29. The Key to Him

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My ear pressed against the solid metal door, I listened intently for any sound of torture. Not that I knew exactly how torture would sound like, apart from the screaming, of course, which was pretty much a given. Still, it couldn't hurt to try. Not me, at least, I thought with a tiny shiver.

Considering Mr Ambrose words, and even more than that the expression of his eyes, I had no doubt that something terrible was happening in there right now. But I couldn't hear a single sound. Was something the matter with my ears?

But then I suddenly heard footsteps approaching from the other side and hurriedly stepped backwards. A key turned in the lock, and Mr Ambrose exited the room, a ring with a large assortment of keys in his hand.

"And?" I asked. God, I was becoming as monosyllabic as him.

"We've managed to get him awake, but he won't talk." Looking down, I saw that Mr Ambrose hand was clenched to a fist around the ring of keys. "Whoever paid him to do this, they must be powerful and frightening."

"How do you know this?"

He fixed me with his steely dark gaze. "Because I am powerful and frightening, and he hasn't told me a single thing yet. But he will, eventually."

How do you know that? How can you be so sure?

Yet those thoughts were not what I spoke out loud. Instead, out spilled the question that had been plaguing me the entire way back to Empire House, the question which I never thought I would have the gall to ask:

"Will you torture him?"

He looked at me, supreme disdain in his eyes. "No. Of course not."

A momentous weight, which I hadn't really known was there, dropped from my shoulders. "Thank the Lord!" I breathed. "I almost thought..."

"Why would I sully my own hands?" he continued, cutting me off. "I have people who attend to tasks like that for me."

"Oh."

The weight slammed right back in place.

My mood-swing had apparently gone completely unnoticed. He motioned towards the closed steel door behind him with a careless finger. "I have put Karim in charge of the investigation, and he has his methods."

"Methods like what?" I demanded. Darn, this was... frightening. Something inside me told me I should report this to the police. But if I did that, I would end up on Mr Ambrose's list of traitors, barring all chances to my independence. I was too selfish to risk my entire future on behalf of some greedy little thief I didn't know from Adam. All right, I know I'm not a very good person! But at least I'll get paid for it soon.

Mr Ambrose still hadn't answered. He was looking at me intently.

"Methods like what?" I repeated the question.

"That's nothing a lady such as yourself needs to concern yourself about."

"Oh, I'm a lady now, am I?"

"Currently, it looks like it," Mr Ambrose said, gesturing towards my dishevelled dress. "More or less, at least. It's high time that you got back into your trousers though, Mr Linton."

I narrowed my eyes.

"Why? Do you have work for me, Sir?"

"No. I'm sending you home early."

I was about to protest when he raised his hands. "I know. I agreed...." he paused to take a deep breath and with effort said: "I agreed to let you work for me, just like any other private secretary. This is not an attempt to get rid of you early. I'm giving you half the day off because you've had an exhausting day so far. Trust me, even if you don't notice it now, you'll notice once the excitement of the hunt goes away. You need to rest, and I need to stay with Karim for a bit longer, so right now I don't have anything for you to do. Tomorrow you will come back, and you will work for me as hard as any other."

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