times and noticed you asleep. I’m glad you’re feeling better.”
Catherine sighed. “You should have woken me up. I’ve missed you.”
“You’ve needed the rest and I...missed you as well.”
Catherine knew he was embarrassed by his admission and moved to change the subject. “But that’s not the reason you called me here.”
Vincent shook his head. “No it’s not. There was an article in the newspaper about a man who was being charged with murdering a police officer.”
“Yes, it happened last night. Tony Perotta was the officer that was killed. The police apprehended the killer. They found the murder weapon in his apartment and he has a motive. Joe had a press conference and released a statement this morning. I wish all the cases were this easy.”
“Catherine, I hate to make your job harder but unfortunately the wrong man was charged with murder.”
Catherine looked at him incredulously. “What do you mean the wrong man?”
“Laura, a young woman that lives here Below, witnessed the murder.”
Catherine gasped. “She witnessed it?”
“Yes, she came home terrified. The killer tried to come after her as well, but she got away.”
Catherine was shocked at the turn of events. “Vincent, are you sure? Is she sure?”
Vincent nodded. “Yes.”
Catherine walked around and her lawyer’s mind had her looking at all the possible angles. “Is she old enough to believe her story? Do you trust her?”
“Laura is a young woman ready to strike out on her own. She’s never been one to fabricate stories, and I trust her implicitly.”
“How long have you known her?”
He turned and sighed. “When Laura first came to us she was only a child, alone, frightened. Her parents had abandoned her in the park. I suppose they wanted a normal daughter. But there was a friend, a helper who brought her to us where it was safe, where she could know love. I remember in the beginning, she used to collect things, keep them on her bedside table. Alarm clocks, bells, buzzers…and she would hold them to her ear feeling their vibrations, trying to hear their stolen sounds. It broke my heart.”
Catherine sympathized with him. “And you became her teacher?”
“I became her friend.”
Catherine wondered how they would get a statement from her. “Can she speak at all?”
Vincent nodded. “She speaks with her hands, a beautiful language.”
“And she told you she saw this murder?” Catherine continued after he nodded. “How can she be sure it wasn’t the same man?”
Vincent shrugged. “The man she saw was not a black man.”
“Vincent, the evidence they have against him is overwhelming, is she positive?”
“She is not mistaken. She knows what this might mean...”
Catherine finished for him. “...Coming forward to tell her story?”
Catherine shrugged. “I’ll do everything I can to make that unnecessary but Vincent, I don’t think there’s any other way.”
“She knows. I’ve told her about you, about how I trust you. She is afraid, but she knows I wouldn’t let any harm come to her. If I trust you, so will she.”
Catherine nodded and smiled up at him. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“That’s all I can ask, Catherine.”
“It was good to see you, Vincent.”
He hung his head shyly and peeked up at her. “It was good to see you as well.”
“Tell Laura I’ll be in touch.”
Vincent nodded as Catherine smiled and walked out, and he watched her leave. He knew she would do everything in her power to protect Laura. He also realized that Laura was going to have to come forward to tell her story and it would be a long hard process.
Father and Vincent talked extensively about Laura’s decision.
Father didn’t think Laura needed to testify. The murder had nothing to do with their world.
Vincent believed that if Laura wanted to live in the world Above she would need to learn to live within their rules. Besides, the fact was that an innocent man sat in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Vincent reminded Father that he should know how that man felt.
Vincent thought the decision should be Laura’s, and he brought her to the library to talk with Father and him. The two men assured her that she would always be welcome back Below, even if she chose to live Above. It was her life, and she could decide what she wanted to do with it.
Meanwhile, Catherine met with Curtis Jackson, the man accused of the policeman’s murder. He said he didn’t do it and she believed him. Next, she went to the police station to talk to Tony’s partner, Detective Keller. She told him that she didn’t believe Curtis Jackson killed his partner. She told him they may have an eye witness to the crime. Keller became visibly upset at the news she gave him. He glanced briefly up at Yates and Davis then covered up for his behavior by saying he was still upset over his partner’s death and was having a hard time processing what she had just told him.
Joe sat at his desk and absentmindedly picked up the ringing phone. “Maxwell.”
“Yeah, Joe, it’s Denny Williams.”
“Hey, Denny. What’s up?”
“You trying to get Jackson released?”
Joe put down his pen. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You sent your broad down here sniffing around trying to get the charges against Curtis Jackson dropped.”
Joe shook his head in exasperation. “Broad? Who the hell are you talking about? Damn it, Denny, start over.”
“Chandler came down here and told Keller she didn’t think Curtis Jackson killed his partner.”
Joe exploded. “She what?!”
“Yeah, half the precinct is furious. Keller is sick about the whole thing. Poor guy, his partner is gunned down and they catch the killer and some ditzy broad who’s supposed to be on our side is gonna get him off the hook. What kinda game are you guys playing up there?”
“You tell everyone I said Curtis Jackson is going to rot in prison for this crime. I’ll straighten Chandler out!” Joe roared back into the phone.
“Yeah, well, tell Chandler I said she better not call here for help anytime soon!”
Joe tapped his pen against the desk then threw it down. He grabbed a rubber band and twisted it in his hands as he paced waiting for Catherine to come in.
Catherine finally went back to the office and Joe flew out of his office to confront her.
“Chandler, you got a second?”
She started to walk towards him when he grabbed her arm and roughly pushed her along towards her desk.
“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
She struggled to free herself from his grip. “Let go of my arm, Joe.”
