By Thomas Mc
Note: This story is about a young policeman who is there for the Wells-Chandlers - UN - atomic bomb incident and is a prequel to 'The Policeman's Niece / It Must Have Been The Mistletoe' story.
Officer Chester Turner, known to his friends and co-workers as Chuck, scanned the immediate area around himself. It was an unseasonably warm January day and the park around him was still beautiful despite the leafless trees. He had less than a year with the New York police force and was still looked upon as a rookie. Ever since he had drawn Central Park duty he had endured the usual teasing about looking out for the mythical lion-man often referred to as The Creature of Central Park. He refused to let his fellow officers bait him about that particular urban legend.
The whole day he had felt a bit pensive like there was something wrong but he just couldn't put his finger on what it was. As he continued on his route through the park, his mind continually wandered back to this morning's pre-shift meeting which had been unusually empty. A large percentage of the police force had been given the day off which seemed strange to Chuck. Everyone expected the terrorists to try something dramatic and probably very nasty because of today's big UN conference but nothing had happened yet.
For the last four weeks everyone had been on high alert and they had all been told to be on the lookout for any unusual activity. One of the more unusual developments happened few days ago when they were told during the beginning of watch meeting to be on the lookout for a certain type of top-opening refrigerator unit, especially if it looked out of place. No other explanation had been given for this unusual order. Some of his fellow officers had privately speculated that there was some kind of biological agent hidden in it. In spite of every cop in the city being on the lookout for that elusive fridge, no one had spotted it.
For the last two weeks the brass was on edge and the tension back at the station house was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The expressions on the faces of the precinct leadership had been universally grim, especially over the last two days. It was very obvious that everyone at the top knew something that had them so scared that they could barely speak.
Today was the day of the big UN Anti-terrorism Conference and the chances of the expected terrorist attack happening today seemed highly probable. So why, in the name of reason, were so many officers given today off? Something just didn't seem right about this whole situation, but Chuck was only a rookie and his opinions didn't hold much weight.
~ o ~
Around the middle of the afternoon Chuck scanned the crowds beside Belvedere Castle and spotted his sister Melissa and her husband Theodore Murray with her two-and-a-half year old daughter Wendy strolling through the park. Melissa was really starting to show with the new addition to the family that they were expecting in two months. They stopped to talk to him and for a few minutes as he played with his favorite niece.
Todd, as most of the family called him, was a history teacher and waxed poetic about how this conference would be a defining moment in human history and how great it was that he would be able to witness it.
Melissa remarked. "It's a real shame that you're going to miss it. Todd and I are really looking forward to watching the President's speech at the UN this afternoon."
"Well, as much as I want to see it, I have to work my shift and protect all the nice citizens of New York." Chuck responded with a shrug. "But I will see the playback when I get off duty this evening. President Carlton's speeches tend to be very terse and to the point so he'll probably be finished when I get home." He glanced at his sister's expanding middle. "It would be nice if your newest one could be born into world free of international terrorists."
Chuck knelt down beside the toddler. "Hopefully by the time Wendy here is grown this conference will have accomplished its purpose and she and her little brother won't have to worry about where and when the next big terrorist attack will happen." He smiled at his favorite niece. "You sure are growing fast you little weed, you." Little Wendy giggled as Chuck tickled her tummy. It made Chuck grin and seemed to lighten his mood. For a moment he was able to forget the strange things that had been troubling him all day.
Finally his sister's little family continued on with her walk and Chuck resumed with his patrol of the Central Park pathways. He sighed thinking how he hoped that one day soon he and his new bride would have a family like that. They had only been married for six months and he still thought of her as his bride. He wondered momentarily if he would still feel that way in six years or in sixty years. He certainly hoped so. In his mind he pictured himself in a scene like his sister's family. The thought brought a warm glow to his heart.
Chuck smiled at those people he encountered strolling through the park and enjoying the unseasonably warm day.
