“Hienrichs! Where are you?”
The angry roar took Bookworm’s attention away from her work in her Militia headquarters office. She swiftly left her desk and through the office door, finding Miss VIolet Solano angrily pacing around the main room. “Miss Solano,” she said, calmly but rather coldly.
Miss Solano whirled on her, nearly pouncing. “There you are! Why is my man still in jail?”
“He is being held on suspicion of murder.”
“As I understand it, it was self defence. That your officer attacked both of them!”
“There were no eyewitnesses,” Bookworm replied patiently. “Mr. Eliot says he cannot remember what happened.”
“Of course he can’t remember,” Miss Solano interrupted impatiently. “He was shot before he had a chance to really notice anything.”
“And such an attack is, from we have gathered from friends and acquaintances, very out of character for Anderson,” Bookworm continued, raising her voice a little.
“Well, as I understand from what my lawyer got from Omig, your man was mad from fear and grief after killing his own comrade. So, you have my man’s story, and your man’s story as evidence. Oh, wait,” she added sarcastically, “your man doesn’t have a story.”
“I am not yet satisfied that I have the truth.” Bookworm tried to keep her tone calm, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. “Until I am, your man must stay under arrest.”
“You’ll let him out now,” growled Miss Solano. “You have nothing, or you would have hung him by now.”
Bookworm frowned heavily. “That is *not* how we proceed.”
“I doubt holding a man for self defence will look good for a Militia trying to improve its reputation. I think you’re just looking for someone convenient to pin this on, to save face.”
“I am not satisfied that it was self defense. And there is the matter of the other killings. Neither of your men have been able to give me satisfactory answers to their whereabouts during those… incidents.” Something was teasing at the back of her mind, trying to tell her she might be able to prove something yet…
“Where they were, was working in my warehouse, or making deliveries.”
“Miss Solano, we are still investigating,” Bookworm replied almost absently, as she continued her attempt to track down that stray thought. “Your men are not being mistreated. If our investigations clear them, they will be freed. If you will just be patient, we will see what the truth brings us.”
Miss Solano looked at her coldly. “I know you don’t like me, Hienrichs, and to be honest, the feeling is mutual. But if you don’t have proof, you have no reason to drag this out, except to discomfort me and cause my business harm.”
Finally, Bookworm had tracked down what she was trying to remember – the tuft of white fur found on the first murdered militia man’s body. That just might give her some of the proof she needed–if she could have more time. “Give me 48 hours. If I don’t have anything more definite by then, I’ll release them.”
“You have 24. And that’s it.”
Bookworm raised an eyebrow. “You are in no position to dictate to me,” she said mildly, but with steel in her gaze.
“You asked for 48. I’m simply giving you a counter offer.”
“You think this is a bargain?” she scoffed, though at this point, she knew she needed Miss Solano’s cooperation to end this without violence. “I will release them in 36 hours, *if* I have no further evidence.”
“If you had anything, you would not need to drag this out.”
“We shall see, Miss Solano. We shall see.”
“I’ll even help, and send you copies of my daily work logs. Those will show what they were doing, and where they were.”
“I will… take that into consideration.” Bookworm rather doubted, though, that they would contain the truth of the men’s whereabouts.
“Good. 36 hours–no more.” Miss Solano turned to leave, then looked back. “And remember, Hienrichs,” she said coldly, “militia captains are easy to replace.” A draft as cold as her tone blew inside as she left the building.
“Replace? Perhaps. But not so easy to kill,” Bookworm muttered a little grimly. She went to the front desk and scribbled a note for one of the junior militia members to deliver to the hospital, asking for a sample of Mr. Eliot’s fur to be secured and delivered immediately.
Once she received it, she dug the other fur sample out of the evidence and studied them both. Superficially, they looked to be the same, but, of course, superficial wouldn’t do at this point. Bookworm carefully separated the samples in two, putting each small tuft in a separate envelope. Two of the envelopes she left on her desk for later delivery; two, she took with her as she went back to the common office area of the other militia members.
It wasn’t difficult to find the desk area of the newest militia man; it was swiftly taking on the characteristics of a mad scientist’s lab, and was threatening to overrun other desks. A young man was bent over in his seat, all his concentration on the journal sitting in the one small clear area of his desk. “Murdoch!” she called, and he looked up, then jumped up from his seat. “Captain?”
Bookworm handed over the two envelopes. “I have a job for you. I need you to determine if these two samples of fur came from the same… person. And I need results in…” She glanced at her watch. “35 hours. Can you do it?”
He looked inside the envelopes, and frowned a little. “I could wish for larger samples.”
She sighed. “I know, but I needed to keep some back, to send to someone else.” At his inquiring look, she continued, “I doubt Miss Solano will accept only your results, since you’re part of the militia. So I’m sending half of each sample to someone else, for outside verification.”
“Why involve me at all?”
“You’ve been wanting to demonstrate your skills.” Bookworm shrugged and smiled. “Now’s your chance.”
Murdoch nodded. “Yes, Captain.” He took up some tweezers and teased out a few strands from one of the envelopes, placing them on a slide in preparation for a microscopic analysis. Bookworm, meanwhile, returned to her office, ready to leave instructions for all militia members to be more vigilant than ever.