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Then There Were Three (part 16)

 
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Maisie replaced the wet cloth on Worms’ head with a yet another fresh one from the refrigerator. The Doc had been gone several hours now, which was fine, Maisie reasoned, as long as the little boy’s condition remained stable. For now, the saline drip was keeping him hydrated and multiple fans around the bed and the simple wet cloth on the forehead were keeping his temperature below dangerous levels.

The kid’s pulse was Maisie’s main concern at the moment. Fast and weak, and indicative of the battle going on as the massive amounts of antibiotics fought the bacteria ravaging his small body. Then there was the delirium Worms kept slipping in and out of.

Maisie had listened to deliriums before, well, snatches of them in passing as she was going about her other duties. But that was in the clinic where she had other duties. Here she just had the one patient and she had pretty much stayed by his side ever since the Doc and his little friends had left this morning. Worms had not wanted them to leave, he had even managed to lift an arm to try and stop them. But they had gone anyway. He had cried for a while, but even crying had soon drained him of energy and he had drifted off into unconsciousness.

In his fever, Maisie heard Worms talk to the people in his dreams. Mainly gibberish but he had called out for his friends many times, wanting them to stop, to come back. Sometimes he became agitated and Maisie was concerned he would pull the cannula from his arm. She tried shushing him, even thought about tying him down, but in the end, it was just talking softly and stroking his face that calmed Worms down during these episodes. Talking softly wasn’t something Maisie did naturally and she certainly wouldn’t have been doing it if anyone else had been around.

Tukiko watched the policeman’s face as he flicked through the scrappy notes and drawings Worms had made in the notebook. He wasn’t seeing it, she thought. He didn’t understand. Like a typical policeman he was seeing everything that supported what he wanted to see, and nothing about what the notes implied. She read his thoughts. Disgust, anger… Revenge. Showing him the notebooks was a mistake, he was just too stupid to understand what they might meant. She snatched the notebook out of his hand.

“Did you see the maggots?”

Annoyance on Kopkage’s face turned to lip curling distaste.

“Yes, I saw the maggots.”

But he was talking to the doctor’s back. She had turned and was walking towards the autopsy table. A gloved and masked Union pathologist got quickly out of her way. Kopkage followed her, preparing his stomach for what he was about to see.

“Look.” Doctor Troy said, indicating the still writhing mass of maggots that were beginning to cover much of the table.

Kopkage swallowed the bile that had risen.

“I’m looking.”

The annoyance was very apparent in the young doctor’s voice.

“But you’re not seeing!” She snapped.

The policeman looked at her.

“What exactly is it I’m supposed to be seeing?”

Tukiko took a breath. The lectures she had given at Haven in this very subject came back as if it was yesterday.

“The maggots on the table are Pre-pupa. They have stopped feeding and are migrating away from the body seeking a pupation site.”

Kopkage forced his eyes back to the crawling mass.

“Which means?”

“Which means that death occurred around six days ago.”

“So?”

“So. This room, is a closed facility. It is highly unlikely for enough flies to have discovered the body and laid enough eggs and produce this many maggots.”

She reached down and picked up the bundle of cloth she had found earlier.

“Do you know what this is?”

Kopkage looked at it.

“A sheet?”

Tuki opened it out. It was half a metre wide at most but about four metres long. Soil fell from the folds as he opened it.

“This is a funeral shroud. Smell it.” She held the cloth out to Kopkage but the officer stepped backwards. Tuki rolled her eyes. “There are body fluids on it, the body had already started to decay while it was wrapped in the shroud. That means that the corpse was dead and buried, and then dug up again.”

Kopkage thought hard, looking at the shroud then at the maggots and then finally back to the doctor.

“None of that means that the boy didn’t kill her.”

Joe stood on the roof of his car. He shielded his eyes as he searched the uneven grasslands. His previous thoughts about Finny came back to haunt him.

“Bloody-minded little idiot.”

He gave up and angrily flicked the button on his collar. It took a couple of attempts but he finally got through to Ned Flowers. Joe explained as much of the situation as Ned needed to know to organize search parties.

Then he went back to scouring the horizon. At just over four feet tall, the three reading group members were at the top end of what the nastier fauna in these parts would consider prey.

The prey in question were crouched down in the maze of passages that ran between the hundreds of grassed over mounds that had once been piles of rubble. Finny had called a halt where she explained everything she knew. It took a little longer to convince Casper that they shouldn’t go back and let the adults take care of it. However, it was only when Finny crossed her arms and, sat back on her rump and said sulkily:

“Fine. You go back then. Me an’ Onetooth will save Worms by ourselves.”

Casper looked to Onetooth for support, but saw that he wasn’t going to get any this time. Then there was the prospect of facing Joe. He sighed. The last thing he wanted was Finny going off and getting killed while still hating him.

“Okay. I’ll come. Just don’t...” But what it was Finny wasn’t to do became moot as Casper saw the thick, pale-yellow body slide through the grass behind Finny. The end of the sentence became a strained, high pitched squeak as he pointed.

“Snake!”



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