‘Reputation. Do we have an agreement?’

‘Within two years?’

‘I’ll guarantee it.’

‘And how can you guarantee it?’

I noted: Quick to regain the offensive.

‘Because I’m going to recommend you for one of the posts I’m talking about.’

‘So? It’s not you who makes the decisions.’

I half closed my eyes. It was an expression my wife Diana said reminded her of a sluggish lion, a satiated lord and master. I liked that.

‘My recommendation is my client’s decision, Lander.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘In the same way that you will never again apply for a job you are not confident of getting, I have never made a recommendation a client has not followed.’

‘Really? Never?’

‘Not that anyone can remember. Unless I am one hundred per cent sure the client will go along with my recommendation, I don’t recommend anyone and prefer the job to go to one of the competitors. Even though I may have three brilliant candidates and am ninety per cent sure.’

‘Why’s that?’

I smiled. ‘The answer begins with R. My entire career is based on it.’

Lander laughed and shook his head. ‘They said you were tough, Brown. Now I know what they mean.’

I smiled again and rose to my feet. ‘And now I suggest you go home and tell your beautiful wife that you’re going to refuse this job because you’ve decided to aim higher. My guess is you can look forward to a pleasant evening.’

‘Why are you doing this for me, Brown?’

‘Because the commission your employer will pay us is a third of your first year’s gross salary. Did you know that Rembrandt used to go to auctions to raise the bidding for his own pictures? Why would I sell you for two million a year when, after a little reputation building, we can sell you for five? All we are asking is that you stick with us. Do we have a deal?’ I proffered my hand.

He grabbed it with gusto. ‘I have a feeling this has been a profitable conversation, Brown.’

‘Agreed,’ I said, reminding myself to give him a couple of tips on handshaking technique before he met the client.

Ferdinand slipped into my office as soon as Jeremias Lander had departed.

‘Argh,’ he said, cutting a grimace and wafting his hand. ‘Eau de camouflage.’

I nodded while opening the window to let in some fresh air. What Ferdinand meant was that the applicant had slapped on too much aftershave to hide the nervous sweats that pervade interview rooms in this branch of work.

‘But at least it was Clive Christian,’ I said. ‘Bought by his wife, like the suit, the shoes, the shirt and the tie. And it was her idea to dye his temples grey.’

‘How do you know?’ Ferdinand took a seat in the chair Lander had been sitting in, but jumped up again with an expression of revulsion as he felt the clammy body heat that still clung to the upholstery.

‘He went as white as a sheet when I pressed the wife button,’ I answered. ‘I mentioned how disappointed she would be when he told her the job wouldn’t be his.’

‘The wife button! Where do you get this stuff from, Roger?’ Ferdinand had settled into one of the other chairs, his feet on a pretty good copy of a Noguchi coffee table. He had taken an orange and was peeling it, releasing an almost invisible spray which covered his newly ironed shirt. Ferdinand was unbelievably slapdash for a homosexual. And unbelievably homosexual for a headhunter.

‘Inbau, Reid and Buckley,’ I said.

‘You’ve mentioned that method before,’ Ferdinand said. ‘But what exactly is it? Is it better than Cute?’

I laughed. ‘It’s the FBI’s nine-step interrogation model. It’s a machine gun in the world of pea-shooters, an instrument that would blast a hole through a haystack, that doesn’t take prisoners, but gives quick, tangible results.’

‘And what results are they, Roger?’

I knew what Ferdinand was fishing for, and that was fine by me. He wanted to find out what gave me the edge, what made me the best and him – for the time being – less than the best. And I gave him what he sought. For those were the rules, knowledge was to be shared. And because he would never be better than me. He’d always turn up with shirts reeking of citrus, forever wondering whether someone had a model, a method or a secret that was better than his.

‘Submission,’ I answered. ‘Confession. Truth. It’s based on very simple principles.’

‘Such as?’

‘Such as beginning by questioning the suspect about his family.’

‘Pah,’ Ferdinand said. ‘I do that as well. It makes them feel secure if they can talk about something familiar, something close to them. Plus it opens them up.’

‘Precisely. But it also allows you to probe their weak points. Their Achilles heel. Which you will be able to use later on in the interrogation.’

‘Hey, what terminology!’

‘Later on in the interrogation when you have to discuss what rankles, what happened, the murder he is suspected of having committed, what makes him feel lonely and abandoned by everyone and what makes him want to hide, you make sure you have a roll of kitchen towel on the table, positioned just out of the suspect’s reach.’


‘Because the interrogation has come to its natural crescendo and the time has come for you to press the emotion button. You ask him what his children will think when they find out that their dad is a murderer. And then, when the tears well up in his eyes, you pass him the roll. You have to be the person who understands, who wants to help, in whom he can confide about all the bad things. About that silly, silly murder that just happened, as if of its own accord.’

‘Murder? What the hell are you on about? We recruit people, don’t we? We’re not trying to convict them of murder.’

‘I am,’ I said, taking my jacket from the office chair. ‘And that’s why I’m the best headhunter in Oslo. By the way, I’ve put you down for the interview with Lander and the client tomorrow at twelve.’


I went out of the door and down the corridor with Ferdinand skipping after me as we passed the other twenty- five offices that constituted Alfa, a medium-sized recruitment company that had survived for fifteen years and brought in between fifteen and twenty million kroner per annum, which, after a far too modest bonus had been paid out to the best of us, was pocketed by the owner in Stockholm.

‘Piece of cake. All the details are in the file. OK?’

‘OK,’ said Ferdinand. ‘On one condition.’

‘Condition? I’m doing you a favour.’

‘The private view your wife is having at the gallery this evening…’

‘What about it?’

‘Can I go?’

‘Are you invited?’

‘That’s the point. Am I?’

‘Doubt it.’

Ferdinand came to an abrupt halt and was gone from my field of vision. I continued, knowing that he was standing there with his arms down by his sides, watching me and musing that once again he would not be able to raise a toast in champagne with Oslo’s jet-setters, queens of the night, celebrities and the wealthy, that he would not partake in the modicum of glamour that surrounded Diana’s private views, nor come into contact with potential candidates for a job, bed or other sinful intercourse. Poor fellow.

‘Roger?’ It was the girl behind the reception desk. ‘Two calls. One-’

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