Classic Round Robin
afternoon flowed seamlessly into night and then into the wee hours of
the new day. Locked within the confines of concrete and glass,
neither moonshine nor starshine intruded on the lawyers of the
District Attorney’s Office as they toiled together, consuming
gallons of coffee along with legal precedents and the minutiae of the
case. Slowly but inexorably, progress was made on the Brewster
case…at least, enough progress to satisfy Joe that The Powers That
Be would be satisfied in turn.
looked around at the haggard faces of his staff, dedicated
professionals he was so proud to work beside. The city’s best…their
bosses didn’t deserve them. Stretching mightily in his chair, he
let out a loud yawn and declared, “We’re done here, people.”
argued with him. Rita snapped the cap onto her pen with finality and
pushed herself away from the conference table. “I have to be back
here in…” she checked her watch, “five hours. At least I can
get home, catch a shower and feed the cat.”
rose and rubbed the stiffness from her lower back. “Terry,
Michelle, why don’t we share a cab, and I’ll drop you off on my
way home?” She was too tired to drive in Manhattan traffic.
Besides, by taking a cab, she could ensure the two interns would get
home safely; the subways were iffy places to be in the pre-dawn
hours. They would, of course, offer, and she would refuse their
money to pay the fare; interns made a pittance, and it was a small
reward for putting in the same hours as the rest of the staff, who
were paid a slightly larger pittance by the city.
had the sense to look chagrinned. “I didn’t realize it had gotten
so late…er…early.” He had worked his attorneys nearly 18 hours
straight, and the reality of what he’d asked of them suddenly hit
him squarely in the conscience. “I don’t expect to see any of you
back here until ten. I know it’s not much time, but at least you
can catch a catnap or something.” Tired nods of gratitude greeted
his offer. He hesitated a moment before sheepishly adding, “I don’t
tell you often enough…but you all are aces.”
tell us!” Richard quipped, shrugging into his suit jacket.
yeah, stop complaining,” Joe ribbed him. “You get paid handsomely
for your efforts!”
groans that followed that statement echoed in the empty hallway as
Rita opened the door and everyone filed out, hastening for their
coats before gathering at the elevator bay, the promise of a few
hours in a warm bed filling them all with anticipation.
lagged behind after asking Terry and Michelle to go on ahead and hail
a cab for the three of them. “Joe,” she murmured, surprising her
boss, whose back was turned as he gathered the scattered files into a
glanced behind him, amazed anyone was still in the room; the general
exodus had been remarkably quick, and guiltily he imagined they were
afraid that if they didn’t leave promptly, he might change his mind
and call them all back in. “No brownie points for staying after
class, Radcliffe,” he joked tiredly. “Whaddaya need?”
we’re caught up enough on Brewster…I’d like to spend some more
time on those cold cases with Helen Hunter. We…worked well
together. We might make some progress if….” She hoped the request
sounded plausible. Truthfully, there was little more she could do to
help the dark-haired woman from her dream, and her reasons for
wanting to see Helen again had nothing to do with the cold cases. But
she was counting on Joe’s feelings of guilt and she struck gold.
sure. But just tomorrow…or, well, I guess I mean today, OK, kiddo?
We can’t let Brewster slide just when we’ve got a good head of
steam built up.” He picked up the pile of files and Catherine held
the door open for him as he carried them out of the conference room.
quick catnap was all Catherine had gotten. She was too wired up to
rest for long, now that she had this opportunity to really talk with
Helen. Surely if they put their heads together, they could discover
the reason why they had been haunted by the strange dream they had
rose from her fitful sleep to take a bracing shower and change into
heavy, comfortable clothes. She wouldn’t be going from her warm
apartment to her warm car to her warm office today. Since her car was
still in the office parking garage, it was the subway for her. She
hoped by leaving this early, she might catch Helen before she left
the wintry mix of sleet and snow falling in the city, Catherine
trudged through the accumulation and descended the stairs of the
closest subway station. Once there, she couldn’t help but steal a
surreptitious glance at the tops of the cars as the train rolled in.
if Vincent would be
“riding” the train at this time of day,
she chided herself, then mentally shrugged. Well,
it never hurts to check.
had pulled a book off the shelf at random on her way out of her
apartment – entertainment for her long subway ride to the Bronx.
into a seat,
glanced at the worn leather cover for the first time and noted it was
a volume of poetry that Vincent had once read to her. She smiled at
the memory of those blissful hours sitting beside him on her balcony,
wrapped in his cloak, his arm warmly around her waist, letting that
rough silk voice wash over her. Heaven! She let the book fall open
where it would, and found that it had opened to a poem by Lord Byron.
She shivered involuntarily at the title: “The Dream.” Portends
were popping up all around her; it was getting more than
disconcerting. Shoving aside that distracting thought, she began to
the train pulled into the station, she neared the end of the poem:
him the book of Night was opened wide,
voices from the deep abyss revealed
marvel and a secret. – Be it so.
her very own marvel
from the deep
recesses of her city, Catherine exited the subway and made her way up
to street level.
parrot’s squawk alerted Helen moments before she heard a knock on
her door. She awoke with a start, feeling dazed. The sunlight
slanting through the little window behind her warmed her back.
