65. Fighting Spirit

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One of the men stepped forward. Or maybe two, or three. It was all kind of blurry to me. But there was something sharp glinting in his/their hand(s), I could see that much—and that sent a cold chill through me which, for now, brought me back to earth. For the first time I realized these men might, possibly, not be here to join the little yellow piggies in their dance routine. But what else could they be here for?

The man with the knife smiled at Mr Ambrose, who was still wearing Warren's dirty jacket and cap.

"Hm. Can't say I can see what's so special about you. Can you, men?"

There was a round of guffaws from the other dark shapes. Even my befuddled brain realized – the man who had spoken was the leader. The others were his henchmen. And they were all carrying knives. Bloody heck! They hadn't come to slaughter the dancing yellow piggies, had they? If so, I would defend them with my last breath!

"You look like something that's crawled out of the gutter, apart from that pretty face of yours," the man spat. "Well, pretty boy, I think you've stepped on the toes of some high and mighty people hereabouts. We was told by some posh bloke you needed a reminder of who was the in charge."

Mr Ambrose regarded the other man as if he were a cockroach not worth stepping on. Ha! He apparently wasn't pleased that they had come to kill the dancing piggies either. My heart went out to him with a warmth that I didn't know it possessed for any man. He would save the cute little yellow ones, I was sure!

"Indeed?" His voice was as cold as ever, and I revelled in it. "And what was the name of that gentlemen who thought I required such a reminder, if I may inquire?"

"My, you talk mighty fine." The piggy-murderer smirked. "Well, as I sees it, you won't have no need to know his name. You'll be dead soon enough."

Laughing again, the men came closer. On some level I knew that should worry me. But the dancing yellow piggies, completely unaware of the danger, had suddenly appeared on the wall of the house opposite me, and I couldn't stand for them to be so near the danger! Anger boiled up inside me. Who cared about some men with thingies... knives! Yes, that's what they were called. Who cared about some men with knives, anyway, while artistically talented, cute little animals were in danger?

The men stepped closer again. The knives glinted.

"Karim?"

Mr Ambrose's voice was so low I hardly heard it.

"Yes, Sahib?"

"On my command."

"Yes, Sahib."

Mr Ambrose concentrated on the leader, wielding his voice like a whip.

"So... this 'rich bloke', as you choose to call him... did he give you any information about me besides my description? Any indication who he was sending you off to attack?"

The man's step faltered for a second.

"No. Why?" His voice was suspicious.

"Ah." Mr Ambrose nodded curtly. "That explains it."

"That explains what?" the leader spat.

"Why you came with so few men," Mr Ambrose told him. "Too few." He brought his hands up and together, and a sharp clap echoed through the alley. "Now!"

More shapes appeared out of the darkness all around us, behind the thugs. At first I thought they might be Napoleon or Alexander the Great coming to help me conquer the world, but they were men in workmen's and sailors' gear, with grim, determined looks on their faces and knives in their hands. Several of them held glinting objects that weren't knives. I didn't realize what they were until one of the men raised his weapon and a thunderclap tore the air between the dirty East End houses.

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