A Stet in the Night: A Grammar Noir Mystery, Part 4

The Baltimore Sun

Part 4: Waiting 

Part 1: The Man with Pince-nez

Part 2: Albion Redux

Part 3: In the Chamber


You get used to waiting as an editor. Waiting for the writer to disgorge a text. Waiting for the writer to carp about your edits. Waiting for the sports desk to get the post-midnight results from a pinochle tournament in Upper Sandusky.

Waiting in the Chamber, I imagined the proceedings unfolding at ACES in St. Petersburg: people clustered around celebrity lexicographer Kory Stamper to get her autograph on Word by Word, basking in the glamour of Grammar Girl, hoping Carol Saller will spill the beans about dirty infighting at the Chicago Manual of Style, and afterward sipping a Manhattan on the veranda at the Vinoy.

My reverie was broken by a series of thumps and crashes outside until everything fell as silent as a publisher asked about raises for the staff.

Then Mark Allen flung open the door of the Chamber and strode purposefully into the room like a reporter ready to sign the buyout offer.

“@EditorMark! The Executive Committee dispatched its chief fixer to get me out of stir?”

“Well,” he said, “you used to be somebody.”

“So you’ve foiled the putsch? Sweeney didn’t deceive you?”

“He barely got there when he was spotted, exposed, neutralized.”

“What gave him away? Must have been that defective vocabulary I spent a day schooling him on.”

“Nothing at all like that. Someone at the registration desk saw that his suspenders were fastened with clips instead of buttons, made him as an imposter, and sounded the alarm.”

“Oh. Then I suppose he led you to the Gray Man and his team of infiltrators.

“Not what you would call much of a team—a half-dozen elderly crocks just like him. They can moan all they like about the decline of English while they sort homophones at the Society’s reeducation camp outside Pippa Passes, Kentucky.”

“So it all came to nothing?”

“It always comes to nothing with the peeververein, old swot. Now pull yourself together. The Society’s private jet is waiting, and we should arrive in St. Petersburg just in time for the cocktail hour at the Vinoy.”


The End

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