WFOL 2024





by ~catherine e

Cathy moaned as she sat down in her little cafe chair in the kitchen, opening up the paper and attempting to read. Her mind was swimming with thoughts about the case, the FBI, the tunnels, Vincent, and that nosy jerk, Agent Owens. The more she tried to clear her mind and dive into the news, the more frustrated she became.

The toaster popped up and she sprang up to nab her whole wheat from the counter. As she sat back down and took a deep breath, she paused, leaned back, and finally said aloud, “Yeah, I’m done.” There was no point in trying to relax for a few minutes when it wasn’t going to happen anyway; she might as well head in to work. She folded the paper in half and slapped it down on the table and, taking one last sip of coffee, teethed her toast and headed for the door.

As Catherine sat in the cab thinking of Vincent, she opened up her purse to put her keys away and saw her little writing pad and pen shoved toward the bottom. Feeling the urge to contact Vincent and the tunnels Below, Cathy feverishly started to write a note, but then suddenly remembered that even the slightest note could be caught by prying eyes. Catherine exhaled loudly, blowing her bangs up a bit, and shut her notepad, pushing it back down into her bag. It’s more important to keep him safe. It’s more important to keep them all safe, she repeatedly thought to herself as they neared the DA’s office. 

As Catherine maneuvered through the people, papers, and desks on her floor and swiftly moved toward her desk, she couldn’t help but notice quite a few agents buzzing about. Determined to not show that it was affecting her, Catherine turned her gaze away from any agent that came into her field of vision.

Upon reaching her desk, Catherine stopped dead in her tracks and dropped her coat, briefcase, and purse on her chair with a thud. She clenched her jaw as she saw that all of her drawers were open to some degree, files were opened and left on her desk, and her utility drawer had been emptied out onto her chair. Catherine’s face was flushed with anger as she looked up to see who was watching her reaction.

Two agents standing in front of Joe’s office door met her gaze. Catherine knew they had done it, and had left her desk this way as a message. She held onto the back of her chair and gripped hard, exhaling, staring through those men. Then, taking a moment to calm herself, she picked up her purse and coat and hung them up on the coat rack next to her desk. She placed her briefcase underneath and proceeded to put things back in order.

She knew that storming into Joe’s office to complain wasn’t going to get her anywhere this morning, and there wasn’t anything Joe could do. And with those two agents stationed outside Joe’s office, it was almost as if they were waiting on Catherine to do just that. To lose her cool and say something damaging. But Catherine was too smart for that, and thought to herself, Okay, I’ll play your game.

As the morning wore on, the agents would move about the office, watching this and that, whisper things to each other, and report to Johnson. Catherine took time to look through a new court docket that she had requested some time ago. The information that she was looking for in this particular case could strike a big blow against Miller if the argument associated with the ruling utilized the evidence that Catherine suspected it had. Just as she was comparing the sequence of events during that trial to another crime associated with Miller during the same period, her phone rang. Catherine blinked her eyes, coming out of complete concentration, ending the incessant ringing by shouldering the receiver against her ear.

“Catherine Chandler…” she said, reaching for a paperclip.

“Hello? Miss Chandler? It’s Thomas.” The voice sounded shaky on the other end.

“Yes, Thomas. Are you all right?” Catherine inquired.

“Well, that Agent Owens came to the shop to see me and ask me all sorts of questions again. Now, why do you need me to answer the same questions again?! He said that he was following up on your behalf so…I tried to give him as much information as I could remember…”

Catherine’s breath caught in her throat.

“Thomas…do you remember what he asked you or what you told him?” Catherine asked urgently.

“Hmmm…he had asked me about my involvement in the Miller case and what I had witnessed on this night and that…”

Catherine threw a steely look at Agent Johnson, talking with another agent over by the water cooler, as Thomas continued.

“…and the thing that struck me as strange was that he asked quite a few questions about you, too.”

Catherine’s eyes got wide as she listened in silence.

