When The Music Stops

    Monday. Definitely the worst day of the entire week.
    
    Catherine rolled in bed and hit her alarm clock. She threw her covers over her head and tucked her
knees into her chest. ‘Go away.’ She curled herself tighter. ‘Everything. Erase the whole week and I’ll do
better this time!’ she promised to no one. ‘Just make everything go away!’
    
    The alarm clock buzzed at her again, insisting that she get up and face the world. She hit the off button
hard, hoping it would break. It didn’t. She crawled out from the covers, savoring them and their cocoon
effect until she had finally left them in a tangle on the bed. She went into the bathroom, and immediately
began a shower. She suddenly felt so dirty.
    
    ‘Wake up!’ She scrubbed harder. She hit her stitches more than once, but never flinched at the pain.
Everything was numb now.  She simply glided through her normal routine.
    
    She put on her make-up, which was now an innate impulse, but no matter how much or what colors
she tried, she still looked horribly sick. What she had on would have to do for today.
    
    Catherine went to the bed to pick up her purse and felt a breeze. She turned quickly to find her
balcony doors open, the curtains fluttering softly. The air was sharp and cold, but that was the furthest of
her concerns. She pushed the doors open further as she ran through them. “Vincent!”
    
    Nothing. Nothing but the breeze and the sunrise. ‘It’s too light out.’ A part of her rationalized. ‘He
wouldn’t come in the morning light, Catherine.’
    
    ‘Maybe he didn’t.’ The other half of her hoped. ‘Maybe he was here last night. Slept here.’ But there
was no one there. No one but her and the breeze and the sunrise.
    
    ‘Catherine,’ that fearful rationalization spoke again gently, ‘he isn’t here. Go back inside. He’s not
coming. You left the doors open last night. Go back inside. Go to work. Be as strong as he always said
you were.’
    
    Catherine went back inside, closing the doors of the balcony behind her. She gathered up her things
and headed out to work.
    
    Everything was routine. Stop and get coffee, pass the security guards and flash your badge, sit down
at the desk and persecute the bad guy once more. It actually felt good to be at work. Her mind and hands
were occupied, other thoughts had no room to fill in.
    
    Maybe Monday would be a good day. Maybe today will be the clean slate. She could get all of her
work done, without over-time, from the pace she was going now. If she was done on time then... maybe,
she could go Below for a while, try to talk to Vincent, see the children. Yes. Maybe this could be a good
thing, put the weekend behind her and charge back into her life... Vincent’s life.
    
    Catherine grinned, and then smiled, and then laughed. Everything was okay now. Everything was
going to work out.
    
    “Hey!” A voice shouted at her, and then laughed. “I don’t pay you to giggle around here, Radcliffe! This
is slave labor! Get back to work!”
    
    “Yes, Mr. Maxwell!” She saluted as she shouted back, the very essence of her beaming now.
    
    “And here’s an extra link in that shackle.” Laughed a new voice, standing at the other end of her
desk.        
    
    In her dizzying happiness, Catherine whipped around to deliver the next sharp witted comment. Her
mouth was open, she was ready to speak, but when her eyes fell on Jesse Fuller all the excitement
drained out of her. He stood there, as he had at the funeral home, only now he held out a paper for her
instead of his arms. She took the paper nervously, and instantaneously became busy with the work on
her desk. “Thanks,” was the only thing that she mumbled out.
    
    But he didn’t leave. He leaned on her desk and watched her work for a few seconds. “How have you
been?” He asked with an amused grin.
    
    ‘Just ignore him. He doesn’t exist. This weekend never happened.’ And she did just that with a
nonchalant; “I’m fine.”
    
    “Uh-huh.” He grunted, pushing himself off of her desk. But he came around to the back, next to her,
leaning over now. “Really Cathy; how have you been? I’ve been worried. You were there, and then...”
    
    “Jesse,” she began, but he stopped her.
    
    “Well, that’s good. You still remember my name.” He grinned sarcastically.
    
    “Jess... don’t do this, okay?” she pleaded quietly, never looking away from her papers. “We were both
so drunk, and...” she sighed, “I did not have my judgment intact that night.”
    
    “What judgment?” He paused, choosing his words and leaning closer into her ear. “Cathy... the man
hits you!”
    
    That spun her from her work. “He does...” she suddenly realized she was yelling and quieted down to a
whisper, but the fire still burning in her eyes. “He does not! It was an accident! Get it through your head!”
    
    “Whatever you say.” he backed down with a sarcastic stare. She turned back to her work sharply, and
he leaned back in tighter. “An accident like this?” He touched the scar by her ear gently.  She groaned
her frustration and ignored him, but he just egged her on. “You told me some pretty wild things Friday
night.” She froze. “Just from that, Cathy, he’s hurting you.”
    
