Protectors

A Tapestry of Twenty-five Winter Moments from 1987

Third Sojourn: Strong Medicine

by Zara Wilder

 

I

1 February 1987
Sunday Night

"This looks good," Father tells me. He eyes the three lines Jason Walker incised across the left pectoral region of my chest. "No signs of infection. All three wounds are healing well. Remarkable, considering your misadventures Above this past week."

I do recover quickly from most physical injuries. Father's assessment confirms healthy healing ridges as the tissues rebuild. He removed the sutures last night, after I awoke from a full day's sleep. He also taught my Saturday afternoon science class in my stead—just to make sure I got all the rest I needed. The children told me today during our visual arts session that Father enjoyed his lesson as much as they did, explaining to the group in energetic detail how prisms refract and filter light.

Father checks my fading bruises and the faint pink scars left behind by healed burns. Then he covers the tenderized area on my chest with a clean dressing and winds a long bandage around my body to hold the pad in place. This is meant to cushion the wounds and prevent my clothes from chafing the mending flesh. He ties the bandage off. I stand up and pull on the first of my shirts.

"Vincent, I wish you would stay Below tonight," Father predictably comments. "You could use more rest."

"I promised Sam I would visit him tonight," I reply. I pick up my second shirt, a warm white sweater Mary knitted for me a couple years ago, and I put that on too.

Father closes his medical bag. "Sam will understand if you go Above some other time."

"He needs the medicine Dr. Wong sent down this afternoon. I need to see how Sam is doing. It makes sense for me to go."

Father sighs.

I leave my blue overshirt and heavy sheepskin vest draped across the back of my rose-upholstered armchair. I move to stand in front of my anxious guardian. "Father."

His voice is taut with emotion. "They might as well be slicing and bludgeoning my body, Vincent." His right hand cups the side of my face that was not burned when I put out the fire in Mischa Langer's basement.

My father's love comes through fierce and mournful. In many ways, my pain is his pain. It is part of the bond between parent and child that we share. I reach out for him, and we embrace, drawing strength from each other. "I'll be careful," I promise him. "Don't worry yourself."

"Impossible," Father mutters, but he is smiling a little now, sure that I have understood his fear and accepted his love. I release him. He steps back. Father says, "If Sam needs anything, see what you can do to help."

"I will."

Father picks up his black leather doctor's bag and his walking stick. He leaves Sam's medicine on my table. After he exits my chamber, I finish dressing for the night. I fill my voluminous overshirt pockets with the medicine bottle and a paperback edition of a novel by Kipling, Captains Courageous. Mindful of Father's concerns, I go Up Top with utmost care. I know full well that it is my personal vigilance in weighing risks and chances that protects my freedom to move through the city streets as I please. I also carry the knowledge that the underworld people whom I love hold my cautious instincts in the highest regard. This is why I am both the self-appointed and the community-elected chief security warden of the Undercity. It is a long, complicated story. In any case, I never want to disappoint my world's—nor my father's—trust in me by making any avoidable error in judgment.

Be all of that as it may, it is still important to me for my own sake—this return to my ordinary habits and routines, this exercise of my wits and senses in the perilous world Above. So I emerge from the Tunnels as soon as I arrive within reasonable walking distance of Sam's neighborhood. I enjoy the nighttime solitude, and I stay alert. No overt threat comes to my attention.

In the city Above, thermometers measure freezing temperatures. My young friends Dustin and Nicholas have told me that it snowed and then rained this morning, clogging the thoroughfares with muddy slush by one o' clock in the afternoon. The sky is cloudy now but not precipitating. Lumpy ice sheets cover many sections of pavement along my route. Vapor billows from grates and drains in the streets.

During my walk I think about Sam Denton. He has kept to himself this winter. Sam suffered a stroke in June that weakened his legs, and I think he's been slowly shriveling inward these past months. I come to him when I can; but we had troubles in the Tunnels after Christmas, and then I've become—distracted—since Winterfest. This is merely a summary of recent circumstances, none of which can excuse my neglect of an old friend. Sam deserves better. Over the years he has done great good for the Tunnel folk. He would say he did what he could for us. I know he has made many sacrifices to be there for the community and for his son, who lived with us for a time.

Sam's health has never been vigorous. When I was a young boy his only son, Mitch, lived Below for several years because Sam became too ill to care for him on his own. At that time, Sam was far too frail to move into the Tunnels himself. The separation was hard for both of them. And yet, always, Sam worked to provide things we needed—food, clothes, machine parts, old furniture, books, tools, rummage-sale dishes, special gifts for Mitch—and he sent everything down to us. He was also a generous Topside companion, providing safe harbor for a certain night sighted youth given to wandering a dangerous city in the dark. I've spent many a post-midnight hour seated upon an old cushion on the floor beneath Sam's window, reading to him from my favorite books or listening to him tell me stories about his younger years spent driving a glass-roofed sightseeing bus for tourists visiting Manhattan. So many visitors, from so many different places. Other times Sam would play instrumental jazz records on his well-maintained RCA radio-phonograph while we talked about the doings of the city and our community.

Three or four times, Mitch came with me on these occasions. He never liked to visit his father Above. I still do not fully understand why. I suppose Mitch felt ashamed of his father's quiet, unassuming way of life. When he grew to manhood, Mitch chose to pursue wealth and power in the world Above—turning to cruelty and violence to achieve criminal goals. Those of us who knew him as a boy regret losing our mischievous friend. His path led him out of the Tunnels, beyond the ties of loving inclusion he shared within our community. Our world exiled him. He is part of us no longer. The world Above eventually punished Mitch for his crimes by imposing on him a five-year prison sentence. It broke his father's heart. Ever since Mitch betrayed everyone's faith in him, Sam hasn't been the same.

Sam's tenement apartment building near the waterfront stands cold and dark, at the edge of dereliction. It's an old brick structure netted within a spray-painted lace of overlapping graffiti. The two or three lighted windows issue a dispirited yellow ambiance. Sam's rooms command a second-story view of the gritty street corner outside Kato's Vacuum & Sewing Machines Shop (Repairs, Sales, Rentals). He has left his window unlatched for me. I climb into his bedroom from the fire escape.

Our longtime friend and Helper lies asleep and feverish in his bed. His mustached face is damp and florid. His thin silver hair halos his head above the soft white background of his pillowcase. A pair of underarm crutches jut up from the narrow crevice between Sam's headboard and the sturdy bedside table.

I glance around the apartment. It boasts few furnishings and fewer decorations. A large framed black and white photograph of a docked steamship hangs on the wall above Sam's bed. Except for light fixtures, all the other walls are bare. He has arranged his most prized possessions into a single unit against the interior adjoining wall that separates his doorless sleeping space from his bathroom: Sam's standing maple crucifix with oxidized bronze corpus, and his deceased wife's round ruby-red lacquered Chinese candy box, occupy the top of a cherrywood console cabinet, which contains Sam's mid-1950s phonograph system and his record albums. Nearby, his bedside table stands relatively cluttered with a small pile of books and various containers of medication. Many paper-shaded lamps claim other available spaces on floor, tables, and walls. Sam prefers to keep his apartment brightly lit after nightfall. All the lamps are dark tonight, though. He has prepared his home for my company. His rooms are illuminated only by the blinking red light from Kato's electrified storefront sign.

Flash. Flash. Flash. Looking out into the main room, I notice that the narrow shelf above Sam's electric hotplate holds only a single can of pork and beans. Oh, Sam. I will send one of the children here tomorrow morning with a box of foodstuffs. Kipper should be free after breakfast. I have asked other friends to look in on Sam for me during the past month, before we knew he was sick, and I'm sure they have assisted him as well as they could (and as much as Sam would allow)—but it has been far too long since my last visit.

I take out my paperback gift and Sam's new medicine bottle. Last Monday, he finally went in to Betances Health Center on Henry Street. The Topside healers there diagnosed a chronic kidney infection. They are treating the illness with a lengthy course of antibiotics. Our community has helped Sam to fill his prescription. Father has been sending up a nutritive liquid solution to keep Sam properly hydrated. Another Helper, Dr. Wong, is also applying the skills of an expert Chinese herbalist to help soothe Sam's afflictive symptoms. This is the medicine Father has arranged for me to deliver tonight.

The lonesome basso lowing of a cargo ship rolls inland from the Upper Bay. Sam stirs, groaning. He opens his eyes and sees me standing a few feet from the end of his bed. Despite his discomfort, Sam smiles a paternal smile of affectionate welcome.

I smile too, and greet my friend. "Hello, Sam." We are both glad that I have come Above.

II

2 February 1987
Monday Night

I take my coffee mug out onto the terrace. It steams heartily in the calm night air. Vincent has not moved from his perch at the end of the balustrade beside the exterior brickwork of my kitchen wall. He did not want any coffee. Come to think of it, he's never yet accepted any beverage I've offered him, but that does not stop me from extending my hospitality whenever he visits me Above.

Moving to the middle of the balcony, I stop at the low wall, looking at the city below me. I sip from my cup. My night is far from over. I have a lot of work to do before I get to drag myself to bed and try to score a few hours of sleep. Files to review, witness protection procedures to familiarize myself with. I feel elated that Joe Maxwell and District Attorney John Moreno have assigned me to the high-profile Flynn case, which the city wants to use to halt a resurgence of mob crime on the docks. I also feel terrified that I'll bungle it somehow. I'm feeling a lot of things tonight. Not all of my emotions have names.

