Tukiko checked in on the sleeping Worms before returning to Hope Spring's Clinic.
This left Maisie to get on with preparing lunch for not just herself and her patient, but the other three urchins as well.
The chopping of the vegetables became more violent the longer she was left alone with her thoughts.
The final straw being when a curly lock of her fading perm began to bob up and down in front of her left eye in time to the chopping up of the innocent leek currently on the execution board.
She slammed the knife down and tried to jam the miscreant curl back in amongst the others.
"This is not my effing job!" She glanced at the door; afraid her cussing might have woken Oliver. "I'm not their mother." She added, much more quietly.
After sliding the vegetables in with the meat, Maisie cleaned the kitchen surfaces with an angry enthusiasm. No way to treat a child, she scrubbed. It's just pure vindictiveness.
With a face red more from the building rage than the scrubbing, Hope Springs' head nurse emptied the water down the sink and then wrung the washcloth out with enough force that threads snapped.
Something ought to be done about it.
Doctor Troy was just finishing sewing up the purlicue of an inattentive farm worker's hand when a member of Winona Barrow's Silver Soldiers tapped on the frame of the open window.
Tukiko looked up to see the silver-haired and almost toothless Effie Needles watching from the window.
"What can I do for you, Effie? I'm a little busy just now."
"A message from the constable at the old Finsbacker house. He says that Maisie has buggered off somewhere in a hurry and left him looking after a big pot of stew."
The Finsbacker house being the house where Maisie and the four orphans were supposed to be being quarantined. But anyway, Effie was still talking.
"He wants to know if someone is coming to take over because his shift finished ten minutes ago."
Tuki didn't know what to say for a moment. It definitely wasn't like Maisie to just up and leave a patient in her care. Effie, meanwhile, was looking expectantly at the doctor.
She wanted to be away to report this 'goings-on' back to Winnie. Tuki, smiled at the old lady as if to reassure her that Maisie's behaviour was expected.
"Thank you, Effie. I'll be right there."
At about this same time, Maisie's battered sortofambulance was pulling up outside the orphanage in New Flagstaff.
Her impatient banging on the locked front door soon brought a pathology technician, sporting two fading black eyes, to see who was trying to break down the door.
"My name is Maisie Hawkes. I'm the head nurse from Hope Springs. I need to see the warden... I mean the matron."
The path tech stood with his mouth wide open for all of a second before giving up and opening the door. Screw it, he thought, she would probably open the door herself if she banged any harder.
"Where do I find her?"
The man pointed up the stairs.
"Next floor. Turn right, and you can't miss it."
The tech watched Maisie take the stairs as if she was assaulting a hill.
The tap on the Matron's door was much more gentle than anything Maisie had done since the Union asshole, and his NFPD lacky had left earlier that morning.
Matron Clinton recognised her namesake immediately from their meeting on the road three days ago.
Maisie sat down in the single battered chair on this side of the matron's desk.
"Hawkes. This is about Worms."
Matron Clinton looked uncomfortable.
"Ahhhh. I see. Yes."
Maisie looked at the slip of a girl across the desk. What was she? Twenty? Maybe twenty-two?
"You need to take Worms back. He'll have nowhere to go. He'll be on the streets. Probably end up in The Borough if he isn't murdered first..." There was more.
Maisie had been rehearsing all the way from Hope but the matron interrupted her.
"Actually, Maisie, may I call you Maisie?" The look from the older woman implied that she may not. "Anyway," she continued. "It's likely even worse than that.
" She glanced at the door behind her guest and leaned forward. "Worms is a ward of the Union Council.
I've been given to understand that, if he sets foot back in New Flagstaff, he'll be scooped up and placed into the care of the medical centre... probably for at least two years."
Maisie stared at her.
"They can't do that."
Maisy sat back, nodding sadly.
"I'm afraid they can, and will."
"The official reason is because the typhoid may return in that period, so they want to keep him under observation.
" She paused before continuing in a tone that suggested she should not be telling the nurse this. "But I think that it's just something that was put forward by that policeman."
"Yes, and..." She looked at the worried expression of the nurse. "...Well, two years in that place..."
The two women shared a look.
Both of them knew the rumours and, because of their respective positions, both of them suspected that there was more to the New Flagstaff Medical Centre than just rumours.
Nurse Maisie's fingers curled into fists.
"We can't let that happen. I won't let that happen."
"I don't want it to happen either, but there's nothing to be done. Oliver is a ward of the Union, so they control what happens to him."
They sat in silence for maybe half a minute. Then Matron Clinton said quietly,
"Of course. If a child is adopted..."
Maisie grasped at the straw.
"Of course! He would no longer be a ward!" Her elation turned to thoughtfulness. "But who would adopt him at this short notice?"
"No one in New Flagstaff, that's for sure. Too many people know of his 'weirdness.' And now with him having typhoid, too. It's just not going to happen."
She looked at the Hope springs nurse across the table.
"It would have to be someone from outside of Flagg. Someone who either didn't know, didn't care... Or knew how to handle his 'condition.'"
Maisie was still trying to figure out who might make an adoptive parent and hadn't quite caught the Matron's inflexion... Until she did.
"What?! Me?! No way. Look, I'm not 'mother' material. I'm just not, so you can get that idea right out of your head."
The Matron's shoulders slumped.
"Oh well. I don't suppose it would have worked anyway. The quarantine ends tomorrow morning, and at that moment, Oliver stops being a resident here so would no longer be available for adoption."
A few minutes later, a disheartened nurse Hawkes left the Matron's office and walked with heavy feet back down the stairs and towards the front door.
As her feet touched the tile floor at the bottom of the stairs, a door opened, and her boss's partner came out of a small office.
Maisie liked Taiyoko, even though it had taken a few months for her to grudgingly begin to do so. She greeted him with a tired smile.
Taiyoko's own ever-present grin faded when he saw the sadness of the big nurse. Looking concerned, he went over to her and asked what the matter was.
Maisie told him, all of it, from the Union official's visit earlier, to the conversation she had just had with the orphanage's matron.
"So, even if I did offer to adopt the poor little mite, there's no way we could circumvent the adoption process. Worms would be a ward of the bloody Union by the time we had the papers."
During quiet moments, as they lay together or just as they were relaxing after a long hard day, Tukiko confided in Tai things about herself which were not known beyond her and Hyle.
One of the things she told him, was the crazy circumstances of how Hyle Troy became a mother to her.
Tai rubbed his chin.
"Miss Maisie. Maybe we can't do that thing, as you say," his grin returned, bigger than ever. "But we know a man who can."
When Tai opened the door to their little office, and he and Maisie stepped inside his and Joe's temporary accommodation, it was to find Joe in the corner noisily pissing into the waste bin.
Joe turned his head.
"I thought you'd fu..." Which is when he saw the nurse behind his overseer. Warm urine gushed over Joe's hand, making him drop the waste bin. Not improving the situation one bit.
"Oh, fer fuck's sake! This better be good!"