"What's wrong?" I say, looking up from my plate, a fork poised over it, but my hand will not move; it's as if it appreciated the plate's setup too much, as if my hand had a mind of its own and refused to break up its design. I sigh and put the fork down, hopeless.
"Shit. I have to tape this movie on cable for Mandy." He wipes his mouth with a napkin, stands up. "I'll be back."
"Have her do it, idiot," Price says. "What are you, demented?"
"She's in Boston, seeing her den tist." Van Patten shrugs, pu**ywhipped.
"What in the hell are you going to do?" My voice wavers. I'm still thinking about Van Patten's card. "Call up HBO?"
"No;" he says. "I have a touch-tone phone hooked up to program a Videonics VCR programmer I bought at Hammacher Schlemmer." He walks away pulling his suspenders up.
"How hip," I say tonelessly.
"Hey, what do you want for dessert?" McDermott calls out.
"Something chocolate and flourless," he shouts back.
"Has Van Patten stopped working out?" I ask. "He looks puffy."
"It looks that way, doesn't it," Price says.
"Doesn't he have a membership at the Vertical Club?" I ask.
"I don't know," Price murmurs, studying his plate, then sitting up he pushes it away and motions to the waitress for another Finlandia on the rocks.
Another hardbody waitress approaches us tentatively, bringing over a bottle of champagne, Perrier-Jouet, nonvintage, and tells us it's complimentary from Scott Montgomery.
"Nonvintage, that weasel," Price hisses, craning his neck to find Montgomery's table. "Loser." He gives him a thumbs-up sign from across the room. "The f**ker's so short I could barely see him. I think I gave thumbs-up to Conrad. I can't be sure."
"Where's Conrad?" I ask. "I should say hello to him."
"The dude who called you Hamilton," Price says.
"That wasn't Conrad," I say.
"Are you sure? It looked a helluva lot like him," he says but he's not really listening; he blatantly stares at the hardbody waitress, at exposed cle**age as she leans down to get a firmer grip on the bottle's cork.