~ o ~
A few hours later Chuck checked his watch. It was just a little less than an hour left until the end of his shift and he would be able to return home to his young bride. That thought of Sabrina being there for him when he got home, made him smile. He also remembered that The President's speech would have started about two minutes ago. He could easily understand his brother-in-law's excitement over the event. He had also wanted to see that speech for its historic significance as well for what he was sure would be an important shift in the ongoing fight to curb international terrorism. Though he would easily be able to replay it when he got home, it just wasn't the same as seeing it as it happened. Unfortunately, he was too junior and was required to cover for all the more senior officers that were taking the day off.
Again his mind wandered back to that very strange situation of all the officers that were on leave. Of the four men that he knew personally, the three that had been given the day off all lived outside of Manhattan. Kenny, who lived in Manhattan like Chuck himself, was working today. His four friends on the squad were as mystified by the altered schedule as he was.
At first Chuck wasn't sure what had pulled him out of his private thoughts. Then he became aware of an eerie silence that seemed to be spreading rapidly through the park. He glanced around to see shocked looks on many of the faces around him. Then his radio went crazy with orders and counter orders. Within a few minutes he gleaned from the mass of confusing messages that there was a large bomb somewhere in the city and the President had been shot. There was also some nonsense about the Central Park Creature being at the UN.
Then someone must have got things organized back at headquarters because the conflicting messages ceased. The next second the dispatcher was issuing clear and concise orders to all the on duty officers. A contingent of officers was dispatched to the United Nations building for crowd control. Another small contingent was dispatched to the hospital and ordered to report directly to no less than Police Chief Phillip Winston inside Saint Vincent Hospital.
Then Chuck received his orders. "Report to your supervisor at Saint Vincent Hospital for temporary reassignment." The strained voice of the dispatcher told him.
Chuck called in to report that he was about to go off duty.
The anonymous dispatcher responded a bit testily. "Orders from above. Every officer currently on duty will be working mandatory overtime, no exceptions, and that all off duty officers are being called back in."
Chuck acknowledged his orders and signed off with a long suffering sigh. He was already a bit tired and distracted as he made his way to the already crowded subway. He managed to get turned around while trying to make his way through the packed crowd in the station and got onto the wrong train. The commuters were a bit more animated and disorganized than usual as news and wild speculation about the events at the UN circulated through them. He got off at the next station and caught the correct train but he had lost twenty minutes on his detour.
In the end it was forty-five minutes later that Chuck finally arrived at Saint Vincent Hospital where he was assigned to the group that was handling crowd control duty on the grounds outside the hospital. As he joined the other officers assigned to this group he asked if anyone knew what was happening.
One of the other officers, about his own age, responded. "Haven't you heard? Terrorists tried to set off a big bomb and shoot The President at the same time. Then the 'honest to God' 'Creature of Central Park' came out of nowhere swinging on some wire or power cable or something and stopped the terrorists from setting off the bomb. The President and the Central Park Creature both got shot and they were both brought to this hospital."
Chuck stared incredulously at the other officer uncertain whether to laugh or scoff. "You're kidding. That can't be true. There's no such thing as 'The Creature of Central Park'. It's just a ridiculous urban legend like alligators in the sewers."
A second young officer spoke up. "No, I swear, it's the God's honest truth. The whole thing happened, right there on screen, during the live broadcast at the beginning of the President's speech. The whole world saw it happen on live TV. I was home watching it when it happened. The creature actually yelled out that the bomb is supposed to be at the top of the Empire State Building just as he took out the guy with the trigger." The officer shook his head as a look of amazement crossed his face. "It's the damndest thing I ever saw. They got a pretty good close-up shot of the creature when they were wheeling it out on the gurney. I swear, it looked just like a cross between a lion and a man. Its hands and face were covered in fur and those claws looked wicked deadly."
