Chapter Four: At This Crisis of Errant Skies 
Catherine awoke with the faint tapping of the time announcement on the pipes—5am, she translated with a little concentration. Vincent slept, nestled against her, one strong furred arm over her waist, claws lightly touching her skin. She glanced over at the alarm clock. Ten minutes, Catherine promised herself, ten minutes then she would get up and shower and eat a quick breakfast before returning Above to face the day.
Her head sank back against the bolstered pillows, stirring the mild fragrance of lavender. “You're awake,” Vincent said softly.
“Yes,” Catherine replied, turning to face him, to caress the soft fur of his cheekbones. “Though I thought you weren't.”
He chuckled, a light raspy sound. “After an evening of legal research, you surely can't blame me for sleeping in a bit?”
“Is that what they're calling it now?” Catherine asked, laughing herself. After a late dinner in Vincent's chamber---our chamber, she thought with a smile---she had settled down with the largest folder, the one containing the grand jury transcript of Elliot's testimony and begun to skim through it, becoming reacquainted with a case she hadn't had the need to review in over two years.
“I can't believe how much of this case I forgot,” Catherine had said at one point, hours into her review, stunned anew by the intricacies of Avery's operation, the intimidation of large and small developers alike, the kickbacks funneled into shell companies controlled by Avery which created a virtual stranglehold on most large construction projects. “I knew there was a reason I left corporate law.”
“I wish I could help,” Vincent had said, looking up from his own paperwork---ledgers of some sort, she thought, perhaps balancing the tunnel books—and standing behind her to rub the tension out of her shoulders.
“Perhaps you can,” Catherine said, struck by a sudden idea. She lifted up a frayed sheet of notes covered in her scrawling handwriting. “If you can make sense of what I've written, I really need some sort of diagram to illustrate where the money is going. Even a rough one would help me make sense of this.”
Vincent leaned over her shoulder to take a look at the notes and she breathed in his scent---candle-smoke and cinnamon and something wilder all his own. The longing for him hit her with a fierceness that left her breath short and aching. She glanced up at him to see his eyes going a dark, fathomless blue as her desire crossed their bond. “Perhaps,” he managed, “we might...take a break?”
Now, Catherine grinned up at Vincent, remembering. “You know, they never mentioned making love as a research aid when I was in law school.”
“They didn't?” Vincent asked, straight-faced, and she broke up laughing all over again. It was, she thought, the perfect way to begin the day.
“What are you going to do today?” Catherine asked, his hair warm against her cheek.
“Packing, mostly,” Vincent replied. “If this chamber is to be expanded before we wed, I’ll need to start packing now.”
Catherine glanced around the chamber, seeing the comfortable clutter. “That’ll be a job and a half,” she said. “Promise you’ll let me help?”
He nodded. “Of course. Did I tell you I received a letter from Devin yesterday?”
"No, you didn’t. What did it say?”
“There was some mention of his travel arrangements; he and Charles are driving down from Boston for our wedding. And he…congratulated me on finally being bright enough to see what was in front of me all these years.” She felt the light tracing of claws on her cheek; Vincent, brushing her hair back. “I am sorry,” he continued, “for being so…trying.”
“I’m pretty sure I had my trying moments as well,” Catherine replied a touch ruefully, remembering her flirtation with Elliot Burch, the first flight to Connecticut. “What’s important is that we’re here, now.”
Joe was in a foul mood when she arrived at work; the door to his office nearly vibrated with the thwack of the darts hitting the dartboard. Rita caught her eye just as she got to her desk. “Avery’s attorneys are already in his hair,” Rita said, looking at the shut door much as she might look at a zoo exhibit of man-eating tigers. “And the press started calling, demanding to know why it’s taken us two years to bring Avery to trial.”
“Poor Joe,” Catherine said, a noise between a groan and a chuckle bubbling in her throat. “Has he had coffee yet?”
Rita chuckled. “No, and that’s probably part of the problem. Remember, his doctor told him to cut back on caffeine.”
Catherine smiled. “Right. Let me get settled here and I’ll go beard the lion in his den.” Glancing down at her desk, she saw with dismay that at least four more files had been added to the already towering “urgent and important” stack. She put her briefcase in a desk drawer, pulled out the rough diagram that Vincent had done the night before (“It looks like a group of dancing spiders,” he'd said when he'd finished, laughing, “are you sure this will be at all helpful?”) and placed it face down under her copies of the Avery grand jury transcript. Grabbing her spare coffee cup (which was, miracle of miracles, actually clean) she filled her cup and then the extra mug.
