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Lisa was once again on the top floor, scrubbing away, when Professor Vartanian came out of his office. “Good morning, Lisa,” he said.
Lisa stood up. “Sir.”
“Keeping out of trouble, I hope?” He pinned her with a stern gaze. She swallowed down her resentment, and replied, “Yes, sir.”
“This Tepic boy who got Beatrixe injured. Do you know him?” At her nod, he frowned, folding his arms across his chest. “And he knew about Mr. Canergak’s office how?”
She replied carefully, “He’s known about Mr. Canergak’s… work for a long time, sir. Longer than I have.” Which was certainly the truth–he’d had the original idea of breaking in to free Rasend.
Her prevarication didn’t work entirely, though. “Including how to find his lab?”
She sighed. Even if she didn’t tell him now, she guessed Canergak would at some point. “We broke in here once, before I started working here. We saw the entrance then.” Again, not quite a lie. They certainly had seen the entrance in the basement, even if they didn’t know what it was then.
“I see. Have you talked with him recently?”
“Not… not since a week ago. I saw him on Friday, after the attack. But I didn’t speak to him then.”
“Troublesome.” He sighed. “It’s a shame it was Ms. Beatrix that was injured. I’m sure Mr. Canergak could use her to create some new security for that place. I can only hope the boy learned his lesson by it.”
Lisa bit back an angry reply, saying only, “Yes, sir.”
The professor eyed her. “You disagree.”
“He’s my friend, sir.” That was all she thought it safe to say, but Professor Vartanian pressed her. “Come on, Lisa, out with it. I despise those games. I get enough of it from the patients.”
She nudged the bucket with her feet for a moment, before she pushed things a little further. “He doesn’t like what Mr. Canergak does, sir,” she said softly.
“I don’t imagine he would understand either. He probably sympathizes with the monsters some, even not knowing what they do.”
“He sympathizes with those held against their will, sir.”
“Would he sympathize with a murderer? A criminal held in jail?” The professor pointed at Sikes’s door, some outrage and impatience on his face. “Would he sympathize with him?”
“I don’t know, sir. But what had those down in the lab done?”
“That… aquatic thing… is clear enough. It was savage and vicious. It ransacked Dr. Footman’s lab and likely would have done worse if someone had been close enough. As for the cat, it’s evident what it would do. It did it to poor Beatrixe!”
“But if it had been left alone, sir? Left to its life?” she pressed.
“Someone would have stumbled unsuspectingly onto it in time, I’m sure, if it didn’t get bold enough to venture out on its own to harm someone. They take people, Lisa, people like you and me. They take us, and they twist us and strip us of our humanity, all for their selfish entertainment.”
She said softly, “People do that, too.”
“*Some* people do,” he replied quickly. “But not all. Not like them.”
Lisa stared at him, not daring to ask the question hovering in her mind. He narrowed his eyes at her. “Out with it, Lisa.”
“What would *you* do, sir? What would you do to others to reach your goals?”
Professor Vartanian glanced toward the doors down the hall, slipping his spectacles off for a moment to clean them on his shirt. “Certainly I would go to some lengths. But I have a goal that will benefit others. It is not for my entertainment, nor simply for being bored with a long life, as they do.”
“So the ends justify the means?”
“Some ends justify some means, yes.”
“And those people or creatures who are the means… well, that’s just too bad. Is that it?”
“The ones in Canergak’s lab? No, I’d say it’s not too bad at all. Maybe from their perspective, but they truly are monsters, Lisa. I would think Beatrixe’s injury would have proven that to you.” He stared at her for a moment before slipping his spectacles back on, quirking a brow a little as he slid them back down. “Hmm. Why do you sympathize with them so much, Lisa? What is it you’re worried about on their behalf?”
Lisa looked down and stayed silent, partly because this was one question she was *not* going to answer, and partly to hide the thought that had suddenly burst in on her. Finally, the professor said, “Our little cleaning girl has some secrets, hmm?”
“Doesn’t everyone?” She tilted her head up a little, looking at him through the veil of her lashes.
He frowned. “Just don’t let it become a problem with your work or ours. Understand me?”
“I won’t keep you from it any longer,” he said with a nod. “Just remember what Canergak said. Tell no one about what you saw down there.” With that, he returned to his office.
As Lisa bent back to her work, she let herself consider the idea that had jumped into her mind. Canergak and Professor Vartanian kept insisting that they had to keep the other cat because it posed a danger to others. But what if it didn’t? What if she could contact it in the Dreamfields and convince it not to attack whoever it saw?
On the other hand, there was no guarantee she’d be able to reach it in the Dreamfields; after all, she’d never been able to contact Beryl there. And to even have a chance, she’d have to be as close as possible to it… which would mean entering the lab again. She’d either have to chance being caught by Canergak again, or request that she be allowed to go in under supervision… which would mean explaining to him what she wanted to do. Not good choices, either of them.
She sighed and allowed herself one glare in the direction of Professor Vartanian’s office. ‘They may be monsters down there,’ she thought, ‘but so is Canergak. And so was Ambrose. And so, Professor, are you.’