Long Road Home

By afardistantshore

An alternate beginning set after Vincent is captured by the Silks gang.

Vincent wandered the streets of the lower east side. It was a dangerous part of the city for a tunnel dweller, with only two entrances available in the immediate vicinity. Tonight, however, he welcomed the sense of excitement and anticipation he was feeling from taking the risk. He recited Robert Frost to himself as he walked along: "I have been one acquainted with the night, I have walked out in rain – and back in rain, I have out-walked the furthest city lights."

I surely have tonight! He thought.

Snippets of his earlier conversation with Father began to replay in his head, Robert Frost relegated temporarily, replaced by strident tones that delivered unwanted advice. "Not again, Vincent," beseeched Father. "How many times must I warn you of the dangers?"

"I am fully aware of the risks I take," Vincent replied as he turned to Father in an agitated manner.

"Are you—fully aware?" demanded Father. "I know the world Above, and it is unforgiving. It ruined my life and I can only imagine what it would do to you."

"Father, please!" implored Vincent, spreading his hands before him. "Try to understand. I must go Above, it draws me, calls to me. If I cannot answer that call then I am in chains here and I do not wish my home to be a prison."

"So you see me as your jailer?" asked Father in a wounded tone, as he raised his eyebrows and cast an uncompromising glare at Vincent. "I'm sorry my concern is so stifling to you."

"You are misunderstanding me," Vincent replied feeling frustrated, as he tried to maintain an even tenor in his voice. "This is my home; your concern is always appreciated ... it's just that I need to make my own decisions about my own life, about where and when I go."

"Well, obviously your mind is made up." Father still sounded hurt, but resigned.

"It's dark tonight, there are clouds," replied Vincent. "I will be perfectly safe."

Vincent moved toward Father, seated at his desk and leaned close to place a kiss on the top of his head. "Try not to worry Father; I'll be home before morning."

Vincent climbed the stairs from Father's library, the turmoil from their conversation weighing heavily on his heart.

...

Five men, members of a local gang, stood shoulder to shoulder as they faced a derelict bar. The dark night was perfect for this nefarious act, if no one saw it, it didn't happen.

"Are you sure about this one, Chris?" asked Tony as he shrugged inside his new suit. Why did it itch so? Maybe he'd left a label on it somewhere. "This ain't really our style."

"Times have changed, big brother, someone pushes you, you push back a little harder." Chris raised his firearm level with his waist in readiness.

"Let's do it. Let's do it," cried Python, bloodlust in his eyes.

Thirty seconds can seem an eternity given the right circumstances and sustained gunfire would definitely count as the right circumstances. Inside the bar, members of a rival gang were learning this truth, although those lying dead had higher truths to concern them.

Their leader, Shake, tried to raise himself from the floor where he lay mortally wounded, when from behind he felt himself being lifted. A dark cloak swirled across his vision as his muddled brain tried to focus. Something hit the floor and rolled toward the center of room, there was a whoosh and for an instant he knew what it felt like to be a bird—his last earthly impression.

Outside the bar, the Silks gang surveyed the damage they'd wrought. Windows had blown out and a section of the wall had collapsed onto the sidewalk. The largest member of the gang, a mentally challenged man named Howie, looked sadly at the scene. He desperately wanted to belong to the gang, to be a part of something, but knew instinctively that this act was wrong.

"Don't you think that's a little overkill?" inquired Tony.

"Let's go see what's left," replied Chris.

Howie trailed the others inside the building.

….

Vincent struggled up from the depths toward consciousness, shaking his head as he tried to focus his eyes. Words were being shouted into his face, but the words were distorted and there was a ringing in his ears. A light was shone into his eyes; it blinded him and magnified his pain. He tried in vain to turn his face away. Muffled words reached his ears …

"Chains secure … those claws … teeth … jungle cat … make money … ring Dino … carny … freak show … do you think he's human … cover his head."

"Meow."

A sack fell in place over his head and he leaned back against the wall for support as dizziness threatened to overwhelm him.

….

Vincent rested uncomfortably; his arms were chained to nearby pipes which made it impossible to sit. His whole body ached from the blast and his arms and legs felt weak and cramped from the hours spent chained. He just wanted to sink to the floor and rest. He muffled a groan that rose in his throat, looking for release. Suddenly he sensed someone approach and he tensed in anticipation.

"Hey, Mister, can you talk?" a nervous voice inquired, lifting the sack from his head. "You know, I bet you can. An' I won't tell no one, honest."

"Yes!" Vincent tried unsuccessfully to focus his eye on the man.

"You know, I, I knew you could, but you gotta shush 'cause Chris and Miss Patricia are in the other room and they'll hear. My name … it's Howie. It's not Pigmeat like Python says."

"I need your help, Howie, set me free," pleaded Vincent.

"I can't. They rang Dino and made a deal," said Howie. "I'm real sorry Mister."

"Hey! Get away from him, what are you doing?" shouted Miss Patricia as she ran into the room.

"I was just checkin' his chains," replied Howie. He jangled the chains to prove his intent and pulled the hood back over Vincent's face.

"Well, just you stay clear, he's sold goods." Patricia pushed Howie away. "Go bring the car around to the back door."

Chris, Tony and Python swaggered into the room.

"It's gonna be a bloody long trip, Chris," insisted Tony.

"Yeah, I know, border and back, twelve hours tops," stated Chris. "But it's a good payday; let's get him in the trunk."

Vincent growled from beneath the blackness of the hood, as desperation welled in him.

"I don't think he wants to go," Python joked sarcastically, as he picked up a crowbar.

"Well we don't always get what we want," said Chris soberly, as he nodded to Python.

Python raised the crow bar high and brought it down on Vincent's head, rendering him unconscious once more.