28. Improving my Skirt

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Somebody cleared his throat above me. I looked up to see Mr Ambrose extending his hand towards me.

"Do you need a hand?"

Reluctantly I reached out and grasped his hand. Don't ask me why – but for some reason I had expected his hand to be cold and hard, just like his personality. It wasn't. Oh, don't get me wrong, it was hard all right. But it also was warm and full of life. It felt strangely... good. Considering the rest of him was so undoubtedly bad.

With a sharp tug, he pulled me to my feet, and for a moment we stood very, very close to one another. I was standing again. And yet, he didn't let go of my hand, and I didn't let go of his.

Then I heard a triumphant cry from outside.

"Oh my God! Simmons!" Roughly, I pushed Mr Ambrose out of the way and sprang to the window. From behind me, I heard a hollow thud, and an 'ouch', but I didn't care. "He's getting away!"

Now let me tell you, a hoop-skirt is not the right kind of attire for climbing through open windows. But I was about to try anyway, when a hand closed around my arm. A hard, familiar hand.

"Don't," Mr Ambrose commanded. I looked back at him, confusion written all over my face.

"What do you mean, don't? He's getting away!"

"Yes, he is."

"We have to catch him!"

"I appreciate your concern for the pursuit of justice, Mr Linton," he said, as cool as a cucumber. "Even though you did not really have to be so keen on that pursuit to push me on my backside. However, we don't want to go after Simmons just yet."

"But..."

"We," continued Mr Ambrose unperturbed, taking his old but very efficient-looking pocket watch out of his waistcoat pocket, "have to go after him in exactly one minute and twenty-seven seconds."

"Huh?"

I stared at him, flabbergasted. He, for his part, completely ignored me. His eyes focused on the watch, he simply stood there, waiting. I got edgier and edgier with every passing second. What the heck was going on?

"Mr Ambrose... shouldn't we go?"

"No."

"But... "

"No. Be quiet!"

"Blast it, I won't be quiet!" I balled my hands into fists. This was insane. "I've gone to a lot of trouble to find this thief, Sir! And now we're just standing around here while he makes good his escape, and we are waiting for your one minute and twenty-seven seconds to pass!"

"Actually," he said with another look at his watch, "it's one minute and three seconds now."

"What the hell do I care? It makes no sense for us to just be standing around here!"

"On the contrary, Mr Linton. It makes a great deal of sense. Now be quiet and wait."

I was fuming. But what could I do? He was my master, not the other way around. I had to do what he said. That's what I got paid for, even if it didn't make any sense.

With a snap, Mr Ambrose shut his watch – and for the first time, I clearly saw the design on the lid. The sight struck me light a thunderbolt: it was family crest. The same family crest I had seen on the pink letters from the mysterious lady.

"All right. It's time."

Gripping the windowsill, he vaulted out of the open window. In quick succession, Warren and the others followed him. I just stood there, trying to shake off my shock.

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