The militia had barricaded the doors of City Hall, while angry protestors demanded the mayor either do something about the crabs or step down. They were feverish and close to being out of control, throwing bricks at the windows and pounding on the doors…the dark aether must have gotten much worse while Arnold was gone. Shaking his head in dismay, the cat backed away from the mob. He could find another way around.
He made his way down the tram tracks quickly and soon reached Jefferson Way. He had been going to turn down and make his way to the hospital, when Arnold caught a faint scent and remembered something that felt fresh even though the rest of his life felt almost dream like now. He still had some unfinished business with Emerson Lighthouse. The man hadn’t been by here in a few hours, but he had been here.
Arnold made his way to Wheatstone, the moon barely glowing through the clouds leaving strange shadows from homes and benches, as quickly as his legs would carry him. When he reached Emerson’s front door he yelled out his name. When he didn’t get an answer he scratched the door several times leaving large marks, until his better senses reminded him that pounding might be more effective.
He cursed as he realized that Emerson Lighthouse was either not home, or was wisely avoiding him. A small cackle from behind the house reminded Arnold he had someone else to thank for his recent torment. He ran around to the graveyard in the back in time to see Metier going towards the shed behind Miss Bookworms home, to the chagrin of a woman Arnold had never met, but assumed was Bookworms friend Mariah.
“I’ve told you before, leave it alone!” She shouted as she fired a shot from a blunderbuss at Metier. Judging by her growl and his chuckle it hadn’t done anything.
Arnold joined her, and she turned to him grimly and suspiciously, “Thought you left town.”
“I just got back tonight,” He replied. She looked at him for a few moments, and then accepted this and they continued to stare at the shed until they were sure Metier must have departed. Neither one of them wanted to enter the shed and rouse the crabs which had started to protect the creatures. Arnold also noticed the crack on Bookworms wall which was starting to become brighter and he got behind Mariah. “What happened to the city? I just saw a riot at City Hall.”
“Good,” Mariah muttered. “It’s about time.” Arnold raised a brow curiously and she explained, “This cities become divided between a bunch of fools and those of us that can see what’s plain in front of our faces.”
“I haven’t been here,” Arnold reminded her.
“That the mayor can’t stop the crabs,” the woman responded coldly. “He was never fit for office to begin with, and those idiots in the Church are no better. There weren’t any crab monsters till they tried to remove the one under the Melnik’s home for all the good it did.” Mariah patted her blunderbuss again. “I’ll see to it that mistake doesn’t happen here.”
“You’re protecting it?” Arnold asked incredulously.
“From fools who will only make matters worse!” Mariah snapped, and the cat finally realized that the aether might have made her unstable. The way she kept staring at him suspiciously made him wonder if she thought he was a spy for the mayor.
The cat nodded his head slowly and as calmly as he could, “I can see the point you’re trying to make. But what could anyone else do better?”
Mariah frowned at him unhappily, looking him up and down, “I think Moriarty could do something if we let him.”
Arnold looked at the woman in surprise, “Moriarty?” Up until now everyone he had spoken with had been sure he was the man at the end of the writers tale.
“Yes,” Mariah nodded firmly. “He can command the crabs, force them to retreat, we all witnessed it at the celebration. If anyone can figure out a way to save this city…it’s him.”
Arnold had been about to argue as the crack in the wall seemed to grow even larger. Arnold said nervously, “Miss Lanfier…we need to get away from that crack.”
“What crack?” She said looking at him confused, and he turned between her and it in shock. How could she not see it?
She turned around and stiffened visibly, “I…never saw that before.” She took a step towards it, “How could I not have noticed that before now…”
“…stop looking at it!” Arnold shouted, but she didn’t appear to hear him as she moved closer. He went up to her, “We need to get away-” Arnold grabbed her shoulder, but that only brought her back to her paranoia. She turned towards him raising her gun. He moved quickly, his heart racing as he pushed the gun before it fired and the shot went into the wall.
Mariah quickly kicked him in the gut in retaliation, and the cat grunted, losing his grip on the gun. She caught him on the side of the head with the butt of the weapon and he went down, but landed on his hands and feet and looked up alert, she was getting the gun positioned to use the last shot. Instinctively his claws came out and he bounded forward scratching at her eyes, forcing her to back away and knocking the gun aside.
He turned to run before she could retaliate, he had no desire to kill someone under the influence of those things and less to be killed because of it. He continued to run until he reached the towers of the hospital.