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Bookworm entered the cell where the man Weston was being held. She looked him over, trying to assess his mood after having now spent a few days in custody. Had isolation, pain from his broken nose, and, to be honest, less-than-palatable victuals finally worked to loosen his tongue? She stood there for a moment, simply watching him.
Weston watched her himself. He was unhappy with his current situation–even a little angry, it seemed to her. His broken nose was also interfering with his speech, it seemed. “Wha’ do ya wanna dow?”
Bookworm raised an eyebrow. “What I want to know is everything *you* know about the various killings over the past week or so.”
Weston scowled. “I don’ dow who or wha’ killed Yolin’e or Boeman. The Capdain was sure id was de cad, said he knew id. Like he’d seen id firs’ hand.”
Bookworm puzzled out that speech, then shook her head impatiently. “It was *not* Arnold. What we found at the scene of Boeman’s death proved that. And if he saw one or the other of the killings, why on earth didn’t he tell the Militia that?”
Weston shrugged. “No one goes do da militia da solve deir problems in Babbage. Wha’, for da Commodore do act even more superior do the likes ob us?” Weston gestured to himself. “No, we handle our own.”
“Whoever killed your men was–still is–a danger to all of New Babbage. That makes this Militia business,” she said as persuasively as she could. “As for handling your own, just see how those who are left are handling you–leaving you here to rot.”
“Aye.” Weston nodded, reluctantly and slowly, but he nodded. “I don’ dow who was addacking us, but I do dow where da men were goin’. And mebbe dey dow more about our addacker, or mebbe nod. Dere’s also a doc’or, Capdain mide hab dold him wha’ he saw.” Weston leaned forward at this point, expectantly.
“Do you know where I can find this doctor?” Bookworm asked.
Disappointed, he sat back. “Dr. Miller, an’ you can find ‘im in da canals.”
Bookworm nodded, and turned toward the door. But then she paused, and looked back. “Oh, there is just one more thing.” Her eyes hardened a little. “What do you know of the boy’s death? Hoyt?”
“Dad god oud ob hand,” Weston explained quickly, his eyes going down nervously. “Da Capdain wanded da boy daken alibe da hold him undil da cad was imprisoned. Da boy resisded, stabbed the Capdain. Dought we was gonna kill him, from da look ob id. Da Capdain shod da boy in da back as he ran.”
“So why dump him on the Militia doorstep?”
“Da same reason he burned down da carriage house,” Weston said. “We hab da stand up for ourselbes da your kind. You hid him da day before, he hid you where id would hurd once he had da oppordunity. Da’s how we handle id.”
Bookworm shook her head slowly. “A mindset like that leads to nothing but an early grave, Weston. Think on it.” With that, she exited the cell, heading for the Canal district to look for Dr. Miller. Asking around led her to a nondescript door in a row of narrow houses. She discretely tapped, and waited.
Dr. Miller opened his small door and looked outside nervously. He was a rather plump man, and seemed startled to see her there in her uniform. “Oh. Umm… how can I help, Miss?”
“Dr. Miller?” she asked. At his cautious nod, she continued, “I’m Miss Hienrichs of the New Babbage Militia. I was hoping you could do us a favor.” Miller took off his hat at this point and began to fiddle with it nervously. “With all the recent trouble in the city, our usual doctors are rather swamped right now. I was hoping you could handle a somewhat less pressing case–a suspect with a broken nose.”
“I’m afraid I am not that kind of doctor, but I can see what I can do… if everyone else is busy that is!”
“Very busy, unfortunately. We’ll be glad of any assistance you can offer.”
“Of course, let me just grab my bag and–yes. Lead the way, Miss.”
Bookworm waited as Dr. Miller took up his bag and put on a jacket against the cold. His nervous manner made her wonder if his practice was quasi-legal at best–that would explain why Cortman had gone to him. She made a mental note to check on that later, and led the way through the streets.
She thought to at least start sounding him out as they walked along. “You’ve heard about the recent troubles, I’m sure?”
He turned on her immediately, face flushed. “I had no idea he was capable of such atrocities! I would have let him cough his lungs out if I had known what he was going to do!”
Bookworm was actually rather startled that he’d admitted to this so quickly. ‘This may not be so difficult, after all,’ she thought. “So he did come to see you? We found a note in his pocket mentioning you.”
“Yes,” Miller said quietly, shrinking a bit as he fixed his collar. “He came to me a few weeks ago, brought actually–in a delirium. He was having terrible fever-dreams, brought about by an infection. He kept screaming about Mr. Arnold, reliving the moment the cat attacked him.”
“I see,” Bookworm said slowly. “Did he talk about anything else? Either in his delirium, or later?”
“Nothing that would have made me think he was going to kill all those people… I did think that he may have intended to take his own life.” Miller paused for a moment, and then added empathetically, “Personally, I believe he smoked those cigars and stayed in New Babbage just to speed the process of his disease.”
“Aye, well, he got his wish,” Bookworm said grimly. “I just wish he hadn’t decided to take so many with him.” She looked sidelong at the doctor, trying to assess him. Nervous and excitable he was, but he certainly seemed sincere. She decided to be fully honest with him. “Doctor, certain things I’ve been told lead me to believe Cortman may have witnessed one or more of the earlier killings–the bodies found outside the city and in the garden behind my home. Please, did he happen to say *anything* that might pertain to those?”
Miller looked at her quietly. He seemed like he wanted to say something but was afraid to. Finally he began, “The claw marks that are said to have been on the bodies…can I see them? If it’s possible?”
Bookworm nodded. “Boeman’s body is still at Militia headquarters. I’ll bring you to it, then have you take a look at our prisoner.”
((To be continued…))