Chapter 59: Toward Those Isles of Yours 
A/N: This is my
third fourth time reposting this chapter in an attempt to fix the
disappearing post glitch for my readers using IE. I wasn't able to
preserve the comments---I'm sorry.
A/N: This is my
The eldritch light of the basement threshold cast Catherine’s features in the palest silver. “I’ll be fine,” she said in response to Vincent’s unvoiced words. Her hands toyed with the leather fringes on his cloak, smoothed a non-existent wrinkle on a fraying patch. Wanting to stay, needing to go, Vincent translated, the language of her gestures, the voice of her eyes , one he never tired of learning.
“I know,” he replied. “I wish I could wait on the balcony to be sure, though.”
She smiled, though there was something a little pained about it. “I do, too. But I don’t know if Greg has checked the apartment already and with the snow we’ve been having, an extra set of footprints on the balcony would be suspicious.”
He nodded. “I will wait here, then, for your message that everything is all right.”
Catherine shook her head. “Don’t wait, love. There’s every chance Greg or Joe will decide to plant themselves outside my door and I don’t want you waiting up all night if I can’t return Below.”
“Very well,” he said reluctantly.
“I’ll send a message after my hearing---”
“You won't be able to, not through Benny; he sent word he's down with the flu,” Vincent said.
She tugged lightly on his sweater collar. “Then I’ll be back home tomorrow night when Laura brings Jerry below.” Her hands tightened on his. “Go home. Get some rest.”
“I will,” Vincent promised, and bent his head to kiss her goodbye.
Catherine had been in her apartment about fifteen minutes before Joe arrived. She’d been staring at the vacant pantry, wondering if she could get take-out this late, when the doorbell rang. She unlatched the locks and the deadbolt to find Joe on her front step, his arms full of brown paper bags. “Hi Radcliffe, I bought you some groceries. Thought you might need some. It's not a lot but it'll get you through.”
She took the bags from his arms and placed them on the table. “Oh, Joe. Thank you. You didn’t have to do that.”
Joe brushed the snow off his coat and pulled his gloves off. “No problem, Radcliffe. With everything that’s gone on in the last month, I figured groceries weren’t your top priority.” He studied her. “You and Rita really worried me. You all right?”
She nodded and took his coat from him, hanging it on the coat rack, and began putting the groceries away. “Yeah. Anything I need to know? Have there been any new developments in the Avery case?”
“Got a motion for recusal the other day,” Joe said, “but I had one of the law clerks write and file the response. Also Graham Sparks is trying to quash a few of our subpoenas---”
“Whatever for?” Catherine asked as she put the coffee onto brew. It was decaf, in deference to the late hour, but at least it would be warm.
“Sparks claims the bank records are for Avery’s wife’s corporations, which are not something Avery has any interest or control in.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Is he also selling a nice piece of oceanfront property in Arizona?”
Joe chuckled. “I wondered the same thing, Cathy.”
“David Smith’s analysis was pretty clear: Max Avery was in sole control of the corporations. We never even saw his wife's name on any of the documents or bank accounts; therefore, the bank records aren’t hers,” she replied, shaking her head. “It’s completely ridiculous.”
“Yeah, well, let’s hope the judge sees it that way,” Joe said. “Our motion has been filed there too.”
She sat down on the couch and handed him a cup of coffee. “Is the motion to quash going to be heard tomorrow?”
“Yeah, along with the recusal motion and the issue of Avery’s competency.” Joe grinned. “Should be a fun time in court.”
The doorbell rang again. “That’ll be Greg,” Joe said.
Catherine nodded and rose to answer the door.
Monday morning came bright and too early, Catherine thought, squinting against the brightness of a winter dawn. Her bed seemed cold and lonely without Vincent’s presence and she turned from it, padding her way into the kitchen. She made a light breakfast---too much food before court always made her nauseous---and went through her notes. Joe had brought copies of the various motions and their responses and she skimmed those, making some quick notations, refreshing her memory. There was little chance, she thought, that the judge would decide Avery was incompetent, but the motion to quash was a real concern. If they lost the ability to use the bank records in court, a good chunk of their case---the parts of it which were independent of the testimony of Elliot Burch and Herman Mueller—would be gutted.
