"Why were you arguing with him?" Lask.
"Patrick," she says - a declarative statement.
"I'm here," I say after a minute.
"Patrick. It doesn't matter. The phone in my room didn't have two lines and there was no call waiting," she says. "Where were you?"
"I was... fooling around renting videotapes," I say, pleased, giving myself high-five, the cordless phone cradled in my neck.
"I wanted to come over," she says in a whiny, little-girl tone. "I was scared. I still am. Can't you hear it in my voice?"
"Actually, you sound like anything but."
"No, Patrick, seriously. I'm quite terrified," she says. "I'm shaking. Just like a leaf I'm shaking. Ask Mia, my facialist. She said I was tense."
"Well," I say, "you couldn't have come over anyway."
"Honey, why not?" she whines, and then addresses someone who just entered her suite. "Oh wheel it over there near the window... no, that window... and can you tell me where that damn masseuse is?"
"Because your neighbor's head was in my freezer." I yawn, stretching. "Listen. Dinner? Where? Can you hear me?"
At eight-thirty, the two of us are sitting across from each other in Barcadia. Evelyn's wearing an Anne Klein rayon jacket, a wool-crepe skirt, a silk blouse from Bonwit's, antique gold and agate earrings from James Robinson that cost, roughly, four thousand dollars; and I'm wearing a double-breasted suit, a silk shirt with woven stripes, a patterned silk tie and leather slip-ons, all by Gianni Versace. I neither canceled the reservation at Turtles nor told Courtney not to meet me there, so she'll probably show up around eight-fifteen, completely confused, and if she hasn't taken any Elavil today she'll probably be furious and it's this fact - not the bottle of Cristal that Evelyn insists on ordering and then adds cassis to - that I laugh out loud about.
I spent most of the afternoon buying myself early Christmas presents - a large pair of scissors at a drugstore near City Hall, a letter opener from Hammacher Schlemmer, a cheese knife from Bloomingdale's to go along with the cheese board that Jean, my secretary who's in love with me, left on my desk before she went to lunch while I was in a meeting. The Patty Winters Show this morning was about the possibility of nuclear war, and according to the panel of experts the odds are pretty good it will happen sometime within the next month. Evelyn's face seems chalky to me right now, her mouth lined with a purple lipstick that gives off an almost startling effect, and I realize that she's belatedly taken Tim Price's advice to stop using her tanning lotion. Instead of mentioning this and have her bore me silly with inane denials, I ask about Tim's girlfriend, Meredith, whom Evelyn despises for reasons never made quite clear to me. And because of rumors about Courtney and myself, Courtney's also on Evelyn's shit list, for reasons that are a little clearer. I place a hand over the top of the champagne flute when the apprehensive waitress, at Evelyn's request, attempts to add some blueberry crisis into my Cristal.
"No thank you," I tell her. "Maybe later. In a separate glass."
"Party pooper." Evelyn giggles, then takes a sharp breath. "But you smell nice. What are you wearing - Obsession? You party pooper, is it Obsession?"
"No," I say grimly. "Paul Sebastian."
"Of course." She smiles, downs her second glass. She seems in a much better mood, boisterous almost, more than you'd expect of someone whose neighbor's head was sliced off in a matter of seconds while she was still conscious by an electric mini-chain saw. Evelyn's eyes momentarily glitter in the candlelight, then revert to their normal pallid gray.
"How is Meredith?" I ask, trying to mask my void of disinterest.
"Oh god She's dating Richard Cunningham." Evelyn moans. "He's at First Boston. If you can believe it."
"You know," I mention, "Tim was going to break it off with her. Call it quits."
"Why, for god's sake?" Evelyn asks, surprised, intrigued. "They had that fabulous place in the Hamptons."
"I remember him telling me that he was sick to death of watching her do nothing but her nails all weekend."
"Oh my god," Evelyn says, and then, genuinely confused, "You mean... wait, she didn't have someone do them for her?"
"Tim said, and he reiterated this fact quite often, that she had all the personality of a game-show host," I say dryly, sipping from the flute.
She smiles to herself, secretly. "Tim is a rascal."