Note: Story will be completed in the 2013 Conzine.
She had crossed days off her calendar since April 1st when her Witness Protection handlers had given her a hint that her exile was coming to an end. For what? In 1991, “Fiona” had burrowed into the Chagrin Boulevard home in Moreland Hills, Ohio. “She was told she was a woman resurrected from a drug overdose. Her superficial memories deepened month after month as she lost herself within the home she had been advised to buy. Yes, she had been advised by the Witness Protection team to get burrowed into a Midwest routine, so she flipped page after page of real estate listings until this house called to her.
The living room was large and open, emphasized by a vaulted beamed ceiling with windows overlooking a small oddly shaped lake. She felt the room called out for a circular staircase; initially she wondered why they fascinated her. Even though she couldn’t remember enjoying cooking, she was drawn to the custom built kitchen and an enclave of rich woodwork centered by a curved bar. If she ever felt secure enough to invite people in, she could imagine the area filled with laughter. The first day she saw the room, she gasped at the dining room with a stunning rock wall.
Fiona had been told in 1990 that she had been extracted from a “situation” and whisked into the Midwestern safety that was the greater Cleveland area. Bundled in her new surroundings, niggling spirits visited her thoughts at the oddest times. Her previous persona, Catherine Chandler, had been “terminated” and given a public funeral. Peter Alcott had held a copy of her last will and testament, yet he had been notified that it was null and void; an updated copy had been filed leaving the estate elsewhere.
If Peter was flummoxed, Vincent and his Tunnel family were flabbergasted. There had been rumors of a child, found to be untrue. There had been rumors of a black book which broke open a cartel, which was one of the many truths. The reality of the deceit spun upward through businesses and the New York legal structure all the way up to John Moreno.
Elliott Burch staggered away a financially broken man, stumbling economically, now rehabbing brownstones to resell one by one.
When she turned her desk calendar to April 12th, 1993 a perceptual dam broke. She rose knowing something was significant about the date, and she missed the cloaked man responsible for her salvation on a bloody night years ago.
In the midst of one of Gabriel’s torture sessions, he had lost his persistence with the physician administering the truth serums. When she would not answer where Vincent was, Gabriel had decreed “Prepare a syringe, something fatal, and make one for yourself, too.” As Gabriel’s thugs held guns to reinforce the order, the physician fumbled with the drugs. Hoping to save himself, he prepared weakened doses. Catherine’s saving grace was her near silent heartbeat; when the doctor didn’t ‘die’ fast enough, he earned a bullet through his brain.
April, 1993 had been a harsh month; all of her dreams were coalescing. She finally understood why she found so much comfort in that stony walled dining room. Memories of her time below rushed at her. How could she return to the Tunnels after all these years? How had they dealt with her “death”? How had it affected the man she loved the most? WHO was that man? She recalled the clothing, the hair, the voice…. Yet his face escaped her.
The brutal truth of their passion one fateful evening in his bed left her complete yet empty. Only when Vincent had been delirious for days had she found him close to death; they loved, and it was exquisite. The disjointed memory flashed back like scenes shot at double speed. The clarity of their coupling had been electric, the force of it rolling thunder, wiping out his bond with her, essentially severing his memories of her or their relationship. It left him cool to her, it left her confused. If she had a time machine where would she point it?
people had gone out of their way to cushion him, Vincent felt the
weight of April 12, 1993. Vincent verbally poked himself. “The promises
had died with the woman.” His clawed fingertip hovered over the Gentian
portrait. “This woman showed me what love could be.” His words
resonated in the cavern of the Mirror Pool. In following years
Vincent took every opportunity for self-flagellation. “At the moment
she needed me, I wasn’t there.” Yes, he believed there must have been a
million things his heart forgot to act on; he hung his shaggy head,
She felt robbed; she wanted to scream at the theft. By 1993 she should be living a ‘Tunnel life’ with Vincent! She should be up to her knees in lesson plans for high school students, sharing Vincent’s classes. Only now she was in a bedroom the size of her park side apartment. Now she knew why she treasured the cozy bedroom with a reading area and a separate dressing area; it was reminiscent of Vincent’s chamber. Running the tub she poured a mint iced tea from the wet bar’s mini fridge and stripped out of her sweaty slip and stockings. Wouldn’t it be heaven to share all this with Vincent? She bemoaned her fear that his memories of their love had been washed away without their living bond.
Once she slid into the garden tub she flipped through the Rolling Stone. “Hall of Fame Nomination Brings Band Back” caught her eye. A red tailed hawk flew past her window and she wondered how brilliant Vincent’s full head of hair would look amidst the pine trees surrounding the lake. She shook her head and regarded the article on the imminent groundbreaking for an actual Rock and Roll museum.
Flipping to the article she shook her head at the concert images of the band, “Haphazard”. Now nominated for the Hall of Fame the leader was lamenting their disconnection from their beloved member, “Dervish”, the fiddle player who generally performed with his back to the audience, only turning his right side to the audience as their sets ended. The reason for his name? The leader, a brash bass player from Birmingham, England laughed, “He’s a bloody dervish on that thing!”
Long haired and heroin thin, Dervish was rumored to be sixteen when he picked up a violin and riffed his way into the band. Now, as the band reunited, no one knew where he was. Laughing at their tie dyed clothes and careless behavior, she felt old. Hadn’t her father, the venerable Charles Chandler, asked her if “all musicians were freaks?” Amused but exhausted, she dropped the magazine by the tub and soaked. At least she wasn’t the only lost soul in the universe.
