by Margaret Davis

The television anchorman continued his synopsis of the days events in spite of the disinterested audience. Twenty men sat in front of the TV, some in bathrobes, others in casual clothes and one in a business suit. To the casual observer they were a group assembled to watch the news program. Under close observation, however, the blank stares, the ritual of repeated gestures and the hospital bracelets told another story, a story of mental illness. The barred windows, locked doors and restraints close at hand, warned of violence. These patients were a risk to themselves and others.

Ward 7 of the Mayfield Institute was reserved for patients whose mental illness made them non-functional. The severity of their symptoms was beyond the control of conventional dosages of drugs. The high doses they required caused some extreme side effects and sometimes produced a zombie-type behavior. The patient/staff ratio was three to one, an indication that the deceptively docile atmosphere of this evening was not the norm.

Steven Bass stared out the window wondering when they would come for him. Bernie had found him, had asked him questions about Cathy and that inhuman thing that put him in this wheelchair and in this place. Cathy had used all her legal skills to have him imprisoned here with all these loonies, she must have. Now that he had been able to talk with someone and tell the truth, it would only be a short time until he was released.

Suddenly Steven heard her voice. Was she here? Turning, he realized she was being interviewed on the news.

"Miss Chandler, is the District Attorney throwing the book at Andrew Warner because he used to work in your office?" The tone of the question indicated what the reporter believed.

"The District Attorney has found probable cause to charge Mr. Warner with murder. We are here to see that justice is served. That's all I can say at this time. Thank you."

"Miss Chandler, what about the violent manner in which the victim died?"

"There is seldom any justification for violence against helpless victims. The District Attorney is proceeding with the case in the standard manner."

"Liar, liar!" Steven's rage boiled over into action. Rolling himself forward, he pushed at the TV and knocked it over before the nurse could get to him.

It took three of them to wrestle him into restraints and get him into solitary confinement. Each wondered what they would have needed, if Steven Bass had use of his legs. It was not a pleasant thought.

* * * * *

Assistant District Attorney Joe Maxwell arrived in the office on this Friday morning in a state of sartorial elegance, that caused a number of whistles as he walked through the office.

"Hey, can't a guy get a new suit now and then?" Joe tried to keep a frown on his face, but a grin broke through as he opened his office door.

In his breast pocket were two tickets to "The Phantom of the Opera," a major investment. When your favorite lady doctor had a Friday night free and loved both music and Italian food, serious planning was in order. They would have dinner at his favorite restaurant in Astoria. Then to the theater, and afterwards... well, better not plan too far ahead. At least she had promised to leave her beeper at home.

* * * * *

The tall man was slightly breathless as he hurried through the door to the District Attorney's offices. A telephone call had assured him that Miss Chandler had not left the office. Now if he could just get the District Attorney to see him, maybe they could interrupt the chain of events that had unfolded over the last two days.

"Yes sir, may I help you?" the young receptionist queried.

"I need to see the District Attorney immediately. It is a matter of utmost urgency."

"He's out of the office until Monday. Could someone else help you?"

"Who is Miss Chandler's supervisor?"


Looks like Cathy is in big trouble, again, thought Marilou as she escorted the man to Joe Maxwell's office.

"Mr. Maxwell, this gentleman asked to see District Attorney Moreno. Since he's gone, he wants to talk to Miss Chandler's supervisor," she announced.

Joe looked up from the deposition list for next week, as the lanky, blonde man entered his office. What had Cathy done or not done to cause such a anguished expression? Well, he'd find out soon enough.

The man introduced himself as Dr. Mark Richards of the Mayfield Institute. He closed the door before sitting on the couch in front of Joe's desk.

"Dr. Richards, how can I help you?"

"Is Miss Chandler still in the office?

"Suppose you tell me what's the problem."

"Please, don't let her leave! It's vital for her safety!"

The doctor's concern for Cathy was contagious. Joe decided he should go check on her. He excused himself and closed the door before going around the corner to her office.

An elderly woman sat in a chair by Cathy's desk. Joe paused near them and waited until Cathy looked up.

"Excuse me, could I interrupt you for a minute, Cathy?"

"Mrs. Arnold, I'll be right back." As Catherine stepped away from the desk, she whispered, "What is it? She was just getting settled down enough to answer questions."

"Radcliffe, do you know a Dr. Mark Richards from the Mayfield Institute? He's in my office and says you're in some kind of danger."

A chill ran down Cathy's spine at the name. Steven Bass was at Mayfield. Bernie Spirko had questioned him there when he was after Vincent. Could Steven have convinced the doctor that Vincent was real and not his imaginary creation?

