"I wouldn't tell you even if I knew." His accent was a subtle mixture of foreignness and Cockney, and even a hint of upper class. It was the voice of a man who kept company with an unusual assortment of people.
"I assure you, sir, I wouldn't put myself or anyone else to the trouble, were it not absolutely necessary. But this is the third day since my brother has gone missing?
"Not my problem." Rohan turned toward the door.
"He tends to fall in with bad company?
"He could be dead by now."
"I can't help you. I wish you luck in your search." Rohan pushed open the door and made to enter the club.
He stopped as Merripen spoke in Romany.
Since Merripen had first come to the Hathaways, there had been only a handful of occasions on which Amelia had heard him speak the secret language known to the Rom. It was heathen-sounding, thick with consonants and drawn-out vowels, but there was a primitive music in the way the words fit together.
Staring at Merripen intently, Rohan leaned his shoulder against the door frame. "The old language," he said. "It's been years since I've heard it. Who is the father of your tribe?"
"I have no tribe."
A long moment passed, while Merripen remained inscrutable in the face of Rohan's regard.
The hazel eyes narrowed. "Come in. I'll see what I can find out."
They were brought into the club without ceremony, Rohan directing an employee to show them to a private receiving room upstairs. Amelia heard the hum of voices, and music coming from somewhere, and footsteps going to and fro. It was a busy masculine hive forbidden to someone like herself.
The employee, a young man with an East London accent and careful manners, took them into a well-appointed room and bid them wait there until Rohan returned. Merripen went to a window overlooking King Street.
Amelia was surprised by the quiet luxury of her surroundings: the hand-knotted carpet done in shades of blue and cream, the wood-paneled walls and velvet-upholstered furniture. "Quite tasteful," she commented, removing her bonnet and setting it on a small claw-footed mahogany table. "For some reason I had expected something a bit… well, tawdry."
"Jenner's is a cut above the typical establishment. It masquerades as a gentlemen's club, when its real purpose is to provide the largest hazard bank in London."
Amelia went to a built-in bookshelf and inspected the volumes as she asked idly, "Why is it, do you think, that Mr. Rohan was reluctant to take money from Lord Selway?"
Merripen cast a sardonic glance over his shoulder. "You know how the Rom feel about material possessions."
"Yes, I know your people don't like to be encumbered. But from what I've seen, Romas are hardly reluctant to accept a few coins in return for a service."
"It's more than not wanting to be encumbered. For a chal to be in this position?
"What's a chal?"
"A son of the Rom. For a chal to wear such fine clothes, to stay under one roof so long, to reap such financial bounty… it's shameful. Embarrassing. Contrary to his nature."
He was so stern and certain of himself, Amelia couldn't resist teasing him a little. "And what's your excuse, Merripen? You've stayed under the Hathaway roof for an awfully long time."
"That's different. For one thing, there's no profit in living with you."
"For another…" Merripen's voice softened. "I owe my life to your family."
Amelia felt a surge of affection as she stared at his unyielding profile. "What a spoilsport," she said gently. "I try to mock you, and you ruin the moment with sincerity. You know you're not obligated to stay, dear friend. You've repaid your debt to us a thousand times over."
Merripen shook his head immediately. "It would be like leaving a nest of plover chicks with a fox nearby."
"We're not as helpless as all that," she protested. "I'm perfectly capable of taking care of the family … and so is Leo. When he's sober."
"When would that be?" His bland tone made the question all the more sarcastic.
Amelia opened her mouth to argue the point, but was forced to close it. Merripen was right—Leo had wandered through the past six months in a state of perpetual inebriation. She put a hand to her midriff, where worry had accumulated like a sack of lead shot. Poor wretched Leo—she was terrified nothing could be done for him. Impossible to save a man who didn't want to be saved.
That wouldn't stop her from trying, however.
She paced around the room, too agitated to sit and wait calmly. Leo was out there somewhere, needing to be rescued. And there was no telling how long Rohan would have them bide their time here.
"I'm going to have a look around," she said, heading to the door. "I won't go far. Stay here, Merripen, in case Mr. Rohan should come."
She heard him mutter something beneath his breath. Ignoring her request, he followed at her heels as she went out into the hallway.
"This isn't proper," he said behind her.
Amelia didn't pause. Propriety had no power over her now. 'This is my one chance to see inside a gaming club—I'm not going to miss it." Following the sound of voices, she ventured toward a gallery that wrapped around the second story of a huge, splendid room.
Crowds of elegantly dressed men gathered around three large hazard tables, watching the play, while croupiers used rakes to gather dice and money. There was a great deal of talking and calling out, the air crackling with excitement. Employees moved through the hazard room, some bearing trays of food and wine, others carrying trays of chips and fresh cards.