The Girl From The Shadows
By Thomas Mc
Note: This story is part of the 'Five of Hearts' series and tells of the first meeting between Jennifer and Byron
Byron stepped through the doors of the Empire State Building into the throngs of people passing by that historical building. He stopped and gazed up with a sense of wonder at the surrounding buildings. Each of them seemed to stretch all the way up to the clouds. Just minutes earlier he has been enjoying the spectacular view from the observation deck at the top of the building behind him. This was Byron's first time in The Big Apple and he was fascinated by all of the new sights and sounds of the big city.
Byron was nineteen years old and working the summer at an internship with the Texas State Senator from his district. His mentor, the Senator, had come to New York on state business and had brought Bryan along with him. They were here to discuss laws that would help in coordinating the prosecution of drug rings that were bringing their drugs in through both Texas and New York.
Because of the Senator's schedule Byron had the morning and early afternoon pretty much to himself so he was taking advantage of the free time. He had already been to Rockefeller Center, The Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden. The Senator said that tonight, after this afternoon's meeting, they would be going to a Broadway play with some members of the District Attorney's office. He had been told that they would be sitting in some very expensive box seats that belonged to a Catherine Chandler. There was something very familiar about that name but he couldn't quite remember why.
Byron wandered down the sidewalk a short way and stopped at the corner to study his tourist map of Manhattan. After a little difficulty he located the building that contained the New York District Attorney's Office where he was to meet up with his mentor. It looked like about three miles by way of Park Avenue and Broadway. He checked his watch. He had plenty of time and his destination was in easy walking distance (at least for a home grown Texas boy it was) from his current location. He folded up his map, stuffed it back in his briefcase and set off at a leisurely stroll down 34th Street toward Park Avenue where he turned south. All the while he continually gazed up in amazement at the tall skyscrapers and other sights that surrounded him.
Byron figured he had walked a little over a mile when he came to a complex intersection A few minutes later he realized that he had somehow taken a wrong turn when he realized that he had ended up in an alley. He looked around trying to get his bearings when he noticed that he was now trapped, cornered in the alley by four rather rough looking individuals that were closing in on him.
The four toughs closed in taunting him and waving knives. One of the muggers advanced with an air of casual menace and, in a sudden flurry of movement, that muggers went down, much to the surprise of the other three thugs. A man from Texas was expected to be able to defend himself and Byron had taken his fair share of self defense classes as well as having also grown up with three older brothers. Byron thought grimly that these muggers were about to find out that he wouldn't go down easily. 'It was always a mistake to mess with Texas.' He thought grimly as he braced for the next attack.
The muggers had been caught by surprise and glanced nervously at the one had gone down so quickly. He lay on the ground groaning in pain. Now the other three were angry and wary as they brandished their knives while they tried to maneuver for a better position. After several minutes things appeared to be a stalemate as Byron was managing to keep the other three at bay (a brief case full of maps, schedules and other assorted papers made a surprisingly effective defensive weapon against knives, pipes, chains and other implements of direct physical assault). Fortunately none of these thugs had thought to bring a gun.
Just as Byron's confidence of getting out of this unscathed reach its peak another thug wielding a baseball bat came around a corner of the alley and joined the battle bringing it back up to four-to-one. Byron knew he was now seriously outnumbered and he no longer had the advantage of surprise but he still felt he had a chance if he kept his head and his briefcase. The muggers again tried closing in on him and Byron was forced to backup to prevent being surrounded.
Then with a grinding clink his right foot went out from under him. He looked down and caught a glimpse of the beer bottle, which he had stepped on, as he was falling backwards. Byron hit the ground hard, knocking the wind out of him, and lost his grip on his briefcase. A moment later one of the thugs was on him and he saw the knife descending toward his chest. Byron felt a fleeting moment of regret then a fast moving blur of something human crashed into the thug on top of him and suddenly that thug was gone.
Byron was now totally unencumbered and, taking advantage of the reprieve, quickly scrambled over and grabbed his briefcase as his only shield and weapon. He shook his dazed head then quickly glanced around from his half prone position and saw a five foot five inch figure in a long hooded cape literally lift one muscular six foot thug and fling him against the building's brick wall. Then it whirled around to face the thug that was coming up behind it and in an incredibly fast move brought its foot up between his legs so hard it lifted him off the ground. The next instant, the compact human tornado planted its fist into the largest of the muggers and sent him careening backwards against the building on the other side of the alley. That's when he spotted the thug that had been about to stab him laying on the ground about eight feet away and groaning arms wrapped around his middle.
