Home Chapter 18

Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
           The Lady of Shalott

                             –”The Lady of Shalott”, Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

 

When the agents separated her from Joe, she knew it was over.

“Can I see you for a moment outside, Mr. Maxwell,” Dunn had asked-stated, before Joe even had a chance to sit. 

Joe took a quick glance back before the senior agent ushered him out.  He didn’t seem to be able to resist any further.

The door clicked closed.  She wouldn’t be surprised if it was locked.

“Can I get you some water or coffee?” Morrissey offered, half gulping the words, sounding guilty. 

She should have the water.  The last few days had shown her how far there was to fall from the fragile health she’d gained since Jacob’s birth.  Water would help, but going without felt like a sort of talisman, a spell against staying too long.   

She shook her head.

Morrissey cleared his throat after a minute of looking over his notepad.

“How was your morning?”

Well, Agent Morrissey, my baby screamed for half the night, before and after your visit, the one we’re all pretending didn’t happen.  Peter, a man who is like my second father, and Vincent, the man who has my heart, argued about staying. Peter made the case that there aren’t any private homes around with such easy Tunnel access.  Vincent couldn’t disagree, except that you, or someone linked to the F.B.I., might do something terrible to us there.  Finally, after circling for hours, we realized there was no place safe from you, Above or Below.  Then, just to add to the fun, my husband fought with Joe over whether I should ever step foot in here again.  Other than that, it was delightful, Agent Morrissey.

“Fine,” she said to stop his questioning.    

Dunn, with prosecutorial features, came back without Joe, raising hackles over hackles.  The door shut her in with the agents, and Catherine had to concede the morning’s argument to Vincent. 

She never should have returned.   

The next question wasn’t really a surprise.

“Where’s the baby, Ms. Chandler?”

The small room they had brought her to that afternoon—claustrophobic, no windows, no escape— reminded her so much of Gabriel’s interrogation, it was easy not to answer. 

“Ms. Chandler, Cathy,” Morrissey coaxed, the good cop again, “we know about your child. I saw you holding, him?  Her?  That’s why you’re staying with your doctor, right?  Please, we’re just trying to understand what happened.” 

She said nothing. They waited for her…  and they’d wait a while longer.

Joe had urged her to go today, despite the late-night visit from Morrissey.  They’d decided to try to focus the agents on some names from the book.  Even if she didn’t have it, she could recollect some of what she’d read.  Perhaps the F.B.I. would tie them to Moreno. They had time on their side for just this one moment, Joe contended.  But Vincent had remained unconvinced.  

“When you are there, you are entirely at their mercy.  What if the killer is among them?  What if another man wants his secrets kept by the grave?  You have no escape.”

Vincent only acquiesced when Joe promised he would keep her safe and with him.   The agents knew Joe would never let them do anything to her.  That’s why they separated them. 

Stupid Joe.  You can’t win when the other side doesn’t play by the rules.

Stupid me. 

“Is it Sol’s?” Dunn demanded.

She kept her eyes on the wall. 

A flash of memory—a chess board—a dream of Vincent’s dark twin, too real to fade.  He’d warned her she would have to play.   But the pieces were hidden.  What was she to do? [i]  What if the only way to win the game was not to play at all?  

“Is it Burch’s?” Dunn questioned.  “We know about your rendezvous at the docks last year.” 

A pivot, a new way.  The timeline almost fit. 

What if she said yes? 

She glanced at Morrissey, trying to broadcast that maybe they got that right, but still didn’t speak. 

Morrissey tried again.

“Ms. Chandler, is there anything you can tell us.  Anything about the baby … or about the person who rescued you from Gabriel’s building?”

No.  You won’t be satisfied with some names from a book now, will you?

I can’t, Agent Morrissey.  I made a promise. 

“Come on.” Dunn ordered, pulling the young man out. 

And then they left her there, the tried-and-true tactic.  

Alone, she studied the space—only eight steps across, possibly ten wide.  A coating of dust lay on the baseboards and around the edges of the concrete floor.

She walked the few strides it took from chair to corner.  Turning to the exit, she could see the entire area with nothing at her back except a wall.  The wood door with the metal handle stood sentry, finger smudges marring the blue painted frame.     

In a rarely used and forgotten place, they’d left her to stew in the quiet. 

The agents knew too much, but how little they understood.

A copper, heavy smell heralded their arrival. 

Just as she told Vincent the night before, solitude didn’t mean alone.

She kept her eyes on the door.

Vincent said he’d never wanted to leave her side again.  She loved him for it and wished for him now—only for a second, only indulging in the craving for a moment, before shutting the feelings down. 

Vincent and Jacob didn’t deserve to share in this. 

 

*********************************

 

The agents returned hours later, maybe. 

The shadows retreated right before the door unlocked.

“Ms. Chandler?” Asked a panicked Agent Morrissey.  She must not be visible from the doorway, or, at least, they didn’t expect to find her crouched on the opposite side of the room.

“Ms. Chandler…” Morrissey pushed furniture out of the way searching for a path to get to her.  “Are you all right?”

He seemed concerned, but so had Moreno.  She did allow him to help her to a chair.       

She was shaking still, but she knew the few words to say.

“Let me leave or charge me,” came her voice, a quivering whisper.

