Vincentís peaceful dreams were suddenly torn apart by fear, overwhelming fear, agonizing fear and then pain, excruciating pain. His breath caught as he tried to separate himself from it; he began thrashing from side to side trying to escape it, abruptly he sat up and howled.
Catherine, awakened by the sound, sat up in panic. She reached for him, "Vincent, what is it, whatís the matter, are you ill?"
"No," he panted swinging his legs to the floor. "Itís not me," he groaned grabbing his head. "Itís someone else."
"Vincent I donít understand." She scrambled around the bed to stand in front of him. "Youíre frightening me."
"Iím feeling someone elseís fear," he grunted, "someone elseís pain."
He had been sitting on the side of the bed his elbows on his thighs, his head in his hands; suddenly he fell over to his side; curled up into a fetal position, pain, sudden piercing pain in his groin, his breathing turned into short pants. When he spoke his voice was pitched higher than his usual baritone.
"It hurts," he whimpered "mommy help me, it hurts."
Catherine sat beside him rubbing his face utterly bewildered. What was happening to him? What had he said, it was someone else he was feeling, how could that be?
He spoke again still in the uncharacteristic tone
"Mommy, mommy where are you?"
What had Vincent said? It wasnít him?
"Itís ok, itís all right," she crooned. "Whatís your name?" she asked him, deciding to act as if he were someone else.
"Amy," he sniffled.
"Amy whatís wrong?"
"Scared, wanna go home."
"Whatís scaring you Amy?"
"The man, he took me away, he wonít take me home. I wanna go home!" His voice was becoming hysterical.
"Amy weíll try to help you," Catherine said soothingly still rubbing his cheek.
"It hurts, I wanna go home," he persisted.
"Amy what hurts?" she asked
"Here," he cried, grabbing his groin.
Oh dear God thought Catherine, a man was molesting a little girl
"Amy, honey, how old are you?" she questioned
Oh my God, five years old! What kind of man could do such a thing to such a young girl? She kept stroking Vincentís face hoping that somehow Amy would feel it and find comfort in the touch. She needed to get more information in order to help the child
"Amy what is your last name?"
"I wanna go home"
"Amy please, whatís your mommyís name?"
"Mommy." Well that wasnít getting her anywhere
"Amy, do you have any brothers or sisters?"
"Jason, heís bigger than me."
"Amy do you know where you live, whatís the name of your street is or your town?"
Vincent shook his head and popped his thumb into his mouth sucking on it noisily.
"Amy where are you now? Are you in a room?"
"Yeth," he said around his thumb
"Is there a bed?"
"Is there anything else?"
"Is there a window?"
"Can you go look out of the window and tell me what you see?"
It took awhile to get an answer.
"Just a few or a lot?"
"Lots and lots; sleepy now."
"AmyÖ Amy," Catherine called but there was no response. Vincent slowly opened his eyes, there was such pain in them, such anguish.
"Catherine, that man is molesting a five year old child! What kind of person could do such a thing?"
She shook her head, "Vincent how can you be feeling this child? This is unbelievable."
"I donít know Catherine," he shook his head mystified. "It maybe that she is a strong empath and when frightened she broadcasts and Iím able to "hear" her because of my empathic abilities. Catherine we have to do something! We canít let this continue, he must be stopped." He stood and began pacing the room to its limits.
"Well weíre not going to get anymore sleep tonight. Why donít you go into the family room and turn on the news? Maybe thereíll be something. Iíll bring up some tea."
When Catherine went through the family room door with the tea tray Vincent was still pacing. He had turned on one of the news channels, which was now showing the weather for the day. She set the tray down and drew him down to the couch, handing him a cup.
"Drink it before it gets cold."
"Catherine, we must do something!" he repeated, clearly still agitated.
"Vincent what can we do? We have no idea where she may be."
Just then a story came on that caught their attention.
Little Amy Jensen has been missing since 3:00 yesterday afternoon, she was last seen playing with her older brother Jason in the woods near the family home, no foul play is suspected at this time. There are search parties scouring the woods near the home, anyone with any information is asked to contact the Newburg police at 800-496-4342.
