Much Ado About Everything
                                                                                                                                          By Thomas Mc

                                                                                                                          Chapter 1: The Reporter Returns

Catherine was glancing through the mail when she found a letter addressed to Catherine and Vincent and it was from Derry, Ireland. She immediately tore it open and started to read as Vincent came up behind her and read over her shoulder.

o - - - - - o

Dearest Catherine and Vincent,

It's been a while and I was just thinking about you and
Vincent. My newest book is ready for release and I am
going to be coming to New York in two weeks to talk to
my American publishers about a new book deal. I would
love to see you and Vincent while I'm there and maybe
see the children. I am also looking forward to seeing
Joe again and meeting Samantha. So much has happened
in your life since my last visit to New York. Hope to see
all of you soon.

- Love Brigit

o - - - - - o

Catherine looked up at Vincent. "Well we'll definitely have a lot of new things to show her when she arrives."

"It will be interesting." Vincent replied. "I wonder what the new book will be about?"

"Do you think she wrote that sequel she threatened to write after hearing about my pregnancy?" Catherine asked with a laugh.

"You never know." He replied.

~ x x x x x ~

Thomas Johnson added in the latest developments to his article about the Geonelly case. His article was nearly finished. All he needed was a quote or two from the D.A. office and he could send it in. He leaned back in his chair and stretched.

He glanced at his cluttered desk. There were several folders laying there, the top three were labeled Catherine Chandler, Joseph Maxwell and Geonelly Gang. Catherine and Joseph had been prominently featured in the prosecution of the gang. Under Joe's folder was one labeled Diana Bennett. She had been deeply involved in the original investigation.

Joseph Maxwell's file was pretty thick with all his articles and research notes about Joe's illustrious career in the District Attorney's Office. His rise to top man after the fall of Moreno and all the corruption cases two years ago had generated a lot of good hard hitting news.

The folder on Diana Bennett was the thinnest. She was a bit of an enigma. She generally worked in the background and tended to avoid publicity. He knew that she was very good at what she did and the police would turn to her when they had a particularly tough case that they couldn't solve.

Catherine's folder was thick with articles he had written about her. He had been an admirer of hers for years, ever since he had written that first big article about when she had been mugged and gotten her face badly slashed up. She had a reputation of being tough as nails in the courtroom and when investigating a new case.

After a few minutes, Thomas reached into the back of his file draw and pulled out the very last unmarked hanging folder. He set it down on his desk and for several seconds he just stared at the closed folder. Finally he opened it up.

On top was an old article he had written his first year as a reporter. It had been a fluff piece about the urban myths of New York. About two thirds of the way down the article was a single paragraph about what had been, back then, one of the lesser known legends. It had been labeled The Creature of Central Park.

He flipped through the rest of the items. Most of them involved references to the Central Park Creature or to unexplained occurrences in the Central Park area.

The last item was a single sheet of notebook paper. At the top was the words 'People who are supposed to have seen the Central Park Creature first hand:'. The last three names on the list were 'Catherine Chandler, Diana Bennett and Thomas Johnson,' all highlighted in yellow marker.

He stared at his name at the bottom of the list and thought back to that evening. He had been tracking a story about black market babies and tracing Catherine Chandler because of her involvement in the investigation. He had stumbled onto her very secretive pregnancy. Then she was no longer pregnant but there was no child in evidence. Late one evening, shortly after she was apparently no longer pregnant, she had gone jogging in the park. He had followed her in an attempt get the inside story on what he had mistakenly assumed was part of an undercover investigation. Just after being told that there was no story, he and Catherine had found themselves surrounded by a street gang and he had been injured in the initial moments of the attack.

Then out of nowhere the honest-to-god real life, Creature of Central Park had showed up roaring and flinging the gang members aside like they were nothing. At that same instant Detective Diana Bennett had rushed in from the opposite direction. The uninjured thugs had run off and Thomas had stared terrified at the frightening apparition before him. Then to his total surprise it turned out that both women had known the creature and actually spoke to it; telling it to get out of there before the cops arrived. Afterward both Diana and Catherine had simply denied the creature's existence. The official report just labeled it 'a very large unidentified Good Samaritan'. He had been left with the story of the decade, and nothing to back it up.