“Is that what you want?” Dunn asked, sure and controlled in a situation that was anything but.  “You want to go to jail? Obstruction is a serious offense.”

He hovered over, taking up space and air she couldn’t afford to lose. 

“Tell me the truth, the truth about Gabriel,” he commanded, “and I can make all of this disappear.  We can keep your child safe.”   

You can’t.  You didn’t when I was being held and you won’t now.

“I was here about Moreno and the case against him,” she declared.  “But you never even brought a prosecutor to these.” 

She turned to the agent. 

“What happened to you?”  She stared into eyes that wouldn’t see her.  “Maybe you’ve been investigating the mob too long, because this isn’t how you treat a witness.”

For a second, the control slipped, and she thought he might hit her.  Possibly Morrissey did to, because he tried to interrupt.

“Agent Dunn—”.

“I want to see Joe,” she demanded, overriding.  “Joe’s my lawyer.” 

She had to get out, had to get to Jacob.  If they knew about him, he was in danger.  

“You can’t keep me from him.  I want to see my lawyer.”

“Don’t worry,” Dunn said finally, unwilling to hide the bitterness in his voice.  “You’ll see a lawyer.”  He grabbed the door handle and wrenched it open, motioning for Morrissey to leave first. 

“Go get him, Morrissey.”

The younger agent scurried out. 

Dunn caught the door and held it open.

“You coming?” He asked, caustic, like he’d bite if she got to close.

Catherine stood.

It didn’t matter.  She needed out.     

As she edged past Dunn, she saw Joe at the other end of the hallway.  He ran from a pack of men towards her.

“They wouldn’t let me back in!  I’ve been yelling at their bosses for over an hour,” he insisted, as if defending himself from her disappointment.  He grabbed her arm, pulling her around to a sheltered corner.  “Jesus, you look like hell.  Are you ok?” 

She would have laughed if that were possible.  “Ok” wasn’t what she would have called it.  She survived. 

But they forgot about that the instant they noticed Morrissey escorting a shuffling man down the corridor. 

The man held out his arms in cuffs and wore a prison jumpsuit.  Behind him, a lawyer Catherine recognized from a glancing acquaintance.  She knew the prisoner too, even if he was out of his usual button-down shirt and tie.

The Times said the court had denied him bail; an unsympathetic judge and the possibility of hidden friends and enemies deemed him a flight risk. 

Moreno.

Their former boss glanced up at her and Joe, then quickly dropped his gaze.  Agent Morrissey lead the little group towards her. 

It was actually impressive that they got him from the holding cells all the way here in the time they had. Perhaps city bureaucracy differed from Federal, but she doubted it.  Probably a few million favors called in, a lot of luck later, and they had her staring at the person who put her here, the man who’d sold her, who put Jacob and Vincent, her entire world, in danger.

Each second he trudged closer her heart thudded louder.  The agents must have staged this to get a reaction, from him, from her. 

Catherine hoped they choked on it.

Moreno tried to pass on the other side of the hallway, putting as much space between them as possible. 

He was just going to walk by.

She shouldn’t say anything.  Let them stew, let them wonder, not play.  Yet as the prisoner trudged past, enough to nearly flee her orbit, the words, ones she’d prepared for the last nine months, escaped. 

“You sent me to die, John.”

Morrissey stopped, blocking the prisoner from escape. 

“I was your sacrifice, right, John?  Your acceptable loss, so no one would know how far you’d sunk.”

Moreno said nothing.  The man had the audacity to look like she was hurting him. 

His lawyer, impeccably dressed—Moreno still had cash or influence stashed someplace—started in, “You can’t—” 

“I didn’t die.”

Everyone heard, including John, who ducked and turned away.  Then, after too many uncomfortable moments, he answered.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Joe launched.

And Catherine watched.

Dunn tried to break up the men as Joe pummeled the prisoner to the floor.  Moreno was screaming, the lawyer was yelling, the agents were shouting, but Catherine just stood there. 

She should have stopped Joe.  He didn’t need Moreno’s blood on his hands, but she couldn’t move.  Couldn’t stifle the satisfaction of hearing Joe get in one more solid punch before Dunn threatened him with federal jail time. 

She should have cared, for Joe’s sake, and the guilt of it circled.  Yet, she wouldn’t allow the responsibility in, not now.  Only two things mattered at the moment, and she had to get back to them.

Because the game was already in motion.

Agent Morrissey lifted Moreno off the floor and ushered him away into one of their bare rooms, the lawyer following with threats for everyone. Catherine waited, while Dunn and Joe screamed at one another and as other agents rushed to the scene of their little drama. 

Still she waited. 

She would burn bridges, but what was a little bridge burning with the fire already started.  She had to escape these men, and, sometimes, a jump off a burning bridge was the only way. 

Morrissey returned, disheveled, glancing at Dunn and then away, sighing.  She’d swear the junior agent didn’t believe in what they’d just tried, but he’d done it anyway.  His exasperation, yet compliance, was the last straw, allowing the anger to possess her with all the strength she didn’t feel.

It was time to play. 

“You can all go to hell.  I’m finished with the F.B.I.’s games.  Make your case without me, because I’m never coming back here again.”

 

[i] Union Chapter 22

 

 

 

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