81. Trapped

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I woke up and thought: The day has come.

Today Mr Ambrose would go to number 97 East India Dock road, and...

An excited shiver went through me. I didn't really know what exactly he was going to do – but I didn't think it would be very legal.

It'll be exciting, though.

Oh yes. It definitely would be exciting. And I was supposed to stay home like a proper little lady and do nothing! My hands gripped the sheets tightly, balling into fists. Quickly, I looked around. It was still very early in the morning, probably around six am. The sun was just starting to peek over the roofs of the houses outside. Its rays fell on Ella, who lay in her bed, sound asleep, with a smile on her face.

Even in my current mood, I wasn't totally unaffected by my little sister's happy smile. But it could not sooth me for long. My thoughts returned to him all too soon.

How dare he exclude me? Hadn't I prove my worth, earned the right to have his respect? It was I who had discovered Dalgliesh's base, after all!

Admittedly, I had done it while I was as drunk as a lord, and rather accidentally, but still, I had done it. He owed it to me to take me along on this. When I thought of him, facing a host of heavily armed soldiers alone, delving into the dark to recover the mysterious file that was so all-important for reasons which I still did not understand, I wanted to scream in frustration.

Of course I didn't, because it would have woken Ella up. Instead, I punched my pillow, again wishing it had a greater resemblance with Mr Ambrose's head.

I won't! I won't! I won't allow him to do this!

Suddenly decided what I was going to do, I slid out of bed and towards the window. I didn't bother putting on my dress. Once I reached the shed, I was going to exchange it for trousers and a shirt in any case. If somebody saw me running through the garden in my pink lace nightgown with little embroidered songbirds, I would just have to murder that person before they could spread the word.

I had never dressed that fast in my entire life. Five minutes later I was striding down the street, on my way to Empire House. There probably was no reason to hurry – if Mr Ambrose had any sense in that hard head of his, he wouldn't take action until nightfall. Still, the early worm catches the bird, or however the saying goes.

When I reached Empire house about a quarter of an hour later, I saw that arriving early had been a good idea: a familiar chaise drawn by a shabby beast of a grey horse was standing in front of the main entrance. Knowing that I would have to get past the grey monster, I approached carefully. It eyed me, with what I could only suppose was a mix of interest and appetite.

I raised a cautioning finger.

"If you bite me, I'll bite back," I told him. Nobody would be able to say I didn't warn him.

The horse snorted and turned its head away derisively.

Quickly, I stole past the beast and into the main hall. It was completely deserted. Nobody was in sight. The gigantic man-made cave of Mammon was as silent as its master. My steps echoed from the wall as I hurried across the floor and towards the steps, wondering why he was going this early. Did he still have preparations to make?

Maybe he simply wants to avoid you. Isn't that nice?

On reaching the upper landing, I heard familiar voices from the hallway. One was especially familiar.

"...quicker, Karim! We have places to be."

"Yes, Sahib."

"And double-check everything."

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