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chapter 2
At ten o'clock the next morning, reading page four of the current Wall Street Journal, Orison was interrupted by the click of a pair of leather heels. The gentleman whose heels had just slammed together was bowing. And she saw with some gratification that he was not wearing earmuffs. "My name," the stranger said, "is Dink Gerding. I am President of this bank, and wish at this time to welcome you to our little family."
"I'm Orison McCall," she said. A handsome man, she mused. Twenty-eight? So tall. Could he ever be interested in a girl just five-foot-three? Maybe higher heels?
"We're pleased with your work, Miss McCall," Dink Gerding said. He took the chair to the right of her desk.
"It's nothing," Orison said, switching off the microphone.
"On the contrary, Miss McCall. Your duties are most important," he said.
"Reading papers and fairy-tales into this microphone is nothing any reasonably astute sixth-grader couldn't do as well," Orison said.
"You'll be reading silently before long," Mr. Gerding said. He smiled, as though this explained everything. "By the way, your official designation is Confidential Secretary. It's me whose confidences you're to keep secret. If I ever need a letter written, may I stop down here and dictate it?"
"Please do," Orison said. This bank president, for all his grace and presence, was obviously as kookie as his bank.
"Have you ever worked in a bank before, Miss McCall?" Mr. Gerding asked, as though following her train of thought.
"No, sir," she said. "Though I've been associated with a rather large financial organization."
"You may find some of our methods a little strange, but you'll get used to them," he said. "Meanwhile, I'd be most grateful if you'd dispense with calling me 'sir.' My name is Dink. It is ridiculous, but I'd enjoy your using it."
"Dink?" she asked. "And I suppose you're to call me Orison?"
"That's the drill," he said. "One more question, Orison. Dinner this evening?"
Direct, she thought. Perhaps that's why he's president of a bank, and still so young. "We've hardly met," she said.
"But we're on a first-name basis already," he pointed out. "Dance?"
"I'd love to," Orison said, half expecting an orchestra to march, playing, from the elevator.
"Then I'll pick you up at seven. Windsor Arms, if I remember your personnel form correctly." He stood, lean, all bone and muscle, and bowed slightly. West Point? Hardly. His manners were European. Sandhurst, perhaps, or Saint Cyr. Was she supposed to reply with a curtsy? Orison wondered.
"Thank you," she said.
He was a soldier, or had been: the way, when he turned, his shoulders stayed square. The crisp clicking of his steps, a military metronome, to the elevator. When the door slicked open Orison, staring after Dink, saw that each of the half-dozen men aboard snapped off their hats (but not their earmuffs) and bowed, the earmuffed operator bowing with them. Small bows, true; just head-and-neck. But not to her. To Dink Gerding.
Orison finished the Wall Street Journal by early afternoon. A page came up a moment later with fresh reading-matter: a copy of yesterday's Congressional Record. She launched into the Record, thinking as she read of meeting again this evening that handsome madman, that splendid lunatic, that unlikely bank-president. "You read so well, darling," someone said across the desk.
Orison looked up. "Oh, hello," she said. "I didn't hear you come up."
"I walk ever so lightly," the woman said, standing hip-shot in front of the desk, "and pounce ever so hard." She smiled. Opulent, Orison thought. Built like a burlesque queen. No, she thought, I don't like her. Can't. Wouldn't if I could. Never cared for cats.
"I'm Orison McCall," she said, and tried to smile back without showing teeth.
"Delighted," the visitor said, handing over an undelighted palm. "I'm Auga Vingt. Auga, to my friends."
"Won't you sit down, Miss Vingt?"
"So kind of you, darling," Auga Vingt said, "but I shan't have time to visit. I just wanted to stop and welcome you as a Taft Bank co-worker. One for all, all for one. Yea, Team. You know."
"Thanks," Orison said.
"Common courtesy," Miss Vingt explained. "Also, darling, I'd like to draw your attention to one little point. Dink Gerding—you know, the shoulders and muscles and crewcut? Well, he's posted property. Should you throw your starveling charms at my Dink, you'd only get your little eyes scratched out. Word to the wise, n'est-ce pas?"
"Sorry you have to leave so suddenly," Orison said, rolling her Wall Street Journal into a club and standing. "Darling."
"So remember, Tiny, Dink Gerding is mine. You............
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