Iron Behind the Velvet ~ Chapter 62

~ Over the Wide Curve of a Trembling World 1

Some secrets give us strength, Catherine remembered thinking, warmed beyond measure in witness of Vincent’s and Eimear’s beginning. At his bidding, Eimear had left their circle to join him. Having grown anxious, she returned bolstered after their whispered exchange, light enough of heart.  But before he departed for deeper tunnels, he’d met her gaze, everything in his expression – their yesterdays and laters, their now and always. Wonder. Gratitude. And apology. Unnecessary apology for their separation – his attendance to some vaguely perilous business, her concerns Above. But first ... he seemed to say, at his sides just turning up his hands. This.

Catherine, close upAt once, a fist of longing tightened in her breast, unfurled as would a flower at the touch of dawn light. What he said to me and what I said to him. In Vincent’s words there’d been meaning necessarily for Eimear. In his words, something for her as well.

Tell me.

“You’re not Catholic, yes?”

Outside, birds skittered leaf to twig, cheeped and tweedled. A flare of morning sun through verduous branches washed the blue sky bright white. Snug in the windowsill, Mab closed her eyes; her purr, note for gravely note, a rising, falling, rumbling scale louder than the audible advance of the clock. Catherine smiled and folded her arms on the yellow table. “I never quite know how to answer a question posed like that.”

“A fair complaint. And I’m guessing, not.”

Catherine nodded, shook her head, chuckled softly, shrugged.

Eimear nudged the tarnished disc, distancing the medal from the neighboring silver and bronze charms. On its surface a mighty angel was cast in relief, broad-winged, a sword in one hand, the scales of justice in the other, pinned underfoot a dragon, furious but face-down in defeat.

“St. Michael,” Catherine offered.

A silver St. Michael's medal
“The great prince. Patron saint of the warrior-guardian,” Eimear agreed. “Of foot-soldiers and paratroopers and the police. He was first a divine physician – a healer and a teacher but when the necessity arose, led the forces of good against the rebel Lucifer and his legions, banishing them from heaven. She traced the design of the angel with a short, rounded nail. “Sancte Michael Archangele, we’re taught to pray. Defende nos; esto praesidium. Defend us. Be our protection. We ask the same of them – of Flynn and his mates. Stand in for us. Stand between us and our adversaries. Stand up to the spirits who prowl the earth seeking the ruin of souls. To whom do they turn when in need of courage or strength or deliverance? Of perfect judgement in the most dreadful moments? Religious or not, I’d wager nine-tenths of the force carries such a token, or wears one close.”

Catherine stared down at the array of charms. The medal’s cast ridges were worn shiny, evidence of many a worried rub between thumb and forefinger. A strike of alarm sent ripples across the waters of her mind. Vincent had been drawn to it, impelled to scoop it up, return it to Eimear’s keeping. With intent or incidentally, had Flynn left it behind? If she were to discover Vincent’s rose ...

“Flynn wears his on a chain around his neck, a chain of the strongest steel I could find,” Eimear said. “This medal is mine, one I carry for him.”

And Catherine breathed out, tucked the fall of hair behind her ear.

“Michael represents power and truth,” Eimear continued, “and is the angel of forbearance and mercy. His decisions are tempered by consideration and compassion, and by the consequence of action or inaction, not the weight of the choice, the burden of it.”

I understand, Catherine wanted to say, though, in truth, her appreciation was pale, her words even paler, offered up within his grievous silence. You only did what you had to do, she’d affirmed. What you did ... was necessary. But what he’d known and what he bore, what augured to be done again, were hounding, self-alienating things. The full truth, his truth, would be too magnificent, too darkly glorious, too sorrowful to behold. Whoever might understand would have suffered the same ...  

Her lowered lids, her chin, lifting, Eimear turned up her hand on the table, calling for Catherine’s. Her grip was warm and effortless. Familiar. “The Archangel’s color is blue,” she said. “He wields the Blue Ray of light, gleams with the blue flame of love and courage and protection. And you’ve seen that vital blue – as now have I – in Vincent’s eyes and in Flynn’s.”

The same wounds, the same weight of responsibility, she’d suggested both Vincent and Flynn bore, and Eimear had agreed – the depths of despair and love distinct in the warrior’s eyes. Though hers were a rich brown, a grounded, steadfast color, Eimear was no less a guardian. Whisperingly, Catherine told her so.

