Providence: Chapter 45: The Calm You Seek

 Chapter 45: The Calm You Seek [56]

Vincent stood and walked over to the pipes, feeling somewhat foolish even as he decided what he would tell the others. Kristopher's warning might have been meant for Cullen and him, not Mouse, or Mouse might have been able to avoid the danger, whatever it was. And yet... “It might not be anything serious,” he said to his wife, “but I still think we should make sure.”

Catherine nodded. “Of course. Kristopher...wouldn't have warned you if it wasn't something to be concerned about.”

Vincent banged out a series of rapid messages on the pipes: to Father, to Angus and Cullen and Kanin. Pascal responded with his usual efficiency and sent back a more personal message: Be careful.

Is there anything I can do?” Marisol asked. 
Yes. Would you please guide Father? I don’t think he’s traveled that area of the tunnels much.”

Of course,” Marisol said and left.

Should I call Matthew?” Catherine asked. 
Yes, if only to alert him we might need his help. I estimate an hour, perhaps two before…”

Catherine nodded. The rubble of the house was surrounded by a chain-link fence; in the bright sunshine of a winter morning, Vincent would be all too visible. “All right.” She peered up at him. “Please be careful.”

He kissed her on the forehead. “I will.”
Vincent and Jamie walked at a brisk clip towards the little used access-tunnel. As they walked, the relay messages from the pipes rang out: Kanin, Angus and Cullen would soon meet them. “Vincent, how did you know about Mouse? There are no pipes where he is,” Jamie finally said. 
He could have walked much faster without her, the instinctive need to protect urging him to a far more rapid pace. Yet he could not have left Jamie behind to wait and wonder. “Do you believe in ghosts?”

She didn’t bat an eyelash at the seeming non sequitur of the question. “Yeah. I’ve seen some things here….why?”

Last year, Catherine and I met a ghost,” Vincent began as they walked down a narrow branching corridor. He could almost feel the questions wanting to burst from Jamie: How? What? Why? 
 “He…apparently lives in the tunnels now. He came to our chamber very early this morning and warned me not to go back to the burned building.”

Jamie nodded, her blonde ponytail bobbing. Her next words startled him. “Vincent, this wasn’t your fault. You had no way of knowing Mouse would decide to go exploring.”

Catherine’s words from only a few months before came back to him: You can’t carry this world on your shoulders, no matter how well it fits there. Aloud, he said, “True. But we should have secured the site better. I should have known the wreck would prove too much temptation for Mouse.”

In which case,” Jamie put in, “no amount of signs or cautions would have stopped him. You know Mouse when he gets an idea in his head. Or several.”

At that, Vincent couldn’t help but chuckle despite his fears. “Yes, I do.”
Catherine rushed up the ladder, conscious of the relentless press of time. There was no telling Mouse's condition, no telling what the rescue crew might find. She threw her keys in the basket by the door and dug through the construction contacts until she found Matthew's number. His receptionist reported Mr. Glazer was in a meeting but would call her as soon as possible. Catherine thanked the woman and hung up. 
As she waited for his return call, she sorted through the mail without really seeing any of it, the minutiae of ordinary life somehow too ephemeral compared to what might be happening to the people she'd come to love. And this time, there would be no Mouse to pull a rabbit—or plastic explosive---out of his hat to help them. The thought led to others, and a niggling question forced its way through. Matthew was a contractor, a long-time helper. Why hadn't he been called when Father and Vincent had been trapped in the Maze? 
The phone rang, jarring her out of her thoughts. “Cathy, it's Matthew. What can I do for you?”

 Catherine relayed the story as best she could, leaving out the more supernatural elements. “...and I don't know if we'll even need your help but the building next door is such a wreck,” she finished.

Yeah, old structures like that, you never can tell. He was in the basement you say?” Matthew asked, cautious and guarded in the way of a long-time helper. In the background, Catherine could hear all the sounds of a busy office: phones ringing and typewriters clanking. 
Yes. Vincent and some of the others are heading there now to see if they can get him out of whatever trouble he’s gotten into. If they can’t, or it gets too late…the whole area is so open.”

I understand,” Matthew replied. “I’ve got an appointment with a building inspector and I can’t miss it, but I’ll send Annie down as soon as she’s done with her client; from what she told me yesterday, her client’s house isn’t far from yours. Do you know how bad it is?”

Catherine bit her lip. Please, please don't ask me how I knew, how Vincent knew. I don't think I could explain that. “No, not yet. But Vincent has reason to be concerned, and…”

Yeah, that’s good enough for me too,” Matthew said kindly. “Don’t worry. They’re resourceful, and I bet by the time Annie gets there, they’ll have retrieved Mouse with no problems.” 
She breathed out. “Thank you. Can I ask you something?”