He looked at her angrily. “No, you answer me.”
Surprised at him manhandling her she flung her arm away from him, shocked by his unusual behavior.
“You know, Cathy, I don’t understand you. Yesterday everything is beautiful, we close a major investigation like a text book, and today…today I find out you’ve been sniffing around behind my back.”
She knew he meant the Perotta’s case, and she pleaded with him to understand. “Joe, I only waited so I could bring you something solid.”
“I’m having second thoughts.”
“Why didn’t you come to me yesterday with your second thoughts?”
She grew angry. “Because yesterday I didn’t know there was a witness.” When she noticed the shocked look on his face she continued. “There was a witness, Joe.”
Joe motioned to his office. “Come inside.” He turned to her after she entered behind him. “Can you produce this witness?”
Catherine shook her head. “Not yet.”
“You know, Cathy, I’ve been at this game a little longer than you and we got a cop killer here...an open and shut case, and you’re blowing it.”
Catherine wondered what Joe was thinking. “What about due process, Joe? What about reasonable doubt? Or do you just want me to hang Curtis Jackson now and save you the trouble?”
“You still don’t get it do you? Jackson killed a cop.”
Catherine stared at him in disbelief. “And if he’s innocent? Does that make a difference?!” Joe flinched, and she lowered her head to stare into his eyes. “Does that make a difference?”
Joe pinned her with a gaze. “Cathy, leave this alone for your sake.”
Catherine was disgusted with him and the circumstances of the case. “My sake? Isn’t there some sort of hidden agenda we’re not talking about...like how the truth might make for an embarrassing press conference?”
Joe looked at her with distrust, thoughts flowing through his mind. “How could she believe any of this? How could she let this guy get away with killing a cop? Why was she trying to defend this guy?”
He looked at her angrily. “You know my father was a cop, up in the south Bronx, fifty-second precinct. He was getting off from work one morning, two guys jumped him. They took his gun and his watch and they slit his throat. Yeah, and they left him there to bleed to death. There was no arrest, nobody went to trial. They were fourteen years old; so was I.”
Joe got up to walk away, leaving Catherine shocked at the story he just told her. She tried to call him back to talk to her about it but he ignored her and kept on walking.
She sighed as she walked to her desk. She looked around at the faces in the office and balked when most of her colleagues looked the other way. She frowned in disgust and sat at her desk and for the rest of the day ignoring everyone.
She was surprised when she looked up from her work and the janitor was standing there.
“Hi, Cathy, you lost track of the time again?”
“I guess I did.”
Carl looked in to Joe’s office then back at her. “Where’s your partner? You two are always here together.”
Catherine shrugged sadly. “He must have bailed on me early.”
She reached in her desk and grabbed her purse then turned off her light. “I’ll get out of your way.”
“You’re not in my way, Sweetie but you should be at home cuddled up with your man.”
Catherine thought of Vincent and smiled. “That’d be nice. Goodnight, Carl.”
Catherine walked home that night after work. She was really bothered by the things that Joe had told her. She wished she could have told him about Laura, but she promised Vincent she would do whatever she could to keep Laura from having to testify.
As she let herself into her apartment and turned to lock the door, she was grabbed from behind and flung across the room. Her cheek hit the wall and she cried out in pain. She was grabbed again, and her arms were held behind her as someone struck her across the mouth, splitting her lip.
She hung her head in pain and the man’s voice warned her. “The only thing worse than a cop killer…is somebody who covers up for one; back off!”
He proceeded to punch her in the stomach, and she doubled over and fell to the floor. As she lay there, he kicked her in the ribs and the two men left together.
Vincent was on his way to see her when he felt her first burst of fear. He ran and within minutes jumped down on her balcony. Without a second thought, he entered her apartment and desperately searched the room for her. As she tried to get up, Catherine cried out in pain and he ran to her side. He found her on the floor still struggling to get up. He bent over and held her by the shoulders and tried to support her but she quickly fell back down. He swept her up in his arms and carried her into her bedroom then carefully set her down on the bed.
Catherine moaned in pain as she held her stomach.
“Should I call for an ambulance?”
“Catherine, you should be examined.”
She gasped but shook her head and looked at him pleadingly. “Will you lock the front door?” He looked at her quizzically as she explained. “They could come back!”
Vincent quickly walked through her apartment and flipped the deadbolt and secured all of the chains. He frowned when he noticed that the door had been damaged where the lock was forced open. He thought about sending one of the men from Below to fix it in the morning.
He remembered noticing the blood trickling off Catherine’s lips and he turned and walked quickly to the kitchen. He found two bowls in her cupboards and filled one with cold water and the other one with ice. He walked back to the bed and placed the bowls on her nightstand and, with a quick glance at her, went to her bathroom and found two washcloths which he quickly wet then wrung out the excess water. After he walked back to the bed and knelt down by the side, he grabbed the ice cubes and placed then within one washcloth and held it to her bruised cheek. She moaned but smiled at him weakly as she took it from him and held it securely. Vincent applied the other wet cloth to her lip, dabbing lightly at the blood from the cut on the side of her mouth.
Catherine winced in pain and Vincent looked at her apologetically. “I’m sorry, Catherine, I know it hurts.”
“It’s okay, Vincent, it’s not your fault.”
“Perhaps, you should call the police.”
Catherine snorted ruefully. “I think they just left.”
Vincent stared in disbelief. “You think the ones who came here to hurt you are police officers?”
