Chapter 57: The Endless Delight of You and I 
Catherine stretched. “It feels so nice and warm here.”
Vincent looked up from the papers he was grading and smiled. “You’re getting used to the temperatures.”
“It’s no warmer than it ever is in the late winter,” he explained. “You’re just noticing the addition of the heating from the pipes.”
She folded a spare blanket into neat thirds and added it to the pile in the wicker basket, which was destined to return to the community stores now that Matthew, Angus and Mouse had repaired the ruptured pipes. “I suppose so,” she agreed. “But really, it does feel warmer.” She walked to the carved chest where they kept their extra linens and noticed the quilt, the one Vincent had asked her to leave in the drawer. “May I...?”
“Yes,” he said quietly. “Go ahead and unfold it, if you like.”
It was a small patchwork quilt, child sized with navy edging and a repeating star pattern against a dark red background. Looking closely at the stars, Catherine saw they were composed of what looked to be pieces of a yellow striped flannel blanket. She touched the quilt and wondered at the hold it had on her husband’s memory even as she marveled how small he had once been. “It’s lovely,” she said. “But that’s not why you asked me not to use it.”
“No,” Vincent said. “You’ve heard Father’s story of when I was…found.”
“Yes,” Catherine answered, her misgivings at the story rising again. What must it have been like for Vincent to have grown up hearing over and over that he had been unwanted, that he had been thrown out like so much garbage?
“There’s a line Father says: ‘he was found, wrapped in rags.’ ” He paused. “Catherine, those…rags…are the stars in that blanket. It’s the…only thing I have from my mother, or whomever gave me away. Mary made the quilt for me when I was a child.”
Catherine touched the softness of the stars, wondering---as Vincent must have for so many years---who would, who could, have abandoned him. “I understand,” she said softly. “It was beautiful, what Mary did for you.”
He nodded. “I was very young when she made it, but I’ve always treasured it.”
Reverently, she placed the quilt back into the drawer, sliding it closed. “Of course you have.”
Vincent closed his folder of papers and sat on the edge of the bed. “You seem...uneasy. Why?”
She sat down next to him and took his left hand. “I've...never liked that story, you know.”
“I've sensed it, yes,” he acknowledged. “Why?”
Catherine took a deep breath. “I look at you and I see the man I love. But the story sets you apart, reminds everyone how different your beginning was. It can't have been easy for you to hear it over and over again.”
In response, Vincent spread out his hands, strong and furred and sharp-clawed, the same hands which had protected her---and caressed her with a gentle thoroughness---so many times. “I never needed a story or a mirror to remind me how different I was,” he said quietly. “My hands told me all I needed to know, long before I knew what a mirror was. And the story has...served other purposes.”
Catherine sometimes had the sense---despite the ever-flowing currents of their bond, despite their undeniable love for each other---that there were hidden, twisting paths inside him, roads he had never thought to travel with her, with anyone. Feeling her way down one such impenetrable road, she prompted gently, “Yes? Please, tell me.”
He did not stand and pace, which she counted as a good sign. Instead, Vincent remained next to her and allowed her to take his hand again. “Some of what I'm about to tell you, I've put together from little things Winslow and the others told me over the years, and from my conversations with Father as I recuperated from my illness.” He paused, gathering his thoughts. “The years after Paracelsus was...expelled were difficult ones for the community. Nearly all the helpers left with him.”
Which explained, Catherine thought, the awe and respect given to the oldest surviving helpers---Peter and Sebastian---by the community. They had stayed when so many others had abandoned them. “Go on,” she prompted gently.
“For some years afterwards, there was talk of disbanding entirely. There were chronic food shortages and a lot of turmoil.” His mouth quirked in a wry smile. “Maintaining Paradise is a lot of work, as you might have noticed. Father only had one argument to offer---”
“Me,” Vincent replied. “Yes. It’s been more than the children’s favorite story. He's told and retold the tale many times over the years, during times of stress and storm for us, as a reminder that while everyone else could leave if they wished, I couldn't.”
“No wonder you're so...responsible.” Overly so, she might have said, but they'd had that discussion several times already, so she didn't. “It's a large burden to put on a child.”
“Perhaps,” Vincent said, “but for me…it was a reminder I was wanted, needed here. That I belonged.”
It was near the end of January when the note arrived, sent via a messenger---Declan---a process server who also worked the messenger route between Peter’s office and the tunnels. Seeing the bright yellow legal paper clenched in Declan’s beefy hand, Catherine knew instantly who had sent it. Radcliffe, there’s been an arrest. Call me. J.
She thanked Declan and handed the note to her husband. “An arrest?” Vincent asked.
“Joe---or rather, Greg Hughs---was following up on some leads from the investigation into my accident in New Jersey,” Catherine explained. “One of them must have panned out.”
His hand sought hers under the table, offering a wordless reassurance. “Is it…will you be safer when you return above now that an arrest has been made?”
Catherine stirred her stew, and considered. “I hope so, love. But Avery's next hearing is coming up soon, and I'll have to be there.” She forced a smile she didn't entirely feel. “ 'Sometimes, we must leave our safe places.' ”
Vincent did smile then. “Brigid would be proud.”
Her answering smile came much easier this time. “Have you heard from her recently?” Catherine asked.
“Not since she wrote you last,” Vincent replied.
The letters---one for Catherine, one for Vincent---had also included a wedding invitation; Brigid was marrying a fellow writer in the spring. “She must have known I couldn’t come to her wedding,” Vincent went on, “but she invited me.”