Devin dropped the well-thumbed copy of Rolling Stone back on the library’s magazine wall. Did he want the notoriety of being with the band? At fifteen, he welcomed the friendship of these ragtag brothers. They shared their women and their flophouse and their drugs. They didn’t ask for a birth certificate (which he didn’t have) or his real name (which he wasn’t sure of past Devin). He was Dervish, the kid who picked up what looked like a classical instrument and ripped a mournful sound from its wood and strings.
Devin turned his face toward the sun and rolled the motorcycle to the curb; he had about twenty-five minutes before he had to report to the dock and take another drunken bunch of fishermen out to the Tortugas. Key West wasn’t the paradise Jimmy Buffet had sung about.
Sometime around 2 PM, Devin threw the line toward the cleat on the dock. These early morning expeditions were getting rough. “Hey, Popeye!” he called to the dock master sitting on piling.
The bald headed man-child shot him a bird and smiled, “What do you want?” he yelled back without looking up, his eyes on splicing worn ropes.
“You got any word on the transfer?” Devin shut down the boat’s systems and hooked the power to the dock’s outlets. Securing the Maggie-Mae, he stepped on the dock toward his “boss”.
The boss, a high school dropout about twenty-nine years old, had grown weathered in the Florida sun. “Why do you want to go to Lake Erie? Haven’t you heard that song about the Edmund Fitzgerald?”
Devin shook his head, even a kid from the Tunnels knew the difference from Lake Superior and Lake Erie, “You jag-off it’s a summer leading fishing trips, not carrying iron ore.” He playfully slugged the kid, “And it’s Lake Erie, not Superior.”
“Yeah, Uncle Howie said if you can get your ass up there, you can have the job. If you start riding now, you might make it.” Again the kid had that laissez faire attitude of someone with too little incentive and too much pocket money.
“Want to buy a bike?” Devin leaned closer; the guy was always leering at the Wide Glide. If the guy was flush, perhaps he could get a grand and enjoy a flight to Cleveland.
The kid squinted in the sun, “You want too much.” Devin backed off, ready to walk away from bargaining; he had sunk the hook, and the kid didn’t realize it.
“What’s too much for 1300 cc’s between your legs?” Devin tossed the key upward casually catching and tossing it while the kid visualized the rides ahead.
“I’d give you $1,600 if you give me a ride to the bank.” The kid dropped the rope like it was hot the second Devin nodded. As far as Devin was concerned, Key West would be a memory. For $1,600, he could make it by New York for a day or two.
April 26th “Fiona” had the papers in her lap. Forty-nine per cent of her wanted to close up the house and fly back to New York. How frightened was the other fifty-one per cent? Going back meant answering questions without fully formed answers. As Fiona, her position as legal counsel for Great Lakes Brewery had been orchestrated by a private arm of the Witness Protection Program. If she wanted to travel or take a week off the time was there. Backed somewhat by the Feds, she felt their eyes and ears. Did this sheaf of papers sever that link or strengthen it? Could she start answering the hard questions now?
She was ready to pack a bag and head to the lake now; but it was Monday night, and she sighed heavily. Couldn’t she make a call like she used to in New York? How many times had she dialed the phone and drawn a tight breath as she fibbed to Joe about the real reasons for needing time off?
But she wasn’t in New York, and she didn’t work for a friendly soul like Joe, and she certainly didn’t have Vincent as the impetus for the lie. She filed the papers in the mahogany desk drawer and stared at the lake at the back of her almost six acres. Dialing the phone, she watched the waterfowl hovering, the B&B answered, “Caio, Bella Notte B&B.”
“Bella Notte? What happened to The Hundred Year House?” she groaned. She had been going there monthly. Now she shook her head at the change.
“Betty retired; my son and I just took over.” The woman had a heavy New York accent, “Betty gave me her files. Are you a returning guest?” She could hear the woman shuffling papers.
“Fiona Charles, Moreland Hills.” She thought of her credit cards, her life since 1990 and caught herself before she sounded too terse. “You will be open this weekend?” She tried to convey concern for their readiness when all she wanted was her accustomed getaway.
“Oh course, Signorina Charles. The room you prefer is available. When can we expect you?”
“I hope I make the 9:15 ferry on Friday night, will you have a golf cart waiting?” She was in no mood to go through renting a cart or pedaling a bike on the island. She paced her bedroom, tossing clothing onto the love seat to pack later.
The woman effusively replied, “My son will be there to pick you up!”
“Fiona” strained to smother a smile; either he’d be a gangly teenager or a thrice divorced Galahad, “I’ll see you then!” She had tried to be nice, she really had.
Memories had emerged every April 12th. Vincent had made a pilgrimage to those special places they shared, even to the deepest caverns to recollect his scattered memories. In the park, falling to the sacred ground where he had first found Catherine he was met by hollow silence. Yet within hours of his visit, his long-lost bond with a spirit of Catherine had begun a tremulous strumming.
Tuesday afternoon, Devin drew his finger up to his lips at the Sentry. “Don’t let Fuzz know I’m here!” He padded lightly toward Father’s chamber, carrying a new Physician’s Desk Reference and a pound of Earl Grey Tea for the man he loved to verbally spar with, his father. Treading lightly he came upon Mary, her arms full of laundry.
