Joe drew the fresh air of the outside world deep into his lungs as he pulled the patio door closed behind him, shutting out the noise and bustle of his class reunion party. The jostling crowd that was currently occupying the restaurant had become a little too much for him and the restaurantís garden seemed the perfect place to find some quiet solitude. It seemed his entire graduating class had shown up along with their spouses, or dates.
The slight breeze that played with his hair was refreshing as he strolled down one of the manicured walkways. He shook his head slightly, amused at himself, who was he kidding it wasnít just that the place was mobbed; although that was part of it, he was missing Jenny. She was supposed to have come with him tonight, but at the last minute she got a call from an anxious, first time author at her first book signing, and Jenny had been sent to go hold her hand. He had asked Cathy to keep him company, but she and Vincent had plans Below for the night. He sighed and thought to himself, face it Maxwell youíre not the lone wolf you used to be. He liked having a companion, hell he like having Jenny around to go out with or to just hang around the apartment with. She was good company and he missed her.
He stopped and looked around, noticing that he had wandered away from the well-lighted areas of the garden and was just about to turn back when he spotted a figure in the shadows not far from him.
"Whose there?" He called out.
"Hiya Joe, its Patrick Hanlon." The figure responded softly. "I need to talk to you."
Pat Hanlon! He was one of the guys at school that Joe avoided at all costs. The guy thought his shit didnít stink, thought he was better than everybody else. They hadnít spoken in ten years! What the hell did he want to talk about?
"All right, Iíll bite. What do you want to talk to me about?" Joe asked just as softly, moving towards Hanlon.
"No!" Hanlon hissed. "Stay where you are, I donít want anyone to see us talking."
Joe stopped, perplexed. "Whatís this all about?"
"I got a hold of the RSVP list and saw your name on it, youíre the only reason Iím here, Joe. I need to talk to you and this was the safest way I could think of." Hanlon whispered urgently.
"All right, Iím listening." Despite himself Joe was intrigued. What could this high powered, Wall Street lawyer be so frightened of that he had to talk to him in this manner?
"A few years ago I was approached by a man representing an organization that wanted to retain my services. They made me an offer I couldnít refuse and Iíve been in a living hell ever since. This group is into every illegal activity you can think of, the scope of it is incredible, organized crime, gambling, loan-sharking, narcotics, arms dealing. You name it theyíve got a hand in it, theyíre everywhere. I want out Joe, and the only way I can do that is to take my family and disappear off the face of the Earth."
"So whatís that got to do with me?" Joe shook his head wondering where this was going.
"So this organization is headed by one man and heís ruthless. You donít just leave his employ you know what I mean? If you leave itís in a pine box. I just want someone to know in case I end up that way. That if I turn up dead itís not because of an accident even if they make it look like one, as soon as I leave here Iím taking my family and going as deep under cover as I can get."
"Well if this guy is as dirty as you say why donít you turn states evidence on him and put him away? I can get you in the witness protection program in a heartbeat."
"Are you kidding, Iíd be dead by the time I got to the Criminal Courts Building and even if I werenít heís got people working on the inside, I wouldnít live through the day."
Joe could hear the terror in Hanlonís voice, this guy wasnít kidding, he was scared to death, but moles in the DAís office, he started to shake his head. "Pat, I donít thinkÖ"
"Joe, let me give you a heads up, your boss, Moreno, is in deep with this guy. Heís been bought and paid for and whatever Gabriel asks for he gets!"
"Moreno!?" Joe felt like he had been sucker punched. "No youíre wrong; Moreno wouldnít get involved with someone like that."
"Oh no?" Hanlon jeered. "You donít think so? Have you been pulled off any cases that looked solid and then theyíve gone sour? Has evidence gone missing? Are people walking around free when you swear you had an open and shut case to put them away for a long time? You think about it Joe, and while youíre at it check and see if Moreno is living high on the hog, like heís living way beyond the means of his city salary. Then come back and tell me heís not on Gabrielís payroll." Hanlon glanced nervously back at the restaurant, "Look Iíve got to go; Iíve been out here too long already. Give it a while before you come back in all right?"
"YeahÖyeah sure." Joe responded dazedly. He watched as Hanlon made his way back to the party. He looked around to see if anyone was near and then making up his mind, he went to get his car.
He drove around for quite awhile; expertly dodging traffic as he chewed over what Hanlon had told him. He took his mind back over cases that he had worked on over the past few years, remembering things that hadnít made any sense. Hanlon had planted a seed and it was beginning to sprout. When he took note of his surroundings he realized that he was driving through the Village. His subconscious mind knew where he wanted to go even before he did. He drove around awhile longer making sure he wasnít being followed. If this guy Gabriel was as powerful as Hanlon believed him to be it was very possible that someone had already been tailing him. And if anyone had seen the two of them talking outside the restaurant he could have a tail on him too, and there was no way he was bringing trouble to Cathy and Vincentís door.
Just to be on the safe side he parked the car at St. Vincentís hospital and walked to the Fourteenth Street tunnel entrance. From there he made his way to the secret tunnel entrance of the brownstone on Christopher Street. Opening the hidden door he pushed the buzzer letting the couple know they had company coming. He carefully shut the door and flipped on the light switch, making his way to the stairs through the myriad of gym equipment and hand weapons that filled the basement. Before he reached the stairs he heard the door open and saw Catherineís face peering at him from above.
"Joe!" She was completely taken by surprise when she saw him. He was supposed to be at a school reunion. It couldnít have ended this soon. Then she saw the look on his face. "Joe, whatís wrong?"
He bounded up the stairs pushing past her into the hallway. "Whereís Vincent?" He asked her.
"Heís outside with Spuds, we were just getting ready to go to bed."
"Yeah, well Iím sorry about that, but if I donít talk to someone Iím gonna bust."
At that moment Vincent stepped through the back door preceded by Spuds who happily greeted Joe by sticking his snout between legs.
"Hey there buddy." Joe patted the dog on the head. "Watch the equipment will ya."
Vincent had already sensed Joeís presence and felt the agitated state he was in. The two men shook hands and then all three of them sat down at the kitchen table.
"Ok Joe, out with it, whatís got you so upset?" Catherine demanded.
Joe got up and began pacing. "Ever hear of a guy by the name of Patrick Hanlon?"
The name sounded familiar, Catherine searched her memory finally coming up with it. "Heís a Wall Street attorney, isnít he?"
"Yeah thatís him. Well I saw him tonight at the reunion. We took the bar together. I never liked the guy and the only other thing we have in common is that weíre both from the Bronx. Anyway tonight he tells me heís working for this guy that heads a big crime empire, calls himself Gabriel. Ever hear of him?"
Joe stopped pacing and looked from one to the other.
Catherine shook her head, having no knowledge of the name.
"The only Gabriel Iíve heard of is the archangel, Godís messenger, the angel of truth and the trumpeter of the last judgment."
Catherine marveled at her husbandís vast store of knowledge, of course it helped that he remembered everything he ever read.
"Yeah? Well maybe this guy is a nut if he goes around calling himself that, but if thatís the case heís a very powerful nut. Hanlon was scared to death. He wants out and heís afraid if this Gabriel catches wind of it heíll go out feet first. He wanted me to know in case something happened."
Joe began pacing again getting more agitated by the minute. Catherine glanced at Vincent and then asked, "What else did he tell you, Joe?"
Joe stopped in front of her, plunging his hands deep into his pants pockets looking miserable. He took a deep breath. "He told me Morenoís in bed with this guy, that heís dirty."
Catherine was incredulous, "No! Joe, it canít be!"
Joe took his hands out of his pockets and sat down across from her. Shaking his index finger at her he went on. "Now wait, Iíve had some time to think about it and things that didnít make sense before now seem to fit."
Catherine shook her head, "No Joe, I canít believe it."
"Come on Cathy, think! Remember the Omanski case? We thought we had that all locked up and then the partnerís confession was thrown out, we ended up with nothing and the guy walked."
Catherine slowly nodded, remembering the circumstances of the case.
"And what about the Bissell shooting? That was an open and shut case and then the evidence went missing. And that drug lab we were going to close down only it was gone by the time we got there. And letís not forget Max Avery, look how long itís taken us to get a handle on him. The only reason weíve got anything solid on him is your friend Elliot Burch."
Throughout Joeís tirade Catherineís mind pulled up all the cases he mentioned. She viewed them now with the possibility of inside tampering and she had to admit it looked pretty damning for someone, but Moreno?
"Hanlon also told me to look at Morenoís life style. Youíve been to his house? Itís pretty posh for a guy thatís pulling down a DAís salary."
"But Joe he explained that, he said he had gotten an inheritance."
"Yeah right, thatís something Iíd like to look into."
"So what are you proposing, Joe?" Vincent didnít like the fact that Catherine could be working for someone connected with a crime czar.
Joe looked at Vincent, "What Iím proposing is that we very carefully look into Morenoís finances and see if the inheritance story holds up. If it doesnít then we know heís lying and we should be looking into other things.
