The shadows had lengthened enough for Eloise to emerge, and
by now the shock of the attack on Miss Hienrichs had rippled through most of
the city. Timing was crucial. If Bookworm was able to offer any insight into
the horrors she had suffered, it was needed now—before everyone in town had
time to appear and thwart any useful—and private—discussion.
Slowly Eloise was beginning to accept that seeking
information linking Chase with the sickening tragedy engulfing reason and order
in the city would be fruitless, and that further—as hard as it was for her to
accept—there just may not be any such link. She still felt compelled to verify
that Miss Hienrichs was safe, and likely to recover.
As she tucked her notepad under her arm and carefully
ensured that her ingress was mostly unobserved, she tried to put off the
feeling that she was following this case because she felt like a citizen of New
Babbage, and that she had some responsibility to use her training and whatever
contacts she could rebuild to sort out what was going on; to try to help bring
a halt to the senseless brutality seemingly aimed solely at the smallest and
least destructive of residents. Whether Chase was involved or not, whoever was
needed to settle their account, now.
As she quietly slid into the compartment that housed
Bookworm, Eloise braced herself for what she knew she’d see. A quick glance
around marked the uncomfortable proximity of Doctor Viper. It was too late to
turn back; she decided to proceed carefully.
As loudly as she dared, Eloise greeted Bookworm. Slowly
responding, Bookworm sat up slightly and struggled to adjust her eyes. Seeing
Eloise she returned the greeting. She seemed slightly unsure of things, but
“How are you feeling? Are you strong enough to satisfy some morbid
curiosity? Just a couple of quick questions,” the former spy school instructor
babbled clumsily, immediately feeling like an amateur. Naturally, Miss
Hienrichs responded politely, but warily. She explained right away that she had
some hearing loss, and could not understand any speech.
Producing her notebook, Eloise began writing questions, to
which Bookworm responded carefully. At once Eloise decided to come clean with
Bookworm, if only out of respect for her important work with the Militia.
“My family has some notoriety in the intelligence community
in other environs. I came here to escape all that, and have lost most of my
contacts and my skills have… lost some edge,” she admitted, blushing
slightly. “But feel I some responsibility to contribute to dealing with this crisis.
I do hope this will help put you more at ease.”
While far from making Miss Hienrichs comfortable, the
disclosure did alleviate some of the tension in the room.
Eloise asked her to recount what had led up to the bombing,
and what was said.
Bookworm did her best to convey the cold simplicity of the
brief conversation she’d had with the Man In Blue, and it confirmed what she’d
heard from the others. He expressed nothing but determination to complete the elements
he chose from among his assigned tasks, and equal disregard for anything else,
including the safety of those not on his target list; they could live, they
could die, as long as he satisfied his morbid resolve to rid the city of
certain of its inhabitants.
Miss Hienrichs stressed a few other eccentricities which seemed
to indicate mechanization of the man’s form, possibly justifying his
fearlessness, at least partly.
Her encounter with the creature had been violently brief,
and very destructive. Bookworm’s survival was clearly miraculous.
Noting that Bookworm was beginning to grow uncomfortable,
Eloise began to wrap things up. She wrote one more time on her notepad: “You are certain there was no tall, thin, long-haired albino man among the crew?” Bookworm again shook her head, ‘No.’
Just then young Tepic arrived and after a quick greeting began to have a discussion
with Dr Viper. Eloise decided not to rush off so soon. Perhaps she might learn more yet from this visiting hour