Deep underground in the secret urchin lair called the Sneaky Vole, Tepic sat at a table and for the umpteenth time unfolded the note that had arrived several hours before. He read it again and it was still the same, Miss Bookworm wanted to see him.
Standing, he thrust the crumpled paper into a pocket and started for the exit, it had to be about going into the Asylum and poor Miss Rouse, they were going to blame him an lock him up even though it was that Canergak’s fault for hurting them poor creatures an driving them out of their minds.
Without realising it he had returned to the table and sat down again, reaching into his pocket and drawing out the paper. He turned it over in his hands several times before smoothing it out on the table top and reading it. Nothing had changed, and it was as if the ink itself was burning the words into his head, Miss Bookworm wanted to see him.
She’d looked so badly injured, lying there under his hands as he’d done his best to stop the bleeding, but had looked up at him as if everything was alright, not blaming him or anything. But it was his fault, he knew, he had tricked her into taking him down to the lab, even though he had wanted to see what she had built. He was the one who had asked her to let the cat go and she did it because he had asked her, because she liked him. So what he had thought it was Beryl, their friend, so what that it was probably mad because of what that man had done to it, it was still his fault she was hurt, might even die…..
The boy stifled a sob, years of street living having enforced the idea you couldn’t show weakness even when you were all alone.
He couldn’t change what had happened, and what about all those creatures still held down there, constantly being tortured and experimented on by that monstrous man, suffering horribly. Someone had to do something about that, one way or the other. Inside of him the guilt warred briefly and lost to the hot, fierce anger, his eyes flashing, lip curled back to expose his teeth as he imagined the terrible horrors of the laboratory.
What if his other fear was right though, what if that heart was what he hoped it wasn’t? It was his duty to tell the City about it, because if he was right, they were all in deep trouble. The cool wave of determination broke over him, he had to tell Miss Bookworm, make her see, make her realise he needed to be stopped, regardless of the consequences to himself, So what if he was locked away, at least the City would be safe.
He got up and started for the door again, the conflicting emotions surging inside his breast, urging him to go, to stay, to run away and hide. Halfway to the door he wavered and turned back, getting himself a bowl of stew from the pot simmering on the fire. He sat down and stirred the stew with his spoon, picking up some of the contents now and then and almost putting it in his mouth but never quite managing it. His stomach was rebelling, stirred more than the stew by his indecision. Suddenly he stood, pushed the bowl roughly away and ran for the door – running was the only way he could keep his focus and reach Miss Bookworm’s door, whatever the consequences.