I glance at Vincent. He sits on his side of the balcony with his back half-turned to the view, watching me in benevolent silence. I think I am the only view he cares about at the moment. I look away, drink more of my comforting Mocha-Java blend. Good medicine for my quavering nerves. If Vincent feels any of the awkwardness and uncertainty that I do, he doesn't show it. A distance has appeared between us that was not there before Elliot Burch entered my life. I let the distance be. Everything has its time and its place. I am simply grateful that Vincent is here, providing his undemanding companionship. He is good medicine too.

At work, I'm going up against a ruthless mob enforcer. His name is Mitch Denton. Five years ago he went to prison on extortion charges because the prosecution couldn't make a murder charge stick to him. And they must have tried very hard to argue that case. Denton allegedly beat a federal investigator to death with his bare hands. He served his extortion sentence and was released three weeks ago, in the middle of my Ridley Hall Foster Home inquiries.

Denton didn't waste any time slinking back down to the waterfront. Last Tuesday, a union longshoreman named Charlie Flynn died during a suspicious "accident," crushed beneath a descending shipping container. This happened just after he chose to cooperate with the local union and the DA's office. He had promised to testify against Denton and to identify Denton's lackeys among the shipping company employees. No one thought we needed to take drastic measures to protect Charlie Flynn. Someone should have.

Joe was right. Making a mistake on the docks doesn't just blow the case. It gets people killed.

This morning, I told my supervisor I could handle the investigation without making any mistakes. Joe said he knows I can. But now night has fallen and all my self-doubts are crawling out from their hiding places. I set down my coffee mug and sigh. The city glitters around the long rectangular spread of Central Park.

"It’s so peaceful and quiet out there tonight," I murmur, knowing Vincent's ears can hear my soft-spoken words.

Vincent instantly replies, "But there’s a storm raging within you."

His mysterious empathy never ceases to amaze me. I turn to him. I can't help smiling. "You felt it."

"I can almost hear it."

I release a breathy and nervous laugh. I have to look away from his intense sapphire gaze.

"All your feelings," Vincent continues. "Colliding. Thundering."

He's given me an opening. I decide I need to put some of my feelings into words. I tell him, "Vincent, I’ve been given a chance to do something important at work. It’s a great challenge. The risk . . . ." I don't know how to describe it. This is the first time I've tried to talk with Vincent about a case he is not directly involved in. My personal policy about discussing work is to dole out information on a need-to-know basis. I have no idea what Vincent does and does not need to know.

He simplifies my task for me. "Is it a risk worth taking?" he asks, serious.

I answer, "It’s a chance to help honest men keep their jobs, a chance to make a difference. It’s everything I wanted." I think about how that makes me feel, beyond my excitement at moving past ADA grunt work, beyond the sympathy I feel for the frightened witnesses on the pier who refused to talk to me and union official Frank De Corsia today. I admit in a whisper," But I’m afraid."

"Of what, Catherine?"

"Failure? The danger?"

"You can’t fail," Vincent says quickly.

"I hope not."

Looking deeply into my eyes, he explains, "You have the strength. You have the courage. We both know that. So you must use them."

It's all true. I feel Vincent's faith in me shoring up my weak spots. I love him for being gentle with my vulnerabilities. I love him for being honest about my strengths.

Vincent stands and turns to gaze out across the park. He sounds regretful as he says, "I only wish I could be there for you . . . keep you safe. Always."

"You are."

He glances at me from the corner of his eye but says nothing further. I wonder again how much self-doubt he's been through lately. I wonder what sorts of things Vincent fears the most. Maybe he's afraid of failing me. He shouldn't be, if he is. Vincent has strength and courage too. He can't fail either.

We stand quietly for a while. Vincent likes just being near me, I've noticed. My presence eases a kind of tension that seems to build up inside him. It's his words that usually perform such magic for me. Hmm. There. I've found a pattern in our month-long relationship. Something to explore in greater detail in the days to come. I smile to myself. Vincent looks at me quizzically.

"You're a beautiful person, Vincent," I whisper.

He stands perfectly still, now regarding me with expressionless solemnity.

I pick up my coffee mug and walk to him. He watches me raise my free hand. I touch my fingers to the front of his vest. This heavy gray fabric began life as a padded moving blanket, if I don't miss my guess. Vincent covers my hand with his hand, pressing my palm flat over his warm heart. I swear I can feel it beating beneath however many shirts and sweaters he's wearing, and the thick brown leather tunic that he's got belted on beneath his gray overvest. Vincent's luminous eyes see clear into my soul, accepting me, and all the truths I hold most dear. Loving me, and all that I am.

His love is like an ocean. I look away again, catch my breath. After a second or two, Vincent's hand returns to his side. I go to the terrace doors that open onto my dining area and living room. My tingling hand lights upon the door handle.

"Goodnight, Catherine," Vincent says behind me.

My heart is brimming with new hope and serenity. I smile again. "Goodnight." I hesitate, then turn back to him. "Vincent?"

Vincent is gone.

"Be well," I breathe. I open the door and reenter the warmth and light of my apartment. Time to get back to work.

III

2 February 1987
Late Monday Night

I can guess the identity of the intruder who has been spotted in the Tunnels under Sam Denton's neighborhood. Last night Sam told me Mitch is out of prison and back in town. My dear friend was so worried, he asked me not to come back to see him for a while. He didn't want Mitch to cause me or the community any trouble. I've never heard Sam sound so tired and hopeless as he did when he called his son "poison." My heart ached for him. Yet I could not refute his words.

The dark passages skim past as I run onward in response to our sentry's alarm. In the end, it is not difficult to find the intruder. He emits foul emotional waves of greedy animosity, and the sharp scent of his hair oil surrounds him in a pungent cloud. I round a corner, moving toward the open cement vault of an underground pumping station. My haste delays me, for my billowing cloak catches on a tangle of razor wire spilling out from a broken crate that serves no legitimate function in this place. It's someone's private street-style cache for drugs or a collection of portable stolen goods. I growl under my breath and slip out of my outer garment, leaving it behind rather than risk losing track of my quarry. The wire rattles as I free myself.

"Who's there?" calls a man's voice.

I stride out of the shadows onto the open floor. And there he stands. Hard-eyed and flint-hearted, Mitch Denton, smirking as he sees me.

"Vincent," he says. His tailored clothes are gray. His recently shaved face is much older than I remember it, lined and tight-jawed. His perennial anger throbs inside him like a rotten tooth.

"Don't you recognize me?" he asks. Bland words cannot disguise the ravening beast within. I stand stock still, watching his every movement.

"I've come home...old friend."

"You're not welcome here," I tell him flatly.

"Well, I couldn't resist a little nostalgia," Mitch says. "Came by to see my old man, I thought I'd check out the Tunnels."

My heart skips. I must check on Sam after I deal with Mitch. I ask, "What do you want?"

He ignores my question. He starts sauntering toward me, the heels of his new leather shoes clacking dully on the broken concrete floor. "You changed the Tunnel entrances. I got lost."

"We changed them to keep out intruders."

Mitch stops moving a yard away from me. "Me, an intruder?" He gives me a hard stare. I regret the temporary loss of my cloak and hood. "I used to live down here," Mitch says. "Remember?"

I look sidelong at his faded shadow as it stretches across the floor. Once, long ago, I would have called Mitch Denton a friend. His brow and cheekbones were rounder then, his chin pointy compared to the rest of his features. He is my elder by a year; and up until 1970, when he ran away from the Tunnels, he stood several inches taller than me. There was a time when I looked up to him, particularly after my beloved foster brother vanished from the underworld. Mitch and I enjoyed many of the same novels and dramatic plays. We played together in the Whispering Gallery, and the Maze, and the abandoned ruins of old buildings in the city Above. We shared many adventures—but few secrets. All the children of our generation quickly learned not to trust Mitch with important secrets. He had always been an angry boy, and his anger gradually hardened into bitterness, then brittled into malice.

By age fourteen, Mitch had become a rumormonger and conniving tattler. I believe he had also been stealing things from the world Above for a few years at that point in his life, but no one could ever prove it. He amused himself by whispering lies and falsehoods, setting people against one another, causing conflicts and wounded feelings. Some relationships have never completely recovered from his meddling.

When I was fifteen and he sixteen, Mitch and our chief warden at the time, Vernon, witnessed my battle with a gang of men who brutally attacked one of our foragers as she was returning home. It was terrible for all of us. I had not killed men before that night. Thus began a very bad time in my life. A time I try not to think about now. Mitch's sensationalized report of the event to others aroused fear in the minds of many Tunnel folk. Fear of me. Olivia, a friend I have long regarded as an elder sister, even became persuaded that Mitch and Vernon had to stop me from—eating the flesh of the corpses. That never happened. But Mitch said it did—until Vernon heard of it and ended that rumor with furious finality. Mitch left the Tunnels of his own accord soon afterward. Even so, Olivia's previous warmth toward me had gone. Sixteen-and-a-half years later, it has not returned.

Always, it is best not to dwell upon such things. Even now. Most especially right now.

"What I remember is our friendship as children," I say to Mitch in a low, restrained undertone. I glare a challenge at his dark eyes. "Those times I remember."

I sense a twinge of fear in him. Mitch smirks again in an attempt hide it. Or perhaps he doesn't acknowledge its presence within himself. "The day we went to the train yard," he says. He strolls away from me, exhibiting his teeth in a reminiscing grin. "You, me, Rennie, and Ike. Those hobos were chasing us, they had their knives, they were gonna carve us up? And they were right on your heels? Who held open the grate, so you could slip through by the skin of your teeth?" At a distance of nine paces away from me, Mitch turns to face me squarely. His smile disappears.

"Who held open the grate? Remember?" Inside, his rotted soul seethes with hatred.

