An Interview with Vincent
by Joan W.
Authors Note: This story is dedicated to all Beauty and the Beast fans. No copyright infringement is intended.
I received a phone call this morning from my editor, and a new assignment. Lucky me, I have been selected to interview Vincent Wells in New York tomorrow. I know little about the Beauty and the Beast series as it aired when I was only three years old. My mother was a fan though and I vaguely remember her talking about it.
I have been working as a reporter for a fan magazine for the past year, and it’s not exactly what I had envisioned for my career. I thought by now I would be working for a large broadcasting network, or a major newspaper.
My name is Ryan Smith; I am 26 years old and hail from Chicago. I was born there, raised there, went to school there, and graduated from Northwestern University, with a degree in journalism and at the top of my class. People say I’m a workaholic, a loner and a smartass. But I don’t like people all that well in general, so it doesn’t bother me in the least. No such thing as friends, don’t have the time or the patience for them.
It’s late and I better get some sleep, my flight leaves tomorrow at six am…
The flight to New York was okay, a little rough at times, but I’m used to that. The food however, was nearly non-existent stale peanuts -I’m not used to that. I’m supposed to meet a man named Kanin here at the airport and recognize him by his "unusual attire" whatever that means.
The guy was middle aged, graying at the temples, and dressed like someone from a Renaissance Fair in old fashioned clothing. I mean really old fashioned clothing.
"Yeah, that’s me. You Kanin?"
He was smiling a kind of shy grin. "Yes sir."
Who says sir anymore? I wondered.
"I’m here to take you to see Mr. Wells. This way…"
He hoisted my bags over his shoulder, and led me out through the main entrance of the terminal. A yellow cab was waiting at the curb. The cabbie was stout, wearing a flat cap, smoking a stogie. Nodding in my direction; he threw my bags into the trunk.
"Central Park please" Kanin told him.
This is a big city I thought, much larger than Chi town. The cabbie knew the way, and the most direct route. I really wanted to see more of New York, but in less time than a "New York minute" we were there.
"So, Mr. Wells wants to do our interview in Central Park?" I said.
Kanin laughed. "No, not in Central Park, under it"
"What, in the subway?"
Again he laughed, and shook his head.
He led me to a drainage ditch and an old culvert. Looking around covertly, Kanin said "Hurry, we don’t want to be seen."
"Why not? What’s the big secret? Is this guy on the run or something? "
"No sir. I was under the impression that you were told about our secret world, and that you were sworn to secrecy as well."
"Well, no. I was told to interview Mr. Wells for the fan magazine I work for. No one mentioned secrecy, a secret world, or anything like that. But okay, you’ve got my interest… lead on."
"Sorry," he said, "First your promise that you won’t tell anyone about the location of our world. Our safety depends upon it."
I was intrigued, where was he taking me? "Sure. No problem, but I think the fans already know where it is."
He smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
We soon came to a junction in the tunnel, and an iron gate. It looked like a dead-end. I was surprised when he reached up and opened what appeared to be an old fuse box, pulled a lever and voila a large round steel door slid open. What was even more surprising was that the interior of the tunnel was lit with an amber glow, cast from several torches along the route.
The tunnel twisted and turned like a snake, and at times it felt as if we were walking in circles. Kanin was silent, but every so often looked back at me to make sure that I was following. I could hear tapping, well more like clanging, steel against steel.
"What’s that noise?" I asked him.
"It’s our communication system" he answered.
"Like Morse code?"
He smiled "Yes, something like that."
Fascinating, I thought.
The tunnel widened, and I could hear talking. There were others here, although I couldn’t see them. Soon we arrived at an opening in the stone and
Kanin entered first; I followed. Interesting… it was a comfortable room, complete with Tiffany style lighting. The furniture was antiquated, really old. In the room were many collectibles, including a juke box that looked like it came from a fifties diner, statues, glass objects, and the focal point, a large stained glass window dimly lit from behind. The room smelled of candle wax, old books and something else…leather maybe.
"Wait here, please." Kanin said, and left the room.
