Friday, June 17, 2011

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 272

What you two women want from us?” Marjani shouted into the mist.

“Much.” Iolanthe laughed as she approached. “How convenient of you to be so accessible. I suppose I should be shocked. Shouldn’t I, Ulrika?”

Ulrika nodded. Her eyes were bright, but her speech was slurred and she seemed unsteady on her large, mannish feet. “Shocked, really. Perhaps we should scream with fright. Seeing two ghosts like this.”

“I’d say so,” Iolanthe teased. “The spirits of the Duke of Fallbridge and the good doctor roaming the foggy streets of New Orleans.”

“Really, it’s just out of a tawdry broadside.” Ulrika slurred.

“Have you come out into the land of the living to punish me for killing you?” Iolanthe asked.

Neither Robert nor Mr. Punch said a word.

“Fine, women,” Marjani spat, her round face hardening into a mask of anger. “You done made yourselves clear. You know these men ain’t dead. Now, considerin’ what you already done to them, why don’t you just…”

Mr. Punch interrupted, “Shut yer gob!”

Robert gently touched Mr. Punch’s arm to indicate that they’d be better off if he said nothing.

“You done killed this man’s mother. You done murdered his man. You tortured them and their kin and ripped a child from his loving family. What they done to you ain’t nothin’ compared to what you done to them! So, I’m warnin’ ya now, you’d best stay away from us or you’ll get far worse than what you done already got.”

“I doubt that,” Iolanthe chuckled.

“Why are you so awful?” Mr. Punch spoke up, unable to contain himself any longer. “Is it cuz o’ your boy what’s so sick? Is that it? Did that sadness harden you so you ain’t got nothin’ but pain and torture in your heart?”

“You have no right to mention my son!” Iolanthe howled.

“Here, I got every right.” Punch shouted. “Where’s your boy now, Iolanthe?”

“Safe.” Iolanthe snarled.

“He’s at the Cages’ house…” Ulrika began.

Iolanthe slapped Ulrika’s arm vicisouly.

“I’m not myself yet,” Ulrika murmured.

“Is he, now?” Marjani smiled. “Your boy is in Edward Cage’s house?”

“What are you implying?” Iolanthe asked. “You’re implyin’ somethin’. I know you are, and I don’t want you thinkin’ that I don’t.”

“All I’m sayin’, Iolanthe,” Marjani grinned, “is that it’s good to know where your baby is.”

Meanwhile, at the Routhes’ flat above their dress shop, Adrienne took a deep breath and tried to appear calm.

“Nellie,” she began. “I’ve always held you dear and thought of you as my sister. We suffered so much together. I took you in, those few weeks ago, even though everyone warned me against it, and even when their suspicions proved true, I still defended and wished you help you.”

“Aren’t you the martyr?” Nellie scowled.

“Enough talk from you women!” The taller of Nellie’s two male companions shouted. “Get the boy and let’s go!”

“You’re a countryman of my husband’s.” Adrienne said. “I can tell by your voice. Would you really betray one of your own kind?”

“I ain’t no one’s kind.” The man laughed. “Where’s the boy?”

“He’s not here.” Adrienne lied.

Just then, a small stirring and the sound of a child’s cried arose from the rear of the apartment.

“Isn’t he?” Nellie growled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-271? If so, you can read them here.

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