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CHAPTER ONE
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1901



“Come, Aunt Edith,” whispered Luella Ridgeway, as she watched the bell boy struggling with a pile of suitcases as they entered the lift. “We must make haste.”

The bell boy grunted and shifted the case under his arm so that it was more comfortable. Why the English ladies were in such a hurry at this hour of the night was beyond him.

“Luella,” asked the Countess of Ridgeway, as she squeezed into the lift alongside her. “Did you remember to pack your nightclothes that were underneath your pillow? I do hope you did not leave that lovely silk nightdress behind.”

“It’s in the brown case,” sighed Luella as the lift slowly descended.

The lift doors opened and they found themselves in a lobby that was eerily quiet. There was only a night porter on duty and one desk clerk.

The Countess strode purposefully towards the desk and, in clear French, asked for their bill.

“You are leaving us, Madame la Comtesse?” enquired the clerk.

“We are and I would be obliged to you if you would refrain from answering any enquiries as to our whereabouts or our destination. We wish to travel in secret.”

Bien sûr, Madame la Comtesse,” replied the Clerk, handing over their account.

The Countess stared at it through her lorgnette and then pulled out several high-denomination notes from her purse. Luella stood nervously behind her, looking around with eyes as uneasy as a frightened rabbit’s.

“Aunt, I do hope that awful man is not about to come through those doors,” she said with a great deal of agitation in her voice.

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