Chapter 32: Sharer of My Roving Life 
Catherine arrived at work early on Friday morning. Vincent had been called away at dawn with several of the other men to fix a group of leaking pipes (“This never happens at noon,” he'd said dryly as he'd left the comfort of their bed and hurriedly shrugged into his oldest clothes,) and unable to sleep without him, she had decided to come into work instead of tossing and turning. She smothered a groan to find her desk covered in files, various motions and messages layered over her phone. At the very top was a note from Joe: “See me when you get in.” She placed her purse in her drawer and hung up her coat, then went to his office.
“Cathy!” Joe exclaimed. His tie was already askew and his coffee cup was not full. Not a good sign, Catherine thought. “You're back. How do you feel?”
“I feel fine,” she answered, sitting down. Joe closed the door and she gazed at him. “It's good to be here. Why do you look so worried?”
“You don't miss much, do you?” He excavated a thin file and handed it to her. “That's the police report on your accident. A car matching that description was found in a junkyard in Newark, burned-out. It had been reported stolen a week before from a used car lot...”
“...and that's where the trail went cold?” she surmised.
Joe nodded. “Got it in one.” He stood, hitched one hip on the corner of his desk. “Cathy, look, I don't mind telling you this: you and Rita were both damned lucky. Professionals did this. Not amateurs.”
“Anyone keeping an eye on the Muellers?” She remembered Herman Mueller's crushed leg, heard the fear in his voice: I know what Avery's reach can do.
“Yeah, we got the police up there watching them.” Joe fidgeted with his ball of rubber bands and pulled his tie further awry. “I want both of you to get out of town for a couple of weeks.” He glanced down at the carpet then back across at her, his gaze resolute. “There's a possibility we have a leak in the department.”
The same thought had occurred to her. “Right. How'd they know precisely when we were leaving the Muellers? How did they find out we were even planning to be there in the first place?”
“Yeah,” Joe said. “With what we discovered about Moreno...”
She nodded. “We can't assume he was the only one.”
“So, that's why I want you and Rita to go to this conference in Albany next week; it's on prosecuting white collar crime.” He grinned boyishly. “Can't hurt, right?”
“No, it can't. But Joe, the next hearing on the Avery case is in a few weeks. If I'm gone for this conference, I won't have much time to prepare.”
Catherine flipped through the pages of the motion he handed to her. “You have got to be kidding me. His attorney is claiming Avery's incompetent and wants him to be evaluated by a psychiatrist?”
“I hear you,” Joe said. “But it's how Graham Sparks plays the game. The hearings get delayed, our witnesses move or change their minds and suddenly...our case isn't as strong as it was.”
“Joe, I saw him in court at the arraignment. He's as competent as you or I.”
“I know he is, and you know he is, but no judge is going to risk this thing being reversed on appeal. He’ll get his psychiatric exam and his hearing and he’ll be found competent.” Joe folded his arms. “Until then, we subpoena more records and dig up more evidence. And we wait.”
“Well, you can wait,” Catherine replied dryly. “Some of us need to stock up on band-aids for our paper cuts.”
Joe laughed. “That’s the spirit. Oh, before I forget, one of the messages on your desk is from the forensic accountant; reception transferred his call to me while you were out.”
“Thanks, I’ll call him back.”
As she turned to leave, Joe’s voice stopped her. “It really is good to see you at work, kiddo. You had me worried.”
Catherine smiled at him. “Thanks, Joe.”
By mid-morning, she’d reduced the files to manageable piles and updated her calendar to reflect the upcoming hearings. As she’d thought, November would be busy both above and below, with Winterfest preparations beginning soon, and the court calendar bunching up before the holidays. But would I have it any other way? No. Glancing at her list of messages, she decided to call the accountant. “David Smith,” the voice answered.
“Hello, this is Catherine Chandler at the District Attorney’s office--- “
There was a pause, then a brief laugh. “I know who you are. We danced the Charleston, remember?”
“No, you danced. I tried not to trip over my ankles,” Catherine replied, remembering the russet-haired guitarist from Winterfest. Vincent’s friend David too, she thought, recalling the story he’d told her when they’d camped one night. “I can’t believe it---you’re that David Smith?”