“Does Jacob know you’re home?” She dropped the basket and hugged Devin. He caught her in a hug and savored the scent; there was something about Tunnel women.
“Noooo, I’m trying to sneak in. I wanted to bounce a few things off the old man before I made a decision.” They ducked into an alcove to speak in low voices. At his comment, Mary laid a cool hand on his forehead.
“Who are you, and what have you done with Devin Wells?” She always had a devilish sense of humor to put up with the tunnel rats. Did Devin see a thin gold band on her left hand? He wasn’t even going to ask.
Devin picked up the basket. “Hey, I’m growing up; crazy, isn’t it? Let me carry this, and we’ll check in with the old man.”
Father shook his head at the sight of his own son. “You are a sight for sore eyes.” He rose easily and walked toward Devin who stood there amazed.
“What happened to you? You’re walking, well you know, normally!” Devin dropped his parcels and hugged his father nearly crushing him in enthusiasm.
“Peter Alcott won the argument and I had the hip replacement. It took me some recuperation, and now I am pestering everyone to use Vincent’s words.” Father guided Devin back to a fairly less beat up circular table, and Devin gave it a long look. Before he sat down, he circled the room. Casting a broad stare, it looked like one feminine hand had staged a decorating intervention.
“Is this some sort of hibachi set up in the center?” Devin drew a thumb over his chin, had his father begun having fondue dinners in his chamber? A new hip, a Korean barbecue table, next thing he’d hear his father had scored a woman friend.
Father was proud of the five foot table with a 20-quart cast iron Dutch oven in the center. The desk had been moved out, replaced by a pair of wing chairs with hassocks. Devin noticed the carpet bag of Mary’s knitting beside the one chair. The realization hit Devin so hard he had to squelch a comment.
“Mouse had this waiting for me when I returned from Peter’s. He rigged a hook for the tea kettle and yes if I want to I could cook there I can.” Father seemed quite satisfied with the refurbishing.
Raising his nose to sniff, he caught roses and violets, two scents indicative of Mary. “Do I sense a woman’s presence?” Devin wagged a finger at one of Mary’s shawls over the back of a chair. Mary shook her head as she moved around the room, wondering how Devin and Jacob would discuss their state of affairs.
Father pursed his bottom lip and dropped his head momentarily then raised his head quite proudly, “You were always perceptive, too much so for your own good.”
“Did you….” Devin pointed back and forth in the direction of Mary’s chamber, “Make an honest woman out of her?”
Father paled at the request as he saw her abruptly turn to see his face. “She has always been an honorable woman! I simply came to my senses.” Then laying his gentle hand on Devin’s shoulder he confided, “We’ve been together almost six months now. We’re both glad to see you home, you’ll stay for tea?” Father sat down at the table and began to gather the cups and tea while Mary stepped out for some sweets.
“Before she gets back, I had something I wanted to discuss with you.” Devin waited for his father’s nod, and he drew out his gifts. Once they had been appreciated, Devin pulled out the Rolling Stone he bought at the airport. Opening the page to the article on “Haphazard,” he chewed his lip for a second while Father dropped his spectacles on to give it a good read. Devin watched the play of emotions as the article spelled out the band’s groundbreaking contributions to music as well as its indiscretions.
“What do you want to discuss, do you know these people?” His last two words emphasized his distaste with the band’s behaviors as the article outlined their antics.
Baiting his father, he swallowed a smile, “Does anyone look familiar?” Devin placed his elbows on the table and laid his chin on his palms, ready to cover his face. Father strained his eyes over the mélange of bodies in the pages of black and white photos. Flipping the page he saw a shirtless boy with a psychedelically decorated violin in one hand, and a bottle of Jack Daniels hefted over his shaggy head. The three scars along his cheek firmly identified him.
“For god’s sake, Devin, how old were you?” Father pushed the magazine toward Devin with disgust.
Devin flinched at the question, “Not quite seventeen.” He accepted the magazine back and closed it. “It was a few years after I left. I spent at least four years right here in the city with Haphazard, started as a roadie. One night they were jamming and I picked up a violin and started fiddling. The next show they pulled me on stage. You could say the rest is history?”
“And now they’re looking for you to join them for this hall of fame induction?” It wasn’t his facial expression, it was Father’s inflection. It was somewhere between dismay and astonishment.
“They haven’t seen me since they took off for some Ashram. You’d have been proud to know I didn’t do the drugs and crap they wanted me to do; I split, headed for New Orleans to work the docks.” Somehow Devin didn’t think Father saw it as any comfort.
“Are you thinking of reconnecting with the band and claiming your notoriety?” Father raised his chin and narrowed his eyes for a second, then he directed his attention to his mug of steaming tea.
“I was thinking it would be a resource to tap into.” Then he dropped his head closer to and lowered his voice, “With Chandler gone, I figured you could use the money.” There was a moment of silence while they processed that thought.
“I know I couldn’t talk about it around Vincent, but admit it; she made a big difference around here, and it just wasn’t financial.” Now Devin shifted his chair closer to continue the conversation.
“If you’re comfortable and you feel impelled, you know it would be welcome.” Father’s body language shifted as he pushed the tea pot toward Devin. “Financially we’re in a good place. Cullen and his crew have been making custom antique reproductions for a Helper’s furniture shop.”
