“As Love, if Love is perfect, casts out fear,
So Hate, if Hate is perfect, casts out fear.”
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King
“Thank you both for coming back to speak with us,” a worn looking Agent Morrissey said as he gestured for Catherine and Joe to take a seat opposite him and the stone-faced, but equally tired-seeming, Agent Dunn.
Morrissey’s convivial tone caught Catherine by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. It didn’t seem like the “good cop, bad cop” routine from yesterday was leaving anytime soon.
Over the head of agent Dunn, she saw afternoon shadows just beginning to bathe the park outside the window. Darting people, swerving cabs, and stop-and-go traffic of early rush-hour filled the streets. Catherine tried to stamp down envy for all those people not in this room.
She realized she hadn’t moved only after Morrissey, with what appeared like a little less confidence, motioned again for her to take a chair. “We have just a few more follow-up questions from yesterday.” He pointed to his half-filled legal pad, and then glanced at files in front of the older agent. “There were a few developments in the case that we were hoping you could shed some light on.”
Shed light on developments that kept you up all night? Maybe not, Catherine thought, as she reluctantly eased into the steel and plastic chair, a recent note from Father still fresh in her mind.
After she and Joe had called an unquiet truce over Jenny[i], Vincent had given her a letter from Father. It was short, full of love and hope for her welfare, and in closing offered her a quote: Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.[ii]
Father’s advice and request were clear— To shed light was not her job.
“First off,” Dunn began, “we need you to explain why you think Gabriel Sol kept you alive.”
Morrissey poised with pen in hand over his pad.
“I don’t know.” A lie. The distraught and beloved reason pulled on her heart from half a city away.
“You said Sol and his men tried to get you to talk about the case you were working on, but that you told them nothing?” came the skeptical half-question from Dunn.
“How did you keep Gabriel dangling, Ms. Chandler? Are we supposed to believe he didn’t get everything and still kept you locked up for months? That he and his men didn’t just torture you to death, which was his M.O., by the way. Why would he do that?”
In the corner, glinting gold caught Catherine’s eye, and she paused too long. When she hurried to speak, it sounded rushed, forced.
“He didn’t tell me.”
From the same part of the room as the shimmer, smoke began to waft.
“Oh, my dear Catherine . . .”
The voice, coming from the shadows next to the window and wall, fell to a disapproving tone.
“You aren’t going to tell these fine gentlemen what really happened?”
Please . . .
“Ms. Chandler, you must have some idea why he kept you.”
Not here . . .
“And you say you value justice.”
She tried not to look at the old man who couldn’t be standing in the corner with five parallel wounds, blood-black and ragged, bisecting him sternum to groin.
“Isn’t truth the basis of justice, Catherine?”
She lowered her gaze, hoping Paracelsus would disappear, yet even if she wasn’t looking, his words followed her while he circled the tight room.
“Say what you will about his failures,” the dead man goaded, his movements forcing their way into her peripheral sight, “but I admire this man, this ‘Gabriel’. His vision, his ambition, they were truly inspired.” He took a long drag from a cigarette, then exhaled his next words. “From on high, you might say.”
He sauntered around the two agents as they conferred.
“Like this Gabriel, I should have seen what Vincent was capable of.”
The ghost sidled next to her.
“But . . .” He lengthened the word, like a predator toying with prey. “I was too preoccupied with the past.”
This time, after a long pull, he blew smoke in her face.
She tried, but couldn’t stop the cough from bursting out of her lungs.
Morrissey, startled out of his conference, asked if she needed water. She managed to nod yes, still coughing. The agent stuck his head out to request a drink from a person outside.
“You okay?” Joe asked, placing a hand on her arm. She nodded, but couldn’t answer further, still trying to stifle coughing from a cigarette she had no business believing in.
Please, this can’t be happening. Not here . . .
“You see, Catherine, I saw Vincent as the son I’d lost, my warrior,” Paracelsus explained, continuing his pursuit, and try as she might, ignoring him had never gone well.
