Iron Behind the Velvet ~ Chapter 40

~ She Dreams a Little and Feels the Dark ~ 1

red painted handprints on cave wall
Stuart raised his torch, illuminating a vertical cleft in the wall. At its jagged edge, shoulder-high, a ghostly message gleamed, pale under the dust of years. 

NB - SA - V 1968

“Remember the day we found this place?”

“How could I forget?” He traced the fine grooves nicked into the stone, brushed clear the three red handprints. The first summer without Devin.

Father had tried, as had Mary, to convince him that in time, the pain would lessen, but the last week seemed as raw a wound as the first. He was lonely and so he’d jumped at the chance when the invitation came to spend the summer with his friends in the northern community. And it had helped. Noah’s grandfather spent hours with them, telling stories of the old country, playing games. Leo even devised an exercise routine for the boys, swearing they’d have guns one day, like his old friend, George, the man he called the Russian Lion. 2 And the food was good. Noah’s mother – Stuart’s too – kept the cookie jar full and there was always a cake right out on the table. And on Friday nights he had a taste of wine in a tiny, silver cup.

fissure stairwell
They’d been gardening that afternoon, ordered out of the chambers by Stuart’s father, home early from his job above, who claimed, with a smile and a wink aimed over their heads, that he desperately needed a nap. Behind them, Stuart’s mother strangled on a laugh and a cough, and when they turned, her face was rose-red and she flapped a large square of brown paper in the air. Soon the boys were gone, armed with a knapsack stuffed with snacks, a hand-drawn map and instructions to clear the stones and loose material from the winding route she’d marked. They’d strayed, of course, veering into side passages, through crawls and into fissures so confined that at their dead-end, they’d had to back out without turning around. But one fissure passage didn’t take them to a wall of rock. One opened to a grand discovery, a room of wonders that took their breath away.

Now Noah led the four of them, single-file and torches aloft, as they descended a stairway cut into a tubular shaft. Mouse had followed Stuart’s directions from the spring to the corridor where they waited for him, but once on the steps, he’d charged ahead. “Neat,” he repeated, squeezing past. “Neat, neat, neat.” Vincent brought up the rear of the march, the wind at his back, its whispering song a medley of children’s voices chortling with adventure, with memory.

“What were we? Twelve? Thirteen?” Stuart stopped and turned. The flares danced light and shadows over the sharp planes of his cheeks, and his teeth, bared in a grin, gleamed white as the walls. “Crazy, wasn't it ... to discover a whole warren of rooms nobody’d never seen before. Dad swore he knew nothing about them. Still swears it.”

Vincent chuckled. For a moment, he saw the round-faced boy who, on these same steps years ago, had danced foot to foot, impatient and apprehensive at once, waiting while he’d ... listened. “We ran home, determined to gather a lifetime of supplies. It took us half a dozen trips to drag all our ... necessities ... this far.”

“It was great, camping out nearly the whole summer. And the next one too. I couldn’t wait for that last class of spring, knowing you guys finished school a week before we did up here.” Stuart shook his head and adjusted the strap of his toolkit. “I still say it’d make a fine home. Why nobody ever claimed it ...”

“I thought perhaps you and Wren ...” 

“Too far from her work,” Stuart answered, as they began again to climb. “And besides, she took one look and said it was a little creepy.”


Stuart laughed over his shoulder. “I know. I’ll never understand women.”

The group emerged from the passage to a high, domed chamber. On one side, a long table and bench were cut from a shelf of solid granite and a deep, armed chair - a throne to a young boy - was sculpted at its head. At that first sighting years ago, Noah and Stuart set down their lanterns and raced for the seat, each determined to reign over an imaginary legion, bumping and shoving, calling out Dibs!  He wanted a turn himself and could have darted past them while they argued, but feigning interest in the perimeter architecture, lighting the torches he found heaped on the floor, stabbing them into gashes in the stone, he waited until his companions abandoned the chair, until they tired of the game.

stone cauldron in cave room
Two decades later, its puzzle still unsolved, the chamber pulsed with myth and mystery. A stone cauldron loomed in the center of the room, dark and echoey. The walls were riddled with vents. Familiar laughter rang from a deep place, and though Mouse was nowhere to be seen, his conversation, both sides in his voice, carried to the main chamber through the funneling ducts. On the opposite wall, two fat pillars reached floor to ceiling and framed a dark, arched foyer cut with a keyhole-shaped doorway – narrow at the bottom and wider at the top – and two mirroring windows. A checkerboard design decorated the columns and the facade of the structure, the ochre-red paint only a bit less vivid than Vincent had described it in story to Kipper, to Geoffrey. I must bring them here. And Devin ... he never saw it. He leaned against the wall near the entry, his hands clasped behind him. The ... feeling ... returned – a touch, light and warm on the back of his neck. Catherine? He listened, and though the singing wind had faded away, though the air was still, he heard her voice, a word of bright surprise ... Oh!

stone foyer with keyhole door and windows
Noah lit the torches, stored now in a wooden crate, setting each again into its angled notch. Having deposited his maps and tools on the table, already Kanin leaned into the opening, his hands gripping the stone doorframe, a burning lantern at his feet. He disappeared and the shadows danced on the foyer walls with each swing of his lamp. Vincent turned to his companions; they smiled and nodded. Stuart mouthed the words – three ... two ... one ...

“Hey!” Kanin called from within the next chamber. “You gotta see this!”


“Lady? You okay in there?”

