Later that night, Catherine turned over and tried not to wake her husband. Images of Avery...of Moreno...even of Elliot Burch as he'd handed over the notebook conspired to keep her wakeful. Her worries chased her fears and neither one would relent. “Catherine,” Vincent's low voice spoke from the dimness. “What is it?”
“I can't sleep,” she replied.
It was nearly dark in their chamber save for the soft light of one of Rebecca's thick candles, but without turning her head, she knew he smiled. “I noticed,” he said. “The bed creaks a bit.”
“Oh,” Catherine said, chagrined, and felt herself gathered into Vincent's strong arms.
“Tell me,” he murmured.
“It's this case,” she explained. “I didn't tell you what the new information was. There's a good possibility that Max Avery is a member of the Rotolo crime family.”
The sudden drop in temperature could not be attributed to a draft in the room. “The same family Mitch Denton worked for,” Vincent said, the low growl unmistakable, his hands tightening around her waist in a reflex of protectiveness.
“Sam knew,” he replied, his voice rough. “Knew, and was ashamed of Mitch, of what his son had become. He wouldn't accept my forgiveness before he died.”
She reached up to touch the furred cheekbones. “Mitch Denton can't hurt anyone now, Vincent, not in a psychiatric hospital. And there's absolutely no evidence of any connection between him and Avery.”
He covered her hand with his own. “But you're worried.”
His pulse beat strongly against her skin. “It was easier when Max Avery was a two-bit extortionist. If he's a member of the mob, it makes everything more complicated.”
“When will you know if he is?” Vincent asked.
“Joe's got some calls in—-but if the Feds are pursuing a larger case against the Rotolos, they might not be willing or able to tell us anything. We could be on our own on this.”
“You will not be alone,” he reminded her, the rough, wild silk of his hair brushing her arms. “Try not to worry.”
Catherine chuckled, feeling the last release of tension. “Isn't that my line?”
“Perhaps,” he agreed. “I thought you needed to hear it.”
She pulled his head forward for a kiss. “I did.”
After seeing Catherine to her threshold, Vincent walked to Father’s chamber. Her mention of the review of the house inspection reminded him that he needed to check the maps to see if there had ever been an entrance in the building’s basement--or if there had not, how difficult it would be to make one. As he expected, Father was already awake, pouring his first cup of tea and settling in for a review of the latest medical journals from Peter. “Ah, Vincent, good morning,” Father said. “Catherine’s well, I trust? We…um…didn’t see you two at breakfast.”
He nodded, smiling at the twinkle in his parent’s eyes. “She had to leave early for a court appearance, Father.”
“Please,” Vincent replied, sitting down in the large carved chair that had been his for---how long had it been? Certainly before his feet touched the ground.
“So what brings you here this morning?” Father asked, pouring the tea---green tea with mint---into two cups and adding a generous dollop of honey to both. Steam coiled in the air.
“Well, you know where they are,” Father responded, gesturing to a Chinese vase behind his desk where rolls of paper, yellowed with time and use, leaned up against an old apothecary’s cabinet. “I don’t think anyone’s looked at them since Simon drew them; it’s been years since we had helpers that lived there.” His voice softened. “Though I suppose that’s changed too, now that you and Catherine are looking at a place there. When do you meet Matthew?”
“Friday,” Vincent said, taking a sip of his tea.
“And you’re both certain this is the place?” Father asked.
Vincent thought of the stained glass in the dilapidated building---would any other place seem as much like home to them? “As certain as we can be. I expect Matthew’s estimate of the repairs will be…exhaustive.”
Father grunted in agreement. “With Annie working on it with him, I’m sure it will. Neither of them do their work by halves.”
“You're still taking all this very...calmly, Father.”
“I suppose I am, at that,” Father responded wryly, then sobered. “I worry for you both, of course. But at the same time, the hopes and dreams you and Catherine have are no more than I would have expected from any other couple. My great regret is that my fears held you back for so long. You both deserve every happiness, every possibility.”
“Thank you, Father,” Vincent replied, touched. Father had always championed him, believed in him, but not his right to have the dreams other men did---no more than he himself had, before Catherine. What a long way they had all come.
“Yes, well,” Father said, rubbing the sparseness of his greying beard, “why don't you pull out those plans and we'll go over them?”
Nodding, Vincent walked behind the desk to remove the smaller of the rolled maps from the vase. Unfurling it on the end table, he placed paperweights on the corners. “Did you see this?” Father asked.