Sun and breeze played at the kitchen window, the dance of shadows calling their attentions. For a moment, they watched the leafy branches quivering in a downgasp of wind, perhaps with the weight of a landed bird. “We stood together, Vincent and I, only steps away from you and Wren and a dozen others in the passageway,” Eimear recounted, turning back to meet Catherine’s gaze, “and ‘twas as if there were no one else close. There was myself and there was him. He held out these ordinary charms, and I would swear to a zinging resonance in the air, a glow of golden energy. Unsurprised I’d have been, had the metals run together in my palm. It was Flynn there, Flynn’s essence between us.” Eimear quieted, her pause a caesura, portending and numinous. “You know ... I wasn’t entirely truthful with you that day in Rosie’s shop ... about Flynn.”

An intuition of the heart had risen from their first meeting, everything afterward a matter of time and the surprise of their unfolding.2 “Whatever you said,” Catherine assured her, “it was truthful enough.”

“I told you Flynn saw something newly dark in himself, but it was darker I meant. 3 I didn’t want you to think ...” Eimear glanced down at their still-clasped hands, and Catherine doubled her hold.

“You were protecting him, protecting his privacies. I understand that.”

“There’ve been other times,” Eimear admitted. “Other times, since we’ve been together. Before, as well, I suspect. Times between our first parting and coming together again.” She cast a careful look at the clock, moving her veiled gaze to Mab now settled sphinx-like in the windowsill. At last she pulled away from Catherine’s grip. Her fingers interlaced, she brought her knuckles to her chin. The small, faceted, blue topaz of her wedding ring glinted. “Suspect is the wrong word. Accept. Yes, I accept there’ve been times I don’t, perhaps will never, know about. But it’s only literally I don’t know. Here ...” She twice tapped her heart and lowered her hands to her lap. “You asked that first day at the courthouse and I told you – four shoots. And, besides, there’ve been situations of such high risk and requirement ... The emotional aftermath is a grief he’s not allowed to fully explore. A survivable event it’s determined. But I’ve watched as the gloom rises before him. He rails against it, yet eventually he has no choice, no other direction but to descend with it to a landscape of pain he cannot share. What he’s able to tell me, what I hear, I know is distant and different from what he endures. Yet always–” Eimear pressed her fingers against her lips. “Like the eclipsed sun,” she went on, “I trusted Flynn remained, a burnish at the black edges though he might seem, still there. The shadowing would pass. But this time ... this time something is very different, and that’s before I tell him about the calls and the drive-bys.”

“You can only step closer to him, Eimear, so the chasm is not so fearful and he doesn’t stand alone.”

Eimear clucked in surprise. “You’re quoting my own words back at me,” she murmured, a small smile dimpling one cheek. “Was it good advice I gave you, Catherine?”

“It was. It is.”

A cast of generous delight further brightened Eimear’s features, though directly she sobered. “What if I’m not strong enough?”

“Then you’ll act as if you are.” 

“What if–”

Eimear broke off, unwilling to give substance to her greatest fear, but Catherine could name it well enough. What if he decides that to protect me, he must leave me. She’d give the thought no voice, no quarter whatsoever. This one thing was ... not ... possible. Ever so slightly, she shook her head, and Eimear began again.

“To me, he is beautiful,” she said. “Wholly beautiful. Not the simple majority of his parts, but the sum of them make him so. I’ve argued he should embrace this ... umbra ... greet it with acknowledgement and thanksgiving, be kinder to it. It’s part of him, not separable or deniable, or accidental. I’ve pointed out his valor and prowess, his nature, is what brought us first together, his intervening leaving him bruised and broken-boned, swept to the priest for ... renovation ... by the full force of the Irish Parental Dismay, for which there is no equal, and which landed him in my back yard. But I’ve never found the right words and still he suffers.” Eimear drew in a breath and let it slowly out. “I’d begun to doubt, Catherine. Not Flynn, never Flynn, but myself, that my love is enough to help him carry through, to make him want to carry through. But Vincent said the Archangel Michael, his rank above all the Seraphim notwithstanding, was nothing, was powerless and bereft unaccompanied by the Archeia Faith. She was his divine complement, his Necessary. He told me I was faith, and so Flynn might go out and do his work without uncertainty. Loved and trusted and known, he said. You know him. Tell him so, more than once. No matter his protests, he needs to hear the words, wants to hear. Even as he turns away, he lives on by your faith. Yours alone, his best, his only mirror.


