“Grammarnoir 5: The Shame of the Prose” is a four-part serial, running on Mondays from February 11 until the thrilling conclusion on March 4, National Grammar Day. Grammarnoir is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Part 4: The Syndicate
When I came to, I was as groggy as if I had sat through a daily/Sunday news meeting show-and-tell. Bringing my eyes into focus, I looked at the group sitting around a table.
Colleen Newvine was flanked by Darrell Christian and David Minthorn, and there, at the center, was a diminutive gray-haired figure who looked like somebody’s mother.
It was Carol Saller. The iron fist in the Chicago Manual of Style’s velvet glove.
Hoods, punks, and yeggs of various descriptions lined the walls.
“Well, this is sweet,” I said. “Everybody thinks that AP and Chicago have gone to the mattresses, and here you all are, quite the happy family.”
“You have twigged to it, Mr. McIntyre,” Saller said in a quiet, level, precise voice. A chill went up my spine at that metallic voice. It sounded as if it should be reading a company memo telling how quality would be undiminished after the buyouts.
“It was useful for others to think that,” she said. “We did have to liquidate a number of copy editors, for verisimilitude. Actually, so many had been sacrificed already that we weren’t entirely certain that the casualties would register.”
“Noticed by who?”
Saller winced. “I would have expected a whom from you, Mr. McIntyre. Noticed by entities that we are about to absorb. The MLA, lulled into a false sense of security; the APA, where we have been placing moles in key positions for years; the Government Printing Office, where our people await my signal. Once our friends here at the AP were persuaded to, let’s call it an accommodation, there was nobody to stop us.”
“Stop you from what?”
“A universal stylebook, enforced inflexibly across the professions, publications, and disciplines.”
She raised her voice: “ONE BOOK TO RULE THEM ALL.”
“Nifty,” I said. “But I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“What happens with the Oxford comma?”
“Chicago style, of course,” Saller said.
“Wait a minute,” said Christian. He stood up fast. “That wasn’t our deal.”
“Are you welshing on us?” Minthorn yelled.
When I saw Colleen reach for her purse, I hit the floor, rolled, and sprinted faster than a reporter to the buffet table.
I was down the hall and through the door to the stairs when the first shot rang out.