Chapter 7: Under a Moon Waning and Worn 
Catherine started at the sound of the telephone, breaking the point of her newly-sharpened pencil. She dug the receiver out from a pile of legal pads, briefs and nearly dislodged a now-cold cup of coffee into her lap in the process. She blew her hair out of her face and picked it up. “Catherine Chandler.”
“Hi, Ms. Chandler, this is Lucy at reception. You have a call from a Detective Griffin from the Elizabeth, New Jersey Police Department. Did you want me to take a message?”
Yes, Catherine wanted to say, rubbing eyes gone gritty and sore with tiredness. Aloud, she replied, “No, Lucy, I’ll take the call.”
“Okay,” Lucy replied. “Stay on the line and I’ll transfer him.”
Catherine took a hasty drink of her coffee before the male voice began speaking. “Hello, am I speaking to ADA Catherine Chandler?”
“Yes,” she answered. “What can I do for you today?”
“Are you familiar with a woman named Marge Mueller?”
Her heart sank. It had been almost two months since Marge Mueller had come to her office, delivering a box of Max Avery’s tax records. “Yes, yes I am. Is she in some kind of trouble?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it that, exactly,” Detective Griffin said laconically. “She hasn’t done anything that we can tell. It’s only her house was robbed last night—strangest thing too. She had some valuables in the house—not many, but nothing a thief worth his salt would have ignored—but those weren’t taken.”
“Mrs. Mueller had provided some…information on a case we’re prosecuting,” Catherine said, cautious of saying too much to anyone about the Avery case. “Is she all right?”
“Oh, yes,” the detective replied. “Her house is a total mess, though, and she suggested we talk to you as part of our investigation.”
“I’m sure,” Catherine replied. There are no coincidences. “The documents she gave us are part of an ongoing investigation. I’m sure you understand I can’t comment further.”
“Of course,” the detective replied. “Seeing as how this is related to a case you’re prosecuting, I’m going to have some more patrols in her area for a time.”
“Thank you,” Catherine replied. “Please let Mrs. Mueller know I’ll be contacting her soon as well.”
After he hung up, Catherine leaned her head forward into her hands. Between Vincent and his manifold worries and concerns, and the convoluted mess that the Avery case had been and was continuing to be, she felt as if she were trying to plug holes in a dam with bubble gum. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, she thought; it had been one of her father’s favorite quotations and it was as if—for just a second—she felt his presence so very near. She smiled, and took a deep breath. Mrs. Mueller’s phone number was around here somewhere….
“So what’s this all about?” Angus asked as he followed Vincent down a deserted side-corridor.
Vincent halted in his own pacing, trying to marshal his thoughts. “Security of these tunnels has long been my exclusive province,” he began. “Not by my choice necessarily, but…”
“Well, you do seem…equipped for it,” Angus said, bluntly. “What are you thinking?”
Vincent stared at thick nails—claws, really, if he were to be perfectly accurate—which glinted in the torchlight. “I cannot stage a rescue on my own,” he replied, finding Angus’s honest words to be the balm he needed to continue.
Angus folded his arms, one foot braced flat against the rock wall. “So you think they will need to be rescued?”
“Yes,” Vincent said after some deliberation. “I do. I would prefer to do it without loss of life, if possible.”
“And you’re asking for help…from me,” Angus said slowly. “Why?”
“Because I trust you.”
“You trust Kanin and Cullen—hell, you even trust Mouse and some days, that’s a bridge too far. Why me?”
“Olivia’s pregnancy has been…challenging thus far and she needs Kanin’s help with Luke. Cullen has a new wife and a newborn daughter who need him as well.”
“Whereas nobody needs me,” Angus said bitterly. “Thanks, but—“
Deep in his chest, Vincent felt the snarl, the rumble of frustration, the desperation that he might yet lack the words to make Angus see, waiting to unfurl. “No. That’s not it at all,” he ground out. “You, more than anyone here, know what love and loss can do to a person and yet you choose…you have chosen…to be better than that.” He tried to smile. “Perhaps I merely need the reminder.”
Angus stared at him. “You’re afraid…of losing Father, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Vincent admitted. “There is so much we don’t know.”
Angus rubbed the side of his face. “Do you think you might be jumping the gun here a bit? You sent a message. You haven’t even received a reply and you’re…what, planning an invasion?”
“No,” Vincent replied. “I’m…trying to be cautious. To prepare, if things should be as bad as I suspect.”
“You do know something then, don’t you? Or you sense it?”
