“My Dearest Pet”

or “Captive of My Own Heart!”

by Marianne Mercenary


Wow, it’s very cool that you brought me here to the park, Uncle Derek!” a cheerful child’s voice, full of enthusiasm, echoed into Central Park.  

In spite of the fact that it was late at night, a tall, well-built man was walking with an eight-year-old, beautiful blonde little girl, hand in hand, among the trees of the park. This man was called Derek Weston, and both his friends and his relatives thought him an irresponsible fool. Derek Weston was a so-called clumsy, accidental inventor, and he was positive that he would someday be the second coming of Leonardo da Vinci. His younger brother and sister-in-law – parents of his little niece, Beatrice, who was now holding his hand here in Central Park – strongly thought him to be a bum; a sponge, who lives only on dreams and is unable to do any useful thing in his life. Little Beatrice was the only person in the family who honestly loved her Uncle Derek; she trusted him and looked up to him.

Beatrice had everything she wanted – but only financially. Her busy businessman father and workaholic mother, while they chased after money, totally forgot that they had a daughter who needed love, playing with or reading fairy tales to more than she needed living in a luxury nursery, sleeping in a “Sleeping Beauty” bed with a pink baldachin or having almost 200 different dolls. Yes, Beatrice had numerous dolls and clothes, more than the stars in the sky. She would not even notice if she had lost one or two of them, but she really did notice that her parents almost never came to her room to see her!

Her whimsical Uncle Derek was the only one who cared about poor little Beatrice. To tell the truth, it was a kind of bizarre sort of caring. He could do it only in his own way, and – let’s face it – it is a bit unusual to go for a walk through Central Park with a small girl late at night. However, Beatrice was really happy – she thought that it would be the greatest adventure of her life – and she can say thank you for it exclusively to Uncle Derek!

“Yes, my little darling,” Derek said to the little girl. “And now? What to do here?”

“Let’s play hide-and-seek, Uncle Derek!” suggested Beatrice, with even greater enthusiasm than before.

“All right!” Derek replied with a wink, and then he turned his back to her and started counting while the girl started hiding behind a bush, giggling.

“… nine, ten,” Derek finished counting. “Ready or not, I’m coming!”

But before he could really go to seek Beatrice, he suddenly saw – to his greatest surprise – his niece running toward him.

“Uncle Derek,” gasped Beatrice. “Oh, what I saw, what I saw!”

“Well, what did you see?” asked Derek, interested, seeing that Beatrice’s excitement was real. He hoped she hadn’t found a dead body.

“Come with me, Uncle Derek.” Beatrice was panting heavily. “He is there… He went to there!”

Did she say went? Thank God, then it couldn’t be a dead body. At least, dead people are not in the habit of pacing up and down. Derek wiped his forehead in relief. “But who
 was it?” he asked.

“It was the Cowardly Lion!” answered the little girl with great joy.

“Come on, Beatrice,” Derek replied with a smile. “Cowardly Lion is only in the Land of Oz!”

“Then it was Mufasa, the Lion King,” said Beatrice. “He was walking here, in front of my bush, in a big black-hooded cloak; and he looked like a real lion!”

“But Beatrice … Mufasa cannot walk upright and doesn’t wear a black cloak with a hood!” Derek shook his head.

“But he was a real lion.” Beatrice tried to convince Derek, almost stomping her feet. “I saw him!”

“Well, we must check what you have seen!” Even Derek himself started to be very curious. He tolerated without protest being drawn by Beatrice behind a group of bushes. Beatrice suddenly froze.

“Look, Uncle Derek,” she whispered in great ecstasy. “He’s coming! Over there!”

Derek looked in the direction indicated by Beatrice – and in the next moment he became the frozen one. A very tall, broad-shouldered figure was approaching them and he was really wearing a big, black-hooded cloak, which was swaying from side to side with every stride. He was already very close. The moon was shining on his face… Oh! Dear God! Derek pushed his hand to his mouth to avoid crying out from shock. No… No! Who is it? Or…what is it? This guy had a very long, ginger mane. Okay. But his face… It is a perfect lion! Only his eyes are human… Jesus! Beatrice was right! She was not simply dreaming. The “lion man” was walking toward the huge drainage pipe seen nearby – and then disappeared.

“Well, what about that, Uncle Derek?” asked Beatrice triumphantly.

“Hmmm…” Derek could hardly stop shaking his head. “I have to admit that you were right, Beatie… I mean partly; because he is neither the Cowardly Lion nor Mufasa. But I don’t know, who this… man, or whatever… is. I could not even dream of such a strange being!”

“Uncle Derek,” said Beatrice after a short beat, “I … I like this lion man, or what … I want him! I mean, I would like…”

“I will buy you something like this in the toy shop!” laughed Derek.

“No, Uncle Derek! I want him!”

“But Beatrice,” Derek shook his head again in disbelief, “are you crazy?”

“No, I’m not.” Beatrice started to like her own idea more and more. “You know, Uncle Derek, that I’m so lonely. Mom and Dad don’t care about me! They are interested only in their work and money! They don’t play with me, don’t read me tales … and I don’t even have a pet … a cat, or a dog, or a parrot which I could take care of. If this lion man were mine, I wouldn’t be alone anymore! I think he could talk, like you and me – and I think he could be very kind! Did you see his beautiful blue eyes? Everyone can have a dog, a cat, a turtle, or a parrot! But a lion man… Please, Uncle Derek, help me. Catch this lion man for me!”