Vincent wasnít sure he liked where this was going. "Joe, if Moreno finds out youíre asking questions about him you could be putting yourself and Catherine into danger." He glanced worriedly at his wife.
"Thatís why we have to be very careful."
Catherine had been sitting very quietly, absorbing what the men were saying when a bolt of inspiration hit her. "We could use the computer, the internet; no one would have to know we were looking into the records." When Joe looked at her like she had three heads she explained. "Edie and I have kept in touch ever since she went to live with her aunt. Sheís been working with a computer firm and sheís been keeping me updated with all the latest technology."
The Internet had been a wonderful resource for information and she and Vincent had eagerly welcomed it into their home. Vincent especially made copious use of it for the information it could give him and for the people he could now communicate with through email. It had opened new doors for him, but he was now on the computer so much that Catherine would jokingly call it his mistress. In fact she had been thinking about putting a computer in the library so that she could get her office back, because if Vincent wasnít using it invariable one of the tunnel children would be.
Joe, who was completely internet illiterate, wondered where she was going with this and merely stared at her.
"Joe, the internet hooks you up with all kinds of information. Our computer is hooked up we can go look right now." She got up excitedly.
"No." Joe stopped her as she headed for the stairs. "No, not here I donít want there to be any chance at all that something could be traced back to you."
Slowly Catherine sat back down; realizing just how serious Joe was about the danger this could be getting them into.
"All right Joe, Iíll give Edie a call tomorrow and ask her to check, Iím sure they have all kinds of security precautions where she works. Iíll explain the whole thing to her, Iím sure sheíll be careful."
"Good, and Vincent if you could tell your people to keep their ears open, not do anything mind, just if they hear any mention of the name Gabriel on the streets to let me know."
"Of course, Joe Iím sure everyone will be happy to help."
"All right then," Joe stood feeling better now that they had a plan of action, "I think Iíll get going."
Vincent also stood and escorted Joe down to the basement. Before slipping through the tunnel door Joe turned to look at his most unusual friend. "Iím sorry to bring this situation to you, Vincent, but I didnít know who else I could trust."
"Itís all right, Joe Iím glad you came to us. Weíll be careful and weíll do what we can."
They shook hands and Joe went out into the tunnel. Vincent shut the door behind him and made his way back up the stairs. What can of worms did this Patrick Hanlon just open for them? He shook his head, as he and Spuds followed Catherine up the stairs to bed wondering what the future had in store for them now.
"Cathy, I got it or rather I donít got it, Moreno never got any inheritance. Heís got no family, he was an orphan." Edie crowed excitedly, happy to be back investigating for her friend.
"Well what about his wife maybe someone left her some money?"
"Nope, already thought of that, she didnít come into any money either. And I checked his campaign contributions from the last election, somebody dropped some really huge coin into Morenoís coffers, made pretty damn sure heíd win the election."
"Edie, youíre amazing. Did I ever tell you that?"
"Only about a thousand times. Thereís something else I found. You know that house he bought last year on Long Island? Well I found the old listing; it was going for over 2 million dollars. And you know how Morenoís always crying the blues about being mortgaged to his eyeballs? Well I canít find a mortgage on it anywhere."
"What?! So what are you saying? He paid cash for that house?"
"Thatís exactly what Iím saying and you donít do that on the salary heís getting."
"No you most certainly donít. Thanks Edie, I owe you."
"So what else is new? Hey just keep me in the loop ok? Let me know if I can help you with anything else."
"Sure Edie." Catherine hung up the phone slowly, thinking over what Edie had just told her about a man she had admired. It had been hard to accept what Joe had told them the other night, but here were the facts and she had to accept it. Further more they had to do something about it. She looked up as Joe came storming out of Morenoís office. From the look on his face something was terribly wrong. As he swung past her desk he threw a terse, "in my office" at her. She got up and hurried after him, closing the door behind her.
"Whatís wrong, Joe."
"Avery, thatís whatís wrong!"
"Avery?" She was totally taken aback; Max Avery was a done deal, cooling his heels in the tombs. Or so she thought.
"Yeah, Avery. He made bail." Joe growled, furiously playing with a rubber band as he paced behind his desk.
"I thought we froze all his assets."
"Yeah thatís what I thought, but somebody got him out. At the amount that bail was set I would have sworn the King of Saudi wouldnít have bailed him out. And thatís not all, he skipped, canít be found anywhere, itís like he vanished into thin air."
Catherine sat down hard; theyíd been after Max Avery for over a year before Elliot Burch was finally persuaded to testify against him. Good God, Catherine thought, Elliot, I have to warn Elliot. Abruptly she got up and headed for the door.
Joe stopped his pacing, "Where are you going?"
"I have to tell Elliot, what if Avery goes after him?"
"Yeah your right and you know what else this means?" He gave her a knowing look.
She nodded; she still had to tell him about her conversation with Edie, but not now and not here in the office.
"Joe, why donít you and Jenny come for dinner tonight? Sheís back from that book signing isnít she?"
"Sheís back today; Iíll give her a call. What time?"
"Perfect, weíll be there."
She left the building, caught a cab and had it deposit her at Elliotís office building. He was delighted to see and once he had her settled asked what he could do for her.
"I came to let you know that Max Avery posted bail and that heís missing."
"Really?" Elliot responded thoughtfully. "And now you think heís coming after me?"
"I donít know, Elliot, he could be, you are after all the reason we were able to put him in jail. Your testimony would have put him away for a very long time."
"Well I will consider myself warned and take every precaution."
"Good." Catherine stood and headed for the door. Before her hand reached the knob she turned. "Have you every heard of a man who calls himself Gabriel?"
Elliot thought a moment and then shook his head. "No, should I have?"
"No, I suppose not. Anyway Iíll keep you posted on Avery."
"Thanks for the warning." He held the door as she stepped through it and watched her walk away.
That night over dinner they exchanged information and held a brainstorming session. Catherine related her conversation with Edie. Joe was stunned, practically choking on his egg fu young.
"He paid cash for that house? Thereís no way in hell he did that on a DAís salary." He sputtered out as Jenny vigorously thumped his back. "And what about the contributions to his campaign fund? Did Edie find out whoís behind that?"
"Not yet, but sheís working on it."
"One of our people knew of the name Gabriel, in connection with a drug lab." Vincent stopped a moment thinking of all the misery Rolley had gone through because of his addiction. "He also mentioned a man by the name of Pope who used to come and collect the finished product."
"Gabriel, Pope," Joe repeated. "I feel like Iím back in Sunday school. Could he identify this Pope if he saw him again?"
Vincent nodded his head. "He feels sure that he could."
"Well at least thatís something to go on. Weíll have to run it through the computers and see if we can come up with any mug shots." He looked pointedly at Catherine, "But we donít do this when anybodyís around, if this Gabriel got to Moreno who knows who else heís got inside our office. We need to be very, very careful."
She nodded her agreement. Just then the phone rang and she got up to answer it. She came back with a stunned expression on her face. Vincent, feeling her shock stood up.
"Catherine, what is it?"
She looked at her husband and then at Joe. "They found Max Avery, in Las Vegas, an apparent suicide."
Joe sat still for a moment then catapulted out of his chair and began pacing. "Avery, a suicide? No way! No way!"
"They said he took a room at the Colorado Belle Casino, when the maid went in to clean it she found him with gun shot wound to the head and his pistol lying beside him."
"No way!" Joe said again. "This stinks! Avery was becoming a liability to somebody and he was taken out, itís that simple. Thatís why he was bailed out of jail; it was easier to get to him on the outside. We need to start collecting some hard evidence that we can put before the Mayor on Moreno. If we can get the goods on Moreno and rattle his cage he may just be our ticket to this Gabriel character."
Joe threw his napkin on the table and finally stood still. "Look Iím going into the office, this Avery thing is the perfect excuse; Moreno would expect me to be there. Iíll run Pope through the computer and get some pictures you can take Below with you, Vincent. If we get an id then we can stake out the drug lab and follow the guy when he makes his next pick up."
Jenny shoved a last fork full into her mouth and got up. "You know I leave town for a few days and all hell breaks loose. Thanks for dinner Cath, Vincent; I have a feeling Iím about to be dropped like a hot potato."
"Jen, Iím sorry." Joe stammered, feeling foolish, he had completely forgotten about her.
"Donít worry Joe, I understand. Do you want me to take a cab home so you can go right to the office?"
"No the least I can do is take you home." He turned to Vincent and Catherine, "thanks for dinner."
As Catherine shut the door behind her friends a thought struck her and she went to the phone. She needed someone with a greater scope of information than Edie to track down this Gabriel. She found the number her classmate and friend Mariah Stein had given her at the reunion party. Mariah was a computer and data analyst expert for the FBI currently teaching trainees at the FBI training center in Virginia. Who better to help her with information than her? She went to the phone and dialed the number.
"Mariah, hi itís Cathy Chandler."
"Cathy, itís good to hear from you."
