THE INTERVIEW WITH Preston Fareweather had been taped forty minutes before it ran, and at the end of it, as the sound man and cameraman were packing and assembling all their plentifulness of gear, Preston said to the fair Gwen, "That was quite enjoyable. You make the thing just about painless."
"Well, that's the job," she said.
"When you finish your assigned tasks at your station," he said, "why not pop back here, we could have a lovely dinner a due."
"Oh, I don't think so," she said.
"I would rather take you to one of the better restaurants in the neighborhood," he said, smiling upon her, "but I'm afraid little legal problems, process servers and all that, are keeping me housebound at least until I can get a new car. But those restaurants know me, I think I'm probably considered a good tipper, they'll be happy to send over a little something from the menu." Chuckling, he said, "Not exactly your Chinese takeout. What do you say? A little penthouse adventure."
"I don't think so," she said.
Gesturing, he said, "That view is even more magnificent at night."
"I'm sure it is."
He gazed on her with a sad smile. "Would you really leave me here, Gwen, all alone, in my pillaged penthouse?"
"Mr. Fareweather," she said, "I researched you before I came up here, and I know all about your little legal problems and the process servers. You have a surprising number of ex-wives."
"Oh, ex-wives," he said, dismissing them with an airy sweep of the hand. "Spiteful little creatures, it's best just to ignore them. You know what they're like."
"I do," she said. "I'm one myself."
He couldn't believe it. "You'll take their side?"
"I won't take any side at all," she said. "Ready, boys?"
The boys, with cameras and cases and boxes and bags hanging from black straps off their shoulders, agreed they were ready, and rang for the elevator.
The snippy, self-sufficient Gwen directed a cool smile toward Preston. "Thank you, Mr. Fareweather, you gave a very good interview. My editor will be pleased."
"I'm so happy," Preston said as the elevator door opened.
"Sir," the sound man said.
The sound man handed him a thick white envelope. "This is a service of court documents," he said, "in accordance with New York State law." And he U-turned and entered the elevator.
"RRRAAAGGHHHH!" Preston cried, and threw the envelope, but it bounced off the closing elevator door, leaving him the image of Gwen's surprised laugh as she turned to the sound man and said, "What did you—?"
Gone. Preston stood there, panting as though he'd run a mile, and stared at the hateful envelope on his lovely oriental carpet. At last he turned away. "Alan!" he screamed. "Alan!"
And Alan appeared, as festooned with luggage as the sound man. "Oh, I missed the elevator," he said, and went over to ring for it.
Preston gaped at him. "What are you doing?"
"You don't need me any more, Preston," Alan said. "Our jolly days as island castaways are over. I've been on the phone, I've a couple of leads on a new position."
The elevator reappeared, and the operator, an uppity black woman, said, "Lotta traffic up here all of a sudden."
"Good-bye, Preston," Alan said, boarding. "It was all really very amusing. Thank you."