CHAPTER II

 

 

The tests for Randall Anthony and Nancy Shannon showed up at the studio in September. Howard sat through a screening with Sterling and came back in a thoughtful mood.

“Well, they’re not bad,” he said. “Maybe not bad is good enough. The boy’s got talent, sure enough. But he acts for the stage and he doesn’t photograph all that well. The girl, I don’t know. She photographs like a million bucks, but she’s stiff. Her dancing…well, she can hoof it okay, but she also does this kind of Isadora Duncan crap that might work all right for vaudeville, but I don’t know about pictures.

“Listen,” he went on, “O.B.’s beginning to have his doubts, but he still thinks the kid’s worth taking on if we can get him short term for a couple or three hundred a week. He’s going to have some directors look at the tests with Merv — ” Mervin Katz was head of casting — “and see what they say. If we decide to bite, O.B.’ll send a lawyer back east to sign them up. I want somebody from here to go along, and I can’t go myself. You feel like a week in New York?”

“Autumn in Manhattan? I’ll say.”

“Good. Count on it, ’cause I think O.B.’s going to bite. Give Margo a ring and find out when they’re running the tests tomorrow. I think you should see them.”

I called Margo, O.B.’s secretary, and found out when to show up and at which screening room the next day. When I got there I mounted up to the back row and took a seat. O.B. had already assembled his audience. Mervin Katz was there, sitting in the back not far from me, hunched over a ten-inch cigar. In the row in front of us and a few seats closer to the door was Dan Parkman of hair and makeup. There were a few directors: Frank Harmon, who shot pictures as if his hair was on fire, always coming in days ahead of schedule and thousands under budget; Jack Overman, the studio’s specialist in weepers and women’s pictures; and Harry Walker, who handled the westerns that were shot at the Sterling Ranch up in the Valley. Sitting next to O.B. was one of the pool stenographers, and on the other side of her was Leo Sharp, O.B.’s favorite cameraman.

O.B. dimmed the lights with the dial on his chairside console and buzzed the projectionist to roll, and I began to understand why Oliver Sterling’s enthusiasm had started to go cool.

The first test was seven or eight minutes long, silent, a series of closeups and medium shots of Anthony in different lighting. You could get an idea of the photographer trying different lights, filters and lenses. Some looked better than others, but I could see what Howard meant: Anthony didn’t look as good on film as he did in person. His head looked too big, his eyes too prominent. The aristocratic nose was bulbous and his full lips looked flabby and sensuously weak. Seen full-on his eyes were off center, and he hadn’t learned not to look directly into the lens. It wasn’t hopeless, but it would take some work, behind the camera and in front of it, to make him come off. Down front, Leo Sharp was muttering to O.B. and the stenographer, probably telling them the kind of things I was thinking as I watched the test, plus a lot of other stuff that he would know and I wouldn’t.

The next test had sound, a scene from Thief in the Night, the murder mystery the studio had bought after our last trip east. It was Anthony in a medium shot, being interrogated by a voice off camera. The voice was barely audible but female, probably a script girl, and you could occasionally hear a man’s voice coaching from the side. The sound recording wasn’t too good, even with the microphone sitting in plain sight on the table right in front of him, but at least he had a voice. And boy did he use it. He read lines like a politician on the night before election.

Then came a two-scene with Anthony and an actress I didn’t know, probably some New York kid hired for the day. It was okay, but it had all the problems Anthony had shown in the other tests. Once again, it wasn’t exactly a lost cause, but he wasn’t a natural either.

When the film ran out O.B. turned up the lights and swiveled his chair around to face the others. They talked over what they’d seen, and they had more or less the same reaction to Anthony that I did. Harry Walker said forget him for westerns; he’d look like Little Lord Fauntleroy playing cowboys and Indians. But Harmon and Overman saw possibilities. Dan Parkman said the face could use the right emphasis but he didn’t need anything serious; besides, he had good teeth and that could count for a lot. Merv Katz said it was O.B.’s money, but as far as he was concerned the more people they had under contract the better; if everybody else could work with him, then so could Merv.

O.B. gave Leo Sharp the last word, and Leo approved. “Whoever shot these tests must be losing his eyesight,” he said. “The boy’ll need work, sure, but I think he’ll pay off in the end. We can use a good general-purpose second lead.”

