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Feb. 28 – Conversations

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Bookworm followed Canergak into his office, carefully schooling her expression to show only curiosity and concern. Inside, though, she was absolutely dismayed at his threat toward Lisa. Did that mean what she thought it did? How had he figured it out?

Canergak was standing near the fireplace, breathing carefully, evidently trying to regain his composure. “Miss Hienrichs,” he finally said, “I am sorry. It has been long since I have been this angry. But when one of their kind harms one of ours…” He shook his head, staring into the fire.

“Their kind?” Bookworm raised an inquiring eyebrow.

“Monsters.” He turned and looked at her. “Make no mistake, the creature that did this was nothing but that.”

Bookworm nodded slowly, suddenly recalling Canergak’s demonstrated attitude toward Beryl. She wondered just what his criteria were for defining ‘monsters.’

“I don’t have all of the facts yet,” he continued, recapturing her attention, “but I can tell you what I know, if you have any official questions.”

“Please do.” Bookworm listened closely, wishing she had her notebook with her.

“I had just gone upstairs and when I came down and entered my office, I heard the alarms and warnings. I went inside, and there was the fox child being flung off of the cat as it attacked Beatrixe, who was bleeding on the ground. I got its attention, as the fox tried to throw foul-smelling concoctions of his own design at the creature. It didn’t slow it down, but it chased me to the doors. I sealed them on my side and went for my equipment, after being sure the fox had gotten Miss Rouse to safety.” Canergak paused, his lips compressing. “He accused *me* of doing something to his friend. I am growing weary of the accusation.”

“I can understand that,” Bookworm commented.

“I got my equipment, as I said, and subdued the creature. Though it nearly seemed to…” He paused. “Its reaction was not as expected.”

“In what way?”

“When you shoot something with aetheric lightning, there is usually a charred corpse or a burning smell. It rarely starts to absorb it.”

“Interesting,” muttered Bookworm, wondering what on earth that could mean.

“It was still weak, thankfully–possibly the only reason Beatrixe Rouse is still alive. I…” He sighed. “Honor makes me admit that the fox did stop the bleeding as I went for help. Lisa fetched Dr. Footman, and then we called for you.”

“I see.” And indeed, Bookworm could see that Canergak looked his usual, composed self again. “Well, I can promise you I’ll have a long chat with Tepic.”

“I would wish more than a talk, but I shall wait to see about my employee’s recovery to think on that.” He gestured toward the door. “Good day, Miss Hienrichs.”

“Good day.” She followed him out to the main foyer, but then saw that he’d turned back, leaving her alone by the entrance. Bookworm wasn’t about to let this opportunity go by. She hurried quietly forward to the dining room, and saw Lisa sweeping the floor. She hissed a little, and when Lisa looked up, gestured to her. “Come with me,” she said quietly.

Bookworm led the way outside, into the courtyard. They stood to one side of the walk, not too near the front entrance, nor the gates. Though it was cold enough to make them both shiver, neither of them seemed to feel the chill, so intent were they on their conversation.

“Lisa, did he mean what I think he meant?” Bookworm asked in dismay. When Lisa nodded, she continued, “But how did he find out? And when?”

“Right after you left that day,” Lisa replied. “He told me that all this time, he’d thought I was a Moreau.”

“Yes, he mentioned that to me, too. Why on earth would he think that?”

“It’s his eyes. They don’t see bodies – I… I think they see spirits. So when he looks at me, he sees a tall, feline creature, not this human body. But that night,” and here she looked up at Bookworm with accusation in her eyes, “he learned I am human. And that’s when he made the connection.”

Bookworm listened to this with growing dismay. “Oh, Lisa, I’m so sorry–it’s my fault. He asked me how Dr. Martel had died, and when I told him about the claw marks, he assumed it was you. I didn’t want him thinking that, and I couldn’t understand why he thought you were Moreau, so I told him you were human.” She put a careful hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Can you forgive me?”

Lisa studied the ground for several moments, then finally looked up and nodded. “I guess even adults make mistakes with good intentions?” she asked.

“We do indeed,” Bookworm replied emphatically, nodding. “What else did he tell you?”

“He also said that Tepic and Beryl, like the fish creatures, and other, worse things, can’t die the way you and I can–that it’s harder, somehow, to kill them. And that’s why he doesn’t think they’re living creatures.” She shrugged. “I don’t understand that at all.”

“Neither do I.” Bookworm shook her head, puzzled.

“So what do I do now?” Lisa asked plaintively.

Bookworm sighed, hating what she had to say. “I’m afraid you’ll have to stay here for now. I’ll give your situation much thought–there must be *some* way to get you out of there without having Canergak reveal your secret… or charge you with breaking and entering.”

The girl nodded. “Is there any sign of Beryl?”

“No, not yet.” She looked down into Lisa’s distressed face. “We’ll keep looking, I promise. You’d better get back inside.”

She watched as Lisa scurried back inside, and sighed again. ‘Well, this is a right mess of things, isn’t it?’ she thought, in an unknowing echo of Lisa’s own words. She turned and went through the gates, wondering what she should try to fix first.

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