Classic Round Robin

~ Music of the Soul ~

Chapter 1
by Tunnel Dweller 1

 

Catherine woke up in a good mood, Vincent having stayed late the previous night. They had sat on the pillows and blankets in their little corner next to the wall of her balcony and shared cookies and hot chocolate as well as stories, teasing remarks, laughter…their bodies leaned against one another and their hands twined together between eating the sweets and sipping their warm drinks. Nothing had felt uncomfortable during their evening…it was light and fun, and absent of any of the angst of difficult cases or danger or difficulty between them; it was very much like a normal stay-at-home sort of date night.

Before Vincent left, the couple had spent a few minutes standing wrapped in one another’s arms, gazing out at the lights of the jagged New York skyline. Finally forcing himself to pull away from her, he insisted on leaving, telling Catherine that she needed at least a little rest before she had to be at work. He very deliberately placed a soft kiss on her head and got a tighter squeeze around his middle in response just before he reluctantly left for home.

She smiled often as she took her shower, thinking how nice it would be to be close to him every day and wondering if he was thinking of their night together as he prepared for his own morning. Catherine was nearly certain he was smiling, too.

That thought warmed her as she stopped at a coffee shop near the DA’s office and picked up a coffee to jump-start her workday.

“You look like … Did you have a hot date last night, Radcliffe?” Joe asked almost accusingly. “You don’t usually come in looking quite so content.”

“I did have a date last night … not hot, although he is … just a really nice evening. Quiet. Fun. You know? That feeling you sometimes get to experience when your job lets you have a life,” she answered pointedly.

With no evidence of remorse at all, Joe threw back at her, “Well, it’s good you had some fun last night ‘cause we’ve been blessed with a new headache this morning.” He then handed her the file for a case they had left the day before feeling certain would be a slam dunk.

“What happened since yesterday? I thought this one was solid.”

“So did everybody else. In spite of his constant protests that he was only a witness, all the evidence seemed to point to this John Mark Paulson. Well, apparently he wasn’t the only witness. There was another guy passing the alley that night, a Robert Morgan. He saw Paulson rush into the alley and lean over the victim to see if he was alive. He also saw another man racing out of the alley like a bat out of Hades and slowing down about half a block away, and he followed ‘the bat’ to the subway to see where he was going. Once they got to the platform, though, the guy didn’t wait for a train. He wandered off away from the main crowd. Our second witness figured he was going toward the maintenance area. That was when ‘the bat’ started checking around him like he was making sure nobody was watching. That was also when our second witness decided he might be in over his head and went back to take the subway home…decided to forget the whole thing. Paulson had seen the same man leave.”

“And how do we know all this?”

“Morgan had an attack of conscience this morning when he saw on the news that Paulson had been arrested for the killing. He works near the alley and stopped an officer on the street to find the right precinct, then went in and told them what happened.”

“Well, that would explain why Paulson had the victim’s blood on him, why his keys were found on the ground in the victim’s blood, and what he was doing on his hands and knees leaning over a murder victim in the back of an alley when the police found him. So where do we go from here? Are there any other leads?”

“We got a vague description, but it was just after dark and the guy was moving pretty fast. This new witness, Morgan, got a little better look, but it was mostly through the crowd, and he never saw his face. He was dressed in black, wearing a black hat. Morgan said he was looking down a lot, and he was pretty sure what hair he could see under the edge of the hat was gray.”

There was a cold feeling in the pit of Catherine’s stomach. “Was there anything more to the description?”

“He was about five foot eight or ten and stocky.”

She released the breath she had been holding as she repeated a mental mantra: It isn’t Paracelsus. It can’t be Paracelsus. Then, hearing the height and weight description, she began to relax again. “No idea where he went?” she asked as nonchalantly as she could manage.

“Nope. Morgan said he looked back while he walked toward the platform, it was like the guy disappeared. So we’re almost back at square one. I sure liked it better when it looked like we had our guy.”

“Yeah, but we don’t want to hang the good Samaritan,” Catherine reminded him.

Joe nodded as he moved the conversation on. “Anyway, see if you can coordinate with the precinct on this. Might try some of those mysterious contacts of yours, too. See if they know anything.”

“They’re not mysterious, Joe. They just like to lay low…stay out of the spotlight. I try to respect that.”

“Morgan’s number is in there,” he said, indicating the file. “It’s Greg Hughes’s precinct, so you should get plenty of cooperation. See what else they have, talk to Greg, talk to Morgan, see what you can find out.”

“You didn’t even let me put my purse down first,” she admonished as she put her bag and coffee on her desk. “You can be a real mood killer, you know that?”

“What can I say,” Joe answered before turning toward his office with an unrepentant grin. “It’s a gift.”

Catherine took a long sip of her now cooling coffee and dialed Greg Hughes. By the end of the day, she had all the information that he did and had been in touch with the second witness. She had also verified that the paperwork to release Mr. Paulson as early as possible had been handled properly.

Mr. Morgan had agreed to meet her on his way home from work to walk with her to the subway station and show her where he had last seen the suspect. Catherine looked around the area he showed her; and as she had feared, it could easily have been someone who knew of at least the tunnels closest to the surface. She knew she would have to talk to Vincent that night.

