. Ain’t No Monsters Here
“What’s going on?” Joseph demanded of those gathered in the lobby upon discovering the door to the cellar broken off it’s hinges.
“It was that Black Guard that done it,” Whiskey Jack said. “Captain Bloody I’m-in-charge Digby. Right impatient bugger that one. Said he was in a hurry and couldn’t wait. Had his two boys break your door. That Crumb fella that was with us ran off with them; he was looking for your wife. He seemed a might agitated to me, wouldn’t you say Randall?”
“A tad excitable that one,” Randall nodded.
All heads turned as two gunshots sounded from the opening of the cellar. Joseph and Juris exchanged worried glances then, without a word passing between them, turned and ran for the steps.
“Whoa, hold to there!” Whiskey Jack called after the two men, though they continued to run without pause.
“I know what they’re doing down there,” Little Wally cried. “They’re shooting monsters.”
“Watch the kids Randall!” Whiskey Jack handed Elvira over to his partner. “I’m going to find out what’s going on.”
By the time Whiskey Jack reached the laboratory the scene was already tense with a sense of urgency and confusion. Everyone had clustered in front of the four large, free-standing cages along the far wall. Though only two shots had sounded, three crumpled bodies lay together on the floor.
Brother Kadmus, was clearly dead, a bullet, perhaps having been deflected from its intended target by one of the bars, had penetrated his skull. It was impossible to see the extent of Martha Foehammer’s wound. There was blood on her cloak but whether that belonged to her or the misshapen figure of the girl who lay in the cell beside her one couldn’t say.”
“That creature, right there, was attacking Martha,” a visibly upset Ezra Crumb explained to Brother Pizarro.
“I hit it,” one of the militiamen claimed, with a note of anguish rather than triumph in his voice. He pointed toward Nelly. “The bullet went through that one’s shoulder and right into Mrs. Foehammer. They was right close together when we broke in and I thought it was attacking her right through them bars…” the soldier’s voice trailed off before adding, “It was Mr. Crumb that shouted out to shoot.”
“We had to do something!” Ezra explained. “Joseph, for the sake of the Builder what is Martha doing in a cage?”
“Foehammer!” Captain Digby shouted while waving a small handgun to accentuate his accusations. “What foul madness do you practice in this cesspool of depravity? Why is my cadet Mr. Shaw imprisoned along with—”
“The keys, Foehammer!” demanded Brother Pizzaro, completely ignoring Captain Digby’s bluster. “We have to ascertain the seriousness of their injuries. JOSEPH, FOCUS!”
Joseph ran to his workbench and retrieved a large ring with a single key hanging from the end. ”It opens all four,” he said as he hastened to unlock the door to Martha’s cell.
“What’s wrong with you, Ezra?” Joseph hissed out of the side of his mouth as his friend tried to rush into the cage at the same time thus momentarily blocking them both. “Why are you even here?”
“Why is Martha in a CAGE?” Ezra stood his ground, preventing Joseph from entering.
“Ezra, control yourself!” warned Brother Pizzaro. “Mrs. Foehammer is alive. Let Joseph pass.”
“Stay calm,” Joseph said just under his breath as he knelt by Martha’s side and examined the wound to her chest. “It is not yet time. Don’t move until I say otherwise.”
“Stop muttering” said Pizzaro. “We need to get her out of this cell.”
“Let me help,” said Whiskey Jack. “I can carry her.”
The men stepped back and allowed Whiskey Jack to lift Martha in his arms and carry her to the bench. She looked like a child in his arms as he lay her down. He then removed his jacket and folded it to serve as a pillow beneath her head.
It was a surreal moment for Joseph as he looked about the laboratory, taking stock of his circumstances. His wife lay on a workbench in his laboratory, shot and perhaps dying . His beautiful home in Coronet Gardens had been destroyed along with a third of the city. The militia was about to arrest him. Priests from the church were here to condemn him and invalidate his life’s work. His friends and colleagues had turned on him. He would lose this hospital and all he had built beneath it—but only if he remained complacent. “Nelly,” Joseph raised his voice. “Now!”
Nelly, who had feigned unconsciousness since the gunshots sounded, sprang to life with a shriek. She lunged at the bars and the two militiamen who had been standing idly by her cage, distracted as they were with concern for Martha. They never saw saw the attack coming. They were close enough that she easily reached them through the bars, grabbing both men securely by the collar and pulling them back with such force as to snap their necks and bludgeon their skulls against the bars.
Without hesitation Nelly extended her reach toward the cage where Martha and Brother Kadmus had been confined; the door to their cell had swung open in the direction of her own cage thus enabling her to easily retrieve the key which Joseph had intentionally left hanging in the lock. Nelly was already standing outside her cage, the bodies of the two militiamen at her feet, before those gathered in the laboratory had time to react.
Captain Digby was the first to spring into action. He raised his gun and fired a shot but it went wide. Nelly was upon the former black guard before he could discharge a second. She pinned him to the wall, tearing the gun from his hand and tossing it aside.
Nelly leaned in close to the militia captain, her face a mere inches from his. She took a deep breath as though she were enjoying a flower or glass of fine wine. “You smell nice,” Nelly said in a husky voice. “I wonder if you could possibly taste as delicious as you smell.”
“Release him!” It was Father Moonwall, his large figure framed by the door to the lab. He strode directly for Nelly, sword in hand.