Chapter 47: The Cross of Your Arms 
Catherine leaned back against Vincent’s shoulder as the last strains of the Canon in D Minor faded away. “Where have you gone?” he murmured under the noise of the gathered crowd above them. “You’re…very far away.”
She smiled at him by way of apology. “I guess I am. Got a lot to face tomorrow and…I don’t really want to.”
He combed her hair with gentle fingers. “Tell me.”
“I have to meet with Internal Affairs in the morning.”
“The same people who---”
“Suspended me for three months while they worked with the FBI to find out if I was involved with Moreno? Yes.”
Vincent himself remembered little of the incident, she knew; his recovery from his illness the year before had been lengthy and much of his recollection of those months was a confused haze of memory and nightmare. Told of her suspension later, he had been furious that anyone would believe she had been complicit with Moreno. “What can they want now?” he asked.
She shrugged. “I have no idea. They want to meet with Rita as well. Likely it’s about our accident in New Jersey but…I can’t say for sure.”
She felt the muscles of his chest and shoulders bunch in a sudden upwelling of tension. “Try not to worry,” she went on. “If I’m suspended again, someone else will have to take on the Avery case---”
“And Elliot Burch,” Vincent put in dryly.
“And Elliot Burch, which will also leave me more time to help you work on our house.”
To her great surprise, Vincent chuckled. “Only you could make a suspension sound like a good thing.” He sobered then. “Do you think it likely?”
Catherine shook her head. “No.” She looked down at their interlaced hands.
“I’m…considering asking Joe to have someone else assigned to the case.”
“Why? You’ve worked so hard, risked so much.”
“I have,” Catherine said. “But this mess with Elliot…if my presence is more of a distraction than a help, it might well be better to turn the case over to a prosecutor with no prior experience with him. Eventually, we’re going to get to trial, once Avery’s attorney runs out of tricks and delaying tactics. And Avery's attorney plays dirty. Always has.”
Vincent gazed at her, then off into the middle distance. “I can’t deny,” he finally said, “I would be much happier if you never had to deal with Elliot Burch again. But you voiced these objections to Joe before, did you not?”
“I did,” she replied. “But that was before Elliot decided to show up drunk at my apartment. There’s so much riding on this case; we tried and failed to bring Max Avery to justice once before, and now we’ve been given a second chance. I don’t want my presence on the case to be used as some sort of tactic for the defense.”
“You must do what you think is right,” Vincent said. “But I think there was a good reason you were assigned this case. And I believe in you.”
That he could still utter those words, after what the prosecution of Avery had cost him, after all the worry and fear and frustration, made tears well unexpectedly in her eyes. What might she have become, she wondered, without Vincent’s faith in her? “Thank you,” Catherine managed.
She felt him nuzzle the crown of her hair; his oldest caress of reassurance and love. “Hush, now,” he murmured. “You’ll miss the rest of the concert.”
It was late, quite late, when they made their way back to their chamber. “Don’t forget we’re meeting Matthew and Annie tomorrow night,” Vincent said as he dropped the heavy curtain behind them.
“I have it written down,” Catherine replied. “I can’t believe we’re starting renovations so soon. It hardly seems possible.”
“Matthew assures me the awe will wear off,” Vincent replied with a half-smile. “Nevertheless…I’m looking forward to it.”
“A place of our own,” Catherine said, brushing out her hair. “It seems so unreal.”
“Our place between the worlds...yes,” Vincent agreed, sitting on the bed to toe off his boots. “Once we find out from Matthew how things will proceed, I'll post a notice on the board.”
Catherine nodded. Located on the dividing wall between the kitchen and the main commons, the bulletin board was usually covered in notices: items lost and found, people wanting to trade items or chores, announcements of upcoming foraging trips above, the social minutiae of this community. “Vincent, I don't want the renovations on our house to interrupt the work which needs to be done around here.” She smiled wryly. “Father would never forgive me.”
Vincent folded his arms, a satisfied expression crossing his face. “Father...suggested it, as you remember. He would hardly have done so if he believed it would be disruptive.”
“True enough,” Catherine agreed. “And you must let me do what I can---I'm not experienced but I can learn.”
There was a thread of something in their bond; she was not as skilled as interpreting its nuances as Vincent was, but the overriding emotions---love, desire---were clear enough. “What?”
Vincent smiled. “I was picturing you with paint on your nose and mastic on your hands and sawdust in your hair.”
“I think...you would still be so beautiful.”
“Well, you've seen me shot, half-drowned, drugged and beaten. Being covered in construction dust would be a definite improvement,” she answered dryly. “But thank you. You're very sweet.”
He chuckled. “That's...not something often said about me.”
“Mmmm, really? So they say you’re cute instead?”
It was an old joke from their time in Connecticut. “I am not cute,” he rumbled, though his smile bellied the words.
Catherine walked over to where he sat and rested her hands on his shoulders and was not at all surprised to feel his arms pulling her close against him. “This want of you…” he murmured.
Vincent’s hair was wild and soft under her hands. “I know.”
