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Arcadia Snips and the Steamwork Consortium Part 34

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"Maybe," Snips said. "No, not maybe. Definitely."

"And so you came here to reprimand me, then? For 'meddling'?"

"No," Snips said, her eyes drifting to the jars that lined the shelves of his study-as if the answers to her questions could be found among the preserved remains of extinct species. "No, I didn't come here to reprimand you. But I didn't come here to thank you, either. I'm not sure what I came here for. I just wanted you to know that I know. And that it doesn't change anything."

"Why would I think otherwise?"

"I don't know," Snips said, shaking her head. "Look, what do you want from me? Do you want me to to forgive you? On behalf of the thousands upon thousands you've killed? Do you want me to give you a big, warm hug? Put on a dress, act like a 'good daughter'? Do you want me to come back home?"

"Are any of those things on the table, Arcadia?"

"No," she said, and there was a murderous force behind the word. "No. None of those things are on the table."

"Good," Nigel said.

"Good?"

"Good," he repeated. "As for your question, I will answer it, in exchange for you answering one of my own."

Snips glared, but nodded. "Go ahead."

"Why do you hate me?"

"You're a murderer."

Nigel snorted. "Have I killed anyone you knew? Have I killed someone close to you? Your hatred is far too intimate for the callous scorn we heap upon killers and tyrants."

Snips shook her head. "Do you know what it was like, growing up and admiring you? Reading the articles about all the wonderful things you'd done, the wonderful things you built?

Hearing all the stories? Wanting to be like you?"

Nigel grew silent.

"And then do you know what happened, Nigel? I ran away to find you. I ran away to meet the man I had read about in newspapers and scientific journals; I ran away to find the kindly, brilliant philanthropist. And do you know what I found?"

Nigel turned his head away.

"I found a man who had murdered thousands in the name of moral righteousness. A man who cloaked himself in shadows and secrets; who manipulated others as if they were mere tokens in a grand game. I went out to find my father. Instead, I found you."

"And that's why I hate you, Nigel. Maybe it's spiteful.

Maybe it's unfair. But I really don't care. I hate you because you aren't the man you were supposed to be."

"And so that's what all this is about?" Nigel asked, turning back to Snips. "The cheap hat, the dirty coat, the silver tooth? Just a little girl rebelling against a father who failed to live up to her expectations?"

Snips was upon him in an instant. Her hands seized either of his wrists, pinning them to the chair; Nigel writhed in pain, but did not cry out.

"You know that's not what this is about," Snips hissed, leaning forward into him. "You d.a.m.n well know that."

"Arcadia," Nigel whimpered. "Pl-please-"

Snips released him, stepping back. Nigel coughed, rubbing his wrists.

"What I did with my life has nothing to do with you, Nigel."

Nigel wheezed and straightened back in his chair, slowly recovering. "You answered my question, so I will answer yours.

You wanted to know what I want. It is only this: For you to flourish."

"Why?"

"Because you are my daughter."

"No," Snips replied. "I'm not your daughter. And you sure as h.e.l.l aren't my father." She turned, moving toward the exit.

"Didn't you hear? My father is dead. He died in a fire."

When she met him at the Steamwork, Snips insisted on going in first; William patiently waited outside of Mr. Eddington's office until he heard her shout out to him.

"All right," she told him. "Come on in."

When he stepped inside, he was confronted with the familiar scene of his previous employer's belongings. But then he noticed that the bookcase on one side of the room had been shifted over, revealing a hidden pa.s.sageway that dived deep into the Steamwork. Straightening with surprise, he crept forward and peeked down the stairway.

Snips' voice arose from below. "Come on, William," she shouted. "I'm waiting."

William took the stairs one step at a time. As he did so, he felt his throat clench; he did not know why, but he felt as if he was on the verge of something familiar.

The air was heavy and wet, ripe with age; whorls of dust were whipped up with every step. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, he heard a gentle click and electric hum; light after light flickered on, revealing to him a sprawling laboratory of marvels long lost to time.