Vincent in his chair, his arm in a sling. Catherine looking on.
His physical wounds bandaged, he’d chosen the straight-backed chair. Little comfort in the worn velvet cushioning, the grooved walnut arms. No room for her beside him. How can you even look at me? How could she ever have explained he was exquisite in his misery; his conscience evident, so splendid in its wrestle with guilt and choice; his self-doubt and grief heartbreakingly equal to his surety. He’d had no option but to protect his home, his family. She’d honored his plea – Leave me, now. Please – her every step away from him, a mistake, a stunningly grievous mistake he required her to make. Their bond was unfathomable, outside her reciprocal command or intimate sway, but in those unsettled ensuing weeks, her belief in it was all she had, the love she broadcast the gist of all she was or would ever be, her only purpose to call him back. No life but this, she’d repeated silently – aloud as well – no life but this, to lead it here; nor any death.4 The door to her balcony was never locked, never closed. Not enough, not enough, she’d berated herself when, night after night, he didn’t come. 

Though again she chastised herself – Sometimes I go there. Sometimes. The one word ... How could she have missed its import? – the shadow had passed, and he’d reemerged from the tunnel to read to her from Tennyson, if not to disclose the full raging course of his black river. He had heard; her faith had companioned him in his darkness. His counsel for Eimear was her affirmation  and his yielding. He would speak of it now – if haltingly, if roughly, if only by degrees –  of those days away after. Of whatever had necessitated his solitariness after their last Winterfest, whatever had prompted her need of Eimear’s advice. Of whatever haunted him in Rilke’s words. And of whatever might come. Part of it is resolved, she’d told Father. Part of it might always be his, his only. But she would share his pain.

Oh, Vincent.


The recounting of the conversation had the same effect as had the occasion. The weary tension eased from the corners of Eimear’s eyes; color bloomed on her cheeks. Like the Archangel, Catherine reflected, first a divine healer. You have the courage. You do. Should Vincent ever doubt his influence, the measure of his faith ... She filed away the flourishing image, a gift for later.

Eimear prodded the saint’s medal further along the circle of the ring-keeper, aligning the next ornament to Catherine’s plain sight. One long side of the engraved silver charm was smooth-edged, the other faintly scalloped, a detail the candlelight had obscured, revealed in the light of day. “This has meaning, he said. Some truth beyond knowledge. When I confirmed, he wondered if he might know it. Can you tell me, he asked, and so, so sweetly. I told him – ‘tis the Ogham.” Reverently she pronounced the word. OH-m. “An ancient alphabet of Primitive Irish, notched by adze or axe into pillar stones dating from the fifth-century – Cloch Fháda, they’re sometimes called, or gallán. Found all over Ireland, the tall ones, stand primarily in the southwest. Kerry, mostly. Corca Dhuibhne. The Dingle Peninsula, where Flynn has family.

“I saw one once,” Catherine put in. “But in Scotland. Aberdeenshire, I think it was. I was a child. Dad and I were on vacation ... well, we were trying hard to be ... on our way north to the Whaligoe Steps.”

“After your mother died.” Eimear’s inflection was so gentle, there was little question in her words.

“A year after.” She’d rarely spoken of the trip, and then only in the most shallow of manners – shopping and desserts and teenaged Scottish boys her school friends asked about, but whom she’d never really noticed. Many nights, for months after their return, she’d peep around the doorframe to find her father standing at the living room window,  both hands pressed hard to his heart, the necklace lights of the Queensboro bridge not at all what he saw. Over toast and orange juice, over dinners at fine restaurants just the two of them, his efforts to reminisce had been dutiful, but she couldn’t bear the narrowing of his eyes, their clouding. And no other eleven-year-old she knew had lost a parent; no other eleven-year-old – or grown-up – would have understood the voice she’d heard at the foot of the sea cliff was indeed her mother’s. She hadn’t wanted the new life the susurrate murmur urged her toward, and at the same time, the promise had awakened her from glum half-sleep, a spiritlessness. One day soon, she’d unearth the Instamatic photographs she’d taken, the diary she’d kept, share with Eimear the story of the silver book box she’d so powerfully desired, recently and magically delivered to Mr. Smythe’s.5 It hadn’t all been terrible and dark.

“It’s generally suggested,” Eimear was saying, “the stones designate boundary lines, or were genealogical memorials. Seán, son of Connor, that sort of thing.  Some believe the marks were manifestations of hand signals, a language signed by stroking the ridge of the nose.” She demonstrated with three quick rubs, one long, slow pass. “Of course, there’s no academic proof the writing was a secret vocabulary of the druids, or contained mystery or magic, or might have been symbols of divination. No proof at all.”

“But ...” Catherine said, drawing out the word.

“Yes. But. Each of the Ogham’s twenty letters corresponds to a tree sacred to the scholar-druids, who, knowing such meanings, could then cast fortunes. And there are those today who’re said to ken, to carry forth the ability, using carved rods from a hazelnut bush, rather than sheep’s bones any more, to read natures. Matchmakers, particularly, use them in an effort to pair folks up, to reunite twin flames if they can.” With a fingertip she skimmed the markings on the face of the charm, overturned it to reveal a second line of script.