O.B. nodded and turned back to the screen, buzzing the booth to run Nancy Shannon’s tests. They were pretty good. Howard was right, she did look great on camera. He was right about the dancing, too — especially the Isadora Duncan crap. That would never go in pictures. Even so, the dancing was the only time she was really comfortable with the camera, probably because she could ignore it, and it made her look good. She had a grace and suppleness that didn’t surprise me at all, having seen her striding across the Algonquin lobby. It made you see hope in her even when she recited the dialogue in her sound tests like she was reading the Times obituary column. She may have been in vaudeville, but I got the feeling she hadn’t spoken much on stage.

When the lights came up, the talk about her was much the same. Nobody was panting with enthusiasm about either one of them, but they all thought there was a chance, that the price would probably be right, and that the studio needed to build up its stable of contract players.

O.B. turned and looked at me for the first time. “Dill,” he bellowed, “did Howard talk to you about this?”

“Yeah, sort of, Mr. Sterling,” I said. I stood up and walked down to the front so he didn’t have to yell. “He said if you decided to sign them he’d want me to go along with the lawyer who closes the deal.”

“Well, go home and pack. I think what we’re gonna do is sign them for a year, see if we can coach them along. If the year works out, we’ll offer them a standard contract after that. And Dill,” he went on, stopping me as I turned to go, “if these kids want to know what the reaction to their tests was, you tell ’em, and give it to ’em straight. But make it sound like you’re going behind my back. Got it?”

“Got it, Mr. Sterling.”

O.B. wasn’t kidding about going home and packing. As I got back to the office, Howard hung up the phone and said, “You’re leaving tomorrow. We’ll have a driver pick you up and someone will meet your train in New York and take you to your hotel.”

I caught the L.A. Limited from Central Station at nine the next morning with Herman Rambauer, one of the boys from the legal office, and three days later we tranferred to the Broadway Limited in Chicago. Herman would do all the talking and sign the papers, Howard told me. I was there to get to know Randall Anthony and Nancy Shannon, since I would be working on making them famous after Sterling National put them to work.

We pulled into Penn Station on a Thursday; we would stay through the weekend and head home the following Monday. When we got to our hotel — the Algonquin again — Herman called and made an appointment to see the Anthonys. It took some doing, as they didn’t have a phone and the play Anthony had been doing had closed, but Herman managed to get a message to them through a hall phone in the boarding house they lived in over on West Fifty-Third.

When they came to see us at the hotel, of course, they knew why we were there. O.B.’s office had wired them the offer while Herman and I were traveling; he was just there to talk about the details and get their names on the dotted line. I noticed a difference in them this time from what I had seen on our trip back that spring. Before, when they talked in generalities with O.B. and Howard, they had been breezy and carefree, as if this were all just a lark; they had been like a couple of penniless kids window shopping at Tiffany’s. Now things were different. They had the brass ring in sight and things really mattered. Their eyes were a little sharper, their laughter — when they laughed, which wasn’t often — a little more forced. They tried to make a show of nonchalance, but I could tell they were eager to sign.

Herman could tell too. He was authorized to go as high as $500 a week for each of them, but he started at $175 and they bit at $300. They made a show of being persuaded, even stepped into the next room to pretend to talk it over, but I don’t think they’d ever seen $300 a week in all their time in New York.

 “All right then,” Herman said as he leaned over the coffee table to blot the signatures on the contracts, “we’re all set. You are to report for work at Sterling National Studios one month from today. Any time during the day will do, but it will be better if you can report before noon. Give your names to the guard at the gate and someone will come out to escort you to the casting office. And one more thing.” He reached over and picked up a ledger-sized checkbook, opened it and started to write. The room was quiet as he did so, the only sound the scratching of his pen. Randall and Nancy glanced at each other and craned their necks, ever so slightly, in an effort to see what Herman was doing.

When he finished he tore the check out, waved it to dry the ink, then blotted it. “I am authorized,” he said, “to pay you the sum of six hundred and fifty dollars. This constitutes a $100 signing bonus for each of you, plus an allowance of $250 to cover your travel expenses to California. The rest is an advance on your salaries to be deducted from your pay envelopes at the rate of $25 per week for four weeks. Please sign this receipt.” He slid the receipt across and rotated it with his fingertips to face them. They signed, and Randall took the check. His hand trembled slightly.

