As Bookworm finished reading Tepic’s note for the third time, she heard a scratching at the door. Opening the door, she said, “Hello, Beryl,” to the feline figure crouched there, still dressed in ragged clothing.
“Book,” the cat said, entering the foyer, “have you seen the latest attacks?”
“Which are latest?” she asked wryly.
“The candy store, and the destroyed warehouse east of here, that’s collapsed into the canal.”
Bookworm nodded grimly, remembering the warehouse scene especially. Retrieving the bodies had not been pleasant.
“Do you know who it is yet?” Beryl asked.
Bookworm handed over Tepic’s note. “I don’t know a name, but I have something of a description now.” She watched as he read the note slowly, shaking his head. “Threatening Tepic?” he mused.
“I know. That’s… baffling.”
Beryl looked around uncomfortably; it wasn’t difficult for Bookworm to interpret that. “Have you found a good place to hole up?” she asked, with a small, wry smile.
“Yes. But that’s not really what I’m here about.”
Bookworm raised an eyebrow, in the manner that had come to mean, “Now what?” That was a question she’d had ample opportunity to ask since coming to New Babbage.
“I was hoping to hear the militia and its resources might have narrowed down who was doing this, or at least ruled out if it was the same man who threatened me.” He waved Tepic’s note. “I got a letter warning me, months ago. Why would I get a letter, and no one else? That doesn’t make any sense. It can’t be PJ…” He handed the note back to her.
She wasn’t convinced by his argument, though. She had a hard time believing that more than one person would be threatening – and carrying out threats – against New Babbagers–at least, two unrelated persons doing it at the same time. “Well, from what Tepic wrote, this man doesn’t seem the reliable type,” she said.
“I just wish I could discern a pattern in this,” she said with a sigh. “So far, what and who they’ve been going after don’t seem to have any real connections.”
“That could be the point. One business, one urchin facility, one den of… less than reputables…” He shrugged, and looked over his shoulder toward the door.
“Random bombings could be a precursor to extortion,” Bookworm mused. “A protection racket. But there’ve been no demands along those lines, so far as I know.”
“Except, perhaps, what Tepic wrote about the urchins.”
Bookworm nodded. “I’ll alert the Militia to search for this individual Tepic described, as well as keep a watch out for that boat.” She opened the door to let him out. “Be careful.”
Beryl looked up at her, a disquieting look in his eyes. “You be careful, Miss Hienrichs. I think you need to more than I.” He glanced around, then ran off.
Bookworm stared after him a moment, then shut the door and went back into the library. She suddenly shivered, thinking about Beryl’s words, remembering the note from the unknown PJ he’d shown her weeks ago. If these bombings really were related to that warning, how much longer would she be safe?
‘I think it’s time I warned Mariah–and Mrs. Pritchard and Mrs. Sawyer,’ she mused. Looking around at the book-filled shelves, she added, ‘And, perhaps, time to get some of these away to safety. Though where that would be, I don’t know.’ She wondered if Mariah would have any ideas, even as she began compiling a mental list of what should be removed first.