It was Sunday afternoon. Bookworm had set aside, for the moment, the news Gadget had brought her of his work on battle clanks, and had disappeared into her studio to work on developing pictures. On a trip into the kitchen for a break and a snack, she heard the front door open. She hurried to the front of the house, and there saw Mariah, just closing the door. Mariah turned around, hearing her, and looked at her with an expression Bookworm had never seen on her face before–a mixture of embarrassment and hesitation.
“Mariah!” Bookworm exclaimed. “Where have you been?”
“Oh, around and about,” Mariah replied, gesturing vaguely. She looked at Bookworm soberly. “So. We survived.”
“We did.” Bookworm gestured toward the living room, and they settled on the couch in front of the fireplace, taking a more-than-usual comfort in its warmth. Mariah started first, explaining what had happened since she’d stormed out of their house. It didn’t take long, actually–she’d apparently spent most of the time in one bar or another, wondering if every day would be her last. At Bookworm’s urging, she explained about her past and the superstition she’d had for so long about what would happen if she returned to New Babbage.
Bookworm said solemnly, “The Dark Aether certainly found a fertile field with that, unfortunately.”
Mariah nodded, looking sheepish. “I was actually watching the Van Creed building on Friday, waiting for Armageddon to start. And it… didn’t.”
Bookworm shook her head and filled Mariah in on the frantic events from her point of view–the creation and round-up of the Cloud Angels and their use on the canisters, their gathering at City Hall, and the confrontation with Mr. Hopkins of the Van Creed, and his murder of Sebastian.
Mariah looked startled at that. “He did that? Damn. I saw him lighting out of the building when it started collapsing like his tail was on fire. If I’d known, I would have collared him for you.”
“The militia sent out an alert, but he made himself scarce. I’m sure the Van Creed have their own ways in and out of the city.” Bookworm continued her account with the retrieval of the last Cloud Angel by Jimmy, their frantic race to the Van Creed building, and its use just in time.
“We had already changed the path, though,” Bookworm said. “The clanks that would have killed me weren’t even there.”
“Interesting,” Mariah mused.
“Oh! Where are Mrs. Sawyer and Mrs. Pritchard?” Bookworm asked.
“I told them to stay in Caledon. No need for them to meet their fate so soon.” Mariah smiled wryly.
Bookworm chuckled. “Will they be willing to come back?”
“Oh, I’m sure they will. I already telegraphed them that we’re still standing–I’m just waiting for their reply.”
Bookworm nodded, then stared into the fire for several minutes. “As I see it,” she finally said, “we have three hanging threads. First is the matter of the Van Creed and their clanks. From what I understand, Mr. Hopkins didn’t say that they weren’t ready, just that they hadn’t been shipped here. The question is, what will they do with them now? And where are they, for that matter?”
“A good question indeed. I’ll see what my contacts abroad can discover.”
“Thank you. The next loose end is Dr. Martel’s missing notebook. Who took it originally, how did it get to Gadget, and where is it now? Though even if it was destroyed in the warehouse, I’m sure the Van Creed had plenty of time to copy it.” Bookworm sighed as Mariah nodded in agreement.
“And finally, there’s Moriarty.” Bookworm rubbed her head. “I need to talk to Commodore Dagger and Gadget about him–but not until after the holidays.”
“What do you need to discuss with them?”
“I want to ask Miss Jed if he should be charged with anything. I can certainly think of plenty, but she may not agree. And if he should, the next question is, can he answer to those charges in his current condition?”
Mariah shrugged. “That’s definitely beyond my reckoning.”
Bookworm chuckled. “Well, as I said, that’s for later. For now, I’m just looking forward to a nice, quiet Christmas.”