Joe's Tale
By Thomas Mc

Note: The first chapter of this story was inspired by and uses some elements from 'If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem' by Toni Lichtenstein Bogolub. It is not however related to her story line.

The New Girl

Catherine grumbled as she pulled open one of the filing cabinet drawers. Right at this moment, she would have gladly throttled Geonelly with her bare hands just to save the state the expense of a trial and herself the hassle of all this paperwork. The Geonelly case had turned into a real can of worms and Joe had half the office working on it. When Gabriel's organization had collapsed after he died, it had left a huge power vacuum in the underworld and Geonelly had stepped in. Where Gabriel had been icily Machiavellian, Geonelly was course and brutal. Now after two years they were finally about to bring him down. Catherine had become involved when ties were found between the Geonelly gang and the attempted dock workers union takeover of four years ago.

Catherine heard a female voice asking directions to Joe's office. She turned from the drawer she had been digging through and looked up to see a young woman being directed by one of the other workers. Was it a witness or Joe's latest girlfriend. She knew that Joe and Diana had never really gotten serious about each other. Sometimes she wondered which of those two changed companions the most often. At present it seemed to be a toss up.

The young woman was very tall with long strawberry blond hair, slender, very pretty and appeared to be somewhere in her early to mid twenties. She wore a western style shirt, a knee length denim skirt, and gray cowboy cut boots. She looked like she had just wandered off of a western movie set. Her hazel eyes were dancing with barely contained merriment. Catherine also noticed a scar on the back of the woman's left arm that reminded her of a road rash she had once seen on a friend that had been in a motorcycle accident.

Catherine watched as the woman approached the closed door to Joe's office, knocked, and giggled as she waited for a response. Catherine smiled to herself. She must be a witness, because she certainly was nothing at all like Joe's usual type.

She heard Joe's voice from inside call, "Come in!".

Catherine edged herself over to get a better view of the inside of Joe's office. Joe was seated at his desk, his left elbow resting on a desk that was covered with a blizzard of paper and books. His head was propped against his left hand and his other hand was busily scribbling away on a yellow legal pad. His coat was draped across the back of his chair. His collar open, his tie loose and hanging slightly off center. In other words he looked just the same as always when deep into a case. Joe looked up to see who it was.

The woman greeted him. "Hi, Joe!" There was a great deal of joy in her voice.

"Sammy?" Joe was on his feet, moving toward her. "What are you doing here?"

Catherine, could tell that Joe was certainly surprised. Then the young woman was in Joe's arms, pressed against him, and Joe was kissing her very thoroughly. Well he was obviously pleased to see her which answered that question. Definitely a new girlfriend. When they both came up for air, the woman Joe had called Sammy asked Joe if he was available for lunch.

Joe looked at the piles of paper on his desk, and Catherine could almost see him mentally weighing the work load vs the girl. The girl won. "Sure." He went to his chair, to get his jacket. Joe looked over and caught Catherine's eye. He took Sammy's hand, and walked over to where she was standing. "Cathy, I'd like you to meet Samantha Johnson ... Sammy, this is Catherine Chandler."

A surprised look crossed Samantha's face, and quickly disappeared, as Joe had spoken Catherine's name. Samantha smiled, held out her hand, and said, "I'm so glad to meet you." Catherine could see in her face that Sammy's pleasure was genuine.

Catherine smiled back and replied. "It's nice to meet you, too."

Placing one arm around Samantha's waist, Joe announced, "I'm going out to lunch, Radcliffe." Then they started toward the door

The thing that Catherine found most interesting, was how totally different Sammy was from the type of girl Joe normally dated. Usually they were short, petite, dark haired and sophisticated. Sort of like Diana and herself. Sammy was as tall as Joe, blond and appeared to be a bit more spontaneous.

Catherine also thought that she had not seen Joe looking this happy since that time he had fallen for Erica Salvin. She hoped that this time things would turn out better for him.

~ o ~

As Joe and Sammy rode down the elevator she asked, "Isn't that the same Catherine Chandler I've read about in the newspapers?"

"Probably." Was Joe's only response.

"You never told me that the Cathy you always talk about was a beautiful rich heiress" She gave him a mock scowl. "I think I may be jealous." She poked him playfully in the ribs.

"She's already got someone." He smiled at her.

"She does?" Samantha remarked. "I thought I read that she was unattached. Who's the guy?"

"Don't know." Joe frowned. "Never met him."

Looking at him critically, Sammy chuckled. "Poor Joe, so protective. She must be that little non-sister that your sister was teasing you about, last week."

Joe shrugged as he smiled at her. "I do care about her and I can't help wondering why she is keeping this guy such a secret. I don't think she's in danger or in trouble because she has been so happy lately, but I still wonder."

