Two days ago, Jimmy and Myrtil had stumbled upon Tepic in Popplefot’s Blacking factory and had noticed he was still looking ill and mentally unstable.
The young fox boy had told them that Miss Rouse was getting better and would be taken off her respiratory machine soon, but he had to keep working to pay off her treatment, as he promised to Professor Canergak, because he “was a good man”.
Nothing Jimmy and Myrtil could say would make Tepic change his mind and they decided to go to the Hospital and talk to the Doctors, to convince them that the Professor Canergak should release Tepic of his promise.
Unfortunately, only Nurse Erica was there and she nicely told them that none of the Doctors were available, and to come back later.
The day after, Jimmy and Myrtil had a chance encounter with the Professor Vartanian in front of the Kahruvel Steamworks.
Myrtil Igaly: Professor Vartanian, could we have a word please?
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian nods “Certainly”.
Jimmy Branagh: ‘ello Professor.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Hello, Jimmy.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : What’s this about then?
Myrtil Igaly: We would like to talk about Tepic, Professor.
Jimmy Branagh: ‘ee’s loike playing Sisyphus too much these days.
Myrtil Igaly: You are aware that Tepic is in a really bad shape, aren’t you?
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Yes, I am. It was very evident at the psych evaluations.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : He’s working himself into exhaustion.
Myrtil Igaly: And you have been keeping him at the hospital for a bit, but he eventually left.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Yes, he snuck out before he had rested up enough.
Myrtil Igaly: And yes he’s working too much and keeps talking to himself, saying things such as “work has its own rewards” in loop and then other weird things.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : I spoke with Mr. Canergak about it.
Myrtil Igaly: Aaah! What did he say?
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : I believe he took a meeting with Ms. Book and Tepic about it. You see, Tepic has been working to help pay for Ms. Beatrice’s medical care. Since he was the one responsible for her injury.
Myrtil Igaly: Yes, he told us that. Although I don’t see how he was responsible…
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : He convinced her to let him into a very dangerous place he did not belong in and released a caged and violent beast that injured her.
Jimmy Branagh: Whatever, ‘ee needs ta be cut some slack or ‘ee’s gonna work ‘imself ta death.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Yes, that’s why I talked with Mr. Canergak and I believe he has put a terminus to the sentence.
Myrtil Igaly: Really?
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : One more week and Tepic will be able to rest properly again.
Jimmy Branagh: ‘ee’s gone a bit wobbly, ifn ya know wot Oy mean.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : I know.. I just hope a week isn’t too late. A lack of proper sleep can cause any man to go mad. His kind aren’t so stable to begin with.
Myrtil Igaly: We’re doing what we can to help him but he says he needs to pay the bill off because Mister Canergak is a good man or something and that he promised him.
Myrtil Igaly arches an eyebrow : “His kind?”
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Er.. foxes.
Myrtil Igaly: What do you mean by “stable”?
Jimmy Branagh: ‘ee wos stable before awl this.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Mr. Canergak Is a good man. And he did make a promise that he will keep to. And he hopes that by this Tepic will see that finally.
Jimmy Branagh: See wot? ‘ee won’t see nuffin’ ifn ‘ee drops dead!
Myrtil Igaly: If he was a good man, he wouldn’t have forced Tepic to work until he went mad.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : He didn’t know that it would affect Tepic that deeply. In fact he didn’t expect Tepic would hold out half so long before he just abandoned his friend. Honestly, I’m surprised myself.
Myrtil Igaly shakes her head in disbelief.
Jimmy Branagh: Tepic would never do thet.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Well, maybe he’s a little different. But surely you… mmh…
Myrtil Igaly: How can you call him a good man when he’s taking “bets” on a small boy’s life?
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian shakes his head.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Now I don’t know if I’d call it a bet. And certainly not on his life.
Myrtil Igaly: His sanity then.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : A large part of it was to keep him too busy to get into the same trouble again. He fully intended before to go back to that place.
