That same night, nobody seemed to be bothered about the storm, busy as they were drinking champagne in tuxedos and evening dresses, in the History Aisle of King's College London. The main hall, a hall so wide and so high you could build a train station inside, had the large windows and pearl white pillared stone walls typical of Renaissance-style buildings, with tiles on the floor displaying a simple checkered pattern of black and white. Everything was so white in this imposing hall that the light of the richly decorated electric chandeliers was enough to make the guests of the LBPS fundraising party feel as though they were in broad daylight. The guests, this finely dressed, champagne drinking, chitchatting crowd, were moving around idly between the portraits of the most notable students, professors and patrons, hung on the walls, and the various treasures dug up by the Society, carefully displayed with silk cushions on stalls in the middle of the room. And sitting in a corner, a five-piece orchestra was playing a soft, ambient music.
For Sean, a cocky young trader from the City, these parties were a masquerade and a bore. He didn't care about the church ornaments or the half-burnt books, no matter how old they were, or the broken pieces of Victorian silverware recovered from the ruins. He was only here to make a donation, chat with the host, and give his company a good publicity. And it was easy to guess it was the same for ninety percent of the guests here, all traders, corporate leaders, or rotting old Lords and Ladies, lest we forget the few MPs who were here for their campaigns. And all of these people were exchanging mundanities, or commenting on the treasures on display with forced wonder... it made him sick, all that hypocrisy...
A familiar tune played by the orchestra caught his ear, and he grabbed the waiter that passed by him, a young man whom he guessed was a student who volunteered for the night.
"Hey, boy !"
"Sir?" the boy answered coyly. "How can I help you?"
"Is that Stairway to Heaven they're playing right now?"
"Yes, sir. It was an idea of us, students, we thought we may add a modern touch to their repertoire."
"Well," Sean answered, drawing an involuntary smile, "there's a good idea!"
"Thank you, sir."
The waiter walked away, leaving Sean to wonder. A modern touch? That boy must be at least fifteen years younger than he was, and even he thought Led Zeppelin was getting too old to be called modern. But everything in this place seemed so old-fashioned! He felt sorry for the boy, who looked so uneasy in his tuxedo, looking so pale and his eyes so sunken, like he had a bad case of the flu, and yet forced himself to come to work among all those annoying rich people.
"I see Mister has taste in music," a female voice addressed him sarcastically. "Such a shame you don't have the same taste in clothing."
He turned around, but he already knew who he would be facing. Miss Lucy Rofocale, the only one who could be so cold to people she had never met. A legend among the men in the business: a green-eyed Latin beauty, she was in her forties and had aged so gracefully, like a fine French wine, that she was a most desirable woman even to the youngest traders. And she was said to be single. Yet she was also the haughtiest woman in the world, as though she were way above simple mortal men... which, in a way, made her even more desirable.
"Miss Rofocale," he stammered, impressed by her magnetism. "It's an honour to meet you. I am..."
"Sean Bradford," she cut him, "yes I know who you are. We at Hall, Ltd. are always looking for new blood. Feel free to apply anytime."
He couldn't believe his ears. They had barely met and she was offering him a job? He couldn't even mumble an answer when she told him she was expected and left. He followed her with his eyes and saw her go to chat with the host of the party, who had just arrived.