77. Different Sorts of Silence

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I stared at him, uncomprehending. His words had registered, but I had no idea of their actual meaning.

The centre of the world.

"Forgive me, Sir, but I don't..."

His eyes narrowed infinitesimally.

"Get out."

"What?"

"You understood me, I believe? I have told you what you wanted to know. Now get out! And shut the door behind you."

"But..."

"This is an order!"

My hands opened and closed in helpless anger. I had no choice. I had to obey, or be dismissed. And right now, I could see, he was hungry for me for to give him the chance. His words came back to me, ringing loudly in my head – affection is not among the services I require of you. What was I doing? Why was I arguing to risk my life alongside him? I whirled on the spot and stormed out of his room, into mine.

My room. The centre of my world. But not the centre of all the world.

The centre of the world... The words echoed in my head with ominous significance. What on earth could he have meant?

He didn't give me much chance to ponder his strange revelation. As soon as I was in my office again, the door firmly shut behind me, I heard him get up from his chair and lock the door from the other side. It didn't take long until I heard a familiar plink from the wall beside my desk.

The rest of the workday went by in a blur of fetching papers, and plinks and not trying to worry about the writer of the pink letters or what Mr Ambrose intended to do.

I shook my head. He couldn't really be planning to break into Lord Dalgliesh's...?

No!

I mean, he was a businessman, not the leader of some street gang. Though... he hadn't practised his business here in London, I remembered, but in some corner of the former colonies. The West of America, if I remembered correctly? There was something about that region... I seemed to recall having heard it called the "Wild West" once.

Personally, I couldn't see what was so wild about it. From the few pictures I had seen, it was a country just like any other, with trees, rivers, mountains and people.

Though, now that I thought about it, most of the people in the pictures I had seen had carried guns.

Just like the guards at Lord Dalgliesh's headquarters.

Mr Ambrose couldn't be planning to do what I was thinking he was planning to do, could he?

Really? Not even for the centre of the world?

*~*~**~*~*

It was about seven pm when the messages stopped coming though the pneumatic tube. Some minutes later, I heard keys rustling, and a slightly confused looking Mr Stone unlocked the door to my office.

"Um... Mr Linton? Mr Ambrose instructed me to 'let the Ifrit out of the dungeon', as he put it. Was he referring to you?"

Had I been in a better mood, I might have grinned. But now, only a scowl managed to make its way onto my face.

"Yes."

"I see." Mr Stone cleared his throat. "Um... excuse me, but still don't quite see what his words actually mean? Could you explain, perhaps?"

"No!"

"Oh. Very well, then... I suppose I'd better pack my things and go. Until tomorrow, Mr Linton."

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