"Listen Iíve got a situation here and I was wondering if you could help me out."
"Sure, if I can."
"I need to get some information on a man who calls himself Gabriel. Heís into all kinds of criminal activities from what Iíve been able to find out so far. I was wondering if the FBI had a file on him? Maybe have a location?"
"Sure, Iíll put it through the computers and see what comes up."
"Mariah, be careful this man has informants in very high places, for all we know he could have someone inside your office."
"Donít worry; if his file is flagged Iíll get around it. Hey itís my expertise, thatís why they hired me. Give me a number where I can reach you."
She gave her home number and hung up.
Sitting at her keyboard the next morning in her office at the Quantico training center, Mariah turned on her computer and ran a program analysis that she had been working on the previous day. Her mind kept going back over the phone call she had received from her college friend. What the heck she might as well give it a try. She typed in the name Gabriel and a flashing warning popped up that the file was being monitored. She disabled the trace and opened the file. A low whistle escaped from her pursed lips as she read the information that had been gathered so far on this mystery man. What the hell had Cathy gotten herself into? This was no one an assistant DA should be dealing with. It was a matter for the FBI, she would call Cathy and tell her to drop it and let them handle it. She downloaded a copy of the file onto a floppy disk so she could peruse it at her leisure later at home and then reset the trace.
The next time Catherine was in the office Joe slipped her a folder with pictures of all the Popeís that were in the system. She gave them to Vincent who showed them to Rolley. They got lucky. Rolley identified Jonathan Pope as the man he had seen several times at the drug lab. Vincent took turns with several tunnel dwellers in watching the lab. It wasnít long before they saw the man they were interested in. Pope brazenly pulled up to the lab in a limo. He went inside and a few minutes later came out with a suitcase. Vincent was on watch at the time; he took note of the limoís license plate number and passed the information along to Catherine.
Meanwhile Catherine and Edie compiled information on Morenoís campaign and personal spending. Catherine remembered admiring some of Marlene Morenoís jewelry at parties and political functions they had attended together. She had smugly told Catherine that she bought all her jewelry from Tiffanyís. The jeweler the Bishop knew, who had made Catherineís ring, worked there and was able to get copies of the receipts of purchases made by her. They were big-ticket items and most of them were paid for in cash.
Edie traced the campaign contributions to a company whose agent of record was Hanlon and Associates, Patrick Hanlonís law firm. The limo was registered to the VDL Corp. with offices located at1900 6th Ave., which just happened to be the same address as the Hanlon law firm. Mariah had called and said that when she put Gabrielís name into the computer all sorts of red flags popped up. The FBI had gotten interested in him when they linked him with an international arms dealer, Alain Taggert, Lisa Campbellís ex-husband, theyíd been keeping close tabs on him ever since. Mariah made it very clear that this man was extremely dangerous and that perhaps Cathy should talk to the FBI and let them handle it.
Things were coming together and the picture the pieces were forming wasnít pretty.
Catherine once again went to Elliot Burchís office to tell him of Max Averyís apparent suicide. He didnít believe it anymore than Joe did.
"Cathy, you canít believe thatís true?"
"Weíre investigating it, Elliot, thatís all I can tell you." She waited a moment and then asked him, "Have you ever heard of a company by the name of VDL?"
"Yes they have the tower off of 53rd if I remember correctly."
She pursed her lips, "Any idea who owns it?"
Elliot looked at her curiously, "No, Iíve never dealt with them. Whatís that got to do with Max Avery?"
"Nothing, itís for another investigation Iím working on."
"Something to do with this Gabriel person you were asking me about?"
Catherine realized that Elliot didnít get to where he was by being slow witted; she would have to watch what she said around him.
"It could be."
"Iíll ask around if you like, and call you at the office if I find out anything." He offered.
"No, not at the office, call me at this number." She tore a piece of paper from her notebook and jotted down her home phone.
Taking it from her he looked at her closely, "Cathy, this investigation youíre doing, is it dangerous?"
She looked away from him, "It could be." She brought her eyes back to his, "When you ask your questions be careful."
He nodded and escorted her to the door, a thoughtful look on his face. When she left he picked up the phone and dialed, "Cleon, I need to see you in my office. Iíve got a little job for you to do."
It all came to a head one day when Catherine found Joe on her doorstep. The doorbell had been buzzing frantically and when she opened the door, Joe pushed his way past her. Even without her husbandís empathic ability she could tell Joe was extremely upset.
"Joe, whatís wrong? What is it?"
Vincent had come down the stairs to see what was going on. He could feel the man was ready to explode. He took Joe by the elbow and guided him to the living room where there was plenty of room to pace off his energy.
Catherine was frightened by her friendís agitation and Vincent put a comforting arm around her. "Tell us, Joe," he urged the man. "Tell us whatís happened to upset you so."
"Itís Patrick Hanlon, you know the guy that started all this? They just fished him out of the East River. Heíd been in there for days, weekís maybe. The coroner said he was murdered."
"Joe, Iím so sorry." Catherine voice shook.
"I thought when I didnít hear anything that heíd gotten away, that he was all right, but now this. Itís Gabriel; itís got to be. Weíve got to tighten the noose and pull this guy down. If we go to Moreno now and tell him what we know maybe we can get him to testify against the guy."
"But Joe, if Gabriel is as powerful as we think he is, heíll be able to get to Moreno no matter where we put him." Catherine looked at her friend with sorrow. "Joe, Iím so sorry about all of this I know how much you admired John."
"Yeah well thatís what happens when you put a guy on a pedestal, they fall down."
"What are you proposing, Joe?" Vincent asked.
"Actually I was thinking of kidnapping Moreno; sort of take him into protective custody and holding him down Below. Present him with the evidence weíve collected and then use him to get to Gabriel."
"Joe, we canít do that! Moreno canít just disappear. The mayor and the commissioner will go ballistic." Catherine argued.
"No we tell them what weíre up to, show them the evidence weíve already collected and explain that Morenoís Ďbossí would have had him killed if we didnít hide him away somewhere. Theyíll go for that once we spell it all out for them. Theyíll make an announcement that Moreno is on suspension for alleged improprieties and being kept in protective custody. Gabriel wonít know what happened and heíll start sweating, heíll send people out looking for Moreno and then weíll know who else is working for him. In the meantime Moreno can be thinking things over Below, heíll either cooperate with us or we cut him loose and he can face the music with Gabriel. I think heíll see it our way. Now the only thing is can you hold him Below for awhile?" He looked pointedly at Vincent.
"I will have to talk with Father and the Council before putting the community at risk. There is a room we can lock him into and if Iím the only one who deals with him I donít see where they would object too strongly. As long as we donít give Gabriel a way to trace us going Below I think it would be safe enough."
After the normal business of the council had been taken care of Vincent put Joeís request to them.
"Why should we take care of a suspected criminal here among us? I say let the top siders take care of top siders." William argued in his usual gruff manner. "Let him sit in one of their jails."
"Evidently the problem, as I understand it, is that the criminal employer of this man would have him killed so that he could not stand witness against him. Having him in a jail Above would be no obstacle. If Vincent brings him is food and takes care of his necessities I donít see that he could do us any harm." Father reasoned.
"Joe Maxwell has asked nothing of us since he has known of us. He has been a good and caring friend. I do not begrudge him this request and will appoint myself this manís caretaker; no one else need be involved." Vincent could see that most of the council members were ready to grant his request.
"Itís not as if any of us would come into contact with this man, the room is not near the central chambers and if it is locked there should be no problem. I am confident that Vincent would be able to handle him." Heads nodded in agreement as Mary spoke.
"Fine. Anyone else have any comments? No? Then letís put it to a vote. All those in favor?" Everyone raised their hands, but William. "All those against?" Williamís hand rose up. "The majority carries it. Vincent you may tell Joe that we will keep his prisoner here as long as required." Father got up as the council members left his chamber. As Pascal passed by him he laid a hand on his shoulder. "Pascal send the word out on the pipes that no one is to go near the locked storage room while our Ďguestí is with us."
When Vincent gave Joe the green light to go ahead with his plans he confronted his boss after hours in his office.
"Hiya Joe, I didnít know you were still here. Burning a little midnight oil like your boss?"
"Yeah something like that. I got some leads on the Hanlon murder I thought you might like to know about."
Moreno suddenly looked wary, "Yeah sure Joe, whaddya got?"
"Well it seems like it was a hit. He wanted to leave the guy he was working for and the guy had him rubbed out."
"Oh yeah? You got a name?" Joe could see beads of sweat starting to form on Morenoís brow.
"Yeah, funny name though. This guy calls himself Gabriel." Joe watched his boss closely and he wasnít disappointed there was definitely a reaction.
"Gabriel, huh? Is that all you got?" Morenoís eyes darted everywhere around the room never making eye contact with Joe.
"No thatís not all; it seems heís got an informant in this office." Joeís eyes never left his bosses face.
Moreno finally looked up at him. "What are you talking about, Joe?"