“It’s such an unusual name. But yes, I’m him. Me. Whatever.”
“Well, the reason I’m calling is to see if you’re available to work on a large white collar crime case.” Briefly, she outlined what they knew and suspected of Avery’s operations. “And we have a lot of bank records so far, but we need a flow-chart, something to show where the money is coming from, where it’s going, and what it’s being spent on.”
David whistled. “When’s your trial date?”
“I don’t have any idea. Our defendant is trying to get himself declared incompetent but meanwhile the documents are piling up.”
“Well, it’s only Joshua and me running this place, but I believe we should be able to work on this. Will you be available on Monday? I can come by, drop off my contract and pick up my copies of the bank records.”
“That sounds good,” Catherine agreed. “What time Monday?”
“Late morning, say around 11? I have to meet some clients first.”
“All right,” she said, making a notation on her calendar. “See you then.”
“I don’t believe this,” Cullen groaned, sodden and filthy as they all were. “This damned pipe is still leaking.”
Vincent shook the damp, heavy mass of his hair back from his shoulders and wished for the thousandth time he’d thought to borrow one of Catherine’s hair ties when he’d left that morning. The pipe was cold and wet, seeping under his hands. Icy water trailed its way down the back of his neck and he shivered, uncomfortably aware of the denim shirt soaked through the thermal undershirt to his skin.
“Well, staring at the pipe isn’t going to fix it,” Angus said, the faintest burr of irritation edging his words, though perhaps only ears like his would have heard it. “Is there any word from Matthew?”
“None yet,” Vincent answered, applying sealant to another pipe. “But if Matthew’s on a job site---”
“We’ll have to make do without him. You ask me, it needs to be replaced,” Angus retorted. “The pipe’s old.”
“They’re all old down here,” Kanin said. “We’re just lucky City Water doesn’t happen to care about this junction.”
“You hope they don’t care,” Angus muttered.
Kanin’s head jerked up at that comment. Angus had taken over much of Kanin’s work on pipe maintenance during the months of his prison sentence but the resentment between them was an older and festering one. Vincent placed a restraining hand on his arm and Kanin subsided. “Arguing isn’t going to fix the pipe either,” Vincent said. “Matthew will respond. In the meantime, we must do what we can.”
“It won’t be enough,” Angus retorted.
“Well, what do you want us to do?” Kanin demanded. “We can’t walk into a plumbing supply store and buy what we need. We have to rely on others to help us.”
It was easy to forget Angus was the oldest person present by several years, so quickly did he advance on Kanin. “If you’d been here to do the maintenance like you should have been, this pipe would have been fixed months ago before it got this bad!”
Vincent stepped between them, sensing the bitter harsh flood of Angus’ fury as an almost physical tide. “Back off, Angus. Now.”
Angus balled his fists. “And if I don’t?”
A low rumble emerged from Vincent’s throat and he felt the first rush of protect-fight-save-defend surge through him. “Try me.”
Some hours later, they emerged from the junction. Matthew, true to form, had sent Mouse below with the supplies needed to finally fix the largest leaking pipe. “I don’t know about you,” Cullen said as a bedraggled Kanin left to return to his chamber, “but the first thing I’m going to do is get a shower. Then eat. Or maybe...”
Despite his exhaustion, Vincent smiled. “Shower first. Definitely.”
Cullen laughed. “You’re one to talk. You smell like a wet cat.” His face froze as he realized what he’d said. “God, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
Vincent shook his head. “Cullen, my…fur is soaked clear through. It’ll take hours before I’m completely dry.” He sniffed at one of his sleeves. “And---though I doubt Kali, Wilma or Slinky would be willing to get wet for purposes of comparison---I suppose I do smell like a wet cat.”
Cullen clapped him on the one shoulder, grinning. “You’ve changed, you know that?”
“Yes,” Vincent acknowledged, abandoning the attempt to refasten one of his frayed cuffs.
