Bookworm sat in the New Babbage Militia headquarters in Clockhaven, sorting through the dispatches. Most were matters of information, things to disseminate and file. But then a packet from the city of Falun caught her eye. She pulled it to her, and read the first sheet.
“Missing person report, one Mr. George Callenby. Last seen…” She nearly choked on her tea, and read it again. And again.
“June 22?! What do they think we are, miracle-workers?” She sighed, and continued reading. As she read, she frowned more and more. Evidently, those making the report had investigated the matter on their own, and were only turning to the Militia because the trail had gone cold. ‘Thanks for the vote of confidence,’ she thought wryly.
Bookworm pulled out a fresh notebook, and began summarizing the report. Taking notes like that always helped her to crystallize her thoughts. “Mr. George Callenby. Aged 30, height about 5-foot 9-inches, brown hair, blue eyes. Often wears dark gray velvet frock coat. Traveling from Falun to Ravila as messenger, was carrying a leather bag.”
She paused, and leafed through the sheets of paper again. “Strange. No word about who he was a messenger for, to whom he was going, or what, exactly, he was carrying.” She sat back, pondering that for a few moments. Her guess was that what the man was carrying was secret, or not entirely legal, or both. She sighed in exasperation, and went back to her note taking.
“Subject was seen by train conductor exiting the train at New Babbage, and leaving the station. Subject well known to enjoy bars and pubs.”
‘Well, then,’ Bookworm thought as she stood up. ‘I’ll guess I’ll start with those. And the train conductor, if I can track him down.’ Smiling at her own weak joke, she briskly left the building.
Over the next couple of days, Bookworm investigated the matter as well as she could. She did, indeed, find the train conductor and got his confirmation that Mr. Callenby had disembarked at New Babbage, saying how much he couldn’t resist going into New Babbage again. Bookworm also started making the rounds of the many drinking establishments, asking questions of the owners and regulars. So far, though, she’d had no luck.
Finally, with a sigh at the inevitability, she entered the area of The Gut. “Good evening, Miss Anatra,” she said to the woman standing just outside the Bucket of Blood.
“Evening,” Miss Anatra replied. “I was just about to stop in for a drink.”
Bookworm looked at the entrance, steeling herself. “I’m going in myself, actually,” she said. “Militia business.”
“Missing persons report. I’m checking all the bars and pubs in town.” Bookworm sighed.
“Ah, I see. Well, forward and onward.”
“Please–after you.” Bookworm gestured Miss Anatra toward the door. As she followed, she nodded to the strange man, wearing what looked like a blue uniform, who was also standing outside the entrance.
As Bookworm stepped inside, she heard Mr. Underby say, “Ah, Miss Anatra, what a pleasure…” Bookworm came into his view, and his seemingly affable smile seemed to freeze on his face. “And…Miss Hienrichs…what a…surprise.”
“Mr. Underby, Miss Namori,” Bookworm nodded in greeting to the two of them. Miss Namori nodded in return, her jaw jutted slightly, before letting her eyes dart to the fire.
“In uniform, no less,” Mr. Underby continued. “Are you able to drink in uniform?”
“No.” Bookworm grimaced slightly at the question. “I’m here on official militia business.”
Mr. Underby nodded, his eyebrows raised. “I see. Always happy to assist.”
“This should be good,” Miss Namori muttered.
“We’ve received a missing persons report, on a citizen of Falun. A man named…” Bookworm consulted her small notebook. “Mr. George Callenby.”
Mr. Underby frowned, considering. “The name doesn’t sound familiar.”
“I can’t say I’ve heard the name either,” Miss Anatra interjected.
“They believe this person ended in Babbage?” Mr. Underby asked.
Bookworm nodded. “He was going from Falun to Ravila, but it’s known he stopped here in New Babbage. He never arrived in Ravila, though.” Bookworm stepped aside a little to let in a woman, who joined Miss Namori. The strange man also entered, listening in.
