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Bookworm Hienrichs approached the entrance to Militia headquarters in a most pensive frame of mind. Though Cortman’s other missing men hadn’t yet turned up–dead or alive–she had little doubt they would eventually, and she wasn’t looking forward to that. And they were still no closer to discovering the agent of the deaths.
As she drew near, though, she saw a huddle of something to one side of the entrance, with a black something standing over it. A few steps later, she could finally make it out in the gloom of early morning–a body, a small body, with a large raven pecking at it. She hissed in a breath, then ran toward the scene, waving her hands at the raven. “Shoo! Shoo!”
The raven cawed–rather derisively, it seemed to her–pecked at the body twice more, and flew away. Bookworm knelt by the body, and saw that it was one of the urchins. After wracking her brain for a few moments, she came up with a name–Hoyt. The lad had been shot in the chest, and blood covered his torso, but there wasn’t enough blood on the snow around for it to have happened at headquarters; Bookworm thought he must have been carried here. There was a knife at Hoyt’s side, also stained crimson, but the boy didn’t appear to have any stab wounds.
Bookworm did what she could at the scene, until other militia members began arriving. With them taking over, Bookworm began canvassing the neighborhood, hoping that someone had seen something.
It took a few hours, but she finally found the witness she needed–another urchin, named Aether. She’d asked him if he’d seen anything out of the ordinary in the area during the night.
“Well, I saw someone carrying someone outside the Militia,” he said, “but I don’t know if it was ordinary or not. Hard to tell wiff people that time ‘a night.”
“Did you happen to see who it was?” Bookworm asked. “Who was doing the carrying, that is.”
“Big, tall feller,” Aether replied. “Big, taller hat. Like Unnerby with a fake beard on, but I think it was a read beard.”
Bookworm’s attention was definitely caught by that, as Cortman fit that–admittedly generalized–description. “Bearded, eh? Anything else you remember about him?”
“He was stumblin’ along, carryin’ Hoyt. I fought Hoyt might be drunk or summin’.”
Bookworm nodded. “Anything else you remember, Aether?”
“Oh, I think the Bearderby had a cold. Or he smoked bad tobacco.”
She looked *very* interested at that. “Why do you say that?”
“Oh, he was coughin’ a lot. Real bad, sometimes.”
“Thank you, Aether,” Bookworm replied with a nod. “Come to me if you need anything–I’d like to reward you when things aren’t so hectic.”
The boy nodded, smiling, and ran off. Bookworm sighed and turned to go back to Militia headquarters. “Jed isn’t going to like this at all,” she muttered.
((To be continued…))