"Iím talking about you, John. Iím taking about how you paid cash for that house on Long Island. Iím talking about how your wife affords expensive jewelry from Tiffanyís, about how evidence has gone missing and testimonies have been tainted and thrown out." Joeís voice rose the angrier he got. "Iím talking about how I admired you, you bastard." He slammed his fist on the desk. "How could you do this? Why? I looked up to you. Why did you do this?"
Moreno rose from his chair, his eyes locked onto Joeís. "Itís every man for himself, Joe. I learned that a long time ago growing up in the orphanage. I wanted nice things, things I saw other people with that I couldnít get on a DAís salary. So what if a few criminals got away, or a few cases went sour? Nobody cares, nobody gives a damn."
"I care, John," Joe thumped his chest with his thumb, "I care. Now if youíll come with me we can make this nice and easy."
"Youíve gotta be kidding? Iím not going anywhere with you."
"Look John, Iíve already gone to the Mayor with what Iíve got. Heís put you on suspension. If you testify against Gabriel you can cop a plea." He shook his head in disgust. "Your little house of cards has just come tumbling down around your ears my friend."
As Joe was talking he had moved around the desk to stand close to Moreno in case he went for the gun he knew he kept in the top drawer. Moreno looked like a trapped animal. He rushed at Joe, his fear and greater weight knocking Joe to the floor. Moreno was out the door before Joe could regain his feet. He ran down the hallway and ran smack into the solid bulk of a hooded and masked Vincent. As he struggled to get past, Vincent cuffed him on the side of the head with a gloved fist; he fell to the floor like a stone. Joe came puffing up beside him and looked down at the man, shaking his head.
"Itís still hard to believe, I feel like Iím living a nightmare."
"Donít worry my friend," Vincent laid a comforting hand on Joeís shoulder. "Sooner or later all nightmares end."
"Yeah I hope so, Ďcause this oneís a doozy."
Vincent slung the unconscious Moreno over his shoulder and followed Joe to the basement-parking garage. There were very few people in the building at this time of the night and they luckily saw no one on the way out. They dumped Moreno in the backseat of Joeís car with Vincent getting in beside him then drove to the 14th Street threshold. They took him to the room Below where Vincent would be his caretaker until the time he would be needed to testify against Gabriel.
In a huge office towards the top of the VDL tower a thoughtful Gabriel slowly hung up the phone. After a few minutes he pressed a button on the sophisticated console in front of him. A moment later a soft knock sounded on the door.
"Come," he called out.
Jonathan Pope opened the door to his employerís office, "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes it seems we may have a problem with our informant in the District Attorneyís office. I want you to look into itÖnow!"
"Very good sir."
Pope turned and left the office. Things seemed to be coming to a head, first Avery, then Hanlon. A few days ago their informant in the Burch organization called to say an investigator from the DAís office had been in to see Burch and shortly after that Burch started nosing around asking questions about VDL. Heíd be warned off of course, that was standard operating procedures, but Pope had the funny feeling that things were about to fly apart. Now with Moreno missing it just might be a prudent idea to cut and run. He went into his office and made some phone calls setting a search for Moreno in motion.
A few days after Patrick Hanlonís funeral Joe was seated at his desk looking at the pictures of the people who had attended. He had posted a police photographer inconspicuously on the grounds of the cemetery giving him orders to take pictures of everyone at the gravesite. He had a hunch that this Gabriel character just might be sick enough to show up to pay his last respects. Friends and family had identified most of people in the pictures and the names and addresses of each were carefully noted on the back. He stopped when he came to the picture of Patís young son. Staring at it brought back the painful memories of his own fatherís untimely, violent death. He felt sorry for the boy who would now grow up without a father, knowing exactly how that would feel.
The phone rang, bringing him out of his reverie, "Joe Maxwell," he answered automatically.
"Joe," a raspy baritone greeted him. "Heís taken Catherine. Gabriel has Catherine."
"What?! How do you know? Never mind I keep forgetting. How come youíre not chasing after her?
Vincent had felt Catherineís initial fear when she and Jenny had been abducted. He was already on his way to her when he felt a sense of calm come through the bond. He knew she wanted him to stay away, to give her some time. She was most probably being taken to the man they were hunting. He was sure she would Ďcallí him when she was ready. He railed against her decision, to think of her in the hands of that creature was almost more than he could bear, but he would go along with itÖfor now. Then he had decided to call Joe.
"She does not wish me to at present," was Vincentís terse reply.
Then Joe suddenly remembered. "Jenny was supposed to be having lunch with her." Fear struck his heart like an arrow. "Stay by the phone, Iíll call you right back." He called Jennyís office, they told him that she was out to lunch, but that she was over due coming back. Next he called her apartment, then the restaurant Catherine had told him they were going to. They had made the reservations, but they had never shown up. Quickly he called Vincent back.
"I think heís got Jenny too, I canít locate her anywhere."
"That makes sense, I feel Catherine is frightened, but not for herself."
Vincent was right Catherine was frightened for Jenny. They had been about to go into the restaurant when they were abducted right off the street in broad daylight. They had been forced into a waiting limo and black hoods were shoved over their heads. She had no idea where they were being taken. She had every confidence that Vincent would be able to find her, but she very much wanted to meet Gabriel so she Ďtoldí Vincent to stay away. She figured they were being kidnapped to be the pawns in a trade for Moreno, but they wouldnít need two hostages and her biggest fear was that she and Jenny would be split up, or worse one of them would be considered expendable.
When the hoods were finally removed Catherine faced the man before her. He was tall and painfully thin, with a sharp angular face. He had deep grooves around his small, tight, mouth. His eyes were devoid of emotion, cold as chips of ice and his voice when he spoke dripped with distain. He exuded an arrogant confidence that made the skin on the back of her neck crawl. He scowled at her, intensifying the grooves around his mouth.
"Ladies, welcome. I regret the necessity of bringing you here, but you see you have something of mine that I want."
"I donít know what youíre talking about." Jenny squeaked in a frightened voice.
"No Iím sure you probably donít, but your friend here does. Donít you Ms. Chandler?"
Catherine looked at him defiantly, "Iím not telling you anything. Mr. Gabriel, I presume?"
Gabriel laughed, a dry, hollow sound, devoid of humor, "Youíre fishing Ms. Chandler, but yes thatís one of my names." He walked over to the desk and looked out the window as he spoke presenting them with his back. "Names Ms. Chandler, you can tell a great deal about a person from their name. You for instance, your ancestors were most probably from England and made candles for a living. Sometimes knowing a personís real name can give you power over them or make you terrified of them." He grinned, more of a grimace really, making his face look even more grotesque than it already did. "I havenít used my real name since I was fifteen."
Catherine stared at the man, what was he talking about, sheíd never seen him before or heard of him before, why would his real name mean anything to her at all. Mentally she shrugged the conversation off as the ramblings of a narcissistic, egomaniac. She took the opportunity to quickly look around the room taking in the console of monitors and surmised that the house and grounds were well guarded by a state of the art security system. She noted the Italian rococo style furniture, all heavy and ornately carved. She recognized the fine quality of it and of the artwork on the walls. This man had expensive taste and surrounded himself with the best.
He turned and walked back to her, raising a finger to her face to trace her jaw. She refused to let the revulsion she felt show on her face, and she kept a tight hold on the bond, if Vincent felt this she wouldnít be able to stop him from coming to her.
"Maybe you donít know where Moreno is being kept, but Iím sure Mr. Maxwell does and Iím sure either one of you ladies is valuable enough to him to trade."
"What makes you think heíd be willing to trade at all?" Catherine asked as Jenny sniffled beside her.
"Love, Ms. Chandler, loyalty, emotions that make men weak, makes them vulnerable. I prey on menís weaknesses, use them for my benefit. Their fear builds my castles and their greed makes them my slaves. Itís always been that way and it will always be that way, it was a lesson I learned at a young age." He turned his back to them once again.
"SoÖ who shall take my terms to Mr. Maxwell, the co-worker or the girl friend?" Gabriel turned back to them making his decision. "I think you Ms. Aronsen will stay and enjoy my hospitality as my guest, while Ms. Chandler delivers the terms of the exchange." He looked at Pope, still standing at attention by the doorway. "Get them out of here; make sure Ms. Chandler knows what to tell Maxwell." Pope moved forward and grabbed Catherine by the arm, roughly steering her out of the room as another man took Jenny.
Jenny squealed, "What are you doing? Where are you taking me?"
"Jenny," Catherine calmly called to her. "Donít worry youíll be fine, just try to stay calm."
The hood was replaced over Catherineís head and she was led back out to the car. She had glanced down at her watch, maybe if she knew how much time it took to get back sheíd have a better idea as to where Jenny was being held. She had hoped that Gabriel would keep her; if she had gotten into trouble Vincent would have been able to find her. As it was being in a car with the windows closed she couldnít hear anything outside that might help her and with the infernal hood on she could see anything. They would just have to wait for the trade to get Jenny back.
