Bookworm was leaving her secure library when Mac, one of her ghostly watchmen, came through the wall. “Canergak is coming here,” he said softly. She nodded her thanks, and waited by the front door until she heard a knock. When she opened it, she was surprised to see him with a pile of notebooks in his arms. “Mr. Canergak,” she said. “It’s been a while.”
He stepped inside. “I have been busy.”
“I can imagine,” replied Bookworm dryly, glancing at his full arms. “What brings you by?”
“I have the journals to return. You did say you would want them back eventually.”
“True.” Bookworm reached out to take the pile from his arms, but he brushed past her and went into the kitchen, setting them on the table. Mrs. Sawyer looked a little annoyed at this invasion of her domain, but Bookworm jerked her head toward the entrance, and the cook left.
Bookworm turned back to Canergak, noticing that he was breathing heavily. She frowned a little. “Are you all right, sir?”
“No, I am not. My health has been failing me for years, though.” He sat down by the journals, and Bookworm took a seat across the table from him. Canergak looked keenly at her. “Are you troubled?”
“In general?” she asked, startled by his question. “Or over those?” She nodded at the notebooks.
“I meant over the journals, or perhaps young Lisa. Both are things I thought you would wish to discuss.” When she nodded, he asked, “Where shall be begin?
“With Lisa,” she replied firmly.
Canergak coughed weakly into his hand. “She has been a shining example.”
“Example of… what?”
“I have not had to tell her twice at anything in a long time. She does so out of fear, but perhaps it was good of her to learn it.”
“I would say she’s learned that lesson quite thoroughly,” Bookworm said dryly.
“I think I may one day make a critical thinker out of her,” Canergak continued, ignoring her comment. “It is hard to do when she is so caught up in her own preconceived notions.” He stared at her noncommittal look, and nodded. “You have many yourself, I think.”
“Well, one person’s preconceived notion is another’s heartfelt conviction.”
“And would you have wanted me to continue my heartfelt conviction that Tepic was an evil creature?” Canergak said impatiently. “If I had continued to believe that I would have left him to die in his debt. But truly as soon as he took the agreement I knew that he would see it through. I didn’t even anticipate he would agree.”
“And yet you pushed him to the brink, as you do with Lisa.” Bookworm tried to keep her mounting anger out of her voice, but she knew some of it bled through.
“And he learned from it. As has she.”
“Not all life lessons need be so painful.”
“The mind is the most important of all things. It is who and what we are.. Not all lessons need to be painful–only the ones that we force upon ourselves by acts that harm others.”
Bookworm shook her head. “And yet, you do not seem to see the harm you yourself cause.”
Canergak sighed. “Again we argue between two vastly different cultures. It is fruitless. Where I come from, monsters are not people.”
“Some ‘monsters’ are people,” Bookworm countered. “And some people are monsters. It is their actions that demine them.” She nodded at the pile of journals. “Dr. Martel was one such.”
“I find his actions to be deplorable, but not of a monster,” replied Canergak. “I did note in particular his experiments in Clockhaven… though there were many missing.”
Bookworm’s eyes widened, and she studied the pile on the table more closely. There were, indeed, more volumes than she had turned over to him months ago. What she had given him had covered only Dr. Martel’s work in Caledon.
“Are you curious as to how that happened?”
Bookworm looked at him, wondering if it was just her imagination, or if there really was a note of malice in Canergak’s question. “I think I can guess. Though I’d certainly like to hear who.”
“You may recall that I spoke with the former Captain Kuroe in correspondence and offered him a reward. He had no idea what they would look like.” He paused. “Not until I had the other journals, that is. And you mentioned that they had simply been… misplaced.” He shrugged. “That was enough to go on.”
“Yes.” Bookworm mentally cursed herself for not getting the rest out. She hadn’t thought he’d go behind her back like this. “Well, Captain Kuroe is gone now, and I am nominally in charge of the militia.” She lightly stressed the “I.”
“So I have heard. Congratulations. I would wish to have a good rapport with the militia, considering our history, but everytime I look at you, I see reluctance.” He cupped his heads, staring at her. “Why must we always be at odds?”
Bookworm let down her veneer of politeness toward him. “I can never condone the methods of… research… I have seen you use. But neither can I – at this point – accuse you of breaking any of the few laws we have. I will work with you when it is necessary, but you cannot expect me to like it.”
“If you truly feel that way, why did you never just propose better methods? If you have not noticed, I do listen.”
“Partly because I do not have expertise in the areas you study, partly because I do not understand your full plans and intentions.”
Canergak nodded. “My intentions are benevolent, by my standards and beliefs. We simply have different backgrounds.” He rose, and studied her as she also stood. “Where I come from, your skirt would be considered scandalous.”
Bookworm raised an eyebrow, wondering what on earth could be considered scandalous about her attire, but let it pass. “What about Lisa?”
“Yes. I did forget,” he mused. “It has been over half a year, and I want to end our animosity. Her probation will be lessened. She must just return at night.” He held up a hand as she started to speak. “On one condition.”
“That you actually make the attempt to help me rather than hinder me behind my back with my staff and others. You are a woman of your word, so I will believe you if you say thus.”
“When have I ever stood in your way in your dealings with Lisa? Or Tepic, for that matter? I argued with you, certainly, but ultimately you had your way.”
He shook his head impatiently. “Do you think me blind to what is going on behind my back or over my head? You were there when ghosts were inside a werewolf in my facility.” He looked around, his mechanical eyes whirring. “Very familiar spirits.”
Her eyes narrowed, she said flatly, “They are under my protection.”
“I do not want them,” he replied, just as flatly. “And this is what I meant by the animosity I feel from you. We will discuss Lisa’s probation again later, when you are calmed down.” With no polite gesture of leave-taking, he stalked out of the kitchen. Bookworm remained in the kitchen, leaving it to Mrs. Pritchard to let him out. As she heard the front door close, she moved to the stove to heat some water for a soothing cup of tea.