An Earl's Agreement(126)

By: Joyce Alec


“Mary, please go find out why Lucille is so upset. Whatever is the matter with her?” As Lucille opened the door, Mary came rushing in.

“Begging your pardon, m’lady, but I can't open the door to Lady Henrietta’s bedroom. I have called out to her, but there is no reply. It's locked, but that cannot be as the key is on the outside. m’lady was expecting me,” Mary said in one breath.

“Lucille, call for Andrews and His Grace. We need some man power. Mary, you come with me,” Lady Amelia's heart was racing. Whatever renovations had been carried out must have interfered with the door, causing it to stick.

Andrews put his shoulder to the door, trying to push it open.

“Take care, Andrews, the door may open suddenly, and you will fall through,” Amelia warned him as John came running, his worried face gaunt in the light.

Then as Lady Amelia had warned, the door opened, and Andrews fell to the floor.

“Andrews, are you all right?” asked John as he offered his hand to help Andrews up.

“Henrietta, where are you?” Amelia called out.

With only their lamps for light, John began to panic and frantically ran from corner to corner of the room.

There was no sign of Lady Henrietta anywhere. She was gone.

“But how can this be? Andrews, you must send someone to fetch an inspector at Scotland Yard,” ordered John, who continued to search every corner of the room. “Did someone break in? I don’t understand where she could have gone,” John said with worry in his voice.

“She didn't need to go anywhere. She was quite content to stay here,” Lady Amelia was trying to remain calm. There was enough panic in the room.

She looked around. Nothing seemed out of place other than the fact the room had been plunged into darkness when they opened the door. Lady Henrietta would not have turned out the lights. She had been afraid of the dark since they were children and always had a light source. The curtains weren't even open to let the moonlight in. Something bad had happened.

Andrews lit the oil lamps around the room, so they would not remain in the dark.

Amelia believed she was in a real-life mystery. She was an avid reader with a particular fondness for mysteries, but there was no joy in this situation. Henrietta was missing, and Amelia was frightfully worried. Poor John was not going to be easily calmed.

“Perhaps we should convene to the living room? I am sure the police do not wish us to crowd the room. Perhaps one of the footmen could stay by the door while we wait for the police to arrive. In the meantime, let’s recruit the help of every servant to search the house,” Amelia said to John. The duke nodded in approval.

***

The police arrived, and a tired looking man, Inspector Grimshaw, seemed to be suspicious of John immediately. Amelia noticed the way the inspector was quizzing John on his whereabouts, and who had seen him. Why the need to visit London? Question after question as though John had some hand in his fiancée’s disappearance.

“Lady Amelia Harrington, your bedroom is across the corridor from Lady Henrietta's room. Is this correct?” When Amelia nodded in confirmation, Inspector Grimshaw continued, “It seems strange that you did not hear anything out of the ordinary.” His eyes were piercing as he looked in her direction.

“No one entered her room; that much is for sure. I wonder, Inspector, if you would rather spend your time searching for His Grace's fiancée rather than lingering here asking us useless questions,” Amelia’s tone was harsh, but still polite. “She may even have been kidnapped. Perhaps you should consider that rather than accuse the duke of wrongdoing.”

“I can assure you that every available man is searching for Her Ladyship, but the window does not appear to have been breached. If no one entered from the hallway, then you can see, perhaps, the reason for my questions. I am anxious to return Lady Henrietta Blythe to you. Now, if you’ll please excuse me,” said the Inspector. “Bloody toffs, think we've nothing better to do before Christmas than to go on a wild goose chase,” he muttered under his breath as he left the group alone.

“Your Grace, there’s a gentleman at the door saying he's the Earl of Swinford,” another policeman had come through to the living room much to the Inspector's annoyance.