Bookworm shrugged, not wanting to waste time arguing, and led the way back north to the hospital in the early morning gloom. They came inside to controlled chaos, with hospital workers running this way and that. One was scrubbing at red stains on the floor in the hallway behind the front desk. She stopped one and asked, “What happened?”
“Wolf came in and attacked Orin,” the man replied. “Slashed him up but good, then disappeared. It were over in seconds. Docs are working on Orin now – it’s pretty bad, but they’re sure he’ll survive.”
Mr. Wright bent down, sniffing at the bloodstains. “It smells like the blood on the gate,” he commented as he straightened up.
“Heh. He said he was returning the favor,” Bookworm said sourly. “Injure, but no death.”
“Then the one I shot is alive.” It was more statement than question from Mr. Wright, but Bookworm nodded anyway, as she led the way up to the second floor. Despite what the hospital worker had said, she wanted to be sure Beryl was all right.
A peek around the open door showed that Beryl was awake again, though he looked a little feverish again. “What’s all the commotion?” he asked.
Bookworm went inside the room, and filled Beryl in on the attack on Mr. Wright, as well the one just past. Beryl tilted his head, thinking. “Freya healed after a week… and a wolf had mauled her leg to the bone.”
“A heart shot should be immediate death, though – or nearly so.” Bookworm shook her head grimly.
“Well, she usually seemed to heal more after her shot.” Beryl looked beyond her, to where Mr. Wright was standing in the doorway. “Was he injected before or after you shot him? Though with the heart stopped, that shouldn’t work…” He shook his head.
Mr. Wright shrugged. “I don’t know – the other one dropped that damnable smoke bomb just as the wolf hit the ground.”
“I guess there’s no way to know… short of holding on to the body after you kill them.” Beryl put a hand to his head. “Have to be careful… never know…”
“Are you all right, Beryl?” asked Mr. Wright.
Beryl shook his head. “Sleepy now…”
“Yes, you’d better rest.” Bookworm headed for the door. “I’ll get another militia member over here.” She closed the door behind her, to block out the busy sounds that still drifted up from below.
Mr. Wright sighed heavily. “Beryl’s body is fighting the infection.”
Nodding, Bookworm replied, “No one seems to know how long it’ll take for him to recover.”
“It’s a rare virus. You either let it change you, or die if it can’t. There ain’t much of a middle ground, far as I’ve seen.”
“Well, Beryl is as unusual, in his way, as Prometheus’s gang. I’m… cautiously hopeful.” Mr. Wright’s words had shaken her, though. She continued, as much to convince herself as him, “Besides, he is a cat. Nine lives, and all that. Though he does seem to be burning through them at an alarming rate.”
The large wolf still looked rather dour and serious, so Book changed the topic – not that it was any more cheering. “By the way, Snow was here yesterday. From what Beryl said, he’s apparently intent on continuing to attack Prometheus’s gang – of which the asylum now has two. So he may well try attacking there, too.” She sighed.
“Don’t worry. I’ll set him right, if it comes to that.”
“I hope it won’t. This wasn’t what I wanted at all.”
Mr. Wright snorted. “We seldom get what we want. I could fill a couple of books with the life I wanted once. Could fill several more with the one I got instead.”
“True. One never knows the direction one’s life will take. This certainly isn’t what I envisioned for myself.” Bookworm smiled wryly.
He nodded. “And you have to steel yourself, Captain. Taking a life isn’t easy, even if it’s to save others.”
“Oh, believe me, I know.” Her tone was rather emphatic, and her expression now grim. “I’ve had to do it.”
“As have I.” Mr. Wright nodded to her. “I’ll be getting back. Good day, Captain.”