There was a pause and I wondered what the kick was going to be. It had to be a kick. I couldn’t imagine the great man would be calling unless something had displeased him.
What came next surprised me.
“Look, Dawson,” he said, “my daughter will be arriving in Rome tomorrow on the eleven-fifty plane. I want you to meet her and take her to the Excelsior Hotel. My secretary has fixed a reservation for her. Will you do that?”
This was the first time I had heard he had a daughter. I knew he had been married four times, but a daughter was news to me.
“She’ll be studying at the university,” he went on, words tumbling out of his mouth as if he were bored with the subject and wanted to get done with it as quickly as possible. “If she wants anything, I’ve told her to call on you. I don’t want you to give her any money. That is important. She’s getting sixty dollars a week from me, and that is quite enough for a young girl. She has a job of work to do, and if she does it the way I want her to do it, she won’t need much money. But I’d like to know someone is at hand in case she needs anything or gets ill or something.”
“She hasn’t anyone here then?” I asked, not liking the sound of this. As a nursemaid, I don’t rate myself very high.
“I’ve given her some introductions, and she’ll be at the university, so she’ll get to know people,” Chalmers said. I could hear the impatience in his voice.
“Okay, Mr. Chalmers. I’ll meet her, and if she wants anything, I’ll fix it.”
“That’s what I want.” There was a pause, then he said, “Things all right at your end?” He didn’t sound particularly interested.
I said they were a little slow.
There was another long pause, and I could hear him breathing heavily. I had a vision of a short, fat man with a chin like Mussolini’s, eyes like the points of an icepick and a mouth like a bear trap.
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