“But mentally, Vincent is shot, right?” Devin scrubbed his face with both hands. “He quit writing to me over a month ago.”
“He’s been down to the catacombs, down past the Chamber of the Winds. He spent a month with Narcissa before she sent him packing.” Father’s brow rose at the last point.
“Pop, if I don’t own up to my life of sex, drink, and rock and roll, I have to report to Lake Erie to captain charter fishing boats on Friday. If I get a hold of Haphazard, I don’t know how that will unfold.”
“Devin?” Vincent hovered at the chamber entry, his voice incredulous and dry.
“FUZZ!” Devin flew to his brother’s side, garnering a Vincent sized hug. With their greetings done, they returned to the table, and Devin shared his rock and roll news.
“All those years we could have seen you in the clubs?” Vincent couldn’t stop examining the pages of concert shots. He was especially drawn to the image of Devin on stage, violin to his jaw, eyes closed in rapturous concentration. “Just think, Father. Your demands that we have music lessons paid off for one of us.” The sarcasm wasn’t lost to Devin. “May I have this for my library, Devin?” Vincent queried as he placed both hands possessively over the closed magazine.
“Sure. I wish I could take you to Cleveland with me; with that hair you’d fit right in.”
Father’s breathing hitched, “You seriously don’t believe that, do you?”
Vincent’s sincerity peaked along with his brows as he faced their patriarch and asked, “Father, surely you’ve heard of the era of hair bands?”
Vincent woke Friday morning with a start. He clutched the ache in his chest, catching the worn leather pouch over his heart.
Hours later, when he fell into bed Friday evening, he was furtively turning at every sound. Sleep did not come easy. He ambled toward breakfast seeking Devin’s topsider counsel but found him absent. He sat patiently eating in silence while the population talked of their weekend plans. “You’re quiet today.” Pascal laid a gentle hand on his friend’s broad shoulder.
“The temple of our purest thoughts is silence.” Vincent then nodded for Pascal to join him, and his old friend slid close.
Pascal sat back to fully regard his troubled friend’s appearance. “Whenever you’re ready, you could explain why your silence makes more noise than thunder.”
They buttered bread and pushed their meals across their respective plates then Vincent spoke up. “Have you heard of Devin’s news?” Pascal shook his head and listened to the story.
By Thursday night, Devin had received an express package at Peter’s. Covering the distance from Peter’s, Devin hefted the weighty envelope. “I should’ve had Peter’s business manager help me with this.” Vincent harrumphed in agreement then extended a hand to weigh the express envelope, “Perhaps I may assist with the legalese?”
Devin expectantly gauged his brother’s facial expression and heavy breath as they made their way back to his chamber, “There was a night I drafted brief or two.” Then Vincent’s lips stumbled over her name, “Catherine said I did rather well.”
“Yeah, she said the same thing to me then called me a fraud. I think between the two of us we can make sense of it.” Devin gave a playful slug at his little brother’s shoulder, and they headed toward the commons and a bottomless pot of tea.
Once Vincent drew the pages across the table, he nodded. “Sometimes when Catherine was overworked I took notes for her; she’d discuss the points of law.” After the better part of an hour, Vincent’s voice tightened with these last words, “It appears these are standard.”
Devin caught his little brother’s furred hand, “You still miss her.” It was a superfluous statement, not a question.
Vincent’s golden head gently nodded; his other hand lay over Devin’s. “Thank you, Devin, for understanding. Sometimes there is no one to talk to, no one who understands.”
Devin had envied their love; and yet, at the news of Catherine’s death, he had thanked whatever forces ruled the world he hadn’t loved that completely.
“Recently I felt our bond kindling to life.” Vincent’s hands left Devin and they folded as if in prayer. “It was on our anniversary night.”
Devin moved to stand behind his brother, his hands on Vincent’s burdened shoulders, and in silence they thought about the date. With a heavy sigh, Vincent turned and admitted, “Hope is grief's best music.”
“You and Chandler always shared music. What would she think of all this?” Devin steered the conversation toward happier times and Cathy’s tastes.
Vincent’s lips curled wryly, “I do not recall one tape of this type in her collection.” Vincent countered, tongue in cheek.
“I’d bet you’re right. I’m going to have Mr. Alton notarize these, and I’m walking them to the postal box. Want to meet me Below; I’ll bring back ice cream.”
The thought of standing on the bow of a boat kept Catherine smiling all week, yet once she boarded the ferry she wished for one of Vincent’s cloaks. The April showers had fallen, leaving a blustery night. Was it the gathering of odd fabrics that made his cloak warm, or was it his inherent body heat? Once she pulled her hood up and tied it tight she wrapped her arms around her waist and stared into the night welcoming the chance for 2 days without legal questions about the Brewery business.
When the ferry docked, she slid the rolling duffle’s handle out and drew it behind her. People fled like a cattle call when the gate dropped, and they charged towards land. To the right she saw the golf cart emblazoned “Belle Notte” and waved, the guy hovering over the steering wheel in the hooded windbreaker moved toward her. Head down into the wind, he reached for the duffle and swung it into the back of the golf cart, “You’d be Fiona?” the voice was muffled by breeze yet she froze from the blast from her past.
Paralyzed momentarily, the voice registered as one of the safe ones, but which one? A golf cart in a rain storm wasn’t the place for a reunion, she tucked her chin and turned away, spoke hoarsely, “That’s right.” During the short ride to the familiar B&B, she kept her head turned; gratefully the guy was the silent type tonight. The golf cart slowed at the front steps of her familiar getaway and she immediately caught the welcome aroma of espresso and tortoni. Something clued her that it would be a late night.
