Chapter 53: And So You, Bread and Light and Shadow Are 
Joe forced open his eyes at the shriek of the phone. 5am on a Saturday? This better be good. “Hello?”
“You got a TV, Maxwell?” Greg asked.
“What the hell kind of question is that before dawn?” Joe retorted. “Yeah, I got a TV. Why?”
“Turn it on,” Greg said.
“Which channel?” Joe asked, stumbling into the living room.
“Doesn’t matter,” Greg said. “They’ll all be carrying it. I gotta get back to work---let’s meet for lunch later at the diner, okay? Noon?”
“Yeah, noon. See ya then.” Joe hung up the phone and switched on the TV in time to hear one of the talking heads begin her report. “The FBI announced today that former District Attorney John Moreno was found dead of an apparent heart attack in his jail cell…”
Joe closed his eyes. Heart attack, my ass. All of the questions he’d most wanted to ask the man---most of them beginning and ending with Why? How could you?---would have to remain forever unasked. Almost without thinking, he dialed Lucille’s phone number to offer his condolences, then caught himself before dialing the last digit. Lucille was now John’s widow; he couldn’t burden her with his sorrows now, even assuming she wanted to talk to him.
He wondered, not for the first time, where Cathy was, and if she’d seen the news. Despite the news, she was still in danger, and so was Rita. With Moreno dead and unable to testify against Avery, there might well be more attempts to remove the two of them from the case. Joe ran a hand through his hair and put a pot of coffee on to brew, thinking. There had to be a way to contact Cathy. There had to be.
Catherine had not stepped one foot outside the tunnels in the two weeks since her flight below, and she worried incessantly---about Rita, about Joe, about the case---and about Vincent as well. He’d spent more than a few sleepless nights pacing the antechamber; security patrols had been stepped up and sentries had reported some unknown figures around the main Central Park entrance, but nothing---so far---had come of it.
“You should go to bed,” Vincent insisted late one night.
She shook her head. “My place is with you.”
“You need your rest,” he said gently. “I will…be awake for some time.”
“Then let me be here for you,” she told him. “Please.”
To her great, if surprised, relief, he didn’t continue to argue. Instead, he brought a quilt out from their bedroom---it was cooler in the antechamber, even with the braziers lit---and wrapped it around her shoulders. “Will you tell me what’s bothering you?” she asked as he returned to his eternal pacing.
The breeze he created stirred the cool air as he passed; Catherine drew her quilt closer and waited for his answer. Though Vincent remained unsure about assuming the eventual leadership of the tunnels, the burdens of the role had already left their mark upon him, she noticed. He seemed, if not thinner, a good bit more worn than he had even a month before. “I’ve played chess with Father,” he finally said.
It seemed apropos of nothing, but Catherine knew Vincent better than that. “And?”
Vincent’s fretful, worried pacing stopped. “In chess, there are strategies…ways of playing which are distinctive to every player. Father’s game has always been precise, well-reasoned. Contrary to tunnel legend, it’s not always been easy to defeat him. Now…” He came to sit next to her. “His moves are disorganized and not thought through. We played last night; I found it impossible to predict what he would do next.”
Catherine tried for a forced lightness. “Maybe he’s tired of always being beaten and he’s trying to surprise you.”
“No,” Vincent said, though his half-smile told her he appreciated the attempt at humor. “It’s…subtle, Catherine, but…”
“You feel there’s something wrong,” Catherine finished.
“Yes. But it’s nothing I can point to and say, ‘Here is a sign of a problem.’ ” He sighed in a great shuddering gust of tension. “I visited Pascal yesterday afternoon; in passing, he mentioned Father had transposed some pipe codes---though, as he says, we all do that from time to time.”
“We do,” Catherine said lightly, rubbing the tight muscles of his broad shoulders. “Vincent, if there was something serious going on, surely your empathic senses would tell you.”
