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Chapter 6

by T’Mara

While Joe was standing next to Diana in the tunnels underneath her building, waiting for a member of the tunnel community to meet them there and escort them to the community’s home, he looked around in anticipation. What would he see? Was it really possible that people could lead happy, productive lives down here as Diana had tried to make him believe? The tunnel they were standing in looked reasonably dry – no mold or dampness, the air was surprisingly fresh. Maybe this environment was not as bad and unhealthy as he had thought. But still, it was dark here. No natural sunlight reached these tunnels, Diana’s little flashlight being the only illumination. Their shadows quivered across the walls of the tunnel, and Joe felt uneasy.

“My God, what have I gotten myself into?” He shook his head. He had wanted for such a long time to find out about Catherine’s baby, the circumstances of her death, and the big secret that he had always felt she was keeping from him. Now that Diana had told him everything, and he was about to meet the people that had meant most to Catherine - the man she had loved, their son and her lover’s father - he wondered what Vincent would be like. Diana had mentioned unusual features; she had said something about a leonine appearance. What was that supposed to mean?

“Diana, Mr. Maxwell, thank you for coming.” At the sound of this deep, velvety voice, Joe was immediately alert. A tall figure shrouded in a black cloak, his head covered by a hood, stood in the shadows outside the small area lit by Diana’s flashlight. Joe couldn’t see him clearly, but it was obvious that the man was trim and fit, taller than most; and Joe spotted a mane of long, blondish hair. And this voice… Small wonder Catherine would have fallen for this man when he picked her up and tended to her injuries after she had been assaulted. Joe was certain that this voice would soothe and calm any frightened, injured young woman. He had absolutely no doubt that the new arrival must be Vincent.

“Vincent.” Diana greeted her friend, and Joe noticed, to his surprise, that her whole face lit up when she looked at the tall man in the shadow. He remembered how she had told him about how she had found Vincent injured on Cathy’s grave and how she had nursed him back to health. Was it possible that she, too, had succumbed to the charms of this unusual being?

“Father is waiting. He would like to talk to you alone first, Mr. Maxwell, and then he will introduce you to some members of our community.” Diana knew he was talking about the council members. They would have to discuss the best way to help Mouse, and Father would not do this without at least Mary, William and Pascal present, in addition to himself and Vincent. Probably her as well and maybe Jamie, since she was most affected by Mouse’s misfortune.

Vincent silently turned and led the way, with Diana and Joe following behind. Joe was getting more curious by the minute. How much longer would he have to wait to actually *see* Vincent’s face? Why was this guy so secretive? Sure, Diana had mentioned his unusual face, but how bad could it possibly be? Did that man think that he, Joe Maxwell, district attorney, would faint like a little girl when seeing that supposedly unusual face?

After a few minutes, they reached Father’s chamber, and Vincent showed them in. When Joe followed Diana into the spacious chamber and saw the elderly gentleman seated at the large wooden table, he almost forgot to wonder about Vincent. He knew that man! That funny old guy had jumped into his taxi once and had then given him information on Elliot Burch – confirming the suspicion that Burch had been the victim of a crime or accident. And a few weeks later that same gentleman had come to his office with the pattern of a floor tile that supposedly was to be found in the criminal Gabriel’s house…the same Gabriel that was suspected of having been involved in Cathy’s and Burch’s deaths. And that man had convinced him to check into this floor pattern because “Catherine would want you to.” And Diana as well. So, that was the connection. He was the patriarch of this community. What had he said back then? His name was…Wells? And the first name? Of course. Jacob! He was Vincent’s father, and Vincent had named his son…Catherine’s son after him.

“Mr. Wells, I don’t know what to say,” Joe managed to mumble. “Diana has told me so much tonight, and I am sure I only know the most basic things, and there are still many surprises ahead and many questions I will have for you in the future.” He was slowly regaining his composure and confidence. He gazed around. This place was nothing like he had imagined it. It was spacious and looked cozy: a nice, big table, lots of shelves with books…not too different from any gentleman’s living room. Except for the candles. Of course, there was no electricity down here, but the flickering candle-light provided a unique atmosphere.

Father smiled. “Welcome to our home, Mr. Maxwell. I know Catherine always felt bad about keeping a secret from you, and if she could see you here with us tonight, she would be pleased. Vincent, Diana,” Father continued, “why don’t you go and pick up Jacob. Mary is babysitting him. You could bring her, too, and the other friends I want to introduce to Mr. Maxwell, William, Pascal, Jamie …”

Joe suddenly remembered Vincent and that he still hadn’t seen that man’s face. “Vincent… One moment. Before you go for your son and the others, could I please see your face?” During Joe’s exchange with Father, Vincent had averted his face and now stood with his side turned to Joe. “I do not want to frighten you, Mr. Maxwell. We have just met, and normally it takes people a while to get used to me.”

