Classic Round Robin
hold the phone, Radcliffe!” Joe pulled his feet from his desk and shot
out of his chair, covering the space between his desk and the door in
two bounding leaps. “I thought you’d never get out of there. I got a
call from upstairs. Meeting in twenty minutes—everybody and everything
on Brewster, in the conference room. The big guys are getting all hot
and bothered on this one. We gotta make some major progress, and we’ve
gotta make it tonight.” Raking his fingers through his hair, Joe shook
his head and half-growled. “Don’t make that face at me, Cathy. I had
somewhere I wanted to be tonight too; and I can promise you, it didn’t
involve a cold olive loaf sandwich in wax paper.”
never uttered a word aloud, just sighed and shrugged her shoulders and
turned back to her workspace. She flung her coat across her desk in a
fit of pique, but there was no hope for it. She was jittery with
annoyance. She had to talk to Vincent! This nightmare had been
frightening enough, odd enough, but now...this new...information.
The dream...shared. Shared with a stranger. Knives, deserted garages, evil
looming from the shadowy back seat.... NO!
Not evil. The dream isn’t literal! Change. Monumental change, a new
beginning, surely! But how did this woman figure into her
life? She pushed away the thought of the second dream, the Winterfest
waltz and Vincent...with another woman in his arms. She sagged into her
chair, spun to the window. The mystery of it threatened to unnerve her.
She had to keep a grip on reality.
gathered her files and fresh pencils and legal pads and was first to
the conference room. Checking her watch, she nodded. She’d have time.
“Rita!” she called, as she passed her coworker’s desk. “I’m running
downstairs for a fountain Coke. I need caffeine and I need shaved ice.
Be right back!” She raced down the hallway, punched the elevator
buttons once, twice with impatience. The third time it hurt.
cafe, she went straight out the front door. Thank
David Mendez was still on guard, this time at the corner. He was seated
and kept a bright, staccato rhythm on a five-gallon bucket drum, an
insistent complement to Zeke’s seductive saxophone. Lazily fingering
the keys, Zeke smiled at his growing, after work audience. “Giant Steps, pretty lady,” he crooned as
Catherine approached, then broke into the John Coltrane classic.
steps...or even baby steps, thrilling, wondrous steps....
memory of their time at the falls the night before.... She shook
herself. Watch it, Chandler. Keep your eye on
the prize, but on the balls too. Lots of them in the air right now.
She tossed a twenty and a handwritten note into the case open on the
sidewalk. David took it up immediately, saluted her with a drumstick
and melted into the late afternoon crowd.
need to call security, tell them my car will be parked overnight. Why
did I drive in the first place? She
knew why. It was akin to remounting the horse after a pitch into the
dirt. She was compelled to face her fears. Tonight, it would be late,
very late, before she would be leaving. She would take a cab home.
Vincent would not need to wait in the garage for her. The way Joe was
talking, she might have to send out for more than supper. She might
need a toothbrush and a sleeping bag.
fine, Vincent. But
you won’t believe what I have to tell you. She paused,
listening hard. Disappointed, she hurried back inside. He would have to
read her note instead.
you drink your
soda already?” Rita asked. The two women fell into step in the hallway.
of ice,” Catherine said, thinking fast, veering toward the break room.
“I guess I’ll have coffee after all.” Tapping her foot, waiting for the
last cup to perk through the strainer, she found she was strangely less
worried than she had been in the morning, though the added quirk of the
mutual dream stymied her. It seemed...impossible, beyond
coincidence. Lost in thought, she spilled her coffee. There were no
napkins on the counter, and she turned, looking for more. That’s when
she saw it—one of those quotation-a-day calendars on the desk by the
phone. The entry for this day read:
stronger your will, the clearer and more defined your goals will be and
the greater the ‘coincidences' that will appear in front of you,
helping you get where you wish - Heaven or hell. You decide
Alfredo Karras, ‘BE’
Well, she said to
herself. Look at that.
stopped at the market, remembering there was little in the cupboards
that would combine into anything edible. Listless, she examined the
cold pasta salads in the deli case. She wanted something hot, hot and
spicy to stir her blood. The cold was already getting to her and winter
was just beginning. If only they sold her grandmother’s crawfish
etouffee or her andouille jambalaya. Somewhere in New York, it was
available, but not on her street and not at this store. Pointing at a
random salad, she held up one finger, resigned to her culinary fate.