Apparently she was more tired than she’d thought, if she had slept
slumped over on the table all night. She checked the clock on the
kitchen counter and frowned. It was a little too early for a casual
from her uncomfortable position, Helen reached up and stretched her
arms overhead, hands clasped. She felt the pop and crackle of
protesting kinks in her back. “Hold on,” she muttered sleepily at
her unknown visitor, and she rose and ambled to the door, stretching
from side to side, a wide yawn stretching her jaw.
quick glance through the eyehole revealed Catherine’s anxious face.
Immediately Helen snapped into full wakefulness, rapidly unlocking
her deadbolt and unlatching the chain, tugging the door open.
early, I know,” Catherine began in apology.
it’s fine. I was hoping to see you again soon. Come in.” Helen
led the way into the tiny space, indicating a chair at her small
table for Catherine to sit in. Neither of them spoke while Helen
busied herself in the kitchen making tea, then rummaged in the
refrigerator. She came out with a container of yogurt, which she
offered to Catherine, who said, “Just tea would be lovely.”
at the table with her breakfast, Helen ate a spoonful of yogurt, then
said, “We didn’t get very far the other day.”
sorry,” Catherine replied. “We’re working on a huge case, and
my boss is a little on the anal side!”
problem. I’m a little anal myself!” Helen grinned. “That’s
one of the reasons this dream has been bothering me so much…I like
things to fit neatly, but I can’t begin to figure it out.”
not sure how much credence you’ll give it,” Catherine began,
leaning forward on her elbows, “but I looked it up in a book on the
interpretation of dreams, and it’s not as dire as you might
imagine. The…violence - it has a benign meaning. Dreaming about
your death means that something in your life is about to change. It’s
about transitions. That’s not so bad, is it?”
shook her head, blue eyes wide in amazement. “Honestly? That’s
all it means?”
added, “And since we dreamed of each other, perhaps it also means
that we’re meant to help each other through some changes in our
then Paris let out a squawk, flew from his perch, and landed on the
table between the women. Startled, Catherine fell backward, nearly
upsetting her chair, spilling her tea in the process. They both
gawked as the parrot strutted between them.
marvel and a secret...be it so....
marvel and a secret...be it so....
a hushed whisper, Catherine gasped, “No! It can’t be!”
Helen asked, confused.
was just reading that on the subway this morning…it’s from Byron,
chill crept up Helen’s spine. “Yes.”
you been experiencing a lot of…coincidences lately?” Catherine
asked the ashen-faced owner of the strangely psychic bird.
Catherine nodded in return. “We need to figure out what it is the
universe is trying to tell us.”
going to call my office, tell them I’m taking some personal time,”
Helen suggested. “Then…perhaps we should start at the beginning?
Tell each other our life stories? We may see some confluence, or a
pattern...or…I don’t know….” She shook her head, completely
as good a place as any to begin,” Catherine agreed. “Go ahead.
Make your call.”
paced the passageway leading to Catherine’s basement, feeling the
confinement of the space acutely. He’d been anxious to speak with
her since his enlightening discussion with Narcissa. But she’d
arrived home in the early hours of the morning much too exhausted for
any serious conversation, and he’d resolved not to burden her with
his information at the time. Now he wished he had at least left her a
note, for she had not gone to her office later as he’d supposed she
would. David Mendez had experienced an awkward moment when he’d
arrived at Catherine’s desk with the breakfast “she’d ordered,”
only to be told she wasn’t expected at work all day; thus,
Vincent’s message to meet him as soon as possible had gone
undelivered. He had even tried to utilize their on-again off-again
ability to read each other’s thoughts to ask her to come Below…but
it appeared to be in the off-again stage.
he muffled a growl and continued to pace.
off the subway train near her apartment building, Catherine let her
thoughts center on Vincent. “Can
you meet me below my threshold soon?”
response was immediate. “I’m
spilled into the sub-basement as Catherine flung open the door
between their worlds. Almost before she could begin to descend the
metal rungs, she was lifted bodily and deposited upon her feet,
within the circumference of Vincent’s arms. They clung to each
other, pressed close, Vincent’s hands splayed across Catherine’s
back, molding her to himself, her arms thrown around his neck, urging
his head down to her shoulder so that she could press a fervent kiss
against his furred cheek.
words sprang unbidden to her mind: A
marvel and a secret – Be it so.
Yes. He was both to her, both…and so much more.
was with Helen…” she began, as his raspy whisper uttered the
words, “Narcissa has told me….” They stopped speaking at the
same time and pulled back to gaze at each other. Again they spoke in
took in Vincent’s frazzled state and said, “You first.”
her hand, he led her some distance from the threshold where they
could converse without the possibility of anyone overhearing them.
