Author's Notes: Ah-hah! At least the hiatus wasn't six or seven weeks… ack, I know, I'm weaseling my way out of this… forgive me, please? *waves an 'I love you all!' flag* Anyways, hope you'll enjoy! Kudos to the ones who can find the line I have lifted from HP Book Three! (AerinBrown, TheChosenOne3, I'm looking at you both! ;p)Chapter Eighteen
Jerome swallowed as he stared at the gun. He dared to raise his eyes to George's face. "You… you can't be serious," he muttered nervously.
George quirked an eyebrow at him. "Aren't I?" he asked nonchantly. He glanced at the gun, and then at the man he was pointing it at. "Surely, this gun that I hold to your head proves my… seriousness over the matter. It's simple, really, if you look at it. You kill the woman, and that's the end of the story. We can forget that all these unfortunate things ever occurred."
Jerome started breathing shallowly as panic overtook him. "George—"
"I liked you, Lord Duncan. Truly, I did," Challenger started almost conversationally. He even wore a small smile on his face to lighten the moment. "You seem like a decent man, and it was very clear that you loved my dear Liezl. Even I can see your devotion to her. You would have made a fine husband, and a fine son-in-law, if only my daughter did not meet that bastard John Roxton. How regrettable it is that it only took a man like him to destroy everything… all our hopes, our futures…" Finally, he lowered the gun. Challenger could clearly see that the younger man breathed a sigh of relief, but of course, he was not quite finished yet. He quickly pinned the man a glare that made him breathe faster again. "And then, who could ever forget dear Mrs. Krux? Paid whore, hired killer… why, her assignment was easy enough, for all she needed to do was attend her own wedding with the unfortunate William Roxton. All she needed to do was to show up for the wedding that was designed to rob John a valuable part of his life, but did it happen? Did William – or even Victoria Roxton, for heaven's sake! – did they die?" Challenger gave a dry, humorless chuckle. "Of course not! The old saying is true, then, that vile beings never die young!"
"George—" Jerome tried again, only his words were cut short when the older man continued with his tirade.
"And then… you." Challenger took a step closer to him. "Afraid of the consequences of all our actions… tell me, my untypical radical, why are you so adamant on killing Marguerite? Surely it'd be so easy; all you need to do is go to Malone's house and be done with it. I could even lend you my gun." He raised the gun again, but he turned it so that he was offering the handle to the other man.
Jerome looked at the gun, before he raised his eyes to meet Challenger's. "But—"
"Look at it this way: you'll be doing the world a service by ridding it of a woman like her." George thrust the gun at him. "Go on! Take this, you spineless coward! Go to Malone's house and kill her!"
"I don't think a trip to Malone's house would be really necessary."
Both Jerome and George looked at the door, only to find out that Marguerite was there. She had Veronica and Ned behind her, and in her hands she clutched her very own gun. She had it aimed at George. "Hello," she said with a smile. "Now before I kill you, I have one question to ask you, Sir George. Where's my daughter?"
"D-daughter?" Victoria whispered, as she stared hard at her son. She tried to smile at him, as if silently coaxing him to tell her that he was only joking. "Marguerite? Clearly, John, you must be mistaken…" But the haggard look on her son's face told her otherwise. "But that's… that's impossible, I mean… she… this… this child… it just can't be! She would have told us before, John! She would have told us!"
John closed his eyes, and silently, vilely cursed. Indeed, there were a lot of loose ends in this, a lot of unexplained things that he would only be too happy to throttle the answers out of a certain brunette… "She didn't," he stated simply. "That mere fact should be able to tell us a lot about the kind of woman—"
"John, please." Victoria glanced at Evelyn, and the older woman could clearly see the confusion that was written all over the child's face. "The child…leave her out of this; she is too young. You have to… bring her elsewhere before we continue with this discussion." She buried her face in her hands.
