Providence: Chapter 51: And Falling, They're Given Wings [63]

 Chapter 51: And Falling, They're Given Wings [63]

Catherine heard the phone ring over the sound of the running shower. Thinking it might be Rita, who was expecting a call from another witness on the Avery case, she shut off the water and walked into her bedroom to answer it. “Cathy, it’s Elliot. I’ve been trying to speak with you but I keep getting your answering machine.”

She closed her eyes. Elliot. Before coffee, no less. “I’ve been busy, Elliot,” she said shortly, shouldering into an oversized robe. “What can I do for you?”

I just wanted to apologize for my behavior,” he said. “I can’t believe I came to see you drunk.”

That makes two of us,” she returned. Her wet hair dripped down the back of her neck. “Is there anything else, Elliot?”

At least let me take you out to dinner to apologize.”

That…won’t be necessary, Elliot,” Catherine said. “Apology accepted.”

Are you sure? I could have something delivered to your work. It’s bound to be better than what you’d get there.”

She remembered the catered lobster, the lunch which had been the topic of gossip for months at work, embarrassing at a time when she had been trying so desperately to prove herself as something other than a pampered rich girl. “Don’t, Elliot. Please.”

If you’re sure,” Elliot said. A pause, then, “Cathy, I really am sorry.”

That was the problem, Catherine thought. He was always sorry after the fact, but it rarely stopped him from pursuing what he wanted. “I know, Elliot.”
So what’s new in your life?” Jenny asked later on that day. Catherine would normally have spent the lazy Saturday afternoon with Vincent, except he had been busy since the early morning with Santos, Matthew and Father, pouring over the community’s old maps in preparation for an expansion project. On a whim, she’d called Jenny and an hour later, she’d arrived outside Catherine’s door, bagels in hand. 
Now, the bagels eaten, they sprawled on the couch. “Oh, you know. Not much. We just started renovation on the brownstone, though Cullen says the house is held together by ‘worry beads and bailing wire’ and I’m sure he’s not far wrong. And I’m spending a lot more time with law books and bank records than I’d planned,” Catherine replied, deadpan. “The usual, in other words.”

You look frazzled,” Jenny said. “Anything I can do?”

Yeah. Remind me that the Avery case will end at some point. Between Avery, his attorney and one of our witnesses, I really want this case to go away.”

Cathy,” Jenny said, too serious except for the twinkle in her eyes. “The Avery case will end at some point.”

Catherine laughed. “Oh, thanks a lot, friend!” She pitched one of the small bolster pillows at Jenny, which bounced off her head. 
I should throw that right back at you,” Jenny said, laughing herself, “but I’d probably end up wearing my coffee instead.”

The phone rang. “I better get that,” Catherine said, “Rita’s been trying to get in touch with one of our witnesses.” She walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone. “Hello?”
Almost before the man spoke, she knew it wasn’t Rita; the pattern of breathing was too familiar. “Didn’t learn anything, did ya, Ms. Chandler?” the voice---a rough male voice, New Jersey accent, one part of Catherine’s mind noted---snarled in her ear. “Drop the case or else.”

Who is this?” Catherine demanded, her voice even and cold. 
Just drop the case. We’ll find you. Even seventeen floors up. We know where you live. You and that nigger friend of yours.”

There was a click as the phone disconnected, but Catherine hardly heard it. Vincent would have sensed her terror, might even now be trying to come Above despite the bright winter sunshine. She forced calm, sent reassurance through their bond. Once he had begged her to come Below and she had refused. Never again. “Get your coat, Jenny. I need to call Joe and Rita and then we’re going Below.”
And this,” Vincent said, gesturing to the map with Mouse’s characteristic uneven scrawl, “is where Mouse said he saw the freshwater stream.”

A new water source for these chambers would be quite useful,” Father said. “Is the water safe to drink?”

I don’t know,” Vincent replied. “But we should find out before we plan any further excavation---” His breath caught in his throat, the icy daggers of Catherine’s fear almost choking off his words.