The hooded, fast moving figure, made Byron think of the comic book superheroes of his childhood. He felt like he had suddenly found himself living within the surreal pages of such a comic. The hooded caped figure turned to face the last standing mugger who turned and bolted for the end of the alley.
In the short time he had been observing his savior's activities; Byron had been amazed at the strength and speed of the compact hooded figure. The hood itself was very deep and in the half light of an alley the shadows beneath the hood effectively cloaked the person's face in darkness. Then to his amazement a beautifully lilting female voice issued from beneath that dark hood. "Are you alright?"
He stared at her dumbfounded. The figure in the hood was female? "Um, ah." It was all he was able to get out in his surprise.
Then his savior reached up and swept back the hood as she stepped up to him and scanned his frame appraisingly with her gaze. "Are you hurt?" Again the beautiful voice.
He was instantly mesmerized by the most unbelievably incredible, intensely blue, eyes he had ever seen. He had met a lot of people in his short career and he had never seen eye color that intensely bright or that beautiful before. Beneath her riotous mass of hair the color of spun sunlight, her face had a delicate beauty that was easily the match for her eyes and voice. The girl also looked to be a year or two younger than him. He finally shook himself out of his dazed state. "Uh, um, I uh, seem to be relatively unharmed." He started to get up and groaned from the pain in his right ankle.
The beautiful girl knelt down as a look of concern crossed her face. "Where does it hurt?"
He sighed. "It's my ankle."
She reached out and gently probed his injured ankle. Then she took hold of his foot and very slightly moved it. "Does that hurt?" She asked as she was moving it.
"Just a little bit." He replied gritting his teeth.
"Liar." She snorted as she watched the expression on his face. "Can you move your toes?" She inquired.
He tried and found that he could. "Yes." He told her.
"It doesn't appear to be broken." She looked up into his eyes. "It's probably just twisted or sprained." She stood up and reached out to him. "Here, take my hand."
He took the hand she offered to him and allowed her to help him up. No doubt about it. She was a lot stronger than he was. Again the comic book superhero image popped into his mind. As she drew him to his feet she warned him. "Those are members of a gang." She glanced around. "More of them will probably be here very soon." She looked back at him. "Can you walk any at all?"
He nodded understanding, too tongue tied to speak, then took a couple of tentative steps. There was a sharp pain in his ankle, making him limp badly. "Um, yes, but not very well."
"Come on, we need to get out of here." She again grabbed his wrist, drawing his arm across her shoulder, and helped him over to a manhole cover.
The cover had to have weighed a hundred pounds yet she barely showed any strain as she lifted it out of the way. She indicated for him to go first and with some difficulty he managed to get down the staple shaped ladder rungs below the manhole. Once he reached the bottom, he looked up as she levered the cover back into place then descended down to him.
Expecting to find himself in a storm drain or sewer, Byron was surprised to discover that he was actually in a brick and concrete walled tunnel. The walls and ceiling were covered with all sizes and colors of pipes and conduits.
The girl turned to him, placed her hands on her hips, and spoke again in that musical voice of hers. "How did you end up trapped in that alley up there?"
He answered a bit hesitantly "I ahhh, I wasn't watching where I was going and I must have taken a wrong turn."
She inquired, "Where were you going?"
"Manhattan District Attorney's Office" He responded.
"Well, we're less than two miles from there. I'll take you there." She glanced down at the way he was keeping his weight on his left foot. "Are you going to be able to make it that far?"
Byron shifted his weight experimentally and winced. "I think I can make it OK."
She shook her head and again pulled his arm across her shoulder. "Hold on to me and I think we can make it."
Byron leaned into her, thankful for the support. Besides, he thought, it was rather pleasant having his arm across the shoulders of this very pretty young woman. "Thanks." Then she set off leading him along the utility tunnel.
~ o ~
Jennifer Chandler-Wells, Known to the surface world as simply Jennifer Chandler, continued to lend her support to the guy she had just rescued. He tried to hide it but she knew that his ankle was hurting worse than he let on. She adjusted her pace to his limping progress as she guided him to his destination. The whole time they were making their way along the utility tunnel, she was telling him about the New York utility tunnel system or questioning him about where he was from. The guy was really quite handsome, with his dark hair and eyes and his dashing good looks. He also had a pleasant voice with his Midwestern accent and she wanted to hear more of it.