So. He has come to lay blame. To assign to me sole responsibility for the dissolution of our friendship, and probably for his incarceration Above.

"Yes." Our night at the train yard lies in the distant past, notable because it was the only time Mitch ever risked himself for anyone else, as far as I know. "I remember." I speak the words slowly.

"Not well enough!" Mitch shouts at me. "Not enough to help me when I needed help! When I was in trouble!" He jabs one finger at the center of his chest.

It's an echo of his final statement before the Council and gathered Tunnels population, five years ago. "You stupid people!" he said then. "You pack of lousy hypocrites! 'We help each other! We help people who need help!' Well, I need help! I'm standing here, begging you for help! Where's the help? I'm in trouble, right? So where's the help?"

He had wanted to hide in the Tunnels from the police and other Topside authorities. He had been stealing money and property on the docks for his "employers." He had murdered an important legal official. It was not his first murder. Mitch was on the run. No one Above could save him from the city's justice system. He wanted sanctuary among us. But we do not shelter criminals. It is one of our laws. True, we have established our own definitions for many crimes, and we do not use Topside standards of judgment to decide who is and is not a criminal. But Mitch's offensive and unrelenting violence, his thievery, his lack of remorse, his callous endangerment of our community's secrecy—all of it led us to a unanimous verdict.

I had been serving my people as chief warden and Council security advisor for a little more than a year, after Vernon resigned the role. I spoke before the assembled community and "corrected" the story Mitch told us about why he had returned—Mitch initially claimed a business rival was "out to get him" and that he needed to "lay low" for a while. I had gone Above and discovered the truth. Our people denied him sanctuary. Then we turned to the more difficult matter of determining Mitch's status in the community. He had been a Tunnel kid. His father was still a beloved Helper. Yet Mitch had become a dangerous criminal according to any society's laws. Should we exile him from the Tunnels community?

Exile is neither a pleasant nor a popular solution to grave discord. The vote was evenly divided between those who had known Mitch in the past, knew how deeply and completely he had betrayed us, and those newer residents to whom Mitch was a stranger. I remained seated during the count, staring at the Library floor, torn between memories of childhood friendship and adult realities of the present day. At last Father called upon me.

"Vincent? What is your answer to the question at hand?"

I stood up from my chair. I looked into Mitch's desperate eyes. Deliberately, I turned my back on him. I voted for exile.

Afterward, it was my distasteful duty to escort Mitch out to the surface world. He resisted and tried to break away until I caught solid hold of him and roared my hurt and rage into his astonished face. Even then, I don't think he understood why we were casting him out. His parting words do not bear recounting. He swore in vicious backstreet lingo. He named me a Judas and a goddamned Freak.

"Go," I told him. "Just go."

Mitch went.

"You betrayed our faith in you, our trust," I tell him now. "You ceased to be a part of us years ago."

"That’s right." Mitch paces back to his earlier position, a yard from my right hand. "My old man stuck me down here for eight years, and what did it get me?"

He's never been able to see very far beyond himself. Mitch may be the loneliest person I've ever known. "We offered you a chance for a better life," I say.

"Living like a rat?!" His lips twist in distain. "I had a chance for a better life, and I took it!"

I shake my head. "No. Not a better life."

"Don’t tell me that," says Mitch. "You don’t know anything." He raises his eyebrows. "Do you want to hear about the real world?"

I point up at the city above us, including Mitch's precarious position in it. "Is that the real world?"

"It beats living in this hole! Up there, if you’re smart, you get anything you want!" He doesn't like the way I'm looking at him. He walks away again, talking as he moves. "After I ran away from here, I had to sweat blood to get work." He offers his reflections to the mechanical equipment on the other side of the room.

"Getting onto those docks took some doing," he says thoughtfully. "A lot of mean guys were in the way."

"So you killed them," I say. The facts of his history are abhorrent to me. The choices he has made repel my imagination.

Mitch spins. "Law of the Jungle!" he declares, as though that phrase can justify his actions. Then he smiles. It is a lurid predatory grin. "You ought to know something about that."

His barb sinks deep. The truth is, I do know more about it than he does. More than I ever wanted to know. But his intent was not to probe into the truth of my nature. Mitch wants to place me outside the scope of the human race, among whom I struggle to maintain a place and sense of self. He wants me to see myself as a lawless animal—as a monster worse than him. Yes, I am a Hunter. I am a Protector. But I am not a Predator. Not a Scavenger like Mitch, preying upon weak and frightened people, stealing from them things they would not give up were they not so afraid of being harmed.

It takes me a moment to recover from Mitch's venomous jibe. I have to close my eyes, find my inmost sources of light. Catherine's words from an hour ago whisper lovingly into my pain. You're a beautiful person, Vincent. I offer Mitch one last reminder that there are other roads he could embark upon. Even now he can be made beautiful, if only he will permit the transformation. "You were better than this," I tell him. I open my eyes. Mitch is still smiling, happy that he hurt me. "You still can be."

"Noble Vincent," Mitch sneers. "Forget it."

There was no reasoning with him when he was younger, and there is no reasoning with him now.

"I’ll guide you out. Don’t ever come back." I turn and walk back the way I came.

He says behind me, "Come back? Don’t worry." Mitch follows after me, unhurried.

I stop only to extricate my cloak from the razor wire. Mitch looks on, stinking with his contempt for me. "You know the first thing I did when I left the Tunnels for good?" he comments.

He waits, but I make no reply.

"I went to Times Square and really took in the sights. Mmm-hmm. Your crazy old man and his platitudes! Love is a joke, Vincent. A bedtime story for idiot children. Sex is cheap. I'm not talking about money. Not for me. I don't buy my company. I never had to. I take what I want and women line up for the privilege. You wouldn't know, would you?" Mitch is smug, derisive. "You couldn't get a poxy skank on crack to glance your way without screaming."

I stand up and keep walking, shaking out my long mantle so I can put it on. Mitch keeps spewing. "But maybe that's all right. You've got too much work to do, don't you? Too busy scraping your food out of dumpsters every night. Pounding scrap metal into barricades to keep out intruders. A woman's a distraction. Just a hiccup in your rat parade."

"A woman is a human being," I counter. His prattle is nauseating and I'm getting angry.

He only laughs, a short barking sound. "I notice you don't argue about all you self-righteous, parading Tunnel creeps being rats—whoa!"

Mitch pulls up short to avoid slamming into the arm I have swung across his path and braced, flat-handed, against the concrete wall.

I speak his name aloud for the first time in five years, breaking a custom that accompanies banishment from my world. "Mitch."

It works. I gain his full attention. "What?" he asks.

"Stop. Talking."

I feel him glower at the back of my head. He decides not to press his luck. "Fine."

I lower my arm and we continue our journey in sullen silence. I will take Mitch to an old entrance into the subway lines, then double back and go to Sam. I don't quite believe that Mitch would hurt his own father, but I cannot afford to take any chances with Sam's life. And if Mitch has upset Sam, the emotional upheaval alone could jeopardize the elderly man's already poor health. After I've checked in with Sam, I will have to return home and ask Pascal to summon my lieutenant warden, Randolph, and the master craftsmen of the Tunnels for an emergency meeting—Winslow our blacksmith and mechanic, Kanin our stone mason, and Cullen our carpenter. We'll have to seal the entrance into the basement of Sam's building and relocate all the gates in that sector. We cannot allow Mitch an easy return visit to the Undercity.

My news will grieve Father. But Father would be the first to say that we must inoculate ourselves against the evil Mitch has incorporated into his being. Limiting his access to our world is a vital first step toward that end. I suppress a sigh. It's going to be a long night.

IV

3 February 1987
Late Tuesday Night

It could have been me. I know this is a selfish thought, but I can't help thinking it. Because it's true. And in more ways than the most obvious one. It could have been me.

I huddle on my sofa, waiting for the Extra Strength Tylenol I've swallowed to alleviate my tension headache. I keep seeing the fireball, over and over again, erupting from beneath Frank De Corsia's little gray Chevy hatchback, killing him instantly. At least, I pray to God it was an instant death. When the firemen removed his body from the driver's seat, the big, friendly, beefy union representative I've been getting to know over the past two days had been reduced to a charbroiled scarecrow. I knuckle tears out of my eyes and try to think of something else.

I'll remember Frank's dedication instead. His strength and energy. Frank was the son of a longshoreman who wanted something better for his son. Frank went to college on a union scholarship. Frank was a man determined to keep the crime bosses from ruling the waterfront. He was a man who chose to forgo a family in order to devote his life to his work.

It was easy to see a lot of myself in him. Five years down the road, ten, I could be the lone crusader, always in a bar waiting to meet somebody, or on my way to a bar to meet somebody after a meeting. Miss Chandler, Assistant District Attorney, slogging through research and investigative field work, bringing forward reluctant witnesses. I'd be a woman with no family waiting for me at home because it wouldn't be fair to them to always be waiting for me to finish a dangerous job that never really ended. That was Frank's life. It was a life he was quietly proud of. He had every right to be proud.

I've seen him confidently confer with district attorneys, and I've read about his achievements in the newspaper. Yesterday I watched him hurl one of Denton's gorillas against a wall and order him to stay away from Frank's men. Tonight Frank joined me in pleading with Jack Sweeney, asking the man to tell us what he knows about Charlie Flynn's death and Mitch Denton's operation. Sweeney refused to answer our questions.

"It’s tough to fight back when Denton’s threatening their families with steel pipes and baseball bats," Frank told me after Mr. Sweeney fled the workman's bar where we were supposed to meet with him.

