Joe knew those words. Similar situations, different accuser.
Though the expression on Finny's face was absolutely the same as Kirsten's, rushing in to find why Annie was crying on the floor while Joe was reading his newspaper.
Joe's reply to the unreasonably angry Kirsten was the same as he now gave Finny.
Finny, however, was already across the office and sitting on the other side of Onetooth so that he became the meat in the sandwich of his friends.
Casper leaned across the younger boy's shoulders to Finny.
"He wants Worms back."
Joe, knowing that in Finny's eyes, he was already guilty, waggled a forefinger in Casper's direction.
"It was his fault. He said that Worms had been stolen."
The look Finny gave Joe made him suddenly realise that he had allowed himself to fall down to their level. Playground level.
He also realised that the office door was still wide open and that the sounds of bullets being made were absent. Had they all heard? It was the last straw.
Joe stood up, angrily. He stormed out of the office and the dozen or so heads of the kids working the presses instantly turned back to their machines.
"Get back to work. The lot of you!"
He stomped down the stairs, reaching for his cigar case. Taiyoko met him at the bottom.
"You okay boss?"
Joe didn't even look at his overseer and flung open the front door.
"I'm going to the pub." With that, Joe left the factory, slamming the door behind him.
Brooding in the bar several pints later, Joe came to a decision. Worms was a weird little freak for sure. Probably going to grow up into a psychopath.
But Worms was his weird little freak, and he wasn't going to let Hope Springs bugger his plans up.
Besides, he thought, draining the glass and signalling for another.
He already had a couple of psychos on the payroll, they were fine as long as you tolerated their little peccadillos, one more wasn't going to make any difference.
Joe was going to fix this.
It was the day after. Worms woke up because there was someone at the door of the quarantine house and banging on it like they wanted to break it down.
Nurse Maisie added to the noise with a somewhat sleepy, somewhat angry yelling designed to reach the ears of the person on the other side of the door.
"All right already! I'm coming fer fu... Don't you know there's a sick child in here?!"
Worms rolled over onto his back. Yesterday he had learned he had been adopted. Soooo, Was Nurse Maisie his, what? Owner? Boss? Mom? He hadn't actually figured it out yet.
Sure, his friends had been all "Hey, congratulations!
" and stuff, but he could see from the way they glanced at each other that they weren't too sure 'congratulations' was the really the right word.
Adoptions from the New Flagstaff Home for Waifs and Strays generally worked like this:
"You're a farmer, are you? And you're looking for a son? Okay then, well we... A strong son? And... one who doesn't eat too much?"
"Yes, she can sew... is that important? Oh, it is. And sorry, what? Can she cook? Well... Oh, and clean? And... mind the other kids for you?"
Before the new matron, Miss Maisy, came along, the answers would generally be 'Yes' or 'She can learn'. The documents would be signed, and off the kids went.
Since the new matron arrived, the answers were still pretty much the same but the big difference was that every kid was now checked up on post-adoption.
Frequently for the first year and then gradually less so. Any sign of mistreatment and the adoptee was taken back and the prospective adopters were put on a blacklist.
But this is also the real world, and it is a hard world for kids. They have to be useful because scratching a living in this post-apocalyptic mess is hard all round.
Even biological offspring worked hard on farms, in family-run businesses and even 'apprenticeships.
' The Union's view, and that of the orphanage, was and still is as long as the child wasn't being abused in any way and that they were learning a trade, then all was good.
For those lucky few who were adopted into better-off families to just be loved as sons or daughters, well, that was the dream.
Worms was not one for dreams. Nurse Maisie was not 'Mom' material, all the kids in the factory who had ever been poked and prodded by her knew that much.
They liked her, sure, but would they want her as their mom? So, he lay back, listening as best he could to the muffled conversation at the door and wondered what his new status was going to be.
The conversation came to an end, and a few seconds later, Worm's door opened and Nurse Maisie, all flannel nightie and curlers, stood in the doorway.
"There's been an emergency. I have to go. I'll get someone to come to look after you." And the door closed again.
Now Worms' immediate concern became breakfast. He would have to wait for that, it seemed.
Then he wondered what the emergency was? But, no doubt, he would find out in time.
The third thought on his list was more alarming. He didn't like it, but he had gotten used to Nurse Maisie performing the morning ritual of taking the daily rectal swab.
He liked even less the fact that she would approach his bed, glass tube in hand, with a big ole grin on her face. But, again, he had gotten used to it.
This morning, though, he had a feeling that wasn't going to happen. And, sure, enough, after a quick "I'll be back!" The front door slammed, and Worms was alone... At least for now.
Soon, though, someone would come in to look after him. Probably someone he didn't know. That wouldn't do.
Worms got out of bed and walked barefoot through to the kitchen area where he knew the medical stuff was kept in a single high cupboard in the corner.
He dragged a chair across from the table and used it to climb up onto the countertop.
He opened the cupboard and immediately found the box of glass sample tubes, each on containing the dreaded 'poo-stick', a six-inch-long stick with a gnarled plastic ball on the end.
After a quick trip to the bathroom, Worms left the now 'used' poo-stick, sealed safely back in its tube, on the kitchen table and then climbed back into bed.
Winona Barrow wasn't anyone's idea of a nurse. Certainly not Maisie's.
But nursing skills weren't required here, just babysitting ones and the old woman, along with her little gang of silver-haired cronies, were undoubtedly qualified in that role.
As Maisie opened the old woman's garden gate and walked up the neat path to her front door, where perfectly matched hanging baskets of red and yellow begonias hung on each side,
Maisie was not surprised to see the curtains twitch.
The door opened after the first tap and Maisie was left with her hand in the air, looking down into the twinkling eyes of Hope's leading busy-body.
Mere minutes after climbing back into bed, Worms heard the front door open. He readied himself to face whoever Nurse Maisie had found to look after him.
But, as the minutes ticked by and the smell of frying bacon wafted under the door, stomach-gurgling hunger replaced his apprehension and even his curiosity,
just so long as whoever it was brought him breakfast.
Two days of mixed care from Mrs Barrow and Nurse Maisie later, Worms, although pale and gaunt, was declared free of typhoid.
During these two days, Worms had been working on his new status and what he should call Nurse Maisie. Neither of them thought much of 'Mom'.
Worms tried it a few times for both himself and Maisie to hear, both of them ended up shaking their heads and mutually agreeing that, no, 'Mom' and any of its derivatives, was out.
So was 'Maisie'. After the first try, the look on Nurse Maisie's face told Worms that calling her by her given name wasn't going to fly either. Nor was 'Nurse' or 'Nurse Maisie'.
Both were fine with Worms, but Maisie said it sounded like she was being summoned. In the end, they both settled on 'Miss'.
Informally formal enough to suit Maisie, and also something Worms was used to using around the staff of the orphanage and to other grown-ups.
So, now it was time to leave the quarantine house and go to his new home.