As he lunged for her bag,, she saw his face, JOE. “Hope you like to have something sweet with your nightcap,” Joe spoke confidently as he caught the duffle and led the way up the steps. Joe waited as her figure moved toward the circle of gaslight, and without looking back, he opened the door like the gentleman he was. Waiting in the large foyer a graceful yet compact woman waited, still wearing her apron, “Welcome to Bella Notte, Miss Charles. I see you’ve met my son, Joe.”
Mrs. Maxwell reached for Catherine’s damp jacket, and as their guest turned out of the coat and toward him, Catherine stammered, “Joe, this isn’t what you think.”
Joe didn’t know what to think, he stood transfixed by the sight of Cathy Chandler, his “Radcliffe” standing in the foyer of his B&B, three years ‘post-mortem’. He hung back; a force-field of disbelief separating him, then there was a hug to end all hugs.
“What should I think it is? You die, and three years later I see you half a continent away?” He drew both hands into his curly black hair. It was longer now and he wore a trimmed goatee. He was trim, almost muscled from doing yard and maintenance work. Snidely he spat, “Did you move here with that boyfriend?” Joe nodded to his Mom that she should take a step back. Joe the Assistant DA was in the house.
Catherine looked toward Mrs. Maxwell, “Could we start this after I dry off?” And the good woman took her arm and led her toward the room in the back, her usual haunt of the darkest room in the mansion. She overheard the bickering mother and son while she switched out her shoes for slippers and skimmed on her terry cloth robe. While he was convincing “Mom” to pick up her Harlequin Romance, Mom was quizzing him about the girl he used to talk about, the one who worked for him; the woman whose death spurred him toward the hospitality industry. Making a good amount of noise, Catherine hoped to keep the two of them from bickering further. She saw them at one end of the banquet sized table and joined them over cocoa and amaretto cookies.
Breaking the brittle air, she spoke, “You want to let me explain first?” Catherine sat then reached for the china cup. Joe nodded as his Mother leveled a stern look at him. Almost insisting that they three sit together, Catherine recounted her experiences from secreting the black book, to Moreno confronting her at the elevator door. It wasn’t difficult explaining her relocation and wading through her memories until the moment when she realized who she was.
The tray of cookies had been replenished three times before she answered Joe’s last question. “No, Joe, Witness Protection had me straight out of autopsy.”
“They called me to your apartment. I saw you, they had me identify you!’ Joe was up, pacing the dimly lit dining room. ”YOU were DEAD!”
All the while Catherine’s eyes focused on the rose in the bottom of the china cup. “Joe, they weren’t sure how dirty the department was. When they got me to the morgue it looked fishy, they did an EEG, and then I was flown west.”
Joe stood, running a furtive hand over his evening stubble, “What about your mystery man?”
Leaving Vincent’s name out of the story rang hollow and sadder, “He was led to believe I died.”
“You mean he’s back home, wherever home is, thinking he buried you?” Joe was up, pacing and reflexively feeling for a rubber band. “Radcliffe, I can get you back there, together. If you’re afraid of facing him, he’s not worth it.” Joe was stretching from one extreme to the other as he paced the long oval dinner table.
“I came to think about my next step.” Of course Catherine couldn’t discuss Vincent; she had to meditate on her course of action.
Mrs. Maxwell’s soft hand reached out to her, “Sweetheart, time goes by so fast; people go in and out of your life. You must never miss the opportunity to tell these people how much they mean to you. My Joe will help you do that. Of course you feel restless.” Mrs. Maxwell eyed Joe then moved the empty cups to the tray and disappeared, leaving Catherine and Joe in the still of the night. Over her shoulder she preached, “You get a good night sleep and think tomorrow. Tonight you dream!” Then she toddled off to her bedroom.
The old mansion creaked and settled as years dissolved between the old friends. His eyes wrinkled in his friendly smile, as he confessed, “Mom spent the first twelve months of my life teaching me to walk and talk and the next thirty five telling me to sit down and shut up.”
Leaning back in the large, carved dinner table chair, she sighed. “At least I didn’t subject my Father to all this.” Catherine dabbed at fat slow tears. “How perfect was this, Joe? That I stumbled into you, here?”
She slept Friday night, her heart lighter for shirking off one of the many aspects of her contrived identity. They called her Cathy or Radcliffe; she was reserving “Catherine” for a special pair of lips with a singularly resonant voice.
The lake breeze buffered the pine boughs over their heads as Joe and Catherine padded along the shore line. Joe had wanted to hear everything, but felt she was holding some vital part back. Cathy laughed along with Carmella Maxwell as the patient woman taught her how to make ravioli. Then Saturday afternoon she asked, “Joe, why did you leave? I thought New York would always be your home.” She hoped it hadn’t been because of her ‘death,’ yet she knew it was.
Joe’s eyes hardened, “By the time they found Moreno in prison with his tongue cut out, my heart was dust.”
It couldn’t have happened to a better man, Catherine thought yet the words caught in her throat.
“His office made my flesh crawl; inheriting his job, all I could do was wait for the next scumbag to crawl forward to take Gabriel’s place. The island of Manhattan was in a free fall after this busted open.” Joe twirled a pine bough, occasionally holding it to his nose. Catherine thought he actually looked younger and fresher than years ago when they met.
