Providence: Chapter 68: Above All Shadows Rides the Sun

                                      Chapter 68: Above All Shadows Rides the Sun [82]

The weeks which followed assumed a certain regularity: Catherine would go Above to her job, and Vincent to his tunnel duties and when she returned home that evening, they would go over Cullen's notations for what work had been finished on the brownstone during the day, and what still remained.  The tasks were growing smaller, she noted with satisfaction, but it was only because of the concentrated efforts of many people that the renovations had been accomplished with such speed. “Here's our homework,” Catherine said during one such night, lifting the note off the entrance to the basement. “Looks like it's tile and grouting in the kitchen.”

Vincent cast a quick concerned glance at the bandaged gash on her hand---she had cut it open on a broken shard of subway tile while working on the downstairs bathroom a few days earlier---and instinctively, she folded the palm flat against her jeans. He worries so. “Are you sure? I could...”

She silenced him with a finger to his lips and nearly concealed the wince her shoulders felt at the movement. “I'm sure.”

He kissed her finger. “Your shoulders still ache.”

“Of course they do,” Catherine said. “We painted most of the downstairs yesterday and I've bought so much aspirin, I'm thinking I should buy stocks in Bayer.” She tilted her head. “Vincent, I'm fine. And I want to continue.”

He gently took her unbandaged hand. “Very well. However, if you feel you need to rest....”

“I'll tell you. I promise.”

“ might want a massage?” The words were said with a studied innocence, but their bond told another story.

The thought of those hands....the hands which were most definitely made to give love...Catherine felt herself grow suddenly warm. “I'd like that, but what about you? Aren't you...stiff from working all day?”

His blue eyes twinkled at her intentional double entendre. “Perhaps. And perhaps you could help me with that as well?”

Ignoring the screech of muscles in her shoulders, Catherine rose on her tiptoes to kiss him. “I'd be delighted,” she murmured against his mouth.

Tonight, Cullen was absent; the number of people working on their house varied according to their other commitments and while they might sometimes have as many as a dozen people working, there were times when only three or four people were present. Warren was there, working on Cullen's lathe with practiced skill. “Hiya,” he said as they entered the basement, stepping off the treadle---which Catherine recognized had once belonged to an old sewing machine---to allow the machine to slow and his words to be heard. “Mouse went back to his chamber for a gizmo and Kanin sent word he won't be here tonight.”

“Is everything all right with Kanin and Cullen?” Catherine asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Warren said in his slow, careful way. “Olivia's got the flu and Luke's a handful, about like you'd expect. And Cullen is...well...Valerie had some contractions around lunch that Father says is nothing to worry about, but he's nervous she's gonna pop while he's over here.” He grinned. “Can't say as I blame him there. She looks large enough, but don't tell him I said that.” He removed a baluster from the lathe and handed it to Vincent. “What do you think, Vincent? Good match?”

“It's an excellent match for the missing ones on the staircase,” Vincent replied, clapping him on the shoulder. He studied the lathe. “I know Cullen said Mouse had jury-rigged one which would be quiet enough to use here, but I never thought...”

Warren nodded. “Even the one Cullen normally uses is pretty loud. But this one is fine for the smaller jobs.” He picked up another piece of wood. “I think we've got about six of these to finish; Kanin said he'd work on the others tomorrow.” He yawned. “I'm going to finish a couple more, then take off. You all okay?”

“Yes,” Vincent told him. “Just setting tile on the kitchen floor tonight.”

“All right. Mouse should be back here soon, assuming Arthur hasn't run off with his gizmo.” Warren put back on his safety glasses and they walked into the brownstown, the hum of the lathe echoing behind them.

Vincent remembered, as if it had been yesterday and not several months before, what their kitchen had once looked like---the walls exposed down to the bricks, the blue lines of the layout on the floor, the scents of rusted piping and rotted, frayed knob-and-tube wiring. There had been so many changes; the space was now dry-walled and every day, it was beginning to look more and more like the kitchen it would soon be.

“I hope Olivia feels better soon,” Catherine was saying as they walked into the kitchen.

“It's not the flu,” Vincent murmured.

“Oh?” Catherine asked. Then realization hit her, the sparks of happiness clear in their bond. “Oh!”