    “What did I tell you??!” She panicked, spinning to face him again.
    
    “Not a whole lot. I couldn’t understand most of it. What is he?”
    
    She was stiff. At that exact moment, Catherine swore off alcohol of any kind.
    
    “Is he, like, an ex-con or something?” Jesse accused, no longer looking at her, but the stitches on her
chin.
    
    She breathed. He had no idea, she had been totally incomprehensive, as he had been. The most life-
threatening was over. “That is none of your business, Jesse.”
    
    “None of my business?! Cathy... you’re right, we were both very drunk, and we were both a little hard-
up.” She gave him a quick look. “That much I did get. Cath... we slept together, it’s not a crime. He’ll
never have to know.”
    
    The world was spinning. A downward spiral was plummeting her back to Earth. No! Anything but that!
Anything!! It wasn’t true. She didn’t remember anything like that! He was lying. Maybe a kiss... did she
kiss him? No! She wouldn’t have! Oh God, she had! And she had a strange hazy recollection of leaving a
room... a bed... a man... and she was in her underwear. No! No, this wasn’t happening! How could she!
How could she have lost herself so completely? No! Vincent!
    
    Oh, dear God, Vincent! What had she done? She prayed that he had shut her out long before... but
she knew that he hadn’t. He had been there all through that terrible night.
    
    “Cathy...” Jesse interrupted her, seeing that she was shaking and had gone visibly white as a sheet,
“really, it’s okay. You don’t have to tell him.”
    
    “You don’t understand! He already knows!” She dropped down to a mumble, only meant for herself.
“Oh God! He felt every moment of it! Shit!”
    
    Jesse studied her for a moment as she mumbled insanely to herself. Slowly he stood up straight,
realization dawning on him. “You don’t remember, do you?”
    
    “It’s hazy.” She explained, angry and now packing up her work. “I thought I was dreaming.”
    
    “That good, huh?”
    
    “Jess,” she stopped for a second to look at him, “it never happened, okay? Please do this for me.”
    
    He stood there, in her way, dumbfounded and disheartened. “Cathy...”
    
    “Please Jesse! Please! Just say it.”
    
    He stumbled, reluctant. He wanted to yell at her. Maybe they were drunk, but it had meant something.
She was kind and beautiful, he just wanted to help her. But she stood there, waiting, with her purse and
bag in hand. Her ocean deep green eyes pleaded with him. She was going to him, going to beg
forgiveness.  He knew it all too well. She would be beaten, possibly killed if this man was violent enough.
Did he just like to torture, or could he be driven to kill? And could this be the turning point?
    
    But if Cathy was telling the truth... what then? Maybe it was just an accident and there was no reason
to “save” her. ‘Say it never happened’. But it did and he wasn’t ashamed. He stood there, blocking her
exit, contemplating it all.
    
    “Say it!” She yelled.
    
    He gaped at her, not saying anything, just staring.
    
    She shoved past him impatiently. Skidding past Joe, who had come out to see what drama the entire
office was fixed on, she told him she was sorry as she ran out of the building.
    
    “What the hell happened?” Joe charged on Jesse.
    
    Still he had trouble speaking. “I’m... I’m sorry, Mr. Maxwell.”
            
    “Yeah, I’m hearing a lot of that lately.” Joe quipped, not amused. “You wanna tell me something?” He
prompted.
    
    The world paused as Jesse looked at the door that Catherine had escaped through and then back at
Joe. “No.” He answered quiet and simply.

    

    A block from the DA’s office was a deli owned by a couple, Helpers who had a tunnel entrance in the
back room, as many did. That was were Catherine headed. She breezed in, nearly running into quite a
few people. She stopped at the counter where Ginny was filling an order.
    
    “Catherine!” She greeted with a smile, still putting together the specialty bagel. “A bit early for lunch,
hon.”
    
    “Catherine panted, trying to force words out of her panicking face unsuccessfully. “I need... to get... to
the back.”
    
    Anthony, marching in from the kitchen, was immediately quieting her down. “Not so loud! You want the
whole world to hear you?”
    
    Ginny finally took her attention away from the order to see Catherine bouncing with worry, biting her
lips to keep herself quiet. “Anthony,” she called her husband away, “finish this, would you?” He didn’t
move right away, so she rushed over and pushed him toward the counter. Ginny unlatched the little door
separating them and pulled Catherine in, watching the rest of the customers as if they would rush the two
women.
    
    “Thank you, Ginny!” Catherine mumbled as she jogged past her and back through the kitchen.
    