She had no energy to create a fine dinner for just herself.
even in the dead of winter, there were masses of flowers for sale. She
stopped, stunned, in front of a display—long spikes of glads, blood
red, almost black. Shuddering she recalled her dream. Night after night
in a sleepless row now, the blood ran as red, as black as these
flowers. Look. A voice sounded in
her mind. Look. They
are a beautiful color, a warm color, a color to melt the snow and ice.
She touched the blooms with the barest brush of her fingers, then dug
her wallet from her gym bag. Yep, Hunter. You
need a little heat in your life. At least buy yourself some flowers.
says strength of character.
You should have some of these too,” the clerk said, already gathering a
few tall stems from the bucket. He was a wizened man and no taller than
she. “Fuji mums. White for truth.”
He stood eye-to-eye with her, holding out the wrapped bouquet.
a moment, Helen
considered dropping her purchases, her bag...everything...to
run screaming into the street. Instead, she paid with a mumbled ‘thank
you’ and began the trudge home. Meanings...meanings....
Everything had a...meaning! This dream shared with Catherine Chandler?
How? Why? Was it one of the cases? What
had Catherine suggested—that it was something...personal?
She’d felt oddly comforted by her meeting with the woman. Catherine
Chandler was a focused, hardworking, intuitive woman…kind,
compassionate, dedicated. It was strange. None of the fear remained,
but all the puzzlement spiraled and tightened in Helen’s chest. Funny, it still feels like fear.
only she weren’t so alone. She could barely remember her mother and
clung to one, unfaded memory—being held on her mother’s hip, moving
from a cool, dark place into bright sun and trees. But her
grandmother’s passing.... That stung with a sharp, blossoming pain
whenever Helen gave in to the press of her loss. She missed the easy
explanation of misgivings, missed the gentle, stroking hand that could
soothe her hurts, that would gently point—and shove—her in the right
direction. They hadn’t been the last words she’d spoken, but nearly so.
Go back to New York, Ma-Mére
had said, with Helen’s hand in her hot, dry grasp. Be
strong. Look deep.
She’d done as she’d been instructed. She’d been in the city four years
now. Volunteering, mentoring, working to do good... She wasn’t sure
what she was looking for, but she knew she hadn’t found it. And what
had Ma-Mére meant, go back?
York winters. She missed the heavy southern sun, pecans from the trees,
the graceful, draping Spanish moss. The scent of her moss-stuffed
pillow rushed at her across time and she stifled a sob. The iron
railings around her apartment building, on the windows, of the fire
escapes, bore no resemblance to the fancy filigreed ornamentation of
her childhood home. There was no balcony here where she might sit and
dream as she did as a girl. Grappling with her key and the reluctant
lock, juggling her bag, the groceries and the clutch of flowers, she
managed to open the door. One flight up, up a dark, narrow, stale-aired
stair, she repeated her actions. Finally...home.
marvel and a secret...be it so....
marvel and a secret...be it so....
I’m home now.” So it’s Byron tonight, is it
Paris? And a quote from ‘The Dream’ no less. The words seem
to float, to shimmer, in the air.
marvel and a secret...be it so...
kiss, perch up baaaaaby...perch up....
kiss, back. How’s my boy
Hungry?” Helen filled the tray with pellets and opened the cage door.
She took a container of treats from the refrigerator. Before she could
pry off the lid, the parrot, a brilliant blue and gold macaw, had flown
to his favored roost—the back of the lone chair in the kitchen, the
chair pulled close to a small round table beneath a small, barred
up baaaaaby...kiss, kiss....
bird lifted his foot and waved it at her—his private summons. Moving
close, she put out her arm, and full of chattering commentary, he
walked up to sit at her shoulder. He combed through strands of her hair
with his beak and nuzzled her cheek.
and you...perch up...
laughed. “I’m perched, Paris. See?” She pulled out the chair, sat down
and closed her eyes, rolled her shoulders, giving him a ride. So tired....
She folded her arms and lay her head down. The parrot hopped off to
stand watch, strutting around the tabletop, eyeing the room. Her
champion. Me and you, baaaaby. kiss, kiss...
was already restless, and reading Catherine’s message only intensified
that agitation. Wondering, hoping... He cast his thoughts toward her
being. Catherine? I feel your...
