Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 383

Barbara!” Ulrika Rittenhouse exclaimed cheerfully as she descended the sweeping staircase, grabbing the woman by the shoulders and blocking her path. “What a nice surprise. You look madder than usual.”

“Let me go!” Barbara demanded. “I want my son!”

“Isn’t that sweet?” Ulrika laughed as she forced Barbara Allen down the staircase toward Edward Cage and the two officers who had climbed the stairs to catch her. The officers took Barbara by the arms. “She thinks her child is here.”

“He is!” Adrienne said. “And, my son is here as well!”

“Mr. Cage,” Ulrika sighed. “Is this what has taken you from your wife’s bedside?”

“It is,” Edward nodded slowly.

“What a pity. Such foolishness.” Ulrika shrugged. “I’m sure Mr. Cage wouldn’t mind if you searched the house.”

“That’s what we intend to do.” Robert spoke up.

“Carry on, then.” Ulrika smiled. “You’ll find no children here except for young Orman who is asleep in his room while his mother lies dying down the hall. So sad, really. Do take care when you search Mrs. Cage’s room. She is, I’m sure, quite contagious. Perhaps you should let your servant—the nurse—look in there. They’re so much easier to replace.”

The two officers dragged Barbara toward the door.

“I will not be treated like this!” Barbara wailed. “Do you have any idea who I am?”

“Do you, Barbara?” Ulrika smiled as she stepped into the foyer. “She used to work for me. She claimed that she was the Duke’s sister.”

“Is that true, Sir?” The elder officer asked.

“Sure,” Punch nodded. “She’s me sister.”

“Will you take responsibility for her?” The younger officer asked.

Punch frowned. “I ‘spose I should.”

“I don’t need anyone to take responsibility for me.” Barbara spat.

“What of the children?” Adrienne interrupted.

“Go on and look,” Ulrika shrugged. “Yes, Mr. Cage?”

“If you say so, Ulrika.” Edward muttered.

“I do.” Ulrika nodded. “They’ll find nothing.”

“Don’t be so sure.” Robert grunted as he hurried into the house.

“They’ll find nothing,” Ulrika smiled at Edward Cage.

Edward nodded in appreciation. Little did he know that she had instructed Giovanni to carry Fuller Halifax from the house. And, if he knew what she’d done with “Holt,” his appreciation would have been considerably diminished.

“Marjani, Pun…er…Your Grace, please help me search the upper floors.” Robert said as he climbed the stairs.

“Adrienne and I will search the lower floors.” Cecil replied.

“What about this woman?” The officers shouted, referring to Barbara Allen.

“I’ll watch over her,” Ulrika grinned. “We have much to discuss, she and I.”

The officers glanced toward Edward Cage who nodded.

“Come with me into the garden, Miss Allen,” Ulrika smiled, taking Barbara by the arm. “There’s something there I’d like to show you. Something I’m sure will give you infinite peace and calm your murky mind forever.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-382? If so, you can read them here.

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