A madman being subdued was usually met with appreciation or congratulations. Beryl expected none and went about life as usual. Cyan had failed to see through her ruse, but others agreed the tactic was obvious. Spalding can threaten anyone in the city, but if they stopped an attack in progress…
The day after All Hallows Eve was just like any other day. Beryl went about her errands until she ran into the captain of the militia, Bookworm Heinrichs, as the feline was passing Alleycats. “Good afternoon, Beryl.”
“Good to see you, Captain,” Beryl replied trying to be pleasant, but the captains expression never changed. The felines tail fell beside her in resignation, “Is this about last night?” The captain nodded quietly. “So this was not a chance meeting. Very well, it is only fair I answer your questions.”
“No, it was chance. I was actually going to see how the preparations at the Gangplank are going.”
Book probably meant for the upcoming grand reopening. Beryl had stopped in to appreciate them herself not an hour ago, “Fairly well…ish. They have just started after all. ” And seemed to be in the middle of a rush now. “But in the matter of last night, I am certain I didn’t do anything illegal.”
Bookworm shook their head softly, “This isn’t a visit from the Militia captain. Or even the Heroine.”
“So Bookworm the concerned friend?” Beryl was surprised and gestured for the Captain to come inside and take a seat, “That’s a….pleasant change of pace.”
The captain entered but she remained standing, “Friend to friend – is what I heard true? Cyan was threatened by his uncle, and you… encouraged it.”
“That….is somewhat true,” Beryl could see the disbelief and hurt in Bookworms gaze and looked away.
Bookworm Hienrichs shook her head, unable to comprehend the event. “Why? You’ve always been such a protector of the urchins.”
Not for the past three years, she thought bitterly. But then a familiar feeling crept through her and she began to smile as a cool confidence washed out her moment of weakness. She turned back to the Captain, who noticed the purple growing in the center of her eyes, but made no comment.
“You’re right, Captain…I shouldn’t have even been able to-oh wait a moment,” Beryl smirked and clapped her paws as if remembering something. “He has a family, money, he doesn’t live on the streets. He’s not an urchin at all!”
Beryl wondered if Bookworm understood just how cruel her comment had been. Either way Book continued imploring her, “He may not, but he’s still a part of them. A friend to many. A friend to you…”
“Yes…” That had been true once. She dismissed the thought with a shrug. “Honestly Captain, I was caught in the moment. Did the people who approached you tell you that they had been screaming at me, doubting your release. That I had broken you out of the asylum? That someone pursued me across the city, and then was met with even more accusations?”
Bookworm picked her words carefully, her expression becoming more guarded as she met Beryl’s eyes. “Does ‘they’ include Cyan? Is that why you encouraged his uncle?”
“Oh no, they includes his uncle,” She assured Book. “I figured if he tried it Wright would kill him, and at that point we all wanted to see him hurt.”
“And he was hurt later, in a way, wasn’t he?” Book watched her friend, upset that she had come to this. “But not by Mr. Wright.”
“You can’t say he didn’t deserve it.” Beryl countered as she waived Baird away who shuffled away unahppily. She was not in the mood for a drink. “Besides, all I did was prey on his own insanity. He was already saying he would kill Cyan with all of us as witnesses, and then said he’d have me hanged and Lady Byrne burned. He had to pay.”
She purred softly, but Captain Heinrichs continued to look down on her. Judging her whether she intended to or not.
“He is alive though,” she insisted, which was more than Wright might have left him. “I just suggested he couldn’t stop drinking, and his own madness took care of the rest. Anyone could have done that.”
“No, not anyone.” Book said to herself as she bit her lip. Beryl looked at her in surprise as she continued, “I know you’ve had a hard life. You’ve had to walk a tightrope for so long. But for so long, you’ve been succeeding. Even with everything the past two years, you kept your balance… at first. But now, when I look at you, I’m afraid I’m seeing that balance failing. Seeing you… falling.”
Beryl kept her head high, but her tail lowered as well as her ears. Had she gone too far? Was Bookworm…afraid her friend was becoming a villain?
She shook her head dismissively after a moment and got up to walk away, “That’s where you’re wrong, Captain. I am a Guardian. I have never once called myself good, nor have I ever called myself a hero. It just so happens that Ms. Byrne has been an influence on me for the better.”
Bookworm thought carefully and finally asked, “What does Ms. Byrne think of recent events?”
Beryl fell silent for a time, her paw on the door handle ready to turn, her confidence slowly fading, “I didn’t tell her.”
“I just…I hope I don’t hear another report like the one from last night. I’m worried about you.”
Beryl looked at her, frowning. The sincerity of her friends concern shone through the cool sensation that had come over her of late, “I’m sorry to worry you, Captain. But if you want the truth, I haven’t been happier than I am now. I had a moment where I had to make him suffer as per my orders, but he didn’t die. Don’t worry too much about it.”
“That is between me and Lady Byrne.” She snapped quickly, her walls coming up again. “And do not trouble her with such things.”
Bookworm looked taken aback, the concern on her face growing. The feline let out a soft sigh and gave her a concession, “For our friendship, I will think on your words.”
“Thank you.” The captain replied, but she did not look happy about it. Book walked away refusing to share the last thoughts on her mind and never turned towards the Gangplank at all.
Beryl would have considered the words, but then that was not the last Busybody who approached. Urchins, friends, concerned citizens. She lost track of time and things she claimed and said. What did it matter if they would not believe her anyways. Tepic began by acting like he had heard nothing, but then later quoted things he had heard about it. Lisa had almost understood, but then they were interrupted.
She never expected appreciation for her efforts anymore except from Lady Byrne, who did not need her in the first place. But she had not expected disappointment, reprisal, and fear.
And then…Cyan confronted her in Alleycats…