“Yes. If Kanin doesn't know it soon, he will.”

Catherine tugged at his arm. “You knew?”

Vincent nodded. “Her...scent has changed over the last few days.” He paused. “They likely won't say anything for some time. Olivia has had...losses before.”

“How awful,” Catherine murmured. “Does they....?”

“Do they know I know?” Vincent finished. “Olivia might, but I doubt Kanin realizes.” He darted a wry look at her. “Women are...usually more perceptive. And Olivia and I grew up together. I doubt there's much she hasn't figured out by now.”

“I know,” Catherine replied. “Olivia and I talked a bit while you were so sick.” She ducked her head slightly and the waves of mischief flooded their bond.  “She told me you were her first kiss.”

He felt the heat rise at the back of his neck. “I was nine, Catherine.”

“And chasing older women? Olivia was ten. Tsk, tsk,” Catherine said with a grin. She hung her coat on the back of a small ladder and reached for an unopened box of slate tile. She winced slightly and Vincent took the box from her. “I can handle it,” she insisted.

“Yes, you can,” Vincent told her, “but…would you please let me help you?”

“All right,” she agreed, flexing her hand. Her right hand, he noticed; it had been his left hand which had been wounded on their honeymoon. [83] We are counterparts, even in this, he thought, somewhat amused by the coincidence and he heard Narcissa’s voice as she had told him often during his childhood: There are no coincidences.

Catherine set the last of the tiles and stood, arching her back as her muscles protested. “We’ll let the grout set up overnight,” Vincent said. “It’ll have to be completely dry before the cabinets are installed in a couple of days.”

The bronzed fall of his hair fell down one long arm as he rubbed the back of his neck. “You’ve had a long day too,” she murmured. “What time is it, anyway?”

He yawned suddenly. “Nearly midnight.” He tilted his head. “What time are you going into work tomorrow?”

“I have a couple of meetings tomorrow morning---one with David and then the staff meeting. I might decide to work from home the rest of the day,” Catherine said. “I just have case prep on my desk and I can do that pretty much anywhere. Why?”

“This time of night, the mineral pools should be deserted,” Vincent said. “But if you were going to have to go to work early, I didn’t want to keep you up.”

She unsuccessfully fought back a yawn of her own. “The mineral pools sound ideal. If I don't, I'm afraid I'm going to go into work tomorrow doubled over like a crab.”

The image amused him, she could tell, the quirk tugging at his mouth. “We can't have that,” he murmured. “Let's go, then.”


They were just leaving the tunnel entrance when Vincent halted so abruptly that she nearly ran into him. “What is it?” Catherine asked softly.

Do you feel that? Vincent tapped against her hand.

She shivered and then realized she shouldn't be shivering; it was no colder Below at this time of night than it was the rest of the day. Yes. What's going on?

Vincent stood slightly in front of her. “Who's there?” he asked. “Please, come out so we can see you.”

Catherine thought the diffuse, pale light was a product of her tired eyes but as the column of light expanded and began to assume human form, she realized what she was seeing.  A ghost. Another ghost. The shape resolved itself into a man wearing the patched flannels and jeans she'd seen a hundred times since coming Below. She didn’t recognize the man, but it was clear Vincent did.

“Phillip?”  Vincent asked. And Catherine recalled the story as he’d told her several months before: Phillip, the friend of his youth, killed while defending the tunnels from intruders. [84 ] He could not be more stunned, Catherine thought, if William had started dancing the hula naked in front of him.

The spirit nodded---for spirit he clearly was---nodded. “No fooling you, but then, there never was. It’s good to see you.”

Vincent seemed to recover a bit of his composure. “I…it’s been a long time, Phillip.”

“It has, man,” Phillip answered. “Thought I’d stop by, see how you were doing. Been here before but you never saw me.”

“I thought I…sensed someone a few months ago,” Vincent replied. “Was that you?”

“You sensed that? Oh, man…I really am no good at this ghost thing. Yeah, it was me.” He tilted his head and Catherine wondered if he’d learned the gesture from Vincent, or Vincent from him. “So this is your lovely wife. I knew you’d find someone.”

She’d once held paintings done by Kristopher Gentian; the recollection that she had also drunk cappuccino with a ghost steadied her somewhat. “A pleasure,” he said. “Kristopher has talked about you a lot.”

