82. Pneumatic Freedom

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Slowly, as if I feared they might run away if I approached them too quickly, I stretched my hands out in the direction of quill and paper. My fingers were only a few inches away from the pen, my way to freedom. It didn't seem to want to make a run for it. My fingers closed.

Yes! A way to get out. A way to get to him.

But one thing after another.

Putting one of the little squares of message paper right in front of me, I dipped the quill into the ink. For a moment, the quill hovered hesitantly over the paper. I thought of the pale man who staffed the desk downstairs. What was sallow-face's name again? Mr Ambrose had mentioned it to me once, not appreciating the accuracy of the nickname I had come up with...

Ah yes: Pearson!

Quickly, I wrote in my best imitation of Mr Ambrose neat, precise handwriting:

Dear Mr Pearson,

Be so kind as to bring me a list of all last week's visitors, which I require for a project I am currently working on. I may not be in my office when you arrive. If that is the case, unlock the door and leave the list on my desk. Thank you.

Yours Sincerely,

Rikkard Ambrose

For a long moment, I stared down at what I had written. Then I crossed it out, grabbed another piece of paper and wrote:

Mr Pearson

Deposit a list of last week's visitors on my desk immediately.

Rikkard Ambrose

"There," I murmured. "Much more realistic." My heart fluttering excitedly, I put the message into its metal container, shoved it into the tube and then examined the control board right beside it. This one was much more complicated than the one in my office, with innumerable dials, levers and buttons to reach every part of the vast complex which served Mr Ambrose as his headquarters.

I selected a lever labelled "E.H." and hoped fervently it stood for "Entry Hall" and not "Excrement Hatch". Why did men have to make all technical devices so infernally complicated? With bated breath, I sat and hoped for a result from my wild plan.

Only two minutes later, hurried footsteps approached from outside. Very hurried footsteps. A grin spread over my face. Yes, my plan had worked. Whoever was coming did indeed believe the message to originate from Mr Ambrose.

It didn't take the runner long to reach the office door. He tried to turn the door knob, and, finding the door locked, hesitated. A moment later, I heard the sound of salvation: the jingling of keys. The lock made a clicking sound, and the door swung open, revealing sallow-face, standing in the door frame.

"Mr Ambrose," he began, holding up a sheet of paper, "I have your..."

Then he noticed that the figure he was facing had little resemblance to his master.

"Mister Linton!"

"Mr Pearson!" My smile widened into a joyous grin. "You don't know how glad I am to see you."

"Mr Linton," the pale bureaucrat managed, having obviously to struggle hard in order to contain his tumultuous emotions, "why, pray, are you sitting in Mr Ambrose's private chair?"

"Oh." Looking down, I saw he was absolutely right. I had completely forgotten that I was reposing on my employer's official chair with my feet propped up on his desk, something that secretaries were probably not supposed to do. "Well, I just thought I'd give it a try, you know?" I wiggled my behind for emphasis. "To see it if is comfy or not."

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