“I have been…misled before, where Father is concerned,” Vincent said quietly and she knew he was referring to Paracelsus’s horrific ruse.
Catherine had many theories as to why Vincent hadn’t immediately realized it was Paracelsus, but now wasn’t the time to explore any of them. “So what do we know, really? He had a fit of bad temper last week, he’s not playing chess the way he has for years, and Pascal says he’s occasionally mixed up his pipe codes. It could mean something. Or nothing. He surely must have a lot on his mind right now, and he is growing older.”
Vincent nodded. “Yes.” He gazed at her sideways from beneath his veil of hair. “Catherine, when your father became…ill, were there any warning signs?”
It was a question Catherine had asked herself many times after her father’s death, wondering if she’d been so preoccupied with the changes in her own life that she’d missed the obvious. “I thought about it a lot after he passed away,” she said, “but I don’t believe there were. One of my father’s associates said he wasn’t as focused but…his priorities had changed in the last months of his life. He didn’t feel the need to put in eighty hour weeks any longer. He took time off, traveled…if there were any warning signs of his stroke, neither Kay—his girlfriend---nor I saw them.”
His hand curled around hers; his pulse beat slowly against her wrist. “Then I will…watch.”
“And try not to worry,” she urged. “Please.”
“Very well,” he answered.
She tugged him down next to her into the welcoming nest of blankets. “Now, sleep.”
Catherine looked over her coffee to see Peter enter the commons. “Peter,” she said. “Bit early to be here, isn’t it?”
“Late for me,” he said, hugging her. “I just delivered a baby. But that’s not why I’m here. I got a call from your boss this morning.”
She had to marvel at Joe’s resourcefulness. Peter had been called upon as an expert witness on some of their most difficult cases; Joe must have remembered Peter’s connection with her. “Really? What did he say?”
“He needs to see you, Cathy. Said he’d be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 4pm in the Egyptian section.” Peter smiled. “Rest assured, I said all the proper things--- I didn’t know where you had gone but I was certain you were fine. I’m sure he’s wondering how I know that much, but it won’t be the first time I’ve had to field those kind of questions.”
Catherine smiled. “I’m sure not. I wonder what Joe wants to see me about, though.”
Her husband entered the commons and sat down next to her. “Likely this,” Vincent said, and handed her the front page of a newspaper which must have arrived earlier in the day.
“John Moreno is dead?” Catherine asked, shocked. “I never thought…a heart attack…”
Peter glanced at the two of them. “An awfully convenient heart attack, one might say.”
“I didn’t think you knew much about this case, Peter,” Catherine said.
“I watch the news,” Peter replied dryly. “And when Jacob told me why you’ve been below the past couple of weeks, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out there’s a connection.” He took a sip of his coffee. “What should I tell Mr. Maxwell?”
Catherine studied her husband. He met her eyes squarely. “You must do what you think is right,” Vincent told her.
“Nice answer, love, but…this affects us both. What do you want me to do?”
The honest answer---stay Below where I can keep you safe---was one they both knew he would never speak. Vincent folded his hands upon the worn wood of the table. “I think… you must meet with Joe and find out what he has to say. The Met is such a public place, and there are multiple tunnel entrances leading to it. There will be relatively little danger.”
Peter nodded. “Then I’ll call him once I get back to my office.” He covered a yawn with his hand. “In the meantime, though, I need to get some sleep. Stay safe, Cathy, okay?”
She hugged the older man. “Will do, Peter.”
After he left, Vincent turned to face her. “Catherine, you must go Above but…you won’t go alone.”
“It’ll be daylight still, you can’t---”
“I won’t,” Vincent assured her, though she understood full well the daylight wouldn’t stop him if she was really in danger. “But there are others who can, and will, if I ask them.”
Vincent found Angus and Cullen about where he’d expected them, taking a quick break from resoldering an old pipe in Sector E. “Come to join us?” Cullen asked.