Vincent---” Father began, a warning in his tone.

Vincent rose from his seat and grabbed his cloak, bolting for the entrance. “She’s in danger, Father. What would you have me do?”

Santos stared at him in utter astonishment; Vincent ignored the look. “It’s broad daylight out there,” Matthew said gently. “You can’t go Above.”

The tension, the fear, abruptly released, and Vincent sagged, his breath coming ragged. Catherine was no longer as terrified but the fear was being replaced by fury and determination. “She’s coming Below.”
Joe had answered his phone on the first ring. “Joe, it’s Catherine. I just had a threatening phone call telling me to drop the Avery case.”

What? How threatening? What did he say? Are you okay?”

I’m fine. Jenny’s with me and we’re heading to…a safe place shortly.” Catherine glanced around, looking for any sign they might have been followed; she’d called from a payphone, not trusting her phone to be secure. “He said he knew where I lived and where Rita lived and that I should drop the case ‘or else.’ ”

I’m calling the police---”

The thought of becoming a virtual prisoner in her home again, or of having to stay for months in some safe-house, was nearly nauseating. “No, Joe. It didn’t work the last time and it won’t work now. I have a place to go to and I’m going there now.”

Did you contact Rita?”

Yeah. She and Allen are going to stay at her uncle’s house in Queens. It should be safe enough; she’s got her pager with her and you can call her there.”

But what about you?” Joe’s voice was strained, urgent. “I have to have some way to contact you.”

No, no you don’t, Joe,” Catherine replied. “Think about it. We don’t know how many people are still on Avery’s payroll. You start calling the cops, making a ruckus, and we’ll never find out who else might be involved.”

The thought stung, she could tell, but standing on a city street, in fear for her life, for Jenny’s, for Vincent’s if he came above right now as surely every instinct was telling him to do, she couldn’t spare his feelings. “So what do you want me to do?” Joe demanded. “Sit by? Wait? Do nothing?”

No,” Catherine said. “Of course I don’t expect that. But please, Joe, be careful.” 
There was a silence, then, “I will. And what I don't know, I can't be made to tell. Be careful yourself, all right? And contact me when you can.”

I will, Joe.” Jenny gestured to a dark blue Cadillac, loitering in the no-parking zone; perhaps suspicious, perhaps not. “I have to go. I’ll call you soon.”
Vincent knew Catherine had entered the park, and he paced the tunnel entrance, waiting for the tell-tale rattle and clank of the gate, struggling to keep his protective instincts at bay. When he heard the faint scuff of fabric against stone behind him, he nearly snarled, so absorbed was he in the tumult of his feelings, of hers. It was Santos, with Matthew not far behind him, slowed by his limp. “What…why are you here?” he asked.

Santos shrugged. “You think there’s going to be trouble, yes? We can go, Matthew and me. We can go.”

That these men---one who had known him only for the bare space of weeks, another who was lame---would be willing to risk so much on their behalf was unexpected and warming, even as another part of him insisted She’s mine! Mine to protect! “Thank you, Santos, but…it’s not necessary. She’ll be here soon.”

There was a dragging step, then Matthew’s voice spoke out of the narrow dimness. “Then you won’t mind if we wait here with you.”

Vincent found himself smiling. “No.”

Good,” Matthew said, “because we weren’t planning on leaving.”

So,” Santos asked quietly, “you knew? It's not just a story---you knew what Catherine felt.”

We are...connected,” Vincent explained. “Almost since our meeting.” If not before. 
Milagre,” Santos breathed in awe and wonder. 
He heard the faint sound of the tunnel gate opening at the same time as the gentle pull of their bond told Vincent his wife was near. “I agree.”
Catherine's hand was cold, Vincent noticed as they seated themselves in Father's chamber. She'd all but thrown herself into his arms as soon as the security door had wheezed shut, her heart hammering. “I'm all right, I'm all right,” she'd murmured. Now she sat as close to Vincent as she could, but he sensed she was still badly rattled.

