“So you are the one causing all the nonsense,” the covered Top Hat sighed, as Lucy recognized his bitter voice as the one they called Vaan.
“That’s your sister?!” Marley asked. “She doesn’t look a thing like you!”
“Mum’s got red hair,” both twins snapped in annoyance before looking at each other in surprise.
“That was creepy, mate,” Marley admitted, his blue-eyes flickering between the two.
“You know it’s a National offense to break into the Top Hat Society, darling,” Lewis said smoothly.
Lucy felt absolute panic. Scores of faces – men in the traditional Top Hat attire stared down at her, some with hats on others with the apprentice coat.
“What’s going on?!” a gruff voice asked from the top doors.
“Oh dear,” the mischievous Lewis sighed. “Winston is back.”
Lucy felt the colour drain from her face. If this was the Winston she had heard of – as in, the leader of the Top Hat Society of Great Britain -she was positively ruined.
Out stepped a well-built man with sharp grey eyes and black slicked hair. Standing well over six feet, his height, itself, was something to fear. His full lips were pursed, giving his dark complexion a solemn seriousness.
“What is going on with all this rubbish?!” He roared.
“Oh my God,” Lucy staggered. And now she understood what it meant to be in the lion’s den. One of the most powerful men in all of Britain stood before her. And he was royally fuming.
The sea of faces on the balcony parted for him as he got a good look at the small hazel-eyed girl.
“So you are the one who stirred up all this excitement? Seriously? A young girl manages to get past our defense and we could barely catch her? My, isn’t that something.”
Lucy found her voice once more and dared to answer. “I needed to, sir. My Mum is sick.”
“Mum’s sick?” Sebastian interrupted.
“Ah, so this little monster happens to be your sister, Mr. O’Rourke?” Winston looked to Lewis. “I thought we took care of that sort of thing.”
“I didn’t expect her to seek him out,” Lewis replied calmly.
“That’s absolutely barbaric!” Lucy laughed cynically. “You mean to tell me you staged my brother’s death just so you could make him a Top Hat?!”
“And you broke into the Clock Tower,” Vaan pointed out. “How is that not barbaric?”
“Then why not let me go?” Lucy pressed. “Call it even.”
“I’m not that daft, little girl. If your Mum is sick, you must be here for some reason.” Winston rolled his eyes. “Search her.”
Lucy’s eyes flashed. “Why?!”
“In case you stole anything, of course. I know of the whispers that spread like wildfire. What is your Mum sick with?”
“What does it matter to you? You Top Hats care for no one but yourselves,” Lucy dared barked back.
Two Top Hats came forward to hold her back as others searched her pockets.
“Stop it! Let go!”
Within seconds the vial was drawn off her being.
“Hah! I doubt you even grabbed the correct medicine for the disease,” Winston smirked, eying the mirror waters.
“She has Stoneheart,” Lucy gave him a confused look. Why would she grab the wrong vial?
“Stoneheart?” Sebastian stuttered, knowing the seriousness of the disease.
The rest of the group murmured as Lucy snapped her arms away from the Top Hats.
“Lucky guess on her part,” Winston coolly explained to his people.
“I’ll duel you,” Lucy announced, her heart working faster than her head. “I’ll duel you for that cure.”
“A duel, eh? Do you really want to settle it that way?” His smirk curled like a ribbon against a scissor’s edge.
“I want the bottle if I win,” Lucy said.
“And if I win, I want you to accept your punishment, whatever it might be-”
“Fine,” Lucy cut him off.
“-And never come back here. Ever again. No matter if it’s a dying family member, a demon. Anything. You will cut off all ties from us, including with your brother.”
Lucy’s breath tightened. She had just found him, and now was being forced to choose. But this wasn’t for herself. This was for what pieces were left of her family.
“Deal,” she settled solemnly. The doors to the ballroom opened as a new visitor entered.
“I will duel her, Winston,” a man lazily called from the crowd.
Lucy froze, her blood turning cold. It couldn’t be. . .
“It’s good to see you again, Lulu,” a heavy hand fell on her shoulder. She violently shook it off and spun to face a young man in his early twenties. His dark hair was still cut close to his sunned skin, just as it had been in her childhood. A shadow of a beard was coming in, and he was quite a bit more built than what she remembered, but he still had his dark amber eyes from long ago.
“You don’t get to call me that. Not anymore,” She hissed in anger.
The eldest of the three O’Rourke brothers had arrived.
©2016 E. M. Vick