Catherine looked up, blinking. A man leaned in the open rear door of the cab, his shaggy white brows knit over eyes narrowed in concern. Behind him, granite and limestone walls rose high overhead, and at his feet, in the gutter, a plastic cup eddied in a slow current of water, the drain clogged by a litter of leaves and styrofoam. A horn blared. She winced at the metal-to-metal squeal of brakes.

“We’re here already?”

“Lotsa people say that,” the driver agreed, offering a gallant hand over the murky water. “It’s a trance or something. You know ... how ya can’t remember fixin’ dinner or mowin’ the grass, but ...” He shrugged.

“Guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t driving,” Catherine said, pulling twenties from her wallet.

“You didn’t feel that pot hole? Right before the Williamsburg Bridge? I figured I’d popped a tire.” He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. “If you know people in there, maybe you could file a complaint. There’s a pothole committee, yeah? Committee for everything these days.”

Laughing, she pocketed her receipt. “Can I pay you for the newspaper? I’d like to keep this part.”

He waved away her offer, rewarding her with a smile, all teeth under a droopy moustache. “Yesterday’s news ... or it will be. Somethin’ in it for ya, you keep it.”

“Thanks for– ” she began, her words lost to the slammed door and the restless, eager motor. Though it was her fancy, in the glare of breaking sun the cab seemed to shimmer in place, the yellow of it flaring like torch-flame.


What time is it?  A turn of her wrist confirmed her suspicions. That late! Joe ... Joe will ...

She closed her eyes, leaning back into the corner of the elevator.  There’s so much ... so much I need to tell you. If only Joe’s trick were truly magic, if she could but press the particular configuration of buttons that would take her down and down, if only the doors would open to candlelight and his waiting arms.

A trance, the driver called it ...

She wanted it back.

Rita fell into step with her, reeling off updates and urgencies, oblivious to her half-smile of shammed concentration. He gave me the wish bite! she wanted to shout. I made a wish! Can’t you see? She reached into her pocket for the angle scope, her fingers closing on the warm polished wood. It was a talisman, her touchstone. In it secret power is hidden ... love himself has made it thine ... 3 And under the volley of words, at the battery of deadlines and roadblocks, the wonders of the last hours refused to dim.

Joe’s door was open, but at first she didn’t see him. His chair was tipped forward, his weight at the edge as he hunched over a bottom drawer, his back and shoulders just visible above his desk. One of the interns stood nearby, a cardboard box in her arms. Without looking up, Joe deposited package after package into the carton, depleting what she knew to be his closely-guarded snack stash. Catherine sidled into the room and settled on the arm of the couch.

“That’s it.” He shoved the drawer closed and righted his chair, pulled a yellow pad to the middle of his desk, flipping the page with authority and bending studiously to it.

Umm, Mr. Maxwell?” The intern rattled the box and pointed at the drawer. “Twizzlers? Back corner?”

NYC - Economy Candy Store
Catherine closed the door after the nearly-giddy young woman. “The entire shop will be on a week-long sugar high,” she said. “Did you just make an Economy Candy run?”

Joe shrugged and drummed a gnarled pencil on his blotter.

“At least have the decency to blush,” she chided. “Did you give her everything? The Peanut Butter Bars? The Hot Tamales? The Big Hunks too? Was it a bribe? What’s going on?” She edged around his desk. “Wait a minute,” she crowed, lifting a tented folder with her forefinger, exposing a clear container, empty save for a thin round of cucumber and a smudge of dressing clinging to the side. “A salad? What’s next? Granola?” She paused and gave him an appraising look. “You know, you’re cute when you’re interested.”

“Yeah, yeah, Radcliffe. That’s right. Make fun.” Though he grinned, the muscle of his jaw bunched and the pencil rapped faster and louder against the desk.

Catherine reached out, covering his hand with hers. “Joe, you have to know ... you’re perfect, just as you are. You’re smart, thoughtful ...

“Don’t forget. Well-read.”

She laughed. “I haven’t. I won’t. You have a good heart, a true and generous heart. It’s what I love about you.”

Joe drew in a sharp breath, letting it out with a slow, hitching whistle. “Thanks, Cathy.” His lopsided grin widened.  “But I gotta know ... am I a hunk?”

“Totally.” She nodded. “A big hunk.”

“So.” He leaned back in his chair and kicked away from his desk. “What d’ya get from Queens. Anything we can use? Any leads at all?”

In half an hour, the burnished glow of her mood dulled. The questioning in Queens offered little upon dissection, but side by side at Joe’s desk, they scanned a stack of interviews and statements, real estate transactions, filings of title and deeds and taxes, determined to relate the informant’s vague and meandering story to one strand of hard evidence. The last document turned in their first fruitless pass, a smiling Mr. Haas greeted them, a photograph of a much younger man, standing under the green-striped awning, a broom in hand. Catherine dragged it closer, worried the edge of the paper.  Her throat burned.

“What happened to him ... I can’t bear it. This store ... his grandfather started it. He grew up in it. It belongs to him! He has so much to look forward to. He has grandchildren now and his daughter told me he’d just adopted a little dog. His first.”

Joe tossed down his pencil. “LeMire’s teflon-coated. He’s buying property right out in the open, in his own name. No holding companies, no partnerships.”

“Somebody else is doing all his dirty work.”

“Yeah, but who? Feels like we’ve missed something, you know? Like it’s right here and we–” He broke off and looked away. “Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just ...”

“He’s an eel. You said it yourself.” She closed the file, rapped it against the table and opened another. “We’ll start over tomorrow. You’ll take the taxes. I’ll do the deeds. Then we’ll swap. Let’s look at this now. You think we can make Andy’s case for a wiretap?”

The office din – its white noise – had quieted. Bands of bronze-gold slatted the desk, a triumph of late afternoon sun. Her concentration wavered.

