The shouting and gunfire brought Terrence out of the white opthalium induced state. He was sitting on the ground with his back to a massive redwood tree. It was in fact, that first tree that Iolanthe had tagged with a ribbon to save its life. It was completely dark all around him, and at first the lapping of the waves nearby was the only sound that registered with his befuddled mind. When he again heard the shouts and gunfire at the far end of the compound and he recognized them for what they were, he was actually happy. It meant that he hadn’t been awakened by someone discovering him while he was seeing.
Could you call it “seeing” if you didn’t really see anything? Terrence had used the drug from the small blue bottle several times since the arrival in Birmisia, but he had seen nothing in the other world except that endless fields of the ever-present purple flowers. Never before had he been there without meeting Pantagria. Now he searched for her and she was nowhere to be found.
Terrence picked up his helmet, which was sitting next to him, and then stood up and began trudging up the hill at a modest pace. When he saw a blood covered Zeah Korlann being escorted by two riflemen into Iolanthe’s headquarters tent, he ran the rest of the way.
“What’s going on?” he asked, as he burst into the tent. He stopped short when he saw Miss Lusk, lying on her side, bloodied, on the dirt floor. “Let’s get Father Ian in here.”
“Father Ian isn’t coming,” said Zeah shakily.
“Sister Auni, go get another acolyte to cast a cure wounds spell,” ordered Iolanthe. Then she opened the top drawer of her desk and pulled out a brown bottle. “Soak her bandages in this and poor the rest down her throat.”
She handed the bottle to Dr. Kelloran, who was kneeling over the red-haired woman’s prone form. The doctor did as directed and a moment later was rewarded with Miss Lusk opening her eyes. Sister Auni arrived after a few minutes with Brother Galen, who followed the exact same procedure that she had in casting a spell. Color returned to Miss Lusk’s face and she began to breathe freely.
“Who did this to you?” asked Iolanthe.
“I didn’t see them,” said Miss Lusk. It was an obvious labor to speak. “Someone was running the Result Mechanism. I went around the corner to see who it was, but…”
“There were papers coming out of the machine,” said Zeah.
“Go find those papers,” Iolanthe ordered her brother. “Maybe we can find out who was using it.”
Terrence nodded and left the tent. He picked up a gas lantern nearby and stomped down the hill toward the still chugging and clanking Result Mechanism. Just before he reached it, the machine stopped, letting out a long whistle of leftover steam. He pulled out one of his nickel-plated .45 revolvers and circled around the huge device. Standing at the controls was his brother Augie.
“What’s going on, old man?” said Augie, when he noticed Terrence.
“What are you doing here?” Terrence asked.
“You know you really shouldn’t answer a question with a question,” Augie replied. “The machine was running and nobody was here, so I shut it down.”
“You didn’t see anybody here?”
“No, and I waited around for a couple of minutes too.”
“Are there any papers coming out of the slot on the side of the machine?”
They both stepped around to the far side, where the printing slot was located, but there were no papers either sticking out of the slot or on the ground below.
“You don’t have anything to do with this, do you?” asked Terrence.
“Anything to do with what? A bloody machine making a bunch of racket?”
“Stabbing? What stabbing?”
“Egeria Lusk has been stabbed. Right over there, by the look of the ground.”
“Kafira! And you think I had something to do with it?”
“No. But you were at three of the crime scenes, at least three, so some people are going to get the idea you could be involved.”
“What do you mean three? The murders on the ship? I thought you pegged Murty for that, and pegged him good too, I might add.”
“Yes, I did. And Murty was a bad sort; I don’t doubt it for a moment.”
“You know I wouldn’t stab a woman. What’s that all about? I was very fond of Danika.”
“Oh, Kafira. You knew her?”
“I knew her, but I didn’t do anything to hurt her. I certainly never killed her, and I didn’t kill Miss Lusk.”
“Miss Lusk is alive.”
“Well, thank heavens. Now she can tell you I didn’t stab her.”