Herman stood, and the rest of us followed suit. He held out his hand. “Welcome to Sterling National, Mr. Anthony.” Then, shaking hands with Nancy, “Miss Shannon. We look forward to working with you both.”

The two of them made similar noises, and as Herman and I walked them to the door, he went on. “Do you have plans for this evening? I’d like to invite you both to join me and Mr. Diller here at the hotel for dinner.”

Anthony shook his head with a smile. “I’m afraid I have a previous engagement. But I think Nancy is free. Dear?”

She shot him a glance of irritation, but washed it away almost before I could see it. “Couldn’t you, just this once…?”

“Afraid not, honey, you know that,” he said, and all at once, for some reason, there was a current of simmering tension between them. Herman ignored it, maintaining a bland lawyer’s poker face, while I looked back and forth between our newest contract players wondering what was up.

The moment quickly passed, shoved aside by Nancy as she turned and flashed a smile at Herman and me. “Well, then, thank you, I’ll be glad to. What time?” She said it so brightly that if I hadn’t been paying attention, I might have thought I’d imagined the little duel of wills between husband and wife in the last couple of seconds.

She met us in the lobby at half past eight that evening, dressed to the nines in blue and black with a long string of knotted white beads, and carrying a little sequined clutch bag. The dress looked great on her, but I got the impression that either she had borrowed it or she didn’t get many chances to wear it.

Over dinner Herman and I drew her out about her career on the stage. She protested that she didn’t like to talk about herself, but she was a performer, so I didn’t really think I needed to believe that. I told her that I was in publicity and I had to know as much about her and Randall as I could. That gave her the permission she needed to open up.

Her parents had been a double act in vaudeville and Nancy and her older sister joined the act as kids. They ran afoul of the Gerry Society from time to time, but the two girls, by the time they were in their teens, were the mainstay of the act. Five years ago, Nancy’s sister got married and quit the biz, and she’d been doing a solo since then. Jobs were getting scarce, even the big-time circuits couldn’t guarantee the work they used to, and she had found herself laying off for longer and longer periods. She had gotten a little legit work in town, but they usually wanted hoofers. She had a little tap, she said, but she didn’t really hoof; she billed herself as an “artistic” dancer.

I asked her if she’d ever tried acting. She kind of grimaced, as if she knew how awkward she looked in her tests, then turned it into a game smile. “Not much, a couple of lines here and there. Even in vaude, first my folks then my sister did most of the talking. Randy coaches me. He’s very good, you know.”

“You both are.”

She changed the subject back to Randy, telling us about his experience — high school and college dramatics, supernumerary work with touring companies after he dropped out of Penn State, waiting tables while trying to get work in New York, all the usual stuff. Frankly, I figured I could make up a more interesting story for him, and I made a mental note to do just that when I got back to the office.

About ten-thirty Herman excused himself, saying something about having to review some papers he’d brought with him. As he headed out to the elevators, Nancy gave me a sidelong look. “Am I keeping you up too?”

“Not me. I finished my homework hours ago.” We both sat back down.

“Good,” she said. “I’m not tired either. As a matter of fact…” She looked around, then leaned toward me and lowered her voice. “I’m thirsty, and I’m tired of drinking coffee. There’s a nice little speakeasy over on Eighth Avenue and I know the password. What do you say?”

To tell the truth, this sounded good to me, but just to be a dutiful studio man, I decided I’d better offer the straight-arrow line. I cleared my throat and took a deep breath. “If you read your contract, Miss Shannon, you’ll see that there’s something called a morals clause, stating that you agree, among other things, not to engage in any unlawful conduct, or in any activity detrimental or deleterious to the fortunes of Sterling National Pictures.”

Her eyes went wide and she chuckled. “Well now, that’s quite a mouthful. Do they make you memorize it?”

“And recite it every night when we go to bed, like the Lord’s Prayer.” I stubbed my cigarette out in the ashtray between us. “If you were to be discovered at such an illegal establishment, I’m afraid it would embarrass the studio and jeopardize your career before it had even begun.”

She leaned back and paused, looking straight and level into my eyes. “Well then,” she said at last, “I guess you’d better come with me and make sure I don’t get into any trouble.”

I grinned. “I’d say it’s the least I can do. Do we need a cab?”

She shook her head. “Let’s walk.”