As Joe stepped out of the elevator into the parking garage of the Criminal Courts building he heard the squeal of tires and watched as a black limo pull up in front of him barely slowing down. The back door flew open and someone was roughly shoved out of it. It pulled away as a woman rolled to a stop practically right in front of him.
"Cathy!" He bent over to help her up. "Are you all right?" He looked her up and down as she briskly brushed herself off
"Heís holding Jenny to trade for Moreno." She said pulling on his arm. "Whereís your car we have to make plans."
Poor Jenny, he couldnít imagine how frightened she must be. He quickly led the way to his car and unlocked the passenger side opening the door. "Are you sure youíre all right?" He asked again.
"Iím fine Joe, nothing I havenít been through before, but poor Jenny in the hands of that monster is more than I can stomach. Come on letís get going."
Getting in he started the engine and turned the car in the direction of the Village.
"Ok, tell me what happened."
"They took us right off the street, in front of a restaurant filled with people. Then they drove us to a house somewhere, thatís about all I can tell you. I couldnít see anything, or hear anything. They kept our heads covered until we were in the room with Gabriel." She shivered remembering the look he had given her, as if she were beneath his contempt. "Heís cold, Joe, heíd as soon as kill you as look at you. He wants to trade Jenny for Moreno. He wants me to escort him to the old Beaumont building on the lower east side at midnight." She showed him the walkie-talkie Pope had given her just before shoving her out of the car, "heíll call me with further instructions for the exchange. Joe, what are we going to do? Without Moreno weíve got nothing tying Gabriel to the DAís office or Hanlon, or Avery."
"Yeah I know, but Iím not playing around with Jennyís life, weíll have to make the trade. Once Jenny is safe maybe we can figure a way to get Moreno back." He looked at her skeptical face. "Look Iím open to suggestions. We can get Gabriel on kidnapping for one, but thatís chump change compared to all the crap heís into. Look first things first, we get Jenny back, then weíll work on nailing Gabriel."
Catherine slumped back in her seat frustrated. "Howís Moreno doing?"
Joe chuckled, "I told Vincent not to talk to him so heís probably climbing the walls by now."
Joe had taken a circuitous route to get to the Village just incase they were being followed. He parked a few blocks away and they hurriedly walked to the door. Before Catherine even got the key in the lock it was yanked open and she was in Vincentís arms. He crushed her to his chest, kissing the top of her head. "Beloved, youíre safe." He whispered gratefully, kissing her forehead and then her lips. Catherine tightened her arms around him happy to be back home and safe.
"Come on guys, heís still got Jenny. Letís make some plans." Joe pushed past them impatiently and headed down to the kitchen. The phone started ringing and he rushed the rest of the way down the stairs and picked it up.
After the women had been shoved into the limo and it had pulled away from the restaurant into the busy noonday traffic a car pulled out behind it. The driver of the car stayed a discreet distance away, expertly keeping the limo in sight until it entered the iron gates of a large estate, effectively keeping him from following any further.
Parking where he would be out of sight but still able to watch the traffic in and out of the gate, Cleon Manning called the man who had hired him on his mobile phone. "Elliot, Cleon Iíve just witnessed the kidnapping of Cathy Chandler and a friend and am presently sitting outside the place they were taken to."
Elliot was astonished, "Stay put and donít do anything without talking to me first, you can reach me at the office or on my mobile."
He broke the connection then looked up and called the number for Joe Maxwell intending to inform him of Catherineís abduction, but was told that Joe was out and receptionist didnít know where he was or when heíd be back. Making up his mind he pressed the intercom key on his console and told his secretary to cancel the rest of his appointments for the day. He then buzzed his driver, telling him to have the limo ready, he was going out. While he was gathering together papers that needed his attention, Cleon called back to say that the limo was leaving the estate, he wasnít sure if the women were in it. Elliot told him to stay where he was and to keep him apprised of anything that went on. He hung up the phone, placed the papers in his briefcase and left the office, heading for his private elevator.
The limo was waiting for him when he stepped out of elevator, he instructed his driver to take him to the Criminal Courts Building. Thinking about the last conversation he had had with Catherine he remembered the phone number she had given him, a number he now knew to be her home number. On the second ring the phone was picked up and he heard Joe Maxwellís voice on the other end. He hung up without saying anything and after thinking it over told his driver to take him to the Village.
Grabbing the phone Joe anxiously said hello hoping that it was Jenny some how trying to call. When no one answered he hung up and turned to his friends who had followed him down the stairs. Sitting down around the kitchen table Vincent listened attentively as they filled him in on Gabrielís demands. As they finished the doorbell rang.
"Are you expecting anyone?" Joe asked tersely.
Vincent shook his head as Catherine got up and headed for the stairs. "Iíll go." Joeís voice stopped her and she stood aside as he bounded up the stairs to the door. He was shocked to find Elliot Burch standing on the doorstep.
"Burch! What are you doing here?"
"Iíve come to tell you where Cathy is." He shouldered open the door, pushing his way past Joe.
"And just how the hell would you know that?" Joe exclaimed angrily. "How do you even know sheís missing?"
"Because Iíve had my own security person watching her ever since she told me she was on a dangerous investigation. He called me a little while ago to tell me Cathy and a friend had been kidnapped."
"All right, Iíll bite. So where are they?"
Catherine had come up the stairs when she heard Elliotís voice and stood just out of sight.
"Not so fast, I want to know whatís going on. Ever since I started asking questions about this Gabriel person and the circumstances around Max Averyís death Iíve been having business problems. Hell, one of my hotels was torched yesterday, over a hundred people died. Iím being warned off and I want to know why!"
Joe was torn, he didnít trust Burch as far as he could throw him, but he had information he desperately wanted.
Catherine made a decision, as many times as Elliot had disappointed her, she still trusted him, "Tell him, Joe."
Elliot whirled around at the sound of her voice, "Cathy, what are you doing here?" He grabbed her arms, relieved that she was safe. "I thoughtÖWell never mind what I thought, youíre safe thatís all that matters."
"Iím safe, but my friend Jenny is still with that maniac. Elliot, we need to know where she is."
Elliot let go of her and took a step back. "Oh no, not so fast, like I told Maxwell, Iíve got a stake in this. I want to know whatís going onÖthe whole story."
Catherine walked past them into the living room and sat down. The two men followed her and took seats. Catherine told him everything they knew about Gabriel and Moreno. "So now the deal is I take Moreno to the old Beaumont building, on the Lower East side to trade for Jenny." She concluded.
"The Lower East side is not exactly a place Iíd want you to be." Elliot stated the obvious. "Youíll have a police presence there, I presume." He looked over at Joe.
Joe shook his head, "Gabriel said just Cathy, if he catches wind of police the deal is off."
"Thatís ridiculous; have them hidden in the building or around it." Elliot said exasperated.
"I donít know who we can trust, he got to Moreno who knows who else is on his payroll. There could be more moles in our office and on the police. In your organization too for all you know. No Iím not risking Jennyís life, weíll make the trade just like he wants, keep it plain and simple." Suddenly he snapped his fingers, "Greg Hughes, Iíve know him since high school I could post him on the street by the Beaumont."
"Somethingís better than nothing." Catherine shook her head in frustration, "Without Moreno all weíve got on Gabriel is kidnapping." Suddenly her face brightened, "What if he takes Moreno back to that place where heís holding Jenny? Mariah told me the FBI have been keeping an eye on him, maybe we could get them involved, have them storm the place and get Moreno back."
"Are you kidding at the first sign of trouble theyíll just kill him, heís too much of a liability. No it would have to be a covert operation." He looked over at Elliot, "You said youíve got a guy out there now?" Elliot nodded. "Give him a call and see if he can give us some information on the security set up in that place."
Elliot stood pulling out his mobile; he walked into the hall to make the call. Meanwhile Joe had Catherine look at the pictures he had taken at Hanlonís funeral. She pulled out the one of Gabriel and handed it to Joe.
"So this is the bastard thatís got Jenny," He looked at the man that had the audacity to order a manís murder and then show up at his funeral. "I swear if he harms one hair on her head heís gonna wish heíd never been born."
Elliot came back into the room after finishing his conversation with Cleon and informed the others of what could be seen of the security measureís protecting the estate.
"Cleon said the estate is under tight security, high walls, electronic gates, surveillance equipment and armed guards. He also saw a helicopter around the back of the house."
"If we want to be able to get Moreno out weíll need to be able to get into that place without anyone knowing. All right Burch, give us the address." Elliot gave him an address on Staten Island.
As soon as Vincent heard it he used the intercom to call Father, perhaps there was a tunnel that led under the grounds. He let the tunnel leader know what was happening and asked to have one of the children run the map over.
