Shadows danced around the room, flirting with the glowing lanterns that hung along the walls. While Constable Martin stood stock still at the bottom of the stairs, taking deep breaths due to his race into the basement, Sarah Milligan descended the last few steps to join him. Behind her, the grounds keeper, Duncan McMinder, trailed behind, uneasy at being near another corpse so soon after his experience in the mortuary basement.
“Likewise the lights would never be left on.” Sarah Milligan, the head nurse at Blake Hospital, said firmly, brushing at the folds of her deep blue dress.
The constable’s eyes scoured the room slowly. “After ye left, could anyone be comin’ down here?”
Sarah considered that a moment. “Patients could, but they’re not likely to be wandering about, and the doctor himself could have been back by. He often overlooks checking in with me when he arrives, especially when he uses the rear entrance.”
Constable Martin nodded slowly while he absorbed the information. “So, Dr. Belker could be coming back by tonight, then.”
Sarah folded her hands in front of her. “Well, if he did so, then he didn’t come mention it to me.” She replied defensively. “Which, honestly, would not surprise me in the least. He often comes and goes at all hours of the night. One wonders when the man sleeps.”
The constable slowly started to walk around the room. Carefully he avoided the tables, only giving a cursory glance at the laboratory equipment and the woman’s dead corpse. His attention was primarily fixated on the double wooden doors secured by the rusted metal hasp and the new padlock. A padlock that currently hung loose and unlocked on that hasp.
“Where be this going?” Constable Martin asked aloud while he scrutinized the double doors.
“The old furnace room with its coal bin and chute,” Sarah replied. “There is also a refrigeration machine to cool the air in the basement and other certain rooms in the hospital. Behind that is a set of stairs and a locked door to the rear of the hospital.”
“Locked?” The constable asked curiously. “Who be havin’ a key?”
“Myself, Dr. Belker and naturally Duncan here.” She replied again, letting her eyes wander the room, searching for what might have caused the noise from a moment ago. “Most don’t bother with that room unless maintenance work is needed.”
Moria clutched Thorias’ arm tightly while she held her breath. The doctor patted her arm reassuringly, even if he was not reassured himself. Whatever lay past the double doors was an obvious safe place to hide. Which meant it would be obvious to anyone searching.
“We gotta do somethin’.” Moira hissed in the doctor’s ear. “That peeler will nab him for sure.”
“It’s not as if we can just fling the window open and leap inside. The window is only just tall enough to crawl through, and not so quickly at that. There’s nothing to prevent them from seeing us the moment we even open the window itself.” The doctor replied. “Our best chance will be to watch when they leave. The constable will need to have a cab come so he can carry Hunter back to a holding cell. We just need to see what room he puts the captain in so we can free him then.”
At the foot of the stairs, Duncan looked nervously towards the table where Maggie Campbell’s dead body lay. “Could be mice, ye know!” He blurted out abruptly. “We’ve been havin’ quite the time with mice.”
Constable Martin, hand poised over the handle of the double doors, suppressed the urge to jump at the abrupt suggestion from the older man. The constable hesitated, shot a withering glare at the grounds keeper, then tossed open the hasp and jerked at the handle. The aged wooden doors popped open, and a blast of cold air slapped him in the face.
The constable jumped in surprise, then glared into the semi-darkness beyond. Aside from the refrigeration machine that was twice as wide as any man and easily as tall, nothing else seemed to present itself in the room. With a disgruntled frown, he shut the wooden double doors.
“Mice.” Constable Martin said sourly. “It be mice with two legs if’n ye ask me. Miss Milligan, if’n ye don’t mind. Ah’ll be takin’ those records now.”
Sarah brushed at her dress, then circumnavigated the tables to end at the shelves across the room from the stairs. She searched through the mass of folders and papers, quickly pulling a set of folders out, each tied with a thin leather cord. “Dr. Belker never does manage to keep these in proper order, but at least he remembers to put them on the correct shelf.” She said with a sigh as she returned with the records.
“As soon as the servitor makes the copies, you can do what you will with them, constable.” She said tartly. “Though I don’t see what help it will be to you.”
“They’ll help enough, Miss.” Constable Martin replied. “We’ve a suspect, but the detective na be sure. So, we need ta review what Dr. Belker has found so far. Just to be double checkin’. If’n ye ask me, the boy’s innocent.”
Sarah walked across the examination room with the bundle of papers in hand. ”
Well, if he’s innocent, pray tell, why keep him?”
Constable Martin sighed heavily and rubbed his eyes before he crossed the room behind Miss Milligan. “Better ta be careful than let a ravin’ killer loose where we canna be catchin’ him again.”
Duncan, still not recovered from his close proximity to the dead body, nervously glanced up the stairs. “Well, that be makin’ sense. If’n neither of ye mind, ah’d like ta head back and check on me apprentice. Not good ta leave the lad alone, he’s like as not ta get inta mischief.”
Constable Martin gestured for the man to walk ahead of himself and Sarah. “Miss Milligan?”
“Yes, Constable.” She replied.
“Ah’d like ta say, best ta lock the door at the top of the stairs. Just ta be on the safe side.” The constable said firmly.
Sarah scaled the stairs behind the grounds keeper. “Certainly, constable.”
Once they had returned to the main floor, leaving the basement behind, the door at the top of the stairs shut and locked with a faint click. Footsteps echoed in the hallway of the floor above and faded away.
Suddenly, from under the sheet-draped table that held the body of Maggie Campbell, Hunter quickly emerged. Moira exhaled from exhaustion, while Thorias stared in surprise, then slumped in relief.
Quickly, Hunter looked around the room, raced over to the chair, and scaled to the top of the cabinet. Meanwhile, Thorias gently pushed open the small window, careful to avoid anything that would cause its hinges to squeak again.
Anthony tossed his coat through the window to Thorias, then slowly squeezed through the narrow opening to outside, and freedom.
“Cap’n, ya heard?” Moira asked quickly.
“I did.” Hunter replied while he stood upright to stretch his back. “The police are desperate to blame William, but it sounds like they’ve doubts.” He accepted his coat from Thorias’ outstretched hand. “Which means, tomorrow before we check on Mrs Carpenter or Miss Olivander, our job is to encourage that doubt enough that they’ll see reason and let him go.”
“How do you plan on doing that?” The doctor asked suspiciously.
“With the truth, my friend, the truth.” The captain replied with a smile. “We can prove he could not have committed the murders. They just have to listen.”