He pictured again that scene in his mind. Diana was very surprised that the creature had shown up when it did, but she was totally un-phased by its physical appearance. Catherine had not even been surprised. He remembered its eyes. They were the most amazing color of blue and there was intelligence in them. Its attack had not been random; it had intentionally showed up to save them from that gang. He mused to himself as he again looked at the last three names on that list trying to make some sense of it.

It hit him like a baseball bat in the face. Catherine Chandler had gone jogging alone in the park after dark, despite the danger. She had not been surprised because she had expected that creature to be there. She might have even been planning to meet the creature, but he had showed up asking questions and probably prevented that meeting from happening.

~ x x x x x ~

Catherine looked up from her desk to be faced with the, unfortunately, familiar newspaper reporter Thomas Johnson, standing over her. "I am a little bit swamped here." She felt no need to conceal her feelings and allowed her annoyance to show through. Sometimes she thought of him as her very own personal pest.

Thomas Johnson merely grinned back. "Isn't that standard operating conditions in the D.A.'s office?" He shot back.

She set her pencil down with an exasperated sigh. "What can I do for you Mister Johnson?"

He placed a tiny recorder on her desk as he responded amiably to her abrasive demeanor. "I just wanted to know how things are going on the Geonelly case. I heard about what happened Friday when some of his goons attacked you, Maxwell and the other two investigators in your homes." He paused to glance at his notebook. "Has this latest incident had any effect on your case?" He paused expectantly.

Catherine took a deep breath to get her annoyance under control and think out her answer. "You know that I can't comment on any ongoing cases, Mr. Johnson."

"Four members of the New York District Attorney's office were attacked Friday night by members of the Geonelly gang. One group actually broke into Joe Maxwell's apartment and had him and his girlfriend cornered when the police arrived. Surely you have something to say about that." Thomas pressed.

"Like you said, the police showed up and the gang members involved were arrested. As you already know, because of this event, the prosecutor's office has moved to have the bail for all involved parties revoked on grounds that they attempted to intimidate participants in this case." She smiled at him. She knew that she had given him at least two good quotes for his article. "That is all I'm allowed to say at the moment. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Well, thank you for your time Miss Chandler." He shut off the recorder and popped the tape out of it then stuffed it in his pocket. With an easygoing attitude he sat on the edge of her desk. "You could satisfy my curiosity about something."

Catherine gazed at him noncommittally, saying nothing.

"Just how long have you known the Creature of Central Park and how did you first meet him?" Thomas asked amiably.

Catherine stared at him coolly. "I'm sure I have no idea what you are talking about." She picked up her pencil and looked down at the brief she had been working on, effectively dismissing him. "Now if we are done here, I have work to do." Her heart was beating faster as she remembered the near disaster with that other reporter, Spirco. This reporter was much better and smarter than Spirco had been and it scared her that he was still interested in Vincent. For a few seconds there was silence as she kept her eyes on her brief, wishing he would go away, but he remained perched on the edge of her desk.

Just as she was about to ask him, very pointedly, to leave, he spoke again. "I do have one other question." She looked up and was surprised when he snatched up the new picture frame from her desk, the look on his face just as surprised as she felt. "Is that creature really the father of your child?" Her heart thumped in her chest as her eyes grew wide as he continued. "The eyes don't lie." She felt the fear constricting her chest, squeezing the breath from her as he turned the picture towards her. "I've only seen that color once before, in the eyes of a certain 'Good Samaritan' late one night in Central Park."

For a second she sat there frozen in panic, then she snatched the picture back from him and shoved it into a drawer. "I think we are done here." She remarked coldly. If looks could freeze, Thomas Johnson would have become a human popsicle.

"Miss Chandler, I need to see you for a moment in my office." They were both startled by the unexpected presence of Joe Maxwell, standing just behind Thomas and scowling at him. "My secretary will give you a copy of our latest press release."

"If you will excuse me." Catherine got shakily to her feet, locked her drawer, and followed Joe to his office.