Sammy gave him a rather enigmatic look. "Everybody has their secrets. You just have to trust that they have good honest reasons for them."

"And do you have secrets?" He asked in a teasing voice.

"Ah. If I told you, they wouldn't be secrets any more and I would loose all my mystery." She shot back.

Joe rolled his eyes.

~ o ~

Catherine and Vincent were sitting in their rooftop garden, looking out over the park and talking about their day. Eventually the topic of Joe's new girlfriend came up. Catherine was describing the girl to Vincent. "... was quite pretty overall but I would never have pegged her as Joe's type. When they came out of his office, Joe looked so happy. Vincent, you should have seen the way he looked at her. And his girlfriend, he said her name was Samantha Johnson, seemed like she really liked him, too. It's been a while since I've seen him smile like that."

"Sammy always could brighten your day." Vincent looked at her, a hint of amusement and mischief in his eyes, and in his emotions.

Catherine glanced over at Vincent in surprise. "You know her? ... I've never seen her below before. Is she a Helper?"

Vincent smiled back at her. "Not exactly. Her mother was pregnant with her when she first came to us. She was on the run from some very evil men that the law couldn't touch. Sammy was born two months later and lived with us until about ten years ago." Vincent's eyes developed a far away look. "I still miss her."

"Now that you mention it I do remember hearing the term 'Our Sammy' once or twice, usually having something to do with cheerfulness, but I've never heard anything about her." Catherine looked to Vincent for an explanation.

Vincent looked down for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. "Her mother died when she was four years old. It was a bad case of pneumonia combined with extremely serious complications. After her mother's death she was cared for by the whole community like all the other orphans we have taken in. To me though she was always like a little sister and we became even closer after Devin left. I have never seen anyone who loves life as much as her, and she wanted everyone else to love it just as much. She was always there whenever someone needed cheering up. Everything she did, she did it with enthusiastic abandon."

Vincent appeared to be lost in thought for a moment until Catherine, sensing the emotional turmoil within him, touched his shoulder, drawing him back to the present. He stared at her for a moment then shook himself.

"Catherine, it was Sammy that helped me get through that dark time after I hurt Lisa. I had retreated into those lower caverns and had just begun to feel the effects of the madness when she came after me. She was only ten years old at the time. At one point, she fell down a long steep incline and skinned up her arm pretty badly but she didn't let it stop her. She just tore off a piece of her shirt and wrapped it up then continued down after me. That is where that scar along the back of her left arm came from. For three days, she just sat there nearby and talked to me. Her voice was like a beacon drawing me back and keeping me from being swallowed by the darkness. I don't think I would have made it otherwise."

Vincent sighed. "To this day I still think of her as my little step sister. It was a great loss to me when she had to leave."

Catherine shivered at the sadness she could feel coming over their link from him. Seeing her shiver, Vincent wrapped his cloak around them both. Then Catherine asked, "Vincent, why did she leave the Tunnels?"

"As a young teen, Sammy was often ill, always coughing. When she was fifteen she developed pneumonia three times in six months. It left her very weak. After that, Father sent her Above to live with a couple of our helpers. Father wasn't willing to take a chance on loosing her the same way we had lost her mother. A helper couple, took her in and took good care of her. Dr. Peter sent her to a specialist where it was discovered that she had two problems. She has asthma and she is very allergic to a normally harmless type of mold that is very common down there. It's just not healthy for her to stay Below for any length of time." Vincent appeared to be looking off into the distance or perhaps into the past. "Father was very strict with her and would allow her to come Below only on special occasions, and only for a couple of hours. If she so much as cleared her throat in anyone's presence, it was back Above immediately."

Catherine was puzzled. "You said you still missed her and I have never seen her at any of the special occasions that I've been to."

"She lives in Connecticut now. The last time she visited Below was for Winterfest three years before your first one. She had only been there a little less than an hour when she had a very severe attack. It was worse than any before. She was having so much trouble breathing, we thought we were going to loose her. I carried her out of there as fast as I could. Once I got her to the surface, Peter took over and drove her to the emergency room at St. Vincent hospital. Fortunately they were able to help but she still developed a bad case of pneumonia. She was in the hospital for eight days and it was a close thing. She hasn't gone down Below since." Vincent paused for a while. "Once she recovered, she went to live in Connecticut with the sister of the helpers she had been staying with. Last I heard, she was working in a small clothing store there and doing well."

Vincent stood there looking out into the park for a long time. Catherine could feel the emotions of affection and melancholy flowing through him. Wrapping her arms around him, she hugged him tight, while she projected her love and sympathy to him over their link.

Finally he spoke again. "I wonder how she came to know your Joe."

