"Where to?" Mr Ambrose inquired, ignoring the shout of the receptionist completely.
"Room forty-five on the third floor." I called from behind. "And slow down, will you? It's no easy job climbing stairs in this blasted corset!"
Will it surprise you to hear that he didn't slow down?
Muttering a very unladylike curse I sped up and managed to catch up with them just as they reached the third floor.
Mr Ambrose stood on the landing like an admiral on the bridge. With his cane, he pointed at a door a little distance down the corridor bearing the large brazen number fourty-five. Then he nodded to his men.
Again, the men seemed to understand without needing to be given orders. Two of them positioned themselves on either side of the door, while another strode up directly to the entrance and knocked on the dark wood barring the way.
There was a short silence. Then:
"Yes? What do you want?"
The voice was high and slightly arrogant. I could see it fitting perfectly to the man Mr Ambrose had described. Thin, blonde, and a bit vain.
"Room service, Sir," Warren's associate replied in a perfect I-am-a-well-mannered-servant-tone.
"Room service? I didn't order anything."
"I know, Sir. Compliment of the house, Sir. We always present a bottle of the best wine from our cellars to guests who stay longer than three days."
"Oh, if that's the case..." The scraping of a chair came from the other side of the door. "Would be a shame to let it go to waste."
Warren's man sprang to the side, and silent as a shadow Mr Ambrose took his place. I tried to move so that I could get a look at the door when it opened, but Warren held me back.
"Not yet!" he hissed. "Wait until he opens the door!"
Steps approached from inside the room. I waited, counting my breaths in a futile attempt to calm myself. Suddenly I was wishing that I had changed back into trousers and a shirt before coming up here. Say what you will about the degradation and annoyance involved in pretending to be a man, but it certainly gives you more freedom of movement.
The door open.
Mr Ambrose nodded to whomever was on the other side.
I heard a startled yelp, and then the door moved to close so fast my eye hardly caught the movement. Mr Ambrose caught it, though.
His foot darted forward and wedged itself between door and doorframe. He gripped the doorknob, the desperate man inside still struggling to push the door closed, and thrust it back with surprising strength. The door flew open.
Then he stepped into the room.
Warren let go of my arm and I darted forward. I was in the room even before the six other men. Mr Ambrose was standing over a deathly pale Simmons, who lay on his back on the carpet.
Taking an empty wine glass from a table beside him, Mr Ambrose raised it to the man on the floor in a mock toast.
"Bottoms up. I'm afraid I haven't brought any wine. But I have brought a few of my friends." The glass sailed out of his hand and crashed against the wall, splintering into a thousand pieces. Simmons twitched, but Mr Ambrose's face remained calm as an iceberg. "Actually, it's not just the bottoms who are up," He mused. "It's the game, too." His voice suddenly became hard, as impenetrable as mountain of granite. "Where is it, Simmons?"
"H-how... how," stuttered the figure on the floor.
"How I found you?"
Mr Ambrose threw a look over his shoulder, and for a moment his dark eyes held mine, filled with an expression that was difficult to interpret.
"That is none of your concern," he answered, returning his gaze to Simmons. "I will ask the questions. Not you."
"N-no, Sir," Simmons mumbled, his eyes darting right and left. "I mean... h-how can I ever thank you. Thank you for coming after me, I mean. There were these men... they entered your office, and took some things, and forced me to come with them and..."
"If you utter another lie, you are a dead man."
Mr Simmons' mouth remained open, but there didn't come one more sound out of it. He seemed to have gotten the message.
Without paying any great deal of attention to the man on the floor, as if he were just another speck of dust, Mr Ambrose went over to the bed and flipped open the suitcase that lay there. It contained a few neatly folded shirts and trousers. With a flick of his cane, Mr Ambrose threw them aside.
An involuntary gasp escaped me as hundreds of banknotes appeared beneath the clothes. I couldn't make out the numbers from where I stood, but I didn't really need to, to be able to tell that this was a lot of money. More than I had ever seen in my life.
All for a piece of paper...
What sort of paper could be worth that much?
"Strange baggage for an abducted man," Mr Ambrose stated, calmly.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a sudden movement. When I turned my head I saw that Simmons was on his feet again and heading for the window.
At first I thought he had gone insane or something and wanted to jump to his death – but then I saw that there was a building outside. A building with a flat roof.
"No! Get him!"
I sprang after him, trying to grab him. Unluckily, I forgot I was wearing a crinoline, got tangled up in the legs of a chair and fell with the ground with an unceremonious crunching sound. The last thing I saw was Simmons jumping out of the window, then my head slammed into the carpet and suddenly my eyes, mouth and nose were filled with fluffy dustiness.
My Dear Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,
A big round of applause for every one of you my dear readers, for being such marvelous literary experts! I've gotten quite a few right answers to my little quiz in the recent installment of this story (as to which stories Lilly stole her Alias from). In fact, so many among you have come up with the correct answers that I concluded I have to open my very own Victorian solid chocolate factory to fabricate all the solid chocolate that I owe you as a reward for guessing the right answer. So here we go:
**hands out massive amounts of chocolate**
As so many of you correctly guessed, the name Juliet came from Shakespeare's well-known tragedy Romeo & Juliet, while Desdemona came from another play of Shakespeare's named Othello, and, last but definitely not least, Bennet originates from Elisabeth Bennet, the heroine of Jane Austen's romance novel Pride and Prejudice.
I sincerely hope the solid chocolate was tasty, my dear Lords, Ladies & gentlemen! I shall now stop manufacturing virtual Victorian sweets & return to writing more about our favorite Victorian couple for your enjoyment! ;-)
The Duke of Wellington: For all those of you who are not familiar with Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington – he was Great Britain's military hero who defeated Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo and saved Britain from occupation by the French Army. To refer to him as a French pussycat would have been considered less than polite in Victorian Britain ;)
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Storm and SilenceRomance
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