“So this is a soul reading? Yours?”

Um hmm. And Flynn’s, though I was eight years old when I received it. ‘Twas cause, too, of the only heated argument we ever witnessed between Mom and Martin.”

Catherine’s grin was mirrored on Eimear’s face, the shared smile softening the set of their shoulders. Such a strange place, this interim – a bright room within a songful aviary and a whispery garden. Here dwell in safety ... here the sun shineth … 6 

Change from this peace was certain, the approaching moment dully thunderous. Scent drifted in through the open windows, citrusy and rose-like, under-threaded with the darker passions of almond and cloves; a sudden gust raked the deep-toned chime hung from the corner eave. Here is heard an echo of the far sea.7 

Below’s lingering sanctuary cloaked them still; between now and Flynn’s arrival, an absence in reality.8 I know how he will feel, Vincent had said. But until then ...

“This I have to hear.”

Eimear tested the glass carafe of coffee with the cup of her hand, frowning at the detected temperature. Still she raised her brows in offer, but Catherine shook her head. The ordeal ahead promised ... threatened ... more coffee, the Bronx station house unlikely to meet Iris and Philip’s brewing standards.

She settled back in her chair, her thoughts in an accent not her own. A natural storyteller, Eimear. And wouldn’t a get-together with Brigit O'Donnell be a craic. As enthrallingly as had Martin, with his tales of the Tuatha and the fairy city Eire, of Oghma and Lugh and Brigid escaped to America, Eimear fell to her narrative.

“When I was a girl,” she said, “the parish employed a rectory housekeeper. Noreen Sheedy in middle-age was hardly taller than Rosie at twelve, and as slight, but with a booming voice a giant would have envied. She said ‘twas learned having to shout out to her brothers and sisters, to be heard over the rumbling of the horse-drawn caravan they traveled in, and she’d tell us stories of the itinerant life she’d lived, Cork to Donegal to Wicklow and back and back again, before coming to America. Tinkers, they were once called; Pavee, they call themselves now. The an Lucht Siúil, the walking people. She and mom had a bit of a competition going, Noreen being so fussy about keeping Martin pressed and mended and seen-to. Mom could stretch a three-pound lamb roast to feed fifty, but Noreen was a magician with the altar flowers. Three twigs, a daffodil, and a switch of dried vine, and everyone would gasp at the glory. I’d catch Mom eyeing a vase of her own flouncy peonies with her arms folded and her lips screwed to one side, grumbling under her breath.

“So one Saturday afternoon Noreen’s pinning the laundered whites to the clothesline that used to stretch across the garden – Martin’s albs and his bed linens and the damask tablecloths and runners – and Rosie and I were dodging and weaving the billows. We’d pulled the second sheet down to a wad on the grass when she decided to entertain us otherwise, I suppose. She bundled the dirtied wash into the basket without a gripe and herded us into the rectory kitchen, sat us down to wait for tea. Her pocketbook was on top of the refrigerator, this huge, black purse ...” Eimear held her hands up, shoulder-width apart. “... of lizard-skin leather, with a shiny gold clasp and a short strap. ‘Twas oddly prim on her, since she almost always had her sleeves rolled up to her elbows and a kerchief tied ‘round her head, but she carried it over her forearm like a fine lady parading 5th Avenue.

Ogham carve sticks
“She pulled a leather pouch from her bag and dumped out onto the table a pile of brown twigs, each marked with mysterious cuts.” As if rolling them, Eimear passed her hand over and back across an imaginary set of runes. “I’ll tell you your names, if you’d like, she said, and Rosie piped up that our names were no secret. She was acting her regular bossy self, but I could sense how tantalized she was, how she went poking into the staves. We’d heard stories, you see, about Noreen Sheedy being a seer and a matchmaker. Hardly ever was a woman known to matchmake back Home, and besides, this was America where the ratio of men to women wasn’t twenty-eight to one. No, sillies. Not your names. Your Names. With a capital -N-, she says. But Rosie crossed her eyes, and so Noreen crossed hers back and said, Well, then, do ye have a question you’re needing answered? I’ve got my chin propped on my fists, trying to think, and all Rosie wants to know is if she’s going to have to sit next to J.W. Cotton next year because he’s always reading off her paper. And that’s when Martin comes in. He’s leaning in the doorway, his hands in his pockets, and he has a suggestion. There’s hardly a little girl, is there, who doesn’t thrill when asked if she’d care to know what her soul mate will look like?

