Felisa Fargazer sat up, looking around with confusion at her surroundings. Then she remembered–she’d come to the Vole early, to wait there for the meeting of the urchins. She must have dozed off…but what had awakened her?
Suddenly, she heard a voice outside. “It would not be hard for me to tie that costume around your neck tight and throw you in the canal!” She heard another voice murmuring. She couldn’t make out the words, but she recognized who it was–Tepic!
“Just get out of my sight and don’t follow me again!” yelled the first voice.
Scampering footsteps masked the departure of the loud voice, and a few seconds later, Tepic burst into the Vole, exclaiming with relief. Fargazer looked at him a bit fearfully. “Are you all right?” she asked.
“Just got caught by that Van Creed bloke,” he replied. “I was following him, an’ he came down here, an’ caught me when I sneaked up!”
Lisa shivered a little. “I heard him yelling…”
“Think I fooled him inter thinking I were just Trick or Treating, but he’s scary!” Tepic took a swig of ariag, and sighed. “That’s better. Yer know, I don’t think it’s a good idea ter follow someone dressed fer Halloween. They actually notices you!” He smiled, and Lisa nodded shyly. “I think that fella has his place behind the Freak Show…”
“So close? That doesn’t seem good.” Lisa didn’t know much about this Van Creed group, except that they seemed to work against the urchins quite a bit. To Lisa, that made them suspect. She and Tepic chatted for a few more minutes, then made their way to the secret chamber for the meeting.
Only a few had made it this day–Lisa herself, Tepic, Richardus, Nat, Jimmy, and Gadget. Lisa still wasn’t sure how much she could trust Gadget…especially as the others exclaimed over the backpack he was wearing, one that contained a glowing green gas. Gadget explained that the backpack wasn’t a weapon itself, but was made for shifting the gas from one place to another.
Tepic reported that nearly 500 gas hoods were ready for the citizens of New Babbage. He also told them, as a side issue, about a ghost of a man called Metier, who had caused trouble over the summer. Tepic wondered if they could get hold of the man’s hat, and bury it in the grave of an urchin he had killed. Lisa didn’t understand what that was supposed to accomplish, but then, she knew she didn’t understand anything of what happened to humans when they died.
A half-formed thought tried to claim her attention. If this man’s spirit was still here, were there others as well? Could this possibly mean–but then Tepic began telling the others about his run-in with the Van Creed man, and she lost the thought in the subsequent discussion.
The others were very worried about the Van Creed, especially that one had talked to Moriarty at a party the previous night, and now there was a Van Creed man–the same one?–possibly using the building behind them. It seemed too much for coincidence. The boys agreed that an eye needed to be kept on them, and suggested the cats could do that as well.
That led, naturally, to Lisa, and what little she could tell them. The cats had told her that he spent much of his time in the hotel, but his scent was so spread around now that there was no pin-pointing him in there. When he did leave the hotel, he spent time at eating and drinking places, talking to people there, seemingly trying to get them to relax.
“Yeah, I noticed that,” Nat interjected. “He was being pretty friendly with all sorts of people the two times I saw him.”
“‘cept us when he shot us up the a…er…carry on, please, Lisa,” Gadget said.
She nodded, and half-closed her eyes in concentration. “There is one person the cats have seen with Moriarty several times. I haven’t seen him myself, so I’m afraid I can’t give you many details. He’s male. Adult, but fairly young. He often writes things in a notebook. Oh! And he has a…something…” She paused, groping for words. “A gold, metal…piece…that he wears.”
“A watch?” asked Tepic.
Lisa held her hand, curling her fingers into an oval shape, placing it below her neck.
“Sounds like a pendant, the sort of thing a lady wears. Is it on a chain?”
“No, not on a chain,” she replied. “I think it’s pinned in place.”
“Could be a broach, or a badge,” Nat said.
“Hmmm,” Gadget mused. “Was yer man wearing one of them, do you remember, Tepic? Like wot Lisa is describing, maybe?”
Tepic thought hard. “He were wearing a pin with the Van Creed markings. Could be. The cats can’t read letters or stuff, usually.”
“No, they can’t. But…maybe one or two of them would be able to recognize markings seen once.”
“And could we ask the cats to see if this fellow is the one we are thinking about?” Gadget asked.
Lisa nodded. “I could ask them to follow him, too, once they see him again.” She paused, then continued. “There is one more thing I should tell you about Moriarty…though I don’t know that I’ll be able to explain it well…
“Cats can…sense things about men that men cannot. It isn’t something they see right away, but over time, and being around a person…Well, it’s hard to put into words. But those that have been watching Moriarty…They say that what they sense about him is that…well, rather as if there are *two* people. And the body…well, it isn’t alive. At least, not alive as we know it.”
“Blimey!” Nat exclaimed.
“So there is the body. And there is something else, separate but connected, that seems to be controlling it.”
“So ‘es like a puppet?” Gadget asked. Lisa frowned a moment, then nodded. “Bugger.”
“Could it be because he has his brain in a body that wasn’t his? An’ his brain inside controls it? Do they, uh, do they smell like two people?” Nat looked embarrassed for asking.
“No,” Lisa replied. “They say the body smells like the Beast. The other…isn’t something that can be smelled. It can be…sensed, but not be sight, or smell, or touch.”
“‘ow peculiar,” Gadget said. “And a bit worrying.”
“It’s gettin’ complicated…” Tepic complained. “Err…you seen any of the strange machines, Lisa?”
She nodded. “I haven’t gone too close to them, though. They’re…” She broke off with a shiver.
“They make your mind itch,” Nat remarked.
“I wonder if they are anything like the odd bit of Moriarty?” No one could answer Tepic’s question, and none of them were sure they wanted to consider that possibility.
((To be continued…))