Chapter Twenty-Three

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"Did you hear what my painting just sold for!" Nicholas beamed.

"Um, yeah, that's great news," I replied, a little distracted. I hadn't heard, but he didn't need to know that.

"Everything all right?" he asked, touching me lightly on the arm, snapping me out of my thoughts.

"Uh, yes. Fine," I reassured him with a small smile. He wasn't convinced.

"You and Robbie seemed to be having quite a serious conversation. I hope nothing is wrong?"

I wanted to tell him about Isabella and Robbie's crush being more serious than expected, but it wasn't my place, and didn't want to give him second thoughts on proposing to Isabella.

"Oh, it was nothing. He was just sulking because Mr. Valentine shooed him away from all the fun."

"I see. Where did Robbie and Isabella go, anyway?" He glanced around, looking for them. "They were right behind us."

"Um, they couldn't really see, so I think they tried to push in closer to the front," I lied.

He nodded, believing me. "I can't believe Dudley Clarke's pocket watch went missing."

"It's not missing. Mr. Valentine said it'd be out shortly." I hoped that were true.

Nice touch of Constable Doyle choosing to steal something of Dudley Clarke's. If I was caught with the item and sent to trial, I would need a solicitor. That was what Constable Doyle was hinting at before. But seeing as the item was Dudley's, he would not represent me. According to some of the gossips at this event, Dudley is known for winning almost every case, he's very powerful, and wealthy. I wouldn't stand a chance against him.

"But it seems strange it didn't come out with all the other items. Maybe I should go inside to look for it," Nicholas said, starting to walk off.

"No, wait." I stopped him. I knew Nicholas wouldn't search my room, but I still wanted confirmation first that it was out of there. The thought of it just sitting in my desk drawer was making me extremely nervous.

Where was Constable Doyle? Was he going to announce that he'd found it, or would he just slip it back in its place quietly?

Not being able to think of a good enough reason for Nicholas not to go look for it, I offered to go help.

If I snuck up to my room, and the pocket watch was still there, I could grab it and say I found it on the floor or between the sofa cushions.

Nicholas took my hand, and we weaved through the crowd, heading for the back door.

After several dirty looks later, and me apologising profusely for pushing past, we made it.

Just at that moment, the back door burst open, causing such a racket that it interrupted the auction.

"What in God's name?" I heard Mr. Valentine exclaim.

Everyone turned their attention to Constable Doyle, standing there with Dudley Clarke's pocket watch dangling from his thumb and forefinger.

"Just bringing out Mr. Clarke's pocket watch, sir," Constable Doyle explained.

The crowd ooh'd and ahh'd with delight.

My cheeks were hot and my stomach was churning. Was he about to keep his word and not announce to the whole party that he had found it in my room?

Mr. Valentine moved closer to the Constable, lowering his voice as he asked him, "Where on Earth did you find it, Constable?"

I held my breath, waiting for him to answer.

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