Joe watched the color drain out of Cathy's face, in a remarkable example of the descriptive term. He took her arm and steered her into the empty conference room next door. Her knees seemed to give way as he guided her to a chair.

"Stay right here, I'll be right back," he said.

Joe ushered the elderly woman out of the office. "Miss Chandler has been called away on an emergency. We'll be in touch next week."

Joe sat on the corner of the desk and looked at Cathy. She had composed herself somewhat, and now looked at him steadily. "You want to tell me what's going on, Radcliffe?"

"Joe, I... I don't know this doctor. What does he want with me?"

"I don't know. He asked to talk to me, but I think we should both hear what he has to say. Okay?"

Cathy nodded and they walked to Joe's office to hear the doctor's story.

* * * * *

Vincent firmly grasped his end of the bundle of two-by-fours. Cullen had the other end. Mouse waited for them to put the lumber on the tunnel floor. They were closing off a tunnel entrance. One of the lookouts had seen a man loitering in the vacant building that had a concealed entrance in the basement. They changed entrance/exits on a regular basis to avoid detection, but the sighting had made it imperative to change this entrance now.

As he stood resting for a minute, Vincent felt Catherine's uneasiness. He concentrated his thoughts on their bond, but she was still in the office. He would have to wait until she went home to find out what had distressed her.

* * * * *

Dr. Richards rose to his feet as Joe and Cathy entered the office. Joe introduced Cathy and pulled a chair close for her. Dr. Richards was clearly uncomfortable with Cathy present, he did not want to frighten her. Joe assured him that whatever he had to say, should be said to both of them.

When the doctor still hesitated, Cathy spoke up. "Dr. Richards, does this have anything to do with Steven Bass?"

By correctly guessing the reason for his visit, Cathy seemed to put the doctor at ease, and he began to tell them the story.

"Stephen Bass has had a history of violent behavior in the time he had been in Mayfield. He is confined to a wheelchair from the accident that had preceded his commitment. His diagnosis is paranoid schizophrenia. He claims to have been the victim of a huge, non-human creature. Evidence gathered at the scene where he was injured suggested he had run through a plate glass window.

"Over the years we have tried a number of drugs and other therapy to alleviate his schizophrenic symptoms. We’ve found that once results are seen and the patient can express themselves clearly, they find the side effects so debilitating that they refuse the medication. Mr. Bass has been treated in recent months with another less effective medication because he was better able to tolerate it," he shrugged his shoulders in an attempt to help prepare them for the rest of the story.

"Mr. Bass continued to hear voices and to make accusations of being attacked by a creature. Much of his hostility was directed toward you, Miss Chandler. In his mind you are the reason for his paralysis; he claims you caused the creature to attack him. He has even given the illusionary creature a name, Vincent." He paused a moment, taking a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe the beads of sweat from his forehead before continuing.


His delusion was so severe that he imagined a relationship between you and the creature. He blames you for his commitment to Mayfield, and no amount of explanation of the judge's order could convince him otherwise."


A few months ago, Mr. Bass suffered a particularly violent episode after seeing you on the evening news, Miss Chandler. We changed his medication, again, and the new drug seemed to be very effective. As he improved, Mr. Bass began to participate in group as well as individual therapy, and seemed to be making progress. He asked for writing materials, started a journal and expressed interest in learning to use the word processor. He told his therapist, Barbara Williams, he might write a book. Barbara was my predecessor at Mayfield. I was hired after she died."

"Died?" Joe repeated. "What happened? Does this have anything to do with Cathy?"

"She was found dead six weeks ago. She had been strangled in the parking lot beside her car. The police questioned all her patients, but didn't learn much. Steven Bass, was the most violent of her patients, but he was eliminated as a suspect because there had been no wheelchair tire marks at the crime scene."

Joe looked at Cathy as Dr. Richard paused. She sat rigidly still with her tightly clasped hands indicating the effect of the recitation on her nerves. He reached out and put his arm around her shoulders.

As the late afternoon shadows stretched across the floor of Joe's office, the doctor continued his narrative. "They trained Mr. Bass on the PC and he spent hours working on his book. Barbara's notes say he was insistent that no one read it until he had finished it. She was so pleased with his progress, that she had acceded to this demand.

"As he improved, Steven moved to the medium security ward. He continued to show progress, to work on his writing and had started making friends with other patients. Barbara's record showed her plan for his eventual move to minimum security ward. She thought with continued improvement there was even a possibility of allowing him a weekend pass." He watched as Joe Maxwell squirmed in his chair clearly uncomfortable with the lengthy background explanation, but he was determined they hear the whole story and continued his narrative.

