Bookworm led Lisa back inside the asylum. In the entrance hall, they found Canergak waiting for them. “Miss Hienrichs,” he said, moving closer. Lisa shrank back against Bookworm. “If we could discuss a few things in private?” he continued, fixing Lisa with a stern look. She whimpered a little, and scurried away toward the dining room.
Canergak led Bookworm into a ground-floor office, where a fire burned high, but somehow still didn’t seem to penetrate the gloom. Or, perhaps, the gloom was only in her own mind, she thought as she sat down in one of the two chairs pulled up near the fireplace.
“Well, Miss Hienrichs, it has been a… surprising day,” Canergak said, settling down in the other chair. “Though, perhaps, not that surprising.”
“I would call it surprising. In fact, I think I am forced to resort to astonishment.”
“Well, I had been forewarned of Lisa’s intent. Apparently, Lisa approached my employee Beatrixe Rouse about my clockwork defender. She told me in passing what was requested, then told me, ‘But I shouldn’t have told you that.’ And then begged me to say I would never tell anyone else about it.”
“Ahh.” Bookworm nodded, remembering Beatrixe’s similar performance about the hidden tunnel she’d built at Bookworm’s new house.
“Truthfully, it is one of the reasons I keep her around this facility. At least I know I’m getting ‘a’ truth from someone.” He looked at her as she nodded noncommittally. “Speaking of truths, I suppose you have questions as to the nature of my experiments. You shall regret asking, but I am willing to speak.”
“I probably will,” Bookworm replied wryly. “But I’ll ask anyway. How on earth did you get hold of those remnants of the Deep Ones? I thought you and Mr. Footman had driven them off, or killed them all.”
“One escaped custody. It was hunted down and brought here quietly. There were many who were already against the idea of me vivisecting it, and I did not wish to debate with anyone on the merits.”
“I don’t know that keeping it is much safer, but I don’t want to argue that right now either.” Bookworm thought that, after the quiet of the snowy winter, too many things were now clamoring for her attention. “Where did you find the cat?”
“Germany,” he replied shortly.
“Does Beryl know you have… it?”
“I would say so. From the reports I’ve received, the local authorities believe he killed the other intended for these walls.”
Bookworm quietly hissed in a breath, then compressed her lips, looking distressed. “And yet, you have no idea where Beryl is now?”
“None. We have not crossed paths in almost a year.” As she studied him, drumming her fingers, he continued, “Besides, I am learning enough from the other, I have little need of him now.”
“Should I ask what you’re learning?” Her voice was heavy with irony.
“Ways to combat creatures like them. The Deep One, as you call it, and the other creatures down there you didn’t even see–I am preparing myself and the world with the technology to combat them. And that is only a small part of my ultimate wish…” When she raised an inquiring eyebrow, he asked, “You must have seen the glass in the center of the room and the machinery within?” She nodded. “That is part of my research towards my dream, Miss Hienrichs. I would not reveal its intent, but it harms no living creature.” Bookworm knew her doubt about that was showing on her face, but she said nothing… for now.
“Did you search young Lisa?” Canergak asked. Bookworm was glad she could answer in the affirmative. “She only had the set of asylum keys she’s always had. Speaking of her–I will be checking here fairly often, as part of my duty to supervise her probation.”
“I expected no less. I recall your previous stay here to be a positive influence.”
“I hope I can do that again,” she replied rather fervently. “We did not set a length of time for that probation…”
“That depends entirely on a few questions I had for you.” At her nod, he continued, “The arson. You questioned her about it. What are your thoughts?”
Bookworm frowned; she had to tread carefully now, so she wouldn’t give too much away. “She told me that there is much about her past she doesn’t remember. I’m guessing that… is an effect of her time with Dr. Martel.”
“Dr. Martel… yes, that was my second question. What happened to that man?”
“He was found dead in his laboratory, with claw marks on his face and throat.”
“Ahhh. Then Lisa did claw him to death.” Canergak shook his head in disappointment. “I suppose I had hoped she could overcome her Moreau nature.”
Bookworm stared at him, rather bewildered. “In case you hadn’t noticed, sir, Lisa is a human.”
“She is?” There was visible surprise on Canergak’s face, which startled Bookworm. “She has no claws,” she continued, “no aspects of a Moreau about her.”
“That… is very interesting.” Canergak leaned back in his chair, staring into the fire. Bookworm looked at him uneasily. “Why do you say that? What made you think she’s a Moreau?” He didn’t reply, and she began wondering if she’d erred in telling him that. But she hadn’t wanted to leave him thinking that Lisa had killed Dr. Martel–that needed to be kept secret.
The silence lengthened, growing strained on Bookworm’s part, punctuated only by an occasional comment from Canergak–first “Ahhh,” then “Yes,” and finally, “That would make sense, then, wouldn’t it?”
“What would?” Bookworm asked uneasily.
He finally turned his attention back to her. “Two years, Miss Hienrichs.” She frowned in confusion, but before she could question that, he asked, “Miss Hienrichs, what would you say about Dr. Martel’s research?”
“What do you know about his research?” She was surprised that anyone, beyond her, had learned and remembered much about him.
“Only what made the tabloids.” He shrugged. “Maybe slightly more, considering I was tracking Lisa’s movements after the arson.”
Bookworm spoke slowly, choosing her words carefully, trying to be sure she was telling no more than what was available in the public Militia files. “He was working on brain transplantation. His ultimate goal was to transplant a human brain from one human body to another. A pipe dream, I would say.” She shook her head, hoping that would convince Canergak she didn’t know anything more than that.
“Hardly a pipe dream, Miss Hienrichs.” He tapped the side of his hat, which had gears and small machinery puffing out small clouds of steam. “Do you think this is for show?”
‘Well, well,’ she thought, raising an eyebrow in surprise. She had, indeed, thought that, and stored this revelation away for later thought. “Well, it’s one thing to keep a brain going through mechanical means,” she replied, putting skepticism in her voice. “Another to rely on the purely biological.”
“And yet, it means the research isn’t a pipe dream. I would have funded his research,” Canergak mused.
Bookworm replied flatly, “Would you, then.”
“I take it by your tone that you would not have? Why?”
This was getting into dangerous waters again. “His goal was to prolong his life,” she said carefully, “and that would have come at the expense of another.”
“Only his own?”
“Actually, he wanted to revive his grand-uncle as well.” Bookworm wondered fleetingly what had happened to the elder Martel’s brain. After Dr. Ambrose’s death, she’d given it to the Academy of Industry, since the Militia had no facilities for storing it. But that was years ago…
“What of everyone else?”
“I don’t know.” That, at least, was true enough. Dr. Martel hadn’t written anything in his journals about any long-term plans if he perfected his process. “But to extend anyone’s life at the expense of another’s is not right.”
“That depends entirely on circumstance, but I believe we would talk in circles all evening then,” Canergak said dryly.
“Very probably,” replied Bookworm, just as dryly.
“What of his specimens? Did any of them survive? Or his understudy’s?”
“Not to my knowledge. And he had no one working with him. Just a couple of simple clanks.”
Canergak stared beyond her. “So his work killed them all?”
“Those he experimented on–yes.”
“Well, perhaps some day his work will be recreated. Or perhaps someone will make an even greater discovery and render the process obsolete.” He stood up, gesturing politely for her to follow him toward the main entrance. “Good evening, Miss Hienrichs. This has been very… informative.”
“Good evening, Mr. Canergak.” Bookworm worried about that last statement as she followed him. What was it he’d learned? Could he have figured out what Lisa really was? But how?
((To be continued…))