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|The Secret Adversary||Agatha Christie|
XII A Friend in Need
|Page 6 of 11||
Tuppence frowned. It was no part of the programme to have attention called to her presence in the neighbourhood, but Albert was purple with suppressed excitement.
"I say, miss, she's a-going!"
"Who's going?" demanded Tuppence sharply.
"The crook. Ready Rita. Mrs. Vandemeyer. She's a-packing up, and she's just sent down word for me to get her a taxi."
"What?" Tuppence clutched his arm.
"It's the truth, miss. I thought maybe as you didn't know about it."
"Albert," cried Tuppence, "you're a brick. If it hadn't been for you we'd have lost her."
Albert flushed with pleasure at this tribute.
"There's no time to lose," said Tuppence, crossing the road. "I've got to stop her. At all costs I must keep her here until----" She broke off. "Albert, there's a telephone here, isn't there?"
The boy shook his head.
"The flats mostly have their own, miss. But there's a box just round the corner."
"Go to it then, at once, and ring up the Ritz Hotel. Ask for Mr. Hersheimmer, and when you get him tell him to get Sir James and come on at once, as Mrs. Vandemeyer is trying to hook it. If you can't get him, ring up Sir James Peel Edgerton, you'll find his number in the book, and tell him what's happening. You won't forget the names, will you?"
Albert repeated them glibly. "You trust to me, miss, it'll be all right. But what about you? Aren't you afraid to trust yourself with her?"
"No, no, that's all right. BUT GO AND TELEPHONE. Be quick."
Drawing a long breath, Tuppence entered the Mansions and ran up to the door of No. 20. How she was to detain Mrs. Vandemeyer until the two men arrived, she did not know, but somehow or other it had to be done, and she must accomplish the task single-handed. What had occasioned this precipitate departure? Did Mrs. Vandemeyer suspect her?
Speculations were idle. Tuppence pressed the bell firmly. She might learn something from the cook.
Nothing happened and, after waiting some minutes, Tuppence pressed the bell again, keeping her finger on the button for some little while. At last she heard footsteps inside, and a moment later Mrs. Vandemeyer herself opened the door. She lifted her eyebrows at the sight of the girl.
"I had a touch of toothache, ma'am," said Tuppence glibly. "So thought it better to come home and have a quiet evening."
Mrs. Vandemeyer said nothing, but she drew back and let Tuppence pass into the hall.
"How unfortunate for you," she said coldly. "You had better go to bed."
"Oh, I shall be all right in the kitchen, ma'am. Cook will----"
"Cook is out," said Mrs. Vandemeyer, in a rather disagreeable tone. "I sent her out. So you see you had better go to bed."
Suddenly Tuppence felt afraid. There was a ring in Mrs. Vandemeyer's voice that she did not like at all. Also, the other woman was slowly edging her up the passage. Tuppence turned at bay.
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