“Ahhh-good afternoon, Arnold.” Miss Bookworm said after he had greeted her outside of the militia headquarters. “I trust you’ve recovered from what that Metier man did?”
Arnold’s side rarely flared in pain anymore, but he shook his head no all the same, “There’s one thing I still have to do. Do you have some time on your hands? I have a couple of confessions to get through today.”
Bookworm looked rather surprised as he started to walk past her and into the HQ, but he was much more surprised to find that the headquarters was empty when he tried to enter.
“Renovating. Or moving. I’m not sure which right now I’m sorry to say,” She explained.
Arnold raised an eyebrow, but shrugged. “Alright, then wherever is fine. We can go to the asylum if you want.” Now that he said that though, he wondered if she was even aware of it’s existence yet.
“I’ve heard of it,” Bookworm admitted. “Through some…interesting rumors.”
Arnold wondered what she had heard, but he supposed he should be grateful that word was getting around now, “If you want to come down and inspect it, be my guest.” She agreed and the two walked in silence until they reached the pier and he asked, “What do you know of my criminal background?”
“Nothing of that.”
He couldn’t see her reaction as he walked ahead of her, but it didn’t really matter. Arnold just continued his pace, “Well, I have a lot of confessing to do then.”
They arrived at the transport, which had been set up to take people to the hospital or the asylum as needed and rode it down. There was no one on guard except for the submarine operator, who was only supposed to ferry the staff and their guests for the moment. “Welcome to the sanitarium, which just so happens to be a madhouse designed by a madwoman. Care to see our non-existent patients?”
She nodded, and so he took her on a tour of the facilities cells, and proved to her that they were completely empty for the moment. “As of right now, we’re not even officially open. The rumors you heard were exagerated, but feel free to come down here whenever to check though.”
She seemed pleased by the arrangement and smiled to him, “I hope you don’t take it amiss that I hope the facility won’t have to be used very often,”
“Of course,” Arnold responded honestly. In his mind, the facility was meant to be equipped to deal with people who were as unstable as Henri and worse, but he was also hoping it could be used by people who just wanted an escape from the world outside for a little while. That’s why he’d had a sky room in the design which…hadn’t turned out at all like he’d intended. Now the facility was so surreal it might just make a sane person worse. Still it was looking more and more like Maddox would be staying with her husband and wouldn’t need her room, so it was likely that room could just be used by a patient seeking refuge or safety from those who meant them harm.
As Book was inspecting the cells Arnold turned and walked back up the stairs towards the sky room, which he was starting to think of a new name for since one of his nearest neighbors just so happened to be Sky Melnik. “I may be in a cell like that later,” Arnold commented with his back turned, and once again he didn’t see her reaction. Honestly he didn’t need to, he was already pretty sure how this would turn out today at least, and how it would probably go wrong later.
So he sat down with Book and began telling her his story. He didn’t bother with a lot of details, since he was sure she would be sending off for a copy of his files in the near future. Besides, there was nothing in them that the authorities and courts hadn’t already punished him for, dropped due to lack of evidence, or acquitted as self-defense. Arnold had wondered sometimes if Dr. Solsen had gotten involved behind the scenes on his behalf, but if the elderly doctor had he’d known Arnold well enough to not tell him.
“I always brought the evidence, and the bodies, to the authorities,” Arnold concluded as he took out his journal and placed it in front of Miss Book and opened it first to the page where Henri had left a thank you note. “As I’m doing now.” She read that note and then he turned to the 15th where he’d talked about the poison, “I’m partially responsible for the death of those men in Huxley Hall.
“As you can see,” Arnold continued as he already felt the weight on his mind lifting, “I was detailing why I think we should fix these things so they couldn’t happen. But Henri got there first.”
Bookworm read the passages briefly and then looked up at him with a hint of compassion, “I think you’re taking too much guilt on yourself, Arnold. You’re not responsible for his actions, for his madness.”
“No, I’m not,” Arnold agreed. Everyone had said the same thing and had assumed that when he blamed himself he was blaming himself for their deaths. But that’s not what he was blaming himself for at all. “I’m responsible for negligence and writing it in the first place. That’s where my blame is.”
That Arnold had left something written like that, and then after the journal was stolen he’d failed to prevent said things contained within it…he’d assumed that Henri would never be able to get close enough to do it on his own and so had everyone else. He’d never imagined anyone would help him since the entire town had been dead set against the man. That had been his error and his mistake and that was why Arnold blamed himself.