“No,” Vincent said, “I’ve got Sector F maintenance with Warren, Kanin and Rhys tonight.”
Angus shook his head. “Make sure Rhys remembers to hold the flame away from his face, will you? I swear, that kid could kill himself with a dull pair of scissors.”
“I will,” Vincent agreed, suppressing a smile. Rhys was the least adept at any of the mechanical maintenance, but he was always prompt for his shift, always ready and willing to work when asked. Since the same could not always be said of the other tunnel-dwellers, Vincent didn’t mind working with him.
“What’s up?” Cullen asked. “You look worried, man.”
“Catherine has to go Above to meet her boss this afternoon. I cannot…go with her, of course.”
“No,” Cullen said softly, “I’d imagine you can’t. Do you want me to go with her?”
The very idea of asking anyone else to guard her, protect her, made the words acrid in his throat, yet there was no other option. “Yes,” Vincent finally said. “If you would, please. I would…greatly appreciate it.”
“I can go too,” Angus said unexpectedly. “I mean, if you want me to.”
“That’s a great idea,” Cullen said, grinning. “Angus here is built like a brick shithouse---”
Angus rolled his eyes, though it was clear he took no offense. “Where is she meeting him?”
“The Met,” Vincent said, “in the Egyptian section.”
“I haven’t been there in years,” Angus mused. “Not since…” He breathed out. “It was my wife’s favorite museum.”
Cullen looked down at his empty canteen. “Angus, I’m going to go refill this. You want some water?”
Angus unhooked his own canteen and handed it to Cullen. “Thanks.”
Vincent peered up at the other man. “Angus, I would have asked you myself---”
“But you never thought I’d want to,” Angus finished. “Yeah, I don’t blame you there. I haven’t been the…friendliest guy here.”
Since there was nothing he could say but agree with the statement, Vincent said instead, “Catherine’s meeting is at 4pm today. Will you be done by then?”
Angus nodded. “We should be done by two. That’ll give us enough time to get decent and go with your wife.”
Vincent smiled. “Thank you.”
As he turned to leave, Angus’s voice stopped him. “Vincent?”
Angus flashed a rare dry smile. “Thank you for not agreeing with me.”
Catherine entered the Met a little before 3:30 in the afternoon, through a roundabout maze of passages and tunnels and stairways she doubted she'd be able to find again if her life depended on it. Yet Cullen and Angus seemed totally sure-footed, never hesitating in their choice of tunnel or pathway. “Where will these passages end?” she asked as they crossed a high, narrow bridge.
Cullen thought for a moment. “Years ago, the usual entrance was through a basement storeroom.”
She raised her eyebrows. “After hours, I presume?”
“When else was Vincent going to see the museum?” Cullen said with a rogue’s grin. “Now they’ve installed video cameras so it’s been years since any of us went this way, but I don’t think they’d have gotten rid of the storeroom.”
“Will there be people in the area?” Catherine asked.
Angus shook his head. “Usually, no, not at this time of day. There's always a risk, though, so if you want to enter through the normal fashion, we can cut across here---” and he gestured to a winding corridor off to their right--- “which will take us to an alley off 5th Avenue. Your call.”
Catherine frowned. “No, I don't want any of us to be visible targets. I'll take my chances with the storeroom.”
Angus looked down at her quizzically. “Sound thinking for a lawyer.”
“Vincent wouldn’t marry a dummy,” Cullen replied. “She’s right---in that alley we’d be sitting ducks if anyone saw us.”
They stopped at the base of a rocky staircase. “All right, then,” Angus said and extended his hand to help Catherine up the large step at the very bottom. “Go up to the top of the steps and turn left. It should lead to the door of the storeroom.”
The Egyptian section was located on the first floor, and crowded as it usually was with schoolchildren and other visitors. Catherine saw Angus and Cullen spread out, unobtrusive but still watchful and then she saw Joe, sitting on a bench beside a large plaque of Ma’at---how appropriate, she thought. She sat down on one of the benches opposite him. “Joe.”