“Or so the Ravilans say…” Mr. Underby said, and smiled.
“Not just them,” Bookworm replied. “He was seen leaving the train station here.”
“Oh? How curious.”
“And those filing the report made mention of his…taste for bars. So I’m checking with all of them. Merely routine,” Bookworm hurried on. “I’m sure you understand.”
“Of course,” Mr. Underby said.
“He would have been here about June 22,” Bookworm said, wanting to get to the man’s description. “About 30 years of age, five-foot, nine-inches, brown hair, blue eyes. Last seen wearing a dark gray velvet frock coat. You saw no one of that description?”
Mr. Underby sighed. “I see so many people, Miss Hienrichs, as I’m sure you can well imagine.”
Bookworm nodded, and sighed in return. “I know it’s been quite some time, but his disappearance was only reported to us recently.”
“Let me think,” he mused. “Gray velvet frock coat…that would stand out here.”
“Velvet is an uncommon fabric for coats here,” Miss Anatra said in agreement. “The soot and all…”
“His reflection doesn’t count, Miss Hienrichs?” Miss Namori smirked, looking at Mr. Underby. Bookworm shot her a quizzical look, then turned her attention back to Mr. Underby as he spoke.
“You know, I think perhaps someone like that did come in about a month ago. I do not remember the exact day, but the coat reminded me. He was very drunk, if memory serves. Mentioned wanting to visit the Blue Sparrow.”
Bookworm raised an eyebrow at the mention of that establishment, and jotted that down in her notebook. “Do you happen to remember about what time he left here, Mr. Underby?”
“Hmm. I did not personally witness him leave, but he was gone by the time we closed. That’s usually around 4.”
Bookworm jotted that down, too. ” Do you happen to remember anything else? Was he carrying anything, or did you have any conversation with him?”
“Well, I spoke to him long enough to discuss his love of the city. He seemed like a bit of a…” Mr. Underby glanced at the other women, ignored Miss Namori’s glower, and lowered his voice. “A slummer. I don’t recall him having anything with him.”
“Hmm. I see.” Bookworm frowned over her notes for a moment. “Well, thank you for your assistance, Mr. Underby.”
He nodded. “Might I ask what made the gentleman so special? I don’t believe I have heard of anyone else from Falun making such a wave.”
“Well, going missing, while not necessarily special for someone from New Babbage, tends to be investigated in other cities.” Bookworm smiled wryly.
Mr. Underby nodded. “Excellent point.”
“Well, if you can’t think of anything further, I’ll be on my way.”
“Do you…have an address for the Blue Sparrow, Miss? I don’t believe it has a sign.”
“I…know where it is.” Bookworm blushed just a bit. “One does learn interesting things in the Militia.”
Mr. Underby tried to hide a smirk, not altogether convincingly. “Of course. Well, I wish you luck, miss. If my position at City Hall can assist in any manner, let me know.”
Bookworm nodded, turned to go, then looked back. “Oh–and I understand congratulations are in order for you and Miss Namori?”
Mr. Underby glanced at Miss Namori. “Yes, thank you, Miss Hienrichs.”
Bookworm nodded and smiled at the two of them. Miss Namori glanced at her, a daring smile on her lips, before turning her attention back to the man in the blue uniform, with whom she was conversing.
“Well, have a good evening, Mr. Underby, Miss Namori, Miss Anatra.” Bookworm also nodded in farewell to the man and woman whom she didn’t know. She left to the farewells of Miss Anatra and Miss Namori, and one last comment from Mr. Underby. “I do hope you find him. Bad for tourism.”
Standing outside, Bookworm stood for a moment, lost in thought. Then she glanced back to the door of the bar. Something about that was bothering her, but she wasn’t sure what. ‘It’ll come to me, I’m sure,’ she thought, then turned her consideration to the Blue Sparrow, wondering how to approach *that* establishment.
(To be continued…)