~ BB ~

Catherine was up to her elbows in legal briefs, file folders and scribbled notes on several sheets of yellow paper. Over the last few days, the Geonelly case had come to a head and several members of the gang including their leader had been arrested the previous day. Noticing the time, Catherine closed the file she was studying, stretched, and straightened her desk. It was still a bit before five o'clock but it was Friday and she had plans. She still had plenty of time, but she had no intention of missing her date with Vincent.

This would be their first night out together since the birth of the twins. Jamie and Mouse had offered to baby-sit. Though Father had frowned at the idea of trusting Mouse with the babies, Catherine had complete faith in them. Mouse seemed to have become a lot more responsible in the last year. She suspected that Jamie had a lot to do with that change in him. Her thoughts then turned to Vincent. They would soon be listening to the music from beneath the park. She felt the tension of the day starting to melt away as she put the last of the files in the their stacks.

As she grabbed her jacket, she heard, "Leaving on time for a change, Radcliffe?" She looked up to see Joe standing near her desk holding a stack of file folders. "Must have a date with that fella of yours."

"As a matter of fact, Joe, I do." Catherine no longer denied having a special guy, at least to Joe, though she still refused to divulge any details.

Catherine then noticed that Joe had his jacket and his tie on and it was straight. "Leaving on time for a change, Joe?" Catherine inquired, a hint of a smile sneaking across her face as she remembered her introduction to Sammy just two days ago. "Must have a date with that gal of yours."

"Sammy is meeting me here." Was his response.

Catherine's smile widened and there was definitely a twinkle of merriment in her eyes now. "OK, Joe, spill it. Who is she. How long have you known her and how did you meet?" She got a look of mock severity. "I want details."

Joe laughed as he held up his hands to ward off the expression on her face. "OK Radcliffe, I surrender."

Joe's expression turned thoughtful. "I was visiting my sister two months ago, in Bridgeport Connecticut. She has one kid and a husband who travels for a living. Her husband was late getting back from a business trip and the kid was sick." Joe shook his head. "So, I offered to pick up the groceries for her." He smiled. "I know it sounds trite, but we collided shopping carts in the grocery store. I looked up into those eyes and all I could do was stammer out a garbled apology. Then I beat a hasty, embarrassed retreat. When I finally got to the checkout line, there were several people in front of me. I was getting irritated because the line was moving so slow when she got into line behind me. She said. 'so we meet again,' then she smiled. Her face lit up, and I felt a warm glow spread though me. Suddenly I didn't care how long the line was."

"I started talking to her, babbling really, anything to keep her attention. After I got to my car, I realized that I had not asked her name or number. I ran back inside but she had already gone. I think I called myself every colorful name in the book on my way back out to my car."

Catherine laughed. "Poor Joe, sounds like you had it bad."

Joe looked chagrined. "I know. Me! Totally befuddled by a girl. Anyway, I went to the pharmacy to pickup the kid's prescription and as I'm walking in the front door, I see her pulling away from the drive up window. I know she looked right at me as she pulled into the street. After the pharmacy I pulled into a gas station to fill-up the car. One minute later she pulls up to the pump next to me. When she got out of her car we both looked at each other in surprise. The first thing she said was 'Are you following me or am I following you?' I think my exact response was 'um ... um ... um' "

"That sounds like a pretty lame pickup line to me." Catherine's eyes were dancing with amusement.

"Yea, I know. So then she says, 'Well, Mister ...' I finally got it together enough to reply. 'Maxwell. Joe Maxwell.' And then she said, 'Well, Joe Maxwell, as long as you're following me around, what exactly do you have on your mind.' Then out of the blue I just asked her if she was busy for dinner. She said she was. I think I said something like 'Oh'. Then much to my surprise she said she was having dinner with me. Then she told me her name was Sammy," He shrugged. "and the rest is history."

Before Catherine could respond, Joe stepped away from her desk, waved toward the elevators, and called, "Sammy!"

Samantha started towards them. All of Vincent's tales from the previous night ran through Catherine's head. She looked at Joe; her boss looked younger, and less hard-edged. There was a happiness there now that she had only seen a couple of times before. Sammy reached Joe's side, threw her arms around him, and kissed him. To Catherine it was obvious that Sammy and Joe were very deeply in love despite only knowing each other for such a short time. Maybe this one would last for a while.

Catherine wanted to tell Sammy in some way that she knew of her and the tunnels, but there was no opportunity. Sammy fit herself comfortably against Joe's side. She smiled at Catherine. "Hello, Miss Chandler." She cocked her head. "I've read a few articles about you in the papers and Joe's told me a little bit about you."

"I'm afraid that's me. And it's Cathy to my friends, please." She glanced at her watch. "I've got to get going. I'm meeting a friend." She started towards the elevators. "You two have a good weekend."

"That wouldn't be that elusive fellow you're so secretive about, would it, Radcliffe?" Joe smiled.

