Although he had a good nights sleep, it wasn’t long the next morning that he began to be a little concerned. Rumours were heard of an urchin found shot, and a man with a beard and a chough carrying him to the Militia House. Worse still were mentions of a large black bird hanging round the body till Miss Book scared it away. He remembered all the old codgers talking about ravens on battle fields, and odd bits he had heard about a certain bird flying
around the City, it was… disquieting.
As he wanted to go and see Mr Arnold anyhow, he could, metaphorically speaking, kill two birds with one stone, and ask Miss Book about the other thing as well. Quickly he mad his way to the house on the other side of the City, and knocked gently. Miss Heinrichs opened the door, greeted Tepic and invited him in, looking pleased when he carefully wiped his boots on the doormat.
“errrr……. is Mr Arnold doin alright?” he asked.
“There’s been no change. He’s no worse, but no better, either.”
“well, that ain’t too bad…”, he peered over the sofa back at the comatose cat… “ummm….. ‘is eye’s all funny!”
As he spoke, Mr Arnold’s eyes seemed to shoot open for a moment, but it lasts only a second.
“ello Mr Arnold…… yer ter keep warm an take it easy till yer get better, yer hear?”
The cat laid unresponsive.
“don’t you worry yerself bout nothin, Lisa an me ‘ll keep an eye on things, alright?”
Turning to the lady, he asked “Miss? can i ask yer some stuff, bit away from Mr Arnold, so’s we don’t disturb ‘im?”
She nodded, and once at the far end of the room, by the front windows, she asked “What is it?”
The boy looked down at his feet before replying “errr….. i heard yer found someone down by the Militia House…..”
Miss Hienrichs sighed to herself, and said gently, “I’m sorry, Tepic. It was Hoyt.”
There was a quiet snuffle from the lad, and almost inaudibly “yep.. i heard it were ‘im….” before he looked up sharply, asking “an it were that Crotman bloke as did fer ‘im?”
“We’re testing his gun to be sure, but all indications are it was him.” she said, before bursting out, “I just wish I knew *why!* What had Hoyt ever done to him?”
“they say as yer found Hoytt’s knife by ‘im?”
“Yes, and Cortman had a knife wound. Hoyt must have tried to defend himself.”
There was something chilling in the boys next word, firmly spoken, “good.”
He continued “Hoytt were a good lad, bit wierd, but a decent nuff sort, ‘e elped out Weasel when he first came ter the City…”
Miss Hienrichs nodded in agreement.
“errrr…….. yer recon the City could spring fer a stone fer ‘im? he were instrument..al. in stoppin a felon…”
Blinking away the tears, “I’ll make sure of it, Tepic.”
“and ye’ll let us know when ‘es bein burried, like, so’s we can come by?”
“well, guess that’s everything then….”
“I’ll let you know if there’s any change to Arnold.”
“thanks Miss, i’ll come by an visit when i can, maybe play some tunes for ‘im”
“I’m sure he’d like that.”
Tepic made for the door, then hesitated, before turning back, “say, were Hoytt left by the steps fer long?”
Miss Heinrichs looked at him, it was a slightly strange question, before replying “We had to leave him there for a little while, while we investigated. But I made sure he was taken in as soon as possible.”
“just thinkin bout that bird in the Asylum….”
“Hmmm… yes…”, she pondered aloud, “That was peculiar. I’d swear I saw that same bird at Hoyt’s body when I arrived.”
“WHAT?!!!” cried the lad, startling the lady out of her reverie, before darkly stating “yer got ter watch them birds round dead uns, ain’t ter be trusted…., recon that bird an me got some words ter exchange…. take the eyes, they does, an yer know what they say bout the eyes…”
Outside the window, a large black bird settles, and caws, drawing the gaze of the young fox.
“Well, yes, granted, ravens can be carrion eaters. But why would one fly inside? That’s just… peculiar.” she said, not quite sure what the boy was driving at, then jumped as the bird outside gave a loud sound almost like a laugh.
The bird seemed to stare through the window to the far end of the room where the patient rested, as if wanting to visit. This was too much for the boy, who made a dash for the door, hand reaching into his pocket. Miss Heinrichs, also shaken by the appearance of the very animal they had been discussing, grabbed up her Colt from the hall table, and followed him out. As they tumbled out the door the bird took to the air, and as it rose into the sky, she snapped off a shot in it’s direction, the only effect being to cause the bird to look back at her as if amused.
” ha! they’s too cany fer that Miss! seen em stop dead an drop ter not get shot…. an turn over an fly upside down….”
“Hmph.” she declared, ” Maybe it’ll teach that flying rat that at least I mean business…”, and with that took another pot-shot.
“it’ll not find peace near any urchins till we knows it didn’t nick from poor Hoytt….” the boy stated, flipping a pebble up into the air and catching it, eyes still firmly fixed on the bird, now perched just beyond throwing distance.
“I’m tempted to put something poisoned out, but there’s too much chance other animals would get at it.”
“word’ll go out tonight…., urchins know how ter keep a bird on it’s toes,” he told his friend, “an you keep it well clear of Mr Arnold!”
“Ugh. I wouldn’t want that beastly thing inside here. No fear.”
“well, got to go Miss…and… errrr….. thank yer fer looking after Hoytt…”
She nodded, “I just wish I didn’t have to look after
him in this way. I am sorry.”
“Happens, Miss” he called out, dashing off into the distance, eager to start the great urchin raven hunt……..