Chapter 4

After Catherine's visit, Vincent's life entered a period worse than the cage: restraints. Shortly after Catherine had visited the lab, Gould had given him another shot of sedative that left him limp and unable even to protest. Gould put a harness around his torso and straps connected it to the bars of the cage, leaving him unable to move further than a foot away from his present position. Then, Gould put a wide belt around his waist, and straps and buckles confined his arms, leaving him unable to raise his hands.

"Sir, is that necessary?" Hughes asked, surprised.

"Completely necessary," Gould told him, fixing an IV to Vincent's arm. "I don't know why we didn't do this before. Now, if we need to take a sample of any kind from him we won't have to chase him around the cage, and it makes him unable to attack either of us."

"What's the IV for?"

"That is so we can keep him hydrated and nourished, and it keeps a steady supply of sedative in his system. He's going to be as quiet as a sleeping baby until we can unveil him."

Vincent just lay where he had been shifted, horrified. How was he going to get away if he were sedated all the time?

"Now," Gould said, rising to his feet. "Let's do some more work, shall we? I have a feeling that that Catherine person is going to come back and make trouble, and I would like to have some more findings to present before she does."

What followed next was at one remove from Vincent's awareness. He knew he was hooked up to more equipment, he felt them take another blood sample, and a few things happened that he wasn't sure of. He wasn't feeling at all like himself, and he was certain that if they began to ask him questions, he might just answer them.

"Well, it looks like our preliminary tests were wrong," he heard Gould saying. "It turns out that his physiology has more in common with an animal than a human being. How is that, though? We've heard him speak intelligently."

"Well, animals do have intelligence," Hughes said.

"Yes, but not comparable to that of humans. Let's measure his synaptic responses with pictures and sounds. Let's see how he responds to human and animal stimuli."

Vincent understood very little of that, but he knew that it did not mean anything good for him. Sticky patches attatched to wires running out of a computer were placed all over his head and scalp, irritating his skin and pulling his hair. He heard various sounds: human voices, singing, talking, shouting, screaming, laughing, and crying; tapes of people speaking in other languages; animal sounds, roars and growls and whistles and calls; and music, mechanical sounds, various other noises he couldn't identify, and weeping. He was fairly certain that the weeping had been him. Then, his head was strapped to the side of the cage so he could not move it or look anywhere but straight ahead, and he saw dozens of images flashed onto a screen in front of him. There were people, animals, plants, pictures of the city, pictures of various forests, and countless pictures of various objects. Then the worst happened: there were pictures of people being mauled by animals, and animals being killed by people. He felt physically ill. What did they think would happen when he saw those? Why were they even showing him them in the first place? He wanted nothing more than to go home and forget all of this and never have to have anything to do with any of this ever again!

He fell asleep at one point, and he woke when Gould banged something down on the table.

"I hardly see how his reaction to books has anything to do with this, Hughes!" the man snapped.

"It shows that he's seen them before and has an interest in them," Hughes countered. "That means he's intelligent, and he has a personality. A human personality, as I said before. That means we can't keep him in a cage like an animal!"

"Perhaps you don't remember how he grabbed my throat?" Gould asked. "He'd maul us if we let him out!"

"He can speak, Dr. Gould!" Hughes said, pounding his hand on the table for emphasis. "He has reason, and I think we should actually try treating him as a man instead of an animal!"

"Look at him!" Gould shouted. "Can you call that a man?"

Hughes was silent, at a loss to explain Vincent's unique visage.

"That is always the crux of the problem, doctor," Vincent rasped, fighting against the sedative. "I have always looked like this, so I have always had to hide from the rest of humanity. I am a man, and you have put me in a cage. You think me an animal because I resemble one, and there have been times I have had to behave like one to protect myself and those I love, but I am not someone you can keep locked up. What can I do or say to prove it to you? Quote Shakespeare? Draw a copy of the Mona Lisa or one of Raphael's Madonna? Recite something from Rilke or Frost? Have you listen to my heart? Show you I bleed? What?"

Both men stared at him.