Vincent spread his hands. “Impressions, mostly. The sense that things are going badly…fear…desperation.”
Angus swallowed. “Is Quinn all right?”
“It isn’t that specific. I’m sorry, I wish it was.”
“But it is with Catherine?” Angus asked shrewdly. “Never mind, you don’t have to answer that. I…know how it is with you two.”
Not for the first time, Vincent wondered exactly what stories were circulating about them in the tunnels. Aloud he said, “I…see. If there is trouble, will you—“
Angus clapped him briefly on the shoulder. “Yeah. Of course. You never needed to ask.”
“You all right?” Quinn asked, her firm hand on his elbow.
His right hip throbbed, a dull, steady agony that flared with each step. “I’ve been better,” Father muttered as they walked—hobbled, really, if he were to be totally honest—down the long length of the corridor. His hip hadn’t hurt this badly since the unending walk from Paracelsus’s lair with Catherine (John had, of course, taken his cane—“the better to play my role with,” he’d gloated) and the memory of that nightmare time was more than enough to make him dread what was ahead. He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders; this was not a good time to get mired in the past. “But I’ll live.”
Gordon stopped and turned back to look at them. “That’s good,” he said, a touch too cheery for Father’s taste. “You being dead would mean all sorts of explanations I’d have to make to Lucas.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Father saw Rhys’s fists clench, then slowly release. How often had he seen that same gesture from Vincent in his youth, trying to grapple with fury or frustration? Though Rhys was unrelentingly amiable, Father had never made the mistake of underestimating how fierce he could be. He smiled at the other man, trying to communicate what could not be said with words. I’m all right. Don’t worry.
Rhys nodded briefly. “How much longer will we be walking?”
Gordon laughed. “Why? Thinking of making a map?”
Quinn smiled. “Him? No,” she said, obviously trying to release some of the tension as her fingers unobtrusively sought Father’s pulse. “He gets lost in our tunnels.”
The comment, in their own community, would have brought some gentle laughter and fond smiles. Here, among the strangers who were their neighbors, it received nothing but a hard, foreboding stare. “You’ll need to make a left turn at the next junction,” Gordon said.
Rhys raised one eyebrow. “And if we should go…right?”
Gordon folded his arms. “You get lost easily, you don’t want to turn right. If you know what’s good for you.”
That statement ended all conversation for a time, and Father found his thoughts returning, as they often did during times of trial, to Margaret. Not Margaret as she had been during those final seven days—those memories were still too precious and he hoarded them as the treasure they were—-but as she had been during their all-too-brief marriage. She had given him his first cane as a joke, saying that anyone with his accent needed a cane to look properly British. It had been an affectation he’d hardly needed then and he smiled inwardly, thinking of that younger Jacob Wells who’d been able to take his wife out dancing, but after his hip injury (Had that been John’s doing? he wondered now, all these years later) the cane had been the one relic of his time above that had been still been useful.
Quinn’s hand on his arm brought him out of his musings. “We’re here,” she said.
Catherine rested her head against her hands. The call to warn Mrs. Mueller—even to suggest that she go stay with a family member for a time—had been utterly fruitless. Showing a spirit Catherine had not originally suspected she possessed, Marge Mueller had insisted that she would not be chased from her home by a couple of robbers. Her one concession to her own safety was that one of her sons-in-law, a construction worker, was working nearby and would certainly come and check on her.
She heard the crinkle of a bag and the distinctive footsteps of Joe, and looked up. “Cheese nuggets? Nacho cheese nuggets? Now?”
He grinned. “It’s nearly lunch.”
She glanced at the clock. “Ugh. It is. Have you seen the…sandwich cart?” Maybe there would be some news of Father and the others.
“Yeah, he’s over with the interns,” Joe replied. He tilted his head. “You look tired, Radcliffe. Everything okay?”
“I’m fine,” she said, dredging up a smile from somewhere. “I just need to get something to eat.”
Joe eyed her closely. “If you say so. Did Rita show you the latest motion Avery’s attorney filed?”
“No. He filed another one?” Catherine asked, feeling the ominous lurch in her stomach begin.
“Yeah. Rita’s going to be seeing you soon about writing the response; she took it with her to read it in court while she’s waiting for her arraignment to be called. It seems he wants a change of venue. Again. This time to Albany.”
Catherine held back a snort, but only just. “Oh, sure. Just because his client had his thumbs in every pie in New York City, of course he wants the trial moved north.” She ran a hand through her hair. “Do you think there’s a chance the judge will agree?”