Father waited until they'd all seated themselves. “Now that we're all here...Catherine, what happened?”

Catherine retold the story and Vincent fought down the urge to hunt down this person who had terrified her. “...and I called Joe and came here,” she said. “I'm confident we weren't followed, Father. We were careful.”

Of course you were,” Father said kindly. “It wasn't even a question. And are you hurt, either of you?”

Jenny choked a little on the brandy Father had stirred into her coffee, but shook her head. “No,” Catherine said, “we're fine. Scared, maybe, and nervous, but all right otherwise.”

Good,” Father replied. “For safety's sake, we'll need to increase the sentry patrols but I think for right now, we should be secure enough. Jenny, will you be staying the night? We could prepare the guest chamber if you'd like.”

Jenny shook her head. “No, I can't. I have a deadline to meet; I was going to go into the office first thing tomorrow morning. But thank you.”

Then we'll call you a taxi,” Father said. 
Jenny's look of astonishment would have been comic in other circumstances. “How?”

One of our helpers drives a taxi,” Father explained. He stood and banged out a message to Geoffrey, then returned to his seat. “I've contacted Geoffrey; he'll get a message to Maxine very quickly. I should imagine taxis are difficult to trace Above.”

And it's not Jenny that Max Avery wants off the case, but Rita and me,” Catherine said. “Jenny, you'll be safe.”

I'm not worried about myself,” Jenny replied. “Cathy, you never told me this case was so dangerous. I'm worried for you.”

When you prosecute the bad guys, sometimes the bad guys hit back,” Catherine said with a forced lightness and Vincent felt a sense of pride in her strength. “I'll be all right, Jenny. I promise.”

She cast a fond glance at Vincent. “I know you will.”

I should be heading back as well,” Santos said. “My aunt will be wanting her dinner soon.”

If Maxine has room for the three of us,” Matthew said, “it's time I was going home too. Annie and Jason are coming over for dinner and I need to get something on the stove for them.”

Is Jason feeling better?” Vincent asked.

Oh, much,” Matthew said. 
Ask her to bring Jason by if she has any concerns,” Father replied. 
You'll be seeing him---and hearing him,” Matthew said dryly, “come Monday.”

A message rattled on the pipes. “Maxine will be here in about twenty minutes,” Vincent translated for Jenny's benefit and Santos's.

A curious expression spread across Santos's face. “I was wondering...where is Mary today?”

Vincent hid a smile. “She should be in the nursery right now. Do you know how to get there?”

Matthew clapped Santos on the shoulder. “Don't worry. I'll show you.”
After everyone had left, Father spoke. “Catherine, forgive me for asking this, but I must. Do you consider this a serious threat to the tunnels?”

She rubbed her arms, feeling a chill that had nothing to do with the temperature of the room. “Serious enough,” she said. “There's a missing city employee possibly linked to Avery's men plus whoever tried and failed to kill Rita and me in New Jersey.” Vincent's arm tightened around her and she leaned against his strength. 
Father didn't speak for a time, weighing his options, she thought. He might have finally accepted her, and welcomed her as Vincent's wife, but the safety of the tunnels was a higher priority. “And,” he said, “I don't want you to think you shouldn't have come here. This is your home. And staying in your apartment, waiting for a team of hit-men, was hardly an option.”

Catherine blinked. Of all the things she’d expected him to say, that hadn’t been one of them. “Thank you, Father.” 
He nodded. “Vincent, will you alert the sentries? We may need to double up patrols for a time. And you might want to have someone do the usual routine outside the entrance---cleaning up footprints, and so on.” 
I'll handle it,” Vincent said. 
A small smile tugged at Father's stern features. “Were you listening, Vincent? Ask the sentries to take care of it.”

But---” Vincent protested, but Father cut him off.

You are not the only person capable of defending this place. You've trained the sentries, and taught them well. Let them do their job.” His grey eyes sharpened. “For too long, we've...let you take on the sole burden of guarding us, of protecting us. We sat back on our heels and turned off the lights---turned off the lights!---and sent you off to defend us against the Tong.”

