Marduk Commands it
“Charles, really…” Ulrika Rittenhouse cooed from an open front window of what was once Hamish House, “if you’re going to lurk around, you might just as easily come inside.”
“So, it’s true.” Charles frowned, looking up at the titian-haired giantess. “You’ve taken over the lease.”
“Oh, yes.” Ulrika smiled. “The smell of death still wafted through the front hall. Isn’t it delicious?”
“I doubt Miss Fern finds the suicide of her mother to be delicious.”
“So…you know Fern.” Ulrika grinned.
Charles realized he’d said too much. “I know of her. Lady Constance confided in us before…”
“Before she hanged herself.” Ulrika laughed. “Very well, Charles, be vague. I know quite well that the girl is living with the mad Duke.”
“I’ll thank you not to speak of His Grace.”
“Oh, I forgot. You love him.”
“I do.” Charles replied curtly. “His Grace has been more of a father, more of a brother…than my own family.”
“That’s because you never gave poor Giovanni a chance. Come inside, Charles. Come see your brother. He’s been waiting for you.” She paused. “You look a bit like him, you know. You’ve the same dark eyes and lovely skin. The same nose. You can’t deny your heritage, Charles.”
“I can and do.”
“That’ll be the death of you.” Ulrika leaned further out of the window and winked.
“That should please you…being the ghoul that you are.”
“Who, dear? Me, dear? Ghoul, dear? No, dear. Is it ghoulish to appreciate nature? Is it ghoulish to seize upon the opportunities which life and death present us?”
“You tell me.” Charles scowled. “I’m not the one who rushed to…”
“I know what you’re going to say.” Ulrika waved her hand dismissively. “You think me crass to have leapt upon this house as quickly as I did.”
“The Hamish’s solicitor had been given strict instructions to make short work of the dissolution of the estate. If I didn’t take the lease, someone else would have. Do you know how difficult it is to find a house on Belgrave Square?”
“Most would have waited until Lady Constance had been carried out.”
“But, that was the delicious part!” Ulrika smiled. “I truly felt I was a part of it all. It was beautiful, really. Furthermore, by acting quickly, I was able to purchase most of the furnishings. Were I a man, I’d be called clever. As a lady, I’m called a ghoul.”
“You’re no lady.” Charles spat. “You’re not even a woman.”
“Your brother seems to think differently.” Ulrika chortled. “And, really, you shouldn’t speak to me this way. You…a servant. But, go on. Keep at it. I like it, really. Though…well, I’ve grown weary with this shouting out windows. Come inside.”
“I’ve work to do.”
“Of course, you need to go report to the Duke…or is he called Mr. Punch…or is he someone or something else now? Tell me, how’s the baby? Such a plump, sweet little boy, that one.”
“Don’t speak of him!” Charles snapped.
“Why?” Ulrika cooed again. “We’re old friends, you and I. Why…we’ve experienced many things together.”
“Yes, I’ve seen you groan with delight as you watched a man burn.”
“That was a scrumptious night.” Ulrika grinned. “But, Charles, that’s not all, really. We’re almost related. After all, your brother and I…”
“I don’t wish to hear it.”
“Come inside, Charles.” Ulrika’s tone changed. Her face was stony and her voice hard. “Come inside. The house is filled with people who know you. Your brother and I… Orpha.”
“Orpha?” Charles’ eyes widened.
“You know her.” Ulrika deadpanned. “When she was called ‘Ellen,’ you enjoyed a flirtation.”
“I loathed her from the start.”
“That’s not as she recalls it.”
“Does she recall all the lives she’s taken? All of the sorrow she’s brought to our house?”
“Yes.” Ulrika grinned again. “Quite well. Charles, you mustn’t judge her too harshly. She was doing what any good mother would do.”
Charles frowned and turned on his heel.
“Don’t go.” Ulrika shouted. “If you do, I shall scream. I understand that such displays are frowned upon in Belgravia.”
“Scream your heart out.” Charles snarled.
“Stop.” Ulrika demanded.
Suddenly Charles felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to face his brother, Giovanni.
“Carlo, you disappoint me.” Giovanni hissed. “You shout at the lady from the street. You come past our house, and, yet, you do not come inside to see your brother.”
“You are no longer my brother. Gerard Gurney is my brother.”
“That scruff-faced servant?” Giovanni snapped. “You forget, Carlo, you are a thoroughbred, not a mule.”
“Let me go.” Charles struggled, but Giovanni’s grip tightened.
“Oh!” Ulrika moaned from the window. “Will there be fisticuffs?” She clapped her hands together gleefully.
“There will be no fight.” Charles barked. “This is over.”
“Fine, you do not wish to see your brother. This I can understand. Still, you must come inside.” Giovanni pulled Charles by the shoulder.
“No.” Charles said firmly.
“You must come see the messiah.” Giovanni grinned.
“Really, you must.” Ulrika hissed from above.
“What?” Charles squinted.
“Marduk commands it.” Giovanni pulled Charles to the house.
Did you miss Chapters 1-277? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 279 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.