    There was no hesitation. Catherine’s feet made it to the bottom of the ladder and she was running
through the tunnels. Everything was familiar here. She didn’t have to think about where she was going,
she simply knew. This was home. This was her family. ‘Oh God, what have I done?”
    
    She passed people who tried to talk to her, but she didn’t stop. She had a purpose, a destination, and
she followed it. She followed it around corners, over bridges, and through the kitchens. She was under
Manhattan and close to Chinatown before she slid to a stop.
    
    She gathered her courage, praying that he would have no idea why she was upset. Catherine
crouched low and stared into Vincent’s chamber. She swung her legs over and let her feet, now
cramping, fall against the ladder. She leaned in and found him writing in his journal, his back turned to her.
    
    She simply watched him for a minute or two. He was hunched over his desk, his pen moving like
lightening in order to keep up with his thoughts. His hair fell heavily down his back and, in the candlelight,
it seemed to be a glowing halo. He in the glowing light, she crouched in the shadowy darkness.
    
    “Vincent?” She called softly with a deep shake in her voice.
    
    The pen stopped, only for a moment, but Vincent never moved. He kept writing.
    
    “Vincent, please speak to me.” She curled her hands into a ball nervously. “Please?”
    
    “You shouldn’t be here.” The simple statement was all that he allowed her.
    
    She closed her eyes and nearly smiled at the sound of his voice.”I need to be here.” She replied, her
eyes still closed. “I need you.”
    
    “No,” his voice rumbled like a coming storm, “you don’t . You have proven that you can make it without
me. Go back to him, Catherine. I’m not an option anymore.”
    
    “Vincent, please!” She begged, close to tears and longing for him to hold her and make the world go
away. “It was an accident!”
    
    “An accident?!” he finally turned on her, but never took a step forward. “There are no accidents,
Catherine. Only fate.”
    
    “Fate brought us together, Vincent!” She cut in. “Please don’t take that away from me. I made a
mistake. I was upset and I had too much to drink and I’m sorry... please!”
    
    “Catherine,” even her name on his lips was painful to both, “our fate went astray before him.” He
breathed. “I hurt you. I hurt you at the worst time of all.”
    
    “I’m fine!” She insisted for the millionth time. “I’m fine, it’s alright!”
    
    “It’s not alright! It’s nowhere near alright!” He fumed at her, but she didn’t move an inch. “It will never be
alright.” He softened a little and he let his eyes sink into hers. He watched her with the most wanting eyes
and then spoke slowly. “I will always regret this.” He promised her. “Leave. Leave now. And don’t ever
look back.”
    
    “No.” She told him quietly, her face growing more angry. “No, you don’t get rid of me that easily.”
    
    “I said leave!” He hollered.
    
    “I am not Lisa, Vincent!!” She screamed back. The world hushed as she breathed heavily and he
watched her, stunned by her statement. “I love you. I love you more than I have ever loved another human
being.”
    
    “Human...” he began with disdain, but was stopped.
    
    “Vincent! Listen to me! You were upset, I was upset, and we both made mistakes. I am sorry for that.
But... I will not run! I won’t! I won’t leave the only good I’ve ever done for myself just because he is afraid of
himself! Just because he is afraid of me.”
    
    “It’s not that I’m afraid of you.” His speech was labored; coherent thought was not easy at this point. “Is
that I’m afraid for you.”
    
    “You keep saying that.” She shook her head. “But Vincent, who pushed you? Who always pushes
you... too far sometimes? Me. I blame no one but myself for everything that happened this weekend. I
pushed too hard, I know that. You are afraid of me. I make you test the boundaries.”
    
    There was silence between them. Interminable silence. Her logic sunk in, but he pushed it aside,
preferring to wallow in his pity. “You should leave now.”
    
    “You are so afraid of who you could be.” Her pitying stare bore down on him, forcing him to believe her
words. “You’re afraid of what you could become. I am not Lisa! I will not run from you. I will stay and wait.”
She folded her arms decisively, her eyes never leaving his.
    
    “Catherine...” the last time her name passed his lips, “he made you happy. If only for a moment. That is
a moment I can never give you. Leave... and don’t ever look back.”
    
    Slowly she shook her head and sat up straighter. She defied his wants for the first, and the last time.
    
    Silence in the tunnel world. Everything was still. The smallest of creatures waited for what would
happen next.  And then: “Leave!!” He challenged, taking a step forward.
    
    Catherine sat back. With that one word and one step he had sent an emotion so full of hatred and
anger that it forced her backwards. But she held herself still.
    
    “Leave!!”
    
    Again that shock of emotion inched her back a bit more. But she was prepared this time. This time
she blocked his forced emotion with what little strength she had, and again held herself firmer and more
indignant.
    