“I gotta have some coffee.” Groaning, Joe rotated his shoulders and arched his back. “How about you?”

She shuddered at the imagined bitterness of the break-room brew so long in the pot, though inside, she pumped her fist at the excuse. “I could use some fresh air,” she said. “Why don’t I run out for some. The coffee shop’s still open. Or maybe the cart’s out front.” Gideon might be stationed on the street corner, his saxophone case open at his feet. Perhaps Billy would glide by, a hand outstretched for her palmed message. Father deserved some notice that she’d not be down for supper or tea and work offered a reasonable alibi, one he’d accept without misgiving.

Vincent. She had to see him.

She pushed away from the desk, but not before the littered terrain of Joe’s office swam into focus. An obstacle course of open drawers. A fortress of folders. A toppled tower of security tapes like a tripwire across the floor. Work was real. A grasping demand determined to hold her fast. The hours before her rubbed at her determination, erasing her design. It might be midnight before she could leave the building and Woodlawn seemed half a world–

“Great idea. I’ll go with you.”

She turned in the doorway, a frantic protest just contained. Joe was still at his coatrack, slowed by his struggle with a bunched jacket sleeve. When the telephone buzzed and blinked, she backed a surreptitious step away, poised to whirl and sprint for the lobby.

“Joe Maxwell.”

She saw him pale, saw his larynx bob, his eyes close. "What?" she whispered.

“Yeah,” Joe said into the receiver. “Yeah, I heard you. Thanks. Thanks for letting us know. No, she’s right here. Yeah, I’ll tell her.” He dumped the receiver back on its cradle and dropped into his chair. Both elbows on his desk, he buried his hands in his hair.

“What is it, Joe? Tell me.”

“Phan’s place? The restaurant? It burned.”

“No! When?”

“This morning. Some kind of explosion. Gas, maybe ... but they’re thinking it was torched. The fire ...” Joe raised his head. “Cathy, they found remains.”

She pressed hard at her sternum against an icy dread.

“Three bodies. So far. Two ... two kids.”

“Children? Joe, are they Phan’s children?”

“They don’t know. They don’t know anything yet.”

“Are there witnesses? Has anybody come forward? Someone had to see–”

“You’re kidding, right? It’s the great wall of silence. Nobody’s gonna take the chance–”

“That Phan took.” Catherine sank to the sofa and rocked forward, her arms crossed at her stomach. “This is my fault.”

“No, Cathy.” Joe shot from his chair, barreling around his desk to crouch before her. “You begged him to take protection. I’m the one who brow-beat him into testifying.”

“He came to us, Joe. And you did just the opposite. You warned him of the danger. I was there. Before he told us anything, you insisted he think it over – the ramifications, the risks. But I thought maybe ... I hoped he’d sent his family away for a while.”

“Maybe he did. We don’t know–”

“They’re somebody’s kids! Even if–”

The telephone burred again, a sting she felt in her clenched teeth. Joe snatched it up,

“Maxwell,” he snapped, stretching the coils from the cord. His shoulders sagged. Without another word, he returned the receiver to its base.

“That was Andy,” he said, his voice gray and graveled. “Mr. Haas died an hour ago. It’s murder now. We know who did it and we can’t prove a damn thing!” Joe swiped the phone off his desk and dropped onto the couch. From the heap at the wall, the dial tone yowled. “I hate this job sometimes.”

So do I, she thought, lacing her fingers with his. The sun pressed at the window, the slant of light bringing on shadows. High on the wall, the clock ticked; the building sighed and shifted toward evening. Hemmed in, she could take no steps; her hands met solid brick, no hand-holds, no chinks.  “I don’t know what to do next.”

“Me either. This day has turned to crap.” He looked at his watch. “Why don’t you go on home.”

“Now? What about you?”

“I think I’m gonna go to the gym. You know, compartmentalize this whole sack of–” His tone softened. “Go on, Cathy. Get outta here before something else happens. Tomorrow ... well, we’ll see what we got then.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.” He sat for a moment, his gaze riveted on his hands clasped between his knees, then rose and stood at the door. She saw it in his face, that too-familiar wash of puzzlement and sadness, leeching the color, deepening the lines, dulling his eyes ...

Leave me now.

Joe’s door snicked shut. The blinds see-sawed down and behind them, the light snapped off. She had just turned the corner to her desk when she heard the rattle of the doorknob and his quick step behind her.

“Cathy, wait. You forgot this.” He held a crumpled fold of newspaper in one hand, the other pulling free his loosened tie. “It was jammed between the cushions. You thinking of moving?”

old churchyard, secret garden door
Why couldn’t she say yes? Why couldn’t she drag him to a table, spread the page before him, point with glee to the ad she’d found far below the fold, a two-inch square of hope, bordered in dreams. Would he read the words serpentine stone, original windows, 109 years old and see only an onslaught of masons and electricians and plumbers. Or would he understand that secret garden meant freedom, that English basement meant entry. That significant investment necessary was nothing compared to the possibilities. Save me, the ad read ...

“Thanks.” She tucked the pages under her arm, unwilling to deny the truth. There was a beat of silence ... another ...

“Oh, yeah,” Joe said, rumpling his hair. “Jenny called earlier, looking for you. I told her you’d be here tonight. She said she’s taking you to an early dinner. Sorry. I forgot to tell you.”

“That’s okay. Maybe I can catch her–”

The elevator groaned to a halt and the doors opened. A draft rushed the room, the chill of it unrelieved by the peal of Jenny’s laughter or its husky counterpart.

“Cathy, you still here?”