Vincent gazed at the date at the corner. “1966,” he read. “That was the year Devin left, the first year I went with Simon and Winslow to make these maps.”
“Yes,” Father replied. “And such tales you came back with, too.”
Vincent affected a pose of injured dignity. “They were all true, Father.”
Father’s eyebrows rose, though he was anything but serious. “Oh, I’m sure. Between you and Simon, I never knew quite who to believe.” He drank some of his tea. “Did I tell you I had a letter from Devin?”
“No,” Vincent said. “Is he well?”
“Very well, apparently.” His mouth quirked. “He mentions Rose---a librarian there---quite often.”
“Oh, yes. Probably more than he realizes.” Father poured some more tea from the teapot. “I had such doubts about Devin's ability to meet Charles' needs---both physical and emotional---but it appears he's doing just fine. I do wonder, though...”
“The medical care Charles must require isn't inexpensive; had he stayed here, we would have done our best but it would have strained our resources considerably. Devin can't earn that much as a bartender. How is he doing it?”
Vincent kept his face utterly still. He had his suspicions about how Devin was managing, but if Devin himself didn't realize the source of the funds for Charles' medical care, he wasn't about to reveal his theory to Father. “Devin has always been resourceful, Father. And surely there are...programs...Charles can qualify for.”
Father's grey gaze pinned him neatly. “Yes. I'm sure there are.”
The snap of rolled paper saved him from having to respond further; the map, protesting at being laid flat after all these years, had slipped the paperweights. “Well, now,” Father said, placing one firm hand on the upper corner, “let’s see what we have here.”
An hour’s careful examination later, Vincent paused in his perusal of the plans long enough to stretch. “What do you think, Father?”
“I think it’s quite possible there was a once tunnel entrance, probably from the speakeasy Dara mentioned. Simon’s notation here is clear enough. ‘Found broken liquor bottles, remnants of a trap door, and a dented flask.’ It’d take some excavation of course, but once the rubble is removed and the tunnel itself reinforced, it seems entirely feasible. Why don’t you and Cullen take a look at it today?”
“That sounds like a good idea,” he replied. An insistent rhythm beat on the pipes. “That's Cullen now, asking for me.”
“Ah, yes, he mentioned something at breakfast about the building next door to the one you and Catherine are planning to buy.”
“The one that was destroyed by the fire?” Vincent asked.
Father nodded. “The very one.”
Vincent smiled. Cullen had become an adept scavenger in his years in the tunnels; likely he had some project planned with whatever could be salvaged. “I'll talk to him and see what he wants, then.”
Just as Vincent arrived outside Cullen's chamber at the outskirts of the hub---a good twenty minute walk, even with his long strides---he heard the faint, nearly silent, sounds of clothing rustling. Valerie emerged, cheeks flushed rose and with tendrils escaping from her normally orderly braid. “Um, hi, Vincent,” Valerie said.
“Hello,” Vincent replied, repressing a smile, wondering if his own face looked so happily dazed...after. “Is Cullen...available?”
“He'll be out in a minute,” Valerie said, smoothing her hair. “We were...um...”
“Unpacking?” Vincent asked, unable to keep the mischief out of his voice.
“Oh, don't you start,” Valerie answered, chuckling. “Yes. Unpacking.”
“Your...lower two buttons are mismatched,” he said for her ears alone. Valerie grinned and fixed them. “Better?”
Vincent nodded, chuckling himself. Cullen came out, looking far more flustered than Valerie. “Hi, Vincent. Let me get...um...let me....”
Cullen's shirt was disordered, wrinkled and his thinning hair was as disorganized as Vincent had ever seen it. “Finish unpacking?”
“Oh, we finished, thank you very much,” Valerie said, smoothing her skirt. “Cullen, sweetie, I'll see you later, okay?”
Vincent turned to Cullen and mouthed “Sweetie?” Cullen laughed, a rare joy lighting his face. “Sure, Val, love you.”
“Love you too,” she said.
Cullen ran a hand through his hair and watched as she left. “So, things are going...well...then?” Vincent asked, hiding his smile.
“Yeah, man, they are,” Cullen replied. Waiting until she was out of earshot, he continued. “She's why I wanted to see you. Are you and Catherine still going to buy the building next door?”
“If we can, yes. Why?”