Catherine had never asked Brigid what she’d seen that Samhain night, but she had a healthy respect for her powers of perception. Somehow, Brigid had known Vincent’s face was no mask. “She knew, but it didn’t matter to her.” She found you as magical as I do.
“When will you call Joe?” Vincent asked as they stacked the lunch dishes for washing.
Catherine added more soap to the sink and turned on the water. “Tonight. I don’t want to call him at the office because…”
Vincent tilted his head. “You suspect Moreno wasn’t the only one?”
“It doesn’t seem likely, does it?” Catherine murmured. “If I call Joe at work, there’s no telling who might be listening in. His home phone might be bugged, but if I know Joe, he’s had Greg go over that place with a fine-tooth comb. Greg isn’t…officially working with Joe on this case; he can’t do the same thing at the office.”
Vincent raised an eyebrow. “You don’t believe Greg is involved with the Rotolos?”
“I don’t know,” Catherine admitted. “I never cared for Moreno, but I never thought he’d be in bed with the Rotolos. Joe’s made a decision to trust Greg and I trust Joe. Beyond that…”
Vincent began rinsing off one of the large bowls. “You can only do your best, what you believe to be right. Joe strikes me as a good judge of character.”
She chuckled a bit. “What?” Vincent asked, bemused.
“If you ask Joe, he’ll say he’s not.”
Catherine’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “Because once upon a time, a pampered corporate lawyer interviewed for a job at his office. Joe didn’t like her, didn’t think she’d stick around, so he threw everything he had at her and gave her the worst assignments.”
Vincent smiled. “So have you let him live that one down yet?”
They left the tunnels after dinner, Father’s muttered warnings about “being safe” and “not being seen” still ringing in their ears. Catherine glanced across at her husband; there was no moon this night and his strong profile was outlined only by the faintest glimmers of starlight. “Do you ever wonder how old Father thinks we are?” Catherine asked, only half-joking.
“Devin says he feels about fourteen in Father’s presence,” Vincent murmured, fallen branches crunching under his boots. “I sometimes feel about thirteen.”
“Why thirteen?” she asked curiously.
“I had a growth spurt after Devin…left. I was…very awkward. I’d turn, and break a plate or a glass. I’d move too fast, and rip a seam in a shirt. The number of times I had to patch or mend my clothes….”
Catherine tried---and failed---to picture the younger Vincent, all gangly height and bony elbows. “I can’t imagine you being anything but graceful.”
He chuckled as they walked up a macadam path near the very edge of the tree-line. “For several months, my name and the word ‘graceful’ were never used together. However, I did hear, ‘Really, Vincent? Again?’ quite often.”
His accent was an exact mimicry of Father’s starched British tones and Catherine laughed. He stopped suddenly and she realized why: from here she would have to cross the street, into the busy city night where he couldn’t follow her. Vincent reached up and made sure the hood of his cloak shadowed his features. “Be safe,” he murmured.
Catherine kissed him and left the shelter of the trees. She made for the same payphone she’d used over three weeks before to call Joe before she and Jenny had made their flight below. She rooted around in her pockets for quarters and dialed Joe’s number. “Yeah?” he said, drowsy; clearly she’d awakened him.
“Not very warm and friendly,” Catherine said lightly. “You wanted me to call you, after all.”
“Cathy? Where the hell are you---never mind, I don’t want to know.” Joe paused. “You got my message.”
She nodded, then remembered he couldn’t see her. “Yeah, I sure did. What’s going on? Who got arrested?”
“Greg had a tip from an old collar of his, which led the Elizabeth police to the hitman who tried to kill you and Rita. Guy’s petrified and he’s a singing like a bird.”
“Against the Rotolos?” she asked.
“Yup,” Joe replied. “The Feds are thrilled; it’s not as good as having Moreno available to testify, of course, but the hitman might be more valuable because of what he knows, the connections between the various players.”
She had to know… “Joe, is it safer for me, for Rita?”
“I can’t guarantee anything. Even with bodyguards---”
“Which I won’t accept,” Catherine said. “Not at my apartment. I won’t be a prisoner again.”
“Of course not,” Joe said. “But the choice is yours, Cathy. I won’t make it for you. If you want to continue to prosecute Max Avery, Greg and I will do everything we can to protect you and Rita. I don’t think the Rotolos will try again, regardless.”
Catherine could see his point; with the high-ranking members of the family already under Federal indictment and with more charges likely to be added, the Rotolos wouldn’t be so foolish. She closed her eyes, thinking, feeling her husband’s presence so strongly she almost expected him to be standing next to her. Do I have the right…again…to choose the danger…for both of us? “Don’t answer now,” Joe said, his voice unexpectedly gentle. “Take some time if you need it.”
She breathed in and felt calm return. This was her job, and she couldn’t---wouldn’t---turn back now.
Vincent wouldn't expect that of her, nor did she expect it of herself. “No, Joe. I’ll be in court on
As Vincent released the lever sliding the tunnel entrance shut, he was startled to find Geoffrey rushing up to meet them. “Father’s been frantic looking for you, said it’s important.”
His time sense was unerring; they had been gone perhaps twenty minutes, if that. And Father had seen them before they’d left. Had Father simply forgot where they were? It seemed unlikely, but...Vincent forced himself away from the possible implications. “What is it, Geoffrey?”
“It's Laura,” Geoffrey said, face reddening---Geoffrey, blushing?---and Vincent hid a smile. “She's come below.”
Click here for Chapter 58...
 “You and I, in the Palace,” by Rumi
1 day ago