Chapter 3: Towers of Wild Speed and Whiteness 
Vincent woke Catherine before dawn. “It's time,” he said softly, brushing back the sleep-warm nest of her hair. They had talked long into the night and he didn't want to wake her now, but if she was to dress and shower before returning to her apartment, she would need the extra time.
She muttered something he chose not to understand, and sat up. “Yeah. I know.” Her eye fell on the old blue coffee pot. “Is that coffee I smell?”
Vincent chuckled. “Right here,” he said, pouring a cup and handing it to her.
“How can you be so cheerful...so awake...this early?” Catherine asked, sipping the coffee. “I can't believe I just now noticed this, but you're amazingly perky at this hour.”
“I'm usually awake early in the morning, Catherine. Did you never wonder why my classes are scheduled later in the day? It's because I'm up half the night normally.”
“But you slept at night with me in Connecticut,” Catherine said.
“That was...a place out of time,” he replied, smiling. “One I will cherish for the rest of my days. There, I had the luxury of being able to sleep when I wanted to. Here, though, as in your world, work waits for no one.”
She looked at him over the rim of her coffee mug, green eyes concerned. “But you will sleep, once I go?”
“I will,” Vincent replied, thinking of what they had discussed in the night, the case she was about to undertake, the risk it might represent to them both. “Catherine, promise me you will try not to worry.”
Catherine nodded, finishing the rest of the coffee, but making no move to rise from the disordered blankets that were wrapped around her. “I never want what I do to come close to touching us, ever again.” Her chest rose and fell in a gleam of carved ivory with her breath and Vincent fought the urge to draw her down back into the covers and love her until she had no thoughts of returning above.
It was a darker impulse, and one which he would not give into, but it sprang from the same worry that darkened Catherine's glances. Above, there was no safety for her if danger threatened, not with the grey dawn breaking and the sunlight soon banishing all shadows.
He could not protect her, could not come for her. And now with so much more to lose, that thought stung Vincent more than it ever had before.
Her voice broke him from his reverie. “Vincent. Promise me that you won't worry.” Catherine reached out to cup his chin in her hand and he turned into her touch, loving her warmth, feeling it melt the ice that was chilling his soul. “I'll try,” he managed.
“That's all you can do,” she said quietly. Catherine glanced at him, gamin smile resurfacing. “Have I told you I love you today?”
Vincent recognized the attempt to return some lightness back to the conversation, and welcomed it. “You haven't. But I love you too.”
Once she entered her apartment, Catherine leaned against the door and sighed. Placing her briefcase and the empty laundry basket next to the door---the basket a necessary ruse, in case someone wondered what she was doing down in the basement at this hour---she noticed the blinking light on the answering machine. Pressing the “play” button, she went into her bedroom to change for work and heard Joe’s voice. “Hey, Radcliffe,” he said. “I hope you decided to take that case. Elliot Burch heard that Avery was picked up and wants to speak with you. Call me when you get this, or I’ll just see you when you get in. Bye.”
Catherine glared at the answering machine. I’ll just bet Elliot wants to see me. She had no personal grudge against Elliot, not since the night they’d both nearly died on the docks, but she also had no wish to encourage his hopes of a relationship with her. This is business. Let's hope he remembers that too.
She glanced at the clock, and buried a groan. She wasn't late, not even close, but sometimes in the hustle of her life Above, she wondered what it was all about, what she was doing here when she could be there. Vincent was Below, likely in bed, the long lines of his legs glimmering in the candlelight...and she missed him. Why wasn't she back there now?
Because we both have promises to keep, my Catherine, Vincent's mental voice said, and Catherine smiled. In Connecticut, they'd discovered that they could hear each other's thoughts, but once they'd returned to New York City, the ability had become much more infrequent. Vincent had speculated that the presence of so many other people in such close proximity drowned out much of their communication, and it seemed as good an explanation as any.
