Four

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Izzy put the receiver down with a frustrated sigh. She should have known better than to expect any support from Archie. Leaving her father's study where the telephone was, she stomped back upstairs to her bedroom.

Vita had been missing for almost a day, and panic made it hard for Izzy to think clearly. She'd barely eaten anything since the morning, and it wasn't because of the gin she'd had the night before.

She slammed her bedroom door and dropped onto the bed. Don't fret, Archie had said. Everything is going to be fine. Condescending idiot. As if he could hide the worry in his voice. He had no more idea about where Vita was than she did. And he didn't know if she was all right at all.

For all they knew, it was Archie's fault Vita was gone. Him and his stupid business with the Irish or Chinese or whatnot. Owning a nightclub came at a price, even Izzy knew that. She'd heard the stories about the London underworld. Archie must have made deals with the wrong people. People who must have slaughtered the deer at Weatherly first, before turning their attention to Vita.

Izzy closed her eyes in annoyance. Every passing hour felt like a hundred days, and worry nagged at her. She missed her friend.

One thing they'd agreed on, though. Lady Shaftesbury couldn't be told. If Vita came back unharmed, there was no need to alarm her. And if she didn't, there was no point in bringing her bad news early. So they'd wait until there was news.

Izzy prayed it'd be soon.

***

Distant voices reached Vita, but her mind was still too foggy for her to make sense of their words. Her tongue was parched and her headache was back with a vengeance. Pain also radiated from the wound in her leg, although no blood seemed to be seeping out of it anymore.

A clicking noise made her eyelids twitch. Light blinded her, and she only caught sight of a male hand, playing with an ivory cigarette lighter. She closed her eyes again.

Later – An hour? A day? – Banging noises woke her. Tentatively, she moved her arms. Her wrists were bound again, this time with something harder than rope.

"She's awake."

Vita blinked several times before she could keep her eyes open. A glaring electric light shone above her, keeping the rest of the room in shadows. The tall lab assistant checked her pulse and she recoiled at his touch with an angry sound.

"She's awake all right," he said.

The older man came into focus. He wore round framed glasses and he had a receding hairline. Vita guessed he was in his fifties. Clean-shaven and lean, he still had his white coat on, with the collar of a grey shirt and a black tie peeking out from under it. He scribbled a few notes on a writing pad, glancing at her from time to time but seemingly ignoring her.

"I'm thirsty," Vita informed him.

Her voice came out in a croak. No one replied or moved to help her. She let out an annoyed sigh, and tried moving again. This time metal handcuffs tied her down on the stretcher, and she was back to lying on the table. The scenery around her had changed, though: the tables had been pushed aside and the machines against the walls had been brought forward. They produced a quiet humming sound and various indicator lights were on, flashing red or green. The apparatus was made of a mix of wood and steel with brass rods and wires poking out of it. Switches and power level indicators lined the boards, with gauges and meters just like in Archie's car. Insulators similar to those on electric poles, tubes and bell jars completed the set.

Wincing at her headache, Vita stretched her neck to survey the rest of the room and find out if Holden was faring better. He was in the cage in the corner, but this time he stood with his fingers gripping the bars. He stared at her with a concerned frown, which didn't fill her with confidence.

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