According to Gabrielís instructions Cathy was to be the sole escort for Moreno, there was no getting around that. They were sure that Gabriel would have people watching so they had to be very careful and they still werenít sure who else in the office reported to him. After Joe had filled the mayor in on the situation he had insisted on a police presence to be on the street and in the buildings around the Beaumont. Joe talked him out of it relying solely on Greg Hughes outside the building. He called Greg to fill him in on what was happening. The helicopter Cleon had told Elliot about worried him, but he didnít personally know any of the police chopper pilots so he hesitated in ordering one for air cover.
"Iíll have my helicopter ready just in case." Elliot volunteered. "Itís already on the pad on my building, you give me a radio so I know whatís going on and I could be there in minutes."
"We may not have minutes." Catherine pointed out. If Gabriel did use his helicopter and they didnít go back to Staten Island theyíd have no idea where Moreno was being taken.
"Yeah besides how do we know we can trust your pilot?" Joe pointed out. "For all we know he could be one of Gabrielís informants."
"I donít need a pilot, Iíll fly it myself."
Joe looked at him surprised.
Elliot shrugged, "Flying myself comes in handy sometimes."
They finally decided that in case Jenny was being transported by helicopter, Elliot would be stationed nearby. Joe would go to Burchís office building where he would meet Elliot on the roof and accompany him in his helicopter, at least this way he would be close and see everything that went on. There was a very real chance that the trade would be conducted on the roof and that afterward Moreno would be whisked away. Elliot would then follow at a safe distance just to see where Moreno was being taken. Catherine would take Jenny back home and wait for Joe.
While the others were upstairs making plans Vincent had crept noiselessly down the basement stairs to wait for the map from Father. Geoffrey arrived breathlessly having run all the way. Vincent thanked him and went to the kitchen opening the map on the table. He found one tunnel that ran underneath the estate that could be used as a way in or out if necessary. He put the teakettle on to boil and waited till its whistle brought Catherine down. She took the map back up with her and showed it to the two men. Elliot called Cleon and told him about it just in case and instructed him to call if he saw any signs of activity
As the hour of midnight neared Vincent led Joe to the locked room where Moreno had been cooling his heels for the last several days. Vincent had been the only one who had had any contact with the man in all that time and on Joeís advice had not spoken a word to him. Moreno seemed overjoyed to finally have someone to talk to and peppered Joe with questions when he stepped into the room.
"Joe, whatís going on? Where are we going? Where are you taking me?"
Grimly Joe snapped cuffs on his former boss and pulled a hood over his head. "It seems your friend Gabriel wants to talk to you."
Moreno flew into a panic, "No you canít take me to him, heíll kill me I wonít be of any use to you then."
"Look," Joe broke into the flow of babble. "Heís got Jenny and he wants to trade."
"No Joe, you canít do it, youíre condemning me to death."
"You should have thought of that before you got into bed with this guy. Come on."
He shoved Moreno roughly through the door and kept a guiding hand on his elbow as Vincent led them to the Fourteenth Street exit. Joe pushed a still protesting Moreno into the back seat of Catherineís car, nodding to Catherine who sat at the wheel. "Good luck kiddo, Iíll see you soon." Shooting Vincent a grim look he went to his car and left for Elliotís building. Vincent kissed Catherine, the bond pulsing with the feelings that words were inadequate to convey, then went back to the tunnels to make his own way to the Beaumont. Vincent had absolutely insisted on being in the building while Catherine was making the trade, confident in his ability to elude any surveillance that Gabriel may have on the building.
When Cleon sent word that he had seen people board the helicopter including Jenny, Elliot flew over to the Beaumont. He set down on the roof of a building nearby with an excellent view of the rooftop and shut down. Hopefully with the clouds blocking the moonlight and the lack of manmade lighting in the area they wouldnít be seen. Joe kept scanning the sky with his binoculars and soon saw a helicopter come into sight and land on the roof of the Beaumont. They saw it disgorge men with weapons, and could make out Jenny as she was roughly pulled out on to the roof, he breathe a sigh of relief she was there and safe for the moment.
Catherineís voice, made tinny by the radio Joe had given her, informed them that she was about to enter the building with Moreno. Joe in turn told her of the helicopter. By this time Moreno was almost blubbering with fright. Greg Hughes, dressed as a vagrant, briefly stepped out of the cover of a darkened doorway across the street and with an almost imperceptible nod Catherine acknowledged his presence, before he melted away again. Taking a deep breath she pushed Moreno through the dilapidated front doors. Evidently Vincent had broken the bars that had held them shut. They walked into the lobby of the old building. The musky smell of the closed up room assaulted her nose, making her sneeze, and the scramble of tiny-clawed feet made her skin crawl. She pushed cobwebs away from her face with her flash light, remembering the last time she and Vincent had been here. She felt him close by and took comfort in that nearness. The sudden static of the walkie-talkie Pope had given startled her, answering it she heard Popeís voice on the other end instructing her to bring Moreno up to the roof. She swung her flashlight around and located the stairway. The steps creaked as she pushed Moreno up them, prodding him in the back with the end of her gun.
"Cathy, please youíve got to let me go." He begged again, "For Godís sake donít do this. You donít know what heíll do to me. Please Cathy, take me back out. Please!"
Catherine wished she could shut her ears to his pleas, she kept quiet; disgusted with the cowardly display of a man she once looked up to. As they neared the top floor and faced the final stairway that would bring them to the roof, Moreno swung his handcuffed hands around knocking the flashlight out of her hands. He tried to bolt down the stairs but before Catherine could blink Vincent was there, he growled attracting Morenoís attention. Moreno recognized the looming figure of his silent guard and slumped to the ground sobbing. Vincent pulled him up and practically carried him to the top of the stairs. He broke the chain that held the door and giving Catherine a parting look melted back into the darkness. "Iíll be close." She heard him whisper. She took a deep breath and pulled a weeping Moreno out onto the roof.
The wind whipped Catherineís hair as she looked around the rooftop. She saw the helicopter; its lights illuminating the area around it, and the men in front of it. She recognized Pope, flanking him were two men armed with machine guns. Behind them was Jenny and behind her, Gabriel.
Pope walked towards them, stopping when he got halfway waiting for her to come forward with Moreno. She gripped Moreno by the elbow, but as she began to walk she felt Moreno suddenly sag in her grip and go to the ground. She bent to pick him up under the arms, but the man moved too quickly. He jumped up, knocking her over and began to run. He had just reached a metal service ladder that led to a lower portion of the roof when the men with the machine guns opened fire. The force of the bullets hitting his body propelled Moreno backward and over the edge of the roof. Getting up Catherine cringed as she listened to Morenoís screams, for a moment unable to think or move, until a barrage of bullets struck the ground by her feet sending bits of concrete flying everywhere. She dove, executing a shoulder roll that brought her up behind one of the buildings massive air conditioning units, frantically looking around her for her gun which had flown out of her hands. She heard the rotors of the helicopter start up and peeked around the corner to see Jenny lying on the ground. Catherineís heart skipped a beat, thinking her friend had been shot, but no she was moving, trying to crawl away from the helicopter. Suddenly she heard a roar and whipped her head around to see Vincent crash through the door she had just come through. While everyoneís attention was on Vincent she sprinted towards Jenny and pulled her up, pushing her ahead of her towards cover. Jenny tripped and rolled away lying motionless as the gunmen opened fire on Vincent. Catherine was behind them and launched herself at their backs. She knocked one down, but was grabbed by Pope who pulled her into the helicopter.
Vincent made short work of the remaining gunman, but the chopper lifted off before he could get to it. He roared her name as he watched it grow smaller and smaller, helpless to do anything to help her. He went to Jenny who was just trying to regain her feet. Helping her up he told her to go down to the street and find Greg Hughes and then he searched the sky for Elliot.
Jenny watched in horror as the whole terrible scene played out in front of her. She had been escorted to the helicopter and a black sack had been once again pulled down over her head. No one spoke as they flew to the rendezvous site. The sack had been removed only after they had touched down. Her eyes were now glued to the sight of Catherine coming toward her. When Moreno broke and ran she heard Gabrielís dispassionate voice behind her say "kill him". The two guards opened fire and mowed him down like something out of an action movie, except this was for real. She saw the guns move to point at Catherine and she started forward to try and distract them, to give her friend time to get to cover, but Pope pulled her back to the helicopter. She fought him frantically and managed to slip out of his grip. She fell to the ground hard, then she heard Vincentís roar. Suddenly Catherine was there, pulling her up and telling her to run. She tripped over something and fell to the ground with such force that she rolled across the roof becoming totally disoriented. Distantly she heard the helicopter lift off and shortly after she felt Vincent pick her up and instruct her to find Joeís friend Greg. She staggered down the stairs calling out for Greg who had already entered the building alerted by Joe through the radio that the trade had gone sour. He had seen Morenoís fall from the roof and had to step over the body of the former District Attorney in order to get through the doorway. He took her to the car he had parked a few blocks away. By this time she was crying hysterically. The final straw was stepping over the bloody, broken body of Moreno in order to get out of the building. Joe radioed to see if she was all right and to tell Greg to go to the Staten Island address he had given him earlier.
