laurene was only a girl but she knew all about men.
she recognized the man the parthian ambassador had addressed as "gustav" as a type.
a type that could be handled, but with care.
gustav had made himself comfortable in the largest armchair in the large room.
lorenzo had gone to get gustav and the ambassador drinks.
"beer, whatever you got, so long as it 's cold", gustav had requested. was that an american thing, cold beer? laurene had a vague idea that it was - so maybe, despite his un-american name, he really was an american.
but although lorenzo had only been gone a couple of minutes, gustav was drumming his fingers on the arms of his chair.
gustav made laurene a little nervous. but for now, at least, the parthian ambassador - did he have a name? - seemed to have him under control.
laurene took a carefully selected seat, far enough away from gustav to be comfortable, not so far away as to seem she were afraid of him.
the ambassador, who had been looking around the large room - a combination sitting room and library, with a large round table in the center, the one at which genevieve was still unconcernedly pasting in her albums - now sat down in the second largest armchair, about half way between the round table and the chair gustav was sitting in.
and close enough to laurene to put his hand on her knee if he should be inclined to do so.
but he did not seen inclined to do so.
in fact he leaned back in the chair, closed his eyes and blurted out "god, i'm tired".
gustav laughed at this.
joanie lee, who had not stopped fluttering around the room since the ambassador and gustav had arrived, had just finally taken a seat herself, but now jumped up.
"would you like to lie down, sir? we have a guest room down the hall if you would like to lie down."
the ambassador seemed a bit embarrassed at this. "no, thank you, madam. i am not as tired as all that. " he managed a polite smile.
"no," said gustav, "you don't want to close your eyes. they might stab you or cut your throat."
though this was probably a crude attempt at humor, both joanie lee and the ambassador seemed nettled by it.
"now, gustav, there is no call to make such comments about our hosts - hostesses - though we know you are jesting."
joanie lee smiled desperately. "ah - here is lorenzo with your drinks, gentlemen."
lorenzo had a small folding table tucked under his arm and he deftly unfolded it and placed it beside the ambassaor's chair and put his drink on it. he then moved over to gustav, moved a table closer to his chair and placed a bottle of beer with icy condensation on it and a glass on the table.
the ambassador politely thanked "madam" - still not "princess", laurene noted - but the speedy service did not seen to improve gustav's humor.
"i don't suppose you mind if i smoke?" gustav asked. he took a pack of cigarettes - american? - out of his shirt pocket.
"of course not," joanie lee assured him. "lorenzo, bring the gentleman an ashtray."
"ooh yuck," exclaimed stephanie at her table, but without looking up.
joanie lee pretended not to hear, and laurene, strangely, had no impulse to laugh.
stephanie warmed to her theme. "i'm sorry but that is absolutely disgusting."
"stephanie," said joanie lee. "perhaps you would be more comfortable working in your room."
"i guess i would be if he's going to stink the place up." but stephanie made no move to get up from the table or gather up her albums or pictures.
gustav seemed neither amused nor annoyed by stephanie's comments. he began pouring his cold beer into his glass. "so when did you say our man was arriving?" he asked joanie lee.
"she said she didn't know when he was due back," the ambassador quickly answered.
gustav took a sip of his beer. he gave a short laugh. "hey, that's not bad. so we are going to wait all night?"
"we will give him a little while, " the ambassador replied.
"observe the civilized amenities, right? a decent interval?"
"we will wait a little while," the ambassador repeated.
lorenzo returned with a green cut glass ashtray that looked heavy enough to commit murder with and placed it on the table beside gustav.
gustav lit a cigarette with a small silver plated cigarette lighter. he took a deep drag on it and blew smoke into the air.
"eeeeew!" without looking at anybody, stephanie got up and left the room. she left her albums and other paraphernalia behind.
"this is bullshit," gustav announced.
"she's only a child," joanie lee protested.
gustav laughed, really loud this time. "lady, i wasn't talking about my cigarette. i was talking about your husband's factories."
"my husband's factories," stammered joanie lee. "what about them? i mean, i don't know anything about them…"
"we have an agreement drawn up," the ambassador told her, "concerning the exclusive right of the parthian government to the use of your husband's factories and the patents of the products of those factories."
"but you will - you will have to talk to my husband. i have nothing to do with any of that."
"of course, madam," the ambassador replied. "that is why we are waiting for him."
"for a little while," added gustav.
"but - you will have to wait until he gets here. i can't do anything for you."
"you can sign your name, can't you?"
joanie lee just stared at gustav.
laurene spoke up. "but surely there must be some negotiations involved - payment and royalties and all that."
"no, sugar," gustav told her. "there won't be any negotiations."
"is that right?" laurene asked the ambassador.
"the documents have been drawn up," the ambassador replied. "drawn up by the parthian cabinet and general staff. i am afraid we have no time to reconsider or reconstitute them."
joanie lee turned pale and sank back in her chair. "so - war has been declared."
the ambassador spread his hands. "technically, madam - no. but right now i am afraid we have no time for technicalities."
"as far as i'm concerned," put in gustav, "it's always war. so you could say war is declared. but what do i know?"
"but i can't sign anything!" joanie lee insisted.
"i'll sign," said laurene.
"you?" asked the ambassador.
"why not? if there's nothing to say, and somebody has to sign , i might as well sign."
"she's sounds like a bright girl," gustav said to the ambassador. "a real bright girl. sensible, too."
the ambassador looked at laurene. "and you are - "
"i am the princess laurene di lampeduse. the prince is my father."
gustav laughed. "there you go - she's a fucking princess. what more could you ask for? she can sign."
the ambassador cleared his throat. "i still think we should wait a little longer for lampeduse himself."
"yeah we'll wait. we'll wait until i finish my beer."