“I kept thinking, why is he asking about Ms. Chandler if he’s working with her?” Thomas chuckled lightly. “He must be in love.”

Catherine swallowed hard and found her words. “Thomas…do you remember any of the questions that he asked you about me?”

During the pause on the other end of the phone, Catherine could hear her heartbeat in her ears.

“He did ask how you found me as a witness…and I told him that you walked up to me in front of my store, asking questions about the robbery…”

“That’s good, Thomas,” Catherine encouraged.

“He asked what I thought of you and if you and I have ever eaten a meal together,” Thomas said.

Catherine furrowed her brow. “What?”

“I know!” Thomas snickered. “I thought that was a dumb question but I said no, we’ve never gone to dinner…but I’d say yes if she asked!”

Catherine smiled for a moment and asked, “Anything else?”

Thomas thought for a moment and replied, “Yeah…he asked if you and I have any of the same friends.”

“What did you tell him?!” Catherine asked, alarmed.

“Well, at first I told him, yes, of course we do because I thought of–”

Catherine quickly interrupted him. “That soup kitchen that we’ve both volunteered at. Yes, that was funny finding out that we had that place in common. Out of a whole city…that one place.” 

Hoping that Thomas caught on to her lead, Catherine waited a moment in the quiet.

“Oh?… Yes, yes, you’re right, I had forgotten. The soup kitchen with Sister Agnes and Father Travers.”

“Okay, well, was there anything else that you…?” Catherine trailed off as she started to relax a bit in her chair, looking at the docket in front of her.

“I told him, Cathy,” Thomas said soberly.

“Told him what?”

“I said that you and I had the same friends in Father, Vincent, and Peter.”

Catherine felt her body get tense again. “Did you say anything else?”

Thomas swallowed and revealed, “When he asked who they were, I realized that I shouldn’t have said that and I said that I was wrong, we didn’t have any of the same friends. But he didn’t seem to believe me.”

Catherine slowly exhaled and calmly spoke into the phone. “That’s okay, Thomas. Everyone gets confused now and then. But is everything else all right?”

“I’m almost 90 years old, nothing is ever just all right, but I do need help with something important. I figured that you were the right person to ask…”

Catherine’s gaze was met by Agent Johnson’s. The smirk on his face made it seem like he already knew who she was talking to.

* * *

Below, Vincent was working on clearing rocks out of a new chamber with many other tunnelers. Brooke stopped in with water for the workers and casually mentioned that she had heard from Michael. After the inquiries quieted down, Vincent asked, “How is Michael doing at the University?”

“According to his letter, he’s doing quite well!” Brooke smiled.

Mouse asked, “Is Michael learning new things?”

“Yes, Mouse, I brought his letter with me.” Brooke quickly pulled the letter out of her apron and opened it up.

“Dear Brooke and friends,

How are things back home? Have you expanded to the new chambers yet? I bet William is going to be making his 5 alarm chili soon. I can almost smell it! I really miss having meals together.

The classes are pretty easy but there’s a lot of work to be done every day. I enjoy my classic literature class but I might be the only student who has already read all of the assigned stories and books.

I work a few hours every other day in the school Library. It’s nice to work in a place that I feel comfortable in but also to have a little spending money. I work with this interesting guy from south London, his name is Iain. His passion is traveling. He tells me about all of the exciting places that he has visited. He climbed mountains in Tibet last year and has touched clouds with his own hands! I am trying not to be envious of him but at heart, I am.
I guess I can understand why Devin never stops traveling now.

Some new friends of mine are trying to get me to audition for a play with them. I would rather watch a play than be in one, but it would be fun to know what it’s like to be an actor. The play is one that you would know well, Merchant of Venice. Remember when Father read us that famous monologue, and because he wasn’t looking where he was going, he fell on top of Kipper?! Served Kipper right, since he was sleeping in class!”

Brooke, Vincent, and the other workers all chuckled a bit at that fond memory.