“I’m not real popular right now. Everyone wants this cop killer case settled, and I’m rocking the boat. They’re not real happy with me.”
“So you think that they did this to you because you’re trying to find the real killer?”
She nodded. “Seems like it.”
Vincent sighed as he continued to dab gently at her lip. “What about calling your friend, Joe?”
She grimaced with despair. “He probably wouldn’t come. He’s mad at me too. I guess I get to go this one alone.”
“You’re never alone, Catherine. I’ll always be here for you.”
“Thank you. Vincent.” A thought struck Catherine and she looked at him quizzically. “How did you get here so quickly?”
“I was already near the basement of your apartment when I felt your fear, then the pain. I got here as quickly as I could.” He hung his head in shame. “I’m sorry, in my haste to help you I just let myself in. I was surprised the balcony doors were unlocked.”
“Vincent, the doors to the balcony haven’t been locked since the first night you came to see me. You’re always welcome in my apartment...feel free to enter it anytime you want.”
His head shot up at the unexpected news. Catherine looked at him as he dabbed at her bruises with the cold cloth. She gasped in pain as she grabbed her stomach and scooted over on the bed.
“You’ve been hurt somewhere else?”
“My stomach, one of the men kicked me after I fell to the floor.”
“You could have a broken rib; you really should see a doctor.”
Catherine frowned and thought for a moment before she shook her head. “I don’t think so...I had broken ribs that night in the park when you found me and my stomach aches right now but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as painful as that time.”
“If you’re sure...”
“If I’m not better by tomorrow, I’ll go see my doctor.”
Catherine felt safe in the knowledge that Vincent was near and no harm would come to her, and she eventually began to relax. The bruise on her cheek quit throbbing, so she handed him the cloth with the ice.
Vincent looked carefully at the bruise and was satisfied that some of the swelling had gone down. He nodded and dropped the ice in a bowl but kept the cool cloth on her forehead. As the pain took its toll, her eyes drifted closed and she fell into a light sleep. Vincent kept reapplying the cool cloth until he felt certain that she was asleep. He removed the cloth, smoothing her hair away from her face then stood and backed away slowly, intending to leave.
Catherine’s eyes flew open with fear as she searched frantically for him. “Vincent, don’t go!” she pleaded. “I need you close.”
He walked back to her and knelt by her side. “I’ll watch over you. Don’t worry, sleep now.”
She closed her eyes and slowly went back to sleep, comforted by his continued presence.
Vincent leaned against the wall watching her sleep. His thoughts were centered on this beautiful woman. “Who could have done this to her? What kind of an animal would beat a woman like this? Where did she find the strength to go on? What had she meant when she said she was alone in this? Why didn’t she think Joe would come help her if she needed him?”
He eventually sat on the steps leading out to the balcony. He took a moment to look around the room and notice the beautiful furnishings. He realized that he would never be able to give her anything that she didn’t already have or anything that could equal the beauty of the things she already possessed. He acknowledged that she lived with a level of wealth that he could only dream of. He thought of his own chamber of mismatched odds and ends and grimaced when he wondered what she must have thought about seeing them for the first time.
She whimpered, and he was pulled from his musings. He whispered to her from across the room. “I’m here, you’re safe.”
She quieted immediately, and he watched over her until the sun began to rise. Because he had been sitting in the same position for almost six hours, he stiffly rose to his feet. He looked out and knew he had to leave while he still could. With one last glance and a deep sigh, he turned and left her.
Vincent headed Below and straight to the library. He knew Father would be worried and want to know he was back.
Father looked up with a mixture of worry and relief. “Vincent, do you have any idea what time it is?”
“I believe that by the position of the sun it is almost six.”
Father stood up angrily. “And where have you been all night?”
“I was with Catherine.”
This news hardly calmed Father down. “All night?! Have you gone mad? You could have been seen!”
“I was inside her apartment.” Vincent realized what this sounded like and rolled his eyes then quickly added. “Catherine was beaten by men in her apartment last night, when I got there she was lying on the floor.”
Father grew immediately concerned. “Dear God, is she okay?”
“She is now. She was kicked in the ribs, but I don’t believe any were broken. She was also struck and had a split lip and a bruise on her cheekbone.”
Father gasped. “What did the police say to her?”
“She refused to call the police.”
“Because you were there?”
Vincent shook his head. “No, she believes it was police who did this to her. She said they didn’t like her looking for evidence as to who the real killer of that police officer was.”
Father shook his head and muttered something unintelligible, then looked at Vincent. “So, how was she when you left?”
“She slept through the night. She stirred a few times, but my presence seemed to comfort her; so I sat with her while she slept.”
“Well, you must be very tired. Why don’t you try to get a few hours of sleep? I’ll see if Mouse or Jamie will cover your sentry duty for this morning.”
“Thank you, Father. Tell them I’ll take their turn for them tomorrow.”
Vincent left and headed for his chamber. He climbed into bed and searched the bond but it was quiet. “She must still be sleeping,” he thought as he drifted off to sleep.
Catherine woke the next morning to find she was pretty sore. Her ribs hurt and the bruise on her face was turning black and blue. She stripped her clothes off and noticed an even larger bruise on her rib cage. She got into the shower and let the hot water soothe her muscles. After she got dressed, she sat in front of her make-up mirror and carefully applied makeup, hiding most of the bruise on her cheek.