Of course.”

When Father and Vincent were trapped in the Maze...”

Why wasn't I called?” She could hear Matthew's smile over the phone. “They would have,” Matthew explained, “except Annie and I were at my son’s graduation from the Naval Academy. Mouse is damned lucky he didn’t blow you all to kingdom come, but I’ve always said that boy’s the closest thing to a born engineer I’ve ever seen.” His voice grew serious. “I have to go now, but Annie will be down there in about an hour. Whatever you all need, you have it.”

Thanks, Matthew.” Catherine hung up the phone and reached for her coat when she heard a knock on her door. She frowned---who would be here at this hour? A glance through the peep-hole made her rear back in shock and dismay. “Elliot? What are you doing here?”

His eyes were red-rimmed, he badly needed a shave, and the smell of alcohol emanated from his cashmere overcoat. What did he do, Catherine wondered, shower in bourbon? “I had to see you, Cathy.”

What did you do, fly here from Buenos Aires to tell me that?” she demanded. “I don’t have time to talk this morning and you shouldn’t be here anyway---it’s totally improper. You're a witness in one of my cases, for crying out loud.” 
I’m sorry, did I wake your husband?” he asked, slurring his words.

No, I’m meeting him for breakfast,” Catherine replied, locking the door behind her, blocking his view from whatever he might see inside. An apartment where no man lives, for one, she thought. She took his arm and all but yanked him down the hallway. “And I’m running late. Let me pour you into a cab and you can forget we ever had this conversation.” 
Couldn’t forget you. I should tell your husband how lucky he is.”

Yes, I’m sure one day you’ll have an…interesting conversation all about me. But not today.” She stabbed at the down button on the elevator and glared at Elliot, daring him to say anything else. “My head hurts,” he complained.

I haven't even had my coffee yet. Sounds like we've all got problems. Just don’t throw up,” she replied tersely. To her great relief, Roger---the usual doorman—was working this morning. “Hi, Roger, could you please call Mr. Burch a cab?”

Roger didn’t so much as blink---though, as Catherine knew, he’d likely seen far stranger things than a drunk executive this early in the morning. “Yes, of course, Miss Chandler.”

And hurry up,” Elliot said loudly. “She’s meeting her husband for breakfast.”

Roger’s eyes went round. “You got married, Miss Chandler? Congratulations! When do I get to meet him?”

Catherine shook her head, deciding this was going to make a very funny story one day. “It’s…complicated.”

Of course,” Roger said dryly. He took Elliot’s arm and steered him towards the settee in the entryway. “You go on ahead. I’ll see Mr. Burch back home.” 
Thanks, Roger, you’re wonderful,” Catherine said. She tugged her scarf tighter around her neck and walked out into the brisk winter morning to hail her own cab.
That’s a good sign, don’t you think, Vincent?” Cullen asked. 
Angus yawned. “What do you mean?”

Matthew left a couple of hard-hats behind,” Cullen explained, gesturing to the hooks on the exterior wall of the entrance. “One’s missing.” 
Don’t know what Mouse saw in this old wreck anyway,” Angus grumbled, “but yeah, I hope he’s wearing it.”

Vincent pulled the hood of his cloak up over his head. It would provide increasingly little protection as the morning wore on, but for now, it would do. “Jamie, I need to you to stand watch once we enter the basement.”

Jamie’s mouth set, stubborn and angry and frustrated. “But---”

It might be heavy work, getting him out,” Angus said, and to Vincent’s surprise, his words were far removed from his usual brusqueness, almost gentle. “Nobody’s saying you can’t help us, but Vincent’s right. We need a second pair of eyes in case we start attracting attention.”

Cullen touched her shoulder. “We’ll find him. I promise.”

She nodded, and they went up the pathway into the basement. Fallen, blackened timber lurched precariously in all directions and the smell of the gasoline coating the wood was harsh in the cold air, blotting out most other odors. I wonder if Catherine knows this building was set on fire deliberately, he thought. Snow fell, swirling, leaving random blotches of wetness on their hair and shoulders. “I don’t even know where to look,” Jamie said, taking up a post where she could see the street clearly. 
Vincent had estimated the basement to be large from his last visit with Cullen, but that had been at night, when a good many details had been obscured even to his eyes. “This is a lot larger than we thought,” he said, squinting against the brightness. It was later, far later than he would ever have been above, normally, and all his instincts sharpened. 
Cullen nodded. “Yeah, no lie. Mouse? Mouse, can you hear us?”