Jenny danced the aisle between the rows of desks, Ned a step behind. Her broad smile trumpeted News, but a prickly feeling crawled Catherine’s skin, half frustration ... I need to go. I can’t bear the night alone. Even a hard stone floor ... and half ... something else. Was it readiness? Resignation?

“Or maybe not.” Joe backed away. “Eimear called too, I told her the same thing, to come on by. I know, I know. I’m a terrible secretary. I put a message on your desk though. Or somewhere.”


“We need the new place at the boundary. Not just for the entry.” Stuart stroked his chin. “Dominic and Sal say they can zone for two apartments above the shop. We use that efficiency at Dix’s, but we can’t put more than two names on it. Code and all. We use the third floor apartment too, just for mail and to plug in an answering machine, but when Dix and Brenda finish the renovation on it, they’re gonna move over from Riverdale and there’s five of us needing legit addresses.”

“Why?” Kanin asked.

“For work stuff ... bills, taxes. But sometimes we have to be, well, home. People we work with ask where we live, wanna drop by. We all play it real low-key, but we gotta tell them something.”

“So these apartments ... they’re empty? Couldn’t Sal and Dix rent them out? They have to need the money.”

“Not empty. They look lived in anyway. Every now and then we even answer the door. Between us we pay for the apartment over the print shop and we’ll do the same for Sal, but Sal’s kids will move in across the hall, be our cover.” Stuart laughed. “Aniela’s thinking to move from Queens; she could live in our place full time if she wanted, take all the messages. Woodlawn’s a step closer to Damien anyway.”

“And several steps out from under Dom,” Noah added. “He’ll blow a gasket.”

“And then help her move,” Vincent said.

Kanin stood very still, his eyes trained on the maps spread across the stone table, the force of his concentration a physical tide in the room. With both arms braced, Vincent leaned in and followed Kanin’s thoughts, traveling the maze of corridors, closing, flooding, redirecting a dozen crossing paths on half as many levels. Perhaps a second before Kanin touched a finger to the map, Vincent saw the plan himself – an efficient plan, easy on the workers, on their resources and materials, a way to leave Sal’s doorway accessible – yet Martin’s would still be lost.

“There is ... Could we ...” Beside him, Mouse shifted on his feet. “I ... Catherine and I ... have a friend with an entry. He lives here.”


Once the new plans were firmed, Mouse was no less enthused to leave the rooms. At the stairwell, Stuart and Noah let Mouse race ahead, following single file. “Neat, neat, better than neat,” they heard. The trio’s thudding tread died away.

Kanin shook his head. “That kid. Is he always so happy?”

“No,” Vincent said and smiled.

The first map rolled to a tube, Kanin tied it closed with a bit of string and started a second. “Last night ... when we were waiting for you, Mouse and I, at the base of those steps ... I mean, it wasn’t a Helper’s entrance. I knew that much. But I didn’t think ...”

That I had friends of my own? There was a sting to the truth. Without speaking, Vincent began to douse the torches behind the table.

“Wait on that, will you?” Kanin reached out, then dropped his hand. “You should have just said something, Vincent, this morning, back at camp when I first suggested cutting out all that territory.”

“Your initial plan was the most efficient.”

“That didn’t make it the best plan. Why didn’t you speak up?”

A long, silent moment passed before Vincent spoke. “Do you remember, once, after a game of scatterbase, you handed me a towel and you said ‘you hold back’?”

Kanin shrugged. “Kinda. Scatterbase was a long time ago.”

He held out his hands, palms up, fingers spread, curling to fists. Torchlight glinted off his nails.

Kanin’s gaze rose to meet his. “I understand. But ... is that really working for you? And it makes everybody else have to guess.”

Vincent’s laugh was a bark of surprise, and he offered his outstretched arm. Enough, the handshake said. Accepted.

But neither made efforts to gather their packs or tools or their canteens. Kanin busied with clearing the corner of the table, turning to rest against it. The maps were rowed side by side. With his palm, Kanin idly rolled them back and forth.

“This place ... does it belong to anyone?”

“Why do you ask?”

 “I haven’t spent any time in the north, not since Levon left. It’s different here.”

“It’s our frontier. The ways more uncharted.” Vincent settled into the stone chair. “The community more independent.”

“Yeah. Not so ...”


“Exactly.” Kanin stared at his shoes, scuffed one against the other.

“Are you thinking of moving?” He watched a storm of answers move across Kanin’s features. “Would you ask Olivia to move here?”

“Do you think she would? Not for always, but until– To see if I ... if we can ...”

“The rooms are magnificent, but the privacy would be helpful to you both.”

“I think Olivia might need to yell at me.”

“She never once showed anger while you were away.”

Kanin rubbed the back of his neck. “You don’t believe she wasn’t, do you? That she’s not mad as hell now?” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Trust me. There’s a thing or two she needs to say to me.”

“And you need to hear it ... without everyone else hearing it.”

“When I was a kid,” Kanin said, his voice low, “my mom kept this chart on the refrigerator. If we did good in school – my sister and my brothers and I – if we did our chores or our homework without her nagging, we got a gold star. Then on Fridays, when my dad came home, we’d group in the kitchen, compare ourselves.” Kanin sighed. “I hated when my line of stars was the shortest.” He traced a gouge in the table with his thumb. “You were awfully quiet there at the end, after we figured out how to leave your friend’s entry open. You seemed to, I don’t know, drift off.”

“You’re changing the subject.” Vincent tipped his head, willing Kanin to meet his gaze.  In for a penny, in for a pound. “But you’re right. My attention divided. There are times when Catherine’s emotions overwhelm my own, as if they become my feelings. Something has happened. She’s discouraged, troubled. She needs me ...” He spread his hands again, looking from one to the other. “And I cannot go to her. What she bears, she bears alone. I’m ... too far away to help her,” he said.