“You’re not…bothered by Angus, are you?” Cullen asked, stopping. “If you are, don’t be. He’s a hot-head and an ass and---”
Vincent considered. Some part of him insisted---with Father's voice, he noted dryly---that intervening as he had was unwise, that he should never show that other, more fierce side openly. But another, newer voice spoke louder. I did what needed to be done. Nothing more, nothing less. Angus is unhurt and the fight ended. “No, I’m not. He was going to hit Kanin.”
“He was,” Cullen confirmed. “Every time he gets around Kanin, he’s trying to start something. You’d think he’d have grown out of his case of the stupids, as old as he is.”
“He’s not that much older than we are,” Vincent protested.
“Ten years at least,” Cullen retorted. “Old enough to know better than to pick a fight with another man just because you’re pissed off you had to do his job for a while.”
“It’s more than that,” Vincent replied, though it was often difficult to sort out the inchoate things his empathy told him. “He dislikes Kanin for some personal reason.”
“Well, whatever, he’s old enough to be angry after the emergency’s over, not during it. If Matthew hadn’t sent down those supplies…”
“Yes,” Vincent agreed. “We’d have had some serious flooding.”
Cullen yawned. “Anyway, I’m going to go off to my chamber and hope Valerie lets me in the doorway, as bad as I smell. You and Catherine coming to the commons for dinner?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Good, man. See you both tonight.”
Vincent was putting on a clean shirt when he heard Father’s voice from out in the corridor. “Vincent, may I come in?”
The tunnel rumor mill, working overtime yet again, he thought, amused. “Certainly, Father. Would you like some tea?”
“That would be nice, thank you,” Father replied.
Vincent poured the tea, and decided to confront matters head-on. “I assume you heard about Angus.”
“Mouse told me,” he confirmed. “Is…everything all right?”
The undertone of Father’s words was clear enough: Are you all right? How do you feel? “I believe so,” Vincent answered. “Has Angus been sighted?”
Father nodded. “The sentries saw him down by the Mirror Pool. Aaron says he’s in, and I quote, ‘One hell of a snit.’ What happened?”
Vincent told him. When he finished, Father leaned his head against the padded back of the chair. “I was afraid of this,” he said finally. “Angus’ antagonism towards Kanin has only intensified since his return, though they were never particularly close before.”
“No, they weren’t,” Vincent agreed, “though Kanin wasn’t really close to anyone before he…left us. Only Drew, then Olivia.” Father sipped at his tea for a time, a tense sort of expectant waiting in his gaze. “What is it you wish to say, Father?”
“I…I’m sure you acted as you thought you must but…there will be talk.”
“There’s always some talk, of one kind or another,” Vincent answered. “Angus was going to strike Kanin. What do you think I should have done?”
“There was nothing else you could have done,” Father replied. “But as long as Angus has lived among us, I’ve been forced to recognize that his is the sort of anger that doesn’t lessen over time.”
“He’s…very angry with Kanin. Furious even,” Vincent replied. “It’s eating at him.”
To his great relief, Father didn’t challenge his conclusions with some variant on Oh, how could you know that? Instead, he said, “We’ll have watch both Angus and Kanin. These confrontations cannot be allowed to continue or escalate.”
All throughout the rest of the day, through the Elizabethan Literature class he and Father taught, through helping Cullen with the beginning woodworkers, Vincent was conscious of a burgeoning joy. It wasn't his, but Catherine's, and her happiness lit their bond like a beacon, dispersing the tensions and the exhaustion of earlier in the day.
Even Cullen had remarked on it, taking the canister of varnish from his hands and recapping it. “I see that goofy grin on your face. Go see her before you spill the stuff on the floor. You know how I like to keep it clean.”
The floor—Cullen's old chamber---was in fact already marked by varnish stains and covered in sawdust and wood flakes besides, but Vincent chuckled and handed the container over.
Halfway to the threshold, he began to run.
He arrived as she was descending the ladder into the world they now shared. Her blossoming joy lit his heart. “What is it?” he breathed against her hair.
“Dara called...I wanted to send a message to you but I thought I should tell you in person.”
“Tell me what?” he asked, loving the feel of her slight body against his. Ah, Catherine...
“The seller accepted our offer. Vincent, we have a home.”
Click here for Chapter 33...
 “Fast Anchor'd, Eternal, O Love,” by Walt Whitman