"Mayfield computerized staff notations to patient files last year. Drug dosages, doctor's orders, therapist notes and treatment plans are all a part of the automated file. When you can call up a patient's record and have the latest information instantly, it streamlines the day-to-day operation.

"For some reason Barbara kept some of her notes on patients in longhand at home. They were discovered two days ago by her sister who was here to clean out her house. They gave them to me, but I hadn't read them until this morning. I read her notes on Steven Bass… after he disappeared early today"

"Disappeared?" Joe looked at Cathy with concern. "Do you think he'll try to get to Cathy?"

He knew his reply was too sharp, but he hated to be interrupted when there was so much potential for harm. "Yes, I do. Let me tell you the rest. When I took over Barbara's case load, I read the printout of each patient's history. Steven Bass' record told about the severe delusions he had suffered, and detailed the progress over the last few months. I had some complaints from some of the patients who thought he monopolized the computer. I was so glad to see Mr. Bass' continued interest in something outside himself that I brushed off the complaints.

"When I read Barbara's notes on Steven I was dumbfounded. The notes didn't match the printout I read about Steven. The computer record indicated continued progress, the handwritten ones said the initial progress had been promising but brief. His obsessive behavior regarding his writing was troubling to her. In her last notes she wrote of her suspicion that Steven had learned how to access his own file. When she tried to make a correction to a previous entry, she had found it different from her original. After careful research, she had found evidence of tampering with not only her notes, but those of other staff members who routinely entered their observations to patient files." His concern seemed to be matched by the two sitting across from him whose faces reflected a mixture of fascination and fear.

"He’d made subtle changes to his own file that made his behavior appear to be nearly normal. Her concerns that he was concocting some elaborate scheme to win his release, and the fear she felt when talking to him about his book had been deleted. She wrote that when she suggested he allow her to read his material, for a moment there was a look of incoherent rage in his eyes. The other thing missing was her theory that his injuries were not the cause of his paralysis."

Catherine's thoughts carried her back to that night of terror. Steven had been violently angry at her rejection of the home and furnishings he had purchased. He spent millions of dollars to replicate the dream house of her youth. Only Vincent's timely intervention had prevented her death, and she had stopped him before the final blow had been struck. I wonder if I will regret that impulse, she thought, then focused on Dr. Richards' next words.

"My treatment of Steven Bass was based on the altered record. I hadn't worked with him long enough to recognize his deviousness, his fury at being confined and his violent hatred of Miss Chandler and the creature.

"Steven Bass was moved to the open ward at Mayfield two days ago. We discovered he was missing around seven o'clock this morning. We feel his primary objective is to get to you, Miss Chandler. We are also concerned he will harm himself or others, in his search for this illusionary creature he calls Vincent."

Catherine felt a jolt of terror at the thought of Steven coming anywhere near her or Vincent. After she broke their engagement, Steven had disappeared from her life for five years, resurfacing eighteen months ago. He said he wanted to be near her after his diagnosis of a brain tumor. Since his parents had been killed, Catherine had been the only person he could turn to, for comfort in the short time he had left to live. She couldn’t bear the thought of him enduring the end of a too short life alone and had been sucked into his delusional plans by her compassion.

She thought she’d never have to worry about Steven again. He had been committed to Mayfield Institute on a permanent basis, and she had known he hadn't long to live.

"Dr. Richards, is this irrational behavior a result of Steven's brain tumor?" Catherine searched for a way to make some reasonable sense out of what he’d said over the past few minutes.

"What brain tumor?" he asked, puzzled.

"Steven told me he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had six months to live. That was eighteen months ago."

"Miss Chandler, Steven never had a brain tumor. He must have been playing on your sympathy. As a paranoid schizophrenic, he sees you as the primary reason for his failures in life, his continued hospitalization and the cause of his supposed paralysis. That is, of course, not counting his invisible creature. And they can be so convincing because they believe what they tell you is the truth."

"Just what do you mean by supposed paralysis?" Joe's concern for Cathy gave his voice a sharp edge.

"Steven Bass walked away from Mayfield. We found his wheelchair hidden in some bushes."

"Couldn't there be some other explanation? Maybe someone picked him up and they left the chair on purpose?" Cathy asked.

"Miss Chandler, we now believe he is the one who strangled the therapist. Her last sentence in her handwritten notes indicated she saw him standing by his chair when he thought he was unobserved. We believe she confronted him and he killed her. We have talked with the Boston Police about the death of his parents. We have reason to believe he may have killed them deliberately and used his drinking to cover his true motive."