Her thoughts were on Vincent. She was so thankfulhe was there for her last night. He was her safety net, the one constant in her life, and she was grateful for his friendship.
She forced her mind to go back to the case and knew the only way to catch the real killer was to get Laura to tell her story so she composed a letter and sent it Below.
Vincent read the letter he received from Catherine.
Thanks for being with me last night. You can’t know how comforted I felt by your presence. I’m sore but doing much better this morning.
In lieu of recent events, I believe I will have to bring Laura in to testify. If she is still willing to do so, let me know and I’ll have it arranged.
She can stay at my apartment with me if she likes.
Vincent read the letter to Laura who agreed to come Above. She also told him she would like to stay with Catherine at her apartment while the interrogation process took place, and Vincent sent word to Catherine.
Laura has agreed to all the terms. Please advise.
You slept peacefully enough, and I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better.
Catherine was on her way into the office when Vincent’s note was placed in her hands. She wanted to pick up the files for the case and arrange for all the people who needed to be at the interrogation.
Edie came over at noon with some information Catherine needed. Catherine looked up distractedly from her desk and smiled. “Thanks, Edie.”
Edie gasped. “Girlfriend! What the heck happened to you?”
Catherine looked around at the people in the office who looked over when Edie had loudly asked her question. She knew several of them had seen her bruise, but despite the fact that they were curious, they would never ask.
Edie grew impatient. “Well?!”
“Someone was in my apartment last night when I got home.” She held her hand up and waved it in front of her face. She knew a few of the people with desks close to hers would hear and news would spread through the office. “I think this is a warning to back off the Perotta case.”
She noticed a few looks of sympathy, but most of the people shook their heads and turned away.
“What did the police say about it?”
Catherine shrugged. “I didn’t call them. They wouldn’t help me right now anyway.”
Edie shook her head angrily. “Idiots. Well, what’s Joe doing about it?”
“I haven’t seen Joe yet. I don’t think he even knows it happened. He’s been avoiding me all day.”
Edie glanced up angrily. “Well that fool is gonna hear it from me!”
Catherine reached out with her hand and grabbed her sleeve effectively stopping Edie. “No! This has nothing to do with him. I’m working on the investigation even though he told me not to. I’ll take the repercussions on myself.”
“Getting beat up is not a repercussion, Cath!”
Catherine expelled a long breath. “I guess this time it is. Edie, promise me you won’t say anything.”
Catherine immersed herself back into her files. She skipped lunch and ate a light snack at her desk.
At the end of the day, she looked up at Joe’s door and sighed. They had avoided each other all day. She knew she would have to turn in her work because he had been waiting for two days for these files. She went over to his door and knocked.
His voice called out from inside. “Come in.”
He answered her but didn’t look up from his file. “Hey.”
“So this was how it’s going to be,” she thought. “I have those files you wanted on the Halinsky case and the one for the Gordy case. I just finished...”
Joe interrupted her rudely but never looked up. “Yeah, put them in the inbox like everyone else does.”
Catherine was shocked. These cases were top priority next to the Perotta case. She couldn’t believe Joe was treating them with such indifference. Two days ago he had been hounding her for them.
Catherine hoped her latest news would help break the ice. “I’m taking my witness for the Perotta case over to the fifty-second tomorrow. She’s going to testify.”
Catherine was furious. “Yeah!”
Her angry tone got his attention and he finally looked up. He blinked in surprise at the bruises on her face. “What happened to you?” His voice showed his concern.
“Two men were in my apartment last night when I came home. They wanted to warn me off the case.”
He looked away guiltily. “You call the police?”
“I think it was the police.”
Joe didn’t know how to respond, and he looked down in shame at his desk. He felt bad that Catherine was hurt, but he still didn’t believe she had a legitimate witness. His voice softened anyway “Yeah, well, nobody likes a cop killer. Why are you telling me this anyway? What do you want from me?”
“I was wondering if you’d come down when my witness is interrogated?”
She shrugged. “Because I’m asking you to.”
He looked up at her, a retort on his lips. In the interest of their friendship, he stopped himself from making it. “What time?”
“Yeah, I’ll be there.”
She went to leave and he called her back. “Where did you find this witness anyway?”
Catherine sighed. “She spends a lot of her time on the streets. She was going through the garbage when she saw the guy shoot Perotta.”
“She’s a street kid! God, Chandler! How can you believe the word of a street kid?”
She narrowed her eyes at Joe. “Not all street people are drunks or addicts, Joe. This is just a good kid who needs a break. She’s not on anything and she’s not lying!”
“Look, I said I’ll be there. I just don’t want you to be too disappointed when they discover this girl is wrong.” Catherine angrily turned to leave, and Joe called her back yet again. “Cathy…”
He stood and walked around to the front of his desk and looked at her with real concern. “You are okay, aren’t you?”
Catherine’s mood softened at his kindness. “I’ll heal.”
“So, what really happened? You came home and they were in your apartment?”
“Yeah, I went to turn on the lights and someone threw me against the wall.” Catherine pointed to her cheek. “I stopped against it with my face. Another guy grabbed me from behind and held my arms while the first guy hit me across the face and split my lip then he threatened me.”
“Yeah? What’d he say?”
Catherine sighed. “He told me the only thing worse than a cop killer is someone who covers up for one. He told me to back off! Then he punched me in the stomach. I fell to the floor; and just for good measure, he kicked me in the ribs, then they left.”
Joe groaned. “Look, I’m sorry. Really sorry. You made a lot of cops angry yesterday.”