"All we need is Sweeney," I said.

"Patience," Frank advised. "Down here, that’s as important as muscle." It was good advice too. Then he asked, "Can I give you a lift?"

It could have been me.

I told him I had my own ride.

Thank God I had my own ride.

The last thing he said to me was: "I appreciate you hanging in there with me, Cathy." He smiled and nodded to me before he got into his car.

They say the bomb was rigged to blow when Frank stepped down on the gas pedal.

Whatever else happens on this case, I have to see Mitch Denton locked behind bars for the murder of Frank De Corsia. I have to do this for Frank. And for myself. Yes, it could have been my death tonight, but I cannot allow my fear to deter me from seeing justice done. Least of all my fear for my own life.

Behind me, claw tips tap the glass in my terrace door.

I turn my head. Vincent's shadow blots out the light beyond my curtains. My wonderful friend has come to comfort me. I get up and go to him.

"Catherine," he says as I step out onto the terrace.

"Vincent."

He says nothing more, only waits for me.

Doing my best to speak past the tearful tightness in my throat I tell him, "A good man was murdered tonight."

Vincent says, "Death almost took you. I felt it."

I shudder. What a horrible thing to feel from afar. "It came close," I whisper.

"Catherine, you’re in grave danger."

I look at him. "I know."

"Go no further with this," Vincent says.

Now I stare at him. This is incredible. First Edie, earlier today, and now Vincent. "What?" He gazes back at me. Is that—fear—I see in his eyes? "What are you saying?"

Vincent says, "Stop. You must."

I cross my arms. My first reaction is anger. No one tells me I must not do something. I believe I got Edie sorted out regarding this issue after she told me, "Yeah, I wish some of that terrified would rub off on you. Denton is not the kind of cat you play with, Catherine."

"Then it's a good thing I'm not playing," I replied.

Problem solved. Edie went back to tracking down Mitch Denton's flotilla of small service corporations. Maybe tomorrow she'll find a chink in the paperwork that allows Mitch to "work" as a "subcontractor" for the shipping companies, collecting his private tariffs on cargo entering or leaving the city.

Vincent's intense posture tells me that his demand is going to take more effort to defuse. I resent his uninvited judgment call on my behalf. But then I remind myself that this is Vincent. This is someone who enters grave danger every time he scales my building to visit me on my balcony. Confusion sets in. Why does he want me to stop my work when he knows what it means to me?

"I can’t!" I say to him. "I have to see this through!"

He opens his mouth to speak, then looks elsewhere, thwarted, I think, by the depth of my resolve. Nothing he can say is going to shake my resolve! He turns away from me, hunches over my balcony wall.

"If I ever lost you..." he begins. His voice wavers. He draws a long breath.

I would never have taken him for a coward. What's wrong with him? Stern, I rush to break into his futile line of thought. "Vincent, you’re the one who taught me to face my fear and to find courage. I can’t pull back now! It would compromise everything! Me, the case—even what you think of me! I have a chance to bring down the men responsible for all of this. I have to."

He's shaking his head. "A life without you...would be unbearable." He falls silent.

I wait for him to figure out that I'm not going to budge. Or to explain himself. Or to say something that makes any sense to me. His head is bowed. Has he even listened to what I've said to him?

Vincent half-turns to look at me over his left shoulder. I try to read his face—and fail. I can see there is love in his gaze, and a fathomless sorrow. At last Vincent whispers, "Take great care."

Okay, he has listened. And he has accepted my commitment to this case. I give him a single curt nod.

He looks down and backs away from me. I don't watch him leave the terrace. Rather, I watch the slightly blurry city lights wink at me in the dark. I am still fighting against tears. Vincent once told me that I have enough fear in my world and that he could never bring me more. Yet he tried to do just that, just now! I refuse to take his fear and pile it up on top of mine and stagger around under that kind of unfair double-burden. My job is hard enough without Vincent amplifying my doubts for me!

I needed comfort and consolation—and he brought me useless craven counsel. Maybe this was Vincent's turn to have a selfish moment. He should know me better by now. I am Catherine Chandler, and I have an important job to do. A lot of people are counting on me to build an airtight case and get Mitch Denton off the street for good.

The winter wind gusts, running invisible fingers through my hair. I glance at the shadows on my balcony and shiver. My head hurts. I feel very alone. The danger has scared off my two most trusted allies and ended the life of a man who deserved a much longer sojourn on Planet Earth. I rub more tears away.

Maybe this is why Frank De Corsia has no family to mourn his passing.

V

4 February 1987
Wednesday Night

I gaze into my teacup. Herbal flecks drift through the clear liquid. I listen to my friends Pascal and Randolph talk quietly as they play a game of xiangqi at the central table in the Library.

Randolph says, "Sure, with power comes the responsibility to use that power correctly, but where does the authority to use it come from?"

I wait attentively for Pascal's answer. Our communications chief is a small, pale, sober man, mostly bald, neatly and warmly dressed, self-possessed, endowed with great intelligence and a deeply perceptive conscience. When Pascal speaks, it is wise to listen to him, for he tends to give voice to the collective wisdom our people have acquired through close to four decades of life together in the Undercity. I look up from my after-supper peppermint tea in time to see Pascal move one of his cannons on the gameboard.

"A society grants certain of its members the authority to act on behalf of the whole community, for the Good of the community," Pascal says to Randolph, and to me as well. They both know I am listening. "It is an investment of trust. The people trust their specialized representatives to wield power in a way that is consistent with the values the community upholds, the laws that have enabled the community to survive."

Randolph moves an elephant away from his general. He needs to defend against Pascal's cannon. "And the representatives trust the community to hold them accountable for what they do."

"Ideally," says Pascal. He studies the board. "Responsible people in authority also trust the community to affirm and support the actions their leaders take, and to abide by the decisions they make."

Randolph glances at me, then back to Pascal. "Like how our community supports the Council. Because all you Council members serve the people. Keep us organized. Keep us safe."

"Yes," Pascal replies. He moves a horse. I doubt Randolph is going to win this game.

Randolph is more interested in their conversation anyway. "Okay, so then wardens are kind of a special case when it comes to power and authority."

Pascal looks up at him. "Special? How so?"

Randolph smooths his straight brown hair back from his fair temples. "Well, we're the border guards. We have to maintain the boundaries between the territory where our world's authority works to benefit our people, and all the other communities out there with all their other systems of power. The Topsiders. The gangs. The shantytowns and city fiefdoms."

Pascal looks to me. This is my area of expertise more than his. I lean forward in my chair. "Tell us what's troubling you," I instruct my one-time apprentice.

The younger man sighs. "Sam Denton's son. This guy who shows up after all these years and starts messing with our security. What if he had hurt Sam Above? What if he comes back down and tries to hurt one of us Below? Or . . . a lot of us? We have the right to defend ourselves, don't we?"

"Yes," I answer. "We have the right to preserve our safety."

"But some people are better at preserving safety than others. Like us. Wardens. The ones who know how to fight."

"And when to fight," Pascal puts in. "And why." Pascal never advocates wholesale violence.

Randolph nods. "Which means wardens have the power to protect everyone else in our community from a guy like Denton. And we have the responsibility to protect people because we are best able to. And everyone gives us the authority . . . their collective permission . . . to stand between themselves and danger."

"Yes," I say again.

"What I'm trying to get clear in my mind is how do you know what the community would want you to do when you're in the middle of fight? Say Sam's son comes back down and he brings a knife? One of the wardens confronts him. He pulls out his weapon. As Old Vernon used to say, the gloves come off. There's no time to call a Council meeting. No one Below wants anyone to get hurt, no one wants Denton to get hurt. But he must be stopped. Does the warden just do whatever must be done and hope the community will approve the action after the fact?"

Randolph has never been in a fight with an Outsider. He's being generic to spare me, because everyone knows I am the warden who goes out to meet violent threats whenever such dangers encroach upon our territory. I am the most powerful and the most efficient (and the most skilled) Protector of the Tunnels, recognized for my abilities via unanimous election to the Council as security advisor, and when I provide physical protection, I prefer to work alone. But Randolph's questions remain important. They are important for me, as part of that community accountability he's been discussing, and also for him, should Randolph or any other defender be called upon to take my place in battle. I make the topic more specific. More personal.

"When I enter a fight," I say softly, "I engage my opponent knowing that my community has already approved my action before the fact. You rely upon me to perform my duty honorably. I rely upon you to have taught me the nature of honorable thought and action in advance. I act within the bounds of our laws. I strive to protect the lives of the ones I love, as well as to protect the dignity of the shared way of life we have built together. It is a bond of love. My authority to act, even to act violently, in the defense of myself and others arises from our love of a peaceful life and our belief in the immeasurable value of that life. What we love must be protected. Everything that we Tunnel folk choose to love is worth protecting. In the midst of battle, I fight to keep the possibility of love alive. That is my mandate and my justification."

Randolph thinks about my words.

"That is where a warden's authority comes from," says Pascal. "That is where all our authority comes from. Our governance cultivates good."

Randolph rests his chin on one fist. "Okay. Thank you. Let me ponder all that for a while."

Pascal smiles. He has always enjoyed serving up food for thought. We watch Randolph make his next move in the game. Pascal slides his horse to a new position, giving check and exposing a double check from his chariot and cannon.

"Blast," Randolph growls. "Why do I never see that coming?"

"Because you're always looking too far ahead," is Pascal's amiable reply.