Joe and Elliot had watched everything from their vantage point. They had been just as shocked as Catherine at what had happened. They watched horrified as they saw Catherine being pulled into the helicopter.
"Who's that?" Elliot asked when they saw Vincent rush onto the roof.
"A friend." Joe whispered, awed, as he saw Vincent in action for the first time. The gunman that had been left behind was picked up as if he was a rag doll and thrown against the air conditioning unit Catherine had been hiding behind. Joe could almost hear the crunch of bones as the manís body hit it and then slump to the ground. He shook himself as he felt the helicopter lift off. "Go pick him up."
Elliot shook his head, "If I stop to pick him up I may lose them. What if they donít go back to Staten Island?" Elliotís concern was very real Gabriel was in a Dauphin, a much bigger and faster helicopter than his own JetRanger. If he stopped to pick up the man on the roof he would lose precious minutes and would never be able to make up the distance if Gabrielís pilot was flying at top speed.
"Look he doesnít know that we know about the place and besides Vincent can track Cathy anywhere." Joe yelled back of the noise of the rotors.
Elliot was not convinced, but he swooped down and hovered over the roof just low enough to allow Vincent to jump up and grab one of the helicopters out riggers. He hung suspended for a few heart-stopping moments until he swung his legs up and with a mighty heave threw himself through the door and into the back seat.
"All right Iím in goÖgo!" He growled.
The two men were slammed back into their seats as Elliot accelerated rapidly forward to follow after the retreating dot that held Catherine. He flew higher than his quarry hiding his pursuit in the low clouds that hung above the city. Unable to see he had to trust Vincent to correct him if he started going in the wrong direction. He wondered what connection this masked man had to Cathy and how did he know where she was? They got lucky the Dauphin was cruising along unaware of any pursuit. Elliot flew just above it seeing it every so often in a break in the clouds.
Catherine noted that her captors didnít bother putting a hood on her. She didnít think it was a good sign and a moment later Pope confirmed her thought.
"We should get rid of her," he looked down at the water they were currently flying over. "Sheís a liability."
Catherine cringed; all they had to do was dump her out of the helicopter. They were flying over the Upper Bay at the moment, and if she were thrown out here sheíd never make it to land before drowning. The bile rose in her mouth as she fought for calm trying to think of options. She felt Vincent near sending her his love and support through the bond. In fact she felt him very near. Without moving her head she lifted her eyes to look out the window, trying to figure out where he was. There, above them, through a break in the clouds. Was that the glint of metal in the moonlight? She looked quickly away not wishing to draw the attention of her captors. Was Vincent with Elliot and Joe in the helicopter?
Gabrielís voice interrupted her thoughts. "I lost a valuable employee tonight, I need to replace him. I think with Ms. Chandlerís help I can bring Joe Maxwell to heel. After all itís been very convenient having someone in the DAís office that I can manipulate, and with her as my hostage I believe Maxwell would be more than cooperative."
God the man was insufferably arrogant, Catherine thought as she calmed herself now assured that no imminent harm would come to her. She sent that assurance through the bond and felt Vincent relax just a hair.
Cleon Manning received a phone call from his employer telling him that Gabriel was most probably returning with Catherine now a hostage. The trade had gone sour and all bets were off. He told him to let the helicopter land then disable it somehow so it couldnít be used again. He could hear the cuff-cuff of rotor blades and knew that Elliot was in pursuit.
When Elliot broke the connection Cleon went back to his car and drove the short distance to the entrance of the underground drainage tunnel which presumable, according to Elliot, would take him under the estate. He parked the car and went around to the trunk to get the gym bag he always kept ready. It held a small arsenal of weapons plus a change of clothing. Slinging the bag over his shoulder he took out a crow bar and glancing around to make sure he was alone, lifted the man hole cover enough to shimmy it to one side just enough to fit himself through. Standing on one of the metal rungs set into the wall on one side of the drain he managed to pull the cover back. Damn the thing was heavy! Using the beam of his small flashlight he jumped down to the side of the sluggishly moving stream of water at the bottom. He put the flashlight in his mouth and opened the gym bag pulling out a pair of tight fitting black pants, tee shirt, flak jacket, cap and sneakers. When he had finished changing he strapped on his shoulder holster and checked his gun. He started down the tunnel watching for the turn off he needed to take. This all reminded him of his days with the Navy Seals, he shook his head ruefully, if he had stayed in he would be retiring just about now, but he had a family and he wanted something safer. He laughed, safer my foot! He came to the turn off and was dismayed at the size of the pipe he would have to travel down. Heíd have to crawl. He got down and shoving the bag ahead of him began to belly crawl the rest of the way. Iím charging Elliot double for this jobÖ hell maybe triple, he thought, as he made his way, thankful for the tough fabric of his clothing. Finally he could make out a lighter patch of gray in the darkness he was surrounded by and upon getting closer saw that it was a grate. Rolling over onto his back he listened for a moment to make sure there was no one moving around above him. He then shoved up; lifting the grate to one side and clambered out He crouched, frozen, waiting to see if he had company. Carefully replacing the grate, he swung the beam of his light around. He was in a garage, a big one with some very high-ticket wheels parked in it. Quietly creeping to the wall, he found the door leading outside.
He was just in time. The helicopter he was waiting for had just landed and its passengers got out heading for the house. As soon as he thought they were a safe distance away he opened the door and in a crouching run, using the shrubbery for cover, made his way to the helipad. He took a grenade out of his bag and pulled the pin. Waiting a few seconds he lobbed it right under the helicopter and was gratified when it went off a moment later. The resulting explosion turned it into a huge fireball, sending pieces of it flying everywhere. Catherine and the others were thrown to the ground by the force of the blast. When she scrambled to her feet she felt that Vincent was close and headed for the side of the house where Elliot had just set his helicopter down on the large balcony that ran the entire length of that side. She didnít get very far when a hand snaked out and caught her around the ankle. She fell flat on her face, momentarily stunned. Rough hands hauled her up and spun her around. It was Pope grinning wickedly. She didnít even think, Isaací training took over and she kneed him in the groin. When he doubled over she laced her fingers together and brought her combined fists down on the back of his exposed neck. He fell like a stone.
She looked around to get her bearings; she could hear gunfire all around her as Cleon began picking off Gabrielís security men. She watched transfixed for a moment, as the beautiful courtyard with its meticulously manicured lawn and Italian marble fountain became a battleground. She felt Vincent nearing and turned to run to him. As she came around the corner of the house a voice called out to her to halt. She skidded to a stop when she saw Gabriel level a gun at her. He motioned her to come to him and then pushed her ahead of him into the house.
Vincent didnít wait for Elliot to land the helicopter; he had leaped out when it was still about twenty feet in the air. He headed in the direction of the explosion buckling his sword on as he went. He changed direction when he realized Catherine was once again in the hands of Gabriel. Joe and Elliot had barely gotten out of their safety harnesses before Vincent crashed through the French doors and into the house his cloak flying out behind him like black wings. They ran after him keeping a wary eye out for Gabrielís security people.
Vincent ran down a red-carpeted hallway, feeling that Catherine was somewhere close. He passed by numerous glass curio cabinets filled with priceless works of art. Coming to the head of the stairs he looked down and saw that Gabriel was dragging Catherine at gunpoint into another hallway. "Catherine!" He roared. Drawing his sword he raced down the stairs toward her. The light from the chandelier glinted off the blade as he held it in front of him like a knight errant of old. He heard gunshots being fired behind him and assumed that Joe and Elliot had encountered some of Gabrielís security force. Suddenly a security guard stepped out into the hallway in front of him Vincent executed a might leap and was on him before the man could blink. The sword became a blur as he swung it to knock the gun out of the startled mans hand and then punched him out with the pommel. It hardly took a second before he was in pursuit of his quarry again.
Joe and Elliot had come down the stairs and had gotten themselves pinned down in the entrance hall. They were cut off from the hallway Vincent had gone down by guards shooting at them from the top of the stairs. Joe had positioned himself behind the life size terra cotta statue of a Chinese warrior. His original thought as he crouched behind it was that it was one of the ugliest things he had ever seen, but since it took the bullets that were meant for him he decided it wasnít so bad after all.
Elliot had flipped over a sturdy mahogany table and was using it for cover as he returned the guards gunfire. One guard had popped his head out a little too far and they heard him scream as Elliotís bullet found its mark.
"Hey good shot!" Joe called out as he squeezed off another round of his own. "Whereíd you learn to shoot?"
"Army," Elliot called back.
"No kidding? I was in the armyÖ" Bang! He ducked as another shot hit the statue and pieces of it rained down on his head. He squeezed off a shot in the direction he thought it had come from. "Where were you stationed?" He nonchalantly resumed the conversation.
"I did nine weeks of basic at Fort McClellan, then Fort Rucker for helicopter flight training, I eventually ended up at Fort Monmouth in Jersey. "How about you?" Elliot asked. He could hear the commotion outside escalate as Joeís friend Greg must have arrived.