He leaned back a bit, breathing just a little ragged, voice hoarse. “I should let you rest. Forgive me. It’s late and---”
It was late---the pipes nearly silent---but she couldn't bear his retreat. Catherine stopped him in the simplest way: she kissed him. “Oh, love. Trust what you feel, how I feel when I’m with you. And trust one more thing.”
His eyes were dark, the color of the midnight sky. “What?”
That rasp to his voice. That tone. There. She loved it. “If I’m too tired, I’ll tell you.” She kissed him again. “And…um…I’m not tired.”
With a swift movement, so fast she hardly had time to blink, he pulled her into his lap. “We can do something about that, you know.”
There was such joy in this, in his pleasure in the giving and the receiving of their love, the delight he no longer feared to reach out for. “Promise?” she murmured, tracing the lines of his ears.
“Always,” he breathed against her neck.
“Joe, you got a minute?” Catherine asked the next morning. It was long before even the earliest workers would be at their desks but she knew Joe would be there.
He nodded. “Yeah, Radcliffe. And a happy Monday to you.” He raised the pot of coffee---the office brew, which she was halfway convinced was used as roofing tar---and she shook her head. He eyed the pot, then set it back down. “Doc says I’m supposed to cut back on my caffeine anyway. Much more of this and my heart may never recover. What gives?”
She told him of her encounter with Elliot Burch over the weekend. When she’d finished, Joe nearly dropped his coffee mug. “That’s…wow. I wonder what got into him?”
“Unless I miss my guess, a couple of bottles of bourbon and probably some whiskey too,” Catherine replied dryly. “I poured him into a cab and I haven’t heard from him since.”
“He hasn’t called you to apologize?”
“Well, he might have,” Catherine replied, considering, “but my husband and I were busy all weekend. I didn’t check the answering machine.” She gazed at him, serious and intent. “Joe, are you sure I should still be on this case? I don’t want my…relationship with Elliot Burch to be a distraction.”
“Because he can’t hold his liquor? Cathy, Burch is carrying a torch for you. So what?” He sat his mug down on the edge of a desk already covered in files, notebooks, and motions. “Do you want off the case?”
“No,” she replied immediately. “But you know how Graham Sparks likes to play games in court. It’s going to come up. Somehow, he’ll find a way to get my alleged ‘undue influence’ admitted.”
“So have Rita handle Burch’s cross-exam. Hard for it to come up if you’re not the one cross-examining him. Besides,” Joe continued as he tossed his ball of rubber bands back and forth, “Burch’s behavior only reflects badly on Burch. He’s the one who got sloshed and showed up at your apartment. It makes him look like a fool, not you.”
She nodded. “And you worry too much about what people think,” Joe went on gently. Her head jerked up at that. “Look, Cathy, I’ll admit---I didn’t think much of you when Moreno hired you. I thought you were some rich uptown girl, come down here to slum with us, then head off to lunch when things got too tough.”
Catherine chuckled, a bit ruefully. Prior to Vincent, prior to her assault, the description wouldn’t have been too far off. What was I really doing then? “I know,” she said. “Edie told me.”
“I was wrong,” Joe said simply. “And I should have been fairer to you, not sent you out on all those investigations. I asked more of you than I would of almost anyone else. I knew you wanted to prove yourself, and…I took advantage. Sometimes, I think you still believe you have a lot to prove and you just…don’t. So what if Avery’s attorney tries to get your prior relationship admitted somehow, or tries to use it against you? It doesn’t matter. Avery’s still guilty as sin. And Elliot Burch is far from the only witness. He’s an important witness, yes, but this case isn’t going to rise or fall on the strength of his testimony.”
It was quite possibly the longest discussion she’d had with Joe in months, since he’d returned from his own suspension to find himself appointed the acting DA. How much their lives had changed in just the space of a year. “Thank you, Joe. I needed reminding.”
He smiled. “We all do, now and then. What time are you meeting with Internal Affairs?”
“Nine a.m.,” Catherine replied.
“That’s still a ways off,” Joe said. “Let me buy you a bagel and some real coffee downstairs.”
“Deal,” Catherine agreed.
Vincent looked up from the pipe he was patching and made a mental note to talk to Matthew; the pipe and a few others in this cluster wouldn’t survive another winter. He fought a yawn; Catherine had made it to work early, but he had fallen asleep after she left and nearly overslept for his shift on the maintenance crew. “You look tired there, Vincent,” Cullen said, annoyingly chirpy considering the hour. “Some people actually use the nights for sleeping, you know.”
“How’s your hangover?” Vincent asked pointedly.
“Mostly gone now but man, you should have heard Valerie. Between her and Father… I didn’t think she was ever going to stop.”
When will you stop? Vincent thought, irritable, then immediately chastised himself. Cullen’s banter was as much a part of pipe maintenance as Mouse’s perpetual search for a gizmo; his friend meant no harm. He looked up, startled, when Cullen clapped him on the shoulder. “I think this pipe will hold for now. Let’s go get some coffee, eh? Looks like you could use it.”
“That sounds…very good,” he acknowledged.
“I bet,” Cullen said. “It must be…difficult when you can’t sleep.”
Vincent darted a look at him, saw the other man’s wry, friendly smile, and relaxed. “No. Not when the…alternative is worth it.”