“However, by the time we met again, it was too late. He was your warrior. He’d already laid his sword at your feet.”
A headache made of smoke and sick words stabbed behind her eyes.
“I did not understand his potential, but you did.” He nodded, pointing to her. “This Gabriel did!” Paracelsus opened his hands, feigning amazement. “I did not appreciate Vincent’s true power, but you saw it.” He gestured at her again. “You saw what he could truly be.”
He glared, triumphant, while his voice fell harsh and too near. “Vincent, my son, progenitor of a master race.”
She grabbed the edge of the table so her hands wouldn’t fly up in clawed offense. Even if she were certain the corpse she’d last seen sprawled on Father’s desk couldn’t truly hurt her, the urge to fight almost overpowered logic. She wanted to dispel his memory, bodily if she had to, but not because Paracelsus was wrong.
From Joe’s doctor’s announcement of “You’re pregnant”, that instant she realized, once again, that her life had taken an absolute and wrenching turn, through the moments of doubt while gazing at a nursery full of babies in a hospital she could never safely give birth in, she’d known.
Through every stroke of her flat stomach, then rounded belly, she’d known.
Vincent’s child—the possibility of the extraordinary—and Jacob was.
Across the city, her baby, Vincent’s baby, needed her, and her body cried out to keep him safe. Milk began to flow. Arms that would do violence had to wrap around and dig into her chest to staunch the flood.
“Cathy, seriously, you okay?” Joe asked again, unconscious of the ghost right next to them.
Paracelsus bent over her, his stench—cigarettes and mildew, fungus, and other damp and rotten things—almost overpowering.
“Did it excite you, Catherine, to let a monster touch you?”
“To know you carried the Beast’s child.”
She closed her eyes, but it only allowed an assailing vision of father and son trapped where she had found them yesterday, behind the door, the blinding sunlight stretching closer and closer to further distract her from what needed to be done, right now, this minute.
No Vincent. No baby.
You have to get through this!
The agents can’t know . . .
“But shouldn’t Vincent know, Catherine? Shouldn’t he be told what he’s done to you?”
She tightened her blazer around her as if she were cold . . . and realized she was.
“Here you are,” Morrissey said, handing her a half-filled glass of water.
“Thank you,” she whispered and took a sip.
Before Morrissey sat again, Dunn glanced up from his file.
“Did Gabriel or his men rape you, Ms. Chandler?”
She nearly spit out the liquid.
She covered her mouth and glared back at Dunn, speechless with anger, sudden and biting.
Judging by the hushed attention the other men were giving her, they had all wondered, except . . . Dunn. No, Dunn didn’t think she’d been raped. It was a question meant to take her off guard, to take advantage of her weakness, but it had the opposite effect—mustering, focusing. The ghost vanished, and she could concentrate back on the agent.
As far as rape, Dunn’s definition was clearly as narrow as his stare. She’d met his type enough in her life with the D.A. to realize, even if she had been raped, he’d never believe it. She’d seen too many indictments dropped not to understand what most men thought rape was— fighting, penetration, and bodily fluids.
It hadn’t been that.
X’s marked into her skin.
Violent, wrong, but unexplainable . . .
. . . and, somehow, not rape.
“No,” she said, meeting Dunn’s stare, and pulled the jacket tighter, praying it kept her most important secret safe.
Only after another long moment did Dunn try again.
“You told us that a guard helped you to escape, but the door was broken down from the outside. Why would a guard, who presumably had access to keys, break down a door?”
“Yes, why, Ms. Chandler?” came a new, discordant voice from behind her. It wasn’t Paracelsus and his oily baritone, but a graveled hiss of words.
“Tell them the truth.”
Despite the cold dank fingers of breath that slithered down her neck, she ignored it.
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask him. Things were happening very fast.”
“And you have no idea why?” Morrissey questioned.
“I already told you that.”
“Okay,” Dunn said. “We’ll come back to that later. Moving on, do you recognize this man?” The agent took out an official portrait of a grey-haired, grey-suited man in front of flags.
