Home Chapter 4

 …a chasm opened in the earth and out of it coal-black horses sprang, drawing a chariot and driven by one who had a look of dark splendor, majestic and beautiful and terrible. He caught her to him and held her close. The next moment she was being borne away from the radiance of earth in springtime to the world of the dead by the king who rules it.

Edith Hamilton, Hades and Persephone

 

 

“I know what you’re thinking, Joe, and you can stop it right now.”

Cathy said it mid-stride, walking to who-goddam-knew, marching like going to war.

Stomping down 2nd Avenue she refused to look at him, and maybe that was a good thing.  She might not notice his dying fish routine while he suffered from a complete inability to deny the thoughts running through his head.

That thing owns you, Cathy.

…isn’t good for you.

Your relationship is probably unnatural…

What kind of kid could you have with him?

I thought I could see him with you.

I can’t.

What have you become?

Despite all Joe’s good intentions, his days and nights of rationalizations, he couldn’t get past the look of the guy.

The cloak threw him.

“Someone gave it to me to keep me warm.”

That’s what she told him back when he picked her up from that lake in Stony Point, where that stalker took her.  Then today, in the dining room, in the flesh, massive, clawed, the guy wore the cape Cathy had wrapped up in after she almost drowned.   Joe noticed it then, but she had explained it away, as if people in New York wore cloaks all the time.

He’d been there.  Of course he had.

He’s the reason she’s alive and the freakshow that stuffed her in a trunk isn’t.

Until seeing him in Dr. Alcott’s house, the pieces of evidence—the crime photos, the ripped-open car, the man with his head nearly torn off—were circumstantial, separated.  Now the rage that did those things lived, breathed, and connected.  The cloak—the proof—became the clue in the crossword that allowed the others to fit—rescue, secrets, pregnancy, baby, sex, hiding, murder…

Vincent

He’d been with her the whole time.  Cathy had said it in the Park.  Joe had known it, but until that moment, in the dining room, Joe hadn’t truly believed it. Then later, upstairs, he, Vincent, towered over her in the chair, challenging Joe, his claws clutching her shoulder—did they ever hurt her, pierce her skin?

From the moment he walked into Dr. Alcott’s house, this guy, who looked like a ‘roided-up Cats reject and sounded like a bit player from Shakespeare in the Park, became realer by the second.  Not just probable, he was beyond a shadow of a doubt.

And Joe had seen what he was capable of.  He could never forget.

“Cathy, you’re not being fair, and you know it.”  He grabbed her, trying to stop the forward momentum of anger on both their parts.  “If I was confused—If I was making mistakes, even if they came from a good place…”

“How can you say that to me?” she said, her voice somewhere between hurt and dangerous.  “Vincent isn’t a mistake.”  She yanked her arm out of his grasp.  “My son is not a mistake!” She emphasized each word slow, as if talking to someone who was just that.

“Of course not, but—”

She didn’t wait for his explanation, but kept on marching.  Joe had to run to keep up with her, and that’s when she saw the limp.  Not prominent, only noticeable when he tried too hard, to run, to move too fast, to play any kind of sports.  She stopped, her gaze taking in the slight twist in his stride, the wince he forgot to hide.  She saw what most people couldn’t or, at least, didn’t want to.  The bomb that killed Patrick Hanolan, that had started this whole goddamn mess, had taken more than Joe wanted to admit.  But fighting the good fight wasn’t safe.  She knew that better than anyone.

Joe loved that she noticed, never doubted she would, and hoped to God she wouldn’t say a word.

He spoke before she could, not subtly changing the subject.  “Listen, there’s lots of people trying to piggyback up my butt trying to find you, ya know.  Your friend Jenny won’t take ‘No idea’ for an answer.  Ever since that article in the Sentinel, she’s sure I know where you are.   And Elliot Burch calls almost every day—”

Without warning, a cab, one of the grubby and boxy older ones, jumped out of mid-morning traffic, bumping up onto the curb right next to them.  Joe grabbed Cathy to pull her further into the crowded sidewalk to safety.  While they stared in petrified shock, the cabbie, a pot-bellied cliché of the New York taxi service at large, leaned over to roll down his passenger side window.  Joe recognized him as the one who dropped him in Central Park for his meeting with Cathy and her entourage.

“Hey, Missus!” the driver called in a jovial Brooklyn accent.  “I understand you could use a ride downtown.”

Cathy, unfrozen by the familiar voice, pulled away from Joe to walk to the window.  “Hi, Nick,” she yelled to be heard over the other traffic.  She pulled off her sunglasses to see inside the car. “Looks that way.”

“You know, I’ll take a lovely lady like you anywhere.  Sorry I’m late.  I must have missed you two the first time around.  You and your friend should hop in.”  He gestured towards the back of the cab.

Catherine opened the cab’s squeaking door and motioned for Joe to enter.  She was still closing it as they pulled away and started weaving into the morning traffic heading towards FDR Drive.

