I nodded and watched her. Prepared myself. Noted his gracious bow when Diana approached and pointed. They came towards me. I smiled, but not too broadly, stretched out my hand slightly before he arrived, but not too prematurely. My whole body turned to him, my eyes on his. Seventy-eight per cent.

‘Roger Brown, pleased to meet you.’ I pronounced both names in the English way.

‘Clas Greve. The pleasure is all mine.’

Apart from the un-Norwegian formal greeting, his Norwegian was nigh on perfect. His hand was warm, dry, the handshake firm without overdoing it, the recommended duration of three seconds. His eyes were calm, curious, alert; the smile friendly without being forced. My only complaint was that he was not as tall as I had hoped. Just under one metre eighty, a bit disappointing considering that Dutch men are the anthropometric world champions with an average height of 183.4 centimetres.

A guitar chord sounded. To be precise, a G11sus4, the opening chord of the Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ from the album of the same name, 1964. I knew that because it was me who had put it on the Prada phone and set it as the ringtone before giving it to Diana. She raised the attractively slim object to her ear, nodded to us in apology and distanced herself.

‘I understand you have just moved here, herr Greve?’ I could hear myself sounding like an old radio play, using the Norwegian formal terms ‘De’ and ‘herr’, but during the introductory sales pitch it is important to adapt and assume low status. The metamorphosis would come soon enough.

‘I inherited my grandmother’s apartment in Oscars gate. It’s stood empty for a couple of years and needs redecorating.’

‘I see.’

I raised both eyebrows with a smile, curious, but not insistent. Just enough. If he was able to follow the social code, he would now reply with a little more information.

‘Yes,’ said Greve. ‘It’s a pleasant break after so many years’ hard graft.’

I saw no reason not to go straight to the point. ‘At HOTE, from what I understand.’

He sent me a look of mild surprise. ‘Do you know the company?’

‘The recruitment agency I work for has its competitor, Pathfinder, on its books. Have you heard of them?’

‘Bits and pieces. Main office in Horten, if I’m not much mistaken. Small but competent, isn’t that right?’

‘They must have grown quite a lot in the months you’ve been out of circulation.’

‘Things move quickly in the GPS industry,’ Greve said, twirling the champagne glass in his hand. ‘Everyone thinks expansion. The motto is: Expand or die.’

‘So I understand. Perhaps that was why HOTE was bought up?’

Greve’s smile produced a fine network of creases in the tanned skin around the pale blue eyes. ‘The fastest way to grow is, as you know, to be bought up. Experts reckon that those not among the top five GPS companies in two years’ time are finished.’

‘Doesn’t sound like you agree?’

‘I think that innovation and flexibility are the most important survival criteria. And that, as long as there is sufficient funding, a small unit that can adapt quickly is more important than size. So I have to confess that, even though I became a rich man through the sale of HOTE, I was against selling and resigned straight afterwards. I’m obviously not quite in sync with current thinking…’ Again this flashing smile that softened the hard but well-cared- for exterior. ‘But perhaps that is just the guerrilla warrior in me. What do you think?’

He used the informal form of ‘you’. A good sign.

‘I only know that Pathfinder is looking for a new boss,’ I said, signalling to Nick that he should bring us more champagne. ‘Someone who can resist the overtures from foreign companies.’


‘And to me it sounds like you could be a very promising applicant for them. Interested?’

Greve laughed. It was an engaging laugh. ‘My apologies, Roger. I have an apartment to do up.’

Christian name.

‘I didn’t think you would be interested in the job, Clas. Just in talking about it.’

‘You haven’t seen the apartment, Roger. It’s old. And big. Yesterday I found a new room behind the kitchen.’

I looked at him. It wasn’t only down to Savile Row that the suit fitted him so well; he was in good shape. No, not in good shape; excellent shape was the expression. There were no bulging muscles here, just the sinewy strength that reveals itself with discretion, in the blood vessels in the neck, in the posture, in the low resting heart rate, in the blue oxygen capillaries on the back of his hands. Nevertheless, you had a sense of the muscular strength that lay beneath the suit material. Stamina, I thought. Unrelenting stamina. I had already made up my mind; I wanted this head.

‘Do you like art, Clas?’ I asked, passing him one of the glasses Nick had brought.

‘Yes. And no. I like art that shows something. But most of what I see claims a beauty or a truth that isn’t there. It may have been in the artist’s mind, but the communicative talent is absent. If I don’t see beauty or truth, it isn’t there, simple as that. An artist who maintains that he has been misunderstood is almost always a bad artist who, I’m afraid to say, has been understood.’

‘We’re on the same wavelength there,’ I said, lifting my glass.

‘I forgive a lack of talent in most people, I suppose because I have been dealt so little myself,’ Greve said, barely moistening his thin lips with the champagne. ‘But not in artists. We, the untalented, make a living by the sweat of our brow and pay them to play on our behalf. Fair enough, that’s the way it is. But then they have to play bloody well.’

I had already seen enough and knew that test results and in-depth interviews would only confirm what I knew. This was the man. Even if ISCO or Mercuri Urval had been given two years, they would not have found such a perfect candidate as this one.

‘Do you know what, Clas? We’re going to have to have a chat. You see, Diana has insisted on it.’ I passed him my business card. There were no addresses, fax numbers or websites, just my name, my mobile phone number and Alfa in tiny letters in one corner.

‘As I said-’ Greve began, examining my card.

‘Listen,’ I interrupted. ‘No one who values their health refuses Diana. I don’t know what we will talk about, probably about art. Or the future. Or decorating a house. I happen to know a couple of Oslo’s best and most reasonably priced craftsmen. But talk we will. What about three o’clock tomorrow?’

Greve smiled at me for a while. Then he stroked his chin with a narrow hand. ‘I thought the original idea of a business card was that it should equip the receiver with enough information to pay a call?’

I rummaged for my Conklin pen, wrote down the office address on the back of the card and watched it disappear into Greve’s jacket pocket.

‘Look forward to talking to you, Roger, but now I have to get off home and psych myself up to remonstrate with the carpenters in Polish. Say goodbye to your charming wife.’ Greve made a stiff, almost military bow, turned on his heel and went to the door.

Diana sidled up to me as I watched him leave. ‘How did it go, darling?’

‘Fantastic specimen. Just look at how he walks. Feline. Perfect.’

‘Does that mean…?’

‘He even made out that he wasn’t interested in the job. My God, I want that head on my wall, stuffed and with bared teeth.’

She clapped her hands with glee like a little girl. ‘So I was of some help? I was really of some help?’

I stretched up and put my arms around her shoulders. The rooms were vulgarly, wonderfully packed. ‘You are hereby a certified headhunter, my little blossom. How are sales?’

‘We’re not selling this evening. Didn’t I say that?’

I hoped for a second that I had misheard. ‘It’s just… an exhibition?’

‘Atle didn’t want to let go of any of his pictures.’ She smiled as though in apology. ‘I understand him. I suppose you wouldn’t want to lose something that was so beautiful?’

I closed my eyes and swallowed. Thought those soft thoughts.

‘Do you think that was stupid, Roger?’ I heard Diana’s disconcerted voice say and myself answer: ‘Not at all.’

Then I felt her lips against my cheek. ‘You’re so kind, my love. And we can do the selling later anyway. This

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