"You failed." Graham Enright folded his hands on top of the desk. "In addition to terminating Spencer, you were supposed to acquire the notebook."
Julian was standing in front of the art deco portrait on the wall, examining it with the intent expression of a connoisseur. He could have passed for one if necessary. Not only had he received an excellent education that included an appreciation of the fine arts, but he was a born actor.
From his artfully cut blond hair to his fashionable suit with its perfectly knotted tie and elegant pocket square, he looked as if he played polo in his spare time. The accent and manners were pure East Coast Old Money, and it wasn't an act. Julian's ancestors had not actually arrived on the Mayflower, but they had been on board a yacht that docked soon thereafter.
"I assumed the notebook would be in Spencer's safe," Julian said. He looked and sounded bored by the conversation. "It was the logical place to look so I cracked it. Took me several minutes, by the way. When I realized the damned notebook wasn't inside, I searched the study and Spencer's bedroom. It would have been impossible to go through the entire house. The old mansion is huge."
"Spencer probably had a second safe, maybe one hidden in the floor."
Julian inhaled deeply on his cigarette. The brand was French. Very expensive. Very exclusive.
"What did you expect me to do?" he said. He did not take his eyes off the portrait. "Pry up every floorboard in search of a hidden safe? Sorry, I'm not a carpenter. I don't do household remodeling work."
"You shouldn't have gotten rid of Spencer until you had that notebook in your hands."
"Spencer kept a gun in her bureau drawer. At some point she became suspicious. She went for the weapon. I had no choice. It's not my fault I couldn't find the damned notebook."
"The client is not going to be pleased."
"That's your problem, not mine. You're management. I'm just a field agent, remember? True, I'm your only field agent but, nevertheless, I'm just hired help."
Graham ignored the barb. "Enright and Enright has a contract to recover the notebook and get rid of anyone who might have had access to it. I expect you to complete the assignment."
Julian turned around. "I'll be happy to make further inquiries but I want something in return."
Graham controlled his temper with an effort. He was not in a position to bargain. The reputation of Enright & Enright was on the line.
"What do you want?" Graham asked.
"A promotion to vice president of the firm."
Graham pretended to give that some intense thought. Then he nodded curtly.
"Very well," he said. "But I will expect results and I will expect them soon."
Julian's sensual mouth curved faintly. His gem green eyes glinted with amusement. "You really are nervous about this contract, aren't you?"
"I want it completed satisfactorily, yes. The client is a new one with very deep pockets and wide-ranging interests. If we are successful, there is the potential for a great deal of future business."
"You seem particularly keen to land this particular client. Why is it so important?"
"It represents a golden opportunity for the firm to expand its business into the international sphere."
That got Julian's attention, just as Graham had known it would.
"This client has international interests?" Julian asked.
Graham allowed himself a small, satisfied smile. "It does, indeed."
"What sort of interests are we talking about?"
"A wide variety. You read the newspapers. The modern world is an unstable place."
Julian waved that aside. "That's hardly a new development. The world has always been an unstable place. But until now Enright and Enright has confined its activities to the United States."