I circled around picking up a few objects and studying them. It seemed someone had been collecting things for many years. There was a bed in the room, covered in an old quilt that was faded as if it had seen decades of use. Everything was surprisingly clean, considering all of the dust in the air.
"Mr. Smith." The voice was smooth, gravely, yet commanding.
I whirled around, and was ill prepared to meet the person that stood before me. The first thing that struck me was his size…tall, very tall. He was over six feet, and massive. If I thought that Kanin’s attire was outdated I was mistaken. This fellow was dressed in true Renissance fashion, complete with a flowing black cloak trimmed in leather and a hood that partially covered his face.
"Mr. Wells?" I asked.
"Yes, I am he."
Then he looked up and I caught sight of the most unusual face, I’ve ever seen. Actually, I wasn’t sure of what I was looking at as my mind couldn’t register what my eyes were seeing. The face of a lion…no, a man…no, a lion. No, both together. My mouth had dropped open, and realizing that it was agape I quickly closed it.
Observing my reaction he smiled. Not the response I would have surmised.
"Please sit down." He gestured toward a sturdy chair that looked absolutely medieval. I sat down, because to tell the truth I was just a little bit shaken by his countenance.
He walked to another chair, and took a seat crossing his legs at his ankles. God, even his boots were large. Oddly, he moved very gracefully for his size.
"Can I get you something to drink, tea perhaps?"
"Sure, that would be great." I answered. He looked peaceful enough, but just a little on edge, as I was.
He rose and walked over to a bureau on the other side of the room. I noticed the teapot then, and the cups and saucers stacked neatly next to it. He poured the liquid into the cups.
"Sugar?" he asked.
He brought the cup to me, and I took it, with a slightly trembling hand. "Well, should we get started?"
"Yes, by all means Mr. Smith, but I would like to say something before we begin. I am not overly fond of reporters. I once had a very unfortunate meeting with one that turned out badly, for him and for me. The only reason I agreed to this is because I love the fans. I wish to make that crystal clear to you before we start."
"Understood," I answered.
He sat down again, filling the chair with his immense frame. "Let’s begin."
"Call me Vincent, please"
"All right, Vincent, What have you been doing in the last 23 years since the television show ended?"
"Now that is a big question." He laughed. "Where to begin… I guess at the beginning or rather, the beginning of the end. As you know the show ended after its third year. I know the fans were quite unhappy about certain unmentionable events that occurred. "
"And you weren’t?" I interjected.
"Yes of course I was, but…she didn’t die."
"Excuse me…I happen to know differently- that much I do know."
He shook his head, those blue eyes icily staring at me. "Let me explain please…Catherine was drugged with morphine, which caused her to go into a coma that lasted for several months. She was hidden in upstate New York, for more than a year by the FBI." He sighed. "The woman buried in her grave was a transient, unknown, a Jane Doe, as the police would say."
"But why would they do that?" I asked
"To protect her. You must remember that Gabriel’s henchmen were still very active and although Gabriel was dead his empire was still intact. Jonathan Pope continued to search for her, and only after he was apprehended by the FBI did they release her."
"I see, so she then returned here, to you?"
"Not right away. She lived in upstate New York with an Amish family. Her memory returned slowly because of the coma, but it did return, and then she came home, to us. Catherine spent some time getting to know her son and myself all over again." He smiled showing long white canines; obviously something he was not quite comfortable doing. When I noticed the canines his smile quickly faded.
"So, Catherine Chandler is alive and well, and living with you and your son here?" I summarized.
"Catherine Chandler Wells has been my wife for over twenty years now. Our son Jacob is grown, and in medical school presently." He took a sip of his tea.
"Really, a doctor? You must be very proud Mr. Wells, uh I mean Vincent."
"Yes, we are very proud of him." His answer was short and to the point so I decided to move on.
"Tell me, what’s changed in your world since the show ended?"
"Ah, another big question." He replied. "I think that in order to answer both of your questions properly, Mr. Smith, it would be much better to show you, than to tell you." The large man stood and straightened slowly. "Arthritis" he said with his hand to his hip "I’m afraid I’m not as young as I once was."
I smiled. He wasn’t much older than my own father, who suffered from time to time with arthritis- they were alike in that respect. "Please call me Ryan."
