22. My All-Important Task

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Karim let out a low oath in a language I didn't understand. But the way he said it, I didn't have to know the words to know that it was a curse. He had obviously understood. I, on the contrary, was still completely in the dark.

"Simmons?" I echoed, making it a question.

He met my eyes with his deep, dark, blue-grey ones.

"Yes. Simmons, Mr Linton. Simmons, my previous private secretary. Simmons, who disappeared a few days ago without any explanation. Simmons, the treacherous snake."

With a few long strides Mr Ambrose was over at my desk and started rifling through my drawers. The wooden ones in the desk, I mean.

"What are you doing?" I demanded. "I thought your big bull already checked those."

Karim threw me a look that signified about a ton of displeasure. Apparently he didn't appreciate his new nickname. I made a mental note to use it again at the earliest opportunity.

"Karim did search the drawers," Mr Ambrose agreed. "But he searched them for the missing file, not for a sign of where the traitor that has taken the file might have gone. This was his desk once."

"So you think that this Simmons did it now? You no longer think it was me?"

"No! I was a fool to ever have thought it. After all, you're only..." He waved his hand non-committally.

"A girl?" I piped up. "Is that what you were going to say? We females can steal things just as well as any man, thank you very much!"

"A moment ago you were afraid of me thinking you're guilty, and now you praise your skills as a thief?"

"Not my skills, but the skills of womanhood in general! And I was certainly not afraid."

"You were not?"

"Do I look afraid to you?"

"No," he admitted. "You look superfluous. Leave the room. I and my men have a thief to catch." He nodded to the door and returned to his work of rifling through the desk, as if I had already left, or as if I had ceased to exist entirely. That, I was sure, was how he would have preferred things.

Crossing my arms, I planted myself in front of him.

"I'm not going anywhere."

"I give you the rest of the day off," he said, not looking at me. "Go and enjoy your holiday. Trust me when I say I do not give holidays often."

"With me it seems that is almost the only thing you do! I did not come here to juggle meaningless pieces of paper like a monkey trained for some circus and then be chucked out after half a day. I came here to work! And if you have a thief to catch, I will come with you!"

"Just for your information," he said, "the pieces of paper that you have 'juggled' as you put it have most certainly not been meaningless."

He still didn't bother to turn around and look at me. All I could do was send my furious glares at his broad, hard back and that did nothing to calm me down.

"They all pertain to my business in a very real way," he continued. "And you are nothing whatsoever like a circus monkey. A monkey wouldn't talk back at me."

"But it might bite!"

"I'm not sure I wouldn't prefer that."

"Is that so?" I took an involuntary step towards him. "Well, I could try, if you wished."

His neck-muscles tensed. "No need to put yourself to trouble. Go home. That is an order."

"No!" I stamped my foot. I didn't care if I made a spectacle of myself. He was going to accept me, whether he wanted to or not.

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