Damocles shook his head. “You do not understand anything. The doctor hasn’t been making our medicine for two weeks. Lilith has.”
Bookworm stood frozen for a moment, feeling as if she’d been pole-axed. Could Lilith really be killing off her own “family,” especially now when she was back in the fold? Mr. Wright looked back at her briefly, shaking his head, his own expression grimly surprised.
“You are *certain* there was poison?” Damocles asked.
“Yes,” replied Bookworm, a little dazedly. She rallied herself, though, bringing her focus back on the tiger. “At whose direction has Lilith been making the medicine?”
“The doctor’s.” She noted absently that, so far, Damocles had failed to call his creator ‘master.’
“He could have told her to put it in, then.” That possibility cheered her a little.
“Why would he do that?” the tiger asked scornfully. “He’s a hero.”
“A hero?” Her tone was weighted with skepticism.
Despite that challenge, Damocles slowly straightened up and sheathed his weapons. Mr. Wright sheathed his in reply, and Bookworm lowered her rifle, sending a warning glance up past Damocles’ shoulder, at the gathered warehouse workers.
“We are monster killers,” Damocles explained. “That is our mission and purpose.”
“And yet, you’ve become monsters,” Mr. Wright put in trenchantly.
“It takes a monster’s strength to kill a monster.” Mr. Wright nodded at Damocles’ comment, though Bookworm noticed the somewhat resigned tone of it. “No matter how skilled you might be with a blade,” the tiger continued, “it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. The doctor offered me my chance at revenge, and a family again.” He shrugged sadly. “I took it.”
“Where was this?” asked Bookworm, partly out of curiosity, partly simply to keep the conversation going, and so keep the fight from starting.
“For me, it was the Black Forest. Germany.”
She stared at him, as disparate threads suddenly began to look as if they might be woven together. Damocles had hunted monsters in Germany. Beryl had heard of a Dr. Cascarino in Germany, in a Moreau town. Beryl himself had come from Germany. Mr. Canergak had gone to Germany and brought back Myn, who was like Beryl, and whose people had been attacked…
“And… what were these monsters you fought?” she finally asked slowly.
“I fought a catkind.”
Bookworm closed her eyes, as pieces from two separate puzzles suddenly joined together to form a larger picture. It wasn’t a complete picture, though – not by a long shot – and she wanted to fill those gaps.
“If Lilith is brewing something different, at someone’s orders,” she heard Damocles said, “I need to warn my remaining family.”
“We’re trying all we can to keep you family alive in the asylum,” urged Mr. Wright.
She finally opened her eyes. “There are layers here, Damocles. Many layers. I’m trying to peel them back, but I’m not at the end of them yet.”
“I… thank you for your efforts,” the tiger replied slowly. “It’s why I didn’t kill your men when they attacked me. And why I’m not killing you, Bookworm, despite Prometheus’s order.” He smiled wryly. “A swordsman with dulled senses is useless in battle. The doctor never had the loyalty serum in me.”
“Go,” Bookworm said, slinging her rifle. “Warn your family. But if I were you, I would tread lightly. Some questions can have unpleasant answers.”
He looked from her to Mr. Wright, and back again. “I hope that things are better than they seem.” With that, he left, lightly running north. As he receded into the distance, Mr. Wright relaxed. “I’m glad there was no need to fight after all. It would have been tough.”
Bookworm nodded, and looked back toward the hospital. “I’d better check on my men. And then talk to Beryl again.”
She hurried back to the hospital, and peeked in long enough to see that they were being attended to by the nurses, and that there were no life-threatening injuries. Satisfied on those counts, she quickly dashed to the asylum.
((To be continued…))