“The catacombs?” queried Bookworm. “You are sure?”
“I saw the someone running down the alley with a satchel in hand,” said August.
It ends in either the sewer or the catacombs,” said Garnet. It seemed reasonable for us to conclude the catacombs the more likely of the two.”
“It seems sensible,” Bookworm nodded.
“If there is no other way out we should be able to trap him inside,” said August.
“There are always ways out,” Emerson muttered.
“Mr. Lighthouse,” Bookworm addressed Emerson. “Are you familiar with the catacombs?”
“Not particularly,” said Emerson.
“Then how do you know there are plenty of ways out?”
“I don’t,” Emerson replied. “I was surmising.”
“Mr. Dominicus has a point,” Bookworm nodded to August. “Time may be of the essence if we are to prevent this man from attacking anyone else.” Bookworm turned to Mr. Dominicus. “You can handle a gun?”
“Of course,” August proudly drew his firearm once again.
“Mr. Lighthouse?” the captain of the militia addressed Emerson.
“Do you have a gun?”
“I think there’s one in here somewhere,” Emerson looked about as though he’d misplaced a pair of gloves. “But I think either Junie or the Squire hid it from me. They’re always doing stuff like that with keys, guns and cash. It’s like a little game we play.”
“You should stand behind me and Mr. Dominicus,” said Bookworm matter-of-factly. “You’ll be safer.”
“When you accompany us into the catacombs to hunt for the man who attacked Mr. Tripe.”
“I got a piece,” Johhny piped up, producing a small pistol from the back of his shorts. “My friend Mr. Petharic gave it to me. I know my way around in there too, so long as no one says the D-word.”
Bookworm regarded Johnny for a moment. “You may accompany us so long as you are never out of sight.” The Captain of the militia then turned to Garnet. “Miss Psaltery, you carry a firearm?”
“No, but I carry this for protection.” As Garnet was speaking she reached into one of the pockets in her coat and retrieved a circular case, about the size of her palm, similar in style to the compacts carried by many of the ladies about town. “This was a gift from a friend worried about me walking alone.”
“You’re going to throw your makeup and mirror at the thief?” Emerson snickered, reaching for the silver compact and taking it for a closer look. “This isn’t plate; nice gold inlays,” Emerson whistled. “I’ll bet there is a sweet little engraving on the inside from—”
“Be careful with that, Mr. Lighthouse,” Garnet warned. “It’s not as harmless as it looks.”
As Emerson was sliding what he thought was the catch to the side, two tiny, dartlike hooks tethered to wires no thicker than a human hair were propelled from the other side, lodging firmly into his knee. “OUCH!” Emerson hollered in response to the darts which felt a little like bee stings. “What the hell?” A moment later he was on the floor, convulsing as Miss Psaltery’s compact mirror sent a series of Tesla jolts coursing through his body.
“I think it best if Mr. Lighthouse remains behind with Mr. Tripe to recover,” said Bookworm, glancing at Emerson, who appeared quite comfortable reclined on the couch. “Momoe, perhaps you would be kind enough to remain with the gentleman and Mr. Lighthouse in case they require further medical attention. Miss Psaltery, Mr. Dominicus and I will take Johnny and give the catacombs a quick search for Mr. Tripe’s missing bag.”
“Be careful in there,” said Momoe. She then stole a glance at Emerson who was muttering something about needing another jolt. “I can’t say as I’ve seen anything myself but I’ve heard talk that the catacombs and caverns are dangerous….”
“How so?” Bookworm arched an eyebrow.
“Just talk is all,” Momoe continued. “Sometimes when Em and the Squire have had a few they talk about stuff they’ve seen… but you know Emerson, I’m not saying he tells tales, just that his stories tend to get a little more fantastic every time he tells them. Still… be careful.”
“The young lady is correct,” Herodotus spoke up. “The catacombs themselves are not dangerous, there have been very few reports of violence within them, but they lead to a deeper danger.”
“Can you be more specific, Mr. Tripe? To simply state there are dangers is rather vague.”
“Well,” the writer began, “rumours of dangers lurking beneath the streets of Clockhaven date to before the Great Fire. Just yesterday I interviewed a man who sells firewood. He claims when he was an urchin working the kindling routes about thirty-five years ago another boy went missing in there.”
“Go on,” said Bookworm.
Herodotus took a sip of his tea, then began the sad tale of Mortimer McNettle.