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|The Secret Adversary||Agatha Christie|
XIII The Vigil
|Page 2 of 6||
"She might. She seemed very frightened of 'Mr. Brown.' "
"What? Real plumb scared of him?"
"Yes. She looked round and said even walls had ears."
"Maybe she meant a dictaphone," said Julius with interest.
"Miss Tuppence is right," said Sir James quietly. "We must not leave the flat--if only for Mrs. Vandemeyer's sake."
Julius stared at him.
"You think he'd get after her? Between now and to-morrow morning. How could he know, even?"
"You forget your own suggestion of a dictaphone," said Sir James dryly. "We have a very formidable adversary. I believe, if we exercise all due care, that there is a very good chance of his being delivered into our hands. But we must neglect no precaution. We have an important witness, but she must be safeguarded. I would suggest that Miss Tuppence should go to bed, and that you and I, Mr. Hersheimmer, should share the vigil."
Tuppence was about to protest, but happening to glance at the bed she saw Mrs. Vandemeyer, her eyes half-open, with such an expression of mingled fear and malevolence on her face that it quite froze the words on her lips.
For a moment she wondered whether the faint and the heart attack had been a gigantic sham, but remembering the deadly pallor she could hardly credit the supposition. As she looked the expression disappeared as by magic, and Mrs. Vandemeyer lay inert and motionless as before. For a moment the girl fancied she must have dreamt it. But she determined nevertheless to be on the alert.
"Well," said Julius, "I guess we'd better make a move out of here any way."
The others fell in with his suggestion. Sir James again felt Mrs. Vandemeyer's pulse.
"Perfectly satisfactory," he said in a low voice to Tuppence. "She'll be absolutely all right after a night's rest."
The girl hesitated a moment by the bed. The intensity of the expression she had surprised had impressed her powerfully. Mrs. Vandemeyer lifted her lids. She seemed to be struggling to speak. Tuppence bent over her.
"Don't--leave----" she seemed unable to proceed, murmuring something that sounded like "sleepy." Then she tried again.
Tuppence bent lower still. It was only a breath.
"Mr.--Brown----" The voice stopped.
But the half-closed eyes seemed still to send an agonized message.
Moved by a sudden impulse, the girl said quickly:
"I shan't leave the flat. I shall sit up all night."
A flash of relief showed before the lids descended once more. Apparently Mrs. Vandemeyer slept. But her words had awakened a new uneasiness in Tuppence. What had she meant by that low murmur: "Mr. Brown?" Tuppence caught herself nervously looking over her shoulder. The big wardrobe loomed up in a sinister fashion before her eyes. Plenty of room for a man to hide in that.... Half-ashamed of herself, Tuppence pulled it open and looked inside. No one--of course! She stooped down and looked under the bed. There was no other possible hiding-place.
Tuppence gave her familiar shake of the shoulders. It was absurd, this giving way to nerves! Slowly she went out of the room. Julius and Sir James were talking in a low voice. Sir James turned to her.
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