Joe and she sat silent as the driver swerved and the cab rocked.  Cathy periodically glanced out the window then turned back in, closing her eyes as if needing time to assimilate back into the city.  She was hiding out somewhere, inside, down deep, maybe.  She and her guy didn’t come through Dr. Alcott’s front door, that’s for sure.  Were they living in the basement?  She seemed like she stepped out of February not May, the blue-tinged circles under her eyes and pale skin emphasized by clothes that didn’t suit or fit her.  She was a mess.

And Joe knew who to blame.

“She must return within a few hours.”

Back at the house, after Cathy went upstairs, her husband, who had barely spoken two words up until that point, started giving orders.  It was … ridiculous to hear him speak, much less try to run the show.  Joe couldn’t get the image of a cat talking, a very intelligent and well-read cat, out of his head.

“Our friends will make certain she is safe coming back, but she must return as soon as possible.”

What the hell did this guy think Joe could do? Did he have any idea the position they were in?  Could he understand the thin ice they were skating on with the Feds?  One wrong move and both he and Cathy were going to be charged, at best, with felony obstruction and at worst … he didn’t want to think about it.

“I can’t promise they’ll be done with her in a few hours. This is the FBI—not well known for their consideration.”

“Regardless, she must return.” 

The guy’s ownership of her was uglier than his face.  He couldn’t keep her locked up!  How did he expect to keep a woman like Cathy happy?  Joe knew his own disgust was too obvious in his sarcastic tone, too apparent in the eyes that couldn’t believe this was the “person” Cathy chose to spend her life with.  And yet Joe had a distinct sense the disapproval went both ways.  This guy blamed him for what happened to her, and for every dangerous situation before that, but what did he know about it? What did he know about working for the taxpayers—spending a life fighting for people who could only complain, and now without his ally?  He and Cathy had worked their asses off against the endless tide of criminals New York offered up, barely making headway, only to find they’d been losing ground without knowing it.

The clean-up after Moreno was a nightmare.  While the President salivated over the prospect of bringing down the sitting D.A. of the liberal capital of the world, the vultures gathered and the wagons circled.  The word came that Thornburg was handling the case himself.  And if the Feds bungled it, which was possible with Levy as Moreno’s counsel, they had the state’s and city’s cases to worry about.  Cuomo wouldn’t discuss it for fear any mention could taint his presidential prospects, but Lundine and Abrams didn’t seem to have anything else to do but call Joe for updates twice daily.  They weren’t too happy about the Feds taking Moreno out from under the state’s jurisdiction, or for Joe trying to shepherd Cathy through the F.B.I. This guy, from wherever the hell he crawled out of, didn’t have any idea the pressure Joe was under.[i]

Joe accepted his part in Cathy’s kidnapping; there was nothing like that kind of regret, but Cathy hadn’t been in the habit of asking permission before doing something remarkably brave and dangerously stupid.  He didn’t get the chance to point it out though.  The guy kept talking, trying to explain, and to Joe’s embarrassment, the reason hadn’t even crossed his mind.

“She won’t take her child.  She is … afraid for him.  For her health, she must return to feed him in a few hours.” 

The smallest trickle of respect leaked through the dam of blame, for the guy’s attempt to clarify.  There was even a splash of pity mixed in for his hooking up with someone like Cathy.  Yet when he stood over her, claiming her with fur-covered meat-hooks for fingers, all Joe could remember was the wavy video, the roaring thing with an up-hand swing that could toss a guy across the room and dismember him at the same time.  All Joe could see were the words repeated on report after report: cervical fracture, laceration, avulsion, catastrophic brain injury, hemorrhage, organ failure.

The thing that took Cathy was a killer.

Joe thought he had put that behind him, but clearly it still lurked there.  To have seen that thing on the video, and then to see him talking with her, taking the baby from her arms—the images of the monster and the man were beyond contradictory, sending Joe’s mind and heart tilting too far in different directions.

And, of course, in that state of turmoil, she confronted him.

Recalled to Life[ii]? Really, Joe?”

He froze, confused for a moment.  What? The note?[iii]

“What do you mean?  I just—I’m literate, ok?” he blurted in protest, and at the same time, tried to bring back her affection, her smile. “I know you enjoy Dickens.”

“Yes … I know you do,” she murmured and shook her head to dismiss his effort.  Maybe she was still mad he’d tossed her apartment, trying to find her secrets.[iv]]  The blood rushed to his face, the same burning he always experienced before getting chewed out.  Somehow—as he seemed to do daily now—he’d stepped in it.

“Joe,” she held his name for a long beat, like she was disappointed for his lack of understanding. “I haven’t been dead, or locked away.  I’ve been pretty busy, actually.”  She tried to smile, but only with a half-hearted effort.  It died on her face too fast.

She twisted away to gaze out the grimy window at the East River.   For tense minutes she was silent, her hand over her mouth in a gesture that said she kept something in.  They were passing Bellevue when she finally gave up.

“I knew exactly what you meant, Joe,” she shot at him, but then slowed the torrent.  She closed her eyes.  “I know you were trying to be funny.  I know you didn’t mean to insult me, but…”  She took off the glasses and pressed her eyes.  “I’m not some recluse, driven mad by my captivity in the Bastille.”  Then she added as if spitting it out, “I’m not crazy!”