"All right Ryan, if you would follow me…" He replied, exiting the room.
I walked with him down the vast tunnel corridors. The first stop was a large cavernous room filled with books, an enormous desk, lamps, and many odds and ends. We entered, and went down a few stairs. The place looked ancient, and smelled mustily, of old paper, from the many volumes held there. A spiral staircase was off to one side, leading up to a mezzanine level again filled to the brim with old books. I heard a shuffling sound.
"Father" Vincent whispered. He said it like a prayer or a sigh.
Slowly an elderly man hobbled toward us, using a walking stick and leaning heavily on it. He looked to be at least eighty years of age. His hair and beard were pure white, and he was also dressed in unusual attire, although it was hard to tell, as an afghan was draped around his shoulders.
"You should be in bed" Vincent said gently to the old man.
"What? What did you say? "The elderly gentleman said obviously hard of hearing.
From the look in Vincent’s eyes, one knew without a shadow of a doubt that he loved this man. A rare light radiated from his eyes when he looked at him and I had never witnessed anything quite so touching.
"I said you should be in bed" he repeated only much louder this time.
The old man gestured impatiently as if to say "Go on with you…"
"Father, this is Ryan" Vincent said loudly. The man offered his wrinkled hand to me, and I shook it.
"You are welcome here." He said feebly.
I smiled and said "It’s nice to meet you sir." Hmm…now I know who still uses the word "sir" I thought.
"Ryan is writing a story about us Father, for our fans"
The white haired man just nodded and smiled. "For our fans, yes…be sure to tell the truth, always tell the truth, young man" he said.
"I will, sir." I answered.
"It’s time to put you back in bed Father. You need your rest." Vincent said. "Have a seat Ryan, I will return momentarily" and he led the older man away gently, soothingly. I was moved by his love for the old man. I never had that kind of relationship with my dad, but it certainly wasn’t dad’s fault.
Upon his return, we left the sizeable chamber and continued on through the tunnels. "Father was eighty five on his last birthday" he remarked. "He is not well." From the sad expression on his face; I could tell it worried him. "The duties of governance have fallen upon me, as Father is forgetful and has difficulty remembering many things. I must lead the Tunnel Council now, see to the repairs, and solve the difficulties. It’s a full time responsibility and one that I take very seriously. All these years and so many decisions…" his voice trailed off.
As we walked, Vincent talked about the variety of changes in the tunnels and its residents. There were many new faces over the years, but a few of the original residents remained. On our walk I met Kipper who was a bit older than me and a teacher for the students below, a fellow named Mouse whose vocabulary was limited to the words "okay good" and "okay fine", and a lady named Jamie who seemed a little impatient at times. All of them were welcoming and charming. I found their stories remarkable. I learned that Mouse had built a hydroelectric plant down below many years ago, which supplied their world with electricity, and even heat. Jamie was responsible for instituting a hydroponic farm of sorts, adding to their food supply. Vincent explained that there were still Helpers above that aided them by donating food, and other needed items. But only a few of them remained, so they had to come to rely mostly upon their own resources.
I was truly impressed by this community and the way that they took care of each other, their creativity, and ability to survive far from society above.
"Ryan you know about us, but please tell me about yourself." Vincent’s face was gently inquisitive.
"Me? Hmm… where to begin? I grew up in the Midwest, in Chicago. My father was in advertising and my mother was a secretary working for a major food corporation. I studied Journalism after high school, and graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston Illinois. "
"Are you married? Do you have a family?" he queried.
I looked down at the ground. I used to be married, but it was so short-lived one could hardly call it that.
"Once, but I’m divorced, no children" I replied.
He looked stricken. "I am sorry, I didn’t mean to pry."
"It’s okay; I was very young then and I spent weeks away from home, travelling for my job. It just didn’t work out very well, that’s all." I was ashamed to tell him, that I’m a jerk, an insensitive fool, and I didn’t think he would understand that at the time my job came first- my wife second.