I drain my cup then set it on the table beside the glazed clay teapot. I stand up from my chair, leaving my friends to decide whether Randolph wants to attempt a rematch tonight. My pensive steps take me out of the Library, out of the Hub, down winding corridors and passages to the Chamber of the Falls. I go to my favorite stone seat at the cliff's edge above the long cold pools. The water song sounds pleasant to my ears. I sit and watch reflections from the pools and streams glimmer upon the steep rock walls.

Surrounded by such natural beauty, my thoughts turn once more to Catherine. Our worlds must be so different, one from the other, Above from Below! I never dreamed she would fear my fear. I never expected my desire for her safety to offend her. In my world, we warn one another away from danger and compare differing evaluations of risk, trusting that our protesting friends always have our best interests at heart. I would trust Catherine's warnings of danger to me. I have listened to her speak of her own private worries and terrors. But she mistrusts my fears for her. I must consider her reaction carefully.

Perhaps she deplores my fear because she hates the part of herself that feels afraid. There may well be a part of myself that I can never share with her, because she could not bear the truth of its existence. Certainly, she gave me no opportunity to share with her most of the things I came Above to tell her last night. None of it would have been anything Catherine wanted to hear. It hurts me to know that she believes I could ever think less of her for being cautious, for deeming her present risks too great to withstand alone. It would be my privilege to help her find some other path to take. Some safer path.

I warned her to stop moving into life-threatening peril because I care for Catherine's well-being—and also because I care for my own well-being. Feeling Catherine's certainty that death had barely passed her by last night, I was terrified. I am still terrified. I'm afraid of losing her, afraid she is not yet strong enough to face these dangers without me, afraid that I will be unable to protect her when she needs my protection the most. You are always there for me, she has assured me, but what happens when danger springs out of menacing silence and catches Catherine unawares, so that I have no time to come to her aid? She is my life. She is my love. I need to protect what I love. But I cannot protect her from everything.

The water splashes and shimmers. I listen. Light from the torch in the wall sconce behind me flickers over the waters like liquid fire. Holy words rise to the surface of my thoughts from the deep pools of my memory. A sainted lady of the Medieval age once prayed:

  And what is my own nature, matchless love? —It is fire, for you are nothing but the fire of love, and out of this nature you have given to human beings even that fire of love whereby you have created them. And so too all the other creatures and all created things you made for love.

I contemplate the prayer. I begin to understand that this is a necessary depth of love: to trust its nature, and to trust the emergence of that fire within our beloveds. I must enlarge my trust. As Pascal and Randolph have reminded me, I must trust the authority of Catherine's conscience and self-awareness. I must trust her power to love herself and to love others. It is what my people have always done for me—my friends, my father, my family. When it is needful, we allow the ones we love to face their own risks, and find their courage and their strength, alone. Now I must trust fate to be kind to Catherine and to me. I must protect her freedom by letting her go her own way, apart from mine. This is how her inner fire will learn to burn brighter. She will find her courage, and she will continue to grow strong.

How hard it is to let her go. How difficult to know that love requires me to shield her from my fears so that she can vanquish hers. Yet I know true love is not easy. It is not safe. Safety is only a breathing space we create for one other out of the love we feel for one other. Even then, complete safety is never guaranteed. All created things are mortal things.

But what safety I can offer, I will extend to Catherine with every fiery fiber of my being. I will not hold her back. And when her heart is willing, I will stand beside her, lending my strength to her cause. I close my eyes. The fire fizzes and sighs. The water flows. It is good, these truths I have discovered here.

I feel Catherine is hard at work in the world Above. She left Manhattan some while ago. I idly sense she is somewhere in Queens. She has been very focused, intent on accomplishing something essential to her current mission. Now a glow of triumph begins to suffuse her consciousness. She is making headway. She is helping someone do the right thing.

I am glad for her. I admire her. I wrap my arms around my knees and let my gratitude for Catherine's presence in my life fill me to overflowing. Love is so terribly beautiful.

VI

5 February 1987
Thursday Night

It's been a good day. Jack Sweeney kept the promise he made to me last night when I went to visit him at his home. He came in to the DA's office this morning, and Joe Maxwell took his statement himself. Mr. Sweeney is going to be our star witness against Mitch Denton's racket on the waterfront. My persistence has paid off in spades. Mr. Sweeney said it felt good to stand on his own two feet again. Frank De Corsia would have been proud of him.

I spent the rest of the day arranging witness protection for the Sweeney family: Jack, his wife Coral, their teenaged son Tom, and their younger daughter Laura. They're taking a stand together as a family. I was happy to help them pack their belongings this evening and give them all a personal farewell tonight when their police escort arrived. Coral Sweeney hugged me. Her thanks was balm to my spirit. I like protecting good people. Moments like this validate all the hectic, grinding days when my job feels like the boulder of Sisyphus.

The polished elevator doors swoosh open onto my floor. I walk down the hall to the front door of my apartment. I'm looking forward to a long bath, a glass of wine, and some gentle piano music. Debussy sounds just about right—I can play that great new CD my dad found for me. I start to unlock my door.

I hear the heavy fire door to the stairwell open behind me. "Hey," says a male voice. I turn around. Two men stand in the doorway to the stairs. The smaller man with the leather jacket and the greased-back hair says, "I'm looking for a guy named Sweeney."

I recognize him from the mug shots in his criminal record. The man is Mitch Denton. Oh, God, Mitch Denton is here in my building.

"Maybe you can help me," he says. I see no mercy in his piercing black eyes. He steps forward. His buddy comes with him. Denton opens his jacket and shows me the butt of the revolver he's got tucked inside his belt. "Make a peep, and you'll regret it."

His hulking pal grabs my arm. I realize that I recognize him too. He's the violent bully Frank De Corsia told off on the pier. One of Mitch Denton's gorillas. His grip feels like an iron manacle. My whole body clenches at his touch.

"Rado," says Denton to the gorilla. "If she so much as sneezes, break her arm." He flashes a white-toothed shark's grin at me. "I hope you don't have a cold."

He lets his jacket fall closed and firmly takes hold of my other arm. I silently curse myself. The first lesson my self-defense instructor, Isaac Stubbs, ever taught me was that I should always know what's coming up behind me. I welcome the influx of my anger. Anger is an impressive source of energy during a crisis. The two men jostle me across the hall to the stairwell. The gorilla, Rado, glances over his shoulder, checking to see if anyone is around to observe this abduction. There's no one nearby. Denton only looks straight ahead, or at me.

The heavy door swings shut behind us. I hesitate on the landing. Denton squeezes my arm until it tingles. "Down," he orders. "To the garage."

"No." I know the statistics. The farther away I get from my apartment, the greater my chances of being seriously injured or killed.

My refusal is barely out of my mouth before Denton has twisted my arm up behind my back. I gasp at the pain. Rado begins crushing my left arm above the elbow. Both my hands go numb. The men pull me upward until I'm wobbling on tiptoe. "Do we carry you down like this?" Denton asks. "You live pretty high up, you know. Right under those pricey top-floor penthouses. Think your joints will hold out to the garage level?"

"Okay!" I gasp through gritted teeth. "Okay. I'll walk."

They hold me in place for another terrible second, then they set me on my feet and Denton releases my arm. Rado relaxes his hold but does not let go. "Good girl," Denton half-sneers at me. My captors hurry me down the stairs.

All the way to the car, I watch for any opportunity to escape. But Rado doesn't let go for an instant. I consider trying to slip out of my padded denim coat and make a run for it, but Denton never moves more than two steps from my side, and he's got the gun. Rado might have a gun too. I wouldn't stand a chance.

Rado opens the rear door of a pale blue Oldsmobile sedan with a white roof. Denton gets in first, slides across the back seat, and pulls me in after him. He squashes the collar of my coat in his left fist as Rado slams the door closed and walks around the car to claim the front passenger seat. The driver of the car glances at Denton in the rear view mirror, then pulls out of his parking space and drives toward the garage exit.

"Listen," I say to the general interior of the car. "You're all making a big mistake."

"Shut up," says Denton. His fist yanks me closer to him. "You don't talk to anyone but me. And the only talk I'm interested in is the current whereabouts of Jack Sweeney."

"Then you're in for a disappointment, Mr. Denton," I tell him coldly. "That subject is not up for discussion."

The shark teeth flash again. "Oh, it's not? Lady, you've got no idea who you're dealing with."

I consider making a pithy reply, but decide not to antagonize this jerk. He's still got the gun, after all. Although, if he keeps dragging me toward his lap the way he's doing, he's going to give me the chance I've been looking for to snatch his weapon and make a break for it. When they stop the car. That's going to be my one shot at freedom.

The Oldsmobile rolls through the streets. A cold rain is drizzling from the sky. I try to see out the windows, to estimate our location. They're probably taking me down to the docks. For a man who's supposed to be a professional mobster, Denton isn't taking any special precautions about letting me see the faces of my kidnappers, or the type of car they're driving, or the route we're taking—

Denton pulls at my coat some more. "Hey. Don't look out the window. Look at me. That's right. I'm all you need to be thinking about right now."

He smells like stale seafood and cheap hair oil. His eyes are tarry black and full of hate. I burn with anger. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid—

At last the car pulls into a paved loading yard in the middle of a cluster of run-down warehouses. The rain has stopped but it's still hard to see out the windows of the car. Condensation streaks the inside glass of the rear windshield in fat rivulets. It's been an extremely tense ride. Denton gives me a little shake to make sure he has my attention. I glare at him.

"There's two things you're gonna do for me tonight," he says. "You're gonna tell me what Sweeney told you, and then you're gonna tell me where I can find Sweeney."

I glance down at his meaty fist. I look up again into his flat black eyes. I say nothing.

Denton yanks me another inch closer to him. "Believe it! You're gonna tell me!"