Long ago someone had carved out a shallow indentation in the rock
wall to make a rough bench, and this was where they sat to talk.
she prompted him.
sought her out in desperation, hoping she might shed some light on
your troublesome dreams. You know Narcissa…she usually speaks in
riddles. But not this time. This time….” Vincent sighed and shook
his head. “When I told her what little we knew of Helen…Narcissa
reminded me of long ago, when I was a child. For a brief period a
young woman named Zurie lived Below. Zurie had a blue-eyed,
dark-haired daughter. A daughter named Helen. And Zurie left the
Tunnels with two companions – her daughter…and a parrot named
Paris. Catherine…it must be the same Helen of your dreams who spent
time Below; and if that’s true, her story is connected with mine.”
a pebble dropped into a pool, the knowledge generated ripples of
understanding in Catherine’s mind; like a light thrust into a dark
corner, it clarified shadows, illuminating seemingly random
information within a startling new context. Catherine fastened on the
one strong memory Helen possessed about her mother: She
is carrying me, holding me on her hip, and we are moving from a cool,
dark place into bright sun and trees.
From the Tunnels into the Park? It made perfect sense now. That
memory was so fixed in Helen’s mind, so important, because the
had somehow been held tightly in her heart all these years –
unexamined, but powerful nonetheless. Powerful because…what had
Vincent just said? Her
story is connected with mine.
But a baffling question occurred to her. “Father…Mary…the
others who were adults back then…why didn’t they mention this
when the background we’d gathered about Helen first surfaced? We
even knew her parrot’s name – a singular enough piece of
information to jog someone’s memory, don’t you think?”
puzzling,” he agreed. “Even Father had forgotten about Zurie and
Helen, which seems odd, considering he never forgets the names and
faces of those who have taken refuge with us, even for brief
periods.” Vincent shook his head, aware that the coincidence was
too great not to be a fact. “Odder still, as Narcissa spoke to me
of Helen, it all came back to me in a rush, as if a veil had been
lifted from my memories.” Vincent’s gaze grew so intense,
Catherine found herself holding her breath. “Helen was…my first
felt the sudden tension within their bond as almost a physical blow.
Catherine’s hand beneath his hardened into a fist and grew rigid.
are recalling the…other dream. The one in which Helen took me from
you at Winterfest.” He stated it as a fact, not a question.
“Catherine…it was a child’s bond, a perfect kinship between
young souls, deep…but only a friendship.”
a friendship then,”
she suggested, adding emphasis to the last word. “Because you were
so young. What more could it have been…then?
But if you were to meet her again now….”
She left the rest of her thought unexpressed, but the worried frown
she wore only hinted at the depth of her discomfort at the idea.
Resolutely, she put her concerns aside to add something new to their
ruminations. “Helen does volunteer work with the Little Sisters of
the Poor. She must have been with them when they got their unexpected
windfall of good fortune.”
chest,” Vincent murmured, making connections now himself. “And
perhaps the strange manner in which it came to them triggered
something in her subconscious that made her begin to tap, however
dimly, into submerged memories of her life in the Tunnels, her time
with us…even if in her waking state she still has no such
nodded. “Yes. But why would she associate any of that with me?
Unless…well, she’s a good investigator. Perhaps in reviewing cold
cases – not the ones she discussed with me, other ones that you and
involved in – without consciously realizing it, she has recognized
a link. And because you and she had a rudimentary form of bond…and
you and I have such a strong one now…well, perhaps somehow we
shared the dream through
that connection.” Rising, she began to pace. “It’s all too
confusing, too filled with what-ifs!”
the swirl of possibilities, the next course of action became obvious
to her. Taking a deep breath, she expressed it. “Vincent, I must
bring her here, to where her story began. I know she can be trusted
with your secret, and I believe it’s vital to discovering what lies
beneath this strange connection she and I…and you…share.”
dream…Helen here in the Tunnels at Winterfest….”
Gulping back a sudden lump in her throat, Catherine added, “Even if
it means…if she’s meant to be with you….”
no! No matter what else your dream may signify, it does not mean
He stood and took her by the shoulders, stilling her, then pulled her
gently toward himself as he whispered fiercely, “Remember, always,
that I love you.”
down into her troubled eyes, he recited the words which had thrilled
her to her core when he’d first shared them with her…had it only
been a few days before? “You
feel like home.”
you!” she whispered in return, burying her face against the rough
wool of his vest. His arms enveloped her and she clung tightly to his
solid presence, so reassuring and real amid the myriad phantom images
assaulting her mind – arms holding torches and doors closing and
knives at throats…. She attempted to banish the ghostly aura of her
nightmares, but try as she might, a niggling doubt still crept into
her heart, cawing with a sound very like a parrot’s: something
is about to
about to change…something is about to change….
in the night, as the world Below lay sleeping, a low voice murmured
in the darkness of an unlit guest chamber, its eerie sing-song
chanting accompanied by burning herbs. Hushed sounds followed – the
clacking of tiny bones against shells, the tinkling of small bells,
the swishing of water being poured into a bowl. The voice chuckled
softly to itself, the woman who owned it sightless but all seeing. If
anyone had been awake nearby, they would have heard a jumble of words
spoken in her Caribbean-accented English, chief among them the names
of two people for whom a spell of dreams was being cast. It was not
the first such spell the strange old woman had cast…nor was she
casting it on her own behalf, for part of her incantation included
the name of a spirit with whom she often consulted, and which had
requested this boon of her – the spirit of a long-departed Healer