“Oh, my Ga-od! Oh, my Ga-od! oh, Ga-od! oh, my Ga-od!”
Presently Tom lifted his head with a jerk and, after staring around the garage with glazed eyes, addressed a mumbled incoherent remark to the policeman.
“M-a-y-.” the policeman was saying, “-o ——”
“No, r-.” corrected the man, “M-a-v-r-o ——”
“Listen to me!” muttered Tom fiercely.
“r” said the policeman, “o ——”
“g ——” He looked up as Tom’s broad hand fell sharply on his shoulder. “What you want, fella?”
“What happened?— that’s what I want to know.”
“Auto hit her. Ins’antly killed.”
“Instantly killed,” repeated Tom, staring.
“She ran out ina road. Son-of-a-bitch didn’t even stopus car.”
“There was two cars,” said Michaelis, “one comin’, one goin’, see?”
“Going where?” asked the policeman keenly.
“One goin’ each way. Well, she.”— his hand rose toward the blankets but stopped half way and fell to his side ——” she ran out there an’ the one comin’ from N’york knock right into her, goin’ thirty or forty miles an hour.”
“What’s the name of this place here?” demanded the officer.
“Hasn’t got any name.”
A pale well-dressed negro stepped near.
“It was a yellow car,” he said, “big yellow car. New.”
“See the accident?” asked the policeman.
“No, but the car passed me down the road, going faster’n forty. Going fifty, sixty.”
“Come here and let’s have your name. Look out now. I want to get his name.”
Some words of this conversation must have reached Wilson, swaying in the office door, for suddenly a new theme found voice among his gasping cries:
“You don’t have to tell me what kind of car it was! I know what kind of car it was!”
Watching Tom, I saw the wad of muscle back of his shoulder tighten under his coat. He walked quickly over to Wilson and, standing in front of him, seized him firmly by the upper arms.
“You’ve got to pull yourself together,” he said with soothing gruffness.
Wilson’s eyes fell upon Tom; he started up on his tiptoes and then would have collapsed to his knees had not Tom held him upright.
“Listen,” said Tom, shaking him a little. “I just got here a minute ago, from New York. I was bringing you that coupe we’ve been talking about. That yellow car I was driving this afternoon wasn’t mine — do you hear? I haven’t seen it all afternoon.”
Only the negro and I were near enough to hear what he said, but the policeman caught something in the tone and looked over with truculent eyes.
“What’s all that?” he demanded.
“I’m a friend of his.” Tom turned his head but kept his hands firm on Wilson’s body. “He says he knows the car that did it … it was a yellow car.”
Some dim impulse moved the policeman to look suspiciously at Tom.
“And what color’s your car?”
“It’s a blue car, a coupe.”
“We’ve come straight from New York,” I said.
Some one who had been driving a little behind us confirmed this, and the policeman turned away.
“Now, if you’ll let me have that name again correct ——” Picking up Wilson like a doll, Tom carried him into the office, set him down in a chair, and came back.
“If somebody’ll come here and sit with him,” he snapped authoritatively. He watched while the two men standing closest glanced at each other and went unwillingly into the room. Then Tom shut the door on them and came down the single step, his eyes avoiding the table. As he passed close to me he whispered: “Let’s get out.”
Self-consciously, with his authoritative arms breaking the way, we pushed through the still gathering crowd, passing a hurried doctor, case in hand, who had been sent for in wild hope half an hour ago.
Tom drove slowly until we were beyond the bend — then his foot came down hard, and the coupe raced along through the night. In a little while I heard a low husky sob, and saw that the tears were overflowing down his face.
“The God damned coward!” he whimpered. “He didn’t even stop his car.”
The Buchanans’ house floated suddenly toward us through the dark rustling trees. Tom stopped beside the porch and looked up at the second floor, where two windows bloomed with light among the vines.
“Daisy’s home,” he said. As we got out of the car he glanced at me and frowned slightly.
“I ought to have dropped you in West Egg, Nick. There’s nothing we can do to-night.”
A change had come over him, and he spoke gravely, and with decision. As we walked across the moonlight gravel to the porch he disposed of the situation in a few brisk phrases.
“I’ll telephone for a taxi to take you home, and while you’re waiting you and Jordan better go in the kitchen and have them get you some supper — if you want any.” He opened the door. “Come in.”
“No, thanks. But I’d be glad if you’d order me the taxi. I’ll wait outside.”
Jordan put her hand on my arm.
“Won’t you come in, Nick?”