His mouth went dry.

Snips stood behind one of the tables, smiling at him. For the first time that he had seen, she wore the expression without a hint of malice or contempt; it was the smile of someone who was sincerely happy.

"Welcome to your parents' laboratory."

Starkweather dipped his hands in the basin, washing them clean of blood. His scarf had been removed, leaving the metal bolts in the side of his neck exposed.

"Fascinating," Nigel spoke, leaning forward in his wheel chair to inspect the figure who lay upon the table. "The sheer number of his scars is daunting. And now his missing eye... No wonder the man sought to numb himself with drugs. He must be in constant physical pain."

Mr. Starkweather and Nigel Arcanum discuss the current situation while the rescued a.s.sa.s.sin rests.

"I would not think you would find the matter of another's scars to be fascinating," Starkweather coldly rebuffed him, finishing his work at the sink. "In any matter, his wounds have been tended to, and the grafts completed. He will survive."

"Yes, yes," Nigel said, sounding distracted. The a.s.sa.s.sin was stretched across a slab of iron beneath the Arcanum estate, stripped of his clothing and eyepatch. His injuries had been grievious, but a quick intervention had brought him underneath the cryptozoologist's care. "Your steady hands and my sharp mind have provided a second chance for our little friend."

"I find it surprising that your minions managed to accomplish the task of bringing him here without incident,"

Starkweather confessed. "So far, they have proven themselves otherwise incompetent."

"I could not disagree more," Nigel said. "Why, armed only with my instructions, Mr. Tongue and Mr. Cheek singlehandedly prevented the collapse of Aberwick's banks while simultaneously maintaining their cover as instruments of Mr. Peabody and the Society."

Starkweather raised an eyebrow, finishing at the sink. "Oh?

And yet the newspapers report that it was Mr. Daffodil's quick thinking that accomplished this task."

"As it should be. I will allow the boy his well-deserved accolades; he provided a clever solution to a problem he was unaware had already been addressed," Nigel said. "I knew of what the Society had planned for Aberwick's financial district since I first investigated Hemlock's mysterious attacks against the banks. I sent my dear creations out to each of the banks a day prior, placing account exploits of my own to counter Mr. Peabody's."

Starkweather's never-ending scowl only deepened. "Why did you not inform your daughter of this from the beginning? Why the duplicity?"

"If I had told her that I had plans to diffuse the situation, she would have left the matter alone," Nigel said. "And if I had asked her to investigate it, she would have refused. Instead, I presented her with a mystery and allowed her to draw her own conclusion."

"But why?"

"Because my daughter is immensely resourceful, and a clever investigator. She could discover something I had missed,"

Nigel said. "And she did. I was unaware that Mr. Peabody had one of my bombs in his possession-never mind that the man was determined enough to attempt and use it."

"Then I a.s.sume this matter is closed."

"Not at all, my dear conscience. The account exploits used against the banks were Mr. Peabody's creation, but if your fellow constructs are to be believed-and I am sure they are-he was working under the authority of Professor Hemlock, a man I know nothing of. And I a.s.sure you," Nigel added, his voice growing dark, "that a man who can elude my eyes and ears is a dangerous man indeed."

"You have defeated him, however. The bomb is lost,"

Starkweather pointed out, "and the banks shall soon be rendered immune to attack. The Society can do nothing to bring Aberwick down."

"There is still one bomb left."

"Where? You built a third bomb?"

"In a manner of speaking," Nigel said. "I built three devices in all; two after studying Jeremiah's model, and one with his aid."

Starkweather stiffened. "William's heart."

Nigel slowly nodded. "And that is why we must keep our eyes upon William and Arcadia. For if Hemlock still wishes to destroy the city of Aberwick-and I have every reason to believe he does-surely, he will seek out the clockwork heart."

The Detective Watts & Sons Agency is back in business!

end.

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Arcadia Snips and the Steamwork Consortium Part 34 summary

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