83. A Man's Work

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To see actual surprise on the rock-hard face of Mr Rikkard Ambrose would have been too much to hope for. But I had the satisfaction of seeing one of his eyelids twitch about half a millimetre when he caught sight of me.

"Mr Linton...!" he breathed.

Karim jumped back, uttering another incomprehensible curse.

"She really is Ifrit, Sahib! She can walk through walls and appear out of thin air!"

"Actually," I remarked, smiling at him, "I drove here in a cab. Sorry to disappoint you." My eyes flicked from Karim to Warren. Apparently, he was too startled to have noticed Karim's slip of referring to yours truly as "she." But really, it was not Warren's reaction to my appearance, or Karim's, that I was interested in. Slowly, my eyes drifted back to Mr Ambrose.

His face was still devoid of anything akin to emotion. But there was a muscle twitching in his chiselled jaw.

"A cab?" he said, as if it were the dirtiest of words.

"Yes, Sir."

"And this cab, I suppose, is not in the vicinity any more to take you right back to where you came from?"

"No, Sir."

"I didn't think so."

Stepping closer to me, he lowered his voice to a chilling whisper that only I could hear.

"I am not commonly given to expletives, Mr Linton, yet under the present circumstances I find myself justified in inquiring what the bloody hell you think you are doing here!"

"Coming with you," I said, cheerily, though the tone of his voice made my whole body quiver.

"Did I or did I not tell you to stay away from this, Mr Linton?"

"You did, Sir. But it is after hours. You cannot tell me what to do now."

Thunderclouds full of lightning flashed in his dark eyes.

"Did you or did you not hear what I discussed with Warren, Mr Linton?"

"Yes, Sir. I did."

"And? Well?"

"Well what, Sir?"

"Tonight's operation will be deadly dangerous. The moment we are spotted, we will be shot down like animals. Our corpses will be thrown from the docks and never again see the light of day!"

His words sent a cold shiver down my back. To die... to actually die. I had never contemplated it before. I was nineteen, still so young, and had hardly seen anything of the world. And I could die tonight, if I continued on this mad course. Why not turn back? Why not turn away from him, let him go alone? He surely wouldn't fault me for it.

"Never see the light of day again? My, my." I shook my head. "I'm sure that would worry me a lot, once I was dead. Terrible fate for a corpse."

What was I doing? This was no time for sarcasm? This was serious!

Yes, it is, a tiny voice in the back of my mind said. Deadly serious – which is exactly why you have to go with him.

"Never, ever joke in my presence again, Mr Linton," Mr Ambrose said in a voice that could have frozen an erupting volcano. "I do not appreciate it."

"Really? I would never have guessed."

"The same goes for flippancy, Mr Linton." He stepped forward until we were almost nose to chiselled chin. Damn, he was tall! "I meant what I said. This is dangerous." For a moment I saw a flash of something in his eyes which I think I was not supposed to see. Anxiety, maybe? For what? For the recovery of his lost file?

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