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Punch's Cousin, Chapter 244

Saturday, May 14, 2011

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Mr. Punch squeezed Toby gently as he rocked back and forth on his bed, muttering to himself. “I hear ya, Master,” Punch mumbled. “I’m listening.”


From deep within their shared body, Julian urged Mr. Punch to be still.

“Can’t.” Mr. Punch grumbled. “Too much is happenin’.”

“Listen to me, Mr. Punch.” Julian pleaded.

“I’m listenin’.” Punch muttered.

“You must tread lightly.” Julian said. “There’s too much at stake.”

“Lightly, lightly, lightly,” Mr. Punch whispered.

“Do you hear me?” Julian asked from within.

“I hear you,” Punch sighed.

“Please, come and speak with me.” Julian said gently from inside of them.

“Not now, Your Grace.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “I’m waitin’ for Charles.”

“But, that’s what I want to discuss with you.” Julian answered firmly.

“Very well,” Mr. Punch grunted. He lay back on the bed, after arranging his puppet next to himself. Toby settled in next to Mr. Punch, putting his terrier head on Punch’s thigh. Punch shut his eyes and breathed deeply. Before he knew it, he was in the little, phantom room within their shared body—the room that only they could see and occupy.

“It’s different,” Punch’s spirit whispered as he squinted in the ethereal space that they shared.

Julian nodded—seated in a slipper chair in the middle of the room. “It is.”

“It’s all gray and cloudy—like bein’ in a storm.” Punch replied, surveying the room which had been transformed into an Italianate parlor with smoke-gray plaster walls and heavy white moldings. Ornate silver objects lined the mantle and tables and a large black slate clock sat ticking on a rococo center table of inlaid marbles of lavenders, pinks and ocean blues.

“Here, what’s that?” Punch pointed to the timepiece.

“It’s our time,” Julian sighed.

“When’s it run out?”

“Sooner than you might think.” Julian said.

“Sooner than I might think,” Punch muttered. “Always seems like time is runin’ out. Funny, that. Time oughtn’t be our enemy. Ought to be our mate, our chum and keep us well.”

“It’s not our enemy, Mr. Punch, but it is a force which we must tame.” Julian replied.

“Ain’t I doin’ the best I can?” Mr. Punch said quickly.

“You’re doing splendidly, dear Punch,” Julian answered. “However, even you must admit that we’re facing too many unknowns. Think of all of those who are against us—the Cages, Miss Rittenhouse, The Ogress, Arthur, Marie Laveau…even…”

“Your sister?” Punch asked.

“Perhaps. Is she sincere?”

“You know as well as I do.” Mr. Punch shrugged. “She says she’s changed her ways what are harmful. Can’t see into a person’s heart and mind, we can’t. Can’t know what their true thoughts are.”

“Perhaps not, but we know of someone who can.” Julian smiled. “That’s why I’ve called you here.”

“I don’t understand.” Punch shook his head.

“Naasir,” Julian whispered.

From the corner of the room—as if appearing from a mist, Naasir appeared—whole and well again. No evidence of his burns and his tragic death remained.

“Chum!” Punch exclaimed. “Are you in here, too?”

“Only briefly, Mr. Punch.” Naasir smiled softly. “I’ve come to advise you, if I may.”

Meanwhile, Charles searched for Cecil, finding him in the parlor—gulping down sherry by the fire.

“Sir?” Charles nodded.

“Listen, Charles,” Cecil began. “His Grace and I have an errand for you. Is Miss Allen settled in?”

“Yes, Sir.” Charles answered. “Meridian’s made her quite comfortable in a room off of the kitchen. In fact, she’s gone to sleep.”

“I’m sure the wretched thing is quite exhausted.” Cecil nodded.

“What will you have me do, Sir?” Charles asked.

“I need you to bring a message to my wife and brother. But, take care in doing so. We’re being watched.”

“Sir, I pledge to you that I will do all that I can to protect this family.” Charles smiled.

“I believe that you will.” Cecil grunted. “But, just be careful to look after yourself as well.”

“Sir?”

“Don’t be so quick to give your heart to Barbara Allen, man. She’s not chosen that name because of her gentle spirit.”

“She’s a changed woman, Sir.” Charles answered, frowning slightly.

“See that she is before you love her completely.” Cecil replied. “Now, here’s what I want you to do…”

At that very moment, Marjani slowly walked to the window of the dingy apartment above the dress shop in the French Quarter.

“Are you sure that Marie is near?” Adrienne asked nervously.

“I am,” Marjani said. “My senses are dulled, but I feel her.”

“I knew something was afoot.” Robert spat. “But, what should Marie Laveau want with us? How does this concern her?”

“Anything she wants concerns her, Doctor.” Marjani sighed, shaking her head. “She’s got an idea that this is her game now.”

Marjani peered out of the window.

“Is she there?” Adrienne asked.

“Yes.” Marjani nodded, hiding behind the drapes. “And, she ain’t alone.”

“Who’s with her? One of her minions?” Robert snarled.

“No. A man. A white man with chestnut hair and an olive face. He looks a bit like Charles.”

“Charles?” Adrienne asked.

“Yes, Missus,” Marjani nodded. “It's Charles’ face—only twisted in cruelty.”

“His brother.” Robert groaned.

“I suspect so.” Marjani sighed.

“What’s he got to do with Marie?” Robert asked frantically.

“Evil tends to attract itself, Sir.” Marjani replied quietly. “Some kind of marriage made by the devil.”

Well, then,” Robert frowned. “If I’ve learned anything from my dear Punch, it’s that we can beat the Devil.”



Did you miss Chapters 1-243? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, May 16, 2011 to read Chapter 245 of Punch’s Cousin. ads
 

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