She withdraws and Lucas and I go into a large, sparsely furnished room
nearby. He has not yet stopped looking at me, not out of laziness or rudeness
but purely because he is a man entirely at ease when it comes to staring at
people. Hes very good at it.
He says, Thank you for coming today.
And I say, Its a pleasure. Thank you for inviting me. Its a great
privilege to be here.
There are two armchairs in the room, upholstered in the same burgundy leather
as the sofas downstairs. A large bay window looks out over the tree-lined Mall,
feeding weak, broken sunlight into the room. Lucas has a broad oak desk covered
in neat piles of paper and a framed black-and-white photograph of a woman whom I
take to be his wife.
Have a seat.
I drop down low into the leather, my back to the window. There is a coffee
table in front of me, an ashtray, and a closed red file. Lucas occupies the
chair opposite mine. As he sits down, he reaches into the pocket of his jacket
for a pen, retrieving a blue Mont Blanc. I watch him, freeing the trapped flaps
of my jacket and bringing them back across my chest. The little physical tics
that precede an interview.
Milius. Its an unusual name.
Your father, he was from the Eastern bloc?
His father. Not mine. Came over from Lithuania in 1940. My family have lived
in Britain ever since.
Lucas writes something down on a brown clipboard braced between his thighs.
I see. Why dont we begin by talking about your present job. The CEBDO.
Thats not something Ive heard much about.
All job interviews are lies. They begin with the résumé, a sheet of
word-processed fictions. About halfway down mine, just below the name and
address, Philip Lucas has read the following sentence:
I have been employed as a Marketing Consultant at the Central European
Business Development Organization (CEBDO) for the past eleven months.
Elsewhere, lower down, are myriad falsehoods: periods of work experience on
national newspapers (Could you do some photocopying please?); a season as a
waiter at a leading Genevan hotel; eight weeks at a London law firm; the
inevitable charity work.
The truth is that CEBDO is run out of a small, cramped garage in a mews off
Edgware Road. The kitchen doubles for a toilet; if somebody has a crap, no one
can make a cup of tea for ten minutes. There are five of us: Nik (the boss),
Henry, Russell, myself, and Anna. Its very simple. We sit on the phone all day
talking to businessmen in centraland now easternEurope. I try to persuade them
to part with large sums of money, in return for which we promise to place an
advertisement for their operation in a publication known as the Central European
Business Review. This, I tell my clients, is a quarterly magazine that enjoys a
global circulation of four hundred thousand copies, distributed free around the
world. Working purely on commission I can make anything from two to three
hundred pounds a week, sometimes more, peddling this story. Nik, I estimate,
makes seven or eight times that amount. His only overheads, apart from telephone
calls and electricity, are printing costs. These are paid to his brother-in-law
who desktop publishes five hundred copies of the Central European Business
Review four times a year. These he posts to a few selected embassies across
Europe and to all the clients who have placed advertisements in the magazine.
Any spares, he throws in the bin.
On paper, its legal.
I look Lucas directly in the eye.
The CEBDO is a fledgling organization that advises new businesses in
centraland now easternEurope about the perils and pitfalls of the free
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