Chapter 60: Things Seen and Unseen
A couple of hours later, the crowd of well-wishers had meandered off to bed or their own nocturnal pursuits, Jerry turned to Vincent. “So…wow. You’re real. Laura told me but I…”
Vincent smiled. In deference to Laura, who was leaning sleepily against her husband, he signed and spoke his reply. “Thought she was exaggerating?”
Jerry took a swallow of his beer and signed back, “Well, yeah. Maybe a little. This whole place…you…it’s beyond belief. All those years I was a cop, I heard there were abandoned tunnels beneath this city but I never imagined…”
Catherine sat down and handed Vincent a cup of punch. “How could you? For weeks, months after my attack, I’d lay awake at night and wonder if I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. Except you,” she added, intertwining her hand with Vincent’s. “I always knew you were real and if you were, then the rest had to be.”
Jerry nodded. “It’s…unreal down here. And you say there’s been a community how long?”
“Since the early 1950s, though there have always been people Below,” Vincent said. “We often find signs of those who came before us.”
“Unbelievable,” Jerry said, glancing between Vincent’s face and the rock walls of the commons. Catherine couldn’t decide which he was more amazed by---Vincent or the community. “I have to say, when Laura talked about her commune, I figured it was someplace out in California. I never thought it was under my feet.”
The clatter of dishes and the creaking, sloshing sound of the pipes as William turned on the water for the sink alerted them all that the kitchen would soon be closed down for the night. “Why don’t we clear the rest of these dishes?” Catherine asked.
“I worked my way through the police academy bussing tables,” Jerry said with a grin. “It’ll be like old times’ sake.” He rose and Laura caught his arm, signing something hastily which Catherine couldn’t understand but which Vincent very obviously did. “If there’s something you wish to say…” Vincent said softly and Jerry glanced at him, startled.
Slowly, Jerry sat down again. “Yeah. Laura tells me I should and she’s always right,” he said with a fond smile at his wife. “Before I was assigned to that undercover investigation where you and I met,” he continued with a glance at Catherine, “I worked surveillance for a couple of years with the organized crime unit. About six months before I was reassigned, we did a series of wiretaps against the Rotolos. They had a club down off Mulberry in Little Italy but it was an odd sort of place.”
“Let me guess…a very private club?” Catherine asked.
“Oh, yeah, invitation only,” Jerry answered wryly. “Very exclusive, if you take my meaning. Anyway, John Moreno was in and out of that club for months before he was finally busted by the Feds.”
The Feds knew over a year before he was arrested! They knew and never bothered to tell us that our DA was crooked! Catherine fumed. Vincent’s hand tightened on hers, clearly sensing her distress and she breathed out, forcing calm. “And then what happened?”
“The Feds came in and shut the whole investigation down. They took over the case, seized everything we had.” Jerry looked down at the ground and back at her, “Cathy, there were a lot of very influential people in and out of that club.”
“Who?” Catherine asked.
“One of the mayor’s aides---he’s since left the city. A handful of officials at the NYPD. I didn’t recognize them all---if the investigation had been allowed to go longer, I would have learned all their names. But in any case, it wasn't anything we could nail them for; there’s no law against hanging out with a bunch of crooks, unless you happen to be one.” He swallowed the last of his beer. “I’ve heard about the Avery case, that there were threats on your life and the other prosecutor’s. You’ve got a friend at the 33rd, right?”
Catherine nodded. “Yes.”
“Good,” Jerry replied. “Trust him, but only as far as you have to. I don’t know how deep this thing goes, and I’ve been out of the department long enough now that I couldn’t tell you who to trust, but…you can bet not everyone has been found yet.”
Dinah Goldstein’s warning---“Avery plays hardball, Cathy”---rang in her ears again. With Avery in custody, Moreno dead and the Rotolos under indictment, there was still a risk, if no longer to her and Rita, then to Greg Hughs. How many people in his department---in hers---were bought and paid for? “What else?” Catherine asked gently, sensing some other meaning behind his works.
“I didn't quit the NYPD, Cathy. I was...'given a leave of absence' to find other employment. No,” he said with a quick glance at Laura, who was now frankly asleep, “not as a result of the sting where Laura and I met. There were...other reasons; I complained about how the investigation was handled and eventually I heard through the grapevine my job was on the line. So I was stuck behind a desk for months, then I was reassigned to infiltrate Lincoln's gang. It was my last assignment and I think it would have been regardless of how the sting had turned out.” He shrugged. “Might have been inevitable but...Laura and I thought you should know. You don't know---I don't know---how far the corruption goes.”
