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3rd SEASON ROUND ROBIN

 

Chapter 3

by Goldie


The unfamiliar voice behind him startled Vincent from his reverie.

“I'll have to ask you to leave now. Our gates close after sundown, but feel free to visit tomorrow, any time after 8:00 a.m.”

“I'm sorry,” Vincent answered hoarsely. “I'm leaving now.” He stood up with his back to the attendant; and with a flourish of his cape, instinctively covered his face and took off, practically running from Catherine's gravesite.

The young gatekeeper watched in amazement as Vincent fled. He had never seen anyone sprint as fast as this tall man wearing a cloak. He wondered why anyone would want to visit a grave after dark, but then he had the good fortune of never yet having lost a loved one.

Vincent hurried to the sanctuary of the Tunnels, his entire being wracked with foreboding. With Mouse having been arrested, there would be law enforcement involved, and he felt that the tunnels might be threatened by this unexpected turn of events. As he neared the entrance, he remembered having sent the message to Father. ‘That's it,’ he thought. Father would have a solution to this problem. He always did in various extenuating circumstances in the past. His judgment was sound, and he was extremely omniscient.

Father's chamber was still lit, and Vincent approached slowly. The flickering candlelight meant the patriarch was still awake. Vincent peered inside and noticed that Father was at his desk, his head in his hands, as though deep in thought. “Father, did you get my message earlier?”

The older man looked up and nodded. “Yes, I did. Come in and sit down for a while, Vincent.”

“What are we going to do about it?” Vincent asked, not certain if this was a good time to bring up the subject, owing to the look of distress on Father's face. However, there was no point in delaying the inevitable.

“I don't know,” Father replied, much to Vincent's surprise.

Vincent had never heard father say those words before. Jacob Wells always had the answers to everything - everything perhaps, except for Mouse's arrest.

“I have pondered this over and over again, Vincent; and I must confess that I keep running around in circles,” Father said, his voice tired and tinged with resignation.

Vincent felt defeated. If Father couldn't help, the tunnels were doomed. “But Father, I have always looked to you for your wisdom.”

“I'm afraid I've failed you this time, my son. I'm not the wizard you think I am. I'm just an ordinary man who has probably lived longer than anyone expected, and who is supposed to know things that no one else has ever encountered.” Father sighed, and then said, “Vincent, what are your thoughts on the subject? Can you think of any possible reason why Mouse was arrested?”

Vincent paused momentarily and an idea suddenly struck him. “Father, it's a well-known fact that Mouse likes to take things that he figures other people have tossed aside. Maybe he inadvertently stole something he thought was a discard.”

“That's a possibility I hadn't considered up until now. So what can we do to get him released without putting our domain into jeopardy?”

“That's the dilemma we face, Father. Diana did offer her help and Joe Maxwell's; however, I discouraged their intercession, mainly due to the fact that I don't want to get just anyone involved. I realize Joe has been in the picture for a while, since he was Catherine's boss, as well as working closely with Diana, but still…”

“I'm aware of that,” Father said. “I have used his services myself; and since Catherine trusted him, I had no doubts as to his character and expertise. From what I've been able to gather, Joe is quite taken with Diana . . . and I'm sure she would never recommend him if she didn't trust his discretion. It may be our only answer.”

“Well, Father, I did turn down her offer, simply because the fewer people who know about us, the better off we'll be. I don't want to get the entire police force into this.”

“There are some individuals we have to trust, Vincent. Think of the helpers. They know about us, and yet we rely on their integrity to keep our secret and yet keep us cognizant of happenings above. So how is Joe Maxwell any different?”

Vincent considered this momentarily, and then said, “Father, you are probably right. I question neither your authority, nor your wisdom. It's just that I want to keep the tunnels safe. You understand that, don't you?”

“Of course, my boy. And don't you realize that I feel the same way? I have never wanted our home or our people to be discovered. So let's decide here and now that Joe and Diana are to be on the case . . . to get Mouse out of incarceration and get him safely home, with no chance of the tunnels being discovered. Now, if you'll excuse me, I really must get some rest. It's been a long and troubling day.”

Vincent turned to go. He wasn't entirely convinced at this point. But it was late, and the discussion had ended. “Of course, Father. My head is whirling also. I just have one question.”

“What's that, my boy?”

“What exactly did you mean when you said something about Joe being “taken” with Diana?”

Father merely smiled and waved his hand back and forth in a gesture which meant Vincent should leave. Although Vincent was disturbed by this, Father felt it was neither the time nor the place for that particular topic of conversation. There were other, more pressing matters to be considered.

* * *

Vincent slept fitfully that night. The thoughts kept running through his head like a merry-go-round. First, he was puzzled by Mouse's arrest. Mouse was a kind and gentle soul. He was not your typical criminal. The thought was preposterous. What could he have done to get himself into this situation? He was a little slow, and he had a rather unusual speech pattern. But surely that would not be sufficient for him to land in jail, unless he had actually stolen something

Then there was concern about the future of the tunnels. And what about the relationship between Diana and Joe? He knew they were very good friends and worked together. But friendly co-workers do not necessarily make good bedfellows. Vincent had to laugh out loud at that metaphorical statement. Bedfellows indeed! How such a thought entered his head, was beyond him. So he decided at that point, he would get up. Sleep was apparently out of the question tonight, and besides, it would soon be daylight.

The next day, Vincent busied himself with his chores and tending to little Jacob. Later in the day he asked one of the sentries if they could procure a newspaper for him, since he thought there might be an announcement of Mouse's arrest in one of the arrest columns of the news stand's dailies. Nothing came out in the papers until late in the day, in the evening edition. Sure enough, on the back page was a short paragraph, and to Vincent's chagrin, a picture of the hapless detainee. Mouse looked bewildered and frightened. The article read:

        “Late yesterday afternoon, a young vagrant was picked up for loitering in front of Martin's Jewelry Shop on 3rd and Broadway. He gave his name only as Mouse, and would not tell arresting officer, Julia McCart, either his last name or present address. Therefore, he was taken into custody for further questioning.”

Vincent began pacing. He was furious. How dare anyone arrest Mouse for the criminal act of “loitering.” The paper did not mention that Mouse did anything wrong. His only “crime” was standing near a jewelry store. And, in order to protect the other tunnel residents, Mouse had enough integrity and presence of mind to not reveal where he lives.

Father was right about the issues of trust. Vincent knew he had to trust Joe Maxwell, who Vincent secretly feared might be a possible rival for Diana’s affections. In the past, Diana had talked about her work relationship with Joe and how he had tried to date her, but she refused. Since Diana remained secretive, Maxwell was probably overly curious about Diana, and this would give him an opportunity to dig and delve more than necessary, Vincent reasoned. But at the same time, he knew instinctively there were more immediate and important matters to think about.

“I have to get in touch with Diana right away,” he said aloud. “If I don't, the other officers will get involved, and soon the tunnels will turn into a tourist attraction. We'll all be arrested for sequestering ourselves in what they would consider an unsafe dwelling, and for evasion of taxes.” Vincent knew he would have to concede to Diana's proposal of getting Joe and herself on the case or lose everything that meant the world to him and the tunnel community. Diana's offer was the lesser of two evils, and at this point, he had no other options.

~


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