Another guest at La Rumorosa is Charlie Swan, whom [MAX] knew at college. Charlie, a world-famous architect, is a man of "extraordinary height and tightly curled hair very short, so that his head reminded one of a Roman bust." Charlie proves quite the Roman.
He looks at human relationships in terms of pure politics-those who are loyal, those who betray. One night Charlie corners Max and verbally assaults him. Max "betrayed" him in the past when he "took so little time to know (him)." Charlie commands friendship as Caesar might have: "Henceforth, you are one of my intimates-they are very few! . . . Do not betray me again!"
Fate will have a way of forcing Max to take the trouble to know Charlie. He will also take the trouble to know a beautiful young man-"Eros himself"-called Toby, whom Max first spots by the pool at the villa. The young American, barely out of his teens, is Charlie's lover, protege and ultimate source of destruction.