This caused her to pose the question, “So I go back to claim my private life, and where does it leave me professionally? Marked with a target by some criminal element?” She still had the intensity Joe remembered although her hair was longer and deeper caramel, and fine lines accentuated her placid smile.
Watching her pace the shoreline, he sat back on a boulder enjoying her inimitable intensity. She hadn’t mentioned his name; she danced around it when Joe offered to escort her back to the Big Apple. “You go back, claim your man. Let him support you while you have a couple of ankle biters. Practice dispute resolution in one of those fancy historical brownstones, teach a couple of classes at Columbia – didn’t you say he was a teacher?”
There Joe threw the jab into an innocent suggestion. Catherine smirked modestly back over her shoulder then she returned to wordlessly gaze east.
HAPHAZARD’s headlines made the Village Voice and the Rolling Stone. The Tunnels were abuzz; imagine one of their own being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Devin almost wished he had paid more attention in music class, well almost.
“Will you be in the newspapers?” Geoffrey asked as he strode alongside Devin to breakfast, “If you’re in the paper, will you sign it for me and bring home a frame? You’ll be the most famous person I know, Devin!” At the youth’s pronouncement, Devin shook his head of shoulder length hair. He was tan and muscled from working the boats, it was easier to tie his hair back than find a seat in a barber’s chair. His coffee colored locks were streaked by hard work in the sun.
That request rang hollow in Devin. He was the prodigal son who returned with what notoriety? He had been a rock star, “Geoffrey, how about I bring you a guitar pick or some sheet music?” Then he thought about some of the lyrics, “Better yet, why don’t I bring you a book about Cleveland’s art museums?” He didn’t want to flaunt his recovered fame, considering its source.
They came around the corner to the dining hall and the room thundered to life, “GOOD LUCK, DEVIN” they bellowed, echoing the sentiment from the banner the children had hung behind the buffet table. His family encircled him with wrapped parcels, urging him toward a seat between Father and Vincent. Thoroughly buried under packages, Devin waited for the din to settle, “You had something to do with this, didn’t you?” he asked Vincent who only shook his shaggy head and shrugged.
“I merely mentioned you could be gone a while.” The thin line of a smile hinted at Vincent’s complicity.
Evidently the Tunnel seamstresses felt Devin wouldn’t have the wardrobe to ‘represent’ as he has in his first incarnation as ‘DERVISH’. There was a pair of artistically patched hip hugging denims, several pair of finely knitted socks, a stack of extraordinarily tie-dyed tee-shirts and the most sentimental piece: a fringed leather vest made from remnants of cloaks and waistcoats.
“If you must traipse across the continent, you should remember where you came from.” Father sniffed at Devin’s decision; he hadn’t handled it well at all. Even when the Tunnel patriarch admitted they needed the cash flow, he objected to the method. Mary shook her head at Father’s tone.
“I’ll make this stuff famous and then get it all licensed so we make ‘em.” Devin proudly held up the slew of vibrant shirts.
Then demure Mary flabbergasted Devin, “I taught the girls to tie-dye these, Devin. I used to do a lot of it in the day.” Father went wide-eyed at her, seeing her in a wilder light. “Oh, Jacob, you remember what I was wearing when I arrived.” And the two older ‘love birds’ shared a conspiratorial look. Devin shook his head back to reality to see Vincent blink at the occasion of hearing of a wild side to Mary.
Wrapping up the entire banter, Devin stood, “You all really make me. . . make me realize how much I’ve left behind every time I take off. You make it harder to pack up and leave.” Devin let the info slip, the tractor trailer and the ‘Bus’ was coming by a Helper’s warehouse.
“It was nice of Rawlings to let HAPHAZARD receive their new equipment in his warehouse.” Father began to break up his toast to run it through his soft-boiled egg. He still blanched at the band’s name.
“Yeah, I wish you could see the tour bus, Pop. They just got it out of the body shop; it’s been stretched to forty-five feet, sleeps seven.” Devin wagged his brows at Vincent who simply shook his head. “TV, Microwave, AND a gas oven, even has a shower; although, I think it’s just a single shower.” With that comment, Father pursed his lips and picked up his tea cup rather than to speak his mind.
It was too much, and with that sip swallowed, Father spoke quietly, “Because you have gone back on the road doesn’t mean you have to adopt their behaviors.”
“With ten people riding on the bus, I don’t think I’m getting frisky. I can be discrete.” Devin buried the grin he wanted to let fly as he began his breakfast. Between bites, he checked his watch and calculated how much time he had left with Vincent. His younger brother had taken to hiding in new respites, and Devin had not taken the time to chase him down.
Just last night Devin had warned Father, “If Vincent disappears for a few days after I leave, don’t get too wired.”
Jacob fairly snorted and curled his lips, “Wired? Wired? Where ever would you get that idea?”
Devin couldn’t restrain himself, “Every time he has a crisis, you try to blow it into something bigger; you’re still blaming Chandler for everything in the past six years?”
They stared; mean eyed and both too weary to fight on.
The spirit of Bella Notte had turned a page in Catherine’s life. There were brisk spring breezes and the call of mournful gulls to remind her to smile, her life was only getting better. Mrs. Maxwell kept her well-fed, and Joe kept her in stitches as she watched him as an inn-keeper. All too often a guest would ask “When does the Noon Ferry leave?” and Joe would compassionately look at his watch and reply, “Today it will leave at twelve o’clock.”