Myrtil Igaly: Even after Miss Rouse got hurt?
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : I believe so.
Myrtil Igaly: Even so, this has been going on for too long, he’s gone bonkers, really!
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : He’s convinced himself that Mr. Canergak is up to no good. And he put himself and Beatrice in harm’s way to prove something that’s not even there.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian sighs, rubbing his brow “I know, children, I know.”
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : That’s why I talked to Mr. Canergak. This will end soon, I promise you.
Myrtil Igaly nods slowly.
Jimmy Branagh: End how, though?
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Tepic will be free of his obligation in a week when Beatrice comes out of the iron lung.
Myrtil Igaly: This has to be Mister Canergak who tells him he’s free of his promise, otherwise Tepic won’t believe and he’ll continue working himself to craziness.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : I’ll make sure he does.
Myrtil Igaly: I’m not even sure he’ll recover once it’s all finished…
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : He may need your help in order to.
Myrtil Igaly: We’re already trying to help him, but he doesn’t listen.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian thinks for a moment, a frown on his face.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : He’s fixated. He won’t until Canergak releases him and he starts to wake up… If he can…
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : It’s normal for… people of his nature..
Myrtil Igaly frowns too.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian adds hurriedly “Foxes of course.”
Myrtil Igaly: He’s the same as us, his “nature” has nothing to do with anything.
Jimmy Branagh steams.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : He’s not as human as he looks, children. He may try to act it, but he… is not as human as he looks…
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian frowns to himself, glancing down the street.
Myrtil Igaly keeps frowning : “We’ve known him for longer than you, and him being a fox never made a difference.”
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian’s eyes go hard and cold as he stares down at her. “You can’t begin to imagine what they can be like, girl..! What they can and will do! Even those that seem innocent will twist up your insides until you don’t recognize yourself anymore!”
Jimmy Branagh: Well, Oy’ve known Tep since Oy’ve been ‘ere, an’ ‘ee ain’t never been no different till now.
Myrtil Igaly doesn’t blink once under the Professor’s hard stare and replies as coldly : “What I know is that Tepic is a very kind boy and I don’t see what you mean. He’s never been twisting any of us up or anything.”
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : He’s still a child. If he ever even grows up.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Hmph, you probably are and simply haven’t even noticed yet.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Still, he’s just a boy…
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian shakes his head as if to clear it, scowling.
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : Just be assured I will make certain Canergak tells him himself when he is free to cease his work and rest again.
Myrtil Igaly nods, still frowning : “Thank you.”
Prof. Rance I. Vartanian : If you ask me it was mad of him to make any kind of deal with the boy.
Myrtil Igaly: We agree on that.
Myrtil and Jimmy watch as the Professor walks away, making sure he’s out of chat range before commenting the discussion they just had with him.
Myrtil Igaly: He’s mad.
Jimmy Branagh: Yup. As a Hatter.
Myrtil Igaly: Worse. He’s “dangerous” mad. What did he mean by “they”? Moreaus?
Jimmy Branagh: Oy guess. Oy got th’ feelin’ ‘ee don’t loike ’em much.
Myrtil Igaly: But… Why?
Jimmy Branagh shrugs.
Jimmy Branagh: Lotsa people don’t loike ’em.
Myrtil Igaly: And Miss Rouse is one too anyway, isn’t she?
Jimmy Branagh: Yup.
Myrtil Igaly: There’s something wrong with that Asylum and its Professors.
Jimmy Branagh: Yeh, they should be th’ patients.
Myrtil Igaly giggles.
Myrtil Igaly: They should! Plus what kind of “monster” is Canergak keeping that Tepic wanted to set free?
Jimmy Branagh: Oy dunno. Oy bet we could foind out though.
Myrtil Igaly: Hmm… They’ll be wary of us I guess. Won’t let us in.
Jimmy Branagh: We must plot.
Myrtil Igaly: Yes we need to plot carefully.