“Yeah,” Cullen said. “Hold up a sec, Vincent.”
Vincent stopped, leaning up against the corridor wall. “What is it, Cullen?”
“I’m no good with this sentimental stuff, but I wanted to say I’m really happy you and Catherine finally got together. When I came here, you were so…alone all the time. Bet you thought you always would be, right?”
“Yes,” Vincent replied. “I had…good reason to think so.”
“I know,” Cullen said. “After Betty…” he shrugged. “I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever find someone else who would take me as I am, good and bad. Then you and Catherine…it’s good to see.”
Vincent remembered Winslow’s words from so long before: “What's between you two is something I've never known for myself, but seeing it, I know it's real.”  How amazing it continued to be that their love---which he’d long thought impossible for himself---was something others believed in as well. “Thank you, Cullen.”
Catherine entered the small conference room. Two men sat there, files and notepads in neat piles between them, and with an uneasy shiver she noticed one of them was the same investigator who’d sat in on her interrogation after Moreno’s arrest the previous year. “Ms. Chandler?” He glanced at her wedding band. “Or is it Mrs. now?”
Vincent had no last name; he’d never needed one. “Ms. is fine, thank you. It’s been a while, Mr. Marsh.”
The chill in his eyes didn’t as much as thaw. “So it has. You’ve flown high, prosecuting Max Avery.”
Catherine seated herself at the conference table and folded her hands, forcing a calm she didn’t entirely feel. She’d once spent anxious days in this little room with her lawyer trying to convince Marsh and a team of FBI agents that she hadn’t known Moreno was on the take, hadn’t realized he was purposely burying cases. Marsh, she knew, had doubted her innocence then and from the looks of things, doubted it now. “Someone had to, Mr. Marsh.”
“Forgive my…colleague,” the other investigator said with an uncomfortable glance at the other man. “When the good Lord handed out manners, I’m afraid he was absent that day. Geoff, for the love of God, sit down already and rein it in some, will you? Ms. Chandler’s the victim here.” He held out his hand. “I’m Samuel Hernandez.”
She shook his hand, on her guard. Absently she wondered just how old the game of “good cop/bad cop” really was. “Pleased to meet you, gentlemen. Why did you schedule this meeting?”
“Geoff and I were going over the accident report from the incident in New Jersey and we just have a few questions.” He pulled out a manila folder and removed a sheet with six anonymous faces on it---a photo line-up. “Do you recognize any of these men?”
Catherine stared at it. Her attention was drawn to one photo; pale, with longish blond hair and faded blue eyes. She couldn’t remember his name but he’d always been polite and helpful on the rare occasions when she’d needed to sign out a pool car. She tapped his picture with her fingernail. “This man…I think he works in the city garage.”
Hernandez nodded, making a note on a legal pad. “He’s the clerk responsible for the pool cars, yes, and he checked your car out to you when you went to interview your witness. His girlfriend reported him missing a week ago.”
“Oh,” Catherine replied. “I’m sorry to hear that. Was he…mixed up with Avery somehow?”
The two men exchanged looks. “The police are still investigating that aspect of it. He had gambling debts and large child support obligations,” Hernandez said.
Someone who could have been bribed or coerced to tell Avery’s men where we were, Catherine translated. “I see. Was there anything else?”
“Were you at all aware you were being followed?” Geoff Marsh asked.
“Not until just before the accident, no,” Catherine said. “At first I thought it was just a careless driver, driving too close for the conditions, but…” She shrugged. “This is all in the report Rita and I gave to the police in New Jersey. I’m sure it’s not news to you gentlemen.”
“No,” Hernandez agreed. “Was there anyone besides the garage clerk who knew exactly where you were going?”
Catherine thought. “Our boss, Joe Maxwell. But the information about Herman Mueller is inside the case file, which is accessible to any number of attorneys and staff, and Rita and I both had to arrange for coverage of our hearings. It wasn’t a secret what we were doing.”
“Sounds like you all did everything but announce it on a billboard,” Marsh said, rolling his eyes.
Before Catherine could make an angry retort, Hernandez put a restraining hand on his colleague’s arm. “Stop it, Geoff. There was no reason for them to keep this interview a secret. Listening to you, you’d think they’d asked for what happened to them.” He shuffled some papers, stuffed the line-up back in its folder. “I think that’s all for now, Ms. Chandler. I’ll contact you if I have any further questions.”
Vincent made it to the threshold ladder just as Catherine was climbing down it. She stopped on the fifth step and turned to launch herself into his arms. “Oh, I missed you.”
The warmth of her… the feel of her against him…. He buried his face in the softness of her hair. “I missed you too. Did everything go all right with your interview?”
“I'm not suspended if that's what you're asking,” she replied, smiling. “The interview wasn't particularly fun...but I think I answered at least a few of their questions. Am I late for our meeting with Matthew and Annie?”
“No. If we start walking now, we should even be a little early.”
“Well, then,” Catherine replied, “let’s go see our home.”
Click here for Chapter 48...
 “A Song of Despair,” by Pablo Neruda
 “To Reign in Hell,” first season episode