“So Martin grabbed up a pad of paper he kept on the counter and twisted out the stub of pencil stuck in the wire coil and is all poised to write, like some secretary in an old television show, while Mrs. Sheedy instructed Rosie to gather up the twigs in both hands. First, Rosie was to drop the sticks and hold her hands above the scatter for a full minute, then, with her eyes closed, she should choose four. Rosie did, though I saw the green of one eye. Then Noreen had Rosie repeat the ritual – gather, scatter, choose – ‘til she had four more staves selected. And all the while Martin was writing down what Noreen called out. I couldn’t understand the words she spoke. ‘Twasn’t Irish exactly, but Shelta Thari, I’ve since learned, the common language of the Pavee, a peculiarly Celtic language passed down from their ancestors, the same ancient Druids who devised the Ogham alphabet.

“Then it was my turn. I had just closed my hand on the last of the second set when Mom burst in the back door, having looked far and wide for us, she said, though we were often right at that table having tea or conversation with Martin, which, of course, Rosie pointed out. Mom’s hair was electric and her face was on fire and she was wringing her hands, possibly to keep from wringing all our necks. We were sent packing, and Noreen and Martin got an ear-full in Irish and English, both, although we couldn’t make out what was said where we were, crouched behind the bushes by the door, because Mom was using her quiet-mad voice, not the loud one, which meant she was unearthly serious. We made a beeline through the archway the second she stopped talking and had hardly gained the porch when we heard the rectory door slam behind her. Cross-legged on the living room floor in front of the television when she came in, we tried not to let on we’d just been running. We were advised to pay no attention to Noreen’s babblings, that to mention the incident to Dad would mean a year with no desserts, and then she stomped back to the kitchen. Pretty soon the house smelled like boiling cabbage, even though we’d had bacon and cabbage not three nights before!” Eimear pinched her nostrils together and made a face.

Catherine laughed. “Why was she so upset? Did you ever find out? From the stories of your mother, I wouldn’t think she’d discount the ... ummm ...”

“Old Ways?” Eimear offered. “I’d agree, but something really set her off. Martin moped around outside Mom’s good graces for a week or two afterward, and, for months, whenever they came together, she and Mrs. Sheedy both harumphed at each other. And no, we never learned what or why.”

“Martin had to know. He didn’t tell you?”

“Mom must have suggested he not, and I’m not sure he’d go against her even now.” Chuckling, Eimear slipped the elastic from her braid and loosened the plait, combing the freed curls with her spread fingers. “She’d taken up our papers – Martin’s writing-downs,” she went on, “as a first-grade teacher might snatch a passing note, and I figured that was that. We’d never know our destinies and would muddle through life like all the regular kids in the neighborhood.”

“I don’t think your life was ever regular, Eimear.” Catherine sighed. “I wish I’d known you then.”

“We’d have recognized each other had we met earlier, but now’s good.”

“Now is good.” And tomorrow, even better. Outside, the wind chime tolled again, this time strangely repeating a single hollow baritone note, calling to Catherine’s mind the tunnels’ time-keeper’s mallet hammering out the hour on the trunk-line pipe. Though she felt a cold thump in her heart, she willed Eimear to refuse a look at the clock, to continue the dream of days.

“I’ve just thought of this ...” As she’d earlier described, Eimear propped her chin on her fists. “At Halloween, Mom would wrap little trinkets in white paper and stir them into the colcannon mash. Whichever one appeared on our forks told our fortunes for the year. Silver coins, a ring, a tiny horseshoe ... She was serious about it.  ‘Twasn’t the soothsaying she was opposed to.”

“Maybe it was what you said before. There was some competition between your mother and Mrs. Sheedy.”

“You could be right.” Eimear pulled a curl straight and let it spring back. “I should ask her.”

“She’s still ...?”

“She is, sure, living just across Katonah Avenue on 236th, two doors down from the Wash and Dri and Dix’s Print Shop, which, since I saw you disappearing inside with enough picnicking for a ... crew ... is another way down, right? And Dix and Brenda are Helpers as well as the printers I use for work, who I really need to call to slow up a project of ours they’re busy with.” She flattened her hands on the tabletop as if to push away. “But ...” she decided. “Not now.”

 “The reading ...” Catherine prompted, tapping the swirl-patterned formica. “If your mother took the papers ...”

