"Well... Hi." I smile weakly but soon regain my confidence. Alison would never have told anyone that story. Not a soul could've possibly heard about that lovely, horrible afternoon. I grin at her in the darkness of Nell's. "Yeah, I remember you. You were a real..." I pause, then growl, "manhandler."

She says nothing, just looks at me like I'm the opposite of civilization or something.

"Jesus. Is Taylor sleeping or just dead?" Francesca asks while gobbling up what's left of my sorbet. "Oh my God, did anyone read Page Six today? I was in it, so was Daisy. And Taffy too."

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Alison gets up without looking over at me. "I'm going to find Skip downstairs and dance." She walks away.

McDermott comes back and gives Alison, who's squeezing past him, the once-over before taking the seat next to mine.

"Any luck?" I ask.

"No dice," he says, wiping his nose. He lifts my drink to his face and sniffs it, then takes a sip and lights one of Daisy's cigarettes. He looks back at me while lighting it and introduces himself to Francesca before looking back at me. "Don't look so, you know, astounded, Bateman. It hap pens."

I pause, staring at him, before asking, "Are you, uh, like, shitting me, McDermott?"

"No," he says. "No luck."

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I pause again, then look down at my lap and sigh. "Look, McDermott, I've pulled this act before. I know what you're doing."

"I f**ked her." He sniffs again, pointing at some girl in one of the booths up front. McDermott's sweating profusely and reeks of Xeryus.

"You did? Wow. Now listen to me," I say, then notice something out of the corner of my eye. "Francesca... "

"What?" She looks up, a dribble of sorbet running down her chin.

"You're eating my sorbet?" I point at the dish.

She swallows, glaring at me. "Lighten up, Bateman. What do you want from me, you gorgeous stud? An AIDS test? Oh my god, speaking of which, that guy over there, Krafft? Yep. No loss."

The guy Francesca pointed out is sitting in a booth near the stage where the jazz band plays. His hair is slicked back over a very boyish face and he's wearing a suit with pleated trousers and a silk shirt with light gray polka dots by Comme des Garçons Homme and sipping a martini and it's not difficult to imagine him in someone's bedroom tonight, lying, probably to the girl he's sitting with: blonde, big tits, wearing a metal-studded dress by Giorgio di Sant'Angelo.

"Should we tell her?" someone asks.

"Oh no," Daisy says. "Don't. She looks like a real bitch."

"Listen to me, McDermott." I lean in toward him. "You have drugs. I can see it in your eyes. Not to mention that f**king sniffing."

"Nope. Negatif. Not tonight, honey." He wags his head.

Applause for the jazz band - the whole table claps, even Taylor, whom Francesca has inadvertently woken up, and I turn away from McDermott, heavily pissed, and bring my hands together like everyone else. Caron and Libby walk upto the table and Libby says, "Caron's got to go to Atlanta tomorrow.Vogue shoot. We have to leave." Someone gets the check and McDermott puts it on his gold AmEx card, which conclusively proves that he's high on coke since he's a famous tight-wad.

Outside it's muggy and there's a faint drizzle, almost like a mist, lightning but no thunder. I trail McDermott, hoping to confront him, almost bumping into someone in a wheelchair who I remember rolling up to the ropes when we first arrived and the guy's still sitting there, wheels moving up then backing away, up then back on the pavement, totally ignored by the doormen.

"McDermott," I call. "What are you doing? Give me your drugs."

He turns, facing me, and breaks into this weird jig, twirling around, then just as abruptly he stops and walks over to a black woman and child who are sitting in the doorway of the closed deli next to Nell's and predictably she's begging for food, a predictable cardboard sign at her feet. It's hard to tell if the kid, six or seven, is black or not, even if it's really hers, since the light outside Nells is too bright, really unflattering, and tends to make everyone's skin look the same yellowish, washed-out color.

"What are they doing?" I.ibby says, staring, transfixed. "Don't they know they need to stand closer to the ropes?"

"Libby, come on," Caron says, pulling her toward two taxis at the curb.

"McDermott?" I ask. "What in the hell are you doing?"

McDermott's eyes are glazed over and he's waving a dollar bill in front of the woman's face and she starts sobbing, pathetically trying to grab at it, but of course, typically, he doesn't give it to her. Instead he ignites the bill with matches from Canal Bar and relights the half-smoked cigar clenched between his straight white teeth - probably caps, the jerk.

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