Catherine shuddered at the thought, she had always liked Steven's parents. Surely even someone as sick as Steven would not deliberately kill his parents. Even as she thought it, she remembered some of the cases she had seen in her time with the D.A.'s office. Some of the most hideous crimes had been committed by the victims' family members.

* * * * *

Vincent was uneasy. Since mid- afternoon he had felt Catherine's apprehension which had occasionally changed to fear. He could not feel anything specific and suspected she was doing her best to mask her feelings. She had learned to conceal her feelings from him when Paracelsus kidnapped her and had refused to let her terror draw him into danger. He paced the tunnels near her office, waiting to sense when she left the office and moved toward home or toward him.

* * * * *

While Cathy and Dr. Richards talked about Steven Bass, Joe went to an empty office to call his date. He told her he would sent the tickets to her by messenger and she would have to take them and go with a friend.

"Marta, you know I wouldn't cancel unless it was an emergency," he said and counted it a blessing that she understood. "No, it looks like it could go a day or two. I'll call you when it's over." He listened a moment, then said, "I will. See you soon."

He had no intention of leaving Cathy alone until Steven Bass was locked up. She had talked him out of staying with her when that nut case was watching her, but not this time. Not even if he had to handcuff her to him. He smiled at the picture the thought brought to mind, Chandler in chains? No I don't think so.

Joe also called the thirty-third Precinct and asked for Greg Hughes. Greg, Joe Maxwell. Listen we've got a problem here... "

* * * * *

When Joe returned to his office, Dr. Richards stood to leave.

"Miss Chandler, Steven Bass was identified by an employee at his bank, according to the Police. She remembered him because of the large withdrawal he made, over forty-five thousand in cash. We believe he is still in the city, you must take every precaution! In his delusional state he likely feels if he can eliminate you then his problems will be over and everything will be back the way he wants it to be."

"She won't be alone a minute," Joe stated emphatically.

Catherine felt a desperate need to get to Vincent, to warn him. Even though Steven Bass knew nothing of Below, he had seen Vincent. Could Bernie Spirko have said anything to Steven when he interviewed him that might have given Steven ideas? The risk was too great, she must warn Vincent!

After the doctor left, Joe told Cathy of his plan to take her to his apartment. She would be safe there, and he would be with her every step of the way. He refused to listen to her protests, and was glad when she finally gave in and agreed to go to his apartment for a while. He agreed to stop by her apartment first while she picked up some clothes, but only after Greg had checked out her building..

Catherine excused herself to go to the ladies room. On the way she grabbed a pad and pencil and wrote two notes and labeled them. She sealed them in an envelope and gave it to one of the secretaries, who promised to deliver her order to the deli around the corner on her way home. One note Catherine sent asked the helper at the deli to deliver the second note to Vincent as quickly as possible.

* * * * *

Vincent continued to keep vigil close to Catherine's office. Suddenly he heard his name on the pipes and a message from Father to return at once. Torn between the two people he loved most, he hesitated. He sensed that Catherine was all right for the moment and hurried back to Father's chamber.

"What is it, Father?" Vincent moved quickly down the stairs into the cluttered chamber.

"Catherine sent you a message marked 'Urgent'," he said as he handed Vincent the note.


    "Steven Bass has escaped. He is able to walk.

    The doctors think he will come after you and

    me. He is extremely dangerous and has vowed

    revenge on us. I will be with Joe until the

    police have checked my apartment. I will

    come Below as soon as I can. Do not come

    Above for any reason! Be safe, Catherine."


    Vincent handed Father the note. As he read it, Vincent paced back and forth.

    "Catherine must come Below. I can protect her here. She must not be where that... madman can get at her." His agitation made his tone harsh tone.

    "Vincent, Catherine will be safe with Joe, he... "

    "No! You don't understand. He nearly killed her, before. I was almost too late."

    "Vincent, you cannot be with her now. You would be in great danger. If they caught you Above..."

    "Perhaps we can trust Joe with our secret. He is a good man. We can send a note with Kipper. They can both come Below." In his desperation, Vincent was willing to reveal himself to Catherine's boss in order to protect her.

    "You cannot!" Father's voice rose above his customary tone, with this challenge to his authority.

    "How can I leave her with only him to protect her? I know Steven's strength. Must I sit in safety and feel her taken from me?" The thought was such agony that Vincent snarled the last words and stalked from Father's chamber. Blindly he began to run, pursued by the possibilities.

    * * * * *

    Catherine sat in Joe's apartment and munched Chinese take-out. She wasn't hungry but ate to appease Joe. He insisted she would feel better if she ate. She knew she would only feel better when Steven Bass was behind bars and Vincent was beside her.

