An Earl's Agreement(132)

By: Joyce Alec


“May I have a look at your findings, My Lord? Perhaps we can figure something out together,” said the inspector.

Bartley no longer had any interest in keeping the information about the secret passageways to himself. The situation was becoming much more serious as more ladies had gone missing. Bartley led the inspector to the study, who launched a plan for his men to search the grounds more thoroughly, although Bartley wasn't quite sure this was any kind of plan. But he couldn't sit by; he had found the love of his life, and he wasn't about to let her vanish.

It had begun to snow again, and the inspector worried that it could be covering an entrance, which would otherwise be seen. Being a terraced house, they only had the front and back of the house to deal with. The front of the house was on a sidewalk, and the servants’ entrance was into the basement at the side.

“I wonder if there's anything in what that earl said about a secret passage. It would have to lead somewhere, next door, perhaps? I wonder.” The inspector looked up at the houses on either side of the duke's home. Was there a possibility the missing women were trapped in them?

***

Amelia had made her way back to Lucille and Lady Henrietta who was now conscious, although barely so. Her voice was barely a whisper.

“Did you find a way out, m’lady?” Lucille asked having got over her fright of her mistress' return without the lamp.

“I could have gone farther, but I wanted to check on you, too. Hen, you gave us such a fright. Don't try to talk. Conserve your energy. Lucille, let's call out for help. Lady Henrietta's voice is far too weak,” Amelia encouraged, and they began to scream.

Amelia knew it was pointless, but she had to try. The whole point of a secret chamber was not to be found, and therefore, not to be heard, but she wasn't about to just give up. She was worried about Lady Henrietta, and while she was glad the darkness would disguise her fears, she couldn't help but be concerned as Henrietta was barely able to speak. She needed to find a way for them to get out now.

“I have to find a way out, Lucille. I'll just keep going. Whatever you do, do not leave Lady Henrietta's side,” she had found Lucille's hands in the darkness and squeezed them.

“I will find help, I promise you,” Lady Amelia at least knew what to expect now. She just had to keep going. The tunnel led somewhere. She just hoped there would be someone at the other end to hear her.

“M’lady, take this,” Lucille handed her the fireplace poker in the darkness, “you might be able to attract attention with it.”

“Good idea, Lucille. Pray we will be found before it's too late,” Lady Amelia ventured off again, with all of her senses aware that she had to be brave for the other women.

She wanted to be strong, but she couldn't help the tears from streaming down her face. There was so much she wanted to experience in life and the fear of never being found was a real possibility in her mind.

If only she had allowed love into her life. She should have been nicer to Bartley. He was amusing, and her father would have liked him. She could imagine her father saying that Bartley was exactly what she needed. There was a humor to him that would nicely complement Amelia’s stoic nature. Amelia’s thoughts led to poor Henrietta, who instead of being celebrated on her wedding day, would be missing. Amelia felt sorry for Lucille. If she hadn't lured Lucille into her employ, the girl would still be looking after the vain Duchess of Hamptonshire, instead of stuck in a horrible place inside the wall.

Amelia was thankful for her strong nerves. She would need them. With the fireplace poker outstretched to guide her, she hit it off what she presumed was the wall on either side. She had come a little farther than previously, but she hoped it wasn't a dead-end. With no light, she couldn't tell how far the passage went, but she kept swaying the fireplace poker from side to side in front of her. It clattered off the walls.

She was finding it difficult to move at any pace as it was harder to breathe, and it was so hot. She had to stop and take a breath, as she wiped her brow, which glistened with sweat. She called out, it made her feel like she was doing something, but the sound just reverberated around the tunnel.

“How will we ever escape?” Amelia spoke out loud, as she slid to the ground in frustration. She let out one, loud scream.