The place she took me to looked quiet on the outside. It was a nondescript jewelry store with dustcloths spread over the window displays and arranged to make the window look empty. It occurred to me that nobody was likely to smash a window and grab anything; anyone who might do that would know who owned the place, and would know better than to try.

Nancy tapped lightly. A lookout opened the door a crack and, when Nancy gave the word, let us in. “Straight back,” he said. At the back of the store was a little sort of storeroom. We opened the door and stepped inside. The room was pitch dark and I could hear the muffled sound of music. She laid a hand on my chest. “Stay here,” she said, “and don’t move.” She stepped away and I heard the metal creak of a doorknob. The muffled music turned to a full blare and the room was flooded with light, blinding me for a second.

Nancy came back, took me by the hand, and led me into the main room of the speak. It was slightly smaller than the dining room at the Algonquin and jammed with tiny tables about as big around as a good-size waiter’s tray. There were maybe two hundred people crammed into the place, at the tables, the bar along the wall to our left, leaning against the walls all around, and on the postage-stamp dance floor. The place was stuffy and misty-white with cigarette and cigar smoke. Crammed into an alcove behind the dance floor was a ten-piece band with a brunette girl singer in a silver-fringed dress banging through a lively rendition of “Auntie Skinner’s Chicken Dinner”.

A dapper little man in a tuxedo greeted us. “Good evening, Miss Shannon.”

“Hi Danny. This is Mr. Diller; he’s okay.” The little man nodded and smiled at me. “Got a table for us tonight?”

“Will Mr. Anthony be joining you?”

“No, just two tonight.”

“Hmmm.” Danny craned his neck. “Ah! Follow me.” Grabbing a couple of menus and napkins and raising his hands over his head like a Spanish dancer, he threaded his way through the crowd to a table in the corner away from the band. “Enjoy your evening, folks,” he said as he held Nancy’s chair for her. “Welcome, Mr. Diller. We rely on your discretion.” And he was gone.

The menu was the usual innocent-sounding assortment of pastries and petit fours. Nancy ran through it with me, decoding it, letting me know what name on the menu represented which item the joint actually served. A waitress appeared at my elbow and took our orders; she was hardly gone long enough, I thought, before she was back with our coffee, glasses of ice water, and liquor in little unmarked ceramic pots.

Nancy touched the waitress on the wrist. “Don’t go yet,” she said. She drank off her water and poured her liquor — scotch — over the ice, then she knocked back her drink and set the empty glass of ice on the waitress’s tray. “Hit me again,” she said.

I hadn’t even touched my booze — rye — yet, but the waitress gave me an inquisitive look. I shrugged. “Might as well keep up.” The girl nodded and was gone.

The band finished off “Auntie Skinner’s Chicken Dinner” with a flourish of banjos and saxophones, then launched immediately into “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue”.

Nancy was taking a deep bite out of her second drink while I was still sipping at my first when a man materialized out of the crowd beside us. “Nancy, darling!” he squealed, stretching the words out for several seconds. He leaned down and pecked her once on each cheek, holding his cigarette daintily behind his head. “Where is that luscious husband of yours? And who is this handsome stranger? Does Randy know?”

Nancy gave him a small but not unfriendly smile. “First, it’s Randy’s poker night. I thought you’d be there yourself. This is Maurice Diller. And yes, Randy knows.”

“Maurice?” He held out his hand.

“Call me Dill; everybody does,” I said, half standing, as I took his hand. He had a handshake like a jeweler examining a Fabergé egg.

“This is Billy Hayfield,” Nancy said. “First runner-up in the 1926 Pola Negri look-alike contest.”

“Don’t be naughty, sweetie,” he said, “it spoils your complexion.” He turned to me. “She’s being funny. There was no such contest, you understand. Frankly, that Polack tramp should look this good in black.” He rotated in a tight circle, showing off his suit. Then he wedged himself down onto her lap. “Let me sit a while, honey. Don’t make me bend over to talk. It kills my back.” He looked remarkably like a ventriloquist’s dummy perched on her knee.

“All right, Billy,” she said. “You can stay till you get bored, my legs fall asleep, or you make me lose my temper, whichever comes first.” She looked at me. “I’m betting on boredom. Billy can’t concentrate on anything for more than thirty seconds.”