Vincent whirled on her, "Catherine thatís her, thatís Amy, the police have no idea sheís been kidnapped; we have to tell them."
"Vincent youíre not thinking. What do we tell them? That you have an empathic link with the child? Theyíd think you were nuts, besides which you canít come forward."
"Catherine, I cannot sit here while the child is being abused!" he roared.
"Ok, look letís get dressed and go Below, no matter what we decide Father will have to know."
He agreed, they got dressed, getting Below in record time. Entering Fathers chamber they found him in the loft with the Bishop. Father looked over the top of his glasses
"Catherine, Vincent what brings you both down here so early?
The Bishop had already gone down the spiral stairs, detecting something amiss.
"Whatís wrong?" Alarmed, Father hurried as fast as his bad hip would allow. Vincent had begun pacing again.
"Catherine whatís the matter?" he asked worriedly.
Catherine laid both palms on the table took a deep breath and began. When she was finished Father shook his head
"I know about his abilities and I still find it hard to believe. What do you propose to do?"
"I have to go up there," Vincent stated flatly.
"Vincent thatís madness! You canít go." Seeing the determination in his sonís eyes he turned to appeal to Catherine. "Catherine you canít let him go." he was frantic.
"Father Iíd go by myself, but I donít have the connection. Iíd have no more chance of finding her than anybody else."
"But they think sheís lost in the woods. You could let them know," he returned.
"How Father? What do I tell them? How would I know what I know?" Catherine kept her voice even, trying to stay calm.
Vincent stopped pacing, slamming his fist on the table. "I must go. Iím the only one that can find her."
"Heís right. He has a moral obligation to that little girl to do whatever he can to help her," the Bishop interjected.
"Ok enough. Weíre going, letís work out how weíre going." Catherine stated.
Just then Mouse jumped through the chamber entrance.
"Iíll go too, can help, be good help."
"Mouse how many times have I told you itís not polite to eavesdrop!" Fatherís voice was stern.
"DidnítÖwas standing outsideÖeverybody talking loud," he replied defensively.
"All right, all right Iím not going to argue with you, come in. Is everybody up early today?" He asked in exasperation to no one in particular.
"Working on the pump, just got done."
Vincent had begun pacing again. "We are wasting time," he growled. He felt powerless, a child had called out to him and so far he had done nothing, it was eating him up inside, every protective instinct in him was raging.
"All right, we need to get a New York map, I have one somewhere." Father got up and went to a box finally coming up with a NY state road map. Catherine took it from him and spread it out on the table. The Bishop put his finger on the area indicating Newburgh.
"It doesnít appear to be too far, perhaps an hourís drive, thatís not too bad. We could rent a car with tinted windows," Catherine said trying to think of safe transportation for her husband.
"No." Vincent whipped around. "No car," remembering the limo, "I would feel trapped."
"A van then, if weíre stopped for any reason youíd be able to slip out the side or back door. Having Mouse along would be a good idea he could create a diversion giving Vincent a chance to get away."
Mouse glowed, "Mouse can doÖmake good diversionÖthe best."
"Ok," Catherine turned to Mouse "I donít know how long weíll be away so you better tell Jamie and pack a change of clothes, and whatever else you think we might need, then meet us at the house. In the mean time Iíll see about renting a van."
Mouse nodded heading out the chamber entrance.
"Vincent you should take your staff and mask, I dare say theyíll come in handy," suggested the Bishop.
"Vincent please be careful," Fatherís faced was creased with worry.
"Donít worry Father. Iíll keep a close eye on him. You know we have to do this."
"I know Catherine, and I admire your courage, but I fear for you."
"Iíll take my mobile phone and keep in touch with Peter."
"An excellent idea." He kissed her cheek. "Good luck and God bless you both."
The Bishop embraced the two.
Vincent kissed Father on the top of his head, "Weíll be careful."
While Catherine was out getting the van Vincent threw a bag together of things they might need; then got his cloak, mask, gloves and staff and piled them on top waiting impatiently for her return. By the time Catherine got back Mouse had shown up and they all piled into the vehicle, Vincent being careful to shield his face with the hood of his cloak. Catherine drove, Mouse sat up front and Vincent sat in the back out of sight, the windows were heavily tinted, but he didnít want to take any chances.
