Chapter 65: And Spoke in a Hundred Silent Ways 
Winter's chill was still evident in the tunnel leading to their brownstone, a cold nip in the air that spoke of the season's slow retreat. Catherine pulled the folds of her jacket closer and was glad she'd changed into jeans and a sweater before joining Vincent for their meeting with Annie and Matthew. “How is everyone going to work in here, as cold as it is?” she asked as Vincent unlocked the basement door.
“The way we always do,” he assured her. “Don't worry. We'll all be fine.”
“If you say so,” Catherine said. She remembered the thick stew their housekeeper had made on frigid winter evenings, the smell of the heavy broth and meat and vegetables....It would keep them warm and full, she mused. I have Helen's recipe, but I've never made it for such a large group. I wonder if William would teach me how to make it for them.
“Vincent, Catherine, that you?” Annie called out as they exited the basement.
“Yes,” Vincent answered.
“I figured,” Annie replied. “We're in the study. Or what will be your study, once all is said and done. Come on in.”
Vincent pulled the chain on the lone light bulb, now covered with a light fixture. It was in deference to her own eyesight, Catherine knew, for he could see perfectly well in the darkness. She tossed him a grateful smile---the chain was almost too far for her to reach---and felt his hand clasp hers as the light revealed the interior. The last time they had seen it, the building had been gutted; now, there was new wiring and plumbing and who knew what else. Catherine shook her head, astonished. How far their home had come from when they'd first seen it.
They walked through the living room into the study, the room where they'd first seen the bluebird stained glass. Stacks of drywall, waiting to be scored and hung, leaned against one wall. Annie had set up a make-shift desk using a sawhorse and a wide piece of scrap wood. She smiled as they entered the room. “Now we get to the fun part.”
“You have a strange definition of fun,” Matthew put in, though his eyes were twinkling. “She's right, though. It'll be a lot of work to finish this place, but I think you'll find it rewarding.”
Catherine looked askance at the notebooks and blueprints scattered across the desk. “Well, where do we start?”
An hour later, they had at least the rough sketches of a work schedule, of duties which would fill up the next few months. “I know you'll want to do some work here in the nights,” Matthew said, “but don't forget the noise ordinances. Nothing after 6pm during the week and nothing at all on the weekends without a permit and a noise mitigation plan. Which we won't be getting because we're trying to avoid undue attention.”
“Then how---” Catherine asked, but her words were halted by Matthew's quick grin.
“Nothing loud, Catherine,” he said. “You all will have to work quietly. Your neighbors on the one side---” and he gestured to the cemetery behind them “---won't care, but the ones across the street surely will.”
She nodded and looked at the list, which already seemed daunting. A hand---Vincent's hand---settled on her shoulder. “It'll be fine. You'll see.”
Catherine took a deep breath. “All right.”
Annie smiled. “Before you get all worried, would you care to step out into your backyard for a bit? There's something I've been meaning to show you both.”
There was no moon, but the stars twinkled above them and Vincent saw in the dark grey shadows what the others could not. “Not much further,” Annie's voice said from a short distance in front of them.
Vincent heard a soft swish of fabric---Catherine, pulling the folds of her jacket tighter against the damp chill of early spring. “What's out here, Annie?” she asked.
“It's what's not here,” Annie said quietly, angling her flashlight. “Look.”
Where the looming, wrecked shadow of the other building had been, there was nothing but razed earth and high walls of a much more recent construction which completely matched those on the other side. “The walls,” Catherine breathed, the wonder ricocheting through their bond. “The walls.”
Annie smiled. “Yup. They were finished just before that last rainstorm.” She turned to Vincent. “Now you'll be safe out here. No one can see over them, or through them. This is...”
The sunlight on Catherine's hair in the summer, the rustling of leaves, the laughter of children...their children....playing openly without fear...Vincent felt the warmth of the sun on his shoulders as the vision released him. “This is freedom,” he finished softly.
“There’s something else I need to show you,” Annie said as they reentered the brownstone and walked back into the study.
“What more could there be?” Vincent asked, bemused.
Annie leaned against the wall and folded her arms. Vincent had seen the look on her face many times before---her getting to business look Matthew called it. “This is about security. I know that has to be a concern.”
“It is,” Catherine said, taking his hand. “I’d never forgive myself if something happened up here.”
Annie nodded. “This house has some…unusual features. You asked me to look into the house’s history, and it most definitely was used as a speakeasy during Prohibition, but that’s not all.”
Vincent and Catherine exchanged a glance. The speakeasy wasn’t a surprise, not after Kristopher and the sounds of champagne glasses they’d heard in the basement. “What else?” Catherine asked.
“This house was built by a retired merchant captain who had---shall we say---a very dubious reputation. He owned several saloons in the area and there were rumors he used the tunnels under this brownstone for his smuggling operations.”
Catherine recalled her encounter with the Chinese spirit some months before and nodded. “That…explains a lot.”
Annie raised one eyebrow. “Why do I get the feeling some of this information isn’t news to you?”
Catherine chuckled. “I’ll explain later, I promise.”