    They both jumped when the phone began to ring. Each tried to look nonchalant as Joe picked up the receiver.

    "Yeah? What? You sure the area's clear? Okay, we'll be there in half an hour."

    "Greg Hughes is at your place. They checked the area and your building. No sign of Bass. They'll meet us there so you can get your stuff."

    * * * * *

    Vincent paced in the tunnel below Catherine's building, five strides forward then back. Catherine was moving toward her apartment and he wanted to be near. If necessary he could sacrifice himself to protect her. He could not stay Below if she needed him.

    * * * * *

    Greg and his partner lead the way from the elevator with Catherine and Joe right behind them. Greg took her key and unlocked the door then reached inside for the light switch. Suddenly he motioned them back and drew his gun.

    Joe drew Cathy behind him and watched as Greg went through the door at a crouch, his partner on his heels. He could hear them moving, it sounded like there was water on the carpet.

    Catherine's nose twitched, something smelled foul and it was coming from the open door. Just when she thought she could not stand the suspense another moment, the lights blazed on in her apartment and she heard Greg say no one was inside.

    As Catherine walked through the door, she came to an abrupt halt. Spray painted obscenities snaked across the walls. The fabric of her furniture hung in ribbons. Slowly she advanced into the room. Joe was behind her, cursing softly. The carpet underfoot was squishy, covered with an odoriferous soup of oil, syrup and other unidentifiable liquids.

    The bedroom was an equally appalling disaster. All of her clothes hacked to pieces, the linens on her bed torn and covered with excrement. Across one wall was a chilling message:


    No one will ever love you like I love you. I will be back for you Cathy.

    The nausea rose in her throat and Catherine fled to the balcony. Gulping deep breaths she fought the heaving of her stomach. She was filled with horror and disgust at the senseless destruction. She felt dirty and violated just knowing that Steven had been in her apartment touching her possessions.

    Cathy, I'm so sorry. You shouldn't have to see this." Joe's spoke to her gently from the door to avoid startling her. "Are you okay?" he asked, putting his arm around her shoulders.

    "I'm grateful I was gone, or it might be me spread all over the walls," she answered, shuddering at the thought. As she looked around the balcony she saw more destruction, all the plants ripped from their pots by a madman and dirt scattered everywhere.

    Unnoticed by Catherine and Joe, a pair of sapphire eyes watched from the roof. Vincent had been drawn by Catherine's emotional turmoil.

    * * * * *

    Catherine ran through the park toward the drainage tunnel entrance, as if pursued by invisible denizens of the dark. Glancing around to be sure she was not observed, she flew down the tunnel and into Vincent's embrace.

    "Hold me tight," she whispered as she buried her face in his mane, inhaling the scent that was uniquely his.

    "'re safe and you're here." Vincent had suffered agonies of separation the last three days while Catherine stayed Above. He’d felt helpless, unable to speak to Catherine, to comfort and protect her.

    As they walked hand in hand down the passage, she shared the details of their separation.. She had stayed with Joe over the weekend at his insistence. It had felt as like being shackled to a guard dog. He would barely let her out of his sight, even when she showered and dressed for work this morning.

    "At the office today I was jumpy and had trouble concentrating. Every time a door opened or closed, I’d look up expecting to see Steven advancing on me."

    "Late this afternoon Greg Hughes came to the office to meet with Joe, Dr. Richards and me to bring us up to date on the investigation. Steven's trail led from my apartment to JFK International Airport to Frankfurt, West Germany. Airline personnel remembered the charming, tall, slender man who’d purchased a first class ticket an hour before flight time with cash.

    "We’d already learned that he’d made a withdrawal of $45,000.00 the day he left Boston. Greg Hughes suspects there are other banks, but for now we know he’s out of the country with a lot of cash."

    "Do you feel safe now?" He pulled away from her far enough to look at her face.

    "I always feel safe when I'm with you," she replied, "but I won't feel truly at ease until he is found and locked up."

    "What will you do now? "

    "Joe thinks I ought to move, but I refuse to let Steven drive me away. And besides my apartment holds good memories as well as bad. Joe has given me the week off while my apartment is being cleaned and re-done. He thinks I'm at Jenny's.

    "Catherine...will you stay...with us, Below?"

    "For a few days, if you wish." She had packed a couple of changes of clothes and her cosmetic bag in the bottom of the backpack slung over her shoulder in anticipation of such an invitation.

    He gazed into her eyes a moment before pulling her back against him. "I wish it with all my heart," he whispered.