Diana saw that Joe was getting impatient. “Vincent, please,” she pleaded with him. “I have told Joe about your unusual appearance. He has an approximate idea of what you look like. He also knows that Catherine loved you and that I trust you. He won’t be scared.”

Joe once again wondered what exactly was going on between Diana and Vincent. Her voice sounded softer and more pleading than he had ever heard her, and Vincent? He seemed to actually listen to her and give in to her. How close exactly were they, and were they aware of how they reacted to each other?

With an exasperated sigh that seemed to express that he couldn’t deny Diana’s request, Vincent slowly turned around and his eyes met Joe’s. Joe gasped. Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw: the bronze-colored face that looked like a cross between a man and a lion, the mane of long, reddish blond hair, the piercing blue eyes. Sure, Diana had mentioned that Vincent was unique. But Vincent looked like a being right out of a fairy-tale book. Yet, there was the deep humanity in those expressive blue eyes, and despite the beastly features, Vincent’s whole demeanor and speech pattern showed him to be a cultured, intellectual human being, who had obviously won Catherine’s heart. And maybe Diana’s, too, if Joe was not mistaken. Joe also couldn’t help but realize that Vincent, with his clothes that were vaguely reminiscent of the renaissance era and his almost regal bearing, looked like a prince of this realm. He definitely was unusual, but not frightening at all. And Cathy, Joe’s dear friend and colleague, had loved this man. That was all that mattered to Joe.

“Wow,” Joe wasn’t exactly sure, what to say. Then a big grin appeared on his handsome face. “Vincent, forgive me my stupid blubbering. Diana tried to prepare me, but you are nothing like I expected you to be. But, Catherine loved and trusted you, and so does Diana, and I consider both of them my dear colleagues and friends. I would be honored if we could be friends as well.”

Vincent cocked his head and looked at Joe. “Catherine has told me a lot about you, and so has Diana. The two times Father met you, he spoke highly of you, too. Since you are now a keeper of our secrets as well, I feel that we have already been friends for a long time.”

Joe nodded. “That’s how I feel, too.”

Father interrupted them. “Vincent, as I said, I have to talk to Mr. Maxwell alone. Will you tell everybody else to be here in about 30 minutes? Diana, you, too, please. And Jacob. I’ll bet Mr. Maxwell will want to meet our little prince. Of course it’s past his bed-time, but he won’t be able to sleep much tonight anyway, with everybody as nervous as we are.”

Vincent nodded and left. Diana followed him, and Joe once again wondered. They hadn’t shown any signs of intimacy, but there was definitely something between these two. It was very obvious with Diana – at least to him, who knew her fairly well and had worked with her closely. But something about the way Vincent had reacted to her words had given Joe the impression that the tall lion-man was not unaffected either. Of course, only a year had passed since Catherine’s death, and maybe it was way too early to think about something like that; but if Catherine’s baby were ever to have a new mother, the little guy could certainly do worse than getting Diana for a stepmother, Joe thought.

Father’s next words brought Joe back to the here and now. “Mr. Maxwell, you have certainly wondered why we decided to reveal our secret to you now, of all times.” Joe had to agree. “Yeah, I mean, I was glad when Diana told me everything, but why didn’t you contact me much sooner? Elliott Burch, of all people, was in on the secret, at least partially, right? Why did you trust him more than me?” Joe sounded hurt. Father shook his head slowly. “It wasn’t that we didn’t trust you. The reason we kept you out of it was that we didn’t want you to get into a conflict of interests. You were so much involved in the Gabriel case from the beginning, and you were the acting district attorney at that time. We didn’t feel we could burden you with that additional knowledge. It was bad enough that Diana got herself involved. But since she saved my son’s life, we couldn’t very well shut her out as much as we did you.”

“But why now?” Joe wondered aloud. “Nothing has changed. I am still the district attorney. I could still get into a conflict of interests. Don’t misunderstand me, I am glad that the final mysteries about Catherine’s death and that of her murderer have been solved for me now, and that I am finally getting a chance to meet you and all your people, your son, your grandson … but why now?”

Father sounded grave and earnest. “Because we need to involve you in something that is important to us. Mr. Maxwell, we have authorized Diana to tell you everything and to bring you here because we need your help.”



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