“Yes, I know,” murmured Derek, “you think if you see something, it is enough to point at it and that thing is immediately yours! You have plenty of toys and clothes because your loving parents give you toys and clothes instead of love and real care. But tell me, what happens if this lion man doesn’t want to go away with you? Do you think that it is so simple? You think you can stand in front of him and say, ‘Oh, I want you to be my pet, come with me, immediately!’ and he will leave everything and come with you obediently?”

“Uncle Derek,” Beatrice started snuffling, “you know that nobody loves me and nobody understands me, only you! I will tell this lion man that I’m going to love him very much! Then I’m sure, he will stay with me … and perhaps he will love me too!”

“You are very lovely, honey,” said Derek, “but I don’t think that he will follow you without saying a word…”

“Then we must catch him,” stomped Beatrice. “I need him! Please help me, Uncle Derek. Please, please, please… You are such a clever man; you are a great inventor…”

“Your parents think me to be a bum and a loser,” said Derek bitterly, “and they think that my inventions are useless!”

“You could convince them that you are really a great inventor! What if you could make a trap? We could catch him with a trap made by you, and then we could bring him to us!”

“And where would he stay?” asked Derek.

“In my room,” answered Beatrice quickly. “Mom and Dad wouldn’t learn about him because I simply don’t remember the day when they were in my room last.”

“You know what?” Derek’s eyes suddenly lit up. “I will do it! I will really do it for you! At least I can annoy your dear, loving parents with it.”

“Oh, Uncle Derek,” Beatrice hugged her uncle delightedly. “You are the most wonderful man in the world!”

“Come on,” Derek said as he shook his head, trying to hide his emotion. “Well, let me see!” He went to the big drainage pipe. “I should place the trap near it! I hope, he won’t bite us into two pieces; but I’ll gladly assume this risk for you, my little Beatrice! I would do anything for you, anything in the world because you are the only person who believes in me!”

Afterward, Derek brought his little niece home, and then he went home. He thought all night about the trap with which he could catch “that strange lion man” – namely, if no one found out - Vincent. 

After a few days he made a trap that – as seen in the more foolish cartoons – hangs from a tree and lays on the ground almost invisibly; and if the victim steps into it, practically flies into the air, closing the victim into it.

Beatrice and Derek sneaked very carefully into the park that night. They went close to the drainage pipe and placed their trap with great excitement, then they hid behind the bushes and waited.

“Oh, Uncle Derek,” said the girl, wringing her hands, “what, if he doesn’t come here tonight?”

“I don’t know,” shrugged Derek, “about the habits of your strange being. But I really hope that we will be lucky enough to see him!”

“Yes, yes…” nodded Beatrice, pale with excitement – and she suddenly grabbed Derek’s hand, forcibly holding back a scream. “Dear God, Uncle Derek… Look… He’s coming!”

“Gosh, you’re right,” exclaimed Derek. “Now, we should pull ourselves together!”

Then he – every fibre focusing – waited until Vincent unsuspectingly went into the almost invisible trap, and after that Derek pulled the cord of the trap. Vincent had no time to even cry out; the trap had closed around him very quickly and flown into the air; and after it hit the ground quite hard, Beatrice and Derek ran to the trap.

“Uncle Derek,” whispered Beatrice with tremendous excitement, “look, we’ve got him!”

“Yes, naturally,” Derek was very satisfied and proud, “and it won’t be hard to manage him, because, as I can see, he is unconscious now…so we won’t have to fight with him, and he won’t bite either of us.”

“Oh, yes,” said the girl with a bit of reproach in her voice. “He hit the ground hard enough to be unconscious! I hope that he is not hurt – I really didn’t intend to harm him! I want to love him!”

“I think everything is going to be all right.” Derek tried to sound very confident. “Maybe… maybe my trap is not perfect yet, but we have no time to waste! Help me to bring him to the van!”

They took the unconscious Vincent from the trap – the trap remained on the ground – and they jointly dragged him to Derek’s van and drove to Beatrice’s home. They could easily bring Vincent to the flat because Beatrice’s parents weren’t at home again; they were at a “very-very important” business party.

“Well, we have done it,” said Derek, wiping his forehead again as they placed Vincent in the nursery. “You know what, Beatie? I’ll wait for a while until he regains consciousness … because we never know…”

“I feel that he won’t attack me,” answered Beatrice, almost dramatically, “but just stay if you want, Uncle Derek. I haven’t even thanked you for your help! Have I already said that you are the most wonderful uncle in the world?”

“Today, you haven’t told me yet,” Derek replied, smiling. “You’re welcome, honey. As I’ve said; I’ll do anything for you!”

Luckily, they didn’t have to wait too long, because their guest suddenly regained consciousness, and he looked around in the luxurious nursery with understandable surprise. He was so surprised that he didn’t even ask where he was.

“Oh ...” Derek tried to be very cheerful. “You are awake at last, buddy – and as I can see, there is no problem at all! Please, forgive us for bringing you here; but my little niece, Beatrice, saw you in the park, and she wanted you!”

