Bookworm Hienrichs hurried the short distance to the asylum, wanting to see how things were getting on. She knocked once at the door, as she usually did to warn of her arrival. But before she could unlock the door herself, there was a rattling inside, and then the door opened to reveal Beatrixe Rouse. “You banged?” she asked, swaying from side to side. Behind her, Bookworm could see Cyan Rayna standing.
“Hello, Beatrixe, Cyan,” Bookworm said, stepping inside. “How are things here?”
“They are going pretty well, I think,” Cyan replied.
“Oh, the tea party had to be interrupted, because I had to install some nets,” Beatrixe said a little mournfully. “And unlock a window.”
Bookworm smiled at the engineer. “I’m sure you’ll be able to get back to your tea party soon, Beatrixe.”
A sudden woman’s shout from above, though, made her start. “RATS! RATS EVERYWHERE! I NEED POISON!”
“There’s one of the partiers!” exclaimed Beatrixe.
“KILL THEM ALL! DIRTY VERMIN!”
“Now if only I could convince her I’m friendly…”
Another female voice cried out, “FOR THE SAKE OF EVERYTHING EVIL, WOULD YOU JUST SHUT UP!”
“Charming,” Bookworm said wryly.
Cyan looked up and rolled his eyes. “You should see it when they are all awake.” He paused. “It’s actually kind of funny, in a sad way.”
Beatrixe grinned. “Well, do you wanna see the netting?”
“Lead the way,” Bookworm replied.
They went up the stairs as the two voices continued shouting.
“I NEED RAT POISON! WHERE’S THE SHORT MAN?!”
“But I’m not riding in your hair right now!” called Beatrixe.
“AAAAAUGH! You’re the first one I’m gonna poison, rat! THE FIRST.”
“Thank Lucifer, Sikes is medicated. Bastard.”
The shouts drifted up with them as they climbed two more flights of stairs, arriving in the spacious belfry. It was, however, less spacious than Bookworm remembered, as a fair bit of it was now screened off by netting that hung ceiling to floor.
“Here we are!” Beatrixe said proudly.
“Impressive,” Bookworm said, looking around. “How will it work?”
“Oh, well that’s the best part! Up above, there will be doors, small doors for the kids to drop nets and rocks–they’ll be hiding in the rafters. Also, we’re not done yet.” Bookworm smiled as Beatrixe continued rattling on. “Going to make more nets to come down and through, and drop this back part after the ravens in! Right here.” She pointed to the secondary netting hanging in the back.
“I see.” Bookworm nodded.
“So, a lot of work to do yet! But it can be done by Friday..”
“We will,” Cyan averred.
So Friday, you’ll have a birdy trap! But… that might not be good.” Beatrixe suddenly looked rather solemn. “The city needs its birdy!”
“Why do you say that, Beatrixe?” Bookworm asked. She was curious as to why Beatrixe seemed so partial toward Aessesser.
“Well, aren’t birdies supposed to take you after? That’s what the birdies do!”
Bookworm shook her head. “We can… move on without them.”
“Oh, but that’s why we need the birdy!” The engineer seemed rather insistent on that point.
“Well… we don’t want to take all birdies,” Cyan put in. “Just this one, who’s making people move on probably when they shouldn’t be.”
“Well, if you think it’s best!” she replied, looking at them dubiously. “You’re not gonna hurt the birdy, are you?”
“Oh, we aren’t,” Cyan said stoutly.
“Okay!” Apparently happy again, Beatrixe skipped down the stairs. Once she was out of earshot, Cyan muttered, “Not so sure about Dr Maddox, though.” At Bookworm’s raised eyebrow, he continued, “With Meiter in the bird… well, not sure what she’d do.”
“As far as I’m concerned, she can do as she pleases,” replied Bookworm wryly as she went down the stairs, Cyan following.
Ahead of them, she heard a shout of “AHHHHH! AHHHHHH! It’s BACK!”
“Hi, there!” came the cheerful voice of Beatrixe.
“KILL IT KILL IT! GIANT RAT NEEDS TO DIE! POISON! WHERE’S THE SHORT MAN WITH MY POISON!”
Someone else, in the meantime, began repetitively beating on walls and window. Bookworm, partly out of curiosity, partly out of a desire to make sure the inmates were all right, opened the barred door to the cells.
She quickly located the cells of the two who had been making all the noise. MaryAnn Clyton was the one always yelling about rats and poison–a plaque by the door to her cell stated that she’d poisoned her family “like the rats they were.” The plaque for the other woman, Elizabeth Winters, stated that she believed herself to be a demon.
As Bookworm came into sight of the cell windows, Ms. Winters looked out at her. “Hello, beautiful. Would you like to meet true evil?”
“I already have,” replied Bookworm wryly. “Several times, actually.”
“Not yet you haven’t. I’m a high ranking demon.”
“I don’t think even you would have stood up to what we saw last winter.”
Ms. Clyton, in the meantime, was muttering, “Can’t sleep, rats will get me… Can’t sleep… Rats… Rats everywhere… Rats rats rats…. Where’s the short man with my box of poison…” She began crying and banging her head against the wall.
“Oh for the love of Lucifer… Would you shut the hell up?” Ms. Winters yelled.
At that moment, Bookworm heard the barred door open. Turning, she saw Mr. Canergak enter. “What are children doing in here?” he asked indignantly.
“Cyan is… assisting me,” Bookworm replied shortly.
Ms. Clyton shot up and banged against the window. “Short man! Short man, I need poison!”
Canergak, ignoring her for the moment, narrowed his eyes at Bookworm. “This facility is no place for children, but they seem to swarm in droves.”
“Yes, well, they seem to be able to handle an environment and people like this better than many adults I could name.” Bookworm leveled a steely look at the shorter man.
“I need paper,” demanded Ms. Winters. “This crazy human keeps me awake.”
“Short man, please! Please, I need to poison the big rat! She scares me!” Ms. Clyton threw herself against the door.
“Come, Cyan,” Bookworm said mildly. “We should leave Mr. Canergak to his… work.”
Cyan nodded, and they both moved off. Ms. Winters called after them, “Come back anytime, beautiful. I’m always hungry.”
Downstairs, Cyan sighed in relief and wiped his brow. “Thanks, Ms. Book,” he whispered.
Bookworm nodded. “Lisa’s still all right, I hope?” she asked.
“Yes, she is still doing okay.”
“Good. And thank you for all you’re doing. If you run into any difficulties, let me know.”
They stepped outside, but just as Bookworm closed the door, it was opened again by Beatrixe, who had slipped back downstairs. “Hello again! I just remembered one last thing!”
“Yes?” Bookworm asked.
“That reality thingy… whatever? How would I make it? I tried a potato, but that didn’t work.”
Bookworm bit back a laugh. “It’s all right, Beatrixe. I’ll bring one when it’s time.”
“Hmmmm…. okay! But when we’re done I’m going to make one out of a chew toy!”
“Go right ahead.” Bookworm smiled as Beatrixe shut the door. Bookworm looked down at Cyan and smiled wryly. “Good luck.”