“I bet,” Catherine returned dryly.

“Oh, not like that,” Phillip assured her, though his eyes were twinkling.

Vincent gazed at the other man. She could almost feel the mental gears turning as he came to some conclusion. “Was it…were you in the basement next door when Mouse was injured?”

The ghost spread his hands. “Guilty. Couldn’t let him get crushed after all…” Phillip tilted his head. “Why don’t you ask me what you really want to know?”

“Why…all this? Why are you here?” Vincent asked. “We buried you among family and friends; you should be at peace.”

“This was my home,” Phillip said simply. “I left, but...” He waved a hand. “Don’t ask, man. You wouldn’t get it, and that’s a good thing.” He folded his arms. “You…won’t have any trouble from the spirits who used to live next door.”

“Someone pushed the wall on top of Mouse?” Catherine guessed. “It wasn’t an accident?”

“No,” Phillip said. “It wasn’t. But…that’s all taken care of now; you’ll be safe.” There was a small, mysterious smile on his face. “And so will your family.”

“What---” Vincent began, but Phillip’s smile seemed to halt his words. “Nothing is truly impossible,” Phillip said. “You know that. You know.

Vincent glanced at Catherine and the warmth in his gaze made her completely forget the chill in the small corridor. “I do.”

“Good,” Phillip replied, apparently satisfied. “I’ll be around, but this…coming here and talking with you all is harder than it looks. So…just take care of each other, all right?”

The diffuse light enfolded him once again, and with a last wave, Phillip disappeared. Vincent watched the light fade then turned to Catherine. “I…”

“What are you feeling?” she asked.

He enfolded her in the curve of one strong arm and his scent—a stronger male scent, heavier with his recent exertions---surrounded her.  “Blessed. Just…very blessed.”


Catherine jerked, startled, as the phone rang. She dug for the receiver buried underneath her paperwork and scattered notes. “Catherine Chandler.”

“Hi, Cathy, it’s Deborah at reception. David Smith is here to see you.”

“Thanks, Deborah,” Catherine replied. “I’ll be up in a moment.” She stood and saw Joe coming towards her desk with a bag of…whatever he was eating. “Joe, David’s here. You have time to sit in on the meeting?”

Joe grinned. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Radcliffe. Let’s go.”

A few minutes later, Catherine sat down at the long table with a full cup of coffee and an empty note pad. “What did you find, David?”

“Well, Joshua and I compared the ledgers of Avery’s ‘legitimate’ businesses to the transcripts the IRS sent and…there’s no doubt what these records reveal. It may come as a shock,” David said dryly, “but Max Avery was grossly understating his income, to the tune of about eight million dollars a year.”

Rita spoke up from the other side of the table. “How far was his accountant involved?”

“Up to his eyebrows,” David replied. “He had one set of ledgers for the IRS and another for Max Avery. And he signed off on all those tax returns.”

“Probably got an attack of conscience once he realized his life was in danger,” Joe said. “Once Max Avery was indicted, Aaron Geller became a liability.”

“Trial starts in June,” Catherine said, glancing over David’s preliminary report. “That’s not long from now. Will you be done with your analysis by then?”

“Oh, yeah,” David replied. “Joshua and I will both be available to testify whenever you need us.”

“And just so I understand you correctly, Max Avery isn’t going to be able to say he was an honest businessman led astray by a corrupt accountant, is he?” Catherine asked.

David snorted. “No. This was a very deliberate shell game and there’s no way Avery couldn’t have known what was going on.”

“How did Mr. Geller and Herman Mueller know each other?” Joe asked. “I’m still wondering about that one.”

Catherine shrugged. “I’m not sure we’ll ever know. Mrs. Mueller didn’t know Aaron Geller, and now that both men are dead….”

Joe nodded. “All right,” Catherine said. “I think that’s it for now. David, thank you and Joshua both for your work on this case.”

David smiled. “No problem. Give my regards to…your husband when you have a chance. Tell him he owes me a chess game.”

It should have startled her, this open discussion of Vincent, but all she felt was a pleased warmth. “I…will, David, thank you. You’ll have to come over for dinner some night.”

Joe looked askance at her. “You two know each other?”