Billy grabbed her drink. “Scotch?” She nodded, and he knocked it back, ice and all, grimacing and roaring as the lump of it bulged its way down his throat. Then he swatted the elbow of our waitress as she sidled past behind Nancy’s head. “Honey, honey,” he called, “some oaf stole this lady’s drink. Be a doll and bring her two more. And one more for handsome here too.” The girl nodded and continued on.

Billy lowered his chin and glared through his eyebrows at Nancy. “Did you say poker? Is it Randy’s poker night again already? My gawd, didn’t the time just fly?”

“Yes, it did,” she said. “Why aren’t you there? I thought you never missed.”

“I didn’t hear. I think Randy’s mad at me or something.”

“Don’t be a dope. What did you do to him?”

“Tell me, darling, and then I’ll know too. I’ve never known him to be a sore loser, but I haven’t the foggiest idea what else it could be.”

He stretched his neck to the bandstand. The girl singer was taking a break and the vocal was being handled by a male trio. Billy sang along with them. “Now if you run into…a five-foot-two…covered with fur…diamond rings…and all those things…” He stopped suddenly, turning back to Nancy. “Maybe I’ll crash the game if it’s still going on. Is it at Marshall’s again?”

“I don’t know. I suppose so.”

Billy leaned back and grinned at her. If he was sober when he appeared at our table, which I doubted, he wasn’t anymore. I could see his eyes glaze from the scotch he had gulped and he leaned on the table as he climbed off her lap; I had to steady the table from my side to keep him from taking the whole thing down with him.

“Well,” he said, another three-second word, “maybe I’ll just toddle on over and see.” He leaned down, touching his unsteady forehead to hers. “Have a good time, sweetie, and don’t stay out too late.” Before I even knew what was happening, with surprising dexterity for a man so drunk, he lifted the hem of her skirt and slid his right hand far up under it between her thighs, exposing her knees and the tops of her stockings.

“Billy, please!” she hissed, mortified, seizing his wrist and pushing it sharply away, twisting her knees under the table and smoothing out her disarrayed skirt.

He waggled his head and leered. “My mistake, love. I thought you’d be grateful. Must be getting pretty dusty down there.”

Her face flushed red, her eyes hardened and her right hand flashed out in a blur, slapping him hard across the chops. Spit flew out the corner of his mouth. I jumped to my feet. The slap was so loud it carried over the band and the noise of the crowd, turning heads and stopping talk at the tables all around us.

I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I didn’t have to. Billy raised his hand. “No need, Galahad,” he said. “We’re old friends.” He turned to Nancy, one small hand rubbing his jaw. “Baby, you know I love you like a sister and I’m drunk. I’ll apologize now –” it came out something like “apojisize” “– because I prob’ly won’t even remember this tomorrow.”

“I know, Billy.” She looked at him, still stricken, eyes welling. “Go home. Don’t go to Marshall’s.”

“I believe that’s good advice,” he said.

The waitress appeared with our drinks, a burly goon at her side. “Everything okay here?” he asked.

“Yes, Jake, don’t worry,” Billy said. “Just an intemperate chat about politics.” He pulled his wallet from his breast pocket, plucked out a bill, and handed it across to the waitress. I got a look as it passed; it was a c-note. “These good people are my guests” — “guesssss” — “tonight. If they drink more than this, I’ll settle up next time I’m in. If they don’t, keep the change.”

He looked briefly and blearily at Nancy as if he were about to say something, or bow, or nod, but he didn’t; he just tottered away with the bouncer Jake following behind him.

I sat back down and glanced at Nancy. She was still flushed, breathing heavily, her eyes shifting quickly here and there as if she were looking for someone. I thought it better to look away.

We sat like that for the rest of the song, not speaking or looking at each other. At last she said, “If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to visit the powder room.” She grabbed her clutch-purse and got up.

I stood up to see her away, looking at her as I did so, and she met my eyes. Hers were dry but red with the effort of contained humiliation. As she moved through the crowd I sat back down. I still had two untouched pots of rye to get through.

When she came back and sat down, one of the pots was empty and I was halfway through the other. I could see she had washed and powdered her face, reapplied her lipstick, and generally recomposed herself. She gave me a tight little smile as she took her seat, but she didn’t say anything.

When she picked up her drink, her hand shook slightly. She set her drink down and pressed her palm against the table, as if she were trying to leave an impression on the cloth. After a moment she picked up the drink again, steady this time, and downed half of it. Then she leaned back in her chair, stretching out her long legs as much as she could in the space we had, leaning her elbow on the table and resting her chin on the flesh between her thumb and forefinger. I pretended not to notice all this while she stared straight ahead at the band over the heads of the drinkers in front of us.