“Brooke, Michael’s letter is great but why don’t you save the rest for us to read at dinner?” Cullen said, taking a quick sip from the water cup.

Others in the room smiled in agreement and Brooke folded the letter back up and shoved it into her pocket. She picked up the water bucket and headed out of the new chamber.

“Any news of Catherine?” Mouse inquired of Vincent.

“Dr. Alcott will be keeping in communication with Catherine for us, as she’s being watched, and I’m sure that we will be receiving a reply in due course. She is working hard to put a bad man in prison and to keep one of our Helpers safe.”

“Thomas?” Mouse asked mildly.

“Mmm-hmm,” Vincent replied, heaving a pickaxe over his shoulder and down again with a crash.

“Is Thomas in trouble?” Mouse meekly questioned.

Vincent took a breath and leaned on the pickaxe for a moment.

“No, Mouse. Thomas is not in any trouble.”

Mouse looked at Vincent’s face and then walked toward the wheelbarrow.

“Mouse knows about getting into trouble.”

Cullen exhaled loudly and, wiping his brow, said, “Yeah, Mouse…we know.”

“Why does Catherine need to keep Thomas safe? If he’s not in trouble…” Mouse asked as he lifted stones and placed them in the barrow.

“Because he could be in danger, Mouse. There’s a difference.” Vincent explained. He saw the downturned gaze on Mouse and decided to help him understand the situation more fully. “You see, Thomas has witnessed some bad things being done in the world Above. All done by the same man. Catherine is trying to hold that man accountable for his crimes, and Thomas can say what he has seen.”

Vincent watched as the wheels were turning in Mouse’s head. “But that also means that the bad man–”

“The criminal,” Mouse interjected.

Vincent half-smiled and continued, “The criminal would like to stop Thomas from telling the truth about him. So Catherine is going to keep Thomas safe while she takes this man to trial….hopefully.”

Vincent continued on with his work, striking the boulders to make them easier to transfer.

Cullen nudged Vincent and softly said, “Mouse has an interest in this. We’d better keep an eye on him.”

Mouse also continued with his job of placing stones into the wheelbarrows, but it was obvious that he was deep in thought.

Thomas is in danger. Mouse has been in danger, too. Mouse got safe coming Below. Thomas should come Below, too. Tunnels are safe, Topside is not. Maybe Thomas doesn’t know how to get down to the Tunnels? Mouse could help him…

What Vincent wouldn’t give to know what Mouse was thinking all the time.

* * *


“Come in!” Joe yelled from across his desk as a pile of papers fell to the floor.

Agent Johnson looked at Joe with raised eyebrows as he quietly entered the room and shut the door behind him.

Joe could be seen holding his phone up to his ear as he violently thrust the strewn papers into a drawer and slammed it shut. He put up a “one minute” finger toward the agent and said into the receiver, “All right, that’s fine! Just give me five minutes with him tonight and I will give him the details… Five minutes!… Yeah. Call back and let my admin know the when and where… Yeah… Okay.”

Joe hung up the phone as he straightened his tie. “What can I do for you?” Joe asked.

Agent Johnson got close to the front of Joe’s desk and picked up a candy from a little dish, popping it into his cheek. “I’ve learned some interesting things from my agents in the last 24 hours.”

“Oh, really?!” Joe remarked sarcastically. “Let me call The Times.” He moved around his office, quickly putting files away, then putting his jacket on like he was getting ready to leave.

“I can see that you’re on your way out, so I’ll make this brief,” Johnson said.

“Okay, I’m ready for it,” Joe replied as he held his office door open, urging the agent to leave as well.

Johnson smirked and walked up to Joe, pausing in the doorway.

“Your pal Chandler is in for it. And if she is, you can be sure that you are, too.” Agent Johnson stepped through the doorway, leaving Joe speechless, and turned back to say, “Have a nice lunch.”




CABB logo: crystal and rose




CABB logo: crystal and rose