At that point a third, much older, officer, with graying at the temples, jumped in. "He's right. I was at home and I saw it too. Just before my supervisor called the TV announcer said that they had found a very large bomb on the observation deck of the Empire State Building." The officer shook his head and shrugged. "I've lived my whole life in New York and I've heard my share of stories about . . . 'The Creature'. If that wasn't the Central Park Creature then it was pretty damn realistic copy of it."
Their conversation was brought to a sudden halt as the Watch Commander for this operation called for attention. After a quick roll call, they were briefed on their assignment. "This squad will be on crowd control duty around the main front doors of the hospital for the next six and a half hours. Then you will get five and a half hours off, after which you are to be back for another six and a half hours on duty. That will be the schedule for the next three days unless changed. Six and a half on, five and a half off, with a half hour overlap between shifts."
This news was met with several groans within the group. This would make twelve hour cycles with only four to five hours sleep between shifts, for the next three days. Chuck was no more happy about it that the others. He had just finished an eight and a half hour shift and now he was about to have to work another six and a half hours on top of that. With a resigned sigh he sent a message to his wife, telling her that he had to work an extra shift and he probably wouldn't be home till after midnight.
The Commander spoke again. "As of an hour ago no one is allowed into the hospital unless they can show that they have a legitimate reason. And absolutely no press is to be allowed into the hospital for any reason unless they are passed through by the Secret Service." He glanced around at the group then began giving out individual assignments.
~ o ~
Chuck stared out at the park grounds that surrounded the hospital and the crowd that had been steadily growing in since he had taken up his post. For an unplanned spur-of-the-moment crowd, this one was surprisingly well behaved. The only problems had been caused by the various reporters that occasionally tried to make their way into the hospital. In general the crowd had often helped the officers repulse the advances of the more determined reporters.
Chuck hoped that the park like grounds around the hospital would not be too badly damaged by this large crowd. Back in 2012 Saint Vincent's had been going bankrupt and been bought out by the Wells-Chandler Foundation. In the fifty-five years since then, the foundation had spent a fortune expanding, renovating, and modernizing Saint Vincent Hospital. They had even purchased the land extending a half a city block around the hospital and turned it into a fairly nice park. Now that lovely park was at the mercy of this crowd.
Chuck perked up as another minor commotion erupted off to his left. He glanced at the squad leader and, at a nod from him, approached the disturbance to investigate and deal with it appropriately.
~ o ~
Chuck finally arrived home a little over seven hours after his shift would normally have ended, well after midnight. He could barely keep his eyes open as he trudged through his front door. Sabrina, his new bride of six months, had been waiting up for him to get home and eagerly embraced him. "Welcome home, Honey."
Chuck returned the embrace and added a kiss. "I'm glad to be home, Babe. How was your day?"
She shrugged. "Strange . . . very strange."
He raised his eyebrows. "How do you mean . . . 'strange'?"
Sabrina replied. "Well the day started normal then a rumor went around that nearly all of the upper management was in a bit of a tizzy over something. Around noon word came down that everyone was to have the rest of the day off, with pay." She shook her head at such a sudden change in the work schedule by the management of the Wells-Chandler Foundation where she worked. "I did a little 'after the holidays' bargain shopping then came home just in time to watch the President's speech." Again she shook her head. "That was the craziest thing that I have ever seen in my life." She grinned. "So what's the word on the creature?"
He shook his head. "I probably know less about it than than you. I haven't even seen the video of the incident that everyone was talking about. All I did was stand out in front of the hospital and keep the gawkers and paparazzi away."
Sabrina grabbed his arm. "Oh, then you have got to see it."
She dragged him over to the video screen and switched it on. Within less than a minute she found a station that was showing the very beginning of a recording of the event. By the time it was over Chuck was staring at the screen in amazement and shaking his head. He continued to stare at the screen stunned by what he had seen for almost a minute.
Sabrina finally nudged him "You still with us?"
With a bit of a start, Chuck responded. "That was . . . incredible. I can hardly believe I was really seeing that."