It seemed as if we had been walking for miles, when we came upon an entrance to another cavern. I could hear the loud rushing of water as we entered. The air here smelled fresh, clean, and moist with water vapor. After passing through the small opening, I was stunned beyond words. Here within the deepest parts of the earth under a bustling metropolis was one of the most beautiful sights I ever beheld. It was a waterfall, no rather three of them, that cascaded down a rock cliff into a river. And most astounding, was the fact that a soft white light filled the cavern. Where it came from was a mystery, Vincent explained, but it was there nevertheless. We sat down overlooking the panoramic scene.
"We still swim over there," he said, pointing to a calm inlet. "Care to join me?"
Merriment danced in his eyes.
"What, now?" I asked incredulous that he would suggest it.
" Yes now. Or perhaps you don’t swim?" There was humor in his tone.
"Yeah, I swim but I uh...didn’t bring my bathing suit…" I replied nervously.
He laughed, throwing his head back. "You are wearing one, of sorts," he teased.
I caught his drift, and for the first time in many years found myself blushing furiously.
He rose quickly, walked a few paces to a nearby alcove, shedding his clothes as he went. I averted my eyes as he moved swiftly to the ledge and when I looked up I saw him dive into the river in a perfectly executed swan dive.
"Come on in," he called out "The water here is warm!"
And so it was I went skinny dipping in an underground river, accompanied by a creature that was more human than a lot of people I had come to know. We spent the rest of the morning swimming, laughing, and talking about the world…his world below and mine above. He was so positive and content with his life, sparse as it would seem to many topsiders. His sense of values went far beyond the usual, treasuring people instead of things, and I was greatly affected by that.
After swimming we donned our clothes, and left the area to return to the main Hub as he called it. By this time my stomach was growling loudly.
"Sounds as if you’re a bit hungry, my friend," he said.
"Yeah, I haven’t eaten today." I replied
"I’m afraid that I am a terrible host, and I must apologize for my lack of hospitality" He truly looked remorseful, and very sincere.
"Think nothing of it" I answered. It was good to meet someone with such sincerity, a rare happenstance in today’s world.
"Please, if you would follow me to the dining chamber, we will have our midday meal." And he turned and led me to a corridor where the smell of food made my mouth water.
The dining hall was a noisy place, filled with people of all ages from babies to the elderly. Their conversations were jovial and their laughter quite infectious. I was introduced to several of the tunnel dwellers, finding it impossible to remember all of their names. Vincent suddenly was staring at the entrance to the hall with rapt attention, a soft expression on his face. As I followed his glance, a beautiful middle aged woman with brown hair and the most luminous green eyes entered the chamber. She was dressed conventionally in a business suit, and her smile lit the room.
Without a word, she walked over to our table. Her eyes were fixed on those of her husband, who returned her gaze lovingly. I had no doubt to the identity of this woman-- Catherine Chandler Wells it could be no one else.
He stood, being in the presence of his lady and I stood also. She smiled at me, nodded and then sat down next to her husband who immediately took her hand in his and kissed it tenderly. "Ah, Catherine," he breathed.
I sat down and after a few moments of watching the two of them; I realized that this was no ordinary love. Vincent had informed me earlier during our swim, that he had saved Catherine, brought her to the tunnels, and that their love grew from that point on enclosed in some kind of bond. He tried to describe that to me, but I couldn’t grasp it at all, until now.
They seemed to speak to each other with their eyes alone, almost as if they could hear one another’s thoughts. After a few long minutes passed, Vincent said "Ryan I would like you to meet my wife Catherine." and "My love, this is Ryan, who is writing a story for the fans."
With a sweet smile she said "It’s nice to meet you, Ryan. I do hope you will stay, I have so much I would like to tell you."
"I am afraid that my flight leaves tomorrow morning, Mrs. Wells."
"Such a shame, and please call me Cathy" she sighed. "I had hoped to show you our home."
"Your home? I thought that you lived here."
"No, Vincent you didn’t tell him?" she asked him cocking an eyebrow.
"I was going to my love, but I hadn’t come to that… yet"
"We still have time, and would love to show you our home." she replied.
