Let’s go, then,” Mr. Punch said, climbing out of the bed and hurrying to the wardrobe.
“No.” Robert shook his head. “I don’t mean you. Cecil and I will go.”
“Chum,” Mr. Punch frowned, “You can’t just sit here and declare that we need to go to the cathedral—just out of the air like it fell into your mouth without you knowin’—and then tell me I can’t go with you.”
“You’re still as weak as…”
“As what, Chum?” Mr. Punch answered. “As a baby? Like me nephew? I gotta go. He needs me! He’s out in the cold somewhere. If anyone’s gonna find him, it’s me. Gotta be scared, he is. What must that place look like to him? Like some kind of monster’s castle.”
“I don’t even know why I think we should go to the cathedral,” Robert argued. “The thought just came to me. There’s no point in dragging you out into the cold night for a random idea that I’ve had.”
“It ain’t no random idea!” Mr. Punch said forcefully. “It’s Marjani, it is! You said yourself she followed Charles. It ain’t the first time she’s sent you a thought from there. You remember when you knew to go to the cathedral to find me when I were shot? Well, it was Marjani what let you know that.”
“And, maybe my mind is playing tricks on me.” Robert shook his head again.
“And, maybe it ain’t!” Punch said, putting on Julian’s pants. “Now, are you gonna help me get dressed or ain’t ya?”
Robert looked sternly at Mr. Punch.
“Coo!” Mr. Punch shouted. “Come on!”
“Very well,” Robert grunted, going to the wardrobe to fetch a shirt, waistcoat and coat for Mr. Punch. “However, Cecil is coming with us.”
“And leave Adrienne and Fuller here alone? What if Edward Cage comes back?”
“Edward.” Robert moaned. “I forgot about Edward. He’s got every door of this house being watched. “No doubt, his men will see us leave and follow us. We’ll never get out of here unnoticed.”
“Don’t be so sure, Chum.” Mr. Punch winked. “Let’s remember, I’m Mr. Punch. I beat the Devil, I did.”
Meanwhile, behind St. Louis Cathedral, Marie Laveau grunted as she sat on the ground next to Barbara and her child.
“We don’t have time for games, Miss Laveau,” Charles said quickly.
“Listen, Boy,” Marie grinned. “We got all the time in the world. You know, I like it here. See how pretty the cathedral looks. So much better than it used to. Do you think it’ll stay like this always? Do you think that in one hundred years, or two hundred, people will come to New Orleans and stand right here where we are and see the same view that we see right now?”
“What are you talking about?” Barbara groaned.
“Permanence, Girl.” Marie spat. “Permanence.”
“Permanence.” Barbara shook her head.
“Sure, Miss Allen.” Marie laughed. “Don’t it worry you?” She smiled. “It worries me. Permanence. What’s gonna happen when we’re gone? Who’s gonna keep the traditions alive? Who’s gonna carry on when we can’t no more?”
“Miss Laveau,” Charles began.
“Quiet, boy, I’m talkin’.” Marie chuckled.
“See, Girl, it falls on our children to keep us alive.” Marie nodded.
“And, I’m sure your children will ensure that your work lives forever.” Charles answered.
“Do you think?” Marie sighed. “I worry. Will folk remember ol’ Marie Laveau?”
“Who could forget you?” Barbara muttered.
“Your daughter,” Charles said. “She’s the spit and image of you. She’ll give you eternity.”
“Are folk gonna take a colored girl seriously?” Marie asked. “Boy, that ain’t the world we live in.” She smiled, “but folk’ll take a white gentleman seriously.” Marie narrowed her eyes at the baby in Barbara’s lap. “Oh, yes, they will.”
At that very moment, Marjani crept out from behind the bushes and made her presence known.
“Miss Allen,” Marjani said quickly. “You gotta walk away from this woman. Come with me and Charles. Come now.”
“And go into another kind of slavery?” Barbara growled.
“What do you know about slavery?” Marjani answered angrily.
“More than you realize.” Barbara said. “My shackles with Iolanthe were just as real as any that you may have worn!”
Marjani frowned. “Let your fine brother give this boy a chance at a real life.”
“This don’t concern you.” Marie stood up.
“Hush, you witch!” Marjani spat.
“Who you callin’ a witch?” Marie smiled. “Just lookin’ at ya, I can tell you’re the same as I.”
“Oh, no, Marie.” Marjani shook her head. “I ain’t.” She stepped closer. “I don’t give my power to the snakes and the beasts that slither in the mud. I don’t share my spirit with the dirt and the fire.”
“That’s why you ain’t got the power I got.” Marie laughed. “One thing I know ‘bout dirt, Girl. Dirt don’t burn!”
“But, evil does!” Marjani growled, reaching into the pocket of her apron. She withdrew a clear glass orb which was filled with blue liquid. “Miss Allen, Charles, stand back!”
Marjani raised her arm above her head and hurled the orb at Marie’s feet.
Marie Laveau screamed as the orb shattered.
The baby began to shriek as a blue vapor began to cloud the air around them.
Barbara gasped as blood trickled onto the stones of the courtyard.
Did you miss Chapters 1-204? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, March 28 for Chapter 206 of Punch’s Cousin.