38. The Adversary

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I followed Mr Ambrose into the dungeon, and even by the dim light of the oil lamp, I spotted Simmons immediately. He was sitting on a chair in the middle of the room, his arms tied to the backrest, and over his head...

I blinked, not sure I was seeing right in the gloom. Finally, I leaned over to Karim.

"Why does he have a bucket of water with a hole in the bottom hanging over his head?" I asked him out of the corner of my mouth.

"I do not hear your voice, Ifrit! Allah is my strength and will protect me from thee!"

"Oh. Thanks for the helpful information."

Mr Ambrose approached the thin, blonde man in the chair, whose back stiffened at the sudden sound of footsteps. He hadn't seen us until then, with his head sunk on his chest and his eyes closed, but when Mr Ambrose stepped closer, he raised his head to face his former master.

"Mr Ambrose, Sir."

Simmons' voice was rough. It sounded like he hadn't used it for conversation in days.

Drip.

A drop of water fell out of the hole in the bucket and landed on Simmons' forehead. He shook himself.

"Could you..." His voice dwindled, and he coughed. "Could you please tell your servant to get rid of that bucket? It is quite annoying, having water drip onto you all the time."

He didn't seem afraid any more. I wondered why. When we had caught him, he'd been terrified. Then I abruptly realized why. What was the sense of being afraid? The worst was already behind him. He had been broken and made to confess.

"Please..." Simmons rasped. "Please, get rid of the bucket."

Mr Ambrose considered in silence for a moment – then he made a hand gesture to Karim. The Indian stepped forward, and with a speed that made me yelp in surprise, whipped his scimitar out of its sheath, severing the rope that held the bucket. It fell, sloshing water in every direction, and with a resounding thump, bounced off Simmons' head, drenching him in cold water.

Simmons' face contorted in a grimace. "That's not exactly what I meant."

"It's down, isn't it?" Karim growled. "Now start talking, or I'll start doing things with this you'll like even less." He held the point of his scimitar to Simmons's throat. "Talk!"

"I believe Karim has voiced my expectations very succinctly," Mr Ambrose said, crouching down so that his dark, sea-green eyes were on one level with Simmons'. "Talk."

"What do you want me to say?" Simmons asked in a voice that sounded very tired, and yes, now very afraid again, too. Looking into Mr Ambrose's eyes obviously made him feel there might yet be worse things in store for him. I knew the feeling.

"When did all this start?" Mr Ambrose asked.

"All this, Sir? I'm afraid I do not..."

"Don't play games with me Simmons! With me, the stakes are far too high."

Simmons swallowed.

"I know," his former employer continued in a cold voice, "that you must have been in the pay of one of my enemies for some time. They could not simply convince you to break into my private safe overnight. You are far too insecure and timid for that. So I repeat: when did this all start?"

"S-six or seven weeks ago, Sir."

"I see." Mr Ambrose didn't seem to be fazed by the information. But then, when did he ever seem fazed by anything? "How did it happen?"

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