We left the dining chamber, and walked through the winding maze of tunnels until we reached a wooden door. The door was painted to match the surrounding stone, so unless one knew of its existence it was virtually invisible. They opened the door, stepped through it and I followed closely behind them. We walked through a closet, and out into a comfortably refurbished basement. And after climbing the basement stairs, we found ourselves in a modern brownstone located in a quiet neighborhood.
The house was beautifully decorated and immaculate. Following a tour of the home, we adjourned to the study, clearly a favorite room of the master of the house. More books, but I shouldn’t have been surprised at that. The room was done in shades of brown, with muted green accents. Nestled among the books were photos- family photos.
"Yes," Catherine said, "we have more than one child…" she smiled at Vincent with a knowing grin and then continued "Our eldest is Jacob; he is in med school. Then there are Caleb and Celeste, our twins. They are in Europe right now studying art, and our youngest is Victoria who is a photojournalist." She removed the pictures, from the shelf and brought them to me so that I could look at them. I was amazed at the likenesses. Even more so that none of the children had inherited their father’s facial features. Jacob distinctly resembled his mother, while the twins were both golden haired and blue eyed like their father, and Victoria had dark hair and dark eyes. Vincent chuckled as he saw my reaction to his youngest child. "The milkman." he said, laughing.
"Oh you….." she chided and threw a pillow at him.
Their banter was playful, loving. I remembered my own Father and Mother in such a scenario when I was growing up. The thought struck me that if I had given my own marriage half a chance, it might have been successful too.
We talked about Catherine’s career; she was now a judge working in family court. Long gone were the dangerous days of the District Attorneys office and the threats on her life. We chatted about their family. I learned that none of their children had married yet, but Victoria was engaged, and they were busy planning for her upcoming wedding in June. Everyone had successfully balanced their lives above with their lives below, and although it was difficult at times they had managed it rather well.
"I would be happy to drive you to the airport in the morning, Ryan. Why don’t you stay here tonight, with us? We have a guestroom…" Catherine offered.
"Well, I uh… wouldn’t want to intrude, and my flight leaves tomorrow at six a.m."
"Nonsense! I insist that you have supper with us and stay the night." Vincent said.
I thought about it briefly "Sure, why not?"
Vincent clapped me on the shoulder "Good. Now let’s go and get your things."
As we returned from the tunnels with my luggage, Catherine was busy making dinner. "Can I help with anything?" I asked.
"You may" she said brightly. "Do you know how to set a table Ryan?"
"Yeah, I used to be a waiter in a restaurant in Evanston, while I was going to college."
Within fifteen minutes I had the table set. Catherine had insisted upon using the fine china and crystal, explaining that they were her mother’s and not used often enough. The aroma of roast chicken wafted delectably throughout the house. Vincent had taken my bags upstairs to the guest room, and when he returned, I noticed that he had showered, and changed his clothes. His hair was still wet.
"Dinner won’t be ready for at least an hour. Would you like to go upstairs, and take a shower Ryan?" Catherine asked.
"If you wouldn’t mind, it’s been a long day."
The guestroom was spacious and comfortable. I was tired, but too excited to rest and sat down opening my laptop. I typed five words An Interview with the Beast and stopped. Beast? That wasn’t right, not by a long shot. Although he was the "Beast" of Beauty and the Beast, Vincent Wells was far from being a beast. I had honestly never met anyone like him. He was Vincent… kind, caring, considerate, mannerly, the list could go on and on. He was something of an enigma, but a decidedly human one. I closed the lid on the laptop, and took a shower.
Entering the kitchen afterward, I abruptly halted. My face glowed red, as I realized that I had walked in on an intimate moment. Vincent was kissing his Catherine, and well…let’s just say that his hands were very busy. I attempted to quietly back out of the room, but it was too late. Vincent looked up and they both straightened immediately. I wasn’t the only one blushing. Catherine giggled nervously "Supper is ready," she said gesturing towards the dining room smoothing her somewhat rumpled apron. Vincent continued to blush, and looked downward much like a child who had been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. But then suddenly he looked up at me, and as God is my witness…he winked.
Dinner was delicious, roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and all the trimmings. As we were eating the doorbell rang. "I wonder who that could be at this late hour? I’ll be right back." Catherine said rising from the table. Minutes later there was a loud shout coming from the foyer. "Jacob!"