I took a couple more pulls on my drink. After a while I looked across at her. “Do you want to leave?”

“Hell, no,” she said. She finished the first of the two drinks Billy had ordered for her and waved to get the attention of our waitress. “What I want is to drink up as much of that little bastard’s hundred bucks as I can.” The waitress came up. “Are you ready to go again?” Nancy asked me.

“I’m all right for now, thanks.” I took another swig of my little ceramic pot and chased it with water.

“Just me, then,” she told the waitress. “Make it two. This one’ll be gone by the time you get back. And tell him,” she went on, waving at me, “that I’m fine. I can hold it.”

The waitress looked at me. “She’s right, she can.”

I shrugged with a show of good cheer. “Nothing to me. It’s her head.”

I don’t know how long it was before she spoke again. It seemed like two or three songs. Whatever it was, the band had left to take a break and the noise level in the room had dropped to the dull rumble of a hundred conversations.

She looked up from her scotch at me with a sort of appraisal, as if she were trying to decide whether to say something. If she was drunk she didn’t look it. She was right, she could hold it. I had had maybe half what she had and I wasn’t feeling nearly as steady as she looked.

She leaned forward, her forearms folded on the table, and spoke so quietly I almost couldn’t hear her. “You know,” she said,”he’s not fooling anybody with that poker talk. Not me, anyhow. And he’s not trying to fool anybody else.” She looked down at her cup of cold coffee. “Poker my eye! If he’d been playing poker all this time every card shark in Manhattan would be lining up to break his legs. He’s no poker player. He can’t bluff.” She leaned back again and took another long swallow of her drink.

After a while she stood up. “Powder room,” she said.

I stood and laid a hand on her arm. “Why don’t we just go?” I said. “It’s getting late. Can it wait till you get home?”

She stood and looked at me, not drunk but level, patient, waiting, as if the sound of my words were taking its time reaching her. “I guess,” she said at last, turning aside and leading the way to the door.

Coming out of the smoky glare of the speakeasy, the storeroom was much darker than it had seemed on the way in. I stood in the blackness, stone blind, while Nancy went ahead. I stood there, the muffled sound of the band resuming behind me, and listening for the sound of the other door opening out into the shop. It didn’t come.

Maybe I simply smelled her perfume, or the scotch, but somehow I sensed that, rather than being on the other side of the room, she was standing very close to me. No sooner that, than I felt her hand on my arm, moving lightly, slowly up to my shoulder. Then she took my head in her hands and pulled me toward her, turning my head to the side. I could feel the sequins of her purse against my cheek. 

“Don’t get any wrong ideas,” she whispered in my ear, her breath warm and her words barely audible in the darkness. “Talk about this and I’ll call you a liar to your face.” Then her mouth was on mine, softly at first, exploring, then going deeper. Her lips parted and I could taste the scotch. Her arms encircled my neck and mine went around her, one hand sliding down her back, past her waist, cupping her. She moved against me, rolling her hips to press where she knew she had stirred me.

After a long moment she drew away, reaching behind to disengage my hands. “I shouldn’t have done that,” she whispered. “I just…” She let the words hang. “Never mind.”

She stepped away and opened the outer door. I followed her through the dark shop to the street entrance, where the lookout cracked open the door and we slipped outside.

Once the door was secure behind us she stepped out of the shadow to the curb, looking for a cab in the passing traffic. She spotted one and hailed it silently with one raised hand. The cab pulled over and she opened the door, turning back to me. It was the first time she’d looked at me since we left the storeroom. There was no sign of the Nancy who had kissed me, or the Nancy silently guzzling scotch in the speak; in their place was the Nancy from dinner, poised and sociable. “You want a ride to your hotel?”

I thought it over. If I had thought we would pick up in the cab where we left off in the storeroom, I might have taken her up on it. But I knew that moment was gone. “Thanks, I’ll walk,” I said. “You need fare?”

She shook her head. “I’ve got it.” She got in and closed the door, then rolled down the window and leaned out. “Have a nice trip back. See you next month.”

I nodded and waved. She turned to the cabbie and gave him her address. Her window slid shut as the cab pulled away into the Eighth Avenue traffic.

 

 

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