"Never."

My defiance triggers instantaneous rage. His hand moves like lightning. Denton releases my coat and catches a fistful of my hair. He snaps my head back and leans into my face. "No?" he shouts.

My eyes water at the zinging hurt in my scalp. My heart begins to jitter. Murder flames to life in Denton's eyes. Something clicks in my brain. He hasn't taken any precautions to disguise his identity because he doesn't expect to leave a witness to his crime alive. This man has fully premeditated my murder.

Oh, my God. Think, Cathy. Think! Be ready! I've got to get out of this car!

His fist shakes me like a doll. I feel hanks of hair rip free from my skin. Don't cry out. Be silent. Stay in control—

"Don't you understand?" Denton bellows. He finally stops yanking at my hair and just holds me still, staring at me. My right shoulder is socketed against his armpit. Denton says, "This is the end of the line. Right now, it's just a question of whether it's quick and easy...or slow...and ugly." He twists my hair and rocks me in my seat. The car sways on its springs.

Tell him something he wants to hear. Tell him something he'll believe. "Maybe we can make a deal," I say.

Ah, yes. Those were the magic words. The rapacious goon is distracted by this whiff of possible profit. A trade? A bribe? "What kind of deal?" he says in a quieter tone of voice. He keeps his arm stretched out across the back of the seat, but he lets go of my hair.

It's now or never. I swing a backhand punch at Denton's neck. He chokes out a strangled little squeak as my fist clobbers his throat. He claws at his Adam's apple, trying to suck air into his lungs. I shove my left hand past the front leather panel of his jacket and grab his gun. Got it! Okay. Denton is disabled and disarmed. I lunge for the car door. It dumps me out onto the wet pavement. Scrambling to my feet, I hear the other occupants of the car yelling. The Olds creaks and rocks as the hefty men inside move around in confusion.

I run. Doors open. Heavy footsteps pound after me. I reach a warehouse wall and crouch down beside a dumpster. Rado comes at me first. My heart hammers in my throat. I raise Denton's snub-nosed revolver and take aim, just like I practiced at the gun range. Only, at the gun range, my hands weren't stinging from my fall out of the back seat of my kidnappers' car and I wasn't shooting at live targets. I ignore the trembling in my fingers and squeeze the trigger.

The shot ruptures the stillness of the night. Rado ducks behind a pile of sacks and boxes stacked outside a warehouse door. I squint, trying to see what his next move will be.

Rado jumps up from behind the pile, aiming his own gun at me. My blood turns to icewater in my veins. He returns fire. The bullet ricochets off the dumpster, six inches from my face. I almost fall over backward.

Don't do that, Cathy, I can hear Isaac's voice say in my mind. Guard your balance. Your balance keeps you in the game.

Rado fires again. He misses again.

I rock forward on the soles of my boots and plant one knee on the damp cement beneath me. I hold out Denton's gun. I don't have any sacking or crates to steady my aim. It's all on me. My muscles. My reflexes.

I squeeze the trigger. The revolver bucks in my hands. I move with the recoil. Rado grunts and falls down behind the sacks. He does not get back up.

I shot him. My God, I shot him. Maybe even killed him.

Now Mitch Denton is out of the car, running hard in my direction. His face is a deathly mask of fury. This is the end of the line. Fear drives its fangs into my belly. I shut my eyes and fire the gun in his direction.

Cathy! Shit! Don't do that either! Isaac barks at me. You LOOK where you're shooting, woman!

I force my eyes open. Denton dives behind the crates and sacks. He appears uninjured. I didn't hit him. My palms are slick with sweat. My hands shake worse than ever. My body hums with adrenaline.

Denton reaches for Rado's gun. Beyond the crate pile, I see the driver of the car stand up from his seat and start toward us. He's another very big man. He pulls a handgun from his inside coat pocket.

Panic seizes me. I break from cover and run pell-mell down the alleyway between two warehouses. I don't know where I'm going. I don't care where I'm going. I only know I must get away. I run faster than I've ever run in my life. But I cannot outrun my terror.

The report from Rado's gun hits my eardrums and what feels like a freight train hits my back. An explosion of agony detonates behind my right shoulder blade. It is excruciating. Nothing has ever, ever hurt like this. I did not know this kind of pain existed. It blows me off my feet. Unable to move or breathe, all thought and senses stalled, I float in the air, a rigid exclamation point untethered from all potential paragraphs. The gun I took from Denton clatters and skids down the alley and vanishes into the black. My bulging eyes glimpse a final image of a black-mantled shadow looming a body's length away from me in the alley. I see the hooded shadow's thunderstruck lionesque face. His blue eyes blaze with horror. Then I am falling. Falling. And to this fall there is no end. Darkness alone falls with me.

VII

5 February 1987
Late Thursday Night

Catherine's forehead strikes the ground with a CRACK I feel in the marrow of my bones. I reached for her when I arrived, but I was still too far away to break her fall. The sound of the shot that felled her booms in my ears. Unspeakable fear tore away all my thoughts and intentions when the bullet tore into Catherine's flesh. I stare helplessly at the man who shot her. All color drains from the features of Mitch Denton as he realizes I have come to this place. I have seen what he has done.

YOU?! I think into my gaping speechlessness. Catherine has been risking her life to stop YOU?!

Mitch wheels around and flees, leaving a motionless henchman lying upon a pile of burlap bags and calling to his remaining companion: "Let's get out of here!"

I cross the last few feet to Catherine in a desperate plunge. She lies outstretched on the pavement, unmoving. I am afraid to touch her, afraid I will hurt her wounded body. I smell her blood. Catherine lies face-down in an oily puddle. She could drown if I don't move her.

Catherine. Catherine. My hands find purchase on her denim clothes. I turn her over, cradling her in my arms, breathless from my long flight through the Tunnels to reach her. Catherine's body feels limp and delicate. Fragile. My sense of her seems hollow, dark, and still. The pulsating dread that drew me to her side has gone. Catherine is deeply unconscious. Only an echo of bodily pain whispers to me through our bond. Warm blood from the bullet wound in her back soaks the fur of my supporting hand.

I am too late to protect her from harm.

My memory of her agony and terror sweeps over me. Catherine's silence rives my soul. I throw back my head and keen. My throat utters a great wailing howl—a cry of the damned upon entering Hell. Dimly, I hear doors slam and tires squeal as the two men leap into their car and drive away.

I kneel beside the woman I love. My eyes engrave the sight of her quiet face into my mind for all eternity. In a flash, I behold a vision of a future without her. Endless nights bereft of moon and stars. My barren soul adrift upon a windless sea. Emptiness—all emptiness and silence and impenetrable aloneness. All that I am, all that I hope to become, all that I struggle to be—nothing of Vincent can survive the unredeemed loss of Catherine. How could the world survive without her? I hold her. I bow my head over her. Air passes lightly, softly between her lips. She breathes. Catherine yet lives. Catherine must keep living.

I abandon my vision of uttermost hopelessness before it can steal another moment of pause from me. I gather Catherine in my arms and stand up. I hear her heart beat, feel her heart beat. The rhythm is quick and urgent. Coldness spreads across her skin. She is going into shock. She is dying. I position my arm beneath her open wound and let Catherine's weight work to staunch the flow of blood. Then I clutch her to my breast and begin to run.

Lang General. It is the nearest hospital. It is my only hope.

By the time I arrive at the Emergency Room entrance, my hold on Catherine has shifted to immobilize her head against my body. It would do no good to try to slow her blood loss only to damage her spinal column in transit to the hospital. A stationary ambulance sits outside the entrance, bright lights flashing, its transport bay dark. No attendants are present.

I hate the fact that I cannot bring Catherine inside to receive immediate care. But my appearance would distract everyone from saving Catherine, as well as intolerably endanger the world where I make my home. I am trembling. My breath comes in a frightened rush. My arms burn from holding Catherine tightly, yet not too tightly. I lay her down on the parking lot sidewalk beside the ambulance. We are still alone. I hold my precious Catherine one moment longer.

"Don't die, Catherine," I whisper to her. "If you die, so do I."

There is more that I would say, more of my heart I want to offer to her hovering spirit, but the headlights of a car pass over me, and alarmed reflex warns me to return to the shadows and hide. I glance around. Someone must come soon. Someone going into or coming out of the Emergency Room. I rest Catherine's head on the cement and stand up. I take one step away. I don't want to leave her. I turn back.

Death has come so near. So near. Its bleak darkness envelops us. Alone, I gaze into that darkness, and through the darkness. It is real. Death is here. And my soul makes a completely unexpected response to the nearness of Death. All at once, I feel tremendous peace. My love for Catherine escapes all bonds. I look at her and suddenly feel only a brilliant illuminating hope. Life stands calmly beside Death—and smiles. I cling to this hopeful Lifeforce with all my might. I am strong, and Catherine is strong. The core of my being resonates with a powerful conviction of perfect faith: Catherine will live. There is no empirical proof for my surety. I need none. I accept a belief beyond knowledge that cannot be explained. Catherine will live, and my faith in her survival will help to secure her recovery.

I love you, Catherine, I send toward her. Surely her heart can hear it. Now I sense someone coming. Someone inside the hospital is coming outside. I turn and hasten away.

Providence grants me one blessed glimpse of a man wearing the uniform of an EMT bending over Catherine where she lies. Then I return to the dark alleyways, wrapping myself in shadow. I press my back to a brick wall and breathe slowly, gathering my thoughts, preparing myself to make vital decisions.

