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|The Secret Adversary||Agatha Christie|
IX Tuppence Enters Domestic Service
|Page 1 of 6||
WHEN Tommy set forth on the trail of the two men, it took all Tuppence's self-command to refrain from accompanying him. However, she contained herself as best she might, consoled by the reflection that her reasoning had been justified by events. The two men had undoubtedly come from the second floor flat, and that one slender thread of the name "Rita" had set the Young Adventurers once more upon the track of the abductors of Jane Finn.
The question was what to do next? Tuppence hated letting the grass grow under her feet. Tommy was amply employed, and debarred from joining him in the chase, the girl felt at a loose end. She retraced her steps to the entrance hall of the mansions. It was now tenanted by a small lift-boy, who was polishing brass fittings, and whistling the latest air with a good deal of vigour and a reasonable amount of accuracy.
He glanced round at Tuppence's entry. There was a certain amount of the gamin element in the girl, at all events she invariably got on well with small boys. A sympathetic bond seemed instantly to be formed. She reflected that an ally in the enemy's camp, so to speak, was not to be despised.
"Well, William," she remarked cheerfully, in the best approved hospital-early-morning style, "getting a good shine up?"
The boy grinned responsively.
"Albert, miss," he corrected.
"Albert be it," said Tuppence. She glanced mysteriously round the hall. The effect was purposely a broad one in case Albert should miss it. She leaned towards the boy and dropped her voice: "I want a word with you, Albert."
Albert ceased operations on the fittings and opened his mouth slightly.
"Look! Do you know what this is?" With a dramatic gesture she flung back the left side of her coat and exposed a small enamelled badge. It was extremely unlikely that Albert would have any knowledge of it--indeed, it would have been fatal for Tuppence's plans, since the badge in question was the device of a local training corps originated by the archdeacon in the early days of the war. Its presence in Tuppence's coat was due to the fact that she had used it for pinning in some flowers a day or two before. But Tuppence had sharp eyes, and had noted the corner of a threepenny detective novel protruding from Albert's pocket, and the immediate enlargement of his eyes told her that her tactics were good, and that the fish would rise to the bait.
"American Detective Force!" she hissed.
Albert fell for it.
"Lord!" he murmured ecstatically.
Tuppence nodded at him with the air of one who has established a thorough understanding.
"Know who I'm after?" she inquired genially.
Albert, still round-eyed, demanded breathlessly:
"One of the flats?"
Tuppence nodded and jerked a thumb up the stairs.
"No. 20. Calls herself Vandemeyer. Vandemeyer! Ha! ha!"
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