Phaedra hurried across the gloomy city. It was nearly midnight and the streets were empty except for the few urchins out scavenging the back alleys, all of whom immediately scattered and hid at the sight of her seemingly floating through the heavy mist with a shovel held over her shoulder. Maggie was on her mind, and the danger she presented now that the creature was loyal to Yoyo. Steps had to be taken, immediately, to even the playing field.
At Dr. Berithos’s practice she let herself in and padded up the stairs. He was sitting in front of the fireplace, puffing on a cigar.
He turned in the chair to regard her, lifting an eyebrow at the shovel, “Planning on burying something?”
She shook her head, an almost coquettish smile playing across her lips, “No, robbing a grave, care to help?”
“Let me put my boots on.”
The grave was in paupers corner, certainly no more noticeable than any of the others. The hard winter had already obscured the name carved into the sad little wooden cross, but she was certain it was the right one.
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Underby, but when no one came to claim him we had him buried. Some argued that he shouldn’t be, given that he was not, well, living, but ultimately I prevailed. Had I known someone would come to claim him I would have tried to keep him longer.” Doctor Miggins explained, drawing a quick, crude map to show where the grave was.
“Pay it no mind, Doctor,” Phaedra had said gently, “I should just like to see he gets proper respects paid in his memory.”
Giles stripped his shirt off and rubbed a dirty hand across his sweating forehead before bending back against the shovel. Phaedra held the lantern up so he could work, trying not to admire the movement of his shoulders too openly.
Not that there was anyone around to catch her at it, but still. She wouldn’t feel safe until the job was done.
The shovel struck the coffin with a dull, wooden thud. It sounded curiously hollow to Phaedra’s ears, but she knew better.
“Good job, Darling, do climb out. I’ll open it up.”
“Are you sure? These things can be rather grim if they’ve been in the ground for a while.” He hauled himself out of the hole and leaned against a tree, panting.
“This one won’t be.” She crunched a crowbar through the lid and levered one of the planks out of it, “Come see for yourself.”
A strange smell drifted up out of the battered wooden coffin: the smell of dried ocean sand and clove and smoke and, yes, the faintest scent of decay. She reached into it and lifted up a small, twisted thing, “What is that?” Giles sounded confused and intrigued.
“A humonculus,” Phaedra breathed, she lay it on the damp grass and began to look it over, “Do you know what that is?”
“Of course,” he sounded vaguely insulted, “an artificially created, but soulless, human-being.”
Phaedra smiled up at him warmly, “This was Yoyo’s, he was careless with it. We are looking for…” she was up to her elbow in the thing’s chest, groping around, finally she pulled out a small stone so brilliant it almost seemed lit from inside, “This.”
“No. This, my love, is Pip.”
“Pip? That’s a curious name.”
“It was Yoyo’s childhood friend. I’m sure he’ll be so happy to see him again.” She pushed the husk back into the grave with her toe.
“That’s not creepy in the slightest, Dear.” he said with a chuckle.
She slipped the stone into her pocket, her mind already going over the next steps she’d have to take before dawn. “We’d best fill that back in or someone will know what we’ve been up to.”
Giles picked up the shovel and started pushing the soil back into the hole. She watched him with a carefully guarded expression, hoping that Yoyo had taught her correctly and that Pip had not spent too much time in Babbage soil.
If he had, she feared, all her plans would come to ruin and drag both of them down in the carnage.