"Infantry, Fort Benning." Joe heard a scream as one of his bullets hit their mark.
Suddenly they heard a commotion at the head of the stairs. Guards came tumbling down the steps to land on the floor in a heap. They looked from the dead guards to the figure coming down towards them.
"Go ahead Iíll cover you." Cleon called to them. He had gone around the side of the house and had climbed up to the balcony where Elliot had landed the helicopter. He had heard the gunfire in the house and went in to investigate. Coming up behind the guards that had pinned Joe and Elliot he squeezed off two quick shots and moved to the head of the stairs as the bodies of the dead guards tumbled down.
Elliot nodded and cautiously ran down the hall that Vincent had entered. As a guard came into view to take down Elliot, Joe took him out and then ran after him.
Vincent crashed through the door Gabriel had entered with Catherine. He found himself in a huge garage. He ran in the direction he felt Catherine to be in and saw her behind the wheel of a car with Gabriel beside her pointed his gun at her. The engine started and Catherine swung the car around in a tight circle to get to the garage door. Vincent took up a stance right in the path of the fleeing vehicle and brandished his sword. Gabriel laughed, who did this guy think he was threatening him armed with only a sword. He smirked, "Run him down."
"No!" Catherine cried.
"Run him down I said!" He stamped his foot down hard on hers and the car leaped forward. She tried to turn the wheel, but Gabriel gripped it hard, steering right for Vincent. Vincent coolly stood his ground, flipped the sword into the air and caught it above his head so that he held it like a spear, and with a mighty throw of his arm sent it right through the windshield, impaling Gabriel to the seat. Catherine turned the wheel as Gabrielís hands went to the hilt vainly trying to pull it out. She slammed on the brakes bringing the car to a stop. Gabrielís hand clawed at the sword, blood bubbling from his mouth. Finally his arms dropped and Catherine could hear him whispering. She inclined her head closer to hear him.
"Names," he gurgled, "have power. My nameÖ," he began to cough, his hand again clutching the pommel. "My real nameÖ isÖVictorÖ BraunÖ Hitler." He grinned hideously, blood bubbling out of his mouth at Catherineís shocked expression then he gasped and was gone. Catherine sat stunned. Hitler? Could it be that this was the son of the infamous German leader? She didnít have time to think about it as Vincent practically tore the car door off its hinges in his haste to get to her. In seconds she was in his strong embrace. He cradled her, grateful that she was all right. She clung to him relieved that the nightmare was now over for all of them. She lifted her head to see Elliot and Joe running towards them. They had entered the garage just in time to see Vincent standing in the path of the car. They had both taken beads on the tires, but before they could shoot Vincent had thrown his sword.
She left Vincentís arms for a moment to hug each of them.
"Joe howís Jenny?" She asked as she stepped back from him.
"Greg says sheís pretty shook up, but doing ok. He sent her to your house in a taxi. How about you?"
She smiled at him, "Iím fine now." She went back to Vincent.
"Iím afraid we havenít been properly introduced," Elliot walked over to them with his hand extended. "Iím Elliot Burch; Iím sure Cathyís told you about me. I wish she had trusted me enough to tell me about you."
"She does trust youÖ to a point." Vincent shook the offered hand.
Catherine blushed, "Iím sorry Elliot, this is Vincent, my husband."
Elliot was stunned, "Husband?" he stammered. He looked at the masked and hooded man before him. The only thing he could discern about the man was that he was big and muscular, had blue eyes a deep voice and a wicked way with a sword. His mind scrolled through a list of whoís who and came up empty, he was sure he had never met this man before. But that Cathy loved him there could be no doubt the look of adoration on her face when she looked at him spoke volumes. He only wished that someday a woman would look at him that way. He turned from the couple when he heard Joe cursing. Poor Joe was trying to retrieve the sword from the dead body of the man who had called himself Gabriel with very little success.
After much tugging he finally stepped aside and motioned to Vincent to get it. "This is going to be hard enough to explain without having this thing sticking out of his chest when the coroner gets here."
Vincent leaned over the hood of the car and grasping the pommel pulled the sword out. Gabrielís body fell forward over the dashboard, and then slumped to one side. Catherine took a final, shuddering look. Vincent hugged her to him with one arm as he held his bloody sword with the other. Joe noticed that the gunfire had stopped. "Hey Vincent, you better get going before somebody comes." Vincent nodded pulling Catherine with him.
"Cathy," Joe called after them. "You canít go weíll have to do a report."
Vincent stopped and looked at him, "Tomorrow she can do her report. She is coming with me."
Joe recognized that Vincentís tone brooked no argument and he wasnít about to argue with anybody who was holding a huge, bloody sword in his hand. He shrugged and turned back to Elliot putting a companionable arm around his shoulders and headed for the door.
"Fort Monmouth huh, so how was the food there?"
Vincent found a polishing rag on a worktable and quickly wiped off his soiled sword, sliding it back into its scabbard to be meticulously cleaned later. He located the grate that Cleon had so recently climbed through and helped Catherine down into the pipe. It was a tight fit for him, but he had been crawling through pipes and tunnels all his life and the close confines didnít bother him at all. Catherine on the other hand was very glad when they reached the big storm drain and could stand up right. Here they allowed themselves a moment for a proper reunion. As soon as Vincent was standing beside her, he swept her into his arms and brought his mouth down on hers in a kiss that almost made her swoon from the intensity of it. Afterwards they just stood in each otherís embrace, grateful that each had come through the ordeal. Catherineís slight body shook as the emotional intensity of the day caught up with her. Vincent held her tightly savoring the feel of her, safe in his arms, rubbing his cheek on the top of her head, whispering loving words in her ears. By the time they reached the home tunnels the sun Above was just rising on the new day.
There was a joyous reunion Below in Fatherís chamber when they finally got there. Joe had called Jenny to let her know all was well and that Catherine and Vincent would be stopping at the home tunnels first. Jenny and Spuds hurried Below to join them. Spuds was so excited that his funny roar was almost continuous. Joe joined them after putting together a preliminary report that had carefully omitting any mention of a large, cloaked man with a sword and had given copies to the Mayor and the police commissioner, there would be time later for a more detailed version.
One of Catherineís first items of business, when they got back home, was to call Edie and fill her in on everything. She especially wanted to start Edie tracking down Gabrielís real name.
A few days later Edie called back with the astonishing news that Adolph Hitler had indeed fathered a child on Eva Braun, a son who was given to Hitlerís sister, Paula shortly before the pair committed suicide. The child lived with her in Berchtesgaden, Germany under the name Wolf, a pseudonym which Paula had taken, until her death at the age of 64 in 1960. He was fifteen at the time and already in deep with a bad crowd. Edieís sourceís said he dropped out of sight when the authorities wanted to question him in connection with the murder of a young girl. He was never heard from again. It had taken a lot of digging and many phone calls, but the man they knew as Gabriel was in reality, Victor Wolf /Hitler, son of the infamous German leader.
When Mariah had heard of the altercation at the estate she had called to get the scoop first hand. She told Catherine that she had found out that Gabriel had been a member of a very old and very elite organization that was started over 600 years ago in medieval times. It was a splinter group of the Knights Templar formed during the persecution of that group led by King Philip IV of France. The last Grand Master of the Templarís, Jacques De Molay was tortured and burned at the stake by the Kingís orders. Before he was consumed by the fire De Molay cursed the King and Pope Clement V, who had allied with the king, saying both would be dead within the year. Soon after the Pope died of a mysterious illness, and in November of that year King Philip was supposedly killed in a hunting accident, but several sources attributed the deaths to this new group.
The group was supposedly comprised of only twelve members, and each one wore a ring inscribed with the saying, Veritas de Literatim. They had ties to all the major criminal factions around the world. One only became a member when invited to and then only when an existing member died. The ring of the deceased member would then be given to the new member.
Catherine was at the office when she had gotten Mariahís phone call and as soon as she placed the receiver back in its cradle she was up and heading for Joeís office. She had to keep reminding herself that he was now in Morenoís old office, the office of the District Attorney. The mayor had promoted Joe to acting District Attorney until the next election, which wouldnít be for a few years yet. One of the first orders he gave as DA was to check every phone in the office for wire-tapping. He was also going to go over everyoneís records looking for anything that might connect someone with Gabrielís organization. He wanted a good solid team working for him, not for someone else.
When Catherine told Joe what Mariah had told her he had Gabrielís personal things brought up to his office. He and Catherine went over the inventory list attached to the large, brown bag and sure enough a ring was on the list. But when they went through the bag there was no ring. They went through it several times thinking they had missed it, but no it definitely wasnít there. Catherine looked at Joe wide eyed, "Joe?"
"Shit!" He picked up the phone and dialed the property room. "Yeah that bag you just sent up of Gabrielís things, thereís supposed to be a ring in it. Yeah itís missing, I want it found, I donít care if you have to turn the place upside down." He slammed the phone back down.
Even though an extensive search was conducted, Gabrielís ring was never found.