“The reading, the papers ...” Eimear’s gaze lifted. “Well, at the next Sunday’s Mass, Mrs. Sheedy elbowed Rosie in passing and handed her a copy of the Sunday Missal. Inside were our two lists scribbled on the flyleaf and title pages of a novel she’d been seen reading. Dr. Zhivago. The symbols and their meanings for each of us and the description of our twin souls. Rosie hid them in the secret compartment inside the dresser drawer along with Vincent’s portrait.

“By the time Flynn arrived on the scene, Mrs. Sheedy was down to two days a week cleaning, and Martin was doing his own cooking and his own shopping. But on one of Noreen’s days, Mom must have sent Flynn to the rectory on some errand, and somehow he must have been persuaded to scatter the sticks – unless she had a secondary method of discerning – because one Friday at Knights of Columbus, Rosie was passing out bingo cards and I was behind her collecting money, and between the two dollar bills Mrs. Sheedy handed me was another list of Ogham symbols, written on the back of a Con-Ed envelope this time, with Flynn’s name at the top. Later, under a blanket, by light from the dial of our pink princess phone, we compared my reading and his.”

“A match.”

“Sure. I was over the moon for Flynn and fairly obvious with it, but more than six years had passed, and we agreed, Rosie and I  – Mrs. Sheedy couldn’t have remembered my reading to fudge the results.”

“Still,” Catherine mused, “she knew to give you Flynn’s profile.”

“That she did, that she did. So she must have recalled something. At any rate, when Flynn and I came together and I showed him our likenesses, he told me Mrs. Sheedy had that day enticed him to throw the runes with the offer of an enormous slice of cake. For our wedding present, Rosie had two charms made. He wears one; I keep the other.” Eimear traced the talisman’s wavering edge, her lower lip caught, for a moment, between her teeth, a measure of delight fading from her face, something cloudy drifting in. “They meld together, side to side ...”

“To make One.”

Umm hmmm. But see ...” Eimear took up the charm, displaying the front, the back, the front again. “Fitted together, they’re a puzzle solved, front and back. But even separated, as they are now, his with him, mine with me, his marks on one side, mine on the other, we’re never apart.”

Catherine leaned forward, reached across the table to encircle Eimear’s wrist. “It’s a beautiful story. Thank you for telling me.”

Tsk,” Eimear responded, though she smiled and tipped her head. “Of course,” she went on, “‘tis but a fairy tale, divination. We all know that.”

Catherine echoed Eimear’s tsk. “Martin told me about the Sidhe and the Tuatha and the fairy cities underground. When I asked if he believed in the aos sí, he denied it, and right after saying that, told me to hush or they’d hear me. Is it that kind of fairy tale?”

“I’d have said yes up until last evening. Now I know everything exists.” Eimear brushed an impatient hand across her forehead. “I can only hope that makes sense, Catherine. I don’t have the words ...”

But she did have words. What Rosie conveyed with photography and sculpture, Eimear managed with voice. For the past quarter hour, they’d almost forgotten to worry. “You had such a rich growing up,” Catherine said. “I’m jealous, you know. I always wanted a sister.”

Eimear eyes glistened. “That’s what Vincent said ... well, nearly. I hastened the explanation of the symbols, of course, standing with him in the tunnels. Simplified them. Alder, Blackthorn, Ivy, Ash, being Flynn’s. The Guardian’s reading. As likely yours would be, I told him. And Vincent answered, Braithre. Do you know that word? As I nodded yes, he leaned close. I will be that brother, he whispered, should I be needed, and I nodded again. ‘Twas just so right.”

Later, she would mourn the interruption of that perfect moment when the wild beauty of the invisible world gathered them in, embraced them in belonging.9

A crash-clang of metal and a screeching whine caused them both to jump and slap a hand to their hearts. Mab leapt from the windowsill and skittered across the kitchen floor, through the doorway, into the hall, not a full second later speeding back, streaking past their legs under the table, wedging herself, Catherine noted, between the water cooler and the wall. Outside, a beeping alarm began a rhythmic blare.

“Garbage day,” Eimear announced, rising from her chair. “And I forgot to wrestle the cans out front. Flynn always–” Her lips pressed to a pained, pale line. She stepped on the lever to raise the lid of the waste bin, wrenched the full bag from the container, tied a hard knot at the top with the white plastic tails.

When the phone rang, sharp and insistent, they both jumped again.

“I’ll get that,” Catherine said, shoving back from the table. She lifted the receiver with Eimear at her elbow. “O’Carroll residence. Hello?”

Silence answered her greeting. Then ...



