Marie Laveau grinned as she entered her home and looked around.
“What’s got you smilin’, Mama?” Young Marie asked. “Our house still got soot and burns all over it.”
“It don’t matter none,” Marie shrugged. “Tomorrow will bring many treasures.”
“What?” Young Marie squinted. “The light of the day’s only gonna make us see just how bad this place is.”
“We won’t be here long. This child inside me is gonna bring a whole new set of miracles for us. You’ll see. We’ll be livin’ in a palace that’ll make all those rich, white women jealous.”
“Gotta long time to go before we see that baby.” Young Marie snorted.
“You think?” Marie Laveau smiled.
“Unless you can think of a new way for to have a baby, Mama.”
“My child will be with us sooner than you think.”
“You only just done and got yourself with child.” Marie squinted. “Now, I ain’t no doctor, but the last dozen babies you done had took almost a year.”
“Not this time, my daughter. Not this time.” Marie winked.
At that very moment, Ulrika Rittenhouse quietly entered her bedroom—still holding Fuller Halifax in her arms.
“Giovanni, darling?” Ulrika whispered.
Giovanni turned around to see Ulrika with the child.
“Madonna,” Giovanni grunted. “Wherever did you find that?”
“He’s ours, my dear.” Ulrika chirped.
“Pardon me?” Giovanni laughed.
“Well, not actually.” Ulrika frowned. “But, he’s ours now.”
“Mine.” Ulrika snapped. “And, since you’re also mine, he’s ‘ours.’”
“As you wish,” Giovanni sniffed, aware that he was in no position to argue. “Just what do you intend to do with it?”
“Make him my son. Teach him my ways. And, think of it, Giovanni, all without ruining my beautiful figure.” Ulrika grinned.
“As you wish,” Giovanni repeated.
“There is one little impediment.” Ulrika pouted.
“Of course.” Giovanni sighed. “What is this?”
“His mother is downstairs with the authorities.”
“Authorities?” Giovanni exclaimed.
“Since you’ve got to hide anyway, would you mind taking Raphael with you?”
“That’s his name, is it?”
“Now it is.” Ulrika winked. “Isn’t it delicious? Raphael Rittenhouse! I love it!”
“And, just what shall I do with it?”
“Well, I thought you might take him and go.”
Ulrika squinted for a moment. “How about the Cathedral? I’ll meet you there in an hour. Then, we can take care of our last bit of business…”
“Killing Barbara Allen.”
“Not so loud,” Ulrika snapped, “but, yes, darling. And, then we can go off to Marionneaux and start our new life.”
“Very well,” Giovanni grumbled. “Give the lad to me.”
“You must hurry.” Ulrika said, as she heard the rumbling of angry voices downstairs. “Slip down the back stairs. I’ll gather up anything you might need from here as soon as its safe.”
“You are a terrible lot of trouble,” Giovanni sighed as he headed for the door.
“Let me go first,” Ulrika held up her hand. She opened the door and looked around. “Now, go!”
Giovanni left with the child. As she closed the door behind them, she squealed with delight. “Ah, motherhood! Could there be a better mother than I?”
Meanwhile, downstairs, Robert was growing impatient. “This is utterly ridiculous!”
“Keep calm, Sir.” One of the officers shook his head.
“We’ve stood here and told you that in this house, there could be two abducted children, and yet you do nothing but tell us why we can’t go in and look for them.”
“My son is in this house!” Adrienne said frantically.
“And, me nephew!” Punch added.
“We’re certain of it!” Cecil growled.
“Not so fast.” The other officer shook his head.
“I don’t understand the delay.” Robert spoke up.
“Mr. Cage is one of our city’s most respected citizens,” The senior officer shook his head. “This is a very serious charge.”
“He has no real claim to either of those boys. He may insist that the younger of the two is his own, but the fact is that he purchased that child from Iolanthe Evangeline.” Robert said furiously.
“Preposterous!” Edward Cage snarled. You dare you come into my home with such slander? I’ve done nothing wrong. I have nothing to hide!”
“You’d best tread lightly, Dr. Halifax.” The younger officer shook his head.
“If he’s nothing to hide,” Punch yelped, “why are we still standing here, then? Why can’t we go look?”
“You must remember, we have sickness in the house.” Edward Cage interrupted. “You, Dr. Halifax, should be sensitive to that. After all, you tended to my wife.”
“That’s right, Sir.” The senior officer nodded.
“Here,” Punch frowned. “You’re awful quick to agree with him. I don’t ‘spose that’s got somethin’ to do with the purse full of coins I see stickin’ out of your jacket?”
“You’d best watch what you say!” The younger officer growled.
“Never mind, gentlemen. If you’ll just let me check on my wife, I’m sure that I have no problem with any of you exploring my home—barring my wife’s sickroom, of course.” Edward Cage smiled with faux innocence.
“See?” The senior officer smiled.
“You’d expose them boys to the Yellow Jack just to keep them from the family what loves them?” Punch gasped. “That’s what you aim to do, yes? You’re gonna hide ‘em with that sick woman.”
“You’d be well advised to keep quiet, Sir.” The younger officer snapped.
“Mr. Cage,” The senior officer said with theatrical respect. “Please, go ahead and check on Mrs. Cage. We will wait.”
“No!” Adrienne screamed, bursting into the house. “I’d rather you keep the boys than put them in the path of that illness!”
Did you miss Chapters 1-380? If so, you can read them here.