86. Lion's Jaws

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"So it is decided?"

The voice was rough, with a hint of cockney, but many other accents mixed into it. Spying over the top of one of the crates I saw the burly shape of a ship's captain next to the aristocratic figure of Lord Daniel Eugene Dalgliesh.

A hand gripped my collar and pulled me down. Suddenly, a hard body was pressing into me from behind.

"If you intend to spy on them over the top of those crates," Mr Ambrose hissed into my ear, holding me with a granite grip, "then I suggest that you remove that blue hat before you do so. It sticks out over the top."

Oh. I hadn't thought of that. Embarrassed, I snatched the blue hat off my head. He, I noticed, had already removed his. Pity. It really suited him.

"Yes." That was the voice of Lord Dalgliesh.

"And what decision have you come to, if I may ask, Your Lordship? I don't want to appear presumptuous, it is simply a matter of planning..."

"The file is leaving this building, captain. It is going out to Isle Marbeau."

My head whipped around to look at Mr Ambrose. The file! Had he heard too? Yes. I could see that he had. His left little finger was twitching.

"If you pardon my asking, Your Lordship..." The captain's voice was hesitant. "Why did you keep it here at all? Wasn't that a bit... risky?"

I looked over the wall of crates again just in time to see Lord Dalgliesh direct a friendly smile at his captain. It was the same friendly smile that a shark directs at his prey.

"Risky?" He enquired, smoothly. "Whyever would you think so?"

"Um, well, the means by which you acquired the file were not exactly... you know..."

"No. I do not know. Please, enlighten me."

The captain met the gaze of the steel-blue eyes just for an instant.

"Nothing," he said hurriedly. "I didn't mean nothing, Your Lordship."

Lord Dalgliesh nodded graciously. "I'm glad to hear that. I would be very sad to find out that my staff did not think well of me and my methods. You do think well of me, captain, don't you?"

"Of course, My Lord! I think the world of you, My Lord."

"How fortunate! Then, I believe, we can continue our working relationship in a manner profitable to us both. Now, where were we..."

The captain opened his mouth to remind his master, but then thought better of the risk of talking and shut his mouth again.

"Ah, yes!" Lord Dalgliesh raised a finger. "You were enquiring why I had not brought the file out of here at once." He met the Captain's eyes. "Doubtless you were concerned because there are so many thieves and crooks in London, and my rightful property is in danger here, am I correct?"

"Yes, My Lord. Absolutely Correct, My Lord."

"Well, I must admit, it had occurred to me to send the file to a safer location immediately. But, you see, unfortunately, it was in code."

Puzzlement spread over the captain's face. "Code? You mean like code of honour and that gentleman stuff?"

"No. I mean a secret language." Lord Dalgliesh's face was still smiling, but his right hand was speaking a different language. It had clenched into a tight fist, the knuckles white. "Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to decipher it."

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