Kanin made a small noise, a rueful grunt. “I know that feeling.”

All the anger he’d felt at Kanin’s stubborn resistance, the incredulousness ... the jealousy ... dissipated. The long speech prepared in hours of solitude faded from memory. “I think you are too far away from yourself.”

Nodding, Kanin blew out a long breath.

He rose and stood close, his hand on Kanin’s arm. “My friend above ... Martin ... can help you. He’s not one of us. He will hear you, see you. You can tell him all your truths, the ugly and the beautiful. You are not this man or the other, but one man.” Both hands to Kanin’s shoulders, Vincent gave him a small shake. “Olivia is losing hope. You have to do something, before there’s nothing left for either of you.”

Click HERE for Chapter 41.


1. Wallace Stevens. Sunday Morning. 1923.
3. Alexander Pushkin. The Talisman. 1827. 


Carole W said...

Vicky said...
Transition... yes! Wonderful!

1968: Good, good. I see you took those notes! (And "V" is just "V")...

Have I told you I love your Joe and catherine bits? Both the funny and... the others. Perfect!

And that last line! I love it when nhe quotes her; he's been "listening", apparently. He did say it! Now I can't wait!

Hugs, Carole. Yet another masterfully crafted transition. Thank you!

FEBRUARY 26, 2010 11:49 PM

SandyX said...

I'm really enjoying your descriptions of these less explored northern regions. The tunnels are such a mysterious and wonderful place.

"You should have just said something, Vincent" There's a statement that could have been applied in many, many circumstances. I'm glad he's finally getting to the point where he can "say something."

There's something about the scenes with Catherine and Joe that I just love. They're so good together.

I hope you feel better soon.


FEBRUARY 26, 2010 11:56 PM

RomanticOne said...

Sorry you're sick again. Spring will be here one of these days - I keep telling myself that anyway. Vincent's getting braver...telling others he and Catherine have a friend above. Looks like there is still hope for Kanin. Looking forward to more but take care of yourself first

New York City Utopia said...

I've only read the first part but I must comment now! You never run out of new treasures to grace us with, do you?

New York City Utopia said...

Now to the rest. Once again, I love the way you handle that "weaving." (*) Each time I'm so caught up in my reading, in the atmosphere and the characters' interactions, that I lose sight of the bigger picture and I'm almost surprised - against my better knowledge - whenever something clicks into place (namely this time, Martin's entrance, how he can help Kanin...)
I'm feeling for our favorite DA staff. Give 'em a few crumbs of manna!
(*)I'm only just realizing how fitting your Celtic knots happen to be in this regard...

SandyX said...

Ahhh, I love the re-write of Vincent's conversation with Kanin. "You should have just said something ..." and "is that really working for you?" Finally, someone who will have a simple, straight forward conversation with Vincent. He needs that and it was a pleasure to see happen.

Krista said...

Oh, Carole. (Funny how my comments always start out that way, eh? At least I'm consistent ;) Much as I enjoyed the original version of Chapter 41...the new one is much better. I love it that Vincent--finally!---has someone who will be blunt with him...we all need someone like that in a friend. And how lovely that that friend is Kanin. When I started reading this story, I kept thinking that he might end up being (metaphorically) tossed into the Abyss...but it seems there's hope for him after all.

I know you worried about your Joe and Catherine bits...but you nailed it. They're just so good together, so believable.

Oh, and the "gardening" ruse? (giggle) I'll have to remember that one...;-)

Once again, great chapter. :-)

Vicky said...

Oh, Carole... from me too! This is even better!

I laughed at the golden stars thing. my cousin does that with their kids! I'll have to smile every time I hear about it now.

New York City Utopia said...

OK, I'm glad I missed the first version altogether!

Carole W said...

Vicky - I'm glad to hear/read your voice - I was worried about you, so close to Chili. Thanks, always, for your enthusiasm and support. It means so much that you think the characterizations ring true.

Yes! I was taking notes! Your calculations were invaluable.

About that last line - from AHL - replayed for Kanin. I've been thinking - Catherine begs him to 'do something' and it seemed that he didn't ... but really, by his leaving her there, closing the door, forcing her to confront all she had expected of life and truly decide for him or away from him ... he was doing something. And it turned out that it wasn't too late.

Kanin and Olivia won't have the easiest of times - they're connected by history and through their children, but Kanin did perpetrate a long-term lie, she did fall in love under false pretenses. It will be a test for them, but I do have hopes for their eventual success. Kanin and Vincent will have further conversations.

Thanks for reading and for re-reading!

Carole W said...

Sandy - thank you too! for reading and re-reading. I'm glad the second go-around was 'more better.' LOL.

I'm thinking that Kanin might be tired of tiptoeing and soft-pedaling. I'm rather looking forward to their further conversation.

Thanks for your kind words about the Catherine/Joe scenes. They are so close in so many ways, and yet, I'm not sure if Joe is or can ever be ready to know about below and Vincent. I love them together too. Maybe time with Rosie will condition him, soften him in all the right ways.

When I was thinking this scene through, the one where V 'says something' I thought - now would this come as a huge emotional sensation or would it be smaller and more intimate, a quiet revelation that it is actually rather easy - to just Say It? And that after V 'says something' the world just keeps on spinning. I want to hug him (V) and say, see, that wasn't so hard! Try it again ... and again.

Thanks so much for all your support. Big hugs, Sandy.


Carole W said...

