This chapter Rated PG-13 for violence
The wild, cruel beast is not behind the bars of the cage. He is in front of it.
There she stood, silhouetted against the city lights visible from her lone window, wrapped in the dark, as her arms wrapped around her abdomen, waiting for him, waiting for release from the cage. She was beautiful, full, alive, impossible, and very pregnant.
It stopped Vincent mid-stride.
Shocked still with Caroline’s words reliving in him – “…you will save her and what she’s been keeping safe…” – the Cave, what Catherine had wanted to tell him – “…there are so many gifts…” – the past came into focus with terrible clarity.
From across the room, Catherine hesitated for a breath, just that, and then ran to him with more grace than should have been possible. In a moment she was in his arms, her scent surrounding him.
This must be a dream.
Please let this not be a dream.
“Vincent,” she said with wonder, looking up to him, and then with conviction, her hands already pulling on his, “we can’t stay here….” Her words reverberated, sending him to action. She was right. Already he could hear the guards on the stairs.
Vincent had heeded the warnings, the impressions he had sensed as he ascended Above. Maybe Caroline had been able to help him after all, or perhaps it was Catherine through their renewed connection, but whatever the cause – stealth, his instinct urged. A frontal attack had not worked before. The Beast inside him wanted release, to feel blood in his hands, but it waited. The Beast hunted, silently drawn to his mate, and to something else, something that lived on the edge of his perception, more…. It perplexed him, this new depth to their Bond, but he had pushed aside all extraneous thought in his haste to find her. Now he understood.
When he had reached the tower, directly in midtown, Vincent watched, waited, assessing the defenses. It was clear whoever held Catherine possessed wealth and power, and with it, safeguards and weapons.
It wouldn’t be enough.
Vincent had lured the first guard out of the building and beyond the security camera’s range with stones thrown against a door. The armed man died, easily, cleanly, without a sound. Vincent avoided the camera’s gaze, and then cut the electrical lines inside, disabling all cameras and trip sensors. He killed two more guards as cleanly as the first, on his way to her room so far above. It took time, too much time.
With Catherine’s hand now clasped in his, they crept into the empty hallway and quickly away from the cell. Vincent could hear the guards in the closer, northern stair, but they were still many floors away. Catherine heard them too, and rushed with Vincent towards the further one. They passed the ascending elevators. The guards were converging on the floor. They must have realized it was an escape. The couple entered the stairwell quietly. Vincent could hear guards below them here as well. Damn, they needed more time, he cursed to himself. There was no way down. Catherine took charge and drew him upward. Maybe they could hide, or double back, or even get to another building, anything. There were precious few floors above them. They tried each door; all were locked. Desperation and strength broke open the last floor’s door, and they entered the hallway.
The wood-paneled hall and frosted glass windows recalled the passing shadows of Catherine’s former life. Thick carpets easily masked their movements. To their right, a lavishly carved table stood sentinel in the hallway, on it an expensive tray with the remnants of a dinner: stained cloth napkin and an ornate steak knife lain across a bloody plate. Catherine picked up the knife almost without thinking.
She heard Vincent’s deep growl, closer to a vibration than a sound, before she saw a large metal door open. It was him, the man. Something, maybe it was his suit or his imperious air, told her this was the twisted psychopath who had her tortured for information, who imprisoned her for half a year, who wanted her baby. She had never seen him. He was smaller than she had imagined.
Vincent’s warning grew louder as they both pressed the man back into the darkened room he had come from, his office. An imposing modern desk dominated the middle of the room. It looked onto blank monitors. Only the red glow of the back-up lights and the grey of the coming dawn illuminated the space. He, the man, must have been coming to take her away again. The idea of it killed her fear, and her anger propelled her forward, ahead of a snarling Vincent.
The man never took his eyes from Vincent.
“So, you’ve come to me…finally.” The man literally licked his lips with nervous anticipation. Catherine was now sure this was her captor. His voice had taunted her, tortured her.
“I have seen your face a thousand times. I’ve watched you. I’ve watched you kill…” – his slow statements and low voice were everything she dreaded when he spoke to her – “…but the tapes did not do you justice. I never dreamed…. She never told me you were so magnificent.”
