63. I Bend Myself a Little Further

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A hand tapped on my shoulder. With some difficulty, I turned around to see Mr Ambrose standing before me, his face as cold and expressionless as ever.

"I believe I have discovered our man," he hissed, and made an inconspicuous hand gesture. "His name is Thomas Gurney, a factory worker who now and again seems to like doing work not quite legal to improve his monthly earnings. He's sitting at that table over there, engaged in gambling activity. I believe I can..."

Suddenly, he stopped. His voice turned lower and darker as he asked: "Why are you grinning, Mr Linton?"

"Because p-pig ears are w-wonderful," I declared, my grin widening. "Truly, they are. I must remember to congatel... concattle... congratulate a farmer the next time I see one. It is really worth raising all those pigs and fattening them up and whatnot, just to get such wonderful pig ears to d-drink."

I frowned.

"The only thing I d-don't understand is how they end up liquid in a tankard. I c-could swear somebody told me, only I c-can't remember..."

"Mr Linton?"

"Y-yes Sir? I'm here Sir! Ready to obey your every command, Sir!"

"Speak lower, Mr Linton. And do not call me 'Sir' while we are here incognito."

"Yes, Sir! Of course, Sir!"

"Mr Linton, I have a question."

"Shoot!"

He leaned forward, until his granite face was only a couple of inches away from mine.

"Are you intoxicated?"

I blinked. That word had too many syllables for my current mental capacity to cope with.

"Intoxiwhatsy?

"Intoxicated. Inebriated. Lashed. Mashed. Tiddly. On a bender. In other words, Mr Linton: are you drunk?"

Slowly, the frown on my forehead deepened.

"D-don't know. I've never been drunk b-before. How do you... How do you tell, Sir?"

 "Well, the inability to speak correctly, is generally considered a reliable indicator of intoxication." I may have imagined it, but his reply sounded a tiny bit sarcastic. "And I told you to not call me Sir!"

For a moment, I considered complying. But he had hounded me for so long to call him Sir, it was too good an opportunity to get back at him by doing what he'd actually demanded of me.

My grin returned.

"I owe you p-proper respect as my s-superior, Sir. I could never be so d-disrespectful as to forget that, Sir."

His eyes narrowed infinitesimally. "Or at least while you're drunk you can't be, apparently."

"Yes, Sir! Exactly, Sir!"

He gave me his coldest glare yet this evening. But then, suddenly, his eyes shifted upward, looking over my shoulder. Turning my head, I followed his gaze and saw the grimy landlord watching us with suspicious little eyes.

"Over here," Mr Ambrose commanded in a low voice, and without waiting for an answer, grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into a quiet corner.

"I can't believe it!" There really was disbelief in his voice, mingled with exasperation, and wonder and... well probably a lot of other things I was too intoxiwhatsicated to notice. "I can simply not believe it. You have been drinking. And not just drinking any drinks, but drinks containing alcohol!"

"What's so strange about it?"  I mumbled. "People do it every day."

"Men do it every day! But you are... you are..."

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