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Classic Round Robin

Chapter 3

by Radcliffe




“I know what you’re thinking, Becca, but Father will never let us bring one of Catherine’s friends down here just to be her confidant.  You know that we have strict rules about who gets to know about these tunnels,” said Pascal with a firm but not unsympathetic gaze.


Rebecca looked away and shrugged, not convinced. “I just thought that maybe, since Catherine…has done so much.…”


“She has done a lot for us, and in a relatively short period of time.” Olivia put in.  “It seems like we could do something for her.”


“Agreed.” Pascal raised both hands, palms out, in a gesture of surrender as both women looked at him in defiance. “But you know it’s not that simple.  I’m just being realistic.”  When no one said anything, he went on.  “How do we know we can trust Catherine’s friend, Jenny?”


“Catherine trusts her.” Rebecca said with confidence.


“Yes, but now that I think about it,” Devin spoke up, “When I was working in the DA’s office, I met Jenny once or twice when she came by to take Catherine out to lunch.”  Being the only one of the group who had actually met one of Catherine’s friends, he had their undivided attention.  “Jenny seemed like a great person and all, but I remember her being very bubbly – could easily talk a mile a minute. And,” a wry smile crossed Devin’s lips, “as an old sea captain I used to know was fond of saying, ‘loose lips sink ships.’”


There was a grunt of agreement from Pascal’s corner of the room.


“Well, you know,” Rebecca said thoughtfully, “it doesn’t have to be Jenny.  Doesn’t Catherine have a least one other close college friend that we know about?”


“Yes,” said Olivia, “The one that lives in Westport – was it Nora…or Natalie?”


“It might have been Nancy.”


“Oh, well, that’s great.” said Devin, “You aren’t even sure of her name.  I may be a fraud, but I probably know more about Catherine’s life Above than any of you.”


“He’s right…and maybe we need to do something about that.”  They all looked up and saw Sarah standing in the doorway.


“Sarah!  Join the party.” said Devin, indicating the place on the bed that Catherine had just vacated.


Sarah entered and took the seat next to Devin.  Her graying hair fell in delicate waves around her face as she went on. “I was showing Catherine some of my needlepoint the other day, and she wistfully commented on how well Brian is doing – that young man from her building.  I got the feeling that she was very glad someone from her world is now a helper.  But I’m guessing he’s not much for ‘girl talk’.”  There were several laughs around the room in spite of the fact that everyone was really considering this issue for the first time.


“So…what are you suggesting, Sarah?” ask Rebecca with renewed hope evident in her tone.


“Just that before any decisions are made to bring one of Catherine’s friends in on our secret, we need to…do our homework – so to speak.”  


Rebecca’s eyes lit up again. “Yes…maybe invite Catherine to a picnic in the park, you know, just us girls.”


“I like it!” agreed Olivia.  The three women were instantly putting their heads together and discussing plans.  Eventually they rose and headed out of the chamber as Pascal and Devin exchanged glances.


Almost as if she had eyes in the back of her head, Olivia turned back at the doorway and said, “Not a word of this to anyone, you two.”


“We wouldn’t dream of it,” Pascal and Devin responded in unison.


                                                       * * *


Vincent and Catherine walked hand in hand toward the basement of Catherine’s building. Vincent was well aware that Catherine’s mood was pensive after the remark that Olivia had made.


“I hope you enjoyed tonight,” he said simply, giving her hand a small squeeze.


“Oh, yes!” Catherine came back to the present moment at the sound of Vincent’s voice.  “It was wonderful to hear about growing up in the tunnels.”  She smiled wistfully.  “I guess I’m just thinking about the stark contrast to my own childhood.”


“You listened tonight, but next time you must have your own stories to tell.”


“Yes, well, I warn you to be careful what you wish for.  I might just decide to tell you all about the time Nancy, Jenny and I went to New Orleans on Spring Break.” Catherine tried to laugh it off, but Vincent continued to gaze at her intently.  He stopped and turned her to face him, taking her other hand and bringing both up to his chest.


“I know that it is difficult for you Above with no one knowing our secret. I wish there was some way to remedy that…but Father…” his voice trailed off in distress.


“Vincent, some secrets give us strength, and this one has given me more strength than I could ever have hoped for.”  Catherine’s voice held all the sincerity she felt.  Sometimes she did want to tell Nancy or Jenny about the tunnels; but it was a delicate situation, and she instinctively knew that time was her best ally.


“Know that we are all here for you Catherine – whatever you may need.” Vincent’s voice held a depth of sincerity similar to Catherine’s.  He was in uncharted water also.


“I know.”


They resumed walking and soon came to the Catherine’s threshold, where magical blue light poured down from Above.  Near the ladder, Catherine reached up and put her arms around Vincent’s neck. He brought his right hand up into the hair at the base of her neck and pulled her close.


They stayed that way for a long moment until Vincent let go.  Silently Catherine reached for the ladder and started up. She had only taken a step or two when, suddenly, there came a loud noise from the basement room beyond.


Catherine was so startled that her foot slipped, and she felt herself fall backward.  She only had time to gasp before Vincent’s strong arms came around her.  It was like they were always there; ready, just waiting catch her should she fall.  Tonight was merely the first time they were needed.


With his quick responses to any kind of danger, Vincent firmly scooped her into his arms and moved them away from the ladder.  


