FOUR PLAY: the mercury rises too high

ROOM 400. I smile. I have to admire Sandy’s fastidiousness. He wants this deal brought in at 400 basis points over Libor. My room reservation is his idea of a gentle reminder. 450 would have been a threat and anything on the fifth floor and I’d be on the phone to a decent headhunter.

I insert the electronic key, turn the handle and enter the room. The lights fade up. Everything’s in its familiar place. It feels like I’ve stayed here before. Maybe I have.

I’ve got just two messages of significance. Sandy wants me to call before the client dinner. And Maria wants me to call as soon as possible.

I know what Sandy’s up to and I’ll need my wits about me. I know he knows what my bonus is. And he knows I know. I also know he won’t tell me on the phone and will delight in stringing me along. 400k? No. I take a shower and consider my tactics.

I call. No answer. It’s 6 o’clock in London. I’m certain he’s still in the office. And a step ahead of me it seems. I draft a casual text message. Something about 425 basis points. And then save it. Maybe I’ll send it later.

I call Maria. The phone rings. I turn on the television and hit the mute button.

“Hello.”

“Maria, it’s…” I forget whether I’m David or Mr Cashman to her. “It’s Noel’s father here.”

“Ah, Mr David, your wife is not home and I can’t get her on the telephone. I need to let you know. To let one of you know. Noel, he’s very hot.”

“Hot? Where’s…”

“Hot. Temperature. 40 degrees.”

“40 degrees? Where the hell…” Wait, I tell myself. If Maria senses matrimonial discord she might quit. She’s temperamental and hasn’t forgiven me for her inadequate Christmas bonus.

“40 degrees” I repeat. “That’s, that is hot. How is he? When did…”

“He wants to speak to you.” Silence. 40 degrees. Is that hot I ask myself? How hot is that?

“Hello? Noel? Maria?”

“Daddy, I love you.”

“Noel, darling, I love you too. Mummy will be home soon… Noel?”

“Mr David.”

“Ah, Maria.”

“It’s ok. I can wait until your wife comes home.”

“Yes. Thank you.” I slump onto the bed. Wrung out. On television there is political unrest across the Middle East.

I hear Noel’s four tiny words, “Daddy, I love you.” Life is tough sometimes but I don’t know how else to live. Continued next week.