Part 4: The test
Kory Stamper listened to what Turner had told me and frowned.
She went to the door and shouted into the Scriptorium: “Sokolowski, get over here! That gumshoe from Baltimore thinks he’s on to something.” A shudder swept through the room, as if someone had set off a cherry bomb among Trappists, and Peter Sokolowski scuttled over, worry as plain on him as the gin blossoms on a publisher’s nose.
I told him, “Your last ten hires are members of a Queen’s English Society sleeper cell. They’re waiting for the moment to strike and convert every American usage in your dictionaries back to British.”
Sokolowski gulped. “Then we go to the mattresses.”
“No,” I told him. “It’s early enough that you can get shut of them without damage, if you act. You need to get rid of them. Forthwith.”
“We can’t just sack them on your say-so. We have to have some kind of proof that they are implicated in the nefarious scheme you describe.”
“Implicated? Nefarious scheme? You spend too much time on the thesaurus or something? Never mind, I can prove it.”
“How?” Stamper asked.
“Like at the ford of the Jordan.” Stamper and Sokolowski looked at each other.
I said, “Round them up. Bring them in to me one by one. If they can’t pass my test, then you eighty-six them.”
“What’s the test?” Sokolowski asked.
“Uh-uh,” I said. “Bring them.” He scurried off.
They ushered in the first one.
I handed him an index card and said, “Pronounce this word.”
All the blood drained out of his face; his eyes bulged. He gulped and stammered and stared, and finally shook his head.
“You’re done.” I said. “Sokolowski, get him out fast. Don’t let him see or talk to the others.”
The remaining nine went through as quick as the sports department headed to a buffet.
As I was heading out the door, shrugging off Stamper and Sokolowski’s chorus of gratitude, they asked, “What was on the card?”
“Read it yourself.”
I handed it over, and they looked down to see: