Underby stood by the front window of the Bucket of Blood, drinking a cup of tea and waiting for the sunbeam. Being situated where it was, the bar received next to no natural light, even when the sooty skies parted just enough to let even a little sunshine through. He had noticed recently that there was a brief five minute period around eleven in the morning where the sun might shine directly into the window. He had found recently that this pleased him, and had taken to waiting for it in these past days. Mags would make him a cup of Black Darjeeling tea, and he would stand near the window, watching the sun move across the cobbles, growing closer and closer. The anticipation was delightful, and the golden warmth was a more than worthy reward for his patience.
The only aspect of the situation which displeased him was that, more often than not, his appointment with the sun coincided with Macbain’s daily journey to moon over the Strife House. Even after all this time. Deep down he pitied her, that she should be intertwined with that evil, most likely for the rest of her life… but it was decidedly difficult to feel compassion for her recently, what with her renewed campaign against him. He had never been angered by her campaigns before, perhaps because she was entirely correct… and she was right again this time, but… something had certainly changed. More and more often he found himself writing long notes to the clockwinder about some wasteful aspect of city spending, or about increased security at the city walls, when he had been planning to search through city records for information which might be useful at a later date. Only later realizing he was doing genuine city work. Most distressful.
But he tried not to think of Macbain. She was an adult woman, and she lived in a free city. If she chose to repeatedly enforce the connection with that house, what business was it of his?
He stood in front of the window, the cat winding back and forth between his legs, and thought about Miss Namori, and his evening with her, after the bonfire the night before in Sweetwater Square. He smiled, replaying the night in his mind, as he brought the cup to his lips.
And then Macbain appeared. Underby sighed. She moved slowly and hesitantly, as always. A few steps forward, then turning, as if deciding against the walk, only to turn back and take a few more steps. And so on and so on. Underby shook his head.
As he took another sip of tea, a sharp crack rang through the room, sending the cat racing for the back of the bar. A window pain exploded into shards in front of him. Underby looked up at Macbain, thinking “The bitch shot at me!” when he saw a puff of dust fly up a moment later near her feet. She looked toward the Strife House still, as if she had not noticed, and he realized… someone was shooting, but AT her. He craned his neck and saw a figure on top of the Berithos building.
Actual shock and surprise washed over Underby, he had honestly believed the banter between Berithos and Macbain was largely jest. In fact, secretly he had believed it to be flirting, and was pleased to imagine Phaedra being rejected for Macbain… or had he only wished that?
He shook his head, and then without thinking shouted “BIB!” then dashed out the door, and up out into the street. “Macbain!” he called out as he ran. “Get down!”
She turned toward him, seemingly mildly surprised to be interrupted on her pilgrimage. “Mm?” she said, as a bullet whizzed nearby and struck the wall. He grabbed her by the head, between the cat ears, and shoved her head down, another report echoed through the Gut, and he took her by the arm, dragging her up into Thunderclap Hall. “Unhand me!” she cried as he dragged her inside.
“Underby, what in God’s name are-” she began as Bib came running up the stairs from the Bucket. “What’s goin on, boss?” he asked, his eyes wide, seeing her.
“Someone is shooting at her.” Underby said. “Quick, take her out through the back room and spirit her through Wheatstone to the Painted Lady, until we can get her back to Clockhaven. That quack is a madman.”
Macbain recoiled. “Unhand me! If you think this orchestrated charade has convinced me even in the sl-“
“Boss, yer shot!” Bib said, suddenly. Underby looked down, his shirt at the shoulder was torn and swiftly growing a disturbing shade of deep crimson. His mouth was suddenly dry.
“I’ve been shot before.” he said shortly and thrust Macbain at Bib. “Get her the hell out of here.”
Star said “Underby, I… I…” as Bib rushed her downstairs, into the bar.
Underby sat down on a stair as Mags padded barefoot behind him. He looked back at her. “Please fetch a doctor, Mags… I believe I am bleeding to death.” His head swam, and dark spots were floating before his eyes.
She nodded and ran. Before passing out, he vaguely hoped Mags didn’t bring back Dr Berithos.
*whistles soundlessly, and wonders if it’s time to take a hand in this somehow*
Oh…boy…here goes the rumors….-sighs and loads a few rounds into her favorite boomstick-
They weren’t shooting *at* you, they were shooting *with* you!
Lest anyone’s mind should proceed directly to the gutter, let me state that my visit to Miss Namori’s new building was completely innocent. We are neighbors now, after all.
-crosses her arms and sage nods in agreement still holding her gun-
Berithos grinned as soon as he saw the twitching feline ears appear. Star was in his sights. Things had grown too hot lately in Babbage, too many enemies about. With Underby, the Church, and the LLL breathing down his neck, he’d have to leave town soon or thin his foes out a bit. The choice was obvious. Besides, Phaedra would love a Starless Babbage.
That mangy catgirl… she was the one who set the LLL on him, he knew it. Normally Berithos would hire someone for a murder, but he wanted this pleasure for himself. Aiming from the roof of his surgery, he brought his revolver to bear right on Star’s good eye and fired… and missed, hitting the window of the Bucket instead. Growling, he aimed again and began to squeeze the trigger, just as Underby burst out.
Oh, this was too good a chance to pass up! Berithos shifted his sights from the stunned, but unharmed MacBain to the running Underby and fired again. A hit! A shoulder wound, not an outright kill, but with luck, Underby would bleed to death or perhaps die of infection. Not the desired outcome, but not a bad day’s work, either. Quickly pocketing the revolver, the surgeon opened the skylight and dropped out of view.
Oh good! I’m glad that you weren’t thinking of my rather odd dancing at the bonfire Mr Underby and finding it amusing. However, I’m sure your foray to Miss Namori’s was perfectly innocent indeed. I’m sure you were discussing with her suitable animals to have on site to help keep the pest population under control.
*smacks her with a rolling pin.*
Ow! You dented my hat! Besides, isn’t that supposed to be my weapon of choice? :-)
Miggins was sawing open a skull when the small woman arrived, out of breath. “Doc! Hurry quick, come wif me then!” she stood near the door, beckoning him to follow. Miggins placed his spectacles up onto his forehead. “What is it?” he asked.
“Hurry! He’s been right shot!”
Miggins stood slowly, holding his lower back and grunting slightly. He wiped his hands on a rag. “Did you see it happen? How long’s he been dead?”
“He ain’t dead yet, ya wet fool, but he will be sure enough iffin ye don’t make haste!”
“Oh,” Miggins said, turning back to the almost exposed cranium. “I don’t work on live patients anymore, Maggie. I work on the stiff ones.”
“Yer the only doctor I could find!”
“Maggie. I am not meant to work on live patients. I’ve lost too many to feel comfortable using the motto ‘First, do no harm’.”
Maggie’s eyes were fierce suddenly, and… was it possible he had never noticed that she wasn’t as short as people said? Perhaps he had always seen her from the vantage point of a barstool… “Waste not more of my time, old man, lest ye should taste me wrath.”
Somehow, this argument held considerable weight. Miggins grabbed his hat and kit.
“Who is it?” Miggins asked as he signaled for a hansom cab.
“Mr. U!” she said, tugging firmly on his sleeve.
Miggins lit a cigar. “I suppose that was just a matter of time.”
Underby had been the complete bastard apparently responsible for what had become of Miss Dizelle, the poor wretch. Miggins grinned just slightly, hidden mostly by his beard… perhaps his “talent” for working on live patients would manifest again today? One could only hope.