She also thought, somewhat impressed, that he was no wimp. He had been doing amazingly well in that fight earlier, considering the odds he had been facing and his lack of her kind of speed and strength. At least he had been doing OK until he had stepped on that beer bottle and gone down.
She had also noticed that this guy was surreptitiously giving her the once over. She didn't need her brother's empathic ability to know what this guy was thinking and feeling, it was written all over his face, and she was frankly both amused and flattered by it. She was pleased that he didn't seem to be bothered by her obviously superior strength.
~ o ~
Byron glanced again at the girl that was, as unobtrusively as possible, lending him her very solid support as she guided him through the maze of utility tunnels. She was like a compact bundle of boundless energy and he knew from what he had seen in that alley that she was both faster and much stronger than him. The image of Wonder woman from that old TV show popped into his mind making him grin at the foolish notion. This girl's slender compact frame just wouldn't fill out the costume as spectacularly as Linda Carter did. He chuckled at his own musings and the images they conjured. She was no Amazon but he bet she could easily take one on.
They must have walked for two miles when she turned left down a side tunnel and through a door into some type of concrete utility room. They ascended some stairs on the other side, which he found very difficult without her help. Then they passed through another door into a crowded basement. From there they took an elevator up to the lobby of an office building.
As they exited the elevator the girl pointed through the large double glass doors. "You want that building across the street." She stared into his eyes. "Are you going to be able to make it on your own from here?"
It had taken them a little under forty-five minutes to get this far and the pain in his ankle had improved a bit. He put a little more weight on the injured ankle. The sharp pain was tolerable. "I think I can make it."
She stared into his eyes for a moment then, with a quick nod, turned and headed rapidly out another exit before he could even thank her or get her name.
With a shrug and a shake of his head, Byron hobbled, using whatever solid support he encountered, outside and across the street to the building that was supposed to be his destination. Once he entered the lobby of the other building, a quick perusal of the building directory established that he was in the right place.
As Byron entered the New York D.A. office, he spotted his mentor talking to another man. Barely glancing at him as he limped up to the two men, his mentor spoke to him. "Ah Byron, You're here." He indicated the other man. "This is District Attorney Joseph Maxwell. Mister Maxwell I would like to introduce my intern Byron Wyatt."
"Good lord, are you alright?" Joe exclaimed as he took in the young man's disheveled clothes and damaged briefcase.
At this point the Senator finally noticed Byron's condition. "My word Byron, what happened to you?"
Byron shrugged and winced as he leaned against the wall shifting his weight off his injured ankle. "I was mugged."
"Mugged! What happened?" Inquired a very concerned Joe Maxwell.
Byron proceeded to describe his rather unusual little encounter in the alley to the two men. When he got to the point where the amazing stranger entered the battle he saw uncertainty then doubt in the face of the senator. Joe Maxwell however only showed curiosity and, he thought, a hint of recognition. When Byron described the physical appearance of the girl he saw frank disbelief on the Senator's face however Joe's eyes seemed to widen as a knowing smile spread across his face.
"That's quite a fanciful tale young man." Remarked the Senator doubtfully.
Joe however laughed then commented. "Byron, there is someone I think you might like to meet." He led them to a small office that opened off the bullpen. The door was open and Joe poked his head in. "Cathy, there's someone here I think you might like to meet." He then led them into the office. At the desk sat a very pretty woman that looked somehow familiar to Byron. "Catherine Chandler, this is Byron Wyatt."
After he had introduced Byron to ADA Catherine Chandler, Joe gave her an abridged description of Byron's adventure. Byron noticed that Catherine was extremely interested in the part about the remarkable girl that had come to his rescue.
"That is a very interesting tale." Catherine remarked.
Byron rubbed the back of his neck and shrugged. "Yea, it does sound a bit incredible." He shook his head. "I just wish I'd had the presence of mind to get her name . . . or to at least give her mine." He shrugged. "I wonder who she was."
Catherine only smiled.
~ o ~
On her way home from work Catherine thought about the young man that had been with that Senator and what he had said about his encounter with Jennifer. That evening at dinner she noticed Jennifer's distracted state.
Vincent had also noticed. "What's got you so preoccupied, Jennifer?"
"It's nothing." She replied as she continued to pick at her food.
Catherine grinned. "It wouldn't by any chance be that young man you, ah, rescued today, would it?"
