It was Friday afternoon in the office of Babbitt Cars, Los Angeles. Charlie Babbitt was shouting on the phone.
‘But I have waited five weeks for these cars. Where are they?’
On another phone, Charlie’s secretary, Susanna, was talking to a customer. The customer wanted six Lamborghini cars and he wanted them that day. Then a call came from the bank.
Susanna put her hand over the phone. ‘They want you to pay back the money you borrowed,’ she said. ‘They want it this afternoon.’
‘Tell them I’ll pay oft Monday,’ said Charlie. Then he spoke into his own phone. ‘You can have the cars on Monday, sir… Yes, I’m sure… Thank you, sir!’
Charlie put the phone down and smiled for the first time in a week. Monday. And this was only Friday! He had the weekend to think of something to save his business.
He looked over at Susanna, his Italian secretary. She was his girl and she was so beautiful! Charlie loved every part of her little body, her big black eyes, her long brown hair.
‘Are you ready for our weekend in Palm Springs?’
Susanna looked surprised. ‘We’re still going?’
‘Of course,’ said Charlie. ‘Don’t worry about this little problem. I’m going to make eighty thousand dollars from those cars.’ He smiled his best smile. ‘Not bad… for two or three phone calls.’
They were driving through the desert when a call came through on Charlie’s car phone.
‘Mr Babbitt? Mr Charles Babbitt?’ It was a girl’s voice.
‘I’m calling for Mr John Mooney. He’s your father’s lawyer… here in Cincinnati. And… I’m sorry, but it’s bad news. Your father has died, sir.’
‘Oh, no!’ Susanna said, her eyes on Charlie. But his face didn’t change, and he didn’t say a word.
‘The funeral is on Sunday, Mr Babbitt. I’ve got his telephone number if you…’
But Charlie was not listening. He just continued to look at the road in front of them.
‘Oh, Charlie,’ Susanna said softly. ‘Are you all right?’
He didn’t answer, but a few seconds later he turned off the road and stopped the car. ‘Sorry about the weekend,’ he said finally.
‘The weekend?’ Susanna said. ‘Charlie -‘
Charlie did not look at her. ‘Look,’ he said quietly, ‘I hated my father and he hated me.’
Susanna looked across at him. Charlie was only twenty-six, but she thought he was the most handsome man in the world. He was tall and strong, with thick dark hair and a wonderful smile.
‘Poor Charlie! That’s very sad.’
‘My mother died when I was two. And then it was just… me and him.’
Susanna bit her lip and touched Charlie on the shoulder. ‘What happened?’
Charlie was silent. Then he said, ‘Nothing I did was ever good enough for him.’
‘I’m going with you to the funeral,’ Susanna said suddenly.
Charlie smiled. ‘That’s nice,’ he said, ‘but you don’t need to.’
‘I want to go,’ Susanna said.
Charlie looked across at Susanna. ‘I forgot who I was talking to,’ he said, with a small, sad smile.