Outside, the clanging and beeping grew louder. Air brakes squealed and hissed.
Catherine offered Eimear a surprised all’s-well, widening her eyes, heaving a deep breath, shrugging. Eimear disappeared into the kitchen without asking why Joe was calling. Too distracted by all to come, by Flynn’s late arrival, no doubt she willingly succumbed to the preoccupation of busywork. After all, Joe was a friend. A friend who could be calling only with good–

“Man, I’m glad you’re there. How’s Eimear doing?”

Did he he know about the threats? The phone calls? How could he?

Before she could formulate a response, Joe went on. “I ran into Greg Hughs at the coffee cart in Foley Square. He told me what went down last night.”

What went down last night? How could Greg know they’d gone Below? The bewilderment passed. She almost laughed at her mistake and then at the irony, but instead she turned her back to the kitchen entryway and lowered her voice. “What ... happened?”

The line was quiet, stalled with confusion. “But ... I figured ... I mean, you’re there ...”

The noise from the street was a cacophony; Joe’s words unhearable. The cold thump in her heart returned, as thuddingly loud as Winslow’s pickax had once sounded. Louder. Louder still. A heavy tread scuffed the porch steps. Beyond the front door a presence loomed. Catherine froze, the telephone at her ear.

What the– ” a terse voice growled. The mail slot opened and a sheaf of mail drifted to the tiled floor. “Damn kids,” Catherine heard. “Think they’re so funny. If I catch whoever– Hey, Tino! Wait up!”

Eimear sprinted past her in the hallway, swiped the envelopes aside with her foot, and worked the dead-bolts to fling open the door. The porch mat was empty, the pitched message, the evidence, gone. Catherine replaced the receiver, cutting off Joe’s repeat of her name, gaining the porch only steps behind Eimear. At the curb, the mailman was wiping his hands on his white handkerchief. The sanitation worker smacked the hydraulic switch with a gloved fist and the compactor scraped and groaned. Next door, a van was parked, The Parish Visitor painted on the side panel. Two gray-haired men chair-carried an even more elderly woman from the church, Martin a pace behind in his long black cassock, the strap of a large pocketbook gripped in both hands.

The trash collectors moved further down the block. The van’s passenger door slid shut; the driver climbed in. The vehicle eased away from the sidewalk. As it taxied by, a wizened woman in a rear seat smiled and waved. Eimear raised her hand in recognition, one finger threaded through the chrome ring, its attached medal and charms glinting, clinking ...

Thoughts rushed and collided. Martin has to wonder why I’m here. So what about the bag of ... whatever. They couldn’t get fingerprints off it anyway, probably. There’s a precedent Wren might employ Nichols versus Scarpeta. I should have remembered, should have told her. Do I have a number for anybody at Family Court? I need to call Joe back. What ... what is wrong with my heart!?

Martin had started their way. Already he was half across the yard. Behind him, at the corner, a police cruiser idled. It pulled slowly into the intersection – too slowly – making a solemn, sweeping, destined curve. No question it would stop in front of Eimear’s house. Her expression, blanched and grave, she was sure, gave Martin pause. His brow wrinkled, he turned to look over his shoulder.

At her side, at her touch, Eimear drew in a sharp breath. “I would know, Catherine. I ... would ... know.”  

Click HERE for Chapter 63


1. David Whyte. Two Strangers. The House of Belonging. Many Rivers Press. 2002.
2. John O’Donohue. Unfinished Poem.
3. I Carry Your Heart. Chapter 7. Love-Throb in the Heart.
4. Emily Dickinson. Poem XX. The Complete Poems, Part Three: Love.
5. References The Only Gift, part 3 of the trilogy, A Great and Thorough Good.
6. Christina Rossetti. Spring Quiet. 1847.
7. Christina Rossetti. Spring Quiet. 1847.
8. Wallace Stephens. The Man with the Blue Guitar. Verse XXII.
9. John O’Donohue. For Belonging. To Bless the Space Between Us. 2008.


Krista said...

Oh, wow. This...I can't... wow. You almost left me speechless; please mark the day on your calendar ;-)

There's so much detail here that I'll have to read over again (I'm a glutton for such writing, you'll have to forgive me.) Ogham and St. Michael and Shelta and the twin souls and...

The cliffhanger. The cliffhanger. I'm some worried now for Flynn...

Great job, as always. :)


Anonymous said...

AAAAAaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!! What a place to STOP!!! Whew!! What an nerve-wracking cliffhanger! I hope, I hope, I hope Flynn is OK.

TERRIFIC chapter! So lovely to learn more about how Flynn and Eimear came together, and to see Mrs. Sheedy woven into the story a bit more.

Argh! How I am going to STAND the wait until you post the next chapter? I'm as anxious as I was when you ended a chapter leaving us with the impression that Martin was in some sort of distress!