I volunteered,” Vincent said mildly.

No one else did,” Father returned sharply. “And you went out alone. When Paracelsus made his poisons here, near our very home, who defended us? You. And when that...that feral family invaded us, you went out alone. Again.” He leaned forward in his chair, touched his son's hands. “I promised you, as you lay recovering from your illness, that I would never again put you in such a position.” Father sat back in his chair. “Take care of your wife. The sentries know how to find you.”

Catherine glanced at her husband, who was seemingly poleaxed by Father's blunt assessment. “I...don't know what to say,” Vincent finally said.

A day I'll have to mark on my calendar, I'm sure,” Father answered dryly. He watched as Vincent rose and walked to the pipes to send his messages to the sentries. “Will we be seeing you at dinner? It should be ready soon.” 
Vincent nodded. “Of course.”

Father stood and crooked his arm. “My dear, would you care to join me? I understand William has made a nice lasagna.”
Later that night, as Catherine was just about to doze off, Vincent spoke out of the dimness. “He surprised me tonight.”

The flickering brazier cast overgrown shadows on the walls. “Father?” she asked, a bit groggy. 
Yes. I never thought he…noticed.”

She rolled to her side, now wide-awake. “The cost to you? How could he not? It’s always been so…easy for the community to look to you to do their dirty work. What Father said to you was long, long overdue.”

Perhaps,” Vincent replied. “And yet…I have always felt I must protect this place, even if I was the only one who did.”

She felt for his hand under the covers and clasped it. “Why, love? Why you, when there are others who could, who should have done their part?”

He turned to face her. “I couldn’t exist anywhere else, Catherine. You know that.”

The thought of what might have happened to him, where else he might have ended up---a circus? a research lab?---if he'd even survived that cold January night made her wince. “I know, love. But whatever debt you feel you owe this community, or Father, for your survival isn't one you have to pay by risking your life, over and over. There are others who also have a vested interest in keeping this world safe.”

Not all are I am,” Vincent said softly.

No, I'm sure not,” she conceded, “but that doesn't make you the only person who can do anything. Let the others do their part, like you did tonight. You don't have to go it alone.”

As marriage to you reminds me,” he replied, pulling her closer and enfolding her in the safety of his arms. “Rest now.”

Click here for Chapter 52....
[63] “Sky-Circles,” by Rumi


Anonymous said...

Well, we KNEW that Max Avery's goons would be back to threaten Catherine's safety. And such a nasty, belittling, and perjorative (not to mention INACCURATE) way of referring to Rita Escobar! Glad to see that Catherine has learned a lesson from her horrible experience with The Watcher -- DON'T brave it out! Go Below! It's hard to be brave and proud when you're DEAD!

Sigh . . . I have a soft spot in my heart for Elliott Burch. I really do. But honestly, the man needs to "BUY A VOWEL," as my daughter would say. How many times and in how many different ways does Catherine need to say she's not available before this charming, spoiled rogue gets the message?

THIS spoiled child, of course, wants MORE!

Best regards, Lindariel

Krista said...

Hi Lindariel! :)

Well, you know...Max Avery's goons aren't likely to be among the most classy of people. ;) I actually hated writing the word, but I thought...yeah. These guys are nasty, hateful people, so they're not likely to be choosy about their words ;)

I have a soft spot (sort of) for Elliot. He means well (for the most part) but he's gotten so used to getting his way, to bulldozing through obstacles, that he hasn't really processed that Catherine was lost to him a long time before. Eventually, he may get the point. Eventually. ;)

Thank you so much for stopping by---it's great to hear from you.

-Krista :)

Anonymous said...

Heh! Had a few moments to read through this again and just LOVED this line:

Elliot. Before coffee, no less.


Regards, Lindariel

Krista said...

LOL, Lindariel---he does tend to have a wretched sense of timing, I must say...

Glad to see you come back,

Krista :)

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