The winter wind picked up, swallowing whatever answer there might have been. Cullen shook his head as they fanned out, calling Mouse’s name and pushing aside damp timbers and burned bricks to look for some sign, any sign, of Mouse. At some point, Kanin leaned close to Vincent. “This isn’t looking good. Where can he be?”

The gust blew snow into Vincent’s eyes; he brushed damp tendrils of hair out of his face. “I don’t know. Let’s keep looking before I have to return Below.”

Kanin nodded. Vincent kept his head down and it was then he saw the bright flash of yellow. A hard-hat, half covered by dirt and debris. The slow moan reached his ears next and he ran for what had been the far corner of the basement. The others followed close behind him as he tossed aside the detritus of the fire to uncover Mouse---injured, dirty, but alive.

Cullen whistled. “Man, if I hadn’t seen it…Vincent, how did he survive?”

Vincent shook his head, mystified. The scorched brick retaining wall, then the remnants of the plaster ceiling, had completely collapsed on him. Jamie knelt beside Mouse and touched his face with gentle fingers. “Mouse, Mouse, can you hear me?”

Mouse opened his eyes. “Hurts.”

Jamie chuckled, a laugh on the jagged edge of tears. “Yeah, I bet. Don’t move. Father’s coming.”

The wind turned suddenly and Vincent smelled a familiar scent---Catherine---and heard the rattling thrum of Annie’s laboring engine as she parked. He stiffened; Catherine’s smell was mixed with…bourbon…and another, fainter odor which he recognized all too well. He growled softly. 

“Vincent?” Cullen asked, surprised.

I’m fine,” Vincent said, shaking the off the feeling to focus on far more important matters. “Catherine’s here and Father will be soon. Let’s see about getting the rest of this debris off so we can get Mouse home.”
Some hours later, they all clustered in the narrow passage outside the hospital chamber as they waited for Father to finish his exam. Finally, Father emerged. “He’s got a concussion and a couple of bruised ribs, but he’s going to be fine.” He eyed Vincent closely, a look Vincent had seen more than a few times before: however you're planning to explain this, I won't believe you. “It’s…interesting you knew he was injured since there was no way he could have called out for help.”

Vincent met the look with one of his own. I know what I know. “Yes. Yes, it was.” 
Can I go see him?” Jamie asked.

Of course,” Father said. “I’m going to keep him overnight then release him to his own chamber tomorrow. Jamie, will you stay with him?”

She nodded and disappeared beyond the curtain. “In the meantime,” Father went on, “I think we should all get something hot to eat. I understand there’s some lunch leftovers cooking now.”

Has Mouse said anything about what happened?” Catherine asked.

Some,” Father replied. “He was looking for copper wire for one of his experiments when he felt someone shove him out of the way as the wall and ceiling collapsed. Preposterous, really, since no one else was there, but Mouse…his head injury…he was probably confused.” 
Catherine, holding his hand, must have felt him stiffen, must have sensed the coil of denial he bit back with a sharp breath. She looked up at him, then over at Father. “Well, I’m glad Mouse is safe now,” she said briskly. “Vincent, why don’t we wash up first before lunch?”

He smiled at her. “I think that's an...excellent idea.”
Catherine dropped the curtain behind them as they entered their chamber. “Okay, love. Spill. What's going on? You're upset about something.”
Vincent walked over to the dry sink in the corner and washed the dirt and mud off his hands. His careful motions---pulling the towel off the iron ring, drying his hands---seemed more deliberate, as if he was using the ordinary chore to gather his thoughts. Finally, he said, “Your scent...”
Oh,” Catherine said, remembering the stench of bourbon, her hand on Elliot's arm. “You don't think---”
Vincent knelt before her to take her hands in his own. “No, I don't. I don't.” He rose and began to pace, a rough, fast pivot she'd not seen in months. “But...his scent was on you. I have nothing to fear from this man, but I don't like him.”
She could see the justice in his dislike. “Well, he showed up drunk at my door right after I finished talking with Matthew. I wasn't pleased to see him either.”
A glint of Vincent's normal humor returned to his eyes. “I...there must be a story behind that.”
There is,” Catherine confirmed. “And I'll tell you. Later. What else is bothering you? Was it something to do with Father?”
Yes,” Vincent admitted. “When Jamie and I left to find Mouse, she asked me how I'd known Mouse was in danger. I told her about Kristopher.”
And you don't think Father will believe you when he finds out?”
No, I know he won't believe me,” Vincent said, shaking his head. “He never has when it comes to things which...can't be explained rationally.”
And it hurts when he doesn't trust what you're saying,” Catherine surmised. The memory of a time when she hadn't trusted him still scalded. How must it feel to him, she mused, to have a vital part of himself constantly mistrusted, disbelieved?
Yes,” Vincent said, coming to sit next to her. “At the same time, I can't entirely blame him; he was trained as a scientist, and my abilities are...inexplicable at the best of times.”
But still,” Catherine told him. “You're his son. And a more honest man I've never met. He should accept you and all that you are, even if he doesn't completely understand.” She touched the wild mass of his hair. “Have you ever told him how you feel?”
Catherine, I---”
Have you?”
Vincent ducked his head so his hair fell over his face. “Not in so many words. When I was a boy...” His voice trailed off.
Yes?” Catherine prompted, holding his hand.
Devin and Mitch tangled several times over the course of a long winter. He broke his arm during the worst of it; I...felt his arm break, and alerted Father before the sentries even sent in their report. Father refused to go check on Devin until he heard from more...reliable sources---after all,” and his tone was bitter, “there was no way I could have known.” He lifted his head. “Father sees...precisely what he wants to see. What words of mine can change it now?”
Oh, Vincent,” Catherine said softly. “Just because you're an empath doesn't mean everyone else is. You still have to...communicate. Talk to him. Make him really hear you. Try.”
She smiled at his brief, rueful chuckle. “You're right.”
Catherine rose and held out her hands. “Now we have that out of the way, let me tell you about Elliot's visit this morning...”