“Yes,” Beatrice interrupted with bright eyes. “I’m so happy that it succeeded… that you are here with me! You know, I’m so lonely ... my parents don’t play with me, they don’t even love me… and I have no dog or cat. But you are here now with me, and I’m so glad! It is very good too, that you are okay. I was very worried about you! Uncle Derek didn’t mean to harm you, but his trap is not really perfect…”

Vincent just looked one to the other, without saying a word.

“Well, good night, good night.” Derek was waving very cheerfully again, but he was also ready for his escape a little bit. “I will be here on the fire escape. Beatrice, if there is any problem, just… just call me!”

Derek would have to confess that he didn’t say the latter with great confidence. After that, he climbed out of the window very quickly. Beatrice approached Vincent very close.

“Oh, you poor thing,” she said, “I see, there is a huge bump on your forehead! That damned trap… Does it hurt?”

“No… absolutely not,” answered Vincent. It was the first time he has spoken. The little girl jumped for joy.

“So you can speak,” she screamed happily, “that’s so good! I’m so glad! Forgive me, but I didn’t know if you could speak, or not… and wait a minute, I will bring something for that bump, even if it doesn’t hurt!”

She ran to the bathroom very quickly, and she returned soon with a small wet towel.

“It is for remedy… to make this bump go away,” she said and put the towel to that bump.

“Thank you, Beatrice… it is pleasantly cool!” said Vincent.

Beatrice blushed with pleasure. “You even know my name. Oh, yes, I forgot that Uncle Derek said it previously… and what’s your name?”


“I like it,” rejoiced Beatrice loudly, “to tell the truth, I would have laughed if you were Derek too, like my uncle. But the name doesn’t matter – what matters is that I want to love you, very much!”

“That’s why you kidnapped me with that trap?” asked Vincent.

“Well…” Beatrice blushed again. “Uncle Derek told me first that it was a wrong idea; but I didn’t think you would have come if I stood in front of you and started begging to you to come with me…”

“And tell me,” continued Vincent, “what will happen, if your parents arrive home? I think they would jump out of the window if they saw me… and if they aren’t frightened, at minimum, they would ask who I am, and why I dared to go into a stranger’s apartment!”

“Don’t be afraid of my parents,” waved Beatrice with a precocious bitterness. “I don’t even remember the last time they were in my room!”

“Are you serious?” wondered Vincent.

“Yes, I’m positively serious,” answered Beatrice firmly. “They are workaholics. They always just work or have a party, and they don’t care about me! Uncle Derek is the only one who cares about me! I was with him in the park when I first saw you.”

“Weren’t you afraid of me?” asked Vincent.

“First, I was very surprised,” answered Beatrice, “but why should I have to be afraid?”

“Just because of…well, my appearance.”

“You,” said Beatrice even more determined, than previously, “look like a lion! Everyone knows that lions are the most beautiful and majestic animals in the world! It is not accidental that the lion is said to be the king of the animals! Maybe you are a bit strange – but you are really NOT ugly or disgusting! So why should I be frightened?!”

Vincent looked to the little girl very perplexed – he wasn't able to say even a single word... but Beatrice didn't seem to be waiting for an answer. She suddenly jumped and continued.

“I've become so hungry! What about you? I will bring us something very nice for dinner from the kitchen!”

She rushed off from the nursery. Vincent was even more perplexed than previously. I have really never heard something, like this, he thought, shaking his head in disbelief, and if I think about it ... even my beloved Catherine was afraid of me at the first sight! Yes, yes, Lena, that girl, who had her baby Below, wasn't afraid of me either, she even wanted me to be her lover – but this Beatrice is just a little girl! But he couldn't continue his thoughts, because Beatrice suddenly rushed back into the nursery, and not empty-handed – she brought plenty of good food with her from the kitchen, as she had promised! 

“Here is the late night dinner,” she said cheerfully, “let's start!”

It's incredible, unbelievable ... thought Vincent, but of course, he didn't raise any objections.

“Thank you, little Beatrice,” he said after the dinner, “it was really very good!”

“I'm very glad to hear it,” answered Beatrice with a wide smile, “and now, to make things even better, I will caress your tummy, my dear, lovely big cat!”

She kept her word ... Vincent closed his eyes, and enjoyed this pleasant action so long in disbelief, and then he asked Beatrice, “It is wonderful... But why are you doing this?”

“The reason is the same as why I brought you here with Uncle Derek – because I am very lonely. My parents don't love me, Uncle Derek is the only person, who pays any attention to me... and because you are so kind and lovely. While we were talking, I thought you more lovely than previously ... and I would like you to be mine!”

“First,” Vincent hardly knew how to respond. “How can you say that your parents don't love you? As I look around your room ... it looks like a luxury room in a five-star hotel! Look at your toys ... I see plenty of beautiful dolls here! If your parents really didn't love you, you couldn't have so many dolls and storybooks!”

“But, as I have already told you,” Beatrice curved her mouth to cry, “they never play with me! They don't even come to my room – that's why I told you not to be afraid that my parents will find you! They are interested in nothing except working and making more and more money, or to go to business parties with “very important” people! I'm the only one who is not important to them! I don't need more dolls or books or clothes, I only need to be with them! Just a little bit...”