As they drove across the Tappanzee bridge they heard him say "Iím here, Amy," Evidently Amy had awakened. "My name is Vincent, weíre coming, weíll be there as soon as we can." There was a pause and then, "Do you have a teddy bear Amy?. I look something like that." Catherine thought it sounded like Vincent was on the phone but without the phone it was so strange.
Mouse was content to stare out the window; the wide empty spaces along this part of the Thruway fascinated him; it was so different from the tunnels and the inner city that he was used to.
"See if the man left something." Vincent was continuing his conversation with Amy. "Puffs, what are puffs?"
"Cocoa Puffs, Vincent," Catherine answered him, "Itís a cereal."
"You can eat them without milk, Amy."
Catherine was turning off the Thruway, taking the Newburg exit.
"Which way, Vincent?" she asked.
He pointed to the left. It was a surreal trip. Vincent having a one sided conversation while his hand pointed the way like a compass. There came a point when Vincent insisted they go left but there was no road to take the van down. Catherine had noted a convenience store a half a mile away from where he wanted to turn so she dropped them off and returned to the store. She brought some sandwiches and drinks and leaving the van walked back to the drop point.
They had melted into the woods so effectively she couldnít spot them, although she felt Vincent through the bond. He appeared out of nowhere taking the bag from her and led the way deeper into the wood. It was hard going, there were no paths and the briars were thick and plentiful catching at their clothing. They ate their sandwiches on the move, Vincent was fearful the dark would bring another assault on Amy and he would not be able to live with himself if that happened, so he pushed them mercilessly. His two companions did the best they could but they didnít have his stamina nor the voice in his head, Amyís voice, urging him on.
Darkness fell and Catherine and Mouse had lost sight of Vincent, but the bond gave her direction; suddenly she heard his growl. Panic gave her feet renewed energy, Mouse plunged along in her wake. She practically bumped into Vincent standing at the beginning of a clearing that held a small cabin. He brandished his staff and began to advance but Catherine clung to his arm
"Vincent wait, if you barge in there he could use Amy as a shield, we need to get him out here away from her. Mouse," she grabbed him frantically, "go by the front door and start yelling help or something."
Turning back to Vincent she asked, "You said there was a window?" he nodded. "Go Mouse!" She shoved him in the direction of the door then she and Vincent went to the back of the dwelling where they could see a window. The entire time Vincent had been quietly reassuring Amy that he was coming, not to be afraid.
They heard Mouse yelling help and peeking through window they saw Amy huddled in a corner, her eyes wide, tears staining her dirty face. The man had been advancing on her until he heard Mouse; he whipped his head around and went out through the door shutting it behind him. Vincent quickly opened the window and boosted Catherine through it. She landed lightly on the floor in a crouch, crawling on hands and knees to where Amy was.
"Amy itís all right weíre here now, your safe."
"Vincent?" she questioned in a quavering voice.
"Heís right outside; Iíll take you to him."
She gathered the tiny girl in her arms, again wondering how anyone could hurt this small child. She lifted her through the window into Vincentís waiting arms. He had put on his "bandits" mask so she couldnít see the lower part of his face, he didnít want to frighten her anymore than she already was. She burrowed her head into his neck sobbing uncontrollably.
Catherine scrambled through the window and they made their way back towards the front of the cabin. They saw Mouse standing with his hands raised above his head, terror in his eyes. The man had a gun trained on him. Catherine quickly took Amy from Vincent as he poised his staff for an attack. Moving forward he roared to distract the man from Mouse at the same time swinging his staff in an overhead arc that connected with the manís wrist, the gun flew into the woods, lost in the darkness.
The man backed into the cabin, slamming the door shut. He must have discovered Amyís absence because the next thing they heard was him screaming, "Where is she? Sheís mine!" They heard furniture crashing, then saw him coming around the back of the cabin brandishing a chair leg, heading toward Catherine and her precious burden.
