Iolanthe Evangeline stood on the dock and watched the billows of smoke rise black and angry from three separate sections of the ship. She inhaled deeply and grinned. Smoothing her gloves over her burnt skin, she took delight in watching the people scurry about the decks in mortal panic.
She turned to Mala who stood behind her. “Think of it, you monstrous hobgoblin, just now, Marie Laveau, Barbara Allen, Ulrika Rittenhouse, the Duke of Fallbridge and his foolish companions are all drowning in that thick smoke.”
Mala nodded. “And, Big Ollie and a whole lot of innocent folk.”
“Why must you always spoil my enjoyment?” Iolanthe grunted.
“Ain’t tryin’ to spoil nothin’, Miss.” Mala shrugged.
“Why do I continue to employ you?” Iolanthe growled.
“Cuz I’s the only person who’ll stick with ya.” Mala smiled.
“Maybe so.” Iolanthe responded. She sighed. “Well, Ollie’s no fool. After all, he started the fire. Surely he’ll get back here before he chokes to death.”
Mala chuckled. “Ain’t no thing if he don’t.”
“True,” Iolanthe nodded slowly. “After all, if he doesn’t return he won’t have to be paid, and I can get my hands on the diamond.”
“And, he won’t be threatenin’ to tell folk you done tol’ him to start the fire.”
“Yes,” Iolanthe smiled, not taking her eyes off of the burning ship. “That would be convenient.”
“Miss?” Mala said nervously.
“What is it now?”
“Ain’t that Miss Ulrika over there?”
“What?” Iolanthe snapped.
“Over there.” Mala pointed to two huddled, wet figures sitting on the dock. One of them—a woman with broad shoulders and a thick, long neck—had upon her head a mass of titian hair—made almost burgundy from being damp.
“Damn!” Iolanthe hissed.
“I thought you said she was on the ship.” Mala chuckled.
“I thought she was!” Iolanthe growled. “And, it ain’t funny.”
With that, Iolanthe hurried to the two nearly-drowned figures—Mala trotted obediently behind her.
Did you miss Chapters 1-564? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, February 21, 2012 for more of Punch’s Cousin.