Onetooth suddenly found himself dragged backwards through the open doorway to face a furious Finny.
"What are you doing?! You can't dob Worms in!"
In Worms' sick room, more hot words were being spoken between the two doctors. One of whom was still being held tightly, with feet clear of the floor, by an impassive nurse Maisie.
"Let me go, dammit! I've got to get that boy to New Flagstaff. Now."
As stated, it wasn't often Finny got really mad at any of the three boys, but Onetooth had just gone ahead and blatantly broken the cardinal rule of kidizenship.
You don't dob your buddies in to the grown-ups.
Onetooth's bottom lip started to shake as he stood before Finny, who was in full Finny mode, all hands-on-hips and glaring green eyes.
He was scared that, any minute now, Finny's hands would be balled into fists... And that was a fight he didn't want to get into.
"Finny. I gotta.
Worms won't tell an' I bet that's where he got all diseased an' I'm the only one who knows where it is an' they'll never find it,
and then everyone'll get diseased an' then they'll blame him for it an'..."
But Finny never got to find out what the next 'and' would be. Behind them, the grown-ups had stopped fighting.
While the children outside squabbled,
Doctor Troy had drawn herself up to her full five feet two inches and taken a step forward towards where the Union doctor hung uselessly struggling against her head nurse's immovable arms.
"Dr Unwin. You gave up all authority the moment you attacked my patient. I will go to New Flagstaff. But you will be remaining here to face charges of assault.
" She tilted sideways to talk to Maisie. "Maise, be so kind as to take Dr Unwin to the constable outside and have him escort her to jail for assaulting that poor, defenceless and sick little boy.
Maise stepped through the doorway and barged through the three members of the Reading Group. Tuki followed, tapping Onetooth on the head.
"Well done, young man. You're with me." Oblivious to the quarrel that had just been interrupted, but seeing the look on Finny and Casper's faces, she paused for a moment on the way to the door.
"You two can stay here with nurse Maisie, or you can tag..." Finny and Casper bolted for the door, leaving Tuki talking to empty space. "... along with us."
Two minutes later, Doctor Troy and all three kids passed a very annoyed looking Union doctor being escorted through the town and towards the jail.
Two minutes after that, Finny and co were holding on for dear life as Tuki tortured the gearbox all the way to New Flagstaff.
Joe had moved his office to the dining hall and now sat quite happily working through his bits of paper amongst the organised chaos,
accompanied with a soundtrack of expertly played scrubbing brushes, that was going on all around him.
Matron Maisy Clinton, who had been going from team to team checking on their progress, sidled over to him.
"How come, Mister Spivey, my staff daren't let their attention drop for a moment keeping their teams working,
while your four are scrubbing away like dervishes without you even so much as looking in their direction?"
Joe didn't glance up or even stop writing when he reached down with his left hand and held up an empty sack which he had collected from the kitchen.
The matron stared at it for several seconds.
"I don't understand."
Joe dropped the sack to reach for an invoice.
"No. But they do."
As it seemed that was the only explanation she was going to get, Matron, wandered off to see how the kitchen was getting on.
Lunch that day was sandwiches. Grudgingly made by the kitchen staff whose feathers had been ruffled by the suggestion that they were less than hygienic in the running of their little kingdom.
Some satisfaction was had, however, by the knowledge that the various grease traps which they had neglected for months were now bright and shiny clean.
That couldn't be said, however, for the now malodorous and grease-blackened urchins that had had to climb inside the ovens to clean them. But that was somebody else's problem.
Tukiko called ahead and was eventually put in contact with Dr Ducas at the orphanage. She brought him up to date with the situation and arranged to meet him there.
Joe noticed the kerfuffle going on outside the dining hall.
The Union bigwig who had led the invasion of his factory yesterday was standing outside the storeroom which his people had taken over,
and was giving rapid-fire instructions to some of his minions. Something was up, Joe thought.
He hoped it wasn't more cases of typhoid and pushed away a disturbing picture of his little daughter Anneka that had been creeping into his thoughts lately.
It was bad enough the uncaring disease seemed to have settled on the orphanage and its inmates. The idea of it touching his family left an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach.
He got back to work; it was a distraction from the things he couldn't control. Twenty minutes later, however, there was another kerfuffle in the hallway.
This one got Joe's attention partly because of the ginger head bouncing up and down trying to see through the small window in the dining room door,
but mainly because of Tukiko's unmistakable voice just out of sight behind it.
Doctor Troy gave the three kids strict instructions to stay in the car. She wouldn't be long, she told them.
Finny, Casper and Onetooth looked at each other, then bundled out of the car and followed the now renamed Mrs Doctor Troy into the building.
Upstairs, Dr, Ducas had assembled his team.
Besides himself, there was a pathology technician, who was just so glad to be getting away from looking at faecal smears for a while,
and four Union patrolmen who didn't care where they were or what they were doing as long as they got paid for it.
Into this, Doctor Troy arrived, followed a few seconds later by the thunder of feet as Finny and company joined her.
The glare the young doctor gave the youngsters had about as much effect on the three orphans as a summer rain shower.
They'd been glared at by the best, by people who had real threats to back up the glare.
They just smiled at Tukiko with the standard look of ignorant innocence they were still young enough to get away with.
When Doctor Troy turned back to the other grown-ups,
Finny turned her attention to trying to see if anyone she knew was in the dining hall so that she could make them aware that she was out here doing grown-up stuff with the doctors.
Doctor Troy brought Onetooth to the attention of Dr Ducas with a smile and two gently but firmly placed hands on the little boy's shoulders.
"Onetooth, here, has kindly agreed to show us where the patient has spent a lot of his time prior to being infected. Apparently, it is somewhere secret that they go to play together."
Dr Ducas, however, wasn't smiling.
"Very good Doctor, Troy, was it? So good of you to bring the boy to us. Well take over now, and you can get back to your patient."
The fixed smile stayed on Tuki's face.
"You don't understand Doctor; I'm coming too."
"I'm afraid that won't be possible, Doctor. We have a large enough team as it is and I'd hate for such a pretty girl to be put into any unnecessary danger of infection."
Tuki took a breath to let the Union doctor know just what she thought of that when Finny piped up.
"Me too! I'm coming."
Casper was quick to join in.
"If Finn's going then I'm coming as well."
Both Dr Ducas and Doctor Troy voiced the same opinion.
"Out of the question."
Finny jabbed Onetooth on the arm.
Onetooth rubbed his arm.
"If Finn an' Casp don't come then I'm not gonna show you."
Just then, the dining-room door opened.
Joe had quietly crossed the dining hall floor and had stood out of sight of those outside. He'd heard all he needed to know.
Now Joe turned to the little six-year-old who had been bullied by the other members of Joe's team into asking him if they could have a rest.
The look on her face told Joe the familiar story; he had that effect on kids. Being careful not to smile, he passed her the piece of paper with all the names on it.
"Here. You're in charge. Tell 'em I said so and they better not slack off."
His cleaning job delegated; Joe pushed through the door to make his presence felt on the other side. The look on the little girl's face was priceless.
She turned to go back to the others with a grin way too evil for her cute chubby cheeks.
"And if you think I'm letting my employees out of my sight to go with you and your Union goons," Joe said, letting the door swing shut behind him. "You've got another think coming, matey-boy."