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March 11 – An Inside Advocate (Part 2)

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Canergak’s gaze shifted to Lisa again, seeming to pin her down. “Lisa wished to see that world. Now she will partake in it.”

“A child? You would put a child into harm’s way?”

“I will protect her. Have no fear.” Canergak started back toward the inner door.

“I will protect her as well.” Dr. Maddox looked down at Lisa. “Don’t worry. I… I will find a way to be here with you.”

Canergak paused at that, turning back to them. “Are you offering to be part of the experiments, Dr. Maddox?”

“I want to know that Lisa won’t be hurt,” the doctor replied emphatically. “She is just a girl. Shouldn’t you find someone else to help you?”

“She is the one I intend to educate. This isn’t about the ‘help’ she can give me. This is me trying to help her.”

“Educate,” Dr. Maddox replied skeptically. “What kind of education do you wish her to have, I wonder? Perhaps I should be here to observe.” She put a hand on Lisa’s shoulder. “Would that make you more at ease, my dear? To have me here with you?”

Lisa nodded vigorously. That was exactly what she wanted–someone she trusted to watch her back while she was in Canergak’s lab. She still didn’t trust him not to decide to lock her up again.

“You cannot always be here at the time I might run the experiments.” Canergak shifted his gaze to Miss Hienrichs. “Lieutenant. Would you be willing to watch over the same experiments?” Miss Hienrichs frowned for a moment, her gaze shifting from Lisa to Dr. Maddox, and finally nodded. “I will come when Dr. Maddox cannot, if my other duties allow.”

Canergak nodded. “One of the two of you will be present then. And if not you, then I will be sure another doctor does.”

Dr. Maddox nodded. “If you cannot find us, then get my father.” Lisa started at that. “He’s here, too?” she whispered. The doctor nodded quickly.

“Very well; it is not a far walk to your current location.” He pinned the two women with a sharp gaze. “I have your oaths you will not stop or hinder the experiments themselves? You will not try to stand in my way?”

“Depending on their severity,” Dr. Maddox began slowly, but Canergak broke in. “There is no ‘depending’.”

“It’s an all-or-nothing proposition, doctor,” Miss Bookworm added.

The doctor grimaced. “Fine,” she finally replied. Miss Hienrichs looked grim, but nodded.”

“Good. We do not want what happened to Beatrixe to happen to any of us.” Once again, he turned toward the door.

Dr. Maddox’s face wavered. “Bea? Something happened to Bea?”

“You don’t know?” Canergak raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Beatrixe Rouse is in the hospital in critical care. First Lisa, then her fox friend broke into my lab below. Beatrixe was injured by one of the specimens. It was their fault, and why they are in so much trouble.” With that gruff finish, he finally went back inside, shutting the door loudly behind him.

“I’m sorry, Maddox,” Miss Bookworm said. “I meant to tell you, but we didn’t get to that point.”

Dr. Maddox sighed, looking down at Lisa with distress plain on her face. “Oh, what have I done? Has my grief caused you all this? I was supposed to keep an eye out for you–I promised.”

Lisa shook her head. “It’s not your fault.” She suddenly smiled crookedly. “You know how cats are–always curious.”

“Yes… I do. What was Bea doing down there?”

“When Beryl disappeared, Tepic thought Canergak was holding her, so he wanted to get into the lab. He convinced Beatrixe to show him around.”

“It does not take overmuch to convince Bea…” the doctor replied wryly. “Has anyone seen Tepic since?”

“Tepic’s fine,” Miss Bookworm reassured her. “He’s staying out of trouble for now.”

“Good. That’s one weight off of my mind…”

As the two women were talking, Wisp pulled out a familiar black top hat and showed it to Lisa. She stared at it, then looked first at Wisp, then at Miss Bookworm, who felt the girl’s attention. The woman looked at the top hat, and nodded to Lisa. “They found it at the canal north of here,” she told Lisa.

“Lisa, please, promise me you’ll be strong,” Dr. Maddox said, bending down to her. “I don’t know what is in store, but Miss Book and I will be here with you.”

“I’ll try,” she replied, nodding.

The doctor rubbed her eyes. “My… lack of sleep… made me very hotheaded. I am sorry for that. I’ve been under quite a bit of stress as of late.”

“Well, I hope you get a good night’s sleep–especially before you go down there,” Miss Hienrichs replied. “I’ll be glad of another set of eyes to see what’s down there. I’d…. I’d fight Canergak more if I could, but I don’t simply understand *what* to fight, or how.”

“As would I, Miss Book. As would I…” Dr. Maddox added to Lisa, “I have to go. But I will be coming back tomorrow to check on you. I have things to attend to tonight.”

“All right. Please say hello to Dr. Solsen for me,” she said shyly. The doctor scooped her into a hug again. “I will tell him that a ray of sunshine spoke to me for him,” she said into Lisa’s hair, as Lisa blotted a couple of stray tears against Dr. Maddox’s shirtwaist. The woman kissed her forehead and stepped back. “Goodnight, sweetheart. Try to sleep well.” With that, she left.

“You’re all right, Lisa?” Miss Bookworm asked. At her nod, the woman continued, “Good. I’ll see you again soon, Lisa.” She looked down at Wisp and smiled wryly. “You got quite an earful, didn’t you?”

The fox-boy nodded, and motioned that his lips were sealed. Lisa felt relieved, though she knew he was an urchin, too, and so knew when to keep things secret. “Good night, Wisp, Miss Hienrichs,” she said as they walked out the door. Lisa went to refill the water sources for the patients, before taking the neglected trash out to the gate.

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