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Chapter 5

by Linda "Mini" Robin

From her obscure place in the shadows at the back of the courtroom, Diana Bennett watched the proceedings with controlled interest. The Public Defender got Mouse a short stay out of jail straight into the local ‘nut house’, Bellevue. Not that Diana could see Mouse enjoying his stay there any better, but at least it offered options that would not be possible if Mouse were sent back to the tombs to await his transfer to the local penitentiary to serve a term for theft and assault.

Pushing herself away from the wall and following at a discrete distance, Diana watched as Officer Brady took Mouse by the arm as escorted him out to the awaiting patrol car. Mouse actually seemed happy to be getting a ride in the police car again. Diana turned and walked back into the Court House, down the stairs to the basement and into a small storage closet. Once the door was closed, she moved aside a file cabinet, pushed open a small door behind it and reached into her pocket for the small flashlight she always kept handy since being introduced to the tunnels. Switching it on and clamping it between her teeth, she climbed part way down a metal ladder, pulled the file cabinet back into place, closed the small door, and continued her descent. When she stepped down to the tunnel floor, she turned right and walked down a narrow passage for about 25 feet until she came to a pipe running along the wall at shoulder height. There she stopped and looked for the length of pipe she knew to be hanging from a string. This she used to tap out Vincent’s code, her own code, and the Court House location. Now all she had to do was wait for her escort. She needed to speak to both Father and Vincent about some thoughts she had to get Mouse out of custody and back down to the tunnels before he innocently spilled the beans and they all landed in jail.

“This might not be a pleasant conversation.” Diana sighed and slumped down to a comfortable crouch to wait.

Ten minutes later a familiar figure came striding down the tunnel. Diana’s eyes were glued to the unusual being with cat like grace, long golden mane of hair and the most luminous sky blue eyes. She had a wide smile as she greeted him. “Hi Vincent, I need to tell you and Father both what I found out about Mouse and what we might do to rectify the situation. So how about I wait and tell you both about it at the same time?”

Vincent returned Diana’s smile, “All right Diana, thank you for coming, I’ll take you to Father.” With that he turned and began walking back in the direction he had come, leaving Diana to follow along.

Diana’s long legs did a pretty good job keeping up with Vincent’s fast pace but she was almost into a trot when she finally spoke again. Vincent. Come on, big guy, we’re not running a marathon.. Slow down a bit, would you?”

Vincent turned his head toward Diana and blushed. “I’m sorry Diana. Just too much on my mind. I didn’t think.” He slowed his pace to match hers and they continued on in silence.

In just under fifteen minutes they were going down the stairs into Fathers study. Father looked up as they descended and greeted Diana. “Ah, Diana, good of you to come so quickly. I’m assuming you have news about Mouse?” He gestured to the two chairs in front of his desk. “Have a seat. Would you like some tea?”

“Uh, no thanks Father let me get right to the point.” Diana sat, leaned forward slightly and as she spoke she turned her head back and forth between Father and Vincent. “I just came from Mouse’s arraignment. He was arrested earlier in the day for loitering and let go with a warning. Later he was arrested a second time for stealing a generator out of the park . . . and for assault on the officer who was arresting him.”

Father bellowed out “WHAT! I knew Mouse’s ‘taking’ was going to get him into trouble again. That boy! When will he learn? Oh my Lord! What must he be going through . . . being in jail. What if he tells them everything? This could be the end of our world!”

Ignoring Father’s outburst, Diana hurried on when he broke for a breath. “The Public Defender had Mouse sent to Bellevue for a three day psyche evaluation because he couldn’t understand his Miranda rights.” Diana paused for only a moment before rushing on as it looked like Father was going to interrupt again. “Which is a good thing really. We might stand a chance of getting him out of Bellevue, where there would be no way of getting him out of jail.” Diana paused again.

“We have a helper who works at Bellevue. Sam works the night shift. We could enlist his help as long as it wouldn’t cause him to lose his job.” Father sat back and scratched his chin and stroked his beard in contemplation.