“Joe,” Catherine said, knocking on the door, “I'm coming in. Don't shoot.”
“Nice one, Radcliffe,” Joe replied, opening the door, a grin riding just under his scowl. “You have coffee, you can come in.”
“I have coffee,” she confirmed. She handed the mug to him. “Drink that, then tell me what's going on.”
“Avery's attorneys have filed a motion for a change of venue,” Joe replied.
“Because of the publicity?” Catherine asked, sipping her own coffee and marveling that for once, the office brew didn't taste like roofing tar.
“Not entirely.” He put the mug on the desk, dug under the loose papers and binders coating his desk until he found what he was looking for. “Here,” Joe said, handing a stapled packet to her. “That's their motion.”
She placed her own mug on his desk, and flipped through the motion. “Joe...oh, no, I'm sorry.”
“Yeah. I know. They brought Moreno into it, saying that we shouldn't be prosecuting Avery because Moreno was arrested for corruption in this case. They imply we can't be trusted to do our jobs now.” He laughed, a short humorless bark. “I don't know who else they think is gonna take it. The Feds don't want it; Avery's small potatoes.”
There were a million things she could have said, but Catherine knew it was the reference to Moreno---once Joe’s mentor and friend---that had stung him. “Joe,” she said, picking her words carefully, “no one thinks you had anything to do with Moreno.”
“Sure they do,” Joe said, looking tired. “That’s one of the reasons I’m having you prosecute this case; you were out of the office when he was arrested and it was pretty well known that you didn’t get along. No one can say you had close ties to Moreno.”
She closed her eyes briefly, remembering. Moreno’s arrest had occurred during Vincent’s illness the year before; unable and unwilling to leave Vincent’s side until she knew he would survive, Catherine hadn’t found out about the arrest until she’d returned above to find a flurry of calls from Joe on her answering machine. “Joe,” she replied, “Avery’s attorneys are just stirring up dust to try and prevent his extradition. There isn’t anything to this motion. You must know that.”
He shrugged, drinking some more of the coffee. “I know it’s the usual grandstanding but…where do I go to get my good name back? No matter that I was cleared, people will always wonder, you know that.” Joe smiled, though it looked strained. “Don’t mind me. I’m just feeling sorry for myself.”
“It could be worse,” she said dryly, trying to break him out of his grim mood.
“How do you mean?” Joe asked.
“You didn’t once date the chief witness on this case,” Catherine said.
It worked; Joe smiled, a real smile this time, and a wry chuckle escaped. “That’s true,” he said. “Hey, Cathy…that guy, the one you took care of last year when he was sick, the one you’re…with. He treats you well, right?”
Catherine smiled over the rim of her coffee cup. “He does.”
“That’s good,” Joe said. “Come on, kiddo. Let’s get back to work.”
Lunch was a roast beef sandwich brought by Benny and delivered with a wink and a smile. Tucked between the salt and pepper packets was a short message in Vincent’s distinctive handwriting: Jukebox moved. Eleven boxes packed. Demolition soon. I love you. V. And Catherine had smiled into her sandwich, grateful for the reminder of what was really important---that she loved, that she was loved, that she would be starting a new phase of her life soon.
She had just finished her lunch and pocketed Vincent’s note when the phone rang. “Catherine Chandler,” she answered.
“Hi, Catherine, it’s Dara. Sorry to call you at work, but I don’t imagine you’re home much to answer your phone.”
Catherine grinned. “No, not much. What’s up? Do you have some news?”
“Well, yes and no. Yes, because I think I found a good property that you’ll both like, but no, because I’m still waiting for the building’s owner to call me back to schedule a walk-through.” A pause, then, “I assume you’ll be wanting a nighttime appointment?”
“That would be lovely if he could be there,” Catherine replied, cautious that she had never so much as mentioned Vincent’s name at work and wary of doing so now.
“I’ll do my best, then,” Dara said. “Let’s see what else I can tell you. The owner doesn’t live there; the property belonged to his great aunt and he just wants to sell it and have done with it. Frankly, from his description, it might be worth more if it was razed for the bricks, but…”
“But?” Catherine asked.
“But it’s got some features that I think you’ll both appreciate very much. I’ll call you back once I hear from the owner, okay?”
