Eighteen (1)

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Vita walked back to the house and her bedroom, creeping up the staircase on tiptoes. Holden remained in the park, and when she got up on Sunday morning, he had already left Weatherly. Breakfast didn't last long: both Izzy and Archie were eager to return to London, the former to start preparations for the house party and the latter to give orders to his men in East London. Vita only had time to kiss her mother goodbye and to give Mrs. Philip a few instructions before she was swept off in Archie's automobile.

The next few days went by in a blur. The girls attended a couple of tea dances and went on a few shopping trips, and they spent their remaining time planning the grand Weatherly party.

On the day before the Henley Royal Regatta, they sat in the library at the Mayfair House. The afternoon sun streamed through the high windows, casting warm light over the pile of invitations Vita was writing at the mahogany desk. Izzy was in a leather armchair by the empty fireplace, putting together a list of purchases. Both girls worked in silence, and they looked up as one when Lady Rhodes' footman let Archie in.

"I've got news."

He took off his hat and sank in the armchair opposite Izzy.

"You spoke with the Prince of Wales at your club and he agreed to come to the party!" Izzy said, her eyes bright with anticipation.

Archie cast her an irritated look. "No."

Izzy's face fell. "Archie, you promised."

"I said I'd try," he replied, his tone bored. He turned to look at Vita. "I think I know which warehouse the doctor is using in Whitechapel."

Vita stiffened in her chair, her heartbeat quickening.

"Are you sure?"

Archie lit a cigarette and inhaled the smoke before nodding. "Dockers and sailors say a lot of machinery and boxes were moved in that warehouse six weeks ago, but they never see anyone come in or out. But sometimes there's a light on inside at night, and banging noises have been heard. And the place has got more locks than the Tower of London."

"And we believe the word of delinquent dockers and drunken sailors?" Izzy said, her mouth pinched in a doubtful expression.

Vita rolled her eyes. "Says the privileged youth, looking down at people from her high horse."

"You know what I mean." Izzy shrugged, unfazed by her sarcasm.

"Too many men are repeating the same tale," Archie said. "I believe it."

"So what do we do?" Vita asked.

She stood up and walked around the desk to stand at their side.

"We can try storming the place," Archie said. "With enough men, it can be done."

Vita shook her head. "I don't think that's a god idea. Finley might escape amidst the chaos. Or he might not even be there."

There was a pause, while they all pondered the situation. Archie stared at the empty fireplace, his jaw working in silence. Izzy played with her papers, her mind on the warehouse, or more likely on the upcoming party. Vita bit her lip. They had one chance of getting to the scientist. If they weren't careful and let him slip away, he might disappear for good.

"We need to flush Finley out," Vita said at last. "Instead of attacking him head-on. We need to lure him out of his comfort zone and into ours."

If she wanted to avoid watching Archie killing Finley, she had to get them all in a public space, where they would be able to talk with Finley and to get him arrested. A plan took shape in her mind.

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