Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 27

Chapter 27:
The Jar of Heads

"Stay there."  Punch whispered to Lennie and Robert

"Don't, Punch...please."  Lennie croaked.  "Stay."

"We can't jus' stay here indefinitely, dear."  Punch said softly.  "Not with her standin' in the shadows."

"We don't even know what it is."  Lennie said.

"I just wanna approach it."  Punch replied.  

"I'm going with you."  Robert stepped forward.

"No, no."  Punch shook his head.  "Chum, I need ya to stay here with my sister.  Listen, I ain't gonna get too close.  I just wanna see if I can get a look at"  He stepped forward.

"Be careful."  Lennie urged.

"Hullo there."  Punch forced a smile, stepping forward slowly.  "I see you there behind the sofa.  I'm the Duke of Fallbridge, but you can call me 'Mr. Punch.'  I see ya already met me sister.  She's called 'Lennie.'  What are you called?"

The only response was raspy breathing.

"Do you mind if I come closer?"  Punch asked politely.  "I don't mean ya any harm, I don't.  Even though I'm called Mr. Punch by me friends and family, it don't mean I'm gonna hit ya.  I don't do that...anymore."

As Punch drew closer to the...intruder, he could see the features a little better.  The face was most definitely that of his mother, but not exactly the same.  The features lacked the hardness and cruelty which served to make the late Duchess both beautiful and intimidating.  They had been replaced with a cruder look, a primitive countenance which didn't convey malice as much as it did wildness, fear and anger.

He tried not to gasp at the sight of his dead mother's visage.  

However, some look of bewilderment of confusion must have passed briefly across Punch's innocent face because the intruder growled softly.

Punch tried to smile again.  "So, how long 'ave you been here?  I wish I'd known you were here.  I like to make my guests feel welcome.  I'd have made sure that you was given a proper dinner.  See, I only just arrived me-self.  Thought I'd see how the ol' place was fairin' with me in London all the time."

Again, Punch took another step closer, and as he did, he noticed that though the face of the intruder was rather unblemished, the body was quite horribly disfigured.  Her hands were not so much hands as they were claws.  Where there should have been fingers, the bones and flesh had fused together into something like pincers.  Still, something like fingernails had grown long and crooked, curving out at angles from random points.

Her back was stooped and somewhat ridged beneath the plain, dark shift which she wore.  Her feet were unclad, and one foot was notably larger than the other, flat and wide--the termination of a bulbous leg not unlike the trunk of a tree.

"Oh my,"  Punch nodded.  "You can't be comfortable standin' there in the cold and dark.  Maybe you'd like to come and sit here by the fire.  Truly, we mean ya no harm. That gent over there is my companion.  He's called Robert.  He's as sweet a man as he is handsome.  A very fine man, nice and gentle.  He's a doctor, too, he is.  Maybe..."

At the mention of the word, "doctor," the intruder began to growl and gnash her teeth.  She swatted at the air with her claws and ran toward Punch.

Lennie screamed.

Punch guarded his face with his arms as the woman knocked him over.  Before they had time to blink, she had managed to open the door with both of her appendages and escaped into the passages.

"Dear Punch!"  Robert rushed over.  "Did she harm you?"

"No,"  Punch shook his head as Robert helped him up.

"What was it?"  Lennie called out, joining the two men.

"I ain't quite sure.  But, I gotta feelin' someone in this house does.  Chum, ring for Jackson.  Wait with Lennie here and lock the door."

"Where are you going?"  Lennie asked.

"To the nursery to tell Gamilla to lock the door and sit by Colin with Gerard and Dog Toby."  Punch said.

"Not alone,"  Robert shook his head.

"I'll be fast."  Punch said.  "Only I need to know Lennie's got ya here."

Robert sputtered, but relented.  "Very well, dear Punch.  Do hurry."

"I will, Chum.  Now, please, ring for Jackson."

At that very moment, Jackson was awakened by the frantic ringing from the Coral Suite.  He stumbled from his pantry to find Ivy and Gregory in the Servants' Hall.  He gasped at what he saw.

"What is this?  I told you never to bring that out here!"  Jackson snarled.

"We need it."  Ivy answered quickly.

"Why?  The jar of heads is only for emergencies!" Jackson snapped.

"If this ain't an emergency, Mr. Jackson, I don't know what is."  Gregory shook his head.

Did you miss Chapters 1-26 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come  back tomorrow for Chapter 27.

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