She sounded impressed.
Who said that?
I dont know.
Anyway, Michael says to give him a ring if youre interested. Ive got the number. Fetch a pen.
I tried to stop her. I didnt like the idea of her putting shape on my life, but she was insistent.
Not everyone gets a chance like this. Youre twenty-four now. Youve only got that small amount of money your father left you in his Paris account. Its time you started thinking about a career and stopped working for that crooked Pole.
I argued with her a little more, just enough to convince myself that if I went ahead it would be of my own volition and not because of some parental arrangement. Then, two days later, I rang Hawkes.
It was shortly after nine oclock in the morning. He answered after one ring, the voice crisp and alert.
Michael. Its Alec Milius.
About the conversation you had with my mother.
In the supermarket.
You want to go ahead?
If thats possible. Yes.
His manner was strangely abrupt. No friendly chat, no excess fat.
Ill talk to one of my colleagues. Theyll be in touch.
Three days later a letter arrived in a plain white envelope marked private and confidential.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
Dear Mr. Milius,
It has been suggested to me that you might be interested to have a discussion with us about fast-stream appointments in government service in the field of foreign affairs which occasionally arise in addition to those covered by the Open Competition to the Diplomatic Service. This office has a responsibility for recruitment to such appointments.
If you would like to take this possibility further, I should be grateful if you would please complete the enclosed form and return it to me. Provided that there is an appointment for which you appear potentially suitable, I shall then invite you to an exploratory conversation at this office. Your travel expenses will be refunded at the rate of a standard return rail fare plus tube fares.
I should stress that your acceptance of this invitation will not commit you in any way, nor will it affect your candidature for any government appointments for which you may apply or have applied.
As this letter is personal to you, I should be grateful if you could respect its confidentiality.
Recruitment Liaison Office
Enclosed was a standard-issue, four-page application form: name and address, education, brief employment history, and so on. I completed it within twenty-four hoursreplete with liesand sent it back to Lucas. He replied by return post, inviting me to the meeting.
Copyright © 2001 by Charles Cumming. All rights reserved.
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