Roxton looked down at Evelyn, as if reminded that she was there, and that she very nearly heard all the vile things he was about to say about her mother. "I'm sorry," he told her, as he took her hand in his, and began to lead her out of the room. "I should—"
"You both know my mother, don't you," Evelyn said, as she looked up at him with sad, wounded eyes. "Where is she? I thought… you said you were going to find her for me." Her voice was very nearly at the edge of tears.
At those words, Victoria looked up. "Where…? John, what is the meaning of this? Marguerite isn't here?"
John shook his head. "I can't find her anywhere in this hospital," he answered.
"How is that possible? You said—"
"I know what I said before, Mother!" John said exasperatedly. He turned towards the child again. "Evelyn," he stated firmly, "listen to me. I will find Marguerite for you, all right? I promise. I just have to talk to my mother first, okay?"
Evelyn looked at Victoria, and then at John. She hiccupped, and then allowed herself to be led away.
As the two left her room, Lady Roxton inhaled deeply, as she tried to calm herself down. But how could she? How could she ever be calm when she just learned that a woman they had trusted had deliberately fooled her and her whole family? She loved Marguerite; she unquestionably gave her affection like any mother would to her own flesh and blood. She accepted her, even welcomed her into the family, without even doubting her parentage or where it was that she came from. She took her in, gave her a warm place to sleep, and gave her anything and everything she needed to make herself comfortable as she stayed at their home… and now, a betrayal like this? Honesty, trust and love… oh, the irony was not lost on Lady Roxton!
When John opened the door to her room again, Victoria looked at him, her own face solemn. "She… she lied to us," she whispered. "Marguerite, she…"
"I know, Mother," John told her, as he approached her bed. "I never thought I would say this, but in a way, it is almost a blessing that the church exploded before William married her. Only the Good God knows what could have happened if he did!"
Lady Roxton cleared her throat, and when she looked at her son, there was bitterness and anger in her eyes. "And you… you lied to me, to us, as well. You told me she was here! You told me the reason I couldn't see her was because—"
"Mother," John said, as he placed his hand over hers, "Mother, I apologize for lying to you, but I only did this because I thought that the news of her absence might only bring more damage to your health and to William's." He looked at her in the eye. "I don't want to cause you any more worries, not when you are very well on the road to recovery."
"And this?" she asked him. "This… this news, this proof of her deception… you didn't think this would affect me more?"
He sighed. "I only found out this morning," John admitted. "And I… I didn't think at all. I was so angry that she lied to you, to William… I forgot about everything. I only cared about letting you know what a fraud she is."
Silence loomed between them.
And then, "What are we going to say to William, John?" Victoria asked him, her voice very small.
"I don't know, Mother. I just… I just don't know."
"Ah, speak of the devil!" Challenger jeered. He straightened himself, unmindful of the gun that was pointed at his own body. "Marguerite Krux… and you even brought your own troops, I see! Veronica, my very own niece… showing your support of this woman? This is unexpected, I must say."
"As is the news that you no longer have Evelyn," Veronica said, her face hard as she stared at her uncle.
Challenger clucked his tongue as he glanced at Malone. "News surely travel fast, doesn't it, Ned?"
"Answer me, you evil bastard!" Marguerite demanded, as she took a step forward. "Where's Evelyn?"
He gestured at his surroundings. "As you can clearly see, your daughter is not with me, and I do not have any knowledge – or even any interest in knowing – what had happened to your beloved child."
Marguerite glared at him, her eyes cold, hard, deadly. "You are going to regret losing her, Challenger," she threatened in a very low voice. "You foul, you evil—"
And then, before another word was spoken, a clear, deafening sound of a gunshot echoed in the room.
To Be Continued…
* Eek, I know, you're probably looking for the replies to your replies… what can I say? I'm speechless… eek, is that even possible? :p Anyways, here's a heartfelt THANK YOU! And I LOVE YOU ALL! Till he next update, folks! :) :) ;)