The Rosie Project Page 69

Now as I walked to the Dean\s office another thought occurred to me. What if my teacher had been a brilliant theologian, equipped with two thousand years of well-articulated Christian thinking? She would have had more compelling arguments than an eleven-year-old. Would I have then been satisfied? I suspect not. As a scientist, with an allegiance to scientific thinking, I would have had a deep-seated feeling that I was being, as Rosie would say, bullshitted. Was that how Faith Healer had felt?

Had the flounder demonstration been an instance of bullying as heinous as the one committed by my religious education teacher, even though I was right?

As we entered the Dean\s office for what I expected to be the last time, I took notice of her full name on the door, and a minor confusion was resolved. Professor Charlotte Lawrence. I had never thought of her as \Charlie\, but presumably Simon Lefebvre did.

We entered her office and sat down. \I see we\ e in our job interview clothes,\ she said. \I\m sorry you didn\ see fit to grace us with them during your time here.\

I did not respond.

\So. No report. No explanation?\

Again, I could not think of anything appropriate to say.

Simon Lefebvre appeared at the door. Obviously this had been planned. The Dean - Charlie - waved him in.

\You can save time by explaining to Simon and me together.\

Lefebvre was carrying the documents that I had given him.

At that point, the Dean\s personal assistant, Regina, who is not objectified by having the words \The Beautiful\ included in her name, entered the room.

\Sorry to bother you, Professor,\ she said, ambiguously, as we were all professors, for the next few minutes at least, but the context made it clear she was addressing the Dean. \I\ve got a problem with your booking at Le Gavroche. They seem to have taken you off the VIP list.\

The Dean\s face registered annoyance but she waved Regina away.

Simon Lefebvre smiled at me. \You could\ve just sent me this,\ he said, referring to the documents. \No need for the idiot-savant impression. Which I have to concede was beautifully done. As is the proposal. We\ll need to run it by the ethics guys, but it\s exactly what we\ e looking for. Genetics and medicine, topic\s current, we\ll both get publicity.\

I attempted to analyse the Dean\s expression. It was beyond my current skill set.

\So congratulations, Charlie,\ said Simon. \You\ve got your joint research project. The Medical Research Institute is prepared to put in four mill, which is more than the budget actually specifies, so you\ e set to go.\

I presumed he meant four million dollars.

He pointed to me. \Hang on to this one, Charlie. He\s a dark horse. And I need him to be part of the project.\

I got my first real return on my investment in improved social skills. I had worked out what was going on. I did not ask a silly question. I did not put the Dean in a position of untenable embarrassment where she might work against her own interests. I just nodded and walked back to my office.

Phil Jarman had blue eyes. I knew this but it was the first thing I noticed. He was in his mid-fifties, about ten centimetres taller than me, powerfully built and extremely fit-looking. We were standing in front of the reception desk at Jarman\s Gym. On the wall were newspaper cuttings and photos of a younger Phil playing football. If I had been a medical student without advanced martial-arts skills, I would have thought carefully before having se* with this man\s girlfriend. Perhaps this was the simple reason that Phil had never been informed of the identity of Rosie\s father.

\Get the prof some gear and get his signature on a waiver form.\

The woman behind the counter seemed puzzled.

\It\s just an assessment.\

\New procedure starts today,\ said Phil.

\I don\ require an assessment,\ I began, but Phil seemed to have fixed ideas.

\You booked one,\ he said. \Sixty-five bucks. Let\s get you some boxing gloves.\

I wondered if he realised that he had called me \prof\. Presumably Rosie had been right, and he had seen the dancing picture. I had not bothered to disguise my name. But at least I knew that he knew who I was. Did he know that I knew that he knew who I was? I was getting quite good at social subtleties.

I changed into a singlet and shorts, which smelled freshly laundered, and we put on boxing gloves. I had only done the occasional boxing workout, but I was not afraid of getting hurt. I had good defensive techniques if necessary. I was more interested in talking.

\Let\s see you hit me,\ said Phil.

I threw some gentle punches which Phil blocked.

\Come on,\ he said. \Try to hurt me.\

He asked for it.

\Your stepdaughter is trying to locate her real father because she\s dissatisfied with you.\

Phil dropped his guard. Very poor form. I could have landed a punch unimpeded if we were in a real bout.

\Stepdaughter?\ he said. \That\s what she\s calling herself? That\s why you\ e here?\

He threw a hard punch and I had to use a proper block to avoid being hit. He recognised it and tried a hook. I blocked that too and counterpunched. He avoided it nicely.

\Since it\s unlikely she\ll succeed, we need to fix the problem with you.\

Phil threw a straight hard one at my head. I blocked and stepped away.

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