    None of his tactics worked. She stayed perfectly still, never flinching from any of his blows. So, he took
another step forward and struck her for the last time with only a few, short words; “I don’t love you.”
    
    He had done it. Her eyes, once steely and ready for anything, widened and watered. Her strong form
melted into herself. She watched him, felt his sincerity, as she tucked her knees up carefully. She nodded
to him in acknowledgment as tears began to stream. She let out one barely audible; “I’m sorry, my love.”
And as quickly and unexpectedly as she had come into his life, she was lost to the world Above. The
darkness of the park which had once given her to him, now swallowed her up, never to be seen again.




Pursuit

    “Here’s that deposition.” Catherine dropped the manila folder on Joe’s desk with a flourish. “You
should make me a saint for sitting through that!”
    
    “That would have been done long ago if I had the power.” Joe assured as he skimmed the report. This
one was gruesome, as many were, but it was especially hard for Joe and Catherine to deal with. Then
again, it was their living to fight against these people. “How do you suppose a person gets this sort of
thing in their head? All of these kids. Seven-years-old and some shrink is going to have to explain to
them why this man hurt them. Unbelievable! How many were there? Six?”
    
    “Eight.” Catherine corrected with some difficulty. “The last two were him as well. He just changed up
his MO.”
    
    “And he killed them?” Joe searched for it in the file.
    
    “Yeah. All of it’s there. He described everything. Right down to how he picked them out. Seven-years-
old, African-American, well-fare families.” She shook her head to try and clear it of the image of that man
sitting only a few inches away, stone-faced. It didn’t work. She needed to get away from it, immerse her
brain in something a little less unnerving. She checked her watch; perfect timing. “Joe, I’ve gotta get
going.”
    
    He immediately dropped the folder, happy to switch topics. “You need to pick up Anna?”
    
    “Um, yeah. She’s down at the Y.” Catherine fidgeted a bit. Her daughter’s profile was very different
from the other children, but still too close for comfort. She just needed to get away from everything. Pick
up Anna, and keep her safe.
    
    “How’s she doing?” Joe tried to keep the conversation going.
    
    “She’s fine, Joe.” She assured him... or herself. She laughed a little as she brought her head up. “You
just saw her two days ago.”
    
    “Well, you know...” Joe came around the desk and sat on the edge, “Radcliffe, she’s like my own
daughter.” His tone suddenly switched to a joking laugh. “Don’t laugh, I do have a soft spot in there
somewhere.” He patted his chest.
    
    “Well, that’s good to know.” She nodded with mock-sincerity. Catherine, then, turned and began to
head out of Joe’s office.
    
    “Hey, Cathy...” Joe caught her attention by the time she reached the door, “you know that... whatever
you need, I’ll always be there.”
    
    Turned back only slightly, she nodded with a smile. “Yes, Joe. I know.”
    
    He advanced, a little too close for her. He leaned against the wall and door, keeping her from leaving.
“Do you really? Cath... I know that you don’t like to hear things like this, but...” he leaned a little farther in
and she squirmed nervously, “I love that little girl like she was my own. And I want to say that...”
    
    “Joe, I really have to go.” Catherine stopped him, knowing exactly where he was going. She tried to
pull the door open, but he held it shut.
    
    “You know, you’ve been avoiding me for almost a month, Cath.” He watched her closely. “Eventually
you’re gonna have to let somebody in.”
    
    “Really, Joe. I’m serious.” She tried to pull the door open with no success. “I can’t be late again.”
    
    “Who are you holding out for?” He asked quietly. There was no menace to his voice, only genuine
curiosity and concern.
    
    “Joe,” she finally stopped and looked into his eyes, “please. I can’t do this.”
    
    “Why not?” He asked, leaning in a little closer now.
    
    “Joe.” Her tone pulled him away a bit. “Don’t. Just don’t.” She pulled the door open easily and slipped
out quickly. And she was free, she had evaded him once again. She breathed heavily as she made her
way back to her desk.
    
    Joe had been coming after her for a long time. He had truly gotten over that shy banter around the time
Anna had turned five. Now he was on to full out advancements. She wasn’t sure why she never gave in.
She just couldn’t. Everything still hurt. Looking at her own child still hurt sometimes. Memories hurt. But
what hurt most was moving on, essentially... finding someone else. Joe was there; sweet, thoughtful,
adored Anna... and loved her. But it wasn’t right. Joe just wasn’t... oh how she hated to even think this...
he wasn’t Vincent.
    
    She grabbed her purse and rushed past Joe’s office, out of the office and away from all of those
thoughts, memories, and emotions.
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