“That’s why I didn’t bother to call. They probably wouldn’t have come anyway.”
“Look it could have been anyone...it might not have been the police.”
“You go to the doctor?”
Catherine shook her head. “No, I...a friend came over and stayed with me until I fell asleep.”
“Want me to call in some favors. I can try and find someone from another precinct to help?”
“No. Once my witness testifies, the truth will be out there.”
Catherine headed back to her desk. On top of it, a note was left that cryptically told her where she could meet Laura.
Later that night, Catherine left to go pick up Laura. She brought her back to her apartment and they sat talking in the living room.
Catherine looked at Laura so she could read her lips. “Tomorrow you’ll have to give a statement to the police. After that it might be a little rough, the deposition and the trial. Lawyers are not always the nicest people. What you’re doing is very brave.”
Laura pointed at Catherine, indicating her too.
Catherine disagreed. “I’m not so brave.”
Laura pointed at the bruise on Catherine’s face and indicated a ‘why’ gesture.
“Why? Because no one wants me on this case except me.”
Laura pointed at herself and nodded.
Catherine smiled. “Until now.”
Laura made a gesture and Catherine couldn’t follow it. Laura pretended to write on her hand. Catherine found a pad of paper and pencil. She handed it to Laura who wrote:
Catherine read it and thanked her. Laura taught her how to sign the word “Thank you”.
Catherine took a sip of her hot chocolate then turned again to face Laura. “Do have any questions about tomorrow?”
Laura took the paper and wrote “Who?”
Catherine read it and looked up. “Who…will be there?” Laura nodded so Catherine continued. “I’ll be there, an interpreter for you, and a person who types on a machine that records what we say, another man will videotape it on a camera, the lead detective, my boss.”
Laura nodded and smiled. “Too bad Vincent couldn’t be my interpreter.”
Catherine laughed. “I’d like him there too!”
Laura looked at Catherine for a moment then wrote. “Vincent cares about you.”
Catherine smiled. “I care about him too…very much.”
Laura cocked her head then wrote. “Do you love him?”
Catherine blushed then nodded. She grabbed Laura’s hand. “Laura, I’ve never told him I love him. I let it slip to Father one day, but I’d like the next person who hears it to be Vincent.”
“When did I know I love him?”
Laura shook her head and motioned with her hand like it was a puppet talking. Catherine guessed the gesture correctly. “When am I going to tell him?” Laura eagerly nodded. Catherine looked down and shrugged then looked back at Laura again. “When he’s ready to hear it?”
Laura motioned to her wrist.
Catherine was confused. “You want to know what time it is?”
Laura shook her head and wrote on the paper. “He’s ready now.”
Catherine gasped. She knew Laura meant that Vincent was ready to hear her say it now. “Oh, Laura! If I could only believe that!”
Catherine looked at her watch then motioned for Laura to follow her.
She showed her where the bathroom was and the shower. Laura pointed to the shower and Catherine put out fresh towels for her and showed her how to work the faucet.
While Laura showered, Catherine put fresh sheets on the sleeper sofa for her. Then headed to her closet and brought out a dress for Laura, hoping it would fit her.
Laura walked out of the bathroom and Catherine showed her the dress. Laura knew it was meant for her to wear and held it up in front of her. It looked like it would fit perfectly. It was the nicest clothing item she had ever seen. With a look of relief that she would not look like a street urchin, she smiled at Catherine, who nodded back in understanding.
Catherine smiled and motioned to the bed for Laura then noticed she had put on a thick heavy nightgown. Catherine laughed, knowing the poor girl would roast in it. She went to her dresser and brought out one of her less elegant nightgowns. She handed it to Laura who looked at her quizzically.
Catherine smiled. “Laura, you’ll get too hot in that gown.”
She had made a gesture indicating she was overheated. Laura looked at her gown and smiled ruefully then nodded. She took the gown and went back in the bathroom to change.
Laura came out soon enough. She nodded at Catherine and made the motion of putting her head on a pillow.
Catherine smiled. “Me, too! Goodnight.”
The next morning, Catherine showered and got ready then woke Laura. They had some coffee and ate toast together.
Catherine reached out her hand to touch Laura’s. “Are you ready for this?”
Laura sighed and nodded.
“Well, let’s go.”
They went down to the police station and entered the interrogation room together. Joe looked aggravated but made the introductions and sat down. He still thought this was a waste of time. He was positive Curtis Jackson was the cop killer.
Detective Snyder started to talk, and Catherine reminded him that Laura was deaf. She looked angrily at each person in the room. “No one in this room speaks without facing her first.”
Laura visibly relaxed. Catherine was a strong woman who commanded respect and got it. She wouldn’t let anything happen to her.
Laura told her story, and the interpreter relayed the information. The detective stopped her and leaned over to Joe. He told Joe that Laura was providing information that wasn’t made public. He looked meaningfully at Joe. “I think we got the real thing here.”
Joe leaned back in his chair surprised. He was starting to question his ideas about Catherine’s witness. He listened intently to her complete testimony. “Wow, was I wrong,” he thought.
The interrogation was finished, and as Catherine and Laura were leaving Catherine received a phone call. She sat Laura in a chair while she went to answer the call.
Laura sat looking around the station and her gaze focused on the face of the murderer. He was walking towards her. She was scared and got up to run when she was grabbed by another man and taken to a waiting car.
