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“So tell me this,” Jed asked once Cortman had left, “when you got the blind doctor to examine Arnold, did the cat have any bruises or injuries other than the missing fur?”
Bookworm shook her head. “None. But I believe this killing occurred after his examination. We’ll have to find him now. If he’s still uninjured, I would say he’s in the clear.”
“Well, both of the previous victims had defensive wounds. As much as ‘Penny’ fought back, the suspect should be injured.”
Bookworm nodded slowly, though she did wonder if fur would hide such injuries. A slice like what the knife indicated, though, would be much harder to hide.
“So the count is three? The kid at the rock, the back garden, and this one?”
“It could be as many as five,” Bookworm said with a sigh. “Cortman said that four of his men are missing. Penn worked for Beatrixe, so that leaves two unaccounted for.”
Commodore Dagger looked down at the dagger, and frowned. “If this guy stabbed anyone, they didn’t leave much of a trail. Which is insane, given this snow.”
Bookworm also frowned, looking around. “Perhaps whoever it was was able to wrap the wound right away.”
“Maybe. But who kills someone like that and stops in the open to do first aid?” She shot a sardonic look at Bookworm. “Get him to the mortuary, and I’ll call on Miggins.”
“And do me a favor. Black ink, and print. You’re gonna make me need bifocals.”
Bookworm nodded, hiding a smile. She took a quick look around, and was lucky enough to find a cart nearby that she could bundle the body into. It took some time to wrestle cart and body down to Militia headquarters, but once there, she got help hauling it into a cell. She was determined that this one wouldn’t disappear.
Bookworm hurried to the Asylum, hoping Arnold would be there. She didn’t, of course, think he’d done any of the killing, but she wanted to have the conclusive proof for any doubters. When she reached the building, she knocked at the door. After a moment, Arnold opened it.
“Miss Hienrichs? Here to arrest me?”
Bookworm stepped inside, looking him over quickly. “Do you have any wounds now?”
“One,” he replied, looking up at her. She hissed in a breath. “What kind of wound?”
“I got a papercut this morning.” He held out his paw, showing a slight scratch on it.
Bookworm exhaled in a laugh. “Nothing else, though? May I look–just to be sure?”
Arnold looked, reluctant, but didn’t oppose her, “If you need a full-body examination… all right. But nowhere with a window.”
Bookworm followed him back toward a small bathroom. She kept a close eye on his gait, but could see nothing that indicated any wounds to his legs. But she did still want to check his arms, as well as his chest. Once inside, Arnold took his jacket off, then paused. “The pants, too?” he asked apprehensively?
Bookworm shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
Arnold sighed in relief as she squatted down. He held out his arms; she scanned them, then reached out and quickly ran her hands along them, feeling for anything hidden by the fur. But almost immediately, Arnold let out a yell and shrank away. Bookworm reared back on her heels. “What?”
“I…” Arnold took a breath, visibly trying to calm himself. “I didn’t expect you to touch me, too. That’s all.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” Bookworm held herself back as she asked, “May I continue?”
Arnold took another breath. “Again, then.”
Bookworm reached out carefully, and finished her examination of Arnold’s arms. She also prodded at his chest. That didn’t elicit a reaction to any pain, but something else entirely–
“Bear in mind I’m anatomically correct,” Arnold said with a grimace. “For a cat. I have six of those.”
Bookworm suddenly realized what she’d been feeling, and did a truly classic double-take. Arnold looked at her, surprised. “You didn’t know?! I figured Emerson would tell the world! Then again, he decided to tell everyone I was a pirate who wanted to open a pub.”
Bookworm nodded. “I did hear some odd things, but they sounded so wild, I discounted them all.”
“Well, that’s one way to keep a secret,” Arnold said sardonically. “Confuse the hell out of everyone.”
Bookworm was unable to stop herself from chuckling briefly, but then she sobered. “I got a note from Cyan–he found a body behind his academy.”
Arnold frowned. “Who?”
“Another of Cortman’s men. Boeman, he said.”
“Boeman.” Arnold frowned at his own memories of the man. “He was a rough fellow.”
“He was armed, too, and fought back. Whoever or whatever attacked him has at least one knife wound.”
Arnold looked at her. “Then maybe whoever attacked him will be easy to track now. All we need is for someone who was stabbed to show up.” He paused. “Is that what you were checking for?” At Bookworm’s nod, he continued, “Well, I wouldn’t be able to run about like I have been if I was stabbed. I can’t say about werewolves..”
“I didn’t think it was you,” Bookworm hastened to reassure him, “but I needed to do that to make sure to everyone that you’re in the clear.” She sighed. “Though whether Cortman will accept it, I don’t know.” Bookworm paused for a moment, adding, “He threatened to string you up if we didn’t lock you up. Well, he said ‘someone,’ but the inference was there.”
Arnold shrugged. “I’ve already been watching out for lynch mobs. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to escape one.”
Bookworm looked at him, concerned. She didn’t like how things were progressing, and was worried that he really would become a target. “If you wish, you could stay at my place. Mariah and I can keep you safe.”
Arnold nodded. “That’s fine with me. Cortman isn’t stupid enough to attack your homes directly.” Even if he would burn down an empty carriage house or Books shed in the back…
“Good. You can come home with me now, and I’ll introduce you.”
Arnold put his jacket back on. “It’s… not a secret anymore, but you might as well keep it to yourself.” He paused for a moment to fit his hat back on his head, when he was done he added, “And it’s Mr. Arnold.”
Bookworm nodded. “Of course,” she said as she followed him out of the asylum.
High up on the rooftops the little clockwork watched, unobserved but observing…
Good thing that clockwork was watching…
Pensive. Pensive times.
*ponders hiding somewhere far far away…*