Found

They hustled the man into the room adjacent to Kwan’s office, a small kitchen unit without a door. That was no place to hide for long, but there was no other exit to the floor that would not pass by directly in front of the lift.

“Who – ” Esther whispered.

“Ssh!” They propped the man against the counter, and stood there in the dim light, listening for whoever was coming. There was a clinking noise as the fluorescent tubes across the ceiling of the office came on. Then footsteps, coming quickly. Not Kwan’s measured tread; not the ponderous thudding of his shoes.

“Well, the French say they’re not involved, and I suppose we have to take them at their word. Not that this helps.” A first voice, English, educated, young, sounding replete with the arrogance bestowed by one of the better universities.

“Does that make a difference?” The second voice, older, still upper class.

“Of course it matters, Professor Yaffle. The thing is, they have a stake in this game too. I’m assuming that they’re less concerned by not appearing to be as clever as you want to think they are, than they are about avoiding all kinds of trouble when those idiots in London manage to get what they’re planning to work.”

The voices stopped along with the footsteps, only a short distance from where Lee and Esther hid.

“Kwan turned off the light.”

“You’re getting better at stating the obvious. Is that something you’ve been practicing? How long did you say the dehydrator had left to run?”

“Two hours.”

“And we left an hour ago, so …”

“So …”

“So we’re standing here looking at an empty office, and no man in a chair. Could he have already died?”

“It’s possible. He was an old guy -”

“I didn’t ask if he was old or not. I could see that for myself, thank you very much. I was asking if he had already died or not.”

“Well -”

“Wells are things with water at the bottom of them. We’re looking at an empty chair. And somebody has rather inexpertly undone the machine, haven’t they?”

The two stepped into the office, then stepped back out again after another minute while Lee tried to stop himself from breathing, too scared of who these people could possibly be. Who could just be walking blithely through the police station? They had to be important people of some sort or other, the kind who were used to doing what they wanted to whoever they wanted.

“You know, I don’t think he has died. I think Kwan is working both ends of this. He always struck me as the untrustworthy sort…”

Esther hiccupped again. “Sorry” she mouthed.

“Did you hear that?”

“What?”

“I thought I heard somebody down the hall. Kwan?” The voice came a little closer. “Kwan, what are you doing skulking around down there?”

Lee’s hand tightened around the gun. He wondered what he was about to do.

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