***

When Vincent woke that morning, it was from a dream of holding Catherine close while she leaned against him and slept; and he woke with the same memories of the previous night that had left Catherine smiling through her pre-work preparations. He smiled to himself as he readied himself for his own day, reliving some the evening’s favorite moments in his mind.

Arriving at Father’s chamber, he himself was the recipient of a comment similar to the one Catherine received from Joe.

“Yes, Father, it was a very pleasant evening. There were no problems at hand, no issues to address. We enjoyed the cookies William sent, Catherine made hot cocoa to accompany them, we talked about a little bit of everything, laughed … generally relaxed into quiet, easy company.”

“And your bond? Is Catherine as feeling as lovesick as you are?”

Vincent huffed a little laugh at Father’s amused expression and answered smugly, “I believe she enjoyed our evening, too. She should be at work before long and seems much happier than usual in spite of that.”

“I sincerely hope that the rest of her day will go just as well, but I’m afraid ours will have a few frustrations and a lot of work.”

“May I at least enjoy my breakfast before you ruin my mood?” Vincent asked.

“I believe I can grant you that favor,” Father answered mischievously, rising from his desk chair. “Lead on, my boy.”

Before they had finished breakfast, several other men sat down with them to discuss the job ahead of them, and Father had been right. Vincent foresaw a very long day ahead of them.

A short time after that, he felt a similar feeling of thwarted joy in Catherine and assumed that her day could be looking as long and vexatious as his own.

With the plans the work crew discussed at breakfast and enough men to make the job at least somewhat easier than usual, the massive repair was stable enough by evening that they could afford to leave the rest for the next day. William provided them with a late dinner, and they were finally able to relax until early the following morning.

As they were leaving the dining hall, Vincent sensed Catherine coming closer to the tunnels and walked toward her threshold to meet her.

“Catherine, I could feel your concern. Is something wrong?”

“I can’t say that with certainty, but it’s possible.”

“Tell me.”

“There was a murder two nights ago. To make a long story short, our best suspect seemed to disappear from the maintenance area of a subway station. I was worried that he might know of at least the upper tunnels, and desperation often makes people willing to go to lesser-known places to hide…and to do unpredictable things. I thought I should let you know in case you would want to increase security around that area.”

“That would probably be wise. Which station? Do you have a picture or a description of the man?”

Catherine gave Vincent the particulars of the information she had at hand, along with the sketchy description that Mr. Morgan had given. “If something else comes in, I’ll let you know. Sorry I can’t give you more to work with.”

“How can I ask for more than everything you know?” he asked, holding out his arms to invite her close to him. Resting his head atop hers, he said, “I can sense the frustration this case is causing you. Do you have time to come Below for a while? We could have some chamomile tea and see if William has a few cookies left.”

“I think I should go back and get some rest. If it gets more frustrating tomorrow, I’ll need the strength to deal with it. But tea and cookies and your company sounds much better than sleep.”

Vincent was sure Catherine could feel his lips curve into a smile against the crown of her head, and he planted another obviously intentional kiss there before giving her a gentle squeeze and releasing her but still holding her hand.

“I’ll see you soon,” he told her, and he watched lovingly as she raised his hand to her lips for a gentle kiss.

“Sleep well, Vincent.”

He watched her climb back to her world and then turned back to return to his own.

***

“Anything new on ‘the bat’?” Catherine asked when she arrived at work the following morning.

“You won’t believe this …”

“Please tell me it isn’t more bad news.”

“It might be kind of fifty-fifty, but not all bad.”

“Okay. That’s better than yesterday. So what do we have?”

“Greg Hughes talked to the maintenance supervisor last night. He wasn’t working yesterday, so Greg went to his home last night. He said he had noticed supplies missing and reported it to his manager. It was starting to look like too much to be an inventory snafu, so he hid a camera in the storage area. He came in this morning with a picture that fits Morgan’s description … but this time we got his face. It’s a little dark and grainy, but Greg is going to get the camera guys to see if they can improve it. Meanwhile, what we’ve got is reasonably recognizable.”

“I’m guessing that was the good fifty. What’s the bad half?”

“It’s kind of the weird half. He sort disappeared again. He went in, looked around at things, but didn’t take anything … like he was checking things out and watching the door. Then he walked toward a corner that was out of camera range and never showed up again.”

“Do we have a copy of the picture?”

“Yeah. I copied one for you. See if you can work your magic, kiddo.”

At the end of the workday, Catherine tucked the picture into her purse and again went to see Vincent.

Helping her down from the ladder at her threshold, he murmured, “I was hoping to see you tonight, even if only briefly.”

She wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned against his chest, seeming to melt into his embrace. “I can’t stay long. I have to be in court tomorrow morning for the Farrell case, but I promised to bring any new information about the man in the subway…the murder case.”

“You have something new?”

“We have a picture. It was taken in the storage room in the maintenance area, and it isn’t a good one, but it should do,” Catherine answered, reaching in the pocket of her jacket to retrieve the item. “I made an extra copy so you would have one to show the others. If he’s involved in a murder, all of you should know to avoid him.”

When he took the picture from her and looked at it, Vincent’s eyes showed shock.

“Do you recognize him?” Catherine asked hopefully.

“Catherine, this man is one of our helpers.”

 

Return to the Classic Round Robin Index

WFOL logo, return to the Great Hall