The words were said with a quiet fierceness Catherine found touching---he was a protector, this husband of Laura’s. “I know,” she said. “Do you have…any idea if anyone at the DA’s office is still involved?”
“I couldn’t say,” Jerry replied. “But there was this hotshot attorney---I didn’t know him but one of my buddies sure recognized him. Sparks, I think?”
“Max Avery’s defense attorney?” Catherine asked, stunned. She’d known that Graham Sparks counted a good many mobsters as his clients but to freely associate with them…?
“The very same, sounds like,” Jerry said. “Though if you ask me---unofficially, of course---there’s not all that much difference between one shark and another.”
After Jerry and Laura had been escorted to the guest chamber, Catherine and Vincent made their way to the basement entrance of their home. A message clanked out on the pipes: Matthew, seeking confirmation they were on their way. “Does Matthew ever sleep?” Catherine asked, amused, as Vincent tapped out a reply.
Vincent chuckled. “Not that I’ve ever seen. And he’s a morning person too. It’s…unnatural.”
“Ugh,” Catherine replied in mock horror. “Maybe I should warn him---”
“That you need coffee first thing in the morning? I think it would be wise, yes.”
“For his own safety, of course.”
“Of course.” He stopped at the false wall, sought the rounded bit of sea glass embedded into the stone and turned to gaze at his wife. “Catherine…what Jerry said…”
She sighed. “Yes. It’s a concern, but Vincent, it’s nothing I didn’t already know or suspect. The bit about Avery’s attorney was new, though, and I’ll have to talk to Joe about it.” Unexpectedly, she stood on her tiptoes to kiss him. “Come on, love. Let’s leave Max Avery behind for tonight, shall we?”
Vincent nodded and pushed the wall on its hidden pivot, closing one world behind them and entering another. They walked the length of the passage to their basement and heard Matthew’s voice out of the dimness, the light of his flashlight bobbing with his movement. “Thought you’d never get here,” he said, his bad leg braced against the exterior wall of the basement.
“How could we miss it?” Catherine asked as she followed him into the basement. “What have you found?”
Matthew angled his flashlight over to a corner Vincent and the others had not yet had the chance to explore. The light refracted in the glint of…glass? The details were clear enough to his eyes---an astonishing sight---but a lifetime of adjusting, of compensating for what others perceived told him Catherine could not see as clearly. “What is this, Matthew?”
There was a muted clink---Matthew, pulling on the chain for the lone light bulb. “Look,” he said, his voice hushed.
Catherine’s gasp echoed in the silence. “Are these…?”
“The original windows for this building? Yeah, I think so,” Matthew confirmed. “Just piled there in the corner like so much garbage. Go ahead, look---they’re yours now.”
Half-buried under a torn burlap tarp, the windows were stacked haphazardly against the wall. The framing was dirty, cracked and splintered, but it did not detract from the colors of the dusty glass--reds and golds and greens, hues Vincent had never seen until the two magical weeks in Connecticut. “There’s a few clear panels, but not many,” she murmured as she gingerly inspected them. “I’ve never…”
“I know,” he replied. Unlike the windows Matthew had ordered made for the sides of their door, many of the windows were not made of frosted glass, but colored; they would not be as foolproof a security system, but when the sun shone through them…They would be the jeweled colors of their shared dream of Marrakesh [73,] the autumn tints of sun and leaves and light...
“Some of the panes are cracked,” Matthew went on, “but I figure someone in you lot Below must know how to fix them.”
“I do,” Vincent murmured around the lump in his throat, the hope of possibilities.
Catherine's hand was small against his back---a support, an embrace. “It looks like nearly every window in this brownstone once had stained glass.”
Matthew grinned. “By my calculations, I'd say you're right. Must have cost a fortune when this place was new. Artistry like this, even then, didn't come cheap.”
“Was Annie able to learn anything about the original owners?” Catherine asked.
“She might have, at that,” Matthew said with a smile. “I'll ask her tomorrow morning.”
Vincent gazed down at the windows, noting the different sizes---a hexagonal window, two rectangular ones, some circles, some squares. “When will these need to be fixed by?”