This weekend she had been a passive observer, book in hand, gliding on the side porch. For some reason, she felt the need to don a wide brimmed straw hat and hide behind large dark glasses. In those years, when she didn’t know who she was, there had been the outside chance that someone else would. Now it didn’t feel devious at all to sit at a distance, head down over a book.
Sunday, as the last of the other guests departed and she nursed a cup of cappuccino, Joe’s voice penetrated her silence, “So, Radcliffe, did you want an escort back into the city?”
“Oh, Joe, would it be selfish to take you away from all this? Wouldn’t your Mother need you?”
“Kiddo, we could take a quick flight, I could be back before next weekend.” There was a glint of boyish expectation at seeing New York without bearing his previous accountabilities.
“Oh, Joe, I have to make some arrangements first.” She smoothed her broomstick skirt over her knee and drew in a cautious breath.
Caught by her new found accountability, Joe notioned, “So, you don’t call your boss and just need time off anymore?” Joe gave it his best shot at whoever was her boss.
“The Brewery is a big sponsor in the Hall of Fame ceremonies this week, I can’t drop and run. You ought to come down during the week. They’ll have some great swag, you can hand out business cards and I can vouch for your Mom’s menu.” Now Catherine adjusted her waistband, she had enjoyed each and every meal.
Joe rubbed at his jaw in thought, “Sounds like a very pleasant business trip to me.”
Her voice was carefree, calm, “If you knew how big my house was, you’d think I could hold the party there. Pack a bag and come back with me, Joe.”
A flurry of thought rushed Joe Maxwell as he leaned back on the porch railing. The woman on his porch was not the Cathy Chandler he remembered. In their years of working together, she hadn’t been free with sharing her time. This time around she held back only the vital information about the mystery man in her life. Had she dismissed the thought of rejoining him? What if Joe visited her home? Would he blunder and grasp for more of her life than she intended to share? Would he gaffe and embrace her? Would he misinterpret her careful steps back to New York City? “You’ve always been a generous woman; I think I need to pass. I’ll come down for the concert; if you’re not too busy we can have drinks, OK?” Joe was going to steer a wide berth around her in this lifetime.
The beat of the clock struck at Devin’s heart. Minutes would pass before Vincent would raise his serious face from his journal, his hand still holding the nib to the page. Devin saw how the shaded lamp cast a warm aura around Vincent and softened the age that had overtaken him. Although Devin was older, it seemed the years had heaped disquiet on top of mourning. From Devin’s perception, he wasn’t sure if the greater Vincent’s capacity to love, the greater his capacity was to feel the pain.
Attempting to brighten the afternoon, he babbled, “Fuzz, you have to see this bus.” Devin stuffed his gifts into his duffle bag as he watched Vincent rise to pace. His brother appeared older, years older than when Devin had visited.
“Is it there now?” Vincent hadn’t been this curious about Above in years.
Devin wagged his brow, “They parked it last night while the guys made their good-byes to the families; they’re staying at the Hilton. I have a key; want to see it before they stink it up with beer and cigarettes?”
Vincent opened his mouth to decline the invitation and Devin shook his shaggy head, “Don’t go all wimpy on me. You never made it to Connecticut; at least you can make it to a warehouse!” The moment he said it, he wanted to retract the words. If he’d had a sword, he couldn’t have cut as deep.
“Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, big brother?” Vincent’s unique mouth curved upward, a smattering of his impishness returning at Devin’s invitation. Walking to his coatrack, he swung his cloak over his shoulders, “Then, let me help you with your bags.”
“Lay on, Macduff”
The further they walked, the more Devin jibed Vincent about coming along. “You have had some ridiculous ideas, but this is impossible!” Vincent took in the brilliant graphics smacked above and below the Band’s name. “They paid to have it painted like this?” Cautiously Vincent raised the hood of his cloak at the sound of a rattling chain on the overhead door.
“Over here” Devin whistled, opening the motorhome’s rear door and rushing Vincent into the one bedroom, “It’s cramped, but get in here." Devin lifted the bed to reveal a storage area, “Once they fill up the front of the bus, I’ll come back and let you out the back door.” Vincent shook his head at their carelessness, but laid out flat as the mattress platform lowered over him.
“Hey, guys I didn’t expect you quite so soon!” Devin herded his band members toward the front of the motorhome.
“Chili wanted to claim the front bunk.” The driver complained as the hirsute red-head muscled past Devin and the driver to throw a duffle on his claimed property. Devin began to shiver as the rest of the band arrived; he barely heard their greetings as they surrounded him with handshakes and back-slaps. All the while, he thought of Vincent flat as a flounder under the bed. “Yeah, Chili, since they’re coming to see me why don’t I take the back room?” The group grunted their pros and cons, “You sneakin’ a bird to Cleveland?” one man pressed. They winked as if that would justify Devin occupying the private room. The driver sat down to do the inspection checklist and Devin was pulled into the gang to load the cases of equipment below decks.