Joe pitched the empty bag into the trash and folded his arms. “There’s always a chance, but the judge said ‘No’ once. I can’t see him suddenly agreeing now.”
“What’s his calendar look like around the trial date?” she asked.
“Clear—it’s not as if the Avery case will be one of several high-profile cases being heard that week. It’s pretty much the only one,” Joe said with satisfaction. “The judge would have even less reason than usual to agree to the change of venue.”
Catherine leaned back in her chair, feeling the tension suddenly lift. She was ready to try this case in whatever venue it finally landed, but going to Albany, being so far away from Vincent and the current troubles in the tunnels, was not at all ideal. “Well, let’s hope the judge is reasonable.”
The rusty squeak of the sandwich cart announced Benny’s arrival. “What’ll it be, hot stuff?” he asked with a wink and a smile.
“Do you…” she began and met his eyes over Joe’s bowed head, only to see Benny shake his head slightly. No news, then. “…Well, I can’t decide. What do you suggest?”
“The ham and Swiss on rye is good,” Benny said. “On the house. We’ve got too many of them today anyway.”
“Hey, how come my sandwiches are never free?” Joe demanded, half-seriously.
Benny winked. “Because you’re not nearly as pretty.”
Father noticed the noise first—the sound of tapping on the pipes. It was a welcoming, familiar sound, the sound of home. But the messages were in a code he couldn’t quite translate, yet another reminder—as if he needed one—how very precarious their situation was. “We got a message from your boy,” Lucas said without preamble.
In other circumstances, Father would have laughed at anyone calling Vincent a “boy.” He’d topped a rangy six feet at sixteen and before that, even Father would have hesitated to call him a boy; Vincent had always been too old for his years, for the weight of his burdens. Aloud Father said only, “Oh? I’m sure he wanted to check on us. We were supposed to have sent a message some hours ago.”
“That’s what he said,” Lucas replied with a small frown. “To be honest, I’m surprised he’s not already here. Maybe he doesn’t miss you as much as you thought?”
Rhys snorted in derision. “Or maybe he’s weighing his options to get us back. You ever think of that? He knows something’s not right.”
“Why did you want to see us?” Quinn asked.
Lucas raised his eyebrows. “You and Rhys are free to go. You can tell Vincent that we’re keeping the doctor.”
Father couldn’t help but laugh. “Is that how you think this works? You kidnap us, and I’m just going to stay here because you say need a doctor? No.”
The sharp blow to the back of his legs (with what? his cane? Father wondered through the haze of agony which made his vision grow thin and grey) jolted his hip and brought him to his knees, driving the breath from his lungs. Gordon stepped back, satisfied, as Father tried to remember how to breathe, how to think, in the tumult. He dimly heard Angela’s gasp of horror, the sounds of Quinn and Rhys trying—and failing—to rush to him.
Father looked up to see Lucas fold his arms, apparently unmoved. “I told you that we can be…persuasive.”
Vincent sat with Cullen, Angus, Kanin, Valerie and Marisol at the octagonal table in Father’s study which had been there at least since his own birth, and possibly before. They were, if he admitted the truth, planning an invasion; old tunnel maps were unfurled and paperweights of books and mugs kept the maps from curling, while Kanin and Cullen made notations on a large section of butcher paper. He glanced at Marisol and Valerie and considered that there was no real reason for them to be present, except for the necessary counterbalance they provided. He had thought to ask Mary to join them, but she was Father’s oldest friend; it would not be kind to worry her until there was real reason to worry.
Almost as if divining his thoughts, Cullen raised his head and spoke. “Man, we should get Mary here.”
“What makes you say that?” Angus asked.
“She went with Father to the community once—one of the women was having trouble giving birth. How long ago was that?”
“It was a few years ago,” Vincent recalled. “Four, maybe five years.”
“She might know a better way in than these maps,” Cullen responded. “And you know she’d do anything to help Father.”
“As we all would,” Valerie put in kindly. “It’s a good thought, though.”
Vincent nodded and rose to bang out the message on the pipes when a sudden burst of agony nearly drove him to his knees. His vision greyed and he must have groaned for when he opened his eyes, it was to find the others staring at him. An inner force rose---avenge! protect! defend!---snarling, wanting to unleash its fury and he choked it back with an effort. “It’s Father,” he managed. “We…don’t have much time.”
Click here for Chapter 8....
Click here for Chapter 8....
 “September Nights,” by Sarah Teasdale