The faint call shook Bookworm out of her work at her desk at home in Wheatstone. She looked up and saw Mac, one of her ghostly watchmen, standing by. “What is it?” she asked.
“There’s trouble somewhere by the hospital,” he replied urgently. “Daniel and I heard cries coming from that direction. It definitely seems serious!”
Bookworm hastily stood up and rushed downstairs. Pausing only to grab her revolver, she hurried outside and began running toward the east, Mac keeping pace with her above. As she ran up the stairs to the bridge that crossed the canal that lay between her and the hospital, Daniel appeared by her. “There’s a large cat-like being attacking the hospital folk,” he said quickly. “There’s also a wolf, but it looks like it’s trying to protect them.”
“Right,” she replied shortly, saving her breath for running. She could hear snarls and cries now, even above the pounding of her boots. Finally, she skidded to a stop at the entrance to the small street that ran by the hospital. Not far away, a large cat-Moreau – Bookworm thought it looked like a cougar – was turning its attention toward her. Beyond, Bookworm could see the wolf Daniel had mentioned, as well as Kasa, who was clutching a small dagger. Dr. Viper was on the ground, not moving. “What on earth…”
“That cougar,” Kasa said, her voice catching, “it attacked Viper. It… it came out of the shadows.”
Bookworm drew her revolver, but before she could say anything, the wolf, sensing an opening, lunged at the cougar, clawing and trying to bite. “Stop there!” Bookworm said authoritatively… but uselessly, as the fight continued, the cougar kicking the wolf off. “Stop!” she said again, raising her weapon as the cat snarled and began moving toward her. “Stay where you are–”
The wolf leaped at the cougar again, and they wrestled, claws digging into each other’s bodies, mouths snarling and snapping. Bookworm was unable to draw a clean bead on either combatant, and could only watch as they tried to kill each other. The cougar caught an opening as it scratched one of the wolf’s eyes, and the canine fell back with a howl, clutching its bleeding face. Taking this opportunity, the cat darted toward Bookworm, claws raised toward her. She quickly fired, and it fell back. “That… hurt… woman,” it snarled, focusing its bloodshot glare on her and sniffing the air.
“Then give yourself up, and I won’t have to hurt you again.” Bookworm kept her revolver aimed at the feline. She watched in astonishment, though, as the cat casually dug into the wound, then tossed something aside – a blood-stained bullet, that hit the wall and fell to the ground with a faint metallic clatter. “Who are you?” she asked softly.
The cougar crouched down, coiling itself up, and then leaped toward the open street, narrowly avoiding a new attack by the wolf. As it passed, Bookworm, taken off guard by the move, fired again without taking true aim. The large cat landed on the railing on the other side of the street, and looked back at her. “I am a brother,” it snarled, “looking for their sister.” He felt at his arm, where her second bullet had struck. “You’re lucky I don’t heal like some.” With that, it dropped down out of sight.
Bookworm rushed to the railing and looked down to the canal, but there was no sign of the attacker. She turned and went back to Kasa, edging past the wolf, who stepped back cautiously, his paw back at his wounded face. “Kasa, what happened?”
“That cougar,” she said, still panting, eyes wide with fear. “He came out of the shadows after me. Said I smelled of… sister… and tried to attack me. Dr. Viper, he stopped him, but… it got him good. Then that white wolf dropped down and chased it back a bit before you showed up.” Bookworm could see now that she bore wounds as well, though they looked relatively minor. She looked back at the wolf. “Friend?” she asked a little dubiously.
The wolf stepped back and looked around. Finally, it nodded once, then turned and left, paw still held to his wound.
“Well, then.” Bookworm shrugged. “We’d better get you both inside.”
Kasa, in the meantime, had been checking the doctor carefully. “I… he…”
“He isn’t,” Bookworm said automatically, but then saw the stricken look on Kasa’s face. “Is he?” she asked softly.
“I… he… I am sorry. He’s gone.” She whimpered once.
((To be continued…))