Jennifer looked up startled then relaxed. She should have known that Mother would hear about it since the guy had been going to the same building where she worked.
Vincent cocked his head at her. "I take it he made an impression on you."
Jacob chimed in with a knowing grin. "So that's what you were doing this afternoon. You liked him?"
"He was kinda cute." She blushed. "It doesn't matter, he will be gone back home by tomorrow morning."
Catherine grinned at Vincent who caught the hint of mischief in her emotions then spoke to her daughter. "Jennifer, you know that I'm taking some guests to that new Broadway musical tonight." At her daughter's curious nod Catherine continued. "I know that you want to see it and there is still one unclaimed seat in our box." She cocked her head. "Would you like to go?"
A smile spread across Jennifer's face. "Can I? . . . I'd love to go."
Catherine glanced at her watch then returned her daughter's smile. "You'd better hurry and get ready then. We leave in forty-five minutes."
~ o ~
Byron had always wanted to see a Broadway play and tonight he was going to get his wish from a very posh box seat. After meeting Catherine Chandler he had remembered all the things that he had heard about her in the media. She was a very impressive woman and he had a healthy respect for what she had accomplished after her attack nearly twenty years ago.
There was a long line of limo's waiting to let their passengers off at the theater and the limo that had picked them up let them out about fifty feet from the theater entrance. Byron was the last out of the limo and after a minute of confusion Byron managed to extract himself and his crutch from the vehicle. Once he was stable they all headed toward the theater.
As Byron and the Senator, Accompanied by Joe Maxwell and the Chief of Police Greg Hughes, approached he spotted Catherine Chandler standing in front of the theater talking to the Senator from New York. There was also some young blond girl with them that had her back to him standing with them.
Just as they joined Catherine's group she looked up at them and spoke. "Welcome Gentlemen. Oh and may I introduce my daughter Jennifer Chandler."
As Catherine had been speaking the blond had turned around and the only thing that kept Byron's jaw from hitting the pavement was the fact that it was attached to him. It was the girl that had rescued him in that alley. From her expression he could tell that she was just as surprised as he was.
"Um, hi." Jennifer managed to stammer out while her cheeks turned a fetching shade of red.
With effort Byron managed to recover his wits though his cheeks also showed a hint of pink. "Ah, hi." He belatedly stuck out his hand. "My name is Byron Wyatt. It's nice to see you again." Suddenly he only had eyes for Jennifer. 'Jennifer, daughter of Catherine Chandler.' He thought to himself. 'Well at least now I know her name, even if she is out of my league.'
~ o ~
Somehow without his active intent Byron wound up seated next to Jennifer in the box seats. The play was wonderful and just a bit magical but it was the presence of Jennifer in the seat next to him that really made his evening.
After the play Jennifer and Byron went off walking on their own. He was a bit surprised when Catherine allowed her seventeen year old daughter wander off on her own at night in Manhattan with a strange man. After remembering how she had handled herself when she had come to his aid, he decided that she could probably handle just about anything that the city might be able to throw at her.
As they walked away from the rest of their group he heard Catherine call out for them to be careful. Jennifer swung the hooded cape across her shoulders and called back not to worry . . . She promised to get Byron safely back to his hotel room. Byron chuckled at the roll reversal aspects of that statement, especially since it was a fairly accurate representation of the situation.
They strolled up Broadway all the way to Central Park and Jennifer led him into the park. Jennifer put up her hood as they entered the park, informing him that it would help insure that they would not be bothered by the less respectable denizens of the park. Despite the occasional unsavory looking characters he occasionally glimpsed lurking in the shadows, no one bothered them. In fact a couple of times he saw some very tough looking characters deliberately give them a wide berth. Since the hood very effectively concealed Jennifer's face, Byron concluded that it was the hooded cape itself that warned others that this was not a person to mess with.
Eventually they ended up in front of his hotel across the street from Central Park After saying their goodbyes in front of the hotel, Jennifer took off back into the park and soon vanished in to the shadows of the park. Byron sighed to himself. What a fascinating girl she was. With any other girl he would have been worried if she took off into Central Park late at night on her own, but with Jennifer he suspected that she would be perfectly safe. It was the other denizens of the park that needed to worry about their safety. Best of all, this time he had her home address, phone number and her e-mail address.
Early the next morning Byron and the Senator boarded their plane back to Austin Texas. He knew that one way or another he would return again to New York and he would make sure to see Jennifer again.
'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.