“I see...” said Vincent, deep in thoughts, “and ... you know, it is also a bit strange – to put it mildly – that you and your uncle just simply kidnapped me...”

“Forgive us, dearest Vincent,” requested Beatrice with a disarming smile, “but I wanted so much for you to be with me! You know, Uncle Derek is an inventor, but my mom and dad think him to be a loser; a bum, a fool ... mainly my dad, because Uncle Derek is his older brother - and I must tell you that Uncle Derek is really a little bit foolish, but he is the only person, who cares about me! I care about him, too! I don't think he’s a loser! He only needs some practice, but I know that he will be such a great inventor, like that... Leo... Leopard...” 

“Leonardo da Vinci?” asked Vincent with a small smile.

“Yes, that's it!” nodded Beatrice triumphantly.

“Well, I understand,” said Vincent, “but tell me: you didn't think that maybe I belong somewhere where people who love me are waiting for me and are very worried and in despair because they don't know where I am?”

“Well...” Beatrice blushed guiltily. “Uncle Derek asked me when I asked him to catch you for me, ‘What do you think he will say?’  I mean, you. But I thought that I will love you so very much, and then you won't mind being brought here...”

“Why did you think that I should be yours?” asked Vincent.

“I have already said,” answered Beatrice, “that I have no pets, neither a dog nor a cat – and you are so interesting, so special. I thought that none of my classmates have such a fantastic pet at home, like you!”

“But a part of me is a man,” said Vincent.

“Never mind,” grinned the little girl, “it doesn't matter! But ... really, Vincent, how did it happen to you? How could anyone look like this?”

“I have always asked myself that,” Vincent smiled, remembering the day when Catherine first saw him, “but I don't know. My love, Catherine, asked me the same. I told her that I have ideas, but I will never know it. But what an idea, that I should be your pet, your big cat!”

“Vincent,” asked Beatrice, ignoring Vincent's last comment, “do you live near to that big drainage pipe? Don't deny it...we saw you to go there!”

“Yes ... and people I live with are all very sad and worried, because they don't know where I am, as I have already told you! For example, my Father. My friends. My love, Catherine, who lives here Above, in the city ... she loves me very much, and I love her very much too.”

Beatrice turned pale and looked to Vincent with a great despair – and her eyes brimmed with tears.

“No,” she whispered almost inaudibly, “I'm sure, they don't love you more than I do! You've told me just now, that Catherine was afraid of you at first sight – and I wasn't! First I just believed that I would love you, but now I know it positively, that I love you! I love you more than Uncle Derek! Please, my dearest Vincent, don't leave me! I'm afraid of the darkness at night, and I hate to be alone ... I love you ... please, stay with me!”

Beatrice fiercely hugged Vincent and started crying loudly. Vincent sighed deeply, and then he held Beatrice very tight and started stroking her gently, feeling as if the little girl’s bitter tears fell directly to his heart ... and he felt something strange that he had never felt before. He suddenly wished that little girl was his daughter ... his and Catherine's!

“Vincent, my dearest, beloved big cat,” wept Beatrice, stroking Vincent's face gently, “don't leave me, please, I love you so very much.”

“All right, all right, you poor little thing,” Vincent heard his own voice say, “don't cry. I will stay with you!”

As he said, he stayed with Beatrice. The poor little girl held him very tightly and continued to cry over his heart until she fell asleep. She held Vincent's neck even in her sleep.

Vincent himself didn't know when he fell asleep – he was quite exhausted because of the recent happenings and because of the wounds caused by Derek's clumsy trap. Temporarily, he didn't want to think about the tomorrow, but he knew well that there could be a huge panic Below because of his loss.


Catherine was waiting for him on her balcony – in vain. She found only a message instead of Vincent, which was brought to her by one of the tunnel-dwellers; a small boy. The message said that Father asked her to see him as soon as possible. Catherine immediately ran to the Tunnels when she read the message.

“Catherine, Vincent is missing again!” said Father when she arrived.

“I thought, too, that there was something wrong,” said Catherine, “because I was waiting for him this evening in vain. I simply can’t imagine what happened!”

“Neither can I.” Father shook his head thoughtfully. “When that crazy anthropologist, Hughes caught him, Vincent wasn’t himself because he thought you were leaving New York, and him, and he wasn’t paying attention enough. But now…”

“Yes, that’s it,” said Catherine uneasily, “there isn’t any reason for Vincent to be distracted. I really don’t understand!”

“Neither do I,” answered Father. They were staring at each other, dispirited and puzzled, and they agreed that the best would be to try to look for Vincent like in the other cases – maybe one of the helpers had seen him. Everything, even the smallest thing, could be important!

Catherine started her way out of the Tunnels sadly. Going out of the drainage pipe, she turned left and after a few meters she stopped near a tree, perplexed. What the hell is here on the ground? A huge sack-like thing… and it was hooked to the tree! It looked like the traps seen in cartoons, that poachers try to catch animals, or their own enemies, with! What if Vincent was caught with the help of this trap? Anyway, this finding must be shown to Father! She went back to the Tunnels quickly with the suspected trap.

Father studied the strange finding carefully.

