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Late October – Neighborhood Watch

Bookworm hurried into the graveyard in Port Babbage, and found a secluded spot to settle down. It was only a few seconds before her faithful four gathered around her–Daniel, Mac, Sofie, and Evie. “Welcome back, Miss Book,” said Evie excitedly.

“How are you?” Daniel asked. “We’d heard you’d been injured.”

Bookworm nodded. “I am better–though I’ll probably not recover my hearing completely.” She held their rapt attention as she told them everything she knew about what had happened over the past few months concerning the Man in Blue. It took quite a while, and even though she’d bundled up, she felt the chill of the ground seeping into her by the end. She ended with what Tepic had told her about her proposed fate. The four ghosts looked grim at that.

“You think this Cavendish might come here?” Mac asked.

Bookworm nodded. “Him, or the Man in Blue again–we still don’t know what’s happened to him. Well, Beryl might, but he’s still away.”

Daniel looked at her shrewdly. “So what do you need from us?”

She smiled ruefully–trust Daniel to know that she’d have a request for them. “I was hoping you’d be willing to act as watchmen around my new house. I don’t think there are many others in the city we’d trust to be reliable now.” She looked around at them. “I know it’s closer to the asylum than you’d probably like, but I’ve never seen Canergak in our neighborhood.”

The four spirits looked at each other, silently communicating. Finally, Daniel nodded. “We’ll do it. Though I wonder–how will we alert you at night, when you’re asleep?”

“Oh, dear.” Bookworm thought about that for a moment, and finally said reluctantly, “I suppose I could lower my mental shields when I go to bed, so you could possess me temporarily to wake me up.”

“Oh, hell no!” exclaimed Mac–which was still a bit of a surprise to Bookworm, considering he’d been the one to try to take her over in the first place. “Aside from your own distaste for that, we don’t know where Metier is. What if he came back and found you asleep with your defenses down?”

Bookworm blanched at the thought. “You’re right–very bad idea,” she hastily said. “But what else can be done?”

For the first time, Sofie spoke up. “Evie and I have an idea.” At Bookworm’s inquiring look, she continued, “We’ve become rather adept at manipulating physical objects. I can turn the pages in books, for instance.”

“And I can move my dolls, and even change their clothes,” Evie piped proudly. “We’re much better at it than Dan and Mac.” Bookworm grinned at that.

“If you rigged up a bell above your bed, with a string or light chain,” Sofie said, “either of us could probably ring it.”

“We can certainly try it. Let’s meet at the house.” Bookworm stood up, brushing leaves from her skirts, and hurried back to her home. She found a small bell and some other supplies, and brought them up to her bedroom. There, with plenty of kibitzing from Daniel and Mac, she rigged up a bracket and hook above her bed, and hung the bell on that. A small chain depended from the clapper. “Try that,” she said to Sofie. The ghost floated up to the level of the bell, and gave the chain a good yank. The bell made a satisfying chime.

“I think that might work,” Bookworm said. “We can test it out tonight, to be sure.”

It took a while for Bookworm to fall asleep that night, as she couldn’t help but anticipate being awakened. Finally, though, she dropped off. After a timeless time, she suddenly started awake, conscious of a ringing in her ears. Looking up, she saw Evie smiling down at her, ringing the bell briskly. She stopped, letting the echoes die away.

“Very good,” said a voice beside her, and she looked to see Sofie standing by the bed. “That only took about ten seconds.”

“What on earth?” The question came from the doorway, where Mariah was standing. “Why were you ringing a bell?” She looked up above the bed. “How were you ringing the bell?”

Bookworm glanced at her bedside clock, and saw that it was 5:30. “Are Mrs. Pritchard and Mrs. Sawyer up yet?”

“I think so,” Mariah replied.

“Could you go and bring them up here? I may as well explain it to you all at the same time.”

Mariah nodded, heading for the stairs. In a moment, she was back with the two servants. Bookworm explained, trying to be as matter-of-fact as she could, about how she could see and speak to ghosts, especially the four from the Port Babbage graveyard. She went on to tell them that she’d asked the ghosts to take up the watchman duties in the immediate neighborhood, and they’d just tested a way for the ghosts to alert the household to danger.

“You’re saying there’s a ghost in here right now?” Mrs. Sawyer asked skeptically.

“Sofie, would you oblige?” Bookworm asked. Sofie nodded, floated up to the bell, and rang it briskly. Mrs. Sawyer and Mrs. Pritchard stared, their eyes wide. “All right–there’s a ghost in here right now,” Mrs. Sawyer said.

“We can add other bells around the house,” Bookworm said, “so we’ll be able to hear them wherever we are inside. If you hear it ring, Mrs. Sawyer, Mrs. Pritchard, leave the house if you think it’s safe to do so. Otherwise, head for the safe library.”

The two women nodded, and went back downstairs to prepare breakfast. Mariah looked at Bookworm. “It’s a clever idea–you’re sure they can be trusted, though?”

Bookworm nodded. “I’ve known them for several years now. They’ve become good friends.”

“Very well, then.” Mariah looked up toward the bell. “Thank you, Sofie. And please pass my thanks to the others.”

Bookworm listened a moment, and said, “She says, ‘You’re welcome.’” Smiling, she followed Mariah downstairs, planning where to go to get the other bells they needed.

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