Catherine halted in her tracks. "Ah, that would be telling." Then she turned at the sound of the elevator doors opening. With a cheery wave she entered and pressed the button for the lobby.

Sammy looked at Joe. "What was that all about?"

"Cathy's secret fellow." He shook his head. "Some day I'm going to solve that little mystery." He gave a quick snort of a laugh. "The solution will probably end up being boringly simple." He raised the file folders he was holding. "Let me put the rest of these away and then we'll go."

~ o ~

As Catherine moved through the scattered concert goers, during intermission with her load of hotdogs, chips and drinks, she spotted Joe. He was sprawled on his side on a blanket, his head propped up on his fist. Sammy lay on her back next to him with her head pillowed on his folded jacket. Joe gazed down at her as though not quite sure how or why this miracle had come to him. It reminded Catherine of the way Vincent sometimes looked at her. She could tell that they were deep in some conversation but she was too far away to hear it and she didn't want to disturb them or for that matter call attention to herself. She continued on into the concrete drainage pipe, and down to the iron gate and secret door where Vincent awaited her.

As they strolled back toward their listening place beneath the grate, she told him about what she had seen. "I'm so glad for him, Vincent. Joe is a good man, he deserves to be happy."

"If Sammy loves him, then he must be a very good man. She was always a flawless judge of character, much like your friend, Jenny." Vincent smiled.

"I wish you could see them together, Vincent." She had a wistful look on her face.

"It may happen, Catherine, perhaps someday . . ."

"Anything is possible, Vincent . . . since I found you, " she replied.

Then the second half of the concert began, and they nestled into their secret spot among the pillows and blankets and enjoyed their junk food dinner. Soon they were surrounded by the beauty of the music and the warmth of their love for each other.

~ o ~

After the concert ended Joe and Sammy walked around the park for a while. Joe felt he was walking ten feet off the ground. He kept reminding himself that he wasn't dreaming, Sammy really was planning to spend the whole weekend with him. After the traffic had thinned out, they got a taxi. First they went to the office so Joe could pick-up some papers on the Geonelly case. He wanted to look them over during the weekend so he would be ready for the preliminary hearing on Monday. They both went up to his office. Joe quickly gathered up the files he wanted. Then Sammy got playful. After several ticklish minutes they went back down to the Taxi. Neither of them noticed the five men in the dark sedan parked across the street.

As the taxi headed towards Joe's apartment, the dark sedan pulled in behind them. While they sat at a traffic light near where the concert had been just an hour and a half ago. Joe found himself gazing out at the park in amazement, remembering how, during the intermission, Sammy had suggested that she would like to spend the weekend with him. He had agreed but had told her that he would still have to do some preparation for court Monday. He had originally intended to spend Saturday at the office, until Sammy had suggested a better alternative for the weekend.

Joe was looking around marveling at how the whole world was brighter when he was with Sammy. As he looked towards the car sitting next to them at the traffic light it took a moment before the face of one of Geonelly's men and a gun coming up to point at him from the car's window registered.

Grabbing Samantha, he pushed her down to the seat. At the same time he yelled "GUN!", three shots were fired and they were showered with shattered glass.

Joe pushed the other door open and dove out of the taxi pulling Sammy with him. Joe noticed four men getting out of the dark car as Samantha hollered "This way!" and started dragging him into the park. Two more shots rang out as, with the squealing of tires, the taxi raced trough the intersection and away from danger. Joe now had no choice but to follow Sammy as they ran towards the band shell. The gunmen were momentarily delayed as a large truck came barreling around the corner, right into their path. Twice Joe and Sammy tripped and fell to the freshly watered ground as they ran past the place where they had enjoyed the concert just a few hours earlier. Joe noticed that Sammy seemed to know where she was leading them.

Just a short way beyond the band shell, Sammy pulled Joe into a great concrete drainage pipe. She took him several yards down the pipe to a place where several tunnels came together. To one side of the intersection was a very short three foot deep section that had an iron gate blocking off the entrance. Sammy went over to the gate, reached through it and began fumbling along the wall. Joe was about to ask her what she was doing when there was a metallic click and the iron gate swung free. At the same time with a low rumble the back wall of the short section slid aside revealing a lighted tunnel beyond. She pulled a stunned Joe into the tunnel closing the gate behind them and shaking it to be sure it had locked. Then she pushed a button just past where the false wall had been and what he now understood to be a secret door slid shut behind them. Joe was completely flabbergasted as he wondered where she could be leading him.

Continued in Part 2

'Beauty and the Beast' and its characters are owned by Witt-Thomas Productions and Republic Pictures. No infringement on copyrights is intended. This story is presented merely for the enjoyment of fans. Original concepts and story elements may be used by other authors as long as appropriate credit is given.