For the fourth time in five minutes the cab’s radio crackled with Herbie’s appealing East Coast accent.
“I need a car at Cabot and Whitehall right now,” he said. “Come on, people, we gotta live up to our contracts or lose ‘em, right?”
Clayton Wing sat behind the wheel of his taxi, third in a row of taxis at a cabstand just half a block from Cabot and Whitehall. It was Clay’s first day as a cab driver, and he was wondering why neither of the two cabs in front of him responded to Herbie’s call.
“Gentlemen, you know that the Whitehall customer is a yearly contract. Please let’s have a cab at the door on the double,” Herbie pleaded. Clayton Wing peered through the back window of the cab ahead of him. The driver was reading the paper and ignoring the radio call. He couldn’t see the driver of the first cab, but he saw that the car didn’t move. Finally, Clay pulled out from the curb. He paused along side of the first car and looked in at the driver. He was sipping coffee from a plastic doughnut-shop cup and he smiled and nodded at Clay, who pulled away and answered Herbie’s call.
“Thank you, sir,” Herbie said when Clay called in. “Get the fare at four-twelve Whitehall. They’ll meet you at the curb.” Clayton knew that Whitehall Road was twelve blocks of the richest homes in the city. Number four-twelve was one of the most exclusive, with a high brick wall that separated the property from the sidewalk and from view. High, ornate, wrought iron gates guarded the entrance and exit to the circular driveway.
Looking through the gate, Clay could see that the mansion was set well back from the road. A long ramp descended gradually along the granite wall from the back corner of the house until it touched down at the edge of the driveway. As he sat wondering, a woman in a wheelchair appeared around the back corner on the ramp. She had a briefcase and a small purse on her lap and she rolled her chair skilfully along the ramp and down the driveway. As she approached the gate, she pressed a small box on the armrest of her wheelchair and the gate swung open. Clay stepped out of the car as she rolled toward him.
“Good morning, ma’am,” he said. She didn’t look at Clayton, but locked her eyes on the cab door. She was about thirty-five years old, very small, with fine features and pale complexion. She wore no makeup and Clay noticed that her fine features needed no enhancement. Silver wire-framed glasses enhanced her pretty face, and a small silver cross hung on a chain around her neck. She wore a pleated plaid skirt that reached below her knees and a neat blazer over a crisp, white blouse that was buttoned to her throat.
Her calves and ankles, where they showed below the hem of her skirt down to the tops of her simple, black, low-heeled shoes were slim and beautifully shaped. He wondered why she needed a wheelchair.