Click here for Chapter 46....
[56] “I Love You,” by Sarah McLachlan. “Let me surround you/my sea to your shore/let me be the calm you seek”


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this chapter, Krista!

Relieved to know Mouse is going to be OK. I suspect Kristopher is the person who pushed Mouse out of the way of the worst of the debris.

So glad that Catherine has urged Vincent to finally talk with Father about how much it hurts when he doesn't accept the reality of Vincent's more intangible gifts. Hmmmm . . . maybe Father needs to meet Kristopher and watch him disappear . . .

And Elliott. Sigh. Elliott needs to grow up! He abandoned his unhappy past and tried to fill the emptiness that created with wealth and power. He has to stop feeling sorry for himself and learn to find joy and completeness within himself before he will ever be able to share it with another person.


Best regards, Lindariel

RomanticOne said...

Well, that's our Mouse, always "squeaking" by and making life interesting. Father finally accepted Vincent's bond with Catherine. He might surprise Vincent this time. Poor Elliott, always wanting what he can't have. That doesn't make him bad, just human. I must say I would love to be a fly on the wall if he ever meets Vincent. Makes me smile just to think about it. :)

Krista said...

Hi Lindariel!

So good to see you back :)

It... might ...have been Kristopher, true. Or it might not. I haven't quite decided yet. ;)

Hmmm, Kristopher and Father meeting? Now, that's a visual LOL. But all kidding aside, a discussion between Vincent and Father is long, long overdue. I think Vincent's come a long way in his acceptance of himself, but Father could stand to give him some acceptance---even if he doesn't fully understand, he needs to at least accept.

Elliot...oh, Elliot. He might grow up, eventually, but I suspect he's going to be in Catherine's hair for some time to come ;)

Thanks again for your comments. I do hope you're feeling better (I saw from your comments on Carole's chapter that you were feeling under the weather.)

Hugs to you! :)

Krista said...

Hi R1!

Mouse and Kristopher do have a way of keeping life interesting, don't they? :)

And I do hope you're right about Father; I'd like to believe the old guy is still capable of surprises, of learning and growing :)

LOL---scoot over, I want to be a fly on the wall too if they ever meet.

Thank you so much for stopping by again--it's always great to see you :)

Brenda K said...

I like the magic of Kristopher in this story -- and it's so like Father to keep tugging Vincent back from anything even slightly paranormal (I recall all the dismissive comments about Narcissa, and his disapproval of Vincent's open-mindedness about her abilities) -- the one exception being his bond with Catherine.

You are so unkind to poor Elliott, though, using him as the comic relief. I might almost think you have a personal grudge against him for having the good taste, good judgment, and bad luck to love Catherine. Ah, well - I'll just have to wait and see where your vision takes this lovely story.

Write on!

Krista said...

Hi Brenda!

Well, Father is a bit (okay, a lot ) when it comes to most things outside his immediate experience. Which is beyond odd, considering whom he adopted and raised as his son, but it's a huge blind spot the character has shown time and again---Narcissa, as you pointed out, and so on. But here's hoping he can be a little more accepting. :)

Elliot is...complex. I don't have a huge dislike for him, but there's enough evidence in canon that he's not a man who takes being thwarted well. His pursuit of Catherine was pretty single-minded, bordering on obsession (as she herself said in "Ozymandias") and to me, that speaks of a man who might not be able to simply understand that he's lost. He does have excellent taste in women, though ;)

Thanks for stopping by; it's good to see you :)

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