“I grew up with her husband,” David put in easily.

Joe shook his head. “Huh. What are the odds, eh?”

About the same odds as Vincent finding me that one night in April, Catherine thought. There are no coincidences.

“You want me to what?” Catherine asked in shock a week later. “Vincent…really?”

Vincent smiled at her over his coffee mug. “Yes. Can you… stay away from the brownstone until tonight?”

It was the weekend, and normally she’d be in the thick of things with the rest of the work crew at their brownstone. But Vincent wouldn’t have made such a request without good reason. “Why?” she asked suspiciously.

“I’ll come for you tonight,” Vincent told her. “I promise.”

“You’re not answering the question.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “You’ll just have to…wait and find out.” He kissed her. “Go to the bathing pools and relax. Read. Catch up with Marisol or Valerie.”

The prospect of leisure time---something neither she nor Vincent had had much of since the renovations began in earnest---was attractive but… “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Vincent replied. “Very sure.”  He stood and picked up the worn leather tool-belt and fastened it around his narrow hips.

“Do you have to leave…so soon?” Catherine asked. His hair was still damp from his recent shower and…damn, she thought. How can he look so hot just standing there breathing?

“I do,” Vincent said softly. “But tonight…” One clawed finger traced the outline of her lips, a gentle caress which nevertheless made her knees slightly weak. “It’ll be worth it. You’ll see.”

Few forces in the universe were as unrelenting as Vincent when he had his mind made up---immovable force meets irresistible object, Catherine thought dryly---so she nodded. “All right. I’ll see you in a few hours, then?”

“Tonight,” Vincent said, obviously amused. “Get some rest if you can, please.”


To no one’s surprise but her own, Catherine managed to stay busy the entire day. She visited with Marisol and held her son Benjamin while his mother finished the last threads of a tapestry curtain destined, Marisol told her with a wink, for Geoffrey’s first chamber. She stopped by to see Valerie and found her folding freshly laundered baby clothes and helped her place them in a dresser still smelling of sawdust and beeswax polish.

After a late lunch and a nap, she ended up at Father’s chamber. “I see you’ve been making the circuit,” Father said dryly. “Would you care for some tea?”

“Thank you,” Catherine said, taking a cautious sip of the hot tea. “I suppose you know what’s going on?”

“Mmm…Vincent and the others are working on the brownstone, my dear. What else should be going on?” The grey eyes were calm and innocent of any mischief. An excellent performance, Catherine would have said, except for the fact that she’d married his son and knew the look of wry devilment when she saw it.

“Indeed,” Catherine replied in the same tone. Her eye fell on the half-empty bottle of pills resting on top of a stack of books. A few years ago---last year, even---she would not have dared ask but… “How are you feeling, Father?”

“Well enough, thank you. Peter is quite pleased with my blood pressure. Also called me a ‘damn fool’ for waiting so long to see him.”

Catherine nearly choked on the tea he’d poured for her. “Oh?” she managed.

“Yes,” Father went on as if he’d not noticed her reaction. “Peter said as a doctor I should know better, but I was forced to remind him we often make the worst patients.”

There was an insistent clanking, a message Catherine translated almost without conscious thought: Vincent, calling her to the Bluebird House. For a bare instant, she was confused---the Bluebird House?--- but then she recalled the stained glass piece now cleaned and uncovered in their study and a lump rose in her throat. She rose and Father’s warm gaze met her own. “You’d best be going, my dear.”

“I…yes, thank you,” Catherine said.

It seemed as if half the tunnels were gathered in the tunnel leading to their basement. The door opened and Vincent stood, haloed by light. He held out his hand. “Will you let me lead you through the darkness?” he murmured for her ears alone and she nodded even as his features were blurred by her tears.

“Of course,” she said. She took his hand and let him guide her into the first floor of their brownstone and stopped, stunned. The furniture... “Vincent…what…”

“Some of the furniture came from your storage unit,” he explained.

Mouse stood with a smiling Jamie. “Took key. Vincent copied address. Moved heavy stuff today. You like?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, touched by the amount of work which must have gone on. The large overstuffed leather sofa and loveseat had been her parents’ as had the burgundy Persian carpet, the coffee table a steamer trunk once belonging to her grandmother…pieces she’d described to Vincent in Connecticut. The lamp she didn’t recognize but it was nearly a twin to the one in her study below. Vincent must have made it, she realized. “I can’t…I don’t even have the words.”

