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Bookworm Hienrichs hurried across the Wheatstone Waterway district, taking a shortcut across one of the frozen canals, until she reached the Asylum. She knocked on the front door; after a few moments, it was opened by Arnold. “Hello?” he said.
“Hello, Arnold,” Bookworm replied. She looked at him a bit keenly, but couldn’t see anything suspicious about him.
“Do you need something?” he asked.
“Would you have time to come with me? You may be able to assist me with something.”
“All right.” Arnold stepped out, shutting the door behind him.
“Thank you. We’re going to my house–well, behind it, actually.”
Arnold nodded, and Bookworm couldn’t see any signs of evasion or dread. If he had killed the man currently lying in the back garden, Bookworm doubted he remembered it.
As she turned to lead the way, she saw a figure coming toward them, and she stopped short in surprise. “Hello, Miss Bookworm,” the figure said, and she recognized the voice from a brief encounter with him some time ago. “Hello, Dr. Solsen,” she replied.
“I hope that you’re having a good morning,” he continued, as another figure neared them.
“Eventful, anyway,” Bookworm said wryly. “Hello, Miss Nymlet,” she said to the newcomer. Arnold and Dr. Solsen also greeted her.
“Say, Arnold, I was thinking. The inhabitants of the asylum–”
“What are you thinking of my patients?” Dr. Solsen broke in sharply.
“Ah, well… their brains. It’s not like they are… using them, is it?”
Dr. Solsen looked at Miss Nymlet with horror plain on his face. Bookworm put a hand to her forehead, shaking her head. ‘This is *not* what I needed right now,’ she thought.
“You will not touch them, nor will you be allowed in the facility. Ever.” With that stern statement, Dr. Solsen quickly strode into the Asylum and shut the door.
“I was just asking,” Miss Nymlet muttered. Then she looked at Arnold. “Are there ever one or two left over? That won’t be missed?” Arnold rolled his eyes, but she continued to press him. “If it’s a question of money–”
“No,” Arnold said firmly.
“No. It’s that they’re all using them and we’re trying to keep them alive.”
“But… are they really? I mean, isn’t the lack of brainage what got them in here?”
“They still need to breathe,” Arnold said. “Try the undertaker. They sell them… sometimes.”
“Yes,” mused Nymlet. “But those are dead. I need someone living. It’s all right–it’s all in the name of science.”
“Hire someone dumb enough from Bump to think they can sell their brain,” Arnold said wryly.
“Yes, that’s what I was coming to you for,” Nymlet said eagerly. “I mean, the ones in the asylum should be easy to get to sell their grey matter.”
“You do realize you’re in front of a militia member, right?” Arnold tilted his head at Bookworm, who leveled a stern gaze at the woman. “All living things need their brains to live. To remove them is to kill them,” she said. “If I find you have removed someone’s brain unwillingly, you will be in great trouble.”
“I’m not talking of removing the brain, as such,” Nymlet replied indignantly. “But there are a lot of people not using their brains at all these days. They would benefit with some… augmentation.” She continued, after a moment of stony silence from Arnold and Bookworm, “Well, I see I’m not getting much support for science here.”
Arnold shrugged. “Talk to Canergak. He’d probably let you.”
Nymlet, apparently ignoring Arnold’s last comment, said, “Goodbye, and have a good day.”
Bookworm watched as she left them, heading up the alleyway. Finally, she sighed. “I’m going to have to keep an eye on that one, aren’t I?”
“Probably,” Arnold replied. “Well, if that’s what you wanted to show me…” He moved toward the asylum door.
“No, not at all, actually,” Bookworm said, startled.
Arnold paused. “Really?”
Bookworm decided to reveal at least part of the truth now. “I’m hoping you can identify a body for me. It’s currently in the garden behind my house.”
Arnold blinked. “You need someone who can catch a scent? Why not Star?”
“He had an invitation to the last hurrah at the Mariners’ Revenge in his pocket. That *may* mean he worked at the Asylum. I’m hoping you can tell me yes or no on that.”
“I see.” With a nod, Arnold indicated she should lead the way, and together, they waded through the snow to her home.
((To be continued…))