“Sure, Dara,” she replied. “And thanks.” Catherine hung up the phone and smiled, wondering what Dara had found.
She was still smiling ten minutes later when Joe stepped out of his office and straightened his tie. “Reception just called; Elliot Burch and his entourage are heading up.”
Catherine raised her eyebrows. “An entourage? What does he think this is, a charity benefit?”
Joe grinned. “Probably his chance to wine and dine the prosecutors, or so he thinks. Come on, Radcliffe, it's showtime.”
After the meeting, after Elliot, his attorney, and the bodyguards had left, Catherine gazed at the closed door and back at Joe. “Well, that was...interesting,” she said, breathing out once and only then realizing how tense she’d been.
He shrugged. “We have Burch's testimony and his confirmation about the transactions in the notebook, as well as his acknowledgment that he knows the risks he's running by testifying. Couldn't have gone much better.” Joe tilted his head. “You're worried. Why?”
She folded her hands. “Joe, are you sure this case shouldn't be assigned to someone else?” Cutting off his expected protest, she continued, “No, wait. Hear me out. I dated Elliot Burch. Avery's attorneys will have a field day with that; they'll say I gave him immunity because of our relationship. Joe, I can step aside and advise someone else---I just don't want us to lose this case after all this time. Or have the conviction reversed on appeal.”
Joe shook his head. “Nothing doing, Radcliffe,” he replied. “For one, though the grant of immunity for Burch and his people was your idea, Moreno approved it. For another, you know this case better than anyone. I can’t hand this case off to an inexperienced prosecutor; with the lawyers Avery has hired, they’d be eaten alive, even with you to advise them. And lastly…you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not about to act like you have. I’ll take my chances with the appeals court.”
Catherine nodded. “Well, then, boss, let’s concentrate on trying to find some other witnesses besides Elliot Burch.”
“Ah, Vincent, there you are,” Father said, and Vincent looked up from where he was folding laundry.
“I haven’t been anywhere else all day,” Vincent replied, smiling. “How are you, Father?”
The older man limped down the stairs as a subway train rushed by overhead. “Well enough. You’ve gotten far on your packing, I see.” He glanced around. “Good heavens, this chamber looks much larger than it did.”
“Imagine that,” Vincent said dryly, “given that half of what was here is in those boxes behind you.” He looked at the boxes scattered throughout the chamber, thought of the change they represented. “Father, I was wondering…”
“Yes?” Father replied, sitting in the carved chair.
“You took the news that Catherine and I wanted to buy a house rather…calmly.”
“And you’re wondering why?” Father asked, smiling.
Vincent nodded. “To be honest, yes.”
“We had a water leak while you and Catherine were gone,” Father said. “Quite a nasty one, actually; it took us the better part of a day to resolve. And you weren’t there to help us; we had to solve the problem ourselves, which took some doing, but we did manage. When it was all over, I realized how unfair we’d been to you---how unfair I had been, to rage at you for wanting to do nothing more than spend time with someone who loves you. It was not…one of my finer moments.”
He nodded, not sure what to say. Father's reaction had been quite forceful, but it had been largely expected. The reaction of his other tunnel family, though...“I didn’t know there had been a leak,” Vincent finally said. “We were told that it had been quite…boring…while we were gone.”
There was a wry glint in Father’s eye. “That’s not the term I’d use but perhaps the…person…who told you that---who, I assume, was also the same person who colluded with your brother so that you could go to Connecticut---didn’t wish to alarm you or make you feel guilty for going.” His hands tightened on the worn wood of his cane. “At any rate, the whole incident made me realize that you needed a place---whether with Catherine, in her apartment, or somewhere else entirely---where you could be alone with Catherine without so many people depending on you. We depend on you too much, and for my role in that, I’m sorry.”
Vincent nodded. “Your understanding means a great deal to me, to us, Father. Thank you.” He glanced at the other man, sensing something still unsaid. “What is it?”
“I never saw such things for you, Vincent. I knew, from the moment Anna gave you to me, that your life would be lived mostly in the shadows, and I worried for you, that one day you’d want what no one could give you. How wonderful it is that Catherine’s found a way to give you at least some of the world Above.”
He smiled. “She’s my light. She always has been.” And there was the soft, gentle tug on his heart that meant she was near, coming down….
Click here for Chapter Five....
 “March Days Return With Their Covert Light,” by Pablo Neruda