What was it he felt from her? Searching, pondering, weighing the
meanings, he could only choose one word—dither.
There was excitement and tumult and trepidation. Catherine,
can you tell me?
He could feel her heartbeat. He knew where to find her, but there was
no answering voice within his mind. Pacing his room, he grew anxious
for the time to pass.
only wish was to bring her Below, to stand legs spread, arms folded,
before any and all threats, to safeguard her. She would not be ruled by
fear, and yet fears clouded his own mind. He could not lose her, not
now. Now, when the dam was breaking loose, when the way was washing
love you. He’d
said it aloud. It was no surprise to her; she’d read his heart, knew
him, yet it thrilled her to hear the words. These last distances
between them... He wanted to leap ahead as if in seven-league boots but
he knew he must...wait.
love you. His thoughts drifted
back to the night before at the falls. Her heart was his echo. Forgive me for taking so long. But there
was no blame in her. This night, I cannot
doubt. Their way was still new and uncharted, but a radiance
bathed it, and it wound toward tomorrow, a ribbon of golden light.
Awesome, essential change. This dream of Catherine’s... The woman...
was he involved? Was he involved? Too overwrought to have supper, too
restless to read, he donned his cloak. Narcissa.
Narcissa might understand.
Father’s chamber, Vincent debated a visit. Unwilling to be drawn into
conversation, eager to make the trek to Narcissa’s haunts, he quickened
his pace and wished for invisibility.
voice rang out, turning him.
I’m just on my way to Narcissa. There’s something I must discuss with
her. And I want to convince her this year’s Winterfest cannot help but
be a better one for her. She must come. I intend to persuade her.”
certainly a noble idea, but an unnecessary one. I’ve just had word.
She’s on her way up now. The sentry heard her singing on the stone
circle.” Father peered up at him. “Are you all right? Is it Catherine?”
Little else would prompt such a stubborn, intent demeanor.
a long story, Father. After I speak with Narcissa, and if I have time
before Catherine arrives home, I’ll return.” Vincent whirled from the
doorway, leaving Father to take his tea alone.
supposed it was singing, but it was an eerie sound: repetitive,
warbling, more conversation than song and interspersed with seesawing,
harmonic sounds. At the top of the steps, he called out to her.
frightened. It’s Vincent.”
shrank back against the stones, mock terror on her face. “That is what
the evil one say to me, child. How do I know it is you?” She laughed at
his consternation and continued her struggle with the last of the
stairs. “I know you, Vincent. Heh heh.
Something about you. Heh heh heh.
Fills these old eyes with light.”
It is good to see you. We’ll not let you go now, not until after
Winterfest.” Vincent, descending to meet her, took her arm, steadying
her, leading her. “I need to talk to you. I was coming to you when
Father told me of your approach.”
can you need
from me, a crazy old woman? Hmmmmm?”
interpretation...of a dream. Catherine’s dream, a terrifying dream.
More than that. She’s met the woman, the woman from the nightmare, in
person, at her workplace Above. I’ve had a message from her tonight.
The woman has had the same dream herself—with Catherine in it!”
everything you know.”
made the final step and began their slow journey down the corridor. “We
know very little, Narcissa. We’ve put word out to our helpers, but
their information is the same as Catherine’s. The woman is with the
police, a lieutenant. She has a reputation for hard and fair work.
She’s received honors from her peers, in the community. Active in
charity work.” Vincent paused, searching for more. “She has a parrot.”
brightened at the mention of the bird. “I once knew a woman with a
parrot. Heh heh. Long ago. Parrots
live many years, Vincent. They see and hear many things. Heh,
heh, heh. This woman, you remember her, hmmmmm?
But you were only a boy and she was here such a short time. A tiny
thing, she was. Frail. Hair as black as a crow’s wing. Zurie.
Yessss, her name was Zurie.
And her little one, a girl child... The bird...he watched over that
baby. Heh heh. Like a hawk, he did.”
his stride to Narcissa’s determined but halting step, Vincent willed
himself to an impatient silence. Narcissa mumbled to herself, chortled
and sang, lost in some veiled world that only she could map and travel.
Suddenly, she stopped and plucked at Vincent’s arm.
dream is proof, Vincent...
The spirit can act without the flesh. But things are never as they
seem. Shadows can be cast by the sun. This dream... Your Catherine’s
dream... Tell me.”