Hi R-1! V is getting braver and is finding that it's rewarding. I can't wait to see what he asks for next.

Spring - what is that? I vaguely remember it ... My desk is full of seed catalogues though and the photographs of the tomatoes, the berries ... I'm ready, so ready.

I haven't been sick in years, literally, not even a cold. Now either two inside of two months or the same one twice. Either way, I'm exhausted from it and really quite cranky. I'm headed for the NyQuil now. And an extra tylenol.

Thanks so much for reading.

Carole W said...

Krista - thank you TOO for rereading. I'm blessed with such friendship and support. You know I appreciate you.

I found this site - a glossary of speliological and caving terms – and gardening was one! meaning to clear a pathway of rubble and loose stones. I'd never heard the term used that way before. It's a great site and all fanfic writers would find it fascinating.

Yeah, it was a ruse! heh.

I'm grateful for your thoughts about the Joe and Catherine scenes. I did worry. I always worry. LOL

Hugs and thanks again,

Carole W said...

Claire - you dear thing. Thank you for your kind words. I'm thrilled, you know, that you'd use the word 'treasures' and that the weaving sneaks through, that a thread is pulled almost by surprise. What a lovely thing to read. You've made my day.

I'm afraid Catherine's day is going to get even stickier - the next chapter will be all that. But the day will end, dark will fall and Catherine is a determined girl. She'll find herself in V's arms ... soon.

Hugs, Claire

Brandy said...

Dear Carole,

It's just so HARD to see Vincent and Catherine apart, even when they're connected. I really admire the fact that you're "letting" them have their own responsibilities, their own duties which they must attend to, regardless of what they want. Real life strikes again.

How interesting that you've developed a 2nd community in the "northern regions." Are they a completely independent group, or just more isolationist than the main Tunnels?

Oh, I want to know more about the "2 inch square of hope." 109 years old? English basement? More, more!

Kanin and Vincent's conversation was so appropriate. I somehow thought Vincent wouldn't be able to get a big, memorized speech out. But referring him to territory.

I hope you feel better, my dear.

Obligation by Amy Lowell

Hold your apron wide
That I may pour my gifts into it,
So that scarcely shall your two arms hinder them
From falling to the ground.
I would pour them upon you
And cover you,
For greatly do I feel this need
Of giving you something,
Even these poor things.
Dearest of my Heart!

Carole W said...

The community of the northern territories is just making itself known to me - it's like they've emerged from the shadows.

Yes, I see them as more independent but still part of the tunnels. The north Bronx is about 15 miles from the southern boundary of Central Park. Walking that is probably a 4 hour undertaking, counting spiraling down staircases and dropping levels. Not something you would do every day. I imagine those living so far from the community hub might do things in their own way. In this case, some of them have jobs above. They would need some money - I've never believed that the tunnel community was entirely dependent on helpers' gifts and figure with the proper cautions and cover story, it could work. Many of the inhabitants were born below, rather than accepted into the society. I imagine a few would want a dual life.

The two-inch square of hope will be explored - don't worry.

I think conversation with Martin had to be good for Vincent- like Kanin, Vincent finding a non-biased sounding board is a tough search. And to whom, besides Catherine, might Vincent confess irritation with Father - or disappointment or ambivalence. Oh, but wait! Flynn! Will this story ever end??

I love Amy Lowell and this is new to me. So tender.
Thank you, Brandy.

(sickroom hugs)

Kemara said...

Sorry I'm late to the party. This chapter just popped up on my RSS feed this evening.

I'm guessing that the group in the North the boys stayed with that summer are the genesis of the mysterious box with its cups, chess board and other treasures? Oooh....can't wait to hear more!

I too love your Catherine and Joe bits. Joe is such a GOOD guy....despite it all he isn't quite hardened. Let's hope Rosie keeps him sweet.

I know C and V haven't really been apart that long, but I think we all feel that when they see each other again it will be "stand back to avoid the explosion!" Gauzy times for sure.....

Hope to have some pics from Scottish dance class this week. Our newspaper photographer is coming to take photos for the article I'm writing. I'll see if I can get some men-in-kilt shots for you.

Carole W said...

Hi Kemara - I just remembered to turn on my site feed again - post WFOL. (I had to hide the treasure hunt pages until the appropriate time)

You're right about the upcoming gauzy times! And you're right about the boys, the summer and the box of treasures being related. All to come, promise.

I have plans for Joe and Rosie. I've never felt that Catherine could tell Joe about below, but if he's eased into it through another door someday ... We'll see. I'll save all that for another story though, so that this one has hopes of finishing.

Last night I dreamed that a horde of people with torches charged my home, yelling 'finish already!' I do still have a fever!

Men-in-kilts. I'm just finishing Dragonfly in Amber. Jamie and Claire have parted at the stones so you know I started my day out sobbing. I could use a pick-me-up.

Thanks so much for reading,

Joyce said...

Hi Carole. I am sorry to hear you are sick and hope you are feeling better. I just wanted to let you know that I loved the latest chapter! I love the way you are writing the interaction between Catherine and Joe. But I have to say that I got very emotional when I read the part about Phan's restaurant and what was found in the ashes. As usual a great chapter.

Carole W said...

Joyce! Thanks for the get well wishes. I do feel better today.

Maybe it's time Cathy considered a different job ... It's something to think about anyway. Maybe a job more directly defending/advocating for children.

Thank you for reading and for your kind words.
I'm grateful.


PS: We're supposed to get more snow tomorrow, this side of the mountain. How about you?

Ann B. said...

