Bookworm Hienrichs shook her head as she listened to the excited urchin who had found her just east of Port Babbage. The first thing that had struck her as she listened to his report of another attack in Clockhaven, was his inappropriate dress. Nothing but a thin sweater and shorts in winter weather. She tried to recall his name. Johnny something?
If the boy had his facts right this would make the third reported attack in the past week. Time to put a stop to it. She addressed the boy. “They are waiting at the Gangplank, you are sure?”
“Yes sir, ma’am,” Johnny confirmed. “Mr. Emerson said he’d give me some smokes if I was to run and get you, so come on. He forgets stuff if you leave him too long.”
“You’re lucky I was in the area, that tobacco is easily earned this morning,” the captain of the militia took a deep breath then exhaled a dense winter plume that seemed to hang indecisively for a moment as though unsure of which way to blow. “You must be freezing,” she addressed the urchin. “Do you not have long pants? Would you like to borrow my hat?”
“No sir, ma’am,” the boy replied. “I don’t need no long pants. I ain’t felt the cold or caught no snotty nose in three years, ever since some crazy old doctor messed with me.”
Bookworm readjusted her scarf, pulling it tighter against her cheeks, wondering if she should question the child further on his encounter with the crazy old doctor. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the Gangplank. You may say you are not cold, but I would feel better if you were inside. Come, hopefully Mr. Lighthouse has the fire well stoked. ”
“He likes to be called Sir Sir.” said Johnny.
“Yes, I know,” Book smiled. “Perhaps I could visit Miss Faulkner’s bakery while I’m there, Mariah loves the sticky buns, she says they remind her of the baked goods her mother used to get back in the days before the Fire.”
“They’re right some good, them sticky buns,” Johnny piped up, running along the trolley tracks to maintain pace with Miss Hienrichs. “Especially with a mug of bitter and a drizzle of molasses. But I ain’t got no money, see, and I’m real hungry.”
Bookworm turned to the boy without breaking stride. “I think I can afford you to purchase you a sticky bun and molasses.”
“I’m real thirsty too,” said Johnny.
“I’m sure Mr. Lighthouse can provide your refreshment.”
“Miss Hienrichs,” said Johnny huffing more than he should for a boy of eleven. “You’re some lucky.”
“Why is that?”
“Onna counta you live next to Sir Sir down in Wheatstone,” said Johnny. “He must be a great neighbour.”
“Watch out for the trolley!” said Book, pulling Johnny by the arm from the tracks as one of the city’s ubiquitous transports snuck up behind the boy.
“Frig me!” Johnny cursed in relief as he watched the trolley continue along Prince Dakkar Boulevard. “Thanks Miss Book.”