Scottie spun in the combination and yanked the handle downward, the heavy reinforced door of the enormous safe opening easily. His eyes swept over part of the collection inside: the signed Underby divorce papers, several pouches containing various international currencies, the sister sword to the one he always wore about town, and a dwindling stock of absinthe. Picking up a bottle, he swung the door shut and crossed the room.
Settling in front of the fire, he poured out a glass, swirling it slowly before taking the smallest of sips. Satisfied there was no intense burning sensation accompanying the smooth liquid flowing down his throat, he up-ended the rest of the glass. Pouring out yet another, he leaned back and contemplated the fate of the woman locked away under Loner Lane.
Phaedra Underby. Or Wickentower? Well, with the divorce papers in his safe he guessed she was still Mrs. Underby, and would be for a bit longer. He wondered briefly if Mr. Underby really wanted a divorce. Surely with him spending all that time in the mayor’s office he could weasel through a declaration of death or file his own divorce papers if he really wanted to.
But at least the would-be Mrs. Quack was safely locked away, for the time being. There wasn’t enough evidence against her to try her for her crimes, but it’s not like it mattered in Babbage. There were no real authorities, no judges. The last sitting judge had been hung by the residents, and the only judge he’d seen in over a year and half was in and out just after the trial. And the Church of the Builder? They’d failed so spectacularly with Pip that he imagined every last brother and sister would be lynched should they ever again attempt to detain a citizen. The city was truly reaping what it had sowed: nearly zero repercussions for breaking the law.
So what do you do when you’ve been wronged? Either get the hell out or take matters into your own hands. They had chosen the latter. Yes, the evidence had been flimsy, but when he’d been poisoned the list of suspects had been short. A word with Mr. Underby had confirmed the suspicion. Yes, he knew Mr. Underby couldn’t be trusted, but Bib’s poisoning and the attempt on Lia pushed Phaedra’s name over the top.
Phaedra’s only saving grace was that she’d given them all a chance to live. The unsuccessful attack on Lia seemed to have been aimed at her hair, oddly enough. Mr. Underby had told them that he knew it was Phaedra’s scream that alerted him to Bib’s condition. And Scottie’s own poisoning? The nature of it suggested that she wanted to harm him more than kill him.
So they locked her away. In a room with food and water, three candles, and a box of matches. And the buckets, of course (they weren’t animals). They would leave her alone for thirty days. Thirty days in a dark room, with only her demons for company. A very fitting punishment, he thought.
He felt content that they were giving her the same chance she gave them. She could survive if she rationed the food and water. And in roughly twenty-one days, they would finally open the door and discover what had become of her. Provided she didn’t get out on her own first. He wasn’t foolish enough to think of any prison as inescapable. And if she did get out? She’d have earned her freedom and he would consider the matter closed.
What might happen should she not be so forgiving? That was anybody’s guess, but they’d be prepared.