“If you do, I'd like to take a look and see if anything can be salvaged. I'm...that is, I want to....”
“Build her something special?”
“Yeah,” Cullen said. “There might be something usable left in there.”
“I'll mention it to Catherine. I'm sure it won't be a problem.”
It was almost another hour's walk back to the junction leading to the East Village tunnels. No other person had been here since he and Catherine had entered Renata's flower shop nearly two weeks before; in the pale dirt at the crossways, he could see his own booted footprints, the smaller ones of Catherine's tennis shoes. He closed his eyes briefly. She was tired, very tired, the feeling mingling with the dull press of a headache she would ignore because there was no other choice and a frustration he recognized only too well---the frustration of far too many things to do and not nearly enough time in which to do them. There was also a growing tinge of amused exasperation and he shook his head, smiling. He was sure to get the full story behind that tonight.
“Everything okay?” Cullen asked.
“Yes,” Vincent replied, realizing his slight distraction must have been obvious. “She's fine. Just tired.”
“I bet,” Cullen said. “You two just got married and here you are looking to renovate a house. Even Above, that's a lot to take on.”
“It is,” Vincent agreed. “But worth it.”
“Oh, yeah, a place of your own...it's always worth it.” Cullen touched his arm and Vincent stopped. “Valerie's larger chamber...we're thinking we might move in together once it's done. I can keep my old chamber as my workshop.”
“Ah,” Vincent said, grinning. “I'm glad for you both. Truly, I am.”
“Thanks, man. We haven't told anyone else but...it's in the works. I wasn't sure if it was...right,” Cullen said as they began walking again. “Betty's been gone for seven years now and Drew for six. Valerie and I, we figured...we can be good for each other.”
“If you ask me,” Vincent said, knowing how long it had taken him to accept this simple truth, “you already are.”
“So this is it?” Cullen asked, sometime later as they stood in front of a tunnel partially blocked by rock and dirt. There was a narrow pathway—probably made by Simon on his last expedition, to judge by the amount of debris that was still undisturbed---but even Vincent's keen sight couldn't make out the condition of the tunnel.
Vincent called up his recollections of Simon's map. “It should be,” he replied. A glint of color caught his eye and his booted foot brushed aside some of the earth, revealing the jagged edge of a broken liquor bottle. “Once this is excavated, it should either lead right into our basement or close to it.”
Cullen nodded. “Well, if Matthew and Annie and their crew can figure out what they're doing up top, I don't see why we can't get to work on it from our end.” He paused. “Matthew's using helpers as subcontractors, right?”
“I don't know yet,” Vincent said. “We're meeting him on Friday to go over everything.”
“I hope he is,” Cullen replied. “It'd be a damn sight easier to get this tunnel cleaned out without having a bunch of people wondering what we're doing.” He rubbed his arms. “Is it cold here to you?”
This section of the tunnels was far closer to the surface than the rest of the hub and thus, much cooler, but the crawling chill Vincent felt along the back of his neck had nothing to do with the season. “It feels cold, yes,” he replied, ignoring—for now---the sensation that they were far from alone in this deserted tunnel.
“Why don't we head back?” Cullen asked, chafing his gloved hands together. “No point in us both freezing. Once you and Catherine meet with Matthew and Annie, let's talk to Kanin and Warren and Mouse and work on some plans down here.”
“I agree,” Vincent replied, seeing his breath coalesce in the cool air and wondering if Cullen would notice that it hadn't been that chilly a few minutes before. Kristopher?
There was no answer.
The persistent, nagging feeling of something other near him dogged his steps as he returned to their chamber. He had one class---helping Cullen with the youngest woodworkers---before Catherine returned home, so Vincent decided to busy himself unpacking and rearranging some of the remaining boxes of books to fill the time. Just as he was moving Idylls of the King to its new place on a higher shelf, he heard a voice from behind him.
“You know that house is haunted,” the voice said and Vincent whirled, teeth bared in a warning growl. He relaxed once he saw who it was. Kristopher, of course; no one else---not even Mouse---could sneak up on him like that.
“Whoa, big guy!” Kristopher said, jumping back, startled. He had been leaning up against the statue of the Grecian lady and had Kristopher been alive, Vincent mused, she might well have fallen off her pedestal, so far did he leap backwards.
The ghost grinned, not at all repentant. “So it is. I’m sorry. But seriously, that house is haunted.”