“Mmm-hmm… well, yes, it certainly looks like a clumsy trap…lLike traps I saw in cartoons when I was a young child. It seems to be likely that Vincent was caught with the help of this one!”

“Yes,” Catherine agreed. “I was thinking the same, that’s why I brought it to show you! But who used it, and why? It’s more difficult than Hughes’ case, because the darts could be the clue that time… but now… this trap is more than nothing, but it won’t help us because we don’t know who makes these kinds of traps, where, and why.”

“I think, you should take this trap back to where you found it,” suggested Father, “and maybe its maker will miss it and come back to find it. Someone will watch that tree where this trap was! Maybe we will do it in vain, but we must definitely try!”


Vincent first didn’t know where he was the next morning – and he was awakened by a really unusual feeling: he felt a soft and wet thing on his face, many times. Naturally, it was Beatrice, who gave him plenty of kisses.

“Good morning, my dearest big cat.” The little girl was smiling at him very widely. “Did you sleep well? As far as I’m concerned, I have really never had such a pleasant night!”

“Thank you.” Vincent tried to pull himself together. “At first I didn’t even know where I am…”

“What about the kisses,” chirped Beatrice, “where they fine?”

“Oh, yes, very much, but…”

Beatrice didn’t let him to finish that uncertain sentence…

“I will see whether Mom and Dad are here, or not,” she said, “and I will bring us something good for breakfast! You can hide in my Barbie tent if you are afraid that they will find you – but don’t worry, they really won’t go to my room…”

This last statement sounded very bitter … and then Beatrice went out of the nursery. Vincent was listening, and he was frozen for a moment because he realized that Beatrice’s parents were at home still, so he preferred to hide in the tremendous, and comfortable, but very pink Barbie tent. Beatrice spent some time out of the room, and then her parents’ voices were heard – they warned her jokingly to be “a bad little girl” and after that, the entrance door was closed. Beatrice went back to the nursery.

“You can come out, Vincent,” she said dryly. “They have already disappeared! But we will have a very good time together! Just my beloved big cat and me! It is spring vacation for me, so there is no school, yee-haw! I don’t have to leave you alone! Now, I brought something very good for breakfast!”

Meanwhile the girl started curious questioning of Vincent. “Tell me, where does that big drainage pipe lead?”

“I’m not sure if I am supposed to tell,” said Vincent, “because maybe I would risk the safety of many good people. There are some people, of course, who know about it, but they will certainly not say a word about it to anyone.”

“I swear, I won’t tell it to anyone,” said Beatrice with an adult-like seriousness – really! I could never betray someone I love!”

“You have already told me several times, that you love me very much,” smiled Vincent to the girl, “and I’m really very pleased to hear that; but, to tell the truth, you know hardly anything about me.”

“I know,” answered Beatrice very determined, “that you are very kind and lovely! I see it in your eyes!”

“All right,” surrendered Vincent, “then I will tell you a bit about us…”

Then he told about the world Below to the little girl, carefully – he didn’t want to reveal too much. Beatrice was listening to him, awfully excited.

“Just one thing, little Beatrice,” said Vincent at the end. “I haven’t known you long yet either, but… well, last night, when you were crying and telling me not to leave you, I… I regretted very much, that you are… not my daughter.”

Beatrice blushed terribly.

“Then it means that you love me too,” she screamed happily, “oh, my sweet, dearest Vincent!”

She hugged him again fiercely, giving him countless kisses…

“So you will stay with me and become my big cat, won’t you?” Beatrice started jumping in her unrestrained joy. “Together forever!”

“Look, Beatrice,” Vincent tried to argue with the girl feebly, “remember, I’ve already told you that people Below are very worried now about me, and…”

But Beatrice surprisingly became “deaf”…

“Come,” she grabbed Vincent’s hand, “I will show you our whole flat! Feel free to go everywhere you want, because Mom and Dad will come home only in the evening! When they arrive, we will come back to my room!”

She drew Vincent with her. Vincent was overcome by an inexplicable weakness. He would have protested, told the girl that she shouldn’t have done it, that it was very wrong to kidnap him with her irresponsible and foolish uncle, and that she should have improved her relationship with her parents instead of kidnapping him … that literally using him, partly as a pet, partly as a surrogate father or paternal friend was unacceptable. But he was unable to resist, or even to say a single word again. He became even more silent when Beatrice led him to the roof garden.

“Do you like it?” asked Beatrice smiling and pointing to the view to the city.

“It’s beautiful,” acknowledged Vincent. “Wonderful! You know, I have already sat on the roof of those tremendous skyscrapers, watching the lights of the city at night… But I didn’t know that I would ever see it ever in daylight!”

“I thought you’d like it!” Beatrice was very glad. When they had seen enough of the city, they went back to Beatrice’s room, where the curious child started to interrogate him closely: she wanted to know all about the time when Catherine and Vincent met each other, and Vincent told her where and how he had found Catherine. Beatrice was a really responsive audience: she was once gasping horrified, and then sighing for delight.

“Our anniversary is near,” noticed Vincent, “because it happened in April, too.”

“Oh, it’s so beautiful…” Beatrice was melting, like a snowman in spring time. “I wasn’t mistaken…you are so lovely!”