“Hey, calm down Aretha Franklin, I didn’t mean any disrespect, and I never said you were crazy!” He shouted too loud, getting the cabbie’s attention and scowl via the rear-view mirror.

You did say that, stupid.  But the blunder pointed out only made him angrier.  A part of him knew when he was writing the words they were wrong, an error made in a moment of resentment.

Joe could hear his mother’s voice from his old bedroom of their tiny 1960’s apartment. 

“Douglas Dee Maxwell!”  His father—the devil while living, the saint right after death—the full name was an accusation in itself. “You always yell the loudest when you’re the most wrong!”

Was it that?  Like father, like son?  Maybe … but, no, not this time.  Cathy needed to understand.

“Cathy, I am on your side.” He stressed every word. “But you have to admit,” he said in an under-breath hiss so the cabby couldn’t listen in, angrier sounding than a yell “from the outside this looks really nuts.”

She turned her body to him, the skirt she wore barely keeping up.  “Joe, I don’t care what it looks like.”

“You better care, Radcliffe.” He continued to seethe through clenched teeth, “because if we screw this up, everyone is going to care what it looks like!”

She knew what It was, without explanation.  She had no answer for that, and, God forgive him, he pressed his advantage.

“Do you ever think about them?”  He asked.  “Don’t you feel anything for the people’s he’s killed?”  The accusation slipped out of his mouth before he realized he’d thought it, but once hanging in the air between them, he realized it was always there, the question he didn’t know how to ask before he did.

Ready for this fight, she didn’t hesitate. “You know who they were.  You know what they did.  Most of them were trying to kill me.”  Her voice lowered to a dangerous register.  “What do you think?”

You don’t know what to think.  Do you?

A breath, a break, a new argument.

“Look,” he countered, trying to apologize, “you’re right.  They were scum.  You’re a good person, and he was protecting you.  You want to help people, Cathy, I know that.   That’s what’s amazing about you.   You want to protect him, but keeping what he’s done quiet…” He couldn’t come up with an analogy that meant completely impossible before she cut him off.

“No Joe, it isn’t like that.”  She shook her head in a curt negative and went silent.

They were pulling up to the Federal Plaza before she spoke again.

“I’m sorry, Joe.  I really didn’t mean to drag you into this,” she said, her flat tone a declaration of defeat he’d never heard from her.   He may have been wrong about the note, but she was lying about not being beaten down.  She wouldn’t even look at him.

“I put you in a terrible position; I see that now.  I just didn’t know who else to trust.”

With my life, she might say. 

She trusted you with her life, with her baby’s life…

…with his life.

She considered the stark box of a building they intended to enter before she went on.  “You need to understand, I love Vincent, and it isn’t noble,” and added under her breath, “even if he is.”

She continued louder, surer.  “Killing those people almost broke him … the lives he was forced to take—I told you last year that he was ill.  He nearly died from it.”

She faced forward and rested against the front seat as the cabbie put his hand back.  She squeezed it, the only payment he seemed to need.

“Vincent and I are connected—he knows me, and I know him,” she said, then turned from the cabbie and stared into Joe so he couldn’t misunderstand.  “Whatever happens to him happens to me.  I love him, and if you can’t accept that, if you doubt his humanity, I need you to take this cab and forget you know me.”

She trembled as she worked the creaking handle, the shaking getting in the way of her opening the door, but finally she got out.  Joe just sat inside the cab unable to follow.

Who the hell is this woman? 

The same one you vouched for as soon as she walked into the D.A’s office.

The same one that held the line and raised the bar.  

From day one you recognized the drive in her, the same one you had.  But you were burning out, and at least she slowed the process.

She’s Cathy Chandler, the woman who brought conviction rates up nearly twenty percent and even more, she made the work seem worth it.

The same one who’s in love with a monster.

She never gave up on you.

She’ll never give up on him.

What you love about her is going to get her locked up, maybe killed.

My friend…

“Joe,” Catherine called from where she stood in the plaza.  She put up a hand to block his exit so he would have to choose.   He had to declare where his loyalties lay.  “Jacob and Vincent are my life.  I will protect my son and I will protect my husband.  I have to.  I’m not saving Vincent from the world…”

She shook her head at Joe’s assumptions.

“…I’m saving myself.”

Her last words unglued him in more ways than one.  Joe’s feet hit the pavement with a decided crack.

“Well then, we’ve got some very creative covering up to do,“ he said as he tossed the door closed and strode past her.   He looked behind him, and it was finally her turn to imitate a dying fish.

Joe presented his arm so he could escort her into the building. She laced her hand through and held on with an uncertain grasp.  He patted it as they walked towards the glass doors.

“I guess it’s time to save you from yourself.”

 

—————

 

[i] Richard Thornburg, U.S. Attorney General from 1988-1991,Mario Cuomo, Govenor of New York from 1983-1994, Stan Lundine, Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1987-1994, Robert Abrams, Attorney General of New York from 1979-1993

[ii] A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, and the line from Joe’s note to Catherine in Chapter 1

[iii] Home: Chapter 1

[iv] Union: Chapter 22

 

 

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