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Bookworm Hienrichs helped Junie Ginsburg over the threshold of her home. They’d come here, as Bookworm’s house was closer to The Pit than Ms. Ginsburg’s, and she felt quite guilty about knocking Junie unconscious like that. At least here, she could tend to Junie’s wounds in peace.
“Here,” she said. “Come into the living room. You can have a seat on the couch, and I’ll get my supplies.”
Junie looked around as she settled into the confines of the couch. “You have a lovely home!”
“Thank you!” Bookworm called as she hurried upstairs. She quickly returned with ointment bandages, and water. “I have to admit,” she said as she knelt down and began her ministrations, “I really wasn’t expecting that.”
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, honestly. But I’m rather pleased with the way it went.”
Bookworm sighed. “I’m just glad it’s over.”
Junie nodded slowly, holding a bandage to her lip. “You caught me quite by surprise in the final round.”
“I’m pleased I was able to acquit myself so well,” Bookworm said with a shy smile.
Ms. Ginsburg closed her eyes, leaned forward, and sighed. “Ms. Book, there is something I need to tell you, even though I’d rather not.”
Bookworm raised an eyebrow, even as she finished tying a bandage. “What is it?”
Junie looked her in the eyes. “I first want you to know that I fought my damndest to win tonight. I hope you believe me when I tell you that.”
Bookworm nodded, sensing something unpalatable behind that statement.
Junie bit her lip out of habit and winced. “I…my life was threatened yesterday morning. He…he said that my life was in danger if I didn’t make sure you won tonight.”
Bookworm reared back on her heels. “What?! Who did that?”
“Honestly, I don’t know the man except by reputation,” Junie said, cringing a little. “I think it was Doctor Obolensky. Tall hat, monocle, cape…”
Bookworm sputtered a bit, speechless. Finally, she jumped to her feet, pacing. “That…that…oh, that *insufferable* villain!”
Ms. Ginsburg arched an eyebrow, amazed that even that hurt. “I have to say that I’m utterly confused about all of this. But I rather like you, Ms. Book, so I wanted to let you know.”
Bookworm stopped, holding a hand to her head, feeling a headache coming on. “He and I have had several contretemps over the few years I’ve been here in New Babbage. Apparently, he just can’t keep from meddling.” She looked at Junie, concern clear in her eyes. “I’m so sorry that you were caught in it!”
“Thank you, I appreciate the sentiment. Given the situation, I’m glad you won tonight. But it’s important to me that you, and everyone else, understands that I didn’t dive. Of course, I’d rather that no one else know.”
“I know you didn’t take a dive,” Bookworm replied with a nod. “I think you could easily have won.”
“That’s charitable. I’m a sloppy boxer and I know it,” Junie said, smiling crookedly.
Bookworm touched her lip gingerly. “So am I.”
“But I think we gave each other a good run tonight.” Junie looked at her bandages. “Thank you for tending to my injuries. I’d like to see some of the fellas who box patch each other up! Hah!”
Bookworm grinned. “We ladies have to stick together, even when we fight.”
Junie grinned back, nodding in agreement.
“Are you recovered enough to get home?” Bookworm asked, still concerned for her new friend.
“Yes, I believe so,” Junie replied, though she groaned a bit as she stood up from the couch. “I’ll see if I can catch one of those trolleys…”
Bookworm grinned wickedly. “That may just give you another knock-out, but one can hope not.”
Junie laughed. “Too true. I’ll take my chances though.”
Bookworm showed her to the door. “Good night, Junie.”
“Good night!” Junie replied.
Bookworm waved to the departing woman and closed the door, turning around to see Mariah standing there. “Did you hear what she said about Dr. Obolensky?” she asked her, indignation clear in her voice.
Mariah nodded. “There’s something else you need to know, though,” she said soberly.
“Oh, now what?” Bookworm groaned as she went back into the living room.
Mariah laid a hand on her arm, stopping her. “In the third round, when Ms. Ginsburg got that solid hit on you, you changed your technique.”
“Wait–you were there? I didn’t see you.”
“I was there. And no one saw me.”
Bookworm shrugged a little, accepting this eccentricity of her friend. “It’s a good thing I did change, isn’t it? What I’d been doing before wasn’t working. But I finally started feeling more comfortable in my movements.”
“Bookworm…I didn’t teach you those techniques.”
“What?” Bookworm stared at Mariah, feeling nearly as stunned as she had after Junie’s punch.
“I didn’t teach you those,” Mariah repeated, “but I have seen them before. When Mr. Holmes was boxing.”
“But…” Bookworm began pacing the room, trying to work things through. After a few moments, Mariah caught her arm, stopping her in her tracks. When she looked questioningly at her, Mariah inclined her head toward Bookworm’s hand. The pipe, neatly filled with tobacco, was in it.
“The pipe,” Bookworm mused, setting it down on a table. “And a violin…and his boxing moves…” Suddenly, she gasped. “Last night!”
“What about last night?” Mariah asked sharply.
“While I was at Militia headquarters…I fell asleep for a few hours.”
“You were helped asleep,” Mariah said more than asked. Bookworm nodded. “And Dr. Obolensky somehow transferred skills from Mr. Holmes to you?”
Bookworm nodded again. “Which means he’s had Mr. Holmes all this time. We need to let Dr. Watson know!”
Mariah shook her head. “*I’ll* let him know. You get some rest.” Mariah started for the door, but then heard footsteps behind her, and turned around. “What are you doing?”
“I need to tell Ms. Ginsburg and Miss Namori,” Bookworm said. “That wasn’t a fair fight!”
“Are you crazy?!” Mariah grabbed her by her shoulders. “Sarah. Do you *really* want to go through that again?”
Bookworm looked down at her hands, at the scraped and bruised knuckles. Finally, she shook her head.
“Look. Ms. Ginsburg is satisfied, the audience was satisfied–Miss Namori is *unhappy,* but satisfied. Even Dr. Obolensky will be satisfied. Let sleeping dogs lie.”
After a moment’s thought, Bookworm signed and nodded in acquiescence. Mariah looked at her sharply, but then nodded with satisfaction. “Tend to your hands as best you can,” she said. “I’ll do the rest when I return.”
Bookworm watched her go, and then returned to her pacing. And quickly saw the pipe in her hand again. She exclaimed in frustration, set it down yet again, and grabbed the violin.
‘If I must behave like Mr. Holmes,’ she thought, beginning to saw away, ‘better this than the pipe. But will I ever *stop* behaving like him?’ She continued to play, turning the problem over in her mind, quickly coming to the realization that there was probably only one man who could tell her the answer to that. But would he?