“And you don’t want me to go back to her,” Vincent risked. Beatrice, alarmed, immediately clung to him, like the creeping ivy to a huge oak tree – and started “singing her usual song.”

“But I certainly love you more, than she does! I wasn’t even afraid of you! I love you, dearest Vincent, my sweet big cat! Please, don’t leave me!”

Vincent again felt that strange, inexplicable weakness that had prevented him from protesting and forcing the little girl to let him go away. Beatrice, when she realized that Vincent didn’t raise any objections, started the questioning again, namely, what did Catherine and Vincent like to do best?

“Well,” Vincent smiled a bit, “we like to read poems…”

“That’s so good,” rejoiced Beatrice, “then let’s read poems! I also like them!”

Of course, they couldn’t find books containing poems of Shakespeare or Tennyson in her room, but there were jolly and kind nursery rhymes! Then Beatrice herself was telling Vincent tales – tales, that were written by her, because Beatrice, as she confessed, wanted to be a famous writer.

“Maybe,” she noticed, visibly day-dreaming, “I will write a fairy tale… about you!”

“A fairy tale, like Beauty and the Beast,” laughed Vincent, “and the Beast will become Prince Charming at the end?”

“No,” shook Beatrice her head very emphatically, “don’t change to that Prince-whatever! You are perfect that way you are!”

Vincent again couldn’t say a single word. No sound came from his throat. He held the little girl silently to his heart and gave a huge kiss to her forehead. Their day spent together had ended almost the same way as the previous one. Beatrice’s parents arrived home some point in the evening. Vincent carefully hid in Beatrice’s awfully pink Barbie tent, but his worry was baseless: the parents were running out to a “very important” business party soon after.

“As you can see, Vincent,” said the girl with a deep sadness, “things are like this here almost every day. Sometimes I think if they would reprimand me, even that would be better than this. If they reprimanded me, it would mean that they care about me at least a little bit.”

Even Vincent himself was shaking his head, displeased.

“Although I still don’t think that they don’t love you,” he murmured, “you are right when you say that they are on a wrong path…”

“But you are here with me,” rejoiced Beatrice, “and it is so good! My lovely big cat, I love you the most in the world! It is so good to belong to someone… I will caress you, love you, and you will take care of me, tell me tales, and play with me – unlike my parents!”

Then she gave him numerous kisses and caresses again… It was the second night, when Beatrice didn’t sleep in her bed, but over Vincent’s heart… Vincent couldn’t fall asleep for a long time, his thought were circulating. What to do now? I have never been in such a bittersweet position… because, if this little Beatrice would mean me harm, hit me, or take her revenge on me because of the nonchalance of her parents, then it is clear that I would escape at the first opportunity! If she were an evil, spoiled brat, it would be quite easy to escape late at night, when everybody is sleeping. But how to leave a poor little soul who is neglected by her workaholic parents? And she really loves me, caresses me, and keeps saying that she loves me the most in the world; and I see that she takes it seriously! It is also true, that the parents really don’t care about this poor child! She told me the truth: they bought her plenty of dolls and clothes. Her nursery really looks like a luxury hotel room – but her parents don’t play with her, don’t read her fairy tales… It is not freedom, it is simply loneliness! What will happen to her later?! She is more abandoned than I was! Because it is true that I was found behind St. Vincent hospital, wrapped in rags, nearly frozen on the coldest day of that year; but after that I didn’t have to lack love and understanding. Poor little Beatrice can’t say that about herself! And she even begs me, sobbing, not to leave her. I know well that Catherine, Father and the others could be in despair because I am missing, but I really can’t leave Beatrice. I am the captive of my own heart!

Next day everything continued where it was left off. On the third day everything happened the same way. But on the fourth day something different happened. It occurred suddenly to Beatrice that she had an old storybook in a huge crate in a smaller room where they stored their old possessions – and she would like to show it to Vincent.

“I just want to look for it,” she said. “I’ll be back soon, I promise! Until I return, you can look around here inside or go to the roof garden again, if you want!”

Vincent first was really pacing back and forth in the flat, but suddenly he stopped, frozen near the entrance door because he heard a familiar voice. He looked out carefully from the transom window, and … yes, he was right! It was – as he thought - Peter, Dr Peter Alcott! He came here to this house to see someone, as a doctor!

I simply wouldn’t have dared to hope for such a good luck, thought Vincent. He only had to figure out, how to draw Peter’s attention so that nobody else would notice. After some hesitation, he prepared a plan.

He found a pen and a post-it block on the telephone table. He very quickly wrote the following on it: “Dear Peter! I’m here in this house, with a little girl named Beatrice! Please, tell Father and the others, but first and foremost, tell Catherine that I am here, that I am OK, but I can’t escape. If Catherine could come here this evening, then perhaps we could solve this problem! Vincent

Luckily, since Beatrice was still searching for that old storybook, Vincent went to the roof garden (as the girl suggested to him earlier), and started tensely watching the street in front of the house. Now, at last! Suddenly Peter stepped to the street. Here is the chance - now, or never! Vincent dropped the rolled paper down to the street and he succeeded luckily to hit the doctor. Peter wonderingly grabbed the small paper pellet and he became even more surprised when he discovered his own name written on it! Then he – thank God! – unrolled and read it. He stared in front of him for some time even more surprised than previously, then he bolted for somewhere, very quickly. Vincent calmed a bit – it was a sign of hope; and then, if Catherine really came here this evening… He was so lost in his thoughts that he almost jumped when he heard Beatrice’s voice behind him.