She didn’t recognize him, but Joe answered for her.
“Yeah, I remember him . . . ummmm . . . Henderson?” Joe ventured.
“Lieutenant Carl Herman, actually,” Morrissey said, rechecking his notes.
The name sounded vaguely familiar.
“Yeah, Herman. That’s it. He was out of the 19th, right?” Then Joe added sideways, “Truthfully, I always thought he’d risen a little too high for his abilities.”
“That’s what a lot of people said.” Morrisey answered. “Not a great investigator, but clean.”
The older agent spoke directly to Catherine. “He worked on your case when you were missing. Did you know that?”
“Yes, I remember him now,” she offered. He was the detective who couldn’t look at her scars and who always acted nervous, especially when her father was around.
“He asked me questions, but there were so many . . . ” She cast her eyes down again, “between him and the reporters . . .”
The memories were slipping in, threatening her new-found focus. She peered back to the window, the urge to escape almost irresistible.
“After you reappeared,” Dunn continued, demanding her attention, “he tried to investigate why you were attacked, but, according to his reports, no one—including you, his victim—was talking. Then after your suspected assailants were found dead along with . . .” He studied his notes again “. . . Carole Stabler, the other victim, your case was closed.”
Dunn turned to Joe. “Herman did manage to uncover a little more information. Specifically, that the dead men were under the direction of an up-and-coming mobster, one who had his fingers in a lot of pies.” He pivoted back to her. “Do you know who, Ms. Chandler?”
She didn’t say anything. She could guess, but what would that prove?
“The trail went cold, and then, about two weeks after they died, Lieutenant Herman was shot, a professional hit. Did you hear about this?”
“No, nothing,” she said with absolute sincerity. It had been a whirlwind those first few months at the D.A.’s. She’d barely had time to breathe for all the work Joe had thrown at her, but, deep down, she didn’t want to know, didn’t want to remember. She’d never sought out or heard from Detective Herman again. Vincent had killed the men who murdered Carole and who had nearly killed her. It was over and she never wanted to look back.
“I forgot he worked on your case,” Joe said to her. “Sorry.”
“We were called in at the time to help with ballistics,” Dunn said, ignoring Joe. “The NYPD wanted a nationwide search. It seems New York takes care of their own.”
“Yeah, usually,” Joe interjected with a caustic laugh, as if to remind them of why exactly they were here—to get Moreno, the betrayer, the traitor to all that New York law enforcement held holy.
Morrissey took over. “The forensics didn’t yield much, but we did find the bullets were shot with a very special weapon—custom made for a silencer and stopping power. At the time, the agents in charge of the case speculated that the lieutenant must have run afoul of a criminal who didn’t care we had his calling card.”
“Why should I?” came the other voice again. “The world must know who to fear.”
“We found out later that mobster’s name. Gabriel,” Dunn interjected, taking back the narrative. “The hitman worked for him. Gabriel wasn’t just a drug dealer, although that was his main enterprise when he . . . kidnapped you,” he said, emphasizing that she was their witness for their crime, not Joe’s. “He also worked extortion, blackmail, high-end theft, racketeering . . . murder.”
Morrissey and Dunn turned to each other, and, on a silent cue, Morrisey pulled a stack of photos out of the files between them.
“After Herman’s death, the gun wasn’t used again,” Morrissey said. “We thought that the hitman must have gotten rid of the thing. That is . . . until now.”
Morrissey unveiled pictures, the glossy black and white 8” x 10’s that were instantly recognizable as crime scene photos. He placed them in rows on the table. In the end only about fifteen fit, but there were more still stuffed in the folder.
“What the hell is this?” Joe barked.
“The hitman’s ‘calling card’, left at no less than sixteen crime scenes in the New York area in the last three weeks. The first was a lawyer and his driver in Chinatown, then . . .” He pointed. “. . . the Bronx, Queens, Hell’s Kitchen . . .” He motioned to the file. “And they’ve found bullets from the same weapon at four other scenes in three more states.”