By the time Catherine finished her toast, she was feeling on firm footing once again. She reached through the threads of her connection with Vincent in a way which was becoming second nature, sending him reassurance that she was fine, that she loved him. A warm answering current returned and she almost felt his presence near…so near to her. She smiled. In a very real way, he would be, as he always was.
The clock on her wall glared at her, reminding her it was time to get ready for work. Catherine entertained herself with visions of throwing the thing over her balcony, but contented herself with ignoring it as she walked into the bathroom.
Vincent looked up from the papers he was grading to see Mouse amble through the open door. “Okay if I come in?” Mouse asked.
“Of course,” Vincent said. “How are you doing?”
“Fine. New gizmo planned. Tell Father later.”
Vincent raised one eyebrow. “Perhaps we should think of Father’s blood pressure,” he said gently. “What are you planning?”
“We finished the canning, right?”
“For now, yes.”
“Need a bigger pressure cooker.”
Vincent repressed a sigh. The thought of Mouse, a pressure cooker, bits of twisted machinery, exploding food and glass jars all over the inside of the canning room was not a happy one. “Have you talked to William?”
Mouse shook his head. “No. Surprise for him too.”
“Why don’t we talk to William and find out what he needs first?” Vincent asked. “Then we can work on a design and go from there.”
Mouse’s eyes brightened. “You’d help?”
“I will,” Vincent agreed. “But promise me you won’t start working on it until we have a chance to talk to William.”
“Okay, good,” Mouse said with a grin. “Okay, fine.”
The first thing Catherine saw as she entered her office that morning was Rita, rushing up to hug her. “Gosh, Cathy, it’s so good to see you. You all right?”
Catherine nodded. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed her bodyguard---a member of Joe’s protective detail---station himself unobtrusively near her desk. Much as she’d predicted, the man—Darrell---had indeed taken up a post outside her door all night. “I’m doing fine,” she said. “It was a little scary, though.”
“No lie,” Rita said with a smile. “Allen and I had to live with my uncle in Queens; I haven’t slept in a room with bunk beds since my sister and I shared a room.”
Catherine chuckled while bracing herself for the expected questions: Where did you go? Who did you stay with? But Rita said neither of those things; instead, she went on, “I’ve been reviewing the motion to quash. Do you think the judge will grant it?”
“I doubt it,” Catherine replied. “We had probable cause; another judge signed off on the subpoenas for the bank records. But,” she shrugged, “there’s no telling until we walk into court.”
Rita smiled. “I think we need some coffee first.”
As she stared at Rita’s retreating back, the footsteps of her own bodyguard just a few feet behind her, Catherine thought: You didn’t ask, Rita, though you surely wondered where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing. Will I be making your case to Father too…one day…?
The morning wore on; an hour or so before lunch Vincent became aware of a peculiar restiveness, a bunching knot of tension which experience had taught him had nothing to do with danger, but Catherine’s own nervousness. She must be in court, he realized, but there was something else: she was determined and focused in spite of her nervousness. He pulled back a bit mentally, not wishing to distract her.
“Did you hear that message?” Cullen asked as their students in the beginning woodworking class entered the workroom. “Sounds like Matthew’s looking for you.”
“I’m sorry,” Vincent replied. “I wasn’t…”
Cullen grinned. “I know, man. Better find out what Matthew wants.”
“Are you sure? I could---”
“Nah,” Cullen replied. “The kids are fine and the most dangerous thing they have in their hands right now is sandpaper. Go on, answer the man.”
Vincent nodded and banged out a message on the pipes: Vincent--Cullen’s Workshop—Matthew, what’s going on?
Matthew--you-really-need-a-location-code-for-your house—Vincent, can you and Catherine stop by tonight?
Why? Vincent asked.
Couple of my guys found something in the basement you really need to see. It’ll keep, but…you have got to see this.
Though Vincent couldn’t see Matthew, he could almost see the contractor bouncing up and down in his excitement. Laura’s bringing her husband Below for the first time tonight. Is after dinner too late for us to meet you?