“So are these tunnels, apparently,” Vincent said pointedly. “Yet we still live here. Is that why you...appeared?”
“Well, yes. Rather than you two going over the place for months hunting snarks and boojums  I figured I'd tell you why that place goes bump in the night.”
Vincent folded his arms, wondering how Catherine would take the news that their house was haunted. She believed---barely---that Kristopher was dead but it might strain the limits of her belief (to say nothing of her patience) to find that their home was full of ghosts. “I'm listening, Kristopher.”
“That place was a speakeasy---Dara’s right. And for some people, the party never ends.”
Kristopher shrugged. “No. Just noisy at times. But hey, if you growl at them like you did at me, I’m sure they’ll mind their manners.”
A thought occurred to Vincent then. “Were you in the tunnel just now, with Cullen and I?”
“Nope,” Kristopher replied. “Someone else was, though.”
“Who?” Vincent asked.
“He’s not really talkative, Vincent. Sorry. But next time you feel that chill, ask who’s there. The answer might surprise you.” Kristopher tilted his head, as if listening to a conversation only he could hear. “Sorry, but that’s my cue to leave.” He touched the brim of his ragged Mets cap and slowly faded away.
Vincent met Catherine that evening at the basement entrance, enjoying, as always, the light that glinted gold in her hair as she returned from the world Above to the world they both shared. “Hey love,” she said, nestling against him. “What’s it like where sane people live?”
He chuckled. It was a comment she’d made before but considering the day’s revelations, it was more amusing than usual. “I’m not sure I’d call this world ‘sane,’” he replied, taking her hand in his own and her briefcase in the other.
“Why?” she asked. “What happened today?”
“You first,” Vincent replied. “Earlier, I felt your…exasperation.”
“Oh, that,” Catherine said, chuckling a touch ruefully. “I discovered that you and I---well, me, but it’s the same thing, really---are quite the subject of gossip.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask,” he replied, feeling the waves of her amusement.
“So was I,” she said dryly. “Rita told me about it; she overheard two of the interns talking. Apparently, since I’ve given the gossips no information about you aside from your name, they’ve come up with some very…inventive explanations for who I’m ‘really’ involved with. And there’s much speculation why you haven’t ever made it into the office.”
Vincent laughed. “What, my being a secret agent wasn’t good enough reason?”
“Apparently not,” Catherine replied, smiling. “It’s funny now, but Rita was fuming when she told me.”
“Rita’s husband is white and she’s Puerto Rican. She got a lot of grief from her family for marrying someone who wasn’t Puerto Rican, and his family---they’re old money---still hasn’t entirely forgiven him for marrying her.”
“I see,” Vincent replied, remembering Henry and Lin, two other star-crossed lovers who had found a way to be together. “And they’re happy?”
“Oh, very,” Catherine said. “But Rita knows what it’s like to have people gossiping about things that aren’t their business.” She smiled wickedly. “I almost feel bad for the interns; Rita’s supervising them this time out and I suspect that once she’s done with them, they won’t have enough free time at work to breathe, let alone anything else.”
He nodded. “Rita seems like a good friend.”
“She is,” Catherine responded. “So, what happened down here today?”
“Valerie and Cullen have decided to move in together. We apparently have not only a tunnel entrance into our basement but also one or more ghosts who are still continuing their partying from Prohibition---this is according to Kristopher Gentian, so I assume he knows what he’s talking about.”
Catherine halted just outside the curtained entrance of their chamber, eyes wide. “Oh, wow. You have had quite the day, haven’t you? How…what….?”
“He assures me the ghosts aren’t dangerous,” Vincent continued, amused at her reaction. “We had a nice visit, though I was rather surprised at his appearance.”
“I bet,” Catherine replied, shaking her head in disbelief. “So, um…about Kristopher…he’s still…um…dead, I take it?”
“Very,” Vincent said, and followed her into their chamber.
Once inside, she sank down onto the bolsters of the couch with a weary groan. “I felt your tiredness, your headache today,” he said, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. “What is it?”
She rolled her head against his shoulder. “Max Avery’s arraignment is tomorrow.”
He kissed the top of her head. “Can you do anything about it now?”
“Then rest,” Vincent said. “I'm here.”
Click here for Chapter 23...
 Robert Frost, “Two Tramps in Mud Time”
 Lewis Carroll, “The Bakers Tale,” from The Hunting of the Snark