I miss you, Catherine said.
I know. I miss you too. And he did; the longing for her was as intense as her own for him.
There was a faint hazy quality to his mental speech and Catherine could sense through their bond that he was tired. Go to sleep, love, she thought to him. You’re right. We both have promises to keep.
The rain was falling by the time Catherine got to work, a cold winter’s rain just on the edge of snow and ice. Fortunately, she’d remembered her umbrella but her work ID was buried in her briefcase along with the largest of the Avery files…wasn’t it? In the juggle to reach the ID, hot coffee escaped the rim of her mug and she almost dropped it. “Hell of a morning, eh, Radcliffe?” Joe said, opening the door.
“It can only go up from here,” she said, grinning. He followed her to her desk. “Look, um, about that phone call from Burch---“
She held up one hand to forestall him. “Joe, I’ll take the Avery case. And I’ll return Elliot’s call. But from here on out, when it comes to this case, his contact with me needs to be handled through one of the investigators.”
He nodded. “You’re right. I should have thought of that. I just never appreciated just how much of a bind Moreno put you in when he used your relationship with Burch to get to Avery.”
Catherine grimaced, remembering. She hadn’t been kidding about resigning if Moreno had pulled that stunt again. “You could say that. Moreno wanted Avery and while I can’t help it if Elliot is my chief witness, I do not want even the appearance of…other things going on.”
Joe snorted. “The man’s a fool if he can’t see he doesn’t stand a chance. Even I can see it, Cathy. You’re off the market and you have been for a while.”
She ducked her head, fighting a blush. Does that bother you, Joe? I hope not. “Yes,” she answered, meeting his eyes and wondering what he saw there.
“Good for you, Radcliffe,” Joe said, clapping her on the shoulder. “Now drink that coffee and let’s start going through some evidence.”
“I’ll meet you in the conference room in a bit,” Catherine replied. “First, I need to call Elliot.”
Catherine reached Elliot in what she suspected was record time; either he was never out of the office or he’d instructed his receptionist to put calls from her through immediately. “Why, Cathy, it’s so good to hear from you,” Elliot said, and Catherine just managed to avoid rolling her eyes at the Burch charm (which really, she considered, ought to come with a giant trademark symbol) oozing through the phone.
“I was told you called,” she replied, all business. “Max Avery was picked up on a warrant in south Florida and---“
“I’d heard that,” Elliot said, and Catherine decided against asking exactly how he’d learned the info, when the news of the arrest hadn’t even made the local papers yet. “So the case against him is back on?”
“That’s correct. At some point, I’ll need you to come in and discuss the contents of the notebook you provided to us.”
There was the sound of paper turning, probably a calendar, Catherine decided. “That’s fine. I can get reservations today at Tavern on the Green. We can meet then and discuss---“
Catherine shook her head, only then realizing he couldn’t see her. “No, Elliot. Any discussions regarding your testimony will be here, in this office. What time works best with your schedule?”
A brief silence, then, “I have a meeting with the planning commission tomorrow morning, but it’ll probably be over by 11. I can meet you there around 1:30 with my attorney.”
“That’ll be fine,” Catherine replied, marking the date on her calendar. There was just enough time in her schedule the next day that if he didn’t dawdle or run late, she’d have enough time to start reviewing his testimony before her afternoon court appearance on the Dalton case.
“Cathy,” Elliot said, and his voice was sincere, the kind of sincerity she’d have believed, once upon a time. “I have missed talking to you.”
“This isn’t a social call, Elliot. I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon,” she replied, and hung up.
Joe rounded the corner, the bag of his usual breakfast of choice in his hands. “Joe,” she moaned, “how can you eat chocolate cheese nuggets this early? Those things can’t be good for you.”
“Whaddya mean, Radcliffe?” he replied, grinning. “They’ve got two of the food groups---dairy and chocolate.”