I should be in bed with a heating pad around my neck and my leg propped up. Fell at work today and did a great job of it too. Neck is as stiff as a board and knee like a pink softball. Anyhoo... getting on with it.

I have read this chapter through a couple of times, you are right it is all about "transitions" not just in what is currently being planned and carried out but of Catherine, Vincent and Kanin themselves.

Has anyone else noticed that Catherine seems so much more in tune with Vincent's moods and feelings? He does not have to be in crisis for her to feel him. She seems to be able to get impressions and echos from him without really trying to now. How wonderful!

And Vincent seems to be voluntarily opening himself up to possibilities and sharing memories. He is losing a little of that destructive self restraint. Allowing himself to fully enjoy his companions and his life, at least in short bursts. Vincent actually said "creepy"? Makes me think of a couple of boys with slingshots in their back pockets philosophizing (is that a word?)just before plunging into major mischief. Favorite line: "Stuart mouthed the words" and you just knew V was thinking "Not this time boys" What fun! About time too!

Sounds like Kanin is finally getting a grip too and ready to take up his life again. I just know that Martin is the one that can help him reconnect to his family and to himself as well as the community at large.

Top two mysteries (well three mysteries)that need to be answered before I completely explode (or blow a gasket if you will): Has Joe Maxwell finally met his match? Will Catherine buy the building with the garden? What the holy heck is in the letter in Vincent's pocket?

Gonna hobble back to bed now. Thanks for the great chapter Carole.

To everyone else, thank you as well. I always come away with so much after reading all of the comments. Poetry and insight and wisdom and humor. What an amazing group we are!

Carole W said...

Ann! Did you slip on ice? It sounds just miserable.

You're so right - Vincent's restraint, while necessary, has been self-destructive, drawing the line of his limits closer than perhaps it truly is. I'm looking forward to his testing those limits, little by little, safe and loved.

I laughed to myself when the word "creepy" left Vincent's lips, but remember in Temptation, when Mouse asked "was it neat?" and V replied "it was neat"? I just adored that from him. In more ways than he believes, he was/is a boy/man.

The mysteries you mention, all will be addressed by the end of I/V - to a satisfactory degree at least, I promise. You'll know what's in V's pocket. He may be thinking it's a bigger deal than it actually is. Haven't we all fretted about something and then when it comes to pass or to light, it's not nearly the bugaboo or cataclysm we expected? But to say more might be misleading and I should stop.

I'm interested in your question about Joe meeting his match. Do you mean his job getting the best of him? Or finally a mate-match in Rosie? Or ... something else?

I didn't want Kanin to be a lost cause, but I can't imagine it will be an easy road back for the couple. Time is necessary, time and commitment.

Ann, I hope you're home today - and not at the hospital - nursing your knee. Let me know how you're faring. And thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment.


Ann B. said...


Thank you for your concern! I was injured while going to top off the fish tank in the lobby. Tripped over a box and went flying. Even got water on the ceiling (we have pretty high ceilings) Had X-Rays and am off work today.

What I meant by Joe meeting his match was Rosie. Must be serious --- eating a salad and giving up his chocolate cheese nuggets? Stop the presses! LOL This could be veeery intereting. :^)

Carole W said...

Ahh, I hoped you meant Rosie, Ann. I do have a story in mind for them. I'm trying not to nudge it too much right now - no distractions! until I finish I/V.

Can you imagine a chocolate cheese nugget? Are there really such things out there? Has anyone tried them?

In doing some research for this chapter, I found this site - Candy You Ate as a Kid - By Decade.
I really don't want to say with which list I most identified!

Old Time Candy

Take care, good care!

RomanticOne said...

I just re-read the chapter and it was well worth it. I thought those lines were from "A Happy Life." Glad to know I got it right. Still, it made me a little teary eyed to think of that scene. I think I cried more than Catherine when I watched it! Hope you're feeling better. Oh yeah. I got a good laugh reading about your dream of people with torches. Come one now. We're nice fans, really we are. :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Carole,
I have read 41 twice but have had to do it with too many interruptions. I'll read again when it's more quiet - I need to immerse myself in the last 2 or 3 chapters to get re-acclimated! Work has been so busy that I feel like my separation here is like Catherine & Vincent's, in that I can't revel in the story as I want to. But I wanted to go ahead and write to see if you are feeling better and let you know that I'm sorry you've been so sick. It has been a rough winter - the midlands of SC usually coast thru, but we've been hit pretty hard. I hope that you are feeling much better, and that although we anxiously await each new chapter, we want you to take care of yourself first. Thank you so much for all that you do for us - your writing means the absolute world to me.

XO, jitterbug

Carole W said...

Hi, R-1. Yes, you all are nice people, really nice people. I just wish we could all meet for breakfast somewhere and sit for hours over coffee, talking it all over. We could send Koslow a list of suggestions, I'll bet.

Thanks for rereading. I may still tweak that last scene in edit one day. Or maybe I can expand it in #42. I'm busy shifting paragraphs around, not happy yet, but getting there.


Carole W said...

Jitterbug, thanks for the get well wishes. I'm sadly amazed at the two really bad colds I've had this winter. It's not normal. You should see me with the antibacterial wipes at the grocery - I'm a fiend - but something slipped by my ministrations. Bummer, though I do think I'm almost back to my regular chipper self. Maybe it's the humidifier's doing.

I'm grateful for your kind words and hope the reread will be satisfying and entertaining. See you soon, I hope!


RomanticOne said...

Geez, all of us together for coffee would be so much fun - and I don't even drink coffee! Darn skippy we could send Koslow a list. Somebody must have broken every romantic bone in the man's body about midway through Season 2. It can't all be blamed on Linda Hamilton. For me, it started going downhill after "A Distant Shore". Yep, we could give a few pointers to Ron Koslow all right. As for spring, my husband saw robins last weekend. We'll send a few your way.