They talked for a few minutes then, recognizing the signs of exhaustion in her husband, Sabrina dragged Chuck off to bed. Chuck was nearly dead on his feet but he had a hard time getting to sleep. The images of what had happened in the UN kept replaying in his mind. Finally, with the help of his wife's loving caresses, he fell asleep.
~ x BB x ~
By the time Chuck and Sabrina awoke the next morning to the blaring clock radio, the news had come out that the bomb at the top of the Empire State Building was actually a twenty megaton nuclear device. The report on the radio sent shivers of fear down his spine at the size of the averted disaster. The look on Sabrina's face told him that the news had affected her just as strongly as him. They spent several minutes just holding each other and draw comfort from the fact that they were both still there and alive. Finally they both got out of bed and prepared for what was sure to be another very unusual day.
~ o ~
Chuck glanced at his watch. Three hours to go. He was very tired but at least this shift would be a short one. In the last half hour the crowd around the hospital had more than doubled in size. Just an hour ago word had spread among his fellow officers that the President's Science Advisor had attempted to take the Central Park Creature away to a secret lab to dissect him but had been stopped by some Secret Service agents. Chuck didn't know what the creature was or if he was even human, but dissecting him was just wrong, even if he hadn't been the hero that had just saved New York from a nuclear bomb.
Chuck noticed that there was some kind of commotion going on a little off to the left at the outer edge of the crowd. He wanted to go see what was causing the disturbance but they were not allowed to leave their post at the hospital's front door. Then his supervisor selected eight officers, including Chuck, and told them to follow him.
The group of nine officers made their way through the crowd toward the location of the disturbance that Chuck had noticed. He scanned the crowd nervously as they made their way through. Then they were ordered to surround a small group that was at the heart of the commotion. That was when he first became aware of the makeup of the small group.
Chuck was shocked to see that two members of the small group were real live honest to goodness lion-men. Chuck gulped. At six foot two, he was by no means a small man yet he felt dwarfed and uncomfortably powerless beside these two massive and very powerful looking lion-men. Even though the white-headed one looked much older than him, Chuck would not have wanted to cross him. He also noticed that each of the lion-men had his arm around a very beautiful woman. The two women seemed to be totally unconcerned by the closeness or the proprietary arms of the lion-men that held them. There were also two very pretty young women in the group that appeared to be in their late teens or early twenties.
The younger of the two lion-men appeared to be the leader of the small group. Chuck's supervisor approached the younger lion-man and spoke. "I have been detailed to escort you and your party into the hospital."
The huge crowd readily parted to make way for the small group and its police officer escort. Chuck had a hard time fighting the urge to stare at the two lion-men as they moved toward the hospital.
With that they began to make their way through the crowd to the front doors of the hospital as the press began shouting questions at the small group. The few responses from the small group to the reporters' questions were very illuminating. The lion-men were married to the women in their arms and one of the two younger girls was engaged to the lion-man currently in the hospital. He was also surprised that the younger couple was the parents of the lion-man in the hospital. That beautiful woman had mated with that huge fearsome lion-man and given birth to a lion-man and that beautiful young girl wanted to marry and have more lion-man babies with the one in the hospital! Chuck looked at the strange couples and couldn't help wondering what the attraction was for these women for those fearsome creatures.
As they reached the front doors of the hospital they were met by two officers and some Secret Service agents who escorted the small group into the hospital and supposedly up to the room that the injured lion-man was in.
After the group had entered the hospital, Chuck heard one of the young female officers comment under her breath. "God, did you that voice? It is to die for." He glanced over at her and caught her blushing. He noticed a couple of other female officers nodding in agreement. For himself all he had noticed was that while the lion-men were speaking he had felt a growing sense of respect for them both form inside him.
~ o ~
That afternoon when he got home from his shift, Sabrina couldn't wait to show him the footage from the President's press conference. At the beginning she pointed to the image of himself escorting the strange family up to the hospital then she paused the image and quizzed him about what they were like. Once she had run out of questions she played the press conference.
