Booth Watson sat alone in chambers, well aware Mrs Faulkner would be late. She always imagined it would give her an advantage. But while her bank balance was consistently overdrawn, she was at a perpetual disadvantage.
Mrs Faulkner finally turned up at eighteen minutes past three without any suggestion of an apology. As she took the seat opposite him, BW once again admired how immaculately turned out she was, although he suspected it now took her a little longer to achieve. Her couture outfit reminded him why her suit wasn’t the only thing in red.
‘How nice to see you again,’ Booth Watson said, ‘and how well you’re looking,’ he added as she made herself comfortable.
‘Cut the crap, BW. You only ever ask to see me when you want something. So what is it this time?’
Booth Watson couldn’t fault her logic, but had his next line well prepared. ‘Can I assume you and Mrs Warwick are still bosom pals?
‘As well as business partners,’ Christina reminded him.
‘An association that would end were she to become the next director of the Fitzmolean.’
‘Don’t remind me,’ said Christina a little too quickly.
‘Which, no doubt, would make a considerable dent in your income,’ suggested Booth Watson.
Christina didn’t immediately comment on Booth Watson’s double-edged riposte. ‘What’s going on in that devious mind of yours, BW?’ she finally asked.
‘It might not come as a complete surprise that Miles, like you, wouldn’t be disappointed if Mrs Warwick failed to become the new director of the Fitz.’ He leant back and lit a cigarette, while he waited to find out how she would react. If she raised the subject of the fake Rubens hanging in the Fitzmolean, he accepted it was going to cost Miles a lot of money. But not a word. And he knew from past experience that if Christina had a trump card, she always played it a little too early, so she couldn’t have seen the advertisement in the New York Times. Thanks to his diligence, the ad had appeared only once, so it looked as if Miles had got away with it.
‘Why would Miles give a damn who gets the job?’ Christina queried.
A question Booth Watson was ready for. ‘My dear Mrs Faulkner,’ he began as he blew a large plume of smoke into the air. ‘No one knows better than you how vindictive Miles can be, and he doesn’t have a short memory.’
A judgement Christina felt unable to disagree with. ‘But it will be the museum’s board who will appoint the new director and I’ll be a lone voice.’
‘Then you’ll need to be very persuasive, won’t you?’
‘But there are eleven other board members besides me,’ she pointed out.
‘You’ll have to play Judas,’ said Booth Watson without any hint of irony.
‘And look where that got him.’
‘All you have to do is convince five of your fellow board members that one of the other candidates is better qualified for the position.’
Christina considered the proposition and all its implications before she said, ‘How much is Miles willing to pay?’