"Whatever," she said brusquely, cutting me off midsentence. "I need you to pick up Madelaine and drop her off at the apartment before you come back to the office." Click. The phone went dead. I stared at it for a few seconds before I realized that she'd deliberately hung up because she had provided all of the details I could hope to receive. Madelaine. Who the hell was Madelaine? Where was she at the moment? Did she know I was to pick her up? Why was she going back to Miranda's apartment? And why on earth--considering Miranda had a full-time driver, housekeeper, and nanny--was I the one who had to do it?
Remembering that it was illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving in New York and figuring the last thing I needed at that moment was a run-in with the NYPD, I pulled into the bus lane and switched my flashers on. Breathe in, breathe out, I coached myself, even remembering to apply the parking brake before taking my foot off the regular one. It had been years since I'd driven a stick-shift car--five years, actually, since a high school boyfriend had volunteered his car up for a few lessons that I'd decidedly flunked--but Miranda hadn't seemed to consider that when she'd called me into her office an hour and a half earlier.
"Ahn-dre-ah, my car needs to be picked up from the place and dropped off at the garage. Attend to it immediately, as we'll be needing it tonight to drive to the Hamptons. That's all." I stood, rooted to the carpet in front of her behemoth desk, but she'd already blocked out my presence entirely. Or so I thought. "That's all, Ahn-dre-ah. See to it right now," she added, still not glancing up.
Ah, sure, Miranda, I thought to myself as I walked away, trying to figure out the first step in the assignment that was sure to have a million pitfalls along the way. First was definitely to find out at which "place" the car was located. Most likely it was being repaired at the dealership, but it could obviously be at any one of a million auto shops in any one of the five boroughs. Or perhaps she'd lent it to a friend and it was currently occupying an expensive spot in a full-service garage somewhere on Park Avenue? Of course, there was always the chance that she was referring to a new car--brand unknown--that she'd just recently purchased that hadn't yet been brought home from the (unknown) dealership. I had a lot of work to do.
I started by calling Miranda's nanny, but her cell phone went straight to voice mail. The housekeeper was next on the list and, for once, a big help. She was able to tell me that the car wasn't brand-new and it was in fact a "convertible sports car in British racing green," and that it was usually parked in a garage on Miranda's block, but she had no idea what the make was or where it might currently be residing. Next on the list was Miranda's husband's assistant, who informed me that, as far as she knew, the couple owned a top-of-the-line black Lincoln Navigator and some sort of small green Porsche. Yes! I had my first lead. One quick phone call to the Porsche dealership on Eleventh Avenue revealed that yes, they had just finished touching up the paint and installing a new disc-changer in a green Carrera 4 Cabriolet for a Ms. Miranda Priestly. Jackpot!
I ordered a Town Car to take me to the dealership, where I turned over a note I'd forged with Miranda's signature that instructed them to release the car to me. No one seemed to care whatsoever that I was in no way related to this woman, that some stranger had cruised into the place and requested someone else's Porsche. They tossed me the keys and only laughed when I'd asked them to back it out of the garage because I wasn't sure I could handle a stick shift in reverse. It'd taken me a half hour to get ten blocks, and I still hadn't figured out where or how to turn around so I'd actually be heading uptown, toward the parking place on Miranda's block that her housekeeper had described. The chances of my making it to 76th and Fifth without seriously injuring myself, the car, a biker, a pedestrian, or another vehicle were nonexistent, and this new call did nothing to calm my nerves.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...