The press conference itself was fascinating. Despite being tired Chuck watched it all the way through. By the end his sympathies had swung totally over to the lion-men.
He turned toward Sabrina and commented. "They are pretty impressive, though I still wonder what the attraction was, besides raw 'animal' magnetism, for their women."
Sabrina laughed. "Are you kidding? They're all three just super hunks and their voices are just to die for." She then grinned mischievously at him. "If you looked and sounded like that it might not have taken you so long to catch me."
"Hey!" He exclaimed as he threw a sofa cushion at her. "I don't think I'm all that bad looking." He held up his hand wiggling his fingers. "And you don't have to worry about me shredding the sheets."
She threw the pillow back at him with another laugh. "I don't know about that. I remember a couple of nights when the sheets came out a bit worse for wear." Then her smile softened and her eyes got very sultry. "It may have taken me a while to come around, but you were well worth it, you hot hunk 'o policeman you." She moved in for a kiss and the subject of the lion-men quickly disappeared from both their minds.
Afterward Sabrina tucked him into bed and snuggled up next to him. Soon he was sound asleep.
~ x BB x ~
That night Chuck was again standing watch outside of the hospital and the following day he was to assigned duty outside the hospital room of the Creature that he now knew was named Alexander. He was a bit surprised to find that the job of guarding Alexander was being shared with some government agents that were so secretive that they wouldn't even identify what agency they belonged to. It reminded Chuck of back when he had been in high school and a conspiracy nut friend had gone on and on about some super secret group called Q-something that was supposed to specialize in counter terrorism activities. Now he was wondering if their might have been just a hint of truth in that boy's wild speculations.
Once during his watch an orderly that was not on the official list of those with access tried to sneak into the creature's room. One of the secret agent types intercepted the guy, none too gently, and had two officers sent up from the lobby to escort the loudly protesting reported off to jail for few hours until his media service could bail him out.
~ o ~
Each of the officers in his unit spent about an hour standing watch inside Alexander's room. When his turn came Chuck spent a lot of his time in conversation with Alexander. The more he talked to Alexander the more he liked him. He noticed that the sheer masculine power of Alexander's voice was even more pronounced in person. He wasn't so sure he wanted his wife anywhere near one of them. How could he compete with that voice that they all seemed to have.
Toward the end of his shift Chuck was very surprised to see the President, himself, and his family along with an entourage of Secret Service agents coming down the hall toward Alexander's room. The President's family and the one Secret Service agent that showed evidence of injuries went into the room while the rest of the Secret Service agents remained in the hall. After a short visit, the President and First Family came out and he heard that they were leaving the hospital.
Though the President was no longer in the hospital Chuck and his squad was to continue to guard Alexander's room though the hours were greatly relaxed and they went back to standard eight hour a day shifts.
~ x BB x ~
Over the next few weeks the news was full of revelation after revelation about the Wells-Chandlers, as the lion-men were being called. Apparently they were heavily involved in the Wells-Chandler foundation where Sabrina worked and he thought that that was where the common term for them came from. Sabrina had insisted that their real family name was Chandler-Wells and that the media had it wrong but in the end the other name for them was the one that stuck.
Sabrina was reduced to nearly incoherent babble mode the day she came home and told him that she had met her first real live Wells-Chandler in the front office of the foundation where she worked.
A week later the Brigit O'Donnell book about Vincent and Catherine came out and Sabrina and fell in love with it. The Wells-Chandlers were rapidly becoming a new cultural phenomenon.
~ x BB x ~
It had been five years since the United Nations Incident and the Well-Chandlers were still a cultural phenomenon. While visiting his sister Chuck saw a poster of the Kristopher Gentian painting of Catherine and Vincent on the closet door inside his niece's bedroom. When Chuck asked little seven year old Wendy about it, she told him that when she grew up, she was going to marry a Wells-Chandler. He asked her why and she responded that they were so strong and so cool and they talked so pretty. Chuck was very amused by her response.
