“Former son-in-law,” Gramps corrected.
“-was most likely vaporized in the explosion, or he ran off, in which case-”
“He didn’t run off!” I shouted.
“We need to know where he is,” the inspector continued. “And the only witnesses, your grandchildren, refuse to tell me the truth.”
“We did tell you the truth,” Carter said. “Dad isn’t dead. He sank through the floor.”
Inspector Williams glanced at Gramps, as if to say, There, you see? Then he turned to Carter. “Young man, your father has committed a criminal act. He’s left you behind to deal with the consquences-”
“That’s not true!” I snapped, my voice trembling with rage. I couldn’t believe Dad would intentionally leave us at the mercy of police, of course. But the idea of him abandoning me-well, as I might have mentioned, that’s a bit of a sore point.
“Dear, please,” Gran told me, “the inspector is only doing his job.”
“Badly!” I said.
“Let’s all have some tea,” Gran suggested.
“No!” Carter and I yelled at once, which made me feel bad for Gran, as she practically wilted into the sofa.
“We can charge you,” the inspector warned, turning on me. “We can and we will-”
He froze. Then he blinked several times, as if he’d forgotten what he was doing.
Gramps frowned. “Er, Inspector?”
“Yes…” Chief Inspector Williams murmured dreamily. He reached in his pocket and took out a little blue booklet-an American passport. He threw it in Carter’s lap.
“You’re being deported,” the inspector announced. “You’re to leave the country within twenty-four hours. If we need to question you further, you’ll be contacted through the FBI.”
Carter’s mouth fell open. He looked at me, and I knew I wasn’t imagining how odd this was. The inspector had completely changed direction. He’d been about to arrest us. I was sure of it. And then out of the blue, he was deporting Carter? Even the other police officers looked confused.
“Sir?” the policewoman asked. “Are you sure-”
“Quiet, Linley. The two of you may go.”
The cops hesitated until Williams made a shooing motion with his hand. Then they left, closing the door behind them.
“Hold on,” Carter said. “My father’s disappeared, and you want me to leave the country?”
“Your father is either dead or a fugitive, son,” the inspector said. “Deportation is the kindest option. It’s already been arranged.”
“With whom?” Gramps demanded. “Who authorized this?”
“With…” The inspector got that funny blank look again. “With the proper authorities. Believe me, it’s better than prison.”
Carter looked too devastated to speak, but before I could feel sorry for him, Inspector Williams turned to me. “You, too, miss.”
He might as well have hit me with a sledgehammer.
“You’re deporting me?” I asked. “I live here!”
“You’re an American citizen. And under the circumstances, it’s best for you to return home.”
I just stared at him. I couldn’t remember any home except this flat. My mates at school, my room, everything I knew was here. “Where am I supposed to go?”
“Inspector,” Gran said, her voice trembling. “This isn’t fair. I can’t believe-”
“I’ll give you some time to say good-bye,” the inspector interrupted. Then he frowned as if baffled by his own actions. “I-I must be going.”
This made no sense, and the inspector seemed to realize it, but he walked to the front door anyway. When he opened it, I almost jumped out of my chair, because the man in black, Amos, was standing there. He’d lost his trench coat and hat somewhere, but was still wearing the same pinstripe suit and round glasses. His braided hair glittered with gold beads.
I thought the inspector would say something, or express surprise, but he didn’t even acknowledge Amos. He walked right past him and into the night.
Amos came inside and closed the door. Gran and Gramps stood up.
“You,” Gramps growled. “I should’ve known. If I was younger, I would beat you to a pulp.”
“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Faust,” Amos said. He looked at Carter and me as if we were problems to be solved. “It’s time we had a talk.”
Amos made himself right at home. He flopped onto the sofa and poured himself tea. He munched on a biscuit, which was quite dangerous, because Gran’s biscuits are horrid.
I thought Gramps’s head would explode. His face went bright red. He came up behind Amos and raised his hand as if he were about to smack him, but Amos kept munching his biscuit.
“Please, sit down,” he told us.
And we all sat. It was the strangest thing-as if we’d been waiting for his order. Even Gramps dropped his hand and moved round the sofa. He sat next to Amos with a disgusted sigh.
Amos sipped his tea and regarded me with some displeasure. That wasn’t fair, I thought. I didn’t look that bad, considering what we’d been through. Then he looked at Carter and grunted.
“Terrible timing,” he muttered. “But there’s no other way. They’ll have to come with me.”
“Excuse me?” I said. “I’m not going anywhere with some strange man with biscuit on his face!”
He did in fact have biscuit crumbs on his face, but he apparently didn’t care, as he didn’t bother to check.
“I’m no stranger, Sadie,” he said. “Don’t you remember?”
It was creepy hearing him talk to me in such a familiar way. I felt I should know him. I looked at Carter, but he seemed just as mystified as I was.
“No, Amos,” Gran said, trembling. “You can’t take Sadie. We had an agreement.”
“Julius broke that agreement tonight,” Amos said. “You know you can’t care for Sadie anymore-not after what’s happened. Their only chance is to come with me.”
“Why should we go anywhere with you?” Carter asked. “You almost got in a fight with Dad!”
Amos looked at the workbag in Carter’s lap. “I see you kept your father’s bag. That’s good. You’ll need it. As for getting into fights, Julius and I did that quite a lot. If you didn’t notice, Carter, I was trying to stop him from doing something rash. If he’d listened to me, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
I had no idea what he was on about, but Gramps apparently understood.
“You and your superstitions!” he said. “I told you we want none of it.”
Amos pointed to the back patio. Through the glass doors, you could see the lights shining on the Thames. It was quite a nice view at night, when you couldn’t notice how run-down some of the buildings were.
“Superstition, is it?” Amos asked. “And yet you found a place to live on the east bank of the river.”
Gramps turned even redder. “That was Ruby’s idea. Thought it would protect us. But she was wrong about many things, wasn’t she? She trusted Julius and you, for one!”
Amos looked unfazed. He smelled interesting-like old-timey spices, copal and amber, like the incense shops in Covent Garden.
He finished his tea and looked straight at Gran. “Mrs. Faust, you know what’s begun. The police are the least of your worries.”
Gran swallowed. “You…you changed that inspector’s mind. You made him deport Sadie.”
“It was that or see the children arrested,” Amos said.
“Hang on,” I said. “You changed Inspector Williams’s mind? How?”
Amos shrugged. “It’s not permanent. In fact we should get to New York in the next hour or so before Inspector Williams begins to wonder why he let you go.”
Carter laughed incredulously. “You can’t get to New York from London in a hour. Not even the fastest plane-”
“No,” Amos agreed. “Not a plane.” He turned back to Gran as if everything had been settled. “Mrs. Faust, Carter and Sadie have only one safe option. You know that. They’ll come to the mansion in Brooklyn. I can protect them there.”
“You’ve got a mansion,” Carter said. “In Brooklyn.”