Abel was surprised when the story hit the papers the next morning, as Polish achievements were rarely reported in any medium other than Dziennik Zwiazkiwy. He doubted that the press would have bothered on this occasion had he not been the Chicago Baron. Abel basked in his new - found glory as an un - surig American hero and spent most of the day having his photograph taken and giving interviews to newsmen.
By the evening Abel felt a sense of anti - climax. The general had flown on to Los Angeles and another function, Florentyna had returned to school in Lake Forest, George was in Chicago, and Henry Osborne in Washington.
The hotel seemed rather large and empty, and he felt no desire to return to Zaphia in Chicago.
He decided to have an early dinner and go ove . r the weekly reports from the other hotels in the group before re turning to the penthouse adjoining his office. He seldom ate alone in his private suite as he welcomed the opportunity of being served in one of the dining rooms whenever pos ale; it was one of the sure ways to keep in constant touch with hotel life. The more hotels he acquired and built, the more he feared losing touch with his staff on the ground.
He took the lift, downstairs and stopped at the reception desk to ask how many people were booked into the hotel that night, but he was distracted by a striking woman signing a registration form. He could have sworn he recognised the profile, but it was difficult to be certain from the side.
Mid - thirties, he thought. When she had finished writing, she turned and looked at him.
'Abel,' she said. 'How marvellous to see you!
'Good God, Melanie. I hardly recognised you: 'No one could fail to recognise you, Abel.'
'I didn't know you were in New York.'
'Only overnight. I'm here on some business for my magazine.'
'You're a journalist?' asked Abel with a hint of disbelief.
'No, I'm the economic advisor to a group of magazines whose headquarters are in Dallas, and they've sent me to New York on a market research project: 'Sounds very impressive!
'I can assure you it isn't~' said Melanie, 'but it keeps me out of mischief.'
'Are you free for dinner, by any chance?'
'What a nice idea, Abel, but I need a bath and a change of clothes if you dont mind waiting?'
'Sure, I can waiL I'll meet you in the main dining room whenever you're ready. Come to my table, say in about an hour.'
She smiled in agreement and followed a bellhop to the lift. He noticed her perfume as she passed him.
Abel spent the hour checking the dining room to be sure that his table had fresh flowers, and the kitchen to select the dishes he would order for Melanie. Finally, by lack of anything better to do, he was compelled to sit down. He found himself glancing at his watch and looking at the dining room door every few moments to see if Melanie would walk in. She took a little over an hour but it turned out to be worth the wait.When at last she appeared at the doorway, in a long clinging dress that shimmered and spark - led in the dining room lights in an unmistakably expensive way, she looked ravishing. The mattre d' ushered her to Abel's table. He rose to greet her as a waiter opened a bottle of vintage Krug and poured them both a glass.
'Welcome, Melanie,' said Abel as he raised his goblet. 'It's good to see you in the Baron.'
'It's good to see the Baron,' she replied, 'especially on his day of celebration.'
'What do you mean?' asked.Abel.
'I read all about your big dinner in the New York Post tonight, how you risked your own life to save those who had been wounded at Remagen. It kept me glued to the page all the way over here from the station. They made you sound like a cross between Audie Murphy and the Unknown Soldier.'
,ies all exaggerated,' said Abel.
'I've never known you to be modest about anything before, Abel, so I can only believe every word must be true.'
He poured her a second glass of champagne.
'The,truth is, I've always been a little frightened of you, Mehurie.'
'The Baron is frightened of someone? I don't believe it.'
'Well, I'm no Southern gentleman, as you once made very clear, my dear.'
'And you have never stopped reminding me.' She smiled, teasingly. 'Did you marry your nice Polish girlF 'Yes, I did.'
'How did that work out?'
'Not so well. She's now fat and forty and no longer has any appeal for me.'
'You'll be telling me next that she doesn't understand you,' said Melanie, the tone of her voice betraying her pleasure at his reply.
'And did you find yourself a husband?' asked Abel.