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“What happened to Flowers? I mean eleven-thirty at Metro CC?” I yell back up. “What happened to ten o’clock at Cafe Tabac?”

A longish pause. “She now says nine-thirty at Bowery Bar. That’s the end of it, Victor.” Then silence.

“What horrible thing do you want me to do?” JD pauses. “Victor, would this photo-if published-screw up this guy’s relationship with a certain young model named Chloe Byrnes and a certain volatile club owner of… oh, let’s just say, hypothetically, this club, whose name is Damien Nutchs Ross?”

“But that isn’t the problem.” I pull JD closer and, surprised, he winks and bats his eyes and I have to tell him, “Don’t get any ideas.” I sigh, breathe in. “The problem is that a photo exists. A certain cretinous gossip columnist is going to run this photo, and if we think Princess Cuddles having a heart attack is bad… that’s nothing.” I keep looking over my shoulder, finally telling everyone, “We have to go downstairs to check the magician. Excuse us.”

“But what about Matthew Broderick?” Peyton asks. “What about the salads?”

“He can have two!” I shout as I whisk JD down the long steep ramp of stairs heading into the basement, the light getting dimmer, both of us moving carefully.

JD keeps babbling. “You know I’m here for you, Victor. You know I put the stud back in star-studded. You know I’ve helped pack this party to the rafters with desirable celebs. You know I’ll do anything, but I can’t help you on this because of-“

“JD. Tomorrow in no particular order I’ve got a photo shoot, a runway show, an MTV interview with `House of Style,’ lunch with my father, band practice. I even have to pick up my f**king tux. I’m booked. Plus this dump is opening. I-have-no-time.”

“Victor, as usual I’ll see what I can do.” JD maneuvers down the stairs hesitantly. “Now about the magician-“

“Fuck it. Why don’t we just hire some clowns on stilts and bus in an elephant or two?”

“He does card tricks. He just did Brad Pitt’s birthday at Jones in L.A.”

“He did?” I ask, suspicious. “Who was there?”

“Ed Limato. Mike Ovitz. Julia Ormond. Madonna. Models. A lot of lawyers and `fun’ people.”

It gets even colder as we near the bottom of the staircase.

“I mean,” JD continues, “I think comparatively it’s pretty in.”

“But in is out,” I explain, squinting to see where we’re heading. It’s so cold our breath steams, and when I touch the banister it feels like ice.

“What are you saying, Victor?”

“Out is in. Got it?”

“In is… not in anymore?” JD asks. “Is that it?”

I glance at him as we descend the next flight of stairs. “No, in is out. Out is in. Simple, non?”

JD blinks twice, shivering, both of us moving farther down into the darkness.

“See, out is in, JD.”

“Victor, I’m really nervous as it is,” he says. “Don’t start with me today.”

“You don’t even have to think about it. Out is in. In is out.”

“Wait, okay. In is out? Do I have that down so far?”

At the bottom, it is so cold that I’ve noticed candles don’t even stay lit, they keep going out as we pass, and the TV monitors show only static. At the foot of the stairs by the bar, a magician who looks like a young German version of Antonio Banderas with a buzz cut idly shuffles a deck of cards, slump-shouldered, smoking a small joint, drinking a Diet Coke, wearing ripped jeans and a pocket T, the back-to-basics look, exaggeratedly sloppy, the rows of empty champagne glasses behind him reflecting what little light exists down here.

“Right. Out is in.”

“But then what exactly is in?” JD asks, his breath steaming.

“Out is, JD.”

“So… in is not in?”

“That’s the whole p-p-point.” It’s so cold my biceps are covered with goose bumps.

“But then what’s out? It’s always in? What about specifics?”

“If you need this defined for you, maybe you’re in the wrong world,” I murmur.

The magician gives us the peace sign in a vague way.

“You did Brad Pitt’s party?” I ask.

The magician makes a deck of cards, the stool he’s sitting on, one of my slippers and a large bottle of Absolut Currant disappear, then says “Abracadabra.”

“You did Brad Pitt’s party?” I sigh.

JD nudges me and points up. I notice the massive red swastika painted onto the domed ceiling above us.

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