Just as Bookworm was leaving her office in Militia headquarters, a messenger came in and handed her a wrapped package. “This be for you, Cap’n,” the youngster said. Bookworm nodded and handed the lad a tip; he tipped his cap and trotted out. Taking the package back into her office, she set it on her desk and studied it for a few seconds. It seemed ordinary enough, so she took a pair of scissors and slit open the packaging.
The plain brown wrapping paper fell away to reveal a salt tin. Bookworm opened the lid and found a note sitting atop a pile of bank notes. The note stated that the money, 1000 quatloos in all, was meant for the family of the Militia member who had been killed. It was signed by Miss Violet Solano.
Bookworm frowned thoughtfully. Civic-minded was not an adjective she’d ever attributed to Miss Solano. Indeed, she’d always felt a bit of suspicion toward the woman, especially after Wisp had once told her of seeing a body near her holdings. But she’d not been able to find it, nor could she turn her suspicions into something more concrete. After a few moments of staring at it, she finally locked the tin in her desk. She’d decide what to do with it later. Now, it was time for one of Mrs. Sawyer’s excellent chicken dinners.
Later that evening, as she relaxed in the library, there was a scratching at the front door. Mrs. Pritchard opened it and said, “Good evening, Master Beryl.” Hearing that, Bookworm went to the door of the library, seeing Beryl hand his hat to Mrs. Pritchard.
“Hello, Beryl,” Bookworm said, ushering him into the library.
Beryl nodded. “I need some help,” he said.
“Of course,” she replied, not minding the lack of niceties. “What can I do?”
“What do you know about boxing?” he asked. “I think I saw you fight once.”
Bookworm coughed a bit, taken by surprise at this topic, and that someone still remembered that. “Err… yes. I did do that once. I’m not sure how much of it I retained, though.” The traits that had been transferred to her from Mr. Holmes by Dr. Obolensky had indeed faded a few weeks after her boxing match with Miss Ginsburg; she could only assume that also extended to Mr. Holmes’s boxing techniques as well, though she’d not had a chance to test that in the time since.
“Doesn’t matter,” Beryl replied a bit dismissively. “Whatever you forgot since then, I’m sure you’ll remember while you get me ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“Dr. Dinosaur challenged me to a boxing match.”
Bookworm’s jaw dropped. “What?” she finally exclaimed.
“It was unexpected,” he said wryly. “He called me to meet with him. We announced how much we hate each other, but he said he was a businessman now, and wanted to settle our animosity, so he challenged me to a boxing match.”
“Huh. I wonder what *he* knows about boxing.”
“Probably nothing. He’s probably counting on his fist.” At Bookworm’s inquiring look, he added, “It’s a clockwork fist.”
“That’s where you come in. I need a sparring partner. You did pretty well in that last round with Miss Ginsburg.”
Bookworm smiled wryly. “Well, I did have some interesting help.”
“Oh? Someone trained you?”
“It’s a long, complicated story,” Bookworm replied, trying to skirt past the topic. “Dr. Obolensky was involved.”
Beryl’s eyes widened in surprise. “Dr. Obolensky helped you?”
“In a manner of speaking.” Her tone, though polite, made it clear she’d say no more on that subject. “Would you mind if Mariah assisted me? She also helped to train me before that match.”
“Honestly, Miss Hienrichs,” said Beryl, tilting his head, “I have to say that… I will need her help. I’m going to need someone to punch me as hard as they can in the head.” Bookworm raised an inquiring eyebrow. “I have to know what will happen when someone hits me there, where the gunshot wound is. I have to know if a single blow to the head will incapacitate me.”
“I see. When do you want to start?”
“Tonight, or tomorrow.”
Bookworm glanced outside, at the now darkened sky. “It’s rather late to start tonight. Let’s do it first thing tomorrow.”
Beryl nodded. “Of course.” He looked up at her. “That’s not the only thing I wanted to talk to you about. Shall we sit?”
“Of course.” The two settled down in comfortable chairs by the fireplace, where a fire was warming that end of the library. Staring into the crackling flames, Beryl said, “I wanted to talk about fire for a moment.”
“Well, the Fire Brigade. How would one go about joining? Everyone told me to speak with you.”
“Well, there aren’t too many of the original fire brigade members still around, unfortunately.” Bookworm sighed a little.
“That’s why I want to join. I have no interest in being a hero who fights villains all the time. But, helping to fight fires… saving people from buildings… that is more me.”
“I’d have to talk to the few others, but I think we’d be glad to have you.” She smiled at Beryl’s purr.
“Well, those were the important things I wanted to talk to you about.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then, to start your training?”
“Yes.” Beryl got up from her chair. “Oh–and what book should I read?” Bookworm chuckled at his expectant look, rose, and went to one of the shelves, pulling ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ out. “I think you’ll enjoy this one. Lots of adventure.”
“Adventure…” He looked at it, and then shrugged. “Well, as long as they’re having fun during it, I’m sure it will be enjoyable.” He took the book and put the spine in his mouth. Bookworm almost said something, but smiled instead and let him out, handing him his hat. “Good night!” He waved and disappeared into the darkness.