Gabriel walked around the table to inspect the photos as well.
Catherine turned her gaze from the strutting ghost to study a photo with a large black-haired man. A gun lay close to him, but this guard—one who had never talked to her, one whose eyes wouldn’t even meet hers in the long months he had made certain she didn’t escape—had a pistol in his hand and had died anyway. Live by the gun . . .
“This is him, I think.” She pointed to the photograph. “He was the guard. The one that helped me get out of the building.”
“James Graco.” Morrissey read his name from a rifled-through report. It meant nothing to her but a means to keep Vincent safe.
“Why didn’t you tell us he rescued you, Ms. Chandler?” Dunn accused. “We could have protected him.”
She didn’t glance up from the photo. “He helped me get out of a cell that no one would tell me why they kept me in in the first place. Do you think he gave me his name and number?”
And there it was, the quick mind, the weapon she had honed, but how to keep it? It had been too long since it had true exercise, too long without real sleep. She needed it now.
“And what happened after you escaped?” Dunn inquired, the exasperated tone from yesterday afternoon returning, the question already asked more than once.
“I told you yesterday,” she said, meeting his arrogant gaze. “I contacted Joe, told him about Moreno, and then I went into hiding.”
“So why do you think James Graco helped you kill his boss?” Dunn asked, disbelievingly.
“Yes, Ms. Chandler, why did you kill me?” Gabriel took a slouching perch against the wall behind Joe. “Explain it to them.” The monster leered at her from the corner opposite a reappeared Paracelsus.
How could Gabriel even speak? She’d made sure to silence him.
That never stopped them before, her mind countered.
Gabriel would have his say, even if there wasn’t anything left of his throat to say it with.
“As I said, I can only speculate.” She tried not to stare at the ghosts surrounding them. “Maybe he thought Mr. Sol was as sick a bastard as I did. I didn’t ask for a miracle to explain itself.”
By turning from the ghosts, she couldn’t help but scan the photos, lined up and displayed for her benefit. Mostly men in dirty rooms, restaurants, or back alleys, but one…
The glossy picture fluttered in her fingers before she realized she had picked it up.
It showed curved industrial tile, from a hospital perhaps, splattered with the blood of a man in a white lab coat, his back marred by a tight grouping of three large bullet holes. The man’s body had fallen against the wall as if he were trying to climb it when he died. Although a black and white photograph, Catherine knew the fringe of hair surrounding the bald, freckled head well enough to know its red color.
“All of these people were murdered, presumably by the same killer, at least by the same gun, the same one used to shoot the detective who investigated your attack. Don’t you find that an odd coincidence?”
“Ms. Chandler, a lot of people seem to die around you. We are just trying to understand why.”
“Yes. Too much death . . .” she heard herself saying. She couldn’t stop the next words she whispered, as if someone else spoke through her. “Nothing but blood . . .”
Joe grabbed the photo from her hands and threw it on the table. “This is all very interesting and gruesome and has nothing to do with the case against John Moreno!”
“I can make this stop, Ms. Chandler.”
Gabriel was still there, just as she’d feared.
“I can make this all go away.”
He smirked, his presence a taunt in itself. He liked hurting people. He liked hurting her.
Gabriel sidestepped around Joe. “The empire will crumble, if the Emperor is no more. It must be wiped clean.”
She turned to confront his cruelty.
“All must end, Ms. Chandler, even things just begun. “
He grabbed her face.
“If I can’t have the child, no one will.”
She shook her head violently against his grip and what she already knew.
“I’ve sent my wrath.”
The dreams of cold death, of Vincent’s death, they all made sense now.
“Cathy?” Joe also pulled her face to his gaze. “Cathy, come on, honey. You all right?”
The trembling had taken over. She’d fallen through ice, and now, trapped beneath, she could barely hear for the pounding of her heart; the raw fracturing took every word.