He paused for a moment when they were safely on the other side of the brick wall and then set her down.  They stood there close together – frozen in place - waiting.


If they were anywhere else, Catherine would have said the loud noise was a gun shot.  But…really? In her basement?  The acoustics were obviously not the best from this vantage point, and it could easily have been something less ominous.  


Following the noise, whatever it was, there were footsteps rushing both toward them and away – then voices, harsh voices that sounded like an argument, but the individual words were muffled and hard to make out.  


Vincent whispered close to Catherine’s ear, “It’s not safe – we should use the park entrance.”

Catherine nodded in agreement, and he took her hand and led her back the way they had come, pausing along the way to tap out a message on the pipes asking for Devin to meet them there.


When Devin arrived, Catherine was leaning against one wall and Vincent was pacing the open space inside the drainage culvert.


“Hey you two, what’s going on?”


“There was some kind of disturbance in my basement.  We decided it wasn’t safe to leave that way,” Catherine responded to Devin, but never took her eyes off Vincent.


Vincent stopped pacing and turned to Devin. “I would feel much better if you walked Catherine home tonight.”


“Sure, Vincent. Don’t you worry about a thing.” Devin gave him a reassuring slap on the back of his shoulder. “I’ll make sure she gets home safely.”


“Thank you, Devin.”


Devin held out his arm to Catherine in a chivalrous gesture. Catherine moved toward him but paused in front of Vincent and gave his forearm a quick rub of assurance.  “Vincent, I’m sure everything’s fine, but I would like to check and make sure the tunnel entrance has not been compromised.  I’ll see you soon, okay?”


“You wait right here, okay? I’ll let you know what we find.” Devin called back.


Vincent nodded, still fearful of potential danger and very frustrated that it was not he who was insuring Catherine’s safety, and watched the two disappear into the darkness of the night.


                                                            * * *


As they walked across the silent park, Catherine filled Devin in on exactly what she and Vincent had overheard.  It was not just alarming to hear anything that sounded like gun fire, after all her building was high security, but it was unusual that there was even any activity in that area of the basement.  There was some tenant storage space available but the tunnel entrance was well apart from it.  Very rarely, in her comings and goings from the tunnels, had she ever encountered anyone in the room.  If it had been a problem, obviously, they would have found a safer access point to use.  She really had no idea what it was they could have heard.


Once inside her building, Catherine led Devin directly to the basement.  The outer door was locked, as usual, and Catherine used her key to open it.  Inside they found nothing really amiss. They checked the tunnel entrance, but it seemed to be okay and they securely replaced the boxes and other items camouflaging it.


In the storage area several boxes were open and some personal items strewn about, but nothing that looked suspicious or illegal.  As Catherine had hoped, it might just have been a personal argument that had gotten out of hand.  But still the mysterious noise unsettled her just a bit.


“Looks like a false alarm.”  Catherine turned to Devin.


“Vincent will be happy to hear that.  But I think he intended for me to see you ALL the way up to your apartment and tuck you in bed before I leave.”  There was a mischievous twinkle in Devin’s eyes.


Catherine smiled at that. “Come on then.”


Catherine stepped off the elevator with Devin right behind her.  Sitting in the hall near her door was her neighbor, and new helper, Brian.


“Ms. Chandler!” he exclaimed when he saw her and jumped out of the chair he was sitting in.  He looked like he was going to say something more when he noticed Devin and stopped short.


“Oh, sorry. I – I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”


“Brian, it’s okay, this is Devin, Vincent’s brother.” Catherine said.


“Vincent’s brother…really?  I – I didn’t know Vincent even had a brother.” Brian looked confused.


“That’s okay. Most people don’t - I’ve been away for a while.” Devin reached out to shake hands with Brian.  “Nice to meet you.”


Brian nodded and shook hands with Devin; but before he could say anything else, Catherine unlocked her door and motioned both of them inside.


Once inside, with the bolt securely in place, she said, “Devin, this is Brian. He lives in this building and found his way down to the tunnels just recently.”  She turned to Brian, “Is something wrong?”


“Well,” Brian began, “I came by here earlier tonight to tell you something.  When you didn’t answer your door, I figured you were in the tunnels, and I thought I’d just go down and look for you.  When I got to the basement stairs, I heard some guys fighting!  I was afraid the tunnel entrance was going to be exposed, and I didn’t know what to do – so I left and came back here to wait for you.”


“I know,” Catherine nodded with interest. “I was actually on my way back here when Vincent and I heard the sounds of a struggle coming from the other side of the wall.  Brian, did you get a look that them?”


“Sort of, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before. What were they doing down there at this time of night?”  Thinking of how he accidentally stumbled onto the tunnel world, he was especially protective of the secret that had become so important to him.


“I don’t know, but Vincent and I thought we heard a gun fire.  Did you?”


“A gun? No. I mean, I don’t think so – I’m really not sure.”


“Well, maybe you wouldn’t mind helping me look into it tomorrow.  I’m planning to ask around – see if anyone else in the building heard anything or knows anything.  It might at least put our minds at ease.”


“Sure,” Brian nodded in agreement and seemed to relax a bit. “You can count on me.”


“I’ll alert everyone Below to take extra security measures with that entrance for a while, just in case,” Devin added.


Catherine nodded to Devin.  Satisfied that they had a plan of action in place and that there was nothing more that could be done that night, she then turned back to Brian.  


“So, what is it that you wanted to tell me?”


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