Andi's office was about half-way along the corridor, and the door squeaked, when she opened it, from lack of use. Inside, a black-and-white zigzag-patterned carpet led the eye and the visitor across the floor to a wide, cherry-wood desk, behind which was a leather chair mounted on both castors and bearings. The chair, which had belonged to her grandfather Malcom Braggart, swivelled, rolled and elevated allowing the person seated to move in all three dimensions. Her grandfather had said that it made him nauseous after a while, but it impressed people. Andi rather enjoyed it, as it reminded her of a roller-coaster she'd once be taken to, as a child, on Coney Island.
James was stood with their governess, Madam Hortie, holding her gloved hand and looking fearful. Andi had ventured towards the gate of the ride immediately, her eyes lively, darting here and there, drinking it all in. Next to her, moving just as fast, was Filipo, looking like a South American prince in miniature. And behind them both, tagging along eagerly, was Oskar Crepidarian, who was so scared of the ride he was almost wetting himself, but more scared of disappointing Andi and Filipo. He caught up with them as they halted at the gate of the ride, small children looking in a very adult way at the carny who operated it.
"Andi, Filipo, I don't think your parents would care for you to go on this ride," said Madam Hortie. Around Andi's parents, and Filipo's father on the very rare occasions he came to collect Filipo, she had a soft, refined French accent. Here, alone with the children, she sounded like a slightly drunk southern belle.
"We will ride," said Andi to the carny. He looked as though he was about to object, but she put her hand in her pocket and pulled coins out. "We can pay."
Filipo's hand was in his pocket instantly, also pulling coins out, while Oskar just hung his head, knowing that they would insist on paying for him as well. He wished that just once he could afford to pay for all three of them, but the money in his pocket wouldn't even cover the fare for a single ride for himself.
"Right you are, Miss," said the carny accepting her money. Filipo flashed her a look, and she returned it serenely: there's more where that came from, she seemed to say, and I'll see to it that that will always be the case. "Board your carriage, please."
"One day, I'll have sole ownership over something you need," said Filipo as they clambered aboard a green four-seater car. The seat were simple benches of wood, and there were hand-grips on the front and sides of the car. Oskar climbed in behind them, and James hid behind Madam Hortie's skirts so that they couldn't see him and taunt him about not joining them. "One day, I'll control all the steel, and then Braggart Railroads will have to be nice to me!"
"I'm always nice to you now, Filipo," said Andi. "But how do you know that I'll control Braggart Railroad?"
"We're both destined for great things," said Filipo, and his words had a ring of truth to them. Then the car jerked into motion, and began the ascent towards the first drop.
Andi knew where Filipo was now, as he'd been reported in all the newspapers for weeks. The latest headlines suggested that there would be a court-case soon, where the wife of a diplomat would have an accusation to level that would startle the world. Andi strongly suspected that no such accusation would be brought, and the diplomat would be reposted abroad sooner than he'd expected. She had no doubts either than Filipo had not done whatever it was; the headlines were just his way of announcing that he was coming to town.
She walked across the room and sat down in the leather chair. Her inbox was half-full, which annoyed her as she'd left it empty last time she was in here. Her outbox was also half-full, and that annoyed her even more as everything in there should have been taken away by a secretary -- a nameless nobody dressed in beige who knew her way around a typewriter -- and processed already. Her hand was stretching towards the telephone, ready to dial the head of the secretarial pool and find out what was happening when a timid tap at her door presaged Oskar's head appearing from behind it.