Catherine will live. Because Catherine will live, I must take steps to keep her safe. Mitch Denton tried to murder Catherine. I witnessed his violence myself. He brought her away from her residence and sought to end her life in a dark place far away from her friends and allies. Mitch has a history of murdering investigators who seek to discover his crimes and enforce consequences for his law-breaking behaviors. Mitch ruthlessly kills anyone who gets in his way. There's nothing to stop him from making another attempt on Catherine's life, perhaps this time inside a Topside hospital where I cannot defend her effectively, and before Catherine can tell anyone else in her world about the danger she's in. Mitch has grown too confident of his belief in the unassailability of New York's criminal underworld. He has flouted the laws of both Catherine's world and mine without sparing a thought for the victims of his crimes. And now he has attacked someone who belongs both to the world Above and to the world Below. My protective instincts roil inside me. Mitch has harmed a Helper who is also the keeper of my heart and soul. He hurt her. He has unequivocally placed himself within the bounds of my authority to dispense justice and my responsibility to preserve life.

I narrow my eyes. A low growl rumbles in my chest. Private thunder before the storm. Oh, Mitch Denton. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Wrath gives me wings. My nature gives me power. I am swift to the Hunt and the rainy night conceals my passage.

On Monday, Mitch told me he couldn't resist a little nostalgia. He has proven himself a creature of habit. So I go first to the abandoned Williard Factory Building where Mitch used to store his stolen plunder more than five years ago. I do not know if the building is still officially abandoned or not. What matters is that the big blue and white car that Mitch and his friend ducked into after Mitch shot Catherine is sitting in the lot behind Mitch's old headquarters, alongside a smaller green car with New Jersey license plates.

I approach the blue and white car and bend close to the windows on the right side. The back seat window is open by a narrow crack, as though a passenger turned the crank handle a few degrees without noticing. The car interior reeks of Mitch's amalgamated scents. My nose wrinkles. He's here. I move away from the car and approach the building.

As I walk, I open all my senses to the immediate environment. I invite the dark Hunter side of myself to the foreground of my being. He comes in the form of a wraith from the depths of my soul and we share my skin reluctantly, each aspect wary of the other. This is the deep, deep flesh-consciousness of my inhuman body and psyche brought into intentional cohesion with my rational mind. I stand now upon the blade of a spiritual knife, balanced exactly between Dark and Bright. I am my claws and my teeth in a way I was not this morning when I taught the day's mathematics lesson to my class of inquisitive young students. I am my nose and eyes and ears and pelt and tongue in a way that always put Vernon on his most alerted guard during our training sessions, when I was his apprentice in martial arts and Tunnels security logistics. My sense of self extends outward from my center, empathic tendrils hungrily seeking contact with other living things. I feel the pupils of my eyes expand. My lungs infuse my blood with strength, my heart presses power through my veins and arteries. My muscles feel warm and fluid. I fix my thoughts upon finding my quarry within the degraded human structure before me.

I enter my enemy's lair noiselessly.

As strongholds go, the Williard Factory might well provide a formidable defense against a gang of men armed with guns—or against a police squad. But all the old pipes and standing machinery, the cement pillars and lightless corners that would hinder gunman offer a boon to a feral Hunter stalking his prey through the steaming shadows. The acoustics are excellent for Hunting. There are four men standing in the main work area. I can hear them all breathing and walking around and talking to each other. One of the two men stationed on the ground level is smoking a cigarette, eyeing a line of square windows in the wall. I easily locate him first of all. The other man stands several yards away, guarding a side door that opens beneath a second-story walkway. Hardened men, armed, and accustomed to violent action. Mitch's pawns.

Mitch has placed himself high on the upper-story walkway. He paces, sweating and twitching, gripping a black handgun. The bulky man I saw driving the big blue and white car earlier tonight is with him, standing between Mitch and the main stair leading up to their refuge.

"Mitch, relax. You're gonna have a heart attack."

Mitch ignores the man and paces to the far end of the walkway. He calls down to one of the men on the factory floor. "George, if anything moves, shoot it."

George nods. He carries a flashlight and a pump-action shotgun. Mitch hurries off, and George goes back to watching his section of the ground level.

Halfway along the railed walk, Mitch calls to the smoking man. "Anything?"

The man shakes his head, no. He also carries a large firearm. He raises his cigarette to his lips and inhales tobacco smoke.

Mitch scurries away.

I slip in silence toward the left-hand wall. George is the most isolated watchman. He will die first.

Up above, the driver asks Mitch, "You scared of this guy or something?"

"You idiot. You don't know what we unleashed!"

"How do you know he's gonna come after you?"

"He'll come."

I squeeze past a rusting boiler furnace. Oh, Mitch Denton. Your worst nightmare is already here.

"I still don't get it. Who is he?"

"When he comes, you'll know who he is!"

I reach the machine room beneath Mitch's walkway. I take position behind a metal tree of vertical pipes. Glancing about, I find an old bolt and washer lying on a dusty support beam that juts out from the wall. I slip the washer from the shaft of the bolt and toss the steel ring at the floor. It lands with a metallic clink and rolls, pinging over the cracked cement. Clitter-chink. It falls onto its side, and the uneasy quiet resumes.

George has heard the faint sounds. He enters the isolated underspace, switching on his electric torch. He places his feet carefully, keeping silent, ducking beneath overhanging pipes, staring ahead at the spot of light he casts from left to right, right to left.

I am more silent than he.

He bends down, peering into a dark corner.

I come up behind him and take hold of his head. My left hand clinches the base of his skull, my right hand snags his chin, locking his jaws together. He grunts in surprise. I lift him off his feet and give his skull a sharp twist. His neck breaks like a stick of kindling. He stops breathing. I drop the body and move on.

The dead man lands on the floor with a thud. His gun and flashlight thump and clack.

These sounds capture the smoking man's attention. I see the beam of his flashlight swing across the wall to my right. I walk toward it.

On the walkway above, Mitch paces and paces and sighs.

The smoker moves closer to me.

I crouch, then leap upward, catching a long horizontal pipe. I pull myself up and settle upon the latticework of struts and piping beneath the upper-story walkway. The smoker drops his spent cigarette on the floor as he passes beneath me, shining his flashlight around, looking into corners. He sees nothing there, of course. He turns and moves back in my direction, light pointed forward, the beam roving.

I jump to the floor in front of him. His beam of light finds my face. I cannot see the man beyond the light, but I feel his flash of stark terror. I snarl. My claws slash the man's throat. His body spins, arterial spray dappling the walls and the floor with blood. He falls in a quivering heap. I blink, trying to see past the splotchy afterglow from the man's flashlight beam.

"What was that?" Mitch calls out above me.

The man at my feet gurgles and expires. I see that my blow nearly decapitated him. He is dead. He holds no further interest for me. I return to the shadows and make my way along a hall choked with broken furniture toward the stairway that will lead up to the high walk.

Mitch's footfalls clop along overhead. "George!" he shouts. "George!"

He is not answered.

"Alex!"

A smallish object clatters down the stair from the upper level. Mitch's driver curses under his breath. Alex cannot respond to Mitch's call.

I find the remains of an old spiral staircase rising out of a former office space to a boarded-over doorway in the middle of the upper walk. It is a bit of useful terrain. I alter my already flexible plan.

Mitch races to his remaining companion. "Go! Now!" he screams.

The driver is a heavyset man. He moves slower than the other two guards. I advance to the foot of the stair and wait for him. The man descends one step at a time and bends over to pick up a flashlight lying on the lower floor. It's the object he dropped when Mitch shouted for Alex. He shines the light out at the machines, sees no one, and then turns toward the office. He holds a small gun in his other hand. I tense beside the wall.

The man enters the office. Snarling, I slap the flashlight out of his hand so he cannot blind me with it. The man cries out and flails, trying to point his weapon at his attacker. The barrel of the little gun brushes my nose. I lash out at the man's gun hand with a roar. The gun flies across the room. My claws sever the tendons in the man's hand. The man screams. His fingers flap uselessly. Slash. Slash. The man cries out again. Loops of intestine slide out from the gashes in his round abdomen. His mind cracks. I feel the spark of cunning intelligence within him die. He backs away from me in numb shock.

I watch the man, feeling a horrific inner dissonance grate across my nerves. I am darkly satisfied that my opponent can no longer threaten me or Catherine or anyone else. I am also revolted by the blood and offal. My claws are sticky from ripped flesh and viscera. The blood of enemies coats the furred hands that are still soaked in Catherine's blood. Wrath pounds inside me like a drumbeat.

But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid...

On the other side of the wall, Mitch calls uncertainly, "Nat?"

The dying man, Nat, plods to the stair and begins to climb, whimpering piteously. I turn and go back to the spiral staircase. I too begin to climb. It is time to finish this.

"Nat!" Mitch says.

Nat keeps climbing, mindless and moaning. I stand at the boarded doorway. Through the gaps in the boards I see Mitch staring in sick dread at the approaching ruin. He does not try to comfort the man or talk to him. Mitch backs away, his gun held out in his right hand, terror flowing from his pores in a musky man-stench that makes me bare my teeth in disgusted anticipation.

Mitch stops beside the doorway. Nat collapses at the top of the stairs. I punch my fist at the line of space between two boards.

The wood shatters. My arm blasts through the opening. Mitch gasps and tries to turn his gun in my direction, but I claw at his chest and far right shoulder, crushing his back against the pitted wall behind him. Broken boards and Nat's body block Mitch's path to the stair.

In a panic, Mitch squirms out of my reach, screaming. He drops his gun and stumbles, falling to his knees. I roar. It is the battlecry of an untamed Beast. I burst through the mildewed barrier, still roaring, enraged.