As soon as Joe closed his office door, Catherine collapsed onto his sofa with her face in her hands and surrendered to a case of the shakes. Joe closed the blinds on his inside office window and sat down next to her, putting his arm around her shoulders. "Are you OK Cathy?" He paused, taking a deep breath and giving her shoulders a squeeze. "I caught the tail end of that. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Oh Joe, that was so stupid of me. I didn't think it could hurt to have a picture of Jennifer on my desk. Most of the office already knew that I had a daughter, so what did it matter." She looked up at Joe, the worry clearly showing in her eyes.

"He has nothing but supposition and guess work, Cathy." Joe responded. "He's not going to jeopardize his career over that." He paused a moment studying her face, then nodded. "Hang on a minute." Joe turned to his phone and dialed a number.

"This is Joe Maxwell. Who is this?" . . .

"Jamie, if Vincent is still there tell him that Cathy is OK and not to worry." . . .

"Ah, Vincent. That reporter Thomas Johnson just made a few good guesses, and gave Cathy a bit of a scare is all." . . .

"You're welcome. By the way I just wanted to tell you that Sammy and I really enjoyed meeting your mother and brother and I'm glad that you were able to find them. They both appear to be very nice people.". . .

"I know, I'll keep an eye on her for you. Good-bye." . . .

He hung up the phone. "Cathy why don't you knock off a bit early today. You can spend a little extra time with your kids and your new mother-in-law. You'll feel much better for it tomorrow morning."

~ o ~

Thomas watched Catherine follow Joe to his office. He had considered that highly unlikely scenario once before and rejected it as ridiculous. Then he had spotted the picture of Catherine's daughter on her desk and had nearly fallen over when the connection to the eye color hit him. He had made the suggestion almost without thinking to see how she handled it. He had expected a reaction from her, but he had not expected it to hit her this hard. Her reaction had certainly confirmed his guess. He found himself wondering why the normally unflappable Catherine Chandler had reacted so strongly to the question. It wasn't like he could prove anything. Could there be something else going on here that he didn't know about?

Then he began wondering about Joe Maxwell's interruption. How much had he heard? How much did he know? Thomas shook his head. This was going to require more thought. Something about his questions had really upset her. Maybe there was a lot more here than he had originally suspected. Especially if the child in that picture really was involved.

After Joe closed the blinds in his office Thomas stuffed his notebook in his pocket and headed out of the D.A. office. He had some serious research to do.

~ o ~

Catherine returned to her desk and after a moment's hesitation took the picture of her daughter out of her drawer. She gazed lovingly at the face of her daughter, so much like her own mother. Maybe it had been a mistake to bring it to work.

It had seemed so harmless. Word had begun to spread that she had given birth to a daughter so it made sense to have a picture of Jennifer on her desk. It had never occurred to her that someone could use it to make a connection between herself and Vincent. It was too late to change that now. Finally in an act of defiance she firmly placed the picture of her daughter back in its accustomed position on her desk.

She gathered her purse and her jacket and headed out of the office.

~ o ~

Joe watched Catherine leave the office, a worried frown on his face. This reporter could turn into a serious problem. Cathy and Vincent had already gone through hell a couple of years ago when that Spirco character had gone after them.

He couldn't legally stop that reporter from printing whatever he wanted without straining his ethics. There really wasn't much he could do if Thomas got too close, other than warn Cathy so that she and Vincent could disappear.

Joe decided to look a little deeper into this Thomas Johnson and see what he could find out about him. He wasn't about to leave Cathy to deal with this on her own. If there was any way he could help, he would do it. He cared too much for both Cathy and Vincent to let them go through this alone.

~ o ~

Thomas went back to his newspaper's morgue and pulled everything he could find on Catherine Chandler, unexplained animal attacks, and the Creature of Central Park. In the end he didn't come up with much more than he had the first time he had done this nearly seven months ago. Except for two additional possible deaths that might have been linked to Catherine Chandler and that creature. They had been two very bad men masquerading as motorcycle cops.

If this had involved the creature then it seemed pretty obvious that he must have been protecting Catherine from two very dangerous human monsters. This article also led him to the identity of the deceased reporter, named Spirco, who had written it. There was nothing to indicate how else he might have been involved; only that he had been interested in Catherine Chandler at the time of his death. Thomas decided that it might be informative to see what more he could find out about this Spirco character.

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.