Media: The Pioneer Press Reader Advocate...REVEALED!
Prendergast: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here…
Lady Ramsbottom: Hmmph! Wondering indeed! The impertinence of this…fellow!
Prendergast: (bowing slightly to Lady Ramsbottom) I trust you’ll forgive the lateness of the hour, milady. But I believe you’ll find what I have to say very interesting…very interesting, indeed.
Inspector Hannigan: We’ll have no more of your shenanigans, me bucko! Ahrr, this had better be good, Prendergast.
Prendergast: It is, Inspector. Very good. Very good...indeed. (begins to walk alongside the chairs of the dining room table where the various invitees are seated.) Longtime readers of this blog know that for months now I’ve been trying to get local media interested in reporting on whether or not Stillwater politician Choc Junker is being treated for mental illness.
Freddy Pipes-Snavely, no-good polo-playing playboy disinherited nephew of the late Lord Wiggley: (sneers) Man’s talking sheer nonsense…
Prendergast: (smiling cryptically) We shall see, we shall see…(continuing) The investigative trail eventually led to the Pioneer Press Reader Advocate, who’s supposed to address questions about news coverage decisions by that august publication.
Dr. Lin Shee Tang, mysterious Chinese diplomat: The people of my land have a saying, Mr. Prendergast: “The wise bird does not foul its own nest…”
Prendergast: “…And the clever worm stays in its own hole.” (smiles) I believe that is how the rest of the proverb goes, is that not so, Dr. Lin?
(Dr. Lin shifts his eyes, confounded for a moment.)
Prendergast: In any case--after receiving no reply from the Reader Advocate on at least two occasions, I had my doubts about whether such a person actually existed. So I turned to the readers of my blog, and asked them to assist me with my inquires--
Cecily Fenwicke, lovely young debutante and heir apparent to the fabulous fortune of the late titan of industry, J. Pierpont Bigbucks: And did they help you?
Prendergast: (slamming his fist down on to the dining room table with such force that the every single piece of the silver cutlery from the butter knives to the oyster forks leap six inches into the air, and then fall back to their original postions) THEY DID! (then, softly and smoothly, adds) They did indeed, Ms. Fenwicke.
(Prendergast lights a cigarette, take a drag, then:) You see, the Pioneer Press Reader Advocate was a cunning sort. She—
Rene Malpain, fashionable society portraitist and Lady Ramsbottom’s latest gigolo: “She?”
Prendergast: Yes, she, Monsieur Malpain. It turns out that the so-called “Reader Advocate” is in fact—a woman. (bowing slightly to Malpain) “Cherchez la femme,” as they say in your native Paris, mon copain. (strolling behind the chairs of the diners again) Yes, a woman; and, it seems, a very cunning sort of a woman. When it came to answering my particular emails, she apparently made it her practice to “lay low.” She didn’t respond to my email asking for info about PiPress coverage of the Junker story. And after I received no answer to that communiqué, I found she wouldn’t even answer a second email asking whether there actually WAS a Pioneer Press Reader Advocate! (spins around, dramatically.) But she made ONE little mistake…
(Every eye in the dining room is fixed on Prendergast.)
Prendergast: (gripping the head of the table, but keeping his voice low and under control.) She answered SOMEONE ELSE’S email about whether there actually was a Pioneer Press Reader Advocate!
Sir Gerald Hawkshawfe, white hunter recently returned from Tanganyika: Another of your clever little ruses, eh, Prendergast?
Prendergast: (gestures airily) A trifling thing, but mine own, Sir Gerald. In any event, it served its purpose. Because in making that ONE little mistake, our “Reader Advocate” made ONE OTHER little mistake…
Rodney Bainbridge, handsome but weak-willed fiancée of Cecily: (taking his head in his hands) Oh, I’ve had about all of this that any sane man could stand!
Cecily: Rodney, darling!
Inspector Hannigan: (to Rodney) Shut yer weak-chinned yap, ye bloody-lookin’ great clot of a shebeen, ya! (to Prendergast) What was her “other little mistake,” Prendergast?
Prendergast: Her other mistake? Nothing much, really… she merely… (as he draws a folded paper from the inside pocket of his tuxedo and produces it for the inspection of the guests, drops his voice to whisper of inimitable menace) …signed her name.
(Sharp intake of breath from all assembled.)
Prendergast: (unfolding the paper and about to read it) And here you have it, ladies and gentleman—the reason I have called you all together into this room tonight is to tell you that the name of the Reader Advocate for the St. Paul Pioneer Press is—
(The room is plunged into darkness. A woman screams and a shot rings out. Then another. Nothing is heard for a moment, and then we hear Prendergast’s voice, as steady as if nothing out the ordinary had occurred.)
Prendergast: --“Cindy Larson, Reader Advocate, St. Paul Pioneer Press”—
(The room gets even darker, two more women scream and more shots ring out, but Prendergast continues:)
Prendergast: –“345 Cedar Street
St. Paul, Minnesota 55101-1057”--
(The room gets pitch black and there is steady gunfire and a regular chorus of female screaming as Prendergast continues:)
Prendergast: --and her email address is—
(There’s a simultaneous solar and lunar eclipse and the whole world goes dark and there’s machinegun fire and every woman in the world is screaming:)