Mitch takes a good look at me and runs.

Deep instinct takes over, making one demand: GIVE CHASE.

Raw fear speeds my prey across the upper level. He bounds over the rail onto a high network of connected catwalks. I pursue, shoving heavy metal obstacles out of my way, roaring in anger at each delay. My quarry hesitates on the catwalk, staring in acute horror at the thing that follows him. His Hunter roars again, wide-mouthed, fangs exposed. The man darts away, climbing higher.

I clamber onto a trellis of pipes attached to the factory wall. On the other side of the building, my prey hits a dead end. A blockade of boards and metal bars cuts off his route to a gray metal door. My prey swears and snarls, rattling the bars with his full weight, but he cannot break through. I steadily close the distance to him, traveling sideways from pipe to pipe, finding handholds and footholds with the natural dexterity of one who has spent his life scaling rough rock walls in lightless underground caverns.

My prey abandons the blockade and backtracks along the catwalk, panting for breath, seeking some other means of escape. He scrabbles over the metal grating to another length of aerial pathway that leads to nowhere. I step onto the main catwalk and roar at him.

The man backs along the side route, watching his death arrive with enormous eyes. I reach his new dead end. I climb onto the narrow walk and stride toward my quarry, silent now.

His terror is complete. His legs buckle beneath him. He manages to stop himself from falling onto his buttocks by clutching at the catwalk railings. Now fear brings him the abrupt paralysis of overtired flesh. He slowly duckwalks backwards, beginning to cry. I stalk onward, taking one strong step after another.

He holds up a hand that shakes like a yellow leaf in the cold winter wind. He gasps and gulps, blubbering. A great shudder wracks his body. A hot sour smell tinged with masculine pungence and ammonia rises from his body. Clear fluid drips through the grillwork beneath him. The man's bladder has let go. "Plee-hee-heeze," he groans.

I stop and growl at him. The man wants to speak. High instinct tells me it is right to let him speak. I do not want to hear his words, but I stop and I listen. He drops onto his dampened hindquarters, sodden with sweat, bleeding from deep gashes across his chest, wood splinters embedded in the skin of his left hand and wrist, threads of spittle descending from his lips, shiny mucous oozing from his nostrils, his muscles shuddering in uncoordinated tremors. The man turns his head stiffly from side to side. "Please, Vincent," he begs. "Mother of God, don't."

I growl, hating him. Hating Mitch. Hating his poisonous heart. This too is my nature; for love abhors evil. Mitch makes no other plea, proffers nothing but his naked desire not to die by my terrible hand.

"Please, don't." He cowers at my feet, ravaged, crying.

His prided Law of the Jungle would dictate that I execute him now. I do not. That is not my Law. My Law calls upon me to eliminate threats to love and life with the determined precision of a master surgeon. I gaze into the scoured soul of my defeated enemy. I perceive the truth. Mitch's fear has already conquered him—his fear of his own powerlessness. Love is safe from him; his corrupting influence is divested of all vitality. Finally, Mitch Denton knows what he is. Mitch is a shell. A dead thing that has not understood for many years that it is dead. Is it not just to end the existence of the undead shell? Isn't it even merciful to do so? I growl, deciding.

Blocks away, beyond the field of battle, beyond the meanest streets of this frigid city, the woman I love whispers my name.

Vincent.

I hear it with my heart—with the heights and depths of my soul. Her soul-voice smooths away the sound of the syllables of my name in Mitch Denton's murderous mouth. She's awake. She's afraid. Catherine needs me.

I stand silenced. Catherine's weak awareness streams through our bond. She lives. My faith in Life prevails.

The man on the catwalk snivels. I look down at him. "Pluh," he croaks. Mitch is incapable of further speech. He sobs, totally unmanned. He cannot meet my fierce unguarded eyes.

I do not look away from him. "There's nothing left of you," I tell Mitch Denton. He sinks to the catwalk floor. My words entomb him in shame and despair.

"Nothing," I say.

He tries to look up one last time. He has to squinch his eyes shut. Tears wet his cheeks. I turn away. Mercy leaves him alone in the dark, to seek death or redemption or nothingness, whatever his ultimate fate decrees. It is done. My part in this battle has ended.

I leave the empty factory. As I exit, I spy a water spigot outside the rear door of the building. I pause to twist the faucet handle. Freezing water gushes out in a high-pressure stream. I wash my hands and nails, scrubbing gore out of my fur as best I can without soap. I bend to splash my face. The water is very cold and very welcome. My psyche telescopes back into its more usual shape. I breathe of the open air. The faces of the men I have killed tonight retreat into my inner shadows. I shut off the faucet, shaking my hands and turning in the direction of Lang General Hospital.

Catherine is drowsing now. My spirits lift to feel her presence returning to me. I walk away from the fearful darkness, moving swiftly toward the light of love and hope and joy, following my heart through the city streets. My heart leads me to Catherine.

VIII

6 February 1987
Very Early Friday Morning

The soft rhythmic beeping brings a new variety of punctuation into my life. They've connected me to a heart monitor because They say I went into shock. IV lines are dripping sterile fluid and a blood transfusion into my circulatory system after They performed emergency surgery on my back—my right shoulder, actually, to be specific. They say I have a concussion, a serious head injury, and that I was shot, which is also serious but not as bad as it could have been. They have promised to discuss my injuries with me in detail tomorrow.

I suspect They, the anonymous nurses in white scrubs (or was it green? maybe blue, sky-blue?), have told me these things about myself several times. I drift away and dream, forgetting everything else for a while. Then I wake, frightened to find myself in a strange bed, in a strange white room where a heart monitor is beeping. I think the doctors and nurses are being very patient with me. Nice of Them. It's easy to drift, even pleasant. Marvelous modern medication keeps the pain at bay. I know there is pain, waiting for me. But I don't have to think about that right now—so I don't think about it.

I dream. My dreams are gentle. Peaceful.

Drifting, I surface into a bleary haze for a moment. I blink my eyes slowly, resting often. Being awake is difficult work. But there is a big shape leaning over the side of my bed. Am I connected to another kind of heart monitor? The shape does not beep. The shape has long curling hair the color of winter sunrises. The long hair wafts gently in the cool breeze from an open window somewhere nearby. The wafting hair frames a special face. The most beautiful, handsome, loving, wonderful face in the world.

"Vincent?" I mumble.

"Shh," he says. His eyes are clear and blue. Almost blue-green in the diffused fluorescent light. Eyes bright as stars.

I try to glance around the hospital room. I can't see very much. Vincent gazes at me with his beautiful eyes. "You're here?" I ask him.

"I'm here."

My residual fears evaporate. He's here. He's here and that means I'm safe. I'm glad he's here. "I had a dream about you," I tell him. I think it's important that he should know.

He brightens and smiles his warming Vincent-smile. "About me?"

I nod a little. "We were walking down Fifth Avenue."

Vincent listens, captivated.

"The sky was blue."

His eyes are shining. I rest my eyes to better hold the image of his adoring face in my mind. It feels good to be adored. I begin to drift into daylight, with cars driving by and people out walking. It must be springtime now. The world is warm and bright. Sweetness abounds.

Vincent's voice floats to me on the breeze. "And then?" he asks.

I open my eyes to think. "Then..." Remembering the dream is tricky. Or was it a dream? Maybe it happened. Maybe it's all real. Of course it's real. It's as real as I want it to be. I look at him and smile. "You bought me ice cream," I say.

Is Vincent crying?

"No one looked twice."

He can't be crying, because he smiles wide enough to reveal the points of his teeth, and he gives a tiny airy laugh. My dream, or my reality, has brought him happiness. I'm glad for that too.

His eyes are so bright. Glittery. His boyish look returns. I close my eyes again to hold onto that view of him. Was he like that when he was younger? Was he strong and tender then too? The perfect sweetheart for a girl who would have loved to have known him sooner?

I start walking. Green grass swishes around my ankles. It is summer now and the golden sun paints a meadow in vibrant hues of perfect placidity. A boy walks beside me. A boy with a flowing lion's mane and clear blue eyes like stars. We might be walking in Central Park. We might be walking through an ancient garden of rare delights. The boy's hand finds my hand. His touch is delicate as a dancer's. He guides me to a shady refuge beneath a whispering willow tree. We lie down side by side in the grass. The smell of the earth is rich and deep. I find rest there. The world is plentiful and I am blissfully alive.

A voice as rich and deep as a lion's purr speaks into my stillness. It is not the voice of a boy. It is the voice I love above all others.

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:  
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep      
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep      
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing."

He will always be there for me. I sigh and submerge into real sleep at last. I know I am not alone.

I am safe.

Protected.

Loved.

 

 

 

The Protectors – Third Sojourn: Strong Medicine
Works Referenced

I

Rudyard Kipling, Captains Courageous: A Story of the Grand Banks (1897)
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2225

V

And what is my own nature, matchless love?
Saint Catherine of Siena, from "Orazione XXII:"
E quale è la natura mia, amore inestimabile? è il fuoco, però che tu non se' altro che fuoco d'amore, e di questa natura hai data a l'uomo però che per fuoco d'amore l'hai creato. E così tutte l'altre creature e tutte le cose create facesti per amore.
Translated by Zara Wilder from Le Orazioni di Santa Caterina da Siena, critical text of Saint Catherine's twenty-six "Prayers," edited by Giuliana Cavallini (1978)
1993 Italian text online: http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/IT/ecc.htm#w

VII

But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid...
The Holy Bible, Romans 13:4, KJV (1611-1769)

VIII

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever...
John Keats, Endymion (1818)

 

 

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