Vincent lay under the plywood frame, deciphering the band member’s different accents; he crossed his clawed fingers that Devin could get him out from under the double bed before the chauffeur threw the vehicle into drive. Then Vincent felt the motorhome lurch into gear and loud music blasted from the other side of the bedroom door. He heard a fairly British accent cry out, "Being back with you blokes, on the road to Cleveland, it’s the dog's bollocks.” Vincent’s heart lurched as he felt the vehicle gain speed and swing into traffic. In his present situation all Vincent could conjure was a good English swear-word, “Bugger…Bugger…bugger.”
The sight of the island receding tugged at Catherine’s heart as all her concerns bubbled into the pit of her stomach. Yes, she had to get back to work tomorrow because it meant one day closer to New York; by this time next week, she was going to be in New York City, hopefully under New York City.
Brightly at eight-seventeen, ‘Fiona’ took her standard parking space at the brewery offices and flew to her office overlooking W 26th Street. Each person she encountered seemed to throw out a road block. “Fiona, you missed the announcement Friday night!” her head spun at the use of her assumed name and her brows knit. She pushed on to the elevator and pressed the button for her floor. “Hey, can you imagine parties next week?” she heard from the IT tech. “We’re all getting passes – you should see the bands playing!” The mail clerk nervously shuffled packets on the tray. ‘Fiona’ held her tongue; her internal mantra was ‘next week wasn’t going to be spent in Cleveland’! As she threw open her office door, it reminded her of her years working with Joe, her desk was covered with files, the three lights on her phone already blinking.
Her administrative aide put a stack of pink “while you were out notes’ in ‘Fiona’s’ hand and sighed, “Ms. Charles, Don needs you–big meeting in five!”
Feigning a lack of emotion she inquired, “About?” Of course it was going to be about Hall of Fame, she envisioned her plans for New York City going down in flames.
The aide inserted her extreme facial expression in place of any sarcasm, “We’re hosting HAPHAZARD! We’ll be working around the clock from now till the 26th.” ‘Fiona’ shared the frantic expression and nodded desperately.
Devin paled as the motor home pulled into traffic, what diversion could he pull? The tractor trailer was in front, barreling up to speed, could he convince them to turn back?
“Hey, Guys, I didn’t get my fiddle, its back in the warehouse, you pulled out too soon.” His voice belied his fear. Just then Johnny Dee held up the case. “This rotten thing?” Devin’s heart sank.
“Guys, my family had me up all night, I’m going to catch some zz’s.” He turned toward his small bedroom at the back. Slowly opening the door, he flipped on the clock radio next to the bed before he raised the mattress.
The Proclaimers were wailing something about five hundred miles over Devin’s whisper. “Fuzz, you ok?” Devin raised the bed to find Vincent gone. Great, he got out in time. Devin whipped at nervous sweat and fell back on the bed, put a forearm over his eyes and cussed a blue streak. He suddenly felt that someone was in the room; damn, Vincent could really project an aura, couldn’t he? Devin let out a relieved chuckle and moved his arm to blot at his eyes with both hands. There over him, looming with a supremely irritated expression on his face was Vincent, all six feet, four inches of him, fists at his hips.
“What is it Devin; am I going to be the one walking five hundred miles to get back home?” His blue eyes flared as he walked over to the door and shoved Devin’s luggage to block its opening. Cautiously Vincent wound the blinds to close as he watched NY moving out of his grasp.
“Hey, we can get a hold of Peter, he’ll meet us at a rest stop or something, and it’s not drastic. Where the hell were you, you weren’t under the bed?” Devin tried to ramp up his anger to Vincent’s level.
“I was in the closet, I don’t mind close quarters, but I was overdressed for the heat.” Vincent stood, balancing his stance as the motor home rolled over pot holes.
Devin winced; he had screwed up big time, “At least Pops won’t miss you for a couple of days.” He untied his ponytail and ruffled out his shoulder length hair.
Vincent leaned in to Devin’s words, and when the back end swung wide, fell onto the bed next to Devin. “WHAT?” Vincent’s quiet roar of a whisper rang through Devin.
“I told him you might take off for parts unknown, you know, below because of the date.” Devin moved as far from Vincent as the room allowed. “Calm down!” These were the wrong words for Vincent.
“Of all the lame-brained, imbecilic stunts, Devin, this one tops them all. How in Hell are you going to get Peter? How are you going to convince them,” he pointed a clawed finger to the front of the motorhome, “to stop; perhaps you can convince them you haven’t lost your mind!”
“We can radio that helper that does the CB radio, he can relay the message.” Devin’s face shown with hope.
“If Peter hadn’t flown west to visit his daughter three days ago. Jamie is watering his plants; he’s not back for a week or so.” Now Vincent’s resolve was crumbling, he rested his face in his hands.
“Hey, I’ll keep you under wraps; it’s what, an eight hour drive or so? We’ll be in Cleveland, and they’ll be out of the bus; you’ll be safe. I’ll get a message to Pops, and he can stew in his own juices until we get you back.” Vincent was silent at Devin’s suggestions; had he accepted the trip for what it could be…a grand adventure? Devin slowly extended his arm to hug his ‘little brother’. Once close together, their backs to the door Vincent regarded him sideways and whispered, “You cram these words into mine ears against the stomach of my sense” .
TO BE CONTINUED IN THE 2013 CONZINE
Will Vincent make it to Cleveland without throttling Devin?
Will Joe go to Cleveland?
Will Catherine leave for NYC before 'Fiona' meets 'Dervish' and his secret guest?
 Wm. Shakespeare.
If you would like to leave some feedback, you may email me at tabphb-at-msn-dot-com