“Good, that’s good Father; but even if we get Mouse out of Bellevue, we will need to bury his paperwork or there will be an outstanding arrest warrant on him.” Diana fidgeted in her chair for a moment before continuing on. “The file on Mouse will have to disappear from the District Attorney’s office, and we need to enlist Joe Maxwell’s help to do that.”

Vincent and Diana both looked towards Father and waited. Finally he spoke again. “All right. I can see the necessity of involving Mr. Maxwell. Diana you know him quite well. How do you think he will react to finding out about us?”

“Father, I can’t really say how Joe would react. This…” she used her hands in a wide sweeping gesture “is a lot to take in. All we can do is to prepare him and see. I know just the thing to use to get him to keep our secret, though. Catherine’s son.”

Vincent sat up straight at this and sputtered “You want to bribe him with seeing Jacob?”

“I know, Vincent, but Joe still hasn’t let go of the fact that he doesn’t know what happened to Catherine’s baby. He still has a lot of issues about Catherine’s death to resolve. After all, he was in love with her.” Diana dropped that bombshell in their laps.

“Diana you must be mistaken. Mr. Maxwell was Catherine’s boss and good friend but . . .” Vincent let his sentence trail off.

“I didn’t say she was in love with him.” Diana reached over and held Vincent’s hands in hers. “All I know is that, from our friendship, I can see that Joe still has unresolved issues of a past lost love to deal with. In the long run, I think it would be good for Joe to see Catherine’s child and see ‘the big secret’ that she was keeping quiet about during all the years she worked in the DA’s office. I think it might help him with his grief and help him begin to heal.”

Vincent and Father both nodded their acquiescence. Father reached into his right hand desk drawer and pulled out a sheet of paper and began to scribble furiously. He nodded as he finished, then, grabbing his cane, walked to the pipe against the side wall of the study and tapped out a short message. By the time Father reseated himself behind his desk, Kipper came skidding to a halt at the top of the stairs, jumped them in one leap and stopped at the side of Father’s desk.

“What did you need, Father?” Kipper got out in his winded voice.

Father handed Kipper the note. “Take this to Sam. That is apartment 303 above the green grocer on 32nd Avenue, and wait for an answer.”

“Sure thing, Father.” And out Kipper ran again.

Turning back to Diana, placing his elbows on his desk and lacing his fingers together under his chin Father spoke. “When will you speak to Joe Maxwell? And when will you bring him Below?”

“The sooner the better, since Mouse will only be in Bellevue for three days. I’ll give him a call and have him come by my loft tonight.” Diana looked uncomfortable as she rose and headed for the exit with Vincent following right behind her.

Vincent caught Diana’s arm to halt her in the tunnel, cocked his head to the side and asked. “What is it Diana? Tell me.”

“It’s just that, not only was Catherine keeping secrets from Joe the whole time she knew him, but I been doing the same for a year. It is going to be a difficult conversation even before I begin to tell him about Jacob, the tunnels, and . . . you.” Diana shrugged. “I guess I figured that I would be doing just that one day but was hoping to keep procrastinating for a while longer.” Diana let out a soft snort and a silent chuckle shook her body. “My Granny always said never put off till tomorrow what you could do today. Granny was always right. I just have to set my mind to doing it and get it done. Lead me up Vincent.” Diana took the crook of his arm and they headed for her threshold.

* * *

Joe’s phone in the DA’s office rang and his secretary said, “Diana Bennett on line one.”

“Thanks,” Joe muttered before pushing line one’s button. “Hey Diana, what’s up?”

“Could you come by my apartment this evening as early as you can get away?” Diana asked and waited.

“Uh, yeah. Sure. What is it?” Joe was very curious, as this was the first time Diana had invited him to come to her loft.

“Just wear some comfortable walking shoes and bring a jacket. OK?” Diana was ready to hang up when Joe spoke again.

