“To be honest,” Orpha smiled as Charles and Gerard appeared in the doorway of the room which she and Ulrika had made into a nursery, “I’d expected the Duke and Dr. Halifax to be my first visitors.” She laughed. “And, now, Charles, here you are, again. Twice in one day. Imagine. And you’ve brought Gerard. Oh…do you remember those happy days we three spent in the servants’ hall of Number Sixty-Five?”
“You’ve erased any thoughts of happiness which I might have recalled.” Charles growled, holding the large cleaver in front of him. “Do you know what I remember from the time you haunted the Duke’s house? I remember how you deceived the Duke and Dr. Halifax, how took the lives of Mrs. North, Jenny, William Stover and God knows who else. My memory is heavy with your lies and your treachery. I see the spirits of your crimes—the image of the Duke’s face when you claimed to be his sister. The hurt in his eyes when he found you were not. I still hear the shocked screams of the girls at the Grange when they learned that Finlay had drowned. Finlay—poor, confused Finlay who had no choice but to be wicked, only made worse by you. My ears ache from the cries of Lady Lensdown as she worried for her children. My throat itches from the noose around Lady Constance’s neck. She wouldn’t have taken her own life if you had let her be. I see the confusion in Miss Lennie’s eyes when she speaks of her past and knows she can’t even say her own name because you ruined the sound of it! I can feel in my hands the weak grasp of my dearest friend as he recovered from the near-fatal wound with which you left him and I am still saddened by the terror you put into Gamilla with your threats and demands.”
“I always knew you fancied me.” Orpha grinned.
“And now…this…” He pointed to Marduk.
“Isn’t he beautiful?” Orpha nodded.
“No!” Charles shouted. “He’s monstrous. But, not because he was born the way he is. He can’t help that. You’ve made him monstrous!”
“How else should a mother raise a two-headed baby?” Orpha laughed.
“With care and love and gentleness!”
“That’s not what they require.” She picked up the child. “They require proper rearing. He is the new messiah, after all.”
“You’re mad! Utterly mad!”
“So says the man brandishing a cleaver.” Orpha sighed. “Gerald…” She looked to Gerard.
“Gerard.” He snapped.
“Come and see the baby.” Orpha continued.
“I can see it from here.” Gerry shook his head.
“He’s not an ‘it,’ he’s a ‘him.’ Or a them…I can never make up my mind.” Orpha sighed. “He shall be the ruler of the world one day. You’ve a rare and wonderful opportunity to see him, to feed him. You both, in fact, shall feed him…them.” Orpha nodded at Gerard. “Come here and feed them.”
Gerard didn’t budge.
Orpha frowned and returned Marduk to his bassinette. “You’ll change your mind. My Marduk needs a father. For awhile, Charles, I thought you might be he.”
“He has a father.” Charles barked.
“Oh…that.” Orpha shrugged. “No one’s seen my brother in days. Besides, he’s already served his purpose for now. He has one final gift to give us, and he will as soon as he’s found. When I say that Marduk needs a father, I mean that they require someone to teach them how to ride and shoot and other masculine things. Hmmmm…” She paused. “Shooting will be quite easy for them. Four eyes and three arms. They’ll never miss a shot.”
“You are mad.” Gerard shook his head. “Can you hear what you’re saying?”
“Of course I can, Gerard. And so can Marduk. He does have four ears after all. So, I’m going to have to ask your friend to keep his voice down. However, I can see that they’re interested in the bright shiny cleaver. How thoughtful of Charles to bring a gift. Most people bring silly things to babies, but this is something he can really use.”
“Which do you want first?” Charles asked.
“Pardon?” Orpha shook her head. “You’re not making much sense, Charles.”
“Shall I let it watch you die or will you have me kill it first?” Charles growled.
“Charlie.” Gerard whispered. “That ain’t what we come to do.”
“What did you come to do?” Orpha winked.
“We just want you to leave. Leave here. Leave us alone.” Gerard pleaded. “The Duke ain’t done nothin’ to ya.”
“Didn’t he?” Orpha spat.
“You’re the one what attacked him!” Gerard answered.
“I had a plan. If only your puppet chum had cooperated, we’d not have had any trouble. While the Duchess of Fallbridge may not have been my mother, I am due my inheritance as he truest match on this earth.”
“Just…just go away from here. Leave London! Leave England. The Duke will give you as much money as you want. Just leave us alone. Let that American giantess take you back to her country.”
“No.” Orpha shook her head. “This is our home.”
“Which do you want first?” Charles interrupted again. “You or the creature?”
“Charlie…” Gerard took Charles’ arm. “It ain’t worth it, goin’ the gaol for the rest of your life. I can’t let you take a life—even hers. Come on, let’s go. We come here to ask her to leave and she ain’t gonna. Leave her. Come. I need ya, Charlie. You gotta stand up for me. I need ya at me side at my weddin’.”
“Oh, Gerard, you are noble.” Orpha inhaled. “However, I can manage myself. If your friend wants to try to kill me, let him. Let him come forward. Come. I’ll even answer your question. Come for me first so that Marduk may feed from me.” She grinned. “Come forward, Charles.”
Gerard held tightly to Charle’s arm, yet, Charles was filled with a strength, a determination, and broke free.
“I’ll even hold still for you.” Orpha smiled. “Just to be sporting.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-283 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 285.