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Bookworm chivvied Lisa out the front door of the asylum and turned to close it behind them. Thus, she missed seeing Lisa dig into her skirts, pull out a small scalpel, and toss it quickly aside into a pile of old leaves, newly revealed after the snowmelt. Bookworm led the girl across the street to the latest location of Militia headquarters, feeling that she was on the brink of finally getting answers to questions she’d had for nearly three years.
The two stepped inside, but before Bookworm could escort her to her office, she heard a knock at the back door. Frowning a little, she went and opened it, to see Tepic standing there. “‘Ello, Miss Book,” he exclaimed, and glanced beyond her. “Watcha, Lisa!”
“Tepic! Anything wrong?” she asked as he stepped inside.
“Umm… I saws yer taken in ter the Asylum by that Mr. Canergak. Was gettin’ ready ter send fer the rest of the Militia ter spring yer!”
Bookworm chuckled a little. “No, that wasn’t the problem.”
“Oh. An’… well… Beryl’s gone missin’, an’ I reckons he’s inside!”
Book glanced back at Lisa, in time to see her grimace. “He’s not, Tepic. I… checked.”
“Yer sure? Cus he said if he went missin’ ter check the asylum. An’ he has, so…”
“Unless there’s another, less-accessible area of the asylum, I don’t know where he could be hidden,” Bookworm said.
“I bets they got ‘im stashed somewhere–right sneaky, they is.”
Bookworm shrugged. “That may be possible. Unfortunately, we have no proof. Now that I know, though, I’ll do what I can to search for him.”
Tepic nodded, though he didn’t look much mollified. “An yer’s in trouble, Lisa?” he asked. She nodded, looking miserable. “Well, yer can always kip down the V–err, Bunny Tower.”
Bookworm looked back at Lisa, who was fidgeting nervously. “Lisa, would you feel more comfortable if Tepic stayed with you while we talk?” The girl nodded, looking appealingly at Tepic.
“Course! I ain’t runnin’ off if me mate’s in trouble,” Tepic said stoutly.
Nodding, Bookworm said, “Follow me into my office, please.” She led the way to a room set off to the side of the main entrance. It was small, but had just enough room for a desk, a few chairs, a filing cabinet, and some shelves. She had Lisa stand still a moment and conducted a very cursory search of the girl, in case Canergak inquired about it; all she found was the girl’s set of keys for various asylum locks. Bookworm took her place behind the desk and gestured to the other two chairs. “Have a seat.”
Lisa perched uneasily on one, and Tepic took the one nearer the door. “Err… yer ain’t gonna make us swear ter tell the truth or nuffin’, are yer?”
“No, this isn’t an official interrogation,” Bookworm replied with a smile, as much to reassure Lisa as Tepic. “You don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to.”
“Phew! So–what they up to in there? Is Lisa gonna get thrown in the Tanty?”
Lisa looked across at him. “I snuck into Canergak’s lab.”
“Wot? The… err… ‘e’s got one?”
Lisa nodded, though Bookworm guessed it was more for his aborted question. “Did Beryl tell you about who he met while he was away this summer?”
“Nope. Though he said somethin’ ‘bout Dobermans…”
Lisa glanced at Bookworm, who nodded, letting the girl know she’d learned a bit from Canergak. “He found others like him. His family, in a sense. One of them is now in Canergak’s lab.”
Tepic whistled. “Beryl is gonna go spare when he finds out…”
“Canergak caught me. He wanted to lock me away in the asylum!”
“Why?!” Tepic looked outraged. “You ain’t a nutter!”
Bookworm nodded. “So Professor Vartanian said, thankfully. However, Canergak also said that Lisa is wanted in her home city of New York, for burning down the place where she worked.”
“Oh, well, that ain’t no concern fer us–they ain’t got jurysiction here. An’ you ain’t burned anyplace down round here, has yer, Lisa?”
“Unfortunately, I think it is our concern.” Bookworm stood up and went to her filing cabinet, rooting around in it until she found the file she needed. She stared at first one piece of paper, and then another, and nodded as another piece of the puzzle fell into place. So close, now, to having the entire picture…
“Three years ago,” she continued, turning back and setting one of the papers on the desk, “when Lisa first came here, the police of New York City did ask us to find and extradite her to stand trial. I didn’t get to it right away–I had more important things to do at the time than hound some poor girl. And then, it became a moot point, because of this.” She set down another, larger piece of paper. Lisa looked at it. “What is it?” she asked.
“That, Lisa Nyquist, is your death certificate. Filed by one Dr. Ambrose Martel.”
Lisa stared at the piece of paper, and then back up at Bookworm, her eyes wide. Tepic said, “Oh. Well, yer dead, sos they can’t grab yer. That’s all right, then!”
“And yet, here she is, Tepic,” Bookworm replied, not taking her eyes from the girl. “That’s something that needs explaining.”
Lisa shook her head. “I… I can’t. I… don’t remember.”
“So you said. You’ve never mentioned before that you have memory loss.”
“You never asked,” she replied, shrugging. At nearly the same time, Tepic broke in with, “Identical twins–that’s it! So it’s a case of mistaken identity!”
Bookworm shot an amused glance at Tepic, but immediately turned her attention back to the girl. “Lisa, I investigated Dr. Martel’s death. In doing so, I took charge of his belongings, including many notebooks. I learned… quite a bit about what he was doing. I know that he took patients from his clinic, declared them dead even though they actually weren’t yet, and move them to his underground lab, where he experimented on them. They never lasted more than a week. And yet…”
Talking it through seemed to be leading Bookworm down a path, one that she sensed was leading her to answers she’d been wanting for quite some time. She stood up and began pacing. “You were declared dead in March of that year. Dr. Martel was killed in July.”
“Just goes ter show it weren’t nuffin’ to do with Lisa,” Tepic said. “Cus she were dead by then, an’ if none of the others lasted more than a week… err…” He trailed off, evidently realizing he wasn’t making much sense.
“No, Tepic. I think she was down there the whole time. For four months.” Though Bookworm was addressing Tepic, she still kept her eyes on Lisa. “The question is, how did she survive? What is it about her that’s… different…” Her voice trailed off as suddenly, finally, the picture became clear, and she could only wonder how it was she hadn’t seen it before. The growing comprehension on her face was mirrored by the growing fear in Lisa’s.
“Ain’t it more important ter try an’ find Beryl?” Tepic said desperately, but Bookworm didn’t hear him. “Oh, good Lord,” she said, sinking down into her chair. “He succeeded, didn’t he?” she said in a stricken voice. “He succeeded with you. You’re a cat’s brain in a human body.”
((To be continued…))
Dr Falcon woke from her dreams with a start!
“Oh! Now that is why…”.
Pressing some buttons she called Unit #6.
“Unit #6, be so kind as to bring the data cylinder to my office. I get the feeling we may need it…”.