A Peculiar Combination (Electra McDonnell #1) by Ashley Weaver

“I’m afraid you left evidence behind.”

There wasn’t evidence, and so I said nothing.

“You went into the house, opened the safe, and stole a great deal of jewelry.”

“If you think you know what happened, why are you asking me all these questions?” I realized my tone had lost its pleasantness, but I was getting very tired. I had been here a long time, and I was thirsty and cold. I wanted nothing so much in the world as my old tattered wool jumper and a cup of tea from my blue teacup.

The idea that I might not get either for a very long time, perhaps for years, made my stomach clench. But no. I wasn’t going to think about that now. I hadn’t been raised to concentrate on what might be.

I determined I would just live in this moment and make the best of it, which definitely meant I wouldn’t be confessing. Perhaps if I continued to insist it had been some kind of mistake, they would have to let me go.

“What tools did you use?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“How long did the safe take to open?”

“We didn’t open a safe.”

I was doing my best to annoy him, but I had the impression that he didn’t much care about me one way or the other. It was strange. He was giving me a fairly thorough questioning, but I could sense that my answers meant little to him and were somewhat perfunctory. Perhaps he thought he had a sound enough case that it didn’t matter.

Nevertheless, I kept avoiding the inspector’s questions. Everything he asked, I would answer noncommittally or respond with a question. After half an hour or so of this, he seemed to lose interest in the conversation, rising without another word to me and leaving the room, the lock sliding home.

I wondered what was happening to Uncle Mick. If they were expecting either of us to grass on the other, they were going to be disappointed.

It occurred to me again how very unusual all of this was. We had been caught robbing a house, not attempting to smuggle the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Was there something in that safe we hadn’t known about?

I glanced at my watch, realizing it was a bit odd they hadn’t relieved me of my personal effects upon arrival. Wasn’t that usual, to empty pockets and take away mufflers prisoners might use to do themselves in? It was now after three o’clock. Didn’t these people want to sleep? Surely they could put me somewhere for the night and finish this tomorrow. It wasn’t as though we had killed someone. A few diamonds and rubies weren’t worth all this.

I wondered how many years of my life those jewels were worth. To be honest, I had a dread of prison. The place hung like a shadow in the background of our lives, but I had refused to consider it a part of my future.

A lot of people thought the courts went easy on women, but I knew very well that examples were just as often made of them. That their sentences were meant to send a message to other young ladies who might be tempted to be led astray.

These thoughts and more crossed my mind as I sat in the cold room. Once or twice I began to nod off but caught myself. I wanted to stay alert, keep my wits about me.

At last, I heard the sound of the lock again. Then the door opened, and someone entered. I was feeling peevish by this point and didn’t look up to see who it was. When he sat down across from me, I was surprised to see he was in military uniform, army by the looks of it. He was much younger than the inspector had been. Not many years past thirty, I’d guess. With the war on, I hadn’t expected a young man, let alone a specimen such as this.

He was broad shouldered and well built, the picture of strapping good health, and I wondered why he was here rather than off fighting. Surely the Nazis’ impending invasion was more of a concern than a few paltry jewel thieves.

As the inspector fellow had done, he didn’t introduce himself and watched me for a long moment without saying a word.

It was all part of the intimidation routine, and I didn’t expect to be impressed. But there was something impressive about this gent nonetheless. For one thing, he was terribly good looking. I’ve never been a silly girl to have my head turned by a pretty face, but he was the sort any girl would give a second look to.

In addition to his soldierly bearing, his features were made up of perfect masculine symmetry: strong jaw, straight nose, excellent cheekbones. He was blond with pale blue eyes, and I couldn’t help but think he looked a bit like a Jerry himself.

All this time I was looking at him, he had been studying me as well. I doubted I cut as impressive a figure as he did. I knew well enough that I was pretty, and, though I’d never been one to flaunt my looks, I’d turned a few heads of my own in my time.