The three conspirators looked at each other, despair at Canergak’s words setting in. Before it could truly take hold, though, another voice, older, cracking a little, yet still strong, drifted in to them. “I moved early, too!” Bookworm recognized the voice as belonging to Dr. Solsen.
“What was that?” Canergak strode out into the hallway, moving toward Dr. Solsen’s small set of rooms. Beryl followed, just as surprised as Canergak. Lisa edged to the doorway, wanting to hear, but reluctant to be too close to the small man.
“I said, I moved early, too.” Dr. Solsen’s voice was quieter, but still firm. “I signed Rasend’s release form weeks ago, and it has already gone through the proper processes. Really, he’s been a free wolf whenever he woke up.”
Canergak stared at the wall that stood between him and Dr. Solsen’s bedroom, confounded and furious. Finally, his fists clenching, he exclaimed angrily, “Very well! You’ll be having me recapture him before long!” With that, he stomped downstairs, retreating to his own office in the cellar.
With his departure, Lisa, grinning delightedly, hurried out to catch up with Beryl as he entered Dr. Solsen’s bedroom. They found the doctor gingerly sitting up. “You could have told me that!” Beryl blurted out. “You had us running about for nothing!”
“If you had told me what you intended, and what you were planning in there, I would have. I only truly heard your shouting today,” Dr. Solsen finished wryly.
Beryl grimaced, then smiled lightly. “So, I was a little excited.”
“I like the new you–you can get excited about things.” He smiled, leaning back against the headboard. “Really, though, you’d think I wasn’t here at all, the way you’ve been sneaking about.”
Lisa hid a giggle behind her hand at that, seeing Beryl looking both pleased and confounded to discover he hadn’t needed to deceive the older man. Beryl looked back toward the entrance. “I should get back to Miss Bookworm,” he said, a little reluctantly. “She’ll be needing help. And an apology. And keys.”
Lisa nodded for him to go, and then asked, “Do you need me, Dr. Solsen?”
“Water, Lisa… just some water,” he replied, his voice a little weaker. She nodded and hurried down to the kitchen. In a few minutes, she was back with a glass and fresh pitcher of water. She handed him the glass; he took it gently, carefully sitting upright again as he drank. “I’m just trying to get comfortable,” he said, seeing the concern in her expression. “Being in this bed for so long has not been good for me in some ways.”
Lisa edged closer. “Sir? I… I just wanted to say… thank you.” She leaned in and carefully, awkwardly, hugged the doctor.
Dr. Solen grimaced as the pressure of her arms awakened pain in his shoulder, but he determinedly kept back any audible expression of it as he reached with his good arm to hug her back. After a few seconds, she released him and stepped back. “Would you like me to read to you?”
“Yes, please,” he replied, carefully laying back down against his pillow.
Lisa took her place in the chair beside his bed. Some time ago, as Dr. Solsen recovered enough strength to chafe at his enforced inactivity, she had tentatively suggested that she could try reading to him. On hearing that she was still learning, Dr. Solsen had welcomed her suggestion, eager to occupy himself with teaching her. She’d first brought over two of the storybooks Steam Santa had left for her. (Her copy of ‘Uncle Tingley’ was safely hidden away at the Vole, along with her cat pelt.) As she grew more confident in her skills, Dr. Solsen had her seek out other books from his library downstairs, making sure they were books that would be challenging, but enjoyable for them both.
Smiling, Lisa took a book from its place on the nearby table. Opening it, she began reading chapter two of ‘King Solomon’s Mines.’
Beryl trotted quickly back to the cell block, and saw that Bookworm was staring intently through the window at the wolf. She turned, hearing the click of his nails on the floor. “How did he know?!” she asked between gritted teeth.
“Know what?” he asked, though he knew there was only one thing she could mean.
“He looked at Rasend and said, ‘It is quite a party they are having in there.’ As if he could *see* the ghosts in there.”
“He probably can,” Beryl said gently, and she winced. “Keep the ghosts away from him.” Beryl went to the cell door, unlocked it, and opened it again.
“I’ll warn them.” She looked as if there was a great deal more she wanted to say, but her attention was caught by movement. Rasend was turning his head slowly toward them. “Hel… lo,” he said slowly, and winced a little. Bookworm gasped, then saw Mac and Daniel appear in the cell.
“It’s all right,” Mac said. “Janus is safely in, and we’ve warned him to behave.”
Beryl felt Bookworm’s intent look, and nodded. “Yes, Janus.” He sighed. “I owe you dinner or something, and a long talk.”
She nodded once, grimly, and looked back at Mac. “You’re sure?” She stepped into the cell and studied Janus/Rasend carefully.
“I’ll behave,” the wolf said. “Promise. Besides, if I don’t, I know you’re quite the shot.” He chuckled softly.
“Heh.” Bookworm stared at him a while longer, weighing the circumstances carefully. This was, after all, the spirit of someone who had turned into a werewolf, now in the body of another wolf. And, from what she’d been able to gather, Janus hadn’t exactly been a paragon of virtue even when he’d been just a man. Could he really be trusted?
‘Oh the other hand,’ she thought wryly, ‘this has gone rather too far to stop.’ She finally looked back at Beryl. “So what now?”
“He’ll be released, since he’s awake. If Dr. Solsen already signed his release, then we only had him because there was nowhere else for him to go while he was in a coma.”
“Where will you take him?”
“Tepic’s idea was Dr. Sonnerstein’s house. We haven’t asked, though.”
Bookworm thought that idea over. “Well, if he agrees, I think that would be a good place.
Janus/Rasend craned his neck, trying to see Beryl. “Can you… let me out of the table, at least?”
Beryl shook his head, chuckling softly. “I’m not technically on staff right now, but I’ll oversee it, I promise.”
“Who will do the release?” Bookworm asked.
“One of the newer orderlies will see to it, with Dr. Solsen still out of commission. I haven’t learned many of their names yet,” Beryl said ruefully. “Lisa will know.”
“All right. Let me know when that happens, and what Dr. Sonnerstein says.”
Beryl nodded, and looked from her to the two ghosts. “Let’s get you all out of here, then.” Daniel and Mac quickly left the cell, Bookworm following, and Beryl closed and locked the door behind them, ignoring Janus/Rasend’s grumbles.
Leading the way downstairs, he continued, “Before the day is over, Rasend will be out and about. It might not be… him, but all the same, it will accomplish our goal.”
“I hope this works. I really do,” Bookworm said, but her tone was much less sure than her words.
“Yes, I hope that this doesn’t backfire. There is still so much that could go wrong,” Beryl replied, with something of a return to his old realism.
Bookworm nodded. “Keep me apprised,” she said as they reached the door. She stepped outside; the ghosts followed, and both of them looked immeasurably relieved to be outside the confines of the asylum.
Beryl hesitated at the threshold. “Do I owe you that explanation now?”
She looked at the sun lowering in the west, and suddenly felt a decided weariness come over her. “It can wait,” she replied. Looking at the ghosts, she said, “Mac, Daniel–thank you. I’m sorry this didn’t go entirely as we’d hoped. Whatever else, keep away from Canergak.”
“And a stone he carries,” interjected Beryl. “It’s a green gem, that feels wrong. As if it is trying to devour you. Don’t go anywhere near it.”
Daniel nodded grimly. “We’ll be careful–and we’ll warn the others.” He and Mac faded from their view.
Bookworm sighed. There was more that she would have liked to ask Daniel, about what had happened between them and Janus, but she wasn’t sure how much her questions would intrude on matters that were not really a concern for the living. She took her leave of Beryl abstractedly, and headed home, carrying with her the feeling that the odds were great that this situation would spiral out of control.