She laughed, the tension gone. “Fine. Let’s go review some evidence. And keep that bag far, far away from me.”
Vincent awoke just before noon to the muted clanking of the pipes---William, announcing that lunch would be ready in an hour. The bed was cold without Catherine, but the knowledge that it would not always be so, that she would return, warmed him. He sat up, ran a hand through his unruly hair and remembered that he was to meet Cullen and Kanin after lunch to start designing the expansion of this chamber.
Cullen had dropped a wide leering grin when Vincent had first asked him about it. “Yeah, I could see how that chamber could be a mite small for the two of you,” he said. “Sure, I’ll help. Are you sure you want to trust Mouse with the last of his…gizmos, though?”
“He’s the only one of us with any actual experience using plastic explosive,” Vincent had replied.
“Yeah, and I can’t tell you how reassuring that isn’t. Remember the automatic bed maker he tried to make for Father last year?”
Vincent did indeed remember; Father was still finding bits of mangled machinery buried in his chamber. “Nevertheless,” Vincent said, “Mouse knows what he’s doing.”
“I hope so,” Cullen said. “If not, you could end up with your chamber joined to Father’s. And wouldn’t that make for a fun wedding night?”
“No,” Vincent said, grinning. “I don’t think we need Father giving pointers from the upper balcony.”
Cullen had been eating a sandwich as they talked and he nearly choked. “Good God, Vincent, don’t surprise me like that.”
“Like what?” Vincent had asked, innocently enough, though the effect was probably ruined by his grin.
“Like…that,” Cullen said, laughing. “You’ve changed since you went to Connecticut. I never knew you had it in you.”
Now, standing under the warm water of the shower, Vincent smiled. He had changed since Connecticut, but so had Catherine. They were changing, growing, together.
Lunch in the Commons was what William referred to as his “cold weather special”: a thick, hearty beef stew, homemade bread and coffee, tea, or hot chocolate to drink. Steam rose in the air from the bowls and mugs as Vincent sat down at a nearby table. Kanin had already pulled out a sketchpad and was doing his best not to jostle his bowl of stew as he drew out a quick plan. “Eat first,” Livvy urged, while trying to keep Luke’s hands out of her long hair. “The planning can wait.”
Kanin reached over to take Luke from his wife. “You eat while the stew’s hot and I’ll hold him,” he replied, grinning at his son. He made a mark on his sketch of the chamber as Luke gnawed on a biscuit. “I think if we target the blast here, it should free up access to the other storage chambers.”
Vincent nodded in agreement. The plan was simple, deceptively so. If it went well, the chambers on the other side of the wall would be joined to his chamber, forming a three bedroom chamber for him and Catherine. “But you’re going to have to move that stuff you’ve got in there,” Kanin said.
“Oh, yeah,” Cullen said from the other side of the table. “That should be interesting, as many years as you’ve lived in there.”
“And make sure the stained glass isn’t broken either,” Livvy said. “I remember when Devin brought that down for you.”
Cullen raised his eyebrows. “So that’s where you got it? I’ve always wondered.”
Vincent nodded. “He and…Winslow brought it down, the year before Devin left.”
Pascal, sitting next to Vincent, laughed. “I remember that. Wasn’t there some wild tale about having rescued it from a gypsy caravan? Or was it a rampaging herd of pirates? I can’t remember.”
“More like, they salvaged it from a building about to be torn down,” Kanin said, chuckling. “Did Father have a fit when he saw it?”
“I did indeed,” Father said mildly, sitting down with his own bowl of stew. “The debate about ‘finding, not stealing’ did not have its origins with Mouse, I assure you.” His eyes softened. “Though I was quite touched that they’d brought it down for Vincent, I was afraid they’d stolen it. I never did discover where they…found…it. Did you ever learn, Vincent?”
“Yes, Devin told me late one night, but I had to pinky swear not to tell,” Vincent said, to much laughter. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you. Such vows are quite solemn, you know.”