“Oh, there you are, Vincent. This view is unsurpassable, isn’t it? Come on, let’s sit down on that bench and I will read to you because at last I’ve found that old book!”


Peter didn’t hesitate – he hurried to Below with the joyful but very mysterious news that Vincent was found, but for some reason could not escape from that house.

“Really good news,” Father rejoiced. “Thank God – and thank you, too, Peter! Naturally we should inform Catherine, too!”

“It was good luck,” said the doctor, “that one of my patients lives in that house!”


“But who is that little girl mentioned in Vincent’s message?” Father questioned, “How did Vincent get there? And he said that he cannot escape from her. What does it mean? What about the parents of this girl? Did they see Vincent? Surely… Oh, dear God! Or they didn’t? I’m very happy and relieved that my son is alive and well, but I really don’t understand a word!”

If Catherine can go there this evening, then maybe we will get an answer for these questions! thought Peter.

A very desperate Catherine was very happy, too. Of course she would go to there!

Beatrice was sitting that night, leaned against Vincent’s side again in her room.


“It would be very bad,” she whispered, gently caressing Vincent’s furry hand – if you were not here, my dearest big cat… You sweet, you dear! I love you so very much that I can’t really express it! You are everything for me, my dearest big cat. At last I’m not alone. You take care of me, and I take care of you! Even Uncle Derek didn’t love me so much, like you! Although it is true that I have to be grateful to him because he helped me to have you!”

“Dear little Beatrice,” started Vincent slowly, gently. “I must tell you that I love you, too. It’s true that we got to know each other under strange circumstances – to put it mildly – but I have never in my life seen such a lovely, kind, clever and beautiful little girl, who wasn’t afraid of me. And is very good for me … the way that you treated me is very pleasing for me. I will always cherish it…”

“So will you stay with me forever?” asked Beatrice very happily.

But then someone tapped on the window. Both of them looked – it was Catherine! Vincent jumped with great pleasure – he could hardly believe it! It meant that his message had worked! But Beatrice stared at Catherine with the same fright with which other people could stare at Vincent … of course, not because of Catherine’s appearance.

“Look, Beatrice,” Vincent said as he opened the window, “this is my love, Catherine, whom I have told you about!”

“Oh, Vincent,” Catherine said as she hugged Vincent fiercely, “at last I’ve found you!”

“Catherine,” continued Vincent, “this is Beatrice, whom I wrote about in my message…”

“Hello, Beatrice!” Catherine smiled at the girl. Beatrice didn’t return the smile.

“Do you want to take my dear big cat away from me?!” she asked aggressively, glaring at Catherine.

“Wait a minute,” Vincent intervened. “First we have to discuss some issues!”

“Thank God,” sighed Catherine, “that Peter had a patient in this house. If not, I really wouldn’t have known what to do. But how did you get here?”

“Come, Catherine, sit here,” suggested Vincent, “it would be best for you to get to know my new little friend! Beatrice is a girl, whose parents don’t care about her enough. She has everything necessary – financially. Look around – there are plenty of beautiful dolls, clothes… Look at this bed with its baldachin, or this tremendous tent! But her parents never tell her fairy tales, never play with her. The only thing they are interested in is making money – and their work. Yes, of course, they certainly love Beatrice – but they don’t know how to show it. They always buy her dolls and clothes instead of giving her real parental love… Her uncle, who thinks, that he is a great inventor – the direct second coming of Leonardo da Vinci! – was the only person who cared about her! One night they went to Central Park to play hide-and-seek and Beatrice saw me. She begged her uncle to make a trap and catch me with it because she wanted to take me home – partly to be her pet, partly to be her friend, or her surrogate father – and her uncle did it for her! I came to my senses here in her luxurious nursery. And then… Beatrice was very gracious to me. She caressed me and gave me delicious food, she told me again and again that she loves me very much, and she slept at night with her little head on my heart. I felt that I was a captive of my own heart. I knew that you and Father and the others Below were very worried about me, but I was unable to leave Beatrice. I couldn’t leave this poor little soul who didn’t exaggerate saying that her parents didn’t care for her. I saw it with my own eyes – it is the fourth day I’ve been here and I haven’t had to hide because of Beatrice’s parents – simply, because they never went to her room! She found in me that which she didn’t get from her parents. That’s why I couldn’t leave her.”

“Yes,” agreed Beatrice, “he is my big cat, and I love him the most in the world!”

“I see,” answered Catherine very quietly, “you can’t even believe how I understand it! But listen, little Beatrice, Vincent can’t stay with you forever! Not only because I miss him very much – and his Father and other friends too! But you can’t shelter him in your room – I think your parents will sooner or later discover him! This kind of life is not for him! He must live in the place he belongs to – and you can’t take away his freedom! You see, he didn’t leave you because he wasn’t able to sadden you! If you love him the way he loves you, you will let him go!”

Beatrice was just looking at Vincent, and then she sighed deeply.

“All right,” said she, barely audible, “just to show how much I love you … I’ll let you go, Vincent. Go home and be happy!”

