Bookworm Heinrichs sat on her windows perch in a comfortable dress reading at her leisure. Though swamped with bad news and work on her return, her time at home was now her needed respite. She absently pet her new adopted kitty, who brushed against her hand while Book remained engrossed in the tale.
When she heard the scratch at the door she sat up and beat Mrs. Pritchard to answer it. Only one visitor scratched to announce their presence like that. Beryl was covered in grime and filth, but she welcomed her sudden guest warmly.
The two discussed her new home, her feline companion Tailchaser, and their respective recoveries. While it was genuinely nice to catch up, experience taught Book there was more to this visit than a social call. Eventually her friend came to the reason behind their unexpected appearance. “I saw Fly Copperfield today.”
Bookworm recognized the name, but struggled desperately to remember details of the boy. “Was he the lad whose sister was poisoned at The Wax Museum?”
“Yes,” Beryl replied. Book was surprised to hear about the incident again after a year of silence. “He and his friends said that you had forgotten all about him.” Beryl had not meant to sting the Captain with the comment, but Bookworm flushed slightly at that. The accusation brought more memories back to the forefront of her mind.
“Regretfully, I ran into a dead end after I questioned Nicholas.” Captain Heinrichs recalled how the odious man had tried to offer ‘her’ a job working the streets for him. How he had deflected her inquiries and walked away with an air of smug satisfaction after her questioning turned up no leads to follow. “With the lack of evidence there was nothing more to be done. I’m sorry to say that unless Fly or someone can provide more evidence that case is cold.”
Beryl said their goodbye’s after Book delivered the bad news. They had been hoping to discover the Captain had been too busy to properly investigate the crime. Knowing there was no hope would push Fly over the edge.
The feline prowled down to the Piermont to wait at the taxi bench. Mechanical wheels churned at the end of the canal and sprayed the area with a mixture of sea water and sludge. The smell was not pleasant, but it cut the summer heat as Beryl awaited the Water Taxi. They were grateful to board it and made their soggy trek back to the Imperial Theater.
Myrtil was still waiting there for any news that the urchins would bring her. She was not surprised at all by the feline’s report. “You can’t count on the militia for anything. How could they have botched the investigation so badly?”
“The militia doesn’t train investigators,” Beryl replied quietly. “They’re a volunteer army.”
“Well,” Myrtil brightened as she stood up abruptly. She looked down at Beryl who was crouched near the floor with a mischievous grin. “We’ll just have to run our own investigation then!”
Beryl eyed Myrtil skeptically as they imagined the urchins stringing up Mr. Nicholas as a pinata and beating him until confessions poured out like candy. “How will you do that and keep Fly from shooting him before you have your answers?”
Myrtil paused as that wrench fell between her gears of thought, but only for a moment as the dark haired girl came up with another approach, “What we need is a spy! Someone to go in and investigate, trick Nicholas into confessing, or find proof!” Before Beryl asked who could get that close, Myrtil was already excited and looking ahead several steps. “It must be a young woman or girl, one he can try to recruit like he did Amnelys. Do you know anyone?”
“Well,” Beryl mumbled while trying to consider who they knew. Of their friends only the Ravilian native, Njal, could accomplish the subterfuge and defend herself. Sadly, the hostess had a fondness for comfort and opium and would never go along with it. Others would willingly put themselves in danger, like Lisa. However, “This man did not get where he is today by being a meek gentleman. Even if he did not kill Fly’s sister, didn’t the lad say he abuses the girls?”
“Yes,” Myrtil replied as she concentrated a little harder. “Whoever did it would be in grave danger. It has to be someone who can fight back. Someone smart enough to investigate him discreetly. Someone…” Myrtil paused as she glanced down at the resting feline. Her eyes sparkled with cunning as her lips parted into an impish grin, “Someone like you!!”
Strifeclaw looked around just in case somebody else had entered the theater. When it was clear they were alone Beryl took a moment to examine themselves. The grime from the Piermonts spray had caked onto their fur and clothes giving off an unpleasant scent, and their paws were stained black. “You’re joking right?”
“Not at all!” The child waved dismissively at the soot that would wash off. “You grew a lot up north. A bath, some perfume, a pretty dress and Nicholas will beg you to be his newest girl!”
Beryl did not share her enthusiasm. Nothing about her plan suggested it could work. What if Nicholas recognized them? They had never met before, but Nicholas may know their reputation at the hospital or some other source. He may have noticed them running through the city on all fours for years. Even if by some miracle he and his girls did not recognize them someone who knew Strifeclaw personally might ruin the illusion.
“You don’t have to be able to see the future to know this will end badly.” And make most of my friends uncomfortable, Beryl thought to themselves. “Besides, I’m not an investigator.”
“We have to do something!” Myrtil brushed their friend’s defeatism aside as she reached for Beryl and pulled for them to stand up. The urchin had been right, they had grown considerably since their trip. “If you’re careful maybe all you have to do is meet him once or twice before he’ll slip up! Who knows you may even find the evidence in a week!”
Silence fell between the two, and she noted her attempts had not yet convinced her friend to go through with her plan. She gave Beryl the most pitiful look she could muster, “Please? You’re the only one we can trust with this.” The flat gaze she received suggested that approach wouldn’t work. She tried again, “Fly needs you.”
Beryl winced slightly and then produced a long sigh. Myrtil smiled inwardly seeing that her plan was coming together.
“There’s no way this could ever work though.” Beryl was uncertain if Myrtil comprehended the danger, but that was not what gave them pause. “I do not know the first thing about this world of theirs! He’ll figure out I’m playing him for a chump!”
“Don’t worry,” Myrtil said as she pulled Beryl towards the door before they changed their mind. “We just need the perfect person to teach you!” Beryl followed her, wondering who the young girl meant. When they arrived at Tepic’s camp they realized that it was more who Myrtil ‘thought’ knew the most about that world.
As she tried to explain her plot to the fox child, the cat considered how this plan was getting worse with every passing moment.