Vincent stood as Catherine entered the room with their son. I recognized him at once from the photos I had viewed earlier.
"Jacob!" Vincent whispered as he embraced his son tightly. "Dad, it’s great to be home!" his son replied amply returning the hug.
I was introduced to Jacob; we shook hands, and sat down at the table. "This looks good mom, I’m starved!"
"Don’t they feed you in medical school?" she quipped.
"Yes, they do but it’s not like your home cooking." He retorted with a smile.
Jacob explained that he was home from school on spring break and wanted to surprise his parents. He spoke of his classes, his tough schedule, and the grueling hours, but also of the many lives he had saved, and the most recent advances in medical technology. One could tell that he was dedicated and loved his chosen profession. He planned on replacing his Grandfather in the tunnels as their resident doctor after graduation.
After dinner we all went to the study for a glass of brandy. Vincent was visibly proud of his son. As I watched them talking I wondered where I had gone wrong with my own father. Vincent finally stood and announced "It’s late and time for us to retire for the night. It’s nice to have you home son. Your mother and I have missed you…" and then he turned to me and said "I will be up early to say goodbye to you Ryan. Sleep well."
"You too, and thanks for everything"
"It was our pleasure" he responded warmly. Vincent and Catherine left the room arm in arm.
"So you’re a reporter, here to interview mom and dad?" Jacob asked when we were alone. He poured himself another brandy and offered one to me as well.
"Yeah, but I think this was a much tougher assignment than I expected."
"Oh, why is that?"
"Because in comparison to all of yours, I find that my life really stinks and I’m becoming painfully aware of it. You know introspection; seeing things the way I wished they were versus the way they really are."
Jacob chuckled "Yes, I can see how that could happen. Here it’s like a fairy tale come to life. Mom and Dad have that effect on just about everyone they come in contact with. But there’s something you are not aware of…" His expression suddenly turned serious.
"What’s that? " I asked.
"All of the pain and agony that they went through to have their happy life. It wasn’t always like this. I heard the stories while growing up in the tunnels, though my parents rarely mentioned their troubles to us. They had a tough time of it, but kept their dream alive no matter what. Dad always said a person should "Go with courage and go with care." He taught his children to live by that standard. It seems to me that it holds true for everyone, including you my friend. You have the power to change things in your life if you want to."
He swallowed the last of his brandy. "Goodnight Ryan, it was a pleasure to meet you."
"Same here and thanks for the insight." I answered. I had a lot of thinking to do.
Three a.m. came bright and early. Catherine made scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. After breakfast I packed my bags, and loaded them into the van. Then came the difficult part, saying goodbye to Vincent and Catherine. I extended my hand to the amazing man I had come to know as a friend, a true friend. But instead of shaking my hand, he embraced me, with a brisk hug and a clap to my shoulder.
"Come back and visit us again. You know you are welcome anytime." he said.
I looked into his eyes, and for a moment I caught a glimpse of the gentle, noble soul that resided there. It was impossible to ignore the strength of character and integrity, with which he had lived his life. I felt as if I had somehow known him for a long time, as if I had always known him.
"Goodbye" he said, then added "Give the fans our love, and gratitude. Tell them that we hold each of them in our hearts…always."
"I will. Take care Vincent."
In the car I was quiet. Catherine looked over at me. "A penny for your thoughts" she said.
"I’m going to miss him." I said bluntly.
"You can always write" she said with a wink, and handed me an e-mail address I could use.
Boarding the plane, I waved my final goodbye to Catherine, and to New York City. As the silvered wings of the airplane glinted in the morning sun, I thought about how I had come to learn a great lesson within the past twenty four hours. I had left Chicago a sarcastic young reporter, cocky and cynical. And I was now leaving New York a very changed man, with a more mature understanding of what’s truly important in life. Thanks to a very special couple, Vincent and Catherine, Beauty and the Beast. I fell in love with their story and I know that I will be a fan forever…
I opened my laptop after the planes ascent, and deleted those five words I had previously typed. Jacob was right; I could change things starting now, as I wrote the new title…An Interview with Vincent.