Regards, Lindariel

Carole W said...

Krista, thank you so much. This chapter was fun to write, but a challenge - I'm very pleased to get a 'wow'. :-)

I hope I can get the next chapter hammered out quickly so as to answer the cliffhanger-y-ness of the chapter. I'm getting to the part of the story that's been in my mind since the beginning. I sure never expected it would take so long to go there. Thank you for reading. That means a lot.


Carole W said...

Lindariel, you are so good for my spirits and psyche! Thank you for caring about Flynn (and Martin, too, in the earlier chapter.) And I'm really glad you liked Mrs. Sheedy's part in this story.

I'm out of town for a couple of days here, but as soon as I get back, I'll buckle down on the next chapter to make the unknown known. I'm worried about Flynn too! And about Vincent. Things might be dicey for him ...

Thank you so much for reading. I'm really grateful for your encouragement. Knowing you're there means an awful lot.


NYC Utopia said...

oh dear. you're holding our hearts in your hands and squeezing, aren't you. I'll think on it and hopefully be back with comments in a day or two.

Carole W said...

Hi Claire - I'm glad to hear from you, always. Hugs.

About the squeezing - you have to be glad, after all this time, the story is moving into it's more dramatic end-chapters. Finally, you must be thinking. I will work my hardest to move the story on through these ... emotional culminations, LOL.

Take some heart though - the iron behind the velvet speaks to will and resilience, particularly of the women, but of the men too, if manifested differently. It doesn't necessarily deny stubbornness or frustrating-ness or even weakness ... but I shouldn't give away the storyline. I should get to the keyboard instead! :-)


Anonymous said...

OMG. I feel shaky.

While I am trying not to worry my head off, I am going to go back through and highlight all the powerful parts of this TERRIFIC chapter. There are a lot of them. :)


Carole W said...

Thanks, Annabella. I'm sorry for the shakes, but I'm glad you found something enjoyable in the earlier scenes. That's good to hear. I'm knee-deep in the next part already, though I can guarantee this one will take the Grand Prize for Tweaking and rewriting. Yikes.

I'm so glad you're reading, and thanks so much for your kind comments.

Mamacrow said...

My heart is in my throat, and pounding out a bloomin' Riverdance.

The chapter is exquisite, and melodious, and completely unnerving. You give Dickens a run for his money on serial cliffhangers...

Thank you for making me smile, even through my apprehension....

- Karen :)

Mamacrow said...

I have been having the most horrible time leaving a comment, but I will try again, because this chapter is so exquisitely worth it.

Thank you, again and again. I am smiling, though my heart is STILL beating in my throat. I am worried for characters that weren't even on the flippin' show, characters that you made breathe! Well done!

Carole, you give DIckens a run for his money on the serial cliffhangers...

Awaiting the next chapter with bated breath...

Carole W said...

Karen, you are doubly kind!! :-D Both comments came through. I'm sorry you're having problems posting, but I am so very glad to know you've wanted to!

Thank you for liking these characters. Thank you for worrying and caring about them, for believing in them. Beyond thank you for reading. And WoW for putting my name and Dickens' in the same sentence. You're making me want to work harder and harder.


RomanticOne said...

This chapter brings me to an important question. Soul mates, brothers, friends...are we brought together by chance or fate? I'd like to think it's fate because it gives me hope for the future, not to mention a sense of anticipation. Who will suddenly walk around the corner and affect our lives in marvelous ways? Who already has and we haven't appreciated the crossing of our paths? Can't wait to see what fate brings in the next chapter.

Carole W said...

R1 - I know just what you mean. I've felt that same anticipation and the same awareness and wondering. BatB, V and C's story ... while some might say was just a show on television, it was and is more than that. We've made it so, together. I've been truly changed by the crossing paths with so many I would never have had the privilege to meet otherwise. The convergence of minds and hearts, the support and understanding, the encouragement of hope ... well, you know.

Thank you for reading, for sticking with me, for being always so generous and kind.


RedNightBird said...

Does the fated pair see their fate?

Or is it evident to only those with the gift? I believe that 'romantics' see their way - seeing with eyes and heart.

Now these two perceptive women are facing things they hadn't expected and every nerve is on high alert. It is rightly timed that Catherine now knows Eimear, any earlier might have played with the balance of things.

Rusty Hough Bader

Carole W said...

Hi Rusty!

You've hit it right on the nailhead. Eimear and Catherine are a fated pair, but they couldn't have known each other any earlier, without so many other things moving into place at the same time. They might have walked past each other, unaware, but no longer.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I'm grateful to you for reading and letting me know your thoughts.