"I am dying in this cage, and I am starting to think that death would be prefereable to this continued imprisonment," Vincent continued, fighting against the dryness in his throat. "Please. Let me go."

Gould stared at him, and then Vincent saw his eyes harden. "Hughes, watch him. I'm going to get the department heads. We've waited too long to show them this." He left, glaring at Vincent, letting his captive know that there was no hope for him.

Hughes unstrapped Vincent's head, muttering to himself. Then, he looked carefully at Vincent's eyes. "Are you all right?"

"If the department heads see me..." Vincent began, but Hughes interrupted him.

"They're not going to," Hughes told him. "Don't worry."

"What do you mean?"

Hughes allowed a ghost of a smile to cross his face. "They're going to find an empty lab. Don't worry, like I said."

Vincent allowed himself to sink back into quasi-oblivion then. He couldn't think or fight or reason anymore, and he found himself no longer caring. It didn't seem as if Hughes was going to let him go, and that made him more depressed than anything else. He saw blackness at one point, and he wondered if that was a representation of his inner despair manifesting itself or if the world had really turned black around him. It would be a fitting tribute to his unveiling to the department heads.

"Vincent?" he heard Hughes say an eternity later. "Vincent? I've stopped the IV and the sedative, and you should be waking up by now. Can you let me know that you're all right?"

Vincent felt his eyes blink in response, but he couldn't do more than that.

"Come on, try to move a little. It'll get easier as you go along."

Vincent tried as he asked, and despite feeling like a wet bag of cement, he did find it growing easier to move. Slowly, he was able to sit up and look around, puzzled by all the changes. "What happened to the room? Where did all of the equipment go and all these boxes come from?"

"We're in a very little-used storeroom in the basement. I covered the cage and wheeled you down here. How are you feeling?"

Vincent looked at him. "Horrendous. Thirsty, too."

"That would be from the sedative," Hughes told him, handing him a bottle of water. "You'll feel better soon."

"I hope so," Vincent remarked, not wishing to waste his breath with how he would feel so much better if he could go home. He knew he couldn't really count on Hughes to let him go. He sipped at the water, telling himself that now would not be the time to make himself sick from drinking too much too fast.

"I'll be back," Hughes said, standing up.

"What if someone comes?" Vincent demanded.

"No one will. People only come down here about every three years or so for the stuff in those boxes. Don't worry."

As Dr. Hughes left, Vincent reflected on how easy it was for him to say that. After all, he wasn't trapped in a cage!

Space

Catherine was fighting off a major headache. She'd been worried ever since going away from that lab, and since then, she hadn't thought of a way she could get in and look around. She knew those two men knew something about Vincent, but how could she find out what that was and where Vincent was now?

She'd taken off from work for the next week, claiming that she had an awful case of the flu. Fortunately, Joe had believed her and wished her well, saying that he would see her when she got back to work. Now, she had hours and hours in which to find Vincent, but her search had reached a dead end! All she could do now was wait in her apartment until dark and see if she could find some way to break into the lab. She might be arrested, but it would be worth it! The thought of Vincent in the clutches of scientists...

The phone rang, startling her out of her recollections and sending her headache into overdrive. Wincing, she picked up the receiver and cursed the makers of the telephone for creating such a shrill signal. "Hello?"

"Ms. Chandler? This is Professor Hughes."

"Professor Hughes? Oh, good!" Catherine fought to keep her tone professional when she longed to scream into the phone instead. Screaming "Where is he? What have you monsters done with him?" would not help her cause at all. "Have you remembered anything that could help the slasher case?"

"I know you didn't come here about the slasher case," Hughes said abruptly. "Listen carefully. I would like you to come to the back of the side of the anthropology building at eleven-thirty tonight. I'll take you to him."

Catherine's voice died, but she didn't need to say anything anyway. Hughes had hung up, and she was left with the receiver dangling in her hand. I'll take you to him. Hughes had to be talking about Vincent!

Feeling unable to sit still, Catherine went to her balcony, the place where she and Vincent spent so much time together in the open air. As she watched the sun set, she heard her voice. "Vincent, be safe." Those words reminded her how time was passing, so she went back inside to get ready to go.