“See that you do. I love a good story,” Annie said dryly. “But to continue…there’s one with a passage which leads directly into the tunnels. And it’s still mostly intact; I went down there this morning and it seems to end near the tunnel you and the others cleaned out.”
Matthew shot a dark glance at his daughter. “You went down some rickety stairs, closed-off since who-knows-when, by yourself? Annie---”
They glared at each other and Vincent thought if they’d been cats, they’d have been hissing with their tails twitching. “Where is it?” he interrupted gently to forestall the inevitable argument; Matthew and Annie had been disagreeing about the risks she took ever since she and Devin had discovered that a natural dip in the Maze made an excellent skateboard ramp.
She breathed out once, gestured to the far wall opposite them which stood in between the study and the downstairs bedroom. “It’s right here. If I had to hazard a guess, it was concealed behind a bookshelf in a false wall. Like in the movies,” Annie explained. “You’d lift a book or a statue, something like that, and the mechanism would be activated. Now only the stairs remain.”
“Perfect for a secret agent,” Catherine said with a smile. “Is there another one?”
“Yes,” Annie said. “It’s located in the upstairs master bedroom; the closet has a very narrow set of stairs which lead to the roof.” She frowned. “I’m not sure how much of an escape route that was supposed to be, unless the plan was to have people flee across the roofs, but there you have it.”
“That’s three escape routes, counting the basement itself,” Vincent mused. “Will it be difficult to repair the other two?”
Annie shook her head. “I don’t think so, no. The one in the upstairs bedroom has been closed off for years, likely as part of the ‘remodeling’ which initially turned this building into apartments. The one here was deeply concealed; we didn’t even notice it until the electricians were in to run some new wiring. If you can get Mouse to recreate the machinery, there’s no reason this one couldn’t work either. What do you think, Dad?”
Matthew folded his arms. “You’re right. And it’ll be easier to repair these than to create new secret passages, that’s for sure. Probably be a weekend’s job, but things are slow right now, so my crew will be happy of the work.” He tilted his head. “How are you coming with the stained glass repairs?”
“I’m almost done,” Vincent said.
Catherine looked at him, her astonishment clear in their bond. “When have you been working on those?” she asked. “I haven’t seen them since we brought them out of the basement.”
“Cullen and I have been working on them during the day,” he explained. “And you’ll see them once they’re installed. It’s…a surprise.”
Matthew chuckled. “When you’re done, just bring them up here. Drywall is going in soon, so your timing is excellent.”
“It’s my turn to read tonight, isn’t it?” Vincent asked as he unlaced the ties of his worn leather vest.
“Yes,” Catherine answered. “I believe we were going to start The Age of Innocence, weren’t we?”
She pulled back the covers of the quilt and settled against his broad shoulder as he opened the book. A rattling, frenetic clanking burst upon the pipes and Vincent froze, his sudden stillness somehow more terrifying for its utter lack of affect. His blue eyes were distant and he barely breathed. The pipes ceased and he vaulted from their bed, pulling on a pair of pants and a thermal undershirt. “What is it?” she asked.
“Marisol’s in labor,” he answered.
Catherine pressed her hands to her mouth. “Oh, no. Her baby wasn’t due until late April.”
He nodded. “Father’s asked me to guide Peter down, and Kipper’s gone to fetch Miguel. Will you go stay with her until he arrives?”
“Of course,” Catherine agreed.
“Mary will be there soon,” Vincent went on. “But you’re her friend. If you can keep her calm, that will be a big help.” The hem of his sweater was in his hands, and he twisted it as he spoke. “Father and Peter may not be able to stop her labor.”
Catherine closed her eyes briefly. “You’re afraid, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” he said but there was something closed off in him, words he would not speak right now. Catherine clasped his hand and they left the chamber.
Catherine had never been around a woman in labor before; Nancy's babies had been home for weeks by the time she came to visit them and none of her other friends had yet had families. To her surprise, Marisol was in her own chamber, not the anonymous bed in the hospital chamber. “How are you doing?” she asked Marisol.
“Not too bad right now,” Marisol said. “The contractions aren't strong yet.” She laced her hands over her swollen belly. “I hope they can stop this...Dios, six weeks early...”
“He'll still be a good size, though,” Catherine said, trying to reassure her.
“Si,” Marisol replied in a whisper. “I hope so.”
Mary bustled in then, with an armful of clean linens and other supplies leaning precariously on a cart. “Vincent sent word: Peter's on his way.”
“And Miguel?” Marisol asked.
“Kipper said he'll be here soon.” Mary patted her shoulder. “Try not to worry.”
“How can I not? If I go Above---”
“If you go Above,” Mary said firmly, “Peter will do what is necessary to protect you and your child. You know that.”
Catherine looked at the two women and felt herself on the edge of a not-uncommon mystery below: where had Marisol come from? How had she come to this place? “Don't worry,” Catherine repeated. “Peter's an old hand at being...creative. He'll do what he has to do. You just...”
“...Try and stay pregnant?” Marisol asked dryly. “If it were that easy...” her hands clenched in the blankets. “Peter needs to come soon.”