Then she started weeping, quietly, but desolately.

“Little darling,” Vincent’s voice was unrecognizable, while he hugged the weeping girl, “I will always remain your friend! I promise that I will visit you several times a week in the evening; and if we can manage to do it, I will one day show you my mysterious world! I think you won’t betray us, will you?”

“Good idea,” said Catherine, “and I think if she could shelter you here for four days, we can let trust her to visit Below!”

“Oh, it will be so good.” Beatrice’s tears seemed to dry up. “Terrific!”

“But first I have something to do here!” said Vincent.

“What is it?” asked Catherine.

“Beatrice,” Vincent turned to the girl without answering Catherine, “if I’m not mistaken, your parents’ bedroom is right at the end of that big corridor, isn’t it?”

“Yes!” nodded Beatrice.

“And what are the names of your parents?”

“Jane and Greg Weston,” answered Beatrice astonished. “Why?”

“You will learn in time,” Vincent answered.

“For Heaven’s sake, Vincent … do you want to go to their bedroom?” Catherine was shocked.

“Definitely,” nodded Vincent, “although I have to be sure that they have already fallen asleep. I know that they are at home – extraordinarily, they didn’t go to a party or theatre today with their very important business partners!”

After that, he went out of the nursery, just as quietly as a huge cat...

“Vincent, be careful!” exclaimed the two girls at the same time.

Vincent crept to the bedroom very quietly and then silently entered the room. Beatrice’s parents were in bed, tossing and turning restlessly. Vincent stopped, hiding behind a wardrobe near the door and said, “Listen to me, you, Jane and Greg Weston! You are really good, hard-working people, you have a great wealth – but it is worth nothing, because you don’t know your greatest treasure! Your only child, Beatrice is abandoned, lonely in spite of plenty of dolls and clothes! Can’t you give her the most important thing, more important than doll and expensive clothes or a luxurious room? Think about your parental love, which is independent from money! I repeat: you are good people, but you chose the wrong path! I suggest you not buy new dolls for her, but talk to her, play with her, read her fairy tales! Do it. It is not too late!”

“What… Who is it? Who are you?” murmured Greg Weston sleepily, but frightened.

“Let’s say that I am your conscience!” answered Vincent, and then he quickly and silently slipped from the room before the parents woke up.

Catherine and Beatrice sighed very deeply in relief when he arrived at the nursery.

“It worked,” Vincent said as he smiled at them, “I gave them a piece of my mind – luckily, they didn’t see me!”

“But what did you tell them?” asked Beatrice curiously.

“And how?” asked Catherine a bit worried.

“I stopped in the darkness, hiding behind a wardrobe, near to the door, and I told them that they are really good people, but they chose a wrong path, and they should play and talk to their only daughter instead of the fanatic moneymaking – that it is not too late! I don’t know if it helped or not, but I did my best!”

“Oh, Vincent,” Beatrice cried out, hugging Vincent again, “have I told you that you are the most wonderful being in the world?!”

“Today you have told me only five times,” Vincent smiled. Catherine couldn’t say a word; she just watched them.

“Now, my little Beatrice,” said Vincent, “we have to say farewell…”

Beatrice hugged Vincent strongly and heroically tried not to cry … and so did Vincent! They made sure each knew that they would always love each other and that they will remain friends always – and then Vincent and Catherine climbed out of the window and disappeared in the night.

Next morning, the Weston parents were looking at each other wearily.

“I had a very strange dream, Jane...” murmured Greg, Beatrice’s father.

“So did I, Greg,” whispered Jane.

“A raspy, but gentle male voice told me, that although I was a good and hard-working man, I neglected my greatest treasure, Beatrice – and I must play with her and really care about her instead of moneymaking, before it’s too late!”

“That’s strange,” said Jane with a great abashment, “I heard this voice, too! He said that he was our conscience…”

“Yes, you are right,” Greg was now really awakened, “maybe it wasn’t a dream?!”

“Then who was it?” Jane was very frightened. “Did someone come into our bedroom?! But how? Dear God…”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Greg very determined, “because he was right! Come to the nursery, Jane!”

“Good morning, little one.” Greg cheerfully rushed into the nursery with his wife. “Did you sleep well?”

“Dad, Mom?” wondered Beatrice, “You are … here? How come, that … well, I slept really well, thanks…”

“We thought,” continued Greg, “that today we won’t work! We will have a vacation and we will go to the zoo with you! Just the three of us! What do you say?”

“Yes, yes!” nodded Jane. Beatrice was staring astonished at her parents and she screamed for joy and hugged both of them.


Vincent and Catherine were standing together on Catherine’s balcony that evening.

“Catherine,” said Vincent after a short break. “I must confess that this little Beatrice stole a piece of my heart...”

“A new friend…” smiled Catherine, “one more person, who loves you! I’m glad, too, that you got to know her… You took on a high risk for her, but it was worth it. She really deserved your help.”

“I felt,” sighed Vincent, “as if she were my own daughter.”

“I’m sure you would be a great father,” answered Catherine gently. “Perhaps...”

She stopped speaking.

“What is it?” asked Vincent.

“Nothing,” said Catherine with a smile. “Really, nothing...”

She leaned to Vincent and he hugged her very gently…