Catherine came back to find that Laura had disappeared. She searched frantically outside and decided to see if Laura had gone back to the tunnels. She went to the park entrance and tapped out a message.
Kipper came to see her. “Hi, Catherine.”
“Hi, Kipper. I’m sorry to bother you but I need to see, Vincent.”
“He’s working in the lower tunnels today. Let me take you to his chamber and on the way we’ll call him to meet us there.”
Catherine followed Kipper and half way there he tapped out a message to Vincent.
Catherine leaned forward. “Kipper, can you ask Laura to meet us there too?”
Kipper did as instructed then left Catherine alone in Vincent’s chamber. She paced restlessly until he showed up.
The second Vincent stood in the doorway Catherine ran to him desperately. “Is Laura here?”
Vincent shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve been working in the lower tunnels all day.”
“Can you find out?”
Sensing the urgency in her request, he took her hand. “Catherine, I thought Laura was with you. Tell me what’s happened.”
“I don’t know. Laura gave her statement, it went beautifully. We were leaving and I got a phone call, and when I got back she was gone. I was gone two minutes Vincent! Two minutes!”
Vincent stopped and tapped out a message on the pipes.
“If Laura is here someone will send me a message.”
They waited for what seemed like two hours but in reality was only ten minutes.
“Catherine, stay here in case Laura comes. I’ll be right back.”
Catherine sat on his bed, and Vincent walked to Father’s chamber.
“Father, have you seen or heard from Laura?”
Father looked up from his ledger. “Vincent, I believe she is still with Catherine, although I thought I heard a message...”
Vincent interrupted him. “Father, Catherine is Below searching for Laura. Laura gave her deposition today and left while Catherine received a phone call. Now no one seems to know where she is.”
“Vincent, if I hear from her I will certainly have her see you immediately. Please, try not to worry. I’m sure she is fine. Besides, I go through this every time you go Above, and you always come home safe and sound. Laura will return shortly.”
Vincent nodded and returned to his chamber. Catherine looked up at him hopefully and he shook his head. “No one has seen her.”
Catherine started to cry. “I’ve lost her, I’ve let her down. Someone must have gotten to her.”
“Don’t blame yourself, Catherine.”
Catherine angrily retorted. “What could be safer than a police station?”
Vincent wouldn’t let Catherine do this to herself. “The blame rests only with those who have Laura.”
She looked at him with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know what to do.”
“You’ve told the police. That’s all you can do for now.”
Tears fell from her eyes as she realized the desperation of the situation. “I don’t even know where to start. She could be anywhere. She could even...”
It was Vincent’s turn to be angry. “Don’t even think of it!”
Catherine composed herself. “I have to go back.” She flew to her feet and headed to his door. “Please Vincent, just take me back.”
Vincent started to walk her home when a message came over the pipes. He grabbed Catherine’s hand and ran to Pascal in the pipe chamber.
Pascal said he thought it was a message from Laura. They stood and waited. The message they wanted finally came through. Pascal gave the address to Vincent, who took off at a dead run leaving Catherine behind.
Pascal looked over at Catherine and smiled ruefully. “Hi, I’m Pascal. It’s nice to meet you.”
She smiled back and reached for his hand. “Hi, I’m Catherine. It’s nice to meet you too.”
Pascal looked nervous. He wasn’t used to visitors in his chamber. “Can you find your way back to Vincent’s chamber?”
“I’m not sure, could someone lead me out? I want to get the police over to that address.”
He smiled. “Sure, I’ll send for someone right away.”
Catherine stood off to the side and Ellie came for her.
Catherine hugged the young girl. “Hi, Ellie, you look great.”
Ellie smiled as she led Catherine from the chamber. “It’s great down here, Catherine. I’m almost as happy as when I was at home with my mom and dad.”
“And Eric? Is he happy too?”
“Yeah, but he’s just a little kid.”
Catherine nodded. They came to a cross tunnel and Ellie turned to her. “Where are you going?”
“Ellie, I need to go to the nearest police station.”
Ellie took the path to the right and walked less than a block. “This will put you by Stan’s Market.”
Catherine smiled. “That’s perfect. Thank you.”
Catherine raced above and headed for the police station three blocks away.
Laura had been taken to the Yates’ basement and handcuffed to the pipes. She tapped out her message continually hoping someone would hear. The policemen who were holding her were planning on killing her.
Keller refused to be a part of this and walked out on the other men. He wouldn’t tell anyone what they did but he wouldn’t kill her.
Vincent found Laura and turned off the light then hid near her in the basement. Yates came in with his gun drawn ready to kill her. Vincent wrestled with him and Yates’ gun went off accidentally killing Davis, his partner. Vincent killed Yates before he could shoot either one of them. He held a crying Laura then released her from the cuffs.
He heard the sirens in the distance and realized Catherine must have called the police.
Vincent caught her attention. “Laura, the police are coming. It would be better if you were here so they could see that you were kidnapped.” Laura nodded and Vincent continued. “Will you be okay?”
Laura nodded again and Vincent put the handcuffs back on her. “I’ll be close by to make sure you get out of this.”
Vincent barely escaped before the police pulled up. He watched as they surrounded the place. He saw several police enter the house, and ten minutes later he saw Laura being led out of the house. She was wrapped in a warm blanket and the officer was treating her kindly.
Ten minutes later, an officer who knew sign language came and talked to Laura. Vincent observed their conversation.
The police officer opened his book. “Hi, I’m Detective David Piccaro.”