One thing Chuck was sure of, the Wells-Chandlers had really made their mark on the world. Though the UN conference had been a rousing success and the menace of world terrorism was rapidly on its way to extinction, the thing everyone remembered most about that conference was that it was where the Wells-Chandlers had burst upon the public scene. Even Wendy's five year old brother was aware of the Wells-Chandlers.
Chucks four year old son, Robert, everyone called him Robby, was even aware of who the Wells-Chandlers were and had a poster of Alexander standing guard behind President Carlton. In his son's eyes, Alexander stood shoulder to shoulder with Chuck as his son's biggest heroes. Well thought Chuck, at least he was in good company.
~ x BB x ~
Chuck was walking his usual patrol through the park when he spotted a Wells-Chandler over by the Crystal Forever monument. As usual there was a small crowd of people around him. Anytime one of them appeared in public, people acted like they would around a video star or a sports hero. The small crowd around him didn't seem to bother him so Chuck decided not to intervene. The Wells-Chandler was talking to those around him as he walked along the pathway away from the monument. It had been fourteen years since Alexander's spectacular debut and still they drew a crowd.
After a moment's thought, Chuck recognized him as David Chandler-Wells. There weren't that many of them around and there were literally hundreds of pictures of most of them in the public domain. Also that bright red fur made him pretty easy to identify. Most of them still lived in New York City though there were a few scattered elsewhere. One of them was living in Austin, Texas. Of course Alexander lived in Arlington, Virginia and worked for the Secret Service. There was a family living in Paris, France. There was even one of them currently living with his family in the growing moon colony. But still New York was their place of origin and home to most of them. And as a New York Police Officer it just seemed right to Chuck that he should be able to recognize any one of New York's living treasures by sight.
David caught Chuck's eye and nodded to him as they crossed paths. Chuck touched his hat and nodded back.
A few hours later he was passing back by the same forever monument and he noticed a lone girl sitting at the bench across the path from it. Her head was in her hands and there was dejection in every inch of her posture. Chuck changed directions and headed toward that bench. As he got closer he realized that there was something very familiar about that girl. By the time he reached her he knew.
Chuck sat down on the bench beside her. "Hello Wendy. Can you tell me what is bothering you?"
She looked up at him her eyes on the verge of tears. "Oh, Uncle Chuck, I'm hopeless, just hopeless." She shook her head despairingly. "There's this guy . . ." She was unable to continue.
She didn't really have to say more. Chuck knew exactly what the problem was. Wendy was a pretty, very outgoing, sixteen year old girl. She was friends with and well liked by everyone that came within her sphere. But put her next to a cute boy that interested her and she instantly turned into a hopelessly tongue-tied wallflower. Her mother had told him that she was terminally shy around boys and he had seen it happen to her before.
He put his arm around her and began to talk to her in his best soothing voice. After a short while he got her to cheer up, telling her that one day she will meet her perfect mate and they will connect regardless of how shy she was. Wendy knew that Uncle Chuck could claim to know what he was talking about because his wife Sabrina had been very much like her when he had first met her. Uncle Chuck could always cheer her up when she was feeling down.
After a while Chuck got up and continued with his patrol.
Wendy spent a few minutes of staring longingly at the Crystal monument dedicated to Catherine and Vincent by their descendants. Why couldn't she find someone like that? Like so many other girls her age, she often daydreamed of being swept off her feet by a Wells-Chandler and carried off to his home to be perfect soul-mates forever.
After a few more minutes Wendy sighed then got up and headed for home. It was just a silly schoolgirl dream. She couldn't make herself approach an ordinary teenage boy. How would she ever get close enough to a Wells-Chandler to even be noticed?
Chuck watched his niece walk away and thought about how much his world had changed since that day he had been assigned crowd control duty outside Saint Vincent Hospital.
'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.