“Why do I need a jacket in this warm weather?” Joe asked.

“Just do it, Maxwell.” Then she hung up before he could reply again.

Joe blew it off, figuring Diana was on a case that had her all jumpy and out of sorts. But he spent an unproductive afternoon with his mind on Diana instead of his work. At five PM, he gave up and headed home to change out of his office clothes into some jeans and tennis shoes. As a last thought before heading out of his apartment door, he grabbed his coat off the rack behind the door. “Crazy . . . a coat in this heat, but what the heck . . .”

At six PM sharp he pushed the buzzer in the lobby of Diana’s building and waited. A crackling voice came back at him “I’m sending the elevator down, top floor.”

While waiting for the elevator to arrive at her loft, Diana paced, twisting her fingers together and having last minute thoughts of just asking Joe to go out to dinner and forgetting about revealing anything to him. But as the door opened, she knew that she couldn’t let Vincent down and braced herself. “Come in Joe. Would you like something to drink? Or I could order us a pizza. I’ve got some things to tell you and it might take a while.”

“Got any beer?” Joe smiled at a nervous looking Diana and wondered what had the usually calm, cool, Miss Bennett so nervous.

“Sure. Have a seat, and I’ll be right there.” Diana grabbed two bottles of beer out of the fridge, opened them, sat on the other end of the couch from Joe and handed him his beer.

Diana was silent as she took several sips of her beer, and, finally clearing her throat, she began her disclosure. “I’m not really sure just where to start, so I guess I’ll just start where you coerced me into working on Catherine Chandler’s case.”

At this Joe started and almost spoke before Diana rushed on. “I found out Catherine Chandler’s secret, her other life away from the office. In doing this, I became a secret keeper myself.” She could see that Joe was chomping at the bit to ask a ton of questions, so she hurried on. “Tonight I am going to share that secret with you, and in so doing you will also become a secret keeper.” Diana paused to let this sink in. Joe didn’t speak. He just sat there holding his beer with his mouth open. So Diana asked, “Can you keep Catherine’s secrets, Joe? I need to know if you can before I go on.”

Now Joe did speak. “And if I say no, you won’t tell me anything that you’ve found out?”

“That’s right, Joe. If you can’t keep Catherine’s secrets, my secrets, then I can not tell you anything more.” Diana watched Joe’s eyes and body language. She would know if he was telling her the truth or not.

“Diana, if you have found out anything about Catherine’s abduction, her death, her baby, you’ve got to tell me.” Joe looked almost desperate. “I’ve got to know.”

Diana repeated more firmly, “Can you keep Catherine’s secrets, Joe?”

Looking Diana straight in the eye he spoke one work honestly. “Yes!”

Diana sat back and curled her legs up underneath her torso. “I have to go back to when Catherine Chandler was abducted, her face slashed and she went missing for ten days.”

Over the next hour, Diana spoke without so much as a pause. She told Joe all about the tunnel community, how and why it was founded, about the people who lived there and how they lived. She told him about Catherine’s love for an extraordinary man with unusual features. She filled Joe in on all the missing pieces of Catherine’s abduction, her murder, and finally about her baby, Jacob. When Diana finally wound down and stopped, Joe was silent for almost five tension-filled minutes as she watched a range of emotions cross over his face.

Then a calm seemed to come over Joe. He spoke his first words in over an hour, and the questions came pouring out. “Can I see Catherine’s child? Can I meet Vincent? Can I see this tunnel community where they live?”

Diana smiled. “How about now?”

Joe jumped up. “Now? Yeah. Let's go!”

Diana picked up Joe’s jacket and handed it to him, grabbed her keys and her own jacket and headed down to her basement threshold. Joe had taken all she had told him very well. She wondered while they waited for their guide how Joe would react when they told him how they needed his help with getting Mouse out of Bellevue and making his case disappear. Well, she would let him have one of William’s good meals Below, see Catherine’s child, meet Vincent . . . and then they could spring it on him.


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