His looked at her with a question in his eyes. “Laura, do you have a last name?”
Laura shook her head. “I don’t know it, I was abandoned at four years old by my parents, I was found in a park.”
He nodded. “I’m sorry to hear that...Laura, where were you when you were kidnapped?”
“At the police station.”
He looked at her incredulously. “Who took you?”
Laura pointed to the house. “The two men that are in the basement...”
“Why did they kidnap you?”
“I’m working with Catherine Chandler at the District Attorney’s office. I’m a witness to a murder.”
“Wait, what? You’re a witness for Chandler? You were with her today?”
Laura nodded. “Yes, giving my testimony.”
Just then an officer walked up and showed Piccaro bags of cocaine. “We found these in Yates’ basement in a tool box and in a light fixture above the pool table.”
“Bags are marked with the name Ricardo, Exhibit A. Yates and Davis worked on that case not too long ago.”
Piccaro jumped up. “Son of a bitch!”
He looked at Laura, grateful she hadn’t heard him but embarrassed that she may have read his lips.
“Where are Yates and Davis now?”
“Davis is dead. Yates shot him with his police revolver. The gun was still in his hand.”
Piccaro looked surprised. “And Yates?”
“I don’t know what happened to Yates. Someone knifed him bad!”
The officer nodded. “I guess…he’s got these deep puncture wounds almost like slashes down his chest. He probably bled to death. Coroner’s on his way.”
Piccaro stood and hit the officer’s shoulder affectionately. “I want the report on my desk by tomorrow by noon.
The officer left and Piccaro turned to Laura. “Laura, did you see any of what happened down there?”
Laura shook her head. “The white man was coming at me with a gun in his hand. He stood in front of me and the lights went out. I couldn’t see a thing. I closed my eyes waiting for the pain. Next thing I know, the police are standing in front of me.”
Laura looked at the ground, grateful for once that she was deaf. They wouldn’t be able to ask her if she heard anything.
Piccaro leaned forward and touched her arm. “Laura, can I take you home? Or is there somewhere else you want to go?”
Laura thought for a moment then smiled when she saw Catherine running up. She pointed and Piccaro followed her gaze.
Piccaro smiled. “Hey, Cathy.”
“Hi, Dave, are you taking care of my star witness here?”
“How the hell did you know about this?”
Catherine looked at him innocently. “Someone called and left a message, and I got here as fast as I could.” She turned to Laura and took her hand and smiled. “Hi, Laura. Are you okay?”
Laura nodded and Catherine continued. “Laura, would you like me to take you home?”
Laura nodded and looked at the police officer. Piccaro nodded and signed to her that she was done.
Dave laughed. “My kid brother is deaf. I’ve known it forever.”
Catherine put her arm around Laura. “Well, you know where to get a hold of me if you need to talk to Laura.”
Catherine steered Laura towards her car. When they were safely inside, Catherine handed Laura a pad of paper and a pencil.
“Laura, are you really all right?”
Laura nodded. Catherine looked out the window uncertainly then turned back to Laura. “Did Vincent...”
Laura nodded then scribbled on the paper. “He saved my life. The guy was standing right in front of me with a gun.”
Catherine sighed. “What excuse did you tell the police? How did you explain what happened?”
“The lights went out. I saw Vincent grab the man with the gun. I saw a flash from the gun. I guess the black guy must’ve been hit with the bullet then the white guy...well...Vincent...”
Catherine had been reading Laura’s note as she wrote it. Laura looked at her and shrugged. “I know what Vincent did. It’s okay...it was to protect you.”
Laura sighed and nodded. Catherine started the car and headed home. Laura knew she could get Below through Catherine’s basement, so she happily rode with her.
Catherine took her to the basement storage and went to the threshold with Laura. Vincent was waiting there and Laura ran into his arms. He held her until she stopped trembling.
She turned back at the sound of Vincent’s voice. He was telling Laura to go on ahead. Laura smiled and waved at Catherine. Catherine nodded and smiled back.
Catherine looked up at him. “Thanks to you she’s okay, Vincent.”
Vincent shook his head. “Did she have a good explanation for what happened in the basement?”
“Yeah, she told the police the truth. That is was dark and she didn’t see anything.”
Vincent nodded and came forward and took her hands. “Thank you for bringing her home, Catherine.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll contact you if I need to see her.”
Catherine squeezed his hands and let them drop as she turned and walked away.
Vincent caught up to Laura who had stopped around the corner and waited for him.
“Vincent, I’ve never been so afraid in my life.”
“It’s okay now, Laura. You’re safe, and the men can’t hurt you anymore.”
Laura nodded. “At least when I live Above, I won’t have to look over my shoulder.”
Vincent smiled and put his arm around her. “That’s a good thing.”
Vincent tapped out a message announcing their return.
The next day at work, Joe approached Catherine. He was so sorry for the way he had treated her. She was his best investigator but mostly she was a good friend. She had done a good job…no an amazing job. She had even gotten beat up and harassed for doing her job. She deserved his support, and instead he had given her grief. As a colleague, she deserved his apology, but as a friend he owed her so much more.
She bumped into him by accident leaving the water cooler. She was still sore from her beating and a little leery about another confrontation with him.
She looked up in surprise. “Joe.”
He looked at her timidly. “Hi...can I talk to you for a second?”
They walked back to her desk and he turned her to him.
“Listen, I’m sorry about what happened, Cathy. I know it’s been tough on you…I didn’t make it any easier.”
