“I can’t believe she’s really one of them, sir. She—seemed so different——”
“Good-looking, I suppose?” said Mr. Carter with a smile that made Tommy flush to the roots of his hair. He admitted Annette’s beauty rather shamefacedly.
“By the way,” observed Mr. Carter, “have you shown yourself to Miss Tuppence yet? She’s been bombarding me with letters about you.”
“Tuppence? I was afraid she might get a bit rattled. Did she go to the police?”
Mr. Carter shook his head.
“Then I wonder how they twigged me.”
Mr. Carter looked inquiringly at him, and Tommy explained. The other nodded thoughtfully.
“True, that’s rather a curious point. Unless the mention of the Ritz was an accidental remark?”
“It might have been, sir. But they must have found out about me suddenly in some way.”
“Well,” said Mr. Carter, looking round him, “there’s nothing more to be done here. What about some lunch with me?”
“Thanks awfully, sir. But I think I’d better get back and rout out Tuppence.”
“Of course. Give her my kind regards and tell her not to believe you’re killed too readily next time.”
“I take a lot of killing, sir.”
“So I perceive,” said Mr. Carter dryly. “Well, good-bye. Remember you’re a marked man now, and take reasonable care of yourself.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Hailing a taxi briskly Tommy stepped in, and was swiftly borne to the Ritz’ dwelling the while on the pleasurable anticipation of startling Tuppence.
“Wonder what she’s been up to. Dogging ‘Rita’ most likely. By the way, I suppose that’s who Annette meant by Marguerite. I didn’t get it at the time.” The thought saddened him a little, for it seemed to prove that Mrs. Vandemeyer and the girl were on intimate terms.
The taxi drew up at the Ritz. Tommy burst into its sacred portals eagerly, but his enthusiasm received a check. He was informed that Miss Cowley had gone out a quarter of an hour ago.
Baffled for the moment, Tommy strolled into the restaurant, and ordered a meal of surpassing excellence. His four days’ imprisonment had taught him anew to value good food.
He was in the middle of conveying a particularly choice morsel of Sole a la Jeanette to his mouth, when he caught sight of Julius entering the room. Tommy waved a menu cheerfully, and succeeded in attracting the other’s attention. At the sight of Tommy, Julius’s eyes seemed as though they would pop out of his head. He strode across, and pump-handled Tommy’s hand with what seemed to the latter quite unnecessary vigour.
“Holy snakes!” he ejaculated. “Is it really you?”
“Of course it is. Why shouldn’t it be?”
“Why shouldn’t it be? Say, man, don’t you know you’ve been given up for dead? I guess we’d have had a solemn requiem for you in another few days.”