Bookworm followed the track that she had worn into the snow, cutting across lots and through narrow alleyways, until she reached the asylum. She knocked once, as a warning, then unlocked the door with Arnold’s keys, which she was still keeping custody of. She heard a sound from the right and, peeking into the dining room, saw the girl Lisa just coming out of the kitchen, her hands wet and dripping.
“Hello, Lisa,” Bookworm said. “Has Dr. Maddox Lionheart arrived?”
Lisa nodded. “She’s upstairs with Dr. Solsen.”
Bookworm smiled her thanks and went up the main staircase. At the top, she gave warning of her arrival by softly calling, “Dr. Maddox?”
“I’m in here, Miss Book, with my father,” Dr. Maddox’s voice drifted around a corner. Bookworm followed it into the bedroom that had been hastily finished and roughly furnished to allow Dr. Solsen a somewhat more comfortable recovery area. Dr. Maddox was perched on a chair next to the bed.
“How are you feeling, Dr. Solsen?” Bookworm asked.
“Like a mosquito-sized tram ran into my shoulder.” Dr. Solsen smiled weakly, coughing. Dr. Maddox laughed a little, hugging herself. But then a thought struck her and she looked at Bookworm with concern clear in her eyes and voice. “Miss Book, is something wrong with Arnold?”
Bookworm shook her head reassuringly. “No, nothing new with him. However, there is something else I came to discuss with you.” She glanced at Dr. Solsen, then looked back at Maddox. “Perhaps we should go downstairs?” Seeing Dr. Solsen still so weak, she didn’t want to burden him with what she’d come to discuss. Dr. Maddox seemed to pick up on that right away. “I’ll be back in a bit, father,” she said.
Dr. Solsen seemed to realize something was up, too, as he sighed. “It is all right. I’ll call if I need you.”
“I’ll tend to you tonight, father, and give Lisa the night off.”
“She need it, the poor dear.” Dr. Solsen smiled weakly. Dr. Maddox smiled and gave him a gentle kiss on the forehead, then followed Bookworm out to the hallway and down the stairs.
Bookworm led the way into Dr. Solsen’s office, seating herself on the couch. She gestured to the stuffed chair nearby. “I think you’d better sit down.”
Dr. Maddox did so, focusing her attention on Bookworm. “Yes?”
“I’m here to give you the answer Id didn’t want you to know,” Bookworm began. “And the reason I’m doing so is because we’ll be needing your help.”
“My help? Didn’t Id advise against it?” A trace of bitterness colored Maddox’s question.
“We… finally managed to get some answers and ideas after you left,” Bookworm replied. “That changed Id’s mind. Reluctantly changed, granted.”
Dr. Maddox’s eyes went as hard as flint as she narrowed them. “I see. So now I am important enough to use. Did she think that I am some kind of hazard?”
Bookworm felt out of her depth with that question. “I don’t know. But I think once you hear this, you’ll understand at least some of her reasons why.”
Maddox’s visage remained hard. “Go on.”
Bookworm watched her carefully. “There has been, of late, a large raven seen around New Babbage. A raven attracted to dead bodies. It appears to take… something… from those bodies. I didn’t recognize it at first–”
“I believe that I know which raven you’re speaking about,” Maddox interrupted. “Metier’s, isn’t it?”
Bookworm nodded. “But there’s more.”
Maddox rolled her eyes a bit. “As always,” she commented trenchantly.
“Metier’s spirit is… alive, so to speak… and inside that raven.”
Maddox went still. “I thought it was banished,” she finally said.
Bookworm shrugged helplessly. “I thought so too, but somehow, he’s back.”
“And he’s using that ridiculous raven to do his dirty work, I suppose.”
“Not entirely,” Bookworm said, frowning. “I actually managed to talk to him. Well, to both of them.”
“Oh? And what did the dead madman say?”
“According to him, it’s the raven that wants Arnold, not himself.”
“So if I kill the raven, Arnold will be safe?”
“Kill or capture, yes,” Bookworm said.
“He won’t live if I capture him, Miss Book.” Maddox’s eyes were hard and determined. “If you know where the raven is, I can fix this.”
“Where it is, I don’t know. But I think you can help us attract it here, where we can trap it.”
“A trap? Here?”
Bookworm nodded. “We could set something up in the bell tower. I asked Id, and she confirmed that a Reality Enforcer would adversely affect Aessesser.”
Dr. Maddox tapped a finger slowly against her lips. “That could work…”
“Id also confirmed that the raven would be attracted to you. Whether that’d be Aessesser’s doing, or Metier’s, I’m not sure.”
“Trust me, I am a draw for the thing. And if I play my hand correctly, I will be its judge, jury and executioner.”
In the mood Bookworm was in, she had no inclination to argue, and every inclination to see that raven lying dead at her feet. “Tepic and Cyan have some plans for the trap. I’ll let you know when we’re ready.”
“I will be here with my father. Lisa really needs some rest from caring for him.”
Bookworm smiled. “Thank you. She really has been a help, and so uncomplaining.” She stood up. “I should be going back, but I’ll be in touch.”
“Thank you, Miss Book.” Maddox escorted her to the door. “If you have more news of Arnold and Id that I should know, you’ll send someone?” At Bookworm’s nod, she smiled. “Very well. Good night, Miss Book.”
“Good night, Dr. Maddox.” Bookworm set her feet back on the snow-lined path that would take her home.
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