Silence had been her place to hide. She never should have left it. She never should have left the Tunnels, before or since. That first time Vincent saved her, those ten days should have stretched to forever . . .
Joe grabbed her hand, leading her towards the door. “I’m taking Cathy out of here. She needs to rest. She hasn’t been well since . . .” He made a circling gesture, “everything.”
“Mr. Maxwell,” Dunn barked, rounding the table to block them, “we still need to ask a few more questions.”
“No, you don’t, not today,” Joe said, echoing her thoughts. “I’m taking my witness and getting the hell out of here. We’ll be back, but you better not pull another stunt like this again.” Joe pointed at the pictures strewn over the table.
“District Attorney Maxwell, do I need to have you charged with obstruction!” Dunn challenged.
“Indicting two sitting District Attorneys of New York?” Joe yelled back, but his words started sounding further and further away, while roaring that would rival Vincent’s rushed over her like a storm.
“Wow, Dunn . . . might seem like a witch hunt.”
“Mr. Maxell, you have a responsibility . . .”
Dunn went on, but Morrissey, ignoring the fight, spoke directly to her. Even then, the continuous ocean of noise made it nearly impossible to hear. She wanted to surrender to it, to let go. Just no more questions.
“At least . . . where you are staying . . . want to protect you.”
She assessed the young detective. He appeared sincere, but so had Moreno.
The bitter smell of smoke again rose in the room.
“Are . . . ” Morrissey’s voice faded against the beating tide, “. . . right, Miss Chandler?”
She noticed Dunn and Joe had stopped their arguing. Dunn was gathering the photos to make ready to leave.
“We’ll . . .” Dunn’s voice died and returned within the crashing and cracking, “. . . take . . . home.”
How could this have happened so fast? They couldn’t follow her, but how was she supposed to stop them?
“Awake, Catherine.” Paracelsus’ voice purred above the din, as if he were right next to her ear. “’Awake, arise or be forever fall’n’[iii]”
The roaring stopped.
All the men in the room turned to her.
“No, you won’t take me home.” Her words sounded strange in the now silent room, flat and hollow.
She took another breath, pulling her jacket closer and crossing her arms.
“You want to protect me?” she asked, incredulous.
If Vincent can’t . . .
If the NYPD can’t . . .
If the D.A. can’t. . .
No, wouldn’t. Joe tried, but not John. John Moreno betrayed me, betrayed everyone, and he should pay.
“If you want me to speak to you again, I’ll come back, but that’s it.”
“And why’s that, Ms. Chandler?” Dunn asked, his suspicion flagrant and undeterred by anything she had told him. How could it not be? She’d told him next to nothing and already too much. But it didn’t matter . . . because . . . because she had to keep her secrets . . . and everybody had them.
“Agent Morrissey, Agent Dunn, how long were you working on the case against Gabriel? How long were you investigating him?”
Her question seemed to take the agents off guard. After a few moments, Dunn answered.
“We can’t tell you.”
“Of course you can’t,” she said, shaking her head. “And you want me to trust you?
No one dared reply.
“Okay, longer than a year?”
Neither agent responded, but judging from Morrissey’s stunned appearance, only he could claim ignorance.
“So, more than a year then,” she inferred. “That leads me to one of two possible conclusions, Agent Dunn. One—you didn’t know Gabriel took me or where he kept me. You don’t know where his people were . . . or are, or if they infiltrated the FBI like they did all over New York. You don’t know if they can still hurt me.”
Dunn remained silent, yet answers began to swirl in his gaze, unconcealed beneath his indignant facade.
“Or, two— you knew about me. You knew where he took me. You knew the whole time, and you didn’t lift a finger to help me.”
The older agent still said nothing, but she saw it now. Silence was its own form of communication.
“Either way, incompetent or uncaring,” she turned to the exit, “I am not trusting you.”
Joe wrenched the door open and pressed her out of the room, leaving the agents alone with the dead.
[i] Home, Chapter 13
[ii] Max Ehrmann, 1927
[iii] John Milton, Paradise Lost