“No, you didn’t.”
Joe shrugged as he offered his excuse. “I let it get personal...I was stubborn...I was wrong.”
She smiled at him, grateful for the apology. “Apology accepted.”
Joe had become a good friend, and she knew he had meant it.
He smiled relieved she had forgiven him. “Great.”
“About your father, Joe?”
He shook his head guiltily. “No, listen, I had no right to bring that up when I did.”
“You had every right, and I’m glad you told me.”
“Yeah, well thanks.”
She looked down and shuffled papers on her desk. “Well, I’m late for my weekly report.”
“You might be interested to know Curtis Jackson’s being released today.”
“What about the Keller investigation?”
“He’s glad it’s over. The two kilos of cocaine we recovered from Jackson’s basement...they’re from the Ricardo bust last month, which both sets of partners were on.”
“So when Perotta got cold feet, Yates killed him and set up Jackson. Simple enough.”
“Only Yates didn’t count on your witness being there. Speaking of which...where did you find that witness?”
“I didn’t find her; she found me.”
Catherine smiled mysteriously and walked away leaving Joe to wonder how she always came through with flying colors.
That night Vincent came to Catherine’s balcony. She smiled as she went out to greet him.
“Hello, Catherine. I came to apologize for my poor manners yesterday.”
“Vincent you have impeccable manners. What are you talking about?”
“I left you standing alone in the tunnels yesterday when I received Laura’s message.”
“But I wasn’t alone; I was with Pascal.”
“Yes, but I left you so suddenly, without even a backward glance.”
She came forward and stood in front of him, touching his arm. “Well, with the speed you were running, I would hope you would look ahead of you and not behind you.”
He looked down shyly, grateful she was not upset with him. “I did need to get to Laura.”
“Things should settle down now. The investigation is over. Laura’s testimony paired with what happened last night sealed the case. How is Laura?”
“She’s well. She’s been through so much, yet she is still determined to come Above.”
“She is an amazing girl.”
Vincent nodded. “I don’t think Father has reconciled himself. All he sees is that he’s losing one of his family.”
“But he won’t try to stop Laura from coming up?”
“No, that’s not our way.”
“Where is she now?” Catherine asked.
“Below...packing her things for tomorrow. A helper will care for her until the time comes when she can live on her own.”
“What she did took great courage.”
“Laura is a remarkable person. She feels everything so deeply. She embraces life, it’s how she survives.”
Catherine cocked her head and looked at him quizzically. “You’re worried about her coming up into the world.”
“Her strength is her vulnerability.”
“I think she’ll do fine, Vincent, I really do. She had a good teacher.”
She touched his shoulder in comfort. When he didn’t pull away, she leaned into him and laid her head against his shoulder.
He settled his arms around her and rested his chin on top of her head. He stayed that way for several minutes, taking the comfort she freely offered.
Catherine pulled back slightly. “I want you to give Laura my phone numbers. My home and my office numbers; she should have someone call me at any time if she needs anything.”
“I think Laura would like that, Catherine.”
“I wish I could do more. I wish my place was bigger, she could stay there...”
“Catherine your generosity is appreciated, but the helper we have chosen will be able to teach Laura everyday skills she can use to help support herself.”
Catherine sighed. “You’re right. It wouldn’t be fair to her Work keeps me so tied up, I wouldn’t have a lot of extra time to spend with her. I barely get to see you as it is.”
Vincent looked down and blushed. Catherine smiled. “Vincent, we should try to see each other more often…at least once a week. I miss you when I don’t see you for weeks on end.”
Vincent nodded. “I miss you as well, Catherine.”
She touched his arm. “Will you promise me that you’ll try to come and see me more often?” Vincent nodded and Catherine continued. “Maybe we could have like a standing date.”
Catherine nodded. “Yeah, you know a date. A certain time of the week we set aside to be with one another...”
Vincent shook his head. “I know what a date is, Catherine. I’ve...just never had one.”
He stared at her incredulously. Did she not notice his appearance?
Catherine became very insecure for a second and thought he would refuse. Maybe there was someone Below that he already saw on a regular basis. Maybe he only wanted to be friends. Maybe he didn’t want to spend his free time with her.
She was desperate for a distraction and looked over at her bedside table. “I borrowed a book from a girlfriend. She said it was supposed to be very good. Would you like to go inside and we could start reading it together?”
Catherine was baffled by the look of “fear” that flickered across his face. What is wrong with him? He was in my apartment the night before last and had no problems with being in there.
Catherine looked up at him, hopefully, afraid he was going to try to leave. “But it’s a really nice evening; I could bring the book out here?”
Vincent let out the breath he’d been holding. “That would be nice.”
Catherine ran inside and grabbed the blanket and book. They sat together and took turns reading for several hours.
Vincent looked at her regretfully. “I need to go soon, Catherine. I have a turn at sentry duty to cover.”
Catherine’s brow furrowed. “Sentry duty? I thought you worked the late night shifts?”
“I do, but I missed last night; so I have to make it up to someone who covered for me...”
Catherine wondered why he missed working then her eyes opened when she remembered. “Vincent, did you miss work because you stayed with me?”
He nodded shyly. “It’s okay. My shift was covered.”
Catherine tilted her head. “Father was probably furious...”
“Vincent, will I see you again, soon?”
Vincent lowered his head again shyly. “I could come tomorrow...we could finish the book.”
Catherine nodded then came forward and offered him a hug. He returned it then released her, slowly.