Seeing him Amy became hysterical, clawing at Catherine, hiccupping and trembling in fear. Vincent stepped between the man and his intended target. The man ran at him, swinging the chair leg over his head at Vincent. Vincent raised the staff and took the blow between his hands where he held the staff, pushing back so the man stumbled. Vincent swung the staff to waist level and using it as a spear rammed the end into his attackerís solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him. As he doubled over Vincent once again swung the staff hitting the man a hard crack on the back of the head effectively knocking him out.
Vincent stood over him, breathing hard. It took all his self control not to finish him off, but the Bishop and Isaacís training was paying off; he hadnít let the blood rage overtake him. His new fighting skills had become instinctual, supplanting his natural fighting skills and a part of him rejoiced in that knowledge. It was all over in seconds, he walked over to where Mouse lay, pulling him to his feet.
"Mouse are you all right?" Vincent asked.
"Yeah ok good, ok fine," he grinned, brushing leaves and dirt off himself.
"Letís find something to tie him up with."
Mouse nodded going into the cabin coming out in moments with some rope. "Found this."
"That will do." Vincent took the rope and he and Mouse tied the manís hands and feet securely, then lashed him to a tree. Catherine had managed to calm Amy somewhat but when Vincent neared she held her arms out to him; he took her, handing Catherine his staff. They went into the cabin to discuss their next move.
Catherine had brought in the bag of provisions and offered Amy a bottle of water; she took it and drank thirstily. Held securely in Vincentís arms she had the bottle in one hand and taking her other from around his neck she pulled his mask down. Everyone held their breath; Amy reached out her little hand and rubbed Vincentís cheek.
"Aslan?" she asked.
"No, Vincent." He smiled at her careful not to show his deadly canines.
"Is Aslan your brother?"
Vincent laughed, "no my cousin."
Everyone laughed and Amy replaced her arm around Vincent, laying her cheek against his.
After discussing and rejecting several plans they finally decided, much to Vincentís protests, to leave Amy in the cabin alone. Catherine would make her way back to the van and call the hot line number from the convenience store, she didnít want to chance her mobile phone being traced, then she would drive back to pick up the other two.
Vincent wanted to stay behind with Amy, but Catherine and Mouse would never be able to find their way back to the road without him, they didnít have his keen sense of direction. Having gotten some food into Amy, Catherine cleaned her up as best she could then took her into the room to the bed, laying her down she covered her with a blanket she had found.
"Amy why donít you try taking a little nap?"
Amy had popped her thumb in her mouth and was rubbing her forehead with the back of her other hand. "Story," she asked around her thumb.
"Ok, a story." Catherine collected her thoughts and began the skin horse story she had loved as a child, she didnít get very far before Amy was fast asleep. She placed a light kiss on the childís forehead and quietly left the room closing the door until there was just a crack left.
"Sheís asleep; letís go. The quicker I make the phone call the faster sheíll be found."
As they left the cabin, Vincent checked the ropes holding the monster that had hurt Amy. He was still out cold and Vincent was fairly confident that he would be that way for some time. Looking back at the cabin one last time he led the others as quickly as they could go in the dark back to the road.
Catherine went on from there to the van. Getting some change from her purse she went to the pay phone located outside the store. They had found a wallet on the man and his license identified him as John Burger. She told the police that this man was holding Amy in a cabin and that they should hurry. She did not identify herself, but kept insisting that they check it out. Fortunately they knew John Burger as a strange character and they knew of his wooded cabin so they took her seriously. She finally hung up, confident that they would act on her information. Getting back in the van she drove down the road, feeling Vincent near she pulled over picking up her husband and friend.
"Are they going to go after her?" Vincent asked anxiously.
"Yes I believe so. They seemed to know Burger, maybe heís been in trouble with the law before."
Mouse piped up, "how will we knowÖ?" he hesitated.
"If sheís all right?" Vincent finished, "Iíll know," he said gravely.
They made their way to the Thruway and at a rest stop they pulled in so Catherine could use her mobile to call Peter; he had received a message from Father and had stayed up hoping for a call. She filled him in asking that he let Father know that they were on their way home. Peter promised he would see to it personally and they continued on their way.
Vincent thought it best that Catherine let them off at the Central Park entrance to the tunnels since the sky was already beginning to lighten. As she dropped them off, Mouse yawned hugely.
