Henry Jekyll was not one to frequent pubs, but the cabbits were hosting a sort of storytime at the Brass Monkey. “You’re all here because I would like discuss stories with you,” said the cabbit with the dark patch of fur over one eyelid, “stories of the weirder side of New Babbage!” Jekyll sat at a booth next to the bar, eagerly listening to the tales that were spun in that tiny room, hoping to get a better understanding of the city he resided in.
The dark-eyed cabbit talked about an ever-moving shop she stumbled upon in which not one of its exotic merchandise was sold.
Little Tepic, the fox-tailed urchin, recalled a strange plague that turned some of his friends into reptilian zombies.
Miss Garnet Psaltery discussed the possible benefits and potential risks of using wormholes as a means of public transportation.
Even Jekyll himself could contribute to the discussion by mentioning the incident in which gelatinous cubes invaded Brunel Hall, and how a tiny moreau had disposed of them. It was a pleasant experience, to hear all these strange stories told so frankly by mostly sensible individuals. This was nothing at all like the daily life of a Londoner. In fact, if he went back to London one day and recounted his adventures in New Babbage, not a soul would believe a word he said.
Mayor Tenk had managed to make an appearance during the storytelling, where he recalled what evidence he found concerning a ghost on the corner of Perdido Street and Jefferson Way. The Mayor was just finishing his account when Jekyll became aware of a soft noise in the distance.
At first, Jekyll ignored the sound, thinking that Hyde was making him hear things he shouldn’t be. That shadow of a man had a way of messing with him to pass the time.
No, Hyde wasn’t able to imitate a clockwork machine that well.
The ticking was getting louder and louder, as if a giant pocketwatch was heading for the pub. What on earth was making that noise?
Jekyll had to ask, “Does anyone else hear a ticking noise?”
“I do,” replied Mr. Wright, the wolf moreau who was both seated at the bar and happened to be a trusted friend of Jekyll’s.
“Ominous,” mused the Cabbit.
The room fell silent for a moment. Everyone could hear the ticking done on from outside the building.
It wasn’t too long before the Mayor and a couple of other patrons had to take their leave. Goodbyes were said, notes were taken, and the ticking noise would have been forgotten entirely if it had faded away into nothing. Instead, the ticking continued steadily throughout the rest of the meeting.
Wright had decided to discuss an encounter with the dangerous Mr. Eliot at the Clockwork Kraken. Jekyll knew exactly what he was talking about; He was talking to Wright and a young urchin named Becky Blackcinder when the wanted cat strolled into the bar. Jekyll remembered taking Becky out of the pub to safety while Wright distracted Eliot.
“I can’t say I know what he’s after,” the wolf recalled, “but he followed us all into the wax museum and only left when Tepic here came along,” he gestured to the fox-boy as he spoke, “I guess four on one ain’t the kinda odds he likes.”
Just then, an older urchin who went by the name of Fly entered the pub, and Jekyll swore the ticking was loudest when the doors were open. At that specific point, he was a bit preoccupied with how Wright was planning to end his tale…
The wolf smiled at the urchins,continuing to speak, “I was makin’ to chase after him when the doc here took ill.” Jekyll felt a twinge of panic, but was secretly relieved when Wright gave him a knowing nod and said, “I felt it better to escort him home, lest that murderin’ cat was creepin’ about. I don’t think my hand left my revolver all night.”
Jekyll responded with a smile and a nod, knowing their secret was safe. “In my defense,” he added, “I had every right to be unnerved. He could have been intent on slitting my throat for all I knew.”
“Oh, wouldn’t worry ‘bout that, Doc,” Tepic grinned, “If he were wantin’ ter cut yer a second grin, yer probably wouldn’t notice til yer chocked!”
It was around this time that the infamous Jimmy Branagh strolled into the pub, and Jekyll took notice of an odd figure standing by the door.
It was a scruffy old man, with a scruffy black beard and a scruffy old coat, who shied away from the boy as he passed by. Obviously, the scruffy man was some sort of beggar, far worse off than the urchins.
The ticking was at its loudest when the doors were open.
Jekyll only got a glimpse of the man before those doors shut again, but he could make the figure out from the shapes on the frosted, soot covered window.
“Woy’s thet guy ‘angin’ outsoide faw?” Jimmy asked his friends after exchanging greetings and managing to butcher Fly’s name. Jekyll watched the figure slip away from the window, as if he were trying to hide from the patrons, but the ticking carried on.
Fly glanced out the window in curiosity. “Another loony,” he guessed, “This town is full of them.”
Tepic shrugged, ”Dunno, he’s been outside some time. Reckon he’s waitin’ fer someone.”
“Probably just a drunk,” Wright suggested, “Lookin for a few quatloo’s ta buy himself a drink.”
Jekyll thought about the correlation between the man and the noise…
“Odd,” he mused, “I could have sworn he was ticking.”
“Ticking?” Fly asked, after he and Jimmy said goodbye to Tepic and watched him run off to who-knows-where.
Jekyll tried to remember the details, “Well, the ticking started shortly before I saw him.”
The beggar was heard slumping against the building, ticking away.
“Ooooh…” Fly mumbled, “I hear it now…”
Jekyll stared at the doorway, trying to figure out how a man could be ticking like a clock. “Do any pocketwatches tick that loudly?”
“Usually those controlling bombs do. Just to warn people, ya know.”
The Cabbit with the dark patch, who happened to be sitting the closest to the door, pitched in her two cents. “Maybe he’s a clockwork.”
“A clockwork seems more comforting than… A bomb,” Jekyll replied.
“We could throw him into the canal and see if he floats,” Fly gleefully suggested, “If he doesn’t, then he’s a clockwork!”
“What?! Fly, please! Do not throw random people into the canal!”
“Yeh, Floy,” Jimmy chimed in, “Make sure yas identifoys ’em first.”
“Oh not me,” Fly insisted and noded, “I’m not strong enough on my own. I was thinking more about a collective effort!”
Jekyll would have objected if he hadn’t noticed the ticking start to fade away.
The Cabbit’s ears twitched, “Can you hear that? He’s gone.”
Jekyll frowned. “At least there’s one mystery solved,” he mused, knowing full well that there were many other mysteries to be solved.
“…Maybe he’s gone to throw himself into a canal?” Fly assumed.
The Cabbit burst into a fit of laughter, “Maybe he has! Ha ha!”
The chatting eventually died down and the patrons began to go their separate ways.
The urchins ran off to go test Fly’s theory, somehow.
Wright left to the Clockwork Kraken for some rest.
Jekyll was the last guest to leave, aside from the Cabbits. He strolled down the streets that lead back to his home, puzzling over that ticking beggar. Who was that stranger? What is he hiding? Why is he ticking like a clock? All those questions occupied his thoughts, begging to be answered.
All at once, he felt a familiar presence in his mind, anxiously licking its chops in excitement.
“Lemme at him,” Hyde cheerfully insisted, “Lemme see what makes him tick.”
Jekyll did not reply aloud, for he was still within earshot of the public, but he knew Hyde had a knack for finding his way into the darkest corners of the city without being noticed.