Dr. Sonnerstein bared his shark-like teeth a little as Canergak and Lisa left. “That man!”
Dr. Solsen looked at Bookworm. “He has her doing experiments?” She nodded, surprised that Dr. Maddox hadn’t told him about it. She decided she’d better rectify that situation soon…
Dr. Sonnerstein, meanwhile, carried Tepic into the next room, and set him down in the nearest bed. He drew the covers over the boy, and whispered, “Rest, and we’ll see your friends up to look after you.” He turned away, looking at Bookworm. “I can smell Jimmy and another downstairs. They’d look after him, wouldn’t they?”
“I’m sure they would, doctor.”
“Could I rely on you then to see them up, so I can see to getting Ms. Rouse set up outside of the iron lung?”
“Of course.” Bookworm smiled a little, and headed for the elevator. She took it downstairs and stepped out. “Jimmy!” She listened carefully, and though he didn’t answer, she thought she heard a thread of scuffling from the reception area. Heading that way, she called again, “Don’t you want to see Tepic?”
At that, Jimmy and Myrtil popped out from behind the reception desk. “Yes, we would!” exclaimed Myrtil. Bookworm led them to the elevator. “You saw us?” Myrtil asked.
“Dr. Sonnerstein knew you were here,” replied Bookworm, chuckling.
“Ahhh, you and your lilac water, Jimmy!” she said in disgust, aiming a swipe at him.
“Hmph!” Jimmy swatted back, and the two of them scuffled playfully throughout the ride upstairs. Once on the upper floor, though, they calmed down as they approached the bed containing Tepic, where Dr. Solsen was still standing by. “Hoy, Tepic,” Jimmy said. The only reply was a sleepy “Wwasssszzzzzzz…”
Myrtil looked at Tepic a moment, then up at Bookworm. “He still look in bad shape.”
“I *think* we finally convinced him he’s free of his bargain with Mr. Canergak, but I’m not sure.”
The girl lightened a little at that. “Really? Did Professor Canergak tell him directly?”
“More or less,” Bookworm said wryly. “In his own… rather obscure way.”
Myrtil shook her head. “Tepic wouldn’t believe anyone. Only Professor Canergak could release him from his promise. And if’n he don’t understand… well, if you keep Tepic here, when he wakes up, he’ll just run back to the Factory for his shift.”
The four of them debated for several minutes over what to do, and finally settled on taking Tepic to Bookworm’s house, where there’d be four people to look after him. Jimmy and Myrtil promised to stop by as well. Dr. Sonnerstein had come in during the middle of their talk, having settled Beatrixe Rouse into a bed. He listened as they discussed what to do if Tepic woke up and still didn’t believe he was free of Canergak. Dr. Sonnerstein added, “If it helps any, let him know Ms. Rouse’s expenses are taken care of. Whatever was not covered by his work, I will cover the cost of myself.”
Myrtil said, “That is very kind, Doctor!” But Dr. Solsen frowned. “That would be difficult, Dr. Sonnerstein.”
Dr. Sonnerstein lifted his head toward Dr. Solsen. “Why is that?”
“Not you paying for the care,” Dr. Solsen clarified, “but getting Canergak to accept it.”
“Hmph. Canergak doesn’t have to accept it. He’s not the one getting paid to take care of her. The hospital is.”
“Not from what I’ve heard. Speciesist old fool that he is,” Dr. Solsen muttered.
Myrtil, though, was on her own tack. “It’s getting late. We should get Tepic over to Miss Book’s house. Jimmy and I will come and visit tomorrow.”
“I hate to say it, but if he acts up too much and refuses to rest, I can send something along for it,” offered Dr. Sonnerstein.
Bookworm smiled. “We’ll let you know.”
“Speaking of which, I may need something of that myself tonight after all, doctor,” added Dr. Solsen, and sighed. “This was not as cheerful as I would have hoped.”
Bookworm nodded. “I just need a word with Dr. Solsen, if he can spare the time, and then we can take Tepic.”
“Yes, I can spare the time.” He followed Bookworm to the other end of the long room.
“Dr. Solsen, did Maddox tell you anything about what Canergak’s currently… working on?” she asked softly. He shook his head, and she continued, “He has another cat – one like Beryl – in his lab. That cat was the one that attacked Beatrixe, when Tepic managed to convince Bea to let him into the lab, and he tried to set that cat free.”
Dr. Solsen sighed and grimaced at the news.
“Canergak has been bringing Lisa down there to see the cat, trying to convince her that it’s too dangerous to let it go. She’s equally doing her best to try to establish a rapport with it.”
“You might find that difficult,” he warned. “Arnold was… unstable and violent when I first met him, even to himself.”
Bookworm nodded. “As is this one. But I’ve been witnessing some of these sessions, and the last one I saw, it seemed like Lisa had finally managed to convince it to speak to her calmly.”
Dr. Solsen frowned and motioned her closer. She leaned in, and he whispered, “I beg you, be cautious. You have no idea what I had to do to keep Beryl from the noose.”
Bookworm frowned a little. “Yes, Beryl did tell me a bit about his past.”
“Whatever rapport you may see there, be cautious.” He straightened up. “I wish you the best.”
Nodding, Bookworm replied, “Please pass on my… good wishes to Maddox.” Which she meant, though she was puzzled, to say the least, as to why Maddox hadn’t said anything about having found Beryl.
The two rejoined Jimmy and Myrtil, who had found a wheelchair. Together, she and Jimmy levered Tepic up and got him into the chair. Myrtil pushed it to the elevator, and they all rode down together, after thanking Dr. Sonnerstein for his help. Dr. Solsen went with them part of the way, crossing the canal at one of the bridges and going to the door of a warehouse. “This is where I work,” he said. “I’ll let Dr. Maddox and… her friend know everything is well.”
Bookworm cocked an eyebrow, wondering why he was still keeping Beryl’s whereabouts a secret, but contented herself with saying, “Please send me word when Dr. Maddox is feeling better, Dr. Solsen. I would like to pay a call on her.” She watched as Dr. Solsen went up the stairs slowly, accompanied by the cheerful farewells from Jimmy and Myrtil.
The three of them continued to push the wheelchair west, working together to haul it up and down the various staircases between them and Bookworm’s home. They finally maneuvered it into her home, turning it toward the library and the long couch within. “We’ll put him in here for now,” Bookworm said.
“C’mon, Tep, up an’ out!” Together, Jimmy and Bookworm lifted Tepic up and onto the couch, where he curled up on a cushion.
“He really doesn’t take much space, eh?” Myrtil observed.
Bookworm straightened up and massaged her back. “I’ll make sure someone’s keeping an eye on him at all times. But hopefully, he’ll sleep a good, long time.”
“Be careful,” Myrtil warned. He can wake up at any time and sleepwalk to the Factory.”
“We’ll tell th’ others ta grab ‘im if’n they sees ‘im out, and we’ll check back, Miss Book,” Jimmy added. “If’n ya needs somethin’, just howl.”
Bookworm smiled. “I’ll do that.”
Myrtil gently patted Tepic’s shoulder. “You sleep well, Tepic. We’ll come back.”
Bookworm led them to the door. “Thank you for your help,” she said as they went outside. “Good night!”
“Good night, Miss Book!” “Noight, Miss Book!” The two waved and trotted on up the street. Bookworm went back into the library and looked down on the sleeping form of Tepic. Finally, she went and got a light blanket from a linen closet and draped it over him, setting the last of his sugar cookie nearby. Then she took a book from the shelves and settled down in a chair nearby, and soon, the only sounds in the room were the turning of pages and Tepic’s light breathing.