Her heart raced from more than the pace, and she wished Athena hadn’t insisted on such a wide brim for her hat. Held this close to him, she couldn’t see his face, couldn’t even guess what was going through his mind right that moment.
He slowed at a door with a large brass "E" in place of a nameplate, thumped four times in an odd rhythm, and hurried into the next office down the hallway. Ess stumbled when he gave her a little shove into the room, and a moment later the door slammed behind them.
"You rascal. You scoundrel," he said, the rasp deepening, threatening to crack his voice. He caught hold of her again, shook her once, then held her out to arm’s length, his fingers digging into her shoulders deep enough to bruise. His eyes flicked back and forth, studying her features.
"Stanton?" Mr. Randall Endicott said, opening the door and stepping in after only the shortest rap.
"Look what the tide dropped on our doorstep." Lewis turned Ess around so quickly she nearly lost her balance. It was a good thing he kept his tight grip on her shoulders.
"Odessa," the elder partner whispered. He took two jerky steps forward. For a few seconds, she thought he might collapse -- or lunge forward and shake her until her neck snapped.
Then Endicott tipped his head back and laughed, until he staggered back a step and had to catch his breath. Lewis let go of her and hurried to fetch a chair for the older man to sit down.
She complied when Endicott held out his hand, and gave hers into his grasp.
"Shades of Matilda and Ernest," Lewis said, bringing over another chair for Ess. He settled on the edge of the massive desk, shaking his head and grinning. "You wouldn’t believe the story this scapegrace told, coming in here. A false name, a Pinkerton agent, and working for one of the premier historical consortiums in the world. Girl -- no, young lady -- what have you been up to?"