She stepped outside once Miguel arrived; he had rushed in to the room and embraced his wife, murmuring words she could not quite hear, and not wanting to intrude, she joined Vincent out in the corridor. “Everything all right?” he asked quietly.
“I'm not sure,” Catherine replied. “But at least Miguel is here.”
“Peter's picking up some supplies from the hospital chamber and bringing them here,” Vincent said, gathering her near. “He and Father will do their best for Marisol and her child.”
“Six weeks isn't so early.”
“No, it's not,” Vincent agreed, “but if there are complications....we are ill-equipped to deal with almost all of them. It's better if she can go to term than to risk delivering now.”
There were some deeper fears chasing his words, but Catherine knew this was not the time or the place to discuss them. Perhaps later, when all was well with Marisol and their family, then they could talk about the larger import of this night. But not now. “Will you be...needed the rest of the night?”
He shook his head. “No. Lena was...Marisol has Miguel.” His mouth quirked. “Labor attendant isn't my usual role here.”
“All right,” Catherine said. She yawned. “Think William has some coffee left?”
They were met in the commons by several other people who’d also heard the klaxon and found themselves unable to sleep---Valerie and Cullen, Jamie and Mouse, as well as a host of tunnel-dwellers Catherine had only met in passing. “Any news yet?” Valerie asked.
Catherine shook her head. “No. Miguel’s with her now and Peter and Father will be there soon. Not much we can do but wait.”
And wait they did, through two more pots of coffee and William’s breakfast, through a Monopoly game which ended almost as fast as it had begun because half the pieces were missing, and through the first of the lunch crowd. It was as if all time hung suspended, waiting for one solitary piece of news. All conversation ceased when one sound rang out, echoing throughout the rocky caverns.
The shrill cry of a baby. The cry of new life.
Then Pascal on the pipes, his message somehow recreating the sounds of bells: Marisol and Miguel have a new son. Mother and son are doing well…
A cheer went up among the gathering but out of the corner of her eye, Catherine saw Vincent briefly duck his head so that the amber hair covered his face. The current in their bond was a dark swirling river; there was no one emotion of his she could grasp to know how he was feeling. “Are you all right?” she asked under the cover of the noise and the chatter, knowing his ears were more than sensitive enough to hear her.
“Yes, I….” He swallowed. “I’m fine.”
He was very much not fine, Catherine mused, but he wouldn’t say so here, now. Not with all the happy faces celebrating the good news. “I’m pooped,” she said. “I think I’ll head back to our chamber and catch a nap.”
Vincent rose gracefully, taking the out she offered. “I’ll join you.”
Catherine waited until the doors closed behind them with a solid weighty thunk, until the water for their tea was steaming over the brazier, before she spoke. She poured the tea into a chipped cup and handed it to him. “All right, love,” she said softly. “What gives?”
For a time, Vincent didn’t answer, staring into the bottom of his tea cup as if he expected the answer to appear there. “Marisol is fine,” he murmured.
“She is,” Catherine replied. “Did you think she wouldn’t be?”
“If it was you…you might not be.”
Damn Paracelsus, she seethed, inwardly raging. Again. “Vincent, you know…you must know…what he told you was nothing but a package of lies from start to finish. You didn’t kill Anna. You didn’t kill your mother.”
His gaze, when he finally looked up, was aching and hollow. “Paracelsus killed Anna. But I don’t know about my mother. What if I did harm her, somehow? How can I put you at such risk, Catherine?”
She could have said It’s a risk I would bear gladly, but he knew that. He knew her heart, after all. “You sensed Marisol’s pain, didn’t you?” she asked instead.
A nod was her only answer. “Did you sense at any point that she regretted her choice?”
“No,” Vincent said, “but---”
She placed her own cup of tea on a side table and knelt in front of him. “Vincent, one day, you’ll have to choose. We’ll both have to choose…to decide if this part of our dream is one which is meant to be fulfilled. If you decide it is…then you’re going to have to come to terms with all the risks, all the dangers somehow.”
He bent his head so it touched hers. “I know,” he answered, his words no louder than her heartbeat. “If anything should happen to you...to our child...”
That had been the other fear he battled, Catherine realized, the fear of what could happen if their child needed more medical care than the tunnels could provide. If the worst had happened to Marisol's son, he could have been admitted to the hospital, but for Vincent's child...their child... “Vincent,” she said quietly, the ache of that possibility a darkness in her own soul. “I understand. I do. But...Marisol's baby is fine. Marisol is fine. And we will be too.”
Vincent met her gaze again, and she was relieved to see a little less pain in his eyes. He reached out to touch her face. “My strong one. You really believe this?”
“I do,” Catherine assured him. “Don't you?”
“Yes,” he said. “Because you believe.”
“All right,” she told him. It wasn't quite the answer she wanted, but Paracelsus and his lies had cast such a long shadow over their lives that it was small wonder he'd be haunted even now. She stood and held out her hand. “Come on, love. Let's get some rest. We'll be meeting a new baby soon.”
Click here for Chapter 66...
 A quote from Rumi: “I closed my mouth and spoke to you in a hundred silent ways”
2 months ago