But now that he’d told Bookworm the truth…that weight that had been pressing against him lifted. It had been like a heavy burden that caused an itch that he could neither scratch or ignore. It had plagued him, but now that he’d told her the truth it was finally gone. What she and the other militia members, Underby, Tenk, Cleanslate, or anyone did with the information was irrelevant to him now. The thought of jail or execution had never bothered him, anymore than it had all the other times he’d done this. Compared to that unrelenting burden those things were nothing to him.
“We all have to live with unintended consequences,” Miss Hienrichs assured him.
Arnold shrugged that away, “You can do what you want with what I’ve told you. You can bring a case against me with it, I already know that it would be difficult for you to prove that I intended for him to do that or that I intentionally gave him the ideas. But I don’t think you intend to.”
She shook her head, which he had expected from the beginning. He’d promised Maddox that he wouldn’t confess alone if he did go, and this is what he had meant. Book wasn’t a friend, but he knew her better than the others and for him that was close enough. What he hadn’t expected was how easily she’d come to the conclusion. From the way that she was acting now, he was beginning to wonder if she’d even file a report or mention the recent event to the others. He shrugged his shoulders. That was up to her discretion he supposed, he couldn’t make her write out his confession and keep it on file.
“Metier is the man responsible, and he’s recieved his punishment,” Bookworm stated confidently.
Arnold looked at her curiously. He’d heard that the man was dead, but not how yet and so he got the story from her…that she knew. After that he escorted her through the rest of the facility.
“If you ever do find someone clawed to death one day, and it was at night that the deed happened, feel free to suspect me. I won’t remember if I’m guilty or not, but I might be.”
Bookworm nodded uncomfortably, “I’ll…keep it in mind.”
Arnold wondered why so many people here would just accept that and not call for him to be locked away in the facility immediately, but then again perhaps negligence wasn’t even a crime in Babbage. That would not even come close to surprising him anymore, with all the scientific experiments the people in this town had going unchecked…if the militia did arrest him they’d have to arrest Spires for his radium pool, and Footman for…well they would have to pretty much arrest half the town.
On the way out, Arnold was starting to feel very tired again, but he tried not to let it show as he let Book see the only sealed door. “This leads to Canergak’s office. I can’t open the door sadly.”
“He paid for the facility. He needed a head doctor though, no pun intended,” Arnold said sternly, but Heinrichs chuckled anyways. “So Maddox runs the facility, but he owns it. Like Mr. Harvey owns Wilde Hospital but he’s not a doctor.”
“I must admit, I’m not used to such arrangements,” she chuckled.
Arnold didn’t smile, this arrangement had felt too familiar for him to be amused. This wasn’t the first deal with a ‘devil’ that he had made. The first had been with Lionheart, who had flat out admitted that he was a demon, and Arnold had made that deal to protect Maddox. The feline was sure that Canergak was mortal, but he too had done little to hide his nature during their first meeting and since then. He hadn’t gone into business to protect Maddox this time though, nor was it just to keep an eye on the man. He’d done it to satisfy his own selfish need, and keeping an eye on the facility to make sure it didn’t turn into a slaughter house was a footnote to that.
After she left, Arnold had been going to the hospital to see Maddox and tell her what he’d just done, but before he had gathered their things he got a message that a group had just arrived with someone they wished to commit.
“We’re not ready to accept patients yet,” Arnold tried to explain, though that was when they told him about the man’s unintelligible screams about horses and nightmares. The men who had brought him here had also explained that he wouldn’t stop screaming about Babbage either.
With the militia in the middle of renovations he didn’t think he could direct them to the jail…and this was obviously Helio’s doing in the first place. Arnold sighed and sent a message that they could bring him down, which was not easy as the man was completely manic and it only became worse once he was inside. Arnold got their help to get him into a straight-jacket and administered some laudanum and then put him into one of the solitary cofinement rooms. He’d have to fill out a lot of paper work and send it up to Miss Book to let her know that something had changed in the past ten minutes right after she left. Oh well.
Arnold set out about his work, never realizing that most people would have still had some lasting guilt of some kind, but he didn’t. He’d told Book everything and his blame had evaporated like vapor. In truth he had never felt any guilt emotionally, his mind had simply convinced himself that he must feel guilty. He knew that he had problems, but he never realized the nature of this particular neurosis other than the fact it drove him to confess. As with all neuroses there was a cause behind it, but it would be some time before any but Heliotrope and his own unconscious mind would know what.