Lia hesitated for a second.
She did not care what kind of operation the doctor was carrying out, all she could think of was that he knew her mother.
If she was unable to find her mother, she might need the doctor’s help someday.
Lia gave Pepe a look.
Understanding that Lia wanted to speak to the duke privately, she left.
“How can I help Do I have to describe how he looks”
“No,” he said.
“Do I have to go to the police station…”
“No,” he said again.
As she tried to sit up, Claude softly pressed down on her shoulders, preventing her from moving.
She pushed against his chest with her hand.
Giving a small cry of pain, she snatched her hand back.
Claude saw that blood stained the bandage wrapped around her hand.
He softly sighed and wrapped both of his hands around her ribs.
“It’s important that you get better first.
I remember the doctor’s face as well,” Claude said walking towards a bookshelf.
The warmth from the fire began to fill the room.
Lia looked at him with a puzzled expression.
He was confusing her.
He had said he needed a witness but then said that it was not urgent.
He said he wanted to find the lady, but changed his mind now.
Lia looked away from Claude who had picked up a book and was paging through it.
She saw the clock hanging above the fireplace, which read nine o’clock.
“That’s one of my favourites,” she said.
He glanced at the cover and scoffed.
“I haven’t read it yet,” he said, bringing the book over to the bed where she lay.
He sat in the chair next to her, crossing his legs and opening the book.
To Lia, it felt like time was passing very slowly.
The sound of pages flipping and wood burning, the sound of rain tapping on the window, all filled the quiet room.
She stared at Claude, who looked like he had no intention of leaving.
He felt her gaze and looked up, tapping the book on his lap.
“I read it fast.”
“Did you come here to read” she asked.
She wanted to ask him why he was being so nice to her all of a sudden, but she held her tongue.
“I have a favour to ask,” she asked.
Claude looked straight into her eyes, saying, “What is it”
“The children that brought my bag to you…”
He nodded, asking, “What about them”
“They need a place to stay.
I want to take care of them, but I have no right to bring in attendants.
“You want to bring them to the Duke’s house” he asked, interlocking his hands, and crossing his legs.
I need to help those children.”
She felt strange.
She knew that she shouldn’t ask the favour, but she knew that he would agree.
Claude closed the book and sat on the bed.
His eyelids drooped with fatigue.
He was close enough to Lia that she could smell the faint scent of chemicals.
“Why should I” he asked.
“They are also witnesses.
And if you don’t they will die.
While I was captured, I heard some men being ordered to kill them,” Lia said.
“Those are the men who hurt Marilyn.
Don’t you want to catch them”
“Marilyn Shelby” Claude asked.
“Yes, your fiancée Marilyn was hurt by them, along with other women.”
“Then you joined because of them”
Isn’t that obvious If there’s something I can do to help, then I should.”
He laughed at her answer.
Lia flinched and looked at Claude.
She might have had misspoken, but knew that she was serious.
“What is so funny I’m not joking.”
He shook his head and brushed his bangs back and whispered into her ear, “First, I’m not engaged to Marilyn.” Claude carefully grabbed her wrist.
He sighed deeply and then kissed the bandage that still had some blood on it.
A stray dog grabbed a loaf of barley bread and ran away.
The children curled up further as the rain came down in waves.
The children were scared.
They still had the money that Lia had given them, but they were afraid that if Balman found out about it, he would beat them for sure.
Balman gave the children a place to sleep.
But sometimes he would hit them.
And on really bad days he would use a belt.
Today was one such day.
As soon as the girl smelt alcohol, she grabbed her brother’s hand and they ran away.
She just wished that it wasn’t raining.
Comforting her brother, she hugged him close.
“Soon the sun will rise.
Then we can go to the square.
Remember there is a candy shop there I’ll buy you something the moment it opens.
So hold on just a little longer,” she said to her brother.
Owen clambered off the carriage with his umbrella already out.
He saw a young girl consoling an even smaller child.
He did not understand why the duke wanted to bring these stray children into his home.
The duke’s orders were clear, ‘Bring them here.
Wash them and feed them, then educate them.’
The children, terrified at Owen’s approach, moved deeper into the shadows.
He sighed and bent down until he was at their eye level, saying, “Come with me.
I will make sure you get enough food and a warm bed.”