The man backed further into the room as Catherine and Vincent pushed in.
“She would never tell me anything about you,” he accused her, as if they should be known to one another, as if she would tell this man their secrets…as if the Beast, the protector, wouldn’t destroy this man at his first opportunity.
“You are truly a wonder,” he said with astonishment and then, with an air of achievement, “My son will also be magnificent.”
Catherine answered with a voice that lived low and graveled with lack of use, “The child is his son, his and mine…never yours.”
The man finally, almost distastefully, glanced at her, and then at the knife. He unconsciously began to twirl a gold ring on his finger.
“You are a conduit,” he dismissed her, his scorn clear, “the means to bring my son life, but soon he will be free of you, and you will no longer be necessary.” Looking to the knife in her hand, he kept at her, “Are you truly ready to use that, Ms. Chandler…in cold blood? Are you ready to kill…to feel life running into your hands?”
Catherine hesitated for a moment, no more.
“No, you can’t, can you?” The man smirked at her, at her perceived weakness. “Of course you can’t. You are afraid of your power. You work for ‘Justice’…and it is slow.”
She lowered the knife just a fraction. “We are leaving here, now…” she uttered, stony and threatening.
The man shook his head, dismissing her again with such certainty. “You can’t kill me. That’s why I own this city, your boss, judges, police. I own the drugs, the dealers, the clinics,” he boasted triumphant, “I own buildings and every business in them. There isn’t a transaction in this city I don’t have some stake in. I own all this because I am strong enough to use the weapons that are placed within my grasp. That has always been the failing of the weak, afraid to use the weapons they have.”
He didn’t fear them. By the look in his eyes he felt nothing but his own superiority. “The child was placed in my grasp.” He nodded with his truth.
“Sir? Sir, are you there?” a worried voice abruptly called from an intercom on the desk. “The woman is gone.” The man turned from Catherine, turned from them. His hand reached for a button to call his people.
Vincent didn’t react, so swift the deed done. Catherine made no outward sign of her intentions. Only Vincent could have been aware of the quake which shook her soul. Why didn’t he stop her, he would ask himself a hundred times over in the days to come, and the only answer…I see thee better — in the Dark –….* Instinct, like an undertow, pulled her forward, slipped her beneath and created her anew, a creature of a violent sea.
With horrible certainty her bare feet moved, silent on the carpet. She strode behind the man. Huntress-like, she grasped his black hair between her slender fingers, pulling it back, stretching him. She tilted the man’s head back – her sacrifice. Without hesitation, she brought her weapon up. Vincent saw it held above her for an instant, the red of the emergency lights reflected on its blade, and then she thrust the knife down, piercing her tormentor’s throat, again, and again, twisting and ripping. His Catherine, who had held a dying child in her loving arms, who had laughed with him, who had shared music and the night with him, who had loved him back into life, was now more like him than ever. This wasn’t a gun almost by accident going off, saving others. This was gore and blood and savagery, all the things his better self prayed to keep from her. Now she was truly a killer, a goddess of life and death, Sekhmet unleashed, and the predator that lived within the forest of his heart howled in recognition of her.
For what must have been just a handful of seconds but seemed like an eternity of immobility, Vincent watched Catherine murder, watched as her captor’s blood splattered her hands, spilled down her arms, staining her, but, finally, in his death throes, the man was able to turn in her grasp and push her back. She stumbled into Vincent’s arms, the blade finally falling to the floor.
Hideous gurgling was all the sound the dying man made, his voice destroyed, his blood drowning his rapid breath. She must have hit everything vital, artery and vein, the man’s throat a gushing black-red ruin. His hands reached to try to stop it, but Vincent knew nothing would stop his death. The man turned to them before he collapsed with a soft thud on the rich carpet, his legs twitching in a Death’s dance.
“It wasn’t fear,” she said, a whispered breath to the dying man on the floor. “I wasn’t afraid of you.” She stopped for a moment, trying to understand herself, and then she did.
“It was mercy.”
Blood pooled around the almost-corpse as the carpet drank his life away.
*I see thee better — in the Dark — by Emily Dickinson