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PRIVATE CHAUFFEUR

 

Chapter I

 

GARY HEASLIP

 

Gary Heaslip was not sure he liked the way she looked at him. It made him feel uncomfortable, even a little undressed. He glanced down in brief inventory at his polished tan shoes, his medium-costly Harris tweed suit and what he could see of his darkly quiet necktie. He found nothing to justify the way she was studying him.

“Would you be good enough to step over there by the light?”

He stepped, choking off an impulse to refuse. He thought, shouldn’t she be asking for references? Inquiring about previous experience?

Her voice, throaty and huskily sensuous, said, “How tall are you?”

“Five eleven and a half.” What had that to do with being a chauffeur?

“Married?”

“Not recently.”

“I asked you a question.”

“I answered it. Unmarried.”

“Good. You’ll do!” She rose to her feet. “Can you start at once?”

“I have some things to pick up at my hotel. But I suppose I can.” He walked toward her from the window and looked down at her. “Wouldn’t it help if I knew your name, Miss—uh?”

“Mrs. Carter. Mrs. Ivan Carter.” She was still eyeing him. In that odd way. It was, he felt, the way he should have been looking at her. So he did. Somewhere around thirty-eight, he figured, although she appeared younger. That would make her, well, maybe five years older than he was. But the maturity lay in her manner, not in her looks, which were strictly the kind that took a man’s mind off his work. Her hair was dark red. It framed a skin as fine and youthful and unmarred as a child’s.

He thought, “Some dame!” and felt vaguely reassured that he was thinking normally again.

“What are your arrangements with the agency?”

“They get half my salary for the first four weeks.”

“I’ll take care of that,” Mrs. Carter said, “If you’re quite ready, we can pick up your things and get right out to the house.”

“Look, Mrs. Carter, isn’t it customary to ask references of employees? Don’t you want to know anything about background?”

She smiled. Suddenly she was altogether lovely. “If you insist,” she said. “The agency recommends you very highly, and— you rather recommend yourself.”

“Roger,” he said. With a slight semi-military salute, he held the door open for her.

A Cadillac convertible stood at the curb. “You drive,” she said.

He walked around the front of the car and got into the driver’s seat.

“We’ll go to your hotel first. Then I’ll direct you. He started the car. “Mrs. Carter, did the agency tell you I expect three hundred and forty a month, with keep?”

“Of course. I intend to improve on that if—if all goes well.”

Gary shook his head. The whole thing didn’t make sense. The way Mrs. Carter had interviewed him had been like a Catherine of Russia selecting a cavalry recruit, or a horse breeder studying a stud stallion. He thought, maybe she’s one of those dolls who buy up men for personal use—like toothbrushes. Even the salary was odd, because when he’d gone to the agency for a job he’d told them that it had to pay over eighty a week, and it hadn’t occurred to him that they’d offer him a job as a chauffeur.

He pulled up in front of the hotel and turned off the ignition. “I’ll be right down, Mrs. Carter,” he said.

“You may call me,” she said, as he was getting out from behind the wheel, “Dolores—when we’re alone.”

“Roger,” he said, passed in front of the car, and disappeared into the hotel.

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