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“Henri,” Dr. Maddox said coldly, her body going rigid at the familiar and hated presence.
“That you, nutter?” Tepic asked, while Stormy cursed.
“Greetings!” He told the gathering of urchins and adults. “It’s been some time.”
“Henri?” Loki fumbled through his memories from a year before as some of the new kids asked who that was. “A mad ghost, woz wha’ I heard.”
“Of course,” Maddox replied; she had been hoping Metier would have vanished along with the bird. “What do you want?”
“Me? Nothing,” Henri replied, repeating nearly the same line that he had told Bookworm earlier that month. “But I have what you wanted.”
“And what would that be, Henri?” Maddox asked with fists clenched, while Tepic stood up and gripped the net with his fingers peering inside at where the raven had been. “You got Hoyt?” he asked urgently.
“Yes–your friends’ souls.”
Dr. Maddox blistered, “There’s always a catch with you, Henri. What is it this time?”
“No catch,” Henri replied, sounding a little offended. “Here.”
“Hoy, look!” Jimmy cried and the crowd gasped as a small glowing boy appeared, floating in front of the enforcer. His skin was a pale white and his eyes were sunken, but he still had his hat and the arrow through his head he had loved to wear in life. Maddox gasped at seeing the dead child appear, and some of the urchins who had known him couldn’t hide their tears.
“You never really did appreciate me,” Henri chided. “I’ve been keeping them from being devoured.” Laughing maniacally once again, Henri’s voice seemed to get closer and then further away, as if he had to descend the stairs of the asylum. As he passed, Bookworm felt the presence of other souls, souls that he had not released.
“Where are you going, Henri?! We’re not done yet!” Maddox cried, and Bookworm wanted to do something… but she didn’t know what it was. They had been ready for the raven, not Henri.
“I guess he is though…” Stormy said as he looked back up at her, shrugging, his friend beside him growling angrily.
“How many other souls are in there, can we get those released too?” Nathan asked, tears of relief in his eyes as he kept looking between Hoyt and around the room for any others that might appear.
“I….” Maddox sighed heavily. “I don’t know if he truly gave them all back…” Bookworm kept what she had discovered to herself. It would only distress them more to know the truth right now.
Tepic had gone under the net and approached his friend, “‘ello Hoyt, good ter see yer… yer did well, yer know?”
“Wha’?” The ghost child looked at his friend, lost.
“Is Hoyt’s body still… useable? Or could we put his soul in a robot?” Cyan asked as he looked around at the members of the Under 13.
“No…” Tepic said sadly to his friend. “But Hoyt, yer know yer did well, don’t yer, tried yer best, an’ helped Weasel…”
Recognition seemed to dawn on the urchin, “I know…”
“Yes, you did very well Hoyt,” Cyan added, while Zaida hid behind Miss Bookworm and cried. Book looked down and whispered, “It’s all right, Zaida.”
Hoyt looked about at everyone gathered and down at his floating legs, ”Did fha’ bird… ea’ me?”
“Well, yes, fer a bit, but we got yer back,” Tepic replied. ”Now you gots a choice then, ain’t yer? Yer can join the other ghosts, down the graveyard… or, if yer likes, yer can go on, take the next step, the big adventure…”
One of the gathered urchins turned to everyone else. “Isn’t there nuffin’ we can do?”
Most of them looked about uncomfortably, unable to think of anything. Dr. Maddox covered her mouth and moved back with Bookworm to let the urchins settle this themselves. Matthew watched the interaction with his jaw slack, though Stormy muttered, “Not unless ya got a spare body just a layin around..”
There was some talk about hunting down an animal for him to possess, while Tepic tried to tell them that it wasn’t right to do something like that. Sniffling they countered, some wiping their noses on their dirty sleeves, “This isn’t right either!”
Hoyt looked at everyone slowly, looking lost and tired. “Cor… feel like I jus’ woke up from a nighmare. I fhink… I’m gonna res’ a bi’… fhink on fhings.”
“Tyke yer toime, Hoyt. Ya gots awl th’ toime in the world,” Jimmy assured him.
“Righ… I’ll… jus’… fake a nap… fer now…” Hoyt said as he slowly faded away. “See ya lader… when I’m resfed.”
“You do, mate… an take care.” Tepic sighed, relieved that his friend had finally gotten peace.
“Shouldn’t Hoyt be goin’ up to heaven now? Shouldn’t dere be a light?” Zaida asked as she moved forward to the netting.
“Naw, he’s goin’ to the other place…” Stormy cried out as Zaida punched him in the shoulder. “Ah! What?! He would have liked that joke!”
As Zaida and the others chastised Stormy, Maddox turned to Bookworm and whispered, “Do you think we’ve really done it?”
Bookworm nodded at Dr. Lionheart. “I think so,” she replied, while softly smiling to herself as Tepic assured the other children that if Hoyt did stay, there were plenty of nice ghosts he could stay with. “I’ll tell you later.”
Maddox nodded. “I only hope Arnold is still safe… I don’t think I’ll be leaving the asylum much until we’re very, very sure.”
Tepic looked around at the gathered urchins. “We all done good, fellas, reckon it’s time fer a few drops down the Vole…” They all seemed to think that was a good idea, and one of them suggested doing something big that night just for Hoyt while they ran the curfew. As they all scurried out, Bookworm thanked them for their help.
Bookworm and Maddox, however, had another destination in mind. Bookworm stopped by in Dr. Solsen’s room to give Lisa a summary of what had happened. Then she and Maddox stepped outside into the late afternoon light, hurrying to Bookhaven.
As they came inside, Mrs. Pritchard met them, helping them remove cloaks and jackets. “Arnold is… awake now.” At their astonished gasps, she continued, “While you were gone, he just… opened his eyes and sat up.”
Bookworm and Maddox both dashed upstairs, not hearing Mrs. Pritchard’s attempts to say something more. They found Arnold sitting quietly on Mariah’s bed looking out the window. Momoe Mollari was sitting in a chair nearby, watching him with concern, the book she had been reading tossed aside for the moment.
“Arnold?” Maddox asked, and as he slowly turned around Maddox gasped. One of his eyes was still orange and the other his normal teal. He stared at Maddox with no hint of joy or recognition, and finally asked, “…Who are you?”