“You don’t have to say anything,” Vincent said.

Catherine looked up at him, seeing the promise, the future neither of them had ever dared dream separately. But together…all things were possible.  “This is…home.”

“Yes,” Vincent said. “Yes.”

THE END. (For now. :D)

[82] “Journey’s End,” by JRR Tolkien
[83] “Providence,” Chapter 18
[84] “Providence,” Chapter 27


Ruby said...

Very nice, I especially like the tantalizing detail that maybe they'll have to help Phillip...and Lark. That Lark's refusal to forgive Vincent has left her stranded and away from her husband, and she can find no peace either until then.

Krista said...

Hi Ruby!

I'll confess I hadn't really thought of including Lark's story in this particular universe, since it belonged so much to "Elysium" and the two stories aren't connected. But who knows, maybe there were other reasons why Phillip chose to linger (he did say Vincent wouldn't "get it.") ;)

Thank you again, so much, for commenting.

-Krista :)

Anonymous said...

What a lovely "ending" for this story! They have plenty of evidence to put Max Avery away for tax evasion. The "Bluebird House" is ready for habitation. Phillip brings further confirmation that Vincent has a future family waiting for him.

"How can he look so hot just standing there breathing?" -- Best line in the chapter! But, of course, we know why!

And now we also know that Providence is . . . where the bluebird sings . . .

Anxious for your NEXT story!

Regards, Lindariel

Krista said...

Hi Lindariel!

Thank you so much for commenting---you've been so good to me throughout this story...truly, you're a blessing. :)

I just wrote something for the BatBland anniversary challenge, and I'm about to head into the weeds with the conzine, so...I wouldn't look for any sequel much before the end of the summer. But I do have some ideas noodling. ;-)

Thank you again, so much. :)



Ruby said...

There are so many wonderful places to go, Marisol's backstory, Kanin and Olvia's new child, just who or what is living next in the ruins next door and what Philip did to quell them. And did he do it well enough to keep them quiet for good. Complications like a friendly urban explorer who loves taking pictures of old subway tunnels and ruined buildings, and who just can't stop wondering why the Bluebird House's windows are all stained glass. A streetwise waif, who turns out to be the girl who didn't come with Catherine in A Children's story, who strips old buildings for copper, and has no qualms about breaking in. Michael returning for Brooke, or Brooke's heartache at meeting Michael's new girlfriend. On and on, I would really like to see what you would do with Gracie, or a character like that.

Krista said...

Hi Ruby,

Thanks for the comments and your enthusiasm for this story! I have tried to create one unique vision of Vincent and Catherine's story and I always enjoy seeing other fans' own distinct take on things. Creating your own stories is all about your personal, unique vision, as you know. You've done so much great work with your Tumblr---why not create a whole different story in which your unique visions take pride of place? I think that would be more interesting for your readers than anything which might branch off from this story.

Thanks again,

Krista :)

RomanticOne said...

Wow. I got started catching up and it was well worth staying up late to finish. This was such a lovely story. I can't make the convention but hope the conzine will be made available. Thanks for sharing your talent and your love of B&B.

Krista said...

Hi R1!

Thank you so, so much :) You've been there from the beginning of this site and I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate you sticking with this story (and all the others.) Thank you. You've been (and are) such a blessing. :)

Copies of the conzine will be sold; there's information available on the con website at BatBland. Maybe we'll see you next year, then? I'd love to finally meet you. :)

Hugs to you!

-Krista :)

Mamacrow said...

Dear Krista,

This has been an exciting and fulifilling ride. You are truly one of the queens of secondary characters! Marisol, and Valerie, and David and all the lovely characters in between...I have loved getting to know them and look forward to seeing them again! Finally, The Bluebird house, a character of its own. I can't wait to visit in its cozy rooms.

Krista said...

Hi Mamacrow!

Oh, thank you so much for your comments! :) It really means a lot to me that you commented---you've made my day :)

Hopefully, we'll be seeing more from Blubird House (and everyone else) this summer. :)


Krista :)

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