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Chapter Twenty-Eight

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« on: August 27, 2023, 06:04:47 am »

PHILIP Jocelyn did not go directly to his own room at the War Office next morning. With the case he had taken home the night before, he made his way along a number of corridors. In the room he entered, Garth Albany sat writing. He looked up, and received a slight shock. Philip never had much colour, but this morning he looked ghastly---skin bloodless, face drawn, every line deepened and emphasised.

He said, “Well?” and was rather horrified when Philip laughed.

“Is it? Perhaps it is. We’ll see---unless she’s been too clever for us. I was doped last night.”

“What!”

Philip gave a casual nod.

“Undoubtedly. Slept like the dead. I’m not really out of it yet, in spite of cold water and the very excellent breakfast coffee which was provided. It’s a pity Miss Annie Joyce is an enemy agent, because she’s a very good cook. Anyhow she drugged me last night, and what she did after that I am not in a position to say. You’d better get your fingerprint people on to the contents of my case and my keys. I’ve taken care not to touch them, or anything inside or outside the case except the handle. Of course she may have worn gloves, in which case she’s done us down, but I hardly think she’d do that---not in the domestic circle.” He set the case down and dropped a knotted handkerchief on Garth’s blotting-pad. The shape of the keys showed through the linen, the key-chain clinked. With a brief “See you later,” he turned and went out of the room.

Garth Albany felt relief. A beastly business, and Philip was taking it hard.

At a little after one o’clock Lyndall Armitage was in the drawing-room of Lilla Jocelyn’s flat. It was a charming room, L-shaped, with windows looking east and west so that it caught both the morning and the evening sun. The two west windows faced you as you came in at the door, but the one east window was out of sight round the corner of the L. Lilla’s piano stood there, and at the moment in which the bell rang Pelham Trent had just lifted his hands from the keyboard and swung round upon the piano stool.

Lilla said, “That was lovely.”

If Lyndall had been going to speak, the sound of footsteps in the hall put it out of her head. Her heart beat a little faster, and without meaning to do so she found herself on her feet, moving towards the part of the room which faced the door. Because it was Philip’s step in the hall. She knew it too well not to recognize it now. Not even to herself would she admit how everything in her quickened at the sound. She ought to have stayed with the others---she oughtn’t to have come to meet him---there wasn’t any reason why she shouldn’t come to meet him. These thoughts were all in her mind at the same time, not very clearly defined, and not taking up any time at all. She was shaking a little, she didn’t quite know why, and her thoughts were shaken too. She passed out of sight of the two by the piano, and then the door was opening and Philip was coming into the room. Something came in with him---she didn’t know what it was. It was like cold air coming into a heated room. But the cold was not physical; she felt it in her mind, and she saw it in Philip’s face.

He shut the door behind him, stood back against it, and said, “Anne’s dead.”

Lyndall drew in her breath, but she made no sound. It was Lilla who said, “Oh!”

And with that, and with the sudden movement and stir in the part of the room that was out of his sight, it came to Philip Jocelyn that they were not alone. He stood stiffly where he was for a moment. Then he stepped away from the door, opened it, and went out, shutting it behind him. Before Lyndall could follow him he was gone. The clap of the outer door came back to her across the hall.

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