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Classic Round Robin

Chapter 4

by Aliset

 

 

Brian shuffled his feet, then looked up at Catherine. She noticed he’d shot up a good three inches since his accidental encounter with the tunnels. “I’ve been accepted to college.”

 

“That’s great!” Catherine smiled. “Where are you going?”

 

“Cornell,” Brian replied, looking very tall and very proud of himself.

 

“Oh, that’s a great school!” Catherine said.

 

“Yeah, well, my dad’s not too thrilled; he wanted me to go to Columbia, where he went. But I visited Cornell, and I like it so…yeah. I move into the dorms next month.”

 

“That’s great, Brian,” Catherine said, hugging him.

 

Brian’s face went very red. “Thanks, Catherine.” He looked down at his feet again. “I was wondering....do you know…what happens to helpers when they move out of town?”

 

“Well, Cornell isn’t that far away,” Catherine said. “You can still come home on the weekends.”

 

“Yes, but I still want to be a helper, even though I’m not quite so local. Will they let me do that?” Brian asked.

 

“I can’t see why not. You can ask Father, though, when you come below next.”

 

“That’s great, Catherine.” He smiled again and blushed faintly. “Did you see Alice tonight?”

 

“Alice?” The name momentarily escaped her, but then she had the image of Brooke and another girl, fair where Brooke was dark, chattering in corners and no doubt making as much-or as little-sense as teenagers usually did. “Oh, Brooke’s friend?”

 

Brian nodded. “Yes, I saw her tonight,” Catherine continued, hiding a smile.

 

“Do you think she’s still up?”

 

She glanced at her watch. “It’s late, but you can always bang on the pipes and ask her if she wants to see you.” A new thought occurred to her. “What have you told your father about where you’re going?”

 

“He’s out of town this weekend on business,” Brian said. “Uh, I better try and catch her before it gets too much later. See you later, and don’t worry.  I’ll start asking around tomorrow morning.”

 

“Thanks, Brian,” Catherine said. Brian waved once to Devin and he was off.

 

“I wish I had his energy,” Catherine chuckled as she put her coat on the chair.  

 

Devin grinned, sitting on the couch looking every inch the urban pirate she’d long suspected him to be. “Nice kid. He’s got a crush on you, you know.”

 

“He does,” she confirmed, smiling in return. “But I think Alice might be curing him of it.” Catherine walked into the kitchen. “Can I get you anything?”

 

“Coffee, please, if you have it.” As she went into the kitchen to put the coffee on to brew, Devin asked, “So, Chandler, tell me something. Anyone else above besides young Brian know about you and Vincent?”

 

“Why do you ask?” Catherine said, instantly wary.

 

“No particular reason. Except that looking at you, I can tell you’d like to shout it from the rooftops; but you can’t, can you?”

 

“I gave my word, Devin,” she replied. The coffee stopped brewing; she poured a cup for Devin and one for herself. “I keep telling Vincent that our secret is worth it. Don’t tell me I’m going to have to convince you, too.”

 

“Nah, no convincing necessary,” Devin replied, smiling. Taking the cup from her, he continued, “But it isn’t easy for you…for anyone, really, since so much is riding on the secret.”

 

“True,” Catherine replied, taking a sip of her own coffee. “The one time I told anyone about this place, I had to shade it with so many half-truths that I was afraid I sounded like a babbling idiot.”

 

“I know what you mean,” Devin said. “I had a whole stock of stories to explain where I’d been for the first 15 years of my life. I told people I was the child of missionaries and I’d been born in Africa, or that I was an orphan but my records were lost, or burned in a fire, or…well, sometimes I had to create some records…when the stories wouldn’t work.” He glanced down at his mug. “I never really understood until I was older what danger I put everyone in by leaving like I did.  I don’t regret going-except for having to leave Vincent behind…but coming Above without so much as a cover story was pretty dangerous.” He grinned, and the urban pirate surfaced again. “So who did you tell?”

 

“Vincent and I hit…a rough patch a while back. It was the anniversary of my mother’s death, and things just seemed to snowball. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about it who really understood everything, who knew us both. I tried talking to a shrink, but even then I think he knew I wasn’t telling him the full truth. I ended up fleeing to my friend Nancy’s house in Connecticut for the weekend. She’s the only one of my friends who so much as knows Vincent’s name…and all she knows about our relationship is that it’s complicated. Nancy’s the one who ended up sending me back here, telling me to follow my heart. And here we are.”

 

“And here we are,” Devin agreed. “I’m glad you two worked it out, Cathy. I’ve never seen him so happy.”

 

“Thanks, Devin.” They sat in companionable silence for a bit. “It was on the tip of my tongue so many times to tell Nancy everything…but I’d promised, so I didn’t.”

 

“She sounds like a good friend,” Devin said.

 

“She is,” Catherine replied. “The very best kind, the kind who doesn’t ask you questions you can’t answer.”

 

Devin nodded. “I wish it didn’t have to be that way. But the Old Man has his reasons.”

 

“And they’re good ones,” Catherine said. “What secret is more worth keeping than Vincent and his home?”

 

“Not many,” Devin said, taking a small sip of his coffee. He grimaced. “Chandler, anyone ever tell you that your coffee is awful?”

 

She felt her face warm. “I’m, uh, getting out of the habit. I’m drinking more tea lately.”

 

“Imagine that,” Devin drawled. And they both laughed.

 

***

 

Sometime later, Devin made his way down to the basement threshold to check out the source of the commotion they’d heard earlier. It might have been just a false alarm, a mild scuffle that sounded much larger due to the acoustics of the place, but he had to be sure. This place meant too much to his brother and Cathy to be anything less than certain. He peered down into the basement and turned on his small flashlight. Nothing. But then the light caught on the glint of metal.

 

Devin stepped down into the basement area and bent down to pick up the metal. A cold chill went up his spine when he saw what it was.

 

Shell casings.

 

Oh, God, Devin thought. Those were shots she and Vincent heard.

 

Devin crossed into the park entrance, and kept checking over his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t being followed. He banged a quick message on the pipes: Devin to Vincent-basement threshold not safe-news to follow-will tell Cathy. Then he went back to Cathy’s building to tell her what he’d found.

 

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