“Note to self, never borrow anything from Mr. Lighthouse!” If looks could curse Bookworm said a mouthful and since it was dark and no one could see she let her expression curse like a sailor at last call.
“I should say!” Garnet agreed.
“I WANT TO GET OUT OF THIS FRIGGING TUNNEL RIGHT FRIGGING NOW!” Johnny hollered.
“Mr. Dominicus,” Bookworm called out to Augustus. “Do you carry any Lucifer’s by chance?”
“I’m sorry,” he replied. “I don’t smoke.”
“Miss Psaltery?” Bookworm sounded hopeful.
“I rarely indulge but when I do it is typically a Tesla-cigarillo. They technically don’t combust so you don’t need to ignite them.”
“I don’t got no Lucifer’s,” said Johnny, who suddenly appeared illuminated after striking a flint lighter. “But I got plenty of these, enough for everyone.” The boy passed a flint to the other three.
“This is fine silver,” said Garnet after lighting hers.
“Nine two-five,” Johnny sang out.
“This one has Osgoode Underby engraved on the side,” said Augustus, after striking his and examining it as best he could in the limited light.
“Does anyone hear anything?” asked Bookworm.
The four of them, with lighter in hand, sat in silence. Bookworm looked at each in turn until they shook their heads. She returned her focus to the discarded satchel, then began to gather the scattered sheets.
“It appears to be Mr. Tripe’s,” said Bookworm after leafing through several sheets. “These papers are the written version of the story he told us back at the Gangplank along with his notes on the old Dunsany hospital.”
“Miss Book,” Johnny’s eyes went wide as he held his finger to his lips.
“What is it?”
The boy shook his head but said not a word.
“Johnny,” Bookworm gave the boy her full attention. “Do you believe that if I say Dunsany a third time that monsters will come?”
“I do,” he said with a single tear running down his cheek.
“Very well then,” said Bookworm, looking about. “We can’t very well mount a search without proper lighting. I find myself in agreement with Mr. Lighthouse’s earlier surmising. There are likely other ways out of here, especially given the ill-repair of these old brick walls. We have found Mr. Tripe’s satchel. I think it is time we left. I will post someone to watch the entrance but I suspect our thief is long gone. I’d also like to…” Bookworm trailed off, eyes narrowing as she focused on the page in her hand.
“Miss Hienrichs, are you alright?” Garnet asked, having noticed Bookworm’s incomplete sentence and the prolonged silence that followed.
“What?” Bookworm looked up, folded the sheet she had been reading and placed it in her pocket. “Yes, you are quite right, Miss Psaltery, we should be going.”
Bookworm paused at the mouth of the tunnel. Garnet, Augustus and Johnny had already exited. She looked back as far as she could, the light from the open door carrying to about the charcoal line.
Had that been a scream or had it been the wind? Bookworm was gripped by an impulse, but her investigative curiosity was held in check by an unspoken promise to Johnny.
Dunsany, Bookworm mouthed the word; spoken, but without voice. A moment later her pulse quickened as a shadow seemed to separate from the darkness not far beyond the line. It was only for a moment—and under scrutiny that moment seemed to dissipate like some sort of vapour, causing her to wonder if it had been a trick of the light. Someone walking behind her perhaps, casting shadows into the darkness. But as the captain of the militia, she was suspicious of any potential threats to this city’s safety. She couldn’t be sure the shadow was a trick of the light or the scream the wind’s howl.
Bookworm pulled the door shut and turned to the others. “Let’s return Mr. Tripe’s bag.”
“That’s rotten luck, eh?” said Emerson, looking at the lantern Augustus had dropped on the bar. “I knew one of the lanterns wasn’t working well.”
“You knew!” Augustus strode toward Emerson with a glare that showed every indication of escalating. “And we still ended up with it?”
“At least it worked out well in the end,” said Emerson, although his rather lame appeasement didn’t seem to calm Augustus, who still looked as though he wanted to thrash Emerson.
“Step back, Mr. Dominicus,” said Bookworm. “I’ve known Mr. Lighthouse long enough to know the damages he causes by his negligences are generally unintentional.”
“We still managed to find Mr. Tripe’s bag,” said Garnet.
“And we got a better story for it,” said Johnny. “I can’t wait to tell Mr. Petharic about how I went hunting for monsters with the gun he gave me, in the pitch black catacombs with the Captain of the militia at my side.”
“I like your style, kid,” said Emerson. “How about a drink? In fact how about a round for everyone, the Squire just acquired a supply of the world’s finest scotch. A hundred years old Garnet,” Emerson winked. “Won’t find any better in the city.”
“It’s a little early for me,” said Garnet.
“What about the man who attacked Mr. Tripe?” Momoe asked.
“He left the bag,” said Bookworm. “Perhaps after searching it and finding nothing of interest he left it behind rather than carry it.” Bookworm then turned to the writer. “I was hoping to ask Mr. Tripe a few more questions.”
“Of course,” Herodotus replied.
“The story you told about Mortimer McNettle, you wrote it down?”
“Did you add any postscripts to the written version that you didn’t relate to us?”
“No,” Herodotus furrowed his brow. “Why?”
Bookworm reached into her pocket and showed Herodotus the final page of his manuscript. “Is this your handwriting?” She pointed to the two lines at the bottom of the page and though she covered most of the writing with her hand he could see enough.
“No,” his look of surprise could only be genuine. “May I take a closer look at that?”
Bookworm placed the page against the table edge and snapped it quick, producing the perfect tear. “Here is the end to your story,” she handed him the larger portion. “This I will keep.”
“Won’t you allow me to at least read it?”
“It could be evidence,” Bookworm explained. “As you didn’t write it, perhaps the attacker did.”
“Or the attacker’s attacker,” said Emerson.
“Mr. Lighthouse, are you still giving away whiskey?” asked Bookworm.
“Of course,” Emerson smiled.
“Wonderful, why don’t you send a bottle around to Wheatstone, Mariah might like a sip after dinner.”
“A bottle?” Emerson remained quiet for a moment before smiling. “Nicely played, Miss Hienrichs. I’ll send the kid around with it in the afternoon,” he nodded to Johnny.
“Very clever, Miss Hienrichs,” Garnet laughed. “I see you are getting ready to depart.”
“Yes.” said Bookworm. “I’m going to try and see if I can catch the Clockwinder. I’d like to discuss the possibility of getting some masons to repair those fissures.”
“May I accompany you?” asked Garnet. “At least as far as Savory Street.”
“By all means,” Bookworm smiled in return. “A little conversation to distract us from the cold.”
Don’t forget about your sticky buns,” said Johnny. “You was talking about them before we come in.”
“Thank you, Johnny.” said Bookworm. “Send around a dozen sticky buns as well, Mr. Lighthouse. I’ll pay for them on delivery.
“Can someone write that down for me?” Emerson looked about.
“I’ll remember for you if you give me another one of these,” Johnny slammed his empty glass on the bar. “It were right some smooth, that’s a fact.”
“Goodbye,” Momoe waved to Bookworm and Garnet who stood at the open door. “Bundle up.”
“It still looks lovely outside, despite the cold,” said Garnet, the enthusiasm with which she started the day had returned. She then turned once more to those inside the Gangplank. “Good day everyone.”