Iolanthe straightened her skirts as she sat at the small table in the corner of the hotel room.
“Didn’t say you could sit, I didn’t.” Mr. Punch mumbled, rocking the baby gently so he would fall asleep again.
“And, I didn’t say you could steal the child I sold to Edward Cage.” Iolanthe smiled.
“I didn’t steal it.” Mr. Punch retorted.
“You didn’t return him, either.” Iolanthe winked.
“What do you want, Miss Evangeline?” Robert asked.
“Yes, what do you have in mind, really?” Ulrika wondered aloud, going to stand next to Iolanthe.
“As I said,” Iolanthe began, “I can provide Mr. Cage with another child, but, getting another one will cost me dearly. If you were to assist me with the financing of that endeavor, I wouldn’t question your decision to keep Barbara Allen’s son.”
“So, basically, you’re selling this boy—again.” Robert frowned. “That will be twice that you’ve profited from this child’s life.”
“It’s not much of a profit.” Iolanthe chuckled. “You make it sound so mercenary. I’m just tryin’ to help everyone get what they want. That’s no crime, and I don’t want you thinkin’ that it is.”
“And, if we don’t pay you for your ‘kindness’?” Robert asked.
“Well, then, I’ll have to let Mr. Cage know where you are.” Iolanthe shrugged.
“Oh, you are clever.” Ulrika chirped. “It’s wonderful.”
“Shut yer gob, you ginger beast!” Mr. Punch spat. “I think you’re the worst of the bunch, I do. Least, the Ogress doesn’t declare her joy at other people’s misery.”
“No, I keep it to myself.” Iolanthe smiled.
“This is blackmail.” Robert growled.
“It’s business, Doctor.” Iolanthe fluttered her lashes.
“Two swift strikes on each head with somethin’ blunt, Chum.” Mr. Punch pleaded. “Just let me do ‘em in.”
“It’s tempting, dear Punch,” Robert answered, “but we can’t go about killing everyone who interferes with us. It would only make us more like them.”
“I ‘spose.” Punch sighed. He looked at Colin who’d fallen asleep in his arms. Then, he looked at Robert who seemed to be quite exhausted. Mr. Punch shook his head.
“Listen, Ogress…” Punch began.
A knock on the door interrupted him. He knew the knock. It was the pre-decided pattern of rapping which they had worked out with Marjani before she’d left.
She came into the room without waiting for a response. Marjani’s eyes widened when she saw Iolanthe and Ulrika.
“I knew somethin’ was wrong.” Marjani grunted. “That’s why I done left in such a hurry.”
“However did you get past Mr. Cage’s men?” Ulrika grinned.
“Never you mind,” Marjani grumbled.
“Marjani, we were just gettin’ some things clear with Miss Evangeline.” Mr. Punch said seriously.
“Oh?” Marjani asked.
“Now,” Punch turned back to Iolanthe. “As much as I don’t like the thought, I’ll pay you. How much do you want to keep quiet?”
“I’m not sure.” Iolanthe smiled. “I’ve so many expenses.”
“Think on it, then.” Punch scowled. “Here, come back in the morning and tell us your price. I’ll get the money for you quickly.”
“Well, then,” Iolanthe rose. “I think that would be fine, however, how can I be sure you won’t flee in the night?”
“Perhaps your two henchmen outside can keep an eye on us.” Marjani grimaced. “Did you think they’d not be noticed? I spotted them right off when I came in.”
“You are wily, aren’t you?” Iolanthe laughed.
“More than you could ever guess.” Marjani answered.
“I’ll give you my list of expenses in the morning.” Iolanthe nodded.
“And mine.” Ulrika added.
“Yours?” Robert guffawed angrily. “Are we to believe that you, too, are going to purchase an alternate child for Edward Cage? What expenses do you have?”
“My suffering comes at a price.” Ulrika grinned.
“Speaking of which, Ulrika, I’m reminded that you still have something of mine. We’ll have to take that into account when we decide what you’re owed in this transaction.”
“Perhaps, His Grace, can make it possible for both of us to get what we want.” Ulrika answered nervously..
“Whatever it takes,” Mr. Punch said hurriedly. “Now, will you both please leave? Lookin’ at you both makes me sick. I hate you so much.”
“Isn’t it interesting how, in a lunatic, honesty is almost endearing?” Ulrika laughed.
“Almost.” Iolanthe chuckled.
“Good night, gentlemen.” Ulrika winked as they left the room.
“Coo!” Mr. Punch exclaimed as the door shut behind the women.
Marjani took the sleeping baby from Mr. Punch’s arms and sat in the corner of the slightly dingy hotel room. “It never stops.”
“No.” Robert said angrily. “And, paying them off isn’t going to stop them either.”
“Don’t ya see, Chum?” Punch asked. “Now, our plan will work. We now got everything we need to get this child out of her and to see Iolanthe Evangeline imprisoned for the rest of her life.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-214? If so, you can read them here.