Father rolled his eyes. “’Pinky swear,’ indeed,” he replied, chuckling. “It’s amazing I have any hair left at all after what you boys put me through.”
“How many boxes do we have, Joe?” Catherine asked, stretching to ease a kink in her neck.
“Too many,” Joe groaned, head in his hands. “I’d forgotten just how much stuff we had for this case. I should have gone to forestry school and become a park ranger, something with less paper.”
She laughed. “Don’t bail on me now. This was your idea that I take this case, Mr. Acting District Attorney, and if I have to risk a hemorrhage from the paper cuts, so do you.” She lifted one of the legal pads from underneath a box. “So here’s the short list of the witnesses I know we can find again. The others…” Catherine handed him a longer list. “The others are the ones who’ve gone in the wind since the grand jury.”
“And the others are the problem,” Joe said, tapping the list. “They didn’t want to be found the first time; now…” He glanced down, the pen clicking from his hand to the paper in a rhythm of worry. “What about Avery’s accountant?”
Catherine opened a thin file. “Dead, under mysterious circumstances about a year ago. Drowning accident, the police said; he’d been out fishing and fell out of the boat and drowned. Except his wife said he didn't fish and hated the water because he got violently seasick. The police weren’t able to prove foul play but the timing is a bit suspicious.”
“I’ll say. Damn,” Joe replied. “We could really have used him.”
“He wasn’t all that cooperative then, as I remember,” Catherine said. “Not that I blame him, but…”
“Yeah,” Joe said. “At least we have one end of the conspiracy; Burch's notebook lists all the payments he made to Avery or one of Avery's shell companies to keep his construction projects going. And we have some of Avery's bank records to prove where the money went.” He looked at her. “Does Burch know the risks?”
“I hope so,” Catherine replied, noticing how late it must be from the lengthening shadows outside. “I have a meeting with him and his attorney tomorrow afternoon to review his testimony. I hope he’s got the stomach for this.”
“You want me there?” Joe asked.
“I think it would be a good idea, yes. I’ve no idea who Elliot’s attorney is this time out, but it’d be good to have a second pair of ears there.” Catherine closed her eyes, fighting against a sudden blur of tiredness. She’d have to take Elliot’s testimony home and finish reviewing the rest of his testimony if she had even a hope of being able to discuss it with him.
“Hey,” Joe said. “It’s getting late. Let’s go home and go through them tomorrow. These boxes aren’t going anywhere.”
She laughed, standing and grabbing her coat. “That’s for sure. Want to split a cab?”
Joe nodded. “Sure, sounds good.”
It was closing on 7pm when she finally made it home, the folder of Elliot’s interview and testimony heavy in her briefcase. I’m coming home soon, Vincent, Catherine thought, unsure if he could hear her thoughts; the longing she knew he could certainly sense through their bond. She scrambled out of her work clothes and into the jeans and layered sweater more appropriate for the tunnels, and rushed into the basement, throwing her files into the laundry basket as she went.
“You’re here,” Vincent breathed against her hair just as soon as she cleared the basement ladder.
“I am,” Catherine said, holding him tightly. “How was your day?”
“Busy,” Vincent replied, taking her hand in his own and her basket in the other as they began to walk towards the hub. “Mouse is eager to test out his…gizmos…on our chamber, and Father insists he doesn’t want to know anything about it. I had to inform Eric that writing his book report in very large print doesn’t suffice for the page requirement and…I missed you.”
Her hand tightened on his own. “I missed you too.” There was an uneven tattoo of tapping on the pipes and Catherine remembered, with an inward grin, her lessons in the pipe codes when they’d been in Connecticut. Catherine to Vincent-basement entrance-I love you.
There was the faint scrape of his claws against the palm of her hand. Vincent to Catherine-basement entrance-I love you too.
Click here for Chapter Four....
 “There Where the Waves Shatter,” by Pablo Neruda