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|The Secret Adversary||Agatha Christie|
|Page 7 of 10||
"AH!" Annette appeared to stumble over something. She stooped. "Mon Dieu, voila la clef!"
The German snatched it from her. He unlocked the door. Conrad stumbled out, swearing.
"Where is he? Have you got him?"
"We have seen no one," said the German sharply. His face paled. "Who do you mean?"
Conrad gave vent to another oath.
"He's got away."
"Impossible. He would have passed us."
At that moment, with an ecstatic smile Tommy pulled the string. A crash of crockery came from the attic above. In a trice the men were pushing each other up the rickety ladder and had disappeared into the darkness above.
Quick as a flash Tommy leapt from his hiding-place and dashed down the stairs, pulling the girl with him. There was no one in the hall. He fumbled over the bolts and chain. At last they yielded, the door swung open. He turned. Annette had disappeared.
Tommy stood spell-bound. Had she run upstairs again? What madness possessed her! He fumed with impatience, but he stood his ground. He would not go without her.
And suddenly there was an outcry overhead, an exclamation from the German, and then Annette's voice, clear and high:
"Ma foi, he has escaped! And quickly! Who would have thought it?"
Tommy still stood rooted to the ground. Was that a command to him to go? He fancied it was.
And then, louder still, the words floated down to him:
"This is a terrible house. I want to go back to Marguerite. To Marguerite. TO MARGUERITE!"
Tommy had run back to the stairs. She wanted him to go and leave her. But why? At all costs he must try and get her away with him. Then his heart sank. Conrad was leaping down the stairs, uttering a savage cry at the sight of him. After him came the others.
Tommy stopped Conrad's rush with a straight blow with his fist. It caught the other on the point of the jaw and he fell like a log. The second man tripped over his body and fell. From higher up the staircase there was a flash, and a bullet grazed Tommy's ear. He realized that it would be good for his health to get out of this house as soon as possible. As regards Annette he could do nothing. He had got even with Conrad, which was one satisfaction. The blow had been a good one.
He leapt for the door, slamming it behind him. The square was deserted. In front of the house was a baker's van. Evidently he was to have been taken out of London in that, and his body found many miles from the house in Soho. The driver jumped to the pavement and tried to bar Tommy's way. Again Tommy's fist shot out, and the driver sprawled on the pavement.
Tommy took to his heels and ran--none too soon. The front door opened and a hail of bullets followed him. Fortunately none of them hit him. He turned the corner of the square.
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