“Before drywall goes up,” Matthew answered. “You’ve got a few weeks at least, a bit longer if you need it. The plumbing work is starting next week, then the electrical; when it’s finished, the drywall will start going in.” A car backfired as it passed the brownstone; he jumped a little and checked his watch. “Good grief. I didn’t realize it was getting this late.” He grinned. “You all can stay if you want; I know you’ve got keys to the basement door.”
Vincent shook his head. “No, I promised Mouse I’d meet with him early tomorrow.”
Matthew raised his eyebrows. “That should be fun. What’s ‘early’ for Mouse? 5am? 6am?”
“I suggested…no earlier than 7am,” Vincent replied. “Though I’m not entirely optimistic. Mouse…runs on his own time zone.”
“Don’t I know it,” Matthew said with a rueful grimace. “Boy showed up in my basement once at 3am---I almost called the cops before I realized who it was. Bless him, though, since he works harder than a good many people I’ve hired over the years.” He yawned. “I’d best be heading home. Got a morning meeting with Annie and a couple of homeowners who are not as realistic as you two.”
Vincent lifted one of the windows---the smallest hexagonal one---and placed it under his arm. “Very well. Thank you for showing us this.”
They were more than halfway to their chamber when Catherine decided to ask. “So, did you hear it?”
Vincent tilted his head, the alert bird-like gesture she so loved. “The sound of…”
“Champagne glasses,” Catherine finished. “I heard them too often at my dad’s parties for it to be anything else. The whole time we were looking at those windows, I kept hearing them clink together.” She frowned. “Matthew didn’t seem to, though. I wonder why?”
Vincent stopped and propped the old window against the tunnel wall. “I have a suspicion…”
“It’s not Matthew’s house. Perhaps that’s why.” He folded his arms. “Narcissa often said spirits choose whom to visit and if Kristopher is any example, they also choose where to live.”
Catherine nodded. “Okay. So we have people still partying in our basement from Prohibition?”
“That’s what Kristopher said when he told me about our…guests,” Vincent recalled.  “And you…accept this?”
“Seems a bit silly not to, don’t you think?” Catherine asked wryly. “When I heard the champagne glasses as clearly as I hear you now. Let's just say...I'm suspending my disbelief for the moment.”
Catherine arrived at work early the next morning, after Mouse and Vincent had left for their consultation with William. With the news she had to tell Joe, it was better anyway that there wouldn't be too many people at the office. The lights were already on in Joe's office, unsurprisingly; he never seemed to keep the same hours as everyone else. She knocked on the door. “You got a minute?”
He yawned. “I've got several. I...didn't sleep well last night. You make the coffee?”
“Are you sure you want me to? Wil---someone told me I could bring back the dead with my coffee.”
Joe chuckled. “I think that might be exactly what I need.”
As the coffee perked away, Catherine told Joe the story of her conversation with Jerry. When she finished, Joe leaned back in his chair. She noticed his desk was devoid of clutter---always a bad sign. From her past experience with him, it meant he had troubles---bad ones---on his mind. “So…Graham Sparks might not be just representing mobsters?” he asked when she finished.
To listen to him, you’d think he wasn’t interested at all, Catherine thought; his tone was far too even for someone normally so animated. And yet… “It’s possible, from what my source said.”
“Interesting,” Joe said noncommittally. He reached behind to turn the radio on the credenza louder. Gesturing for silence, he reached inside a desk drawer and pulled out a legal pad and pen and tore off a few sheets of the yellow paper. Greg said the office might be bugged he wrote in his untidy scrawl.
I thought about that too, she wrote back. Is everything okay?
You seem worried, Catherine wrote. Is there anything I can do?
Joe shook his head. Greg’s getting some very pointed questions about what he’s been doing off-duty. I don’t think I can ask anything more of him, not without putting his job in jeopardy, or raising more questions than he can answer. He’s done enough.
Catherine nodded. I understand.
Just be careful. You and Rita both. This is a tangled nasty mess we’ll be dealing with, in one form or another, for years.
“Thank you for telling me,” Joe said formally, turning down the radio and presenting all the outward appearance of a man with few concerns. “I’m sure it’s nothing to be concerned about.”
Catherine took that as her cue to leave, and rose. As she closed the door behind her, she heard the sound of Joe’s shredder. So this is what we’ve come to. We no longer know who we can trust.
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Click here for Chapter 61...
 “Providence,” Chapter 27.
 “Providence,” Chapter 44.