He could almost hear the other man smiling. No, not at all. See you then. There was the distinctive code for “signing off” and Vincent turned to see Cullen sponging up a small varnish spill. “Wonder what Matthew found?” he asked.
“Could be anything,” Vincent murmured. “It’s not like Matthew to be so mysterious.”
Cullen clapped him on the shoulder. “Well, you’ll find out soon enough. Let’s get these kids started on their projects.”
“What happened?” Joe demanded as soon as she and Rita returned from court.
“The judge mentioned something about Avery ‘clearly malingering’ per the psychiatrist’s report and…what else was it, Rita?” Catherine said.
“ ‘Wasting the court’s time with frivolous motions,’ ” Rita replied dryly. “I thought Graham Sparks was going to have a stroke there for a minute.”
Joe grinned in satisfaction. “And the motions?”
“Both denied,” Catherine replied. “Mind you, I’m sure it won’t stop Avery’s attorney with coming up with newer and better ways to complicate our lives, but we have a trial date, finally.”
Joe excavated his calendar from under a leaning pile of legal pads, old coffee cups and rubber bands. “When is it?”
“Early summer. Not too bad,” Joe replied. He leaned back in his chair and propped his feet on the desk. “Good job, you two.” He eyed them closely. “About the bodyguards---”
Catherine and Rita glanced at each other. “No,” Rita answered. “I want to be back in my home. You said it's been checked and all, and I need my life back. Allen and I can't live in fear for the next six months or so.”
“What about you, Radcliffe?” Joe asked.
“No,” Catherine replied, the thought of spending the next months separated from Vincent a steady ache in her heart. “I won't be a prisoner in my home again.” She folded her hands, the wedding band a reminder of all the promises made and kept, and the secret one she'd made in the long nights after her stalker. “I won't.” I won't put you through this again, Vincent.
Joe spread his hands, obviously sensing he'd lost this particular battle. “Will you let me have them come with you when you go to court, at least?”
“Yes,” Catherine replied and Rita nodded.
Joe cracked a grin. “Two of the most stubborn women I ever met...what was I thinking putting you on the same case?”
Catherine rose with a smile of her own. “You knew we could put Max Avery away. That's what you were thinking.”
Vincent met Catherine at the threshold. After a brief kiss---which made her weak in the knees as it always did---Vincent said, “Jerry's already in the commons and William's done a small miracle with the meal tonight.”
“Oh?” Catherine asked, taking his hand as they walked.
“Yes,” Vincent replied. “William said there was no time to prepare such a large meal, that it couldn't be done, but somehow he managed.” A corner of his mouth lifted in a wry quirk. “He usually does.” He cast a sidelong glance at her. “How was court today?”
“Avery's sane, the judge is annoyed with his attorney, and the other motions were denied. And we have a trial date—-early June.”
“That's good,” Vincent says. “Unless I'm off on my calculations, our house should be done by then.”
“Really?” Catherine asked. “You think it'll be so soon?”
“I think...there is nothing which is impossible. And Matthew knows what he's doing. He wants to see us after dinner.”
“Workers on his crew found...something in our basement. He wouldn't tell me what but he was quite insistent.”
Catherine chuckled. “I get the feeling that the River Matthew only runs in one direction. I don't have court until tomorrow afternoon anyway, so...why not?” She looked up at him. “Are you nervous about tonight?”
She couldn't quite see his eyes, shadowed as they were by torchlight and the ruddy gold of his hair but she sensed through their bond nothing of the uneasiness he'd felt when he'd first met Santos. “No,” Vincent finally answered, “I know Laura. And I trust her judgment. If there was the slightest doubt...”
Jerry wouldn't ever find out about the world Below, Catherine thought, remembering the story of Annie and Spencer. “It'll be fine.”
The party was already in full swing when they arrived; Laura was introducing Jerry to her tunnel family, or being introduced by Rebecca to people who might not have known her. At the entrance to the commons, Catherine linked her arm through her husband's and smiled brightly. “Shall we?”
Vincent smiled down at her. “Yes.”
 “If You Forget Me,” Pablo Neruda
 “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled,” ee cummings