Anonymous said...

"You should have said something."

What an understatement! But hurrah for Vincent for finally WANTING something for himself and ASKING for it!

Oooh, this chapter is delicious! All of the threads are there, just waiting to be selected and pulled and woven together. Can't wait to see the tapestry that emerges!

Best regards, Lindariel

P.S. Have you had a chance to read any of my work over at Henneth Annun?

RomanticOne said...

I was the last post on your first round, looks like I'll be the first or close to it this time. I still have hopes that Catherine will someday be able to tell Joe all about Vincent. What a meeting that would be! Vincent and Catherine in a home of their own would be awesome. The Tunnels don't exactly offer much privacy. Looking forward to more...

Krista said...

Ah, Carole. The return of your chapters is like the return of old friends who've gone on an extended vacation. I still remember the chuckle I got over Vincent's "Creepy?"; the tug Catherine feels getting out of the cab and wanting her trance back (boy, can I relate some days...); Kanin's slow return to himself.

(And I'm still laughing about the gardening ruse. ;-)

It's wonderful to see this again. Great job :)


Ophelia said...

What scope this chapter possesses, what fine dovetailing. I find myself thankful to see Stuart and Noah there to take some of the sting out of a youthful summer without Devin. Cheered by Mouse’s voice and the joy his words precipitate: neat, neat, neat! Grateful for Vincent’s quest and choice, to ask, to honor his need for sanctuary. Moved by Catherine’s deft travel from lightness to commitment; from commitment to sorrow; from sorrow to the comfort and generosity of her ever-willing heart. And still I am grieved by Joe’s burdensome aloneness. Hopeful in the mirroring of Vincent and Kanin. Anxious at the name Jenny. Relieved by the fresh promise of Eimear.

With eagerness I look into the fire, as I await the master craftsman’s shapes and textures to come. No doubt they will be something to behold.

Carole W said...

R-1, I totally agree - a home above for V and C to truly share would be a great thing. You know I'm headed that way eventually. Remodeling can be both exhilarating and stressful (everything takes twice as long and costs three times as much as you expect) and should make for an interesting story. One of these days. After I/V. I can prove to my husband I've been listening and learning all these years.

Joe - he's a tough one. Lots of issues to consider with him. But I think it depends on how he's introduced, and by whom. We'll have to see where love leads him, another story for After I/V.

Thank you so much for reading this chapter one more time. I really appreciate your being here.


Carole W said...

Hi, Lindariel! Thank you for believing I'll pull all the threads into a tapestry. Sometimes I do quake in my chair, all of the ends waving at me, rippling in the wind. Yikes.

V, hopefully, is finding that just saying what he wants doesn't tilt the world off its axis. He has more lessons to learn, but at least he's opening to the possibility. Maybe he's never been quite as alone as he convinced himself he was. Or maybe Catherine's love provided that missing piece that shows his life as a whole more clearly.

Yes, I did read Gundabad! I particularly liked the verb you used toward the end. "Gawped". That's a great word. So descriptive. I also liked your "velvet sky'. I could feel it. The tone of your story was just right, the language, its timbre.

I've started A Yule Story and I'll be sure to let you know when I've finished.

I've not read any Tolkien fan fiction, but I certainly enjoyed the books. The site you participate in really has a lot of stories and authors!

You should write for BatB too. You really should.


Carole W said...

Dear, patient Krista. I'm grateful you'll read this chapter again and find it pleasant so many months later. Thank you.

I think I found a reference to gardening in some spelunker's blog or caving glossary ... or somewhere. Cleaning up the rubble. I thought I make a bookmark of that site but can't find it now. I don't think I made that up! LOL.


Carole W said...

Ophelia. How can I thank you for such kindness. You're good to me and I'm heartened by the meanings you found in the story and between the lines of it. I wanted all that to show and I'm just very humbled and pleased by your words.

I ache for Joe too. He seemed far too alone in the episodes, vulnerable and unrequited. He has a lot to give.

Thank you again. For so much.

Anonymous said...

So glad to hear you enjoyed Gundabad! That was a 1,000 word challenge, and after a great deal of editing, mine came out to 999 words! I hope A Yule Journey proves equally entertaining.

I will give some thought to a potential BATB story. My main problem is that I've read so MUCH BATB fiction -- most absolutely horrible (and quickly abandoned), others relatively pedestrian and bearable -- but some jewels, like yours, truly captivating and enthralling. But many of the ideas I've had for how I would have developed the relationship have already been essayed by others with greater or lesser success.

If I can think of something unique, I will certainly give it a try! Thanks for your encouragement, and as always, anxious for MORE of your wonderful story!

Regards, Lindariel

Carole W said...

Hey Lindariel. Please let me know the minute you have a BatB story to share. Having read one story of yours, I believe you'd nail the characterizations and language.

I wonder if you might be willing to email me. I have a couple questions I'd like to ask you about BatB fan fic for a project for next year's convention. If you're okay with that, you can click on my email link at the bottom of the sidebar.

Thank you for saying such nice things. I really hope this story holds up until the end and measures up to your very kind words. I'm both nervous and excited to draw the story to a close. It's been an unbelievably long time coming - some real life obligations, some BatB ones, plus my general slowness and addiction to tweaking added months (and months) to the writing, but I do see the end manifesting ... as well as themes for some subsequent stories. Some real life and BatB things are waving hello at me too. I need to get cracking to finish by my birthday in early October.

I hope to hear from you,