"Good to be home, need to sleep," he mumbled as he closed the van door.
Vincent clasped him about the shoulders, leading him to the drainage pipe.
Catherine dropped the van off, pushing the keys through the drop box, and made her way home. Once there she got cleaned up and went Below to Fathers chamber; Vincent and Mouse were already there along with Father, Peter and the Bishop. They looked up as she entered.
"Anything?" she queried Vincent.
"No sheís still sleeping." He began pacing the chamber in his familiar way again, fretting about having left Amy alone.
The three men questioned Catherine more closely on the events of the night. The Bishop was very gratified with Vincentís use of the staff feeling all the training they had done had been well worth it.
Suddenly Vincent halted, his eyes lost their focus and his head tilted to one side, everyone looked at him expectantly.
Evidently Amy had been woken up by a policewoman, "Itís all right Amy. Go with her, sheíll take you homeÖ.no Iím home now. Donít worry everything will be all right now. Yes if you call Iíll answerÖ.promise. I love you too." His eyes glistening with tears, re-focused on those around him. "Sheís all right."
"Thank God." Father intoned. He got up hugging them both. "Iím very proud of both of you and you too Mouse," grabbing Mouse behind the neck, pulling his face close for a kiss on the cheek.
Mouse reddened staring at the floor bashfully. "Gotta go, need sleep."
Catherine and Vincent both hugged and thanked him before he left.
"I think you two should get some rest as well," Father said, "it has been a long night."
They agreed and after kissing and hugging everyone left the chamber for home. After taking a shower and getting into a comfortable set of sweats Vincent went down to the family room, still too keyed up to sleep. He found Catherine there with a tray of eggs and toast, which he heartily dug into. She had turned on the news and after they had finished eating she curled up on the couch with her head on his chest, his arm hugging her shoulders protectively.
She had just starting to doze off when she felt him tense. Opening her eyes she saw Amyís face on the TV screen, Joan Lundin was reporting that Amy had been found safe and sound and that she would be having an exclusive interview with the family. Joan did the interview from the studio in the city while the camera crew was with the family in Newburg. There sat Amy with her parents and older brother, in her hands she clutched a stuffed lion.
"Can you tell us how Amy was found Mrs. Jensen?" Joan asked.
"The police told us that a woman had called in anonymously telling them about this man John Burger and that he had Amy in his cabin in the woods. When the police got there the man was unconscious, tied to a tree and Amy was asleep in the cabin."
"And how is Amy?"
"The police took her to the hospital which is where we met her, the doctors did an examinationÖ" She started to cry, "They found that sheíd been molested." She wiped at her eyes with a handkerchief. Amyís father tightened his arm around his wife, tears in his eyes as well.
"Mr. Jensen did Amy say anything about who had restrained John Burger?"
Wiping at his eyes and clearing his throat he said, "All we can get out of her is that Vincent came and saved her."
"Who is Vincent?" Joan asked.
Amy took her thumb out of her mouth and told Joan very matter-of-factly, "Vincent is Aslanís cousin."
"Aslan?ÖCS Lewisí Aslan?"
"It seems that way, when she came home she went right to her room to get her stuffed lion and she hasnít let go of it yet," answered Amyís father.
"Amy, does your lion have a name?" Joan asked
Amy nodded her head, "Vincent."
"And Vincent is the one who saved you from the bad man?"
Amy nodded again; Catherine had tensed in Vincentís arms looking at him worriedly.
"Was anyone with Vincent helping him?"
Again the child nodded, "Yep. Cat and Mouse."
Joan laughed, "Well there you have it folks, a lion, a cat and a mouse saved Amy."
Amyís family smiled but the mother went on, "Iíd like to say something if I may." Joan nodded "I want Vincent or whoever it was that gave my little girl back to me, to know that I am eternally grateful to him and he will be in my prayers every night and I thank God for people like him."
The interview ended with Amy waving at the camera, saying, "Bye, bye Vincent I love you."
Vincent replied in a hushed whisper, "I love you too."
Years later when people asked Amy why she always had a stuffed lion with her, she would smile enigmatically and say,
"Thatís my Guardian Angel Ė Vincent."