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Manhattan Transfer

The taxi made a half turn and stopped in front of a roadhouse that oozed pink light and ragtime through every chink.

"Big crowd tonight," said the taximan to Baldwin when he paid him.

"I wonder why," asked Ellen.

"De Canarsie moider has sumpen to do wid it I guess."

"What's that?"

"Sumpen terrible. I seen it."

"You saw the murder?"

"I didn't see him do it. I seen de bodies laid out stiff before dey took em to de morgue. Us kids used to call de guy Santa Claus cause he had white whiskers. . . . Knowed him since I was a little feller." The cars behind were honking and rasping their klaxons. "I better git a move on. . . . Good night lady."

The red hallway smelt of lobster and steamed clams and cocktails.

"Why hello Gus! . . . Elaine let me introduce Mr. and Mrs. McNiel. . . . This is Miss Oglethorpe." Ellen shook the big hand of a rednecked snubnosed man and the small precisely gloved hand of his wife. "Gus I'll see you before we go. . . ."

Ellen was following the headwaiter's swallowtails along the edge of the dancefloor. They sat at a table beside the wall. The music was playing Everybody's Doing It. Baldwin hummed it as he hung over her a second arranging the wrap on the back of her chair.

"Elaine you are the loveliest person . . ." he began as he sat down opposite her. "It seems so horrible. I dont see how it's possible."

"What?"

"This war. I cant think of anything else."

"I can . . ." She kept her eyes on the menu. "Did you notice those two people I introduced to you?"

"Yes. Is that the McNiel whose name is in the paper all the time? Some row about a builders' strike and the Interborough bond issue."

"It's all politics. I bet he's glad of the war, poor old Gus.