He turned a little, keeping his attention on his map. “Hey, Radcliffe. I…wasn’t sure you would come.”
His words were quiet and to any outside observer, Catherine was sure they would appear to be strangers consulting their respective maps, perhaps asking for directions. She picked up her own map and thought irreverently that perhaps she should order a martini, shaken not stirred. “What’s going on, Joe?”
“You heard Moreno died?”
“Yeah,” Catherine replied. “It was in this morning’s paper.”
“The preliminary autopsy couldn’t find anything wrong with his heart,” Joe stated. “That wasn’t in the papers.”
“We’re still in plenty of danger, aren’t we,” Catherine said.
Joe nodded. “I heard from my contact with the feds that Moreno was planning to testify against the Rotolos in exchange for a lighter sentence.”
“He might have been useful to our case too,” she observed, though she had been on the fence about subpoenaing him to testify; if Elliot Burch was problematic as a witness, a disgraced former district attorney was even more so. Now the option was closed to them. “Damn.”
“Yeah,” Joe agreed. “Cathy, the Feds have had to dismiss part of their indictment against the Rotolos because of Moreno’s death. If you and Rita are out of the picture…”
He didn’t have to finish. “There’s a hearing at the end of this month; I have to be there.”
“They got to Moreno in federal custody. What makes you think…?”
Catherine knew what he was asking---how safe do you think you are? “Joe, Moreno’s dead and I don’t know who all else is bought and paid for. But they didn’t get to me. Or to Rita. I’ll be there for his hearing.”
“Okay,” Joe replied, though it was obvious he didn’t like the idea. “But don’t go back to your apartment until we can have Greg Hughs do a security sweep.”
She leaned back to brush his shoulder, the best she could do for a hug in the circumstances. “Oh, Joe. Greg’s involved?”
“Who else was I gonna trust, Radcliffe? Yeah, he is. He’s managed to keep his investigation off the record for now.”
Catherine nodded. Hadn’t she asked the same thing of Greg, when she’d been dealing with her stalker? All she could do was hope they both weren’t wrong in trusting him. “I understand. Is there anything else I should know?”
“The body of the garage clerk was found on the New Jersey side of the East River. Coroner says he’d been dead about three weeks. Avery’s racking up quite a case in New Jersey too.”
“They can have him,” Catherine said, “once Rita and I are done with him.”
Joe chuckled. “That’s what I thought. If I need to contact you…?”
“Call Peter. He can find me.”
She stood; Joe gazed at her silently for a moment. “Do I even want to know where you’re staying or why a semi-retired family practice doctor knows exactly how to find you?”
Catherine shook her head. “It’s better if you don’t, believe me.”
Joe seemed to notice Cullen and Angus, who had come to stand behind Catherine. “Who are these guys?”
Before she could answer, Angus spoke. “Family friends. Her husband couldn’t be here today.”
Joe smiled. “Good for you, Radcliffe.”
Catherine wasn’t surprised when Vincent didn’t meet her at the Central Park entrance; she’d suggested he keep busy while she was gone. From the messages on the pipes, he’d signed up for a maintenance crew working on the Sector F pipes, so she said goodbye to Angus and Cullen and began to walk towards their chamber, not wanting to disturb his work.
She’d made it about halfway when she heard four loud bangs on the pipes---Pascal’s signal for an all-clear. Say again? Pascal asked.
The frenetic message was far faster than Vincent’s usual style of pipe code, but from the controlled urgency rushing through their bond, she knew it was him. Massive pipe rupture-Sector F-all maintenance crews needed-flooding---
The white heat of pain, the sensation of icy water, and then his end of their bond went dark and silent. Vincent! her mind screamed, but there was no answer.
She began to run towards Sector F.
Click here for Chapter 54...
 Pablo Neruda, “And Because Love Battles”